His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – May 12, 2013

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche presided over the general puja at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Taipei. Prior to the commencement of the puja, a disciple thanked His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for giving him an opportunity to share the story of how the causal condition had arisen for his father to be compassionately blessed and helped by the guru, and to be liberated by the auspicious Chod.

In his memory, ever since he was a child his parents had been kind and charitable, and their household could have been considered one of great virtue. When he was little, as long as their situation permitted, every New Year and holiday his father would take some money to the hospital to see if anyone there needed help. Or, after seeing news on the television or in the newspaper of a natural disaster, or of a charity foundation that needed donations, his father would always give help to strangers who needed assistance without asking for anything in return. His father always said, “All we need is the intention to do good.” Once he was a bit older and more financially capable, he followed in his father’s footsteps to do good deeds according to conditions, and to give regular set donations to help the needy. He always thought that a good heart should be well-rewarded. Life, however, is impermanent! Only after coming in contact with Buddhism did he gradually grow to experience the significance of a four-line verse contained in The Sutra of Cause and Effect:

“If you care to know of past lives’ causes,
Look at the rewards you are reaping today;
If you wish to know of the effects in future lives,
You need but notice what you’re doing right now.”

Only then did he understand that every impermanent occurrence over the course of a lifetime has always been accompanied by our accumulated karma from past lives. If he really wished to attribute good rewards to a good heart, then it would be fair to say that that was what had allowed him to have the good fortune and favorable circumstance in this lifetime to follow His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche in his Buddhist practice, and to truly change the karmic hindrances he had accumulated over his past lives.

In his mind his father had been a virtuous man who had forever harbored good thoughts. However, he had also been a glutton who ate the flesh of poultry and fish, and had especially liked the taste of any fresh seafood. Therefore, when karma presented itself, no matter how good and virtuous his father had been he still had to face his own karmic retribution and repay the debts he owed his karmic creditors. Of course his father would not be spared! In the year 2000, his father suddenly began to trip over his feet and fall down while walking. Gradually this phenomenon began to occur with greater frequency. A thorough physical check-up confirmed that his father had succumbed to the chronic degenerative central nervous system disorder, Parkinson’s disease! Though they and their parents were Buddhist, their practice was limited to “worshipping and imploring the Buddha” for blessings and protection. As for his father’s ailment, in their ignorance, other than having visited all the major temples to implore the Buddha and attended penitential rites, they had put all of their faith in Chinese and Western medical doctors. This sort of disease, however, cannot be completely cured by contemporary medicine. All they could do was look on as his father’s health worsened.

Over the past few years his father’s daily needs had been taken care of by his mother, his wife, and immigrant care-workers. Because his parents were growing older, and his mother could not walk very well due to an injury from falling, in 2009 his younger brother wrapped up his work in the Mainland and returned to Taiwan to look after their father. In October of 2009, because of a swallowing disorder, his father came down with a bad cough that worsened into aspiration pneumonia. This in turn led to a septic coma, and they rushed him to the hospital where he was put into an intensive care unit. Because of the suddenness of his condition, as well as the lack of experience of all the family members and their panicked state, they had no choice but to follow the recommendation of the emergency room physicians to give him invasive treatment consisting of a urinary catheter, nasogastric tube, and tracheostomy tube described by His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche as “the simultaneous onslaught of the three tubes.” Before the doctor implemented these invasive emergency procedures, the family members first had to sign a consent form for intubation as well as a notice of critical condition. It was the first time he and his family had ever faced a situation wherein a loved one was tottering on the brink of life and death. Besides the pain from his illness, his father also had to endure the suffering involved in the invasive treatment. Looking at his father’s swollen, distorted face after intubation, though the disciple possessed the competence of a professional telecommunications specialist as well as extensive experience in business management, in that moment all he could do in his helpless panic was to put faith in the treatment and recommendations from the physicians.

During the dozen or so days they waited outside the ICU, apart from reciting The Medicine Buddha Sutra, chanting Bodhisattva Avolokiteshvara’s Great Compassion Dharani Mantra, and dedicating the merits to his father and his father’s karmic creditors, he wondered over and over: What else could he and his family do for his father besides taking care of his daily medical needs and making preparations for when it was time to say goodbye? He would like to be able to help his father to live out the rest of his days peacefully and with a minimum of suffering, and when he passed away, to have enough good fortune to be liberated from reincarnation and be reborn in the Pure Land! Of the patients’ family members going in and out of the ICU, he saw people saying goodbye to loved ones, witnessed the impermanence of life, and gained a deeper awareness of life’s frailty and helplessness. The reason life is frail is that sentient beings do not believe in impermanence; the reason it is helpless is that sentient beings do not believe in cause and effect. Four days after his father fell into a coma in the ICU, he gradually began to regain his consciousness, and after staying in the hospital for more than a month he finally returned home to be nursed back to health. His father’s hospitalization and brush with death, the disciple’s own health issues in recent years, and the professional bottleneck he had encountered at work all combined to engrave the urgency and importance of practicing Buddhism deeply into his mind. Of course, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had stated that imploring the Buddha for help was incorrect; still, at the time, it was a causal origination for him genuinely to want to practice Buddhism and be liberated from reincarnation.

In 2009, after chatting online about his health issues with a former colleague, a Dharma brother in the Buddhist Center, he again had the opportunity and affinity to meet with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, and began his path into Buddhist practice. He hoped to be able to share this experience with everyone next time. A few weeks later, by lucky coincidence, his younger brother also learned from a former friend of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, a meritorious grand practitioner who had achieved great fruition through diligent cultivation, and who was magnanimously transmitting the Dharma wheel and compassionately living in the world in order to liberate sentient beings. So his younger brother, too, came up with the idea to follow the guru and practice Buddhism. This causal condition seemed to be given by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas acting behind the scenes to allow them to fulfill their roles as children, and to have the opportunity and condition to help their father, who had lost the ability to speak, find the destination for his final journey in this lifetime. He and his younger brother read and shared with their mother stories from the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center’s website of how His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had helped sentient beings. They hoped in earnest that their elderly parents would be able to have the affinity and good fortune to seek an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. His mother, too, realized that with the two brothers had her and her husband’s best interests in mind, and they hoped that their parents could obtain Dharma blessings and assistance from His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche so that their parents would live in peace and happiness. After thinking things over, she asked the disciple and his younger brother to accompany them to seek an audience with the guru. They believed they were being impelled by the power of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s compassion. That Saturday, he and his younger brother took their parents, as well as his brother’s wife and daughters, to seek an audience with the guru, hoping their parents have the good fortune to form a virtuous affinity with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. The guru compassionately guided and blessed his parents, thereafter accepting their offerings.

After the Chod Puja held on December 24th, 2010, he received a message from his mother on his cell phone. For some reason his father had gone into convulsions and fallen into a state of semi-consciousness. She had already dialed 119 to have his father taken to the emergency room, and she wanted him and his younger brother to hurry over to meet them there. On the way to the hospital, he and his brother continuously prayed and visualized His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche placing illuminating blessings upon their father’s head, and silently chanted the Great Six-Syllable Mantra. After arriving at the hospital, he and his brother declined the doctors’ suggestion to subject their father to the “three tubes.” Apart from a fever and a slightly higher than normal white blood cell count, their father was otherwise stable. They believed that this was all thanks to the compassionate blessings of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Test results indicated that their father had again contracted aspiration pneumonia, and that it was in the same position it had been in 2009.

The next day, he and his younger brother took their mother to seek an audience and report the incident to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. After asking them their father’s name and zodiac sign, the guru went into a meditative state. Upon coming out, he said, “When your father was young, he used a tapered iron rod to stab an animal like a wolf or a wild boar in the lung. The reason he has gotten pneumonia in the exact same spot in his lung for two years running is that his karmic retribution is surfacing.” His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then said, “Your father has already used up all of his good fortune. However, because he was upright and honest while he served as a customs officer, and did not take any money he shouldn’t have, then as long as he does not come down with another fever, he should gradually begin to recover by January 10th by the lunar calendar. This means he will make it through this year; as for next year, we’ll wait and see!” After saying this, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche compassionately blessed the disciple’s mother and father, and bestowed upon his mother a precious nectar pill which she swallowed right then and there. Meanwhile the guru compassionately accepted the offerings made by them and their mother.

Afterward his mother recalled that when his father was young he had headed an anti-smuggling team in the customs office. While inspecting smuggled goods, he had used an iron rod to poke inside sealed crates and packages. One time he had indeed injured an illegally smuggled German shepherd. Just think: Even such an unintentional mishap had left him unable to escape cause and effect. His father made it past January 10th in peace. That Saturday, the disciple, his mother, and younger brother took his father to the Buddhist Center to seek an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, and to express their gratitude for the guru’s compassionate blessings and assistance. His father had the further good fortune to receive a nectar pill bestowed by His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, which he ate then and there. At the same time, the guru compassionately accepted the offerings they and their parents made, and instructed them to make sure they kept their father’s neck warm. In addition, his parents were moved by His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s compassion and awe-inspiring power; as a result, they followed the disciple and his younger brother by eating vegetarian from then on so as not to create any more karma from killing.

