His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – January 13, 2018

On January 13th, 2018, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche presided over the auspicious Amitayus Puja and Amitayus Fire Offering at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Kyoto, Japan. A famous, eighty-year-old chado master from Kyoto participated in this distinguished puja, as well as a university professor researching the Manchu Tripitaka. A total of 174 attended, including nineteen believers from Japan and Taiwan and 155 Japanese, Chinese, and Taiwanese disciples. The auspicious puja came to a perfect conclusion.

At 10:00 in the morning, Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne to bestow teachings:

“Today I am going to perform the Amitayus. There is no record of Amitayus in Exoteric Buddhism. In Buddhism, there are two categories: One is Exoteric, which means ‘evident’ and ‘clear;’ its practitioners know, from reading the sutras, which theories, foundations, and so on Shakyamuni Buddha expounded. The other is Tantra. Exoteric Buddhism is about theory—principles—whereas Tantra is about actually using them. That is, by practicing Tantra based on Exoteric theory, practitioners can become liberated from life and death in this lifetime. Another meaning of ‘using them’ is learning how, with Exoteric Buddhism as a foundation, we can help all sentient beings to leave behind the suffering of reincarnation.

“In the time of Shakyamuni, did the Buddha teach Tantra? These days many researchers of Buddhism claim that there is no mention of Tantra in the sutras. However, in these same texts, there is constant mention from the Buddha that the secret meaning of Tathagata cannot be understood by ordinary people. ‘Secret’ does not mean mysterious. It is like how an elementary school student cannot comprehend a university professor’s lectures: To the child, such lessons would seem to be secrets. From the point of view of those of you who consider yourselves Buddhists, the Buddha’s wisdom must seem secretive, too. In order to understand the Buddha’s Dharma activities and how He benefits sentient beings, in addition to having a foundation in Exoteric teachings, we also must learn the practical methods.

“Tantra has rules—‘the Dharma cannot be transmitted to six ears’—which means that when a third person is present, it must not be taught. More than ten years ago, my root guru, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, transmitted a very secret Dharma text to me. At the time we were in his retreat hut in India, and after transmitting the Dharma, he also granted me empowerment in it. When His Holiness was halfway through the transmission, his mother walked in, not realizing what was happening. No sooner did she enter than His Holiness completely stopped all transmission, and did not utter a word or ask her to leave; he simply looked at her. His Holiness’s mother understands Tantric rules, so as soon as she saw that the Dharma was being transmitted, she apologized, turned around, and left. As you can see, even though she was his own mother, since she was not allowed to learn this Dharma, she knew she could not even listen to it. By contrast, you think that if you want to learn Tantra, all you have to do is read a Dharma text and some sutras. As His Holiness has said in the past, a Dharma text merely contains written words; as for how to practice the pith, you absolutely must be a disciple and receive a direct transmission of it from your guru. If you do not have a guru to do this for you, then even if you were to study the Dharma text, you still would not know how to do it.

“Why is Tantra so rigorous? In terms of one’s own practice, the highest level one can reach is to attain Buddhahood before passing away. This does not entail physically transforming into a Buddha; it means completely unlocking the essence of Buddhahood. Nearly as good would be to attain Buddhahood while in the intermediate state, during the first forty-nine days after death; however, at worst, one is at least certain to attain Buddhahood after reincarnating for seventeen lifetimes. If those of you who come here to participate in the pujas do not have such a realization to attain Buddhahood, cannot give rise to a repentant attitude upon realizing that you have committed a lot of evil acts through lifetime after lifetime, and do not implore your guru, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas to bless you with enough time to practice Buddhism in this lifetime, then Tantra has nothing to do with you.

“Tantra, what we refer to as the Vajrayana Vehicle, is a method of cultivating the Bodhisattva Path and attaining Buddhahood. All Vajrayana gurus use Tantra to benefit sentient beings. As for whether or not they will transmit it, this depends on their disciples’ root capacities. Your root capacity has nothing to do with your status, position, education, or wealth. For example, I am of Han ethnicity, and cannot even speak Tibetan; in the more than eight hundred years of the Drikung Kagyu’s history, I am the only person of my ethnic background to have attained the fruition of a Rinpoche in this lifetime. This is thanks to constant training from His Holiness. The ability to learn Tantra does not depend on what your racial background is or whether or not you understand Tibetan. Soon after taking refuge in His Holiness, I once asked him whether or not I should learn Tibetan. He told me not to waste my time, because these days a lot of Dharma texts have been translated into Chinese, and the most vital thing is whether or not one’s guru has orally transmitted them. From this it is evident that Buddhism does not attach so much importance to the written word; rather, it is the mind that is most important. The more educated a person gets, the more difficult it becomes for him or her to learn the Dharma, due to the fact that people think they can understand scripture simply by reading it.

“Apart from sentient beings suffering in the Hell Realm, everyone, including animals, hopes to live longer; no one wants to die. This is the purpose of performing the Amitayus today. You all know that everyone is bound to die someday, but at the same time, you hope your doctor will save you and keep you alive. This is quite contradictory. Where does human longevity come from? It comes from the accumulated karmic effects of the good deeds you have performed throughout your past lives. If, in the past, you have come in contact with Buddhism, done things that benefit sentient beings, refrained from killing, helped the ill, and observed filial piety toward your parents, then you will enjoy longevity in this lifetime.

“People begin to deplete their longevity from the time they are in their mothers’ wombs. How do you exhaust yours? Basically, it depends on your physical condition. Despite how advanced medicine is in this day and age, there still isn’t a single doctor who can definitively tell us why our bodies lose function and die. No treatises have been written that can explain this. Present-day medicine says that based on the current level of medical development and people’s physical conditions, everyone should at least be able to have a lifespan of 120 years, yet very few people ever live that long. Shakyamuni Buddha said that humans are capable of living to a maximum age of 80,000 years old. Once they have reached this age, they will lose one year per one hundred years of longevity until their lifespans have been shortened to just ten years, at which point they will again grow until they are 80,000 years in length again. At present, human lifespans are in a stage of reduction; on average, people live until the age of seventy. You would point out that some people can live for a very long time, but the longevity Shakyamuni Buddha spoke of was an average for all humanity. There are places right now in which very few people live to the age of thirty, and others where people get sick and pass away when they are only in their sixties; many others die from accidents.

“The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are compassionate, and know about all the evil acts committed by sentient beings through lifetime after lifetime. They hope those people who have formed connections with them will have enough time to accumulate good fortune in this lifetime so as not to fall into the Three Evil Realms after they pass away. A guru’s work is to continuously hold pujas so that people can form connections with the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and the guru. Those who have formed such connections can certainly be helped by their guru before they die. They will still get sick, just as others do, but their suffering at their time of death will be greatly alleviated. For example, cancer patients are in agony right up until their last breath, so they have to constantly be administered morphine injections. However, as long as they have participated in pujas and have faith in their guru, and even if they have not practiced or learned Buddhism, have been disobedient by continuously breaking the precepts (that is, they have eaten meat, drunk alcohol, and done bad deeds), because they have formed this affinity, their guru can still protect them so that they do not need to suffer so much before they die. If they suffer a lot before death, then before they stop breathing they will give rise to hatred. This resentment will cause them to fall into the Hell Realm; if they are attached to this world, they will descend into the Animal Realm; and if they are unwilling to let go of their riches, they will fall into the Hungry Ghost Realm. The job of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and gurus is to prevent you from falling into those Three Evil Realms.

“The Amitayus can allow you to restore some of the longevity you have consumed in this lifetime due to having eaten the flesh of sentient beings. It is written in the sutras that wanton consumption of the flesh of sentient beings will result in many illnesses and a shortened lifespan. Some might say, ‘But some people who eat meat still end up living well into their eighties!’ Nevertheless, they still will be afflicted with many illnesses. I am seventy-one years old, but I have the physical condition of a man in his thirties. Buddhism requires us to eat vegetarian not because of our belief in the Buddha, but because we realize that eating the flesh of sentient beings can, in severe cases, cause us to fall into the Hell Realm after we die; and at the very least, it will frequently make us ill, and shorten our lifespans. Seeing a doctor will only bring you temporary relief from your suffering; it cannot be fundamentally resolved that way. Some people say those who do not eat meat lack nutrients, but I stopped eating meat when I was in my thirties. At the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center there are many young children who began eating vegetarian while they were still in their mothers’ wombs, yet they were born healthier than average and were relatively easy to raise.

