His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – May 21, 2017

During the general puja held at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Taipei, disciples and believers respectfully watched the Dharma video recorded at the Japanese Buddhist Center on December 17th, 2016 while His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche expounded the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows.

“‘Chapter 10: Appraisal of the Meritorious Virtue Gained from Almsgiving’

“You can read my previous teachings on the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows on the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center’s official website, in both Japanese and Chinese. Today, I will first expound on Chapter 10, Appraisal of the Meritorious Virtue Gained from Almsgiving. The word ‘appraisal’ here refers to how to measure and produce limitless merits from giving alms. We use merits here, not good fortune. What is the difference between the two? Ordinary people look at almsgiving with a sort of empathy and pity, or an attitude of charity toward the ones they are giving to. This, however, is not what is meant by alms in Buddhism. In general, people feel comfort from doing good deeds, thinking their virtue makes them good people who will be rewarded with good karmic effects and protection from deities and their ancestors. In Buddhism, this is called ‘almsgiving of outflowing’—meaning that if you hold such a thought while you are giving, you will cause the sentient beings you have helped to owe you a favor; thus, you will have created good karma. We reincarnate according to the force of both the good and bad karma we accumulate in this lifetime. If you have too much good karma, you will reincarnate to enjoy good fortune of the Human Realm. People with wealth and power did a great deal of charity in their past lives, but because this was ‘almsgiving of outflowing,’ they returned to enjoy the karmic effects of their virtuous acts in those previous lifetimes. If you try to talk about the Dharma to rich and powerful people, they won’t listen, because they think they don’t need its help. This sort of virtuous karma is one of the forces that causes us to reincarnate again and again.

“How do you prevent the force of almsgiving from causing you to reincarnate? In the sutra, it is written that while giving alms, one should remember the notion of the ‘Threefold Wheel of Essential Emptiness.’ Some say this wheel involves conceptualizing that there is no self, object, or target in almsgiving, meaning that you should not think about such things when you give. However the sutra specifically emphasizes the word ‘wheel,’ referring to the fact that all our actions are carried out by way of body, speech, or mind. Our behavior results from the thoughts we think, the words we utter, and the actions we take. In the Threefold Wheel of Essential Emptiness, the words ‘Essential Emptiness’ mean that all of our thoughts, words, and actions only exist because of the causal conditions that have arisen. Once an action is done, the causes and conditions for it to happen are gone, too. You should not labor under the misapprehension that everything you have in this lifetime—human form, and everything you enjoy, including having enough to eat, being able to afford to drive a car, and so on—is earned through hard work. There are plenty of people in this world who work extremely hard, yet are unable to make a good paycheck. Why are you able to make money after such a trifling amount of diligence? It is because in your past lives, you gave alms and made offerings; this is the reason you are able to enjoy such good fortune in this lifetime. However, once you have used this good fortune up, it will be gone. If you think you deserve this wealth, then your arrogance will cause the good fortune you get from giving alms to disappear very quickly.

“Every day we are alive, we are using up the fortune produced by giving alms in our past lives. It’s as if we deposited a lot of money in the bank in previous lifetimes. We now have it to spend every day, but if we do not earn some more in this lifetime, then it will all soon be gone. For this reason, we must work hard to give more alms in this lifetime—not in the hope that we will have more ‘money’ to spend in the future, but because without fortune and merits, we will not have any future opportunities to cultivate. Take a person who is so poor he cannot even afford basic living expenses: Can you tell him to practice Buddhism? Of course not. Likewise, a stroke victim who cannot even speak is unable to cultivate. Some people suffer in war-torn environments, and they cannot learn Buddhism, either. Besides providing the necessities for daily life, almsgiving can, most importantly, allow us to be fortunate enough to come here and listen to the Dharma.

“How do we turn good fortune into merits? That happens when we do good deeds selflessly, without seeking anything in return. For example, doing good deeds is what everyone should do; it is a fundamental condition for being human. You were reborn as a human in this lifetime because you practiced the Ten Meritorious Acts and gave alms in your past lives; those are also the reasons your business is successful or you have been able to encounter people who are kind to you. It goes to show, then, that if you want your current situation to continue, then you must keep on doing these things. Almsgiving is as necessary to our survival as eating or breathing.

“Do we have to give a lot of money when we practice almsgiving? Not necessarily! The most important thing is our mindset. In the sutra it is written that giving alms can be categorized into three forms: The giving of wealth, of the Dharma, and of fearlessness. The first involves using our knowledge, mundane wealth, and strength to help sentient beings. When a guru uses the Dharma to help all sentient beings escape suffering, or teaches them how to practice, this is the giving of the Dharma. You are unable to do this. The giving of fearlessness does not mean stopping sentient beings from being afraid. What people fear the most is death, and not knowing their future. Every one of you is afraid of your future to some extent, no matter how much money, power, or intelligence you might have. For example, you might feel anxious about your health, your finances, or not having a boyfriend; you all worry about this or that. All these worries and afflictions result from our subconscious awareness that every one of us is bound to die, without exception; this has always been true. Nothing in the mundane world can rid us of our fear of death; only Buddhism can.

“The giving of fearlessness involves a guru’s use of the Dharma to help sentient beings so that they can face and accept their death. Fearlessness does not mean being unafraid to die or being brave enough to do things that might harm others; rather, it means eliminating the horror and suffering of death by way of the Dharma. Alms given in this manner will produce merits. To put it more simply, while practicing almsgiving, you must not commit any wrongdoings. For example, someone might try to borrow money from you to buy drugs or alcohol with, or a weapon to go and murder someone. You should not give such a person money—not even to your own children—because if you enable them to commit evil, then you, too, are culpable.

“Almsgivers who are not fishing for compliments or hoping for anything in return are the only ones whose efforts will yield merits. On the surface, when giving alms we seem to be helping others, but we are also helping ourselves. If you have helped even just one sentient being today—whether it be of the Human, Animal, or Ghost Realm—then you have one fewer potential enemy. Don’t you think that will begin to reduce the number of karmic creditors after you? Therefore, this chapter of the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows is extremely important. The first things I learned in my Buddhist practice were almsgiving and making offerings. If you cannot do these things, then you are sure to experience many problems along your path to cultivation. Ksitigarbha teaches us how to give alms, as well as what the origination is of the major and minor merits of doing so.

“The sutra reads, ‘At that time, Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Ksitigarbha, by virtue of the Buddha’s majestic influence, rose from His seat, knelt with palms joined, and addressed the Buddha, saying,…’

“Ksitigarbha is a Mahasattva, yet does everything with great humility and says His achievements do not result from His own efforts, but happen thanks to the Buddha’s majestic influence. By contrast, you regard yourself as talented and claim credit for anything you do. People who do not believe that many things in this world can only be accomplished as a result of a combination of many causal conditions, and who take credit themselves for everything good that happens, are liable to grow arrogant. Arrogance leads to disbelief in cause and effect, and with it they will harm themselves and sentient beings by doing a lot of things they should not do. Ksitigarbha believed He could cultivate into a Bodhisattva to benefit sentient beings—not through His own efforts, but through power He had received by virtue of the Buddha’s majestic, miraculous blessings. This power had helped Him, giving him boundless capacity to help sentient beings.

“Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is still very respectful toward the Buddha, though, standing up from His seat whenever He says something. ‘Knelt’—kneeling is the posture you took in this morning’s puja; that is, with your right knee on the ground, but not your left one. With palms respectfully joined—whenever you address your guru, this is how you should do it, unless your guru says you don’t have to.

