His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – January 5, 2019


On January 5th, 2019, to kick off the New Year, the Kyoto Buddhist Center had the auspicious causal condition to host His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche as he expounded the Diamond Sutra. In the afternoon, with the right causal condition, Rinpoche presided over the Chod Puja, one of the Eight Sadhanas in Tibetan Buddhism, in order to liberate sentient beings with causal conditions and eliminate the attendees’ hindrances. Everyone present was deeply moved! Immersed in both Exoteric and Esoteric Buddhism, this puja was extremely precious!

A total of 141 people participated, including Abbot Ogawa Yuki from Onsenji Temple in Shirosaki, Japan, eighteen Japanese and Taiwanese believers, and 122 disciples. All, without exception, felt extremely fortunate to have been granted such a rare and auspicious opportunity!

At 1:50 in the afternoon, H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche returned to the Dharma throne to preside over the auspicious Chod Puja and bestow further precious teachings upon all the attendees:

“My original plan was to spend all of today expounding the Diamond Sutra, but due to time constraints, some participants were only able to come here and listen to the Dharma for half the day, which means the significance of teaching this Sutra cannot be perfect. I have therefore made the last-minute decision to spend this afternoon performing the Chod for those of you who are still here, which is one of the Eight Sadhanas in Tantra. If you can focus on cultivating even just one of these eight methods of attainment successfully, then you will surely achieve realization in this lifetime. Realization, or attainment, means gaining the ability to become liberated for oneself from life and death, and being able to use this Dharma in one’s lifetime to help and benefit all sentient beings.

“In Tibetan, ‘Chod’ means ‘breaking away’; it is translated into Chinese as ‘Body-Offering Puja’, a giving of the body. What does ‘breaking away’ refer to? Using one’s wisdom. Where did this puja come from? In Tibet, there was once a yogini who married and had children; she wrote down this puja based on the essence of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings in the Great Prajna Sutra. This was the Exoteric part. Tantra is divided into four stages of cultivation: Kriya Tantra, Charya Tantra, Yogatantra, and Annutarayoga Tantra. The Chod includes the first three stages; it does not include Annutarayoga Tantra.

“Tantra can also be divided into four types: Subduing (quelling all disasters), Increasing (accumulating good fortune, power, and so on), Placating (causing your enemies to soften in their hatred toward you and not take revenge on you), and Vanquishing (which means killing; some sentient beings cannot be helped using the first three methods, so the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas might use the Vanquishing method to compassionately liberate them so that those sentient beings stop committing evil). This Chod Puja includes Subduing, Increasing, and Placating. To ‘break away’ means to use one’s wisdom, or prajna, to break free of all hindrances of afflictions and knowledge of ordinary people. This morning I briefly touched upon what those hindrances are.

“Practitioners who continuously cultivate this puja can rapidly accumulate good fortune and wisdom for themselves, which is why it is also called ‘The Puja of Rapid Attainment of Two Resources by Offering One’s Body and Breaking Away from All Afflictions of Reincarnation’. If you spend your life specializing in the cultivation of this puja, you can very quickly accumulate wisdom and good fortune. Why is it called ‘Body-Offering Puja’ in Chinese? It is because a practitioner visualizes using Tantra, mantras, and so on to make an offering of his or her entire body to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Dharma protectors, as well as to the Dakas and Dakinis. With the good fortune gathered through this offering, the practitioner then visualizes his or her body as alms for all the sentient beings in the Six Realms to eat—especially dragons, demons, and those residing in the Hell and Hungry Ghost Realms.

“It is stipulated in Tantra that prior to learning this Puja, a practitioner must master the Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices. These include making 110,000 grand prostrations, chanting the Hundred-Syllable Mantra 110,000 times (also known as Vajrasattva’s Mantra), offering the mandala 110,000 times (which refers to making offerings), and practicing the Guru Yoga 110,000 times. After these Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices have been completed, if the guru feels the practitioner is qualified to learn the Chod, then he will have him or her conduct a retreat to cultivate a yidam, which is usually Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. The practitioner must remain in a retreat hut for three months, and is not allowed to leave during that time; there he or she must chant Avalokiteshvara’s mantra one million times. The guru then observes the practitioner to determine whether or not he or she possesses the root capacity to learn this puja, and then grants empowerment in it. After being empowered, anyone who has learned this puja must practice it every day.

