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Revisiting Shravasti: A Travelogue on the Consecration of His Holiness’s Temple

In Tibetan Buddhism, utmost importance is placed on causal conditions. When a guru makes a vow or grants an opportunity to disciples to do a virtuous act, they should accept it wholeheartedly, joyously devoting their all to the task. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is a prime example of this. To fulfill the aspiration of his Three-Grace Root Guru, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has spent an enormous amount of money and effort toward the construction of the great Shravasti temple, thereby enabling this ancient land of Mayahana origination to regain its former glory and facilitate the spread of the Buddha’s teachings throughout the world to benefit even more sentient beings.

At last, this virtuous condition has borne fruit. The dignified temple was crafted to perfect completion, and towers majestically over the city of Shravasti. More than 170 disciples and believers from the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center, led by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, made yet another pilgrimage there to participate in the temple’s grand consecration ceremony.

During the 7-day journey that began on October 29th, 2018, the Glorious Jewel disciples had the good fortune of being able to listen to the Dharma from both His Holiness and H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, as well as to accompany these two master practitioners to the Buddha’s former residence in Jetavana to recite the Aspiration Prayer for Rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land. Furthermore, inside the newly-built main hall of the temple, Rinpoche led his disciples in a chanting of the Great Six-Syllable Mantra while circling the Buddha statue, and beneath Jetavana’s great Bodhi tree, he guided them in meditation, just as the Buddha had liberated sentient beings by expounding the Dharma so many years ago. All of the attendees followed Rinpoche closely as he retraced the Buddha’s steps, gaining an appreciation of his earnest and ever-present, compassionate blessings.

Shravasti, a capital city which served as the Buddha’s summer-retreat residence for twenty-five years, two and a half millennia ago, was once fertile and abundant. The Elder Anathapindada, with grounds covered in gold, welcomed the Buddha there to propagate the Right Dharma, leaving behind countless precious sutras. By contrast, modern-day Shravasti had seen many transformations and become timeworn and deteriorated, its once magnificent walls crumbling to ruins to be merely lamented by later generations. Unwilling to witness their further decline, in 2013 His Holiness put the Great Shravasti Project into motion to give Buddhists all over the world an opportunity to visit and be enlightened by the sacred teachings of the Buddha. Today, the temple’s construction is complete, and guru and disciple have come together to celebrate this remarkable achievement. Following instructions from His Holiness, H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led his disciples from around the world in a great undertaking to witness the revival and rebirth of the city.

October 29th, 2018 (Monday)
On October 29th, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led more than 170 disciples and believers from Taipei to Shravasti in India to take part in its new temple’s grand consecration ceremony, as well as the 4th Great Shravasti Buddhist Cultural Assembly. Overseas disciples set off from such places as France, Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Singapore to rendezvous in Delhi, where the auspicious pilgrimage would begin.

October 30th, 2018 (Tuesday)
After arriving in Delhi and having a brief overnight rest, Rinpoche promptly led the disciples onto a domestic flight to Lucknow. At lunchtime, the guru compassionately granted them a chance to dine with him. Having learned of Rinpoche’s visit, local believers made a special visit to seek audience and implore for blessings.

After lunch, the party made a beeline along the dusty, bumpy road straight to Shravasti, arriving by 5:00 as dusk was beginning to fall. Everyone was thrilled to see how tall and majestically the temple stood. Dozens of swallows were circling overhead, and a sign had been hung above the entrance: “Welcome to the Great Shravasti Buddhist Cultural Assembly.”

