His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – September 8, 2019

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne and led those in attendance in Avalokiteshvara rituals, and he continued to expound on ‘Scroll 82, “Elder Ugra Assembly” (Chapter 19)’ of the Ratnakuta Sutra.

“Why is it the the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center puts such great emphasis on the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas? It is because we propagate the Bodhisattva Path —Mahayana Buddhism and Vajrayana Buddhism. If disciples didn’t dedicate themselves to cultivating the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, they wouldn’t be able to escape the cycle of life and death in this lifetime, and they may even fall to the Three Evil Realms. Don’t think that just by taking refuge, making offerings, eating vegetarian, and reciting mantras, you can resolve all of the karma for this lifetime and all of your accumulated lifetimes without the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas firm in your heart, and firmly in use in your everyday life. This is true even for ordained disciples. Of course, I am mainly speaking of bad karma. The Amitabha Sutra clearly tells us we can take karma with us to the Pure Land; but this refers to good karma, not bad karma.”

“Without regarding the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas as the goal for all of one’s actions, speech, and thoughts in life, one cannot possibly eliminate lifetimes of bad karma in a single lifetime. And it only takes the tiniest bit of bad karma to re-enter the cycle of reincarnation. Does this mean one will definitely fall to the Three Evil Realms? That is uncertain. But Venerable Milarepa has told us that if you can’t escape the cycle of life and death and continue to reincarnate, it is certain you will fall to the Hell, Hungry Ghost, or Animal Realms. And Venerable Milarepa was a sage; nothing he said should be taken lightly. There are a lot of distortions and major misunderstandings regarding the Dharma. People think that they need only pray and do recitations to be blessed. But if this were true, the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas would simply say: ‘You will be blessed and protected when you make prostrations, recite sutras, and become ordained.’ But the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas does not say this. The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas teaches us about correct attitude in learning the Dharma, direction in one’s practice, how to cultivate the Six Paramitas, and how to understand equanimous freedom from attachment in all matters of one’s life. But you don’t listen, and are unwilling to do as it instructs. And so, I can now declare publicly that those of you disciples who are unwilling to cultivate the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas will naturally leave us. Different views lead down different paths. Don’t think you can get away with frivolous behavior here under my nose. Even if I don’t catch you, when the time comes, you will pay the price in death. This happened to a disciple recently. He was left lying in a hospital bed for over three months, and he didn’t pass on until recently. How could this have happened to him if he had been earnest in his practice? He couldn’t have been!”

“Don’t think just taking refuge is enough. If it was, the Ratnakuta Sutra would say so. Refuge is only the first step. If taking refuge were enough, Shakyamuni Buddha would not have needed to speak the Dharma for 49 years. The Dharma is different from ‘outside’ (non-Buddhist) paths. In outside paths, you need only convert, and God will bless and protect you. There may even be no emphasis on practicing the Ten Meritorious Acts — rather, one may need only obey the Ten Commandments, which are similar. The Buddha was clear that we create everything for ourselves. No one gives us anything, nor does anyone assist us in creation.”

“We gurus simply pass on our experiences from our practices to you, and tell you what you should do. There is nothing we can do if you won’t listen. In all honesty, given my abilities, I could take on 10,000, 20,000, or even 100,000 disciples. I have the qualifications to do so. So why don’t I?”

“It is not that I can’t muster together this many disciples. When I hold grand pujas, more than 20,000 people show up in attendance. So why don’t I do this? Because when I take on disciples, I am responsible for teaching you how to escape the cycle of life and death. And, of course, escaping the cycle of life and death departs from the common and the mundane. I’m not one to flatter and fawn on my disciples. I do not distort the Dharma to my own ends for reputation or profit. No matter who comes to see me, regardless of their rank or wealth, I help them with even mind. I do this without discrimination, no matter how poor someone is, or even if someone has broken the law, so long as he is repentant. But although I do not discriminate and you have taken refuge under me, and this is how I have become cultivated, you still don’t listen. So what does this lead to? Naturally, you leave. You leave because of ridiculous little things, and naturally lose the will to learn Buddhism. And so, I want to emphasize again that you can withdraw refuge at any time. I won’t obstruct your sources of livelihood or hinder the happiness of your families. Buddhism isn’t supposed to be stressful. If I hear someone else say his practice is stressing him out, I ask that the group leader tells him to leave at once. If I hear one more person complain about stress from practicing that means his group leader has failed and has to leave as well. If the group leader doesn’t have that particular disciple leave, then all of the disciples should leave.”

“I’ve practiced Buddhism for decades without ever feeling stress. So why is it you are stressed? Simple—it is because you don’t listen. You insist on doing things your own ways regardless of what I say. It makes me sad to see how those disciples who don’t listen suffer. Why? I often say that when I perform the Dharma, there is no distinction among all disciples. However, why is it some disciples befinet and others do not? This has nothing to do with a disciple’s offerings, but rather it is his mind. His mind does not listen, and causes him suffering. So then what can be done? I’ve never taught the Dharma with a closed door. I teach you about Exoteric Buddhism because you are not yet ready to learn Tantra. Don’t think I will teach you Tantra just because I’m an Esoteric Rinpoche. You are not ready for Tantric practices. How could you be when you haven’t even got a handle on Exotericism?”

“Our temple is going to have a Tantric hall upstairs; it will be locked up, and regular disciples won’t be allowed inside. This is the same as how things were done in ancient Tibet. Don’t think that Tibetan Buddhism is by default all about transmitting Tantric practices. Don’t think that all Tibetan rinpoches will teach you Tantra. One may form a connection with you; but does this mean he has passed on Tantric teachings to you? I know in my heart that he hasn’t. Don’t think that Tibetan Buddhism is just learning a few rituals and mudras.”

“At present, His Holiness has allowed — or, in more serious terms, has instructed — me to construct this temple. If I wasn’t at least somewhat accomplished in my cultivation, His Holiness would not be urging me to do so. Were I not accomplished in the Tantric practices, His Holiness wouldn’t allow me to construct this temple with a great Exoteric hall and Tantric hall. I don’t want you to mess around with me any longer. That goes for you ordained disciples as well. If you look down on your guru, then you are welcome to leave. Don’t mess around here trying to covet merits. Without cultivation, you will not accumulate merits.”

