I’m sure most of you dear readers are quite familiar with Marvel’s Doctor Strange, a famed neurosurgeon turned sorcerer supreme. But what if I told you that there was a Singaporean who left his job as a stockbroker to become a master of the Japanese art of Kodo? And he went around the world studying various spiritual and mystic arts, and is now looking to share his learnings through his award-winning wellness centre that specialises in Aromatic Incense Therapy?
Meet Kodo Master Lim Say Fon, the first foreign master of the Japanese art of Kodo (香道). Otherwise known as “the way of fragrance”, Kodo is an art of appreciating Japanese incense by using it within a structured code of conduct.
After a decade as a broker, something changed inside Master Fon. The stresses of the job had taken its toll on him, and the volatility of the stock market made him realise the impermanence of life. Taking solace in his Buddhist faith and his interests in therapeutic aromatherapy and herbalism, he left his career in search of a higher purpose.
We had a chat with Master Fon to find out more about his journey from finance to Kodo master and more about what motivated him to eventually set up Shambhala Kodo – his wellness centre that specialises in Aromatic Incense Therapy, Aura and Chakras scanning and therapy.
Q: What made you leave your jo as a stockbroker to become a master of the Japanese art of Kodo?
I started as a stockbroker around 2000 due to my interest in investing in the equity market and I wanted to explore the financial markets. I helped companies and private individuals invest in the Singapore equity market. But the volatile stock markets which I traded daily only brought me stress, and did not contribute to humanity or to people’s true wellbeing. I wanted to do more than merely trading.
I started thinking about having a mission or a greater responsibility towards humanity. Back then, I would turn to aromatherapy. I would light my favourite Agarwood incense, allowing its pleasing, woody scent to fill the room. My stress would then give way to serenity, a quiet calmness that washed over me.
This reminded me to take better care of myself – in mind, body and soul.
Taking solace in my Buddhist faith and my interests in therapeutic aromatherapy and herbalism, I left my career in 2010 search of a higher purpose.
Q: How has mastering Kodo changed your life?
It has made me see life differently! Personally, the aroma from burning incense encompasses the ideas of unconditional love, equanimity towards humanity – no matter who you are – with the aroma pervading to all without discrimination.
Q: How did you overcome the difficult life in the Shingon Buddhist School when you first entered?
To be frank, I nearly gave up because of the hard training. Luckily, I persevered as I knew that an opportunity like this does not come by easily. With hard work and the encouragement of my seniors, I eventually succeeded and achieved the title of Master of Kodo.
Q: What was the most interesting thing you learnt during your trainings and studies in Japan and India?
After graduating from Japan, to further my studies on herbalism, I went to Rishikesh, India to pursue the knowledge of herbalism, yoga and chakras. It was an overwhelming experience to learn how herbs can have a great effect on our bodies and minds.
There are so many sacral herbs in India! For example, I encountered a root of a tree which could swim against a river’s currents. I also encountered a root of another tree that can move on its own while being held in a person’s fingers!
Q: You created an NFT project called MandalaFON in collaboration with Cloverlemon in support of children with cancer in Singapore as well as financing the education of children in Nepal and India. Could you share with us your inspiration for the different avatars?
Each of the 1,011 NFTs in the series were developed wit ha symbolic message to help foster wellness, mindfulness and positivity. The idea came from my study of ancient artworks that contain symbolic messages of positivity and love. From there, I looked to utilise modern platforms such as NFT to share this traditional style of art with people and help them find wellness and inner peace within themselves.
The collection consists of 10 avatars:
- The Lord of the Moon – representing Monday and the 3rd Eye Chakra
- The Lord of Mars – representing Tuesday and the Sacral Chakra
- The Lord of Mercury – representing Wednesday and the Throat Chakra
- The Lord of Jupiter – representing Thursday and the Solar Plexus Chakra
- The Lord of Venus – representing Friday and the Crown Chakra
- The Lord of Saturn – representing Saturday and the Root Chakra
- The Lord of the Sun – representing Sunday and the Heart Chakra
- The Lord of Purity – representing peace and tranquility
- The Lord of Accomplishment – representing the spirit of pursuing one’s dream
- The Goddess of Wish Fulfilling – representing self confidence and faith in oneself
In the image above showing the Lord of Purity, you can see that he is holding a Vagra (a ritual weapon symbolising a thunderbolt) in his right hand while holding a bell in his left hand. The Vagra represents wisdom, while the bell represents action. Thus, the image represents how one must use great wisdom to perform all duties in the highest form of perfection.
Profits made from the NFTs will be reinvested to create a metaverse that promotes positivity and mindfulness. The MandalaFON NFTs themselves would serve as VIP passes for both the metaverse platform and real world activities, with perks such as classes on fengshui, geomancy, numerology and astrology conducted by myself personally.
Furthermore, the NFT project is looking to assist disadvantaged communities in Singapore and beyond. In the fourth quarter of this year, the MandalaFON team is looking to develop merchandise to benefit children with cancer in Singapore. Beyond our borders, I’ve dedicated part of the project’s revenue to helping children in Nepal and India by financing their education and the construction of hostels.
I’m no stranger to supporting communities like these, having donated a water filtration system to a temple in Laos back in April 2019.
Q: Do you have any other aspirations or dreams you would like to pursue going forward?
Yes, I would love to spread the wisdom of Kodo and preserve this great culture and tradition.
Q: Has becoming a master of Kodo improved your mental health? What advice do you have for people who want to improve their mental health?
Yes, using these natural incenses have become a part of my daily life. When I wake up, I burn some sandalwood, which brings a sense of positivity that is great for kickstarting the day. Using incense during meditation can bring a deeper peace, for concentration and focus. Before I sleep, I burn some Agarwood to have a better night’s sleep.
My advice to those who want to improve their mental health is that the right way of using incense would be a great help! As incense therapy enables one to have a calm and stable mind. The aroma can enable one to feel happy and positive.
We would like to thank Master Fon for his insights and if you would like to know more about Shambhala Kodo, please visit their website https://theshambhala.com.
Images: Shambhala Kodo and MandalaFON