October 31st, 2018 (Wednesday)
Rinpoche’s plan today was to lead the disciples to the temple to take part in its consecration ceremony; so, at 7:20 in the morning, he walked into the hotel’s dining room to share breakfast with them. However, the ordained disciples straggled in tardily. When Rinpoche beckoned them over to ask what was going on, one of the female monastics, in her rush to get there, inadvertently stood in front of the male monastics. The guru berated her: “You’re in quite the hurry, aren’t you? You have to be first in line. Do you think that because I’ve never taken the Bhikkhu Precepts, I wouldn’t know Bhikkhunis are not allowed to stand in front of the Bhikkhus? Your group leader announced that we’d be eating breakfast at 7:00, but you’ve all just taken your time. What time did you come downstairs?” (The ordained disciples each answered in turn.) “Generally speaking, at the monastery you have to get out of bed at 5:30 a.m., so now you’ve got it easy! Do you think this is a tour group and that you’re on vacation? Your travel expenses were paid by the 1,500 members of the Glorious Jewel Association—and look how you’re repaying them! You are supposed to be leaders, yet you have come downstairs later than anyone else. What sort of leaders are you? Have you recited the pre-meal offering prayer I transmitted to you earlier? Were you reciting your morning prayers in your room? What use is that? Do you really think I came here to eat breakfast?”

Rinpoche is forever taking advantage of all manner of opportunities to compassionately teach his disciples to put the Dharma into practice in their daily lives—just as in the saying, “be it walking, standing, sitting, or lying down”—and they were all grateful to receive his teachings.

At 9:20 in the morning, the disciples arrived at the temple. Holding flags of their Order and the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in hand, they waited reverently at the entrance for H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s arrival.

After he got there, Rinpoche was invited into the VIP lounge. A little while later, preceded by a joyful parade that included a traditional Tibetan lion dance, His Holiness led Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and the other Rinpoches into the temple to conduct the consecration and ribbon-cutting ceremony. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche followed in attendance behind His Holiness, performing the rice-sprinkling and purification-sprinkling rituals with him, as well as cutting the ribbon to open the great doors of the temple’s main hall.

In this sacred moment, His Holiness took Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s hand, and they stepped into the main hall together and made a circle around the Buddha statues. The fact that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was the only Rinpoche to do so was further evidence of the assurance His Holiness had bestowed upon him: That as guru and disciple, they would forever be together, and walk the great path of Buddhism to benefit even more sentient beings.

The weather today has been splendid and sunny, but with a gentle breeze blowing now and again. An image of Shakyamuni Buddha was enshrined right in the center of the venue in which the consecration ceremony was being held, showing that this was indeed a place of tranquility in the Dharma Realm. After cutting the ribbon to consecrate the temple, His Holiness entered the venue and took his seat atop the Dharma throne. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche sat in the first row, facing His Holiness, in the central section reserved for distinguished guests.

His Holiness began by welcoming everyone who had come to participate in this important gathering. He said, “Today is the Buddha’s Descent Day. This day also marks the 4th Buddhist Cultural Assembly. Shravasti is a sacred place in Buddhism, and many events held here will bring multiple benefits, both spiritually and to society. Moreover, now that Shravasti’s temple has been consecrated, further international events can be hosted here such as summer retreats, meditations, cultural studies, and so on. The temple’s consecration is only the first step; with this as a central base of operations, we will be able to develop outwards, not only spreading Buddhism but also turning Shravasti into a cosmopolitan, eco-friendly city. I have already made quite a few arrangements with the government in the hope that we can construct an airport here so that even more people can come, and more quickly; by pooling our efforts, we can make this place flourish. I have invested a lot of energy into Shravasti’s development, and am grateful to you all for your support and for being present here today. I hope you will return in 2020 to continue supporting this wonderful undertaking.” After his speech, His Holiness presented a green sapling to the locals as a virtuous causal condition to kick off the establishment of this green city.

Next, the master of ceremonies announced that Shravasti’s progress to date had only been made possible thanks to the support of many important sponsors. His Holiness bestowed a commemorative gift upon each of these, the first of whom was the primary sponsor—H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Rinpoche immediately stepped up to the dais to make prostrations, and reverently presented a khata to His Holiness. His Holiness granted him a Shakyamuni Buddha figurine and a golden gift box, and then said in Chinese, “Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is not only our foremost main sponsor here, but has also been very, very helpful to the Drikung Kagyu Order in many places, in China and abroad. Thank you, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.”