“There are two texts associated with the Chod. One the practitioner uses to cultivate and benefit him or herself, and the other is used to help sentient beings. The text I am using today is the latter. People who participate in Chod Pujas over a long period of time, and who decide to practice Buddhism in this lifetime, will very rapidly have their afflictions and hindrances eliminated. If they do not decide to practice, and remain mere believers, as long as they continue to refrain from killing, eating meat, and committing any other evil acts, they will see a gradual improvement in their mundane affairs. Sick people participating in this puja will gradually see a turn for the better; this is especially true of cancer patients.

“This morning I talked about how, twenty years ago, I got skin cancer. I did not perform any Dharmas for myself, nor did I see any doctors or implore the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to heal me. Nevertheless, because I practiced the Chod every day, I was completely cured of my disease. Many of my disciples have cancer; as long as they keep attending Chod Pujas, their cancer cells will reduce in number and even disappear entirely without their having to undergo any surgery, chemotherapy, or other treatment. Even if they do not believe deeply enough, while long-term participation in Chod Pujas might not cure them of their cancer, it will still cause them to suffer less than the typical cancer patient, or even not have to suffer at all. Some ‘believers’ do not believe in cause and effect; they think doctors can cure cancer. Actually, a lot of my disciples are doctors, and they understand very well that this is not the case. Many people waste a great deal of time and money only to eventually succumb to yet another disease and die.

“Even if they have undergone chemotherapy or surgery, as long as they give rise to a repentant attitude, suddenly have faith in the Three Jewels, and are willing to participate in this puja, then before they die, they will definitely stop suffering from their cancer. Many cancer patients are in agony until their dying breath, and no amount of pain medication provides any relief. Because this puja text is particularly beneficial to those ghosts and sentient beings you have harmed, it can cause their resentment of you to dissipate, after which your suffering will naturally be alleviated. This puja is also very helpful in terms of the practitioner’s own cultivation.

“Currently, in Tibet, not many people perform the Chod, because understanding this puja requires a long, complicated process. Moreover, to perform it, one must first have mastered meditation, and definitely must be cultivating the Bodhisattva Path, because it cannot be done by people unwilling to give. Also, performing the Chod requires a certain special Dharma instrument, the likes of which people cannot simply make themselves; certain causal conditions must be met in order to obtain it. The Chod cannot be cultivated simply by chanting mantras and reciting sutras, so fewer and fewer people are able to receive and master it these days. This is likely to continue to be true into the future, too, because people wishing to perform this puja must first have made a great vow to help sentient beings and be cultivating the Bodhisattva Path.

“In a little while, I will perform the Dharma; in the meantime, you may contemplate those deceased sentient beings that are connected to you but are no longer in this world. As long as you keep them in mind, today’s ritual can help them to escape the Hell, Hungry Ghost, or Animal Realms. If you want to help any people who are still alive, you may think of and say their names, too.

“While I perform the ritual, participants need to be respectful. Respect means believing that everything done by the Three Jewels is helpful to sentient beings. Your comprehension and understanding are not required. Why is that? As the Buddha once said, Buddhahood is unfathomable and cannot be described in words. This means that if you have never reached the Buddha’s state, no amount of explanation can make you understand. It would be the equivalent of someone with a PhD trying to teach what he or she has learned to elementary school students; they still would not really comprehend it, no matter how hard the professor tried. A simple method is just to believe: Have faith that everything done by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas benefits sentient beings, though that does not include satisfying your desires. Your desires just come from your own minds.

“As is written in the Diamond Sutra, and as I explained this morning, the Buddha looks after, protects, and keeps in His thoughts all Bodhisattvas cultivating the Bodhisattva Path. This means that if you are on that path, the Buddha will definitely think about you, care for you, and keep you safe. If you are not, and are merely an ordinary believer coming here to implore the Buddha to satisfy your desires, then the likelihood of that is not high. Nevertheless, if you are suffering, and hope that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can help to alleviate it for you, this is possible—but you must believe.

