His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – May 29, 2016

At 9:30 in the morning, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche held The Puja Commemorating the Eighth Anniversary of the Inauguration of the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Kyoto, Japan. In the morning, the guru expounded the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, and in the afternoon he presided over the auspicious Acalanatha Fire Offering Puja.

“Today I will continue to expound the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. This sutra is very important for Earth-dwelling humans. For example, it teaches sick people how to alleviate their suffering, and how to take care of a newborn at home. Therefore, at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center, I hold and bless all newborn children. Kids who have received blessings are a lot more manageable; they don’t tend to drive their parents up the wall too much.

“Shakyamuni Buddha compassionately transmitted the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows to be passed down to this era of humanity so that we might gain a clear understanding of how to amend our behavior and, by extension, our future. We have accumulated a lot of evil karma over the course of many lifetimes, and in this one, we began eating meat as soon as we were in our mothers’ wombs. As we grew older, we continued to eat the flesh of sentient beings, and this by itself is enough to send us to the Hell Realm. According to what is recorded in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, in one of her lifetimes Ksitigarbha’s mother loved to eat meat and turtle eggs, thus committing many acts of killing—and when she died, she went to hell. These days sentient beings take killing and eating meat for granted, but a good deal of recent research in Western countries has shown that a meat diet is not necessarily nutritious; on the contrary, it causes one’s health to decline over time.

“Why do I still look so young and healthy, despite being nearly seventy years old? People who eat a lot of meat and have many afflictions tend to age more quickly. The day I began practicing Buddhism, I decided never to commit any further acts of killing. Physical health is part of our good fortune; when we get ill, or our health declines, it means we have nearly used it all up. Our good fortune comes from the offerings and alms we gave in our past lives, but like money, it can be exhausted. Therefore, in this lifetime we need to learn how to earn our good fortune back; only once we know that can our health improve a bit. This is based on the teachings of the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, which describe how humans can change their lives. You can’t change your life just by reading the words of the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, or by simply going over to a temple or shrine and tossing one or two hundred yen at it; you must actually believe those words. The mother of one of my disciples is a Buddhist, too, but she opened five restaurants that served meat. After taking refuge in me, her daughter told her that she would become unhealthy while running any business that engages in acts of killing. Hearing this, the mother decided, that very same day, to turn all five of those establishments into vegetarian restaurants.

“I have traveled all over the world, and can tell you that vegetarianism has become quite popular in the developed nations of Europe and North America. The fancier the restaurant, the more likely it is to serve vegetarian cuisine. However, because most vegetarian restaurants are so expensive, people without much money cannot afford to eat there; thus, poor people end up eating meat. It is the opposite in Eastern countries; in the past, in China, Japan, and Korea, only the nobility could afford to eat meat, and peasants had to go without it year-round except for on certain special occasions, when they could eat a tiny bit. These days Eastern nations are economically more developed, so people eat meat quite often. For example, before China’s economy was more developed, very few people there had such conditions as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Along with their increase in wealth, though, has come a rise in the frequency of these diseases. Vegetarianism is no longer the norm; eating meat has come to be seen as ordinary. People think vegetarians cannot get enough nutrients, and should therefore eat meat, but that is a misconception. I, by example, have flipped this notion on its head; when I was thirty-six years old, I began eating vegetarian, and now I am sixty-nine–and look how healthy I am! Many of the children at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Taiwan were raised vegetarian, even when they were still in the womb, and they have grown to be taller and stronger than other kids their age. They also do better in school, and are more obedient and filial. Because there are more meat-eaters than vegetarians, people don’t think there is anything remarkable about eating meat. Whether or not they will go to the Hell Realm after they die, they wouldn’t know; the most important thing for them is whether or not they are happy and can make money in the present.

“Since I started cultivating in 1995, I have helped many suffering sentient beings. People who have practiced in accordance with the Dharma in this lifetime will not suffer much at all in their last five years before death, and will pass away quite peacefully. Those who loved to eat meat while still alive, on the other hand, and who drank alcohol and committed acts of killing, will suffer their fill of mundane torments before they die. The point of Buddhist cultivation is not to make you strike it rich or find happiness; it is to allow you to get a handle on the situation when you have to face your death alone one day. You practice the Dharma in preparation for this moment. There is nothing passive about Buddhism. Everyone in every lifetime has different karma; you might be rich or you might be poor—but regardless of your position, power, financial situation, or the size of your family, you each will go through the same exact process at the time of your death. The only difference will lie in whether or not you have practiced Buddhism; this will affect how you die. Take my mother, for example: She was illiterate, and did not know how to make a vow; all she did was believe in me, and as a result she did not have to experience all that suffering.

“Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has a very deep causal connection with the people of Japan, and is worshiped by many here. Practically everywhere you look, you can find a stone statue of him. There is even one right near here; around the corner, there is a statue of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha carved in stone, and another not far away on the other side of the street. I find, however, that Japanese tend to worship him as an earth god or a local deity; they do not understand how important Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is to humanity, or how many things he can help us with. Practicing Buddhism does not involve blind adoration or superstition, nor should the Dharma be seen as an academic pursuit. Cultivation requires relying on yourself to put what you have learned into practice. Whoever you are, you are all humans; the Buddha does not discriminate between you. Previously there was mention of ‘different clans;’ no matter what nation or clan you hail from, reading the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows will be of use to you. That is the idea on which this phrase is based. I come to Japan to propagate the Dharma of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha because so many people here eat meat and commit acts of killing. Many of them would not come here to listen, because they aren’t willing to; some even reject this Dharma. However, Shakyamuni Buddha instructed Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha to look after the evil-doing sentient beings of Earth, so as a propagator of Buddhism, it is incumbent upon me to spread the word.

“The two chapters I’ve been expounding these two days are very suited to the cultivation of modern people such as ourselves. All you need to do is to act in accordance with their teachings; they are very simple, and do not involve too many complex activities, so you don’t need to spend a lot of time running from place to place making prostrations. They also don’t require that you douse your heads under a waterfall the way some people do; I don’t know what they are doing. As you would have gathered over these two days, the teachings contained in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows all have something to do with the lives we live. If you fail to see results, it is not that the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, or the sutra have lied to you; it is because you have acted without first meeting the prerequisites described in the sutra.”

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche resumed his elucidation of the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, beginning with Chapter Six: Tathagata’s Praises.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘“However, should sentient beings recite this sutra 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. Their elderly and young will never fall into the Evil Realms, either in this lifetime or in hundreds of thousands of future lives. Also, should they read this sutra just once during those ten days of abstention, then their households will, even in this lifetime, be protected from all unexpected illnesses and amply provided with clothing and food.”’

“The word ‘abstention’ here, in the ‘ten days of abstention,’ refers to the Eight Precepts Retreat. We ordinarily observe the precepts and practice the Ten Meritorious Acts, but before we began, we had already committed many evil acts. Do we have to repay the karmic debt we accrued from those acts? Of course we do. This is why Shakyamuni Buddha compassionately taught us a way to do so: Over the course of these ten days, the effects from the evil acts we have committed in this lifetime and throughout our past lives will come into bloom. If we commit any further evil during these ten days, then they will blossom quickly, as will the resulting karmic retribution. During this time you can conduct an Eight Precepts Retreat. Even if you cannot, if you can recite the sutras, it will be beneficial to you. This does not mean it is okay to only eat vegetarian and do good deeds during these ten days of abstention each month, and then resume eating meat and committing other evil acts during the remaining twenty. Even if a good deed could cancel out an evil act, twenty minus ten still leaves ten, not to mention that good and evil cannot cancel each other out. Only if you completely stop committing evil and only do good deeds—and a lot of them, so that your virtuous effects outweigh your evil ones—will you possibly be able to suppress the force of your evil karma. This was the reason my skin cancer went away; I had stopped committing evil, and was only doing good. Some people say such behavior would hamper doing business, but I have done business all over the world and never found it inconvenient in the least.

“During these ten days of abstention, you must reverently read the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows in front of images of your guru, the Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas. ‘Just once’ means completing the aforementioned things one time during these ten days. ‘No calamity will come within one hundred yojanas to the east, west, south, and north.’ This is the reason no major natural disasters have ever occurred in the vicinity of this Buddhist center. At the same time, members of your household, both old and young, will be protected from any unexpected calamity and incurable diseases. Incurable diseases originate from your actions in your past lives. Your household will be provided with sufficient food and clothing; additionally, in this lifetime and future ones, you and your family members will not fall into the Three Evil Realms.”

A Japanese believer dozed off during the puja, and was immediately scolded by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche: “If you want to sleep, go home. What causes people to nap in the middle of a puja? I’ll explain it to you right now. First of all, they have no respect; they either don’t like what the presiding guru is saying, or are not hearing what they want to hear, or don’t understand it, or think they already know it all. I have cultivated for decades, but even I wouldn’t dare say that I know it all—so what makes you think you do? If you have no respect, it means you do not make any offerings; as such, you will not accumulate the good fortune with which to strengthen your resolve to learn Buddhism. Another reason for falling asleep is that they do not take this puja seriously; if they do not see any importance in participating, then they naturally will feel like dozing off. If I were to tell you that I’ll give you each NT$10 million if you sit still and participate attentively in this puja, do you think you’ll fall asleep? A third reason is that they are unhealthy; eating meat has caused them to have poor circulation and drained their qi, so they feel sleepy. A lot of Buddhist centers don’t care about their attendees falling asleep, but I see it as a very big deal, because if you fall asleep during a puja, you will fall into the Animal Realm. Given that you have obtained some good fortune from attending the puja, however, you will be reborn as someone’s pet—perhaps carried around as someone’s dog-son or cat-daughter. Mark my words. As you know, dogs sleep all day, sometimes twenty hours a day. If you disdain listening to a guru speak the Dharma, then you will come back as a cat; as you might have noticed, cats tend to ignore people.

