His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – July 22, 2018

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

“Today I will continue expounding the Ratnakuta Sutra. I’ve mentioned before that practicing the Bodhisattva Path requires five stages of cultivation. First is the Path of Accumulation; second is the Path of Preparation; third is the Path of Vision; fourth is the Path of Cultivation; fifth is the Path of Non-Cultivation. Regarding the Path of Accumulation, while on the Bodhisattva Path, you should constantly be accumulating the resources of good fortune and wisdom; without those, you cannot cultivate the Dharma. This stage includes such actions as taking refuge, making prostrations to the Buddha, listening to the sutras, repenting, attending penitential rites, and meditating. Do not assume that doing those things means you are cultivating; they merely represent the first stage. Once you have gathered a certain amount of resources along the Path of Accumulation, you can set foot upon the Path of Preparation.

“This next stage, the Path of Preparation, can be explained in two ways: One is that we strengthen our resolve to practice with cultivation of the Dharma; the other is that blessings from the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, yidams, gurus, and Dharma protectors will eliminate any hindrances along our Buddhist path. Without ample good fortune and wisdom, the Path of Preparation cannot be reached, and you won’t succeed in it even if someone reluctantly transmits it to you. It was stated very clearly that after you took refuge, many auspicious resources would increase continuously due to your cultivation along the Path of Accumulation. Therefore, a guru would constantly grant disciples opportunities to do virtuous deeds so as to increase their resources for practicing Buddhism.

“Many people believe that they have already accumulated enough resources; after all, they have consistently made offerings at a set amount each month. Do they need to do more? Of course they do. According to the Venerable Marpa’s cultivation method, none of you here dares to think or act as he did. He traveled thrice from Tibet to India to implore the Dharma, each time carrying a huge weight of gold with him as an offering. These offerings were far larger than you might imagine, and far more than the five taels of gold people normally buy; they were the sum of everything he owned. He had continuously practiced the Path of Accumulation, without ever stopping, and that was how he arrived at the Path of Preparation. This path refers to the direction of cultivation that is of benefit to oneself and sentient beings; only once Marpa had attained this path could he go on to the Path of Vision. This involves genuinely realizing Emptiness, as well as the profound significance of the Dharmas spoken by the Buddhas.

“The Path of Vision is further divided into many substages. Do not assume that having heard the Dharma and come to understand the meaning of Emptiness means you are necessarily on the Path of Vision. In Zen terms, ‘when your mind is enlightened, you can see your essence.’ However, even if your mind is enlightened, that does not mean you can see the true Buddha nature. Actually, mind enlightenment and seeing one’s essence are two different things. When you begin to attain this state, and have a thorough understanding of your mind, you will truly see your pure, original nature. This certainly cannot be done in the space of a mere lifetime, however. As is written in the sutras, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas all cultivated for many lifetimes before attaining Buddhahood.

“The sutra reads, ‘When one acts as a small, foolish, and shameless ordinary person….’

“You only come each week to attend a puja and donate some spare change, so by what reasoning do you feel that you should get everything you want? In this Age of Dharma Decline, true practitioners are exceedingly rare. Many people cultivate superficially, but very few act in strict accordance with the sutras. It is rare to find those who continuously practice the Path of Accumulation; most of you think you are, and that if you fall to tears in front of me you’ll be able to obtain transmission of any Dharma you want. As we can see in the Biography of Milarepa, he knew full well that he was bound to fall into the Hell Realm due to the evil acts he had committed and that he would never achieve realization in that lifetime without imploring the auspicious Dharma, so when he sought an audience with the Venerable Marpa, Milarepa became absolutely resolved, and implored with the utmost sincerity.

“Knowing that Milarepa was penniless, and understanding very clearly that offerings must be made whenever one implores the Dharma, Marpa’s wife gave Milarepa one of her own possessions so that he could use it to make an offering to the Venerable Marpa. However, Marpa would not accept it, because the offering item had not belonged to Milarepa himself. Thus, besides which items to use, the most important part of an offering is one’s resolve. That disciple who came out a little while ago to share her account prior to the puja did not repent at all; she was merely afraid to continue suffering. She said all that she said, but never hit upon the point: She had not made any offerings. She was willing to put up with being swindled or lending her money to someone, but was too stingy to make offerings. This was because she had a casual attitude toward making offerings, and would only give money if she had any extra leftover.

“Many Buddhist practitioners make the same mistake. You aren’t necessarily required to reach into your wallet, but what truly is important is your resolve. The Venerable Marpa told Milarepa that the first thing he must do was to build a house. He did not say what it should look like; he simply said to build a house. When Milarepa did not build it correctly, he had to tear it down, again and again. The Dharma text does not say how many times he had to do this, but eventually the Venerable Marpa said he had built an okay house. This was to train Milarepa to completely submit and give rise to respect for his guru. Although he was poor to the point of having no possessions, the fact that he did as he was told was in itself an offering. Do you do as you are told?

“From this it is evident that one does not need money to practice Buddhism. Having money but not making offerings is wrong, but so is being poor but not being observant and respectful. The Venerable Marpa and Milarepa put on a show for us to observe: One had money, and used all of it to implore the Dharma; the other had no money, but did as he was told and did not question his guru what he had done wrong. You would all have said, ‘What did I do wrong? I did nothing wrong! You need to teach me! You didn’t tell me how to do it.’ Otherwise you’d just say, ‘Rinpoche was mad at me.’

“How could I be mad? Based on what is written in the Ratnakuta Sutra, if I see that you are headed down into the Three Evil Realms, then shouldn’t I admonish you, stop you from committing evil, and punish you? If I do not, then the Buddha will rebuke me; this is a very grave action. Thus, I ask you all to cultivate the correct attitude. Do not assume Buddhism is about listening to what you like to hear. If you make a mistake, then the Buddha will certainly berate you precisely because He is so immensely compassionate. Why is that? If you want to be His disciple, yet are not following His teachings, then it would be strange if He didn’t berate you! There is no way He would shower you with kind words such as, ‘Oh, that’s right! He acts this way because he has no choice,’ or ‘Oh, I see! She didn’t mean it.’ Or you might say, ‘Rinpoche should treat us nicely.’

“All of you are constantly trying to please everyone. Aren’t you afraid of falling into the Hell Realm? Why do I suddenly mention this? These days the term ‘lay practitioners’ includes so many monastics; you should not assume that shaving your head means you are a monastic. Shakyamuni Buddha stated very clearly in the Ratnakuta Sutra that there are people who appear to be ordained but whose hearts are not. This section provides an analysis for you to understand what a lay practitioner is. When listening to the Dharma, you should not assume you are cultivating, that you have learned a lot, or that you know it all. You may have some knowledge, but have you put it into practice? Not even the slightest bit. Each of you is selfish and self-serving; you only care about yourself. You are like that disciple who voiced a bunch of repentances before the puja began, but did not mention the most important thing—that she had not made any offerings. She just skipped right over that part, and merely said that she had lost the opportunity to do so.

“Why had she not made offerings? Another example is that disciple I berated yesterday, yet another one who had not given any support in time to the new temple. I said, ‘When you need help with something, I immediately take care of it. However, when your guru has a task to do, you drag your feet, don’t you?’ Hence, when you implore the Dharma, I will take my time transmitting it to you. If you think you are so resourceful, then go and implore it from another Rinpoche. This is cause and effect. Who among you has ever seen me not immediately spring into action the moment something happens to you? Have I ever told you that before I help, I need to understand thoroughly, take things slowly, and wait until I have time and energy to do it? Why do you treat your guru this way? You are constantly claiming that you want to repay the debt of gratitude you owe and do your best to learn, but what exactly are you learning? You have not learned anything except how to act as non-Buddhists who attach yourselves to the Dharma, wishing for a better life.

“The Vajrayana Vehicle teaches us the way to attain Buddhahood, while the Vehicle of Bodhisattvas teaches us how to cultivate the Bodhisattva Path. If you are always imploring for your own sake, then you are not a Buddhist practitioner. Everyone is selfish; some of you say you have poor health or any number of a heap of bizarre, fantastic issues. When you are being ripped off you have money, but when it comes time to make offerings, you have none. The reason Shakyamuni Buddha predicted that the Dharma would disappear on Earth in the future is that sentient beings are becoming more and more disrespectful toward Buddhism and the Three Jewels. They feel entitled to what they want, and take no interest in what they don’t want. They think that because I am a practitioner, I should help them, but when they don’t want anything, they ignore their guru.

