His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings — February 16, 2020

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne and expounded the ‘Scroll 82, “Elder Ugra Assembly” (Chapter 19)’ of the Ratnakuta Sutra.

Sutras: “Dwell in Ah-Lan-R. Do not dwell in self formation.”

“Shakyamuni Buddha specifically mentions ‘self formation’ here. This phrase is difficult to explain if one is not familiar with the Consciousness-Only School [of yogacara]. Shakyamuni Buddha stated that eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind make up the six consciousnesses, and when these consciousnesses go into effect, they enter Mana Consciousness. After passing through these roots, impulses enter your Mana Consciousness which causes you to initiate actions; this in turn transfers into your Alaya Consciousness. Alaya Consciousness exists across lifetimes, the only variation being whether or not our karmic conditions bring out this consciousness. It continues to exist regardless, but just like data in a computer, if you don’t retrieve it up, it won’t manifest.”

“Sometimes we get the feeling that we’ve seen a certain person or visited a certain place before. This is an effect of the Alaya Consciousness. Likewise, some people claim that their affinities are closely intertwined with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and this is also an effect of the Alaya Consciousness. But the Alaya Consciousness isn’t unchangeable. One need only practice the Dharma in this lifetime, and seeds in the Alaya Consciousness will adjust accordingly. The effect of the Alaya Consciousness is such that when you are equipped with the right causal conditions in this lifetime, its seeds will sprout, blossom, and bear fruit.”

“The Buddha didn’t speak of psychology, but instead fifty-three ‘mental formations’ in our consciousnesses. These fifty-three mental formations cover all of the seven emotions and six desires of the sentient beings of the Six Realms (not only humans), and they accumulate in the Alaya Consciousness endlessly across lifetimes. One could likewise say that the Alaya Consciousness can be divided into fifty-three parts. Some in their current lifetimes will be especially prone to greed, and jealousy and envy; this is all stored in our mental formations. Mental formations, which are overly active, would manifest in our current lifetimes. But even if you have a certain mental formation, if you do not open it up, its energy will not manifest.”

“‘Formations’ and ‘energy’ are different. It is like how if you have a database but don’t retrieve from it, the data within it doesn’t manifest. This is different from what modern-day scientists say about all thoughts being effects of the brain.”

At this time, Rinpoche called on Disciple Ye, a professional brain researcher, and asked her about her studies of the brain, how many active nerves there are within it, and how many parts it can be subdivided into. Disciple Ye responded that research indicates there are 12 pairs of cranial nerves in the brain, and that it can currently be divided into 21 parts. Thus, at the moment, scientists are unable to categorize the brain so specifically so as to break it up into fifty-three parts, as described in Rinpoche’s lecture.

Rinpoche continued: “And so, we can see Buddha’s greatness. In reality, the cranial nerves are an effect of ‘energy’ rather than ‘formation.’ There is a bottleneck we face in current science. In the past, people have tried conducting electricity through human and pig brains to stimulate their cranial nerves, but this has had no effect.”

Rinpoche then asked Disciple Ye to corroborate this, and she responded: “Our current research abilities are limited to detecting which parts of brain are stimulated when one is presented with sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and thought stimulus.”

Rinpoche then asked Disciple Ye: “If we take out someone’s brain and conduct electricity through it, will this have an effect just having the brain?” Ye replied: “No, it won’t work with just a brain.” Rinpoche asked: “How do we explain this?” Ye replied: “We have no explanation.”

Rinpoche continued his teachings: “This means that the brain is simply a machine. It must be set in motion to operate. The Buddha was clear about actions, speech, and thought. When we talk about actions, or motion, we are not talking about the body, but rather the brain. Our thoughts, and all that we do, are effects of the brain; and so this is action. Thoughts occur in the mind, and without a stirring of the thoughts, the body doesn’t move, nor does the mouth speak. And so, there is no such thing as just saying something in passing, or not meaning what we say.”

“If you claim to not mean what you say, then are you a robot? Nowadays, even computers can talk and answer questions fluently. You can ask a computer something, and it will use logic to come up with an answer. And so, without thoughts arising in our minds, we would not speak certain words. People are always saying: ‘That’s not what I meant.’ Then what did you mean? Or they claim what they said was unintentional. Could it really be unintentional though? Those who say such things do not understand the Dharma, and are trying to absolve themselves of responsibility. Without thoughts stirring in your mind, you wouldn’t have a response. Without wicked thoughts buried in your mind, you wouldn’t have said that.”

“When one is cultivated to perfected compassion, no wicked speech will come forth from his or her mouth. I remember when I first came to Taiwan, I couldn’t speak Mandarin yet, and the first words I learned were curse words. But later on, I realized I wasn’t cursing anymore, because I had started practicing Buddhism, and my virtuous thoughts outweighed my wicked thoughts. Thus, I naturally abstained from wicked speech. Those who go about cursing at others and saying bad things are not cultivated. Don’t say you are still virtuous in your heart. Unless you are cultivated to the fruition of Shakyamuni Buddha or a great Bodhisattva, and you can make others listen to you docilely, you are not qualified to say you are virtuous in your heart.

“The ‘self formation’ spoken of in the sutras is the most important of the fifty-three mental formations; it is clinging to the existence of the self. This ‘formation’ of self existence — ‘self-formation’ — will continue to persist across lifetimes as long as we reincarnate onto the Six Realms. Attachment to the self makes self formation prone to opening up one’s self ‘energy,’ making one selfish, self-interested, and disobedient. It is like how I am always trying to advise my female disciples to date other Buddhists, and telling them that if they date non-Buddhists, something will go wrong sooner or later. But no one listens. They think this is none of my business. Of course it isn’t! You will say that the sutras don’t say you can’t date people from outside paths, and this is of course true! But if we examine this through the lens of the Dharma, if you are a vegetarian Buddhist, are you going to get along with someone who eats meat and doesn’t practice the Dharma?”

“And so, this is also self formation — attachment to the ‘self.’ You think he won’t change you, and you can change him. But in Confucianism, it is taught that we shouldn’t get close to those who are a bad influence on us. Otherwise, if you try to get close to these people, not only will you not influence them, but what’s more, they will have an influence on you, as you are accepting them. And as you aren’t rejecting them, you will naturally end up with friends like this. In other words, you aren’t being picky, just taking what you can get, accepting a shrimp when you can’t catch a fish.”

“In Tantric Buddhism, we sometimes see wrathful yidams with human heads hanging around their necks. This makes a lot of people think Tantrism is scary, and that this represents killing people and wearing their heads around one’s neck. But this is slander of Buddhism. In reality, these heads are the 53 mental formations. In Exoteric Buddhism, one must subdue the fifty-three mental formations one by one so that they no longer stir. This is why we have the story of the Child of Wealth and His Fifty-Three Benevolent Friends in the Avatamsaka Sutra. The fifty-three benevolent friends are Bodhisattvas telling the protagonist what Dharma methods to use to counter-treat the fifty-three mental formations.”

The Child of Wealth and His Fifty-Three Benevolent Friends is different from your situations. In the story, the protagonist has already realized bodhicitta and is cultivating Bodhisattva Path before he is able to meet with these mentors of benevolent knowledge. Among them is Hatred (a Bodhisattva who practices through hate) and Greed (a Bodhisattva who practices through greed). This exists in certain Tantric Dharma methods. Some refer to Avatamsaka as Avatamsaka-Tantra for this very reason.”

“We must understand the Dharma if we are to avoid slandering the Buddha and interpreting the Dharma subjectively. Many have read and heard of the the Avatamsaka Sutra, and yet no one understands why the Child of Wealth visits those fifty-three benevolent friends. And if a practitioner is unable to understand the effects that the fifty-three mental formations have on us, they won’t be able to achieve fruition in Bodhisattva-hood. In the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha doesn’t teach us how to practice the Bodhisattva Path, but rather only that we must vow to do so, and how we mortals must cultivate ourselves, clarifying the Five Precepts and Ten Meritorious Acts.”