“Secondly, it is necessary to have a repentant attitude. After being alive for a few decades, it is impossible for us not to have committed transgressions against others. They include anything you have done to harm sentient beings. We may have committed theft—not necessarily stolen someone’s money or property directly, but perhaps used pirated material or counterfeit goods; these are acts of theft, too. We should also be repentant if we have ever said anything ugly, cursed at people, indulged in sexual misconduct, and so on. Finally, we should give rise to compassion, which has multiple levels. We should feel compassion for people related to us who are still suffering in the Hell Realm, as well as for any sentient beings we have harmed. Only once we have these three things—respect, repentance, and compassion—can we make genuine offerings to the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and our guru. Making offerings is prerequisite to accumulating good fortune, which we must have in order to benefit ourselves and other sentient beings; this is very important. Many people think that making offerings necessarily involves donating a ton of money, but the most crucial aspect of an offering is one’s attitude while making it. If you don’t have the right attitude, your offering would be useless no matter how much money you offer. If your heart is in it, then even a tiny amount is still good as an offering to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Later, while I am performing the ritual, you should all take a moment to think about these methods I have taught you.

“Another characteristic of this puja is that, first of all, the presiding guru does not wear any object for self-protection. Tantric practitioners usually don certain sacred objects, but before performing this particular puja, one must take them all off, so that the he does not have any protection at all. Also, no protective boundary can be set around the mandala. In a little while, when I blow on this Dharma instrument, all the sentient beings with the proper causal conditions will enter—even ones you cannot see. For this reason, all safeguards around this Buddhist Center must be taken down so that these sentient beings can have their wishes fulfilled.

“Many Dharma instruments are required to perform this ritual. Soon you will see me use one made of a human leg bone, a one-handed drum, a bell, and a vajra; all of these are indispensable. Obtaining these instruments in this lifetime indicates that a practitioner has been transmitted this Dharma in a past life. This human leg bone instrument was used by my root guru, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, in his previous lifetime, and was bestowed upon me when he transmitted the Dharma to me, signifying that he was passing its lineage on to me.

“I am specially performing this ritual for you today because it is the beginning of a new year, and I hope this will stop the effects of your past evil acts from continuing to harm you. This does not mean that all that evil karma will suddenly disappear; as long as you continue to eat the flesh of sentient beings and do evil, one day your karmic retribution is sure to manifest. Today’s ritual will certainly allow sentient beings you have harmed to be liberated, so their hatred toward you will lessen. However, even if they are liberated, you will be like a person who has been sick in the past; even though your illness has been taken away, your body will still be very weak, so you will need to continue to replenish your strength before you can completely recover. This is also the way it is with Buddhist practice; after you have been helped to treat the underlying fundamental condition, you still need to keep changing and doing good deeds. The point of Buddhism is that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can help you, but that does not mean they can eliminate all the karmic effects of your past behavior. The Buddha said this. He can only teach us what to do to transform our evil effects. I am an obvious example for you all to see.

“I used to love eating seafood; I got skin cancer, which should have shortened my lifespan. I would have been a forty-something-year-old, waiting to die. However, I learned and began to practice Buddhism, and so on, and this changed the course of the second half of my life. In other words, Buddhism can change a person’s fate. However, it all hinges on whether or not you have accepted it, believe in it, and can put it into practice. If everything you do is in accordance with the Dharma, then you of course will see some changes in your life.”

Rinpoche began to perform the ritual.

“After the ritual was complete, the guru resumed his teachings: “Today’s Chod has been completely successful. Ordinarily, it takes two or three hours to perform this puja, but because I did it in a meditative state, I did not have to take as many breaths as most people would. For example, in the space that you would need to take five breaths, I only need to take one; as a result, the ritual did not take as long. The beginning of the ritual included many parts related to Tantra which I will not reveal to you. At the end, the practitioner implores many things both for himself and on behalf of sentient beings. The most important line here is this: ‘Implore the guru for blessings.’ This Dharma text is special in that all the blessings it mentions come from the guru; it does not tell us to supplicate to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for blessings. In Tantrism, gurus are very important, because without one to transmit the Dharma to you, you cannot learn it. Without the Dharma, you cannot resolve any of your problems or help other sentient beings to do the same.

“We consider all sutras, including the Buddhist Canon, to be Exoteric, which refers to all of the fundamental theory behind the Dharmas Shakyamuni Buddha expounded for forty-nine years. It can all be divided roughly into two parts. One part is represented by Hinayana Buddhism, which arhats cultivate. A couple of examples of their texts are the Agama Sutra and the Samyuktagama Sutra. Hinayana Buddhism is prevalent in places such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Myanmar. The other major part is the Bodhisattva Vehicle. Most of the people Shakyamuni Buddha expounded to for so many years were not mere believers; they were the Buddha’s disciples and some practitioners of the Bodhisattva Path. Therefore, He only explained the fundamental theories and the mindset practitioners should be in.

