His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings — May 17, 2020

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne and led the attendees in Avalokiteshvara ritual. He then continued to expound on “Scroll 82 ‘Elder Ugra Assembly’ (Chapter 19) of the Ratnakuta Sutra.

Sutra: “Understand the law of cause and condition. Elder. This is what it means to be disciplined in the Four Pure Precepts.”

“Gurus aren’t the only ones who need to understand the law of cause and condition; any Buddhist practitioner must understand its importance. Without causes, there will be neither conditions, nor karmic effects. Everyone wants a good life. But how does one get one? Such a thing isn’t given by the heavens, or the buddhas and bodhisattvas, or our ancestors and the deities. We must create this for ourselves. The buddhas, bodhisattvas, and our gurus are merely responsible for teaching us how to plant seeds of virtuous causes and conditions. And as our gurus do this, they do so based on our current karmic conditions, and the conditions of our past lives, so that they can counter-treat them.”

“Before you’ve accumulated sufficient virtuous causes and conditions, certain things may not live up to your expectations, and ordinary people will want their gurus to do things exactly in accordance with their own ideas, needs, and desires. But a guru cannot fulfill the desires of everyone; one can only do as the Ratnakuta Sutra says: an acharya (guru) can help you recite and uphold one or four verses,’ and use the Six Paramitas to lead you to the Dharma, thus aiding you in your practice along the Bodhisattva Path. But you must be reverent toward your guru in all that he does. And, in simple terms, you shouldn’t scrutinize your guru’s personal life.

“According to the sutras, to transmit the Dharma, a guru must have accumulated lifetimes of causes, conditions and virtuous roots, which have ripened in this lifetime, and thus allowed him to ascend the Dharma throne and teach. But I am not the reincarnation of a Rinpoche, nor am I ordained, so why is it I can speak the Dharma? It is not a matter of how much His Holiness likes me, but rather because I practice in accordance with the teachings of His Holiness and the Buddha. And thus, as my virtuous roots have matured, I am naturally able to ascend the Dharma throne and transmit the Dharma. In the Ratnakuta Sutra, the Buddha specifically spoke about how relationships should be maintained between disciples and their guru. But really, a guru doesn’t need disciples, as he can instruct in the Dharma wherever he goes.”

“When I went to Japan to spread the Dharma a couple of years ago, I made offerings to a thousand-year-old wooden-carved Thousand-Armed Avalokiteshvara statue at a temple I visited the first time, and as I recited the Great Six-Syllable Mantra, it rocked back and forth. This isn’t a religious fable. The people around me, including the Japanese there, all saw it with their own eyes. It is recorded in the sutras that certain things happen for those who recite mantras with attainment. For example, a Buddhist statue that has been enshrined for a long time may rock. Why did this wood-carved Japanese Buddhist statue rock? Because I have a special connection with that place. And it was because the people who witnessed this were inspired with faith that they invited me to hold a puja. But were I not achieved attainment in reciting, and Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara saw error in any of my action, that statue wouldn’t have moved.”

“It is recorded in the sutras that in addition to statues that have been enshrined for a long time rocking, some can also become brighter for those attained in recitations as well. Last time we went to Ladakh, when we first entered the thousand-plus-year-old hall of Achi, the shrine there was dull. But after I started reciting the Great Six-Syllable Mantra, people saw the shrine gradually grow brighter, and this is similar to how people smell certain aromas when I recite the Six-Syllable Mantra at our Buddhist Center, which is also recorded in the sutras. But why is it some people can smell this and others cannot? Those who don’t smell it lack faith in their guru. The Avatamsaka Sutra talks about all sorts of different scents, and you gain blessings if you smell them.” One ordained disciple reported: “According to the sutras, this is a sort of realm of virtue, and attunement. If a practitioner truly upholds his precepts, cultivates meditation, and possesses wisdom, then this virtuous realm of attunement can manifest upon this foundation of discipline, meditation and wisdom.”

“There is no limit to the desires many disciples want fulfilled by their guru, and when they are unable to do so, they likewise blame their guru. But if I were really doing something wrong, the phenomena I just described wouldn’t occur. These aren’t things that I have purposefully had arranged. Where do these scents come from? These scents aren’t from the mundane world. According to descriptions in the sutras, there are all kinds of different aromas and floral scents that may be smelled, and what you smell is different every time. So then, who is giving the blessings? When I am attuned with the yidam, he comes, and he naturally has aromas of merits and karmic reward.”

“Here, Shakyamuni Buddha is specifically telling you that so long as your guru has taught you so much as a few lines from the sutras, you must reciprocate, make offerings, and act as an attendant for him for lifetimes over. But why be so strict? Why must one owe so much for just a few lines of sutras? Because all of the sutras the Buddha spoke will aid us in ultimately escaping the cycle of life and death, and attaining buddhahood. And where else can we find such benevolence? I could set aside the Ratnakuta Sutra and just transmit to you the Dharma rituals as you want it. But without reciprocity toward me, how could you have reverence for the rituals taught by the Buddha? You practice for a bit, and when you still remain unattuned, you think: ‘This doesn’t seem to be the ritual I wanted. Perhaps my guru isn’t so good with this kind of ritual.’

“In the Ratnakuta Sutra, the Buddha specifically makes it clear that even though your guru hasn’t yet attained buddhahood — of course, buddhahood is the realm of absolute perfection, as you imagine it — he is nevertheless different from you in his acts. He constantly benefits all sentient beings whether you like it or not, not for fame or fortune, but to endlessly propagate the Dharma.”

“Earlier, there was the phrase: ‘You don’t believe me nor respect me.’ This has an opposite meaning. Don’t think that just because you’ve given me offerings, I will believe everything you say, and perform whatever rituals you want. And giving me offerings also doesn’t mean I must love and respect you. If I loved anyone, I wouldn’t be a guru, because love is subjective, and possessive. I teach you not to love others, but I don’t teach you not to have compassion, or to get divorced, or to never date, as all of these are causal conditions. I just now said that you need to understand the law of cause and condition. If right now you get married, or get divorced, or start dating someone, and you love one another, all of that are causes and conditions. And there is nothing special about this. What is most special is the Dharma. The Dharma is auspicious, and there is nothing in the universe more auspicious than it. There is no subject or methodology in the universe that can help us change our futures, and even if you get a bunch of PhDs or become a doctor, you will never have definite answers for people’s lives, longevity, and health. Why? Because everyone has different causes and conditions.”