“The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows is also clear that a virtuous man cultivating the Five Precepts and Ten Meritorious Acts must recite the sacred name of the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha 10,000 times every day for three years. Who among you has recited the Great Six-Syllable Mantra 10,000 times per day for three years?” (No one raised their hands.) “And what does one get from reciting the sacred name of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha for three years? The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows clearly states that in such a case, ghosts and deities will protect your family from mishaps (flooding, fires, murder, and so on) entering the home. This is all one gets for reciting 10,000 times per day every day for three years. And so, do you still think that the Bodhisattvas will appear before you the way you recite now? They won’t! Only ghosts and deities will, protecting you because they think you are virtuous, and giving you the opportunity to continue your practice.”

“Don’t think it’s enough that you’ve taken refuge for 10 years, reciting the sutras and prostrating before the Buddha — but have you done what the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows asks of you? And if not, what are you relying on? You rely on your guru. What role does your guru play? Just the other day I was telling a disciple that I have to explain things in simple terms for you to have a chance at understanding. Can one wire the electricity from a power station directly to a customer’s home?”

At this time, a disciple familiar with engineering replied that electricity direct from the power plant has a voltage of 345KV, and that this voltage is too high to wire directly to the home, as it would cause an explosion; thus, a transformer is required.

Rinpoche continued: “Your guru is a transformer, and the power plant the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. You don’t have the karmic fortune to take in the energy outputted by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. If it was wired to you directly, you would explode. Perhaps you think this strange: ‘Aren’t we supposed to be imploring the Buddha?’ But take a closer look at the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, and whether or not the Universal Gate Chapter says this. The Universal Gate Chapter only shows us how Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara makes offerings, what she can help us with, and how to implore her.”

“The karmic fortune of the Buddha is perfect and flawless, and we ourselves are full of flaws. And so, can you handle input from that which is flawless? No; not without the sufficient karmic fortune. Why do we have gurus? They are our transformers. They have achieved fruition in Bodhisattva-hood, and so they can input the current emitted by the Buddha, and adjust it to a voltage that you can acclimate to.”

“Why is it when I bestow empowerment and blessings upon you, you feel hot? It’s not because of heat from having so many people gathered together, but rather because electricity is being transferred. Just like how it isn’t hot now— because I’m not performing any empowerment. But when I do, that energy is transferred. So then, why is it some people even then don’t feel the heat? Because they aren’t listening; that switch isn’t on for them. And when that switch is off, electricity doesn’t get to them. For example, like when some people criticize their guru and leave the Center. In such a case, this electricity cannot reach them.”

“People are always asking if they can continue to chant if they leave the our Center. Of course they can; but I guarantee they will not be attuned. This isn’t because the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are biased, but rather because not even the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows states that if you recite the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s sacred name 10,000 times for three years he will appear before you. Instead, he will merely dispatch those ghosts and deities to protect your family and allow you to continue your practice. This is made clear; and yet, we humans are strange, thinking we can become cultivated by ourselves. It is true that this is possible, but do you have what it takes to be a Sravaka or a Pratyekabuddha? None of you do. And so, how could you do this? Instead, you must listen.”

“This transformer inputs massive amounts of energy and adjusts it so that it can be transmitted to you, and so that it can benefit you! Why is it when I perform all of these dharmas it takes a toll on my body? Because I am inputting and outputting so much energy when I act as your transformer; and thus, this requires adjustments. This is a grind that no one wants to undertake. What’s in it for me? You are all ungrateful, and those who don’t know grace for the Three Jewels cannot learn the Dharma, nor can those who think they can become cultivated on their own.”

“Following this part, Shakyamuni Buddha goes on scolding you. In reality, the scolding found in the Ratanakuta Sutra is a message, warning you not to practice or think incorrectly, or take the wrong path. We could talk about the phrase ‘do not dwell in self-formation’ alone for some time, and the essence of the Dharma can be found within it. But the most difficult problem we face is the existence of the self, thinking that it is ‘I’ who is studying and reciting, that ‘my’ cultivation brings about results, that ‘I’ must make vows, and so on. It is all ‘I, I, I!’ That’s not to say you shouldn’t make vows, so do not misunderstand me. Rather, what this means is that we must learn from the vows of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and our gurus, following in their footsteps. Do not fancy yourself an inventor. You don’t have the root capacity for that.”

“The phrase ‘do not dwell in self-formation’ is extremely important. When we go into seclusion in a place of tranquility, this isn’t so that we can achieve enlightenment or fruition; that is all dwelling in self-formation, stopping at the self. The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows tells us in simple terms that you must recite 10,000 times every day for three years just for ghosts and deities to protect you. For three years, you must abstain from meat and bathe, burn joss sticks, and reverently recite the sacred name of Ksitigarbha 10,000 times every day for these ghosts and deities to come to your aid. And so, what makes you think that just by reciting the Great Six-Syllable Mantra 3,000 times per day you will become Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara? Or that you will become enlightened by attending a few penitential rites? Or that you can understand the Dharma just from listening to some teachings, and that means you can criticize your guru? This is all incorrect.”

“If we were truly to delve into the phrase ‘do not dwell in self-formation,’ I could go on and on for a year without covering everything. It is too easy to go on about this phrase, and there is so much science that backs it up. It is like what I was just saying about how removing the brain and conducting electricity through it is ineffective. Science tells us that the brain controls our bodies, but if this were true, then why is it when we remove the brain from the body it no longer works? Modern science can keep our brain cells alive for a long time, but it can’t make them function. Scientists have their blind spots; there are things they cannot explain through their research, which only the Buddha can explain. The brain is just one of our organs, and our organs are controlled by the consciousness.”

“Those with brain diseases suffer from ailments of the consciousness — they don’t believe in karmic cause and effect, and this causes problems in their brains. Brain problems means losing consciousness, and being unable to perceive and discriminate, and this comes from not believing in cause and effect. A lot of people think that it doesn’t matter if they do just that one little thing. And yet, it was made clear to you when you took refuge: ‘Do no evil. Cultivate all good. Purify your mind. These are the Buddha’s teachings.’ This means you must not do any evil. There is no difference in severity; that is merely your own discrimination. Do you think anything will happen if you curse me in your minds? Nothing will happen to me, but it will to you.”

“It’s like how just recently, a disciple altered my Dharma text, and then last Saturday his mother brought him here to repent. I thought he had come for sincere repentance, but then an incident came to light at work afterwards. It turns out that last year, he made a mistake at work that put his company in danger, and then kept it a secret until now. This came to light after his fake repentance. Sincere repentance gives one karmic fortune, while fake repentance brings the original matter to light. I often say that you come here not to repent, but to admit your mistakes. When you don’t repent with sincerity, and you do X and then merely apologize for it, then while you may not do X again, you will still do Y and Z just as before.”

“What is repentance of body, speech, and mind? It means we repent for every transgression. A lot of people think they need only repent for what they do here, and not for mundane transgressions outside, such as when they go home and curse at their husbands. But this is what is so impressive about Dharma Protector Achi; she triggers these things. This person has been holding back since November of last year, and his deed wasn’t brought to light until after his fake repenting. Interesting, isn’t it? Had he not repented, perhaps it would have been covered up. But he deceived his guru, and so when his mother brought him to repent last Saturday, I paid him no mind, as I figured he had come to lie to me some more. And sure enough, I was right again.”

“I beg you, do not lie again. You don’t have to come to repent. Repenting isn’t an apology to me or to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, saying, ‘I was wrong, forgive me Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and give me another chance!’ It’s not like that. Repenting is admitting all that you’ve done: facing it and taking responsibility, rather than avoiding it and seeking to have the Dharma shield you from it. For instance, like when someone puts other’s life in danger, and thinks it won’t matter any more after that person is liberated. But this is wrong; it does matter.”

“I’ve told you many stories about great practitioners, but they don’t get through to any of you. And I’ve even told you stories about my own life, yet they don’t get through either. I’ve told you before that whenever I hold a Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness, afterwards my body somehow always becomes injured, and bleeds. Logically, one should gain karmic reward after holding a great puja, not become injured. And yet, somehow I always get cut up. Why? Because I am repaying another debt. Originally, I should have lost a hand, but I didn’t, and now I’m repaying this debt by losing blood after performing this puja instead. But something is still happening.”

