His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – December 1, 2019

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche lighted lamps to offer to the Buddha, and then ascended the Dharma throne to perform a solemn refuge ceremony for 26 believers. Afterwards, he led those in attendance in Avalokiteshvara ritual, and continued to expound on “Scroll 82, ‘Elder Ugra Assembly’ (Chapter 19)” of the Ratnakuta Sutra.

“Before I reveal the sutra today, I will first be holding a refuge puja. In a moment, a list of names will be called, and only those on the list will be allowed to come up to take refuge. You are really unbelievable. Last week, I said people would be allowed to take refuge this Sunday, and several of you wanted to sign up over the phone. Are you really that busy? You couldn’t come in on Saturday in person to ask to take refuge? Instead you called in on the phone!”

“When I took refuge, I never called in on the phone. I always went in person. What makes you think you can ask to take refuge over the phone? Do you hold the Dharma in such low regard? You call in, giving me all kinds of reasons, whereas just last Sunday I made it clear I seldom take on disciples. You aren’t the ones who are choosing me; I am the one choosing you, and then getting rid of you (if you don’t listen)! Based on what? Not whether or not you have a lot of money, or are a doctor, or a government official. I choose based on whether or not you have reverence for taking refuge.”

“I’m officially announcing this right now: if anyone else tries to do something like sign up to take refuge over the phone again, I will ask them to leave. Is Taiwan that big? So big that you couldn’t come in on Saturday to ask to take refuge under me? This Buddhist Center is different from others on the outside. I have no shortage of disciples, because the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas bring them to me. You heard it just now. That disciple who didn’t make offerings for the temple who shared her story with us before the puja mentioned she had heard of me before even coming here. But I don’t go around advertising myself. It is the Bodhisattvas who bring people to me.”

“Why? Because I have heavy karmic hindrance, and so I must liberate those with heavy karmic burdens. I’m already 72 years old — if I didn’t have such heavy karma, then would I need to do these things myself? But don’t think you can take refuge under me just because you want to, calling me up crying, and going on and on, apologizing and saying you don’t want to miss this opportunity. There are four Saturdays in a month, and if I’m gone for so much as a week, at the very least there are two Saturdays that I am here. I give you 24 opportunities over the course of 12 months each year, and yet you don’t have time to come in and ask me? That just goes to show that you don’t really want to take refuge under me. You just want to be involved, and sign up to see if you will get the opportunity. But in the end, you won’t.”

“In the future, if people call me for this sort of thing again, and the disciple in charge of the sign-ups tells me about it, I will ask her to leave. I am making it official right now: the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center doesn’t practice the Dharma methods such as over-the-phone sign-ups for taking refuge, or having other people sign up in your place. If you are this careless even when taking refuge, I don’t believe you will be someone who listens, or who is proactive in practicing the Dharma. You are careless, just thinking that this is okay in other Buddhist centers — to the extent that for some, you don’t even have to show up, and can take refuge just by signing up. But that is merely bond-forming refuge. They are only creating a bond with you for a future life. But who knows when that will come into being?”

“Origin is very important in taking refuge. If you don’t show reverence for the origin, you won’t be reverent moving forward. Perhaps some may say that I lack compassion, refusing to let certain people take refuge. But am I obligated to do so? At the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center, we teach cultivation on the Bodhisattva path, and teach people how to escape the cycle of life and death. And likewise, we of course must do these things based on all that the sutras state, rather than having me make up whatever I want. You hold the Dharma in such low regard. You want to take refuge over the phone? Fine! If you want to do over-the-phone sign-ups, in the future, I’ll set a price. Would you be willing to pay? Of course not! And so, as I don’t want your money, I am much harsher, because I follow the sutras.”

“What does it mean to take refuge? It is turning from black karma to white karma. All that you have done over your past lifetimes is black karma, making it so that you may fall to the Three Evil Realms. Of course, some may say they don’t have karma as bad as Milarepa, who was a murderer. But that just means you haven’t murdered in this lifetime. But what about your past lives? And even if you’ve never killed any sentient life in past lives, what about in this life? Is it okay to kill animals? How many of you were vegetarian in the womb? With the exception of a few children of disciples who had already taken refuge, none of you were, and I was not either.”

“Taking refuge is turning from black to white. Through the Dharma and the guidance of one’s guru, it helps you turn over from black karma to white karma. And with white karma, you have the opportunity to learn the Dharma, escape the cycle of life and death, and avoid falling to the Three Evil Realms. Refuge is support, not dependence. We are supported by the assistance of the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and our gurus so that we may have this opportunity. And yet, you want to sign up over the phone! Even when starting at university, they need to check what you look like over the computer. Can you sign up for classes just by typing out your name? Even if you pay, they won’t let you sign up without seeing you! Yet you disrespect the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas like this, wanting to take refuge over the phone? The disciple in charge of sign ups even tried to help believer Hung and disciple Hsieh’s daughter explain this away! So this means she’s followed me for over 10 years — about 20 years — and she doesn’t even know what I teach! Do I teach you about social connections and favoritism?”

“Think for a moment. When you apply to a foreign university, do you not talk face-to-face with your teacher over the computer? So why do you think you can take refuge over the phone? Because you know the disciple in charge of sign-ups? You haven’t taken refuge yet and you’re already being reprimanded. So those of you who have signed up, make sure you have thought this through. You will continue to be admonished once you have taken refuge.”

“Today, we take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. I would have to use the entirety of the Buddhist Canon to explain these Three Jewels. It is not so simple, taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the guru. Based on its definition in the sutras, the word “Sangha” doesn’t refer to the ordained, but rather the four kinds of practitioners (the upasakas, the upasikas, the bhikkhu, and the bhikkhuni), and mutual learning and cultivation of liberation Dharma methods. Were there no record of the Dharma, we would have no sutras to rely on and refer to for practicing the Dharma, and we would not be able to know the Dharma.”

“Without practitioners imparting their experiences cultivating the Dharma onto disciples, you wouldn’t be able to practice the Dharma. From the perspective of Tantric Buddhism, refuge under a guru is of the utmost importance, as a guru is an experienced practitioner. Being a so-called experienced practitioner doesn’t refer to one’s personal experiences, but rather him guiding others in accordance with the methods passed on to him by his gurus and the Sutras, as well as his own experiences practicing, and experiencing all that the sutras speak of, then passing on these experiences.”

“Experience doesn’t refer to one’s own methods. It is like when we go to school to learn how to write, and our teachers teach us all of the pen strokes. You have to write based on the teachers’ instructions, and if you’ve never written anything before, you won’t know how to write. But once you have written some things, you can know how to write with more appealing strokes. This is experience; it is not you inventing how to write. Nowadays, one of the biggest problems with people is they feel set before taking refuge, as well as after. Feeling set before taking refuge means someone feels everything is good, and he or she can coast with a comfortable life. Feeling set afterwards means someone feels he or she has made great progress and has been reverent by the first year, and want to become a guru after just 3 years. If you are like this, I suggest you not to take refuge. Practicing the Dharma is a matter of multiple lifetimes. Don’t think that just because you know a few Buddhist terms you should be able to take on disciples and propagate the Dharma.”

“We know that when taking refuge under the Three Jewels, it is important who transmits the Dharma. These past few weeks, the Ratnakuta Sutra has guided us through the practices, methods, actions, and attitudes of ordained Bodhisattvas. While on the surface, it seems Shakyamuni Buddha is just talking about it to Elder Ugra, he is really teaching Elder Ugra to understand the ordained and telling him what they must do to have merits, because only then will Elder Ugra’s offerings (to those who truly have merits) allow him to to enter their great seas of merits. This is what the Buddha is really saying.”

