His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – November 15, 2020

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche lit lamps as an offering to the Buddha, ascended the Dharma throne, and led the attendees to chant the Amitabha mantra. He then expounded The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra.

“Sutra: ‘Sariputra, sentient beings who hear this sutra should vow to be reborn in that land. Why is it so? They would then be gathering in the same place with these very good men. Sariputra, one must not be lacking in virtuous roots, good fortune, merits, causes and conditions to be reborn in that land.’

Shakyamuni Buddha made it very clear that to be reborn in the Western Pure Land of Utmost Bliss, several criteria are required: The first one is making a vow. Making a vow is not by just talking or thinking about it; you would never get there this way. I have clearly explained to you before that being in Amitabha’s Pure Land is to practice, and is not to escape the suffering and pains of this life so as to enjoy a good life there. The ‘happiness’ in the so-called leaving-suffering-and-obtaining-happiness does not refer to happiness of our mundane world, not those derived from seven emotional states, six desires or our consciousness. It is the Dharma joy obtained from realizing that in eternity there are no arising and ceasing in all phenomena. Thus, if you have cancer in this life and you hope that Amitabha would lead you quickly to the Pure Land so that you will not suffer, you are not making a vow to be reborn there; you are escaping from your pains.

Many practitioners of the Pure Land School say that when being reborn in that land, people carry their karma with them. The karma mentioned here is good karma, not bad one. It means that for all the bad karma you have in your life, if you have not cleared it off or turned it into good karma before you die, you will not be able to go to the Pure Land. Only in the Land of Amitabha in the Ten Directions of the Dharma Realm can one bring karma to be reborn there; all the other Buddhas’ Lands do not allow us to take our karma, even the good one, to be there. What does it mean that no karma can be brought into any Buddhas’ Lands? It means that all things we do are derived from our thoughts and these actions generate karma, which causes us to reincarnate regardless the karma being good or bad. It is almost impossible for you to attain enlightenment on Emptiness in this lifetime and to keep yourself not being attached to anything.

Amitabha, therefore, made forty-eight vows. Even if you cannot attain enlightenment on Emptiness in this lifetime and cannot completely break away from your attachment to self, and if you like to do good deeds as your practicing method, then go ahead to do them. Nevertheless, such practice is not to be transformed into one with bodhicitta; your practice is a planning for your future. This then is called ‘good karma’.

Practitioners cultivating the Bodhisattva Path do not make plans for their next life; they just hope to continuously benefit sentient beings for lifetimes after lifetimes. ‘Vow to be reborn in that land’ means that if you have practiced Buddhism, taken refuge, observed precepts, accepted nurturing of Buddhism, changed Five Poisons – greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt – in your mind and actions, and if you have cultivated diligently on the Bodhisattva Path, then there will be power when you ‘vow to be reborn in that land’.

It does not count if you just say that phrase. Nor would you surely go to the Pure Land if you recite an aspiration prayer every day. Your affairs in this mundane world are entangled and complicated, just like Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha said, ‘All our thoughts generate karma and vices.’ The vices here don’t mean those that will make you jailed but in fact, you are already in prisons. As long as your thoughts are for yourselves, they would generate either good or bad karma, which would then produce the ‘vice’ of reincarnation. So long as what you think and what you do are for your own benefits the result is either you owe other people or they owe you. Consequently, you will still come back to this world in the next lifetime.

Vowing to be reborn in that land – the Pure Land – is the first criterion. Be very clear about why you have made this vow, and also whether you have been fulfilling it. Everyone has made vows. For example, in our childhood, we all wrote such essays, like ‘My Aspiration’, but who actually achieved it? Did any of you accomplish what you had wished for as a child? Why no one did? Of course, there were some who carried out their goals, but these occasions were rare. The reason why you couldn’t finish yours is, besides the environment you faced, you didn’t work very hard towards your aspirations. For example, for what you wished to do, didn’t you start putting in efforts from the beginning of the study-period of this world? Children go to schools at a very young age; nowadays, some start by going to pre-kindergartens at the age of two, followed by attending kindergartens, elementary schools, junior high schools, senior high schools, and then universities. The whole process will take at least sixteen years. Excuse me for asking this: Why do you think, after having taken refuge, you can go to Amitabha’s Pure Land by reciting an aspiration prayer for just about five or six years without doing anything else?

Perhaps you will claim that you have already taken refuge for a dozen years, so why can’t you still go to the Pure Land? Yesterday, three disciples came to seek audiences with me. I felt ‘lazy’ about scolding them so I didn’t do it and asked a monastic disciple to do it for me. They have taken refuge for fifteen, twelve, and five years, respectively. They came to implore for the Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices and, to my surprise, the one who took refuge fifteen years ago, only came now. What does this mean? It means they have never intended to practice Buddhism.

I learned Exoteric Buddhism before. I remember that right after I took refuge, I didn’t ask my Dharma master at the time what homework I would be assigned to do. Yet, as soon as you took refuge, you would ask me immediately: ‘What homework can I do, for mornings and for evenings?’ I didn’t ask such a question to the Exoteric Dharma master I took refuge in; I just implored him for this: ‘I want to read sutras.’ He then told me to read a large volume of the Avatamsaka Sutra; many monastics have never read its complete set. This is my aspiration of many past lifetimes. Then, naturally, in this lifetime my expectations of Buddhism are different from other people. About one or two years after I took refuge in His Holiness, I knew I would need to practice the Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices, and I naturally received the transmission of this Dharma method. This must have something to do with the vows I had made lifetimes after lifetimes.

Your vows do not have working power. It is impossible to go to the Pure Land by merely thinking about it, talking about it, or reciting an aspiration prayer a few times. From the perspective of the mundane world, it takes at least sixteen years for you to be graduated from a university, with no guarantee for such a graduation though. Then, what reasons do you have that you think you can definitely be reborn in the Land of Amitabha by chanting the Great Six-Syllable Mantra one or two thousand times a day after you have taken refuge in Buddhism? What are your reasonings based on that you think with your previous lifestyle and thinking modes you can be reborn in the Land of Amitabha?

After you have taken refuge, you need to change many of the ways you think and the ways you live. Pay close attention every day to the causes of your greed, hatred and ignorance; do not get easy on yourselves. Every day, all of you are easy on yourselves but difficult on others. You make a big fuss on trifles from other people and will not let them go. You always have good excuses for what happened to you; people like you with this kind of mindset, therefore, cannot go to Amitabha’s Pure Land.

Shakyamuni Buddha said: ‘Speaking of such a difficult-to-believe Dharma in this evil time of the Five Turbidities.’ What does this mean? This means that it is very hard for you to believe that what have been mentioned before are the ways you should cultivate the Dharma. When you genuinely make a vow and begin to act on it you eagerly hope to know how to fulfill this vow to perfection. You would then realize that there are many things you must do to reach the state of that perfection. It is not by just talking about the vow, chanting a mantra one or two thousand times a day, or eating vegetarian you will be able to be reborn in the Pure Land. In the latter part of the sutra, Shakyamuni especially mentioned that one must not be lacking virtuous roots, good fortune, merits, causes and conditions to be reborn in that Land. Do not lack these indispensable elements!

In my life I help sentient beings plant virtuous seeds, letting these seeds sprout and blossom into fruits, and I help you plant virtuous roots. However, many of my disciples contrarily don’t accept this; they think their learning Buddhism is their own business. It is clearly said in the sutra that there must not be lacking virtuous roots, causes and conditions. If you lack them, what can you do? It is, therefore, only your guru can continuously lead you to do what are needed in your practices. When I was learning Exoteric Buddhism, my Dharma master led me in practices of making-offering and giving-charity. After I took refuge in His Holiness, he has been ceaselessly creating opportunities for me to act on things or sentient beings, connected to my virtuous roots, causes and conditions. I have been doing the same to you from what I have learned from them but you don’t listen.

