His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – October 7, 2018

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche stepped up to the mandala platform and lighted the lamps to offer to the Buddha. Next, he ascended the Dharma throne and led everyone in performing the Dharma of Avalokiteshvara and reciting of the Great Six-Syllable Mantra, and then he continued teachings on the ‘Scroll 82, “Elder Ugra Assembly” (Chapter 19)’ of the Ratnakuta Sutra.

“For lay practitioners, the teachings of the Ratnakuta Sutra are extremely important. If you do not take heed of this section, you will continue to create afflictions and evil karma. Recently, a disciple in her seventies had a stroke. As I’ve often said before, if you are over the age of sixty-five, you should stop babysitting your grandchildren. First of all, this is because as adults, your children need to take on their fair share of family responsibilities, or else they run the risk of being unfilial; and secondly, because in your old age, taking care of young children can become too much of a physical burden on you. This disciple had a stroke because she was too old to babysit her grandchildren, and because she would not turn on the air conditioner even in the heat of summer. I talk and talk and talk, but none of you listens! Yesterday she came to the Buddhist Center and said she was grateful. She had not even observed what I had to say, yet she said she was grateful! Her daughter only makes a bit more than NT$20,000 per month. I told her daughter, ‘Given that you make such a low salary, you should have looked after your own kids at home. If you had been making over two hundred thousand a month, you might not have needed to, but was it right to make your elderly mother care for them to the point of suffering a stroke, all for a salary of twenty-something thousand a month?’ People over the age of sixty-five are already pressed for time to chant mantras and make prostrations to the Buddha, so how can they have time to care for young children? Her motive for practicing Buddhism was just to seek protection and blessings; she assumed that after she died, I would certainly help and liberate her. She thought impermanence would not affect her.

“I had another disciple who suffered a stroke last week, too; I wonder what kept her busy in the evenings. She was in her sixties, and not all that healthy, yet she did not get regular check-ups at the Chinese Medicine Clinic or eat good, healthy food. The food items I import and the coffee shops and restaurant I run are all helpful and healthy for the body. She did not look after her health very well, and ended up having a stroke. At this point I have gradually come to realize that the reason my disciples encounter so many problems has nothing to do with me or the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; it is simply that they do not listen. In Tibet, once a disciple reaches the age of forty, the guru gifts him or her with a prayer wheel to spin every day because the disciple might not have enough time to chant the Buddhas’ names. Han Chinese do not have this custom, but at the very least, you should know that your time genuinely is limited, so don’t think it’s enough to chant three thousand times a day.

“I have a disciple working in my company who used to be in so much debt she had no money to live on; now that she has a stable income, she has suddenly said she wants to take time off and go down south to see her boyfriend—even though her living situation still hasn’t completely stabilized. I have another employee in my company, also a disciple; when I gave him a task to do, he unexplainably spread a confidential document around every department for all to see. When I asked him why he did this, he said he did not know. However, I pay each and every employee. What do you take me for?

“‘None of our parents, spouses, servants, friends, or other relatives belongs to us.’

None of you is willing to accept this line. You don’t understand why you shouldn’t defend, protect, and value your family members, and sacrifice yourself for them. Family members merely have an affinity with you in this lifetime; once this lifetime is over, that affinity ends. Under reasonable circumstances, taking care of your immediate family members is sufficient; if this is beyond your capabilities, you yourself should know that it might not leave you enough time to practice. Don’t assume that chanting the Great Six-Syllable Mantra one or two thousand times and practicing Dharma Protector Achi’s ritual every day will bring you protection and blessings. If this were the case, then I would not need to cultivate. You are all so superstitious and inattentive, and too stingy to make offerings or give alms.

“Over the past few days, I’ve been checking around, and have discovered that many of you have not lit incense as offerings to the Buddha. If you light a three-stick bundle of incense in the morning and another in the evening, then on average you should each be going through at least three cannisters per month. You are not in the habit of making offerings, but you hope you will be okay in the event of any mishaps. You are all the same; you don’t do what you should be doing, yet you busy yourselves with a ton of unnecessary concerns.”

Just then, Rinpoche asked why the general director was not in attendance, and berated her: “Well, since she sees her other job as more important than being general director, she won’t be general director anymore. She is too busy; how can such a person serve the Buddhist Center? She is an intellectual, so should know better.”

The guru continued: “Starting next week, this ailing seventy-five-year-old who still babysits her grandchildren should stop coming here. Otherwise, her family members might complain that she was too busy caring for her grandkids and attending the pujas. She therefore should stop coming, so as not to experience any further mishaps. I don’t have that much energy or strength to protect you disciples who won’t listen. That other disciple who has fallen ill should stop coming here, too, beginning next week, so that she can focus on making more money; otherwise, if something were to happen to her, people would blame it on Buddhism. If none of you is going to listen to what I say and what the Buddha taught, then you should all stop coming. As I have said many times, you absolutely must not allow your minds to slacken off; do not get complacent just because things have been going well for you recently.

“The sutra reads, ‘If we practice well, they will follow us to the place we go, too.’

“Why am I constantly telling you to practice diligently and do as you are told? It is because only through cultivating bodhicitta can your ultimate bodhicitta emerge, and then, wherever you go, all your family members will follow. Yet you refuse to listen; your sole focus is on this lifetime, even though it will be over in the blink of an eye. It is stated in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that Ksitigarbha’s mother would never have had had a chance to attain Buddhahood, but that her daughter had initiated a great aspiration to continuously benefit vast numbers of sentient beings. Therefore, Shakyamuni Buddha personally bestowed future assurance of attaining Buddhahood upon Ksitigarbha’s mother. What have you done? After living in comfort for a while, you have forgotten to be diligent. I don’t owe you anything, so why should I make life easy for you?

“His Holiness has instructed me to go to Europe next year to promote Buddhism, and specifically to expound the Ratnakuta Sutra. That will take more than just one or two days; it appears that my affinity with Taiwan is just about finished. Even though Europeans don’t understand the making of offerings, I feel a bit more comfortable with them, because they don’t owe me anything, unlike each of you. They have more respect for the Three Jewels than you do; once they have begun to believe, they accept and revere them, and they listen to everything I say. Europe is not as convenient an environment for practicing Buddhism as Taiwan, but if they accept the Dharma, they have truly accepted it. It is too complicated in Taiwan; people here all have their own ideas and are okay with others making sacrifices but are not willing to make sacrifices themselves. They think it is all right that other people are miserable.

“The sutra reads, ‘Why? Because our parents, spouse, and other family members, male or female, cannot save us, no matter how knowledgeable they are.’

“Here Shakyamuni Buddha states very clearly that our parents, spouses, and male and female relatives—including children and grandchildren, and regardless of how educated, capable, or powerful they are—cannot rescue us from reincarnation and the Three Evil Realms. Apart from the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and your guru, who can save you? Nevertheless, you insist on not listening. For elderly disciples, time is limited, so I advised them to chant more. Still, she did not listen, and chose to babysit her grandchildren, thinking they were her responsibility because her daughter was worn out from working so hard; she wanted to do her a favor. As a result, she suffered a stroke. Even after that, she still refuses to change her ways.

“Shakyamuni Buddha expounded the Ratnakuta Sutra specifically for the sake of lay practitioners. Your parents and other family members cannot save you; if you disagree, then try asking them to liberate you. You are afraid of what your parents, spouses, boyfriends, and girlfriends think, but you are not afraid of cause and effect or your guru. Every one of you is the same.

“The sutra reads, ‘We cannot rely on them.’

“We ultimately cannot count on any of them. Many people think family is their final safe haven, but what does it harbor us from? Family merely allows us to have a shelter while we are reincarnating in the Six Realms; for this reason, we tend to put it on a pedestal. I am not telling you to break up your home, but it is merely a place for you to sleep and live. You call yourselves Buddhist practitioners, but why won’t you listen to Shakyamuni Buddha’s words? Why are your heads still so full of your own notions?

“Here it is laid out very clearly that these people cannot save you. That being the case, should you continue to rely on and be attached to them? I am not telling you to ignore or stop taking care of your family members, or not come to their aid in times of need. The concept is that you should not assume that doing kindnesses for them now obligates them to give you help when something comes up, or that they will compensate you in some manner in the future…. Everything happens according to causes and conditions; even whether or not your children are filial has to do with your causes, conditions, and good fortune. If they are not, you deserve it; after all, how many evil acts have you committed? Ask yourselves just how filial you have been toward your own parents. If your family members leave you, then that, too, is deserved; after all, how much meat have you eaten? No one believes me; you all think it’s okay because you have repented. So what if you have? Does that mean you’re all of a sudden going to find Mr. Right? All those notions stem from your desires.

“The sutra reads, ‘Our homes are not ours.’

“Our homes and our houses do not belong to us; we are but guests, staying here temporarily, like in a hotel. Home is not fixed; even it can change—in fact, it never stops changing, no matter how great it might be. Everything we know, learn, and possess in this lifetime has come into being as a result of our past good fortune, causes, and conditions. However, their manifestation also shows that we are constantly consuming our good fortune; once it is all used up, we will die. The Buddha never said that in order to cultivate, lay practitioners must not get married, have a career, or have children, but He did tell us that these are all just transitory, and are only with us for a short time.

