Mandala for Final New Moon of 2022

23 Dec 2022

Handcrafted Mandala from Nepal received on 21 Dec 2022.

I just received a mandala crafted from stone by a young mason. He took two days. The two young ladies who commissioned this piece of work were amazed by the depth of the craftsman’s knowledge & pride in his culture.

Mandala for the final new moon of 2022. (23 Dec 2022)

In the beginning of December, a former student on honeymoon in Italy texted to send me light & love. He remembered me telling him about St Francis, Botticelli and Machiavelli when he was just a boy. And now he is seeing what he read about for real with his wife.

Another, who is a businessman and now father of two has ordered a book for me which he thinks I will like based on our delight in words and respect for language.

If these former students hadn’t gotten in touch I wouldn’t have known how well their lives have turned out. The return of investment in young people takes a long time.

I imagine the youthful maker of tonight’s mandala peering over the details which his dexterous hands had coaxed from stone. He inhaled the dust particles that emerged from all that chipping, as the spirit of the mandala and his breath became one.

Youth power: Sanam crafted the mandala upon the request of Cheryl & Judy when they met in Nepal in November.

So may the New Moon tonight watch over our youths, and bless the intentions of their hearts and the work of their hands, to secure their future for the benefit of ALL sentient beings. 🙏

The Sun (Son) Rises


Emmanuel listens to story of his rescue as Mother Mary holding Baby Jesus watches on. (25 Dec 2022)

My cat, Emmanuel stretches as he soaks up the sun streaming into our living room.

Many years ago he was found without his mother. He was about to leap off the balcony to escape a bunch of well intentioned, but poorly informed school girls trying to get close to him. Luckily a teacher walked by and intervened in the ill conceived rescue mission. A tragedy of a kitten falling from height and a bunch of wailing school girls was thus averted.

Emmanuel means “God with us,” in the Hebrew language. It is also the name of Jesus, who was born of a woman to manifest the Divine.

Bambi sleeps on a pistachio yuletide log. The deer is an important & sacred animal in nordic, hindu & buddhist tradition.
2022 Bambi and deer light holder from India which was purchased in 2012.

So as we observe the birth of Divinity and the return of Light during this holy season, may we be reborn from ignorance to wisdom, confusion to clarity and fear to compassion. 🙏

Over the years holy day festivities have gotten smaller, simpler, quieter & deeper for us. (Christmas Lunch 25 Dec 2022)

Solstice Practice

11 Dec 2022

My second time making dumplings from glutinous rice floor from scratch. We added yam flour from Philippines to rice flour from Thailand to create the colour purple.

“Solstice” means the Sun stands still. In the north, it stands for the symbolic death of the Sun, only to be reborn in 3 days’ time.

Although it is endless summer in Singapore, Winter Solstice is celebrated as “Dong Zhi” (冬至) by south-east asian Chinese who inherited the practice from their east asian ancestors.

In about 11 days’ time, on 22 Dec 2022, the winter solstice will be upon us.

To mark the occasion, matriarchs of the family, either the mother or grandma will gather the children around the kitchen table to make glutinous rice dumplings that symbolise the sun, reunion & rebirth.

No alchohol was abused in the making of these dumplings.

These days, readymade dumplings of various colours and fillings from supermarkets have rendered the above practice redundant.

Recently I was only too delighted to be invited to make the spherical shaped dumplings from scratch in a friend’s newly moved in apartment.

Just imagine, on a high rise floor up in the sky, and surrounded by the latest state-of-the-art home gadgets, two English speaking persons of Fujian ancestry participating in a food making ritual that originated in ancient times.

As we ate the creation of our hands cooked and sweetened in a herbal concoction of lemon grass, honey and flowers, our friendship deepened in silence.

Handmade dumplings cooked in a concoction of lemon grass, honey and flower syrup.

So as the Solstice approaches and year end celebrations beckon, I hope we can choose to do less but put in more time & effort, and not feel pressured to fall into the trap of convenience, trying to do everything and ending up with nothing.