The grand consecration ceremony concluded at around noon. With Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche in attendance, His Holiness planted the first sapling in the middle of the temple’s courtyard, a symbol of the establishment of this eco-friendly city. He then instructed Rinpoche to plant the second sapling. Rinpoche picked up a shovel and did so, and poured on its first shovel-full of dirt. It goes without saying that this instruction from His Holiness was profoundly significant!

It was extremely hot and dry in Shravasti today. It was 1:40 in the afternoon before Rinpoche returned to the hotel for lunch. Despite the extremely arduous morning, he still granted everyone the opportunity to dine with him, and compassionately reminded everyone to take some time to rest in their rooms.

At five o’clock in the early evening, His Holiness and Rinpoche took the disciples to Gandha Kuti in Jetavana, Shakyamuni Buddha’s former residence. His Holiness led Rinpoches, lamas, monastics, and others in a puja performance, as well as a recitation of the Aspiration Prayer for Rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land. As dusk fell, the myriad lotus lights adorning the mandala gradually “blossomed” with colorful radiance. The compassionate aspiration of His Holiness and Rinpoche, for sentient beings to be delivered from the sea of suffering, reverberated along with the sounds of recitation amidst the flickering light and dusky twilight. After thousands of years of lying derelict beneath moss and weeds, glory had finally been restored to this sacred city!

During dinner this evening, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche bestowed upon the disciples an opportunity to dine with him, His Holiness, and His Eminence Regent Tritsab Rinpoche. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had also instructed all the disciples to make prostrations before His Holiness upon entering the dining hall. During the feast, Rinpoche made an offering of gold foil to His Holiness.

November 1st, 2018 (Thursday)

Today was the second day of the puja. After having the good fortune of sharing the morning meal with their guru, the disciples set off at 9:30 to the temple, where they reverently waited to welcome Rinpoche.

During the puja, His Holiness sat atop the central Dharma throne. To his right sat His Eminence Regent Tritsab Rinpoche and Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, and to his left sat Nuba Rinpoche, all three of whom are major Rinpoches of the Order, and their tables were covered in red cloth.

During the puja, His Holiness continued to expound the Dharmapada, which he has done in Shravasti for four years running. Specifically, he talked about the parts related to the Buddha’s speaking the Dharma in Shravasti. This time, His Holiness drew from the story of the female lay practitioner Shagama. When she got married, her father had taught her how to venerate her parents-in-law, serve her husband, keep her home in order, and interact with friends and relatives. After she had borne and raised children, she had once inadvertently left precious clothing and other things in Jetavana; this causal condition had led to her making an offering to the Venerable Ananda. 。

His Holiness said, “When this female lay practitioner’s father gave her these ten pieces of advice, he spoke with great propriety, knowing what to say and what not to say. Nowadays science and technology are very advanced, and many new communication devices have been developed. If you are not careful, you could easily create verbal karma. This story teaches us that before we say anything, we should first make a judgment using our wisdom so as to break away from any potential verbal karmic hindrances. Furthermore, we must maintain a certain distance from our spouse and parents-in-law, just as we must not get too close when near a fire. In today’s society, you should all respect each other. For example, an appropriate distance should be kept between guru and disciple, between major donors, relatives, and people in general; getting too close can cause problems. To quote from a famous saying, ‘Keep a good distance from fire and the sun, or else you might get burned.’ Similarly, while taking care of and protecting our friends and relatives, we must do this, too, from a distance; if we get too close, issues could arise, and we could even cause friction. All of these are lessons learned from the experiences of people in the past, and are still relevant today.

“The sutra’s words teach us to respect our parents and elders. Such good morals existed in both ancient India and Han regions, and we should carry forward good traditions. Some young people make their elderly parents live in tiny rooms while they themselves live in luxury; this sort of situation is very bad. Young people get old, too; they would be very sad if their own children were to end up treating them the same way.”