“In society these days, young adults tend to study abroad, and once overseas, they do not come back. While you are providing them with money, your kids still ‘belong’ to you, but after you stop and they have their own lives, they stop coming home. It is the same the world over. Everyone, in every lifetime, wastes so much time and energy on his or her children’s education. As I often have said, before the age of eighteen, our kids are our responsibility; after that, they are grown, so are on their own. We provide them with a path to follow; if they are willing to take it, then they will, but if not, there is no need for us to get stressed-out, sad, or resentful about it. The same is true of marriage; just because we have married someone does not mean he or she belongs to us, and if we end up getting divorced, that is not an indication that either partner has failed. It simply means our affinity with that person has ended.

“It is not written in the sutras that divorcees cannot practice. If they contained mention that divorcees are evil, then I would descend the Dharma throne. Many years ago, His Holiness came to Taiwan to preside over the Treasury of Kagyu Tantras Empowerment. This is the only such empowerment puja he has ever presided over here, and it lasted fifteen days straight; it is quite a major puja. I did not give a single cent in offerings, nor was I a major donor; His Holiness knew that I could not even afford to pay for my meals at the time. At the venue, one of his female believers walked past me and remarked, ‘You’re here for the empowerment, even though you’re divorced?’—as if I were an utterly reprehensible, wicked person. Back then, it was all I could do to eek out a meager existence, yet His Holiness had said that if I did not attend this puja, then it would not be held. He even allowed me to sit in the front row. During the puja there was a ritual in which His Holiness bestowed assurance of future enlightenment upon a few disciples, and I was one of them. Obviously, I am judged not by you, but by His Holiness and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Getting a divorce might be considered a sin by some in Western culture, but that is not in keeping with the principle of causality.

“There is a contradiction in modern society; people think the one-husband-one-wife model is most ideal, but that is not written in the sutras. I am not encouraging you to have a lot of partners; rather, I am just telling you that everything results from affinities and causality. That we have been born in this world in this lifetime certainly means we have debts to repay, so don’t assume you will get a chance to be repaid for your kindnesses to others. I myself am spending this lifetime repaying what I owe; once my debts are repaid, I am gone, and this includes repaying you for what I owe you. I can see that the time is near for me to leave; you don’t support anything I say or do. I import quality mineral water, yet people still complain that it is too expensive.

“All of the causal conditions and occurrences we encounter in this lifetime are impermanent, like smoke passing before our eyes. By being so attached to them, you are the ones who suffer. If a good affinity exists, then do you really need to head south to chase after your boyfriend, and that he would stand at your door waiting for you every day? Do you think you can win him over by pestering him? If someone says he or she won’t see the Rinpoche in whom you’ve taken refuge just because I am divorced, then fine; that’s one less person I have to see. These days I have so many disciples I don’t want any more. If they consider divorcees to be extremely vile and wicked, then they are welcome to stay away, because they do not understand the Dharma. If it were forbidden for divorced persons to cultivate, then how could Milarepa have attained Buddhahood after killing so many people?

“The view turbidity—one of the Five Turbidities spoken of in the Amitabha Sutra—refers to having a muddled understanding; everything appears blurry to you. Even if you lay eyes on a treasure, it just looks like an ordinary rock to you. Don’t complain; just recognize it for what it is. If you know that person is like that, then don’t interact with him or her so much. There is a section in the Amitabha Sutra in which the Buddhas are praising Shakyamuni Buddha for His merits. Clearly the sutra had been talking about Amitabha, so why did it suddenly jump to Shakyamuni Buddha? Later, it teaches that only someone capable of attaining supreme Buddhahood is truly praiseworthy. Humans on Earth are so hard to liberate; I treat you so well, yet cannot save you.

“It’s like this disciple I have employed, who insists on running off to see her boyfriend even while the company is so short-staffed. If romance is that important to her, then she should stop practicing Buddhism. She has completely forgotten all that her guru has done for her; she has gotten so used to enjoying herself that she has forgotten from the fundamentals.

“None of you is willing to accept Buddhism. Whenever you make a mistake, you always have an excuse; you don’t think you are in the wrong, that it is me who has misunderstood or cannot relate. Well, I am a lay practitioner; what in this world haven’t I experienced? I have gotten married and gotten divorced; I’ve been followed by people ever since childhood. I have more life experiences under my belt than most. No tricks you might try to play are going to work on me.

“The sutra reads, ‘Nor is the land in which we reside fixed.’

“You think you have a home and family, but such places are not actually where we live. We have come to this Earth simply because we are tied to some good and evil causal conditions that we formed here in the past. We have come in this lifetime merely as guests, but that does not mean we are Earth’s permanent inhabitants or that we belong to any particular country, continent or province. You are only reborn somewhere in this world because you have a good or evil affinity with it, and once that causal condition is finished, you will leave. Do not assume that just because you are a certain type of person in this lifetime, you will necessarily be the same in the next. In the sutra it is stated very clearly that we are at the mercy of our causal conditions, so which realm you are reborn in and where you appear depends on your good and evil affinities with sentient beings. The first thing you need to do is get past the notion that you are Chinese or a Westerner and therefore must come back as the same. Get past the attachment to a certain place, too. Moreover, even if you do return to the same place in the next lifetime, there is no guarantee you will be as a human; due to your attachments, you might return there as a dog, a cat, or even a cockroach.

“Today’s teachings are meant to break you away from your attachments to how you want your future to be. Even if you are unable to be liberated in this lifetime, at least you will not be so attached and won’t end up in the wrong place. Everything I am saying to you today is extremely important. If you think your current family members belong to you, and are attached to this notion, then you are bound to come back in your next life with a causal connection to them, though there is no telling what sort. You might have been someone’s father, but then in your next life here you could be his grandson. Likewise, you may have been someone’s wife in the past, but might come back as that person’s grandson or pet. It’s hard to say.

“In saying all this, I am not trying to destroy our family life, romantic life, or careers; neither do we have to completely abandon or discard them, because we are lay practitioners. However, the point is that all these things only exist in this lifetime, and once it is over, they will be gone. That being the case, being so attached is going to bring you a lot of suffering and afflictions. I don’t mean now; some people don’t care if they have afflictions in this lifetime. If you make a habit of it, though, they will manifest upon your death.

“Recently a disciple of mine passed away. While in Japan, I performed a Dharma to protect her consciousness, and she was upset because her older sister was holding her hand. This sister adhered to a different religion. From all the way over in Japan, I called to ask who was holding the deceased disciple’s hand, and said it was making her very unhappy. Of course I knew who it was, but I held my tongue because I didn’t want to scare her sister out of her wits. Why was this deceased woman unhappy? Even had she not been my disciple, she still would not have liked anyone to touch her after she’d died. I am an expert on death, and have encountered this sort of thing a lot. Today you are attached to your boyfriend, and that attachment is a strong desire. It is written in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that people with strong desires will go to the Hell Realm after they die. Everything happens in accordance with one’s causal conditions, and when they arise, your Mr. Right will naturally come looking for you.

“The sutra reads, ‘Our home cannot protect us.’

“Home is also not a place that can protect us; on the contrary, it is where the most incidents occur, and it is always someone close causing us trouble. A lot of people think that whenever they have a problem, they can run home and get their family members to solve it for them. That’s fine, but importantly, if you do not possess sufficient good fortune, merits and causal conditions, then your family cannot help you even if they want to. We must be clear on the fact that we each came here alone, and so shall we depart. Even two people who die together will still die a few seconds apart; they won’t stop breathing in exactly the same instant. Such an occurrence virtually hasn’t ever taken place anywhere in the world. This is because everyone has a unique lifespan, different causal conditions, and varying amounts of good fortune. We often see news stories of two people who took poison together in the exact same dosage, yet one dies and the other doesn’t; this is because they have different causal conditions. I am not at all advocating suicide; no one should ever be allowed to take that route. However, it can help us to understand. If you think family is everything to you, then you are liable to forget the kindnesses granted to you by the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, your guru, and sentient beings. As such, you tend to do as you please, allow yourself to indulge in your desires, and you are always self-righteous.

“The sutra reads, ‘It is not our true abode.’

“These places are not where we necessarily will reside. ‘Abode’ implies a permanent living place. Only Amitabha’s Pure Land is our abode. There, while on the path to supreme Buddhahood, you won’t experience the suffering of the Three Evil Realms, nor will you reincarnate. This is the only true abode we have; it is our only true permanent residence. In the mundane world, even if you were to live until you were two hundred years old, you would still eventually have to leave.

“This is not to say you can indulge yourselves and just get together and separate with your partners as you please; rather, it tells us that no matter how much you love someone, at the end of the road, you will have to part ways and reincarnate. If you think that living with your parents and spouse and doing the same activities together every day means you will be reborn in the same realm, then you are wrong. Even if two people do the same things together every day, does that make their minds identical? Many people think their children are sure to go to the same place as they, but that is not true. Everyone does different things and has a different attitude. If all of us spend our time benefiting sentient beings, then we have a chance of going to the same place. If not, then we are each on our own path; each cultivates separately. Do not labor under the misapprehension that a wife who practices will benefit her husband, or that having your husband practice will help your children. That is only true if you have attained the fruition of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, have initiated a grand aspiration, are completely selfless, and are constantly helping sentient beings.

“Even though these words are addressed to lay practitioners, they are pertinent for monastics, too; if you are still attached to your family members, you should understand the consequences of that.