Wishing all friends & sentient beings a healing time as we follow the Sun. 🙏

Gin Mei’s *Mantra


Gin Mei, the shelter cat, is on palliative care.

Gin Mei is medicated & syringe fed to keep her as comfortable as possible. (Metta Cats & Dogs Sanctuary 7/12/22)

She has an enclosure to herself with food, water, litter box and a bed for her comfort. She is medicated and syringe fed to keep her as comfortable as possible.

When I prayed outside her enclosure a couple of days ago, she stopped pacing about and came towards me as if drawn to the recitation of the Medicine Buddha Mantra.

She pressed her face against the wire mesh, let me hold her paws as she stood on her hindlegs for quite some time while I bent as low as my joints would allow me to recite the mantra in her ears.

Extending her face beyond the enclosure.

Throughout this session there was no pity and no dread, but peace between the cat and me.

Because of Gin Mei’s willingness to come to me despite not being familiar with me, I was also able to place my *mala bracelet on the top of her head to bless her further.

Sentient & Spiritual

The cat’s response to the mantra offering to ease her difficulty is open to interpretation. But for me it shows that animals are not only sentient, but they might be as spiritual as we are.

I held her little paws as Gin Mei stood up on her hind legs to receive the Medicine Buddha Mantra.

So even in the most desperate of situations where all medical resources have been exhausted, we must remember we still have the one medicine that goes beyond life & death, and that is our mantras & prayers. ❤️🙏

*mantra – sanskrit word meaning “sacred words”, “chants”, etc that are repeated to aid focus and create beneficial outcomes.

*mala bracelet – prayer beads. This particular one was lovingly made by a friend who meditates regularly & does charity work in Cambodia.

Tam Tam’s Thanksgiving

7 Dec 2022 (Full Moon Eve)

This afternoon I lit a butter lamp to give thanks for a black cat who went missing for nearly 2 months, but was found unharmed.

Thanksgiving Butter Lamp on behalf of a black cat.

Tam Tam was born & raised at the animal shelter. Black cats are the most overlooked adoptees. So we can imagine his shelter caregivers’ joy that at 3 years old he managed to find a home. However, unbeknownst to his shelter family, his adoptive family allowed Tam Tam to roam.

Tam Tam doing what he does best at the old shelter where he was born and raised.

One day he went out & didn’t come home. When the shelter people learnt that Tam Tam had gone missing, they posted notices and searched anxiously for their little black prince.

This post was shared over 100 times on social media. The power of collective intentions can do wonders.

Had he met with an accident since he had little understanding of motor traffic because he wasn’t born on the street? Or had he met a python since he was lost in a forested area?

Is a black cat really so unlucky that even an adoption is shortlived?

Nonetheless I raised a butter lamp for Light to guide Tam Tam to safety, and if he had met with a mishap, may he and his caregivers find peace.

A light for Tam Tam and the search party looking for him. (24 Nov 2022 at Theckchen Choling Temple, Singapore)

A day after offering the butter lamp, I received news that Tam Tam was finally located taking refuge in someone’s compound. Alive. 🙏

This morning at the shelter, he was one of the first cats to come running to greet us at the sliding door. He chased the others around & climbed up the gate leading to the kennels to peer at the dogs. At one point the obsidian feline was seen supervising the humans on the correct way of raising prayer flags.

The Great Black Tam overseeing the raising of windhorse prayer flags on full moon eve (7 Dec 2022)

We will never know where Tam Tam wandered after he got lost, and how he was able to meet someone who didn’t chase him away because he was black, but let him remain in his compound & even fed him.

Tam Tam had scores of people combing the forest for him and his lost post notice was shared over 100 times on social media.

He showed me that it is the care given, and not the colour we’re born with, that determines our luck.

Contrary to supersitions, Black is a very humble colour that retreats so that others may shine. It forgives a multitude of imperfections, showing Black’s true magnanimity.


1 Dec 2022

Yesterday we went to bid farewell to a 52-year-old park that holds a special place in our heart.