“Do you think you can solve all of your problems just by attending a few pujas? That’s not how it works. But if you repent with sincerity, you will be saved when real emergency and disaster come. But that doesn’t mean these disasters will not occur. Just last year I predicted the coronavirus outbreak we are seeing now. It is because of human greed! Everyone is greedy! For example, one of my female disciples is working at my company while she gets her degree, and she sits next to another one of my employees who isn’t a disciple, and therefore isn’t a vegetarian. We provide vegetarian lunches every day at work, but when this other girl offered my disciple some food with her chopsticks, she ate it anyway, as they are close friends. And in the end, they both ended up with the stomach flu that night — my disciple having caught it from the other employee. The other employee had eaten a bento meal with seafood in it the other night. I had warned all of my employees before that to avoid eating seafood and eat less meat, but no one believed me, including those of you believers here today. This is an emergency situation, and you aren’t going to die from just eating a bit less meat.”

“Some people seem to worry that they will become malnourished if they don’t eat meat. But after nearly 20 years, I still have the energy to scold you without eating meat. So then, where does this nourishment come from? Thus, this is a superstition — superstitious belief in science. This disciple didn’t listen either. I keep telling you all these things, not so that you will cut off ties with others, but so that you know how to protect yourselves. And yet, you continue to share food at a time like this, eating this and that, and in the end you get diarrhea. I urge you not to eat seafood, but no one listens, and you get the stomach flu instantly. A lot of you think I’m just making these things up, so you don’t listen.”

“To the disciples who attended the ‘Parnashavari’ Puja on February 9th and 10th, I can say: you won’t catch the coronavirus in this lifetime. But those disciples who didn’t come might. I purposefully made it so you could sign up on your own, and yet half of you didn’t come, citing reasons such as that the children and elderly couldn’t make it. For those of you who heard my recitations, this pandemic may not affect you; but that doesn’t mean you don’t have it! If you don’t listen and drink ice water, you’ll end up like that disciple who ate from her friend, not being careful enough. Take, for example, when people eat hot pots together in which half is vegetarian and the other half is not. Do you think that water isn’t going to mix? You’re no different from Ah Q! Taiwan is filled with people like you, who only half-commit to the Dharma and still call yourselves Buddhists. Even my disciples are like this, not to mention others outside. This problem stems from self-view, personal opinions, and personal ways of thinking.”

“If a practitioners is always dwelling in ‘self-formation,’ he or she won’t be able to come back out, nor will a regular person. All kinds of little things cause you fear, because you are afraid of getting hurt. But in reality, the karmic retribution you suffer after hurting others is deserved, and if you accept this, you won’t be afraid. It is like how I was never afraid when I got cancer, because I used to love seafood when I was younger, and so I accepted my retribution as a repaying of this debt. I didn’t get it treated or implore the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; in reality, just believing in cause and effect and the Dharma is imploring the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. But you don’t really believe in the Buddha.”

Sutras: ‘Elder should know. No thought of nirvana; this is dwelling in Ah-Lan-R.’

“This phrase is very important. Shakyamuni Buddha is explaining to Elder Ugra: many think they can just go into seclusion their whole lives until they enter nirvana and achieve Buddhahood. But this phrase tells us we shouldn’t think one can just go into seclusion and attain Buddhahood. How can you enter nirvana when you haven’t even become a Bodhisattva? How can you enter nirvana when still filled with all kinds of mundane thoughts? If you enter seclusion with this way of thinking, the demons will appear — your own inner demons.”

“There was a time when I was meditating in seclusion that I suddenly came to understand true ‘meditation.’ It is a subtle kind of mental state that is impossible to describe in words. It’s just like Zen Buddhism says: ‘not standing in text.’ This doesn’t mean that people aren’t willing to write it down or tell others, but rather than text cannot describe this realm. Studying the Dharma without the guidance of a guru with practical experience is very dangerous, because those without experience cannot describe it. Here, Shakyamuni Buddha is telling us not to cling to getting to the realm of nirvana. But what is the reasoning behind this? To attain Buddhahood, one must go through the Three Great Asana-Khyeyas. So what makes you think you can enter nirvana just from going to a tranquil place for seclusion for a couple of months during this one lifetime? If this is what you think, then you will die, because that’s what you want.”

“The definition of nirvana isn’t the death of the corporeal body. When the body dies, that just means we can’t use this vessel any longer, and must switch to a new one. Nirvana is a realm without birth or death. We cannot realize this in this one lifetime. And so, we must vow to pass on to the Pure Land of Amitabha. Once there, we will no longer reincarnate or regress; Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara and Amitabha Buddha will guide us in our practices, and we will be able to achieve Buddhahood without going through the period of Three Great Asana-Khyeyas.”

“When you get the opportunity to go into seclusion, don’t go thinking: ‘The Buddha says we must practice toward nirvana.’ You aren’t the Buddha! And if you continue practicing like this, you will become more and more passive, and may even want to die. There are a lot of Buddhists now who think: ‘The world is so full of suffering; I want to be gone as soon as possible. But do you think you’ll be comfortable when you are gone? You will not! The Land of Amitabha isn’t for living in comfort; it only keeps you from reincarnating again. Do you think you can just sleep spread out comfortably in bed over there, getting up whenever you feel like it? That’s not how it is! Take a closer look at the Amitabha Sutra. Every second is filled with sounds and other reminders telling you to cultivate yourself: the flowing of water reminds you to practice; the chirping of birds reminds you to practice; even the rustling of leaves reminds you to practice. And you think you can have comfortable, unfettered lives there? That’s not what it’s about!”

“And they are stricter in the Land of Amitabha. Even the birds are incarnations of Bodhisattvas, and the Amitabha Sutra says the trees are too. That sweet-smelling flower you’re sniffing is as well. And they aren’t going to let you off. Are you going to be able to run away once you’ve reached the Land of Amitabha? You have too much freedom on earth, only coming to the Center when you feel like it, and only listening to the Dharma when you want to. You even tell me what you think of the Dharma. And so, this passage is meant to rouse us: we must not cultivate ourselves the wrong way.”

“Why do we practice seclusion? It is just like the Buddha said earlier: so that we can understand the sources of our fears, and no longer be affected by them. It allows us to ponder the meaning of the Eight-fold Path of Righteousness, rather than covet over merits, and attaining the highest birth-less and death-less realm of nirvana. How could you possibly cultivate yourselves to such a level in this lifetime? This doesn’t happen in Exoteric Buddhism. And even in Tantrism, which speaks of transformation into a Buddha, this doesn’t mean your corporeal body becomes a Buddha, but rather that your mind becomes one with the Buddha. But still, this requires step-by-step practice. It cannot be done in a single bound, by reciting the name of the Buddha for 5 – 10 years, or by keeping the Buddha in one’s heart. These are all just sayings. How can you say you believe in the Buddha when you don’t even believe your guru?”

“‘No thought of nirvana; this is dwelling in Ah-Lan-R.’ To be dwelling in tranquility, you must not have these thoughts of nirvana. This phrase is very interesting. It means that as you practice, even if you are unable to dwell in a place of tranquility, as long as you don’t have extravagant expectations for things you cannot do, then that means you are actually practicing in tranquility. But if you clearly know that you can’t accomplish something in this lifetime, and yet are always wanting to attain it — such as those who come to me and kneel, saying: ‘I want to learn the Dharma and liberate sentient beings.’ You don’t even have the ability to help yourself; you speak nonsense, and this means the same thing. You haven’t even figured out the source of your problems, and yet you are saying you will liberate sentient beings, thinking this is Greater Vehicle Buddhism. But this isn’t what the Greater Vehicle teaches. It teaches you must have the aspiration to learn and practice the Bodhisattva Path. Otherwise, how can you liberate yourself, and others? You all spread nonsense hearsay as though it were the truth.”

Sutra: “Let alone thoughts of affliction.”

