His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – December 10, 2017

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne. First, the guru led everyone in the ritual of Avalokiteshvara, and then he continued teachings on the Universal Gate Chapter.

“The sutra reads, ‘Brahman sounds, the sounds of the tides—they surpass those sounds of the world; you therefore should constantly think on them, never entertaining a single doubt! Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, pure sage.’

“All of the sounds in the world cause our seven emotions and six desires to fluctuate; they do not help us to extinguish the flames of our afflictions. Therefore, no matter what sounds you like, they will cause certain desires of yours to produce a reaction—but these are different from the sounds of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara’s mantra. Brahman sounds are pure; if we chant mantras over a long period of time, the frequency of the sound waves produced can help us to extinguish the flames of our afflictions. Many people think chanting mantras will improve their health and so on, but that is not the point; it is that after reducing and even extinguishing the flames of our afflictions, we can very naturally break free of all evil and do only good, without even needing to be taught or reminded how.

“How do you chant Brahman sounds? Do you have to force your voice into a very low register and chant very slowly, or in a sobbing tone? Not at all. If you have not cultivated the compassion of Emptiness, then you cannot chant in this sort of voice. It is not done by pinching your windpipes or vocal cords, nor can you learn to chant this way by studying music. Purity is the most fundamental concept on which Brahman sounds are based. If we hear these sorts of sounds, then we will not give rise to afflictions. As such, having the power of compassion is very vital. Some people chant mantras in the hope that it will improve their health, saying that they are repenting, but this is all a pack of nonsense. In Tantric terms, once you have cleared your central channel (that is, the central channel of the human body, as spoken of in Tantra), Brahman sounds will naturally emerge; if you have not cleared your central channel, then no matter how many methods you have learned or mimicked, how good you are at pretending to be compassionate, how much you meditate, or how nice-sounding your voice might be, none of these things will produce Brahman sounds, for they are mere affectations.

“Some people felt like crying when they first started coming to the Buddhist Center and heard me chanting mantras. This is what Brahman sounds do. Because they restore your pure nature, and in that instant cause it to be revealed, you feel like crying, just as you would if you had suddenly seen a long-lost friend or relative. This feeling of purity you have not known for many lifetimes, but when the sound of the guru’s voice emerges while chanting mantras, it eliminates your afflictions, and in that moment your pure nature is revealed. When this happens, you come in contact with the Buddhas’, Bodhisattvas’, and your guru’s compassion; as a result, you resonate with them. affectations.

“Without the embodiment of compassion, the Bodhicitta Precept, and sound waves that are as awe-inspiring as thunder, we cannot shock apart the karma of our afflictions. In Tantra you have to learn how to chant certain sounds; some of them help us to do this. The power of affliction is enormous; you cannot resolve it simply by reciting sutras or sounding a wooden fish every day. It can only be done by way of a few different sounds. Actually, these sorts of sounds were not invented by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; they have always been in the universe, and came into being very naturally.

“‘Embodiment of compassion and vows strikes open one’s mind like thunder. Merciful intentions form wondrous huge clouds.’ Only if you accomplish this will Brahman sounds have a chance to emerge. When reciting sutras and chanting mantras, you should not feign compassion or use a tone like those sung in Taiwanese opera, or a sobbing voice as though you are crying; such behaviors are all put-on. Brahman sounds do not come from chanting slowly or quickly, nor do they involve chanting ancient Indian Sanskrit; you all misunderstand those Sanskrit words anyway. If you do not know ancient Sanskrit, then is your chanting of the mantra necessarily wrong? Not at all. For example, in ancient China, Exoteric Buddhists translated suoha as suopohe; was this correct or incorrect? The first syllable of the Great Compassion Mantra used to be translated as an, but now it has been clarified to be om. However, people have been chanting it the old way for over a thousand years, and some were actually liberated from life and death by doing so. Thus, do not assume, if you have learned Sanskrit, that you may tell others they are chanting the wrong way just because a certain sound isn’t the same in that language. I’ve told the story about a person who was chanting the Green Tara Mantra but only remembered half of the mantra, yet the Green Tara still limped over and protected him. I’ve also told the story about an elderly woman who was chanting the Great Six-Syllable Mantra wrong, but because she chanted it respectfully, it was still effective.

“Chanting mantras helps us, by way of their sounds, to eliminate and extinguish the flames of affliction. Once we have reduced our afflictions, we will naturally not get sick as much, without even needing to implore for it. Many people labor under the misapprehension that chanting the Great Six-Syllable mantra can cure their illnesses. It is true that this is written in the sutras, but the point is whether or not you are chanting with a pure and compassionate mind.

“‘The sounds of the tides’ means that the chanter’s mind-continuum and thoughts are continuously focused on nothing but the mantra. Have you paid attention to how many thoughts enter your head while you are chanting? You all think about a heap of distractions, such as whether or not you are chanting correctly, whether or not your pronunciation is accurate, whether the Bodhisattvas have heard you, whether you can dedicate these merits to your karmic creditors and whether that will stop them from bothering you, and so on. Only after you have acquired the ability to make Brahman sounds will you produce the sound of the tides. That means when chanting mantras, you will pause less and less frequently, just as the tides have never stopped rolling.

“Chanting too slowly is useless, as is not chanting out loud. Some people chant silently, but this is ineffective. They think that if they chant silently to themselves, the Bodhisattvas will hear them, but this is mere laziness. If they are too lazy to even put effort into chanting out loud or even uttering any sounds at all, then after a while they will end up falling asleep. Many of you here are like this. You don’t want to chant out loud because people might hear you, and you are afraid your husband will complain about the noise. As I have said before, you should not chant too loudly, for doing so can do you physical harm. This can also happen when you suppress your voice while chanting, however, because doing so causes your qi-channels to be blocked.

“If there were no need to chant out loud, then this would be written in the sutra. The reason I sometimes do not need to emit sound while chanting mantras is that I do not need to. I have already attained that level, but you still do, so do not assume that turning your prayer beads 108 times in silence means you have chanted the mantra 108 times. How do you know when your voice is continuous and unbroken? You can only know if you emit sound. Whenever you swallow saliva after uttering a syllable, your voice has been broken, and it becomes scattered as soon as you give rise to a thought. If you make no sound, then how do you know whether or not your voice is getting scattered or broken?