“Most importantly, Exoteric Buddhism teaches us how to change how we think. Only after we have corrected our thinking can we behave properly. In Tibet, those who wish to practice Tantra, or Esoteric Buddhism, must first have a foundation of ten years of Exoteric practice. Only if that foundation is sound can one understand how to cultivate properly, and only then can one be transmitted Tantra. Tantra can be used to help ourselves and other sentient beings. While on the Bodhisattva Path, we must practice with five methods. The first is to cultivate wisdom and good fortune. The second is to cultivate the Path of Preparation, which teaches us how to strengthen and deepen our cultivation so that we can benefit ourselves and others. The first method can be attained by practicing both Exoteric and Esoteric Buddhism. The second method, the Path of Preparation, can be practiced with part of Exoteric Buddhism, but in Tantra it can be cultivated very rapidly.

“The third method is the Path of Vision, which teaches us the principle of attaining Emptiness. Theoretical study of the sutras can only teach us theory; it cannot allow us to genuinely realize or comprehend what the Buddha meant when He spoke of the wisdom (prajna) of Emptiness. Only after learning the Path of Vision can we start the Path of Cultivation, to truly cultivate the Bodhisattva Path. Practitioners who have not learned the Path of Vision can only practice the first two paths, the Path of Preparation and the Path of Accumulation. Are those paths good? Of course they are, but if you really want to help sentient beings to resolve their problems, become liberated, and so on, those methods are not enough; you also have to practice the Path of Vision. If you cannot realize and grasp the concept of Emptiness, then after the first two paths you will become arrogant; arrogance brings about a lot of negative things. Only after attaining Emptiness can we truly begin to cultivate the Bodhisattva Path; trying to do so without first realizing Emptiness would be very difficult. This is because we would very easily become attached to our own affairs, including the things that we know and we can control. However, it is very different once we have attained the Path of Vision: We know that we should give and not take. This means practitioners of the Bodhisattva Path are constantly giving. In China, there is a saying: ‘Only after giving can one get something.’ If you cannot give, then you will obtain nothing.

“After the Path of Vision comes the Path of Cultivation, and finally, the Path of Non-Cultivation. That does not mean not needing to cultivate; rather, in the end, once all your afflictions, hindrances of knowledge, and delusions have been cleared away to reveal your pure, original nature, there will be no more Dharma in the mundane world for you to cultivate; in that moment, you will have attained Buddhahood. The attainment of the first three paths is very important for performing today’s puja. That is, only after you have cultivated the Path of Vision can you then perform the Chod to benefit sentient beings. If you have not come to the realization that all phenomena arise from conditions and are Empty in nature, and do not understand the law of cause and effect, then insisting on learning this puja will bring you much difficulty, and you will not be successful. How can you visualize yourself as transforming into something else to be received by sentient beings? Transforming mundane objects can only be done in a state of Emptiness, and in order to turn them into food for sentient beings to eat, they must first be transformed into nectar that the Buddhas can accept.

“In the later part of the Chod ritual, there is a long section in the text about how the presiding guru visualizes his own flesh, bones, and blood as endless alms for all sentient beings to consume. The reason people fall into the Ghost Realm, the Animal Realm, and the Hell Realm is that they loved to eat the flesh of sentient beings while they were alive. This habit of eating meat instead of being vegetarian naturally causes them to fall into those three realms. The presiding guru provides his own flesh for them to eat, but once it enters their stomachs, it turns into nectar; this pure nectar eliminates their evil habits of greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt, transforming them into engendering bodhicitta so that they can listen to the Dharma and be liberated. In other words, you cannot simply cut off a piece of your flesh and toss it in front of those sentient beings to eat. If you yourself have not cultivated Emptiness, given rise to bodhicitta, and accumulated merits, then they won’t eat your flesh even if you cut some off for them; they will only eat what they think is okay to eat. After consuming it, the karma they have accumulated over past lifetimes will disappear.

“This ritual contains a few Exoteric prayers, so I can tell you a bit about them. They mention the evil acts you have committed and their resulting hindrances that have attracted so many demons and ghostly beings, bringing you illness and suffering. By practicing this puja over time, and hoping for your guru’s blessings, you can immediately vanquish them. The harassment caused by these sentient beings will stop, as will things that frequently afflict you such as greed, hatred, and lack of belief in cause and effect. ‘May my guru bless me’—By hoping for your guru’s blessings, you can naturally be rid of your illnesses; this includes plagues caused by harassing demons, curses sent by others to harm you, and so on.

