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His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche Presides over the Amitayus Puja and Expounds the Diamond Sutra in Japan to Perfect Completion

On May 19th, 2019, in Japan, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche presided over the Memorial Puja Commemorating the Eleventh Anniversary of the Consecration of the Kyoto Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center. There were total of 200 attendees, including Abbot Ogawa Yuushou of Onsenji Temple in Kinosaki, Japan, twenty-one believers from Taiwan, Japan, and China, and 179 disciples. They all felt extremely fortunate for being able to participate in such a rare and precious puja!

Abbot Ogawa Yuushou of Onsenji Temple in Konosaki, Japan, respectfully making offerings.

The Amitayus Puja

At 9:30 in the morning, led by a procession of music, incense, and a jeweled parasol, H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was reverently welcomed by all present with palms joined as he walked up to the mandala. After making respectful prostrations before the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, he presented a khata to the Dharma throne of His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, lit lamps as an offering to the Buddha, and ascended the Dharma throne. From there he presided over the Amitayus Puja, and bestowed precious Dharma teachings upon all of the attendees.

“This morning I will perform the Amitayus Ritual as transmitted by Ushnisha Machig Drubpejema; this is not practiced in Exoteric Buddhism, but it is in Tibetan Buddhism. Amitayus is the Sambhogakaya of Amitabha Buddha.

“What does ‘Sambhogakaya’ mean? For any practitioners who focus on cultivating and observing the Bodhisattva Path and precepts, the Buddha’s Sambhogakaya will assist them in their Buddhist practices and come to receive them when they die. This is written very clearly in the sutra. Simply put, if those of you participating in this puja are not prepared and have not made a firm resolution to practice the Bodhisattva Path, then today’s Amitayus Ritual will merely give you a tiny bit of worldly longevity and help you to avoid an untimely death.

“An ‘untimely death’, mentioned in the sutras, refers to dying accidentally before your longevity is depleted. There are many different ways for this to happen; the ones people are most prone to these days are fires, car accidents, and such natural disasters as floods and earthquakes. Untimely deaths also include being misdiagnosed by a doctor or prescribed the wrong medicine, etc. If you resolve in this lifetime to cultivate the Bodhisattva Path, then Amitayus will continuously protect you, and not only will add to your longevity in the mundane world, but will also extend your Buddhist longevity to infinity. Adding to your longevity does not simply mean adding a year or two to however many decades you live in this world; although, if you do live a year or two longer, that won’t do and good to either humankind or other sentient beings if you are not helpful to them.

“Today’s ritual, the Amitayus, is basically performed for beings of the Human and Heaven Realms. When we perform Tantra, we hope everyday that sentient beings living in the Hell Realm will have their lifespans cut short so that they can resolve their time there and be reborn in the Human Realm a bit sooner, and thereby have opportunities to practice Buddhism. We also hope the same thing for sentient beings in the Hungry Ghost and Animal Realms. In ancient times there was a Dharma, which is now lost; even if it is still performed today, only a handful of people know it. It was a special method, practiced by the ancient yogis, which could shorten the lifespan of all the sentient beings in the Animal Realm, and then help them to be delivered from the Three Evil Realms to the Human and Heaven Realms.

“The Dharma I am performing today is, first of all, meant to benefit practitioners of the Bodhisattva Path; second of all, it is for those people who have already done some good deeds; and thirdly, it is for those who hope to obtain protection and blessings from Buddhism. As for the third type of people, can this ritual extend their lifespans by five, ten, or even twenty years? To be frank with you, such would be impossible. What longevity does it extend, then? If you were originally supposed to live until you were seventy-two or even eighty years old, it allows you to restore some of that longevity. What does that mean? While existing as a human in this lifetime, every bite of meat you eat reduces your lifespan, and the same is true of every evil act you commit.

“Many people think eating meat is nutritious, but that is actually a kind of superstition. We are all very aware that with everything we eat, once it enters our bodies, all the nutrients go straight into our cells. If we eat beef, then cow cells enter our own cells; as such, the cells of people who eat a lot of beef gradually begin to contain bovine DNA, and as a result, they get cancer. The same thing happens to people who eat seafood. In terms of causality, if you enjoy acts of killing in this lifetime and do not eat vegetarian, then you will not live very long. Some people who like to argue might say, ‘That’s not true! I’ve seen fishermen who live until they are in their eighties and nineties!’ Why doesn’t it occur to you that if they didn’t fish for a living, they might live until they were two hundred years old? I have never seen any fisherman end up in a good situation; their families always have bizarre and horrible things happen to them.

“Shakyamuni Buddha once stated how long humans should live; there is clear mention of this in the sutras. He said that humans did not evolve from apes and monkeys, despite the superstitious belief shared by people all over the world that those are our ancestors. If that were true, then given all the monkeys that still exist, we should prostrate ourselves before them and take care of them. Why don’t we? Obviously, this is just superstition; scientists were unable to find a reason, so they just casually claimed that primates’ genes are only 2% different from our own—which would mean that they are our ancestors. However, that is not actually correct. According to what is written in the sutras, humans flew down to this Earth from the Heaven of Light and Sound; after they arrived, because they liked to eat a certain food called “fat of the earth”, their bodies grew heavy and they could not fly back up. For this reason, they remained on Earth and propagated further generations.

“If we take a moment to think about it a bit more calmly, people in every religion in the world apart from Buddhism pray in the hope that they can rise up to some heaven after they die; this is true of people all over the world, including those from Japan, China, India, America, and so on. It is precisely because our ancestors came from the Heaven Realm that our genes have a desire to return there. However, that is easier said than done; certain special methods must be cultivated before it is possible. I won’t get into those today, because they do not fall under the scope of Buddhism.

“The Buddha said that humans should have a longevity of 85,000 years. Why, then, is it so rare for people in this day and age to reach even just 100? More than two and a half millennia ago, the Buddha had already begun to explain this; He said the humans of Earth are currently in a kalpa of lessening longevity, which meant that every 100 years, one year gets shaved off of our lifespans. While the Buddha was still in this world, He said that the average human lifespan would be between 72 and 75 years, and that has been verified. How long will this reduction of longevity continue? It will continue until the average human lifespan is only ten years, after which the trend will reverse, adding one year every century to human longevity, on and on, until we again live for 85,000 years. This cycle is called a ‘minor kalpa’; three minor kalpas make up a ‘medium kalpa’, and three medium kalpas make up a ‘major kalpa’. After three major kalpas have passed, the Earth will no longer exist.

“This is a very long period of time, but that does not mean you won’t have a chance to be reborn in that era. If you spend a lifetime committing evil acts and not believing in the Dharma, then you will be at risk of being reborn in the final era of destruction, during which suffering will be at its peak. The Buddha once taught that while humans are in this process of longevity reduction, the world will be plagued by war after war, a general sense of unease, numerous incurable diseases, and a great many natural disasters. Just think for a moment: Isn’t this exactly what our lives are like now? Superficially, we might seem to be very safe, as we have a lot of scientific things protecting us, but any minute, an earthquake or flood could hit; anything can happen. As I recall, a huge amount of rain fell in Kyoto last year; the very road in front of the Buddhist Center collapsed. This was an example of just such a natural disaster. Luckily, because pujas are constantly held here, no one was killed.

“Many people are quite attached to the desire to live a bit longer. If you do, then you will practice Buddhism longer to free yourselves from reincarnation, and even have a chance in this lifetime to benefit sentient beings; thus, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will help you live longer. Actually, it is quite a simple matter for them to extend our lives for us by five or ten years.

“As for me, my lifespan should have run out when I was fifty years old because of the skin cancer I got. I should be a dead man, but here I still am, seventy-two years old and cancer-free. Why did the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas allow me to survive? It was because ever since I was thirty-six, I have lived by the Dharma. My life might seem to be the same as yours on the surface—I, too, have to eat, sleep, ride in and drive cars, and so on—but my mind is different. My thoughts are completely devoted to living in accordance with the Dharma, which is the reason I have accumulated good fortune.

“Longevity is one part of good fortune, and one’s good fortune can be used up. Only merits and good fortune that come from cultivation is immune to depletion; the good fortune that comes from doing good deeds in the mundane world can be depleted. Once you have used up all of your good fortune, you will not have any more longevity, and no amount of supplication will do you any good. Many people, when their parents are about to die, implore for my help in making them live longer. I always tell them to stop asking, because prolonging their lives would just lead to more suffering, so it would be better if the children asked me to put an end to their parents’ misery and keep them from falling into the Three Evil Realms. Today I am performing the Amitayus for you all, and in the beginning of the puja, I stated quite clearly that this Dharma can help three sorts of people. If you are of the last sort, and only want to be able to live a bit longer than you normally would, then it truly will only help you to live a tiny bit longer. For example, you might have originally been destined to die this year, and that might be put off until next year; the difference would be miniscule.

“We practitioners have a very easy attitude toward longevity. I often tell my disciples that I could pass away at any time. In other words, once I have completed whatever I have had to do and whatever have been my responsibilities in this lifetime, and as soon as I have repaid all the debt and kindness that I owe to sentient beings from lifetimes past, I will be gone. Buddhist practitioners have to have a profound faith in the indeterminacy of time of death; death follows us like a shadow, and has never left us. Do not assume that seeing a physician can help you to live a bit longer, either; doctors can only reduce some of your superficial symptoms for you. Not a single one of them, no matter how skilled, can actually extend your longevity.

“A lot of people think that seeing a doctor can cure them of their illnesses and allow them to live longer, but that is actually not true. If you possess longevity, then even the worst doctor in the world can make you somewhat better; if you do not, then you will still die even if you encounter the best. What are doctors used for? They are people who care for us. The Buddha taught that human illness stems from the mind. If your mind is devoid of greed, hatred, and doubt with regard to cause and effect, then you will be in good shape physically. If, instead, your mind is full of those afflictions, then you will naturally get sick, and your illnesses will reduce your longevity. At the end of the day, your longevity is something you yourself earn back and use up; it is not reduced as a result of harm done to you by anyone else. It all has to do with the decisions you make.

“People whose longevity is almost all gone and who do not normally practice Buddhism are bound to succumb to all manner of illnesses. Many think that getting sick is a necessary part of growing old, but that is a misconception. I’m old; I turned seventy-two this year—but I can still run around and do tons of things. I absolutely do not act my age. What does this mean? It means my longevity is quite firm; I have been solidifying it instead of consuming it. This will continue unless I someday do not want it anymore, at which point it will be gone.

“True practitioners who eventually leave this world will not undergo the suffering of old age; while they do grow old, they do not have to suffer. Symptoms of aging include having trouble walking, a reduced appetite, not sleeping very long, having to get up to go to the toilet at night, mood swings, viewing everything unfavorably, and so on. I view you all very favorably, because I have not yet aged.

“A true practitioner’s longevity is very stable, so, generally speaking, he or she experiences a lot less suffering from sickness and old age than non-practitioners. We can use Shakyamuni Buddha as an example: Prior to passing away, He merely demonstrated a minor illness to others, and did not get so sick that He had to lie on a bed like a dead fish. He did not age to the point of having no awareness of His process of passing away; He was extremely lucid through it all. Moreover, when Shakyamuni Buddha died, He specially demonstrated an auspicious lying posture: He did not die lying down, but instead exhibited for monastics the position in which they should all sleep.

