His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Puja Teachings – April 4, 2021

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ascended the Dharma throne to preside over a Refuge Ceremony. He then expounded on “Scroll 17, ‘Amitayus Tathagata Assembly’ (Chapter 5, Section 1)” of the Ratnakuta Sutra.

“There are nine people who have registered to take refuge today. I will briefly explain the key points of taking refuge. One must do it first before learning Buddhism. It is stated in sutras: Unless there are no gurus within a radius of 500 lis (Li is the Chinese mile, about one third of an English mile) for one to take refuge in, one can take refuge in a Buddha’s statue or sutras. However, nowadays there are no longer such situations existing, so one should take refuge in a guru.

For those who want to take refuge, they must make prostrations to a treasure-guru. Gurus are where all the Dharma teachings from the Buddha are ‘placed’ in. A guru is exactly a treasure; the word ‘Rinpoche’ means precisely ‘treasure.’

A guru has ways to bring about the rising of sentient beings’ auspicious causal conditions on peacefulness and happiness. The ‘peacefulness and happiness’ here does not mean to let you live a comfortable life. Many people have a misunderstanding, thinking that after taking refuge, one’s life can be spent contently and joyfully, and nothing bad will happen. This is a wrong thought. The ‘peacefulness and happiness’ indicated in the Dharma is the state to get you in, letting you be liberated from the reincarnation of birth and death; that phrase does not mean that you are to pursue little desires of the mundane world. After you have taken refuge, through your guru’s teachings and guidance, you will be helped in bringing about the ‘peacefulness and happiness’ of sentient beings, and then such causal conditions are arisen.

This is not to say that after taking refuge, you will become a different person immediately; rather, it means that a new life has started. Without your guru’s help, teachings and guidance to lead you, it is not possible for you to have the rising of this causal condition. Many people think that after they have taken refuge, they can do practices on their own. This is a wrong attitude. If your guru has not helped you give rise to this condition, even if you have practiced, because you do not believe that your guru has helped you create such a condition, there are no blessings for you.

There is nothing more auspicious than the Dharma in this world. It is not that your taking refuge today is to make you feel very pleased, thinking, ‘My guru will protect me to let me live a good life, not get sick and improve my personality.’, et cetera. Rather, after taking refuge, you are to feel that you can obtain the joy from learning the auspicious Dharma.

The most important thing of our taking refuge is to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Taking refuge in the Buddha is because He had attained realization. Taking refuge in the Dharma is because it encompasses all the precepts taught by the Buddha and the practicing methods described in sutras; it is not to take refuge in a certain sutra. For those wanting to receive Refuge Precepts, they should think clearly that the reincarnation in the Three Evil Realms (Hell, Hungry Ghosts and Animal Realms) is like a fire pit. You will be in reincarnation in the Three Evil Realms ceaselessly. Do not think that if you have done good deeds in this life, you will not fall into reincarnation. If you think so, it is a wrong thought. At the time of your death, if you do not rely on the help from your guru and the Dharma, as long as an idea is arisen which is unrelated to the Dharma, you will fall into the Three Evil Realms. This is a very simple matter.

Many people think that they have done good deeds, so why will they fall into the Three Evil Realms? Do you dare to say to yourself that, in this life, you have not hated anyone, not had any desires, or not produced any greed? If you have, and before your death, if you have forgotten your guru, the Dharma, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, such negative thoughts will be given rise to, and once that happens, you will fall into the Three Evil Realms.

If the guru, having accepted your taking refuge, has not observed the Refuge Precepts, such a guru is not qualified to allow you going through the ceremony to become a disciple. This guru cannot sit on a high Dharma throne either, and can only sit at the same level as you sit. As long as the guru has not broken away from the precepts, of course, he or she at a position as a guru, can accept people’s taking the refuge. For example, an ordained guru absolutely cannot break away from the monastic precepts; a non-ordained guru must not break away from the Bodhisattva Precepts. If such a guru does not observe precepts, he or she cannot accept people’s taking refuge.

