His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – December 16, 2018

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche presided over the auspicious Chod Puja at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Taipei.

Rinpoche began to liberate the suffering deceased immediately after ascending the Dharma throne. While in a meditative state of Mahamudra, he performed the Chod, drawing from ultimate bodhicitta to visualize every last piece of his own flesh, blood, and bone as offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and giving alms to all sentient beings in the Six Realms. The guru also chanted the Great Six-Syllable Mantra for a very long time, his compassionate Dharma voice resonating throughout the universe. Deeply moved by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s great compassion and earnest deliverance of sentient beings from reincarnation’s sea of suffering, none of the attendees could keep from shedding tears.

After finishing the ritual, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche bestowed teachings:

“I performed the puja rather quickly today. Before performing the Dharma protector’s ritual, I’ll talk to you a bit about my cultivation so that you understand why I am able to use the Dharma to help sentient beings and you are not. My ability to do so relies on the blessings of the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and my guru.

“I remember in 1995, back before I was a guru, I went to Tibet to visit the Drikung Kagyu’s oldest monastery for the first time—Drikung Thil. Back then, there were hardly any taxis on Lhasa’s streets; they were all three-wheeled pedicabs. To get from there to Drikung Thil, there was no road, so we had to set out at five in the morning, and it took until 10:00 or 11:00 a.m. to arrive. Nowadays the trip is quite straightforward, and only takes an hour at most.

“After arriving at Drikung Thil that day, my first question to them was, ‘I would be honored to meet the oldest practitioner of Thil Monastery.’ After hearing me say this, a nearby lama said to another lama who could speak Mandarin, ‘Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche said that an outlander would be coming here today, and that he wants to see him. This is likely the gentleman he meant, so I’ll take him on up.’ Getting from Drikung Thil Monastery to the retreat hut involved climbing another five or six hundred vertical meters. Nowadays I might not be strong enough to make it anymore! In the retreat hut was staying one of the gurus in whom I took refuge—Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche. In Tantrism, practitioners usually do not receive visitors while conducting retreats. Retreat huts in ancient times had a single window, or perhaps a hole in the door, through which food could be passed in.

“That day I went up, an attendant knocked on the small wooden door covering the window, and a few minutes later Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche stuck his head out and told me to poke my head in. Originally, I thought he was going to bless me, but without caring whether he had my consent or not, he took a pair of scissors and lopped off a tuft of my hair. In Tibetan Buddhism, cutting someone’s hair represents acceptance of that person as a disciple and helping him or her to take refuge. After this, Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche bestowed a Dharma name upon me, and then instructed me to make nine grand prostrations in front of his retreat hut. Ordinarily we make three prostrations, and to this day I still have no idea why he wanted me to do nine.

“Subsequently, I took my disciples on several trips to seek audience with Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche. His retreat hut is usually off limits, but he allowed me to enter twice. One time I went in, an interpreter went in with me. Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche suddenly asked me, ‘Do you eat yogurt?’ I said that I did, and he started looking around the retreat hut until he’d located a bowl, which he filled partway with some yogurt. He even placed a small spoon on top of it. I have told this story many times. He licked the spoon for a long time, with the purpose of licking it clean. At the time, Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche was in his seventies. As you know, the older generations of Tibetans traditionally only bathe thrice in their life. The first is at birth. The second is when getting married if a lay practitioner, or when becoming ordained if a monastic. The final time is at death. I was thinking, therefore, that he probably had not brushed his teeth, either; he would not have wasted that sort of money on something non-essential.

