His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – February 19, 2015

Before the puja began, a disciple thanked His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for having bestowed upon her another opportunity to share her story of how the guru had saved her and helped her to eliminate the hindrances to her Buddhist practice.

First she shared with everyone the causal origination that had led her to take refuge in His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. In late February of last year (2014), after noticing that her body was exhibiting some rather odd physical symptoms, she’d gotten some tests done which included a blood test, a CT scan, and an MRI scan. The final test results had revealed that she had ovarian tumors with a very high cancer marker. Luckily, she’d sought an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, who had then told her and her family to rest assured that he would help her whether she chose to undergo surgery or not. Later, she had cancelled her operation and implored to take refuge. However, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had told her he would first allow her to participate in pujas, and that she could return to implore to take refuge after she had thought it through. “Practicing Buddhism is the best way to repay the debt of gratitude you owe your parents.” While ill, a realization of the impermanence of life had taught her that she should show filial piety without delay and amend her ways. She had therefore made a firm resolution to learn Buddhism from His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, to whom she was grateful for having compassionately bestowed teachings and allowed her to take refuge. Later on, she had also gotten a job working for the Glorious Jewel Group.

At first she had sent a bunch of information about her work experience to the Group, but after a long time of not hearing back from them, she had realized that she’d not had the right attitude while submitting her resume. She had then repented before the Dharma photo of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche in Happiness and Suffering, imploring the guru to help her practice Buddhism without any hindrances. That very evening she had been notified that she’d been selected for an interview. She had really needed this job, because her family did not have enough faith; unless she could work with the Group, she would not have been able to practice Buddhism. She was truly grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for having helped her.

After a while, her family members had still felt nervous and were insisting that she go through with the operation. In order to put her parents’ minds at ease and keep her family from slandering the Buddha, she had finally agreed to undergo surgery. The night before the operation, she’d had a dream in which His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had compassionately said, “You do not have enough good fortune, so you absolutely must not have any more operations after this one.” At the time she’d been unable to appreciate what the implications of these words, but before the operation she had sought another audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche during which the guru had bestowed upon her two nectar pills: One to take prior to surgery, and another to be placed into her mouth by a vegetarian after she’d left the operating room. After giving her these instructions, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had double-checked that she understood. She was extremely grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche!

The original plan had been for laparoscopy to be performed on her abdominal cavity. Later, because she had suddenly begun to bleed profusely during the procedure, the doctors had changed their minds in their urgency and decided to perform a full laparotomy. Over the course of the operation she had lost four big bags full of blood and been given a large amount of antibiotics. The extracted tumors had been sent to the cancer lab for examination; if any cancerous cells were detected, then her entire uterus and its surrounding lymph nodes would need to be removed during this operation. Because it was taking so long for the test results to be released, however, the doctors had had no choice but to wrap up the surgery and wait to decide whether to prescribe another operation or to put her in chemotherapy, pending the cancer lab’s report. She was grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for protecting her; the lab results had indicated that her ovarian tumors had been of low-grade malignancy, so neither another operation nor chemotherapy would be required. All she’d needed to do was to continue to be monitored. The doctors had been baffled, but she had known that all of this was thanks to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessings.

She said that it was true that surgery could cause a great deal of harm to the body. After her operation, she’d experienced many residual effects. Her wound had stretched about twelve centimeters down from her belly button, and the large amount of blood loss she’d suffered during surgery had left her body bereft of nutrients. All of her body functions were out of balance, and only a third of the blood a normal person should have had caused her to suffer frequent aches and dizzy spells. One time she had passed out in the restroom at work, and had been unable to stand up. After falling off the toilet, she had visualized His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and implored the guru to help her. However, right afterward she had thought that visualizing His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche while in the restroom was disrespectful, so she had immediately repented. She was grateful for the guru’s blessings. After sitting quietly on the toilet for about five minutes, she had finally stood, tidied up her appearance somewhat, steeled herself, and walked out the door to the restroom.

After leaving the restroom, she’d suddenly seen His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche standing before her! She had frozen in place, unable to react—yet the guru truly had appeared, and was right in front of her. Smiling warmly, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had seemed to say, “I bet you never thought I’d actually appear!” After regaining her senses, she had hurriedly bowed before the guru, who was still smiling. At length she had viewed His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche from behind. Unable to keep her eyes off the guru, she had not felt dizzy or uncomfortable in the least. She was grateful for His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s compassionate blessings.

She wished to take this opportunity to repent for not having done a good job of adjusting her attitude. Whenever she was in an unfamiliar situation or place of work, she’d always felt afraid to the point that she continuously made mistakes. Completely unable to cope emotionally, she had thought about quitting her job. One time His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had seen her and asked, “Are you new here? I’ve never seen you before!” She repented, and was grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for having known that she’d been in the wrong mindset. After working for the Glorious Jewel Group, she had gained a sense of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s diligence when it came to products and service. The guru had insisted on providing customers with the best products available, and was very strict and thorough when it came to quality control and the professionalism of his staff. His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche really did use his own life to protect sentient beings and give them the finest things, and for this she was full of admiration!

She wished to share what she had learned: That all sentient beings can feel His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s compassion. In her room she had a large window that looked out on the neighbors’ little farmhouse in which were a lot of chickens that they had raised to eat. Nearby were many feral cats and dogs that were constantly meowing and crying for some unknown reason. One day, during her morning prayers, she had implored His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to help them. She was grateful for the guru’s compassion, for the following day the chickens were nowhere to be seen and the dogs and cats could not be heard. After asking her mother about it, she had learned that the night before, the neighbors had cleared out their farmhouse after deciding not to raise chickens anymore, and the nearby dogs and cats had stopped making all that noise. It really was amazing!

A little while ago she had returned to the hospital for a follow-up examination to determine what was happening with her tumors. Her cancer index had dropped below that of a normal person. She was truly grateful for His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s compassionate blessings! That evening, after receiving the test results, she had been overjoyed, and had immediately shared the good news with the Dharma brothers on her team. She was so grateful, and after telling her classmates and friends, they, too, had been amazed! Seeing her now, it was indeed very difficult to imagine that she had originally been slotted for chemotherapy. She was grateful, because all of this was the result of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessings! She believed that there was a direct correlation between the amount of blessings one receives and one’s degree of faith in the guru!

Her lack of good fortune had prevented her from being able to undergo surgery a second time. Even though she had gone through with the operation, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had still agreed to help her and had eliminated the hindrances to her Buddhist practice. As a disciple, she was truly fortunate to fall under the umbrella of the guru’s protection! She was grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche! The guru always followed through with everything he promised sentient beings, but what about us? We absolutely must repent, and then repent some more!

She was grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for compassionately saving sentient beings and eliminating the hindrances to their Buddhist practice. She wished to work hard, and not waste this new life and good fortune that had been bestowed upon her by His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. The guru had never hesitated to protect sentient beings with his life! She again thanked His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for having gone to so much trouble. At the same time, she was also grateful to the guru for having bestowed upon her this opportunity to share her experiences during the puja.

Finally, she prayed that His Eminence Vajra Guru would have good health and keep turning the Dharma wheel, and that Buddhism would flourish forever so that it could benefit all sentient beings.

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne to preside over the New Year’s Day Puja and to bestow precious Dharma teachings upon all the attendees.

“This morning we’ll begin with the Thirty-five Buddhas Repentance Ritual. This repentance comes from the Ratnakuta Sutra, and is rather unique. It was also orally transmitted by Shakyamuni Buddha; in that way, it is different from Emperor Liang’s Repentance and other well-known repentances. Of the sutras spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha, the Ratnakuta Sutra makes mention of many changes and amendments having to do with how one behaves in body, speech, and mind while practicing. The Drikung Kagyu Lord Jigten Sumgön’s works also used the Ratnakuta Sutra as their foundation.

“There are two major focal points in the Ratnakuta Sutra: The first is to tell all those practicing the Bodhisattva Path and those who have already attained fruition as Bodhisattvas how to practice. The Madhyamaka Sastra, too, came from the Ratnakuta Sutra, which places special emphasis on the concept of madhyamaka, or meditation on the mean. Those who have never learned Buddhism would not know what this is, and even those who have studied the Madhyamaka Sastra tend not to have a clear idea of what madhyamaka means. Even if you do understand what it is, you still might not know what it is used for. Wherein lies the problem? It is that people all attend penitential rites for the sake of their physical health, education, and family members. Strictly speaking, in Buddhism, repentances should all be done for the sake of the deceased.

