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April 14, 2008

LDC 1st Semester Basic Foundation Course (Jan-Mar 2008)

It was truly a great surprise and inspiring to see all the members, students and friends who sincerely devote and support Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche (KLZR) and his vision in the importance of different study programs in different centres in particularly LDC, Malaysia. We are so lucky and blessed to be able to start the Basic Foundation Course (BFC) at the beginning of this year (2008) and successfully accomplish the first term as planned.

The first day of the course was very auspicious with an overwhelming response of over 90 students who turn up. In fact I totally understand many of them are very busy with their family and work and I never expected 100% attendance. However I do pray and hope that everyone will study when the materials were available, if they think it’s necessary.

So my prayers and wishes were answered and accomplished on April 5 @ 8 pm when 94 students sat for the first semester BFC examination. Everyone put tremendous effort to study the 8 subjects in that semester and many of the students scored high distinction. We achieved a 100% pass in both objective and essay question with no failures from the participating students. Some even managed to score 100% in their objective and essay papers. How wonderful!

Since it’s the first semester’s examination, I set the questions more based on preliminary, more specific but very common in understanding and all from the 8 topics I have thought.

The first impression everyone had when the exam paper was handed to them was easy but when you really read the questions carefully, you actually had to squeeze your brains to get the answer (laugher). In fact, the comments I received from some students was it looked easy but it was actually SPM (Malaysia Secondary 5 Government Examination) standard and the way I set these questions, many enjoyed the examination very much. This “enjoyment” is actually a mixture of simplicity and hardship. The whole purpose of this exam is not to judge someone else but solely for self assessment of individual knowledge in dharma.

The reasons for attending the exam and studying for this program are mainly for respecting the guru’s wishes, great support to your organization, reflect within oneself the stages of understanding, built confidence in the different points of the teaching what one have learned, encourage and inspire oneself to study contemplation and meditation until one have completely perfected in the stage of omniscient. It’s not purely for academic and dharma study but to actualize great merit through leaving deep imprint in different aspect of Buddha’s teachings.

The conclusion here is all of you have accumulated so much merit by pleasing the great holy beings such as KLZR and help to accomplish his holy wishes. As for the centre (LDC), it actualize different stages of studies like BFC can gradually channel effort into accomplishing the complete set of study program which will definitely bring great benefit and understanding in all the different expects of Buddha’s teachings.

We cannot expect all the knowledge to be accomplished within 3 months. This is something we have to go through for at least few years and it must be gradual from the very basic preliminary, then into different expects of the teachings.

Just to give an example, everyone regards and it is true that Lam Rim is the sole teachings that we have to put effort into and Lam Rim Chen Mo which consist of the 3 great volumes in English translation. If we want to accomplish these 3 great volumes with our existing lifestyle, we will take more than 3 or 4 years especially when we go into great detail and explanation. The points and topics are so well structured with the vast information to capture our mind and if we look into the chapter of the calm abiding and wisdom, it’s also very philosophical. So if we don’t have a proper foundation of preliminary studies it could be very difficult to absorb the actual teachings.

My ignorant mind thinks the study of Lam Rim should also be done gradually like overview based on Foundation of Good Qualities, then once you are properly prepared from Guru Devotion to Introduction to Tantra, you will find it easy to adept all teachings or any comprehensive explanation. Once you have that, you are ready to go into the middle stage of Lam Rim, then into great Lam Rim Chen Mo. That time you will really take Lam Rim Chen Mo as one of the teachings you cannot live without.

Same thing like the Bodhisattva Way of Life, I felt it’s necessary to get into the understanding of the different expects of mind training teachings, such as 8 Verses of Thought Transformation, 37 Practices of The Bodhisattvas and Wheel of Sharp Weapon, very limited work but very comprehensive. So once you have an overall understanding on that, you will be able to understand and practice the instruction to transform your mind like the “life of the bodhisattva” in the Bodhisattva Way of Life.

Otherwise for the beginners to directly being introduced to the Great Lam Rim, Bodhisattva Way of Life, Tantric Ground and Path and Philosophy Studies, I get many feedback that they have a very hard time. In many cases they give up with many excuses such as “subject is too long”, “no time and since I can’t come for all classes, I won’t come at all”, “it’s also too much information and my wisdom mind can’t capture, rather I give up” and “too many philosophical terms”. Even English educated people find the terms new and very hard to digest, so they give up!

I totally agree with these people and I totally respect their comment, therefore what I am trying to do here is based on my different experiences and I try to do it gradually. On the other hand it’s also necessary to provide extensive philosophical studies and tantric yoga practices and other advance subjects to those who have already accomplish all the stages in those preliminary studies.

Based on the participants and the majority feedback, I am doing the right thing. 99% of them are in favour of that and are getting benefit, so hopefully we are able to fulfil everybody’s wishes but I know I can never satisfy everyone.

However, over 20 students didn’t get to sit for the first term BFC exam due to their commitments which I totally understand. For those who didn’t get the opportunity to take the exam but wish to do so due to their interest, I will give them one more opportunity which will be on July 13 @ 7 pm in LDC gompa.

95% of the participants who did their BFC essay examination were really inspiring with their great knowledge and unshakeable faith in the Buddha. I had my (interesting and secret) reasons why I choose the essay topic for this test and I was expecting few comments but the answers turn out to be truly admiring and wonderful.

Countless thanks goes to all the responsible staff and members of the centre for the opportunity provided by our organization and the limitless blessing of gurus and protectors, all volunteers, all senior students who participated into the studies which meant a lot to the new comers as encouragement.

Pictures taken by Candy and courtesy of Ven. Osel.