“For example, I can chant the Great Six-Syllable Mantra twenty-seven times in one breath, whereas you take a breath after each line you chant. As such, your voice sounds wrong. Many people, when chanting mantras, aspirate and take a breath after every line, which is the equivalent of not chanting and not concentrating. If you make a sound, you will know whether or not your voice is unbroken; if you make no sound, you are aspirating after every line, and you will not be able to chant to the point of having one mind undisturbed, let alone achieve the constant mindfulness of Amitabha. ‘One mind undisturbed’ requires only having a Buddha name and a single line of a mantra in mind, and nothing else. For instance, just now, I showed you what it is like to take a breath after every line; you do not make any sound when you chant because you are afraid of dying from asphyxiation. I am not afraid of that; I will keep chanting until my dying breath. You, on the other hand, will chant to the last breath and will want to extend your longevity further. I chant the way I do because I hope that I will be able to chant a full, complete chant with my dying breath. This is why it is mentioned in the Amitabha Sutra that one should chant once, then a second time, a third time, and a fourth time; it does not refer to your notions, but rather a thought that would take you to the Pure Land. If you chant well while you are still alive, then any chanting you do in one breath will, once that breath has expired, send you to the Pure Land.

“None has been able to do so, which is why Shakyamuni Buddha said that in this Evil Time of the Five Turbidities, He was teaching this Dharma that was difficult to believe. Why ‘difficult to believe’? It is because you all still go your own ways; you do not believe in the methods spoken of by the Buddha. You are sure to say, ‘Why did the Buddha not explain them in more detail?’ When the Buddha spoke the Dharma in the past, it is not that He was speaking it for people like you, with all your severe afflictions; rather, He was speaking to those who at least had the fruition of arhats. As soon as they heard Him, they understood. You are severely afflicted, which is why Rinpoches such as myself have come forth to liberate you. Do you think you can achieve this through chanting on your own?

“Why did I berate Disciple Huang a little while ago? It was because he thought he could achieve attainment through chanting, the same as all of you. Can you chant your way to this level? Never mind the ten-syllable Green Tara Mantra; how many times can you chant the Great Six-Syllable Mantra in one breath? Seven to ten at most. You think you have chanted properly, but only if you have chanted with the power of samadhi and kept the precepts will you attain Brahman sounds and the sound of the tides. These do not come from deliberate affectation; they come quite naturally. When the time comes, these sounds will appear—unlike how, whenever a certain ordained disciple starts chanting, it is always with an especially loud voice; this is affected, because he feels that only by chanting this way will he have enough force to chant this mantra. Actually, that is not needed; this happens very naturally. Once you have cultivated Brahman sounds and the sound of the tides, you will definitely be prevented from falling into reincarnation at the end of this lifetime. How do you cultivate them? Through ‘embodiment of compassion and vows’ that ‘strikes open one’s mind like thunder.’ What should you do if you cannot? You should listen and do as you are told; if you do not, then there is nothing to be done.

“A bit further in this section of the sutra, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is called a ‘pure sage.’ This means that everything he does to benefit sentient beings and help them to become liberated from reincarnation is pure. It is not that Avalokiteshvara requires you to believe before he will help you, nor is it that you absolutely must be a Buddhist first. There are no requirements other than that you respectfully implore. ‘Never entertaining a single doubt’ means you should never give rise to doubt. You must listen to the Dharma, and you absolutely must put it into practice. Merely listening without doing it is like someone who keeps coming here yet is unwilling to take refuge; such a person is doubtful with every single thought. Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is an ancient Buddha, so he possesses all the merits necessary to attain Buddhahood. In simple terms, if you spend your life focusing on cultivating Avalokiteshvara’s Dharma, then one day you are sure to attain Buddhahood, because you will be within his vast ocean of merits.

“The sutra reads, ‘The sea of his accumulated good fortune is immeasurable.’

“This refers to the good fortune of learning and practicing Buddhism, not that of the Human and Heaven Realms. From this line it is evident that the point is not to implore Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara to allow you to live a care-free life. Earlier, I mentioned resolving mundane suffering, but this is defined by whether or not you have made a firm resolution in this lifetime. Only people who do not doubt will take refuge, but doing so does not necessarily mean they will achieve attainment. You must be resolved to practice until you are liberated from life and death; if you do not have this resolution, then your cultivation is useless, as is thinking you can supplicate for protection and blessings and then dedicate them to your mother to improve her health a little. Of course, that is still somewhat better than not coming here at all.

“The sutra reads, ‘He is endowed with all merits, and for this reason, you should make prostrations to him!’

“Making prostrations is not as simple as just kowtowing; in Buddhism, it means placing the yidam upon your head. This is not because we see the yidam as being higher in stature or more powerful than we are; rather, placing him there represents the fact that our body, speech, and mind are completely under his supervision and subject to his help. For this reason, we want to make prostrations to him—and not because we hope to obtain good fortune afterward. On the other hand, good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms cannot be used in this lifetime; we must wait until our next lifetime to use it. It is written in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that people who are deaf and dumb in this lifetime will have a hard time practicing Buddhism, because they can neither utter nor hear sound. That sutra therefore teaches us how to avoid becoming deaf and dumb in the next lifetime. Often, people who are deaf and dumb have relatively strong attachments. This is not because they cannot hear or speak, but because this is how their karmic retribution has manifested.

“How does one help deaf and dumb people? Only through the ‘embodiment of compassion and vows strikes open one’s mind like thunder.’ In Buddhism, the heavier one’s karma, the more one suffers, so the Bodhisattvas all prioritize helping such people. Why is that? It is because once they leave their suffering behind, they will naturally stop harming sentient beings. Many people do not understand why the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas do not actively help them, but if that is what the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas should do, then the words written in the sutra would not be ‘gazing at sentient beings with compassion,’ but rather ‘saving sentient beings with compassion.’

Why is it written as “gazing at sentient beings with compassion’? It is because if you do not repent, then you will have no affinities with the Buddhas. Making prostrations also involves repentance; every time you make a prostration, you should repent. Why do we touch five parts of our body to the ground while prostrating? We do it in order to let go and rid ourselves of the greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt we have accumulated through our past lives. If we are full of five poisons while making prostrations, then such obeisance is useless. What do I mean by getting rid of them? I mean not being afraid of accepting any karmic retribution. Many people make grand prostrations in the hope that they will make them healthier, improve their luck, and prevent them from falling into the Three Evil Realms, but these desires are all wrong. If you do not let go of your greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt, then you will not achieve attainment in any Dharma method at all. Why must you start with repentance? If you do not repent, then when the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas want to come and help you, they will not be able to, because you have previously harmed sentient beings in the first place.

“As I often have said, the sentient beings harmed by you will also tell Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, ‘That person ate and killed me; I am suffering worse, so if that person gets cancer, it is deserved.’ Repentance is not merely a matter of gradually getting better after performing penitential rites and saying that you accept your karmic retribution. The other thing repentance represents is compassion. Because we have committed wrongdoings, these sentient beings have come to seek revenge, thus creating even more evil karma, which in turn causes them to continuously reincarnate. Our purpose in practicing the Bodhisattva Path is to help sentient beings stop reincarnating. This being the case, you should not merely repent and then make dedications to your karmic creditors in the hope that after their liberation they will allow you to live happily ever after.

