His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – June 5, 2016

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne to preside over the Chod Puja, and bestowed precious Dharma teachings upon all of the attendees.

“Today I will be performing the Chod, which is one of the Eight Sadhanas in Tibetan Buddhism. This Dharma’s text comes from the writings of a Tibetan yogini—a female lay practitioner who had married and had children—and was based on the wisdom of the Great Prajna Sutra of Exoteric Buddhism. While on Earth speaking the Dharma, during the later period, the Buddha spent a lot of time explaining ‘prajna,’ which is wisdom of Emptiness. The Great Prajna Sutra constitutes one fourth of the Buddhist Canon. If you wish to practice Mahayana or Vajrayana Buddhism, but have not gained an understanding of the wisdom of Emptiness or immersed yourself in the great wisdom sea of merits, then your cultivation will only amount to a little bit of good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms.

“There are two types of wisdom: Primordial and acquired. Every sentient being possesses the same pure, primordial wisdom as the Buddha, which is why He said that we all have the ability to attain Buddhahood. If all sentient beings possess the same inherent nature as the Buddha, then what is stopping sentient beings from attaining Buddhahood? It is their ignorance that causes them to have afflictions, and their disbelief in causality and reincarnation. Once the darkness of ignorance arises, our inherent, pure wisdom gets concealed from us. For this reason, we must learn and practice the Dharma; only by cultivating literary prajna and practicing prajna can we integrate both our primordial and acquired wisdom to realize Emptiness. Emptiness represents the intrinsic nature of all phenomena in the universe. Without the wisdom of Emptiness, we cannot comprehend the causal origination of the afflictions of sentient beings, of their attachments, or how they plant the seeds of suffering. It’s like how a doctor cannot correctly prescribe medication without first understanding the source of the illness. The Dharma taught by a guru who is unable to realize Emptiness is nothing more than literary ponderings. Many people preach from the sutras, but not all of them have unlocked their wisdom. Some simply speak in accordance with their Dharma masters, repeating whatever is written in the sutras, but theirs is merely an academic pursuit of Dharma study. By contrast, every line of the sutras expounded by a guru who has unlocked his or her wisdom is directly targeted at the afflictions of sentient beings.

“A lot of people say my explanations of the sutras are very detailed, and that I am able to expound every line and every single word. However, you might hear them as explanations, but for me that is superfluous, for every word and every sentence spoken by the Buddha represents a state of Buddhist cultivation. Without any genuine experience with cultivation, one is liable to treat the words written in the sutras as material for academic research. If you do so, you will never be able to realize the true meaning of the Buddha’s teachings or unlock your wisdom; you will therefore forever be incapable of benefiting yourself and sentient beings. Many people come here beseeching me to unlock their wisdom, but that is not something that can be granted through supplication. As is written in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, many sentient beings are already caught in the abyss of reincarnation, yet a virtuous mentor can help prop up the weight of their evil karma so that they can extricate themselves from reincarnation. This is what a guru does. If a guru has not attained Emptiness, however, he or she will be unable to hold up the heavy load of sentient beings’ evil karma. A lot of folks say they wish to shoulder this burden for sentient beings, but without the wisdom of Emptiness, they cannot. Why is it stated in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that a virtuous mentor can help sentient beings bear the burden of their karma? Virtuous mentors have attained Emptiness, so they understand that all phenomena arise from conditions and are Empty in nature. The evil conditions and causes created by sentient beings are all Empty in nature, so virtuous mentors would not have attachments; nor would they consider themselves to be helping sentient beings to shoulder the burden of any karma.

“It is stated with great frequency in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that when someone in your family passes away and has been liberated, you should engage in Buddhist activities on a broad scale and pray to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on behalf of the deceased. The family members of most of you present do not actually practice Buddhism; don’t assume that practice simply means having taken refuge, burned some incense, been given a Dharma name, and received a few burn marks. According to the sutras, at the most fundamental level, a practitioner is a good man or woman who practices the Ten Meritorious Acts. The first of those is to refrain from killing; practically none of you have parents who have never eaten meat. According to the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, eating meat will send you to hell. If you do not even believe the words of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, then you might as well stop attending these pujas. Everything spoken by the Bodhisattvas is guaranteed to happen.

“Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s mother went to hell because she loved eating turtle eggs. What about your mothers? You say that was just something that happened to His mom, but what makes you think it can’t happen to yours as well? Both are mothers; it’s just that one lived in ancient times, the other modern. If both committed the same evil acts, how would it be possible for one to have to go to hell and the other not? If you think your parents are different, then you might as well not believe in Buddhism. Were Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and Shakyamuni Buddha full of nonsense? If you think so, then you really shouldn’t believe in Them anymore. Everyone says his or her parents are good people. Of course your parents are good, because they gave birth to you. However, you should know very well whether or not they have been good in the ‘virtuous’ sense. Everyone tries to find excuses, saying ‘My mom didn’t know; she doesn’t understand; she isn’t educated,’ but this just means you have no intention to repent. My mother was illiterate, but five years before her death, when I brought her here to Taiwan, she suddenly began eating vegetarian without being forced by her children. It was because I had already cultivated some good fortune to hold up all the evil karma my mother had generated through her acts of killing, so naturally she was able to realize that she should do as she was told and stop eating meat. It is mentioned in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that even if you have participated in pujas, you still must continue to help the deceased by engaging in Buddhist activities on a broad scale. The reasoning here is that although receiving help from a virtuous mentor will prevent one from falling into the Three Evil Realms, and cause one instead to be reborn in the Human and Heaven Realms, it does not necessarily mean he or she has broken away from reincarnation. Performing the Dharma for the deceased does not guarantee that they will go to the Amitabha’s Pure Land.