“As for using the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas toward all of your actions, speech, and thoughts in this life, and getting what you need without asking for it, how far have you gone? The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas mentions the word guru, indicating the importance of a guru. Do you really think that you need only prostrate yourselves before the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas and they will come out and reveal themselves to you? I keep reminding you, but you don’t listen. You don’t recognize that anything is happening. Recently, I returned from India, and was looking at the Taiwanese news. People are dying in car accidents every day, and being murdered. And yet you are fearless! I’ve never seen a place in such chaos!”

“No one was killed when Hong Kong fell into disorder for 3 months, but in Taiwan someone is killed every other day. Parents are killed, and there are cases of bodies being chopped up and burned. I must have been cursed to have come to this place to spread the Dharma. Don’t think that you are living lives of peace. Don’t think that the Bodhisattvas have blessed you and you can live the rest of your days in peace! If this land continues on in chaos, you will be sucked in as well. Look at Hong Kong. After a few months of disorder, the economy is about to fail. But if enough people practice Buddhism together in the same place, there is less chance that place will fall into disorder.”

“Don’t think that you are safe and sound; none of you are taking things seriously! If the Dharma was just for the ordained, the Ratnakuta Sutra wouldn’t speak of lay Bodhisattvas. What does this mean? That lay people can cultivate themselves as well. If the Dharma was only for the ordained, and lay practitioners couldn’t become cultivated, then why would His Holiness have me enthroned? I am a lay practitioner. If you think that laymen cannot become cultivated, look at all of the founders of the Kagyu Order. Tilopa and Naropa were laymen. Marba was too. Although Milarepa never married, he was of lay appearance. If you believe that it is impossible to become cultivated as a layman, then you are disparaging Padmasambhava. Padmasambhava was of lay appearance. If you want to keep going on disparaging, look at the Eight Great Bodhisattvas. Seven of the eight of them had hair. Were they ordained, or were they laymen? You slander the Three Jewels all day long without even realizing it. Everyone has his or her its causal conditions. I have come to owe sentient beings over accumulated lifetimes, and so in this lifetime, I have come in lay appearance to liberate sentient beings, and help them.”

“What does it mean to be of ordained appearance? It is easier for someone who has relatively little debt to other sentient beings and who had relatively few vexations in his previous life to be of ordained appearance. This doesn’t mean the ordained practitioner’s virtuous root is superior to that of the lay practitioner, or vice versa. Why is it I am expounding on the Ratnakuta Sutra today? I didn’t originally want to go on about it anymore, as it is of no use. After all, you don’t even practice the basic Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas. So how can you be expected to learn the Bodhisattva Path? If you are unwilling to learn the Bodhisattva Path, then withdraw refuge and just become regular believers, and I’ll owe you no debt. Why put yourselves through so much hardship? Always complaining of your stress.”

“People think that if they come across a throne holder or a great rinpoche, they need only prostrate themselves before them to gain blessings. But how could you think this? I am always stressing that if this were enough, with His Holiness as my root guru, I would need only prostrate myself before him and bug him and talk to him every day. Why would I need to go on practicing? But no one listens. Like when we had the Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness, and they said they wanted to promote the construction of the temple at that time, and I forbade them from doing so.” (A disciple reported: Rinpoche told us that we were not to promote the temple project during the grand puja.)

“It was the same last year, and this year is the same as well. You don’t understand, and find this strange. Many people have said to me: “But there are more than 20,000 people in attendance; you should tell them!” So why didn’t I announce it? Because the host that day was the Buddha Amitabha! It was the Great Amitabha Puja. That day was for liberating all sentient beings of the Six Realms. What is purity? Doing just one thing at a time. I could go off talking in a fervor throughout the puja, and get a bunch of people to donate money for the temple. I could move people with my words. So why don’t I? Because I don’t conduct pujas for my own fame and profit. I do not do this, and naturally, all of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas bless me, and bless all sentient beings. This is purity. Many people think that we should take advantage of major pujas to advertise the temple project. But we mustn’t do this! Just as I didn’t seek out influential people I know for the construction of the temple. Why not? It is all up to the causal conditions. The purpose of this temple is to allow all sentient beings to form virtuous connections. Why is it despite the hard work involved, with some people donating $500 and others $1000, we let everyone visit the temple just the same? It is so that we can help them plant seeds of and form virtuous connections. We have talked a lot about the story of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three in the past.”

Then, Rinpoche instructed an ordained disciple to explain it, and she responded: “From what I remember, in Rinpoche’s teachings, there once was a person who wanted to do a good deed, and in the end, 32 people helped him do it.” Rinpoche asked: “What was the good deed?” And she responded: “It seems it was to build a Buddhist palace.” Rinpoche said: “If you go on talking in this way, then I would say you ‘seem’ like an ordained practitioner. What does it ‘seems’ mean?” She responded: “It means that I am not diligent enough, and cannot answer with certainty.” Rinpoche said: “Then I would also say you ‘seem’ like an ordained practitioner. How about you all go on muddling things!” She responded: “I am repentant.”

Rinpoche revealed: “Many people mistakenly think that the Heaven of the Thirty-Three contains thirty-three heavens. But actually the Heaven of the Thirty-Three is a heavenly realm with 33 celestial rulers. The leader of these 33 rulers had a Buddhist tower constructed as an offering for the Buddha, and this merit became the Heaven of the Thirty-Three. And so, when I wanted to build a temple, and yet over 700 disciples wouldn’t show their support, why is it I was so quick to close the donation bank account? Because I’ve told this story so many times before. And so, for those of you who just treated it as a story, I’m not giving you the chance to form this virtuous connection. Will these 700 disciples be driven away? No. But you’re welcome to withdraw refuge. Because this is the virtuous connection that your guru will make, and it is the DriKung Kagyu Order that has instructed me to build this temple to form this bond. The fact that you don’t support it means you will face more trials in your practices. That’s right; I’ve said it. Why will you face more trials? Because there is no place for you in the great seas of my merits, His Holiness’s merits, the merits of the Drikung Kagyu Order, and the merits of Hevajra.”

