His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – May 28, 2016

At 9:30 in the morning at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Japan, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche presided over the puja commemorating the Eighth Anniversary of the Consecration of the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Kyoto, and expounded the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. A total of two hundred and sixteen people attended, including sixteen believers from Japan and Taiwan and two hundred disciples from those two countries as well as the Netherlands.

“Today I will perform the Dharma of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha for you all. Normally I conduct the Tantra first and then expound the sutra. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has a deep connection with China, Japan, and Korea, where Mahayana Buddhism is widely practiced, and is worshipped by many people in those countries. In this sutra, it is written that Shakyamuni Buddha instructed Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha to carry on the Buddha’s vow to help all suffering sentient beings after He entered nirvana. That does not mean helping you to strike it rich, become healthy, or feel better. After the Buddha left this world, the Dharma was left here to be continuously propagated through the ages by many future generations of Bodhisattvas and gurus. It is mentioned in the sutra that as long as you have an aspiration and willingness to cultivate the Dharma, then all of the ghosts and deities around your place of residence will come to safeguard you. This is even truer of a genuine practitioner, upon whom the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will all bestow their assistance and protection. It is Their utmost joy to witness a sentient being able to leave suffering behind, attain happiness, and become free from the cycle of life and death. As long as there are believers and practitioners in these lands, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha will always care for us and help us. Therefore, any sentient beings with a connection with Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha can obtain assistance.

“The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows is especially suited to Easterners, because their ideology is rather complex. The text specializes on which causes lead to which effects, directly telling you what the karmic retribution is for committing these various acts. Cause and effect are nothing to be superstitious about; they were not invented by the Buddha. Rather, they comprise a natural phenomenon of the universe. I once read a scientific report that the force of a single drop of water falling to the ground produces a signal that will resonate throughout the universe forever. This scientific theory is a good way of describing the law of cause and effect spoken of by the Buddha. In other words, everything we say and do sends out information that remains in existence. As long as all of your actions are good, then the positive energy you produce will continue to grow. Knowing that your good deeds are to their benefit, your karmic creditors will temporarily stop bothering you. The Buddha once said that humans produce so much good and evil karma that if it were solid matter, even the infinite universe would not be large enough to contain it. Each of us, every day, unwittingly produces a constant string of causes and effects through our actions of body, speech, and mind. It is not that we actually are unaware we are doing this, however; rather, we do not want to know. We live our lives according to methods that we have grown accustomed to, that we enjoy, and that we think are correct. If we keep living this way, then we will have nothing left after living for a few decades, right? Many people do not believe there will be a next life after this one, which, logically speaking, would mean that there is no future. If there is no future, then why are you working so hard now to make money? If you don’t believe in the future, then there is no need for you to keep working or studying so hard. It can be inferred from this that there definitely is such thing as a next lifetime, the definition of which, incidentally, was not set by Buddhism. Scientific magazines contain many detailed recollections, from many regions around the world—both East and West—which are confirmations that some people do indeed remember events from previous lifetimes, and for which evidence can be found. This all tells us that this lifetime is not the only one.

“I am performing the puja here today in the hope that it will bring auspicious protection to this land of Japan. When I say it can help you, I do not mean it will cure you of your sicknesses, put you in a better mood, or bring you other such benefits; rather, I am referring to the fact that the existence of the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows has allowed the Buddha’s and Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s aspiration to be passed down to us. Such unfavorable occurrences as illness, bankruptcy, and so on are not even karmic retribution; they are a blooming of effects. Karmic retribution dictates where you will be reborn after you die. Throughout our past lives, our actions of body, speech, and mind have planted many evil karmic seeds—and good seeds, too, but the former outnumber the latter. Prior to hearing and practicing the Dharma in this lifetime, our indulgence of all the good and evil karma produced by our actions of body, speech, and mind created a force that led to our unceasing reincarnation in the universe, and as long as we reincarnate, we continue to suffer. The Buddha taught us how to conduct ourselves in this lifetime so as to stop reincarnating. Many people place the utmost importance on their mundane affairs, and of course without some mundane things we would not have resources and therefore be unable to support ourselves while practicing. However, everything that happens to you in the mundane world results from what you did in your past lives. If you have food to eat and clothing to wear in this one, it is due to how you acted previously. In other words, in this life you are constantly using the good fortune you accumulated in your previous lifetimes, just as you are constantly creating new good fortune and evil effects right now. Any karma you create, whether good or evil, will affect your next lifetime. If we have an accurate understanding of Buddhist concepts, then we will not see Buddhism as superstition or a type of religion, or continuously implore the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to give us what we desire. They will not give us anything; They will merely teach each of us how to use the Dharma to change our future lives. If you immediately resolve to change your future, then the amount of undesirable things happening to you will suddenly be reduced by a great deal.

“Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is one of the eight Mahasattvas, and is at the level of the Tenth Ground and above. According to the sutras, the levels of Bodhisattvas start with the First Ground and continue to the Second, Third, Fourth, and so on, all the way up to the Tenth, above which they become Dharmakaya Bodhisattvas. Before attaining the Eighth Ground, They might still retrogress from having the desire to liberate sentient beings. At the Eighth Ground and above, Their bodhicitta is certain not to retrogress, and above the Seventeenth Ground, They have attained Buddhahood. The eight Mahasattvas mentioned in the sutras are Bodhisattvas that assist the Buddhas throughout the universe to protect and support the Dharma. They will help all the Buddhas, not just Shakyamuni Buddha, and will appear for any sentient beings in need of the Dharma. For humans on Earth, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is particularly important. If you have participated in a Ksitigarbha puja, especially with Tantra in it, in this lifetime, then even if you have committed a lot of evil acts in this lifetime that would lead you to the Hell Realm, as long as you remember this puja, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s sacred name, and mine, you will be prevented from entering the gates of hell even when you are already at the gates. This is based on what is written in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, which says that any sentient beings that remember Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and cultivate a repentant attitude can leave hell, as long as they haven’t committed any of the Five Uninterrupted Evil Acts. However, that does not mean that you can continue in your wrongdoings; you should immediately stop your evil ways, and only engage in good.

“It is popular in Japan these days to visit some ancient temples, and many consider that to be practicing, but those all fall under the scope of Exoteric Buddhism. The word ‘Exoteric’ means clearly evident, which is the basic theories behind all the Dharmas the Buddha taught during His forty-nine years on Earth. One must have ten years of Exoteric practice under one’s belt before one can learn Tantra, which involves practical application of the Dharma. If you only know theory without knowing how to use it, then you will not be able to help and benefit sentient beings. Many people think there is no such thing as Tantra, but much of what Shakyamuni Buddha expounded in the Ratnakuta Sutra actually is related to Tantra—though this escapes the attention of those who have neither learned nor practiced it. In fact, in the sutras the Buddha spoke a lot about how to cultivate various Dharma methods, but if you simply read what is written and try to practice accordingly, it will be very difficult to succeed because the Buddha did not explain in the sutras that this is Tantra. Most people say the Buddha was just speaking casually, but the Buddha would never simply say something in passing, and everything He uttered was based in fact. One Tantric concept is that ‘the Dharma cannot be transmitted to six ears,’ which means that it can only be transmitted orally one-on-one rather than to a group of people. This holds true for both empowerments and Dharma methods. From this you can gather that descriptions of Tantra were not written down in the sutras.

“There are just a handful of disciples who have learned the Tantra passed down by Shakyamuni Buddha. Only those who have let go of their own ideas and not worrying about their own death can learn it. If you are still thinking, I want to attain enlightenment, or I am good at cultivation, then you are definitely not qualified to learn Tantra. That is why there are very few people who can learn it. Back when I was learning Exoteric Buddhism, I, too, did not believe there is Tantra, but I had a question—not a doubt about the Dharma, but a feeling that led me to wonder why I myself was unable to master what was written in the sutras. Why could I not realize the states of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and help sentient beings? Only after learning Tantra did I understand that what I’d learned before was mere theory, and that without practical application methods, it by itself could not teach me to benefit sentient beings. Only combining both theory and methods can I benefit them.

“This morning I will begin by performing Tantra so as to call Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha forth to approach the mandala. It is our wish that in the future people will be able to learn this Dharma method to help suffering sentient beings. If we hope that a place can be a place of peace, and that not as many accidents will occur, then the Dharma is vital. If many pujas are held in a certain location, then it will be relatively tranquil. Some people refute the Dharma, however, arguing that if it really were so powerful, then why there are still wars and natural disasters. The line, ‘only those who have an affinity with the Buddha will be liberated,’ is very important; it means that the Buddha cannot give assistance to sentient beings who have not listened to the Dharma and who do not possess the proper causal conditions, because they will not accept it. The Buddha can only help those sentient beings who are willing to accept the Dharma, and if they cannot, it means they do not possess enough virtuous roots and causal conditions. It is not that the Buddha does not want to help; it is that He cannot. Another implication is that the Buddha cannot change sentient beings’ karmic retribution. Prostrating to the Buddha will not cause all of the bad things in your life go away the way you think it will; these things happened because of you, and you must reap what you’ve sowed.

“Many people assume that disease and other unpleasant occurrences are manifestations of karmic retribution. Not so; these are just your effects coming into bloom. Before your karmic retribution matures, if you have constantly committed evil without doing any good, then that is the equivalent of planting evil seeds in your soil and continuously watering and fertilizing them; eventually the seeds will sprout, grow, and bloom. Thus, getting cancer or having your business fail does not count as karmic retribution; they are just blossoms. Karmic retribution indicates what will happen to you after you die; it is what determines which Realm you will go to: the Hell Realm, the Hungry Ghost Realm, the Animal Realm, etc. Similarly, flowers always appear before a plant bears fruit. However, once these blooms have appeared, we still have some time. By learning and listening to the Dharma, we can diligently implement Buddhism in our lives; this will give us the opportunity to lessen the bitter scent of the fruit we will bear, and even alleviate our suffering completely.

“As I’ve mentioned before, the skin cancer I got was the kind that can metastasize until it has spread throughout the body. Before I was thirty years old, and prior to taking refuge and learning Buddhism, I was living in Hong Kong and eating seafood on a daily basis. What’s more, the seafood I ate had to be fresh. So my karma from killing was quite severe. When I got cancer, I did not implore the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for help, nor did I even report my condition to His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang; I simply accepted it, because I knew everything happening to me was a result of my causes and conditions. I continued living my life according to the Dharma, and now I am completely cured. Even after you take refuge in Buddhism, bad things will continue to happen, giving you a chance to repay the debt you owe. My skin cancer was a blossoming, but because I had taken refuge and was constantly doing good deeds, I did not water that evil seed. Instead I just kept on nurturing the good, and thereby changed my karmic retribution. My cancer went away naturally; I did not take any medicine or visit any doctors. Buddhism does not require you to stop seeing doctors; it is not a means of saving money. Its greatness lies in the fact that as long as you are willing to listen to the Dharma, and act accordingly, then you can definitely change your future.

“We must feel respect for the Buddha and the yidam. This respect does not come from fearing one’s guru. In the Dharma text it is written, ‘The Holy One, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, should be revered with extreme sincerity and utmost respect. In general, this sort is not common. There is no difference between merits and auspiciousness.’ Before learning and practicing the Dharma, one should first prostrate oneself before the guru, the Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas, and vow to benefit sentient beings before all Buddhist disciples. After voicing this aspiration, our mind will be as bright and clear as moonlight. We must give rise to respect for Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha in the form of faith, beyond any doubt, that He will help us. Just because your current desires are not satisfied does not mean Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has not helped you; the Bodhisattva’s purpose is not to satisfy your desires, after all. Many people hope the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will grant them many of their wishes, but when taking refuge, you said that you were taking refuge in the Three Jewels, relinquishing desire, and becoming venerable. By relinquishing all desire, you will gradually start to earn people’s respect.”

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche began to perform the Dharma of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, occasionally pausing to bestow further teachings. “The Tantric vow is, ‘May I take refuge until I attain enlightenment.’ This means that by performing this Dharma today, I aspire to take refuge and that the energy from that action will continue in existence until I attain Buddhahood. The merits from today’s Dharma performance and almsgiving are meant to help all sentient beings attain Buddhahood. I visualize myself as being one and the same as Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. The image of the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha yidam in Tantra is a bit different from the Exoteric version. The Tantric one’s entire body is yellow, and holds a piece of fruit in His right hand. This represents virtuous karmic effects, and means that practicing this Dharma method is a sure way to attain fruition. In His left hand is a mani lotus blossom treasure, which represents the fact that if you make a firm resolution in this lifetime to practice Buddhism and become liberated from life and death, the yidam will certainly help you succeed.

“While listening to the Dharma, we should initiate bodhicitta, which is a hope that in doing so and through cultivation we can become liberated from life and death and help sentient beings. Everything Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha does is related to benefiting sentient beings; He and the Buddha are actually equals. The eight Mahasattvas’ actions are on par with those of the Buddha; in essence, They have already attained Buddhahood, so are no different from the Buddhas in that regard. The difference between Bodhisattvas and the Buddhas is that the latter are absolutely unmovable. We call Bodhisattvas ‘awakened sentient beings,’ or enlightened sentient beings. They are still attached to a single thought: The desire to help other sentient beings. This is the only difference; however, They are essentially the same as the Buddhas. In order to liberate countless sentient beings, time after time the Bodhisattvas manifest the Bodhi fruit They have attained. The actions of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are done to liberate the countless sentient beings throughout the void. This does not just mean humans; it includes all sentient beings in the Hell, Hungry Ghost, Animal, Asura, and Heaven Realms, too, truly liberating them from the suffering sea of reincarnation.