“To practice, we first need to know which Dharma methods to learn. Shakyamuni Buddha propagated the Dharma for forty-nine years and transmitted three major vehicles of Buddhism—Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana—which some people interpret as nine vehicles in total. Theravada Buddhism is also known as ‘Buddhism of the South,’ and is currently popular in the region that includes Myanmar, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. It attaches great importance to arhats, and for this reason its primary sutras are the Agama Sutra and the Saṃyuktâgama Sutra. There are also those who call Theravada Buddhism the ‘original Buddhism.’ This appellation is rather worth researching, however, because Buddhism never actually had a specific origin. According to the sutras spoken by the Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha often mentioned certain Buddhas from past lives and once said that all the Dharmas spoken by every Buddha are identical in meaning and connotation. Therefore, if Theravada Buddhism were the ‘original Buddhism,’ then wouldn’t that make the Dharmas expounded by Shakyamuni Buddha the ‘original Buddhism,’ too?

“Thus, over the centuries people have created many divisions within Buddhism. This is not really something that should have happened; the only mention of such differences in the sutras is that the Buddha taught various Dharma methods to sentient beings, depending on their root capacities. Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism focus mainly on practicing the Bodhisattva Path, which is different from the method followed by monastics practicing the Agama Sutra and the Saṃyuktâgama Sutra. Most Tibetan and Exoteric Buddhist centers do not perform the Thirty-five Buddhas Repentance Ritual. I have forgotten how I obtained the text for this repentance, but you can all see the Thangka in the middle of the mandala. One time a Rinpoche of the Order made a great amount of tormas, and when they were put on display, there was a Thangka of the Thirty-five Buddhas Repentance Ritual among them. I donated around NT$200,000 or NT$300,000 for it, but I still didn’t know why at the time. Only later, after obtaining the Dharma text, did I realize that I’d needed it all along.

“After I got it and compared it with the Ratnakuta Sutra, I realized that this Dharma text contains some erroneous translations. It was translated from Sanskrit to Tibetan, and then again from Tibetan to Chinese, so there are minor discrepancies between it and the sutra, requiring only a few adjustments. Without performing the Thirty-five Buddhas Repentance Ritual, you will not have the opportunity to learn and practice the Bodhisattva Path even if you have made a firm resolution to do so. The word ‘repentance’ in Buddhism means to admit to, face, and accept the consequences for all your actions without making any excuses or trying to evade them in anyway. It also means to promise never to make the same mistakes again. Thus, it is written in the sutra that as long as one sincerely repents, then one’s good fortune and virtuous root will begin to grow, and one can stop accumulating evil karma.

“Before performing any Dharma method, one must first recite the Seven Branch Offerings Prayer, one section of which refers to repentance. However, people these days all claim they have repented when they actually have not, and are therefore lying to the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, the guru, and themselves. As such, they are typically unable to get through critical times in their lives unscathed. It is also written in the sutra that there are different levels of repentance. It begins with feeling a sense of shame for your wrongdoings, and includes shedding tears and even having your hairs stand on end and being unable to stop crying and sniveling. Best is when your eyes actually excrete tears laced with blood. If you do not feel shame while repenting, and instead hope only for a better life or good health as a result of your repentance, then even if you cry so hard it seems real, your repentance will still be fake, because you have no sense of shame.

“People without a sense of shame are bound to repeat their wrongdoings. For this reason, when people in Taiwan and all over the world get caught doing something wrong, they always come up with a heap of reasons to explain why they did it. This is the same as how you are constantly explaining your own wrongdoings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Wrongdoings are wrongdoings; what is there to explain about them? It is not that you are afraid of being punished; rather, you have no sense of shame, because you are planning on doing those same things again. You are like a criminal who constantly gives excuses after being caught and hauled into court; you obviously took that bribe, yet you continue to explain that someone gave it to you and that you have no idea why. If you are on clearly on a government salary, yet you still accept money from people in exchange for making something convenient for them, what is that if not corruption? How can you have the gall to defend your actions? The more you explain, the harsher the sentence the judge will deliver. There is an expression: ‘From frankness comes leniency.’ In the Dharma Realm and in the void, as long as you admit to having harmed sentient beings and are willing to accept the consequences, then your karmic retribution will be more lenient. Even if you are frank, however, you still must be punished, but if you use Buddhist methods to repent, any karmic retribution you face will not affect your practice in the long run.

“I often remind everyone that even after attaining Buddhahood, Shakyamuni Buddha still encountered nine major difficulties in life. These included being slandered and having rocks thrown at Him, making the Buddha’s feet bleed. As a child, the Buddha once beat a large fish on the head with a stick, and that caused Him to have headaches in that lifetime. Thus, people who like eating fish heads should be careful, because the Buddha was faced with karmic retribution simply from having bopped a fish on the head. Those who have beaten animals should be careful, too. The reason Shakyamuni Buddha encountered nine major difficulties in His lifetime was to show everyone that even if one attains Buddhahood, one’s karmic retribution is still sure to manifest. However, the Buddha is different from us in that He doesn’t care; He knows that even karmic retribution is empty in nature. The Buddha does not mind, because He understands that everything He does is bound to produce a karmic effect. Therefore, we cannot simply pick and choose which retributions we want to have happen to us. If we only accept the good karmic effects but not the bad, then this often leads to fewer and fewer opportunities for our good karmic effects to manifest.

“Why is this the case? How much evil have you committed over the course of your past lives? Never mind those; how much meat have you eaten in this one? How many cigarettes have you smoked? How much money have you taken? You wouldn’t even be able to count it all! You won’t be alive long enough to repay all your debt from this lifetime, let alone your past lives. Whenever people ask me what they did wrong in their previous lifetimes, I always reprimand them, because they have not even admitted to the faults they’ve had in this one. They think that they’ve done nothing wrong in this lifetime, and that any difficulties they encounter are the result of influence from their past lives. Loving to eat meat is ingrained in your own behavior; you were all children once, and wouldn’t eat things you didn’t like no matter how much your mothers scolded or beat you. Now that you are grown, though, why won’t you listen, regardless how often I urge you to eat vegetarian? It is because you enjoy committing evil and doing bad things; you are not afraid of hell, and do not believe in cause and effect.

“Many of you wonder why bad things still happen to you even after you have performed penitential rites. Of course they happen; in fact, they occur as a result of your repentance, because it causes your karmic retribution to mature more quickly, thereby giving you the ability and strength to repay your debt in this lifetime. If repenting could cause bad things to go away and good things to appear for you, then that would not be cause and effect; nor would it be Buddhism! You should not be afraid of the emergence of ‘bad’ things, which happened even to the Buddha. What right do we ordinary people have to think we can avoid the retribution that is our due? However, because we are willing to repent, our karmic retribution will not be as heavy. As an analogy, take two people who have committed the same crime and gone in front of the judge. The honest one gets off lightly, while the sly one’s punishment is a bit more severe. This is the same sort of thing.

“Therefore, you should not think that you are some sort of hero just because you have made a repentance, or that having done so will cause your illnesses and anything else bad to leave you. Some of you have performed the Emperor Liang’s Repentance Ritual before, at the end of which is sung the line, ‘the blooms of karmic offenses are blown away.’ You’re all very happy and think that your karmic offenses have gone. However, that line does not mention that after the blooms have flown away, the stamen still remains. You must listen closely to the Dharma; even if the blooms are gone, the stamen—which produces fruit—is still attached to the stem. ‘The blooms of karmic offenses are blown away’ means that no more branches will grow from this tree; whatever is there is there, and no more additional interest needs to be paid. Thus, only after we are clear about repentance will we have the courage to do so, and only then will the power of repentance help us with our Buddhist practice. Only once we understand repentance can we accumulate good fortune and put a stop to our karmic hindrances.

“Karmic hindrances are not illnesses or unfilial children; they are forces that hinder our Buddhist practice. This morning four of my disciples did not show up, of whom one is married to a non-Buddhist. I had told her in advance that she should prepare herself to stop practicing. I often ask why it’s okay for people of other religions to require their partners to adhere to the same faith, and why by contrast Buddhism is so democratic. Just imagine! If your partner’s ideology is different from yours, how long do you think you’ll last? You won’t be able to go the distance. Even if you stop practicing Buddhism, you will harbor resentment, and one day an argument will flare up between you and your partner.

“Even though it is not written in the sutras that Buddhist practitioners must marry other Buddhists, there is mention that once you have sufficient good fortune, you will naturally find a partner who also practices Buddhism. You might think it wonderful that you and your partner were brought together by fate, but if that same fate destroys your Buddhist practice, then how good can it be? Some people feel obligated to cook meat just because their mother-in-laws like to eat it, but in doing so they have sabotaged their mothers-in-laws’ causal conditions. Thus, those of you who do not repent might seem very respectful on the surface, and appear as if you have a strong faith in the Dharma, but sooner or later you will get what’s coming to you. By this I do not mean any ill fate in particular; I just mean that in this lifetime you will no longer have the opportunity to continue practicing Buddhism or become liberated from life and death. Some people think they might be better off attending another Buddhist center where it isn’t so strict, but without this strictness, would you be able to leave reincarnation? It’s like when you were in school; if your teachers hadn’t been strict with you, would you actually have graduated? If you were kicked out of a good school, then would you have been able to graduate if you’d attended a lesser one? Even if you had, your grades would have been terrible.