“The sutra reads, ‘“I have observed that sentient beings on the karmic paths tend to haggle over almsgiving, and that some give slightly while others give substantially. As a result, some sentient beings gain great bliss for one lifetime, others gain great bliss for ten lifetimes, while still others gain great bliss for one hundred or one thousand lifetimes. How do such things happen? I only wish that you, O World Honored One, would tell me.”

“‘World Honored One’ is a respectful way of addressing the Buddha. Shakyamuni Buddha is the most revered not just on Earth, but in every world of reincarnation throughout the universe. Unlike other religions that see their gods as the supreme beings, this title does not mean the Buddha is the best and the greatest; it means that in this realm of reincarnation, were it not for the Buddha’s guidance, we would truly suffer miserably, be unable to escape our afflictions, and see no end to reincarnation. The Buddha teaches us methods that money and power cannot buy. Therefore, we revere Him.

“‘I have observed… sentient beings on the karmic paths.’ Ksitigarbha observes through visualizing by way of meditation and His Dharma nature. He does not simply see with His physical eyes, or listen with His ears; nor does He look things up on a cell phone. Rather, with a pure nature, He observes sentient beings while in the state of samadhi. ‘…Tend to haggle over almsgiving, and that some do this slightly while others do it substantially.’ When giving alms, some people are calculating and stingy, and then they wonder whether or not their charity will win them any good fortune. This is what is meant by ‘haggle over almsgiving.’ Some do this only a little bit, while others do it a lot.

“‘As a result, some sentient beings gain great bliss for one lifetime, others gain great bliss for ten lifetimes, while still others gain great bliss for one hundred or one thousand lifetimes.’ Some can enjoy good fortune for a lifetime, some for ten lifetimes, and some for hundreds or thousands of lifetimes. Ksitigarbha is a Great Bodhisattva, so how could He not know? Why did He feel a need to ask the Buddha? It is because when the Buddha speaks the Dharma, He does not do it casually; the causal condition for Him to do so only arises if a sentient being implores Him to. Only then will the Buddha speak. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha was asking on behalf of us sentient beings living in the Age of Degenerate Dharma.

“The sutra reads, ‘At that time, the Buddha said to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, “I shall now speak here in the Palace Of Trāyastriṃśa Heaven to the entire congregation in appraisal of the major and minor merits to be gained from almsgiving in Jambudvipa. So please listen attentively; I shall now speak.” Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha again addressed the Buddha, saying, “I have been wondering about this matter, and would be delighted to listen to you.”’

“The Buddha’s mother passed away very soon after giving birth. Because she had the great good fortune to give birth to a Buddha, she was reborn in Trāyastriṃśa Heaven. However, being there still meant she would reincarnate, so the Buddha used His supernatural powers to go to Trāyastriṃśa Heaven and speak the Dharma for her. Meanwhile, all sentient beings—including the Bodhisattvas—heard that the Buddha was going to do this, so they all went there to attend the puja. The Buddha said that humans on Earth give alms to varying degrees, and instructed the attendees to listen carefully. The words ‘listen attentively’ (di ting) indicated that the words the Buddha was uttering were absolutely true; the character di is an emperor among language, meaning that not a single word uttered was false or designed to deceive us. Whenever the Buddha spoke the Dharma, He gave very clear indications in the sutras with regard to location, the reasons for speaking the Dharma, and who had come to implore it. Any sutras that do not lay these details out clearly are fake.

“On the surface, we can see that Shakyamuni Buddha was telling these things to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, but in fact He was speaking to all future generations of sentient beings. Ksitigarbha said on our behalf that he looked forward to hearing what the Buddha had to say on this matter, because Ksitigarbha had been wondering about it.

“The sutra reads, ‘The Buddha told Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, “In South Jambudvipa, there are kings, high courtiers, chancellors, great elders, great ksatriyas, great brahmans, and so on. If they should happen, for the benefit of the lowest and the poorest or even for the benefit of such disabled ones as hunchbacks, the maimed, the deaf, the idiotic, or the blind,…”’

“Mt. Sumeru refers to what we call the Milky Way Galaxy. There are four planets on which humans dwell. In the southern part of Mt. Sumeru is South Jambudvipa, another name for the Earth. There are kings, chancellors (similar to what we call prime ministers), great elders (laity with great meritorious prospects).” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche instructed the monastics to look up the meaning of “great ksatriyas,” and then said, “‘Great brahmans’ refers to certain people in the past who enjoyed high positions in religious circles.

“‘If they should happen’—This means that one does not deliberately seek out charity foundations here and there to donate money to; that wouldn’t count. Or, if you have come into some money lately, and you go online to search for a charity foundation and then donate to it as you please—this doesn’t count, either, because the real reason for your donations is to make you feel happy at having done a good deed. ‘If they should happen to….’—this implies that a causal condition has arisen that allowed one to come across such an opportunity for almsgiving. I’ll tell a brief story here, which is related: Once upon a time, I bumped into a person who had committed many evil acts; he hadn’t gone so far as murder, but he had done just about everything else. He had made a lot of money, but as a result of his evil acts, he had just about used up all of his good fortune. He therefore developed a rare disease, and no matter how hard he tried, he could not find a cure for it. I instructed this believer to go to the hospital and give alms to some patients who genuinely had no money. Perhaps it’s because Taiwan’s health insurance system is a too good, but in any case, all the patients there could afford their medical bills, and after three months the believer still couldn’t find a proper recipient for his charity. This meant that in his past lives he was not in the habit of giving alms; he therefore could not find an opportunity to do it in this lifetime, no matter how much he wanted to.

“You should listen carefully to everything the Buddha speaks about. If He says to take the initiative to go and look for someone, then that is exactly what you should do. The words, ‘If they should happen to,’ imply that in this lifetime you should form good connections with many sentient beings. However, if you see an animal that is suffering, and you buy it and then release it into the wild, that doesn’t count. If you see a suffering animal and go and help it, then you’ve done right. Even animals do this sort of thing. I saw a news report on television about an orangutan that kept trying to save a drowning kitten; this is an example of a sentient being with a good heart. Thus, when practicing almsgiving, you should vow to your guru and the yidam that you hope you have the causes and conditions to give, and not just do it because you want to. In other words, when the guru tells you to do something, you should hop to it, because it means your guru has helped you by creating good causal conditions. You should not assume you can do it right simply because you desire to. If your guru tells you to do something yet, like so many others, you find excuses not to, then that means you are pushing a good causal condition away. Knowing you do not have sufficient good fortune, your guru creates opportunities for you to do good deeds. People are strange, though; as soon as they encounter difficulties or obstacles, they want to give up.

“I have done a lot in this lifetime. Whenever His Holiness instructs me to do something, I do it wholeheartedly, and always complete the task I am given. You might encounter several obstacles along the way, but if you don’t do the good deed your guru has given you permission to undertake, then you will not have another opportunity to do it. These days there are so many fake poor people, fake cripples, fake deaf people, and even fake mutes. In ancient times there were more opportunities to do good deeds, because there were more of the ‘hunchbacks, the maimed, the deaf, the idiotic, or the blind.’ Nowadays, if you want to go and do something good for people, you have to worry about whether or not they are faking it.