“The Buddha knows we are ignorant, and look on other people and matters with bias, and so he teaches us evidence-based things. One can’t know these things just by reading the sutras. You have to have practiced to know them. It is like how long ago, I used to strictly supervise ordained disciples, and had to know everywhere they went. But now that we don’t live in a Buddhist temple, they can go wherever they want at night, and I don’t supervise them. But if we lived in a Buddhist temple, the sutras are clear that one must come back at the end of every day unless given permission from his or her guru.”

“In Tibet, the bhikkhuni aren’t allowed to leave their temples without permission from their gurus. And if one’s guru does not consent and she leaves anyway, she need not come back, because she has broken her precepts. The same goes for male disciples. And so, the Ratnakuta Sutra isn’t teaching you how to judge the ordained — you do not have that right. Rather, the Buddha fears you might misunderstand and create bad oral karma for yourself, or help a false ordained disciple harm someone else. It is like before, when one of my disciples was reciting fake sutras without even knowing it. Why didn’t she know it? Because she became ordained and followed her master without knowing what she was doing, thinking she was doing Dharma activities. And other ordained disciples often think what they learned prior is correct too. But if that were the case, wouldn’t that mean what the Buddha says in the Ratnakuta Sutra is wrong?”

“Now, the relationship between the Three Jewels of refuge and those taking refuge is clear. In Tibetan Buddhism, we also teach about our lineage before refuge ceremony. If this isn’t taught, something is wrong. Those who have signed up to take refuge today are taking refuge under the Tibetan Drikung Kagyu Lineage. Taking refuge in Tibetan Buddhism doesn’t mean you will be practicing Tantric Buddhism. Many people these days think that if they follow the Tibetan ordained practitioners, they can learn Tantra. But that is incorrect. According to the old principles of Tibetan Buddhism — and as it stands today — without a 10-year foundation in Exoteric Buddhism, you cannot be transmitted Tantra. Even if I gave you some mantras to recite and movements to practice, that wouldn’t mean you are learning Tantra. If you want to learn Tantra, you aren’t the type who has what it takes. Tantra are bold, ambitious Dharma methods — the timid cannot learn them.”

“Taking refuge in the Drikung Kagyu Lineage doesn’t mean you get to learn Tantra right away. Tantra is application, whereas Exotericism is theory. You must have logic and reasoning to use the Tantra to benefit yourself and others. Thus, it is your guru’s responsibility to teach you the theories of the Dharma. Only once your root capacity is sufficient will you be able to learn the Tantra to benefit yourself and others. The Drikung Lineage has continued for over 800 years, and it can be traced all the way back to India, from Tilopa and Naropa to Marpa, who spread the Dharma to Tibet. Marpa went to India three times, each time taking bags of gold with him to implore the Dharma, and then coming back to translate all kinds of Buddhist texts and sutras. This is why we call Marpa the ‘Great Translator.’”

“Marpa then transmitted the Dharma to Milarepa, and it was then passed on to Gampopa. Thus, all of the gurus before Milarepa were laymen — Tilopa, Narpa, and Marpa were all laymen. And although Milarepa never married, he was also born of lay appearance. It wasn’t until Gampopa that one incarnated in ordained appearance. Gampopa had originally married and had children, but his wife and offspring all died of infectious disease, and before his wife died, she asked that Gampopa become ordained.”

“And so, Gampopa became ordained, and spread the cultivation methods of the Kagyu Order far and wide. After Gampopa, there was Phagmodrupa, and after Phagmodrupa, the order was divided into the Four Major Sub-sects and Eight Minor Sub-sects. This doesn’t mean that 4 of the Kagyu are larger and 8 are smaller. Rather, it refers to seniority, like refuge sequence. It is not a division of sect size, and all of it is the Kagyu order. From Phagmodrupa, the lineage was later transmitted to our founder Lord Jigten Sumgon. According to the sutras, Lord Jigten Sumgon was the reincarnation of Bodhisattva Nagajuri — thus, not an ordinary mortal. And Bodhisattva Nagajuri was Vimalakirti in his previous life.”

“As Vimalakirti lived during the same time as Shakyamuni Buddha, this period of history can be traced all the way back to that era. Lord Jigten Sumgon then began propagating the Drikung Kagyu lineage, which has continued today to its 37th generation. My own root guru is His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang. Before practicing the Tantra, I also previously took refuge in Exotericism. Now, I am the only Han Chinese layman in the more than 800-year history of the Drikung Kagyu Order who has become a realized Rinpoche in this lifetime. This has never happened before, and I don’t know if it will happen again. Thus, His Holiness hasn’t confirmed me as a Rinpoche because I was a Rinpoche in a past life, or because I have given a lot in offerings, but rather because he has seen the fruition of my cultivation, and thusly bestowed me with this title. I became cultivated in this lifetime, and am also the lineage’s only ngakpa Rinpoche of Han ethnicity in over 800 years.”

“I’m not sure about other so-called Han Chinese individuals and reincarnated Rinpoches. But down the lineage up to His Holiness, I am the only one, and none have since come after me. In the Tibetan Tradition, ‘Rinpoche’ means ‘jewel among the people.’ And as a Rinpoche, the sequences of my practice have of course been different from those of regular believers. So, it must be great to be a Rinpoche then, right? Wrong. It is not a comfortable life. I am on-call 24 hours a day. You don’t have what it takes to do this.”

“Thus, it has been made clear to you that, given the guru and Three Jewels you are taking refuge under, the point of your taking refuge is to use the Dharma and the guidance of the Three Jewels to someday achieve enlightenment, to understand the suffering and torment of reincarnation, and to use the remainder of your lives for proper cultivation. For the laity, taking refuge doesn’t change your lives, but rather changes all of the different types of incorrect views you have had toward other people, matters, and things. So-called incorrect views doesn’t refer to the concepts of right and wrong in your books, but rather the conditions of the world we learned before studying Buddhism, always protecting ourselves. This is why people like to say they’ve done nothing wrong, and don’t understand why others speak ill of them. Raise your hand if you’ve never said such things.” (No hands were raised).

“Everyone thinks everyone else is wrong, and that they are in the right, saying things like: ‘that’s not what I meant,’ and hiding to avoid getting on someone else’s bad side. The concepts of the Dharma don’t tell us to get on other people’s bad sides, or offend them. But rather, they teach us to clearly understand all that is around us: what actions will cause you to reincarnate, and what you can do to help sentient beings escape the cycle of reincarnation, and help yourself not to reincarnate again. This is what the Dharma teaches us. And so, sometimes this creates a big conflict for you.”

“You may think it doesn’t matter, and want to act first and repent to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas later. But as soon as you act, your karmic retribution is going to manifest. and repenting cannot undo that — it merely gives you a new start. After you take refuge, there are precepts that you must comply with as a Buddhist disciple. But taking these vows doesn’t make your life comfortless. For instance, I travel all over the world and run a business, and being a Buddhist doesn’t mean I can’t do these things, or make new friends. And so, taking refuge doesn’t mean you have to completely change your previous way of life. Rather, you will simply change your internal ways of thinking so that you can tell the difference between black and white. But white (good karma) and black (bad karma) don’t refer to right and wrong. Even if you do good, if you have bad intention, it creates bad karma. And even if you do bad deeds, with good intention, it is white karma.”

“It is like how in one life, Shakyamuni Buddha killed a shipowner to save 500 arhats. Conceptually speaking, killing is wrong. But he kept the shipowner from killing 500 arhats, and both saved those arhats from dying and the shipowner from descending to hell. Thus, his actions were black, but his karma was white. This isn’t something you will be able to get a proper handle on right now, so if you are confused about something, you should ask your guru. But asking your guru doesn’t mean asking each day for directions, and about your work. I’m not concerned with such things.”