At the conclusion of the puja, Rinpoche attended His Holiness as he descended from the mandala and left the venue. After His Holiness had gotten in his car, Rinpoche ran quickly over to his own car so that he could arrive at the hotel first to greet his guru. He moved with such speed, it was as if he were running in samadhi, and his attendants and bodyguards were unable to keep up. Everyone praised Rinpoche for being so conscientious; his respect for his guru had enabled him to dash bravely across the rugged sand- and pebble-strewn ground.

At midday, His Holiness and Rinpoche granted the disciples and believers another opportunity to dine with them. His Holiness personally bestowed upon each of the Glorious Jewel disciples a commemorative coin on which were engraved the Eight Auspicious Symbols. Some of the disciples and team leaders then received a handful of nectar pills from His Holiness. To save His Holiness’s precious time and energy, Rinpoche, who was attending by his side, reminded the disciples that when receiving the items bestowed by His Holiness, they did not need to kneel, and that bending at the knees was sufficient. Nevertheless, one disciple did not follow instructions, and was severely berated by Rinpoche.

At 3:30 in the afternoon, Rinpoche led the disciples over to the newly completed temple to make prostrations before the Buddha. The mandala in the center of the main hall had been laid out in a circular design, with Shakyamuni Buddha as the main yidam surrounded by statues of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas that had been donated as an offering by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Their figures stood elegantly, with a dignified demeanor. Rinpoche led the disciples around the Buddha three times while chanting the Great Six-Syllable Mantra.

Afterward, everyone ascended to the top floor, in the center of which sat an enormous gold metal sphere that was covered with tiny crystal balls. The disciples followed Rinpoche around it, chanting the Great Six-Syllable Mantra together as Rinpoche’s compassionate Dharma voice filled the void.

After chanting mantras, the disciples reverently listened to Rinpoche’s teachings: “This sphere was designed by His Holiness. Its inspiration was the tuned mass damper inside Taipei 101. From an Exoteric point of view, this sphere represents the mani jewel adorning Shakyamuni Buddha’s topknot; from a Tantric viewpoint, however, it has many meanings. The bottom part of the sphere is the head of the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha in the main hall; linking them like this symbolizes the unity of the Buddha’s three bodies—Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya.

“Most temples have two entrances, but this one has four, which was how many they all had in ancient times. For example, Angkor Wat and Bengali temples all had four entrances, but this is quite rare nowadays. The point of practicing Buddhism is to become liberated from the suffering of birth, old age, sickness, and death; it is not to improve your state of mind or mood. Some people tell me they want to practice because they have a bad temper. If you want to have a good temper or be in a better mood, you can go stare at the sky or learn psychology; you don’t need to practice the Dharma. If we want to escape the four sufferings, then Buddhism is the only way; nothing else can help us. Thus, in Exoteric terms, these four entrances represent birth, old age, sickness, and death, whereas in Tantric terms, they represent the Four Dharmas and the Four Stages. That part is Tantra, though, so I won’t speak of it.

“Why did His Holiness decide to build a temple in Shravasti? As you all know, this city is where Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Dharma for twenty-five of His later years; yesterday we visited His former residence in Jetavana. You may have noticed that all the retreat huts were very small. Practitioners were confined there all day long. Since when did monastics in ancient times enjoy the level of comfort that you do now? Since when did they ever eat and drink as well as you? Since when did their guru wait as patiently as I do for you to understand? You lay practitioners are living quite comfortably, too; whenever you see me, you vent your emotions. Such actions are not cultivation! This is the reason His Holiness built this monument in Shravasti. It was not just for our Drikung Kagyu Order; he did it in the hope that members of all the Orders and practitioners of all Buddhist sects could come here.

“The country that has built the most temples here in Shravasti is Thailand, and Korea has built the second-most. Hinayana Buddhism and the Arhat Path are practiced in Thailand, and they believe the monastics attending Shakyamuni Buddha all cultivated the Arhat Path, but that is not actually the case. If they had all been only arhats, then the Ratnakuta Sutra and later Mahayana sutras would not have emerged. Really, they just had the appearance of monastics.

