His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – April 5, 2015

Before the puja began, a disciple (whose wife, daughter, and son were also disciples) expressed his gratitude to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for having bestowed upon him the opportunity to share with everyone an account of the causal origination that had led his family to take refuge, as well as how the guru’s compassionate blessings and aid had helped him, his relatives and a close friend. The disciple also repented for all of the evil acts he had committed.

One of his wife’s coworkers—Dharma Brother Wu—had invited her twice in April 2011 to participate in the Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness that would be held that August. His wife had also been given the causal condition to participate in this auspicious Grand Puja due to her mother’s lupus. During the puja, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had solemnly performed the Dharma, compassionately liberating sentient beings and bestowing teachings upon the attendees about how they should eat vegetarian, stop smoking, form vast virtuous affinities, and so on. Called forth by His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s unrivaled, all-embracing power, the disciple—who had always had a very bad temper and been selfish and self-serving in everything he did—had made an about-face in his behavior. After seeing this transformation, his wife had smiled and said, “Ever since participating in the Grand Puja, my husband has stopped being such a manly man.”  Little did they know, all of this had been thanks to the guru’s great awe-inspiring power that had embraced him, despite his self-righteousness. After the Grand Puja that day, he had told his wife, “Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has beseeched us to stop eating the flesh of sentient beings, so let’s go vegetarian.” His wife had immediately agreed and said, “I would love to hear this master practitioner bestow Dharma teachings again.” And just like that, the notion of taking refuge had occurred to them. However, because their two young children had just begun participating in boy scout activities, they had not wanted to give those up. As such, they had missed out on the causal condition to take refuge in such a rare master practitioner.

“After about three months had passed, the disciple’s irritableness seemed to have returned. He had therefore again expressed his desire to his wife to take refuge, and by year’s end they had registered to seek an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Because of an end-of-the-year boy scout performance, however, he had self-righteously counted his chickens before they hatched by planning to withdraw from the troupe if His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche allowed them to take refuge; if the guru did not give his consent, however, they would continue participating in boy scout activities. To his surprise, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, with his great powers, had immediately seen right through this selfish and disrespectful thought. During the phone call that came to inform them of whether or not His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would receive the believers that week, a Dharma brother had informed them, “Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has given us instructions to the effect that the guru will not receive this group of believers because they are disrespectful.” After hanging up the phone, the disciple had been stunned. Just a few short sentences had abruptly unmasked his arrogant and disrespectful thought for what it was, and he had then realized how truly remarkable Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is.

The disciple’s sudden consciousness of His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s great powers had strengthened his resolve to take refuge, so he had immediately filled out and sent off a letter of withdrawal from the boy scout troupe. He had then made a phone call to register for another audience with the guru. That very Saturday, his wish had been granted, and during their audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, the guru had compassionately asked, “How may I help you?” The first thing out of his wife’s mouth had been, “We would like to take refuge.” Upon seeing His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche cup his ear, she had taken a deep breath and rephrased her answer: “We would like to implore to take refuge.” This time the guru had immediately replied, “Well, go and register then!” Right then and there they’d felt they had been given the greatest treasure of all, and so their entire family had thus begun its journey as disciples of the meritorious guru, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

By taking refuge and learning Buddhism from such a meritorious guru, not only would they be able to rapidly accumulate good fortune within a short period of time, but when faced with impermanence, the effects of their karmic retribution would always be lessened. The disciple himself had been profoundly impressed on several occasions. After taking refuge he had participated in the auspicious Dorje Phurba Puja, during which His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had raised and lowered the Phurba Vajra over and over, completely ignoring the lack of cartilage in his right shoulder while tirelessly bestowing blessings upon the more than 1,200 attendees at the venue. This had moved the disciple greatly and filled him with boundless admiration. The following afternoon, while in the kitchen with knife in hand, ready to chop some vegetable, impermanence had struck suddenly. A heavy wooden slab had slid down the slanted canopy of the range hood, and he hadn’t been able to react in time. Weighing about four kilograms, this slab had been edged with pieces of metal that looked just like the teeth of a sawmill blade. As gravity had taken hold, its fall had accelerated, causing it to emit a wrenching sound and scurry in the small kitchen. In those short few seconds he’d had no choice but to cringe in anticipation of the inevitable. To his surprise, however, after the noise had stopped, he’d discovered that it had only left a cut less than a centimeter long in his right calf. That he had escaped without any further injuries was truly remarkable, and the disciple knew that all of this was thanks to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessings; at the moment his karmic retribution had manifested, they had lessened its effects.

Another incident had happened in April of last year (2014), when he had sprained his right ankle while playing basketball. At the time he had thought it was just a light sprain, and had not felt greatly encumbered by it. Later while showering after getting home, however, he’d discovered that his right foot had swollen unbearably. Luckily he had still been able to cross his legs to perform his evening prayers, and afterward he had gone to bed to rest. As a physical education teacher he had twisted many an ankle, and would always apply ice, see an orthopedic doctor if necessary, cover the injured ankle with a salve, and apply heat. On occasion he’d even had to undergo such treatments as electrotherapy and acupuncture, and it typically took between several weeks and a month or two before he could walk normally without crutches. This time had been different, however. After getting out of bed the following day, his ankle had still been just as swollen as it had the night before; however, without crutches or even an ice pack, he’d found after taking just one step that he could actually walk normally. This had never happened before in his experience. A few days later the swelling had reduced by half due to an ointment that had been prescribed by the Glorious Jewel Chinese Medicine Clinic. He was grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for having established that clinic, for it allowed sentient beings to enjoy medical resources of the highest quality. He was also thankful for the guru’s compassionate blessings and protection which had lessened the effects of his karmic retribution that had come from his having liked to eat pork-knuckle so much in the past.

The disciples often hear about people’s praise of how His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche achieved great advancement in his Buddhist practice and his blessings span the Dharma Realm in all the Ten Directions after only having taken refuge in His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang for a decade or two. This account had left a very deep impression on this disciple, too. On the night of Chinese New Year’s Eve the year before last, while families were eating dinner and enjoying the company of their loved ones, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had instead been working tirelessly at the Buddhist Center as always, helping countless sentient beings. At the time the disciple had taken his 91-year-old grandmother there to form a connection with the guru, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas. With selfless compassion, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had immediately bestowed many blessings upon his grandmother for some time, and taught the disciple how to care for her in her old age. Afterward, the disciple had repented to the guru for having returned home a few days previously, where he had drunk meat broth. Upon hearing this, the guru had completely ignored him. Considering himself having very low root- capacity, the disciple had not thought too much about that at the time; he had simply thought that everything was fine since he had repented before the guru.

The next day, while the disciple was participating in the auspicious Ksitigarbha Puja held each year on New Year’s Day, soon after the puja had begun, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had turned his sharp gaze toward him and said, “You are the disciple who drank meat broth yesterday. Kneel down, quickly.” Only then had the disciple been awaken from his stupor and realized just how remarkable His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was. He recalled that when he had kneeled to repent in front of the guru the night before, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had not looked straight at him at all. Furthermore, over 1,200 disciples and employees were following His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, and the guru had to help many sentient beings every day; it was a real wonder that the guru could actually remember him! He had thought to himself, Rinpoche, you really are amazing!

During last year’s New Year’s festival, after his grandmother had received the blessings bestowed by His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, the disciple and his father had been sitting on the sofa together when his father, who had looked after the disciple’s grandmother for many years, had said, “You know what? The cough your grandma’s had for sixty years is completely gone now.” The disciple had immediately felt grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for being so relentless in relieving the suffering of sentient beings by way of compassionate, selfless blessings, and again had been impressed by the guru’s unimaginably great powers that filled the void. When he had been little, the disciple’s grandmother would often cough non-stop. Both of her sons-in-law were doctors, yet they’d been unable to help her. It had been his impression that his grandmother’s cough was an incurable condition. After only having bestowed blessings upon her head with the vajra for a little while, however, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had relieved her of the cough she’d been suffering for six decades. Only then had the disciple remembered His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s frequent comments: “You only know that I am good; you have no idea just how good I am!” Right then and there he had gained a profound realization of the great power of His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessings.

His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had often taught from the Dharma throne that we all must maintain a deep belief in death, impermanence, cause, effect, and reincarnation. Death and impermanence can manifest at any time, and cause and effect are absolutely real. It had happened in April of last year to two people – one, his relative and the other, his close friend – both being ill and were sent, one after another, to hospitals. One of them was a doctor from a well-to-do family—his aunt’s husband, who had gotten oral cancer. The other was a colleague—a single, middle-aged janitor at the school—who had suffered a heart attack. The disciple recalled that on the day of his uncle’s surgery, he had gone to the hospital to tell his aunt of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s great powers and many praiseworthy achievements in helping sentient beings. He had also informed her of how his grandmother’s sixty-year cough had disappeared after she’d been blessed just once by the guru. He had then asked his aunt that she must believe in His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, and had given her the nectar water His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had bestowed upon him during the Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness and a copy of Happiness and Suffering, hoping that these would be of the greatest benefit to his uncle after his operation. In addition, while his uncle was in hospital, Dr. Cai—also a Dharma brother—had visited his aunt in her free time to share many stories of how the guru had helped sentient beings. It had been Dr. Cai’s hope that his aunt’s family could develop faith in the guru as soon as possible. In the end, however, the disciple’s aunt had chosen to rely on her own medical background and vast financial resources, believing these would be enough to face the series of chemotherapy sessions and other torments afterwards.

As for the other patient, his close friend, the disciple had taken nectar water with him when he visited his colleague in the intensive care unit, where he was recovering from his heart attack. Before entering the ward, the disciple had overheard the doctor discussing the pros and cons with the patient’s family as to whether or not to operate, as well as all the risks involved either way. After listening to this, the disciple had gathered that the doctor meant that without surgery, the patient’s chances were slim, but that even if they operated on him, there still was no guarantee that he would live. The doctor had thus informed the family and advised them that they, at any moment, be prepared to make necessary funeral arrangements. When it was the disciple’s turn to enter the ICU, the image that had greeted his eyes was of his colleague lying there with a tube sticking out of his mouth, gazing ahead sluggishly and tears streaming down his face non-stop. His face had been swollen, and both his feet were flipping back and forth, either intentionally or otherwise. The disciple knew this coworker very well; he normally was kind, jovial and full of smiles, but now he looked completely different. The disciple had not been able to bear seeing his friend this way. However, cause, effect, and the manifestation of karmic retribution are completely out of our control. Because this colleague had often gone fishing in creeks in the past, he now looked just like those fish that he used to catch: Out of water, struggling for oxygen, trampled and suffering, unable to live or to die. This sight had totally confirmed what His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would often say from atop the Dharma throne: “You must believe deeply in cause and effect.”