“By imploring for blessings, you can attain joyful youthfulness without sickness. Being young but sick does you no good, and growing old without sickness does not bring you joy, either. Some people say I have not aged; actually, I am seventy-one years old. I do not recite this prayer for blessings all the time; I just recite it briefly after performing the puja. Actually, at the end of the Dharma text there are many prayers that can cause a lot of things to go our way. For example, there is a supplication for blessings so that we can benefit all ghosts and deities, one to be able to live longer, and so on. The point of all these prayers is to allow us to have enough time to cultivate in this lifetime and complete our Buddhist activities, not to enjoy life. It is mentioned in the text that if you are a practitioner, then there are many things you must do to benefit sentient beings. If you are not, and are just an ordinary believer, then these prayers will not work for you; if you want to be young again, then go out and buy some cosmetics.

“Why did I specially change today’s schedule to perform the Chod this afternoon? I did it because some believers had time to attend this morning but not this afternoon, and vice versa. Given this condition, expounding the Diamond Sutra would have been rather awkward. Sutras are expounded when there is a proper causal origination, and this morning I planted this seed, this causal origination, of teaching the Diamond Sutra here in Japan; we will see whether or not the causal condition will arise again for me to expound it further to Japanese believers in the future. I do not create this causal condition; it will be up to all of you to decide.

“Let me say again: You are lay practitioners, and so am I; by all means, do not see yourselves as separate and having a different lifestyle from us just because you are Japanese. We actually are all the same; I eat, sleep, and make money from my business just the same as you do. The only difference is in our mindset. I know Buddhism is very important to me; without it, I would not still be alive. For you, mundane matters are most important, but those cannot help you to shake your diseases and live a long time. All matters in the mundane world exist according to causes and conditions. When I say that we should do our best to put the Dharma into practice, I am not telling you to stop working or stop caring, or that you don’t need a family; the Buddha never said any of this. You may have a look at my teachings about the Ratnakuta Sutra; it contains what Shakyamuni Buddha actually said. The crux of the matter is one’s mindset. If you have the correct mindset, then you will naturally find Buddhism quite easy to practice. If you do not have the correct mindset, and Buddhism for you is just a pastime, then you will never learn it.

“Shakyamuni Buddha taught about the Dharma for forty-time years, and after more than two and a half millennia, His teachings still remain and most definitely are of value. It is just that people are so full of doubt; they refuse to believe that putting the Buddha’s words into practice is possible. I am a prime example of their validity; you have seen my having begun doing it with some degree of success, so you cannot fail—just as long as you are willing. I often encourage believers by saying, ‘If I can do it, then so can you.’ If you fail, there is only one reason: Your lack of belief. You might believe in money and other mundane things, but you do not believe that everyone can achieve what is taught in Buddhism.

“Shakyamuni Buddha once said, ‘Why should we break free of the four notions? It is because sentient beings all possess a Buddha nature.’ Regardless of what your educational background might be, you all have the condition to attain Buddhahood. However, this cannot be achieved merely by reciting some sutras, participating in some pujas, and burning some incense; a certain process must be followed. As for how long this process takes and how arduous or easy it might be, it is different for every sentient being, but the most important thing is for you to begin, and make a firm resolution to practice. A lot of you say you will wait until you have more free time, but by then you might be dead. As I often say, no one in attendance is busier than I; none of you have more affairs to attend to than I do. How am I still able to practice? It is very simple: I do not give myself any excuses. You think you don’t have time because of things you need to do, such as attend to your family, kids, and so on. However, I have such duties, too; so how do I still have time? It’s simple: I believe in the teachings of the Buddha and my guru; I believe that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are always helping sentient beings, and I believe that my guru is always benefiting us. With this belief, you will begin to practice.

“If you are only here to have a listen, and then do not put these teachings into practice when you go back home, they will not do you any good. Many people think that listening to a lot of Dharma teachings brings good fortune. It does, but such good fortune definitely cannot be used in this lifetime. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the good fortune you accumulate from listening to the Dharma in this lifetime can only be used in the next. You might say, ‘Well in that case, I’ll just stop coming to listen.’ Fine, but if you keep listening, some of my own good fortune can rub off on you. It is the equivalent of my sprinkling some water; if some of it lands on you, then you can resolve some of your minor problems in this lifetime—but not major life-and-death issues. To deal with those, you need the help of a guru. Without it, when you are one day staring death in the face, you will understand very well that you are helpless before it. Why do people quake in fear of death? It is because you do not know how to die or what will happen to you afterward; this makes you very perplexed and helpless. We practitioners understand how we die and what death involves, so we are of course certain and fearless. We simply keep on doing what we do.