“You treat it all as a joke, thinking Buddhism is for your own pleasure. It is true that no one is forcing you to learn the Dharma. But when you took refuge, your guru was clear: if he offers you good deeds and you do not listen or take the initiative, he will not give them to you. Did he not say this? You think you’ll get a second chance. But I’m 72 years old. What chance is there I’m going to build a second temple? Or is it that you think that you are young, and so you can take your time waiting and watching? This is why I’m so harsh. It’s not so bad for those of you who came to repent, because in future lives you will still have chances to do good deeds for Buddhist temples. But for those of you who didn’t come to repent, like Disciple Hsieh, you will never get another chance at anything like making offerings for the construction of a Buddhist temple or tower.”

“And so you say: ‘Fine! Then I’ll go find another Buddhist temple to donate to.’ But what is needed in a Buddhist temple? A temple is just a building. Without practitioners inside, and without a lineage, it’s nothing but a building! You think that Taiwan has so many temples, so why add another? Even if you don’t support me in this, it’s all the same if you just support another. But you are wrong. Now even temples from our Order seek out my support, and I have to implore guidance from His Holiness. You don’t get it. You think that the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center is just the same as all the other Buddhist centers — living for the sake of fame and fortune. I do not do this! I hold grand pujas without taking money or getting famous, and I don’t even advertise the fact that I’m having a temple built. I give my disciples the chance at a good deed, and yet they don’t support me. It’s a good thing I am already cultivated on the Bodhisattva Path. I don’t dare say I am a Bodhisattva, but at least I am cultivated on the Bodhisattva Path, and thus I have no hatred or anger for you. I only pity you. Why? You are so smart and you think that if you beg Rinpoche for another chance, I will give in.”

“I’m too good to you. For the past few decades, I have let you live peaceful lives, and so you have no sense of danger. Look at how many people die in car accidents all around you every day, and ask yourself how many people in your family have killed sentient beings? I perform the Dharma and take such good care of you, not so that you can have good lives, but so that you can cultivate yourselves. If you are not willing to practice, what is the point in you sticking around?”

“Shakyamuni Buddha said that the Age of Dharma Decline is only 12,000 years. Yunga Rinpoche, a great practitioner from the Drikung Kagyu Order, once said: ‘There are 700 years left for Tantrism starting from now.’ So why is it the Drikung Kagyu Order is in such a rush to propagate Tantra, and His Holiness is in such a rush to train good ordained disciples and lay disciples? It is all for the sake of future sentient beings. Why is it there is less time for Tantrism? Because of a lack of good karma among sentient beings. Their reserves of karmic reward grow thinner, just like you. Your guru offers you the chance at a good deed, and you want to wait until you feel like it. No one thought I would close the account. You just thought I would wait for you. It is true that I will wait, because I practice the Bodhisattva Path. I will wait until you stop reincarnating. The more I look at you, the more it seems to me you never listen. But I can’t blame you too much, as this whole society is like this.”

“Yesterday, an ordained practitioner came to see me, and asked me how one can see the end (become cultivated to the level that he knows when he will die). I said that many of my disciples could see the end when they died. You’ve all heard a lot about this, and many of my disciples’ families have heard the deceased report when they would die while they were still alive. Even my disciples have become cultivated enough to do this, and yet that ordained practitioner was asking me how to see the end. So why is it he doesn’t know? One, he has no guru; two, his mind isn’t sufficiently pure; and three, he lacks the blessings of Tantra. My disciples can see the end not because of their cultivation, but because they have complete faith in their guru, and have the blessings of Tantra.”

“Go ahead and keep on toying with your lives! Don’t think that you can just come for religious assemblies every Sunday and then Monday won’t matter because you can just cleanse yourselves again the next Sunday for the next week. As His Holiness once said, I am practicing every second of every minute. This is what he said - not me. Why is it His Holiness knows? We don’t live together, after all. But you are creating karma every minute. Even ordained disciples are, and thus they are unable to escape the cycle of life and death. Don’t think that you have faith in me and thus will remember my appearance. If you don’t apply the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas in your life, when you pass on and your karmic hindrances are upon you, you won’t even be able to remember my appearance, much less the name of Amitabha.”

“It’s not that you shouldn’t go to work, get married, or have careers and jobs. The Buddhist scripture doesn’t say this. But the Ratnakuta Sutra is clear that everything you have is just causal conditions and karmic reward from your past practices manifesting in this life. It also tells you that everything comes and goes, and nothing is fixed, including your family members. If you all treat the Ratnakuta Sutra like it’s just a story, and think you’ve heard it and know it already, then does that mean you have done what it says? No. And if you don’t do as it says, then all of the Dharma Shakyamuni Buddha teaches in the Ratnakuta Sutra is lost on you, because you are just listening to a story, and when you are finished and leave here you will forget it.”

“Why is it called the Ratnakuta Sutra? ‘Ratna’ means jewel, and refers to precious bodhicitta. The Ratnakuta Sutra teaches us how to accumulate karmic fortune, merits and causal conditions, and making use of bodhicitta is the fastest way. Without bodhicitta, if you are simply of a mind of seeking, you will accumulate karmic fortune very slowly. And so, it is called the Ratnakuta Sutra. The most important aspect of the Bodhisattva Path is bodhicitta. Without it, there is nothing. Bodhicitta comes from the Six Paramitas. Thus, Bodhisattva Asanga said that he wrote out the essence of all Buddhist scripture and theory for us, and if later Buddhist practitioners fix it firmly in their minds and follow the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, with the supervision of their gurus, they will gradually accumulate bodhicitta, and someday they will be able to practice Bodhi acts.”

“Simply initiating bodhicitta doesn’t mean that one is able to put it into practice in his conduct. This still requires guidance and help from one’s guru. It’s just like how the erecting of a Buddhist temple is a manifestation of bodhicitta, and now everyone is gradually realizing that by building this temple, I can benefit vast numbers of sentient beings. If I didn’t build it - I won’t be too aggrandizing - at the very least that area wouldn’t be receiving benefit. But because I am building this temple, many local people and sentient beings of the Six Realms are gaining protection. So why is it I won’t let these more than 700 disciples support the temple? Because they have insufficient virtuous thoughts, and already think themselves virtuous enough. But this is not enough, as when their guru took the lead in doing good, they didn’t follow, thinking about this and that instead. I dare not say the whole world is this way, but at the very least in many places, people don’t do things like me. They think the more the better, and that it is best if everyone makes offerings. But I won’t accept those 700 disciples’ offerings.”

