His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – January 4, 2020

At the outset of the 2020 New Year, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche presided over an “Amitayus Empowerment Puja” at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Kyoto, Japan. This Dharma method was transmitted directly to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche by His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang himself, and is a unique feature of the Drikung Kagyu Order, extremely precious and auspicious. After the “Amitayus Empowerment Puja,” Rinpoche went on to perform an “Amitayus Fire Offering.” Although the Amitayus Fire Offering isn’t part of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Rinpoche specifically implored His Holiness to bestow him with an Amitayus Fire Offering Dharma text so that he may use it to benefit sentient beings of the Six Realms. In this chaotic Age of Dharma Decline, Rinpoche cannot resign himself to leave sentient beings in torment, and thus compassionately bestowed this Amitayus Empowerment, and performed the fire offering puja as offerings to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and in charity to all sentient beings, so as to help them to eliminate their karmic hindrances more quickly, and perfect reserves of merits and wisdom.

On January 4, 2020, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche presided over the auspicious Amitayus Puja and Amitayus Fire Offering at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Kyoto. Among the attendees was Abbot Ogawa Yuushou from Onsenji Temple in Kinosachiko, Japan, and a famous tea ceremony teacher in his 80’s from Kyoto also attended the magnificent puja. Other attendees included 19 believers and 122 disciples from Japan and Taiwan, for a total of 141 individuals. The puja was auspicious and completed to perfection.

The Amitayus Empowerment

At 10 a.m., greeted by music and a jeweled parasol, H. E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was respectfully received by those in attendance, and ascended the Dharma throne. At this time, a light, elegant aroma wafted in the air for a spell — scented like cypress mixed with camphor. After ascending the Dharma throne, Rinpoche bestowed teachings:

“Today, you will be given the Amitayus Empowerment. First, I will explain the significances of the empowerment ritual. Thousands of years ago, in ancient India, when a king passed his throne on to his successor, he would fill a jewel urn with clean water, and pour it over his successor’s head, symbolizing the passing on of the lineage. This same type of ceremony exists in Buddhism, and when we do the empowerment ritual, it signifies that after you are authorized by Amitayus, you can cultivate this yidam. Can you do so without the empowerment? Of course. But you will not be able to achieve cultivation in this lifetime. The empowerment also signifies that we are equipped with the bodies of mortals, and our bodies are created from all of the good and bad karma we have committed in our current and past lives, and so are impure. Thus, through the empowerment, we restore our bodies, speeches, and minds to their original, pure states so that we can receive the blessings and aid of the pure Dharma. Thirdly, the empowerment signifies that you have what it takes to go into seclusion and focus your practice on said yidam. A lot of people think that when they practice Buddhism, they can just recite as much as they want, and worship however they please. But this is wrong. Even when in school, there are rules about how we must study for and take our exams. And so, there are rules for practicing Buddhism too. These rules aren’t the Buddha strictly demanding that we do certain things. Rather, as you want to transform yourself from a mortal to someone capable of cultivation on the Bodhisattva Path, there are many procedures you must go through. And so, the empowerment is one method among these.”

“There are four types of empowerment: Kriyayoga, Charyayoga, Yogatantra, and Anuttarayogatantra. Today, we are performing kriya, or “action.” Here, action means that after you accept empowerment, everything you do will be aligned with the yidam. In other words, you will no longer commit evil. In addition, we are performing Amitayus (Buddha of Longevity) Empowerment because in this chaotic world of ours, no one knows what good and evil they’ve done in their past lives, and we also do all kinds of evil in our current lives, whether intentional or not, such as eating meat and seafood. And so, these things all shorten your lifespans, and make them unstable, wearing away at them. This is all written in the back of Dharma texts.”

“As you receive this empowerment today, if you have already taken refuge in Buddhism and made a commitment to practice the Bodhisattva Path, then Amitayus is your yidam, and he will give you longevity in this life so that you have sufficient time to accumulate the reserves you need to become a Bodhisattva — but not for your own comfort and enjoyment. If you haven’t taken refuge and are a regular believer, receiving this empowerment can make it so that you won’t die from a mishap. Nowadays, there are a lot of deaths from mishaps, not just including from war and car crashes.”

“For instance, two weeks ago, a Taiwanese was bitten by a chigger mite in the mountains, and couldn’t be cured even after being sent to the hospital. When his family came to see me, I told them there was nothing I could do, as all five of his vitals had already been infected by the venom, and suffered organ failure. In other words, he was going to die, all because of a little insect. And even if we don’t go out to the countryside, there are so many trees and weeds around with these kinds of insects. This is dying from a mishap. And there is something else called untimely death. This means dying before your time, such as when a doctor botches a surgery or gives you the wrong medication, and you die as a result. And some people die before their time because of something they’ve eaten. This ritual won’t give you believers longevity, as you aren’t preparing to practice the Dharma, and haven’t taken refuge. A lot of people say they don’t want to take refuge. There are methods in place for those who do not take refuge, just as there are for those who do. For those who haven’t taken refuge, at the most, I can only prevent you from incurring an untimely death. For those who have, with depleted life spans — who perhaps would have lived to 80, but your life spans have been reduced from eating meat, lying and deceit — thanks to the empowerment ritual from this morning and fire offering this afternoon, I can restore your original life spans. I cannot add to them, but I can restore them for you.”

