His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – March 21, 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.

“Chod Puja is translated into Chinese as ‘Body Offering Puja.’ In Tibetan, ‘Chod’ means ‘breaking away’, to break free of all hindrances of afflictions and knowledge. The hindrances of knowledge are your perceptions. Once the perceptions have formed, it is difficult to change. How can you break away from the hindrances? Use your wisdom. Wisdom is not learned from books or your life experiences. You absolutely have to follow the teachings of the Dharma and your guru. Also, you have to complete many stages of cultivation so that you can attain it.

Every sentient being possesses the same pure, primordial wisdom as the Buddha. However, because the karma in our past lives makes us reincarnate, our primordial wisdom gets concealed. Therefore, to attain acquired wisdom, you need to rely on learning Buddhism and the blessings of your guru. The wisdom of Emptiness can only be realized by combining both acquired wisdom and primordial wisdom. The Great Prajna Sutra which comprises about one third of the Buddhist Canon mainly talks about Emptiness. In Exoteric Buddhism, one realizes the meanings of Emptiness from the aspect of theories. In Tantra, however, Emptiness refers to the state that one is able to rearrange the molecules and atoms of the body so that one can even transform the body into a rainbow light. Without the compassion of Emptiness, one cannot perform this puja to benefit all sentient beings. The compassion of Emptiness cannot be attained just by listening to sutras or making prostrations to the Buddha. It is attained through a lot of cultivation.

When performing the Chod, the practitioner gives his or her body as alms through methods of meditation, Tantric mantras, and Tantras. Upwardly, the practitioner makes offerings to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of ten directions, Dharma protectors, as well as to the Dakas and Dakinis. Downwardly, the practitioner gives alms to all sentient beings reincarnated in the Six Realms. Giving alms to sentient beings means letting them eat this body of the practitioner. Nevertheless, it is not the body of an ordinary person that can be given to sentient beings to eat. In the sutras, there are many stories describing how Shakyamuni Buddha has attained the compassion of Emptiness through cultivation for many lifetimes. The Buddha, in a previous life, saw that a tigress was too hungry to produce milk for the cubs, so He jumped into the lair and fed Himself to the tigress so that she could produce milk to feed the cubs. Shakyamuni Buddha once was a king in another previous life and had attained the compassion of Emptiness. Two Emperors of Heaven wanted to test Him; one of them transformed into an eagle, and the other into a dove. The eagle wanted to eat the dove, so the dove hid into the arms of Shakyamuni Buddha. Shakyamuni told the eagle not to eat the dove, so He cut off the thigh to feed the eagle. There are many such stories in the sutras. However, modern people are not able to achieve it. If you want to achieve the state, you have to constantly conduct retreats.

The Dharma text I am going to perform today was written by a lay yogini, the Venerable Machig Labdron. It was based on the essence of the Great Prajna Sutra, as well as the tantric Kriya Tantra, Charya Tantra, Yogatantra, and the compassion of Emptiness. Through the practicing method of this Dharma text, the practitioner (the one who presides over the Dharma) can enter Emptiness and give his or her body as alms. Last week, when I expounded the Ratnakuta Sutra, it was said in the sutra, ‘The food bestowed by the Buddha can be received so that hindrances can be eliminated.’ The Buddha can give alms to all sentient beings in the Six Realms, and all sentient beings can accept this charity, eliminate their desires, afflictions, and so on. Only this kind of giving alms can be useful. Sentient beings are unable to eat the things that are prepared during the worship of folk beliefs.

Through the alms given by the practitioner, sentient beings’ desires would be satisfied after eating them. What they see is food; however, it is actually blessed nectar once it enters their stomachs. After the nectar enters the stomachs of sentient beings, it helps them subdue the hatred in their heart, suppressing them from afflictions so that they can listen to the Dharma and be liberated. To liberate the deceased cannot be achieved just by reciting the sutras alone. Without good fortune and merits, one cannot liberate sentient beings. This is a unique Dharma method in Buddhism. Exoteric monastics have to offer food in the evening-prayer session every day, yet the target is not ghostly beings. It is said in the sutras that devas, nagas and others of eight groups of non-humans including the Garuda and dragons. The Garuda wanted to eat the dragons, yet the Buddha wouldn’t let it. The Garuda said, ‘Then what can I eat instead of the dragon?’ The Buddha said that His disciples would offer food for them in the evening-prayer sessions afterward.