“‘The lowest and the poorest’ refers to people who really don’t have any money at all, and don’t even know where they are going to get their next meal. People who can’t pay their mortgage and had their houses seized aren’t poor enough to count. Another example is that if your child wants to get into a PhD program, but you can’t afford the tuition, that doesn’t mean you are among ‘the poorest,’ either. Some people seek audiences with me and ask whether or not they should get a PhD. I tell them, ‘Go home and ask your family whether or not they can afford to pay for it. If they can’t, then you should first get a job and earn some money; there will be plenty of time to do it later.’ True poverty means not even being able to pay for the most basic things needed to survive.

“Whenever you encounter a disabled person, you should offer a hand.

“The sutra reads, ‘“If such kings, princes, and so on wish to give alms in order to show great mercy and to keep the idea of compassion in mind, then they should do so with humility and with a warm smile; and, with kind words of consolation, they should extend universal charity by doling out alms with their own hands or through people who represent them. The benefits gained by those kings, princes, and so on will be fully as great as all the good fortune gained by giving alms and making offerings to as many Buddhas as there are grains of sand in one hundred Ganges Rivers. And why is that?”’

“When a king gives alms to someone, he should not think of it as charity, as if tossing coins at a destitute beggar; that is not the correct mindset. Nor should he offer help with a condescending attitude. In some backward areas, for example, children cannot afford to go to school. You might give them money to help them study, and this might make them so happy that they give you hugs in return. However, that is not what you should expect from your generosity, because if they have given you an opportunity to accumulate good fortune, then you are the one who should feel grateful. The words ‘with humility and with a warm smile’ mean with great respect for the ones you are helping; not with a long face, as if they owe you a million bucks.

“‘They should extend universal charity by doling out alms with their own hands or through people who represent them.’ You should do these good deeds yourselves by visiting them and handing over the money in person. If you cannot, you can send a representative, who should be very polite. ‘With kind words of consolation’—Don’t pummel their ears with a bunch of haughty nonsense, say condescendingly, ‘You’re poor, so here; take my money.’ Instead, you should teach them a few things about cause and effect so that they understand that all they need to do to alter their situation is make a firm resolution to change; explain that the future is not set, that there is always a way out. Tell them that we all end up where we led ourselves; console them, and tell them only truths.

“These kings will obtain benefits and good fortune equivalent to giving alms to as many Buddhas as there are grains of sand in one hundred Ganges Rivers. This means that when encountering people in need of help and feeling an urge to give alms to them, the kings should do so with profound compassion in mind. You should exchange something good of yours for something bad of those less fortunate, so that they can escape the sea of suffering—not so that they think you are some almighty savior come to deliver them. Some people used to post their good deeds in newspapers, but that was contrary to what is taught in the sutra. If you cannot give help in person, then you may send someone else on your behalf. If you meet these criteria, then you will obtain vast merits, as if you have given as many alms as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. Why do these sorts of actions yield such great merits?

“The sutra reads, ‘“It is because these kings and others have such great compassion for even the poorest, the meanest, and the most disabled that they will gain such good fortune and benefits that they will always be endowed, through hundreds of thousands of future lives, with a full measure of the seven kinds of precious treasures; not to mention, an abundant supply of clothing and food for their consumption.”’

“This applies not just to kings, but to any ministers or other wealthy people. If they treat those lowly, poverty-stricken, disabled, or blind people with such great compassion, then this is the sort of good fortune they will receive. As such, they will obtain good fortune of the seven precious treasures through hundreds and thousands of lifetimes. These include pearls, jewels, precious stones, and so on. Moreover, they certainly will never lack good clothing to wear or delicious food to eat.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, if any kings or brahmans should pass by Buddhas’ stupas or temples or images, or those of Bodhisattvas, Sravakas, or Pratyekas, and if they themselves should prepare and give offerings and donations, then these same kings and others will be able to become sovereign sakras for three kalpas, enjoying extraordinary and wonderful happiness. Should they, in addition, be able to dedicate the good fortune and benefits of these alms to Dharmadhatu,…”’

“This is what happens if, in their future lives, any of these kings or brahmans (practitioners) and so on should encounter pagodas, temples, or Buddha images. That doesn’t just refer to Buddha statues; it includes drawings of the Buddhas, sutras, statues of Bodhisattvas, images of arhats, and so on; all of these should be revered. This means bending at the waist to show great respect. If you do not have time to do this, then you should at least personally supervise such things. For example, whenever I commission a Buddha statue, I always go there myself to personally inspect the artisan’s progress and make sure it is being sculpted properly, etc.

“One minor kalpa is the time it takes for the Earth to cycle through each of the four stages: Formation, Existence, Destruction, and the Succeeding Void. This is an extremely long time, so three kalpas is even longer. A sakra is like what we refer to as the Jade Emperor of Heaven. In other religions, the sovereign sakras are the penultimate rulers of the Heaven of Desires. For three kalpas, they can reincarnate as sakras, enjoying the most auspicious bliss in the universe; an indescribable sort of happiness.

“If you know how to make dedications, you should do so; not for yourselves, but in the hope that all of the good fortune and benefits generated by your almsgiving will go to all sentient beings in the Dharma Realm, including yourselves and your family members. Only Buddhism teaches us to make dedications; other religions do not. In other religions, it’s all about doing good deeds in order to get something for yourself. Thanks to wisdom derived from the Buddha’s teachings, not a single sentient being in this world exists in utter isolation. You owe your existence in this world not just to help from the many people around you, but to all the sentient beings living inside your body, too. For example, without the beneficial bacteria in your gut, you would not be able to digest food, and without the beneficial bugs that help you from the inside, you would not be able to continue living. Both direct and indirect relationships inevitably exist between us and sentient beings.

“Farmers know that without bees, their fields cannot yield an abundant harvest. Bees are greatly beneficial to us. Modern day use of pesticides has resulted in the deaths of vast numbers of bees, an increasingly severe detriment to agriculture. We practice Buddhism not for ourselves, but for the sake of all sentient beings. If they are doing well, then we will be, too. For example, can you live peacefully in a location plagued by war and natural disasters? No, you can’t; not even if you are rich. All sentient beings are interconnected with our lives. Whenever we do a good deed, we should dedicate it in the hope that the positive energy generated by our action can be shared with sentient beings. When all sentient beings receive our positive energy, then, this positive energy will return to us as well. This concept only exists in Buddhism. We do not exist in this universe in complete isolation. All of our thoughts should involve the hope that all sentient beings can obtain good fortune and benefits. If they do, then we naturally will, too.

“For example, the Japanese gardener who looks after the courtyard for me does not use any pesticides. At first there were some disease caused by insects, but now there is none. This is because of dedications. The concept I promote is that no living beings may be killed, so I do not allow the use of pesticides. The plants that have been planted there are growing more and more lushly, and diseases spread by insects are diminishing. Such is the power of dedication.

“The sutra reads, ‘“These great kings will then become great brahman Devarajas for ten kalpas.”’

“The previous section said three kalpas, and this one says ten—an even longer time. As long as you understand how to make dedications, you will be great brahman Devarajas for a very long time. Moreover, brahman Devarajas, worshiped in Hinduism, live longer and enjoy more luxuries than sakras.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, if, in their future lifetimes, any kings or even brahmans pass by old, broken-down, and damaged stupas or Buddhist temples, or if they see a sutra that is torn and worn, and if they then, upon seeing these holy objects in such a condition, become resolved to repair and mend them—whether the kings undertake and manage the work all by themselves, or instead persuade a few others or even hundreds of thousands of people to make donations for this good cause—then these kings will always be reborn as Cakravartins through hundreds of thousands of future lives.”’