“If we have a look at how practitioners used to implore the Dharma, even I blush with shame. In order to implore His Holiness to transmit a Dharma to me, I made a special trip to India, yet you can’t even be bothered to come to the Buddhist Center. On Saturdays you are all so busy; you think it would be best if you could just kneel down and have me tell you everything you want to hear and give you whatever you want. It’s like how yesterday, after I transmitted the Vajrasattva, everyone was sitting there with mouths agape and eyes wide, because they hadn’t listened, hadn’t understood, and could not remember what I had said. Too bad, because whenever His Holiness has transmitted the Dharma to me, he has only said it one time, and never repeated himself; once his teachings are finished, they are finished. This is how His Holiness taught me, so of course this is how I am teaching you.

“Why are you unable to remember what you have heard? It is very simple: You have not sufficiently cultivated the Path of Accumulation; you do not possess good fortune, and have not yet unlocked your wisdom. Why does His Holiness only have to teach me once before I understand? Take the Great Amitabha Dharma for Transferring Consciousness; after reciting it just once, His Holiness handed it to me, and did not repeat himself. You are quite lucky, actually; I have explained the Dharma so many times to you. I feel I have spoken too much.

“The sutra reads, ‘All kinds of suffering and afflictions would appear during his or her lifetime.’

“If you are a small, foolish, and shameless ordinary person, and instead of doing good deeds you are constantly committing evil acts, then all manner of suffering will manifest in your lifetime; that is, they will appear over and over prior to your death. Therefore, if you have afflictions and have begun to fall ill, it all has to do with these things—your unwillingness to listen or put what you are taught into practice, your indifference, and your tendency to seek me out for blessings whenever you have a problem. Let me ask you: If you ask me to bless you, and I have helped you save so much money, then where has that money gone? You haven’t given it to me or to the Buddhist Center; that being the case, and given your unwillingness to practice diligently, you are bound to follow the original course of your karma. The words written in these sutras are all based in fact; that is, they are all based on the karma of sentient beings.

“The sutra reads, ‘And those “lay practitioners” living their lives with such an attitude, committing all sorts of evil acts.’

“This line is not a reprimand to those people who have not taken refuge, but to those who have. You commit all manner of transgressions and have developed misconceptions of your guru and Buddhism; this is what ‘committing all sorts of evil acts’ means. You think the way you practice should be up to you; you are here to supplicate for healthiness, happiness, and a wonderful family life, but are not prepared to actually cultivate. If you are not, then you should not take refuge. You are capable of doing the things taught in the Ratnakuta Sutra; you simply won’t do them, that’s all. Do you have to do a lot? No, but you should implement them whenever the opportunity arises. If you do not, then as the Buddha said, all kinds of suffering and afflictions will appear.

“If we have already taken refuge, then any action that violates the Five Lay Precepts—even if it only happens once—means you are ‘committing all kinds of evil acts.’ Do not think you have not done anything wrong, or that everything will be fine as long as you come here and repent. Your repentance will absolutely be accepted, of course, but afterward you will have to start over from the beginning. You will merely be given a chance to see if this time you work hard and dedicate your life to your cultivation so that, perhaps, your evil karmic retribution will manifest a bit more slowly. This does not mean that after you repent, all your evil karmic effects will just disappear.

“The sutra reads, ‘….living their lives with such an attitude.’

“You are committing all kinds of evil acts, and keep on this way because you do not think you are doing anything wrong and do not believe you are committing evil. For example, your guru might tell you not to tire yourself out so much; you are sick, so you should chant more mantras, and as long as you are still getting a paycheck, you will be fine. In the end, however, you don’t listen, thinking you should earn a bit more. So what if you earn a bit more? This is an example of not listening; this is evil.

“The sutra reads, ‘Those people show a lack of respect and filial piety toward their parents, sramanas, and brahmans; thus, they are called “lay practitioners”.’

“This refers to mistreating or looking down on practitioners and monastics, and not being filial toward one’s parents. Some people have no respect for Buddhism, and think it is superfluous; they believe that they are good people as long as they do not do anything bad. In Buddhism, much has been said in great detail on the definition of good and bad. You all have a general idea of this, so we won’t discuss it further. If someone is a genuine practitioner who cultivates in complete accordance with the Dharma, and has not had any negative effects on society, then even if what he says does not fit your definition, it does not mean he is wrong; nor does he require your commentary. Therefore, when you disrespect your parents, sramanas, and brahmans, mistreating them and showing them no filial piety, it means you are ‘lay practitioners’. Even if you have taken refuge in Buddhism, are a monastic, and eat vegetarianism, acting like that still means you are a ‘lay practitioner’.

“The sutra reads, ‘Also, these “lay practitioners” are fond of many matters like branches and twigs; because of this, sorrows, grief, suffering, and afflictions appear in their lives.’

“This line is difficult to translate. Our everyday life is entangled with so many branch-like details; without core beliefs, you do not know why you are practicing Buddhism, cannot grasp your purpose, and have not yet become resolved to find it. When you insist on chanting mantras with a Brahman sound, it shows that you are fond of those branches and twigs.”

Rinpoche turned to an ordained disciple and said, “As I have said many times, if you continue not to listen, then my advice is that you stop chanting. Nowhere is it written in the sutras that one must chant mantras with a Brahman sound; this is just one of those ‘branches and twigs.’ The Buddha, too, once said that as long as one chants with a pure heart, then this is still correct even if one’s tone is a bit off. So why are you so attached to chanting a particular way? In my opinion, you should stop coming. Okay? If you believe mantras can only be chanted with a Brahman sound, well, I have never learned it, so why would you still want to be my disciple? The Buddha never said in any sutra that one has to chant mantras that way, yet you insist on playing such tricks. You think you are different from others.

“You are ‘fond of many matters like branches and twigs; because of this, sorrows, grief, suffering, and afflictions appear in your lives.’ You think worry, suffering, and pains all grow among these branches, but they are of your own making, because you have tossed aside the central idea. You do not want any of the most important part of Buddhism; that is, you are still living an ordinary, secular life. Such a life is ruled by the law of cause and condition. However, I am not telling you to abandon it or not get married, work, or study; the concept is that you need to understand that you are Buddhist practitioners, and that those worldly matters are merely transitory. They are gone when our lives are over. We should do our best to do the things we should do, but in doing so, we should not abandon our original aspiration for practicing Buddhism or our concept of the auspiciousness of the Dharma. Do not see Buddhism and the Three Jewels as only being useful when you need them and there to be tossed aside when you don’t.

“When I go out, even government officials eat vegetarian with me. Why do I have that effect on them? Even if they do not eat vegetarian, and I do, what conflict is there in each eating what we want? These days a lot of people, for the sake of fame and profit, have stopped caring. I’ve had disciples in the past who, when throwing a wedding banquet, have organized it so that vegetarians sit at certain tables and meat-eaters sit at others. They believe this is necessary because they do not want to displease their in-laws. This is another example of those ‘branches and twigs.’ They like doing it this way, and are afraid of losing their family members’ favor.

“I have never been afraid of ‘not having,’ and have always worried about ‘having.’ We must be very certain of our core beliefs. When we have confidence in whatever we do each day, we no longer experience sorrow, grief, suffering, or afflictions. Because we have a clear understanding, we are diligent in getting things done. As far as the result, it is shared by everyone; you don’t have to shoulder it all by yourself. Even if you think you have borne the most of it, that does not mean you can take all the credit; you are being helped by many people. It’s like what I said last time: Even the tiniest ant helps us.

“Once you have a clear understanding of the core of Buddhism, you will stop being so fond of those branches and twigs. You will comprehend that to love is to possess, and it will be very clear to you that whatever and whomever you might encounter in life—meeting someone and getting married, having kids, divorcing—is all the result of a string of causes and conditions that runs back and forth, stretching on forever. You will know that these are just affinities you have accumulated throughout your past lives, and happen to have encountered in this one. You should handle them attentively, and not think loving or being loved by someone is a matter of life and death. These branches and twigs will bring you a lot of sorrow, grief, suffering, and afflictions. When you insist on chanting the Buddha’s name and dedicating the merits to your husband or wife so that he or she will practice with you, is this not also an example of branches and twigs?

“I often use myself as an example for you to look at. My children do not practice Buddhism, yet I have never made dedications to them; I merely bless them a bit while chanting mantras. When making dedications, I never pray for them to learn Buddhism with me or reach Amitabha’s Pure Land sooner if I have enough merits and good fortune. What did you think? That everyone should go there and have a big family reunion? In fact, after arriving in the Pure Land, everyone disappears within the lotus flowers. This is written very clearly in the Amitabha Sutra: ‘When the flowers blossom, one will see the Buddha.’ Does it say that when the flowers blossom you will see your wife? Thus, you really are full of nonsense; you keep chanting and making dedications to your spouse, and when you see that he or she is still unwilling to learn Buddhism, your afflictions arise. You start wondering if your dedications were ineffective because you have chanted poorly, because the guru did not transmit the mantra to you correctly, or because you have not been chanting with a Brahman sound. Then come your afflictions.