“What is this ‘auspicious lying posture’? Exoteric practitioners would not know, nor would those practicing Eastern Tantra or Tang Tantra, whereas Tibetan Buddhist practitioners definitely do—but only those who have cultivated Yoga Tantra and Anuttarayoga Tantra understand why the Buddha demonstrated such a posture before He left this world. Even Dharma masters who have been ordained for decades might not know why He did this. However, Shakyamuni Buddha would never do or say anything without deliberation; with every action and word, He always demonstrated the Dharma. For this reason, when He left this world, even His karmic body became a manifestation of the Dharma teachings.

“If you have not cultivated Yoga Tantra and Anuttarayoga Tantra, you really have no way of comprehending why Shakyamuni Buddha reclined in this position, with His cheek resting in the palm of His right hand and one knee bent and the other straight. No answer is given in the sutras, and a lot of Dharma masters don’t know, either. You are sure to ask, ‘Okay, so why do you know?’ Of course I know, because I have cultivated Anuttarayoga Tantra.

“Why is it a secret? This is the Buddha’s state of being, and His intention was to demonstrate for practitioners of the Bodhisattva Path—not for ordinary people like yourselves—so He did not talk about it openly. This did not mean it was a secret; rather, ever if He had spoken of it, you would neither be able to understand Anuttarayoga Tantra nor succeed in cultivating it. The Buddha therefore gave us many expedient means. For example, the Amitayus is an expedient method, too, and the genuine principles of self-liberation are transmitted to people with sufficient root capacity. It is like how the Venerable Mahakasyapa was enlightened upon seeing the Buddha smile while holding a flower, or like how those of us practicing Tibetan Buddhism know what the Buddha is trying to tell us just from observing a certain action of His. If you have not learned this, then no matter how much I explain, you will still assume it to be superstition and nonsense.

“The Amitayus being performed today is enormously helpful for practitioners. For the average person, even though it might not be able to extend your longevity in this lifetime, you are bound to live a long time in the next. You must remember that right now we are in a kalpa of reduction, so even the smallest issue, such as eating the wrong thing, can shorten one’s life expectancy. For example, one of the Japanese believers who had originally planned to participate in today’s puja strangely developed gastroenteritis. It is my judgment that he must have gotten it from drinking alcohol or eating meat, and this means that he has no connection with Amitayus, and that he has insufficient faith in the guru. As a result, his karmic creditors did not let him attend.

“It is written in the sutras that in order to have opportunities to listen to and come in contact with the Dharma, people must possess good fortune. Without it, you wouldn’t come here even if I were to pay you, because none of you understands what Tantra is. You would be sure to say, ‘So, tell it to me clearly so that I can understand, and all will be well.’ However, if you do not have what it takes to learn Tantra, then how can I make you understand it?

“As I often tell you, an elementary school student simply cannot comprehend the lectures of a university professor, and would feel as though such subject matter were full of inaccessible secrets. For this reason, the professor would not actually be able to teach the elementary school student past a certain level of content. They might just play together, but the professor would only speak of material that the child could understand. Tantra operates on a similar concept. Therefore, when it comes to this content of which I am speaking right now, I really do need to treat you as though you were just elementary school students by keeping things simple. Do not assume that you are definitely going to learn Tantra, because it is very difficult. I have followed His Holiness for decades, and out of all his disciples, I am currently the only one who has achieved the fruition of a Rinpoche—not because His Holiness treats me with any favoritism, but because he is stricter with me.”

H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche began to perform the Amitayus, and in the midst of the ritual, he paused to bestow further teachings: “Usually, before starting the ritual, we must conduct the Refuge Aspiration Prayer. The attendees’ motives prior to every ritual are very important; any good karmic effects that you will receive are determined by your reasons for being here. The refuge prayer in the text indicates our resolve to implore for the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ blessings so that we will realize bodhicitta, gain opportunities in the future to give alms on behalf of sentient beings, and attain Buddhahood, so as to benefit countless sentient beings. The Four Immeasurables are compassion, kindness, joy, and giving. It would take a very long time to explain those, so for now I won’t get into it.”

After performing the ritual for a while, Rinpoche said, “Before I continue, we all must make offerings to all those demons and other sentient beings outside that are unable to enter this venue and participate in the puja. Meanwhile, we must also pray that we participants can live long lives free from illness, and that we will be granted authority to perform this Dharma. For the time being, I will not expound the rest, because it would not be of any use to you.”

Next, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the attendees in a recitation from the Amitayus Dharma text, and they all chanted the Amitayus Mantra together for a long time. The disciples implored the guru to accept their mandala-offering, and he graciously did so. After allowing Khenpo Namdol to lead Abbot Ogawa of Onsenji Temple, the Glorious Jewel monastics, and the Japanese believers in a mandala-offering for the sake of sentient beings, Rinpoche resumed his performance of the ritual.

Rinpoche said, “This part involved making an offering and imploring the yidam to bless me, the guru, with longevity and success in all my Buddhist activities, and to extinguish all of my negative causal conditions. ‘May these blessings spare all sentient beings from untimely death, deliver them from the eight types of major disaster and the sixteen kinds of fear, and may they all be able to enjoy a time of peace without drought. May the guru and all benefactors escape any calamity that would lead to untimely death, and may all of their Dharma activities go as planned and be devoid of evil causes and adverse conditions. We also supplicate to the yidam to bless us with good fortune and wealth that grow like a first-quarter moon. Finally, so that we can achieve the fruition of the Buddha of Infinite Light (Amitabha Buddha), may Amitayus be our yidam through lifetime after lifetime, never leaving us and always bestowing the blessings of the two types of siddhi upon us (I will not explain this, for now), and may we succeed in all of our Buddhist endeavors without hindrance.’

“Why are we praying not to have any evil causes, adverse conditions, increased longevity and good fortune, and success in our endeavors? It is because the fact that we were born into this world makes us very prone to encountering evil causes and bad conditions. For example, when the ruler of a country declares war, this is an evil cause and an adverse condition; if we have received blessings and help from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, then such negativity will be lessened and even eliminated. Why do we pray for increased longevity and wealth? It does not mean we want to strike it rich; rather, because all of the evil acts we commit in this lifetime are constantly reducing our lifespan and wealth, we are always consuming whatever longevity, good fortune, and wealth we cultivated in our past lives, and once it is all gone, we will die. For this reason, each of these things is indispensable.

“Wealth here is defined not as having riches beyond your wildest dreams, but, at the very least, not lacking in food to eat, a place to live, and other necessities. For example, when we want to conduct a retreat, it won’t do if we have no attendants to assist us, because during that time we are unable to cook for ourselves or leave the retreat hut for any reason; we have to rely on others to make offerings to us. This, too, is a type of longevity, good fortune, and wealth. As such, the point of praying for these is not to be able to live long enough to see our children or grandchildren grow up, but so that we have the causal conditions to practice.”

Rinpoche continued to perform the Dharma for a while, and then said, “This next part involves the guru’s conferral of the elements of earth, wind, water, and fire. All of our longevity and health in this lifetime is made up of earth (our flesh and bones), wind (our qi), water (our bodily fluids), and fire (our energy). Some people say energy only comes from consuming food, but once everything you eat is gone, you still won’t have any energy no matter how much more you consume. A lot of gurus would not perform this part of the ritual, because it requires them to give out their own energy and fortune. However, I will do it for you today.”

As Rinpoche blessed tormas, the earth trembled slightly.

H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed the attendees to sit up straight while he performed the Dharma.

Rinpoche said, “The part I just performed was a supplication to the yidam, Amitayus; first I perform it for myself, and then for the rest of you. In everything we do, our flesh, blood or fluids, body temperature, qi, consciousness, and longevity are at risk of being consumed, scattered, broken, bent, split, shaken apart, and stolen by demons. (If you do bad things, your mind will be like that of a demon, and if you like to implore ghosts, deities, and spirits to help you to satisfy certain desires, demons will come and steal your longevity from you.)

“Some of my disciples from Taiwan, present here today, have worshiped deities before, so they are all guilty of this transgression, even though they all felt very good at the time. Some of you Japanese believers, too, have gone to shrines to implore for favors. Whenever deities help you, they take something back in return, unlike the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who simply give without any expectation of recompense. Today I will begin by placing the essence of all the longevity, good fortune, wealth, life, body, righteousness, and qi of sentient beings of the Six Realms into this Dharma vessel and, in a little while, bless you all with it. This ‘righteousness’ is not power; it represents the right to live in this world. If your thoughts and actions are not those of humans you have no such right. For example, people who incite wars, commit murder, harm others, and make mistakes while still lying, cheating, and assaulting others do not have the right to continue living, and will be taken away by the ghosts and deities of heaven and earth. Do not assume that people automatically have the right to live in this world; if you commit those transgressions, you will lose your worthiness to keep on living.

“You all know what earth, wind, water, and fire are, but what about consciousness? Insanity, mood swings, depression, and so on occur as a result of having used up all of your consciousness, which happens due to being extremely greedy or not believing in cause and effect. Once all of your consciousness has been consumed, you will experience mental disorders, including autism and depression.”

H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche conducted the Tsok and Tea-Offering Rituals, during which all the attendees received a share of food offerings he had blessed, as well as the rare and auspicious causal condition to dine with the guru, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas.

Rinpoche continued to perform the ritual, descending from the Dharma throne to bless the attendees using a figurine of Amitayus. Meanwhile, he continuously rang a bell and chanted the Amitayus Mantras, bestowing benevolence upon all sentient beings. With palms joined in reverence, the attendees knelt to receive Rinpoche’s auspicious blessings, and all were so moved that there was not a dry eye in the room. Presently, wave after wave of light fragrance drifted through the air, and everyone rejoiced in the guru’s magnificent merits.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche again ascended the Dharma throne to resume his teachings. “I have performed the Amitayus for you all today, but let me reiterate to our Japanese believers: You must eat vegetarian. Do not assume that eating a tiny bit of meat is no big deal. If you continue to harm the lives of sentient beings, your lifespan is bound to be shortened. Some of you are sure to argue that you weren’t the ones who slaughtered those animals—but if you did not create a demand for their flesh, then people would stop supplying it.

“These days there is a new industry developing in America in which fake meat is fashioned out of soybeans. It is big business; however, the intent of those who drive it is not to be compassionate, but to protect the Earth’s natural environment,; more and more of which is being destroyed through the raising of livestock. People who believe themselves to be practitioners have an even greater reason to eat vegetarian. Do not succumb to the misapprehension that Tibetan Buddhists are allowed to eat meat; as a matter of fact, many of our gurus in the Drikung Kagyu Order are vegetarians. Some of them strictly require monastics to eat vegetarian. This is because it is written in the sutras that eating the flesh of sentient beings prevents the seeds of compassion from sprouting, which means that if you eat meat, any seeds of compassion you might have had planted in your mind will disappear. Do not think that you can simply chant mantras to liberate any sentient beings whose flesh you have eaten; if your body is defiled, then the mantras you chant will not be pure, either.