“Toward the end of the Dharma text it is written that in order to truly extricate all sentient beings from the suffering sea of reincarnation, the Buddhas of the Three Times have done some things that were not recorded in history. This includes the deeds – the biographies – of some unimaginably powerful practitioners and holy ones. Thus, not all of the Dharma methods of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and oral transmissions in their complete form, were passed on to the Tibet region. This Dharma text was transmitted to a certain practitioner in southern India by Vajravarahi, whose Dharma methods, transmitted by her personally, now include 108 expedient cultivation methods. In Tantra, Vajravarahi is a very important maternal yidam, and many Dharma methods were transmitted, and passed down, by her. For example, Dharma Protector Achi is one of her emanations. This Dharma text was passed down through generation after generation of Lineage gurus, and was transmitted to me orally by His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang. Oral transmission is done one-on-one; it is not transcribed from history texts. This means that if the transmission stops for even a single generation, then that Dharma’s lineage will be broken. The same is true today; if I did not have anyone to pass this Dharma on to, then its lineage would cease. This is one of the twenty-four different types of expedient cultivation methods of the eight Mahasattvas. Before you all entered the venue this morning, I had already performed the Dharma in advance.”

Next, the Mandala Offering Ritual was conducted. Japanese believers, chosen at random using a ballot box into which they’d placed their names while entering the venue, and monastics offered the mandala to His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche on behalf of sentient beings.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said, “The ritual performed just now was the Mandala Offering, which entails making total offerings of one’s body, speech, and mind. The guru receives these offerings from believers on behalf of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Lineage gurus. If you do not possess sufficient good fortune, then you cannot listen to the sutra or practice Buddhism, which is why I always conduct this Mandala Offering for you before performing the Dharma. It is analogous to going to university; you first have to register and pay your school fees, and you won’t even be accepted unless you have taken the college entrance exams. This is a similar concept here.”

Next, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the attendees in a recital of the Aspiration Prayer and made special mention that this prayer was recited in both Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then said, “You are used to have scattered thoughts. What are they? While participating in pujas, you are constantly thinking about where you will go afterward and what you will do. Your attention is all over the place, which is why you must pray to the yidam to bestow blessings upon you so that you can calm your mind. I will bless you, too, but it still is up to you to reel in your focus and give rise to a reverent mindset. Only then will the chaos in your heads grow still.

“We must visualize the guru as being no different from the yidam. That does not mean they are physically one and the same; rather, the guru’s mind is identical to that of the Bodhisattva, so we should not view them as being different. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is a Dharmakaya Bodhisattva. If he were a university professor, then you would be kindergarten students. Would a professor go to a kindergarten to teach? No. Thus, we require a go-between, and that is where our guru steps in. The guru is like a graduate student working on his or her PhD. A professor will approach such a student, but not you. You must have complete faith that there is no difference between your guru and Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. In the Dharma text it is written that our gratitude for the guru should move us to tears. You should be thankful for your guru. To take the school analogy a step further, teachers will naturally notice students who are diligent in their studies. If you do not study hard when you go home, your teachers are not likely to pay any attention to you. I am not saying that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas ignore sentient beings that are not hard-working; rather, I mean that here you are learning a treasure that cannot be bought with money, and obtaining knowledge that cannot be gained through mundane education. A guru transmits the Dharma to help sentient beings. If you show no gratitude you cannot learn it, because likewise, the guru might not notice you. This same reasoning is applicable in the mundane world. If you want someone to teach you something, you should respectfully ask. That is not to imply that your guru, the Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas need your respect; I mean that if you just take a casual attitude, it indicates that you have no real intention to learn—and therefore, no matter how much is spoken, you will not hear it. Therefore, you cannot achieve attainment without a guru, even if this entire Dharma text were translated into Japanese and you could take home a copy to study. Likewise, if I were to give you a Japanese translation of a medical textbook to read, you still wouldn’t understand it without the guidance of a teacher, because you have no experience with its content.”

Next, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche explained how to visualize during the mantra-chanting that would soon be taking place. “This visualization is rather complex, and it is okay if you are unable to do it right now. However, you should at least accept it rather than reject it. Do not think that it is too difficult for you to do, because that assumption leads to disbelief and a lack of respect. Even just listening is enough, because as long as you hear the mantra, it will be useful, and for the rest, the guru will help you. You should be respectful—but what is respect? It is a commitment to believe; it is faith in the fact that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha will help us. In addition, we also should have joy in our hearts. To be able to come here and participate in such an auspicious puja is indeed a reason to be happy; there are many more sentient beings that did not possess the causal condition to attend. How many of the more than six billion people on Earth are able to listen to the Dharma? Very, very few.”

Just then, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked if a person in the back was napping, and told the people sitting nearby to wake him and give him a cup of water. “Don’t let him sleep through the puja; that would be bad for him. If you feel no sense of joy, then you might think the Dharma is useless and want to fall asleep. But the Dharma can definitely help you.

“As long as you felt gratitude in your hearts while I was chanting the mantra and visualizing just now, then you received the great, all-inspiring blessings, completely unobstructed, of your guru and the yidam. ‘Unobstructed’ means you will not have any karmic hindrances to your future Buddhist practice. Today I am helping you all to plant the seed of a causal condition that will eventually allow you to practice the Dharma of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha in the future.

“In the Dharma text it is written that this ritual must be performed in a pure location which cannot previously have served as any establishment that produced karma from killing such as an abattoir. It also must not have formally been a brothel or had anything to do with the porn industry, and alcohol cannot have been served there. The location also must not have served in the past as a graveyard or crematorium.

“We implore Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, first of all, to bless this land as the Buddha’s Pure Land; secondly, to bless this building as the Buddha’s palace; and thirdly, to bless the guru’s Dharma throne as the treasure throne of the Buddhas.”

Next, while reciting from the Dharma text, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed the attendees to kneel on their right knee and present flowers with both hands to welcome Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha to approach the mandala, sit there, and bless everyone.

Afterward, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the attendees in a line-by-line chanting of the mantra, and explained, “What we have just chanted is the 108-Syllable Mantra Dharani. If you chant it often with aspiration in your heart, then your life will be perfectly full of auspiciousness and your wishes will come true.”

After the ritual was concluded, the attendees thanked His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche in unison.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche resumed expounding the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, starting at Chapter 5: The Names of the Various Hells.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘At that time, Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Samantabhadra addressed Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, saying,’

“This line refers to Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Samantabhadra talking to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. Despite being a Bodhisattva who had attained the Tenth Ground and above, Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Samantabhadra still asked Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha very respectfully to explain the karmic retribution of hell for the sake of sentient beings. From this we can see that no arrogance or condescension exists between the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; none would regard Themselves as being better or more cultivated. If you continue thinking you have done a good job of practicing, then you will become arrogant. This is especially dangerous for monastics, because if they grow overly proud of their accomplishments, they will no longer be qualified to be monastics. As a lay practitioner, I do not dare to be arrogant. Being one of the eight Mahasattvas, Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Samantabhadra already knew everything, so why did He need to ask any questions? It was because the Bodhisattva was enormously compassionate, and knew that in the Age of Degenerate Dharma you would not think to ask any questions, so He was asking them for you. The Bodhisattvas would never chat idly with one another; They only conversed about issues of profound significance. Everything spoken by a Bodhisattva can help sentient beings, so that means Their words are very important. You, on the other hand, would not dare to ask; you’d be unwilling, or you’d be too lazy or embarrassed to ask. Therefore, Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Samantabhadra asked these questions on behalf of sentient beings living in this Age of Degenerate Dharma, so that we would have the causal condition to read this section of the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. This paragraph also indicates that your guru and all of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will create causal conditions for you. Whether or you continue to have them, however, is up to you. For instance, I am presiding over this puja today, but whether or not I continue to perform the Dharma for you in the future depends on your decision.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘At that time, Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Samantabhadra addressed Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, saying, “Will you, sir, kindly speak for the benefit of devas, nagas, and the four-fold assembly of Buddhists, as well as for all sentient beings of the present and future times, about the places where retribution is to be meted out to the poor sinful beings in the Saha World and Jambudvipa? Will you also please note the designations of the various hells and the different sorts of retribution resulting from evil acts, so that those sentient beings living in the future Age of Degenerate Dharma will know about such retribution?”’

“The Heaven Realm is divided into three different sub-realms: the Heaven of Desires, the Heaven of Forms, and the Heaven of Formlessness. The heaven spoken of by all the Earth’s contemporary religions—such as Catholicism, Protestantism, Taoism, and Shintoism—is merely the Heaven of Desires. If one were to cultivate further, however, one could reach the Heaven of Forms; the next step up is the Heaven of Formlessness. It is one-step up each time. Sentient beings in the Heaven of Desires still have the desires of men and women, but those desires are not quite as complex; not a lot of movement is required, and a hand-holding is sufficient. The desires of men and women exist in the Heaven of Forms, too, but there not even a hand-holding is necessary; all they need to do is smile at each other. The difference between there and the Heaven of Formlessness is that in the latter, all that remains is light; there are no physical forms. However, these sentient beings still reincarnate, just like all of those that inhabit these three realms.

“There are two types of dragons: Good and evil. I have seen dragons with my own eyes; they come in many colors, including red, yellow, gold, black, and white. Dragons harbor a great deal of hatred. If you practice Buddhism yet are very jealous—for example, if you are the type to see someone who is good at cultivation and want to give him or her a hard time—then you might come back as a dragon in your next lifetime. All a dragon has to do is staring at you to make you fall ill; it does not even need to enter your body. Why do so many people and animals these days get cancer, skin diseases, and all manner of bizarre illnesses? It is because most dragons live in the sky, ground, rocks, water, and wood, so modern humans’ large-scale agricultural excavation, deforestation, and pollution of the environment have displaced and hurt these dragons. This is why more and more animals and humans are getting cancer. I once helped a person with pemphigus, which he’d gotten from having harmed a dragon.

“The ‘four-fold assembly of Buddhists’ refers to Bhikkhus, Bhikkhunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas. Upasakas are male lay practitioners, while Upasikas are female lay practitioners. A male monastic is called a Bhikkhu, a female one a Bhikkhuni. However, just because you have shaved your head and appear to be ordained does not mean you are a Bhikkhu or a Bhikkhuni, nor does having taken refuge in Buddhism necessarily make you one. This four-fold assembly refers to practitioners who have already made an unshakable resolution to leave the suffering sea of reincarnation behind, the first step of which is to practice Buddhism. Anyone who has not made this resolution is simply called a believer—people like yourselves, for instance.

“For the sake of all sentient beings living in the Six Realms, both now and in our future lives, Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Samantabhadra specifically asked Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha to explain to us each type of karmic retribution and the respective places our karmic bodies could end up, as well as the various names of hell. The ‘Saha World’ refers to this solar system; ‘Jambudvipa’ refers to the Earth. Because it is located in the southern area, it is also called ‘Jambudvipa of the South.’ In the beginning of the Avatamsaka Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha mentions that the Earth is blue. That was two or three thousand years ago, so there were no satellites or space ships; even so, the Buddha already knew our planet’s color. Buddhism is the most scientific discipline there is. “Poor sinful beings’ refers to sentient beings that are suffering because of having committed serious evil acts, which determine where their karmic retributions would end up in. The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows was spoken specifically for humans on Earth to hear—all humans; not just a particular race. All our evil karma has been created through our actions of body, speech, and mind. These include killing, theft, sexual misconduct (which, for men, includes rape, date-rape, or having liaisons with married women or minors; and for women, includes having her living expenses paid for her by one man while simultaneously seeking out another—all such situations count as sexual misconduct), harsh speech, and so on. In other words, as long as you do not engage in these behaviors, then hell will have nothing to do with you. Hell is not a place created by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to punish us; it is created by you yourselves. If no sentient beings committed any evil acts, then the Hell Realm would not exist.

“The words, ‘the places where retribution is to be meted out,’ refer to the various types of karmic retribution you will suffer, as well as the places your karmic body can end up. The line, ‘so that those sentient beings living in the future Age of Degenerate Dharma,’ means us; in our current era. It can clearly be seen that Shakyamuni Buddha’s journey to the Trayastrimsas Heaven to speak the words in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows for His mother was actually also for the benefit of us sentient beings living in this Age of Degenerate Dharma. Shakyamuni Buddha lived in what is called the Age of Right Dharma, which lasted for about five hundred years; the subsequent five centuries are known as the Age of Semblance Dharma. What has come since is the Age of Degenerate Dharma, and it will last about twelve thousand years. In this era, Buddhism has begun to decline. There are many temples in Japan, China, and Taiwan, but very few places in which the Dharma is genuinely practiced and taught. If you think cultivation is just a matter of burning some incense, writing down someone’s name, and burning a wooden tablet, then you are mistaken. Sentient beings in the Age of Degenerate Dharma not only do not believe in karmic retribution, but they even think it does not exist. Despite understanding early on the suffering of reincarnation, the compassionate Bodhisattva Samantabhadra still made a special request of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha to explain to sentient beings the various karmic effects that must be endured in hell so as to help sentient beings unlock the causal conditions to become liberated.

“The sutra text continues: ‘Ksitigarbha replied, ‘Sir, fully respecting the Buddha’s majestic spirit and the Mahasattvas’ power, I shall now give you a brief account of the designations of the various hells as well as the miscellaneous sorts of retribution for different kinds of sins and evil actions.”

