Interview With Lillian Too

Compassion Magazine Singapore
January, 2003

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Mrs. Lillian Too and Derek Goh (A friend of Mrs. Lillian Too)
As a specialist author of many books on feng shui and student of Zopa Rinpoche what is your view about the fact that in Buddhism things like divination and fortune telling is unacceptable.

Answer: You know it was my feng shui book that brought Lama Zopa Rinpoche into my life. He had an interest in feng shui and a student of his passed him my book. He then contacted me to invite to India to check out the feng shui of the land for the Maitreya Project in Bodhgaya ... Rinpoche has many times encouraged me in the work as a feng shui writer and has always stressed that feng shui is good because it is something that can help many people. Also you know, Buddhism does believe in divination. HH the Dalai Lama consults the Nechung Oracle on all important issues. And if you study Tibetan Buddhism you will discover that divination plays a big role in the practice. e.g. the high lamas often use divination to determine the most appropriate puja or practice for any given problem.

Are there any contradictions between feng shui and Dharma?

Not that I am aware of. Actually the two are very complimentary. Both practices are based on the notion of helping all sentient beings. Feng shui helps people in samsara making their lives easier and happier, less stressed and this makes it easier for them to practice Dharma. The practice of Dharma helps us ensure that we can continue to get a good rebirth, one that enables us to continue practicing Dharma until we attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings.

Recently you wrote Mantras and Mudras, In Tibetan Buddhism mantras can only be practised by those who have taken initiation ... since your book is for the general public, will it be correct for them to practise without initiation?

This is a good question. Actually anyone can chant the mantras given in the book MANTRAS AND MUDRAS and in fact it is excellent to do so, for chanting these mantras will create the cause for meeting perfectly qualified gurus who can give you initiations. You see, when you take initiations you are given permission to do the Sadhana practices (visualizations) in a certain way, and the higher initiations, the practices can sometimes lead to self generation of the yidam. This does not mean that those who have not taken initiations cannot chant the mantras. But it does mean that when these mantras have been orally transmitted to you by a fully qualified lama or you have taken initiation they are much much, more powerful. I believe I have made this quite clear in my book. So even if you have never met the Dharma, simply chanting OM MANI PADME HUM will create the cause for you to meet the guru. In fact I personally believe it was because I chanted this particular mantra daily for ten years that brought my most precious Lama Zopa into my life.

If the Dharma were ultimate where would feng shui fit in? Can feng shui be used as skillful means to guide people to Dharma?

I always tell my students to practice feng shui with a pure and kind heart, that when one's motivation is pure it imbues the practice of feng shui with great power. This is something I am passionately convinced about. Feng shui is a living skill, a piece of knowledge that is part of my Chinese cultural tradition, and I think it is my great good karma that I find myself able to do this work - which helps people. The bonus is that having met the Dharma and having met the incomparably kind and compassionate Lama Zopa Rinpoche, I feel so inspired to use whatever influence I may have to open peoples eyes to the need for kindness, compassion and purity of motivation in whatever we do. Feng shui is important, but Dharma is incomparably vital in our lives. Dharma is not just about sitting in a corner meditating thinking up taboos of what one can or cannot do in terms of rituals and so forth. Dharma is simply practicing the good heart, the compassionate heart. As HH the Dalai Lama always says "My religion is kindness". Tell me, is there anything more inspiring or more profound, than this simple statement?

New Age is about healing, crystals and yoga. What is your view about this?

What's so new age about healing, crystals and yoga? These are things which have been around for a very long time.

Modern people are very interested in New Age things, is feng shui part of new age?

Feng shui has been around for over 3000 years. How can it be New Age ?

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Mrs. Lillian Too and Derek Goh (A friend of Mrs. Lillian Too)
How did Lama Zopa Rinpoche influence you?