“We must not have extravagant expectations that we can attain nirvana — giving up on this notion altogether, much less our afflictions. All desires that arise in us can be called afflictions, or vexations, as can all ways of thinking that depart from the Dharma. So-called ‘implementing the Dharma in your life’ doesn’t mean using the Dharma to make your life more comfortable, or to make others think you’ve become more even-tempered. None of this requires the Dharma. You can read Confucius books to improve your temper; that is all about conduct.”

“When you understand your status, your temper will naturally improve. But if you want to learn the Dharma to improve your temper, that is also a vexation, because you will be thinking: ‘Why aren’t I changing? The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas aren’t blessing me!’ And how are you supposed to change when you can’t let go of your greed, hatred, delusion, conceit, and doubt? How can someone change with such a strong sense of the self, and self-view? You can’t, and are filled with vexation. Shakyamuni Buddha is clear here: ‘We must let go of our thoughts of nirvana, much less our afflictions.’”

“It is normal for humans to suffer from vexations, as you haven’t yet realized emptiness. If you think yourself a student of the Dharma, then you should recognize it when vexations arise in you, and know not to pursue them. It is like what that disciple was sharing with us before the puja: when I first put her in charge of putting together an orchestra, her vexations started keeping her awake at night; but then she thought about Rinpoche’s blessings, these vexations went away, and she was able to sleep. Our vexations are all self-afflicted; they aren’t imposed on us. Mental illness is imagined as well, as we are always thinking: I am so stressed out; this is wrong, and that isn’t right; and this is hurting me, and that is giving me a hard time.”

“When taking refuge, we’re told: ‘Refuge in the Dharma for departure from desire, for glory.’ ‘Desire’ means afflictions, and wanting. And so, when we take refuge, we know that the Dharma can help us to restore our pure, original natures, and help us depart from all desire and vexation so that we can attain glory. This glory doesn’t mean others revering you, but rather that in the future, you will obtain a precious Dharmakaya. Why practice Buddhism if practicing the Dharma causes us even more vexations, making us think things like: ‘Rinpoche doesn’t treat me right; Rinpoche isn’t paying attention to me; Rinpoche misunderstood me; and Rinpoche is scolding me.’ All sentient beings commit transgressions of greed, hatred, delusion, conceit, and doubt. I’m not naming names; you all do! The problem is that we are constantly telling ourselves: this is my point of view; I am important; and I want others in this group to recognize my importance. And then the vexations start.”

Sutra: “Elder. Those in Ah-Lan-R, without reliance on the Dharma, they don’t dwell in the Dharma, and are unhindered in it.”

“This is just like what is said in the Diamond Sutra. In the end, we must let go of even the Dharma — not to mention all of that outside of it. Here, the Dharma refers to: all Dharma that we learn in our practices. The Dharma is merely a tool, meant to help us reduce our vexations, cut us off from them, and reduce our self-centered notions. But once you begin to realize you have gradually succeeded in this, you no longer need to believe that you must rely on the Dharma to think. But you haven’t reached this state yet.”

“Take, for example, the ‘Parnashavari’ recitations. I could go all-out performing rituals without asking for instruction from His Holiness. So then, why do I ask him? Because he is my guru, and I must respect my guru for all matters of the Dharma. But you are different. Some of you might come up with ideas like having everyone recite the Sutra of the Medicine Buddha at home to transfer merits to sentient beings — and this isn’t respecting your guru.”

“There is something unique in this part of the sutra which states that: we don’t attain Buddhahood from dependence on the Dharma, and we do not cling to the idea that we must have the Dharma to achieve enlightenment.’ Rather, what the Dharma teaches us is that: the Buddha is merely teaching us how to transform from a mortal to a Buddha based on his cultivation experience. That is to say, us learning the Dharma and the teachings of the Buddha is is merely a part of this process. But in the end, we must practice it ourselves. If you merely aspire to living comfortably, and having good mood and good health, then that is reliance and clinging to the Dharma, and you will never be able to cultivate bodhicitta of emptiness. Furthermore, if you hope to become enlightened by practicing in seclusion, that isn’t the Dharma either, but rather greed, which keeps you from cultivating bodhicitta of emptiness as well. And without bodhicitta of emptiness you cannot succeed, even with the power of all Buddhas’ vows.”

“The greatest difference between us and the Buddha is: the Buddha only makes vows when he knows he can do. Amitabha Buddha only made his Forty-Eight Vows after several lifetimes of practice, when he knew he was going to attain Buddhahood. He only made these vows after attaining the Dharmakaya Bodhisattva — meaning that he was sure he could follow through. But please, do not make a vow you cannot uphold. Not because this is a slight to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Dharma protectors, but because it will hinder your practice. This is why I tell you to learn from the vows of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and your guru. Because they have already fulfilled their vows, and if they can do these things, there’s a chance you can too. And even if you aren’t able to do so to such perfection, at least you will have someone to look to. But don’t go inventing your own vows, like an ordained practitioner before who wanted to make ‘fifty vows.’ What makes you think you can take a vow of attaining Buddhahood with the body of a mortal? It’s like when people come to see me and say they are going to learn the Dharma and benefit and liberate sentient beings. How can you do this when you haven’t even solved the problem of your own life and death? This is arrogance.”

“‘Without reliance on the Dharma, they don’t dwell in the Dharma, and are unhindered in it.’ It’s like when I held the ‘Parnashavari’ Puja. Once finished, I forget about it: not forgetting the yidam or the mantra, but the event itself. The conditions for this event arose, and I performed it; but I don’t need to obsess over whether or not those prayed for are getting better. For many of you, if you recite the Great Compassion Mantra every day, you will wonder: is my mother really recovering? But that isn’t faith in the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Why? Because you’ve already recited the mantra; it’s none of your business how Avalokiteshvara helps your mother! You’ve implored the help of a Bodhisattva, and yet now you are slighting the Bodhisattvas, and demanding they do things your way. This is vexation. And when vexations arise, the power of the Dharma halts. A lot of people do this. They implore aid a few times, and when they don’t get what they want, they think it’s not working, and slander the Buddha.”

“Here, the Buddha specifically tells us not to dwell in the Dharma. This indicates that cultivation is a process. There is the Path of Accumulation on the Bodhisattva Path, and seclusion is a Path of Accumulation, in which we accumulate reserves of wisdom and karmic fortune. But this isn’t a conclusion, nor is it the goal we seek. And yet, if we do not cultivate wisdom and karmic fortune, we cannot achieve enlightenment. Likewise, the Path of Vision of the Bodhisattva Path isn’t about seeing reasoning, but rather realizing emptiness. And it isn’t until after the Path of Vision that the Path of Cultivation starts. Cultivation of what? Cultivation on the path to Bodhisattvahood, and Buddhahood. You cannot walk the Path of Cultivation without first realizing emptiness. Still, for now, you remain on the Path of Accumulation, and aren’t yet ready even for the Path of Preparation. This includes both the Exoteric and Esoteric Paths of Preparation.”

“The Buddha worries that you will overestimate yourselves. This is also a kind of greed, attachment, and belief in the self. The Dharma is merely a way of expediency, as well as a way of causal conditions. For instance, without the coronavirus, there would be no cause; and without this cause, I wouldn’t have thought of this suffering, and had the causal condition to perform the Parnashavari. So then, is this emptiness? Is this virus business all intentional? No; it is causal conditions. So then, why did so much time pass before I thought to perform this ritual? Because I don’t just suddenly think to do something like this without the right conditions of karmic fortune. I only do so when the timing is right. But if after this puja, I kept thinking every day: ‘Have you done your job, Parnashavari? Why are people still getting sick?’ Then that would be clinging to the Dharma. Even after performing a puja like this, people will still get sick, as that is merely a ripening of their karmic conditions. But those who aren’t supposed to get sick will not, and the virus will even become diminished. It will save the lives of those who weren’t meant to die yet. And as the greed and hatred of those who have been harmed is reduced, and may even disappear, we will have the opportunity to turn this epidemic around.”