“Why is it we haven’t been able to find a cure for this coronavirus pandemic? Because the virus is changing. I’ve already said it before: the coronavirus comes from the spirits of animals we have eaten, such as chickens, ducks, and sheep. And you won’t find answers for this through any degree of research. Recently, there has been news that whenever slaughterhouses in Europe and the US reopen, hundreds of people get the virus in surrounding areas, when they would have been fine otherwise. Someone once asked me when this virus will go away, and I said that it will remain with us for as long as people eat meat. It will only change in intensity.”

“I also mentioned before that the day I held the Parnashavari Puja, I saw the spirits of many animals come forward, and several of the disciples present heard me say this. And yet, still, Disciple Pan doesn’t believe me. She thinks her comments are just passing thoughts, and idle conversation, but your speech reveals your inner thoughts. So why is it she says such things? Because she has no gratitude. I was only able to get this 24-hour puja because I implored His Holiness. So why is it so many of my disciples implore no such things of me? Of over a thousand disciples, have any among you come to me and implored: ‘Please, Rinpoche, perform a puja so sentient beings need not fear?’ Did anyone do this? No. Why? Because you have no gratitude for sentient beings, or intention to reciprocate your guru. What is reciprocity? Imploring your guru to help sentient beings. But you — you are selfish and self-interested. And so, now many of my disciples cannot attend pujas due to new government measures for the coronavirus, and this is the result of their selfishness and self-interest. All day long, you scrutinize me for problems and shortcomings. Although I may have shortcomings, they can be to your advantage.”

“This pandemic has revealed which disciples have reciprocity for their guru. And if you don’t have reciprocity for your guru, how could you have reciprocity for all of the buddhas and bodhisattvas? But for what favor is it the buddhas and bodhisattvas require your reciprocation? Benefiting sentient beings. The Ratnakuta Sutra states that for the sake of sentient beings, a guru clings not even to his own life. In the beginning, I said you could decide for yourselves if you would attend the Parnashavari Puja, and in the end, only 600 of you came. So then, where were the rest of you? You didn’t come, thinking: ‘That has nothing to do with me, as long as Rinpoche blesses and protects me.’ And now with all this being said, you notice how few cases of the virus there are in Taiwan.”

“You all know about the Australian who watched the video of me reciting the Parnashavari Heart Mantra and immediately regained his sense of smell and taste after having lost them to the coronavirus. Everyone says this was a miracle; and yet, do you show reciprocity? You live comfortably in peace and safety, thinking: ‘This is how things are supposed to be, because I have been reverent, done prostrations, and made offerings. So this ritual has nothing to do with me.’ But over 600 of you didn’t attend the 24-hour puja; and now, is it not true that you 600 cannot attend anymore pujas due to coronavirus regulations?” (The disciple in charge reported: Approximately two thirds of them are unable to attend.)

Rinpoche continued: “Why is it you don’t attend when your guru performs a puja? Because you have no reciprocity. The sutras are clear that you must serve your guru and his endeavors. And yet, when I hold such a puja, not counting those overseas, the elderly, the disabled, and children, still over 600 of you are absent. The Ratnakuta Sutra states repeatedly that we don’t just reciprocate in this lifetime, but also across endless lifetimes. Only then do you gain boundless fortune and merits.”

“Some people think: ‘Rinpoche has said we can withdraw refuge, so I’ll just drop out!’ And that’s fine; you can withdraw refuge as my disciples, and that will be one less concern for me. Do I still have concern for those who have left without withdrawing refuge? Of course, as they are sentient beings too; and so, I transfer merits to them all the same. And do I transfer merits to those who withdraw refuge? Yes, I do, for the very same reason. So then, what is the difference? The difference is: they have a very slim chance of attaining buddhahood. And some people will say: ‘I don’t care about that, I just want to get what I want, and for you to do what I ask.’ But this is wrong, because you don’t understand causes and conditions.”

“What makes practicing Buddhism so difficult? It is difficult because you practice with desire, thinking of Buddhism as a part time job rather than what’s most important. You think it is enough to let others do prostrations, recite mantras, and sign up to attend pujas, and you will receive blessings just the same.. And so, what happens to you? Nothing. You just diminish your chance of escaping the cycle of life and death, and increasing good and reducing evil in their future lives. Everything you do in this life affects your future lives, and even the end of this life. Since I began propagating Buddhism from the dharma throne in 1997, and I’ve seen too many disciples who don’t listen and practice as taught, and many of them suffer greatly in their final years due to illness. Listening doesn’t mean listening to me, but to the teachings of the Buddha. If you do this, your virtuous roots will grow naturally and endlessly, and you will not give wicked roots the chance to spread. But as soon as your lives get comfortable, you become careless, and you lack conviction to reciprocate your guru. Here, Shakyamuni Buddha was very humble, and he didn’t ask that you reciprocate him for lifetimes over, but only that you do this for your guru. Without a guru, you would never be able to learn the Dharma. Don’t think it’s enough just to pick up a sutra book and recite from it. This doesn’t work, as there are key points in the text that you cannot get at.”

“This section that I’ve been teaching these past two weeks shows us that a disciple’s mindset toward his or her guru is very important. All offerings must be sincere, and you must have reciprocity in order for your offerings to turn to merits. The Buddha said that even if you constantly give in offerings lifetimes over for an entire kalpa, and even act as an attendant for your guru, you will not have repaid the totality of your guru’s favor. The only way to do this is to attain buddhahood and escape the cycle of life and death. Giving in offerings and acting as an attendant is only causal conditions, and favorable conditioning, reducing the hindrances you face in your practice — or even removing them entirely. This is important to remember. Over the decades I’ve propagated the Dharma, I’ve regularly encountered hindrances from karma accumulated over my past lifetimes. But I’ve rarely encountered hindrances in my practice. Why? It is not that I’m particularly special or impressive, but merely because I’ve done as the Buddha teaches, and harbored absolute reciprocity toward my guru. After all, without reciprocity, you cannot be reverent, and even if you act reverent, that will only be a facade due to your fear of me.”

