by Ven Cathy Evans

As a student of Tibetan Buddhism, I’ve always been a volunteer. I first came to classes in 1985 and moved into the centre shortly afterwards.  

Both my parents were community minded and volunteered for the wonderful educational institutions my siblings and I attended. Our family home was full of handmade toys and dolls clothes made for sale at school fetes. This was in the post war years when toys were scarce. It was natural for me to think later of volunteering for the Dharma. 

As a young child I would spend time every day making offerings from the garden to place at the base of large trees. Each tree had a distinct personality and belonged in my mind to a ‘royal’ lineage.  

Year after year I made handmade woollen-coloured cords and would place them around one of their limbs in a ‘special ceremony’. I couldn’t have articulated to you what ceremony it was except that it was significant and secret.

When I first saw an altar at the Tibetan Buddhist Society, I immediately went and obtained flowers as an offering to the Buddha. It all fitted so easily in my mind. 

Geshe-la encouraged my artistic abilities 

From the outset Geshe-la encouraged my artistic abilities, asking me to paint such things as a banner of auspicious signs and a large picture of the Potala palace on a banner to be hung in front of the main house on special occasions.  

He gradually involved me and another student in ritual preparations, including making tormas, and preparing for initiations. We were both very naïve and Geshe Loden was, to say the least, exceptionally patient with our efforts. 

In 2000, a monk artist came from India to do the accompanying artwork for our new temple. He did a wonderful job, however he had to leave before he could complete painting the temple front door.

I offered to assist him before he left Australia and Geshe Loden immediately accepted and proceeded to tell me to paint the whole door surround and the eight auspicious symbols.

Geshe-la was wonderful in presenting you with challenges and taking you out of your comfort zone. It was a big effort and I finished it by the time His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited here in 2002. 

Geshe-la also directed me to paint deity statue faces in pure gold paint and was very keen that the Society had the skills to do this. He also directed me to fill statues with mantras and substances ready to be consecrated. On occasions he would arrange for someone to train me but often I had to do the research.  

Helping with rituals 

As the centre developed, it was Geshe Loden’s wish to have annual Vajrayana retreats held at the centre followed by a fire puja. He encouraged Jean D’Cruz and me to do this with some initial tuition from a Tibetan monk practised in the art.  

I had recently attended a Kalachakra initiation by his Holiness the Dalai Lama in Sydney and was amazed by the exquisite ritual preparation. I spent a good deal of time over the ten days watching how things appeared like magic at the subtle direction of a ritual master – a diminutive monk who deftly directed the rituals.  

I understood then we had to have ritual objects at our fingertips and anticipate the ceremonial order, so the result was seamless support for Geshe-la. I also sought and gained Geshe-la’s permission for the creation of a sand fire mandala. We held our first successful fire puja, a tradition which both Perth and Melbourne centres continue to this day.  

Many students have made marvellous volunteer contributions to the centre so the Dharma can be shared. Together we have used both innate and acquired skills to contribute to the wider TBS community.  

I am one of many who have generously given their time and energy.  I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to assist Geshe Loden in his vision for the centre and be part of a group of wonderful individuals.