After having sought several audiences with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, he was also compassionately given permission by the guru to attend the general Sunday pujas as well as the Chod Puja. Afterward, again as a believer, he participated in The Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness presided over by His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche on October 3rd, 2010. On the day of the Great Puja, he watched as His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, passionately and without any regard for his own life, performed the Chod, blessings, and purifications for the more than twenty thousand believers and disciples in attendance, as well as for countless sentient beings in the void. Upon the perfect completion of the puja, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, physically exhausted and sobbing with compassionate emotion, again addressed the attendees, saying, “Do not eat meat ever again! Otherwise, even exhausting ten Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoches will still not be enough to help you all!” In that moment the emotions pent up in the disciple’s heart for so long broke forth in a surge of tears. Right then and there he told himself that this was a meritorious and enormously capable guru who had achieved great attainments through genuine cultivation!

In 2002, he had missed the opportunity to take refuge because he had not had sufficient causal conditions. This time the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas had created another opportunity for him, and he could not miss out again! Thus, he and his younger brother both took refuge on January 16th, 2011, formally becoming disciples of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Once again he, his mother, and his younger brother took their father with them to seek an audience with the guru and to implore for him to bestow the help of the Phowa upon their father when the time had come. His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche compassionately gave permission, and accepted the offerings they and their parents made. However, he also said, “Though I have agreed to perform the Phowa for your father, this does not mean that when he passes away he will definitely be able to find Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to perform the Dharma. It all depends on your father’s cause and condition and good fortune.” After that, he, his younger brother, and their mother took their father to the Buddhist Center twice yearly to make offerings to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. And under the compassionate protection of the guru, his father suffered no further severe illnesses, and continued to live serenely with lessened effects from heavy karmic retribution.

In February of 2013, he followed His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to India to participate in the Long Life Puja held for His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang. As the Glorious Jewel disciples waited respectfully on the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche suddenly turned and glared at the disciple, and in admonishing voice said, “How is it that you haven’t gone on a diet? You’re so fat you’re taking up another disciple’s seat.” At first the disciple was stunned, and felt very repentant. Afterward he relayed the incident to the Dharma brothers with whom he shared the same bus, and announced that he planned to lose ten kilos within six months. To himself, however, he kept muttering, Why would Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche suddenly say something like that? Was the guru trying to give me some kind of hint?

Upon returning to Taiwan, a few Dharma brothers shared with everyone the auspicious signs of the journey and praised Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for the meticulous respect and devotion with which he had treated His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, and then they seriously pointed out that the disciple’s attitude had been lacking in charity and that he had not even made any great offerings! In his ignorance, he still did not understand what a “great offering” was. In his heart he began to wonder, thinking this strange; after all, the offerings he had made in the Buddhist Center were by no means less than those made by other Dharma brothers. Not to mention, there could be no doubt as to his respect for Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche! Had the guru mistaken him for someone else? Or was Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche hinting to him through the other Dharma brothers that there was actually something wrong with his health? Consequently, for two Saturdays in a row he came to the Buddhist Center to seek an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, and the guru said compassionately, “Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would not have any sort of discriminating mind toward a disciple with regard to his or her physical appearance. Really, it was seeing that your body was not in good shape, which is also a kind of hindrance to practicing Buddhism.” The guru went on to instruct him to go seek treatment from the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center’s traditional Chinese medicine clinic, and then compassionately blessed him on the spot and accepted his offering.

At the time all he could think about was whether or not there was something wrong with him physically, and he had not given a single thought to the fact that the day before he had sought audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, his father had gone into hospital because of a urinary tract infection and had been diagnosed with a scabies infection as well. Though he had implored for Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to bless his father, after asking him his father’s name and zodiac sign, the guru had gone into a meditative state. Upon coming out he had said, “Your father’s urinary tract infection is not serious. He’ll be out of hospital in three days.” After Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said this, he compassionately bestowed blessings upon the disciple’s father who was still in hospital. Just as the guru had predicted, a few days later his father was released from hospital. However, the medicine his father had to take for his scabies caused his skin to peel and feel as though his entire body were on fire. After returning home, his father had a dull, lifeless look in his eyes. In their ignorance, the disciple and his younger brother thought that given the fact that their father had been allowed to go home, he must be fine; nor did they notice that their father’s body was constantly damp.

Right up until the evening before his father passed away he was still telling his wife and mother, “For all the suffering Dad has endured from being sick in his old age, the best thing for him would be to have the good fortune to be reborn in the Pure Land after he passes away!” To his surprise, a little after three o’clock the next morning he received a telephone call from his mother saying that his father had passed away. His younger brother immediately called the Glorious Jewel Antique Shop and left a message. After he and his family had assisted the deceased with a recitation for eight hours, he received a call from a Dharma brother relaying a stern admonition from His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. The guru had said that he and his younger brother had been unfilial by not helping their father accumulate enough merits and good fortune to be reborn in the Pure Land. The guru instructed him and his brother to go to the Buddhist Center every day and prostrate themselves during morning and evening prayers to accumulate merits and good fortune for their father. The disciple felt truly upset, and repented deeply that his original intention in practicing Buddhism really had gone to the dogs! Because he had not cared enough or had a big enough heart, he had done his father a disservice right at the most crucial moment—while his father was passing away!

That Saturday, his heart filled with repentance, he went with his mother and younger brother to the Buddhist Center to seek an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. With compassion the guru said, “I kept hinting, and even asked your Dharma brother to state it explicitly to you, yet you still didn’t get what was going on! The merits and good fortune from an offering are not based on the how big the offering is in monetary value; rather, they are based on your hearts. Arousing a repentant attitude is a sort of offering, too!” The guru went on to say, “The reason behind my instructions for you both to go to the Buddhist Center and prostrate yourselves was that children can accumulate good fortune for their parents. This was especially true in the case of your father, who had Parkinson’s disease and had difficulty speaking, so was unable to practice for himself!”

He was grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for not abandoning such an ignorant disciple as he, and for making him and his family able to implore the guru for a compassionate and auspicious Chod to liberate his father so that he could be reborn in the Heavenly Realm and practice Buddhism there. He was also grateful to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for lighting a lamp, allowing him to make an offering before the Buddha so that his father would not fall into the Three Evil Realms, and for compassionately accepting the great offerings they had made on behalf of his father. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued by stating, “Your father led a simple life. The funeral should therefore be simple and solemn.” And with that, the guru bestowed upon them a date for his father’s funeral.

On April 23rd, the day of his father’s funeral, the gloomy rain that had fallen for so long finally stopped as warm sunshine revealed itself from behind an iron-gray sky. The funeral was simple and solemn as planned, and everything went smoothly and perfectly. Later that day, after the cremation, there was a small round hole in his father’s skull right in the position of the crown chakra, and his other bones were faint pink and light green in appearance. The disciple and his family were extremely grateful for the compassionate blessings from His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche that had helped his father. Ever since the disciple had participated in the Long Life Puja in India, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had seemed to know that in his ignorance the disciple needed to prostrate himself in order to accumulate merits and good fortune for his father. The guru had also worried that the disciple’s overweight body might be too heavy a burden for making prostrations, and so had compassionately blessed him. He was grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for making perfect arrangements for his father.

Next he took the opportunity to make a public repentance. He repented for a lifetime of greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt, for his fundamental darkness, for all the evil karma his self-attachment had created, and for the countless sentient beings of the Six Realms that he had harmed. In his youth, whenever he had not gotten his way he had often been disobedient toward his parents. He had stolen money from them, contradicted his elder siblings, and had traumatized his younger brother while they were growing up by bullying him. He repented. In school he had gotten into fights, become involved with gangs, engineered a collective plot with his classmates to cheat during tests by stealing exam papers, induced classmates to violate school regulations with him, organized a student movement to engage in a confrontation with the school over school meals, and played pranks on teachers and been intensely proud of it. He had been absolutely unrepentant, causing his parents to become regulars at the office of student affairs. He repented for breaking his parents’ hearts.

When he was a bit older, because of his selfish love for fishing and a desire to raise fish, he had engaged in mass sport fishing and killed countless worms and sentient beings that lived in the water. To satisfy his appetites he had eaten countless meat dishes and seafood, and had even been jokingly referred to by his friends as “a living dictionary of seafood delicacies.” For all of this he repented. After leaving school and entering society, he had been self-righteous in everything he did. He had often liked to treat his peers with a code he had formed from his own life experiences, and in his dealings with others he had been heavy-handed and emphatically unwilling to back down. He had taken advantage of his authority to secretly embezzle his company’s public relations funds by converting them into employee performance bonuses, reporting them to the company as gifts for clients when in fact he was diverting the funds in the form of employee benefits. He had taken company property for his own private use and had attempted to win over popular sentiment, when in fact he had done everything out of selfishness. He repented.

While practicing Buddhism in the footsteps of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, out of ignorance he had always judged the various teachings, Dharma methods, and assistance that the guru bestowed upon sentient beings of different root capacities from the standpoint of his own life experiences and principles; he always had lots of his own ideas. His heart was not big enough, and his merits and good fortune were insufficient. This caused such an ignorant, self-righteous disciple as himself to miss out on the auspicious cause and condition for his father to be liberated by the Phowa. For this he kowtowed and repented deeply. The amount of evil karma he had created in this lifetime was too much to measure; it comprised practically every one of the ten non-meritorious acts, including killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, harsh speech, divisive speech, speaking falsely, frivolous talk, greed and hatred, jealousy, and false views. Today he repented here in earnest that he would never commit such acts again.

