His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – April 15, 2018

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne, leading the attendees in the Avalokiteshvara ritual and expounding Scroll 82 of the Ratnakuta Sutra: The “Elder Ugra Assembly (Chapter 19)”

“The sutra reads, ‘“To resolutely practice generosity using one’s transient wealth.”’

“We all know that wealth comes and goes, and is impermanent. A lot of people think money sitting in the bank is wealth. Having a savings account is important, of course, but money is transitory; it comes and goes. Many think they need a lot of financial wealth, even to the point that they only feel secure once they have saved up a certain amount. In doing so, however, they lose out on opportunities to give alms. I am not telling you not to save money, enjoy life, or buy things, but you also do not need to wait until you are completely ‘ready’ before you give alms. Rather, you should understand that almsgiving is not something that should be put off until you have a certain amount of money. We know that wealth is not fixed; it is therefore even more important that we give more to charity.

“If we want to practice Buddhism, then we must continuously accumulate the resources of good fortune and wisdom, and prior to attaining Buddhahood, we must never stop our almsgiving. Even after attaining Buddhahood, the Buddha continued to give alms. Thus, if you think you have done enough, are incapable of doing anymore, or that the time to give alms has not yet come, then you are not resolutely practicing generosity using your ‘transient wealth.’ Generosity has nothing to do with how much you are able to give; it has to do with whether or not you actually do it. Nor does this mean I am asking you to donate all your pennies to the point that you cannot afford a bite to eat. In the Ratnakuta Sutra it is also written very clearly that it is forbidden to intimidate or extort money from people and use it to give alms; you must use money that you have either earned yourself or that someone has given to you.

“Many people feel that almsgiving may be done with money they have leftover; they think they may give a little as long as they have more than they need. This is not an example of ‘resolutely practicing generosity.’ Even if you have practiced generosity in this lifetime, if you give rise to thoughts—such as regretting having given too much after the fact—this can cause you to fall into the Hungry Ghost Realm. Once you are there, your having given alms will allow you to eat phlegm and saliva. It would never occur to people who like to casually spit all the time that there are many hungry ghosts that would rush over and eat it. Lots of people believe that practicing generosity is enough to produce good fortune. Actually, the most important thing is your mindset. To ‘resolutely practice generosity’ means that as long as you are practicing the Six Paramitas, you should never fail to give alms whenever the causal conditions exist. In addition to money, the definition of almsgiving includes that of the Dharma and all deeds of which one is capable.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Why should one resolutely practice generosity using one’s transient body?”’

“Why should we ‘resolutely practice generosity’ using our ‘transient body’? We all understand very clearly that our physical bodies are unstable and vulnerable to decline. Many people, in anticipation of growing old, save up a chunk of money so that they will be able to afford a coffin, or medical expenses when they get sick. It is a normal sentiment, and we cannot negate this idea, but those truly practicing the Bodhisattva Path do not need to worry about such issues. Whether you are rich or poor, when it comes to be your time to die, you will cease to possess a single cent upon taking your last breath.

“For this reason, many people lose a lot of opportunities to practice almsgiving prior to passing away; they think that once they are gone, their children will do it for them. However, when it comes to giving alms on their parents’ behalf, most sons and daughters merely give a pittance, and that includes my disciples. Once their father or mother has passed, they kneel before me, bawling their eyes out, and using a tiny offering, they implore me to liberate their loved one. Of course I certainly will liberate that person. Afterward, they look at what their parent has left them, divide it among family members, and only make an offering to me of what is leftover. Just about all of my disciples do this.

“None of you has heeded what is taught in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, so from now until the time you die, you must train yourselves. I would never tell you not to leave property for your children or other family members; after all, you are lay practitioners. However, you must make good plans, and not wait until you are on your deathbed to act on them. The body is transient, and will be gone as soon as impermanence approaches. It’s not just death that will take your money away; having an accident and getting injured will, too, as will falling ill. Many people are very good at saving up money, but then suddenly they get sick and their bank account runs dry. If only they had known to give alms sooner, then perhaps they would not have gotten sick as often.

“Nevertheless, you are all reluctant to give alms, and only think of reaching into your pockets when something bad has happened to you. By then it is too late, and any money you give will only be useful in a future lifetime; it cannot be used in this one. The Buddha taught us to divide our money and property. In Tantra, it is said that it should be divided into five parts; Exoteric practice instructs us to divide it into four, leaving one part for almsgiving. That is hard enough to do these days, yet some are very regular and insist on dividing their wealth into exactly four parts, and never give more than that because they take what the Buddha said literally. The Buddha said that to prevent you from being greedy and stingy, and to give you a general guideline; it does not mean you absolutely must only give exactly one fourth of your wealth to charity. Since when did you become so good at following directions? When it comes to money, you are very eager to do as you are told, but you won’t listen when it comes to anything else.

“Nowadays, the comment commonly made by many people ‘someone is accumulating wealth using inappropriate means’ has made it really difficult to be a Dharma master or promoter of Buddhism. At the same time, we must teach you to give alms and make offerings, because we know very well that this is where good fortune comes from. It really is troublesome, though, because when teaching this, we have to worry about people accusing us of accumulating wealth inappropriately. This is why I have never drawn a single cent from the Buddhist Center. I don’t care whether you make offerings or not; I have never insisted on your doing anything. Nevertheless, I often see all manner of very strange occurrences happen to people.

“Recently a disciple passed away. While alive, he viewed the few hundred thousand NT dollars he had saved as if they were hundreds of millions. Despite knowing he had poor health, he dragged his feet when it came to giving alms and making offerings; like others, he thought that doing so was not normally a pressing matter, and that he could just wait and do it when he really had problems and needed help. When he was fine, he came here to listen to the Dharma on Sundays, and would make meager offerings, all the while checking his bank accounts daily to see how much he still had there. This meant he was reluctant to make offerings. After he died, a heap of hindrances cropped up; he could not even die at the right time, let alone have the Phowa performed for him. He passed away after I had finished performing the monthly Chod, so needed to wait at least another month for the next Chod Puja; his family could not even be granted a funeral date for him. Ostensibly, it was because his daughter had said the wrong thing, but really it was that he had lacked good fortune.

“Ever since I began liberating sentient beings, I have seen too many of such instances. Luckily, I help them without hoping for anything in return, and simply take the view that life is multifaceted. However you want to spend your time, go ahead; whether you listen to the sutras or not is totally up to you. It’s like how one disciple who chose to leave the Buddhist Center suddenly became quite eloquent and adept at debate. According to the rules, departing disciples must return any Dharma texts I have given them, but he argued, ‘Is the Great Six-Syllable Mantra a registered trademark?’ Meaning, was I the only one allowed to chant it?

“Everyone can chant the Great Six-Syllable Mantra, but the reason departing disciples must hand in their Dharma texts is that when they took refuge, it was stated very clearly that if a disciple is disrespectful or gets angry at the guru, then he or she cannot obtain blessings. That being the case, what use would an ex-disciple have for those Dharma texts? You are not even part of the Lineage anymore! Can you achieve realization by chanting all by yourself? No, unless you were living a thousand years ago, or even alive during Shakyamuni Buddha’s era, in which case you might have a chance. However, you also are not practicing Sravaka or Pratyekabuddha, which require being a monastic and living in solitude. Do you think that chanting for one or two hours in front of your altar each day will enable you to achieve realization? If that were possible, then I really wouldn’t have needed to conduct any retreats. My good fortune, merits, causes, and conditions are all more abundant than yours, yet even I must conduct retreats and practice every day.