“What shortens or consumes our lifespans is, first of all, eating meat; and second of all, being full of hatred. Hatred does not mean losing your temper; it refers to harboring resentment. It means remembering how others have wronged you and constantly looking for a chance for vengeance. And if you cannot take revenge, it means feeling happy when you hear about something bad befalling your enemy. For example, you might see people with whom you are in competition in your career or at the workplace as your enemies, and whenever they do badly, you are happy. This is hatred; hatred will shorten your lifespan.

“The next thing that shortens your longevity is indulging in lustful, unbridled pleasure. For example, all in the name of doing business, you go out at night to eat and drink your fill, and then let loose at certain sorts of venues. Everyone loves to celebrate birthdays and Christmas, but such enjoyment shortens your longevity. I have not celebrated a birthday since I took refuge in Buddhism. In the sutras, a birthday is referred to as a ‘day of difficulty for one’s mother;’ rather than party on our birthdays, we should cherish the memories of our mothers’ kindness. When celebrating your birthday, many ghosts and deities become aware of it and come to suck your longevity from you. This is especially true if, while celebrating your birthday, you take life, eat meat, or drink alcohol. I have not celebrated a birthday since I was thirty-five years old, and I have deliberately concealed my date of birth from everyone. Years ago, when I was but a year old, my parents fled the Mainland to Hong Kong with me in their arms. Once we got there, I did not have a birth certificate issued by the Hong Kong government, so when my father was applying for a resident permit for me, he intentionally subtracted a year from my actual age. The birth date on my ID card was fake. Thus, when you celebrate my birthday for me based on that date, it actually has nothing to do with me. From the get-go, my father thought of all these things for me, and saved me from having my lifespan shortened. I use my longevity to help sentient beings, which I will always continue to do as long as I still have years left to live, and as long as the causal conditions exist.

“This Dharma text was not transmitted by Shakyamuni Buddha, but by Mother Buddha Machig Drubpejema. The Amitayus is Amitabha’s Sambhogakaya. All Buddhas have three bodies: Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya. Buddhas manifest in Their Dharmakaya form to help people who are already cultivating the Buddha vehicle; that is, practitioners of Vajrayana, as well as those who have already attained Buddhahood. People practicing the Bodhisattva vehicle are helped by a Buddha’s Sambhogakaya form, whereas the Nirmanakaya manifests to assist those who have absolute faith in the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and their guru. Each emanation is a single representative; Buddha images or statues, Dharma texts, sutras, and gurus are all emanations of Buddhas that have come to help you. The Amitayus is a manifestation of the Sambhogakaya. By being able to participate in this puja today, you have sewn karmic seeds to grow into Bodhisattvas in the future. As long as you continue doing good deeds with diligence from now on, you will be able to recover the longevity you have consumed.

“Another key point is that we implore the Amitayus to bless us with long life devoid of illness. If you live a long life but are constantly getting sick, then you cannot practice. The point of this life is not to enjoy ourselves; it is to give us a chance for continuous cultivation. That does not mean we have to cultivate in isolation, deep in the mountains; Vajrayana is should be practiced constantly, every second, for twenty-four hours straight. Performing the Amitayus can bless us to avoid accidental death. Through lifetime after lifetime, we have unwittingly committed a great many killing acts. You might say that you have not killed anyone. Committing murder is indeed a very serious offence; even if you do not die immediately, you will still die after having a lot of accidents. However, in this lifetime if you eat meat, endorse the eating of meat, or feel happy at the sight of others’ killing, then you will also attract mishaps to you, including car accidents, natural disasters, fires, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes, and going to see the wrong sort of doctor when you get sick. This can be especially grave these days, given how many cancer patients are told to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Everyone is well aware that chemotherapy is toxic. Many cancer patients die not because of their cancer cells, but because other organs in their bodies end up getting poisoned.

“For example, when I was in my forties, I got skin cancer that not even repeating cycles of chemotherapy could cure. I did not implore the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for help or perform any special Dharmas, nor did I see any doctors or take any medicine. Would you say I got cured? I think I did. With this sort of cancer, once it metastasizes, you only have a year at most to live. Why did I survive? I understood very clearly that having grown up in Hong Kong and eaten seafood daily in my youth, I had definitely participated in the death of sentient beings. How many lives are in a plate of shrimp? A single crab was not enough to fill me; I always had to eat two or three, at least. Let’s not talk about cause and effect for now; these days, all seafood contains toxins. Shrimp eat rotten corpses, small fish eat the shrimp, and then they in turn are eaten by bigger fish. Medicine has proved the flesh of deep sea fish contains toxins; once we put all those fish in our stomachs, the poison enters our cells, and then our bodies have become rife with such things as skin cancer and so on. However, none of you believes this; you all think that because so many other people are eating seafood, it won’t make a difference if just one more does. However, since you possessed the causal conditions to attend today’s puja, this is something I have to talk about. I myself am a very obvious example; because I used to love eating seafood, I got skin cancer when I was in my forties—but because I deeply believed in cause and effect, completely accepted what had happened to me, and went on to cultivate very diligently and help sentient beings, I was able to transform my situation.

“I am performing the Amitayus for you today in order to restore the longevity you have consumed by committing evil acts. Whether or not all of it can be restored depends on your level of determination. The purpose of restoring your longevity is not to let you see your grandchildren be born and have children of their own, nor is it to enable you to get rich. During the puja, you all should give rise to a repentant attitude, and repent for all of the evil karma you have created throughout your past lives as a result of having been deluded. I hope you all can develop compassion and that no sentient beings will die untimely deaths (that is, perish before their longevity has been used up). If you participate in the puja with an attitude of repentance and compassion, benefits are certain to appear. Finally, you must give rise to faith. Faith is not superstition; it is believing that the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and gurus help us not for their own self-benefit, but to give sentient beings the ability to attain Buddhahood someday. It is to help you plant good causal conditions so that you can keep practicing diligently until one day you yourselves have attained Buddhahood.

“Some people would have said, ‘It doesn’t matter; I’ll deal with the consequences in my next lifetime.’ However, what happens in your next life is determined by your actions in this one. After participating in this puja, if you can truly realize that you have done more evil than good in this lifetime, and are actually able to change, then in your future lives you will not suffer as much as you are now. Each of you can examine yourself, and you each will face death. You will understand it better than anyone else; even doctors do not understand the process of death. If you die very peacefully, without suffering, then your next lifetime is bound to be a good one. Why is it that people whom I have blessed, and who originally were undergoing a lot of torment and sorrow before death, end up not suffering as much and even pass away with smiles on their faces? It is because they know that in their next life they will not fall into the Hell, Hungry Ghost, or Animal Realms. This is not something that ordinary monastics can accomplish; it can only be done by gurus able to perform Tantra.

“Now I will begin to perform the Dharma. While doing it, I will explain to you the parts that can be explained, but not those that can’t.”

Afterward, H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued bestowing teachings:

“The lines I recited just now are a prayer for all the lineage gurus to bless me and grant me the Dharma of the Amitayus yidam. Your guru can help you to eliminate bad causal conditions, and implore the Dharma protectors to come and protect you; he also can focus and concentrate the power of his great compassion on imploring the yidam Amitayus to take pity on all sentient beings so that in the future they can be reborn in the immortal Buddha’s Pure Land—the land of Amitabha.