“During the Chod, the presiding guru takes the best of himself—his own flesh, bones, blood, and so on—and gives them to the gathered karmic creditors, saying, ‘Here, take these! Eat them!’ If giving them all of the best parts of himself can allow them to rid themselves of all their greed and hatred, and enable them to change and attain Buddhahood, then all is well. During the Chod I do not say, ‘If I give you my flesh, bones, and blood, then you must make my cancer cells disappear.’ Rather, it is further mentioned in the Dharma text that because you can get healthier as a result of these alms, you should use your health to liberate the sentient beings that the Buddhas have not yet liberated. This should be your aspiration; it should not be to say, for instance, that your two children and your husband are still young, so getting cancer right now would make things very difficult. The degree to which you have misunderstood the Dharma is quite serious.

“I have a disciple suffering from cancer who has come many times to repent. Every time, she says she is repenting for having harmed sentient beings, but I never tell her why she got cancer, because I know that her repentance is insincere. She hopes that by repenting, I will help her, allow her to stop suffering, and enable her to go to Amitabha’s Pure Land. This continued until she came to me yesterday, when I finally told her why she had gotten cancer. I said, ‘It’s because you like to eat chicken.’ She used to eat every part of a chicken, from head to toe, and especially liked to eat its offal. Nowadays all chickens in Taiwan are commercially raised, and pumped full of all kinds of strange chemicals. If you eat meat like this, and especially if you eat the innards which contain the most toxins, then those poisonous substances will stay in your body. After that, they will go into your lymph nodes. Her lymph nodes halted the toxins for her, but then they turned into lymphomas. When her doctor discovered that they were malignant, he declared she had cancer; after that, chemotherapy was administered, and she ended up with even more poisons in her body.

“Only yesterday did she say, ‘So it turns out that after eating so much chicken back then, I’ve finally gotten sick.’ Why had I not told her the previous few times? It was because I well knew that she had come to deceive me, and had even brought her entire family with her to do so. She had thought that if she came with her two small children, and her husband still being young as well, I would surely help her, and at least stop her pain so that she could spend the time she had left with her family. You all do the same thing. When reciting the sutra, we must understand every word written in it: Gazing at sentient beings with compassion. The sea of his accumulated good fortune is immeasurable. And for this reason, you should make prostrations to him.’ If you do not cultivate a repentant attitude, and are unwilling to lower your head, then even if Avalokiteshvara is watching you with compassionate eyes, he still will not lift a finger; you must first repent. If you are unwilling to repent, then how can Avalokiteshvara help you?

“Yesterday she genuinely repented, and this was the only reason she was able to move her guru and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Why? It was because she then knew she had harmed so many sentient beings. The resentment of sentient beings is endless. Do not assume that you can resolve your problems just because you are practicing, have taken refuge, and listen to the Dharma. Why did I get cured of my cancer? As I’ve told you all before, I did not implore for help from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas or report my condition to His Holiness, nor did I chant mantras for my cancer cells; I simply accepted that this was my condition. You always want nothing but good causal conditions; you do not want bad ones—but who gives them to you? You do, yourselves. You want good ones and not bad ones, but how much evil have you committed? Each of you wonders what’s so serious about eating meat and killing something. This means you do not believe; you do not believe in what the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cultivated good fortune for. The good fortune they cultivated is for helping sentient beings to leave reincarnation. You still have to pay your debts! You cannot leave reincarnation until your debts are clear.

“Why am I so strict? It is very simple: If you do not wish to keep reincarnating, how is it that you can live such carefree lives? Many people think the point of practicing Buddhism is to find spiritual comfort. If this is what you believe, then you should stop coming. You can find spiritual comfort in other religions by singing hymns, listening to music, attending congregations, and participating in outdoor fairs. The Glorious Jewel has never held an outdoor fair, nor have we ever organized cooking classes and so on. Why is that? It is because those are mundane activities. If you personally enjoy doing such things, no problem; mundane activities are not bad. However, they cannot help you to become liberated from life and death. Since renouncing reincarnation is the goal, I as your guru must of course supervise you very strictly based on the Dharma. If your thoughts take a wrong turn for even a moment, it could cause all manner of suffering when you die.

“One of my disciples who works in medicine used to adhere to another religion, but because his father passed away, he came to implore me to perform the Phowa. His mother, wife, and daughter all took refuge, but none of his sisters did.

“This disciple has been coming here for more than ten years. On the surface, he is quite respectful, and his mother is always smiling at people and would never say a harsh word to anyone. She has artificial knee joints, so is unable to make grand prostrations, yet she went about telling people she had completed a hundred thousand of them. If five parts of her body did not touch the ground, then these cannot count as grand prostrations, and there is a reason for this; one cannot simply bow at the waist and strike a pose.

“It is mentioned in the sutras that when you are in possession of a healthy body, you have a treasure for learning Buddhism. If your knees won’t work, then you are lame, which is what the sutras say happens to people with insufficient good fortune. This disciple’s mother went all over the place claiming to have completed a hundred thousand grand prostrations, and people who didn’t know the inside story thought she was very devout. Her son would not contradict her, either, thinking, ‘It doesn’t matter; after all, Rinpoche hasn’t opposed her doing this.’ How would I oppose her? She is not my mother, so if I said she had not actually made those prostrations, then she would be sad; what would I do then?

“It’s like how, after my late father and mother got married, because he practiced Taoism, she had a lot of faith in him so she also had a deep belief in Taoism. However, after I became a Rinpoche, she never again visited the Taoist temple we used to go to in Hong Kong, nor did she ever mention things that happened over there, because she saw that her son had changed.

“Recently, this elderly person I was talking about a moment ago suddenly got a blood clot in her brain, passed out, and went into a coma. I am certain that this was not something that happened abruptly; throughout this year, she was sure to have experienced frequent dizziness. Their notion had been quite simple; they had thought that because they had made offerings, participated in pujas, and eaten vegetarian, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas should protect and bless them, and they would be okay. After she got that blood clot and fell unconscious, her brain died, but she maintained a normal blood pressure and pulse.

“I entered samadhi to visualize why such hardship would befall her, but I could not see. Reason would dictate that being my disciple, if something happened to her, I should be able to meditate and at least discern a little bit of the cause of her predicament. Afterward, I told her son to perform grand prostrations, but he only did four hundred or more in a day. Only after I admonished him did he do a few more. After doing this for a week, he gave rise to an intention to make an offering, and thereby accumulated some good fortune for her; only then was I able to see the reason for what had happened to her. First of all, she still had the prayer beads she used to use while following that other religion. Secondly, I asked if she had recently been in contact with her former minister and fellow congregation members. It turned out to be at the beginning of the year, an old friend of hers had passed away at the age of ninety, so her son had accompanied her to participate in the funeral service, which had been conducted in line with that religion’s practices.

