Refuge and the Guru

Feb 19, 2024 | Views: 953

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As Buddhism grows in popularity among modern spiritual seekers, an ever-increasing number of Buddhist teachers, lamas, and rinpoches are establishing Dharma centres and monasteries all over the world. They teach the Dharma, bestow refuge, give initiations, and perform different rituals for the faithful. Hundreds if not thousands of people attend these public ceremonies, yet many still have no idea what their exact relationship with their teacher is.

They fold their hands and show respect throughout the ceremony, but after the ritual or teaching is over, the teacher fades into distant memory. In general, people have many preconceived notions about how a teacher should look, behave, and even sound. Most of the time, these stereotypes were formed through what they were told by parental figures, relatives, friends or even through hearsay from people who know little about real Buddhist practice.

To make matters even more complicated, individuals frequently seek out teachers from different traditions, acquire all manner of teachings, and end up developing very shaky spiritual bonds with them. All this is done without ever developing a sound foundation of basic Buddhism to bridge their grasp of the Dharma with spiritual practice. This is a serious issue because the teachings and practices of each tradition are distinct, and mixing traditions can confuse and derail a practitioner who does not have a firm Dharma foundation. It can be extremely harmful to the spiritual growth of a new practitioner.

This is why teachings such as the 50 Verses of Guru Devotion are crucial for all practitioners. The text, known as Lama Ngachupa in Tibetan or Gurupancasika in Sanskrit, was authored by Ashvagosha, a prominent Indian Buddhist scholar and master.

An illustration of Ashvagosha

An illustration of Ashvagosha

In the teaching presented here, His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche provides a practical explanation of the core Buddhist pillar of taking refuge in the Guru and Three Jewels, and the importance of guru devotion practice, in a manner relevant to modern Buddhists with references framed within the context of contemporary Dharma centres and teachers.

Guru devotion was the core of Tsem Rinpoche’s personal practice. In Gaden Shartse Monastery and beyond, Rinpoche was well-known for his faultless guru devotion — an incredible feat as Rinpoche had 16 gurus! As a result, Rinpoche’s teaching incorporates far more than just his knowledge alone. It is imbued with Rinpoche’s personal and sincere advice. Rinpoche teaches us how to avoid the extremes of fanaticism vs. the abandonment of one’s teacher, as well as the middle way. It is a must for all Dharma practitioners, whether you are new to Buddhism or a seasoned practitioner.

 

This teaching is part of the Tsem Rinpoche Wisdom Treasury – the collected works, writings and teachings of H.E. Tsem Rinpoche. To learn more about the project and how you can be a part of it, please click here.

 


 

VIDEO: Refuge and the Guru

 

The Objects of Refuge

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When the other monks, when the other people saw, they thought, “O Buddha, there’s no hope for this old monk.” So, Buddha has just given him a simple job in a monastic courtyard and just left him alone there. Seemingly, it looked like a non-dharmic action, and Buddha was just letting him off. But by doing that, by years and years and years of practice, he was able to purify the negative karma that was defiling his mind. He was able to purify that completely and realise emptiness or realise reality, Sunyata, within this life.

Within this life, this monk was not able to gain enlightenment, but he was able to gain a non-returner status, which means he does not have to return back to samsara like us without any kind of control, without any kind of wish. He is a non-returner. He has reached a state of an arhat. One that has realised emptiness and, therefore, has pulled himself from non-conscious or uncontrolled existence, or uncontrolled reincarnation, freed himself from that. He was able to obtain that in one lifetime without a lot of book study, without a lot of extensive meditations and prayers, without a lot of extensive debates, without a lot of extensive practices. Simply by following the Buddha, simply by having faith, simply by trusting and doing, he was able to purify and become an arhat in a single lifetime.

So, Buddhas have the skill to teach, to convey the Dharma in ordinary means, in non-ordinary means, in ways that seemingly do not look like dharmic methods or seemingly do not seem like they accord with the Dharma, but actually, it does. This comes from his ability of having skilful means, his second quality.

The third one is he has even-mindedness or impartiality toward all beings. He has no partiality whatsoever, whether it be his closest friend, his closest attendants, whether it be a distant friend, whether it be not a friend, an enemy, someone that hurts him. Buddha has completely no attachments whatsoever. In the example that during the time when Buddha, after he became enlightened, Buddha’s son, Rahula, became very, very ill, became very, very sick when Buddha was back in his native town to preach the Dharma, to teach the Dharma to his relatives, to the king, and also to the people. Then, at that time, his son, Rahula, became very sick, and they called Buddha to heal him. When Buddha came near Rahula, he proclaimed in front of everyone there, “If my love for my enemy, my cousin Devadatta, or the enemy Devadatta, is the same as it is for my son, may he become well.”

At that very instant, his son became well, which shows that Buddha has even-mindedness, impartiality, no partiality toward enemies, toward friends, people who like him, people who don’t like him, people who harm him or not. His mind is impartial. Why? All traces of partiality, all traces of prejudice, have been completely rooted out from his mind. By its instincts, it cannot exist. So, if we have taken a weed out of the ground, if the weed has been taken out well pulled out by the roots, the weed cannot grow again. The ground will be weedless. It’ll be clean and plain. Whereas if we pull out the weed and the roots are still there, again they’ll sprout. If we pull it out from the head, again they’ll sprout, again it’ll sprout again and again, and again and again. Like that, Buddha is, the delusions in his mind are like that weed that has been pulled out completely through aeons and aeons of meditation, through aeons and aeons of contemplation, through aeons and aeons of moral practice and completely has rooted out all his delusions. So, no delusions can remain to create a delusional state such as partiality. It cannot remain. Also, Buddha has the wish to help others regardless of what others have done to him. He has no differentiations, none at all.

Buddha experienced his fourth dream before Enlightenment.

Buddha experienced his fourth dream before Enlightenment.

Then also, he has eight rare precious qualities besides those four qualifications of a true refuge object. Those are the four qualifications required of a true object of refuge. Besides that, he has eight special and rare qualities.

  1. Number one, he has attained permanent cessation from all suffering and thus is free from birth and death. He is completely free from birth and death, uncontrolled. Completely.
  2. His actions come spontaneously and free of effort. Like us, when we want to sleep, it’s free of effort. When we want to eat, it’s free of effort because we’ve done it so much, and we’re so used to it. When we want to do negative actions, when we want to go out, it’s of no effort. We can do it very easily, we can do it very nicely, we don’t have to make an effort.
  3. Then, this characteristic can neither be understood nor described in words for this Shunyata of the Buddha himself. In the same way, one cannot describe the distance and taste between brown and white sugar. Yet that difference is experienced.
  4. Buddha has completely realised Shunyata. He has completely realised existence. He can see existence in an objective, and he can see it in a relative and an ultimate way. He can see reality ultimately and relatively simultaneously, like brown sugar and white sugar. Ordinary beings can see a difference, but cannot taste a difference. Buddha can see the difference. Not literally the brown and white sugar, but he has realised how the existence and how all phenomena have arisen and their true nature. He can explain it. He is not lost.
  5. He has perfect compassion for all living beings. Complete, like the sun that shines down upon earth, and all the rays of the sun hit every single item on this earth. Regardless of whether they like the sun, they worship the sun. Whether they recognise the sun, whether they know the sun or not. Like the sun, the Buddha’s compassion is on all sentient beings, irrelevant of who they are, what they are, and what situation they are in. It is equal.
  6. He possesses unsurpassable power and thus is greatly effective in leading others to liberation. Some beings cannot be led by teachings alone, thus he must give physical evidence. In such cases, he makes use of miracle powers. So, Buddha has definitely the ability of miraculous powers. Definitely. Miraculous powers of his body, his speech, and his holy mind.
  7. Then, the seventh, the Buddha has achieved his own ultimate aim, which consists of these first three qualities.
  8. Then, the last one, he has attained the perfect means, delivering others or the latter three of these qualities.

He has eight special and rare qualities that have just been mentioned. Then, he has the four characteristics that we can label him a perfect object of refuge. A perfect object of refuge.

 

The Meaning of Taking Refuge

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Now, we have talked about refuge at other centres. I have talked about refuge to some of you on a personal basis through the other centres. I have talked about it a little bit yesterday. I will be talking a little about it today.

Some of us may think, “Oh, we have heard it many, many times. I know it, I know the numbers, I know what he’s going to say, I know what he’s going to quote the examples.” Some of us know it intellectually. We can speak it to our friends very well. We can point our fingers at our friends. We can teach our parents. We can teach our daughters. We can teach our sisters, our mates, our brothers. We can point, and we can talk, and we say, yes, yes, I know that, the numbers are like that, the effects are like that, the qualities are like that. But although we know it so well, although we can describe it so eloquently, although we’re such great scholars of it, why can’t we destroy our negative minds? Why can’t we reduce our suffering although we know refuge so well, although we are taking refuge so well, although we can quote it so well? And in fact, when we argue with people, we can take some of the quotes and use them against the person so well. Have it memorised and understood it so well, but why is the negative mind still arising? Why is it still happening? Why are we still suffering? Why is our view still the same?

Because refuge has not sunk in. Because refuge, at this point in our lives, is simply something intellectual. It is something that we have challenged, we have understood. Oh, I understand intellectually. It’s like that, like that A is A, B is B, C is C. That’s beautiful. It’s lovely. A sign of that is when actually after hearing the refuge teachings, after understanding refuge teachings, which in itself is very deep, when something negative happens, we still react negatively. When something unpleasant happens, we still react back negatively. When something is not to our liking or to the way we like it to be, we still react back negatively. That is a clear sign that the refuge teachings have not taken root in our minds.

If the refuge teachings have taken root in our minds, if a negative situation happens or, a situation that we do not like, or something has come about that is not pleasant to our ears and our senses in our mind, immediately we know that is a result of our karma. We must accept it with dignity, and we must not react back in a negative way.

If we react back in a negative way, it shows very clearly we do not have the refuge teachings, because the refuge teachings are specifically talking about the elimination of negative actions, which bring about negative results. So, if you want to eliminate these negative results and you find them unpleasant, how could you be creating further negative results as a reaction to negative happenings around you? It’s illogical. So after refuge, after taking refuge, after saying that I have refuge, after saying that the refuge teachings are correct, Buddhism is correct, karma is correct, previous life is correct, Buddha is correct, Buddha is infallible, the Dharma is supreme, the sanghas are members we emulate. Although we say that from our mouths beautifully, although we can recite it, we can talk about it, and we can explain it to our mates and our friends, why is it that when negative things happen, we still react the same way?

In fact, we react worse because now we use Dharma as a weapon against other people, against our friends. Why is that? Because the refuge teachings have not been put into practice. The refuge teachings have not been absorbed. Part of the reason it has not been absorbed is our conditioning. We’ve been acting the way we’ve been acting, doing the things we’ve been doing for hundreds and hundreds of years, many, many lifetimes. It is difficult to remove. It is difficult to come out immediately, correct.

Number two, a lack of merits, a lack of spiritual practice to support the refuge to come, to support the knowledge to come. For example, a heavy amount of negative karma and very less good karma. Very less good karma is collected. Therefore, it cannot support. Like when we have a ground that is filled with nutrients and fertilisers and filled with lime and all the nutrients necessary for a plant to grow. The minute we plant it, the plant will grow well, grow nicely, grow strongly, big and very colourful, very vibrant. Whereas a ground that does not have all the ingredients for a certain growth, it will grow, it will come, but it’ll be kind of yellowish, not really green. It’ll be kind of feeble, be very thin, and not grow to maturity and perhaps die off.

Like that when we have heard the refuge teachings, when we understand the refuge teachings, and we think to ourselves, “Oh, it’s correct, it is right. The Dharma is correct, it is right, it is logically correct,” and you have accepted, and you take refuge. Whether you take refuge on a daily basis, whether you take refuge during teachings and you think, “I accept that is correct,” or whether you accept, whether you take refuge in a big ceremony. Once you have taken refuge, which is not something formal, which means you have accepted, which means that it sounds correct, the obvious logical thing to do is to apply it. If we do not apply it, no matter how difficult it is, if we do not put it into action, if we do not put it into use, then what use is having knowledge of it? What use is having a lot of Dharma books, having a great altar? What use is it to be able to recite it to your friends, like a wonderful tape recorder? What use is that? To understand it, to know it, to like it, but never put it into use.

Once you hear something that is wrong, the results will be that, and you logically say, yes, that’s correct. One must stop. One must lessen it. One should not point fingers at each other and say, “Oh, you do that.” “It’s not funny.” “You didn’t do that.” “You did that yesterday.” “Rinpoche said you’re not allowed to do that.” and joke and prod at each other and say, “Oh, you’re still doing this and doing that.”

In fact, you shouldn’t joke about it. You shouldn’t prod about it. You shouldn’t talk about it with each other. In fact, you should keep your head low. In fact, you should think that is correct. I will practise the refuge teachings, and one should not practise the refuge teachings just in a Dharma centre, just near your Dharma friends or doing a Dharma atmosphere, or when your Rinpoche’s watching, or when your teachers are watching or when you’re around people that you want to show off to.

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Refuge is a daily minute by minute practice. In fact, Tsongkhapa, the great Tsongkhapa says, a great 16th century scholar and saint, emanation of Manjushri, says it is not the meditational time, it is not the meditational retreats or the time you spend in meditation that is important. What is more important is the time in between the meditations. What is important is the time in between all your meditational sessions and retreats. Because your meditations may be about two, three hours, most of us, about two, three minutes, right? Or some of us, we really splurge, and we say, okay, we give it 10, 15 minutes. Some of us 10, 15 minutes, not even maybe 10 minutes.