“His Holiness’s decision to build this monument is also deeply significant in that all the Mahayana Dharmas Shakyamuni Buddha expounded in His later years were done right here in Shravasti. Earlier, He had expounded the Hinayana Dharmas. Why did He begin with those, before expounding Mahayana and Vajrayana? It was because the first ones the Buddha taught after coming out of His six-year retreat were the six people who had been His previous attendants. In India, it used to be popular to practice asceticism, which involves isolating oneself from the masses. Therefore, if He had first expounded Mayahana Buddhism to His attendants, they would have had trouble listening and would not have comprehended; as such, the Buddha resorted to teaching them cultivation methods that would suit them better, beginning with the Four Noble Truths and the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination. However, as more the laity have in number, more and more nonsense abounds; I am talking about the type of lay practitioners who vent their complaints every time they see me. Such behavior is not Buddhism. These days I have been expounding the Ratnakuta Sutra; now that you know what the Buddha said, you must change the way you think and amend your attitude. Yesterday, His Holiness again mentioned that he wants me to go to Europe and expound the Ratnakuta Sutra, because practitioners there are all laity.

“Thus, His Holiness constructed this monument to commemorate Shakyamuni Buddha’s Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings from His later years, which have allowed you the opportunity to be helped by the Dharma. For this reason, we are not here today as tourists visiting a holy site, or to increase our cultivation skills, or obtain the Buddha’s blessings. So when you go home, do not allow yourselves to feel arrogant at having visited Shakyamuni Buddha’s sacred site.”

While Rinpoche was bestowing teachings, a disciple kept tilting her head to gaze upward. Rinpoche berated her: “Now I know why your family members don’t believe in Buddhism: It’s because you do not set a good example for them. Right now, I am expounding the Dharma, but you keep gazing about; this means these teachings have no importance to you—so should the travel agency refund you your money? Just now you kept gazing up at the ceiling. What’s there? You come from a family that is in the construction business; do you think you’re here on construction-design tour? If you have any opinions about this building, you are welcome to tell me, and I will pass them on to His Holiness. Out of more than a hundred people, you are the only one staring upward. Do you think Shakyamuni Buddha is going to come and bless you and make your whole family live happily ever after? This means you have never had the Three Jewels in mind; all you think about are your kids, career, home properties, and husband. I saved both your sons, and have blessed and protected your entire family. How much is that worth to you? How about I calculate it for you, item by item? I’ve wanted to scold you for a long time; you have the wrong mindset, which is causing you to be called out now that we’ve come to Shakyamuni Buddha’s place. I’m taking this opportunity to reprimand you.”

Rinpoche resumed his teachings: “Thus, His Holiness has broken through the boundaries separating all the different Buddhist sects and orders around the world. He is a man who opens great doors and does great things. He has traveled the globe, and everything he sees is the Dharma. You, on the other hand, just see a tuned mass damper. Tantric practitioners, however, see more than just that; they think about why it was placed on the ceiling, and know there must be some significance in that.

“His Holiness has exerted a lot of painstaking efforts in the construction of this temple, and I, your guru, have made offerings toward it totaling more than US$2 million. It was not at all easy bringing you here. Don’t assume that having paid your travel dues is a big deal; in fact, all those fees added up are still not enough for an offering to His Holiness, so don’t think you have made offerings.

“The statue of Shakyamuni Buddha in the main hall is surrounded on all sides by standing statuettes of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas. They came from a shop in Nepal that makes Buddha statues, where I visited with His Holiness one year; he was very fond of their appearance, so I made an offering of them to him. He originally had them placed at the Order’s retreat center in New Zealand, but because the causal condition was not right, he later had them moved here. Thus, as long as you are willing to make offerings, opportunities will present themselves. In the end, the karmic effects were still quite substantial. This teaches us that once you have done a good deed, it will continue to produce merits.” (Just then, His Holiness’s attending lama walked in and agreed heartily. He joyously applauded and praised Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.)

