His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – February 10, 2013

On New Year’s Day, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche presided over the Ksitigarbha Puja at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center.

Before the puja commenced, a female disciple who had taken refuge in 2009 expressed her gratitude to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for having given her the opportunity to praise the guru.

She had always kept in mind what His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had often said: “When the time is ripe for karmic retribution, you must return what you owe.” She had been living peacefully with the 2kg uterine myoma she carried in her body. Then, on December 31st, 2012, the same day His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was going to perform the Chod, at around 3:00 in the morning she suddenly felt extremely uncomfortable. She got up and vomited over and over, and her entire body was trembling and in pain until around six o’clock. She was praying over and over to the Dharma Protector Grandmother Achi to grant her the ability to represent sentient beings and participate in the Chod Puja, and to postpone her pain until afterward. But deep down she was thinking, “What should I do if this is influenza? And how is it that the day before yesterday I was just fine?” Her elder son said, “Let’s go ahead and go! There are plenty of doctor Dharma brothers at the Buddhist Center; we should just go.” And so she and her two sons took a taxi straight to the Buddhist Center. As soon as they entered on the first floor, a doctor Dharma brother rushed over to care for her. Because she had no fever, he first reminded her to take her medication, then helped her put on a face mask and took her upstairs to have a seat. Later the doctor Dharma brother came over, tapped her lightly on the back, and said, “You are suffering from kidney inflammation, not the flu.” He told here that after the puja he would be waiting for her at the hospital where he would help her get it checked out. At the time she wondered to herself, “Is it really that serious? Surely I’ll be fine by the time the puja is finished.” After returning home, she really did feel much better; she was simply a bit tired, that was all. She fell asleep as soon as she lay down on her bed. She did not know how long she had been asleep when her husband came home and took her temperature. Discovering that she had a high fever, he forced her to go to the hospital emergency room. She hated going to the hospital, because she did not know what ailed her and was afraid of getting poked and prodded again. Besides, it was evening, and most of the doctors on duty were residents. Suddenly she remembered what the doctor Dharma brother had said about “kidney inflammation.” And so she hurriedly told her husband about it, and was immediately given a CT scan and other tests, as well as having her blood taken. The test results showed her white blood cell count at over 20,000. The doctor told her that both her kidneys and ureters where inflamed, and that there was a large fibroid tumor, a uterine myoma, in her abdomen, and that she must contact an OB/GYN doctor for immediate surgery. She thought to herself that that would not do; she did not have any Dharma photos with her of His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche or of Grandmother Achi. She fretted as she watched her husband busy himself back and forth for a long time. Only after a nurse had given her a shot of antibiotics and her husband had signed a release form did the hospital agree to allow her to leave the hospital. That night, after returning home, her fever gradually subsided. The next day, on the recommendation of a friend, she went to the OB/GYN department at a different hospital for a second opinion. She had never seen this new doctor, but he was good friends with the doctor Dharma brother from the puja. In a round-about way, she believed deep down that this had all been arranged by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Very quickly she was able to make arrangements for an operation to remove the 2kg uterine myoma. Surgery only lasted 40 minutes; she did not need a blood transfusion. After passing gas the next day, she was already able to eat again, and they disconnected her urinary catheter as well. On the third day they removed the IV from her hand, and on the fourth day she returned home.

All of these skilful arrangements helped lessen the effect of heavy karmic retribution on her. She wanted to express her gratitude to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for saying during the Chod Puja, “Do not wait until the time has come. When one is subjected to a urinary catheter, nasogastric tube, and tracheostomy tube simultaneously, that leaves that person without dignity, lying completely naked on a sick bed.” At that moment she finally came to the sudden realization that if she did not stop doing evil and instead do good deeds, if she continued to be disobedient, if she did not follow The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, then she would be done for. Prior to her operation, the physician had given her a series of tests and discovered that the uterine myoma was undergoing differentiation. Her husband had been extremely frightened and worried; immediately after the operation he had asked the doctor for the results. When the doctor reported that the tumor was benign, did not have any internal adhesions, and had come out all in one piece, she understood clearly that all of this was thanks to His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessings.

Afterward she made a public repentance: “During the first month after giving birth to my children, I ate all sorts of consumable sentient beings similar to a fibroid tumor such as pig liver, chicken claws, chicken feet, fish, shrimp, and so on. In this lifetime I have had things just because I like to have them without any thought to the many sentient beings I have harmed in my opinionated self-righteousness.” She repented that she would never again commit such an act again, that she would be obedient and follow the guru’s teachings, that she would strive hard in accordance with The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas to push herself to stop doing evil and to instead do good.

At the same time, she also thanked her karmic creditors, for without them she might never have met the grand practitioner His Eminence Vajra Guru Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche or been able to take refuge with His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche that she might properly practice Buddhism. Last Saturday when she went to the Buddhist Center to make a grateful offering to His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, she was still in the middle of making her report when His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche called her to come forward, blessed her for a long time. She did not even have to implore for blessings. His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche could not bear for the bodies of sentient beings to suffer, and would do all he could to help sentient beings. The next day the guru would perform the Dharma for countless sentient beings. Thinking about this, tears again streamed down her cheeks. She vowed that in this life, the next life, and for eternity she would follow His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and leave the sea of suffering and never be reincarnated again. She was grateful for all the help given her by Vajra Brothers from all walks of life, and thanked her doctor Dharma brothers for all the care and concern they had shown her while she had been in hospital.

Next a female disciple who had taken refuge on January 16th, 2001, was grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for allowing her the opportunity to be able to give praise to the guru’s great compassion.

On June 6th, 2010, for the first time she had the causal condition to participate in the auspicious Grand Memorial Puja Commemorating the 793rd Anniversary of Lord Jigten Sumgon of the Drikung Kagyu Order of Tibetan Buddhism presided over by His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang. But at the time she did not believe in Buddhism; she participated in the puja with a self-righteous attitude and held the extremely disrespectful belief that her mere attendance was enough. She did not think she needed to listen carefully; after all, she thought to herself, she did not understand what she was hearing anyway. When she wanted to leave but was not allowed to, she kept asking her husband, who had accompanied her, “Well, we’re here. Can we go now?” At the time she had only agreed to come in order to placate her husband, thinking that making a brief appearance would be enough. She had only taken a seat because of her husband’s repeated appeasements, and she kept nodding off all the way to the end of the puja. Looking back on it now, she really was extremely disrespectful and behaving terribly. It was this auspicious Grand Puja that helped her attain the good fortune of being allowed after that to sign up to participate in The Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness presided over by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche on October 3rd, 2010.

When the puja was finished, she wanted to call the Glorious Jewel Antique Store to sign up to seek an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to implore Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to transfer consciousness for her mother. Her mother had passed away on August 17th, 2000. Because her mother had been in the final stage of colon cancer, the doctor had estimated that she would only live for another half a year. Still, this was not enough to cause her, the daughter—who at the time was only twenty years old, had just graduated, and still loved to party—to believe that impermanence was so close; she was still in denial of her mother’s impending death, and even wanted to run away from it. Not only did she not take advantage of the short time she had left to be filial to her mother; she even caused her seriously ill mother to worry about her by staying out all night partying on a night that her mother had specially prepared her favorite dish for her, pork belly. This very act had increased her mother’s karma of killing. She truly was extremely unfilial. By then her mother had undergone so much pain from stage four cancer. To this day she cannot forget how her mother began chemotherapy full of hope, yet had descended into despair, death, and fear, until in the end her mother abandoned her will to live. Less than three short months after the onset of her cancer, her mother had had enough of the pain and of the unsuccessful medical treatments. By the end, due to a constant accumulation of serous fluid in her peritoneal cavity, she often had to go to the hospital to have two large vats full of bloody ascitic fluid extracted. The needled used to extract the ascitic fluid was at least twenty centimeters long, too! How could she not feel terrified at seeing such an enormous needle being jabbed into her belly?

Her mother’s arms and legs became gradually thinner, and because of the ascitic fluid, her abdomen began to protrude as if she were ten months pregnant. After that she stopped being able to eat, and began to vomit up an unbearable stench. In the end, seeing their mother who wanted nothing but to die, her children gave up, too, hoping that death would be able to bring her some relief. They could no longer bear to watch their mother endure her extreme torment and suffering just in order to keep on living! On the day their mother passed away, the four children took turns reciting Buddhist sutras by their mother’s bedside. All she wanted was for her mother to be able to go with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to the Pure Land, and to quit being reluctant to follow the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas out of worry for her children and husband. In their hearts, however, they felt uncertainty; when their mother went, was she okay? Did she go to Hell and suffer? As a result, whenever she heard about a Dharma function for transferring consciousness being performed, she would sign up; whenever she heard about a ritual for retrieving a dead soul, she would go and make an inquiry. In those days her entire family was having a hard time. Mother was gone; the family had split up. And after ten years, that kernel of pain and suffering buried deep within her heart had neither disappeared nor dissipated one bit.

She was able to participate in the Chod Puja after seeking an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to implore the guru to transfer consciousness for her mother. At the time, though she was worried that she would have to be a vegetarian if she participated in the puja, she still implored Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. When the guru agreed to transfer consciousness for her mother and to allow her to participate in the Chod Puja, he asked her, “Can you be a vegetarian?” She immediately and very naturally answered, “Yes I can!” Only because of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessing was she able to resolve to go vegetarian; otherwise, there was no telling how many sentient beings she would have continued to harm in order to satisfy her oral cravings. For at the time she absolutely loved to eat chicken breasts and steaks, and she was even fonder of going to all-you-can-eat restaurants and devouring fresh seafood. She said she was that evil person with an extremely greedy appetite who just had to get her money’s worth when it came to food!

After participating in the auspicious Chod Puja presided over by His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, she started thinking about imploring to participate in the general pujas held every Sunday. However, because her attitude was not correct, at first she was self-righteous, haughty and arrogant, and harbored doubts. All she wanted was to use the Sunday general pujas as an opportunity to change her personality and unravel the bottleneck she felt in her interpersonal relationships. She selfishly thought she could use Buddhism and use His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to solve her life’s problems. Thus, when she sought an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked her, “Why do you want to practice Buddhism?” and compassionately instructed her, “Go home and think it through before you come back and implore again!”

Because her attitude was not correct, she of course was unable to think of the answer, and so naturally did not dare to return to implore again. Thereupon she began to read His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s auspicious work, Happiness and Suffering, hoping that she would be able to glean an answer from the book that she might use to prepare a smart comeback for the guru! Because of this extremely disrespectful intention of hers, she naturally was still unable to think of a way to seek an audience, and so she abandoned the idea. But when she found out about an upcoming refuge puja, she again aroused the notion of imploring to take refuge. She thought the only way she would be able to harden her resolve would be to take refuge, and thinking of the passage in the book that said “it is difficult to attain the human form; it is rare to be able to listen to true Buddha Dharma; it is hard to encounter a guru,” she worried that if she missed this opportunity, would she ever have another?

And so she discussed with her husband her wish to take refuge, but her husband did not at all approve. He wanted her to be honest with herself: Wasn’t it too soon to take refuge? She kept thinking it about it until the Friday before the refuge puja. Actually, she was not sure whether or not the refuge puja was to take place that week. She thought she would definitely need to go and seek His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s permission before she would be able to take refuge. So again she drummed up the courage to ask her husband if he would agree to sign up and go with her on Saturday to seek an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to allow her to take refuge. This time His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche did not ask her again why she wanted to practice Buddhism, but instead blessed her with a precious and compassionate teaching: “Do not lecture others from a Buddhist point of view, especially when it comes to your own husband.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was so amazing that the guru had known early on that she was a self-righteous, haughty, and arrogant person; the guru had known what her problem was, and had told her clearly. She kept telling herself that she must never forget the guru’s teaching, because this was most definitely the source of her problem that she must pay attention to, and even if she did not understand it, she must not forget!

Sure enough, as soon as she took refuge, she began having frequent disputes with her husband and mother-in-law over eating vegetarian food because she had aroused a self-righteous, evil thought. This caused obstacles to appear, but thanks to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessing, she was allowed the good fortune of amending herself and given the opportunity to constantly follow a meritorious guru and to continue practicing Buddhism. She was grateful to His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

Hereto she wanted to make a public repentance, and repent for all the evil karma she had accumulated over her lifetimes, for karma of killing, and for all the sentient beings she had harmed. She repented for the evil thoughts she had due to often being self-righteous, haughty, and arrogant, and for the grief this had caused people around her. She repented for the various evil acts she had committed that had harmed sentient beings. Ever since she had begun practicing Buddhism and been given countless blessings and help by the guru, still she had not been able to praise the guru for them all, and for this she repented. She wanted even more to repent that she had not had a respectful enough attitude while participating in the pujas, and had not diligently practiced Buddhism, nor had she completely surrendered herself to the guru.

“It is difficult to attain the human form; it is rare to be able to listen to true Buddha Dharma; it is hard to encounter a guru.” She was grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for compassionately saving sentient beings, for transferring her mother’s consciousness, for allowing her mother the opportunity to be helped by the Dharma and transcend from the sea of suffering, for allowing her to be able to let go of her attachment to the pain and suffering from the impermanence of life and death that her mother had experienced, and for bestowing upon her an opportunity to practice Buddhism. At the same time she was grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for bestowing upon her and all sentient beings such precious Dharma teachings. She vowed to be a better listener, to learn Buddhism, to amend herself, to be liberated from the cycle of reincarnation, to be filial toward her parents, and to reciprocate the guru’s kindness through gratitude. She earnestly prayed that His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to have good health and keep turning the Dharma wheel, to spread the Dharma far and wide, and to remain in this world eternally.

