His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – February 7, 2021

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche presided over the auspicious Chod Puja, and bestowed precious Dharma teachings at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Taipei.

“The Dharma that will be performed today is the Chod, one of the Eight Sadhana Teachings. It is Tantra, and is not easy to transmit widely or to achieve accomplishment on. Performing this Dharma is beneficial to both the practitioner and the deceased. One who is specialized in practicing it in his lifetime will definitely break away from the cycle of life and death. If the deceased, while living, did not learn Buddhism, not observing precepts, and not committing the Five Uninterrupted Evil Acts, and if their family members participating in the Chod Puja on their behalf have full confidence in the Three Jewels and in the guru, the practitioner can definitely help the deceased not to fall into the Three Evil Realms (Hell Realm, Hungry Ghost Realm, and Animal Realm), but to be reborn in the Human Realm. If these family members, who have come and implored me to help the deceased, vow at this moment to refrain from killing in this lifetime, and to take refuge in and learn Buddhism, the deceased can be reborn in the Heaven Realm. In such a realm, whether it is Heaven of Desires, Heaven of Forms, or Heaven of Formlessness depends on these family members’ vows and the Buddhist activities they do in this lifetime. If, before their death, the deceased were vegetarians, took refuge in and learned Buddhism, observed precepts, and had some people having implored for this Dharma on their behalf, they can go to the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss although they were unable to liberate themselves. All of these were mentioned in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows.

Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha was a brahman girl in one life; she wanted to know in which realm her mother was reborn. Knowing that her mother had loved to eat meat and looked down on the Three Jewels, she was certain that her mother would definitely go down into the Hell Realm after death. She thus sold her mansion, offered everything to the Buddha, and made prostrations to Him every day until she bled and fainted. Then the Buddha told her in which realm her mother was reborn. After learning this, she made great vows to become a Bodhisattva so as to practice the Dharma and benefit sentient beings life after life. Her mother in that life, therefore, was bestowed assurance by the Buddha that she would become a Buddha in the future.

These were all written in the Sutra. From this paragraph, we know that if any family members do what the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows said on behalf of the deceased these acts would definitely help the deceased a great deal. The ‘acts’ refer to ‘engaging in Buddhist activities broadly’, and in which, ‘broadly’ does not mean going to many Buddhist temples; it means doing all things benefiting sentient beings. In the Sutra, it also clearly indicated if family members do these activities, the deceased would get one-seventh of the merits, and the family members, six-sevenths.

Many people think that it’s good enough to attend the puja and let the deceased get liberated. Why do they need to do so many things? Don’t forget that all the family members related to you will affect you by their thoughts or behavior, whether good or bad. For example, you and your parents have the same genes. Hence, if your father is good, so are you. This is why the Buddha taught us to do things as described in the Sutra. If you were the companion (like a husband or a wife) of the deceased, engaging in Buddhist activities broadly on his or her behalf would help and benefit yourself greatly in this lifetime and your future lives.”

Before performing the Chod, Rinpoche bestowed Dharma teachings on mistakes made recently by two disciples.

“The first thing was about disciple Lin. I had asked him to inform disciples that I would perform the Chod this Sunday but he added an extra sentence in his message, ‘Please make offerings with all your heart.’ Some disciples ‘murmured’ in their hearts after seeing it, thought it was I who wanted him to say so. You all know that since 1997, I have never concocted any pretext to get your offerings. Whether you would make offerings to me or not is up to you. I will be very glad if you do; if you don’t, I will be even more pleased because then I would not owe you. It was written in the Ratnakuta Sutra, and I also mentioned it when bestowing empowerments that we cannot threaten or intimidate others to make offerings. I feel that this disciple was threatening and intimidating you. You think I wouldn’t perform the Chod if you don’t make offerings? I am very sad that such a thing happened. Thus, I am punishing myself by not accepting offerings today but still performing the Dharma so as to clearly show my mind and resolution. It was wrong of me to have him as a disciple and instructed him conveying my message to you. If you make mistakes in the future again, I will punish myself instead, and gradually, I will disappear one day. I am starting to get rid of my disciples. This disciple Lin does not need to come to me to repent. After this, no one will nag him anymore; he can just live his life as a general manager of a corporation. He still practices mundane methods. From a viewpoint of the mundane world, what he did was what a human in such a world would do, therefore, he didn’t think he had done anything wrong.

