His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings

February 5, 2012

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche presided over the puja at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Taipei, teaching the attendees about death.

Before the puja, a male disciple expressed his gratitude to His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for giving him the opportunity to make a public repentance and share the experience of His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche helping his family. He took refuge under Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche on March 22, 2009, and first of all he repented that he used to be a very arrogant and selfish type of person. From his childhood, he did a lot of wrong things, killing many ants, playing many bees to death, smashing many crickets to death, and eating many shrimps. He used to stand by the side of the fishermen trying to catch white hairtails, and discuss enjoyably with them about how to fry the fish to make it more delicious. He was fishing the little octopus and thinking about how to eat them raw. While other people were killing fish, he would help them by knocking the fish unconscious with a cleaver. He repented profoundly. In the seafood store in Nanfangao, he ordered live seafood and asked the waiter to put the live shellfish to be cooked in the pot on fire and enjoyed seeing them struggling in the hot oil, and saying live seafood was tastier. He repented doing so. When he was a sophomore in college, he saw someone else in Taiping Mountain fishing in Cuifeng Lake Environmental Protection Area, and borrowed a fishing rod to fish also. He caught a grass carp of one meter long. He repented that as he was driving along in the mountainous area at a height of 1500 meters the car’s brake didn’t work and was as close as 10 centimeters to falling off the cliff and almost killed nine people in the car. Now he kept remembering various evil acts that he had committed before. All of these should be reason enough for him to die 10,000 times, for which he would never be able to repay the debts resulting from such evil acts.

From a very young age he was terribly afraid of death. As he moved from a big class in the kindergarten, his mother died on the first day he went to the elementary. On the funeral day as he saw his mother lying in her coffin he felt terrified by her look. He repented playing with his younger brother around the coffin cheerfully. The next year when his great grandmother passed away, again he was terrified by her look, her face caved in as white as paper and her mouth wide open. When he was in the first grade of the middle school, his family’s house maid, Aunt Liao, after cooking dinner for the family in the evening, died all out of a sudden of a heart attack at around 2:00 a.m. in the night. She even knocked on his door telling him that she was not feeling well and was dying in the evening before she passed away. It made him feel horrified at hearing the shouting sound as she was dying, which he still remembered vividly. He had been very scared of death since when he was very young, terrified at the look of the deceased with the horrifying face, which was as white as paper, and the mouth that could not be closed. All this would bring him indescribable horror.

He thanked His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for giving him the opportunity to learn Buddhism. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche explained about the different processes people had to go through before they died as well as the preparation for death so that it could get rid of the shadow from his childhood and unlock the puzzle in the mind, enabling him to have a clear direction in life.

In August 2008, his father was hospitalized because of lymphoma. The doctor told him that if his father did not want to take chemotherapy, they would have to discharge him. He did not wish for his father to take chemotherapy but was unable to convince his younger brother and sister-in-law, feeling helpless like being at his wits’ end. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche told him, “Talk with your brother and explain the situation to him.” He repented that he, though a regular attendee of the puja, had not been paying attention and learning Buddhism diligently, and had not acted according to the guru’s teachings. Now that he himself had not mended his way, how could he convince his sibling to not let his father take chemotherapy? He expressed gratitude to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for performing the Chod to liberate his father, whose body was kept frozen in the funeral home for a month. On the funeral day, his father’s face was ruddy, with a peaceful look as if he was fast asleep. He was so touched that tears almost ran down his face. Sure enough, the deceased person, when liberated by the grand practitioner Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would have a really different look on the face after they died. The shadow that he had lived with since his childhood was finally lifted and the puzzle in his mind unlocked. He thanked Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for the precious Buddhist teachings and was resolved to mend his way and act in accordance with the guru’s teachings.

He lived with his parents-in-law for two years because of his work. Due to work pressure, he was not behaving properly and did not take good care of the family relationship. This went on for a good while and finally his father-in-law hit him with the fist. The whole family lived in such a nerve-wracking atmosphere for quite a few years. In 2009 he took refuge under Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, who taught him that the very first Dharma method to learn for a beginner in learning Buddhism was to repent. And he found himself to be too selfish, with a mind of differentiation but no equality. Besides, he also had a strong mentality of comparison.

At that time he was feeling very dissatisfied with the fact that his wife’s older brother was working in mainland China on a long-term basis. It was he who had to take his sister-in-law to the hospital in the middle of the night to deliver the baby, and even had no rest on Saturdays or Sundays as he had to take his nieces out to play in the suburbs or take his own parents-in-law out so that they could take a walk and relax. All this resulted in the affliction and disharmony of the family. Thanks to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Buddhist teaching, later he took care of his parents-in-law like his own parents and his nieces like his own children. Though his father died a long time ago, whenever he saw many elderly Dharma brothers in the Buddhist Center he would treat them as if they were his parents, and little Dharma brothers as if they were his own children. He repented later to his parents-in-law, confessing all the wrong things he had done to them back then, making them sad. At this point his father-in-law also wanted to repent to him. All the family was deeply touch by this sincerity. Now his parents-in-law were also gradually becoming vegetarians. His two nieces are very reverent towards Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang. The whole family comes to the Grand Puja every year, thanks to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

He often had an eye infection last year (2011). The condition fluctuated between good and bad even after seeing the ophthalmologist and taking medication. One day he put the Goji from the Glorious Jewel Trading Company in boiled hot water and took it, and it made his eyes very comfortable. In the following days he did that again and had the same effect, with the infectious condition gradually fading away. Then it came to his mind that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche always knew what his disciples needed most and gave them accordingly. He really felt grateful that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche always gave them the best and most precious things.

He continued to share his experience in May of last year (2011) when he went to Japan to attend the puja in Kyoto. He was talking with his Dharma brothers in the tourist bus that since he worked in Taipei on a long-term basis, he would like to have an opportunity to sell his house in Kaohsiung as he would like to buy a ring from the Glorious Jewel jewelry store. 15 days after returning to Taiwan, his house was successfully sold at a price that his heart desired. So in September he went to the store. As he was putting the ring onto his finger, it suddenly came to his mind how thankful he was, as he felt that his hand had become whitened the moment he was putting the ring on, feeling as if the fate of his life had changed. His wife had often joked about his hands looking like those of a blue-collar worker. Just at that moment everybody was very happy, and he felt like Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had given him another best gift. With the ring on the finger, he looked at it every day, feeling like he was given blessing by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche every day and encouraging him to learn Buddhism diligently. He gave all his thanks to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

In May of last year (2011) he went to Japan to attend the Lama Chopa Puja and the Acalanatha Fire Puja. It was raining at that time and he was in charge of holding the rain shelter by the side of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Since he was standing there for quite a long time, he noticed that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s hair and beard had turned white, which brought him a sense of sorrow and made him feel sad. He repented that during the Grand Puja of 2012, he, as a volunteer, had not thought about planning a better route for Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s electric car for the guru to perform the purification ritual. If he had done so, that would have saved Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche time in performing the ritual and reduce the guru’s exhaustion while bestowing blessings to all believers in the entire venue. When he was playing, with reverence, the DVD of The Grand Memorial Puja Commemorating the 793rd Anniversary of Lord Jigten Sumgon of the Drikung Kagyu Order on June 6, 2010, he saw Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche by the side of His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, paying close attention to every detail how His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang was served. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s sight moved following every move that His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang made, watching carefully. He repented that he had not served the guru well; nor had he applied Buddhist principles to his daily life.

He thanked His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Protector Achi, and sentient beings in the Six Realms for giving him the opportunity to learn Buddhism with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, and made the public repentance. He also wished that all the Dharma brothers, believers, and all sentient beings in the Six Realms could be reborn in the Pure Land and bring benefit to more sentient beings in the Six Realms.

His repentance was followed by a female disciple who shared her experience and thoughts in attending the auspicious grand puja in Japan at the end of 2011. She expressed her thanks to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for giving her the opportunity in the auspicious Buddhist Center to praise the guru and to repent the evil karma that she had committed with the body, speech and mind.

First, she shared her experience in attending the Chod and Amitayus Puja presided over by the Vajra Guru, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche in Japan on December 31. She was very grateful for Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessing before the trip, which made her realize how selfish she was. She only wanted to save time and money and go to the countries that she had never been to before and attend the type of puja that she had never participated before. Her ignorant mind did not realize that each puja had very different cause and condition unique to itself.