His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne to preside over the puja at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Taipei, and performed the auspicious Dharma method of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and bestowed precious Dharma teachings upon all attendees.

What was performed today was the Dharma method of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. In Exoteric Buddhism, the Dharma of Ksitigarbha would not be not performed on New Year’s Day because the belief that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s vow was, “I vow not to attain Buddhahood unless and until all the Hells are empty,” can lead to the mistaken view that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha only meant to liberate ghostly beings. Those who practice Exoteric Buddhism think, therefore, that on New Year’s Day it is not fitting to perform the Dharma method of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. In Japan, every cemetery contains a stone effigy of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, and this is true of Taiwan as well. In actuality, this is the result of a misconception of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is one of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas. Although the Bodhisattva’s vow was, “I vow not to attain Buddhahood unless and until all the Hells are empty,” in essence Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha had already attained Buddhahood, and only appeared in various emanations in order to benefit sentient beings.

Many people in society think that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha only liberates ghosts. There are even people who say that if you recite The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows too much, ghostly beings will follow you. They tell others that they should not recite The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows at night because Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha attracts ghosts; this sort of language is actually slander against the Buddha. Obviously, these people do not have a deep enough understanding of the sutras. Some people feel like their backs get cold while reciting sutras, and as a result the more they recite the more afraid they get. Do not think that a cool sensation at your back while you are reciting a sutra means ghostly beings are coming for you; if you are putting your heart into your recitations, then you will begin to sweat, and any breeze wafting against your back will naturally make you feel cold. You are not qualified to make ghosts follow you, because there are only a handful of situations in which a ghost would follow you: One is if you possess the ability to transfer consciousness, for this would make a ghost follow you in order to obtain your help. Another is if you owe him something from a past life. But if you practice Buddhism, then in the future the ghostly beings will be able to be liberated as well. So in this case a ghost might follow you, but would not obstruct you. The third situation is if the ghost is your Dharma protector.

Some people will tell you that a pack of ghosts are following you. If someone says this to you, it means he has the ability to see ghosts, and so he should also have the ability to help liberate those ghosts. So when you hear someone say this kind of thing to you, you should ask that person to help you fix the problem and not say such a thing just to scare people. If he does not have the ability to liberate the ghosts, then there is no use in his even mentioning them. In reality, what person does not have a pack of ghosts following him or her? Think about it. How much meat have you eaten in your lives? Ever since Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche started to help sentient beings, the guru has often seen people who have a pack of ghosts following them. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche once saw a school of fish following a person; another time he saw a person wearing a lobster on his head. When the guru asked this person why he had a lobster following him, he said he fished up lobsters for a living and killed lobsters every day. One time Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche went to India, and a local man came seeking audience with the guru. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche saw that there was a wild boar ramming into the man’s waist over and over, and this was causing the man’s waist to ache. The man’s profession did not put him in contact with wild boars, however. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked him what he had done to offend a wild boar, and it turned out that this man had once gone hunting in the wilderness with his uncle. When his uncle had killed a wild boar, the man had merely been at his side lending a hand, yes the wild boar had followed him ever since.

So you must not think that nothing will happen to you if you are simply standing to the side, watching on as someone commits a killing act. In this life, everything that does not go smoothly for you happens because of karma from killing you have committed. The reason Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche mentions having seen ghosts is that the act of voicing those visions is meant to help liberate them. If someone simply sees them but is unable to help fix the situation, then he should not say such things as “there are ghosts following you” in order to scare people. Taking advantage of other people by saying such things to unsettle them in order to achieve some objective is very bad. In fact, there are ghostly beings all over the place; all you have to do is leave the Buddhist Center, and there will be many ghostly beings about. There are some outside the Buddhist Center’s windows at this very moment.

Why would people misunderstand Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s aspiration to “..not attain Buddhahood unless and until all the Hells are empty,” thinking Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha only meant to liberate ghostly beings, thus making up a heap of incorrect concepts? Because these days a lot of people who practice Buddhism are merely doing research or deliberating on the contents of the sutras, and not really implementing Buddhism in their daily lives. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s method of learning Buddhism is to practice in complete accord with the teachings of the gurus, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas, and afterward to use what is recorded in the sutras to validate the state of his own cultivation and subject it to the guru’s verification. However, those of you practicing Buddhism often do not verify whether or not you are going against the teachings of the sutras based on the state of your cultivation. The sutras mention that if one uses the written word to explain the Dharma, then Buddhas of the Three Lives will cry out in grievance. That is, the Buddhas of the Past Life, the Present Life, and the Future Life will all tell you that you are wrong. The Buddhist sutras are to be used for self-cultivation, not as a subject for idle chat; nor are they meant to be the subjects of academic study. There are also a lot of people who think that all they need to do is to recite the sutras at home by themselves or watch television while listening to the Dharma. They think they do not need to attend the Buddhist Center and follow the guru’s teachings; they feel they can cultivate themselves just fine the way they are, and that they are able to understand what they read in the Buddhist sutras. The sutras teach us that “listening to the sutras is not as good as reciting the sutras, and reciting the sutras is not as good as putting them into practice.” Putting the sutras into practice means complying with the teachings of the sutras, accepting the Dharma, and implementing Buddhism in your daily lives in order to amend your behavior. Practicing Buddhism does not mean studying the meaning of the texts and knowing a lot of Buddhist terms, but rather using the Buddhism you have heard and learned. Only then can you cultivate yourselves and become liberated from life and death.

Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is one of the most important Bodhisattvas who helps the Buddha propagate Buddhist teachings in the Sahā world and go to the Dharma Realm to help sentient beings. His complete sacred appellation is “Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha of the Great Vow.” The words “Great Vow” do not mean that there are different sizes of vows; nor does it mean that Bodhisattvas are divided into great and small Bodhisattvas. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas no longer have a discriminating mind, and their vows are not divided into great and small. As is mentioned in The Diamond Sutra, the Bodhisattvas have already eliminated the four forms: the form of self, the form of humanity, the form of time, and the form of sentient beings. These four forms are about destroying all of our discriminations and attachments. “Great” means all-encompassing; it means Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s intention to benefit sentient beings is vast, and includes sentient beings in all of the Six Realms and all of the voids. The Bodhisattva made his vow for the sake of sentient beings, and gives aid to sentient beings according to their causes and conditions. In society there are people who vow that they will do all kinds of things after they attain Buddhahood. Actually, the Bodhisattvas’ vows are not like that at all; it is already confirmed that they can succeed, and they attained Buddhahood solely for the benefit of sentient beings—and not so that they could manifest some great power or other. For example, there was a person in Taiwan recently who performed the Medicine Buddha Dharma and claimed that he had made twelve great vows. You should not vow things arbitrarily; nor should you invent a bunch of weird vows after seeing someone make a great vow, or add even more vows.

The sutras mention that Bodhisattvas who make vows have already attained the Eighth Ground fruition level and are practicing the Bodhi Path. Before vowing to benefit sentient beings, they have already proven that they are able to do this. A practitioner must only make vows after he or she is able to practice the Bodhi Path; otherwise the vows are nothing but empty words. Neither the recitation of sutras nor prostrations to the Buddha is cultivation of Buddhism; they are nothing more than helpful causal connections. They do not comprise practicing the Bodhi Path. The Bodhisattvas are not self-proclaimed; they must possess the prerequisite behaviors, thoughts, and conditions for Bodhisattvas as documented in The Maharatnakuta Sutra. Any person practicing Buddhism must do so in sequential steps. If you have not cultivated compassion or a Bodhi mind, then how can you possibly practice the Bodhi path? If you are not acting in accordance with The Maharatnakuta Sutra, you are not Bodhisattvas. Any person practicing Buddhism should always practice according to the sutras.

Actually, you all have no need to flaunt your intelligence by thinking up other vows; the Aspiration Prayer, the Four Immeasurables Prayer, and the Dedication Prayer you recite during every puja are in fact vows. Prior to attaining the fruition of a Bodhisattva, you are better off just going along with the contents of the prayers. Vowing to do certain great deeds once one attains Buddhahood is unrealistic, and there is no need to act clever and invent all sorts of strange and wonderful vows, such as imploring the Buddha, “If you help me make lots of money, I vow to erect an effigy in the Buddha’s honor.” In practicing Buddhism you should not have the attitude of hoping for something in return, or think that after practicing Buddhism you will naturally be able to make money. Promising the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that you will go vegetarian as long as they help you—this sort of attitude while practicing Buddhism is completely wrong! If you implore the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and say that if they help you make a chunk of money, then once you have it you will practice and make offerings, isn’t this sort of attitude tantamount to threatening and blackmailing the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? Are you trying to negotiate terms with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? Strictly speaking, this is none other than bribery! How could you practice Buddhism using bribery? Never mind the fact that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are all perfectly complete and lack nothing. The reason that they are willing to accept offerings from sentient beings is that they are compassionate and wish to allow sentient beings an opportunity to accumulate good fortune. A person who practices Buddhism makes vows in order to benefit sentient beings, not to benefit himself or herself. If even a little bit is done for your own benefit, then it is not a vow; it is just your desire.

For some people, their financial situations do improve after they begin practicing Buddhism. This is because some people who practice Buddhism in accordance with the Dharma will naturally see an improvement in their financial situations; such people are very rare, so the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Dharma protectors will all come forward to support them. Like Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, who always practices in accordance with the teachings of the gurus and the Buddha; his financial situation became better and better. Just as Master Gampopa taught: when a practitioner cultivates a Tantra successfully, then everything will be perfect and complete, including all the things and property he or she needs. So after Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche achieved attainment in Tantra, it was exactly as Master Gampopa taught; many good things naturally appeared without the guru needing to ask for them.

Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha does not only help sentient beings in the Ghost Realm or the Hell Realm as you all seem to believe. The “Ksiti” part of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s name does not refer to Hell, but rather that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s compassion is as vast as the Earth. The foundation of Buddhism is compassion; the word “Great” in the Bodhisattva’s title refers to great compassion and aspiration. As with life on Earth, if they did not have the Earth to nurture it, all living things would not be able to continue to exist. Similar to the great Earth, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha taught sentient beings to nurture their compassion.

Compassion is the foundation of Buddhism—without compassion there is no Dharma. A compassionate mind is like the nutrients contained within the Earth; it can nourish the growth of Bodhi trees. Just as all living things require earth to be able to grow, whether they are animals or plants they all must be watered and nourished by the Earth. Plants cannot grow from bare rock; the most that can grow there are a few forms of lichen. To cultivate the Bodhi mind one must first immerse oneself in the Dharma and cultivate a compassionate mind. The Bodhi mind is like a seed, and compassion is the nutrient. Only by way of the Earth’s nourishment can it grow. You should not argue that some plants are able to grow hydroponically, or think that plants that do not require soil can also grow. All water must pass through and be filtered by earth; only water that contains minerals can be used in hydroponics. Plants cannot grow from pure H2O. Similarly, practicing Buddhism must be done by way of cultivating compassion; a Bhodi tree can only grow from earth that is fertilized with compassion. And only after that Bhodi tree becomes robust and lush can it benefit countless sentient beings.

Compassion and emptiness have to work together. Emptiness does not mean “nothing;” in Buddhism, the explanation of “emptiness” is not the absence of everything that we typically associate with that word. Rather, it is the law of cause and condition; compassion arises as a result of condition, and ceases as a result of condition. When sentient beings’ conditions arise, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will bestow their help upon them according to the sentient beings’ good fortune and root capacity. If the condition ceases, the power of compassion stops; it does not cling to the condition. Just as Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has helped many people; however, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche cannot remember the majority of people he has helped. This is because Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche helps sentient beings with the compassion of emptiness. If one’s compassion is not implemented together with emptiness, one will give rise to attachments. If we become attached to the good we do, then these good deeds will also create karma and cause us to be reincarnated.

“Garbha” means “embryo of awakening.” In other words, it is the Buddha nature that all sentient beings possess. Every person is born with an embryo of awakening that is the potential for Buddhahood. The presence of earth allows a Bodhi tree to grow; the Bodhi tree requires the Earth’s nourishment to flourish. The embryo of awakening is the Buddha nature, and is the wisdom of emptiness; it nourishes the Bodhi tree just like the minerals and so on contained in water. When a practitioner unlocks the innate wisdom, he or she reveals the embryo of awakening, and thus can help sentient beings as long as such actions do not go against the law of causation. While practicing Buddhism one must cultivate wisdom and compassion. Only by cultivating both of these can one attain the ability to help sentient beings. Furthermore, only by having wisdom and compassion can one see the cause and effect of sentient beings, know their cause and condition, and not make mistakes or help them incorrectly. If a practitioner cultivates compassion but not wisdom, he or she will be reduced to nothing more than a nice person who tries to be on good terms with everyone. If one cultivates wisdom but not a compassionate mind, the result will be pride, haughtiness, and arrogance. The practitioner will think he or she is different from other sentient beings, and will not be able to use a compassionate mind to experience and empathize with the suffering of sentient beings, and will not be able to benefit them.

Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s vow was, “I vow not to attain Buddhahood unless and until all the Hells are empty.” These words do not simply mean that the Bodhisattva would only liberate all sentient beings from Hell, as some of you might think. For example; every country has laws; the purpose of formulating those laws is to prevent people from committing crimes and being locked up in prison. As long as no one breaks the law, no one will go to prison. Similarly, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha teaches sentient beings about cause and effect so that once they have an understanding of cause and effect, they can lessen the causes—the evil acts—that would send them into hell. So when the karmic retributions of sentient beings in hell end, after their causes and conditions mature, they will leave hell; the number of sentient beings in hell gradually decreases, until one day hell will be empty. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha does not wish for sentient beings to descend into the Three Evil Realms, so He helps them by teaching them to practice Buddhism. This is different from the misinformation spread in society, that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha only liberates the sentient beings in the Ghost Realm.