If I were a reincarnated Rinpoche in this lifetime and had been ordained since childhood, I might not have any feelings and ideas about money; but I am a lay practitioner. I was once so poor that I had no money to eat, pay my rent, or pay for electricity; that’s why I know very well how painful it is for not having money. Nevertheless, even under such harsh circumstances, I continuously planted and made my virtuous roots grow without any stop, and kept doing it more and more often. What about you? If you have no money, you say you have no money, and for those who have money, you still claim that you have no money. Of course, money is very important, but it is not important enough that by keeping it in the bank you can buy your life, buy your health, or make your children be filial to you. I am not saying that you should spend all your money. The Buddha didn’t say so, either. I am only telling you that you should not keep saying to yourself that you are very poor with no money.

Had I never been poor, I would not have understood what poverty means; if I were rich when I was born and am still very rich now, I would not understand this kind of life. However, I had experiences of a life like this, and it was not just for a day or two, or a month or two. Nowadays, if you are unemployed, you can still apply for unemployment subsidies from the Ministry of Labor. There was never such a thing before; at that time, if you lost a job, you would be on your own. You are very fortunate now. If you are dismissed from a company, you can immediately apply for unemployment subsidies from the Ministry of Labor; if a family member passes away, you can apply for a funeral-expense subsidy from the Ministry of Labor as well. How could we have had such benefits in our days before? Now, if you don’t have money to receive an education, or if you are classified as one of the lowest-income households, you can also apply for financial assistance from the government. There was never such a subsidy before.

However, in front of my mandala at home, I have never missed making offerings of an oil lamp, an incense stick, a cup of tea, and a flower. Unlike you: after buying Pu’er tea, you put it away thinking that its value might increase in the future and you might make a profit. Just wait then! You want to drink the Pu Erh tea sparingly so as to keep some in stock to save money, thinking that its price will go up in the future. Apparently, Dharma Protector Achi enjoys Pu’er tea the best, but you simply won’t let her drink it. It is just like the disciple who had shared her story before today’s puja started. Obviously, the old lady wanted to eat sweets, but her daughter (the disciple) didn’t know about it. Wouldn’t you say that the old lady was angry? Of course, she was, so she pretended she had dementia, showing that condition to her daughter. You really have lots of weird thoughts.

Virtuous roots cannot be grown overnight. Now, let’s talk about some logic here. Count with your fingers to see how many good deeds you have done from the time you grew up and before you took refuge. Not a single count. People take care of themselves, and as long as they don’t encounter mishaps, like violations of laws or accidents, they are not concerned with anything else. Thus, before you took refuge and practiced Buddhism, you had never planted any virtuous seeds, letting them be grown into virtuous roots at all. Still, you have some virtuous roots left from your past lifetimes, therefore, you unexpectedly met me in this one. I have then started helping you plant and manage your virtuous roots to see if they could be grown more for you.

Let’s go back to what we’ve been talking about earlier. Before you practiced Buddhism, how many times had you done things with bad feelings like hatred or jealousy, or gossiped about others, taken their stuff or killed sentient beings? There were too many times to count! Even I myself did these things for countless times. Then, what reasons do you have that you think, if every day you chant mantras one or two thousand times and practice the Dharma Protector Achi Ritual, you can go to the Amitabha’s Pure Land for sure?

Shakyamuni Buddha said, ‘There must not be lacking virtuous roots.’ He emphasized this very much. Even if you had causes and conditions to become ordained today it does not mean that you have enough of virtuous roots. You should keep on doing your practices without stop; with just a slight hesitation or a short moment, or period, of wait-and-see, the seeds of your virtuous roots would become still. Even if you restart your practices from the beginning after your imploring for doing practices, your virtuous roots are still not enough, and this is of your own making. You are really very strange. What your guru has been doing are all for helping you to develop your virtuous roots. Yet, you feel like he is hurting you all day long. You think it is better not to say yes (to the guru) first because you are afraid of not having the capability to do what you are taught, worrying what you would do if you cannot fulfill what you have promised to your guru.

Not to worry! I will not punish you by sentencing you for a fraud, (as if we were in a legal system!) However, when we make a promise, it indicates that we have a direction to work on towards completing that promise. Your guru does not require you to do things that are beyond your ability; it is all up to you to do what you can. It is you who should pay attention to the saying, ‘There must not be lacking virtuous roots.’ The guru can only create opportunities for you to work on these roots, but if you don’t do anything about it then there is nothing to be done. It is very clear that good fortune is gained from making offerings and giving charity but without merits, good fortune alone cannot get you into the state of realization. If you don’t do Dharma practices, such good fortune is the good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms, which cannot be utilized in this lifetime but in the next one. However, if we attain both good fortune and merits from our practices, this good fortune can be utilized starting in this lifetime and the use of it is limitless.

I often say that if you are on the supramundane path, then you won’t have mundane issues. We are very clear that if we can gain good fortune mentioned in the Dharma, the good fortune of the mundane world would seem like a tiny sesame – insignificant to look at. Even if you have power, authority, or a high social position in this life, these things will be gone in a snap of the fingers. However, if, in your practices, you have gained good fortune of the supramundane, the numbers of your mundane issues will start to decrease and all matters will begin to change for you, too.

I once had skin cancer. The reason why it had been turned around and cured was not because I was remarkable; rather, it was because of the good fortune I gained from my practices which I did continuously without any interruptions and without any regrets. Once good fortune has been gained, this type of illness would be gone as good fortune naturally covers over evils, and this makes power of evils ingenerated. Why is there a disciple who has taken refuge for fifteen years having signs of his cancer now? Originally, he already had this illness when taking refuge but for a dozen years he has not been cultivating good fortune and only attended weekly pujas, casually giving a ‘red envelope’ with a monetary offering inside; he thinks he has done what he should have done.

If there is a listing showing how many classes in a course and the fee for each class, you would like that because going to classes means buying that course if you pay the fees. However, the Dharma cannot be bought with any payment.

If you don’t listen and don’t want to follow your guru’s methods to cultivate good fortune, it would arise in you very slowly. It’s just that some of it would enable you to receive help from the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and your guru in the future. Nevertheless, because your good fortune is not enough, your bad karma accumulated through past lifetimes cannot be turned around or changed in this life. Do not think that because of your attending pujas, Rinpoche, as a Tantric practitioner, would help you transform your karma. Wrong! As Shakyamuni Buddha said very clearly that even He cannot change sentient beings’ karma; this means that the Buddha cannot change their karmic retribution. You should listen to your guru’s teachings and amend yourself!

Your guru can only bless you and steady your faith, but you have to do practices yourself. For example, you go to a class today, and your teacher teaches a few dozen students on the same subject. There are, say, thirty students but only two of them would do homework after getting home. Of course, only these two would get good test grades. You are now just like those other students; you don’t do homework after you go home; you only come here crying for my help when things happen to you. You would even proudly say that you have not practiced. You really have not. How could such a person, who does not care about things, do practices? You would also say you don’t know what you have done wrong. Well, there is nothing wrong with you except this: you just don’t listen!

‘Merits’ means ‘percepts, meditation and wisdom’. One who has good fortune but without merits will be foolish and ignorant; one who has wisdom but without good fortune will be arrogant. Hence, good fortune and merits should be practiced simultaneously, not separately. It is just like the fact that I have been continuously making monetary donations to charity, but I would still carefully evaluate the situations of recipients first. I am not influenced by whether they are pitiful or not, but by whether or not they need the money; if there is no such need, I don’t make donations to them.