The departing disciple thinks there is no reason that he cannot practice by himself. Of course he can; it’s just that he cannot achieve realization that way. These ex-disciples think themselves eloquent, pointing out that nothing is patented. It’s unlikely that I would misjudge someone. Being disrespectful toward the Three Jewels is the same as looking down on them. In Taiwan nowadays, teachers are having a hard time, too, precisely because students have no respect for them.

“These bodies of ours are transient. Because we could leave this world at any time, we should take immediate action as soon as a causal condition arises; we must not wait. Why would I not allow those disciples, who had not given any support toward the building of the temple, to keep waiting? It was because they did not believe that their bodies were transient; they only believed that they still had time and that I did, too. I absolutely believe in the transience of my body; I could pass away at any time. For this reason, whenever I possess the causal conditions, I do my utmost to act on them. If you all love to wait, then go ahead, but there is no telling when your next opportunity to accumulate good fortune will be.

“I’m sure you would complain that I never mentioned this before, but actually, I have, many times. I am just using today to explain the contents of this sutra so that you know that I was not wrong. You all used to think I love to scold and criticize you, but fortunately, Lord Jigten Sumgon has, in his compassion, allowed me to expound the Ratnakuta Sutra. I cannot dare claim that everything I have done since 1997 has come out of this sutra, but nothing I have said or done has strayed from the essence of the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, Lord Jigten Sumgon, and His Holiness. I have not been mistaken in pointing out your problems, so why won’t you listen? You think that His Holiness allowed me to become a Rinpoche because he likes me and because I am a lay practitioner! You believe you can chant the Great Six-Syllable Mantra just the same as I can. Of course you may chant it, but everyone chants differently. Do I chant the same way you do?”

Presently, an ordained disciple replied, “Rinpoche, when you chant, you can liberate sentient beings, but when we chant we cannot even keep our thoughts under control.” Another monastic answered, “When you chant, Rinpoche, you do it in one breath before moving on to the next, whereas we are different in that we have to take a breath after each line. Your mind while chanting mantras is different from ours as well; you are visualizing the suffering of sentient beings and bestowing compassionate energy upon them, but we are merely chanting, and at times are even just going through the motions.”

Rinpoche resumed his teachings: “What does ‘in one breath’ mean? It means I focus better than you. When I am chanting, nothing besides the Great Six-Syllable Mantra exists for me, whereas your heads are full of multiple thoughts. Furthermore, my karma is a bit lighter than yours. So, are the one-thought, two-thoughts, three-thoughts mentioned in the Amitabha Sutra the sort of chanting you do? If you chant once, will Amitabha appear? If you are not ordinarily able to achieve one mind undisturbed and constant mindfulness of Amitabha, then what makes you think you can succeed keeping only a single Buddha name or mantra syllable in mind? There are more than 1,300 of you here; since everyone can chant the Great Six-Syllable Mantra, why are none of you able to achieve that? It is very simple: I am a Rinpoche, and you are not; I have practiced with diligence, and you have not; I respect the Three Jewels, while you look down on them; I am humble, and you are arrogant.

“How can arrogant people be compassionate? When chanting, are you able to master the sounds of the tides mentioned in the Universal Gate Chapter? A little while ago, I did a little demonstration; the syllables I uttered sounded like the tide coming in, wave after wave—did they not? You, on the other hand, sound like a pack of jumping beans when you chant. Why was I able to master this, but you cannot? Naturally, it is because I cultivate in earnest. However, the point is that the Lineage’s blessings have not been granted to you; if you do not respect your guru, then the Lineage gurus will not bless you.

“I’ve mentioned many of your problems before, and today I am using the Ratnakuta Sutra to echo and verify those teachings. I am not expounding this text because you are now at a different level and preparing to practice the Bodhisattva Path, nor do I think you are already on it. If you have not even cultivated the most fundamental of the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, then what makes you think you could be? Only if you have can you be qualified to claim that you are on the Bodhisattva Path. In expounding the Ratnakuta Sutra today, it is my hope that I can make it clear to you that my previous Buddhist teachings were not nonsense. I urged you to learn in the past, but you were not able to comprehend them.

“Every one of you feels physically immortal; you think you can’t die. You all want to wait until you have free time, are interested, are in a good mood, or are in the right frame of mind before you will act. As I’ve said many times, Bodhisattva Samantabhadra taught that one should practice Buddhism the urgency of one whose eyebrows are on fire and is desperate to put out the flames. Do you have such an attitude? You all just dawdle along, never in any hurry. You think that committing a minor transgression is no big deal, and that the worst is to get scolded for it. Afterward, you act like a hero once more, listening to the Dharma and repeating your mistakes.

“Before this part there is a line that reads, ‘To generate the same thoughts by day and night.’

“The Buddha’s teachings I mentioned a moment ago should not be heeded by day but not by night; in other words, we should always keep in mind everything the Buddha taught. How should you think at night? If you dream of something that is against His teachings, it means you have severe karmic hindrances, so you should repent right away! You should not hold off from repenting until after committing other transgressions during the day! Everyone claims the Buddha did not teach Tantra, but this is Tantra! You dream about a ton of stuff that you think is fun, and when you wake, you act as though nothing happened without even repenting for it! The dreams you have at night are reflections of your thoughts; they are your karma! Why did the Buddha speak this line here, seemingly out of the blue? He was pointing out that one’s behavior and thoughts must not vary from day to night. You keep them separate in your minds, just as you do in your view of me: When I am on the Dharma throne, you see me as a Rinpoche, but after I’ve descended, you do not.

“This is why you are incorrigible; you are taught and taught, yet you refuse to listen. You all hope to live in happiness, but on what grounds? On what do you base your ability to live a good life? With this society in so much chaos, to what do you attribute your avoidance of mishaps so far? On luck? On cultivating well? Are you respectful and sincere? You are able to live in happiness due to being sheltered by the good fortune of the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, the Lineage, and your guru! In shielding you, you are expected to listen, but you won’t even do that! Everything I say goes in one ear and out the other; you just keep thinking and acting however you please. The Buddha used this line to help me berate you; I’m too tired to scold you anymore.

“The sutra reads, ‘“When seeing others do things to benefit sentient beings, one should also act with a sense of duty and mission.”’

“This line does not refer to another sentient being or person doing it; it means we know that these bodies of ours are transient, but our thoughts of almsgiving should be very firm. We cannot be negligent, lax, or scornful toward a single opportunity. This is because if your generosity is not very steadfast, then when an opportunity arises to give, you will just put it off the way these disciples keep waiting and waiting rather than actually support the temple! You’ve waited long enough, haven’t you? You do not have a steadfast sense of generosity, because if you did, then you would not wait.

“Why do you do things without any haste? It is because you do not possess this condition. It is fine if you don’t have it; it’s just that you will accumulate your good fortune very slowly—so slowly that you won’t realize it until you are dead. I preside over a puja, expound the Dharma every Sunday, and sometimes grant empowerments; why do so many of my disciples still encounter mishaps? It is because they refuse to listen. After participating in the pujas, they go home and resume living the old way; none of them has let the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas sink in.