“This paragraph says that whenever we have the opportunity, we should make offerings, and give dedications, and form an aspiration to repair any damaged stupas, temples, and Buddha statues we might encounter. When I see a Buddha statue and advise someone to build a temple to house it, then that is repair in the form of damage prevention, because stone statues left outside sooner or later erode from wind and rain. By building a place to house a statue, you can keep it from deteriorating a bit longer. Everything I do comes from the sutras; I am not making any of this up.

“When reading a sutra, we should treat it with respect, and not see it as just another book and bend it carelessly. We also must not turn its pages with saliva-wetted fingers, because that damages a sutra or Dharma text over time, and therefore is disrespectful. I’m not simply being strict; these instructions are all written in the sutras—and because they are, I am obliged to follow them. When we see a damaged Buddha statue or sutra and form an aspiration to repair it, we don’t have to make it perfect like the original, but we must do it with bodhicitta. Some people might read a sutra that changes their future, or some might look upon a Buddha statue and give rise to profound respect, thus accumulating good fortune. It is not because we need something, but because some people need this tool to help them to learn Buddhism. We therefore should always repair these objects with bodhicitta.

“‘…Whether the kings undertake and manage the work all by themselves, or instead persuade… others….’ They might repair the statues, etc. by themselves, or they might encourage others to do it. I’ve told this story before: There was once a female believer in Taiwan who had been urged to make five hundred arhat statues. Having no money, she insisted that her husband sell their house to pay for it, and this had caused a marital squabble. She then asked my advice, hoping I would perform a Dharma to get her husband to change his mind. I told her, ‘Those statues don’t necessarily have to be made by you alone; you can share this opportunity with other people. In other words, you should not be greedy by trying to keep all those merits for yourself.’ Why did I refuse that offering of NT$16 million a few weeks ago? Those disciples were coveting merits. Even if you don’t have any money or cannot repair a statue or sutra yourself, you can still persuade someone else to do it.

“‘…Or even hundreds of thousands of people to make donations for this good cause….’ We do our very best to help others find opportunities to form connections with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and telling them to repair a Buddha statue is one way of doing this. As long as they can form that connection, then they will have a chance to change their future. Some people ask me how, at seventy years of age, I can still be so healthy and fit. The answer is that I continuously give alms and form good connections, thinking only of the welfare of others, not myself.

“For the next hundreds or thousands of lifetimes, these kings will have the karmic effect of being reincarnated as Cakravartins. The sutra does not explain very clearly what a Cakravartin is, but there are five types of Cakravartin vehicles—gold, silver, copper, iron, and tin—and they are not just ordinary cars. One explanation is that they could be UFOs, which are round and fly hither and thither. The sutra contains three explanations of the word ‘Cakravartin.’ One is that it is a great king who uses the Dharma to rule the world. Another is that it is a very great Buddhist practitioner who uses the Dharma to benefit sentient beings. The third explanation is that a Cakravartin is someone who has never left the Heaven of Desires, and goes around continuously to see whether sentient beings have committed evil or are in need of help. Cakravartins are at a higher level than kings on Earth. Nowadays people do not have supernatural powers with which to see Cakravartins, so there is no set definition, but going by my cultivation experience, they should have something to do with UFOs.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Even such other people who join in this work of restoration by making donations will be reborn as minor kings through hundreds and thousands of future lives. However, should they decide to dedicate their merits for the benefit of all sentient beings in Dharmadhatu, then such kings and others will attain Buddhahood and receive countless and boundless good karmic effects.”’

“For example, if I lead the way in giving alms, and you all follow suit and share in the act, then for hundreds or thousands of lifetimes you will be reborn as minor kings, which in today’s context refer to mayors or county magistrates. Once you become one, you will have that post for many years. Thus, if these kings do the aforementioned good deeds, and go on to dedicate the resulting merits to sentient beings, then they and any others who gave alms with them will have set foot upon the path to Buddhahood and will enjoy boundless karmic rewards.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, in their future lives, whenever kings, brahmans, or other people see the aged, the infirm, and women about to give birth, and should they then instantaneously have great compassion for them and show great charity by donating medicine, food, drink, and bedding to make them comfortable, then they will obtain unfathomable good fortune and benefits. Furthermore, they will become devas of Suddhavasa for one hundred kalpas and lords of the Heavens of Six Desires for two hundred kalpas, and finally they will become Buddhas. They will never fall into the Evil Realms, nor will they ever hear any sounds of suffering for hundreds of thousands of future lives.”’

“According to this section, if you see elderly or sickly people, or expecting mothers, you should feel compassion for them. Feeling compassionate toward pregnant women is important because each is carrying an extra life, or even more in these modern times; several can be born simultaneously from the same womb. Thus, your kindness does not just help her; it helps two people at least. When we encounter elderly or sick people with no one to help them, or a woman soon to give birth with no one to assist her, we should ‘instantaneously’—meaning naturally, without being contrived—feel great compassion and give them medicine, food, drink, and bedding. For example, if we see people without beds, quilts, pillows, food, or drink, or pregnant women without medicine, we should help them ‘to make them comfortable.’ We are not saving their lives; we are just trying to help them feel more settled and let them know that there are still people in this world who have noticed them, are paying attention, and are willing to help. The alms we give them are not meant to keep them safe until they attain Buddhahood; we help those in urgent need, not those who are merely poor. Drawing from great compassion, when we know they have hit bottom, we offer them a hand. We hope they can realize the power of this compassion and begin to repent, develop bodhicitta, and take steps to change their lives.

“Even the Buddha called these great benefits and good fortune ‘unfathomable.’ This means we should respect any elders we see. Why do those of you who are not filial toward your parents encounter hardship later on? It is because you have not given clothing, medicine, food, or drink to your elders; you insist on dumping them off at a nursing home and then forgetting about them. Then, when that doesn’t work out, you run here seeking help from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Such people are despicable.

“‘They will become devas of Suddhavasa.’ This heaven is yet another level higher than the Brahma Heaven. The Heavens of Six Desires refer to the Six Realms, which all exist in the Heaven of Desires. Above that is the Heaven of Forms, and then the Heaven of Formlessness. As such, these kings will spend two hundred kalpas as lords of these heavens, and finally attain Buddhahood; this is an assurance bestowed by the Buddha. If you encounter an opportunity to do the aforementioned good deeds with compassion, and make dedications to sentient beings, then you eventually can become Buddhas. After you have given such alms, as long as you do not commit any further evil, you will forever be spared from falling into the Three Evil Realms. However, if you continue to kill sentient beings and eat their flesh, you are out of luck. In addition, if you do these good deeds, then for hundreds and thousands of lifetimes you will not hear the sound of people suffering and so on. This means that you will be born into good households in places free from starvation, war, natural disasters, and poverty. In other words, if you were born in a country that is not war-torn or plagued with starvation, it’s not that you have a good fate; it’s that you practiced almsgiving in a previous lifetime. Some people are born into war, or a war breaks out ten or so years after they are born. This happens to those who do not have enough good fortune.

“Only Buddhism can thoroughly solve the problems of humanity. If everyone were to do the aforementioned good deeds, would bad things keep happening? The worse sorts of suffering in the world come from war, accidents, and natural disasters, and are all the result of killing sentient beings and eating meat. Karma from killing is the most terrible. If you have taken life before, and enjoyed eating crab and so on, then even if you give alms in this life, you still are bound to meet the karmic retribution for those actions at some point in the future. It doesn’t have to be in the next lifetime; it could even manifest in this one: You might die young, or you will alternate between good times and bad because of your virtuous and evil acts. In Chinese there is a saying: Fengshui alternates every ten years, but a human’s fate changes every seven. This is because people do not do good deeds continuously; they do a bit of good, begin to live a bit more comfortably, and start to enjoy it. Then they commit evil again and become infatuated with eating seafood and meat. When I lived in Hong Kong, before I started practicing Buddhism, I loved eating seafood; I thought I was a gourmand. I ended up getting skin cancer, but luckily I began to learn the Dharma.

