Conversations With My Guru

Chapter 3: Buddha's Teachings as Medicine

Chapter 3: Buddha’s teachings as medicine

It is 1999. 

The digits on the clock reads 8.10pm.

The phone rings. 

A familiar voice drifts out from the phone. “Why are you not attending teaching?” It is Singha Rinpoche. 

He does not sound pleased. I make up some lame excuse and he brushes it off. 

"Come now,” he says. 

My spouse and I arrive and try to sneak in unnoticed. It is extremely difficult as there are less than a dozen students and the room is small. Lama (that’s what we called him then) – his face is unsmiling and clearly very annoyed. He says nothing and we all look uncomfortable. Unlike the usual times, he sits on the floor this time and not on the sofa (teaching throne). 

At that time Lama had just begun to teach, so each student had agreed that we would make a monthly offering to him. We were in effect his “sponsors”. This did not influence him, because for about an hour that evening, we all received the most severe scolding any of us had experienced in some time (we were all older than him by at least 10 years). 

However, what he said left a deep impression - he told us we were taking the Buddhadharma and our precious human life for granted. We were ignorant in not realizing we could die at any time so we behaved like we could live forever, not cherishing the fact that we were receiving something even more valuable than all the precious metals on Earth. We were receiving dharma teachings. 

I asked Rinpoche recently why at that time, in 1999, he had never seemed concerned about the fact that the students he was reprimanding might leave or stop making offerings. He said the thought never crossed his mind. It was important for him that he not give up on us and he had to be brave and care - and get through to us. And if scolding was the means, he would do that. 

Regrettably, the partings did happen. Over the years students and disciples left, mistaking the scolding to be really that and not realizing the care and love behind it. If ever, you feel you are being “scolded” by Rinpoche, please try your best to view that as a blessing, a gesture of caring, a medicine that will benefit – perhaps bitter but beneficial.


26 Sep 2021