His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – December 17, 2017

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne. First, the guru led everyone in the Avalokiteshvara ritual and recitation of the Great Six-Syllable Mantra, and then he continued teachings on the ‘Scroll 82, “Elder Ugra Assembly” (Chapter 19)’ of the Ratnakuta Sutra.

“A little while ago, I was in my private lounge leafing through the Ratnakuta Sutra, and I came across this section in which Shakyamuni Buddha was expounding the Dharma in Jetavana, Sravasti, at the Anathapindada Vihara. It is very suitable for the practice of both lay practitioners and monastics. This causal condition is quite auspicious, because just last month we went to Sravasti, the place in India in which the Buddha spoke the Dharma, and today I just happened to open the text up to this section. The previous sections are about the Buddha’s teachings held in other places; this is a section in which Shakyamuni Buddha expounded the Dharma in Sravasti, and is called ‘Scroll 82, “Elder Ugra Assembly” (Chapter 19).’

“The sutra reads, ‘Thus have I heard. The Buddha once dwelled in the garden of Anathapindada Vihara, in Jetavana near Sravasti; there were gathered one thousand two hundred and fifty great Bhikkhus and monks, and five thousand people who were Bodhisattvas.’

“‘Thus have I heard” refers to how, after Shakyamuni Buddha had entered nirvana, five hundred disciples assembled to write down all of His Dharma teachings. Thus, they passed them down after they had heard them; these were not their own teachings. The use of the word ‘heard’ indicates that they did not record them while they were there; rather, it was only afterward that they wrote down these Dharmas that they had heard very clearly while in a state of samadhi and while present within their Eighth Consciousness.

“It is like how at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center, from the start, I have never allowed my disciples to record my words while at the pujas; they must listen closely, and then write them down afterward from memory. It is based on this. I am not the Buddha, but this was how the Buddha taught His disciples. I believe that with the help of the Buddha’s great wisdom, the disciples here can also memorize the puja teachings and, afterward, write them down. These days so many people, when listening to the Dharma, love to continuously transcribe it. Doing so does not mean they will be able to memorize it after reading. A lot of people listen to Dharma teachings as if listening to a professor giving a lecture, taking notes on key points, yet as soon as they get home, they have forgotten them. This, of course, is the reason the Buddha used the word ‘listen’ rather than instructing His disciples to write down what they heard on the spot.

“The words, ‘Thus have I heard,’ represent a sort of teaching left by the Buddha, including the lesson that any sort of recording during a puja should not be done. While listening to the Dharma, we should of course devote a great deal of concentration. That does not mean memorizing every single word; it means that only when we are focused can we achieve purity of mind, and only after that can we come into contact with the pure Dharma through our pure, original nature. If we rely on the written or recorded word, then we will very soon not be able to remember it—not only in this lifetime, but through many lifetimes to come.

“According to the Yogācāra School of Buddhism, we have eight fields of consciousness, and the Eighth—the Alaya Consciousness—preserves all the things we have done, heard, and said in this lifetime, which will definitely have an effect on our future lives. If we do not listen intently, and merely listen as if the Dharma were some kind of academic pursuit and, afraid we won’t be able to repeat those teachings later, we rely on recording them, then none of this is listening, because we have become dependent on a tool other than our minds.

“Buddhism is different from mundane knowledge, and stresses adjusting one’s mind after listening to the Dharma in order to gradually reveal one’s pure, original nature. This is the only possible way to connect with the Dharma, blessings, and wisdom expounded by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. For this reason, it is written quite clearly in the Universal Gate Chapter that specializing in the Dharma methods of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara will grant you supernatural powers. Many people are under the impression that possessing such powers means they can transform into Avalokiteshvara, but this is not the case. Because Avalokiteshvara is Amitabha’s disciple, the point of practicing Avalokiteshvara’s Dharma method is to aspire to be reborn in the Pure Land. That being the case, if you cannot foresee the time of your death, then you will be confused, and will need someone else to help you. ‘Foreseeing the time of death’ is a supernatural power of divine sight, and involves having a very distinct knowledge of what you have done in your past lives as well as what will happen in the future. If you have not even cultivated this yet, then it means you have not practiced this Dharma method; this is stated very clearly in the Universal Gate Chapter. No matter what path you practice in this lifetime, if you have not gained control over your own life and death, then you have not achieved attainment.

“Possessing supernatural powers does not at all mean you can avoid all karmic retribution; they are merely byproducts that can reinforce the direction in your Buddhist practice. Moreover, you should not think that having such powers and being able to see Amitabha means you have done a good job at cultivation; this is a misconception. Whether you see Buddhas, gurus, or Bodhisattvas, it simply means you have sufficient focus in your supernatural powers that you have a chance to see them; it does not mean you have achieved attainment. Supernatural powers are not cultivated attainments. Do not assume a person has achieved attainment just because he or she knows some things, can utter predictions, or can resolve certain issues. A practitioner who cultivates effectively will naturally develop supernatural powers—that is, will unleash the force of such powers. As a result of having fewer and fewer distracting thoughts, his or her pure Dharma nature will naturally appear; the practitioner will then be able to observe all the phenomena of the universe. However, this does not mean he or she can use supernatural powers to change things.

“The Venerable Maudgalyāyana was the ultimate master of supernatural powers, but still had no way of using them to change his mother’s karma, save Shakyamuni Buddha’s clan from being conquered and vanquished, or resolving his own accumulated karma from previous lifetimes. There is a sutra passage that explains quite brilliantly how Maudgalyāyana used his supernatural powers: There were many hungry ghosts in the Ganges River, and he used his powers to tell them what they had done in their past lives to deserve their fate. Supernatural powers may be used toward ends such as these, but must not be used for one’s own benefit.

“You don’t have to practice Buddhism to gain supernatural powers; they exist in many religions. I once stayed at a resort in India whose proprietor had an uncle who practiced such powers very well, and had already reached the point of being able to walk on water—these were the proprietor’s own words. He took me around to a few places to test whether or not I could see what others could not see, and I was able to see what even he could not. These people who understand such things can actually see quite clearly. If you can help sentient beings, they will admire you greatly. Therefore, when a child was born in his family, I was even asked to give it a new name. I do not understand Hindi, but while in samadhi, I uttered an Indian name. They were all shocked. This was a supernatural power, and it was fine that I had used it, because it caused them to give rise to respect for Buddhism. I do not understand Sanskrit, nor had I ever studied it, so how was I able to know what name to say? Don’t waste time learning Sanskrit; if you learn how to meditate, you will naturally develop supernatural powers. I even asked them what the name meant in Hindi, and they said it meant ‘heaven.’

“Supernatural powers make it more convenient for a practitioner to liberate sentient beings; because sentient beings are very unruly, they won’t believe unless you have a bit of power. For example, when Disciple Fang’s mother passed away and I performed the Phowa for her from Shanghai, she informed me: Her second eldest daughter was very opinionated and her youngest daughter agreed with her, and that if this tendency of theirs continued, they should both get lost. After Disciple Fang relayed this message to her family, the two daughters jumped in fright: They were afraid of ghosts, but not afraid of the living. They had met me, too; I had told them not to cry, but they had not believed. As soon as a ghost came and spoke to me, however, they suddenly thought I was amazing, and even asked why their mother had come to complain. You are all the same; you are not afraid of your Rinpoche, but are afraid of ghosts. Whenever your Rinpoche gives you advice, you think it isn’t a big deal and can put things off until later when something goes wrong. Only by speaking this way was I able to stop Disciple Fang’s sisters from being so opinionated, which I did because if they violated any Buddhist rituals, it would cause the deceased to develop resentment. I have liberated so many deceased, and not a single one has been devoid of thoughts at his or her time of death. The deceased will even get mad at doctors for moving their legs, and grow angry if their rings get stolen from their fingers. This sort of thing happens a lot.