Let’s say, on average, we do meditation, 10, 15 minutes, right? So, what about the 24, 23 hours, and 45 minutes that are left? Do you think that just during your meditation sessions, just during your prayer sessions, just during your sessions that you’re reading your Dharma books, you’re reading your prayers, you’re holy, you’re wonderful, the incense is just billowing, and also, beautiful candles and beautiful offerings, and Buddhas are smiling and staring at you, and you turn off your handphone, you turn off you, you close, you lock your doors, you tell the security guards not to send anybody up, and you’re all holy and you’re wonderful and you’re fabulous for 10, 15 minutes. And then the rest of the day, for 23 hours and 45 minutes, you’re back to your old self. What type of refuge is that? That is not a true refuge. That is Chinese opera. You put on a nice mask, you dance, you sing, you wail like cats, and that’s it. Once the opera is finished, you’re back to your normal life. So, do we want to be Chinese opera stars, or do we want to be Dharma stars?

Now, we must think, once we have taken refuge, once we have accepted Buddha, once we have accepted his holy teachings, once we have accepted, doesn’t it behoove us, or doesn’t it make it very smart, or isn’t it logical, two plus two, four, that we start acting upon it, that we start working on it, and all the delusions that are very strong in our minds that we start working on it? If we know the Dharma is correct, and we all have sufferings, whether it’s physical or whether it’s mental, gross or very rough, any type of sufferings, doesn’t it behoove us to put it into practice? Not tomorrow, not when you retire, not when you’re off from work, not when you’re not in the office, not when you have free time, not only during weekends, not during the time when you’re near your gurus or when you’re near your altar, but all day, all the time.

H.E. the 25th Tsem Rinpoche in the early years, conducting a puja in a friend’s house

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche in the early years, conducting a puja in a friend’s house

Remember, the breaks in between the meditations are more important than the meditation sessions because the breaks in between the meditation show actually if you have really meditated or not. So, if you’ve been meditating on compassion for 10, 15 minutes, one hour, two hours, and the minute you finish your meditation, you go to work, and you hurt people, you scream and shout, and you lie, you cheat and you steal. And you criticise, and you put other people down, and then you put yourself up, you put other people down. How can that be refuge? And then the next day, again, you sit in your meditational pose, you roll your eyes, you have the incense billowing, you have the candles, and then you’re sitting in front of Buddha all holy and wonderful, with your wonderful Dharma robes, maybe some of us with fish drums, and we sit there meditating so holy, and the minute we leave our meditation, back to normal.

Now, how long have we been doing that? How long have we been engaged in Dharma practice like that? And then we wonder how come I’ve been reciting all these mantras, praying for so many years, making so many offerings, sponsoring so many monks, and, forget knowing other people’s minds, I can’t even control my own delusions. I can’t even control my own anger, and hatred, and ignorance. How, why aren’t those results coming? Is it that the Buddha is lying? I don’t think so. Is it that I’m not practising something right? Bingo!

Refuge is the pith. Refuge is the real practice. From refuge will stem all the other 84,000 different types of teachings that Buddha has given. Now, whether a very high reincarnated Rinpoche, the very, very incarnation of Guru Buddha Shakyamuni appears to you, or if Amitabha appears to you directly, or if Guanyin comes to you in your dreams, or if Manjushri comes to you in your dreams, or if you have a very high Rinpoche come, the Dalai Lama come and speak to you about refuge, and you’re in tears and you feel emotional and you feel it’s wonderful and fabulous. The minute you leave that session and you’re back to normal, what effect is that? What benefit does that bring?

Do you think seeing Guanyin will avoid you going to the three lower realms? Do you think seeing the Dalai Lama will avoid you going to the three lower realms? Do you think that if you see a high Rinpoche or have a special dream, or you’re close to some Rinpoche or close to some Lama, or you’ve met the Buddha, you can stop going to the three lower realms? No. Because these beings have the definite power to teach you. These beings have the definite power to advise you, to help you, to assist you, but they do not have the power to take your karma away. And if some of these rinpoches, and some of these beings do take the karma, let me know, because I have a lot to give, quite a lot to give. But I don’t think any being can take your karma away from you, and they cannot give you their positive karma.

So, get away from the labels, get away from the thrones, get away from the high Rinpoche, get away from you’re involved with this Dharma centre, you’re involved with this Rinpoche. Oh, you’ve taken refuge with that, with His Eminence, His Holiness. His, His, His beautiful, His supreme, His enlightenment, His Buddha, His Shakyamuni, His Avalokiteshvara, His Manjushri. He’s the emanation. That’s his 18th incarnation. That’s his 300th incarnation. What difference does it make when, after meeting these famous, wonderful, enlightened beings, you’re back to normal? And you go home, you’re back to normal. The minute your husband nags you, you say, “Shh keep quiet!” The minute your wife nags you say, “Quiet, quiet.” What’s the use? What’s the use of meeting all these Rinpoches? What’s the use of bragging and talking about it?

Rinpoche conferring refuge vows to around 60 pilgrims at Bodhgaya’s Mahabodhi Temple ground in 2004

Rinpoche conferring refuge vows to around 60 pilgrims at Bodhgaya’s Mahabodhi Temple grounds in 2004

In fact, don’t brag and talk about it because it’s an embarrassment to these Rinpoches, to your lamas, to your Sifu if you run around the same way that you are, and you never ever change after the refuge. And you sit there, you know, it’s like someone taking a hammer, hitting on the head. Why is my head hurting? Why is my head hurting? Why is my head hurting? Sitting there all day, year after year after year, hitting themselves. Why is my head hurting? Why am I having bad karma? Because you’re creating bad karma. Every time you create bad karma, every time you nag, every time you say negative things, every time you shout, every time you lie, every time you hurt the other person, say harsh words, gossip, idle chatter, kill, steal. Every time you create sexual misconduct. Every time you beat, every time you emotionally manipulate another person, that karma will have an effect. And if we check carefully, if we look carefully at ourselves, most of us are doing that and only those things that I have just listed. And that is not criticism. And that is why the sufferings come unceasingly. That is why we have all our anxieties.

Do you think you can get rid of your anxieties by having a lot of money and wealth? Do you think you can get rid of your anxieties and worries and have happiness if you have position and power? If those were the cases, as I told you yesterday and a hundred times before, then every person who has that must be very, very happy. Obviously, people who have those are not happy. And people who don’t have those are not happy. The people who have those wish they didn’t have it, they had a simple life, and the people who don’t have it, wish they had that and have a simple life. So it’s a vicious game back and forth. People who don’t have it, “Oh, may I have it, may I have it, may I have it, may I have it, may I have it.” That’s all they recite the whole day. They go to Guanyin, they pray to Tara, they pray to Buddha, they pray to their gurus, they go get divinations, “How can I get it? Om, can I, Om, can I, Om can I get it all day long!” And then when they get it, “Oh, may I have a peaceful life? May I have a peaceful life? May I have a peaceful, no anxiety, no anxiety” all the time. It’s a vicious circle.

Whether you have it or you don’t have it will not affect your happiness. Whether you get it or you don’t get it will not affect your state of mind. The only thing that will affect your state of mind is rooting out your delusions. The actual delusions — hatred, ignorance, and desire, and all extensions of those delusions that create these negative karmas.

Now you say, “Okay, sounds wonderful, sounds simple. How do I root it out”? Actually, very simple. Buddha was so compassionate and so kind to give us guidelines, give us rules, give us examples, talk about the examples and rules, and tell us about the effects, as I talked about yesterday, which are the 10 non-virtues to be avoided. Buddha has told us specifically what to avoid, what not to do. And those rules are designed to protect us from our delusions. Actually, they’re to protect us. They are not to imprison us. They are not to cage us in. In fact, they are to protect us. Like on a veranda, when you have a gate, it is meant to protect you from falling over, not to imprison you in your little apartment. So those rules or those non-virtuous acts are meant to be explained to you so that they will bring about these results. If you avoid them, or you break them, or you consciously do not practise them, you are helping yourself increase your delusions. If you practise them, you are helping yourself decrease your delusions. It’s very simple.

 

The Importance of Practising the Dharma

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So, the 10 things that one should avoid, as I told you yesterday, are very simple: four of the speech, three of the body, and three of the mind. Those I repeat over and over to you, over and over again, not because I don’t have anything else to tell you. Oh, I have a lot to tell you. We can sit here and learn things every single day for the next six months, and I won’t run out of things to say, I guarantee you. And if I run out, I’ll say it over in another way. Oh, I have a lot of things. It’s not that. It’s that I say it over and over, and I stress it because it’s the most important point.

From this point on, whether you further practise Dharma, whether you further increase your faith in religion, whether you’re a Christian, or a Muslim, or a Jew, it doesn’t really matter. These 10 non-virtues are universal, international, inter-religious, humane. They are human qualities to be developed. From this point on, whether you advance further in meditations, whether you’ve advanced further in your studies, whether you advance further in your study of the Bible, the Quran, or the Buddhist Lamrim, whatever you do, if these 10 non-virtues acts are not abandoned or lessened, you will get nowhere in your Dharma practice. You will just be like a big library collecting more and more books. You’ll be just a Dharma scholar who can recite perfectly where this came from, where that came from, where that information came from, who quoted that, what line and what verse that’s from. But when it actually comes from practice, it doesn’t work.

That is why when we speak to others about Dharma, when we talk to others about Dharma, when we explain Dharma, people are bored silly. When we talk about Dharma, when we say Dharma, the other person’s trying to hold back their laughter, and we get frustrated. Our ego is about to blow up. Why? We do not have the power of the practice behind us to talk about it. If we have been practising, if we have been doing it ourselves and holding it, when we speak about it, it will have blessed vibrations. It will have a blessed sound. If we do not practise it, and we preach it, it’s the same as a tape recorder. We must practise it ourselves. Your speech must carry the blessed vibration of personal experience and convey that energy to your listeners. If you do not practise it, you will not touch anyone.

If you are someone that practises those 10 avoidables to the best of your ability, from your heart, and then you talk about it with someone without making any noise, without making any effort, the minute you speak about it, it will touch the other person deeply. It will hit them deeply. They will feel something in their hearts, “Oh, what that person is saying is correct.” When you get teachings on that from a realised person, from a person who is practising it, one meditation session, one Dharma session is enough to move your mind.

If you get it from a scholar, if you get it from someone who knows it very well, who just repeats it because they’ve heard it or they have a wonderful memory, it will not have power. You can sit with that person and learn the Dharma for 20 years, and you will never be moved, ever. You will never be moved. You’ll sit with them until you’ve dropped dead, and you still won’t be moved, and you won’t be motivated to practise.

The only way we can be motivated to practice is to hear from someone that actually practises it, that actually does it, that actually tries to enact that in their lives. And people like myself, the reason why when we give talks; it doesn’t touch people, it is just a matter of speech for us, all of us. It’s because we don’t practise it. We don’t put it into our lives. We don’t try to do it.

In fact, Dharma practice for us becomes another possession. It becomes another object that we possess. It is not an object that we should enmesh or make one with our minds or dissolve into our minds and transform our minds. It is another object that boosts our ego. “Oh, I have that Dharma knowledge. I’ve attended that talk. I know that teaching; I’ve done that prayer. I’ve spent my time there. I’ve sacrificed my Sunday evening to be at that Dharma talk. My Rinpoche is that, my guru is that, I’ve taken refuge here. I’ve studied Dharma for 15 years.” In fact, Dharma practice itself will become an obstruction to enlightenment. In fact, Dharma practice itself will become another boost for your big, already over-bloated egos.

If we can put our egos and our grasping into physical, tangible, something physical and tangible, we wouldn’t be able to move out of this room. It wouldn’t fit out of that door. If it can be contained in this room. Because we have not practised the teachings, it becomes a source of pride again for us, that we think we know it. We think our life is changed. We think that we understand it, and, therefore, we have the right immediately to become, me Rinpoche immediately. And then we start talking about it, praising it, scolding other people, telling people, teaching people. What happens is, you are not practising it yourself. If you are not practising yourself, and you talk about it to other people and praise it and advertise it to other people, people are looking for cotton to put in their ears because it hurts.

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If you practise it and you do it, it will touch them. It will have blessings. The vibration of the sound of the words will come from experience. They will come from actual results that they have practised. Therefore, the speech will touch the person. Therefore, the speech will move the person. Therefore, the speech will ring true, and the person will not feel offended. In fact, they want more. It must come from experience.

So, one must not practise the Dharma from the mouth. One must not practise the Dharma just like a Chinese opera star. It looks wonderful from the outside. When we take all the makeup and all the headgear and all the brocades off, back to nothing. It must not be like that. If you accept the refuge teachings, and I’m sure most of you are accepting because you are intelligent, you are logical, you are smart, you are not barbarians coming out of the forests. You are logical. You are smart. Most of you have had some background in Dharma. Therefore, I know you can accept and understand it.

Now, there’s one small step left. Immediately put it into practise. Immediately enact it into your lives. Don’t wait another moment. Whenever difficulties come up, immediately enact it into your lives. Practise it. And if you practise it, you don’t get the results immediately, it doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. If you have something that’s very dirty the minute you wipe it, how can you expect it to become clean? Oh, you wipe it once, it’s not clean, you throw it out. If it’s very dirty and the dirt is very thick and heavy, and it’s been there for many years, it’s going to take sometime wiping. Like that, your mind has been enmeshed in ignorance, hatred, and desire for hundreds and hundreds and thousands of years. How can one meditation session break the bond?