“I’m guessing you Japanese believers have never seen such a stern guru as I, right? I propagate the Dharma neither for fame nor profit, so I behave and teach in strict accordance with what is written in the sutras. This is the reason I don’t have many followers and disciples in Japan. I earn an income from running my own business; I would never use Buddhism to make money. Also, I am quite well-known in Taiwan, so I don’t need to make a name for myself again here in Japan. You Japanese believers should therefore not assume that I require your attendance; it is only because you are willing to listen to the Dharma that I am drawing from all I have learned to speak to you. I teach according to my guru’s teachings, what is written in the sutras, and what I have experienced through cultivation. If you have no respect, you are welcome to leave—and you should not flip the pages of the sutra casually like that ever again.

“The sutra text reads, ‘“Therefore, O Samantavipula, you should be aware that such unspeakable hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of beneficial things are accomplished by virtue of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s great, majestic, miraculous power. The sentient beings in Jambudvipa have very strong causal connections with this Mahasattva.”’

“The word ‘unspeakable’ here does not mean it cannot or should not be spoken; rather, it means that it cannot be completely described using any human language. It is not some sort of secret. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s powers and merits are so awe-inspiring and vast that they are beyond the limits of human comprehension. The five thousand or so characters used on a daily basis by Chinese do quite a good job of describing things, but even those are insufficient to clearly explain Ksitigarbha’s powers and merits. ‘Unspeakable hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of beneficial things are accomplished by virtue of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s great, majestic, miraculous power.’ This means that the infinite awe-inspiring, supernatural powers used by Ksitigarbha to help sentient beings are indescribable. ‘Sentient beings in Jambudvipa’ refers to all sentient beings on Earth, including those in the Hell, Animal, Ghost, Human, and Heaven Realms, all of which exist here on Earth. They ‘have very strong causal connections with this Mahasattva.’ The sentient beings of Earth have a profound affinity with Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha; our causal connection with him is especially strong and great. Have we ever had any contact with Ksitigarbha in our past lives? If we have, then we will receive the Bodhisattva’s help throughout all subsequent lifetimes. These Japanese believers, for example, certainly came in contact with Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha in their past lives. Lacking a causal connection means that any sentient beings who never wished or prayed for help from Ksitigarbha in their past lives would not have the condition necessary to form a connection with him even if he were standing right in front of them. Causal conditions are two-sided. The Bodhisattva’s aspiration is to help sentient beings, but whether or not you accept this assistance is up to you. Therein lies the reason you must listen to the Dharma with respect: If you do not, it means you do not accept it, and therefore lack the prerequisite causal condition. In that case, all you can do is listen casually and obtain a little bit of good fortune.

“The text goes on to say, ‘“Those sentient beings, upon hearing this Bodhisattva’s name, seeing His image, or even just listening to three words, five words, one sentence, or a single verse of this sutra will enjoy extraordinarily wonderful happiness in this lifetime and gain the dignity of being reborn in honorable and noble families for hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of lifetimes into the future.”’

“This section describes what is gained by Earthly sentient beings that have heard Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s name, seen His image, or even just listened to a few words, a line, or a single verse of the sutra. If you can listen to the sutra with a respectful mindset, then you can obtain ‘extraordinarily wonderful happiness’—meaning that calamities and other bad things will gradually stop happening to you. In addition, you will be respected for hundreds of thousands of lifetimes. The word ‘dignity’ here does not mean you will look very pretty or handsome; it means people will feel respect for you. ‘Being reborn in honorable and noble families’ doesn’t necessarily refer to wealthy households; it means you will be reborn in a household that does a lot of good deeds, thereby worthy of other people’s esteem. That would be rather unlikely if you are reborn into a butcher’s family. If you were reborn into a household of very low status, you would not have any opportunities to listen to the Dharma. Think about it: If a pair of parents are worthy of respect, then any sons or daughters born into their household will behave properly too. As such, they will naturally be esteemed by others.

“The sutra continues: ‘At that time, Bodhisattva Samantavipula, having heard the Buddha, as well as the Tathagata’s praises of and commendations for Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, knelt before the Buddha with palms joined and addressed Him, saying, “O World Honored One, I have long known that this Mahasattva possesses such inconceivable miraculous power and great capacity for fulfilling vows. However, for the benefit of all sentient beings in the future, so that they may also be aware….”’

“The Buddha would never bestow praise casually. From 1983, when I first started learning Buddhism from His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, all the way up until the year 2000, not once did my guru ever publicly praise me, for fear that I might become arrogant. Later, His Holiness once mentioned that I achieved attainment naturally through daily cultivation. These words of praise were not bestowed because I respected him, had made offerings to him, and so on, but because he could see that all along, my intentions and actions had had to do with benefiting sentient beings. If Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s actions had not been to help sentient beings, then the Buddha would never have praised him even if Ksitigarbha had made daily prostrations to the Buddha.

“The word ‘knelt’ here refers to the posture in which you all went down on your right knee yesterday in supplication to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. ‘Inconceivable’ means no human language can describe it. Only Bodhisattvas of the Tenth Ground or higher can be called Mahasattvas, because they have attained the level of a Bodhisattva’s Dharmakaya. ‘…And great capacity for fulfilling vows. However, for the benefit of all sentient beings in the future, so that they may also be aware….’ This refers to the enormous power of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s vows and aspiration. For the sake of future generations of sentient beings, He will speak of all things that are beneficial to them.

“The text reads, ‘“…and only for such a purpose, I ask this final question with head bowed.”’

“‘I ask this final question with head bowed’—this is an extremely respectful manner of proffering the top of one’s head to receive an answer. In India or Tibet, for example, some people, upon seeing me, touch my feet with their hands and then touch their hands to their hearts. This is a gesture of absolute reverence. Obviously, asking a question ‘with head bowed’ in this manner is very important. Doing so means ‘I will receive the Buddha’s counsel with the utmost respect.’ It signifies complete acceptance, without clinging to one’s own ideas. None of you would be able to do this; you all just choose to listen what you like to hear, or think you have already listened to all of your guru’s teachings. Otherwise, you compare and contrast what I am saying with what you have heard before, and hope that I will say what you want to say. All such thoughts show you are not willing to proffer the top of your head in acceptance of the guru’s teachings—meaning, a lack of respect—and by extension, that you lack in making any offerings; as a result, you won’t accumulate any good fortune. Without good fortune, you cannot possible amend your attitude toward your Buddhist practice. I did not write this sutra; it contains the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. If you won’t even listen to Him, then whom will you listen to? The current teacher of Buddhism is Shakyamuni Buddha. If you won’t even heed the Buddha’s advice, then you might as well stop attending these pujas.

“Buddhism is very scientific. I once told a disciple who was a doctor that the weekly changes undergone by a fetus in its mother’s womb are recorded in great detail in the Avatamsaka Sutra for the purpose of making pregnant women carefully monitoring their unborn babies’ movements. Upon hearing about this, the doctor-disciple praised that sutra for being more meticulous even than what is taught in medical school. Two thousand years ago, in the Buddha’s era, there were no medical instruments or scanners, and it was impossible to find a pregnant woman every week, cut open her belly, and observe what was happening or make observations at intervals. Nevertheless, even that long ago, the Buddha was able to bestow such detailed teachings on the subject. Thus, Buddhism is very scientific. Just because we cannot see something does not mean it doesn’t exist. Through the evolution of human history, it has been proved that what the Buddha said in the sutras were not mere stories; everything He said was the truth.

“I have told you before that you must listen; that exhortation was based on these lines. You cannot simply choose what you want to hear. When you are listening to the Dharma, and everything spoken by your guru is based on what is written in the sutras—without a single word or sentence straying from the original meaning—then you should listen ‘with head bowed.’

“In the sutra it is written, ‘“Yes, indeed, O World Honored One, in order that they may honor and accept it, how shall this sutra be designated and how shall we circulate it?” The Buddha told Samantavipula, “There are three names for this Sutra. One is The Sutra of Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. Another is The Sutra of Ksitigarbha’s Own Deeds. Still another is The Sutra of Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows and Power. Since this Bodhisattva really did take great and profoundly serious vows vast, long kalpas ago for the benefit of all sentient beings, you therefore should circulate it in accordance with His wishes.” Having heard this, Samantavipula reverently made obeisance with palms joined, and withdrew.’

“Here the Buddha was addressing Bodhisattva Samantavipula. From the name of a sutra one can see which Buddha or Bodhisattva it introduces, which things to do with the Buddha are being presented, what he said, and what he experienced through cultivation. The word ‘sutra’ has two meanings: One is ‘what he said,’ and the other is ‘what he experienced from cultivation.’ This sutra has three names; it is called the Sutra of Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows or the Sutra of Ksitigarbha’s Own Deeds if you want to cultivate the Dharma of Ksitigarbha by emulating all of the Bodhisattva’s actions as described in its pages. The other name, the Sutra of Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows and Power, is used to emphasize the power of his fundamental vow ‘not to attain Buddhahood unless and until all the hells are empty.’ The words, ‘vast, long kalpas ago,’ indicate that this happened many lifetimes in the past, and ever since, Ksitigarbha has kept this great vow to benefit sentient beings, and has never given up. Sentient beings are infinite in number, so he has had to keep making this vow over and over—unlike you, who think that it is enough just to make a vow once.

“‘You, therefore, should circulate it in accordance with his wishes.’ Your word is your vow; once you have made it, you must act on it. ‘Having heard this, Samantavipula reverently made obeisance with palms joined, and withdrew.’ After listening, Bodhisattva Samantavipula clasped his palms together and withdrew. Whenever you leave a temple, Buddhist center, or your guru’s presence, you should withdraw respectfully with palms clasped; you shouldn’t just turn around and rush out the door.”