We need to make offerings to the Three Jewels (the Buddha, the Dharma and Sangha) by putting offering items in front of them. His Holiness is in Taiwan, and I often implore him for Dharmas or ask him for advices on the contents of Dharma texts. When I go to him, the first thing I do is making offerings to him; my supplications for Dharmas are all for sentient beings, not for myself. I am very respectful and careful when I make offerings to His Holiness. When one has the ability to make offerings to one’s guru, one should do them often. It is not because of gaining good fortune that I make such offerings frequently; rather, I owe my gratitude to my guru! It is that because His Holiness has taught me the Dharma, I have learned it to benefit a vast number of sentient beings.

In the Ratnakuta Sutra I expounded last time, it is clearly mentioned in it that if you want to advance your practices to a higher stage, you must receive empowerments. For the so-called advancing to a higher stage, let’s look at an example here. After you finish high school, you enter a college examination and pass; then you are admitted to a college. Isn’t this advancing your education to a higher stage? When you are in the college, don’t you need to study? You all have a faulty thought. You think that if you receive the Bodhisattva Precepts, you are a Bodhisattva. It is like today that you have passed a college examination and entered a college with an appellation of ‘college student’. However, if you don’t study, can you definitely be graduated from the college? Although you have paid the tuition, can your professors guarantee you that you will certainly graduate? Likewise, if you don’t do your practices, why will the Buddha, Bodhisattvas and your guru guarantee you that you will definitely get liberated from birth and death?

The disciple who shared her story just now talked about her mother. She particularly mentioned that her brother had made offerings to me. Do I owe you something then? What do you want me to give back to you? Her brother has taken refuge in me for several years now but I have no impression of him. (The disciple, with last name Wang, said it was her fault that she had brought up these things.) She also notably mentioned a content, in the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, about a brahman girl selling her mansion to make offerings to the Buddha. Did you sell your house to make an offering to me? No, you did not. You dared to mention that content loudly and unashamedly. Why did her mother still get cancer after taking refuge for many years? Why did her mother still get tortured by medical treatments before she died? These had all been the doings of her children. Although their mother had taken refuge for many years, at one time, she still came to ask me what to do about their ancestral memorial tablets. I had already liberated these ancestors. The memorial tablets are just pieces of wood. I have not said that you cannot commemorate them. Her asking such a question indicated that she did not believe in me, nor did she believe that her ancestors had been liberated; she feared that ghosts would come to haunt her.

It was such a big amount of medical expenses I saved for you! You were really eloquent on what you said. Yesterday, there was another disciple who also had a problem. I said to those present at the Center that disciples, who wanted to make offerings to me at that time, could come up to me together (there was no need to come up one by one). Then, contrarily, this particular disciple didn’t listen and wanted to wait in queue for his turn to speak to me. I thought he had some issues that he needed to let me know. It turned out that he wanted to give me an ‘admonitory talk’, and only after such a talk would he make his offering to me. You all make such a mistake now that you want me to definitely listen to what you intend to ‘lecture’ me, and only after that, would you make your offerings. If you want to make offerings, then do them; why, and what for, do you need to be in a verbiage way? Do you think that you will have the merits of making offerings, while feeling very pleased, after ensuring that I will listen to the end on what you say, and will know you have made offerings to me? Why do you haggle so much over this? You have wanted to clearly show it. This is exactly fussing about making offerings or bothering about gaining merits.

In the Dharma text here, it is mentioned about making offerings to the guru, but nothing more are indicated afterwards. It does not say what things the guru is to give you. As long as the guru accepts your taking refuge, you need to make offerings to him or her, not to mention that the guru will do many things to help you. Yet, you talk with ease and confidence; do you feel you are amazing? I really work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and with no rest for whole year. I help out immediately once I receive phone calls from those who need assistances. Ask these monastics here if there are practitioners who will help liberate the deceased in the middle of the night. Yes, there will be but only if the deceased is a major doner while alive in that the whole temple relies on this person’s support! You think that just because you have made a little of offerings, the whole world needs to know that. Are you afraid of that people don’t know you are very amazing?

When you took refuge, you were clearly told that you need to make offerings. It is not that the guru wants these offerings, but it is for the reason that you do not have good fortune. I have attained the fruition level of a Rinpoche, and every time I implore His Holiness for Dharmas I make offerings to him. I have also told you many times that in order to obtain the Tantra, Venerable Marpa went to India three times, and each time when going there, he had gold, carried on horses, for making offerings!

