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In Japan, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche Expounds the Diamond Sutra and Presides over the Chod Puja to Perfect Completion

On January 5th, 2019, to kick off the New Year, the Kyoto Buddhist Center had the auspicious causal condition to host His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche as he expounded the Diamond Sutra—which contains the most important of the ideas central to the Great Prajna Sutra—for the first time. Drawing from his genuine cultivation, and while in a profound state of samadhi, the guru pointedly brought to light the Bodhi significance, touching the hearts of all the attendees!

In the afternoon, with the right causal condition, Rinpoche presided over the Chod Puja, one of the Eight Sadhanas in Tibetan Buddhism, in order to liberate sentient beings with causal conditions and eliminate the attendees’ hindrances. Everyone present was deeply moved! Immersed in both Exoteric and Esoteric Buddhism, this puja was extremely precious!

A total of 141 people participated, including Abbot Ogawa Yuki from Onsenji Temple in Shirosaki, Japan, eighteen Japanese and Taiwanese believers, and 122 disciples. All, without exception, felt extremely fortunate to have been granted such a rare and auspicious opportunity!

A distinguished Japanese guest signing the guestbook.

At 9:25 in the morning, welcomed reverently by the attendees, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche set foot upon the mandala to light lamps as an offering to the Buddha. Afterward, he ascended the Dharma throne and led everyone in a performance of the Avalokiteshvara Ritual. The guru then bestowed precious teachings:

“I’ll be expounding the Diamond Sutra for the first time today. Whether or not you’ve ever learned Buddhism, just about all of you have heard of this sutra. It has great importance in Zen Buddhism. However, many people harbor misconceptions about the Diamond Sutra; they think that as long as they have read it, recited it, or even heard it explained, it can make them as invulnerable to harm as a diamond. This might seem true on the surface, but it is actually both correct and incorrect.

“Its complete name is the Diamond Prajna Paramita Sutra, which has been abbreviated to the Diamond Sutra. While on Earth, Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Dharma for forty-nine years, twenty-two of which He used to expound the Great Prajna Sutra. ‘Prajna’ means prajna paramita. In simpler terms you can understand, prajna represents wisdom—not mundane knowledge or intelligence, but the wisdom of the Buddha. Sentient beings are all endowed with the same sort of wisdom. Practicing Buddhism does not mean seeking protection and blessings or getting healthy; such things are very superficial, and have nothing to do with cultivation. If you can put the Buddha’s teachings into practice step by step, in the prescribed order, then eventually you are bound to cultivate prajna, or wisdom.

“Cultivation is divided into two parts: Cultivating wisdom and cultivating good fortune. Both of these are equally indispensable to one’s practice. A person with good fortune but no wisdom will be ignorant, while one with wisdom but no good fortune will be arrogant. Therefore, both must be cultivated together. Shakyamuni Buddha spent twenty-two years expounding the Great Prajna Sutra, which hinges on the idea of what cultivation is. Is it clapping one’s palms together or ringing a bell? Or taking a stick around, worshiping the Buddhas from temple to temple? Does cultivation mean sitting somewhere for seven days straight with one’s legs crossed? Not one of them is; those are all just assisting conditions that can help you to obtain the causal condition to practice. None of them is a true idea and method of cultivation.

“The Diamond Sutra is the ninth part of the Great Prajna Sutra, and includes the most important, most crucial teachings in all of the latter’s six hundred volumes. The Great Prajna Sutra comprises about an entire third of all the Dharmas Shakyamuni Buddha ever expounded. In other words, if we want to cultivate the Bodhisattva Path, attain Buddhahood, liberate ourselves from reincarnation, and even help others do the same, then we absolutely must cultivate prajna. How, though? If I were to tell you right now, you would not understand. If the opportunity arises, I’ll teach it to you, but it cannot be rushed.

“The word ‘diamond’ infers that it can break or destroy anything. Once we have cultivated prajna and begun to unlock the Buddha’s wisdom, we can use it to overcome anything in the mundane world. What are these mundane things? Hindrances of affliction and knowledge. Hindrances of affliction occur as a result of greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt. All afflictions hinder and block every sentient being’s pure Buddha nature from being revealed. In addition, our hindrances of perception produced by our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness encumber us with attachments. We all place the utmost importance on ourselves, on what we think, and on what we want; these are hindrances of knowledge, and they will get in the way of our practice. No mundane methods can resist or break past these two sorts of hindrance; only the Dharma can. When we practice the Bodhisattva Path and begin to learn to cultivate prajna, or wisdom, then just like a diamond, we can cut through any innate afflictions we encounter in life, including those that arise both internally and externally, as well as hindrances of knowledge; only then can we enter the meditative state, which does not mean feeling quite comfortable while sitting with your legs crossed for a few days.

“Another meaning of ‘diamond’ is that once we can successfully cultivate wisdom, we are strong like a diamond in that we can safeguard our conviction in our practice; our cultivation will not be subjected to interference from any worldly afflictions or karmic retribution resulting from either good or evil actions done in our past lives. What I am talking about today is the Exoteric part, that part that involves theory. The theoretical part is very important; if you try to practice Buddhism without understanding the theories behind it, then you will reduce it to a non-Buddhist religion. What are non-Buddhist religions? They are those that involve praying for this and that, such as protection and blessings. Of course, some people might feel something after such prayers, but that does not mean they are practicing. Only once we can cultivate prajna and comprehend the principle of Emptiness can we be reborn on the other shore — in the Buddha Lands, after which we will no longer need to suffer in reincarnation. As practitioners, when we understand, through self-reflection, to the point of being enlightened in diamond wisdom—in other words, of having attained internal enlightenment of our pure nature every time we chant mantras or meditate—then we can break ourselves and sentient beings free of the sea of suffering, that is life and death.

“The Diamond Sutra explains very well and very clearly the ideas central to practicing the Bodhisattva Path. Therefore, for people who have heard this sutra and can adhere to its teachings, the Buddha added a few lines at the end: ‘…If a good man or good woman, who has given rise to bodhicitta, takes even just a four-line verse from this sutra and recites, remembers, follows, and speaks it to others, then his or her good fortune will far exceed that of others. How should one speak it to others? Without attachments, abiding in stillness and suchness.’

“In the line, ‘If a good man or good woman’, ‘good’ refers to one who cultivates the Ten Meritorious Acts, the first of which is to refrain from killing. For any believers who are still eating meat, regardless of how much they chant the Buddha’s name, make prostrations, or supplicate to the Buddha, they will only obtain a tiny bit of good fortune for use in the next lifetime; it cannot be used in this one. Meat-eaters who participate in pujas cannot possibly change any of the good or evil karmic retribution they have accumulated from their behavior in past lives, either; all they can do is to form a connection with the Buddha and return in the next lifetime. Good men and good women are mentioned very frequently in the sutras, and they refer to both monastics and lay practitioners. The first Meritorious Act is to refrain from killing, and from eating meat. If you still eat meat, then you cannot be counted a ‘good’ person no matter how much you chant the Buddha’s name, make prostrations to the Buddha, or participate in pujas.

“The Ten Meritorious Acts also include refraining from stealing, sexual misconduct, divisive speech, harsh speech, false speech, frivolous talk, greed, hatred, and ignorance. Ignorance does not refer to stupidity; it means not believing in cause and effect. Such people are only practitioners by self-proclamation.

“The phrase,‘given rise to bodhicitta’, refers to those who practice Buddhism to become liberated from life and death, and help others to do the same. ‘Citta’, or mind, is one’s motivation. What is your motivation for participating in a puja? If it has to do with bodhicitta, then you meet the aforementioned prerequisite. ‘Follows’ here means that your thoughts never leave the central tenets taught by this sutra. It does not mean merely reciting or holding this sutra in hand, memorizing it, or having heard it before; rather, it means your actions, words, and thoughts are in line with what is taught in the sutra. If your actions, thoughts, or words stray from these teachings, the sutra will useless to you no matter how much you listen to it. Do not assume that you are remarkable just because you have heard the teachings of the Diamond Sutra.

“‘…Takes even just a four-line verse from this sutra’. The Buddha states very clearly that you do not have to succeed in practicing what is taught in the entire sutra or every one of its lines; you just need to put into practice what is taught in the four-line verses of this sutra. These embody its central essence. ‘Recites, remembers, follows’—I explained this before; it means in actions, words, and thoughts, always living your life in accordance with the teachings stated in the Diamond Sutra. ‘Speak it to others’ does not literally mean explaining it to others or reciting it for people you might encounter. ‘His or her good fortune will far exceed that of others’—This means this person has an enormous amount of good fortune. What is good fortune used for? It is used to further one’s cultivation. As long as a person is willing to practice, then all of the evil karma he or she has created in past lives and in this one can be transformed into good karma, and no bad things will happen in his or her home.

“‘Without attachments”—You should not allow yourselves to grow attached to speaking the Dharma for others, or think you are practicing anything in particular. ‘Abiding in stillness and suchness’—If your mind is immovable, this sort of good fortune will arise. What do these last few lines mean? Because some of the Japanese believers are here this morning but will not be in attendance in the afternoon, or vice versa, it means that they have lots of afflictions. Many people think that when it comes to listening to the Dharma, they can just come and go as they please, and that it takes a back seat to their mundane affairs. I am a lay practitioner, the same as all of you; at present, I have 160 employees and 1,500 disciples. Who would you say is busier—you or I? On top of that, I am giving support to undertakings for the entire Order, and currently am constructing a new temple; there are simply not enough hours in the day. Why, then, do I still have time to expound the Dharma for you all? I do it not for the sake of your offerings, but because it is my responsibility; it is my job. For me, Buddhism is more important than anything in the mundane world. However, so many people in society think their affairs are more important than Buddhism; as a result, they often lose out on good and virtuous causal conditions. Regardless, even if you only listen to the Dharma for half of today, that is at least a lot better than not coming at all; it means you still have some good fortune, which will allow you to listen to the Dharma again in future lifetimes.

“There are seven different Chinese translations of the Diamond Sutra. However, the one most used is the one translated by Tripitaka master Kumarajiva, who was from India. ‘Tripitaka’ refers to the sutras, vinaya (precepts), and sastras (the Buddhist theories spoken by Bodhisattvas), and anyone proficient in all three is known as a Tripitaka master. Now I will commence with expounding the sutra.

“‘Part One: Convocation of the Assembly’

“The sutra reads, ‘Thus I have heard.’

“Next to the sutra lines in the Japanese believers’ texts are transliterations, not translations of the words’ meanings. One should not attempt to understand the sutras through literal interpretation; the significance of Tathagata’s secrets lies not in the words, but in practice. The degree of one’s understanding of the sutras depends on one’s stage of cultivation.

“The first line of the Diamond Sutra is actually the same as the first line in many other sutras: ‘Thus I have heard.’ This is because in the forty-nine years that Shakyamuni Buddha expounded the Dharma, He never had anyone by His side to record His teachings. Furthermore, the Buddha spoke the Dharma spontaneously, and every word He uttered in those forty-nine years was the Dharma; there would not have been time to write it all down—not to mention, there were no cell phones back then. So what could they do? People in ancient times listened differently to how you do. You listen with your ears, while your mind is out wandering elsewhere, and some of you are thinking contrasting thoughts. In other words, you are not listening to the Dharma from a meditative state.

“‘Thus I have heard’ means ‘This is how, while in a meditative state, I listened to the Buddha expound the Dharma; I did not hear it second-hand, but heard it verily clearly myself.’ In the historical context of Buddhism, after the Buddha entered nirvana and left this mundane world, his five hundred arhat disciples gathered together and recorded, word by word, everything they had heard Him say while listening in a meditative state through forty-nine years of teachings. Therefore, this first line, ‘Thus I have heard,’ does not refer to what others may have told them, but to Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings that they heard in person. In other words, our reciting the sutra lines today is also the equivalent of ‘Thus I have heard.’ These venerable arhats simply listened to the Buddha’s Dharma teachings on our behalf. If we give rise to reverence for the Buddha, the Dharma, and those who transmit it, then it is the same as if Shakyamuni Buddha were here in person, expounding the Dharma to us directly.

“The sutra reads, ‘Once, the Buddha was residing at Jetavana in Shravasti with an assembly of twelve hundred and fifty great Bhikkhus.’

“This was the final place of residence in which the Buddha lived for a long time and spoke the Dharma. I have visited this sacred site twice, because His Holiness has constructed a great stupa there. The actual place where the Buddha expounded the Dharma back then still exists and has been preserved quite well. Of course, these days only the foundations of many of the buildings remain; the rest of the structures disappeared long ago. However, the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment was transplanted to the place where He delivered His teachings, and that same tree is still there. In all of the sutras it is explained that Shravasti at the time was a very powerful country of India. Jetavana was given to Shakyamuni Buddha as an offering by an elder so that He could have a place to reside and to expound the Dharma.

“It is also often mentioned in many of the sutras that the Buddha had at least 1,250 great Bhikkhus at His side. Great Bhikkhus were ones who never broke any Bhikkhu precepts while practicing, who were personally transmitted the Bhikkhu Precepts by the Buddha, and who constantly remained by His side to listen to and practice the Dharma. Just about all of these great Bhikkhus had attained the fruition of a First Ground arhat. Such practitioners possessed vast good fortune and great causal origination to have been able to remain close to Shakyamuni Buddha, listening to the Dharma and helping sentient beings. The sutras characteristically mention three things: First of all, who heard it spoken? Secondly, where was it spoken? And thirdly, who came to participate in this puja?

“The sutra reads, ‘One day, at mealtime, the World Honored One put on His robe, took His alms-bowl, and entered the great city of Shravasti to beg for food. After begging from door to door, He returned to His residence. When He had taken His meal, He put away His robe and bowl.’