Hong Ren the Fifth Patriarch once told Hui Neng the Sixth Patriarch, “If you do not know your original mind, then performing the Dharma is not beneficial!” In our minds, if we regard the guru as an ordinary person, we will only be able to obtain an ordinary person’s blessings and help. If we regard the guru as a Bodhisattva or a Mahasattva, then we can obtain a Bodhisattva’s or a Mahasattva’s blessings and help. Similarly, if we regard the guru as a Buddha, then we can obtain the Buddha’s blessings and help. He hoped he and each of his most virtuous Dharma brothers and the believers could find mutual encouragement. Finally, he prayed for His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to have good health, to keep turning the Dharma wheel, to spread the Dharma far and wide, and to illuminate the entire void so as to benefit even more sentient beings.

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne and bestowed precious Dharma teachings upon all the believers and disciples.

First His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche stated that an ordained disciple had written him an email. In it she said that she had communicated with the abbot at her former temple by way of writing letters, and Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s electronic mailbox was provided on the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center’s website, so she was writing to the guru. In the past she had practiced Exoteric Buddhism. Now that she had come over to the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center, there were quite a few things she was having difficulty grasping, and she had many questions and was confused about a great deal of issues; therefore, she hoped the guru could guide her. Consequently, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche answered this ordained disciple’s questions on the spot during the puja.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche started out by saying that the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center is not a monastery, so its style and methods are of course different. During today’s puja the guru would answer the questions this disciple had put forth in her email. In other places, upon receiving an email from a disciple, a guru might simply respond with a few brief lines of encouragement; however, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s style of propagating Buddhism was face-to-face, and he used all sorts of methods to help sentient beings. There are no individual benefits at the Buddhist Center, nor is there any so-called secrecy or privacy. You might think something is an individual matter, but other people could encounter a similar problem; therefore, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche answers your concerns publicly. The guru employs all sorts of convenient Dharma methods to liberate sentient beings. The electronic mailbox on the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center’s website is there so that people who have never come in contact with Buddhism can write letters to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, giving them an opportunity to come in contact with Buddhism. It is not there for disciples who are already practicing Buddhism.

Every week during the general puja, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche bestows many teachings; in future, disciples should not write the guru emails. As a disciple, one should not add to the guru’s already considerable burdens. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche teaches so much during the general pujas held each Sunday; if a disciple still has this many questions after listening to the Dharma for so long, it means he or she tends not to listen and has not put it into practice. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked the disciple that had written the email whether or not the abbot at her former temple had given weekly teachings of the Dharma. She answered, “No!” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then told her that the only reason she had needed to write letters to communicate with the abbot was the lack of weekly teachings. But because Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche teaches the Dharma every week, all you have to do is listen, and then go and act according to the guru’s teachings!

Next Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche answered one by one the questions brought forth in this disciple’s email. First the disciple had mentioned the fact that there were both female and male attendees at the Buddhist Center, and that some of them were even romantically involved with each other. She did not think this appropriate. On this point Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche berated her; an ordained practitioner proposing that the Buddhist Center’s male and female lay practitioners should not socialize was tantamount to imposing on them an ordained practitioner’s precepts. This would not be suitable.

The next question in the disciple’s email was about the set process with which attendees were led during morning and evening prayers. She said that in the temple, morning and evening prayers had been quite rigorous; the entire hall would be filled with ordained practitioners, and those leading the attendees would not be changed out haphazardly. At the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center, however, lay practitioners participated in the morning and evening prayers, and it sometimes varied as to who would lead the attendees. She had questions regarding the method by which lead practitioners were appointed. In answer to this Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said that in Tibetan Buddhism, choosing a person to lead the attendees was done very strictly; it was not just anyone who could take on the responsibility of leading the attendees in recitation. He or she must be trained and possess a deep, loud voice while chanting mantras and reciting sutras; furthermore, only those talented enough to be trained could lead the attendees. You have been to Indian monasteries as well as Drikung Thil Monastery in Tibet before; you have probably all heard that the voices of those leading practitioners are all quite special.

Actually, there is no mention in the sutras of anything called “morning and evening prayers;” those rituals were created in China. Why do ordained practitioners perform morning prayers? On the one hand, it is to remind them that they must act and think like an ordained practitioner; the significance of evening prayers lies in using the prayers to inspect their thoughts and actions over the course of the day, and to determine whether or not they have gone against any of the Buddha’s teachings or done anything for which they must repent. Another of their purposes is to make offerings. At the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center, why do we chant mantras during morning prayers every day and perform the Dharma Protector ritual during evening prayers? The reason is that in a Buddhist Center with Buddhas and Bodhisattvas present, the guru and disciples are under their protection, and can therefore propagate the Dharma relatively auspiciously; more and more people will come to practice Buddhism, and the environment surrounding the Buddhist Center will be relatively harmonious and free of conflict. This auspiciousness does not refer to curing you of illness or preventing anything bad from happening; rather, it means allowing people who truly wish to practice Buddhism to have fewer hindrances while doing so, and to be able to accumulate good fortune so that they can practice with greater diligence.

The purpose of performing morning and evening prayers is not to highlight who is leading the attendees. In Chinese Exoteric Buddhism, the person leading the attendees is also called a “Weinuo,” and is generally someone who is very knowledgeable in the workings of all the rituals and so on in a temple as well as how to administer them. Serving as a leader of the attendees does not mean that person holds power, but people do indeed vie for the position quite competitively. All of the Dharma texts mention rituals, and they are mentioned in the sutras as well. However, at most they talk about how to make offerings, arrange mandalas, and so on; not much is written about the smaller, more detailed rituals. Are rituals important? Rituals can help give order to sentient beings’ scattered thoughts, so for them they are of course important. For a Buddhist a ritual is nothing more than a tool, but not an immutable one; it can vary depending on time and place. Therefore, with regard to the disciple who asked the questions, just because the rituals in her former temple were done in a certain way does not mean that other places must follow suit. Ordained practitioners in Thailand practice Theravada Buddhism; their rituals are different from those used in Mahayana Buddhism, and so are the outfits they wear. Does that mean they are not practicing Buddhism?

While practicing Buddhism, it is not absolutely necessary to take refuge in any so-called prestigious and upright order to be able to learn the Right Dharma. While on Earth, Shakyamuni Buddha taught all sorts of Dharma methods; they varied according to the differing causes, conditions, fortune, and merits of sentient beings, and the Buddha used various Dharma methods to help them. The Buddha also once taught, “Follow the Dharma, not the person.” When practicing Buddhism you do not necessarily have to take refuge in a famous high-ranking monk or practitioner; the thing you should look at is whether or not the Dharma being taught can help you be liberated from the cycle of life and death. Only if it can is it the Right Dharma.

Why does the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center ask ordained practitioners to act as leaders of the attendees? It is not because they practice better than everyone else. On the one hand it is because the ordained practitioners in the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center do not have jobs to do the way those in other places do; apart from morning and evening prayers and taking turns cooking meals, they do not usually have much else to do, so they are asked to lead the attendees. Ordained disciples should not tell Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche how busy they used to be; could they possibly have been busier than the guru? Second of all, since they have already decided to become ordained, they naturally have fewer afflictions than do lay practitioners, and they are more focused while chanting mantras and the Buddha’s name. The disciple who wrote the email mentioned that her former temple had been very strict, and that leaders of the attendees did not change. However, swapping out leaders of the attendees does not indicate a lack of strictness; the responsibility to lead the attendees does not necessarily need to fall on the shoulders of the same person every time. If that person were to do a poor job, would you want him or her to continue leading? Even an administrator of a temple should be replaced if he or she is not doing a good job.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued to answer the questions this disciple asked in her email. She mentioned that after she had completed her morning prayers one day, another ordained disciple told her that a certain male disciple had been a bit critical of her. She took great exception to this. On the spot Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed the ordained disciple who had relayed the male disciple’s criticisms to explain just what this was all about. The ordained disciple reported that one time after morning prayers had ended, a male disciple serving as a volunteer inside the Buddhist Center told her that during morning prayers he had seen that ordained disciple—the one who wrote the email—chanting with her arms crossed in front of her chest. He had thought that this posture of hers while chanting mantras was disrespectful. Because she was an ordained practitioner, however, the male disciple had felt unable to approach her directly about it, so he had hoped that another ordained disciple might relay his message to her.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then asked which volunteer inside the Buddhist Center it was who had asked her to relay the message. The ordained disciple immediately revealed the disciple’s name. In a stern tone, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked this volunteer disciple, “Have you been given the authority to supervise the ordained practitioners?” The male disciple answered that he had not. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche reprimanded him. “As a volunteer working inside the Buddhist Center, why would you need to worry about the ordained practitioners during morning prayers?” Right then and there, the guru instructed the general director of the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Cultural Exchange Association to outline the duties of a volunteer working inside the Buddhist Center. The general director reported, “The duties of a volunteer working inside the Buddhist Center involve arranging the sitting cushions prior to the puja, making sure the leg-covers are neat and tidy, and getting the Buddhist Center ready.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then berated this male disciple. “You think you’ve got the authority, don’t you? When did you become qualified to supervise the ordained practitioners? Everyone wants to flaunt his or her power, desires, and opinions! You even have the gall to criticize an ordained practitioner!” The male disciple had acted out of haughtiness and arrogance and a desire to show how formidable he was. Right then and there, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche gave instructions that this disciple be stripped of his volunteer position inside the Buddhist Center immediately, and declared that from then on he would not be qualified to learn Tantra.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche once stated that ordained practitioners are not necessarily better at practicing, but at the very least they have already decided to become ordained, so everyone should treat them with respect. Now there was actually a male lay practitioner who dared to criticize an ordained practitioner! In her email, this ordained practitioner said that in Exoteric Buddhism, a criticism would not be relayed; instead she would have gone up to the male practitioner and asked, “Why, instead of being focused on your morning prayers, did you pay so much attention to a female ordained practitioner?” It was her opinion that lay practitioners should not stick their noses in ordained practitioners’ business. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said that this was not in fact the case; it was not that they could not mind ordained practitioners’ business, but rather they should show them respect due to their efforts in Buddhist practice. Because ordained practitioners have presented the appearance of being ordained, it is easier for them to practice. But by the same token it is also easier for them to become haughty and arrogant and look down on lay practitioners.