“It might sound like I’m joking, but that is in fact what you covet. You may wish the whole family would practice together, but the fact is that everyone would practice differently. If your husband won’t practice Buddhism, then that is his causal condition, and it is yours to be married to such a person. If you had good causal conditions, then would you have this sort of spouse in this lifetime? You would not. Likewise, I have many family members who do not practice Buddhism with me, but can that fact stop me from cultivating? It most definitely cannot, because I am already firmly resolved and have a very clear understanding of the torments of reincarnation and the impermanence of life and death. You are still floating back and forth, thinking that participating in the pujas can transform your karmic hindrances for the better and make you find a good husband or wife. That is not Buddhism. In the sutras it is not written that chanting Amitabha’s name will cause him to send you a spouse. If this were true, it would be written in the sutras. In some religions it is stressed that after you die and go to heaven, their god will send some beautiful maidens to accompany you, but there is no mention of such a thing in the sutras. That being the case, why do you like to make things up? It shows that you love branches and twigs; you practice Buddhism according to your own ideas and wishes. It therefore is no wonder that you accumulate afflictions in the process, because the point of the Dharma is not to satisfy your desires.

“When confronted with children who are unwilling to practice Buddhism, some parents constantly try to force them—but they should let them do what they want! That’s how I treat my children, and is the reason for the good relationship between us these days. If I forced my son to practice, he would feel as though I were watching him all the time. Now I just go with the flow and let him go where he wants on Sundays. He is an adult now, and must take responsibility for his own life; this is not my job anymore. I raised him to adulthood, and now he must take responsibility for his actions. If he wants to honor his father, then he will practice Buddhism with me; if he does not, then that is my fate. What about you? Your attitude is the exact opposite! If, instead, you go with the flow of your causal conditions this way, then your afflictions and grief will be greatly reduced. I have never scolded my son one bit for not practicing Buddhism, but you often do that to your own kids. You say things like, ‘Look at how your mom is now,’ or ‘look what’s happened to you,’ and end up causing them to feel even more antipathy toward the Dharma. At least my children would not dare to disrespect Buddhism.

“This is a very important point. We lay practitioners especially are always liable to have such spouses, friends, and siblings. I am a Rinpoche, yet none of my family members practices Buddhism. Still, I have never picked up the phone to admonish them. For example, my eldest sister’s family all know I am a Rinpoche, and have participated in the Grand Puja before, but when my sister’s husband passed away, none of their children reached out to ask me to liberate him. In my shoes, you would have phoned them and said, ‘I am a Rinpoche; your dad has died, so I’m going to transfer his consciousness for him.’ You absolutely would have done that, and even if you hadn’t, you would have said you had chanted the Great Six-Syllable Mantra for the deceased a number of times, and that they could therefore relax because Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara would receive him. You are all so nosy; you think that’s how to practice the Bodhisattva Path. I am telling you that in my experience, those without causal conditions really won’t implore for help. My sister’s son only called to inform me about his father’s death. I didn’t even ask him whether or not he wanted his dad liberated. If I had, he might have felt pressure to come to Taiwan to do certain things. Let him do as he will.

“When my eldest sister died, I took the initiative of performing the Dharma for her, but I did not tell her son. She was my sister, so I did not need to. Afterward, all three of her children said, ‘Thank you, Uncle.’ Some people really just don’t understand; they don’t possess any good fortune to implore for the Dharma, or they might implore incorrectly; they would get it wrong because they do not have the resources of good fortune and wisdom. People need to understand Buddhism before they can learn and practice it; they should not cultivate blindly or self-righteously. If you always think you are correct, then you are walking down the wrong path.

“The sutra reads, ‘They attract the acts and effects of killing.’

“This line means two things. One is that your love for these branches and twigs causes you to feel sad, worried, and afflicted, and then you begin to commit acts of killing. For example, if you get sick and think only certain nutrients will help you, then you might eat meat; or, you might be very bored and decide to get a pet bird and lock it in a cage. Another example is that you might feel that you must raise chickens or pigs to make a living. All of these decisions come from your love of branches and twigs. You’ve probably seen this sort of thing a lot in the countryside. Some people make offerings to Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in their home, but meanwhile are still raising chickens to sell. After they make some cash, they continue to chant, ‘Avalokiteshvara, I submit myself to you; please bless and protect my family.’ And then they kill more chickens.

“This sort of situation occurs very frequently. Because they are not practicing Buddhism in order to cultivate the Bodhisattva Path, but for their own gains instead, they therefore quite naturally attract karma from killing and become chained to its effects. That is, the karmic retribution from their past evil acts manifests in this lifetime. They are unwilling to use the Dharma to learn how to change their behavior, so are unable to transform the karma they have accumulated over their past lives. This is the reason some disciples still get sick.

“I perform the Dharma for everyone equally; I would never be biased toward or against you depending on whether or not you make offerings or are a government official. Whenever I chant mantras and perform the Dharma, I do it for all one thousand three hundred-odd of you equally, because I could not possibly chant all of your names in that time. If I perform the Dharma impartially, then why does each of you obtain something different? This of course has to do with how many resources you possess. However, the most important factor is your refusal to listen. You are bound by the karmic effects your past acts of killing have brought upon you. Those of you who get off light have to suffer through surgery, while those of you who don’t, end up having an accident or getting an incurable disease. You have brought these things upon yourselves. Not a single one of us is completely innocent of committing acts of killing in our past lives; even Shakyamuni Buddha spent a lifetime in the Hell Realm. Who are we to think we have not also come from there? There is no way we haven’t all committed acts of killing in previous lifetimes.

“How do you keep your accumulated karma from killing done in past lives from binding you in this one? If you get cancer, it is because you have engaged in some killing-related acts in the past. Many people think that if their parents or parents-in-law are the ones who slaughtered the farm animals, it has nothing to do with them. Of course it does; if it didn’t, then you would not be in that family. A lot of people think they can just make their karmic retribution disappear by repenting. Actually, the benefit of repentance is that it can allow you to continue to listen to the Dharma and have more time to accumulate good fortune. However, it cannot transform your karma, because you have not made a firm resolution to cultivate the Bodhisattva Path. Why did the Buddha teach us to aspire to compassion and bodhicitta, and to recite the Precious Bodhicitta Prayer at the end of the dedication every time? It was because only with this gem of bodhicitta can we help ourselves to transform the evil karma we have accumulated over the course of all our lifetimes. You should not think that you will be fine as long as your guru has blessed you; if this were the case, it would have been written in the sutras that all one’s evil retribution would disappear as long as one has been blessed by a Rinpoche. Therefore, you must understand the Dharma and listen carefully; do not live your life immersed in nonsense. Thus, this above sutra quote refers to the facts that you have not yet implemented the aforementioned teachings, you have not made a firm resolution, you do not exercise filial piety, you are disrespectful, you have engaged in acts of killing, you think you are always right, and so on.

“The sutra reads, ‘In hatred, they scold and beat others, and then speak harsh words.’

“Because you are still not resolved to practice the Bodhisattva Path, you might even unaccountably hit someone. ‘In hatred, they scold’ means scolding someone with hatred in your heart. I don’t understand the literal meaning of the characters, but ‘speak harsh words’ means that if your heart is full of hatred, then harsh speech will naturally come out of your mouth. Don’t say of someone, ‘He didn’t really mean it; he blurted it out without thinking.’ That is absolutely false! If he did not have hatred in his heart, then he would not have spoken harshly.

“These lines teach us that if you have not achieved all the aforementioned things, then you will naturally be hateful toward others and speak harshly. You will naturally exhibit such a temper because your mind is full of hateful thoughts. That does not necessarily mean you hate others; it even happens if you are jealous, dissatisfied, or unaccepting of someone. As soon as you utter harsh words, you create verbal karma for which the retribution is quite severe. By opening your mouth carelessly, you will harm many people. These days you don’t even have to talk out loud to do this; the karmic retribution for leaving a harsh comment on an internet forum is the same.

The sutra reads, ‘Thus, “lay practitioners” fail to nurture and cultivate their good roots.’

“Even if you already have good roots, if you do not continue to nurture them, you will paralyze them or throw them away. Even if you have good roots, you might completely ignore them and commit evil acts, thinking you can worry about the consequences later and not believing that you will have to face any karmic retribution. You think you can just deal with it later, after you’ve made enough money or restored your nutrients or finished saying your piece. Such an attitude means you are throwing all your good roots away or immobilizing them.

“What are good roots? Sprouts can only grow from roots, and in turn grow into trees; only if a tree has leaves can it bear fruit. No matter how much evil one has committed over the course of past lives, he or she has certainly possessed at least a few good roots. Having good roots allows us to listen to the Dharma and practice Buddhism. You have them, but you don’t use them. You are afraid someone will ridicule you for practicing or look down on you; you worry your cultivation might prevent you from finding a spouse or offend your mother-in-law. Your heads are completely full of such strange notions.