“In ancient times, all monastics had to beg from door to door with an alms bowl in hand. They were like beggars, going from house to house, imploring for offerings. This said a few things: Because you’re a monk, you should not have or create any afflictions; and whether you eat or starve today all depends on your good fortune and causal conditions. Therefore, Shakyamuni Buddha required all of His disciples to beg at the doors of three households, and whenever they were unable to get anyone to give them something to eat on that day, it meant they had insufficient good fortune, so had to go back and conduct a retreat. How different is that to what we do? If one restaurant is closed, we go to another; if the food there tastes bad, we go to yet another. It’s like how I have opened up a few restaurants, yet none of you gives them your patronage; you think the food is no good, so you go to another restaurant where it’s cheaper. You are not practitioners. Among Hinayana Buddhists in Thailand and Sri Lanka, it used to be popular for believers to make food offerings to monastics. Nowadays, though, this, too, has gone out of practice.

“The Buddha used to call monastics ‘mendicants’. Why is that? It is because the only reason they were able to continue using their physical body to practice and sustain a karmic body was that people had helped them and made offerings to them. Secondly, calling them ‘mendicants’ broke people’s attachments to wealth and status. It also gave them an opportunity to make offerings to arhats and Buddhas. Everything Shakyamuni Buddha did was for Buddhism; He never angled for fame, asked for pity from others, or wore ragged clothing to show that He was cultivating. Rather, His mindset and principles were demonstrated through these acts.

“After putting on His Dharma vestments and fetching His alms bowl (the sort of bowl monastics used when eating), the Buddha led His disciples into Shravasti City (the capital at the time) to beg for food. After knocking on a door or two He got something to eat, and returned to the place in which He had been conducting retreats. After eating His fill, the Buddha put away His vestments and washed and put away His alms bowl. Why should we wear Dharma vestments while eating? It is because it is not our karmic body that is eating. Anything we eat today is an offering to the Buddha, our guru, and the yidam. In Japan these days it is popular to say a few lines with chopsticks in hand prior to eating. Actually, this comes from Buddhism; it is an offering to the Buddha, the yidam, and monastics.

“When we eat, we are making offerings on behalf of sentient beings. It may look like we are eating, but we actually have a lot of sentient beings inside our bodies. For example, our stomachs contain many bacteria that need us to eat in order to gain sustenance. We are also eating for these sentient beings’ sake, which is why we wear Dharma vestments while doing so. That is very different from how lay practitioners go home, change clothes, and lounge around eating in bed in a haphazard fashion. Kids these days are being taught to eat like this, too. In the movies, they see people eating breakfast in bed; that is all wrong. How do animals eat? Animals all bring their food back to where they live. If this is how you act, it means you are preparing to return in your next lifetime as an animal. You don’t think it’s a big deal when kids eat in bed; you even let your pets eat in bed with you. This means you are going to be reincarnated as an animal. Have a look at whether animals’ living habits are similar to yours or not. If they are, it means you are preparing to turn into an animal. Humans should act and look like humans, which is why people in China and Japan say one should sit up straight when eating and not slump or lean to the side. One should also clean one’s eating implements; no one is here to serve you, so you should wash the items you use clean.

“The sutra reads, ‘He washed His feet, arranged His seat, and sat down.’

“In the past, whenever monastics went out, they just about always went barefoot. Roads back then were not covered with asphalt that would scorch one’s feet; they were just dirt. After washing His feet, the Buddha most certainly would place a clean piece of cloth atop His seat before sitting in it. This meant that the Buddha ate, put away His clothes, washed His bowl clean, and washed His feet before ascending the Dharma throne to speak the Dharma, without taking any time to rest in-between.

“‘Part Two: Subhuti’s Request’

“The sutra reads, ‘At that time, the elder Subhuti, who was in the assembly, rose from his seat, uncovered his right shoulder, knelt upon his right knee, and respectfully joined the palms of his hands together.’

“One of the elders sitting in the assembly, Subhuti, stood up, uncovered his right shoulder, and implored the Buddha for guidance. Why do monastics nowadays leave their right shoulder uncovered? This custom comes from India. There it is very hot, and the clothing they wear leaves their right side exposed. The right side represents Buddhist undertakings, which means that ‘my leaving my right shoulder uncovered indicates that I am ready to accept all the activities taught to me by the Buddha.’ Activities do not mean doing business; they are undertakings that the Buddha has taught that we should do.

“Kneeling on one’s right knee with palms clasped is a sign of great respect. This is what you should always do when imploring the Dharma; you should not just sit down there, raise your hand, and tell me you have a question to ask. Imploring for advice must be done in the proper manner to be in accordance with the Dharma.

“From this line it is apparent that in addition the 1,250 Bhikkhus, there were a great many people present to listen to the Buddha speak the Dharma. I have visited Shakyamuni Buddha’s residence in Shravasti twice. It is very flat, without hills, and strangely devoid of any rocks. It is a very clean meadow, without any weird trees, either, or prickly brambles to keep you from being able to sit down; it is a broad, clear plain.

“The sutra reads, ‘He said to the Buddha, “You are so very rare, O World Honored One!”’

“He opened his mouth and began to speak. ‘Rare’ meant rare throughout the entire universe. Even though it is written in the sutras that there are hundreds of millions or even billions of Buddhas, from the perspective of the Buddha, the universe is infinitely vast and constantly expanding and growing. Likewise, it contains an infinite number of sentient beings. There is no need to speak of the far, distant past. I don’t know what the Earth’s population was back in Shakyamuni Buddha’s time, but I am guessing it was at least two hundred million, and out of all those people, only one Buddha had emerged. In the two and a half millennia between then and now, there have been no other Buddhas. There won’t even be another one ten thousand years from now. Thus, Buddhas are very rare. Shakyamuni Buddha stated very clearly that Bodhisattva Maitreya will come 4.6 billion years from now, and that a sixth Buddha will also appear. This rareness indicates that it is very difficult to have the chance to see and listen to a Buddha. In other words, we do not possess enough good fortune, so we cannot meet in person with Shakyamuni Buddha. However, we at least can have the good fortune to listen to His teachings.

“To put it another way, China and Japan can be considered fortunate; people in both countries worship Shakyamuni Buddha and have, to some extent, accepted His teachings. A lot of gestures and colloquialisms used in modern Japanese life are related to Buddhism; people just don’t take notice. These are all Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings. ‘Rare’ means that He can have a huge influence on human thought and culture, across ethnicities. This is a positive sort of influence, not a negative one. It is very rare; it is not about how to foster an area of academic knowledge so that one can produce a Buddha on one’s own. The emergence of a Buddha comes with enormous causes, conditions, and good fortune; this Buddha has cultivated for many lifetimes, and was therefore able to attain Buddhahood in this one. Shakyamuni Buddha’s arrival on Earth indicated that this planet’s sentient beings possessed enough good fortune to receive the Dharma.

“In ‘O World Honored One,’ ‘World’ does not refer to the Earth or this solar system; it refers to the Dharma Realm.

“The sutra reads, ‘“How remarkable, World Honored One, that the Tathagata is ever- mindful of all Bodhisattvas, protecting and instructing them well!”’

“Tathagata is another of Shakyamuni Buddha’s appellations. He is constantly mindful about helping, benefiting, and protecting Bodhisattvas. This line is very important. If you are not learning or cultivating the Bodhisattva Path, then the Buddha has no thoughts of protecting you. Do not assume that praying before a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha will cure your son’s ailments; the Buddha cannot hear such supplications. It is not that He is incapable of it; rather, it is because His teachings do not involve such simple mundane matters. He teaches all Bodhisattvas how to attain Buddhahood and become liberated from life and death, and how to help sentient beings.

“Put simply, the Diamond Sutra cannot be realized, understood, and taught by just anyone. If you are not practicing the Bodhisattva Path, then your relationship with this sutra will be quite shallow; you will just be reading, reciting, and transcribing it. In Taiwan, I have been continuously expounding the Ratnakuta Sutra, which teaches lay practitioners how to cultivate the Bodhisattva Path. The Diamond Sutra is about the Bodhisattva Path, too. There are both monastic and lay Bodhisattvas. I’m a lay practitioner practicing the Bodhisattva Path. People who are cultivating to become arhats must take the garb of monastics, but both lay practitioners and monastics may cultivate the Bodhisattva Path. Those who take the monastic garb must keep the Ordained Precepts. They absolutely may not get married, hold property, or do business. These precepts were set by Shakyamuni Buddha, not by me. Though He was an honorable Buddha, even Shakyamuni begged for food, and He did not have anyone to serve Him food, either. Actually, the Buddha was demonstrating for all His disciples: ‘If you want to become ordained, this is what your life will be like.’ It is written in the Ratnakuta Sutra that if you are a lay practitioner, you may own wealth and all that, but your mindset must be different from others. Those of you who have heard my teachings on the Ratnakuta Sutra know what I am talking about.

“The word ‘all’ here means many; not just one or ten, but millions or even trillions. Shakyamuni Buddha was constantly giving instructions to all Bodhisattvas. ‘Well’ refers to all methods that enable one to become liberated from life and death, not those that might satisfy minor mundane desires.

“The sutra reads, ‘“World Honored One, when good men and good women resolve to attain Anuttara-Samyak- Sambodhi, how should they abide their mind, and how should they subdue their thoughts?”’

“These practitioners of the Bodhisattva Path have already developed bodhicitta. The phrase ‘Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhicitta’ is not usually translated, because it is imbued with so much meaning, and does not simply refer to wisdom. It indicates a sort of bodhicitta that practitioners of the Bodhisattva Path absolutely must develop. The most important aspect of bodhicitta is that one’s actions, speech, and thoughts are all working together; this is not a matter of speaking eloquently while harboring contrary thoughts, or thinking one way and acting another, or not reflecting one’s thoughts in what one says. One must aspire to bodhicitta completely in one’s actions, words, and thoughts.

“‘How should they abide their mind’—Even assuming that you have given rise to bodhicitta, how can you maintain it? This means that even when ordinary people have aspired and are practicing, they often succumb to interference from various mundane distractions that make them forget their aspirations. These keep them from maintaining a state of bodhicitta, often scattering their focus. “How should they subdue their thoughts”—what methods should they use to subdue their thoughts, which are constantly harassed by hindrances of afflictions and knowledge?

“The sutra reads, ‘The Buddha said, “Excellent! Excellent, Subhuti!”’

“When the Buddha says ‘excellent’, it means you have asked a very good question! You should be clear on the fact that the Buddha would never speak the Dharma without first being implored to do so. However, such supplication must be done in the correct manner. People like yourselves might say, ‘My son is sick, so what should I do, Rinpoche? My business is failing; what should I do? And what should I do about my high blood pressure?’ Such questions are all very foolish; I can’t do anything with those.

“Why did the Buddha say ‘excellent’? It was because Subhuti had asked a question on behalf of all Bodhisattvas; he had inquired for the sake of others, and his question had been about cultivation! Had he not asked, the Buddha would not have spoken, because the causal condition to do so would not have existed. The Buddha’s praise of ‘excellent’ meant, ‘You have asked a good question!’ Previously, the Buddha had said that if one asked the wrong sort of question, He would not answer. This sort of thing happened a lot; if people did not implore in the right manner, the Buddha would ignore them. Do not assume that if you ask a question you will necessarily be given an answer. It is the equivalent of suddenly asking a physics professor a question about literature; the professor would not have to answer, and would be within his or her rights to ignore you. Why do you think a practitioner should answer any question you might ask? And then if he doesn’t answer, you complain that he is not compassionate.

“‘Subhuti’ was the elder’s name. If the Buddha speaks your name, it means you are really in luck, because He would only call you by name if He remembered you. I often say I haven’t seen you; that means I do not remember you. Don’t think it funny that I haven’t seen you and doesn’t know about you. If that is the case, you are in trouble, because if I do not remember you, then when you are on your deathbed and someone tells me that so-and-so is dying, I’ll say, as I often do, ‘Well, what does that have to do with me?’ If I do not normally have any recollection of someone, it is because he or she does not listen. You have all gone through school; think about it: If you behaved, the teacher remembered you, and the same was true if you were naughty or even very unruly. Therefore, if you are a bit bad, I’ll still remember you, but if you leave no impression whatsoever, I won’t.

“When the Buddha spoke Subhuti’s name, it meant that He remembered him. When the Buddha gave rise to a thought, therefore, Subhuti became present in His mind, and when He thought of protecting Bodhisattvas, Subhuti would certainly be one of them, because he was the one who had originated this causal condition. However, do not deliberately find certain Dharma questions to ask me; that would be contrived.

“The sutra reads, ‘“As you say, Tathagata is ever-mindful of all Bodhisattvas, protecting and instructing them well.”’

“Just as you say—thinking about someone is remembering that person. Tathagata is always protecting all Bodhisattvas well. This means that if you are practicing the Bodhisattva Path, the Buddha will remember you and naturally bring you protection without your even needing to implore for it. This is the reason His Holiness once said that I will certainly be successful in all my endeavors. This did not refer to business, but to Buddhist activities. Why will I succeed? It is because the Buddha is mindful and protective of me, remembers me, and is helping me; I do not need to implore for His assistance, as everything I do is for the sake of sentient beings, not for myself. In contrast, all of your thoughts are for yourselves. Why, then, would the Buddha remember you? He does not, and in turn, nor do the Bodhisattvas; if they don’t remember you, then neither do the Dharma protectors, and if the Dharma protectors do not remember you, then neither will your guru. This is all common logic. You need to stop messing around.

“‘…and instructing them well’—The Buddha is constantly exhorting, explaining, and giving instructions to all the Bodhisattvas regarding the direction of their cultivation. If you are truly one who aspires to practice the Bodhisattva Path, then you really have nothing to worry about. Even if the Buddha does not appear before you, the Dharma protectors—including your guru—will naturally lead you back onto the right path and keep you from going astray.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Now listen closely, and I shall explain to you….”’