At the time, he had just used the short ten or so minutes he’d had there to do three things: First of all, he had taken a cotton swap soaked in nectar water and brushed it back and forth along the upper edge of his colleague’s lip so that the precious liquid could easily drip down into his mouth. Secondly, he had asked him to visualize His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s sacred title. Finally, he had told his friend to repent for all of the fish and other sentient beings he had harmed in the past. As a result, while the disciple was attending a routine school staff meeting less than two weeks after leaving the hospital, the school’s Academic Affairs Director had picked up a microphone and announced that his janitorial colleague had been transferred from the ICU to a regular hospital ward. Hearing this news had inexplicably moved him, and the disciple had thought to himself, This was because of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s auspicious blessings. Thank you, Your Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche! As a disciple, he felt extremely grateful to have taken refuge in such a rare master practitioner who would even save his close friend.

After getting off work the next day, he had gone to visit his uncle in the hospital. It had been ten days since his uncle’s surgery, and a dark line could be seen crisscrossing and extending from his lower lip to the back of his throat. It had looked like a black zipper, and the right side of his throat was swollen like a big balloon. His uncle had continuously walked back and forth, occasionally glancing at the mirror, now and then gazing forward thoughtfully. The disciple lamented the fact that his uncle had not been able to obtain the greatest help the Dharma could provide due to not having engendered faith in His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

Later, he had gone over to visit the coworker who had suffered the heart attack. Upon seeing him, his colleague had excitedly jumped up from the bed in a surge of gratitude. The disciple had asked, “You understand that it was His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche who saved you, right?” His coworker had smiled broadly – his famous smile, nodding over and over and indicating, “Yes, yes, yes.” Apart from being unable to emit sound as a result of the damage done to his throat by the intubation, he had looked exactly the same as he had before falling ill. Two different patients had been hospitalized around the same time, one after another; one for oral cancer—and it sounded like he would be able to live a while longer—and the other for a heart attack, for whom it had seemed funeral arrangements might need to be made at any moment. However, whether or not they accepted the Dharma was a difference as vast as that between night and day. His uncle was from an aristocratic family of medical practitioners. With his robust financial resources and such an illustrious family background, he would rather put his trust in doctors and medical practice, despite having to be mercilessly tortured by a series of chemotherapy treatments after the operation. As a janitor, the disciple’s coworker received a meager salary, yet while on the verge of death he had chosen to believe in His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s magnificent powers and had developed the most profound faith in the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and the Dharma. Within a short time, not having undergone surgery, he had recovered his previous health and vigor. The disciple could not help but remember something His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had said while on the Dharma throne: “Not all hindrances to one’s Buddhist practice are negative. Sometimes being too wealthy can prevent one from practicing, too.” This lesson was indeed true, for it had actually happened to his uncle and his family.

Finally, he repented for all of the evil acts he had committed in the past. When he was little he had eaten his fill of so-called “exotic delicacies,” stolen money, cheated on tests, and been unfilial by cursing his father behind his back for having a bad temper. He had watched pornographic videos, been self-righteous, had a strong personality, and been unwilling to admit defeat. During both his wedding and engagement parties, he had invited enough guests to seat more than a hundred banquet tables, and in order to preserve his reputation, he’d even asked the catering restaurant to replace the appetizer dishes with seafood delicacies. How many sentient beings had been sacrificed for the sake of his reputation? While working in the education sector, he had stolen public property from the office and used it for his own purposes. He had abused his authority, had not cared for his students, and had not shown their parents any empathy. He had been irritable, and had often gotten into conflicts with others while driving. After marrying, he’d had a long-term love affair behind his wife’s back, causing her great shame. All of this time-wasting, theft, adultery, harsh speech, and killing he had engaged in with neither quip nor qualm. He had not set up his mandala at home until almost a year after taking refuge. For this, he had created evil karma for being disrespectful toward the Three Jewels and not believing in cause and effect.

Three years previously, he had not been able to join the Dharma brothers he’d taken refuge with in imploring for a Dharma photo of Dharma Protector Achi. On the following Saturday, he had gone to the Buddhist Center to do so, but he had missed the registration deadline. Ignoring his Dharma brother’s admonishments, he had become greedy and insisted on registering anyway, thereby making a big mistake by disrespecting the Three Jewels and the guru and causing a great deal of trouble for the Dharma brothers at the Buddhist Center. Moreover, this evil behavior had later been seen through immediately by the powerful and compassionate Dharma Protector Achi, for he had made the grave mistake of laminating the Dharma photo before it had been consecrated. Whenever he had come to the Buddhist Center on subsequent Saturdays, he could only kneel to the side in repentance without being able to get the photo consecrated as he had hoped. Seeing his plight, a Dharma brother next to him had kindly reminded him that he should seek an audience with the guru so as to repent and implore for the consecration in person. He had therefore registered for an audience with the guru hoping for some luck. Such evil behavior and disrespect toward the Three Jewels of course could not escape the notice of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Dharma eye, so the guru had immediately said to him very sternly, “You must believe deeply in cause and effect. You may not have your Dharma photo consecrated.”

These few simple words had struck him like thunder, bringing him to a sudden and complete realization that it the “cause” he’d planted by being disrespectful while registering to implore for a Dharma photo of Dharma Protector Achi had led to the “effect” of not being able to have the photo consecrated that day. All of this had been his own fault; he had reaped what he had sown. He was grateful for His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s auspicious teachings; because of them, to this day, every time he saw a Dharma photo of Protector Achi, he was reminded that he must think often on cause and effect and maintain a profound belief in them. His actions in this lifetime alone were enough to lock him in the Evil Realms after he died and have the key thrown away. Had it not been for the causal condition to take refuge and learn Buddhism from such a meritorious guru as Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, he felt sure that he would remain forever stuck in the Six Realms, reincarnating through lifetime after lifetime without any hope of being liberated.

He hoped to act according to the guru’s teachings from now on, and implement the Dharma taught by the guru in his everyday life so that he could have an opportunity to become liberated from life and death in this lifetime and no longer reincarnate. He appealed to his Dharma brothers and all honorable believers present to learn a lesson from his mistakes. Finally, he prayed that His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would maintain good health, keep turning the Dharma wheel, and have eternal presence in this world, so that the Drikung Kagyu Lineage could exist in the void forever and benefit all sentient beings in the Dharma Realm.

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche presided over the general puja at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Taipei, and bestowed precious Dharma teachings upon all of the attendees.

“Today I am going to give you all a brief overview of the second section of the fifth chapter of the Amitayus Assembly spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha in the eighteenth volume of the Ratnakuta Sutra. The Amitayus is Amitabha Buddha. Shakyamuni Buddha mentioned in the Ratnakuta Sutra that even if one were to speak for an entire kalpa, one still would not have time to mention all of Amitabha Buddha’s achievements and merits. How long is a kalpa? A kalpa is the time it takes the Earth to cycle through Formation, Existence, Destruction, and the Succeeding Void, and then back again. In other words, it is a very long time.

“Shakyamuni Buddha said in the sutra that Amitayus Buddha has other names, such as Infinite Light, Boundless Light, Detached Light, Unhindered Light, King of Illumination, Magnificent Light, Loving Light, Joyful Light, Pleasant Light, Inconceivable Light, Unequaled Light, Immeasurable Light, Light Outshining the Sun, Light Outshining the Moon, and Light Outshining Suns and Moons. These are all alternate appellations of Amitabha Buddha, and each contains the word ‘Light.’ This means that Amitabha’s Buddha light shines everywhere in the Dharma Realm in all the Ten Directions, upon any sentient being wishing to be reborn in the Pure Land. In scientific terms, this can be explained by the fact that Amitabha Buddha’s energy can reach every corner of the universe and appear anywhere.

“The first part explains the various phenomena that occur in the Pure Land; today I will not go over them. It is written in the first part of the second section of the fifth chapter of the Amitayus Assembly that the Venerable Ananda implored Shakyamuni Buddha for teachings. From this it is clear that even though the Venerable Ananda had attained the fruition of an arhat and mastered many auspicious Dharmas, he still wished to learn from Shakyamuni Buddha. Thus, don’t think that achieving a little bit makes you amazing. There practically aren’t any more arhats in this world, and it is exceedingly difficult to achieve this. Even the disciple Ananda, who had succeeded in doing so, needed to implore Shakyamuni Buddha on behalf of sentient beings to bestow teachings on Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism.

“Some people believe that Shakyamuni Buddha never spoke Vajrayana Buddhism, but He actually did. In the next section of the Ratnakuta Sutra, where the Immovable Buddha is mentioned, Shakyamuni Buddha speaks of Vajrayana and Tantra cultivation methods. However, if you have no experience practicing Tantra, then you will not be able to discern it from reading the sutra. His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang once told me, while transmitting the Dharma, that there are a few lines in the Dharma text which might be known by all Rinpoches, but no one actually knows how to practice them. Therefore, the Dharma must be transmitted orally. Even if you read a sutra with a respectful attitude, if you have not received oral transmission of it from a guru or other experienced practitioner, then you will get it all wrong and make a mess. You might think you are practicing it correctly, but in fact you are not at all.