Many people who recite sutras for the dead but who do not have the ability to help them transfer consciousness tend to chant while watching the body of the deceased, all the while wondering, “Is the deceased gone yet? Has my chanting worked yet?” On the contrary, this causes the deceased to become confused. The deceased who never practiced Buddhism while alive might even wonder, “Where exactly is it that you want me to go?” Benefiting sentient beings is not that easy, nor can calling the Recitation Assistance Group to chant for the deceased, or folding lotus flowers, or covering the deceased with a Tantric-Dharani quilt, help the deceased to go to the Pure Land. While chanting mantra for the deceased, one’s mind must be empty of all other thoughts besides the mantra without even asking for the deceased to go to the Pure Land, let alone chanting in order to obtain an offering from the deceased’s family. While practicing Exoteric Buddhism, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche almost never conducted an assisting recitation for the deceased. This is unlike you; as soon as you hear of people asking you to assist their deceased with a recitation, you go, hoping that this will help you accumulate merits. This attitude is not right. The only time Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ever assisted the deceased with a recitation was to help a close friend’s father when he passed away. When Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche assisted this friend by performing a recitation for his father, the guru was still learning Exoteric Buddhism. The friend called to inform the guru that the friend’s father had passed away, and this was the only reason the guru agreed to assist him with a recitation. First and foremost was the guru’s gratitude to this friend for having started him down the path of practicing Buddhism; the guru wanted to do whatever he could to help his friend with his father. Only later did the guru read in the sutras that so long as any sentient being sincerely prays and implores Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha while representing the deceased, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha will definitely not let the deceased descend into hell.

At that time, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had been reciting the Amitabha for the deceased for more than an hour, yet the deceased still would not leave. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche knew what the deceased’s hang-up was: he was afraid that after he was gone, there would be no one left to take care of his wife. So the guru asked his friend to whisper next to his deceased father’s ear that he would take care of his mother. As a result, after another two or three minutes of recitation, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche saw a bouquet of white lotus flowers decending from above, showing that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha had come to escort the deceased. At first Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche thought it was a hallucination. Afterward, the guru read something in the sutras that completely matched with what he had seen: It does not matter which Buddha or Bodhisattva one practices to, so long as the person chanting for the deceased is sincere and wants nothing for himself, keeps the precepts and acts according to the Dharma, and is reciting for the deceased with a worry in mind that the deceased might descend into hell,thus Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha will never allow the deceased to descend into the Three Evil Realms regardless of what the deceased did while he or she was alive. While Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s friend’s father was alive, his family had been well-off; he had frequently gone hunting, and loved to eat gourmet cuisine. Later he had succumbed to a stroke. At the time, while Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was assisting his friend’s father with a recitation, the guru had recited very sincerely out of gratitude to his friend without seeking any specific help for the deceased. So Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha was moved, and came to escort the deceased.

If a practitioner helping the deceased transfer consciousness does not know what the deceased’s attachments are, he cannot help the deceased. It is very difficult to encounter a master practitioner who has such ability, and even then the deceased must possess the proper cause and condition and good fortune before he can be helped. But none of you know what it means to cherish. Yesterday a female disciple came to implore Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to liberate her mother, because her mother had passed away. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked them who would be able to come participate in the Puja for Transferring Consciousness. It turned out that the son of the deceased would not be able to attend. Other family members explained for the son that he had to return to the Mainland for work; even the female disciple spoke for her younger brother. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche admonished this female disciple. The guru was going to to help her mother, yet she still felt there was reason to explain; if she had felt she had been so right all along, then there had been no need for her to learn Buddhism from Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche in the first place. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has very little tolerance for people who are unfilial. When the guru bestowed blessings upon her mother, the guru learned one of the mother’s secrets. Even though the female disciple had never mentioned it, no sooner did Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche begin the blessings than the guru learned of the deceased’s suffering: even though the deceased had participated in more than a year’s worth of Chod Pujas while still alive, still, she had not been a vegetarian. The female disciple had known full well that people who participate in the Chod Puja must remain a vegetarian for the rest of their lives, yet she brazenly committed the offense anyway. She did not ask her mother to quit eating meat, and not only that, she excused her by saying that whenever her mother went to stay with any of her siblings, she had not been with her, and therefore her mother did not remain a vegetarian. But she knew full well that her mother should be a vegetarian, yet had been an accomplice to her mother’s having eaten meat. The result was that she had caused her mother to suffer, and had troubled the guru. It was evident that this daughter had broken her own precept, as she did not listen to the guru and keep the precepts. You people who are still living might do certain things to cause Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to wave slightly and let you muddle through; however, after you have passed away and become a ghost, you will suffer much, and you definitely will no longer deceive. Only then will you be able to immediately accept the Dharma. As can be seen, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche should really just wait until you pass away and then liberate you, because you are not obedient. You still think you are practicing Buddhism in order to enjoy a better life; only when you realize your own degree of suffering will you understand the importance of the guru.

So in the future, do not come asking whether or not your relatives have gone to the Pure Land; it depends on the cause and condition and good fortune of the deceased. In society when ordinary people conduct recitation assistance for the deceased, they are doing so while seeking something in return; naturally they are not able to become attuned to the Bodhisattvas. Back while Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was still learning Exoteric Buddhism, though the guru had not yet achieved the Constant Mindfulness of Buddha Amitabha as written in The Amitabha Sutra, the guru was able to move the Bodhisattva to come escort the deceased. That was because Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, full of gratitude, wanting nothing in return, wholeheartedly and sincerely implored the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to assist the deceased. Therefore Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha helped escort the deceased so that the deceased would not descend into the Three Evil Realms. At the time Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had recited for the deceased for more than an hour and the deceased still would not leave. This meant that while he had still been alive, the deceased had not chanted the Buddha’s name, nor repented, and still had attachments. Luckily, he still had a little bit of good fortune that he was able to have Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche give him recitation assistance.

Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s chief reason for helping sentient beings is so that they will not descend into the Three Evil Realms. When Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was helping his good friend’s father, the guru was reciting the Amitabha. However, the one who came to escort the deceased was Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha—so you should not think that just because you are chanting a certain Buddha or Bodhisattva’s name, that particular Buddha or Bodhisattva will necessarily be the one to come; Buddhas and Bodhisattvas come according to sentient being’s affinities. The Bodhisattvas are all very friendly with one another, and there is a good deal of communication between them. When one of your family members passes away, reciting the Amitabha will not necessarily bring Amitabha to escort the deceased; it could be Bodhisattva Avolokiteshvara that comes instead. The sutras mention that all the Buddhas in the Ten Directions vowed to help Amitabha in Amitabha’s aspiration to benefit sentient beings, bringing forth the appearance of a vast and long tongue to praise the Buddha Amitabha’s merits. So long as you are practicing the Pure Land teachings and reciting the Buddha Amitabha’s name, all of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will be willing to come forward to lend a hand. They will come to help because every sentient being has a different cause and condition, and every Buddha and Bodhisattva has a different aspiration. Which Buddha or Bodhisattva appears depends on the cause and condition and good fortune of that particular sentient being, as well as whether the sentient being has any affinities with a particular Buddha or Bodhisattva. As long as the sentient being has been respectful and recited the Buddha’s name, the Buddha or Bodhisattva will come to help escort the deceased. While Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was reciting for His friend’s father, the guru made no requests, but rather let the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas decide. But for those of you who make requests while reciting, or implore that the deceased will be taken to the Pure Land, the result is that it is not the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas deciding, but rather you yourselves. This sort of recitation assistance does nothing to help the deceased.

Shakyamuni Buddha introduced The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows in order to help sentient beings. So long as sentient beings are sincerely imploring the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to help the deceased, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha will always come to escort the deceased and not let him or her descend into the Three Evil Realms. While revealing The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Be filial to your parents,” and mentioned how you should handle the details before and after your family members’ deaths as well as what you should do before and after giving birth. Ordinary people mistakenly believe that The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows is nothing more than a sutra that teaches filial piety. But if that were true, then why would the Buddha have taught another one entitled The Sutra of Filial Piety? There is a reason behind everything the Buddha says—it is all to benefit sentient beings. The Buddha would not teach something that had nothing to do with sentient beings. Of all the causes that could send us down into hell, the easiest to commit is being unfilial. Being filial means not letting your parents be troubled by anything their children do; piety means understanding what your parents need, helping them, and doing your best to comply with their desires, as long as they do not involve anything illegal.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche took himself as an example. A few months ago, the guru’s child did something that was not filial. As a result, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ignored the child for a full six months. The guru refused to see his own child or speak with the child; not even on the phone. In ancient times, Great Yu passed his own home three times without entering it; Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche passed his child’s house every day without entering in order to teach the child that the child was in the wrong. You parents in attendance—put yourselves in his shoes: Would you not worry about whether or not your child has eaten today? Whether or not he had enough money? But Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had already given enough; the guru was totally indifferent to his child. On the surface, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s behavior toward his child seemed very cruel. The fact was, however, that the guru did not want to indulge the child’s unfilial act. Many parents help their children find excuses, thus helping them to be unfilial. As parents, loving your children deeply is natural; however, you should not indulge or spoil your children.

One time a female believer brought her children with her to seek an audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. She believed her husband’s behavior to be improper, so she had gathered all of her children to her side to stand up to her husband in a united front. This was very bad of her. If a married couple argues, the mother must not tell the children of the father’s wrongdoings; doing so teaches the children to be unfilial. You have to sort out the problems between you and your spouse, but you must not make your children choose a side; you must not cause your children to be unfilial. Some people will say that some parents do a lot of bad things, and that this is bad for their children. Even so, any parents who gave us life and a body with which to practice Buddhism are good parents. Any other considerations are the parents’ own causes and conditions, and the parents themselves will have to face their karmic retribution. With regard to parents treating their children badly, the cause and condition and cause and effect are very complex, so the children should not criticize their parents; no matter how much the parents are at fault, it is not the children’s purview to chide their parents. No matter what your parents do, they gave birth to you, so you owe them your gratitude and should feel grateful. You should not feel anger or hate toward your parents, nor should you ever look down on them; people with such an attitude risk descending into hell. You should realize that no one, not your girlfriends or your boyfriends, can ever surpass the good your parents have done for you. Someone’s son went to America and did not return to visit his parents, and the parents did not ask him to come back, either. The child was clearly being unfilial, but even so the parents worried about losing face, so they made excuses for their son. Another person, living in Taiwan, did not come home to visit his parents for many months. Just how big is Taiwan, anyhow? How long would it have taken to make a trip home?

Yesterday a male disciple came to repent to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, saying that he had accidentally drunk a bowl of his mother’s meat soup. He knew full well that his mother ate meat, so how could he expect that she would cook up a vegetarian soup? Even if he had taken a little bite without thinking, vegetarians can taste meat very easily; how would he not have detected it? If he was eating meat even after having taken refuge, it was evident that he had not been up front with his mother, and that indicated a problem within his own mind. If he had made a resolution to stop eating meat, then surely he would have made this clear to his mother by letting her know that he absolutely would not eat meat anymore. In future, do not come to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche saying that you have accidentally eaten a meat dish cooked by a family member; in truth this is your own problem. Ever since Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche went vegetarian and began practicing Buddhism, not once has the guru’s mother cooked meat soup for him. It all depends on how resolved you are to practice Buddhism. If you are not ordinarily mindful of keeping your precepts, then having your mother cook a meat dish for you is a violation of the precepts as well. This entails a very severe karmic retribution, and is itself unfilial.

If you have resolved to not eat meat, then you can remain vegetarian no matter where you go. There is no need to make excuses such as “vegetarians do not make good businessmen;” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is a vegetarian, but doesn’t the guru conduct his business just fine? Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche once used himself as an example to teach you; at one time a certain person knew that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was vegetarian, and intentionally asked Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to drink alcohol. The person even said that after drinking the guru would be given a contract worth tens of millions. But Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche simply told the person, “Let’s just be friends and leave it at that. We do not need to do business.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was not willing to drink the alcohol. In the end, however, the person ended up signing the contract anyway.

On New Year’s Day Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was going to perform the Dharma method of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and lead you in a recitation of The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. The guru’s intention in doing so was not so that you could go and do whatever you want after participating in the puja and have everything go smoothly; rather, it was to teach you where you have been at fault, and let you know that you must amend yourselves and not make those same mistakes for the entire year. The reason the guru allowed everyone to recite The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows and taught everyone what it meant was because everyone has accumulated a few virtues and become willing to listen to the teachings of the Dharma, thereby causing this virtuous causal condition to arise.

The day’s Dharma text was one of the 108 expedient cultivation methods transmitted by the Vajra Varahi Herself, which is especially powerful. In the practice of Tantrism, the Vajra Varahi is a very important yidam. Practitioners wishing to practice the Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra must obtain help from the Vajra Varahi; without the Vajra Varahi’s help, they cannot attain success. In tantric pujas, the Dharma is usually directly performed to help you. That day Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche also taught the essence of The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, and so the day’s puja was a dual practice of Exoteric Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism. Because life after life Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has helped sentient beings, someone once saw Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha sitting atop Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s head. Ever since Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche dedicated himself to practicing the Dharma, the guru has always practiced in accordance with Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s aspiration. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s aspiration is this: “If sentient beings have not attained Buddhahood, I will not attain Buddhahood.” The guru tirelessly teaches all sentient beings, and by way of the Dharma he continuously helps them to leave their suffering behind. To fulfill such an aspiration requires a huge amount of work and is extremely laborious, and is in line with Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s vow, “I vow not to attain Buddhahood unless and until all the Hells are empty.” Thus, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is always present over Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s head to give blessings. When a practitioner’s actions and thinking are the same as those of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, then the practitioner will be attuned to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and can obtain Their blessings.