“This phrase is specifically telling us that when you aren’t reliant on and don’t dwell in the Dharma, you are unhindered in it. Thus, this means that whatever you do can benefit sentient beings, so long as you have such intention. For example, though I’ve never cultivated Parnashavari in seclusion, it still works when I recite her mantras, because my compassion is there. At the core of all of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is compassion; you just have to cultivate it. All Dharma is compassion, regardless of the Dharma method. Thus, the Buddha specifically explains here one’s attitude for seclusion.”

Sutra: “Without reliance on sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.”

“Why is it so many people go crazy in seclusion? Because they want to see their yidam, or hear, smell, or feel something. For example, when some people recite from the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, they feel a chill on their backs. It’s clearly just the wind against their sweat, and yet they think it a ghost attaching itself to them. But that would be impossible. Why would a ghost come for you when you haven’t done 10,000 recitations a day for three years? It wouldn’t even take the time to look at you. There is all kinds of bizarre teachings like this not supported by the sutras being transmitted in Taiwan. It is comical to hear about them. Some people recite from the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, they feel a chill on their backs, and then switch to the Universal Gate Chapter. But then, they are afraid to continue when they feel a chill in their stomachs. Why recite if you are afraid of death?”

Sutra: “Dwell in all ways even and undefiled.”

“When in seclusion, all that we smell, see, hear, taste, and feel — here, ‘ways’ doesn’t refer to the concepts of the Dharma, but rather all phenomena. We must treat them all equally, with even mind and without discrimination. This is very important, because if you are discriminating, inner demons will arise. It’s like how one time when the venerable Milarepa was in seclusion in a cave, he saw a boulder before him, and kept wondering whether or not it was a demon. He thought about this over and over, until finally his seclusion was about to come to an end, and the boulder transformed before him. He asked: ‘What demon are you?’ And the demon replied that it was a demon created from his mind.”

“And so, if you are afraid of ghosts appearing while you are in seclusion, they will. And if while in seclusion you keep wanting to recite for your friends, foes, and karmic creditors so that they won’t come looking for you, they most certainly will, because you are calling out to them. Really, so-called friends, foes, and karmic creditors are your family. It is said in the Ratnakuta Sutra that many of the sentient beings harmed by you over the course of your lifetimes have already reincarnated, and remain in some other corner of this universe and space. You just haven’t run into them yet. But we still must make dedications to them. Remember: virtuous thoughts remain eternally in the void, as do wicked thoughts, never extinguishing.”

Sutra: “Even and undefiled.”

“For example, when I was in seclusion, my hut was made of wood, and there were gaps between the planks through which chilly winds and insects both came through at night. So what did I do? Be even and undefiled. If insects wanted to come inside to sleep, let them. They left in the morning. As for spiders, I used a plastic bag to gather them together, and let them go in the morning. But if I didn’t have even mind, I wouldn’t be able to last in seclusion. What is defilement? Ideas about what you like and dislike. If you go into seclusion caring about whether or not you like the seclusion center you go to, for instance, insisting that you get to sleep on a mat so that your hips will be more comfortable, or that your Dharma throne must be placed at a certain elevation for your convenience, then that is clinging.”

“Seclusion is truly a simple way of life. You have only a mat to sleep on and a space for your things. This in itself is enough, a blessing of Amitabha. Do you think I had a table when I was in seclusion at Lapchi Snow Mountain? I just stacked some things together and got on with my cultivation. Some people think that a mandala should be prepared, but all we need are eight offering cups to make a mandala, and so they can be found everywhere. Of course, mandalas should be made dignified under the right conditions. But otherwise, when you are in seclusion, there is no need to pursue such high standards, such as considerations for placement and numbers of Bodhisattvas. This is what truly dignified seclusion looks like. Sometimes we even do seclusion without Dharma photos.”

Sutra: “Adjust the mind by dwelling in virtue.”

“This means having your mind dwell in virtuous adjustment — using all ways of virtue to adjust it. Our hearts and minds are easily moved. The Alaya Consciousness accumulates all manners of wicked thoughts across lifetimes, and they manifest when we quiet ourselves. Some say they hear outside voices, but actually those are your own inner dialog. Don’t lose your grip on reality. They are really thoughts from past lives, as well as those accumulated from this lifetime. But then, how do we counter-treat them? With all of the Dharma we’ve learned, and all virtue. Why is it you are irreverent toward your guru? Because you’ve been irreverent throughout all of your lives. And so, you must use the Dharma to adjust it immediately. These things will happen when you’re in seclusion. Ordinarily, when your mind is not in a quiet state, you don’t see how vile you are. But when you quiet yourself, you will become aware of this vileness, and how unkempt you are in ways daily showering cannot rectify. And so, the Buddha is repeatedly explaining to us through this sutra what kind of attitude one should have for seclusion.”

Sutra: “Abandon all fear and dwell in fearlessness.”

“This means giving up all fear. We already learned earlier what fears this refers to; but where do they come from? They, too, come from the self. It’s like how during my first seclusion in India, I saw a bunch of Indian ghosts standing outside my door on the first night. What would you do in my position? Perhaps recite the Great Six-Syllable Mantra. But I didn’t do this; instead, I simply slept. I plead with them to let me go to sleep, saying I would give all merits from my recitations the next day to them, and after that, they disappeared, and never returned. You must give, rather than trying to get rid of them. You always just want to get rid of things, trying to drive them away. Do you think that merely performing a wrathful yidam’s ritual will make ghosts fear you? It won’t.”

“This happened the first time I went into seclusion. There were a bunch of Indian ghosts, and it wasn’t until later that I learned that location used to be an English military hospital, specially designated for leprosy patients. And so, that day I saw all kinds of deformed ghosts standing outside of my seclusion room. They couldn’t come in, but they were all lined up in rank, because they were military. But I didn’t try to drive them away. I only asked that they let me sleep, and said that I would give them the merits from my cultivation the next day. And by doing this, though I lost a day of merits, they never came back. But if it were you, you would just say: “Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, bless and protect me. I am practicing seclusion; make them leave.” You are all like this, void of compassion. Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara isn’t going to help you drive away ghosts, because they only come to you because of their connections with you. Why would they appear otherwise? On the other hand, they certainly wouldn’t want to approach you the way you behave. And yet, you fear them.”

Sutra: “Dwell in liberation from the currents and flows of the great river.”

“We must resolve our minds for liberation from the great river of reincarnation. The currents and flows refer to all that we think and do — all of the currents and flows that make us reincarnate in this great river. In other words, the first objective of seclusion is escape from the cycle of life and death and reincarnation — not attaining nirvana or enlightenment. If I hear you say such things again, I will throw my vajra at you. Stop talking nonsense — never listening to Shakyamuni Buddha, and instead believing it when people say seclusion is about enlightenment. Of all the scripture I’ve read, I’ve never seen Shakyamuni Buddha say this. Are you saying Shakyamuni Buddha is wrong, and those so-called masters are right? This is wrong, as they are not the Buddha, and the Buddha never said this. We must practice in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings, and not contradict them.”

Sutra: “Dwell in the seeds of a sage.”

“We know that the purpose of seclusion is escape from the cycle of life and death, and keeping ourselves from creating forces that lead to reincarnation. And thus, one must dwell in the seeds of a sage. Only he who can escape the cycle of life and death can be called a sage. What is the difference between the sages and mortals that the sutras describe? We call people sages to say that they’re good, don’t act in ways that are immoral, and help others. But this isn’t what the sutras mean. Rather, sages refers to those who can escape the cycle of life and death. Meanwhile, the mortals of the Six Realms — and even those of the heavens, whether Sakra or Vaisravana — are still mortals, because they are bound to reincarnate. So don’t think that if you become a fairy immortal you won’t reincarnate. You will, and thus are still a mortal.”

“The so-called ‘seeds of a sage’ means you are determined to escape the cycle of life and death; only then will the seeds of a sage be planted, allowing you to become one. This is because you must escape the cycle of life and death in order to save sentient beings from the cycle, and thus become a true sage. The petty hardships of the mundane world are nothing compared to lifetime after lifetime of reincarnation. Do not misunderstand the Dharma. The sutra is clear: you must never again fall into the great river of reincarnation for there to exist the seeds of a sage. There is nothing here yet about becoming a Buddha or Bodhisattva, or attaining enlightenment. What are you going into seclusion for if you don’t even understand this? If that were the case, you might as well just lock yourself up in comfort!”