“It is good that they came to repent. This means that in future lives, they will have other chances to make offerings for Buddhist temples. There is benefit for those who don’t repent as well, as they can save a lot of money over their lifetimes. Those who are reluctant to part with their money in this lifetime, not wanting to buy new shirts or belts even when they can clearly afford it, have already planted karmic seeds leading down the Hungry Ghosts Realm. Don’t mistake this for saving money. We don’t see where the savings go. If one is saving so much that his shirts are torn and his belts worn and he won’t get new ones, then he might as well shave his head and become ordained, and put on a waste robe. Shakyamuni Buddha called kasaya ‘waste robes,’ because in the past, the Buddha had a rule that monastics must wear clothes that were thrown out by others, and cut them up and sew them together. Here ‘waste’ means ‘unwanted.’”

This is what Disciple Hsieh should wear, being so stingy as he is. I used to think it was because his wife wouldn’t let him buy new shirts and belts, but it turns out it’s because he is just this stingy. He could be a Guinness world record. He is a doctor, and everyone can guess how much he makes per month. And yet he is stingy to an extreme, with the exception of the occasional offerings he makes to me. How can someone so stingy bring himself to give to charity? And if one is reluctant to give to charity, he will end up falling to the Hungry Ghosts Realm. But he will have it all right in that realm, as he will at least be better off than the other ghosts without even feces to eat. The Buddhist scripture says that when humans spit, hungry ghosts rush to eat it. So pitiful.”

“So why is it I am suddenly teaching the Ratnakuta Sutra today? Because there is a part about how lay practitioners and ordained practitioners can support and cooperate with one another. Simply speaking, Shakyamuni Buddha never said that the ordained were superior, nor did he say that lay disciples were superior for making offerings. He did not express this, but rather that as everyone has different causal conditions, everyone’s appearance in this lifetime is different. The sutras say that both the laity and the ordained must practice the Bodhisattva Path, and how they should help and support one another, as their ways of life are different. You shouldn’t think you are all impressive just because you are ordained. The Buddha never said this, and you shouldn’t think this. I already said earlier, if you are conceited while practicing the Bodhisattva Path, you will lose all merits! This often happens with ordained disciples especially. They think because they are ordained they’re shouldering the work of the Buddha. But one should actually maintain even mind.”

“If you look down on me for being a layman, then you are disparaging Padmasambhava, and not me, as Padmasambhava was of lay appearance. I will say it again: Tilopa, Naropa, and Marba were all laymen. This happens because there are differences between the sentient beings that are liberated by laymen and those liberated by the ordained. The sutras specifically refer to how laymen help ordained practitioners, and how to understand ordained practitioners.”

Sutra: “I must resolutely practice my precepts and listen to the Right Dharma, and be of the Three Thoughts when entering a temple or stupa.”

“Shakyamuni Buddha told all lay Bodhisattvas that layman should be resolute in practicing their precepts and listening to the Right Dharma. This refers to all precepts: For laymen, there are the laymen Five Precepts; those who have received the Bodhisattva Precepts must uphold the Bodhisattva Precepts (known as the bodhicitta precepts); and if you have been given the Vajrayana empowerments, you must uphold Vajrayana precepts. Being resolute means that nothing can change your determination to observe your precepts. For instance, if your guru keeps instructing you to apply the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas in your life and you won’t listen, that means you have broken your precepts. If this isn’t what practicing Buddhism is about, then what is? Learning how to make money, find a good husband, make your daughter-in-law obey, get your son to hurry up and get married, or make sure your husband doesn’t have a mistress? But the scripture doesn’t talk about these things, so how am I to teach them to you? The scripture says nothing about these things, so I’m not sure when the Dharma turned into this. There are even spells to get rid of people who harm you. I’ve even heard of an incantation that can make your husband’s mistress leave him. It is all nonsense.”

“The sutra mentions ‘listening to.’ This doesn’t mean listening to people go on about right and wrong, or who’s good and who’s bad. Rather, it means listening to all True Dharma. ‘Be of the Three Thoughts when entering a temple or stupa’ means that when entering places where ordained practitioners live, such as temples, or seeing a stupa, etc., one must give rise to three ways of thinking. Where do these three ways of thought come from? They arise from your precepts, meditation, and wisdom.”

Sutra: “I should thusly make offerings, and should pity all sentient beings and leave them sarira.”

“I’ve discussed how to make offerings before, so I won’t repeat myself here. ‘Leave them sarira’ doesn’t mean leaving behind actual Buddhist relics. There is another term for sarira that means ‘solid things.’ Combined, a practitioner’s karmic fortune, merit, and wisdom is so solid like a sarira, that nothing can break it. There once were a few foreigners who harbored skepticism, and they tried using a bunch of different things to break an actual sarira (Buddhist relic). But no matter what they tried, they couldn’t. It was solid, even when heated, no matter how it was hit. At a minimum, a Practitioner’s precepts must be extremely solid for a sarira to appear.”

“If you break your precepts, you will have no sarira. But this doesn’t mean that if no sarira appears, one has done poorly in one’s practice. Some practitioners depart from this world without leaving anything behind. We mustn’t place all of these things under the same umbrella. What this means is that I take pity on all sentient beings, and solidly leave behind all things I listened and learned for them in this lifetime. This means that lay Bodhisattvas can also transmit the Dharma if they practice the Bodhisattva Path and attain fruition.”

Sutra: “Thusly I study, thusly I act, thusly I progress, and thus I swiftly attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (supreme enlightenment).”

“This is a very clear statement. If we use the methods and ways of thinking of Shakyamuni as a foundation for our practice, even if we are lay practitioners, by following these methods in our studies, practice, and progression, we will swiftly attain Buddhahood. It says nothing about it going faster for the ordained or slower for the laity. And this passage specifically mentions laymen. The Ratnakuta Sutra repeatedly urges practitioners not to be conceited, because if you think that being of ordained appearance means you have superior virtuous roots, you are conceited. Thinking that being of ordained appearance means you will progress more quickly in your practice is also arrogance.”