“‘Thus have I heard’ does not mean the words were written down after being heard and revised according to someone’s own ideas. The sutras were definitely expounded by Shakyamuni Buddha; no one else is qualified to compose them, though it is okay for people to write sastras. Sastras are scriptures that are based on these sutras and written down according to the practitioners’ own experiences in cultivation, but criticizing the sutras is wrong. Given the fact that monastics have taken refuge in Shakyamuni Buddha, if they speak criticism of His teachings, then they are mistaken. Sastras are explanations, drawing from one’s practical experience, of the more abstruse and difficult to understand parts of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings; these sorts of sastras are okay to write. Anyone who claims that he or she can write a sutra or even goes so far as to predict that he or she will have a certain Buddha name is full of nonsense. In the Ratnakuta Sutra it is stated–and Shakyamuni Buddha said it, too; very clearly—that until Bodhisattva Maitreya attains Buddhahood, no other Buddha will exist on Earth. Therefore, we should be skeptical of any person who claims to be a Buddha.

“The place in India to which we accompanied His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang was Jetavana, and the foundations of that vihara are still there. As we strolled through them that day, I said to His Holiness that the retreat huts there had been so small that only a single bed could fit inside.

“‘Great Bhikkhus’ does not refer to ones that are older or bigger in stature. Upon shaving their heads when taking refuge, Bhikkhus must take the Bhikkhu Precepts. Only if they observe these perfectly can they be called ‘great Bhikkhus’. When ‘great Bhikkhu monks’ is written in the sutras, this refers to arhats. There is no mention here of Bhikkhunis or Shaminis; these are all Shakyamuni Buddha’s disciples.

“In ‘the five thousand people who were Bodhisattvas,’ it is written this way using the word ‘people’ to express that these Bodhisattvas had achieved attainment in the Human Realm; they were not beings from the Heaven Realm that had become Bodhisattvas. This could only be possible if they had achieved the fruition of Bodhisattvas while in the Human Realm and then vowed to be reborn in the Heaven Realm to liberate the beings there. You must all come to understand the words written in the sutras. For the most part, the word ‘people’ can be left out. When the Bodhisattvas gathered to listen to the Buddha expound the sutras, they were in human form. It is not that they suddenly heard a sound or smell some scent or see something floating down on a cloud; there weren’t so many stage effects. This is how the Bodhisattvas broke sentient beings’ superstitions regarding supernatural powers. Pleasing scents, colored clouds, and sounds occur in other religions, too, and in the Heaven Realm; it is not just the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that have such powers. However, they basically have no desire to do these things. Nevertheless, people tend to pursue these sorts of external phenomena instead of making internal adjustments to themselves; they think that if they see some unusual phenomena, it means they are reverent and possess good fortune and merits. The sutras do not encourage us to practice this way. Whether we see such phenomena or not is not the point. As is written in the Diamond Sutra, all phenomena are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, and shadows. If you have seen them, what does it matter? Will those manifestations exist forever without changing?

“That day in Jetavana, I said, ‘If those of you who have come here on pilgrimage today are not sufficiently broad-minded, you will not receive any blessings.’ Shakyamuni Buddha expounded the Bodhisattva Path in this place. If you try to implore for yourself by asking, ‘Shakyamuni Buddha, in Your compassion, please allow me to unlock my wisdom so that I can comprehend all the sutras you have expounded,’ or, ‘Please unlock my wisdom so that I can be more compassionate,’ such supplications are useless, because they are not the same as the Dharmas taught by the Buddha.

“It was thanks to Shakyamuni Buddha’s blessings that I just happened to open this sutra up to this passage today. How could it be a coincidence, with such a thick volume as this? The majority of my disciples are lay practitioners, and I am one, too. In order to resolve your doubts, Shakyamuni Buddha allowed me to open the sutra up to this particular section—and I hadn’t been chanting, ‘Shakyamuni Buddha, please let me talk about a passage that they can understand.’ I just happened to open it up to this page; this is the result of His blessings. Blessings are not meant to make you change for the better; their purpose is to enable you to continue benefiting sentient beings. If you do not have the ability to do so, then how can you be qualified to resonate with the Dharmas taught by Shakyamuni Buddha? Expounding this section today is tantamount to listening to the Buddha expound the Dharma in Sravasti; it’s just that I am doing so as His representative. We do not have the good fortune to be able to listen to the Buddha in person; the sutras and all gurus are emanations of the Buddha. Today I am speaking on His behalf; these are not my words.

“The sutra reads, ‘With Bodhisattvas Maitreya, Manjushri, Stopping Right Paths, Avalokiteshvara, and Vajrapani by His side, the World-Honored One, surrounded by an assembly of countless hundreds of thousands, expounded the Dharma.’

“The above passage refers to the fact that only Great Bodhisattvas could sit in the best seats by Shakyamuni Buddha’s side.

“The sutra reads, ‘The World-Honored One, surrounded by an assembly of countless hundreds of thousands, expounded the Dharma.’

“Besides the ones that were just mentioned, these hundreds of thousands included all sentient beings, both formless and with form, and ordinary believers of the Six Realms.

“The sutra reads, ‘At that time, Elder Ugra, attended by a retinue of five hundred, left Sravasti and went to the garden of Anathapindada Vihara in Jetavana. When they arrived, they paid homage to the Buddha by bowing down with their heads at the Buddha’s feet and circumambulating Him three times. They then sat to one side.

“‘Elder’ here does not refer to a man in his seventies; when ‘elder’ is used in the sutras, it means he is a lay practitioner and a good man. Furthermore, he is a genuine lay practitioner who is cultivating the Bodhisattva Path, and who benefits sentient beings in both mundane and supramundane affairs.

“This elder led five hundred of his retinue out of Sravasti. On the most recent trip there, I led five hundred disciples, too. What a wonderful coincidence! There never used to be a monastery there; there was only a small cloister. Only after Shakyamuni Buddha attained Nirvana did a monastery begin to exist there.

“Making prostrations at the foot of the Buddha is an Indian custom. Apart from kowtowing to their elders, they also use their right hand rub the backs of their elders’ feet; this has been done since ancient times. When I visited Sikh regions to propagate Buddhism, the locals did not kowtow, but instead bent at the waist and touched my feet; this is a sign of utmost respect.

“This elder circled Shakyamuni Buddha three times before taking his seat. Why three times instead of seven? First of all, the number three represents having respectful thoughts, words, and actions. Secondly, whenever the Buddha sits somewhere, His thoughts, words, and actions are the equivalent of there being a stupa in that place. Circling three times symbolizes all of our offerings of body, speech, and mind, and signifies that circling the Buddha can subdue our afflictions of greed, hatred, and ignorance. Thirdly, circling the Buddha gives rise to the greatest merits. While doing it, you should not run around and giggle cheerfully; you should walk with reverence.