“While we are holding this puja here, right now, the void is full of many non-human sentient beings that are unable to enter. The ritual I performed a moment ago involved our giving alms of food that have been blessed through chanting mantras. Once they have eaten them, any hatred that would have interfered with the puja is eliminated. By way of this offering, we pray that the presiding guru and the puja participants can be free of illness, live long lives, and be empowered to practice this Dharma. That does not mean that you can practice it just because you want to; you must first be authorized to do so by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The next part we recited involves eliminating all untimely death, disease, and demonic hindrances. A lot of illnesses have to do with demons and ghosts. You are not practitioners, so demons usually won’t come to mess with you, but ghosts definitely will. People who like to eat the flesh of sentient beings, drink a lot of alcohol, and frequently commit wrongdoings will attract ghosts to them. Demons tend to come and hinder practitioners, such as those who want to use Buddhism to make a name for themselves or make a lot of money.

“Having nightmares—for example, dreams of people chasing you down and killing you, of your murdering people, of falling off a cliff, or of drowning—indicates that such events will happen in your future. Even if they do not occur in this lifetime, there still is a chance that you will fall into hell. People who have had these sorts of dreams should understand that they have committed many evil acts in their past lives. The prediction of ill omens is bad; you should distance yourself from that. If you continue having this sort of nightmare, you will awake from it feeling unable to focus and, during the daytime, you will feel as though you have not gotten enough sleep.

“May this offering lead to world peace. If there are wars, political unrest, and so many other problems around the world, then it is very difficult to practice. ‘Harvest’ here means that if we have sufficient food, then we can reap all the Dharmas. It is hoped that by way of this prayer we can obtain auspicious peace and happiness, and have all of our wishes fulfilled. This does not refer to such desires as wanting to get married, have a good career, or write essays; it means being able to accomplish all matters that benefit sentient beings. This has nothing to do with you; it refers to the presiding guru.

“The part we just went over requires the guru to visualize himself as being the same as Amitayus, and as welcoming the Amitayus yidam; afterward, the guru must recite a passage from the prayer to accumulate the good fortune, merits, and resources necessary to perform this Dharma.

“This section involves the guru’s first visualizing the manifestation of the yidam Amitayus, and then performing a simple, short empowerment. A guru, like you, possesses a karmic body—a human body. By way of empowerment, in order to benefit sentient beings, he transforms his ordinary body into a Dharma entity that is just as pure in thoughts, words, and actions as the yidam.

“‘Immeasurable life’ refers to the fact that if we can be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land, then our longevity will be infinite, because life and death do not exist there. Life necessitates death, and vice versa; it goes on and on in a continuous cycle. The Buddha of Immeasurable Life is Amitabha; His name is the mantra of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life, which is also known as the Buddha of Immeasurable Light.

“The first line of the Dharma text reads, ‘The worldly teacher is the yidam Amitayus.’ ‘Worldly’ here does not indicate the reincarnating mundane world of human Earth; it refers to the entire universe. ‘Teacher’ refers to the teacher who guides and teaches us. The yidam is Amitayus.

“The second line reads, ‘All untimely deaths will be eliminated.’ An example of ‘untimely death’ is having originally had the longevity to live until we were eighty years old, but then perhaps dying early due to illness, an accident, taking the wrong medicine, drinking too much alcohol, getting food-poisoning, and so on. An occurrence causing our early death is called “an untimely death.” There is actually no such thing as an ‘accident’; all such occurrences are results of the evil karma we ourselves have created, and we pray that our guru and the yidam can completely eliminate our untimely deaths.

“The third line reads, ‘A place to rely on for all suffering sentient beings in need of such.’ Do not assume that having education, wealth, and family means we have something to rely on. All of these things are karmic effects of what we did in our past lives. Once those effects have matured, we have nothing left. It doesn’t matter how famous, rich, or powerful you are, or how big your family is; when it is your time to die, you will have nothing to rely on. Doctors can merely perform a few invasive treatments and keep your heart beating, thus prolonging your agony. The only things anyone can really rely on are the Dharma, the yidam, and one’s guru. Suffering does not mean what you think it does; it is not a lack of money in the human world, nor is it failure to obtain what you want. Those are desires. True suffering comprises the eight types of suffering one experiences in life, the most severe of which are those of illness and death—and which neither medicine nor science can ultimately resolve. These sufferings can only be alleviated to the minimum, and even ended, by having faith in, and affinity with, the gurus, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas. Only the Dharma and our guru can serve as pillars for us to rely on. If that is what we want to do, then we must listen.

“The final line is about making prostrations in front of Amitabha. Making prostrations indicates that you completely believe, have listened, and are going to act on what you have heard. Do not assume that you will obtain blessings and protection just from participating in a puja; if, afterward, you go out and resume living as you please, then you will not. Having blessings and protection depends on you: If you have listened, and are willing to put what you have learned into practice, then these blessings and protection will appear. If you have only listened but are unwilling to act on it, then you will merely have formed an affinity.”

Next, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the attendees in a long chanting of the Amitayus Mantra. Afterward the guru said, “Just now we made an offering, and after that came a prayer. We prayed that the yidam will bless the guru’s activities and increase his longevity. ‘Activities’ refers to Buddhist activities. We hope that all hindrances will be removed so that countless sentient beings can become liberated from untimely death, the eight great catastrophes, and the sixteen types of fear, so that they may enjoy a peaceful world that is free from drought, war, and chaos. We also pray for all disasters such as untimely death and so on will be eliminated for the presiding guru and for all the puja participants. I hope that this ritual will succeed so that you get all that you implore for. May you be devoid of evil causes and bad affinities, and may your longevity, good fortune, and wealth increase like the waxing moon, gradually growing fuller, meaning perfectly complete. Having plenty of longevity, good fortune, and wealth is not so that you can use these things for selfish purposes; it is so that you can help many sentient beings. Besides longevity you also need good fortune and wealth, because if you live a long time but do not have good fortune, then you will be sick all the time, lots of things will not go your way, and you will always be worrying about this and that. Even if you possess longevity and good fortune, without wealth you will not be able to live. The point of increasing it is not to satisfy your desires; it is to fulfil your most basic needs. For example, if you need to eat, then wealth will appear, as will good fortune when you need to practice. If you vow to be reborn in the Pure Land at the end of this lifetime, then longevity will appear, giving you enough time to accumulate the good fortune you need to get there and, ultimately, attain the same fruition as Amitabha Buddha. Throughout my lifetimes prior to attaining Buddhahood, Amitayus is my yidam. I pray that He will bless all my accomplishments and activities so that they are unhindered.

“Next is a part that many Rinpoches are unwilling to perform. Through the guru, your four major elements of earth, wind, water, and fire elements are restored and put in balance. It is written in the sutras that the human body consists of these four main elements. Earth comprises our bones and muscles; wind is the qi within our bodies, which can give impetus to the circulation and nutrition of our blood and fluids; fire is the body’s energy; and water comprises all liquids within the body, including blood, endocrine secretions, lymphatic fluids, and so on. When people get sick, it is because their four elements are out of balance; they have either more or less than they should of earth, wind, water, or fire. Unless we have brought extremely severe evil karma with us into the womb when we reincarnate, our mother’s blood and father’s essence combine there to produce an embryo, and the consciousness that has affinity from past lives with the father and the mother passes into this embryo. After that happens, the blessings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cause the four major elements within this embryo to reach equilibrium and develop. Upon being born, then, the infant will have the best and most perfect body, unless it has carried with it evil karma from past lives. As with a person’s life, if, while you are in the womb, your mother begins eating meat and your father commits evil acts, then your four major elements will start to erode; once you are born, they will be out of balance, and illnesses will emerge one after another. Even taking medicine and seeing a doctor will only bring you partial treatment; in one area you might be cured, but problems will spring up in another.

“Additionally, having one’s four major elements out of balance also has to do with greed. Greed is desire. It is not that you are not allowed to eat, study, pursue a career, or make a boyfriend or girlfriend; being a lay practitioner is fine to have those things. Greed refers to having something and then still wanting more of it. If you continuously pursue what you are incapable of achieving with your own ability, then you will give rise to greedy thoughts. Hatred means resentment, and ignorance is not believing in cause and effect. It means not accepting or believing what the Buddha said about cause and effect, and thinking He was simply telling stories. The Buddha never spoke a single piece of fiction; everything He ever uttered involved matters that concern us.