Next Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche admonished the ordained disciple who had passed on the message. Not only had she not reported the male disciple for criticizing an ordained practitioner; she had even helped him by relaying his message. Was she striving to please everyone? She had hoped to help one party by passing on his message, and when the other party listened and corrected it, both sides would be okay with her. But she had not thought about the fact that a lay practitioner was breaking the precepts by criticizing an ordained practitioner, and her not reporting the incident indicated that she had hoped to cover up for both parties involved. You’re all the same as she; you don’t want to offend anyone, and you think all you are doing is acting as messengers. But you should know that people who strive to please everyone can just as easily fall into hell. What’s more, when did Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ask her to be in charge of supervising other ordained disciples?

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then asked the ordained disciple that had written the email what she had wished to express by reporting this incident. The ordained disciple answered that because the ordained disciple who had passed on the message had told her that the male disciple was a volunteer inside the Buddhist Center, she had felt it very strange, wondering why he would need to be on duty there during morning and evening prayers. With regard to this, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche stated that this ordained disciple’s views had been very strange, too; she felt that while in the Buddhist Center, male practitioners should not notice female practitioners, and female practitioners should not notice male practitioners. However, this was a precept for monks and nuns, not one that lay practitioners such as these needed to observe.

With regard to precepts, in Tibetan Buddhism male and female practitioners work and rest separately; they even eat in separate dining halls. Unless the guru has permitted otherwise, they do everything separately—from eating to performing morning and evening prayers—and they are not allowed to live under the same roof. Those of you who accompanied Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to India saw that this is how the monasteries of the Drikung Kagyu Order are organized; the monks have their space while the nuns have theirs, and the two sides never come in contact with one another. In modern society, however, there is not enough room for men and women to be kept completely separate. Even back when she was practicing Exoteric Buddhism, this ordained disciple had witnessed monks and nuns working together. This, too, was against the precepts, space limitations would have made it necessary. In today’s industrial and commercial society, it would be impossible to implement a thorough separation, so they have no choice but to apply expedient means.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche stated that this ordained disciple should not see a Bhikkuni’s precepts as those which a lay practitioner should keep. Just then the ordained disciple grinned. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said that though he himself had not been ordained, even he knew that by so doing she had broken the precept that “one must not show one’s teeth while smiling.” She herself had broken the precepts, yet she actually had the gall to speak of precepts to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche! If it was so easy for her to break the precepts, then she obviously did not keep them rigorously enough. From this it was clear that even though she was ordained, she had not implemented Buddhist teachings in her daily life; otherwise she would take her every action with extreme care. She herself had broken many precepts, yet had regarded lay practitioners from the point of view of an ordained practitioner’s rules. She had even written a letter telling Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche of matters related to the precepts. Buddhist precepts are not used to criticize others; rather, one should use them to discipline and caution oneself. She thought that she was good with words; she had studied at a Buddhist college. This had made her haughty and arrogant, and she even dared to speak of others breaking the precepts! Had she transmitted the precepts? If not, then how could she criticize others for breaking them? Did she think she was a master of precepts? Or a master of vinaya ?

In her email she wrote that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had stipulated that ordained disciples were not allowed to accept offerings. The guru declared that he had never said such a thing; rather, he had said that ordained disciples who had taken refuge with him may not accept offerings, because offerings received must be repaid. If they themselves are not meritorious and not able to use the Dharma to help sentient beings, then they will repay the offerings by other means. Therefore, any ordained practitioner who has taken refuge in Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is supported by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has never once said that ordained disciples may not accept offerings; if this disciple heard incorrectly even while listening to the guru’s teachings, then obviously she had not been listening very closely. Not to mention, with this many Sangha in Taiwan, if Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche were to say that ordained practitioners could not accept offerings, then would that not incite them to anger? The sutras do not say that ordained practitioners cannot accept offerings, and there is no way Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would say such a thing, either! The guru clearly had not said it, yet this ordained disciple said that he had; she had made false speech! She actually even thought that because Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was an old man sixty-six years of age, he would not remember what he had said. Though the guru might be getting on in years, he remembers everything he has said with crystal clarity. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche did not say that ordained practitioners cannot accept offerings; rather, the guru said that he would not allow his ordained disciples to do so, because the guru made offerings to them! Why does Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche make offerings to these ordained disciples? It is so that they do not have to worry about feeding or sheltering themselves. They are each given a stipend every month so that they do not have to worry over such problems as having believers who may or may not give offerings, having enough resources to support their practice of Buddhism, etc., and so that they can focus on diligently practicing Buddhism! There are already plenty of afflictions from this rolling world of human affairs. In such a world, if one has already decided to become ordained, then one should focus on practicing Buddhism with diligence. So why was she constantly adding more afflictions to herself?

As an ordained practitioner, one should renounce all afflictions, stop posturing, and concentrate on cultivating Buddhism. One should not think about enlightenment all day or hope that one can practice to the point that in the future one will have a following of believers. The disciple who wrote the email had been ordained already, so why did she still have so much to say? She even went around criticizing people. If she still acted this way after practicing Buddhism—liking this, disliking that; thinking someone is annoying—then she still had a discriminating mind. Having a discriminating mind precludes the ability to have compassion; as such, no matter how much she learned, the most she could hope for would be to have a good heart. Without compassion, having a good heart is not powerful enough to benefit sentient beings.

As a Buddhist practitioner, if she had a strong sense of renunciation, she would not have asked such nonsensical questions; she would have been able to tolerate such a trivial worldly matter. That this ordained disciple would write such an email meant that she had not cultivated one of the Six Paramitas—forbearance. If she could not even forebear in the face of minor affairs, she did not have a mind of renunciation. From the beginning if she had been able to maintain forbearance when encountering this incident, it would have passed; instead she had written an email to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. She had thought that since she was ordained and had studied at a Buddhist college, she therefore had a right to look down on lay practitioners. She had shaved her head, giving the image of being an ordained practitioner, yet she still could not see her own faults. If, after taking refuge, you are not obedient, you do not diligently practice Buddhism, your attitude while practicing Buddhism is incorrect, or you do not think in terms of wanting to be liberated from reincarnation, then Dharma Protector Achi will drive you each away one at a time.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has stated in the past that the biggest problem an ordained practitioner faces is haughtiness and arrogance. If the ordained disciple who had written the letter had been able to swallow her pride and ignore this incident in the first place, it would not have blown up into such a big deal. From the tone of her letter, it was clear that she felt extremely dissatisfied with the incident and thought that it was definitely something Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche himself should handle. In other places, such an issue might be handled privately by way of a mediator, but Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had decided to go ahead and make the incident public, directly calling out the male disciple who had done the criticism and dismissing him from his post. This whole affair had actually been about lay practitioners looking down on ordained practitioners and vice versa.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche severely admonished the ordained disciple who had written the email for being ordained yet still being unable to cultivate forbearance and focus her attention on her Buddhist practice. Having the cause and condition to become ordained was no easy feat; she should cherish this opportunity with every ounce of her being! Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche provides food and board for the ordained disciples; he even pays them a stipend. Yet she still was not completely applying herself to her Buddhist practice; she was unwilling to abandon her posturing, and had made a huge fuss over some very minor issues! The minute she was unhappy, she tended to holler and carry on to her Dharma brothers. She frequently caused conflict, and was even unwilling to cook when it was her turn to do so. The ordained disciples living in the dormitory have to take turns preparing meals, but whenever it was her turn she was not willing. Did she think she had already attained the fruition of a Rinpoche, and so others should cook for her? Or did she think the other ordained practitioners were there to take care of her like a pack of mothers? The other ordained practitioners are older than she, yet she still refuses to accept them as her superiors; plus, she started a conflict over a tiny little matter!