So far, the money I donated has exceeded 17 million U.S. dollars, and these are only donations that have been recorded. The Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness is held every year and it would be the 17th one for this year. There are usually more than 300,000 names on the to-be-liberated name list each year; I do not charge for the liberation service. If I really want to get money for it, and since there are more than 140,000 names on the list for today’s Puja, I would receive lots of money. Then do I still need disciple Lin to inform you to make offerings for this puja? This disciple is a general manager of a corporation. He is used to giving orders. Why is this happening? The phrase ‘power demon’ is mentioned in the Dharma text of the Chod. We hope that ‘power demon’ does not infringe or influence our learning of Buddhism. Each of you loves power and thinks that having power indicates having money. You don’t even know when you give orders you are actually doing what the folklore says, ‘waving a chicken feather as a token of authority.’ You like to have power at home, in the company you work, in groups you belong to, and even when you work as volunteers. This is why I have never accepted any press interviews for decades, because I am afraid of being influenced by ‘power demon’. If one gains merits through genuine cultivation, one will naturally have disciples without praying to get them. Even when they are asked to leave such a guru they would insist to stay. If a practitioner gains merits through his cultivation, good fortune will naturally come to him, so will he still be greedy for offerings?

On the surface, it seems that what this disciple did was for my own good, but it was actually slandering the guru, which was even more serious than violating precepts. I don’t know why he suddenly treated me so well. Then, why didn’t he take the lead and make his offering first? Thus, at this last Chod puja in the Chinese Year of Rat, I am making an offering to you: after the puja, you are not allowed to put your money into the donation box. Are there no merits to gain if no offerings are made? Do not wonder about it. This has nothing to do with you because it was I who said your offerings are not wanted today. From what you have done about supporting our temple construction, I know that you are reluctant to part with your money – you think it is very important. The Chinese New Year is around the corner, and everyone needs money very much.

Will the Dharma performed be inferior if there are no offerings received? No, it won’t be because once I start performing it I am in the state of Emptiness. To perform the Chod one must have already achieved the state of Simplicity Yoga in the Mahamudra. The Simplicity Yoga refers to having a non-discriminating mind, leaving off judgments on all the right and wrong in the world, and having attained the realization of Emptiness. All things in the world are just a game for me – a game of fake, untruth, and nothing to be attached to. Why did he care so much about my disciples’ offerings? It is because he is now a general manager, and this makes him greedy, more so over time. With such a mind, it habitually and naturally affects his thinking about me that I would also need money as he does. However, the money I have supported for our temple construction is near 90 million NT dollars, and I have donated a few million shares of stocks to the temple as well, giving up hundreds of thousands NT dollars in yearly dividends on those stocks. I have also started selling my houses for supporting the temple. I do what I said I would do. Don’t just look at my appearance as a lay practitioner. I understand things better than ordained practitioners. Do not make your thoughts as my thoughts.

The second thing was about a letter that our Association received online. I asked a disciple, who knows about laws, whether we could read out a letter’s contents if it was sent to the Association’s online platform. The disciple answered yes that any such letter is open to the public. Rinpoche then said that this letter was written by an ordained disciple. The gist of it was that she would like to come to chant the Amitayus mantra, but it was impossible to come every day. The temple she now belongs to needed a full cleaning due to the upcoming Chinese New Year; as its area is big and with lack of staff, she would lose half of a day for the cleaning task because of the time spent in going back and forth between the Center and the temple. Also, since tickets for non-reserved seats of Taiwan High Speed Rail are no longer available, she could only book reserved seats for Saturdays and Sundays. For this reason and for being afraid to cause inconvenience to her temple she could not come here every day to chant the Amitayus mantra.