During this puja, she was in charge of reminding the participants to change their socks and providing them with shoe bags at the entrance. She was observing that the Japanese believers were arriving at the Buddhist Center with utmost reverence – they wore something simple but formal and their mentality was steady and well-focused. She also felt the joy and cherishing attitude of her Japanese Dharma brothers as they were entering the Buddhist Center. This made her want to repent, as she almost forgot that she was just like that at the time she took refuge. Now she had the feeling of going back home whenever she went inside the Buddhist Center, joyful but not with a cherishing attitude, let alone being solemn. Often times, she was in such a hurry to get inside that she forgot to have the solemn air with her. She knew that if she did not change that and regard the Buddhist Center as her own responsibility, or cherish every opportunity to attend the puja, or firmly believe in the impermanence, she might suffer the consequences of losing what she relied on.

After the puja, she was among the last group to leave the Buddhist Center. But she did not think about closing the door of the Center so that the warm air inside would not keep escaping, and that made her hate herself. This also reminded her of the fact that she had only been following the directions of the team leader without being creatively coming up with ideas to take care of the details. From appearance, she appeared to be a standard “good” disciple that followed all the directions. In fact she was selfish and afraid of being punished. She hated this kind of mentality and was determined to pay closer attention to the details in taking care of the Buddhist Center as if it was her own home. In the meantime, she also wanted to express her gratitude to all the neighbors of this building. From time to time she couldn’t help but think what if there was a big organization on the floors above her house, with over a thousand people coming every week. How would she feel about that? She knew that she would feel annoyed with such a big crowd of people downstairs, no matter how many good things that they did, or how nice and kind they were. If so, how could she not be grateful for their understanding and tolerance? How could she be angry if they ever wanted to express anything against this condition? She believed that only when everybody had a sense of gratitude could we all live in peace and safety.

During the trip aboard the bus, there were Dharma brothers who were volunteers that shared their own feelings, saying that they were very sorry. Some Dharma brothers were commenting that when they were just believers, their volunteer-Dharma brothers were very nice to them. But after they had taken refuge, these volunteer-Dharma brothers were rather nasty toward them. She repented that she also had similar ideas and thoughts. But since we were all disciples of the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center who should observe the precepts, why then did the volunteer-Dharma brother have to keep trying to convince them? If everyone could manage themselves well then the volunteer-Dharma brothers would be able to do more things for the Buddhist Center, which was not a place meant for making friends. Moreover, all were vajra Dharma brothers and would not be dispersed from each other for life after life. She sincerely asked all the Dharma brothers to have a heart of gratitude and cherishment, to refrain themselves, and to remind each other so that when some Dharma brothers did not have the right attitude they would know immediately that it was necessary to repent the fault. Those Dharma brothers who would kindly remind you of the faults that you have were those who felt sorry in their hearts and cared about you. They would be concerned – How could it be that you as a disciple of the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center did not have any self-discipline?

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche once said, the Chinese “Yi” of “Gui Yi” (taking refuge) means “to rely”. Throughout her entire life her heart had never become so settled. She knew that she did not have to worry about her family’s safety, her parents’ health, not having a job, not having friends, becoming lonely when she is old, or potential for her future, because all of this came from Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessing. But how did each of us protect the home that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche gave to the disciples? In Japan last time, upon completion of the drawing a lot, the Dharma brother announced an assembly in the Buddhist Center the next day. The first thing that came to her mind was how the travel by air would be arranged. In no place of her heart did she have the Buddhist Center in Japan. Instead, she was just like a passer-by! She knew if she kept having this kind of attitude, she would have no idea what to do if there was no Buddhist Center at all. And what if there was no home? What Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche paid attention to should also be something that his disciples would be paying attention to. Where there was Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, there would be the home of his disciples.

She repented that as she was waiting to board the airplane in the airport on the return trip, she was asking an ordained Dharma brother about this and that, leading the Dharma brother to joke to her that she was quite a “curious baby.” On the second day after coming back to Taiwan, as she was listening to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Dharma tape on repentance, she heard that the guru was saying there should be no curiosity about Dharma practitioners. She repented this and asked the Dharma brother to pardon her. She commented that the Dharma tapes that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche bestowed on everyone was amazing, reminding her of things right to the point so that she would be able to stop making the same mistakes. She called upon everyone to listen to such recordings time and again.

She continued to share her after-thoughts following her attendance at the Dorje Phurba Puja on January 14, 2012, which happened to be the day of presidential election. According to the weather forecast, it would be a rainy day. But in reality it was clear and slightly warm, helping the voter turn-out rate to go over 70%. As soon as she left the Buddhist Center, she got a phone call from her family that her parents were expressing their profound gratitude for His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for demonstrating incredible power. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was exerting great effort in helping Taiwan so that everyone would have a stable working and living environment. That’s why it’s important that everyone should try to grasp every opportunity to share so that their family will also have strong faith in Buddhism.

She saw at the puja that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche crouching his body in order to give blessing to the attendees one by one. She knew how hard it must be to have this posture for a long time, causing discomfort to the back, and surely would be hard on him. Among those who were lined up to receive the blessings, she saw Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s daughter. As a father, that is the only thing he could do to help his daughter the most. She felt ashamed of herself, feeling that everybody had been taking up too much of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s time and even with that, she still had not mended her way. How sorry she was to the family of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche indeed!

Towards the end of the puja, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche told the attendees that on the first day of the Chinese New Year no “Ritual of the Great Repentance before the Thirty-Five Buddhas” would be performed. She repented having two doubts in her mind back then. The first was about whether it would be right for everyone to implore the guru like a young child asking for candies. And the second was about whether it would be the right thing to do to listen to the guru once he had made a decision. Thanks to the compassionate blessing that she received from the guru at the puja on the first day of the Chinese New Year, which made her realize that she was completely wrong. Not only had she been unable to fully understand the guru’s teachings, but she also had come up with such doubts out of pure ignorance. She was even more ashamed of herself, as she thought that she could take advantage of the opportunity to repent so that she could make herself feel better and eliminate her own karma, treating it as if she was finishing up her annual homework. Now she realized that whatever decision had been made by the guru, she should follow it, let go any attachment, and constantly use the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas to look within and examine herself, instead of relying upon the annual Repentance Puja presided over by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

She cried at every puja that was held toward the end of last year (2011). A Dharma brother once asked her why she was crying. She replied that she was crying out of shame because she was unworthy of the blessing that she received from Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. She hated herself for constantly creating karma, leading to senseless affliction, and causing Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to keep exerting effort on cleansing the disciples’ karma, clearing the hindrances, and removing the afflictions. She felt ashamed of herself also because she had heard Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche say that the guru was worried due to his old age what would happen if the disciples kept going on like that, but in spite of that the guru still gave blessings to her family. She cried also because the Buddhist Center was turned into a trading center after the guru had left and she did not know what to do about it. Moreover, she cried mostly out of her infinite gratitude for having been able to having such a wonderful and precious guru, feeling as if she had gone through countless lives; that’s why she was worried how long she would still be able to sit here, being so lazy in this life of hers.

She shared with her Dharma brothers that everyone should seize all possible opportunities to come up here to praise the guru, make public repentance, and not forget what their original intention was at the time they took refuge. Before the turn of the year, she saw a few of the Dharma brothers standing here, making what turned out to be their last repentances. So she asked all her Dharma brothers to treasure each opportunity that they were able to still be here.

In the end, she told everyone about the story of buying a ring at the Glorious Jewel Jewelry store. She was quite hesitant, not sure which one to buy, and all out of a sudden the Dharma brother who was keeping the store took out a ring and told her that this was the only tail ring that was currently available. No sooner had she set her eyes on it than she became very fond of it, and it fit her perfect – no need to adjust the size. The following day she wore it to the Buddhist Center so many of the Dharma brothers had the opportunity to try it on. But it turned out to be either too big or too small, or else it didn’t go along with the skin color or the length of the finger. Thus, all of them came to realize that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had prepared something precious and special for each and every one of them. Surely they should be in a rush to buy it now. A Dharma brother told her when they were on a trip abroad that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had always been concerned about his disciples. Knowing that the disciples had little fortune, the guru hoped that they would have something precious with them, so that it would help them improve their fate and increase the resource for their Buddhist practice. That was why the guru had thought about opening a jewelry store in the first place. How fortunate they must be as the disciples of the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center! It made her realize that way that she was learning Buddhism now was completely different from what she had seen and imagined before.

