His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – September 25, 2016

During the general puja held at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Taipei, disciples and believers respectfully watched a Dharma video of highlights from the teachings His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche bestowed at the Japanese Buddhist Center on December 20th, 2015 while presiding over the Ksitigarbha Blessing Puja.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Those who commit evil or even lack belief in cause and effect.”’

“Why don’t people believe in cause and effect? It is because they all give reasonable explanations for their behavior. What do I mean by that? As long as they believe that what they think, say, and do can protect and benefit them, then they think they are acting correctly. When you think everything you do is right, then the flip side of the coin is that you believe others are wrong. As soon as you think that, you will start engaging in a lot of harmful behavior toward others. For example, people love eating the flesh of sentient beings because they think it is nutritious and tastes good. I often point out that if this meat and seafood were not cooked or fried and had no seasoning added at all, then would you still dare to eat it? Even if you did, you wouldn’t be able to get it down. You might think seasoned meat and seafood tastes delicious, but after it’s gone past your tongue and you’ve swallowed it down your esophagus, will it still have any flavor left? No, it will not. In other words, our sense of taste comes from our tongue, and it is out of its pursuit of the flavors we like that we have eaten so many sentient beings in this lifetime.

“Secondly, these tongues of ours have spoken a lot of bad language as a way of helping us vent our frustrations, keep from being bullied, and prevent ourselves from losing out. Thus, our tongues have helped us to commit evil—but they can also help us to do good. If all our thoughts are good, then the words that roll off our tongues will naturally be good, too. In general, people wouldn’t be able to speak or utter any sound without a tongue. Another important reason people don’t believe in cause and effect is that they are afraid of being punished. Actually, the Buddha did not invent cause and effect, nor is it the Buddhas’, Bodhisattvas’, and gurus’ desire to punish you for your wrongdoings. They also wouldn’t use cause and effect to frighten or threaten you or coerce you into believing. Rather, when the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas see how you act, they see what your future will be like, so They give you warning.

“The sutra describes what the karmic retribution for committing evil is, as well as what the karmic effect is for behaving virtuously. The Buddha did not only speak about evil; He also taught of the effects produced by doing good. With regard to cause and effect, some causes are good and some are evil. Everything that benefits sentient beings is good, while everything that benefits yourself is evil. It is very difficult to behave 100% virtuously in the mundane world, but we can try our hardest. I was once so poor I could not even afford food, and I once got a horrifying, incurable form of skin cancer; these both resulted from evil causes I had created in my past lives. What did it mean that I was so impoverished that I could not afford to eat? In a past life I must have been too stingy to give alms and make offerings. What did it mean that in the past, before I started practicing Buddhism, all my business ventures failed? In my past lives I must have never helped others to achieve anything. In my forties, I got skin cancer due to the fact that while growing up in Hong Kong, where everybody loves to eat seafood, I had eaten so much crab, shrimp, and live fish. However, because I believed in causality, I did not implore the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for help, nor did I ask His Holiness to perform the Dharma for me. Believing in causality also means that you are very brave, and are willing to face up to all your past actions. As a result, you grow even more courageous along the path to cultivation, never retreating nor slacking off. Therefore, even while I had no money for food, I still performed 500 to 1,000 grand prostrations every single day. I continued practicing diligently and helping sentient beings, even after getting skin cancer. Strangely enough, these two problems both resolved themselves quite quickly without my asking anyone for help or to perform the Dharma for me.

“As for people who do not believe in cause and effect, and who experience the karmic retribution of being destitute, the first thing they do is rack their brains to figure out how to make some money. Because of my belief in causality, it was very clear to me—it was also written in the sutras—that Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara would not let anyone who practices in accordance with the Dharma starve, be homeless, or have no clothing. Therefore, no matter how poor I got, I always had food, a roof over my head, and clothes. I did not have had any money to take a taxi, so I simply walked; I still had two legs, after all. Perhaps the reason I am so healthy now is that I always walked everywhere back then. I knew that my having eaten the flesh of so many sentient beings in the past should have sent me to the Hell Realm, so if my skin cancer could take that karmic retribution’s place, then why shouldn’t I accept it? Of course I accepted it, and meanwhile, I neither saw the cancer cells as the enemy nor thought about coexisting with them; I thought nothing at all. I simply kept on practicing in accordance with the Dharma. If you follow the teachings of the Buddha and your guru, and change your actions of body, speech, and mind, then you will definitely experience good effects in the future.

“In Tantra, cultivating the Anuttarayogatantra after the age of thirty is quite difficult. When I first started learning Tantra I was already in my forties, and almost fifty years old. I once asked His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang if I would be able to succeed, and his simple response was, ‘If you have enough faith in your guru, then you will.’

“His Holiness’s assurance came true. This, too, is cause and effect. Not all causes and effects are bad; they can be good, too. People who do not believe in causality always feel like their good deeds do not yield any good karmic effects. In addition, they think everything they do is right, and end up behaving in such a way that does constant harm to themselves and others. The most important aspect of Buddhism is that you can see results in yourself. A practitioner for whom the Dharma has had no effect is not qualified to propagate it. By ‘effect’ I do not mean improvements of the practitioner’s health or financial situation; those are merely by-products. At the very least, however, he or she must have a unique view of cause and effect, different from that of the general public. Those who do not believe in causality are bound to commit evil because they act only out of their own desires, and do not understand that there are consequences for every action.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…and indulge in sexual misconduct and false speech.”’

“If you are a married woman, then as long as you are in that marital state, you must not have any sexual relations with another man; you may not even harbor sexual fantasies about someone else’s husband. For any young woman under the age of eighteen who is still dependent upon her parents for living, schooling, and other expenses—and even if she is over the age of eighteen—if such a woman were to have sex with a guy, she would be committing sexual misconduct. Why do so many young women get sick these days? It is because of this. Some start having sex while they are in high school, or even middle school. If a man has sexual relations with a married woman or someone else’s girlfriend—and the definition of girlfriend here means much of her income, including everything she enjoys and uses, is provided by another man—then this person, too, is committing sexual misconduct. Other examples of sexual misconduct include getting someone drunk, seducing her, raping her, and committing incest. Having sex with a monastic or an animal is sexual misconduct as well, as is engaging in any sort of sexual relations in front of a Buddha statue or one’s parents. If I were to keep talking in detail about this, there are plenty more examples I could list.

“False speech can be explained on two different levels. People who are not Buddhists love to speak falsehoods about themselves, such as telling everyone they have doctorate degrees even though they have not yet graduated from university, are guilty of false speech. Buddhist practitioners who tell others they have achieved various levels of attainment, despite that not being the case, are likewise committing false speech. On the other hand, if they know some Dharmas that can benefit sentient beings, yet when people with sufficient root capacity come to implore them, those practitioners deny being able to transmit them, then that is another example of engaging in false speech. They may refuse to transmit the Dharmas, but they mustn’t say they do not know them unless they genuinely don’t.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…and divisive speech, and harsh speech.”’

“Divisive speech means saying things that stir up trouble. Women are especially liable to break this precept. In order to protect their female friends, they will often inform them that their husbands or boyfriends are seeing someone else; this is an example of divisive speech. Other people’s family matters and romantic life is none of your concern; even if you saw your friend’s man cheating with your own eyes, that doesn’t mean their relationship is in trouble. Many women feel a deep sense of obligation to their friends, and say, “This and that happened the other day; you should watch your husband closely these days.” The friend might answer, “What happened?” You say, “Take a look and see if he’s changing his cologne or tie frequently. Pay attention to these things.” She might ask, “Why? What has he done?” Then you say, “Oh, never mind; I shouldn’t say anything about it.” You must not hurt people like that. Even if you hear of something going on, it is her business, not yours. If you don’t say anything, her and her husband’s situation might get better; even if you keep your suspicions to yourself, your friend might discover what’s going on by herself and then deal with it in her own way. If you say to her, ‘Do you want to do something about that woman he’s seeing?’ then your friend might feel peer pressure to answer, ‘Yes!’ Second of all, if you tell her that her husband is having an affair, she might go home and confront him about it; haven’t you then made yourself an enemy? This sort of divisive speech occurs very easily in relations between men and women. It can even get more serious; you can provoke people into fighting or causing someone to lose job and so on. That is not to say that if someone does poor work you cannot talk about it; we can talk about an issue in a non-personal manner, without attacking those involved. Harsh speech is something we all have been guilty of. Don’t think it’s okay to curse and say ugly things to your kids just because they are your kids; this, too, is harsh speech. Native Taiwanese like to shout yaoshou or kuba, but those, too, are examples of harsh speech.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…or slander Mahayana teachings.”’