“The sutra reads, ‘“We must not dwell on anything that would send us into the nether realms.”’

“Everything we obtain in this lifetime puts us at risk of falling into the Three Evil Realms, so we should not dwell on them. We must understand that this risk increases if we do not use the Dharma to process and realize the events that occur while we are alive. Even if you eat vegetarian, practice Buddhism, and make prostrations to the Buddha, as long as you harbor hatred or resentment toward any family members, you should prepare yourselves to go to the Three Evil Realms, because all of them have the possibility of sending us there. If your children are unfilial or your spouse misbehaves, it is the result of your causal conditions and how much good fortune you have. The same is true if your parents treat you badly.

“If you are hateful, then while you are still alive, you will get cancer; cancer stems from resentment, which is the sort of attitude that will send you to the Hell Realm. If you feel resentment over someone, then even if you do not scold or utter any complaints out loud, you will still encounter medical problems. From a Buddhist point of view, any resentment or hatred is evil and will fill your mind with evil thoughts, which will cause you to fall into the Three Evil Realms. However, if you practiced Buddhism during this lifetime, you will have a bit more good fortune and won’t have to stay there as long. Many people can’t get that through their heads, and won’t accept it; they think, I’ve worshiped the Buddha, but my boyfriend let me down, so I hate him. A lot of women like to say that. Well then, how are you yourselves worthy of others? We need to be clear about the fact that family is nothing more than an affinity for us; if we know this, then we will not commit evil acts.

“The sutra reads, ‘“We even treat our parents and spouse as our own, and rely on them.”’

“Parents and spouses are in your life due to karmic connections. If you see them as belonging to you, and think you can rely on them in this lifetime, then you have made them your abode; that is a mistake. This is because they have appeared in your life as a result of good and evil karma you created in your past lives. For example, I got divorced in this lifetime because of karma from my past lives. Now this karma has been resolved; we separated without hatred or resentment, so the debt has been paid—and I will owe her nothing in the next life. Many people are unable to realize this sort of thing; they think their spouses belong to them, and that if their families are not harmonious, it means they have failed in life. This comes from a Confucian view: By cultivating one’s moral character, one can regulate one’s family and, in turn, one’s nation, bringing peace to all the world. In ancient societies existing in the evil time of the Five Turbidities, family was deemed necessary to protect all one’s love ones; however, from a Buddhist point of view, family is merely a result of one’s karma—a causal condition—and will disappear as soon as this life is over. Nevertheless, this concept continues to elude us, and we keep thinking our families are our possessions.

“When Shakyamuni Buddha was born, a soothsayer predicted that He would become a monastic. To prevent Him from doing so, His father forbade Shakyamuni Buddha from exiting the palace, where He remained until after He’d grown up, gotten married, and had children. Eventually, however, Shakyamuni Buddha left home to cultivate.”

Rinpoche paused to scold a puja participant for looking around and not listening closely. The guru said about him, “This disciple has taken refuge for fifteen years. He feels like he has learned everything already; no matter what I say, it is the same thing to him. He seemed to have had enough; it’s been fifteen years and I don’t even know you. That means you are really good at hiding—but my eyes are quite sharp; I can see you even though you’re sitting all the way over there. You should just go ahead and leave!

“Another female disciple keeps rubbing something on her hands and taking whiffs of it. Are you just impatient? Or do you think your hands are more important than the Dharma? If you do not respect the Three Jewels, then why are you attending the pujas? You should get out, too. I’m going to start kicking people out one by one; I don’t need this many disciples. You all act as though you are here listening to a lecture; you think what is being said doesn’t concern you, and that you can just do whatever you want.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Parents and spouses arise from karma.”’

“All of your family members are part of your life due to virtuous and evil acts you did in your past lives. Everything that happens in this lifetime, whether good or evil, will change. If you have not practiced Buddhism, then even if you are given family members whom you want and who treat you well, your lack of cultivation will lead you to indulge yourself and grow lax, and then this sort of good karma will transform into evil karma. By the same token, if you understand the Dharma, then evil karma can be transformed into good karma. This means that even if your destiny with someone comes to an end someday, there will be no resentment, hatred, or enmity when you part ways. As such, nothing will link you together in your next life again. If you love each other very much, and feel that you belong to each other in this lifetime, then you are sure to encounter one another in your next lifetime, but you will not necessarily get married. Anyone who tells you that being husband and wife in this lifetime guarantees that you’ll be married in the next is lying to you.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Our karmic retribution, be it virtuous or evil, will manifest.”’

“Everything that comes to us in this lifetime is a manifestation of good and evil karmic retribution. I got divorced because I owed them karmic debts, which I had to repay in this lifetime; only once I had given them the best of what I owed did we separate. We parted ways without any residual resentment, hatred, or enmity, and in the end, I took responsibility for everything. Many people try to take their kids away from their ex-partners after getting divorced, but there actually was no need. I am seventy-one now, and am still the one who takes all the responsibility for my kids. Since what happens in your marriage is the result of your own karma, you won’t be able to drive your spouse and kids off even if you want to. If it is not your karma to get the kids, then even if you go to court and win, you will still end up having problems.

“I often advise people who are about to get divorced or who have already done so not to criticize their partners in front of the kids. This is because by doing so, you are creating opportunities for them to be unfilial toward, or even resent, their parents. What happens between you and your spouse is your business; if it’s over, then it’s over, and neither of you owes the other a thing. That way there won’t be any tension between the children and their parents. None of you understand that ‘karmic retribution, be it virtuous or evil, will manifest as a result of our past actions;’ everything you have done in this lifetime is constantly manifesting as karmic effects. Don’t think that ‘my having chanted the Buddha’s name will protect me from my karmic retribution;’ it still will manifest, though its effects will be lessened.

“For example, karmic retribution ended up manifesting for those two disciples who didn’t listen. However, because they have served as my disciples and made some small offerings to me, they won’t die this time. They still have not chanted enough, so they cannot be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land or even have their consciousness transferred. Do you think the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have treated them with compassion? Actually they are compassionate toward me; they see that I am old and have been so industrious, allowing those disciples to live a couple more years and chant a bit more to further accumulate their good fortune. Thus, when it comes time for me to liberate them, I won’t have to work so hard. Each and every one of you keeps abusing and walking all over me. If you have such heavy karma, then how can you be liberated? None of you has ever repented.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Our family members will also meet their own virtuous and evil karmic retribution.”’

“The same is true of all your relatives; they will each encounter the effects of their good and evil karma in this lifetime. Any new good deeds or evil acts they commit, if major enough, will manifest as karmic effects in this lifetime, whereas minor acts will result in karmic effects in the next lifetime. Either way, there is no way to avoid them. Many of you complain that your spouse doesn’t listen; that is due to good or evil karma that exists between you. Some of you break down crying because your husbands have suddenly gotten a mistress, but that, too, is your karma. If you had not cheated in a past life, then he would not be doing it in this one. If you are a practitioner, then you accept it as your karmic retribution; if you do not believe in it, then don’t claim to be a practitioner. Take me, for example; I practice Buddhism, so I believe in the effects of all good and evil karma. I won’t give rise to negative thoughts no matter what someone does to me, because I see myself as a practitioner. You will face the karmic effects of your own actions in this lifetime, and all your family members will have to face theirs, too; however, theirs will not be exactly the same as yours.

“I often give the example of a pair of identical twins I once saw. From a scientific standpoint, their genes should have been exactly the same, but they ended up having different personalities, likes, and dislikes, and encountering different people. This was because of their karma. If the same egg split into two living entities, then how were their individual experiences unique? In everything I observe, I can see many Dharmas that were spoken by the Buddha. You are the opposite, though; you cannot see things as they are, and instead just see what you want to see.

“Whether you are a lay practitioner or a monastic, you should not assume that your family members would necessarily improve their lives just because you practice—unless you are Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. If you cultivate to the point of becoming a Dharmakaya Bodhisattva, and they have a chance, then they will naturally transform along with your good fortune. Until then, you must face your own karmic retribution, and they must face theirs. If we work hard to amend our ways and practice, then we will have an effect on others. As the old saying goes, a virtuous family can enjoy long prosperity. If you diligently do good, forming good affinities with many people, then one day when you are not here anymore, those virtuous connections will continue to be somewhat helpful to your children.

“Why should you practice Buddhism? The point is not to live comfortably in this lifetime; it has to do with you and sentient beings through lifetime after lifetime. If you can act virtuously, then your family situation will change naturally, without your even needing to ask. This is because your family members are sentient beings, too. If you do not form evil connections with sentient beings, then as a matter of course, they will not form any with you; as such, will any evil karmic retribution manifest? I am not saying you should resign yourselves to your fate; I am talking about your attitude. No matter how others treat you, and even if you decide to take legal actions to protect yourselves, you still must not hold any resentment, hatred, or enmity in your heart. Nevertheless, these days everyone is full of those things, and they end up with a heap of bizarre illnesses—the so-called four major disorders, which are sicknesses. Having bad lungs means you are greedy, constantly coveting this and that; having a bad heart results from always trying to think up ways of defeating others. People who get cancer harbor resentment and hate, and have committed acts of killing. Thus, if you have cancer, don’t complain about other people; blame yourselves for not listening.