“Mantras are just expedient means; the true test is whether or not your mind is pure. Only if it is can the mantras you chant be pure, and only then can they benefit sentient beings. Just because you know how to chant and make a mudra sign with your hands does not mean you are cultivating Tantra. Now I will take a moment to speak about mudras. In Tibetan Buddhism, the mudra is imbued with a lot of significance. First and foremost, there are many different Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, but we present-day humans have never seen the Buddhas, and apart from the people who were alive during Shakyamuni’s seventy-nine years on Earth, no one has seen what a Buddha even looks like. Because of this, the Buddha statues we see today are all based on descriptions in the sutras of the various Buddhas’ appearances. Every Buddha looks the same, because they all have thirty-two forms and eighty characteristics. How, then, do we know whether a statue or image is of Shakyamuni Buddha, Amitabha Buddha, or Amitayus Buddha? We can tell by the mudra sign of their hands.

“A Buddha’s specific mudra symbolizes his aspiration. In modern terms, it can be thought of as his signal. Because we humans have no other way of discerning which Buddha a statue or image represents, and do not possess a Buddha’s supernatural powers to recognize his aspiration, we must go by the mudra the statue or image forms with its hands. Thus, one who makes a certain Buddha’s mudra daily does not represent that Buddha, nor should these mudras be covered up to keep people from seeing them; the Buddhas’ hands are already stretched out in plain sight, so what is there to be secretive about regarding the mudras a practitioner makes? There is nothing secret about them at all.

“Another significance of mudras is that they are convenient to use while performing Dharmas. For example, when giving food offerings, we use mudras to represent them. A third significance is that sometimes, while performing a ritual, a practitioner’s mouth is busy chanting, so certain actions are symbolized by way of mudras. A fourth one is that using them as offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can purify our karmic bodies, minds, and speech. Therefore, there is no need to cover up with a cloth and make mudras surreptitiously as though they were top secret, because there actually is nothing at all mysterious about them.

“Someone once wrote that truly advanced practitioners of Tantra do not rely on mudras to attain realization; rather, they depend exclusively on achieving a transformation of mind. When we chant mantras, make mudras, visualize, and so on, all of these are expediencies, which means they are causal conditions that can help us in our cultivation. Genuine realization, after all, is achieved by way of meditation. Actually, though I said ‘achieved’, we do not actually ‘achieve’ it; rather, by way of meditation, we discard the things that we do not need so that our pure, original nature can be revealed; we do not actually obtain or achieve anything new. I have only given a brief explanation of mudras today, but essentially, you should not think that just because a person is making a mudra with his hands, it means he is practicing Tantra, because mudras are written about in a great many Dharma texts.

“ ‘Esoteric’ in ‘Esoteric Buddhism’ refers to having a very strong and solid mind that is impervious to anything that would affect the practitioner’s resolve to cultivate and attain Buddhahood. That is, it means being closed to external influences, and not prone to being swayed anymore. In addition, by using this word, ‘Esoteric’, the Buddha was implying that if you have not attained the state of an arhat, Bodhisattva, or Buddha, then you genuinely cannot comprehend His teachings in this regard. Once you cultivate to a certain fruition, you will naturally understand. The next puja will begin at 2:00 this afternoon.

“In a moment, the monastics will distribute nectar pills and longevity wine near the doorway, representing the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ blessings through my performance of the Dharma. What you will be consuming are objects, but they are in fact imbued with blessings. As long as you give rise to genuine respect for the Dharma, then even if you only eat one pill or drink a little bit of the wine, it will still enter your body as nectar. If you are not respectful, or have any doubts as to the validity of this, then all you will be doing is drinking some fruit juice and swallowing a small flour ball, and it will merely remain as normal food in your stomach. Therefore, having a pure respect for the Dharma is very important.”

Upon the perfect completion of the morning puja, the attendees thanked the guru for his compassionate performance of the Dharma and auspicious teachings, benefiting countless sentient beings. All rising, they paid reverent homage as H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended the Dharma throne.

Expounding the Diamond Sutra

At 2:00 in the afternoon, H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche returned to the Dharma throne and led everyone in a performance of the Avalokiteshvara Ritual. The guru then bestowed precious teachings:

“This morning, I performed Tantra to help you to accumulate some good fortune; this afternoon I will expound the sutra in Exoteric Buddhist terms to help you to cultivate wisdom. Good fortune and wisdom are vital for one’s practice; if one has only good fortune but no wisdom, one is liable to make mistakes. What do I mean by that? Without wisdom, you cannot actually understand the causes, effects, and conditions of sentient beings, and you might employ erroneous methods to help them. If you have wisdom but no good fortune, you are liable to grow arrogant and haughty. Both good fortune and wisdom should be cultivated simultaneously, for lacking in either one of them would be inadequate.

“There are many ways of cultivating good fortune. Such things as doing virtuous deeds in the mundane world will allow us to accumulate good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms, but to cultivate supramundane good fortune, we of course must take refuge in a guru and the Three Jewels. After that, our guru can teach a specified sequence of Dharmas that can help us toward that end. What is supramundane good fortune? It is good fortune that is required to be able to renounce reincarnation. Without it, we cannot break the cycle of birth and death. There is definitely a series of cultivational methods that can help us to obtain such good fortune.

“Once we have good fortune, we must gather wisdom. Originally, all sentient beings were endowed with the same pure nature and wisdom as the Buddha, but due to reincarnating through lifetime after lifetime, they have created many hindrances and defilements for themselves. These have covered up their original nature, so they cannot see the light of wisdom. Wisdom does not refer to intelligence, education, or experience. Shakyamuni Buddha spent twenty-two years expounding prajna, the wisdom of Emptiness. Over the past few thousand years of human culture and history, no school of academic knowledge has been able to teach us how to unlock our original, pure nature. The education and abilities people speak of these days actually just comprise life experiences humans have constantly accumulated over the course of millennia. We have preserved some of those that are good for us while getting rid of the bad ones. However, these sorts of experiences cannot help us or other sentient beings to resolve the great matter of life and death; the only way to do that is to learn Buddhism and cultivate wisdom.

“There are two ways of doing so, and the first is by way of Exoteric Buddhism. How is that practiced? Through continuous repentance, prostrations to the Buddha, and recitation of the sutras. This requires a very long time; a single lifetime might not be enough to unlock your wisdom this way. People tend to take what they read in the sutras literally; we learned all those words in school, but they cannot give us a clear or penetrating understanding of the inherent significance of the Buddha’s teachings. We can easily find literal explanations of the sutras, but that is not the same as putting those lessons into practice and gaining a profound realization of what the Buddha actually meant.

“In addition to practicing Exoteric Buddhism, we can also cultivate wisdom by learning Tantra. If you wish to do so, then not only must you first have a foundation of Exoteric practice, but you also have to be following a meritorious guru. ‘Meritorious’ here has nothing to do with the ordinary human concept of morality; it relates to merits, which must be cultivated. Only a meritorious guru can teach disciples systematically, and in the proper order, to progress in tantric practice.

“In Tibetan Buddhism, the wisdom we cultivate in this lifetime is called ‘acquired wisdom’. This is wisdom the Buddha helps you to obtain, which you later practice. Only once you combine it with your primordial wisdom (the wisdom you originally possessed, and which is no different from that of the Buddha) can you truly realize the wisdom of Emptiness He spoke of. This process cannot happen simply as a result of your reciting or transcribing a sutra or even memorizing the entire Buddhist Canon; you must spend time cultivating step by step in the proper sequence. Wisdom is very important; without it, you really have no way of helping yourself or other sentient beings to become liberated from birth and death.

“Why is the Diamond Sutra especially important in Zen Buddhism? Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of Chinese Zen Buddhism, was illiterate, so he certainly never studied the sutras. He just worked in the kitchen of a monastery, and became enlightened after hearing someone chant a single line out of the Diamond Sutra: ‘The mind should not attach to anything’. After that, did he immediately attain Buddhahood? No, he didn’t. This is because there are levels of enlightenment. The first time the Sixth Patriarch Huineng became enlightened, he realized what the mind is and what the Buddha’s pure, original nature is. Only later did the Fifth Patriarch pass down to him the garb and alms bowl of the Zen Sect, and only after that did he eventually cultivate into a great Zen master. Many people hope to attain enlightenment as quickly as possible, but it is more than just a matter of gaining a profound realization of the Dharma. As long as you can take some of the Dharma teachings you listen to, compare them to your life experience, and discern where your faults and misapprehensions lie, then you can consider this to be a tiny bit of enlightenment.

“It is as I have said in the past: In walking the Bodhisattva Path, you must practice the Path of Accumulation and the Path of Preparation before you can practice the Path of Vision. Right now you are all on the Path of Accumulation; you are accumulating good fortune and wisdom. This morning we cultivated fortune; this afternoon you are cultivating wisdom. Shakyamuni Buddha bestowed the teachings later written in the Diamond Sutra to the Elder Subhuti after he had implored the Dharma. What makes this sutra special is that it was not spoken for the benefit of ordinary believers, but for practitioners of the Bodhisattva Path—in other words, for those who have made a firm resolution to practice it. Shakyamuni Buddha expounded this sutra to teach such practitioners what sort of mindset they should have in order to become Bodhisattvas. You are only practicing this path if you understand the true essence of the Dharmas spoken by the Buddha. If you are not resolved to cultivate the Bodhisattva Path, then you will not understand, no matter how thoroughly I explain it. If you don’t understand, then what is the point of coming here to listen? You still should. You are just ordinary people, so this is beyond your understanding.

“However, it is written in the Diamond Sutra that any sentient beings with the causes and conditions to listen to this sutra are bound to obtain good fortune. What sort of good fortune? Not the human kind; the good fortune humans accumulate over the course of a few decades is too simple. Rather, it is the good fortune to be able to learn Buddhism in your future lifetimes. Many believers would complain, ‘But that’s not the kind of good fortune I want; I want to be physically and mentally healthy, for my children to be healthy, and for my business to prosper.’ That sort of good fortune has its limits, and one day you will use it all up. With the sort of good fortune that comes from cultivating the Dharma, though, as long as you make a firm resolution to practice and have enough faith, then it will continue to accumulate. If we possess good fortune from cultivation, then good fortune of the mundane world is bound to appear as well. If you can practice the Dharma, then you will be a fortunate person—and if you are, then how can you possibly lack those minor good fortunes of the human world?

“To give an example, when the Venerable Milarepa conducted his retreat, no one made offerings to him; he just ate a sort of plant until his entire body turned green. When he came out of his retreat, everyone was frightened by his appearance. However, afterward, because he had attained fruition and therefore accumulated good fortune, a lot of people naturally came to seek him, implore the Dharma from him, and even give him offerings. This happened as a matter of course, without his even needing to think about it or ask for anything. I myself have practiced Buddhism for decades, and I do not need to make efforts to ask people to make offerings to me; I just adapt to each causal condition as it arises. If you give to me, fine; if you do not, that is fine, too. If I have good fortune, then offerings will naturally appear; if I do not, then even if I asked for donations, I would eventually have to repay them.