“We can see that this line—‘Sir, fully respecting the Buddha’s majestic spirit and the Mahasattvas’ power’—was spoken in praise of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. ‘Mahasattvas’ are Bodhisattvas of the Tenth Ground or higher; Bodhisattva Samantabhadra had achieved such a high fruition level, which is why Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha referred to Him with such respect. This is a very important point: Ksitigarbha, one of the eight Mahasattvas, is still extremely modest; thus, while replying to a question that Bodhisattva Samantabhadra asked—the answer to which everyone knows—Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha said that He was indebted to the awe-inspiring powers and blessings of Shakyamuni Buddha and Bodhisattva Samantabhadra. This was why Ksitigarbha was able to give a simple explanation of the various hells and karmic effects. As is mentioned in the Ratnakuta Sutra, when cultivating the Six Paramitas, it is of utmost importance to refrain from becoming arrogant. You, on the other hand, only know how to say ‘I’ve heard that before,’ ‘I know,’ ‘I’ve already learned that,’ ‘I’ve heard Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche say that,’ or, once you have met the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, ‘I’ve heard him say it.’ I have never heard any of you say, ‘I said that because I received Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessings.’ Whenever I bestow teachings, I make sure to mention that I can only say these things as a result of having first received blessings from the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and my guru. This is an area in which we all must learn. Now I would like to address the monastics in particular: If even the great Mahasattvas are so humble, then why should we be so proud? Arrogance is a sign of having attachments, which eventually lead to war, because they make us think we are the best. If you constantly think of yourself as such, then over time you will take measures to stop others from infringing upon your authority. As soon as someone encroaches, tensions will escalate, and this will lead to war.

“It is written, ‘“Sir, in the east of Jambudvipa there is a mountain known as Cakravada (Iron-Enclosed). This mountain is dark and mysterious and receives no light from the sun or the moon.”

“The words, ‘in the east… there is a mountain,’ mean to the east of India.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked the attendees roughly where that was, and one of them answered that it referred to the Indochina peninsula. The guru continued: “The line, ‘this mountain is dark and mysterious,’ has been interpreted in two different ways. One is that this mountain has nothing, and is formed of black objects—perhaps stones; the other is that it is impenetrable to rays of light, and cannot even reflect them—hence the subsequent words, ‘receives no light from the sun or the moon.’

“In the sutra it is written, ‘There is a major hell named Avici and another called Mahavici. There is a hell known as Four Cornered, one named Flying Sword, and one called Fire Arrows. Yet another hell is known as Pitching Mountains, and another named Piercing Spears. One is called Iron Cart, one Iron Rack. There is also a hell known as Iron Cattle. There is another one named Thousand Knives. There is a hell called Iron Mule, and another known as Molten Copper. There is one named Pillar-Embracing. Another hell exists that is called Flowing Fire, and one known as Cultivating Tongue. There is a hell named Head-Filing and another called Feet-Scorching. One is known as Eye-Pecking. There is another hell named Iron Shots, another called Fight Quarrel. There is one known as Iron Axe, and yet another hell named Much Hate.’

“Your actions while you are living will determine which hell you will fall into after death. During the last five or so years of your life, omens will appear that can tell you which realm you will end up in. This section mentions a few of the representative hells. The ‘Cultivating Tongue’ Hell is where people who are constantly stirring up trouble and who love to criticize are liable to go. It is as if they have an iron ox on their tongues, constantly plowing furrows back and forth—not unlike those with tongue cancer or people who have their tongues cut out. This is similar to being in the Cultivating Tongue Hell. In the ‘Feet-Scorching’ Hell, sufferers are doomed to have their feet burned. These days, for example, some people have skin diseases or diabetes that cause their feet to be red and swollen or even turn black and rot away, as if they were being scorched off. In the ‘Head-Filing Hell,’ your head does not get cut off; rather, it remains attached to your neck, but is split open to expose your brain, which is then poked and prodded over and over. These days a lot of people require brain surgery; isn’t that the same as their skulls getting cut open? ‘Fight Quarrel Hell’ is for those who loved to take people to court while they were still alive, or tended to argue a lot. If you go to this hell after you die, you will be forced to quarrel non-stop, and every second of your existence someone will pick a fight with you, even in the middle of the night, preventing you from sleeping. People who feel a need to explain everything very clearly to others are liable to fall into this particular hell.

“The sutra text reads, ‘Ksitigarbha continued, saying, “Sir, inside Cakravada Mountain there exist such hells, infinite in number. In addition to the hells I have already mentioned, there are Yell Shout Hell, Stripped Tongue Hell, Excretion Hell, Copper Lock Hell, Fire Elephant Hell, Fire Hound Hell, Fire Horse Hell, Fire Ox Hell, Fire Hill Hell, Fire Rock Hell, Fire Bed Hell, Fire Beam Hell, Fire Hawk Hell, Sawed Teeth Hell, Flayed Skin Hell, Blood-Drinking Hell, Hands-Scorching Hell, Feet-Scorching Hell, Inverted Thorn Hell, Fire Abode Hell, Iron Abode Hell, and Fire Wolf Hell. Within each of these are, in turn, lesser hells—one or two in some, three or four in others; even hundreds or thousands in some cases—each with its own designation.”

“‘Excretion Hell’ is for alcoholics and people who drink to excess. You have all seen people get so drunk that they cannot keep from defecating or urinating on themselves. Some people grow incontinent before they pass away; this is a sign that they will fall into Excretion Hell. ‘Blood-Drinking Hell’ is the probable destination of those who liked eating pig’s blood cake, chicken blood, duck blood, and so on while still living. Raise your hand if you have never eaten any of those things.” No one present raised a hand. “As for ‘Hands-Scorching Hell,’ Japanese taverns are all equipped with teppanyaki tables on which food is barbequed by hand; thus, in this hell, your hands will be grilled right down to the bone and then regrown, over and over. Do not assume that these hell names are fictional or just vehicles used by Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha to scare us; any actions you have taken or surgical operations you have undergone in this lifetime will determine which hell you will fall into after you die. Don’t think that having participated in this puja will prevent you from falling into these terrible realms; you will only have a chance of avoiding such a fate if you repent and stop committing evil.

“‘Within each of these are, in turn, lesser hells.’ Each hell realm is subdivided into many minor hells. The difference between major and minor hells has to do with how much time sentient beings have to spend there. The time from when you enter a hell to when you leave is measured in millennia. If we spend so long in hell, then why are there so many humans on Earth? According to the Buddha, human history is not a mere five thousand years long. There were four Buddhas before Shakyamuni Buddha, whose time in this world has spanned thirteen thousand years. Doesn’t that mean that the previous four Buddha epochs spanned an even longer period of time? Sentient beings continuously reincarnate in the Hell Realm. In the text, it says, ‘…One or two in some, three or four in others; even hundreds or thousands in some cases.’ Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha did not specify the exact number of hells because hells are called into existence by the karma of sentient beings. Thus, if sentient beings were to stop creating all this evil karma, the various hells would cease to exist. This is the reason Ksitigarbha said, ‘…One or two in some, three or four in others; even hundreds or thousands in some cases.’

In the sutra it is written, ‘Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, explaining further, said to Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, “Sir, these are the places and manners in which sentient beings in South Jambudvipa who create bad karma by leading evil lives receive their retribution. Karma is tremendously powerful. It is taller than Mount Sumeru, deeper than the vastest ocean, and can even hinder the sagely paths.”

“‘These are the places and manners in which sentient beings in South Jambudvipa who create bad karma by leading evil lives receive their retribution. Karma is tremendously powerful.’ All of these hells are called forth by sentient beings committing evil acts on Earth—acts which include profiting from killing, deceiving people, and so on. Karma of entering hell is summoned by the energy produced by evil acts, and it is extremely powerful. Even the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot suppress the force of the evil karma created by sentient beings. How much meat have you eaten in this lifetime? How many sentient beings have you killed? How many lies have you told?

“‘It is taller than Mount Sumeru, deeper than the vastest ocean, and can even hinder the sagely paths.’ There is record in the sutras of Mount Sumeru; it stands in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. These days a lot of people want to determine whether or not it exists, but it isn’t actually a mountain; it is an enormous whirlpool of energy that fills the entire galaxy. As for ‘vastest ocean,’ everyone knows that the ocean is very deep. Modern scientists are unable to measure anything past twenty or thirty thousand meters deep, so they do not know how deep the ocean is at its deepest point. It could very well be fathomless. Mount Sumeru is so huge and the sea is so deep, yet not even they can compare to the immensity of the karma created by sentient beings. Our karma hinders our Buddhist practice and our path to liberation.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘Therefore, sentient beings should not underestimate the sin of lesser evils; death will bring retribution for every wrongdoing, no matter how miniscule. Even beings as closely related as fathers and sons will part their respective ways, and one will not take the punishment of the other even if they chance to cross paths.’

“You must stop thinking that minor transgressions are no big deal, and that you can get away with them if no one notices. These acts will certainly bring karmic retribution after you die. All big things grow from little things, so even the tiniest evil act will send you to the Hell Realm for a long, long time. Do not assume that it doesn’t matter if you commit just a few, minor evil acts; your karmic retribution will manifest just the same. Even beings as close as father and son will still each have to bear the burden of his own karmic retribution; even if they should meet, they cannot shoulder this burden for each other. In China, for example, people say they want to give some of their own longevity to their parents so that they can live longer. Such an exchange would be possible if you were a practitioner, but none of you is qualified.

“‘Therefore, sentient beings should not underestimate the sin of lesser evils; death will bring retribution for every wrongdoing.’ You absolutely must not think that lying—for example, caring only about the bottom line, even if it means cheating people—does not matter. All such behavior is evil. This section tells us not to think minor transgressions are not evil – they are.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Now, by virtue of the Buddha’s majestic powers, I shall give a brief account of the retribution meted out for different wrongdoings in the hells that I have mentioned. I hope only that you will carefully listen to my words.” Samantabhadra replied, “I have always known, from long ago, the various kinds of retribution dispensed in the Three Evil Realms. Sir, please speak about them so that all the evil-doers hereafter, in the Age of Degenerate Dharma, may hear you and, thereupon, take refuge in the Buddha.”

“Bodhisattva Samantabhadra is extremely compassionate. Aware of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s very profound connection with the sentient beings of Earth, and despite already knowing the tortures suffered in the Three Evil Realms, Samantabhadra asked Ksitigarbha to explain them to sentient beings committing evil in the Age of Degenerate Dharma so that we might take refuge in the Buddha, learn, and listen to the Dharma. Every sentient being has a unique affinity with each of the various yidams, so no Bodhisattva would say that all sentient beings should be His or Her believers or disciples, because everyone’s causal conditions are different. For example, when trying to educate your children, some of you cannot get them to listen to you no matter what you say, while others have more attentive kids. The mother will often tell the father, for example, ‘Go have a word with our son,’ because a father might be more capable in managing children. This also has to do with causal conditions.

“‘…so that all the evil-doers hereafter, in the Age of Degenerate Dharma, may hear you and, thereupon, take refuge in the Buddha.’ Being compassionate and knowing that sentient beings commit a lot of evil acts, Bodhisattva Samantabhadra still wants to inform us, so He asked Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha to speak to us sentient beings living in this Age of Degenerate Dharma so that we can come back and practice Buddhism. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha helps sentient beings in this age to escape hell and the suffering of reincarnation; moreover, His connection with humanity on Earth is particularly close. His aspiration was to not attain Buddhahood until all of the hells are empty. My vow and fate are the same as Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘Ksitigarbha said, “Sir, some of the different sorts of retribution meted out in the various hells are as follows: In some hells, the tongues of punished beings are plucked out to be plowed under by oxen or cows; in others, their hearts are ripped out to be devoured by yaksas. In some hells, their bodies are boiled in huge pots full of sizzling water; in others, punished beings are forced to embrace red-hot, scorching copper pillars. Some hells force punished beings to be chased and consumed by bursts of fire; other hells are always ice-cold. In some, there are infinite piles of filthy excretion; in others, darts and pellets whiz and shoot about. Some hells contain many fiery spears that continually stab outward; in others, only the breasts and backs of punished beings are pounded. In certain hells, only their hands and feet are burned, while in others, punished beings are constricted by winding and twisting iron serpents. In some hells, punished beings are chased by iron hounds; in others, they are ridden by iron mules.
Sir, for such kinds of retribution, each hell contains hundreds of thousands of sorts of instruments of torture and punishment, which are made only of copper, iron, rock, or fire. These four different conditions—as well as the instruments of torture and punishment they comprise—are caused by various karmic evil acts. Just now, by virtue of the Buddha’s majestic, miraculous power and your inquiry, I have completed a brief account of the different sorts of retribution that exist in the various hells. However, to give an exhaustive description of all the consequences of every sort of evil act to be met in these countless realms—with their hundreds of thousands of miserable tortures—would not be possible, even were I to continue for innumerable kalpas.”

“‘In some hells, the tongues of punished beings are plucked out to be plowed under by oxen or cows.’ This happens if you engaged in harsh speech while you were alive, such as criticizing others or scolding them for no reason and thus did people harm. Having one’s tongue plowed back and forth by iron oxen has to do with having had tongue surgery while still living. ‘Their hearts are ripped out to be devoured by yaksas.’ People who harbor sinister motives or are constantly scheming against others are at risk of falling into this hell. Yaksas will cut out their hearts and eat them. Do not assume that if you go there your heart will only get devoured once; everything that happens in hell repeats minute by minute and second by second. As soon as your heart is eaten, it will grow back and get devoured again; this will continue until your karma has all gone away. ‘In some hells, their bodies are boiled in huge pots full of sizzling water.’ If you have ever used boiling water to scald a chicken or blanch a pig to remove its hair, you will go to this sort of hell after you are dead and meet the same fate. ‘In others, punished beings are forced to embrace red-hot, scorching copper pillars,’ in which beings must embrace red-hot copper pillars. ‘Some hells force punished beings to be chased and consumed by bursts of fire; other hells are always ice-cold.’ People full of hatred go to burning hells, while extremely greedy people go to freezing hells. Your heart is situated between your two breasts; whenever you feel hatred or resentment toward someone, that location will grow very hot. If you see something you like, such as a handsome guy or a beautiful woman, you are liable to let out a deep sigh. When that happens, you feel a very cool sensation there, right?

