At Home with Lillian Too

Sunday Star,
July 2002
By Kee Hua Chee

Lillian Too, possibly the world's most famous and prolific writer on feng shui, practises what she preaches, writes KEE HUA CHEE. Her home in Pantai Hill, Kuala Lumpur is not only built to the most stringent and favourable feng shui principles, it also has a veritable temple where high-ranking Tibetan lamas stay when in town!

While many Chinese homes have an ancestral altar and the occasional Kwan Yin or Buddha statues, Lillian Too's home overflows with them. She is a firm believer that one can never have too many Buddha and Kwan Yin statues and her house is physical proof!

Two small guardian lions stand stop atop her driveway pillars but anyone peeping inside the garden will be dazzled by a line-up of Laughing Buddha, Maitreya and Kwan Yin statues, either standing on the car porch ledge or reposing in huge pots filled with water lilies.

She moved here some 25 years ago and had it thoroughly feng shui-ed to excruciatingly accurate standards.

"My last home had atrocious feng shui. My husband and I tried to conceive for nine years and failed. We went to every fertility clinic and tried every potion possible! We gave up and started raising puppies instead!

"My marriage was also on the rocks when we bought this Pantai Hill land to build a new house. During construction I went to Harvard to do my MBA. Upon my return, I asked my husband for a divorce. He suggested we tried a final time as we had just moved into this house.

"I took an instant liking to the house and agreed to salvage our marriage. It worked! I became pregnant with Jennifer, our only child! I love this house and plan to die in it"

When they moved in, it was a one-storey home. Then it became double-storey so Jennifer would have space.

Now it's three storeys with the top floor converted into a temple that is devoted to Tibetan Buddhism.

Lillian Too prefers to call it "my meditation centre" as "personal temple" sounds too grandiose for a private home.

She insists feng shui is not a religion and separate from Buddhism and Taoism though certain elements tend to overlap.

"I am a serious practising Buddhist, as I am too deluded to be called "devout," she grins charmingly.

"Like most Chinese, I believe in Buddhism but until 1997, I was a closet Buddhist, what they say about a guru finding a student and not the other way around!

"Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche (Precious Lord of Refuge) faxed me out of the blue in 1997. The fax appeared as I was leaving for a skiing holiday. He had read my books and faxed me some questions. I had never heard of him nor knew much about Tibetan Buddhism. I scribbled a fax back saying I would reply upon my return"

Too resumed communication and Lama Zopa Rinpoche invited her to India.

"I said 'certainly not' as India was not in my list of places to visit. But within three days I was there to meet him, standing self-consciously while devotees prostrated at his feet."

Since then, Too has met the Dalai Lama and her greatest material possession is a grain of tooth of Sakyamuni Gautama Buddha, the historical Buddha who was born in human form.

"The tooth was given by Zopa Rinpoche after one year of knowing me," says Too.

Every nook, cranny, corner and available space in the house is occupied by Figures of Buddha, Kwan Yin and various deities while the walls are made colourful by brilliantly hued tangkas, the Tibetan religious paintings.

As if by instinct, her two cocker spaniels have never knocked over anything.

Visitors are usually given statuettes of Buddha and Kwan Yin she makes herself.

"They are made from plaster of paris or Malaysian gypsum in moulds I bought from Rinpoche's monastery in France. One should never profit from religion," she says.

"In fact, you should not receive any payment for this article." This advice, alas, has fallen on deaf ears.
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