My guru came and gone in merely a week. After 2 years since his last visit to Singapore, Lama Zopa Rinpoche finally came back again, after having a stroke, after recovering, it took 2 long years before he came back. Like what Cecilia said during Rinpoche's long life puja, "Rinpoche, to us the 2 long years' wait felt like 2 great eons". Indeed.
This time Rinpoche gave a few sessions of teachings. He wasn't coughing as badly as he used to or at all. He was in a cheerful mood during this visit, always smiling. Every time I was next to him and called him, he smiled and nodded his head, and he obligingly posed for me if I had wanted to take a photo of him. This time somehow it was very different from the previous visits because I felt the difference. When Rinpoche walked very slowly out of the arrival hall, he was dragging his right leg (due to stroke), it was so touching and I was fighting back tears. I had expected him to arrive sitting on a wheelchair. I believe I was not alone feeling this way, the rest of the big crowd of about 500 were equally elated and touched.
Although I didn't spend a lot of time with Rinpoche, I treasure his presence and rejoice in the effect he had on so many others. There were so many new students/devotees who were meeting Rinpoche for the very first time. Of course there were the 'ohhhhs' and 'ahhhhs' squeals of delight when they saw him and all clambering to take a photo with him. Maybe it will take them a while to understand that this may not exactly be true guru devotion, yet. Guru devotion is not merely idolising and the students feeling very good about a master. There is more to it than this.
In the same breath, I was so glad to see the more senior students more understanding and weren't persistent in asking too many questions and holding on to Rinpoche during blessing (maybe it is also because of Ven Roger's strong reminder that Rinpoche should have sufficient rest). We know Rinpoche used to oblige every single personal question /request that students ask and this usually may take a long time and a very long queue of many waiting for their turn. Perhaps now they didn't want Rinpoche to be too tired. Perhaps now most senior students have 'matured'. For me, there was no need to ask Rinpoche questions because he answered some of the questions I had in mind during teachings, amazingly (but not surprisingly). Anyhow, I was happy to see everyone so harmoniously obliging and being extra understanding to Rinpoche's health. As students we hope that Rinpoche rest well and have a long life so that he can continue to give us teachings and to benefit many more old and new students.
A friend and I were chatting about guru devotion. I was telling her that to me, the qualities of my gurus are very important. We need not be physically close to our gurus to feel close to them. Many people treat gurus like friends, just because their gurus are friendly and obliging. This should not be the case. There should always be respect and a distinction between teacher and student. We need not impress our gurus by telling them how many Dharma books we have read or how many sadhanas we have memorised or how many mantras we have chanted, or how many retreats we had been to. Because true gurus will know if we treat and respect them the proper way according to the Dharma, without which we definitely cannot receive their blessings and that also means future realisations. We do not forsake our gurus just because we have new gurus or just because our gurus do not spend enough time with us. Our relationship with our guru is not only for this lifetime, but for future lifetimes as well. Wow wow wow wow..... The only way we can repay the kindness of our gurus is to follow their instructions closely and to do our practice well, and perhaps gaining some realisations. That, to me, is true guru devotion.