“Today’s teachings are designed to help you all understand that events at home do not happen because your ancestors were bad or neglected to protect you; actually, everyone has his or her own karma—it’s just that all are part of a collective karma. If your family makes a living from slaughtering pigs or other such killing, then any descendants come from your collective karma, and they will innately tend toward engaging in the same business. For example, since my immediate family’s karma did not come from killing sentient beings, I was not given any opportunities to pick up a knife and cut a single piece of meat. However, because my ancestors in my grandfather’s generation made money from killing silkworms, family members in my father’s generation and in my generation have been afflicted with either high blood pressure or heart disease. This has only begun to change in my generation, but my siblings all have brain disorders. These karmic retributions are very clear. I am the only one of my siblings to practice Buddhism in this lifetime; they have not. We each have our own karma. They all know I am a Rinpoche, but they do not ask for my help when they have a problem. They have attended the Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness, too, and seen what happens there, but they won’t change, so nothing can be done.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Elder Ugra, a Bodhisattva should, whether coming or going, sitting or standing, constantly contemplate these matters.”’

“All your karma has to do with your family. You should contemplate these matters in earnest, and view everything as an effect of karma; that is the only way you can keep from losing your temper. If your children won’t listen, or they get sick, whatever—it is all karmic retribution; it is your karma, and theirs as well. As I often say, having children who always listen is not necessarily a good thing; I have seen children who were very good at school, and were not bad-looking and did as they are told, yet they died suddenly from an accident or terminal illness, causing their parents no end of suffering. This is a kind of karmic retribution, too.

“This line of the sutra is addressed to those of you who consider yourselves to be practicing the Bodhisattva Path. Anything that happens at home, whether you are coming or going, is a result of your karma; it is not that anyone is out to get you. ‘Coming and going’ implies two different things; one is all the places you go in this lifetime, and the other is your deaths and rebirths. A lot of people complain that someone, such as a spouse or unfilial children, has kept them from seeing a doctor, or that the doctor has failed to cure them of their illnesses; such a mindset is not becoming of one who claims to be cultivating the Bodhisattva Path. If you encounter a good doctor, that is a result of your karma, as is whether or not you were able to see a doctor in the first place. Any harm done to you by others is an assisting condition that helps certain karma mature. Why do you listen to them, though, and not me? Why don’t you listen to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas?

“We should always be contemplating these matters. When your family members treat you wonderfully, engendering in you a profound sense of love and happiness, you should contemplate immediately. You might feel that they love you very much, value you, and cannot do without you, but when you are on your deathbed, they might cause you a great deal of suffering just like that older sister who held her dying younger sister’s hand, thereby causing her a lot of pain. Luckily, this disciple has a guru to tell her older sister not to take her by the hand. If a practitioner had not been around to instruct her family members, the deceased would have been filled with hatred and fallen into the Hell Realm. When you feel that your family members or boyfriend love you very much, that is where you are getting ready to go.

“Why is it written in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that having a strong lust for love will send you to the Hell Realm? I did not used to understand, but now that I’ve learned Tantra, I know; it is because lust causes you to be attached. Conversely, when everyone at home is treating you poorly, you should view this, too, as karma. Only once you have gained this viewpoint will you be able to refrain from becoming emotionally tangled with your family members and others close to you. As long as we still have emotional attachments, we will not repay our karmic debt in this lifetime, and will be forced to come back in another lifetime. Regardless of how much you have done or sacrificed for your family, if they mistreat you, you should not take it to heart, because we give alms without asking for anything in return, and this is exactly how we should interact with our family members. If you feel that heading down south to see your boyfriend will make him love you, then you are seeking karmic effects; if that is the case, then you should stop coming here. You think that if you come here, I will bless and protect you so that your life gets better and you obtain a stable income. Each and every one of you is using me.

“No matter what happens at home, you should always view it clearly for what it is: Karma; a manifestation of both your and your family members’ karmic effects. You cannot realize this through words alone. For this reason, the Buddha taught that if you think you are practicing the Bodhisattva Path, then you must constantly view everything you do in this matter, twenty-four hours a day—whether you are going, coming, sitting, standing, sleeping, or what. Family members are manifestations of karmic retribution—both yours and theirs; they are causal conditions that will resolve in this lifetime. Once you die, those causal conditions will be gone. If they love you deeply to the point that when you die, they hold you tight and continuously cry and shake, then you are in trouble, because you will give rise to hatred.

“In the sutra it is written that when people die, right before their consciousness is about to leave the body, they feel like a turtle being stripped of its shell; it is very painful. In that moment, their skin is very sensitive; the deceased are aware of even the slightest breeze. After they stop breathing, their thoughts stop, but they are actually quite sensitive to things that happen around them. I have given many examples of this. Some people pull on the hospital bed’s railing or make sounds, and this can anger the deceased. They also can get mad if the doctor nudges their leg, or if you discuss where the funeral will be held and how it should be arranged so as to have good feng shui. Without me there to resolve this problem, where would they go? To the Hell Realm.

“Therefore, you should train yourselves all the time. Don’t get so overjoyed at your son’s having gotten into university that you invite everyone over for a big celebratory meal. If you do, you will have more attachments. I am not telling you not to be happy; I am saying that this was a karmic effect of your son’s good fortune. You provided him with an environment and opportunity to study; with such good fortune, he naturally would encounter good professors and schools, and easily pass the entrance exam. Of course, he still had to work hard; he couldn’t just take the test with his eyes closed.

“It is written quite clearly here that if you consider yourself to be practicing the Bodhisattva Path—especially if you are a monastic—and place greatest importance on your family members over all others, then you should stop practicing. Even the Hinayana Buddhist view of family members is different from that of most people, so what makes you think you can see them as the most important part of your life while practicing Mahayana Buddhism? If you do, then you should stop pretending to practice. Your family members are sentient beings, too. If even the Buddha cannot change His family members’ karma, then by what reasoning do you believe you can change the karma of your family members? If they see you cultivating in earnest, they will change; once they do, their karma will transform. If they are unwilling to change, however, then what can you do?

“I frequently say that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are compassionate to have allowed me to suffer so much in this lifetime. My children do not practice Buddhism, yet I have never tried to force them, so why would you force yours? Shakyamuni is the Buddha, yet hardly anyone else in the entire Shakya clan followed him into Buddhism. What makes you think you are more capable? What can you do? Live your life, and adapt to each condition as it arises. Start with working on yourself. As I often say, at least my children wouldn’t break the law. They have watched their father being prudent every day, in everything I do, and this has naturally caused them to exercise quite a bit of restraint. You should be a genuine practitioner, and not assume that being one means you will change your family members; also, do not make daily supplications to Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in order for them to attain enlightenment.

“Yesterday someone sought audience to say that his mother was elderly and had glaucoma; he implored for my blessings so that she could see again and recite the sutras along with him. This was of course a wonderful intention, but if you think about it further, he was just being lazy. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha set an example for us. Her mother scorned the Three Jewels, and even though she was freed from the Hell Realm, she still suffered the karmic retribution of having her life cut short. Did Ksitigarbha ever implore the Buddha to let her mother live a few years longer so that she could understand the sutras and cultivate? It is not written in the sutras that she did; only that Ksitigarbha made a great vow to help sentient beings keep from falling into the Three Evil Realms. Because of this, her mother served as a root for Ksitigarbha to plant good fortune, so her mother naturally gained enough good fortune to be able to learn the Dharma in the future. You, on the other hand, insist on pulling and dragging your family members into cultivation. However, until they have a clear understanding of their karma, their karmic retribution will not change. How would it?

“When Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha went to the Hell Realm, knowing that her mother was there, she did not beg to have her freed immediately. It is written in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that when Ksitigarbha went to seaside, she was told why her mother was in hell, but she was not told how to supplicate so as to allow her mother to leave. When Ksitigarbha’s mother came back, she only lived a short life, and was a young child when she told Ksitigarbha that she would only live to the age of thirteen. Did Ksitigarbha implore the Buddha to let her mother live to the age of seventy so that she would have enough time to practice? Not at all. In other words, the Bodhisattva knew that her mother’s short lifespan this time around was a result of her mother’s karma—the retribution for which had to be paid—and she hoped her mother would pay it quickly so that she could have a chance to practice Buddhism sooner. Unlike yourselves.

“Buddhism is not completely consistent with our so-called human ethical standards, which is why we feel it is very difficult to practice. However, when all is said and done, it is for our own good. Your hope that your loved ones will never fall into the Three Evil Realms and reincarnation is to their benefit, and better than merely extending this lifetime for them by a few more years. When my mom got sick and was hospitalized, I, too, could have mobilized everyone to help me perform the Amitayus for her. Why didn’t I? Am I unfilial? Am I lazy? I didn’t, because I knew very well that this was my mother’s karma and its retribution, and she needed to repay this karmic debt in this lifetime. I believe in the impermanence of life, so what would have happened had I performed the Amitayus for her and then died? Who would have helped her then? She would have been done for. Such an action would, on the contrary, have been unfilial; in doing it, I would have prevented her from repaying the karmic debt she owed in this lifetime. Blocking karmic effects from manifesting is an extremely evil thing to do. Through cultivation, we can implore the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and our guru to alleviate the effects of our family members’ karmic retribution—but its manifestation cannot be avoided. If you could avoid having to face any karmic retribution for your evil acts by practicing Buddhism, then it would prevent you from experiencing any good karmic effects, too. Why are you so foolish as to constantly implore me to bless your parents so that they won’t fall ill? Everything that happens to them is a karmic effect. Given that they spent this lifetime eating so much meat, is it any wonder they ended up getting sick?