Can sentient beings simply eat the food, which is in two spoons and respectfully held up high, spilled outdoors? Absolutely not. Without visualization and the blessings of Tantras on the food, sentient beings are unable to enjoy it. As a result, sentient beings would come back again.

Currently, in Taiwan, I am the only non-monastic Rinpoche of Han ethnicity, who publicly performs the Chod every month for more than 1,000 attendees at the same time. It is really rare. You all should cherish the precious opportunity. There are 147,662 names on the to-be-liberated list today. That I can liberate so many sentient beings is not because I have great power, but because of the blessings and support of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, fulfilling my aspiration to benefit all sentient beings.

Attending the puja, you should be repentant. If you only think of your own benefit, then how about sentient beings you have harmed? Thinking so, you do not believe in cause and effect. To attend a puja for transferring consciousness is to alleviate your bad karmic retribution resulting from hurting sentient beings; however, you also have to do something. Last week, a believer came to seek an audience with me. His wife had an Aortic dissection aneurysm and the score on the Glasgow Coma Scale was two. After I bestowed blessings on her, he came to me again yesterday and said that his wife has recovered from the coma to a score of nine. He further implored to alleviate the pain of his wife. I told him that to alleviate her pain is to let her die. He then stopped his imploration. Before he came here, he went everywhere to pray to the gods and seek to ascertain by divination for his wife’s illness. Why did he come to implore me alone? Where were the rest of the family members? This is taking advantage of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas.

As I have said many times, I can only save you once. It is not that I don’t have the ability to save you again; yet, after I have saved you, you should accumulate your good fortune yourself. You absolutely have to repent, otherwise, your illness cannot be cured because you have no good fortune. Even if I can stop the root of your illness from growing, there is nothing I can do to disroot for you. It is because you are the one who has sown the evil cause, you have to bear the karmic retribution yourself. Actually, I don’t need you to come to the puja, there are sentient beings everywhere to be liberated. Just like last time I went to Pingtung to liberate the deceased, the ghosts rushed from the mountain valley one after another. Because of the Mudan Incident, the local indigenous peoples in Mudan District were continuously massacred by the Japanese until they stopped fighting back. If I want to perform the Dharma, I can perform it in many places. As long as someone implores for it and all causal conditions arise, then I will be there.

Coming to the puja, you should be fully repentant. The reason why you get sick or unlucky in this life is not that someone has hurt you; nevertheless, it’s because you have ever harmed other people in this life and past lives. Your good fortune has been almost used up, therefore, the evil karma begins to blossom. Do not think that you are sick or bad things happen to you is karmic retribution; it is just karmic bloom. Karmic retribution ripes before you die and it determines which Realm you will be reincarnated in.

Today, I’m performing this puja for you so that through the compassion of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas, your karmic creditors in your past lives will give you opportunities to accumulate good fortune. I’m performing this to make offerings and give alms on your behalf so that your good fortune can be accumulated, not for you to live a good life. If a person has no money to eat, doesn’t he need to make money for a living? Even if a beggar wants to beg, he still has to prepare himself first. Similarly, you have to do something, instead of doing nothing and hoping the Buddha and Bodhisattvas give you everything. The only thing I ask you to do is to be repentant.

Without repentance, it is impossible to ask for the Buddha and Bodhisattvas to help transform your karma. I have practiced for decades, and I have never seen such a thing in the sutras. The Buddha can only help to create good causes and conditions, and later, whether you accept it or not is your decision. In the Ratnakuta Sutra, it is said that the Buddha bestows food to sentient beings so that they can eliminate the hindrances from their Buddhist practice, listen to the Dharma, and subdue their mind. After one’s mind is subdued, should this person practice or not? The Buddha didn’t speak of it in the sutras because it is this person who decides whether to take action or not. It is useless if one doesn’t make up his or her mind.

Yesterday, one of my disciples came to seek an audience with me for his son’s sickness. Before he took refuge in me, I had told him that his ancestors owned fish farms so they had heavy karma from killing and it would influence the whole family; therefore, bad things would happen in their family. Now he knows why his son is in bad health. He thought that if he made some monetary offerings to me, I would chant mantras and bestow my blessings upon his son, then his son would get better. However, I didn’t accept his offerings. He then used the money to support the construction of Glorious Jewel Temple. Nevertheless, I returned the money back to him right away. Now, you know why it is not accepted to donate via ATM transfer. It is because the sender’s related information will be recorded if you remit your donation at the bank counter, but there will be no sender’s name via ATM. Even though I am 74 years old, my memory is still so excellent that I can remember some special cases. I returned his offerings because he was not making offerings with repentance. Do not think that once you make offerings, good fortune will be back to you; unless the offerings are made by Bodhisattvas. There will be good fortune if the Buddhas make offerings to each other. However, the offerings we make can only earn a little bit of our missing good fortune back. Why do you need to have a repentant attitude? It is because you owe so many sentient beings that you have harmed, not observing precepts, and also breaking the laws. You have done so much wrong. Don’t you need to repent? You cannot use money to earn good fortune; if you don’t make offerings with repentance, good fortune will not arise. Yesterday, I instructed this disciple and his wife, who is also a disciple, to perform great prostrations. In order to save their son’s life, from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., each of them performed more than 800 great prostrations. Now the child is in a stable condition.