“But how do we know if our life spans have been restored? After the empowerment, those who were ill may improve, and the rest will feel healthier, indicating your life spans have stabilized. We get illnesses when our life spans are out of balance, indicating our life lines are warped and unstable. Why do people have short life spans? Because of bad karma created through action, speech, and thought. A lot of people think, does this mean just saying something can shorten my life? Yes! As does lying, whether your intentions are good or bad. On the surface, it would seem that the human lifespan is particularly long now, but actually the average lifespan is only 70 years old. And what do the sutras say about counting human age? It says we start from 85,000. That is to say, we start out being able to live to 85,000 years of age, and then every 100 years we subtract one year from our age, and keep subtracting until one’s average life span is 10 years of age, then keep adding back to 85,000. This is called a kalpa. Our life spans are constantly growing shorter, and now the average life ends at 70. And although there are outliers who live to be in their 80s or 90s, they are relatively few. On average, people die after living to be approximately 70, because we do too many bad things, and so our lives are getting shorter and shorter.”

“Amitayus is the Sambhogakaya of Amitabha. Just now, I said that if you decide to practice the Bodhisattva Path, the Sambhogakaya must protect, support, and aid you, as he aids all Bodhisattvas. Nirmanakaya, on the other hand, helps ordinary people — reciting mantras, copying scripture, worshipping the Buddha and so on. Thus, Nirmanakaya merely helps to lighten one’s load a bit. But if you want to transform yourself so that you may leave the cycle of life and death and escape the seas of suffering of reincarnation, you need the help of Sambhogakaya. After the empowerment ritual has been performed on you, remember that you must do no more evil. Some people think that it is enough just to worship the Buddha; why should I be vegetarian too? The sutra tells us that eating meat reduces one’s life span, but no one believes that meat and seafood do this; they only believe that they are nutritious. But there are many children in my Buddhist Center who were vegetarian in the womb and have developed better than those who ate meat.”

At this time, Rinpoche began performing a ritual, then recited the following from the Dharma text:

“Mortal world savior the primary yidam Amitayus, an auspicious one who destroys omens of untimely death; Dharma Lord of desolate, suffering sentient beings, I make obeisance before the Buddha of Immeasurable Life.”

Next, Rinpoche led everyone in reciting Amitayus’s heart mantra. After some time, he then continued:

“Just now, it was the Buddha of Immeasurable Life who received our offering. As offerings delight the yidam, we respectfully ask that he blesses us and our guru, adding splendor to our lives and Dharma activities, and extinguishing all hindrances and negative causal conditions. Let all sentient beings be liberated from untimely death, the Eight Great Disasters, and the Sixteen Terrors, and enjoy peaceful years free of drought and the chaos of war. We hope that Amitayus Buddha will extinguish all disasters and untimely death for me and my benefactors, and that our Dharma activities may come to fruition — that is, all that we ask today. Free of wicked causes and adverse conditions, may our lives, karmic fortunes, and wealth grow like the first-quarter moon, may we ultimately achieve fruition of the Buddha of Immeasurable Light, and may the Buddha of Immeasurable Life be my yidam across lifetimes, so that I will never be without his blessings.”

H. E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then performed the tea-offering and Tsok ritual. Everyone in attendance received an offering blessed by Rinpoche, and was granted the rare and auspicious causal condition to share a meal with the guru and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas during the puja. Then, after conducting a mandala offering ritual, Rinpoche said:

“I would like to give a brief introduction of the origin of this Dharma text. Milarepa, one of the founders of our Drikung Kagyu Lineage, had many outstanding disciples, and among the greatest of his disciples was Ratchung Dorje Tsapa (Ratchungpa, transliteration).”

“This is an unusual story, as Ratchungpa knew Tipopa from way back when, but Tipopa never told Ratchungpa in person that Ratchungpa was in mortal danger. Why? Because many practitioners, you all included, have self-view — their own personal points of view. Ratchungpa thought of Tipopa merely as Marpa’s son — neither Milarepa nor Marpa himself. Thus, Ratchungpa didn’t particularly trust Tipopa, and so he had to have someone else tell him before he believed it and was afraid. You are the same. You don’t believe what I say, and it is only when some fortune teller tells you that you are going to die that you return to me to implore for help. Or you only come looking for Rinpoche if you go to the doctor and he says you are dying. You are all the same, never listening. And so, it was only after this happened in the story that Ratchungpa was filled with reverence and sought out Tipopa, and Tipopa instructed him to seek out the Venerable Machig Drubpejema to implore the dharma of longevity. But there was a special key point that Tipopa made here: Ratchungpa must take three tael of gold with him. In ancient times, getting 3 tael of gold was like trying to get 300 tael now. One tael was for a mandala plate offering, and the other two he simply took away. Of course, you will say: Does one have to have money? Must one have money to get this? No. It is simply a matter of one having already run out of karmic fortune. And thus, what are you doing holding on to this gold when you are going to die? In more straightforward terms, you are using money to buy your life. And so, a lot of the offerings that we made earlier were the purchasing of your lives.”