You are really outrageous. The Glorious Jewel Association is now short of money, but everyone is indifferent about it. This is to blame on the Association, this Center’s Group leaders and contact persons within each Group. They can just mention a bit about the situation to you and that will be fine. Last year, I did not accept monetary mandala offerings in sixteen pujas. I declined to receive such mandala offerings but you did not increase your donation in supporting the Center. When receiving your offerings, I have ‘turned them around’ to donate the money in support of our new temple constructions project. To this year, I have supported the project over NT$100 million. How about you? You only pay out your regular amount, as a donation, every month; you are also not concerned about the Center. Recently, I sold a house in Taichung for more than NT$10 million and I donated it to the temple project. This house was an offering made by a disciple so he has gained part of the merits too, and is with me together in the great sea of merits. At the time when he made the offering of this house to me, he definitely did not expect that I would sell it and then use the money from the sale as an offering to support the temple project.

When we see sutras, Buddhist statues or stupas, we should be pious and respectful towards them. Within your ability, sometimes, for example, when you see some sutras have been damaged, and you have the means and the willingness of others to get these sutras mended or patched up, do it then. It is the same for Buddhist statues when you notice the similar situations. If people on the other side, those owning, or being in charge of maintenance of, such sutras or statues, have not brough up the subject of repairing but you deliberately insist on fixing the damages, it is not good. All things need causal conditions to proceed.

Even though one’s life is at risk or one is given gifts, one should not abandon Refuge Precepts if one is asked to. Even when your life is in danger, or when you have been given many presents, if you are then asked to forsake Refuge Precepts, you should not agree. If you give them up, it will be a very toilsome matter to take refuge anew. When you encounter special matters, do not seek other convenient ways to solve the issues. Even when any particular, important things happen to yourself, you should not pursue other convenient methods, which are not Dharma-related, in order to deal with these matters. Also, you should make timely offerings.”

Rinpoche then taught the advantages of taking refuge. He explained what five things are that cannot be done after taking refuge, and if they are acted on, what five methods the guru will use to counteract. He mentioned the reasons why the blessings of the guru will not be obtained. Also, the Five Precepts were given by the guru through the pith instruction. In the chanting of the mantra of Vajrasattva, Rinpoche accepted nine believers as disciples.

Rinpoche continued to expound the Ratnakuta Sutra from where he left off last week.

Sutra: ‘Learning well as the nets of Dharani can break the nets of demons.’

Many people have a misunderstanding that it is fine if one just recites the Buddha’s name, but it is not all right. The first ‘checkpoint’ includes these: Whether or not having taken refuge; observing the Five Precepts; practicing the Ten Meritorious Acts; whether or not being respectful to the guru and the Three Jewels and whether or not having done what are in the Dharmas already transmitted. The second step is about empowerments. Granting you empowerments are not to increase your skills, but of course, your good fortune will be increased. This is because each time you receive an empowerment, you are bestowed the good fortune of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, the yidam and the guru so that you can continue to practice the Bodhisattva Path. Without good fortune, one cannot continue the practices on this Path.

Many people say that they do not want to be a Bodhisattva or think that by receiving the Bodhisattva Precepts, they become a Bodhisattva. Both thoughts are not right. If you want to transform your own karma in this life, there are no other ways except practicing the Bodhisattva Path and giving rise to bodhicitta. If not with these methods, your original karma will still be ‘going along’ with you; it is just that whether your suffering is heavy or light. The mother of the disciple, who had shared her story today before the puja started, got cancer because she did not listen, therefore, she could not transform her own karma. She did not suffer from not practicing well, but from not listening. While she was alive, she prayed for a good health and living a comfortable life. In the Infinite Life Sutra, it is indicated very clearly that you should accept your guru’s teachings and guidance in sequential order. Whether or not you want to do your practices this way, you decide.

Yesterday, a disciple implored me for the transmission of the Mandala Offering (one of the Dharma methods in the Four Uncommon Preliminary Practices). I asked him why he wanted to learn it and he answered that it was because he wanted to accumulate virtuous roots. I refused his request. He has taken refuge for a dozen years now and in every puja that he has participated in, it is to accumulate virtuous roots. The Mandala Offering is a virtuous Dharma method, and is not about virtuous roots.