“I often mention Shakyamuni Buddha’s mother as an example. She had neither practiced nor made a vow, but had given birth to the Buddha. If even such a woman could only go to the Trayastrimsas Heaven, then what makes you think your moms will be able to go to the Pure Land? Shakyamuni Buddha’s aunt, who had looked after and raised Him since He was little, implored constantly for many years with the help of many of the Buddha’s disciples before He finally agreed to allow her to become a monastic and to teach her the Amitabha Dharma method. Have your mothers ever implored for this? Have you yourselves? You come here and immediately want everything, and expect your mothers to be allowed to be reborn in the Pure Land. Shakyamuni Buddha benefits countless sentient beings; as such, His mother had a very large amount of good fortune. Great though it was, however, she still was only able to reach the Heaven Realm. Your own mothers, on the other hand, after giving birth to you and in an effort to nourish you, engaged in acts of killing by feeding you the Taiwanese favorite, whitebait. Who among you have never these fish? One bowl of whitebait contains at least dozens of juvenile fish. Your mother was the protagonist of this evil act, and you were her accomplice. Thus, if your mother and father have earned money in this lifetime in violation of causality, then every single one of you shares a role in this evil act, because your parents raised you on it. The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows exhorts you to continue engaging in Buddhist activities extensively, because you all share in the deceased’s evil karma. Only in this way can you help them break away from reincarnation in the future.

“From a legal standpoint, the sale of stolen goods carries jail time and other penalties.” One of the attendees shook her head, claiming not to be aware of such a law, and was immediately berated by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. “The sutra has provided sound advice, yet how many of us have followed it? You think liberation simply means going to the temple, writing the name of the deceased on a memorial tablet, and then forgetting about it. Then, the next year, you’ll receive a phone call from the temple, and the conversation will go like this: ‘Would you like to liberate your deceased family members?’ ‘Yes; how much?’ ‘A thousand NT dollars.’ ‘Oh! Okay!’ But this is not ‘engaging in Buddhist activities extensively;’ it simply shows that you are too polite to say ‘no.’ I have never phoned anyone about participating in the pujas; they all have to implore for such privilege. I only mention the pujas to people for very special reasons.

“Therefore, my very strict prerequisite for those wishing to participate in the pujas is that they must eat vegetarian and at least be practicing the first of the Ten Meritorious Acts—refraining from killing. Six sevenths of the merits generated by your willingness to eat vegetarian and participate in the puja for transferring consciousness will be yours, while the remaining seventh will go to the deceased. Only in this way will the deceased have a chance in the future of being liberated from reincarnation. You probably wonder why it is any business of yours whether or not the deceased become liberated from reincarnation, but for a Vajrayana practitioner, if even just one parent from any of his or her past lives fails to escape reincarnation, then it is the practitioner’s fault. The practitioner must attain Buddhahood in order to know if he or she has succeeded or not, because only a Buddha has full knowledge of the past, present, and future. Arhats only possess knowledge of five hundred lifetimes, and we reincarnate many, many more times than that. Whether you are born into the Animal Realm, the Hungry Ghost Realm, or the Hell Realm, you have parents in all of them. Thus, we owe a great many sentient beings. In the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows it is written that if you frequently have nightmares, it means your parents and family members from your past lives are still suffering in the Three Evil Realms. The Buddha therefore urged us to practice the Dharma as soon as possible. Most of you, however, have come here to learn Buddhism for reasons to do with emotions, health, your children, your marriage, and so on. None of you has come imploring to free your parents from your past lives from their suffering in reincarnation. Why is this era called the ‘Age of Degenerate Dharma?’ It is because not a single sentient being understands how to be grateful. You take it for granted that a practitioner should help you and do good things for you. However, will such help enable you to influence hundreds of thousands of people to do good deeds as well? If that possibility exists, then of course I will help you. Having participated in a puja might make you feel a bit better, but if you do not stick to it, then your parents from your past lives will still come looking for you, because you owe them. It is stated quite clearly in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that they cannot seek out others aside from their own children and spouses. Therefore, the Buddha exhorted us to break away from reincarnation, because only then will we stop owing people. As long as you reincarnate for a single lifetime, no matter in what realm, you are indebted to two sentient beings. Those in the Hell and Hungry Ghost Realms have parents, too; everyone in every realm has a pair. Whenever two people get married, their children and children’s spouses multiply infinitely. How long do you have to practice in order to completely resolve all of that accumulated debt? Don’t think that having shaved your head, become a monastic, and donned kasaya means that you can resolve it all.