“After licking the spoon clean, he scooped up some yogurt with it and poured it into my hands. I immediately slurped it down. From a Buddhist point of view, if your guru gives you something, you accept it. Secondly, you must not give rise to any discriminatory thoughts such as ‘Ew, he left all that saliva on the spoon, and he doesn’t even brush his teeth.’ If you eat someone else’s saliva, it means you must listen to what he or she says; this is a Cantonese saying. For me, however, it is his nectar; I do not discriminate. Only if you do not have discriminatory thoughts toward your guru can you train yourself not to discriminate against sentient beings and anything else. What is discrimination? It is a mental separation between good and bad. When cultivating the Vehicle of Bodhisattvas, we do not see things as good or bad; we only look at their virtuous or evil causes, effects, and conditions. This world’s judgment of good and bad is based on how every nationality and every individual views things and their profitability. Therefore, after eating the yogurt bestowed upon me by my guru, I was able to benefit vast numbers of sentient beings by chanting mantras.

“The next time I went there, it was summer as I recall; probably around the end of August. On my way up from Drikung Thil Monastery it snowed, though there were no clouds in the sky at the time. Had there been clouds, the snow would have made sense, but the sky was completely blue that day. Next to the monastery there is a sky burial site, over which carrion-eating birds typically stop flying after 11:00 in the morning, when they return to their nests. That day, however, they continued to circle in the sky above me, following me all the way up to Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche’s retreat hut.

“Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche allowed me into his retreat hut that time, too. He told an attendant to look for something, and after searching around for a long time, the attendant found 500 yuan, which he then gave to me. Reason would dictate that as a disciple, I had to decline this gift from him, but he insisted. What did this mean? It signified that he had granted me the authority to accept the offerings of any sentient being, and also that he was bestowing the good fortune of his wealth upon me, because he knew that I would accomplish many things in the future. The last time I saw Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche, he would not accept khatas from anyone except me; not even the ones my disciples had presented. Those of you who were there know that he refused everyone else’s; he would not even accept a piece of cloth. Why was this? It was because you were not practitioners, so he did not want to owe you karmic debts. You should not think in terms of making an offering to someone and then having good fortune ever afterward as long as he or she accepts it. A true practitioner does not want to owe any karmic debts, so will not accept your offerings or even pay any attention to you whatsoever. This story tells you that had I not been endowed with the capability of benefiting sentient beings, this master practitioner would not have granted me an audience in the first place, much less would certain other things have happened later. This is just one small part of the story.

“As for my receiving the transmission of the Chod, of particular interest was that one time while I was conducting a retreat in India, His Holiness instructed me to see him in his retreat hut the following evening, where he would grant me the Chod Empowerment. As I left my retreat hut that night, it was after 8:00 sometime. The sky was very black; it was so dark I could not see the path, for the moon and stars were not out. When I got to His Holiness’s retreat hut, he transmitted the Chod Empowerment to me. After the empowerment, and while he was performing the dedication, there was a sudden great peal of thunder. His Holiness glanced around, finished performing the Dharma, and then told me that I would master the Chod in the future and be able to benefit vast numbers of sentient beings. This has indeed proved to be true. When I left his retreat hut, it was strange! The stars and moon had all come out. Even in the dry season, thunder should still have meant there would be clouds in the sky, but it was completely clear and filled with celestial radiance. In Tantric terms, such an auspicious sign meant that having been transmitted this Dharma, my future cultivation would be bright.

“The point of these brief stories is not to show off my greatness; it is to illustrate that the virtuous causal conditions I have accumulated throughout my past lives have enabled me to come in contact with such things. You, on the other hand, have not, so do not think yourselves accomplished. You cannot take any mundane fame, wealth, or power with you when you go. No matter what you are striving for in this lifetime, you will have nothing in your final second of life. Many people look forward to being able to get a major promotion, and see this as their lifetime aspiration. Where does all this struggling lead? Nowhere, in fact, it won’t get them even the slightest advantage. We live on this Earth for a few short decades, during which we only do four things: Repay debts, collect debts, repay kindnesses, and take revenge. Once our life is over and we are finished with these four things, we leave, and return in the next lifetime.

“Currently, in all the Tibetan Orders, there probably isn’t anyone else who can perform the Chod in front of so many people. Of special note is that the Dharma instrument being used today was used by His Holiness in his previous lifetime, not this one. A lama brought it to His Holiness from Tibet. To put it simply, I possess the Chod’s lineage; His Holiness has transmitted it down to me, from his previous lifetime to this one.