“A lot of people in Taiwan these days like to slander Vajrayana Buddhism by claiming the Buddha never spoke Tantra. Actually, Tantra is mentioned many times in the sutras. In the Ratnakuta Sutra there is a section in which Shakyamuni Buddha explained that any practitioner performing the Akshobhya Dharma must adhere to a very strict precept. That is Tantra, and was written in the sutra. Only those who have learned Yogatantra and Anuttarayogatantra understand that these are Tantra. You’re bound to point out that the Buddha did not specifically call these Tantra, but He did not need to, because only a very few people are actually able to read the section in the Ratnakuta Sutra about Akshobhya. Likewise, very few indeed can aspire to learn and practice the Bodhisattva Path. Across Taiwan there are not many places outside of the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center where the Ratnakuta Sutra is taught on a weekly basis. No matter which Dharma methods we are cultivating, though, they were all spoken and taught by the Buddha, so none is of greater or lesser importance or efficacy. The Buddha taught all these Dharmas according to sentient beings’ root capacity. If their causal conditions lead them to learn Hinayana Buddhism, then that is what they will learn. If their causal conditions are such that they should practice Mahayana Buddhism, then they will. If instead they are fated to cultivate Vajrayana Buddhism, then naturally their guru will teach them many things.

“The Drikung Kagyu’s Lineage began with Lord Jigten Sumgön, and has continued to this day. Historically, I am the only lay practitioner of Han ethnicity who has ever been authenticated as having attained the fruition of a Rinpoche within a single lifetime. I’m not saying this to brag. Why did His Holiness authenticate me? He is a meritorious guru. In Tantra, it is said that any disciple who possesses sufficient root capacity must be transmitted the Dharma, lest his or her guru break the Samaya Commandments. Similarly, if you possess the root capacity to learn Tantra and your guru transmits it to you, yet you do not practice it, then you, too, will have broken these commandments. Your religion is your business, just as which Order someone follows is his or her business. Is whether or not someone else can attain Buddhahood any of your concern? You are not qualified to bestow assurance of future enlightenment or to say who is good or bad at cultivation, because you are not Buddhas. Only Buddhas have such qualifications, and only a disciple’s root guru meets the conditions necessary to assure how well the disciple will cultivate. You are not qualified, so you must not criticize others. If people do a good job of cultivating, we should praise them. If they do not, it is not our place to draw any conclusions; perhaps they are just trying to appear to be doing a bad job for your benefit, so that you gain an understanding of areas you yourselves need to work on. Who knows? Such a person could be our Bodhisattva. Therefore, it is typically practitioners who slander Mahayana Buddhism.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…such evil-doing sentient beings will surely fall into the Evil Realms.”’

“In other words, people who do not believe in cause and effect, who commit evil, who engage in sexual misconduct, false speech, divisive speech, or harsh speech, or who slander Mahayana Buddhism are bound to fall into the Hell, Animal, or Hungry Ghost Realms.

“The sutra reads, ‘“If, however, they should meet good, learned friends who persuade them, in the time it takes to snap one’s fingers, to take refuge in Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha….”’

“These ‘good, learned friends’ do not mean monastics, nor do they refer to any lay practitioners; rather, this phrase has a very profound meaning. ’Good’ implies such a person has, at the very least, mastered the Ten Meritorious Acts. Secondly, every word spoken by that person is good for others, and all his or her actions are for the benefit of sentient beings. Such a person is not self-serving. To put it simply, he or she is a Bodhisattva, absolutely. ‘Learned friend’ does not mean someone with abundant life experience who gives you advice; rather, it is a person with plentiful supramundane knowledge that allows him or her to help and guide suffering sentient beings. Throughout history, starting with Shakyamuni Buddha, every Buddhist master has had to pass through times of hardship. Unless you have experienced hardship, how can you know what suffering tastes like? How can you help suffering sentient beings? It isn’t enough to give a few words of encouragement to them. A good, learned friend is someone who is definitely able to help you, effectively; no one else can bear that title. Merely giving you a copy of a sutra to form a connection and telling you to take refuge is not enough to be a good, learned friend; this is simply a dear friend who helps you to create a good causal condition. A good, learned friend is someone who gives you a method that will absolutely help you succeed and is definitely beneficial to you. For example, I often tell people whose parents are terminally ill to perform grand prostrations. A lot of you might think doing those is very easy, but it isn’t. I wouldn’t dare claim to be a good, learned friend, but at least I am practicing Buddhism. What is the point of performing grand prostrations? It is to accumulate good fortune on behalf of their parents so that they can form a connection with the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and gurus and, in turn, resolve their problems.

“Even if you have committed the wrongdoings mentioned earlier, as long as you possess the good fortune, merits, and causal conditions to encounter a good, learned friend willing to give you advice, then in the blink of an eye—in that instant—you will have genuinely taken refuge in Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. Does this refuge require a lot of rituals? No! As long as deep down you see Ksitigarbha as your yidam, and a good friend to whom you can tell all of your innermost thoughts and problems, then you will have taken refuge in Him. Even though you cannot see Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, your guru represents Him, because your guru can speak the Dharma on behalf of this yidam. Thus, in Tantric terms, the guru is no different from the yidam, meaning his Dharma nature is the same as Ksitigarbha’s.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…such beings will be able to be delivered and liberated from suffering retribution in the Three Evil Realms.”’

“What a bargain! However, the question is whether or not you are qualified to encounter a good, learned friend. If you are, then you must listen to what he or she tells you! For example, by urging you all not to eat meat, do I count as a good, learned friend? I do, because I know that eating meat is bad for you. Why do I teach you to make prostrations before the Buddha? It means to take refuge in Him. Many people don’t think worshiping the Buddha means taking refuge, but that is exactly what it is. You should take refuge in Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, but that doesn’t just mean saying, ‘Bodhisattva! I am your disciple; give me a refuge certificate!’ The Buddhas don’t have refuge certificates to give us, nor do the Bodhisattvas. In other words, all you have to do is trust Ksitigarbha and know that He can help us.

“The Chinese characters for ‘take refuge,’ gui and yi, have two different meanings. Gui means returning to our original, pure nature. Who can enable us to recover this? The Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and the guru. Yi implies that you will need to rely on the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and your guru in order to change your present and future lives; this is what we call ‘taking refuge.’ It does not mean relying or depending on the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for every single trivial matter. The definition of taking refuge is listening to everything the Bodhisattvas and your guru teach you, from now on, and putting it into practice. In the Three Evil Realms we are unable to practice. As long as you remember Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and that you once participated in this puja, engage in no further acts of killing, and refrain from breaking the precepts, then even if you have committed evil in the past, you still will not fall into the Three Evil Realms.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, if they should wholeheartedly pay obeisance, worship, and praise….”’

“This means that after having taken refuge, we should worship and give praise earnestly and respectfully. The word ‘worship’ is often mentioned in the sutras, and includes the character zhan, meaning to revere by gazing upward. When we conduct such worship, we should do so on our knees. Japanese are especially good at this, but Chinese fail at it. Whether or not they believe in the Buddha, Japanese are always very respectful whenever they visit a temple and stand before Buddha statues. It doesn’t matter whether these statues are antiques, national treasures, or simple Buddha statues. Japanese are very special in that whenever they stand before a statue, they just gaze at it with respect. Regardless of how much they actually value it, they show much more respect than we Taiwanese do. Although there aren’t many Buddhist practitioners in Japan, they at least are good at worshiping and giving praise. What about us? We can’t stop ourselves from saying, ‘This Buddha statue doesn’t look dignified enough.’ When did it become your turn to voice criticism about that sort of thing? Only a guru is qualified. Thus, Japanese are better at worshiping and giving praise than we are.