“‘In some, there are infinite piles of filthy excretion.’ This refers to the hells to which people will go who love drinking alcohol and getting drunk. ‘In others, only the breasts and backs of punished beings are pounded.’ In these hells, your chest and back are continuously beaten. Those who liked to fight or hit people, including the use of torture, are liable to go there. ‘In others, punished beings are constricted by winding and twisting iron serpents.’ If you have ever chained up a person or an animal, you very possibly will fall into these hells. ‘In some hells, punished beings are chased by iron hounds.’ Those who, while still living, liked to eat dog meat or beat dogs will fall into these hells and get chased by iron hounds.

“‘Sir, for such kinds of retribution, each hell contains hundreds of thousands of sorts of instruments of torture and punishment, which are made only of copper, iron, rock, or fire. These four different conditions—as well as the instruments of torture and punishment they comprise—are caused by various karmic evil acts.’ The instruments of karmic retribution are all made of copper, iron, stone, or fire. These describe the sensations experienced there by sentient beings at the mercy of their karma. Each hell contains hundreds and thousands of different sorts of suffering.

“‘Just now, thanks to the Buddha’s majestic spirit and your inquiry, I have completed a brief account of the different sorts of retribution that exist in the various hells. However, to give an exhaustive description of all the consequences of every sort of evil act to be met in these countless realms—with their hundreds of thousands of miserable tortures—would not be possible, even were I to continue for innumerable kalpas.’ One small kalpa lasts as long as the Earth’s entire cycle through Formation, Existence, Destruction, and the Succeeding Void. In this section Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is saying, ‘Today I am just giving an overview of the different karmic retributions that are meted out in the various hells; if I were to speak in detail about them all, it would take longer than hundreds of millions of years—a very long time.’

“Some people wonder what the big deal is if they just commit minor transgressions. I once had a believer whose father had a cyst in his lung, and no matter how they treated it, it would not get better. He was never cured, to the day he died. When I had a look, I discovered that this believer’s father had once jabbed an animal with a stick. When I told him of this, he replied that his father would never have done such a thing. After he returned home, however, his family told him that as a civil servant, his father had once worked at the airport customs, and one time he prodded a smuggled package with a stick; as it turned out, he jabbed the dog it contained in the chest, causing it to die. The package had been sealed, and he’d had no idea that there was a dog inside. You might think this was a transgression made in ignorance, and therefore was unintentional, but if he had taken the time to shake the box a little, the dog would have made a noise, and this incident would not have happened. This was the only mistake he made his entire life; he did not commit any other evil acts. That was all it took, however, to keep his illness from being cured—and after he passed away, it was quite likely he would have fallen into hell. However, fortunately, his son implored me for help, so I resolved it for him and prevented his father from going there.

“This section of the sutra mentions so many hells, but you should not regard these as myths or think that I am just trying to use this text to scare you. Japanese especially do not like hearing people speak about hell. They didn’t want to come to the puja once they knew it would be the topic. The Hell Realm was definitely not created by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to punish sentient beings; rather, they were called into being by the energy produced by sentient beings’ evil karma. I really have seen hell, so I know its suffering. As a guru propagating the Dharma, it is my duty and responsibility to educate you by repeating any teachings spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha. At the end of this section, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha again said extremely modestly that he was acting by virtue of the Buddha’s majestic, miraculous power.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued expounding the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows with Chapter Six: Tathagata’s Praises.

“The sutra text goes on to say, ‘At that time, the World Honored One emitted from his entire body a great, brilliant light that shone throughout all the hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of Buddha Lands, numbering as many as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. With a tremendous, thunderous voice, He admonished all the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, devas, nagas, demons, gods, humans, and nonhuman beings in the various Buddha Lands, saying, “All of you, listen! For today I shall praise the deeds of Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Ksitigarbha, who, by manifesting his great, inconceivable, merciful, and compassionate powers, saves and protects all the sinful and suffering beings in every world in the Ten Directions. After my Nirvana, you Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, devas, nagas, demons, and deities should implement extensive expediencies in order to guard this sutra.”

“At this point, brilliant light shot out from Shakyamuni’s body, illuminating all the Lands of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in every corner of the universe. This refers to more than just our Milky Way Galaxy; there are many galaxies, and the phrase ‘one Buddha for each world’ means there are hundreds of millions of Buddhas on as many worlds as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. Thus, the number of sentient beings is even greater. Some people wonder if the Buddha really could emit light, and assume the words of the sutras amount to mere fairy tales. Actually, according to scientific reports, through their research scientists have already discovered that light exists in our shoulders, top of heads, chests, abdomens, and knees. This is true of even ordinary people, let alone the Buddha. It’s just that we cannot see this light. The fastest thing in the universe is light. ‘With a tremendous, thunderous voice’ does not simply mean speaking loudly; rather, it means Shakyamuni Buddha delivered His words by supernatural means. Therefore, the Buddha used sound and light to tell everyone in the universe—all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, devas, nagas, demons, deities, humans, nonhuman beings, and so on in the entire Dharma Realm—about Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s deeds. ‘Nonhuman beings’ here refers to sentient beings in the Ghost Realm.

“‘Every world in the Ten Directions’ means ‘the ten directions of the Dharma Realm’, including all the realms in the universe: Hell, Hungry Ghost, Animal, Human, Asura, Heaven, Sravaka, Pratyakabuddha, Bodhisattva, and Buddha. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha helps all sentient beings in the ten directions of the Dharma Realm, not just those here on Earth. Even if you have suffered a lot or committed many severely evil acts in this lifetime, as long as you supplicate earnestly, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha will save you. The word ‘inconceivable’ here does not mean not knowable or impossible; it refers to an unimaginably majestic and miraculous power. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s great powers are beyond the comprehension and imagination of us humans. Shakyamuni Buddha specially instructed the devas, nagas, demons, and deities to use all manner of expedient Dharma methods to protect this sutra for the sake of sentient beings living in the Age of Degenerate Dharma. Only then will the aspiration of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and the Buddha continue to be effective into the future.

“Despite what you think, the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows is not just a bunch of writing on paper. The text says that Shakyamuni Buddha asked all of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, devas, nagas, and others of the eight groups of beings to protect this sutra. Thus, that the Buddha gave such instructions shows how very important this text is! You should respect this sutra, because it is not just a book. Your eyes might tell you that it is comprised of words on paper, but it actually is an embodiment of the Buddha and Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha; it is the Dharma. It is Buddhahood; it is Bodhisattvahood. When reading the sutras, you should not roll the pages back; doing so shows a lack of respect. Would you roll your body up? When reading a sutra, you should spread it open and hold it carefully in both hands, not fold the pages over or roll it up; after all, you are not reading a novel. You might wonder what the point of protecting it when so many copies have been printed. Of course you still need to protect it! When speaking of ‘the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha,’ the Dharma refers to the sutras. It is also written that repairing a sutra, that has been damaged and needs repair, will yield boundless merits.

“If you go to a haunted hotel, and are unable to sleep at night, then bring and open up a copy of the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows and place it next to you. Those ghosts will concentrate so hard on reading the sutra that they will completely forget about you, and you will be left alone to sleep quite soundly. These days there are mini editions of the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, so before you go to bed at night, you can place one open next to you. However, you must remember to open it; it will be effective as long as just opening any one page. This works because it contains the states of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the Dharma spoken by the Buddha. Why do monastics at some temples make a shrine of a sutra? It is for this very reason. If you open up a sutra every day and recite from it with respect, then inauspicious occurrences will not enter your home. However, you need to do it for more than just a day or two. ‘Devas, nagas, demons, and deities should implement extensive expediencies in order to guard this sutra.’ This is written in the sutra; it means the devas, nagas, demons, and deities should protect this sutra. If you respect it, therefore, those beings will naturally protect you. This is Tantra, too. We’ll stop here for now, and continue this afternoon.”

The attendees stood, waiting in reverence with palms clasped as His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended the Dharma throne. In unison, they all voiced their thanks to the guru.

At 2:30 in the afternoon, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche again ascended the Dharma throne and resumed expounding the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘“…should implement extensive expediencies in order to guard this sutra, and to cause all sentient beings themselves to realize Nirvana.” After this was said, a Bodhisattva in the congregation named Samantavipula, with palms clasped, reverently addressed the Buddha, saying, “We now see that You, World Honored One, highly praise Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha for possessing such inconceivable, great, majestic, sacred virtues. It is only hoped that You, World Honored One, will describe, for the benefit of those sentient beings living in the future Age of Degenerate Dharma, such things as the causes and effects of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s deeds that help human beings and devas, so that the eight groups of beings—including devas and nagas, as well as other sentient beings in future periods—will accept and adore the Buddha’s words.”

“‘…To cause all sentient beings themselves to realize Nirvana.’ Any sentient beings practicing from the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows will one day, with absolute certainty, be able to attain Buddhahood. Therefore, this sutra is particularly important for practitioners of Buddhism, and especially sentient beings living in the Age of Degenerate Dharma—meaning us, right now. Many people learning Buddhism treat it as an academic pursuit, a religion, or a system of deity worship worth researching, but none of these concepts is correct. Rather, the point of Buddhism is to learn how to change yourself.

“In the line, ‘After this was said, a Bodhisattva in the congregation named Samantavipula,’ the word ‘congregation’ refers to the site in the Heaven Realm at which Shakyamuni Buddha was speaking the Dharma. One of the Bodhisattvas present was called Samantavipula. ‘…With palms clasped, reverently addressed the Buddha, saying,’ When asking for instructions from a Buddha, Bodhisattva, or guru, you should clasp your palms together and your attitude should be one of extreme reverence; you won’t get an answer if you just ask casually. ‘“We now see that You, World Honored One, highly praise Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha for possessing such inconceivable, great, majestic, sacred virtues.”’ This means that on that day, the Buddha publicly praised Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. The Buddha would never bestow casual praise upon a Bodhisattva or ordinary person unless his or her behavior has benefited sentient beings. The word ‘inconceivable’ here does not literally mean ‘unable to think of’ or ‘unknown;’ it means that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s virtues and power to help sentient beings are so great that it is unimaginable to ordinary Bodhisattvas, nor can it be comprehended with general rules of experiences by us. In this section, Bodhisattva Samantavipula implores Shakyamuni Buddha on behalf of all sentient beings to describe deeds to do with cause and effect of humans and devas for the sake of those living in the future, in the Age of Degenerate Dharma. Particular mention is given here to sentient beings living in this age, so the Dharma contained in this sutra was spoken for our benefit. Don’t think this is a fairy tale; there is a basis for everything spoken by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Why is there constant mention of this Age of Degenerate Dharma? It is because we sentient beings in this age do not possess enough good fortune to listen to the Buddha speaking the Dharma with our own ears, or to be taught it directly by a Mahasattva. Before you can be taught Tantra, you must first have a foundation of ten years of Exoteric practice. Thus, only a very few sentient beings in this Age of Degenerate Dharma are able to learn Tantra. Only one or two in a million, or even ten million, are qualified to learn it. Therefore, this sutra is very important for sentient beings that are lacking in good fortune and causal conditions.

“Bodhisattva Samantavipula earnestly implored Shakyamuni Buddha to speak publicly of the various causes, effects, and so on, in detail, regarding the help Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha had bestowed upon sentient beings in the Human and Heaven Realms. Devas, nagas, and others of the eight groups of beings are not people in the Heaven Realm; they are nagas and others of the eight different sorts of sentient beings existing from the Animal Realm to the Land of the Immortals. They are also known as mythological or auspicious beasts. The eight groups are all Dharma protectors. As for a more detailed description of nagas and these other terms, I’ll have to explain those another day, should the opportunity present itself. Sentient beings in the Age of Degenerate Dharma ‘will accept and adore the Buddha’s words;’ ‘accept’ means prostrating themselves fully in order to receive the words spoken by the Buddha. Everything the Buddha says is Dharma; He would not simply have a chat with sentient beings, nor would He say things unrelated to the liberation from life and death.

“The sutra text goes on to say, ‘Then the World Honored One responded to Bodhisattva Samantavipula and four-fold assembly of Buddhists and other beings, saying, ‘Listen attentively, listen attentively! I am going to talk to you briefly about the blissful and virtuous things which Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has done to benefit human beings and devas.’ Samantavipula replied, ‘Yes, indeed, O World Honored One, we shall be delighted to hear.’

“Again, the ‘four-fold assembly of Buddhists’ is mentioned in this section. Bhikkhus are male monastics; Bhikkhunis are female monastics. Upasakas are male laity, while Upasikas are female laity. They have already resolved to practice Buddhism in this lifetime to become liberated from the suffering sea of reincarnation. Only if they all serve together as a guru’s disciples, listening to the Dharma, can they be called the four groups. Most people listening can only be referred to as ‘believers.’ Therefore, simply coming here to listen to the Dharma does not make you a member of the four-fold assembly of Buddhists; that honor additionally depends on whether or not you have made a firm resolution to escape the suffering sea of reincarnation. The Buddha particularly mentioned to Bodhisattva Samantavipula ‘the four-fold assembly of Buddhists and other beings;’ He did not say ‘the assembly of believers, etc.’ It therefore depends on whether or not you are resolved to become liberated from life and death. If you are, then your participation in today’s puja and being able to listen to the Buddha’s teachings will allow you to obtain protection and blessings from Shakyamuni Buddha and Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha.

