A Day in The Forest

Dec 3, 2012 | Views: 215

by Tom Mellors

“Be generous with the bug spray people. The sandflies and mosquitos have been disturbed by the construction and will bite through your clothes. You won’t notice now but in a couple days you’ll itch like hell.”

JP’s advice sank in as I tied my boot laces. Bugs that bite through your clothes? Really?

My introduction to the Malaysian countryside was marked by a shower of bug spray – a modern-day ritual which prompted a sense of adventure mixed with dread.

I didn’t fancy being an insect’s lunch or waking up to red blotches all over my arms. But what kind of traveller would I be if I turned down an opportunity to see the verdant jungle of the tropics, the land people describe as the ‘real Malaysia’?

I was with a group of around 70 people, most of whom work or volunteer for Kechara. We came to see the land which will become the Kechara Forest Retreat – a retreat centre which promises quiet, solitude and simple living for the overworked urbanites of nearby towns and cities.

A tour had been arranged followed by an audience with His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche, the spiritual advisor to the Kechara Buddhist  organisation. A reincarnated high lama, Rinpoche grew up in America before entering the illustrious Gaden Shartse Monastery in India. He came to Malaysia in 1992 to spread the Dharma and within a decade Kechara was founded. City-slicker turned outdoorsman; our tour guide JP Thong wore a baseball cap, wellingtons and his trademark white shirt. He led us through the gates into the 35 acre plot of land. Immediately surrounding us were acres of marshland; wild reed grass hid the mysterious sounds of cicadas and swamp frogs. It was hard to imagine that all of this will be developed one day, that this wilderness will become a destination for people from miles around.

JP led us along a dirt track which cut through the marshland and snaked up a small hill. As we climbed the hill somebody noticed hundreds of red ants scurrying around on the floor. They hopped on people’s boots and ascended their trousers. We quickened our pace while trying to brush off the hungry little bugs. When we reached the top of the hill, the view of the surrounding greenery which stretched as far as the eye could see was well worth it.

From the top of a hill we gazed at the forested mountains in the distance. Where we stood is where the ladrang will be, JP explained. Looking at the fields below, I was impressed by the sheer scale of the undertaking. A lot of work to clear swathes of forest had been done already, but there is a long way to go before the distant forest enclave becomes a group of cabins ready to welcome Kechara staff for retreat. Further yet before the Kechara Forest Retreat would open its doors to weary workers from the city; people who are tired of traffic jams and shopping malls, who crave fresh air, greenery and peace.

Over the next two hours JP described how the Kechara Forest Retreat will be laid out.  The focus point for the retreat will be Shakyumuni World Peace Hall – a meditation hall which will seat up to 3,000 people. There, people can practice sitting meditation and find clarity and peace within. Kechara Forest Retreat seeks to blend the spiritual with the practical, so there will also be an organic garden and candle making facility. Candles will be made on premises and visitors will be able to burn them in the Butterlamp House as an offering to the Buddha.

After two hours hiking – and a few more baptismal showers of bug repellent – we rested our tired bodies in the temporary compound. As evening fell, we enjoyed a tasty vegetarian dinner provided by Kechara’s vegetarian restaurant. From here we filtered into the main tent, where Rinpoche would have a private audience with us. Upon entering and being seated, Rinpoche gently waved a traditional damaru drum while beginning the audience with a prayer.

During our audience he talked about how his inspiration for Kechara Forest Retreat was a spiritual community in Scotland called Findhorn. Since learning about Findhorn as a child, Rinpoche has wanted to create something similar: a place where people of all religions can practise meditation in a natural environment.

The Kechara Village within the Kechara Forest Retreat would be such a spiritual community, where Rinpoche’s students, who he fondly referred to as Kecharians, would be able to spend time relaxing and communing with their inner selves within nature.

Rinpoche envisions visitors learning two kinds of meditation at the retreat – walking meditation and sitting meditation. Both meditations can be practised by anybody – you don’t have to be a Buddhist. Although they appear simple, these meditations will help calm your mind; improving your memory, concentration and focus. Rinpoche ended his audience by handing out gifts and chanting one last prayer. Buddhists in the audience chanted along, filling the tent with the resonate harmony of Tibetan prayer.