“Yesterday I reprimanded a believer, telling her not to assume that having participated in two Water Repentance Rituals is enough to solve all her problems. Master Wuda practiced for nearly a thousand years, from the Three Kingdoms era to the Tang Dynasty. During the Three Kingdoms era he served as a general, but spent every lifetime thereafter as a Buddhist practitioner. In the Tang era, the emperor granted him a throne; this caused him to grow arrogant. As is mentioned in the Ratnakuta Sutra, arrogance is not conducive to practicing the Six Paramitas. A person he killed while still a general had immediately manifested as a scar in the shape of a human face on Master Wuda’s knee; this scar suddenly opened its mouth and spoke to him. Previously, Master Wuda had taken a pilgrimage to Mount Wutai, where Bodhisattva Manjusri had transformed into a human to tell him he was welcome to implore for help should he ever need to. After returning there, Master Wuda was told of the Samadhi Water Repentance, and that its water was the only way to wash away that face-shaped scar. What makes you think that attending a single puja will resolve all of your problems? Both China and Tibet are full of stories like this, but you are all deaf to them. You think you are fine, but if you were, you would long ago have been reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land, or at least in the Heaven Realm, rather than in this Saha World. That means you are sentient beings lacking in good fortune and causal conditions. Do not pride yourselves on having done a lot; have you done more than Master Wuda? He cultivated quite well, but still did not achieve the level of being able to liberate others. A practitioner must cultivate fortune and wisdom to perfection so that he or she can liberate others. Although the degree of this perfection cannot be comparable to that of the Buddha, one should at least already have obtained the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ blessings and, thus, be able to benefit sentient beings.

“Before accepting the invitation to make this trip to Bhutan, I implored His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang for guidance, because he was the one who introduced me to the people there. I only consented to go after first obtaining permission from my guru. I even asked for advice from the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang before confirming yesterday which pujas to hold there. This is humility; this is what it means to revere one’s master and his teachings. People in these modern times don’t get that concept; they think they can simply learn and cultivate by themselves, and that they are skilled enough that they can understand sutras just by reading them. They have absolutely no respect for practitioners. In 2007, I conducted a three-month retreat on Mount Lapchi at an altitude of 4,500 meters. How many of you have done such a thing? None of you has, so I’m asking you to please be a bit more modest. Don’t be in the mindset of one watching a performance. I am neither a celebrity nor a pop star.

“The Chod is very auspicious, and those who perform it must perfectly integrate Exoteric and Esoteric Buddhism, have a clear understanding of their fundamental concepts, and be infallible while expounding. The first step is to never stray from the words spoken by the Buddha, and refrain from using one’s own opinions to explain the Dharma. You have seen that while speaking about the Dharma, I always expound every word written in the sutra at hand without referring to other commentaries. Secondly, a practitioner must adhere to the teachings of his or her guru. One’s own experience in cultivation is only third in line in terms of the criteria that must be met. Without a guru or the Buddha, how can you achieve attainment? You should not think that reciting from the sutras every day will guarantee success. Things have ended badly for those who thought they could become attuned to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas! If you are a genuine practitioner, then when you pass away you will definitely experience sugata, the state of being ‘gone to bliss’, and there is no way you will meet a bitter end. Death will not be very painful, because even if you must repay all the karmic debt from your previous lifetimes, you will do it in a state of Emptiness. Before entering Nirvana, Shakyamuni Buddha showed signs of illness—but you would not have seen Him suffering. It was simply a final bodily manifestation the debt from many lifetimes being repaid in this life; there were no more debts owed.

“Only after gaining a distinct foundation of Exoteric Buddhism can a practitioner go on to learn Tantra—the cultivation of which, incidentally, is nothing like what you’ve seen people talk about on television. Just because you have heard of it does not mean you know what it is, and even if you do know, that does not mean you can perform it. Furthermore, the ability to perform Tantra does not necessarily indicate that a practitioner can achieve attainment in it. Many people think that they can succeed in doing anything they have heard about, and can achieve attainment in a method as long as they have the appropriate Dharma text. It is not that simple. Practitioners can only perform this Dharma if they themselves have achieved attainment in Tantra. The important point is that only by way of compassion, bodhicitta, and wisdom from Emptiness can a practitioner help all suffering sentient beings come to realize the auspiciousness and greatness of the Dharma. Also, a practitioner must use his or her accumulated good fortune to liberate them from the suffering sea of reincarnation. For example, how could you help someone get somewhere if you had no money? Furthermore, some people think they can get good fortune just from reciting the sutras an hour a day, but it actually doesn’t; it is simply a reminder that they should be practicing Buddhism. To accumulate good fortune, one must make offerings and give alms. Lamp-lighting and making offerings of flowers and fruit are just types of actions, but without Emptiness as the basis of such offerings and almsgiving, those acts merely bring good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms.