“Last week I spoke about people thinking of their family members as jailers; everyone feels watched as if by a jailer. What this means, in fact, is that we all are guilty of transgressions; if we were not, then would we have been reborn in this world? We would be in Amitabha’s Pure Land! A jailer means someone who watches over and supervises us. You are always talking about wanting to be free of your karmic creditors; if you really were in jail, then the jailers would definitely bring you to account for anything you did wrong, and would take it a bit easier on you whenever you behaved. Therefore, if someone at home is constantly in opposition to you, then this definitely is the result of your past transgressions. From a secular point of view, you might not think they were of any consequence, but from a Buddhist perspective, this shows that you have not repented, do not understand that you are full of evil karma, and believe yourself to be a good person.

“The ‘good’ men and women spoken of in Buddhism are not what ordinary people would refer to with that description; rather, they are those who observe the Ten Meritorious Acts, and a ‘person of great good’ is one who has been reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land. Think it over: What sort of people are you? Thus, the Buddha made a very good analogy. From this it is apparent that jails have been in existence since ancient times. You don’t think this way; some of you even think this is being passive, but it is not. Some women who get beat by their husbands come crying to me in the hope that their situation might change immediately; I tell them they can follow legal channels to resolve their issue. However, this does not mean their husbands are bad persons; there is certainly a reason that you have encountered such violence in this lifetime for it must have resulted from what you had done in previous lifetimes.

“The reasons behind many things cannot be seen unless looked at from a Buddhist point of view. People are all so self-righteous. ‘One should also act with a sense of duty and mission’ means that in everything one does, one feels it is one’s mission to help sentient beings; not that he or she will obtain some good fortune by giving alms. When we have an opportunity to see and hear about practicing generosity, we should also act on it, and we should see this as our duty. Do people with a sense of mission ask for anything in return for their help? No. Why are you unwilling to give alms? It is because you hope for something in return. You want to see it clearly, and think it through, but then the opportunity has passed.

“These two lines of the sutra refer to almsgivers who see everything others do to benefit sentient beings as becoming their own duty and mission. In other words, when they help and give alms, they do not differentiate between their likes and dislikes, nor do they choose; as long as the causal conditions have arisen, they act. They would not deliberately exploit any situation to do certain things, but provided the causal conditions are there, they jump into action immediately. Because these almsgivers understand very well that their bodies are transient, and that at any time they could lose the opportunity to give alms and make offerings, they must be very firm in their intention to give alms, and cannot be even the slightest bit hesitant.

“The Buddha added that you should see everything others do as your duty and mission; only then can you resolutely practice generosity using your transient body. However, all of you only act under certain conditions; you want to wait until you have enough money, have made the right arrangements, or have understood everything thoroughly. If something is your duty and mission, then you will put all your energy into it, without hesitation! Why won’t you act this way? With the construction of the new temple, for example, you don’t think it is your personal responsibility; you think it belongs to everybody, so you can just take your time and not care about it. As a result, it doesn’t matter to you. This is all of your own doing.

“You all used to feel that I wasn’t reasonable, and that I forced you to do everything. However, from these lines it is evident that I have not forced you at all; these things were taught by the Buddha. It’s just that in the past I did not use the Ratnakuta Sutra to explain them. Now, thanks to my having visited Sravasti in India, Shakyamuni Buddha has compassionately allowed me to give a special explanation of this section of the sutra. I just casually opened it up to this page, and it just happens to be a beratement of lay practitioners of the Bodhisattva Path, so you should feel ashamed.

“The sutra reads, ‘“One’s original virtue will not be lost and one’s good roots will increase and manifest.”’

“The Buddha feared that you might wonder whether you’d lose your virtue by doing this. This is because some people wonder whether their virtue will increase when they resolutely practice generosity using their transient body. According to the Buddha, it does. You do not need to worry over whether having a transient body while having a firm intention to give alms would mean you are asking for something in return; the Buddha said that is not the case: Your good roots will grow anyway. This is simply the Dharma method of practicing almsgiving. Why can’t you practice almsgiving, while I can? It is because though I might be broke at any given time, I do it as soon as I have some money; in addition, I believe that I could die at any time, so I take any opportunity to give alms that I can.

“Last month, His Holiness instructed me to accompany him to Bangladesh. I would not have had time to go, but because my guru had asked me to, I made time. You, on the other hand, would have told him to wait until you’d had time to make arrangements and think it over. Of course, I have a bit more freedom, in that I have fewer jailers than you.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To resolutely practice generosity using one’s transient life.”’

“This is the only way to succeed: Knowing full well that life is transient, yet being resolved to give alms regardless. Fearing that people like yourselves would be obstinate and say that you might not be able to give alms due to the transient nature of life, Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Dharma in such a way that you would not even have a chance to argue your way out of it. First He said ‘body,’ and later He said ‘life’; the body is one thing, but one’s life is an entirely different matter. Some people believe that with their longevity, despite not being in perfect health, they will not die just yet, and that they therefore can just wait and take their time. This is why the Buddha added another line with which to tell you that your life is transient, too. Moreover, with a transient body, one may be gravely ill in bed but cannot die. The disciple I mentioned a moment ago was like that; even while lying in bed, he still was not willing to give alms. He just kept on waiting, so I let him continue to wait.

“The sutra reads, ‘“To overcome stinginess by practicing almsgiving.”’

“Only if you have this sort of attitude can you conquer your miserly personality and be generous. Those disciples who were not immediately willing to support the temple’s construction are stingy and unwilling to let go of their attachments; they wanted to check it over and research it a bit before they committed. None of you expected I would suddenly stop accepting your donations; I did this to keep you from someday saying that I was just trying to rip you off. I would rather allow those disciples with good fortune and causal conditions to support the temple instead. In addition, even though I know my body and life are transient, the Dharma is intransient.”

(Next, Rinpoche asked how many people were currently not allowed to support the temple, and a disciple reported that more than eight hundred couldn’t.)

“You monastics have never heard of such a thing, right? More than eight hundred people cannot give financial support. If each of them gave NT$100,000, that would be NT$80 million, but I simply do not want your money. You think I cannot build this temple without you! How could I ever be threatened by anyone? In this lifetime, my biggest shortcoming is that I will neither be threatened nor intimidated by people. I just believe that I can rely on the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and my guru—though certainly not on my disciples! Therefore, you should not think of yourselves as having made offerings and given alms. The fact that you have not met these conditions set out by the Buddha means that you are bound to give rise to stinginess, miserliness, and an unwillingness to let go, because you lay utmost importance on your life and body. You are afraid of what might happen tomorrow if, after making offerings, you can’t afford to eat.

“As I have said before, in order to support our first Drikung Buddhist Center in Taiwan, I was willing to postpone paying my company’s rent. How many of you here are capable of doing the same? So why am I able to be a Rinpoche, and you are not? It is because I do everything in accordance with the sutras. You of course would think it is because I enjoyed good affinities in my past lives. That is true, but in this lifetime, I have taken a great many jailers on as my disciples, and done quite a good job nonetheless—so you should award me by listening! But you keep refusing to, and insist on doing things your own way.”

(Rinpoche asked how long the previous window of opportunity to support the temple had been, and a disciple reported that it had been three weeks.)

“The sutra reads, ‘“To resolutely practice generosity using one’s transient wealth.”’