“I’m not telling all of you to give me three tael of gold. But our Dharma texts say three tael of gold, and in modern terms that’s about 150,000 NTD. Have you given me 150,000 NTD? The Dharma texts state that you must, and yet none of you have. But that is okay. And yet, still, you must believe, and be reverent. And so, us Rinpoches who have come since have had it relatively difficult. It is the Dharma texts that say you must give offerings, not me. And the Dharma texts are transmitted by His Holiness. They are clear; if you don’t give offerings, you don’t get karmic fortune.”

“Just now, we had the Japanese believers come up to make offerings. I hope that someday you will have the karmic fortune to make the decision to take refuge. If you don’t, even as believers, coming here a hundred or even a million times will do you no good. A lot of Japanese believers think that if they take refuge, the guru will tell them what to do. But this isn’t true. For instance, Nakamori is my disciple, and his life hasn’t changed. It is just that now he has support, and when he needs guidance he can come to me. But you? You ask doctors and specialists for help; but in the end, you will still die. I’m not forcing you to take refuge under me. I have too many disciples already — nearly 2000 all over the world — so I don’t lack for more from among you. But still, we have a karmic bond, and so I am telling you that you must take refuge. Refuge isn’t about being told what to do. It comes with many benefits that you are unaware of.”

“The Dharma texts state that after attaining this Dharma, Ratchungpa gained an extra 44 years of life. For you, gaining an extra four years would be extraordinary enough, as would be four months, as you are irreverent, and haven’t even gathered three tael of gold. The texts go on to say that after receiving Amitayus empowerment, Ratchungpa returned to Tipopa, and implored about the history of all dharmas. Tipopa said to him: ‘Although I know this teaching, the Venerable Machig Drubpejema has instructed that he wants practitioners who have completed the tasks their teachers have entrusted them with. And so, I am sending you to him.’ What does this mean? That Ratchungpa had to have done all that his guru had taught and said, and that he had been instructed to do in order to be transmitted such dharma. It is the same as how His Holiness has transmitted me this dharma, not because of my offerings, but instead for this very reason. I have given more than three tael of gold in offerings. Those of you who attended the dinner His Holiness treated us know how much I have made in offerings.”

“‘Thus, I sent you there to implore the Dharma, and you were bestowed with the complete Amitayus Empowerment.’ The first time Ratchungpa met with the Venerable Milarepa after returning to Tibet, Milarepaa said: ‘Contribute one profound teaching from your time in Tibet to me as a gift!’ You can see how open-minded practitioners are. Milarepa didn’t possess this empowerment Dharma, but he didn’t stop his disciple from going there to learn. And of course, his disciple must do all that his teacher asks of him. And so, Milarepa told him to present it as a gift. Every time I complete a retreat, I offer all of my merits to His Holiness. It’s the same. Why would one’s guru want this? Milarepa wanted it not for himself, but because after he got it, he would help Ratchungpa further himself, and because after he got this dharma, he would make offerings to the Buddhas of the Five Directions. It is like refining cream into the finest butter. Through the primary yidam the famous Buddha of Immeasurable Life, he greatly extended his life. Milarepa later transmitted this dharma to Gampopa, and Gampopa to Phagmodrupa, and that is why we say the Amitayus Empowerment is a Dharma method unique to the Drikung Kagyu lineage. It doesn’t exist in Japan, nor is it found in the other Tibetan Orders. Only the Drikung Kagyu lineage possesses this dharma. And as I am His Holiness’s root disciple, I, of course, too possess this dharma. But others on the outside have never even heard of this dharma, because it is a very secret dharma, and cannot be transmitted casually.”

“Phagmodrupa had 500 major disciples. The one who carried the Dharma parasol could be considered a Rinpoche. However, he wasn’t a suitable successor. Thus, Phagmodrupa would often say: ‘My Dharma throne is to be inherited by a Tenth Ground Upasaka’ — Upasakas are lay practitioners. After this dharma was transmitted to the Dharma Lord the Great Drikungpa Rinchenpe, the sequence of which won’t be further explained here, this was all written down by Drikungpa Chokyi Tsapa. (All of the names of the master practitioners above are transliterations). The above is an introduction to the origin of this dharma. It isn’t something someone made up, or a story someone invented. This is all supported by evidence of lineage transmission. All empowerment Dharma texts are supported by evidence. They aren’t just made up from nothing.”