Once again she expressed her gratitude to His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, Patriarch Lord Jigten Sumgon, ProtectorAchi, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for bestowing upon her the opportunity to stand here. She was with a wrong mentality at the beginning of last year, not knowing to repent during the time of sharing, nor did she know to be thankful and to praise the guru for one more opportunity to look within and examine her own mind.

She wanted to repent here that she was a person who had committed many evil acts. She was only able to continue to live before she took refuge by relying on the lives of sentient beings, keeping pets while breaking up their families, easy to be upset, unable to tolerate the fact that others were doing better than herself, haggling over every penny with the company, talking back to her parents, refusing to obey her supervisor’s directions, shirking responsibilities onto others, arrogant, greedy, resentful, ignorant, self-proud, doubtful, using company’s time to do personal business, taking kick-backs from vendors, causing problems to others whenever she had a little ailment. Now she was terrified to learn that she had committed evil acts without knowing it. She implored the guru to give her blessing with compassion and she was willing to accept any arrangement and blessing that the guru would give her. In the past year, she came to realize how difficult it was to follow the Practices of Bodhisattvas, or to let the disease serve the purpose of learning Buddhism. She was grateful that during the past year her boss was reprimanding her harshly like a wake-up call and that she was suffering from bad health; she also thanked His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for not giving up on her and other disciples, but gave them many opportunities to correct themselves instead.

She prayed for His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang to have good health, for the Dharma wheel to keep turning, for the Drikung Kagyu Order to have Dharma activities spread far and wide.

Then, as soon as Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended to the Dharma throne, the guru asked the General Director of the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center: Where did the sutra books of the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows come from? Did you return the courtesy? The General Director replied that the sutra books were borrowed from a Buddhist temple by an ordained disciple who had taken refuge. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche criticized him harshly immediately: Use the Buddhist term “invite the presence of the Buddhist sutra” instead of saying “borrow.” You cannot borrow Buddhism. When we invited the presence of the Buddhist sutra from this Buddhist temple, did you return the courtesy to them? Did you make a monetary offering to them? Nothing at all! Are you taking advantage of the ordained practitioners? Do you know how to be a person with common sense? Even if you didn’t make a monetary offering to the Buddhist temple, wouldn’t you then give them a box of fruits instead? You didn’t even send them a letter of thanks! Everyone of you here have been in society for many years, how come that you’re not familiar with the conventions of being a polite person? When you ask someone for a favor, wouldn’t you return the courtesy and at least say “Thank you.”? Or would you rather take all this for granted? None of the board members has reminded the General Director, nor has anyone of the more than 1,000 disciples. What you do best indeed is to find an excuse, saying that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has not given you any such instructions.

You must know that this Buddhist Center does not belong to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. The real estate was not registered under Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s name either. All of such property is owned under the name of the association. It is you who are reciting the Buddhist sutras instead of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche! Every one of you would happily say after reciting the sutra, “We’ve formed affinity with Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha!” If you cannot even form affinity with sentient beings well, how would you be able to form affinity with the Bodhisattva? Everyone is thinking for himself, trying to figure out what to cultivate. They are in complete disregard of how things came into being in the first place, with no sense of appreciation, believing that everything would be fine as long as the sutra books were returned in the same good condition. You really are not serious practitioners of Buddhism, not knowing to be grateful for the more than 1,000 sutra books that others helped you with, nor even bothered to move them yourselves. Instead, you had to get ordained practitioners to move them for you and claim that you have completed the entire work. The only thing that you all hope is to receiving blessing. But in here we’re actually teaching you how to be respectful people and how to learn Buddhism. You take it for granted that such convenience is provided to you and never bother to think about how the sutra books got here in the first place. You are all very selfish, attending the pujas for so many years just to serve your selfish purposes.

You all think that it was the responsibility of the ordained practitioner and that she alone should be taking care of that. Next time we’ll try to change another person to do that and let him give it a shot. This ordained practitioner has borrowed the sutras twice already, and it would be difficult for her to face the Buddhist temple in the future. Next time, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would randomly call someone’s name and whoever that is should be responsible for borrowing more than 1,000 sutra books. Or else you can all pitch in money to buy the Buddhist sutras. If you can neither borrow nor buy these sutras, then you simply don’t have any Buddhist sutras to recite by and simply sit in the Buddhist Center for two hours straight before going home. You all think that all is done with the ordained practitioner borrowing the Buddhist sutras. Perhaps Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would like for you to recite the Hua Yan Sutra that goes on for three days in a run, or the Maha-prajna-paramita-sutra that would take a whole month before you can finish reciting it. When there is no sutra that you can get and the ordained practitioners are not helping you anymore, they would just recite on their own.

This has happened in the same manner twice. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was just waiting to see how you’d be taking care of such an undertaking and the result is, no one mentioned this at all. Anything, big or small, would have to be instructed to you in detail by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. You are all trying to bleed Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche white and taking advantage of him as well as the Buddhist Center. You don’t understand how to be a humanitarian at all. And the Buddhist path will not form until one becomes a humanitarian. Do not assume that other people are supposed to help you. The sutras have been moved twice and no “Thank you.” was even offered. No one owes us. What is the use of so much Dharma that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has been trying to teach you? All of you seem to believe that you have been behaving well, with the thought that you come to learn Buddhism so that soon you’ll be able to enjoy good days, showing no concern about the Buddhist Center. So many things have been happening around the Center because you are all so indifferent! Some people even say that it makes them feel heavy-hearted while reciting the Buddhist sutras, because they heard Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s words that they are no material for learning Tantra. How do you imagine learning Tantra if you cannot learn Exoteric Buddhism well! It may be better for you to go home, and for Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to go home as well! Why is it so difficult to propagate the orthodox Dharma? It’s because you don’t have the right mind.

You look down upon the Exoteric Dharma masters, thinking that they are not as remarkable as Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. What Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has accomplished as a practitioner is a matter of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche himself. Whether the Exoteric Dharma masters have achieved any level of accomplishment are their personal matters and none of your business. At least they are showing an ordained appearance and observing the Pure precept. Can any one of you do that? I have told you many times that Tantra would not exist if there were no Exoteric Buddhism in the first place. One of the Fourteen Common Tantric Root Downfalls is that you should never look down upon Exoteric Buddhism. If you are so potent, why don’t you shave your head as well, having utter disrespect and arrogance from the bottom of your heart? Tantra is about learning to be compassionate instead of arrogant.

The subject of teaching today is about death. According to the Chinese traditional customs, it is taboo to talk about death during the Chinese New Year period. Other religions seldom carry out in-depth investigation, research or learning about death. Even medical definition of death is not so clear cut, with the idea that death equals the condition when the heart stops beating or there is no more breath, or when the brain is dead. But there have been no medical explanations as to why the heart stops beating or there is no more breath; why eventually a normally functioning heart would be affected and stop beating or a healthy lung would stop breathing leading to death while other body parts have the diseases. Only Buddhism has the ready answers.

Strictly speaking, Buddhism is not a religion. The Buddha told us about cause and effect of the true existence of the universe. Cause and effect was not defined by the Buddha, who told us the truth about the universe. The world was not created or dominated by some superior being. Rather, it is a phenomenon created by the law of cause of effect that is in existence in the universe by the force of nature. However, Catholicism, Christianity and Taoism all try to teach us that there is a superior being in the universe who not only created the world but also the human beings. If someone is in violation of the will of this superior being then there will be sins and adverse consequences. But the Buddha told us that what you are now is a result of what you have been doing in your past, and what you will be in the future depends on what you do now, and that your fate is not controlled by someone else.

When we refer to other religions as non-Buddhist paths, we do not mean any contempt for them. Rather, it means that they all look outward, looking up to the Lord to give us something. Only Buddhism teaches us to look inward, to examine our mind and act. Non-Buddhist paths do not talk much about concept of cause and effect. What is most mentioned with relevance to cause and effect would be: If you have faith in God, God then shall bless you. Nothing in the universe comes into being by itself. When the causal condition is ripe, the fruit naturally becomes ripe as well. With the occurrence of karmic retribution, it does not necessarily represent that it’s over and another cause may come into being. The new cause which comes into being may lead to additional karmic retribution. If we don’t investigate why we are ill and try to find out which organ is failing, it just wouldn’t lead us to the right answer. Modern science is so developed that we found the genes, but who gave us gene combinations? Other religions provided an explanation that they were arranged by Lord. What are the forces and reasons that turn the genes from good to bad? There is no scientific explanation, indicating that we as humans do not have clear understanding about what causes things to originate.