“Without reciprocity, you naturally grow careless, and start saying and doing strange, unfathomable things. It is like children who want their mothers to do whatever they ask, and then get angry when they don’t. From the perspective of cause and effect, it is bad to get angry with even your parents. After all, karmic retribution for that is very severe. And getting angry with your guru is even worse. Here, this is made clear. We haven’t even started talking about teaching Tantra yet. But so long as your guru speaks one Buddhist verse or four Buddhist verses to you, or teaches you Mahayana Buddhism, you must reciprocate. None of you have lived up to the Buddha’s standards though; and we need not even speak of reciprocation across lifetimes — you aren’t even willing to reciprocate in this lifetime.”

“In simple terms, you must support anything that your guru does, so long as it doesn’t violate cause and effect or the law. But you all pick and choose. Even His Holiness knows the reason I work so hard in my business is so that I can support you disciples. Do you yourselves not even realize this? You all have your own opinions. Why is it so many of you are unable to transform your own wicked karma? I’ve said this many times: I can bless you, but I cannot transform your karma. You must do this yourselves. I’ve said this over and over. If I could become cultivated just by relying on His Holiness’s blessings, I wouldn’t even have to practice. But blessings are just support and aid for you to overcome your hindrances. You must still take action, advance, and surmount them for yourselves. But you — you all rely on me completely. And I’m fine with this; I live a life of toil. But how do you treat me? You want everything from me, and then get angry when I don’t give it to you, and turn against me. And you call yourselves Buddhist disciples?”

“His Holiness has already told everyone how much I’ve given in offerings, but this doesn’t mean he has to give me special treatment. I’m not trying to exchange money for the Dharma. And as you can’t do this, what must you do? Reciprocate, and uphold reciprocity. You must uphold reciprocity, or you will speak carelessly, like Disciple Pan. Her irresponsible remarks show that she has become careless. No matter who you are, if you say you want to practice the Dharma, you will continue to get the protection of the buddhas and bodhisattvas, generations of the lineage’s gurus, and your own root guru as well. Don’t think you can become cultivated on your own. Could you become cultivated just by reciting for half an hour, or an hour per day? Who do you think you are? All this does is increase favorable conditions for you. The Bodhisattva Path emphasizes the importance of accumulating karmic reserve. But without reciprocity, it is no use what Dharma you hear, or what pujas you attend.”

“Hundreds of you were absent from the 24-hour puja. Why? Because you lack reciprocity. You think: ‘Rinpoche wants me to do this, but I only do what I want to do. After all, he’s not going to force me. And how does this recitation benefit me, anyway? I only want to do things that benefit me.’ But in the end, whose loss is this? Yours, not mine. I’ve given you the opportunity to tie a bond with vast numbers of sentient beings, but you don’t want it. You’ve eaten the flesh of so many beings over the course of your lifetimes, and you think attending a Chod Puja every month will liberate all those beings? With all of the Chod Pujas I’ve performed, we shouldn’t even be having this pandemic. So why is it we do, and I have to perform the Parnashavari Puja? Of course, there must be a reason. You’ve eaten so much meat, and you think a decade plus of your taking refuge cancels out this debt completely? Even for me, who became a vegetarian at 35, it wasn’t until 2007, after completing my retreat, that my cancer was fully eradicated. So ask yourselves, what have you done? What makes you think your karma can be transformed?”

“Shakyamuni Buddha teaches us an important point: we must reciprocate. Only through endless reciprocity across lifetimes can we gain boundless merits. And without boundless merits, we naturally do not gain boundless attainment. And how are we to liberate sentient beings without attainment? Just by reciting a few mantras over and over? Why is it that every time I emerge from seclusion, I offer all of the merits from my recitations to His Holiness? Because that is reciprocation. This is unlike you, who think you should get to keep your merits for yourselves. In Esotericism, when we are in seclusion, we offer all of our merits to our yidam, dharma protectors, and our guru — but you just keep it for yourselves. And so, naturally, several hundred of you didn’t attend the 24-hour puja, because you thought it had nothing to do with you. And I wouldn’t try to get rid of those of you who didn’t attend for this — but now you can’t come to that puja, even if you wanted to.”

“This pandemic has shown you what happens when you lack diligence. I’m not purposefully doing this to punish you. I’m sure many of you are unhappy, thinking: ‘Why is it only those who have practiced the Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices get to attend pujas every week, and the rest of us can’t, even though we have made offerings.’ But as I said before, you don’t get to ask for anything in return for your offerings. You don’t get to demand that I give you special attention or treatment because you’ve given me offerings. I view this based on merit. And at the very least, being willing to cultivate the Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices shows these disciples are more obedient, and thus a step above the rest.”

“Really, what the Buddha taught is simple, and you can all do this. So why haven’t you? Because you lack reciprocity. Don’t run over to thank me. A lot of people do this after I have helped them out. But I tell them there is no need; this is my duty. I do this to reciprocate the buddhas and bodhisattvas. This has nothing to do with whether you are grateful or not. I am not here to be your friend. You are my disciples, and according to the sutras, you must show reciprocity, as you owe the debt of gratitude to your guru, and this cannot be repaid by anything mundane. But if you aren’t even willing to do the most basic of the mundane, are you going to be able to listen, and reciprocate? Absolutely not. And if you can’t do this, nothing that comes after is in the cards for you.”

“Why is it His Holiness is always going on about me, saying that I’ve never changed over the decades? Because I’ve always shown gratitude and reciprocity in following him, never once wavering. Whether a layman or ordained, one’s orientation in practicing Buddhism is of the utmost importance. And according to the Ratnakuta Sutra, without reciprocity, it doesn’t matter how well you recite the mantras.”