“It is written very clearly in the Diamond Sutra that Shakyamuni Buddha said those who expound this text are people who have accumulated great good fortune in the past, which means they must have come in contact with many Dharmas and practiced them in their previous lifetimes. Those who are able to listen to this sutra have also practiced Buddhism in their past lives, but not quite to the same degree; so, in this lifetime, they are not qualified to speak it. They can only listen to a guru expound the sutra. There is nothing to complain about. No matter how educated you might be, you cannot sit up here on the Dharma throne, because you really would not be able to make it.

“While I am expounding the Diamond Sutra today, don’t worry if you do not understand; just listen as closely as you can. What do I mean by listening closely? I mean do not let your mind wander, and refrain from dozing off. If you start to feel sleepy, pinch yourself awake immediately; do whatever you can to keep from falling asleep. No matter how far along you are in years, you must do your best to stay awake. Deep in your heart you must have faith in the Dharma. As I said earlier, when you implore for me to transmit the Dharma to you, it is not that I wish to do so; if you ask for it, you must believe in it. This Dharma was not invented by me; it was spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha. He said it first, and my guru taught it to me. Then, after gaining experience from putting it into practice, I attained a certain level of understanding of the meaning behind this sutra, and it is only because of this that I am able to explain it to you. I would not dare claim to have attained the fruition of a Bodhisattva, but I certainly am practicing the Bodhisattva Path. In this I am more advanced than you, because you have not yet set foot upon the path. I feel I should understand a lot more than you do, which is why I am qualified to expound the Diamond Sutra to you today.

“The sutra reads, ‘The Tathagata teaches that physical appearances are not actually physical appearances. The Buddha said to Subhuti, “All appearances are illusory. To see that appearances are not appearances is to see the Tathagata.”’

“These lines, in more modern terms that you can understand, refer to impermanence. To give an analogy, these bodies of ours do not necessarily belong to us; this concept applies to the body and form of all the objects you have ever seen (that is, their external appearance). Does something or someone definitely look like this? I often give the example of being atop an object that is known as the Dharma throne. Before it was fashioned into what it is now, it was just a bunch of timber; prior to that, it was a tree. Going back even farther, it was a seed, and before that, it was a flower. What was it before it was even a flower? We could keep listing things, on and on forever.

“This means that all forms and all bodies were named by us humans. Are they what we call them? No; everything is constantly in flux. What we see before our eyes right now is a Dharma throne, but are the atoms that make it up not moving? They are in constant motion. Why do all objects, regardless of how sturdy they might be, break apart after a few centuries or millennia? It is because their molecules and atoms are always splitting. In ancient times, people did not know much of physics, so the Buddha could not explain phenomena in terms of atoms, molecules, quarks, and so on. He could merely use words and His wisdom to explain to you that all of the forms and bodies you see are illusory; even though they appear to be right in front of you, they will not be the same in the future, nor were they the same in the past. Things change.

“Using Buddhist terminology, all causes and conditions are Empty in nature; they do not exist independently—though nor will something suddenly go ‘poof’ and transform into a Dharma throne. Prerequisites have to be met for something to change. Even if some suitable timber for making a Dharma throne is found, it still requires someone who can make it, as well as someone who needs to use it. Only then will it be formed. The line, ‘the Tathagata teaches that physical appearances are not actually physical appearances’, means that we merely give a name to an object, such as calling something a ‘table’, for example. However, a table’s body and form are not its essence; its essence is a composite of causes and conditions that do not exist inherently by themselves; they appear through coincidence. When two different molecules collide, a new particle of matter is formed. We could call it wood, or a tree, or iron. It just depends on what humans have labeled it to be. We give it a name, a body, and a form.

“To come back from that tangent, is a human body really a human body? According to science, no. What is the entire body made of? It includes water, minerals, and elements. If we dissect a human body and take a look, the inside looks nothing like a person. Why do we have a human appearance? It is because all of our karma from our past lives led us to be born in this form. Do the bodies we currently have remain the same forever? No. Your appearance has constantly changed, ever since you were young. Who causes your appearance to keep changing? Have you ever wondered? Humans only think about the fact that they have gotten old. Well, now that you are old, why is your appearance so far removed from how you looked in your youth? You are still the same person; not even your name has changed. You have used the same one for decades, unless you changed it because of a fortunetelling.

“Why, after having looked basically the same all your life ever since you were born, does your appearance change so drastically when you get old and die? Scientists and doctors have proposed a bunch of unverified reasons to do with collagens and skin loosening, droning on about a ton of bizarre terms to get more money out of you. Actually, from a Buddhist point of view, once you have gradually depleted your causes, conditions, and good fortune in this lifetime, you will age and grow ugly in appearance. There is a Cantonese saying, ‘youth has no ugly women’; even the ugliest girl under the age of twenty still looks very pretty. The other part of the saying is, ‘age has no beautiful women.’ Elderly women are never beautiful. Why is that? This is difficult to explain in words, but using Buddhist concepts, it is very simple: They have exhausted their good fortune, so they no longer have the good looks with which they once dazzled people in the past.

“Why, for another example, do people say old people smell bad? You don’t mind the way young children smell, right? Anyone who has ever had children knows how good newborns smell when you hold them in your arms. However, if you take a whiff of your husband, you think he reeks. What is the reason for this? It is because newborn children have good fortune, and they are delightful to see. There are, of course, some kids who cause the opposite of delight in those who look at them, but in general, when they were newborn babies, you can bet that they had more good fortune than you do in your old age, because they have not yet begun to use it. A lot of people feel giddy when looking through the window into a hospital’s nursery, because the babies there have good fortune. Why don’t people feel that happy when looking at those of us who are in our seventies? On the contrary, they keep their distance, because we have used up just about all of our good fortune. This will be true of you, too, unless you have cultivated Buddhism in this lifetime, in which case your good fortune and name will emerge as a matter of course, and people will naturally want to be near you. If you have not practiced, then you will be in dire straits in your later years.

“In speaking these lines, Shakyamuni Buddha was actually telling us that you might be pretty now, but someday you will lose your good looks. In your eyes, you might be awesome, but someday you will turn ordinary. This is why the Buddha taught us to seize the day. That does not mean that you should try to hold on to your good looks to meet a few more eligible bachelors; it means that while you still have some good fortune, you should hurry up and practice Buddhism, and with diligence. Do not wait until you are elderly, retired, and have the time. Time does not wait for us; it is you who are chasing time. Once you are old and frail, you will not be able to listen to the Dharma even if you want to, because you will not have the attention span. You won’t be able to concentrate on the Dharma, and your mind will be prone to wandering. Very rarely are people who live to the age of seventy-two still as vigorous as I am; it is very rare indeed. I don’t take any medicine, either, nor do I exercise every day. Where does my good health come from? It comes by way of the good fortune from cultivation. All of these things are taught in the sutras.

“If we refer to the Ratnakuta Sutra, it is written very clearly that all our family members are constantly coming and going; this also tells us that no matter how much you love someone, he or she is bound to change eventually. Therefore, to make us break free of this sort of attachment, the Buddha told us in no uncertain terms that we cannot see the Tathagata if we still are under the illusion of appearance. Let’s say you are practicing Buddhism and insist on seeing the Tathagata or a Bodhisattva manifest in front of you to validate your cultivation. The Buddha taught us not to think this way, but why? It is because it leads to attachments. Such attachments will attract demons, which will enter you via your weaknesses. In other words, while cultivating, if you had attained the fruition of a Bodhisattva, then quite naturally a Buddha’s Sambhogakaya would appear without your even needing to think about it, because you will be of like kind and he will appear. If you attain the fruition of an arhat, then arhats will naturally approach you; if you practice the Bodhisattva Path, the devas, nagas, and others of the eight groups of beings will naturally protect you, and you will be able to succeed at whatever comes to mind.

“The Buddha made special mention of this because He was afraid that sentient beings in the Age of Dharma Decline would grow superstitious and that some would even claim to be Buddhas themselves. That indeed would be wrong. He pointed out in the sutras that those who attain Buddhahood have thirty-two forms, and these must all be verified and be seen. If the practitioners claiming to be Buddhas cannot manifest these thirty-two forms for you to see, then either you are crazy or they are. Two thousand five hundred years ago, the Buddha had already foretold many things; He even worried about sentient beings’ trying to deceive one another using His name. Such deception does not mean cheating you out of your money or anything like that; it means preventing you from breaking free of reincarnation.

“The Buddha told Subhuti that all of the forms we see are illusory, and that to ‘see that appearances are not appearances is to see the Tathagata’. When you realize that no forms are real or immutable or like we imagine them to be, then this will be the equivalent of your having seen Tathagata’s Dharmakaya. His Dharmakaya is constantly changing in accordance with sentient beings, but has He Himself ever changed? He has not. People hope Shakyamuni Buddha will appear in human form, so that is how He appears, for our sake; if sentient beings hope He will take on the appearances of a heavenly being, then He will do so. These transformations in His appearance all hinge on our minds. If sentient beings stop changing, then so will He.

“Here it is written quite clearly that Buddhist practitioners should not supplicate to the Buddha on a daily basis, saying, ‘Hey, Buddha! Let me see You so I can achieve attainment and be effective in my practice.’ The Buddha stated without ambiguity that when you see that appearances are not appearances, the Tathagata will come. After you have attained the realization that all is Emptiness, you genuinely will be able to see the Buddha’s true, original self. What does that mean? It refers to His pure Dharma nature. You will be able to recognize it because you have it, too. Seeing the Tathagata does not mean seeing Shakyamuni Buddha suddenly appear right in front of you; it means you will see yourself as fundamentally the same as the Buddha and possess the conditions for attaining Buddhahood. As long as you can realize that all forms are illusions, your pure, original nature will gradually be revealed.

“There are two sorts of wisdom in play here; one is acquired wisdom. When you realize that all forms are illusory, then your acquired wisdom will integrate with your primordial wisdom. This line does not mean that we will see Shakyamuni or Amitabha; it means that as long as we cultivate in this manner, we will truly be able to see a pure, original Dharma nature exactly the same as that of the Buddha—and only then will we actually see the Tathagata.

“The sutra reads, ‘Subhuti addressed the Buddha: “O World Honored One, will any sentient beings give rise to sincere belief upon hearing these teachings?” The Buddha told Subhuti, “Do not even say such a thing.”’

“Here Subhuti asked on your behalf whether any sentient beings (referring to believers) would, upon hearing the lines spoken previously, develop true faith. The Buddha replied that such a statement was incorrect.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Five hundred years after the Tathagata’s passing, there will be those who observe the precepts and cultivate good fortune, and they will have faith that these words are truth. You should know that these people have note merely planted roots of virtue before one Buddha, two Buddhas, three, four, or five Buddhas.”’

“The point of this line is communicated very clearly: Five hundred years after Shakyamuni Buddha has entered nirvana, the Age of Semblance Dharma will commence. During that era, if lay practitioners observe the Five Precepts and the Refuge Precepts, and Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis observe their precepts respectively, then they will be able to cultivate good fortune, which in turn can allow them to give rise to faith in the words the Buddha spoke earlier. On the other hand, upon hearing these teachings, most people will not necessarily believe them unless they keep the precepts, cultivate good fortune, give alms, make offerings, and practice continuously; only then will they be able to develop faith. These lines are not enough to convince the average believer of their validity or make them realize how they should be, think, and act. The Buddha said it was not what Subhuti thought; conditions must be met—meaning, they have to observe the precepts and cultivate good fortune in order to believe. After that, they will have faith that these words were indeed spoken by the Buddha and are inviolable; and, moreover, that if they wish to cultivate good fortune, they must act in accordance with these teachings rather than their own ideas. Therein lies the difference.