In The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows it states very clearly that you must not think it is very difficult to descend into hell. Simply killing living beings or eating meat can send you down into hell. Why are you told to stop doing evil and to do good? When the power of the good you do is greater than the power of your evil, you can postpone evil retribution, and even if you do descend into hell, you will not stay down there as long. Stop believing the rubbish you hear in society; some people say they can do you a favor and check to see how your deceased family members are doing in hell. You should be careful not to let yourselves be hoodwinked. There are only two situations in which one can enter hell. One is when a sentient being commits evil acts, and the evil karma then drags the sentient being to hell; another is when a Bodhisattva uses His great and awe-inspiring power to enter hell to save the sentient beings that are suffering in hell. Have those people who perform Taoist rituals to see the dead in hell attained the fruition of a Bodhisattva? While practicing Buddhism, you must not allow yourself to become superstitious; you must not believe in such sayings as, “if your back gets cold that means there is a ghost approaching.” Actually, ghosts do not necessarily approach from behind. If a ghost wished to approach, it could come openly if it wanted, right through the front door. And hiding under a bed cover will not prevent a ghost from approaching, either; ghosts can penetrate through anything, to any place. Many people believe that if they hang a talisman at the door, ghosts will not be able to enter. Some ghostly beings might still retain the habits of being human, and be used to entering through the door; however, if they see a talisman at the door, they can always simply go around to the window and come in that way. In actual fact, there are only three places through which ghosts cannot penetrate: the Vajra seat where the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and gurus sit, a female’s uterus—whether oviparous or viviparous—and hell. If one entered the last two, it would not be able to leave; furthermore, sentient beings in hell must wait until their karmic retribution has concluded before they can leave.

It is recorded in the sutras that if a practitioner recites Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s name ten thousand times a day, then after a year Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha will send a benevolent deity to protect the house in which the practitioner lives. This is indeed true; however, merely reciting is not actually enough. The person doing the reciting must also practice in accordance with the Dharma and obediently practice Buddhism. Wherever Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche goes, all the guru has to do to know which direction a temple lies is to recite mantras. This is because these sentient beings come, knowing they will be able to gain benefits by being close to the guru. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche once went to Tainan to bless a house, and the nearby Earth God approached. The reason for this is that as soon as a practitioner begins reciting mantras, it is good; sensing the difference, these sentient beings will automatically come close, and will protect the practitioner, too. So everything written in the sutras is real; wherever a practitioner goes, these benevolent deities will appear without being summoned. One does not need to go to specific temples all over the place and implore the deities for protection. If you want your homes to be safe and sound and not be damaged by floods, earthquakes, or other disasters, then you should obediently practice Buddhism.

Everything said in the sutras is true; as long as you act according to the teachings of the Buddha as written in the sutras, you will definitely be able to succeed. This has been true of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s own experience; the guru has attained grand achievements through diligent cultivation by way of the Dharma. If humans were unable to achieve what the Buddha said, then those words would be superfluous. The Buddha would not say anything that is superfluous; people are qualified to be able to achieve everything the Buddha said. Whether or not you have accomplished something depends on a confirmation from the guru, not simply on your say-so. Do not be in a hurry to vow to attain Buddhahood or to predetermine what fruition level you will be able to attain. Assurance of future enlightenment will only be bestowed by the Buddha upon a Bodhisattva who has attained the Dharmakaya, or by way of a longevity prayer bestowed upon one by one’s guru.

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche performed the Dharma method of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and spoke about the key points in the Dharma text. First the ordained disciples implored the Dharma by offering a mandala, symbolizing an offering of the most precious sacred objects in the universe to the presiding guru and imploring the guru to help sentient beings with the Dharma.

After Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had performed the Dharma for a while, the guru explained that what had just been performed was a blessing of this land so that it would become like the Pure Land, the Buddha Land. The guru had blessed the Buddhist Center in order to turn it into the Buddha’s palace, and had blessed the Dharma seat of the presiding guru so that the Dharma seat would become the Buddha’s Vajra Seat, and had blessed all of the food offerings. After that, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche taught that the Dharma texts mention that next the attendees must visualize that the presiding guru is not different from the yidam. Next the guru introduced the Dharma appearance of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha: yellow body, yellow clothing, eyes rimmed with red, a blue circlet of flowers atop His head; in His right hand a piece of fruit, in His left hand a lotus wish-granting jewel, emitting immeasurable rays of green light. And Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s face appears serene and calm.

The Dharma text to be performed today comes from the Poetic Verses of Original Buddha Ksitigarbha from The Ten Cakras of Kṣitigarbha. The performance of the Dharma began with taking refuge, and then the prayer for imploring the yidam Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha to come forward, and next was The Seven Branch Offerings Prayer. The Dharma texts mentioned that apart from visualizing that the guru was not different from the yidam, you must also be sincere while receiving the transmission of the Dharma. You should even shed tears of gratitude; you should have immense gratitude, and not feel that this was something to be taken for granted. In a moment, while you are following along with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s recitation of the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha Mantra, you should have a sufficiently grateful mind; you should have a repentant mind, and be grateful for the guru’s benevolence while accepting the transmission of the Dharma. After the mantra was transmitted came the blessing of speech, and you must arouse a joyful mind. Do not take the guru’s transmission of the Dharma for granted; never take anything for granted. You all take the guru’s help for granted, and think that a practitioner should definitely help you practice the Dharma. This is wrong. Nothing in this life is to be taken for granted; you must maintain a grateful attitude. Some people came expressing gratitude to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for having helped them. But as soon as Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche began telling them there was no need to come and give thanks, and that a true expression of gratitude would be to practice Buddhism and be vegetarian, they turned around and walked off.

Before teaching the mantra, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche made a point of stating the following: In a moment, after reciting the mantra along with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, you must no longer curse other people. If this is something you cannot do, then do not recite along. As you begin reciting the mantra, the power of speech will begin to emerge; you will have more power from recitation, and other people will better be able to hear what you are saying. While practicing Buddhism you must use the Dharma to discipline and change yourself. If you still open your mouth to curse or criticize people, that is the same as using bad language to curse other people. Because the power of your speech will be stronger, it will cause very serious evil karma, and the blessings bestowed by Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha will disappear. So you all must understand clearly that in the future, if you continue to curse or criticize people, you must not chant along with the guru. This includes disciples; anyone who still wants to stand in front of the guru and explain that you are right and that the guru is wrong, or anyone who still wants to eat meat, then in a moment don’t bother chanting along. The Dharma should be used to observe and monitor oneself, not to observe and monitor other people. The Dharma texts say that you should not criticize the presiding guru because the behavior of tantric practitioners is not something that falls within your ability to judge. At the very least Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is able to liberate the deceased with the Phowa, and no matter how far away the guru is when performing the Dharma, the body of the deceased will manifest perfect auspicious signs. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would not dare say that he had attained anything while practicing Buddhism, but on this point alone the guru has practiced a million times better than you. The guru is absolutely a virtuous mentor. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, too, is made of flesh and blood; naturally the guru must eat, sleep, and use certain items. Do not use your system of values to criticize Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s lifestyle. If you do not like certain things Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche does, this does not mean Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is wrong; it means Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche cannot satisfy your desires. If you think the guru is wrong, that is not the guru’s problem; actually, it indicates a problem with your attitude in your practice. If you do not like it, feel free to go in peace, and not to criticize.

Next Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led everyone in a recitation of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Mantra. All the attendees were sincerely grateful for the guru’s transmission of the Dharma. Many people had tears streaming down their faces as they wept silently. Being able to have such an auspicious causal condition and good fortune to receive the Dharma made the attendees feel an incomparable joy in their hearts. After Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche transmitted the mantra, the guru then performed a short mandala offering as thanks to all the lineage gurus for their blessings. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed the ordained disciples to kneel as representatives before the mandala. All of the attendees stood as the guru continued to perform the Dharma for everyone. After performing the Dharma for a while, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche told everyone to sit back down, then continued to compassionately teach the Dharma texts.

The Dharma texts mention that after practicing this Dharma you must do good deeds with body, speech, and mind, have a repentant mind, arouse the Bodhicitta to benefit sentient beings, and pray that you and all sentient beings will be able to attain Buddhahood in the future. The prayers in the Dharma texts also state that we pray that the Buddhas in the Ten Directions will remember us, that we will arouse our Bodhi Mind, and that with our innate Buddha nature, we will take refuge to become children of the Buddha from today onward. So from now on, anything you do you must do as a Buddha or Bodhisattva would. All sentient beings are equals before the Buddha; both heavenly beings and non-heavenly ghostly beings feel joy from this auspicious Dharma. From now on you must arouse the Bodhi Mind and pray that those who have not yet aroused the Bodhi Mind can begin to do so, and that those who already have will not regress. You must vow to practice the Bodhi Path and attain Buddhahood to benefit sentient beings.

So from now on you must be like the Buddha’s disciples in body, speech, and mind. If you are unable to do that, then you will lose your merits from participating in today’s puja. Everything depends on your thoughts. A thought can send you down into hell, while a transformed thought can arouse the Bodhi Mind and benefit countless sentient beings. Do not think that different regions of the world have different hells; hell does not differentiate based on race, skin color, gender, age, or class. If any two people make the same mistake they will have the same karma and be sent into the same hell to be punished. You will see this next time you read The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows.

The Dharma texts mention that while participating in a puja, your body, speech, and mind must be pure before you can obtain the guru’s and the Buddha’s blessings of body, speech, and mind. The Prayers mention Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas; a Bodhisattva that has attained a fruition level of the Eighth Ground to the Tenth Ground is called a Bodhisattva-Mahasattva or a Great Bodhisattva. It is recorded in the sutras that when a practitioner ascends to the Tenth Bodhisattva Ground, all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the Ten Directions will come to urge the practitioner to learn Tantra, because learning Tantra is a faster way to attain Buddhahood. After attaining Buddhahood, the practitioner can then benefit countless sentient beings.

The Dharma method of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha cannot be performed in just any ordinary place. According to the Dharma texts, the Dharma method of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha must be performed in a purified location; in other words, the location for performing the Dharma must be a clean place where nothing has ever been killed and where nothing bad has ever come to pass. The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows was the Dharma spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha to His mother in the Heavens. During the Dharma ritual, everyone will be reciting The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows.

Today Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche performed the Dharma method of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha in order to deepen everyone’s affinity with Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, but that does not mean that if you start reciting The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows during morning and evening prayers every day you will be able to attain fruition. Today we will involve nothing more than a transmission of the Dharma. If you truly wish to practice this Dharma, you must perform the retreat. Whether or not you have the causal condition and root capacity for this has yet to be seen. Actually, as long as you dedicate yourselves to practicing Buddhism, you do not necessarily have to practice any particular Dharma method; you can attain achievements just as well by practicing the Dharma method of Avalokiteshvara, for example.

Next Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed the ordained disciples to lead all attendees in a recitation of The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, and compassionately taught all the attendees the essence and important meaning of each section of the scripture.

The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows is a Dharma that Shakyamuni Buddha spoke to His mother in the Trayastrimsas Heaven. The Buddha’s mother was Queen Maya. She passed away after giving birth to the Buddha, and was later reborn in the Heavens. After Shakyamuni Buddha attained Buddhahood, He used His great supernatural powers to go to the Heavens and expound Buddhist teachings to His mother, teaching her the Dharma and how to practice it, and helped her be liberated from reincarnation. Even the Buddha’s mother was born in the Heavens; every one of you thinks your own parents are good people and that by crying and bringing offerings to implore Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for the guru’s blessings you can make your parents go to the Pure Land. Take note, everybody: back before Shakyamuni Buddha had introduced Amitabha Buddha, even the Buddha’s own mother was only able to be reborn in the Heavens when she passed away; what gives your parents the right to be reborn in the Pure Land? Do not assume your parents are good people; any parents that give us birth are good, but think for a moment: Have your parents ever killed any living being or done any evil acts? A hundred people come to seek an audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, and a hundred people ask Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche where their parents will go after they pass away. But none of them understand that they must repent for their parents as quickly as possible! Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has never encountered a person who, when seeking an audience with the guru, has directly implored the guru to save their parents who had descended into hell. Apparently everyone is very arrogant. According to the sutras, the deceased must possess great causal conditions and good fortune before he or she can be reborn in the Pure Land.

In Tibetan Buddhism, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha assumes the appearance of a lay practitioner. In China or Japan people think the Bodhisattva assumes the appearance of an ordained practitioner. This is because during the Tang Dynasty an ordained practitioner from Korea once went to China to learn Buddhism; later that practitioner promulgated The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, which is why people think Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has the appearance of an ordained practitioner. It is recorded in The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that when benefiting sentient beings, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha will take a form that the sentient being hopes to see and that is based on that sentient being’s affinities. This is because a Bodhisattva does not have a fixed appearance. According to the sutras, the Buddha went to the Heavens to teach His mother and introduce Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha; obviously, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha did not attain Buddhahood in this lifetime, nor was He a human on Earth. Rather, the Bodhisattva had already attained Buddhahood a long time ago, and had become a Buddha and Bodhisattva and was benefiting sentient beings long before the advent of human history.