At this time, Rinpoche admonished one of the ordained disciples. “What made you think you could criticize those four ordained disciples’ red dharma robes? Do you know who these robes belong to? Tathagata. The only difference is that their robes are from the Tibetan tradition, while yours is from the Han tradition. You’ve created such serious wicked karma for yourself, daring to criticize the dharma robes of others. This is such a serious act of wicked speech. And from this, it is clear you have not the slightest bit of compassion or repentance. They didn’t tell me that you did this, but I knew. And I already gave you a chance, but you thought it was no big deal. A male ordained disciple spoke to you about it, but you thought it didn’t matter, and even snapped back at him. And when I had those four disciples talk to you, you still thought it was nothing. But would they have dared to speak to you about this had I not asked them to? You criticize even the dharma robes; do you hold the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha in any regard at all?”

“If you disparaged someone on the outside like this, what would they do about it? Would you still think it was no big deal then? I’m not angry that you’ve disparaged them, but I am concerned for you. Is it okay to disparage the ordained and their dharma robes like this? This is truly unheard of. You are ignorant of the law of cause and condition, and yet you think you are becoming cultivated. In what way are you becoming cultivated?”

Sutra: “And, Elder. Ordained bodhisattvas hear the Four Pure Precepts. And must practice the Four Pure Precepts thusly. What Four? It is called void yin.”

“‘Yin’ doesn’t refer to ghosts, or yin and yang, but rather to the Five Aggregates of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body. ‘Void’ doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but rather that it is non-constant, and is a tool of attaining Buddhahood. For our lives and bodily needs, our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness produce form, sound, scent, taste, touch, and dharma, giving our bodies life so that they can support our Buddhist practice. And so, now the most challenging paradox of your practice of the Dharma is trying to convince you that these Six Aggregates of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness are actually the Six Thieves — like the Six Thieves stated in Exoteric Buddhism — when you are all already accustomed to their functioning. These Six Aggregates of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness are constantly blinding you, so that you are unable to see your own pure self-nature.”

“How do you keep your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness from influencing your mind? Of course, through sequenced practice, listening to your guru’s teachings and striving endlessly to implement them, you can eventually realize that these senses are merely external tools. They do very little to help you with your inner cultivation. But still, humans all cling to their six senses, thinking that everything you see with your eyes, smell with your noses, and think in your heads is so important. My disciple Dr. Ye researches the brain, and she and her colleagues are trying to figure out how sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch are transmitted to the consciousness in thought. However, the Dharma consistently states that the six senses are void, as what is produced is merely the result of causal conditions, and everything eventually passes as these conditions are extinguished. For example, in death, we lose our senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, only leaving consciousness. So then, where does consciousness come from? This depends on what we cling to in life.”

“For example, Disciple Pan doesn’t think the alleviation of the pandemic in Taiwan is because of His Holiness’s and my own compassionate performance of the puja, and she won’t say this, because she disparages the Dharma, and lacks reciprocity. Otherwise, someone with reciprocity would naturally say this. You can’t obliterate the existence of the Dharma. It is their own business if they don’t believe it. But as Buddhist disciples, why wouldn’t you believe? This is very strange. Where does this lack of faith come from? Your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness cling to all that they see, hear, feel, and so on. Everyone says this, and the whole world says that — so naturally, you repeat what everyone else says. And so, today I asked Disciple Pan which countries closed their borders to China first. It was the US and Italy. We, on the other hand, were slower to act. So then why is it despite closing their borders sooner, the pandemic is much worse in those places? But Disciple Pan hasn’t looked into this, because she lacks reciprocity, and doesn’t believe that I can help sentient beings by imploring the Dharma from His Holiness. So, now do you see how defiled your minds are?”

“This is because the Six Aggregates of the eyes, ears, nose, and tongue are void, and not constant. From birth to the moment before death, they are always changing, and unstable. And when we stop breathing, our eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body immediately cease functioning, leaving only the consciousness. This consciousness is what is used in reincarnation. And if we can subdue even the consciousness so that it no longer wavers, you naturally will not reincarnate. But if you cling to certain things in life, your consciousness will bring you back. Disciple Pan said she was just making a comment without thinking about it, but can a Buddhist disciple do this? And so, I admonished her today. She has taken refuge under two Rinpoches: one from before, and another one now. So then, why hasn’t she been able to transform her karma? I’ve saved 10 years of her life, but as she hasn’t changed her ways, this ailment has come for her again. What hasn’t she changed? Her lack of faith in cause and effect and the Dharma; her lack of reciprocity; and her lack of faith in the void of her eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and consciousness.”

Sutra: “Boundaries like the Dharma Realm.”

“When you see certain boundaries and territory, refrain from drawing distinct divisions between them. This phrase is difficult to explain. The disciple who thinks highly of herself is setting a boundary. And she looking down on those other ordained disciples who were wearing red dharma robes and disparaging them is setting a boundary too. But without these boundaries, what becomes of this realm? It becomes the Dharma Realm. The Buddha said the Dharma Realm has no borders and boundaries. And modern science proves that space is constantly expanding, and always has been. Thus, it is without bounds. But if you create boundaries for yourself, your mind cannot be expansive, and it will not be able to accommodate the vast Dharma. And then, you will likewise not have vast compassion, and constantly do wrong without realizing it due to your preconceptions.”

“For example, there is thinking: ‘I need Rinpoche to do whatever I ask.’ This is a boundary. And yet, humans cannot live on this Earth without boundaries. It is like the boundary that exists in Disciple Pan’s mind, which says: ‘They are bad and we are good.’ What does this boundary mean? That her compassion is gone. The Sutra of Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows is very clear that in the Hell Realm, there are no distinctions of race and creed. So long as you commit wicked acts, there is a chance you will go there. And, likewise, the same goes for virtuous acts, and people of all races, creeds, and nations can all be liberated from the cycle of life and death.”

“When Disciple Pan spoke these words today, she was drawing a boundary. ‘They are bad, and what we do here is good.’ And so, she has no compassion. When I saw that, I was saddened, because no one has taught them the Dharma, and so I felt empathy. And I am saddened to see so many of the dead being transported all over the US. Don’t think that just because we’re closed off and things are going well here that the troubles of the rest of the world have nothing to do with us. Some of this invariably is our business.”