Last week, in my teachings I said that learning the Bodhisattva Path needs to receive empowerments. It is like after graduating from a high school and after passing the entrance examination, one can be qualified to be a university student for further studies. It is the same principle in the Dharma. It is not for a professor helping you by writing your answers in an examination. Now you all rely on me to help you write answers for you. I have not cultivated to a level that I can emanate into hundreds of myself (in front of you to help you); you yourself have to practice. You have not determined to break away from reincarnation; you think by chanting a little of the Great Six-Syllable Mantra, you will not get sick and will gain enlightenment. It is impossible that, with these kinds of thoughts and behavior, you will attain achievement. There are many other qualifications that you have not reached yet.

You are all indifferent about matters at this Center. I don’t take a single penny from the Center, and I have even given money to it. When I bought this place, where the Center is in now, I then sold it to the Association at a price below the market value. However, you don’t think it this way; you think that it was something I should do.” A disciple reported, “When purchasing this place, the Center did not have enough money; Rinpoche then gave NT$6 million to the Center. Later, there was short of money too when the Center had the interior decoration done, and again, Rinpoche took out money for the Center. The NT$6 million at that time is equivalent to a value of about NT$30 million today.” (Rinpoche continued the teachings.) “The Grand Puja will not be held this year because of your wrong mindset. You think that I should do things in certain ways so that there is a Buddhist center existing. If this were the case, I should have put the property of this Center under my name in the first place, but I did not do so. For the Grand Puja of last year, you donated half of the support money needed for the event, and then I was afraid you would not have enough money to donate; I decided to pay for the rest of the fund needed. (Later, Rinpoche returned the donation already received to disciples, and paid for the whole event.) As for the expenses that the Center needs to pay, again, fearing you don’t have enough money to support the running of the Center, I did not accept monetary mandala offerings. I have not let you down! You actually do not make offerings to me. I am a drudge; the cheapest Rinpoche in the whole world is right here. Everyone lives a peaceful life, which I don’t fuss about; I continuously teach you the Dharma and you should listen to it and get it through your head.

Only by chanting mantras can you break the nets of demons. You should get the mantra-chanting becoming a net to protect you. If you have not aspired to have bodhicitta and compassion or do not understand Emptiness, mantras cannot protect you, nor can it break the nets of demons; this is because you are not a Bodhisattva. In Exoteric Buddhism, there are two types of Bodhisattvas. One type is for Bodhisattvas in name only; the other type consists of real Bodhisattvas. Nowadays most Bodhisattvas are nominal. Even if one has an appellation of Bodhisattva, at least he or she knows about principles of being a Bodhisattva and how to proceed, as a Bodhisattva, in thoughts, words and actions; it is just that the person has not done enough yet. You, nevertheless, have not even reached this level of practices; you still care only about yourself.

Sutra: ‘Destroying the nets of self-views and entering the nets of thoughts of sentient beings.’

If one has not practiced the Bodhisattva Path and has not attained the realization in Emptiness, one will not know how to explain this quote. It means this: After you have received empowerments, been transmitted the pith instructions, given rise to bodhicitta, practiced the Bodhisattva Path, any yidams’ mantras you chant, like the Great Six-Syllable Mantra, can break the nets of demons and destroy your self-opinions or self-views.

‘Destroying the nets of self-views.’ If you still think that you are right with no errors made, it indicates that you have not attained achievement in chanting such a mantra, or Dharani. The ‘right knowledge’ and the ‘right views’ mentioned in the Eightfold Noble Path do not refer to Buddhist terms in the Dharma, but are attitudes you should have, which you have learned when you take refuge. Have you understood that any methods taught by the Buddha are helping yourself to be liberated from birth and death, and then going further to help sentient beings doing the same? If you have realized these, you have the ‘right knowledge’ and the ‘right views.’ Otherwise, all your thinking are self-views. Chanting the Great Six-Syllable Mantra in dedication to one’s daughter-in-law, hoping she would become a vegetarian is a false view. We can persuade her to eat vegetarian but we cannot use a mantra to ‘curse’ her (wishing her to change).

Because you have continued to chant mantras, the Buddha, Bodhisattvas and your guru, with their blessings, have helped you turn your mind around towards the ‘right knowledge’ and the ‘right views’ of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In this way, your self-views can be eradicated. It is very difficult to break away from one’s self-views because one has not practiced or learned about this passage; one is unwilling to do what is described in it. If you do not practice it, and even if you keep on reciting the name of Amitabha, it is useless. ‘Amitabha’ is also a mantra. In translation, it means ‘immeasurable light’ or ‘immeasurable life’. If you cannot break away from self-views, you will treat and deal with all Dharmas with self-views. Then you will be in a wrong path and lead others erroneously to a wrong path, too. These contents that I am explaining about are in sutras. You have not realized these passages or listened to them before because you have been lacking in good fortune and causal conditions.