In my opinion, these points she put forward were all excuses. For non-ordained disciples, coming and chanting the Amitayus mantra is a virtuous affinity I give you. As long as you do it, I dare say you would not have an untimely death in this lifetime and Amitayus would protect and bless you, life after life. Even your family members would get the same protection. (All participants in the puja expressed their gratitude to Rinpoche in unison.) As for ordained disciples, you are to practice in this life; your physical bodies are for the purpose of practicing, not for secular things. As your guru, with expedient Dharma methods, I help you to accumulate good fortune, merits, causes and conditions. Ordained disciples are meant to help sentient beings to chant mantras, recite sutras and make prostrations to the Buddha. You usually don’t have things to do; besides, chanting this mantra and leading non-ordained disciples to chant is what I, your guru, instructed you to do. If you didn’t want to do it you could have said so at the very beginning, instead of making excuses halfway.

If you say something about me, I will not be angry, but you have wronged other people; they have not yet cultivated well the compassion of Emptiness. If you don’t want to come here, you don’t need to. Fortunately, a few days ago the Ministry of the Interior sent us a letter praising that our Center has done a very good job on coronavirus prevention procedures. They encourage us to continue the good work so as to be a model for other organizations. I have many disciples who live in central or southern Taiwan, and they travel back and forth between those regions and Taipei; they don’t write such a letter. In her letter, she mentioned that ‘Rinpoche once said that practicing is doing our best on what we can do, not on what we imagine that we have to reach a certain level.’ This is taking my teachings out of context. She has not changed since she has taken refuge in me. Shakyamuni Buddha said that different practicing methods are taught based on sentient beings’ different root capacities. The part I talked about (the quote she mentioned) is about non-ordained disciples. They have jobs and families; they need to support themselves and do their best; they cannot give up their jobs. They are different from ordained disciples, who practice with their physical bodies and their lives!

She also criticized other ordained disciples in the letter. If she thought they do not practice well, she could have talked about it to me or to our Association’s directors. However, she made her issues known publicly (by presenting her letter online); by doing so, did she want to destroy this Center? In order not to let the temple, which she now belongs to, worry about her, I will not – I am not qualified to – accept her as my disciple. Do not think it doesn’t count if you write things out; they would all be considered creating verbal karma, with serious consequences. In other words, don’t casually open your mouth saying something to create karma.

Learning Buddhism should be cheerful, not like her feeling painful now because of the travel between two places. She learned the Dharma here and had a place to go back to – to live in. Actually, if she doesn’t have a place to live in Taipei, she can let me know, and if she is unwilling to leave that temple, then she might as well go back there! All the contents of her letter show her worries and uneasiness; she is not like a monastic at all. She can leave here. All the Dharma texts she has need to be taken back. If she makes any copy of them, it is the theft of the Dharma. Since she studied in a Buddhist college before, she knows how serious the effect will be from such a theft.

In fact, all these things she talked about could have been reported to me or to the Center’s Board of Directors, rather than being written in a letter on an online platform. There are more than one thousand disciples in this Center, and all are not allowed to openly criticize others like this. Learning Buddhism is not difficult, and it is all about affairs of human beings. People who learn it incorporate their own thoughts, habits and personality into the principles of the Dharma. As far as learning Buddhism and attaining Buddhahood go, what people do or what they think are all incorrect. This does not refer to their being good persons or bad ones. This means that what they do have nothing to do with being liberated from the reincarnation of birth and death. Since you think you are learning Buddhism, you should get prepared on your thoughts and actions that they will not fall into the scope of what ordinary people think and do.

Disciple Lin has taken refuge for so many years now, and he clearly knows how I saved his mother. If I were to exchange the Dharma for offerings made to me, with my capability, I could have asked any amount I wanted and people would have given me the money. I don’t do this though. If people, who do not take refuge in me, want to make offerings to me, I don’t accept the money, either. You all certainly know that since 1997 to this day, I have not changed. Last year, because of recession, I paid part of the money required for the Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness so that you didn’t need to pay all of the costs. Today, it does not matter to me whether you make offerings or not; I consistently benefit a great number of sentient beings with the compassion of Emptiness.”