“This is a really important passage. So long as you draw boundaries for yourself, you will never be able to cultivate empty compassion. What does it mean to draw a boundary? Comparing your recitations favorably to others. But who recites the best? The yidam. When will it be your turn? You haven’t the least bit of attainment, and yet you criticize others for not reciting better than you. Flap consonants? You speak such nonsense.”

“This passage is important. Even when in seclusion in a tiny room, you will have clear boundaries. However, through visualization, you can make these boundaries as vast as the Dharma Realm. It is like when I did seclusion in India in May and June of one year, and stayed in a room with western sunlight. It was over 40°C in that room — so hot that I couldn’t even wear any clothes. I couldn’t open the window, and there was no fan, and I couldn’t fan myself while reciting either. So what could I do? I visualized I was in the fiery hell, suffering in place of sentient beings — and I immediately felt cooler. But the sun was still in the same place in the sky. So what happened? My boundaries became like the Dharma Realm. The boundaries I felt became vast like the void and Dharma Realm through my visualization. I allowed myself to descend to the fiery hell to suffer in place of others, and suddenly, I no longer felt the heat. I continued practicing this over the days that followed — all just this one thought.”

“Thought is important in Buddhist practice. Don’t doubt the power of such thought. This is what happened; I just thought this and visualized it. If I didn’t have this kind of cultivation experience, I wouldn’t be telling you this. Those of you who have been to India know that in June, it is already so hot there that you sweat just standing in the street, and a room taking sunlight from the west can bake to temperatures of over 50°C. At the time, I had not yet read this passage from the sutra. But now that I have, I know that I have enacted ‘void yin.’ I treated my eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and consciousness as if they didn’t exist, and thought of the situation as though I had done great evil acts, descending to the fiery hell to suffer in place of others. This is ‘void.’ I no longer believed my body was in my possession, and it was because my ‘boundaries’ were ‘like the Dharma Realm’ that I was able to transform my situation.”

Sutra: “Enter as though it is aggregated emptiness.”

“When we enter any realm, it is like aggregated emptiness. But this doesn’t mean reaching this realm signifies great attainment for you. A lot of practitioners make this mistake, thinking that reaching a certain realm means they are attained. But here, the Buddha refutes this. When you enter any realm, view it as aggregated emptiness. This means place all of the merit you have cultivated into emptiness. Entering emptiness doesn’t mean it’s gone; do not worry that you will lose it. How we practice and whether we are attained all depends on the law of cause and condition. Causes and conditions are constantly arise and extinguish. And this coming and going is emptiness, as inner nature is unchanging. Causal conditions are born of causal conditions. And so, pursuing this realm or hoping to enter another is wrong, because this is ignorance of ways of cause and condition. Thus, this ordained disciple has made a great mistake, thinking so highly of her own recitations, and the realm she is in. Here, the Buddha is telling you that if you want to enter this realm without understanding emptiness, it does you no good.”

Sutra: “Not dwelling in false labels.”

“We don’t let our minds dwell on labels. I often remind you that if you forgot your name today, or your age, where you were born, or the names of your parents, then what use would your name be? None; it is fake. Simply put, all terms are fake, or empty. What is terminology? There are a lot of terms from the sutras, and many people like to research and probe them. So then, what does it mean when the Buddha says all labels are false? Before you are able to understand a certain realm, the Buddha gives you a label for it so that you can experience it as a human in some way for lack of the mind of a buddha or bodhisattva. But as you progress in your practice, you will see that these labels are all fake. They are merely part of a process; they have no true existence. People often think they have to cultivate themselves to a certain level, and attain a certain name or reputation in order to prove they’ve done well in their practice. So why is it I keep a low profile? Because all labels are fake. You can understand this. Once you are dead, all labels become fake, and it doesn’t matter how much you have studied, or how many degrees you have received.”

“Why are they fake? Because your degree just means you have memorized a few terms, and can recall them, and explain them clearly and logically. But are you able to probe their root sources? And if not, then is this not a falsehood? In simple terms, you just use this false title to make money for your living expenses.”

“Why does the Buddha bring this up? Because he fears that you will cling to labels and reputation in your practice. If you do this, you will never become cultivated. And this is also a warning to the laity. Don’t think you are superior to others because of some label, or that you are an expert because of some professional title. Being an expert means you only understand one thing, and nothing else. If you can practice the Dharma and live your life with this kind of mindset, you will face fewer vexations, and they will cease to arise.”

“Why is it we give rise to vexations, and always seem to be having wicked thoughts? Because we pursue the joy of labels, feelings, and the joy coming from eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness. And so, we are constantly afflicted, and cause ourselves to suffer. Vexations and suffering aren’t imposed on us by others. We do these things to ourselves. Of course, you will complain: ‘He treats me badly. He hit me!’ But have you considered that he does these things because of causes and conditions? Would he do this if you hadn’t hit him in a past life?”

“Once I started practicing, whenever someone I had never hit in a past life tried to hit me, the dharma protectors always deflected the blow. This has happened twice. The dharma protectors pushed them both away. This isn’t a fable; it really happened. As I had never hit them in any past lives, the dharma protectors came, firstly to protect me, and secondly to make sure these people wouldn’t create wicked causes for themselves. And so, the protectors pushed them back, and they just stood there, dumbfounded, not knowing what had happened. This is because I understand causes and conditions, and the falseness of labels. Not dwelling in false labels just means not clinging to them. And if you are happy over something someone says, that is a false label, too.”

Sutra: “Elder. This is what it means to be disciplined in the Four Pure Precepts. And, Elder. Ordained bodhisattvas hear the Pure Precepts. And must practice the Four Pure Precepts thusly. What Four? Know the self without attaining it.”

“I said this earlier: You know your name, but do you know the true ‘self?’ When you cast everything else aside and examine this, where is the self located? This passage isn’t telling you that you shouldn’t know the ‘self.’ You must know of the existence of the ‘self’ in order to practice. But does this mean that you’ve attained the true ‘self?’ No. From a medical point of view, the various bones and cells of the human body are all combinations of elements which in turn form our bodies. So what are you then when these elements are broken down? Iron, copper, magnesium, and calcium?”