“You can create your own good roots. How? By listening to the Dharma and then constantly telling yourself that you are going to keep practicing in this direction. The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas help everyone plant good roots. You have a very few good roots, yet you won’t mobilize them, not even when you are given a virtuous opportunity such as helping your Rinpoche build a temple. You said, ‘I don’t have any money; Rinpoche is rich, and plenty of others with money are donating, so my meager contribution won’t be missed.’ This is an example of not mobilizing one’s good roots. If you did not have any good roots, then you would not have heard that a guru was going to build a temple. How many people have the chance to hear about a practitioner building a temple? Never mind me; across Taiwan, it is not like temples are constantly being built, after all. Without good roots, you would not have heard about it. This means you have some—yet you will not put them into motion. Now you know why I punish you! All the sutras help me get my point across. I’ve given you an opportunity, yet you won’t take advantage of it; you even throw it away. When you think, ‘It doesn’t matter; I won’t be missed,’ you have thrown it away.

“The sutra reads, ‘They would allow the good roots they have cultivated to be scattered and destroyed.’

“This means you let the good roots you have cultivated get scattered and destroyed. Some people, after having taken refuge for a few years, feel that they have not gotten anything good out of being here, so they leave. This is exactly what such people are doing: Allowing their good roots to be scattered and destroyed. It is not that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are not compassionate, nor is it that I have gotten angry and wish to punish these people; it is that they themselves have caused their own good roots to be destroyed, scattered, tossed away, and immobilized, and for this reason, their evil karmic retribution from past lives has come knocking. This is what happens to some disciples when the illness they were already cured of recurs. They do not allow their good roots to keep growing or have a chance to bear fruit; they continue to have evil thoughts. Harboring evil thoughts does not mean you would harm your guru or damage Buddhism; you wouldn’t dare. It means you do not listen and think it doesn’t matter: ‘The guru was just having a chat with me; I don’t have to heed his advice. Once I’m finished with what I need to do, I’ll just tell him I was mistaken.’ You have obviously taken refuge and begun practicing Buddhism, yet you insist on feeling that you are not getting what you want here and that I am too strict, so you leave. If you want to leave, then leave. Some of you say you don’t know what you did wrong, and stop seeking audiences.

“It’s like that disciple of mine, Huang, who is a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine: When I would not let him give me a prescription, he sought two audiences but then disappeared, and did not come back. Why? It was because he was too shy: ‘Rinpoche wouldn’t accept my prescription. Wait until he’s on his deathbed, and then I’ll treat him.’ Is this evil? If you are a doctor and a patient refuses to let you take his or her pulse, and the patient is one of your parents, would you beg him or her? Of course you would. Why didn’t that disciple beg me? He would say, ‘Because I’m afraid of making Rinpoche unhappy; I’m scared he will refuse me and embarrass me in front of everyone.’ So I test all my disciples with all sorts of methods you would not even think of. I used my cough as an excuse and stopped allowing him to take my pulse or prescribe me medicine.”

Rinpoche asked a disciple named Dr. Xie, “When did I start taking the cough medicine you prescribed?” Disciple Xie answered, “About two months ago.” Rinpoche scolded, “Nonsense! None of you remembers anything to do with me. I bet if your daughter got sick, you would remember every detail.” Disciple Xie replied, “I think it was around March or so. It’s July now; so, four months ago.”

Rinpoche berated, “Why haven’t you supported the temple I am building? It is precisely because of this sort of attitude. I believe you would remember the details of your own family members with crystal clarity, such as when your mother got sick or needed help. However, when it comes to my needing help, you can’t remember. I am very meticulous, and use all sorts of methods to test each of my disciples because Tantra must not be transmitted haphazardly. I will not arbitrarily transmit it to someone who disrespects me. If something had happened to that disciple’s wife or his two precious daughters, he would remember very clearly which month it had occurred. I was testing him deliberately; it’s been five months, and I have refused to take any medicine from Dr. Huang just to see what he would do. He sought audience with me twice, but now he has stopped, thinking I had rejected him. How many years have I sought audiences with His Holiness? This can be seen very clearly.

“They had good roots, but allowed them to be scattered and destroyed. I will not transmit Tantra to these two doctors, because they allowed the opportunity provided by these good roots to be destroyed. Why has Doctor-Disciple Xie dragged his feet in his support during the temple’s construction? This is why. You seem on the surface to have a great deal of respect for me, but ask yourselves just how respectful you actually are inside.

“The sutra reads, ‘The wise ones scold them.’

“Anyone with wisdom would most certainly scold you. Today you know why you’ve been scolded. I wouldn’t dare claim to be wise, but I am constantly unlocking wisdom, so as long as any of you say you are practicing Buddhism, I absolutely have the right to scold you. For those of you who hope I’ll say what you like to hear: Keep dreaming. Someone once wanted to make an offering to me of a 2,000-square-meter house in a posh part of Taipei, but he wanted me to go along with his wishes and allow him to eat meat, so I completely ignored him. Who among you has ever made an offering to me of a house that was bigger than 33 square meters? His condition was very simple; he just wanted to be allowed to eat meat. What business is it of mine whether he eats meat or not? You would have wanted to accept his offering and deal with the consequences later: ‘This enormous offering of his will help him to accumulate good fortune, and then he’ll stop eating meat in the future.’ Such logic is flawed. If he was obviously committing evil, why should I be an accessory to it? His offering of a 2,000-square-meter house would have given him more good fortune with which to eat more meat. What offerings have you made to me? If I refused even his, who do you think you are that I wouldn’t scold you? The Buddha said it very clearly: ‘One must berate them!’ Do you not want me to berate you? Then stop being my disciples; if I do not know you, then I would not scold you. Do you think you are really good at cultivating? Based on what is written in the Ratnakuta Sutra, you don’t even come close.

“There is nothing terrifying or even fearful about cultivation, nor is it all that difficult; you simply are unwilling to do what it takes. For you, therefore, receiving a scolding is actually a blessing, because it means I see you as my disciple. Do you want to avoid being scolded? That’s fine; you may stop taking refuge in me. I definitely won’t get angry because you’ll be saving me a lot of responsibility.

“This line does not say the Buddha scolded them; it says the wise ones did. ‘Wise ones’ refers to genuine practitioners, which you are not. Since His Holiness authenticated me as a Rinpoche, I would not claim to have great wisdom, but I at least am a bit wiser than you. And because of this little bit, I absolutely have the authority to scold you, which I certainly will do as long as you have not met all the conditions you need to meet. I gave Doctor-Disciple Huang an opportunity to plant some good roots, but after seeking a couple of audiences, he stopped coming. He thought, Rinpoche has rejected me; if I go back there, he’ll just reject me again. I won’t take his pulse for him until one day when he’s so sick he’s on his deathbed. Wouldn’t you say such thinking is evil? Yet he did not believe he had done anything wrong. What would he have done had his parents gotten sick? He would have begged them every day, ‘Dad, take some medicine, won’t you? Mom, have some more medicine.’ With me, though, he felt there was no need; he saw me as invincible like King Kong. Such discriminatory thinking is what prevents you all from achieving realization.

“Of course you should be a good son or daughter to your parents, but without me, could you learn Buddhism? Can your parents teach you the Dharma? Can they shield you from unfortunate events? Strictly speaking, to whom do you owe the greater debt of gratitude?” (All of the attendees answered, “To our guru.”)

Rinpoche said, “You said it; not me. But none of you respects your guru. I am not trying to brainwash you; this is all based on what is written in the Ratnakuta Sutra, and was spoken by the Buddha.

“The sutra reads, ‘Saying that even if the Buddhas and Sravakas dwell there, they still would fall into the Evil Realms.’

“Even if Buddhas and Sravakas live in these places, they will still fall into the Evil Realms. Don’t assume that taking refuge, wearing a monastic’s garb, and chanting mantras with a Brahman sound will prevent you from going there. The Buddha spoke this line very seriously. The question it infers is, wherein does the Dharma’s auspiciousness lie? The Buddha did not say He was paramount, the greatest, or untouchable. He pointed out that anyone who does not act in accordance with the Dharma is equally likely to fall into the Evil Realms. Don’t think that cannot happen if you have cultivated the paths of Sravaka and Pratyakabuddha and achieved the fruition of an arhat; you still will go to the Evil Realms the moment your mind changes. As was mentioned previously, the wise ones will reprimand you, watching and scolding you over a long period of time. If you don’t like it, then leave. Earlier it was said that people cultivating the Bodhisattva Path cannot help but say something when they see nearby sentient beings at risk of falling into the Three Evil Realms. You may wish I would keep my mouth shut, but the only way that will happen is if I abandon the Bodhisattva Path. However, that is not possible.