“Many people think that once they repent, everything bad will stop happening to them. On the contrary, after you repent is actually when everything starts to happen. Why? It is because repentance signifies your intention to pay off what you owe, and as such you would no longer accrue any more debt. I don’t know why people all think that after repenting life will be perfect, that they will not fall ill, that their husbands will become good and stop seeing their mistresses, and that their children will start behaving. These notions are not very accurate. The reason our good fortune accumulates so quickly after we genuinely repent is that we have stopped committing evil and begun to do good. A thorough knowledge of where we have gone wrong gives us the insight to no longer make the same mistakes or to be endlessly greedy. Good fortune therefore begins to accumulate as a result of our newfound virtue. Otherwise, the more you practice, the more likely you are to develop psychological problems. I have seen many people in just such a predicament. After practicing for decades, I have not had any such problems; you, on the other hand, have begun to show signs of mental issues such as claiming to hear voices after only having practiced for a few short years.

“It is written very clearly in the Diamond Sutra that seeking the Buddha in forms or sounds is heresy; this was stated by Shakyamuni Buddha. Why do you make mistakes? It is because when you first started learning Buddhism, you thought that after listening to a little bit of the Dharma, you could simply go home and practice by yourselves. How, though, can you possibly practice? Actually, to this day a great many disciples still have not gotten this through their heads. How could it be that simple? You don’t even possess the causal condition to read the sutras. Thus, this section of the Ratnakuta Sutra is very important, so you should all try to remember it. As for whether or not you can accomplish what it teaches is none of my business.

“In the sutra, the Buddha tells Ananda that there are as many lands in the east as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. Why does Shakyamuni Buddha make such frequent mention of the Ganges in the sutras? It is because this river is the source of life for Indians, just like the Yellow River is for China. If the Yellow River had not existed in ancient times, then the Chinese people would not exist today. People are still living in India because of the Ganges, so the Buddha constantly mentions this river so that they can relate to it. The ‘sands of the Ganges’ includes that of both its banks and of the river bottom, and more grains of sand than can be counted. This is why the Buddha used the sand in the Ganges River to describe an enormous number. Thus, the Buddha Lands are not at all what you imagine; there are in fact a great many of them. The universe is not so simple as to comprise just a single solar system or galaxy. When we look at the myriad stars in the night sky, we must realize that each one is a Buddha Land. There are far too many of them for humans or even a supercomputer to count.

“In the face of such a vast number, humanity is less significant than even a grain of sand. Compared to a grain of sand, a single person is like a very tiny molecule; as such, what gives us the right to be so arrogant? How can we think we have done a good job of cultivating? We are just tiny particles of a tremendously vast universe. Yesterday a believer came to seek an audience with me. He said he was going to help sentient beings, so I asked him to leave. I’m sure you would think this strange; why would I do that? It is because even I wouldn’t dare to say I am going to help sentient beings. It is written in the Diamond Sutra that if a Bodhisattva thinks he is helping sentient beings, then he is not a Bodhisattva. These days so many Dharma masters want their believers to aspire to benefit sentient beings, but it is clearly stated in the Diamond Sutra that we must break free of the Four Forms, one of which is the form of sentient beings. I have spoken before of the contents of the Ratnakuta Sutra; to eliminate the Four Forms, we must cultivate kindness, compassion, joy, and giving. If you haven’t even done that, then what makes you think you can help sentient beings?

“Is telling people to recite the sutras and eat vegetarian the same as helping sentient beings? That is simply engendering affinities. Do you think that encouraging someone to purchase a sutra is an example of helping sentient beings? This, too, is no more than forming a connection. Actually, it is sentient beings that help us in our practice; this includes your karmic creditors. If you had no ailments or woes, would you still come to the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center? You might instead go traveling or accompany your boyfriend to take selfies everywhere and then immediately post them online. The only reason you have come here is that you have problems; so why won’t you listen? You think you want this and that, but what can you want? The more you want, the greedier you get! A person who believes deeply in impermanence and knows what it means will live his or her life in peace and stability no matter what happens, through both happiness and suffering. For example, back when I was on the verge of dying, I remained very calm; I even told that disciple, who was a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, not to beat his daughter. If you think you are so impressive, then give it a try. How will you act when you are on your deathbed? You might think, What will my husband / wife do after I’m gone? This is an indication that you have not practiced at all!

“When the Buddha said that there are as many lands in the east as there are grains of sand in the Ganges, He was referring to Buddha Lands and the boundaries between them. ‘Each Buddha Land contains as many Buddhas as there are grains of sand in the Ganges’—thus, Shakyamuni Buddha stated very clearly that a great many Buddhas exist. Here on Earth, of all the religions acknowledged by humans since the dawn of history, only Buddhism has stated that all sentient beings are equal. This does not mean that you are equal to the president or your father; rather, it refers to the fact that all sentient beings equally possess a pure Buddha-nature, the essence necessary for attaining Buddhahood. As I have mentioned before, I once saw a television news report about a dog that splashed water onto a fish flopping on the ground, hoping to keep it from dying. This not only showed that the dog knew that fish live in water, but it also revealed this dog’s Buddha-nature. I also once watched a documentary about orangutans raised in the zoo. A bird had fallen into the water, and one of the orangutans used a leaf to try to scoop up the bird. After using two or three leaves, it finally succeeded; it then placed the bird on land and watched as the little bird walked away. If this had been you, you would have waited excitedly for the bird to drown. From this we can see that we are worse than beasts.

“There was another documentary about an American who specialized in photographing gorillas in Africa. At one point, several large, medium-sized, and small gorillas stood facing a tree trunk, up which a caterpillar was climbing. As the gorillas watched it, the expression on their faces seemed to say, “This caterpillar is moving,” but not a single one of them reached out a hand to touch it. You would have poked a stick at the caterpillar and flicked it away. Even animals understand that they should respect life; whom have you ever respected? You only respect your own feelings!

“The reason the Buddha compared the Buddhas to the sands of the Ganges was not to say that they were alike, but to point out that there are so many Buddhas. It is written in the sutra, ‘Ananda, in the east, there are as many Buddha-lands as the sands of the Ganges; the Buddhas in those lands all praise the countless merits of Amitayus Buddha. The same is the case with the Buddhas in the south, the west, the north, and the four intermediate directions.’ In this section, the Buddha repeats what He said in the Amitabha Sutra, but in a more concise manner.

“The sutra text continues: ‘Why? Except those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the true Dharma and defame saints, any sentient being in any other Buddha-land can do the following: After hearing the name of Tathagata Amitayus, if they have even one thought of pure faith, joy, and aspiration and dedicate all their good roots to birth in that Buddha-land, they will be born there as they wish, and will achieve nonregression from the path to supreme enlightenment.’

“All sentient beings can be born in whatever Buddha-land they wish just by hearing the name of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life, which is another name for Amitabha Buddha. Many people misconceive this to mean that if they play a recording of the Buddha’s names for a large number of people and animals, it will cause them to go to Amitabha’s Pure Land, but that is not actually true. Without a guru chanting the names, listening to a recording is useless other than to help you form a connection. If a sound recorder could liberate sentient beings, then I could just throw up my hands and retire; all I’d have to do is report to His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang that I would record the sounds of the Chod and then play them every day.

“Despite the constant advancement of science and technology, people are getting lazier and lazier. Think about it: How much time do you spend each day chanting the Buddha’s names? How long do you contemplate the relationship between your life and the Dharma? None of you has done this. Having prostrated to the Buddha, participated in pujas, made vows, and performed penitential rites, you all think that you have done all that you can possibly do. You then wonder why you still get sick. It is very simple; it is because you have not cultivated enough good fortune. You are sure to ask, ‘Doesn’t prostrating to the Buddha bring good fortune?’ As I mentioned just now, you must have ‘pure faith’—in other words, pure conviction. Only if you are not seeking anything for yourself can good fortune emerge from prostrating to the Buddha.

“Every time you make prostrations, you implore for a bunch of things, threatening and coercing the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas by saying that you are sick, mentally deranged, or hearing voices. You demand that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas make you well, claiming that you will not be able to continue practicing and help a lot of sentient beings until you are cured. This is all a heap of nonsense. I’ve never implored the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas like that; not even when I died. In 2007, while in retreat high in the snowy mountains, I stopped breathing. However, I did not implore Dharma Protector Achi for help; I simply told her that if she still had any use for me, then she should let me stay; if not, she should take me away. In my shoes you would have begged Dharma Protector Achi to spare your life, saying that you think you still have a lot of sentient beings to liberate, that there are still many disciples at the Buddhist Center, and so on. With such attachments, you could return to the Buddhist Center as a cockroach. Don’t think you’ll necessarily return as a guru or disciple, because such thoughts are attachments, threats, and demands; they are not bodhicitta. They are just manifestations of your desire not to die.

“You should remember today’s teachings. Don’t think that chanting Amitabha Buddha’s name for someone is enough to help that person form a connection with Amitabha Buddha. What sort of mindset are you in while chanting? It is written in the sutra that hearing Amitabha Buddha’s Dharma title is only useful if it is spoken by a well-cultivated practitioner. You must not think that the Dharmas spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha are very simple; if Shakyamuni Buddha had thought that ordinary people could help sentient beings to be reborn in the Pure Land just by chanting the Buddha’s name, then He would have said more on the subject. The Buddha did not, however. In addition, there are other prerequisites for going there, although these conditions were not given by Shakyamuni Buddha. They are that if one lacks good fortune, merits, causes, and conditions, then one really cannot go to the Pure Land. Because the Venerable Ananda was an arhat, the Buddha did not need to explain very much; unlike you, Ananda understood the Buddha’s words as soon as they were said. No matter how much I nag, I still can’t get through to you. You are like rocks—no, like diamonds, with a hardness level of ten; the hardest in the world. No amount of effort can break through. You insist on doing things your own way and only listen to your own ideas; as soon as you leave the Buddhist Center, you act totally different. There is nothing I can do about this.