But one meditation session has the effect, has the effect of a very dark room, musty and dank, and very cobwebs, very dark. And then suddenly, we open the window, the curtain slightly and a streak of sunlight comes in, penetrating, piercing the darkness. A Dharma talk will have that kind of effect on our minds. It doesn’t mean the cobwebs are gone. It doesn’t mean that everything is cleaned, the mustiness and the dankness are all gone. It simply means a ray piercing the darkness has come through.

Now, our job here is not to sit there and go, “Oh, what a beautiful ray of light.” Run to the window and open it all up and let it in and start cleaning and start moving. If we sit there and then we go, “Oh, what a wonderful light,” and we just look at it, and we admire it, offer it incense and kind of prostrate to it and just sit there, it doesn’t work. When you have heard the refuge teachings, the 10 avoidances, the 10 non-virtues, put it into action. Practise it. Does it make sense? Practise immediately. If you cannot do all 10, never mind, do one at a time. One at a time, and definitely, you will get the results.

As I have said that in Wisdom Centre, I have given myself as an example during the New Year’s talk, New Year’s Eve, that I have made a resolution to lessen anger, not hatred, anger, just blowing up when I see something wrong. I have made a conscious effort, and that was a few weeks back. From a few weeks back up till now, I have blown up very less. Very, very less. I have consciously held myself back. There have been many times in the past few weeks that I really wanted to go out there, jump up and down, scream, slap a few people, kick a few people out. Oh, believe me, there have been several occasions, but I have kept myself back thinking about the 10 non-virtues, and how can I stop a negative action by another negative action? I’ve held myself back. I literally have locked the door, put handcuffs on myself, put cotton in my ears and held myself back. But hey, at least I made an effort. At least I didn’t go back to my old ways and start screaming and scratching and fighting and punching, and beating and finding the quickest, finding the nearest thing and throwing it. I’ve at least made the effort, and it works.

After a while, you find when you don’t do it anymore, you start to pull away from it. That’s what Lama Thubten Yeshe Rinpoche says in his book today on refuge which I read is that in fact, the best way to do it, there are two ways to start getting away from delusions. Number one, we do it Milarepa’s way, which is you run away from it all. You drop everything. You let go of everything. You give your bank accounts to your mates, and you strip your clothes, and you run to the mountains and hide away in a cave and get away from all the delusions. All the things that bother you, all the things that are driving you nuts, all the things that create unhappiness. You go to the cave and you run away from it and do your meditations there. That’s one way to avoid it completely. That is not very practical. I do not look very beautiful when I’m naked, but in any case, I’m not doing it for that reason. The second way. The first way is not very practical for most of us. The first way is not practical for everybody in this room, in fact, right? Inclusive of myself. And I told you the reason.

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The second way is to actually avoid it. When one comes in contact with something that brings about the delusions, that strengthen the illusions, or when you see it, it creates your delusions to come up, one tries to avoid it. For example, if you are a young guy and you see a very pretty girl running around, and you already have a girlfriend, the way to get rid of it is not stare at her like that. You know, just watching her go down back and forth, memorising her hair, her colour, her fingernails, her form, what she looks like, how she walks, what colour her clothes are, what she smells like, what colour lipstick she’s wearing. In fact, when we visualise these things, no effort, we can visualise them perfectly. Oh, she looks like that. She moves like that. She sits like that. She walks like that. She, she, she, she, she, she. The meditation is wonderful.

When we say visualise Guru Shakyamuni, we go (snores). Cannot visualise. And they come, “Rinpoche, how come I can’t visualise?” I said, “I don’t know.” It’s not because you don’t have the visualisation power. It doesn’t mean you cannot visualise. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have the intellectual ability. It’s because you don’t want to. It’s because you are l-a-z-y. Because when we visualise money, perfect, oh, perfectly, how we can go to the bank, how we can chase our clients for our money. Chinese New Year is coming. How to get that money back, who to send, when to do, how to make the phone call, what time to call them. Perfect visualisation and meditation. Perfect. Exact. In fact, we can pre-plan it today and do it perfectly tomorrow. And we don’t need any Buddha to tell us. We’re Buddhas. Perfectly. Or to try to talk to that beautiful girl running down, walking down the street, that you see walking up and down. Right? How to make contact with her, how to do it. We plan, we visualise, we see her. We think about her. Perfectly. We see her in different forms, her hair up, hair down, right? All different types of forms we can visualise. But when we are asked to visualise Buddha Shakyamuni sitting in a meditative pose, thinking about refuge, analysing the 10 non-virtues, cannot do it. Don’t want to do it. Oh, we want to do it, sorry, but cannot do it because I cannot meditate. You know how many times I had people come and say to me, “Oh, I can’t visualise, I can’t meditate.” And I want to give him that example, but it’s not very nice. But it shows that we can meditate.

It shows that we can visualise. It shows that we can do it. It’s a matter of wanting to do it or not wanting to do it. And it’s not a matter of time. It’s not a matter of constrictions. It’s a matter of whether you want to do it or not. Because no matter how busy we are, no matter how many appointments we have, no matter how many clients we need to see, no matter how much our parents say you can’t, if that girl calls us up and says, take me to the movies, we will drop everything and run. Immediately. Regardless of any appointments. We will shift the appointments back and forth. We will make up some lousy excuses for our parents. “Oh, see you later, Mama, I’m going to the temple to meditate. I’m going to a Dharma talk.”

Now, when it comes to meditation, the usual excuse is, “I can’t meditate. I can’t visualise. I’m too old. My memory’s not good. My visualisation is not good. I don’t know enough Dharma.” If you apply the same amount of energy toward Dharma that you had applied toward business, you would be a Buddha. You would be a fully enlightened Buddha. Think of all the energy that you have applied toward business, all the energy that you have applied towards getting a mate. Think about all the energy that you have applied to excelling and getting certain properties that you have in your life. And how much that energy has just totally been used for that, and none for enlightenment.

And now, when we’re very near the brink of death, when we’re getting closer and closer to death, we realise that we have wasted some of that energy away. Wasted some of it away. And here we are stuck again, back to the same complaints. Can’t do it, too old, can’t memorise, don’t understand, don’t know. How come when they talk about shares, you can memorise it completely, perfectly? You know how much you have to a perfect cent in your account, where your accounts are, where your deeds are, where your properties are, where is the next investment going to be. How come you can memorise those perfectly, although you are 112? Why is that?

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“But when we say Dharma, “Oh, cannot, no time.” How come when we say if you invest in these shares, you’re going to get rich. Even if you’re 112, you run, you give them a check. But if we say, recite some Om Mani Padme Hum and prayers, “Cannot, I’m tired, no time, exhausted.” Because it shows that we do not know the value of Dharma practice yet. That our Dharma practice right now is verbal, and all our friends around us are telling us, “Please, no more teachings, please. I’m getting enlightened before you. No more teachings, please. You please get enlightened first.” They’re compassionately telling no more teachings. But you should not also use that as a weapon. You should practise the teachings, also. You yourself should practise the teachings.

So if you practise, you will have the energy, you will have the ability to actually convey the message to others, and the sound of your voice will have power, will have blessings. It will hit the other person very deeply. It will affect them deeply. It will make them think. It will make them contemplate. It will make them think, “Oh, that’s right.” And if they have latent potencies, latent karmic imprints from their previous life, at that time the imprints will come up, and then they will start their Dharma practice.

If you don’t have that ability of practice, and you teach just like a tape recorder, a Chinese opera star, if you do it in that way, then whatever imprints they have, you’re like a bull running over a freshly plotted field, crushing everything, destroying all the seeds. So the best is not to talk about it, is to practise it. The best teachings to your friends, to yourself is to put it into practice immediately, not to waste another moment. Any of the 10 non-virtues we have talked about, put it into practice. Do it. Even if you are a non-religious believer and you believe in human rights, do it. It’s beneficial for that. If you’re a Christian, you’ll be saved. You’re going to heaven. If you’re Buddhists, you’re going to get a fabulous new life. You’re going to be Prime Minister in your next life. Do it. And if you’re not going to be nothing, still in this life you’re going to be wonderful. If there’s nothing, in your next lives. Must do it.

We can test whether we have Dharma practice or not. We say, “Hey, what did you say?” then your Dharma practice is cool. You say, “Oh, sorry.” then your Dharma practice is correct. Wisdom is wisdom. Wisdom is wisdom. Why should it bother you if some ignoramus, someone who’s completely ignorant, an ignoramus tells you that your practice is excrement or calls your Lama a demon? Why should it bother you? You know it’s not the truth. You have the wisdom to discern. And there’s no use in fighting back and defending back and shouting back at the person. Because if he believes your Lama is a demon and what he teaches is just poo poo, it’s not going to change his mind by shouting at him. They’re going to say, “I’m telling you the truth, look how you turned out.” That’s how you check your Dharma practice. You cannot make things into excrement and demons simply by calling them that. Therefore, be careful.

If you get upset when someone criticises your Dharma practice, it means that you have made Dharma wisdom into something material. This applies not only to Buddhism but to all other religions as well. If the followers of any religion are angered by someone telling them that their religion is no good, they want to burn their critics. They want to immediately burn their critics at the stake the minute they say their religion is not good. It shows their lack of practice. Lack of practice. Check now how you would react to such abuse. Once you’re angry, it’s too late to check. Check now. How would I react to that situation? How? Actually, that’s very good teachings because if I may, I try to do that these days. If that situation arrives, if that person said that, if that’s like that, how would I react? I check it out now and I try to work it out now. When it happens, I don’t react anymore. I don’t react in a negative way. I react, but not in a negative way.

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How do the Buddha, the Dharma, the three vehicles, and the Sangha save us from confusion and samsara? It depends on our mental attitude. We have to understand the nature of our samsara existence and the great power and ability those holy beings have to guide us out of it. They truly have the ability, the method, and the path to guide us out of the suffering. We have to realise that. I am truly helpless, although I am intelligent enough to make my life comfortable and even enjoyable, I do not have the knowledge or wisdom to overcome the gravitational pull of my attachments to sense pleasures that bind me to samsara.

Although I have the so-called wisdom, education and knowledge to make my life very comfortable, very enjoyable, very wonderful, still I do not have that kind of deep intelligence to stop the gravitational pull toward my delusions, toward samsaric sensory pleasures. When a beautiful girl runs by, Om Mani Padme Hum, Om Mani Padme Hum, right? Then, Om Mani Padme Hum, Om Mani Padme Hum, someone calls up, your friend calls up and the handphone you look, it’s the guy calling up from the stock market. Om Mani Padme Hum, Om Mani Padme Hum, excuse me, Om Mani Padme Hum. Hello? Then, you can see very clearly where your meditation practice is. You can see very clearly. When you recite Om Mani Padme Hum, Om Mani Padme Hum, Om Mani Padme Hum, someone slams the door, then you make a funny face, you’re angry, you get p-i-s-s-e-d off. Then you know where your Dharma practice is, right there. Where it is. There is no way, I do not have the knowledge of wisdom to overcome the gravitational pull. That’s a very good word, a gravitational pull of my attachment to sense pleasures that bind me to samsara.

His Eminence Lama Thubten Yeshe said,

“There is no way I can free myself from this. But those holy beings can really guide me. They have the method, the solution, the light of wisdom to dispel my ignorance, the key to open my mind so that knowledge, wisdom can grow.”

They have the method, they can guide me. They have the solution, the light of the wisdom to dispel my ignorance, the key to open the mind. They have it. Since they have it, and they are free of it, they are a worthy object of refuge. They are worthy for me to relax and not check anymore. And just follow and just do it. Just do it. Let’s not be stuck on the intellectual part and check for the rest of our lives. And at the end of our lives, too late. You’ve checked your life away.

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Whenever anybody’s angry with us, we should think that he or she is a manifestation of a Bodhisattva teaching us not to be angry. Similarly, whenever anybody’s around us with a very peaceful, peaceful attitude, we should think that what joy this person, we should think with joy, that this person too is a Bodhisattva, showing us how much others get pleasure out of the way they behave. If we behave in such a nice way, when we see someone peaceful and nice, we have to recognise immediately how much joy, how much we get pleasure from interacting with that person.

When the person blows up, that’s one example of delusions, and freaks out and screams and jumps and scratches us, and pounds on us, and beats us up, we can see how much displeasure it brings to us and others. When we nag, when we talk, when we criticise, when we scream, when we shout, when we beat, when we cheat, when we can see clearly how much displeasure brings to us. So how can we do this to others? Whereas, when others are very peaceful and nice to us, we enjoy that. We like it. We want to be around that person. So, shouldn’t we try to take the example of that person and be like that? Because if we enjoy it, certainly if we do that, other people are going enjoy that too. So that’s how we get friends. That’s how we get social interaction. That’s how we get happiness coming from social interaction. By being what? By being in the way that we get pleasure from other people.

 

The Nature of Karma

So if you get a lot of pleasure from other people shouting at you, and screaming at you, and yelling and nagging you, and criticising you, if you get a lot of pleasure out of that, then we will hire a helicopter, take you to an island, and we’ll give you a mirror and you can shout and scream at yourself and get a lot of pleasure and leave you there. Drop off food supplies once a month. But if you are a normal person, if you’re a normal person, then you start transforming, you start changing. And I hope all of us here are normal people.

Now, you must have noticed that the moment you see certain people, you feel happy, but with others, you immediately feel uncomfortable. This is karma at work. Within you, there is some energy that causes this to happen. There is almost nothing you can do about it. Handsome men and beautiful women are spontaneously treated well wherever they go. Unattractive ones are treated badly. This is their karma. Even though they don’t want it, it’s very difficult to change. What kind of scientific explanation can Westerners or non-Westerners offer for this common phenomenon? What explanation can we give for this very, very common and daily phenomenon?