Why do you need to practice the Six Paramitas and the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas? It is because these are the most basic Dharma methods in the Bodhisattva Path. If you don’t practice them, what do you base on to think that you are cultivating this Path? You have decided to become a Bodhisattva but all your behaviors are not like those of a Bodhisattva. You only say that you are practicing the Bodhisattva Path but you have not done so at all.

‘Entering the nets of thoughts of sentient beings.’ Bodhisattvas do not leave sentient beings, and are the sentient beings who have attained realization, so they are also called ‘awakened sentient beings.’ Their minds are still concerned with, and worry about, the suffering sentient beings, knowing obviously that their reincarnation in the Six Realms are all about suffering. Still, Bodhisattvas help liberate sentient beings. Such ‘nets of thoughts of sentient beings’ are entered by Bodhisattvas purposely, but not by purposeful ‘pre-arrangements’. They follow their compassion and causal conditions to go where they are needed. Wherever the causal conditions lead them to, Bodhisattvas go there and help sentient beings in those places. It is like what are described in the Long Life Prayer that His Holiness has written for me. In it, there is such a sentence, ‘Freely he benefits sentient beings wherever good conditions abound in anywhere.’ I will go to places if there are causal conditions existing there; if there are no such conditions, then I will not go to those places.

Practicing the Bodhisattva Path is not to practice for oneself. Do not think that you have achieved attainment just because you are able to gain a fruition level and have entered the state of Nirvana With Residue. Bodhisattvas relinquish the chances to enter Nirvana themselves. All their merits and good fortune are for helping continuously the sentient beings in the Six Realms. Sentient beings are beings with sensations and consciousness. The ‘nets of thoughts of sentient beings’ are very big and can envelop you. If you cannot eliminate your self-views (wrong views), you will be led away by sentient beings. Many Dharma masters are led away by their disciples in the end because these masters, like theirs disciples, have given rise in their minds the thinking of sentient beings. (In Chinese, the word for ‘sentient’ or ‘emotion’, is pronounced as ‘chin’.) ‘Chin” here means ‘sentient’, referring to sentient beings in the Six Realms, and does not mean ‘emotion’ as in the Chinese word, ‘love’.

Sentient beings in the Six Realms have their own karma and good fortune. It is right to care about your pets but do not call them your ‘hairy munchkin’; your imitation of your pets as humans is not a correct view. It is like there was a causal condition the other day for me in buying more than 200 pigs and doing an act of ‘releasing living creatures.’ It is impossible for me to name them. Besides feeding and rearing them, I will need to liberate them after they die. Nevertheless, I thank them to let me attain the merit of ‘releasing living creatures.’

For those who have practiced the Bodhisattva Path, are reborn in the Land of Amitabha and attained Buddhahood there, they will come back to this world to liberate sentient beings. Bodhisattvas have no fears; they are not afraid of any mundane matters. They don’t feel dread about reincarnation because their coming back here is to liberate sentient beings. Are you capable to do that for them? By just reciting sutras for the deceased does not mean liberating that person. If you cannot help the person to get liberated, how are you going to liberate sentient beings?

Starting 2004, I have regularly performed the Chod at our Center on Minquan West Road. If I have not mastered the Bodhisattva Path and not gained the bodhicitta of Emptiness, how could I have liberated those sentient beings who had ‘come’ for the Chod rituals? If they had not been liberated, they would all have stayed here at the Center and would not have left. I can see that you have no complexion of ghosts (meaning no ghosts remained as those sentient beings who ‘came’ were ghosts). Those of you having darker complexion because of getting cancer or getting tanned from hot weather do not count.

Sutra: ‘Being able to surpass affliction, family members, demons’ companions and demons.’