“The sentient beings mentioned in the sutra are objects of the Buddhas’ aspirations; all Buddhas hope for every sentient being to be freed from reincarnation. Sentient beings are burdened with heavy karma; they could not cultivate to the point of being liberated from reincarnation within a single lifetime, or even hundreds of lifetimes. Shakyamuni Buddha therefore introduced Amitabha Buddha to them. One thing that is special about Amitabha is that you can go to His Pure Land even if you’ve not resolved all of your virtuous karma in this lifetime. If you still have evil karma, however, you cannot. Many people think they can take animals there with them, but I have read the Amitabha and the Ratnakuta Sutra, and neither makes any mention of animals going there except for birds. These birds, it is explained, are transformations manifested by the Buddha’s powers. It is not as simple as birds emanating as birds, dogs as dogs, and so on, as direct continuations of your pets from this lifetime; that would not happen. Those in the Animal Realm can go to the Heavenly Realm, and those that are a bit lacking can be reborn in the Human Realm. Also, they can only go to the lowest level of the Heavenly Realm—the Heavens of the Desire Realm. Don’t misinterpret this to mean that the sentient beings that are reborn in the Pure Land can include animals; animals cannot understand language very clearly, unless they have died and recovered their pure, true nature, in which case they will know that people are transferring their consciousness for them. I recently liberated a cat, in fact.

“In the sutra it is also written that after hearing Amitayus Buddha’s name, one must immediately give rise to a thought. This thought does not come from chanting; in simple terms, it happens during breathing. You cannot detect it right now, but the longer you take between each breath, the longer your meditative state will last. Between breathing in and breathing out, you thoughts will stop completely for a very short period of time. However, most people cannot perceive such subtleties. Only while in a state of Samadhi can one slowly become aware of one’s thoughts becoming completely motionless in that instant between drawing in a breath and breathing one out. During that moment, the mind is completely devoid of all thought.

“Many people cannot explain what ‘a thought’ means, because they cannot sense it. It is not just a thought per se, because there are many kinds of thoughts—rough ones, coarse ones, refined ones, micro-thoughts, faint thoughts, and so on. Despite what you might believe, even not thinking about something is a kind of thought. If you think you are quite focused today, then that is a thought, too. Thus, it cannot be explained this way, and it definitely is not the same as letting go of all thoughts or not having any thoughts at all. The word ‘thought’ is mentioned many times in the sutras. For example, the phrase ‘one to ten thoughts’ is written in the Amitabha, which refers to chanting the Buddha’s name during samadhi at every breath. As such, one’s mind remains pure, without any wandering thoughts. Chanting the Buddha’s name is only effective if one does it from one’s pure, true nature.

“Why is chanting the Buddha’s name useless to you, no matter how much you do it? It is because your thoughts are full of all sorts of strange and filthy things, and because you chant with your conscious minds. When you first begin, of course, you cannot possibly succeed; it requires practice and gradual training. One thing that sets Buddhism apart from other religions is that unlike those faiths, wherein you are meant to experience so-called miracles and telepathy, Buddhism has you sense changes that occur in your internal world. This is done by acting in strict accordance with the methods taught by your guru in the proper sequential order, rather than trying to perceive whether or not you have felt or seen anything, or if your situation has changed for the better. These things are all superfluous and unrelated. The reason practitioners and master practitioners are able to bestow such powerful blessings is that they rely on samadhi; if they have done a good job of keeping the precepts, then of course their samadhi powers will manifest.

“Having a pure thought refers to that instant when a practitioner changes from consciousness over to his or her pure, original nature. This is not something that ordinary people can do, so don’t misunderstand me to mean that just because it says in the sutra that you can go to the Pure Land once you’ve had such a pure thought, it then necessarily means that you can. You are still thinking with your consciousness. How does one practice this method? I will explain it in a little while. Shakyamuni Buddha was not so long-winded, so after the Buddha said something, gurus would then be responsible to explain it. Shakyamuni Buddha had a great many things to do, so everything He said tended to be brief and to the point.

“This so-called ‘joy and aspiration’ is very important; it refers to being filled with Dharma joy, and means that chanting the Buddha’s name should be done because one enjoys doing it, and not for any other purpose. ‘Joy’ here does not mean you fall in love with Amitabha Buddha; if you did that, you would be done-for, because Amitabha Buddha is neither man nor woman. According to what is written in the sutras, Amitabha Buddha will not emanate in male or female form. ‘Joy’ means that even the most precious things in the whole world cannot be exchanged for a pure thought of chanting of the Buddha’s name. To put it a bit more simply, we do not chant the Buddha’s name to find a cure for our illnesses, to be reborn in the Pure Land, etc. Rather, just hearing the Buddha’s name should be enough to make us feel joyous—unlike you, with all of your constant conditions and the opinion that you should get this or that as a result of chanting a lot. Nothing will happen if you chant more; it is your business how much you chant.

“‘If they have even one thought of pure faith, joy, and aspiration and dedicate all their good roots to birth in that Buddha-land, they will be born there as they wish, and will achieve nonregression from the path to supreme enlightenment.’ For every virtuous root that you plant in this life—that is, for each virtuous deed you perform—if you do not dedicate it, then the root of its virtue will not exist, and instead it will transform into a karmic bloom. Your virtuous causes might therefore turn into virtuous effects in this lifetime or the next, but they will not change into virtuous roots. The important thing about virtuous roots is that they are the source of all compassion, which you cannot possibly cultivate if you do not possess a virtuous root capacity. How are virtuous roots accumulated? Through making dedications. Having made prostrations to the Buddha will not quickly rid you of your illnesses or cause things to go your way. Helping sentient beings while hoping for immediate recompense, donating large sums of money for the privilege to put on special attire, and joining a certain organization for the opportunity to be granted projects—none of these actions can bring about virtuous roots.

“The important thing about virtuous roots is for us to abide by the Dharmas taught by the Buddha. We should not pursue any results or look forward to when they might come to fruition; nor should we await for them to sprout. All we need to know is that we must continue to apply ourselves. Only in this way can our roots improve over time. Otherwise, some evil habits might be hidden within them, and as our virtuous roots germinate, evil roots will also begin to grow alongside them. Why do both good and bad things happen to us over the course of a lifetime? It is because we have not dedicated the virtuous roots we accumulated throughout our past lives. In our past lives, we constantly thought we were practicing, or we made dedications verbally without actually meaning it due to being afraid that once those dedications were made, we would not have anything left. I’ve even heard people ask why they should make dedications if they don’t even have enough for their own use.

“Not making dedications simply won’t do. Furthermore, making dedications is a special Buddhist cultivation method that does not exist in other religions. Why did the Buddha teach us to make dedications? It is because we do not possess good fortune. Don’t think that you will accumulate good fortune simply from chanting the Buddhas’ names. Actually, doing so just gives you an opportunity to make dedications and form a particularly profound affinity with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Only then can your virtuous roots grow deep enough to not be swept away by the first flood that hits. To what should these virtuous roots be dedicated? They should all be dedicated toward going to the Pure Land. Many people think that they can go there once their illnesses leave them as a result of having chanted Amitabha Buddha’s name a bunch of times. They even say that if they have not been cured, then they will continue to be sick after they go to the Pure Land. This notion is not quite accurate. The people out there who say so are full of nonsense; they even say that we will carry this life’s ailments into the next one.

“The illnesses we succumb to in each lifetime are very complex. They include past causes and various factors in our present environment. Early last year I said that some food products in Taiwan contained poison, but no one believed me—included yourselves. You think you’ve been eating these things for decades and are still alive, so how could they be poisonous?

“Everything your guru says to you goes in one ear and out the other. I keep telling you to give your children healthy food and not allow them to drink unhealthy beverages, but you always say these are what the kids want, when in fact you are the ones consuming them. For example, a certain disciple loved to eat, so she kept eating until she fell ill. Whenever she had time she would buy whatever she could. Now her health is so poor, yet she refuses to eat more healthily. All of you are sick; otherwise, why would you have come to the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center?

“I’ll tell you something else important, which very few people say. As humans born on Earth, our bodies are accustomed to the energy of this planet and the surrounding universe; this is natural. However, science and technology have gotten far too advanced, and our bodies are receiving serious interference from all sorts of electromagnetic waves. I frequently see a lot of so-called technological upstarts who work in those large hi-tech buildings; they often end up with neurological and reproductive problems.
Because they stare at computer screens every day, those electromagnetic waves constantly strike their brains, which leads to a high probability of suffering adverse conditions—all for the sake of earning a few hundred thousand NT dollars. Thus, if you can help it, you should not stare at the computer all day long or use social networking sites or instant messaging software. After all, you were able to exist just as well back when these things did not exist, right?

“You must not keep any of your good roots for the sake of worldly good fortune. Many people hope for their mundane affairs to be resolved, and feel that this is the only way they can leave this life with no regrets. This is a rather erudite saying. In the sutra it is written, ‘If they have even one thought of pure faith, joy, and aspiration and dedicate all their good roots to birth in that Buddha-land, they will be born there as they wish, and will achieve nonregression from the path to supreme enlightenment.’ Therefore, you must carry out the Ten Meritorious Acts, and those who eat meat and take lives absolutely cannot go to the Pure Land. First and foremost among the Ten Meritorious Acts is to refrain from killing, but those who are jealous of others cannot go, either. I often advise you not to hate your husbands’ mistresses, which is women’s favorite thing to do. If you loathe them, you are being greedy and hateful; and as soon as a hateful thought has arisen, you have stopped cultivating the Ten Meritorious Acts. As such, how can you go to the Pure Land? You think you can just chant Amitabha Buddha’s name all day long and send those mistresses, those animals, to the Pure Land. Animals obviously cannot go there, however, so why would you tease them?

“Why are you unable to achieve attainment? Conceptually speaking, it is because you have not carried out the Ten Meritorious Acts. You would say that this mistress, nicknamed as an ‘animal,’ is despicable for taking your husband away, but if he suddenly adores the animal, it is his business; that is, if he suddenly stops liking a ‘human.’ If you would like your husband to come back, then turn into an animal yourself, and you will all reincarnate together! People’s notions really are very strange and difficult to explain. Many of you have participated in the Emperor Liang’s Repentance Ritual. What was the origin of this repentance? It came about because one of Emperor Liang’s concubines was jealous of the others, so her feelings of rivalry led her to frame them and do them harm. As a result, she turned into a giant python after she died. Thus, women are a bit more liable than men to turn into pythons and venomous snakes. It’s not that men don’t have such possibilities, however; they are the same as women these days!