The ordained disciple who had written the email had once refused to go buy rice for everyone when it was her turn to cook. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed another ordained disciple to explain what had happened. The ordained disciple answered that she did not know. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche berated her. Was she trying to please everyone, too? She lived in the ordained practitioners’ dormitory; did she not pay attention to what went on in there? The ordained disciple reported that she had been at the Touliu Buddhist Center the week the incident occurred, and had only heard from someone after she got back that when it had been that ordained disciple’s turn to go shopping and prepare the meals, she had purchased only a tiny bit of rice and had not prepared enough for everyone to eat. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then asked another ordained disciple whether the ordained disciple who had written the email had once started a dispute with her over a drop of water. This ordained disciple reported that she could not recall.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche admonished the ordained disciple who had written the email, saying that she could not cause any conflicts with her Dharma brothers in the dormitory without the guru knowing about it. Little did she know, but Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has many ways of finding out about these things. This ordained disciple who had written the email had more problems than anyone else; this was obvious from the experiences she had shared during the pujas. Over the past few weeks, while listening to the ordained disciples share their experiences, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had heard a few of them talk about things that the guru had taught. This ordained disciple who had written the email, however, only ever talked about her own views. She thought that because she was educated and had attended a Buddhist college, she was therefore superior. She was haughty and arrogant, was a show-off when it came to writing essays, and thought that her eloquence made her adept at practicing Buddhism. Even Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche often quoted His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang or Shakyamuni Buddha while speaking; this ordained disciple, however, arrogantly claimed the words as her own. No matter how good might be with words, such eloquence is useless if you do not possess a mind of renunciation and compassion, for you will never be able to apply it, nor will you be able to leave the suffering sea of reincarnation in this lifetime. So long as you take refuge at the foot of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Dharma throne, the guru will continue to test you. If you are afraid of being scolded, then go someplace else; there are people out there who will not scold you. Nor will they care about whether you practice or not.

In her email, the ordained disciple also mentioned that she had received financial support from a certain institution in the past. Now that she had come to the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center, she wanted to know whether or not she could continue to receive funds from that institution. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked her if she was very short on money. The disciple answered that she was not. Thereupon, the guru berated her: “If you’re not, then why would you want to take someone else’s money? Why even bring this up? You’ve been ordained, yet you are still so greedy! You have not resolved to throw yourself into your Buddhist practice; all day long, you cause conflicts with your fellow ordained disciples with whom you live. Nowadays there are only a handful of ordained disciples living in the dormitory, yet still you were able to turn it into a tremendous mess.” Now Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche knew why disputes occurred in so many of Taiwan’s temples: It was because they had people like her! And she had the gall use another temple’s regulations to try and put pressure on Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche? Did she think the guru knew nothing of Exoteric Buddhism?

At the end of her email, she wrote that she was sorry to have troubled Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche over such trivial matters. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said, “That’s exactly right! She should indeed feel sorry; she should feel apologetic toward herself, because from this incident it is obvious that since becoming ordained she has learned so much, yet she completely lacks a mind of renunciation. She is still muddling along, allowing herself to be lax! Perhaps all she thinks about is finishing her studies at the Buddhist college, and that then she’ll able to take on disciples. She has been ordained this long, but for her the Dharma is nothing more than something she recites; she has not implemented it in her life at all. Perhaps she was spoiled by her mother from an early age! In Buddhist practice, one must amend all behavior that could cause one to fall into reincarnation. If she still has so many afflictions, how can she possibly break the cycle of reincarnation? This email flows with eloquence, and is at least two hundred characters long; does she have too much time on her hands? As for her mention that some things at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center are different from how they were when she used to practice Exoteric Buddhism, and that she was having difficulty grasping these differences, why can’t she just observe the actions of her Dharma brothers and follow suit? In future if she has any further questions, she should ask them of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche directly on a Saturday while the guru is receiving believers. That is not to say that you are not allowed to express your opinions; however, given that there are more than a thousand disciples, if everyone were to express his or her opinion it would amount to over a thousand opinions, and the entire Buddhist Center would be in total chaos!”

In fact, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had already heard many times about this ordained disciple not cooking in the dormitory, shouting and carrying on with other ordained disciples, and arguing with them over trivial things. The guru had originally thought to wait until her karmic retribution presented itself before exposing her; he had not expected that she would write him an email. Dharma Protector Achi is truly amazing; those of you with problems will all be found out. Seeing that ordained disciple still had doubt written all over her face, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche decided to give her another chance. The guru had the disciples go back and hold a meeting so that they could go over dormitory regulations and proper procedures thoroughly with her. In future, if Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche again heard of her refusing to cook meals or of her violating any regulations, the guru would ask her to leave.

Addressing the disciples, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche solemnly announced that everyone must listen closely: Those gathered together at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center comprise a Fourfold Assembly. Lay practitioners should respect ordained practitioners, because no matter how well or how poorly the ordained ones practice, the fact that they have already decided to become ordained means that they are committed in their resolve. Lay practitioners have not achieved this, so they should show courtesy to them. If you see an ordained practitioner doing something wrong, you should tell your team leader; team leaders should then report to the board, and board members should of course report to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. However, you absolutely must not criticize in private. In the past you might have heard Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche talk about some inappropriate acts committed by ordained practitioners. The guru did this in accordance with the sutras, to state it for everyone to know; that does not mean Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche does not respect ordained practitioners, nor does it mean you may follow suit by criticizing them. You might think a certain thing is not in accordance with the Dharma, but actually it is. If Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche did not respect ordained practitioners, would he have taken refuge in an ordained guru? Don’t think that just because lay practitioners are in the majority at the Buddhist Center means that more importance is attached to them; a lay practitioner absolutely may not criticize an ordained practitioner. A Bhikkhuni must keep 348 precepts, whereas a lay practitioner only needs to keep five. If there is a deity for each precept, then you’d be no match for the Bhikkuni based on the number of precept deities protecting you; what gives you the right to criticize?

The most important thing in practicing Buddhism is to have a firm mind of renunciation. If you have this, and wish to break the cycle of reincarnation, such an incident will not happen to you. To practice Buddhism you must act in complete accordance with the Dharma methods taught by the guru and the Buddha. Acting in accordance with the guru’s teachings does not allow for any exceptions whatsoever. You all make a little exception here, a little exception there. People who still own restaurants that serve meat do not believe in cause and effect; they are still committing evil. You are afraid of nothing, including death. You are all very good at making excuses for yourselves, saying that if you were to quit working in the food industry you would not have any income. Actually, if you had an abundance of good fortune, then you would enjoy income no matter what your job was. However, if you continue to work a job that involves meat dishes, you will certainly be unable to hold on to any money you make; either you will get sick and spend it all on visits to the doctor, or something else will happen to make you go broke. Some people might say, “There are some famous international restaurant chains that serve meat, and they’re still around and doing fine, eh?” But actually, that’s just because they haven’t changed their companies’ names yet. There is a constant turn-over among their shareholders, however.

The Buddha wants us to stop committing evil and to do good deeds. Those of you still committing evil should stop immediately. Some of you who run restaurants that serve meat still hope to implore for the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to help you by getting someone to buy your establishment. You even say you’ll change your behavior if you can just be given one more month to find a buyer. How could the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas possibly help you?! For each day you continue to operate, you are accumulating another day’s worth of karma from killing; if you continue for another year, you will create another year’s worth of evil karma! The karmic retribution for your evil acts is to go to hell. Why would the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas allow you to continue making money from evil? Wouldn’t that do it if you were to stop running your meat restaurant, just close up shop and find another line of work? It all just depends on whether or not you have the determination. You might think, “I’m just running a restaurant that serves meat, that’s all; I haven’t killed anything myself; the meat products are from animals someone else had already killed.” But in The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows it is written that the karmic retribution for seeking to benefit from using sentient beings’ lives is to suffer frequent illness and a shorter lifespan in this lifetime, and when you die, to go to hell.

Back when Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was learning Buddhism, there were times when he was so poor he could not afford to buy food. Someone once offered Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche NT$150,000 to sell a statue of the Buddha. For the guru, selling a statue of the Buddha would be like selling his own parents; he would rather starve to death. What’s more, NT$150,000 was a lot of money back in 1992. If it had been you, you might have decided to go ahead and sell the statue, and then once you had the money you could get another one. Who knows, the next one you got might be even statelier. But Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would never even think like that, let alone do such a thing.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said that a moment ago, while admonishing that disciple, at first the disciple had been very unhappy; she was wondering why the guru was scolding her. But if a guru does not immediately point out his disciples’ mistakes, then he will truly feel sad; he will feel that he has let the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas down. The straight mind is the Bodhimandala; there is nothing that cannot be spoken openly. Most of the Vajrayana gurus you have seen are quite reserved. All of those mistakes made by that ordained disciple were causes that would have sent her to hell; only because Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche berated her on the spot was she able to be saved. In The Ratnakuta Sutra it is recorded that during the Age of Degenerate Dharma, sramana (Buddhist monks) would mislead believers with flattery and sweet-talks and distort the Dharma in order to obtain fame and fortune. A lot of temples flatter their believers by saying they are doing a great job practicing Buddhism, or telling a believer he or she looks just like Bodhisattva Avolokiteshvara. But what does Bodhisattva Avolokiteshvara look like? In the sutras it is recorded that the Buddha has thirty-two different appearances, and Bodhisattvas have their own appearances; how could Bodhisattva Avolokiteshvara possibly look like you!

