LiAnne Hunt

Opening of Dharmata House Malaysia

Anam Thubten at Dharmata House Malaysia. By Cheong Thoong Leong

Anam Thubten at Dharmata House Malaysia. By Cheong Thoong Leong

Before Anam Thubten came to Malaysia, Brian and the local sangha considered themselves “The Reject Club” because there was no place for them in conventional society or religious centers. They are devotional, pure in heart, and have been set ablaze by Rinpoche’s teachings.

In 2014, they published a book and CD in Chinese of Rinpoche’s talks entitled Your Original Face. Now, in 2016, a mere four years since beginning this sacred dialog, the sangha has opened Dharmata House in time for Anam Thubten’s annual visit.

Dharmata House is located smack in the city center, a short five-minute drive from KL Sentral but a world away from the bustle and congestion of Kuala Lumpur. The temple sanctuary is along the hillside of a high-end residential neighborhood. Ironically, it is the remainder of a house that was left in ruin for many decades. A large tree grows along the collapsed second-story walls. In most developed countries, the Dharmata temple would be a condemned building. Before its minimal renovation, superstitious people might consider it haunted.

However, the hero or heruka of our tale Brian does not follow convention. He left that behind as charnel ash in Singapore many years ago. The sangha that had been meeting at Samsara Cafe since 2012 maintained the aspiration to establish a public center to gather and invite seekers on the path as refuge.

The story goes that Brian had been taken to the abandoned building as a potential business venture to create a hipster cafe, remnants of another lifetime. He came across graffiti on the wall which read, “Do not see problems as a problem, but treat it as opportunity to improve ourself and evolve.”

He took these words as a hidden teaching and sign that this would become a place where seekers of truth could meet Anam Thubten and practice. An old Bodhi tree at the entry gave clear indication that this was indeed a sacred place. An ordinary person would see this decrepit and abandoned house as broken and hopeless. But Brian sees beyond outward appearances. When he brought loved ones to visit the future temple, they thought he might be losing his mind. But the sangha maintained pure vision, and together they transformed what was broken into a pristine mandala offering to the triple gem.

Dharmata Foundation International Sangha at One Tree Retreat

Dharmata Foundation International Sangha at One Tree Retreat

Here in Malaysia, I feel renewed. I am reconnecting with the sacred innocence and spontaneous spirituality of childhood play, a dimension I’ve not accessed for many years. The Dharmata temple, with its crumbling walls and pure intention, is a gateway back to the Secret Garden, a portal to the Copper-colored Mountain of Guru Rinpoche.

On the day of the inaugural blessing, it took some time for me to realize that this mandala offering was real and not an imaginary dream. My mind was completely blown that the Malaysian community created such an out-of-the-box and beautiful temple. I felt as if I had returned to another age when wandering mystics might take shelter and residence in an ancient ruin. I hadn’t had this much fun since my teenage years, when cemeteries were playgrounds.

Rinpoche was greeted with fireworks hanging from a female dakini bodhi tree that shelters the temple. After the ceremony, we visited her companion, a massive male bodhi that lives on the other end of the property. Meditating in the sanctuary on concrete floors strewn with rose petals, I felt as though I left the city. I am reminded of the Thai monk tradition of meditating in the forest with no walls. Rinpoche led Riwo Sang Chod, a ritual smoke offering and we delighted in vajra feast or tsok. To end, the assembly participated in a Chinese tea ceremony and drank ambrosial tea from 1,000-year-old trees.

Dharmata House in KL is a rustic urban temple where the drone of traffic becomes the ebb and flow of water and where horns transform into crashing waves. It is a place where all are welcome to practice and meditate under the auspices of Anam Thubten.

Mountain Retreat with Anam Thubten

The international Dharmata sangha gathered in Malaysia have entered mountain retreat. Nearly forty students from seven countries have gathered to receive teachings and practice with Anam Thubten.

Once again, I feel as if I have been teleported into a mystical land. Our retreat center high in the mountain rainforest is a complete juxtaposition from the urban temple. It is stylish and modern, the architecture open and spacious. The meditation hall is high up in the forest canopy. Glass walls, doors and windows provide incredible views of the trees and sky. Tropical birds, monkeys, insects and forest creatures serenade us in a constant flow of harmonic mantras. The retreat schedule is intense and vigorous. We are burning.

Today is Chinese Valentine’s Day. In step, without knowing the custom, Rinpoche gave the most precious teachings on unconditional love. As he left the room, I turned and saw the assembly of men and women in tears, moved by his open heart. He is a teacher that transcends time and space. Gazing into his eyes, there are no boundaries or separation.

Tonight, our sangha will surprise Rinpoche with fancy dress and a celebration at tsok. I will appear as Red Tara and offer the Charya Nritya dance of Kurukulle. As always, our Dharmata sangha will sing and dance joyfully as part of the feast offering. And, as we are a family reuniting from across the world, we will recite the Prajnaparamita Sutra and the prayer of The Four Immeasurables in myriad languages, serenaded by the music of the rainforest dwellers.

On day three of our retreat with Anam Thubten, the journey into the heart and mandala of Malaysia has just begun, but the sharing of this story is complete.

On Chinese Valentine’s 2016, under a full moon, seated high on a balcony in the Malaysian rainforest, I’m sending love to the world. May stories shared of my path as a dancing yogini be of some benefit.

Alalaho! Emaho! Sarva Mangalam!