Some people are born with cancer cells but do not get cancer in the end. Others who are born with no cancer cells would have cancer in the future. Why is it so? There is no medical explanation. The only medical explanation is given from the perspective of diet, living habits, and genetic factors.  As to the knowledge about the genes, the medical science is only using what has been observed as explanation, without clearly demonstrating the causes. Why do the genes come into combination as such? What causes them to form the combinations? Why is it that when a single sperm and a single egg come together, the genes that they carry along with them would be integrated with each other? Why can such a tiny sperm carry so many genes? Why after the combination of the sperm and the egg, such a tiny gene combination would develop into such a huge body? From the medical perspective we only know that the cells keep splitting, but why do they keep dividing? What is the force that keeps a tiny fertilized egg splitting and growing into such a huge person? There is no medical explanation so far.

Once there was a scientific report about a village in Scotland where a skeleton with an age of 9,000 years old was found. He had the same genes as some local residents of today. What is the force that has preserved these genes till this day? Is it that one sperm and one egg are capable of such great changes? Modern medical science has provided no standard answers, and even it does, it’s mostly just a guesstimate. Why is it that a tiny sperm can develop into a complete human being? There is no explanation, which makes us puzzled about life. One disciple who is a medical doctor has told us that medically it’s only known that genes are acquired through inheritance. But even genetically identical twins would have different personality and development. Again, medical science has no ready explanation why this is so.

There is a reason why Buddha Shakyamuni was referred to as the great medicine king, which does not necessarily mean that the Buddha was able to cure all kinds of diseases. Rather it means that the Buddha was clear about the cause of such diseases, which come into being following the law of cause and effect. This is why there is a saying in the Buddhist sutras that goes like, “Turn the illness to serve Buddhism as a tool of illustration,” meaning that an occurrence of illness can be used as an illustration to people that it is the law of cause and effect in action, and that it can be used to remind us what causes we have made in the past to have this effect of illness. By the same token of the illness, sentient beings that we have harmed will know that we are starting to repay the debts. Changes will be made through learning Buddhism. Currently, both Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Western Medicine have found that our emotional and psychological states affect our physiological and even ill conditions.

If a person is in a bad mood, it will have an impact on his health. Even though some people may have bad genes with them, it does not necessarily mean that they would develop cancer. There are many theories nowadays and even drinking water may cause you to have cancer. No simplest cause of cancer has been found in spite of the scientific progress that humans have achieved. But so far man has not been able to provide explanation for their own formation, thus develops a sense of instability for his own future since there are too many unresolved questions except a certain factor that causes it to develop into cancer without a precise explanation.

Today we’ll talk about death. You think that learning Buddhism can help you find a better husband, that it will make your co-workers like you, and that you’ll be able to enjoy good days in the future. But all of these are not true objectives of learning Buddhism. The purpose of learning Buddhism is to make preparations for many things before death. Other religions will not touch upon the topic of death before the 15th of the first month of the new year. But where there is life there is death; and where there is death there is life.

In fact, we’re not quite clear about why we’d feel hungry. The explanation for the sense of hunger given from the medical perspective is that there is nothing left in the stomach, which sends a signal through the nervous system to the brain, which in turn tells you that you need to eat something. If this is true, then would we not feel hungry if we sever the nervous system and block the signal from the brain? There is a lama with the Drikung Kagyu Order who is a master at the Retreat Center. He has cultivated to the level on which he does not need to eat or drink anything in order to keep his body alive. On top of that, he can even travel all the way on foot from Tibet to India to seek an audience with His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang. His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang had mentioned to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche about this lama and Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche even has personally seen him. How is it possible to sustain the body without food or water? As a matter of fact, everyone can do that. After practicing a certain Dharma method for a certain period of time in a retreat, everyone can achieve this level of accomplishment.

During a retreat, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche eats a very little. You would consider eating a little as result of very limited amount of activity during the retreat. But in fact it requires far more energy consumed during the retreat, with the activity going on from 4:00 a.m. all the way without interruption to 10:00 p.m., than in the normal life. This is also something that cannot be medically explained.

Weren’t each of you afraid of darkness when you were young? Many people had the experience of being locked up in a dark room when they were little. And their first thought was to get out of there or cry it out loud. Why does everyone experience being scared of darkness? Why are all of you afraid of darkness but do like the light? Do you associate being afraid of darkness with being scared of the ghosts? That is not true in fact. It’s not because of the ghosts, which do not only appear in darkness. Ghosts with virtues can appear after the sun moves over the midday point. Some demons may even appear upon the sunlight as soon as the sun rises. That’s why ghosts not only just appear in darkness and people are not afraid of darkness because of ghosts but because it’s got something to do with death. People are scared of darkness because they have to go through death life after life.

During the process of dying, a person will see a black hole. Since each of you have experienced death that’s the reason why you are afraid of darkness. Some people do not believe that there are previous lives and future lives. Such ideas are heretic. The condition in which you see the black hole is also referred to as darkness-mind attainment, which has to do with Tantra. It used to be that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would not transmit anything as long as it had something to do with Tantra. However there was a disciple who suffered from a stroke due to brain bleeding and experienced death, during which process he saw a black hole. Just as he was entering it, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche pulled him from behind and saved his life. As he had this experience the disciple told it to others. And with this experience as the origin, it is indicating that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche can now tell the disciples about the process of death.

The evil karma that this disciple has accumulated through past lives came across with the annual zodiac conflict and he would have died an untimely death. But just upon the moment when such things were happening he knew to repent and remembered Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s appearance, thus he was able to save his life. Another reason was that he was one of the volunteers in the photography group, and often took pictures of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche while in a close position and thus could remember Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s appearance vividly. The fact that his life was saved does not serve the purpose for him to have more children, get promoted, or enjoy his good days. Rather, it was meant for him to have enough time in which he can accumulate enough blessed rewards so that he can be reborn into the Pure Land.

There is no medical explanation why people are afraid of darkness. If being afraid of darkness is a psychological barrier, then why is it that everyone is the same? There is an explanation in Tantra. The Nyingma Order has performing the Darkness Retreat as a Dharma method. Practitioners who wish to achieve accomplishment must perform the Darkness Retreat probably in a dark cave or a dark room. A person who practices Buddhism of the Nyingma Order should have heard of the Darkness Retreat, which in fact has something to do with this. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked a disciple who used to learn Buddhism of the Nyingma Order previously whether he had heard of the Darkness Retreat and whether his former guru had explained it to him. The disciple replied that he had heard of it but that his former guru had not explained to him why the Darkness Retreat must be performed. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then stated that the Darkness Retreat of the Nyingma Order is to let the disciples go through it successfully upon death with darkness-mind attainment. With the Drikung Kagyu Order, you are not required to perform the darkness retreat. The Phowa of the Drikung Kagyu Order will allow you to experience the process of death directly. Since those who have an accomplished level of cultivation have gone through death, what else would they be afraid of?

Each person after taking his last breath would see a black hole. This has medically proven cases in which patients who had near-death experiences expressed that they saw brightness after going through a black hole, which had something to do with our physical condition. We have been through many deaths life after life and this definitely is not our first life. There are medical records through many years that prove that many people still remember things in their past lives. They went through the black hole upon death. A disciple who is a medical doctor also confirmed that there is much documentation in the United States about people visiting places that they have never visited before but feel they are familiar with them. Such are examples of memory of the past life.