“I have noticed that in temples, while worshipping the Buddha, Japanese are not at all frivolous. One time the abbot of a temple in Japan invited me there to perform the Dharma, and afterward took me into the main hall. There some high school students were speaking loudly, so he scolded them on the spot. What would people have done in Taiwan? They wouldn’t have dared to scold them; if they had, those believers would have yelled back! No sooner had those students been reprimanded than they got very quiet, and left without another word. This sort of character is the very reason Japan was able to get back on its feet after being beaten so soundly in the Second World War. No matter what happens, they remain respectful; respect always comes first. We, by contrast, have failed at this. Don’t think that Buddhism is flourishing in Taiwan, because actually its people have not fulfilled the acts of paying obeisance, worshiping, and giving praise. In Tibet, most believers who visit a temple are not qualified to see any Rinpoche, so they are very respectful toward the Buddha statues. They stand before them, gazing upward. ‘Worship’ involves looking upward, after all.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…and offer incense, flowers, clothing, all sorts of treasures, food, and beverages…”’

“While reading the sutra, we should reflect upon ourselves. ‘Incense, flowers, clothing’—we should make offerings of good-quality flowers and clothes. Sometimes you can see people in Tibet dressing the Buddha statues in fine clothing; this custom doesn’t exist in China. ‘All sorts of treasures’—all manner of precious objects. ‘…Food, and beverages’—we must remember that if we genuinely want to make food offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, then we must present them before we ourselves have taken a bite. People in Taiwan are in the habit, when preparing offerings, of cooking up two dishes—one for the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and one for themselves, and the kids get to eat first. This way of doing it is wrong! Furthermore, if you want to give the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas offerings of vegetables, they must not touch the ground. If they do by accident, you must pick them up immediately, wash them, and then cook them; only this counts as a true offering. When making offerings of food and beverages, you must not just casually buy something cheap; it is another matter if you have no money. Why are Chinese so smart as to make offerings of only fruit? They do it in order to save themselves trouble. Furthermore, fruit must be bought in season, so is fresh; you can’t buy rotten fruit to use as offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Do They need fresh fruit to eat? How could They? The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have vast supernatural powers, and could obtain it just by thinking it. Offering fresh fruit symbolizes our aspiration to be respectful, worship, and give praise.

“Speaking praise results in great merits also. When you took refuge, why did you promise to praise your guru’s merits? This comes from the sutras. You have no idea how vast the Bodhisattva’s merits are, but you know what your guru has done. You have seen and heard of his actions, so why not speak praise of them? One of my disciples might not have believed in impermanence and the inevitability of death, but at least he spoke praise of his guru in front of his children; as a result, in the end, when the disciple was on his deathbed, they came to me for help. If he had never spoken that praise while he was still living, then I would not have been aware when he drew his last breath. At the time I was sitting right here on this Dharma throne. When I got down, I made a phone call, and found out he had passed away. How did I know? Because he had praised his guru, I sensed when his life was hanging by a thread. I therefore immediately protected his consciousness; he did not need to find me, because I sought him out. Speaking praise is another way of accumulating good fortune and merits for yourselves.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…and other such donations, then they will always enjoy wonderful happiness in heaven through hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of kalpas into the future.”’

“If you do as described—making offerings and worshiping Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha—then you will enjoy happiness ‘through hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of kalpas into the future.’ Listen closely: ‘Future’ does not mean now, or this lifetime; it refers to your future lives, and encompasses a very, very long time. ‘…Then they will always enjoy wonderful happiness in heaven.’ As I said earlier, as long as you take refuge in Ksitigarbha, you will definitely not fall into the Three Evil Realms. Furthermore, if you are willing to sincerely pay obeisance, worship, praise, give offerings, and so on, then you will pass on to the Heaven Realm at the conclusion of this lifetime. If you merely take refuge, believe in Ksitigarbha, and worship Him whenever you see Him, then at least you won’t fall into the Three Evil Realms. If you wish to go up to the Heaven Realm, however, you must also make daily offerings. These must be as clean and pure as possible, and you should use high-quality incense instead of cheap ones. Throughout the Heaven Realm, you will obtain the most auspicious and wondrous bliss.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Finally, when their good fortune of the Heaven Realm becomes exhausted, they will descend once again to be reborn for hundreds and thousands of kalpas in the Human Realm as emperors or kings. They will be able to remember the entire history, from beginning to end, of their past lives.”’

“Once your time in the Heaven Realm is up, you are guaranteed to return to the Human Realm. Originally, once your good fortune of the Heaven Realm was exhausted, you should fall into the Hell Realm, but because of your previous deeds and the fact that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha promised you that as long as you take refuge in Him, you would not have to suffer the karmic retribution of falling into the Three Evil Realms. You’ll instead come back ‘to be reborn for hundreds and thousands of kalpas in the Human Realm as emperors or kings.’ This line is very attractive to a lot of people; it means that when reincarnating in the Human Realm, you will spend many lifetimes as emperors or kings. This country has no emperor anymore, so you’ll be a president instead—but a ruler’s reign these days is only a very short eight years. Anyone who is in office longer than that gets criticized as being a dictator. Only in Japan does an emperor continue to reign, so it depends on where you are born. This line says ‘hundreds and thousands of kalpas’—so after this lifetime is over, you will definitely return as a king or emperor in the next life, too.

“‘They will be able to remember the entire history, from beginning to end, of their past lives.’ In other words, you will be able to recall very clearly what you have done in your past lives, and will be completely aware of what effects are befalling you now. You will also have a clear idea of what effects your current actions will bring you in the future. From beginning to end, your understanding of your lifetimes will be crystal clear. I am beginning to gain a very clear understanding of what the future holds for me now. Why can’t you see your future? It is because you do not believe in cause and effect, so instead you do everything you can to make your lives more comfortable. Once you gain this Knowledge of Previous Lifetimes, you will understand how cause and effect work, and begin to live naturally and freely, so you must cultivate.

“The sutra reads, ‘“O Samadhisvararaja, such is the inconceivable, great, majestic power that Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha possesses to grant vast benefits to all sentient beings.”’

“Shakyamuni Buddha goes on to reiterate to Samadhisvararaja how awe-inspiring and unfathomable Ksitigarbha’s powers are. Ordinary people cannot cultivate such ‘majestic powers,’ which refer to His good fortune and merits. As long as you implore Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, and have a connection with Him, then these majestic powers can change what karmic retribution you will face in the future. Does that mean it will completely disappear? No; it will change for the better, or other situations will emerge. Reading through all that has been stated so far, is there any mention that such people can implore and attain Buddhahood? No, because if they have not cultivated, then they will not have the karmic effect of attaining Buddhahood. If they understand how to repent and take refuge, however, all of their karmic retribution will change—although they will still be in the suffering sea of reincarnation. Nonetheless, their situation will change in that they will be reborn in the Heaven Realm and then live as kings. That is of course better than our current situations.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Therefore, you Bodhisattvas ought to commit this sutra to memory and extensively circulate, spread, and retell it.”’

“The Buddha is telling all of the Bodhisattvas to remember this sutra, and speak widely of its importance; to propagate it so that many people have a chance to come in contact with its teachings.

“The sutra reads, ‘Samadhisvararaja addressed the Buddha, saying, “O World Honored One, please do not worry. We thousands of myriads of millions of Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas will certainly be able, by virtue of Your majestic influence, to expound this sutra extensively in Jambudvipa for the benefit of all sentient beings.”’

“As you can see, every Bodhisattva is very humble. The Buddha instructed Samadhisvararaja to spread this sutra far and wide. Samadhisvararaja responded by telling the Buddha not to worry, because They all would do as He commanded. However, Samadhisvararaja added that They would only be able to do so by virtue of the Buddha’s majestic influence—meaning, with His blessings. A lot of people say, ‘I’ve achieved attainment! I’ve succeeded in chanting this!’ However, as long as you use the word, ‘I,’ you are wrong. Your success most certainly comes from the blessings bestowed on you by the Lineage Gurus, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas!

“It is worth further mention that here on Earth, the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows will become more and more widely propagated, because all of the Bodhisattvas promised the Buddha they would do this. In other words, although there is no statue of Ksitigarbha in the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center, I am expounding this sutra in Japan. I wouldn’t claim to be a Bodhisattva, but at least I am practicing the Bodhisattva Path. If the Buddha bade all Bodhisattvas to propagate this sutra, then I am no exception; I should play my part by spreading it. The Dharma of Ksitigarbha was transmitted to me by His Holiness, even though it isn’t cultivated by all that many people in Tibet.