A Flight to Remember on 30 Nov 2022. A tourist from Hong Kong helped us so that we could all be together in this frame.

The Jurong Bird Park which opened on 3 January 1971 will close on 3 January 2023. Its feathered residents will be relocated to Bird Paradise in Mandai.

The mindful pace of the flamingoes remind us to take our time. Photo credit: SH Ng

In the sweltering Sg heat, the cooling breeze on the tram ride was a life saver. For families with very young children and for the mobility challenged like me, it enabled us to take in 20 hectares worth of sights & sounds of the old Park without feeling drained or left out.

The blistering heat and high humidity of the Singapore weather make every step a test of endurance & will power.

My difficulty in getting on the ride was noted by our tram captain who promptly produced a supportive accessory to facilitate my ascent.

The highest manmade waterfall in the world behind us may be nothing to shout about now, but it was a big deal half a century ago. And it still is a structure of affection for us locals.

He then communicated with his colleague from the next station who was on standby to assist me by the time we arrived.

He did this for me on top of having to navigate the vehicle, watch out for passenger safety and wipe down a seat that someone had spilled a drink on when it was explicitly stated “No Food & Drinks on Tram.”

I used to think able-bodied people had it easier. I’m sometimes quick to join in berating them for lacking empathy towards the disabled or for not being inclusive enough.

But yesterday after witnessing what a man had to do cheerfully in order to earn his keep, I feel that my comparison was groundless.

That encounter also helps me see that some physical problems are not readily visible to the ones who don’t have them. If we’re looking for help, it is also our responsibility to explain our needs, so that people can choose their responses.

My friends and I cannot recall what we were looking at or smiling about in this shot taken at the Jurong Bird Park yesterday, but we sure can’t fake joy like this.

The joy is all the more precious because we can’t recall what we were looking or smiling at.

As we bade goodbye to the Bird Park on the last day of November and welcome the start of December, may I take this chance to wish readers of this post the peace that comes from accepting what cannot be changed, and the joy for the support that eases our ride on our journey ahead. 🙏😊

World Cup

20 Nov 2022 (World Cup in Qatar)

Twenty years ago during World Cup 2002, I had a picture taken with the match schedule at HardRock Cafe Beijing not because I understood soccer, but because Tiger Beer, a Singapore brand was featured.

I felt honoured that our beer from our tiny island was the chosen beverage for watching & celebrating an international sporting event in a gigantic country.

I’ve never known a sport that can unite and divide with such vehemence like soccer. I’m always cautious when asked which team is my favourite. My inquirer’s face morphing from friendly interest to utter disdain in a matter of seconds tells me not to drop team names casually.

2014 World Cup fever reaches the landlocked Nepal. We were on our way to Nagarkot and saw this street lined with flags of partipating countries.

One year on a crowded street in Piccadily Circus in London, a total stranger high fived & hugged my travel mate as if they were long lost relatives because the latter was spotting a certain soccer jersey.

This tribal loyalty is too much for me so I stay clear of soccer politics. But soccer uniform designs, soccer boots & related training gears continue to fascinate me deeply because they celebrate the power & grace of the human form.

I love watching the moves but I don’t like the anger and violence of the crowd when players don’t perform as expected.

So as World Cup 2022 starts in Qatar today, may our human nature evolve to meet the standards of this beautiful game called soccer, and may all sentient beings be blessed.

Years later I would learn to my great sorrow, that some hosting countries cull street animals as part of their attempts to clean & beautify locations chosen for such high stakes sporting events.

So as the World Cup opening ceremony begins in Qatar today, may our human nature also evolve to match the qualities promoted by this beautiful game called soccer. May all sentient beings be blessed.

Instinctive Draw


Of all the manifestations or portrayals of the Buddha, I feel drawn to the one with curls on his head.

This manifestation of the Buddha which I’m drawn to is located at Tkechen Choling Temple in Beatty Lane, Singapore.