“This is spoken for lay Bodhisattvas to hear rather than for the ordained. The Ratnakuta Sutra is a very important sutra for us practitioners. It helps us to give rise to even mind, lest the laymen look down on the ordained, or the ordained look down on the laymen. Neither of these things should happen.”

Sutra: “If having enacted all Buddha matters.”

“This sentence is a conditional, meaning one has done all the Buddha instructs. What does the Buddha instruct us? Not that we get rich, or have lots of grandchildren, but rather that we diligently learn the Dharma, escape the cycle of life and death, and vastly benefit sentient beings. A lot of people say they will diligently practice Buddhism and liberate sentient beings. But, clearly, they haven’t even escaped the cycle of life and death themselves. So how are they to liberate others? You must escape the cycle of life and death if you are to say you will liberate other sentient beings. But where do you deliver them to? To the opposite shore. Just like how I have delivered so many sentient beings to the opposite shore by holding grand pujas. This isn’t just talk; it is what I must do. And so, this sentence means that one has already done all that the Buddha instructs.”

Sutra: “The Buddha, the Enlightened One, has entered nirvana. When entering temples, observe all merits of all bhikkhus.”

“Once the Buddha is no longer living among us, when entering any Buddhist temple, practicing lay Bodhisattvas must observe (not listening to or looking at something’s outer appearance to judge its magnificence, but rather carefully observing with the mind) all merits of all bhikkhus. In other words, if you are not cultivated, you cannot observe what a bhikkhu practices, and thus require the help from your guru. A guru is to some degree more capable than you, and thus he can identify and observe a bhikkhu’s merits, and tell whether or not he should be supported. The ‘should’ I speak of isn’t differentiation between the self and others, or only helping those who are practiced. It is about the extent to which to support him. It is clearly stated. When we go to a Buddhist temple, we must observe all merits of all bhikkhus. Being ordained doesn’t mean one has merits. And laymen have the right to observe them. This is what the Buddha says, not me. And so I observe ordained disciples’ merits every day. You are merit-less. Not immoral, but without merit.”

“What is to be observed? As I said before, if you practice ‘thusly I study, thusly I act, thusly I progress,’ you will naturally achieve observational insight. But if you don’t, then how could you have insight? Then you would just like famous, big-wig Dharma masters and rinpoches, and you would follow the crowd and worship them. This is why on Saturdays, I open the Buddhist Center up publicly to believers, and speak to them directly rather than making them jump through hoops to see me. It is so they can observe me, and see if I have merits. If not, then they don’t have to come to see me.”

Sutra: “Who listens to the Right Dharma diligently?”

“This means when you enter a Buddhist temple, don’t be in such a hurry to go through the motions and get all your worship rituals done, then think you have a bunch of merits and leave. Rather, you should look around. Of course, the sutra is referring to laymen who are already practicing the Bodhisattva Path. A layman not practicing the Bodhisattva Path wouldn’t be able to do this, because he wouldn’t understand. When you haven’t learned or practiced, how can you understand what others are doing? ‘Who listens to the Right Dharma diligently’ refers to whether or nrt a bhikkhu listens to the True Dharma, rather than running around everywhere. For example, when a throne holder holds pujas, does the bhikkhu always attend and listen to the Dharma? Even if he doesn’t understand what is being said, does he concentrate on listening? Or does he nod off, rock back and forth, or play on his cellphone?”

Sutra: “Who speaks the Dharma?”

“In the Drikung Kagyu Order, those who are able to publicly ascend the throne and speak the Dharma are either rinpoches or khenpos. Speaking the Dharma doesn’t mean just telling people to recite some sutras to fix their problems, or which Bodhisattva to pray to. Rather, it is the Dharma of escaping the cycle of life and death the Buddha taught. If someone says: ‘Based on your appearance, you should pray to this Bodhisattva,’ then he isn’t speaking the Dharma, but rather perpetuating superstition.”

Sutra: “Who upholds the precepts?”

This is a reference to precepts. If you don’t maintain your precepts, then you can’t tell if a bhikkhu is upholding his. Why observe this? In case you get something wrong.”

Sutra: “Who upholds the Agamas?”

“Agamas refers to the Agamas Sutra. Those who practice Hinayana Buddhism and practice toward arhathood must recite the Agamas Sutra. The first sutras Shakyamuni Buddha revealed were the Agamas Sutra and the Saṃyuktagama Sutra. Both are currently widely circulated in Theravada Buddhism, and many ordained practitioners have already recited the Agamas Sutra. ‘Who upholds the Agamas’ refers to whether or not a bhikkhu practices Hinayana Buddhism. Practicing Hinayana Buddhism doesn’t make a practitioner lesser. Hinayana Buddhism is about realizing arhathood. This means that if you want to practice toward arhathood, you must seek out a bhikkhu who practices the Agamas Sutra and the Saṃyuktagama Sutra. The problem is, laymen cannot become cultivated as arhats. It is impossible. They must be of ordained appearance, rid themselves of desire for the opposite sex, and cut themselves off from lust. They cannot even think about these things to be an arhat.”

“If you can’t do this, then you shouldn’t practice the Agamas Sutra. Arhats have divine knowledge. But this doesn’t mean one can escape the cycle of life and death. It is like the Venerable Maudgalyayana, who was a disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha. He was foremost in divine knowledge, and yet he was violently beaten to death in the end. Logically, one with divine knowledge should have fled; he should have known what would happen. So how did this come to be? Because he knew that he had to repay his debts. If he were to flee in this life, he would still owe his debt in the next! And so, divine knowledge cannot change karma. But out of convenience, we must possess divine knowledge to help sentient beings. In this way, we can know one’s past causal roots, and how to counter-treat their problems. And so, divine knowledge becomes useful here.”

“If you think divine knowledge can change your karma or your fate, you are wrong. Divine knowledge is merely a by-product of one’s practice. You can have divine knowledge without practicing Buddhism. The difference is that Dharmic divine knowledge is complete and unhindered. Furthermore, in Buddhism there are Six Divine Knowledges, whereas there are at most only five in non-Buddhist paths. Thus, if you aren’t prepared to practice toward arhathood, attaching yourself to an ordained practitioner of the Agamas Sutra won’t do you much good. This is not because of a fault in him. Rather, it is simply that what he has to offer won’t help you. Even if you are a big fan of the Agamas Sutra, you won’t be able to realize arhathood in this lifetime. And if you cannot become realized as an arhat, there is a chance you will reincarnate.”