Karma makes your life difficult. Karma makes it easy. The act that you have created, the act that you have done, make it happy or not happy. So, the way to react back is not by creating more negative karma. The way to react back is to accept with dignity the already made karma, and by suffering through it, by bearing it, one purifies it. And when one has purified it, that karma cannot come back again. If one reacts back by creating more negative karma, how can one avoid it again in the future? If one does not like it now, how can one like it in the future?

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However, this karma is not permanent or fixed. Karma is a changeable phenomenon, which is what I’ve told you many times. It is changeable. You can change it. It is not permanent, like all phenomena. All the same, until the energy of a certain karma is expended or used up, one has to tolerate one’s situation. That is the only solution — one has to tolerate one’s situation, whatever it might be. That is the only way to expend that karma.

A faster way to expend it or to purify it is to do purificatory practices, as I have mentioned yesterday. Without any purification practices according to Dharma, then that karma, you’ll have to suffer through it. They’ll have to arise; you’ll have to go through it. And if you do the purification practices and the Dharma practices and the karma arises, it will be much less. And when it happens, do not complain back, do not shout and scream, and do not be upset by it, but take it with dignity and solve the problem according to the karmic effects, to the best of your ability, and try not to create further new karma, which will bring that experience around again. It’s very, very logical.

Take for example, we have a wonderful dog at this centre. The dog’s name is Cinnamon. He’s out there. Every time we come in, he’s wagging his tail. He wants to lick us. Maybe we want to lick him, I don’t know, but we all love the dog. Cinnamon is a very sweet and wonderful dog. He’s always guarding the centre. He’s always wagging us. And every time we come in, he’s wagging, licking us. Some of us like it, some of us don’t. And we all love him. Buddha loves him, Jesus Christ loves him, he loves us, we love him. But, we cannot teach him any Dharma. We cannot convey any Dharma to him. Until his body changes into a more suitable one, where it will be possible for him to have this sort of contact. That is his karma. All samsara sentient beings have to accept what they’re going through until the power of the karmic energy behind the experience has run out. So until Cinnamon’s karma has run out, in order to get the Dharma, we can love him, we can kiss him, we can teach him the Dharma, we can recite mantras, we can give him Lamrim, we can teach him how to prostrate. He’ll wag his tail and wait for food. And we love him. Jesus loves him. Buddha loves him. Everybody loves him. It’s all love here. But it doesn’t help. The karma has ripened. The karma has ripened. And the only way is to make sure that the karma finishes. That is it.

When the causal energy of a particular action is exhausted, it no longer brings an effect. When the cause of that effect is finished, there can be no effect. The effect will finish. You must expend the karma. You must finish it. Each sentient being lives according to his or her way of thinking, level of conscious energy, attitude, and environment. That is karma. Every person is an individual. Every person is different and unique. Their sufferings, their happiness, their looks, their appearance, their like and dislike, their way of approaching life, the way life approaches them is very unique.

No two people are the same. No two living beings, we say Tibetan, kangsa, or sentient beings are the same because no two beings collect the same karma. So, since no two sentient beings ever collect the same karma, no two sentient beings will ever be alike. Ever! Although some of us wear matching shirts like this gentleman and that lady, but still, you’re not alike. But the minute – the gentleman’s thinking, “Who is he talking about? Couldn’t be me.” Yeah, it’s you, it’s you. Just kidding. You guys look wonderful. The Bugsy twins. So, each sentient being lives according to his or her own way of thinking, level of consciousness, level of conscious energy, attitude, and environment. That is their karma. That is karma. So, I am using the word karma a lot here. I hope you understand what I mean. It is action. It is action and the intent to make that action. That is karma.

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In conclusion, all the Buddhas show you the true path and true cessation. Show you the true path and a true cessation. What cessation? The cessation of suffering. Unhappiness. The Dharma that liberates you from samsara. And they try to make you realise that what really guides you is your acting correctly in accordance with the path. That is what’s going to liberate you. This means that you, not the Buddhas, are ultimately responsible for your liberation. They can teach you, they can show you, they can guide you, they can bless you, but they cannot do it for you. And they cannot give you what they have done.

When we go to learn computers, the knowledge of the computer teacher cannot be transferred over to us. He can show us. If we don’t learn it when he’s teaching it to us, we suck on bubble gum, and we think about our girlfriends, and we’re thinking about running out to the loo or Pepsi, we’re not going to learn it. No matter how knowledgeable he is in the computer field, if we do not listen, think about it, and then do it, how will we learn? Same as in Dharma. Same.

So just knowing it, reciting it, understanding, having the books, having all the outer signs of Dharma, going to the temple, the 1st and the 15th vegetarian, putting joss sticks out, having a Guanyin statue that’s 300 years old and you have never touched, never moved it because if you do, it’s bad luck, it’s not Dharma, right? It will never, ever bring about Dharma. And I’ve seen some old Guanyins that people have never, ever moved. And when you finally move it and clean it, you have to get the hatchet out. You cannot remove it full of sticky. I say, “Why don’t you move it?” “Oh, to move it, it’s bad luck.” I say, “Why is it bad luck?” “Don’t know.” So, very simple.

 

Reducing Our Delusion

When we take refuge, when we take refuge, there are 10 things we must avoid. And some of you are thinking, “Oh no, here he goes again. With those 10 things, he’s going to drive me nuts.” Well, I’m going to drive you nuts till it doesn’t bother you anymore. And if any of you attend any of my future teachings, expect to hear it for the next 100 times. I’m going to drum it into you. And if it really bothers you, I’ll put it on tape and send it to you, just the 10 avoidables. Just about, and if it really bothers you, I’ll put it on video cassette and you can see me telling you about it until it doesn’t bother you anymore. And if you really want to get advanced, I’ll put it on disc.

So, if you want to avoid suffering, you must reduce the delusions. The way to reduce the delusions is not to engage in them, to react upon them, just to say, “Well, that’s me. I’m straightforward, so I have the delusions.” That’s it. “I’m a straightforward person. So I’ll tell you straightforward.” Don’t be straightforward with me. Don’t tell me that you’re straight. Don’t be proud of being straightforward if it harms. Don’t be proud of being harmful. Why do you say, “I’m straightforward, that’s why I tell you? You’re ugly. I told you you’re ugly because I’m straightforward.” Don’t tell me I’m ugly, and there will be no problems. Straightforwardness and acting and saying that you’re straightforward and you’re a straightforward person is just in the advert, circumventing the real issue, which is you can’t get rid of your big mouth. That’s all you’re saying to people. It’s a big advertisement. And it’s also another sign that you cannot control your mouth. So you might as well put that on the banner and wave that wherever you go and warn people. Here comes Miss Straightforward. Here comes Mrs Straightforward.

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Click to enlarge

So the way to get rid of suffering is to reduce the delusions. The way is to reduce the delusions immediately, if not completely from your mind, at least on a superficial level and then it’ll become deeper and deeper and deeper, it will become enmeshed with your mind, is to start practising the parameters or the gates that protect you from falling off the precipice of samsara, falling off the ledge, falling off the edge of the cliff, which is the 10 avoidables. Immediately, one should start, and one should not be lazy. If you proclaim yourself to be a religious person, you must start that. Three of the body – killing, stealing, sexual misconduct. Those three must be immediately avoided. And even if you avoid it and you encourage your friends to do it, you are still committing it. In fact, it’s terrible because you’re making another person do it. You’re making another person. You collect double the karma, you and your friend. To immediately stop stealing in any form, as I talked about at Wisdom and here. Immediately even if it’s so tempting. Know that the temptation is like drinking saltwater when you’re thirsty. The more you drink, the thirstier you get. It’s water. Know that. Stealing, killing, and sexual misconduct must be avoided immediately and stopped or reduced. If you’re completely addicted, like all of us here in samsara, reduce it.

 

Go to Part 2: The Refuge Commitments

Back to Tabs

And for the speech, divisive talk, talk that separates people, that harms people, that breaks people apart, breaks two parties apart, breaks two relationships apart, stop it immediately.

Harsh words, part of that is nagging, harsh words, words that harm other people, that hurt other people, that damage other people regardless of whether they deserve it or not, that’s your opinion, regardless of whether they are your children, or your parents, or your friends, or you’re doing it because you love them or you don’t love them. If love is like that, I’d rather not have it. Don’t say harsh words to people. Be kind in your speech. Be gentle in your speech. Be gentle and kind in your speech. If you do that without having to ask for anything, request, look for, hang out in a single bar, you’re going to have everybody following you. Everyone. Reduce harsh speech, cut it down immediately, lessen it immediately.

Then, idle chatter, to talk about things that don’t matter, that make no difference. Talk about the Dharma. Talk about different Dharma subjects with them. Don’t talk about idle things, “Who won that game?” Who cares! What difference does it make in your life? We love to talk about s-e-x. We love to talk about drinking, drugs, shares, business, politics. Some of us when we talk about politics, although we are very sleepy, we wake up immediately. If we talk about a business proposition, we can be in the hospital with tubes sticking out of every orifice we have in our body, we’re fine. It’s the state of the mind. Immediately stop idle chatter. It will create a type of karma that will harm you. People will disrespect you; people will not take you for real, now and in the future.

Stop lying. One must stop lying in any way, shape, or form by communication, by written method, by the blink of an eye, by the emotion of the body, by verbal speech, in any way. One must stop lying. Sometimes, when we tell a story, we like to add extra things to it, some spice. Stop. And even examine if I should tell that story or not. It’s very tempting, and one should stop immediately.

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Click to enlarge

Covetousness is not satisfied with what one has in life. To not be satisfied and to crave constantly. No one says you cannot work; no one says you cannot improve. But to be attached to it, and if you don’t have it, you suffer; if you don’t have it, you yell; if you don’t have it, you make other people suffer; you make other people unhappy. No one is telling you not to work, not to succeed, not to make it, but someone is telling you, the Buddha, not to be attached to it. Not that your happiness will depend on it. How can your happiness depend on material things? Material things are impermanent. They can be lost, taken away, stolen, anytime. If your happiness is based, your stability and happiness and sense of security is based on such a fragile impermanent object, you will get the consequences. You will suffer more anxiety, more problems.

Be happy with what you have. Be satisfied with what you have. Do your best within your means. Be happy with your salaries. Be happy with your clothes. Be happy with your life and what you’re doing, but do the best that you can within that framework. Accept your karma, that it’s like that.

Once you have accepted and you relax and you work on that, your suffering will decrease, your anxieties will decrease, and the pressure that you put on the people around you will decrease. Without attachment, without grabbing, without punishing ourselves and others, we can succeed, we can work, we can improve. No one is telling you to sell hotdogs for the rest of your life on the corner. No one is asking you, to tell you to fry black bean noodles for the rest of your life down in downtown, on Petaling Street. But make it and do what you can within your framework along with the practice of Dharma.

Try to improve, but accept that and do your best and try to improve day by day without any attachment. No one says you cannot improve, but the way of improving is not to scream, shout, complain, and be unhappy with what you do not have. Be happy what you do have. Be content with what you do have. Do not covet what you do not have because you will not have it; you don’t have it. So what’s the use of coveting? How silly. He has two lollipops; you have one, but you can’t enjoy the one because you’re suffering because he has two. Oh yes, two, I can’t have two, I want two, and you don’t have what you want. Have your one and try to consciously, slowly, with patience and time, and compassion and spiritual practice improve your lot. And remember, your lot is not just this life. It is much more.

Do your best within your capacity according to your karma with dignity and be satisfied with what you have. And do not make glorious statements about being big patrons and sponsors of Dharma, of charity, of poor people, and works and use that as an excuse for your delusions and your attachments and your covetousness. Be a patron of the Dharma, be a patron of the Sangha, and be the patron of Buddha’s teachings by your practice. By your practice in patience, by your practice in love, in compassion, the lessening of lying, stealing, cheating, hating, hurting. Be a patron in the real way and you will spread Dharma in the real way.

Image: Frankie's/Shutterstock.com

Image source: Frankie’s/Shutterstock.com

How did Mongolia become completely Buddhist? It’s a long story; I’ll make it very short. When the great Kublai Khan, the great-grandson of Genghis Khan, came to Tibet, he was plunging and destroying Tibet. When he was travelling around Lhasa, he met up with a monk that was very gentle, very quiet, and very kind in his demeanour. And the great Khan, the Kublai Khan, was so impressed, and he thought, “Oh, if this monk is like that, he’s just a simple monk, imagine what his teacher is like.” Just by the demeanour, he was impressed.

So, Kublai Khan asked the monk, “Who’s your teacher? I’m going to kill you.” So, the monk says, “Ok, you can kill me, but I’ll tell you anyways. My teacher is His Holiness the Great 3rd Dalai Lama. Gyalwa Sonam Gyatso, the 3rd Dalai Lama.” So, the Khan went back to Mongolia, sent his entourage down to Lhasa, and sent the letter down saying to His Holiness, “In your great compassion, please come to Mongolia to give Dharma teachings. If you don’t, I’m going to kill you and your whole country.” So, the Dalai Lama says, “Ok, I’ll come.” Of course, he didn’t come because he was afraid, but that was the letter he sent, “If you don’t come, I’m going to pillage, plunge and destroy your country and kill you!”