Disciple Xie, a doctor of Western Medicine, answered: “In reality, the body is just a collection of elements, such as proteins, water, and electrolytes. And when the consciousness leaves the body, all that is left is flesh and skin, and nothing more.”

Rinpoche continued: “The flesh and skin are all just elements as well.” (Disciple Xie agreed.) “You are all just elements. But causal conditions have put these elements together to produce bodies, and then your parents gave you names, which are false labels. There are people who endlessly research the brain, and probe the sources of its functioning; and yet, to this day, we still don’t have answers. And this is because these people know of the brain — but is this the true brain? If we delve into what the brain really is, it too is a collection of elements. But, as the brain needs to think, in addition to extra proteins, what else does the brain have?”

Brain specialist Disciple Ye responded: “It has extra neurohormones, proteins, and amino acids.” (Rinpoche asked: “And what happens if we get rid of these things?”) “It is just like what Dr. Xie just said about these components. We are all the same.”

Rinpoche continued: “Aren’t we foolish? Thinking all day long — but about what? Thinking about our own happiness and satisfaction. But what is it that is being satisfied? Your elements. These teachings by the Buddha all relate to science and medicine. This means that the ‘self’ assembled by causal conditions exists, and we cannot deny the existence of this ‘self’ of causal conditions. And once we know of this ‘self’ of causal conditions, our practices begin.”

“We know that this ‘self’ is created of causes and conditions. And just as this body is a ‘self’ assembled of causes and conditions, when these causes and conditions end, the body’s ‘self’ too ends. And then what is left?” (Disciple Xie responded: “Just some elements.”) “Only fossils will remain, as well as some hair being preserved too. But by saying this, the Buddha isn’t denying the existence of the fake self, or saying we should observe emptiness to the point that we stop believing this ‘self’ exists. The Buddha never said these things, and you must understand this.”

“Rather, the Buddha is telling us the origin of the ‘self,’ and clarifying how it is this ‘self’ is assembled, and what defines it. Only when you fully understand this — ‘know the self without attaining it’ — can you realize that you haven’t yet attained the true self. The true self is pure self-nature and dharma-self. It is not formed of causes and conditions, but rather is self- nature, and pre-existing. But this current ‘self’ comes from causes and conditions.”

“What is the difference between self-nature and causal conditions? The pure ‘self’ of nature and self-nature exists from the time every being reincarnates, whether it is a cat, dog, or even an ant. The difference is we can hear the Dharma, learn it, and practice it, so that we may find the true self and unlock it, and realize that this current ‘self’ is false, impermanent, non-constant, and created of causes and conditions. No matter what you pursue in life, it will eventually change and disappear.”

“This passage spoken by the Buddha is insightful. It says to know the ‘self’ — it doesn’t deny the self, or say we shouldn’t know this ‘self.’ This means that while you think of your work, career, wealth, romantic life, and so on as making up the ‘self,’ the self made up by these things is fake, as it is non-constant. It cannot make you happy forever, nor can it make you suffer forever. And once you understand this ‘self’ and its origin, you will realize you have yet to attain the true ‘self.’”

“Think hard about this when you go home. So many people cling to love, their children, their feelings, and their accomplishments, but none of this is knowing the ‘self.’ And it is only when you know the ‘self’ that you can see that you have not yet attained the true ‘self.’ In Buddhism, you only needs to learn divine knowledge if you intend to liberate others. You do not need this ability. Rather, you need to understand that the ‘self’ you have attained through decades of toil is false once you become acquainted with the “self” through the influence of the Dharma.”

“And so, in order to avoid repeatedly attaining the false ‘self’ in future lives, we must understand the origin of the ‘self’ in this life. As long as we know its origin and don’t give it the opportunity to return, we can end the cycle of life and death. But if you believe firmly in this ‘self,’ are fond of it, and become upset when apart from it, then that means that you don’t really know this ‘self.’”

“It is guaranteed that you won’t get everything you want in life. Why? You don’t fulfill all of the wishes of other beings; so why should you get everything you want? And then what happens when you don’t get what you want? You act out. Why is it kids are so difficult to control nowadays? Because their parents try to give them everything they want from the time they are little, and when they grow up and can’t get their way, they either become psychologically ill or act out. For example, a 24-year-old girl came in yesterday with her parents, and they told me she had split personalities. I asked the girl: ‘Do you think you are ill?’ And she said: ‘No.’ ‘Then what’s wrong?’ I asked. ‘I don’t like my parents. I like myself.’”

“I asked her why she liked herself and not her parents, thinking it must be because her parents were interfering in her life. And in the end, like all other youths, she said it was because she wasn’t allowed to date, play on her phone, or stay up late, and because she had to eat and study when told to. It’s always the same. And then her parents were just lazy and dumped her on a doctor. But if she really had split personalities, she wouldn’t have been able to tell me these things so lucidly.”

“Why is she like this? Because she doesn’t believe that the ‘self’ comes from causes and conditions. And parents always cling to the way their children turn out. After talking to them for a long spell, her mother still brought up her daughter’s dating, and I asked her how old she was when she got married. She said 26. And so, I asked her if she was right for dating at 24, and her daughter wrong for doing the same?”

“This is a flaw people have. They don’t know the ‘self,’ and yet think they have attained it — attaining without knowing. However, the Dharma tells us to know the self without attaining it, and yet we do the opposite. We are constantly manipulated by the consciousness. But where do the reactions of the consciousness come from? From the sensations of our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body. These five types of sensation influence our minds, and as soon as the mind stirs, so does the consciousness. And when this happens, we act accordingly. I imagine Dr. Ye can hear me clearly, but can’t quite make sense of what I mean.” (Dr. Ye confirmed this.)

“This is because western science claims the brain is the top executive of action. But from the perspective of Buddhism, the brain is the one giving orders for our actions, thoughts, and speech, while the consciousness controls the brain. So then, where is the consciousness? It is between the breasts. We’ve all had the experience of the chest feeling hot when we’re angry and soothed when we’re happy.”