“You simply do not listen. Thus, as we can see today, it is written very clearly here in the Ratnakuta Sutra that everything that happens is karma and its effects, so make sure you understand. We can implore the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to keep our loved ones from falling into the Three Evil Realms, but they cannot transform sentient beings’ karma unless the sentient beings take the initiative to do it themselves; I am an example of this. Has His Holiness transformed my karma for me? Could he have helped me do so, if I had not conducted any retreats? No. It is the same as Shakyamuni Buddha’s saying that He cannot transform the karma of sentient beings; their karma can only be transformed if they themselves cultivate. We can supplicate to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for help, to keep our family members from being reborn in the Three Evil Realms, and they will consent, because Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s aspiration is to not let any sentient beings go to the Hell Realm. She most certainly can do this. That being the case, you must help your loved ones to prepare while they are still alive, and not wait until they are lying in an ICU bed before you implore me for help. Every single one of you is trying my nerves. I know that a very large portion of you have parents who still eat meat.

“Why do they keep on eating meat? It is because you are too timid to tell them too; you are scared they will get mad at you. How is it that my mom can eat meat? What am I able to do that you cannot? The difference is that you do not believe in cause and effect or the Dharma. Since you do not wish your parents to suffer such heavy karmic retribution, you should slowly, patiently, and constantly guide them, using a positive approach, until they realize and understand. If your own temper, character, and way of doing things do not change, then how can you make your parents believe that Buddhism is useful? Why was my mom willing to listen? She is more stubborn than I am. Because she saw her son’s temperament change, however, she changed with me.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Do not do anything that goes against cause and effect on behalf of your parents, spouse, other family members, or servants.”’

“In other words, don’t do a bunch of things for them that you shouldn’t. If you know full well that someone has done something wrong, yet you rack your brain to help him think up ways of smoothing it over; or if you are well aware that he has committed a heap of evil acts in this lifetime, yet you still dedicate merits to him every day, then how can you claim to believe in cause and effect? Should your parents not have to face their karmic retribution? Should other people’s parents face theirs? This line of the sutra, therefore, is very important. Previously it was said that you must believe that you are here in this lifetime to accept any good or evil effects of your karma, and so must your family members accept theirs. The Buddha spoke these two lines very clearly. You should not exhaust yourself trying to help your loved ones manipulate or change their good and evil karmic effects; you must work on yourself first, just like Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha did. Did she try to alter her mother’s karmic retribution of having to die young? No. However, she made a great vow to practice very diligently to benefit sentient beings so that her mother’s lot would improve in the next lifetime. This is the way you can make dedications to your parents; this is how you can benefit their future.

“However, as we all have seen, this lifetime only lasts a few short decades. If you think your parents should be exempt from getting sick, aging, and dying, and believe they should be allowed to live longer, then you do not believe in karma or karmic retribution. Am I saying we should make our parents die sooner? Of course not, but we must go with the flow of their karma, and make a habit of accumulating good fortune, causes, and conditions for them, exactly as I did for my mother. Let me say once more: Even though I could have mobilized and utilized so many people, I still did not implore for her to have a longer lifespan. By what reasoning, then, do you feel you can supplicate over and over for your parents to live longer? You are doing them harm. None of you has implored for help to keep your parents from falling into the Three Evil Realms. Ask yourselves honestly: Why not? It is because you are afraid that if they get sick, it will cause you a lot of trouble; you worry that if your parents die in front of you, you will be grief-stricken; you fear that once they are gone, you will not know what to do. You have heard those disciples come out and express their gratitude, but I have no idea what they are grateful for. I don’t save your parents to make you happy; I do it so that they will have enough time to accumulate good fortune so that they won’t fall into the Three Evil Realms. Who can help them to accumulate it? Their sons and daughters.

“Thus, this section I am expounding today is crucial. You must not do your parents, spouse, other family members, or servants any favors that would run against cause and effect; your cultivation is more important. Why should you cultivate? You should do it in the hope that you can someday help them, not so that your parent will stay home and look after your children for you to the point that she suffers a stroke. ‘Do not do anything that goes against cause and effect on behalf of your parents, spouse, other family members, or servants.’ The Buddha is scolding you disciples here. At seventy-five years of age, she was getting less and less time to chant mantras; still, not thinking the great matters of life and death were such a big deal, she placed too much importance on being a grandma and looking after her grandkids. She thought that if she didn’t, people would talk negatively about her. In order to help her daughter make money, she forgot that she herself needed to practice. Why did she forget? She assumed that in my compassion, I would help her in her time of need. If she does not possess any causal conditions or good future, however, I cannot help her even if I want to. I won’t necessarily be able to help her even if she is my disciple.

“It’s like that disciple I mentioned earlier whose older sister was holding her hand while she was on her deathbed; she did not receive the Phowa. Why not? It was because she never supplicated. Does this mean you will definitely receive help if you implore for it? No; not necessarily. I won’t help you just because you want me to, nor will I automatically consent to all your requests. I’m getting harder and harder to manipulate, so you all should be careful; if you do not practice in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings, then you will have a very hard time accumulating good fortune, merits, causes, and conditions.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Any such actions, words, or thoughts on their behalf would create more evil karma than there are hairs on a person’s body.”’

“This line means that if you do anything for your parents, spouse, other family members, or servants that does not accord with the Dharma, such as anything that violates cause and effect, then you will have committed evil with your actions, words, and thoughts, and many evil karmic effects will result—more than there are hairs on one’s body, which means too many to see. You won’t be able to see them. An example is indulging your family members with the mindset that as long as you are vegetarian, it doesn’t matter if they eat meat. Some people even say, ‘If I don’t put meat in the dishes I cook, my husband will be unhappy and slander the Buddha.’ If that is the case, then you should stop practicing Buddhism; the same is true if you say, ‘My mother-in-law said I had to cook meat dishes.’ In other religions, converts must stick by their precepts; why are so many Buddhist practitioners so scared of what people might say, and back off instead of holding their ground? In order to avoid conflict, you refuse to stick to your beliefs, which is why, after taking refuge, you continue to commit evil without even realizing it.

“What the Buddha said is very serious: You will unwittingly create countless evil karmic effects—as many as there are hairs on one’s body. A single piece of hair is very tiny. It is stated in the sutra that one’s every thought will generate karma and vice; I have said this so many times, but still, none of you gets it. The Buddha said it very clearly: You should not do anything contrary to the Dharma for the sake of these so-called loved ones of yours. That is, if you do not influence them positively so that they learn Buddhism, but instead keep doing certain things and just hoping they can change so that your life will be easier, then you will create evil karma. You should strive to guide and influence your family members by practicing, not just begging them every day to change without having changed at all yourselves.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Hence, Elder Ugra, a lay practitioner on the Bodhisattva Path should think of his or her spouse as being these three things: Impermanent, changing, and deteriorating.’”

“Here Shakyamuni Buddha is describing the three sorts of thoughts a lay practitioner of the Bodhisattva Path should have about his or her spouse.

“‘Impermanent’ means that your spouse can change at any time, even if he or she is your avowed husband or wife. Nothing lasts forever. This is why some of you ask, ‘How are things going to end up between me and this guy?’ You will end up separated in life, or parted in death. What couple ever dies together? It has never happened. Couples either separate in life or in death. Thus, impermanence includes getting divorced, not getting divorced, and separating, as well as living separately in order to make a living. All of these are manifestations of impermanence; everything is impermanent. From this we can see, therefore, that the Buddha did not say marriage is forever. Once you are done repaying your debt, impermanence will arise.

“‘Fluctuating’ means your spouse changes, and this includes his or her appearance, personality, and manner of practicing Buddhism. Everyone fluctuates; all these changes are constantly occurring. If you feel like you don’t recognize the person you married anymore, it is because you did not believe that he or she would change. You only saw what that person was like before you got hitched, and now that your spouse is different, you can’t see clearly who he or she has become and you dislike it. You begin to reject your spouse, and all manner of resentment and conflict arises. I am sure you all have often heard this said: ‘He used to treat me so well before we were married, but since then, he can’t even remember my birthday, our anniversary, or my mom’s birthday.’ This is indicative of change—but why did he change? Of course he would, because he got what he wanted! Therefore, whether you are male or female, you need to have a clear understanding of the fact that your spouse is impermanent and fluctuating.

“‘Deteriorating’ means he or she will worsen, which could mean abruptly having nothing; this includes experiencing a sudden decline in health. If your spouse has accumulated a lot of evil karma, then in this lifetime, he or she could have poor health and suddenly get sick. I have often seen husbands break down crying very convincingly, saying, ‘I can’t live without her; if she dies, I’ll never marry again’—but in the end, hardly anyone keeps this promise, and he gets married again anyway. Therefore, whether you are a man or woman, do not fall for this.

“Master Gampopa heeded this the best. When his wife was dying, she said to him, ‘You should become a monastic!’ Many of you think that your spouse belongs to you, and should not be allowed to get married again; you are wrong. Even before he cultivated with the Venerable Milarepa, Gampopa had already attained a very high level of fruition in the Nyingma Order; his wife knew that he had paid off his karmic debts in this lifetime, and that he therefore should become a monastic. The secular view is that she would not let him go, and therefore urged him to be ordained so as not to be able to get married again, but that is not what happened, so do not misunderstand. On the other hand, though, Gampopa genuinely did listen, and actually became a monastic; thus, he was wise, and so was his wife.