‘To surpass affliction’ does not mean that there is no affliction existing after surpassing it. There must be affliction when one falls into the ‘nets of thoughts of sentient beings’ because the phenomena of birth, old age, sickness and death will all appear. However, your wisdom, good fortune and merits will surpass and affect your affliction, which will be transformed into tools for you in doing your practices. For instance, I have problems with my right eye and issues with my family members. Yet, I do not feel I am afflicted with these matters. I only feel that I have been practicing and I am returning my ‘debts’ to him (the guru’s son). I have owed him these debts from my past lifetimes and once the debts are paid up in this life, I will not owe him anything anymore. Then I will be free and at ease. In our life, we are led around by our karma with no freedom, ease or democracy. Our karma is our master.

Today if you have not chanted the Dharani (mantras) well, you will not be able to accomplish what are in the latter parts of the teachings.

‘Demons.’ Anyone who helps you learn methods which are to be reincarnated continuously is a demon. Even if such helpers are monastics, and if the methods they teach you are not to get liberated from birth and death, these monastics are demons. The Dharani can break the nets of demons, and after that, ‘demonic’ matters will not lead you on. It’s only you who can help the person, and the person cannot get you following him or her around. Conversely, now you are led around by your family members. It is just like what I said last week about that kid who played harmonica. His mother had been led by him; she had not determined to do practices. When she took refuge, she seemed really caring about it. After a few years had passed, her son appeared to be very obedient; she then was led on by him, a family member.

Sutra: ‘Getting far away from the land of Sravaka and Pratyekabuddha.”

Those who practice the Bodhisattva Path must leave the fruition levels of practicing Sravaka and Pratyekabuddha. Do not get these levels. Many people wish that, through their practices, they will become arhats, but arhats cannot liberate sentient beings.

Pratyekabuddhas are those who have the causal conditions to attain Buddhahood on their own. ‘Tyeka’ means someone who has achieved enlightenment but not by formal, perfect and complete ways. They have used their own methods, not those taught by the Buddha, to practice. Such kind of Buddhas have limited good fortune, wisdom and life span. The Dharmas they have attained are not perfect or complete.

Sutra: ‘Entering the Dharma methods of Emptiness, formlessness and vows-lessness.’

As one practices the Bodhisattva Path, one can definitely enter the state of Emptiness. The Emptiness here means that the person understands clearly what the definition is on ‘Causal conditions arise and cease to exist.’ When such a practitioner is able to enter the state of Emptiness, he or she views all kinds of matters in the mundane world are formless. This does not mean that a thing is not having a form itself. Rather, it means that such a form will change and is not fixed. This quote corresponds to the term mentioned earlier, ‘entering the nets of thoughts of sentient beings.’

Here is an example. When Shakyamuni Buddha was in the practices of the Bodhisattva Path, in one lifetime, He was a deer king. To us, He was a deer, but He did not feel He was one because as a deer king, He was to liberate other deer. To Him, He was a Bodhisattva, getting those sentient beings liberated. In another life, He was in a hell. He saw that ghosts were suffering there; He said to the ‘guards’, ‘Let me bear their suffering; do not torture them.’ The sense of compassion arose in Him; He thusly left the hell. Shakyamuni Buddha constantly demonstrated to us that He had ‘walked’ through the Six Realms, telling us that we, too, had done the same. If we are not careful, we might be in these Realms again in the future.

If you have really practiced the Bodhisattva Path, and even if you are in the Six Realms, you will not feel the suffering because of your pure nature. This is because you know that all the forms that sentient beings appearing in are manifestations of their karma. Their outward appearances are dependent on their karma being good or negative; however, this does not mean that there is no pure Dharma nature, or essence, in those appearances. Even if you are reborn in the Animal Realm because of your vows, you are there to liberate the animals. Perhaps you will become a pig, but you ‘go’ to the Animal Realm to liberate pigs. Thus, this particular pig, you, appears differently from other pigs. Say, they have black hair, but you might not have any hair at all, looking cleaner than others.

If one does not understand Emptiness, one will be attached to the thought that all forms are fixed and unchanging. When you have entered the state of Emptiness and attained the realization in it, you will clearly know that all forms have been produced from people’s own stubbornness and attachments. Also, people think that such forms will not change. In this life, you have the form of humans; this does not mean that you will be in such a form too in your next life. You will be led by your Karma to whatever future forms you will become.