A day to the countryside turned into a day of rituals, from insect repellent showers to ancient Tibetan chants. Simple rituals, sacred rituals – all of which share that common truth Van Morrison sang about: Behind the ritual, You’ll find the spiritual.

Leaving the night-time forest I felt comfortably tired from the long walk. I needn’t have worried about the bugs. Spiritual or not, I soaked up enough DEET to ward off every insect for miles.


2 Responses to A Day in The Forest

  1. Judy Lam on Dec 5, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Tom’s visit to Malaysia is both adventurous and meaningful, with a fully guided tour for the day and an audience with Rinpoche. I liked the way Tom inject a sense of humor into his encounters with the bugs, cicadas and frogs! May he bring these memories with him to UK and come back to KFR for more picture perfect photographers!

  2. deborah on Dec 6, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Nice article Tom. I’m glad you enjoyed your KFR experience well.

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Many come to Kechara Forest Retreat in Bentong, Malaysia to make offerings and prayers to the increase form of Dorje Shugden who appears like a prince and rides on a golden horse. Many report having their wishes fulfilled and return many times. Am happy to see this. Tsem Rinpoche
3 months ago
Many come to Kechara Forest Retreat in Bentong, Malaysia to make offerings and prayers to the increase form of Dorje Shugden who appears like a prince and rides on a golden horse. Many report having their wishes fulfilled and return many times. Am happy to see this. ~Tsem Rinpoche You can learn more about this form of Dorje Shugden here: https://bit.ly/2wxQyes
3 months ago
In Bentong (Malaysia), the town we live in and where Kechara Forest Retreat is, we have built a public chapel to Dorje Shugden for the locals. They really love it. Many locals like to come early in the morning to make offerings and special prayers to Dorje Shugden then go to work. The locals have reported many of their prayers being fulfilled from praying to Dorje Shugden at this chapel. As a result, more are joining in to pray to powerful Dorje Shugden the world peace protector who is no other than Manjushri. That is beautiful. ~Tsem Rinpoche
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Ullambama 2018 in Kechara Forest Retreat
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Ullambana candles offering to Lord Tsongkhapa in Kechara Forest Retreat, Bentong . Feel calm and blessed. tsemrinpoche.com dorjeshugden.org
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I am not liked by everyone because I choose to not give up my practice of Dorje Shugden even when I am threatened, segregated, hated, degraded and accused of all manner of things just for it. But at least I kept my promise to my guru to practice Dorje Shugden 30 years ago. I am a person that keeps my promises. My respect for integrity makes me who I am. ~ Tsem Rinpoche - Follow H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche on Twitter : https://twitter.com/tsemtulku
4 months ago
Precious opportunity in Kechara Forest Retreat! "As Kechara Forest Retreat is a sacred land, filled with holy and blessed statues and many holy items, His Eminence the 25th Tsem Rinpoche encouraged Kecharians living and working in Kechara Forest Retreat to embark on a spiritual pilgrimage of its holy sites." ~Tsem Rinpoche
4 months ago
We have many outdoor sacred images of various Buddhas. The ones that were visited were Tsongkapa, Nageshvaraja, Loma Gyoma, Tara, Nagarakshasa and then back to Tsongkapa. At each location circumambulations and lamp offerings were done. We walked the vast land while chanting Migtseyma mantras. The very elderly followed to each location in cars. Kechara Forest retreat is 70 acres of land located in rural Bentong, one hour from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. ~Tsem Rinpoche For more information: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com
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4 months ago
Pilgrimage is an intrinsic part of Buddhist life and creates strong Dharma imprints in our mind streams and opens up positive karma and merits that we need to live a successful life. As Kechara Forest Retreat is a sacred land, filled with holy and blessed statues and many holy items, His Eminence the 25th Tsem Rinpoche encouraged Kecharians living and working in Kechara Forest Retreat to embark on a spiritual pilgrimage of its holy sites...~ Tsem Rinpoche
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