“That is not to say that you have to do well in school in order to get along in society; rather, practicing Buddhism is the same as getting an education in that if you are not diligent, you will not be able to stay in a good school. Thus today, as we perform the Thirty-five Buddhas Repentance Ritual, it is of utmost importance that you make a firm resolution to follow the Bodhisattva Path. If you do, then this repentance ritual will be useful to you. The first line of the prayer reads, ‘May all sentient beings take eternal refuge in the guru.’ Here, ‘all sentient beings’ includes all those in the Heavenly, Asura, Human, Hell, Hungry Ghost, and Animal Realms, and ‘eternal’ means forever. In Exoteric Buddhism, taking refuge means ‘while this longevity lasts’—in other words, for the remainder of this lifetime, the powere of refuge will neither wane nor disappear. In Tantrism, however, taking refuge in Vajrayana Buddhism implies a refuge that will last forever. As long as you have yet to be enlightened, then making this vow will cause the power of taking refuge in your guru to never disappear, and the guru will look after you through lifetime after lifetime until you attain Buddhahood.

“Looking after you does not mean I’ll take care of you if your business has been floundering or you’ve been unable to get a client to sign with you recently. Why should I, if you haven’t given me all or even half of your income? I’m a businessman, too, but I don’t constantly supplicate the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas with such prayers as, ‘My company didn’t make enough money today; please let me make up for my losses tomorrow!’ Nor would I ever tell His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, ‘Business hasn’t been very good lately, so I’m afraid I’ll have to make a smaller offering than usual.’ Likewise, I would never implore the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, ‘Please, help me get my stagnant business back on its feet!’

“I fell ill recently, and His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang personally performed the Dharma for me—not because he was afraid I might die, but because where else could the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang find such a practitioner? Once you clearly understand the definition of the Dharma, then by using its methods you are certain to be able to repay all your debt—even if you have committed many wrongdoings throughout your past lives—and leave the suffering sea of reincarnation. Many people think reincarnation is not a big deal; because it is invisible to them, they assume they can’t know anything about it until they are dead. Actually, that is not exactly right. If you have not made a firm resolution to use the Dharma to free yourself from reincarnation, then all the suffering of old age will manifest five years before your death, and you will know with absolute certainty which of the Six Realms you are going to fall into. I’m not trying to scare or threaten you; I just am an expert at transferring consciousness, so I’ve seen a great deal.

“Yesterday the father of one of my disciples passed away, but he did not receive the Phowa. Three years ago this disciple implored me to perform it for him, but I said back then that it would depend on how the causal conditions unfolded in the future. Only just this morning did I learn that the daughter of the deceased was only able to participate in the Chod Pujas; due to some punishment I’d forgotten about, she was not able to come here this morning. You should not think that there is nothing to practicing Buddhism, or that you can listen to the Dharma whenever you feel like it as long as it doesn’t interfere with your lives, or that Buddhist practitioners are mentally ill when they say you can’t do this or that. Do you think I’m crazy? These people shouldn’t say such things. Buddhism is not a method of altering our lives; it is a way to change our hearts and behavior. It does not require us to do anything abruptly. Rather, it teaches us to start taking action; nor does it define what actions are good or not good. It simply lays out for us a definition of whether or not one has attained enlightenment, as differentiating between ‘good’ and ‘not good’ is a sign of a discriminating mind.

“There is nothing written in the sutras about being good or not good; there is only mention of being a person of virtue, a Bodhisattva, an arhat, or a Buddha. This means that once you have accumulated a certain amount of good fortune, merits, and resources, you will naturally reach a certain level. The same is true of what happened to me recently; no matter how others may try, they cannot take away my merits or good fortune. Later on, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang said the same thing. The merits you have cultivated are yours and will follow you from lifetime to lifetime. No sentient being can take them away from you unless you lose your resolve to practice, stop believing in cause and effect and the Three Jewels, or stop benefiting sentient beings; in any of these cases, your merits will automatically disappear. The most serious is the backsliding of your Bodhicitta. Your merits will also go away if you carelessly take sentient beings’ offerings, or think that you have cultivated to the point that you deserve them.”

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended the Dharma throne to lead the attendees in a performance of the Thirty-five Buddhas Repentance Ritual. After the penitential rites were over, the guru continued to bestow teachings.

“The line we just recited, ‘With this repentance, all of my offenses are purified,’ means that after performing these penitential rites, the forces that would cause us to fall into reincarnation and the Three Evil Realms will be purified. ‘Purified’ does not mean they will disappear; rather, it means that these forces will no longer hinder us from practicing Buddhism and being liberated from life and death. Because we are cultivating the Bodhisattva Path, a line is added at the end which reads, ‘the evil karma of myself and other sentient beings.’ In other words, we wish to make a public repentance not just for our own evil acts, but for those of all other sentient beings as well. ‘Making a public repentance’ does not mean saying it quietly or to oneself; if a guru is present, then one must repent openly before the guru. Thus, our goal is to never commit any wrongdoings again and to completely eliminate all karmic hindrances, which are any forces that hinder our Buddhist practice. I hope that this Thirty-five Buddhas Repentance Ritual will help all of you Buddhist practitioners.”

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche again ascended the Dharma throne and continued to bestow teachings upon the attendees.

“Next is the Jambhala, which I only perform for you once a year. Many people misunderstand Tantrism; they think it is all about imploring for money or various other things. Actually, that is far from the truth. The Jambhala is a type of Dharma protector. Tantra is divided into four groups: subduing, placating, increasing, and vanquishing, and the Jambhala Dharma is a method of embracing sentient beings that falls under the category of increasing. Jambhalas are divided among five different colors: Black, white, red, yellow, and green. Each Jambhala has his own special characteristics and functions. Since sentient beings possess very little fortune and merits, they are limited in terms of how much wealth they can use. You would think that millionaires and billionaires could spend their money in comfort, but how much of it can they actually use? All those billions can’t just be spent all at once; there is a limit to how much one can spend each month.

“Our financial wealth in this lifetime is part of our good fortune. Everything we use manifests as a result of the offerings we made and charity we gave in our past lives. If you obtain your money illegally or through other nefarious means, then you will not be able to keep it; even while it is in your possession, a lot of extra costs will drain your coffers. The purpose of performing the Jambhala is not to make you strike it rich or win the lottery; it has nothing to do with those things. As soon as we incarnated into our mothers’ wombs in this lifetime, our karma was put into motion. Everything we were able to eat before birth came to us as the result of whatever good fortune we’d cultivated, offerings we’d made, and alms we’d given in our past lives. If your parents were Buddhists, then you ate vegetarian while in the womb; as such, your good fortune would not have been consumed as quickly. If you ate meat there, however, then all of your health, longevity, and wealth began to be consumed all at once.

“How do we explain this concept? If you want to eat meat, you need money to buy it. That money was given to you to use, support your family, or even do good deeds and give to charity. However, by using it to commit evil, you have accelerated your consumption of your wealth. Some people are unwilling to make offerings and give alms during their lifetimes; they think the money they’ve put in the bank is theirs and theirs alone. How could it be? Banks can go out of business, too. No matter how good you’ve been at saving your money, if you’ve engaged in any corruption you are bound to get an unusual disease in your later years that will force you to spend until your bank accounts are empty. Everything our ancestors did has an influence on our financial fortune. Two actions in particular have a very severe effect: Killing and corruption.

“You might think this has nothing to do with you, because it wasn’t you who did the killing or taking of bribes. From a scientific sense, you are correct; however, in terms of the Buddhist laws of cause and condition, as well as cause and effect, you are not. The money used to raise you in this lifetime came from your parents. If they brought you up with money obtained through cheating, misappropriation, corruption, selling cigarettes and alcohol, or killing, then you, too, will have a share in your parents’ karmic retribution; the only difference is that yours will not be quite as severe. It’s like how my grandfather used to raise silkworms; he made a great fortune from selling the silk produced on his farm. In addition, my father was once an operative for the Ministry of State Security, so had killed people. Never mind my generation; even more so in my father’s generation, males did not live very long. They had money, but their lives were short. Furthermore, they were unable to keep their wealth, because no sooner did the government change hands than they lost everything.

“It is written in the sutras that financial wealth is administered jointly by the five thieves, of which the government is one. My family used to live in Guangzhou, and we engaged in just about every sort of business except for selling coffins. Then it all suddenly disappeared. When my generation came along, all my sisters and brothers eventually had to have brain surgery at some point, though I did not. Why? It was because when a silkworm chrysalis is in its cocoon, the silk is extracted from where its head is. Thus, any illnesses we suffer have to do with what our ancestors did. Furthermore, from a Buddhist point of view, if you did not have any affinity with those ancestors in the past, then you would not have been born into that family. This means that you definitely had the habit of killing or corruption in your past lives; otherwise you would have been born elsewhere. It is written in the sutras that in this lifetime one must make a vow not to be born into the family of a butcher in the future.