“The sutra reads, ‘At that time, five hundred elders, including Elders Dharma-Offering (Danben Aijing), Appellation, Good-Giving, Yeshidhatha, Good Wealth, Loving Conduct, Anathapindada, Dragon Virtue, and True Joy, also left Sravasti and went to the garden of Anathapindada Vihara in Jetavana. When they arrived, they paid homage at the Buddha’s feet and circumambulated Him three times. They then sat to one side. They and their retinue had all planted good roots abundantly in Mahayana….’

“All of these elders and the retinue they led there had been devoted to practicing Mahayana Buddhism, meaning this was the direction of their cultivation; they were walking the Bodhisattva Path.

“They ‘had all planted good roots abundantly.’ Without solid, abundant good roots, how could they have been able to listen at the Buddha’s side while He expounded the Dharma? Such roots are not the result of merely chanting mantras a few thousand times a day and casually making an offering here and there. Take, for example, the disciple who shared her story before the puja; she kept saying her guru had helped her save so much on medicine costs. Nonsense! When I help you save, do you express your thanks? Have you planted good roots? You must make offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and benefit all sentient beings in order to plant ‘good roots abundantly.’ To put it simply, nothing in the mundane world is more important than practicing the Bodhisattva Path. You all want to have a family, children, a career, and a house, and wish to live in comfort, and you say cultivating the Bodhisattva Path is not real. I am not saying you must live in hardship in order to practice this path, either. Only people who listen to the Buddha completely and do what He says can succeed in cultivating along this path.

“The sutra reads, ‘…And were resolved to walk the Supreme Right Path.’

“The direction of their practice was Mahayana Buddhism, and they continuously planted very abundant good roots for themselves. No Dharmas can sprout for a person without good roots. Even if the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas were to transmit the Dharma directly to you, without good roots, it cannot grow within you. The first thing you should do along the Bodhisattva Path is to accumulate the resources of good fortune and merits. This includes making offerings, giving alms, making prostrations to the Buddha, repenting, and so on. The Seven-Branch Offerings chanted daily are to abundantly plant good fortune and merits. Some people make offerings with conditions attached, such as hoping to get some benefit out of it or obtain forgiveness; such offerings are impure.

“To practice the Bodhisattva Path, you must have an abundance of the resources of good fortune and merits. Without soil and roots, your practice cannot sprout leaves and bear fruit. These lay practitioners who had such great good fortune and were able to see the Buddha with their own eyes and listen to Him expound the Dharma did not even claim to be Bodhisattvas; they merely called themselves good men and good women of correct faith and mindfulness who were cultivating along the Bodhisattva Path of Mahayana. How different you are in your arrogance, thinking yourselves wonderful after having changed just a tiny bit.

“The ‘Right Path’ refers to the Eightfold Path. Only if nothing you do, think, or say goes against the precepts—thereby removing any opportunity to reincarnate into the Three Evil Realms—will your actions be along the Right Path. Don’t assume that this path simply involves eating vegetarian, making prostrations to the Buddha, and chanting mantras. Those things merely help us to accumulate our resources of good fortune and merits; they cannot truly liberate us from life and death. Even if you have a great amount of the resources of good fortune and merits, you still must cultivate Preliminary Practices—your guru will transmit the proper methods—and only after you have seen the path, being on the Path of Vision, will you be able to begin practicing to attain liberation from life and death. If you do not have enough time in this lifetime, and lack the great causal conditions, good fortune, and merits to continuously practice to the Paths of Vision and Cultivation, then only a guru who has an affinity with you can help you become liberated from life and death if you start out by diligently accumulating the resources of good fortune and merits and cultivating preliminary practices. If you do not do these two things, then you will just be an ordinary believer. Do not assume that everyone can obtain the Phowa simply through supplication; without the resources of good fortune and merits, such would be impossible.

“Have you set foot upon this Mahayana path? Practitioners of Mahayana are those who do not seek to benefit from this lifetime. All of you have come to practice Buddhism to gain benefits in this lifetime, and therefore have nothing to do with Mahayana and Hinayana; your efforts are only related to good fortune of humans and heavens and you will still be in reincarnation. You would say you have come to practice in order to improve yourselves, but you should be very clear about the fact that everything you obtain in this lifetime is the result of what you did in your past lives; a few short years of practice and what little time you have left in this lifetime are not enough to change the karma you have accumulated over past lives, unless you walk this Mahayana path. People who do are naturally able to differentiate quite clearly between mundane and supramundane affairs, even though these two affairs may sometimes seem to be contradictory. Take doing business, for example: I refuse to make money by doing anything that violates the Dharma, and this includes deception and theft. Some people think that committing a small transgression in order to secure a profit is no big deal, and that they can just deal with the consequences afterward by making offerings and giving alms. As such, even claiming to cultivate the Bodhisattva Path every day won’t work, because you are neither practicing Mahayana nor Hinayana. Lay practitioners are certainly not qualified to practice Hinayana; instead, we practice Mahayana. Furthermore, the Mahayana practice is completely different from what we have experienced in this lifetime. Who doesn’t feel nostalgia for, and attached to, his or her family members, career, reputation, and position? The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas was spoken by Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, so prior to reciting it, we must chant his sacred name three times. For example, the former general director said that someone had made life difficult for him while he was the director; this indicates that he had not cultivated the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas at all.

“In the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas it is mentioned that even if everyone in the cosmos were to speak ill of you, you should pay your utmost respect to them as most honorable guests. If any of you ordained disciples keep clamoring about wanting people to listen to your opinions, then it means you are not practicing; if you are really capable of change, then show me. Monastics must change more quickly than lay practitioners. You have already shed the afflictions of lay practitioners, yet are still acting like them, so what was the point of becoming ordained? You have so many issues every day!

“Since you want to practice Mahayana, you must have a clear understanding that your purpose is not to change anything in this lifetime; all of that was set by your actions in your past lives, and has bloomed already. Before it has borne fruit, however, you can change the flavor of that fruit—the karmic effects—through Mahayana cultivation. If you were originally meant to go to the Hell Realm, then practicing can change this karmic retribution. For example, the Venerable Milarepa’s karmic retribution for killing people would have been to go to hell, but he implored the Venerable Marpa to transmit to him a method of attaining Buddhahood—Mahayana Buddhism—and he was prevented from falling into the Hell Realm, and attained enlightenment in his lifetime. He practiced with great diligence and under great hardship, high upon a mountain at an elevation of five thousand meters and wearing nothing but cotton garb. Nowadays you are all living in comfort, and this includes you monastics; life is far too easy for you. In India, we saw how tiny those retreat huts are. The Indian summer is so hot! Right now you have air conditioning blowing and a heap of material comforts. However, you keep arguing back and forth, wanting people to regard you first; this is why you are not practitioners.