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued expounding the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows with an explanation of Chapter Seven: Benefitting the Living and the Dead.

“The sutra text reads, ‘At that time, Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Ksitigarbha addressed the Buddha, saying, “O World Honored One, I see that every thought generated by the sentient beings in Jambudvipa leads to evil acts.”’

“Ksitigarbha is a Mahasattva, which is a great Bodhisattva of at least the Tenth Ground. The word ‘see’ in this section does not refer to looking with ordinary eyes; Bodhisattvas of the Tenth Ground or higher are in possession of Dharma eyes—the Buddha’s eyes—and have begun to learn how to use them. In terms of supernaturah vision, the Buddha’s eyes are the most potent, and can see everything in the entire universe, down to the tiniest detail. This sort of vision is not the same as what we see with our eyes; it involves observing all phenomena from a samadhi state and with one’s Buddha nature. Dharma eyes see far more than the mere activities of a single ethnic group, nation, or society. When someone with this vision enters samadhi, he can see every sentient being on Earth. You might not be able to comprehend this sort of experience, but a practitioner would understand at first sight. I have experienced this myself. These are not things that can be sensed or detected with the ears or eyes, nor can they be seen on mobile phones or television; they are phenomena that are only revealed when one is in samadhi.

“With every thought generated by sentient beings on Earth, billions of thoughts instantly arise. People never stop thinking, though they often are unconscious of their thoughts. Even during sado (tea ceremony), when someone might seem to be deep in concentration, he or she still has a thought: The hope that everyone will say the tea brewed tastes delicious. The words, ‘every thought generated,’ refers to using your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness to receive all external phenomena and changes that happen to your internal organs. Your mind is elevated by these senses. It will begin to waver; though the mind’s original state is one of stillness, what you sense with your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness will lift your mind up and cause it to start moving. People often say they are bored and have nothing to do because they are used to movement. When their minds stop moving, therefore, they feel restless, and a desire to find something to do. They then will look for someone to go out drinking with and so on. You might be someone who enjoys silence, but just because it’s quiet doesn’t mean your mind is motionless and devoid of thought. Only those who like the joy that comes from meditation understand that movements of the mind are a sort of affliction. Most people haven’t learned this yet; they assume that thoughts are what people should produce.

“In 2007, while conducting a retreat 4,500 meters above sea level on Lapchi Snow Mountain, I learned that the joy you feel while in a state of samadhi is indescribably more profound than the sort of happiness you can find in the mundane world. This state can only be experienced through cultivation. You might not be able to yet, but believe me, it is true. Everything I am telling you was spoken by a Mahasattva, not just some ordinary person. These lines, ‘every thought generated… leads to evil acts,’ are very severe. If you take a day to sit in quiet contemplation for a moment, you will find that every one of your thoughts is for your own sake. Why is this evil? From the point of view of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, only thinking about oneself results in harm to other sentient beings. For example, if the thought dawns on you that crab season has arrived, and you go out to eat some, then several crabs will die because of you. Likewise, the desire to eat some tuna in toro season is also evil. If you stop eating those fish, then who will go out and catch them anymore? Even if you sacrifice your life for a group, and fight for it, aren’t you still going to have to defeat your opponent? When you defeat another nation, occupy its territory, and pillage its possessions, aren’t these evil acts? Is it alright for others to take your family and your country from you? No, it is not; doing so would be selfish of them, and that is evil. If you look at history, you’ll see that occupations of others’ territory never last very long; many natural disasters and other calamities always occur. Each of our thoughts is bent toward improving our lives, but that makes us harm others, whether intentionally or not. This sort of thing happens more frequently than you might imagine.

“The text goes on to say, ‘“When, by chance, they happen to gain some good benefits, they often retrogress from their initial intentions. Upon encountering evil conditions, their evil thoughts accumulate one after another.”’

“You have aspired to come here and listen to the Dharma. When your mind moves, and you think of yourself, the evil karma produced puts distance between you and the benefits of being good, and then your original aspiration to practice Buddhism diminishes. This happens to roughly 99.9% of people. As soon as there is a conflict with your personal gains, you will quickly retrogress and stop practicing. Furthermore, when you encounter another evil condition, your thoughts of retrogression will be reinforced, and then you will keep on thinking. What are evil conditions? I’ll tell you a little story: Thirty years ago, when I had just taken refuge and vowed to keep the Five Precepts, I was about to sign a business contract with a client. The amount we’d agreed to was NT$10 million, which three decades ago was quite a large sum! The client placed a glass of alcohol in front of me and said he wouldn’t sign the contract unless I drank it down. I didn’t, though, because I couldn’t break my vows for the sake of money. The upshot was that this actually made the client see that I was a man of principle who would never harm him for my own benefit, so he went ahead and signed.

“I’ll give another example: A manager in my company was negotiating a five-year business deal, but when it came time to sign the contract, the other party suddenly upped the asking price by 10%, and then asked to transfer the extra money over to an offshore bank account. Clearly, their intention was to take an additional 10% of sales as a commission. You would certainly have gone ahead with the deal, because it was promising to be a very lucrative venture; you would think this extra 10% of the money would not be received by you anyway, so it was no big deal. I refused to let my manager sign the deal, though, because how could I condone such avarice when I am constantly teaching sentient beings not to be greedy? My decision turned out to be the right one, too, because later, that country’s new administration ended up cracking down on nefarious businesses. If I had agreed to that deal, there’s no telling what sort of mess I’d be in now. The Dharma can protect you; if you understand cause and effect, you can reduce the occurrence of things that shouldn’t happen. When you come across evil condition, people will try to coerce you by force or by profits into breaking the precepts. I have encountered many such examples, but most people aren’t able to adhere to their precepts.

“The sutra continues: ‘“They act like someone plodding along a muddy road with a heavy load of rocks that is growing more and more burdensome, causing him to sink deeper into the mud with every step. If he were to encounter some virtuous mentor, this friend no doubt would lend a hand or take over his burden entirely. Being very powerful, the friend would also prop up and help the overburdened one, advising him to keep his steps steady and firm, or to reach a safer, more level road, avoid any bad paths, and refrain from retracing his steps.”’

“Because you always think about personal gains, you will commit evil acts. Even if you obtain some gains up front, the karmic retribution for your actions will weigh you down as though you are walking through mud while carrying a heavy load of rocks. You will be trapped, and your feet will gradually sink deeper and deeper into the mud. You might, by chance, meet a virtuous mentor—this refers to a meritorious guru. Virtuous mentors are practitioners who possess a complete understanding of the Dharma, and who can use it to benefit sentient beings. ‘This friend no doubt would lend a hand’—meaning, the virtuous mentor would exchange his virtuousness for your vices so that you could realize how to stop committing evil and begin to do good, not unlike how a guru sacrifices himself to inspire you. This in turn begins to lighten your load, and helps all of the sentient beings you have harmed throughout your past lives to become liberated. Gurus must maintain their health, or else they won’t be strong enough to benefit sentient beings. ‘Or take over his burden entirely’—or your guru might carry your entire burden for you. A virtuous mentor possesses great strength, originating from his good fortune and wisdom; this is how he is able to help you. Similarly, impoverished people need assistance from the wealthy in order to escape hardship. Even if they do not give financial assistance to the poor, rich people can at least provide them with the means to make a living. However, you should not dump everything on your guru to take care of for you. ‘This friend no doubt would lend a hand or take over his burden entirely.’ This also means that a compassionate virtuous mentor can stop the sentient beings you harmed in your past lives from trying to collect the debt you owe them. In other words, your guru tells them to put off their debt collection so that you have time enough to earn what you owe them.

“If you meet a practitioner who has attained fruition and can assist you by steadying your steps and either lightening your load or shouldering it for you completely, then you will be able to leave the abyss of evil karma and never fall into it again. Take this Japanese believer, for example, who was about to fall asleep just now. I berated him in order to assist him. It’s like if you owe money and your creditor is on your doorstep, and then suddenly someone comes up and speaks to him on your behalf, convincing him to give you time to make the money and guaranteeing that you will pay it back. Even though such a friend would not be able to pay the money for you, he can at least help you pay off some interest. This is the sort of arbitration a guru does. First he helps you by blocking your karmic creditors, but you are the one who has to work hard to earn the money you owe them. If you continue to be unwilling to work hard for it, and your karmic creditors see this, then no efforts by your guru will be able to keep them from getting at you.

“‘This friend would also prop up and help the overburdened one.’ Your guru will do this for you. For example, the scolding I gave that person who was falling asleep in the middle of the puja a little while ago was a way of helping him. Another example is when you have done some things that are not in accordance with the Dharma, your guru will point out your mistakes for you; this, too, is a form of assistance. ‘Advising him to keep his steps steady and firm’—urging him to stand firm on the path to virtue, so that he does not stray. ‘Or to reach a safer, more level road’—this describes genuinely leaving the abyss of evil behind. Only those who completely stop committing evil, and only do good, can reach such flat ground. If you do evil, and your feet get stuck in the mud but you act like nothing has happened, then you will be trapped there through many lifetimes. Only if you feel very uncomfortable in this abyss and want to escape it will your guru be able to help you. If you have no intention of leaving it whatsoever, he cannot assist you. Similarly, only if you want to leave reincarnation and all of its suffering and afflictions will your guru be able to lighten your load or carry it for you. ‘Avoid any bad paths and refrain from retracing his steps’—such a virtuous mentor can help by stopping you from taking the path back to reincarnation. It won’t work if the virtuous mentor is not strict, just like a lenient teacher cannot produce good students. If you think you can just come here to listen to the Dharma and then do as you please, you are wrong. My job is to help you from returning to that unvirtuous path, so I will do everything within my power to keep you from falling back into reincarnation.