Causes and conditions are two different things. We need to plant the seeds of the cause of being reborn in the Pure Land. After these seeds are planted, we should continuously create many assisting conditions, so the effect would be generated – to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land. If you have not planted such seeds or created the assisting conditions, how are you going to be reborn there? The Great Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness I hold every year, therefore, is to help sentient beings to plant the seeds of this cause. I always tell the attendees not to take refuge in me; it is alright that they go to any Buddhist centers to learn Buddhism. However, they must practice diligently. This is then what the ‘conditions’ means. If I have not helped any of the attendees to plant the seeds of this cause, he will not have such assisting conditions and he will not think of reciting the name of Amitabha, either.

Thus, a guru’s job is to help all his disciples and sentient beings to form such a cause, helping them continuously to have assisting conditions of practices so as to be reborn in the Pure Land. The sutra next says about not be lacking causes and conditions. This means that you start from possessing virtuous roots, understand how to cultivate good fortune and merits, need someone’s help to plant the seeds of this cause for you, and to teach you how to increase the occurrences of assisting conditions. Only through all these processes can you be reborn in the Pure Land. Making a vow is just the beginning of bringing forth the power for you to practice this Dharma method. It is not an indication that by doing so you will definitely be in that land. Nevertheless, if you don’t make such a vow, this Dharma method would not appear.

It is just like when you were studying in a junior or senior high school, you made a vow to make sure you would be admitted to a certain university you wanted to get in. You would work hard on your homework and get better test grades than other students. Why, then, do you think those who just lie in bed but putting no efforts in their practices can be reborn in the Pure Land? They want to get to that land but they are too lazy to even burn a stick of incense a day, buy good incense, purchase good tea to make a tea-offering to Dharma Protector Achi. Can they go to the Pure Land? No, they cannot. It is not that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas fuss about money with you; it means that you should practice diligently. For example, you work in a company thinking it is a very good one to work in, and you hope you would become a general manager someday. Starting as an ordinary employee, if you don’t work hard and you make mistakes all day long, would you be promoted? Then, why can you always make mistakes when learning Buddhism?

This is obviously unreasonable; you learn Buddhism with lots of fallacious ideas. Let’s talk about a mundane issue then. Whether you are at schools or at work places, if you don’t put efforts in what you do, it would be impossible for you to reach your goals. Not to mention being promoted to a general manager position, you want to get a raise from your boss. If you are lazy every day not wanting to do anything and make mistakes all the time, would you get a raise? Of course not. Then, why do you think that Amitabha is very compassionate and will let you be reborn in the Pure Land as long as you wish? This kind of talk is nonsense.

If by talking nonsense you can go to that land, Shakyamuni Buddha would not have said these words to us; He would have said that you could go to the Pure Land by such senseless talk. Shakyamuni told us no lies. This line from Him is the vital point of all the important points in the Amitabha Sutra. If you do not do what this line says, it tells you that you cannot be reborn in the Pure Land. Some people write that cats or dogs can be liberated onto the Pure Land. How is this possible? Can cats or dogs make a vow? Can fish make a vow? They cannot! Can cats or dogs have seeds of virtuous roots planted in them? If you think so, aren’t you mocking Amitabha Buddha?

Shakyamuni Buddha stated this line very clearly in the Amitabha Sutra, but there are people who still don’t believe it and use their own thoughts to do their practices in the Pure Land School. This is not right. The first criterion is making a vow, and the second one is not lacking in virtuous roots, good fortune, merits, causes, and conditions to be reborn in that land. It says ‘to be reborn’; it hasn’t said yet about Amitabha’s coming and leading you there. Many people think they have done a lot; in spite of that, the Buddha only said there is an opportunity for you to be reborn in that land. It is like the situation that after you have received a visa and then arrived at a foreign country, its customs can still refuse you to enter the country. Any country can give you a visa and permit you to go there, but once you are at their customs, they can still reject your entry. Even if you have a visa there is a possibility that you cannot get in because, after showing them your visa, there are still other conditions you are required to meet.

Hence, only when one has met the conditions described in the line ‘….must not be lacking in virtuous roots, good fortune, merits, causes, and conditions….’, one can apply for a visa to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land. It doesn’t say one can definitely be reborn there though. Everyone recites the Amitabha Sutra very quickly, thinking that by sounding a wooden-fish block a few times, one could be in that land; in your morning prayer session, you think by reciting this sutra and by sounding such a block you could be in the Pure Land. However, look at this line, have you completely done all that are mentioned in it? You might not understand the translation from ancient times; people in that time talked succinctly, unlike me saying wordy explanations. It is stated very clearly that only if you have such qualifications just mentioned, you will have an opportunity to be reborn in that land; it doesn’t say that Amitabha will then come and lead you there.

What are said here about making a vow and there assuredly being no lack of virtuous roots, good fortune, merits, causes and conditions, therefore, must be done by us – there is no room for negotiations.

Sutra: ‘Sariputra, if there are good men and good women who have heard the name of Amitabha, and persistently recited the name for one day, two days, three days, four days, five days, six days and seven days, having one mind undisturbed, as one faces one’s death, Amitabha and many sacred beings would appear in front of the person.’

Included in the line is ‘if there are good men and good women’, which is the next criterion. “Good” does not mean being a good person (in a usual sense), donating money or doing many good deeds. In sutras, as long as Shakyamuni Buddha spoke of a certain Dharma method, He always mentioned ‘good men and good women’. The most basic “good” means practicing the Ten Meritorious Acts (refraining from killing, stealing, divisive speech, harsh speech, frivolous talk, false speech, sexual misconduct, greed and hatred, and believing in cause and effect).

Ask yourself this: How many of the Ten Meritorious Acts have you cultivated? You, having taken refuge, have only done one – refraining from killing, but not the rest. Why will disciples, who service the Center as volunteers, be instructed immediately by me not to do any more services as long as there are complaints about their bad attitude? It is because of their greed. They think they are on duty and are in charge, therefore, they can command other people to listen to them. Then, it is about ‘harsh speech’, too. They think that as having the authority, they can criticize others, which makes them feel good about themselves. This is an indication that they have not practiced the Ten Meritorious Acts. When servicing sentient beings, one should be courteous. You have all seen that I bow three times to the attendees after the Grand Puja is completed because I feel grateful to sentient beings.

How about you? If you fail to practice the Ten Meritorious Acts, how can you be a good man or a good woman? If you are not such a person, you would not give rise to a good thought about hearing the name of Amitabha; even if you hear it, you would not believe in what the sutra says, either. It doesn’t mean that you don’t believe in Amitabha. Rather, it means that you don’t believe you can be reborn in the Pure Land by doing so – doing what is taught in the sutra. You only believe in your own thoughts and all the weird sayings out there.

The term, ‘persistently reciting the name’ is mentioned in the sutra. Shakyamuni Buddha didn’t say ‘reciting’. ‘Persist’ and ‘recite’ are two different things; the term itself, if it is explained by Tantra practices, is a Dharma method’s generation stage. ‘Persist’ does not mean ‘attach’. It means visualizing clearly on Amitabha helping you so that you have capabilities to assist sentient beings; you cannot immediately see this help or feel it though. ‘Recite’ means that we should believe in Amitabha’s forty-eight vows. Although we are unable to do them now, at least we need to follow Amitabha’s steps to do our practices; we should not do them with our own ways.

If one does not persistently recite Amitabha’s name and just recite it by uttering the sound from your mouth, it will be useless even if you have recited it for a hundred years. Simply put, why am I building the temple? Besides the big main temple, there is a small one to put in a statue of Thousand-Armed Avalokiteshvara, and then a retreat center comes next. Before the start of conducting a retreat, a Dharma ritual would need to be performed, and you would be taught how to persistently chant mantras. Only then can you enter a retreat hut to begin conducting your retreat. It doesn’t mean that you can be reborn in the Pure Land if you continuously recite Amitabha’s name. If you can, Shakyamuni Buddha would have said so, but what He said was ‘persistently reciting the name’ – Amitabha’s name.