“The sutra reads, ‘Having thus addressed the Buddha, Samadhisvararaja, with palms joined, respectfully made obeisance and withdrew.’

“Notice how polite Samadhisvararaja was! He didn’t simply turn around and run off after He’d asked and said His piece. With palms joined, He paid His respects—Samadhisvararaja had to make this gesture, but did He perform prostrations? He did not. You must remember that especially in Tibetan Buddhism, one must make prostrations upon seeing one’s guru, but not when withdrawing. This is because making prostrations when leaving would mean that you won’t see your guru again; it would be sayonara, goodbye. What should you do instead? Withdraw respectfully with palms joined. What does ‘made obeisance’ mean? It means bowing at the waist and retreating backwards. There is no mention here of turning around and leaving. You, on the other hand, when you’re done speaking, you just say, ‘Rinpoche? Everything all good?’ And if I don’t say anything more, then bang, you turn around and hurry off to who knows where, without any courtesy whatsoever. In the sutras the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are constantly exhibiting good behavior for us, and we should learn by Their examples! It seems that Japanese are better at being courteous than we are; when it is time to leave, they wouldn’t just turn around and go. Rather, they always bow until you have finished bowing back to them, and then leave in an unhurried manner. Taiwanese, by contrast, just say ‘bye-bye,’ turn around, and run off, faster than anyone, as if they are very impatient. Thus, they aren’t as sincere.

“The sutra reads, ‘Then the Devarajas from the Four Directions rose from their seats and, with palms joined, respectfully addressed the Buddha, saying, “O World Honored One, since Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha took such grand vows vast long kalpas ago, how is it that He has not yet completed His work of deliverance and that even now He continues to take extensive, immense vows? It is our sole hope that You, O World Honored One, will explain this to us.”’

“Then the Devarajas from the Four Directions—that is, the Four Heavenly Kings—stood. In Buddhism, these are the Four Great Dharma Protectors, among whom people in Japan particularly like to worship Vaiśravaṇa. Last month I performed the Chod from this very Dharma throne, and halfway through, I saw Vaiśravaṇa approach from this direction, leading many believers in His wake. Afterward I instructed someone to find out whether or not there were any places to the northeast of here in which Vaiśravaṇa is worshiped, and it turned out that in that direction there is an 800-year-old Vaiśravaṇa Temple. The next day I went to check it out, and saw exactly what I had seen while performing the Dharma. If you can conduct Dharma activities based on the compassion of Emptiness as the Buddha teaches, the Four Heavenly Kings will naturally come to protect you. Everything uttered by the Buddha is for the benefit of sentient beings, so when the Devarajas from the Four Directions ‘rose from their seats’—They had been sitting, so they stood up—They very respectfully bowed at the waist and asked the Buddha on behalf of the naughty people in the future, ‘O World Honored One, if Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha made this vow such a long time ago, then why are there still so many people who have not yet been liberated?’ ‘…And that even now He continues to take extensive, immense vows’—Ksitigarbha was continuing to take even greater vows.

“The sutra reads, ‘The Buddha replied to the four Devarajas, “Excellent, excellent!”’

“In Chinese Buddhist circles these days, a lot of monastics have degraded those words—‘Excellent, excellent!’—into a stock phrase. Actually, the Buddha said this as a way of praising the Devarajas for having asked a good question. Only as a result of their question had the Buddha been given the causal condition to answer it, and thereby help sentient beings; He said, ‘Excellent, excellent!’—meaning, ‘You’ve asked a very good question!’ It was good, not naughty. All questions from the Devarajas, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas are asked on behalf of sentient beings, for the world is full of such naughty humans. Because the Four Heavenly Kings still exist in the Heaven of Desires, the devas living there still have these sorts of naughty thoughts: ‘Huh? If Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s so powerful, then how come he hasn’t liberated them all yet? He should have finished early on, because He’s been a Mahasattva for such a long time!’ Some people harbor this exact sort of doubt. Not wanting sentient beings to doubt any of the Mahasattvas, the Four Heavenly Kings supplicated the Buddha on their behalf. This is why the Buddha answered, ‘Excellent, excellent!’ A very good question!

“The sutra reads, ‘“Now I am going to tell you and the present and future devas and human beings about these vast expediencies….”’

“Now He is speaking to you and all humans, devas, and other sentient beings, past, present, and future. Note that here the Buddha did not mention beings in the Animal Realm. A lot of people claim that if a dog hears the Buddha’s name every day, it will be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land, but that is utter nonsense! The Buddha obviously never said that; they are all just making things up. Hearing Amitabha’s name will merely keep the dog from falling back into the Animal Realm; it will certainly not enable it to be reborn in the Pure Land. How could it? Only humans go there, and only the ones who are good and very virtuous! What makes them think they can simply turn on a chanting machine for their pet to listen to constantly, and cause it to go to Amitabha’s Pure Land? What a lie! In this section, when answering the Four Heavenly Kings’ question, the Buddha speaks very clearly of beings in the Heaven Realm, the Human Realm, and so on. ‘These vast expediencies’—if beings from the Animal Realm could go to Amitabha’s Pure Land, then earlier the Buddha would have included mention of the Evil Realms, but He diverges from them in this section. Why is that? This is about cultivation: It means that only people in the Human and Heaven Realms can have opportunities to practice the Dharma; sentient beings in the Three Evil Realms are definitely not included.

“The sutra reads, ‘“I will now speak on how Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha bestows merciful and compassionate deliverance and liberation upon all evil-doing, suffering beings, both living and dead, in Jambudvipa of the Saha World.”’

“The Saha World is not a planet; it includes the four great continents of Mount Sumeru, and our Milky Way Galaxy is part of it. Jambudvipa is one planet within the Saha World. He used these expediencies for all sentient beings on Earth in the realms of both the living and the dead, meaning all of us who are running back and forth through this sea of reincarnation through life and death. ‘…To bestow merciful and compassionate deliverance and liberation upon all evil-doing, suffering beings’—that is, given His special, profound connection with humans on Earth, Ksitigarbha is constantly and compassionately delivering all of us suffering sentient beings from the evil karmic seeds we have planted in life and death. ‘Expediencies’ are used to help sentient beings at the proper moment in accordance with their causes, conditions, and karma.

“The sutra reads, ‘The four Devarajas replied, “Yes, indeed, O World Honored One; we would be delighted to listen.” The Buddha said to the four Devarajas, “Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has been delivering and liberating sentient beings for vast, long kalpas. However, he has not yet completely fulfilled his vows. Since he has mercy and pity on all evil-doing, suffering beings in this world, and sees that they will not break away from their attachments for countless kalpas in the future….”’

“The Four Heavenly Kings answered by saying, ‘O World Honored One, we are very willing and delighted to listen.’ ‘Delighted’ did not mean happy; it meant they hoped very much to hear what the Buddha had to say. Though Ksitigarbha had been constantly liberating sentient beings for a very long time, He had not finished liberating them all. Therefore, He felt compassion and mercy for all the evildoing, suffering sentient beings of that lifetime, as well as for those who would plant evil causes throughout the countless kalpas of lifetimes to come. That is, these causes would continue to grow and branch out in increasing complexity, like melon vines. Causality is not as simple as you might think; it is much more complex than, say, killing a fish and then reaping the consequences for that single action. For example, if you go fishing and catch a fish, what happens next? Do you kill it with your knife? Afterward, if you can’t cook, do you get someone else to prepare it for you? If you can cook, then you might go out and buy a pot and a bunch of other things and invite people over to eat it with you; showing a mother’s love for her children, you fix them a fish feast. Isn’t such an occurrence of collective karma just like a creeping vine, branching out and wrapping around and around constantly? You aren’t necessarily the only one who will face the consequences of your actions; many people around you will face them with you.