“Any of your ancestors’ actions that went against the law of cause and effect will also cause you to consume your financial wealth in this lifetime. Many people have had their fortunes told; if yours was that you would go bankrupt, then that was absolutely correct. However, if the fortuneteller said that you would strike it rich, then you will actually end up with just a quarter of the money you would have gotten—and then you’d surely complain that the fortuneteller was inaccurate. Why was that? It was because he or she had no way of knowing all the evil acts you had committed, which are what caused your fortune to halve and then halve again in the first place. Today I am performing the Jambhala for you, but not to help you get rich; rather, my hope is that its power can keep those ghosts away that would drain you of your fortune. In addition, the ghosts will suck away wealth from those people who like to eat meals with hostesses sitting by their sides, who are rich and ostentatious, and who like to eat meat and take lives. Your financial wealth is part of your good fortune.

“The Jambhala will help you ward against the fortune-sucking ghosts so that you can obtain whatever wealth you deserve. However, if you have never made any offerings or given to charity, then today’s Jambhala Dharma will only help you to form a connection. I myself am a businessman, but to this day I have never performed the Jambhala for my own company’s prosperity. It would stand to reason that I should perform it every day, but I haven’t, because I believe that being rich or poor has to do with one’s own good fortune. Under what circumstances would I perform the Jambhala for someone else? I wouldn’t, unless he or she had made a lot of offerings. By this I don’t mean a large monetary amount; I mean it would depend on how sincere that person was and whether he or she had done much to help the Order, Buddhism in general, and other people. If so, then I might consider performing the Jambhala Dharma for him or her. Otherwise I don’t typically do it for individuals.

“Because the Jambhala is still an Eighth Ground Bodhisattva, he still has a few human habits. If you constantly behave badly, then the Jambhala will become angry. The Jambhala also keeps a retinue of family members beside him. Some of these are so-called Earthly deities which will not only refuse to help you if they see you committing evil acts; they will actually get mad. The Jambhala is Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara’s Dharma protector, which means that if you are not friends with Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, then today’s performance of the Jambhala Dharma will not be of much help to you other than to assist you in forming a connection. However, for those of you who are disciples and have received transmission of the Avalokiteshvara Dharma method, my performing the Jambhala today will at least guarantee you this—that you will neither starve to death nor find yourself unemployed. That much I have done for you. Therefore, because I have performed the Jambhala Dharma, any disciples who have no job are in that situation because they are lazy, unwilling to work, reluctant to fulfill their responsibilities to society, and have no faith in their guru; as such, they are no longer allowed to participate in pujas. I clearly performed the Jambhala Dharma last New Year’s Day, so any disciples that told me they were unemployed had no use in coming here. This is because the fact that the Jambhala did not help them indicates that they must be very evil, so they are not welcome. Everything I do has a reason behind it; I don’t act out of anger.

“Simply possessing the Dharma text is not enough to be able to perform the Water Jambhalas; one must first be attuned to the Avalokiteshvara Dharma method in order to receive transmission of the Jambhala Dharma. In addition, in order to cultivate the attunement with the Jambhala as mentioned in the Dharma text, auspicious signs must appear before the Jambhala will be beneficial to you or the sentient beings you wish to help. Today I’ll be performing the Black Jambhala. I don’t know why I learned this one; in Tantrism, people usually learn the Yellow Jambhala. The Black Jambhala is relatively difficult due to its strict requirements. In Tibetan Buddhism, many monastics perform the Yellow Jambhala because they do not possess sufficient resources and have no external support. Without anyone to pay for them to go into retreat, they perform the Yellow Jambhala. Very few people perform the Black Jambhala; moreover, it is an earth terma. You also might say that all of my disciples have severe karmic hindrances, and many are not ordained, so I need to perform a different sort of Jambhala for them.

“There are special rules that must be followed when performing the Black Water Jambhala. It must be performed in the morning and in an undefiled location; it cannot be performed just anywhere. For this reason, while I perform the Dharma, you must all have absolute faith in it and your guru so that this Dharma can help you.”

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche began to perform the Black Water Jambhala Dharma. After it came to a perfect completion, the guru bestowed more teachings.

“It is written in the text that in order to achieve attainment in this Dharma method, one must go into retreat and practice the ritual at least a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, or one hundred thousand times. Of course whenever I’m in retreat, I start out by performing the Dharma at least ten thousand times; after a hundred thousand times I begin to dream of certain auspicious signs that mean wealth will be abundant. In other words, unless you see such good omens, the Jambhala cannot approach; nor will you therefore be able to perform the Dharma for sentient beings. The Black Jambhala’s yidam is the Immovable Buddha, which is rarely cultivated in Exoteric Buddhism. Unlike the Saha World, the Immovable Buddha’s Pure Land is extremely pure. As the Buddha said in the Ratnakuta Sutra, it takes very auspicious merits indeed in order to be born there. If you try to cultivate this Dharma method without having first aspired to the Bodhicitta, and only perform it so as to acquire wealth, then it will not be of any help to you. If you cultivate it with the Bodhicitta as your foundation, however, then everything will naturally go your way. You will succeed in all your endeavors, be able to rid yourselves of all negative karmic hindrances, and increase your resources.

“Furthermore, many people think that they can just purchase Buddha cards anywhere and chant from them. First of all, however, these sort of mantras cannot be chanted unless they are transmitted to you orally; secondly, they are not complete mantras. For example, the mantra on the Buddha card you’re using today has two fewer lines than are in the Dharma text. Thus, you must not think that after simply being here for my performance of the Jambhala today it means you can run to a Dharma supplies store, buy a Buddha card, and perform it by yourselves; it would not work. It is better not to perform it, because if you do, your wealth might slip away from you like sand between your fingers.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche announced, “That concludes this morning’s Dharma performance. We will reconvene at 2:30 this afternoon.”

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended the Dharma throne. All the attendees stood respectfully, with their palms together, and thanked the guru in unison.

At 2:30 in the afternoon, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche returned to the Dharma throne to bestow further Dharma teachings upon the attendees.

“This afternoon we will begin by making a prostration to the Buddha entitled ‘Calling Witness with a Hundred Prostrations.’ Afterward, with the merits obtained from prostrating to the Buddhas, you will have an authentic and clear idea of the path to Buddhahood. Prior to practicing Buddhism, many people never have any problems slandering the Buddha. After worshipping the Buddha, however, and visiting a few temples to make some offerings, they are often disappointed at not having obtained what they implored for or because something bad later happened to them. As a result, they tend to blame all their problems on Buddhism. This way of thinking, however, is wrong. We practice Buddhism for our future; everything that happens to you in this lifetime is the result of your past actions. If you think you will get you want immediately after donating some money, then wouldn’t that be the same as trying to bargain and haggle with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? It is written in the sutras that even if the Buddha wanted to do business with you, you could not buy the Dharma even with all the treasures of Mt. Sumeru.

“In the Lotus Sutra is written that the path to Buddhahood begins with having respect for, and making prostrations to, Buddhist statues and the Dharma. If you do these things, you are already ‘on the path to Buddhahood.’ Many people wonder if Buddhahood can be attained simply by making a prostration. Actually, it can’t; rather, by making a prostration while in a respectful frame of mind, you are planting a virtuous seed and have set foot upon the path to attaining Buddhahood. It is also written in the sutra that ‘when one makes a prostration to the Buddha, one’s offenses, as many as there are grains of sand in a river, vanish.’ Many people think this means that after making prostrations, their karmic retribution from eating meat will be eliminated. The word ‘offense’ is often mentioned in the sutras. As defined by the Buddha’s wisdom, the karmic effect that comes from both virtuous and evil causes is impermanent. Whether your karmic retribution is virtuous or evil, it still will change; it is not immutable.

“What Buddhist practitioners fear the most are forces and offenses that hinder their practice. In the sutra, in the line ‘when one makes a prostration to the Buddha, one’s offenses, as many as there are grains of sand in a river, vanish,’ the words ‘grains of sand in a river’ refer to the fact that we have unknowingly committed many minor evil acts throughout our past lives. These are often things that we thought were justified; after all, everyone else was doing them, so why shouldn’t we? Thus, as is written in the sutra, whenever everyone thinks something is right, then you should use your wisdom to evaluate it first. You should also do this with anything that everyone thinks is wrong. Again, we have unwittingly committed many small evil acts throughout our lifetimes—actions which we thought were good and right. For example, the popular Chinese saying, ‘Look out for yourself, or heaven and earth will combine to destroy you,’ runs completely contrary to the Bodhisattva Path.