“But why isn’t it the brain? The way you explain it is that the brain releases chemicals that create feelings in us, correct?” (Disciple Ye responded: “Right. Modern medicine still tells us that the brain is the center of everything, while Rinpoche’s teachings tell us the mind is.”) “These aren’t my teachings, they are the Buddha’s.” (Disciple Ye responded: “Right. And last week, Rinpoche told me not to think when I got home, because I couldn’t find the mind.”)

“You don’t need to look for the mind. It exists in all of us. But why is it we have no sense of it? Because we cling to the ‘self.’ We cling to the fake ‘self,’ and think we understand it, and it is for this reason our pure self-natures do not manifest, as we shroud and cover them up. Why is it that sentient beings move when I perform the Dharma? It is not because I have some great power, but because I have forgotten the ‘false self.’ I do not possess this ‘self,’ and thus, my self-nature (dharma-self) manifests fully.”

“The biggest paradox in modern medicine is people insisting that the brain gives the orders. But as I’ve said before, if this were true, a single brain cell should be able to issue orders alone. And yet modern science tells us that a brain cell is useless on by itself, always requiring others in conjunction to operate. So then, who is it giving them the orders to assemble, and sending electricity through them? Do we have an answer for this?” (Dr. Ye replied: “Currently, we don’t have any answers for this. The most we can do with science currently is detect the activities of brain cells with our instruments. But when they are inactive, science is helpless.”

“There is research being done on meditation now, and we know that when someone enters deep meditative state, brain activity ceases, leaving only basic activity for the vitals. So then, who is it telling the brain to stop? I’ve told you all before that I’ve had two meditation experiences in which I couldn’t hear or see, and my whole body felt nothing. This is the cessation of the sensations of eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body. And this means that without receiving outside signals, thoughts and the brain cease to move.”

“This is quite an arcane subject. And with more probing, we can gradually experience this for ourselves. Right now, all that modern medicine tells us is that chemicals are released from the brain when we are happy or angry, in turn making us feel these emotions. So then, how do we stimulate the brain, and make it release these chemicals? There must be some source for this. Some people think it is our nerves moving, and making the brain release chemicals to make us feel different emotions. But if the brain were in charge, it would just release chemicals every minute to make us happy, right? (Disciple Ye responded: “Our brain cells only release so-called hormones to make us happy in response to outside stimuli, such as when we see someone we like, or eat a food we enjoy, etc.”)

“And so, that brings us back to where we started. If we like something because of what we see, that is input from the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body the Buddha spoke of entering the consciousness, and the consciousness telling the brain what to do. The brain represents the body. And thus, when we speak of action (body), speech (mouth), and thought (consciousness), we clasped our palms, and place our fingers by the brow rather than the chest, because our brains represent the body, and all of our bodily actions are ordered by the brain. But the most important thing is for the consciousness to tell the brain what to do. The brain doesn’t function otherwise.”

“If it were true that the brain experienced likes and dislikes as a result of outside input, then we could just put on a video and make the brain happy forever. We could get used to this enjoyment, and always be happy. But this doesn’t work, and Dr. Ye knows this. Why? Because the consciousness is constantly changing in accordance with signals we receive across accumulated lifetimes. Think about it. We don’t necessarily still like the things we liked when we were kids, just as there are things we used to hate but now love. This really happens. For example, maybe you hated a certain boy when you were little, and then you married him when you grew up. This happens all the time.”

“If things were really the way Dr. Ye says — with the brain creating fondness for the things we see — then how is it this happens as a result of what we see? Who is transmitting this signal? Can a brain accumulate this much experience? I don’t think so! These things are accumulated in the consciousnesses: the Alaya Consciousness and the Mana Consciousness, and they make up the signals stored in our fields of consciousness. If someone constantly tells you from the time you are a child that your prince charming is going to be dark, strong, and short, this will get put in the fields of your consciousness, and you will want even what the rest of the world doesn’t, because it is stored there.”

“And when you see this, you will first retrieve information from your consciousness, and if you come across the right information, it will ‘pop’ out, and enter the brain. And then, your brain will stimulate the eyes, and you will think: ‘Ah! This is my love.’ And so, it is of the utmost importance that we ‘know the self without attaining it.’ For if along the path of cultivation we do not understand the ‘self,’ we become incapable of attaining the true ‘self.’ And without the true ‘self,’ you are completely ignorant in the matters of the Dharma, and are no different from an ordinary Buddhist follower.”

“The Buddha repeatedly teaches us to ponder certain things — as training, and to change our consciousness. And when we think about them enough, the words of the Buddha begin to occupy the fields of our consciousness, and our actions, speech, and thoughts naturally reflect the Dharma teachings. But if you don’t allow the Dharma to enter your consciousness, and resist it to no end, holding to your own ideas, life experiences, and ideas of right and wrong in protest, then the Dharma will never enter your consciousness. And without the Dharma, you will care only for the false ‘self,’ thinking you must protect it from harm and suffering, and give it whatever it wants. And when you do this, you will never know this ‘self,’ and thus be unable to attain the true ‘self.’ Where is the true ‘self?’ The Heart Sutra tells us the answer. The entirety of the Heart Sutra is all about telling us what the true ‘self’ is — emptiness.”

Then, Rinpoche instructed an ordained disciple to recite the Heart Sutra:

While practicing deep Paramita of Wisdom, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara perceived that the Five Aggregates are all empty, and was thus liberated from all suffering and calamity. Sarira! Form is no different from emptiness, and emptiness no different from form. Form itself is thus emptiness, and emptiness thus form. And so is true of sensation, perception, formation, and consciousness. Sarira! All dharmas are of empty, not arising or dissipating; not defiled or pure; not waxing or waning. And thus, in emptiness there is no form, sensation, perception, formation, or consciousness. There is no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, or mind, and no form, sound, scent, taste, touch, or dharma. There is no realm of sight, nor a realm of consciousness. There is no delusion, and is absolute non-delusion; there is no death from old age, and is absolute absence of this. There is no suffering, amassing, cessation, or path, and no wisdom and attainment. And as there is no attaining, a Bodhisattva relies on the Paramita of Wisdom to eradicate the concerns of the mind, eliminate fear, depart from every perverted view, and thus dwells in Nirvana. All Buddhas in the three periods rely on the Paramita of Wisdom to attain the highest, perfect enlightenment. Therefore, know that the Paramita of Wisdom is a great mantra of divinity and purity, and is ultimate and equanimously unequalled. It can eliminate all suffering, and is true, not false. Thus, recite: Gone, gone, gone to the other shore; gone completely to the other shore. Bodhi-svaha.