Rinpoche then started to perform the Dharma to liberate the suffering deceased. While in a meditative state of Mahamudra, he performed the auspicious Chod. With ultimate bodhicitta, Rinpoche visualized making offerings of all his flesh, blood and bones, without reservation, to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and as charity given to all sentient beings in the Six Realms. The guru also chanted the Great Six-Syllable Mantra for a long time, and his compassionate Dharma voice resonated throughout the ten directions of the Dharma Realm. Deeply moved by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s great compassion and earnest deliverance of sentient beings from reincarnation’s sea of suffering, the attendees couldn’t help having their tears streaming down their faces.

Upon the perfect completion of the Chod performance, Rinpoche led the disciples in the Dharma Protector Achi Ritual and dedication prayer. The guru, in Tibetan and in Chinese, also led the attendees reciting the Aspiration Prayer for Rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land of Utmost Bliss. The guru’s boundless compassion and the heartfelt sincerity in wishing sentient beings to eliminate suffering and obtain happiness were felt by all; they couldn’t help having their tears streaming down their faces.

Then Rinpoche continued the teachings. “At 9:00 A.M. on the Lunar New Year Day, the Thirty-five Buddhas Repentance Ritual will be performed first. This ritual was transmitted by Shakyamuni Buddha in person as described in the Ratnakuta Sutra. For those, who wish to learn the Bodhisattva Path, they need to perform this ritual. The Ratnakuta Sutra is a sutra that teaches us the practices of the Bodhisattva Path, therefore, blessings from the Thirty-five Buddhas Repentance Ritual are especially powerful. We do this penitential rite so that our evil karma would be cleansed, which has been accumulated through our lifetimes and committed by our thoughts, words and actions. In this way, our practices would not be hindered, and furthermore, we would not make any mistake again.

My performance of the Thirty-five Buddhas Repentance Ritual is to hope that it will let you, in the new year, to have fewer hindrances in your practices. Karmic hindrances have good ones and bad ones. If either of them is heavy, your practices would be very difficult to proceed. If you finish doing this penitential rite and you don’t make any mistake again in your learning of Buddhism, the hindrances in your practices will gradually be eliminated. However, your fixed karma will definitely be retributed; it cannot be gone because of your having done the penitential rite. The most you can gain is to lessen the effect of heavy karmic retribution, but such karma cannot be completely eliminated. If it could, then it would have been mentioned in the Ratnakuta Sutra that there would have been no bad effects after the Thirty-five Buddhas Repentance Ritual having been performed. It is not that after doing this ritual, bad things will not happen and good things will immediately happen. If we wish that no cause and effect will appear after the penitential rite is completed, then it would have been said in the sutra that ‘repentance eliminates cause and effect’, but had it been so written? No! The writing only says that ‘repentance eliminates karmic hindrances.’ What are the karmic hindrances to be eliminated? They are the ones that obstruct our practices.

Do not misunderstand that doing this penitential rite will make you living a good life next year. If, after the repentance, you don’t do anything wrong again, then naturally you will have a good future. However, if it is opposite that after doing the ritual, through your thoughts, words and actions you still create karma, such repentance is of no use to you no matter how many times you have done it. You only get the good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms; you will not gain the merits of practices. In every puja, before I perform the Dharma, you recite the Sevenfold Offering Prayer, and it shows you that making repentance is also a kind of making offering. As long as you believe in cause and effect, causal conditions, what your guru has said and what the Buddha taught, then when you make a repentance, it is making an offering wholeheartedly. It is not because you are afraid of getting bad effect that you do a penitential rite, thinking by doing it bad effect will not appear. Then, this is not making an offering; you can only get the good fortune of the Human and Heaven Realms.

Yesterday, an ordained disciple came to seek an audience with me, imploring for an answer as to how to make her becoming healthy. Our bodies are karmic bodies, which are needed to repay our karma from the moment we reincarnate until we die, regardless of the karma being good or bad. If you are unwilling to repay your karma with your body, your body and many things will not change unless you have realized Emptiness through your practices. This is because, in physical bodies, there are originally more bad genes than good genes, and once the Emptiness has been realized the bad ones will be transformed into good ones. In this way, the body will naturally become healthier and healthier. Before you have realized Emptiness, when you are unhealthy, you must see a doctor.