“Why does the Buddha teach us to practice the Bodhisattva Path? It is because without knowing when, as soon as we set foot in the suffering sea of reincarnation, we began to commit evil, create karma, and plant the seeds of our karmic retribution. As I reminded you all this morning, even Shakyamuni Buddha had to encounter nine difficulties after attaining Buddhahood in that lifetime. Those trials represented the complete maturation of causes He had made in previous lives, and meant that no further aftermath or karmic retribution would hinder His future liberation of sentient beings. Thus, as is written in the Diamond Sutra, anything good or bad that happens to people practicing the Bodhisattva Path are ‘like dreams and visions in a bubble.’ Many think this refers to what they have said or done, but that isn’t true; most importantly, it has to do with cause and effect.

“A lot of people are quite attached to the idea of immediately changing for the better whenever something bad happens to them, and hope that the good times will continue forever. However, with the Buddha’s wisdom we can clearly see that both good and bad are impermanent and always changing, and a very complex relationship exists between them in which they constantly alternate. If you do not make a firm resolution to follow the Bodhisattva Path, and all your actions and utterances of the Dharma are for selfish purposes, you are sure to be disappointed, because the Buddha did not teach us this way; He taught us that we must use what limited time we have on Earth to learn how to become liberated from life and death, stop reincarnating, and be reborn in the Pure Land. Therein lies the significance of the Buddha. If you do not practice Buddhism in that direction, then you will certainly slander the Buddha by saying He is not effective or cannot help you. As I mentioned before, however, as long as you have respect for Buddhist statues and the Three Jewels, then you are already on your way to Buddhahood. If you reverently prostrate to the Buddha, then your offenses—even if you have as many as there are grains of sand in a river—will vanish. Even though the Buddha might not satisfy your desires, He will help extend the road to your Buddhist practice.

“Since I started benefiting sentient beings in 1995, I have seen many examples of people who make prostrations to Buddhist statues or the Buddha and even recite the sutras, make offerings, and give to charity in order to obtain what they desire. After not getting what they want, they begin to give up and even scorn or slander Buddhism. What is strange, however, is that even though by doing so they have planted new evil causes, the merits they accumulated through worshipping the Buddha and making offerings remain. As a result, these people continue to be given opportunities in this lifetime to listen to the Dharma, as long as they are willing to repent. As I said this morning, even if you have committed the Five Uninterrupted Evil Acts, as long as you respectfully repent before the Thirty-Five Buddhas, your karma can be purified. Of course, it is not as simple as just reciting a sutra, making a prostration, and meditating for a short time; you have to really put your nose to the grindstone.

“Given my recent health issues, there are many who wish I would not help so many sentient beings, but illness is impermanent, too. A lot of people panic when their good health suddenly takes a turn for the worse; it makes them wonder if their good fortune is insufficient, they have bad luck, or ghosts have come to bother them. As I’ve said in the past, when practicing Tantra one must at least practice ‘self-others exchange,’ which means to exchange one’s own happiness for the suffering of others. Compassion does not simply involve saying what people like to hear or chanting mantras to bless someone; it means actually giving things to others. An analogy I often make is, when a person wants to go somewhere but can’t afford the trip, what should you do if he or she asks your help? Should you reach into your wallet to help? Or would that person be able to go if you simply pointed the way? No; that wouldn’t be possible.

“The expression, ‘benefit oneself and others,’ does not mean that you can benefit someone simply by reciting a sutra; you must perform an exchange with him or her. Thus, it is written in the sutras that walking the Bodhisattva Path is what great courageous people do; without courage, we cannot succeed. Not long ago, when I suddenly ran down to Pingtung without any explanation, I was being a bit careless. Before I left, when that person came seeking an audience, I had seen that there was an earth god shrine down there. When I asked him whether there was one or not, he said he was not sure. After I got there I noticed there was indeed an earth god shrine at a crossroads. In both Exoteric Buddhism and Tantra, upon seeing a local deity, a practitioner should always make an offering to the deity. This offering does not mean the practitioner fears the deity, nor does it represent an avoidance of the hindrances caused by the deity; rather, it is made out of respect for sentient beings.

“Many people know that they should respect the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, but they do not understand that their respect should extend to sentient beings as well. If there were no sentient beings, then how could the Buddhas exist? If all sentient beings were to disappear, then whom would the Buddhas need to liberate? We should respect every single sentient being. I believe that I was quite negligent; I thought all I needed to do was go there and preside over a puja. As a result, the mountain deity was unsatisfied; I had liberated all of his soldiers, leaving the deity without an army. If it were you, wouldn’t you be mad, too? The deity had reigned there just fine for a long time, yet suddenly all his soldiers were nowhere to be seen.

“Furthermore, it would take more than one puja to liberate those sentient beings that had died violent deaths without having ever practiced Buddhism, listened to the Dharma, or seen a Buddhist statue. From an Exoteric Buddhist point of view, the entire Tripitaka must be recited at least once, which takes about three months. According to Tantra, pujas for transferring consciousness would have to be held for at least fourteen days straight in order to liberate those sentient beings down there. Given my eagerness, I thought there was nothing to fear about doing it my way. As a result the mountain deity got angry, but he could not take away my merits and good fortune. He had to take something from me, though, and that turned out to be my health—which was the best thing he could have taken, because health is something that can be recovered easily, unlike many other things. In addition, this time His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang performed the Dharma for me.

“My situation was not very dire, and because disciples such as I are in short supply, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang was willing to perform the Dharma in person for me. The Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang said that he agreed with my view that the deity had not been able to take anything from me but my health. Many people would be afraid to help others if they knew it could have a negative impact on their own health. For me, though, if by walking the Bodhisattva Path I can exchange my health for the suffering of all sentient beings, then it is well worth it. Thus, is it realistic of you to give your money to a monastic or a temple and then expect everything in return? When you fall on hard times and blame your bad luck on the monastic or the temple, saying that neither was effective, you’ll just end up going somewhere else to worship. No matter how many times you bounce from place to place like that, you’ll still be prostrating to the same Buddha; the only differences are that the various temples’ Buddhist statues will vary slightly in appearance due to having been sculpted by different people.

“A certain ordained disciple, before taking refuge in me, used to recite sutras for the deceased. Later I strictly forbade her from continuing this sort of work. Back then she was physically very frail, and now she knows why. Thus, in both Mainland China and Taiwan, some people start wanting to be gurus and liberate sentient beings after only having practiced Buddhism for a short time. However, without understanding a sentient being’s causal conditions, they are helpless to do so, and could even end up harming themselves. To give a simpler analogy, if you did poorly in school, then what makes you think you can find employment? Any work you get will be entry-level at best. The Dharma text I’ll be using while performing the ‘Calling Witness with a Hundred Prostrations’ for you was personally transmitted by His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang. It is not included among the sutras; it came to a Tibetan king in the imperial palace as a sign from the heavens. In other words, this Dharma text is an earth terma, and it was predicted in the king’s dream that its meaning would be understood five generations later. This was the origin of this Dharma.

“What this means is that if we have no good fortune, then we cannot practice Buddhism or achieve attainment; and the fastest ways to accumulate good fortune are to repent and make prostrations. Because of this, the first Dharma method of the Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices is the grand prostration, which includes prostrations and repentances to one’s guru and all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Apart from the prostration, nothing else written in this Dharma text has anything to do with worldly matters; it is all related to practicing the Dharma. Many people might worry about wasting so much time on something without having obtained anything that they wanted. Why, then, are they practicing? They might as well go join another religion or find a deity to help them take care of their business.

“My father was quite adept at practicing Taoism, but I knew very well that it might be able to treat the symptoms but not the root cause. For example, given my current situation, there are definitely ways in Taoism to fight with my opponent and see who would win. However, even if I were to win, my opponent would not necessarily concede defeat. For this reason Buddhism teaches compassion, not contention; compassion is the only way the deity’s hatred can be resolved. People in this world love to fight, yet none of them is willing to lose. Such people are bound to have problems before they die.

“Many people think everything written in the sutras is myth, and that none of it could happen to them—but it absolutely could. Thus, in Tibetan Buddhism we are all reminded that we must absolutely believe and respect the guru. It is not that the guru, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas require your faith and reverence; you are the ones who need to show it. It is mentioned in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that when you are on your death bed, your karmic creditors from past lives will appear as your most trusted family members and try to lead you into the Three Evil Realms. Many people think that is just a myth, but this sort of thing has already happened two or three times to my disciples. If they did not believe in their guru, then they were taken; however, they had faith and insisted on waiting for their guru, so they were not led away. As such, they are now going to live many more years longer, thus giving me more work to look after them.