“When you find your precepts conflict with your actions, that means your mind is unsettled. For me, I will uphold my precepts even if I lose my life. But you drop them even if it hurts just your wallet, or costs you your husband or wife, or your job. Is it really that difficult to uphold your precepts? Not at all. I’ve upholded mine for decades. Why is it I haven’t been tempted? Simple: because I know, understand, and accept cause and effect. But you do not, thinking you can cancel out the effects of your wicked deeds just by reciting the sutras, and making prostrations before the Buddha, everything will be fine.”

“It is true that the sutras say when prostrating for the Buddha, one’s sins drift away like sand in a river. But that just means when you prostrate reverently, and with repentance, trivial sins can be stopped. But you must transform your major sins yourself. What does it mean for sins to drift like sand in a river? Sometimes you glare at your parents or gurus, and are displeased, and angry that I have reprimanded you. This is the kind of sin that drifts away.”

“I’ve said before that if you don’t want to be admonished, you shouldn’t take refuge under me. His Holiness admonishes me, so why do you think you shouldn’t be admonished? Really, are you princes or princesses? Even princes and princesses get reprimanded, so if you fear being scolded or think you are a good person, I don’t want you coming up here in a moment to take refuge.”

“When you take refuge under me, I have nothing pleasant to say, and I certainly won’t be saying you are like Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara just because you recite some mantras for a year. Like in her what way? Not even your hair meets this standard. Every day people butter you up; especially when you are a great benefactor, they say you look more dignified all the time as you sit there. Does having money make you dignified? Not necessarily, as dignity doesn’t come from money, but from observing one’s precepts. Money stinks. So make sure you know what you’re doing before coming up to take refuge. Don’t be impulsive about this.”

“Some people want to know if they can stop coming to pujas after taking refuge. Sure! You can just come and say you are withdrawing your refuge — no one will punish you. Not even the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Dharma protectors will punish you. But you will take back all of your original karmic hindrances. The Sutra of Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows is clear that righteous knowledge (gurus and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas) can block hindrances to your Buddhist practice, but this doesn’t eliminate them. It is like there is an obstacle that you haven’t noticed, and they are telling you to be careful, and to lift your legs higher. But this doesn’t remove the obstacle. And if you change your mind and go back, you won’t see it, and it will trip you.”

“Thus, what I do doesn’t get rid of your bad karma. If that were the case, then I could just tell His Holiness that I’ll keep giving him offerings, and ask that he let me live out my life in comfort. Taking refuge is about making a commitment to hearing and practicing the Dharma. Your guru can help you block bad things from happening, but you must diligently practice the Dharma in order to turn your karma around. You must not have any second thoughts. Perhaps you’ll come across a really handsome man, but have to stay away from him because he eats meat, and think that if you’d known sooner, you wouldn’t have taken refuge. For example, some female disciples have wanted to marry non-vegetarians after taking refuge. And how did that turn out? I wouldn’t say they are miserable, but they aren’t very happy.”

“In other religions, you have to marry from within your own faith. So then, why do you Buddhists want to marry people from non-Buddhist paths? You think you can change them. But can you change someone after you’ve married yourself to him? If he doesn’t listen to you before you’ve gone all the way, will he once you have? You are truly naive, with the wildest of imaginations! Clearly, this is just your desire. You just like this person, and yet you come up with all these excuses about wanting to liberate him. Where do you get this idea? You can’t even liberate yourself. So ladies, think things through before coming up to take refuge.”

“Even if I ask that you get your husband’s permission to take refuge and he grants it, if he is going to expect you to cook meat, then don’t bother taking refuge. The Chinese New Year is coming up, and if your in-laws ask you to cook up non-vegetarian meals and you end up fighting over it, and they call you superstitious, don’t blame me! Is it okay for a vegetarian to cook meat for others? But of course, you will come running to me saying you had no choice because you didn’t want to upset your mother-in-law.”

“Some of the new disciples don’t know this, so let me explain. When I became a vegetarian, I first went a year without eating meat before taking refuge. At that time, I suddenly couldn’t eat meat without throwing up. My wife was upset, thinking that not eating meat isn’t manly, and so I vomited in front of her. Would you go this far? Of course not, because you would feel embarrassed. Some male disciples think they can convince their girl friends to become vegetarian after they are married. But if you’re going to be like this, then don’t take refuge.”

“And another thing: don’t run around courting one another in my Buddhist Center after taking refuge. It is not that you aren’t allowed to date, but be more consistent about who you are seeing, okay? I just recently had a male disciple leave, and everyone knows about what happened in Ladakh. I didn’t even know he had been courting ladies at the Buddhist Center, and even had his sights set on multiple women.”

“But if you are married, you cannot date other disciples without first getting a divorce. Otherwise, if you start dating despite being married, you are violating the precept of sexual conduct. And even if you don’t date, but are just making eyes at other disciples, the sutras say this is spiritual adultery, and this is also sexual misconduct. So make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before taking refuge. Don’t say I didn’t warn you after it’s already too late. I’ve been clear about everything, unlike some other Dharma masters who are shy about saying certain things — I’ve told you everything.”

“You must understand that after you take refuge, you are not allowed to borrow money from your Dharma brothers. If you really can’t get by, you can report to the Buddhist Center council, and they will tell me. And if it is a manifestation of your karmic hindrances, I will help you get by. But I won’t support you going through this life without having to work.”

“Why is it I don’t allow exchanges of money? Because if I allow this at the Buddhist Center, sooner or later, something will happen, and people will start arguing. I don’t even let people who lend money stick around. You have money to lend, and yet you aren’t putting it toward offerings, because you want to make connections that you might be able to use to your benefit. There are all kinds of twisted ways of thinking in this Age of Dharma Decline.”

“After taking refuge, you will be the one’s using the Buddhist Center, and all disciples must contribute to the upkeep of the Buddhist Center each month. The Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center is special in that we don’t want to accumulate too much money. We aim only to have just enough, otherwise money brings on problems. Don’t come around and say you sincerely want to make a 100,000+ NTD offering to the Buddhist Center. This absolutely won’t be allowed, and I will return it to you. People have tried this in the past. But if the Buddhist Center has too much money, I don’t know who will take responsibility for it after I die, so this can’t be allowed. All of you disciples are responsible for the Buddhist Center’s spending. But it doesn’t matter how much you contribute, and you don’t need to overextend yourselves. The Buddhist Center’s monthly expenses are public and transparent, and I personally take nothing from the Buddhist Center. The new disciples may not know this, but I got this building cheap, well below market price, and I could have easily sold it to the Association for an extra 30,000 NTD per square-meter. But I didn’t, nor did I have my name put on it, so as to be fair to you. You have told me there is still time to put the Buddhist Center under my name, but I am not falling for it.”

“The Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center teaches the Dharma to you all, and uses the Dharma to benefit vast numbers of sentient beings. And it does this all cleanly, without any hand-waving like holding lamp-lighting events, enlisting huge benefactors, and setting up holiday celebrations. The lantern-lighting in the sutras isn’t like this. It says nothing about giving people things or letting them get on stage to applause for making certain offerings.”

“I don’t want to hear any more complaints about how you have to contribute money to learn the Dharma. It is perfectly reasonable to ask you to share the expenses of our facilities, and we don’t even try to do things like charge you per class, or for each meeting with Rinpoche. On a different note, you can choose to make offerings to me or not to. This is your own decision. It is not as though I will only recognize you if you have a lot of money. But if you seldom approach me, I won’t remember you. I have a lot of disciples, and sometimes I will see someone and say: ‘Who are you? I don’t think I’ve seen you before.’ You must understand these things before taking refuge. And if you don’t understand, then don’t come up here. We will call out names, and only those who are called may come up. You are not allowed to come up here if your name hasn’t been called.”