“Once your earth, wind, water, and fire are out of balance, various illnesses will emerge. This next ritual is performed for the guru. I will implore the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to bless me so that once my four major elements are sufficient I can then share my earth, wind, water, and fire with you all as a representative of Amitayus. How much can you receive? It depends on your individual karma and faith in the guru; it depends on whether or not you change your ways afterward. Even if I give you of my four major elements, if you do not change, then you will not be able to hold on to them, because you will use them up. First I will perform the ritual for myself; take a moment to calm your minds, and try not to think about too many things.

(Prior to performing this next ritual, the presiding guru must put on a Dharma hat.)

“A Dharma hat is not something you make and wear by yourself; after authenticating your fruition, your guru must make it for you. Every Order has a different shape and color of Dharma hat, but I won’t get into those details today. When I don my Dharma hat, I am transmitting the Dharma for you on behalf of the Lineage gurus and the yidam. You should sit up straight. As you can see, up front here there is a treasured vase and a torma. The torma represents Amitayus’s palace and body. The guru and Amitayus are one and the same, and you should visualize as such.

“As our blood, flesh, fire, and qi are consumed, so does our longevity get diminished, dispersed, broken, and twisted—we should die, but we cannot, and come back to life instead. Within a single lifetime, we undergo the process of death many times. There are many such people. Their longevity is ruptured, shaken, wrecked, and stolen by demons and ghosts—robbed and plundered. Why do they steal your longevity? You asked their help at one time or another. For example, you might go to certain places to worship, and beg one to make you strike it rich or obtain something else good. Apart from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, most deities in the world are from the Ghost Realm; they are ghosts that have some good fortune. If you supplicate to them for help, you must give them something in return, and the simplest thing is your longevity. They will suck away your longevity to extend theirs. People who like to pray to those beings all the time instead of working diligently tend to have shortened lifespans. How do I know? When you get sick, you take medicine all the time, and doing that is the equivalent of your body’s constantly being poisoned; as such, your longevity gets damaged and diminished. Only if you stop killing, eating meat, and worshiping those deities will you be less at risk of having your longevity stolen by demons and ghosts.

“Next is a prayer to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the guru, the yidam (Amitayus), the Dakinis, and the Dharma protectors to grant their blessings so that we can gather together and concentrate all our energy with regard to longevity, good fortune, wealth, life, and physical health. While I am chanting, you should all do your best to sit up straight and keep from falling asleep. Do not slump or lean your head to the side.

“First is the blessing of earth. When our flesh and bones are damaged, it affects our longevity. We will need blessings from Life Protector Tathagata and the Mother Buddha. Next is the blessing of water, meaning blood. Small blood damages longevity and so on; we will need blessings from Akshobhya and the Mother Buddha. Third is that our body temperature is continuously lost, causing damage to our longevity; we will need blessings of fire, which come from the Buddha of Immeasurable Light and the Mother Buddha. Fourth are the blessings of wind; these are from the Buddha of Non-Emptiness and the Mother Buddha. People who are constantly letting their imaginations run wild, thinking about all sorts of things including matters that have nothing to do with their future lives, will experience diminishing longevity of consciousness; we will need a blessing from Vairocana.”

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche performed the Tsok and Tea-Offering Ritual. Each attendee received offering goods that had been blessed by the guru, as well as the rare and auspicious causal condition to dine with him, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas.

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche continued to perform the puja, descending the Dharma throne to personally bestow blessings upon the attendees using the statue of Amitayus. Meanwhile, he continuously rang a bell and chanted the Amitayus Mantra, his boundlessly compassionate gaze benevolently gracing all sentient beings. With palms clasped and shedding tears of gratitude, the attendees knelt in reverence to receive the guru’s auspicious blessings.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche again ascended the Dharma throne, and resumed his teachings

“Many of you participate in the pujas according to your own concepts, saying you’ll get around to attending when you have some free time. Actually, you are the ones who organize your time. What is most important is whether or not you believe and are determined. If you do, then the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will arrange everything for you. The point of performing the Amitayus this morning is to allow you to form a good affinity with Amitayus. In the afternoon I will perform the fire offering, so I expect you to spend the whole day here. A fire offering is neither an ordinary homa nor the practice common at temples of writing one’s name on a tablet and tossing it into the fire. A fire offering brings very auspicious merits and benefits, and is an extremely special and propitious Vajrayana Dharma method. Vajrayana is Tantra, and is divided into Kriyayoga, Charyayoga, Yogatantra, and Anuttarayogatantra. Only gurus who have attained Anuttarayogatantra are able and permitted to perform fire offerings. Buddhism includes Tibetan Tantra and Eastern Tantra (from Japan). Japanese Tantra was passed down from the Tang Dynasty, and is also called Tang Tantra. Most of this lineage has been lost, as it has a very intricate historical background; only transmissions of the Kriyayoga and Charyayoga made it to Japan, whereas the Yogatantra and Anuttarayogatantra were lost. These only remain in Tibetan Tantra.

“People trying to perform the fire offering but who have not yet attained Anuttarayogatantra cannot understand or realize the meaning of Emptiness as spoken by the Buddha; thus, without Emptiness, they cannot succeed. They must achieve a very profound state of samadhi. This does not simply mean being able to sit still for a long time. When you burn offering goods, it is not just a matter of writing your name on a piece of wood and throwing it in; if you do that, then you are the offering item. Who among you are willing to incinerate yourselves as offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? None of you has raised your hand. I have never read anything in the sutras about writing one’s name on a piece of wood and then tossing it into a fire like that. Offering goods are things which you offer; if none of you can bear to throw your body into the fire and be burned as an offering to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, then by writing your name on a piece of wood and tossing it in is nothing more than wood-burning, and has no significance.

“ ‘Offerings upward’ means making offerings ‘upward’ to all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Dharma protectors, and the yidam, as well as giving alms ‘downward’ to all sentient beings in the Six Realms: The Hell, Hungry Ghost, Animal, Human, Heaven, and Asura Realms. The fire offering ritual is a way to rapidly eliminate all our karmic hindrances and fill us with the resources of good fortune and wisdom, so that we can quickly achieve attainments in both the mundane and supramundane worlds. If our resources of good fortune and wisdom are insufficient, then there will be many hindrances to our practice. As we continue to participate in fire offerings, we can begin to succeed in our worldly affairs as well as our Buddhist activities. The fire offering can be divided into four types of activities: Subduing, Increasing, Placating, and Vanquishing. This afternoon I will perform a fire offering of Subduing—to subdue our physical illnesses and all hindrances. ‘Increasing’ can increase our good fortune and wisdom, longevity, wealth and fulfillment, and happiness; you all like this type the most, but I purposely do not want to perform it, because you do not possess enough good fortune to obtain this. You should count yourselves lucky that you can have this opportunity to eliminate the hindrances of your illnesses. ‘Placating’ means to pacify, and it can cure you of your sickness and suffering, and increase your wealth, position, and power. ‘Vanquishing’ means killing; with it one can overcome all evil behavior, evil karmic hindrances, and so on.

“A guru or Rinpoche who tries to perform these four rituals without having received empowerment in them, conducted retreats, and achieved attainment also cannot perform these four types of fire offerings. Performing these rituals can cause you to obtain worldly benefits. Subduing can extinguish the two hindrances of knowledge and affliction. The biggest impediment to practicing Buddhism is the hindrance of knowledge, which means constantly distinguishing what you know from what you do not know, what you have not yet learned, and things you are unclear about. Why do you think you have not learned something? You never did in the first place. Buddhism is not a mundane academic pursuit, and cannot be fathomed by way of research or by sitting there in continuous thought. The mistake people make is wanting to understand, yet the wisdom of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is clearly not a human wisdom. When you want to understand, you create hindrances, because you are continuously wanting knowledge. People in ancient times said that only rather simple-minded Buddhists can learn. Take me, for example; I’m quite dumb. Slowly but surely, however, I have done everything His Holiness has told me to, and gradually have achieved a bit of attainment because I do not have the mindset of absolutely having to understand. People who are after knowledge typically are very self-centered; they think that they can only keep listening to you and learning from you if they understand. This sort of attitude will hinder you. People with high levels of education and authority tend to have severe hindrances. By comparison, afflictions are actually the easier type of hindrance to deal with, because we know whether or not our own afflictions are grave.