Some people would say, ‘Bodies are illusory and we use them to cultivate the truth. Seeing a doctor when being sick is a waste of time and money. Avalokiteshvara will protect and bless me to get me healthy.’ However, in the Tantra section of the Buddhist Canon, there is a mention about how Avalokiteshvara treated humans’ illnesses, and many prescriptions were written too. Now some people want to find those prescriptions but some medicines’ names in such records cannot be found nowadays. There is a book by Lord Jigten Sumgon about how to treat diseases, and the only condition for learning this book is that you absolutely need to respect your guru. As long as you have a doubt, even a slightest one, no matter how much you practice the Dharma about the book, it is useless to you. I have its Chinese version now, and there are many diseases described that can be treated. Why don’t I show it? It is because you do not have a 100% degree of respect for your guru; you only say that you do, but you don’t in your heart. Only being respectful to your guru is there an offering made, and only when that happens arises your good fortune. Your illnesses can then be transformed. To get well from your diseases, it has to do with your karma and good fortune, as well.

If you have enough of good fortune, just relying on doctors’ treatments can cure your diseases; otherwise, it cannot because your good fortune is insufficient. Many things in life need experiences from cultivation in order to understand how to handle well the supramundane and mundane issues. Such experiences can be used as standards in our daily life. Without going through the experiences of cultivation, people would practice blindly based on hearsay. It is like what was mentioned in sutras that a blind man led a group of blind people to touch an elephant. One touched a leg, another, the tail, and yet another, the trunk. Their descriptions about the elephant were completely different. Why is a guru so important in Tibetan Buddhism? It is because a guru is an experienced practitioner. Being experienced does not mean conducting a retreat every day; rather, it is to practice the Dharma, apply it on oneself and validate its true meanings.

I once had a hemorrhage a few years ago, and I did not go to a hospital for emergency treatment because I knew how to use the Dharma to help myself. At that time, I recovered after my performing the Chod for twenty days. Don’t learn from me not to see a doctor when you are ill; otherwise, if you die at home, an autopsy will be done on your body. Everyone knows that those who do not die in a hospital will be autopsied.

What was my physical condition when I had a hemorrhage? A doctor-disciple of western medicine reported, ‘At that time, Rinpoche lost a lot of blood, and his lips were pale, as pale as a sheet of white paper. He spoke with less strength but he still stood upright. We wanted to have an intravenous injection on Rinpoche, but the needle couldn’t get into his blood vessels because they were sinking and becoming flat; there was very little blood in them, so the needle couldn’t be put in.’ Rinpoche asked him, ‘How long will it take for normal people to recover from this kind of condition?’ The disciple answered, ‘If there is no blood transfusion, it would take about half a year.’ Rinpoche asked a doctor-disciple of Chinese medicine about Rinpoche’s hemorrhage situation at the time. This disciple reported, ‘At that time, Rinpoche’s pulse strength was probably less than one-third of normal level, and his blood vessels were like scallion tubes – empty inside – with insufficient blood flow. For normal people with this kind of condition, it will take at least one to two years to recuperate, possibly.’

At this time, Rinpoche wanted to ask doctor-disciple Cai, who was also present with other doctor-disciples at Rinpoche’s side at that time, about his hemorrhage situation. It turned out she was not at the puja because she had been out at an acupuncture class. Rinpoche reprimanded the wife of another doctor-disciple of Chinese medicine who teaches doctor-disciple Cai acupuncture. Rinpoche instructed this wife that, once she got back home, she was to tell her husband a message from the guru. If, in the future, the husband wanted disciple Cai to attend Sunday acupuncture classes again, even she, his wife, would not be allowed to attend pujas. Rinpoche said, ‘From tomorrow on, this doctor-disciple of Chinese medicine cannot come to seek an audience with me again.’ I had helped him found an apprentice, telling disciple Cai to learn acupuncture from him. As a result, he loves money so much that he actually set up his teaching time on a Sunday, preventing disciple Cai to attend a puja today! Does he think that his wife can participate in pujas on his behalf to gain blessings and protection for him and their children? Does he think he could be a king of medicine because he has good medical skills? To me, the Dharma is the king of medicine; at the time when I had a hemorrhage, I relied on the Dharma to save my life.