“When you took refuge, I bade you not to pray to non-Buddhist deities for the sake of convenience. Her son would surely claim that his mother did not do that, but how is that possible? They had followed that other religion for decades, and gone to a very familiar place; plus, it was her old friend who had died. Her friend had never come with her to the Buddhist Center, yet when she passed away, this friend was actually able to get my disciples over to her church, for the reason that the deceased’s children came to invite her in person to the funeral service. Thus, she felt too sorry not to go or to refuse kindness from others. As a result, she completely forgot everything she had been told when she took refuge.

“When she went there, those old friends all remembered her and warmly greeted and welcomed her. She was very happy that they and the minister hadn’t forgotten her. The hymns, odes, and so on still dwelled in her subconscious, so when they sang, even though she did not sing, she hummed along for a line or two, and with that she broke all of her Refuge Precepts. Her son could have stopped her from going; I won’t go deeper into why he did not. However, I am a son, too, yet I was able to get my mother to understand that Taoism could not help her become liberated from life and death. My mother was illiterate, so why was I able to do this? It was because I believed in the Dharma, in my guru, and in reincarnation. They only believed in their education and in one thing—the Phowa!

“Then there was a problem, however: She had no good fortune, faith, causes, or conditions, so how could she have the Phowa performed for her? She had taken refuge for more than ten years. When you all took refuge, you were taught that you must not pray for help from another religion. Her son would certainly say his mother did not, but she did! While participating in that service, this disciple’s mother prayed in her heart, ‘Please help your believer to go to your kingdom.’ This, too, counts as praying! Why didn’t she say, ‘Help your believer go over to Amitabha’s Pure Land; let my Rinpoche liberate her!’? When followers of other religions come into a group of Buddhists, they say, ‘Let our God help you!’ Why are Buddhists so self-effacing and too scared to say they are Buddhists and that they will implore their Rinpoche to liberate someone for them? They never say this, because they are afraid of offending anyone. If she was so concerned about her old friend, then why didn’t she just attend the burial service up the hill? She could have refused to participate in the funeral! Right now I am not talking about what religion is right or wrong, good or bad; I am saying that if you want to be liberated from life and death, Buddhism is your only path. However, what the Dharma says, you must put into practice.

“I already told you all this when you took refuge, but none of you believed me. She thought it would be fine if she just went there briefly. Prior to participating in religious ceremonies, people of non-Buddhist faiths always ask their minister or guru for permission, but our Buddhists don’t. When did she ever respect her guru? If she had come and asked, I would certainly have reminded her, ‘You may go, but you absolutely must not give rise to the hope that that deity will save your friend!’ I have taken on so many disciples, yet I had never seen anyone pass away like this. Even if Disciple Jia did not understand how to repent, at the very least he knew right before he died.

“If you die while in a coma, it means you did not believe in the Dharma or in cause and effect, and once this life is concluded, you will be reborn in the Animal Realm. This is written in the sutras. The reason I am so strict is that I know very well that even the slightest misguided thought can cause everything you have accumulated over the past ten or twenty years to be limited to use in the next life, and you definitely will not be able to block your karma in this lifetime. That day, I told her son that the origin of this cause was a past act of killing; his father had been a soldier. Even if he had not killed, as long as he had given a command or signed his name, it still counted. He would say his father had killed for his country, and therefore would not go to hell, but it still created karma of killing.

“It’s like how my father died after suffering a sudden bout of heart disease, but because he had constantly helped others and done many good deeds over the last ten or so years of his life, he did not fall into the Three Evil Realms, and waited until his son was able to help him. Pay attention, everybody: My aspiration is to help sentient beings attain Buddhahood, so whenever one is in danger of falling into the Three Evil Realms, I do everything in my power to help. You, on the other hand, have taken refuge and been taught the Dharma, yet you still insist on doing things your own way, and just lob all your problems at me. Why did you take refuge? Why do you chant? Why do you make prostrations? Are you just seeking blessings and protection?

“You have not thought this through very clearly; if you keep practicing Buddhism self-righteously, then in the end, you will be the ones to suffer, because I will already have fulfilled my responsibility, said what needed to be said, and taught what needed to be taught. If you refuse to listen or put these lessons into practice, it is your business, not mine. Here at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center there is nothing I haven’t taught you, and I teach you wholeheartedly. You think it is no big deal if you do certain things, because you can always just repent afterward.

“In Buddhism, if you break the precepts, you must repent; you then have an opportunity to learn again. All of those merits you cultivated will turn into good fortune to be used in your next lifetime. The saying from the sutras, ‘fire burns away the forest of merits,’ does not mean your merits are burned; it means the forest of your merits is burned to charcoal and, being no longer viable as merits, they turn into good fortune. If no accidents happen and it is not burned, then this forest will continue to grow and bear fruit. However, your greed, hatred, and ignorance can cause this forest of merits to be burned to charcoal. Charcoal can be used, but trees are better than charcoal; once charcoal is burned, it is gone. Therefore, good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms can be used up just like charcoal can; once it is completely incinerated, it is gone. If we are a tree, then as long as nothing unexpected happens, the tree will continue to grow. It’s like how, right now on Earth, there are still trees that have been growing for a thousand years. What sort of causes and conditions do we possess that can destroy our forest of merits? Greed, hatred, and ignorance. Not listening to what your guru says is ignorance. You would say, ‘It was hard to turn down her children’s earnest invitation!’ As I frequently point out, if you cannot influence someone, that person will influence you. It was not because she broke her Refuge Precepts that she had such a disastrous illness; this was bound to happen—it was that she had been practicing Buddhism consistently for more than ten years; thus, it blocked this hindrance for her for a time. It should be known that at the beginning of this year (2017), they went to take part in the funeral without my knowledge.

“For all of my disciples who have passed away, I have more or less been able to discern what their causes and conditions were. Only for her was I unable to discern them at all; all I could see was a wall of blackness, which meant her karma was extremely heavy. You all feel that she was a very virtuous old lady, but she kept practicing Buddhism with a non-Buddhist mindset. She thought the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas would forgive her for everything she had done in this lifetime as long as she diligently chanted their names and made prostrations to them. However, this had nothing to do with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; it had to do with her karmic creditors. Now, this elderly woman can neither live nor die; her heart rate and blood pressure are only a little lower than normal, but she depends on a respirator to stay alive. Moreover, her own son never made a habit of sharing with his family members about the important effect practicing Buddhism can have on one’s parents. If this son had not always been so lazy, and had spoken to his folks about this more, then the situation perhaps would have been a bit more smoothly. Everything is cause and effect. When you took refuge, you were told you should praise your guru’s merits. It is not that your guru needs your praises; the point of this is rather to keep hindrances from emerging at your time of death. People obtain good fortune if they ordinarily give such praises, and that will prevent them from having problems when they die. As you might imagine, that disciple’s family members did not genuinely practice Buddhism.