“All wealth is transient, but our resolution to give alms is solid.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Elder, this is how the lay Bodhisattva practices and aggregates the virtuous deeds of a good person.”’

“Let me ask: How many of you have fulfilled this prerequisite? So many disciples think they have made offerings and practiced generosity, but they have not done these deeds of which the Buddha spoke. You therefore are bound to fail: Your version of practicing and aggregating the virtuous deeds of a good person merely entails casually giving alms and making offerings. If you think back on it, I have continuously scolded you about exactly that, yet you all wonder why. It is for your own good! If you do not behave correctly, then you cannot accumulate good deeds. Just because you may have done good deeds in the past does not mean you have aggregated them; it’s like trying to catch water without a container—it just drips down and does not get accumulated. This is what the Buddha taught, and is the equivalent of constantly reprimanding you to get you to listen. Therefore, today I am revealing the answers for you, and those of you who are newly taken refuge have a bit more good fortune because you are allowed to support the temple. This line is very important, as it teaches us how to concentrate our goodness. As long as you are the tiniest bit stingy, and hesitate out of a desire to think it through before making an offering, then the opportunity will pass you by. The window of three weeks goes by very quickly, but let’s be honest—it isn’t really that short of a time. So why don’t you act? You could just make offerings of a thousand or even five hundred NT$ to start with! Yet you insist on thinking it through first, and are afraid of being humiliated. You’ve already felt humiliated for quite a long time now, so what difference would this one time make? Other excuses you give are that you haven’t talked it over with your spouse yet, or that you still need to calculate this month’s expenses…. Can’t you still get through this month if you’re short the cost of two little box lunches? As a matter of fact, good fortune is right at your door, but you ignore it.

“Lately I’ve heard of a lot of examples of sick believers whose conditions improved after they made offerings in support of the temple. I have been told of at least a dozen such cases. They have not even seen me, nor have I seen them. Those of you who are my disciples just drag your feet whenever I need your help, thinking, The guru won’t die, and building a temple is a long-term project, so it doesn’t matter if I take my time making offerings. I’ll just wait until I am needed, and then I’ll threaten and intimidate him before giving him a bit of money. More than eight hundred of you think like this—so how can you aggregate your good deeds? You cannot, and your goodness is just drifting away in the wind.

“From the time I began to practice Exoteric Buddhism, I made offerings to my previous Dharma master, and ever since I started practicing Tantra, I have been making offerings to the Drikung Kagyu Order and His Holiness. As a result, my good deeds have aggregated quite quickly. You, on the other hand, are shooting hoops without even bothering to aim. If you keep randomly tossing it this way or hurling it that way, how are you going to score a goal? You won’t. You have learned nothing from my example.

“The sutra reads, ‘“In order to be attuned to the Buddhas, one must realize that all Buddhas are faultless because they speak the Dharma.”’

“This line is a reprimand to you all. A lot of Buddhist practitioners give a heap of excuses as soon as they encounter a problem, and even blame the Buddha; if they are too afraid to blame the Buddha, then they blame their guru or Buddhist center. As long as a guru is meritorious, then he or she can speak the Dharma as a representative of the Buddha. As such, criticizing one’s guru is tantamount to criticizing the Buddha; this is why the Buddha compassionately spoke this line. All Tathagatas (meaning, all Buddhas) are completely devoid of even the slightest fault. ‘Be attuned’ here indicates that if you feel the Buddhas or your guru have any faults, then they definitely will not be attuned to you. Not being attuned does not mean being unable to see their Dharma image or appearance; it means your mind is not attuned to them. If that is the case, then you absolutely will not be able realize the Buddha’s or your guru’s compassion for sentient beings. Your minds are all full of desires, so how can they be attuned to a mind of compassion? Being unattuned, you will never achieve realization through chanting mantras; you will merely accrue a tiny bit of virtue. This goodness, first of all, cannot help you to become liberated from life and death; and second of all, cannot transform your accumulated karma from past lives.

“Thus, that He suddenly came out with this line reiterates the fact that everything the Buddha said previously is correct, and that you absolutely must not think according to your own ideas. Nothing the Buddha said was wrong; it just depends on whether or not you are resolved enough to follow through. Your life, environment, and affinities are extremely complex; the Buddha could not elucidate the specific causal conditions of each and every sentient being within a short period of time. He could only speak generally, and give you all a topic to go by.

“You should act in accordance with this topic instead of complaining that you are incapable or wondering whether the Buddha misspoke or not. If He had, then you would say the Buddha has faults. If you are incapable, that has to do with yourselves, not the Buddha. You might be able to use excuses to convince some other incarnated Rinpoche or monastic, but you cannot convince me, because I am a lay practitioner. I have been so poor I could not afford a meal; I didn’t have a single cent to my name. Nevertheless, I was still able to give alms and make offerings—so there is absolutely no way your excuses will convince me that you are incapable of following the Buddha’s teachings. Why was I able to? Because the Buddha is faultless, and everything He said can certainly be realized.

“I have always believed in a concept, which was explained very clearly by Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara: Practitioners who cultivate in accordance with the Dharma will never go without food, clothing, or a place to live. For this reason, even when I was absolutely broke, I was never worried, because I had Avalokiteshvara. If I had starved, it would have meant that I had not cultivated well and had deserved it. Thus, you monastics should not worry over such things; if you do, it means you are not practitioners. If you starve to death in this lifetime, then you had it coming; because you did not cultivate well, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara was not able to take care of you.

“What does it mean to not cultivate well? It means not being resolved. Had I never been destitute in this lifetime, but instead had been born a throne holder or Rinpoche, then I of course would not be familiar with this sort of suffering. However, I am familiar with it. On top of that, I have also had cancer. No matter what hardships you might bring up, I have experienced them all. Why have I been able to keep plodding on? It is not due to perseverance; it is because of the good roots I have cultivated through lifetime after lifetime, which have allowed me to have absolute faith that the Buddhas and my guru are faultless. This has given me an attuned mind. And you? You are always saying you have not gotten there yet, but you have never gotten there, because the minute you encounter the tiniest of problems, you think someone else is to blame.

“Here the Buddha puts emphasis on this line for us. We must do everything to refrain from slandering of the Buddha in our practice. So many people do that! On the contrary, for those who have never practiced before, there might be fewer opportunities to slander the Buddha. An example of practitioners slandering the Buddha is saying that a certain yidam isn’t effective, and seeking out another yidam instead.

“The sutra reads, ‘“They speak the Dharma, so we should not have any deviating thoughts; as such, we would move toward the path of Supreme Enlightenment.”’

“We should accept everything the Buddha said, and believing Him to be completely faultless. This does not require blind acceptance; the Buddha has given us a general topic to go by, but in terms of the details and what they involve, we ourselves must ponder how best to proceed. That does not mean, after listening to the Buddha’s words, waiting until the right opportunity comes along before putting them to practice. You all make this same mistake these days; you say, ‘Rinpoche said so.’ However, my having said something does not mean I am going to do it for you. You must put my words into practice and go through the process yourselves. You think you can just keep on waiting until one day I appear before you, in which case you’ll say, ‘Rinpoche said so; this is the time to do it.’ Even if I were to cook a meal of rice and sides, you would still have to eat it. Even if you were unable to eat it, and needed to have it injected, you would still have to have the injection into your vein in order to absorb it. You are so lazy that I am extremely impressed. The Buddha told us the point and essence of cultivation, so now it is on us to make a firm resolution and practice accordingly. Any hindrances or doubts you might encounter along the way are not the Buddha’s fault, nor are they your guru’s; they result from your karma. It is written in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that a virtuous mentor can help us to overcome such obstacles, as long as we believe. Have you succeeded in this? No. You are still living by your own ideas.