“My great-grandfather raised silkworms, and made a lot of money selling silk. My father served as a unit leader for the Ministry of State Security. From my grandfather’s generation down to my father’s, therefore, all of the males in my family had short lifespans, never living past the age of sixty. Also, we’ve not been able to keep any of our wealth for more than three generations, because our family made its fortune from killing. Why did this karma stretch on into later generations? Well, whom do you think benefited from that money? The people in our family, of course, so we all had a share in this collective karma. In my generation, when my second eldest sister was three years old she got meningitis—meningoencephalitis—and although she recovered, it left her with a relatively low IQ. My younger brother and sister both had to have surgery to remove brain tumors, and despite the fact that my eldest sister has eaten vegetarian ever since our father passed away, she still ended up with severe diabetes. Where did her diabetes come from? Not from eating meat, but from killing. Therefore, out of all of my siblings, I am the only one who is still fairly healthy these days. What made the difference? Practicing Buddhism. Even so, I’ve still encountered problems in this life. Things have broken! Everything has, from my business to my family to my children’s lack of filial piety in the past. All of this has been the result of karma from killing, too, as you can clearly see. Someone once commented that I often speak about my family’s affairs. Even Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha spoke about His mother’s improprieties, so why can’t I do the same? If you discuss other people’s business, that is a form of criticism, but talking about your own family is not. I have done this as evidence for you to see; this is the way it is. Trust me. Why did Ksitigarbha deliberately speak about His mother? To give you an example of the only way to save your own ancestors and parents!

“In Buddhism it is said that as long as even just one person in your household is willing to practice, and achieves attainment as a result, then ‘nine tribes will be lifted to heaven,’ meaning all his or her ancestors will be able to go to the Heaven Realm. As I’ve said before, the karma produced by our parents, their ancestors, and their ancestors’ ancestors—as well as the karma of all our parents in our past lives—grows and grows like a vine. It cannot be cut or rendered; it would still be in disorder even if we tried! By that I’m not talking about love; I’m talking about cause and effect. So, do you think you can take a break from cultivation? Have a bit of a rest? ‘Bodhisattva! I’d like to take a couple days off!” Saying that will just make your vine grow a bit longer. Why has Ksitigarbha still not finished liberating us all? It is too complex! Every cause, effect, and condition is tangled and complicated; it winds around and around like a vine. It is very messy!

“The sutra reads, ‘“…he therefore has taken further colossal vows, employing hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of expediencies in Jambudvipa of the Saha World in order to teach sentient beings to amend their ways.”’

“Upon seeing how complex and serious the problem was, Ksitigarbha decided that His previous vows were not sufficient, so He made more! Don’t think you can make a vow and then just forget about it like it doesn’t matter. As for me, I make vows every day! It’s like what Ksitigarbha said; looking at the future, I can see there are still a great many sentient beings to liberate! He had already seen the future, because the effects carved out by today’s actions are bound to happen in the future. I often tell you what you should do, and what will happen to you if you don’t, because I’ve already seen it. The reason I brought my mom to Taiwan five years ago is that I’d already foreseen it. Three years ago, I deliberately sent her back and told all of her children and grandchildren to come out for a banquet with her, because I already knew she did not have much time left to live. Only after she’d passed away did my younger brother think to say, ‘Oh! So, brother, you made all those arrangements so that they could see Mom!’ He’d then woken up. So, did I have to say anything? I did not. Did Ksitigarbha have to say anything? No. If he did, the Four Heavenly Kings would then understand, but the Buddha had certainly already known. By the same token, my guru is very aware of what I do. If I am ever in the wrong, when do you think it will be your turn to criticize? Don’t assume His Holiness is all smiles and laughs and friendly appearances; when it comes to the Dharma, he will not compromise, and can be quite fierce when the situation calls for it.

“Ksitigarbha had seen the future, so He made another serious vow. Given how difficult it would be to liberate an entire planet-full of sentient beings, how great must the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas be, right? Here on Earth, Ksitigarbha has been delivering us left and right, continuously, yet there still are so many sentient beings left to liberate. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is magnificent!

“The sutra reads, ‘“O Devarajas, upon encountering anyone who engages in acts of killing, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha would speak about the retribution of early, untimely death for such misdeeds.”’

“Whenever Ksitigarbha sees people committing acts of killing, He tells them that they are bound to suffer shortened lifespans. There are reasons for being short-lived; it has nothing to do with poor health, bad genes from one’s parents, etc. Modern medicine has proved that genes can mutate, so even if you inherit bad genes, they can change for the better, and vice versa. So where do genes come from? Despite how advanced science and technology have gotten, they still cannot tell us what genes are. In Buddhism, we can say that genes are karma—the karma you have created throughout your past lives. If you eat an animal’s flesh, where do its nutrients go? Into your cells and genes. That is the reason you’ll then fall into the Hell and Animal Realms! This is a very simple explanation! Buddhist sayings are not superstition. If you eat crab all day long, where do those crabs’ genes and nutrients go? They go straight into your cells. If they completely absorb those crabs’ nutrients, then what do you think you’ll gradually start to look like? You’ll start walking sideways, and your body odor will even begin to smell like crab. As long as you commit acts of killing, you are bound to have a shortened lifespan, because you have shortened the lifespan of those sentient beings! These days it has become quite popular to ‘free living beings,’ but what does that mean? Such release is only genuine if you never had any thoughts of killing them in the first place! And that does not mean buying a bunch and pouring them into the ocean, or reciting the Three Refuge Prayers and the Heart Sutra for them. With such acts, you have actually caused them to die early! You have broken the law of cause and condition, thus making people who raised them have to breed even more for you to purchase.

“You absolutely must not engage in such silly behavior. There is no mention in the sutras that we should buy sentient beings and release them into the wild, but it is written that first of all, we must not kill, and second of all, we must ‘free living beings’—meaning, if you see one in danger, you should lend it a hand. Even dogs do this! In Taiwan there was once a television program broadcast in which a dog saw a fish that had flopped out of its basin onto the ground. The dog did not bite it; rather, it just kept splashing water onto the fish to keep it from dying. I’ve also seen an orangutan in a zoo which, upon seeing a little bird that had fallen into its pond, did everything it could to save the bird. Animals have more instinct to free living beings than we humans! Whenever we see an animal, we want to kill and eat it.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who steal, he would talk about the retribution of distress, destitution, and indigence.”

“This refers to pilfering and theft of others’ possessions, the definition of which is quite broad. Examples include taking someone’s money but not finishing the job you were meant to do for it, receiving people’s offerings without doing your best to recite the sutras for them, or watching pirated material. It seems that the group of folks who raised their hands this morning have engaged in the collective karma of theft as well. If you don’t buy pirated DVDs, then people will stop making them; thus, in purchasing them, you have a share in that karma. Also, theft involves taking anything that does not belong to you. If you do this, you are certain to meet ‘the retribution of distress, destitution, and indigence.’ Even when I didn’t even have enough money to eat, I still never begged. I knew that I deserved such poverty due to my past evil acts. Theft and pilfering also include receiving someone’s money without fulfilling the task you promised. All such behavior is wrong.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who indulge in lustful perversion, he would talk about the retribution of being reborn in future lifetimes as sparrows, pigeons, and mandarin ducks.”’

“You might be wondering why people who ‘indulge in lustful perversion’ would turn into peacocks, pigeons, and mandarin ducks. One time a statistical analysis was made by an English television program, and it was determined that during mating season, a sparrow can mate more than 260 times in a single day, and pigeons are comparable. As a result, sparrows have a very short lifespan—they die after just a few months—and pigeons only live a little longer. A mandarin duck never leaves its partner; how miserable that would be! If a woman were to take a man’s money and then hook up with another man, she would be committing an act of sexual misconduct. Many people do not believe this, but I have read about it in the sutras. You absolutely must not do that; if you really don’t want to be with your man, then wait until you’ve left him. Handle things in their proper order. Buddhism is not Catholicism or Protestantism; the former does not allow divorce, and the latter emphasizes monogamy. The Buddha merely spoke about causes, effects, and conditions, and said that we must not engage in sexual misconduct.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those engaging in harsh speech, he would speak of the retribution of having family quarrels and in-fighting.”’

“If you like to verbally abuse people and use foul language, your family members will have ‘family quarrels and in-fighting.’ This has a broad meaning, and can include suing each other over property, fighting, arguing, and so on. Of course small, everyday family quarrels don’t count. ‘Family quarrels and in-fighting’ here means conflicts that can even lead to violence; all such behavior results from harsh speech.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those engaging in slander, he would speak about the retribution of losing their tongues or having mouth ulcers.”’