Many people think that persistently reciting Amitabha’s name means they are very much attached to the idea of being reborn in the Pure Land; they would be reborn there by continuously reciting the name. Actually, this is not so. In fact, Shakyamuni Buddha already talked about Tantra here. If there were no Tantra and only relying on Amitabha, how could one do what the sutra says? It is this: ‘In one day, two days, three days, four days, five days, six days and seven days, having one mind undisturbed, as one faces one’s death, Amitabha and many sacred beings would appear in front of the person.’

The concept here is that if you can cultivate the Dharma method of Amitabha through the generation and completion stages in Tantra practices, and as you are accustomed to visualizing the Buddha, at the moment right before your death your mind would be undisturbed. It would naturally be revealed as such, because you are used to visualizing the Buddha. If ‘one day….and seven days’, as being mentioned in the sutra, is conducting the Eight Precepts Retreat, it means that if what has been described in the prior sutra’s quote cannot be completed in one day, you can do it up to seven days. However, such retreat cannot be called Eight Precepts Retreat if, during these seven days, participants, say, there being a few dozens or a few hundreds of them, gather together in a large place without going outside; they should be in individual rooms separately.

It is like what things are at Shravasti, the place I have been before, where Shakyamuni Buddha expounded the Dharma. The rooms where monks live are very small, and there is no main hall or a large ground for conducting a retreat, which is done in small rooms; they are even smaller than the retreat rooms that will be built in the future in our new temple. Retreats that are conducted in such an environment will work. If your retreats are not done by ways of the Eight Precepts Retreat, they will be useless even if you chant mantras every day.

What the Buddha said about ‘one day’ here means you have to do it in all twenty-four hours of the day without deviating from the right course, the ways to conduct the Eight Precepts Retreat. It is not like an occasion with thirty or forty people gathering together in a big hall. It is a one-room-for-one-person retreat and is definitely not having all participants in a big hall together. When we are in retreats, we really chant mantras for all twenty-four hours of the day; even when we do the toilet or bathing, our minds are full of mantras. As for you, in your time of twenty-four hours, besides the time at work or at school, after deducting the time spent in sleep, eating meals, brushing teeth, and washing face, there is only about five or six hours left for you to do practices, leaving you little time indeed for mantra-chanting.

What we just talked about means that our usual recitation of the sacred name of Amitabha is just nurturing us to have a habit, reflected in our consciousness, thoughts, words and actions, that we would not talk confusingly. When reciting the sutra and having truly reached at these words, ‘As one faces one’s death, Amitabha and many sacred beings would appear in front of the person. At the moment of one’s death, one’s mind is not distorted.’ One would realize that it is indicated then that for a person to get to the stage described in those words, conducting retreats are depended upon. If no retreats have been conducted one cannot be reborn in the Pure Land. This was spoken of by Amitabha. Although the Buddha did not say these two words, ‘conducting retreat’, but they were understood. It was because the target audience at the time were all the people around the Buddha. They were around Shakyamuni Buddha all day long, therefore, when they heard about a person’s situation at the moment of death, they knew that they needed to practice in retreat huts themselves.

When I was in a life-or-death retreat before, I kept on reciting silently the sacred name of the yidam in my mind even when I went to the bathroom. Now you chant the Great Six-Syllable Mantra two thousand, three thousand or ten thousand times a day; do you think by doing that you can be reborn in the Pure Land? I want you to chant the mantra so as to make your heart a little bit purer and to ‘grow’ a bit of good fortune in you. The mantra-chanting is better than your cursing people and is to see if you would have causal conditions to be able to conduct retreats later. I have gone through so much toil to get a temple built because I could not find a lawful and suitable retreat place in Taiwan. Maybe it was because of the differences in land-use clause, some temples’ being too famous with too many tourists, or being too far away from where you live. The last reason would prevent you from going there since you are spoiled and pampered, unwilling to travel long distances. I cannot undertake the burden to see you getting sick during your retreats. Having no alternatives, I am forced to find a place for our retreat center. This is what is mentioned in the Amitabha Sutra. For those disciples who have been slowly supporting the temple construction project should now realize how absurdly wrong they are.

For me, where can I not go for conducting retreats? I have cultivated to a level that my mind will not be disturbed by any environment. You will be interfered by people or things. Can you conduct your retreats at home? Impossible. When I die, while you have not mastered your practices, what will you do? You will become a wandering ghost when you die. However, because you learned Buddhism when you were alive you would have good fortune, so you would not fall immediately into the Three Evil Realms. Since the time has not yet come for you to enter some fetus starting reincarnation, the spirit of such a ghost would wander all over places, and when meeting some deity’s appearance, that spirit would attach to this deity, which is part of the so-called kings or lords in Taiwanese folklore. You worshiped them before while living and they are ghosts with good fortune. There are now many such kings and lords that have been possessed by such ghosts, and because they have good fortune, they can accept offerings from followers.

Your daily recitation now is just for you to make preparations for your death, and it is still at the stage of making vows. Even if you say you want to be reborn in the Pure Land, how do you do it? You still cannot get there. After I die, I believe that there are only few people in this world who can help you. Let’s talk about lama Samten as an example. He was His Holiness’s attendant and being in such a position was his biggest good fortune. This was evidenced later. Otherwise, how, after he passed away, could I have led you disciples, there being more than one thousand, to chant the Great Six-Syllable Mantra five million times and made the dedication to him? I performed the Phowa for him and as a result, there was such a large hole appearing in his crown chakra. Never before was there a hole as big as that on other deceased whom I performed the Phowa for. Although he had a short life, he exchanged it for such a great good fortune. If he lived a long life, I will be unable to live that long to liberate him. Also, you will not have such compassion to take the initiative and come forth saying this: Let’s help the dead lama with our chanting of the Great Six-Syllable Mantra. Not to mention that without my leading you to chant it, your help will be useless. Although he lived a short life, he received such a tremendous good fortune in return.

If you don’t follow what Shakyamuni Buddha taught and use your own ways to practice, you would not attain realization. What Shakyamuni Buddha mentioned in this section is a Dharma method focusing on what you should do; there is no compromise. Do not think you have recited the sacred names or chanted mantras many times. Do you have virtuous roots, good fortune, and merits? Some people want to implore for the Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices, thinking they can thusly learn Tantra. These practices are just to let you not be lacking good fortune, merits, causes and conditions. It doesn’t mean that once you have completed the Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices, I will transmit the Tantra to you. I still need to observe you first.

Sutra: ‘At the moment of one’s death, one’s mind is not distorted. The person will be reborn in the Amitabha’s Land of Utmost Bliss.’

‘One’s mind is not distorted.’ This example is the opposite: when you face your death, you suddenly think why Amitabha hasn’t come yet; this is a distorted thought. If you have practiced all that have been mentioned previously, you would feel calm and Amitabha will definitely come. Another example in this category is having other things in your mind, like ‘I have not turned this over….’, or ‘Who would use my prayer beads in the future?’ As long as you have a thought at that moment, you cannot be reborn in the Pure Land. Phowa is in Tantra and is transmitted by and passed down from Amitabha. When a guru performs the Phowa for a deceased, he uses his capability to ‘wrap up’ the deceased so that the deceased will not have any confusing thoughts. Then the guru performs the Phowa pushing out the deceased’s consciousness. Why does a smile appear on the deceased’s face after the Phowa is completed? It is because the deceased knows that he or she has benefited.