“As long as you are not distracted by deviating thoughts, and respect Buddhism and the Three Jewels, then you are bound to walk the path of Supreme Enlightenment. When will you reach it? There is no telling, but one day, you will.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Furthermore, Elder, a lay Bodhisattva shall observe the virtuous precepts. They are the Five Precepts. Be joyful toward others, and refrain from killing.”’

“A lay practitioner wishing to practice Buddhism but who is unwilling to take refuge or observe the precepts is not qualified to practice the Bodhisattva Path. Moreover, you are not qualified even if you have heard about it, because you have not observed the precepts. Do not think that all you need to do is keep coming here and listening; it will have absolutely nothing to do with you. The Five Precepts here refer to the five lay precepts.

“‘Be joyful toward others, and refrain from killing’ means we should see everything as being good for us, even sentient beings that harm us; all we can do is treat them with joy. If they are good to us, it means we treated them well in a previous lifetime; if they are not, then it means we treated them poorly. If we get bitten by a poisonous snake or eaten by a wild beast, it is not the animal’s fault; it is ours. We have no choice but to be joyful toward it, and not give rise to any thoughts of vengeance or killing.

“Why do I import hindrance-eliminating grass? I do it because there are so many mosquitos in Taiwan; electric mosquito coils can kill them, and that would break the precept against killing. A lot of people would rather buy those than hindrance-eliminating grass. The scent of the latter causes even cockroaches to scurry off, but it does not kill them. Would you really miss the tiny bit extra it costs? You complain that it’s too much of a bother in that you’d have to buy a burner, or that your other half doesn’t like the smell it puts off, or that someone will label you superstitious. As a matter of fact, a few years from now there might not be any more hindrance-eliminating grass, because it grows wild, high in the mountains, and only a handful of elderly Tibetans know where. They will all be gone in a few years, and that knowledge will pass away with them. You have no idea what kind of treasures you have now! Some people’s homes are extremely damp and smell of mildew; lighting some hindrance-eliminating grass could dehumidify and freshen the air—yet they don’t want to go to the trouble, and would rather just go and see a doctor. Seeing a doctor requires paying a registration fee, too! A bag of hindrance-eliminating grass doesn’t cost much at all, yet you are too stingy to spend anything.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Put down your knives and staves, and in your shame, make a firm resolution.”’

“Do not kill any animals or other sentient beings with bladed weapons or beat them with sticks. If you have ever engaged in such actions, you should feel very ashamed and vow never to do them again. You are lucky that you have taken refuge in Tibetan Buddhism and have hindrance-eliminating grass to help you reduce the chances that you will inadvertently take life. If your apartment is damp, and you are unwilling to spend money renovating it to get rid of the moisture, and it gets full of cockroaches as a result, then you will keep having to use flip-flops to chase them all over the place—but don’t try to be a smart alec by saying that the Buddha never prohibited the use of flip-flops; such would be a misconception.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Refrain from killing any sentient beings.”’

“This includes all beings with sentience. In this evil time of the Five Turbidities, there is great risk of killing even if you eat vegetarian and are very careful. Why should you attend the Chod Pujas? Don’t think that participating once is enough to completely liberate all your ancestors and any sentient beings you have killed; every single day there is a chance we will take life. There is a passage of the Samadhi Water Repentance in which it is written that after brewing vinegar, even just opening the lid can kill sentient beings, because the top layer contains bacteria; for this one must repent. Before you took refuge, you consumed so many sentient beings that if they were all to line up, the queue would stretch from here to beyond the edges of the solar system. Would you still claim to have repented? Even if you eat vegetarian, you are still indirectly killing sentient beings, because many farmers use pesticide on the crops they grow for us to consume.

“As long as we are living in this evil time of the Five Turbidities, we will always be at risk of killing. We should not actively kill, but must also thoroughly repent for those sentient beings whose lives we take passively and without being able to help it. With the help of the gurus, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas, as well as our own resolve, we learn that we must feel shame; only then can participating in the pujas be worthwhile. Right now you all have no sense of shame, a sense that is prerequisite to a repentant attitude. So far, your repentances have all merely been apologies; you hope to avoid any further suffering, and that by repenting you can keep your karmic creditors at bay. The Buddha stated very clearly that if we have ever used a stick to beat a dog or cat, or thrown a rock at one, then we should feel ashamed.

“I had a disciple who sought an audience with me because his father had an incurable lung condition. I told him that his dad had once skewered a dog through the lung with an iron rod. The father had worked in customs, and his job had been to inspect packages arriving from overseas. One time, while inspecting an item, he had poked a rod into a box, and this action had pierced the lung of a dog that was inside. He had not done this on purpose, but the animal had later died. By contrast, how much meat have we intentionally consumed? How many sentient beings have we harmed? Do you think you can just stand here repenting and it will all be fine? Does squirting out a couple of tears make up for it all? Do you have no shame?

If I keep on expounding the Ratnakuta Sutra, I might end up speaking to an empty room. Based on the Buddha’s conditions, if you do not practice in earnest, then you are just wasting time. For every day that we are alive and breathing, we are liable to kill sentient beings. In Tantric practice, any sound one hears is a mantra, and any sentient being one sees is a yidam; such a perspective reduces thoughts of hatred or killing that we might have. We still have not changed any of the karma from vengeance and killing and habits we have accumulated through lifetime after lifetime. This is why the Buddha used so many Dharma methods to teach us what to do. In general, people who are generous and not stingy will naturally give alms.

“Why did the Buddha suddenly say you should feel ashamed and make a firm resolution? It is because He worried that the moment your mind changed, your karma would manifest. Once you have accrued karma from killing, it is very difficult to pay off your debt, so don’t think that simply shedding a few tears on stage or in front of me will abruptly fix your situation, replenish your good fortune, or cure you of your illnesses; it will not. In fact, your repentance will only allow you the opportunity to begin to change. If you do not even repent, then change is impossible.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Refrain from inciting afflictions in any beings.”’

“Do not cause any sentient beings to suffer afflictions. Many of you enjoyed catching bugs for fun when you were children, or throwing stones at birds on purpose to drive them off. These are examples of inciting afflictions in others. Another is if you intentionally look for opportunities to pick a fight or teach someone a lesson, and so is playing pranks. Raise your hand if you’ve never done any of this. Sometimes I see examples of behavior that make me feel like humans are inferior to animals. Many years ago, there was a scene on television showing three orangutans that had spotted a chameleon walking along a tree branch. They all just stared at it, and did not bother it. By their facial expressions, it looked like they were enjoying the sight, but not one of them reached out to touch the lizard. Had it been you in their place, you would have poked and prodded its tail to see what colors it might change to. Don’t believe yourselves to be innocent. Raise your hand if you have never messed with ants. Who among you has never chased after a cockroach and tried to swat it? If you yourself never did that, you got one of your parents to do it for you. Raise your hand if you never did that. Have you genuinely repented for these things? If you have not, then they will hinder you from cultivating. In the sutra line, ‘any beings’ means all sentient beings.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Have the same mind as sentient beings, and practice compassion constantly.”’