“You should listen carefully now. The Chinese word, ‘di’, as in ‘listen closely’, is used in the sutras to mean ‘attentively’ or ‘carefully’. It means that what is being said is of utmost importance. The character for ‘di’ comprises the radicals for ‘speech’ and ‘emperor’, side by side. If the speaker were an emperor, would you dare not listen to what he had to say? If you did not listen, or misunderstood, your heads would roll. However, you tend to say, ‘Rinpoche, I didn’t hear you correctly; I remembered it wrong—sorry.’ If you did this to an emperor, you would get executed. This line of the sutra means you should listen very closely with every ounce of your attention, without any expectations. You should not be hoping that you can obtain something in return for listening to the Dharma; that way of thinking is wrong, and you won’t get anything at all from it. Do not assume that having listened to the Dharma means you will be rewarded; that is hoping, not listening closely.

“The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have not given us anything. Earlier it was stated that the Buddha instructed them; did it say He gifted them with anything? It merely said He would protect and help them, and prevent them from going astray or cultivating incorrectly. It did not say that the Buddha will practice for you so that you don’t have to do it yourself and can just sit there doing nothing. When reading the sutras, you need to understand what exactly the Buddha was doing. After the Buddha says He will bless you, does that mean you no longer have to cultivate? He never said that. These two lines are very important: If you are on the Bodhisattva Path, the Tathagata protects you and is mindful of you, remembers and instructs you, and tells you. Is there any mention here that if you make prostrations before the Buddha, He would therefore give you everything you want? Such is not written. Bodhisattvas must cultivate themselves. If your guru’s words go in one ear and out the other, and you try to do things your own way, then you are not practicing the Bodhisattva Path, and will not succeed—just as you wouldn’t in the workplace if you tried to ignore your boss’s instructions there. People who talk nonsense are likewise unable to practice the Bodhisattva Path.

“The sutra reads, ‘“ Good men and good women who resolve to attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhicitta should thus abide and subdue their thoughts ”’

“When good men and women have aspired to attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhicitta, they should remain in a state of bodhicitta and thereby subdue their thoughts.

“The sutra reads, ‘Subhuti replied, “Yes indeed, World Honored One; I am listening with great anticipation.”’

“‘So this is how it is; I would like to aspire to this.’ ‘Would like’ here does not refer to happiness or delight; it means ‘I vow to joyously listen to the Dharma on behalf of sentient beings.’ Why does it say, ‘with great anticipation’? Until we have attained Buddhahood, all of our lifetimes are full of desires. For example, when we are hungry, we desire to eat; when we are cold and want to cover ourselves with a blanket, this, too, is a desire. After growing up, we have the desire to be with a man or woman; this cannot be avoided, because we are human. Here, this anticipation is a good desire, because without it, he would not be able to listen to the Dharma. What other desires are there? Subhuti’s desire is to be able to cultivate the Bodhisattva Path.

“This is the reason we call Bodhisattvas ‘awakened sentient beings’, or ‘enlightened sentient beings’; they still have desires. However, their desires are to benefit sentient beings, not to become famous, make money, or live in comfort. Subhuti’s desire is a hope to learn Buddhism and listen to the Dharma so that he can help sentient beings. He uses the word ‘anticipation’ here because he knows that after he has listened to the Dharma, he will have learned how to practice better and benefit sentient beings. Thus, this desire is commendable. Worldly desires, however, have nothing to do with cultivation. Even though in the Avatamsaka Sutra some Bodhisattvas cultivate using great hatred or great greed, which is something that only Bodhisattvas can do.

“‘Part Three: The Orthodox Doctrine of the Great Vehicle’

“The sutra reads, ‘The Buddha said to Subhuti, “All Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas should thus subdue their thoughts.”’

“The Buddha is truly great. Bodhisattvas range from the First Ground to the Eighth; once they have attained the Eighth Ground, from the Ninth to the Sixteenth Ground, they are called Dharmakaya Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas of the first eight Grounds still have ordinary human thoughts, and are still at risk of retrogression. Retrogressing does not mean that you recently have not felt like chanting, making prostrations, or participating in the pujas; rather, it means your aspiration to benefit sentient beings has unraveled, and you are so busy working on yourself that you have forgotten others. It is even more critical that Bodhisattvas in this situation be supervised by the Buddha and their gurus. Bodhisattvas of the Ninth to the Sixteenth Ground are Dharmakaya Bodhisattvas. It is written in the sutras that the Buddhas will appear before those who have attained the Tenth Ground and advise them to cultivate Tantra. This is written in the sutras; I did not make it up. A lot of people think Shakyamuni Buddha did not speak about Tantra, but that is incorrect. Only Dharmakaya Bodhisattvas are referred to as Mahasattvas, otherwise known as Great Bodhisattvas.

“This passage means, ‘Once you have cultivated to the point of being a Dharmakaya Bodhisattva, you should know how to use Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhicitta to subdue the thoughts of ordinary people.’ As is written in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, every thought produced by an ordinary person generates karma and vice; all their thoughts bring about either good or evil karma. Whenever an ordinary person has a thought, it is for his or herself; as such, that person is not a Bodhisattva, for such thoughts are evil. Evil does not necessarily mean you will kill someone or cheat someone out of a lot of money; as long as you give rise to even just a single selfish thought, it is evil.

“For example, it is crab season right now; let’s say you want to go out and eat some crab. You think, ‘I ate it last year, so I have to eat it this year;’ that’s all there is to it. Once you give rise to this evil thought, it counts against you, even if you end up not eating any crab. Some people say it’s no big deal, and wonder what’s wrong with just thinking something. Of course there is something wrong. Buddhism is different from other religions in that their followers hope their gods will give them something to improve their lot in life. Buddhism, on the other hand, teaches us that everything that happens to us is of our own making; whether we live in comfort or not depends on our own actions—and that begins with our thoughts. If we do not have any bad thoughts, then we naturally will not do or say bad things. Thus, Buddhism teaches us how to train ourselves to amend our ways. The best way to do this is to aspire to bodhicitta, which means to take refuge, observe the precepts, cultivate all of the Meritorious Acts, and practice the Bodhisattva Path in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings. In doing so, we can help ourselves to become liberated from life and death in this lifetime, and help others to do the same. This is the only way that we can subdue our mercurial minds, which are more evil than good.

“Many people implore Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara for blessings so that they will not give rise to any bad thoughts. Why does this not work, no matter how hard they pray? It is because they have not aspired to bodhicitta; they are only supplicating for themselves. They hope they will change for the better, their lives will improve, and they can attain enlightenment and understanding. These are all evil minds. If we pray, while making a dedication every time, ‘Help those who have not yet initiated an aspiration to do so,’ then that sort of prayer is fine.

“It is stated very clearly in the Diamond Sutra that in order to learn Zen Buddhism, one absolutely must practice the Bodhisattva Path, and to do that one must first understand how to aspire to bodhicitta. To do this, you have to start by taking refuge, observing the Five Precepts, cultivating the Ten Meritorious Acts, and learning compassion. Compassion involves exchanging something good of yourself for something bad of another sentient being; the other aspect of it means you are capable of helping yourself and sentient beings to go to the Buddha Lands. Only once you have compassion can you meet the prerequisite for aspiring to bodhicitta. This might sound rather troublesome, difficult, and complex, or even impossible to achieve—but is it possible? Of course it is. I am a prime example for you to see. Whether I have done a good job or not is up to His Holiness to decide, not you. If I had done a bad job, he most certainly would have scolded me. If His Holiness felt that I had gone astray, he would never have instructed me to travel to Hungary next year to expound the Ratnakuta Sutra. This means that my guru at least approves of my activities, which goes to show that I have done much better than you have.

“No matter what I do in the mundane world, my thoughts are always correct; I am a person who implements bodhicitta in everything I do. Why are you unable to do this? It is due to your hindrances of knowledge. With these, everything that you think you know hinders you. You think your knowledge is different from what the Buddha said, and that will obstruct your practice. In fact, what you have learned is mundane academic knowledge, and different from what is taught in Buddhism; to know the latter, you must have the guidance of a guru and the Buddha. Buddhism and mundane learning are simply different; some contradictions exist between them. For example, no matter how busy we are, we still have to help sentient beings whenever they ask for assistance; this can create conflict. One year I was performing a ritual in my jewelry store when I was informed that someone had suddenly passed away. I had to stop the ritual and transfer that person’s consciousness, because I had promised him. This is bodhicitta; the affairs of sentient beings are more important than one’s own.

“The sutra reads, ‘“All the different types of sentient beings, whether born from eggs, from wombs, from moisture, or by transformation; whether formless or with form; and whether they have thoughts or no thoughts, or have neither thought nor non-thought, I will lead them in extinction of reincarnation and deliver them to nirvana without residue.”’

“Born from eggs, from wombs (humans are born from wombs), from moisture (born in the presence of or in water), by transformation (as are beings in the Ghost Realm and the Heaven Realm), with form (you can see things with form), or formless (without shape or form). People who study biology know that some organisms can only be seen indirectly through the energy they produce; their actual form is invisible.

“‘Whether they have thoughts’—This means that some organisms do not move at all. For example, after coral is born, it does not move again—but would you say it has thoughts or not? It does! It knows how to eat and reproduce. Biology says that all male and female corals release their eggs and sperm into the sea on the same day at the same time; this indicates that they can think. An example of an organism that does not have thoughts would be a tree, which only knows how to keep on growing and has no desires.”

Just then, a baby in the audience began to cry and carry on. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche admonished his mother for not tending to the child properly, and then continued bestowing teachings.

“‘Have neither thought nor non-thought’—This refers to those Zen practitioners who cultivate the Heaven of Neither-Thought-Nor-Non-Thought. One danger of practicing Zen Buddhism can happen when a practitioner assumes that he or she has entered a meditative state, and is devoid of all ordinary human thoughts, and has no perception, when actually he or she does. This sort of perception can send the practitioner to the Heaven of Neither-Thought-Nor-Non-Thought. This realm has no color. The Heaven Realms include the Heaven of Desires, the Heaven of Forms, and the Heaven of Formlessness. In the Heaven of Formlessness, sentient beings have no form; they are just energy. You cannot see them, but you can detect their energy, which exists only in that realm.

The baby in the audience was still crying loudly. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed them to go back to the hotel, and then continued.

“Usually when children make a ruckus while I am speaking the Dharma, I do not ask them to leave; this was a first. Why? I did it because today I am expounding the Diamond Sutra. People lacking in root capacity are naturally disruptive, but why was the child fussy? That child would not let his mother listen because she was not prepared to listen, either. She thought she could simply bring her child here and get blessings, and that after listening to the Diamond Sutra she and her child would be strong and indestructible like diamonds! Her child really did not want to stay, and kept crying to be let out all the way to the door.

“This section means that the Buddha does not just help us humans; He enables all sentient beings in the Six Realms to become liberated by leading them in extinction of reincarnation and be delivered to nirvana without residue. ‘In extinction’ does not mean to wipe them out; it means helping them to eliminate all their accumulated karma of reincarnation. ‘Deliver’ does not mean speaking the Dharma to them, assisting them in chanting the Buddha’s name, or meditating; it means being able to deliver them to the Buddha’s Land.

“There are two types of nirvana: nirvana with residue and nirvana without residue. Nirvana is a word specific to Buddhism. It is neither death nor disappearance nor non-existence, but instead describes one’s arrival at a state of neither arising nor ceasing, and of never experiencing birth or death again. While living in this state, one does not change. ‘With residue’ is when practitioners, who think they have entered nirvana, just happen to create a karma or form a thought that is in conflict in certain ways with their practice, and that causes the energy of nirvana to disappear. In simpler terms, nirvana is not a kind of manifestation of practice; it is a type of thought and energy from cultivation, and it only exists in what we call space once it has been transformed into a force, after which the process of birth and death no longer occur. This state cannot be granted just because someone implores for it, or obtained by chanting the Buddha’s name a certain number of times; one must first have the help of the Buddha’s blessings and guidance before one can attain it.

“As Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha said in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, ‘My help for sentient beings was only made possible due to the Buddha’s great awe-inspiring power.’ In other words, anyone in the mundane world claiming to be a Buddha cannot be real. If the so-called practitioner says he or she attained Buddhahood through self-cultivation rather than with the help of the Buddha and a guru, then that person is just a cultist and not to be trusted. It is written quite clearly in the Diamond Sutra that the Buddha made a vow, a promise to all sentient beings, to help them enter nirvana without residue.

“Why did Shakyamuni want to attain Buddhahood? It was not to become a supreme being able to escape all suffering; it was so that He could have great powers with which to help countless sentient beings. According to the Buddha’s teachings, all sentient beings in the Six Realms require assistance—far too many to be counted using human numbers.

“Entering nirvana means entering a state that exists for as long as the Dharma Realm and the universe do. A person in nirvana does not change in response to any changes that occur in the Dharma Realm. Furthermore, as long as that person has entered the Buddha’s state of nirvana, and as long as the Buddha’s aspiration remains, the practitioner will continue to benefit the entire Dharma Realm, which means all the sentient beings in the universe. Why should the Buddha want to help all sentient beings enter nirvana and extinguish their reincarnation? The reason is that as long as even a single sentient being continues to reincarnate, this universe will reincarnate along with it. This continued reincarnation is the reason so many planets, galaxies, and sentient beings’ problems have come into existence. All the good and evil karma created by sentient beings throughout their lifetimes causes us to continuously reincarnate. The force of reincarnation makes us create good and evil karma over and over again, causing this Earth and universe to constantly arise and cease.