“The text reads, ‘“O World Honored One, sentient beings who practice evil may begin by performing only one small evil act which, if not controlled and stopped, eventually grows until it is measureless.”’

“They ‘begin by performing only one small evil act which, if not controlled and stopped, eventually grows until it is measureless.’ These two lines are very important. They mean that from little things, big things grow; even the smallest transgressions accumulate to become major vices. Minor good deeds accumulate, too. No one starts out a murderer or con artist; everyone begins with a few minor crimes. For example, you might see a small item and decide to pilfer it, or get water all over the floor of someone’s bathroom and not clean it up. This is selfish.

“Yesterday, for example, those of you who visited the male restroom attached to the restaurant actually left the countertop completely drenched and a piece of toilet paper on the floor, and not one of you bothered to pick it up. You really have absolutely no sense of civic duty; after leaving everything a complete mess, you wait for others to clean it up for you. Do you think you can do whatever you want? You are utterly shameless. Would you act like this in your own homes? Wouldn’t you take a moment to wipe up after yourselves? With the toilet paper on the floor, when I went in there I had to pick it up. With such behavior, how dare you claim to be Buddhist practitioners? You have no right whatsoever! People in Japan are a bit better in this area than people in Taiwan; Japanese have a solid sense of social responsibility. As you’ll notice, public places in Japan are all spotless; the toilets at every rest area are very clean for the convenience of those wishing to use them. This sense of civic duty is the reason this country has been able to recover so quickly from so many disasters. Yesterday no one but you disciples were at that Japanese restaurant, so it was definitely you who made the mess. Your selfishness, lack of social responsibility, and refusal to care about who uses the facilities after you are apparent in the little things you do. Selfish people are bound to commit evil, because they only think about their own benefit without regard for anyone else. As such, they ultimately will harm sentient beings.

“If you get used to committing minor evil acts, you will eventually graduate to committing major ones, so don’t think it’s not important. This section speaks about this problem quite clearly; sentient beings that are in the habit of committing evil all started out with very small transgressions which slowly accumulated until they grew countless and became enormous piles of evil.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘“When these sentient beings with such bad habits are at the ends of their lives, their parents or other relatives should, advisedly, accumulate good fortune for them as a provision to urge them forward along the path ahead. This can be done by hanging either banners or canopies, and by burning oil lamps….”’

“Don’t assume that you’ll be fine just because you don’t normally commit any major evil acts or have never been to jail, killed anyone, or committed any illegal activities in this lifetime. You have grown accustomed to engaging in minor acts of evil on a daily basis, and they have added up to an immeasurable amount. When sentient beings with such evil habits are near death, their parents or other family members should begin to accumulate good fortune for them. This means that you won’t be able to die even if you want to, and prior to passing away, you will have to suffer from all manner of illnesses and pain. All the little evil habits you have formed day to day will slowly accumulate until you have no more good fortune left at the end of your life. This means that bad things will happen to you, such as your family refusing to help you, being forced to undergo surgery when you shouldn’t, and so on.

“‘…As a provision to urge them forward along the path ahead. This can be done by hanging either banners or canopies, and by burning oil lamps.’ Strictly speaking, you should do these things for anyone in your family who is about to die and who had never practiced Buddhism, nor had been supervised by a guru. Only by providing the deceased with the resources of good fortune can you light their way to rebirth and prevent them from reincarnating in the Three Evil Realms. This section mentions hanging banners and coverings and lighting oil lamps. Such banners and coverings are not ordinary cloths; they refer to flags and covers used when making offerings to the Buddha. If the Buddha meant any sort of lights, He would not have said the word ‘oil’—so electric or LED lights won’t do. Oil lamps have to be used, because they are specifically mentioned here. Everything the Buddha says has meaning behind it. With His vast supernatural powers the Buddha knows all about the future, yet He did not say we should use LED lights. When you light an oil lamp, the burning of its oil produces smoke and some other elements. As these diffuse through the air, they act as alms to feed sentient beings that can eat these elements. Some Dharma protectors require the use of oil lamps too when we make offerings to them. However, you should not use oil that comes from the fat of cattle, pigs, horses, or ducks; you should only use vegetable oil. You may use yak butter, because it is made from yak milk, and therefore does not take the animal’s life. The oil from cattle that I just mentioned is not the same as the butter we usually eat; rather, it is made from fat extracted from the body of a slaughtered cow. This is different from milk butter. You may only use oil that has not been produced by killing any sentient beings.

“The sutra text reads, ‘“…or by reading and reciting venerated sutras, or by displaying images of Buddhas and other holy ones, or even by invoking the names of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Pratyekabuddhas. When one name or title reaches the ears of the dying one, and is accepted into his or her consciousness….”’

“The dying one’s family members should continuously recite this sutra, as long as they can; they shouldn’t just read through it once. They should start reciting before he or she stops breathing. ‘Or by displaying images of Buddhas and other holy ones, or even by invoking the names of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Pratyekabuddhas.’ They should provide images of any Buddha or Bodhisattva, and a photo of the guru, and even chant the sacred titles of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Pratyekabuddhas. A Pratyekabuddha refers to a practitioner who attained fruition while he or she was still alive. ‘One name or title’ means that when the family members are chanting, they should not mix together all the names of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, for example, chanting like this: ‘KsitigarbhaAvalokiteshvaraMaitreya.’ Instead they should chant them each separately, at least a thousand times before moving on to the next one. ‘Reaches the ears of the dying one’ means you should chant loudly besides him or her. ‘And is accepted into his or her consciousness’—there are two ways of explaining this. One is that they should not wait until after the dying one has passed away; they should start chanting while he or she is still alive. The other explanation is that it is very important for the family members to chant when the dying one stops breathing, and while his or her consciousness is still in the body—especially while his or her original, pure Dharma nature is still present—because only then can they help the deceased accumulate good fortune.

“The text goes on to say, ‘“…even though such a sentient being, due to the effects of the evil karma he or she produced, will certainly fall into one of the Evil Realms—nevertheless, because of the sacred conditions which his or her family members have cultivated, the deceased will be entirely exonerated from all evil acts.”’

“The evil karma these sentient beings have created, as well as the resulting karmic retribution, should send them into the Three Evil Realms, but that won’t happen if their family members have performed the aforementioned actions. ‘The deceased will be entirely exonerated from all evil acts’—all their evil karma will disappear—unless the deceased has committed any of the Five Uninterrupted Evil Acts such as matricide, patricide, killing an arhat, and so on.

“I had never read this section before, but it is the same as what I have taught. When a person passes away, it is best if his or her parents or other family members come to chant for the deceased, because they will do it with the most sincerity. Nowhere in the sutras is there mention of sutra recitation groups. If you are not sincere, then your chanting and reciting will be useless. If you are thinking about how much money you will make from performing recitation assistance, then your attitude is insincere. I am of course always sincere whenever I chant for the deceased. I have often spoken to you about this, so as you can see, my teachings all have a basis in something.

“I forget whom I helped last time; I helped others over the past couple of days, too, but as it happened they all passed away while I was at the airport.

“The sutra continues: ‘“Furthermore, it is recommended that many good deeds be performed by the living during the seven-day period just after this sentient being’s death, the force of which will permanently distance the deceased from all Evil Realms and enable him or her to be reborn as a human being or a deva in order to enjoy extraordinarily wonderful bliss….”’

“The previous section was about when a person is about to die. Given current advances in medicine, doctors will tell you when your loved ones are close to dying; that is when you should begin doing what have been described before. This other section is about what to do after the deceased has already passed away.

“The ‘the seven-day period just after this sentient being’s death’ mentioned in this section actually means seven days a week for seven weeks, or forty-nine days. During this period, the deceased will wake up every seven days. Why the number ‘seven’? In the Surangama Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha said that in addition to the Six Realms, there is actually an Immortal Realm. It lies between the Heaven Realm and the realm of Bodhisattvas, and in Tibetan Buddhism, it is where the Dakinis and Dakas reside. Why did Shakyamuni Buddha take seven steps as soon as He was born with each step on a lotus blossom? Shakyamuni Buddha came to liberate the Seven Realms. Another reason has to do with the internal structure of the bodies of all sentient beings—including those in the Animal, Hungry Ghost, and the others of the Six Realms. As for humans, our bodies’ blood and cells complete a cycle once every seven days.” Just then a doctor-disciple reported that this was indeed the case. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued bestowing teachings: “The human body contains seven chakras, and your qi and blood complete a cycle through them once every seven days. If the deceased did any great good deeds while still alive, then as soon as they stop breathing, their consciousness will leave their bodies and travel upward to the Buddha’s Land. If the deceased committed any major evil acts in this lifetime, however, then after they stop breathing their consciousness will go downward to the Hell Realm instead. For most people, their consciousness does not formally reincarnate until after those forty-nine days are up. From a Tantric standpoint, after the deceased stops breathing and goes through two processes, he or she will enter a state that is similar to sleep. Every seven days the deceased will wake up, and the first thing he or she will want to do is to return to the place the deceased is most fond of. The folk saying that the deceased return home every seven days is actually true.

“Every seven days the deceased will wake up. From a Tantric point of view, this means the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will appear before the deceased to receive and guide him or her during these times. If the deceased practiced Buddhism while still alive, and remembers clearly what the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and guru look like, then when They appear every seven days, the deceased will follow Them, and will thus be kept from falling into the Three Evil Realms. If you continue to help your deceased loved ones by engaging in Buddhist activities every seven days, then they will know of this and become very grateful. If you do not, however, then they will grow angry. Of course, if your family members are liberated by my performance of the Phowa, then you don’t have to do these things every seven days, because your loved ones will have already gone to the Pure Land or the Heaven Realm. However, you still may recite the sutras for them every seven days, because it can help them to accumulate good fortune in the Pure Land more rapidly, thereby shortening the time it takes them to attain Buddhahood.