“What would you do, had you heard these lines? You would have done comparisons. What sort of comparisons? You would have weighed them against all of your own life experiences, constantly saying, ‘Does what the Buddha said hold water? Can those things really be accomplished? How exactly are they done?’ However, people who keep the precepts and cultivate good fortune would have believed the Buddha’s words and taken them as truth—meaning, they would not have any hesitation or doubt their veracity, nor would they assume they themselves were unable to put them into practice, because they would know that in some future lifetime, they would certainly succeed. You must be very clear on the difference between these two kinds of people. Moreover, previously, the Buddha had said that this sutra was not spoken for the sake of the average believer; it was expounded for people who had made a firm resolution to practice the Bodhisattva Path. People like this accept the Buddha’s words immediately and without question, and begin to practice in this direction straight away—whereas, people who are not practicing the Bodhisattva Path will instead say, ‘I don’t understand anything you just said; what’s more, I don’t even want these things. I only want the Bodhisattvas to very effectively heal my body.’ People like that merely believe superficially; they do not truly believe the Buddha’s words.

“Therefore, the Buddha said that such true practitioners must certainly have planted roots of virtue before one, two, three, or more Buddhas in the past. Planting roots of virtue does not simply mean casually making prostrations or listening in on a puja or two. It is done by participating in pujas very respectfully, without any doubts or hesitation and without asking for anything in return. Secondly, it means your purpose in taking part in the pujas is genuinely to benefit vast numbers of sentient beings; in this way, you will put down roots of virtue. It does not mean thinking, ‘I’ll research and recite the sutras, and get others to participate in the pujas and recite the sutras.’

“The sutras are not meant for us to research, but for us to put into practice. If you can successfully study the sutras just by reading the words they contain, then I admire you, and I’ll be the first in line to stop practicing. No matter how much more educated you might be than I, I do not believe you can attain all of the states the Buddha mentioned in the sutras. You would have merely researched, without putting any of the teachings into practice. Many people waste a lot of time studying the sutras that way. You can read right through all the volumes, in the bookshelf over there, of that version of the Buddhist Canon written in Manchurian, or the one behind me written in Tibetan, also called the Dragon Sutra. This copy of mine is the last one, as is the set behind it. I am surrounded by sutras—but do I spend all day studying them? I do not. How do I research them? I don’t; whenever I open up a sutra, I know what state I have cultivated. The Buddha spoke the Dharma for forty-nine years to sentient beings of all walks of life, so He had a whole heap of different ways of communicating to them. If we do not possess the causal conditions to listen to or learn some of these methods, then we should put them aside for now. What, then, should we base our practice on? We should concentrate on practicing in accordance with our guru’s teachings.

“The sutra reads, ‘“They have put down roots of virtue before countless thousands of Buddhas.”’

“It is not the average Joe Shmoe who can develop genuine faith in the Diamond Sutra. Take the Sixth Patriarch Huineng, for example, who became enlightened after simply overhearing its teachings; he was no ordinary person. Even the Buddha stated very clearly that you should by no means have overly high expectations of yourselves or assume that having an education, a PhD or two, and renown in literature around the world makes you able to understand the sutras. He also said in no uncertain terms that you must put down thick roots of virtue in front of many Buddhas before you can develop true faith. Did He ever mention doing research? He did not. What makes you think you can study the sutras as if they were some academic subject? You have already strayed onto the wrong path and succumbed to non-Buddhist ways of thinking. Why don’t you research the words, ‘true faith’? Rather, you feel obliged to show off your learning and brag that you know what the Buddha was really saying. Do you think you yourselves are Buddhas? Let me ask you this: Who among you dares to say you are a Buddha? Well, if you don’t dare to make such a claim, then how can you attain the Buddha’s state? Thus, we cannot look at these teachings from an academic point of view. Given that this is a matter of true belief, which the Buddha iterated very clearly, do you meet those prerequisites?

“For example, do you eat meat? If so, then you are not abiding by the precepts. The same is true if you drink alcohol or if you have used the Dharma to make a profit. How can you have good fortune if you have broken the precepts? Without keeping them, you will have no good fortune, and will naturally be unable to put down any roots of virtue in the Buddha’s presence. What, then, can you do? Do not assume that ‘believing in the Buddha’ means you have faith; you still need roots of virtue. What does that mean? Without roots, no tree can grow. If we want to plant a tree, we need a seed. Once we have sewn that seed, it has to put down roots before it can grow. Where do seeds come from? Your guru disseminates them for you, picking good ones for you. Once they have entered your mind, though, have you continued to water them and given them a good environment in which they can sprout and grow the roots of virtue? If you do not continue to water them, then they will wither and die. What is a guru’s job? It is to plant seeds of virtue in you. I am constantly throwing you so many seeds, scattering them all at you; they are more numerous than a pack of sesame seeds. However, you have not allowed them to sprout. Why not? Because you do not believe.

“Why, to practice Buddhism, is it necessary to take refuge and keep the precepts? These requirements are written in the sutras; they are not mine alone. They were stated by Shakyamuni Buddha Himself. If you have not observed the precepts, then you have not been cultivating, and therefore have not put down any roots of virtue. Without them, you cannot understand, nor will you have faith. When expounding the sutras, I scold people a lot. I am different from other Dharma masters, most of whom expound the sutras by teaching people a bunch of Buddhist terms. I speak of the sutras in a matter-of-fact manner; whatever the Buddha said, I relay to you.

“The Buddha said it so clearly. He said that people like the Sixth Patriarch Huineng—who, upon hearing the Diamond Sutra, immediately think, Everything the Buddha said is real and true, so that is the direction in which I will practice—are ones who planted roots of virtue in the presence of thousands or tens of thousands of Buddhas in the past. Where did this happen? The Earth is Shakyamuni Buddha’s Pure Land, so is the place in which He is present. Being born on Earth, for us humans, means being born into Shakyamuni Buddha’s temple. If we won’t even practice Buddhism here, then where will we? Amitabha’s Pure Land? You are not even qualified to go there. Here on Earth, in His great compassion, Shakyamuni Buddha looked at us sentient beings who are so saddled with evil karma and did not give up on us; He even attained Buddhahood on Earth so that He could teach us the Dharma and give us a chance to live where He lived.

“For example, I led five hundred disciples to Shravasti, where Shakyamuni Buddha resided and expounded the Dharma in His later years. Though His body is no longer there, His spirit remains, as do His energy and good fortune. Going there is the equivalent of visiting the Buddha’s place. Beneath the Bodhi Tree I led all participants in meditation, which indicated that they possessed roots of virtue; if they did not, they could not have gone. Many of my disciples thought they did not have the time or money to go, or said they had classes to attend or work to do. They gave a bunch of excuses, thinking it would be better to save than to spend all that money on a trip.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Upon hearing these passages, Subhuti, or even just giving them a thought, some instantaneously give rise to pure faith. The Tathagata knows and sees them all, and they will obtain boundless good fortune and merits.”’

“Here Shakyamuni Buddha comforts you a bit by telling you that even though you have not put down so many virtuous roots, the instant you listen to those previous words of His, or even just think about them, you will give rise to pure faith. What does this mean? Don’t compare your academic education to the Dharma by saying, ‘What exactly did the Buddha say here? I’ve never heard of this. Is this really true?’ Doing so shows a lack of pure faith. Everything the Buddha said was not said for His sake, but for ours, to teach us. If you want to practice, then you absolutely must follow His teachings, because this is the principle behind His experience of cultivating and attaining Buddhahood. It was not written down in any of our books from human history and culture, so how can you bring out such works to make a comparison? None can be made. That being the case, you need to strive for pure faith.

“Having pure faith refers knowing without a doubt that everything the Buddha said was for the benefit of sentient beings. You should believe in this truth. As long as you give rise to a belief that even a single line in the Diamond Sutra is true, Tathagata will know, regardless of how many sentient beings have faith. If a million people give rise to pure faith in a passage of the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha will know, and they will obtain boundless good fortune and merits. At the beginning of the puja, I told you to listen in earnest; do not doze off or let yourselves grow sleepy. Given all that I have said, as long as your nerves suddenly wake up and some of my words penetrate your mind, you will receive boundless merits and good fortune, which will indicate that you genuinely believe and have listened to at least one line of the sutra. Such good fortune and merits will always be with you, never to disappear, and will help you to practice Buddhism in your future lifetimes. Good fortune of the Human Realm disappears after it is used up, but that which comes from cultivation does not. The Buddha told us that if we are actually practicing, then the good fortune and merits we cultivate through our belief will be infinite, whether or not we are constantly using them. All you have to do is believe in one line from the sutra—what a bargain!

“However, to give rise to pure faith is no easy feat. After living for decades, how much general knowledge and facts do we have crammed into our brains? Whenever anyone says anything, all that knowledge we have accumulated comes to mind, and we compare it with what we have just heard. As soon as I speak, you immediately open up the library of your mind, searching for some anecdote for comparison, and say, ‘That is different from what I have learned.’ You then begin to draw conclusions and pursue further research—but that is not having pure faith. Why is it that the more educated people are, the more they like to research Buddhism? In contrast, the Sixth Patriarch Huineng attained enlightenment without even being literate. People like us who are not so educated can achieve a bit of attainment in our cultivation, but the more educated people are, the harder it is for them to cultivate. Why is that? It is because they think they already know and understand everything; they have a very high opinion of themselves. They think, You must be wrong, because the Dharmas of which you speak do not match up with what I have learned. As a result, they do not have pure faith.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Why is this? It is because these sentient beings have become free of the notions of self, humanity, sentient beings, and longevity, as well as the notions of Dharmas and non-Dharmas.”’

“Here the Buddha asks why it is that people who have faith in even just one line of the sutra will have boundless merits and good fortune, and then begins to list their positive attributes. He says that such sentient beings are no longer bound by the false notions of self (me), humanity (you), sentient beings (others), and longevity (time). ‘Non-Dharmas’ does not mean a lack of Dharmas; it implies understanding that all phenomena arise and cease due to causal conditions. It is like how I once wrote the words, ‘The movement of the mind causes phenomena to appear’. When your mind does not move, phenomena do not appear; they only appear when your mind moves. If your mind is motionless, phenomena are eliminated.

“This line means that when one gives rise to pure faith in the sutra’s words, one will obtain boundless good fortune and merits—but why? It is because when one believes in a line from the sutra, one lets go of one’s ‘self’. Such a person is not thinking, Let me compare these words spoken by the Buddha to what I’ve learned. People who can give rise to such faith are free from the notions of forms of sentient beings and humanity. When they give rise to pure faith, they do not compare the Buddha’s teachings with what they think they already know, because that would be comparison. If you have no concept of ‘others’, yet someone else does, then how can you compare? The form of sentient beings—when people purely believe in a line from the sutra, they do not think, I have never heard that before, in all the talks I have ever listened to. What does this mean? If they had pure faith, then they would know very clearly that whether or not they had heard it said before had nothing to do with it, because they believed in the Buddha. The words of sentient beings are not the words of the Buddha, so why should they believe them? Why should they believe in Buddhist research that is not what the Buddha said? As such, the form of sentient beings naturally vanishes for such practitioners.