Rinpoche then led the attendees in reciting: ‘I am delighted you are my teacher. My guru please hasten me.’ “This sentence tells us: what is it a guru does? He hastens, which is supervising. He is somewhat forcing you to practice the Dharma. He isn’t there to be your friend, or have laughs with you. You have all been formally educated. When you were in school, did your teachers laugh and chat casually with you? No. If you did something wrong, you were scolded. And so, your guru absolutely will not be having laughs with you. If he does that, it is an indication that he wants your gold. ‘Until I have perfected Bodhi fruition, bestow me with auspicious Dharma lord, blessings and vows, and the faith in bodhicitta; bestow me with the auspicious Buddha, Dharma and the Three Jewels of Refuge; may the Dharma Lord guide me in the Pure Land upon perfected liberation.’ This prayer is clear: as you are aided by your guru, until you attain Buddhahood, your guru will bestow you with an aspiration of bodhicitta, and aid you in your refuge, guiding you, until you are perfected and reach the Pure Land of Amitabha. However, this requires one to take refuge. Just now, I said: ‘Bestow me with the Three Jewels of Refuge.’ Therefore, this can’t be done without your taking refuge; I couldn’t guide you then even if I tried.”

Rinpoche then guided the attendees in visualization, and led everyone in reciting the Seven Branch Offerings. The Seven Branch Offerings prepare us so that we have the causal conditions and karmic reward necessary for the empowerment ritual. After continuing the ritual, Rinpoche said:

“After this passage comes a ritual that most Rinpoches won’t perform for you: longevity replenishment. This is because our life spans are our karmic fortunes. Our bodies are made up of the five primary elements: our flesh and bones (earth); our blood (water); the heat from our bodies (fire); the ability to breathe (qi, or wind); and all the space in our bodies (void). Thus, we are equipped with the five primaries of the outside world, all within our bodies. This means that the entire universe is an amalgam of earth, wind, water, fire, and void, and our bodies are too. When we reach a certain age, our life spans decrease.”

“When our inner earth, wind, water, fire, and consciousnesses are damaged, our life spans are as well: dispersing, breaking, warping, rupturing, shattering, and being leeched by demons. Thus, the guru would perform longevity replenishment, and equip your bodies with the five primaries of the outer world. From the essences of the five elements, the blessings of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the guru, the yidam, Dakinis, and the Dharma protectors, and the reciting of the name of Avalokiteshvara, all energy essences of the longevity, fortune, wealth, life, body, power, and qi of the sentient beings of the Six Realms are integrated with your bodies.”

“When we talk about leeching here, what kind of demons are they? In addition to the demons within us, this also means those we create by harming sentient beings. When you eat the flesh of sentient beings, they enter your body, and leech your life spans. For instance, cancer comes from eating meat and fish, as do other ailments, like heart disease. Thus, through this longevity replenishment, you can recover your original life spans.”

After continuing, Rinpoche had everyone sit up straight, and performed a ritual to bless everyone’s four elements: earth (our flesh and bones), fire (body heat), water (blood), and wind, and bestowed empowerment on everyone.

After the perfect completion of the empowerment, Rinpoche continued to teach:

“As we will be performing the fire offering this afternoon, I want to give everyone a brief introduction. The fire offering is a most auspicious Dharma method of the Vajra Vehicle (Tantra), and in Tibetan Buddhism, one must be of Rinpoche fruition to perform it. In a fire offering ritual, offerings are first made to all Buddhas, Dharma protectors, Bodhisattvas, and the yidam, and then charity is given to the sentient beings of the Six Realms. It can swiftly eradicate our karmic hindrances, perfect our resource reserves for cultivating good fortune and wisdom, and speedily grant us attainment both in the mundane and supramundane. That is to say: when you participate in fire offerings long-term — especially disciples who are respectful toward their guru — You will also succeed in your mundane affairs. What are mundane affairs? Taking a wife or husband when we want to, or becoming wealthy when we so desire. We can achieve attainment in all of these areas. The fire offering subdivides into: Subduing, Placation, Increasing, and Vanquishing. Subduing suppresses the ailments and hindrances within our bodies; Increasing enhances our life spans, as well as our fortune and wisdom, and wealth and happiness; Placation cures illness, and enhance our wealth, power, status, and human relations; and Vanquishing helps us to overcome all wicked behavior, bad karma, and hindrances.”

“As for the supramundane benefits we gain from the fire offering: Subduing eliminates the Two Hindrances of mental and afflictional hindrance, and grants fruition of Vajrasattva and the Sambhogakaya of all subduing yidams; Increasing enhances our reserves of karmic fortune and wisdom, and grants fruition of Ratnasambhava and the Sambhogakaya of this yidam; Placation attracts reserves of karmic fortune and wisdom, eradicates the Two Hindrances of mental and afflictional hindrance, and grants attainment of the Western Amitabha and the Sambhogakaya of all placation yidam; and vanquishing severs self-clinging and eradicates the Four Demons: illness, vexation, death, and Mara — using wrathful yidam’s wisdom to break and kill the Two Hindrances and Four Demons, and granting attainment and fruition of the Sambhogakaya of all yidams of the Northern Amoghasiddhi.”

“What is the fire offering? The fire offering is a most auspicious Dharma method from the Vajra Vehicle in which offerings are burned for the yidam. First comes offerings to all Buddhas, and then charity to the Six Realms, allowing us to speedily eliminate karmic hindrances, perfect reserves of wisdom, and quickly achieve mundane and supramundane attainment.”

