His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – May 20, 2017

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – May 20, 2017

On May 20, 2017, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche presided over the
Ksitigarbha Blessing Puja in the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Kyoto. With his fruition and power gained through cultivation, the guru expounded “Chapter Twelve: The Benefits of Hearing and Seeing” from the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. A total of 131 people attended, including eleven believers from Japan and Taiwan and 120 disciples from those two countries as well as China. The auspicious puja came to a perfect conclusion.

At 9:30 in the morning, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne and bestowed attendees precious Dharma teachings.

“Today I will continue to perform the Ksitigarbha puja. The Dharmas transmitted by Shakyamuni Buddha can roughly be divided into two major paths of cultivation. The first is Exoteric Buddhism, which comprises the sutras spoken by the Buddha, and focuses on all the states of mind and theories involved in learning and practicing the Dharma. Thus, all of the sutras can be categorized as Exoteric. Of course, the sutras also contain mention of Tantra, but no one can understand Tantra without having first learned it. The word ‘exoteric’ means ‘obvious,’ and can allow us to understand the true meaning of learning Buddhism through interpretations of the written word. The other path to cultivation is Tantra, which is part of Tibetan Buddhism. To learn it, you must first have a foundation of ten years of Exoteric practice; after that, your guru must be convinced that you are qualified before you may receive transmission of Tantra. For example, I am currently building a Buddhist temple large enough to hold three thousand people, and it will be divided into two halls: An Exoteric one and a Tantric one. The Exoteric hall will be large enough to accommodate all the attendees, but the Tantric hall will only be able to hold a hundred or so people.

“Many people assume that if they simply wish to learn Tantra, they can. Actually, you have to undergo a lot of tests and observation from your guru before he or she will transmit it to you. Simply put, practicing Exoteric Buddhism involves going from being an ordinary person who doesn’t believe in the Dharma, to one who does believe and who wishes to cultivate, even including those who end up becoming monastics. All these steps are part of Exoteric Buddhism, which is practiced by yourself; after learning all the theory, you must amend the many erroneous thoughts and actions, which would cause you to reincarnate.

“Becoming a disciple of the Buddha does not happen automatically after taking refuge; you must first conduct yourself in a manner that accords with His teachings. Having a temple with a practitioner in it does not necessarily make him or her a disciple of the Buddha. You have to completely abide by all the precepts required by the Buddha before you can become His disciple. After that, you will practice Hinayana, Mahayana, or Vajrayana Buddhism, depending on your root capacity. Hinayana is for cultivating into an arhat, Mahayana involves practicing the Bodhisattva Path, and in Vajrayana one cultivates the Buddha Path. These days Hinayana is popular in such regions as Thailand, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. Mahayana is practiced in China, Korea, and Japan. Since it involves cultivating the Bodhisattva Path, its practitioners are not ordinary people or believers, and it includes more than just ringing bells and transcribing and reciting the sutras. The Ratnakuta Sutra, which I have been expounding lately, also states this very clearly.

“To practice the Bodhisattva Path, we must be equipped with five stages of cultivation. The first is the Path of Accumulation; to learn anything, we first must prepare ourselves with knowledge and experience. This stage involves continuously listening to the Dharmas expounded by our guru and accumulating good fortune and wisdom with which to practice. Once we have ample resources, we can proceed to the Path of Preparation. In Tantra, this is when your guru begins to grant you empowerments, transmit methods for cultivating the yidam, and so on. Before you can advance along the Bodhisattva Path, you must practice a long time along the paths of Accumulation and Preparation, because it is not so easy to cultivate from an ordinary person into a Bodhisattva. Once the Path of Preparation is complete, you will enter the Path of Vision. This has nothing to do with sighting someone; rather, it means that by way of the Path of Preparation, you can truly realize the Emptiness, compassion, and wisdom of which the Buddha spoke, and genuinely comprehend what Emptiness means. Emptiness does not refer to the absence of everything; to explain it would take more time than we have here today.

“You won’t spend much time at all on the Path of Vision. Once you have sufficient resources and have diligently cultivated the Path of Preparation, the time will suddenly come that you yourselves can see Emptiness. Bodhisattvas have no attachments, which is the reason they are able to see Emptiness. Unattached to fame, fortune, or myriad other worldly things, everything Bodhisattvas do is for the purpose of delivering sentient beings from suffering. Only after mastering the Path of Vision can you begin the Path of Cultivation. If you think practice merely involves listening to the Dharma, reciting the sutras, going to the temple to place a bundle of incense, and tossing a few wood blocks into the fire, then you are wrong. The Path of Cultivation includes distancing oneself from all behavior that would lead to reincarnation, as well as helping all sentient beings to leave the suffering of reincarnation behind. This is what it truly means to walk the Bodhisattva Path. Once you have completely mastered this, you will arrive at the Path of the Adept, and will already have attained Buddhahood. You then will not have any need to cultivate further.

“Today I will perform from this Dharma text of Ksitigarbha, beginning this morning with Tantra. This cannot be performed by just any ordinary believer, monastic, or person who knows how to chant a few mantras; only practitioners who have mastered the Paths of Vision and Cultivation can perform it in public. You might all think it strange that in Tibetan Buddhism, the guru always faces the disciples, whereas in most temples the monastics have their backs to the disciples and face the Buddha statues while reciting the sutras. It is done this way because a Tantric guru is an emanation of the Bodhisattvas; having cultivated the Paths of Vision and Cultivation, he grants blessings on behalf of the Bodhisattvas to all believers and disciples participating in the puja. In China, another name for monastics is ‘leaders;’ they lead sentient beings in reciting the sutras, chanting the Buddhas’ names, making prostrations to the Buddha, and so on. They are not emanations of the Bodhisattvas, however, so they cannot represent them by performing pujas while facing sentient beings. In Japan these days, this ritual is still kept quite well; the monastics always face the mandala and Buddha statues when reciting the sutras.

“Therefore, the first line to be recited when performing from this Tantric text is, ‘We disciples participating in the puja must first make prostrations to our guru before we make prostrations to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, because without the guru, we cannot possibly listen to or come in contact with the Dharma.’ The minds of puja attendees should be ‘open and honest,’ which means their motivation for coming to participate in this puja today is very important: To be ‘sincere and extremely respectful.’ The word ‘sincere’ implies that we know attending the puja is definitely beneficial, and that we do not need to implore for anything. Many people hope to see the Bodhisattva so that they can ask for a heap of things, but that mindset is not one of sincerity. The help bestowed upon us by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot go against cause and effect, so whatever our actions in the past, we still must suffer the consequences. You are all sure to wonder, ‘Well then, why do I have to make prostrations to the Buddha? I did something bad, and that is exactly why I hope the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will keep me from harm or mishap; instead, I hope to get rich and have good health.’

“Neither the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, nor any guru can violate the law of cause and effect. You must take responsibility for all of your past actions. So, what should you pray for? Implore the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and your guru to help you by telling the sentient beings you have harmed to stop giving you trouble for a while. I have said very clearly when expounding the Universal Gate Chapter of the Lotus Sutra that when you are in great danger, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will only take you to a less dangerous place. You will still have to leave it under your own power, though, so don’t think they can solve all your problems for you. If you continue to eat meat, drink alcohol, and do things you should not do, you will be going against Buddhist principles. All of the sutras urge us to do good deeds, and the first of the Ten Meritorious Acts is to refrain from killing. If you take life, then your participation in the pujas will only bring you a tiny bit of good fortune. You won’t be able to use it in this lifetime; you might have to wait until the next one before it is of any use.

“The definition of sincerity is having absolute faith that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas definitely want to help us and arrange a direction for us to genuinely practice Buddhism in the future. Do not doubt, or worry whether or not they can meet our expectations, because such thoughts are all desires. Why should we be respectful? When asking people to do things for us, we need to be very sincere; shouldn’t we then be even more respectful when imploring the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for help? Respect represents offerings. If you have no good fortune, then you will not find any opportunities to listen to the Dharma or learn it even if you want to. Even if the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas were to create a causal condition for you to attend a puja, you still would come up with a ton of excuses not to. Respect helps you create good fortune for yourself which will give you the prerequisite to listen and learn through lifetime after lifetime.

“‘In general, this sort is not common.’ This means succeeding in being both sincere and respectful is not common. Everyone implores the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to do what they want them to; very few people indeed are truly able to be ‘sincere and extremely respectful.’ Nevertheless, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas compassionately perform the puja for you anyway, hoping you’ll wake up one day.

“‘Their merits are auspicious and they help sentient beings equally.’ This means the guru, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas possess all merits, and merits are auspicious. The meaning of the word ‘auspicious’ is something that can help sentient beings to leave all suffering behind. ‘No difference’ implies that they do not care about whether or not sentient beings have money or power; as long as they can be sincere and extremely respectful, then the gurus, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas are sure to lend a hand.

“The next two lines say that because a lot of words cannot truly convey the Dharma’s meaning, the guru will teach us a very simple method for understanding it—and that is that the only thing that matters is having faith. Faith means trusting that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will help us; that is enough! We do not need to implore or ask for this help, because they undoubtedly know what our problems are, as long as we are able to remain sincere and extremely respectful. We should have faith, ‘which will end up carrying the burden’ for us. That is, regardless of the severity of our karmic retribution, as long as we have developed complete faith in the guru, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas, They will always be able to help us shoulder that heavy burden. No matter how serious the evil acts we have committed are, as long as we give rise to faith, our karmic retribution will change—but change does not mean disappear; rather, it will transform. For example, a karmic retribution that originally would have killed someone might instead just turn into a non-lethal sickness; one that should have made someone fall ill might instead simply lead to a slight mishap; or a karmic retribution that originally would have led a person to financial ruin might instead just turn into some relationship problems. Something is bound to happen, but it will not be as serious or cause bodily or mortal harm to the point that the person in question will not have any opportunity to learn Buddhism in this lifetime.

“Thus, to sum up, while participating in today’s puja, you must be sure to be ‘sincere and extremely respectful,’ as is written in the Dharma text; even if you cannot, you should try your best. You also should not think too much; as soon as you start to believe, the guru, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas will be able to help you lift the burden of all the evil acts you have committed in your past lives so that you will have enough time in this lifetime to learn the Dharma, thereby changing your karmic retribution. Let me reiterate: Changing it does not mean making it disappear; it means lessening its adverse effects. It is impossible to do away with your karmic retribution completely. If you think that praying to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will prevent bad karmic effects from manifesting, then by the same logic, with such good cause of praying to them, no good karmic effects will appear, either.

“Why should we pray to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? As soon as we begin to, we begin to develop good intentions; these we will continuously dwell on, and work hard to do good deeds. Even just doing a single one will prevent an opportunity to do evil. Once our actions of body, speech, and mind are completely good, the power of evil will be suppressed and even lessened; even if it manifests, it won’t affect us. That does not mean that doing a good deed will cancel out an evil one; good and evil karmic effects travel in parallel lines. Only if the power of good is enormous can the power of evil be suppressed and immobilized; however, it cannot make it disappear. On the other hand, if we continue to commit evil, and only do a few minor good deeds, then the power of those evil acts will suppress the power of our good deeds, and the good effects will not be very obvious to us.

“Buddhism is different from other religions, which do not talk about cause and effect; they just tell you that as long as you have faith, their religion can help you, but they don’t care about anything else. In Buddhism, however, you are definitely told about cause and effect, because everything in the mundane world is cause and effect. Let’s just talk about this lifetime, without mentioning past or future lives: If you are not diligent in your studies and do poorly on a test, what will happen? This is what karmic retribution is. If you spend all your time enjoying the taste of meat, you are sure to suffer from high cholesterol and have a fatty liver; if you commit crimes, you will be caught and put in prison. These are all examples of karmic retribution. If you do a lot of good deeds, people will respect you; this, too, is a karmic effect. Cause and effect were not invented by the Buddha; we are living within them every second of our lives. Even those of us who do not practice Buddhism still must believe in cause and effect; if we didn’t, then why would we work so hard every day? We work hard because we understand clearly that that is the only way to get better remuneration. We actually are living with cause and effect every day of our lives. If we cross the road without looking, and are hit by a car, this, too, is cause and effect. Don’t assume that only the Buddha talked about causality. He kept telling us about it so that we would believe, because if we don’t understand or believe in cause and effect and do not accept the fact of karmic retribution, we will just do whatever we want all the time, always thinking we are acting correctly. This was why the Buddha taught us to clearly see that all our behavior and thoughts are bound to produce karmic effects. Even if they do not appear in this lifetime, they certainly will in the next. You might think, “Oh, well, in that case, I’ll worry about it in the next life!’ Actually, you don’t even have to wait that long; many people begin to see their karmic retribution manifest before they die, and in their last five or six years before death, they go through a great deal of torment from surgery and receive cuts all over their body as they undergo treatments, until finally they are dead. This is an example of karmic retribution manifesting in this lifetime.

“To gain a sense of the importance of karmic retribution, you should know that in coming to participate in today’s puja, as long as you are sincere and respectful, your karmic effects are sure to be good. Good karmic effects will appear when you are in the worst crises and most in need of Buddhism, though the point of this sort of karmic effect is not to improve your business or make you healthier. Cultivating good fortune can indeed give you good health; I, for example, am seventy years old, and my body is still quite fit. This is because I cultivate good fortune. The body deteriorates over time due to constant consumption of good fortune; once it is all gone, the person will die.

“Buddhism teaches us a great many ways to increase our good fortune. For example, coming here to participate in this puja will increase yours. Good fortune will not fulfill your desires; fundamentally, it prevents things from happening to you that should not have happened. Thus, today, once you understand this, I will begin to perform the puja, starting with Tantra.

“Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Dharma appearance is a bit different in Tantra as compared to Exoteric Buddhism. We are all used to seeing Ksitigarbha holding a monk staff in his right hand and a wish-fulfilling jewel in his left, but in Tantra, he has a golden body and a facial expression of one who is performing the Dharma method of subduing. Tantra is divided into four major Dharma methods: Subduing, placating, increasing, and vanquishing. Subduing involves Dharmas that can quell all disasters. Ksitigarbha’s eyes are red, because sentient beings are greedy and he wants to help us learn to suppress such thoughts. Atop his head are blue flowers, and in his right hand he holds a piece of fruit. Blue flowers represent the pure nature of the void, implying that each of us sentient beings is as pure and uncontaminated as the void; it is all of our desires that have contaminated us. The fruit in his right hand means that if we perform the Dharma of Ksitigarbha, we will be ensured of attaining good results and karmic effects in the future.