“The basic forms of giving alms in Exoteric Buddhism are the giving of wealth, of the Dharma, and of fearlessness. To those Tantra adds Secret Offerings, which cannot be spoken up in public because you would not be able to conduct them and, upon hearing what they involve, would be frightened. The special characteristic of the Chod, besides its ability to transfer the consciousness of the deceased, is that it can help sentient beings to rapidly accumulate good fortune and resources, and transform the evil karma from their past lives. Early last year (2015) I fell seriously ill, and a doctor-disciple told me that I only had one tenth of my life-force left. I was like a candle in the wind, liable to be blown out at any moment. His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang instructed me to perform the Chod every day, and after a month I regained my health—very quickly. Why is it that so many of you come to the pujas but certain of you are still unable to have your karma transformed? It is because you continue to commit evil acts.

“As is mentioned in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, you should not assume that it is okay to commit a few minor transgressions, because any evil act—no matter how small—results in karmic retribution, and small evils add up to become great evils. Every thought produced by an ordinary person generates karma and vice; those who have not had a clear look at their thoughts will constantly commit wrongdoings. Good and evil are both very subtle; they both accumulate bit by bit. Only if you stop doing evil and only, continuously do good can you prevent major evil acts from occurring. Nevertheless, you are constantly doing both evil and good, which is why your good and evil levels keep going up and down. As soon as a good karmic effect occurs, you commit another wrongdoing, and its evil effect makes you start supplicating to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas again, thereby producing another bit of good effect. You thus spend your entire lives going up and down, back and forth between good and bad. Why do people start deteriorating at the age of fifty? It is because they have used up just about all of their good fortune by then, and have not stopped doing evil to only do good. The Ten Meritorious Acts are basic conditions that everyone should follow. It is written in the sutras that one must have humanity before one can walk the Buddha’s path. It is exactly due to our having cultivated the Ten Meritorious Acts that we were reborn as humans. If you do not perfect them, then no matter how diligently you have cultivated in this lifetime, your efforts will only have been superficial, and you will only obtain the good fortune of a pet.

“In a moment, while I am performing the Dharma, you should maintain a respectful frame of mind. This Dharma is not easy to obtain, so don’t be fooled by my relaxed appearance; I am not at all. You must have absolute reverence for the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and your guru. It is not that we want your respect; rather, if you do not revere the Three Jewels, then you will naturally lack a sense of respect. Not having respect is just the same as not making offerings, which in turn means you will not have good fortune. Without good fortune, sentient beings are unable to transform their karma. During the Chod, the practitioner first makes a complete offering of his body, speech, and mind to all of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Dharma protectors, Dakinis, and Dakas. Afterward, by way of Tantric visualization, he gives of his body to all sentient beings in the Six Realms so that they can realize the compassion of the Dharma. If one has not cultivated Emptiness, such visualization is unattainable. Visualization is not just something you think up; when mentioned in a Buddhist context, it means combining your pure nature with your frequently used consciousness, and putting them both to practice. That is, the pure nature supports the conditioned consciousness, and consciousness relies on the Dharma-nature of Emptiness to unleash its power to its fullest.

“A Bodhisattva is called an ‘awakened sentient being.’. Bodhisattvas still have one affliction—the desire to liberate as many sentient beings as possible—which is a seed left in the Eighth Alaya Consciousness. As long as you are respectful during today’s puja, any of your deceased family members will definitely be able to appear before me and have their consciousness freed from the Three Evil Realms. If you revere the Three Jewels, then even if you are in poor health, you will be different from other people; for example, if you get cancer, it will not cause you any pain. If you have used up just about all of your good fortune and you do not recover from your cancer, that does not mean the Dharma does not work; rather, it means the flower of your karmic retribution has fully blossomed and its fruit is forthcoming. Stopping your pain is not done by severing your nerves, nor does it involve you making peace with your karmic creditors. It means liberating them. Some people ask, ‘Shouldn’t my cancer cells disappear after my karmic creditors have been liberated?’ However, cancer cells are not the foreign objects you think they are; they originated as part of your body, as your normal cells. Why did they turn cancerous? It was a result of your evil acts; your tendency toward love and hatred, as well as your predilection for eating meat. This is why your cells became malignant. Still, you insist on cutting and carving them out, just like chopping off one of your fingers. Is that convenient for you? Will cutting parts of your body away really make you better?

“Why do some people with cancer suffer more and more pain during the later stages of cancer? It is to arouse the fiercest hatred from them, until in their final moment they descend into hell. Some cancer patients do not suffer because their karmic creditors have already been liberated; however, their cancer cells still haven’t been reverted back to healthy cells. If you develop respect for the Dharma, then even if you have not practiced, this sort of pain will go away. A cancer patient who feels no pain will think that I am very compassionate, and so is Buddhism; he or she will not feel resentment, and will therefore not fall into hell. Why did I recover from my cancer? I don’t know why, either; I never paid attention to my disease. I simply continued acting in accordance with the teachings of my guru, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas. Going by what is written in the sutras, after accumulating good fortune, I had unlocked my wisdom, so the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas must have thought, ‘Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is of use to sentient beings, so let him stay in this world!’ What about yourselves? You are of absolutely no use to sentient beings. Some say they have parents to take care of or children to raise, but these are basic responsibilities carried by us all. Can you still be called ‘human’ if you don’t care for your mother and father? Even animals care for their parents and rear their young.