“For example, every night before I go to sleep, I know I might not wake up, and I see every morning that I do wake up as the dawn of a new life. I treat every puja as the last one I will ever perform; I don’t put it off until tomorrow. I never say, ‘There’s always tomorrow; tomorrow I’ll do it another time and accumulate a bit more good fortune.’ I’d never! I put my all into what I do! This might be the last time I ever do it. This is because Buddhist practitioners have a profound belief in impermanence—the fact that everything is always changing. You might say that’s not true, but it is! Your appearance has changed greatly since your youth; if you do not believe me, go home and have a look at some photos of when you were little, and compare them to some recent ones. You don’t look like you used to at all. This is impermanence.

“That being the case, you should hurry up and learn Buddhism as diligently as you can so that you are prepared when impermanence comes knocking. Learning Buddhism will not prevent things from changing; it will prepare you to face change when it happens and teach you how to accept it so that you have hope for your future. Hope for your future does not mean money, power, family, desires, or wealth; rather, it is confidence that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will bestow hope upon your future, but you must accept and listen first. For this gift to be effective, you must accept it and listen.

“It is a new year. I have said a lot today, and I hope it will be useful to you all. If the causal condition arises, I will resume expounding the Diamond Sutra here in Japan at some point in the future. Now we will begin the Dharma Protector ritual.”

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

“A lot of people are very curious as to why I wear a crown while performing this puja, with a small black curtain hanging down in front of my face. There are many reasons for this. The black curtain blocking my face does not mean I am afraid of ghosts; it means the opposite. In the sutras, it is explained that upon death, one enters the intermediate state, or bardo. When this happens in a dream, it is called dream-state bardo, and in waking, it is known as segmented bardo. The intermediate state prior to reincarnating is also known as bardo, regardless of which of the Six Realms one is in.

Rinpoche wearing a crown while performing the Chod.

“It is also written in the sutras that when a sentient being in bardo sees the light of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, it will want to flee in fear. This is easily explained; for example, if you had never come in contact with rich and powerful people, and were suddenly called to go meet with one, you would surely ask, ‘Why me?’ Then, when you met with that powerful person, you would certainly not stride into the meeting room with the confidence you might feel when getting together with a friend; you would stand at the door way, hesitating and wanting to retreat. Why does this happen? When we are in a bardo state, our wisdom is concealed by our karma. When we see the light of the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ wisdom, our first impression is that it is fire, because it looks like flames, and next we feel that scare us so that we do not dare to approach.

“Speaking from my own experience, the night after I took refuge in Exoteric Buddhism, I had a dream in which I saw myself standing at the entrance to a temple. The doors were open, and in the middle of the hall was Shakyamuni Buddha. A fierce, golden light radiated outward from Him. Originally, I had been planning to enter, but I also felt a bit hesitant. Next to me, the Dharma master in whom I had taken refuge told me, ‘Go on in,’ so I did, and then I made prostrations before Shakyamuni Buddha. Later, when I read the sutras, I learned the meaning of this dream. For forty-nine days after we die, every seven days, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will come to take us. If, prior to this, we have listened to the Buddhas’ names and come close to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, or even seen their wisdom, then as soon we see them, we will gladly go with them. If you have never learned Buddhism, taken refuge, participated in this sort of puja, or believed and accepted the Dharma, then when the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas appear, you will be terrified of the light they emit and won’t dare to follow them. Every seven days for forty-nine days, a different colored light will appear. For example, it might be a red light so intense that you will not dare to go toward it, or it might be a more comforting red light, which you approach but which will lead you down into the Three Evil Realms.

“Why should you participate in pujas? Even though in doing so you won’t see the light of the Buddhas’, Bodhisattvas’, and gurus’ wisdom, your own consciousness at least will sense it. Sometimes you might enter a Buddhist center and feel that it is very solemn and stately; that means it contains the light of wisdom. I wear this Dharma crown because while performing the puja, the presiding guru enters a meditative state, and his eyes emit the light of wisdom, which causes those sentient beings in the Ghost Realm to feel reluctant to approach; for this reason, I use the small crown curtain to cover the light so that they feel it is safe to come closer.