Rinpoche Continued: “And so, the Heart Sutra tells us to ‘know the self without attaining it,’ and makes it clear that the senses of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and consciousness are all empty. ‘Empty’ doesn’t mean that they don’t exist, but rather that they all arise from causal conditions. We become equipped with these aggregates when equipped with the right causal conditions; and when said conditions dissipate, so do they. Why is it we no longer suffer once we understand emptiness? Because this suffering disappears when we stop clinging to these sensations. And where does suffering come from? Grasping at our feelings, reactions, and experiences. These all create suffering.”

“Once you understand that everything is transient and changing, and that the birth of the ‘self’ in this life is the result of causes and conditions, the true ‘self’ is gradually revealed through the Dharma. And only after this happens can you experience the words of the Buddha: ‘all dharma (phenomenon) is emptiness.’ But still, the Buddha doesn’t teach us to deny the ‘self’ that lives in the mundane world with us now — as if he did, many people would become passive, and give up on this ‘self.’”

“When the Buddha said ‘know the self,’ he didn’t mean to give up on yourself, just the same as how when I tell you to learn the Dharma, I am not telling you to give up on your current way of life. Through the influence of the Dharma, you can gain clarity about the ‘self’ you cling to. Where does it come from? And how does it depart? What produces it? And how is this false ‘self’ useful to you? Would it be good for your practices if you didn’t have this false ‘self?’ This is the dharma gateway one requires to practice Buddhism.”

“This is what the Heart Sutra says; it explicitly tells us that this ‘self’ that all sentient beings cling to is the origin of suffering. But when we are consistently influenced by the Dharma, and can accumulate acquired wisdom and unlock primordial wisdom, we are able to clearly see that this ‘self’ is false, impermanent, and the source of our suffering. And only then can we understand the suffering of others, and help liberate them from it rather than merely fulfilling their desires. After all, no matter what desires you fulfill for sentient beings, they will eventually become dissatisfied. And so, the sutras talk about ‘hooking [beings] in with desire,’ meaning that we at first give people a little of what they want and then use the Dharma to help them. But we don’t satisfy all of their desires.”

“We have to understand these things if we are to walk the correct path in our practice of the Dharma, and avoid doing wrong. It is wrong to constantly think: ‘I am practicing and becoming cultivated.’ Why? Because then you are still practicing for yourself, and putting in all of this effort for the false self. But one day, you will realize this false self simply resides in the mortal world for a few decades to repay your karmic debts. And then, you will understand why we learn the Dharma. But if you think Buddhism is about living a comfortable life, and currying favor with your guru, then you might as well give up.”

Sutra: “Hearing and realizing the Dharma for others, to purify the mind.”

“This passage is difficult to explain. ‘Hearing’ means listening to the Dharma, and after hearing the Dharma, we must have realizations about its meaning. But why is it ‘for others’ and not ‘for me?’ After all, I need to hear and understand it first if I’m going to help sentient beings! This phrase means that for practitioners on the Bodhisattva Path, the Dharma is for teaching others. When someone on the Bodhisattva Path ‘knows the self without attaining it,’ and understands this problem, he can then in turn help others once he has heard and realized the Dharma. ‘To purify their minds.’ For example, whom am I lecturing for today? I’m lecturing to purify your minds, not to purify my own mind because I have heard and realized the Dharma. We do this for others, because this is the Bodhisattva Path. And every word of Dharma spoken by an acharya on the Dharma throne purifies the minds of others. If a practitioner lectured on the throne just to fulfill your desires, and acted off the throne just to satisfy you, that would be wrong.”

Sutra: “Not dwelling in Dharma and other phenomena for joy of mind.”

“This is an admonishment for practitioners. Do not let your mind dwell in the Dharma and other phenomena for the attainment of some kind of joy. You shouldn’t hold on to the Dharma. The Diamond Sutra is clear that once we have achieved awakening, we ‘should abandon even the Dharma, much less all non-dharma. ’ And it is for this reason that at the end of the Bodhisattva Path there is the Path of Non-Cultivation, as there is in Mahamudra. This doesn’t mean that we no longer need to practice, but rather that we have already completed the process of cultivation, and thus have clarity, and are unmoving, no longer growing or shrinking, and just being as we are. Don’t think that what we do is all about rituals and giving you all kinds of new stuff. It’s not! You learn these things and practice these rituals not so that you have more stuff, but so that you can purify your minds. And once your minds are pure, and you’ve realized the essence of the Dharma and the truth of the universe, you find that the mind is still and never moves!”

“Why do we perform Dharma rituals? Because sentient beings get used to the existence of this self: the self that does, recites, studies, memorizes, and meditates! But this is all just a process. And once you are able to understand the Dharma you have heard, you will understand these rituals are simply tools to help purify your mind for your practice. You shouldn’t, however, hold on to these tools, clinging to them even as you meet death. Otherwise, you will definitely reincarnate.”

Sutra: “Unwavering.”

“When it comes to precepts, and the teachings of the Buddha and your guru, your minds must be unwavering. Why do people waver? Again, because of the concept of the ‘self.’ ‘I didn’t get what I want. I’m unhappy. I don’t feel good.’ And as soon as your mind wavers, you engage in wicked speech. It is not that your guru hasn’t blessed you, or isn’t looking out for you. It is your mind wavering. And why does it waver? Because you are insatiable.”

“Although this is meant for ordained bodhisattvas, it is very important for the laity as well. If you are unable to adjust your attitude toward your guru and your practice, your Buddhist path will be fraught with difficulty. This doesn’t mean you won’t be capable of learning and practicing, but it does mean you will create hindrances for yourself, because you stray from the meaning of the Dharma, and conflict with and contradict it. And that is arrogance.”

Next, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche proceeded to orally transmit the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, and led the attendees in the Dharma Protector Achi ritual and dedication prayer.

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Updated on July 26, 2020