“According to what is written in the sutras, the Earth cycles through four stages: Formation, Existence, Destruction, and Void. Formation means when it comes into being; Existence is the period in which it begins to be inhabitable by sentient beings. Destruction refers to the planet’s gradual decline, while Void means its final annihilation. At the moment, the Earth’s decline has begun to accelerate, which is evident by the climate’s deterioration and the advent of so many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and various other natural disasters. These are all manifestations of Destruction. Last year saw a sudden drastic increase in the number of typhoons, and they kept pummeling Japan. According to the sutras, if lots of wind-related disasters occur in a place, it means the people there have less belief in cause and effect.

“It is the Buddha’s hope for no sentient beings to experience the suffering of birth and death ever again. Of course, many people say they hope to come back as humans and enjoy a good life, but such thinking is misinformed. I have a good friend in Taiwan who introduced me to Buddhism; he introduced me to His Holiness as well. Reason might dictate that having helped me to practice Buddhism, he should have very good karma and causal conditions; however, in the end, he was unable to transform the karma he had accumulated through past lives, and after suffering a stroke, he lay on his deathbed for more than a month before passing away. Why was that? He, too, ate vegetarian, recited the sutras and participated in the pujas, and cultivated. However, one time while we were having a chat, he suddenly told me, ‘I have done so much in this lifetime; in my next one, I plan to come back and enjoy myself.’ It was that one utterance that did it! It meant that in his mind, the point of practicing Buddhism was to enjoy happiness. All for the sake of doing so, he lost the ability to resolve and transform, in this lifetime, all of the karma from the evil acts he had committed in his past lives. As a result, his evil karma still manifested, and he suffered a stroke. Usually after suffering a stroke, people cannot listen to or cultivate the Dharma; they can neither speak nor listen nor even move, and are beyond help. Everything starts with just a single thought. If your thoughts are proper, then what follows will be, too.

“The Buddha made a great vow to help all sentient beings in the Six Realms to leave reincarnation and attain Buddhahood. He is constantly working and working to this end, and has never stopped; it is just that we keep on refusing to listen and reject His help, which is why we continue to reincarnate.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Though I have led countless sentient beings in this way toward liberation, in reality, not a single one has been liberated. Why is this?”’

“In the first part of this passage, the Buddha reiterates that He has helped innumerable sentient beings in this manner. After that, though, He does an about-face and says that nevertheless, He has not actually helped any sentient beings to extinguish their reincarnation nor liberated them.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Subhuti, if Bodhisattvas abide in the notions of a self, a person, a sentient being, or a life span, they are not Bodhisattvas.”’

“This line contains the point. The Buddha tells Subhuti that whenever Bodhisattvas focus on the notions of a self, a person (other), a sentient being, or a life span (time), they cease to be Bodhisattvas. The meaning of this line is very hard to explain. While someone is a Bodhisattva, he or she should already have come to understand that all sentient beings are equal, and that they all innately possess the conditions for attaining Buddhahood. The Buddha said that all sentient beings have a Buddha nature and the seed of Buddhahood. All sentient beings were Buddhas, originally, but because their minds were full of delusions, they allowed disbelief in cause and effect and reincarnation to take hold, so began to create karma. Therefore, their conditions for attaining Buddhahood, which they have possessed all along, have become those for reincarnating as ordinary people.

“People who practice the Bodhisattva Path understand very well that today’s sentient beings have reincarnated on the backs of their respective karma, and that they are all the same. Every sentient being has differing amounts of good and evil karma, and these differences have led to various sorts of karmic retribution. For this reason, some are born in the Human Realm, where they end up either rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy. Some people have to undergo many operations, and some are deeply greedy. All these different circumstances are not arranged for them by the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas or anyone else; they come about as a result of their own thoughts. Thoughts are constantly arising and ceasing; once a thought is formed, it quickly disappears. If people knew how quickly every thought arises and ceases, they would not be constantly allowing evil thoughts to form. Whenever good thoughts form, they should use every method at their disposal to prolong them.

“To put it simply, all thoughts arise from causal conditions; they do not form spontaneously. Our like or dislike of something comes about through interaction between ourselves and others; these notions cannot possibly occur independently. Another way of putting it is likes and dislikes both are some sort of causal origination. Causal conditions arise and cease; after we give rise to a like for something, that like subsequently disappears. This is because it is impossible to eternally like something, and the same is true of disliking something. Buddhism teaches us that the fundamental essence of all phenomena and thoughts is Emptiness. That is not to say that they do not exist, but that nothing exists independently or arises spontaneously; everything requires a lot of causal conditions to come into being—and after that, everything also requires many causal conditions before it can quickly cease to exist. As we can see, the myriad phenomena of the mundane realm arise from causal conditions, and causal conditions are what cause them to disappear. Buddhism uses the term ‘Emptiness’ to define such phenomena. This means that their existence is not set, nor is their termination; they are constantly changing and transforming.

“I often give the Dharma table in front of me as an example: Prior to becoming what it is now, it was just a tree; before growing into a tree, the tree was just a seed; and before that, it was just a flower on another tree. Many causal conditions needed to be met for the flower to produce a seed, for it to end up in the soil, and for a tree to eventually grow. Even more causal conditions were needed before a person would cut that tree down and pick out this particular piece of wood; then, someone had to be adept at carving it into this object, which we call a Dharma table. However, if we take the words ‘Dharma table’ and follow them back to the object’s origin, it seems like it doesn’t exist. It never existed in the first place; this is just a name we have given it.

“To give another example, if your name were taken away from you, then what would you be? You would not be anything. People who have studied medicine know that we are all just made up of a bunch of elements. Your body contains lead, copper, and a whole heap of other bizarre elements. Once your body decomposes and all these elements break apart from one another and combine with other elements in the void, do you, as a person, still exist? You do not. Never mind if your elements had not been dispersed; for example, what if you had forgotten your name? What if you had forgotten what year you were born, what your identity is, and where you live? What if you had forgotten your children? If you had forgotten everything, even your own identity, there would only be one word to describe you: Person. When you analyze further what a person actually is, what does that make you? It makes you a non-entity; it makes you nothing.

“Why do we think we are real? It is because we see ourselves as people. ‘Person’ is just a word; when we take this word and analyze it further, we realize that we are nothing. Buddhism puts this concept in very simple terms; when a mother’s blood and a father’s essence combine, and then the consciousness from a past life is added to the mix, the result is a human body. This body that is produced is then, in its current lifetime, subjected to the karmic effects of both good and evil acts that person has done in previous lifetimes. These karmic effects will continuously manifest throughout his or her current lifetime, and once all the good karma is used up, the body will begin to deteriorate. Falling ill and needing surgery are signs that one’s good karma has been consumed and one’s evil karma is manifesting. After all the evil karma has been exhausted, a person begins to die. Death indicates a disappearance of one’s physical body and its elements’ reintegration with the void; all that is left are the karma and thoughts that person has created in this lifetime with which he or she will be reincarnated.

“What will decide your next reincarnation? It is not the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; it is everything you have done in this lifetime. If you do not believe in cause and effect, you will definitely fall into the Animal Realm. If you have committed many acts of killing in this lifetime, loving such things as eating crab, fish, and other seafood, then you are bound to fall into the Hell Realm. I did not make this up; it is written in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. Those of you who have heard that sutra expounded should know that in one of Ksitigarbha’s mother’s lifetimes, she loved to eat the flesh of sentient beings—especially turtle eggs—and, after passing away, fell into the Hell Realm. Who among you has never eaten meat?” (A Japanese believer scratched his nose, not daring to raise his hand.) Those of you who have, prepare to go to the Hell Realm. Why have I practiced so hard in this life? It is because I have eaten so much fish and shrimp. After I learned about Buddhism, it scared me to death! I neither dared nor wanted to go to the Hell Realm. Even though it was Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s vow to put off attaining Buddhahood until he had liberated all the sentient beings in hell, I, too, want to prepare myself to go there and help them. Actually, I am already there; there really is no difference between what humans do on Earth and what happens in the Hell Realm.

“Regarding the notion of ‘self’, many people say we grow from a small self into a greater self, which in turn transforms into a greater love. However, that is not correct, because even then, the self still exists. As long as you think of the ‘self’ as existing, you naturally cannot keep the precepts and will remain unwilling to take refuge. The person doing the interpreting into Japanese today is just such a person; she still harbors the notion of self.

“If the self exists, then there naturally is no way for you to cultivate compassion. Without compassion, you cannot aspire to bodhicitta, and in turn cannot practice the Bodhisattva Path; none of this will work for you. You might ask, ‘Well then why should we listen to the Dharma teachings?’ You have no choice, because your karma has brought you here; you still possess some good karma. You must have encountered Buddhism sometime in your past lives; it was just that you were unwilling to listen back then, or did not cultivate very well. In addition, I must owe you some good karma, which is why I am destined to speak the Dharma to you in this lifetime. After listening to my words, whether or not you are willing to put them into practice is completely your choice.

“When those of us practicing the Bodhisattva Path think we are cultivating, and liberating sentient beings, then we are not Bodhisattvas. Why not? It is because the fundamental essence of one’s attainment of Buddhahood is the same for sentient beings as it is for Bodhisattvas. So, as is often said, Bodhisattvas do not see things as being good or bad; they only see causes, effects, and karma. Anyone who categorizes sentient beings into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is certainly not a Bodhisattva, nor is one who only helps his or her own believers and no one else. People who discriminate between races are not Bodhisattvas, either. Thus, if you wish to practice the Bodhisattva Path, you must break out of the notion of ‘self’. How can you do that? As is written in the Ratnakuta Sutra, you can only discard the four notions of self, person, sentient being, and life span by cultivating compassion, kindness, joy, and giving.

“Compassion refers to the aspiration to help sentient beings get to the opposite shore—the Pure Land. If you are unable to, it means you cannot go there, either. If you yourself cannot, then how can you help sentient beings to do it? If you cannot help yourself or others to get to the Pure Land, then you will give rise to the notion of ‘person’. Earlier in the sutra, the Buddha said that He wanted to help all sentient beings to reach the Pure Land. He did not discriminate, because He knows that as long as even a single sentient being remains trapped in reincarnation, it is the equivalent of the Buddha’s being trapped there as well. Why do Buddhas and Bodhisattvas exist? It is because sentient beings continue to reincarnate. If they did not, then the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas would not be needed. They only come into being as a result of sentient beings’ suffering; if all sentient beings were to stop reincarnating, their presence would not be necessary.

“When we practice compassion, we are giving something good of ourselves to sentient beings in exchange for something bad of theirs. Then, is there still our ‘self’? When we sacrifice ourselves and give up everything we have, the self naturally ceases to exist. When we can help all sentient beings and liberate them, we will naturally stop discriminating between them and seeing them as ‘persons,’ which does not just mean people; it includes all sentient beings in the Heaven Realm, too—celestial beings. ‘Persons’ are any ordinary beings that are still trapped in reincarnation’s sea of suffering. Do not think that you won’t reincarnate just because you are a religious figure or a good person. Your definition of a ‘good person’ is rooted in morality, ethics, and law, whereas by the Buddhas definition, whether or not a person is good depends on whether or not he or she lives in accordance with the Dharma; only people who do are called ‘sages’. A sage is not someone who is an unlikeable person; it is someone who constantly brings benefit to sentient beings. When we have cultivated compassion, our notions of ‘self’ and ‘person’ naturally fall away.

“The notions of ‘sentient being’ and ‘life span’—Why do we separate sentient beings from one another? It is because sentient beings all reincarnate in the Six Realms according to their individual karma. As was stated earlier, sentient beings born from eggs, from wombs, from moisture, by transformation, with form, and without form all reincarnate in different places as determined by their own karma from past lives. In Tantric terms, when we reincarnate, we see a palace; this palace is our mother’s womb. People who have learned Buddhism understand whether they have arrived at the right palace or not; if they have, then they will not reincarnate in the wrong place. Those who are not acquainted with Buddhism are liable to reincarnate in the wrong place—somewhere they think is very comfortable. Such place is usually one of the Three Evil Realms. This can happen quite easily; all it takes is a single thought.

“In the context of ‘kindness, compassion, joy, and giving’, ‘joy’ refers to wishing all sentient beings have happiness and causes of happiness. Do those of us practicing the Bodhisattva Path know what eternal joy is? It is the joy of not reincarnating; of neither being born nor dying. This is not just some fleeting mundane happiness; that sort of joy does not last forever. Mundane happiness is usually followed by suffering. People who enjoy eating meat have three ‘highs’: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, …and so on. If you like drinking alcohol, then in your later years you will of course be prone to suffering dementia; people who like to smoke will naturally succumb to cancer and tumors. Those who are always saying unpleasant things and sabotaging others, or who like to swear at people, very easily contract diseases of the mouth; if they do, it is of their own making. Mundane happiness is the source of all suffering. The joy spoken of in Buddhism is not for one’s own benefit; it does not involve harming sentient beings to gain some temporary satisfaction.

“‘Wishing all sentient beings have happiness and causes of happiness’—Bodhisattvas must help sentient beings to create causes of happiness that will eventually enable them to become liberated from reincarnation. In expounding the Diamond Sutra today, I am doing just that. While you are still alive, your guru and practitioners of the Bodhisattva Path are constantly creating opportunities for you and continuously exhorting you so that you will possess eternal joy. Your guru does not take to heart anything you have done in your past lives, no matter what it might be. As long as you want to listen to the Dharma, I will ‘protect and instruct’ you, as was taught by the Buddha. Even though you are not Bodhisattvas, as a guru, I still will do so for all sentient beings. As long as the opportunity exists, I will always tell you the true meaning of the Dharma rather than just talk about a bunch of mundane nonsense for your enjoyment. Mundane affairs are too simple and too easy to accomplish. Matters related to Buddhism, on the other hand, really cannot be spoken of by anyone without experience in cultivation.