“By performing a ‘Subduing’ fire offering, we can attain the fruition of the Eastern Buddha, Vajrasattva, and all of the Subduing yidams’ Sambhogakaya. Why do I perform it frequently? I do it because Vajrasattva is one of my yidams. Today I will not perform the Increasing, Placating, or Vanquishing fire offerings.

“A fire offering is an extremely auspicious Dharma method in Vajravana in which items are burned as offerings to the yidam and the Buddhas and as alms for all sentient beings. Through it we can increase our good fortune, because by way of these offerings and alms we obtain good fortune, and thus can rapidly eliminate our karmic hindrances. Once we have obtained enough of the resources of good fortune and wisdom, we can very quickly achieve two sorts of attainments—that is, success in both mundane and supramundane paths, as I mentioned earlier.

“Buddhist practice involves using different kinds of external, tangible rituals to unlock our innate Dharma nature. While performing these rituals, we engage in various actions because we like to see and hear things, but we do not know that such sensations amount to subjective consciousness. A true, inner Dharma nature—the same as that of the Buddha—is something that each of us possesses, but because of our desire to know, see, hear, and understand it, we have completely covered this up. Through cultivation we can open up and develop this Buddha nature that every sentient being has always possessed, and thereby be free from suffering and obtain happiness. Once we have unlocked our Buddha nature, all our suffering recedes and even disappears. This sort of suffering is the suffering of reincarnation.

“During the fire offering, a practitioner—that is, a guru or Rinpoche—uses the power of samadhi to visualize the mandala—the place in which the fire offering is performed—as the palace and mandala in which the Buddhas and Dharma protectors live. On the outside, it may just look like a fire, but through internal visualization one can discern Dharma protectors, deities, Bodhisattvas, and all their retinue. Through a guru’s visualization, offering goods can become infinite, and given ‘upward’ as offerings and ‘downward’ as alms. ‘By way of the power of the practitioner’s merits’—this line is very important. If the practitioner does not have any merits, then performing this fire offering is useless. The power of merits does not come from how many Buddhas one has made prostrations to, how many sutras one has recited, or how many pujas one has participated in. Rather, first of all, it depends on whether or not he or she has realized Emptiness—not on claiming to have done so; his or her guru must authenticate it. Secondly, have the practitioner’s compassion and bodhicitta emerged? Has the resulting power manifested? Thirdly, has the impetus behind all of the practitioner’s Buddhist activities been a desire for fame or profit? If the practitioner neither needs nor places importance on these two things, then he or she will accumulate merits. A fourth factor is the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ blessings. Where do the blessings come from? A practitioner’s respect, compassion, and aspiration draw in such blessings, as does the attendees’ sincerity.

“If you participants are not sincere enough, then no matter how remarkable the guru, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas are, their power will not have anything to do with you. How can you still not be sincere even after someone helps you and serves you, with no regrets and without asking you for anything in return? When you provide a service to others, you always ask for a fee, and definitely won’t even begin to do the job without first reaching a clear verbal agreement. I provide services to you without ever talking about money; I don’t even want your offerings. I am simply helping you. You have to give rise to sincerity. Do not say you don’t feel anything or don’t believe. If you did not have an affinity with Vajrayana from your past lives, you would not be participating in this puja. In your previous lifetimes you definitely formed this affinity; you have simply forgotten about it. You have the causal condition to attend in this lifetime, so you should be sincere, and grasp this opportunity.

“Rapidly eliminating your karmic hindrances and completely observing the Six Paramitas. These must be cultivated in order to practice the Bodhisattva Path; at the moment you have no use for them. If you continue to practice, then you will have to realize your mind’s true nature. Benefiting oneself (liberating oneself from life and death) and benefiting others (helping sentient beings to become free of life and death) are what I am doing right now. There are four major types of offerings: Those that go to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the yidam, and offerings to the Dharma protectors, devas, and deities. We also make offerings to all sentient beings, as well as to all ghosts in the Hungry Ghost Realm—especially to those karmic creditors we have harmed. If you make offerings during the fire offering to all those sentient beings you have eaten in this lifetime, then the resentment they harbor against you will diminish or even disappear; as such, they will stop bothering you.

“What merits are generated by a fire offering? Supramundane attainments (that is, attainments in cultivation). In terms of a Subduing fire offering, the hindrances of knowledge and affliction can be gotten rid of, and one can obtain the fruition of Buddhahood, namely, the Sambhogakaya attainments of the Eastern Vajrasattva and the subduing yidam. Those who perform the fire offering can definitely attain the fruition of a Bodhisattva. As for mundane attainments—that is, successes as ordinary people who are still living in this world—participating in a fire offering can suppress all of one’s suffering and hindrances caused by illness, and help one to overcome all evil acts and evil karma. Some people know full well that behaving a certain way is bad, yet they are unable to control themselves. For example, drinking a lot of alcohol is obviously bad for the body, yet they continue to drink. They clearly know it is wrong to do certain things, yet they do them anyway. The reason is, first of all, that they do not possess enough fortune; and second of all, it is that they have formed these sorts of habits over the course of many lifetimes. By participating in a fire offerings, they can naturally gain the ability to overcome, and no longer need others to tell them how they should act.

“We use many sorts of offering goods during this ritual. Butter, olive oil, mustard oil, and other edible oils; these can increase the power of wealth. A Subduing fire offering can cause us to gradually regain any wealth we have lost. A reason for losing your wealth is having frequently cheating people out of their money. For example, agreeing to do something for someone, but then not doing it, and accepting payment but then ignoring that person. Even if you may have gotten your hands on the money, you will soon lose it, because you have committed an evil act.

“Other reasons for gradually losing your wealth include eating meat, self-indulgence, hedonism, and being overly fond of having fun. People often claim to be doing business when they are actually just making excuses to go out and play. If you have no good fortune, then you cannot have fun; if you go out to have fun, then you will use your good fortune that way, and your wealth will disappear. You are bound to ask, ‘Why can’t I enjoy life?’ My experience is that of a Mainlander who fled to Hong Kong as a refugee. Prior to that, my family enjoyed great wealth in Guangzhou; to this day there is still an alley in that city that bears our family name. A memorial archway still exists. After fleeing to Hong Kong, we had nothing. My father had a short lifespan, so died very young. At the time we only had ten Hong Kong dollars to our name—practically penniless. From the time I began to work, I never wanted to go anywhere to have fun, enjoy life, or sightsee; all I did was work, wherever my causal conditions would take me. Even these days, I am the same. Now I am seventy-one, and could go here or there to enjoy myself if I wanted, but I have never wanted to. People tell me, ‘Hey, that place is a lot of fun!’ However, I have never been moved to go anywhere. I only go places that have to do with Buddhism; no matter how fun anywhere else is purported to be, I won’t go there. Amusement parks have never gotten my business. Maybe I don’t want to go because I’ve gotten old.

“Though I am seventy-one this year, I still have my strength; on the 10th, I took a 7:00 a.m. flight to Shanghai and got home just before midnight on the 11th. By the time I got to Japan on the 12th it was nearly 10:00 p.m. Nevertheless, here I am today, performing the puja all day long. I am not a young person; I am seventy-one years old. It is not that I overcome exhaustion through strength of will; it is that my health is still pretty good, so I can sit here performing the Dharma for so long and still be able to descend the Dharma throne and bless you all. I should count myself lucky today; I didn’t have to bless more than a couple hundred people.