Chapter One: Miracles in the Palace of the Trayastrimsas Heaven

The first line of Chapter One states: “Thus I have heard,” which means, “This is what I have heard.” This is different from expressions you all might use such as “I believe,” “I think,” or “I feel.” Every sutra begins with “Thus I have heard.” Sutras contain all the Dharma that the Buddha taught while still alive, and are the result of five hundred ordained disciples writing down all the teachings they had heard from the Buddha over a period of forty-nine years prior to the Buddha entering Nirvana. So if the disciples did not hear it, they would not have written it down; anything they wrote down was something the Buddha said. Back then there was no such thing as a recording device, so naturally they were not able to record the Buddha’s words. And no one had been taking notes, either. So how were people able to write all those words down? Because each of these disciples had already attained the fruition of an arhat, and listened to the Dharma while in a meditative state. Thus, they were able to remember clearly every Dharma that had been taught by the Buddha. They had not listened for the benefit of their own desires; they had been able to listen in a frame of mind that was completely receptive to the Dharma so that they could benefit sentient beings.

The “Evil Time of the Five Turbidities” refers to the Age of Degenerate Dharma in which we currently find ourselves. The Five Turbidities include the View Turbidity, which means for example if you do not believe in the Dharma or do not accept the Dharma. The sutra also says, “This was all many kalpas ago for Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha……” As you can see from this, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha did not attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. According to the West, Shakyamuni Buddha appeared 2500 years ago, but according to the East it was 3500 years ago. Whether it was 2500 or 3500 years, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha began practicing a long time before that. A “kalpa” means the time it takes for a human to grow from 10 years old, adding a year to that age every 100 years, all the way up to 84,000 years old, and then subtracting back down from 84,000 and losing one year for every 100 years all the way back to 10 years old. In other words, this is a very, very long period of time. “Jambudvipa” means the Earth.

“Her mother practiced wicked ways and often slighted the Three Jewels. At that time, this holy girl tried many expediencies to persuade her mother to adopt correct views, but her mother was not thoroughly convinced. Soon thereafter, the mother passed away, and her pudgala (soul) fell into the Uninterrupted Hell.” The sutra mentions that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha had been a Brahman girl in one of His lives. She knew her mother did not respect the Three Jewels, so after passing away she would certainly descend into the Evil Realms. Knowing that her mother would suffer but not knowing where she would be, she implored the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for their help. While her mother was alive, the Brahman girl racked her brains to think of ways to get her mother to accept the Dharma, hoping her mother would come to hold the correct views. By contrast, some of you did not praise the merits of the gurus or the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in front of your parents, and there were even disciples who caused their mothers to create evil karma by cooking meat for them to eat!

“One can come here by either of two ways: majestic or karmic power. There is no other way to come here.” “Majestic” refers to a Bodhisattva; anyone able to go to hell must be either a Bodhisattva going there to liberate sentient beings or a sentient being who fell into hell because of his or her own evil karma. In the sutra it is stated that hell is “where one is committed according to one’s karma,” because sentient beings are responsible for everything they do. This includes going to hell.

According to the sutra, the Brahman girl’s mother “…cherished some perverted views, and she ridiculed the Three Jewels. Sometimes she believed for a little while and then would turn irreverent again.” Think carefully. Are you not like this, each and every one of you? Changing back and forth from state to state, believing in the Dharma for a while and then not believing in the Dharma. A lot of your family members are the same way, too; how will they be able to go to the Virtuous Realms when they pass away? The Brahman girl sold off her house to make an offering to the Buddha and gave charity magnanimously in order to know where her mother went after she passed away. As she missed her mother “many times more than anyone had ever missed a mother”, so the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas were very moved and appeared to tell her. When the Brahman girl heard the Buddha appear, she gratefully fell prostrating to the Buddha even to the point that she “prostrated herself abruptly on the ground, badly hurting her whole body.” In other words, every joint in her body was injured. Are you this sincere in your prostrations to the Buddha? This is how it was written in the sutra, so whenever people came to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche with a completely disrespectful attitude, imploring the guru to help liberate the deceased and thinking they could do something, how could Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche help these people? When Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked these people to make prostrations to the Buddha for their parents 2000 times, they quit after 100 prostrations and did not continue. Look how the Brahman girl “solf off her house” to make an offering and give charity before she had the good fortune of the Buddha appearing to tell her which realm her mother had been reborn into. Selling off your houses is something you cannot do, so it is enough for you to just listen; Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would not ask you to do so.

When you kneel in front of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, do you then wish to know which realm your deceased parents are in? And if they are doing okay? You bring thin red envelopes full of offerings, imploring Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to liberate the deceased, yet if the deceased do not have enough causal conditions or good fortune, they cannot be liberated. This has nothing to do with how much money is in your offering. The sutra states that only “by virtue of her filial offspring’s donations to the stupa and temple of the ENLIGHTENMENT-FLOWER-SERENITY-SELF-SOVEREIGNTY-KING TATHAGATA on her mother’s behalf” did the Brahman girl help her mother to accumulate enough good fortune to leave hell. You, on the other hand, have not achieved filial piety in the least. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche promulgates the Dharma according to the sutras while you, carrying these thin red envelopes of offerings in your hands, say “Excuse me, I’d like to make an offering.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche feels awkward receiving such offerings; if your offering is too large, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche does not dare accept it. Typically, therefore, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche will only accept offerings from disciples, because the guru wants to transmit the Dharma to them. If your mindset while giving an offering is incorrect, then likewise Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche will not accept it. What you are doing cannot be called an offering at all; have you seen how involved the offerings mentioned in the sutras are? And if you are haggling over with the amount of money that comprises your offerings, it’s even worse! Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s offerings to His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang are made from all the best he has to offer. Whatever the Drikung Kagyu Order and his guru need, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche will always do whatever he can to meet those needs. This time Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is making a trip to India in February to seek audience with His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang. For years Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has wanted to offer His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang certain items, and now the cause and condition are ripe, so he has prepared them. When the time comes you, too, will know what they are.

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche announced that the morning session of the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha Puja had come to an end, and that it would be continued in the afternoon. Giving consideration to the fact that there were many elderly people participating in the puja, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche specially extended the midday rest break to 2:30 in the afternoon. All attendees were grateful to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s tireless teachings and performing of the Dharma for such a long period of time. They stood to pay their homage as Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended from the Dharma throne.

At 2:30 in the afternoon, after Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne and gave blessings while chanting mantras, the guru instructed the ordained disciples to lead the rest of the attendees in a recitation of The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, and taught the attendees the meaning and essence of each chapter.

Chapter Two: The Assembly of Innumerable Transformational Ksitigarbhas

Chapter Two says, “I have also divided myself into hundreds, thousands and millions of transformational bodies and employed extensive skillful means.” The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are omnipresent in the void; so-called “emanations,” or transformational bodies, are not like the images that appear in photos from certain scam artists; but rather any practitioners who have realized the nature of emptiness possess the power of compassion of emptiness that allows them to have the ability to divide themselves and emanate all over the void just like the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. How can the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas divide themselves to benefit sentient beings? This can be explained scientifically. These days, scientists have discovered that even a tiny point can extend across the entire universe. For example, just because a ship in the ocean sees a beam of light shining from a lighthouse, that does not mean the beam of light is aimed at a specific target; however, if lots of ships see the beam of light shining from the light house, they will all think it is shining at them. Compassion is a kind of energy; from science it is known that any energy that occurs will exist forever. No matter how far away it is, anywhere in the universe can be affected by it. Science can also prove that light that emanated from stars and planets in the past reaches the earth after however many thousands of years; this is where the concept of the so-called light year comes from.

The sutras talk about offering hundreds of millions of Buddha Lands, as well as giving offerings to hundreds of millions of Buddhas in an instant. This does not mean the Buddha has millions of lifetimes, one lifetime offered for one Buddha; this is related to Tantra. It is achievable in the Tantra. As soon as the intention of offering arises in a practitioner, he or she can make simultaneous offerings to hundreds of millions of Buddhas. The Buddha’s words are not fairy tales; they can not only be explained with science, but are even more advanced than science. The void produces energy from nothingness, and the energy is transformed into all sorts of matter. This is exactly what the Buddha said: “All phenomena arise from conditions and they are empty in nature.” The way a practitioner emanates and divides is such that when the practitioner has fulfilled his or her aspiration to benefit sentient beings, and if sentient beings’ prayers are identical with the practitioner’s aspiration, then the sentient beings are able to see or sense the appearance of the practitioner’s emanation. Another way to explain it is, when one has realized the compassion of emptiness, this compassionate force will fill the entire void. This is also why, when encountering a dangerous situation or emergency, many people say they have seen Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche appear to save them. What they see is an emanation of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche; it does not mean Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is really divided into a lot of different bodies. Actually, most of what you see are emanations of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Dharma protectors.

Because in the past all the Bodhisattvas gave endless offerings to the Buddha through life after life, they continue to be attuned with the Buddha. When the Buddha speaks the Dharma in the void, the parturitions of the Bodhisattvas who have attained the Dharmakaya will all gather. Because of this, when the Buddha spoke to His mother of The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, the Bodhisattvas all went to the Trayastrimsas Heaven to listen to the Buddha speak. The sutras says of those that came forward to listen to the Buddha speak the Dharma, “Because they had been instructed and converted by Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, those who came there together would never retrogress from Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi.” That is, these sentient beings had already been liberated from reincarnation.

“I have taught and converted many stubborn beings in this evil time with its five kinds of defilement, making them tame at heart and causing them to forsake the perverted and return to the right way.” The Buddha stated that sentient beings are “stubborn,” so the Buddha made them “adjust” their hearts and the Buddha “subdued” their delusions, thus “taming” the hearts of sentient beings. Our hearts are constantly moving; they have never stopped even for a second. “Heart” here does not refer to the physical organ; if a human heart stops beating for one second, its owner still will not die. Here “heart” means greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance and doubt. In making sentient beings tame at heart, the Buddha is simply helping them to temporarily suppress those things. However, any evil habits or evil karma sentient beings have accumulated must still be amended and transformed by themselves; the Buddha cannot change their karma. The Buddha cannot give you anything; whether it be wisdom, health, or wealth, you yourselves must cultivate it. The Buddha can help you to put a temporary stop to karmic disturbances, allowing you to have time to practice Buddhism and teaching you how to tame your own hearts. As for whether or not you change, that is up to you to decide. So the reason the Buddha used the word “tame” is that the responsibility of the gurus and Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is to tame your hearts. Your continuously moving hearts must stop doing evil and perform good acts by practicing the Dharma; you must continuously dedicate yourselves to progress and cannot slack off even for a second. If you slack off, you will grow used to being lax, and will definitely commit evil acts, and thus will not be liberated from reincarnation. “Stubborn” means people who will not listen no matter what the guru and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas say, but instead judge the Dharma according to their own views. As long as what the guru teaches can benefit you, you listen; if it does not benefit you, you close your ears.

“Forsake the perverted and return to the right way”—here, “perverted” refers to all thoughts and actions that cause you to reincarnate. For example, some people might tell you to have a rest on Sunday and not participate in the puja; this is a perverted view. Nowadays everyone thinks Sunday is a family day, a day for rest. Actually this is decreed in Christianity and Catholicism. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed a disciple to verify this, because prior to taking refuge he had been an extremely devout Catholic. The disciple reported that Sundays indeed were decreed as such in Christianity and Catholicism. Next Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche stated that nowhere is it said in Buddhism that Sunday is a day of rest; the guru himself does not rest on Sundays but instead benefits sentient beings for twenty-four hours straight. These days some people work themselves half to death. This does not actually have anything to do with their jobs; it is because they have too many desires and are hoping to achieve some goal or another at work. If the brain is over-worked, the body will naturally fall ill. Think about it; it’s true, isn’t it?

“I manifest myself in the forms of a man or a woman, a deva or naga, a god or ghost, a grove, a river, a plain, a stream, a pond, a spring or a well for the benefit of all sentient beings so that they all may be delivered and liberated.” This teaching from the Buddha means that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha transforms into all sorts of guises; the form of a man, a woman, a naga, a grove, a river, a plain, a stream, a pond, a spring, and so on, in order to benefit sentient beings. As you can see, everything in the universe could be a Buddha or Bodhisattva in disguise. There are many different types of forms the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can take; more than you can imagine. According to the sutras, anything that can benefit sentient beings could be a Bodhisattva in disguise. This includes spring water for sentient beings to drink as well as the resources a practitioner needs while practicing the Dharma. In 2007, while Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was in retreat at the 4500 meter tall holy mountain of Lapchi in Nepal, the guru was in a place devoid of any residents. It was the holy place where years ago the Venerable Milarepa once went into isolation. There were no noxious fumes or any other poisonous gases atop the mountain; if there had been, they could be harmful to a practitioner practicing the Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra, because for a practitioner who has achieved such a level of practice the air in that area must be clean. And there was clean water on the mountain to drink, but there were no wild animals; this was because Bodhisattvas had taken the form of mountain deities and mountain springs to lend support. The sutras state that one must not pollute any water sources or rampantly cut down trees because some Bodhisattvas might have taken the form of trees to provide for many living creatures. If you cut those trees down, you might harm these sentient beings. You should not intentionally harm or destroy a single tree or blade of grass. This includes lovers who think it is romantic to pick flowers for each other; they could be harming sentient beings on the plants. In fact, Buddhism is the most environmentally conscious of all.

There is yet another section that is very important: “I have been called and received and led by the Buddha, who granted me inconceivable magic power and endowed me with great wisdom.” Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha already had such divine wisdom, yet still He said that only by being “called and received and led by the Buddha” was He able to have such power; He did not cultivate it by Himself. This is an important point, so in Tibetan Buddhism extreme emphasis is placed on the guru’s transmission—because no practice can be done unless it is done in compliance with the teachings of the guru. This is different from you who think that if something gets a little bit better, it is because of your own recitation, prostration, and practice.