“Why do we have ups and downs in life? We bring them upon ourselves. Why do some people lose good opportunities as soon as they encounter them? This happens because they are told what to do, and the reason they are told that is that they have committed evil. When they have some money, they go out and enjoy a banquet of crabs. Crabs eat rotten fish and their remains. We like the flavor of seafood because the poison it contains gives it a fishy, sweet taste. Humans were not originally prone to wars or calamities; the fact that we are now is because of our constant acts of evil. Once we do a bit of good, life begins to get better, but then we start doing evil again. We see other people doing it, and feel bad if we don’t do it, too. Breaking away from evil is not hard, though; I grew up in Hong King, yet was able to stop eating seafood.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, in their future lives, should any kings and brahmans be able to perform such deeds of charity, they will gain immeasurable good fortune. Moreover, should they be able to dedicate the merits thus gained—no matter how much—to all sentient beings in Dharmadhatu, then they will finally become Buddhas, in addition to the reward of becoming brahmans, Sakras, or Cakravartins. Therefore, O Ksitigarbha, do advise all sentient beings to follow such examples.”’

“In your future lives, as long as you can dedicate the merits from any good deeds you do, then one day you are sure to attain Buddhahood. Don’t be greedy by hoping your participation in today’s puja will bring you good health; that attitude is not a dedication. You might become healthy, but what about the health of those sentient beings you killed? Dedication means that only after they obtain their wellbeing can you get yours, too. How can you be well if they are still suffering? If you can make dedications of even the tiniest of good, then you are sure to eventually attain Buddhahood—not in this lifetime, of course, but in some future lifetime. For us humans, becoming a Buddha is an extremely difficult task. However, you, too, are certainly able to become one; merely becoming a king, sakra, or Cakravartin would be far too easy.

“I often tell you that if you do not have the correct attitude while giving alms, I will refuse your donations. This is because the nonsense you utter is not compassion; you are simply trying to obtain good fortune for yourselves, not for other sentient beings. The Buddha told Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, ‘You should advise all sentient beings to follow suit.’ In other words, only if you give alms in this manner will they be of any use. Even almsgiving is something you have to learn how to practice correctly; you can’t simply do something just because you want to, or follow your mom’s example by dividing an offering into four separate envelopes and then call them each donations and offerings. We must act in accordance with the sutras’ teachings in order to yield merits; otherwise, all we will get is good fortune. Good fortune isn’t bad, but it cannot resolve the karma we have accumulated through lifetime after lifetime. Only merits can transform that. In this lifetime I have cultivated a few merits, so am able to turn many things around in a good direction. If you say you want to learn, to believe and accept the Dharma, then you should listen to what the Buddha had to say. If you refuse to, then why bother to participate in the pujas? You might as well do what others do: Go to some temples, toss some money there and clap your hands for good luck.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, in future times, should any good men and good women plant even a small good root of Buddhadharma, even if it is as tiny as a grain of sand or a hair tip, or even tinier, then the good fortune and benefits gained by them will be indescribable and beyond compare.”’

“This refers to good men and women who, in future lifetimes, practice the Ten Meritorious Acts. ‘Good’ does not simply mean coming here to participate in the pujas; it means practicing the Ten Meritorious Acts: Refraining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, harsh speech, divisive speech, frivolous talk, false speech, greed, hatred, and ignorance. Only if you are will the things listed afterward begin to happen to you. If you have failed to carry out the Ten Meritorious Acts, are still greedy, hateful, ignorant, and continue to eat meat, then you will be no more than a believer in Buddhism. Being a believer has its advantages, too, but they are on a completely different level from the ones described later in this paragraph.

“The previous section mentioned kings and brahmans, not good men and women. If you can form even the tiniest of virtuous roots to follow the methods spelled out by the Buddha—even as small as a grain of sand or the tip of a hair—then you will obtain indescribable good fortune and benefits. If you can practice the Ten Meritorious Acts, then you will cultivate good roots, such as compassion and a willingness to listen to your guru. Thus, you will gain incomparable fortune and benefits.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, in future times, if any good men and good women, upon seeing images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, or Cakravartins, should make donations and offerings, then they will gain immeasurable good fortune, and always dwell among human beings and devas, enjoying extraordinarily wonderful happiness. Moreover, if they should be able to dedicate rewards thus gained for the benefit of all sentient beings in Dharmadhatu, then their good fortune and benefits will defy comparison.”’

“This is what happens to any good men and women who, in their future lives, should make donations toward images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, or Cakravartins. Such images aren’t necessarily statues; they could be any form or representation. We should make offerings and give alms whenever we see one. For example, if we see a Buddha statue but don’t have anything on us, we can still make an offering by respectfully joining our palms together and making prostrations to the guru and the image of the Buddha without asking for anything in return.

“Several years ago, I performed the Phowa for a female believer in Taiwan. The Phowa is a Tantra puja, and is the fastest method of transferring the consciousness of the deceased to Amitabha’s Pure Land. These days very few people are able to perform this Dharma. While still alive, this woman had not practiced Buddhism, so why did she have the causal condition to be helped by me? It was because she had been a male fisherman in a previous lifetime. In that lifetime, I was a monastic, and one day when I was walking past, next to a stream, he offered me a bowl of rice, thereby obtaining a large amount of good fortune. Therefore, even though that happened many lifetimes ago, she was nevertheless able to receive the Phowa from me in this one. Because of the heavy karma from the killing she’d previously done as a fisherman, however, she had a short life and got cancer in this lifetime. Before she passed away, though, she did not suffer at all.

“Whether or not you believe in the Buddha, you should be respectful whenever you see His image or Buddhist practitioners. Showing respect means making offerings, which can bring you boundless fortune and the most auspicious bliss in the Human and Heaven Realms. If we can dedicate the merits of our offerings and almsgiving to all sentient beings in the Dharma Realm, then we will obtain indescribable good fortune and benefits. I often tell you to do so, as is written in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, but you tend not to listen. You instead say you are dedicating your merits so that you can attain enlightenment more quickly, or to keep your husband from having an affair, or so that your son might do well in school. Ksitigarbha only told us to make dedications to sentient beings; those other motives of yours were not mentioned by the Buddha, so of course such dedications won’t work. If you think they are working, then it’s definitely just a ghost come to trick you.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, in future times, if any good men and good women, upon encountering Mahayana sutras or hearing even a single gatha or line of one, should earnestly and sincerely give rise to profound praise and respect, and make donations and offerings, then the tremendous rewards gained by such people will be countless and boundless. Moreover, should they be able to dedicate those rewards to all sentient beings in Dharmadhatu, then their good fortune will defy comparison.”’

“The Buddha is so compassionate; He kept lowering the bar for us. This is because He knew people of the future would see Buddhism as a mere pastime. Fearing our karma would be too heavy for us to have a chance to change our future, He therefore spoke these words. All these Mahayana sutras, such as the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, the Lotus Sutra, and the Avatamsaka Sutra, teach us how to practice the Bodhisattva Path. No matter who is reciting from them, as long as you hear even a single stanza or line, and give rise to praise and respect, then you will have given alms and made offerings, the most important component of which is respect. Where there is respect, there is offering; where there is offering, there is good fortune. Offerings should only be made with respect, and good fortune comes from making offerings. This is according to what is written in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. Even before I ever read this section, I was constantly saying the same thing. That means I practiced Ksitigarbha’s Dharma in my previous lifetimes.