“The word ‘many’ in ‘many good deeds be performed’ in this section does not mean you should travel all over the place to conduct a heap of Buddhist activities or light a lot of lamps; it means you should do all the good deeds spoken of by the Buddha, including making offerings, giving alms, and keeping the precepts. These actions ‘will permanently distance the deceased from all Evil Realms.’ If you recite the sutras for the deceased prior to his or her death, as well as every seven days afterward, then whether or not this sentient being continues to reincarnate, at least he or she will be able to avoid the Three Evil Realms ever afterward. Thus, you shouldn’t assume that since your deceased loved ones have been liberated they would have nothing to do with you anymore; it is still your responsibility to continue helping them. ‘And enable him or her to be reborn as a human being or a deva in order to enjoy extraordinarily wonderful bliss’. This does not mean being reborn in the Pure Land. Despite all of the evil acts you have committed, the most important of the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ vows is to not let you fall into the Three Evil Realms. For example, when you seek an audience with me on behalf of your deceased family member and I tell you that as long as you heed my advice, I guarantee that he or she will not fall into the Three Evil Realms, this is what I am basing that on. To ‘enjoy extraordinarily wonderful bliss’ means the deceased will definitely be able to practice Buddhism in his or her future lives.

“The text reads, ‘“…and bring, as well, countless benefits to his or her living relatives. Now, therefore, in the presence of the Buddha, the World Honored One, and the devas, nagas, others of the eight groups of beings, non-humans, and so on, I advise all sentient beings in Jambudvipa to be careful not to commit acts of killing or destroying or to create any other evil conditions during the days immediately following someone’s death….”’

“If you do these things for the deceased, then even family members who are still living will benefit greatly. ‘Non-humans and so on’ refers to sentient beings of the Ghost Realm. Some of you might see some deceased relatives who have come looking for you, with frowning expressions on their faces, and that is because they are trying to get you to help them. When people are on their deathbeds, you absolutely must not allow them to commit acts of killing. Some people say that when your loved ones are near death you should let them drink some chicken soup or eat steak, in order to fulfill their final wishes. Who among you did this, before you began learning Buddhism? Raise your hands.” Some of the attendees raised their hands. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said, “Were they able to finish their meal? No. They often take a bite or two and then stop eating. However, in feeding them meat, you have helped them to commit an act of killing. You absolutely must not do this. Even if your dying loved ones lose their temper at you, you still must not feed them such things. Don’t bring them minced pork rice or tuna just because they used to love eating those things and you want to honor their wishes; doing so will cause them to die in utter agony.

“‘Or to create any other evil conditions.’ This is very broad, and includes profiting from funerals, doing things that go against the Dharma, fighting for inheritance with your siblings, suing them, and so on.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘“….by worshipping or offering sacrifice to ghosts and deities or by seeking help from monsters and goblins. And why? It is because such killing and slaughtering committed, such worship performed, or such sacrifice offered would not provide even an iota of force to benefit the deceased, and would instead entangle him or her with even more evil karma, thus weighing the deceased down even further.”’

“When a person is about to die, you should not worship ghosts or deities or implore them to keep your loved one alive; doing so is useless. Ghosts and deities should not be worshiped, because they themselves are unable to escape reincarnation. When you worship them, therefore, it actually does the deceased no good at all. On the contrary, such worship of ghosts, deities, monsters, and goblins will just cause them to lead your deceased loved ones astray and adopt them into their retinue to follow those creatures in their continued evil pursuits. ‘And why? It is because such killing and slaughtering committed, such worship performed, or such sacrifice offered would not provide even an iota of force….’ If you think feeding your loved ones meat on their deathbeds or worshiping ghosts and deities on their behalf will help them even one little bit, you are wrong. Not only with such actions not benefit the deceased, but they will actually add to their already weighty evil conditions. Some people think they are helping patients about to die by slaughtering chickens and so on, worshiping ancestors, or imploring ghosts and deities for protection, but none of these things help in the least.

“The sutra text reads, ‘“In the future or at present, one might be entitled, by sacred right, to rebirth among devas or human beings; but if this person’s relatives create any evil karma at just prior to death or during the weeks afterward, he or she will be obliged to seek protection to ward off such evil causes and, thus, will take longer to be reborn in a good place.”’

“In either this lifetime or in a future lifetime, some people, who practice, will obtain some sacred effects. ‘By sacred right’ does not mean they will attain fruition; rather, it means that because they practiced Buddhism and kept the precepts, they can obtain some sacred benefits and be reborn in the Human or Heaven Realms. However, if right before they died their family members created some evil causes, then those sentient beings that were killed will argue with the deceased, saying, ‘Why did you kill me?’ This will delay the deceased from being reborn in a virtuous realm. There is no telling how long that delay could be; it could be a few millennia or a few centuries.

“The text goes on to say, ‘“How much worse it must be, then, for those who, upon their deaths, possess no good roots and who fall alone into the Evil Realms according with their respective karma!”’

“This will happen if you haven’t even cultivated a few good roots in your lifetime, meaning practicing the Ten Meritorious Acts—and only occasionally donating some money to charity, listening to the Dharma, visiting a shrine, or making prostrations now and then do not count; you must carry out the Ten Meritorious Acts. Even if you only practice them for a single day, they will still be of use. People who don’t do it at all will reincarnate into the Three Evil Realms on the back of his or her karma. As I often say, if you do not listen, then you will be at the mercy of your karma; I base that on this line. I was able to teach this without ever having read this line before.

“The sutra continues: ‘“How can their family members be so merciless as to increase the evil karma of their dying loved ones? This is just like a situation in which someone has plodded over a long distance and has been without food for three days while bearing a heavy burden of over one hundred catties, when he chances upon a neighbor who, thoughtlessly, piles something else on his back for him to carry. This would, mercilessly, make his already heavy burden even heavier! O World Honored One, I see that if the sentient beings of Jambudvipa are able to perform some good deeds such as practicing the Buddhas’ teachings—though such deeds be only as small as the tip of a hair, a mote, a grain of sand, or a droplet of water—then they will be able to gain benefit for themselves.”’

“How could the family members of the deceased have the heart to add to his or her evil karma? It’s like seeing someone walking a great distance, who has gone without food for three days and is carrying a very heavy load, yet you keep piling more things onto his back, making his burden heavier and heavier. Here Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha reports to the Buddha His observation of what will happen if sentient beings on Earth can follow the teachings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The phrase ‘Buddhas’ teachings’ here refers to the Dharmas taught by the Buddhas, and includes both the methods of cultivation and the Ten Meritorious Acts. ‘Though such deeds be only as small as the tip of a hair, a mote, a grain of sand, or a droplet of water’—even if your Buddhist activities are very small, as tiny as a hair, a raindrop, a grain of sand, or a mote of dust, you still can benefit from any such good you do on behalf of the deceased.

“The text reads, ‘As this utterance was being concluded, an elder in the assembly by the name of Mahapratbhana, who had long realized the state of non-ceasing and had taken the form of an elder in order to propagate the Dharma and liberate sentient beings in the Ten Directions, reverently asked Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha with palms joined, “O Mahasattva, after the death of some sentient beings in southern Jambudvipa, if their family members—either young or old—were to cultivate merits for the deceased or provide them with vegetarian meals to create good karmic causes, then would the deceased gain great benefits and become liberated?”’

“Attending this puja was an elder named Mahapratbhana, who had long ago attained the state of not needing to reincarnate anymore. The state of ‘non-ceasing’ refers to being free from reincarnation. ‘In order to propagate the Dharma and liberate sentient beings in the Ten Directions’—he had emanated all over the universe as an elder. ‘The Ten Directions’ refers to the Six Realms—the Heaven Realm, the Asura Realm, the Human Realm, the Animal Realm, the Hungry Ghost Realm, and the Hell Realm—as well as the paths of Sravakas, Pratyakabuddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas. From this we can gather that the elder asked Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, on behalf of sentient beings living on Earth in the Age of Degenerate Dharma, whether the deceased can obtain great benefits and be liberated from life and death if their family members are able to cultivate merits for them or respectfully implore a guru to perform the Dharma to create all manner of good causes on the deceased’s behalf.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘Ksitigarbha replied, “Sir, by means of the Buddha’s majestic power, I am going to speak briefly on this matter for the benefit of all generations of sentient beings both present and future. O, Your Excellency, if any sentient being now or in the future should be able, at the end of his life, to hear the name of a Buddha, a Bodhisattva, or a Pratyekabuddha, then he will become liberated, whether or not he has committed evil acts.’”

“Here Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha says that by the grace of the Buddha’s blessings, he will speak briefly for the sake of all sentient beings both now and in the future. As you can see, Ksitigarbha is very humble, and precedents everything He says with a reference to the Buddha’s awe-inspiring powers. He never says ‘I understand,’ ‘I know,’ or ‘I tell you.’ If a person about to die has someone utter with great sincerity the name of a Buddha, Bodhisattva, or Pratyakabuddha, then whether or not the dying person has committed any evil acts, he or she will be able to become liberated from the suffering of the Three Evil Realms. There is another situation that some who have cultivated will, shortly prior to their deaths, experience inner turmoil. This usually happens to monastics, and no matter how diligently they have practiced, they would suddenly start worrying about this or that on their deathbeds. In that case, if their guru whispers into their ears, ‘Remember Amitabha,’ then they will become liberated. This refers to those who have practiced Buddhism.