“These Eight Great Bodhisattvas have much more profound significance than they would appear to on the surface. His Holiness had them specially transported from New Zealand not to his own temple, but to here, in order to enable even more people to come in contact with them. This is because no Dharma methods can be cultivated without the Eight Great Bodhisattvas. Even if we are not exclusively cultivating a certain Bodhisattva’s yidam, we definitely have at least practiced a Dharma method that is attuned to them.

“Therefore, His Holiness has built this temple and enshrined the Eight Great Bodhisattvas in an ancient architectural style to convey lessons of Buddhism to us, which are imbued with so much meaning. He has also made use of Chinese design patterns, such as dragons, as well as glazed tiles crafted by Chinese artisans. The main hall also contains some Japanese-style motifs. His Holiness is utilizing this place to form good affinities with vast numbers of sentient beings. Whether or not they can be liberated in this lifetime is not known, but at least causal connections can be made with them. As is written in the Lotus Sutra, as long as we make reverent prostrations before Buddha statues, we are already on our way to attaining Buddhahood. That does not mean we can attain Buddhahood just by bowing at the waist; it means we have begun to walk along the path of cultivation.

“That His Holiness has invested so much time, energy, and money to construct a temple in such a remote location as this, shows what sort of respect he has for the Dharma and for sentient beings. Tantrism places great importance on causal origination; this region is the causal origin of Mahayana Buddhism. Now that this origination has risen, Mayahana and Vajrayana Buddhism will bring even greater benefit to sentient beings from now on. It is not that Hinayana is no good; by all means, do not misunderstand. It is just that Hinayana Buddhism’s power to help sentient beings, and its scope, are limited, whereas Mahayana and Vajrayana can benefit them infinitely. His Holiness’s decision to establish the Center here is absolutely and profoundly significant. I am his disciple, but I can only comprehend a little bit of his vision; he has not told me the rest. He has merely told me that he came up with the idea after being inspired by the tuned mass damper in Taipei 101. Of course, he still has a lot of work to do here; just yesterday I heard him say that his original plan was to establish a ‘green city’ here, so it all will depend on causal conditions and on who has the power and ability to continue assisting His Holiness in fulfilling his aspiration. Anyway, we are all doing our utmost to keep making progress in Buddhism.

“Also, His Holiness has already announced to a lot of people that I am building a temple in Taiwan, so there is no turning back now! Wherever he goes, all over the world, he always says that this will be the biggest Tibetan Buddhist temple on the planet!” (Everyone applauded enthusiastically.) Rinpoche said, “There is no need to applaud. Quite a few of you are not eligible to give your support to this project. However, coming here was truly worth it for us all, because in this lifetime we will rarely have such an opportunity; even if another one came along, we would not necessarily have His Holiness here to lead us around. It seems that yesterday, when we visited Shakyamuni Buddha’s residence, His Holiness had originally wanted me to lead you all in reciting the Heart Sutra, but circumstances changed somewhat, so we recited other things. Thus, this means that at any given time, we must always respect the Dharma. Just now I led you all in a chanting of the Six-Syllable Mantra so that it would bless this precious monument and location, allowing sentient beings to have further opportunities to come in contact with the Dharma!

“A little while ago, when we were passing through the main hall, there were other Rinpoches bestowing teachings upon believers. In a moment, if they are still there, do not disturb them; we will make prostrations before Shakyamuni Buddha, and then we can leave.” There are prayer wheels all along the verandas that go around the outside of the main hall; after Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the group back down to the first floor of the main hall, everyone walked around the outside of the building, turning these Dharma wheels of compassion.

As Rinpoche left the puja venue, many Tibetans and Indian locals, as well as a few other Taiwanese believers who had participated in the consecration ceremony, all crowded around the guru, imploring for his blessings. Among them was an ailing Taiwanese man in his nineties who, seeing that Rinpoche was about to get in his car, made a special effort to get to the front of the crowd. With extreme compassion, Rinpoche bestowed blessings upon each and every one of them.