Their ancestors raised fish on the fish farm, so how many fish had they killed? Didn’t they need to pay it back? Everyone merely thinks that if you have taken refuge, been a vegetarian, performed penitential rites, made prostrations, made offerings to masters, and supported Buddhist temples, all of your problems will be solved. Back then, when I was learning Exoteric Buddhism and practicing the Precious Penitential Rites of Emperor Wu of Liang, I made prostrations from the first day to the last, non-stopped even during break time. People would usually go to the restroom, drink some tea, or chat with the major benefactors, but I didn’t. None of you here could do the same as me. My former master held the Precious Penitential Rites of Emperor Wu of Liang twice a year, and the Great Water and Land Puja as well as Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Repentance Ritual once a year. I had performed all kinds of penitential rites. Only when I had learned the Tantra did I realize that I did not truly repent. Nevertheless, I was thinking that I could accumulate merits and eliminate the bad karma if I kept performing penitential rites.

When people read the line of the sutra, ‘the blooms of karmic offenses are blown away,’ they break down in tears, thinking that once they perform penitential rites, all the karma and vice they have made would be gone, and the fruit of karma would too. However, in the sutra, it is not written, ‘the fruits of karmic offenses have faded.’ When you perform penitential rites, the blooms of karmic offenses will fly away; yet, the roots are still there and they will blossom again. As long as you feel complacent, and start to eat meat, kill sentient beings, deceive people, tell lies, and be unfilial again, the karmic seeds will sprout afterward. This is the reason why some people would become even worse after performing penitential rites. You should deeply realize that you are wrong. This is the attitude of performing penitential rites. Do not think that being knowledgeable or having a noble profession can offset your bad karma. It can’t be. To eliminate your bad karma, you have to practice.

‘The food bestowed by the Buddha can be received so that hindrances can be eliminated.’ It means that only when we have the good fortune to receive the Buddha’s alms can we eliminate our hindrances of hearing the Dharma and practicing Buddhism. If your notion of Dharma is to make yourself better, then these two things have nothing to do with us. To make yourself better, you have to constantly train yourself through the Dharma and your guru’s blessings. Thus, your good fortune can be accumulated gradually. After you have more food fortune and do less evil acts, you will feel that you are gradually getting better. Why do you get better right after I bestow my blessings upon you? It is because I have much more good fortune than you do. However, you have no idea how many things I have done to accumulate so much good fortune. Once you have accumulated good fortune and merits, you can at least suppress the karma of sentient beings, making it still. However, if you don’t learn Buddhism nor are you obedient afterward, the stone on top of the karma might accidentally be taken away someday, and then the karma would be back again.

It is just like that after you have an operation for a serious illness, your doctor would advise you how to stay healthy. However, if you don’t listen to the advices, your health won’t improve. It is the same in Dharma concepts. After I have performed the Dharma for you, it is not that you don’t need to do anything; you need to participate in activities I give you to do because this is your business; it is related to your practices. You should make up your mind to amend yourself. You have lived to this age, and how many bad things have you done with your thoughts, words and actions? There is no such thing as ‘saying something but not meaning it’. If you say that some people make you wearing small shoes – you are framed – you do not have a mind for repentance. There is news of people getting killed in car accidents every day, which means that this place has heavy karma from killing. Except for the people who were vegetarian in the womb, how many sentient beings have you eaten? Do you think everything will be resolved by just attending a few pujas? If that is the case, why did so many things still happen to me after I had performed so many penitential rites back then? Your attitude is the most important. If you don’t change your attitude accordingly, no matter how auspicious the Dharma is, it won’t be helpful for you.

No protection boundary can be set while the presiding guru is performing the Chod; it means that he does not have any protection at all. He does not visualize himself protected by a protection wheel, nor does he wear one, so that the ghostly beings can eat his body. Only when they are satisfied can they listen to the Dharma and eventually be liberated.