“‘Joy’ breaks through the notion of ‘sentient being’. When you have a very clear understanding of this, and wish to help sentient beings to have happiness and the causes of happiness, you naturally will stop differentiating between yourself and others. Do not think that as long as you are happy, the suffering of other people is none of your business. These days we only care about our own happiness, and don’t care if sentient beings are suffering. It’s like how if you are about to boil a crab, it is certain to try to scramble away. If it had no thoughts, then why would it run off? When you were catching it, it most certainly tried to escape. Given that it is sentient, how can you stand to eat it? Everyone just thinks crabs tastes good, and just wants to go out and eat them because it is crab season.

“I have been to a Japanese temple that does exceptionally good business whenever it is crab season because down the valley from it there are hot springs hotels where people fish for crabs. Every day, after they are finished killing crabs, those female proprietors hike up to the temple to thank the Bodhisattvas for allowing them to have such good business—and residents of the temple recite the sutras for them. Is that right or wrong? I don’t know, but according to what I have learned, it is wrong. How can that temple carry on like that? Nevertheless, in October of every year, their business thrives.

“The notion of ‘life span’—this is the notion of time. Everyone who has studied science knows that when we enter the universe, time does not exist. Time is only brought about by the revolutions of the stars and planets; if you enter the universe and there are no planets nearby, then time will not exist at all. Time is just what you see when you look at your watch; out in the universe, it is stopped. In truth, from a human perspective, the reincarnation of sentient beings happens on a timeline, but from the viewpoint of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, there is no time; causes and conditions just keep on emerging, and once they have run their course, they disappear. How is it that the Buddha has knowledge of the past, present, and future? It is because time does not exist in His state of samadhi. Why am I occasionally able to know your past and predict some things that will happen in your future? I can do this because when my mind is focused in meditation, time does not exist. You are the ones who are moving; I do not. The Buddha’s mind is immovable, and only when one remains still can one see movement. This is how He can see what you have done in the past and what you will do in the future.

“How can we break free of the notion of life span? Through compassion, kindness, joy, and giving. How should we practice giving? We humans tend to separate good from bad. When you do this, and obtain something you think is good, you hope it will not change, and thus give rise to the notion of time—the illusion of life span. Likewise, when something bad happens, you want it to go away immediately; this, too, gives rise to this notion of time. What is wrong with time? It makes us feel we don’t have enough of it to do what we want to get done. Actually, time has only ever existed because your mind is moving; your thoughts are what produce the notion of time. The Buddha taught us how to discard this notion. It is very simple; just detach yourselves equally from both good things and bad things. That does not mean refusing to accept them or not allowing them to come into being. It means not becoming attached to things, regardless of whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’; it means not wishing for good things to remain the same forever or for bad things to disappear as soon as possible. Until it has matured, karma cannot disappear; and once it has matured, it will not remain unchanging for all time. Our sense of attachment prevents us from giving.

“The way to break free of the four notions is to cultivate compassion, kindness, joy, and giving. This is a must for people who are learning and practicing the Bodhisattva Path; they cannot achieve realization without cultivating those things. As soon as the slightest thing goes wrong, you get anxious and flit from doctor to doctor, forgetting where your guru is and even forgetting your karma; you stop believing in the causes and effects you have created, as well as your karmic retribution. You stop believing in any of it. I am not trying to stop you from seeing doctors; many of my disciples are doctors, and if no one went to consult them, they’d be out of business. However, a medical consultation simply tells you the physical cause of your illness. Can you definitely be cured? Not necessarily; sometimes treatment merely alleviates some of your suffering and gives you something to hope for.

“The true causes of your illness are, one, manifestations of your karma; and two, your having used up just about all of your good fortune. This should be a warning to you that you do not have much good fortune left. If you have plenty of good fortune, then you will naturally not suffer as much while you are sick, though that does not mean you will be spared from illness. Some people who are sick might take medicine for a year and see no improvement, while a person with good fortune might take it once and be cured. Those who do not practice compassion, kindness, joy, and giving and are not cultivating the Bodhisattva Path spent a lot of time worrying about their health. I am not saying health is unimportant; without it, we could not practice Buddhism. However, practitioners of Buddhism and the Bodhisattva Path understand very well that all their bodily problems are related to their karma. My knee occasionally aches; I know without a doubt that this is because I got into fights and kicked people in the past, so I deserve it! I therefore hold off on going to the doctor, and just rub it a bit, and in two or three days it feels better. Sometimes my knuckles hurt, and I deserve that, too, because it comes from my having punched people in the past. In my shoes, you would immediately run to a massage therapist or other doctors to see if you have a fracture or have pulled a tendon. I don’t bother, and after a few days, I feel fine.

As a Rinpoche cultivating the Bodhisattva Path, I instinctively know these sorts of things. I do not become attached to my aches and pains or to the presence of any illness. Back when I got skin cancer, a disciple who is a doctor told me that skin cancer is the most terrible kind of cancer there is; once it causes your body to turn black all over, it makes you die in utter agony. Nevertheless, I never saw any doctors, took any medicine, or supplicated to His Holiness or the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for help; I also did not recite sutras or chant mantras in an effort to cure myself. Now, I am completely cured. How did that happen? It happened because I have practiced compassion, kindness, joy, and giving, thereby breaking through the four notions. This is done via a very simple Dharma method: Aspiring to bodhicitta to benefit sentient beings.

“It is quite easy to understand why I have physical ailments and developed skin cancer; it is because I used to love to eat seafood, and ate it every day without fail. I began while I was still in my mother’s womb, and continued right up until I was thirty-six years old and about to take refuge. Thus, it was quite normal that I got skin cancer. Back when I had cancer was the happiest time in my life, because I knew I was repaying my karmic debt. By contrast, you cry like babies whenever you get sick. I was so happy to be able to repay my debt by falling ill, because it meant I would not fall into the Hell Realm. You, on the other hand, refuse to believe you will go there; you do not believe in the Buddha’s teachings. You all think that you are good people and therefore could never go to hell. Even people who have never eaten meat can fall into the Hell Realm, so people like yourselves, who have been meat-eaters, are 100% guaranteed to go there. Why do I exist? It is because of people like you who are on your way to hell; I have to get ready to liberate you. If no one had to fall into the Hell Realm, I would cease to exist; there would be no need for me to be here.

“Only once you have broken free of the four notions can you then practice the Bodhisattva Path. If you still possess these four notions, then you cannot be a Bodhisattva; to put it simply, you have not yet set foot upon the Bodhisattva Path. For example, after pulling a tendon, you cry like a baby and flit around in a panic, when all you really need to do is take some medicine. However, I stopped taking the medicine prescribed by my doctor for a year, and my health continued to improve. I did this intentionally to give him a hard time; I can be very stubborn. He used to think my health had improved due to the medicine he had prescribed, but I did not take it for a year, even after he came and implored me to! I am the one who opened that Chinese medicine clinic, too, yet I refused to take his medicine. I just want to show him which is more remarkable: His medicine or the power of the mind.

“When learning Buddhism, it is absolutely crucial that you understand that you need to break free of these four notions. If you think you are reciting the sutras well and helping or liberating sentient beings, you are not practicing the Bodhisattva Path.

“‘Part Four: The Wonderful Practice of Non-Attachment’

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, Subhuti, in the Dharma Realm , a Bodhisattva’s mind should not abide anywhere when giving alms; that is, a Bodhisattva should practice almsgiving without attachment to form, sound, smell, taste, touch, or Dharma. Subhuti, this is how Bodhisattvas should give alms: Without attachment to anything. Why is that? If Bodhisattvas practice almsgiving without any attachments, then they will accumulate unimaginable good fortune and merits.”’

“Here the Buddha is explaining to Subhuti how Bodhisattvas should practice the Bodhisattva Path. Many people think of Dharmas as special methods to practice in order to change certain things. Actually, the Buddha taught that the purpose of Dharmas is to benefit sentient beings; He did not mention anything about Dharmas being especially powerful methods to deal with anything. ‘…In the Dharma Realm’—what is the Dharma Realm? All sentient beings in reincarnation comprise a kind of phenomenon. Simply put, the Dharma is a type of phenomenon, too. Bodhisattvas in this Dharma Realm do not reside anywhere; that is, their minds do not become attached to anything they do. When giving alms, which here means helping and benefiting sentient beings, they ‘practice almsgiving without any attachments’. They should help sentient beings regardless of what form those beings might take. To give a simple example, sometimes I help sentient beings without performing any ritual; as soon as the thought arises, I have already begun to help them, even without their knowledge. Another example is that for some people who do not believe in the Dharma, I bless them with a glance; this, too, counts as almsgiving.

“‘…Practice almsgiving without attachment to sound, smell, taste, touch, or Dharma. ’ When Bodhisattvas give alms, they do so using any of these means. They do not limit themselves to any particular method to help sentient beings, such as constantly using sounds because they think they sound wonderful; they also do not baffle others with a certain appearance that they perceive as being very dignified, or with a special scent. For example, some people think that if they smell good, it means they are doing a great job of cultivating and are practicing almsgiving. Bodhisattvas would not use any particular methods to benefit sentient beings; they just do whatever comes to hand, as long as it helps sentient beings according to their individual karma, causal conditions, and good fortune. Once they have helped someone, they forget about it, and do not become attached to that fact, that act of giving. For example, once I’ve done something, I forget it, as if I never did it. If a Bodhisattva thinks, ‘I have helped that sentient being,’ then the next step will be to anticipate a result—and that will cause the Bodhisattva to fall into the reincarnation of good and evil. After I have finished helping someone, whatever happens to that person is not a result of my giving; it is because of his karma and its effects. It is not due to my existence and giving that his situation has slightly improved or worsened.

“For practitioners of the Bodhisattva Path, giving alms is vital for cultivating the Six Paramitas. Therefore, helping sentient beings in all situations should be done naturally, and not premeditated, nor should the practitioner expect anything in return. The most important aspect of not being attached to any forms is not hoping to be recompensed for helping someone; this includes rewards such as a boost in reputation or a sense of pride. Some people like to donate money to help children further their studies, and then, once they have graduated, they attend the kids’ graduation ceremonies to see them graduate. This is the sort of pride I am talking about. If you gave money toward a child’s education, and then he or she did not graduate, what would you do? Ask for it back? Or give the kid a beating? Lots of you help impoverished children with their studies, expecting that they will excel in school as a result of that assistance, but you are not practicing the Bodhisattva Path. Why not? It is because when you let your mind abide in this form, your attachment to having helped those kids turns into a debt that they owe you, which they have to repay in the next lifetime. This need to pay you back forces you to come back in the next lifetime so that they can; this is reincarnation.

“What this means is, employees hoping for a commendation from their boss should prepare themselves to be out of work, because doing a good job is what was expected of them in the first place. If you hope your boss will tell you that you are doing well, it means you have made some mistakes and are hoping to cover them up, in which case you should be getting ready to lose your job. This, too, is attachment to forms. Do not keep thinking about a deed you have done and hope that it will yield a visible result; even if you do not want anything tangible in return, it is wrong just to hope for a result you can see. So many in the world, however, wish to help children escape poverty, and afterward, they go and check on them to see how they are doing. This is called being attached. After you assist people, whether things go well or badly for them is their business. Given that we are practicing the Bodhisattva Path, helping others is what we should do. For example, after the Fukushima disaster, I donated five million yen, but have I ever asked how it was used? You would. I never have. The thought of giving alms arose, so I made a donation. How the government chose to use it is none of my business; whether it uses the money for good or ill is the government’s responsibility, not mine.

“The most important concept behind giving alms is understanding that it is your duty, both in your Buddhist practice and in terms of being a good person! If you are unwilling to practice generosity, then you will be lonely and poor in your old age. Nowadays we see a lot of people in this sort of situation. In their youth, they put themselves first, not giving consideration to anything else; as long as they got what they wanted, they were fine, and cared nothing for others. Now that they are older, they realize that they actually have nothing. For now, never mind your future lifetime, but at your age, you should at least be making preparations for your later years. If you still have people close to you in your old age, you can tell yourself, ‘I did some good when I was younger.’ Even if you are old and sick, you won’t have to worry, because at least there are people who know you exist, which shows that in this lifetime you practiced some generosity and did some good deeds. We often think youth is the most important time of life, but that is not true. Everyone gets old—so how will you live when you are no longer young? None of you has given any thought to this. You think that as long as you have money, you will be able to live in comfort. Being rich, however, does not mean you have a good life. Lots of rich people keep their money in the bank while living out their days in dejected solitude. There are so many people like this.

“Whether or not a person has learned Buddhism is another subject altogether. However, just in terms of humanity, of being a person, you should ask yourselves if you have cultivated a generous mentality. Only if you do will people come to help you in your old age; this is cause and effect. If, all your life, you have never helped anyone, and have only taken from others, thinking that you can live the good life as long as you get enough money, then you are mistaken, and your money is bound to slip through your fingers. For example, Japan’s sales tax has gone up from 8% to 10% this year, which means that unless they stop spending completely, everyone will lose 2% of their wealth. You might say your funds are safe in the bank and haven’t been touched. However, some of your money will be taken from you whenever you spend it on anything. If you practiced generosity when you were younger, then the government’s 2% tax increase might mean other people will give you 2% more; this, too, can happen. In the sutras it is written that your wealth does not belong to you; it is collectively administered by the Five Thieves, one of which is the government. 10% of your money is taken in sales tax, on top of other taxes. This means that out of every 100 yen you earn, possibly only forty go into your pocket; the other sixty are taken from you. That being the case, why not give some alms? For example, people who make donations to some foundations or other religious entities get a tax break, and that can at least allow you to accumulate a few merits.

“A lot of people are unwilling to give offerings. They think that since they are here to listen to the Dharma, I should speak it. There is no ‘should’ about it; it is just that I have adhered to this vow all my life, so I keep teaching.