“The Chod is certainly helpful, both in the mundane and the supramundane. It can bring all things to perfect completion. When discussing this puja based on Exoteric Buddhism, we refer to the Great Prajna Sutra, and the Chod was written based on its essence. The Great Prajna Sutra is a text that Shakyamuni Buddha spent a very long time expounding, and it comprises roughly a quarter of the Buddhist Canon. It is a set of sutras on the Bodhisattva Path’s theories on Emptiness, implementation, and realization. In other words, from an Exoteric point of view, the Great Prajna Sutra is the theoretical foundation of the Chod. From a Tantric standpoint, the power of performing the Chod comes from three parts: Kriya Tantra, Charya Tantra, and Yogatantra.

“In terms of meditation, it is based on the first stage of the Mahamudra of the Kagyu Order—One-Pointedness Yoga—and the second stage—the Simplicity Yoga. If you have not yet attained the Simplicity Yoga, then you cannot perform this puja. If you have, however, you can chant mantras and the Buddha’s names single-mindedly, without distraction. If you cultivate the One-Pointedness Yoga, you can attain constant mindfulness chanting mantras and the Buddha’s name. Why do so many of you say, ‘the more I chant the Buddha’s name, the more distracted I get’? First of all, it is because you have not received empowerment, and are trying to chant without having had your ordinary actions, words, and thoughts transformed to be as pure as those of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; as such, it is no wonder that you are chanting with the mindset of an ordinary person. What sort of mindset is that? It is one of greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt. Do not think it is okay to chant the Buddha’s name with a hope to be reborn in the Pure Land; strictly speaking, this, too, is greed.

“In the Ratnakuta Sutra, Bodhisattva Maitreya asks Shakyamuni Buddha, ‘What Dharma method should Bodhisattvas cultivate to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land?’ Shakyamuni Buddha replies, ‘If all the virtuous deeds practiced by all Bodhisattvas are dedicated to Amitabha’s Pure Land, then their aspiration will certainly allow them to be reborn there.’ Simply put, if you have not cultivated the Bodhisattva Path, what makes you so sure you can go to the Pure Land just by chanting the Buddha’s name every day? According to the Pure Land Sect, you cannot, unless you have cultivated the Three Blessings of the Pure Land Doctrine; otherwise, you will not have sufficient good fortune, merits, and causal conditions to be reborn there.

“While chanting the Buddha’s name, you absolutely must not drag them out, the way a certain ordained disciple of mine loves to do. As a result, he is going to die in a dragged-out way, too; so far, he has not been able to change. Why should you not drag the mantras out when chanting? It makes your mind prone to chaos and liable to give rise to other thoughts. If you can enunciate every mantra very clearly, then the brief thoughts you have while chanting will be very pure. If you drag them out, then it is nothing more than an affectation.

“While you are chanting ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’, the final syllable involves a moment of pause. In that instant, if you have trained yourself well, Amitabha Buddha will appear at your time of death. Be sure not to drag each mantra out; doing so is not effective. Therefore, if the monastic I mentioned does not change, he will not be able to go to the Pure Land. Singing the Buddha’s name should only be done while circling a Buddha statue; that is, due to the relative distractedness of the minds of believers, singing can purify their thoughts somewhat. However, when you chant, you should have a clear break and pause between each mantra; do not slur them together.”

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche demonstrated the correct way of chanting Amitabha’s name, and then continued:

“Are you clear now? If you cannot chant the Great Six-Syllable Mantra properly, it’s okay; you can practice and train yourselves. While chanting, whenever you pause, you will feel a moment of concentration. That instant is enough to take you to the Pure Land or make you fall into the Three Evil Realms. However, you have to train yourselves to chant this way; you must not be lazy. Instead, you should concentrate, and not just chant perfunctorily. This ordained disciple got in the habit of chanting the way he does while leading believers in chants in the past; he did it until he eventually started to get lazy. This can happen to you, too. As soon as you slack off, your qi naturally leaves you, and then your thoughts start wandering all over the place. How, then, can you be reborn in the Pure Land? I have taught you many things today.