‘The Dharma methods of….vows-lessness.’ What does ‘vows-lessness’ mean? (A monastic answered: From what we learned before, ‘vows-lessness’ meant ‘without seeking’.) (Rinpoche continued the teachings.) Such an explanation was correct at your level of practices at that time. However, if you are to practice the Bodhisattva Path, you need to know that vows are also causal conditions, and are in Emptiness, too. For example, when a vow of mine has been accomplished, the causal conditions of this vow then change and another vow comes up. When you started learning Buddhism, you said to yourself, ‘After taking refuge, I pray that the Buddha and Bodhisattvas will bless me so that I can learn Buddhism diligently.’ Then, after learning it to achieve a certain level, you will feel that you are okay, and then you can make other vows.

‘Vows-lessness’ does not mean there are no vows. If not, how can one be reborn in the land of Amitabha? Besides, there is the term, ‘belief, vows and actions’, that we know about. It will be contractionary if there are no vows. Actually, then and there, Shakyamuni Buddha was speaking to Bodhisattvas in that they must enter the state of Emptiness, realize it and even attain it through their practices. The highest state of Emptiness is the transformation of a body into a rainbow-light. Before that happens, a practitioner must know this: ‘The vows I have made are arisen from responding to the sufferings of sentient beings. If they have not suffered, I have no vows.’ In other words, the vows we have made are not based on our likings or pleasures, but are on the basis of sentient beings’ sufferings.

For instance, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha made such a vow, ‘I will not attain Buddhahood unless and until all of the hells are empty.’ Sentient beings falling to hells have been suffering too much. The great vow made by Ksitigarbha is not for himself. How miserable it is to be in hells all day long and for every day. Ksitigarbha’s appearance in hells is very ugly; it is different from what we have seen today (which are depicted in drawings). I have seen such tangkas. One time, someone saw that, on top of my head, the appearance of Ksitigarbha liberating sentient being in hells. This person made a drawing of it to show me, who had not learned Tantra. In Exoteric Buddhism, there are no images of Ksitigarbha in hells. Some people mention the term of ‘Dharma of the world’ (meaning that the Dharma is for this mundane world). Such a talk actually does not make Bodhisattvas’ vows perfect and complete. Bodhisattvas are to liberate sentient beings in the Six Realms. If only those in the Human Realm are to be liberated, who will liberate sentient beings in other Realms?

The meaning of ‘….the Dharma methods of….vows-lessness’ is this: Vows are made based on the sufferings and causal conditions of sentient beings, and are not made on the basis of ‘I like to make this vow so as to let me achieve certain accomplishments.’ Today, we have mentioned the Forty-Eight Vows because every one of such vows made by Amitabha is for liberating sentient beings, and is not for Amitabha himself. Some think like these: ‘I am going to ask the Bodhisattva to let my daughter-in-law eat vegetarian, and I will chant the Great Six-Syllable Mantra one million times again.’ Or, ‘I will be a vegetarian; please let my mom live another five more years.’ These are not vows. There is a saying, ‘First lean the Dharma, and then help sentient beings.’ This is a vow. There is another saying and it is also a vow, ‘Vowing to learn countless Dharma methods.’ We want to learn Dharmas to benefit sentient beings because we are practicing the Bodhisattva Path.

To you, this is a very serious, burdensome matter, but you need to accept it, listen to it and get it through your head. It is very important whether or not you will start doing it and when you are to begin the task. However, whether or not you can accomplish it in this life is not important because you can make vows that you will do your practices in the land of Amitabha. Laity have a lot of karma, affliction and entanglements in this life. As long as you continuously make vows to be reborn in the Pure Land, your affliction will not affect you. This is what is called ‘breaking the nets of demons.’ Those practicing the Pure Land School tell us to constantly recite the name of Amitabha, and this is to ‘break the nets of demons.’ Our making vows ceaselessly to ‘go’ to the Pure Land is also to ‘break the nets of demons’ and surpass all our affliction.

Many of my disciples were able to know the time of their death before they died. Because they had continuously chanted mantras and surpassed their affliction while alive, they knew about the time of their death beforehand. Otherwise, with affliction and problems abound, they wouldn’t have known it. If someone tells you, ‘Follow me to go to that country, and you will have new developments in life.’ Then you might think, ‘That’s right! I can help people there reduce a little of their suffering from sickness.’ This kind of a vow is false. If there are casual conditions between those people and you, Taiwan will naturally be open about the restrictions, letting people there come over and be treated by you. If there are no such conditions existing, and if you go there even gaining some fame and making a bit of money, you have been used. You might as well stay put here and keep on helping those patients who have causal conditions with you.