The Buddha Dharma gives a clear and vivid description of the intermediate body – a person would see a black hole straight ahead of him when he dies. After he enters it and passes through it, he would then see a complete brightness and thus enter the intermediate body, at which stage he would feel very relaxed and seem to be free of any type of affliction! As a matter of fact with entrance into the brightness comes the real death. And seven days later, a yidam who has affinity with you would come to receive you. In other non-Buddhist religions it would be an angel who comes to take you. This would last for 49 days, which signifies seven times of the seven-day period, and in each such period a different yidam would come and take you. But if the person has not practiced Buddhism before he dies and has not known the yidam, he would be afraid and dare not go with the yidam. That’s because when the yidam appears, there would be very bright light shining through and the intermediate body of the deceased person would be scared of this bright light and hide from it. As soon as he hides from the light, his intermediate body would fall deeply asleep only to be awakened till the next 7-day period. This process would repeat until the end of the 49-day period and there wouldn’t be any more yidams coming to receive you. At this moment, he would start to be subject to the influence of the karma from the past lives and thus enter into reincarnation in the Six Realms.

About this, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has an experience. On the night when Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche took refuge under Exoteric Buddhism, he had a dream toward the early morning in which he was entering the main shrine of a Buddhist temple. As he was pushing open the main doors it was Buddha Shakyamuni sitting inside, radiating very bright light. The very first reaction that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had was that he was a little afraid and took a step back. Then the guru heard his Exoteric Buddhist master telling him not to be afraid and go into the shrine. Thus Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche went into the shrine. As to what happened after that in the dream, it was purely a matter of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and had nothing to do with you.

So the reason why people are afraid of the yidam is that the yidam would shed very bright light. Take for example a beggar would feel afraid when he sees some rich person standing in front of him and thus would be afraid to approach wealthy people. It doesn’t mean that you are all beggars. Rather it’s just a metaphor. In other words, you may all have the experience of working for other people. In the work place, the big boss suddenly comes out to find you, you would be feeling rather cautious and afraid, and may take a step back involuntarily, trying to fathom what the big boss wants to do by coming out to find a small potato.  And such reasoning would make you take a step back out of the fear that arises due to the different ranks.

There is something similar with other religions such as Catholicism or Christianity that as long as you have faith in Lord, an angel would come to take you to the heaven upon your death, with the prerequisite that you must have followed Ten Commandments, which in facts is very similar to Ten Meritorious Acts of Buddhism. So those good people, who have observed Ten Commandments or Ten Meritorious Acts, shall have the opportunity of going to good places after they die. But what about the people who have not followed the Ten Commandments? Two disciples who had once been Catholics reported that Ten Commandments is indeed quite close to Ten Meritorious Acts and that they had heard the priest say that one can go to Heaven as long as he has faith in Lord. At that moment, one of the disciples asked if someone who had failed to observe Ten Commandments could also go to Heaven. The priest did not answer the question. After they listened to the teachings of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche they now understand that one would not be able to go to Heaven if he has failed to observe Ten Commandments.

Buddhism teaches you to abide by Ten Meritorious Acts. Only when you have done so would the Buddha come and take you to the good place. The Buddhist concept is about teaching you to do it – what you will have will be based on what you do. Most people’s consciousness (or what you would call spirit) would still be with the body within eight hours of their death except those with great blessed reward who can rise to the Heaven Realm or the Pure Land immediately upon death, or those that had done great evils who will go to hell immediately. Otherwise the consciousness will remain within the body for 8 hours or even 12 hours. The body will become stiff approximately one hour after death but it will become very soft if it can attain the Phowa. That’s because they feel nervous and frightened upon death, which leads them to become stiff. But with the Phowa they are liberated, knowing that it would be even better to go to the Pure Land than being humanly alive. That’s when they become relaxed and quite soft.

Besides, why would the deceased person have his mouth wide open? That’s because he was not aware that he was going to die and wanted to continue to breathe. But he could not breathe the next breath so the mouth was kept open. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche once saw the pictures of late Mother Teresa of India after she died. The first photo was taken when she just passed away with her mouth wide open. The second photo showed that her head was wrapped around by a white scarf in order to keep her mouth closed. If one has been a true Buddhist practitioner, his mouth would not open wide when he passes away.  You may have seen many such examples.

One’s life expectancy is not certain, and it is a reflection of one’s blessed reward. In the past there used to be many fortune tellers trying to help figure out the fate for Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. But they all told his fortune till the age of 45 years old. At the beginning Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche took it as an age at which he would be able to retire and enjoy the rest of the life. It turned out that at the age of 45 he got skin cancer, which made him realize suddenly that it meant the age at which he would die. When he was just diagnosed with skin cancer, there was a disciple – a medical doctor – who showed great concern but was also very worried, trying to persuade Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to go and see the doctor. At this time, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked this doctor-disciple about the condition back then. And the disciple replied that at that time Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had a dark-colored tumor on the left forehead, which changed in size and color. It was diagnosed as melanoma, the most vicious type of skin cancer. The disciple tried very hard to persuade Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to go to the doctor, accept a surgery or other forms of treatment. But Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche did not adopt his suggestions.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche did not tell His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang. Nor did he pray to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. But he did keep cultivating himself in the Buddhist practice. The skin cancer did not completely heal until the time when the guru went into a three-month retreat in the Snow Mountain of Lapchi in 2007, during which the scab which used to be where the skin cancer was fell off by itself. Now the guru is 65 years old, and from the age of 45 when he was diagnosed with skin cancer to the time of the retreat when this problem was truly resolved, it had been a rather long period of time. How can you hope to have your problems resolved at once?

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has helped many people since 1995. When it comes to the life expectancy of others, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s prediction about how long they could live for some people was quite precise, while for others it wouldn’t be as precise. The changes depend on what these people have done.

The Buddhist sutras say that our body is a reunion of the earth, the wind, the water and the fire. Our bones and flesh constitute the earth, our breath the wind, our bodily fluid including the endocrine is the water, and our energy is the fire. If these four cardinal elements are out of balance, then we’d be ill. For example, when the earth is reduced our body would suffer from illness, and if it continues to be reduced, it would impact on the other three elements and may eventually result in death. You may have seen in a hospital some elderly person saying that he is feeling very hot, even though the air-conditioning is running strong and he is wearing only one piece of clothing. He feels hot even with additional fans turned on. Or else he would keep saying that he feels cold, and layers after layers of quilts just aren’t enough to keep him warm. This is a phenomenon in which the element of fire is disintegrating. There is yet another type who keeps trying to make the pillow higher and higher by putting more pillows under his head, and would not feel high enough even with the whole bed raised. This is because he cannot tell it with words except feeling that his head is so heavy and sinking, a phenomenon that reveals itself when the element of the earth is disintegrating. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked the attendees if they had such experience with their family members, and many disciples raised their hands in confirmation.

As one is dying, with the decomposition of the element of the earth he would feel head-heavy. With the decomposition of the fire he would feel hot and cold alternatively. With the decomposition of the water the patient would either wants to drink water, or no water, or else he would not be able to urinate and sometimes even requires diuretics to help with urination. The more diuretics that he uses, the more likely it will affect other organs. And with the decomposition of the air, he is going to die. You may often hear people say “Three long and two short,” why do we teach people to chant the mantra at least three times? That’s because before a person dies, he would breathe two short breaths followed by a long breath before he becomes dead.

Decomposition of the four elements would start before a person dies. For some people this process starts a year before their death, for others, the decomposition of the four elements would take a few months. Still there are others who have two to three days or even as short as one morning in which decomposition takes place. For an accomplished practitioner, it may only take one second. How long it takes totally depends on the person’s blessed reward. Like those who have cultivated to the level of the mastery of the Phowa, the decomposition takes place instantly and the four energy types would be disintegrated in one minute, leaving the body useless. Can the body carry out activities without energy? Buddhism provides simple explanation as to where the human body comes from in that the four causal conditions and the integrated body of flesh, which would gradually disappear as it is consumed slowly. Death would come in an uncertain way because no one is sure when the blessed reward will be used up. The money that you’ve made in the past is a type of blessed reward, which can be used in this life and nothing is left when it’s used up. If one has no blessed reward, he would die a painful death. But if he has blessed reward, he wouldn’t be suffering during the process of decomposition of the four cardinal elements. A person without Buddhist cultivation would keep having doctors treat him during this process and thus would have tremendous suffering from medical treatment, which is very painful.

When the heart stops beating, it signifies that a person has died. But why can the heart keep beating? Medical science cannot offer you an answer. But Buddhism tells us that the heart is a type of blessed reward that one has cultivated through past lives. If the heart is not good, that means that there is not enough blessed reward. Many people live a normal life until they suddenly die of a heart attack because their blessed reward has been used up. Not long ago there was an athlete who died of a heart attack. Though Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is 65 years old, his heart is still functioning well, approximately beating 62 times in a minute.

