Buddhist statue with flowers

Cake for Breakfast
And other adventures from Singapore

Thubten Donyo is a native Québécois who has been training at the Abbey since summer 2022. With experience as a professional sound engineer, he traveled to Singapore with Venerables Chodron and Damcho to support Venerable’s 2022-23 Asian teaching tour. He is also the force behind the Abbey’s recent videos. On his first visit to Singapore, he shares his fresh first impressions.

I wanted to share a little bit with you about our trip so far, from my humble point of view, so that you can rejoice at Venerable Chodron’s continuous embodiment of the Dharma and her very touching connection with her Singaporean students.

Wasting no time

First and foremost, I don’t see Venerable wasting any time and that by itself is a huge teaching for me.

There she is at the airport, making connection with a scared dog about to climb into a big clunky metallic cage at the check-in counter. There she is giving a Dharma talk between two flights. There she is doing her practice whether she’s in an airport, in a plane, or in a narrow corridor early in the morning after flying for two days straight.

We have the busiest schedule, where she teaches (sometimes twice a day) and takes the time in between to give spiritual counseling, interviews, and connect with the countless people who want to offer lunch and see her.

Buddhist statue with flowers

Highlights of the trip so far

We had just picked up our suitcases at the airport and were rolling our way to the exit where two dozen very excited people were waving at us on the other side of the glass wall, waiting impatiently with khatas, flowers, drinks, and offerings in their hands. Needless to say, you could feel how they had missed their teacher. What also struck me is the deep respect and reverence they have towards Venerable. Truly beautiful.

Venerable gave an interview for “Study Buddhism” in the gompa at Amitabha Buddhist Center, and she was in a very silly mood. That was really hilarious. She answered all the questions with her usual wisdom and humor.

The two guys conducting the interview looked at each other from time to time, and you could tell they were having a good time. They were very impressed. That was lovely. They ended the session by trying to take pictures of Venerable, who was making funny poses and bursting with laughter all the time.

Venerable was invited to Lay Ling’s mother’s wake (funeral), where she paid respects and prayed for the deceased lady. We recited the “37 Practices of Bodhisattvas,” the long and short Chenrezig mantras, and made dedications. She then gave advice to the family, telling them how important it is that they support each other and how to let go of their beloved one who just passed away.

When listening to Venerable talking to the family, I had the sense that what really mattered at the moment were not just the words (not that they weren’t important) but mostly what I noticed is the effect of Venerable’s presence, her support, her full attention to the family. They were latched to her and I could see that this moment was very meaningful for them.

We have a full gompa every teaching and endless people lining up at the end to greet and pay respect to Venerable. We sometimes have people from very distant countries who have read one of Venerable’s books and happened to be in Singapore at the time she’s teaching. Some are very moved to meet her for the first time.

Buddhist statue with flowers

Incredible connections

There’s also all the people who were there from the very beginning in 1987 when Venerable first came to Singapore. Hearing their stories is very inspiring. Some of those people are the ones who requested Venerable to write something to help them understand and share the Dharma, and that is what started her writing all the wonderful books we have now.

The FOSAS (Friends of Sravasti abbey Singapore) Volunteers are incredible. They are doing the emcee takss before teachings, taking care of the books table, speaking about the Buddha Hall, taking photos, helping with getting everything ready, and wrapping up at the end of the day, etc. All of that with a smile!

We made an unplanned visit to Pureland Marketing. They were in the middle of a broadcast ceremony with a full room of people chanting with the drums, bells, and everything. When they saw Venerable, without hesitation people went to greet her immediately, gave her a microphone and had her sit in the front of the room where she gave a short talk on the importance of not only listening to the Dharma but to put it into practice. Venerable Damcho was kindly translating into Chinese. (Watch here.)

Then the whole room lined up to make offerings. Venerable then took time to catch up with Pureland Marketing’s team and inquired about how things were for them during the pandemic among other things.

I can tell you that Venerable knows her way around here pretty well. You better keep up because she knows all the back alleys and walk through ABC’s neighborhood like a local.

What about that cake?

One of the ways I support Venerable is by eating leftovers, and recently it means having cake for breakfast… lots of cakes! Luckily Venerable Damcho is assisting me joyfully in this task. Being a Singaporean, she seems to find it perfectly logical to eat cake for breakfast.

See more photos from Venerable Chodron’s trip to Asia >