Being able to participate in a Chod performance is an indication that you have causes, conditions and good fortune of past lives. It is not luck, and it is not that I necessarily have to perform it; not to mention participating in the performance, it is not even easy for people to hear the word, ‘Chod’. Just like those few disciples I talked about just now, they are not eligible to attend such a puja. They know I am very remarkable, but they think they are even more so than me. It is not very easy at all to be able to learn this Dharma; many conditions are required. As your guru, I have taught you Buddhism and led you in your practices – you should listen and follow. I am already seventy-four years old and there is nothing I am afraid of between heavens and earth. I am only afraid of cause and effect. No matter how rich or how powerful you are, you are the same in my heart. In it, I only have my own guru and those sentient beings in need of help. I am not concerned about money or my life, and regardless of how much power there is out there, nothing can influence my learning Buddhism and propagating the Dharma. On the surface, you are learning Buddhism, but in fact you are just imploring for blessings and protection, thinking they can benefit your family members and your children. If I keep on asking why you are here, the answer would be the same. You are all transparent in front of me.

Many people came to ask me what the meaning of life is. My answer is ‘birth, old age, sickness and death’. No matter how powerful you are, how wealthy you are, or how good your medical skills are, you all have a life facing these four occurrences, ‘birth, old age, sickness and death’. Then you would say since life is as such as that, why does one learn Buddhism? It is because learning it can keep us away from birth, old age, sickness and death in our next life. For many years now, you have seen in the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center that some of my disciples, because of their believing in their guru, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, faced no pain before they passed away, and some even could predict the time of their death. This was because they were no longer attached in their mind to the pain in their bodies; they completely let go of themselves. Thus, they were able to be reborn in the Pure Land. This is to show you that the reason to learn Buddhism is not to have fame or better health, to accept disciples or become enlightened. All of these are not the purposes of learning Buddhism.

If we practice what we have been taught step by step, we can definitely achieve what the Dharma states. If I were a reincarnated Rinpoche, you might say that you cannot cultivate the way I have cultivated and be like me. Yet, in my practices, I started as a believer in this life as you did. Of course, these practices are related to those accumulated in my past lifetimes. As there have been good causal conditions existed for me in this life, I then have opportunities being able to benefit others by benefiting myself. You are not like this though. However, as long as you firmly believe in what you have learned, and firmly rely on your guru and the Dharma, you will be definitely helped to be liberated when you pass away. Many of you worry that when I am gone, who can help you? If you wonder this way, then you don’t believe in your guru, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that their vows will help you.

Why did I lead everyone to recite the Aspiration Prayer for Rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land of Utmost Bliss just now in Tibetan and in Chinese? In it, it says that if you implore for the help of your guru, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, they will assist you to eliminate hindrances to be reborn in the Pure Land. As long as you have complete belief in them, even if you have not cultivated to perfection in this life, you still have an opportunity to be liberated. You have participated in the Chod Puja for so many years now, but you still have so many problems. The reasons are on you. It is the same Dharma ritual with same performance and same recitation and chanting; why is it immediately effective on me, but you cannot see the effect right away? It is to do with your faith, karma, merits and good fortune.

The reason why I have talked so much to you today is because this is the last puja held in the Year of the Rat, and the topic has been the direction of your learning of Buddhism. I have practiced very diligently in this life, and yet, many accidents have still happened to me; someone like me is having such unexpected occurrences, let alone you. Nevertheless, I certainly can resolve such accidents because Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have blessed me, knowing that I am a person with a hard life and I have constantly helped sentient beings. As long as you have determined that you want to practice the Bodhisattva Path, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will definitely protect and bless you. Practicing this Path is not about how many times you recite, chant or make prostrations every day; it’s about your mindset, and it is very important to set it right. Don’t indulge your body, speech and mind; once you are not careful, you create evil karma. Today, both disciple Lin and the monastic in question created verbal karma, therefore, be cautious and mindful, everyone. It is very easy to get your mind unrestrained; ‘pulling’ it back to the right condition would need putting more strength than usual into the effort.”

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Updated on June 12, 2021