The line, ‘One’s mind is not distorted.’, means that we certainly believe that as long as we follow the method described we will definitely have such a mind. We also surely believe that we will not be deceived by Amitabha’s forty-eight vows, and we unequivocally believe that what our guru teaches us are absolutely right. For me, what I teach you are based on what are taught in the sutras, experiences I have been through from my own practices and what His Holiness has taught me. The key point of distortion here is ‘not believing’. A strange thought will come out suddenly. Why is that? It is because your karmic creditors are influencing you. There are several reasons for this. Your bad karma has not been cleansed; you have not practiced well on the Ten Meritorious Acts; you still do not repent thoroughly; you still think you do very well on your practices; you still have lots of bad habits. As such, naturally, your karmic creditors from your accumulated past lifetimes will not let you be reborn in the Pure Land.

What is said in the sutra, ‘….be reborn in the Amitabha’s Land of Utmost Bliss.’, means that you will immediately be reborn in that land, at the moment when you stop breathing. You will not suffer the pain of leaving your consciousness from your body in the intermediate state (the bardo).

Sutra: ‘Sariputra, because of this benefit I see, I say these words. If there are sentient beings who have heard this saying, they should make a vow to be reborn in that land.’

With His wisdom, Shakyamuni Buddha saw that this Dharma method could benefit many sentient beings; He certainly knew that, so He promised us, ‘If you do what have been said, you will get the benefits.’ Shakyamuni would not have spoken false speech, saying yes that such a Dharma method existed when it did not, or saying no that it didn’t exist when it did. If these had been said, a false speech had been spoken. Shakyamuni said if you follow this Dharma method, you will definitely get benefits. On behalf of Shakyamuni, I, therefore, tell you, ‘do listen’. Why can I help sentient beings to get liberated by performing the Phowa on them? It is because I have ascertained what Shakyamuni said, and followed what He taught and what His Holiness has taught me. I have applied these teachings in my daily life, dealing with people and things. I know I can surely help sentient beings with the Phowa. Today, if I do not have methods to master my practices, it is impossible for me to help people getting liberated. Ghosts have their own supernatural power and if they see you uttering nonsense during some performance you do for them, they will not accept it. How can you help liberating others when you cannot solve your own life-and-death matter? Also, Amitabha will observe the situation, too. If you charge money for reciting some sutras for a deceased person, how can you help him or her to get liberated?

Why have the Grand Pujas never charged participants any money? It is because the Pujas are for sentient beings to get benefits. Then, shall I still care about my fame and profits? Money-wise, you all fuss about it with sentient beings and with your guru. Everyone thinks that he or she is a very nice person and can become a Buddha by reciting the sacred names or chanting mantras every day in a closed room. Then, are what have been mentioned in the Amitabha Sutra all false? If you don’t help sentient beings to get good causes and conditions, how can you have them both to be reborn in the Pure Land? If you help sentient beings not to lack good fortune, merits, causes and conditions, your karmic creditors from your accumulated past lifetimes will not be lacking them as well. Thus, at the time of your death, your mind will not be distorted because your karmic creditors have gotten good fortune, merits, causes and conditions. This is not to say that these creditors will ‘go’ with you to the Pure Land; say, there were fish that you ate – they will not ‘go’. It is for this purpose of being reborn in the Pure Land that your guru has continuously led and guided you in your practices; you should listen and amend yourselves.

I met (in my visualization) with many deceased persons who had many concerns, which you would not have imagined, when they passed away. Some were angry because their family members were discussing the feng shui (Chinese geomancy) about their funeral arrangements; some were annoyed because the nurse was moving the table and making noises; some were irritated because of the pain from the doctor’s moving their feet and not placing them properly; some were enraged because people were discussing how to distribute their property. These could happen to any deceased.

Sutra: ‘Sariputra, now I praise the benefits of the inconceivable merits of Amitabha. In the East, there are also Aksobhya Buddha, Sumeru-Appearance Buddha, Great-Sumeru Buddha, Sumeru-Light Buddha and Wondrous-Sound Buddha. There are as many such Buddhas as many grains of sand in the Ganges and in each of their land, they have an appearance with a broad and long tongue. All over trichiliocosm they speak words of truth.’

The Ganges is the river of the Ganges in India. The ‘…many such Buddhas as many grains of sand in the Ganges…’ means there are as many Buddhas as many grains of sand on both shores of the Ganges and at the bottom of the river. The broad and long tongue is one of the features of Buddhas’ appearances. A Buddha’s tongue can cover the entire face and be rolled up to touch the forehead; usually, a human’s tongue can touch the nose the most. Why do Buddhas have such a feature in the face? It is because whatever Buddhas say are all to benefit sentient beings, while whenever you open your mouth you speak about bad things, offending people. With their tongues, Buddhas speak the Dharma all over trichiliocosm; they are not showing their supernatural power. What they say are all true with no errors whatsoever, and there is nothing you cannot carry out. If you cannot, it is because you don’t believe in what you are taught, are lazy, don’t observe precepts and don’t listen.

The Buddha used His supernatural power to see that you can fulfill Amitabha’s forty-eight vows as long as you are willing to listen, do what are taught, and amend yourselves.

Yesterday, a disciple who has taken refuge for a dozen years came here & told me that he had cancer. He even very proudly said that he had not practiced. Of course, he had not. He also said he came just to make an offering to me. However, he was not truly aspired to do that. It’s not about the size of the amount; if you don’t have money, you don’t need to make offerings but if you do, you should do it seriously with an effort. I have already returned monetary offerings made to me worth about a dozen million NT dollars, so your offerings with small amounts do not make differences to me. Your attitude is very important. If you don’t have good fortune, naturally you ‘seal off’ your ears, not listening to what I say. Many of you are like this, because you no longer have good fortune, how can the Buddha’s good fortune reach you and how are you able to listen to His teachings on Dharma methods? After you go home today you should earnestly examine yourself on how to make changes. Before, after I had read the Amitabha Sutra, like you, I thought that we could certainly do what the Buddha said in the sutra, but no, we could not and cannot. Why? It is because, in our practices, we haven’t followed the Dharma methods taught by the Buddha and we haven’t listened to our guru.

Sutra: ‘Sentient beings, you should believe in this sutra praising inconceivable merits and it is protected and thought of by all Buddhas.’

All Buddhas protect this sutra. In Chinese wording of this line, there is a word close to ‘reciting’ but it does not refer to it; it means ‘thinking’ – your thoughts are on this sutra. As long as any of you recites Amitabha’s sacred name and even if you practice other Dharma methods, Buddhas, yidams and your guru would help you to be reborn in the Pure Land. You would be reborn there so long as you do things according to the Dharma. The Chod puja I hold every month is just such a way to help you to ‘go’ there.

Sutra: ‘Sariputra, in the Southern World, there are Sun-Moon-Lamp Buddha, Well-Known-Light Buddha, Great-Blazing-Shoulder Buddha, Sumeru-Lamp Buddha and Immeasurable-Diligence Buddha. There are as many such Buddhas as many grains of sand in the Ganges and in each of their land, they have an appearance with a broad and long tongue. All over trichiliocosm they speak words of truth. Sentient beings, you should believe in this sutra praising inconceivable merits and it is protected and thought of by all Buddhas.’

Sutra: ‘Sariputra, in the Western World, there are Immeasurable-Life Buddha, Immeasurable-Appearance Buddha, Immeasurable-Banner Buddha, Great-Light Buddha, Great-Brightness Buddha, Jeweled-Appearance Buddha and Pure-Light Buddha. There are as many such Buddhas as many grains of sand in the Ganges and in each of their land, they have an appearance with a broad and long tongue. All over trichiliocosm they speak words of truth. Sentient beings, you should believe in this sutra praising inconceivable merits and it is protected and thought of by all Buddhas.’