“Gampopa was a doctor; we also refer to him as ‘the Great Healer.’ However, both his children and wife died in an epidemic, and he was unable to save them. This was what made him see that family members are impermanent, fluctuating, and deteriorating. As a result, he made a firm resolve, and never looked back. When this sort of thing happens in your family, you should view it the same way, and not complain that your wife was too young to die and never did anything wrong. If that is what you think, then you neither believe in the Buddha nor in cause and effect. Let me remind you once more: Do not go home and repeat all this to your spouses, because they are not cultivating the Bodhisattva Path, so there is no point in mentioning it to them.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Elder Ugra, in addition to those just mentioned, a lay practitioner on the Bodhisattva Path should have these three thoughts about his or her spouse: Firstly, he or she is an entertainment companion in this lifetime only, not the next.”’

“Lay Bodhisattvas should, additionally, view their spouse in three ways, the first of which is that ‘he or she is an entertainment companion in this lifetime only, not the next.’ This lifetime is the time for your spouse to bring you joy, the definition of which is very broad—I won’t get into the details now—but they definitely will not be your companions in the next lifetime; once this lifetime is over, your current relationship with them will end, too. In other words, they have come to you in this lifetime, and whether it was to take revenge or to pay a debt of gratitude, they have at least entertained you in some way. Either mentally or physiologically, you know they have brought you joy, so you should not give rise to any hatred. You should not feel that they have wronged you and you therefore should take revenge on them in the next lifetime. A lot of people think and say, ‘I won’t let you get away; I’ll definitely come looking for you in the next life.’ The Buddha stated very clearly that your spouse will not be your companion in your next lifetime; even if you were to somehow find each other, you certainly would not be partners. If you cannot even grasp this concept, then how can you consider yourselves to be practicing Buddhism?

“The sutra reads, ‘“Secondly, think of your spouse as a companion in food and drink, not one in karmic effects.”’

“In this line, the Buddha is teaching us that we should not develop any good or evil concepts toward any karma. That is, if you live with your spouse until a ripe old age in conjugal bliss, it is karma; if you get divorced, that is karma, too—however, regardless, you must not give rise to thoughts of hatred or love. So how should we think of a spouse? As someone who eats with us. After all, eating by oneself is lonely, so is there anything wrong with sharing meals with someone? However, we cannot see our spouses as companions for karmic retribution. This means that if they are here in this lifetime for revenge or to repay us a kindness, this karma will end once it is resolved. Maybe they have come into our lives to repay a debt of kindness or exact revenge on us for one year only, and afterward are gone. You might think this year was very important for you, though, and then it has affected your future. Do you understand this concept? Some married couples are very loving and kind toward one another one year, and then start to act like enemies the next. As soon as you think you have married the wrong person, you have opened the door to allowing this evil karma to entangle you further.

“You can see your spouse as an eating and drinking partner, accompanying you at mealtime, but once you are finished eating, you will have to get up. Can you eat twenty-four hours a day? Can you eat every single second? When you eat, everyone sits down and eats together, but after you are done, your spouse might wash the dishes and you might go to bed or watch television, or vice versa. What does this mean? It means eating together is temporary. Real companions don’t spend more than a few hours together each day; nominally, the government stamps a seal that makes it legal for you to sleep in the same bed. The government recognizes that you can legally sleep together, nothing else; the rest is what the Buddha mentioned: Eating and drinking together.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Thirdly, a spouse is a companion in good times, not in times of suffering.”’

“The Buddha truly is compassionate. As I said earlier, even though it is only temporary, you should see your spouse as a companion who brings you happiness, not suffering. Even if he or she wrongs you, if you think this is suffering, you are mistaken. He or she is helping you to repay your karmic debt by resolving the karma between you in this lifetime. Of course, if your spouse beats you or tries to kill you, you should report this to the police; the Buddha never said otherwise, nor did He forbid you from taking legal measures. However, what the Buddha meant was that you should not see this as a sort of suffering; it is just a manifestation of your karmic retribution. You may turn to the law to protect yourself. Of course, you should not pray to the Dharma protectors every day to keep your spouse from controlling you, or get him or her to do as you say or practice Buddhism diligently; don’t do that. As long as your spouse has been your partner, you will definitely have enjoyed some temporary happiness. Whether you think of this as temporary or eternal is your choice. Therefore, as I often say to so many women who want to get divorced, ‘You might think he’s no good now, but have you completely forgotten the good things you used to see in him?’ They reply, ‘Yes, I have.’ Exactly; spouses fluctuate.

“Thus, here the Buddha is teaching us lay practitioners that if we cultivate in this matter, we will naturally see a reduction in our afflictions. In the process, we will also have fewer conflicts at home, because in giving out these kinds of signals, our spouses will not feel that our Buddhist practice is getting in their way or having a negative impact on our family. If we want to cultivate, then we must get this through our heads, and not constantly hide our beliefs or beat around the bush as though we’re doing something incredibly evil. Sometimes when a married female believer implores to take refuge, I insist that she obtain her husband’s approval first. This is not to say that she cannot practice without it; rather, given that the husband himself is not ready to practice Buddhism, it is so that she can help him understand what she is preparing to do. As is written here, your husband has his own karmic retribution to face, but yours is that you want to cultivate, so you must explain to him clearly the reasons why, and whether it will affect the family or not. You need to say all this very clearly. You are his entertainment and mealtime companion, so why won’t you tell him?

“He eats the meat you brought home for him, and even if you yourself eat vegetarian, you can still eat together at the same table. I don’t believe there’s anyone who doesn’t eat any vegetables, so why is it so hard? There is a very simple reason: It is because you do not believe. Even you, too, are constantly making up a ton of excuses.

“The sutra reads, ‘“Elder Ugra, a lay practitioner on the Bodhisattva Path should also have these three thoughts about his or her spouse: That he or she is no good, filthy, and detestable.”’

“‘No good’ here does not mean this person is bad. Don’t misunderstand or run home to tell your husband or wife, ‘The Buddha said you’re no good.’ What does ‘no good’ here actually mean? If you hold a deep grudge against your spouse, it definitely won’t be good for either you or him, and will send both of you down into the Three Evil Realms. You therefore come to understand that having a spouse come into your life means you have heavy karma rather than good fortune. In another sutra, it is written very clearly that lay Bodhisattvas have heavy karma; if they didn’t, then they would be more like monastics. However, I have an ordained disciple whose karma is quite heavy, too, and she is constantly busy with minding her family members’ affairs. She is even busier than I am.

“What does this line mean? ‘No good’ does not indicate that this person has a bad character or personality, or treats you poorly; it means that when you are not careful, you and he will sow the seeds that will send you both to the Hell Realm. Thus, you need to have a clear understanding of the preceding lines: Your spouse is your companion for entertainment and mealtimes, but only in this lifetime, not in the next. The point is that even if your spouse treats you nicely, you know that the relationship will end after this lifetime; you therefore stop greedily hoping that your spouse will be good to you. Likewise, if he or she treats you poorly, you know that your spouse is helping you to repay your debt, meaning you won’t owe him or her anything further in this lifetime. This is why the Buddha said your spouse is ‘an entertainment companion’; this, too, is entertainment. Since getting divorced, I’ve never cried once, unlike some men who break down in tears. Why haven’t I? Knowing full well that I had repaid a debt, I felt as light as a feather. Make sure you don’t go home and use the words ‘no good’ to describe your spouse. When the Buddha said that, He was not talking about integrity, personality, actions, or speech; He was referring to how we should conduct ourselves. If we are not careful, we could do something that is bad for us. What do I mean by not being careful? That disciple who rushed down south to see her boyfriend would be an example.

“The second one, ‘filthy’, is rather difficult to explain. Actually, strictly speaking, people who are not practitioners always have body odor and filthy things, but you should not complain about them. Rather, you should recognize clearly what the objects of your love are. They stink and are dirty; you just happen to be blinded by emotion, so you have forgotten or overlooked these things. Why do I say anyone wishing to take refuge should marry a vegetarian? At the very least, it is so that you don’t have to put up with quite as much stench and filth, and are therefore able to enjoy each other a bit longer. Otherwise, once you realize your partner is filthy, he or she will not be so much fun to be with anymore.

“The definition of ‘filthy’ come’s from the Buddha’s having said that all sentient beings are just smelly sacks of skin; below this layer of skin are a bunch of bodily organs. If you think a guy looks good, or has a great body, it means you are attached to his appearance. So, when he gets old, you’ll begin to dislike him, and in doing so you will plant an evil karmic seed. Thus, when you first start to date someone, you should be clear about the fact that he or she will change—not who he or she is, but physically. It’s like how someone once said to me, ‘I’m younger than you,’ to which I replied, ‘One day you’ll get old, but I will not’—and now this has come to pass, because he changed, whereas I age very slowly. Therefore, if you do not want to age so quickly, then you need to cultivate to the extent that I have. Then you’ll be qualified to say to someone, ‘You’ve gotten old, but I haven’t.’ Thus, regarding ‘filthy’, you should be very clear about the fact that our so-called companions are not fragrant-smelling individuals, and when they are in the bathroom, that’s another matter entirely.