“Cultivation of the Dharma is in fact the use of various outward, physical rituals to uncover the Buddha nature inherent within us all, and help us depart from suffering and be delivered to happiness. During this type of fire offering, some practitioners visualize the mandala is a palace in which a Buddha or a Dharma protector lives; the outside of the mandala is an image of fire, and the inside the Buddha, Dharma protectors, and their retinue. The retinue visualizes the offering items are infinite and boundless, first making offerings and then giving in charity. And through the power of the presiding guru’s merits from cultivation, the blessings of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and the devoutness of all participants, this quickly eliminates karmic hindrances, perfects the Six Realms, realize the true nature of the mind, and brings benefit both to oneself and others.”

“Thus, three things are crucial to a fire offering: one cannot perform fire offering if the presiding guru lacks merits; a fire offering is useless without the blessings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; and it is useless too if the participants (you) lack devoutness.”

“There are four primary objects of offerings: we make offerings to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and yidams; to the Dharma protectors and powerful deities of the Heaven Realm; to all sentient beings, including beings in the Ghost and Hungry Ghost Realms; and also to those karmic creditors to whom we owe debts of evil karma.”

“Of what merits are the fire offerings? In regards to supramundane attainment: Fire offerings of Subduing eliminate the Two Hindrances of mental and afflictional hindrance; fire offerings of Increasing enhance reserves of karmic fortune and wisdom; fire offerings of Placation attract reserves of fortune and wisdom; and fire offerings of Vanquishing sever self-clinging and eradicate the Four Demons. As for mundane attainment: Fire offerings of Subduing suppress the ailments and hindrances of our bodies, and help us overcome wicked deeds and karma; fire offerings of Increasing enhance our fortune, wisdom, life spans, and wealth, and perfect our happiness; fire offerings of Placation also use the power of fire offerings to counter-treat ailments, and enhance status, power, and human relations; and fire offerings of Vanquishing help us overcome hindrances of wicked behavior and bad karma. In summary, in regards to increased life spans, eradication of illness, redirected fortune, unlocked wisdom, seeds of karmic fortune, enhanced fertility, dissolution of calamity, flourishing business, harmonious families, and peaceful nations, its merits can be said to be boundless and infinite.”

“Though there are many offerings used in the fire offering ritual, I will not get into that today, as there are too many to go over.”

“When do we need to perform the fire offering? In seclusion, we achieve attainment through visualizing elimination of impurities from unclean hindrances or recitation. Thus, after a completed retreat, one must perform Fire offerings of Subduing, Placation, Increasing, and Vanquishing. If it is impossible to do all four, at the very least one should perform the fire offering of Subduing.”

“The uninterrupted Evil Acts include killing one’s parents, killing Arhats, disrupting the Sangha, spilling Buddha blood, and breaking the Samaya Commandments. It is like just now when I was leading you in reciting the Dharma texts, and I told you to stop. If you stop, you don’t break the commandments. On the contrary, if you recited it, but failed to observe it, you break the Samaya Commandments.

“If you publicly repent, perform full and partial prostrations, circumambulate the Buddha, recite mantras, and commit to not repeating said offenses, repenting before the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and then performing the fire offering of Subduing, you can eliminate your commandment violation hindrance. But if you repent without participating in a fire offering, your hindrances remain impure — especially if you are careless about your repentance, like people just saying: ‘I repent to Rinpoche’ without true remorse in their hearts. The meaning of repentance is written here, so listen closely: ‘Unwilling to repeat the offenses.’ However, you commit offenses all day long, and then merely apologize.”

“If after you participate in a fire offering, you take the leftover ashes from the fire offering and place them with the memorial tablet or body of someone deceased — placing it on a memorial tablet for someone whose body has already been burned — and visualize that the fire offering ash is nectar, making an offering to the yidam of the fire offering mandala, the karmic hindrances of the deceased will be eradicated, the Two Afflictions permanently severed, and his fortune and wisdom enhanced, allowing the deceased to be liberated to the Pure Land.”

“Before erecting a new temple stupa, one must perform fire offerings of Subduing, Placation, Increasing, and Vanquishing, as the fire offerings contain dharma of boundaries; thus, this will make it so that the construction is completed smoothly. And if there are wars, earthquakes, typhoons, flooding, or wildfires, performing fire offerings will extinguish and subdue three disasters and eight calamities. And fire offerings must also be performed after stupas and temples are consecrated and successive great empowerments initiated. The fire offering is most wondrous and righteous for the individual to eradicate disaster and pray for fortune, gain peace and happiness, and resolve his vexations. And if a practitioner encounters adverse conditions that he cannot overcome in his practice, he can ask his guru to perform a fire offering to get rid of them.”