Sutra: ‘Sariputra, in the Northern World, there are Blazing-Shoulder Buddha, Most-Auspicious-Sound Buddha, Difficult-To-Be-Dispirited Buddha, Sun-Arising Buddha and Bright-Net Buddha. There are as many such Buddhas as many grains of sand in the Ganges and in each of their land, they have an appearance with a broad and long tongue. All over trichiliocosm they speak words of truth. Sentient beings, you should believe in this sutra praising inconceivable merits and it is protected and thought of by all Buddhas.’

Sutra: ‘Sariputra, in the World of Below, there are Lion Buddha, Well-Known Buddha, Famous-Light Buddha, Dharma Buddha, Dharma-Banner Buddha and Dharma-Keeping Buddha. There are as many such Buddhas as many grains of sand in the Ganges and in each of their land, they have an appearance with a broad and long tongue. All over trichiliocosm they speak words of truth. Sentient beings, you should believe in this sutra praising inconceivable merits and it is protected and thought of by all Buddhas.’

In the East, South, West, North and the Ten Directions of the Dharma Realm, all Buddhas speak of words of truth. They also praise Amitabha’s merits and compassion for helping sentient beings.

Here, the Buddha introduces names of many Buddhas. A human being must have learned Buddhism with a certain Buddha in some prior lifetime so that the person, in this lifetime, has the causal conditions to be on this earth learning Buddhism. When you recite a Buddha’s name this activity helps you recall (meaning bringing back from your memory) your virtuous roots, developed in a past lifetime while you learned Buddhism, and this helps you now having the causal conditions to learn it again. Hence, your continuous recitation of a Buddha’s name is useful. We don’t know how many lifetimes we have reincarnated in. There is always a certain Buddha living in each lifetime. Even if you don’t believe in that particular Buddha, you are certainly having causal conditions with such Buddha while you are in this world. It is like that we are now in Saha World – the earth – and this is a Buddha’s Land of Shakyamuni Buddha. Even if you have never heard of Him in your current life, the fact that you are here now indicates that you definitely have an affinity with Shakyamuni Buddha. Our virtuous roots and causal conditions would arise and appear when we recite His sacred name.

Sutra: ‘Sariputra, what do you think? Why is this sutra protected and thought of by all Buddhas? Sariputra, if there are good men and good women who have heard this sutra and abided by its teachings, and who have also heard names of many Buddhas, these good men and good women will all be protected and thought of by all Buddhas.’

‘Abiding’ does not mean reciting a sutra with the sounding of a wooden-fish block. It means to follow what are taught in the sutra, make aspirations, be not lacking good fortune, merits, causes and conditions, conduct retreats and have a mind without distorted thoughts. ‘Abiding’ does not mean reciting the Amitabha Sutra in your morning or evening prayer session, either. Very few people abide by what are contained in this sutra although there are many who have recited or read the Amitabha Sutra; in Taiwan, countless people have. Nevertheless, how many of them can be reborn in the Pure Land? Very few. The reason why most of them cannot be reborn there is that they don’t abide by the teachings in this sutra. If the Buddha had said that by reciting the sutra it would be enough for you to achieve attainment, He would not have mentioned about ‘abiding’; He would have said that it was alright just by reciting the sutra ten times a day. If you abide your practices by what are taught in the sutra you would be protected and thought of by all Buddhas.

All Buddhas in the Ten Directions of the Dharma Realm will protect and think of you. How wonderful it is! Now, let’s not talk about Buddhas thinking of you. Usually, not even your guru can remember you. Yesterday, a disciple who has taken refuge for five years came to seek an audience with me. I said to him that I didn’t know who he was, that I never saw him before. It didn’t mean I never saw such an appearance as he is. It meant that he was not abiding what I, his guru, had been teaching him, therefore, I never saw him. In addition, there are more than 1000 attendees at each puja I hold every week so I really cannot tell the differences among you, especially when you have masks on. (We will go back to the subject now.) Buddhas will think of you. How great! Does your cancer still hurt you? Why are there many people with cancer who don’t feel painful anymore after they are blessed by me when they are here? It is because my blessings let them have opportunities to be reborn in the Land of Amitabha, helping them eliminate their karma so that they won’t be bothered by their karmic creditors. Buddhas will protect them. The ‘abiding’ here means that you should accept the methods taught in this sutra and follow them steadily; it would be useless if you just recite the contents but don’t accept them. Many places out there say that as long as you recite the sutra you would be in the Pure Land. If this were the case it would not have mentioned earlier in the sutra about ‘….for one day, two days….’ on some practicing methods. Shakyamuni Buddha absolutely did not say any nonsense or any extra words; every word He uttered was about practices of the Dharma. You should listen to and accept these words. If you have your own ideas, you would not be reborn in the Pure Land.

Sutra: ‘All of them will not retrogress and will attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi.’

As long as you are willing to abide by this sutra you would quickly give rise to bodhicitta and act on bodhicitta vow. Besides, while you are alive, you would attain the wisdom of Emptiness and would be without retrogression. I dare not say I have achieved attainment but I am really not retrogressing, and my progress from my practices is getting stronger and stronger. I even paid for this year’s Grand Puja because you had been retrogressing, which was reflected in your procrastination of donating the money to support it, so I simply paid for it. When I just took refuge in Buddhism I had money but later I became poor, and while I was in the latter situation, I still joyfully did my learning regardless. Even when I had no money for meals, I didn’t stop practicing. I am not like you; you would say you have no money when you have no money, but then you would still claim you don’t have it when you do. You are doing your practices less and less, and the more you learn about Buddhism the more painful you feel. Then, in the end, you simply stop practicing. Your guru gives you opportunities to plant your virtuous roots but you think he is hurting you.

If you do what the Buddha taught, you would not retrogress in this lifetime. You would give rise to ultimate bodhicitta, not worldly bodhicitta. If you are not protected and thought of by the Buddha and your guru, you would not gain the ultimate bodhicitta though. You need to do what I have talked about earlier in order to be remembered by your guru and the Buddha.

Before we have met the criteria for conducting a retreat, we absolutely cannot lack good fortune, merits, causes and conditions in our practices. Once we have these then we would naturally do well on the requirements for conducting a retreat. If all my disciples follow my teachings, I believe that the retreat area in the future Glorious Jewel Temple will just be overcrowded to a fault. My vow is that I would not be a Buddha if sentient beings do not become Buddhas. I want to create many Buddhas-to-be.

Sutra: ‘Thus, Sariputra, all of you should believe in and accept my words and those spoken by all Buddhas.’

Sariputra was a representative of those participants there, and the sutra says ‘All of you should believe in and accept my words.’ If you use your own methods to practice the Dharma on Amitabha, then you don’t accept and don’t believe in what the Buddha taught. Your guru, representing Shakyamuni Buddha, expounds this sutra to you, but you still don’t believe in, don’t accept and don’t listen to it. Then how can you get to the Pure Land?

Sutra: ‘Sariputra, if there are people who have already made vow, make vow now, should make vow, and want to be reborn in the Land of Amitabha, they will not retrogress and will attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. In that Land, it is the same for those who have already been reborn, are reborn now, and should be reborn. Consequently, Sariputra, all the good men and good women who believe in this, should make vow to be reborn in that Land.’

If you have not attained Anuttara-Samyak -Sambodhi (Supreme Enlightenment) in your lifetime, but you have already been reborn in the Pure Land, all Buddhas will definitely help you not to retrogress. The phrase ‘should be reborn’ means that for those who should be reborn in that Land will also be helped not retrogressing. As long as you are willing to practice what the Buddha taught, you will not retrogress and will attain Anuttara-Samyak -Sambodhi.