“Therefore, only after we have realized this will our feelings of love or resentment recede and even disappear. Our karma has caused this person’s body to appear before us today, and it, too, is a manifestation of karma, but that does not mean he or she will not change. When we chase after this desire, it also means it exists within our consciousness. I have made a special point of telling you this today not to keep you from having partners, nor am I saying you should lie in bed next to them and constantly sniff to see whether they smell good or bad and then complain that they haven’t taken a shower and are filthy. That’s not what I mean, so make sure you don’t go sniffing around like that. I just mean you should contemplate in your mind, while practicing. What should you contemplate? As soon as a person dies and the corpse begins to rot, it will stink and be filthy. Try keeping one around for a year!

“Another concept to bear in mind is that no matter how much you and your partner love each other, his or her body is bound to stink and be filthy one day; it will certainly decay and give off a stench. The only exception is if a person has cultivated to the state of having a diamond indestructible body. However, only a handful of people on Earth can do this. Yourselves included, once you have stopped breathing and are dead, your body will definitely begin to stink. Why did the Buddha teach that we should cremate the dead? It can help us to keep good memories of our deceased spouse.

“The corpse of a deceased who has not been liberated is certain to emit a smell; this marks the beginning of the stench. Some people begin to stink even while they are still alive in a hospital ward. For some, this bad smell has disappeared as soon as I have liberated them. Where am I going with this? Herein lies the difference between practitioners and non-practitioners, and between those who have been liberated and those who have not. The point is not that if you are complaining that your partner stinks and is dirty, you should then stop sleeping in the same bed. Wrong! The real point is that if your partner has not practiced, cultivated to the point of having a diamond indestructible body, and has no one to liberate him or her, then his or her corpse will naturally stink and decompose. We can see life for what it is, so what do we love? A person’s spirit? Surely it is a person’s physical body! If you are so attached to one’s body, what will you do once his or her corpse begins to rot and smell? Thus, only once we understand this will our attachments grow fewer and less intense, and even go away. Do not avoid your current companion for being stinky and filthy, and don’t say, “Rinpoche said so.” I did not say so; you are the ones who said it—so don’t slander or give me a hard time.

“The third thought one should have about one’s spouse is that he or she is ‘detestable.’ If you unwittingly give rise to attachments of love and hatred to your spouse, he or she will drag you into the Three Evil Realms; this is why a spouse is detestable. Some companions even say, ‘I won’t marry you if you eat vegetarian,’ am I right? That is extremely detestable! Some even say, ‘You’re so obsessed with Buddhism, so I’m going to start sleeping in a separate bedroom.’ How detestable is that? As practitioners, given that we know our partner is detestable, we ourselves must strive not to be! We should keep acting virtuously and break away from all evil so that he or she thinks of Buddhism as a good thing rather than a bad thing. The concept here is that if your spouse is ever unwilling to practice, then he or she possesses the condition for being detestable, and due to having more greed, hatred, and ignorance than practitioners do, will definitely act improperly. So does that mean you should feel annoyed, stop wanting your spouse, break up, and abandon him or her? The Buddha did not speak on this, but He did say that because this is in a spouse’s nature, you should be careful. To change this part of your partner that is detestable, you should do good deeds. Ask yourselves: Have you done this? If you have not, then you, too, are detestable. It is also detestable—and extremely so—to always be using Buddhism to scold your other half and criticize others.

“If you yourself can naturally change from evil to good, then your partner will gradually follow you—unless he or she does not possess the proper causal conditions or only has a very short connection with you in this lifetime. Thus, when we view our spouses as being detestable, that is not a negative word; we are not saying, ‘I can ignore him because he behaves in this manner.’ That is completely wrong. I am just telling you that this is your companion’s nature, and if you do not practice Buddhism, then you will be just as detestable, filthy, and no good! So after we begin to cultivate, and break away from all evil and do only good, we stop being those things, but that does not mean our spouses do. They are still no good, filthy, and detestable because they still have a lot of greed, hatred, and ignorance. So, once we know this, should we get annoyed and abandon, scold, and criticize them? Not at all; rather, this knowledge just tells us that this is how we, too, would be if we did not practice Buddhism. Given that this is how our spouses are, the point is not whether we can change them in this lifetime; it is that if we continuously break away from evil and do only good, then one day they will realize this and transform naturally. Moreover, if they really won’t change in this lifetime, then at least we ourselves won’t leave this world while still clinging to the emotions of love and hate. If you feel even a tiny bit of hatred or any grievances at all, you will not be able to escape reincarnation. This is the reason the Buddha taught us that as lay Bodhisattvas we should continuously train our minds.

“This doesn’t mean that after hearing this today you will immediately be able to do it well, nor does it mean you don’t have to go out and put it into practice. For this reason the Buddha said that you should always be contemplating these teachings, whether you are coming or going, sitting or standing. This means you need to think about them! Listen carefully; I did not say ‘voice them.’ If you go home and speak those words, I will kick you out. The Buddha said very clearly that we must ‘contemplate’ them; He did not say we should voice them, so do not slander the Dharma. I’ll tell you once more: When you go home, do not repeat these teachings; contemplate them. As you do, do not give anything away with your facial expressions; don’t hold your nose, or you’ll cause a disaster. I’m telling you with absolute clarity that you must only contemplate these things, not do or say them. Okay? With regard to ‘actions, words, and thoughts,’ only use the ‘thoughts’ part.

“The reason for this is that when it comes time for us to die, only our thoughts remain, and they depend on habitual training. Thinking about me on your deathbed is not as easy as merely wanting to; if you are not in the habit of training your mind, then you won’t succeed. What does it mean to think of me? It means visualizing my pure Dharma body, not my physical body. If your mind is impure, you really won’t be able to remember me or bring me to mind. Therefore, you must make a habit of always training your thoughts, continuously, and never stop.

“I am not telling you to cold-shoulder or ignore your partner, kick him or her out, get divorced, or sleep in separate beds; don’t do any of those things, because the Buddha did not say you should. He simply instructed you to ‘think’—not for the intention of helping you solve your love-hate relationship issues with your spouse, but so that you won’t have any lingering grievances or hatred when you die. If you do not train yourself, then on your deathbed you will suddenly recall something like, ‘I remember how that devil winked at that girl that day!’—in which case your consciousness will immediately be blocked from being liberated. This can happen very easily! ‘I remember that time I approached that bastard and he completely ignored me.’ Fine; in your next lifetime, you will definitely look him up, but then what will you have turned into? A spider that bites him, because you are venomous!

“The Buddha was so compassionate; He trained us lay practitioners how to think. However, you must at all costs avoid revealing your thoughts through your facial expressions or words. If I hear of any of you going home and voicing these thoughts or making faces at your spouses, you’ll be asked to leave. The Buddha taught us to do this; He did not instruct us to voice the words or write them down. Don’t think, ‘Fine; Rinpoche said I can’t say or do those things, so I’ll send them to my spouse in a text message.’ You may not do that, either; you must not even write down your thoughts in regard to this, because the Buddha did not say you could. He only said that we must train our thoughts, which excludes actions and words. If we continuously train our thoughts, then when it is time to leave this world, they will naturally go into effect to break you from your attachments. If you are not in the habit of training your mind, and think it doesn’t matter and that I will liberate you anyway, well, sure; even if I can, though, the best I’ll be able to do is to keep you from falling into the Three Evil Realms—but when you come back, you will certainly be reborn in a bad situation. This is because you are overly attached while still alive. Therefore, you need to understand, and not talk nonsense; don’t go home and say, ‘Sleep farther away from me; you are stinking! Have you showered today? You absolutely smell!’ Do not slander thusly. You married your spouse, so you must not defile him or her, alright?”

H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the disciples in the Dharma Protector Achi ritual and dedication prayer. Afterward, he continued to bestow teachings:

“Next, I will explain the dedication prayer in Dharma Protector Achi’s ritual. The Chinese translation means: We hope all the merits we have cultivated today will allow us to keep clear of any hindrances to our practice. This does not refer to whether or not we can attain enlightenment or liberate sentient beings. The point is that as you attain Achi’s wisdom, it does not mean you have turned into Vajravarahi or Achi tara; rather, it means you have reached the same level of wisdom as possessed by Achi, and only once you achieve this will you be immune from the suffering of reincarnation. That is, in order not to undergo the suffering of reincarnation, you must cultivate wisdom; making vows, doing good deeds, or donating money will not guarantee that you can leave reincarnation behind. Thus, my expounding this section of the Ratnakuta Sutra today is meant to help you to unlock your wisdom.

“The first step of cultivating the Bodhisattva Path is the Path of Accumulation, which includes wisdom, good fortune, and merits. Good fortune and merits come from making offerings; this means supporting and assisting all of your guru’s endeavors. Wisdom is unlocked by listening to the sutras, observing the precepts, and so on. Simultaneously cultivating good fortune and wisdom does not mean constantly making vows; vows should only be made based on Dharma texts such as this. Any vows made that are not based on the sutras and Dharma texts lead only to practicing aimlessly, and are not effective! They have no use, no matter how many times you make such vows! As for any vows actually written in the Dharma texts, the yidam will definitely help you to fulfill them!