Afterward, Rinpoche led everyone back for another visit to Jetavana. Upon arriving at the Ananda Bodhi Tree, he sat beneath its boughs and spoke to the disciple about meditation.

“We will mediate here. In the Drikung Kagyu Order, the meditation method we practice is the Mahamudra. Hinayana Buddhism has what are known as the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Dhyanas. The difference is that when practicing the Hinayana meditation methods, one tiny mistake can cause one to enter the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.

“Meditation does not mean being completely devoid of any thoughts or ideas; it is not a matter of sitting there motionless and trying not to think about anything. It allows us to simplify our complex minds and find focus. Samadhi involves being fixed on a certain state, which is the space between exhaling and inhaling, and not thinking about anything in that instant after breathing out but right before breathing in. For you, this is very difficult to sense. People who can lengthen the duration of their breaths will live longer.

“Hinayana practitioners can become liberated from life and death, too, but they must become monastics first. By contrast, the Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism the Buddha expounded in His later years can be cultivated even by lay practitioners. However, to do so, one must practice the Bodhisattva Path.

“The point of meditation is not to feel attuned or to increase one’s cultivation skills. If you feel something, then you are not meditating. The Buddha stated in the Surangama Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, and the Lankavatara Sutra which states would be encountered during meditation, and we can increase our ability to meditate by learning Buddhism, such as by chanting mantras, observing the precepts, doing sitting practices, and so on.

“You are not yet qualified to learn meditation. For you, it would be impossible to empty your mind of thoughts. You may start by learning how to calm yourselves. In the process, you can detect your own wandering thoughts and learn what causes them. They all come from afflictions. We must understand that afflictions are Empty in nature, and result from causes and conditions. That is not to say that we have to get rid of all our afflictions, nor that we can do so just by wanting to; we must understand that afflictions arise from our wandering thoughts, and are not external in origin. They all arise from problems with our mind. Using Buddhism to change our life habits can help us to lessen our afflictions, but practicing means dedicating our mind to becoming liberated from life and death and being reborn in the Pure Land, not dwelling on our children, work, health, or finances.

“Though the Buddha’s emanation body is no longer in this world, as He once said, His Dharma era will last 12,000 years; this is enough time for us to cultivate. Today we have had this opportunity to come here and be touched by a bit of Shakyamuni Buddha’s qi. Now, I want you all to sit up straight; those of you who can sit cross-legged, do so. Visualize in your mind the yidam you are cultivating. The top half of your body should be upright, but you do not need to force your lower back to straighten. Do not shrug your shoulders, and tuck your chin in just a little. Touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth, and form a dhyana mudra with your hands. If you are unable to keep your eyes open, then lower your gaze slightly, but don’t close them. Let us sit in silence.”

Under Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s guidance, everyone sat in silence beneath the Bodhi Tree for a few moments. Afterward, the guru instructed them to dedicate any merits accumulated from meditation to all sentient beings in the Ten Directions of the Dharma Realm. They then recited the Aspiration Prayer for Rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land three times.

Rinpoche continued: “In the Amitabha Sutra, it is written that one wishing to be reborn in the Pure Land must be a good man or woman who is not lacking in good fortune, merits, causes, and conditions. The Buddha did not say how much or how many are needed; He simply said they must not be lacking. This means that we should constantly be active; all actions related to the Dharma can help us to accumulate good fortune, merits, causes, and conditions. We possess the causal conditions and good fortune to be here today, which means we must have learned Buddhism in previous lifetimes. Good fortune must be continuously accumulated; we must never feel that we have done enough or are finished. Why should we do this? There are two reasons: First, only by continuously gathering causal conditions and good fortune can we be reborn in the Pure Land; and second is to benefit as many sentient beings as we can.