If believers have made mistakes, then why don’t these practitioners dare to scold them? Are they distorting the Dharma just so they can get offerings? Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is a lay practitioner with his own source of income, so the guru does not need to entertain believers to try and get their offerings. If the guru sees someone doing the wrong thing, he points it out directly. A Buddhist practitioner speaks the truth; this can be offensive. But Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche does not do what he does in order to gain more believers; even if the guru offends people by speaking the truth, the most important things are that Buddhism may flourish in this world and that its duration be extended.

Last week we had ordained practitioners explain the precepts, because they are extremely important for Buddhist practitioners. Some people think of the precepts as restrictions of some kind; as in, you can’t do this or you can’t do that. This is not actually the case, because only after you commit to keeping the precepts can you enter a meditative state; only then can you give rise to wisdom, be able to see the suffering of sentient beings, and understand what causes that suffering. For example, if you observe the “no killing” precept, then you will no longer have any thoughts about killing, right? Once you no longer think about killing, you will have engendered in yourself the calmness that comes from not killing. Another example is, if you observe the precept of refraining from drinking alcohol, then after you quit drinking you will become settled; only then can you understand what the problems with drinking alcohol are.

Yesterday, for example, a believer who had been convicted seven times of drunk driving came to implore Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for advice. The guru instructed a disciple to explain to him the harm and effects that come from drinking alcohol. This disciple was only able to tell others what was harmful about drinking alcohol because in the past he had never been without alcohol for a single day, and had begun to quit drinking after taking refuge. Yesterday, when the believer who had seven DUIs to his name came seeking an audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, the first thing the guru told him to do was to perform two hundred great prostrations. If he was able to complete them, it would mean he had the intention to change, and with this bit of added good fortune, the guru would be able to teach him. If not, then the words would go in one ear and out the other.

In the past, people talked about the precept against drinking alcohol because circumstances in ancient times were such that emphasis was mainly given to the negative impact of alcohol on one’s temperament. In today’s era, however, the precept against drinking alcohol should be expanded to include drugs, sleeping pills, narcotics, sedatives, and other medications that can affect one’s consciousness. For example, long-term reliance on sleeping pills can wreck your brain, and make you feel groggy all day long and unable to concentrate. When your cognitive abilities are inadequate, you are unable to examine your actions throughout the day to make sure they are in keeping with the Dharma. Frequent use of such pills will make you dull-witted; how then can you practice Buddhism? Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche urges everyone not to take sleeping pills; taking too many can cause dementia. For all the difficult experiences Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has had to go through over the course of this lifetime, the guru has not once consumed a single sleeping pill. According to traditional Chinese medicine, having trouble sleeping at night is caused when there is a serious liver-fire syndrome present and you are lacking in chi and blood; such conditions naturally lead to insomnia. Elderly people sleep less because they have insufficient chi and blood in their liver, and their chi channels are blocked; in traditional Chinese medicine this is called “insufficient chi in the liver.” That does not mean there is anything wrong with the livers of the elderly; you cannot look at it like that. It just means they are old, and so their liver function is in decline. That is part of the same old suffering that comes from birth, old age, sickness, and death. From a Buddhist point of view, having difficulty sleeping is caused by having too many wandering thoughts. When you see a young child who is able to fall asleep as soon as his or her head hits the pillow, this is because young children have fewer wandering thoughts, and their chi and blood are sufficient.

In the north there is a monk who drinks alcohol. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche once mentioned this matter to His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang. The Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang said that this person would only be able to transmit four of the precepts instead of five, because he had not observed the precept of refraining from drinking alcohol. An ordained practitioner absolutely must keep this precept. You should not compare yourselves to  Jidian Monk and think that if he could drink then it’s okay for you to drink, too. There is one type of situation in which it is alright to drink: If you drink continuously from sunup to sundown, and are still not intoxicated after finishing all of the wine. If you are able to accomplish this, you may drink. None of you can, however, so you must observe the no-drinking precept.

If you do not keep the precepts, you cannot enter a meditative state. As such, you do not have the wisdom to benefit sentient beings. Yesterday, for example, more than two hundred believers came to seek audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. All sorts of people came; if the guru did not possess wisdom, he would not have been able to benefit so many people. Some of the believers’ questions were complete and utter nonsense, so Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche responded in kind. Yesterday there was even a young believer coming to seek audience with the guru who said that he had been with many girlfriends, but had not been able to marry any of them. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked this young man, “Why do you want to get married?” The young man answered that he had to get married because he was an only child. At that, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said to this young man, “Ask your father to help fix you up with someone.” The young man answered that his father had not introduced him to anyone. Then Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked, “Well then, did you come here hoping to find a matchmaking service?” To his surprise, the young believer answered, “Sure.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche saw that he was full of nonsense, so he responded in kind by asking, “Okay, would you prefer someone from overseas or from Taiwan?” The young believer answered, “Someone from Taiwan wouldn’t be bad.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche saw that he was still full of it, so he instructed a disciple who was also good at talking nonsense to have a conversation with the young man.

If Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had spoken of the Dharma directly to this young man, and explained that marriage ties were nothing more than the law of cause and condition, the young man would certainly not have listened. He would have left, because the only thing on his mind was getting married; asking him to practice Buddhism would have made him think he could not get married. Therefore the guru asked him to chat with that disciple. When the believer learned that there was someone present with whom he could discuss this topic that he so loved, he might be left with a good impression of this Buddhist Center. Who knows? It might have given him an opportunity to come here to practice Buddhism in the future. Thus, you cannot imagine all of the reasons behind Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s answers to the wishes of sentient beings.

Precepts are not a sort of punishment tool. They are used to impose disciplines on oneself, not to criticize others. The ordained disciple we mentioned a little while ago, the one who asked the questions, went so far as to use a Bhikkuni’s precepts as a standard by which to measure a lay disciple. She looked down on lay practitioners. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has stated in the past to disciples receiving the empowerment that after receiving an empowerment from a vajra guru who practices according to the Dharma, they should see all sentient beings as the yidam, and that all the sounds they hear are mantras. Nothing is good or bad, correct or incorrect; everything is cause and effect. Everyone knows Devadatta slandered the Buddha. In the eyes of the world, Devadatta might be seen as bad; however, the Buddha had already cultivated compassion to the point that He saw all as equals, with no difference among them. Thus, as for Devadatta’s slander, the Buddha did not see him as bad; rather, the Buddha saw him as a negative teaching material, because only through Devadatta’s appearance could we be allowed to gain a deeper understanding of cause and effect. There are many nefarious gurus in society today. When facing these nefarious gurus, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche just smiles; he would not go and criticize them. Why do some people encounter nefarious gurus? Because their mindset while practicing Buddhism is incorrect. Do not think that demons would teach you to harm people. Demons also have much good fortune and can also teach people to do good, practice Buddhism, and keep the precepts. They cannot, however, teach people to be liberated from life and death.

What is the reason for not being able to keep the precepts? It is not having a mind of renunciation. Only a practitioner with a mind of renunciation can keep the precepts and continue to “jing jin.” What does “jing jin” mean? It does not simply mean to chant a lot of mantras or make a lot of prostrations; those are just hard work, and cannot be considered “jing jin.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed a disciple to explain what “jing jin” means by breaking the Chinese characters down one at a time. The disciple was unable to explain it accurately, so Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche went ahead and explained their significance himself. “Jing” means to “concentrate,” while “jin” means to “progress continuously.” Thus, “jing jin” means to continuously progress while focusing one’s concentration on the Dharma. If your mind is scattered and you have wandering thoughts when you chant mantras, such chanting will be of no use. If you approach chanting with a chaotic mind, then no matter how much you chant or prostrate yourself, you will merely be going through the motions; at most, you will only be able to accumulate a tiny bit of good fortune of the Human and Heavenly Realms.

Many novice practitioners, when they first begin, are very hardworking; they chant in the morning and in the evening, and might experience difficulty sleeping. There are two reasons for this. First of all, originally their minds are full of many distracting thoughts; when they begin to recite the sutras and prostrate themselves before the Buddha, their minds become a bit purer and brighter. As a result, they are unable to fall asleep, even though their bodies might be quite exhausted. This is also one type of situation in which the body and the mind are out of synch with each other. It’s just like when a person is unable to sleep because he or she is very excited or very sad. The other reason is that after taking refuge, we begin to do good deeds and stop committing evil acts. Though we have stopped committing evil acts, our accumulation of good fortune is still not fast enough, so we cannot transform our karma; our evil karma has not yet been eliminated. That you have food to eat and clothing to wear continues to consume your good fortune. While we are not yet able to balance our karmic bodies with our increase of good fortune, the result can be insomnia. You absolutely must not let your imagination run wild by thinking things like, Did I chant it wrong? or, Did I practice it incorrectly? In fact, this sort of problem can be solved just by using a sort of Tantra, and it is quite simple; it is nothing more than a thought that allows you to be able to return to sleeping normally. These ordained disciples should have this sort of experience. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche will teach the ordained disciples how to do it, but not the lay disciples.