“In those years, while he was serving at the Buddhist Center as a volunteer, he naturally should have shouldered the responsibilities, good and bad, but he kept complaining that others had wronged him. Did he cultivate the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas? Actually, everything that happened to him was part of a cycle that he himself created. He only cared about his work and his daughter; he ignored everything else. He thought it would be fine as long as everything remained peaceful and without mishap; this was the attitude of a non-Buddhist. Practicing does not necessarily involve being in retreat for any certain length of time. All the Mahasiddhas said, including the Venerable Milarepa and Master Gampopa, ‘I have already attained everything I planned for; from now on, for future practitioners, all you have to do is to follow the footsteps of predecessors and do as you are told, and you will not need to undergo as much hardship as we have.’ This means that the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Mahasiddhas of the past have already prepared the great merit ocean of the Dharma; it just depends on whether or not you are willing to join in.

“‘The sea of his accumulated good fortune is immeasurable. And for this reason, you should make prostrations to him.’ Avalokiteshvara has already prepared this great ocean of merits, so shouldn’t we make prostrations? The concept behind making prostrations is not merely to touch our heads to the ground; it involves completely accepting the entirety of the Dharma, and only then can we enter the great ocean of merits. If what you practice for and the great merit ocean are completely different, then how can you join it? All the merits cultivated by Avalokiteshvara are the same as those of all the other Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Mahasiddhas. If your mindset is not in line with this, then you will not be able to join Avalokiteshvara’s great ocean of merits. If that is the case, then how can he and the other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas help you? These two lines might look rather simple, but they actually are not simple at all. When people who are severely egocentric try to practice Buddhism, they think they are cultivating and chanting well and correctly, but they have absolutely nothing to do with the great ocean of merits. If you continue to have any more arrogance, then as is written in the Ratnakuta Sutra, anyone with the slightest bit of arrogance has no affinity with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; so, do not keep claiming to be practicing the Bodhisattva Path. What befell this disciple was due to his arrogance over being a medical professional who graduated from a famous American university.

“The sutra reads, ‘At that time, Bodhisattva Dharanimdhara immediately rose from his seat, advanced, and said to the Buddha, “O World-Honored One! If there are living beings who hear this chapter on Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, on his unrestrained activities and his supernatural powers through the universal gate, it should be known that the merits such people obtain are numerous.”’

“Normally, whenever Shakyamuni Buddha has expounded a sutra through to the end, a Bodhisattva always appears and initiates a concluding discussion in order to explain where the merits of this sutra lie. This time it was Bodhisattva Dharanimdhara. The Bodhisattvas able to listen to Shakyamuni Buddha expound the sutras are basically those of the Eighth Ground and up.

“This is a chapter out of the Lotus Sutra. After sentient beings listen to and contemplate this chapter about Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, and amend all behavior that would cause them to reincarnate, then their good and evil karma will no longer be able to tie them down. ‘Unrestrained’ here does not mean that if you listen to Avalokiteshvara’s Universal Gate Chapter, you will then be able to live care-free, accumulate good fortune, have people to give you offerings, and see your business improve. Rather, you can be free of the binds of both your good and evil karma, and not be held down by them any longer. Simply put, this means you can attain the state of being at ease with life and death. Only if you can contemplate and act according to all the processes spoken of in the Universal Gate Chapter will you begin to cultivate. If you contemplate it all, yet do not put it into practice, then you will be unable to be liberated from life and death. This chapter is not about how Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara will protect us; it describes a way to practice. The line about Brahman sounds and the sound of the tides is completely out of your reach. Only after you master these sounds will you be able to deliver sentient beings by chanting mantras and the Buddhas’ names. Otherwise, you cannot help sentient beings. When sentient beings approach to be liberated, they rush forward continuously like the tides, wave after wave. This is the same as what happens during the Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness; wave after wave of sentient beings keep surging forth to be liberated.

“‘His manifestation of a universal gate, and his supernatural powers’—within this gate, he can show all supernatural powers. Supernatural powers do not mean having the ability to transform into this or that; there are many different levels of supernatural powers with various strengths and gradations. This part refers to being, at the very least, able to be liberated from life and death in this lifetime, be reborn in the Pure Land, and foresee when that will happen. If you cannot do these, then you do not have supernatural powers. It does not mean being able to know about other people’s affairs or fly over there and listen to someone talking; only if you can autonomously go to the Pure Land do you possess supernatural powers. Without them, you cannot go there unless a guru with supernatural powers helps you to. These powers are beyond ordinary people.

“Even though the late Disciple Jia scorned the Three Jewels and did not respect his guru while still alive, he did repent in the end. After the cremation, two holes could be seen at his crown chakra atop his skull. One of them was made when I protected his consciousness after he had passed away, and the other when I performed the Chod. Protecting a person’s consciousness does not mean wrapping it up and keeping it safe the way you might think; first I have to allow part of the consciousness to leave the body and be protected. Thus, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas kept his consciousness from falling out from below, so it exited from the top of his skull; this is why a hole had to first be made at the crown chakra. Because he did not have the good fortune to be liberated by way of the Phowa, the remaining part of his consciousness had to suffer in an ice-cold hell. Once his flesh had been subjected to the suffering of an ice-cold hell, he would never again have to undergo this form of karmic retribution, either in this lifetime or in his future lives; only afterward could his entire consciousness leave his body. The more advanced science and technology get, the more they can help us to eliminate karma that would send us down into the Three Evil Realms. Many people think that once their deceased loved ones get pushed into refrigerated storage, they are none of their business anymore, but freezing them like that is putting them in an ice-cold hell. For the first seven weeks after passing (a total of forty-nine days), one’s consciousness is still aware of the flesh. However, when a body is cremated, if the Phowa or the Chod is performed for the deceased, then his or her consciousness is protected and will not feel the incineration.

“Having ‘supernatural powers’ means being able to help oneself and other sentient beings to become liberated from life and death. ‘…It should be known that the merits such people will gain are numerous.’ Without merits, how can you transfer sentient beings’ consciousness for them? I wouldn’t dare claim to have accumulated many merits, but at the very least, I possess a few; this is the reason I am able to help sentient beings pass onto a virtuous realm. Otherwise, I would not be able to liberate them, and instead they would influence me and take me away. These lines say that as long as you listen to this sutra, are willing to diligently amend your self-righteous attitude, and can practice in this direction, then you will be able to be free from the karmic power of life and death.