“Buddhist refuge ceremonies are simple, but dignified. Only a guru who upholds his precepts and follows True Dharma can grant you refuge. And there are great benefits to refuge, which primarily fit into eight categories. But there are also things you can’t do after taking refuge, and so I will first clarify this for everyone.”

At this time, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche began conducting the refuge ceremony for the 26 believers, and revealed: “The meaning of the sutra reading just now was that we must pay homage to our guru jewel, the sites of all Dharma and teachings, who have the ability to bring about all auspicious causes for the peace and happiness of sentient beings. The purpose of refuge is to pursue liberation from the cycle of life and death, and those who wish to take the vow of refuge must think of evil-path reincarnation as hellfire. Thus, the point of refuge is to imagine reincarnation on the Three Evil Realms as terrifying as hell. The guru of the precepts of refuge sits atop the high throne. We must be reverent before the Three Jewels, and make offerings before the guru, with our hands clasped, respectfully.

“To take refuge, one must uphold the five precepts of the laity, and likewise, all of the precepts of the Dharma start from these five.”

“In a moment, everyone will take turns coming up, and I will cut off a small tuft of hair from each of your heads. This ritual doesn’t exist in Exoteric Buddhism, but it does in the Tibetan tradition. This cutting of hair symbolizes that from the time you take refuge, you will start being cut off from your vexations, and be given the causes to become ordained in a future life.”

“After I cut your hair, I will give you a certificate of refuge. In the center of it is the Dharma photo of Lord Jigten Sumgon. To the left of that is my root guru His Holiness, and to the right is my own Dharma photo. The symbol above Founder Lord Jigten Sumgon is the Drikung Kagyu logo, and Shakyamuni Buddha is on the other side. We are taking refuge in Shakyamuni Buddha, as it was he who transmitted the Dharma of our current era. The Dharma name of your refuge guru is printed on your certificates as well. I will select a Dharma name for each of you and write in the date of your refuge myself. If you fill these parts in on your own, you will be expelled.”

“The first line of the refuge prayer is: ‘I take refuge in my guru.’ One cannot study the Dharma without a guru to rely on. Next, it says: ‘Do no evil.’ This is the central point of all Dharma; we must not do even the least bit of evil. ‘Pursue all good,’ means we must follow all of the ways of righteousness the Buddhas teach us. ‘Purify the mind,’ means that so long as you do these two things, your mind will naturally become purified. ‘These are the Buddhas’ teachings,’ means that these are the most important parts of what the Buddhas teach. Thus, purifying the mind isn’t about how much time you spend reading sutras, or reciting mantras. Everyone will get a certificate of refuge, and it will follow you for the rest of your life. When you die, however, do not have it burned in your coffin with you. If you can pass on your certificate to the next generation when you die, it will be of even greater use than the memorial tablet.”

Rinpoche then proceeded to perform the refuge hair-cutting ritual for the 26 believers amidst Vajrasattva mantra recitations.

Then, Rinpoche continued teaching the Ratnakuta Sutra.

Sutra: “Sever ties from all delusion and discrimination. Right thought follows, for right speech and revealing the Dharma.”

“These two phrases are important for those who want to teach the Dharma. What is delusion? When your thoughts depart from benefiting sentient beings, emptiness, compassion, and the teachings of the Buddha and your guru. For instance, thinking that if you spend more time doing recitations, you will gain the blessings of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, and that you will unlock wisdom and can liberate sentient beings. Or thinking that if you recite the mantras differently, you can liberate beings in a shorter period of time. Delusion refers to that which is different from what the sutras tell you, and what your guru teaches you. You are all deluded. This is an admonishment from the Buddha. Delusion doesn’t mean thinking of random nonsense. For the ordained, for example, if one’s thoughts depart from the teachings of the sutras or one’s guru, that is delusion, and that goes for you the laity too. I once had a disciple who used to do really well as a nurse. Then, one day she was suddenly offered reassignment to the hospital delivery room. She came to me, and asked: ‘Rinpoche, there’s an opening in the delivery room. Am I allowed to do this? I’ll be making a few extra thousand (NTD).’ In fact, after hearing it, I didn’t feel like talking to her. What happens in delivery rooms? Abortions! The fact that she came to me with this for a few extra thousand NTD means she doesn’t believe in cause and effect, and is deluded.”

“When you don’t listen to what your guru teaches and the sutras say, everything you do falls within the scope of delusion. And when you are deluded, your mind naturally gives rise to discrimination. What kind of people harbors discrimination? People who are conceited. What is conceit? Thinking you are doing better in your practice compared to others, or that you do recitations better, or that a certain sound or pronunciation is better. Have you forgotten what the Buddha teaches? The Buddha teaches us not to be conceited, even in the slightest bit. Those with conceit lose all of their merits in the blink of an eye. It is very subtle. Why is it that both the ordained and the laity must take time each day to calm their minds, and think about everything they’ve done? Because your delusions are constantly stirring, every second of every day. Once you have taken refuge, you rely on your precepts to know if you have given rise to delusion in action, speech, or thought, or if you have said or done anything wrong. And without these precepts, your mind and thoughts would run wild, thinking that you need this, or have achieved something on your own, and so on.”

“The most important function of the Dharma is that it can be used to examine the self — but not to examine others. When it comes to the actions of others, for now, you are incapable of persuading or changing other people. Earlier, the Buddha said that you must first make offerings before you can embrace others. What does ‘embrace’ mean? To pull people in like a magnet. And how does the Dharma embrace others? Compassion. What is compassion? Those who want for nothing have compassion. Why is it you ordained don’t have what it takes to take on disciples of your own? Because you lack compassion. And how can you embrace others without compassion? How is it you came to be here? Because I am just that remarkable? It is because I have cultivated compassion, and attained emptiness, and thus have pulled you in like a magnet. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas strengthen this force, pulling you in so that you listen. What is being ‘brought in?’ Acceptance. Of what? Acceptance of the Dharma. What does it mean when one is un-embraceable? It means that you don’t feel sense of compassion, and thus cannot be brought in. Why did the Buddha say that those without the karmic connection cannot be liberated? Because they cannot feel the force of this compassion. They feel only what is pleasant. They want their guru to always say what they want to hear, and so these people cannot be embraced.”

“Why is it I am so clear and direct about everything from the time you first take refuge, telling you that you will be admonished and scolded? Why? How could I teach you properly without admonishing you? Think about it: who was never yelled at growing up? And even if no one in your family yelled at you, you were reprimanded at school. And even if you were never admonished as a child, you get yelled out once you enter society as an adult. Why is there so much conflict in society today? Because no one wants to be scolded. Why are there so many deaths every day? People die in car accidents every day. The percentage is terrifying; there are only 23 million people in Taiwan. When I went to Japan, there wasn’t news about deaths from car accidents every day. But in Taiwan, people love fighting over everything, and will die just to try to win one or two seconds over somebody. Everyone is always fighting every day, and Taiwanese society is very violent nowadays. And so, if we want to save ourselves, our families, and this society, we must rely on the compassion of the Dharma.”