Since death is impermanent, some people want to end their lives earlier. Don’t even think about it. From the perspective of Exoteric Buddhism, our body was given by our parents, and destroying your own body is an act against filial piety. How can a person with no filial piety learn Buddhism? In Tantra, the body is considered to be the mandala of Hundreds of Peaceful and Wrathful Deities, since our body was created with many sentient beings coming together. Buddhism believes that each sentient being is a future Buddha and whatever you do, the sentient beings inside you are with you all the time. As the body is the mandala of Hundreds of Peaceful and Wrathful Deities, if you take your own life it’s like destroying their mandala, which is a very serious act! Some people with diseases think about ending their lives earlier so that they wouldn’t drag their family. This is actually an idea of suicide. There is no such a thing as dragging others, because the two of you are together, either you owing it to her or she owing it to you. Someone would say that he would aspire to leave the world sooner, but that cannot be done if it is not for sentient beings, unless you pray to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to allow you to go and cultivate yourself in the Pure Land and come back sooner to benefit sentient beings, like the Bodhisattvas themselves.

Those deceased who are liberated through the Phowa would close their mouths from the wide-open state.  But how can a deceased person close the mouth again? There is no medical explanation why some people would have livor mortis after death. The deceased person usually would show livor mortis within one hour of dying, and the doctor may just say that it’s because of blood deposition. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche commented that this is actually the sign of the sentient beings that you had eaten and killed in your body, going to the Three Evil Realms with you. But if the deceased person is liberated by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche through Dharma performance, the livor mortis would disappear and become invisible, since the sentient beings within the body of the deceased person have been liberated along with the deceased person.

How is ascites formed? Western medicine fails to provide a precise explanation. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche pointed out that it was the meat that one has eaten. Some patients have ascites. Whatever the disease may be, if a person has ascites, he is surely headed for the Three Evil Realms after he dies. That’s because acites would keep pressing the abdomen so that when you die, there is no way for the energy flow (Chi) to go up. The only way to go is downward and that’s the direction for the Three Evil Realms. Ascites will be discharged out of the body after one dies. A disciple who is also a nurse confirmed that she had seen something like that happen with her own eyes. However, those deceased persons who were blessed by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would all have their ascites disappear without discharging it out of the body. Instead, it’s because the karmic creditors left the body upon being blessed by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

You may also have seen some ill person who is about to die waving his hand back and forth. That’s because he has seen his love ones who had passed away before him appear to take him away and he wants to drive them away by waving his hand. But the doctors may misunderstand this as an act to resist medical treatment so they would have the patient’s hands tied up in order to prevent him from waving his hand and receive treatment. It’s a miserable thing that the patient has to be tied down to the bed, as the truth is that he has seen his deceased loved ones trying to take him away with them.

Some people often get injection with cardiac stimulant before passing away. Those who have been injected with such medicine, upon being liberated by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would tell the guru that they feel pain in a particular place of the heart. For the deceased people, the administration of cardiac stimulant would only increase their attachment to the matter of life and death, and thus wouldn’t provide much help. You may find that a person upon whom many emergency rescue measures have been carried out would not look pleasant after he dies. That’s because he was thinking that you were trying to save his life, thereby strengthening his attachment to life. Why does Buddhism teach us about the impermanence of death? When you have no sense of gratitude for anyone who has helped you, you would go to hell. If upon death one shows the face clustered together in wrinkles and the eyebrows frowning, it indicates that the attachment has kept him tight and he would go to the Three Evil Realms after death. Of course you may also have heard of patients surviving another 10 or 20 years because of the cardiac stimulant injection. Thus we should not make any generalized observation out of this. However if it is some rather elderly person whose bodily organs have quit operating, such injection would only bring more suffering to him.

Master Gampopa once told us, “By so considering and selecting our way, therefore, we should think to ourselves, ‘I will surely die but I’m not sure when. When death is coming unto me imminently nothing can really help me. Then, why would I still have time to spend on things other than virtuous acts? How would I have time to idle my life away? So I should conduct my true practice more diligently!’ We should keep thinking this way, and earnestly learn Buddhism and conduct cultivation from the bottom of our heart with ‘little desire’, because ‘Nothing in this life has any real meaning at all.’”

You know that you will die for sure, that there is no surety about the time of death, and that you will not be able to bring anything with you when you die. Indeed, nothing may be brought along, no matter how famous, wealthy, or knowledgeable you are in this life. So what are you still so arrogant about? Would there be anything that cannot be carried on without you? No! The world goes on as usual. It doesn’t matter who you are or what religion you believe in, all are the same when they die, as all have to go through the decomposition of the four cardinal elements, as long as you are one of the sentient beings, including those in the Animal Realm.

Whatever happens in this life is due to cause and condition and cause and effect. “Cause” was what you have done in past lives, and “effect” is what you get in this life. Nothing belongs to you permanently. The causal condition which you have done in past lives leads to the karma of this life without the distinction of good or evil. Karma is a form of energy which allows you to go through this life. So it’s not essential whether you have it or not. The most important part of learning Buddhism is learning about death, instead of something to allow you to enjoy your days or give you offspring. To Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, it does not matter whether his children will be married or will have children of their own. If it turns out that they do not have children of their own, that would even save the trouble of liberating them in the future.

Yesterday a believer came to seek an audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche because of bone cancer. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche told him that there was nothing that he could do to help as it was too late. The believer started attending the Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness three years ago. You all know that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has kept asking you to become a vegetarian at the Grand Pujas. But this believer did not become a vegetarian. Now he has bone cancer and even came to threathen Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche saying that he couldn’t die because he still had responsibility to support his family. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then asked him who was busier between the two of them, with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche providing support and care to a mother and children, as well as more than a hundred employees and over 1,200 disciples who took refuge under the guru. The believer replied that it was Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche who was busier! That being the case, even Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has to die, what is it that you can depend on to avoid death? Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche often made a joke saying that even he was not sure whether he’d still be around tomorrow. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued to say that as a profession the guru and the doctor were the two most dangerous jobs in the world, as they were often threatened. A disciple who is a medical doctor also commented that he often heard the patient say that the doctor must cure him.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche often says that he may die any time, and told the believer that he might die the next minute after the guru finished talking to him. Only when we accept the impermanence of death as a sure thing, would we be able to avoid having attachment, or attachment to what others may have treated you badly. Human relationships will also become better. When you are contemplating impermanence and death on a daily basis, would you still feel the other’s words as criticism against you? Would his words hurt you?

Many years ago there was a disciple with SARS infection who was saved by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. As a person otherwise destined for death, he still had the attachment to making a lot of money and put all his money into an investment. As a result he lost all his money. Why as he was dead once would he still have the greed for so much money? That money was not intended for a marriage, or else would he want to buy himself a gold coffin? A gold coffin wouldn’t burn so his dead body could not be cremated.

The Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center is a very stringent Buddhist Center where Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche propagates the orthodox Dharma. Today, what are we learning Buddhism for? It would be the orthodox Dharma if you come to learn Buddhism with the realization in the impermanence of death. It would not be if you come to learn Buddhism for better health or better life. Back then when Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s father passed away, it shocked Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche tremendously. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was only 17 years old when he got the notice from the hospital and two hours had passed before he could arrive at the hospital. He saw his father’s eyes wide open, which shed a few drops of tears and closed up after hearing Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s voice. How could a person shed tears after he is dead? It was during bright day and Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche could not have seen it wrong. From this we can see that the consciousness of a person still remains with the body after he passes away. You can also see that no matter how glorious your life has been, after you die your body would be cast aside just like a dead pig. The body gives away a decaying smell, which would leave deep impression in your mind. The fact that his father passed away led Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to start pondering upon the notion – Where do people go when they die? It made him feel that death was a very important subject in life.

There are some habits among the ordinary people that some people would cast some divination tools known as “jiao” after they die. It is not true. Sometimes perhaps a mischievous ghost passes by who is more powerful than the deceased person and plays with your “jiao” and you would believe that it is real.