“In the Ratnakuta Sutra, Bodhisattva Maitreya implored Shakyamuni Buddha to reveal to him how to reach the Western Pure Land of Utmost Bliss. Bodhisattva Maitreya has his own Pure Land, but he was supplicating to hear the Buddha’s teachings for the sake of sentient beings that would be living in the Age of Dharma Decline. Shakyamuni Buddha taught that no matter which Dharma methods sentient beings practiced, as long as they dedicated all their merits to the Western Pure Land of Utmost Bliss, they could be reborn there.

“This tells us that we must be willing to let go. In non-Buddhist religions, people might say they have to share things with others; for most people sharing is already pretty difficult. In Buddhism, however, we do not talk about sharing; we talk about renunciation, which means giving. That does not mean giving out everything single thing we own. The important thing is our mindset; we must understand how to have a sense of renunciation. This is because only by renouncing can we stop being attached. The last line of the Four Immeasurables reads, ‘May they remain in the boundless equanimity, free from love and hate,’ which means we should renounce both what we like and what we dislike. Why should we give? It is because we must realize that even if we have not used up our good fortune from this lifetime, it is bound to disappear anyway. People in this world who are unwilling to let go will, the instant they die, not be able to carry any wealth or power with them. Some attend the pujas in the hope that afterward no more mishaps will occur in their lives, and some come to repent for the same reason. These are both examples of seeking happiness. If you are still selfish and self-serving, then practicing Buddhism will not help you in the least.”

Next, Rinpoche instructed everyone to circle the Bodhi Tree three times while silently chanting Shakyamuni Buddha’s sacred name to themselves.

The people of Shravasti see the Ananda Bodhi Tree as the Buddha Himself. It is surrounded by protective fences, and most groups are not allowed to enter. It was extremely auspicious and rare that Rinpoche was not only able to bring everyone to sit quietly beneath the tree for a long time, but also grant the group the causal condition to walk circles around it. The disciples were sincerely grateful. The guru is constantly creating all manner of virtuous conditions for sentient beings, tirelessly and earnestly teaching his disciples. Ashamed of their own internal delusions and ignorance, a profound sense of repentance welled up in their minds, and they resolved to act in accordance with the guru’s teachings.

After the precious guidance and teachings on meditation drew to a close, Rinpoche led the disciples out of Jetavana. By then, in addition to the Glorious Jewel disciples, believers and practitioners from different regions and conversing in various languages had gathered to sit beneath the Bodhi Tree. They, too, respectfully clasped their palms before Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, and he smiled and returned the gesture. The demeanor of a master practitioner is quite amazing!

November 2nd, 2018 (Friday)

Today, everyone got ready to leave Shravasti and return to Delhi. After breakfast at the Pawan Palace Hotel, more than thirty staff—including the hotel’s chef, other employees, and security personnel—implored Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for blessings. With a vajra in hand, the guru compassionately granted their wish, blessing them one by one.

During lunch at a restaurant in Lucknow, Rinpoche ate cold noodles, and showed a great deal of concern over whether or not the disciples’ noodles had gone cold as well. Worried about any potentially adverse health effects on them, he asked the manager about it. From this it is evident how deeply Rinpoche cares for his disciples, and that he also paid a lot of attention to the quality of the travel agency that had organized the trip. All of these details helped the disciples to realize the important lessons Rinpoche was teaching by example.

November 3rd, 2018 (Saturday)
This evening, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the group aboard a plane in Delhi, bound for Taiwan. Thanks to the guru’s blessings and protection, they all returned safely to their homes. The Indian pilgrimage had been a perfect success.

During this trip to India, we disciples witnessed the great respect and loyalty our guru has for His Holiness. We also saw that all of our guru’s gestures, from his concern and teasing to his laughter and scolding, are manifestations of the Dharma! This was especially true in the sunset afterglow at Jetavana, where we noticed that despite being in his seventies, he is still full of energy and vigor. From this we have come to realize that this elderly gentleman has devoted his entire life to Buddhism, all because he is too compassionate to abandon even a single sentient being reincarnating in the Six Realms. We are both moved and grateful! How can we have any doubts, delusions, or indecision about practicing Buddhism ever again?

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Updated on December 8, 2018