Sutra: “Dwell in scarce desire.”

“There is truly little desire in seclusion. For instance, during life-or-death retreats, we can’t have any desires, merely filling our stomachs. When I did seclusion at Lapchi Snow Mountain in 2007, I lived on plain noodles in water for three months. When I was lucky, I got a couple extra stalks of vegetables; and when I wasn’t, I got even less water than usual. As it is over 4500 meters above sea level, the climate there is very dry. Just walking the distance from where His Holiness was to where I was, in five minutes all the water in the bowl was drained. After a few days of this, I left a note for the attendant pleading for more water the next day. He showed it to His Holiness, and he ordered that I be given more. But too much water isn’t good either. I endured three months of this, not considering what tasted good or bad, but rather merely filling my stomach.”

“When Milarepa was in seclusion, he ate a certain green plant every day, until his body turned green. And that’s why a hunter once saw him and thought he was a living ghost. When in seclusion, we need only the basics to stay alive. All other cravings should be reduced, including any kinds of thoughts and desires. When doing this kind of seclusion, even if you so much as have wicked thoughts in your dreams at night, you should get up immediately and repent. This is different from how you view seclusion, thinking it merely something for your cultivation resume. But really, you should be asking yourselves: is this something I can do?”

Sutra: “Dwell in knowledge of contentment, easily satisfied and maintained.”

“Your mind must dwell in a place of knowledge of contentment, knowing satisfaction if only you have a blanket to keep you warm, and not asking anything else. One time when I was in seclusion, I had a sleeping bag that was wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. And as I’m relatively tall, this caused me problems in the middle of the night, because I couldn’t bend my legs. But you must know contentment just for having a sleeping bag, as there are others who do not. ‘Easily satisfied’ means that it’s easy to satisfy you. You are satisfied just having plain noodles in water. With but an added vegetable stalk the second day, I was nourished. And so, while I lived on plain noodles in water for three months, I didn’t become malnourished. I lost a lot of weight, but this is normal for three months.

“What does ‘easily maintained’ mean? That you can maintain yourself for three months on plain noodles and water without dying. We make our ascent via helicopter, and so we can’t take a bunch of food and supplies up with us — unlike some ordained practitioners, who would bring along all kinds of foods to their seclusion rooms. What’s the point in going into seclusion then? ‘I’ve got this in case I get a cough, this in case I get sour mouth, and this if I start feeling fatigued.’ You might as well not do seclusion at all. ‘Easily maintained’ means you need to know that seclusion isn’t about enjoyment. Inevitably, we must eat so that we have the strength to complete our seclusion practices. But we don’t worry about whether or not this food is nutritious, or tastes good. As I don’t like spicy food, I just had plain noodles in water.”

“He who hasn’t gone through hardship has never practiced the Dharma, and those who want to live lives of enjoyment are not practitioners. Nor are those who want comfort, and for nothing bad to happen. Or those who want safe, peaceful lives without incident. Or those who want to always be happy. These are all outside paths. Those who practice the Dharma know that everything depends on causes and conditions. Whether we are met with good or bad, all is well. We take everything day by day.”

Sutra: “Dwell in brimming wisdom.”

“My mind dwells in brimming Buddha wisdom. What is Buddha wisdom? It is certainly not asking for anything for the present. Shakyamuni Buddha explains wisdom in the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra for over a decade. It’s not a matter of intelligence, like people think. A lot of people say: ‘Rinpoche, please grant me wisdom.’ What for? ‘So I can improve my relationship with my coworker.’ But I tell them: this has nothing to do with wisdom; this is about your conduct as a person. A lot of people misunderstand wisdom. In reality, wisdom is for your practice, and for helping sentient beings. It is not for your own personal benefit. Don’t go thinking Buddha wisdom will make you top in your exams; or help you get promoted, or get a raise; or make it so your spouse doesn’t argue with you. Wisdom is for benefiting sentient beings, and helping you to attain Buddhahood in the future.”

Sutra: “Dwell in practice based on what you hearken.”

“Our minds must dwell in practice based on the Dharma that we hear. That is, the teachings we hear from our guru’s own mouth. The Buddha cannot teach you personally, so of course, you will be heeding the teachings of your guru. But this doesn’t mean going around repeating hearsay: ‘He said this…He said that…’ Fine, then ask him to be your guru! ‘That’s not what he said…’ Then leave, and go over to him. ‘That’s not how he does it…’ Go! We listen, and then use the Dharma to rectify all behaviors that lead to reincarnation accordingly.”

Sutra: “Dwell in liberation. Observe emptiness, and phenomenonlessness, with no set condition of methods.”

“The purpose of all that we practice is escape from the cycle of life and death. Observing emptiness doesn’t mean trying one’s hardest to view emptiness via the mind, but rather that we must understand that all Dharma, all phenomena, and everything else is empty. They have no quality of self-nature, but rather arise and dissipate depending on causes and conditions. They are phenomenonless — phenomena without definition.”

“‘No set condition of methods’ means: don’t go thinking that just because cause and effect runs in one direction now it won’t change later. A lot of people put everything into cultivation of a single Dharma method. But this isn’t right either. We cultivate ourselves to escape the cycle of life and death, and all methods of the Dharma can aid in this. It’s like when people say: ‘To practice the ways of the Pure Land Sect and reach the Pure Land, you must only recite the name of Amitabha.’ But it clearly says in the Ratnakuta Sutra: ‘Bodhisattva Maitreya asked Shakyamuni Buddha how a Bodhisattva should aspire to in order to be born to the Land of Amitabha.’ The Buddha replied: ‘The Bodhisattva should dedicate all of his virtuous acts he has cultivated over his lifetime to the Land of Amitabha, and vow to be reborn there.’ It says nothing about reciting the name of Amitabha every day. And the one who asked the question was even Bodhisattva Maitreya. Interesting, huh? Some who practice the Maitreya tell us not to recite the name of Amitabha, while others who practice the Amitabha tell us not to recite the name of Maitreya. But this is all wrong; both work. ‘No set condition of methods’ means: don’t let one method, or door, block the path to another. All Dharma is effective, as are all of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. All compassion is equal. There is no difference in compassion; that is merely our own discrimination.”

“We have the Bodhisattvas Maitreya, Avalokiteshvara, and Ksitigarbha for expediencies, as well as for different affinities. Perhaps your connection is with Ksitigarbha, or with Avalokiteshvara — and, so there are names for the different Bodhisattvas, which you can chant. Really, you can achieve liberation from the cycle of life and death through practicing any of the Buddhas’ or Bodhisattvas’ method. In order to prevent slander of the Dharma in the Age of Dharma Decline, Bodhisattva Maitreya asked Shakyamuni Buddha what a Bodhisattva should aspire to in order to be reborn to the Land of Amitabha. I remember there were 10 vows, in which it is clearly stated: ‘A Bodhisattva merely has to practice any Dharma method, dedicate all of his virtuous acts to the Pure Land of Amitabha, and vow to be born there.’ And it will even be the Sambhogakaya of Amitabha that comes.”

“Got it? So don’t go around slandering the Buddha any more, saying you are a practitioner of Zen, the Pure Land Sect, or Tantrism. The Buddha never said such things. He merely told us where our minds should dwell. But he never said that if you recite Amitabha, you can’t practice other Dharma methods. Of course, with your root capacity, you won’t be able to do everything. That would be impossible. But we must know in our hearts: all of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can help us to escape the cycle of life and death, and any of their Dharma methods may help us to reduce our karmic hindrances and causal conditions that lead to reincarnation, so that we may be liberated from the cycle of life and death in this lifetime. And so, don’t believe in myths that say Zen practitioners look down on the Pure Land Sect, and vice versa. Or that those of the Tiantai School look down on the Huayan School.”