Chapter Three: Contemplation on the Karmic Connection between Sentient Beings

“The sentient beings of Jambudvipa” means sentient beings on Earth. At the beginning of Chapter Three it mentions that even Shakyamuni Buddha’s mother put her palms together, reverently asking Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha what kinds of evil acts would cause people on Earth to descend into the Uninterrupted Hell. Shakyamuni Buddha’s mother was the noble mother of the Buddha; the Buddha had specially gone to the Trayastrimsas Heaven to speak the Dharma for His mother. Nevertheless, Shekyamuni Buddha’s mother continued to compassionately represent sentient beings, and reverently asked this question of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. The first thing Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha said was, “If someone should fail to fulfill his filial duty toward his parents or, at worst, kill or harm them, he will fall into the Uninterrupted Hell.” Parents who give birth to us are good parents; even if you do not agree with them, you must maintain a respectful attitude. If your parents commit evil acts, they will naturally have their karmic retribution; you do not need to criticize them.

Next the guru mentioned that “if someone should pretend to be a sramana and yet actually is not one at heart,” that person will also descend into the Uninterrupted Hell. “Pretend to be a sramana” refers to someone who is ordained but whose mind has yet to renounce the home of reincarnation. Simply put, even though he has the outward appearance of an ordained disciple, he still has not diligently cultivated the Dharma method to be liberated from reincarnation. Why is the term “sramana” specifically mentioned? Because a sramana accepts the offerings of all sentient beings. This is different from lay practitioners, who can work to earn money. Furthermore, before one’s fruition level becomes sufficient to help sentient beings, one is unable to repay any offerings one receives. He or she might create a cause for going to hell or use his or her physical health to repay it. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche does not allow ordained disciples who have taken refuge with him to accept offerings. This is because the guru worries that any disciples who do not qualify to accept offerings, but who accept offerings nonetheless, might create evil causes. So that these disciples are not troubled over whether or not they receive support from people, and so that they can focus on practicing Buddhism, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche supports all of these ordained disciples financially.

What is it like in hell? The sutra states that sentient beings in hell must endure all sorts of suffering; for example, torture from all kinds of tools such as iron beds, iron nails, iron mesh, “mills, grinders, saws, chisels, files, choppers, boiling pots,” and so on. Actually one does not need to go to hell to suffer from such things. Nowadays many people endure all sorts of medical torture while they are still alive, and this is already quite similar to hell. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed a surgeon-disciple to explain whether or not it was true that these days saws, drills, and other such tools are used in surgical operations. The disciple reported that surgery these days really does employ all manner of tools, exactly as Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had said. Then Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked, “So the hospital beds on which the patients sleep are actually made of iron, are they not?” The disciple reported that although the beds were covered with cotton sheets and quilts, the beds themselves were in fact made of iron.

Next, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche stated that the tools utilized in surgery these days are just like the tools used in hell to make sentient beings suffer as described in The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. A decade or so ago, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche started feeling pain in his knees. At the time a disciple who is also a medical doctor prepared a special well-known medicine to help strengthen the guru’s bones. However, after finishing a bottle of the pills Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche stopped taking them, because the guru knew that his knees were hurting because of karmic retribution from his having eaten meat. Even though Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was still in pain, the guru completely accepted it. Medicine dictates that because the bones were rubbing against each other in the guru’s knee joints, they would continue to deteriorate to the point that surgery involving the insertion of a metal plate might even be necessary. It sounds like The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, doesn’t it? But Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s knees no longer hurt; they have gradually gotten better. This is because the guru has learned to accept karmic retribution from practicing Buddhism. Through diligent practice and a strong effort to do good deeds, his karmic retribution transformed.

The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows also says, “…irrespective of whether these sinners are male or female, barbarian or civilized, whether young or old, noble or mean, whether nagas or gods, devas or ghosts—all will receive the retribution of sinful karma.” This indicates that The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows was written not only for the sake of Buddhists; it does not discriminate between Chinese people and people of other nationalities, nor does it say that they will go to separate hells. Any person on Earth who commits evil acts will be subject to the same karma, and upon death will go to the same place. Everyone will be together in what is called “Avici Hell.” Furthermore, as Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha said, “Avici Hell, roughly speaking, is just as I have described it to you. To completely and exhaustively describe the torture devices, the punishment and the hideous suffering there could not be done even if one were to talk as long as one kalpa.” In other words it would take virtually forever to talk about them in detail, and so Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha spoke about them only roughly and briefly.

Chapter Four: The Karmic Retribution of Sentient Beings in Jambudvipa

Chapter Four explains what kinds of karma will attract what kinds of karmic retribution. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha made a great vow to rescue sentient beings from all their karmic retribution; in the sutra, however, the Bodhisattva still said, “…by virtue of Buddha’s majestic, miraculous power I was able to divide myself into many, many forms throughout hundreds, thousands, myriads and millions of worlds to save and deliver all sentient beings who were suffering their karmic retribution. Without the Tathagata’s great, merciful power, I alone would not be able to perform such transformations.” This was said in Chapter Two as well; this was to reemphasize that. When most of you are reciting the sutras or prostrating to the Buddha, you think to yourselves, “I am reciting” or “I am making prostrations.” However, the sutra allows us to see that even Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha declared modestly that He was acting “by virtue of Buddha’s majestic, miraculous power,” and He had such ability because of His lineage, His guru’s teachings, and the Buddha’s great compassion. It again shows that even the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who have attained the Tenth Bodhisattva Ground still maintain an enormously respectful mind, feel gratitude, and praise the Buddha’s majestic, miraculous power. Many things cannot possibly be achieved without the Buddha’s and the guru’s blessings.

This chapter also mentions the vow Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has made over many lifetimes: “I will never become a Buddha if I have not first delivered all those sinful and suffering beings, making them comfortable and joyful and enabling them to achieve Bodhi.” Here the Buddha stated that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s grand vow was to make sentient beings comfortable and joyful before He attained Buddhahood, and for that reason the Bodhisattva continues to save sentient beings so that they will not fall into the Three Evil Realms.

The sutra mentions that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha was once born as Prabhacaksuh (Bright-Eyes) and encountered an Arhat who was a good, learned friend, and who “… delivered sentient beings by means of his bliss and who instructed and converted them gradually.” That is, he used his own good fortune to teach according to the root capacity of sentient beings. In order to learn where her mother had gone after passing away, Prabhacaksuh specially “provided food to honor” the Arhat. “Provided food” here means she prepared a special offering of food. If you have not cooked the food yourself, then it is not the same thing. There are some people who first think about what sort of fruit their husbands or sons like to eat, and then buy that fruit to make a food offering to the Buddha. This is not offering to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; this is offering to your husbands and sons. You might as well just buy it for them outright; why bother to make an offering to the Buddha? You are just doing it for show. It would be better not to; making offerings with that sort of an attitude will turn around and create an evil cause.

In Buddhist temples, too, you might see those in charge of preparing the food go out and buy certain ingredients based on what people there like to eat, and afterward use that food to make an offering to the Buddha. This way of thinking does not amount to making a true offering. When purchasing fruit and flowers for offerings, you should get what fruit and flowers you can afford that are fresh and in season. It’s not that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have a discriminatory mind, nor would They like or dislike fruit. If They were concerned with likes and dislikes, They would not be Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. You are the ones discriminating; these are all your actions. If you do not have a respectful mind while making an offering, you will not be able to accumulate good fortune. None of you has heard, nor are you willing to listen; Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has taught you time and time again that even when the guru was in the worst financial straits, he still would have preferred to go without food rather than not be able to place the best oil, incense, flowers, and fruit before the Buddha. As long as you have been respectful, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will never let you starve or be unable to get by. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is the best example of that.

Only after entering Samadhi did the Arhat see Prabhacaksuh’s mother was being subjected to extreme suffering in hell, and afterward he taught Prabhacaksuh how to make an offering to Pure-Lotus-Eye Tathagata to liberate her mother from suffering. Why did Prabhacaksuh’s mother have to suffer? In the sutra it was recorded that while still living the mother enjoyed eating “fish, turtles, and the like;” in other words, seafood. And so she fell into the Evil Realms. Similarly, Japanese people like eating fish, which is why there have been so many natural disasters there. The sutra mentions fish and turtle eggs, meaning the dried black fish eggs you talk about, and the mantaiko (or marinated cod roe) Japanese love to eat nowadays. Prabhacaksuh gave up the things she loved for the sake of her mother, and respectfully made offerings to the Buddha. However, this was not enough to completely eliminate the mother’s karmic retribution; first her mother was reincarnated as a person in a low social class, and on top of that had a short lifespan. Once Prabhacaksuh understood how much her mother was suffering in hell, she made an extensive vow and then her mother had the good fortune to be reborn after this short life as a Brahmacari, or a celestial being, thereafter to practice Buddhism and attain fruition.

The sutra says, “To those who indulge in perverted lust, Ksitigarbha would talk about the retribution of being born as peacocks, pigeons and mandarin ducks in future lives,” and those who “indulge in perverted lust, lying, double-tongue, harsh words” will certainly fall onto evil paths of existence. The Buddha never said monogamy is a must; that is what the Catholics say. Here “perverted lust” refers to someone who already has a fixed partner—whether it be a husband, boyfriend, fiancé, etc.—as long as that partner is providing for the “someone” or giving this “someone” financial security, then if you have relations with that “someone” you are indulging in perverted lust. This includes married women having relations with other men. So do not say anymore that you want to find true love with another man because it does not exist between you and your husband. If you must decide on such a course of action, you should first explain the situation clearly to your current partner and then make a clean break. Nor should you, after listening to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s teachings today, go back and use the guru’s words as an excuse to file for divorce. That you and your partner are together is a result of a very complex series of causal conditions. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has seen many examples of men who like to pick up married women, and it never ends well; if not in suicide, then in illness or utter poverty and so on. And for women, too, there are very severe consequences for indulging in perverted lust.

“To those disobedient to their parents, Ksitigarbha would talk about the retribution of calamities and destruction from the sky or the earth.” This refers to various natural disasters. “To those with perverted views, Ksitigarbha would talk about the retribution of rebirth in the hinterland.” The hinterland means a country without the Dharma such as the Republic of Guinea in Africa in which to this day Buddhism is not practiced. Those who encountered wicked gurus have themselves had perverted views in the past, and also fell within the scope of cause and effect.

Chapter Five: The Names of the Various Hells

Chapter Five introduced the various names of the hells and their associated evil karma. It is not only after death that one can go to hell; one can see it even while still alive. One time Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche went to a renowned hospital in Taipei to bestow a blessing upon a cancer patient there. The entire building was full of cancer patient wards. Each room housed several patients, and one of the patients in that particular ward began to wail in pain. Eventually all the patients in the ward were yowling in pain along with him. Their cries were quite shrill, like howls in hell. It was an unbearable sound.

In The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, it is written that “these are the places and manners in which sentient beings in South Jambudvipa who create bad karma by leading evil lives receive their retribution. Karma is tremendously powerful. It is capable of covering Mount Sumeru, is capable of plumbing the vast ocean depths, and is even capable of obstructing the holy doctrines. Therefore, sentient beings should not neglect lesser evils as being devoid of sin; for retribution will be meted out to them after their deaths for every bad intention or violation, even though it be as small or insignificant as an iota.” Some people say Buddhism is always talking about hell; the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are very compassionate, but why use hell to scare people away from committing evil acts? Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche stated that the Buddha does not use hell to frighten people; hell is something sentient beings attract to themselves. Because they create evil karma, they must fall into hell as karmic retribution. This is why The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows says, “Such is the retribution of karma.” The power of karma is so powerful it can block you from learning the sacred path; that is, the path to liberating yourself from life and death.

“Even beings as closely related as fathers and sons will part their respective ways, and one will not take the punishment of the other even if they chance to cross paths.” This clearly tells us that you cannot take someone else’s punishment even if that person is a close family member. Some people say they wish they could shorten their own lives in order to extend those of their ailing parents. This is a Taoist way of speaking. In The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows the Buddha taught under no uncertain terms that such a situation cannot happen; it is impossible.

“…for such kinds of retribution there are hundreds of thousands of sorts of instruments for torture and punishment in each one of the hells; these instruments are made only of copper, iron, rock or fire. These four kinds of conditions—as well as the instruments of torture and punishment they are formed into—are caused by the various karmic sinful deeds.” These are the same instruments such as iron beds and so on mentioned earlier in Chapter Three. In modern medicine they cut the patient’s body open, and the instruments used are all made from these four things. This is the result of enormous amounts of evil karma brought about by all the killing committed by people in modern times.

Chapter Six: Tathagata’s Praises

In this chapter it is written, “After my Nirvana, you Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, devas, nagas, demons and deities should resort to extensive expediencies in order to guard this sutra and to cause all sentient beings themselves to realize Nirvana.” In this chapter Shakyamuni Buddha praises Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha for the unfathomable power of His awe-inspiring compassion, and exhorts the Bodhisattvas, devas, nagas, Dharma protectors, and so on to uphold and protect The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows not so that all sentient beings can seek protection, but rather so that they have an opportunity to realize Nirvana and attain eternal happiness.

“It is only hoped that you, World Honored One, will describe—for the benefit of those sentient beings living during the final period of Buddhadharma in the future—such things as the causes and the results of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s deeds that benefit human beings and devas.” From this section you can see clearly that The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows was taught by Shakyamuni Buddha for the sake of contemporary sentient beings. Ours is the Age of Degenerate Dharma; this age falls between 1,000 and 12,000 years after the Age of Semblance Dharma, and the power of the Buddha’s blessing has gotten gradually weaker over time.