“We must understand that the minds of sentient beings are the same as ours. In secular terms, this means that every living being clings to life and fears death, prefers to feel safe and happy, and is terrified of suffering. Even shrimp and bacteria are the same as we are; their minds are the same as ours. Only if you comprehend this can you practice compassion frequently. If you see them as beasties or bad guys, then you won’t be able to develop compassion. Having compassion means not harming them. In Tantric terms, trading something good of yours for something bad of theirs is the foundation of compassion, but you are unable to do this. According to the conditions set out in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, no sentient being is qualified to be liberated. As I said last week, you should reconsider exactly who among you are qualified to be liberated. Being qualified means possessing good fortune. However, since I am cultivating compassion by practicing the Bodhisattva Path, as long as even the slightest causal condition exists—even if your good fortune is thinner than a piece of paper—I will still help you, and trade you my good fortune. Do you think this is an easy feat? It is not, but you all feel entitled. If you read the sutras, you will see that there is no such thing as entitlement. If you do not ‘have the same mind as sentient beings, and practice compassion constantly’, then by what right can you claim that you are cultivating compassion?

“The sutra reads, ‘“Refrain from stealing, and be content with your own wealth.”’

“Those who walk the Bodhisattva Path should never steal. You should be satisfied with the wealth that is your due—for example, your monthly paycheck. Don’t rack your brains to think of ways to get kickbacks, moonlight without your boss’s knowledge, sell company secrets, or take them with you and share them from job to job; people who do such things are all thieves. Many people all over the world make this mistake. They think their company is only making money due to the work they do for it, but have not thought about this: Without the environment, resources, and training that company provides, could they earn a paycheck? They could not. This is an example of people who do not know how to be content. The Buddha urged us to be content with our own wealth. If you have to work in this lifetime, then as long as you have sufficient good fortune, you will earn more money than others in the same position with the same job. If you do not have enough good fortune, then you will make less, but have no need to complain. Nevertheless, everyone these days loves to complain about injustice, unfairness, and bullying.

“Where does your wealth come from? I am not telling you not to work hard. If you are not hardworking, the Buddha won’t throw money at you. ‘Your own wealth’ refers to any wealth you possess in this lifetime, which is determined by the alms you gave and offerings you made in your past lives; it does not mean you can get more by stealing or swindling money in this lifetime. Only two things can happen if you get more money: One is taking and spending the money that is your due in this lifetime; the other is that even if you make some money, you end up with a shortened lifespan or stuck in prison. There are plenty of examples of this in society, and you have seen them, too. Many people are great at ripping others off, but end up in financial dire straits by the time they are older, without a dime left to their name. Some people mysteriously end up in prison. If it is not your wealth, and you have gotten it through deception and so on, then you will use up all your good fortune.

“‘Be content with your own wealth’—this means you should be satisfied with however much money you make each month. If you work hard and do well at your job, then as your good fortune accumulates, so will your wealth. You won’t even need to ask for it to.

“Yesterday a salesperson came and asked me how he could make more money. I suggested that he be a Rinpoche, and I would seek an audience with him instead. I don’t even perform the Dharma for the sake of my own business, so why would I help him get rich? Taoism has its God of Wealth, and Tantra has the Jambhala, but even those only do you favors based on the wealth already in your life; they merely give you what wealth was already your due, not grant you more for free. Even if they did, you would eventually have to pay it back.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Do not covet the wealth and property of others.”’

“You should not look at someone else’s money and think, It would be awesome if that guy would give me a few bucks, or if I could make more money by getting to his position and getting rid of him. Why will cutting corners land you in hell? It is because doing that involves taking other people’s wealth for yourself; you will have to go to the Hell Realm to repay that debt. If you are working for a salary, then earn it as well as you can. If you do not like the job, then leave; don’t blame your boss. If he or she is giving you a paycheck, then your boss is a good one. It means this person owes you from a previous lifetime, and is repaying you by giving you a job. Don’t whine that you are badly done-by and think you should get back at him or her through deception in order to make more money; all such actions would break the precept against theft. If someone is rich or holds a high-up position, that has to do with his or her good fortune. Do not be jealous or think that by befriending that person, he or she will share some of that wealth with you.

“Before I started practicing Buddhism, I was once told that a certain stock was bound to go up by a few dollars a share and there was money to be made. I was not tempted; I did not buy into it. Now that I have been practicing Buddhism, I am even more resolved not to do that sort of thing. When someone tells me his or her stock price is about to go up, I remain unmoved; that is that person’s wealth, not mine. For the same reason, I do not believe that I can hold on to any profit I might make from purchasing such shares. Some boast that others have made money from buying stocks, but any wealth they gained is not their own, because they did not earn it. It’s fine if you buy shares yourself and then just let them earn dividends every year. However, if you buy shares after hearing news that their price is bound to go up, and speculate back and forth like that for short-term gains, then you are merely benefiting from someone else’s wealth. For example, it would be wrong for anyone to play the stock market or doing deals in the names of foundations to raise funds with which to support the temple’s construction.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Eschew greed, and do not give rise to ignorance.”’
“You must rid yourselves of all your greed. Ignorance means not believing in cause and effect. Some people cheat others out of their money and end up in prison, yet still come up with a heap of excuses. They say they didn’t know, or that they did it because someone else told them something and they believed it. If you were not greedy, then would you have fallen for it so easily? Others might put you in charge even if you are not qualified, and you do it because they told you to. When things go wrong, whom can you blame? It happened because of your greed—and being greedy indicates that you do not believe in cause and effect. Many people would think themselves lucky and made to feel important. However, they have to consider whether they are actually capable of doing the job. No one believes this; you all just think you’ve gotten lucky, well-connected, and that the person who promoted you must see a certain value in you.

“Giving rise to greed leads to ignorance, and not believing in cause and effect. You do something wrong, but then come up with a heap of rationalizations for your actions. We lay practitioners must be especially careful of this. Do not give me a bunch of excuses such as wanting to earn some money quickly because the new temple needs donations; don’t tell me such things. As I often say, if my guru, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas give their blessings, then this temple will be completed. If not, then it means the causal condition does not exist. I don’t want to hear my disciples say that they have resorted to unscrupulous methods of making money in order to make offerings to me in support the temple; I absolutely refuse to accept any such offerings. Don’t assume that having money makes you amazing. The Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center has the very strict rule that only disciples are allowed to make offerings; this is to avoid having any involvement with such ill-begotten wealth.

“A lot of people think that when building a temple, donations should be accepted from all over, but society is too complicated nowadays; there is hardly any genuinely virtuous wealth anymore. If we were to gather money from all over, then I would need to take responsibility for it. Currently, all potential temple donors must be introduced through a disciple; if they are not, I will not accept. This is especially true of large sums of money. I have to know where it came from; I am wary of cause and effect! None of you is afraid of cause and effect, but you’ll still have to repay any money you owe later. In other words, if you take the wealth of others, what will you give in return?