“‘Universal gate’ here refers to the fact that if you have not cultivated very well in this lifetime, you are at risk of falling back into the Six Realms; however, there you will have an opportunity to show your supernatural powers and teach sentient beings to practice the Dharma—just as Shakyamuni Buddha once spent time liberating sentient beings in the Animal Realm. This sutra is not simply a means of protecting and blessing you, curing illness, or shielding you from lawsuits. The important thing is that you practice what is written in it, and whether or not you are resolved to cultivate the compassion of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. If you are, would your heads still be full of your own views, selfishness, and afflictions? Would you still be disrespecting the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? You would not.

“If one only relies on the contents of this sutra for one’s practice, chant Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara’s name, and frequently feel reverence for him, ‘it should be known that the merits such a person will gain are numerous.’

“The sutra reads, ‘When the Buddha expounded this chapter on the Universal Gate, the eighty-four thousand sentient beings in the assembly all aspired to the unsurpassable state of Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi.’

“If you listen attentively to the Buddha’s expounding of the Universal Gate Chapter and make a firm resolution to practice these Dharma methods, then you will be like those eighty-four thousand sentient beings who were present at the time who, due to having the causal condition to listen, began to develop their bodhicitta. This is why it was said when you took refuge that, afterward, you would be able to accumulate good causal conditions very quickly. If your determination never wavers, then the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are sure to protect your Buddhist practice.

“To explain ‘Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi,’ I would have to leaf through a ton of dictionaries to find any clear definitions. These words were not translated from Sanskrit, but a simple translation would be ‘right and proper enlightenment.’ ‘Right’ means all our aspirations are to liberate ourselves and other sentient beings from life and death. If we are doing it for any specific reasons, to satisfy any desires, or for anyone in particular, then we are doing it wrong. ‘Proper enlightenment’ means having a clear understanding of death and impermanence, the law of cause and condition, the law of cause and effect, and so on. Only if you have a clear idea of your direction and motives for practicing Buddhism, and have a very good grasp on everything, can you have a chance to attain genuine realization of the Dharma. This does not mean simply saying, ‘I know what it means now,’ or, ‘I have a sense of it now.’ When you have all the sufficient resources and completed the Preliminary Practices, then you will be able to gain true realization—that is, Emptiness. Right now you are in the stage of accumulating resources of good fortune and wisdom; all the mantras you chant, prostrations you make, and sutras you recite help you to accumulate these things. Once you have enough of these two resources, your guru will teach you the Preliminary Practices. This is to turn your good fortune and wisdom into tools for your practice, not to let you live in comfort. Once you possess sufficient good fortune and wisdom, there will be no hindrances to your preliminary practice, and you will be able to complete it without a hitch. If you have hindrances, it means you have not cultivated enough resources. Do not assume that you have them just because you have made offerings and listened to the Dharma.

“These are two very obvious examples of people who have not accumulated good fortune and wisdom, because they did not accept, they did not listen, and they went their own ways. Your ways of doing things come from the thoughts of ordinary people; they are not from the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ thoughts or teachings, nor do they come from your guru’s experience in cultivation. Instead they come from your own life experiences. This is why you would feel too awkward to say ‘no’ to an invitation from your deceased friend’s children to go and participate in their religious ceremony. As I often say, once a person passes away, all the ceremonies held are often just put on for people to see; they do not actually help the deceased one bit. I do not believe that had she not gone, her old fellow congregation member would have flown back and taken her away; her friend did not have that ability. Not to mention, she was not her children. She went just for the sake of ten or so years of friendship, or perhaps so that someone might become her son’s patient—so they both went. When you took refuge, I said you should refrain from doing things for the sake of convenience. Convenience means thinking something is beneficial to you; being afraid of offending others means you think something might be good for you. You are unable to turn them down due to your greed; the reason I am able to say ‘no’ is that I do not have any greed. Apart from His Holiness, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas, who can help me? Nothing in the mundane world can change me. I am able to do so because I listen and believe; the reason you cannot is that you do neither. When you die, there is no telling what will happen to you.

“Do not assume I will be here to help you whenever you want; I could die at any point. If I die, who will be around to help you? Let me say it once more: These things that happen at the Buddhist Center are good for you; they allow you to re-examine yourselves and see whether or not you are actually practicing. If you are not, then you should amend your ways immediately. I am not just telling stories about other people. What those two people did is the same as what you yourselves have done before, too; it’s just that your karmic retribution has not yet manifested. That their karma matured early indicates that they still had some good fortune left, because I am still here and able to help them. If your karmic retribution does not appear early, it does not mean you are lucky; in fact, if it takes twenty years before yours manifests, by then I will already be gone. You think it doesn’t matter, and that when the time comes, there will be another Rinpoche. However, if even my Dharma teachings have not connected with you, do you think those of another Rinpoche will? There are those who will be able to recite the sutras and bang on a wooden fish for you, but there isn’t anyone else who can make two or three holes in your crown chakra upon your death. You all need to wake up.

“This concludes my teachings on Avalokiteshvara’s Universal Gate Chapter of the Lotus Sutra. They may not have been very perfect or very complete, as I did not receive any special training in lecturing sutras, but I have explained them based on my own experiences from cultivation and on Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings rather than using other sutras to confirm the authenticity of this one. Actually, that would not be necessary anyway, because this sutra was originally spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha Himself, not me. As long as I can draw from my experience in cultivation to explain each word, I will definitely be able to help sentient beings. However, I must be careful not to make any mistakes in any word I expound; if I do, this will bring severe karmic retribution in the future.

“And so my teachings on the Universal Gate Chapter come to an end. If, over the next few years, I gain a bit more experience through cultivation, I might return to it and speak about it again. This chapter contains teachings on making offerings, initiating aspirations, and so on. It also includes teachings on methods of accumulating resources, preliminary practices, the realization path, and cultivation and non-cultivation for people who practice the Bodhisattva Path; you just haven’t been able to see these. Ordinary people misunderstand the Universal Gate Chapter to be about how Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara protects and blesses us. If it were that simple, then Shakyamuni Buddha would not have needed to go out of His way to speak to us about Avalokiteshvara’s merits. Many of you love to use your own views to explain things.”

After leading the disciples in a performance of the Dharma Protector Achi and dedication prayer, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked the monastics their impressions.