“When you give rise to delusion, you start wanting to fight with others, and discriminating. What is discrimination? Thinking that you are always right is discrimination, and thinking you are never wrong is discrimination. And trying to say that that wasn’t what you meant is also discrimination. So then, what did you mean? Why is it that wasn’t what you meant? Because you think you have been harmed, attacked, and misunderstood. Even Shakyamuni Buddha has been misunderstood and criticized. So who do you think you are, not letting yourself be criticized? If you don’t let your guru reprimand you, you will never be able to get rid of your haughtiness and arrogance, because your attachment to the self is too strong. Those who are strongly attached to the self inevitably trend toward doing bad things, and even irreversible wicked deeds. Due to your attachment to the self, you think you shouldn’t be harmed, or lose out on anything. I often say that people will take anything they can except a loss. But accepting a bit of loss will not hurt you, and so your guru will teach you how to do this.”

“You disciples who have taken refuge longer can recall. Before, you never wanted to lose out on anything. But now that you can accept loss, don’t you find there are no longer any problems between you and your coworkers? Whether you get promoted is up to your karmic fortune, but at the very least your social bonds have improved. Why is it that your parents have gradually found that you have changed? Because you’ve started accepting loss, whereas before, you might get upset at the things your parents said. Thus, your guru takes special measures to deal with these types of thoughts — your delusions. Those without delusions naturally are not discriminating, and do not discriminate between whether they are right and others are wrong. But when one goes on being discriminating, it leads to fights.”

“Why is it there are deadly car accidents every day? Because people who speed think they are in the right, and so they crash. Many of my disciples have been in car accidents, but none die. Why do they get into accidents? Because they haven’t gotten a handle on their killing karma from their past lives. They think that taking refuge would allow them to live comfortably, and thus haven’t become totally repentant. When you think taking refuge is about having a good life, things happen. But as you have taken refuge, you don’t die from these accidents. Tantric Buddhism has this ability to protect its disciples. Since 1997, no disciple from the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center has died from an accident. But many have been in car accidents. Why? Because they lacked repentance, and the will to make offerings, and because they only listened to their guru when they felt like it.”

“All intrusions that depart from the Dharma are delusion. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t live your lives, and think about what you are going to make for dinner for your husband. This isn’t what I mean, so don’t misunderstand: that is not a delusion. Delusion refers to when one thinks about his actions, and is constantly trying to figure out what will benefit him and what won’t. This is delusion. But when you use your precepts to evaluate your actions, you will know what self-interested acts will cause you to break your vows, and thus know not do those things. What is being a Buddhist? Being more mindful. That doesn’t mean thinking about a bunch of things, but rather that we must use the Dharma and our precepts to examine every matter and thought. This way, you will always be reducing the chances that you will create new bad karma, until you no longer do. You won’t need anyone to say you have changed, and yet, naturally, your social bonds will improve, because you introspect before doing anything.”

“But won’t this make everything take too much time? No. You just need to get used to it. It will be hard work at first, but gradually, you will find that something someone says that once would have made you angry no longer does, even when said by the same person. What does this mean? It means your delusions are gone, and you no longer think you are being attacked, or bullied. And when this happens, happiness naturally manifests. Happiness isn’t your desires. Rather, it is defined as when one’s vexations lessen, and he thus becomes happy. Why is it we become vexed? Because we want everything, and are never satisfied. When we have something, we want more, and every day we are hoping people will treat us better. This is an abundance of vexations, and it is delusion. And, likewise, this is something that our laity regularly does, and even the ordained do this now too.”

“What is delusion according to the definition the Buddha gave for the ordained? It is any thought unrelated to cultivation. What is cultivation? Correcting behaviors that will cause you to reincarnate. When you give rise to delusion, you discriminate. And when you discriminate, you are incapable of empty compassion. Compassion is indiscriminate. It is not about discriminating — only being good to people who treat you well, and not being good to those who do not. And giving major benefactors special treatment, and not treating others as well is also discrimination. Why isn’t there special seating for major benefactors at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center? Because I am training myself not to be discriminating. If we had special seating for major benefactors, I would naturally pay extra attention to them, and I fear they would wonder why, and start thinking about this and that.”

“Have you ever seen special seating for major benefactors at our grand pujas? No. There is only special seating for honored guests. Why? Because they aren’t disciples. They are regular believers. They help out certain things at the Buddhist Center, and so we give them better seating as a sign of respect. But they certainly are not major benefactors. The Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center isn’t the kind of Buddhist Center that gives those with money or official titles special treatment. Many of my disciples are government officials, and they don’t get special seating either.”

“Delusion truly has a major impact on one’s practice. And in the future, when the ordained go into seclusion, they will especially need to understand their delusion. When you stray from the methods of escaping the cycle of reincarnation, everything can be said to be delusion.”

“‘Right thought follows, for right speech and revealing the Dharma.’ When you cut yourself off from delusion, and no longer give rise to discrimination, right thought follows, and this reveals True Dharma for one to deliver to sentient beings in speech. This phrase from the sutras is an admonishment: you are filled with delusion and discrimination, and yet you want to lecture on the Dharma? It tells us that if one isn’t of right thought, he or she cannot reveal the True Dharma that follows from right thought. That is to say: I am currently revealing the Dharma; however, if I was discriminating and deluded, I wouldn’t be able to understand the direction of the ideas expressed by the Buddha, and thus naturally would make mistakes. One must be of right thought to speak on the Dharma in accordance with what the Buddha expressed. And so, in simple terms, without experience in cultivation, it is dangerous to ascend the Dharma throne to teach, as you will mislead others.”

Sutra: “This is called right speech.”

“Only then is expounding on the Dharma right speech. Listen closely: right speech isn’t reciting ‘Amitabha Buddha’ every day. One must first cut oneself off from all delusion and discrimination, and be of right thought. What is right thought? Thinking about your life through the lens of all of the ways of compassion and escaping the cycle of life and death taught by the Buddha, and having your actions, speech, and thought follow this line of thinking so that you can reveal the Dharma. ‘Revealing’ isn’t about helping you unleash your grievances and worries, but rather is about understanding the true meaning of the Dharma spoken by the Buddha. If you are filled with delusion, worrying about this and that every day, and then your boss tells you to do something, and you say you don’t know how, then what right do you have to your salary? This is like how when some people study the Dharma, and then say they don’t know what they did was wrong. That is wrong thought. What is wrong thought? You are wrong to begin with! If you weren’t, you’d be a Buddha! Yet you say you don’t know, thinking you are a good person for taking refuge. But you just want to be better than others! And that is wrong thought.”

“Taking refuge gives you a track, a direction, and something to rely on so that you can know how to make adjustments, and self-correct. But it doesn’t instantly transform you, or give you a comfortable life or good fortune, or make everyone treat you better. Studying the Dharma doesn’t create change in an instant; rather, the effect of the Dharma gradually accumulates. Why? Because if you had the right root capacity already, you would have long since become cultivated beyond belief. But when you don’t have the right root capacity, you should of course instead gradually build it up. For example: our monthly wages are limited, so then how is it we save up money? Bit by bit! We have to still live our lives day by day, but at the very least we can take a little bit off from the top!”

“As a member of the laity, practicing Buddhism doesn’t interfere with your work, or your relationships with your spouse or children. But you gradually save up. For instance, before you might have cursed at you children, damning them, but now you don’t do this anymore. That is savings. And before, you might have yelled at your husband, but now do not, and that is a bit of savings too. What are you saving? Karmic fortune. One must have karmic fortune to unlock wisdom. Everything we say affects our karmic fortune, and our every action and thought can change it too. But this happens slowly; it can’t be done in a mere instant.”

“Don’t think your prince charming will show up as soon as you take refuge. This is wrong, too. And if your prince charming showed up as soon as you took refuge, that would be very bad for you. Prince charming comes from a Western fairy tale, and Westerners eat meat. You’ll never hear of a vegetarian Westerner — there are some now, but there certainly didn’t used to be. So what does it mean when a prince charming shows up? That you are going to be married to someone who eats meat. Is this a good thing? Think about it. If someone you really like suddenly appears, I warn you, be careful. This could be an obstacle come to take you away from the Dharma, so that you are happy when you marry him, but end up terribly resentful.”