“Why is it we burn the fire offering items? The Venerable Milarepa said it before: ‘To sever greedy attachment.’ Burning all offerings when giving alms is one of the best ways to sever greed. If we didn’t burn these offerings, we would only be able to give these physical objects to sentient beings in the Human Realm. And, when we give offerings and alms to beings in the Human Realm, as the physical objects continue to exist, the beneficiaries are thusly attached to these foods, and this isn’t what making offerings is about. Thus, when we perform the fire offering, we must burn the offerings, as when we do, both the givers and the receivers are free of clinging. We must have clean and pure motivation when performing the fire offering. Whether a beneficiary, or an offering to a wisdom yidam, or charity to ghosts, they will receive it. Throughout the procedures of the fire offering ritual, we either recite mantras or engage in visualization, and if we can visualize our offerings as real, they will be of even greater benefit and merit.”

“What is the most distinguishing aspect of the fire offering? It is the quickest way to realize all virtuous aspirations of the mundane and supramundane. The fire offering is unique in that its benefits manifest quickly. All offerings are cast into a fire, whereas the yidam peacefully dwell within the flames. The fire represents a kind of animate nature, consistently manifesting the Yidam’s Dharma activities in accordance with his aspirations for Subduing, Placation, Increasing, and Vanquishing. Usually, if we use smoke offerings to try to get yidams and Dharma protectors to engage in bold endeavors, we face difficulties. But when we receive wisdom yidams with fire offerings, and then entrust them with bold endeavors — such as eradicating ghosts and evil spirits — the effects are immediate. The presiding guru can visualize that the evil spirits are being cast into the fire, and have their bodies transformed into nectar as an offering. Thus, the fire offering has the greatest efficacy.”

“The precondition to be a presiding guru for a fire offering ritual is: attainment in cultivation of any yidam. That is to say, the person performing the fire offering must have cultivated attainment in a yidam, whether it be Avalokiteshvara or Amitabha. What does attainment mean? Being able to achieve attainment through mantras: being able to use mantras to help sentient beings escape the cycle of life and death and become liberated, integrate Esotericism and Exotericism, and possessing all necessary lineage rituals. That is to say, one must harmonize his use of Esotericism and Exotericism, and have a lineage, and know all of the rituals. He must possess great bodhicitta — or great compassion — and observe the pure precepts of the Three Vehicles. What are the pure precepts of the Three Vehicles? They are: the five precepts of the laity, the Bodhisattva Precepts, and the Vajrayana Precepts. Furthermore, the difference between the fire offering and most other Buddhist rituals is that the fire offering requires more of its presiding gurus. Thus, that is why I said earlier that only a Rinpoche can perform the fire offering. And what’s more, it must be a Rinpoche who has performed retreats and become attained.”

“There are several factors determining the sacred appearance of a fire offering (a special method of looking in a fire offering): the presiding guru’s sufficient meditative power, the merits of service, methods of performing the ritual, blessings of the mantras, the awe-inspiring power of the Dharma, and the fire altar becomes the yidam, or the mandala.”

“What is required when participating in the fire offering? The first preliminary practice is: one must give rise to an auspicious aspiration. Preliminary practice is your motivation (in participating in the fire offering). If you can give rise to the most auspicious and perfect aspiration, you will achieve all mundane and supramundane attainments. But if instead you are aspired to peace and happiness in the present, although through reliance on the blessings of the guru and the Three Jewels you can achieve this, this is a small aspiration, and so the fire offering is not of the utmost auspicious. However,, if you really cannot let go of your aspiration for mundane attainments, you should supplicate for the benefit of all sentient beings, and hope that the blessings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas may grant you wealth, status, power, and so on. Notice that you should add ‘to benefit all sentient beings’ before any supplication. Otherwise, if you are just praying for your own cancer to get better, or your own longevity, and you forget sentient beings, no benefit will be obtained. That is to say, you do not benefit if you are acting for yourself. You must participate for the sake of all sentient beings. You must be taught this before the ritual.”

“As today we are performing the fire offering of Subduing, I will first teach you of the aspiration needed for this: let the obstacles and hindrances from transgressions that I and all sentient beings face be completely eradicated through this fire offering, along with all vexations, such as greed, hatred, and delusion, and false views, as well as adverse karmic conditions. In addition, if the presiding guru possesses the ability to dwell his inner nature in peace during the fire offering, this is of utmost auspicious. That is, the meditative power possessed by the presiding guru is extremely important, and if his meditative power is insufficient, the fire offering will be in chaos.”

“Dedication of merits after the fire offering is very important. After it is completed, we will return to the Center to perform rituals for the Dharma protectors and dedication of merits.”

“In addition, remember that you must receive your items for offering in the order in which you are lined up. Do not push or cut in line; be courteous. When you cast your offerings into the fire, you will circle the mandala in the clockwise direction. Secondly, when casting your offerings, remember to keep them from getting on the people around you, and remember not to cast your bowls or trays in the fire. This has happened before. Mind your safety, and be careful not to let the fire get blown onto you. You must be alert, and avoid the embers yourself. Don’t be pushing back and forth. I am just explaining this to you.”