“Therefore, if you just constantly implore for what you want and have no respect for the Three Jewels, then the day is bound to come when you will not get what you hoped for, and then you will begin to complain. Since I started practicing Buddhism, I have read many sutras and Dharma texts; none of them, however, teaches that we must implore for anything other than blessings from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas so that we can listen to the Dharma in this lifetime and become liberated from life and death. The more important the Dharma text, the more emphasis it places on this fact. Buddhism has been propagated in the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center for nearly twenty years, and I have always adhered to the methods taught by the Buddha. Never would I make any promises I could not keep. I would not do anything the Dharma had not taught; moreover, I always keep my promises.

“For example, despite my current physical infirmity, I have still agreed to see a pair of believers in the Mainland. Even His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang tried to stop me, saying that even though they’d sought an audience they could wait; however, one aspect of my character is that I am true to my word. So, despite the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang’s misgivings, I ended up being fine, and returned from the Mainland without issue. Thus, if you do not keep a promise you have made, then you will owe the sentient being in question—and as long as you are in debt to any sentient beings, you will continue to reincarnate.

“The reason those Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center’s disciples who did not attend the New Year’s Day puja will no longer be allowed to participate in pujas in the future is that I did not force them to come; they could have told me half a year in advance their reasons for not being able to attend. The fact that they registered but did not show up indicates that they cannot keep their promises, which means they will naturally break all their vows and be unable to keep any of the precepts. This sort of person is not qualified to continue practicing Buddhism. Some believers who had registered to attend pulled a no-show as well. They probably thought, It doesn’t matter; it’s just Buddhism, and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas know I’ll be super busy on New Year’s Day. However, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas do not know this. Furthermore, the relatives and karmic creditors of these people, who died away in past lives, know that they agreed to participate in the puja. If these people did not even show up, can they make it up to them? They cannot, because those suffering sentient beings were already suffering greatly, and these people had promised to help—yet they did not even attend. This has caused those sentient beings to be filled with anger, and once hatred has arisen, it is very difficult to quell.

“Therefore, as for those who never show up to participate in the puja except on New Year’s, my advice to you is to stop coming, even on New Year’s Day. Don’t think participating in a puja on this day is particularly powerful; it’s just that Chinese have a custom of holding an auspicious event on New Year’s Day. As it happens, however, there is nothing auspicious about the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center’s pujas; the only thing you can expect here is to get scolded. Why should you be scolded? It is because you still haven’t begun your journey. I wouldn’t say I’m any better than you are, but at least I have spent more time on the Dharma. If mishaps can happen to me just from neglecting to pay attention to a mountain deity, then what about you?

“I often speak of the impermanence of life. Don’t think your guru cannot die; I help a lot of sentient beings on a very frequent basis, but even I can be negligent sometimes. For example, I made it clear that this morning I would be performing the Water Jambhala, yet these young and elderly disciples on the Dharma Affairs Team did not bring me the Dharma text. Why do I neglect things? It is because I have too much on my shoulders. That those elderly and young disciples actually forgot that I would need the Dharma text is the result of my karma. Actually, both in and out of the Buddhist Center, I supervise all affairs major and minor; these disciples just run errands for me, that’s all. Isn’t that outrageous? Having to preside over the puja without a Dharma text? It’s the same as trying to eat a meal using chopsticks and a bowl, but with no food to put in it. Therefore, since those who were in charge of providing me with the Dharma text failed to do so, there is certain to come a day when they have bowls and chopsticks but nothing to eat with them. It really is outrageous; how could they not have known better?

“In the Dharma text it is written, ‘All unvirtuous, evil acts that are in violation of the teachings of the sutras.’” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed an ordained disciple to explain what “teachings of the sutras” meant. The monastic said, “It refers to the Buddha’s teachings; that is, everything the Buddha said that was written down in the sutras.”

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued. “‘Violation’ here means violating and surpassing, and refers to people who try to alter the Buddha’s teachings—of whom there are many here in Taiwan. I often say I would never dare to violate or surpass; yet that is exactly what these people who did not bring me the Dharma text have done. It is clearly written in the sutras that we must attend to our guru; did they think attending to me was limited to giving me a glass of water and rolling out a carpet? That they forgot to bring me the Dharma text causes me to want to prostrate myself before them in utter admiration, and to wonder why they would not forget to put food in their bowls at mealtime?! From such carelessness it is clear that these people frequently violate and surpass the teachings of the sutras. I have had to attend to my guru, too—His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang. Why am I able to pay such close attention to detail? It is because I do it without asking for anything in return.

“Practicing Buddhism is not at all difficult or complex. The most important thing to figure out is where your heart lies. If you maintain the correct mindset, and are willing to walk the path laid before us by the Buddha, then even if you have not achieved any sort of attainment in this lifetime, you certainly will when you die—and you will definitely be liberated. As is written in the Dharma text, ‘When death is imminent, may I see the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas extend and place Their golden arms on my head, bestowing assurance of future enlightenment upon me.’ This means that you go through this lifetime based on your causal conditions, whether or not you become a guru is not important; what’s important is whether or not your guru, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas come to liberate you when you die. We do not practice through this lifetime for the sake of worldly affairs; whatever happens to you is the result of your good fortune and whatever causes and conditions you accumulated in your past lives. Your most crucial concern should be whether or not you have sufficient good fortune when death comes knocking. If so, then when death is imminent, you will naturally be liberated.

“At the end of the Dharma text is another line that reads, ‘May I aspire to a boundless Bodhicitta with which to confront my death.’ What is the Bodhicitta? It means facing and dealing with everything that happens to you with compassion. Whenever anyone inflicts pain upon you, you still treat that person with compassion, and any suffering that you endure can be transformed into a method of practice. This suffering is not something you sought out; rather, it came from causes you made in past lives. Thus, if you have aspired to the Bodhicitta before the time of your death, then any mental and physical anguish will be alleviated or even eliminated; you simply have to complete the process. Disciples who believe in their guru often breathe their last breath without anyone knowing that they have passed away; you’ve all seen this happen with your own eyes right here in the Buddhist Center. How is this possible? Even their closest relatives don’t notice when they stop breathing, because these disciples possess the Bodhicitta and are not afraid.

“People who have no fear of death can naturally succeed in many things. First of all, they can aspire to virtuousness in everything they do, and will commit no evil acts. They also will naturally remain unattached to anything that happens to them—including both satisfactions and disappointments—and the same is true with regard to all other worldly relationships or affairs, even with their family members. This fearlessness is not the same as what a brave soldier has in the face of death; rather, it involves having a clear understanding that death is an inevitable process of life. Thus, facing death with the Bodhicitta instead of attachments and fear is a way of coming to terms with it.

“No other religion or body of knowledge in the world can teach us how to face what we must face alone—our own death. No matter how advanced science gets or how much knowledge is amassed by any given academic field, none can instruct us about death; only Buddhism can. Therefore, at risk of breaking the taboo against mentioning it on New Year’s Day, I am going to go ahead and talk to you about death today. Everyone thinks New Year’s should be a time to hear such auspicious words as, ‘You’re going to strike it rich this year,’ or, ‘Your health is going to improve’—but that’s all a bunch of nonsense; if you haven’t done what you should, then how can you be healthy and wealthy? Those are nothing more than a couple of nice-sounding phrases. I am going to speak some real Dharma to you, whether you like it or not. If you are able to listen and accept it, then your future will naturally be auspicious. As I said earlier, if you are willing to listen and do what it takes—by not committing any more evil acts—then even when your evil effects mature, the harm you are subject to will be limited.

“It’s like how that deity tried to take my life, but was only able to take away a little bit of my health. This was because ever since I took refuge in Buddhism, I’ve lived my life according to my guru’s teachings. The Dharma is very auspicious, because it is the only way we can change our future. That is something that you cannot achieve, even if you have wealth, status, and a house. Don’t think you would be better off if you had money. Actually you would be, a little bit; you could buy things you liked and feel safe and secure—but when the day of your death came, no matter how rich you were, you would die just like everyone else. You should be practicing Buddhism to prepare for this inevitable event. If you are not, then my advice to you is to stop coming here. If you want money, material goods, and security, then you’ll get those things more quickly if you go and follow another religion. There, though, you’ll only find superficial answers. These might make you feel a bit better for a time, but you are bound to lose something in the process. In addition, that sort of ‘feeling better’ is only temporary.

“When all is said and done, only Buddhism can genuinely help us—as long as we are willing to listen and put its teachings into practice. Is this difficult to do? Actually, it isn’t; all that is required is a change of attitude. People will not be able to see from the outside that your attitude has changed, and you don’t need to put on a display of originality by waving a bunch of bones in the air and announcing that you are practicing Tantrism; that would make you a fake. I am a Rinpoche already, but have you ever seen me dance around while brandishing bones like that? Have I ever spent all day filling your ears with a heap of fantastic and bizarre incantations? I speak like a human, because I am one. This repentance that I am leading you in today, ‘Calling Witness with a Hundred Prostrations,’ is very important, because without good fortune, you cannot possibly practice Buddhism. If you have no good fortune, then even if I perform the Dharma for you, there is a limit to the blessings you will be able to receive. Thus, before I perform another Jambhala Dharma for you, I’m first going to have you recite the Buddhas’ names one hundred times. While you do so, you must be very sincere and not think about anything else. Do not presume that you will be able to go to the Pure Land just because you made a prostration to Amitabha Buddha; nor should you wish to become healthy after prostrating to the Medicine Buddha.