“The sutra text reads, ‘“Even if some men or women did not cultivate good karmic causes, and committed many evil acts while living, as long as their family members, young or old, perform all the blissful, beneficial sacraments on their behalf, then one seventh of the merits produced will go to the deceased, while the other six sevenths will go to benefit the living themselves. For this reason, good men and women of the future and the present should practice while they are still healthy so that they may obtain these merits in their entirety.”’

“Any man or woman who did not practice the Ten Meritorious Acts while still living will have done nothing but commit evil acts. Even so, after such a person dies, the deceased’s family members, young and old, can all cultivate good fortune for him or her. The merits of such good deeds generated by them are divided into seven parts, of which ‘one seventh of the merits produced will go to the deceased,’ while the living will keep the other six sevenths. After a person stops breathing, of all the sense organs—eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness—only consciousness remains; the other sense organs no longer have the conditions to exist. Consciousness includes the void, but the oft-spoken phrase, ‘the four elements are all void,’ does not count. Thus, in total, there are eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, consciousness, and void. The void refers to the state of death a person enters after he or she stops breathing; in this state, one’s pure Dharma nature will occasionally be revealed. After it appears, the deceased can receive one seventh of the merits his or her family members produced, and that is enough to keep him or her from reincarnating. Therefore, the deceased can be liberated even with just a fraction—one seventh—of those merits. ‘The other six sevenths will go to benefit the living themselves.’ Those of us still living are still controlled by our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness, so this means we will be blessed by six sevenths of the merits, enabling us to practice Buddhism diligently in this lifetime. ‘For this reason, good men and women of the future and the present should practice while they are still healthy so that they may obtain these merits in their entirety.’ After hearing this, all good men and women who practice all of the Ten Meritorious Acts both now and in the future, if they have the courage should immediately begin cultivating. This means that you should not wait until someone is dying to cultivate; instead, you should cultivate while you are still alive, and you will have all these seven merits. In other words, you should not be dependent and wait until you are about to die and expect people to cultivate on your behalf; you should begin cultivating merits right now.

“The text goes on to say, ‘“The powerful demon Avidya (Impermanence) could arrive unexpectedly. Then one’s unsettled spirit, wandering in the dark, would not know whether it was suffering or enjoying happiness, but would just, senselessly and dumbly, within a seven-day period, be brought before some authority who would weigh and consider his or her karmic effects.”’

“The ghostly turnkeys that have come to take you to the Hell Realm do not come when you would expect them to; they know your time is up, so they come to take you away. You will be like an anchorless, wandering soul, not knowing how heavy the karma from your evil acts is. Within the forty-nine day period after your death, your mind will be clouded and you will not know what the future will bring. ‘Senselessly and dumbly’ means like a deaf person, unable to hear anything at all. ‘Some authority’ refers to the judges of hell. The deceased might not remember what evil acts they have committed, so they are likely to argue, ‘I am innocent!’ However, here all will be laid bare before the judges. For example, how many fish you have killed, and the exact time, day, month, and year that you killed them, etc. Therefore, every good and evil act you commit in this lifetime is recorded very meticulously in the underworld, so don’t assume that you can get away with doing something bad without anyone finding out; all your actions are being written down.

“The sutra continues: ‘“….and make a judgment, after which he would be reborn according to his karma. In the meantime, however, his unpredictable situation, over which he would have no control whatsoever, would cause him thousands of worries and myriads of miseries. How much worse, then, would be the plight of those who are condemned to the Evil Realms! Such a deceased, yet to be reborn….”’

“After being judged, sentient beings will be sentenced according to their karmic retributions, and hence going to various realms. Before this judgement, they will not know where they are going. This is an extremely anxious time for them. It’s like a person who has committed a crime, and is in court; before the verdict has been given, he or she will feel very apprehensive. Anyone who falls into the Three Evil Realms cannot be reborn in the Human or Heaven Realms.

“The text reads, ‘“….would, no doubt, hope from instant to instant during this seven-day period after death that his blood relatives would do something to generate some good fortune with which to liberate him. After this period, he would be meted out his retribution in accordance with his karma. For an evil-doer, it could take hundreds of thousands of years before his day of liberation.”’

“During this period of forty-nine days after death, the deceased will be constantly hoping that their family members can cultivate good fortune with which to liberate them. Why do the family members of deceased persons who have been liberated by me feel no grief? It is because they know that the deceased have already passed away and been reborn, and will not suffer or feel anxious anymore. Why do some people have such a hard time during the forty-nine days after their loved ones’ death, and spend the time bawling their eyes out? It is because their deceased love ones are in utter agony. When the deceased come back to speak, the living can neither see nor hear them. However, this energy has a physical effect on their family members, though they still cannot help the deceased. This sutra tells you what you should do. If you love your partner, your children, and your parents, then you should do these things for their benefit.

“If you have committed evil acts, then it will take hundreds or thousands of years at least before you can be liberated, unless you encounter a virtuous mentor and receive his or her help. You should not think that sentient beings spend just a short time in the Hell Realm; even the minor hells hold their inmates for at least a hundred years. I have seen hell with my own eyes. Those who commit suicide have it especially bad; no matter what their reasons were for killing themselves, they have to relive their moment of death over and over for at least a thousand years. Don’t think that eighteen years after your death you’ll come back as a strong, robust hero, as the saying goes. When you commit suicide, your consciousness will feel like it is in a pitch-black room, and even if there are lots of other sentient beings in there with you, you won’t be able to see them. You will feel completely alone and extremely afraid. Whether you kill yourself by jumping off a building, disembowelment, or poison, you will have to experience your death over and over. Once your time comes to leave the Hell Realm, you will be reborn in the Animal Realm. If, after that, you are reincarnated into the Human Realm, you will either be deformed or very sickly. You absolutely must not commit suicide. There are no mundane problems that can’t be solved. As long as you believe in the Dharma and act according to the teachings of the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, and repent for all of your evil acts, no matter how severe they were, you will be able to transform your karma at some point in the future. The world is full of suffering, but that suffering is nothing compared to what is in the Hell Realm. Life in this world might feel hard, but it is much harder in hell. No matter how unfair you might think this world is, it is not as unfair as the Animal Realm. The Animal Realm is a domain devoid of reason, where survival of the fittest rules. By comparison, the Human Realm is somewhat reasonable.

“In the sutra it is written, ‘“However, for those who commit any of the Five Uninterrupted Acts—and thus deserve to be cast into the major hells—there will be thousands of myriads of kalpas of suffering and everlasting misery before any liberation is possible.”’

“Since you have come here today to listen to the Dharma, you should understand that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are compassionate, and would never wish to see a sentient being fall into the Hell Realm. If you commit any of the Five Uninterrupted Evil Acts, such as patricide, matricide, killing an arhat, or causing blood to flow from the body of the Buddha, then you will suffer for a very, very long time. One kalpa is the time it takes for the Earth to go through one Earth cycle of Formation, Existence, Destruction, and the Succeeding Void, and you will have to suffer for thousands or tens of thousands of kalpas.

“The sutra text reads, ‘“Moreover, O Elder, if, after the death of such a sentient being with evil karma, his blood relatives should prepare and supply vegetarian meals on his behalf in order to provide sustenance and help along his karmic path, they must do it in such a way that no rice washing or trimmed vegetable blade whatsoever is wasted or thrown away both while the meal is being prepared and after it is eaten. They must also make sure that no one partakes of any food before it has been offered to the Buddha and the Sangha. Any negligence or breach of these rules would render any efforts to help the deceased completely ineffective. If care and diligence are taken to maintain purity in these offerings to the Buddha and the Sangha, then the deceased will obtain one seventh of the merits produced.”’

“If the family members of those sentient beings that committed evil acts provide financial support to a practitioner performing the Eight Precepts Retreat on behalf of the deceased, preparing and supplying vegetarian meals must be done before this Eight Precepts Retreat is concluded. During this time, none of the rice or vegetable trimmings—even including the water in which they were washed—may be discarded onto the ground. This is very important. In the past, you all did this; you poured the water you washed your rice in onto the ground. You must not toss your vegetable trimmings onto the ground, either; you have to keep them. ‘Both while the meal is being prepared and after it is eaten. They must also make sure that no one partakes of any food before it has been offered to the Buddha and the Sangha’—you may not eat any of the food first before offering it to the Buddha and the practitioner, and this includes tasting the dishes while you cook them. You have often seen people cooking in temples taste the food they’re preparing and say, ‘This is delicious! The Bodhisattvas will like it.’ How would you know what the Bodhisattvas like to eat? When making an offering, your intentions must be pure. That being the case, you of course should want the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and practitioners to enjoy the food first before you take your turn.

“‘Any negligence or breach of these rules would render any efforts to help the deceased completely ineffective.’ If you neglect to adhere to the aforementioned requirements for preparing food, and do not prepare it with utmost care and sincerity, then the deceased for whom you were originally cooking this meal will not benefit. For example, preparing dishes for retreats takes several days, and you have to pick quality ingredients. ‘Negligence’ here means not doing the task carefully; in that case, you will not help the deceased. Also, you must not make offerings with food containing toxins. In the past, produce did not contain so many chemical additives; it was all organic. Modern humans are at greater risk of consuming poison, which means that we lack good fortune. Nowadays everyone emphasizes the importance of eating organically grown produce. People living in the past were relatively fortunate, because everything they ate was organic. Modern produce is all stuffed full of antibiotics and drugs. Japanese are especially fond of eating seafood, but these days even deep sea fish are riddled with toxins.