“In his left hand is a lotus mani jewel, which symbolizes the ability to fulfill all of sentient beings’ wishes. It means that as long as you wish to practice this Dharma, not to fall into the Three Evil Realms, and to give rise to respect for the guru and the yidam, this mani jewel will definitely make your wishes come true. The lotus is used because we humans are all living in the Evil Time of the Five Turbidities, like a lotus flower growing from the mud. The mud represents the fact that we are unconsciously committing very evil acts every day; as soon as the lotus flower blooms, however, it leaves that mud behind and is very pretty. This means that even though we are mired by the mud of the Evil Time of the Five Turbidities, as long as we are willing to learn the Dharma, we can leave all that sludge behind just like a lotus blossom and bloom into beautiful flowers. This is not a mundane beauty of human vanity; it means we will transform into another sort of entity, which is pure and beautiful to behold.

“This mani jewel emits green light to shine upon all sentient beings. It is green in color because the karma of sentient beings is very heavy, and our minds are constantly plagued with ups and downs. These ups and downs refer to believing for a time, and then losing faith; listening on and off; and in some cases, even daring to argue with the guru. As soon as you argue, the good fortune you had accumulated since the time you took refuge disappears, and you have to start over from zero. Some people might wonder if being respectful to one’s guru is really so serious a matter. Recently, in Taiwan, this happened to a disciple (for a detailed account, refer to Traces of Liberating Beings #861). She had taken refuge for nearly twenty years, and recently she did not agree with certain things I did. She muttered a few words to herself about it, and suddenly the tumor in her uterus grew from just a few centimeters in diameter to more than ten. She had originally been sick, but her tumor had been dormant due to her guru’s blessings. As soon as she disagreed with her guru, however, the illness had immediately flared up. Luckily, her long tenure in refuge brought her tumor under control again, because she repented.

“If your guru transmits the Dharma to you, then he or she already is no longer an ordinary person. Your guru’s every word and every action is designed to assist you, so you do not have the right to argue with him. People who are ungrateful to those who help them will sooner or later be ostracized by society, and their luck will get worse and worse. Many of you think practitioners are only compassionate if they always say what you like to hear and meet your expectations. Actually, you are wrong; a true practitioner specializes in inconveniencing you. The reason for this is that if you had no troubles, you would already have mastered your cultivation quite well a long time ago; your problems are what have drawn the practitioner’s attention, and are the reason he or she picks at you to do things you deem unenjoyable. Therefore, this mani jewel emits green light in order to tame us.

“Ksitigarbha’s body appears golden-yellow because the light of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is gold in color. By contrast, deities or sentient beings in the Heaven Realm do not shine with this light. Because Bodhisattvas have not yet attained Buddhahood, this golden light is tinged with yellow, whereas a Buddha’s light is pure gold and too bright to look at. The light of the Bodhisattvas is gold with a bit of yellow in it, so their bodies appear golden-yellow. The color yellow represents the power to increase our ability to practice. Now you all understand why Ksitigarbha’s yidam looks different in Tantra than in Exoteric Buddhism.

“Is it necessary to place a statue of Ksitigarbha in front of a grave in order to liberate the deceased? No, it is not. Actually, any Bodhisattva can help the sentient beings of the Six Realms, which include the Heaven, Asura, Human, Animal, Hungry Ghost, and Hell Realms. The Bodhisattvas will help all of them. Thus, in Tibetan Tantra, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha emanates in a form that can help all sentient beings of the Six Realms, using yellow, red, blue, and green light. Most people think Ksitigarbha is just an idol to place in front of a grave, but that concept is disrespectful to him; Ksitigarbha is far more than that. Once you all understand this, I will begin to perform the Tantra part of the puja.

“Normally, prior to performing the Dharma, we first must take refuge, which means: ‘Today I rely on the great awe-inspiring power of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and my guru to help me to initiate an aspiration.’ If we have come to participate in the puja for our own benefit, then our aspiration is very small; if we are here for the sake of our family members, it is a bit better. If we are participating for sentient beings, that is even better. However, if our hope is to leave life and death behind and stop reincarnating completely, then that is best of all.

H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche began to perform the ritual, beginning with the Refuge and Aspiration.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said, “Next, the guru must visualize himself as being one and the same as Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. A moment ago I spoke about the sort of light Ksitigarbha emits; the point is to know about this light while we are still living, so that after we die we will not reincarnate in the Three Evil Realms.”

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche performed the Dharma, and then bestowed more teachings: “In Buddhism, there are the Eight Great Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas range from the First to the Sixteenth Ground; upon reaching the Seventeenth, they attain Buddhahood. These ‘Grounds’ do not signify any sort of status; they indicate the fruition attained through cultivation. Only those of the Tenth through the Sixteenth Ground are called Great Bodhisattvas, also known as Dharmakaya Bodhisattvas. A Dharmakaya Bodhisattva has attained a pure Dharma nature. Ksitigarbha is one of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas. In essence, he has already reached the fruition of a Buddha, but in order to liberate countless sentient beings he returns over and over, drawing from the majestic aspiration of all the Bodhisattvas.

“This aspiration originates in the Dharma Realm, which is not an environment where we humans or any sentient beings of the Six Realms reside. It is above all mundane realms, including all the space that exists in the void. Only the Buddhas and the Great Bodhisattvas can live there; it would be impossible for us to visit. Thus, this sort of bodhicitta is not formed in the Six Realms; it is produced in the Dharma Realm inhabited by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. As such, it is very auspicious, with awesome power. This aspiration was generated in order to help and liberate all sentient beings in the void and the entire universe so that we might find true deliverance from the suffering sea of reincarnation. Many scientists these days claim there is no such thing as reincarnation, but at the same time, they know without a doubt that even after matter is formed into a utensil or tool, its molecules are constantly changing and being reborn. Therefore, the Buddha’s definition of reincarnation can very clearly be seen happening inside matter.

“‘The Buddhas of the three times, as not yet recorded in history.’ In other words, of all the Buddhas in the past, future, and present, some have not yet been recorded in history. There are some remarkable biographies of sages, and this Dharma text is based on all the complete Dharma methods they expounded and orally transmitted; prior to this, it had not been transmitted to the snowy valleys of Tibet. This text is not just a typical book of sutras; it was personally transmitted by Vajravarahi to a master practitioner in the south of western Tianzhu (which is now known as India). Vajravarahi is a very important yidam in Tantra; to perform the Phowa, you must have her help. She personally transmitted 108 different cultivation methods, and this Dharma is one of the twenty-four expedient cultivation methods of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas. ‘Expedient’ means that in order to help sentient beings, all expediencies must be used. For example, they take human form when helping sentient beings of the Human Realm.”

After chanting the names of the Lineage gurus in Tibetan, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said, “In Tibetan Tantra, a great deal of importance is placed on lineage, especially in the Drikung Kagyu Order. A lineage passes down the name of the person whom the Dharmas were learned from, as well as who all the subsequent gurus have been; this information must be very clearly communicated. There are two reasons for this: First of all, many people think they can cultivate by themselves, but they are wrong! Without the blessings of the Lineage gurus, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas, it is impossible to achieve any attainment in this lifetime. We therefore must remember the name of every Lineage guru who ever came to bless us. The second reason originates in the fear that people in the Age of Degenerate Dharma will speak nonsense and use Tantra to cheat people out of their money; this is why it is vital that the entire Lineage is very clearly listed. For example, I can very clearly show that my guru is His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang; this means the Dharmas I have learned are from his teachings, and I did not make them up. It’s like how, when we study and graduate from university, we must be able to very clearly say who all our professors were; Buddhism is the same way. This is to prevent someone from suddenly appearing on the scene, chanting a hong sound, and swindling a whole heap of people. Lots of people actually go to listen to these sorts of bamboozling tricksters, because people nowadays are so confused. By contrast, people do not come to the pujas of practitioners like me who can very clearly, honestly list their lineages, because if things are stated too transparently, no one dares attend. Such is the tragedy of this Age of Degenerate Dharma.

“It is also written in this Dharma text that it was transmitted, through the Lineage gurus, to me. Only after receiving oral transmission of it, and completing a retreat, was I able to master this Dharma and begin performing it for sentient beings. The oral transmission originated from a Bodhisattva-Mahasattva; this means it was not an ordinary sutra transmitted to me, but rather the essence of a Great Bodhisattva. It was an oral transmission of Ksitigarbha’s essence, the cultivation method by which he became a Bodhisattva, passed down from Ksitigarbha himself. Therefore, in order to listen to this Dharma today, you should offer the mandala as an offering of respect. If you do not, then you will have no good fortune. In that case, even if you are allowed to listen, you will not place any importance on it in your mind; it will simply go in one ear and out the other.”

Next, the mandala offering was performed. The monastics, as well as believers who had been chosen by ballot when they entered the venue, presented the mandala to H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche on behalf of sentient beings.

After leading the attendees in a recitation from the Dharma text, H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said, “First, we should take refuge; second, we should earnestly implore the guru to transmit this Tantra to us and help us to cultivate it. Do not let your thoughts be scattered; focus on listening to the Dharma being transmitted by your guru.”

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche explained how to visualize, and said, “You should see the guru as the yidam—as being no different from Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. You may visualize the thangka atop the mandala in order to picture Ksitigarbha’s appearance in your mind. We puja participants should be tearfully grateful to the guru; if we did not have a meritorious guru to transmit the mantra to us, we would never be able to become liberated from life and death in this lifetime or transform the accumulated karma of our past lives. We therefore must feel gratitude toward our guru, and our tears should come as things we never were able to obtain before and which suddenly were bestowed upon us. That is how it should feel.

“With Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha in your heart, you should visualize the mantra uttered by the guru as going from his mouth straight into the Ksitigarbha in your heart, because in this way your heart will receive blessings and give rise to joyfulness—not because your life will improve as a result of this, but because you are happy that today you were given this causal condition and good fortune to receive transmission of this mantra from your guru.”

H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche began to lead the attendees in a line-by-line chanting of the mantra, and then resumed his teachings.

“The lines I transmitted to you just now mean that from now on, if you aspire to learn Ksitigarbha’s Dharma method, this transmission will help you to plant the causal condition to learn it. It would be best if you can learn it in this lifetime, but if not, you will in some unknown future lifetime.

“After this, we make prostrations to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and perform the offering ritual. In the text it is written that Ksitigarbha’s Dharma must be performed on a clean piece of ground or in a clean building, which means the location cannot ever have been the site of a business that engaged in killing or any other evil actions, such as a casino, brothel, restaurant, and so on. The Dharma may only be performed in locations that are pure.

“The next part describes how to set up the mandala. A lot of people mistakenly assume that reciting a sutra will be helpful just because they want to do it. Actually, if we really wish to cultivate, we need a mandala that has been set up in accordance with the Dharma. There are three parts to every Dharma ritual we perform. The first is initiating an aspiration. The most important thing about participating in a puja is our intention to be there. In anything we do, we must first make preparations; only then can we complete our task well. Therefore, every practitioner places a great deal of importance on aspiration. The second part is the main practice, in which the guru begins performing the Dharma. The third part is the dedication, which is something we must do after any Dharma is performed. Don’t assume today’s Dharma is being performed for you and your family; that is not the case. According to Buddhist concepts, the essence of all sentient beings is the same as ours, regardless of their race or nationality: It is a pure Dharma nature, and is the same for all of us. Thus, because we have this opportunity to chant the Buddhas’ names and make prostrations to them on behalf of sentient beings, we must dedicate the merits generated by our chanting to all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and sentient beings; this is the only way these merits will increase.

“There are two types of pure aspiration. A pure aspiration is made of bodhicitta that does not arise from desire. ‘Do good deeds from within a pure bodhicitta’—this means we have a clear understanding that our participation in the puja is a good action, because at the very least, for a few hours we will not engage in any killing, alcohol consumption, deception, or other wrongdoings. Thus, since this behavior—of participating in the puja—is good, we should not have any further selfish desires. We should just think, ‘I have the good fortune to participate in this puja, so I should do it on behalf of all sentient beings.’ The other sort of aspiration has to do with the guru, and has nothing to do with you.

“While performing the Dharma, the guru must be sure to maintain the samadhi state. If the guru’s ability is insufficient, such as when he is unable to do what you call Zen practice, then this sort of Dharma cannot be performed, because he will not be attuned to it.”

After the ritual, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said, “These lines are always recited when performing the Mahamudra. Because you have not cultivated it, you would not know what I was talking about even if I were to explain it to you. To put it briefly, there is a reason for everything; whether you are lucky or sick, everything has its cause. You must have done something in the past for these things to be happening to you. The first line declares at the outset that everything has its cause; even your ability to participate in today’s puja most certainly is due to something that occurred previously. Perhaps you came in contact with the Dharma in a past life, and that created the causal condition for you to come here in this one. Now the causal condition is here, but its karmic effect still has not manifested, because it is up to you whether or not you continue to practice.

“Any guru wishing to perform this ritual must first have attained Emptiness, understand what that entails, and enter samadhi. After coming out of it, he must ‘look compassionately’—meaning, look with compassionate eyes of wisdom and Dharma upon sentient beings who are unenlightened and still do not understand. That means you. Though your root capacity might not be sufficient, and some of you might not even believe or are unwilling to learn, the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and the guru perform the Dharma from within Emptiness. This means we do not care whether or not you believe, what offerings you have or haven’t made, or what non-Buddhist actions you may have committed in the past. As long as this causal condition has appeared today, the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and the guru will continue to help you with compassion. Whether or not you accept this help is up to you.”

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche chanted the mantra, blessing this piece of land and this building the same as if it were the palace in which the Bodhisattvas reside. He also blessed the treasured throne upon which the guru sat, as well as all of the offering items. Next, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed the attendees to kneel on their right knee and hold flowers up with both hands while the monastics lit incense in an offering to the Buddha on behalf of sentient beings and welcomed Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s arrival at the mandala. Next, the guru implored Ksitigarbha to come down to the thangka, and ordered the ordained disciples to respectfully present the mandala to the yidam Ksitigarbha’s thangka on behalf of sentient beings.

After performing the ritual, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said, “Just now, I implored the yidam to approach the mandala to accept our offering. The next part of the ritual was to help us to accumulate the resource of wisdom, and included a repentance to the yidam for the myriad evil actions we have committed in the past.”

Then, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed the ordained disciples to lead the attendees in a recitation of “Chapter Twelve: The Benefits of Seeing and Hearing,” from the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. Meanwhile, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche recited the Ksitigarbha Dhāraṇī Sutra.

After the recitations, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued to bestow teachings. “You were just led in a chanting of this Exoteric sutra. The one I recited was the Ksitigarbha Dhāraṇī Sutra, which contains Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s mantras. The difference between them is this: The Exoteric sutra tells us the attitude we should have while helping the deceased, whereas the Ksitigarbha Dhāraṇī Sutra teaches us the mindset with which we should approach our practice. By chanting this mantra—the next line says, ‘Chant this mantra with a sincere attitude’—by very sincerely chanting this mantra of Ksitigarbha’s, we can ‘rapidly become liberated from suffering.’ As long as you chant it in earnest, you can very quickly—in this lifetime, at least—become liberated from life and death and leave all your suffering behind. ‘With a sincere attitude’ means believing in it. The next part says that if you chant this mantra over a long period of time, ‘all your thoughts will come to be.’ If you chant it frequently, all of your thoughts that are related to the Dharma will materialize; they will all appear for you to fulfill. Furthermore, we can obtain great auspiciousness and faith; as long as we sincerely and reverently chant Ksitigarbha’s mantra, we will succeed in all our endeavors. When I say ‘all,’ I mean everything that can help us to become liberated from life and death and even help sentient beings; we will succeed in all our efforts to that end. Therefore, that being the case, none of our minor mundane troubles and afflictions will seem very serious anymore.