“The form of longevity—of time—also ceases to exist in their minds. Despite the existence of the Buddhas of the Three Times—past, present, and future—when speaking in terms of the Buddha’s state, the Three Times all combine into one time that emerges and disappears; thus, there actually is no concept of time. From a scientific point of view, if you were to travel into deep space and were not wearing a watch, you would find that there is no time in the universe. This line from the sutra begs the question: Where did time come from? It was invented by people. If the Earth, sun, moon, and all the other planets were to stop moving, time would cease to exist. The notion of time was only conceived as a result of the movement of those celestial bodies, so if they were to completely stop, time would no longer be produced. Why is it said these days that the Earth can receive signals from tens of thousands of light years away? The reason we count that distance in light years is that light travels fastest. Why does it take time for those signals to arrive? It is because we believe they are coming toward us. However, if our minds did not move, and if the Earth and those other planets were also completely still, their signals would arrive instantaneously.

“For example, when I am liberating sentient beings, I know what they are thinking, even if I am two thousand kilometers away. Such a distance would take even an aircraft a few hours to traverse, so one might reasonably wonder whether I might not know the deceased’s thoughts until a few hours later. Well, then it would be too late to liberate that person. I have to know what he or she is thinking immediately. To give a concrete example, I recently protected the consciousness of a deceased person from two or three thousand kilometers away; even at that distance, I still knew his thoughts at that moment. Why was this? It is because I am free of the notion of longevity; for me, a practitioner, time does not exist. Time is only the result of a person’s mind moving. When you are no longer under time’s yoke, you will be able to understand all causes and conditions and the minds of sentient beings. This is the reason Shakyamuni Buddha said this; He knew the minds of all sentient beings.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Why is this? If the minds of these sentient beings cherish such forms, then they will cling to the notions of self, humanity, sentient beings, and longevity. If they cherish the notion of dharmas, they will cling to self, humanity, sentient beings, and longevity.”’

“Here, to explain things more clearly for the sake of sentient beings, Shakyamuni Buddha goes on to say what will happen if they cherish notions of form in their minds and in their thoughts. In other words, if they do not see something, they will not believe in it. For example, someone might say, ‘You tell me how remarkable Rinpoche is, but I myself have seen no evidence of this. “Rinpoche” is nothing more than a title. Why should I believe?’ This is an example of cherishing the false notions of form; such a person wants to see and feel to believe. However, as long as we humans continue to cherish such notions, we will be attached to the forms of self, humanity, sentient beings, and longevity. Practitioners attached to these forms are not cultivating kindness, compassion, joy, and giving, and without those, they cannot possibly cultivate bodhicitta. All of these words spoken by the Buddha were meant to help us practice. You must break free of these four notions of form. In the Ratnakuta Sutra it is written quite clearly that you should cultivate kindness, compassion, joy, and giving; once you have, you will naturally break free of those four forms, without even needing to think about it.

“This section involves theories from Exoteric Buddhism. The Buddha keeps telling us not to cherish any forms whatsoever. Whether you are practicing for yourself or for other sentient beings, you must refrain from cherishing any particular form or clinging to the idea that you have seen something, known something, or felt something. As long as you possess compassion and bodhicitta, you will be able to benefit sentient beings without needing to dwell on any forms at all. People who only think they can succeed in helping others after they have seen phenomena that prove it can be done are attached to the notions of self, humanity, sentient beings, and longevity.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Why is this? If they cherish non-Dharmas, they will cling to notions of self, humanity, sentient beings, and longevity. For this reason, one should not cherish Dharmas or non-Dharmas. The Tathagata often teaches thusly: ‘Bhikkhus, know that the Dharma I speak is like a raft.’”’

“These lines can be summed up to mean that if you are determined to implore for a certain Dharma that will cause you to attain enlightenment, then you cherish the notion of Dharmas. You might implore the Dharma to allow you to practice more expediently. What is expedience? It is a tool we may use in our cultivation. Why should you practice anyway? It is to help yourself and other sentient beings become liberated from birth and death—so this is not cherishing the notion of Dharmas; it is an expedient method. What we are talking about right now are which methods we should use. For example, in non-Buddhist religions, certain rituals have to be performed in order to make their gods happy, and if they do not do them, those gods will be displeased. This can be called clinging to methods, or ‘Dharmas’, as it were. When we cherish Dharmas and non-Dharmas, we become attached to the notions of self, humanity, sentient beings, and longevity.

“The Buddha spoke all these words to teach us to cultivate compassion. People who cling to the concepts of self, others, sentient beings, time, and so on are not compassionate, nor can they give rise to compassion; they can merely strive to be good people who do good deeds, but that is not the same. Therefore, the Tathagata frequently told the Bhikkhus who were His disciples that all of the cultivation methods He had taught them were like a raft. When you are going from one shore of the ocean to the other, you need a boat or raft; once you reach the other side—the Buddha’s state—you will no longer need it. What do we need to cross this ocean? We must have a Dharma raft, which is made up of all the expedient means for attaining Buddhahood that the Buddha taught us. However, once you have truly attained fruition as a Buddha, you will not need that raft anymore.

“This is precisely why the Fifth Patriarch told the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng, to travel to the south in the dead of night. The Fifth Patriarch led him to a small boat, and they crossed a river together. When the Fifth Patriarch began to row the boat, the Sixth Patriarch asked him to hand over the oars, because he did not want his guru to have to do it. However, the Fifth Patriarch said, ‘While you are confused, your guru will deliver you; when you are enlightened, you can deliver yourself.’ In other words, while you still do not understand the Dharma, your guru will help you; once you have attained realization, you can help yourself, for you will no longer need a guru. That does not mean you will toss him aside, though, so do not misunderstand. To this day His Holiness is still my guru; I have not discarded him. The Fifth Patriarch’s words meant that once you have attained realization, you can continue to practice diligently on your own. In Zen Buddhism, every action is full of Dharma significance and allegory.

“The Dharmas spoken to you by the Buddha have given you a boat for your use, but once you reach the far shore, you should get rid of it, for you will not even need those Dharmas anymore. Why not? It is because your original, pure Dharma nature is innate, not contrived. For example, when liberating sentient beings, I just do it very naturally, without pretention. If I had not attained realization of my pure, original nature, I would not be able to liberate them. When seeing people suffering, if I instead thought about whether or not they had any money or had made any offerings, it would lead to a whole heap of consequences. However, having attained realization of Emptiness and my pure nature, I know that this Dharma is merely an expedience for the deceased, not for me. Because liberation is something that all sentient beings need, I am simply making it convenient for them so that they can see—but has my own mind been moved or not? It has not. I am simply giving the deceased a way by which to feel that I am helping them. Have I actually helped them? I have not; all I have done is to very naturally assist these sentient beings in leaving reincarnation’s sea of suffering. Therefore, once they are liberated, I can be discarded like a piece of toilet paper, which is why I often compare myself to that. There never used to be any toilet paper, so the Buddha used a raft as a metaphor instead.

“The sutra reads, ‘“If even Dharmas should be cast aside, how much more so for non-Dharmas?”’

“All methods that cannot liberate you from reincarnation are called a ‘non-Dharmas’, and these are not correct expedient means taught by the Buddha. Therefore, any method you learn, whether in Buddhism or in another religion, is a non-Dharma as long as it cannot assist you in becoming liberated from birth and death in this lifetime. Here there is mention of both non-Dharmas and the Right Dharma; the Buddha pointed out that if, once we have passed beyond the sea of reincarnation, we should even let go of the Right Dharma, then this is even truer of non-Dharmas. If you implore the Dharma and then are loathe to let it go, instead thinking, I am very powerful now; I am more remarkable than anyone else, because I have this Dharma method and they do not, then you will be in trouble, because it means you have become attached to it.

“In this lifetime I have learned Buddhism from His Holiness. He is a lot of fun. For example, one time he recited to me the Dharma text for the Great Amitabha Pujas for Transferring Consciousness, and then handed it to me and told me to practice it. Had I been attached to the Dharma, it would have been over for me. Why is that? It is because I would have had to ask him about every single line of the text. Likewise, with the Amitayus I performed this morning, His Holiness had orally transmitted it to me once and then told me to practice it. Had I been attached to this Dharma, I would have had to ask him about every single word. However, I did not. Why not? It was because I understand that Dharmas are merely expediencies; they are just tools used to help sentient beings. As long as I cultivate to the point of having a pure, original nature the same as that of the Buddha, then any transmission or Dharma text I receive is a Dharma; therefore, anything I set my hand to will be a Dharma. You, of course, should not follow my lead in this, because you are not yet able to do it. You should just keep doing the same old thing: Make prostrations, repent, recite the sutras, make offerings, and give alms. For the time being, these are tasks you cannot avoid.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Subhuti, what do you think about all that I have said?”’

“Here the Buddha asks Subhuti what he thinks about all that He has said.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Has the Tathagata in fact attained Supreme Enlightenment? Has He in fact expounded the Dharma?” Subhuti replied, “As I understand the Buddha’s meaning,…”’

“So, Subhuti is given a chance to answer. He said he would explain what he understood the Buddha to mean—not the literal meaning of His words. After listening for so long, Subhuti knew that there was no set Dharma that could take someone to Supreme Enlightenment. What does that mean? It does not refer to there not being a set ritual to use when performing the Dharma; it means that any expedient Dharma method can be used to help sentient beings, depending on their root capacities. The reason the Buddha expounded 84,000 Dharma methods was that each one could free sentient beings from their afflictions; however, because their root capacities and causal conditions vary, there is no set Dharma method that can be used to help them all.

“For example, I use many methods to help my disciples; sometimes I scold them, drive them away, kick them, or hit them; for some, I ignore them or do not allow them to make offerings. Many people say I get angry, but if that were true, I would not be a Rinpoche; it is you who get angry with me. You say, ‘Rinpoche has been ignoring me’—this is an expression of your resentment toward me. When you say, ‘Rinpoche scolded and punished me,’ are you not expressing anger at me? Think about it for a moment: When you were in school, if you were punished, didn’t you get mad at the teacher? When you were little and got spanked by your old dad or mom, who got angry? You did. Thus, get this straight: Whenever you say I got angry, you are in fact the ones who are angry! If you know that I am not limited to using any set Dharma method, will you still get mad? When I scold you, you should look in the mirror and figure out where you have gone wrong, rather than thinking, He doesn’t understand me. Why should I try to understand you?! I do not need to understand you; that would be far too arduous a task. All I need to understand is the Dharma.

“The sutra reads, ‘“There is no fixed Dharma called ‘Supreme Enlightenment.”’