“Why are there five skulls atop this crown? First of all, it is to tell sentient beings what they look like. Whether you are in the Heaven, Asura, Animal, or Human Realm, you will leave a skeleton behind when you die; this shows that in this life there is nothing to compare and fight over. Secondly, it is to tell sentient beings that life is impermanent. These skulls imply, ‘You are sentient beings of the Ghost Realm; you can relax, because this is a place you are used to.’ If we were to place a very magnificent Buddha Statue before them while performing the Chod, they would not dare approach; this is why we adorn the Dharma crown with figures that look like them.

“In Taiwan, we hold what is known as the Great Water and Land Puja, though it might not exist here in Japan. One of its rituals involves Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara’s appearance in ghost form to liberate ghostly beings. In Buddhism, we take on the appearance of whatever realm’s denizens we are liberating. For example, as Shakyamuni Buddha described, He spent some of His past lifetimes in the form of a king stag, monkey, bear, and peacock, because He wished to liberate those sentient beings. He did not actually transform into those; He emanated a part of His consciousness in those forms to liberate them. When I am liberating humans, I of course take on the appearance of a human; if I am liberating ghosts, I pretend to be like them. Naturally, I am not really a ghost; if I were, you would all run away in fear.

“One must possess the compassion of Emptiness in order to perform this puja. The Lunar New Year festivities have just begun, so in performing it for you, I hope to lessen the resentment of all those sentient beings whose flesh you have eaten over the past few years. This is the start of a new year, so I hope you will all stop eating meat so that you won’t keep bugging me every year. Don’t think that eating meat is no big deal because you can just look me up and get me to perform rituals for you; sooner or later I am going to die. After that, who will come and help you? Stop doubting that eating the flesh of sentient beings will make you fall into the Hell Realm.

“Worshiping Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is so popular in Japan, but he does not just liberate the deceased lying in graveyards; he liberates all sentient beings in the Six Realms. It is stated very clearly in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows that you must not harm sentient beings or eat their flesh. You seem to have so much faith in Ksitigarbha, yet you pay no attention to his words; why, then, do you make prostrations to him? If you do not listen to him, then worshiping him really won’t do you any good; all you are doing is asking for peace of mind and consolation. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s aspiration is to prevent all sentient beings in the Six Realms from suffering. Since you had the good fortune and causal condition to come here and participate in this puja, I hope you can listen to what the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have said. If you genuinely listen, they will grant you some protection; if you do not, and are only here hoping to gain some sort of benefit to take home with you, then this puja will not do you much good. I say this out of experience from my cultivation, and am exhorting you in all sincerity. I am not saying you absolutely have to believe me, but you should believe what the Buddha said. Everything I have taught today comes from the sutras and was learned from my guru; I did not make it up. I would not be qualified, nor would I dare to make up a religion, because that would send me to the Hell Realm.

“Everything I have said today was said by Shakyamuni Buddha and taught by my guru. I hope you can all go home and give it some thought; do not waste this life away. This life will be over very quickly; every year, I see you growing older and older. When one of my Japanese disciples took refuge, his beard did not have any white in it; now it is completely white. He has aged. The years go by very quickly, one after another, so do not waste your time. I wish you all a very Happy New Year!”

Upon the perfect completion of the puja, the disciples thanked His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for his compassionate teachings. Rising to their feet, they paid reverent homage as the guru descended the Dharma throne.

Afterword:
After stepping down from the Dharma throne, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche smiled and walked over to Abbot Ogawa Yuki from Onsenji Temple in Shirosaki, Japan. As always, Rinpoche warmly inquired about the abbot’s health and asked how his father had been doing. Rinpoche then blessed the abbot’s head and chest with the vajra, and compassionately explained how to use the precious nectar pills he was about to bestow.

Rinpoche said that the abbot could give the nectar pills to special believers in his temple. These nectar pills had been given to Rinpoche by the monastics at a Tibetan monastery as a special offering showing gratitude for his ongoing support; they had only given them to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, so were extremely rare and precious. The abbot thanked Rinpoche most sincerely for having granted this opportunity. After reverently seeing Rinpoche off, he made three more earnest prostrations before the mandala, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas.

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Updated on March 2, 2019