“‘They will accumulate unimaginable good fortune and merits.’ When we practice almsgiving with attachments, we generate a kind of good karma, but it cannot be used in this lifetime; only in the next. For example, in China, Emperor Wu of Liang did many good deeds; he decreed that all monastics must eat vegetarian, constructed many temples, printed many sutras, held many pujas, and wrote many sastras. However, in the end, he starved to death. Because he was attached to the acts of almsgiving he performed, none of those good acts from his past lives turned into merits, and he therefore could not transform any of his evil karma. The good fortune he accumulated could only be used in the next lifetime. These days a lot of believers come to hear the Dharma, but it will do them no good in this lifetime because they are not really listening. It will certainly be of use in the next lifetime, though, but it might just be good fortune of the Human or Heaven or even Animal Realm. Bodhidharma said that Emperor Wu of Liang had no merits, which meant he had not practiced almsgiving without attachments. He had thought that being emperor, everything would be ok. He even asked Bodhidharma, ‘Do I have merits?’ Bodhidharma replied, ‘No, you do not.’ Bodhidharma was a master practitioner, a Mahasiddha, so if he said the emperor had no merits, then he had no merits. Because of this, Bodhidharma sat facing a wall in meditation for nine years. I am always trying to emulate him, which is why I frequently offend rich people.

“In the Ratnakuta Sutra it is also written that a practitioner should not encourage the arrogance of officials. Not long ago, a high official came to see me. I told him he spoke like a bureaucrat, and his friends next to him all wrung their hands in a panic. He was an important government official, so why would I be so blunt with him? I was direct like that because this is what the Ratnakuta Sutra taught me: I must not allow officials to be too arrogant. If he chose to ignore me, that was his business. In any case, I was not breaking the law, so what did I have to be afraid of? If you practice almsgiving without attachment, then that will transform into power and merits to help you in your cultivation. Even the Buddha said He could not imagine the immeasurable, great good fortune and merits this would bring about. Why do we need these? It is because without good fortune and merits, you are bound to encounter hindrances and a great many problems in your Buddhist practice. For example, the child who cried earlier in the puja was hindering his mother. With good fortune and merits, hindrances disappear, and only after that can you cultivate.

“You might say, ‘Cultivation is for Buddhist practitioners; what does it have to do with me?’ Many lay practitioners who come to listen to the Dharma hope to do well in business, have good health, and do not age as quickly. However, if you cultivate the way I have, you will age slowly; my youthful appearance comes from having cultivated good fortune and merits. If you accumulate supramundane good fortune, then mundane good fortune will come to you. If you only try to cultivate mundane good fortune, then it will be limited, and will not be all that remarkable. Say you make one hundred yen and then stop; after you have spent it all, you will have to keep on making money. Likewise, because our efforts to benefit sentient beings are endless, we must continuously accumulate good fortune and merits. However, this sort of good fortune and merits cannot be used up; they are unfathomable. As long as you cultivate continuously, they will keep on accumulating without your even asking. You won’t have to think about it, and they will increase. Therefore, good fortune and merits are very important; you cannot do without them.

“Good fortune comes from doing the highest form of almsgiving, and merits come from keeping the Five Precepts, practicing the Ten Meritorious Acts, and meditating. Good fortune and merits come to those who cultivate; the Buddha said the amount they will accumulate is unimaginable. This means more than the human brain can possibly conceive of.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Subhuti, what do you think?”’

“What do you think about this? Shakyamuni Buddha was quite cheeky; after saying all that, He suddenly turned around and asked, ‘What do you think?’

“The sutra reads, ‘“Can your mind grasp the expanse of the Eastern Void?” Subhuti replied, “No, World Honored One, I cannot.”’

“The ‘Eastern Void’ refers to the universe. The Buddha was asking if Subhuti could imagine just how big it is, and he replied that he could not.”

“The sutra reads, ‘“Subhuti, can your mind grasp the vastness of the void to the South, West and North, as well as in the intermediate directions, including the zenith and nadir?” Subhuti replied, “No, World Honored One, I cannot.”’

“Shakyamuni was demonstrating that just as Subhuti could not conceive of how far the universe stretches in all directions, he also could not imagine just how vast amount of merits would be accumulated from practicing almsgiving without attachments.”

“The sutra reads, ‘“Subhuti, when Bodhisattvas give alms without attachments, this is how inconceivably vast are the good fortune and merits they accumulate. Subhuti, all Bodhisattvas should abide by these teachings.”’

“If Bodhisattvas practice almsgiving without being attached to them, then this is how boundless are the good fortune and merits they will gain. The Buddha went on to tell Subhuti that all Bodhisattvas should bear in mind the teachings He had just uttered. What had He taught? He had taught how to break free of the four notions and not be attached to almsgiving. He was saying that people would only be able to cultivate the Bodhisattva Path if they listened to His words and devoted themselves to the methods He had taught.

“Part Five: The Physical Attributes of Buddhahood

“The sutra reads, ‘“After hearing what I have said, Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Tathagata be seen by means of His bodily form?” Subhuti replied, “No, World Honored One; He cannot.”

“Here the Buddha asks Subhuti whether he thought one could see Tathagata by means of His appearance. Subhuti answers that He could not. In other words, the Buddha nature—the Buddha’s original face—cannot be seen with one’s physical eyes or divine sight. This means that if you see a Buddha statue, it is not a Buddha. If you have ever thought you saw Shakyamuni Buddha standing in front of you, it was not actually the Buddha; it was just a physical body. How can we see the Buddha’s fundamental nature? How can we see His essence? This is described later in the sutra.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Why not? It is because Tathagata teaches that physical appearances are actually not physical appearances.”’

“Here the Buddha reiterates that, as Tathagata has said, body and form are both just illusions, and are constantly changing. If you think the Buddha has appeared to you in a dream, it was just an illusion; the same is true if you dream of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara or have a vision of a Buddha in the void. The lesson here is that all sentient beings are endowed with a Buddha nature that is as pure as the Buddha’s, but we cannot see it. This is naturally the case; how can you see the Buddha’s pure Buddha nature? Given that you cannot, your prayers to see the Buddha appear before you are empty—unless you yourself can realize your undefiled nature, in which you will naturally also be able to see the Buddha’s; this is what is known as ‘understanding the mind and seeing the nature’. Many of you think ‘understanding the mind and seeing the nature’ means you understand and you see it. It does not mean this, though; you can only truly realize the function of your mind once you have recovered your original nature, and only then can you genuinely see that it is no different from that of the Buddha. After that, you can begin to cultivate, eventually to become a Bodhisattva and attain Buddhahood. Do not think that ‘understanding the mind and seeing the nature’ is the same as enlightenment. So many people assume that ‘understanding the mind and seeing the nature’ is the same as attaining Buddhahood, but they are wrong!

“The Sixth Patriarch Huineng attained enlightenment after hearing the line from the Diamond Sutra, ‘The mind should act without any attachments.’ Many people think this meant he became a Bodhisattva. ‘Enlightenment’ refers to realizing the correct path to cultivation, as well as the way to practice the Bodhisattva Path. If his enlightenment had meant he had attained Buddhahood, then the Fifth Patriarch would not have needed to pass on his vestments and alms bowl to him; he would not have had to orally transmit the essence of the Dharma to him at nights. If he had truly become enlightened and attained Buddhahood after hearing just a single line of the sutra, then he would not have needed to cultivate in hiding among a hunter’s family for more than ten years. Therefore, enlightenment happens in stages; don’t assume that understanding is enlightenment. There are many stages to it; do not think enlightenment is the same as attaining Buddhahood, and do not assume that ‘understanding the mind and seeing the nature’ means you entered a meditative. It is way too soon for that! You can only understand your mind and see your nature after you feel light and blissful in your mind, and only then can you ‘understand the mind and see the nature’, and subsequently enter a meditative state. Only after that can you know how to cultivate Samatha and Vipassana, which is prerequisite to knowing what Emptiness is.

“This is about as far as I should explain for now; if I keep going, you’ll get confused. ‘Physical appearances are actually not physical appearances’—the world we see does not just refer to the human world; it includes the Heaven Realm. In many religions, people think going to heaven is a very good thing. It is not; if you go to the Heaven Realm, you still have to reincarnate. Everything we see in the Six Realms is false; it is all changing and impermanent. It is not eternal or immutable. If we think we have seen the Buddha in a certain form that, too, is an illusion. Why is that? Ever since Shakyamuni Buddha’s time, His Buddha statues have constantly changed in appearance.

“Buddha statues fashioned prior to the Jin Dynasty all look different from the ones made today. Which likeness of Shakyamuni Buddha is accurate? None of them. Buddha statues merely provide us with an image so that we can make prostrations to the Buddha. If you think those images give an accurate depiction of what the Buddhas look like, then you are mistaken. All sounds and forms are Emptiness; they are all illusion. If you think your depiction of Shakyamuni Buddha is accurate from the statue you have, and anyone else’s is not, then you are completely wrong; equally wrong would be the statement that your Buddha statue is more dignified-looking than someone else’s. We can see whether a statue has been carved in accordance with the Dharma or not, by checking if it has the thirty-two forms and eighty characteristics of the Buddha. If you think prostrating yourself before your Buddha statue every day will cause it to become very dignified, then you must be a Buddha yourself—but are you? You are not even a Bodhisattva or a deva, so you are just deceiving yourself.

“This was specially mentioned here in the Diamond Sutra so that later generations would not erroneously believe that new Buddhas had come into existence. If you meet someone who claims to be a Buddha, he is most certainly wrong, because the Buddha’s words were quire clear. If you think someone is a Buddha, you are wrong. External appearance is just a form that was generated according to karma and causal conditions; it is not a person’s pure, fundamental essence or a real reflection of his or her nature. On a deeper level, what we see is not what our physical body sees, nor is it what can be seen with divine sight; we see with our Dharma eyes—but we do not recognize what we are seeing because we don’t know about our Dharma eyes. In simpler terms, when we dream, squint, open our eyes wide, or are suddenly beaten and stunned into seeing, what we see is all illusion. Never mind seeing a Buddha; even if we talk about the person you love, you might have said he was very handsome when he was younger, but then after a few years, his appearance has completely changed. Which appearance is real? You might explain his change in appearance as a product of age, but that is not the case; he looks different because his good fortune has changed. As karma changes, form does, too; nothing stays the same forever.

“The Diamond Sutra is not just useful for practicing the Bodhisattva Path; it can also teach us how to conduct ourselves in daily life. It helps us to understand that everything we become attached to is constantly changing. Does this mean Buddhism is about living passively? If everything changes, then shouldn’t we just ignore it all? Because things change, they will also start to pay attention to you; this, too, is change. The Buddha’s exhortation for us to not be attached meant that we should deal with everything we encounter in ways we can understand, and which bring benefit to others. What happens after that is not decided by you alone, because the entire process leading to any given event involved many causal conditions and the participation of many people, every one of whom had his or her part to play. No success can be attributed to the efforts of a single person; even if you are the one who made the decision, it did not come to pass through your contributions alone. It came to completion as a result of the efforts of many. Once you know that an event only happens due to the actions of multiple people, you will stop worrying or being attached to what you might gain or lose from it.

“Some people argue that if they study hard in school, then of course they will get a good score on their exams. There is a problem with that, however: If you do not have a good teacher to teach you, then will you still do well? If you don’t have good classmates, will you be able to focus on your studies? If no one gave you the opportunity to go to school, could you have succeeded in studying? Even if you say you grew up very poor and things were very difficult for you, there was at least one place there for you to go to school. There were people who did not even have the opportunity to study while holed up in a tiny little corner somewhere; a great many causal conditions are involved in this, too. Even if you get a great education in this lifetime, it does not mean you are remarkable, because it was your having recited the sutras in a previous lifetime that made you a bit smarter. However, having recited the sutras does not mean you can attain Buddhahood. The advantage of having recited the sutras is that you will be a bit more intelligent in your future lifetimes, and your memory will be slightly better. People who have listened to the sutras in this lifetime but not put their teachings into practice will do a bit better in school in the next life; this is where bookworms come from. Thus concludes this morning’s teachings; next we will recite a dedication prayer and the Bodhicitta Prayer.”

Upon the perfect completion of the morning puja, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche performed a ritual to bless the prayer flags. The haze in the sky cleared, and the sun shone down brightly.

The Chod Puja

At 1:50 in the afternoon, H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche returned to the Dharma throne to preside over the auspicious Chod Puja and bestow further precious teachings upon all the attendees:

“My original plan was to spend all of today expounding the Diamond Sutra, but due to time constraints, some participants were only able to come here and listen to the Dharma for half the day, which means the significance of teaching this Sutra cannot be perfect. I have therefore made the last-minute decision to spend this afternoon performing the Chod for those of you who are still here, which is one of the Eight Sadhanas in Tantra. If you can focus on cultivating even just one of these eight methods of attainment successfully, then you will surely achieve realization in this lifetime. Realization, or attainment, means gaining the ability to become liberated for oneself from life and death, and being able to use this Dharma in one’s lifetime to help and benefit all sentient beings.

“In Tibetan, ‘Chod’ means ‘breaking away’; it is translated into Chinese as ‘Body-Offering Puja’, a giving of the body. What does ‘breaking away’ refer to? Using one’s wisdom. Where did this puja come from? In Tibet, there was once a yogini who married and had children; she wrote down this puja based on the essence of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings in the Great Prajna Sutra. This was the Exoteric part. Tantra is divided into four stages of cultivation: Kriya Tantra, Charya Tantra, Yogatantra, and Annutarayoga Tantra. The Chod includes the first three stages; it does not include Annutarayoga Tantra.

“Tantra can also be divided into four types: Subduing (quelling all disasters), Increasing (accumulating good fortune, power, and so on), Placating (causing your enemies to soften in their hatred toward you and not take revenge on you), and Vanquishing (which means killing; some sentient beings cannot be helped using the first three methods, so the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas might use the Vanquishing method to compassionately liberate them so that those sentient beings stop committing evil). This Chod Puja includes Subduing, Increasing, and Placating. To ‘break away’ means to use one’s wisdom, or prajna, to break free of all hindrances of afflictions and knowledge of ordinary people. This morning I briefly touched upon what those hindrances are.