“‘Listen attentively, listen attentively!’ When the Buddha said this, He meant to listen with complete concentration, a respectful attitude, and no thoughts of one’s own. In other words, those in attendance should not compare or contrast the Buddha’s teachings with their past experiences, or with what they may or may not have heard before. If you compare what you are hearing now with your prior knowledge or ‘common sense,’ and think that if it doesn’t match then it must be a myth, then you are not listening attentively, which involves listening to the Buddha’s words with the utmost respect. Nothing the Buddha said would ever harm us; not a word would cause us to suffer losses. Every phrase the Buddha uttered is to help us. For this reason, you should focus, and listen in earnest; do not be distracted by your own private thoughts.

“‘I am going to talk to you briefly about the blissful and virtuous things which Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has done to benefit human beings and devas.’ The Buddha wished to give you an uncomplicated description of how Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha had helped sentient beings in the Human and Heaven Realms, because such assistance is bound to yield good fortune and merits. Good fortune comes from making offerings and giving alms. For example, this morning’s Dharma performance involved an offering to the yidam Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and alms given to sentient beings. Only by way of giving alms and making offerings can one accumulate the good fortune that will allow one to listen to the Dharma; without good fortune, one cannot practice Buddhism. Merits come from keeping the precepts. Having good fortune but no merits, or vice versa, is not sufficient; giving alms and making offerings must be practiced simultaneously with observing the precepts.

“‘Yes, indeed, O World Honored One, we shall be delighted to hear.’ This shows that Bodhisattva Samantavipula et al had come to listen with extreme willingness and joy. Being ‘delighted to hear’ means they were not coerced. Shakyamuni Buddha was not just speaking for Bodhisattva Samantavipula, but for other sentient beings to hear as well. You, on the other hand, just want yourselves taught – you don’t want other people to be transmitted the Dharma; as long as you know, you are content. This sort of selfishness will prevent you from cultivating the Bodhisattva Path.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘The Buddha told Samantavipula, “If a good man or woman in the future should, upon hearing the name of Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Ksitigarbha, join his palms, give praise, and pay obeisance or give admiration to him, then such a person will be exonerated from thirty kalpas’ worth of evil acts. O Samantavipula, if a good man or woman should make an image of this Bodhisattva, either by painting or drawing it or by molding it with earth, stone, glue, lacquer, gold, silver, copper, or iron, and should then make even only one observance or act of worship before it, then such a person will be reborn in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three for one hundred times in succession, never again to fall into any Evil Realm. Even when this good fortune of the Heaven Realms is exhausted, he or she still will be reborn as the monarch of a country, with no loss of any of these great benefits.”’

“This section makes particular mention of good men and women. Being ‘good’ means more than just occasionally worshiping, donating a bit of money, going to a temple to prostrate oneself before a shrine now and then, or hiring someone to recite the sutras. When the Buddha said the word ‘good,’ He meant people who carry out the Ten Meritorious Acts—in other words, those who refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, harsh speech, divisive speech, frivolous talk, false speech, greed, hatred, and ignorance. By the Buddha’s standards, according to His teachings, only men and women who practice these Ten Meritorious Acts are actually human. In a past lifetime you must have succeeded in doing so, which is why you were reborn in a human body in this one. However, many people, after having obtained human form, forget how they got it. Thus, every local custom and culture urges you to do a lot of things, but if those do not involve carrying out the Ten Meritorious Acts, then you are not a human; as such, after you die you will be reborn in the Animal, Hungry Ghost, or Hell Realm. Therefore, carrying them out is the most basic condition for receiving Buddhism’s teachings. To be a practitioner, you must be a perfect human, which means you are cultivating the Ten Meritorious Acts. If you do not master them to perfection, then you will never achieve attainment as an arhat or even a Bodhisattva. This is why the Buddha specially emphasized the words ‘good man or woman.’ If you are not one yet, then you should start doing what it takes to become one, immediately.

“‘Upon hearing the name of Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Ksitigarbha, join his palms, give praise, and pay obeisance or give admiration to him, then such a person will be exonerated from thirty kalpas’ worth of evil acts.’ You might wonder why, when you’ve already been prostrating with palms clasped before Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and giving praise every day, you still have not seen any change in yourself. It is because you are not yet become a good man or woman. As such, all your prostration or praise will merely produce a tiny bit of good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms, to be quickly used up in a future lifetime. For this reason, you must be sure to cultivate into good men and women. If you can carry out the Ten Meritorious Acts, then it will be effective to press your palms together and give praise whenever you hear Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s name—for example, saying, ‘Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, You are so compassionate!’ However, if you just implore Him to give you what you want, your efforts will be fruitless. ‘Give praise’ means praising the merits of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s constantly helping sentient beings. ‘Pay obeisance’ means listening to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s name with an attitude of the utmost respect and reverence. ‘Give admiration’ means, upon hearing the Bodhisattva’s name, to feel a sense of appreciation well up within you, as well as a hope that you can cultivate this Dharma method. It does not mean ‘envy,’ which carries connotations of jealousy—such as envying someone who becomes president. You obviously cannot achieve that yourself, so such a sentiment smacks of jealousy. ‘Admiration’ implies that everything this person does, one day you will be able to do, too, as long as you begin to act accordingly. The Chinese character lian in ‘give admiration’ here does not mean love; it means being filled with joy at the sound of the Bodhisattva’s name; this leads to a very natural hope that you will have the opportunity to learn this Dharma method.

“‘Such a person will be exonerated from thirty kalpas’ worth of evil acts.’ There is frequent mention in the sutras of a number of kalpas’ worth of evil acts. Does this mean your past lives, this lifetime, or your future lives? The Buddha did not say. According to my own experience with cultivation, people reincarnate through more than a hundred or even ten thousand lifetimes. There is no telling how many lifetimes you will live in this universe prior to attaining Buddhahood; they are countless. Thus, ‘thirty kalpas’ worth of evil acts’ includes all the evil acts you have committed, or might commit, in the past, present, and future. Thirty kalpas is counted in small kalpas. ‘Exonerated’ means that if you have become a good man or woman, heard Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s name, and as a result you naturally rise, clasp your palms together, make prostrations, pay obeisance, and give admiration, then none of the evil acts committed, or might commit, in your past, present, and future lives will hinder your Buddhist practice. Listen closely: It says that these evil acts will not hinder your Buddhist practice; it does not say that you will be exonerated of them or not have to face any karmic retribution that manifests. Why do we have so many karmic hindrances to our cultivation in this lifetime? For example, doing business, falling in love, getting married, not believing, and so on are all karmic hindrances; these result from the evil acts you committed, are committing, or will commit in your past, present, and future lifetimes. Some might claim that many people are fine before they practice Buddhism, but once they do, their practicing actually leads to a heap of problems—but this way of thinking represents false thoughts and false views. This is a very complex subject, but we won’t get into it today. Many people want to learn and practice Buddhism, and then mysteriously encounter a lot of karmic hindrances. Fortunately, I have manifested as a lay practitioner and have children, have been married, and am a businessman, yet nothing can hinder my cultivation—not even the emergence of karmic retribution for the evil acts I committed in my past lives. None of this has affected my resolve to practice Buddhism in the least. If I were a monastic, I’m sure you would say that of course monastics have fewer karmic hindrances. I have achieved attainment nevertheless; no matter how much business I do or how many issues arise, nothing can hinder me from practicing. I have been exonerated of these evil acts; my karmic retribution for them will still manifest, of course, but it will merely come to fruition. It cannot, however, hinder me from continuing to cultivate.

“‘O Samantavipula, if a good man or woman should make an image of this Bodhisattva, either by painting or drawing it or by molding it with earth, stone, glue, lacquer, gold, silver, copper, or iron, and should then make even only one observance or act of worship before it, then such a person will be reborn in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three for one hundred times in succession, never again to fall into any Evil Realm.’ This section describes how to go to the Heaven Realm. It is not just a simple matter of making a few prostrations or crowding in line to be received there; rather, you must genuinely become a good man or woman. Many people donate money toward constructing Buddha statues, yet still do not show any auspicious signs before dying that portend an ascent to the Heaven Realm. This is because they have not succeeded in becoming good men or women. Auspicious signs indicating a person’s impending rebirth in the Heaven Realm include being at peace and devoid of suffering while on his or her deathbed.

“‘…Make an image of this Bodhisattva, either by painting or drawing it’ refers to paintings, thangkas, and so on, or using clay, stone, glue, or lacquer. Glue here doesn’t mean the modern PVC-based material; it was from a kind of natural rubber used in ancient times. Lacquer can be used to make a lacquerware a Buddha statue; or it can be fashioned from gold, silver, copper, or iron. Once a statue of a Bodhisattva has been made, the good man or woman should ‘make even only one observance or act of worship before it,’ meaning glancing at it and making a single prostration with every glance; this does not imply sitting there, staring constantly at the Buddha statue without moving. Thus, going to the Heaven Realm is quite simple; you just need to carry out the Ten Meritorious Acts and create a Buddha statue—with which, if you cannot make one yourself, your guru can help you—and then look at it and make a single prostration before it with every look. ‘Then such a person will be reborn in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three for one hundred times in succession.’ If you can meet the above prerequisites, then you will reincarnate in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three. This is the name of such heaven; it does not mean there are thirty-three layers of heaven. It was named after a person who took the initiative to do a deed that benefited Buddhism greatly; the other thirty-two people assisted him. As a result, their leader was reborn in the Heaven Realm to serve as Emperor in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, and his thirty-two cohorts were reincarnated there as well to help him govern. This heaven is the highest level of the Heaven of Desires. Therefore, once you have met the requirements previously stated, not only can you be reborn in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, but you can also forever avoid falling into the Evil Realms; this will hold true until you attain Buddhahood. You all might think this sounds easy, but you would have a rather hard time being ‘good’ men and women. If you have not mastered the Ten Meritorious acts, then painting or crafting a Buddha statue will merely bring you a little bit of good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms. Compared to Tantra, however, this really is easy. Less than a handful of you can succeed in observing the Ten Meritorious Acts, especially when it comes to refraining from greed, hatred, and ignorance. The first one includes not coveting wealth that does not belong to you or anything that is out of your reach, and do what you need to do according to causal conditions; ‘refraining from hatred’ means not even resenting your enemies or being jealous of anyone. ‘Refraining from ignorance’ means having a deep belief in cause and effect.

“‘Even when this good fortune of the Heaven Realms is exhausted, he or she still will be reborn as the monarch of a country, with no loss of any of these great benefits.’ Therefore, as was mentioned before, one can obtain benefits of good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms by way of worshiping Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, and even just fashioning a Buddha image or statue produces great merits. Sentient beings in the Heaven Realm possess longevity, too; generally speaking, as soon as they have exhausted their longevity, they will fall into the Hell Realm rather than be reborn in the Human Realm. However, if you can become a good man or a good woman, have crafted a Buddhist statue, looked at it and made a single prostration before it with every look, then even if you are reborn in the Heaven Realm and use up all of your longevity there, you still will be prevented from ever falling into the Three Evil Realms. Once your good fortune of the Heaven Realm is exhausted, you will be reborn as a king in the Human Realm. Therefore, when you see those kings who have reigned for a very long time, you know that they came down here from the Heaven Realm. Monarchs these days serve for very short periods of time however; just four or six years. In this context, presidents count as kings, too, as does the Japanese prime minister. However, if a ruler leaves office after such a short term of office, it means he or she did not come from the Heaven of the Thirty-Three. Any monarch who reigns until he or she dies of old age came from the Heaven Realm. ‘With no loss of any of these great benefits’ means you will never lose the benefits accumulated from your accomplishments.

The sutra text reads, ‘“Any woman who hates womanhood should apply her mind to worshipping Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s painted picture or his image made of earth, stone, glue, lacquer, copper, or iron, and she should make frequent offerings to it, every day without fail, using such items as flowers, incense, food, drink, clothing, accessories, curtains, banners, money, jewels, and so on.”’

“This mentions women who do not want to be reborn as women in the next lifetime. That is not to say that being a woman is bad; rather, it refers to the many hardships of having to endure so much inconvenience for a few days out of every month, having to give birth, et cetera. The word ‘hates’ here does not mean detest; rather, it means having a female body is an annoyance to those who wish to accomplish a lot of things but find they cannot easily do them. Hence, they hate being women. ‘…Should apply her mind to worshipping Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s painted picture or his image.’ In other words, she should wholeheartedly make offerings to an image or statue of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. ‘Apply her mind’ here means more than just casually doing it; it means making offerings to an image or statue of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha from the depths of one’s innermost mind. Making offerings does not necessarily involve painting it yourself; if you have the causal condition and opportunity, then you should make offerings as soon as you hear there being such an occasion. ‘Apply her mind’ involves doing one’s level best, within the limit of one’s capabilities. Thus, you should not just casually make a few offerings; that would not be right.

“‘…Made of earth, stone, glue, lacquer, copper, or iron, and she should make frequent offerings to it, every day without fail.’ This means she should do it daily, without exception. She cannot give the excuse of having to go overseas, or having a date, or dinner party tonight she has to go to in order to mingle with important people. ‘Frequent offerings to it using such items as flowers, incense:’ This means you should make offerings using fresh flowers—not plastic or fake ones, such as those non-wilting flowers so many people use these days. You also should not pick out flowers that you like; you should make offerings to the Buddha of fresh ones that are in season. ‘Food, drink, clothing’—you also should make offerings using these things. Actually, these Eight Offering Cups placed on mandalas of Esoteric Buddhism contain food and drink. You might wonder why offerings of clothing should be made. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas wouldn’t really want to eat this food or wear these clothes; these offerings are necessary to us, not Them. In Tibet, a khata is clothing-offering. To present a khata might be a way of wishing someone good luck and happiness, but the reason for this is that it is an offering item. We do not know what the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ clothing looks like; Buddha statues are forms thought up by humans. The Buddha’s clothes are certainly better than any heavenly garb, but no one has any idea what sort He wears. For this reason, in Tibet, a khata evolved into a way of representing clothing. This is why a khata is presented and hung upon the Buddha statue before I perform the Dharma. Sometimes, when Tantra is performed there is flag-waving; this is another way of making offerings of clothing. Many Tibetans do not know this secret themselves, because they have not read the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows or learned Tantra.