“This sort of hatred reflects a failure to carry out the Ten Meritorious Acts, so make sure you are clear about it. The Ten Meritorious Acts should all be practiced, from one through ten; you cannot just cultivate the first five and then not worry about the rest, as there is no mention in the sutras of doing so. If you like to curse people all the time even when they are obviously treating you well, then you are engaging in harsh speech. We must be grateful whenever anyone shows us the slightest bit of benevolence. Even when one harms us, we still should remember the benevolence he or she showed us instead of becoming vengeful. Only in this way can we carry out the Ten Meritorious Acts. If you hold a grudge against someone who does you wrong, then you have failed. Many people think the Ten Meritorious Acts are very simple, but what is simple about them? If you can carry them out, then you have already guaranteed that you will reincarnate into the Human Realm in your next lifetime. All you have to do is diligently cultivate the Ten Meritorious Acts; you don’t need to practice anything else, nor do you need to be scolded by the guru. However, doing so really is very difficult. While living in the Age of Degenerate Dharma and the evil time of the Five Turbidities, if you have no one to supervise you, then how can you practice the Ten Meritorious Acts? A single thought can turn you evil, and evil thoughts can arise at any time.

“Those who have not cultivated the Ten Meritorious Acts have no good roots. Don’t think that chanting the Buddhas’ names is enough to generate good roots; the Ten Meritorious Acts are fundamental prerequisites for all practitioners. When the Buddha spoke of good men and women, He was referring to people who have perfected the Ten Meritorious Acts. If you have not done this, then how can you be good men or women, as written of in the Amitabha? And how can you go to the Pure Land if you are not? You absolutely mustn’t assume that dedicating more chants of the Buddhas’ names to your illnesses will cause your cancer cells to treat you better. Do not do this, no matter what, because it is not necessary. I once had cancer, yet I never thought about chanting the Buddhas’ names in order to get along peacefully with my cancer cells; nor did I make any dedications to those cells so that they could follow me to the Western Pure Land of Utmost Bliss or anything like that. Cancer cells were originally part of your body, so why do they turn bad? It is because you have not become purely virtuous; you are still evil.

“Why did my cancer cells turn good? It was because I had not supplicated to the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, or implored His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang to perform the Dharma for me. I did not perform it myself, either; I just continued with my daily routine. Strangely enough, once my fortune amassed and good root became sufficient, my cancer cells turned good along with me. The reason cells become malignant is that they originate inside of you; you are their fertilizer, and are constantly imbuing them with evil. For example, those disciples who are always careless in what they do, who shirk their responsibilities and blame others constantly, are evil.

“Yesterday a civil service employee came seeking an audience with me, and said that she had not slept in twenty days because of the enormous pressure she was under. I pointed out that if the pressure was so great, she could quit her job. She had enjoyed a worry-free life for more than a decade or two, but now that she had encountered a problem, she could not stand it. I told her that she owed everyone, because her salary was made up of money from taxes that everyone had to pay. Thus, without virtuous roots, you cannot see things for what they really are. In the past she had lived a life full of evil habits, and had felt entitled. Whenever people gave her a hard time, she would immediately criticize them. This was not a proper way to act.

“The line, ‘they will be born there as they wish, and will achieve nonregression from the path to supreme enlightenment,’ indicates that their bodhicitta will not regress. In this Saha World of ours, it is very easy for our bodhicitta to become undone. Many Buddhist people talk about regression, but they are not talking about you; you are slack and lazy. Yesterday a disciple came for an audience with me. I had undoubtedly helped her by stopping her brain tumor from growing, thereby giving her a dozen or so more years to live. Recently she had suffered another problem due to having been lax in her Buddhist practice. I’d transmitted the Great Six-Syllable Mantra to her, yet she would not chant it; even after transmitting the Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices to her, she still had approached her cultivation with a flippant attitude and the opinion that she deserved to be taught any Dharma she wished to learn. As I have said many times, and as Lord Jigten Sumgön stated on multiple occasions, your guru can help you once if you are sick, but after that your illness will return if you are not diligent.

“That you succumbed to illness means you did not have good fortune in the first place, or that you had used just about all of it up. Your guru can help you by first giving you some good fortune to use, but after that you are on your own. As the saying goes, ‘help those in need of emergency relief, not the poor.’ Right now you are so hungry you could die, so I’m giving you something to eat for now. However, you still must look after your health and go out and make money to feed and clothe yourselves; I cannot give you nurturement forever. At the moment, though, it is your opinion that the guru, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas should keep giving and giving until you are satisfied, but who says we should? I have read the sutras, and nowhere in them is it written thus. When you are ill, your guru will start by putting a stop to your unfortunate situation and allowing your good fortune to rise up a bit. Afterward, however, you must fend for yourselves. As is written in the sutras, if you do not possess virtuous roots, you cannot go to the Pure Land even if you so desire.

“Not possessing virtuous roots means your bodhicitta—your aspiration to help sentient beings attain Buddhahood—has regressed. This happens to a lot of people. It is written in the sutra that there exist possibilities for practitioners to regress before they become Eighth Ground Bodhisattvas. How does one test whether a person’s bodhicitta has regressed or not? In my case, even when I was on the verge of taking my very last breath, I still told my disciple not to beat his daughter. In other words, I did not regress. If it had been you on your deathbed, you would have said, ‘Has my daughter come back? How is she right now?’ This is because you all just think about yourselves. Non-regression refers to the fact that as long as one goes to Amitabha’s Land, he or she will change from an ordinary person into a First Ground Bodhisattva. After beginning to cultivate there, the Bodhisattva continues to Buddhahood—at least to the level of having attained the Dharmakaya—before returning to this world to fulfill his or her vows. Many people believe that if they make a vow in this lifetime, then they can come back and liberate sentient beings, but that is not entirely accurate.

“I wouldn’t presume to say where I have been, but at the very least I certainly haven’t reincarnated in the Three Evil Realms. For me to have these conditions in this lifetime, I definitely did not reincarnate in the Human Realm, either. Don’t think that you are guaranteed to return as a practitioner just because you made a vow. If you do not carry out the Ten Meritorious Acts or become determined to break away from evil in this lifetime, then you will not be able to come back as a practitioner. We must thoroughly immerse ourselves in the actual meaning of all words that are written in the sutras; we should not just take them literally at face value.

“The line, ‘they will be born there as they wish, and will achieve nonregression from the path to supreme enlightenment,’ refers to attaining Buddhahood. If you make a vow while you are still alive to spend lifetime after lifetime as a Bodhisattva benefiting sentient beings, then you will definitely become a Tenth Ground Bodhisattva—and a Dharmakaya Bodhisattva—because only then will your bodhicitta keep from regressing. The land of Amitabha is a pure Buddha Land; the daily sounds that can be heard there of birds singing, water running, and wind blowing through the trees are all Dharmas. It is different from here, where we are surrounded by a cacophony of bickering, scolding, and criticism; even the wind here is so harsh it can shave one’s face.

“In 2007, I went into retreat high on Lapchi Snow Mountain, 4500 meters above sea level. Only afterward was I able to vaguely understand why the birdsong mentioned in the Amitabha Sutra is important to practitioners. Birds up there really do sing a bit differently from lowland birds. You can give it a try; go ahead and listen to some birds. At first you will think you are out away from the city and are hearing the beautiful sound of Mother Nature. After a couple of hours, however, you will begin to grow annoyed, and will wish that those feathered friends would shut up. Awhile longer, and you’ll consider picking up a rock and throwing it at them. At 3:30 in the morning on the very first day of my retreat a bird began to sing. Its song was very pretty, but it was also quite loud and resonant. It flew in circles around the mountain valley, and wherever it sang, it incited every other type of bird in the area to join in. I had no choice but to get out of bed. That bird sang every day until my retreat was nearly at an end. Perhaps it took pity on me, for its 3:30 start time gradually changed to 4:30 and eventually to 5:00. This was because it knew that I had begun to cultivate faster. When I first started my retreat, the mantras were very difficult to chant, for in those early days my karma was still present and my mind was not yet very pure. Thus, even though I was chanting the same mantras later on, I did so at a different speed.

“Everything written in the Amitabha Sutra actually exists; this sutra is absolutely not a compilation of myths designed to deceive you. While I was in retreat, every sound I heard each bird make had the power to break my thoughts and help me to enter samadhi. Humans on Earth are different from people on other worlds; our ears are extremely sensitive and can differentiate between many types of sound. As soon as we hear a pleasant one, our afflictions will melt away. Thus, the Amitabha Sutra mention that birdsong can benefit practitioners is absolutely correct. People who play music these days know very well that good tunes can make people happy, while bad ones can make them sad. This is based upon the same principle. Of course, the sound of the Dharma is even more special in that it can suppress and put a stop to distracting thoughts.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘…except those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the true Dharma and defame saints.’ Everyone knows of the Five Uninterrupted Evil Acts, and here the ‘true Dharma’ refers to the Right Dharma, which includes all methods that can help a person and other sentient beings to leave reincarnation behind. It does not mean eating vegetarian, making prostrations to the Buddha, or performing penitential rites; those are just assisting conditions. When a guru speaks the Right Dharma, then if you learn and cultivate it properly, it can help you in this lifetime to resolve the great problem of life and death. This does not involve giving you special clothing or a plaque with your name on it, or allowing you to partake in a certain project just because you have recently aspired to give donations and so on. Practicing the Right Dharma means any mundane affair can turn into the Dharma, and it is just a matter of the guru’s mind and approach to doing it. ‘Slander the true Dharma and defame saints’ means that we must not slander anyone who helps people, including practitioners.

“The Dharma text continues: ‘Ananda, if a sentient being in another Buddha-land engenders bodhicitta, single-mindedly thinks of Amitayus Buddha, constantly plants roots of virtue and dedicates to birth in that Buddha-land, then, when he is about to die, Amitayus Buddha, surrounded by a host of monks, will appear before him. The dying person will immediately follow the Tathagata to be born in that land, attain nonregression, and be destined to realize supreme enlightenment.’ This refers to another type of method attainable by any sentient being in any Buddha-land that gives rise to bodhicitta, the foundation of which is compassion. Thus, if you have not developed the power of compassion, you naturally will not be able to aspire to bodhicitta. If you can engender bodhicitta within a single lifetime, including both worldly bodhicitta and ultimate bodhicitta, then you are sure to be reborn in the Pure Land. Right now you have achieved neither compassion nor bodhicitta, so what should you do? You should just follow what I taught you before: Carry out the Ten Meritorious Acts. If you actually do this, practice what your guru has taught you, and refrain from talking nonsense, then you, too, can go to the Pure Land.