“Practitioners who continuously cultivate this puja can rapidly accumulate good fortune and wisdom for themselves, which is why it is also called ‘The Puja of Rapid Attainment of Two Resources by Offering One’s Body and Breaking Away from All Afflictions of Reincarnation’. If you spend your life specializing in the cultivation of this puja, you can very quickly accumulate wisdom and good fortune. Why is it called ‘Body-Offering Puja’ in Chinese? It is because a practitioner visualizes using Tantra, mantras, and so on to make an offering of his or her entire body to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Dharma protectors, as well as to the Dakas and Dakinis. With the good fortune gathered through this offering, the practitioner then visualizes his or her body as alms for all the sentient beings in the Six Realms to eat—especially dragons, demons, and those residing in the Hell and Hungry Ghost Realms.

“It is stipulated in Tantra that prior to learning this Puja, a practitioner must master the Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices. These include making 110,000 grand prostrations, chanting the Hundred-Syllable Mantra 110,000 times (also known as Vajrasattva’s Mantra), offering the mandala 110,000 times (which refers to making offerings), and practicing the Guru Yoga 110,000 times. After these Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices have been completed, if the guru feels the practitioner is qualified to learn the Chod, then he will have him or her conduct a retreat to cultivate a yidam, which is usually Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. The practitioner must remain in a retreat hut for three months, and is not allowed to leave during that time; there he or she must chant Avalokiteshvara’s mantra one million times. The guru then observes the practitioner to determine whether or not he or she possesses the root capacity to learn this puja, and then grants empowerment in it. After being empowered, anyone who has learned this puja must practice it every day.

“There are two texts associated with the Chod. One the practitioner uses to cultivate and benefit him or herself, and the other is used to help sentient beings. The text I am using today is the latter. People who participate in Chod Pujas over a long period of time, and who decide to practice Buddhism in this lifetime, will very rapidly have their afflictions and hindrances eliminated. If they do not decide to practice, and remain mere believers, as long as they continue to refrain from killing, eating meat, and committing any other evil acts, they will see a gradual improvement in their mundane affairs. Sick people participating in this puja will gradually see a turn for the better; this is especially true of cancer patients.

“This morning I talked about how, twenty years ago, I got skin cancer. I did not perform any Dharmas for myself, nor did I see any doctors or implore the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to heal me. Nevertheless, because I practiced the Chod every day, I was completely cured of my disease. Many of my disciples have cancer; as long as they keep attending Chod Pujas, their cancer cells will reduce in number and even disappear entirely without their having to undergo any surgery, chemotherapy, or other treatment. Even if they do not believe deeply enough, while long-term participation in Chod Pujas might not cure them of their cancer, it will still cause them to suffer less than the typical cancer patient, or even not have to suffer at all. Some ‘believers’ do not believe in cause and effect; they think doctors can cure cancer. Actually, a lot of my disciples are doctors, and they understand very well that this is not the case. Many people waste a great deal of time and money only to eventually succumb to yet another disease and die.

“Even if they have undergone chemotherapy or surgery, as long as they give rise to a repentant attitude, suddenly have faith in the Three Jewels, and are willing to participate in this puja, then before they die, they will definitely stop suffering from their cancer. Many cancer patients are in agony until their dying breath, and no amount of pain medication provides any relief. Because this puja text is particularly beneficial to those ghosts and sentient beings you have harmed, it can cause their resentment of you to dissipate, after which your suffering will naturally be alleviated. This puja is also very helpful in terms of the practitioner’s own cultivation.

“Currently, in Tibet, not many people perform the Chod, because understanding this puja requires a long, complicated process. Moreover, to perform it, one must first have mastered meditation, and definitely must be cultivating the Bodhisattva Path, because it cannot be done by people unwilling to give. Also, performing the Chod requires a certain special Dharma instrument, the likes of which people cannot simply make themselves; certain causal conditions must be met in order to obtain it. The Chod cannot be cultivated simply by chanting mantras and reciting sutras, so fewer and fewer people are able to receive and master it these days. This is likely to continue to be true into the future, too, because people wishing to perform this puja must first have made a great vow to help sentient beings and be cultivating the Bodhisattva Path.

“In a little while, I will perform the Dharma; in the meantime, you may contemplate those deceased sentient beings that are connected to you but are no longer in this world. As long as you keep them in mind, today’s ritual can help them to escape the Hell, Hungry Ghost, or Animal Realms. If you want to help any people who are still alive, you may think of and say their names, too.

“While I perform the ritual, participants need to be respectful. Respect means believing that everything done by the Three Jewels is helpful to sentient beings. Your comprehension and understanding are not required. Why is that? As the Buddha once said, Buddhahood is unfathomable and cannot be described in words. This means that if you have never reached the Buddha’s state, no amount of explanation can make you understand. It would be the equivalent of someone with a PhD trying to teach what he or she has learned to elementary school students; they still would not really comprehend it, no matter how hard the professor tried. A simple method is just to believe: Have faith that everything done by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas benefits sentient beings, though that does not include satisfying your desires. Your desires just come from your own minds.

“As is written in the Diamond Sutra, and as I explained this morning, the Buddha looks after, protects, and keeps in His thoughts all Bodhisattvas cultivating the Bodhisattva Path. This means that if you are on that path, the Buddha will definitely think about you, care for you, and keep you safe. If you are not, and are merely an ordinary believer coming here to implore the Buddha to satisfy your desires, then the likelihood of that is not high. Nevertheless, if you are suffering, and hope that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can help to alleviate it for you, this is possible—but you must believe.

“Secondly, it is necessary to have a repentant attitude. After being alive for a few decades, it is impossible for us not to have committed transgressions against others. They include anything you have done to harm sentient beings. We may have committed theft—not necessarily stolen someone’s money or property directly, but perhaps used pirated material or counterfeit goods; these are acts of theft, too. We should also be repentant if we have ever said anything ugly, cursed at people, indulged in sexual misconduct, and so on. Finally, we should give rise to compassion, which has multiple levels. We should feel compassion for people related to us who are still suffering in the Hell Realm, as well as for any sentient beings we have harmed. Only once we have these three things—respect, repentance, and compassion—can we make genuine offerings to the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and our guru. Making offerings is prerequisite to accumulating good fortune, which we must have in order to benefit ourselves and other sentient beings; this is very important. Many people think that making offerings necessarily involves donating a ton of money, but the most crucial aspect of an offering is one’s attitude while making it. If you don’t have the right attitude, your offering would be useless no matter how much money you offer. If your heart is in it, then even a tiny amount is still good as an offering to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Later, while I am performing the ritual, you should all take a moment to think about these methods I have taught you.

“Another characteristic of this puja is that, first of all, the presiding guru does not wear any object for self-protection. Tantric practitioners usually don certain sacred objects, but before performing this particular puja, one must take them all off, so that the he does not have any protection at all. Also, no protective boundary can be set around the mandala. In a little while, when I blow on this Dharma instrument, all the sentient beings with the proper causal conditions will enter—even ones you cannot see. For this reason, all safeguards around this Buddhist Center must be taken down so that these sentient beings can have their wishes fulfilled.

“Many Dharma instruments are required to perform this ritual. Soon you will see me use one made of a human leg bone, a one-handed drum, a bell, and a vajra; all of these are indispensable. Obtaining these instruments in this lifetime indicates that a practitioner has been transmitted this Dharma in a past life. This human leg bone instrument was used by my root guru, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, in his previous lifetime, and was bestowed upon me when he transmitted the Dharma to me, signifying that he was passing its lineage on to me.

“I am specially performing this ritual for you today because it is the beginning of a new year, and I hope this will stop the effects of your past evil acts from continuing to harm you. This does not mean that all that evil karma will suddenly disappear; as long as you continue to eat the flesh of sentient beings and do evil, one day your karmic retribution is sure to manifest. Today’s ritual will certainly allow sentient beings you have harmed to be liberated, so their hatred toward you will lessen. However, even if they are liberated, you will be like a person who has been sick in the past; even though your illness has been taken away, your body will still be very weak, so you will need to continue to replenish your strength before you can completely recover. This is also the way it is with Buddhist practice; after you have been helped to treat the underlying fundamental condition, you still need to keep changing and doing good deeds. The point of Buddhism is that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can help you, but that does not mean they can eliminate all the karmic effects of your past behavior. The Buddha said this. He can only teach us what to do to transform our evil effects. I am an obvious example for you all to see.

“I used to love eating seafood; I got skin cancer, which should have shortened my lifespan. I would have been a forty-something-year-old, waiting to die. However, I learned and began to practice Buddhism, and so on, and this changed the course of the second half of my life. In other words, Buddhism can change a person’s fate. However, it all hinges on whether or not you have accepted it, believe in it, and can put it into practice. If everything you do is in accordance with the Dharma, then you of course will see some changes in your life.”

Rinpoche began to perform the ritual.

“After the ritual was complete, the guru resumed his teachings: “Today’s Chod has been completely successful. Ordinarily, it takes two or three hours to perform this puja, but because I did it in a meditative state, I did not have to take as many breaths as most people would. For example, in the space that you would need to take five breaths, I only need to take one; as a result, the ritual did not take as long. The beginning of the ritual included many parts related to Tantra which I will not reveal to you. At the end, the practitioner implores many things both for himself and on behalf of sentient beings. The most important line here is this: ‘Implore the guru for blessings.’ This Dharma text is special in that all the blessings it mentions come from the guru; it does not tell us to supplicate to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for blessings. In Tantrism, gurus are very important, because without one to transmit the Dharma to you, you cannot learn it. Without the Dharma, you cannot resolve any of your problems or help other sentient beings to do the same.

“We consider all sutras, including the Buddhist Canon, to be Exoteric, which refers to all of the fundamental theory behind the Dharmas Shakyamuni Buddha expounded for forty-nine years. It can all be divided roughly into two parts. One part is represented by Hinayana Buddhism, which arhats cultivate. A couple of examples of their texts are the Agama Sutra and the Samyuktagama Sutra. Hinayana Buddhism is prevalent in places such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Myanmar. The other major part is the Bodhisattva Vehicle. Most of the people Shakyamuni Buddha expounded to for so many years were not mere believers; they were the Buddha’s disciples and some practitioners of the Bodhisattva Path. Therefore, He only explained the fundamental theories and the mindset practitioners should be in.

“Most importantly, Exoteric Buddhism teaches us how to change how we think. Only after we have corrected our thinking can we behave properly. In Tibet, those who wish to practice Tantra, or Esoteric Buddhism, must first have a foundation of ten years of Exoteric practice. Only if that foundation is sound can one understand how to cultivate properly, and only then can one be transmitted Tantra. Tantra can be used to help ourselves and other sentient beings. While on the Bodhisattva Path, we must practice with five methods. The first is to cultivate wisdom and good fortune. The second is to cultivate the Path of Preparation, which teaches us how to strengthen and deepen our cultivation so that we can benefit ourselves and others. The first method can be attained by practicing both Exoteric and Esoteric Buddhism. The second method, the Path of Preparation, can be practiced with part of Exoteric Buddhism, but in Tantra it can be cultivated very rapidly.

“The third method is the Path of Vision, which teaches us the principle of attaining Emptiness. Theoretical study of the sutras can only teach us theory; it cannot allow us to genuinely realize or comprehend what the Buddha meant when He spoke of the wisdom (prajna) of Emptiness. Only after learning the Path of Vision can we start the Path of Cultivation, to truly cultivate the Bodhisattva Path. Practitioners who have not learned the Path of Vision can only practice the first two paths, the Path of Preparation and the Path of Accumulation. Are those paths good? Of course they are, but if you really want to help sentient beings to resolve their problems, become liberated, and so on, those methods are not enough; you also have to practice the Path of Vision. If you cannot realize and grasp the concept of Emptiness, then after the first two paths you will become arrogant; arrogance brings about a lot of negative things. Only after attaining Emptiness can we truly begin to cultivate the Bodhisattva Path; trying to do so without first realizing Emptiness would be very difficult. This is because we would very easily become attached to our own affairs, including the things that we know and we can control. However, it is very different once we have attained the Path of Vision: We know that we should give and not take. This means practitioners of the Bodhisattva Path are constantly giving. In China, there is a saying: ‘Only after giving can one get something.’ If you cannot give, then you will obtain nothing.

“After the Path of Vision comes the Path of Cultivation, and finally, the Path of Non-Cultivation. That does not mean not needing to cultivate; rather, in the end, once all your afflictions, hindrances of knowledge, and delusions have been cleared away to reveal your pure, original nature, there will be no more Dharma in the mundane world for you to cultivate; in that moment, you will have attained Buddhahood. The attainment of the first three paths is very important for performing today’s puja. That is, only after you have cultivated the Path of Vision can you then perform the Chod to benefit sentient beings. If you have not come to the realization that all phenomena arise from conditions and are Empty in nature, and do not understand the law of cause and effect, then insisting on learning this puja will bring you much difficulty, and you will not be successful. How can you visualize yourself as transforming into something else to be received by sentient beings? Transforming mundane objects can only be done in a state of Emptiness, and in order to turn them into food for sentient beings to eat, they must first be transformed into nectar that the Buddhas can accept.