“While chanting his mantra, we can receive Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s blessings to purify us in body, speech, and mind. This purification does not mean making us clean; it means restoring our pure, original nature. All our actions of body, speech, and mind originally function as causal originations; once the causal condition ceases, they disappear. Nevertheless, people love to be attached to thinking about something or doing something, and this causes their body, speech, and mind to become impure. While cultivating, we must be sure to purify our body, speech, and mind so as to restore our original nature, which is why I am always telling you not to pray for things. It’s not that you are not allowed to; we may pray for things that are related to the Dharma—but we really have no need to implore for mundane things. Chanting this mantra a lot will not cause the Bodhisattva to protect your business and make it thrive; rather, as your good fortune accumulates, your mundane affairs will all naturally fall in line. Without good fortune, no amount of chanting will be of any use; even if you chant until you get what you want, something untoward will happen. Therefore, ‘cultivating in accordance with the Dharma will bring blessings.’ ‘In accordance with the Dharma’ means we must heed the methods the Buddha taught us and not make demands based on our own thoughts or practice according to hearsay. Only by cultivating in accordance with the Dharma can we obtain Ksitigarbha’s blessings. Simply put, to learn Buddhism, you must follow the right guru. Has the guru made clear his or her lineage? Are the guru’s teachings in line with what is written in the sutras and Dharma texts? If not, then everything he or she says is wrong.

“‘Benefit us in all things.’ Benefit me and all sentient beings. What does ‘benefit’ mean? It means eliminating all the evil causes that can send us to the Hell, Hungry Ghost, and Animal Realms; in other words, helping us to stop sewing evil seeds. Even if you have to go to the Evil Realms because of your karmic retribution, and even if you are right at the gate of the Hell Realm, as long as you have absolute faith in the blessings bestowed upon you by the guru and the yidam and remember participating in today’s puja, you will be spared from having to enter. Even if you descend to the Animal Realm, so long as you think of today’s puja, you likewise will not have to enter. Therefore, this is very important: ‘Eliminate the Evil Realms, and attract the Virtuous Realms.’ It is not that the Bodhisattvas can eliminate them for us; most important is whether or not you have faith while participating in today’s puja. If you do not, then even if Ksitigarbha were standing right in front of you, he still would not be able to extricate you from the Hell Realm. Thus, you must have sufficient faith in this Dharma your guru is performing for you today. Don’t assume that gurus are ordinary people like yourselves; gurus have to sleep, too, but they can do things that you cannot do, so you must believe in them. If you think you are capable enough, then learn to do what I can do: Make a hole in the skull of a deceased, and transfer the deceased’s consciousness through it so that he or she can be reborn in the Virtuous Realms. If you are incapable of this, then you should listen. If you are still adhering to your own ideas, you do not have faith. If you believe, then ‘may this light grant me the power to benefit sentient beings’—that is, only then will the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and gurus grant you the light of their blessings so that you can benefit yourself and sentient beings; only then will this power emerge. ‘Even a shami would then become attuned to, and be no different from, Tathagata.’ Once you have succeeded in doing the aforementioned, you will become attuned. Attunement is the state of mind without which you cannot receive the Buddha’s compassion, merits, and activities. If you are still practicing according to your own notions, then after the puja is over, you will be your same old self; as such, you will not be able to become attuned, and will not even be able to ‘eliminate the Evil Realms, and attract the Virtuous Realms.’

“Many people think that would not matter, and that it is okay to keep doing what they are doing and worry about the consequences later. This is a prime example of not believing. ‘Faith’ means believing without a doubt that you can succeed. A lot of you say you cannot practice due to the environment in which you live, but this is something you yourselves decide. I was born and lived in Hong Kong, the seafood capital of the world. Why was I able to stop eating it? It was because of my faith. If you cannot do the same, it is because you lack faith. Since you do not believe in the Buddha’s teachings, you will not be able to receive His blessings; as a result, you cannot become liberated from life and death and are at grave risk of falling into the Three Evil Realms. Practicing Buddhism should definitely not be done to improve your health or for any other trivial matters; for these you do not need to seek out the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, because even I can help you resolve them. Such trivial matters are all of your own making. In Buddhism we speak of the past, the present, and the future; everything that is happening to you right now is the result of your actions in the past. Even things like falling down and breaking a bone are the consequence of having engaged in killing in the past. Future events have not yet occurred, so how you behave right now can change your future. Why do people worry over what life will be like when they are older, or about being poor, or fret over this and that? You worry about these things because you do not know where you will be in the future. The future is determined by the present; everything you do right now has an effect on what will happen in the future. You are sure to think, ‘I’m not doing so well right now, so how will that influence my future?’ If things are bad for you now, it is the result of whatever you did in the past. If you are willing to change, right now, and put a stop to all your evil behavior and instead do only good deeds, then your future is bound to be brighter.

“This is the reason sentient beings leave their physical and mental suffering far behind. The Buddha said it very clearly: ‘Physical and mental suffering.’ You cannot leave behind your bodily and psychological suffering behind simply by transcribing a sutra, worshiping a deity, or ringing a temple bell; you must listen, and you must believe. Only if we begin by doing this one step at a time will the body, speech, and mind of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas become attuned to ours, and only after this attunement occurs can we leave behind all our physical and mental suffering. Our minds are filled with a great deal of torment, all of which arises from greed. Physical suffering happens because everyone has to experience the pain of birth, old age, sickness, and death. No matter how young you might be right now, you will one day grow old; the suffering of old age and sickness are bound to come knocking. For Buddhist practitioners, however, old age and physical suffering are vastly different to what other people go through. I am seventy years old, yet the symptoms of old age are not very obvious because I have already left that sort of suffering behind. Why was I able to do this? First of all, it was because while learning Buddhism, I cultivated a tiny bit of good fortune; once I had enough, the physical suffering of old age began to affect me differently from other people. Secondly, it was because in my mind, I did not feel like I was suffering; this attitude has alleviated my physical pain. Why do you constantly feel so much discomfort all over? The reason is that your minds are full of suffering; this suffering comes from your greed, hatred, and unwillingness to believe in cause and effect. Psychological suffering has an effect on the body. This is why the Buddha said that if the mind is free of illness, the body will be, too. If you have no greedy, hateful, or ignorant thoughts, then your body will not suffer from sickness, either. If you have a bad heart, it is because you are too greedy; if there is a problem with your trachea, it is because you have severely avaricious and hateful thoughts. If you are liable to get dementia, it is because you have not believed in cause and effect ever since you were little. Cancer befalls people who have engaged in killing and eaten meat; needing to undergo surgery is a consequence of having the karma of killing. These sorts of physical and mental suffering all result from your own actions.

“This previous section stated very clearly that as long as you are willing to listen and believe, then your body, speech, and mind will naturally become attuned to those of Tathagata. The mind of Tathagata, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas is purely virtuous, without a shred of evil. If you can begin to refrain from all evil and only do good, then the power of good will touch you. Once you come in contact with the power of the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ virtue, you will naturally be granted protection without even having to pray for it. Even when bad things happen to you, your attunement with their body, speech, and mind will naturally shield you from such occurrences; this will happen as a matter of course, without you needing to implore for anything.

“Today’s puja will help you to accumulate good fortune and unlock your wisdom so that you can comprehend the true meaning of the Dharma. This will allow you to accumulate resources so that you can practice Buddhism in the future. I have continuously transmitted this mantra of Ksitigarbha’s many times, but because no one implores it from me, I will not teach it. A lot of people assume that having heard it once, they will then know how to chant it, but that won’t work, because Tantra also includes visualization, and without a guru’s oral transmission, you have no idea how to visualize. Many of you think there is no need to implore; you think that if you keep listening and listening, you will understand it one day. That just means you have no respect for your guru. Can you understand it just by hearing it chanted? If that were the case, then I had no need to go into retreat or implore the Dharma from His Holiness.

“The unwillingness of so many people to take refuge is nothing but arrogance. They think that if they take refuge, they will get scolded and controlled. We have all been under the control of our karma all along, though; we cannot escape its power. Thus, only by clearly understanding the true meaning of the Dharma can we avoid practicing the wrong way or straying from the right path; once we know what it means, we must make a firm resolution to do it. Only then will the Dharma be of much use to us in the future—and it will be far more useful than we can imagine. I am seventy years old, for example, and quite a few elderly people present have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, but I do not, because I am more physically healthy than others my age. I haven’t done anything special to stay in shape, either. This is the sort of thing the Dharma can change for you. Where do the elements inside our bodies come from? They come from the karma we have created throughout our past lives. So-called ‘genes’ come into your body as a result of your past actions. If you have done a lot of good deeds, then your genes will naturally be healthy; if you have committed a lot of evil actions, your genes will go bad, and this process can only be turned around if you begin to work hard at being virtuous. There is proof of this in medicine; ask any doctor, and you will know. For example, some people are born with genetic mutations that could potentially lead to cancer, but end up never getting it because they are constantly doing good deeds; as such, the bad genes never activate. Some, on the other hand, have no cancer-prone genes, yet they get cancer anyway because of all the evil actions they commit while alive such as killing and being greedy. Even though they have not inherited any cancer-prone genes, the genes they did get end up transforming. Thus, changes in the body are caused by our own actions. Don’t blame or resent others, because it all is the result of your own fortune.

“Today we will perform the Exoteric Dharma and Tantra together. This is very difficult, especially because so many people these days regard Buddhism as some mysterious thing. Actually, there is nothing mysterious about it. You yourselves have not learned, so you naturally feel Buddhism is mysterious. This is analogous to how an elementary school student who cannot comprehend university-level material might think it very mysterious. This is all I will say to you this morning.”

Upon the perfect completion of the morning puja, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed the attendees to take a break, and then the guru performed a puja to bless the prayer flag.

After Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche finished blessing the prayer flag, the attendees joined their palms together in reverent homage as the guru descended the Dharma throne, thanking him for taking the trouble to perform the puja and bestow teachings.

At 2:00 in the afternoon, H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne once again to expound “Chapter Twelve: The Benefits of Hearing and Seeing” from the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows.

“The sutra reads, ‘At that time, the World Honored One emitted from His forehead hundreds of thousands of millions of great ūrṇā lights: Namely, the white ūrṇā light, the great white ūrṇā light, the auspicious ūrṇā light, the great auspicious ūrṇā light, the jade ūrṇā light, the great jade ūrṇā light, the purple ūrṇā light, the great purple ūrṇā light, the indigo ūrṇā light, the great indigo ūrṇā light, the blue ūrṇā light, the great blue ūrṇā light, the red ūrṇā light, the great red ūrṇā light, the green ūrṇā light, the great green ūrṇā light, the golden ūrṇā light, the great golden ūrṇā light, the felicitous cloud ūrṇā light, the great felicitous cloud ūrṇā light, the thousand wheel ūrṇā light, the great thousand wheel ūrṇā light, the precious wheel ūrṇā light, the great precious wheel ūrṇā light, the sun disc ūrṇā light, the great sun disc ūrṇā light, the moon disc ūrṇā light, the great moon disc ūrṇā light, the palace ūrṇā light, the great palace ūrṇā light, the sea cloud ūrṇā light, and the great sea cloud ūrṇā light.’

“This chapter has already stated quite clearly that as long as we embrace Ksitigarbha’s Dharma, we will be able to see and hear things that benefit sentient beings. ‘Forehead’ here does not mean the same position as what we know as the forehead. If someone’s family member passes away, and I perform the Phowa for the deceased, a round hole will appear in the skull; that spot is what is referred to here as the ‘forehead.’ In Tantra we call it the crown chakra. If we humans want to be reborn in the Heaven Realm or Amitabha’s Pure Land, or attain Buddhahood, this is the spot through which the consciousness leaves the body.

“‘…emitted from his forehead hundreds of thousands of millions of great ūrṇā lights.’ Some would wonder how that is possible. Well, it is indeed, because in Tantra there is a Dharma method precisely for doing this. Why are so many kinds of light mentioned here? It is because each sentient being in the universe is able to come in contact with the light to a different degree. In order to benefit all sentient beings, the Buddha emits this light, allowing us to sense it according to our individual acceptance levels. We cannot see it with our physical eyes, nor can it be detected with instruments. Science has proved that there is an entire spectrum of rays in the universe, and discoveries made through the invention of instruments have allowed us to see many different kinds of light. This light certainly exists, but why do we use the word ‘ūrṇā,’ or ‘hair’ in Chinese, to describe it? An ūrṇā is as straight and fine as a strand of hair; it does not twist or turn like lightning.

“‘White ūrṇā light’ —through practice, most practitioners will emit white ūrṇā light. We innately possess it; if we have never cultivated, however, our bodies cannot emit their light. Modern scientists have proved the human body can emit rays; it’s just that the light from the human body takes the form of a sort of energy. Through practice, we can concentrate this light energy and radiate it. Science has also shown that light existed before a lot of matter and sound took shape. All matter produces light before it transforms. These rays of light mentioned in the sutra help sentient beings in the Six Realms. Some need the blessings of red light, some gold or green; everyone is different. Some sentient beings in the Three Evil Realms need an entirely different kind of light. The ability to see these sorts of light comes from meditating, though that does not mean you’ll be able to see them simply by closing your eyes. You must truly enter a state of meditation before you can see these lights.

“This section describes many types of light, such as sun disc ūrṇā light and moon disc ūrṇā light. There is mention of these in Tantric practice, but if you have not learned Tantra, I cannot tell you about it. The great thousand wheel ūrṇā light—those who practice Tantric Tsa Lung Trulkhor know what this is. The precious wheel ūrṇā light—the same is true of this one. Many people say the sutras are for practicing Exoteric Buddhism, but inside they describe many different states; anyone who practices Tantra knows that everything the Buddha said in the sutras is real. In Chinese Exoteric Buddhism, when showing obeisance, you place your fingers between your eyebrows; this is the spot from which white ūrṇā light is emitted. I myself have seen this while making offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The explanations in this section include the various lights sent out by the Buddha to touch all the sentient beings in the universe.

“‘The palace ūrṇā light’ —Before you reincarnate, your mother’s womb looks like a palace to you; this is why you want to enter it. If you have practiced in a previous lifetime, then you will be able to discern whether the light you see is from the Buddha or from ordinary people; as such, you will not make the wrong choice. When we enter the womb to reincarnate, it is the color of the light that leads us there. The Buddha radiates so many rays of light, each attracting different sentient beings of the Six Realms, guiding them away from reincarnation. This part is very difficult to explain unless you have practiced Tantra.