“People who have slandered any good deeds have not necessarily spoken ill of the Dharma; if you slander a good person or deed, or advise others to do the same, then you will certainly lose your tongue. Even if you don’t, it will be covered with sores. These ‘ulcers’ spoken of by the Buddha are not the ones we tend to talk about; rather, they refer to cancer. A certain mantra used to be popular in Exoteric Buddhism; it was thought that chanting it a lot would cause one’s hemorrhoids to disappear. Many men chanted it, hoping for a cure, but in the end they still had hemorrhoids. Actually, that mantra can treat cancer. From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, why do people get cancer? It happens either because their bodies are too hot or too cold. Every time I scan someone by placing my hand directly over his or her open palm, I can feel if that person has cancer; the whole body either gives out a sort of heat or a sort of cold. Heat emissions come from having engaged in acts of killing; cold emissions come from dragons and ghosts that have inhabited a person’s body. These often cling to the bodies of crabs and fish, so if you like eating those, the ghosts will take revenge and ‘foom!’—they will enter you. You won’t feel anything, but your body will gradually begin to change after that. Regarding losing one’s tongue, what parts are surgically removed in patients with mouth, tongue, and throat cancer? Their tongues and vocal chords. This is what happens to people who engage in slander and harsh speech.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who are angry and hateful, he would talk about the retribution of ugliness or being reborn as a hunchback or a cripple.”’

“If you are constantly hateful and jealous toward others, you will suffer ‘ugliness or being reborn as a hunchback or a cripple.’ If you want to be pretty, then you must never in this lifetime say anything like, ‘Grr, that adulterous vixen!’ or ‘Look at this fresh meat,’ or ‘That fresh meat seduced my wife away from me.’ All such thoughts are hatred! You should not be so quick to resent other people. Even if you say something happened because of a misunderstanding, or because someone harmed you or you were framed, those are still hateful thoughts. People who look pretty or handsome in this lifetime most certainly spent their previous lifetime praising the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and observing the precepts; they will be naturally dignified in appearance without even having to pretend. So what does ‘ugliness or being reborn as a hunchback or a cripple’ mean? It means not good-looking; it means having an infirm, malformed appearance. As for how exactly you will be crippled, there is no way of knowing, but you definitely will be. Elderly people who fall down and break their bones, causing them to be unable to walk again, have broken this precept. ‘Those who are angry and hateful’ are people who are constantly cursing about this and that using very foul language; their hearts are full of hatred. Everything that happens to you is of your own making. If you wish to look good in your next lifetime, then when people scold you, thank them! When they praise you, demur. Such behavior will guarantee you to look very handsome or pretty in your next life.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To misers, he would talk about the retribution of unanswered prayers.”’

“This is for those who are too stingy to make offerings and give alms, and who think that they can participate in the pujas without doing so. It doesn’t matter how much money you give; the point is that you must do it. If you can’t be bothered to help others—for example, if you are clearly able to do someone a favor yet you refuse to—this is very bad. Of course we should help the ones who genuinely need our assistance, not those who just want to borrow some money so they can go gambling, drink alcohol, or buy cigarettes. If you are stingy—and this includes having regrets after giving alms or making offerings, or trying to get your money back—then your karmic retribution will be that your prayers will go unanswered. An elderly Ani, a Rinpoche in Qinghai, once told me that I could achieve anything I wanted. She said this because I do everything in accordance with the Dharma; I therefore will eventually succeed in anything to do with Buddhism or the Order, no matter how difficult.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who eat or drink to excess, he would talk about the retribution of thirst, starvation, or throat diseases.”’

“Eating and drinking to excess means overeating and drinking too much. You might think something is delicious, so you gorge yourself on it, like on one of those popular Japanese television shows in which women eat and eat and eat. The ones with lots of friends shout and egg them on. People who eat until they vomit should not consume so much, because it can become a habit. They’ve paid their money, so it doesn’t matter to them if they eat until they puke. This is eating and drinking to excess. In ancient times, it was said that we should only eat until we are seven tenths full, or eight tenths at the most. On the one hand this was for health reasons, and on the other it was to avoid that sort of karmic retribution. If you engage in excessive consumption, such as insisting on making a night of it by drinking until you are stumbling drunk, or eating more and more tasty things all day without any self-control, then you will suffer ‘the retribution of thirst, starvation, or throat diseases.’ Something will undoubtedly go wrong with your trachea, you’ll get lung disease, you won’t be able to drink, and you’ll starve. You’ll be quick to point out that in this modern day and age such things don’t happen to people, but they do! You might accidentally end up shipwrecked or in a desert region and suddenly discover that you have no water or food. While in retreat, I once spent an entire day without food, so I am sure I ate and drank to excess in a previous lifetime. It happened because when the Ani who was cooking finished her shift, she forgot to tell the next Ani that I was there. As a result, I went a day without breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The next day someone suddenly woke up and told the Anis one of the retreat huts was occupied. Whenever karmic retribution manifests, you should be happy—especially if it happens while you are practicing—because it means you have repaid some of your debt. Why do we conduct retreats? We do it to resolve the heavy karma we’ve accumulated throughout our past lives; if we did not, then we would encounter hindrances while trying to propagate the Dharma. The karmic retribution of ‘throat diseases’ also refers to problems with our respiratory tract. Some people are unable to get any food down; when they grow old, strangely enough, their esophagi get so narrow they cannot swallow. My mom couldn’t swallow at all in her old age; all her food had to be blended into liquid form before she could get it down. This was certainly because she had engaged in excessive consumption in a previous lifetime.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who indulge in hunting, he would talk about the retribution of death from fright or mental derangement.”’

“This line is about what happens to people who like to hunt. Hunting here does not include hunting for food; it means killing even if they already have enough to eat. ‘He would talk about the retribution of death from fright or mental derangement.’ If someone in your family develops a mental disorder or is constantly frightened, this is the reason. I once watched with my own eyes as the father of a very good friend of mine, who used to like to hunt and kill birds, suffered a stroke and became bedridden for many years before his death. After he died, his hands shrunk like this—doesn’t this look like a pair of curled-up bird’s wings? You’ve all killed chickens before, and have seen what they look like plucked bare of feathers. That’s what his hands looked like when he died. His wife had helped him pluck and cook those birds, and even helped him gather the ones that were not totally dead yet. She had been a vegetarian since birth, and had spent her life chanting Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara’s name. However, because she did not know to repent, she fell and broke her leg before she died. Being very stubborn, she refused to see a doctor, so she crawled around on the ground for about four months before she finally passed away, looking just like a bird flopping around with broken wings. Some people lose their minds and act out wildly before they die; you’ve probably heard about them, or seen them yourselves. This sort of thing happens a lot, especially in Taiwan, though not so much in Hong Kong. In Taiwan there are a lot of people who either go fishing or hike into the mountains to hunt; others catch mice, snakes, and so on in fields. Therefore, Taiwan’s karma from killing is quite heavy. There used to be many people here at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center with mental illness, too, for the same reason, but it has gotten better now. Hunting doesn’t just mean taking a gun and shooting animals with it; it includes wantonly hunting any prey for reasons other than gathering food, such as for sport or out of revenge.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those disobedient to their parents, he would talk about the retribution of calamities befalling them from the sky or the earth.”’

“This refers to disasters that happen to people lacking filial piety, and who do not behave as they should toward their parents. Deaths from tornados, floods, earthquakes, fires, and so on are certainly related to this. For example, if you can see your parents are obviously struggling to survive, yet you ignore them, or if you refuse to care for them even though you know they are sick and need you; if you instead hide and say, ‘Oh, I am so worried about my mom!’— you will suffer the retribution of natural disasters.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who commit arson by setting forests ablaze, he would talk about the retribution of death from mad delusions.”’

“Some people deliberately set fires in the mountains, and others do it for farming reasons. Their karmic retribution is to die after losing their reason; in other words, they go insane and die. When you burn a forest, you kill all of the sentient beings it contains—including the myriad insects, animals, and tree parasites—and they absolutely will not forgive you for it.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who abuse their parents, before and after, he would talk about the retribution of being likewise abused in future lives.”’