“If you are seeing a disappearance of your wealth and assets, it definitely has to do with your hedonism, immorality, and so on. The willow wood we burn can restore the power of our dignity, without which no one will listen to us. You could be saying something that is obviously good for someone, but he or she will ignore you; you might tell others to do something, but they will not help you, because they do not respect you. Sesame can remove the power of our hindrances. If we use it to perform the Dharma of subduing, it can eliminate any evil hindrances caused by our greed, hatred, ignorance, failure to observe the precepts, taking of life, and so on. Crusted fried rice can slowly rid us of the causes of our unhappiness and allow us to become happy again. This sort of happiness does not come from getting promotions, academic degrees, or seeing improved health in yourselves or your children; rather, it comes from your no longer worrying, and having a clear understanding of your future. For example, I have a clear idea of my future lives, so there is no longer anything that can truly make me unhappy. You have seen me scold people; I do this not for myself, but for them. This is okay to do. Why are you constantly unhappy? It is because you cannot fulfill your desires.

“Rice can increase the power of your good fortune and eliminate obstructions you encounter. An example is wanting to do good deeds but having people or situations getting in your way. Some people who originally wanted to participate in a puja might suddenly not be able to come; all of this is due to their hindrances. Making offerings of highland barley can rid us of ennui. Lack of energy is caused by thinking too much all the time; if we constantly think about this and that, we will be mentally exhausted. Grains can help us to recover things that we have lost, while beans can make us stronger. Wheat can increase our ability to be cured of illness and slowly restore our health. Reeds and knotgrass can increase and strengthen our longevity, as well as remove hindrances. Mustard seeds have the power of driving away demons and blocking their assaults. Kusha grass can remove any inauspicious forces. There are many other items, including the precious stones, five-colored cloth, and so on that we use. There also are uncommon offering goods that include fruit, flowers, et cetera, but I won’t get into those today. When making offerings of fruit and flowers, we must not use ones that have gone rotten or wilted or contain toxins. A lot of corn these days contains toxins. Candy, biscuits, and milk can be used as offering goods, too. During the fire offering, both common (those that can be spoken of publicly) and uncommon (those that cannot) offering goods can be offered.

“When should fire offerings be performed? They should be performed after completing a retreat. In 2007 I went into retreat for three months in Nepal on the more than 4,500-meter-tall Mount Lapchi. Afterward, His Holiness led me in a three-day fire offering. While in retreat, we may have chanted mantras or visualized unclearly, so we had to remove all of these hindrances. After the perfect completion of a retreat, it is necessary to perform the four types of fire offering—subduing, placating, increasing, and vanquishing. If you cannot do all of them, you should at least perform a Subduing fire offering.

“Furthermore, we must make a public repentance after committing any of the Five Uninterrupted Evil Acts such as matricide or patricide, or breaking the Samaya. What does breaking the Samaya mean? It means not carrying out what you have promised to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, your guru, or sentient beings. This refers to matters to do with cultivation. We use fire offerings to help us to remove any evil hindrances that have caused us to break the precepts. If we dedicate the merits from the Fire Offering to our deceased family members, then they can be liberated. Before building a monastery, a fire offering can also be performed, and it should be performed often if a nation experiences a high frequency of wars, earthquakes, fires, floods, or typhoons. Fire offerings can also be performed before the consecration of stupas, pagodas, and temples. For individuals, performing a fire offering is the best and most wonderful way of preventing disasters, imploring for good fortune, obtaining peace and happiness, and resolving all afflictions. In your practice, if you ever encounter any obstacles that you cannot overcome, you may implore your guru to help you by performing a fire offering.

“Why do we burn the offering goods in this ritual? The Venerable Milarepa once explained that burning them is to rid us of our attachments on the external form of so-called ‘almsgiving’. For example, you usually remember what you have given in offerings and alms; however, after the fire offering, you will break free of such thoughts or attachments. Burning offering goods during the ritual is an expression of breaking away from greed and attachments. If we do not incinerate offering goods, then we see them as tangible things, and can only give them to sentient beings in the same realm we are in—the Human Realm—to use. Other, non-human sentient beings cannot use it. Through the fire offering, we can transform physical objects into things that all sentient beings can use; in this way, we can sever attachments for all. During the ritual, the presiding guru must perform the Dharma with the purest of motives in mind; it cannot be for the sake of fame or profit. If the motive is pure, then whether making offerings to the wisdom yidam or giving alms to all ghostly beings, everyone can receive them. In the process of the fire offering, in accordance with the guru’s visualizations, mantra-chanting, and so on, we can visualize the items offered as ever-increasing, as they are infinite; a single item is transformed into a mountain of offerings. If we do all this in line with the Dharma, then it will yield even greater benefits.

“A fire offering can help us to realize all our virtuous aspirations, both in the mundane and supramundane worlds; this means it can help us to rapidly achieve attainment in our vows to benefit all sentient beings and become liberated from life and death. What makes this ritual special is that its benefits can manifest quite quickly. We toss all our offerings goods into the fire, while the yidam sits serenely in the midst of it. Fire represents the nature of all movement. The activities are divided into the four categories of Subduing, Placating, Increasing, and Vanquishing; their benefits appear quite rapidly. It is harder to utilize smoke offerings, but with fire offerings we can welcome the yidam’s approach relatively quickly.

“The presiding guru performing the fire offering must, in accordance with what is written in the Dharma, meet the following conditions: First of all, he must have mastered the cultivation of at least one yidam, becoming attuned with the yidam during a retreat. This does not mean seeing the yidam in front of you every day; rather, it means one is able to accomplish whatever activities are granted by the yidam. For example, I often bless the sick using Vajrasattva’s mantra, after which the patient’s suffering is reduced. This is the result of attunement and attainment. Another example is that when liberating sentient beings, I am able to become attuned to the yidam and make the liberation successful; however, if I had not achieved attainment in any yidams, I would not be able to perform Tantra. Secondly, the practitioner must skillfully integrate Exoteric theory and Tantra to benefit sentient beings, and must also have received transmission of a lineage—that is, where what he has learned came from. For example, what I have learned was transmitted by my root guru His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, and he received transmission from his guru. The entire lineage and all rituals are very clear. Thirdly, the practitioner must possess great Bodhicitta: That is, he must have practiced continuously and diligently, incessantly benefiting sentient beings. Fourth, he must be endowed with the pure precepts of Three Vehicles of Buddhism—the five lay precepts, the Bodhisattva Vow, and the Tantrayana Precepts. That is, the practitioner cannot have broken any precepts.

“The fire offering puts rather high demands on the practitioner, unlike most Buddhist rituals in which he leads people in chanting mantras or transfers the consciousness of the deceased. The phenomena revealed by a fire offering include the power of samadhi, the merits of offering goods, ways of performing rituals, the power of mantras’ blessings, the awe-inspiring power of the Dharma, and the fire pit transforming into the yidam and mandala. Only if these six things are combined is it a true fire offering.

“The first one is the power of samadhi. In the Drikung Kagyu Order, a presiding guru’s samadhi must at least be at the level of the Simplicity Yoga of Mahamudra. The second involves the merits of offerings: Whether the offering goods are the right ones or not. It is written very clearly in the text as to which items should be used; any other items are incorrect. The third involves methods of performing the ritual: That is, are the rituals you are performing ones that you have made up, or were they transmitted to you by your guru? If you made them up, then they are wrong. The fourth is the power of mantras’ blessings: Whether or not the practitioner has mastered the mantras he is chanting. Fifth is the awe-inspiring power of the Dharma: Whether or not the practitioner can manifest this power, which determines whether or not the Dharma can cause sentient beings to grow calm enough to participate in the puja. Sixth is whether the fire pit becomes the yidam and the mandala: The practitioner must visualize it as such. Only if these six conditions are met can it be a genuine fire offering.