So the Dalai Lama, with his great clairvoyance, in his great compassion, saw that it was time to convert the people of the North, to change the people of the North. So, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his entourage travelled out to Mongolia. At that time, you don’t call up SIA or Malaysian Airlines to see if they have a seat. You get on the back of a camel, a mule, or a yak, what we have in Tibet. If you’re lucky, a horse and you callus your butt for one, two years travelling up North. There are no roads, filled with bandits, filled with crazies, demons, spirits, robbers, thieves, murderers, rapists. This is a couple of hundred years ago. No police, no one to call the police like we have here, you call up, they run here, they help you. None.

So, His Holiness and his entourage travelled up North. It took them, I think, two and a half or three years to get there because they had to stop at each village, and His Holiness had to give teachings. When he got there, the great Kublai Khan came out to the border of Tibet and Mongolia and set up a huge tent which was a great honour bestowed on His Holiness because he is a great ruler, actually, this Kublai Khan. So, he came out of his tent and received His Holiness. And the text says they were like the sun and the moon entering the tent, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama was threatened by the Kublai Khan again. He said, “Show me your occult powers; if you don’t, I’m going to kill you.” So the Dalai Lama said, “Okay.”

There was a river nearby. His Holiness stared at it very fiercely, and immediately, the water went back. Then, His Holiness requested a conch shell, and he blew the conch shell. As he blew it, the earth shook, signifying that the Dharma would overtake this land completely. It would overtake the land and would tame the people. Immediately, the Khan fell on his knees and took refuge from His Holiness. From that day on, he became the disciple of His Holiness.

All of Mongolia became disciples of Tibet, in the sense spiritually. So materially, they were sponsors of Tibet, but spiritually, Tibet was their teacher. His Holiness the Dalai Lama became the teacher of all of Mongolia. Even up to this day, Inner and Outer Mongolia, all the Mongolian republics, such as Kalmykia in Russia, due to the kindness of His Holiness the 3rd Dalai Lama, is Buddhist up to this day. By His Holiness’s demeanour, his student’s demeanour, he was able to convert hundreds and millions of sentient beings over the centuries onto the Dharma and to prevent them from going down to the three lower realms. At that time, the Mongolians had a worship of a fire God called Okhmin, where they would make human sacrifices. They would kill, and they offered blood, and they offered flesh to make him happy. He was the God of fire and war. So, His Holiness immediately stopped that practice.

Of course, the Mongolians at that time were very shamanistic and very fierce, and a simple, gentle Guanyin riding on the ocean wave on a turtle, they are not going to like that. They want gods with a lot of hands, black, on fire, with swords, wearing heads, stepping on demons, they want that. So, the great Guanyin Pusa showed herself in the form of Mahakala, Six-Armed Mahakala. Fierce with three eyes, looking up into the sky, with skulls, black in colour, with fangs, and with his tongue rolling and darting back like lightning. With six arms representing the six paramitas, holding six different types of weapons. Wearing a necklace of human heads, with a tiger skin, stepping on Ganapati. An emanation of himself in the form of an Indian God of obstacles amidst flames, fierce. He emanated himself in that form to subdue the Mongolians.

So, the Mongolians pray to the Avalokiteshvara Guanyin Pusa in a very fierce form, but the nature of the fierceness is not harmful. The nature is fierce compassion, compassion in the form of ferociousness to subdue, subjugate, and control the fierce war-like people in a fierce way. If someone is very fierce and going crazy and brandishing weapons, you don’t say, “Oh compassion, compassion.” They cut your head off. So, you get a bigger sword, you get a bigger army, and you go, “What do you say?” and once they calm down, you go, “Oh, I was just kidding, come here, come here. I want to talk to you.” Like that, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas emanate in a fierce, wrathful form. Not because they are evil. Not because they hate you or not because they want to scare and terrify you. They are showing wrathful means out of compassion, like a mother beating a child, screaming, and yelling because she loves him. Then the deities will come in wrathful, fierce form like you see in our tradition, in order to subdue, to subjugate. One of the reasons they emanate in that form.

So, the Mongolians, instead of offering flesh and blood, they offer up cakes like this. His Holiness had taught them to offer cakes like this, but the wrathful deities, they were painted red to represent flesh and blood. So, the Mongolians are still happy. “Oh, flesh and blood, yes, what we are familiar with, we like, we offer, we do.” So, they visualised the tormas to be flesh and blood, offering up to ferocious deities, which is what they like. In actuality, they are offering yogurt, milk, flour, oats, honey, sugar, and butter mixed and painted red to look like wrathful offerings. So, the people are happy, the gods are happy, everyone’s happy.

So, after that, all of Mongolia was proclaimed Buddhist from that day on. And His Holiness left Mongolia with a promise to the great king, the great Khan, that he would be back. On the way back to Lhasa, His Holiness the Dalai Lama went into complete meditation and passed away.

His Holiness the 4th Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Yonten Gyatso

His Holiness the 4th Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Yonten Gyatso.
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The great 4th Dalai Lama, the great Yonten Gyatso, Gyalwa Yonten Gyatso, when he emanated, he took rebirth as the grandson of that king in Mongolia as a Mongolian. Out of the 14 Dalai Lamas, all 13 were Tibetans, one was a pure Mongol, fulfilling his promise to Kublai Khan that he would come. Don’t quote me; it might be Altan Khan; there’s a lot of Khans. I’m pretty sure it’s Kublai Khan, the grandson. Maybe Altan, never mind, just say Khan. Anyway, one of the Khans, in any case, if you really want to check that, you can check the history of His Holiness, which I had studied just a little. In any case, he came back as the grandson of that Khan in Mongolia, emanated, and he was again taken from Mongolia to Lhasa to be enthroned as the 4th Dalai Lama – the great Gyalwa Yonten Gyatso.

That’s how Mongolia was completely converted onto the path of Buddhism; that is history. By simply a demeanour. That’s why I say, simply because you are rich or you have a lot of money, or you have a position and power doesn’t mean you can spread the Dharma and be a great patron of Dharma. It doesn’t mean that. It doesn’t mean you can’t, or what I’m saying to you is nothing for sure, right? So don’t be attached to that. Be a patron and a practitioner of the Dharma; be a patron of the Dharma, one that spreads the Dharma by your practice. All of Mongolia was converted over because of a single monk’s practice of his demeanour. We can also do something like that. We can do something like that.

So be a patron of Dharma not by material, not by money, not by funds, or by who you know. If you do, if you have, wonderful and fine and perfect, do it but don’t make an excuse for covetousness. “Oh, you know if I get a lot of money, I’m going to be a big patron of Dharma, that’s why I’m going to make a lot of money, no Dharma practice, let me make a lot of money.” That itself becomes an obstacle.

Check to see what’s your motivation, if it truly is that motivation. If it is, wonderful. If it isn’t, it becomes another deceiving factor: your mind deceiving your mind and procrastination. So please think about it like that. We must be happy with our lot and be happy with what we have and be satisfied and try to improve. Of course, if you can do more, if you can do better, of course you do. I told you, you don’t have to be Mr. Hotdog for the rest of your life. You can do it; you don’t have to be Mr. Black Bean Noodle for the rest of your life. You can improve but without attachments, but do it with dignity.

Then, malice and hate. I don’t think I can explain that a lot. To pull that out, malice and hate are one, covetousness, does anybody remember the last one? Wrong view, correct. To tell you the truth, I couldn’t remember, so I was seeing if someone remembered; it looks impressive huh, quite impressive. But I couldn’t remember it, and someone said, “Oh yeah, that’s right.”

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Click to enlarge

Wrong view, yes, wrong view. Because wrong view is the most detrimental, it will destroy your Dharma practice. Holding wrong view when you know there is karma, and you say there’s not, and you act against it, not because you really feel that there is no karma but because you are using that as an excuse again to perpetuate your delusions. Your delusions are using that route to get to you. Then, “Oh no reincarnation.” You’ve been explained clearly; you’ve been told clearly. My mouth is as dry as the Sahara Desert explaining it to you over and over. If you still say no next life, okay, how about this life? Do you believe in this life? Yes. Do you want to be happy? Okay. Get rid of malice, get rid of nagging, get rid of shouting. How about this life? Can you refute me on that, can you?

So, to immediately avoid those 10 things and after you take refuge, those 10 items are the real refuge. It is not some gods over here that you are going to know who they are, why they are holding things, what they are, how many hands, why they have 50 faces and 16,000 arms, why they are black amidst flames, holding, naked, erotic. Why they’re all like that? What are all these silly offerings? That is not the refuge. The refuge is those Ten Non-Virtues.

If you take refuge in the Ten Non-Virtues and say from today on, I will not do it. I will avoid it; I will lessen it; that is your refuge. Why? If you avoid those, you will not create further new karma to suffer and all the old karma will lessen by your conscious effort to practise morality, the avoidances, to consciously practise, to realise their defects. To consciously practise and stop it. And then you do not create new karma. That is your real refuge. Not a bunch of funny gods, a lot of funny colours. Some of them do things that they tell us we can’t do, like having consorts. Not those funny gods up there, not the funny rituals, not this funny monk up here, sitting here screaming at you every night. That is not the refuge.

The refuge is the Dharma, and the Dharma is the lessening of delusions. And the lessening of delusion is based on the avoidance of the Ten Non-Virtues acts. Very basic. Do you want to practise Dharma? That’s it. No more bells, rituals, initiations, wearing funny hats and clothes, or having grand altars. “Oh, what’s your mala? Mine is amber, what’s yours? Mine is bodhi seed. Who gives you that, who gives you this, who gives you that protection, who gives you that amulet?” Some people walk around like a cow with 30 amulets protection! Everywhere they go, they have an amulet. Wherever they walk, kalak, kalak, kalak, you think Annabelle the cow is coming to visit you. That is not the refuge. What you wear, the altar that you have, the gods that you carry is not the refuge.

Stop avoiding the real issues, stop fooling yourself, stop tricking yourself. Stop thinking that refuge is your beautiful malas, the beautiful statues, the centres you go to, your Dharma friends, “Oh, your guru is His Holiness Shakyamuni Buddha that you have met in person” or the dreams you have of Guanyin, that is not the refuge. None of that is refuge. Refuge is avoiding negative acts. Isn’t that simple, isn’t that wonderful, isn’t that easy? Don’t you just want to run out of here and start?

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Yes, if you want to get out of samsara, that’s how you do it. If you want to stay here, I’m leaving, see you later. But I’m not hanging around here any longer because it has nothing fun for the last 30 million years. I do not want to die, I do not want to get old, I do not want to see my body deteriorate, I do not want to get sick, and then die and then come back and do it all over again, and maybe the next time with hooves, two horns and a tail. I don’t want to come back and do that and then get old, get sick and die and do it again. I don’t want to be Cinnamon in my next life. Sorry, Cinnamon. I do not.

I want to get out of this mess. This torturous mess. I want to get out, and the way to do it, guess what? The Ten Non-Virtues. Disc, CD, tape, video cassette, up to you, I’ll give it to you, free. That’s how you get out. Think about it, please think about it. We are joking about it, but think. Does that make sense? Is that logical? Is that crazy lama, quoting Lama Yeshe telling the truth, or is he making it up? Is Lama Yeshe crazy? Is everybody crazy? I don’t think so. There’s no reason for it. You do it now.

Along with that, you make offerings. Along with that, you make prayers and meditations. Along with that, you recite mantras and go for initiations and go see your teacher, and be a patron of Dharma, sponsor, along with that. Those are all on the side. Those are small, small things on the side. Avoid those ten.

 

The Refuge Commitments

And after you have taken refuge, “Oh, now I have taken refuge, I’ll never go down to hell, I will never take rebirth again, I will be a superstar in my next life, I will be Michael Jackson in my next life, and I will be Michael Jackson with the halo.” No, it’s not so easy after refuge. No. I’m sorry all of you are not going to be Ms Universe in your next life just because you have taken refuge. After refuge, there are twelve new vows. Surprise! Don’t you hear all these numbers ten, twelve? There are twelve new vows that you should know and hold. If you do not hold these vows, guess what? You are going to be back here for another banging session.

Number one: not to go for refuge to teachers who contradict Buddha’s view or to samsara gods. Stop hanging out at temples, stop going out for fortune telling. If your nose is the size of a potato, it does not mean you are going to get rich; everybody who has a potato nose is not rich in this world – wrong face feng shui. It doesn’t work that way. I know a lot of people whose noses are so wide, but they are hanging out in the desert naked, picking up worms. No, I’m sorry. That is not the real feng shui. If you are in this angle, you’re in that angle, you place your furniture here, but it doesn’t affect a thing. How can someone tell you your karma by looking at the lines on your hand? If your line is long, alright, I’ll cut myself a little longer and tell me how to be rich. How can someone tell you what you are going to be by lines on your hand? It’s just guessing. It is just guessing. How can someone look at your face and tell you this and that and that? How can someone throw a few cards down and tell you what you are going to be here and there? You make it happen.

If Buddha, Jesus, and God can’t do it, how can they do it with a bunch of tarot cards? How can you go to a temple, and throw a bunch of chopsticks, and whatever falls you’re going to follow that? Crazy, illogical. Avoid those crazy temples, avoid those crazy oracles and mediums and people who see Guanyin, that don’t see Guanyin, that see Chung De, that see Amitabha, that see all of them, and they all come and can’t fit in their rooms. Stop it. It’s like the movie Ghost with Whoopi Goldberg. I’ve seen it, and all of a sudden, all the ghosts start crowding the room, and she can see all of them? Actually, it’s quite funny, but it’s true.