“The line, ‘single-mindedly thinks of Amitayus Buddha,’ means that while cultivating Dharma methods, all of one’s thoughts are on Amitabha Buddha. This does not mean one should only chant Amitabha’s name; rather, it means that one’s mind is completely focused on Amitabha Buddha no matter what one does. As is taught by the Avatamsaka Sutra, from the moment you get out of bed in the morning your every thought and action should be devoted to sentient beings and the Dharma. For example, even simple daily tasks such as getting dressed, brushing your teeth, and washing your face should be done not with yourself in mind, but for the sake of sentient beings. This is single-mindedly thinking of sentient beings, which does not mean only chanting Amitabha’s name; it refers to thought. It is written in the Universal Gate Chapter that one should constantly think of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara and eternally hold respectful thoughts in mind. I might be performing the Dharmas of Vajrasattva and other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in order to benefit sentient beings, but my thoughts are constantly full of respect for Amitabha. What matters is not the mantra you are chanting, but your thoughts. Most vital to your Buddhist practice is what goes through your mind; it is not what words you happen to chant.

“If you chant Amitabha Buddha’s name with your mouth while hoping your husband’s mistress will hurry up and leave him, then your thoughts are actually on her, not on the Buddha’s name. As a result, you will very likely end up being a mistress yourself in the next lifetime. If, while chanting Amitabha’s name, your head is full of hopes that your child will do well on his or her exams, then you are liable to be reborn as a butterfly in the examination hall, fluttering around and watching children as they succeed or fail at their tests. Thus, the correct way of doing it is to have your mind on the same thing you are chanting with your mouth; if they are not, then you are doing it wrong, and will merely form a connection with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and plant some seeds of good fortune of the Human and Heavenly Realms. These will only be of benefit to you many lifetimes from now. The reason you are unable to be cured of your cancer no matter how much you chant is that you are thinking about the wrong things while you do it. We do not need to propose conditions to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, such as saying that we will be more diligent in our practice once our illnesses are cured and so on. Do you not need to be diligent until then? On the contrary, Tantrism places importance on using our ailments to help us stay on the path to enlightenment, which means that your disease might actually be the only door through which you can progress. If you wait until you are better, the opportunity to practice will have come and gone.

“When I got cancer, I never implored the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to cure me. Even during my recent brush with death, I remained diligent and did not regress. The focal point of dedicating yourself to your practice is making sure your bodhicitta does not regress. I did not stop helping sentient beings just because I nearly died when I went to Pingtung; I continued to perform the Dharma every day, regardless. I do so just as diligently even though it is not for myself; bodhicitta has nothing to do with how often you chant or how many prostrations you make.

“The words, ‘constantly plants roots of virtue,’ means that we must sow virtuous roots always, until our dying breath. As long as we are in this world, everything we do, think, and say should be for the benefit of sentient beings. Therefore, the worst thing you can do is to shirk responsibility for your own actions. Your original transgression is bad enough; don’t you realize that shifting the blame onto someone else will do him or her harm? Why is it that even a disciple who has taken refuge for many years can get breast cancer? By now she has received frequent admonishments from me, and her situation has improved, but she should not think that her breast cancer has been cured; it has merely been suppressed. She has had evil thoughts and committed wrongdoings, yet she says it was because someone did not warn her not to. This is what today’s popular culture has come to. It is terrible!

“People should not act that way. Wrongdoings committed out of negligence are wrongdoings all the same; how can they be blamed on others? She overlooked some minor details, and as a result the job did not get done properly; yet she thought it was someone else’s fault. She should have attributed the consequences to her own causes and conditions. If you have good fortune, then even if you are not careful or overlook something, people will still point those things out to you. These are what are known as ‘benefactors.’ Why do you not have anyone like that? It is because you did not help people in your past lives; as such, no one will pay any attention to you in this one! The reason you surrounded by so many villains is that you were one yourself in your past lives! This is true even of some of you monastics. Why is that? It is because you incurred this upon yourselves; birds of a feather flock together, after all. You criticize people for being villains, but the result is that you have committed yet another transgression. It only takes one evil act on your part to negate all your efforts of practicing the Ten Meritorious Acts.

“The saying, ‘fire burns away the forest of merits’ does not actually refer to burning away the merits one has accumulated by losing one’s temper. Rather, it means that only practice based on bodhicitta will yield merits; without bodhicitta, no amount of practice will produce merits. Merits are not for ourselves, and carrying out the Ten Meritorious Acts is the most fundamental thing we must do. Once you give rise to hatred—which is like fire—it will turn the forest of merits you have cultivated into coals. You can still use these coals, but which is better—coals or wood? Wood is more valuable, of course! Thus, those merits will turn into good fortune of the Human and Heavenly Realms, which cannot be used in this lifetime. Now do you all understand this phrase? Some of you might still be confused, so you need to go home and contemplate today’s teachings.

“Many people think that losing one’s temper is what is meant by ‘fire burns away the forest of merits,’ but that is not true. The most important factor in it is whether or not one harbors hatred. If you lose your temper only superficially, but you actually have good intentions for the other person, then that is fine. You often see me berate my disciples, but I do not actually lose my temper. Rather, these people do not listen, so I have to scare them by putting on a fierce vajra appearance. One such disciple didn’t even prepare Dharma texts for me when I was about to perform the Dharma.

“To ‘constantly plant’ means that we must never stop. You often say that you have already accomplished enough by doing this and that, but now you are in trouble, because you have stopped. As long as we have even a single day left of life before Buddhahood, we must continue to accumulate good fortune for sentient beings. This really is not for our own use; it is to help them. After my recent mishap, I told my disciples that I exchanged my health so that sentient beings could be liberated. However, as His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang told me after the incident, the merits I had cultivated could not be taken away. No one can take away the merits you have worked hard for; they are yours forever. What are they for? They are so that I can be well enough to continue to scold my disciples! We do not possess these merits so that we can extend our longevity in order to live a few more years for the sake of our children.

“The difference between merits and good fortune has to do with whether you are facing life for the sake of sentient beings or constantly worrying about your own health. Do you spend a lot of time each day checking your physical condition? If you have accumulated good fortune, you will be fine without any check-ups. If you do not get cured, then it means you have not cultivated sufficient merits, practiced the Ten Meritorious Acts successfully, or have some other shortcomings. As such, you should be careful! Is practicing Buddhism difficult? It is rather hard, because it is difficult to see oneself clearly. Is practicing easy? Yes, it is very easy when you have a guru who is not seeking fame or profit and who is scolding you all the time.

“The words, ‘dedicates to birth in that Buddha-land,’ mean that we should aspire to dedicate all of our virtuous roots. However, this aspiration is not a vow for ourselves to go to Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land; rather, it refers to engendering bodhicitta and hoping that all sentient beings can be reborn there. Of course you are unable to help sentient beings go, nor can you possibly cause any sentient beings with whom you are related to follow you there. However, this intention is very important, because it is a seed we plant for attaining Buddhahood in the future, going to Amitabha’s Buddha-land, and eventually cultivating to the point of becoming a First Ground Bodhisattva.  If you do not give rise to this aspiration, then you will go to the palace for doubters, and doubting the teachings of Amitabha Buddha will cause you to be reborn outside His Buddha-land. Those in the palace for doubters cannot hear the Dharma for five hundred lifetimes; this is where that saying comes from.

“Doubt consists of doing things your own way instead of listening to what is written in the sutras and acting accordingly. Doubt is not the same thing as not believing; it means wondering whether the method that is taught actually works, or what might happen if you don’t do it, or thinking that imploring to be reborn in the Pure Land should be enough to get you there. If you do this, you will go, but you will be reborn outside of the Buddha-lands, just outside their borders. There you will spend five hundred lifetimes without seeing the Buddha or listening to the Dharma. What a miserable fate! Five hundred lifetimes there are a very long time indeed compared to human time. Therefore, if you have not attained the methods I just mentioned or are unable to completely succeed in this lifetime, it’s not a big deal; however, you must not harbor any doubt at all. You must not think, ‘Why is it this way? Can’t I even leave a little bit of merits for myself?’ Yes, you can! But if you do, that’s your business; what does it have to do with the Buddha? The word heng, written so clearly in the sutra, means forever; only by constantly dedicating all of your merits to sentient beings forever can you aspire to be born in that land.

“The words of the sutra continue: ‘…when he is about to die, Amitayus Buddha, surrounded by a host of monks, will appear before him. The dying person will immediately follow the Tathagata to be born in that land, attain nonregression, and be destined to realize supreme enlightenment.’ This part is especially different. It mentions Bhikkhus, and entails two concepts: First, when one has decided to become ordained in this lifetime, like the Buddha; second, when one has already made a vow to come back as a monastic in a future lifetime, in which case Bhikkus will come and receive you. Thus, if you have not made a vow to become ordained or become a monastic in this lifetime, no Bhikkhus will come; instead it will be Nirmanakaya. The Buddha spoke in great detail, and said nothing to deceive you; you are simply careless. You have recited the Five Classics of the Pure Land for such a long time, but you have never read this section. Why is that? It is because you do not have the good fortune to read the Ratnakuta Sutra. This Dharma text has been around all along, so why have you not read it? It is because you think going to the Pure Land is so simple that anyone can go. After listening today, you now understand that it is not simple at all. Nor, however, is it complex; you can go there as long as you do as you are taught.