At this time, Rinpoche asked a senior ordained disciple: “Do people still practice Tiantai in Taiwan?” He replied: “Very few.” Rinpoche then asked: “Why is that?” And he replied: “Because the Tiantai school is all about language.” Rinpoche asked: “So then, does this mean one has to be a literary scholar to practice Tiantai?” The disciple replied: “Yes, because there is so much Buddhist terminology.”

Rinpoche continued: “In reality, the school you practice under is relevant to your causal conditions. But this doesn’t mean that one school is superior to another; it has nothing to do with this. There are over 84,000 Dharma methods in Buddhism, all of which are expedient means, and developed to target the vexations people experience. And so, the method you are connected to reflects which vexations are most prominent for you. But don’t look down on the methods practiced by others. So long as one is willing to approach the Dharma, they walk the Noble Path, each with a unique connection of their own. And so, after every Grand Puja, I told the audience not to all take refuge under me; they should go elsewhere.”

Sutra: “Dwell in knowledge and view of liberation. Sever bonds that hinder.”

“When practicing, think of nothing else. The thought process the Buddha teaches us is dwelling in knowledge and view of liberation. We have to understand that when we practice in a place of tranquility, it is so that our minds can dwell in liberation, as well as all of the knowledge and view the Buddha teaches — not so we can invent our own knowledge and view.”

“‘Sever bonds that hinder’ includes all that we have that binds us to reincarnation. For instance, this is the reason we lock your doors during seclusion. And it is why we must not use cell phones, cut our hair or beards, or shower while in seclusion. It is so we can cultivate compassion.”

Sutra: “Dwell on the boundary. Heed causal conditions.”

“This is impossible to explain to someone who has never cultivated. The Middle Path the Buddha speaks of doesn’t land on one side or the other; it doesn’t cling to form, or lack thereof, and it doesn’t land in the middle either. So what does that leave? Dwelling on the boundary. This means that we must not let our minds cling to ‘form’ or ‘emptiness,’ but instead should heed the causal conditions possessed both by ourselves and sentient beings alike. What does it mean to heed the causal conditions of sentient beings? For instance, if someone doesn’t have the causal conditions to learn the Dharma, forcing him will do no good, and will even inspire resistance. Perhaps he lacks sufficient causal conditions and karmic fortune — and so, you won’t be able to get through to him. Thus, we must heed the causal conditions of both ourselves and of others. Likewise, you must not force yourself to do something you lack the conditions for. For example, some people will vow to do a certain number of recitations, or prayers. But this is contingent on the time and stamina one has available, as well as whether or not you have the right space and venue, etc.”

Sutra: “When dwelling here, realization is attained.”

“This is when the mind dwells not in form or emptiness, and lands not in the middle, but on the boundary. The boundary refers to the boundary of these three, heeding all karmic links. It does not mean: ‘I have merits for practicing the Dharma.’ This is wrong. Or: ‘I attain emptiness from practicing the Dharma.’ That is also wrong, and this is called false emptiness. It is wrong to try to force yourself into emptiness. Heed all causal conditions, and when the time comes, you will instead realize emptiness naturally. I used to always talk about how once when I bumped into a chair while in seclusion, the sound it made allowed me to realize emptiness. But how? What is this state? This isn’t something implored or imagined, nor does it come from recitations or blessings. I simply heeded my causal conditions, and when the time came, this naturally occurred. His Holiness often says my cultivation came naturally. This is what he means. I have no demands for what I expect. I have never thought such things. All I know is that we practice Buddhism to escape the cycle of life and death, and for sentient beings, and so I keep going in my practice. I don’t think about or ask what else may happen, but instead let these things occur naturally on their own.”

“When dwelling here (when your place of dwelling is here), realization is attained. When you resolve for all of the thought processes above, your mind will remain constant, and naturally dwell in this space, no longer thinking of anything else. But this requires constant training, and listening. As for the listening, thinking, and practicing described above, consider whether or not your actions, speech, and thoughts go against the teachings of your guru and the Buddha. Because they shouldn’t. There is no self-view here. ‘That’s not what I meant; that’s not what I was thinking; I can’t do that yet.’ It doesn’t matter; just go with the flow of your karmic conditions. The Buddha never said you have to succeed by a certain time. Some people make excuses, saying they can’t keep up with my pace. Of course you can’t! I move so quickly, how could you possibly keep up? What’s important is that you understand why we practice the Dharma: for liberation from the cycle of life and death. One must be resolute in this for the effects of the Buddha’s teachings to take hold. Otherwise, they will not.”

“When you dwell in the right places, as explained by the Buddha above (dwelling meaning not living, but rather staying at that place) — when your mind is able to stay at such a place, then generally speaking, that means your place of stay is right, and you won’t go wrong. This is the foundation of Exoteric Buddhism. I often say we require a solid exoteric foundation, and this is what I mean by this. We can’t go far without this foundation.”

At this time, Rinpoche had one of the believers in the audience who was nodding off leave.

Rinpoche continued: “He didn’t understand, as I wasn’t saying what he wanted to hear. But even if you don’t understand, you should listen earnestly rather than nodding off. Otherwise, you might as well stay in bed at home. Why was he falling asleep? Because he came here today hoping that by hearing the Dharma he would be blessed and protected, but then felt I was saying all kinds of things he didn’t understand, and couldn’t do himself. But as I was just saying, it doesn’t matter if you can do these things; you should listen anyway. Nodding off means you lack faith in cause and effect. People often make the excuse that they are tired. But could you be more tired than me? I’ve never nodded off during His Holiness’s pujas. And there have even been times when I have felt tired, as a lot was going on, and I hadn’t slept well. So then, why didn’t I nod off? Because this naturally doesn’t happen when you respect the person transmitting the Dharma to you. I don’t nod off because I know what he is telling me is beneficial, and valuable. And so, even if I don’t understand it now, am I going to sleep through it? Nodding off is disrespecting the Dharma, and belittling the Three Jewels. ‘This isn’t what I want to hear. I don’t understand what he’s saying.’”

“I don’t understand His Holiness’s teachings in Tibetan. So, you can’t be excused by saying: ‘I don’t understand Rinpoche’s Cantonese Mandarin.’ Sometimes I don’t understand your Taiwanese Mandarin either. But this is no excuse. You lack earnestness, and don’t understand why you practice the Dharma. I keep telling you it is for liberation from the cycle of life and death, but you don’t listen, thinking there’s no point in listening to these things while you’re still alive. This is a lack of belief in impermanence. I am constantly showing you: whatever you do, don’t become a Rinpoche in the Age of Dharma Decline, as it is truly toilsome.”

Sutra: “The outcome is purity.”

“Shakyamuni Buddha tells us that if your mind dwells in the correct places as explained above, your consciousness will naturally attain purity, and your seclusion will go smoothly. But if you refuse to heed the words of the Shakyamuni Buddha, and interpret the Dharma in your own ways for your seclusion, your mind will be impure, and you will just end up nodding off. The reasoning here is simple. Why do you nod off? Because your minds are impure, and dwell elsewhere. The Buddha teaches us this, but you don’t listen, and go on thinking about this and that. And so, naturally, you are prone to falling asleep.”

“The Buddha also tells us what benefit comes from this: purity. You only gain benefit when your mind is pure, and you practice pure Dharma. But if your mind is impure, no matter what methods of the Dharma you practice, you will gain no benefit. You must believe what I tell you. I am an experienced practitioner. How could I liberate sentient beings if I didn’t have purity of mind? How else would I have what it takes to sit on this Dharma throne? And how else could I do three months of seclusion without dying? This is all from the practice of purity. And where does purity come from? When you aren’t focusing your attention on the wrong places, your mind naturally purifies. We all know that the Dharma is pure and without demands; it is taught and given to us through the power of compassion. Our minds must be pure in order to receive the Dharma, otherwise, we won’t be able to receive it. And if we can’t receive the Dharma, it will be of no use to us no matter how much we recite, prostrate, and supplicate.”

Sutra: “Elder. Like an empty glade of trees and shrubs, no fear or cowering.”