It is like that during the entire year of 2020, I could not go abroad because of coronavirus pandemic. I then granted you sixteen more empowerments. There are no practitioners who are like me, to be able to grant so many empowerments in one year. Some Rinpoches need to conduct a retreat after performing an empowerment because they are afraid that their good fortune has then been used up so they might get sick or have issues happening. Do not think that empowerments are very simply granted and easily received, by just reciting a little of Dharma texts or chanting a bit of mantras by the practitioners. You don’t know how serious the matters are on empowerments.

Sutra: ‘Being able to abide by the expediencies and skillfulness.’

If you have not attained realization in Emptiness or understood ‘formlessness’, your mind to liberate sentient beings will have been obstructed. You will dislike, or be unsatisfied with, this or that. If you can understand Emptiness, and know that vows you have made are for sentient beings – not resigning yourself to adversity though – your mind will abide by that of a Bodhisattva, no matter how you are treated by sentient beings. You will help them with methods of expediencies and skillfulness.

There was a disciple’s daughter, who has come, because of her getting cancer, to seek an audience with me eight times, imploring me for allowing her to attend pujas, but I have not approved her request. Only yesterday did I tell her the reason: She is unfilial to her mother. Her mother has taken refuge for more than nineteen years, but the daughter had never come here before; she has only showed up now because she is sick with cancer and is afraid of dying of it. People of this kind take advantage of the Dharma, hoping it curing their diseases. If they are not cured, will they not slander the Buddha in the end? This is what they will say, ‘If I have known that I will not be cured, I wouldn’t have gone there seeking help. It is ineffective.’ Once slandering the Buddha, the person falls into the Hell Realm. In order not to let her slander the Buddha, I had been hard-hearted in that I had not told her the reason until yesterday. She had even said, ‘I have read your book several times.’ I ignored that too. Monastics here had talked to her and they seemed to be unwilling to continue doing it anymore.

I had waited until yesterday that I said to her, ‘You are not filial to your mother. You don’t need to repent to me; repent to your mother.’ What is her making a repentance to me for? I did not give birth to her. Many of you think that by repenting to the Buddha and Bodhisattvas, nothing bad will happen to you. However, for things you have done wrong you have not repented at all. You say, ‘I have killed many sentient beings; I pray that they will forgive me.’ What do they forgive you for? You don’t even behave well as a human should do. Then what do you base on that the Buddha and Bodhisattvas are to tell those sentient beings, having been harmed by you, to forgive you? If you are unfilial to your parents, you will not do well; if you are disrespectful to your teachers, not following what they teach, things will not go well for you either. This disciple (the mother) has also not done right. She has taken refuge for so many years; yet, she does not listen.

Everyone should remember these few quotes. Do not think casually that, in learning Buddhism, you can do whatever you like; there are bases to go by, and do your practices step by step. Once you have accomplished them, things will naturally change for you. If you cannot do well on your practices, then listen. Do whatever you are told to do. Do not say this again, ‘Rinpoche does not understand me; I am very complicated.’ Of course, you are. Otherwise, why are you still sitting down there (listening to my teachings)?

‘The expediencies and skillfulness.’ This means that based on sentient beings’ karma and virtuous roots, one is to help them with all kinds of methods. For me, scolding you, ‘kicking’ you out of here, or ignoring you are all methods of ‘expediencies and skillfulness’ I use. It is not that I am harsh to you. It is impossible for me to tell this person to read the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows or that person, the Medicine Buddha Sutra, although you like this kind of method very much. It seems that in this way you feel you are practicing. However, after one year of reading them, if you find such a method is not effective, you will start again to complain about your learning Buddhism. Say, when you are reading the Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s Fundamental Vows, you sense a chill on your back and think that there are ghosts there, therefore, you switch your reading to the Medicine Buddha Sutra. Then, your health does not improve as you have expected. You complain again. If you don’t read sutras, you don’t slander the Buddha; on the contrary, if you read them, you slander the Buddha. It is really a hard work to practice the Bodhisattva Path in this Age of Dharma Decline.”

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Updated on October 11, 2021