“Some people are very malicious toward their parents. What does ‘before and after’ mean? Some treat their parents badly before they die, and others continue to do it afterward. Some people commit evil acts or make mistakes, causing others to scold, ‘What sort of offspring are you! Your ancestors must be indecent people!’ Such words are also very bad for one’s parents. If you commit a crime, your parents will suffer, too. In this lifetime you will be lashed and flogged. Flogging as a form of punishment doesn’t exist in Taiwan anymore, so how will that karmic retribution manifest? You’ll get a beating for no apparent reason; that sort of thing happens a lot.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who trap and catch live fledglings with nets, he would talk about the retribution of being separated from their blood relatives.”’

“Live fledglings are birds that have just been born. Why do I refuse to eat birds’ nests? Many people claim that eating them does not count as an act of killing, but sometimes birds’ nests contain fledglings—baby birds—and when the nests are plucked from their trees, those fledglings die. Being separated from your blood relatives is certainly what will befall you if you capture those newborn little birds, and that includes chicks. Many people raise baby chickens just for fun; that counts, too. I don’t know why people in Taiwan enjoy that so much; they even keep chicks like that as pets.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who malign the Three Jewels, he would talk about the retributions of blindness, deafness, and dumbness.”’

“Slandering the Three Jewels is a very grave offense that will undoubtedly result in complete loss of sight, hearing, and the ability to utter sound. If you suddenly go blind in this lifetime for some unknown reason, it is certainly because you maligned the Three Jewels in your past lives. A lot of people protest, ‘I did not!’ If you have ever said, ‘Don’t be so superstitious as to believe in Buddhism!’—then that counts as well. What the Buddha taught us is not superstition. These days many people go blind, deaf, or mute for reasons inconceivable even to doctors. In terms of cause and effect, it certainly is because they have slandered the Three Jewels.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who slight the Dharma and its teachings, he would talk about the retribution of being permanently banished to the Evil Realms.”’

“What does ‘slight the Dharma’ mean? It means saying, for example, ‘Buddhism just teaches people how to be good; you don’t need to learn it. You just need to do good deeds.’ Or asking, ‘Is that Dharma he’s performing useful?’ ‘…Slight its teachings’ refers to approaching everything taught by the Buddha with an arrogant attitude: ‘If you can do it, then so can I.’ The karmic retribution for this is to forever be trapped in the Three Evil Realms.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who abuse Sangha property, he would talk about the retribution of being reincarnated in the Hell Realm for millions of kalpas.”’

“If you deliberately destroy anything in a Buddhist center or temple, then you will go to the Hell Realm and reincarnate there for ‘millions of kalpas’—meaning a very long time. You will either go to a major hell or a minor one.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who blemish religious practices and wrong the Sangha, he would talk about the retribution of forever being reincarnated in the Animal Realm.”’

“If you corrupt practitioners who are observing the pure precepts, whether they are monastics or lay practitioners, then you will be banished to the Animal Realm forever. The ‘Sangha’ refers to the fourfold assembly of Bhikkhus, Bhikkhunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas. If you corrupt any of the above, you will be reborn in the Animal Realm for all of eternity.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who harm sentient beings by boiling, burning, cutting, or chopping, he would talk about the retribution of being reborn in the appropriate realm.”’

“This refers to deliberately harming a sentient being with boiling water, such as pouring it into an ant nest. Who here has done that? Raise your hands. Many people have. It also includes burning wasp nests, intentionally cutting them in half, or otherwise harming sentient beings. ‘…He would talk about the retribution of being reborn in the appropriate realm.’ This means you will continue to reincarnate in the relevant realm until you have repaid the debt you owe those sentient beings from harming them. If you pour boiling water into an ant nest, you’ll owe a debt for each of the more than a hundred thousand ants—at least—that lived in it. How will you do that? By repaying it over a hundred thousand times. Some ants once started making a nest in a hole in the stairs near the entrance to the Buddhist Center. I was worried that would destabilize the stone steps, so I took a treasured vase and sprinkled blessing water for them, saying, ‘This is not where you live; move somewhere else.’ And they really did; now they’ve moved over there and dug themselves a huge nest. There was no need to get angry with them, because they’d not been aware that what they were doing could put humans in danger. Do animals possess instinct? They do. However, the question is whether or not you have cultivated enough to discern it. If you use certain methods to harm sentient beings, such as using boiling water, burning, chopping, or decapitating them, then you will have to repay those multiple debts by reincarnating over and over, once for each life you took. This means that there is a reason behind every time a person suddenly gets scalded, burned, cut, or chopped; there is no such thing as an ‘accident.’ The reason a certain disciple’s son got such a serious burn on his hand was that in a past life he must have scalded sentient beings. If he didn’t, then another family member did. The retribution of cause and effect is very clear.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who violate the precepts and break their abstinences, he would talk about the retribution of thirst and starvation as fowls and beasts.”’

“When we vow to observe the Refuge Precepts, the Five Precepts, or the Bodhisattva Precepts, we must not break them. If we have taken the Bodhi Precepts or the Bodhicitta Precepts, we likewise must never violate them. Monastics have their ordained precepts to observe: The Shamini Precepts, Bhikkhu Precepts, Bhikkhuni Precepts, and so on. ‘Abstinence’ here does not refer to eating vegetarian; it means invading people’s retreat huts and deliberately harming or harassing them, thereby interrupting their retreats. When the word ‘abstinence’ is spoken in Buddhism, it refers to the vows kept during the Eight Precepts Retreat. In Exoteric Buddhism, this refers to one of the retreat methods, but in Tantra, any retreat in which we complete the Kriyayoga, Charyayoga, Yogatantra, and Anuttarayogatantra is always an Eight Precepts Retreat. While such a retreat is underway, if anyone deliberately harasses the practitioners—for example, by being loud nearby or intentionally speaking to them about mundane affairs to the point that they cannot continue their retreat—all such behavior counts. It also includes the actions of the people conducting the retreat, such as leaving their retreat hut for mundane reasons. People who break the retreat precepts by, for instance, taking photos inside their retreat huts, going to sleep in there, not cultivating diligently, or not keeping the Eight Retreat Precepts, then they, too, are violating their precepts. The ‘retribution of thirst and starvation as fowls and beasts’ means in their next lifetime, such people will be reincarnated as birds or beasts which are completely unable to find anything to eat, and go hungry day after day. Regarding retreats: You should place the utmost importance upon the process of conducting a retreat, rather than just dwelling on how much fortune and merit you will gain from it.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who destroy things or spend money unreasonably, he would talk about the retribution of becoming deficient or completely lacking in the necessities they seek.”’

“Chinese talk about the need to treasure one’s possessions, meaning to cherish what you own. That does not mean never letting something break, but you should not destroy it for no reason. It’s become popular on television these days to depict a woman who finds out her man is cheating on her as getting upset and breaking his things and throwing them away left and right. This is an example of destroying things unreasonably. Flipping a table over is another example; if you lose your temper and break things on purpose, then in the future you will lack everything you seek. In other words, whenever you want something, people will ignore you. No one will accept you or give you any opportunities. You should therefore be careful; even if you find out your husband has a little something on the side, you still must refrain from destroying things unreasonably or getting rid of anything in your home that he bought: ‘Fine! I’ll just cut this dress up with scissors,’ or ‘I’m going to rip that thing he bought for her to shreds!’ A lot of things require the efforts of many people to be produced, thus irrationally wrecking it is wrong. The reason I discipline the disciples of the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center so strictly has to do with cause and effect; a grave future awaits anyone who commits even a tiny offense.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who are haughty and conceited, he would talk about the retribution of becoming lowly and mean.”’

“A lot of people are guilty of this. They say, ‘I’m awesome! I’m so much better than you; I don’t think you’re all that great.’ All such attitudes count, and those who have them will spend their next lifetime ‘lowly and mean.’ In other words, they will not be born into a good household, and they will be forced to do menial labor. For example, if a person is haughty and arrogant enough to claim that he can do anything you can’t do, or if he looks down on others. This includes a country looking down on other nations; that will cause that country’s people to all have a chance of being reborn lowly and mean.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those who use divisive speech to stir up trouble, he would talk about the retribution of losing their tongues or growing one hundred tongues.”’