“For example, I have some disciples on the Mainland; when one telephones to ask about something unrelated to Buddhism, I ignore him. A few days ago a person who used to know me called because his mother had fallen ill. I told him very clearly, ‘You do not have enough respect. I cannot see anything to do with your mom!’ I am not like others, who would have said to him, ‘Right! Your mom has severe karmic hindrances, so you should recite sutras some more!’ I am a very straightforward person; if I know something, I say so, and if I don’t know something, I say that I don’t. What was blocking me from seeing his mother’s condition? I was not blocking myself; it was his mind that was blocking me. He thought he could get whatever he wanted just by sobbing to me over the phone.

“I hope you all paid close attention to this line. Don’t assume it doesn’t matter if you just give rise to a thought or utter a few words. It does not mean Buddhist practitioners are to live in fear and trepidation, nor do they need to check carefully for ants each time they take a step. However, because we are practicing the Dharma, we have someone to rely on, a basis, and methods with which to transform our entire life. If you have listened, learned, and been scolded, yet still do not change, then as the Buddha said, if you still have a lay practitioner’s attitude and dwell within it, you will fall into the Evil Realms. Even after the Buddha had achieved the fruition He had, when He changed, He still went there, so don’t think participating in the pujas and having repented will prevent you from going there, too. The Three Evil Realms were not set up by the Buddha, but by you. They have nothing to do with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. This is different from what is said in other religions: If you do something your god cannot forgive, you will go to hell. The Buddha never said that, and it certainly is not like that. It is written quite clearly in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that only Bodhisattvas and sentient beings with evil karma can fall into the Hell Realm; nowhere is it said that you will go there if you offend a Bodhisattva, guru, or Buddha. To say the least, ‘offend’ would mean you had abandoned all of your good roots, in which case you of course would have begun to commit evil acts and therefore will naturally go to the Hell Realm. You should all pay attention to this concept.

“The sutra reads, ‘If they dwell there, they will turn greedy, hateful, and ignorant. Thus, they are called “lay practitioners.”’

“The word ‘dwell’ here, as with its previous uses in the text, does not mean you live there; it indicates that your mind is attached to this. If so, you will fall into greed, hatred, and ignorance, which means you have not been practicing Buddhism. Disciple Huang is greedy; he hopes everyone will tell him what he likes to hear and implore him for medical help, just because he is a doctor. This is an example of falling into greed, hatred, and ignorance; even though he is ostensibly practicing Buddhism, he is only a ‘lay practitioner’.

“The sutra reads, ‘If they dwell there, they will obstruct and abolish all of the precepts.’

“If you remain in the aforementioned state, you will obstruct and abolish all precepts naturally. Because you do not want any good roots, yours will be immobilized, and you will not be able to cultivate them; as a result, you will commit evil acts. Why do I always provide you with opportunities to do good deeds? It is because your good roots are not sturdy enough; the second the wind blows, they all get uprooted and blown away. I am constantly helping you to take root. Don’t assume that planting some roots means you will begin to have good fortune; rather, it is that only after having taken root can your opportunities to accumulate it grow. If none of your roots can grow firm and sturdy, then what makes you think you can possess any? It’s like how Disciple Xie has taken refuge in me for so many years, yet when I asked him how many months it had been since I’d taken any Chinese medicine, he could not remember. This was because in his mind, a guru’s purpose is to teach him the Dharma; nothing else mattered to him, for he assumed I would take care of myself. This indicates that his good roots had not been planted very deeply.

“I often tell you, ‘Always think about Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara with reverence.’ ‘Always’ means forever, and ‘think’ refers to your thoughts. ‘Reverence’ means to listen and do as you are told; to observe and pay attention to everything Avalokiteshvara has taught you. To say the least, always being respectful of your guru is something you should do. Some people don’t, though, and do not listen; as a result, they naturally cannot recall their guru’s name in their dreams. Many people think a guru’s name is merely a simple Dharma title. This is a misconception. His Holiness certainly did not bestow my Dharma title upon me simply because I had achieved realization; it absolutely came with causal conditions, significance, blessings, and bestowing assurance of future enlightenment.

The sutra reads, ‘They will also abolish congregations of meditation, wisdom, liberation, and knowledge, as well as the view of liberation. Thus, they are called “lay practitioners.”’

“This means you can only gather such things inside you if you have these energies and good fortune. If you do not heed the Buddha’s and your guru’s teachings, then what few precepts and tiny bit of meditation, wisdom, and knowledge and ability to become liberated you may have cultivated will disperse. Some people, for example, even implore to be liberated incorrectly; they say everything wrong and then tend to forget. Why don’t they remember? It is because they have not gathered enough power to do so. These ‘congregations’ mean slowly accumulating, one drop at a time, until you finally have it. Whenever you don’t listen, this accumulated power disappears, and it cannot help you or sentient beings without it even if you’ve cultivated a few precepts. In other words, this section I am teaching you right now is related to both Exoteric Buddhism and Tantra. Tantra involves gathering all one’s power together until one is capable of pushing it toward sentient beings, and thereby helping them. How can we use Tantra to accumulate this power? We must understand the theory behind how to help it gather; this part is Exoteric. Do not assume that listening to the sutras means you have begun cultivating; you first must understand this theory.

“The sutra reads, ‘If they dwell there, their parents, spouses, sisters, relatives, friends, and knowledge will encircle them with greed and love, causing them to think constantly about wealth until they become insatiable.’

“When you dwell there, these evil thoughts—that is, the greed and love of your parents, partners, children, siblings, and your (worldly) knowledge—will encircle you and take you away. As a result of your actions, the pure Dharma will not be able to embrace you. You will constantly think about money; this means often worrying that you do not have enough. You only think about being broke—but do you ever wonder why you are? Have you ever said, ‘I am poor in this lifetime due to being stingy and greedy in my past lives’? Because they feel they don’t have enough money, many people want to change jobs so that they can get a bit more. You will never have enough money. How can it ever be enough? If you look at life this way, you never feel like you have enough. For example, one of my disciples recently said he didn’t have enough money. If that is true, then I don’t want his offerings anymore; I’ll just go with the flow of causal conditions. He claims to be practicing Buddhism, yet he still does not believe in cause and effect. Have I not told you about how I was once so poor I couldn’t even afford to eat? Why do you refuse to believe in your own causes and effects? You just think I am up here telling stories that have nothing to do with you.

“As a matter of fact, it is enough to be receiving one paycheck; if you have good fortune, you will make more money. Why is that? Remuneration has nothing to do with your capability or with whether your employer appreciates you or not; it depends on whether or not you have good fortune. Such greed does not mean you are doing a lot of bad things every day. That disciple who came out and shared his account a little while ago coveted money, too, which is why he made an inappropriate investment. He thought he would be able to make a bit more income that way. It’s just like one of my Mainland disciples: I advised her to stop working so hard, but because she wanted to make more money, she kept working several jobs at once. She did not sleep at night, and her illness recurred. This also caused her parents to misunderstand Buddhism, an example of what happens when one covets money. No one listens. A lot of people think they can get more money by working harder. When I say you should work harder, I mean at your current job. For example, recently I had a disciple who performed well in his job; his company took notice and increased his salary without his even asking for it. You, on the other hand, drum up all sorts of excuses to tell me you are quitting your job because you don’t get paid enough. If that is the case, then go ahead and stop making offerings. People who greed after money will never be satisfied.

“The sutra reads, ‘They are as dissatisfied as the ocean with its insatiable swallowing of rivers.’

“This compares their dissatisfaction to the ocean, which constantly drinks in the water of so many rivers. You are just like this; you say you don’t have enough money to buy a house, pay your mortgage, or do this and that, so when the subject of offerings comes up, you all hide your pennies who knows where. As I often say, I saved your children and helped you save millions or even tens of millions in medical expenses, but where is all that money? It’s disappeared. If you have any, you rush to spend it on buying a house. The Buddha’s teachings really are quite intriguing.

“The sutra reads, ‘If they dwell there, their lives will feel like burning logs.’

“When you have this sort of thought, you will be a ‘lay practitioner’, and your life will be like logs being caught on fire.

“The sutra reads, ‘Their wandering thoughts, as incessant as the winds, will never settle.’

“You are constantly distracted by random thoughts. You worry about this and are afraid of that; you want something, but are unable to get it, and your mind is always unfocused. Practitioners are mentally focused, but on what? They are focused on becoming liberated from life and death. Everything else comes and goes according to the law of cause and condition. Nothing besides becoming liberated from life and death can affect me. I keep on eating vegetarian no matter how powerful the officials I might dine with. If they want to, they will eat vegetarian with me; if they don’t, it doesn’t bother me. None of you is focused in your thoughts. For the sake of getting married, you think it doesn’t matter: ‘I’ll just make this table for vegetarians and seat all the meat-eaters at the other tables.’ You have no focus. ‘It doesn’t matter if he eats meat; I’ll go ahead and marry him, and can change him later on.’ This shows a lack of focus, and means you have no core beliefs.