“In the later part of the Chod ritual, there is a long section in the text about how the presiding guru visualizes his own flesh, bones, and blood as endless alms for all sentient beings to consume. The reason people fall into the Ghost Realm, the Animal Realm, and the Hell Realm is that they loved to eat the flesh of sentient beings while they were alive. This habit of eating meat instead of being vegetarian naturally causes them to fall into those three realms. The presiding guru provides his own flesh for them to eat, but once it enters their stomachs, it turns into nectar; this pure nectar eliminates their evil habits of greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt, transforming them into engendering bodhicitta so that they can listen to the Dharma and be liberated. In other words, you cannot simply cut off a piece of your flesh and toss it in front of those sentient beings to eat. If you yourself have not cultivated Emptiness, given rise to bodhicitta, and accumulated merits, then they won’t eat your flesh even if you cut some off for them; they will only eat what they think is okay to eat. After consuming it, the karma they have accumulated over past lifetimes will disappear.

“This ritual contains a few Exoteric prayers, so I can tell you a bit about them. They mention the evil acts you have committed and their resulting hindrances that have attracted so many demons and ghostly beings, bringing you illness and suffering. By practicing this puja over time, and hoping for your guru’s blessings, you can immediately vanquish them. The harassment caused by these sentient beings will stop, as will things that frequently afflict you such as greed, hatred, and lack of belief in cause and effect. ‘May my guru bless me’—By hoping for your guru’s blessings, you can naturally be rid of your illnesses; this includes plagues caused by harassing demons, curses sent by others to harm you, and so on.

“By imploring for blessings, you can attain joyful youthfulness without sickness. Being young but sick does you no good, and growing old without sickness does not bring you joy, either. Some people say I have not aged; actually, I am seventy-one years old. I do not recite this prayer for blessings all the time; I just recite it briefly after performing the puja. Actually, at the end of the Dharma text there are many prayers that can cause a lot of things to go our way. For example, there is a supplication for blessings so that we can benefit all ghosts and deities, one to be able to live longer, and so on. The point of all these prayers is to allow us to have enough time to cultivate in this lifetime and complete our Buddhist activities, not to enjoy life. It is mentioned in the text that if you are a practitioner, then there are many things you must do to benefit sentient beings. If you are not, and are just an ordinary believer, then these prayers will not work for you; if you want to be young again, then go out and buy some cosmetics.

“Why did I specially change today’s schedule to perform the Chod this afternoon? I did it because some believers had time to attend this morning but not this afternoon, and vice versa. Given this condition, expounding the Diamond Sutra would have been rather awkward. Sutras are expounded when there is a proper causal origination, and this morning I planted this seed, this causal origination, of teaching the Diamond Sutra here in Japan; we will see whether or not the causal condition will arise again for me to expound it further to Japanese believers in the future. I do not create this causal condition; it will be up to all of you to decide.

“Let me say again: You are lay practitioners, and so am I; by all means, do not see yourselves as separate and having a different lifestyle from us just because you are Japanese. We actually are all the same; I eat, sleep, and make money from my business just the same as you do. The only difference is in our mindset. I know Buddhism is very important to me; without it, I would not still be alive. For you, mundane matters are most important, but those cannot help you to shake your diseases and live a long time. All matters in the mundane world exist according to causes and conditions. When I say that we should do our best to put the Dharma into practice, I am not telling you to stop working or stop caring, or that you don’t need a family; the Buddha never said any of this. You may have a look at my teachings about the Ratnakuta Sutra; it contains what Shakyamuni Buddha actually said. The crux of the matter is one’s mindset. If you have the correct mindset, then you will naturally find Buddhism quite easy to practice. If you do not have the correct mindset, and Buddhism for you is just a pastime, then you will never learn it.

“Shakyamuni Buddha taught about the Dharma for forty-time years, and after more than two and a half millennia, His teachings still remain and most definitely are of value. It is just that people are so full of doubt; they refuse to believe that putting the Buddha’s words into practice is possible. I am a prime example of their validity; you have seen my having begun doing it with some degree of success, so you cannot fail—just as long as you are willing. I often encourage believers by saying, ‘If I can do it, then so can you.’ If you fail, there is only one reason: Your lack of belief. You might believe in money and other mundane things, but you do not believe that everyone can achieve what is taught in Buddhism.

“Shakyamuni Buddha once said, ‘Why should we break free of the four notions? It is because sentient beings all possess a Buddha nature.’ Regardless of what your educational background might be, you all have the condition to attain Buddhahood. However, this cannot be achieved merely by reciting some sutras, participating in some pujas, and burning some incense; a certain process must be followed. As for how long this process takes and how arduous or easy it might be, it is different for every sentient being, but the most important thing is for you to begin, and make a firm resolution to practice. A lot of you say you will wait until you have more free time, but by then you might be dead. As I often say, no one in attendance is busier than I; none of you have more affairs to attend to than I do. How am I still able to practice? It is very simple: I do not give myself any excuses. You think you don’t have time because of things you need to do, such as attend to your family, kids, and so on. However, I have such duties, too; so how do I still have time? It’s simple: I believe in the teachings of the Buddha and my guru; I believe that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are always helping sentient beings, and I believe that my guru is always benefiting us. With this belief, you will begin to practice.

“If you are only here to have a listen, and then do not put these teachings into practice when you go back home, they will not do you any good. Many people think that listening to a lot of Dharma teachings brings good fortune. It does, but such good fortune definitely cannot be used in this lifetime. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the good fortune you accumulate from listening to the Dharma in this lifetime can only be used in the next. You might say, ‘Well in that case, I’ll just stop coming to listen.’ Fine, but if you keep listening, some of my own good fortune can rub off on you. It is the equivalent of my sprinkling some water; if some of it lands on you, then you can resolve some of your minor problems in this lifetime—but not major life-and-death issues. To deal with those, you need the help of a guru. Without it, when you are one day staring death in the face, you will understand very well that you are helpless before it. Why do people quake in fear of death? It is because you do not know how to die or what will happen to you afterward; this makes you very perplexed and helpless. We practitioners understand how we die and what death involves, so we are of course certain and fearless. We simply keep on doing what we do.

“For example, every night before I go to sleep, I know I might not wake up, and I see every morning that I do wake up as the dawn of a new life. I treat every puja as the last one I will ever perform; I don’t put it off until tomorrow. I never say, ‘There’s always tomorrow; tomorrow I’ll do it another time and accumulate a bit more good fortune.’ I’d never! I put my all into what I do! This might be the last time I ever do it. This is because Buddhist practitioners have a profound belief in impermanence—the fact that everything is always changing. You might say that’s not true, but it is! Your appearance has changed greatly since your youth; if you do not believe me, go home and have a look at some photos of when you were little, and compare them to some recent ones. You don’t look like you used to at all. This is impermanence.

“That being the case, you should hurry up and learn Buddhism as diligently as you can so that you are prepared when impermanence comes knocking. Learning Buddhism will not prevent things from changing; it will prepare you to face change when it happens and teach you how to accept it so that you have hope for your future. Hope for your future does not mean money, power, family, desires, or wealth; rather, it is confidence that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will bestow hope upon your future, but you must accept and listen first. For this gift to be effective, you must accept it and listen.

“It is a new year. I have said a lot today, and I hope it will be useful to you all. If the causal condition arises, I will resume expounding the Diamond Sutra here in Japan at some point in the future. Now we will begin the Dharma Protector ritual.”

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the disciples in the Dharma Protector Achi ritual and dedication prayer. Afterward, he continued to bestow teachings.

“A lot of people are very curious as to why I wear a crown while performing this puja, with a small black curtain hanging down in front of my face. There are many reasons for this. The black curtain blocking my face does not mean I am afraid of ghosts; it means the opposite. In the sutras, it is explained that upon death, one enters the intermediate state, or bardo. When this happens in a dream, it is called dream-state bardo, and in waking, it is known as segmented bardo. The intermediate state prior to reincarnating is also known as bardo, regardless of which of the Six Realms one is in.

Rinpoche wearing a crown while performing the Chod.

“It is also written in the sutras that when a sentient being in bardo sees the light of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, it will want to flee in fear. This is easily explained; for example, if you had never come in contact with rich and powerful people, and were suddenly called to go meet with one, you would surely ask, ‘Why me?’ Then, when you met with that powerful person, you would certainly not stride into the meeting room with the confidence you might feel when getting together with a friend; you would stand at the door way, hesitating and wanting to retreat. Why does this happen? When we are in a bardo state, our wisdom is concealed by our karma. When we see the light of the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ wisdom, our first impression is that it is fire, because it looks like flames, and next we feel that scare us so that we do not dare to approach.

“Speaking from my own experience, the night after I took refuge in Exoteric Buddhism, I had a dream in which I saw myself standing at the entrance to a temple. The doors were open, and in the middle of the hall was Shakyamuni Buddha. A fierce, golden light radiated outward from Him. Originally, I had been planning to enter, but I also felt a bit hesitant. Next to me, the Dharma master in whom I had taken refuge told me, ‘Go on in,’ so I did, and then I made prostrations before Shakyamuni Buddha. Later, when I read the sutras, I learned the meaning of this dream. For forty-nine days after we die, every seven days, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will come to take us. If, prior to this, we have listened to the Buddhas’ names and come close to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, or even seen their wisdom, then as soon we see them, we will gladly go with them. If you have never learned Buddhism, taken refuge, participated in this sort of puja, or believed and accepted the Dharma, then when the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas appear, you will be terrified of the light they emit and won’t dare to follow them. Every seven days for forty-nine days, a different colored light will appear. For example, it might be a red light so intense that you will not dare to go toward it, or it might be a more comforting red light, which you approach but which will lead you down into the Three Evil Realms.

“Why should you participate in pujas? Even though in doing so you won’t see the light of the Buddhas’, Bodhisattvas’, and gurus’ wisdom, your own consciousness at least will sense it. Sometimes you might enter a Buddhist center and feel that it is very solemn and stately; that means it contains the light of wisdom. I wear this Dharma crown because while performing the puja, the presiding guru enters a meditative state, and his eyes emit the light of wisdom, which causes those sentient beings in the Ghost Realm to feel reluctant to approach; for this reason, I use the small crown curtain to cover the light so that they feel it is safe to come closer.

“Why are there five skulls atop this crown? First of all, it is to tell sentient beings what they look like. Whether you are in the Heaven, Asura, Animal, or Human Realm, you will leave a skeleton behind when you die; this shows that in this life there is nothing to compare and fight over. Secondly, it is to tell sentient beings that life is impermanent. These skulls imply, ‘You are sentient beings of the Ghost Realm; you can relax, because this is a place you are used to.’ If we were to place a very magnificent Buddha Statue before them while performing the Chod, they would not dare approach; this is why we adorn the Dharma crown with figures that look like them.

“In Taiwan, we hold what is known as the Great Water and Land Puja, though it might not exist here in Japan. One of its rituals involves Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara’s appearance in ghost form to liberate ghostly beings. In Buddhism, we take on the appearance of whatever realm’s denizens we are liberating. For example, as Shakyamuni Buddha described, He spent some of His past lifetimes in the form of a king stag, monkey, bear, and peacock, because He wished to liberate those sentient beings. He did not actually transform into those; He emanated a part of His consciousness in those forms to liberate them. When I am liberating humans, I of course take on the appearance of a human; if I am liberating ghosts, I pretend to be like them. Naturally, I am not really a ghost; if I were, you would all run away in fear.

“One must possess the compassion of Emptiness in order to perform this puja. The Lunar New Year festivities have just begun, so in performing it for you, I hope to lessen the resentment of all those sentient beings whose flesh you have eaten over the past few years. This is the start of a new year, so I hope you will all stop eating meat so that you won’t keep bugging me every year. Don’t think that eating meat is no big deal because you can just look me up and get me to perform rituals for you; sooner or later I am going to die. After that, who will come and help you? Stop doubting that eating the flesh of sentient beings will make you fall into the Hell Realm.

“Worshiping Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is so popular in Japan, but he does not just liberate the deceased lying in graveyards; he liberates all sentient beings in the Six Realms. It is stated very clearly in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that you must not harm sentient beings or eat their flesh. You seem to have so much faith in Ksitigarbha, yet you pay no attention to his words; why, then, do you make prostrations to him? If you do not listen to him, then worshiping him really won’t do you any good; all you are doing is asking for peace of mind and consolation. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s aspiration is to prevent all sentient beings in the Six Realms from suffering. Since you had the good fortune and causal condition to come here and participate in this puja, I hope you can listen to what the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have said. If you genuinely listen, they will grant you some protection; if you do not, and are only here hoping to gain some sort of benefit to take home with you, then this puja will not do you much good. I say this out of experience from my cultivation, and am exhorting you in all sincerity. I am not saying you absolutely have to believe me, but you should believe what the Buddha said. Everything I have taught today comes from the sutras and was learned from my guru; I did not make it up. I would not be qualified, nor would I dare to make up a religion, because that would send me to the Hell Realm.

“Everything I have said today was said by Shakyamuni Buddha and taught by my guru. I hope you can all go home and give it some thought; do not waste this life away. This life will be over very quickly; every year, I see you growing older and older. When one of my Japanese disciples took refuge, his beard did not have any white in it; now it is completely white. He has aged. The years go by very quickly, one after another, so do not waste your time. I wish you all a very Happy New Year!”

Upon the perfect completion of the puja, the disciples thanked His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for his compassionate teachings. Rising to their feet, they paid reverent homage as the guru descended the Dharma throne.

After stepping down from the Dharma throne, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche smiled and walked over to Abbot Ogawa Yuki from Onsenji Temple in Shirosaki, Japan. As always, Rinpoche warmly inquired about the abbot’s health and asked how his father had been doing. Rinpoche then blessed the abbot’s head and chest with the vajra, and compassionately explained how to use the precious nectar pills he was about to bestow.

Rinpoche said that the abbot could give the nectar pills to special believers in his temple. These nectar pills had been given to Rinpoche by the monastics at a Tibetan monastery as a special offering showing gratitude for his ongoing support; they had only given them to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, so were extremely rare and precious. The abbot thanked Rinpoche most sincerely for having granted this opportunity. After reverently seeing Rinpoche off, he made three more earnest prostrations before the mandala, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas.

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Updated on January 16, 2019