“Now do you understand why I won’t accept any food offerings from you? I don’t know if you have eaten from it first; you might have had a bite and said, ‘This tastes great! I’ll give some to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.’ How do you know what I like to eat? You act like you need to feed me, like one of your children. Who among you has never had such a thought? Raise your hands. See? None of you has raised a hand. ‘If care and diligence are taken to maintain purity in these offerings to the Buddha and the Sangha, then the deceased will obtain one seventh of the merits produced.’ If you make such an offering, then the deceased will receive one seventh of the resulting merits, and you get the other six sevenths.

“The text goes on to say, ‘“Consequently, O Elder, if a sentient being in Jambudvipa is able to provide vegetarian meals as offerings on behalf of his parents or other family members after their deaths in a whole-hearted and sincere manner, this would be beneficial to both the living and the deceased.”’

“If we very carefully, earnestly, and sincerely do these things for our parents, children, or siblings after they die, then both the deceased and the living will benefit greatly.

“The sutra continues: ‘As these words were being uttered, the thousands of myriads of millions of nayutas of the ghosts and deities of Jambudvipa present in the Palace of Trāyastriṃśa Heaven all made up their minds then and there to initiate boundless bodhicitta. Elder Mahapratbhana then made a deep obeisance and withdrew.’

“As Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha said these things, billions of ghosts and deities from Jambudvipa were there listening in the Palace of Trāyastriṃśa Heaven. This section describes that there were many, many ghosts and deities from Earth, but it does not give an exact number. Every place has its own local religion, each represented by multiple spirits and deities. Upon hearing these Dharmas spoken by Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, they all gave rise to boundless bodhicitta, stopped feeling hatred and greed, and initiated an aspiration to benefit vast numbers of sentient beings. ‘Made a deep obeisance and withdrew’ means that before Elder Mahapratbhana withdrew, he first clasped his palms together in respectful prostration.

“Whether you are a Japanese believer or one of my disciples from Taiwan, you should be able to grasp this sutra I have been expounding today. As for whether or not you put its lessons into practice is up to you. If you have any questions while doing so, you are welcome to come and ask me.

“That concludes my explanation of Chapter Seven. Next I will perform the Dharma and the dedication.”

After the ritual was finished, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said, “Everything has gone perfectly smoothly with today’s performance of the Dharma of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. The Dharma text contains further mention that through cultivation, wherever you go, if you remember or hear Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s name, then ‘afflictions, false views, starvation, contagious diseases, wars, indolence, hesitation, forgetfulness, and so on’—as long as we sincerely pray to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, then none of those things will come near us. ‘Indolence’ refers to you; you are all lazy, not retrogressing. Your waiting around is actually hesitating. Take these Japanese, for example: They think there isn’t any hurry to practice Buddhism, and that it is fine for them to just wait and see what happens. They place more importance on their jobs, so they plan to just continuously listening to the Dharma. If they keep on waiting, their time will have run out. If you have an opportunity to learn Buddhism, you should grasp this good condition with both hands and start practicing immediately.

“This afternoon I will perform the Fire Offering, which is also called a ‘homa.’ The Fire Offering’s yidam is Acalanatha. There are eight Wisdon Kings, each represented by a different yidam, and Acalanatha is a yidam practiced by a relatively large number of sentient beings. Why are they called ‘Wisdom Kings’? Actually, Acalanatha is a Bodhisattva in Vajrayana. Calling him a ‘Wisdom King’ means he is rather fast, and can therefore cause sentient beings to understand the significance of the Dharma relatively quickly. Acalanatha’s guru is Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. If you have not done a good job of cultivating the Dharma of Avalokiteshvara, and your compassion does not show, then Acalanatha will pay no attention to you.

“In his right hand Acalanatha wields a sword. In the past, some people thought Acalanatha could help them fight and win wars; many Japanese feudal lords used to make offerings to him before battle. When they saw the sword in his hand and the wrathful expression on his face, they assumed he would frighten their enemies. Actually, that is not the meaning of Acalanatha’s appearance. He holds a sword, which in Buddhism represents wisdom; this he uses to cut away all afflictions from sentient beings. Cultivating some Dharma methods of Tantra can help us fight wars, of course, although that does not mean killing our enemies; rather, cultivating Acalanatha’s Vanquishing Dharma can prevent enemies from attacking a monastery, for example. Acalanatha will not come to the aid of those who practice this Dharma for personal reasons or their nation’s benefit. In Acalanatha’s left hand, he holds a rope woven of gold and silver, at the end of which are two hooks. This symbolizes Acalanatha’s ability to reel sentient beings back in from their afflictions and fundamental darkness so that they will turn to Buddhism. If sentient beings are disobedient, Acalanatha will grapple them with those hooks and tie them up with his rope, keeping them bound until they listen. Every Bodhisattva seems to be making a hand gesture by which to guide sentient beings, but only if sentient beings reach their hands out can a Bodhisattva lead them. Only Acalanatha and Vajrapani, however, hold a rope in their hands, which means that they will actively tie you up to force you to listen. Therefore, gurus who have cultivated the Acalanatha yidam are usually rather strict; we use the sword of wisdom to cut away your afflictions, because only then can you recover your pure Dharma nature and be open to learning Buddhism.

“Acalanatha has a very deep connection with Japan. However, his statues in Tantra differ in appearance from their Japanese counterparts. In Tibetan Buddhism, Acalanatha is neither standing nor sitting; he looks rather fierce, his right knee is bent, and he is kneeling on his left knee. With both feet he is trampling four types of demons: The demons of sickness, death, affliction, and heaven. Acalanatha is able to suppress these four types of demons, thereby eliminating hindrances to cultivation. You might wonder if heaven-demons are actually demons. Despite being born in the Heaven Realm, they will cause you to continue reincarnating; as such, they are demons. You all assume demons convince people to do bad things, but actually they tell us to do good deeds as well. In both cases, they prevent us from becoming liberated from reincarnation, so are called demons. Once you become a resident of the Heaven Realm, you cannot leave; thus, you will spend many lifetimes there, unable to escape the cycle of life and death.

“Via the Fire Offering, we can directly make offerings to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and all Dharma protectors, and reap great benefits from doing so. In Tantra, there are four different Dharma methods for cultivating a Fire Offering: Subduing, placating, increasing, and vanquishing. ‘Subduing’ involves suppressing all disasters, which includes those that occur in this region; ‘placating’ means to cause your enemies to bear no ill will toward you; ‘increasing’ involves adding to your wealth, power, and health; and ‘vanquishing’ means killing—eliminating all sentient beings that would destroy the Dharma.

“The Fire Offering has three types: the minor mandala, the major mandala, and the water mandala. Only a practitioner with the fruition of a Rinpoche can perform this ritual, because it involves a great deal of visualization, mantra chanting, and so on. I will first call the fire deity forth, and then we will welcome Acalanatha and burn offering goods. Meanwhile, I will bestow these goods upon you so that you can all toss them into the fire. This will allow you to make offerings to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and the yidam, as well as give alms to all sentient beings. Simply writing one’s name on a piece of wood and tossing it into the fire doesn’t count. There is no mention in the sutras of such wood-burning methods; the only reason to burn wood is to get this fire started. There are even rules regarding the type and length of wood. After I finish performing the Dharma, I will send the fire deity on its way. Participating in a Fire Offering can help us to live longer, be healthier, and avoid mishap, which specifically means that we won’t lose a hand or foot or be disfigured due to an accident. However, the point of leaving us intact is so that we can use our physical bodies to practice Buddhism. Participating in the Fire Offering is bound to help you. You might not see any results right away, but you are sure to benefit.

“Since I started coming here to perform the Dharma, this land and the city of Kyoto have seen much fewer fire-related disasters. One time I hung prayer flags in the doorway near the Buddhist Center. Kyoto is an ancient capital, and people here tend to prefer plain colors; they don’t like anything to be too gaudy or brightly colored. For this reason, a neighbor put in a complaint with the Kyoto Municipal Landscaping Bureau. After the officials arrived, I had someone tell them that according to Tibetan custom, a prayer flag should not be taken down unless it has been ruined somehow, and anyone who violates this will experience problems. As a result, no one dared to take it down. Later, the residence across the street from this Buddhist Center suddenly caught fire, but the flames did not spread anywhere else. No one was injured, and only that place was burned. As you all know, many Japanese houses are made of wood, so when one catches fire, at least two or three tend to go up in flames. Also, the smoke from this fire only blew in one direction—toward the residence of that neighbor who had complained, which it completely blackened. Because of this Buddhist Center, I always perform pujas here, so whenever there is a disaster, I will be the first to know it beforehand, and I will do something in advance. The reason that residence caught fire was to do with a nearby shrine; when these houses were built next to it, no one appeased the local ghosts and deities, so this is what happened. To this day, no one has figured out what started the fire, because it was completely burned to the ground. It would stand to reason that an entire row of houses should have burned, but only that one was affected.

“A very special causal condition brought this statue of the yidam Acalanatha to our Buddhist Center here in Japan. Before purchasing the land for this Center, I had already bought a statue of Acalanatha. This statue was originally ordered from Fujian in China by a Japanese, but after placing his order, he did not take it. Later, it was bought by a person from Yunnan. I have collected antiques ever since I was a young man, and I saw this statue of Acalanatha while in an antique shop in Yunnan. It had been placed in a corner, and the shop-owner had even covered it up with things so that I couldn’t see it. I spotted it anyway, bought it, and brought it back with me.

“Around Acalanatha’s neck hangs a white serpent, which actually is a dragon. The pond here at the Japanese Buddhist Center has a statue of the Dragon King next to it, and when it rains, wave after wave of wood aroma wafts indoors, indicating that this wood is of very good quality. In front of Acalanatha is the Dragon King; the two are usually together, making up a set. They were purchased together. Wherever a dragon deity resides, fewer floods and fire disasters occur. This Dragon King statue is an antique, and it gives out a lovely wood fragrance. Everything happens as a result of causal conditions.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche compassionately instructed his attendants to pull open the curtains so that the Japanese believers could walk in and view the statue of the Dragon King, smell its fragrance, and pay obeisance to the statue of Acalanatha.