If you have already been reborn in that Land, but you didn’t master your practices while you were alive, you will not retrogress and will attain Supreme Enlightenment because all Buddhas protect and think of you. This would be the same for those who are now reborn there. For those who are not yet reborn in that Land, say, people like you, if you abide by what Shakyamuni Buddha taught in this sutra, you will also not retrogress and will attain Supreme Enlightenment. In other words, for those still living, they can be helped to get those results, too.

Sutra: ‘Sariputra, just as I now praise the inconceivable merits of all Buddhas, they also praise my inconceivable merits. Then they say this, “Shakyamuni Buddha can do extremely difficult and rare deeds.”’

Shakyamuni Buddha (the Buddha) praised the inconceivable merits of all Buddhas, and they in turn praised those of the Buddha. If the Buddha had not introduced this Dharma method, human beings would not have known it. The Buddha’s merits are truly incredible. He was compassionate. Seeing that the people in the Saha World cannot attain the fruition of a Buddha on earth, nor can they achieve the level of a Dharmakaya Bodhisattva, the Buddha introduced Amitabha. Why did the Buddha do it? There were casual conditions existed. They had practiced the Dharma together in the past and achieved attainment at the same time. Nevertheless, they had done different deeds. One created his own pure land while the other, Shakyamuni Buddha, attained the Buddhahood in this Saha World. These different results were related to there being different ‘causes’ in their life.

Sutra: ‘In the Saha land, in the evil time of Five Turbidities, amid the kalpa turbidity, the view turbidity, the affliction turbidity, the living-being turbidity and the life turbidity, He can attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi.’

It is extremely difficult to be reborn in the Land of Amitabha. What is the difficulty? It is that, in our practices in this lifetime, we don’t know whether or not we can be continuously not lacking good fortune, merits, causes and conditions. Every one of you does not have a steadfast and perpetual mind. As long as something happens one would be slacking off or backing out, just like what is said in colloquialism, ‘See to your belly first, and then look after the Buddha and your ancestors.’ Or this: ‘I am sick now, so I will take care of my illness first.’ You don’t know though that you are sick because you have used up your good fortune. Why is it used up? It is because for a dozen years or so you don’t listen to or follow my teachings; you live your own life with your own ideas. You just implore for blessings from your guru, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas so that you would live a peaceful life. This is why it is very difficult to be reborn in the Land of Amitabha – you don’t listen. You all know that I can liberate sentient beings by performing the Phowa. Still, many of you don’t believe that this is a rare ritual and a rare event. It cannot be casually heard, performed, or taught willingly.

The Five Turbidities are the kalpa turbidity, the view turbidity, the affliction turbidity, the living-being turbidity and the life turbidity. You all know about the affliction turbidity so I don’t need to say more about it now. The kalpa turbidity refers to the hardship occurred in eight major kalpas and sixteen minor kalpas, like deaths from seeing wrong medical doctors or from accidents. ‘Kalpa’ means calamities, like deaths from wars or from hunger. Kalpa turbidity comes into existence in places where people have done many evil deeds. In such places, it is very difficult to get sentient beings to listen to, or to believe in, what the Buddha taught. It is because they care about their lives and think they don’t even have enough time to save themselves, so why would they practice? They cannot wait to have an operation on their bodies, so why would they believe in the Buddha?

The “view turbidity” means you don’t listen to what the guru says but do things in your own ways with your own thoughts. Sentient beings on Earth have a very serious problem with this turbidity. They think they can practice well just by reading a little bit of sutras, but they don’t understand the true meanings in them.

The “sentient-beings turbidity” includes these two types of hindrances you encounter: those hindered by your family members and those by the sentient beings you ate before. Recently, it was reported in the news that coronaviruses were found on frozen seafood and meat in freezers. These viruses were ghosts of animals; they were not infected with COVID-19 virus before they attached themselves to those seafood and meat. If the killed animals were very attached to their body forms they would guard their corpses, and would transform them into some type of virus. On death, Buddhism advocates cremation for the reason to let sentient beings break the attitude of attachment with their bodies. Some ghosts guard their corpses even after they are decomposed, rotten into liquid or even eaten by worms. Accordingly, there are many ghosts in cemeteries. If you mess with their graves, they would get angry. There are many ghosts in mass graves, as they died unaccountably. Just think: how many good deeds had you done ever since you grew up and before you took refuge? Think closely: how many virtuous roots had you accumulated? Almost none! During that time period, all you wanted was to live a good life and nothing more. Then think again: since you grew up and before you took refuge, how many tittle-tattles had you done, how much meat had you consumed and how many sentient beings had you harmed? Quite a lot, right? Could all these things you had done be resolved just by making simple prostrations to the Buddha and reciting sutras? If you do not follow and act in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings, you will not solve your problems. Not to talk about others, I would say that I have worked very hard and incessantly in my practices.

The “life turbidity” means your life is very muddy. Take what one does in one’s trade or profession as an example. It might be running a non-vegetarian restaurant (thus killing animals for food), operating an aquaculture business, or breaking laws by helping people to avoid paying taxes. Why would one do such foolish things? It is because such a person’s life is in “life turbidity”. Do not think that you will be alright because you have taken refuge, been learning Buddhism, and eating vegetarian. Think how many illegal things you have done.

All the restaurants I operate have, for many consecutive years, received Certification of Good Hygiene Practice (grade: GOOD) from Taipei City Health Bureau. Their personnel would show up at these restaurants without notice and inspect about two to three hundred operating items. Even the hair salon I own has continuously received a similar certification on Sanitary Inspection of Business Establishment Self-Management. All tools used by hairdressers have been examined. Why have these certifications been received? It is because I have these businesses run with no considerations of costs, losing money always. How about your attitude on this? You don’t dine in my restaurants because you think it is expensive there, you don’t have money, or you get tired of having similar dishes. You would rather eat at your neighborhood restaurants for convenience; you don’t pay attention to their hygiene at all.

You are given good things, and yet you think they are bad; this indicates you have “life turbidity”. Yesterday a disciple, who has taken refuge for seven years, came with his sick child and sought an audience with me. I told him, “You certainly do not know where my Chinese Medicine Clinic is; you also don’t know that at the Japanese-food stores I set up there are many good foods; for many years you have not been feeding your kid with nutritious foods. If you don’t have money, let me know; I will give it to you.”

When I made the treat I didn’t accept any cash or gifts as a return. It was not because I was rich; it was because I would like to help my family members to form virtuous affinities with other people. You make errors all day long and this is so-called “life turbidity”. The accumulation of your greed, hatred, and ignorance over many lifetimes naturally makes you have “life turbidity”. Such life can evidently be cleaned up but all of a sudden you go to the other side – the wrong side. Or, when such life is already, and surely, cleaned up you throw a handful of sand into it. Where does the sand come from? It is from your thoughts. Thus, good things become bad things, which become worse ones. The world that we are living in is the evil time of Five Turbidities. However, as long as we follow Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings, even though we are now in such a world, we can still attain a very rare and auspicious state, the Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. In the Pure Land, sentient beings do not have Five Turbidities. On all worlds other than Earth, there are more good deeds than evil ones; it is the opposite on Earth, and only there that there are more evil than good. Practicing in such a world can easily make practitioners attain accomplishment because they will be able to help many suffering sentient beings. This does not mean the attainment can be reached in a snap of a finger; rather, it means it is easier to attain Supreme Enlightenment on Earth than on other worlds.

What benefits do we get from such enlightenment? None. We don’t see money around; we don’t gain a good husband, a good wife, or filial children. The benefit is that when we attain Emptiness we will have no attachment to fame, profit, slanders, damages or harms, in the mundane world, therefore, we will not be inflicted with pain. Only then, will you be able to lead sentient beings and guide them to be free from it. If one does not attain Supreme Enlightenment, one cannot ascend a Dharma throne to expound the Dharma. Do not envy, nor want to be, a guru. For a practitioner, who teaches the Dharma from a Dharma throne is not attached to fame and profit; his sole purpose is to benefit sentient beings.