“The Buddha states very clearly in this line that eschewing greed will prevent ignorance. When you are greedy, you are overcome by ignorance; as such, you cannot recognize what wrongdoings you have committed. Lay practitioners are allowed to do business, but they must be fair and straightforward. They must not deceive or play others; they must be honest. Wealth made in this manner is one’s own, and does not lead to problems in causality. If you swindle money from people, then one day that will happen to you, and you will be cheated very badly. Even if you are not, you will not be able to hold on to your wealth, so don’t think you can just worry about the consequences later. You should remember this line of the sutra.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Do not covet another person’s promotion.”’

“Don’t get jealous if someone else is promoted. There are a lot of such people in many companies. They wonder, Why did my boss promote him and not me? Then they begin to take action against that person, or resign. They complain, ‘My boss was unfair; I’ve done so much for the company, whereas that other guy is constantly making mistakes, yet he is the one who got a promotion.’ In this situation you may quit your job, but you should not take action against that person or covet his new position; he has his own good fortune, and must face the consequences of his getting a promotion and whether or not he would do a good job. It is none of your business. Whether in a public institution or private corporation, everyone gets jealous when seeing someone else get promoted. They covet the position and wish it were their own, and this desire causes them to engage in a lot of negative behavior. This line of the sutra is specifically directed at lay practitioners, so you should pay attention; do not give rise to covetous thoughts when you see someone get a raise or a promotion.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Refrain from taking even a single blade of grass or a leaf, unless it is permitted or given by its owner.”’

“I have spoken about this line before. Don’t emulate novels, where the male protagonist goes outdoors to pick a flower and then saunters over to give it to the female protagonist; this is theft. Everything, down to each individual plant or blade of grass, has its owner; if it was not given to you, then you may not take it. You might ask what you should do if you are a farmer. In this case, you should arrange someone to perform a puja and acknowledge all the beings that reside on it. Every plant has sentient beings residing on it, and they are its owners. It might be an ant or a grasshopper. When you pick that flower, you are depriving the insect of a place to live. Buddhism pays attention to the minutest detail. Some people go over to someone else’s house, see flowers in that person’s garden, and pick them, but such actions have consequences. These days leukemia is particularly rampant, and this is how it is contracted: By depriving insects of their residences.

“For example, while making preparations to build the temple, after we found a site for it, the first thing I did was to accompany His Holiness there to perform the puja so that the local sentient beings would know what my plans were. We also implored the Earth Mother for her consent; only after that did I begin construction. The same things must be done when erecting buildings. Every piece of land has its owner. You might not know who or what that is; it might be a ghost—but without its consent, you cannot use the land without breaking the precept against theft. Some people see their possessions mysteriously go missing or get stolen; this is because they, too, have broken that precept in the past. The same is true of some people who get swindled. If you had not broken this precept yourself, then you would not have gotten cheated. Don’t complain that whoever deceived you is a bad person. Why can’t the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and I cheat you? Are other people the only ones who may? This, too, is cause and effect.

“Living in modern society, it is very easy to damage plants. Thus, why should we repent all the time? Repenting all the time does not mean living in a constant state of nervousness every second of the day; it means being vigilant. If you are not vigilant, then attempting to cultivate the Bodhisattva Path will be useless. If you do not keep the precepts, then you could listen to the Buddha’s teachings for another hundred years and still wouldn’t be practicing the Bodhisattva Path. Don’t think to yourself, It’s enough if I just come here and listen; I don’t have to take refuge in the guru. Contrary to what you might expect, the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center’s rule is that you may only listen without taking refuge for a year; after that, you will not be allowed to keep attending. Don’t think you can do what is taught just by listening. Without someone to scold and supervise you, how can you? Even I, after all this time, still implore His Holiness and look forward to his reprimands at any time. Who do you think you are, to not wish to be reprimanded and singled out? Without discipline and reminders from your guru, you are constantly giving rise to wicked thoughts in spite of yourselves.

“This line about not being allowed to take even a single blade of grass or a leaf is meant to train us to respect the possessions of others. Even if we cannot avoid using something that belongs to someone else, afterward we still must return it and apologize to the owner. However, don’t think you can just take something without asking and then take your time to explain; if you do this, you have broken the precept against theft. As such, you will have to repay this debt through lifetime after lifetime. If you have too much debt to repay, then how can you practice the Bodhisattva Path?

“Today I’ve been teaching you all about three things: Almsgiving, taking refuge and observing the precepts, and the precept against theft. I hope you all will be cautious; do not think you can do these simply by listening. Being resolved is not at all easy to do; the only way is to make a firm resolution to take refuge and learn Buddhism, cultivate the Bodhisattva Path, and renounce the mundane world.

“Some people who propagate the Dharma use the terms ‘disgust and reject.’ We cannot use the word ‘disgust’; we say ‘renounce.’ When you say ‘disgust and reject’, it means you dislike certain persons, objects, or phenomena, whereas renouncing the mundane world means we understand very clearly that reincarnation prevents us from becoming liberated from life and death and forever keeps us from attaining Buddhahood. We therefore must have a firm sense of renunciation. That is not to say that we cannot cultivate the Bodhisattva Path and vow to come back; it means our goal is to renounce the mundane world of reincarnation, and reincarnation’s force. What causes us to reincarnate? Continuous transgressions. This can be defined in two ways; both doing good deeds and committing evil acts are transgressions. The ‘good’ spoken of by the Buddha has no aftereffects, and it is the good of Emptiness; on the other hand, the karmic effects of worldly good will cause us to reincarnate. Once we understand the suffering caused by reincarnation, we must make a firm resolution to practice diligently.

“The Venerable Milarepa once said that even if you cultivate well in this lifetime, as long as you have still not escaped reincarnation and become liberated from life and death, then when you reincarnate again, you will not be reborn to fulfill your vows, and will certainly be reborn in hell in some lifetime. Milarepa’s words cannot be wrong, so if you merely cultivate the Bodhisattva Path but do not attain realization in this lifetime, then your next reincarnation could very well be in the Hell Realm. Why did Shakyamuni Buddha introduce us to Amitabha? It was because He was afraid you would not achieve realization. To put it simply, if you are unable to achieve realization in this lifetime, then you at least should rely on Amitabha’s aspiration so that you have a chance to obtain the causal condition to be reborn in his Pure Land. Once you go there, you will be a Bodhisattva of non-retrogression. I have been explaining all of these fundamental Bodhisattva concepts today in order to plant a seed in your Eighth Consciousness, so that in the future you will have an easier time setting foot upon and cultivating the Bodhisattva Path.

“If you can apply the Bodhisattva Path to your life, then you will be able to avoid many mishaps. As was mentioned earlier, by not being greedy, you will not give rise to ignorance. The wrongdoings people commit come from greed; if you are not greedy, you will not go wrong. If you mind your own business, you are not liable to be covetous. How can it be okay to have a full mouth while simultaneously extending your hands to grab more? Furthermore, you keep complaining that your boss is unfair, and that you’d be better off finding another job. Your boss is obviously the one giving you a paycheck, but if you constantly make mistakes and criticize your boss, then you’ll never be able to do well.

“On the surface, the Ratnakuta Sutra is about the Bodhisattva Path, but it actually is about the fundamental principles of how humans should behave. The Buddha said that to learn His way, one must first have humanity. Only once you have completely learned to behave as a human should will you be qualified to begin to learn Buddhism. Until then, claiming to be a Buddhist practitioner will just be a lie. What does it mean to be human? Humans cultivate the Ten Meritorious Acts. If you are not cultivating these, then you definitely are not human. You might possess a human body, but you are merely wearing a human’s skin, and in the future you will just be another sentient being who has fallen into the Three Evil Realms. You need to be cautious; do not let your mind go lax.