Sutras: “What bhikkhu upholds the Bodhisattva-Pitaka?”

“Upholding the Bodhisattva precepts is about more than just receiving one’s three burn marks. It means that a lay Bodhisattva who has received the Bodhisattva precepts will naturally be able to tell if an ordained practitioner has also received the Bodhisattva precepts. It’s like these ordained disciples who I scold all day long, among which there are disciples who have received the Bodhisattva precepts. I cannot accept their repentance when they violate bhikkhuni precepts, as I am not a bhikkhu; but I can have strict demands of them in regards to the Bodhisattva precepts, as I have both taken the Bodhisattva precepts and transmitted them. And so, if they make mistakes, I scold them. Furthermore, if you haven’t received Bodhisattva precepts, and don’t maintain or practice them, you won’t be able to tell which bhikkhus practice them.”

“So then, what do you do? You must rely on your guru. Your guru is your model; but he isn’t to be compared. Whatever you do, don’t compare me to others. There is always someone who is better. I maintain the Bodhisattva precepts, and when His Holiness publicly says that I strictly observe my precepts, he is referring to the Bodhisattva precepts; I don’t maintain the bhikkhu precepts, because I am not a bhikkhu. My guru said this of his own accord. I did not ask him or worm it out of him. I don’t run to him and ask for praise like so many of you. If I had praise for you, I would tell you. But I certainly won’t praise you if you haven’t earned it.”

“In addition to the Bodhisattva precepts, ‘Pitaka’ also refers to whether or not one’s thought and behavior is of Bodhisattva conduct. In simple terms, if you aren’t a lay Bodhisattva practitioner, you won’t be able to tell if an ordained practitioner practices along the Bodhisattva Path. Perhaps it will seem as though one does on the surface; but what about inwardly? You won’t be able to tell. And so, your guru will give you a reminder.”

Sutra: “Who is of Ah-Lan-R?”

Ah-Lan-R means practicing in a tranquil place. It refers to ‘araṇya.’ This is impossible for us lay practitioners. It refers to those who specifically seek out tranquil places for their practices. In Tantric practice, if we are to become realized in our practice in this lifetime, we must spend a period of time on a mountain, in a forest, or in a cave. This is the reason I went into seclusion. Tranquility doesn’t mean no sound of birds, wind, etc. It means that there is no clamor of people; nothing is happening there. Just like in 2007, when His Holiness took me to Lapchi Snow Mountain to go into seclusion. There were no people there; only animals. At night, spiders would crawl in to accompany me as I slept, as well as caterpillars, whereas during the day, there was nothing. This is tranquility.”

“We cannot do things like talk on the phone when in seclusion. Everything must be quiet; we must stop all worldly affairs, and only practice. You wouldn’t be able to do this. Why am I having a Buddhist temple built? Because we can’t find a tranquil place for you to go into seclusion in Taiwan. There is only this place that I have found. If you go your whole life without tranquil seclusion, it will be difficult for you to achieve realization. ‘Tranquil’ means that even the happenings of the temple are removed from you. Some ordained practitioners may consider to attend a penitential rite while in seclusion, and don’t know if they should go out or not. Or they think that if a benefactor visits, they should go out of seclusion to see him out of fear of being complained. These are vexations; it is a lack of tranquility.”

“For this reason, the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center has never had any great benefactors; I don’t want these vexations. It doesn’t matter to me if you donate or not. It is your loss if you don’t; it has nothing to do with me. And so, when many ordained practitioners go into seclusion, they are unable to achieve tranquility. It is all for their benefactors, and so they are removed from Ah-Lan-R. And this is the reason behind the name bestowed by His Holiness at my Buddhist Center in Kyoto. It is because His Holiness knows I am fond of tranquility.”

“Without a foundation in practicing tranquility, you would go crazy after a week of seclusion, much less 3 months. You have so much going on all the time. If you go a minute without looking at your phones, you feel like your whole body is being bitten by ants. Even ordained practitioners are like this these days. Many of the ordained practitioners are on their phones constantly every day. I don’t understand what they could be doing? Right now, I have 200 members of staff and 1500 disciples, and still don’t need a cell phone. But I see them playing on their phones all day long, and when I ask them what they are up to, they have no answer. This is a lack of Ah-Lan-R.

“If you don’t practice tranquility, it will be very difficult for you to do seclusion. So how does one practice tranquility? By practicing the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas. When you do this, you will naturally train your mind in tranquility. This doesn’t mean that your mind has no thoughts and stops, or that you are removed from everything. Rather, it means that you don’t create matters for yourself from nothing. When nothing is going on, you can chant the Buddha’s name and recite scripture at home. You need not find amusement for yourself, or run about with others all day long, going on about this and that, and then feeling relieved that it is all out of your system. You cannot cultivate tranquility in this way.”

“The preciousness of the Dharma is in the fact that as you cultivate tranquility, your vexations decrease. And even if you can’t reduce your vexations, you can bring them to submission. If you have few vexations, or are able to suppress your vexations, your mind will naturally become tranquil. And with a tranquil mind, eternal bliss naturally manifests, and you no longer suffer. Why is it you suffer so much? Because your minds are not tranquil. So I have to think it over when putting you in seclusion. Because if you are always jumping around, or are like Disciple Hsieh, thinking of his daughter and saving money all day, you will never have tranquility.”

“Take, for example, an old disciple of mine who has now already passed away. When he was in seclusion, all of the bathrooms except for his were fine, and his toilet was clogged so that all of the sewage in the seclusion center came out from his room, causing it to stink terribly for days. But this was good, as karmic retribution that would have sent him to a hell of feces was fulfilled in this lifetime, and so he won’t go to that hell. A lot of things happen during seclusion, so don’t covet to go into seclusion. Otherwise, if you have insufficient reserves of good karma, the same kind of thing will happen to you. How could this be a coincidence? Of the whole seclusion center, only his toilet was clogged, and everything was concentrated there. He couldn’t ask for help either; he had to face it every day. And because of this, he won’t go to a hell of feces.”