“This means the Tathagata did not specify any set Dharma method that can liberate so many sentient beings. This is different from other religions, which only tout one method or book to be used and restrict individual thought. Buddhism is not like that; the Tathagata helps sentient beings in various ways according to their root capacities. For example, in the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha asks, ‘Subhuti, what do you think about all that I have said?’ This shows Buddhism’s greatness, as well as what sets it apart. The Buddha does not force you to accept His opinion; He even asks you yours, to see how much of the meaning behind His words you have digested. If you still are unable to digest and absorb these teachings, He will say them again. Other religions are different in that if you do not believe, you will get killed and sent to hell. When the Buddha asked Subhuti what he thought, He was not asking for Subhuti’s advice or input; the Buddha was testing him to see just how much he had understood. If Subhuti did not understand enough, then He would continue to bestow teachings; if his understanding was sufficient, He would expound less.

“To give an example, one year I went to the Tibetan border to pay my respects to a Mahasiddha of the Drikung Kagyu Order, the late Yunga Rinpoche. While he was bestowing upon me one final secret empowerment, a Khenpo was present. Right then and there, he asked me about the Dharma, and only afterward granted me the empowerment. That is far different from today, when I grant you the empowerment without asking you any questions; it was the same, too, that day at Onsenji Temple.

“If the Buddha asked, ‘What do you think of that?’, you would be sure to wonder why He was asking what you thought, given His supernatural powers. That is not what this is about; it is necessary for us to voice what we have learned, because we are people. Humans must communicate with language, but that is not true of beings in the Heaven, Hungry Ghost, and Hell Realms. As a human, though, you must speak. Why? It is because if you remain silent, your consciousness will not be conveyed. Why is it so necessary to speak out loud? Our minds are in constant motion, and always changing, so they emit a continuous stream of thoughts. When you speak out loud, your mind quite naturally focuses on the words you utter; thus, when your mind is no longer in flux, your words become pure.

“It is like how Yunga Rinpoche tested me before granting me the empowerment. Until I had completed and passed the test, I was ignored; this is a special characteristic of Buddhism. I cannot remember what the test was, but he also asked me, ‘How do you feel about it?’ This was reminiscent of the Buddha’s question to Subhuti. He would listen to your interpretation. If you were in error, he would teach you further; if you were correct, he would grant you the empowerment. Thus, Buddhism is different from other religions, where you are told, ‘Believe what I say and you’ll be fine’; in Buddhism, you have to voice what you think and then practice in accordance with the methods taught by the Buddha. Once you have done so, you are tested to see how much realization you have attained, and then based on that, you are taught further.

“Whenever I come out of retreat, for example, His Holiness asks me how it went. He asks in a very flat and impartial tone, but if I make the slightest mistake, he picks up on it. He is always testing me, even in casual conversation; he does not just arrange some big formal occasion to speak to me from atop the Dharma throne. If I pass the test, he transmits the next part to me; if I don’t, then he waits.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…And there is no fixed Dharma that the Tathagata can expound.”’

“This does not mean the Tathagata does not speak the Dharma; if that were the case, then He would not have spent twenty-two years expounding the Great Prajna Sutra. Everything He said was to explain all Dharmas to sentient beings in accordance with their causes and conditions, which means that there was no single, set, specific Dharma method He expounded.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Why is that? The Dharmas expounded by the Tathagata cannot be grasped and cannot be explained.”’

“None of the Dharmas expounded by the Tathagata can be grasped. You might argue that if that is the case, then why should you practice them? What this means is the Tathagata spoke of many methods of cultivation, though they were not necessarily suitable for everyone—nor does everyone have to master them all. Given how many sutras, such as the Buddhist Canon, that were compiled from the teachings the Buddha delivered for forty-nine years, how could you possibly research each one thoroughly? You cannot. Not being able to ‘grasp’ the Tathagata’s Dharma methods means they are taught based on sentient beings’ individual causal conditions. If one sentient being possesses the right causal conditions for a particular method, it will be taught; if not, it won’t.

“Another explanation of not being able to ‘grasp’ them is that after you have heard them spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha, these Dharma methods do not belong to you, nor do they belong to Him or anyone else. When sentient beings need to practice, these Dharmas appear. Shakyamuni Buddha never said they were His, nor did He ever claim to be well-accomplished in His cultivation or better than the other Buddhas. He also never designated any Dharma method as His specialty. This line of His in the sutra meant that you should not think any Dharma methods are yours once you have learned them, or that you can then alter them to put your own unique signature on them; that would be wrong, and is known as ‘grasping the Dharma’. All Dharmas are meant to benefit sentient beings; it’s just that you might have a special affinity with certain sentient beings who are learning methods of attainment from you that you mastered in the past—but that does not mean those methods are yours.

“To give an example, I am destined to have a hard life; in this lifetime, I have mainly focused on transferring consciousness. Monastics with a better fate do not have to do that; they just recite the sutras and receive little red envelopes full of money, whereas I sometimes go through near-death experiences when liberating people, yet I don’t get money like they do. I have to do this sort of thing a lot because of the many promises and vows I made to the Buddha and sentient beings in my past lives. In other words, not being able to ‘grasp’ any Dharmas does not mean Dharmas have no use. This can be explained based on the two reasons I just mentioned: One, that Dharmas do not belong to anyone; and two, that just because you have learned Dharmas does not make you any better than other people.

“In the sutra text, ‘cannot be explained’ does not mean speaking Dharmas is forbidden; it means that no human language can properly describe the Buddha’s state. To put it in simpler terms, an ordinary believer really has no way of comprehending a Khenpo’s state of cultivation, just as a Khenpo cannot possibly understand a Rinpoche’s. Likewise, I do not necessarily comprehend His Holiness’s state of cultivation, and He does not necessarily understand the Buddha’s, at least not until he has attained Buddhahood himself. What does this all mean? Every state of cultivation and each level of fruition requires a different layer of realization.

“‘Cannot be explained’—The Buddha cannot explain in human terms just how vast and subtle His state of cultivation is. For example, when I say I can transfer someone’s consciousness, you do not understand what gives me such ability. How can I liberate someone back in Taiwan from here in Japan, more than two thousand kilometers away? Have I myself changed location? I have not; I am still here in Japan, and have not even moved. Is it that my consciousness has flown over there? It is not that, either. How can I explain this state of cultivation in a way that you can comprehend? I cannot; this is not something that words can make you understand. For example, even while I was still in Japan, I saw that golden carp in the pond of the Glorious Jewel Temple grounds. How do I explain this? Why did it leap up for me to see, and why did I have a sudden vision of it? No words can describe it; thus, it ‘cannot be explained.’

“These words, ‘cannot be explained’, do not mean may not be explained. Why are so many scholars, researching the sutras, unable to fathom what the Buddha meant? It is because of these three words: ‘Cannot be explained.’ First-Ground Bodhisattvas certainly cannot comprehend the merits and fruition of Second-Ground Bodhisattvas, nor can the latter understand those of Third- through Eighth-Ground Bodhisattvas, because they have not yet attained those states of realization. Thus, an Eighth-Ground Bodhisattva definitely cannot comprehend the capabilities of a Dharmakaya Bodhisattva, even if an attempt were made to explain and teach those capabilities with words. It would be the equivalent of scolding my disciples left and right while I perform the Dharma for not knowing what I am going to do next. This is why Khenpo Namdol frequently tells my disciples in the Dharma affairs group, ‘It is so because Rinpoche said so!’ This is because there is no set Dharma. Having attained a certain fruition, I know which Dharmas are currently useful to people and which are not; those that are not, I put aside temporarily, and this is again why we say there is no set Dharma.

“I used to have a disciple who was constantly arguing with the Khenpo, who always replied, ‘It is so because Rinpoche said so!’ I therefore would like to thank Khenpo Namdol.” (At that, Khenpo Namdol joined his palms together, smiled, and nodded with respect.) Rinpoche said, “Why is it ‘so because I said so’? I am a Dharma-transmitting guru, so I know very well which Dharmas can benefit sentient beings. It would be like the Buddha transmitting His experience in cultivation to us. As was stated previously, the Buddha is well aware of the thoughts and views of each and every sentient beings, so He had a clear idea of which Dharmas He should teach the humans of Earth. He taught sentient beings in the Heaven Realm in a different way, just as His teaching methods were different still when He went to the Dragon Palace or to the Hell Realm. We cannot say the Buddha said anything, because from His point of view, He never moved, and neither did His mind. The Buddha only arouses His mind to help sentient beings based on each individual’s causal conditions, sincere supplications, and needs.

“I often say that if you do not open your mouth to ask me a question, I will not say anything. This is because if you do not ask, it means you are not in need, and are instead hoping I will guess what is on your mind. You want me to guess, but if I guess right, I still won’t get a prize. If you’ll give me a prize for guessing right, then I’ll guess. As you all can see, even when expounding the Dharma, the Buddha still paused to ask Subhuti what his thoughts were. It would be reasonable to think that the Buddha could have said, ‘This is what you think,’ because of His enormous supernatural powers. Why didn’t He? It was because Subhuti was the one who needed to ask. Why was this necessary? Subhuti was listening to the Dharma on behalf of all sentient beings, and he demonstrated to them that as long as they listened to the Dharma from within a pure frame of mind, then they would be able to understand and realize what the Buddha was saying, just as Subhuti had. In other words, these two figures—the Buddha and Subhuti—were putting on a show for our benefit.

“The Buddha said it ‘cannot be explained’ because words were not sufficient to do so. To give another example, how can I explain to you in words how I am able to liberate someone from so far away, successfully transferring the deceased’s consciousness out through his or her crown chakra? How can I actually explain that? I don’t use any instruments to poke a hole in the deceased’s skull, nor does the Dharma text provide me with any, so why does a hole form? There is no way of explaining this in words you can understand, no matter how hard I try. Not even physics can explain it. How can I cause a hole to form in the top of a person’s skull from more than two thousand kilometers away? Why, from so far away, can I cause the deceased’s mouth to close by the time I am finished performing the Dharma? There is no verbal explanation for this, either, so it ‘cannot be explained.’ To put it in a way you might understand, I am too lazy to tell you, and I wouldn’t want to, because it would be a total waste of time. No matter how much I told you, you still wouldn’t understand—but if you were to attain my state of cultivation, then you would, and it would be as easy to comprehend as your ABCs. If you have not cultivated this far, then there is no use in trying to explain it further. This is why I feel sad for Shakyamuni Buddha; He expounded the Dharma for forty-nine years, and I have been doing it since 1997—yet still, no one has understood. This is because humans have a hard time comprehending things, and are extremely obstinate. In the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, it is stated quite clearly that of all sentient beings in the universe, the humans of Earth are the most difficult to tame and teach because of their obstinacy and conceit. This was in reference to all humans on Earth; not to members of any particular nation.

“The sutra reads, ‘“They are neither Dharmas nor non-Dharmas. How is this so? It is because all the saints and sages are variously distinguished by the Unconditioned Dharma.”’

“This line means that since these methods cannot be explained, they are neither Dharmas nor non-Dharmas; some people say they are the latter, while others say they are not.