“One important point is, of course, that when attaining Achi’s wisdom, it does not mean you have turned into Vajravarahi or Achi tara; it means you have realized that fruition through cultivation. It’s like how His Holiness said earlier this year that I had cultivated to fruition; this is a sort of beginning of wisdom, a fruition of wisdom. This fruition does not make one amazing or superb; rather, it is a definition of one’s wisdom. Wisdom is very difficult to describe clearly using a few short words; in order to explain it to sentient beings and allow them to realize what wisdom is, Shakyamuni expounded the Great Prajna Sutra, which comprises roughly a fourth to a third of the Buddhist Canon. As you might imagine, the concept of ‘wisdom’ cannot be explained in just a handful of sentences.

“A guru has the ability and the means to help all of his or her disciples to unlock their wisdom, but the crux of the matter is whether or not they listen. If you are still acting as you please, indulging yourselves, and doing whatever you want, then you will never unlock your wisdom. Without wisdom, forget breaking away from reincarnation; you won’t even be able to escape an agonizing death. What is the source of the suffering people experience at death? Besides all of the karma they have accumulated in this lifetime, it comes from not possessing wisdom. Those who have not unlocked wisdom are naturally unable to comprehend where suffering comes from. Therefore, being attached to suffering turns into double suffering. This is the reason Tibetan Buddhism requires practitioners to completely surrender to their guru. What should you do if you have not accumulated enough resources of good fortune and merits in this lifetime? You should hope to take refuge in a guru; a guru’s good fortune and merits can pull us along and assist us. However, this is not absolute; nothing is guaranteed if you do not listen.

“Don’t think that merely participating in pujas makes you a Buddhist practitioner, or that after leaving here, how you run your family life at home is no one else’s business. Of course it isn’t mine, nor would I want it to be—but has your family ever lived in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings? Have you put into practice His instructions in the Ratnakuta Sutra, in which He is constantly telling us how to think of our family members, wealth, almsgiving, and everything else? I have expounded so much, yet if you have neither listened nor are willing to contemplate these things, then such teachings won’t do you any good! This is why karmic retribution has reared its head. Do you think I’ll punish you if you try to secretly get away with certain behavior? Of course I won’t, but because you have not accumulated enough of the resources of good fortune and wisdom, you naturally will be unable to transform your karma, which is the reason various things have happened to the female disciple such as suffering a stroke. It would stand to reason that if she had practiced diligently and eaten vegetarian, that would not have happened to her, right? However, she did not listen, and had no good fortune or wisdom. Luckily, she has made a few offerings to me, which is why she didn’t die this time—but that doesn’t mean she’ll be saved twice. She definitely won’t, because I have already repaid her for the offerings she made to me, and will only save her one time. No one comprehends why I only save people once; it is because all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and gurus can help to prevent people from falling into the Three Evil Realms or suffering untimely death, but can also only grant this assistance once, because after help has been given, if she does not listen, then her karma will immediately turn around and hunt her down.

“So many people say the words, ‘We are grateful, Rinpoche!’ How are you grateful? You don’t support me in my endeavors, so what are you thanking me for? Those are just empty words! You are speaking superficially! You won’t even listen to the Dharmas I teach! Or put them into practice! How can you call yourselves grateful? This is why I have kicked two of you out today, and I’ll keep doing it. From now on, while I am expounding the Dharma, if you do anything disrespectful, I will tell you to leave, too! You are outrageous to the point of rubbing lotion into your hands while listening to the Dharma! Another of you is constantly looking around; your head has never stopped moving! Don’t try to get one past me just because I am an old man; my eyes are sharper than yours!”

Just then, Rinpoche mentioned a disciple who had not attended the Buddhist Center because he had a cold and needed to stay home.

“How many does that make? The moment I get to the important points, those people disappear! Why did that disciple stay home with a cold? It was because he was once disrespectful toward me. Every thought generates karma and vice. I frequently come in contact with so many people, yet am in fairly good health, because I am very respectful toward my guru and the Three Jewels—and respect means I listen. Not a single one of you listens; you are all still using your own ideas. The Buddha has given you so many things to think about, yet you refuse to; you insist on relying on your own thoughts! The Buddha has never forced you to do anything; He merely teaches you how to think. If you won’t even do that, then how can you say you are practicing? What exactly are you practicing? Those two who had strokes weren’t contemplating this. Why did they suffer strokes? It was because they are greedy and hateful!

“Actually, all these contents of the Ratnakuta Sutra that I’ve been expounding today are things that I’ve reminded you about over and over in the past. This is why Shakyamuni Buddha compassionately made me see this passage. You do not believe me, so I’m letting the Buddha tell you; now we’ll see whether you think about it or not. If you won’t even contemplate the Buddha’s teachings, then you really should stop coming here. The Buddha has never forced us to do anything; He simply advises us to think this way. If you are too lazy to do even that, then I have no idea how you hope to learn Buddhism. If you chant every day, will you obtain blessings? Will making daily prostrations do you any good? No! You have to contemplate and put the Buddha’s teachings into practice. I am not telling you to change yourself one hundred percent immediately, but you at least should think about it, and not just stumble through daily life like zombies.

“Do you think that practicing Dharma Protector Achi’s ritual at home every day means you are cultivating? Real Tantrism involves frequent contemplation, not practicing any particular Tantra. If you are in the wrong mindset, then no Dharma will be of any use to you; everything starts with how you think. You don’t contemplate anything, yet you implore me for blessings every day so that you won’t get sick and can chant the Buddha’s name some more. Even after all I’ve taught, many of you still do not know why you should aspire to be reborn in the Pure Land; you still think the point is just to stop suffering and live in comfort there. Each of you craves pleasure. How can people who crave pleasure possibly escape suffering and obtain happiness? After having it your way for a few days, you forget everything, and immediately start indulging your body and mind and pursuing your desires. I therefore am getting stricter and stricter, this is what the sutra teaches; I did not make it up.

“Last year’s trip to Shravasti was what made me open the sutra up to this passage. You must believe, Shakyamuni Buddha is extremely good to me! Moreover, this chapter involves an Elder imploring the Dharma, and speaking specifically about lay Bodhisattvas. How remarkable is it that I happened to open straight to this passage? The Ratnakuta Sutra is quite a long text, and I couldn’t casually flip to this page on purpose. It was the Dharma protectors who guided my hands to it. Therefore, it became clear that I should reprimand you lay practitioners of the Bodhisattva Path for not being willing to listen. What do I mean by reprimand? If you won’t listen, then you might as well go home! Return to someplace you consider to be important.

“You all come here seeking protection and blessings. Let me ask you a pragmatic question: Where has all money you’ve saved on medical expenses and transportation costs gone? You keep hoarding it. Each and every one of you is terrified of having no money; you are even too stingy to light incense as offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas! You are all constantly calculating how much you can save! If I had never known what it means to be poor, then perhaps I would forgive you, but I have been so broke I could not afford to eat, yet I still made incense offerings every morning and every night, and I never stopped. Even when I was too poor to buy food, I still managed to purchase the most expensive sort of sandalwood incense. What about you? Some of you have actually broken a stick of incense in two, offering half in the morning and the other half in the evening. Did you think I didn’t know? Why are you skimping on that? You don’t skimp on what you spend on your grandchildren. This is your problem; you think of your own personal needs before the Buddha. The Buddha doesn’t smell your incense or eat fruit of the mundane world; this reflects your state of mind. Who would want to eat your fruit? It is full of pesticide! Yet you go so far as to pick out your favorite fruit and only make offerings to the Buddha of what is left. Do you think the Buddha cannot take care of Himself? Does He really need you to look after Him? You have a guru who serves as a role model for you, yet you continue with this sort of nonsense and refuse to listen. I just think it’s strange, though: Why did His Holiness tell me to go to Europe and expound the Ratnakuta Sutra there? He has helped me to open up another place with virtuous conditions in which to promote the Dharma, so you should be careful!

“Had His Holiness not said this, I would still probably not have made a firm resolution by now, but I have! I am surrounded by people who won’t listen. These two who suffered strokes make me especially unhappy. Why did they so stubbornly refuse to listen? They suffered misfortune, yet did not die, and say the empty words that they are grateful to me. However, I still have not seen them make any heartfelt offerings; they just speak with a silver tongue. Why have I scolded people today? The grand puja is over, so now I can; I am not planning on holding another one next year. Besides, those people you invited are still eating meat, so if I were to preside over another grand puja and liberate their deceased loved ones, they would just use that good fortune to eat even more meat. Would I not then have harmed those sentient beings? How would that be any good? His Holiness has also said in public that I am the only one in all of Tibetan Buddhism able to hold a grand puja for more than twenty thousand people. You take me for granted; each of you just keeps coming here every year, making prostrations and seeking protection and blessings!”

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche announced that the following Sunday, he would be presiding over the Chod Puja, and all the attendees expressed their thanks in unison. Rinpoche took this opportunity to remind everyone that being grateful was not just a matter of voicing empty words; true gratitude meant understanding how to listen and put his teachings into practice, make offerings, and support their guru in all his endeavors.

H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the disciples in the Dharma Protector Achi ritual and dedication. Upon the perfect completion of the puja, the disciples thanked the guru for his compassionate teachings and benefiting countless sentient beings. All rising, they paid reverent homage as H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended the Dharma throne.

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Updated on January 3, 2019