“So many people are promoting the Dharma these days, but none of them knows what direction to practice in. The direction I am talking about here is Mahayana Buddhism. Every elder brought five hundred people, so the retinues of a few of them added up to more than two thousand people in total; this is not a small number. On the other hand, why are you so difficult to deal with? Like us, they were lay practitioners; every day they had to cook food, till the fields, do business, attend their husbands or wives, and look after their children. However, their mindset was different from yours. You want to practice in the direction of Mahayana Buddhism, but if your minds continue to be so narrow and you are constantly cultivating for the sake of your emotions, such as saying, ‘I want my kids to be healthy,’ then you are not practicing Mahayana. The body is used to repay debt; if you do not wish to do so, then you will continue to reincarnate. Everyone requests good health, but where is the justification for this? Even Lord Jigten Sumgon got sick. However, he knew that if he used methods to make himself better, he would be able to continue transmitting the Dharma. You, on the other hand, only want to get healthier so that you aren’t in pain or discomfort anymore, or because you are afraid of troubling others to take you to see the doctor all the time, to the point that you can’t even go out for a walk. This sort of mindset is not one of a Mahayana or Hinayana practitioner; it is just that of an ordinary believer, and only better than that of nonbelievers. Do not think that you are automatically practicing Buddhism just because you have taken refuge and listened to the Dharma.

“This passage describes a bunch of people who all were lay practitioners and wore ordinary clothing; they were not dressed up in bizarre or fancy garments. They were just like ordinary people except that they had adjusted their mindsets, and knew that in doing so, they had a very clear idea of what the future held for them. None of you listens; you just insist on doing things your own way. You have a great deal of freedom while practicing Buddhism; the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have never threatened or forced you. However, if you refuse to listen to what you are taught, then what are you doing here? Out there, celebrity speeches cost NT$3,000 for two hours. Let me ask you: What is your attitude when it comes to making offerings? I have never charged you this sort of money, so you feel my teachings must not be worth it. Given that your guru has not done this, why won’t you listen? Some people would not take refuge no matter what; they think they can just keep on fooling around! When the time comes, no matter who you are, I will not allow you to attend pujas anymore. I do not discriminate between disciples and family members; I treat everyone the same. I won’t even let my own family members participate in the pujas if they refuse to listen.

“This passage is quite suited to practitioners in Taiwan. The later section is addressed to both lay practitioners and monastics.

“If you do not practice in accordance with the Eightfold Path, it is very easy to go wrong. One part of this path is Right Karma. This does not refer to refraining from killing, nor does it mean observing the precepts. Rather, it means that everything we do over the course of a lifetime produces good and evil karma. Can this karma help us to become liberated from life and death? For example, if we continuously seek rebirth in the Pure Land, chanting the Buddhas’ names, performing prostrations, and making offerings every day, then we will produce good karma. If you are not attached to the idea of using your good karma to change your bad karma, then that good karma will be Right Karma, as only then can it help you to be reborn in the Pure Land and be liberated from life and death. If you are attached to the thought of dedicating merits to your karmic creditors in the hope that you will be free of your pain and afflictions, then the resulting karma will be evil karma. The good karma you obtain will allow you to practice and become liberated from life and death, but is not for you to use in the mundane world. You might say, ‘But I was born into this mundane world, so what do I do if I can’t use it here?’ Even if you do not have this sort of mindset, this force will still help you to resolve some of your mundane problems. It’s like how I often say that if you achieve attainment in the supramundane, then mundane issues will not hinder you; if you have hindrances, it is because you have not yet cultivated the supramundane path. The supramundane is the path that allows you to renounce reincarnation. These are the ways taught by the Buddha, not ones you think up yourselves.

“The Universal Gate Chapter’s use of the term ‘moist Dharma rain of nectar’ refers to sprinkling nectar. All blessings come from purity of actions, words, and thoughts; if the person bestowing the blessings has not given of his or her actions, words, and thoughts, then he or she cannot possibly bestow the blessings of nectar. There is an explanation of what nectar is in Tantra. It certainly is not water sprayed outward from a watering can, nor will chanting the Great Compassion Mantra at a cup of water turn it into Great Water of Compassion. Your continuous chanting will simply keep the water from poisoning you to death, that’s all; whether it will turn into Great Water of Compassion is doubtful. Has the person chanting the mantra awakened his or her Bodhicitta, cultivated Emptiness, and attained the ability to benefit sentient beings? If not, then how can he or she possibly transform ordinary water into Great Water of Compassion? If the cup has ‘Great Compassion Mantra’ written on it, you assume the water in it is the Great Water of Compassion. This sort of thing was never invented in the past; how can it be possible?

“What is written in the Universal Gate Chapter is not fiction; it can naturally be attained through Tantric practice.

“The sutra reads, ‘At that time, Elder Ugra knew that the other elders had all congregated, so he, by the power of the Buddha, faced Him with palms joined and asked, “O World-Honored One, I have a question, and would be honored to be granted Your ear, if You please.”’

“Elder Ugra knew that everyone had arrived. Bodhisattvas, great arhats, and their retinues had been able to attend due to the Buddha’s supernatural powers, which included all-embracing power, awe-inspiring power, and the power of good fortune and merits; this was the reason He could allow these sentient beings to go there and listen. For example, without the aid of Amitabha’s majestic, miraculous power, I could not hold the Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Pujas for Transferring Consciousness, nor would it be possible if I had not been granted blessings by the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and lineage gurus. You might say you could supplicate for their blessings too. You are welcome to try, but your wishes will not be granted. This is because you are not practitioners cultivating in the direction of Mahayana; you merely seek protection and blessings. That is exactly what you are doing, because you are even scared of taking refuge. The reason for your fear is that you do not want to be told what to do. Actually, we are all being told what to do every day; never mind the law, if your abode gets too filthy, your neighbors will come over and have words with you. Everyone wants to be free, but true freedom is being liberated from life and death.

“This elder must have had a few supernatural powers to have known that everyone had gathered. The place in Sravasti where the Buddha expounded the Dharma is quite vast; you would not be able to view it all with much clarity. According to what is written in the sutra, there were a great many people there at that time—too many to take in at a glance, just as was the case recently when I took five hundred disciples there. In other words, if this elder did not possess Divine Sight, he could not possibly have known that all the sentient beings had arrived. He said it was thanks to the Buddha’s blessings that he was able to have the supernatural power to see that they had all gotten there. Back then, no one had a telephone or drones to fly around, nor were there any wireless walkie-talkies, so how did he know all the sentient beings had arrived?

“I have been to this place, so I know what I am talking about. It is a very big area; if you stand in the middle, you cannot see the entrance. The terrain undulates; it is not completely flat. Without some supernatural powers, there would be no way to see the entire area.

“The elder said very humbly that he only knew they had arrived thanks to the Buddha’s majestic, miraculous power.

“‘I have a question, and would be honored to be granted Your ear, if You please.’ The elder addressed the Buddha with great reverence, and said, ‘There is something I’d like to ask, as long as You are willing to listen.’ To be ‘granted an ear’ indicates that a person of higher status is listening to a person of lower status. A lot of you, when seeking audience with me, speak more than I would before I’ve even opened my mouth. ‘Xu,’ meaning ‘if You please,’ means ‘if You would agree to listen.’ Many of you love to talk on and on in front of me, even though I have not given you permission to. Xu is based in courtesy and affinity. If you do not have any affinity, you could say a ton of things, but in His state of samadhi, the Buddha might be elsewhere and not hear you. The same might be true of me.