“The preliminary practice for fire offering participants is, first of all, to initiate Bodhicitta. You should not be participating in the puja for your own sake; you should be here so that all sentient beings can obtain the same benefits. The second condition is that our aspiration to participate in this Dharma of Subduing is to eliminate our and all sentient beings’ offenses, karmic hindrances, and obstacles related to illness, so as to rid of all afflictions of greed, hatred, and ignorance, as well as wicked views and adverse conditions. During the main practice (when the ritual begins to be performed), the practitioner should possess the ability to abide in tranquility, performing the rituals in samadhi without any other thoughts; this is the most auspicious aspect. Dedicating means that if you are enjoying happiness but someone else is suffering, then you suffer as well. For example, out of thirty people in your family, if you are the only one enjoying good fortune and everyone else is sick, then you will not be happy either. Other sentient beings are like this, too. Dedications are made in the hope that they can all attain Buddhahood at some point in the future. After the dedications, I will recite the text, but I won’t explain too much about it; even if I were to, you still could not do it anyway.

“While participating in a fire offering, you should circle around the fire pit clockwise, not just walking around however you please; everyone should follow one after another. Do not try to cut in line or rush there. When tossing in your offering goods, be careful not to burn your hands.

“The Amitayus Fire Offering being performed this afternoon is rather special. Never before in history has there been such a puja. The inspiration for performing this puja came when I began performing fire offerings to help sentient beings, and I knew without a doubt that they could rapidly help sentient beings fulfil their wishes. In the Age of Degenerate Dharma, sentient beings consume their longevity and get a great many illnesses very quickly. Once they are sick, their lifespans naturally decrease. I supplicated to His Holiness, saying that I hoped to perform the Amitayus Fire Offering to benefit sentient beings. At first, he said it did not exist, but later, when I implored again, he granted his permission and altered a few rituals so that I could perform it.

The evening before His Holiness gave his permission, I had a very auspicious dream; before today I’ve never spoken of it. I dreamed that His Holiness was below an Amitayus’s thangka holding a Dharma text, and that he told me how to change it. After he finished speaking, I turned around and saw the Venerable Phagmodrupa sitting over there, and next I saw many offerings being presented. Therefore, I believed this fire offering to be very auspicious, and that it was bound to benefit many sentient beings. The following day, His Holiness called to tell me I was allowed to perform it.”

(The attendees burst into an enthusiastic round of applause.)

“This Dharma is difficult to come by. I hope you can all participate in it with sincerity. The reason I had you attend the morning puja was to first form a connection with Amitayus so that you would be able to accumulate fortune and merits very quickly this afternoon when making offerings to Him. Do not think it is okay to skip the morning puja and only attend the afternoon ritual. For example, if you wanted to ask someone you had never met to come and lend a hand, how could you expect him or her to do so? This morning was meant to help you accumulate enough good fortune to be able to participate in the fire offering, as well as notify Amitayus of your existence. Don’t say Amitayus has Dharma powers and therefore is all-knowing. This is true, but if you are not respectful, then the Buddha will not know of your existence because His heart is immovable. If sentient beings do not implore Him for anything, then He will not move. It is absolutely necessary for us sentient beings to supplicate in accordance with the Dharma; only then can He begin to help us.

“I have spent so much time this morning doing so many things for you all. First I helped you to form an affinity with Amitayus, and second I gave you the strength to run. Without strength, you would give up after just making a single circuit. There are more than ten different types of offering goods, and I will continuously give them to you. If you run out of steam, that’s fine; you are allowed to take a break. I hope you will do your best and make as many circuits as you can. I have never seen anyone die from participating in a fire offering. Even if that were to happen, there is no need to worry, for you would immediately be liberated by me. So that you don’t have to rush through lunch, the afternoon puja will not start until 2:45. We cannot go too late, because it is going to snow. According to the weather report, it will start to snow after 6:00, so those of you who want to play in it may stay.”

Upon the perfect completion of the morning puja, the attendees clasped their palms together and reverently paid homage as His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended the Dharma throne, grateful for the guru’s having taken the trouble to perform rituals and bestow teachings.

At 2:45 in the afternoon, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne in the courtyard of the Kyoto Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center to perform the Amitayus Fire Offering. In close to zero-degree weather, and wearing a thin Dharma vestment, the guru tirelessly performed the puja for sentient beings.

Though the weather was quite frigid that day, the sky was exceptionally clear. Prior to performing the Dharma, Rinpoche placed clumps of kusha grass one at a time around the perimeter of the fire offering mandala. Within just a short few minutes of its being lit, the flames were already several feet high. The fire roared, and flames repeatedly manifested various auspicious signs. Wave after wave, the strong scent of sandalwood assailed the nostrils, an auspicious sign indicating that the yidam had arrived and which caused the attendees to give rise to respect and faith. Just then, a flock of birds gathered from all directions and landed in the trees surrounding the Buddhist Center, their pleasant birdsong rising and falling over and over. Several eagles flew over and circled continuously in the sky above. The awe-inspiring power and great compassion manifested while performing the ritual were signs of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s having become attuned to the yidam, thus the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, devas, nagas, and Dharma protectors had all come to bestow praise and protection.

While conducting the ritual, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche constantly chanted mantras and blessed all manner of offering goods, and quickly, never stopping, placed them one after another into the plates being held by the attendees. This way they could all have the opportunity to make direct offerings to the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and the yidam and give alms to sentient beings in need by tossing items into the fire offering mandala in person, and thereby rapidly accumulate good fortune and wisdom life for practicing Buddhism. Under Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s auspicious blessings and with utmost sincerity, the attendees circled the mandala in an orderly fashion, taking part in this extremely auspicious fire offering.

So that each attendee could receive offering goods in a timely fashion, Rinpoche always paid close attention to everyone’s pace and individual situation, and constantly blessed sentient beings with his gaze. Wearing a bone-decorated Dharma vestment weighing several kilograms, and without any cartilage in his right shoulder, Rinpoche nevertheless continued to chant mantras, visualize, recite from the Dharma text, and hand out offering goods more than four thousand times. It is difficult to imagine how hard this was on him physically. The fire offering ritual took three hours to perform, yet Rinpoche never took a break. Although it was getting late and the sun was beginning to set, he continued to chant mantras and perform rituals under the dim light of flashlights held by the attendees, using every ounce of his energy to benefit sentient beings.

He could never have done this without possessing such great Bodhicitta and auspicious Vajrayana attainment. Performing the Dharma for such a long time outdoors in the extreme cold would have been hard for anyone to bear, yet at seventy-one years of age, Rinpoche still never appeared tired through the entire process. His achievements from cultivation are indeed praiseworthy!

Upon the perfect completion of the fire offering, Rinpoche went back inside the Buddhist Center and again ascended the Dharma throne to bestow further auspicious teachings upon the attendees.

“It’s pretty cold out today, so I made you run in so many circles to help you warm up a bit.” (Everyone thanked the guru in unison.) “Many people don’t tend to get much exercise, so I made you get some today. I hope our Japanese believers can understand the compassion of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. They are constantly urging us to refrain from killing, so to this end, we must not eat meat. All illnesses and disasters in this world, including hurricanes, fires, floods, and wars, come from karma of killing. It is impossible to urge everyone to stop eating meat; however, just as the Buddha delivers people with affinities, I, as a guru, must tell you these things since you had the affinity to attend today’s puja. If you think you are here simply to obtain protection and blessings, I cannot help you. If you do not listen, then no blessings or protection offered by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will be of any use to you, because the sentient beings you have eaten will ask why they weren’t blessed and safeguarded against being eaten by humans.

“In the Western world, there are a lot of knowledgeable people with an understanding of science who strongly advocate eating vegetarian. German law dictates that ordinary restaurants must all offer vegetarian items on their menus, and whenever their government ministers gather for a meal, it has to be vegetarian. Over the past few thousand years, humans have been through so many wars and disasters. These are what are referred to in the sutras as ‘calamities of swords and army,’ in which so many have been killed in wars. Wherever a war is fought, it causes so much miserable suffering. People in some places used to live in peace and happiness, but war has left them scattered and homeless. Japan is currently free of the suffering of war; you are all living in relative ease and comfort. This is not the sort of comfort that can be obtained by praying to deities or through the use of science; it completely depends on the Dharmas taught to us by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas which humans must diligently implement. Not all humans are capable of such diligence, but as long as we begin to work toward that goal, we can at least see a significant reduction in accidents that occur to us individually, and can at least influence certain people into working with us. As such, we can decrease the suffering from calamities and illness.