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is also called Bodhisattva Guan Zi Zai. Here “Zi Zai” does not mean He feels at ease because He is a Bodhisattva; rather, it refers to the fact that the Bodhisattva has attained liberation from life and death. Buddhism is actually quite simple. The Buddha smiled while twirling a flower between His fingers, and thereby the Venerable Mahākāśyapa was enlightened. Your minds are too complicated. The only reason Shakyamuni Buddha taught so many Dharma methods for so long was that each person has a different cause and condition, root capacity, karma, and fortune. The main emphasis in all the Dharma taught by Shakyamuni Buddha lay in teaching sentient beings to become liberated from the cycle of life and death. Every guru hopes very much for sentient beings to be able to achieve liberation from life and death; the guru and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas all hope sentient beings can do so in this lifetime. The Venerable Milarepa once said that if one cannot achieve liberation from life and death in this lifetime, then one will definitely descend into hell in a future lifetime. You should not think descending into hell is very hard to do; on the contrary, it is so easy that a mere thought is enough to send you to hell. Going to the Pure Land is easy, too; a mere thought is enough to send you there as well. Some people might say they want to come back so that they can liberate sentient beings. However, as a disciple quoted from the sutra while sharing experiences prior to the puja:

“If you care to know of past lives’ causes,
Look at the rewards you are reaping today;
If you wish to know of the effects in future lives,
You need but notice what you’re doing right now.”

If you want to know what the future will be like, take a look at what you’re doing right now. Are you acting as a Bodhisattva would? If not, then how can you possibly become a Bodhisattva in a future lifetime? You want to come back in the next life to liberate sentient beings, but if you have not become a Bodhisattva, then you will just be coming back at the mercy of your karma. Being reborn at the mercy of your karma gives you another opportunity to do evil; continuously accumulating evil karma creates the opportunity to descend into hell, and thus makes you unable to break the cycle of reincarnation.

There is a Dharma method in Buddhism called “attracting by satisfying one’s desire.” If you have not yet taken refuge, the guru will help you; if you have taken refuge already, you must rely on yourself to practice. “Attracting by satisfying one’s desire” refers to the fact that when you first start out, the guru will help you solve your problems. For example, when you have pain from falling ill, etc., he will alleviate it to some degree so that you can concentrate on practicing Buddhism, accumulating good fortune, and becoming liberated from life and death. If, after the guru has helped you solve your problems, you are disobedient and do not practice Buddhism diligently and still implore for more things, then the guru will pay no further attention to you and will put you aside. This is because the guru and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are not here to satisfy your desires. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is not here to cure you of your illnesses. Often, when we hear disciples share how Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche helped them, all we hear is how the guru helped cured them of their illnesses. However, we have never heard anyone say Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche made them want to be liberated from life and death. As a matter of fact, the reason the guru helps cure you of your illnesses is so that you can diligently focus on practicing Buddhism in peace.

There was a disciple who got breast cancer and received Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessings. The guru employed many methods to help her, and afterward the cancer cells diminished until they disappeared. You have heard, too, that previously there was a female disciple who was a nurse. She reported that the typical cancer patient has to spend close to five or six million NT dollars on treatment costs. This disciple with breast cancer, however, had never made an offering of five million NT dollars; she did not even have five hundred thousand. Buddhism allowed her to save all this money and have more time; not so that she could enjoy life, but rather so that she could have time to learn the Dharma and be liberated from life and death. Actually, it’s not that sick people cannot practice Buddhism, or that only healthy people can practice; everything depends on one’s determination. If you can truly make a firm resolution, then even if you only have four months left to live you can still obtain blessings from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the guru. These blessings are not bestowed in order to cure you of your illness; rather, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas bestow them so that in your last four months you will be able to accumulate enough good fortune to be liberated from life and death.

A person who truly has a mind of renunciation will keep all of the precepts quite rigorously, and will be extremely careful about what he or she does, says, and thinks. Before doing or saying anything, such a person will first consider whether or not it will harm any sentient beings. A person with a mind of renunciation wishes to be liberated from reincarnation, so will naturally be very careful to avoid creating even more karma. He or she will not owe anyone or allow anyone to owe him or her. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche often warns you that you should not agree to do anything you are incapable of doing; if you agree to do something, you have to do it. Commitments between men and women should not be given lightly, either. For example, for many of you young women, you might feel bad about turning a guy down even though you don’t like him. You think you might as well say yes to him; after all, going out with him two or three times won’t be a big deal, you think, and you can always find an opportunity to break it off later on. But if in the process you cause him to think that something meaningful exists between the two of you, and if you are careless enough to speak any promises, then even if you cannot fulfill those promises in this lifetime, he will be able to seek you out in the next.

Conversely, it’s the same for men; if you say you’ll marry her but end up not doing so, then she will come looking for you to repay that debt in your next lifetime. Think about it: How many times have you agreed to do something for someone, yet not ended up fulfilling your promise? Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche cannot scold anyone on this account; his own child is a prime example! Ever since his child was little, the guru has taught him to abide by his promises and commitments; however, to this day he has been unable to. Many people are the same way. If you cannot do something, you can refuse to do it. If you agree to do something, however, you absolutely have to do it. A lot of people these days feel bad about saying no because they are afraid to offend anyone. The karmic retribution for frequently leading people on like this is that in the future you will encounter people who lead you on. This includes not being punctual. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s child is often unpunctual; sometimes he agrees to meet at 12:00, but then it is 2:00 before he calls to say that something has held him up. He waits until he is asked about it before giving an innocent expression, as if that will cause people to forgive him. Not being punctual is the same as owing time to someone. The karmic retribution for this is that in the future, others will waste your time. They might say, for example, that they will help you finish something by a certain time, but when it comes down to it they won’t meet the deadline. This procrastination of theirs might not be intentional, but even if a bunch of unexpected accidents happen to delay them, it is all due to cause and effect.

Once you commit to keep the precepts, you stop creating evil; only then will your evil karma gradually lessen and even cease to accumulate. You will gather more and more good karma, and its power will grow so great that it can suppress the effects of evil karma. Only in such a way can you transform your karma. You should note, however, that this only suppresses evil karma; it does not cause it to disappear entirely. Evil karma cannot disappear. This is why, during the past few pujas, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has talked about the need to have a sense of shame. If you have a sense of shame, you will neither do things you should not do nor make mistakes, let alone make the same mistake over and over again.

If you only do a tiny good deed for each evil act you commit, or only do one good deed for every three evil acts you commit, then the power of those good deeds will be insufficient to transform your karma. If you do not have a mind of renunciation and are not trying to be liberated from reincarnation, then no matter how many good deeds you perform, you will not be able to transform your lifetimes of accumulated karma. You will only be accumulating the good fortune of the Human and Heavenly Realms for use in the next lifetime; you will certainly not be able to use it in this lifetime. Furthermore, everything you wear, use, and benefit from in this lifetime is the result of the good fortune you cultivated in your past lives. Good fortune cannot transform karma; only merits can do that. Take, for example, the father of the disciple who came forward a little while ago to share his experiences: Though he had done good deeds in his lifetime, he had enjoyed eating meat; therefore he had to reap his rightful karmic retribution—including all the suffering that was his due. Moreover, all of his sons’ prostrations and recitations allowed them to create a causal condition that would allow them to seek audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and obtain the guru’s help. However, the father had to wait until he had received the rest of his suffering and died before he could be liberated. In the hospital they recited The Medicine Buddha Sutra, but that did not mean it would cure their father of his illness. However, upon seeing that their filial intentions were sincere, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas allowed them to have the causal condition to seek an audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

Many people in society think that reciting a particular sutra will have a particular effect. The vast majority, however, do not achieve the desired effect, because they do not perform the appropriate ritual as dictated in that particular sutra. Take, for example, The Medicine Buddha Sutra we mentioned a moment ago. While reciting it, you did not set up the mandala of the Twelve Yakshas; also, prior to reciting the sutra, you must change your clothing, bathe, light incense, make offerings, pray, and calm your mind. Very few people in Tibet or Taiwan are able to do all of this. You just recite for a while until you think of something else you have to do, in which case you jam a bookmark into the sutra book and say you’ll finish the rest later when you have time. This sort of recitation is reciting with a scattered mind, and is useless. Thus, the teachings written in the sutras will work, but are not for someone who is not sincere enough. On the other hand, modern-day people are unable to meet the conditions written in the sutras. For example, when they were reciting The Medicine Buddha Sutra in front of the intensive care unit and people were coming and going, how could they concentrate? How could they have set up a mandala? If you did not achieve your desired result after you finish reciting the sutra, a lesser person might say the sutra did not work. A better person would not think like that, so the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas would give you an opportunity.

His father just liked eating meat, that’s all; his job had not even had anything to do with killing. However, it is stated very clearly in The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that people who like eating meat will descend into hell. If you think about that, you’ll know how severe the karmic retribution is for working a job involved in killing living things or using the flesh of sentient beings for your own benefit! The disciple who came forward to share his experiences a little while ago said his father had accidentally stabbed a German shepherd with an iron rod. Stop saying, “I didn’t mean it.” Anything you do or say stems from a thought that originated in your mind. The Dharma does not include the word “accident;” everything is cause and effect. Though he and his father did good deeds, chanted the Buddha’s name, and prostrated themselves before the Buddha, nowhere in the sutras is it written that such prostrations can make your karmic retribution disappear.