“On the stairs at the Japanese Buddhist Center a small group of sparrows used to gather; one of them was elderly, and the rest were younger. Five or six of the little birds tended to jump down to the grass below the steps to pick up the dropped grains of rice in their bills, and then flew back up to feed them to their elder, who was surely their parent. No one acts this way these days; people just return home to get money from their mother and father, and are disappointed if they aren’t given any. Some even kill their parents for this reason. In terms of total population, more instances of matricide and patricide occur in Taiwan than in any of our neighboring countries, due to the karma from killing. Taiwan has always had severe karma from killing, because so many sentient beings have been killed here—and the killing continues to this day, leaving its resulting karma in this land. It is written in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that we should not think that it is enough to liberate the deceased; besides helping them to stop reincarnating, every puja for transferring consciousness that we hold can benefit certain sentient beings and help this land to become more harmonious overall. Every time I blow through the Dharma instrument fashioned from a human leg bone, a lot of sentient beings that are completely unrelated to you approach to receive help. As long as you have respect, compassion, and a repentant attitude, these sentient beings with whom you have no affinity will come inside. You are the ones who benefit from this, because without your attendance, this puja would not have happened.

“The Buddha urged us to continuously participate in pujas. It is not that the Buddha needs us to; rather, it is that we should remember that we are sentient beings lacking in good fortune and causal conditions. Don’t think that an offering of a hundred or a thousand NT dollars is a lot; it’s practically nothing, considering the fact that you all make a monthly salary of at least NT$22,000. You might say you have a mortgage to pay and kids to get through school. Stop being so arrogant; lacking conditions and qualifications, you have nothing to be arrogant about. It is written in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that Earthly sentient beings are obstinate, conceited, difficult to tame, and difficult to teach. You are so incredibly conceited in your opinion that you have heard and learned it all. If the person performing the Dharma has not realized Emptiness, then he or she will be frightened when the deceased enter the venue—not afraid of them, but of not being able to help them. In a moment, while performing the Dharma, I will be wearing a crest with a black curtain hanging down over my eyes. I wear it not out of fear, but because while I am conducting the ritual, as you have all seen, my eyes grow especially bright. Seeing such luminescence would scare these ghostly beings away, so I cover my eyes to keep them satisfied and at ease.

“You bring so many deceased parents and ancestors from your past lives to every puja. They won’t always come with you, however; if they do not possess sufficient good fortune, then sometimes they cannot. The factors involved are very intricate and complex. If it were possible to resolve everything in a single time, then Shakyamuni Buddha would not have needed to cultivate through so many lifetimes and I would not have to practice every day. Do you think you can resolve all your problems just by attending a single puja? Granted, Emperor Wu of Liang implored Master Bao Zhi to hold a puja of repentance on behalf of his concubine, thereby allowing her to be reborn in the Heaven Realm, but just how many good deeds had the emperor done? Monastics began eating vegetarian from then on because of an edict decreed by Emperor Wu of Liang; he also built many Buddhist temples, printed sutras, and so on before he was able to get someone to write a repentance ritual for him—and once was enough. How many good deeds have you done? You can probably count them on two hands. This is why the Ratnakuta Sutra instructs us to be modest, because the humbler we are, the more of a connection we have with the Dharma. The story of the Water Repentance tells us that we must not become even the least bit arrogant. I have seen highly accomplished practitioners give rise to arrogance and then fall ill; in fact, the higher one’s level of attainment, the more at risk one becomes. If they continue to be arrogant, however, and to lack in Emptiness, then they will not be able to benefit more sentient beings. I am not talking about you; you have not yet reached this level, so it is not as worrisome if you show a little arrogance.

“Last year (2015) I got sick due to an oversight I made when I held a puja in Pingtung. I knew there was an earth god there, and I even saw him when I went there, but I did not call him over, thinking it was enough for me just to perform the Dharma. His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang berated me for not having enough Emptiness or compassion. If even I can get a scolding from the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, then who are you to think you can escape being scolded? My karmic debt hit me suddenly, but I repaid it just as quickly. By contrast, yours manifests slowly, and it takes you a long time—forever, even—to repay it. At least I took the time to reflect upon my errors. This happened to me just because I had neglected the earth god, but how many people have you neglected? How much benevolence have you received yet forgotten? You only keep count of how many people have caused you to suffer losses, and that is why this world is so full of hatred. You are willing to eat anything but a loss. I was very happy to be berated by His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang for that incident last year. If your guru won’t even scold you, it means he thinks you are worthless and is giving you the cold shoulder.

“It is written in the Ratnakuta Sutra that we must not be arrogant, and monastics especially should pay attention to this. Lay practitioners might be able to get away with it a little, but monastics have no excuse whatsoever. Do not think that having become ordained means you can do whatever you want or go about everything haphazardly. You must be modest around everyone, whether or not you live with others. You should not resent people for doing things that you feel are unacceptable, and you also shouldn’t think that without you, things would not be done right. Do not dwell on thoughts like, The temple I came from wasn’t like this.

“When I transfer the consciousness of the deceased, I do not charge you for each name you have written down. Even if you could think of a thousand names of people who need to be liberated, I would still liberate them all. In other words, it doesn’t cost you anything, whether you write down a name or request to liberate karmic creditors, a cat, or a dog. Any other way would not be in accordance with the Dharma.”