“I often say that if the Dharma had no effect on me, then I would not be qualified to become a guru and a Rinpoche. As I mentioned this morning, I have had skin cancer. Reason would dictate that I should not have lived very long; in my family, none of the men live past the age of sixty. This has remained true until my generation. Things are different now not because of wealth, but because we have changed our living habits. My family used to raise silkworms, so we carry very heavy karma from killing. As I said, none of our males used to live past the age of sixty; even my father died before he was that old. Although my father did a lot of good deeds later in life, he still had that heavy karma, so his life was cut short. This did not change until my generation, when I learned Buddhism. Among my siblings I am the only one who eats vegetarian and practices; I am the only one in relatively good health.

“The Buddha would not deceive us, nor would He force us to do anything. What He told us to do is achievable by everyone; it just depends on your determination. If you are not determined, then even if the Buddha were to appear right in front of you, He still could not help you. Some people like to listen but do not like to do. You should not assume that it is enough to have listened and wanted to do something; wanting to do it and actually doing it are decisions you must make. This has been a long, hard day for you; as a seventy-one year old man, it has been hard for me, too. I hope that the time I have spent with you has enabled you to obtain blessings from the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and myself so that you can more easily make your resolution.

“Life lasts for a few short decades and then is over. No matter how well you have done in whatever field, you have no control over how long you live. When your time is up, no one can help you but the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and your guru. You each think there is no need to practice right now. Practice is not meant to change your current lifestyle, nor are you being asked to give anything up; I merely ask that you change the principles by which you experience life. Two thousand five hundred years ago, Shakyamuni Buddha attained Buddhahood by Himself, and passed this experience down through the ages.

“Last year (2017) I took five hundred disciples to Sravasti, the place in which Shakyamuni Buddha taught the Dharma in His later years. Monkeys live there, and they seem different from the monkeys in other places; they are very tame. When sitting behind you, they won’t run up and steal your food or snatch your purse; they just sit there, very well-behaved, and when they see a practitioner approaching, they make way. I had never seen such well-behaved monkeys. In the holy site where Shakyamuni Buddha once expounded the Dharma, even the animals have a different temperament. This means the Buddha can help us change. You should think long and hard about whether or not you want to change. No matter what you believe you are enjoying right now, and no matter what things you are attached to, when your time comes, none of it will belong to you anymore. When you leave this world, you cannot take anything with you. Those of us practicing Buddhism of course hope that we can repay, in our current lifetime, all of the debts we owe from this lifetime and our past lives so that we can go to Amitabha’s Pure Land, continue to practice diligently there, and never experience the suffering of reincarnation again.

“Finally, I am going to perform the Dharma Protector Ritual. Those who have not taken refuge will not have a text. We should thank the Dharma protectors for safeguarding today’s puja and allowing everything to go smoothly. Today’s attendees include some octogenarians and some who have difficulty moving around, yet they were still able to run circles around the fire for a long time without any problem. One would think all this running back and forth should have made them fall down or get hurt, but they did not—all thanks to the Dharma protectors. This is because prior to performing the ritual, I implored the Dharma protectors to remove all hindrances from today’s puja participants so that all would go well and without incident. Thus, we should perform the Dharma Protector Ritual to thank them for helping us today.”

Next, the disciples beseeched His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to accept the Mandala Offering. Rinpoche compassionately allowed the monastics and Japanese believers to offer the mandala on behalf of sentient beings. The guru said, “The Mandala Offering Ritual is endowed with deep significance. It actually is for your benefit, not for mine, but I will explain this all at a later date.”

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the disciples in the Dharma Protector Achi Prayer and Dedication. Afterward, he continued:

“Today is January 13th, in what the people of Japan view as the first month of the new year. Chinese people use the lunar calendar, in which the New Year does not begin until February. Either way, this is the Year of the Earth Dog; ‘earth’ here means thick and solid. If you are honest in everything you do this year, treat people with forgiveness, and do more good deeds, then none of the world’s turmoil—including natural disasters and so on—will affect you.. In an earth year, if you still like to rack your brains to scheme others, you will not have a very good new year. Each year has its own special characteristic, but Buddhism teaches us how to keep from suffering more harm and how to continuously accumulate our good fortune by doing deeds in a virtuous direction.

“It has been a long day, and you all must be exhausted. Many of you have traveled from different places to participate. I hope that the merits from today’s puja will be helpful in both your current lifetime and your future lives. Such help will not satisfy your desires, but it will assist you in eliminating any hindrances to your future Buddhist practice, whether in this lifetime or in the future. The most important aspect of my work is to prevent any sentient beings that have an affinity with me from falling into the Hell Realm, Hungry Ghost Realm, and Animal Realm. This is the vow I have made, because if you fall into these Three Evil Realms, you will not be able to listen to or practice the Dharma. You also should not simply hope to return as a human in the next life, because in doing so, you will have opportunities to suffer. Shakyamuni Buddha taught that we should aspire to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land. Even if you do not cultivate to the level I have in this lifetime, nevertheless, as a result of the power of this aspiration, you will have a chance of being reborn in the Pure Land, and then your suffering can be greatly alleviated.

“I hope that everything I have done for you today can benefit you, and that you can accept the Buddha’s words and begin to act on them. Do not give yourselves any excuses to ‘wait a minute.’ Time passes day by day, and very quickly another year will have passed. I am gradually nearing the end, too; my time on Earth is ebbing away one day at a time. I have less and less time in which to remind you and advise you. As I said earlier, back when I lived in Hong Kong, I could not go a day without eating seafood. I did not stop out of any religious conviction; rather, I came to a profound understanding of how so many sentient beings are being harmed due to people’s selfishness. Nowadays even scientists and doctors have proved that humans who eat meat and fish are more prone to illness, but people just don’t listen; alas, nothing can be done.

“I am seventy-one years old now, so I definitely possess the qualifications to keep exhorting you. This is an advantage of getting older; when you are younger, you cannot constantly nag people. When you are older, you naturally have more experience. I can claim to have a tiny bit of experience in cultivation, so let me tell you very clearly that not engaging in acts of killing will nurture your compassion. When you begin to cultivate compassion, the power of all the good deeds you do will multiply. Such multiplied power can help you by lessening the power of the evil acts you have committed in the past and even suppressing it. These are ways the Buddha taught us. As long as you are willing to act accordingly, then you can definitely change. If I was able to be cured of skin cancer, then resolving your minor problems would be even easier. You must listen and you must put what you learn to practice. If you have any questions, you are welcome to visit my webpage and ask me for help; when I see your messages, I will definitely reply. I hope this year goes very smoothly for you all, and that you enjoy auspiciousness and remain safe and sound!”

At 6:00 p.m. the Amitayus Fire Offering Ritual came to a perfect completion. Grateful for H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s compassionate teachings, the disciples rose to their feet and paid reverent homage as the guru descended the Dharma throne. As they left the venue, the they respectfully received precious Amitayus longevity pills and longevity wine.

In presiding over the Amitayus Puja and Fire Offering, H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had granted everyone an opportunity to make offerings directly to the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and the yidam, as well as give alms to all sentient beings in need; in this way, the attendees could rapidly accumulate good fortune and wisdom life for practicing Buddhism. Afterward, a timely snow began to fall—clear evidence that the heavenly beings and Dharma protectors had praised this auspicious puja, bountifully benefiting countless local sentient beings.

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s continuous promotion of Buddhism in Japan brings unfathomable blessings for peace both there and throughout the world, benefiting countless sentient beings in the Six Realms. Furthermore, this is allowing the people to gradually gain an understanding and acceptance of the Right Dharma, which is giving Japan and its citizens an opportunity to receive protection of the Dharma’s supreme merits.

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Updated on April 14, 2018