“Many people reading this section wonder why all these rays are constantly being emitted. It’s not a stage performance, after all, so why should there be so much lighting? It has to do with the Buddha radiating these various sorts of light as a way of guiding sentient beings right when they are about to reincarnate. Practitioners of Tantra know that for the first forty-nine days after a person’s death, every seven days light can be seen coming to receive the deceased. If the deceased had never heard about these things while still alive, then he or she will follow the wrong one. For example, red, green, and blue rays are emitted in the Six Realms; these lights are rather weak in strength. After taking our last breath but before reincarnating in the womb, we enter a ghostly state called the ‘intermediate state’ (bardo) ; every seven days, our bardo wakes up. When it sees these rays of light, it will pick the one it likes and follow it. Usually, sentient beings tend to be afraid when they see the light emitted by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. It is written in the sutra that if you have never practiced or learned the Dharma, or even listened to a guru’s introduction of it, then while you are a bardo, you will feel frightened upon seeing their intense radiance—so much so that you will try to hide from it. For example, you might see two green rays of light; the brighter of the two will be light emitted by the Buddha, while the weaker one leads to the Hungry Ghost Realm. In this instance, out of fear, you might choose to run away by following the latter.

“The very first night after I took refuge, I had a dream that I was standing in the doorway of a temple. From inside, Shakyamuni Buddha was radiating an intense golden light. The sight of this made me take a step backward, and just then, my Dharma master at the time whispered, ‘Go ahead and prostrate yourself.’ If you were to find yourself in this situation, but had not taken refuge in a guru who could give you a nudge forward, then seeing the light would make you retreat. This is written in the sutra, though back then I had never read this section before. I’m explaining it to you now so that you can hear it. This is not superstition; these sorts of light do not exist only because of the Buddha, and the point of this section is not to show off how powerful and mighty the Buddha is. These lights can be seen by all sentient beings every seven days after they die, including animals, ghosts, and beasts. Just like humans, animals, too, must experience this forty-nine-day period after they die. These lights come to guide us. Only if we listened to or practiced the Dharma while still alive will we be able to choose the right one to follow during these forty-nine days.

“For example, there is a Tantric method in which it is described what this palace is like, but that is not written in Exoteric texts. This palace is not the sort we have seen while living, such as those in ancient cities in Japan; not at all. The sort of palace mentioned in the sutra looks completely different. It receives you and guides you onto a virtuous path, and even to reincarnate in a better embryo. Once you understand this, you will not take the wrong path.

“‘The sea cloud ūrṇā light and the great sea cloud ūrṇā light.’ Why are there great lights and lesser lights? They do not differ in size; it is their ability to attract and guide sentient beings that varies. Most sentient beings are guided by the sea cloud ūrṇā light, but those that achieve higher realization are received by the great sea cloud ūrṇā light. What is this ‘great sea cloud’? If you have not learned Tantra, I really do not know how to explain it. After you’ve learned Tantra, I will tell you.

“The sutra reads, ‘Having emitted such ūrṇā lights from His forehead, He intoned with a subtle, wonderful voice to the assembled congregation of devas, nagas, non-humans, and others of the eight groups of beings, “Listen, for today in Trāyastriṃśa Palace I am going to commend and praise Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha for his beneficial deeds, his unfathomable achievements which surpass all other sacred causes, his attainment of the Tenth Ground, and his actions of non-regression from Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi, which Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha perfected for the sake of human beings and devas.”’

“A moment ago I mentioned that before there can be sound, there is light; you would not suddenly hear a sound. Some people say they hear certain noises, but those are just ghosts babbling at you. There must be an appearance of ūrṇā light before even subtle sounds can be heard. By ‘subtle’ I do not mean it will be whispering into your ear, nor will anyone suddenly talk to you out loud. It will be a feeling inside your mind; a sense that a voice is speaking to you from there. Actually, humans might need to speak to communicate, but sentient beings in the Ghost, Hell, Animal, Heaven, and Asura Realms do not. They do not even need to open their mouths, and you will know what they are trying to tell you. This is what is meant by ‘subtle sounds.’ The Buddha’s voice is even more subtle; it penetrates directly to the ‘location’ of your hearing, the very spot where your nerves are that allow you to hear sound. As soon as it reaches this place, your consciousness immediately reacts by telling you what this voice is saying.

“The Buddha spoke ‘to the assembled congregation of devas, nagas, non-humans, and others of the eight groups of beings.’ His voice was not specifically aimed at human ears, or anyone else. As long as the Buddha’s subtle voice emerges, all sentient beings connected to the Buddha, no matter what Realm they are in, know what He is saying to them. Therefore, in the sutra it is written that the Buddha knows the hearts of sentient beings. If the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas did not know what sounds sentient beings want to hear, then they would not be Buddhas or Bodhisattvas. Devas, nagas, and others of the eight groups of beings are sentient beings that are specifically mentioned in the sutras. In the Heaven Realm, these eight groups include devas, nagas, Mahoragas, and so on. They exist between the Heaven and Human Realms. The non-humans mentioned here are ghosts.

“‘Listen, for today in Trāyastriṃśa Palace I am going to commend and praise Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha.’ Listen to the praise I am giving to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha today in Trāyastriṃśa Palace. Here the Buddha specifically says that He is commending Ksitigarbha that day, in Trāyastriṃśa Palace. Very few sentient beings can cause the Buddha to praise them, so this tells you that Ksitigarbha is a Great Bodhisattva who has cultivated to fruition.

“‘…For his beneficial deeds, his unfathomable achievements which surpass all other sacred causes… for the sake of human beings and devas.’ Ksitigarbha does these deeds specifically in the Human and Heaven Realms. There is no mention of animals here. Many people say that while reciting the sutras, their cat or dog will crawl up next to them and sit there, listening quietly, but this is because if you are sitting quietly, then your pets will, too; they don’t do it because you are reciting the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. It is stated quite clearly in the sutra. Ksitigarbha helps sentient beings to obtain benefits using unfathomable achievements that surpass even the causes sages create. ‘His attainment of the Tenth Ground’—Ksitigarbha is a Great Bodhisattva whose fruition has reached and surpassed the Tenth Ground, but besides that, if we practice this Dharma method, he can help us cultivate to become Tenth Ground Bodhisattvas, too. ‘…And his actions of non-regression from Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi.’ As long as we do as Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha says, we can be eternally prevented from regressing. Why is ‘Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi’ mentioned here? It would take a long time to explain it based on the sutra, but to put it briefly, this means you will neither grow tired of nor go back on your intention to practice and benefit sentient beings.

“The sutra reads, ‘As these words were being uttered, a Bodhisattva-Mahasattva in the congregation named Avalokiteshvara rose directly from his seat, knelt down on one knee, and, with palms joined, addressed the Buddha, saying….’

“While the Buddha was speaking, a Great Bodhisattva attending the puja stood: Avalokiteshvara. From this it is evident that Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara and Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha are very good friends. When the Buddha spoke of Ksitigarbha, Avalokiteshvara appeared. This means that if we practice the Avalokiteshvara, we will become connected to Ksitigarbha, and vice versa. Avalokiteshvara is a Great Bodhisattva, but even so, when imploring the Dharma from the Buddha, he makes the proper prostrations. ‘Knelt down on one knee’ refers to kneeling on one’s right knee, like you did this morning; Avalokiteshvara did this with palms joined while speaking to the Buddha.

“The sutra reads, ‘“O World Honored One, this Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, with great compassion, has always had pity on sinful, miserable, suffering beings. In thousands of myriads of millions of worlds, he takes thousands of myriads of millions of transformational forms, using all his merits and unfathomable, majestic, miraculous powers….”’

“Previously I have explained what great compassion means, so I won’t talk about that today. In these lines, Avalokiteshvara is not asking the Buddha how well Ksitigarbha cultivates; rather, Avalokiteshvara is saying in no uncertain terms that Ksitigarbha is a Mahasattva in possession of great compassion. ‘…Has always had pity on sinful, miserable, suffering beings.’ The word ‘sinful’ here does not refer to the original sin that some religions say people are born with, nor does it mean people bring sin with them when they reincarnate into this world, as claimed by others. The definition of ‘sinful’ is that as long as you remain in reincarnation’s sea of suffering, whether in this lifetime or in future lives, this sin of yours is created by you. Buddhism does not define this evil as sins for which you must be punished; it is just that your wrongdoings produce bad karmic effects, which is why the words ‘sinful, miserable,’ and ‘suffering’ are used. No other adjectives can describe this complex matter of which the Buddha was speaking, so Avalokiteshvara uses the word ‘sinful’ here because humans can understand it. It might seem to carry connotations of punishment, but this actually does not mean anyone will punish you; rather, you will reap what you sow: This is a fact you must accept. ‘Beings’ here refers to sentient beings of the Six Realms.

“‘In thousands of myriads of millions of worlds, he takes thousands of myriads of millions of transformational forms.’ Ksitigarbha is not only on Earth; he can appear in any of the Buddha’s lands and worlds throughout the universe. Buddhas do not just exist in this Saha World; they manifest wherever humans live, all across the Milky Way. Ksitigarbha does not fly back and forth; so many people think that is how the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas get around. In the state of samadhi, they can transform their energy into multiple kinds of light and emanate in many forms that look just like themselves in order to go places to benefit sentient beings. This can only be done with compassion.

“‘…Using all his merits and unfathomable, majestic, miraculous powers….’ Ksitigarbha uses all his merits in order to allow sentient beings to escape suffering. Whenever the sutras use the word ‘unfathomable,’ it implies something that we cannot possibly comprehend from the perspective of our human experience. The only way you could understand it is if you possessed the Buddha’s great supernatural powers. The words ‘majestic’ and ‘miraculous’ here do not mean Ksitigarbha is very fierce or unreasonable; rather, they mean he wants to help many evildoing, suffering sentient beings. They have harmed many other sentient beings, who in turn would hinder those evildoing, suffering ones from receiving blessings from the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and gurus. Therefore, without majestic, miraculous powers, Ksitigarbha could not tame these sentient beings enough for the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to help them.

“The sutra reads, ‘“I have heard you, O World Honored One, and innumerable other Buddhas, all in unison, singing the praises of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s meritorious virtues and unfathomable, majestic, miraculous powers, revealing that even if all the past, present, and future Buddhas should mention and try to list his meritorious virtues, they still would never speak exhaustively of them, not to mention those You, O World Honored One, will announce universally to this congregation.”’

“Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara again emphasized that he had heard Shakyamuni and countless Buddhas in the Ten Directions speak praise of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha; innumerable Buddhas had uttered it in unison. Even though each Buddha has a different aspiration, they all spoke the same words of praise for Ksitigarbha. ‘They still would never speak exhaustively of them.’ Even with all the Buddhas of the Three Times—past, present, and future—singing Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s praise, they could never finish listing all his merits. Evidently, Ksitigarbha had done a great many good deeds. ‘…Not to mention those You, O World Honored One, will announce universally to this congregation’ —not to mention the merits Shakyamuni Buddha would be telling everyone about that day. The word ‘universally’ here does not mean widespread or common; it refers to being indiscriminate. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas would not discriminate between sentient beings that wish to hear the Dharma; it does not matter where you are from, whether or not you have money, or what your social status is. As long as you are willing to listen, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are certain to speak to you.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…Saying that you wish to praise Ksitigarbha’s beneficial deeds. I only hope that You, O World Honored One, for the benefit of all sentient beings both now and in the future, will praise Ksitigarbha’s unfathomable merits so that the devas, nagas, and others of the eight groups of beings can worship him and thus gain good fortune.”’

“On our behalf, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara implored Shakyamuni Buddha to again praise Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s unfathomable achievements for the sake of all sentient beings living both then and in the future. Why would he make such a request again? It was because sentient beings that had heard the Buddha before, and begun to practice, had already left this mundane world of reincarnation. These sentient beings that had already benefited would not have the opportunity to relay the Buddha’s wisdom to others that had not yet received such benefits; this was why Avalokiteshvara implored the Buddha on our behalf. The Buddha’s utterances are absolutely true, so He would never speak a single deceptive word to us sentient beings. Why wouldn’t Avalokiteshvara speak of Ksitigarbha’s deeds himself? It is not that he couldn’t, or that he did not know of them; rather, it was because this puja was being presided over by Shakyamuni Buddha. As such, out of politeness and respect, Avalokiteshvara asked Shakyamuni to speak. This was vastly different to how we might try to get all the credit by saying, ‘Buddha, I know how amazing Ksitigarbha is, so I’m going to tell you all about it.” This is how we would have done it. However, the way a cultivated practitioner would handle such a situation would be, out of courtesy and respect, to implore the Buddha to speak of Ksitigarbha’s merits once more for the sake of sentient beings, even though Avalokiteshvara obviously already knew all about these deeds, as it had been mentioned previously in the sutra. This is the right way to practice; this is what it means to be an upright person. What would we do? As soon as our guru opens his mouth, we get afraid the people sitting next to us won’t understand what he is saying, so we constantly mumble into their ears. Doing so is wrong, because it is disrespectful. Many people make this mistake.

“In fact, the methods taught by the Buddha can easily win us people’s respect in society, too. Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara first said, ‘Buddha, Ksitigarbha has done all these things and been praised by so many people; could you please list them again for us?” It is the equivalent of being at work in society, and knowing how someone did, but asking your boss to repeat it for you and your coworkers to hear. Would you say your boss would be pleased to hear such a request? Do you think you’d get a raise as a result? Of course you would, because by not taking the credit, you’ve shown respect for your boss. People always love to take the credit, though; they all think, ‘The credit for this should be mine.’ This shows a heavy attachment to self. This section of the sutra makes it appear as though Avalokiteshvara is asking for Shakyamuni Buddha’s advice, but in fact Avalokiteshvara is teaching us how to break away from our ego. What you know does not represent what belongs to you, nor does it mean you are better than anyone else. If you respect others enough to allow them to speak one more time, then you will leave a positive impression on anyone listening as well as on the people whom you respect. However, none of us who have accepted Western culture are willing to behave in this manner. In Western culture, the first word out of a person’s mouth is “I,” implying that “I am the best.” The reason conflicts occur between East and West is that Eastern culture is mainly influenced by Buddhism and Confucianism. This does not mean the Buddha is more powerful or that Buddhism is best, but because people become arrogant so easily, they will experience hindrances both in the mundane world and while cultivating.

“Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara taught us this manner of speaking. Why is practicing Buddhism good for us? This is an example. One of the benefits is that it teaches us very clearly how to handle situations in a way that is certain to cause people to accept and welcome us. If you are the best in everything, and constantly take all the credit, then what will other people eat? They will not be able to make a living. Therefore, the point is that Buddhism can be used in the mundane world. Avalokiteshvara said all these things in the hope that the Buddha would repeat Himself for the sake of sentient beings.