Why would people want to go to Heaven when they die? According to the Buddha, human beings actually descended to the earth from the Heaven of Light and Sound. That’s why in some religions or ancient times people thought that a person should go back to Heaven after he died. That’s in fact exactly the reason why our ancestors descended from the Realm of Light and Sound. All religions except Buddhism want us to go back to Heaven, or the Heavenly Paradise. Even in Heaven there are a few different levels. If you have cultivated to be able to go to Heaven, there would be the Realm of Desire, the Realm of Form and the Realm of Formless. Jade Emperor himself is in the Realm of Desire. Those who have severed sexual desires may be cultivated to the level of the Realm of Form or even the Realm of Formless. But if one has failed to sever sexual desires during his living life then the highest level that he can cultivate himself to would be the Realm of Sensuous Desire. Catholic Puritans who have severed sexual desires are also like this, with some practicing their religion in a remote mountainous area. The Realm of Form is one level higher than the Realm of Desire, and the Realm of Formless even higher, which is for those who cultivated themselves well in the meditative state.

Master Gampopa taught us, “If we are practicing the true and pure orthodox Dharma, then nothing can prevent us from realizing and experiencing ‘the impermanence of death’ in the continuum of body and mind. You must know that this life is impermanent indeed! Now that there is life, there would be no avoidance of death. Thus all of us are ‘sure to die’ no matter what.”

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued with the lecture. “True” here refers to the purpose of your cultivation is for the liberation from life and death, instead of teaching Buddhism to cater to the desires of sentient beings. “Pure” does not necessarily mean that no other religion is touched upon. If so, then Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would not be “pure” today when he mentioned Catholicism and other religions. As a matter of fact, “Pure” refers to the concept completely the same as the Buddha’s teaching that is not mixed with other values. Your values are all for your own interest, and the “true and pure” orthodox Dharma is to bring benefit to sentient beings. What the Buddha had said was about the future lives of the human beings. In the 49 years in which Buddha Shakyamuni was propagating Buddhism, he did nothing except teaching sentient beings to be liberated from life and death.

“Now that there is life, there would be no avoidance of death. Thus all of us are ‘sure to die’ no matter what.” Why do people die? From the medical perspective it’s because of the illness. But why does the heart stop beating or why do you stop breathing when only other parts of the body have problems? Medicine fails to tell us the cause. People surely die, and the suffering of being born, ageing, being ill, and dying is something that is unavoidable. Even if you don’t have any illnesses you’d still become old one day, and along with this you’d have the suffering from old age. Take for example Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s mother who is 90 years old, she is facing the suffering of old age. Though she can still take care of her own daily living, she becomes much slower than when she was younger in terms of movement, such as getting up and sitting down. You may also have seen some elderly people in the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center who are facing the suffering of old age, with very slow movement. They do not wish to be like this but there is just nothing they can do. When you age, your blessed reward will keep being reduced along with your health conditions. We’re living a life in which we are reducing our blessed reward every day. However, every one wants to live to be 100 years old. But when you see the suffering of old age, you may not want to live that long any more. Not long ago Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche saw in a TV program a Japanese person who appeared to be frighteningly old, even though he was of the same age as Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

If there is the current life, then there were past lives, as well as there will be future lives. Otherwise you would have been born into this life for nothing. What one has done in the past lives affects this life. And what he does in this life will affect his future lives. If such lives have nothing to do with each other, then those who do evil acts will keep doing evil acts, and we would not need to keep doing good. This way, the world will be in great chaos.  Now that there is life, there will be death, and with death comes rebirth. You all say that you want to be at ease and free, but people (in fact) do not have any freedom, who are subject to the influence of karma life after life.

When we are able to break reincarnation, we can stop what goes with life and death and give ourselves further control. Liberty from life and death means that you have cultivated to such a state that you have been liberated from it, and are able to know and decide when you want to “go,” as well as where to “go.” The liberty with the Bodhisattva does not mean a pleasant state of mind. Rather, it means that there will be no suffering during his birth based on his own aspiration, and he will be gone when the causal condition comes to an end. Would a person who is in control of his own death be afraid of anything else in the world? Naturally that will make him feel at ease. When you have this freedom from life and death in your heart, you have true liberation.

Master Gampopa stated, “You must remember at the same time that our life cannot be measured for sure. We may encounter death now, or lose our life sometime in the future. Nothing is for sure. So ‘The time of death is uncertain.’ From a different perspective, our body is (the product of the combination of the four cardinal elements) dangerously fragile and unreal, another factor that contributes to the fact that ‘The time of death is uncertain.’”

We will surely die, but when? No one really knows. Human life does not have a definitive measurement, i.e., “The time of death is uncertain.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche often said that maybe someday he does not want to “play” anymore and will be gone. “Gone” refers to “going to another world to help and liberate other sentient beings there.” The human body is dangerously fragile and unreal. Not only is it possible that you die because of a car accident, even a little bump would cause you to have bruises, and a flu virus so small that you can barely see it with a microscope can cause you to be dead. Medically, it is agreed that the virus would get into the human’s cell tissue and destroy it from within. But there is no medical explanation as to whether the virus has bones or a body, or why it would occur in the first place. A virus does not have brain and thus cannot think, but why would it destroy the human cell? Medicine has given a temporary explanation with the theory of instinct, and 70% of such explanations are pure guesstimate. There is no way that they can come up with an answer for sure. This is like the theory of a person who started as a cell which keeps splitting into two cells and eventually forms such a big person. Why does a cell split? There are no medical answers.

Why do viruses cause us to die? The Buddhist sutras tell us that viruses are the drool of the dragon and the excretions of ghosts and demons. The dragons, ghosts and demons dropped them in order to cause fear and death among the people. If people in a particular area do a lot of good, an epidemic would not occur there. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche often feels sorry every time when he sees people with cancer suffer from it and think that the end of the world is coming. As a matter of fact the influenza is far more frightening than cancer. The doctor- disciple also confirmed that it was rare to hear that people die of cancer two or three days after being diagnosed. A patient with cancer does not necessarily die an immediate death and some can survive another three and five years. But a patient with the flu may die in just a few days. Why is everyone so afraid of cancer but not the flu? When a cancer patient arrives at the hospital, the doctor would tell him there will be a surgery, cutting out a certain part and going through chemotherapy, etc. But if it’s just the flu, the doctor would not be able to make much money out of it, as there wouldn’t be a surgery or chemotherapy, and the patient dies too fast. Many people wouldn’t even have imagined that the tiny flu virus has made someone lying on bed and then dies two or three days later. Furthermore, if you have the flu, you’d be isolated and cannot see your family, whereas with cancer you don’t need to be isolated. Your loved ones can embrace you and take care of you. Cancer is truly the least frightening disease of the world.

Many years ago during the SARS epidemic, a large number of organizations stopped all activities allegedly for the sake of believers’ health; so they were not in contact with the believers. The Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center was the only exception which continued to hold the pujas presided over by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche in various venues in Taipei. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche kept performing the Dharma and would not allow Buddhism to stop or disappear. The SARS was a form of revenge (by sentient beings), causing panic among people, and the relationship and trust between people were gone along with it. Even though you might have survived this epidemic, your health would naturally deteriorate in the future as you had fear for it.

Take for example the enterovirus, meat-eating children are more prone to get infection with enterovirus, and there is a ready medical explanation for this. When meat is eaten it has toxins and thus the higher probability of enterovirus infection, while those fetus vegetarians (vegetarian as a fetus in the mother’s womb) or children who become vegetarian after being born are less likely to acquire enterovirus. They wouldn’t die of it even if they catch it. The Buddha teaches us to be vegetarians for our own good, in addition to the benefit of not hurting sentient beings. Elderly people should not encourage their grandchildren to eat meat for fear that a vegetarian diet has no nutrition.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche often teaches that everyone should let disease serve the purpose of his Buddhist practice. When you fall ill, you should accept the karmic retribution caused by the evils that you have done through your past lives. Do not ask the whole family to yield to your needs or affect the whole family’s life just because you have cancer, which is not as frightening as the flu. If you have cancer and want everyone to sympathize with you, then why you don’t pity those who caught the flu and died immediately? We all live in a fantasy world. The Buddha once taught that when everyone was saying that something is “correct,” you should look at the issue with wisdom and find out if such “correctness” is wrong. On the other hand, when everyone was saying that something is “wrong,” you should look at the issue with wisdom and find out if such “wrongness” is actually correct. Wisdom means that you look at the matter from the perspective of cause and effect, rather than based on the value system.