“The words, ‘…when he is about to die, Amitayus Buddha, surrounded by a host of monks, will appear before him,’ mean that they will appear before you have even stopped breathing and keep you quite safe. Those karmic creditors that would shake you and try to keep you from dying will not appear; nor will anyone show up and make a clatter by your side with a bunch of musical instruments, because you will be completely protected. Ever since I began to transfer people’s consciousness for them in 1996, I have seen all sorts of different karmic hindrances, and all are the result of the deceased’s not having resolved these things while still living. The reason I am constantly trying to force you to listen and act accordingly is that you are all younger than I am, so you might die long after I do. If I am not here, then no one will be able to help you unless you have already made this vow, in which case I might be brought along by Amitabha Buddha to go and receive you.

“You absolutely must follow these instructions. Do not slack off; I am not teaching you these things out of some ulterior motive. If I were after something for myself, then why should I bother working so hard? I got so sick I nearly died, so I could at least take a year off to rest. Other people would, while continuing to take offerings and claiming they were helping sentient beings to form connections. It is written in the sutra that by following Tathagata to be reborn in that land, one will ‘attain supreme enlightenment.’ This is very good; you do not even need to wait for twelve minor kalpas, but instead will immediately attain it. Thus, it has to do with the Dharma methods you yourself cultivate.

“Shakyamuni Buddha went on to say, ‘Therefore, Ananda, if good men and good women wish to be born in the Land of Utmost Bliss and see Amitayus Buddha, they should engender supreme bodhicitta, concentrate their thoughts on the Land of Utmost Bliss, accumulate good roots, and dedicate them as taught. Thereby, they will see that Buddha, be born in his land, and attain nonregression from the path to supreme enlightenment.’ Anyone who cultivates to the point of becoming a good man or woman, makes a vow to go to the Land of Utmost Bliss, and wishes to see Amitabha Buddha can go, based on the power of this aspiration; there is no need to wait for Amitabha Buddha to come and receive you. You must pay close attention to what this sentence means; it means that your vow must be very strong. For example, if you definitely want to go play in that Buddha-land, you can go as long as you make this vow fervently. Even if Amitabha Buddha does not come, you still can still go based on the power of the aspiration you had in mind every second of every day. The prerequisite, of course, is that you were a good man or woman while you were alive. In addition, you have to have engendered supreme bodhicitta.

“To engender supreme bodhicitta, do you need to practice the Bodhi Path in this lifetime? There is no mention of this, but your bodhicitta definitely must emerge. Not a single Buddha name you chant, prostration you make, or word you utter is done for your own benefit; you must do these things in the hope that they will help sentient beings. Right now more than 1200 people are visible here, but this space includes countless invisible beings as well. Thus, all sentient beings can sense the energy produced by our every action and thought. The reason grand prostrations are made in Tibetan Buddhism is that while prostrating face-down on the ground, we can help many sentient beings make prostrations along with us. It is therefore better if you are tall and plump, because you can press down on a larger area of the floor. This is a Tibetan saying, but it is in fact true.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘if good men and good women wish to be born in the Land of Utmost Bliss and see Amitayus Buddha, they should engender supreme bodhicitta.’ This involves wishing to see the Buddha of Immeasurable Life, but it does not mention hoping that the Buddha will come to receive you. You want to see Amitabha Buddha, but not while you are still living; rather, it will be after you pass away, because the force of your aspiration will push you up there so that you can see Him. However, you must first have engendered supreme bodhicitta, which means an aspiration to attain Buddhahood to benefit sentient beings. For this reason, there is constant mention in the Dharma text of aspiring to attain Buddhahood for the sake of sentient beings. We do not do it to have a better life; rather, we do it because after attaining Buddhahood, we will possess perfect good fortune and wisdom, and only then can we benefit countless sentient beings throughout the void. ‘Supreme’ means this aspiration is not formed for our own sake; it is for sentient beings. This is what it means to engender supreme bodhicitta.

“The words, ‘concentrate their thoughts on the Land of Utmost Bliss, accumulate good roots, and dedicate them as taught,’ involve an idea that is different from the first part, which primarily focuses on bearing Amitabha Buddha in mind. This part stresses thinking about the Land of Utmost Bliss, so to practice this you must understand how Amitabha’s Buddha-land is described in the Sukhavativyuha Sutra and then visualize it while you are still alive; you will need a guru teach you about this. For example, whenever I perform Amitabha’s Dharma for transferring consciousness, many of the texts I recite are depictions of what Amitabha’s Buddha-land looks like. Concentrating one’s thoughts means completely visualizing the Buddha-land in one’s mind before performing the Dharma. This is not something that just anyone can do; you can only succeed if you have achieved attainment in Kriyayoga and Charyayoga Tantra. Amitabha’s Buddha-land is introduced in both the Amitabha and the Sukhavativyuha Sutra, and is described in even greater detail in the Ratnakuta Sutra. However, ordinary people are not able to cultivate these methods.

“I won’t explain more about the Buddha-land today because you are unable to visualize it. Why is that? It is because your minds are not yet pure. What did Shakyamuni Buddha mean by, ‘if the mind is pure, then so is the land’? He meant that you must purify your mind before the Pure Land will appear before you; in other words, before you can visualize it. If your mind is not pure, then even if I were to draw a picture of it for you, you still would get it wrong. Thus, ‘if the mind is pure, then so is the land’ does not mean that a pure mind will purify the country; the status of the external environment continues to exist and cannot be purified. The most important thing is your mind. For example, when I went into retreat it was extremely hot—forty-something degrees Celsius. I visualized that I was in hell, using pure thoughts to help the sentient beings there, and as a result I immediately cooled off and was no longer sweating. I was able to achieve this. As mentioned by the Buddha, it is possible to use one’s mind to transform one’s environment; it just depends on your causes, conditions, and good fortune. Right now you cannot do this, so don’t try to copy me by intentionally turning up the temperature to forty-something degrees. If you do, and end up suffering heat stroke, then don’t blame me!

“The Buddha continued to say to Ananda, ‘Ananda, suppose a sentient being in another Buddha-land engenders bodhicitta and dedicates his merits to birth in Amitayus Buddha’s land, but does not concentrate his mind on Amitayus Buddha or constantly plant numerous good roots. When he is about to die, Amitayus Buddha will send a magically produced Buddha to him, surrounded by a host of monks. The magically produced Buddha, who is exactly the same as the real Buddha in brilliance and auspicious signs, will appear before the dying person to receive and guide him, and that person will immediately follow the Buddha to be born in that land and attain nonregression from the path to supreme enlightenment.’ This section states very clearly that one can be reborn in the Land of Utmost Bliss by practicing any Dharma method, even if one does not focus one’s thoughts exclusively on Amitabha Buddha or continuously accumulate virtuous roots. Such a person can dedicate the virtuous merits he or she has cultivated to being reborn in another Buddha-land. Thus, merits are very important; with them, you can be reborn in a Pure Land, but without them you cannot go there. If you have cultivated merits, then as long as you dedicate them to Amitabha’s Buddha-land and aspire to be reborn there, then when you are on your deathbed—before you have even taken your last breath—Amitayus Buddha will dispatch an emanation and a group of Bhikkhus that will surround you and receive you, and your supreme bodhicitta will not regress.

“The Buddha continued: ‘Ananda, if a sentient being who abides in the Mahayana feels pure-minded devotion for Tathagata Amitayus for only ten consecutive thoughts, wishing to be born in his land; or if he believes and understands this profound teaching as soon as he hears it expounded, with no doubt in his mind, and thereby thinks of Amitayus Buddha for even one pure thought, then, when he is about to die, he will see Amitayus Buddha as if in a dream. The dying person will without fail be born in that Buddha-land to achieve nonregression from the path to supreme enlightenment.’

“I recall a believer who, while still living, served as second-in-charge at a Buddhist temple. After getting cancer and being hospitalized, she vowed to be reborn in the Pure Land. However, afraid that if she was sleeping she might not see Amitabha Buddha come for her, she did not dare drift off. I told her that she did not need to worry, for I would help her, and that Amitabha would receive her even if she was dreaming. At the time I had not yet read this section of the sutra; I only noticed what is written there today. She had good fortune in that she had me to help her. If you have no good fortune, then no one will help you and you will have to practice on your own.

“Someone who ‘abides in the Mahayana’ is a person with bodhicitta and who wishes to attain Buddhahood in the future. The word ‘abides’ means that no Dharma methods one practices should be reversed from Mahayana to Hinayana. It is not good for you to simply cultivate to become an arhat; this is not abiding in the Mahayana. The difference between Mahayana and Hinayana lies in the capacity that each can carry. It is not that Mahayana is better, that or Hinayana is more powerful than Mahayana; it all depends on how many sentient beings each one can carry. A large vehicle can of course carry a lot more people than a small one can; a tiny vehicle can only carry the driver. The concept here is that the things you do are certainly not just for the sake of one or two people in your family; you must expand your mind and think constantly that there are many sentient beings in the sea of suffering. Your hope should be to be able to help them with your Buddhist practice. This is not done in material ways; rather, it is done with your thoughts.

“Don’t spend all day making dedications to animals or any other particular target; these sorts of dedication are useless. They are merely consciousness, and are neither dedications nor merits. You should feel ‘pure-minded devotion for Tathagata Amitayus.’ The Buddha’s compassion and bodhicitta are flawless; when we practice Buddhism, these are the things we are trying to learn. Thus, our minds should bend in the same direction as the Buddha. This not only involves facing the Buddha, but following the Buddha with our minds. When you chant the Buddha’s name, if you think you are dedicating your practice to someone in particular so that he or she will obey you, then you are not being compassionate. You would ask, ‘Okay, then why does Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche perform the Dharma to make our situations change?’ The reason is that I am helping your karmic creditors with compassion, not you; only in this way can your situation change for the better. Nevertheless, you often listen to the hearsay of others that you should chant more and make dedications to your husband so that he will change his mind and allow you to come here and practice Buddhism.

“That you married this man means you obviously did not have enough good fortune. You even blame your plight on someone else, yet it is your own problem. Thus, if your husband does not allow you to attend the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center, then you must stay away, because you do not have the good fortune to come here. If you insist on attending anyway, then it will lead to a quarrel between you, and you will do even more harm to your husband by causing him to slander the Buddha. This is a debt you will then have to repay him in the next lifetime. Many people cannot understand this concept; after hearing people say that they must chant the Great Compassion Mantra, they think their husbands will not hinder them as long as they simply make dedications to them. This is a misconception, however; your hindrances come from your having insufficient good fortune.