The first few lines of the Dharma text mentioned Three Roots – the guru, the yidam, and the Dharma protectors. In Esoteric Buddhism, apart from imploring the Buddha and Bodhisattvas, the most important thing is to implore your guru. This notion is emphasized again in the last line. If the presiding practitioner does not achieve a certain level of cultivation, the yidam and the Dharma protectors will cause many things to happen so that you cannot continue to practice. The simplest way is to drive everyone away, not to let people come to the puja; perhaps they might damage the Dharma instruments, or have the Dharma text disappear.

It means that when I read these few lines, the gurus, sacred beings, and Dharma protectors will prevent the Chod from continuing if I have not met the criteria. Hence, when the practitioners cannot benefit all sentient beings, not only will the sentient beings be angry but the practitioners will also be hurt, and the mandala will be damaged. If a practitioner performs the Dharma only for fame and profits, the deceased cannot receive consciousness transference.

Yesterday, a believer came to me and said that he had been wholeheartedly reciting the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows. I asked him how wholehearted he was. He couldn’t answer it. It showed he was haughty and arrogant. According to the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, before you recite the sutra, you need to observe the purifying precepts and perform an ablution. Observing the purifying precepts means conducting the Eight Precepts Retreat, not just eating vegetarian. If you can’t do it, your guru will do it on your behalf. However, you need to be respectful of the Three Jewels and be repentant. Since the guru has obtained the permission of his root guru, the Chod guru, and the sacred beings, once he performs the Dharma, it will certainly be helpful for you; however, you will not see the effect right away. How can all the bad karma you have done in this life be eliminated right after the puja? It’s the same as taking medicine; it cannot take effect immediately. You need to keep adding more medicine until the disease is cured.

I would let some of you see the effects immediately to make you believe. Otherwise, even just once, you will not think it works. Then you won’t come again and go find somebody else. There was a story about a disciple of a Rinpoche, whose valuable belongings were stolen. Hence, this disciple made an offering to his guru and implored him to perform the Dharma so that the thief would return his belongings. After the guru had performed the first Dharma, his valuables were not returned; he then made an offering again. The valuables were still not returned after the second Dharma performed. Finally, the valuables were returned after the third offering was made and the Dharma performed. If it were you, you would never show up again if the valuables were not returned after the first Dharma performed; this is the difference between Tibetans and Hans.”

The teaching came to the end of a phase of the puja. Rinpoche began to liberate the suffering deceased. While in a meditative state of Mahamudra, he performed the auspicious Chod, drawing from ultimate bodhicitta to visualize every last piece of his own flesh, blood, and bone as offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and giving alms to all sentient beings in the Six Realms. The guru also chanted the Great Six-Syllable Mantra for a very long time, his compassionate Dharma voice resonating throughout the universe. Deeply moved by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s great compassion and earnest deliverance of sentient beings from reincarnation’s sea of suffering, none of the attendees could keep from shedding tears.

Upon the perfect completion of the Dharma, Rinpoche continued to bestow teachings. “At the end of the Dharma text, it is repeatedly written, ‘I’m imploring for the guru’s blessings’. In Tantra (Vajrayana), it is said that all merits, activities, and good fortune are from the blessings of your guru. How does he bless you? You have to be completely obedient without your own thoughts. Just do whatever your guru wants you to do; do not have your own thoughts; do not think why he wants me to do so. Does the guru want to control you? Definitely not. Instead, what your guru wants you to do is to let go of your thoughts. In other words, when you follow the guru’s instructions and do it accordingly, you don’t have to think about it yourself. If you have your own thoughts, you will indulge yourself in the thoughts of calculating benefits, gains, or losses; hence, you cannot accept the Dharma.

In 2006, His Holiness asked me to attend the Hevajra Empowerment Puja in India. The Empowerment Puja lasted for about three weeks. His Holiness said nothing else but only wanted me to go there. If it were you, you would ask why? What benefit would I get? However, I didn’t ask; I just listened. Had I not gone there, I would have missed the causes and conditions, and it would be impossible for me to attain achievements in Hevajra. In 2007, His Holiness wanted me to conduct a retreat in Lapchi Snow Mountain in Nepal for three months. At that time, I just listened, not worrying about my company’s business or how more than one hundred employees could operate by themselves. Unlike you, as my disciples, would negotiate with me.