How do you know it is Guanyin? How do you know that it’s actually a deity coming? The medium is an ordinary person. We are ordinary people. How can Guanyin come into an ordinary person and tell us everything? If it’s so wonderful, Guanyin can come in to us, and why don’t we look in the mirror and talk to ourselves?

Don’t go to those places, don’t do those things. Not because they are bad, they are unreliable. Some of them I’m sure are good, some of them I’m sure are a little accurate, but they are not completely accurate. Do not take little pieces of paper to create harmony in your house. Stop nagging your maid, and that’s your piece of paper. Stop going there and burning incense and see mediums for wealth. Work hard, make offerings, practise charity, emotional charity, material charity to gain wealth. That’s what Buddha has proclaimed, that’s what Jesus has proclaimed, that’s what Muhammad has proclaimed. What is little granny down the street wearing all kinds of weird hats and going to trances telling you, you have to have this paper eat this, eat that, burn this, burn that, go here, do this, change that, change this, change your name, change your house. How can you change all of that and get wealthy? Sorry granny, it doesn’t work that way. They are very good actors, very good.

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Once you have taken refuge in the Buddha, no more temples, no more fortune tellers, no more palm readers, face readers, forehead readers, feet readers, scalp readers, card readers, tea leaf readers, coffee cup readers. No more; just stop right there and practise karma. Let karma be an experience for your life; avoid things that bring harm, and practice things that bring virtue. That is the greatest fortune. That is your crystal ball, the Buddha’s crystal ball. You don’t need any other crystal ball. No more gods and heretics that contradict virtuous acts. No more.

These are superstitions; they cannot work. How can a piece of paper change your karma? By what power, by what authority, tell me? By what authority and power? If it’s Guanyin, she has taught you karma, just like the Buddha. She is Buddha’s disciple; she would tell you what Buddha has said. Be careful because once you get involved with one of these deities, and oracles, and spirits, they will follow you. They will get you back the minute you stop. They will harm you. They will get revenge because these spirits are malicious. Do not take refuge in them. Do not visit them. You follow karma, that’s the best refuge, that’s the best God, that’s the best deity, that’s the best temple, karma.

So, you should not go to heretical views. You should not go to worldly gods and take refuge in them. If you have an ancestor tablet, if you have a tablet and altar to the house gods and a worldly god, it’s okay. You can keep those, you don’t have to go home and throw them out, bye, you don’t have to. Sometimes, we have to keep them to respect the thoughts of our elders, to respect the traditions of our country. That’s alright, as long as we don’t take refuge. We treat it as a friend. We can offer them sticks of incense; we can offer them flowers, and water, and tea to the house gods, the earth gods, the local deity gods; we can offer them things as we are offering a gift from a friend to a friend. You give them coffee money, very easy. But you don’t pray to them. You just say, “Oh, I give you this; please help me like that; please bless them.” Okay, that’s it, stop. Very simple. So you don’t have to go home and throw out all 5,000 years of Chinese history and culture. No, not necessarily, that’s ridiculous, that’s extreme. Not necessary, but don’t take refuge, don’t have trust in them. Just treat them as a friend.

Number two: to regard any image of the Buddha as an actual Buddha. On the one hand, I was a little devastated when I came to the centre first; on the other hand, I was very touched. I have offered this centre two fabulous, beautiful, expensive Buddhas. Very expensive, very beautiful, imported from Thailand, and also one from Nepal. And they have stuck it on the side in a corner, and nobody’s looking at them. Whereas there’s a tiny little clay Buddha in the centre here, and it’s driving me crazy! We should throw this clay one out and put them in the centre cos it’s more expensive and beautiful, right? No, wrong.

Any material the Buddha is made from, any height and any size, as long as it’s a Buddha, it should be respected equally. So that is correct. No distinction between the material, the quality, the craftsmanship of the Buddha. Should not criticise, “Oh, the Buddha has tiny eyes, a humpback and he’s crooked.” You’re going to be like that in your next life, you create the karma. “The Buddha’s nose is so flat,” you’re going to have a flat nose in your next life. “How come the Buddha’s nose is so pointy?” You’re going to be a Pinocchio. Yes, don’t criticise the Buddha statues.

Once you have taken refuge, do not criticise the Buddha statues. Do not comment, do not talk about it. If it’s nice, you like it, you take it; if don’t, don’t say anything. “Oh no, I’ll pick something else,” be nice. Do not criticise and do not take the Buddha statues and images on the basis of the quality, the material, how old they are, whether they are antique or not, whether it’s made from plastic, green plastic, or real jade. A jade one put in the centre, make a lot of offerings and the green one to the side. No, wrong way, wrong, no. If it’s a Buddha statue, you respect it. You do it, you respect it, and you treat it well, and you think it’s the actual Buddha. Not to make any distinctions.

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Not to harm others, number three. You know what that is, the ten non-virtues, and I’m sure you … do you want me to go over it again?

Number four: to regard any Dharma scripture as an actual Dharma jewel. All Dharma books should be treated with respect. They should be kept in high, clean, and nice places. As I told you in Wisdom Centre, our deeds, our bank accounts, our cheque books are kept in very clean, safe, nice places, locked up. We wash our hands before we touch it. It’s so holy. Dharma books are kept uselessly with our magazines on the side, thrown on the floor, here and there, stepped over, walked over, mistreated. When we turn the pages, we lick. How dirty and disgusting.

The Dharma book should be touched and treated with respect. Before you touch it, you touch it to your forehead. This will bring you to enlightenment. Their worth is immeasurable. It has no count. This will take you to enlightenment. How should you respect something that will take you to full enlightenment? Certainly, by not throwing it together with your Elle and GQ magazines, and your newspapers, and on the floor, and on the coffee table, where there’s spilled milk and all that, and you just throw it there. Where your little baby is going, “Ah, daddy, daddy!” running and rubbing and breaking the binding. And then when you turn the pages, you wet it. You leave such a nice thumbprint. That’s not the way to do it.

You keep the Dharma books even holier than the Dharma statues. Statues you cannot open up and read and get the Dharma path. Books you can. This is the Dharma in written form. This is Buddha’s speech in written form. We take refuge in Buddha’s speech; we take refuge in the Dharma; that’s the ultimate refuge in the Dharma. So the book should be kept well.

When we buy make-up and clothes, and we want to spend on going to Australia, the sky is the limit. When it’s a Dharma book, “Oh, have not enough money, not enough.” So stingy. Dharma books collect merit. Printing them, being the cause for them to be printed, being the cause for them to be spread among other people, will create merits because whoever reads them and their mind is transformed, you are the principal cause. Therefore, any attainments they get will cause you to have the same attainments in the future. To give donations to help for printing Dharma books, for giving out Dharma books, for spreading out the Dharma through the Dharma books. You do what you can within your limits.

Even to buy the Dharma books yourself, not to be Mr Miserly and Ms Cheap and then borrow from the Dharma centre and never give it back. You buy, you keep a collection, and you study, and you read and you look through it. Before you read it, touch it to your head because it will bring you to enlightenment. And you read it with respect. You don’t read it lying down, picking your nose, sipping on a martini. After three martinis, you don’t know what you’re reading, upside down or what, right?

You read it with deep respect, you read it erect, you read it well, and think about the meanings. And don’t run around saying, “I read that one, I read that one, I read that one,” when we look at you, we know you didn’t read anything, right? And keep the books well and clean in high places with respect. In fact, if you can, cover them in very beautiful silk brocade cloths. Don’t put the brocade cloths on your corpses that you run around on Chinese New Year, where everybody wears red, “look at my red brocade.” What for? Sweat and dirt just destroys the brocade. Put it on the Dharma book and collect merit. You should celebrate Chinese New Year by decorating your Buddhas and decorating your Dharma books. Not decorating your corpse. Think.

Dharma books should be respected, should be touched, they should not ever be placed on the floor. They should not ever be walked over. They should never have your feet pointing toward them. They should never be in the dirty, unclean place. They should be in the cleanest, the best places. Take your deeds, your money, your cheques, and all your jewellery out of the safe, put them and lock them up because if you lose that goodbye enlightenment. Money can be replaced, Dharma cannot. I’m not saying to do that literally, I’m trying to explain the worth.

The Dharma books are very important. To have anything to do with them, to even see the Dharma, to be able to read them, to understand the Dharma, takes aeons and aeons of prayers and meditation, and merits even to be able to hear the Dharma. Not particularly of this crazy monk here, but the words that are coming out of my mouth are being repeated. To hear those words, not to see me, not to be with me, not that I’m holy, and it takes so much merit for you to be with me. That’s not the point. The point is to hear what this person is saying. The message, it takes merit, aeons of prayers and meditations, and you have that opportunity now. Don’t waste it on money, affairs of this life, being satisfied, nagging, fighting, screaming, cheating, lying; don’t do that anymore. Practise the Dharma and show respect toward the practice in physical form.

Number five: not to allow yourself to be influenced by people who reject Dharma teachings, Buddha’s teachings. And that doesn’t mean, “Oh, he’s not a Buddhist; I can’t run around with him,” no. People who say, “Kill, kill is good for you,” bye. “Oh, steal, steal that’s the right way he stole from you, get him back, steal, get him back, destroy him.” Not to listen to people who contradict Buddha’s teachings in that way. Of course, you can be friends with a nice Muslim man, with a nice Jewish girl, with a wonderful Christian man, with a fabulous Hindu girl. There’s nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. But ones that contradict actually means, not inter-religious or non-Buddhist, it doesn’t refer to that. It refers to people who pull you down by negative actions.

Datuk May making offerings of body, speech, and mind to Kensur Rinpoche, the erudite Abbot emeritus of Shar Gaden

Datuk May making offerings of body, speech, and mind to Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende, the erudite Abbot Emeritus of Shar Gaden Monastery

To regard anyone who wears a robe as an ordained person, as an actual Sangha. The real Sangha are beings, robed or not robed, who have realised emptiness. Arhats, for example. Beings who have realised emptiness or shunyata are the real Sangha. That is the real Sangha. Definitive Sangha. Now, the Sangha that we have here are beings who may or may not have attained shunyata or emptiness, but they are holding the Pratimoksha vows. They’re holding the vows — 253, not your ten measly ones, 253 we’re holding. So you can put a spotlight on me and clap. 253 (vows) the Sangha is holding, that is the Pratimoksha vows as spoken by the Buddha. Self-liberation vows. Based on the four vows: no killing, no lying about one’s attainments if one doesn’t have. Oh, you don’t have clairvoyance, you tell them you have clairvoyance, you have to disrobe yourself.

No lying, no killing, no stealing, and no s-e-x, period. Based on these four, 249 vows are kept by the Sangha. That is why we respect the Sangha. We don’t respect them because they’re wearing long beautiful flowing maroon wine-coloured robes, and they look graceful like me. That’s not the reason we respect them. We respect them because they are holding vows. They’re holding the liberation vows. They have cut their hair out of renunciation. They have given up wine, women, and fun to have time to practise the Dharma. I’m not self-praising myself but I’m telling you the truth, honestly, I’m conveying a message of the Buddhas, the Third Jewel – Sangha.

We should let the Sangha sit at the front. We should give their food first. Their food should be clean. We should respect them, talk nicely to them, not scream and shout because if you scream and shout and disrespect them you are disrespecting the Pratimoksha vows, which leads to enlightenment. So, indirectly you are disrespecting the state that they represent, enlightenment. They should be kept clean, they should be talked nicely, you shouldn’t argue, fight, scream, shout, walk around and unseemly close around the Sangha, never. Never. You should never do things that are disrespectful near the Sangha because they are holding the vows.

Now, if this Sangha member has three mistresses, running around in a BMW, has a huge fat bank account, I don’t know about that one. But don’t criticise either, you leave them alone. You don’t say anything, you don’t have to be involved, at the same time you don’t have to criticise. Because for a new person who comes along and they see you criticising a Sangha, they’ll think, “Oh, we’re allowed to,” so they might take the danger of criticising a real actual Sangha member who is holding the vows. You are setting a bad example, there’s a danger.

So, if there’s a Sangha member you don’t like, or there is someone that is doing something funny, that’s very obvious, don’t criticise, don’t say, don’t comment. Don’t be kind, “I don’t like to say it, but… you know I really don’t like to say these things, but…” Leave it. There are good Sangha members, there are bad Sangha members. It is not for us to judge. If we make the danger of criticising a correct Sangha member, the retributions will be very strong. You have destroyed your refuge vows. I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, you have two Jewels. The third Jewel, out the window. So, do not criticise the Sangha.

Even if the Sangha is unintelligent, uneducated, cannot teach, cannot do anything, but he’s holding his vows, he’s doing a lot more than you. A lot more than you. Just on the basis of his vows, he will be able to attain enlightenment. He can. Buddha was a monk. It is not something that Tibetan lamas made up. Even a monk sleeps all day, but if they hold their vows well, they are an object of veneration because they are holding their vows. Better one that sleeps all day and holds his vows than one that runs around all day and doesn’t hold his vows. They are still better than a layperson who does not hold any of the vows, who runs around and indulges in anything he likes. And let’s be equal, she likes. Right? Equality.

So, we must respect the Sangha out of the pure logical thinking that they are holding Pratimoksha vows which will lead to enlightenment. Where the Sangha is, is where the Dharma is going to be. Obviously, all of you are not going to spend the rest of your life renunciate, ascetics, studying the Dharma. We respect Sangha because they hold the Dharma in a limited, or great, or very great capacity. Either way, they are holding in one way or another. They are a sign that the Dharma is still around, a physical sign that the Dharma is still around.