Next, as His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche started the puja, his face glowed with compassion. The ritual was conducted with great solemnness and dignity. While in a total state of samadhi, the guru recited from the Dharma text. Then, ignoring the pain in his right shoulder from where the cartilage had worn away, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche performed the Chod. With his ultimate bodhicitta, the guru visualized making an offering to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and giving alms to all the sentient beings in the Six Realms, of his blood, flesh, and bones, sparing nothing. His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then chanted the Great Six-Syllable Mantra for a long time, his compassionate, sincere, solemn, pure, and profoundly aspired Dharma voice resounding through the venue and benefiting countless sentient beings. The guru’s great compassionate aspiration to keep sentient beings from reincarnating moved all of the attendees to tears. The power of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessings from performing the Dharma was extremely auspicious, embracing all sentient beings, and his great awe-inspiring power permeated the void.

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

“Many of my disciples still do not understand why they are cultivating, and persist in thinking that their guru should meet all of their expectations. Yesterday, for example, a disciple sought an audience with me, during which he kept saying, ‘I hope my son can come and learn Buddhism.’” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked, “What is said in the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas?” The monastics and other attendees answered, “The mind of attachment to loved ones wavers like water.” The guru continued: “He hopes his child will come here to learn Buddhism not so that the boy can become liberated from life and death, but so that he can take refuge, be disciplined, and taught to behave. Thus, he can dump everything on me. You should know that I teach the Dharma to help sentient beings to become liberated from life, death, and reincarnation. As I have said many times, your child’s filial piety or lack thereof has to do with your own causal conditions and good fortune. You should think long and hard about just how many good deeds you have done in this lifetime. What makes you think you deserve a filial child?

“If such were the way of things, then I could go ahead and ‘harass’ His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang! Just yesterday I spoke to the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang on the phone, in fact. I can ‘harass’ him every day! I have never forced my children to eat vegetarian or learn Buddhism; quite to the contrary, I once punished my son by forbidding him from coming here for two years. You, on the other hand, would force your kids to come with you, thinking that making them practice will cause them to be well behaved. I talked to that disciple yesterday, yet he still badgered me to grant him his wish. How are your causes, effects, and good fortune any of my concern? Even if I were to agree to your wish if your child continued to be disobedient, then you would start slandering the Buddha. Padmasambhava predicted long ago that there would be an era in which objects made of metal fly through sky. Back then the word ‘airplane’ hadn’t been invented yet. Padmasambhava said that when that time came, unfilial children would appear in the world, as would unchaste women, unrighteous men, constant warfare and natural disasters, and infectious plagues. Every single one of these predictions has come true. Now, therefore, having unfilial children is the norm, and it is rare to find filial ones. You have to be abnormal to give birth to a filial child these days. If you had plenty of good fortune, then you would not have been born in this evil time of the Five Turbidities and this Age of Degenerate Dharma, whether you were a lay practitioner or a monastic—unless you were a Bodhisattva who had come back. Since you all know you are not Bodhisattvas returned to Earth, what makes you think your children will change after just chanting a scant few mantras or behave after taking refuge for a few months? In Their compassion, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have sent you a lay practitioner to observe. If your guru can succeed, then you can, too. I will judge your situations, and sometimes I might even help you by granting the worldly things you seek, assuming you possess sufficient causal conditions and good fortune. However, that does not mean you should expect me to do everything for you. Some of my disciples end up falling ill even after having taken refuge for more than ten years, exactly due to this sort of attitude—the assumption that I should take care of everything for them. How well have you treated me? Not well at all. I have not interfered with your daily lives, and I’ll keep letting you live how you want. I will continue propagating the Dharma as always.

“For this Japanese puja, I declined offerings and even presided over a two-day puja for you for free. I’m not afraid of anything except for cause and effect. If an offering is not made in the correct mindset, then I will not accept it. Don’t expect to get everything you desire just by making a small offering. When making offerings to me, you expect me to know which bus the offering was made from, as well as who gave offerings and who did not. Never mind the fact that I am advanced in years; you still think I should keep track of how much money has been received even after I’ve performed the Dharma for two days straight. I don’t care how much money you offered; that responsibility belonged to you and your fellow Dharma brothers, not to me. Every one of you deliberately played tricks while pretending to be very responsible people. If that had been the case, then you should have made the offerings all by yourself. None of you repented; you only cried and said tearfully that you owed me because I would not accept your offerings—without introspection or repenting for your own problems. If I had accepted your offerings, then I would owe you. I did not, because I have not taught you well enough. And by not accepting them, I can scold you. You might feel this is not very serious, but in terms of practicing Vajrayana Buddhism, it is. You need to be clear about what your thoughts are; if your thoughts are unclear, then nothing you learn or practice will be of any use. As a meritorious guru, I have no desire for you to respect or fear me; rather, I want you to be clear about your thoughts. Why, whenever I make offerings to my guru, is His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang very happy to accept them, and even makes constant mention of offerings I have made in the past? The reason is quite simple: I always pay close attention to my guru’s needs!