“Here, ‘empty’ doesn’t refer to emptiness and form, but rather a place without people. This place will be overgrown with trees and shrubs, but we won’t fear it even still. The place where you go into seclusion may be like this too; but so long as your mind dwells in the words of the Buddha, you won’t be afraid, even when in seclusion in such a place.”

Sutra: “Thus, Elder. When ordained Bodhisattvas dwell in Ah-Lan-R, they should think as though their minds are like a wall with overgrowth.”

“When in seclusion, an ordained Bodhisattva should give rise to the thought: ‘The mind is disordered, like overgrowth on a wall.’ This doesn’t mean you should think this phrase, but rather that you must understand that all of your vexations are like weeds growing on a wall, with shallow roots that can easily be uprooted. Even if a tree grows on this wall, its roots will be shallow. Likewise, the roots of our vexations are too. So then, why is it you let them take such a deep hold? Because you are always thinking, thinking, and thinking more.

“The Buddha teaches us that when you give rise to vexations, you must understand that they are simply like weeds growing on a wall. You need only uproot them, and they will be gone. What do you use to uproot them? Use the Dharma. But how? With the teachings of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and your guru. But if you are to do this, you can’t just keep saying: ‘This is just the way I am. Bless me, Rinpoche, so that I won’t be afraid.’ How can I bless you when you are in constant fear? No matter how much I bless you, you will remain afraid. Where does this fear come from? The Buddha says it comes from vexations. But these roots are shallow, unlike those of the seeds of sages — which are deep when planted. The roots of vexations are quite shallow.”

“Try and think for a moment: where do your vexations come from? Would you still feel vexed if you didn’t have these thoughts? It’s like what that disciple shared with us earlier, before the puja: ‘I fell asleep as soon as I remembered Rinpoche’s blessings.’ Do you see how shallow these roots are? She uprooted her vexations herself, because she had faith in her Rinpoche. But you can’t, because you don’t have faith in your guru, and so your vexations remain, and multiply. All the while you’re in seclusion, you constantly think: ‘I wonder what’s going on outside? What will happen when I come out?’ These are vexations. It’s like how lay practitioners think things like: ‘I wonder how my spouse and children are? And what about my job? Is my boss going to be upset and fire me when I get back?’ And when a lady goes into seclusion, she might wonder if she is going to meet with a ‘mutiny’ when she comes out. Really, it should be called ‘seclusion mutiny.’ This all comes from your imaginations.”

Sutra: “As though illusions. Who among them frightens you?”

“Who scares you? Who terrifies you? You do. The Buddha says this, and I’m bringing it up ahead of time. All of this is in your imagination. ‘I fear other people.’ Who is the one thinking this? You. This is all imagined by you. Do people try to beat you up when you come here? ‘I’m afraid of them.’ What are you afraid of? This, too, is your imagination. All psychological problems are imagined. And so, that’s why the word ‘illusion’ is used here. You give rise to the illusion ‘my husband is deceiving me’ as well. It starts out as something small, but then you keep thinking this, and giving energy to it. And then, your thoughts say: ‘All right then, I’ll give you something big!’

“It’s just like what I said earlier, about how the Venerable Milarepa imagined a demon into being when he was in seclusion. All of these things are the work of the consciousness. And if you are timid and fearful during your seclusion, you must ask yourself: Who is causing this? You are. ‘I’m afraid something will happen to my son.’ Who is thinking this? You. You didn’t believe in cause and effect, and ate meat while he was in the womb, and so this is cause and effect. What else are you thinking? We can understand these things through the Dharma, too. Much of the ways of our mundane world come from the imagination. ‘I want Rinpoche to know that I’m great.’ But when you think like this, you will make mistakes. Of everyone in the world, only His Holiness is greater than me. Don’t think I am being conceited; I wouldn’t be a Rinpoche if I was. I’m just giving you an example.”

Sutra: “See the body sensibly and without fear. This body isn’t me, nor is it where I reside.”

“This is an admonishment. You should look on your body without fear. Your body doesn’t belong to you, nor do you live inside it. And the time will come when you no longer can use this body. It’s just like what I said earlier about moving to a new home. So, what are you afraid of? If you can’t even see this clearly, and remain afraid, I beg you, do not practice Buddhism. Why does the Buddha urge us in this direction? Because someday you will stop breathing, and when that happens, you’ll wonder about getting your body back in the next life. And then, suffering will follow, because this means you will fall to the Animal Realm. The day will eventually come that you can no longer use your body, and that goes for me as well.”

“Everything the Buddha says here is clear. Why do we spend our lives in fear? Because we fear our bodies being injured, or lost, and this causes us to worry about this and that. But this all comes from the mind. The Buddha tells us: ‘Does this body belong to you? No.’ Where does it come from? All of the good and bad karma accumulated over your past lives, integrated into a body for this life. This body relates to your parentage as well. When your parents do good, you benefit from better health. But if they do wicked deeds, your health suffers. All of the genetics we talk about, the Buddha speaks of as karma.”

“This means that you must ask yourself: Who is doing this to me? Who is coming at me? Your own self. This isn’t to say you should try to be a daredevil, and be completely fearless. Rather, the idea is that everything that happens is the result of your past lives, and focusing on these things isn’t helpful. Just accept them, and that will be the end of it, and you can move on. But if you don’t accept them, and you keep asking me for blessings, I will refuse, as you aren’t accepting the Dharma as taught by the Buddha. I am always telling you that I was never afraid when I got skin cancer. I never cried, stressed, or cowered, never fearing death or pain would come as a result. And that is because of what this passage of the Dharma says — though at the time I hadn’t come across it yet. Why is it that my stories don’t get through to any of you? After all, we’re all people. So why is it I feel no fear? Perhaps it is because of the virtuous roots I cultivated in my past lives, coupled with my practice of the Dharma in this life. Thus, I always remember that whatever happens to my body is the result of my own wicked deeds, and that I need only accept these things. But if you don’t practice acceptance, you will suffer, and start stressing yourself out, obsessing over this and that all day long.”

“Whether one is ordained or a layman, or is in or out of seclusion, this passage clearly tells us: ‘No matter what fear I experience today, it is all imagined.’ The Buddha asks: ‘In the end, who is it who frightens you?’ Your fear that that person is going to cause you problems comes from your own imagination. Does this mean we shouldn’t try to deal with any of our problems? No. We should handle everything in accordance with the law, and common sense, but not fear these things so that they make us counterproductive.”

“When in seclusion, you should visualize that your body doesn’t belong to you, and isn’t somewhere you will reside forever.”

Sutra: “No sentient beings. No longevity. No people. No men. No youth. All talk of fear. Empty and without truth.”

“This is the severing of the Four Notions as described in the Diamond Sutra: There are no notions of sentient beings and longevity (time). There are no people (not meaning people don’t exist, but rather that people aren’t special in the context of the Six Realms.) No men, and no youth: there are no elders or youths. Your worries about these things are empty or substanceless (this doesn’t mean emptiness); they aren’t real. We practitioners view these things simply as the ways of causes and conditions. Saying they are without truth doesn’t mean that they don’t occur, or don’t exist, but rather that they simply arise of causes and conditions, and without causes and conditions, they would not arise. We just give these things labels for convenience. But that doesn’t mean that they are what harms us; it is all just causes and conditions. This is just the way the causal conditions of our human lives are. We experience these things and then depart, returning to Amitabha’s Land. But don’t just keep saying: ‘I’m afraid’ over and over. You cannot get there if you are afraid.”

“What this says is that whether you are young or old, or whatever, these labels are all false, and not the truth. We just give these things labels for convenience, so that we can distinguish between phenomena. But their appearances are unstable, constantly changing. They are not constants. These notions are always changing, from the time we are kids. Why? Because our causes and conditions are changing. How do they change? After you use up the karmic fortune of your youth, you enter another phase of adulthood karmic fortune. And the way you look, and think, and your environment all change in turn, transforming into something else for you to behold. These are the ways of your causes and conditions — no one is hurting or victimizing you.”

“Next Sunday, we will be holding a Chod Puja.”

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 April 19, 2020