Rinpoche is incredibly inspiring. I have been most fortunate to see how Rinpoche works tirelessly for sentient beings. He works non stop. He works all the time. He works with no thought to Himself. And He is incredibly humble. I would not use the word "influenced" so much as "inspired". I am so inspired by Rinpoche. Watching, I am filled with devotion for the purity and goodness that shines from his person. I see Rinpoche as a living Buddha and consider myself incredibly fortunate to be one of his disciples. Since meeting Rinpoche my life has taken on real meaning. My life is now precious to me because I have the opportunity to do some good.

What is the proper attitude of Buddhists to things like divination and feng shui? Should Buddhists learn such things? Or should they confine themselves to pure orthodox teachings of Buddhism?

I am not an expert on the orthodoxy of Buddhism and I certainly do not wish to enter into a debate about what is and what is not a Buddhist teaching. My approach is very simple. I think that learning anything that can help make people's lives become happier and better must be good. It is like studying medicine, or nursing, or architecture. Feng shui is not spiritual. It is actually quite scientific so to me feng shui is nothing more than a living skill. But if you practise feng shui with Dharma motivations then you make your practice of feng shui also Dharma. The same with the doctor. When the doctor practices medicine with Dharma motivation he is practising Dharma.

It is said that if a person's mind is at peace, he will not be disturbed by any problems like bad feng shui?

Of course you are right but if our minds were totally at peace we would have become Buddhas. Alas we are not Buddhas ... we have not reached that level of attainment ... and so our minds ARE disturbed - when we become ill, when we lose money, when our loved ones leave us - we suffer all the problems of samsara - Buddha himself said ALL OF LIFE IS IN THE NATURE OF SUFFERING and so it is. We are living in samsara and so we are constantly affected when things go wrong. With feng shui, we can make our lives in samsara a little easier. THEREBY making it easier for us to practise Dharma. For example - if you are constantly worried where your next meal is coming from it is unlikely you will have much time to think of helping others. And if you have no money how can you be charitable? So feng shui really is a wonderful skill to acquire. Not only can you use it to help yourself but also to help others. The Buddhist meditation centres around the world that I have done feng shui for are all doing very nicely financially and I think that itself is a great indication of the usefulness of feng shui.

As a teacher of FS you are also a student of Zopa Rinpoche. How would you reconcile the dual status?

Easily... we are all students and teachers simultaneously. Lama Zopa Rinpoche is my Dharma teacher and my Tantric master - the most precious, the most important Being in my life, he approves of all that I do and encourages me to continue doing it because He has told me to use feng shui to help people.

As you a very influential person in feng shui and in Maitreya project, what is your vision for the future?

I do not consider myself particularly influential. I pray that the future will see the world more at peace. The Maitreya Buddha statue project is a reminder of this need for loving kindness. The world today with so much talk of war and hatred only makes it so much more urgent for us to build this statue as a symbol for the need for loving kindness. The statue will leave an imprint on the minds of all who see it. We are awaiting funds for it to materialize. I have no doubt it will happen. But of course it all depends on our collective karma.

What is the role of a teacher in Dharma and worldly dharma? Should a person as a teacher be a role model to practise what is preached?

Of course that is the ideal. As a role model we have a responsibility to those who look up to us. I try very hard to always live my life in the way of the Dharma. But alas ... I am only human and occasionally I succumb to anger, attachment and ignorance... so do we all. So we must be compassionate of ourselves and others. For in truth, none of us are Buddhas yet ... but of course, that is what we should all strive to be - to become Buddhas, to become enlightened for the sake of all beings. This is the teaching of the Buddha. This is the goal that should inspire us to live a good life, to be compassionate and to gain the wisdom understanding of the true nature of reality.

Between modern Dharma and contemporary spirituality what are the differences?

Dharma is about practicing the good heart with wisdom. It is also what spirituality is about or should be about. The spiritual person is someone who lives in a state of awareness of his/her behaviour, watching his/her mind making sure negative thoughts that lead to negative actions are nipped in the bud. so really there is little difference between the two.
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