“Those of you without focused minds have another disadvantage as well: You are causing your health to deteriorate. Why are people who practice in accordance with the Dharma healthy? It is because their thoughts are focused; they are not thinking about random things all the time that have nothing to do with their life. By this I do not mean they don’t have to think about earning money, getting married, or sleeping at night; I mean their life is devoted to practicing the Bodhisattva Path, the way to eventually help sentient beings attain Buddhahood, so they are not preoccupied with other miscellaneous tasks. You, on the other hand, are busy with so many; your thoughts are as unsettled as the wind blowing back and forth.

“The sutra reads, ‘Their health would be weakened as if they had been taking poisons.’

“Your health is deteriorating because of the aforementioned, and your body is gradually weakening. In fact, you are eating poison each day of your life. Why does cancer come back after you’re cured? It is just like this. Every day, you are consuming the poisons of greed, hatred, and ignorance; as such, how can your body recover? Many people envy me for being cured of my skin cancer, and wonder why they can’t be cured as well. It was because I stopped consuming poison, while you have not; you still dwell in greed, hatred, and ignorance. How can you get better that way? On a daily basis, your heads are full of a heap of bizarre thoughts: How to save a bit of money here, how to earn a bit more there; how to haggle a price down a bit further with someone; how to make your spouse listen more to you. You are always thinking about such things. An example is how my son won’t practice Buddhism with me, yet I do not spend all my time trying to think of ways to get him to learn, whereas you would. And the more you racked your brains to get him to do it, the more he would lose respect for the Dharma.

“The sutra reads, ‘All kinds of suffering would return.’

“All manner of suffering will come back to you; as I have said, your original karma will be restored. This is not because the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, or your guru are not effective; it is your own doing. Thus, all of the karma from the evil acts you have committed in past lives will return to you. Do not assume that chanting mantras, practicing the Dharma Protector Achi Ritual, or chanting the Great Six-Syllable Mantra three thousand times every day will keep this from happening. This is caused by your evil thoughts, which include any doubt or disbelief. Chanting a mantra three thousand times is just the basics, so don’t think it makes you amazing or that chanting it ten thousand times would, either. If you have the wrong attitude, then it wouldn’t matter if you chanted it a million more times, because you still would not be able to transform the karma you have accumulated from your past lives. If you are in the wrong mindset and have not cultivated your good roots, then you will still be greedy, hateful, and ignorant while chanting mantras; you will think the only correct way to chant and obtain Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara’s blessings is by using a Brahman sound. This is greed, and no amount of chanting will help. If this is you, then I urge you not to be my disciples anymore.

“Getting sick is the smallest form of suffering. All of the eight types of mundane suffering will return to you, after which you will experience the suffering of death. Even if you implore for the Phowa, it won’t be preformed for you, and you won’t be granted liberation right away, either; you will have to wait awhile. All of this will be of your own doing. I have seen a great deal since I started benefiting sentient beings in 1995. Some people accumulate good fortune, and that is great, because they can find me right after their passing, and don’t have to go through even the slightest bit of suffering. Some, however, do not listen, and have to suffer some before they die. All of this they bring upon themselves; it is all of their own making. It is not whether I am powerful or not. There are others who have absolute faith in me, and even if they come down with a serious illness, they do not suffer before death, but instead finish this lifetime very peacefully. Some still harbor doubts, thinking, I have never heard of the Dharmas he’s talking about; I was taught differently. So why is he saying these things? As a result, they suffer. You call all your suffering onto yourselves; it has nothing to do with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

“The sutra reads, ‘Therefore, they should renounce their home of resentment.’

For this reason, we should rid ourselves of these evils just as if we were leaving and abandoning the home of resentment.

“The sutra reads, ‘Dwelling in the mindset of the laity, they create obstacles against the auspicious Dharma, encountering a great deal of contention and constant negativity.’

“If you continue to practice Buddhism with a lay attitude, then you will create hindrances for yourself and encounter quite a few bad things. For example, many people will argue with you and take you to court, and a lot of things won’t go your way; adverse conditions will have manifested in your path. This section should make you examine yourself to determine why such things are happening to you. It is not that taking refuge is bad or that I am not compassionate; you brought it all upon yourself. Ask yourself whether you have done what you should do. Even with help from the sacred Dharma and myself, you still obstruct your own practice, because you have generated hindrances for yourself. I often give the analogy that I am like a main television broadcast station, constantly sending out electromagnetic waves; the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are, too. If you do not turn on your television, how can you receive the signal? How do you turn it on? You need to be willing to see, hear, and accept our signal! If you won’t turn on your television, then even if we are broadcasting good things, they will have nothing to do with you. Shakyamuni Buddha continuously taught sentient beings this, and so did the Lineage gurus. His Holiness taught this to me, and now I am in turn teaching it to you. What is the difference? It is that you don’t listen.

“As is written in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, ‘Every thought produced by an ordinary person generates karma and vice.’ None of you used to believe these words; you wondered whether you actually had committed any wrongdoings and created any karma. Look at what those two doctors did; that was evil and karma. They did not care about what was happening with their guru one bit. Everyone has a family; everyone has parents. Thinking on the analogy I just made, would Doctor-Disciple Xie have remembered details about his own daughter if something had happened to her? Yes he would. Would Doctor-Disciple Huang have remembered if his parents had gotten sick? Indeed. Would he have begged them to take their medicine? Yes. So why was he too afraid to beg me to take mine? This was the result of evil thoughts, a fear of humiliation, and feeling like he did not have enough time. This was him abandoning his good roots.

“The sutra reads, ‘Dwelling there, they will find both good and evil karmic connections intermingled amid a great many things in life’.

“If you are still cultivating as a ‘lay practitioner’, your good causal conditions and evil causal conditions will all get very mixed together. If you practice and live your life with the intention of renouncing the mindset of the laity, then whether or not you are a monastic, all you need is to constantly accumulate good causal conditions, and your evil ones will lessen and not be so entangled with your good ones anymore. Right now, you are living with your good and evil causal conditions intermingled, and you even have more of the latter than the former. What is good? What is evil? Evil means anything that puts us at risk of falling into reincarnation in the Three Evil Realms, whereas good means anything that gives us an opportunity to leave them. Both good and evil causal conditions are constantly appearing and mixing together in your lives. You often think it strange that even after having practiced for a few years, there still seem to be a few causal conditions that are preventing you from continuing on. It is not that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are stopping you from practicing, nor is it your karma; rather, it is that you are still practicing with the mindset of a layperson. Therefore, your good and evil causal conditions continuously emerge; for example, you worry over so many things—even minor matters such as arguing with someone over where to eat: ‘I want to eat this; why can’t you let me have my way just this once?’ None of you listens to each other.

“The sutra reads, ‘ ‘The lives of ‘lay practitioners’ are impermanent and constantly changing.’

“The life of a ‘lay practitioner’ is liable to change at any time; it is not permanent, and will not remain forever. The disciple who shared his account a little while ago said that having no money wouldn’t matter, but that having a broken home is miserable. This is an indication that he does not believe in impermanence. Will your family stay with you forever? Life is full of separations from loved ones. No matter how long you hope your spouse will live, he or she will eventually leave you; impermanence is a constant. Just think: Has life ever stopped, from the time you got married to now? Everything is constantly changing; nothing stops. Don’t think, ‘Once the kids grow up, the two of us can retire in our old age and have some free time to enjoy life.’ If this is how you think, it means you do not believe in cause and effect or impermanence.

“‘We must make arrangements for our golden years.’ You of course need to do this, but your plans won’t necessarily pan out. Have any of you ever thought about the possibility of your pension suddenly shrinking? You’ve all calculated just how much money you’ll have saved when you retire to visit places, and how much you need to help your kids out, and then suddenly a third of it vanishes. That’s impermanence, isn’t it? As the news has clearly shown, governments change, and so can small businesses; there is the possibility that you will lose your money. This is impermanence.

“We might have plans for our retirement, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily will pan out. They could happen or they might not, so you should always maintain a view of impermanence. Practitioners do not necessarily say they accept this frame of mind; rather, they face it and understand it. If you are not destined to have that money, then it will be taken from you; this has nothing to do with the government. If you had good fortune, then you would have been born a bit sooner—say, five or ten years before the pension cuts—and then you would not be in the financial predicament you are in now. Therefore, you cannot blame the government; this is your fate—although of course the government should shoulder some responsibility, too. From a Buddhist point of view, this is impermanence, and means you are not normally in the habit of giving alms; you keep all your money in the bank. If you had given alms regularly, then this would not have happened to you. The cycle of cause and effect is quite interesting. If you had all assisted the government with donations, then it would never have slashed your pensions. You say ‘the plans of heaven supersede our own,’ but in Buddhist terms, it is impermanence; nothing remains forever.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Lay practitioners” undergo extreme suffering because they seek constancy and protection.’

