Helping the monks
A regular visitor and fan of Bhutan, Dr Robin Yap from Singapore has been helping monks, students, women and members of the business community in the country for some years.
He has been helping by funding the education, clothing and meals of 13 young monks of Chezhi Goenpa in Genekha, Thimphu.
Dr Robin gives USD 220 to each young monk yearly. The monks are from humble backgrounds. “I wish to extend my help to more monks in the years to come,” said Dr Robin Yap.
The monks are studying in the 600-year-old Chezhi Goenpa, which was built by Drogoen Thinley Rabyang, a disciple of Kuenga Zangpo of the Sakya lineage in the 15th century.
It is believed that Drogoen Thinley Rabyang established the monastery after he saw in his vision, the Bodhisattava Tara in a form of mountain.
In Singapore, Dr Robin’s main responsibility is to organise the annual Siddhi Retreat, which was initiated by HH the Je Khenpo in 2005 when he first visited the country for treatment.
The retreat is organised by the Palden Choling (Dharma Shri) Buddhist Centre, established under the spiritual advice of HH the Je Khenpo. As the secretary of the centre, Dr Robin mobilises financial and human resources, and coordinates the retreat, among others.
During the retreat a large congregation recites mani mantra, listen to teachings and receive empowerment from the representatives of HH the Je Khenpo. They also save the lives of fishes and serve meals to elderly citizens who are mostly homeless.
Dr Robin said that during HH the Je Khenpo’s visit, His Holiness gave teachings and empowerments to the people of Singapore, and encouraged them to become vegetarians and save the lives of animals. “Since then most of the Singaporeans including myself have become vegetarian.”
Dr Robin said that following the visit of HH the Je Khenpo, many Singaporeans have become Vajrayana Buddhists. “Before our people had no clear line of direction in the Buddhist faith.”
Since then, the Siddhi Retreat is organised annually in Singapore where more than 2,000 devotees gather voluntarily. “Each year the number is increasing,” said Dr Robin.
To the elderly citizens, emphasis is given on teachings such as intermediate state (Bardo). It has helped them understand the dying process, which in turn has helped in accepting death and die peacefully said Dr Robin.
The foundation helps in bringing in retired officials and experts to the country to help improve the administrative functioning, computer operation and private sector development.
It also provides stationaries and cameras to schools and institutes. During his recent visits, Dr Robin who is the advisor of the foundation donated 10 cameras to schools in Thimphu and Trashigang.
The cameras were given to the nature and photography clubs so that club members learn skills in photography and understand nature. He has also donated around 30 cameras during his previous visits.
Dr Robin Yap has also donated computers, printers and other office equipment to government offices as well. He has also sponsored some officials to attend workshops in Singapore.
The foundation has also been promoting Bhutanese culture in Singapore so that the bond between the two countries is enhanced.
In 2010, with the help of the foundation, Dr. Robin organised a Bhutanese culture programme in Singapore, where a group of folk dancers were invited to perform Bhutanese folk dances and songs. “Since then, a lot of people knew about Bhutan’s rich culture,” said Dr Robin Yap.
Of late, Dr Robin has also collaborated in bringing in 10 doctors of specialisations to find out about the health system of the country and render their services.
“Besides, the services, we are also willing to provide health equipment as well.”
The doctors also met with the health minister, Tandin Wangchuk.
Given the unique traditional art, Dr Robin encourages the women in the country to work on handicraft products.
To encourage women using looms to weave, Dr Robin during his recent visit to Changjiji in Thimphu donated Nu 50,000 to a women’s association. The donation will be used as seed money to develop souvenirs and improve their skills.
“I bought souvenirs and took it to Singapore so that it can carry the brand and image of Bhutan,” said Dr Robin. “Bhutanese’s rich handicrafts have potential to penetrate the Singaporean market.”
As the vice chairman of Pacific Asia Travel Association, Dr Robin helps in sending Singaporeans and tourists from other Asian countries to Bhutan.