Somehow he felt Nepali to me. In 2011, before my first trip to Nepal I made a trip to the Tkechen Choling temple in Beatty Lane. I told him that I was going to visit his country & asked for his blessings on the medicines & veterinary supplies that we were bringing for the street dogs.

I’m old school in the sense that if I’m visiting a country for the first time, especially one with known spiritual traditions, I have a compelling urge to declare my intentions.

Today we were at the temple to light butter lamps. I lit a lamp for a beloved shelter cat that is lost and the people who are searching for him. May the Light guide him to safety. If he has left his physical form, may the Light embrace his soul & neutralise all negative imprints & comfort the people who love him.

Whether it is just by the window of my home, or in the presence of a sacred figure of reverence, dedicating a light is one of the ways of expressing respect, support and affection.

May Tam Tam the Cat be well. May his finders be guided and comforted.

And today I also learnt for the first time that the Nepali Buddha I’ve been speaking to for the past 11 years regarding my medicine journeys for animals is none other than the Medicine Buddha himself.

May we be guided as we seek to improve our own lives and the lives of others.

Gifts from an Unknown Horse

16 Nov 2022 (World Horse Day)

The refugee horse I saw in 2001 on the news would lead me to this book in Annapurna Bookshop in Pokara, Nepal in 2011.

In 2001 while following news on the aftermath of 911, the footage of a horse straining under the load strapped tightly to his/ her back while making the mountainous crossing between Afghanistan & Pakistan would forever be soldered onto my brain. It was one of those “once you see it, you cannot unsee it” moment for me.

Taoist prayer papers featuring horses of the Gods. I love the graceful lines by which horses are depicted, almost childlike in their simplicity while deeply evocative.

That TV encounter would lead me to learn more about the suffering of packed animals & support efforts devoted to improving their conditions. In my attempts to raise funds for them, I read up as much as I could. Soon my affinity with writings & artworks that featured horses, donkeys & mules also grew. A trip to Morocco to visit the Society for the Protection of Working Animals Abroad (SPANA) opened up.

And all the above had been bestowed upon me by a nameless horse shivering in the winter cold of armed human conflicts.

Recently a former student was heading to Nepal. By way of wishing her a trip filled with pleasant encounters & learning ease, I gave her a handmade card featuring a mythical horse.

Handmade card using Lokta paper. These are the remaining 3 in my collection after giving 1 to my former student heading to Nepal.

Mythical horses or Windhorses (Lungta) are carriers of auspiciousness in Tibetan and Mongolian cultures.

Windhorse prayer flags.

One of the things the young lady did when she reached the Boudha Stupa was to take out her windhorse card and take pictures of it with the prayer flags.

My former student, Cheryl Lee, and her windhorse card at Boudha Stupa in November 2022.

I have this belief that even if we cannot change the fate of working animals directly, treating representations of them or thoughts associated with them kindly has power.

May the gesture of a girl circumabulating the Stupa with the windhorse card under her jacket, bring better treatment to all working horses and animals.

Cheryl holding her card to the prayer flags.

May our aspirations for better days for ourselves and others never cease regardless of outcomes. 🙏

Dog sleeping underneath the prayer flags at Boudha Stupa, Nepal. Photo credit: Cheryl Lee.

Full Moon Mandala of Ascension


A stag pendant which broke off from its chain & destined for the trash merged with a Bodhi leaf from the temple at Muktinath, Mustang, to mark the Full Moon.

As autumn makes way for winter, and human activities wind down, those of us who are heathy are prompted to rest and recover. We watch Fire carefully and over our ailing ones for the seasonal transition is also a doorway to the great beyond.

In agricultural communities, decisions on animals that may not be able to cope with the cold have to be made.

May those tasked to terminate an animal’s life be merciful. May the soul that is released from the broken body ascend and return to Light.

The horns extend beyond the Stag’s Skull to meet the Light. I see Menorahs and Mountains on the Bodhi leaf.

May the Full Moon inspire our thoughts to move from the Finite to the Infinite, like the way the horns grow beyond the Stag’s head to ascend Light.