“‘Earnestly and sincerely give rise to profound praise and respect, and make donations and offerings.’ When you listen to the Dharma, you should give praise and be respectful; these are in themselves offerings and alms. Whether or not you give any money, you are making offerings by saying something like, ‘This line of the Dharma is truly auspicious!’ You don’t even need to understand it. Everything uttered by the Buddha is certainly helpful to sentient beings, who one day, eventually, will understand what each line of Dharma means. It doesn’t matter who is reciting a sutra; if you show respect to the Dharma when you hear it—not to the person reciting, but to the Buddha’s words—then you are giving alms and making offerings. As such, you will receive boundless benefits.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, in future times, all good men and good women, upon seeing any Buddha’s temple or stupa or any Mahayana sutras—even if they are whole and new—should make donations and offerings, pay obeisance, and give praise to them reverently and with palms joined. However, if such temples, stupas, or sutras are old, dilapidated, or torn, and these good men or women decide to reconstruct, mend, and repair them—either themselves, or by persuading others to do it with them—then they will be reborn as the kings of minor lands for thirty lifetimes. Great benefactors will always be reborn as Cakravartin, who will in turn use good Dharma to teach minor kings how to amend their ways.”’

“‘New’ here refers to newly constructed temples. Why do you drag your feet when giving support to the new temple I am building? It is because you feel no praise for it. You think I am just forcing you to do it, and that there’s no hurry. Some of you say you’ve made offerings already, but did you give praise ‘reverently and with palms joined’?

“‘However, if such temples, stupas, or sutras are old, dilapidated, or torn, and these good men or women decide to reconstruct, mend, and repair them….’ If a temple is old and falling apart, its foundations still exist; when the causal condition arises, you should therefore lend a hand in its renovation. The reason I have been able to accumulate good fortune so quickly is that I am constantly doing this sort of thing, and have never stopped. As soon as I receive a phone call, I immediately send money for such projects. You, on the other hand, think that because I have so many disciples, I won’t miss you if you don’t help with the new temple’s construction for now, and that you can just wait until you have enough money to give some. However, if you do not grasp at this opportunity to make offerings and give alms while it’s here, then you might miss it!

“‘…Either themselves, or by persuading others to do it with them’—You can either form this aspiration and do it yourself, or persuade a bunch of other people to participate in the good deed. If you do, then you and they will be reborn as minor kings for the next thirty lifetimes. Many of you make offerings to me, and this is the sort of thing I do. ‘Great benefactors will always be reborn as Cakravartin, who will in turn use good Dharma to teach minor kings how to amend their ways.’ A ‘great benefactor’ is a believer who is learning Buddhism; it does not mean the same as a ‘good man’ or a ‘good woman.’ In other words, it is someone who has not earned that status by carrying out the Ten Meritorious Acts, but who has participated in pujas and kept some of the precepts, such as not killing or eating meat. The reason I make it a strict rule that you eat vegetarian is that that is the easiest thing to do. You would find it much harder if I required you to never be greedy, hateful, or engage in sexual misconduct, or told you that you absolutely have to believe in cause and effect. The only thing you can guarantee control over is keeping your diet vegetarian. As long as you can still accept the Dharma—no matter how much of it you can accept—and you put it to practice on a frequent basis, then you will be always be reborn as Cakravartins. You will also be able to propagate and teach the Dharma to those minor kings.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, in future times, if the good roots planted through cultivation by any good men and good women by way of donations, offerings, repairing stupas and temples, or mending sutras and Dharma texts, then such good deeds—even if they are as tiny as a drop of water, a grain of sand, the tip of a hair, or even one mote of dust—will, if dedicated to all sentient beings in Dharmadhatu, will yield so many merits that such people will be able to enjoy supreme happiness for hundreds of thousands of future lives.”’

“This refers to all the good roots created by good men and women who practice the Ten Meritorious Acts. For example, if you are a good person, then participating in today’s puja will be a kind of good root, which will yield good fruit, or good effects, in the future. How can a tree without roots produce fruit? A guru’s job is to help sentient beings grow good roots and eradicate evil ones. How do I do this? I constantly reprimand and lecture you, until one day you actually start to listen. As long as I am still alive, I will keep on talking your ears off.

“‘The good roots planted through cultivation by any good men and good women’—If you can reverently participate in today’s puja, listen respectfully, and sit up straight, then you will have planted a good root. Your respect for the Dharma is an alms and an offering; everything has its basis. I often berate people for having bad posture while participating in a puja, because only alms and offerings made with respect will plant good roots and, in turn, produce good karmic effects. The reason I am so strict about this is that it is written in the sutra. Don’t think that making an offering is as simple as tossing some money in the box; of utmost importance is that you are respectful in body, speech, and mind. If you are, then even an offering of just one dollar will yield merits. If you are not respectful in body, speech, and mind, then you won’t generate good fortune even if you give me ten million dollars. When you see an elder or a VIP, you naturally sit up straight; you should treat the Dharma and your guru with the same deference. It’s not that I need you to; it is for your own good.

“‘…Or mending sutras and Dharma texts’—this doesn’t mean you should answer the newspaper ad to reprint lots of scriptures. Rather, it refers to when you see a sutra printed improperly or carelessly; you should reorganize and redesign it. This also applies to compilations of Dharma texts, toward which we must not take a casual attitude. ‘…Even if they are as tiny as a drop of water, a grain of sand, the tip of a hair, or even one mote of dust’—if you can dedicate even the tiniest of merits, you will be blissfully happy for hundreds and thousands of lifetimes.

“The sutra reads, ‘“However, if such a deed is dedicated exclusively to the benefit of themselves or their family members, then their reward will only enable them to enjoy happiness for three future lifetimes. Therefore, being selfless brings vast karmic rewards. Thus, as you can see, O Ksitigarbha, these are the causes and conditions generated by giving alms and making offerings.”’

“This part says that if you dedicate these merits to yourself or your family, then you will only enjoy happiness for three lifetimes compared to the hundreds and thousands of lifetimes of happiness if you dedicate them to all sentient beings in the Dharma Realm. Once those three lifetimes are over, you will have used all your good fortune up, just like spending all your money. If, in this lifetime, you get sick, become unhealthy, and go through ups and downs, it is because your fortune is almost all gone. You should hurry up and accumulate some more by following the methods taught by your guru and the sutras, and not use your own methods. If you dedicate your merits to your family members, you will be happy for three lifetimes, but those won’t be consecutive. The Buddha did not say what form this happiness would come in; you might be someone’s pet, or someone might burn incense in your memory after you are dead, or you might be reborn in the Ghost Realm or the Asura Realm. All of these are possibilities. Why do we worship deities? People who did good deeds while still living could be reborn as ghosts who reap the benefits, and they might be given offerings by people. Once ghosts and deities are finished with that lifetime, they disappear. You should not misunderstand, and think that those three lifetimes of happiness will definitely be spent in the Human Realm, or that they will necessarily happen all in a row. They might be separated by many future lives. When the effects of the good and evil karma you produce with your actions in this lifetime begin to manifest, sometimes good effects will manifest first, or sometimes retribution will instead. If the evil effects manifest first, then you will fall into the Hell Realm, and only after your karmic retribution has been resolved will you possibly be able to enjoy a lifetime of bliss. Therefore, the Buddha saw how selfish humans are, and worried that we would not recite the sutras, so had no choice but to give us at least those three lives of happiness—but He did not say when we would live them, or in what realm.