“All Buddhas are the same; it’s just that the vows They made vary. As long as you worship a Buddha, then one day you will become attuned to Him, and eventually you will learn all of that Buddha’s Dharma methods. There is no need to think, If I worship the Medicine Buddha, my illness will be cured; or, If I make a prostration to Amitabha, He will receive me into the Pure Land; or, This is Samantabhadra Buddha, and if I worship Him I will be just like Bodhisattva Samantabhadra. Just be sincere, and do not think or wonder when you might reap the benefits from making prostrations to the Buddhas. They will appear for you when you are most in need, as long as you have prostrated to Them. Afterward, if you are even more diligent in your practice, then you will benefit even more.”

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended the Dharma throne to lead the attendees in “Calling Witness with a Hundred Prostrations.” After the prostrations were finished, the guru again ascended the Dharma throne and continued to bestow teachings.

“In the prayer at the end of the Dharma text that you all just recited, were any of its lines related to the mundane world?” A monastic said that they were not. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued. “I advise those of you who only come to participate in the puja on New Year’s Day to stop coming, because by imploring for wellbeing you are taking advantage of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Wellbeing is not something that should be sought after; it comes with cultivation. If you do not practice, then how can there be wellbeing? Of course, coming to this puja is better than not coming, for having participated is bound to bring good fortune. Nevertheless, since some of you do not believe what the guru and the Buddha have said, you have broken one of the precepts against greed, hatred, and ignorance. Ignorant people have a high tendency to be reborn in the Animal Realm in the next life. That might seem a bit of a paradox, however, because you also will obtain good fortune from having participated in the puja. Therefore, if you do end up falling into the Animal Realm, you have nothing to fear, as you will turn into an animal with good fortune like one of those pets that are constantly pampered and called ‘dog-sons’ or ‘dog-daughters.’ You should not be skeptical, because this is very likely to happen. If you won’t even listen to your guru, then what do you think: Will that happen to you or not?

“How do you know it won’t happen to you? If you start forgetting this or that a couple of years before your time, or develop Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, then that is a sign that you might reincarnate in the Animal Realm. This will very possibly be your fate, unless you obtain help from the Dharma. Life in the Animal Realm is full of suffering; don’t think you’ll be comfortable as a dog-son or a dog-daughter. As human sons and daughters, we can just leave home if we feel like it; however, if a dog does this, it will immediately get caught by the government and put to sleep after being impounded for twenty-one days.” Right then and there, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed a disciple in charge of the register to make a note of all the people who had only showed up on New Year’s Day and to forbid them from attending in the future, because the guru did not want them to fall into the Animal Realm. “I understand cause and effect very well,” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued. “If I do not stop you from coming, then I will be letting you down—so I have no recourse but to strictly forbid you from coming here ever again.”

“Next I’ll be performing the White Mahākāla Elephant Jambhala. This Dharma text was transmitted to me personally by Yunga Rinpoche, a master practitioner of the Drikung Kagyu Order. It is well-suited to sentient beings in the Age of Degenerate Dharma due to our needs and desires, but for it to work you must first meet several conditions. For example, you must already have made offerings, given alms, made prostrations to the Buddha, and followed everything your guru has taught. The Elephant Jambhala is a bit different from the Black Water Jambhala I performed this morning, which can help you ward off sentient beings that would come to steal away your wealth. By contrast, the Elephant Jambhala can help you through times of difficulty, such as when you suffer mishaps.

“White Mahākāla is an alternate emanation of Black Mahākāla, and is one of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara’s Dharma protectors—whereas the Elephant Jambhala is White Mahākāla’s Dharma protector. Below the Elephant Jambhala in rank, there is also the Monkey Dharma Protector. Strictly speaking, the Elephant Jambhala is called the Elephant Head Jambhala. The name originated long ago with a prince who loved to give alms, and would give freely to anyone, no matter what people did with his money—good deeds or bad. Thus, he sometimes helped many people to commit crimes. After learning of this Mahākāla felt that if the prince—with such a great virtuous root—were to continue in this manner, he would end up in hell, so Mahākāla killed him and gave him the head of an elephant as a symbol of his strength.

“The Elephant Jambhala was transmitted from India. You can either accept or refute this argument. Buddhism began in India, so some elements of Indian custom and tradition were bound to come with it. Take, for example, the Smoke Offering often performed in Tibetan Buddhism. Originally there was no mention in Buddhism of this, but when Padmasambhava was in Tibet, smoke offerings were very popular among practitioners of the local aboriginal faith. For this reason Padmasambhava embraced the smoke offering, but only after altering what it involved. Thus, if you try to criticize who is who or where someone came from in Buddhism, you will get nowhere. The definition of the Dharma is any method that can help sentient beings, so the Elephant Jambhala can be of great help both to people who are extremely poor as well as those who hope to make enough money to be able to give to charity and make offerings.

“One thing quite special about the Elephant Jambhala is that offerings are made to him using agilawood incense. As you all know, this sort of incense is not at all cheap; it is actually extremely expensive these days. This has to do with what the Elephant Jambhala liked while he was still alive. Therefore, when making an offering, one should always use high-quality agilawood incense. To put it plainly, a guru without sufficient funds cannot perform this Dharma. It’s not just a matter of a few hundred or a few thousand NT dollars; the sort of incense used costs around NT$300,000, and with 1300 people participating in today’s puja, that breaks down to roughly NT$230 per person. Furthermore, today’s puja was paid for with the disciples’ regular support contributions to the Buddhist Center, so those believers present who do not normally make contributions should consider themselves lucky. This does not mean that you have a lot of good fortune or that I am a good person, however; I am not at all good. If I were, then how could I cultivate the Bodhisattva Path? Still, I’m not bad, either; I am impartial, and am guided by the principle of cause and effect.

“The NT$300,000 used to make an offering to White Mahākāla came entirely from the regular offerings the Glorious Jewel disciples have made to the Buddhist Center. Thus, after taking refuge you are expected to make offerings to the Buddhist Center. The amount is not important; you are welcome to give NT$100 or NT$300—but you must not give three million or thirty million, because I will refuse it. I also will not allow the Buddhist Center to grow too wealthy. An organization will not have any problems if it’s poor, but as soon as it grows rich, things can get bad. I’m still here, so of course there aren’t any issues at the moment; as soon as I die, however, there is no telling what might happen. It is customary at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center to get by with what it requires, and no more. If anything is ever needed, I speak to the disciples, who in turn do their best to do what has to be done. We therefore do not need anyone to suddenly become inspired and make an offering of NT$200,000 or NT$300,000. In the past a disciple tried this, but the money was returned to him. I don’t mean you should give me your money; I just mean that organizations—especially religions ones—should not become too wealthy, or else a lot of squabbles could occur.

“The Elephant Jambhala is very rarely performed in the Drikung Kagyu and the other Orders. Even though practitioners in other Orders do occasionally perform it, this Dharma text was personally transmitted by Yunga Rinpoche, so its contents are unique. White Mahākāla is one of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara’s Dharma protectors, so if I had not cultivated Avalokiteshvara’s Dharma method, I would not be able to successfully perform the Elephant Jambhala today. To cultivate the Dharma method of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara does not simply involve chanting the Universal Gate Chapter, the Great Compassion Mantra, and the Great Six-Syllable Mantra; it means practicing until one is attuned to the Bodhisattva, and one is only attuned if one can do what the Bodhisattva does. For example, after I went to Pingtung to help sentient beings there, even though my health was jeopardized, I still continued my activities to benefit sentient beings. This is what it means to be attuned to Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara’s vow of compassion.”

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche began to perform the Elephant Jambhala. While performing the ritual, the guru continued to bestow teachings.

“The Elephant Jambhala’s nature is no different from the heart of the Cakrasamvara, which is always performed in conjunction with the Drikung Kagyu Anuttarayoga Tantra. Using an expedient means, the Cakrasamvara was transformed into the son of Maheśvara and Uma-devi. He possesses especially magnificent wealth from the Heavenly Realm, and due to powers of good fortune and merits from past lives, he has great strength and the wondrous ability to embrace and subdue the Three Realms. He can grant all ordinary worshipers’ wishes and help them fulfil their aspirations, and once was tamed by Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara; thereafter, he vowed to keep the precepts and, in the presence of Padmasambhava, pledged to engage in Buddhist activities that benefit sentient beings. He is among the retinue of the Dharma protector Mahākāla, and is also one of the deities worshiped in Hinduism. This Jambhala Dharma is divided into three traditions in India, and the one transmitted to Tibet has been carried on by the Sakya Order as one of its three Red Yidams. Thus, despite what you thought, the Elephant Jambhala does not belong to Hinduism.”