“‘Accessories’ here means couplets; for example, the two pieces of red cloth hanging from both sides of the thangka you see here are ‘accessories’. ‘Curtains’ and ‘banners’ refer to the yellow drapes on a statue. ‘Money, jewels, and so on’ means money and valuables should be used to make offerings. ‘Every day without fail’ does not mean you have to give money each day; you can rotate your offerings: Today you offer clothing, tomorrow money, and so on. Some people ask whether or not money can still be used after it has been offered to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Of course it can; the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have no use for your money. Can other valuables given in offerings be used? Yes. The important component of an offering is your attitude when you make it. However, people are all accustomed to offering material objects. Tantric practitioners may make offerings of their body, speech, and mind; I, for example, can make offerings just by visualizing in earnest or forming a mudra. Thus, the Buddha intended this Dharma method for good men and women; they need to make these offerings every day. Without any objects in hand, you would not be able to visualize any sort of offerings; this is therefore a convenience for you, not for the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Actually, offerings can be made in this manner to all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and gurus; it’s just that we happen to be speaking about Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha today.

“The sutra text continues: ‘“After ending her present lifetime in a female body, such a good woman will not be reborn into a world having any women whatsoever for hundreds of thousands of myriads of kalpas, nor will she have to experience any further lifetimes as a woman. Unless she should wish, by virtue of her compassionate vow, to assume womanhood in order to liberate sentient beings, she will not have to reincarnate as a woman for a duration of hundreds of thousands of myriads of kalpas by virtue of her worship of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and due to the meritorious virtues gained from such prostrations.”’

“If you are a good woman and have made such offerings, then you will only spend this lifetime in a female body; for hundreds of thousands of myriads of kalpas afterward, you can be reborn in a world without women. This is actually a reference to the state of the Bodhisattvas; it is a realm in which everyone is a practitioner. Bodhisattvas are neither male nor female; they simply take the form of men and women in accordance with the requirements and for the convenience of sentient beings so that you can see them. Prior to the Song Dynasty, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara had a beard; only afterward did He gradually change to female form. This change influenced Japan, too.

“‘…will not be reborn into a world having any women whatsoever…’ There are both men and women on Earth and in the Heaven Realm. Some places only have men, but those are not ordinary worlds; they are locations in which everyone is a practitioner. ‘…nor will she have to experience any further lifetimes as a woman. Unless she should wish, by virtue of her compassionate vow, to assume womanhood in order to liberate sentient beings.’ This means she will not be a woman ever unless she wishes to return to this world and use the body of a female to help sentient beings. Examples of this are the Drikung Kagyu Uncommon Dharma Protector Achi and the Venerable Machig Labdron of the Chod; they have both taken female form. The merits produced by these offerings to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha will prevent one from having to be reborn as a woman for millions upon millions of kalpas.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘“Furthermore, O Samantavipula, if a woman should hate her ugliness and proneness to illness but wholeheartedly pays obeisance to Ksitigarbha in front of his image, then such a person, soon after her death, will, in the time it takes to eat a single meal, be reborn through thousands of myriads of kalpas with perfectly admirable looks and forms.”’

“Any woman feels she isn’t pretty or gets sick a lot can blame her actions in her past lives; being prone to illness is a result of killing, while ugliness comes from not having made offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, or having slandered the Buddha. ‘Wholeheartedly pays obeisance to Ksitigarbha in front of his image’ means unconditionally paying obeisance. All you have to do is being a good man or woman and sincerely prostrate yourself in reverence before a Buddha statue. In the time it takes to eat a meal, you can then be reincarnate with perfectly good looks through millions of kalpas. So how long does it take to eat a meal? Most people take around fifteen minutes to eat lunch, while people in Spain and France spend about four hours eating dinner. We spend about three.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche joked, “How long it takes to eat that meal depends on where you are from.

“The sutra text goes on: ‘“If this ugly woman should not loathe womanhood, she will, in hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of future lives, always be born a princess, royal lady, or daughter of a high official in a great family clan of a great elder. She also will enjoy a graceful birth and a perfect, admirable form in each lifetime. It is by virtue of her wholehearted worship of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha that such good fortune will be obtained.”’

“This section says that if you are not annoyed by being a woman, then you will be able to reincarnate through millions of lifetimes as a princess or a queen. Princesses are all quite lovely; have you ever seen an ugly one? Take the Japanese emperor’s granddaughter, for example; she is very pretty. Queens and royal concubines are, too. In all of China’s history, only one was not; all the rest were. Otherwise you might be reborn as the daughter of a prime minister, a lord, or into a very rich, well-known family. ‘…graceful’ means she will not have a crooked mouth, one eye bigger than the other, or a snub nose. ‘A perfect, admirable form’ is a result of the good fortune earned by sincerely making prostrations in view of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. Thus, Ksitigarbha is very compassionate; as long as you succeed in doing these things in a single lifetime, you will enjoy good fortune for millions of lifetimes to come. You therefore must not be lazy. There is no need to have cosmetic surgery or lose weight; these methods are nowhere near as good as worshipping Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha.

In the sutra it is written, ‘“Moreover, O Samantavipula, if some good man or woman should play various kinds of music, sing praises, and offer incense and flowers before this Bodhisattva’s image, or persuade many people or even just one person to do likewise, then such a man or woman will have the protection and guardianship, day and night, of thousands of demons and deities, in the present as well as in the future….”’

“Here Shakyamuni Buddha is telling Bodhisattva Samantavipula that a good man or woman should make offerings using dance, praiseful music, and the highest quality incense. Much of Tibetan music, for example, is performed in praise of the merits of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and gurus. You can also get someone else to do this with you; if you do, then you will live under the protection of those ghosts and deities that had practiced Buddhism when alive, day and night in both this lifetime and in your future lives. However, this does not include lonely souls and stray ghosts.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…so that no evil will even reach his or her ears.”’

“Ghosts and deities will protect you from hearing anyone who approaches wishing you to commit an evil act. ‘Evil’ here does not include the bad incidents you see on television, the bad things you hear of other people doing; it means situations in which someone tries to get you to sort someone out with force, swindle or rob someone’s money, skimp on a product’s weight to make profits, constantly tries to get you to go out drinking, and so on. If someone wants you to commit an evil act with him or her, the ghosts and deities will stop you from hearing that person. This has been my experience, too; ever since I started practicing Buddhism, no one has ever again tried to get me involved in any sort of nefarious business deal. That might be because people know I am a Rinpoche now, but those who don’t know that about me will not approach me, either, because I quite naturally would not hear them.

“The sutra continues: ‘“…much less will he or she, personally, ever encounter any misfortune or evil.”’

“If you won’t even hear people who approach and try to talk you into committing evil acts with them, then how could you encounter disasters or misfortune? As long as you are a good man or woman, and make offerings and obeisance before Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha in the manner described in the sutra, then any unexpected calamities or death you would have encountered in this lifetime will not come into being. Thus, you will not break any bones, become disfigured, et cetera.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘“Furthermore, O Samantavipula, if, in the future, any evil people, together with evil deities or evil demons, should observe that a good man or woman takes refuge in worship and praises and makes offerings to the image of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, and if they should act wrongly to ridicule and slander him or her, asserting that action has no merit or virtue or benefit, and if these same evil people either laugh with their teeth exposed, object behind his or her back, or persuade others to object together, or if there is any objection whatsoever by one person or by many people, or if such a person or people have even just one single thought of ridicule or slander, then such scorners shall, as their retribution for this ridicule and slander, fall into Avici Hell and remain there until the Nirvana of one thousand Buddhas in the Bhadrakalpa, constantly receiving extremely severe punishment.”’

“This tells what will happen in the future to evil people, demons or deities who, due to possessing no good fortune, merits, or causal conditions of their own, have false thoughts and ridicule, slander, or mock a good woman or man who has mastered the Ten Meritorious Acts, paid homage to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, or looked upon, praised, and made reverent prostrations before a statue of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. The most common slanderous expressions heard in Taiwan today are these: ‘If you worship Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, ghosts will follow you,’ and ‘Reciting from the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows at night will summon ghosts.’ There is obviously no mention of this in the sutras, so this is slander that maligns both Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s merits and the benefits He gives to sentient beings. If you listen to such sayings, it means you have no respect for the Bodhisattvas. This is your own karmic hindrance, which will go away as long as you continue to reverently and sincerely believe in the contents of the sutras and ignore those naysayers.

“Laugh with their teeth exposed’ means baring their teeth when they laugh. However, people in modern times all like to laugh like this to show how happy they are. What this section means is that if someone is praising Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s merits or another person who is able to obtain great benefits from practicing Ksitigarbha’s Dharma method, then some people who hear this praise will laugh with their teeth exposed to show that they are good people—when actually, they are bad. Others might speak ill of the practitioner behind his or her back, urge people not to practice that Dharma method, stir others into criticizing, or think sarcastic and slanderous thoughts about those practicing the Dharma method of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. Such bad people will be trapped in Avici Hell for more time than it takes for a thousand Buddhas to reach Nirvana. Avici Hell is another name for Uninterrupted Hell.

“So, you might ask, if Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is so compassionate, then why would saying a few things cause you to go to hell? To explain, I’ll give an analogy: Let’s say you go up and hit an ordinary person on the street. If that person doesn’t bleed, the most you’ll face is a fine or an assault charge, but if you go and hit the president—same action, different target—then you will be locked up for a very long time, because you have harmed a person who possesses good fortune. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha continuously benefits all sentient beings, without asking for anything in return. If someone is jealous of such deed or slanders it, causing a sentient being to stop believing in Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and therefore fall into hell, then the instigator will have committed a very grave evil and wind up in hell. The reason it is so bad is that that person’s slander might have caused others to stop believing in Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, or even to participate in such slander, which could cause some people to practice the wrong Dharma methods. Whether directly or indirectly, this can result in others being unable to become liberated from life and death for many lifetimes. This is a very serious transgression. If you go to hell for doing this, you have brought your fate upon yourself; it is not that you are being punished for angering Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha with your insults. Therefore, the Buddha compassionately tells us that we may not believe, but we must not cause others to lose faith as a result of our slander.

“The sutra text continues: ‘“In addition, even that kalpa will have to elapse before such scorners will be able to enter even the Hungry Ghost Realm. Another thousand kalpas will then need to pass before they can enter the Animal Realm. Finally, yet another thousand kalpas will have to elapse before they can enter the Human Realm. However, even as human beings, they are bound to be poor, indigent, low, and mean, deficient in some bodily organs and severely knotted mentally by evil karma so that they will surely always continue to fall into one Evil Realm or another. So you see, O Samatavipula, it is bad enough to ridicule and slander others’ donations and sincere worship; but it is much worse, indeed, to breed other wicked views that seek to bring about the destruction of the Buddhadharma.”’

“These people will receive severe punishment in Avici Hell, and when they are finally released, they will not be reincarnated as humans immediately; rather, they will still have to go to the Hungry Ghost Realm. The suffering there is not quite as bad as in hell, but they cannot eat or drink anything. Food and water will turn to fire as it enters their throats, and they will not be able to swallow. Sentient beings in the Hungry Ghost Realm have sulfur-colored hair, enlarged heads and bellies, very thin necks, and skinny arms and legs. You may have seen people like this here in the Human Realm, too. After their time in the Hungry Ghost Realm, slanderers will then spend another thousand kalpas in the Animal Realm before finally being reincarnated in the Human Realm. Thus, slander results in a great deal of suffering. The Animal Realm is quite vast; in the sutras it is recorded as containing four billion different species of sentient beings, including insects, aquatic animals, mammals, and so on. Slanderers will spend those thousand kalpas reincarnating among all those billions of animals.

“Thus, another thousand kalpas will pass before they can be reborn in the Human Realm, and even then the human bodies they reincarnate into will be ‘poor, indigent, low, and mean,’ and ‘deficient in some bodily organs.’ They will live in poverty, be lowly in status, or deformed. This is the sort of karmic retribution they will suffer. In addition, their minds will often be knotted by evil karma and thoughts. Therefore, even though they have reincarnated as humans, they still will not understand how they should do good deeds, and as a result will do more evil acts than good. Within a very short period of time, they will fall back into the Three Evil Realms. In the line, ‘severely knotted mentally by evil karma,’ karma represents a kind of force. Everyone has virtuous karma. The minds of those who have too much evil karma in the past will be tied up into knots by it. Such people, in order to survive, will scrape out an existence as butchers, sellers of alcohol or meats, and so on. This is the sort of karmic retribution that will befall you if you only ridicule others for making offerings, let alone thinking evil, slanderous thoughts about destructing Buddhist temples, statues, sutras, et cetera.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘“Furthermore, O Samantavipula, in future lifetimes some men or women will be totally disabled and bedridden for a long time, with neither their prayers for recovery nor for death being answered.”’

“The line, ‘…totally disabled and bedridden for a long time, with neither their prayers for recovery nor for death being answered.’ means patients in a vegetative state or stroke victims lie in bed for many years, able neither to live nor die. You have all seen them; they suffer terribly. Some parents keep their children in this situation alive as long as possible, not letting them die; as long as they are alive, they want to care for them. However, once the parents are gone, who will care for these patients?

“The sutra text reads, ‘“At night they will dream of evil demons or that the members of their immediate families or other relatives may visit a dangerous place. Sometimes they will have nightmares about being in the company of ghosts or deities. As the days, months, and years elapse, they will grow severely weak and ill, yelling tragically and pathetically out of misery in their sleep. All such people are having their karma weighed, the outcome of which is not yet decided.”’