“The sutra reads, ‘The Buddha told Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, “You yourself have a tremendously strong relationship of primary and secondary causes (hetupratyayas) with the beings of the Saha World. Whether a deva or a naga, whether a male or a female, whether a deity or a demon, or even a miserable, evildoing being from the Six Realms….”’

“The Buddha praised Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara for having a special connection with the humans of Earth—more profound than with the people of any other world. Thus, it is stated in sutras very clearly that the reason we gravitate toward worshiping Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is that all of his thoughts are focused on the Earth and helping its humans and the people of the Saha World—which not only includes those of this planet, but also of the Heaven Realm, the Asura Realm, and so on; it even includes sentient beings in the Ghost Realm.

“The Heaven Realm is one of the Six Realms. Some people think that going there is great, but actually, suffering for past wrongdoings still occurs in the Heaven Realm, because sentient beings there are still destined to reincarnate. Moreover, before they reincarnate, they are bound to suffer even more than we humans, because sentient beings of the Heaven Realm are endowed with supernatural powers and therefore know when they will die. Why are you all so afraid of getting cancer? It is because as soon as the doctor detects it in you, he or she tells you how many months or years you have left to live. You are terrified of dying before your time, because you know when you’re going to go. Why don’t you get as scared if you are diagnosed with high blood pressure or heart disease? This is because your doctor cannot say when those conditions will kill you. Cancer is frightening in that it puts you in a state of fear right up until your death; your fear of dying from it causes you to constantly choose to have surgery to cut out this and that body part. I heard someone say the other day that if he’d had an operation sooner, he could have added another five years to his life. Okay, but after surgery, how would his quality of life have been? Not good.

“Why do sentient beings reincarnating in the Heaven Realm suffer more than we do? It is because they have supernatural powers. Once their time there is done, about 98% of them will first fall down into the Hell Realm. Why is that? Sentient beings that were able to reach the Heaven Realm certainly still have some evil karmic debts to repay, so once they have used up all of their good fortune, they must go to the Hell Realm. Secondly, before sentient beings of the Heaven Realm die, their bodies naturally emit a stinky odor. Third of all, the clothes they wear—heavenly garments—appear for them on demand, at the slightest thought; by contrast, we have to look at a catalogue and try things on, and they have to be manufactured by other people. Before sentient beings of the Heaven Realm die, their heavenly garments are ruined, and the flowers they wear in their hair wilt. Even if they use their supernatural powers to replace them with new ones, these blossoms will wilt, too. The flowers sentient beings wear in their hair are manifestations of good fortune. Therefore, if you want to be good-looking in your next lifetime, you should spend this one buying more flowers and make offerings of them to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. If you do this consistently, then in the next life, you are certain to have a dignified appearance. Don’t go to the mountains to pick them, unless it is on a farm that belongs to you; use your money to buy them. How many you buy is not important; even just a single blossom will do. Sentient beings of the Heaven Realm, besides having the flowers in their hair wilt before they die, will also have messy hair, no matter how carefully they brush or comb it.

“After that, all of their retinue will leave them, because knowing that they are about to die, they will ignore them. Thus, prior to passing away, sentient beings of the Heaven Realm have it much harder than we do; in the Human Realm, not knowing when we will draw our last breath is less painful. Sentient beings of the Human Realm also do not know what realm they will be reincarnated into next, so are unafraid while still living; they only start to get frightened after they have stopped breathing. This is the reason the Buddha advised us not to seek to be reborn in the Heaven Realm; there, we would still have to reincarnate.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…Or, indeed, anyone who, upon hearing your name or seeing your form, cherishes, admires, and praises you, will definitely attain the path of Supreme Enlightenment, never to retrogress, and will always be reborn as a deva or a human being to enjoy wonderful happiness. And when such cause-and-effect is about to run its course, such beings will meet Buddhas to be granted assurance of future Buddhahood.”’

“This is what happens to sentient beings that, after hearing Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara’s name, seeing a statue of him, or cherishing and praising him, they will enter the supreme path and never retrogress. That does not mean it is enough to simply make a few prostrations upon seeing an Avalokiteshvara statue. When you have the causal condition to see an image of Avalokiteshvara, you should praise his name, and you also must practice the Dharma. The path of Supreme Enlightenment is a practice that liberates you from reincarnation. This does not mean opening a shrine once every twelve years so you can gaze upon a statue of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara will allow you to become liberated from reincarnation. If such were the case, then there would be no mention here of attaining ‘the path of Supreme Enlightenment.’ The words, ‘never to retrogress,’ mean you definitely will not fall back into reincarnation.

“‘Always be reborn as a deva or a human being.’ Even if you are not cultivating to attain Buddhahood, you will still be safeguarded from falling into the Hell, Hungry Ghost, and Animal Realms. ‘…To enjoy wonderful happiness. And when such cause-and-effect is about to run its course, such beings will meet Buddhas to be granted assurance of future Buddhahood.’ You will enjoy all good things. When the causes and effects that you have cultivated are about to mature, you will receive assurance from the Buddha as to what you will do in the future. These lines tell you that when you see Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara and so on, you will cultivate the path of Supreme Enlightenment and be guaranteed not to retrogress. You will be prevented from retrogressing in each lifetime, and in each lifetime you will have the causal conditions to practice and learn Buddhism. Even if you skip one lifetime in practicing, you still will not retrogress. I might be one of those, because in this lifetime I suddenly, inexplicably began to learn Buddhism. From now until you attain Buddhahood, you will not go to the Hell, Hungry Ghost, or Hell Realms. You will definitely be reborn in the Human or Heaven Realms, where you will continuously cultivate; furthermore, along this path to cultivation, you will not suffer very much at all. Although I’ve suffered a lot in this lifetime, things have never gotten so bad that I was starving or was homeless. This is all due to causes I planted in my past lives. When the karmic effects of all the good causes you have planted are just about to mature, the Buddha will bestow assurance upon you, thus predicting what fruition you will attain in the future.

“The sutra reads, ‘“You have shown great mercy and compassion, and you have pity on all sentient beings, including devas, nagas, and others of the eight categories of beings; this is apparent from your wanting to hear my proclamation of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s unfathomable beneficial deeds. Listen attentively, for now I shall speak upon the matter.” Avalokiteshvara replied, “Yes, indeed, O World Honored One; I shall be delighted to hear.”’

“Each sentient being has a different affinity with each Bodhisattva. Some people like practicing Avalokiteshvara’s Dharma, while others prefer Ksitigarbha’s. Even if those sentient beings do not have much affinity with Avalokiteshvara, he will still help them if he sees that they might have an affinity with Ksitigarbha; Avalokiteshvara will still hope that some of them, upon hearing this section of the Buddha’s teachings, will decide to cultivate Ksitigarbha’s Dharma. We, on the other hand, would say, ‘This disciple is mine; all those people are mine; this is mine, that is mine.” Neither Avalokiteshvara nor any of the other Great Bodhisattvas think this way. Thus, the Buddha praised Avalokiteshvara for genuinely being so compassionate.

“‘This is apparent from your wanting to hear my proclamation of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s unfathomable beneficial deeds.’ Today I am speaking about the unfathomable ways in which Ksitigarbha has benefited sentient beings. ‘Listen attentively’—this is addressed to Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. The Buddha isn’t saying, ‘I will be speaking today, so you, Avalokiteshvara, may listen or not listen as you please;’ rather, the Buddha is instructing Avalokiteshvara to be sure to listen clearly while in a deep state of samadhi, because afterward Avalokiteshvara could then repeat the Buddha’s teachings for others to hear. ‘…For now I shall speak upon the matter.’ Here Shakyamuni Buddha is saying that He is about to speak.

“‘Avalokiteshvara replied, “Yes, indeed, O World Honored One; I shall be delighted to hear.”’ Avalokiteshvara says he is very willing and happy to listen to what the Buddha has to say. Why happy and willing? These words were not spoken for Avalokiteshvara’s ears alone, or to teach him which Dharma methods to practice. The Buddha had already told Avalokiteshvara to listen closely and commit these matters to memory, so that later on, while helping sentient beings, he would be able to repeat them for the sake of those with a connection to Ksitigarbha. Avalokiteshvara was very happy to hear this, because he had gained yet another Dharma method with which to help sentient beings; this was why he was so willing to listen. Despite what you might think, Avalokiteshvara was not listening to the Dharma for his own benefit and cultivation, but for the sake of sentient beings. This was why the Buddha had mentioned earlier that Avalokiteshvara had pity on sentient beings. You do not even have compassion for yourselves or your guru; you fight tooth and nail for whatever you want, and if you can’t get it, you feel unhappy. You demand that while you are participating in pujas, everything I say must be crystal clear so that you can understand it all. What makes you think you deserve to? Even after all this time, I still wouldn’t dare claim to understand everything. Every line of the sutras contains very profound Dharma significance.

“The sutra reads, ‘The Buddha told Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, “In the various worlds at present and in the future, whenever a heavenly being’s celestial good fortune has been exhausted, there will manifest five indications of approaching death. Sometimes the being might fall into an Evil Realm.”’

“Here the Buddha is talking about devas. He starts out by mentioning to Avalokiteshvara the beings of the Heaven Realm in all worlds, both present and future. Listen carefully: These are heavenly beings, so it is impossible for animals to go to the Heaven Realm. The pets you keep while you are alive you might call your ‘dog-sons’ or ‘cat-sons,’ but dogs and cats cannot go to the Heaven Realm; likewise, if you want to be their parents, then you can’t go there, either. I keep telling so many people not to humanize dogs; a dog is a dog. You should not treat it as a human in this lifetime; it might come back as a human in the next lifetime, but it isn’t in this one. Stop talking nonsense about it being your son. Could you suddenly turn into a dog and take it down the road for a run every day? If not, then why do you keep calling it your dog-son or dog-daughter? You even call it your hairy munchkin. If a child that hairy really were to appear, it would immediately be all over the papers. What a strange concept! This world has fallen into chaos.

“‘Whenever a heavenly being’s celestial good fortune has been exhausted, there will manifest five indications of approaching death.’ Once the good fortune used up in the Heaven Realm runs out, the five indications of approaching death will appear, which were discussed earlier. ‘Sometimes the being might fall into an Evil Realm.’ Is the chance of falling into the Evil Realms big or little? It is big. The Evil Realms are the Hell, Hungry Ghost, and Animal Realms.

“The sutra reads, ‘“If such a heavenly being, whether male or female, at the time when such symptoms manifest, should see Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s image or hear Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s name and pay him one visit and make even one act of obeisance to him, then such a heavenly being will consequently enjoy even more celestial good fortune and great delight, and will never suffer the karmic retribution of falling into the Three Evil Realms.”’

“There are both male and female devas. The Heaven Realm is neither purely male nor purely female; it has both. We now reside in the Heaven of Desires, which contains all of the deities from heaven that people currently worship. Heavenly beings in the Heaven of Desires also enjoy the happiness of male and female relations. They complete matters with a handshake, and in the Heaven of Forms, they do so simply by smiling at each other. Here on Earth, why, when a female smiles at you, do you think she likes you? There is a reason for this. In the Heaven of Formlessness, this sort of thing does not exist, but those who cultivate meditation will definitely go there. While alive, they must break away from all male and female desires; only then can they go to the Heaven of Formlessness.

“People in the Heaven Realm are different from us; they have supernatural powers. When they form a causal connection with Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, they use a different sort of energy than we do. We do not have supernatural powers; we just casually perform a few prostrations, recite some sutras, and listen a bit, yet when we are unable to get what we want, we stop believing. “…And pay him one visit and make even one act of obeisance to him” —gaze upon him, and make prostrations—unlike us, who would make two or three prostrations and then stop. It is written very clearly here that only heavenly beings are qualified and have the sort of good fortune to obtain these sorts of things. If they hear his name, and ‘…pay him one visit and make even one act of obeisance to him,’ meaning, to make a prostration for every word they chant. “Nan Mo Da Yuan Di Zang Wang Pu Sa”—one prostration for every character. This is different from how we chant everything so quickly in a single breath, or how a particular ordained disciple likes to chant with all his might. Chanting forcefully does not mean he is chanting very well.

“‘…Then such a heavenly being will consequently enjoy even more celestial good fortune and great delight, and will never suffer the karmic retribution of falling into the Three Evil Realms.”’ The heavenly being will receive such great happiness from knowing that he or she will not fall into the Three Evil Realms.

“The sutra reads, ‘“So, how much better even will those beings fare who see and hear Ksitigarbha and make donations and offerings with all sorts of incense, flowers, clothing, food, jewels, and necklaces! Countless and boundless will be the merits, good fortune, and benefits gained by them.”’

“‘So, how much better even will those beings fare who see and hear Ksitigarbha.’ We should explain the words ‘see’ and ‘here’ separately. These days we are unable to see Bodhisattvas; if you have not cultivated to the fruition level of a Bodhisattva yourself, then you can neither see nor hear them. This paragraph tells us that if you perform the Tantra, in the morning for example, then you will be able to welcome Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha by way of visualization. After he arrives, we then will see and hear him. Why should we chant mantras? They represent a yidam’s aspiration, compassion, merits, and achievements; when we chant the yidam’s mantra, it is the equivalent of listening to the yidam speak the Dharma to us.

“‘…Make donations and offerings with all sorts of incense, flowers, clothing, food, jewels and necklaces.’ In this sort of situation, we should use the best flowers, clothing, food, drink, jewelry, and necklaces we can muster in order for our offerings to be effective. Ordinarily, are our offerings useful? They are, but the good fortune and benefits we obtain from them are miniscule. Why does this section suddenly mention seeing and hearing? This does not mean you will see and hear the Bodhisattva just from chanting; it is something to do with cultivation.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Avalokiteshvara, if a sentient being of the Six Realms in present and future times should be able, at the end of life, to hear Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s name—even just one invocation of it—then such a being will never again experience the suffering of the Three Evil Realms.”’

“Here the Buddha is telling Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara something about sentient beings of the Six Realms, in all the worlds both then and in the future. ‘At the end of life’ —when a sentient being is on the verge of death, but still has not stopped breathing, he or she will still be quite lucid. Many people think they will only start to talk about Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha after the sick person fall unconscious; and if the doctor says the patient will die tomorrow, then they won’t start talking until today, but that is not the right thing to do. When a doctor says a patient cannot be cured, and it is only a matter of time, this means that person is on the verge of death; this would be the time to speak to the sick one about Ksitigarbha. However, no one believes he or she will die; everyone hopes to hold on until the last second. When we know we are near the end, we should ‘hear Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s name.’ You should not think that your soon-to-be-deceased loved one will hear an audio recording of repeated chanting if it is placed by his or her ear; it is absolutely necessary that an actual person is there to chant for the patient to hear. As I have said in the past, family members tend to chant in earnest; the only other thing that would work would be to find someone such as a Rinpoche to chant for the patient.