Upon Rinpoche’s wishes, in 2014, a few pilgrims representing Kechara went to Shar Gaden Monastery to make offerings of White Tara statues, robes, books, food, and drinks to the holy Sanghas there.

In 2014, we made offerings of White Tara statues, robes, books, food, and drinks to the holy Sangha of Shar Gaden Monastery on behalf of H.E. Tsem Rinpoche.

Do not sit on the same level as Sangha members. Do not sit near them. Do not try to be on the same level. If they are on a chair, you sit on the floor. I’m not saying that because I’m a monk; that’s the way it is, and I’m sorry I have to tell it to you that way. Please forgive me; I’m not trying to get more respect for myself. You are not stupid; if it’s not logical, you can get up and go home before one o’clock, right? So, when you offer to the Sangha, with two hands. When you give them something, with two hands. “Oh, I give him a RM50 ang pao, he didn’t come to my house and bless my house, what type of Sangha is that?” No. You gave the Sangha an ang pao, an offering of food, a dana, in order to cultivate your merits, not to feed them. They don’t sit there and say, “Om ang pao hum phet, om ang pao hum phet.” They don’t wait, they don’t expect. “Om dana hum phet, om cheesecake hum phet.” Okay I’m guilty, cheesecake, yes!

They don’t sit there and wait for that. They really do not sit there and wait for your cheesecakes and ang paos. I don’t. I discourage ang paos; I encourage cheesecake. But, you respect the Sangha because they are holding vows. Whether they are sleeping all day, whether they are dumb, whether they are intelligent, whether they are great lamas, they can fly in the sky, or they can get even out of their bed, you respect them because they are still holding the vows.

A lazy, silly, uneducated Sangha who is holding the vows well is better than an energetic, wonderful, smart, intelligent, rich, layperson that commits all the ten non-virtues, much better. Is it logical? Think about it. Don’t sit on the same level as Sangha, do not disrespect the Sangha. Talk softly, talk well with them, because you are talking well to a state that you wish to achieve. And any sign of the Sangha, if they are in your house, if they are in your place, if they are near you, if they do something for you, it is an honour. I think that too, it is an honour. It is an honour because it’s a sign that the Dharma is there.

Any true Sangha member that is holding the vows, it is said in the Vinaya text, the Vinaya Sutra by Buddha, any Sangha member that we see is holding the vows, we will collect the imprints to become enlightened in the future. They have the power to plant imprints, karmic imprints, bak-cha. If we see a true Sangha member, even if we don’t know anything, even if we don’t like, the minute we see them, it plants an imprint, because the power of the vows. Where did those vows come from? The Buddha’s mouth. Not these crazy Tibetan lamas that ran away from Tibet in 1959, with nothing but a cup, and hanging out in hot India. No. We didn’t make this up. And if it’s not true, go check out Thailand and Burma, Sri Lanka, go check them out. They’re even stricter than us. I’m pretty easy going; I let you sit on my lap if it makes you happy.

So, the Sangha is the actual object of refuge. They are people or beings that you emulate. You show respect to them because you show respect to the Dharma. You should treat them accordingly. Never criticise, never say bad things, never show disrespect to a Sangha. There are a lot of retributions that may happen – a true Sangha member. And even if you see a Sangha member that is not true, never mind, don’t comment, leave it alone. People will naturally see it; people will naturally go away, and, hopefully, that person will regret and reform, hopefully. If they don’t, why make further karma? You’re not going to help them along the road, either. You’re not helping yourself, and you’re not setting a good example for new people.

Sangha people are also ordinary beings. Even if they pick their nose, even if they don’t clean up the bathroom after they’ve used it, even if they don’t wash their plates and sleep the whole day, they are still holding their Pratimoksha vows. They’re not gods, but they represent the Dharma. There are things we should respect, like our parents, Sangha, elders, people in positions of power. There are things that we should show respect to, irrespective of our feelings because that is the nature of our existence.

And how do you know some Sangha who’s just sleeping all day is not very attained meditationally? How do you know they are not meditating the whole night? And even if they are meditating, you put a glass against the wall. How can you hear them meditating? How do you know they are not attained? How do you know they are not practising very deeply? Shantideva, the great Shantideva was called du tsun sheba (Bhusuku). He was the one who had three activities: eating, sleeping, and defecating, they called him in the monastery. He was very attained. He slept during the day and meditated the whole night. He taught the Bodhisattvacaryavatara — the teachings on how to become a Bodhisattva. He was to be defamed. He was to be embarrassed. They set him out. In fact, to embarrass him, to say that he’s not worthy, to kick him out. But he proved them all wrong. We don’t know if someone is highly attained or not, better reserve our judgements.

Making offerings to the Shanga of Shar Gaden in 2019: JP and Li Kim making offerings of kuyong (token monetary offering) and a portrait of His Eminence the 25th Tsem Rinpoche.

JP and Li Kim, close students of H.E. Tsem Rinpoche, making offerings of kuyong (token monetary offering) to the Sangha of Shar Gaden in 2019.

Even their clothes, even their robes, if you have the honour to wash, wash separately. (Their robes) should be washed differently, should be folded back cleanly with respect, because the robes are the clothes of the Buddha. They are the clothes of the Buddha. This was created by the Buddha, not the crazy Tibetan lamas coming from Tibet. This is the clothes of the Buddha. So, even the clothes should be respected. We should not walk over it; we should not throw it in a corner, use it to wipe things and clean things. It’s very disrespectful towards the vows, what they represent. It is a reminder of the Pratimoksha vows, a reminder of Buddha’s presence.

Everything should be offered with respect. They should be talked to with respect, they should not be yelled at, screamed at, they should not be commanded, they should not be manipulated, they should not be bribed. I can be bribed, but not the rest of the Sangha, with cheesecake. You give me cheesecake, I’ll come over and bless your house. No cheesecake, I don’t come over, easy. But that’s not all the Sangha; that’s an exception. But you can’t criticise me, or you go to hell. Isn’t that wonderful? I just made it out just perfect for myself. I love it. In any case, please think about that if it’s logical or not.

Then to go for refuge to the Three Jewels again and again, remembering their good qualities. Not just once, I go for refuge once. To go again and again, to make communion with the Three Jewels, to remind yourself.

Offer the first portion of whatever we eat to the Three Jewels to remember their kindness before your meal, at least once a day. Of course, if you’re at work, it’s not possible you know. If you buy a McDonald’s hamburger, you cut out one quarter, a little miserly, cannot give, isn’t it? At least at dinner, a little portion, you should have a special bowl, not an old chipped bowl that you don’t use. Or Cinnamon’s old bowl, you wash that out and purify it, with Dettol and all that, and use it for the Buddha, no. A real nice, clean bowl of the precious substance. Porcelain, clay, brass, copper, silver, or gold. And every meal, a portion of your meal, the best portion of each meal, to the Buddha, not the burnt rice at the bottom of the pot, offer to Buddha. No, the best portion of each of your vegetables, just a little bit and offer to your Buddha, to the Dharma, and to the Sangha. Should be done daily. If you’re travelling of course, it’s an exception; if you don’t do it Buddha is not going to starve.

With compassion, always encourage others to go for refuge. Not convert, don’t go running around knocking on doors, “You want to get enlightened?” when they open the door. “You want a copy of the Lamrim? RM14.95 at all the airports.” No, no, not that type. We don’t go around converting people; open up missionaries. Run to South Africa, run around the forest. Can you see me running around the forest with the arrows and the poison arrows running around saying, “Lamrim, Lamrim, Lamrim?” No, not that way.

People who are already practising to encourage them by praise, encourage them by health, assistance, materially, emotionally, encouraging especially by your own practice and your own example; that’s the best way. When we go to the Dharma centre, and someone goes, “What do you want?” “Bye,” we go to the next Dharma centre if we go. I know a lady who’s gone to 48 Dharma centres, really, because she wasn’t very happy with the first, second, third, all the way up to the 48th. She’s been to 48 Dharma centres; can you believe it? I’m the 49th. And I’m telling her to go away. Yes, it’s not a joke. To encourage others, especially I feel this vow, by your own example, not by a lot of talk.

Number ten; remembering the benefits of refuge again and again. Can anyone remember the benefit of refuge? Can anyone? If we take refuge, what are the benefits? Can anyone name one or two? Wow, a lot of hands. Can anyone remember any of the benefits of taking refuge? Okay, the eight benefits.

Yes, the first one is you become a true Buddhist. A true-blue Buddhist. You get a badge; you get a certificate and a ribbon. You’re a real Buddhist. Ms Hui will give you the badge and ribbon.

You become a candidate for all the vows.

You will use up all your obscuration acquired from previously accumulated karma. All your negative karma from your previous lives will slowly be completely destroyed when you take refuge.

You will easily accumulate a huge amount of merits, a huge amount of good karma.

In order that you fulfil your spiritual and material, temporary and ultimate wishes, you will not be bothered by the harmful actions of humans or creatures, spirits, demons, black magic, spells, ghosts, goblins, Casper the friendly ghost, nobody can bother you anymore, no one, once you’ve taken refuge. How can they bother you? When they come to harm you, you practise compassion. How? How can any spirits harm you?

When they come, and you practise meditation, and you practise compassion and love. You feel sorry for them; they can feel it. No more. Someone sends some bomohs, chants things in front of your house; the minute you take refuge, his effect becomes nothing. Nothing is more supreme than the Buddha because he is free of all delusion, free of all suffering, he is free of all fears. When we take refuge in a being that is free from all fears, how can we have any fears come to us?

Rinpoche making offerings to Lord Buddha in the sacred Mahabodhi Temple.

Rinpoche making offerings to Lord Buddha in the sacred Mahabodhi Temple.

You will not fall to the lower realms by taking refuge. You will not be born in one of the hells, as an animal, as a spirit, you will not because by taking refuge, you will avoid the very actions that take you down there, very obvious.

You will effortlessly achieve all your temporary and long-term aims, and you will soon be enlightened.

Those are the eight benefits, eight main benefits, but the benefits are actually hundreds, which we will not have time for. Many benefits. How do you take refuge? You can take it officially with your teacher. You can request it, you can ask for it. Once you ask for refuge, there are a few things you must remember.

Once you’ve taken refuge from that teacher, you and the teacher are sealed. They are your Guru, and you are the disciple, and you should act accordingly, which is what we will talk about next. That’s why I hardly ever give out refuge because I’m far from being qualified.

Number two, once you have taken refuge, you must hold these twelve vows, which I will leave at the centre for people. You must hold these twelve vows. If you take refuge verbally, and you don’t hold the vows, and you don’t hold the Ten Avoidances, what’s the use of taking refuge? You swear to be a wonderful and sincere beneficial doctor, not to think about money, position and power, and the minute you get out, you’re taking coffee money, left, right, and centre. How?

So, when you take refuge, you should hold the twelve avoidances of the refuge vows which I’ve talked about, and within that, Ten Avoidances. One should actually take this piece of paper. This piece of paper will be better than any Dharma statue, any Dharma text that you can get. If you get this paper, you should get the letters written in gold, frame it, and keep it on your altar. Read it daily, think about it, meditate, and contemplate, and hold it and fulfil it. That is what is going to take you to enlightenment. Not a lot of ridiculous rituals that you never understand. You don’t even know how many arms that deity has; forget what to do with that deity. Some of us can’t even remember the prayers and mantras, although we’ve been told many times. This is what counts, holding the vows. Holding the vows is the basis.

When we actually take daily refuge, we sit, we relax, and we visualise in front of us the Buddha Shakyamuni or our meditational deity. It may be Tara, it may be Tsongkhapa, and it may be Avalokiteshvara, may be Guanyin, Chenrezig, may be Dzambala. Whatever we think is in front of us on the throne, sitting on the lotus and sun, we visualise. Let’s take Buddha Shakyamuni, who’s inseparable from our teacher, our sifu.

The Mahayana psychology is wonderful because usually, people we hate we stick in the back, people we like we put in the front. In Mahayana, the psychology is reversed: people you don’t like are put in the front, you stare at them. You’re made to stare at them. People you don’t like, your enemies, the people that curse you, harm you, try to nag you, bother you, and really are bothersome, you keep them in the front.

The people you like, your relatives, your benefactors, you keep in the back and try to develop less attachment. It doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate them. And just because they are further back, it doesn’t mean they don’t get the Buddha’s blessings, or less or diluted.

Then your mother is on your left; your father is on your right. Whether they’re alive or not doesn’t matter. Whether they are Buddhist or not doesn’t matter. Your mother here, your father here, appreciation. This is the most precious thing in your life. So, you should share with the people you love, whether they like it or not. If they don’t like it, don’t say, “Hey mum, you’re in my meditation on refuge.” Mother here, father here, loved ones in the back, enemies in the front, all facing up to Lord Buddha, and all beings of the six realms: hell, animals, spirits, humans, demigods, gods, devas, and the Asuras. Asuras will be the demigods in English. All around you in the form of humans, taking refuge completely in the Buddha.

And as you take refuge and recite the words “I take refuge in the Guru, I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, I take refuge in the Sangha”; as you recite the words, you should visualise everybody around you simultaneously repeating those words, simultaneously. It doesn’t matter if they are Buddhist or not; it doesn’t make a difference at this point. It is a sense of giving, sharing, selflessness, and thinking of others before oneself; that’s the point here. That’s Mahayana psychology. That is Buddhist psychology.