Sutra: “What bhikkhu covets less over offerings given to him?”

“This requires scrutiny. A bhikkhu has to eat, thus needs offerings. But does he need these things only to nourish his body and continue his practice, or does he need them for other reasons? Thus, at times, we must avoid giving the ordained too much. For some ordained practitioners, if you give them too much before they get settled in, their desires will kick in; so we have to stop before going too far. I currently give my ordained disciples living expenses every month - just enough without going too far. They don’t starve, and they have money for soap and cleaning products; but they aren’t rich, and so they have less desire. This sentence means that we must show scrutiny. How much does one need? If one is an ordained practitioner, he must of course first become cultivated to fruition to benefit sentient beings. And if he is filled with desire as he practices, he almost certainly won’t have the opportunity to become cultivated.”

“Why did Shakyamuni Buddha bring up such matters? Because the ordained require offerings from the laity, and if the laity feel their offerings to the ordained are a mistake, they may say things that they shouldn’t, and create verbal offenses. And so, Shakyamuni Buddha first taught us the correct way. That is, we must first practice on the Bodhisattva Path, and in this way, we can help the ordained on the Bodhisattva Path. When you are unsure, listen to your guru, and he will help you to help them. Do not be foolish.”

Sutra: “Wears waste clothes, lives alone, and is removed from desire.”

“‘Wears waste clothes’ means one wears clothes discarded by others. ‘Lives alone, and is removed from desire’ means one is alone, and has left behind all desire. Take, for example, Yunga Rinpoche and Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche living all alone. You wouldn’t believe where Yung Rinpoche used to live; it was an inlet cave on the side of a mountain with nothing inside. Trees, wood, and branches covered the entrance, so he couldn’t leave, and no one else could get in. When I went there, he would have his attendant move them out of the way, and there was only one attendant who could see him. There was also a pen with cows in it on the outside. Thus, he lived alone with little desire. In his later years, he even stopped seeing visitors. As I’ve said before, taking on all of you has set back my cultivation significantly.”

Sutras: “Who practices?”

“Here, practice refers to practicing the Dharma of escaping the cycle of life and death. It is like when I went into seclusion at Lapchi Snow Mountain for over three months. So many people were watching, and rinpoches and lamas from different sects waited to see whether or not I had been practicing. It wasn’t until I came out after over three months that everyone truly knew that I had. Of course, they knew this because they were cultivated themselves. You are not cultivated, and thus wouldn’t be able to tell.”

Sutras: “Who sits in meditation?”

“The definition of sitting in meditation isn’t meditating 24 hours a day. Rather, it means practicing with primary focus on the Zen School, and living in a simple meditation space. It is just like Yunga Rinpoche and Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche; they lived in tiny spaces. I have been in Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche’s seclusion room twice. It was very small, and he spent every day meditating, just as how when Venerable Milarepa had nothing to do he would sit in meditation.”

“I also visited Milarepa’s mountain caves during my time at Lapchi Snow Mountain. It is pitch black inside them, with nothing but rocks. Once inside, no sounds can be heard; they are tranquil. Of the many caves Venerable Milarepa has practiced in at Lapchi Snow Mountain, I have visited two. There is also another one that is too high up, and no one can reach it. Venerable Milarepa never climbed up to this cave, but rather flew. In his biography, it says that when he had no matters to attend to, he would sit and meditate. He had no entanglements with the secular world, and was removed from everything.”

Sutra: “Who is the caretaker? Who is the abbot?

“‘Who is the caretaker’ refers to who is in charge of management of the temple. It is like how in current Tibetan Buddhist temples, rinpoches are in charge of spreading the Dharma, while there is always a caretaker in charge of managing temple affairs. We sometimes call this a housekeeper. A housekeeper can be even higher up than a rinpoche. For instance, if a rinpoche does something wrong, the housekeeper can get rid of him, and this has even happened before. Usually a housekeeper, or caretaker, is someone loyal to the temple and the lineage, and who won’t waver. I once invited a Lapchi Snow Mountain caretaker to come to Taiwan. The caretaker had never left his country before; but after I finished my seclusion, His Holiness said: ‘Rinpoche, invite him to visit Taiwan.’ And so, I answered: ‘Okay.’ He is so loyal that he remained at the temple even after everyone else had run off, maintaining it even with nothing to eat or drink. Few people will do this, and it is very difficult to find someone who will truly act for the temple rather than one’s owns selfish desires.”

“A ‘caretaker’ is in charge of all temple affairs big and small. This is also a kind of cultivation. In other words, being a ‘caretaker’ doesn’t mean one isn’t a practitioner, as managing temple matters and trifles so that others can practice is a kind of practice of its own.”

“I once got to see a great big yak molar when I was in Lapchi Snow Mountain. Usually, it is not open for people to see, but His Holiness specifically instructed them to let me see it that day. That molar is special, and there is a Thousand-Armed Avalokiteshvara on it. Long ago, Jigten Sumgon had 50,000 disciples sent to Lapchi Snow Mountain for seclusion (and this custom was circulated all the way up to the Song Dynasty). Among them, there was a rinpoche at Lapchi Snow Mountain who led the disciples in their seclusion practices. As there were no people at Lapchi Snow Mountain back then, everything that rinpoche used and consumed each year was carried up from Tibet by a yak. When that yak died, it left behind this molar. The Thousand-Armed Avalokiteshvara on the tooth is very clear, and wasn’t carved, but rather appeared of its own accord.”

“But yaks can’t chant the Buddha’s name, so why is it the Thousand-Armed Avalokiteshvara appeared? Because it helped that practitioner in his practice; and thus, the yak had merits too. Why did I tell you I was building a temple in advance? Because anyone that participates in a good deed gets merits - even a yak. Are you feeling increasingly regretful? I doubt you 700 disciples will sleep well for a while. Even a yak hauling food for a practitioner attained achievement! The Thousand-Armed Avalokiteshvara on its molar means that it escaped the Animal Realm in that lifetime, and ascended to the Heaven Realm. This yak didn’t practice Buddhism; it merely hauled on every year until it died. And so, you don’t see the true meaning behind the Dharma.”