“‘This is called right speech,’ means that when we speak the Dharma without having cultivated ourselves to fruition, we cannot cut ourselves off from delusion and discrimination, and thus the Dharma we speak is not right speech. Even if you can come up with the Buddhist terms from the sutras, you are nothing but a tape recorder set on repeat. You are incapable of explaining the meaning behind them, because you are deluded and discriminating. Why is it I always recite the Great Six-Syllable Mantra before pujas? To help cut you off from your delusions and discrimination, so that you can focus better, and listen to the Dharma teachings for the next two hours.”

“Why is it you achieve better fixity at the Buddhist Center? It is not because the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas grant you fixity when you enter, but rather because my mantras are working, and cutting off your delusion and discrimination. This is why you can maintain fixity and listen for so long. How else could you, given your habits? This is all based on what it says here. If my mantras didn’t work, I wouldn’t be able to help you cut off your delusions and discrimination. And only when they are cut off can one enter tranquility and fixity. Otherwise, how could one be at peace when filled with delusion? And when you are unable to enter tranquility, you naturally discriminate. But if you can cut yourself off from some of your delusion, and discriminate less, your mind will naturally be purer. And your mind must be pure to achieve fixity, and allow you to listen. Otherwise, how could you go on listening?”

“Everything I do is for you, otherwise, I wouldn’t have to do so much! I recite the Great Six-Syllable Mantra because I know you are filled with delusion. Before you enter the Center, your minds are preoccupied, thinking about this and that. So then why is it that you suddenly can achieve fixity when you enter? Because your guru is accomplished, and has the ability to help you. I don’t rely on threats or temptation. Can my recitation of mantras really be effective? Of course it can! Because the mantra is pure, and pure mantras can help your minds to regain their original purity, thus allowing you to go on listening. The definition of right speech is that you have cut off your own delusion and discrimination, and the Dharma spoken from your right thought is right speech.”

Sutra: “Eliminate karma exhaustively and to perfection. This is called right karma.”

“Using one’s practice to eliminate all good and bad karma to perfection is right karma. Some explain ‘right karma’ as refraining from violating the five precepts, and the precepts of the ordained. But the Buddha is clear: if you have even a little bit of good or bad karma that you have yet to repay, you cannot attain Buddhahood. Of course, you will ask me: do I have to repay my good karma too? Of course. How? When you perform good deeds, you may have the slightest desire for recognition or repayment. For example, thinking: ‘Does he know I helped him?’ Or: ‘I’ve done so much for the Buddhist Center, but does Rinpoche know this?’ This is out-flowing good karma, and out-flowing good karma results in positive karmic effect. If this effect manifests, it hinders us from attaining Buddhahood, and escaping the cycle of life and death. Thus, this means: doing good without making it known. This is what the ancient peoples taught us, and this is what we call hidden merit. Unless the purpose is to bring someone in to study the Dharma, you need not let others know of your good deeds. It is like how I do so much for others without them knowing. As long as I have good intention in my heart, I have done a good deed, as I am not asking for anything in return.”

“Last week, I said that making donations so that you can have your name engraved in pillars or tiles is expectation of recognition and repayment. And what does this repayment mean? It means the good karmic effect you originally would have had from your donation is depleted. Every day, people read your name, saying this pillar belongs to so-and-so, and each time this happens, your karmic fortune shrinks. A lot of people don’t get this. They think that they can just look at it every day, and think: ‘Look, it’s my pillar.’ But what is the purpose of this? When you die, will your ashes be buried under that pillar? Impossible. But every time someone passes by and says: ‘This pillar was donated by so-and-so,’ you lose karmic fortune. And for a practitioner, it isn’t good to spend karmic fortune like this, because then you can’t use it for your cultivation, as you are using it on mundane affairs. This is what we call fame. One gains fame because of karmic reward, and one cannot be famous without karmic fortune even if he tries.”

“This comes from the concept that good deeds result in good karma. But if we do good without expecting anything in return, the resulting karma won’t intervene in our practices. It will help us to become cultivated, but in a very subtle way. I often say that I don’t even remember all of the things I’ve done for the Order. Why? Because I do not cling to these things. It is enough that I have done them. But I don’t remember how much money I’ve spent or anything, nor do I keep records. And when I do good in this way, my good karma is exhausted, and brought to perfection. What is perfected? I transform this good karma to help me in my practice rather than letting it benefit me in the ways of the mundane. It is like how I found land for the construction of the temple, as well as an architect to help me design it. This is karmic fortune. How could I have done these things without karmic fortune? Because I always use this Karmic fortune to benefit sentient beings, it naturally manifests in my Dharma activities. The karmic fortune I get in my daily life is extra. I need not seek this mundane karmic fortune — it occurs naturally. I don’t need to purposefully seek it out or talk about it.”

“We have to understand how to eliminate and cleanse karma. And that doesn’t just mean repenting every day. I said it when you took refuge: ‘Do no evil, pursue all good.’ This severs bad karma. You must not do any evil — or even think about doing anything bad — in order to stop your bad karma from growing, and repay all of your previous debts of bad karma in this lifetime. ‘Pursue all good,’ means doing all good that one can immediately, without waiting. What does pursue mean? Taking action upon knowing, unlike those disciples who took their time when I said I was going to have a temple built. That isn’t pursuing. Why didn’t they pursue this? Because of all kinds of strange, twisted ways of thinking. ‘Do no evil, pursue all good’ — this is essential for cultivating good karma.”

“As a disciple of the Buddha, all of your actions, speech, and thoughts should trend toward good, regardless of what will benefit you. As you are a Buddhist disciple, your actions, thoughts, and speech are naturally different from those who haven’t taken refuge, because you are no longer creating bad karma, and are moving toward goodness. These are the instincts and standards of a Buddhist disciple. You shouldn’t listen and do good because you want a comfortable life, nor should you uphold your precepts for this reason. You have taken refuge, and so, of course there are standards for disciples who have taken refuge. Can you just live life the way you used to? Yelling at people when you wake up in a bad mood, and getting into fights with whoever gives you the wrong look when you go out? These aren’t the ways of a Buddhist disciple. These two phrases are simple, but it takes hard work to put them into practice. Right karma isn’t just avoiding engaging in killing, though a lot of people say this.” At this time, an ordained disciple agreed: “This is true.”

Rinpoche revealed: “That isn’t what the Buddha said. The Buddha said that we must eliminate all karma exhaustively and to perfection. And although difficult, we must do this to be of right karma. Everything you do in the world creates karmic forces that can make you reincarnate, escape the cycle of life and death, or even attain Buddhahood. So then, how do we transform our deeds in the mundane world into right karma? ‘Do no evil, pursue all good.’ These two phrases eliminate karma exhaustively and to perfection, and this is right karma. The Ratnakuta Sutra is really difficult to explain. You have been ordained for many years, and yet I don’t even know where your karma is. Shakyamuni Buddha spoke with so much compassion, thus his Dharma is difficult to explain.”

Sutra: “Sever karmic habits. This is called right living.”

“This is another admonishment from the Buddha. He says to eliminate all habits accumulated in good and bad. This doesn’t mean your daily living habits, but rather habits you develop due to manifested karmic effect. For example, those who have practiced and made offerings in past lives may take on behaviors of the wealthy due to accumulated good karma. There are two types of wealthy behaviors: being extremely stingy, and being extremely arrogant. And government officials may do this too. The Ratnakuta Sutra tells us to use the Dharma to teach officials not to be arrogant, otherwise they will fall to the Three Evil Realms. Government officials serve the public, and this allows them to accumulate great karmic fortune. But they shouldn’t use their positions to bully citizens, and especially not to engage in corruption.”