“Why do you suffer so extremely? It is because you are always trying to protect your family and make life better for them—hoping your kids will grow up healthy, do well in school, and get admitted into good universities. You think, ‘My husband should give me all the money he earns,’ or, ‘My wife should stay home and not get into trouble.’ Thinking like this just brings all manner of suffering tumbling down, and the minute things stop going your way, you are in utter misery. For this reason, practicing Buddhism is great; I feel fine whether my son goes to university or not. I would not feel better if he did, or feel pride as a result; conversely, I would not feel disappointed if he didn’t do well in school. Whatever he does is the result of his own causal conditions. Nevertheless, people are strange; they all hope for their children to excel and for their spouses to do better and better at their jobs. This is suffering. To be ordinary and content with one’s lot is happiness. I am not telling you not to strive for what you need, though, so don’t take what I am saying the wrong way.

“Buddhists are unique in that we see everything as impermanent. If we can do a good job, it is impermanent; if we can’t, it is also impermanent. Whether we have or have not is impermanent as well. Impermanence is change; even if your company is doing really well right now, the moment the world changes, business could unexpectedly dry up. This, too, is impermanence. Your business might be failing, when suddenly global trends change, and your profits start to skyrocket. Again, this is impermanence. This means that whatever wealth and good fortune you have now is still at the mercy of impermanence, because the entire world—the entire universe—is, too. All we can do is keep plodding ahead. Since you are in the habit of working hard, if impermanence rears its head, you might be able to keep some capital and continue to pay your employees. If you normally do not believe in impermanence, however, and mistreat your workers, then when impermanence arrives, you won’t be able to hold onto anything.

“This line states very clearly that if you place great importance on your family, and see it as a last stronghold you wish to protect from outside attacks, then you will expend all your energy confronting your family members when they don’t conform to your plans. ‘Didn’t I tell you to study hard? That’s the only way you’ll have a future! You haven’t listened to anything I’ve said.’ You’ll start to quarrel with them. If your husband fails to earn a big paycheck, you’ll say, ‘Look at what the Joneses just bought….’ Your husband might then fire back, ‘Oh yeah? Look how well that guy’s wife behaves; she doesn’t spend a cent.’ These days there’s no such thing as a person who doesn’t spend money, except for Disciple Xie of course. He is so frugal he even forgot to make any offerings in support of the new temple; he’s already gotten into a habit popular in the Hungry Ghost Realm. He gives all his money over to his wife to look after, and only keeps a few dollars for daily living expenses. He really is a rich beggar. That wife of his keeps all their money from her husband, thinking that a man without money will not go astray. She knows he’ll eventually get old, and then won’t be able to rebel against her. This, too, is evil. They are constantly causing trouble for themselves.

“The sutra reads, ‘They dwell in a place full of afflictions and karmic creditors.’

“We all have a lot of worries. This was explained earlier, about worrying over this and that. Whenever family members fail to meet your expectations, it is as if karmic creditors have appeared. They have all gathered in your home, and are certainly karmic creditors from your past lives. In other words, if they were not vengeful or kind or hateful or affectionate, you would not marry in this lifetime, or would not become members of the same family. Once we Buddhist practitioners understand these factors, we can calmly cope with anything family-related that happens. That does not mean we don’t do certain things or do not wish to change the situation; it means that we do not get overly excited when something good happens, nor do we feel despair when something bad happens. Everything that happens in your family is impermanence at work, a concept taught by the Buddha.

“If good things happen, you should work even harder to do good deeds; if bad things happen, you should work even harder to repent thoroughly. Repent deeply for not having had sufficient good roots throughout your past lives, and renew your efforts to face your own life. This does not mean neglecting your family because Rinpoche said family is impermanent; that is not what this means. You need to understand this concept clearly. No matter how hard we work to protect our families, they are still impermanent; things never stop changing. You might be doing a good job of protecting your family members now, but once you’re old, your health is failing, and your children are no longer by your side, you won’t be able to protect them any longer. In other words, as parents you must be psychologically prepared, because sons and daughters are impermanent, too. Don’t think, ‘Whenever my kid goes somewhere, I can’t stop worrying. What will he do after I’m gone?’ Such thoughts are afflictions.

“The sutra reads, ‘In the family, they should be open-minded and not self-centered.’

“You should be selfless at home. Why? If you think your family should belong to you, then it will not come into being. If you do not take on the concept of selflessness, then you will hold a grudge: I’ve worked so hard for this family, but none of you have ever appreciated me. These are song lyrics; couples often fight because of this. They want their hard work and existence to be acknowledged. Actually, a family does not belong to any one person, and putting in more effort does not make one the head of the household. In terms of a family’s structure, it is necessary to have a person who makes decisions, but that does not mean the family cannot exist without him or her; what is everyone else there for? A family without a husband, wife, kids, and parents is no family. Being selfless at home does not mean you don’t exist; it means that a family’s structure is not established upon the foundation of one person alone. It is quite complicated.

“Since we Buddhist practitioners realize that a family is a complicated weave of relationships, we must pay even closer attention to the opinions of its members. If someone does not practice Buddhism, then that person’s opinions are naturally stated for his or her own sake. If we are practitioners, then when a family member’s desires fall under the scope of our capabilities, and if they do not violate cause and effect, we can do our bit to help him or her. If those desires do violate cause and effect, we should not give that family member any assistance. In a lot of families, parents defend their children even when they have done the wrong thing. ‘It wasn’t his fault; he was deceived and lured into doing that.’ Your children behave this way because you did not do a good job raising him and do not have enough good fortune. Once you can recognize such thought patterns, you will stop feeling resentment over whatever happens in our families and stop calculating or arguing about it. If you keep fighting about things, you will end up suing one another over your deceased parents’ property.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Lay practitioners” are full of ignorance and desires, and regard worldly matters as real or lasting.’

“In the family, your failure to understand the Dharma causes you to behave deceptively due to your greed, hatred, and ignorance. This means your thought patterns are those of seeking fulfilment of your desires rather than the Buddhist intent to benefit sentient beings. The key point here is that at home, you should practice diligently in order to help your family members, but you should not satisfy their desires. Your practicing in accordance with the Dharma will make them realize its auspiciousness, and this can change their future lives. Gradually, they will begin to change along with you. There is no telling when they might change, but one day they most certainly will, because they are your family members. However, if you yourself haven’t changed, then why would they? If they see that you haven’t changed, then they will have even less confidence in Buddhism. ‘Change’ does not mean becoming more even-tempered or worrying over things you never used to worry over, or even not worrying over things you used to worry over; it means none of these things. Rather, it has to do with whether or not you have adjusted and transformed your mindset, your life, and the way you conduct yourself. Only if you have will your family members realize that the Dharma can change a person, and only then will they transform with you and even ask you about it of their own volition. Why do the family members of so many Buddhist practitioners ignore them? It is because they haven’t changed.

“As I said before, even though my son does not have the causal conditions to practice Buddhism, he at least would never disrespect it. This is because I have served as an example for him to look at; he knows, so he would never be disrespectful. His not practicing has to do with his own good fortune, merits, causes, and conditions. However, if you yourselves do not change, you will cause your family members to disrespect the Three Jewels. This will put them at risk of falling into the Hell Realm, and it will you, too! As practitioners of the Bodhisattva Path, if we see sentient beings at risk of going to hell but do not help them, urge them to change their ways, or stop them from continuing their evil behavior, then the Buddha will scold us—and will scold all the more people like yourselves, who are actually adversely affecting others such that they could go to the Hell Realm.

“This is why, whenever a married person implores to take refuge, I always require that the spouse has given his or her consent. If not, then I will not allow it. Why not? It is because I worry it will cause the spouse to slander or look down on the Buddha. If your spouse goes to the Hell Realm, are you responsible? Yes, because it was your doing. The reasons I require your spouse to agree before I allow you to take refuge are first of all to remove any chance of him or her feeling contempt for the Three Jewels, and second of all, because of cause and effect. If your spouse doesn’t agree with something, yet you do it anyway, he or she will stop asking for your consent to do things as well; this is cause and effect. You might ask, ‘Is there anything wrong with practicing Buddhism?’ It is not that at all. If your partner can’t comprehend something you want to do, and you do it anyway, then what do you think he or she will do? Conversely, if you didn’t understand something your partner wanted to do, yet he or she went ahead and did it anyway, then how would you feel? As a Buddhist practitioner, you have an even greater need for patience and long-term thinking; you must not be in a hurry. If not even your family members agree with your practice, then when you say you are helping people, whom exactly are you helping? Why do your family members not agree with your practicing? It is because you do not behave like a practitioner. The teachings of the Ratnakuta Sutra—and this section especially—are addressed to lay practitioners. Have a look in the mirror: Are you doing the right thing?