“You might dream of ghosts coming to get you, or of family members from past lives seeking you out. You might also dream of dangerous things, such as walking along the edge of a cliff or near the water. You might also love to sleep a lot. The word ‘nightmares’ here implies what happens to people who enjoy sleeping; it does not mean ‘annoying.’ Some young people nowadays can sleep for twelve or even eighteen hours straight; their hobby is sleeping. People who love drinking alcohol fall into this category as well. In their dreams, they feel that they are hanging out with ghosts and deities, going all over the place for fun. ‘As the days, months, and years elapse’—day after day and year after year; these occurrences will not stop during that time. This hearkens back to the line, ‘…totally disabled and bedridden for a long time, with neither their prayers for recovery nor their prayers for death being answered.’ For example, don’t assume that certain patients who have suffered strokes or are in a vegetative state are unable to sense anything; I often know their thoughts and can speak of matters about which only their family members would know. This means they still can perceive and sense, and can feel how badly they are suffering. “They will grow severely weak and ill’ means that tragedies will happen to them over and over, yet they cannot tell anyone about their suffering, and no one can help them. ‘Yelling tragically and pathetically out of misery in their sleep’ means they will feel very wretched and unhappy. These sufferings are all the result of evil acts they committed in the past; now, they are being judged for them. That is, dreaming of evil demons, that their family members are in danger, or being in the company of ghosts or deities for fun indicates that they ‘are having their karma’ confronted, discussed and weighed for all of the evil acts they have committed in their past lives.

“The sutra text goes on to say, ‘“…The outcome of which is not yet decided, and such people either find it difficult to give up their lives or find it impossible to recover. Such situations are not discernible even to the eyes of ordinary men and women.”’

“Not knowing how severely or lightly their evil acts be judged, they can neither die nor be cured of their illnesses. In addition, ordinary people will not be able to discern what is wrong with them. I, however, can tell their family members how to accumulate good fortune, and how to let their loved ones go. Letting go is not necessarily a bad thing, and in order for your loved ones to be rid of the suffering of this lifetime, they must possess good fortune. ‘Or find it impossible to recover’—having incurable diseases is another indication of not having good fortune.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘“To help such people it is necessary to recite this sutra aloud even just once before the images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.”’

“This is effective if you recite this sutra out loud in front of images or statues of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, but the person doing the reciting must be a long-time vegetarian. It will not work if he or she is not willing to eat vegetarian. Secondly, the reciter must be someone who has already taken refuge in Buddhism and understands the importance of reciting for the person who is sick. ‘Aloud’ doesn’t mean reciting with such volume that the entire world can hear, but every word must be enunciated clearly; mumbling as if with an olive being in your mouth won’t do.

“The sutra text continues: ‘“Then take something which the patient cherishes—such as clothing, jewels, plantations, gardens, or houses—and recite aloud to the patient as follows: ‘I, so and so, on behalf of this patient, am donating these articles in front of the sutra and the icons in order to honor them, to construct Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ icons, to build stupas and temples, to burn oil lamps, or to benefit religious establishments.’ In such a manner, this pronouncement should be repeated three times to the patient so that he may hear and understand it.”’

“The patient wants to die, but cannot; nor can he or she keep on living, either. You should speak your name in front of the patient while facing a copy of the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows or a Buddhist image or statue, and say you are giving away the patient’s favorite objects on his or her behalf. You then must make offerings of the patient’s favorite possessions—clothing, a house, whatever—to the sutra, or craft an image or statue of a Buddha or Bodhisattva. ‘…To build stupas and temples, to burn oil lamps, or to benefit religious establishments.’ Give these as alms to a temple’s monastics or use them to make offerings to your guru. You must say these words to the patient three times, very clearly; you must not mumble. Also, don’t just say ‘I’m making a Buddhist statue for you;’ it is important to be specific about which Buddhist statue or image you are going to craft.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘“If his consciousness has scattered or his breathing has stopped, just make the pronouncement and recite the sutra aloud for one or two days, three or four days, or even seven days. From that time forward, the patient will be exonerated, once and for all after his death, from all his previous miseries and serious iniquities as well from any of the five hundred unpardonable evil acts he may have committed. Furthermore, he will be aware of his previous lives wherever he may be reborn.”’

“The line, ‘if his consciousness has scattered or if his breathing has stopped,’ means the patient’s eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness have begun to deteriorate; in other words, his or her earth, wind, water, and fire elements are disintegrating. The earth element includes our muscles and bones; water includes all our endocrine and blood; wind is our breath; fire is our body’s thermal energy. When people are dying, it begins with their eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness; afterward comes the disintegration of the Four Cardinal Elements. If a person you knows falls ill and is about to pass away, you might discover that his or her sense of smell will gradually go away, eyesight will fail, and he or she will not be able to hear anything you say. Such a patient will grow forgetful and lose all sense of touch, too. These are indications that his or her eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness have stopped functioning, and the patient will soon be faced with the disintegration of the Four Cardinal Elements.

“With regard to the disintegration of the Four Cardinal Elements, when such patients’ earth element begins to disintegrate, their muscles and bones will start to break down. You will discover that they will constantly feel like their heads are drooping down, and even propping them up with a lot of pillows still won’t be enough; the patients will still complain that they can’t hold their heads up straight. After that comes the disintegration of their fire element. If you have ever been in an intensive care ward, you know that the air in there is kept especially cold. This is because the patients there always feel very hot, and some even have fans blowing on them or constantly ask for the air conditioning to be turned on. This is a result of their fire element disintegrating. Afterward, however, they will start to feel very cold, and no amount of bed quilts will satisfy them. They will go back and forth like this, from feeling too hot to feeling too cold, until even these sensations leave them. Anyone who has ever had a cold understand what this continuous shifting from hot to cold and back again feels like, but the disintegration of the Four Cardinal Elements is much more severe. When their water element disintegrates, they will constantly feel thirsty. For this reason, intensive care wards are often stocked with cotton swabs with which to wet the patients’ lips. They are unable to salivate, and their urine and blood flow have decreased. The wind element encompasses their breathing. In the last three days before people die, they lose control over their breathing as it becomes more and more erratic. The saying goes, ‘three deep breaths and two short ones,’ but in fact it is three short ones and one long one—that is, in the end, the patient will breathe in three times very quickly, and then let out one long, drawn-out exhalation; then he or she will be gone. Doctors all know this. If your loved one’s condition is as I’ve just described, then you can go ahead and begin making funeral arrangements. I am an expert on death; having liberated so many people, I understand it quite clearly. The disintegration of the Four Cardinal Elements process involves an extreme amount of suffering, but it can be avoided by a practitioner who has achieved attainment in the Dharma. My mother, for example, did not have to endure such torment. I kept performing the Dharma to accumulate good fortune for her, and in the end, when she passed away, she did not suffer. She simply thought she was sleeping; she only awoke when she heard someone chanting mantras next to her, and had no idea why she was surrounded by so many people. She was not even aware of having stopped breathing.

“‘…For one or two days, three or four days, or even seven days.’ After the patient has stopped breathing, you can recite the sutras for seven days in a row—but as for how long you should recite each day, the Buddha did not say, so it is up to you. It depends on how many times you want to recite it. Of course, if you sincerely want what’s best for him or her, you will do your best to recite it many times.

“‘…just make the pronouncement and recite the sutra aloud…From that time forward, the patient will be exonerated, once and for all after his death, from all his previous miseries and serious iniquities as well from any of the five hundred unpardonable evil acts he may have committed.’

“If you recite the sutra as described, then the deceased will be exonerated of all of the evil acts he or she has committed over the course of past lives—except for the Five Uninterrupted Evil Acts—and will leave the suffering sea of reincarnation behind forever, because Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha will come to take the deceased away. I have watched Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha take away the deceased many times.

“The sutra text reads, ‘“Furthermore, he will be aware of his past lives wherever he may be reborn. All this is wonderful, but how much more will be the reward gained by those good men and women who would themselves copy this sutra, or have others copy it for them, or who would themselves mold or paint this Bodhisattva’s icon or picture, or even have others carve or paint it for them? They will certainly obtain tremendous benefits.”

“Once their lifetimes have come to an end, after others have done these things for them, the deceased will become aware of where they will be reborn in the future and certainly what their past lives were. They will remember what they have done in the past and know what they will be in the future. This knowledge will be gained through practicing Buddhism. They have to be good men or good women ‘who would themselves copy this sutra.’ Nowadays it is popular to transcribe the sutras; for example, there are some that are printed in a very light font so that you can easily trace the words with a pen; this line is where this practice comes from. “‘…Or who would themselves mold or paint this Bodhisattva’s icon or picture, or even have others carve or paint it for them’—you don’t necessarily have to craft a statue or paint an image of the Bodhisattva yourself; if the causal condition and opportunity should present itself, you should grasp the chance to do so, and often, or you can urge others to craft or paint one. I urge people to recite the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows for the same reason. ‘They will certainly obtain tremendous benefits.’ You can benefit greatly if you do as described. This might sound pretty simple, but it is not as easy as just transcribing some sutras and donating some money toward the construction of a Buddha statue. First you must succeed in becoming a good man or woman by mastering all of the Ten Meritorious Acts; otherwise, all your efforts will merely help you accumulate a little bit of good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘“Consequently, O Samantavipula, if you see anyone reciting, praising, or honoring this sutra even for an instant, you must resort to hundreds of thousands of expedient means to encourage him or her to be diligent without retrogression in order to obtain thousands of myriads of millions of unfathomable merits, both now and in the future.”’

“Here the Buddha tells Bodhisattva Samantavipula that in the future if he should see anyone reading or reciting this sutra, or even having a single, respectful thought of praise for its merits, then he should use whatever expedient means possible to urge that person to cultivate with great diligence and keep from retrogressing so that he or she can obtain unimaginable merits in his or her future lifetimes. And this is why I keep coming to Japan to expound this sutra; my hope is that you can listen to it and at least allow respect to grow within you. You should feel respect when you see a statue or image of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha; if you begin with that, then you will definitely obtain unfathomable merits in your future lives. We certainly are not practicing for this lifetime, because what happens now is the result of what we did in the past. Everything we do in this lifetime is for the future, so if we start acting correctly, we will set our future on a virtuous course, and fewer and fewer opportunities will arise for the evil effects of our actions to appear; eventually, they will even stop altogether.

“The sutra text goes on to say, ‘“Furthermore, O Samantavipula, if, in any future lifetime, any sentient beings should dream of demons, deities, or even beings in other forms sobbing and sighing or weeping and frightened, they should understand that these creatures were their parents, sisters, brothers, spouses, or other relatives one, ten, one hundred, or one thousand lifetimes ago, and that they are presently trapped in the Evil Realms without any hope whatsoever of being delivered by the power of good fortune.”’

“You might often dream of ghosts and deities trying to catch you. Actually, they aren’t necessarily those; they could be animals, and you will see them crying and sighing in sorrow. You might also dream that you feel very afraid at having seen them, and vice versa. All of these sorts of dreams come from the fact that your parents, siblings, spouses, family members, and so on from your past lives are still suffering in the Three Evil Realms. Why do we use the Dharma to transfer consciousness? It is because we do not know which of our family members from our past lives are still in the Hell Realm. Why do I hold the Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness each year? I do it because in each of your millions of past lives, you had parents, siblings, and other family members, and many of them are still trapped in the Three Evil Realms. If they do not have enough good fortune, and you do not have sufficient respect, then a single puja cannot liberate them all. Raise your hands if you have never had these sorts of dreams before. None of you is raising your hand, which means you have all had such nightmares, and that you still have family members in the Three Evil Realms.

“The sutra continues: ‘“They can only, in dreams, exhort their former blood relatives to resort to expedient methods to help them in their wish to escape from the Evil Realms.”’

“Why do they only speak to you, not others? It is because their genes are the same as yours. I once saw a newscast about a village in Scotland in which some 9,000-year-old remains had been found, and the DNA they contained could still be found among the village residents. This means the genes of those deceased had been passed down for nine millennia. Therefore, humans have more than just one lifetime; we have many, and many of our parents from our past lives are trapped in the Three Evil Realms. If I can resolve their suffering just by liberating them once then I wouldn’t need to perform the Dharma that many times. However, because I have not yet mastered the supernatural powers possessed by the Buddha, I do not know how many lifetimes you have lived. This is why I keep on delivering sentient beings; I cannot stop. So why do your ancestors seek you out? Apart from the fact that you share the same DNA, it is also because you owe them. Your parents in those past lives gave birth to you, after all. They cannot seek other people out, because no one else owes them. You owe a debt of gratitude to your parents for giving birth to you. This is why we often have bad dreams; they are either the result of your bad behavior, or because we still have parents, relatives, and children stuck in the Three Evil Realms. They can only seek you out because you possess the causal conditions for helping them to escape their plight.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘“O Samantavipula, with your miraculous power, you should command people having such dreams to recite this sutra themselves three or seven times wholeheartedly before images of the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, or ask others to do so on their behalf.”’