“You all come here to participate in the puja in order to obtain good fortune, yet you have not amended your ways. The good fortune obtained here cannot be used in this lifetime, only in the next, so if you do not cultivate any merits, then you will have none to use in this life. Some people slander the Buddha by asking why, after having participating in so many pujas, their lives still haven’t changed for the better. Of course their circumstances have not changed; they have only cultivated good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms, which they must wait until the next lifetime to use. By contrast, merits can be used in this lifetime. I was on my deathbed last year, but was able to recover within just a month’s time, so am able to continue teaching you. Why? It was because of the merits I had cultivated. Merits come from keeping the precepts, meditating, and unlocking one’s wisdom.

“On the surface you appear to be observing the precepts, but you have not even kept the Refuge Precepts. You want your guru to resolve your suffering and grant your wishes right away. I am familiar with hundreds of monastics in the Drikung Kagyu Order, so I should have asked them all to perform the Dharma for me every day, right? Would that have been okay? No; it would not. We have to take care of our own problems; we must accept our causes, effects, and causal conditions. We must make a firm resolution to practice. If we do so, then one day eventually, the moment is sure to come when our karma will change. It is not written in any of the sutras that the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, or your guru can eliminate your karmic retribution from the evil acts you have committed. There also is no mention that just being willing to chant the Buddha’s name is enough to rid you of your bad karma. Karmic hindrances block us from practicing, whether we are extremely rich or poverty-stricken. Our Dharma practice can stop those hindrances for us, but this does not mean it can eliminate the karmic retribution from our evil causes. If it could, then the good cause of practicing Buddhism would yield no good effects, either. It is impossible to have only good effects and no evil ones. After all of the evil acts you have committed in this lifetime, how could you be completely devoid of evil effects? Only by putting a stop to all your evil acts—thereby preventing their evil force from manifesting—can your good energy temporarily cover it up. Unable to see it, you will therefore not feel the suffering caused by your evil effects.

“If you do not practice the Dharma by observing the precepts, meditating, and unlocking your wisdom, then all your cultivation in this lifetime will merely produce good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms. This can be used in the next lifetime, to help you be reborn as a human or a heavenly being, but it cannot free you from reincarnation. Precepts are very important tools for cultivation. Lay practitioners have the Five Precepts to observe, while Bhikkhunis have three hundred forty-eight and Bhikkhus two hundred fifty. In addition, there are the Bodhisattva Precepts and the Vajrayana Precepts. All of these precepts are standards for our actions of body, speech, and mind. Keeping the precepts does not mean there are a bunch of things we cannot do; it simply means that our behavior must fall within their scope. In today’s complex society it is not easy to keep the precepts with one hundred percent purity, but what is important is that in your heart you want to keep them. I rarely eat in vegetarian restaurants other than my own. On the contrary, I tend to go to establishments that serve meat, because it gives me an opportunity to make those chefs cook vegetarian dishes and therefore engage in a little less karma from killing, even if it is just for a single meal. When I order, I always instruct the chef not to add any scallions or garlic. Some people who go out to eat end up arguing with the chef if a bunch of scallions were added to their dishes. You could instead order another dish and pay for it separately. Whenever I eat out, if a dish I ordered has been cooked with scallions, I simply place it aside and don’t eat it, or order another serving and ask the chef not to add any scallions this time. Nevertheless, I pay for everything I have ordered. You don’t need to worry about whether the same pots and serving utensils have been used to prepare meat dishes, unless you want to bring your own! Eating vegetarian does not include eating the pots and serving spoons. Instead of quarrelling with them, you should try to endear others to Buddhists, because conflict is not good.

“This Dharma was performed today so that you could experience the compassion of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. This compassion is not for you to take advantage of; its purpose is to allow you to feel that as long as you have the causal condition, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are sure to answer your supplications. Whether or not you can receive Their help, continue practicing, and do as you are told has nothing to do with your guru, the Buddhas, or the Bodhisattvas. The Buddha helps people with the right causal conditions, and it all comes down to whether or not you listen. If you still cling to your own ideas, you will not listen, and you will therefore be lacking in causal conditions; if you have let go of your own ideas, then you will be able to completely listen and receive help. For example, before accepting other people’s invitations, I still ask His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang for advice. This is the way a person should conduct oneself.

“A Buddhist practitioner’s every thought and every action should be than those of ordinary people. During this recent puja in Japan, none of the Japanese believers kicked that wooden board in front of the Dharma throne or stood there waiting expectantly because he or she hadn’t received a food offering. This is because they knew I was helping them; their reverence and respect for me made them very careful not to kick the board lest they interrupt my performance of the Dharma. As they took turns receiving the fire offering items, they progressed in an orderly fashion, not pausing even if they did not receive theirs. This was because they had respect, and were grateful to me for helping them. This shows the difference between Japanese and Taiwanese. Perhaps it had to do with the way they were educated, but because of the reverence and gratitude they felt toward me, they paid close attention to their surroundings. Some of them were not even Buddhists, but they still were thankful. They did not act like you. How can you compare?