“…if a good man or a good woman should make an image of this Bodhisattva, either by painting or drawing it or by molding it with earth, stone, glue, lacquer, gold, silver, copper or iron, and should then make even only one observance or make only one act of worship to it—such a person will be reborn in the thirty-three heavenly realms one hundred times in succession, never again falling onto any evil path.” The sutra also mentions that sentient beings should make images of the Buddha from earth, stone, glue, lacquer, gold, silver, copper or iron. Those who are able should use gold, silver, copper or iron; those who are not should use earth, stone, glue, or lacquer. “Glue” here refers to tree resin, not plastic. Nowadays there are some Buddhist statues made from PVC; they are not appropriate, because they are not manufactured in line with what is written in the sutras. Some people misinterpret “make even only one observance or make only one act of worship,” thinking one glance and one bow are enough. What it actually means is, for every look you take, you must make one prostration. And it is best if you do so after having showered and put on a clean change of clothes, and with a respectful mind. Some people jump right out of bed and prostrate themselves before the Buddha or open up a sutra and start reciting without even brushing their teeth or washing their faces first. This is very disrespectful. If you are in such a hurry, then do not bother reciting a sutra.

“…in future worlds some men or women will be totally disabled and bedridden for a long time, neither their prayers for recovery nor their prayers for death being answered.” The sutra also says that if you have a family member that has been bed-ridden for a long time, unable to resume living yet not sick enough to pass away, you should “…take something which the patient cherishes—such as clothing, jewels, plantations, gardens or houses—and recite aloud to the patient as follows: ‘I, so and so, on behalf of this patient, am donating these articles in front of the Sutra and the icons in order to honor the Sutra and icons or to construct Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ icons or to build stupas and temples or to burn oil lamps or to benefit religious establishments.’ In such a manner, this pronouncement should be repeated three times to the patient so that he may hear and understand it.” This means to make an offering of the patient’s most cherished possessions to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, even including the person’s house, and to use the offerings, figurines, lamps, and so on to cause his or her karmic creditors to hear. After that they can temporarily eliminate resentment so that the patient can receive the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ blessings. If the patient still has any good fortune left, he or she can experience a speedy recovery; if not, the patient can pass away soon and without pain, and no longer needs to be punished while still alive.

“…if you see anyone reciting this Sutra or even for an instant praising or honoring it, you must resort to hundreds of thousands of expedients to encourage this kind of person to be diligent without retrogression.” This means that you must continue to praise and respect The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows in your thoughts, urge sentient beings not to retreat from the Bodhicitta they have aroused, and practice diligently. You are not qualified to speak of retrogression; rather, along your path of practice, you have frequently become slack and lazy.

“Every single movement or stirring of thought on the part of beings of Jambudvipa creates karma and offenses. How much more is that the case when they blatantly indulge in killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech and hundreds of thousands of other kinds of offenses. If they are able to recite this Sutra once on those ten vegetarian days, before the images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, or worthy ones and sages, then no disasters will occur within a radius of one hundred yojanas around them.”The sutra says that every thought or movement by a sentient being on Earth creates karma and offenses. All the many evil acts one commits bring various disasters down on oneself. “Ten vegetarian days” does not mean you only have to be vegetarian for ten days; it means that during these ten days one must perform the Eight Precepts Retreat, and this will only be useful if one keeps the precepts according to the Dharma.

“…this Bodhisattva really did take great and profoundly serious vows vast, long kalpas ago for the benefit of all sentient beings.” The sutra points out that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is a Bodhisattva that has been around for many, many kalpas. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha did not become a Bodhisattva in this lifetime; He had already attained Buddhahood a very long time ago. The Bodhisattva had a great aspiration to appear in the guise of all sorts of Sambhogakaya to liberate sentient beings.

Chapter Seven: Benefitting the Living and the Dead

In this chapter the Buddha spoke of of assistance given to the deceased. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha taught the following with regard to the Earth’s sentient beings: “…the sentient beings in Jambudvipa are doing nothing but committing sins when a thought arises or when an idea is generated. When, by chance, they happen to gain some good benefits, they often retrogress from their initial minds. In evil conditions, evil thoughts grow one after another.” This is exactly how you all are. When the guru and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas help you to leave your suffering, no sooner do you obtain this benefit than you forget their benevolence and forget to devote yourselves to practicing Buddhism. So-called evil conditions do not mean someone asking you to murder or gamble; you would not do such things. Rather, they are things which on the surface seem good for you, but which in fact are harmful to you. For example, people saying things to you such as, “take it easy—you’re still young, and there’ll be plenty of time later to learn Buddhism;” or “you don’t have to worry so much about being strictly vegetarian—it’s better to wait until your kids have grown and gotten married.” Or telling you that it’s okay to take a vacation from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, etc. Nowhere in the sutras does it say it is alright to take a vacation; the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas do not have you on Their payroll, so there is no need for you to ask Them for time off. Some people even put the blame on the Bodhisattvas, saying they have already asked Them for a leave of absence.

“Such people, individually, are just like a person plodding along a muddy road carrying a heavy load of rocks, which becomes heavier and more burdensome, causing him, with each step, to sink ever deeper into the mud. If he were to encounter some friend, this friend, no doubt, would share or help with his load or take it over entirely. Since this friend is very powerful, he would also hold up and help the overburdened one, advising him to keep his step steady and firm or to reach a safe, level road, avoiding and not retracing the bad road.” After obtaining benefits, many of you are quite liable to forget your initial resolve in practicing Buddhism. Upon encountering evil conditions, your minds continue to fill with evil thoughts until finally you reap what you sow and sink into dire straits. This sutra says that if you come across a good, learned friend, this friend can help you by fully or partially lightening your load. This is not “a friend carrying your karma for you” as they call it on the streets; it means a good, learned friend who is an experienced practitioner and can help you find your feet, and guide you in the right direction in terms of practicing Buddhism, so that you do not need to go down any dangerous, evil paths. A good, learned friend can help you by making karma stop affecting you temporarily, giving you time to focus on your practice of Buddhism. But in order to transform your karma, you yourself must still be the one to make a firm resolution. If you neither listen nor practice, then your karma will come back immediately.

“When these sentient beings having such bad habits are at the ends of their lives, their parents or other relatives should, advisedly, generate bliss for them as a provision to urge them forward on the path ahead.” Here the sutra says that because sentient beings have developed these sorts of evil habits, when they are about to pass away, their family should help them accumulate good fortune according to the methods laid out in the sutras. In this way their passing into death will go more smoothly.

“I advise the sentient beings in Jambudvipa to be careful during the days immediately after someone’s death, not killing or destroying or creating evil karma by worshipping or offering sacrifice to demons and deities or by having recourse to monsters and goblins. And why? Exactly because such killing and slaughtering committed or such worship performed or such sacrifice offered would not have even an iota of force to benefit the dead, but would entwine even more sinful karma with previous karma, making it even deeper and more serious.” Here in the sutra is an admonition to the sentient beings on Earth to neither kill any living beings nor worship ghosts or deities, because doing so cannot benefit the deceased. Rather, all it will do is accrue evil karma and possibly send the deceased down into the Three Evil Realms. Before your relative passes away, he might suddenly come out with a request to eat meat. If this happens, you must quickly help him accumulate good fortune or find a good, learned friend who can help him. If you allow him to eat meat, you could cause him to fall into the Evil Realms.

“This is just like the situation in which someone has plodded over a long distance and has been without food for three days while bearing a heavy burden of over one hundred catties when he chances to meet a neighbor who, thoughtlessly, piles something else on his back for him to carry. This would, mercilessly, make his already heavy burden even heavier!” The sutra mentions that if the family members of someone on his death bed allow that person to eat meat or worship demons and monsters, it will not be helpful to him. This is because he has already committed many evil acts and accumulated a severe amount of evil karma. It’s like seeing a person who has carried a heavy load for a very long way; even if you only add something as light as a blade of grass to his load, it will cause him to struggle.

“…If the sentient beings in Jambudvipa are able to perform some good deeds accord with the Buddha’s teachings—even though such deeds be only as small as the point of a hair, a mote, a grain of sand or a droplet—they will be able to gain benefit for themselves.” Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha teaches that if sentient beings can follow the teachings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and do good deeds, even if such deeds are as small as a hair, a drop of water, a grain of sand, or a speck of dust, as well as respectfully give offerings and charities, then the merits they receive can benefit them.

“The arrival of the Great Ghost of Impermanence is so unexpected that the deceased ones’ consciousnesses first roam in darkness and obscurity, unaware of offenses and blessings. For forty-nine days the deceased are as if deluded or deaf, or as if in courts where their karmic retributions are being decided. Once judgment is fixed, they are reborn according to their karma. In the time before rebirths are determined, the deceased suffer from thousands upon thousands of anxieties. How much worse, then, would be the situation for those who are condemned to evil paths!” You still will not do as you are told; you still are not willing to practice; you simply do not believe that impermanence is coming anytime. The sutra also mentions that the first forty-nine days after death are very difficult; during that time the deceased are full of anxiety, fear, and worry over where they will be going next. If the deceased has fallen into the Evil Realms, then the suffering will be all the more severe.

“Throughout the forty-nine days, those whose lives have ended and who have not yet been reborn will be hoping every moment that their immediate relatives will earn blessings powerful enough to rescue them.” When your family members pass away, they will need to rely on their living relatives to accumulate enough good fortune and causal conditions within forty-nine days to allow them the opportunity of accepting help from good, learned friends, and escape their suffering. The sutra says the relatives must be of the same “flesh and blood” as the deceased, so if you were to implore Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to liberate your husband from his suffering in the hopes that you can help the deceased accumulate good fortune, this would not be correct according to what is written in the sutra. The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows told the stories of the Brahman girl and Prabhacaksuh, the girl called Bright-Eyes. In these, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha assumed the form of women, and everything she did was done for the sake of her mother. The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows did not say that during one of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s lives she implored the Buddha for the sake of her husband! Thus, it can also be seen that the sutras do not discriminate against women. The only requirement is that parents must implore for the liberation of their children, or it can be the other way around. Because of this, yesterday the younger brother of a female disciple was unwilling to participate in the puja for his mother, making the mother unable to have the good fortune and causal condition to be saved by the Dharma.

Not long ago there was a male disciple whose father-in-law had passed away. The disciple thought that since he had implored and obtained permission from Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to perform the Phowa for his father-in-law earlier, so he did not believe that they might not be able to find the guru to perform the Phowa for the deceased when the time came. As was apparent from this, the disciple and his wife had neither surrendered themselves to the guru nor had a respectful attitude; therefore, the deceased was unable to possess enough good fortune and causal conditions, and thus would have to suffer for a few days longer. There is usually much suffering after death, and any deceased who hopes for Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to perform the Powha to liberate them immediately after passing away must first have a very large amount of good fortune.

“When beings who have committed karmic offenses die, their relatives may prepare vegetarian offerings to aid them on their karmic paths. In the process of preparing the vegetarian meal, and before it has been eaten, rice-washing water and vegetable leaves should not be thrown on the ground.” In the sutra it is even said that if you have prepared a vegetarian meal to offer the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on behalf of the deceased, then before the ritual is over you must not spill anything, not even the rice water or the vegetable leaves. In modern times, however, people will often hire a funeral company to handle the preparations. All they tell them is whether to prepare vegetarian dishes or meat dishes; all the rest is left up to the funeral company. These people have not prepared the dishes themselves, so they have not been faithful to the teachings of The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows.

Chapter Eight: The Praises of Yamaraja and Others

Yamaraja does not want to take you to hell, the way some of you think. Actually, Yamaraja was also a Bodhisattva’s reward body in charge of sentient beings in hell, as well as helping them to complete their karmic retribution according to their karma and be able to re-enter the womb as soon as possible. In the sutra, Yamaraja asked Shakyamuni Buddha why sentient beings would keep on committing evil acts and returning to the Evil Realms, given the fact that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha used expedient methods and unfathomable supernatural powers to liberate them. Shakyamuni Buddha stated that sentient beings on Earth are “…stubborn and adamant by nature. They are difficult to tame and control.” You are this way as well. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has taught all this Dharma and given lecture after lecture, yet you still will not listen. You have been clearly told that while practicing Buddhism you should not have your own ideas, yet when learning the Dharma you continue to resist what you have been taught. This is being “stubborn and adamant by nature,” and “difficult to tame and control.” You truly must listen and stop having your own ideas. If you keep on like this it will become impossible for you to practice Buddhism, because there is no way that the Dharma can conform to your thoughts. Your thoughts are full of desires, while the goal of Buddhism is to reduce your attachments so that you can be liberated from life and death.

“…Someone who knows and understands the great mystical power and is well-versed in how to combat, control, and wipe out this malice, evil poisons and yaksas, and who, also, chances to encounter this straying person about to embark on the dangerous path, would address him, saying, ‘Ugh, man! What causes you to take this path. What magic do you have for controlling all this malice and evil?’ This straying person, upon hearing these words, would suddenly realize that such a path was indeed dangerous, and would retreat directly, leaving that path. Such a good, learned friend would lend him a hand to lead him away from that dangerous path, avoiding all evil and malice.” The sutra says a sentient being caught in the cycle of reincarnation is unaware of its suffering. It’s like if you were to set foot in an evil place with poisonous worms or malevolent spirits, etc.; if you encountered a good, learned friend who wished to guide you, you could leave the evil place and avoid being poisoned. From this it becomes obvious that in the practice of Buddhism, relying on a good, learned friend is extremely important.