“The first disciple answered, “I didn’t understand it.” Rinpoche said, “If you haven’t understood, then you need to keep listening.” The second disciple answered, “Rinpoche’s teachings are extremely auspicious and rare. The only thing I can do is to act in accordance with them.” The third disciple answered, “Thank you, Rinpoche, for expounding the Universal Gate Chapter. It was only after hearing your teachings that I realized the auspiciousness of Avalokiteshvara’s lifetimes of cultivation. Now, after listening, we must diligently put these teachings into practice, learn from Rinpoche, and not just voice some catchphrases.” The fourth disciple answered, “Rinpoche, we are grateful to you for your teachings. Before, I would finish reciting it in just ten minutes, and had no idea how vast and auspicious this chapter was. I feel deeply moved.” The fifth disciple answered, “We had breezed right through it before, and until now, we never imagined just how profound and in-depth it is. It contains all the paths for practicing. We used to just recite a bunch of words without understanding their meaning. I feel very ashamed that I still have not been able to implement these teachings. The Universal Gate Chapter is a model for us to live by.”

The sixth disciple answered, “I implore our guru to bless us with the knowledge of how to imprint his compassion onto our hearts. Then we would not need to use our consciousness to differentiate or ponder how to act with compassion. I want to understand what our guru’s compassion is.” Rinpoche said, “All you need to do is listen. If you do, then one day you are sure to gain this realization. When the Venerable Phagmodrupa passed away, all those with supernatural powers saw a vajra transfer directly from his heart to that of Lord Jigten Sumgön. Phagmodrupa had so many disciples, so why did only Jigten Sumgön receive this? For a very simple reason: He listened, without arguing. He saw no point in talking too much, did not think about other matters, and did whatever his guru told him to. What you think is wrong about what your guru says is actually correct, and what you think is correct might actually be wrong; the point is, you should not exert your own opinions. This does not mean that you should not have any thoughts about Buddhism; it means you must not use your mundane thoughts to wonder why you are being taught to act a certain way. This all begins with accumulating resources of good fortune and wisdom and setting foot upon the Path of Preliminary Practice; only then can you slowly come to realize where the compassion of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and guru is.”

The seventh disciple answered, “When I listened to the Universal Gate Chapter explained previously, my attitude was merely one of seeking protection and blessings. After hearing Rinpoche expound it for us, however, I now understand how compassionate Rinpoche is. None of us has acted accordingly.” The eighth disciple answered, “In the past I always used to recite the Universal Gate Chapter at the request of benefactors, but I never really realized its significance, and I feel great shame about this. Now we have had the good fortune of being able to encounter a meritorious guru who has given a clear, in-depth explanation of this chapter’s many layers of meaning. As disciples, we should cherish this opportunity, and not waste any more time.” The ninth disciple answered, “I had never heard such a profound explanation before. Also, there probably isn’t anyone else in the world who can expound all the many Dharma methods contained in this chapter as brilliantly as Rinpoche can.” The tenth disciple answered, “Your Eminence, our guru, you are always taking such good care of us. While you were explaining the chapter, you made me think about how thoroughly you look after us; whether during the day, in the evening, or even in the middle of the night, you are constantly caring for us. Everything you say and do is for our welfare. All I can do is to listen and act accordingly. I am but a broken wreck, and I need more time to learn.” Rinpoche replied, “I specialize in fixing broken wrecks.” All of the attendees expressed their deep gratitude to the guru with a warm round of applause.

The eleventh disciple answered, “I am grateful to our guru for allowing us disciples to listen to such rare, auspicious, and subtle Dharmas. There is a saying that goes, ‘Without all these minds, what use are all these Dharmas?’ I hope our guru will allow us to continue listening to you so that we can gain some realizations.” The twelfth disciple answered, “I did not comprehend it; all I can do is doing what I am told.” Rinpoche said, “This is the most difficult.” The thirteenth disciple answered, “Thank you Rinpoche, for granting us these auspicious teachings and allowing us to learn that the Universal Gate Chapter contains such profound meanings. I had never heard these teachings anywhere else.”

Rinpoche continued: “This is frequently spoken of in the sutras: How can we understand Tathagata’s hidden meaning? It is neither secret nor mysterious. Shakyamuni Buddha expounded the Dharma for more than forty years. When He first started out, He engaged in ascetic practice. When He attained enlightenment, He first taught the Arhat Path, and then the Four Noble Truths and the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination. Back then, Shakyamuni Buddha was speaking for the benefit of those six attendants because in India at the time, people were in the habit of ascetic practice. To this day, there are still people who practice this way in Hinduism. Only after journeying to Sravasti—the place we visited on pilgrimage recently—did the Buddha begin to teach the Bodhisattva Path. A Bodhisattva’s mind is different from that of we ordinary people, arhats, and all other sentient beings. For this reason, even if we read a lot of sutras, we can only half-understand it.

“That day His Holiness and I were strolling through Jetavana in Sravasti, we chatted a bit together. In ancient times, retreat huts were extremely small—so small that only a single bed could fit inside. They were not as comfortable as they are now. Nowadays, the province in which Sravasti is situated is primarily agricultural, which means not very many people lived there in the past, either. In His later years, Shakyamuni Buddha kept on propagating the Bodhisattva Path, which comprises what we refer to as the Mahayana sutras. The difficulty of cultivating these lies in the fact that it involves a completely different mindset, motivation, and domain from what ordinary people are familiar with. One might think people of very good moral character are practitioners, and that anyone with a dignified appearance must be cultivating the Bodhisattva Path. In the past, a lot of people practicing this path would have appeared to you to be even more ordinary than ordinary people, because their cultivation was internal, and did not look like practitioners from the outside the way arhats did. However, it is written in the sutras that those who achieve attainment by practicing the Bodhisattva Path will naturally appear only a little less in likeness than the thirty-two forms of the Buddha. If you master the Bodhisattva Path, your appearance will change.

“On that day you went to Sravasti, if your mind was not vast enough and you were only there to visit a holy site, pay homage, and cultivate, then you would not have been able to obtain Shakyamuni Buddha’s blessings. Even though His Holiness said all your wishes would be fulfilled, what he meant was that all your aspirations to do with cultivating the Bodhisattva Path would be fulfilled! If your goal is merely to be reborn in the Pure Land, attain enlightenment, and live in comfort, then things will not go your way. People who go to Sravasti must have broad minds; if they are not narrowly centered on any particular thing, then they will naturally gain Shakyamuni Buddha’s blessings. Sravasti has another special characteristic: Like many places around India, there are monkeys there, but Sravasti’s monkeys are relatively well-behaved. They sit there waiting patiently, and will not rush over to pilfer things to eat. I have been to many places around India, but have never seen monkeys like these. Also, these monkeys look cleaner than the ones in other places.