Next, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche made another offering to the Elephant Jambhala, and compassionately allowed the attendees to supplicate to the Jambhala.

After performing the Dharma to perfect completion, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the disciples in a performance of the Dharma protector prayer and dedication. Afterward, the guru resumed bestowing Dharma teachings upon all the attendees.

“This year is the Year of the Sheep. In this world, natural disasters are inevitable, and life is impermanent. However, for those of you who have taken refuge in Buddhism, I have performed many Dharmas that can keep you from dying untimely deaths—unless you lose faith in your guru, that is. A relatively high number of earthquakes will occur this year. The ones that hit Taiwan might not be very severe, but those that happen elsewhere will be. Furthermore, those of you who engage in business this year should not make investments in opportunities that others claim are a sure thing. Don’t think that just because you have participated in the Jambhala today it means your stock investments are bound to yield big profits; some people might make money, but you will not necessarily be among them. The stock market is not something that should be played; it is an opportunity for long-term investment. If you aim to earn some interest each year, then your stock investments will be secure and sound.

“Also, there will be an especially high frequency of cold illnesses this year. As a disciple of mine who is a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine has explained, these include respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases. Thus, if you like consuming cold foods such as iced drinks, fruit juice, or ice cream, then chances are that you will get sick this year. Vegetarians don’t eat hotpot very often, but let me give you a word of advice: Don’t eat hotpot in Taiwan anymore, unless it is in your own home. This is because you don’t know what ingredients might be in the broth or how fresh the vegetables are. In short, many illnesses come from what you consume, so you must curb your epicurean desires; don’t think you’ll have good health if you continue to gorge yourselves. This year you should avoid places that are overly cold, although this does not include people from the northeast. Don’t get caught up in the fads of sight-seeing cruises to view the northern lights or whale-watching near Antarctica; you’re better off not going.

“Financially, you’re likely to break even this year, as the economy will neither boom nor crash. It is our collective karma to have this kind of government here and now; it won’t do us any good to keep on criticizing and cursing it. If people possess good fortune, even they don’t criticize their government, they will prosper anyway. On the contrary, without good fortune, people may change their government one after another, the situation will remain the same. You aren’t extremely bright, so what good would it do to criticize? Newly elected officials would not give all their money to the country, either. I am not here to talk about politics; my point is that all of your actions should be done in accordance with your causal conditions. You don’t need to force yourself into some sort of New Year’s resolution—unless it has to do with a change you have already begun to make, in which case you should continue.”

Next, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed two ordained disciples to report what they had come to realize from what had happened to the guru recently.

The first monastic answered that after seeing Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Bodhicitta and actions in benefiting sentient beings, which are tantamount to the Buddha’s act of feeding His flesh to the tigers, she realized that sentient beings absolutely needed the Dharma, so she earnestly hoped that the guru would look after his health.

The other monastic said, “We all want Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to stay in this world, but what right do we have to keep him? The way we torment the guru, if he remains he will continue to be exhausted by us. We should ask ourselves: How much of our mental energy is devoted to Buddhism? Even our guru has confirmed that gurus are impermanent. However, the guru’s Dharma body and wisdom life, as well as the teachings he has bestowed upon us, are eternal. I hope you all keep this in mind.”

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued to bestow teachings. “Besides what these two disciples just said, the most important things that came into play were cause and effect. Why did Shakyamuni Buddha attain Buddhahood on Earth during the evil time of the Five Turbidities? According to the sutras, it is because Shakyamuni Buddha had criticized practitioners in a previous lifetime. Thus, everything that happens to us in life comes from seeds we ourselves have sewn; interwoven among them are some assisting conditions that either lessen or strengthen the effects of our karmic retribution. Because I’ve continuously helped several monasteries of the Order since 1995, after hearing of my current condition more than four hundred or so monastics chanted for me together.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said humorously, “So, you should not offend me, because I have four hundred people on my side, and they’re all monastics!

“What happened to me was the result of causes I myself made in the past. I went down there to help sentient beings without asking for anything in return, so it has to be that I disrespected sentient beings in past lives. From a practitioner’s point of view, however, this is a good thing, in that it has given me an opportunity to see that I still have a lot of faults to amend. Thus, if you think things will begin to go your way after you take refuge, then you are being haughty and arrogant. When you have just taken refuge, you are only in the adjustment stage. Don’t dwell on how much better your life is going to get, because one false move could send you right back to where you started. Today is New Year’s Day, and I am performing four Dharmas for you. This would not be seen in other places, so I’m quite a bargain.

“Two of the Dharmas performed today are ones that you like; one is a Dharma method of repentance, and the other is a prostration to the Buddha. These Dharma methods can help you accumulate good fortune, and are certain to greatly benefit your Buddhist practice in the future. Don’t be afraid of encountering hindrances while practicing Buddhism; they are actually good, because they give you chances to repay your debt. Nor should you be happy whenever something good happens to you or think that it is the result of your prostrations to the Buddha or your cultivation; such thoughts will turn you haughty and arrogant. Although you might have accumulated some fortune of the Human and Heavenly Realms, your arrogance will cause your merits to be exhausted.

“The reason my practice is effective is that even when I encounter any sort of disaster, it ultimately has no negative impact on me, because I always maintain the cultivation of merits as my central focus. As such, I understand things a bit differently from most people; I am willing to sacrifice myself. If you think the most important thing in your life is family, and other such thoughts, then I urge you to stop coming here. Your family members are not that important; you’ve simply formed a connection with them in this lifetime, so your responsibility is to do your best to take care of them. If you only care about family, then you will overlook the many people around you who need help. If you only attach importance to one or two hard-luck cases, then you will be neglecting those people who quietly make great contributions to society, their country, the world, humankind, and sentient beings.

“No matter how bad things get in this theater of life, there is sure to come a day when the curtain will fall and the drama will all be over. While you’re still here, however, the important thing is whether or not you have fulfilled your responsibilities and done a good job of acting out your part. By this I don’t mean devoting your entire existence to your families. We should give of ourselves to our families, but if you only help them and never anyone else, then you will still end up with problems no matter how much you give. For example, there was a believer’s mother who, prior to her death, smeared excrement all over the wall; she therefore did not dare to stay at home, so she ran away. I told the believer, “Your mother killed chickens in the past, and what she did was the karmic retribution that comes of that. She’s also very likely to fall into hell, unless her children participate in the puja.”

“Many people wonder why they should continue practicing Buddhism even after their parents have died and been liberated. They think they’re doing me enough of a favor just by coming here once a year. By doing this, though, you’re not doing me any favors; do you think I need you? You’re wrong. I don’t even need VIPs to come; you are the ones who need to come—you, your family members, your parents—so don’t be so arrogant! I know many important personages; some of them have even spend several months trying to seek an audience with me, but I’ve not granted it to any of them.

“It’s New Year’s Day, so I’ll take it easy on you; also, I don’t have the strength to keep on scolding you today. To sum up, practicing Buddhism is more important than anything else; without it we have no future. However, I am not advocating that you put your lives completely on hold for the sake of your Buddhist practice; that would be wrong, too, because you have your responsibilities, causes, and conditions. All I am saying is that by way of the Dharma, you should make constant adjustments to your inner world. The crux of Buddhism is the mind; all external matters are unimportant. If I hadn’t done a good job of adjusting my mind, then even the Dharma performed by His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang might not have saved me. If you practice without compassion and the Bodhicitta, then nothing will change no matter how hard you practice.

“You must all do your best to shape up. Life is short; with another year gone, you now have even less time left here on Earth. Don’t think you are bound to live to a ripe old age. Who would have thought that someone as healthy as myself could suddenly change into a completely different person? Life is impermanent, but you do not believe that; you only believe that you are invincible, that nothing bad will happen to you, and that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will take care of you. They will, but They cannot change your karmic retribution. You must therefore be diligent and stop wasting your time. Never say again that you will apply yourself to your practice after your daughter is out of school; once she has graduated, you will then start worrying about whom she knows or what partners she dates. After she is married, you will keep putting your practice off until she’s had a child, and then you’ll see if you’re needed to take care of your grandchild—and so on and so forth.

“If you keep putting it off, then you will have wasted this lifetime, living in this world as a spineless, cowardly parasite. It is my view that such people are indeed like parasites, because they are completely useless to their country, society, and people. Why are they able to continue living as parasites? It is because they are still using the good fortune accumulated by their ancestors. It’s such a shame! Don’t think that you’re guaranteed a comfortable life just because you have all those stocks and bonds; even the best stock markets can crash.”

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

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Updated on April 7, 2015