“‘…Regard worldly matters as real or lasting.’ We think everything we see at home is real, but it actually isn’t. For example, say your son gets his PhD, gets married, and has kids: You feel that these events are real. However, according to Buddhist concepts, they are fake. That does not mean your son didn’t actually get married or go to school; it means that these sorts of events are merely cause and condition that arise and cease. Conceptually, this also tells us that whether or not he can get his PhD completely depends on his causes and conditions, so why do you care so much? Some people allow their children to stay in school until they are forty years old. I have seen such people before; they just keep on giving their kids money. I say, ‘If you’re so rich, wouldn’t it be better if you used your money toward doing good deeds?’ They say, ‘But my son wants to finish his PhD!’ Actually, he doesn’t care about getting a degree; he just doesn’t want to get a job. If he stays in school, he won’t need to work, and then he can just stay at home and be taken care of forever. Where does this attitude come from? It comes from the fact that his parents put so much faith in these things; they think that there will be hope for their family if their son can just get his PhD. I never got a doctorate, a master’s, or a bachelor’s degree; I’m just a high school graduate. Is there any hope for me? Quite a bit. How promising are you with all your PhDs? If you have not cultivated the Dharma, then you have no hope of making it to Amitabha’s Pure Land or becoming liberated from life and death. You can only look forward to falling into the Three Evil Realms.

“The sutra reads, ‘In their home, many separations take place, particularly among family members. Their home is a place of illusion with many faces, a gathering of insubstantial sentient beings.’

“Lay practitioners must be crystal clear about the fact that their family members are bound to be separated by their leaving home or by death. We think our family is very real and necessary, so when a family member gets sick or leaves us, we feel great sadness. However, we must have a clear understanding that separations from our loved ones will occur, either through death or living apart, especially in places in which many people are gathered.

“Family is like a hallucination. The definition of ‘laity’ is a gathering of all those people who are not actually practicing. Why are practitioners realistic? They know their future, and can use the Dharma to create it. The future of those who are not practitioners is like a hallucination or a dream; it changes according to what they have done in their past lives and this one. Such people cannot grasp their future or progress in a set direction. Practitioners who are cultivating the Bodhisattva Path, on the other hand, know very clearly that their future is set, and do not get swept away by the waves of their karma. They walk toward their future in step with their aspirations and with the blessings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Non-practitioners live their lives according to the karma they have created through their actions, words, and thoughts. Such karma is impermanent, fluctuating, and not fixed; it can change at any time.

“It is not just the karma you have created through your own actions, words, and thoughts that affects you; you are definitely also influenced by the karma of people around you, including your family members and all of the good and evil acts they have created throughout their past lives. Thus, it is not set; it changes. For this reason, your life is not set, either. There is no telling when you might fall ill, die, or get into trouble, because all of your family members are affected by one another’s actions.

“Here it is written, ‘…with many faces, a gathering of insubstantial sentient beings.’ ‘Insubstantial’ does not mean those people are illusory or non-existent; it means they are not living realistically. They are living as if in a hallucination; everything keeps changing and is impermanent. No matter how well you plan, impermanence will still manifest. ‘Realistic’ does not mean unchanging; it means you are definitely able to control your future. By control I mean you can stop accumulating evil karma and only do good deeds. I know very clearly what the karmic effects are of acting in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings and those of the Lineage’s gurus. Nowadays, though, people who do not practice Buddhism have no way of knowing what the future holds for them. This is the reason people see fortunetellers and ask deities for advice; they feel their future is vague and ungraspable. So many people come here asking advice because they feel their future is uncertain.

“The sutra reads, ‘Being at home is like dreaming and its prosperity or deterioration changes from one generation to the next.’

“This line is rather fun. No family can prosper for more than three generations, though obviously there are exceptions. This generation might do very well, while the next might do poorly; generations are constantly changing, and are not set. The Buddha’s perception of humans is very profound and penetrating. No matter how many plans you make in this lifetime or what arrangements you make for the next generation, things will still change. Regardless of how much wealth you accumulate for your descendants, things will still change. No family is eternally immutable. Even if a family’s name continues on, that does not mean its members or what they stand for will not change. I am not saying we should stop paying attention to our families, but once we understand this, we will no longer give rise to grief, sorrow, or pain whenever family changes take place. As long as we have family members in this lifetime—and monastics do, too—then we should have a clear understanding that this is the nature of family: Our parents and other family members are bound to be separated from us through their leaving home or death. If you understand this, then you will prepare yourselves in advance.

“For example, I knew my elderly mother was going to die, and began helping her to make a lot of preparations six years prior to her passing. On the other hand, you are not convinced your parents will die; you just think in terms of imploring me to bless them so that they can live for one more year. You have not made any preparations at all; you simply hope that when the time comes, I will bless them to alleviate their suffering, even though they do not believe. If they do not, that’s okay, but you must prepare. For example, six years ago I flew my mother over here, and at the time she did not believe in me because I was her son. The only advantage I had was that I was a Rinpoche, and she had seen quite a few things I had done. This does not mean you cannot help your parents prepare themselves. You are not convinced of the inevitability of separation and death; you only believe in filial piety and hoping them to live a bit longer. You make them see more doctors, but the more appointments they go to, the more they suffer. I am not trying to stop you from taking them to the doctor, but if we believe ourselves to be practitioners cultivating the Bodhisattva Path, and our parents are sentient beings, then in helping other sentient beings prepare themselves, we should be helping our parents to do the same. Prepare how? Make them qualified to go to Amitabha’s Pure Land, and prepare them so that they can stay out of the Three Evil Realms. Have you done this?

“Many of you disciples say, ‘My parents simply cannot eat vegetarian.’ Then, when they are on their death beds, you come back, looking to cause me more trouble. I stated very clearly that they should eat vegetarian so as to reduce their chances of falling into the Three Evil Realms, but you did not listen. ‘There’s nothing I could do; my other family members blocked my efforts.’ I have siblings in my family, too, yet why was I able to get our mom to eat vegetarian? Reflect upon yourselves, and don’t just constantly try to shift your responsibilities onto your Rinpoche. A lot of you disciples have parents who still eat meat. ‘I am helpless; I can’t convince them.’ Meanwhile, you think to yourselves, I am always making dedications to them and trying to get Dharma Protector Achi to make them to eat vegetarian so that they have a chance of being liberated by Rinpoche. The fact is that I will certainly liberate them, but because they eat meat, their level is going to be quite low, so the most they can hope for is to come back as humans again. None of you has prepared your parents for their death, because you do not believe family is impermanent. You doubt that it constantly changes and that all your family’s members are insubstantial, which does not mean that they do not live realistically; rather, it means they are not practitioners.

“Knowing of her mother’s evil acts, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha made an enormous vow that affected her mother’s future. Have you done this? Why do your parents still eat meat? It is because you have not initiated a grand aspiration, you do not listen, and you have not done the right thing! You only now realize how detestable you have been; on the surface you seem to be practicing Buddhism, yet you have done nothing! You simply light a few sticks of incense and lamps every day, chant for a while, and implore the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to help you to live in comfort. It is written very clearly here: The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are not the ones who can improve your life; you are. If you do not listen, then it won’t matter how capable I might be; I can only save you once. As the saying goes, I save those who are in dire need, not those who are merely poor. When I say I cannot, I don’t mean I am incapable; I mean that you have not done what is taught in the sutras, yet are constantly voicing your gratitude—but if you do not change, and keep on just doing as you please, then you will end up having nothing to do with the Dharma.

“Cultivation is very difficult in this Age of Dharma Decline. Society is completely immersed in a very complex atmosphere in which you hear many different things, to the point that you have absolutely no opportunities to come in contact with the truths and meaning taught in the sutras. You all possess the good roots that have allowed you to listen to the Ratnakuta Sutra today, which is not at all easy. You must cultivate your good roots; do not toss them aside or abandon them carelessly. When you say you do not want it, it will disappear. To replant it would be very difficult, so don’t think you’ll be okay as long as you’ve sat here and listened. Now that you have, you should put some effort into changing the way you think; don’t be so nonchalant about everything. I really do have heavy karma to have to keep on exhorting you like this. Anyone else wouldn’t even bother; this is the way you are, and teaching you further seems like a fruitless venture. You must learn to listen.”

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

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Updated on October 6, 2018