All religions have ways to cure diseases. There are ways with Catholicism and St. Mary’s Anglican; and even a priest who recites the Rosary well and observes the commandments can cure. But Buddhism is not only about curing diseases. Buddhism teaches us to do good like other religions. The sole difference between them is that only Buddhism can get us liberated from the suffering sea of reincarnation. Other religions do not have the capacity of liberating everyone from life and death.

Though we are still in the first month of the Chinese New Year, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s reiteration on the impermanence of death was not meant to bring bad luck to you. What’s the most important is a change of the state of mind. If you can adjust your state of mind, with some coordination with the practice of Dharma rituals, you can bring tremendous change to your life. But if you cannot change your state of mind, it wouldn’t have any effect on you no matter how many Buddhist sutras you recite, how many Buddhas you worship, or how many Dharma rituals you practice. Many people, after taking refuge, wouldn’t wait before asked Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche what home work they should be doing. Modifying your state of mind toward the impermanence of death is your home work. A right state of mind would be more effective than chanting the mantra one million times. As today is still one of the first days of the new year, if you listen to and accept the Buddhist teachings, this will turn out to be a very good year for you. The coming of Buddha into this world has one purpose only, i.e., to help all sentient beings liberate themselves from life and death. If you seek for liberation from reincarnation, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas would be very happy, since this is the aspiration of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Nothing remains constant forever. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche predicted last year that this is going to be a cold year. Many people do not believe it, thinking that the earth continues to experience global warming effect and it wouldn’t be possible to be very cold. Why was Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche able to predict? That’s because Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche believes in impermanence. Everything will change in the suffering sea of reincarnation. And if you don’t accept the notion of impermanence there would be many sufferings. Nothing remains unchanged. With attachment come sickness and suffering, as well as greed. A heart that does not believe in cause and effect would doubt all Buddhist teachings, causing us to fall ill. If you accept it, you would not experience the suffering of old age, or the suffering of illness, hence you can control your own future. Why do you have to give charity? It’s not that the guru and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas want your money. It’s because you would be completely awakened when you can give up your selfish thought. Just like the case in which Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche accepted the effect of skin cancer, though there was no suffering from the skin cancer, and the effect of heavy karmic retribution was lessened, the karmic retribution would not vanish. Instead, it manifested itself through other modes such as Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s bankruptcy, lack of money to buy food, failure of marriage, and so on.

Master Gampopa revealed, “In addition, there are of course many causal conditions that lead to death, e.g., food which is supposed to nourish our body may become a cause of death as some people choke on it. Clothes and quilts which are supposed to keep us warm may become a cause of death as some people get suffocated with it, just to name a few. If such ‘beneficial causal conditions’ that keep us nourished and warm may be turned into causes of death under certain circumstances, then other purely ‘adverse causal conditions’ such as being killed by the enemy or getting drowned wouldn’t even need to be mentioned. From here we can see that there are indeed an extremely large number of causal conditions that may become the causes of our death. Therefore, this is also one of the factors contributing to the saying – ‘The time of death is uncertain.’”

Food can nourish our body, but we may die because of choking or food poisoning. That being the case, should we still eat any food at all? Quilts and clothes keep us warm, but you have heard of babies being suffocated to death with quilts. This being the case, should we still cover ourselves with quilts at night? Even all the beneficial causal conditions that protect us may be turned, under certain circumstances, into causes of death. This is also one of the factors of uncertain time of death.

There is a religion in India – Jainism, whose believers are vegetarian and do not wear any clothes at all. This religion still exists today and it has quite a large following. When one person become an ordained practitioner the hair on the head is plucked one by one by the guru until bald rather than shaved with a razor.

Master Gampopa taught, “Now that ‘The time of death is uncertain,’ when one is about to die, would there be any auxiliary by his side that may benefit him? No! Absolutely not! We must remember, when we are about to die, there won’t be anything that can help us. The property and treasures that we have worked so hard to accumulate are of no help to us; nor can the piles of possessions of wealthy people fool the black-faced king of hell. As death is becoming imminent, they would have to grudgingly leave such worldly possessions behind and go empty-handed alone, even though they have many family members and relatives around them and gallantly taking care of them. When the last moment of life comes, not only will they be unable to do anything to help, but they may even give us increased hazards. Then would the root of life that all of us have with us be of any help to us at the time of death? You must know the body is only a union of the four cardinal elements, and it has no awareness. That means that it won’t be helpful at the time of death. Based on above reasons, we have realized that nothing would be of any help to us when the time of death is coming near, no matter what it is, including even our body.”

Back then when Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was diagnosed with skin cancer, he did not ask His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang for help, nor did he let his guru know anything about it. It is not that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche did not want His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang to help him with performing the Dharma. Rather, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche did not want his guru to be worried – as insignificant as he was, he did not want his guru to exert any effort because of that.

So you should all take advantage of your good health now and learn how to face death and prepare for it. That will be an important subject. It is not a pessimistic thought, as no one can escape from death. The process of death is not as complicated as you may have imagined. Your thought has made it complicated. When you are dying, there is nobody and nothing that can help you, leaving you to face it all by yourself. When you have the last breath, you may have many doctors and family members around you, but none of them can help you! Family members crying by your side is not a sign that you have blessed reward. Rather it may cause you to have attachment and thus make you suffer more. When you are clear about the uncertainty of the time of death and have learned true Buddhism, you’d know the direction of death, which would give you some blessed reward for your future life. Only the guru and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can give you what you need to depend on upon your last breath. By relying on the teachings of the guru, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, you would be able to peacefully face what a human life must go through and the existent reality. There is no escape from it!

It is painstaking for Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to propagate Buddhism like this. First of all, the guru needs to pay attention to the acts of so many disciples, for fear that you may have committed an offence without knowing it. Secondly, the offerings will be reduced, since many who don’t believe would not come any more. Thirdly, no matter how much the guru has taught, how hard he has tried to convince you, you still would only turn a deaf ear except a very few who truly accept. The Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center is a venue to teach Supramundane Dharma and the Buddha Dharma for you to relinquish life and death. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has to keep close watch on you all day to see if you have committed any fault and therefore it is very hard on him.

A disciple who was ordained many years ago also commented that a long time ago when he was learning The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path of Enlightenment, his guru also touched upon the impermanence of death, which was, nevertheless, far less subtle than Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s teaching. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then remarked, it’s not that his guru did not want to do so. Rather, it’s because he has not experienced death and was unable to describe it. Human life is full of wonder. In order to make a living, we have stuffed our head by learning countless things from small to big in our previous lives as well as in this life so that you become unable to fill additional information and cause you to forget that you should not be in reincarnation. So when death comes near, you wouldn’t have any idea how to handle. Learning Zen Buddhism, Exoteric Buddhism, and Tantra is all about how to face death.

Master Gampopa stated, “For a true practitioner, he should leave all temporary plans and considerations of this life behind and follow a qualified guru.”

Once again Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche reminded everyone that Buddhism will neither interfere with your work nor your life. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has a family and a business just like everybody else. It shows to all of you that learning Buddhism will not cause any inconvenience or trouble in your daily life. The Buddha told us this not because Buddhism needs a lot of disciples. Rather, because the Buddha saw the human suffering, he was telling us these things which will surely happen. According to historical records, there might have been some insignificant disputes over Buddhism but never has there been a war because people tried to get others to believe in it. That’s because Buddhists believe that even though you may believe in Buddhism now, you may turn away and become a non-believer in the future. So Buddhism is subject to the affinity of sentient beings.

Buddhism focuses on people’s mind and is helpful only when they adjust their state of mind. When you accept death, there would be nothing else in life that can become your hindrance. Things happen as they are destined to happen, and you know it’s just a process and will be over for sure. If you could accept that things may not resolve in the way you wish, then you would not have attachment and suffer from it. The human life that we have, with more suffering than pleasure, is for repaying our debts. But no matter how much suffering you have had in life, it cannot compare to the first eight or 12 hours after your last breath, during which time you suffer tremendously from not knowing where you would be reborn! The suffering of reincarnation in the Six Realms is extremely dreadful. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche witnessed such suffering from reincarnation during the retreat in the Snow Mountain of Lapchi in 2007. It is beyond description. Though many doctors have seen a lot of dead bodies, and some practitioners may know about death, without personally experiencing it, there would be fear and panic when one’s death comes near.

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Updated on May 10, 2012