The guru said that at 2:00 in the afternoon, he would perform a preparatory ritual, and that everyone was to come back inside at 2:30.

At this time H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche concluded his performance of the Dharma. Out of respect, the attendees rose and clasped their palms together in homage as the guru descended the Dharma throne. In unison they all thanked Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

At 2:00 in the afternoon, H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche again ascended the Dharma throne. First the guru conducted the preliminary practice, and then presided over the auspicious Acalanatha Fire Offering Puja, during which he bestowed precious Dharma teachings upon the attendees.

H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche began to perform the Dharma of the Acalanatha yidam. First the guru called forth the fire deity, and then implored the yidam to approach the mandala and bestow help upon the attendees. During the ritual, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s clear, deep vajra recitations, as meticulous as the tide, resounded with solemn dignity and filled the void with his awe-inspiring Dharma voice. As these sounds spread through the venue, the guru began to shake and turn slightly, and his eyebrows raised up, revealing a wrathful vajra appearance exactly like that of Acalanatha. He looked incomparably fierce, shocking everyone present. H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche entered samadhi to chant the yidam’s mantra for more than ten minutes, during which time his eyes were wide open and he did not blink. The guru had entered an absolute state of meditation and visualization, and become completely attuned to the yidam. He and the yidam were now one and the same. It was extremely unfathomable, and all of the attendees were utterly entranced, listening respectfully with palms clasped. The blessings from Rinpoche’s Dharma performance were tremendously auspicious, embracing all sentient beings, and his awe-inspiring power filled the void.

Next, the guru went to the Fire Offering mandala in the courtyard outside to perform the Fire Offering. After Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne there to perform the ritual, a sudden wind picked up and clouds gathered to the sounds of his chanting. Strong gusts blew in from far away, causing the flames to roar magnificently. Just then, a flock of birds wheeled through the air above the Fire Offering mandala, emitting high-pitched calls. After they flew away, a rain of nectar began to fall. It was an extremely auspicious sight. Rinpoche compassionately allowed each attendee, one at a time, the opportunity to receive offering goods blessed by the guru and toss them into the fire. When the puja began, the weather had been oppressively warm, but by the time Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne in the courtyard, a cool wind had begun to blow, and the air suddenly became clear and fresh. Dragon-shaped clouds wreathed the mountaintops in the foreground, and as the guru performed the Dharma, they constantly swirled and changed, then rapidly dispersed. Suddenly a broad swath of deep blue sky was revealed and the sun broke through, but at the same time a fine nectar rain floated down from the clear sky. These rapid changes in the weather, as well as the auspicious sign of rain falling from a clear sky, caused the attendees to exclaim in wonder. During the ritual, a flock of birds circled in the sky far above the Fire Offering mandala, and even more birds continued to chirp quietly all around the Kyoto Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center. The clouds changed into myriad shapes, the Buddha’s light illuminated the nectar rain, and the Dakinis compassionately circled in the air above. It was an extremely auspicious scene. All of these auspicious signs had come about as a result of Rinpoche’s attainment in Tantra and performance of the Dharma to bountifully benefit countless sentient beings, thus the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, devas, nagas, and Dharma protectors had all come forth to give praise!

While conducting the Fire Offering, H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche compassionately bestowed upon each attendee the opportunity to receive offering goods blessed by the guru and toss them into the mandala as offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and alms for sentient beings. Rinpoche performed the Dharma for several hours, continuously chanting mantras and blessing all manner of offering goods. With constant, rapid movements, he placed the offering goods on the attendees’ plates. In this way they could all receive their offering goods in a timely manner; from time to time the guru paid attention to the attendee’s pace as they walked past, and continuously blessed sentient beings with his gaze. While tossing the offering goods into the fire, the attendees got very close to its intense flames, but did not feel the slightest bit burned by them; instead, they felt great warmth. The power of Rinpoche’s blessings is incomparably auspicious! As the Fire Offering came to an end, all of the attendees were filled with profound admiration and joy!

While performing the Dharma, Rinpoche wore a very heavy garment decorated with bones as well as a Dharma hat. With his right hand, he took offering goods and quickly handed them out, repeating this action nearly two thousand times. At sixty-nine years of age, and missing cartilage in his right shoulder, Rinpoche nevertheless continuously chanted mantras, visualized, recited from the Dharma text, blessed offering goods, and placed them on each attendee’s proffered plate. In addition, the guru had to pay attention to the movements of all his disciples and make sure safety of the surrounding area was adequately maintained. All of these responsibilities put an unimaginable physical burden on him. Rinpoche pours all his strength and energy into benefiting sentient beings, without regard for his own wellbeing, showing what it means to possess the great, auspicious bodhicitta of a Vajrayana Tantric practitioner. The aspiration of a Mahasattva to help sentient beings is absolutely extraordinary and capable of moving heaven and earth!

As Rinpoche conducted the ritual, the flames in the mandala continuously transformed into all sorts of auspicious forms, as though the fire spirit had arrived. The fire burned higher and higher, rising as high as the second story, and raging in a fierce conflagration, showing its own powerful life force, that could not be stopped. The auspiciousness of Tantra is difficult to imagine. Rinpoche’s great, compassionate vow to benefit sentient beings is unmatched. The guru used merits obtained through cultivation and his great powers to help countless sentient beings, protecting them with the benefits of the Dharma and causing the attendees to give rise to a sincere, incomparable sense of reverence!

When the Fire Offering was halfway through, Rinpoche instructed his disciples to toss the used prayer flags into mandala. At the same time he chanted the mantra and gave blessing; his compassionate Dharma voice resounded through the venue, and everyone who heard it was moved to tears. As the prayer flags caught flame, thick, black smoke billowed forth and was dispersed by a strong wind. The flames leaped higher, and all of the attendees were filled with profound praise and joy!

Even after all attendees had finished tossing their offering goods into the fire, Rinpoche still did not pause to rest. Instead, he let the disciples go inside to take a break first, while he continued to complete the ritual. After the Fire Offering was finished, the guru immediately went into the Buddhist Center and ascended the Dharma throne once more. From there Rinpoche led the attendees in the prayer of Dharma protector Achi and dedication, during which he sincerely thanked the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Lineage Gurus, and Dharma protectors for their compassionate blessings which had benefited countless sentient beings. Afterward, the guru resumed bestowing precious teachings.

“The ritual I have performed today is Tantra, which is from the second half of the Buddhist Canon. For Fire Offering goods, you can use black sesame seeds if you want to drive away demons. Beans will increase your abilities. For increased longevity and health, use knotgrass, which is the type of grass you just took up there by the handful. Mustard seed and various grains can also be used; they can help you enjoy abundance and so on. However, these offerings won’t have any effect if you merely toss them into the fire; you also must have a guru to perform the Dharma, chant mantras, and visualize on your behalf.

“This Fire Offering ritual was transmitted to me by His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang in 2007, when he led me in a two-day non-stop puja after I had finished conducting my retreat on Lapchi Snow Mountain in Nepal, signifying that this Dharma’s lineage had been passed on to me. Thus, its blessings are particularly powerful.

“As long as you participated in this puja with respect, it will help you. The Dharma text contains mention of several benefits that can come from taking part in a Fire Offering, and you love to hear about them, so today I’ll oblige. Performing a Fire Offering can reduce the frequency of natural disasters and wars, and can make you live longer and look younger.” Rinpoche joked, “So now you know why I’m still so young! ‘You will get what you wish’—this part means that all you ask for in your Buddhist practice will be granted. If you want to get rich or marry a good husband, though, you are bound to be disappointed. You should not ask Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha for everything your heart desires, because you won’t get it.

“The Dharma text also mentions that performing a Fire Offering can help to eliminate contagious illnesses, wars, serious diseases, accidents, indolence, and so on. There are three types of serious diseases: Those that come from evil acts you committed in your past lives, those that are caused by evil acts you have committed in this lifetime, and those that result from your having used up just about all of your good fortune in this life. The first two are illnesses of cause and effect that doctors cannot cure. As you know, there are many diseases that doctors actually cannot cure; when they prescribe medicine, they are just seeing if it will work for you. Such a situation comes about as a result of evil karma you have created in this lifetime or in your past lives. As for the third type of illness, it is possible for doctors to cure it, given the chance. Today’s puja can help with the first two types of serious illness. That you possessed the causal condition to come here and participate in this puja means that at some point in the past you must have read the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows; you simply did not do a good job of mastering it, so now you have come back. However, don’t think that having read it before did not make it useful to you. It was still useful; it allowed you to find me.”

Rinpoche then said, “You are all tired. Go home early, and get some rest. That’s all for today.”

At this time, the attendees implored Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for an opportunity to offer the mandala. The guru said that because no mandala offering was conducted during the previous puja, it was not necessary. The ordained disciples added that in the previous puja, a mandala offering had been made, so the attendees all knelt down together to implore Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to accept it. The guru asked, “How much is the offering?” The attendants held the offerings in both hands, but not knowing what the amount was, they were unable to answer. After seeing this, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche indicated that he did not wish to receive that much in offerings, and would only accept ten thousand yen. All of the attendees again implored the guru to accept all of their offerings. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said, “If you ask again, I’ll have to ask you to leave.” The attendees thanked the guru in unison.

Upon the perfect completion of the puja, the disciples thanked the guru for his compassionate teachings. All rising, they paid reverent homage as His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended the Dharma throne.

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Updated on May 13, 2018