“…At the time of death, there are also hundreds of thousands of spirits and gods of the evil paths of existence who, feigning either to be parents or other kinds of relatives, try to lead the dying one towards them to receive him on the evil paths.” Here the sutra says that some people on the verge of death will see relatives or people they trust coming to take them away. There are two good examples to explain this. Some time ago there was a female disciple who suffered a terrible car accident. As she fell unconscious, she had such an experience. She saw a relative of hers approaching, as well as an elderly gentleman telling her that he wanted to take her to seek an audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Luckily, she had complete trust in Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, and as such was determined to wait until the guru arrived. So they were not able to take this female disciple away with them. Awhile back there was a male disciple who suffered a stroke and fell into a coma. He, too, heard Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche say, “Come down,” and so he did as he was told. These examples show that all of these sentient beings are your karmic creditors. They can transform into the likeness of your closest, most trusted family members, but if you go with them you will fall into the Three Evil Realms. They can transform into any guises they want except for those of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas or the guru. This, then, is why you must immerse yourselves in the practice of Buddhism while you are still alive, and cultivate the habit of listening to Buddhist teachings. As long as you revere the Three Jewels, are diligent in your practice of Buddhism, are obedient, and have trust in the guru, then when it is your time to pass away, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche will certainly come to take you and bestow his assistance upon you. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would never ask someone else to come and take you; the guru himself would come.

Chapter Nine: The Recitation of the Buddhas’ Names

In this chapter, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha tells the future generations of sentient beings the various benefits of respectfully reciting the Buddha’s names. Being respectful is easier said than done. Being truly respectful means not having a single idea of one’s own; it means having no thoughts of seeking benefit for oneself. If you are hoping for something in return, you are not being respectful. If you normally do not keep the precepts, you naturally will not be compassionate toward other people, or will not have a respectful mind, then having the ability to be reverent toward the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is out of the question. If you are someone who is used to praising others for their good deeds, then being respectful will come more easily to you. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has often reminded you that you should praise the merits of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the guru. This is called “rejoicing.” When someone asks you how much they should give by way of an offering, you should not answer, “Do that which makes you rejoice.” Instead, you should allow others to decide for themselves. “Do that which makes you rejoice” does not mean “do what you like;” it refers to the joy one feels when seeing others are doing good deeds to benefit sentient beings.

The Dharma method of being respectful is not that simple. To respect is not to fear, but rather to be completely obedient and to surrender one hundred per cent of yourself. Respect is very difficult for individuals who are prideful, haughty, arrogant, or self-righteous. If you are someone who has always been in the habit of thinking evil thoughts, then any benevolent person you encounter will naturally be difficult to accept, because you have already gotten accustomed to evil. This is the very reason that you should fill your minds with good thoughts.

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said humorously, “Today you won’t have an easy time of it. Let’s take a twenty-minute break and then continue the puja afterward.” All attendees felt extremely joyful at having the rare good fortune and causal condition to continue listening to the precious Dharma, as if having gained the most exquisite treasure. Voicing their gratitude in unison, they all stood and waited reverently as Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended from the Dharma throne.

Twenty minutes later, the puja resumed. His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche again ascended the Dharma throne to preside over the Ksitigarbha Puja. After reciting the blessing mantras, the guru continued to bestow precious Dharma teachings upon all the attendees.

Chapter Ten: Appraisal of the Meritorious Virtue Gained from Almsgiving

The sutra again mentions Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s declaration that His achievement was done “by virtue of Buddha’s majestic, miraculous power.” Even though Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha had used unfathomable powers to benefit countless sentient beings, He remained very modest, insisting that these powers had been transmitted to Him by the Buddha. This is unlike you who, after practicing Buddhism for a short time, think you can see Bodhisattva Avolokiteshvara or that you yourselves can attain Buddhahood and manifest all sorts of great powers.

“…Should any good men and good women plant even a small good root of Buddhadharma, even if it is as tiny as a grain of sand or a hairtip, or even tinier, then the bliss gained by them will be indescribable and beyond compare.” The sutra says that a practitioner who works hard to do even the tiniest of good deeds will reap enormous benefits. “…If any good men and good women, on seeing Buddhas’ images, Bodhisattvas’ images, Pratyekabuddhas’ images or Cakravartins’ images, should make donations and offerings, then they will gain immeasurable bliss and always dwell among human beings and devas, enjoying extraordinarily wonderful happiness.” This means that anyone who practices the Ten Meritorious Acts and gives charitable offerings in front of an icon of a Buddha or Bodhisattva can accumulate a large amount of good fortune, and this will have all sorts of uses in the future.

“…Such a good deed, if dedicated for the benefit of the entire Dharmadhatu, will gain so much meritorious virtue that such people will be able to enjoy superior, wonderful happiness for hundreds of thousands of future lives. However, if the same deed should be directed only to the benefit of the members of their own families or to themselves, their reward will enable them to enjoy happiness for only three future lives.” Here the Buddha’s teachings are very clear. If a person who gives to charity and makes offerings merely dedicates merits to his own family, then he will only enjoy happiness over the course of three future lives. If, however, he gives for the benefit of the entire Dharma Realm with the hope that all sentient beings will be liberated from reincarnation sooner and go to the Pure Land as a result of this good fortune, then such enormous dedication and merits will cause him to enjoy advantages for many, many future lives. Therefore, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche often teaches that you all must dedicate merits to all sentient beings in the Dharma Realm, and not simply dedicate merits to your own relatives. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are compassionate; they lend assistance not just to certain designated people. You must dedicate your merits to the entire Dharma Realm and all sentient beings, and this includes any third parties interfering with your marriage. In Buddhism, compassion helps everyone, even the enemies that would harm us, so that they can extricate themselves from suffering and be liberated.

Chapter Eleven: Protection of the Dharma by the Deities in Charge of the Land

In this chapter, Prthivi (Secure-Firm Deva) praises Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha for using unfathomable countless emanations on Earth to benefit sentient beings in the Six Realms. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha does not only liberate sentient beings from the Ghost Realm; in the sutra it is written that “…this Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha teaches and converts all sentient beings on the six paths of existence and has taken deep and sincere vows to continue to do this for kalpas as numerous as the grains of sand in hundreds of thousands of millions of Ganges Rivers.” Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is an ancient Buddha who appears on Earth in countless reward bodies because of His grand affinity with sentient beings, using great powers to liberate them.

“…Present and future beings, in the places where they choose to live on clean lands in the south, will construct shrines for him with earth, rocks, bamboo or timber, wherein they may mold, paint or even fashion with gold, silver, copper or iron the image of Ksitigarbha; and they will burn incense, make offerings and obeisance, and continuously praise him.” The sutra says that the location in which one gives offerings to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha must be a clean place in which no bad deeds have ever been engaged. If one does not set up mandalas, make offerings, and worship in a manner that is in accordance with the sutras, then even reciting every day will be of no use, and one will only be able to accumulate a few good causal conditions. Therefore, when making offerings to the Buddha you must be reverent, and not just do it in any old place. As is stated in the sutra, you must set up the mandala in the south of a clean area. Some people just set up their mandala wherever, not caring if there is a bathroom, kitchen, or stinky alleyway behind it. Often they use a spare room of some sort. This is very bad; they should choose the best spot in the house in which to set up a mandala for the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. If you do not understand how to set one up, you should ask the guru for advice. If your house or apartment is not pure, or karma from killing lingers and there is nowhere appropriate to put a mandala, do not fight with your parents about it; respectfully place it in your own bedroom if you have to. Do not worry about it being inconvenient to change your clothes; the main point is that you should maintain a respectful mind. Where you position the mandala has nothing to do with the Buddha’s preference; it has to do with the fact that the Dharma protectors accompanying the Buddha still have attachments and even likes and dislikes.

By giving such respectful offerings to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha a person can obtain ten sorts of benefits, of which one is “being without conflagrations and floods.” Some people refuse to believe the following: if you are leaving to go on a trip, and on your way out the door you blow the oil lamp out in one breath, then you might end up going blind at some point in the future if you do not repent. Some people even place a Dharma photo of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche in their wardrobes, and only get it out when they are in trouble. Some people enshrine Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Dharma photo in their homes, but they allow fire to burn the Dharma photo. However, it will stop after burning a little bit. You would allow Dharma texts and Dharma photos to burn, but no one would ever see you letting your money burn. These people should repent; without a doubt their attitude in practicing Buddhism must be wrong for them to allow Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Dharma photo to be burned. If a Dharma photo catches fire, how is it possible that only half of it will burn? This is because there are blessings in it; these people have taken refuge, made offerings, and accumulated a small amount of good fortune, and for that they have been rewarded protection from Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Naturally, people who have not set up a mandala at home and who do not believe in the guru will not be afforded this level of protection. Also, meat dishes must not be taken into any home that has been purified by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. If you violate this, then all the guru’s efforts on that dwelling will have been for nought; knowingly committing the offense is even worse, and according to the sutras it will turn the abode into an inauspicious place in which bad things could happen. So if you are unable to keep non-vegetarian food out, then do not implore Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to purify your home for you.

Chapter Twelve: The Benefits of Seeing and Hearing

In the sutra it says, “…the World Honored One emitted from his forehead hundreds of thousands of millions of great curl-mark lights.” This does not mean from the top of the head; it has to do with the Tantra. “…Then the Bodhisattva will manifest his boundless entity to him or her, telling him the whereabouts of his or her relatives.” This part mentioned in the sutra is true. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche gave an example from his own experience: while still alive, the guru’s father was a well-practiced Taoist; he could even leave his body to take care of certain things. But because he smoked cigarettes, he passed away suddenly at the age of fifty from a heart attack. After his death, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche gathered together all of the Taoist items his father had used, but did not use them anymore, for the guru knew Taoism was of no use when it came to life and death matters. Later, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche began practicing Buddhism, and every day the guru prostrated himself before the Buddha and performed Penitential Rites for his parents. The guru performed the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Repentance at least twice a day. After about half a year of this, the guru had a dream in which he clearly saw, just as the sutras said, his father as he had looked when he turned twenty years old. His face was azure.This is the sort of dream one usually has an hour or two before waking, when not very deep in sleep. For example, if you wake at 8:00, then you might dream something like this at around 5:00 or 6:00. Furthermore, you will be able to recall the entire scene with much clarity; it will not seem fuzzy.

Some people say they have seen Bodhisattvas appear in their dreams. These are not actual Bodhisattvas, however; if a true Bodhisattva were to come, everything would appear extremely bright, even brighter than the sun. Though Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s father passed away when he was around fifty, he appeared in the guru’s dream as a twenty-year-old. Later Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche read in the sutras that for sentient beings reborn in the Heavenly Realms, no matter what age they were when they passed away, they will always appear as if they were twenty years old, and their faces will be azure in color. At that time Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued prostrating and repenting before the Buddha for his parents until one day the guru heard with own ears the Bodhisattva tell him, “Your father has been reborn in the Heavenly Realms.” It is difficult to repay the debt of immense gratitude one owes one’s parents. Since you are practicing Buddhism, you should hurry up and repent for your parents.

Chapter Thirteen: The Commendation of Human Beings and Devas

Shakyamuni Buddha exhorted Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha to look after the Earth’s sentient beings, because “…surrounded by evil environmental conditions, their evil wills increase and intensify moment by moment.” Some people go so far as to say, “I’ll take care of my belly first, and then I’ll worry about the Buddha.” This sort of talk amounts to slander against the Buddha. The sutras mention that if a good man or a good woman can be respectful upon seeing a likeness of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, recites The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, gives charity and makes offerings, and gives praise to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s merits, then he or she will be able to enjoy all kinds of benefits. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche knows that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas would not trick people; if you do as the sutras say, you will certainly be able to obtain the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ blessings and assistance. The guru has continued to benefit sentient beings so that they can learn this. Today the guru has taught from the sutra to let everyone know how much they have yet to achieve, and that they must make amends as soon as they can. Otherwise, not only will Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha not touch your head, but the vajra the Bodhisattva carries might come and knock you in the head.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has led you all in a recitation of the sutra so that you might clearly understand its contents. In fact, the Dharma Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has been teaching you all along has never strayed from the sutras. Now your time has come. That is not to say that your lives will soon come to an end; it means the power of good has begun to appear, so in allowing you to read the sutras, you will be more able to accept it. If the guru had allowed you to read them before now, you might not have been able to accept it right away, and might still harbor many doubts. His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang allowed Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to ascend the Dharma throne not because of the wealth of the guru’s offerings, but because Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had earned it through cultivation. After listening to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s teachings on The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows today, you should have a clearer understanding of what sort of status Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche enjoys, and that the guru is not at all an ordinary person. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche remarked modestly that he still had much to achieve, but the guru truly does have quite a few feathers in his cap already. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have taught you, but this does not mean you can attain Buddhahood right away; such attainment depends on the strength of your resolve and on your level of diligence.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche announced that the following morning he would perform the Black Water Jambhala, and in the afternoon he would perform the Elephant Jambhala and the Guru Yoga. Although Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has already mastered the Jambhalas, not once has the guru ever performed one for his own career; even when the guru hit stumbling blocks in his career in the past, still he did not once perform a Jambhala. However, because all of you have made offerings in the past to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, the guru will perform these Jambhalas for you in order to help you be financially more secure, to be able to continue making offerings. But this is not to make you rich, because only if you have enough resources can you have peace of mind enough to focus on your practice of Buddhism. His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang once stated that in Tibet, performing the Amitayus will bring many attendees; among the Han Chinese, performing the Jambhala will bring many attendees. From this one can see the difference between the two peoples, but in fact no matter what Dharma the guru performs for you, it will always be of benefit to your Buddhist practice in the future. You should not have a discriminatory mind toward the Dharma.

At the perfect completion of the puja, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche bestowed a special Happy New Year’s wish upon everyone. All the attendees stood and paid reverent homage as the guru was descending the Dharma throne. In unison they expressed their gratitude to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for having auspiciously performed the Ksitigarbha Dharma. His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had tirelessly explained the important points and the essence of the sutra to all the attendees, teaching every word of the Dharma like the most precious jewels, turning the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center into a magnificent Buddha land. All attendees received the wonderful Dharma with reverence as cool rain after a drought, and they all felt an unspeakable joy in their hearts.

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Updated on May 19, 2013