“This line makes it clear that a guru will not necessarily answer you whenever you ask a question. In the sutras, too, it is written that the Buddha might not respond if one’s query had nothing to do with the Dharma. I often say that you are welcome to ask, but whether or not I answer is my decision. You all assume that just because you have asked a question, you deserve an answer, and that if I don’t give you one, it means I have no ability or am not compassionate.

“The sutra reads, ‘When these words were spoken, the World-Honored One told the elder, “As always, I welcome your questions; you may ask whatever concerns you. I shall expound on your inquiry and bring joy to your heart.”’

“Upon hearing him, the World-Honored One said, ‘I will always listen to you and answer any questions you have.’ From this we can infer that the elder was no ordinary person. To ‘question’ here does not mean to doubt; it means that if there is anything regarding the Dharma he was not clear about, then as long as he asked, the Buddha would answer him and fill his heart with joy. ’Joy’ here means that once you have received Dharma teachings, and after your questions have been resolved, you should tell your family members. If you listen to the Dharma, yet do not go home and share with your family about it, then they will forever be ignorant of the preciousness of the Buddha’s teachings.

“The sutra reads, ‘Having heard these words, Elder Ugra said to the Buddha….’

“This elder understood etiquette, and only spoke once the Buddha had finished speaking. This is different from you; whenever I ask how I may help you, before I’ve even finished saying it, you are already clamoring for my attention. Some of you break down in tears, spilling your guts as if I were a psychologist.

“The sutra reads, ‘“O World-Honored One, if a good man or good woman who has aspired to Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi wishes to be liberated in the direction of Mahayana, has faith in Mahayana, gathers forces toward Mahayana, and rides toward Mahayana, knowing that Mahayana would protect, comfort, soothe, and inform all sentient beings….”’

“The elder only opened his mouth to speak after listening to the Buddha’s instructions. He did not say ‘if believers;’ he said ‘if a good man or a good woman’. He was referring to people who had cultivated the Ten Meritorious Acts and who were practicing along the Mahayana Path.

“‘…If a good man or good woman who has aspired to Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi’—that is, whose goal is not simply to resolve a minor personal issue. You would say that you’re just little people, after all, so how can you aspire to such greatness? The reason you should is that it takes little people to learn how to be great; those who are great already do not need to. Are you qualified enough to handle the challenges of your country, your nationality, and humanity? You are already quite great if you can solve your own problems of everyday life.

“Since you are little people, your minds must aspire to greatness. Simply put, ‘Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi’ can only be achieved if you are determined to practice Mahayana Buddhism through repentance, compassion, awakening your Bodhicitta, becoming liberated from life and death, and attaining Buddhahood. You might say that you have done none of these things; that’s okay, but you must have faith. You must listen to your guru’s teachings and put them into practice; do not merely come imploring for help whenever you have a problem and then be absent otherwise. Why do people only come when they encounter mishaps? It is because they feel what they have chanted is no longer effective. Everyone thinks they can chant and achieve attainment solo, but even this elder, who had achieved such a high degree of fruition, still had to implore the Buddha for advice. Nevertheless, some people begin to talk nonsense after only understanding a little of the Dharma. Thus, only people who had the proper mindset would benefit from the elder’s supplication for advice from the Buddha; those who did not would not receive the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha does not discriminate, but everything He said was about the right mindset for practicing Mahayana; without it and the cultivation of the Ten Meritorious Acts, nothing I say would do you any good. You might refute that by asking, ‘But why are you saying these things to us’? I have no choice: Who asked me to go to Sravasti? Who asked me to vow to cultivate Mahayana? Who asked me to aspire to Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi?!

“I have no choice but to say these things, because in the sutra are written the words, ‘liberated in the direction of Mahayana.’ The word ‘liberated’ here connotes the door to liberation. To achieve liberation from life and death, we must choose a Dharma door. The saying, ‘delve thoroughly into a Dharma door,’ does not mean practicing the Pure Land Sect or Zen Buddhism; it means entering through the door to liberation. This ‘door’ comprises a great many methods that include Zen, the Pure Land Sect, the Avatamsaka Sect, Tantra, and so on, but it is certainly a gate you must enter. Thus, ‘delve thoroughly into a Dharma door’ does not mean chanting Amitabha through this lifetime; it asks the question of whether or not you have actually aspired to become liberated from life and death. If not, then you could chant Amitabha’s name a million times and it still would not help you.

“To be ‘liberated in the direction of Mahayana’ means to become liberated by practicing Mahayana Buddhism. In other words, if you can become liberated from life and death in this lifetime but are unable to benefit sentient beings by helping them to do the same, then you are not practicing Mahayana Buddhism. The concept here, therefore, is about whether you have made a firm resolution, are continuously reminding yourself of the impermanence of death, and are frequently contemplating it. I often teach you all to think, every night when you go to sleep, that you are dead, and that when you awake it is the beginning of a new life. I have taught you this over and over, and have also taught you to chant mantras as though each line were your last. However, none of you has done this. Instead, you believe that chanting more will bring you good health and change your luck for the better. This is not Mahayana; it has absolutely nothing to do with Mahayana.

“‘Has faith in Mahayana’. That is, all of your faith should have Mahayana Buddhism as its foundation. ‘Faith’ is not superstition; it means believing in the Mahayana Dharma taught by the Buddha. As long as you practice in accordance with it, you are sure to achieve attainment someday in some future lifetime. If you believe that you can do it by constantly following the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and your guru, step by step, then you definitely will succeed one day, and will no longer doubt whether or not you are able to. At the moment, of course you cannot achieve attainment, but that does not mean you won’t be able to in the future. This faith is very important. Being unable to achieve attainment right this instant does not mean the Dharma does not work or that your guru, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas are no good. What’s delaying you is that you have insufficient causal conditions and resources of good fortune and merits, and your time has not yet come. As long as you believe, and keep practicing in this manner, then you do not need to know when it will happen; this is faith.

“‘Faith’ is not superstition, such as thinking you can be guaranteed to attain enlightenment by worshiping a certain Buddha. Of course, worshiping any Buddha will help you to achieve attainment. We must believe that the Buddha’s teachings are the absolute truth. Even if you cannot comprehend their significance, or are unable to remember or understand your guru’s teachings, as long as you believe, have listened, and put them into practice, there will come a day when they are of use to you. Thus, to ‘have faith in Mahayana’ means to stop listening to Hinayana and methods of accumulating good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms, and instead to believe in the methods taught by Mahayana Buddhism: The Six Paramitas, the Five Precepts, the Ten Meritorious Acts, and the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas! What do you believe? You have never believed before! If you do not believe, then you are not cultivating Mahayana.

“‘Gathers forces toward Mahayana’—because you have not yet become liberated from life and death, your ordinary human desires still exist. However, you should not focus these wishes on things you like or do certain things; you should let these sorts of mundane desires gather toward Mahayana. In other words, you should focus all of your behavior, words, and thoughts on the power of Mahayana blessings; only then will you gain this power. Therefore, the point of all the Dharmas I teach you is to help you gather your forces toward Mahayana; it is not to help you get well or gradually find release from the agony of your cancer, which is my job. Are you able to relieve your own pain?

“To ‘gathers forces toward Mahayana’ means to use all your actions, words, and thoughts to concentrate on Mahayana’s methods, power of cultivation, and direction. On the contrary, some disciples have gone over to another religion; that is not Mahayana Buddhism. They went against Mahayana.