“These two phrases mean that you should use the Dharma to cut you off from the results you think that you want. ‘A good husband, a good wife, obedient children.’ These are all fruits of your past karma, and yet you cling to them. And unless you are cut off from them, you will never be able to change your habits. You are living this life for a husband, wife, or children. You constantly busy yourself for an occupation, and other attachments. So then, how can these two phrases cut you off from these things? With the Ten Meritorious Acts, and the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas. Only these may tear us away from the habits our accumulated lifetimes of good and bad karma have created. And so, for example, if you are wealthy, do not be arrogant. And do not be arrogant if you are a government official, or you are the big boss, or you get promoted to general manager. What is there to be arrogant about? These are just the fruits of your karmic fortune. But these kinds of results give rise to arrogant habits. For example, like when people do particularly well in a certain field, and they sometimes become conceited, thinking they are experts. This is a kind of habit.”

“‘Sever karmic habits. This is called right living,’ means that if you were born and became ordained in this lifetime, that is nothing to be arrogant about. Why? Because that is a vow you took in a past life. You cultivated in a past life, and so this is nothing but your karmic effect. When the ordained are arrogant, they become incapable of breaking these kinds of habits, and severing this kind of karmic retribution. Thus, that is not right living. What is right living? We are given lives on this earth not for status or wealth, moral families, or good health, but rather, these things all come from our karmic fortunes, and are the fruits of our actions from past lives.”

“What is right living? We have our lives so that we can learn the Dharma, and cut ourselves off from the Three Evil Realms. It is like when you took refuge, you were asked to ponder falling to the Three Evil Realms, and the hellfire-like seas of suffering of reincarnation. Only with this kind of thinking can you live your life rightly. But if you take refuge and practice the Dharma so that you can live comfortably, that is not right living. It is wicked living. And then, although you have taken refuge, as soon as something happens, you will leave the Center. I want to emphasize this again: I do not forbid you from doing business, getting married, or having children. Rather, what I mean is: as you have taken refuge, you must understand how you are meant to use your lives. You rely on the Dharma, and all that the Buddha and your guru teach to create a new life. And you should not waste this new life to enjoy the mundane happiness, but rather use it to cut yourself off from the cycle of reincarnation and attain Buddhahood. And by doing this, you can stop clinging to all kinds of mundane ways of thinking.”

“That doesn’t mean rejecting or stopping ourselves from doing the mundane, but rather ceasing constant pursuit of it. We cannot be Buddhist disciples if we are constantly pursuing desires. Your attitude should be: ‘I’m happy either way,’ because you believe in karma, and cause and effect, and only in this way can your vexations taper. Why do we constantly stress over things? Because we are always trying to get what we want. And when we can’t, our thoughts become chaotic, and we even become destructive, doing whatever we can to try to get what we want. And then vexations come, as well as other problems, and all kinds of suffering follows. Right living is more than just not eating meat and reciting the Buddha’s name every day. We have to understand how we are meant to use our lives. We live our lives in the tracks of our karmic conditions — conditions created by accumulated past lives, as well as new conditions. But we should not fight to try to accomplish things we lack the ability for.”

“You must have a reason to fight for something — not just fighting for it because you want it. But I am also not telling you not to fight for anything. The main point is: ‘Are you fighting for sentient beings, or for yourself?’”

“For example, I had to fight to get the government to let me build the temple. Of course, one must obey the law. But even then, it is a struggle. For example, when the government drags its feet, I have to fight, because this is not for me, but for sentient beings. This kind of fighting is okay. And having a taxi take you up the mountain to see the temple is also a deed for sentient beings. So don’t think that being a practitioner is about having no concerns in the world. We fight for one purpose: to ‘benefit sentient beings.’”

“People often say to me: ‘I don’t know how to manage people,’ and ‘I never learned that.’ This is not fighting. If I give you something to do, you must do it. That is what fighting is. This isn’t so that you can live your days out in peace. The days of immortals are over. Do you want to live like immortals? Even if you make it to the heavens, you have to answer to the Jade Emperor. Only when we realize Buddhahood and are no longer pulled by the forces of karma can we be liberated and at ease. But even if you become an immortal in the heavens, you will still have karma, and will still be controlled by karma.”

“Many people just want pleasant, worry-free lives in the mundane world. But ask yourself, what good have you done in this life? Not in your past lives, but in this life. What does worry-free mean? You must let others be free of worry to be worry-free in this life. You have done so much that you shouldn’t have in the past — how could you possibly live worry-free, tranquil, at peace, and unbothered by anyone? If this happened, His Holiness and I would have long since retired. Every day, we are bothered by sentient beings. As soon as they see us, they want things — they ask for this and that. So then, why is it we keep on going? It has nothing to do with whether or not they have money. Rather, it is because these sentient beings are suffering, and so we must help them. But this doesn’t mean satisfying their desires.”

“And so, the explanations of right living, right karma, and right speech in the Ratnakuta Sutra are of a whole other level. This is because the Ratnakuta Sutra teaches practice on the Bodhisattva Path, and this belongs to a different level from the explanations of right living, right karma, and right speech spoken of in the other sutras. No matter how hard you thought, you couldn’t come up with the meaning of right speech: Dharma spoken after cutting oneself off from all delusion and discrimination. You ordained disciples have never heard this, right? Why not?” An ordained disciple answered: “No, because we haven’t cultivated Mahamudra.”

Rinpoche said: “Mahamudra is not about this either. Don’t try to fool me. The Ratnakuta Sutra teaches the laity and the ordained practicing on the Bodhisattva Path that, as Bodhisattvas, their ways of thinking and their definitions of their futures must be different from ordinary people. Of course, you will say: ‘But we don’t want to become Bodhisattvas.’ But this isn’t about what you want. What matters is that I teach the Bodhisattva Path. The Buddha teaches us the Bodhisattva Path, and I teach you based on what the Buddha taught. Whether or not you can become a Bodhisattva is your own business. But your thoughts and actions must be like those of a Bodhisattva if you want to remain at this Buddhist Center.”

“If I didn’t teach the Bodhisattva Path, it would be so easy for me to just teach worshiping the Buddha, reciting the sutras, making offerings, and lighting lamps. We don’t teach those things here. We teach the Ratnakuta Sutra. I’ve practiced the Bodhisattva Path since I first started learning the Dharma. Perhaps it is bad luck that you have come here instead of somewhere else, where they will put you on a pedestal. But I don’t do that here, because the Buddha doesn’t put me on a pedestal. He doesn’t even now, as I sit on the Dharma throne to speak the Dharma, because I am not qualified for his praise yet.”

“This section refers to all matters of Bodhisattva’s actions, speech, and thoughts. The point isn’t whether or not you can do these things, but rather whether or not you accept them. You naturally won’t be able to meet this standard if you don’t accept them. Many people think: ‘You have to bless and protect me, because I practice the Dharma.’ But you are not a great benefactor, why should I bless you? If you were a great benefactor, then everyone at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center including myself would rely on you, and so, of course I would bless you, and recite mantras for you daily. But have you done this? No. So who do you think you are? I do not discriminate. I respect you if you are wealthy, and even more so if you are poor. Are you trying to force me to discriminate? Impossible. If I discriminated, I wouldn’t be capable of equal compassion for all, and then how would I liberate others? When I liberate others, there are sentient beings I’ve never met, and some have never even given me offerings. But I still liberate them.”