“The sutra continues: ‘…feels pure-minded devotion for Tathagata Amitayus for only ten consecutive thoughts, wishing to be born in his land.’ Many people think that those ten thoughts should occur just prior to death, but that is not correct. Rather, they should be kept in mind through one’s everyday practice. Today I am teaching you a Dharma method that many out there do not teach. These so-called ‘ten consecutive thoughts’ mean that whenever you begin to chant a certain mantra or Buddha’s name, your mind is not polluted with any wandering thoughts or distracting notions. In other words, within the space of a single breath, you only have this one thought; this is what is meant by a pure thought. Buddhism makes mention of the ‘vajra chant.’ Many practitioners of Exoteric Buddhism do not know what this is. It means that while chanting any mantra, your thoughts can neither be moved nor destroyed by anything. The word song here, or ‘chant,’ does not simply refer to chanting mantras; it includes odes and any other notions of praise for the Buddhas’ merits. Only in this way are the ten consecutive thoughts useful.

“If you want to learn to cultivate the ten consecutive thoughts, you will not succeed simply by chanting them tens of thousands of times each day; you first must finish the Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices and the Tsa Lung Trulkhor. Don’t underestimate the ten consecutive thoughts, however. You are welcome to give it a try right now; use a breath to chant the Great Six-Syllable Mantra, and see if any other thoughts creep into your minds. Thus, you have all read in the Amitabha about a single thought or even ten thoughts. If you have not cultivated the precepts, meditations, and wisdoms, and if you haven’t practiced Mahamudra and Tantra, then you have absolutely no way of grasping the ten consecutive thoughts. Even if they happen to appear for you once, it does not mean you have mastered this Dharma method. The reason I continued to help sentient beings even when I was on the verge of dying was that my mind remained pure, without any impediments or afflictions. As such, the power of my bodhicitta continued to manifest. In simpler terms, if you do not ordinarily practice compassion or engender bodhicitta, then you will not be able to chant these ten consecutive thoughts on your deathbed even if you wanted to, for you will not have enough qi and a lot of distracting thoughts will be clamoring for your attention. You can all go home and try it tonight, but by all means, don’t deceive yourselves by saying that you have no distracting thoughts when you actually do. You should be able to see this clearly for yourself if you are in a calm state of mind.

“Within vajra chanting or vajra thought there is only the Buddha’s name in one breath. Your mind is very clean and pure, devoid of anything else; you do not even have any thoughts about whether or not the Buddha will come to receive you. If you succeed in this, you are sure to be reborn in the Pure Land; this can be mastered through ordinary practice. The reason I succeeded in performing the Phowa was that I had mastered the ten consecutive thoughts; these, too, can help sentient beings to become liberated. If your minds are full of wandering thoughts, then ghosts will know what you are thinking just by looking at you. If you are thinking about the offering you will soon be receiving, then it will be no wonder that those ghosts will follow you! We do not organize recitation assistance groups at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center, except for when I am performing the Chod and have everyone chant along with me. The reason for this is that when your minds are full of wandering thoughts, those sentient beings can see that very clearly, and will give rise to hatred. This is why I tell you that if someone in your family passes away, it is more sincere if the deceased’s relatives chant for him or her, because as family members you have good intentions and can therefore help the deceased.

“The sutra continues: ‘…or if he believes and understands this profound teaching as soon as he hears it expounded.’ The Dharmas I have spoken today are not simple; they are quite profound. That is not to say they are abstruse. Rather, they involve the essence of the Dharma as taught by the Buddha; you cannot understand this just by superficially burning incense, making prostrations, performing penitential rites, reciting the sutras, or reciting the Buddhas’ names. The Dharmas expounded by the Buddha are very profound, for it is very difficult for you to understand what they entail by way of your personal life experiences and conscious thoughts. If I had not experienced so many great matters of life and death or gone into retreat so many times, then I would not be able to explain this sutra to you today. Without those experiences, I would not understand it myself. Likewise, if I were not able to help sentient beings to become liberated, I would not be able to explain the words of this Dharma text for you. This so-called ‘profoundness’ must be experienced. If you have not experienced these things, then it depends on your root capacity. If you have accumulated enough good roots, then your faith will grow as soon as you hear this Dharma, and you will immediately be able to see the truth. By this I do not just mean you will be able to understand or comprehend it; rather, you will know in your bones that this is the only method, and that there is no other. You cannot develop this conviction by way of your own thoughts, either; it can only be cultivated by carrying out the Ten Meritorious Acts and accumulating good roots.

“The words of the sutra go on to say, ‘…with no doubt in his mind, and thereby thinks of Amitayus Buddha for even one pure thought.’ Only if your mind is completely devoid of any doubt or confusion can you have ‘one pure thought.’ The reason I was able to master the ten consecutive thoughts is that I was not inhibited by doubt; as such, without depending on my breathing, I could attain the pure state of mind necessary to chant the ten consecutive thoughts. Otherwise, no matter how much I chanted, I still would have been stuck in a rut. You must learn to appreciate the Dharmas expounded by the Buddha. He would never say anything that was superfluous; everything the Buddha said was the essence of the Dharma! However, you must listen; you mustn’t approach your Buddhist practice with your own methods or thoughts. If you do, you will become riddled with doubt. The Buddha expounded the Dharma with a pure Buddha-nature, and not for His own benefit. If you still think, I’ve never heard that before; can that be true? No one else has ever said that, then you have succumbed to doubt, for this Dharma text was not written by me. If you are filled with doubt while I am teaching, it means you have no good roots, and you should repent immediately. I would never dare to say any of this today if it weren’t written in the sutra.

“It is written in the sutra, ‘…. and thereby thinks of Amitayus Buddha for even one pure thought, then, when he is about to die, he will see Amitayus Buddha as if in a dream. The dying person will without fail be born in that Buddha-land to achieve nonregression from the path to supreme enlightenment.         Ananda, it is because of these benefits that all the Buddhas, Tathagatas, in countless worlds—inconceivable, unequaled, and limitless in number—extol the merits of Amitayus Buddha.’

“The Dharma really is boundless, because I can talk for more than two hours about just a tiny section of the sutra such as this one. Contrary to what you might think, you will not be ‘OK’ if you just chant a Buddha’s name. Without a specialist here to serve you, how could you understand the Dharma? I might jokingly refer to myself as a specialist, but I would never presume to say I am a teacher. Back when I bought this copy of the Buddhist Cannon, I was still practicing Exoteric Buddhism; I never imagined it would be so useful to you all today. Actually, none of the Dharmas I have spoken over the past ten or twenty years have strayed from this content. The reason I have been able to talk about them is that I practiced in my past lives. In order to untangle your doubts, I have been reverently reading this sutra over the past few days. As soon as I saw this section, I realized what your doubts were, so I decided to spend some time and effort today to speak to you about it.

“It might just be a few hundred words, but it is definitely enough for you to practice and use in this lifetime; you don’t need to be greedy by searching here and there or making vows about this and that. The Buddha taught it to us on many levels; you will be fine as long as you are willing to listen and act accordingly. The Dharma is very vast, and its definitions vary according to the 84,000 different sorts of afflictions that humans suffer. For this reason, the Buddha uses many different methods to help everyone. These 84,000 afflictions are just rough sorts which are further divided into more detailed ones, which are countless. Thus, we certainly do not practice Buddhism for any immediate benefits; we do it to resolve the great problem of life and death that we face over the course of many lifetimes. If you do not realize the important aspects of the Dharma, you will be frightened when you see so many things that had happened to me and wonder, How can practicing Buddhism always entail encountering so many problems? For me, these problems make me happy, because every time something happens, I discover that the Dharma can help yet more sentient beings.

“Any difficulty we encounter in life is a kind of test of what we have learned through out Buddhist practice. It tests us to see whether or not our minds have changed, altered, transformed. If we do not use what happens to us to inspect ourselves, then how can we practice? How can we find opportunity for introspection if life is always good? We would feel like everything is great, and that we could get whatever we wanted. How comfortable that sort of life would be! Throughout our lives, any hindrances we encounter are actually good things, first of all because they give us an opportunity to further advance our cultivation of the Dharma, and second of all because they allow us to repay our debt in this lifetime and therefore not have to pay it off in the next one. Any debt brought into the next life carries interest. I am not advising you to avoid your current duties; you must do what you must do, so don’t use Buddhism as an excuse to shirk your responsibilities. What do such responsibilities entail? You are lay practitioners, so there are many things you must do. Don’t try to use the Dharma to get out of doing them by thinking, This is no good, I don’t want that, or that is bad.

“I have spoken to you all today about Amitayus Buddha in an effort to help you understand that there are many different ways of practicing the Amitabha Dharma method. However, despite its many facets, there are a few truths from which you must not stray: First of all, you cannot give rise to doubt. Secondly, you must engender bodhicitta. Thirdly, you have to dedicate all of your good roots; and finally, you absolutely must practice the Ten Meritorious Acts. Only if you do all of these things completely can you be reborn in the Pure Land; despite what you might think, going there is not as simple as just chanting over and over. Being able to chant until the end without fear is easier said than done, unless you have engendered bodhicitta. Only then can you be protected; without bodhicitta, you are vulnerable.

“The reason I still tried to help the daughter of that disciple who is a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, even while I was facing my own death, is that I had engendered bodhicitta. If I hadn’t, then would I have spared any thoughts for her while her father was trying to save my life? Having bodhicitta means always thinking about sentient beings; as a result, sentient beings will not come to hinder you. If you have no bodhicitta, and only think about yourselves, then the real wonder would be if they did not run over to bother you! This is why bodhicitta is such a wonderful treasure. When or how well you develop bodhicitta is not important; the important thing is knowing that bodhicitta is a very good tool that can help us and other sentient beings. Only if you continuously work in this direction is there hope for Buddhism to flourish. If you do not, then you might accumulate a heap of money, but what do monastics want with money? Having lots of money brings problems; without so much money, you actually won’t have quite so many problems.”

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

« Previous Puja TeachingsNext »

Updated on October 9, 2015