“These words—to ‘ride toward Mahayana’—are quite interesting. They mean that we can ride the Dharmas of Mahayana. This is not like riding an elephant, a horse, a cow, or a car; it is about whether or not you can steer Mahayana Buddhism and let it become a tool with which you help sentient beings and attain Buddhahood or become a Bodhisattva. Do not assume that I have learned so many Dharmas for my own sake; each of them is for the benefit of sentient beings. How do you ride Mahayana? Do you have an aspiration for Mahayana? Is your heart devoted to yourself, or to sentient beings? Acting on their behalf does not simply mean coming here, kneeling before me, and claiming that you are making offerings on behalf of sentient beings; if you really are, then you will sell off all your things and make offerings.

“What sort of mindset are we in? My offerings today are not made for anyone specific; I am a sentient being, too. If I were to differentiate between others and myself, then how could I break away from the form of sentient beings as written in the Diamond Sutra? How could I cultivate kindness, compassion, joy, and giving? Compassion means not discriminating between others and oneself. As long as they are suffering, I will exchange my happiness for their pain. You do not have this attitude, and as such, have not gotten on board the vehicle of Mahayana. You are just pretend practitioners; you think doing a few good deeds means you are cultivating. Practicing Mahayana is not simply a matter of doing a few good deeds of the mundane world. It’s like that elderly disciple who passed away recently: How many ways did I come up with to prevent her from falling into the Three Evil Realms?

“This is what makes a Mahayana practitioner special. I could have ignored her; what business was it of mine, after all? Why should I have to rack my brains to keep her out of the Three Evil Realms? After she died, she was upset because she was aware of her daughters’ bickering; if I did not know this, the deceased would have felt resentment and therefore fallen into the Hell Realm. Had I not aspired to Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi, become liberated in the direction of Mahayana, and ridden toward Mahayana, then as a guru, I could not have helped any sentient being to avoid falling into the Three Evil Realms.

“Don’t assume that eating vegetarian and practicing Buddhism will keep you out of the Three Evil Realms. Even the wrong sort of thoughts can send you there; it’s just that you’ll stay there for a bit less time. The Glorious Jewel is a Buddhist center that propagates Mahayana Buddhism; if you are unable to achieve attainment in this lifetime, you should at least listen very closely. As soon as you stop doing as you are told, your karma will return in its original form. It was not that that elderly disciple did not listen and therefore was punished by the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Dharma protectors, or that her guru was annoyed with her; it was that her not listening caused all of the blessings she had accumulated to disappear, and her karma immediately reset to its original state. This happened very quickly. What happened when she returned to her original karmic state? She realized that she had done wrong, and was very aware of her mistakes; as a result, when her consciousness approached me, she felt no resentment at all, nor did she feel sad at having died. She merely hoped that her children would not commit any further wrongdoings themselves. This is a special characteristic of Mahayana practitioners. Because we all would like to prevent sentient beings from falling into the Three Evil Realms, we do our utmost to give assistance whenever the proper causal conditions exist.

“This elder in the text was speaking about good men and good women, who included his retinue and ordinary lay practitioners. If they could behave so well in ancient times, why can’t we do the same in this day and age? It is because our afflictions are getting more and more severe; everyone is burdened beneath an enormous pile of them. You cannot possibly use them to help you practice; on the contrary, you are but puppets being pulled by the strings of your afflictions.

“Your afflictions can actually help you to see more clearly whether or not you have any problems, and whether you ever initiated an aspiration in the first place. Whether you are a lay practitioner or a monastic, it is impossible to exist on this Earth, during this evil time of the Five Turbidities, without afflictions. How do we face our afflictions? The only way is to practice Mahayana Buddhism. Because you have begun cultivating Mahayana and the Bodhisattva Path, you understand very clearly that whatever happens to you has to do with sentient beings; anything bad that happens is undeniably the result of your past mistreatment of them, and even of your ongoing behavior.

Practitioners of Mahayana know that they should be thankful whenever their karmic retribution manifests, for it is an opportunity to repay one more part of their debt. None of you has this attitude; as soon as your karmic retribution rears its head, you ask your Rinpoche to bestow blessings on you so that you won’t have to suffer. If that is what you want, then you should be willing to give up your life. Who among you would dare tell me that you could do that—to stop living, immediately to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land? Not a single one of you would.

“To wish to ‘ride toward Mahayana’ does not mean we want to die; it means we have a very clear understanding that in this lifetime, we live by adapting to each rising condition and keep calm no matter what happens. Everything passes, including both good and evil affinities. Whatever we encounter, good or bad, we must use the Dharma to calm our minds; that is, we must not give rise to greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, or doubt. Since we cannot practice Hinayana or sit in meditation for a few hours every day, cultivate deep in the mountains, we must have our minds abide in the Dharma.

“It is very clear to us that the various affairs of the mundane world are impermanent, and will change over time. Good turns to bad, and bad turns to good; nothing lasts forever. Even if you think one or two or three years is a long time, it actually passes in the blink of an eye. This year has already gone by so quickly, hasn’t it? We have less and less time. In what limited time that remains, how can we cultivate to the point of being liberated from life and death? We truly must believe in Mahayana, and be devoted to its practice. So-called great love, medium love, and minor love all have their scope, but only the compassion of Mahayana is boundless. If you can practice Mahayana, then as soon as this boundless compassion emerges in you, any evil karma from your past lives that matures will do only limited harm to you. How can you cultivate to this point? By listening. If you won’t listen to the Dharmas you are taught, then no amount of teaching will have any effect on you.

“The sutra reads, ‘…knowing that Mahayana would protect… all sentient beings….’

“This is the crux of the matter. Only through Mahayana methods can sentient beings be safeguarded from falling into the Three Evil Realms; these are exactly the methods I am using. Were I to use Hinayana methods, I would not be able to keep them from going there. Hinayana method does involve freeing oneself from reincarnation, however it lacks a broad enough sense of compassion; thus, Hinayana practitioners cannot obtain blessings. As I said at Shakyamuni Buddha’s small vihara in Sravasti, ‘Anyone here today whose mind is not broad enough will not be able to obtain blessings.’ This means the same thing.

“All practitioners know Mahayana Buddhism can protect sentient beings. This word, ‘protect,’ does not mean protecting you from accidents, bankruptcy, disruption of the affection between you and your spouse, or experiencing a lack of filial piety from your children; rather, it means protecting you from falling into the Three Evil Realms. If I wish to safeguard you from such a fate, then I myself must keep from going there, too, right? Unless my aspiration is to go to the Three Evil Realms in order to liberate the sentient beings there. Only by not allowing myself to fall into those realms can I be qualified to protect others from the same. This means I must break away from all evil, right? Evil can arise from a single thought, a single word.

“A few things have happened recently that might provide examples for you to have a clearer understanding of this. These deceased disciples were not particularly naughty; they simply had some thoughts of their own. Why did they have these thoughts? They did not feel that Mahayana Buddhism could protect them, and thought I was too strict and scolded them too much. I do this because I know very well that the slightest transgression can send one straight into the Three Evil Realms. Having liberated so many sentient beings, I understand that even the scraping sound of pushing a table can make the deceased unhappy, as can having their children talk about fengshui next to them. They also can feel distressed by the percussive sounds made by Taoist priests whom their children have arranged to attend. Such unhappiness is but a thought, yet it can send them down to hell. If I did not use Mahayana Dharmas, I could not protect them from falling into the Three Evil Realms. If I were not a Mahayana practitioner, how could I know what that person was thinking? How could I know what cause was trying to send him or her to the Evil Realms?