“‘Being selfless brings vast karmic rewards.’ Any act of selflessness we perform today will yield at least ten thousand times the reward in the future. You would say, ‘Oh, that’s easy money; I’ll just give a dollar now and get ten thousand back.’ That is not at all what this means. For example, I don’t use pesticide, and allow those insects and worms to live; they will make the soil fertile and help the plants blossom and produce fruit. As a result, won’t many, many sentient beings benefit? And won’t that in turn make this piece of soil even better? This concept is more complex than a direct one-to-one ratio. What you must remember is that we do not exist in this universe alone; if we act selflessly, then it will affect sentient beings on many levels. On the other hand, if we commit an evil act, that likewise will have layer upon layer of negative consequences for sentient beings. You might wonder if eating just one crab is really that serious. Just think: What would happen if there weren’t any crabs left to consume all the rotten waste on the ocean floor? The reason fish catches are getting smaller and smaller is that humans are eating crabs to extinction; as waste accumulates in the ocean, the ocean water gets filthier and its oxygen content gets lower and lower until the fish cannot survive. Sentient beings won’t listen, and won’t even wake up when scolded. However, as long as you are willing to give alms and make offerings, you are sure to yield good karmic effects. You shouldn’t count on them or wonder when you will get them; they will appear when your need is most dire.

“‘Chapter 11: Protection of the Dharma by Earth Deities’

“The sutra reads, ‘At that time, Prthivi (Secure-Firm Earth Deity) addressed the Buddha, saying, “O World Honored One, for a long time I have looked upon and worshipped incalculable numbers of Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas. They all possess great, unfathomable supernatural powers and wisdom with which to liberate sentient beings.”’

“Many people think earthquakes happen as a result of of factors such as movements in the Earth’s crust, but they are actually caused by Prthivi. If people commit fewer acts of evil on a piece of land, Prthivi will stabilize it. Since ancient times, scientific and historical evidence has suggested that the Earth’s crust is constantly moving, sometimes causing harm to sentient beings and sometimes not. These movements are all the result of Prthivi helping sentient beings.

“Prthivi said to the Buddha, ‘Oh World Honored One! For ages, I have revered and made prostrations to many Great Bodhisattvas. They all possess incredible powers and wisdom, and have liberated vast numbers of sentient beings.’

“The sutra reads, ‘“However, among all those Bodhisattvas, the vows of Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Ksitigarbha are the deepest and most sincere. O World Honored One, this Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has a tremendous affinity with Jambudvipa. For example, Manjusri, Samantabhadra, Avalokiteshvara, and Maitreya have also transformed into hundreds of thousands of emanations in order to liberate sentient beings suffering in the Six Realms, but their vows will all ultimately come to an end. This Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, however, teaches all sentient beings in the Six Realms, and has taken profound and sincere vows to continue to do so for kalpas as numerous as the grains of sand in hundreds of thousands of millions of Ganges Rivers.”’

“Among all the Bodhisattvas, Ksitigarbha’s vow is the most profound. He has a special affinity with the sentient beings of Earth, just as do Manjusri, Samantabhadra, Avalokiteshvara, and Maitreya. These Mahasattvas have emanated in hundreds and thousands of forms in order to liberate sentient beings of the Six Realms. In other words, the liberation they receive is delivered by these emanations. The power of Their aspirations will dwindle one day, but Ksitigarbha’s vow is to teach all sentient beings of the Six Realms to resolve their karma for as many kalpas as there are grains of sand in a hundred or a billion Ganges Rivers.

“The sutra reads, ‘“O World Honored One, I see that sentient beings, both at present and in the future, in the pure lands of the south upon which they choose to live, will construct shrines for Ksitigarbha using earth, rocks, bamboo, or timber, wherein they may mold, paint, or even fashion his image with gold, silver, copper, or iron; and they will burn incense, make offerings, and pay obeisance, praising him continuously. Any abodes thus honoring him will yield the ten types of benefits.”’

“This part is spoken quite well. Prthivi could see that sentient beings, both then and in the future, would be living in pure lands to the south, which means locations in which no acts of killing or other offenses had been committed. There they would fashion Ksitigarbha’s shrines out of earth, stone, bamboo, and wood. In Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo, I have seen a statue of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, so I once instructed the locals to build a house for it. This is the section on which that advice was based. I told them to make a house of earth, stone, bamboo, or wood, and place a statue of Ksitigarbha in the middle, fashioned from stone, gold, silver, copper, and iron. I also told them to burn incense in offering to it. Without a place to house it, how can you burn incense and make offerings? It would get wet from the rain, or the incense wouldn’t stay lit because of the wind. This is why so many people think I am a busybody, but actually I am not; when I see something that needs to be done, I open my mouth, because that is what is written in the sutra.

“As long as there are people willing to do these deeds, their place of residence will enjoy the ten types of benefits.

“The sutra reads, ‘“What are these ten benefits? First, the land will be rich and fertile. Second, their households will always be safe. Third, the deceased will ascend to heaven. Fourth, the living will enjoy ever greater longevity. Fifth, all their prayers will be answered. Sixth, there will be no calamities of either flood or fire. Seventh, they will avoid deception and waste. Eighth, they will stop having nightmares. Ninth, all entries and exits to their abodes will be protected by deities. Tenth, many sacred causes will be encountered.”’

“What are these ten sorts of benefits? First of all, ‘the land will be rich and fertile.’ That would be quite important for agriculture, wouldn’t you say? The soil will be naturally fertile and produce many crops, and never lack nutrients. ‘Second, their households will always be safe.’ This means no evil will enter their homes in the form of thieves, poisonous snakes, or spiders, or unrest such as constant family squabbles. ‘Third, the deceased will ascend to heaven.’ That is, as a result of their good deeds, their deceased ancestors will go to the Heaven Realm. ‘Fourth, the living will enjoy even greater longevity.’ They will live longer lives. When I went to Saitama Prefecture to handle that matter, I did not do it for myself; it was for the locals. However, they would not listen, and just worried about all the potential obstacles in the way of such a project.

“‘Fifth, all their prayers will be answered.’ This means efforts in line with the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ aspiration to benefit sentient beings will come to fruition; it doesn’t mean Ksitigarbha will help your son make money. That sort of thing isn’t going to go your way. If you implore for assistance in something that would help sentient beings, however, you are sure to succeed. ‘Sixth, there will be no calamities of either flood or fire.’ If you do these good deeds, your houses—and this includes your factories—will neither burn nor be flooded. ‘Seventh, they will avoid deception and waste.’ They will not suddenly get cheated by others, or suffer baffling incidents of waste such as a sudden incursion of rodents consuming all their grain. Such disasters will not befall them. ‘Eighth, they will stop having nightmares.’ Why do you have bad dreams? They are the result of eating meat, killing, and having evil thoughts; in addition, the sentient beings you harmed and your ancestors in your past lives still have not been liberated from the Hell Realm. ‘Ninth, all entries and exits to their abodes will be protected by deities.’ Whenever you enter or exit a place, deities will be there to protect you. ‘Tenth, many sacred causes will be encountered.’ You will encounter good causes and conditions that allow you to practice Buddhism.

“The sutra reads, ‘“O World Honored One, such are the benefits to be gained by sentient beings both now and in the future, should they be able to make offerings such as I have just described in the vicinity of their homes.”’