“These monastics became ordained decades ago, but have never heard of this way of practicing the Dharma. Furthermore, if you chant this way, you will be able to focus both your thoughts and your qi. Even if you think you don’t have enough qi or strength, you still should do it this way. When chanting alone, you should still do it one mantra at a time with a slight pause between them—but that doesn’t mean to stop. When you pause, you can gradually feel your wandering thoughts cut away from you; that instant is extremely brief. It is hard for you to believe that at the moment of your death—the instant you stop breathing—is minuscule in length; it is shorter than a second, and even shorter than a hundredth of a second. It all depends on being in the habit of training yourselves. If you are sufficiently in this habit, and believe in the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and your guru, then when the time comes, you will have the strength.

“Why should you chant the Buddha’s name daily? It is to help train yourselves. It is not that Amitabha Buddha will appear before you if you chant a lot, or even continuously for three years. If He appears before you, it means you are about to pass away. Many people have trouble letting go; they think, I still have so many wishes that I’ve not fulfilled, and so many things to do….

“The purpose of today’s teachings is to make you understand why some who chant the Buddha’s name are able to go to the Pure Land, while others are not. Why are some elderly women able to get there by chanting? It is because they do not have enough qi, but as long as they chant one mantra at a time, they can go. On the contrary, because you have too much qi, you actually are liable to slur the mantras, which will prevent you from going to the Pure Land. To put it in simple terms, this is the essence of the Dharma. Practitioners who are able to transfer people’s consciousness and perform the Chod can understand the thoughts of sentient beings; you, however, cannot, so also cannot understand your own thoughts. After you go home, try this method of training your mind to see how it differs from the way you’re used to chanting. You might gradually come to realize that when you pause briefly, you can feel all your wandering thoughts leave you, right in that instant. That instant cannot be explained in words or understood even cognitively, but it can help you by cutting away your wandering thoughts. This only comes through constant, continuous self-training, though. Do not worry over whether or not you can go to the Pure Land; by all means, you must rid yourselves of such thoughts. The most important thing is to train yourselves. When you have done that for long enough, and when it is time, Amitabha will come and tell you ‘ok,’ and you’ll be able to go to the Pure Land. This really is how it happens; there is no need to worry.

“When I first started chanting the Great Six-Syllable Mantra earlier, why did I chant the syllable ‘Hum’ especially loudly? Those who have recited the Universal Gate Chapter have all heard the words, ‘Embodiment of compassion and vows strikes open one’s mind like thunder’. A lot of people do not understand this line. If sentient beings are so stubborn and obstreperous, then they will be entangled with a great deal of karma from their past lives, preventing them from unlocking their pure minds. As such, they are in need of a force that can temporarily help them to open them. For an instant, their pure, original nature is revealed, and only then can they come in contact with the Dharma. A little while ago, when I chanted ‘Hum’, everyone followed along and paused momentarily. If I did not have compassion as my foundation, and had not observed the pure Bodhisattva Precepts, then this ‘thunder’—this ‘Hum’ sound—would not be able to shake you; I would not be able to manifest this sound. It does not come from my lungs, but rather from my dantian. Also, it is only due to my habit of chanting properly that I am able to help you all today.

“Once you understand this, you must not look down on Buddhism. Many people feel that Buddhism is quite simple; they think practicing it is merely a matter of reciting sutras, and that becoming a believer is as easy as participating in a puja. None of you is a believer; in coming here, you have merely formed a connection. I could speak about Buddhism for a very long time; Shakyamuni Buddha expounded it for more than forty years, but still did not finish. What makes you think you can attend a puja or two and then be able to say you get it, you know, you understand, or you have become enlightened? All such thoughts simply mean you are self-righteous.”

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

Updated on January 21, 2019