Sutra: ‘Sariputra, you should know that in the evil time of Five Turbidities, I do this difficult thing of teaching the Dharma to sentient beings, attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi and speak of such a difficult-to-believe Dharma for the whole world. This is extremely difficult.’

‘For sentient beings, I speak of such a difficult-to-believe Dharma for the whole world.’ Only when you attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi can you speak of the most-difficult-to-believe Dharma to sentient beings, and it is this Dharma. The reason it is difficult to believe is that you have not determined to break away from reincarnation – you don’t believe that you can do it by just following what the Buddha taught. This is why Shakyamuni Buddha mentioned ‘in the evil time of Five Turbidities’ and especially reminded us about the view turbidity. In Esoteric Buddhism it always emphasizes believing in what your guru says. When he says it is white, you say it is white even when it is actually black. When Venerable Milarepa learned Buddhism from Marpa, his guru, at first, Marpa didn’t teach him anything. The guru just told the disciple to build a house but didn’t say what kind or in what shape; should it be round, square or triangle? Nothing more was said. Venerable Milarepa was just instructed to build a house. It was built, torn down, re-built and torn down again. Venerable Milarepa just concentrated in and did what his guru said without the view turbidity, without many of his own thoughts. How about you?

It was like the situation that I didn’t transmit the Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices to many disciples who came to implore this Dharma method. It was because they, nine out of ten, were asking themselves what kind of feelings they would get after practicing it. In fact, there were none. (An ordained disciple answered: They indeed were thinking about what they would feel afterwards. What Rinpoche said was right that there were actually no feelings about it. The most important thing is whether you can be attuned to your guru.)

If you don’t listen and do what I have taught, you will not attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi (Supreme Enlightenment). Thus you can’t ascend the Dharma throne and expound the Dharma. How do we know if such a guru has attained the Supreme Enlightenment? Just check if he does things for fame and profits. Is there a crash course? No, there is no such course in learning the Dharma. What the Buddha said about the crash course was mentioned previously, “hearing the name of Amitabha, to have it in the mind and visualizing and believing in him for one day, two days, three days….with the mind undisturbed.” However, it is still under the condition that one must not be lacking in virtuous roots, good fortune, merits, and causal conditions. If you have done these beginning parts the good result will come naturally. The crash course is that you would go to the Pure Land when you die as long as your mind and thoughts are not confused. Isn’t it quick? You need to do well in the beginning parts though. You all cannot get to the Pure Land now because you have not done well in these. You will not have the chance to go there without fulfilling the condition unless you get the help of a guru like me, who has achieved the accomplishment of Phowa.

….is extremely difficult.” I know it is a very difficult thing to do (helping sentient beings understand the Dharma), but I am still doing it. When I liberate one, that sentient being has been liberated – it is so. My vow is that I would not attain Buddhahood until all sentient beings have attained it. Some people think that it is already good enough that I can expound Buddhist sutras word for word. However, Shakyamuni Buddha kept reminding us that the only way you can attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi (Supreme Enlightenment) in the evil time of the Five Turbidities is to do the above-mentioned “very difficult thing”. Why is it difficult? Being a guru, I keep bestowing my disciples the opportunities to plant good seeds of virtuous roots and form good affinities with sentient beings. My hope is that your virtuous roots can grow deeper and deeper, but you all just do things your own ways, with your own thoughts. You are afraid of, and wait for, this and that; you are also afraid of having no money. Thus, you procrastinate and wait again to do things later. The opportunities I give you to plant and grow virtuous roots cannot wait. They will be gone if you miss them. Even if I finally give you another chance to do it, you have already lost many chances to form good affinities with sentient beings. Now, the more you hear about this, aren’t you more frightened? For those of you who didn’t support, at the first opportunity, our temple construction and those who didn’t participate in the first Parnashavari mantra-chanting, it is too late now if you regret missing the chances.

However, even if it is so difficult to do, we still do it. Not abandoning sentient beings does not mean attaching to you, not letting you go. It means that Bodhisattvas’ compassion makes them wish to liberate sentient beings whenever possible, even if there is just one needing help. It is like what is said in the Dharma text of the Phowa, “For those sentient beings that I didn’t liberate in the past, I hope in my lifetime there are causal conditions occurred, and I have the ability to liberate them.” When you are willing to do it, work hard about it, and disregard what kind of rewards you would get, you will definitely attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi.

Shakyamuni Buddha mentioned that there are three ways to attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. First, if you firmly believe in, receive and hold this sutra in mind, the Buddhas will think of you and protect you. Second, in this evil time of the Five Turbidities, if you believe in the rare things the Buddha said and do as told, you will also attain it. Third, if you help sentient beings, you will attain it as well.

Sutra: “The Buddha had finished speaking about this Sutra. Sariputra, bhikkhus, and all the world’s devas, humans and asuras heard what the Buddha had said. They joyfully believed in and accepted it; they then gestured their respect and withdrew.”

After listening to this sutra, they were filled with Dharma joy. They believed in and accepted what the Buddha had said. They then paid their obeisance to Him and withdrew. What ‘believed in and accepted’ meant was to practice. If they didn’t practice after going back to their places, they wouldn’t be filled with Dharma joy. After listening to this sutra, they knew they would definitely go to Amitabha’s Pure Land. They would attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi, help sentient beings and practice the Bodhisattva Path. Do not think that burning some scar marks on your body is practicing the Bodhisattva Path. You must attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. If you don’t go through a series of retreats, you won’t attain it either. There are many different kinds of sentient beings, so we need to use different Dharma methods to help them. It was just like the case of a female believer who came seeking an audience with me a few weeks ago. Her father had died, but she asked me to help her fight for the inheritance rather than helping him on his death. If I hadn’t attained Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi, seeing her pitiful, and thus helping her as she desired, I would be doing an evil deed.

Today, I have expounded on the “Amitabha Sutra” to let you know that there are certain methods for Buddhist practices. These methods are not what you invent or what you wish to have. They must follow what Buddhist sutras stipulated. If you do things that are not mentioned in sutras, these things are from false thoughts and false views. The job of a guru is, through his practice experiences, to guide you to do the right things with the correct methods. Whether you are willing to do it or to follow me and move forward is your decision and has nothing to do with me. Why had some disciples been punished? It was because, after I had given you opportunities for so long, you had not done what I had taught or changed yourselves. Since this had been the situation, I didn’t need to force you to comply anymore – I would just let you live your happy life.

Now you know why we want the Glorious Jewel Temple with its retreat center built. Without these ‘tools’ to help you practice, just by reciting Amitabha’s name alone, it is impossible that you will have one mind undisturbed; it is also not possible that Amitabha will come to lead you to the Pure Land.

Cultivating good fortune means giving charity and making offerings, but it is not to keep on giving away money or things. Cultivating merits is also required, and this means observing precepts and practicing meditation and wisdom. One who has good fortune but is without merits will become foolish and ignorant; one who has merits but has no good fortune will become arrogant. If you only cultivate good fortune with merits excluded, what you have accumulated is just the good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms. Such good fortune is kept to be put into use in the next life, but not in this one; it cannot turn your own karma around, either. It might be remained for your use when you die in the future, letting you get the help from your guru and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. As I just explained that foolishness and ignorance come from having good fortune without wisdom, and arrogance derives from having wisdom without good fortune. This is why good fortune and wisdom need to be cultivated simultaneously. When we have both we will attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi and the state of Emptiness, and then we will be able to benefit sentient beings.

Rinpoche led the attendees in perfect completion of the Dharma Protector Achi Ritual and dedication prayer. All attendees stood up and paid their respect as His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche descended from the Dharma throne.

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Updated on June 7, 2021