“In this section, the Buddha tells Bodhisattva Samantavipula to use his supernatural powers to ‘command people having such dreams’—meaning you and all of your relatives from your past lives. The next line is ‘…before images of the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas.’ If you have these dreams, then according to the Buddhist Canon, you cannot read the sutra until after you have observed the purifying precepts and performed an ablution. You also must be a vegetarian. The purifying precepts involve conducting an Eight Precepts Retreat. If you recite the sutra without having done that, your efforts will be fruitless. Performing an ablution means washing your body before going into retreat, and putting on clean clothes, though they do not need to be new. While conducting a Tantric retreat, you may not wear the clothing gifted by a widow; this is very serious. ‘Recite this sutra themselves’—on the day you are reciting the sutra, you must not make any other plans. This means you should not go to work after you finish reciting; doing so indicates a lack of wholeheartedness. Once you are done reciting the sutra, you should continue thinking and contemplating in a state of meditation. Only in this way will your sutra recital be effective. Now do you understand why so many people recite from the sutras yet do not obtain their desired results? So many of you come running here to listen to the Dharma, to see what you have not understood, but you cannot even comprehend the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. You think wholeheartedness is simply a matter of acting very sincerely, but it has its prerequisites.

“These include using good-quality incense. This means not using synthetic incense. Originally, in Tibet, incense was made from quality natural aromatics and wood. These days a lot of incense has emerged that is stuck together with adhesive and quick-dried. In ancient Tibet, incense was dried naturally beneath the sun. If you do not have quality incense, reciting the sutras is useless. Furthermore, you also need to have placed your offerings properly, and be sitting up straight in a very respectful manner. If you do not have a sutra stand, then hold the sutra up with both hands and enunciate each word and each line. Don’t read like you’re reciting a book or a novel. Only if you do all this the right way will you be reciting this sutra wholeheartedly. There is no mention in the sutra’s text that you absolutely have to sound a wooden fish; this is a Chinese custom. So why is there ambiguity in the sutras? The Buddha does not need to speak to Bodhisattvas so clearly, which is why your guru explains His words for you, based on the Buddhist Canon. You all have recited the sutras, then why have they not been effective for you? They have; they led you to seek me out. Reciting the sutras is indeed useful; the fact that many Japanese believers were able to participate in today’s puja is also a result of their having recited the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows in the past. Because they did not act in accordance with the Dharma, their recitations did not produce the desired effects, but they did enable these people to be attentive enough to participate in this puja and listen to my teachings on the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. The causes and effects involved are very subtle. ‘…Or ask others to do so on their behalf.’ This line is crucial; you do not necessarily have to hire a monastic to do this. As is written in this sutra, any good man or woman who has mastered the Ten Meritorious Acts will do.

“The sutra text reads, ‘“Then, those relatives in the Evil Realms, who appeared in their dreams, will gain deliverance and liberation at the conclusion of such repeated recitation of this sutra. Also, these ancestors will never again appear in the dreams of the living.”’

“Their being liberated like this would be very convenient, and if they can do it then they would not need me. However, who has succeeded in meeting the prerequisites I just described? Just about no one, so I have to keep on teaching and helping sentient beings. After reciting the sutra according to these conditions, they will stop having such nightmares. After you have participated in enough Chod Pujas, you stop having bad dreams, because I have liberated your ancestors, causing them to stop appearing. As you can see, it is quite simple.

“This section goes on to say, ‘“Furthermore, O Samantavipula, if, in any future lifetime, some lowly, mean folk—either maids or slaves, or some persons deprived of freedom but aware of their previous karma and wishing to repent—should wholeheartedly make obeisance before Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s image, and if they should recite His name about ten thousand times over a seven-day period at the end of their current lifetimes….”’

“Some people are in a lower stratum of society, either as slaves or servants or others without freedom. Those deprived of freedom are bound by certain conditions; social customs and laws have restricted them from doing certain things. This, however, does not refer to the relative lack of freedom imposed by parents on their children. ‘Aware of their previous karma’—These people should know that their lives are this way because of the evil karma they created in their past lives. They must understand that the only effective thing to do is to repent, and not by imploration. Repentance involves accepting all of the karmic retribution for your past actions. First you must admit to your evil behavior, and accept the karmic retribution it has led to; then you must repent, and vow never to create that evil karma again. After that, you should, with your aspiration in mind, make prostrations before Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and chant His name ten thousand times each day from one to seven days. These are the instructions to follow during an Eight Precepts Retreat which, in Tantra, additionally requires a guru to orally transmit the empowerment first before starting performing such retreat. This retreat must be done alone in a retreat hut, not with hundreds or thousands of others at a public venue.

“The sutra text continues: ‘“…Such people will always be reborn to positions of honor through thousands of myriads of reincarnations; moreover, they will never again have to endure the suffering of the Three Evil Realms.”’

“No matter how poor they are, and no matter how much they lack freedom, they do not need to fear, for they need only repent, accept all their karmic retribution, vow not to commit any evil ever again, make sincere prostrations before Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, and recite, in accordance with what is written in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. If they do so, for millions of lifetimes to come, they will certainly be reborn into families of wealth and position, and not even have to suffer in the Three Evil Realms.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘“Furthermore, O Samantavipula, if, in any future lifetime, to such people as ksatriyas, brahmans, elders, householders, or those in other clans or tribes in Jambudvipa, there should arrive a newborn baby—either a boy or a girl—and if the parents early on intone this unfathomable sutra and invoke the Bodhisattva’s name no less than ten thousand times, then this newborn baby boy or girl will be exonerated from any karmic transgressions of past lives, and will become liberated.”’

“Why is the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows important? It is because its lessons relate to our everyday lives. If you have nightmares, are poverty-stricken in this lifetime, et cetera, then this sutra tells you how to solve those issues. This section speaks of nobles, religious people, elders, lay practitioners, and members of other clans. ‘Other clans’ here means people of different races or nationalities from one’s own—for example, in ancient times, it was customary for marriage to only occur between people of the same last name or who followed the same religion. Within seven days of a child’s birth, if his or her parents chant Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s name together ten thousand times, then all of the baby’s evil karma from past lives will be resolved. This is the reason people implore me to bless their newborn babies within a week of their birth. A child being born into your home also has to do with your own past lives, so both parents should chant. Some people wish to have children, but are never able to; likewise, that has to do with not having formed connections—both good and bad—with sentient beings in their past lives. It’s okay if you do not have children. If you want kids, then refer to the Universal Gate Chapter of the Lotus Sutra, in which Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara teaches us methods toward that end.

“The sutra continues: ‘“…Happiness, a trouble-free existence, and a life of great length; and those reborn with good fortune shall, in turn, enjoy greatly increased happiness and longevity.”’

“Both parents must, within seven days, recite the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows and chant the Bodhisattva’s name ten thousand times together, and of course they and their child must all eat vegetarian. Those conditions having been met, this child will be easy to raise and will grow up healthy, and live longer than he or she otherwise would have. In addition, if the child is born with good fortune his or her happiness and longevity will increase.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Samantavipula, as for the sentient beings in any future lifetime, the first, eighth, fourteenth, fifteenth, eighteenth, twenty-third, twenty-fourth, twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth days of each month are the days when their offenses are to be judged and when the degree of severity of their retribution will be decided. If sentient beings in southern Jambudvipa create karma and commit evil acts whenever they move, rest, or cogitate, then how much worse are the sins committed and the karma created by those who indulge in killing, destroying, stealing, robbery, lust, lying, and hundreds of thousands of other such evil acts!”’

“The Buddha is so compassionate. India’s calendar is very similar to China’s in that they celebrate the first day of the month, second day of the month, and so on, all the way up to the thirtieth. From this it can be surmised that they, too, use a lunar calendar. Each month, the first, eighth, fourteenth, fifteenth, eighteenth, twenty-third, twenty-fourth, twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth days are days on which the evil acts of people will be gathered together and weighed, and the outcome will determine the karmic retribution that will be befallen on them in the future. The Buddha spoke here of all the thoughts and actions of humans on Earth. ‘The karma created’—Karma is kinetic energy from reincarnation. ‘The sin committed”—Evil acts happen when you do everything for your own sake. If you want to go out at night to eat king crab, this is an evil act; once the bluefin tuna hits the market, if you think about getting up tomorrow to go and buy some, you are likewise committing evil. When your every thought is for yourself, this is evil. ‘How much worse are the sins committed and the karma created by those who indulge in killing, destroying.’ Humanity’s karma from killing is very heavy. For example, a snake can eat a meal and then probably not have to eat again for ten or so days, but humans eat three meals a day of meat, and it still doesn’t satiate them. Humans take an enormous amount of life. Before, fish are caught singly and slowly by fishing rod but modern fishing nets can catch hundreds and thousands of fish at once, and when sashimi is being prepared, just a few pieces of the fish are cut into sections for consumption, while the rest of the fish is just thrown away. Besides killing in order to fill their bellies, many humans even kill for sport. Some have fun murdering civilians in times of war. This is an example of ‘indulging in killing, destroying.’ Unlike other animals, we do not just kill to satiate our hunger.

“The text continues: ‘“…Robbery, lust, lying, and hundreds of thousands of other such evil acts! However, should sentient beings be able to recite this sutra even just once before the images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, sages, and holy ones on each of these ten days of abstention, then no calamity will come within one hundred yojanas to the east, west, south, and north of their households.”’

“Even before we started practicing Buddhism, we committed many evil acts, including killing, theft, sexual misconduct, and false speech. On these ten days of observance, we will be judged for the totality of these evil acts, our karma weighed. Therefore, during the ten days of conducting the Eight Precepts Retreat, you should recite this sutra once very sincerely before all the images of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and holy ones; that is, before images of all gurus. I don’t know how long ‘one hundred yojanas’ is, but it probably means five hundred kilometers to the east, south, west, and north; within this area, no disasters will occur. Ever since I started performing the Dharma constantly, natural disasters have indeed grown fewer in number. I wouldn’t claim to have had this effect to a distance of one thousand yojanas, but certainly I have the effect shown within an area one hundred yojanas wide.

“The sutra goes on to say, ‘“The old and the young of their households will not enter the Evil Realms either in the present or in the future, for hundreds of thousands of lifetimes.”’

“As long as you are willing to do this, then your family members, young and old, will be kept from reincarnating in the Three Evil Realms for hundreds of thousands of lifetimes. That’s all the teachings I’ll bestow today.

“This sixth chapter of the sutra, which I’ve expounded today, is a very suitable and accessible Dharma method for most believers in that you can use it for self-benefit. A Rinpoche’s job is to perform Dharma methods that can benefit others. However, until you are able to do the same, you at least should begin by acting according to what is written in this sutra. Everything written in the sutras is true; if you recite it but it has no effect, that is because you have not met the conditions in accordance with the Dharma as spelled out by the sutra. For example, you are not just supposed to eat vegetarian only during the ten days of observance or the Avalokiteshvara observance; you should do so always, and conduct the Eight Precepts Retreat over that period of ten days. Some people say you should eat vegetarian on the first day and fifteenth of the month, but to them I say, ‘Alright, in that case I’ll just teach you or perform the Dharma for you during those two days and no more.’ If someone mentions ‘morning-meal observances,’ I suppose that means I can just show up to help you in the morning, and at night I can disappear. Even if you are unable to observe the Eight Precepts for those ten days, you at least should be able to keep the Five Precepts. You absolutely must do this for one third of every month, because those ten days are when all your evil acts will be collected and weighed. Therefore, the force from completely refraining from all evil acts is very powerful, so is the force from doing good deeds during these ten days. Your karma will be weighed during this time. If you are able to abstain from evil acts, then that will have an obvious effect on the severity of your karmic retribution in the future. I do not just keep the precepts during those ten days or any ten-day period. The Buddha, in His compassion, knew that people in future lifetimes would be very busy doing business and so many other things, so He specially told us that during these days in particular, we must not commit any evil acts. As for the evil acts you committed in the past, by refraining from doing evil during these ten days of observance and even reciting the sutra and practicing the Dharma, you can change your and your family’s future. That is not to say that abstaining from evil acts for these ten days gives you free reign to do evil all the other days, such as committing acts of killing like eating seafood. The Buddha’s words are very simple, as are the teachings His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang bestows upon me; what I do with them is up to me. By contrast, my teachings to you are rather wordy and detailed. If we refrain from committing evil during these ten days, and do good deeds instead, then we can very quickly transform our evil karma from past lives. This absolutely does not mean we can just be good for ten days and then indulge our desires for the rest of the month. The Buddha compassionately taught us this Dharma method, so you definitely should remember these ten days, and that their dates are counted by the lunar calendar, not the Georgian solar calendar popular today. When the Buddha was on Earth, Jesus still hadn’t been born, so dates counted from his time of death are different from those spoken by the Buddha; you must be sure not to confuse them.”

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the disciples in a performance of the Dharma Protector Achi and dedication, and then resumed his teachings.

“Today I have expounded the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, which is very suited to the cultivation of lay practitioners. Tomorrow I will continue to explain the contents of this sutra. It is very difficult to understand the profound meaning implicit in them unless you have a foundation of Tantra. In the afternoon I will perform the Acalanatha Fire Offering. Acalanatha is the leader of the Eight Diamond-Kings, and a very important yidam in Japan. In the sutras, the fire offering is called a homa; the term is a translation from Sanskrit. There are major homas, minor homas, and water homas; minor homas are the most common in Japan. A homa involves a practitioner visualizing, performing the ritual, and observing the precepts, and by way of the fire deities, items are given as offerings to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and as alms to sentient beings. It is not written in the sutras that a homa is to write your own name on a piece of wood and then tossing it into the fire, so this is merely a local custom; it is not done in Tibet, for example. Tomorrow I will perform a major homa. In Tibet, only a Rinpoche can perform this ritual. People who participate in a lot of fire-offering rituals over time can see a reduction in, and even a disappearance of, their evil karma, and being respectful toward the fire offering can bring sick people great benefits. Nowadays very few Rinpoches perform the fire offering, because its ritual is very complicated and performing this Dharma is very difficult.”

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said that everyone could leave the venue while he continued to perform the ritual. Upon the puja’s perfect completion, the disciples thanked His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for performing the Dharma and for his compassionate teachings.

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Updated on April 6, 2018