“When someone continuously practices Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Dharma, the chanting method used is not an ordinary one. The words are chanted with a burst of energy, and the sound wave produced can directly enter the ear roots of the patient who is about to die. That does not mean going into one ear and out the other; the sound heads directly into the patient’s consciousness. How is this done? This is the energy that usually is cultivated while in retreat and chanting mantras. When I chant, I do it differently from you; you should know this very well. Where does this energy come from? It is cultivated through a process of practice. The soon-to-be-deceased can only hear you clearly if you chant a Buddha’s name. That doesn’t mean you should say, ‘Hey Mom, listen up: Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha.’ She is in a coma, so how can she hear you clearly? In order to avoid this sort of situation, it is best to speak to the patient while he or she is still ill and not wait until death.

“‘…Such a being will never again experience the suffering of the Three Evil Realms.’ As long as there is a virtuous mentor chanting Ksitigarbha’s sacred name in front of this person who is soon to die, and as long as the patient gives rise to a repentant attitude, lets go of everything, and accepts and listens to this name, then he or she is certain not to fall into the Three Evil Realms.

“The sutra reads, ‘“How much better off even will be one who, at the end of life, has parents or other relatives who use the value of the deceased’s house, jewels, clothing, and any other wealth in order to mold or paint Ksitigarbha’s image! And how much better off even will that sick one be if, before death, he or she hears and sees in person and thus knows that relatives have used the value of the sick one’s house, jewels, and so on, in order to mold or paint Ksitigarbha’s image for his or her benefit alone!”’

“This means that when a person is about to die, either a parent or other family member should sell his or her material possessions, house, clothing, and favorite items and use the money to fashion an image of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. Perhaps, while on the verge of death, the deceased will see and hear with his or her own eyes and ears, and thereby be aware that family members are doing such a thing. This is very difficult to do. If you say to someone who is about to die, ‘I am going to sell your house to mold a Bodhisattva’s image,’ he or she will jump up immediately. All these sorts of things should be prepared early. If your parents or other family members are always used to participate in the pujas and listen to the Dharma, then even if they do not cultivate very diligently, they will have come in contact with Buddhism; as such, they will be able to accept your efforts to help them do these things. Otherwise, you might say, ‘Dad! I sold your house to pay for a Buddha statue to be made,’ and he would jump up right away and give you a beating. You should not do it last-minute; you must create a causal condition in advance.

“Many people come to me seeking advice for their mothers’ illnesses. I ask them, ‘Why didn’t your mother come?’ They answer, “She is at the hospital.” Next, I usually say, ‘Why won’t you let your mom form a connection with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas?’ Without such a connection, there is no way to help the patients, because they will neither listen nor be willing to let go. These are all things you should ordinarily prepare in advance. Why is that? If you are in the habit of making offerings, then at the end of your life, you will be willing to let go of your possessions and allow people to sell them for you. For example, they plan to sell your favorite ring to make an offering on your behalf, but then you tell them that you want to wear it so that it can be buried with you. You would not want to let go, and your unwillingness would keep this sort of thing — letting Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha help you—from happening.

“The sutra reads, ‘“If such a person, as a result of karmic retribution, should ever contract a serious illness, he or she will recover and be well again because of those, and experience increased longevity.”’

“If people with severe illnesses do not make offerings and give alms, then how can they possibly recover simply by kneeling down in supplication? No matter how compassionate or powerful I might be, I can only make them temporarily a bit more comfortable. For example, after blessing some people who are gravely ill, I say, ‘This person should feel a little more comfortable this week; if that happens, then come back again.’ Why do I say this? To let them know how powerful I am; if they come back, I start to scold them. How do I scold them? If they haven’t even repented and don’t even practice Buddhism, then how can they hope their loved one’s illness will be cured? Even Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha does it this way; this is the only way a person with a serious illness will have a chance of getting better. Do you think that if you have cancer you can simply kneel down and chant a bit, and suddenly get better? No way.

“The sutras teach us many lessons, but we all neglect them. You add up everything, keeping a calculator in your belt. After calculating this and that, you end up losing your good fortune in life. I am not saying this to get you to make offerings, though making offerings to me would certainly be beneficial to you. If, while still alive, you are too stingy to make offerings to practitioners, then when you are on your deathbed and your family members want to make offerings on your behalf, you definitely will not agree. I have seen this sort of thing happen too many times. ‘…He or she will recover and be well again because of those, and experience increased longevity.’ If this happens, then you will immediately become well—if you still possess any longevity—and your longevity will be increased. Many people who have gotten ill have recovered after giving rise to an intention to make offerings.

“The sutra reads, ‘“If, due to his or her karmic retribution, this person is, at the end of life, still burdened with evil karmic hindrances that would result in rebirth in the Evil Realms, then, on account of these merits, such a person shall be reborn as a human being or a deva after the termination of his or her present lifetime, and enjoy extraordinary happiness with all such evil karmic hindrances entirely eradicated!”’

“The merits from the offerings you make to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can temporarily suppress the karmic retribution that is your due—but not permanently eliminate it. It can put a pause to the karmic retribution that should have sent you into the Three Evil Realms. As I said before, a virtuous mentor can bear the brunt of your karmic hindrances for you. ‘…And enjoy extraordinary happiness’—You must do everything anew, and practice it all over again. Evil hindrances are karmic hindrances; the ones that hinder your cultivation will disappear. However, it does not say your karmic retribution will disappear. If you do not practice, then your karmic retribution will manifest even if those karmic hindrances are eliminated. The point is that we must clear ourselves of all evil karmic hindrances. Even if you are born in the Human or Heaven Realms, and have gotten rid of the hindrances to your cultivation, if you do not practice, then you will go back to the Evil Realms.

“Earlier, there was mention of cause and effect, but the later paragraphs do not contain these words. Instead there is mention of karmic hindrances and evil hindrances. The word ‘hindrance’ means anything that hinders our practice and ability to listen to the Dharma. A hindrance is not necessarily a person; sometimes you will think something like, ‘I don’t want to go to the puja today,’ or in the morning you might think, ‘I’m not attending in the morning; I’ll wait until the afternoon.’ All such thoughts are your hindrances.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, in future times, a boy or a girl, either at infancy or under the age of three, five, or ten, may lose his or her parents or may even lose brothers or sisters and, having grown older, may remember his or her parents or other relatives and wonder into which realm they may have fallen, into what world they may have been born, or to what heaven they may have ascended.”’

“Often, a lot of people come to ask me where their parents have been reborn. Should I answer you just because you’ve asked? Here, Shakyamuni Buddha helps out by delivering a reprimand. In the future, a boy or girl who is still an infant or under the ages of three, five, or ten, and no older, may lose his or her parents or siblings to death. After growing into adulthood, this person will remember his or her parents and all family members, and will not know where or in what world the deceased is to be reborn, and even might think they will be reborn in the Heaven Realm.

“The sutra reads, ‘“If, at such a time, this person is able to mold or paint Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s image or even hear his name or pay him just one visit or make only one act of obeisance to his image….”’

“This person whose parents or other family members have died might want to spend money on carving or painting an image of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. Why do the greatest merits come of building a temple? It is because in the process of doing so, statues and images of Buddhas are sure to be sculpted and painted. These days if you wanted to carve a Buddha statue, it would be very difficult, because they are all bought and ordered through merchants. There are two interpretations of what is written in the sutra about carving or painting an image of Ksitigarbha: One is that you spend money to have someone else do it, while you stand to the side and watch; the other is that you pay someone to come back and make the image with you. Can you do this these days? You cannot. You do not have time, are afraid of doing a sloppy job, and worry it will be too much hard work, so instead, you directly seek out a merchant to purchase a Buddha statue from.

“Why does building a temple yield such great merits? It is because the guru must be sure to find artisans in accordance with the causes and conditions of the temple and sentient beings. He cannot casually look for a statue he likes or thinks is very dignified and then pay for it to be sent to the temple. A guru looks at Buddha statues differently than you do; he does not focus on whether or not it looks dignified. The first thing to consider is whether or not it was made in accordance with the Dharma; in the sutras, it is stipulated very clearly what each Buddha and Bodhisattva should look like. For example, can you remember this morning’s introduction of what Ksitigarbha holds in his left and right hands? What does his hair look like? If you do not know, then how can you make a statue of him? You would have to go out and buy one, but even then, you would not know whether or not you were buying one that had been made correctly. This section keeps mentioning carving or painting Ksitigarbha’s image; it doesn’t say to purchase one. You must read the sutra clearly. Thus, if there happens to be a practitioner doing this sort of thing, you should go and take part for a while; this will be of benefit to you, too.

“Once we can craft this image of the Bodhisattva, then as the Buddha keeps reiterating, we should ‘pay him one visit or make an act of obeisance to his image.’ If you very respectfully praise this Buddha statue, you should make a prostration. Stand up, look at it, and then make another prostration; don’t just keep on making prostrations one after the other without caring about anything in-between. These days a lot of people practice the grand prostrations, part of the Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices, and they tend to rush through them one after another without pausing to gaze upon the yidam, which means to visualize. You should very clearly visualize the image of the yidam as being right in front of you. A statue of a Buddha or Bodhisattva simply helps you to visualize—but in your heart, have you sensed the yidam’s presence? While practicing Tantra, you must very clearly visualize the yidam as being in front of you. In the Dharma text it is described how exactly to visualize. Only once you have clearly visualized the yidam can you then gaze upon him. The only reason we carve the Buddha statue is that we humans like and are accustomed to seeing things. Therefore, the point of having you fashion a statue to place in front of you is not the actual Buddha statue itself; rather, the point is whether or not the yidam exists in your heart. Tantra also teaches you to have an image of Ksitigarbha in your heart. If you do not, then how can you gaze upon him and make prostrations?

“I can expound the sutra, explaining its meaning like this, and none of you have ever heard it before. Why do a lot of people not see any results from their prostrations to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? It is not that what is written in the sutra is wrong; it is that they do not have a practitioner to explain it to them, other than an ordinary monastic. Many people think glancing at a Buddha statue and then making a few prostrations is what it means to ‘pay him just one visit or make only one act of obeisance to his image,’ but that is not at all the case. Actually, the Dharmas spoken by the Buddha for the Bodhisattvas to hear all contained Tantra. Why did we begin this morning with a performance of Tantra? It was to communicate to you that you should have Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha in mind. You should see your guru as Ksitigarbha; only then can you properly gaze upon and make prostrations to the yidam to the degree required. You are not qualified to see a Bodhisattva; if you are not of the same kind, then why would he meet with you? Only through this sort of cultivation method can we succeed in visualizing and making prostrations to the yidam.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…And continue for one to seven days without once shirking his or her original intention….”’

“Within one to seven days, you should keep the Eight Precepts. What are those? They include eating vegetarian, not drinking alcohol, not engaging in male-female relations, not sleeping upon a high bed, not watching television or listening to music, not using perfume, and not using fragrant soap while showering. Why has it been a few decades since I used fragrant soap in the shower? At any time, I might conduct a retreat, and using fragrant soap would break one of the Eight Precepts. Also, one is not allowed to speak during those one to seven days. This is the only proper way of going about it. Unlike what you would imagine, it does not involve making prostrations for a day or seven days. During an Eight Precepts Retreat, you must receive transmission from a guru before you may make prostrations. For how long must you make prostrations each day? It certainly is not a mere eight hours; you at least must make prostrations for twelve or more hours. In the beginning, you initiate this aspiration in the hope that you can learn where your family members have been reborn. Do not then make prostrations for a day or two and then give up out of exhaustion, or decide to take half a day off on the sixth day, thinking that skipping half a day will not matter; if you take a break, then all your efforts will come to naught.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…Then the relatives of this person, who on account of their karma may have fallen into the Evil Realms for a number of kalpas, will, thanks to the meritorious acts accomplished and virtues practiced by their son or daughter or brother or sister while molding or painting Ksitigarbha’s image for worship, instantly be delivered and liberated so that they may be reborn among human beings or devas to enjoy extraordinary, wonderful happiness.”’

“In this paragraph it states clearly what will happen if you have a brother or sister who has fallen into the Three Evil Realms. It’s just like one of my disciples who implored me to liberate his mom; I told him to perform sixty thousand grand prostrations before I would. Why? It was because he had not really made any offerings—not because he did not have any money, but because he was too casual in his attitude while doing so. He’d simply tossed his money for the offering, and then expected me to liberate his mother for him. In addition, she had not eaten vegetarian or kept the precepts while alive, so on what basis could I liberate her? If she had no good fortune, how could I help her? On the other hand, her son or daughter could accumulate good fortune on her behalf. I tried to save him some money. Originally, his wife had told him to sell their house to make an offering, but he absolutely refused to do it. I do not care about money; if I did, then I would simply allow everyone to donate money so that I could build the new temple sooner. It was just that he had no intention to make offerings, and was disrespectful to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; as such, this was the only Dharma method I could teach him: To make sixty thousand prostrations before the Buddha in order to accumulate some good fortune. After that, I would liberate his mother for him.

“‘…Instantly be delivered and liberated so that they may be reborn among human beings or devas….’ Do not assume that if they are liberated, they will automatically go to Amitabha’s Pure Land. The deceased who never cultivated while alive, chanted, or lived in accordance with the Dharma can only be transferred to be reborn in the Human or Heaven Realms. “…To enjoy extraordinary, wonderful happiness.’ Even if the deceased is reborn in the Three Evil Realms, your actions can cause him or her to be reborn among humans or devas. We always mistakenly assume that someone reborn in the Human or Heaven Realms will enjoy happiness, but that is not necessarily the case. The only thing in this world that can auspiciously overcome all suffering is the Dharma. Overcoming means subduing everything by way of the Dharma. ‘Extraordinary, wonderful happiness’ means the deceased will, given a willingness to practice Buddhism in this lifetime, experience a very subtle, auspicious happiness; he or she will not have to worry about anything bad happening in the future.

“The sutra reads, ‘“If the relatives of this person, due to their own good fortune, have already been reborn as humans or devas to enjoy extraordinary, wonderful happiness, then they will, on the backs of these merits, enhance their sacred causes and obtain immeasurable happiness.”’

“If this person’s family members cultivated good fortune while alive, then the force of it will have caused them to be reborn in the Human and Heaven Realms. Furthermore, this person visualizes the yidam and makes prostrations on behalf of the deceased., then even if the deceased are reborn in the Human or Heaven Realms, they will ‘…enhance their sacred causes and obtain immeasurable happiness.’ Why should you continue to participate in the pujas, conduct Buddhist activities, and eat vegetarian even after your deceased loved ones have been liberated? The reason is that even if they have been reborn in the Human or Heaven Realms, if you do not keep doing good deeds on their behalf, their good causes will not be increased, and they will not obtain immeasurable happiness. Once this lifetime is over, their happiness will be gone; if you want your relatives to continue to fare well, you must keep practicing.