“When you practice Buddhism, you have to understand what Dharma it is your guru transmits. I teach the Bodhisattva Path, and the ways of acting, thinking, and speaking of Bodhisattvas. And although you aren’t capable of doing these things, you must accept this Dharma method, and you must not criticize me. Only a real oddball can be a Bodhisattva; it isn’t possible for a normal person. Why is this? Because I want for nothing. Try this. Sometimes, I don’t accommodate you, but rather see that you have the slightest bit of virtuous roots, and so give you an opportunity. But I don’t yield to you. When you have virtuous roots, even if tiny as a speck of dust, I still give you chances. But giving you an opportunity means you have to listen. It isn’t flattering you, or giving you a nice, comfortable life. If I just said what you wanted to hear, you would forever be incapable.”

“Today’s teaching of the Ratnakuta Sutra explained the meaning of right living, right karma, and right speech for practicing on the Bodhisattva Path. You must understand the Eight-fold Path of Righteousness in order to practice on the Bodhisattva Path. So don’t talk anymore nonsense about the sounds being different for the Vajra Chant. I used the Vajra Chant just now. Could you not tell?” An ordained disciple replied: “One cannot recite the Vajra Chant without compassion.” Another answered: “Without meditation, one’s mind is filled with delusion.”

Rinpoche revealed: “The year is coming to an end. And as you have given me a year of offerings, I will give you a bit of teaching. The Vajra Chant isn’t as you imagine, with a mind free of delusion and so on. Anyone with a human body will inevitably have delusion, ideas, and thoughts, because as long as you are breathing, you are thinking. When we breathe, vitality stirs in our bodies, and as it does, our consciousnesses stir too. Our minds are not used to stillness, and our consciousnesses carry our minds away. Whether we speak of compassion or delusion, what is most important for the Vajra Chant is Tantra. Those who have not cultivated Yogatantra do not have what it takes to recite the Vajra Chant. And what is the most important use of the Vajra Chant? Stopping one’s breathing. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but each section of a string of beads has 27 beads. Can you do 27 recitations without breathing? No. So then, what is the idea behind this? If I can do 27 recitations in one breath, and haven’t had any thoughts for 27 recitations, then I have done the Vajra Chant. But when a mundane thought arises, that isn’t Bodhisattva thought.”

“Bodhisattvas do not stir with thoughts. So then, why is it Bodhisattvas can sense? It is because of the reverent prayers and repentance of sentient beings that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can attune themselves to sentient beings; otherwise, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas wouldn’t, because their thoughts are not stirred. Given a Buddha’s fruition, he is completely still, never moving; a Buddha is tranquil. And so, we must start with the Vajra Chant, training ourselves to reduce our breathing. The fewer thoughts you have, the faster your mind will enter into purity. And you must enter purity and integrate yourself with the pure mantras of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to benefit sentient beings. Over the past year, you have smelled a certain aroma during my recitations on many occasions. This is spoken of in the sutras. This only happens when one is accomplished; it doesn’t come from burning incense.”

“The sutras first teach us the meanings of right speech, right view, right living, and right karma. This is Exotericism. We have to understand theory to understand the bases that come after— that is, the bases from the Buddha’s theories. The purpose of the Vajra Chant isn’t to show how great I am. It is a tool to benefit sentient beings for the concepts of right living, right speech, and right karma. When one is cultivated to the level of Anuttarayogatantra, even mantras are impermanent. Do not think they are constant. The Diamond Sutra teaches us that one never attains the Dharma. Many people think that Buddhism is about learning all kinds of Dharma in order to succeed. But this isn’t the case. The Buddha teaches us methods.”

“It is like how one needs a boat to cross a river. When you reach the opposite bank, do you still need the boat? The Dharma is the same. Your guru is your helmsman, and the Dharma the boat. When you reach the other shore, your guru disappears, and you no longer need the boat. But before then, we still require this tool. Still, you must not cling to the tool. With the exception of the Marines and their rubber rafts, have you ever seen people running around on the street carrying boats? Perhaps dragon boats, but that is just for a short stretch. In other words, boats are just a tool for us to cross the river. Once we have crossed the river, we no longer require the tool.”

“The fact that I am teaching so much Dharma to you doesn’t mean that you have attained Buddhahood or cultivation. These are the fundamentals. You must use these concepts in your practices so that you don’t wander astray. Without them, invention of your own ideas is delusion. We must abide closely by the sutras, never departing from them. Departure is wrong, and will make you reincarnate on the Three Evil Realms. Today, I talked a bit about how to cultivate the Vajra Chant. This cannot be done before one has cultivated the Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices. And even then, one must also cultivate Yogatantra. The Vajra Chant is essential for a guru, but the average disciple cannot achieve it.”

“Buddhist disciples generally recite mantras to train their minds to be at peace, and remind themselves they are Buddhist disciples, and that they must practice the compassion of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, following in their footsteps to change their futures. This is why we recite mantras. Mantras are integrations of all of the yidams, with the good karma and virtuous roots they’ve cultivated over accumulated lifetimes, as well as their Dharma activities and compassionate will combined together. Don’t look at them as just a few short sounds. When broken down, there are many more sounds within — they are merely compressed. And each day that we recite these mantras, in addition to gaining the blessings of our guru and the yidams, we also remind ourselves that we are Buddhist disciples. We are not transferring these mantras to get others to listen to us — that is cursing people rather than compassion and purity of mind.”

“The back of your Dharma books doesn’t list the effects of every mantra. However, they all state an aspiration for sentient beings to be born to the Buddhaland. And, of course, some also say some things about good health — but this is just for practitioners helping you recite out of compassion. We don’t make this our goal. You must understand the concepts of Exotericism in order to avoid wandering astray in your practice, otherwise there will be dangers. Some have even recited mantras until they’ve gone mad, or psychotic. I’ve seen many such cases. It is because they lack the fundamentals, and are greedy. And when you are greedy, even reciting the Great Six-Syllable Mantra or Amitabha Buddha can make you sick. Why? Because mantras represent compassion, and when you recite without compassion, it is no longer a heart mantra, and instead becomes something else, as your mind has changed it.”

“And so, when you recite mantras in the future, you must understand that you aren’t reciting for something trivial and transient in your present life. Of course, you’ll sometimes experience changes when you recite, but that just means that your virtuous mind has adjusted your aura. It doesn’t mean that that is the key orientation of the mantra. So then, why is it that when I recite mantras, I can alleviate the illnesses of others? Because I act for the suffering of sentient beings, so as to embrace them, and bring them over to learn the Dharma. Otherwise, I wouldn’t.”

“A lot of people come to me when their businesses are failing. But I don’t even perform Jambhala for myself, so why would I for you? There is no way. When your business is suffering, there is always a reason for it. I can analyze the reasons for you, but that doesn’t mean I will help you. I don’t even perform Jambhala for myself, though I have already mastered it. Why not? Because if you are destined for something, you will come by it naturally. And if not, then praying for it means that you will have to give up something in return, and I don’t want that. I only perform Jambhala once a year for you all during the Lunar New Year Puja, because you have given me offerings, and so I want you to have money to continue doing so. But this isn’t to get more money for the Buddhist Center.”

“I don’t perform Jambhala even now that I need money for building the temple. I could perform it every day, but I do not. I leave it up to causal conditions. This is right karma, and right living. Don’t think that Tantra is full of Dharma methods, and so I can perform them every day. I must hold to a certain concept in performing the Dharma: if I help certain people, they will be helpful to the Order and Buddhism in the future, and this is why I am helping them overcome difficulties. I don’t just help anyone. I’ve come across a lot of rich people, and I always ignore them. Their money is from their karmic fortune!”

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

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Updated on February 3, 2020