“I hadn’t read this line before, but I am constantly doing exactly that. Any sentient beings that can make these sorts of offerings close to where they live will enjoy great benefits, both in this lifetime and in the future.

“The sutra reads, ‘He continued to address the Buddha, saying, “O World Honored One, in the future if some good men and good women should possess this sutra and Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s image, and furthermore read the sutra’s pages and worship this Bodhisattva, then I shall always apply my miraculous power, day and night, to guard and protect them so that flood, fire, hazard, thievery, and other major and minor accidents, as well as all other evil, will vanish entirely from their lives, never to return.”’

“This is what will happen for some sentient beings both now and in the future who are good men and women. However, anyone in your home still eats meat or seafood—even your pet dog—you won’t enjoy such protections. For those who do not eat meat, if they can erect a holy statue of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and place a copy of the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows near their homes, and recite from it and make offerings to the Bodhisattva, then Prthivi will use his supernatural powers to safeguard such people day and night. If they were destined to suffer from floods, disasters, theft, and other calamities great and small, those mishaps will be eliminated. All you need to do is act in accordance with what is written in the sutra.

“First, you have to practice the Ten Meritorious Acts; second, you must place Buddha statues and sutras near your home, and comply with their teachings. If you do so, then you will reap the benefits. The prerequisite, of course, is that no one in your home may eat meat. Don’t worry about lacking nutrients; cattle and elephants grow even bigger than we do on a purely vegetarian diet, so how can you say plants don’t provide enough nutrients? You love to eat meat, and you allow your children to eat it, too, for fear that otherwise they won’t be able to grow up strong. Sooner or later a certain disciple is going to get kicked out. His son and grandson eat meat, so meat is bound to enter his home at some point. Don’t think the Bodhisattvas won’t notice; certainly Prthivi, who is stricter than They, will see everything you do.

“What caused your home to get flooded? You didn’t listen, that’s what. I once went to someone’s house to perform the Dharma and told him not to bring meat into his home, yet he did not listen, and this was what happened. If you are near me, yet refuse to do as you are told, bad things will happen to you. You’re sure to retort that you won’t get near me anymore, in hope that you can avoid disaster. If you stay away, however, even more terrible calamities will befall you.

“The sutra reads, ‘The Buddha told Prthivi, “You possess enormous powers which few deities can emulate. And why is that? Everything in Jambudvipa is under your protection; even the grass, trees, sand, rocks, rice paddies, hemp, bamboo, reeds, grain, rice, and jewels. All of these come from the land, as a result of your power.”’

“Prthivi is very capable, with supernatural powers far greater than those of other deities. He therefore is certainly able to back his words up with actions. All the lands of Earth are under Prthivi’s protection. Grass, trees, sand, stones, rice, hemp, bamboo, reeds, wheat, and jewels aren’t produced as a result of your hard work; they are fruits of Prthivi’s protection. In other words, if you make prostrations to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and are willing to be a good man or woman, you can have everything, so why don’t you do it? You spend all your time trying to find the answers through scientific research. Take my garden, for example. My gardener is able to relax more and more as time goes by, because the plants are growing lush naturally. This is because I have done as Prthivi requires.

“Prthivi is a very important earth deity. He protects this land so that everything we plant can grow.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Also, you often praise Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s beneficial actions. Your merits, miraculous powers, and deeds are hundreds of thousands of times greater than those of ordinary deities.”’

“Because Prthivi praised all of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s actions, He obtained merits and supernatural powers greater than any other deities, including Tudi Gong (the Earth god) and so on. As long as you can praise and pay obeisance to Ksitigarbha, make offerings to Him in accordance with this sutra, build a shrine, burn incense, and perform prostrations, then Prthivi will naturally come to safeguard you without your even asking him. For farmers, his protection is even more necessary.

“The sutra reads, ‘“In future times, should some good men and good women worship this Bodhisattva, read this sutra, or be able to cultivate and practice even in accordance with just one thing in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, you must apply your own miraculous powers to support and protect them lest any news of calamity and other unpleasant things even reach their ears, much less happen to them.”’

“This is what happens if any good men or women in the future make offerings to Ksitigarbha and recite this sutra. It contains many chapters, but even if you just practice the teachings of one of them, Prthivi’s supernatural powers will certainly protect you. No calamities or misfortune will happen to you; you won’t even hear of them.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Not only will you protect such people, but the retinues of Sakras, brahmans, and devas will, too. How do such people gain the support and protection of these sacred ones? It is simply the result of their prostrations before an image of Ksitigarbha.”’

“As long as you make prostrations to Ksitigarbha according to the prescribed methods—building a shrine for Him, and burning incense in obeisance—then not only will the deity protect you, but even the retinues of the sakras, brahmans, and devas will, too, by keeping those evil ghosts and deities at bay. The reason you are able to obtain protection from so many sacred beings is that you made prostrations before Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s image.

“While I was performing the Dharma in Saitama Prefecture, I saw a clay sculpture of Ksitigarbha that was subjected every day to the ravages of wind, sun, and rain. This saddened me deeply. If they are unwilling to build a shrine for Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, then those ten sorts of good fortune will not be theirs. After participating today’s Ksitigarbha Puja, they should change their minds; they will build the shrine if they know what’s good for them.

“The sutra reads, ‘“…And read this sutra of his fundamental vows. So, naturally, they will ultimately leave the sea of suffering and realize the happiness of Nirvana. For them to be able to do this, they need and deserve all your great support and protection.”’

“If you do these things, and read this sutra, then you can certainly leave the suffering sea of reincarnation and attain Buddhahood. Furthermore, all of the devas, heavenly kings, and their retinues will protect you, because you will be a Buddha in the future. Is Buddhism hard to practice? No, it isn’t, as long as you are willing to do it. If you aren’t, then no amount of advice will help you.

“The two chapters I’ve expounded today are very important. We must make offerings and give alms, and be respectful. We should actually go out and do these things taught by the sutra, and not shy away from difficulty. As long as your intention is to benefit sentient beings, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha will lend a hand. If you are just worried about appearances, or are too shy to encourage someone for fear that he might get angry, then naturally you will not succeed in your endeavors. If you are a good person, then your guru will give you an opportunity to take part in good deeds. However, if you are not willing to take it, then it will pass you by—this causal condition will disappear and be gone.”

“Today’s performance of the Dharma of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has been a complete success. 2016 is nearly over, and the new year soon to begin; I hope all of you can look anew upon your lives, using the Dharma as a lens, and do some self-reflection. From my experience in life and in cultivation, no mundane wealth, position, or power can change our future or improve our health; only Buddhism can—as long as we are willing to listen and honestly act in accordance with our guru’s teachings and what is written in the sutras. I’m not asking you to be perfect right away; you just need to be willing to begin to amend your ways. Through continuous hard work, you will one day, without a doubt, see your efforts come to fruition. Buddhism is not practiced in a hurry, nor will it change your life all at once. Throughout our past lives, we have done many things we should not have done; practicing the Dharma can help us to gradually repay this debt. Once our debt is all clear, good fortune will naturally appear for us with ease. As long as we are willing to keep practicing, then one day we will definitely see this happen. I often mention that I, too, have been through many calamities and hardships; without Buddhism, I might not still be in this world. I hope that this demonstration will show you clearly that the Dharma genuinely can benefit us; all you need to do is decide once and for all whether or not you want to actually practice it. Without making this firm resolution, any further talk is wasted.”

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Updated on July 15, 2017