“Of my two hundred-odd disciples from Taiwan, seven kicked the wooden board. Some, who had not received their offering items, stood there waiting, holding up the line, and a monastic even slipped and fell. That day my hands picked up and handed out offering items nearly two thousand times at least. There was a rhythm to the motion of my hand; as soon as I stopped, I had to regenerate the power of my mind before I resumed handing them out. These so-called disciples had no consideration whatsoever for how their behavior was interfering with the speed at which I could give out the items; in fact, their disregard delayed the proceedings further by forcing me to pay attention to them. The reason they acted this way was that they were completely self-centered; they were only looking at the plates they held in their hands. Their only thought was the greedy desire to obtain what they wanted, and they felt they had to get their offering items so that they could toss them into the fire—while ignoring the instructions of the nearby attendants, who had to tell them ‘please keep it moving’ at least a hundred times. These disciples’ ears were completely closed, though, showing their lack of respect for their guru. One disciple from America was even cheekier; thinking herself very important, when she saw me holding my hand out for a plate, she tried to give me hers—but I didn’t want it. When I perform the Dharma, I don’t look at what’s happening next to me. As soon as I received her plate, its weight felt different, so I tossed it on the ground and told her to stand to the side. She was all so totally wrapped up in herself, only cultivating selfishness.

“I pay for the medical expenses of a certain ordained disciple. One day I just happened to be walking by, when I saw her and her entire family eating in the coffee shop. She had so many sons and daughters with money, yet they would not support her financially. She might have become a monastic, but it is still up to one’s children to fulfill their filial responsibilities as well as they can. She should not simply worry that her children work hard for their money or that life is difficult for them. I won’t haggle over these funds with her, but if she has daughters, sons-in-law, and sons, how has she not thought to ask them to help her so that she doesn’t have to rely entirely on her guru’s money? You should know that my money is all used to benefit sentient beings; I don’t want her to owe me. Thus, this ordained disciple has broken the precept against greed. Sons and daughters are sentient beings, too, but they cannot stop looking after their mother just because she has become a monastic. I am not saying this out of reluctance to pay for her medical expenses; I’m just afraid of causing her to owe me. The Chod performed today was to help you all renounce and let go of your greed and attachments; only then could you gain anything.

“I did not tell that story to scold you; I mentioned it because, as is taught in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, if you are not careful, you could give rise to a thought that will generate karma and vice. The world is not as peaceful as you think; the climate is in turmoil and everything is in chaos. A Buddhist practitioner’s mind must remain calm; when hearing the Dharma, you should really listen, and then put it into practice. I have a disciple who is a nurse, and her hospital recently asked her to work in the delivery room. Knowing full well that if she took the job she might become involved in abortions, she still was considering it in order to make a few extra bucks, and came to ask my opinion. I had absolutely no patience for her, and didn’t even bother speaking to her.

“There was a vice superintendent of a hospital in Mainland China who succumbed to a serious illness, and a disciple there advised her to implore me for help. Even though I was in Japan, after only hearing that person’s name and zodiac sign, I was able to describe her physical condition completely and accurately. This awed her and made her wish to seek an audience. I granted permission, and invited her to Taiwan, but she said she was unable to come. Well, I could not go there, either. The vice superintendent of a hospital in Beijing would surely enjoy a certain degree of influence, but never mind all that. Last year, when I fell ill, it was His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang who told me to perform the Chod every day and who actually, along with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, saved my life. Those doctor-disciples did nothing more than put on a show.

“At the beginning of last year, when I got sick and began to bleed profusely, a doctor-disciple told me that I only had one tenth of my life-force left. At the time, two disciples who were doctors and one who was a veteran nurse of several decades wanted to give me a shot to get some nutritional supplements into me, but I was in dire state; my veins had sunken, so after searching for thirty minutes, they still weren’t able to find one suitable to the task. Having sunken veins is an indication of insufficient blood flow; without enough blood flow, any further blood loss would have put my life in grave danger.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued: “They pricked me with needles two or three times, and still couldn’t find a vein, because all of mine had sunken. I had bled a lot, so my veins were dry. They were so sticky that even that very experienced nurse-disciple was unable to find one that was serviceable. Because of their filial intentions, I allowed them to try to treat me, but this actually served to show them even more clearly that I was no longer human—exhibiting the difference between one who has cultivated and one who hasn’t. They were still discussing the idea of using a vein in my thigh, if they were still unable to find one in my arms. This should tell you that doctors are very good, but they are not omnipotent, so you must make a firm resolution within yourselves to face everything that happens to you.

“Luck is not on your side; I got better, so now I can continue scolding you. I have made a decision: I will scold you whenever you haven’t listened, and any disciples who continue not to listen will become believers at any time. If they still don’t listen, they will have to stay outside the entrance’s big red door; any further transgressions will send them downstairs to the curbside. There are already too many disciples and believers right now. His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang says that I practice every day, and achieve attainment naturally. So what do I need you for?”

Upon the perfect completion of the puja, all attendees expressed their gratitude to His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for having performed the auspicious Dharma and bestowed compassionate teachings. They stood and paid reverent homage as the guru descended the Dharma throne.

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Updated on August 25, 2016