“The sutra reads, ‘“If, furthermore, this person should be able to worship Ksitigarbha’s image wholeheartedly for three seven-day periods and recite his name as many as ten thousand times, then the Bodhisattva will manifest his boundless form to him or her….”’

“This means this person must make prostrations before Ksitigarbha’s image for twenty-one days total, not three days and then seven days. If it were just three or seven days, the Buddha would have said ‘one to seven days.’ He said three seven-day periods, which means three weeks; one period of seven days at least, and twenty-one days at most. The person should chant Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s sacred name ten thousand times. Shakyamuni Buddha did not say how much time one should take to chant it ten thousand times; one should chant it this many times at least daily, not spread out over the course of seven days. If you make a prostration for every line you chant, you should be able to chant it ten thousand times in a day; that should be sufficient. Some people are afraid they will die from making prostrations to the Buddha; in that case, they should do it for twenty-one days.

“‘Boundless form’ does not mean what you would imagine; when manifesting in front of you, the Bodhisattva will not run out and show the same appearance you have seen before. Ksitigarbha’s form will first emerge from the light, allowing you to realize that this is the shape of a Bodhisattva. ‘Boundless’ means without limits; it means that this form will not appear with a clear outline, the way a person or table might look to us. Even if we can see it, while it will seem to really exist, it also will appear a bit vague—like a figure from a modern 4D or 3D movie, only less distinct. This is my experience; despite what you might imagine, a Bodhisattva’s emanation does not look like an actual person standing there before you. In science, the existence of the Dharma has been proved; this form can appear in the void in front of you for you to see, and in science this can been replicated, but not very authentically yet. A boundless form is one that you cannot see very clearly; it seems to not have any edges to it.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…Telling this person the whereabouts of his or her relatives. Sometimes the Bodhisattva will manifest great miraculous powers and personally lead this person, in a dream, to various other worlds to see his or her relatives.”’

“Thus, the Bodhisattva will appear and will tell this person in which realm his or her family members have been reborn. As I pointed out very clearly a moment ago, if you have not practiced, made prostrations, or chanted, then how can the Bodhisattvas possibly show up and tell you these things? Whatever you think you have seen, either you have hallucinated or your subconscious mind has made you believe you have seen certain things; either way, they were not real. Why should you do the aforementioned practices? It is because if you have not yet purified the evil karma you’ve accumulated through lifetime after lifetime, then the Bodhisattvas cannot help you. Only by way of these methods can you wash yourself clean of the evil acts you have committed in the past, and only then can you put a stop to your karmic hindrances; only after that can the Bodhisattvas manifest before you and lead you to see your deceased relatives. Those so-called visualizations of the deceased are all fake; only a Bodhisattva can take you to see them. There is no other possible way.

“The sutra reads, ‘“If such a person should, furthermore, be able to invoke this Bodhisattva’s name one thousand times every day and repeat this continuously for a period of one thousand days….”’

“If you have done all the aforementioned things—made prostrations, made offerings, gazed upon the yidam in reverence, and so on—you should then chant the Bodhisattva’s name one thousand times a day. This does not mean waiting until you have enough free time, or skipping days when you are too busy; you must concentrate and chant it one thousand times in one sitting, every single day. A thousand days is more than three years. Some people say they have seen Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha after just chanting for a few months, but if they’ve seen anything, they are just imagining things! Some wonder, after chanting for one week, if the chill they feel on their backs means a ghost is behind them, listening. They’re just making it up! How can a ghost blow air on your back? This is utter nonsense, a scene from the movies. It is written quite clearly in the sutra: A thousand days is three years. What makes you think the Bodhisattva will appear for you if you merely chant his name for a few days or a few months? You are all full of it. You monastics these days add to the nonsense, too: After someone has chanted for a few months, you claim he or she looks like Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha.

“The sutra reads, ‘ “…Then the Bodhisattva will summon the deities and demons in charge of the land and command them to guard and protect this person throughout his or her life while providing plentiful and costly clothing, good food, and freedom from illness. Any unexpected hazard will subsequently never cross this person’s threshold, let alone afflict his or her body. The Bodhisattva will touch this person’s head and prophesy his or her future attainment.”’

“If you can do these things, then as long as you are still alive, the ghosts and deities of the land where you live will all come to protect and support you. The food you eat in this lifetime will definitely be abundant. That doesn’t mean lots of fish and meat, and it doesn’t mean you will have expensive clothing to wear; rather, it means you will not want for anything. Why was I never worried back when I was so poor I couldn’t afford to buy food or pay my rent? It was because it is written in the sutra that I would never starve or lack clothing to wear. I think it is very strange that so many people worry about not having any money left over after making offerings; most of you here today think that way. I wouldn’t recommend that you try doing what I did, but even back when I was so poor, I still never starved; even though I couldn’t afford rent, I still was never kicked out by anyone. I got so poor that I couldn’t buy any clothing, but my children have never wanted for things to wear. This is all because I have cultivated in this way, in accordance with the Dharma.

“Why, whenever I go anywhere, do the local ghosts and deities know the moment I start chanting mantras? It has to do with this. When you can cultivate to this level, then as soon as you start chanting, those ghosts and deities will come to see who you are. Having cultivated some supernatural and meditative abilities, I usually know which ghosts and deities they are. They help to protect the places in which I have chanted. Of course, it depends on whether or not a practitioner has committed evil or eaten meat and taken life; if he or she has, then those ghosts and deities will run away. If you have not achieved the proper level of cultivation, then what makes you think you can attract them? A lot of people are afraid of ghosts, but what is there to be afraid of? If you are good, then the ghosts and deities will come to protect you. All of the deities we worship are ghosts.

“‘Freedom from illness’ —you will not suffer any grave or bizarre illnesses. ‘Any unexpected hazard will subsequently never cross this person’s threshold’ —no disasters or calamities will come into your home. This morning I repeatedly told you that if you do what is required, then these benefits will come to you without needing to ask for them. It is written very clearly in the sutra that they will happen naturally. ‘…Let alone afflict his or her body’ —your body will be even less likely to come across unexpected hazards. However, this does not mean you should go out and drive around like a maniac; it just tells you that no accidents will happen to you, such as falling out of the sky to your death while on an airplane. Some people are scared of flying; I tell them that if they sit with me, the plane won’t crash. In the Universal Gate Chapter of the Lotus Sutra it is written that if you cultivate well, no great fires can burn. I used to like ironing my own clothes, and one time after I was finished, I set the iron down on the ironing board and walked out without unplugging it. When I got back home, I discovered my mistake. The iron was still boiling hot, but the ironing board was actually cool to the touch; it was not hot at all. This is possible by cultivating the Dharma.

“A lot of people misunderstand the Dharma, and think that they can be given what they want just by imploring for it. That is not true at all; Buddhism involves a set of methods for you to practice. Why must you do these things? We humans lack good fortune, so if you do not do them, then you won’t be able to accumulate any. As such, the ghosts and deities will not come to help or protect you, and no one will come near you. ‘The Bodhisattva will touch this person’s head and prophesy his or her future attainment.’ Finally, the Bodhisattva will touch your head and predict what fruition you will achieve through cultivation.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, in future times, if good men and women should wish to give rise to great, widespread compassion so that they might liberate all sentient beings….”’

“The previous section talked about men and women, but did not mention good men and women; this paragraph talked about them in particular. It means if you are someone who has cultivated the Ten Meritorious Acts, then you should develop a very broad sense of compassion and hope to liberate all sentient beings.

“Many people kneel in front of me and say, ‘If you cure me of my illness, I will go forth and help sentient beings.’ I scold such people out loud. If you have not cultivated the Ten Meritorious Acts, then what makes you think you can? You’re simply hoping you won’t have to suffer anymore, so are trying to make a deal with the Bodhisattvas: ‘Cure me, and I will help sentient beings.’ Do you really think you are that indispensable? It is written quite clearly here that condition number one is that you must be a good man or a good woman, meaning you must practice the Ten Meritorious Acts. The second prerequisite is that you must give rise to great, widespread compassion; you must constantly exchange the best parts of yourself for the worst parts of others, in order to help all sentient beings.

“The sutra reads, ‘…And wish to cultivate supreme bodhicitta, yearning to escape from and leave forever the Three Realms; and if these people, upon seeing Ksitigarbha’s image and hearing his name, should wholeheartedly take refuge in him or offer incense, flowers, clothing, jewels, and food to him, and worship him, then such good men and good women will soon see their wishes come true, never to experience any hindrances whatsoever.”’

“If you wish to cultivate until you attain Buddhahood, you should certainly leave these Three Realms—that is, the Heaven of Desires, the Heaven of Forms, and the Heaven of Formlessness—thereby escaping reincarnation. ‘…And if these people, upon seeing Ksitigarbha’s image and hearing his name, should wholeheartedly take refuge in him or offer incense, flowers, clothing, jewels, and food to him, and worship him….’ If you have not met these conditions, then what makes you think you can help sentient beings? The first prerequisite is to be a good man or a good woman; secondly, you must develop great compassion; the third condition is that you must want to help all sentient beings, not yourself; and finally, you must want to renounce reincarnation and attain Buddhahood.

“‘…Will soon see their wishes come true.” These people, upon seeing Ksitigarbha’s form, hearing his name, and meeting the aforementioned prerequisites, will succeed in all their aspirations to benefit sentient beings. If you have not first met these conditions, though, then even if you see Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, any vows you make will be useless. ‘…Never to experience any hindrances whatsoever.’ There will certainly be no hindrances to any of this person’s Buddhist activities that are beneficial to sentient beings.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, in future times, if any good man or good woman prays that hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of aspirations for hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of things be fulfilled, such a person should simply take refuge in, worship, make offerings to, and praise Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s image. Then all that he or she may have wished or prayed for shall be granted.”’

“Good men and women do not implore for their own sakes; all of their aspirations, no matter how great or how small, are to benefit sentient beings. If you are not willing to take refuge, and have just come here to listen, then these words are not of any use to you. If you refuse to take refuge, then you are just a believer. Is that useful at all? It is, but you just won’t be able to experience these sorts of things mentioned here in the sutra. You will just be better off than ordinary people, because you will obtain some good fortune. ‘Then all that he or she may have wished or prayed for shall be granted.’ All your hopes and wishes and everything you ask for, as long as they are for the sake of sentient beings and not for yourself, will be granted.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Should this person have a further wish, imploring, ‘O Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, in your great compassion, please support and protect me always!’, then he or she will dream of the Bodhisattva touching his or her head while prophesying this person’s future attainment.”’

“‘O Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, in your great compassion, please support and protect me always!’ Any person who has met the aforementioned prerequisites can dream of being touched on the head by Ksitigarbha and told what fruition he or she will attain in the future. If you have not met these conditions, however, then any claims to have seen Avalokiteshvara or Ksitigarbha in your dreams are false.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, in future times, good men and good women may deeply treasure the Mahayana sutras, developing the unfathomable aspiration to read and recite them. However, in spite of their brilliant teachers’ instructions on how to learn the sutras by heart, they may forget them as soon as they recite them, and may thus be unable to read and recite them properly for months or even years. Such good men and women possess inborn karmic hindrances that have not yet been eradicated.”’

“This is about cause and effect, and presupposes good men and women who might recite the Mahayana sutras in the future—that is, anything that tells us to practice the Bodhisattva Path. The Agama Sutra and the Saṃyuktâgama Sutra are both Hinayana sutras. ‘Deeply treasure’ means that when they encounter a Mahayana sutra, they feel great reverence for it. They hope to be able to read and recite this sutra. Even if they meet and receive instruction from a good guru, though, after a while they might forget what they were taught; if that happens, they will be unable to recite the sutras no matter how long they had read and recited them previously.

“Such good men and women will not be able to eliminate the karmic hindrances they have accumulated throughout their past lives. For example, if you listen to a recitation of a sutra and later can remember a few of its lines, it means you have fewer karmic hindrances from your past lives. If you can remember them very clearly, it means you have very few karmic hindrances, or practically none at all. If you cannot remember them at all—even a single word, no matter how good you are at making prostrations, reciting, or keeping the precepts—then it means your karmic hindrances from your past lives have not disappeared.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…And, therefore, they are not yet able to master the technique of reading and reciting the Mahayana sutras. Such persons should, upon hearing Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s name or seeing his image, reverently proclaim their problems with sincere hearts.”’

“Every Bodhisattva has a specific Dharma method to help us eliminate our karmic hindrances. If we encounter this sort of situation, we won’t be able to remember a sutra’s contents or finish reciting it very easily. Even if these people have aspired to practice the Dharma, they will not even be able to remember or recite the Mahayana sutras. ‘…Reverently proclaim their problems with sincere hearts.’ You should want to respectfully voice your questions in earnest. Some people would say the Bodhisattvas know what their problems are, due to their supernatural powers. The Bodhisattvas do indeed know, but if you do not voice your supplications with respect, then you will not be able to form a connection with them. When someone kneels before me, I always ask, ‘How may I help you?’ If that person says nothing, then he or she has no affinity with me. Even in the sutra it is written that you should voice your supplications out loud and respectfully. You have karmic hindrances and evil karma accumulated throughout your past lives, so you should say what is on your mind with respect. I won’t know what your problem is if you just casually say one or two things. I will answer that I don’t know; of course I don’t, because you did not voice your questions sincerely.

“Everything I do comes from the sutras; I did not invent it myself. If you have karmic hindrances and want someone to help you, you should always draw from your original, pure Dharma nature, without any distracting thoughts or greed, to clearly and very respectfully voice your supplications out loud. Only then can the Bodhisattvas help you.

“A lot of you tend to stammer out unconfidently that they want to repent. When I ask you what you are repenting for, you just hem and haw some more. This is not voicing your supplications out loud, with respect. Some of you say I already know you are here to repent, but have you voiced this clearly and reverently? Why should I waste my supernatural meditative power just to see these nonsensical things of yours? Why should you voice your supplications out loud and with respect? You should do so because the Bodhisattvas are in a state of samadhi, so they would not be affected by you or any of the other myriad changes happening in the mundane world. When you voice things clearly and respectfully, you will enter a state of meditation devoid of distracting thoughts. Only then can a Bodhisattva be in contact with you from within his own state of samadhi. Do not kneel down and complain to the Bodhisattvas about your suffering; the Bodhisattvas know nothing of your suffering. From now on, do not tell me, ‘Rinpoche, you know I am here to repent’ anymore. If you do not kneel before me and respectfully supplicate in a clear voice, you will never repent.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, they should offer incense, flowers, clothing, food, and all kinds of artifacts to the Bodhisattva. One cup of pure water….”