The Amitayus Fire Offering

At 2:30 p.m., in the courtyard of the Kyoto Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center, H. E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne and performed the Amitayus Fire Offering. For the sake of sentient beings, Rinpoche spared no effort in performing the ritual through four-degree Celsius temperatures, first placing kusha grass around the area surrounding the fire offering mandala piece by piece. Minutes after the mandala was lit, its embers had already risen to several feet in height, and the fire cracked audibly. The flames continuously transformed, manifesting into various auspicious omens, and wave after wave of rich sandalwood assailed everyone’s nostrils in turn — an auspicious sign of the manifestation of the yidam.”

As Rinpoche performed the ritual, the weather changed from dark and overcast to sunny, and during this change, auspicious clouds appeared in the sky, and flocks of birds sang beautifully from the shrubbery around the Center, signifying Rinpoche’s awe-inspiring power, compassion, and his attunement with the yidam during the ritual. The Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, nagas, devas and Dharma protectors all came forth in praise and support. In addition, light, powdery snow wafted down during the ritual, and many people felt it melt upon hitting their faces — a most auspicious sign.

Throughout the fire offering, H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche recited mantras non-stop, blessing the various offerings, and swiftly bestowed the attendees with the offerings in turn, placing them onto the trays in their hands. He allowed everyone to cast their offerings onto the fire mandala, giving them the opportunity to make offerings to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and yidam directly, and give alms to all sentient beings in need so that they may swiftly accumulate life wisdom and karmic fortune to practice the Dharma. With Rinpoche’s auspicious blessings, the participants circled the mandala in an orderly manner of reverence.

In order to make sure all attendees were able to promptly acquire their offerings, Rinpoche kept a constant eye on everyone’s movements, at the same time continuously blessing everyone with his gaze. Although he is missing a cluster of cartilage from his right shoulder joint, Rinpoche nevertheless repeatedly recited mantras, visualized, read from his Dharma text, and distributed offerings over 3000 times, placing an unimaginable burden on his body. The fire offering lasted three hours, and Rinpoche performed the entire ceremony without resting despite the lateness of the hour, continuing his recitations by the dimness of flashlight, and putting all of his life force toward the benefit of sentient beings without holding back.

During the ritual, Rinpoche also cast a white torma into the fire, where it immediately vanished. As the ritual approached its conclusion, the disciples and believers returned to the Center while Rinpoche continued to perform the ritual, and placed another torma in the flames, which also burned to nothingness in an instant. Generally, tormas are made from butter mixed with barley powder, and they take several seconds to burn when placed in fire. And if a torma is relatively large, it can even take over a minute to melt. However, these two tormas melted instantly, showing that the yidam was delighted to accept the offerings.

It was only due to Rinpoche’s great compassionate will to benefit the beings of the Six Realms and his auspicious attainment in bodhicitta and the Vajrayana that he was able to perform this fire offering for so long in such frigid outside temperatures without showing signs of exhaustion, and this incited reverence and faith in the attendees; their inner natures became at peace, and they were able to participate in the ritual in an orderly fashion.

After the fire offering was perfected, Rinpoche re-entered the Buddhist Center and ascended the Dharma throne, bestowing the attendees with auspicious Dharma teachings:

“While there is no Dharma text for the Amitayus Fire Offering in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, in 2017, on the 8th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan calendar, I respectfully implored His Holiness to bestow me with one, and he agreed. It was translated by Khenpo Namdol, and that is why we have this Dharma text today.”

“As for you believers who have participated in the fire offering today — I call you believers because you don’t want to refuge — if you commit no more wicked acts from now on, as I asked the fire deities to accept your offerings during the ritual, as long as you have participated in a fire offering in this lifetime, and you are reverent toward the guru and this puja today, the fire deities will protect you for the rest of this life. That is to say, your home and other places that have a connection to you will not burn down, nor will you burn to death in an accident. Of course, what matters most is whether or not you have complete faith. From the perspective of Buddhism, although practitioners can help sentient beings, if these beings do not have faith, remain skeptical, and come up with their own ways of thinking about things, they won’t get these blessings.”

“Today’s all-day puja has been completed to perfection. Thus, we must now perform a ritual to thank the Dharma protectors for supporting us, and allowing our actions, speech, and thoughts to quiet for the day for this puja.”

(The disciples in charge of the mandala didn’t invite Rinpoche to light lamps to offer to the Buddha until after the puja. Thus, Rinpoche reprimanded them: “You are truly reckless; you didn’t even light the lamps before the puja started!)

H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then led the disciples in a ritual for the Dharma Protector Achi, and the dedication of merits. After that, Rinpoche went on to say:

“Through this Amitayus Puja, I hope that all of you believers and disciples can have a year that is peaceful, smooth, and lives up to your expectations. I want to let you Japanese believers know that I bought a 130,000 square-meter plot of land in Miaoli, Taiwan to build a temple and a retreat area. Once this temple is built, it will be the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. The main hall will be able to hold 2000 – 3000 attendees for pujas, and the retreat center for 40 male disciples and 40 female disciples, with a retreat room for each individual.”