“To reiterate the line mentioned previously, you must not take even a single blade of grass or a leaf unless you are permitted to or it was given. If you turn yourself into that male protagonist who strolls through the countryside picking flowers for his love, or who finds a shell on the beach and carves her initials in it as a gift, then you are doing wrong. No other religion can compare to Buddhism when it comes to meticulousness. Why is it so meticulous? It is because the Buddha was so perceptive. He also told us not to think it is okay to commit minor transgressions or neglect to do minor good deeds, because all great evils start with small evils, and all great virtues start with small virtues.

“For example, some types of grass are eaten by cows and horses, so when you pick a blade and play with it, twisting it around your fingers, you are depriving an animal of part of its meal. Before taking it, therefore, you should run over and ask the horse, ‘Do you want to eat this? If not, then do you mind if I take it and play with it?’ If you just pick it without asking, then the horse will get angry. You might like to visit the countryside and enjoy the beautiful scenery, and while you’re at it you pluck up some grass, roll it around, and braid it together; this might make you feel like quite the hipster. Who among you has never done this? Raise your hands. You might venture to the creek side, and deliberately kick a rock around. Any such actions do harm to sentient beings and incite afflictions in them. Why do so many people these days have cancer? It is because they kick and throw stones next to streams, disturbing dragons and making them angry. What’s more, such people are polluting the water by camping next to it, roasting meat, and urinating and defecating there. Dragons live in water, too, and in their anger, they cause the people who polluted their home to get cancer. A lot of folks have done this sort of thing; they go to a river or stream and happily move rocks all over the place—but in their carelessness, they end up disturbing the dragons that live in the water.

“I once told a person whose face was covered in white splotches that he had not performed the puja before moving rocks to build a temple. He admitted that this was the case. Such white splotches result from disturbing dragons, and cannot be cured.” (A doctor-disciple stood and reported, “Such white splotches are indeed a phenomenon that is not well understood by medicine, and are incurable.”)

Rinpoche continued: “Today I’m going to tell you all a secret, and this is written in the sutras, too: If a dragon so much as glares at you, you will get sick; it doesn’t even need to be doing anything in particular. A part of the offering made during the Chod is the offering to dragons, which causes them to be a bit more courteous toward you. How many dragons do we harm each day? One hundred percent of cancer patients have hurt them in the past—by eating seafood; by kicking stones and shells around on the beach, thinking such behavior is quite poetic. All these things put them at risk of harming dragons. There didn’t used to be so many opportunities of harming them, not because of what we ate back then, but because where we lived did not put us at as much risk of hurting sentient beings. Nowadays we have a lot more free time in which to do it, and we even have the gall to think ourselves poetic and daydream that we are characters in a movie. The chances of getting cancer these days are so high. Air pollution angers dragons, too; when the air quality is bad, they get sick, so cancer is especially prevalent in areas with polluted air. I have revealed many secrets to you today.”

Next, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the disciples in the Dharma Protector Achi ritual. Afterward, he continued:

“The dedication prayer contained in the Dharma Protector Achi ritual does not say to whom it is dedicated; the text just says, ‘May merits come from this.’ This means that we hope the merits that come from performing the Dharma Protector’s ritual will allow us to avoid all hindrances to our cultivation. Some of these hindrances we brought upon ourselves, and some come from our set karma from our past lives. How can they be avoided? Only by making a firm resolution to renounce reincarnation. If you still hope participating in the pujas will cure your physical ailments or make your husband obey you, then this sort of dedication will have absolutely no effect on you.

“‘When I attain Protector Achi’s wisdom’—this does not mean you transform into a copy of her; it means achieving realization in everything she has taught. The connotation is that we can attain Enlightenment, thus guaranteeing that we will be liberated from life and death and never suffer from reincarnation again. Do not assume that chanting the Buddha’s name or the Great Six-Syllable Mantra a few times on your own is enough to become liberated from the suffering of reincarnation. Without the blessings of a guru, the Dharma protectors, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas, you are not able to do so in this lifetime based on your own merits. I am not trying to rain on your parade; I am simply stating facts. It is written very clearly in the dedication text: ‘When I attain Protector Achi’s wisdom’. Do you think you can attain it? If you cannot, no worries; many believers and disciples are able to be liberated by the Phowa without having achieved realization. In fact, some believers are able to receive the Phowa because they are very aware that they are suffering in reincarnation, so they resolve to renounce it, respect the Three Jewels, and have faith in their guru.

“Do not assume that a daily performance of the Dharma Protector’s ritual will necessarily help you in all of your endeavors or bring you blessings and protection. If you can practice as is written in the text, then she will certainly protect and bless you, because it means you are a practitioner. If you still seek the mundane way, then it is not that she won’t bless and protect you; it’s just that it will happen a bit more slowly. Protector Achi is a Dharma protector of wisdom, not a mundane one. She has attained Buddhahood, and she helps and protects those who support the Order and practice in earnest. If you are constantly imploring for this and that, such as good health or the ability to earn more money with which to make offerings, then she definitely will not bless or protect you. Be a bit more well-behaved, chant in accordance with the Dharma text, and don’t add your personal desires into it. If you really can become liberated from reincarnation, then all your suffering and hindrances will vanish. You are so intelligent; you actually don’t need to ask Protector Achi to do certain things for you before you will believe in her.

“What sort of people can eliminate their hindrances? Practitioners. What sort of people can break away from reincarnation? Those who only do good deeds and eschew all evil. Given that you have not succeeded in this, what makes you think you can become liberated? Practicing Buddhism requires having a few fundamental principles. If you won’t even listen to what the Buddha said and what is written in the Dharma texts, then there is no possibility that you will succeed on your own, because you are not practicing the paths of Sravaka and Pratyakabuddha and have not become ordained. Very few people these days practice those paths. You should all learn to listen.

“Earlier in the sutra it was written that the Buddhas are absolutely faultless. As long as you have faith in this fact, the Buddhas and your guru will be attuned to you. ‘Faults’ do not refer to the Buddha’s having faults; rather, they refer to your harboring of doubts about the Buddha. If you feel that you cannot follow the Buddha’s teachings, and do not believe what He said was true, then you think He has faults; as such, you will not be attuned to Him. Being attuned does not mean that He will appear before you, rub your head, and cure you of your illness or pull your cancer cells right out of you; such ideas are utter nonsense and myth. The Buddha would never tell you fairytales; everything He said, you must do it yourselves.

“In this Age of Degenerate Dharma, it is getting more and more difficult to propagate Buddhism, because people are becoming lazier and lazier. They do not feel a need to practice; they think they can just go online and recite the sutras that way. In Japan you can now send an online payment to ‘have your deceased loved ones liberated’, but if that were possible, the Buddha would have said so long ago.”

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the attendees in the Dharma Protector Achi ritual and dedication prayer. Upon the perfect completion of the puja, everyone thanked the guru for performing the Dharma and for bestowing teachings that were profound yet easy to understand. Rising to their feet, they paid reverent homage as His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended the Dharma throne.

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Updated on January 30, 2019