“‘Artifacts’ here are antiques—your favorite things. In ancient times, this word referred to any utensils or tools we might fiddle with; now it has come to mean antiques, jewelry, or fine decorations. ‘One cup of pure water.’ Pure water is not tap water or filtered water that is so popular these days; neither of those counts. Strictly speaking, pure water comes only from a source that has never been polluted. Tap water, rain water, bottled beverages, and so on are all completely nonsense. The Bodhisattvas do not drink beverages; drinking too many makes you fat. To gather pure water, you must ladle it out with a clean utensil from which even you yourself have not drunk. Don’t say, ‘Hey, this mineral water is so sweet,’ and then go back home to let your wife or husband have a drink; that doesn’t count. Even the cup needs to be clean.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…Should be placed in front of the Bodhisattva’s image for one day and one night. Then, with their palms joined, the supplicants should pray and drink the water while turning their heads to the south; and they must maintain a wholeheartedly serious attitude as the water enters their mouths. Having partaken of the water….”’

“You should first place the cup, flesh flowers and all your offerings before the statue of the Bodhisattva. The prerequisite is that you are chanting his name a thousand times a day for a thousand days; only if you are will this work. That means it is not sufficient to take a cup, pour it full of pure water, leave it in front of the Bodhisattva for a day, and then drink it; that is not how you should do it. The Dharmas spoken by the Buddha must be followed to the letter, without skipping any parts. You are told to do certain things first, and then you are told exactly what to do next.

“‘With their palms joined, the supplicants should pray and drink the water.’ This means you are imploring the Bodhisattva to allow you to drink the water. In Taiwan, many people, after chanting the Great Compassion Mantra, will say, ‘Bodhisattva, I am going to drink this now,’ and then drink it down. You should respectfully implore the Bodhisattva to bestow upon you permission to drink this water. ‘…And drink the water while turning their heads to the south; and they must maintain a wholeheartedly serious attitude as the water enters their mouths.’ No matter which direction you are facing, prior to drinking this water—you must not simply pick it up and gulp it down, or say, ‘Bodhisattva, let me drink it’—you should very reverently implore the Bodhisattva to allow you to drink this water. When you are about to drink it, your actions and intention should be wholehearted; don’t rush through the motions or chug it down in a single gulp. You must very slowly taste its flavor, and for each sip, chant the Bodhisattva’s sacred name once. Only in this manner will you be able to avoid having any wandering thoughts. We cannot completely empty our minds of wandering thoughts, so we replace them with the Bodhisattva’s sacred name. ‘Serious attitude’ here means you place more importance on this water than any medicine, and drinking it very solemnly. Do not slop it all over the ground when you drink, or let it drip onto the floor; all such slackness is undesirable.

“The sutra reads, ‘“They must take care to avoid the five pungent spices, alcohol, and meat, as well as sexual misconduct, making false speech, and killing for one to three seven-day periods. Thereafter, these good men and good women will see Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha manifest his boundless form in their dreams, sprinkling holy water on their heads. When awakened from dream, these persons will be endowed with such keen wit….”’

“How can you drink this pure water if you do not keep the precepts? You absolutely must refrain from eating the five pungent spices—onions, garlic, leeks, chives, and scallions. While spending lots of time chanting mantras in retreat, it is even more vital that I not touch those things. You also cannot drink alcohol or eat any meat. ‘Sexual misconduct’ here is defined as having sex with a married woman or a minor, raping anyone, getting someone drunk to have sex with him or her, sleeping with a person who has a boyfriend, and so on; these are all examples of sexual misconduct and deviant sexual behavior. ‘Making false speech’ refers to lying and talking a bunch of nonsense.

“After drinking the water, you cannot harm any sentient beings—not even one as small as an insect—and you must not partake of eating meat. After seven or twenty-one days, these good men and good women will dream of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha manifesting in his boundless form and pouring water from a treasured bottle upon their heads. Upon waking, they will be more intelligent.

“The sutra reads, ‘…That any sutra, having once reached their ears, will be firmly committed to memory with not one gatha or even one sentence ever again to be missed or forgotten by them.”’

“They will always remember any sutra they hear recited. From this we can see that even if we wish to remember the sutras clearly, we must first master all these cultivation methods. You cannot obtain an ability just because you want it. When you forget the sutras, you are certain to stray from the right path. The reason I have not taken any wrong paths in my journey to cultivation is that I remember all of the sutras I have ever read. Even if I cannot recall each and every line, I do not forget their content. This is an ability I mastered long ago. In this lifetime, if you forget everything you have read in the sutras and all that your guru has said, it means you have severe karmic hindrances. The severity of your karmic hindrances has nothing to do with your guru; it is not because he does not pronounce words accurately. My Cantonese-accented Mandarin is more accurate than Taiwanese Mandarin. If you can only understand seventy or eighty percent of what I say, it means you have a lot of karmic hindrances. His Holiness thinks in Tibetan, translates into English in his head, and then again from English into Chinese when telling me anything. Tibetan grammar is back to front compared to Chinese grammar; how, then, can I understand His Holiness? Therefore, if any of you here today are having a hard time understanding these Dharma teachings, it is your own problem.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, in future times, some people may be wanting in clothing and food, have their prayers go unanswered, be constantly ill, encounter a great deal of bad luck, experience much disquiet in their households, watch their relatives become separated or dispersed, undergo all kinds of unexpected and traumatic events, or see many specters arise in their dreams.”’

“Those of you who do not make offerings will end up not having sufficient clothing or food. ‘…Have their prayers go unanswered’ —nothing you pray for will go your way. You will often be sick and encounter a lot of bad luck. ‘…Experience much disquiet in their households, watch their relatives become separated or dispersed’ —your family members will frequently quarrel, grow distant from one another, divorce, and so on. ‘…Undergo all kinds of unexpected…’ —many things that should not have happened to you will occur. ‘…And traumatic events’ —matters that clearly have nothing to do with you will become your concern; you will become the sort of person who is constantly, mysteriously followed by trouble. ‘…Or see many specters arise in their dreams’ —You will often have nightmares in which you are being chased or killed; you will see yourself involved in accidents.

“The sutra reads, ‘“If such people, upon hearing Ksitigarbha’s name and seeing Ksitigarbha’s image, should invoke his name wholeheartedly and reverently ten thousand times, then those unpleasant occurrences will gradually vanish. Thereafter, those people will enjoy peace and happiness, have plenty of clothing and food, and even experience peace and happiness in their slumber and dreams.”’

“These people must first hear Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s name and see his form. ‘…Invoke his name wholeheartedly and reverently ten thousand times’ —Such people have to cultivate the Ten Meritorious Acts, eat vegetarian, and respectfully chant his name in front of his statue ten thousand times. ‘Those unpleasant occurrences will gradually vanish.’ These unhappy things will slowly go away. They will not disappear immediately or all at once, however. If you ask why unpleasant things keep happening to you even after you have chanted Ksitigarbha’s name ten thousand times, then you are conceptualizing it in a disrespectful manner. Wondering why these things keep occurring is an irreverent way of thinking. In the sutra it is written that they will gradually vanish. Some relatively minor unpleasant things will keep happening; you won’t be free of them entirely. ‘…And even experience peace and happiness in their slumber and dreams.’ The reason you won’t have any lack of work to do and will have fewer nightmares after taking refuge, chanting mantras, and so on, has to do with your practice.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, in future times, some good man or good woman, either to earn a living in public or private business or in the event of a birth, a death or an emergency, may have to climb a mountain, enter a forest, ferry across a river, a lake, or a tremendous body of water, or take some other dangerous route. Such a person ought, first, to invoke Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s name ten thousand times. Then, wherever he or she passes, the ghosts and deities in charge of the land will provide protection. Such a person will always enjoy peace and happiness, whether while walking, standing, sitting, or reclining.”’

“In the future, if we venture out on important business either to make a living, to handle a matter for our company, to attend a birth or a death, and so on, it maybe that we are bound to set foot in a mountain forest. This will contain many ghosts, sprites, monsters, and deities. We might also have to traverse a river or a sea, and take a very dangerous path. Before setting out on our journey, if such a person chants Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s sacred name ten thousand times, then all of ‘the ghosts and deities in charge of the land will provide protection. Such a person will always enjoy peace and happiness, whether while walking, standing, sitting, or reclining.’ This is what will happen if you have met all the aforementioned prerequisites, and are about to set foot in this kind of dangerous place while on a special mission. Before you leave you should chant Ksitigarbha’s sacred name ten thousand times, but only if you have done the other things first; if you haven’t, and you suddenly chant his name, it won’t help you. After you chant his name ten thousand times, it is possible that anything that would originally have killed you ‘along the dangerous path’ might instead merely cause you to lose a hand. You will enjoy complete peace and happiness whether you are sitting there or sleeping.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, even if he or she should chance to meet tigers, wolves, or lions, be exposed to any sort of poison, or be confronted with any other kind of danger whatsoever, no harm at all will come to such a person.”’

“Even tigers, wolves, lions, poisonous insects, and snakes will not harm you. Why did I dare to conduct a retreat at 4,500 meters above sea level, on Lapchi Snow Mountain in Nepal? One reason was that His Holiness took me there; another was that I had met all these prerequisites. Were there any poisonous bugs there? There were indeed! In the evening, spiders hung down from all over the ceiling of my room—dozens of them, and all were poisonous. I would wake up in the middle of the night with an itchy neck, and no sooner did I scratch than I would discover a big caterpillar crawling there. These caterpillars’ hairs contained venom, and wherever they crawled, my skin would come up in blisters. Nevertheless, I was fine, because I was protected from everything..

“The sutra reads, ‘In conclusion, the Buddha then said to Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, “This Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has a tremendous causal relationship with the beings of Jambudvipa. Even if one were to talk for hundreds of thousands of kalpas about all of the beneficial deeds he has performed—and which have been both seen and heard by sentient beings—one still could not list them all. Therefore, O Avalokiteshvara, by way of your miraculous power, I bid you publish and circulate this sutra so that all sentient beings in the Saha World can continuously enjoy peace and happiness for hundreds of thousands of millions of myriads of kalpas.”’

“Here the Buddha tells Avalokiteshvara that Ksitigarbha has a profound connection with the people of Earth, and has done so many beneficial deeds both seen and heard of by sentient beings that it would take a very, very long time to speak of them all. Shakyamuni Buddha gave Avalokiteshvara the task of using his supernatural powers to circulate this sutra throughout the world. You have all been able to listen to this sutra being expounded today thanks to Avalokiteshvara’s supernatural powers. My yidam is Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. The ‘Saha World’ refers to all the worlds in the Milky Way Galaxy. For however long these sentient beings hear this sutra being recited, while it continues to be propagated, they will always have a chance to obtain peace and happiness.

“The sutra reads, ‘Then the World Honored One offered the following gathas, reciting thusly: I see Ksitigarbha’s majestic, miraculous powers, could not be exhausted even if spoken of for kalpas as numerous as sand grains in the Ganges River. Seeing him, hearing him, worshipping him, even for an instant, will benefit human beings and devas in innumerable ways. If someone—either male or female, and either naga or deity—at the end of his or her retribution has fallen into the Evil Realms, then that person should wholeheartedly take refuge in this Mahasattva; in doing so, his or her lifespan will be increased, and all of his or her evil karmic hindrances will be eradicated.”’

“Shakyamuni Buddha reiterates these lines with further emphasis with gathas to sum up for us what this chapter has said about Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. The word ‘see’ here does not mean to see with the eyes; it is the Buddha’s way of looking with His Dharma eye, wisdom eye, and Buddha eye. Ksitigarbha’s supernatural powers ‘could not be exhausted even if spoken of for kalpas as numerous as sand grains in the Ganges River.’ Shakyamuni Buddha was born in India, where He also propagated Buddhism; Indians all know of the Ganges River. Ksitigarbha’s powers are as inexhaustible as there are grains of sand in that river, meaning it would be very difficult to speak of them all. ‘Seeing him, hearing him, worshipping him, even for an instant, / Will benefit human beings and devas in innumerable ways.’ Humans and heavenly beings can benefit in countless ways by seeing, listening to, and making reverent prostrations to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha even for just an instant. ‘If someone—either male or female, and either naga or deity—at the end of his or her retribution has fallen into the Evil Realms, / Then that person should wholeheartedly take refuge in this Mahasattva; / In doing so, his or her lifespan will be increased, and all of his or her evil karmic hindrances will be eradicated.’ If you have taken refuge in Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha while still living, then even if you are at risk of falling into the Evil Realms and seem bound to go there, your lifespan will be extended and all your evil karmic hindrances will be eradicated, thus preventing you from falling into the Three Evil Realms.

“That is all I will explain for today. You are tired, too, so I will resume these teachings next time. It is good that today we have performed the Dharmas of both Ksitigarbha and Avalokiteshvara, because these two Bodhisattvas are interconnected due to the fact that Avalokiteshvara helped to publish and disseminate the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. Therefore, the merits we get from chanting the Great Six-Syllable Mantra are identical to those that come from chanting Ksitigarbha’s name. This is thanks to the fact that Shakyamuni Buddha instructed Avalokiteshvara and Ksitigarbha to be Dharma friends—friends in the Dharma Realm. Today we have listened to the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows recited, and performed both the Exoteric parts and Tantra together; this opportunity arose due to our causal conditions from past lives, so you should all do your best to cherish it.”

After the dedication, H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued: “I’ll tell you a bit about these lines of prayer we’ve just recited, because they are rather useful to you. When you hear or think of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s name, it will help with all of your afflictions and misconceptions of Buddhism, and protect you from starvation, disease, war, idleness, and doubt. Idleness and doubt both refer to you. You are idle in that you say you are too busy to practice; you doubt by wondering, ‘Do I have time to do this?’ or, ‘Is this a good way of making offerings?’ You are oblivious in that you forget everything your guru says. All of these afflictions hinder you from creating good karma. If you are unwilling to make offerings, or drag your feet when doing so, you have severe karmic hindrances and lack the good fortune arising from doing good deeds. Why do I perform Ksitigarbha’s Dharma all the time? It is because I am weighed down by severe karmic hindrances, and have a bunch of disciples who are, too; each of you clings to your own ideas. Through meditation, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha helps us, allowing us to keep the precepts, meditate, and increase our opportunities. What we have just recited is an auspicious prayer located on the back of his Dharma text. Today our performance of Ksitigarbha’s Dharma has come to a perfect completion.”

H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the attendees in the Dharma Protector Achi ritual and dedication prayer. Afterward, he continued:

“The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows has one more chapter: Chapter Thirteen. This year I will be able to expound this sutra in detail to sentient beings. Those of you who have listened so far should not stop halfway through; in anything you do, if you only do it halfway, then none of your mundane affairs will come to a perfect completion, either. Next time I will expound Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows further; I hope you all will cherish this opportunity.”

Upon the perfect completion of the puja, the disciples thanked the guru for performing the puja and bestowing compassionate teachings. Rising to their feet, they paid reverent homage as His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended the Dharma throne.

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Updated on August 10, 2018