“Here on Earth, we are still in Shakyamuni Buddha’s Dharma era. How can we experience and realize what He taught? By following His teachings; there is no other way. Having been born in this Age of Degenerate Dharma, we lack the good fortune to see Shakyamuni Buddha with our own eyes, so all we can do is to rely on our guru’s teachings. However, like you, your guru is a person, thus you naturally give rise to two notions: Firstly, you deify me; secondly, you think I am a person just like you. A guru might appear to be the same as you on the outside, but my mind is different from yours. Only a paltry few people are able to realize what a guru’s mind is like, because people all tend to selfishly think about what benefits they can obtain for themselves. Therefore, one of my ordained disciples very intelligently said he did not understand; if he does not understand, after all, he does not risk embarrassment. This monastic goes to America every year. I instructed him not to go; one reason was that so much gossip goes on over there, and the other reason was that when he goes, he receives offerings from believers. A little while ago he said he does not understand, but if that is the case, then how can he dare to accept offerings?

“The Dharma is not the slightest bit complicated; what are complicated are our minds. What we need to do is to adjust them and examine, question, and look at ourselves on a daily basis to determine exactly what our minds are like. Why is it necessary to take refuge in order to practice Buddhism? Whether you do or not is your business, but a day spent out of refuge is a day you are not a disciple of the Buddha. If you listen to the Dharma every day but do not take refuge, then you are at risk of being reborn in the Animal Realm in your next lifetime. Once you are there, you will be a bit better off than other animals; you will be held by people, be kissed, and even turn into a pet wearing gemstones; this is the difference. Many people do not know why becoming liberated from life and death is so important. To put it simply, if a person can be liberated, then he or she will not experience pain and suffering prior to death. For example, before the World Honored One passed away, He showed only slight sickness and minor ailments, and only felt a tiny bit of discomfort; He did not have to endure very much suffering. When it comes to the suffering of birth, old age, sickness, and death, death is worse than sickness. How can you minimize the suffering of death, and even eliminate it completely? As I said previously, practicing the teachings of the Universal Gate Chapter, you can gain freedom from karma and attain supernatural powers – namely, the ability to know the time of your death. A lot of believers and disciples have been able to know their time of death in advance after believing in me. This is a supernatural power. How can you make supernatural powers appear? It is done by listening and following, and reducing the flames of your afflictions. Every line of a mantra helps us to reduce our afflictions; once they are reduced, our pure Dharma nature will continuously emerge, and only then can we realize the compassion of our guru, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas . If you have a lot of afflictions, then even if Shakyamuni Buddha and Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara were to manifest Their great compassion right in front of you, you still would not be able to sense it.

“The reason we should make prostrations, offerings, and so on is so that we can accumulate the resources of good fortune and wisdom. The point of taking refuge is to change our ability to accumulate them. If we have not taken refuge, then we cannot accumulate any, and without those, we cannot learn Buddhism. You might say this is not the point, but strangely enough, you will find that as long as you have sufficient resources of good fortune and wisdom, and even just begin to accumulate them in your practice, then fewer and fewer unpleasant mundane affairs will happen to you, and will even stop happening altogether. You should not come to listen because you are merely curious about Buddhism. As a matter of fact, you do not want to be told what to do and worry that you will be prohibited to do this or that after taking refuge. For example, you think, ‘Rinpoche often says my boyfriend has to be vegetarian, so what do I do if I meet a guy who eats meat?’

“Why is it that followers of other religions can abide by a strict prohibition against marrying people of other faiths, whereas you cannot? It means you have not made a firm resolution to become liberated from life and death in this lifetime. You would say it isn’t your business if he eats meat, but if you eat vegetarian and he eats meat, then sooner or later you are definitely going to separate. Given that you are going to break up, you might as well stop seeing him. Many people use their own ideas, thinking that if they avoid taking refuge, those rules would then have nothing to do with them.

“I hope that all you monastics will strengthen your resolve along your path of cultivation, and not be lured away by mundane affairs. Anything that cannot help you to become liberated from life and death is a mundane affair. You want to accumulate resources of good fortune and wisdom, but anything unrelated to escaping reincarnation is mundane. If there is anything you do not understand, then ask your guru about it; I will help you clearly differentiate between good and evil karma. In terms of the Dharma, everything that causes us to reincarnate is evil, and everything that helps us to break away from reincarnation is good.

“That disciple agreed and took his mother to a church, singing along in his heart and praising their god. When you took refuge, I told you that if you have no choice but to put up with ancestor-worship in your home, and you have to hold a bunch of incense, then you absolutely must not give rise to any thoughts of supplication. That mother and son pair did not listen. It is not that that religion is bad; people go to churches do good deeds too. However, that religion cannot help us to become liberated from life and death. Moreover, its followers used to engage in the slaughter of a lot of people. The only religion that genuinely advocates peace is Buddhism. When a religion views itself as better than other religions, war becomes inevitable. If Buddhism promotes world peace, then how can you have peace if you do not listen?

“For many people, the Universal Gate Chapter is quite accessible. However, people often look down on this scripture. You do not understand how this sutra can be so widespread. It is because it contains Exoteric concepts fundamental to practicing the Bodhisattva Path. The Ratnakuta Sutra is not so widely spoken, because only those who are at least practicing the Bodhisattva Path can expound it. For most people who have just begun to aspire to practice Buddhism, the Universal Gate Chapter is a very important text. The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows is very important, too; it tells us where all our causes come from and how effects come about. For example, in it is written an account of how Ksitigarbha’s mother was born with a taste for turtle eggs, scorned the Three Jewels, and fell into the Hell Realm after she died. ‘Scorn’ here means not listening to what someone says, not taking it seriously, insisting on doing things your own way, and assuming nothing spoken by the Buddha has anything to do with you. If it doesn’t have anything to do with you, then what are you doing here? You only come when you need something; when you are not in need, you forget the Buddha. A lot of people are like that. When they need the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, they come out of the woodwork; once their problems are resolved, they go missing for a few years. This is the definition of scorn. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas save you and help you in the hope that you diligently practice the Dharma in this lifetime and leave the suffering sea of reincarnation behind. However, you just think that they are helping you and preventing you from suffering so that you can live in comfort. You only come to supplicate when you are having a hard time, because you know that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will compassionately help you again. This is scorn, and is how a lot of people act.

“I am constantly telling you that while chanting mantras, you should not think about how well you are chanting or that doing so can cause your health to improve; this is another example of scorning the Three Jewels. You should not forget who transmitted the mantra to you. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha often said that he was only able to benefit sentient beings due to the Buddha’s blessings and awe-inspiring power. If chanting a mantra a few hundred times could cure us of our physical ailments, then we would not need to conduct retreats or practice at all. It is very difficult for people who are arrogant, self-righteous, and afraid of being supervised to learn Buddhism. Even if you come here every day to listen to the Dharma, something is bound to happen that will stop you from coming, because you do not want to be told what to do.

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

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Updated on March 18, 2018