“Therefore, wherein lies the difference between the fruition levels of different practitioners? It is in the way they cultivate the Unconditioned Dharma: Naturally and without pretense. For example, some people implore me to liberate their loved ones. I do not pretend; I look at their causal conditions to determine whether or not I can immediately perform the Dharma to any effect, or whether I should instead wait for a while but protect their consciousness first. All of it depends on their good fortune, causes, and conditions; this is what is meant by ‘Unconditioned Dharma’. It is not so that I can plan to gain something for myself; I do not allow myself to obtain anything, nor would I want anything in return. I just hope to use the Dharma to benefit the deceased. Helping the deceased is practicing the Unconditioned Dharma; it is not affected. Rather, it is revealed in a naturally compassionate state of mind. Therefore, the degrees of mastering Unconditioned Dharmas vary greatly in depth, and distinguish, among saints and sages, mark the differences in fruition among Bodhisattvas.

“If someone has mastered the Unconditioned Dharma, then that practitioner can freely use it to help sentient beings. That is the best kind: Doing it simply from a state of meditation, without even needing to chant mantras or perform any rituals. That sort of fruition is far higher than mine; I still have to at least chant for a bit, though a lot less than I had to in the past. Now I chant less and less, because the older I am, the lazier I get. Ultimately, in Buddhism, there is the Path of Non-Cultivation—not because there is nothing to cultivate or we don’t want to, but because eventually, in our practice, once our pure, original nature has been revealed to us, we no longer need to cultivate. For now, though, what do we practice every day? We should amend any behavior that would cause us to reincarnate or prevent us from attaining Buddhahood. If we keep cultivating like this, until we no longer have any karmic hindrances or defilements, then we won’t need to practice anymore, because we will have recovered our pure, original nature.

“For example, let’s say the moon was originally very bright and clear in the sky, but now it is concealed behind dark clouds: These clouds are the defilements we have accrued through lifetime after lifetime. All of our experiences and all the knowledge we have learned has covered up the moon’s brightness. However, if we can practice, then the Dharma wind will disperse those dark clouds, allowing the pure, bright moonlight to emerge once more. Will the fact that the moon has been covered by those dark clouds mean it is no longer luminous? Not at all. Its light still remains; it has simply been concealed. Thus, an ‘Unconditioned Dharma’ is one’s pure, original nature. Your pure Buddha nature has always been there; it has never moved, changed, increased, or diminished. As long as sentient beings supplicate, your mind will very naturally move and give rise to a method to benefit them. However, it is not necessary to force it, make special arrangements, demand it, or pay special attention to it.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Subhuti, what do you think? If a person filled a trichiliocosm with the seven jewels and gave them all away as alms, would the good fortune and merits attained by this person not be great?”’

“Here the Buddha again asks Subhuti what he thinks. A ‘trichiliocosm’ is a Buddhist term meaning a vast universe, which is absolutely enormous. Three small chiliocosms make up a large chiliocosm, which represents a volume unfathomably larger than our Milky Way Galaxy. If it were filled with the jewels of the finest quality, and donated by this person to charity, would he not obtain countless good fortune and merits?

“The sutra reads, ‘Subhuti said, “Extremely great.” The World Honored One asked, “Why? The nature of good fortune and merits is Empty, which is why the Tathagata says that this good fortune and these merits are great. If a person comprehends and follows even a four-line verse of this sutra, and teaches it to others, then this person will have even more good fortune and merits than the one who gives jewels to charity.”’

“Subhuti agreed that such a generous person would indeed gain great good fortune and merits. Next, the Buddha asks the reason for this. If one accepts and grasps a few lines from the Diamond Sutra, and takes them as his direction to follow, tells others about them, and explains them to others, then he will have even more good fortune and merits than the person who gave a trichiliocosm full of the seven jewels as alms. The enormous generosity of donating jewels is only the almsgiving of the Human and Heaven Realms. However, if you give the Dharma as alms, you will have infinite good fortune and merits, and those are what are needed to transform the good and bad karma you have accumulated throughout your past lives.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Why is this, Subhuti? It is because all Buddhas and their teachings on Supreme Enlightenment originate from this sutra.”’

“This line is the crux of the matter. The Buddha tells Subhuti that Supreme Enlightenment does not merely contain wisdom; Emptiness and methods of attaining Buddhahood all come from this sutra. In other words, the teachings of this sutra should absolutely not be used for research; they should be practiced. Previously it was stated very clearly that all you have to do is accept, recite, and have faith in this sutra, believing what is written in it and then putting it into practice. The Buddha said that even if you just accept one four-line stanza of the sutra, and repeat it to others, then your good fortune will blossom. This is because all of the Buddhas were able to attain Buddhahood as a result of the teachings in this sutra. This means that a practitioner’s foundation of Exoteric Buddhism all originates in this text, too. If one completely accepts and grasps the fundaments of this sutra, then one can immediately attain the Bodhisattva Path of Emptiness. Only once that has been cultivated can one be qualified to attain Buddhahood; it is absolutely impossible to leap from being a mere human straight into Buddhahood. Do not assume that just because Shakyamuni Buddha went from being a human to attaining Buddhahood in the same lifetime means we can do it, too. Based on His own account, Shakyamuni Buddha had already spent many lifetimes before many Buddhas as a Bodhisattva; He had simply come to Earth to attain Buddhahood here for the sake of humanity. He wanted to tell us, ‘You are humans, so one day you, too, can attain Buddhahood, the same as I.’ Of course, that cannot happen over the course of a single lifetime, because the Buddha said that after he entered nirvana, there would not be a Buddha in this world to liberate sentient beings until Bodhisattva Maitreya comes to attain Buddhahood here, tens of thousands of years hence.

“After saying so much, I want to pause to make clear to you all just what exactly is so important about this sutra. Every point made here today is vital; if you are practicing the Bodhisattva Path, then you must understand prajna, the wisdom of Emptiness, and you absolutely must cultivate until you have unlocked it; only then will you have the opportunity and qualification to walk the path that will eventually lead you to Buddhahood. Realizing Emptiness cannot be done by relying on literal explanations or by deliberately thinking about it, nor does it come from meditation. Once you have continuously accumulated sufficient good fortune and wisdom, when you possess the right causal conditions, and when the time is right for you, you will suddenly attain realization. Practitioners through the ages, including myself, have all had the same experience; we cannot intentionally arrange a time or place or specific situation to realize Emptiness. It just naturally occurs to us. Therefore, it cannot come from research or education or studying the Diamond Sutra.

“What exactly does understanding Emptiness feel like? It cannot be described in words. However, once you have attained realization of it, it becomes easier and easier to help sentient beings, especially when it comes to liberating them. By now I have liberated so many—yet have you ever seen me look sickly or have bad complexion? Before, one of my ordained disciples nearly lost her life by reciting sutras for people all the time. Why am I able to do it so effortlessly by comparison? It is because she was not reciting from the state of Emptiness. Unless you have attained the compassion of Emptiness, you will not possess sufficient good fortune and wisdom, and then you will fail.

“At the very beginning of this sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha states very clearly that you absolutely must practice the Bodhisattva Path. If you want to attain Buddhahood, the essence of all the Dharmas the Buddha used to do so are contained in this sutra. To expound it more clearly would, to be honest, take more than a year. At this point I have done my level best to explain it in human terms that you can understand. To gain a genuine understanding of the teachings of this sutra, you really have to practice genuinely; the Buddha’s words cannot be fathomed by way of human education or research. That is all I will say about the Diamond Sutra for now; I fear that if I were to keep on talking about it, you would all fall asleep, because you have limited attention spans.”

H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the disciples in the Dharma Protector Achi Ritual and dedication prayer, and then led all the attendees in a recitation, in Tibetan, of the Aspiration Prayer for Rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land. As his Dharma voice filled the void, the puja participants all sensed Rinpoche’s great compassionate aspiration to deliver sentient beings from the tumultuous sea of suffering that is reincarnation, and unbidden tears stained their cheeks. After performing the Dharma, Rinpoche bestowed further teachings:

“At the end of Tibetan Buddhist pujas, we recite this Aspiration Prayer for Rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land to express our hope that when it comes our time to die, Amitabha Buddha will receive us. Therefore, we should all vow in the hope that all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the ten directions will respond to our prayers by helping us to form this aspiration and develop bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is very important, because it is essential for practicing the Bodhisattva Path. If you do not cultivate compassion, then you cannot develop bodhicitta; with compassion, it comes naturally. Once our bodhicitta has emerged, we should practice Bodhi acts. There are two types of bodhicitta: Worldly bodhicitta and ultimate bodhicitta. As we are out of time today, I will not explain those any further.

“The central tenet of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism is bodhicitta; without bodhicitta, it is not Mahayana, but Hinayana. All of today’s Dharmas were performed to perfect completion. I hope everything will go well for you all in your cultivation. I have urged our Japanese believers to refrain from eating meat. No one ever listens to me; you all assume that because you have gone without meat for a day to attend the pujas, it won’t matter if you resume eating meat tomorrow. As a result, you will only come in contact with the Dharma for three days in your future lifetimes, because you only listened for three days in this one. This will be your karmic retribution.

“Do not think going vegetarian is a big pain. I grew up eating seafood; I ate it until I was thirty-six. I was not born a Rinpoche. Why was I suddenly able to quit eating meat? Of course, I had better roots of virtue than yours, and more of them, too. Most importantly, though, since learning about cause and effect, I have never touched meat since. Therefore, you must never again eat the flesh of any sentient being. Many people are afraid that if they stop eating meat, they will not get the nutrients their bodies need. Well, look at me: I am seventy-two years old, and without eating any meat in decades, my complexion is better than that of anyone in this room. All of you have murky skin. It is not that my skin is fair; it is that I have just about eliminated all of my karmic hindrances, so my face is not as clouded as it once was.

“Eating meat is a major transgression, and it is very bad for your health. I would not forbid Japanese believers who eat meat from coming to this Buddhist Center, but I am going to keep on urging you to go vegetarian until you get it through your heads. I am very patient; I just keep on saying the same thing, over and over. If you have any gumption, you should stop coming here, because if you keep coming, I am going to keep saying it, until one day you actually listen. This is only because all of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas urge us not to harm any sentient being, which we will do if we do not eat vegetarian. Many of the children at our Buddhist Center were raised vegetarian in their mommies’ tummies, and after they were born, they drank soy milk instead of cow milk. They have grown up without any problem, and are strong, healthy, and well-behaved.”

Upon the perfect completion of the puja, the attendees thanked the guru for his compassionate performance of the Dharma and auspicious teachings, benefiting countless sentient beings. All rising, they paid reverent homage as H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended the Dharma throne.

Thinking back to eleven years ago, when His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang instructed H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to establish this Buddhist Center in Japan, Rinpoche was promoting the Dharma alone there, and he endured indescribable hardship over the years. However, it is remarkable to see the friendly exchange and dialogue these days between Tibetan Buddhism and Japanese Buddhist traditions. Rinpoche’s years of hard work, his profound compassion, and his aspiration have written a new page in the spread of Tibetan Buddhism to Japan.

On May 17th, 2019, Rinpoche promoted the Dharma at Onsenji Temple in Kinosachiko, Japan for the first time (for further details, see A Chronicle of Promoting the Dharma at the Onsenji Temple)

Updated on May 29, 2019