“‘…Knowing that Mahayana would protect… all sentient beings….’ If you are a practitioner or monastic who does not know that Mahayana can protect sentient beings, and are relying only on yourself, then I urge you to stop practicing. Though Taiwan is said to be a country that practices Mahayana Buddhism, everyone here actually just cultivates for oneself; no one understands what Mahayana should be used for—the protection of sentient beings, and keeping them from falling into the Three Evil Realms and reincarnation. If you want to help in this way, then you must first resolve your own problems; if you yourself are uncertain of not falling into those realms, then what makes you think you can help sentient beings?

“When you took refuge, I said very clearly, ‘Do no evil, and cultivate all good.’ I have never deceived you. I also told you the importance of it. Why don’t you ever listen? It is because you do not know that Mahayana can protect you. All you think about is how Buddhism can allow you to live in comfort! If this is how you think, I urge you to stop practicing; if you follow another religion, it can make you feel better immediately, as though your life has improved. The concept of Buddhism is that after you have genuinely adjusted your mindset, and can come to realize the truths written in the sutra—‘be liberated in the direction of Mahayana,’ ‘has faith in Mahayana,’ ‘gathers forces toward Mahayana,’ ‘rides toward Mahayana,’ ‘knowing.. Mahayana’—only then can you know what you are doing.

“Therefore, I am grateful to Shakyamuni Buddha for allowing me to open the sutra up to this section. It was His compassion, as well as that of His Holiness, that instructed me to go to Sravasti this year. Originally I was to attend the consecration ceremony of a temple there this year, but later, His Holiness said the temple was not ready. However, given that five hundred of us had already prepared to go, he said, ‘Come on over then!’ Actually, the point is that there are blessings when going to any sacred site; as for what sort, it all depends. If your aspiration is for the Human and Heaven Realms, then those are the sorts of blessings you will obtain; you will not be able to resolve your karma of past lives in this lifetime, transform it, or repay your debt, unless with the help of a meritorious mentor. I have expounded so much of the Dharma to you, yet I still cannot get through. All I can say is that I must have heavy karma, which hinders me from being able to communicate better; this is the reason you won’t listen. ‘…Knowing that Mahayana would protect… sentient beings’—this line is quite clear. If you keep saying you are practicing Mahayana, yet are unhappy or dissatisfied with anything anyone says to you, then what sort of Mahayana are you really practicing? Are you cultivating hatred? What is the point of constantly fighting with others in an effort to prevail over them?

“The sutra reads, ‘…comfort, soothe, and inform all sentient beings….”’
“Take, for example, Disciple Jia, who passed away not long ago. Had I not used Mahayana to show him a guru’s compassion, and that I could help him to keep from falling into the Three Evil Realms, wouldn’t you say he’d have suffered? Why were his eyes and mouth open at the time of his death? The reason is that when he was a human, he did not understand how capable his guru is; he only understood my power once he had become a ghost—but by then it was too late. Thus, if you want to find out how powerful I am, turn into ghosts, and then you’ll all know. As soon as I blessed this disciple, for example, his eyes and mouth shut immediately and he felt very happy, because he finally understood. Therefore, although you have this karmic body that can obstruct your wisdom, you cannot cultivate without it, so you should not feel annoyed with it. Do not feel that, out of annoyance with your physical body, you should commit suicide; doing so would put you in hell.

“Mahayana Buddhism can comfort the fearful minds of sentient beings. They do not understand that karmic effects are a necessary part of their future, so they are afraid of the future. Mahayana practitioners can explain cause and effect to them so that they know what they should do. To ‘comfort, soothe, and inform all sentient beings’ means to quell their fears and help them to realize that the power of the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ compassion can definitely help them to escape reincarnation and keep them from falling into the Three Evil Realms. Despite what you might think, Mahayana practice does not simply involve knocking on a wooden fish and reciting a few sutras every day; the most vital component is your mind. If your attitude is wrong, then even if you were to see the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas with your own eyes, or even Shakyamuni Buddha Himself, it still would not help you.

“The vow I made that day at Sravasti, in the very place Shakyamuni Buddha expounded the Dharma, has been quite useful; it allowed me to open up to this page so that I could berate you all. As it happens, this is exactly what you needed. Such a coincidence! This section was spoken in Sravasti, and it was an elder who went there to supplicate. These are what blessings are! ‘Blessings’ that simply make you have better health are not real blessings; true blessings involve promoting the Dharma in this way. Therefore, you should not constantly request blessings from me, because you haven’t even initiated a great aspiration yet. Though I cannot speak publicly about the vow I made there, it at least won Shakyamuni Buddha’s approval, because He allowed me this opportunity to expound this section of the sutra. I am different from others in that I was not trained in giving sutra lectures; I expound whatever passage I open them up to. This is the page I opened to a little while ago in my private lounge, and I did not continue leafing over to the next page. This is what makes this so auspicious. Only after opening to this page and glancing at it did I see that it was about a place I had been to and understand that Shakyamuni Buddha had wanted me to speak about this section here today.

“That’s all I’ll talk about for today; I wanted you all to understand Mahayana Buddhism. In the sutra expounded today it was, in particular, an elder who supplicated and who also was a lay practitioner. In His compassion, Shakyamuni Buddha has allowed us to understand that cultivation is not restricted to monastics or to lay practitioners; rather, we all practice according to our causal conditions. The Buddha granted this lay elder permission to seek audience, and then expounded Mahayana Dharma, not Hinayana, because the former is what lay practitioners must practice. Mahayana Dharma methods do not demand that you sell all your possessions in order to make offerings and give alms; they require that you change your attitude and not be so narrowminded as to only practice for the sake of your own health or family members. Do others not have family, too? Are your family members the greatest? If you think so, then yours is not a Mahayana mindset, which is focused on sentient beings: A Mahayana practitioner would only escape suffering once all sentient beings have done so first.

“My expounding of this section today is actually Shakyamuni Buddha’s admonishing you through me. If you continue to be so selfish and narrowminded, then Mahayana Buddhism really won’t be any of your concern anymore. You will obtain some good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms, which you might be able to use in a future lifetime, but because you do not have faith in the Dharma spoken by the Buddha, you are ignorant. This is the ‘ignorance’ referred to when we talk about greed, hatred, and ignorance; it means you do not believe in cause and effect. Believing in causality should not be conceptualized by saying ‘I believe in cause and effect, and therefore will not commit any wrongdoings’; it is knowing that anything you do will have karmic effects in the future.

“The Buddha kept urging people to practice Mahayana Buddhism, yet you refuse to listen; this means you do not believe in the cause and effect about which He spoke. Those who practice Mahayana are bound to become Bodhisattvas and attain Buddhahood in some future lifetime, and will certainly benefit sentient beings, so this necessarily involves the principle of causality. If you refuse to listen, and are unwilling to act on these teachings, it means you do not believe in cause and effect or the Dharma. As such, you will fall into the Animal Realm. Because everything the Buddha taught us was to help us break away from all evil and do only good, this means that if you practice Mahayana, you will of course stop doing any evil deeds.