“In Taiwan, one must get permission from the government before constructing a temple in the mountains. I’ve spent two years and a significant amount of money on environmental protection standards to do this legally. At the moment, I am still applying to repurpose the land from its original status as farmland to a religious zone. This is because I do things by the law, rather than building first and asking permission later. We estimate that before May of this year, we will be able to finish the application process to get a construction permit. And once we have that, we should be able to finish the construction of the temple within about two years. Upon its completion, it will be the only Drikung Kagyu temple started by the lay guru lineage. We estimate it will cost about 3.1 billion JPY, and at the moment, there are many believers who continue to support this endeavor.

“I have come here today to perform this dharma, and I hope that everyone will treasure this affinity. Don’t think: ‘I’m here, so you have to do this for me.’ You wouldn’t get to be here if it weren’t for certain karmic conditions; and even still, some of you who get to be here may be punished. Just like how I punished those three disciples by having them do full prostrations. Why? Because when I was distributing the offerings, they failed to retrieve theirs more than three times. Why? Because they weren’t paying attention to their guru. They were only thinking about themselves, their heads in the clouds. I was doing the same motion over and over; there was no reason for them not getting the offerings. Some of the Japanese believers didn’t get theirs the first and second time, but did by the third time. And yet, despite being my disciples, they behaved absurdly, and didn’t retrieve theirs even after I tried to give them three times. So then, should I still give to them? They were careless; I couldn’t give to them even when I wanted to. It is simple. I tried to give them offering items, but they didn’t get them, because they weren’t paying their guru any mind.”

“Although these Japanese believers aren’t willing to take refuge and learn the Dharma, at the very least they have come to this puja today. They know that it is important, it is a rare opportunity, and that these pujas don’t occur often. And so, they are giving this puja their full attention. They are better than you, who ask favors from me all day long. Meanwhile, though these believers haven’t given me offerings, they made offerings with their hearts. I don’t bicker about money when propagating the Dharma. If I did, I would be rich by now, as I possess great ability.”

“Today, you have the karmic fortune to attend this puja because of your cultivation over accumulated lifetimes. It is not because I am specifically holding this puja for you. I don’t hold pujas for anyone in particular. I just hold them when it comes time to do so; come if you will, but if you don’t, I won’t go looking for you. I hope that everyone has a smooth new year. I already reminded you during the empowerment ritual this morning: why is it your life spans shrink? Because of wicked actions, speech, and thoughts. And why do people get serious illnesses? For the same reason. No one is victimizing you; you bring this all on yourselves. Everyone wants to make a bunch of money, but you can’t take it with you. You won’t take a cent of it to your grave. And yet, we engage in all kinds of deception to make money in this life. We do all sorts of things that we shouldn’t. And these things cause your life spans to shrink.”

“Today, I am performing this dharma for you in hopes of restoring your original life spans. Perhaps for some of you this won’t happen, but at the very least, you will form a bond with the yidam. And having formed this bond, you won’t have to go through unnecessary suffering when you die, and things will go more smoothly. As of this year, I am 73-years-old. No matter how you look at things, I am in better health than you. Today, I started performing the rituals at 9 a.m., only resting for a half-hour in the early afternoon. But I went non-stop for three-hours this afternoon. Based on this alone, if you Japanese believers still don’t believe in the Buddha, you have let me down. You can go outside yourselves for three hours if you have what it takes. Are you willing to do this? Doing something like this for the benefit of others for three hours when it doesn’t benefit you? Of course you won’t do this. And as you won’t, and someone else is willing to do it for you, whether you believe in its benefits or not, at least I have intention to help you.”

“You must listen to and accept the teachings of the Buddha and the guidance of the Dharma. This is for your own good; it doesn’t benefit me. Shakyamuni Buddha is a Buddha, and even he can’t change everyone’s fates in an instant. You change yourselves. If you listen and are resolute to act, you can change your fates just like my disciple Nakamori. Before taking refuge, he was filled with vexations. But since he took refuge, his vexations have constantly decreased, his life has stabilized; it is quite subtle. It is getting late, and everyone is hungry, so I won’t go on any further. I know you want to hear me say more, but I am 73-years-old, and cannot go on. Everyone have a great dinner.”

At 6 p.m., the Amitayus Fire Offering was completed to perfection. The disciples were grateful to H. E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for his compassionate teachings, and they stood and reverently paid homage as he descended the Dharma throne. As he left the venue, they respectfully received precious Amitayus longevity pellets and wine.

H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche presided over the Amitayus Puja and Fire Offering, and bestowed everyone with the opportunity to make direct offerings to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and yidam, give alms to all sentient beings in need, and quickly accumulate life wisdom and karmic fortune to practice the Dharma. Many auspicious omens appeared during the puja, and they were praises for this auspicious puja from all heavenly beings and Dharma protectors, benefitting countless sentient beings.

Epilogue

After the puja, Rinpoche descended the Dharma throne. He walked toward Abbot Ogawa Yuushou of Onsenji Temple in Kinosachiko, Japan with a smile and kindly asked about his father’s condition, also expressing that he would be happy to help if Abbot Ogawa needed anything.

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Updated on April 2, 2020