Some believers only attend the Chod Puja, just like ordering food in a buffet, picking what they like to eat. Thus, their problems can never be resolved because buffet refers to helping oneself. However, in the Dharma text, it is written clearly, ‘One needs the guru’s help and blessings.’ They thought that attending the Chod Puja would help them solve problems, but other dharmas wouldn’t; therefore, they didn’t think they need to attend other pujas. It would not be beneficial if you attended the puja with this attitude. Nevertheless, this was also my disciple’s fault because they told believers that Rinpoche’s Chod performance was remarkable. However, are other dharmas not remarkable? In fact, they are as remarkable as the Chod, and they can also benefit sentient beings. As long as sentient beings have the causes and conditions to participate in the puja, they can accumulate good fortune and increase good causal conditions.

In the more than 800-year history of the Drikung Kagyu Order, I am the only Han and non-monastic guru who has achieved fruition as a Rinpoche in this lifetime. I made it because I have done it in accordance with what is written in the Dharma text, and not to negotiate with the guru. To practice auspicious Dharma, does the guru still need to wait until you have time and strength? Thus, I am the only Rinpoche who has accompanied His Holiness in the Hevajra retreat in the Lapchi Snow Mountain since 2007.

At first, His Holiness had been staying in the retreat room next to mine. He didn’t leave the room until he was sure that I would not die in the retreat. I was already 60 years old then. To conduct a retreat is to practice a Dharma within a certain period until the sign appears and the practitioner has attained achievement; otherwise, he needs to conduct a retreat again. That is to say, in 2007, if there were no signs of achievement in the perfection of Hevajra, His Holiness would definitely ask me to conduct another retreat. Last year, His Holiness was going to take me to conduct a retreat in the Lapchi Snow Mountain again because he knew that something would happen to me. Hence, he wanted me to conduct a retreat before my fixed karma matured so that I might not need to have eye surgery. However, because of the pandemic, I could not go there, and later, the fixed karma matured, so I still needed to have the surgery. Thus, even if the guru speaks, some causal conditions may not go your way.

Also, because of the pandemic, I could not leave Taiwan. I have been in Taiwan for the whole year so that you have more chances to be scolded by your guru. Many people say that conducting a retreat is easy. It might be easy for you for the first day to lock yourself up during the retreat, not being able to watch TV or answer the phone, and not looking outside; however, you may not stand it for more than three days. If you do not practice in retreat, you cannot achieve realization in this lifetime by reciting the sutras alone.

As long as I am in Taiwan, there will always be a weekly puja. Currently, among all the Tantric centers in Taiwan, only our Center holds a puja every week. I am already seventy-four years old. In ancient times, I would have retired at this age. No one would be like me, sitting on the Dharma throne and teaching you so much without doing any good for myself. If I really want to calculate, there are more than 140,000 names in today’s to-be-liberated lists. In many places, they would be charged a lot, but I didn’t do that. In fact, I could have performed the Chod every week to collect money, but I wouldn’t because that would cause me not to be able to do other things. I still need to do a lot of things to benefit sentient beings.

The Dharma text does not mention that the Buddha and Bodhisattvas would bestow blessings upon you directly; instead, it says that you should implore for the guru’s blessings. Why is the word ‘guru’ being emphasized in the Dharma text? According to Exoteric Buddhism, the guru is the incarnation of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas or their retinue. In terms of Esoteric Buddhism, the guru transmits Dharma on behalf of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Anyone who became a guru has at least attained the fruition level of a Bodhisattva before he or she can practice Tantra. Although the Buddha is in great compassion and His light illuminates all things, His mind abides in stillness and suchness in the state of Nirvana; therefore, it is faster to implore the Bodhisattva because he still has the desire to liberate sentient beings.

You think that it is the Buddha who helps you, but in fact, it is the Dharma protectors by Him who come to help you, and they will also bestow blessing to you without your imploration. When I was conducting a retreat in Lapchi Snow Mountain, just on the second day, I saw a Dharma protector who was beside Dharma Protector Achi, riding a kirin, come to protect me. Achi herself did not come to protect me; however, this Dharma protector was good enough. I was conducting the retreat to benefit sentient beings; therefore, I was attuned to the Dharma protector because he also wants to benefit sentient beings. Naturally, Dharma Protector Achi would send one to protect me. I did not even need to implore for it.

You are all self-righteous, thinking that you are remarkable and as invincible as King Kong. You are so good at calculating. If you keep on having so much greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, doubt, and do not make up your mind to learn Buddhism, time will wait for nobody. I’m already seventy-four years old with not much time left. You should all think carefully about this.”

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Updated on June 29, 2021