“One thing special about cultivating Mahayana is that sometimes you might think someone’s actions seem harmful to sentient beings, but they aren’t necessarily so. For this reason, it is even more important to have a guru when practicing, because a guru will tell you what you may and may not do, and so on. When you are unclear yourself, yet you tell people that this is not okay to do and that is not okay to do, either, then they will think you are crazy. For example, I am a lay guru who cultivates Mahayana Buddhism; whenever people invite me out to eat or meet me over some business, I do not insist that we meet at a vegetarian restaurant. As a Mahayana practitioner, I can go anywhere, as long as I don’t eat meat myself.

“Of course, these days people know I am a Rinpoche, so whenever I visit a restaurant, they go to great lengths to make it convenient for me to eat vegetarian—though I was able to eat anywhere before I was a Rinpoche, too; even if no vegetarian dishes were available, I at least could get just as full on a bowl of rice. I do not discriminate between eating establishments, nor do I ever go into the kitchen to check if the chef’s knives have been used to chop up meat, or refuse to eat vegetables cut with the same blades. Such behavior would not accord with Mahayana Buddhism. After all, are you eating the knife or the vegetables? Some vegetarians require that their food be cooked in pots and pans that have not been used to prepare meat. So are they eating the pots and pans or the vegetables?

“The emphasis of Mahayana Buddhism is one’s motive, not one’s actions. If your motive is to eat vegetarian and not commit acts of killing, then if someone accidentally arranges a meal in a way that is unacceptable to you, it does not mean that person wishes to harm you, nor does it mean you have broken the precepts. You must understand this concept. However, you also may not be casual about what you eat, either. I used to have a disciple whose mother-in-law cooked chicken soup for him; he drank the soup but did not eat the chicken in it. He should not have drunk the soup at all. Until you have achieved the state of attainment I have reached, you should err on the side of caution—and do not talk nonsense by saying ‘Rinpoche said it’s okay.’ If you get a meat-eating boyfriend and he has just eaten some garlic, is it okay to kiss him and then chant mantras straightaway? Not at all; people who chant mantras absolutely must not eat garlic.

“The most important things in Mahayana practice are your motive and aspiration. If you have formed a proper aspiration, then it is not important if your actions are not what others would expect. For example, I often reprimand you, and you wonder how I can be compassionate and scold you at the same time. However, without my reprimands, how could you be made to listen? You only listen after I’ve scolded you! It’s just like the line I talked about last time, ‘Embodiment of compassion and precepts strikes open one’s mind like thunder.’ If I do not strike your minds open, you will not listen. If I speak kindly to you, you really can’t hear me, but when I berate you, you give me your full attention. Once you’ve listened, you’ll remember, and one day what I’ve said will be of some use to you. False compassion and flattery will send a person to hell, and in Buddhism it is said that flatterers will go to hell as well.

“The most vital essence of Mahayana lies in determining the motive behind your every action and utterance. Is it to benefit others? Or were you thinking about your own benefit, even just a tiny bit? Some people think all they have to do is good deeds, but that is not practicing Mahayana Buddhism, because I do not see myself as doing good deeds. You should not turn that around and argue, ‘I don’t feel that I’m doing any evil deeds.’ In the mind of a Bodhisattva, the difference between good and evil lies in cause and effect. For example, taking a certain action in some places might be considered good, whereas in another place it might be considered evil; it is very difficult to generalize. In modern times, people often like to use mundane culture, customs, and habits as their motives for practicing Buddhism. However, Mahayana breaks this mold; it requires a practitioner’s mind to change, and for one to determine the motive behind everything. In the Avatamsaka Sutra there is mention of a practitioner who visited a brothel to wash the prostitutes’ feet. This is the lowliest sort of work, yet he went there to liberate those women. People who do not understand say that is perverted. This practitioner was a Bodhisattva, so you should not try to follow his example! These stories tell us that Bodhisattvas benefit sentient beings in so many ways that are beyond our comprehension. As long as one’s motive is to help sentient beings to become liberated from life and death, then one is practicing Mahayana. The motive is not to obtain happiness for sentient beings; it is to keep them from falling into the Three Evil Realms, and to allow them to be liberated from reincarnation.

“I scolded Disciple Jia repeatedly, the one who passed away recently; despite that, my motive was to keep him from falling into the Three Evil Realms. Had I not berated him and given him a hard time, he would not have known where he’d been at fault; he would have continued thinking himself a very respectful, pious disciple of the Buddha. Only after I scolded him did he realize that he had not yet repented for certain actions and had not completely listened to the Dharmas I’d spoken; he’d been living according to his own concepts. Finding suitable means to help sentient beings is not so simple.

“For the moment, let’s not talk about the fact that the motive behind my Mahayana practice was for his benefit; just giving him a slap would have been good for him. We also must not fail to understand mundane affairs. Practicing Buddhism in this evil time of the Five Turbidities is exceedingly difficult. However, as a result of living in this time, our impetus is even stronger. Practicing does not simply involve coming here to listen to the Dharma. You must ask yourself: Have you amended your attitude? Have you continuously amended your ways in accordance with the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas? If you have not changed, then what are you practicing? You are merely cultivating the Human and Heaven Paths. As such, you will not be able to resolve your actions from past lives in this lifetime. I will say again: I will not live to a hundred, so you cannot keep relying on me. Once I am gone, no one will help you, and you should not assume you won’t die like this. Everyone goes through the same process while dying. If you aren’t practicing Buddhism for that moment of death, then why are you practicing? Cultivation is all a preparation for that second in which you die. If you are not prepared and think you won’t suffer that fate, then you should stop coming here. Constantly doing good deeds will bring a little improvement into your current lifetime, too, but as Shakyamuni Buddha said, the point of practicing Buddhism is to prepare for the great matters of life and death. We must be prepared and have sufficient resources. Take Disciple Jia, for example: Even though he did not know to repent, he nevertheless accumulated resources over the course of a few decades because, by chance, I was still around; had I already died, then who would have helped him? Had I not been here, his eyes and mouth would have remained open after he died; thus, he most certainly would not have gone to the Three Virtuous Realms.

“Do not think of practicing Buddhism as a way of seeking blessings, protection, good health, or a harmonious family life; none of these is important. Every one of you says you are grateful to your guru for bringing harmony to your family, but what does that even have to do with me? It’s not like you have allocated harmonious delight to me; your happiness is unrelated to me. A guru is definitely not here to satisfy your desires. If your family is harmonious, then while on your deathbed you will cling to this world and implore the Bodhisattvas to allow you to live a year longer; if your children are not filial and your family is not harmonious, then these circumstances, on the contrary, will help you to let go more easily. If it is harmonious, that is fine, and if not, then that is fine too; the same goes for whether you are healthy or not. These things have to do with karmic retribution, unless your having good health is to the benefit of sentient beings. Even if you are healthy now, one day you are bound to die. I have never met anyone who is immortal. When you go home tonight, sit down and think long and hard about what your motive for practicing Buddhism is. If it is not the things I’ve spoken of today, then I advise you to go home—to the home of reincarnation. With so many disciples, I am getting very tired of constantly having to prop you all up.

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

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Updated on May 30, 2018