Even though it had been thirty or forty years since his father stabbed that German shepherd, karmic retribution still caught up to him in his old age. If his father had been vegetarian all along, and had never killed anything, then before stabbing the rod into the crate he definitely would have paused and listened to see if there was anything inside. But was his father vegetarian? Not at all, which was the reason he had decided not to worry so much and just jab the rod in, completely disregarding the consequences. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has told you in the past that the first job he had was in the kitchen of a grand hotel. He worked there for more than three months without coming across a single piece of meat, and he never once picked up a knife. This was because in his past lives he had already gotten rid of the habit of killing. Therefore, if your job involves meat, it means you still have the habit of killing from past lives.

Why did this disciple’s father, before passing away, have a problem with his central nervous system and come down with Parkinson’s disease, making him unable to chant the Buddha’s name? Because when he had used up all of his good fortune, all the sentient beings he had ever eaten and harmed came knocking at his door to collect the debts he owed them. They caused him to contract this disease, and he no longer even had enough good fortune to be able to chant the Buddha’s name. One must have sufficient good fortune and causal conditions to be able to receive the Phowa. His father passed away a little after three in the morning; how could he find Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche? The good fortune of the Human and Heavenly Realms that you obtain in this lifetime, you cannot use in this life time; everything from which you benefit in this lifetime—including the clothes you are able to wear and the food you are able to eat—is the result of how you acted in your previous lifetimes. You must no longer refuse to listen to, believe in, or accept cause and effect. Cause and effect are very complicated; it’s not as easy as “one plus one equals two,” as you might believe. When it comes to cause and effect in Buddhism, the sum of one plus one is infinitely large.

You must stop thinking that continuing to commit a few minor evil acts is no big deal. So long as you have not broken away from evil, it will continue to accumulate. Only by practicing Buddhism, breaking away from evil, and do good deeds can you allow the power of good to grow large enough to temporarily suppress the effects of evil karmic retribution, change the flavor of that evil karmic retribution, or delay its occurrence. If you continue to commit evil after you have begun to practice Buddhism, then if you wait until the karmic retribution has matured it will be too late. In the end, it will just depend on whether the deceased has enough causal conditions and good fortune to be helped by a virtuous mentor. This was how it was for those two brothers. They knew their father had a terminal illness, yet they had not helped their father accumulate good fortune and causal conditions in time, even after taking refuge with the guru. In the end, therefore, their father did not have the causal condition to find Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to perform the Dharma for him.

Previously there was a female disciple who brought her mother to participate in the Chod Puja for more than a year, but she did not have her mother eat vegetarian. There were family members of this disciple who had also taken refuge, yet they had not made their mother eat vegetarian, either. This might seem to be a problem with the mother, but actually it was the fault of the disciples who had taken refuge. This is because they had not given rise to a staunch mind of renunciation to implore for their mother; they had only wanted their mother to become healthy and not fall ill. They did not, however, act out of a desire to help their mother be liberated from life and death. Naturally, thinking that eating meat was not such a big deal had been the result of their not having completely observed the precepts themselves, which was the reason they had thought that particular precept was not very important.

The sutras state that practicing Buddhism is what a great man does. In ancient times, a “great man” meant someone who had the resolve to engage in great undertakings. This is different from Japanese, in which “a great man” means “it doesn’t matter.” Everyone will encounter the great affair of life and death; without a doubt, every person must face death alone one day. Is this not the greatest of affairs? Doesn’t it take courage and determination to be liberated from the great affair of life and death? Changing oneself is the most difficult task in the universe. You’ve been told in the past that from the moment we open our eyes, we see other people; we see their faults, but not our own. Practicing Buddhism involves amending behavior that causes us to reincarnate. Buddhist practice does not require that you not have a job or get married. If you have to work, then work; if you want to marry, then marry. If you need to sleep, sleep; if you need to eat, eat. You should live normal lives just like other people. The only difference is in your mindset; you must become truly resolved to be liberated from the cycle of life and death in this lifetime. Practicing Buddhism enables your consciousness to be different from that of other people.

Ever since 1995 when Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche began to help sentient beings until the present, not one person has passed away who was completely without worry or was able to strive wholeheartedly to be reborn in the Pure Land. This is why the guru keeps emphasizing that you must cultivate a mind of renunciation. You should not wait until you are about to die to think about renunciation; you should keep renunciation in mind constantly and resolve to extricate yourself from reincarnation. From this moment on you must train yourself so that your thoughts on your deathbed are to leave reincarnation behind. This process of training your body, speech, and mind must begin with your everyday life. If you do not have a firm resolve and cultivate a strong mind of renunciation—even if right now you know that you have to leave reincarnation—then in that final moment you will easily forget. It is stated in The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that before one passes away, one’s karmic creditors will transform into the likenesses of one’s relatives or other people one likes, and come to take one away. There have been a few disciples who have shared in the past that when they were on the verge of death, people who looked like their relatives or people they liked came and tried to take them away. Because they had a firm faith in the guru at the time, these karmic creditors naturally could not take them away. This is not as easy to achieve as you would imagine.

Living in the Age of Degenerate Dharma, you cannot simply rely on your own cultivation to be liberated from life and death. Vajrayana Buddhism places special emphasis on the guru. Ordinarily, the guru is very strict in his demands and in what he teaches you, so on a daily basis you should train yourselves to be respectful of the Three Jewels and to listen to what the guru says. If you do this to the point that in your final moment before death you are able to think of the guru, then you will be able to obtain the guru’s help to not be distracted by your family members, to not forget to give rise to a mind of renunciation, and to not descend into the Three Evil Realms. The day will certainly come when you will face death alone. It’s not that the guru wants you to show him respect; rather, you should train yourselves to ordinarily listen to what the guru says and to not have a shred of doubt in him so that when the time comes for you to pass away, you are able to maintain your faith in the guru.

If Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche were not ordinarily so strict, let your minor problems go, did not help you to cultivate a respectful attitude toward the Three Jewels, and did not constantly teach you while you were still living, then when your moment of death arrived you would not be able to leave reincarnation even if you wanted to. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is not telling everyone pessimistically that life is nothing more than a preparation for death; rather, the guru is optimistically explaining to you all how to cultivate a deep conviction in cause and effect, and how to use the Dharma to live each day of your lives even more proactively. A practitioner does not think about how many sentient beings he or she can liberate in this lifetime; a practitioner thinks about extending the Dharma’s time in this world.

Originally Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was to die at the age of forty-five. You might think the reason the guru has been able to live to the age of sixty-something must have to do with the blessings and protection of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; however, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche believes that so-called blessings and protection are not bestowed to cure you of your illnesses or to cause everything to change for the better. Rather, they are bestowed so that you can continue to practice Buddhism until you attain Buddhahood. Some people say they are not able by themselves to resolve to practice Buddhism, so they implore for the blessings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to enable them to do so. What are blessings? So-called blessings are bestowed upon you by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the instant that your pure, original nature—your Dharma nature, that is—is even slightly revealed; They bless you in the instant that you make a firm resolution, so that your resolve will be able to continue without dissipating. You, too, have had the experience of hoping you can complete something or of wanting to do good deeds; many people have. But these sorts of thoughts can disappear in a heartbeat. With the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ blessings, however, once you are resolved, your resolve can continue and be reinforced. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas do not help you to become determined; you yourself must first be determined to practice Buddhism. Once you have this resolve, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can help you strengthen it.

Changing oneself is the most difficult undertaking in the universe. Buddhism teaches everyone to first amend and get rid of all behavior that leads to reincarnation; it does not teach you to learn the Dharma so that you can then go and teach it to others. After you have changed yourself, the Dharma causes people around you to see the change in your behavior and thus have the opportunity to come in contact with the Dharma. You hope your family members will follow you into Buddhist practice, but if you yourself have not changed, then you cannot possibly cause others to change. This is just like a father telling his son not to smoke when the father himself smokes. Such an expectation is futile, as is asking a child not to play mahjong when the parents themselves play. Thus, you should all lead by example. Being a Buddhist practitioner does not simply mean seeing other people’s faults; rather, you must look deep within your own heart and amend your own faults. If you have not changed deep down, then you will not be able to change the energy you emit. On the other hand, if you can heed the Buddha’s wisdom, act according to the guru’s teachings, refrain from evil and do good deeds, cultivate compassion, and cultivate a Bodhi mind, then people will be able to sense it even if you say nothing and do nothing, and they will follow you into Buddhism naturally.

Of the Dharma Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche taught today, you might be thinking you’ve heard it all before. These, however, are the most important building blocks there are. Whether you are practicing Exoteric, Theravada, Mahayana, or Vajrayana Buddhism, these parts are most important. Once you possess a steadfast mind of renunciation – to be liberated from life and death, you will change yourself. In everything you do, you will ponder whether you owe anyone, or whether you have caused anyone to owe you. You will not commit evil or break the precepts, nor will you make mistakes; naturally, you will be scolded less. “However,” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said humorously, “then Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche will have fewer opportunities to get his exercise.”

At the perfect completion of the puja, all attendees stood and paid reverent homage as His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended from the Dharma throne. In unison they expressed their gratitude to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for having tirelessly bestowed auspicious teachings upon them that day.

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Updated on August 5, 2013