Sutra: “Take in their behavior and accept their ways without disparagement.”

“This is important. It means: ‘Don’t judge the Dharma methods one practices, or which methods one hasn’t cultivated. Once it is clear what one practices, you should see who needs what, and help them, rather than criticize or exhort them. If a practitioner upholds the precepts, don’t say: ‘He doesn’t practice Zen, so why should I give him offerings?’ For example, Yunga Rinpoche practices Zen, and when we went to visit him, he hadn’t bathed. So then, would you say his precepts are impure? After all, there is a rule in the Bhikkhu Precepts that one must be clean, and Yunga Rinpoche and Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche don’t bathe or brush their teeth. But no, we shouldn’t criticize them, because that is not the Dharma method they practice, and they are still attained regardless. Thus, this sentence means: ‘Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.’ Take me, a lay guru, for instance. My fruition was recognized by His Holiness. And so, if you criticize me, you are criticizing His Holiness. And if you criticize His Holiness, you are criticizing the lineage, and all of its gurus, and even Padmasambhava and the Eight Great Bodhisattvas. Now you ought to know why your karmic hindrance is so heavy!”

“If I did not follow the True Dharma, could I hold grand pujas with over 20,000 attendees? Even if I bought attendees at NT$1000 per person, for attending Consciousness Transference Puja, if I didn’t possess the right abilities, the practice would surely kill me! But on the contrary, my health improved after this puja, whereas during the two days of the ritual, I had originally been ill and had diarrhea so bad that I couldn’t eat. So whatever you do, don’t criticize a practitioner. If you don’t understand something, you can ask your guru for guidance. But don’t go around criticizing, because you don’t know what Dharma methods others practice.”

“Why is it I know Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche doesn’t brush his teeth? Because of one time when he gave me yogurt. He licked all over the spoon before scooping it for me. His teeth were covered in plaque; would you have dared to eat it? But I ate it without hesitation. For one, this severed my attachment, because he knew that I clung to cleanliness. Secondly, it severed my pridefulness. Thirdly, he thusly bestowed me with a verbal blessing. You cannot get this; he stopped doing this. For those who came after me, he just gave them scoops without licking the spoon and merely granted them what they asked.”

“And so, this is a very important passage, especially for us lay practitioners. Remember: when you go to a temple and are unclear about something, follow your guru, and don’t talk out of turn. Just as Yunga Rinpoche and Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche don’t bathe, Drubwang Rinpoche doesn’t wash his hair. These are not violations of their precepts. Rather, they have merely become attained by practicing different Dharma methods. You must not criticize them or accuse them of breaking precepts. We who practice Buddhism cannot criticize others when we haven’t gone down the same path. If you don’t practice that method, then how can you know?”

“Even if people criticize certain practitioners, these practitioners may well have benefited many sentient beings in certain ways. Perhaps your values make you think they are wrong. But those are your values, and they may be different from those of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas care about whether or not one benefits sentient beings. If he does, then there is no need to criticize so much over little things. After all, we are all human! Ask yourself: are you perfect and complete? If not, then how can you criticize a practitioner? He can do things that you cannot; you have no right to say anything about him. Likewise, whether or not you come across a meritorious guru is related to your own merits, karmic fortune, and causal conditions. Don’t complain that you followed the wrong guru; that is your own business, and it has nothing to do with your guru.”

“Shakyamuni Buddha was specific in this passage. We lay practitioners on the Bodhisattva Path must have clear insight to help the ordained. When you haven’t yourself first gone through this kind of practice, you don’t have this ability, and must instead ask your guru. It is like how many people come to me for help, and I in turn go to His Holiness for guidance. Although I myself have insight, His Holiness is my guru, and so I ask him anyway. This isn’t to make His Holiness the bad guy. Rather, it is because I respect the Three Jewels. This is the meaning of this passage. Although I have insight, my insight isn’t as clear as His Holiness’s, and so I must ask him. And then, I must heed what he says. I should have no other thoughts of my own about the matter.”

“Shakyamuni Buddha is compassionate, and teaches us lay practitioners on the Bodhisattva path how not to create bad karma of the mouth. And so, we must remember: the Ratnakuta Sutra doesn’t say that the ordained become cultivated faster, or that the laity practice better. Both are equal. They merely each have their own karmic forces and directions for their practices. But both can attain Buddhahood. Thus, you must make a commitment, and think about why you are studying Buddhism.”

Sutra: “In temples and practitioner abodes. When speaking, mind your verbal karma.”

“The Buddha is great. He said: when you have the opportunity to visit a temple or practitioners’ abode, you must be mindful of creating bad karma when speaking, and ask questions when you don’t understand. Don’t speak or criticize lightly, saying things like: ‘This Bodhisattva doesn’t seem so dignified.’ This is criticism; people love to criticize. If you don’t like a temple, just note ‘I was here’ and be on your way. While reciting mantras at an ancient Buddhist temple in Japan, I was able to make a several-meter-high Eleven-Faced Avalokiteshvara standing statue rock forward. You don’t have my abilities: so if you like a temple, stick around; and if you don’t, leave, and mind your verbal karma. The ordained must be especially mindful of what they say. Do the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas not say this? Everything the Buddha says is of the same set; it is just that we are speaking of more details today. Here is another warning: don’t carelessly make mistakes without even realizing it, and make excuses when you do wrong.”

“If you don’t like a temple or practitioners’ abode, just take a look around. Don’t engrave your name. If you see ordained practitioners doing what the scripture says, simply give them offerings. Or if you don’t, that’s fine too. But don’t speak carelessly. You can ask your guru for guidance. But it will cause you trouble if you speak carelessly. And so, the Buddha is compassionate to keep protecting us in this way.”

H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche led the disciples in the Dharma Protector Achi Ritual and dedication, and then led all the attendees in reciting the Aspiration Prayer for Rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land and Aspiration to Bodhicitta. Upon the perfect completion of the puja, they thanked the guru for compassionately performing the Dharma and bestowing auspicious teachings, benefiting countless sentient beings. Rising to their feet, everyone paid reverent homage as His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended the Dharma throne.

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Updated on November 10, 2019