“The Dharmas spoken by the Buddha really are difficult to explain. This line first mentions being tongue-less, and then mentions growing a hundred tongues. What does that mean? People who enjoy stirring up trouble and causing a quarrel between other people will have no tongue in their next lifetime. Even if they are born with a tongue, it will be very short. The karmic retribution of growing a hundred tongues should not be taken literally; it means that in their future lives, they will be constantly censured, slandered, and verbally criticized by others. The phrase ‘hundred tongues’ here indicates the degree to which that will happen. Why are some people so often scolded and criticized by others? If you calmly look at their seeming innocence, it will become apparent that in their past lives they must have liked to stir up trouble among other people. If they are lucky, they will have tongues in this lifetime; however, they still must suffer the karmic retribution of a hundred tongues, and feeling what they did in the past.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To those with wicked views, he would talk about the retribution of being reborn in the hinterland.”’

“Having ‘wicked views’ means not believing in cause and effect or reincarnation; this is most serious. Another sort of wicked view is saying, ‘All you need to do is be a good person; what’s the point of doing good deeds and learning Buddhism?’ That, too, is a wicked view, as is saying, ‘I’ll just worship heaven; why should I worship Shakyamuni Buddha?’ Or, ‘I don’t need Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Dharma teachings today; I’ll just wait and listen to him when the need arises.’ If you hold wicked views, your karmic retribution is to be reborn in ‘the hinterland.’ That doesn’t mean a nation’s borderlands; it means you’ll be reborn in a place where Buddhism is not practiced. Even if you are born in a very prosperous country, you will be born in its outlying districts that have relatively little by way of arable land or places to live. Your life will be very hard.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Such are the various evil deeds of body, speech, and mind committed by the sentient beings in Jambudvipa, as well as a brief description of the hundreds of thousands of various resulting retributions. I have talked about them only roughly and briefly.”’

“The evil habits we Earthly humans form through our actions of body, speech, and mind number in the hundreds and thousands, and result in many different kinds of karmic retribution. Today we have only gone over them roughly. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha only gave simple explanations of them. I wouldn’t dare compare myself to Ksitigarbha, but I have seen much to do with cause and effect, and it really is a very detailed and complex subject.

“The sutra reads, ‘“As described, sentient beings in Jambudvipa will have to undergo these different karmic effects. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha will use hundreds and thousands of expediencies to guide them to amend their ways. These sentient beings will first experience the various retributions as described, and afterward fall into the Hell Realm, most probably remaining there for quite a number of kalpas without a date for acquittal or release. Therefore, you protectors of people and of countries must help them, and not let their evil acts lead them astray.”’

“The myriad sentient beings of Earth are extremely varied in their karma, so Ksitigarbha uses all manner of methods to teach and guide them. He is constantly helping sentient beings, but for some of them it is already too late. Why? It is because they do not possess causal conditions, to they have to suffer these karmic retributions and fall into the Hell Realm. That is, the karmic retributions we just spoke of are not even the worst; first they must suffer these simple retributions, and then they will fall into the Hell Realm. Therefore, people who suffer these sorts of karmic retributions while still living are just experiencing forms of going to hell, such as edema, for example. The reason this edema goes away after I perform the Phowa for them, and no water excretes onto their beds, is that I also liberate their karmic creditors. This cannot be explained with science.

“‘…Most probably remaining there for quite a number of kalpas’ means they won’t just be in hell for a millennium or two; they’ll stay there for tens of thousands or hundreds of millions of years. The words, ‘without a date for acquittal or release,’ mean they cannot escape. ‘Therefore, you protectors of people and of countries’—here the Buddha is telling the Four Heavenly Kings that because it is their vow to protect people and their nations, they should ‘not let those sentient beings’ evil acts lead them astray.’ In other words, they should help Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and not allow this sort of karma to continue to mislead sentient beings. What karma is that? A lot of phenomena can confuse us. For example, smoking tobacco is legal; everyone is allowed to buy cigarettes. However, it is very clear that smoking is bad for the body. From the perspective of causality, people who smoke are liable to be reborn in the Hell Realm in the next lifetime. For example, alcoholism is bad for one’s health, too, and alcoholics are at risk of going to the Excrement Hell after death. You’ve seen people who suddenly become incontinent; they are liable to go there. If you see someone in this sort of situation, you should immediately implore your guru, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas to help him or her accumulate good fortune, or else it will be too late.

“The sutra reads, ‘Having heard this, the four Devarajas shed tears, sighed sorrowfully, and withdrew with palms joined.’

“The Buddha told the Four Heavenly Kings, ‘Your vow was to protect humans and their nations, so you should keep all that confusing karma from baffling sentient beings.’ After hearing this, the Four Heavenly Kings shed tears, sighed mournfully, and withdrew. Why did they lament so? They care for us, and know that sentient beings commit manifold evil acts, so they sighed. Shakyamuni Buddha clearly knew how much evil karma humans and other sentient beings on Earth had, yet He had not given up on us. Instead, the Buddha continued to employ many expedient methods and instructed all those Bodhisattvas, Heavenly Kings, and nagas to never stop helping us. This is the reason for the continued appearance of this Lineage, the Mahasiddhas, the Throne Holders, and the Rinpoches. We liberate as many as we can. If I can save one, that is the same as saving many, because one person can influence many others. This concludes today’s teachings on this volume of the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows.

“After hearing all this, you must not say, ‘Oh no! It’s all so scary! If I’d known, I wouldn’t have listened! Now that I’ve heard all that, I won’t dare to do this or that.’ That’s not what you were meant to get out of these teachings. Instead, you should now know with even more certainty, ‘Aha! So as long as I stop committing those evil acts, I’ll be fine in the future.’ Otherwise, what will your fate be? Your fate will be placed in the hands of doctors. Can doctors cure our illnesses? They can cure our minor ailments, but not the major ones! Can doctors save us? No, they cannot. If a doctor could save us, then no one would ever die! Therefore, we ought to depend on the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, our guru, and our own will to change.

“It is my hope that all sentient beings can benefit greatly from today’s teachings on the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. The next chapter of this sutra teaches us which methods to use in order to obtain Ksitigarbha’s help in this lifetime. To expound it in detail, I’d have to speak every day for more than a year, so don’t think it very simple, for it contains many Dharmas taught by the Buddha. In Tantra, of course, they are not told to us very clearly, but importantly, if Ksitigarbha had not learned Tantra, He could not have obtained such vast merits and awesome powers with which to benefit so many sentient beings. Some Bodhisattvas use Exoteric teachings to cultivate, while others use Tantra. Why is Tantra more powerful? It is not that it is better; rather, it is because many Tantric methods were passed down personally by the yidam. Shakyamuni Buddha’s job was to introduce the Dharma to us Earthly humans in His lifetime so that we would know about it. Thus, by the time He finished introducing the merits of many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, it was already too late to have the yidams speak the Dharma. In the sutras it was predicted that after the Age of Semblance Dharma, Buddhism will spread to the snowy regions—such as Tibet and Qinghai—and Tantra will begin. Tantra really began with Bodhisattva Nagarjuna in India. Many people think Shakyamuni Buddha never transmitted Tantra, but today there are people who have cultivated it, and you can find mention of the existence of Tantric practice in many places in the sutras. Why are these not widely taught in public? First of all, if someone has not learned Tantra, he or she won’t know which parts of the sutras contain the Buddha’s introduction of Tantra. Even if you have practiced some Tantra, and see such mention in the sutras, you still cannot speak about it publicly, because Tantra is not to be transmitted in public. Only disciples with the proper root capacity can receive transmission of it. Therefore, for people living in the Age of Degenerate Dharma, as long as you have aspired to bodhicitta and can keep the precepts, we Rinpoches will do our best to teach you some simple Tantra rituals and bestow some empowerments upon you. However, if you do not continue to cultivate after receiving those empowerments, they will be of no use to you. Thus, you absolutely must practice in the proper order.

“The content of today’s and last time’s sutra teachings should be organized a bit, and then put on a DVD in both Chinese and Japanese. If any Japanese believers or disciples would like to request one to purchase, you may.”

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Updated on May 30, 2017