So, you take refuge, and after that, you should go one step further and recite the refuge vows and try to hold it. And from that day on, after you recite the words “I take refuge in the Guru, I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, and I take refuge in the Sangha,” in Chinese, Sanskrit, Tibetan, doesn’t matter. “Namo Guru Beh, Namo Buddha Ya, Namo Dharma Ya, Namo Sangha Ya.” Then something pat, something pat, something pat, in Chinese, I can’t remember. I know there are a lot fatts and pats. In any case, whatever you like, Chinese, Sanskrit, whatever you recite, but the feeling must be here. I will abandon negative actions. I will increase virtuous actions. And you trust the Buddha.

And from that day on, you take refuge, and you have faith in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, pat, pat, pat. After you’ve taken the refuge, then you relax. Any negative karma comes, you just say pat, pat, pat, Buddha, Buddha, Buddha; you just think and take it with dignity, no matter how difficult it is. And don’t react back anymore, don’t shout back. Decrease your negativity, stop your negative actions after that.

And then take it again the next day, take refuge again the next day, take refuge again and again. Even if you don’t take it officially with a Lama, it doesn’t matter. It has nothing to do with rituals and ceremonies, and names and bells, and all that. It has nothing to do with all that. It has everything to do with transforming your mind.

So, you take your refuge one day, two days, three days, four days, five days. You should change more and more, and hold your vows better and better, that is refuge. Take refuge, do refuge, enter refuge, hold the vows, and know the benefits, understand the benefits, think about it again and again. That is refuge.

 

Go to Part 3: The Qualities of a Guru

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Without Guru Devotion, One Cannot Get Enlightened

H.E. the 25th Tsem Rinpoche and the throne of Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, his root guru from whom he had received tremendous amounts of teachings.

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche and the throne of Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, his root guru from whom he received tremendous amounts of teachings.

Refuge is finished; we’re going to start guru devotion. We’re going to start with ‘How to supplicate your lama and your guru’. Isn’t this wonderful and fabulous? Two subjects in one day. So we can put all these books away, and then we’ll bring all these books here. Isn’t that wonderful? So half of the pile is gone. How to supplicate the guru? How to supplicate the teacher? Today is a Sunday. I realise (tomorrow) you have to go to work, so please bear with me again. Yes, yes everybody stand up, stretch your legs. I’m Jane Fonda. Come on, stand up.

We’re going to talk about a very controversial, a very important, a very, the pith of the Buddhist practice, or how we go about Buddhist practice, which is actually guru devotion with the teachings on how to devote oneself to a spiritual teacher correctly. Not fanatically, not disrespectfully, not either of the extremes. But how to devote oneself to the spiritual teacher, why we devote ourselves to them, how to do it, the reasons, the effects, and if you do it wrong, the disbenefits.

We’re going to talk about that briefly. Of course, I would like to go two or three days into these teachings, but I don’t think any of you can manage that. So, we’re going to try to fit it in a short time span. So, being that it’s Sunday, I think today we didn’t have to work, although we’ve been out here and there, please try to pay attention. Please try not to get bored. Think about it. Try to understand it and try to think about it. And please keep your mind open. And we’ll try to destroy any wrong concepts or any kind of wrong information that you have implanted in your minds before this. And without this practice, one will not be able to gain enlightenment. That is for sure. Without the practice of guru devotion or devotion to one’s teacher, one definitely cannot get to enlightenment. Why? I will explain. It might sound a little extreme. After I’m finished, it won’t be extreme at all.

There were many, many great Mahasiddhas in ancient India. Many, many Mahasiddhas. Maha means ‘great’, and siddha is ‘accomplished one’. Accomplished in what? In ordinary powers such as clairvoyance, flying, seeing into the future, controlling the elements, etc. etc. But more, a Mahasiddha that has attained bodhicitta and the realisation of Sunyata, who is near enlightenment, or enlightened. A Mahasiddha is an ordinary being who has become enlightened. So, in this book called Masters of Enchantment, it gives you many, many examples of great practitioners in the past who have devoted themselves to their spiritual masters: some great scholars, some great erudite pandits, and great scholars, some ordinary housewives, some ordinary househusbands, who just followed their gurus well and became enlightened. Either way, this book expresses the importance of guru devotion and how people became enlightened in the past due to guru devotion.

I want to tell you a short, short little story, and on that, I will base the teachings, base it or describe about it. It is called ‘Bhadrapa the Snob’. In ancient India there were many, many castes. And the highest of the castes were the Brahmin castes. Those castes were especially involved in doing religious practice. They remain clean, they cannot drink alcohol, go near pork, they cannot go to dirty places, they cannot associate themselves with lower castes like the sweepers and the washers and meat sellers and wine sellers. All those low castes, they cannot touch them, they cannot be near them, they cannot speak to them, they cannot have these people come to their environment, to their house, to their place, lest they become ritually dirty, or they become defiled. So, this was the belief in ancient India, and this is one of the beliefs that the Buddha himself tried to destroy.

Click to enlarge

Mahasiddha Bhadrapa
Click to enlarge

So, the caste system. Well, we had this caste system all over the world based on skin colour, race, background, material, and one’s station in life. We have castes all over the world, except we have not labelled it. In India, in ancient times, the caste system was very strong. So, Brahmins were the highest of the castes, rigtosho, so we say highest of the castes, which is they cannot go near lower castes. They cannot drink wine, they must do their devotions, they are the ones in charge for the populous, to take care of all their religious devotions in the Hindu tradition. And they cannot touch pork, wine, menstruating women cannot get near them, pregnant, pregnancies, or births, anything cannot go near them. They must remain very clean, their clothes; everything about them must be very clean. And in fact, they have to remain ritually clean, if they do not remain clean in that way, as I have mentioned, they will be excommunicated from the community, which is a great shame, and they will have nothing to do after that. So Bhadrapa, which is literally in Hindi, ‘the snob’, about this Mahasiddha who was a great Brahmin of the highest caste.

Deluded vision can only be purified by a clear vision of emptiness. Deluded behaviour can only be purified by contemplating loving kindness. Meditation leads to the realisation that reality is all things made one. And the goal is the pervasiveness of one taste.

Long ago in the kingdom of Manidhara, there lived a very proper, high-minded Brahmin who possessed untold riches. So conservative was his practice that not only had he never consumed pork or strong drink, he had never even spoken the words. That’s how fanatical he was about his practice. No menstruating women were allowed anywhere in his environment lest he become defiled, and he would not think of risking his ritual purity by any manual labour or by coming into contact with filth or excrement. He wouldn’t dare it.

Nevertheless, despite his wealth and position in society and the strictness of his observances, he constantly worried about how he appeared in the eyes of others.He was obsessed with maintaining his image untarnished. Obsessed.

One day, when his aristocratic Brahmin friends had gone out to perform their ablution rituals, he found himself alone in the house. When a dishevelled yogin with matted hair appeared on his doorstep, begging for food, he was forced to speak to the yogin himself. In a desperate panic to get rid of the mendicant, to get rid of that yogin, before anyone saw him, he ran towards the yogin, waving his hand and shouting, “Out, out, out! You are unclean! You defile my house! Get out!”

And he was trying to do it quickly and get rid of this matted-haired, lice-ridden, dirty, ugly, old yogin. To get him out before someone saw him and defiled him, and he would be excommunicated. He was so worried.

And as he was waving and shouting, the yogin said to him, very coolly and very calmly, “What do you mean unclean?” asked the yogin, very coolly. “What do I mean by unclean?” said the Brahmin, observing his unwanted guest with a sneer. “What do I mean by unclean? I mean unwashed for years. Wearing filthy rags. Carrying a food bowl made of a human skull and stinking like rotten garbage. That’s what I mean. And you are quite obviously from a very low caste. Now, please go before any of my friends see you.”

The yogin stayed right where he was and gazed at the Brahmin unwaveringly. “That is not unclean,” he said softly. “That is not unclean, but I will tell you what is: viciousness in speech, mind, and action. That is unclean. The subtle defilements of the mind. Those are unclean. None of these can be removed by a ritual bathing. Soap cannot cleanse the mind and heart. Only the pure bath of the guru’s instruction can clean away such impurities.”

Seeing that the Brahmin was listening to him intently, the yogin sang him this song:

“Neither priest nor king is the highest of beings,
Only the bodhisattvas.
No amount of scrubbing
Can cleanse body, speech and mind,
Only the precepts of the lineal guru
Give matchless purity.
No rich man’s feast of milk, cheese, and curd,
Tastes the most sublime,
Only desirelessness sets the best table.”

Source: Dowman, Keith, Masters of Enchantment: The Lives and Legends of the Mahasiddhas. Arkana; 1989. p. 123-124.

The Brahmin was gaining confidence in this yogin by the minute and begged for instructions. And the yogin said, “Okay give me food, and I’ll give you instructions.” And, “Very well, very well,” said the Brahmin, “Okay, I’ll give you some food.” But he suddenly remembered how he would look among his friends if he got caught giving food to a low caste, dirty, garbage-ridden, lice-ridden, smelly mendicant. He says, “Okay, okay, okay, I’ll give you food, but my friends have no faith. If they see me, I’ll be excommunicated. Let me come to your place and give it to you.”

“Okay,” said the yogi, “I hang out at the cremation ground, where they chop up the bodies and burn them.” As he was walking away, “Meet me there tonight.” Then he stopped for a minute, and in deep thought, he said, “And by the way, when you come along, bring some pork and liquor.”

And Bhadrapa freaked out. Literally, he freaked out. “Bring some pork and liquor when I come?” He was horrified. “I can’t do that; what if someone sees me?” And the yogin said, “Well, if you want Dharma, bring pork and liquor and meet me at the cremation ground,” and he walked away.

So Bhadrapa was very worried. His image, his name, all that he stands for, his caste, the disgrace if he got caught. “Alright then,” said the Brahmin, “but I won’t be there before nightfall. I’ll be there after nightfall.” So the yogin shrugged and said, “Okay,” and walked away. The Brahmin was in a quandary. How was he going to procure these two unmentionable items that the yogin demanded? It would cause a social scandal if he got caught. Even mentioning the names, forget going out and buying it himself.

Cremation ground in Varanasi, India

Cremation ground in Varanasi, India

Finally, he hit upon a wonderful plan. He would disguise himself as a low-caste servant and shop undetected. Although the very idea disgusted him, he pulled it off successfully. After dark, he made his way steadily, slowly, to the cremation ground with the forbidden provisions, pork and liquor. The guru welcomed him to his little hovel. The hovel was made of mud, faeces, excrement, and urine mixed together and thrown onto bamboo. And he lived in that kind of hovel, which is just, you can imagine what Bhadrapa was feeling. The guru welcomed him to his hovel, prepared a supper and insisted that the Brahmin share it with him, asked him to come to the cremation ground, told him to bring the two unmentionables, go inside a bunch of faeces and urine, and eat the pork and liquor that he had brought along. How do you like that? And insisted that the Brahmin share it with him.

After the Brahmin shared with him, the guru initiated his high caste guest into the mandala, gave him initiation, gave him a Dharma talk, then began a series of practices designed to break the Brahmin’s pride of caste. Pride, ego grasping, I. As a symbolic demonstration of correct vision, the new pupil was ordered to clean out his master’s latrine. A hitherto forbidden task. And when he had completed this task, he was ordered to make plaster from the usual mixture of mud, excrement, and white lime and then replaster his yogi’s hut, the guru’s hut. The guru explained that this was a symbolic demonstration of correct action. The white colour of the lime represented the sameness of all things, which is the object of correct meditation. Unattachment, detachment.

When the Brahmin had done all the things to his master’s satisfaction, the guru told him that all these acts symbolise the goal of practice, whereupon the Brahmin suddenly understood that vision, meditation, and actions were all one and the same. He realised emptiness. That all phenomena were both the same and equal. Then and there he forsook his caste, he gave up his prejudices, to join his guru to become a yogi.

After six years of intensive meditation and service to his guru, designed to break his most destructive delusions, the most strongest delusions, pride, after six years of meditation, he achieved Mahamudra-siddhi, or enlightenment, and became renowned far and wide as the yogin Bhadrapa, the auspicious teacher. For the remainder of his life, he worked selflessly for others, and when the time came for him to be assumed into the Paradise of the Dakinis, five hundred disciples were able to go up with Bhadrapa without leaving their bodies, flying up into the sky and going up to Buddha’s heaven directly.

How skilfully the guru changed him. How skilfully the guru converted him. How skilfully the guru destroyed his pride, broke down his ego, cut away at his attachments and brought him to total freedom. How did this person start out? This story can apply to a lot of us who have ego and pride. A lot of us. And each Mahasiddha here expresses a different type of attachment.

This one is called ‘Sarvabhaksa, (The Empty Bellied Siddha)’, at breakfast, he thought about lunch, and while having lunch, he thought about dinner. At dinner, he thought about breakfast; at breakfast, he thought about lunch; and at lunch, he thought about dinner. It was a vicious cycle. He became enlightened. It’s wonderful. It’s a fabulous story. Each one of these afflictions are different types of Mahasiddhas who have become enlightened. One should try to obtain this book. One should try to get it and try to read through it. It will be very inspiring – one of them.

 

The Importance of Having a Teacher

The young teenage Tsem Rinpoche assisting his guru, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, in the United States.

A teenage Tsem Rinpoche assisting his guru, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, in the United States.

Now, it is said, during the time in ordinary life, in ordinary situations, whenever we want to learn anything, whenever we want to advance in anything, whenever we want to achieve anything, we must have someone to show us, we must have someone to guide us, we must have someone to lead the way. If we respect that person, if we talk nicely and we are polite… (INAUDIBLE) praises you, you will not be overwhelmed by the praise; you will not be devastated by the criticism. One will perceive, one will learn very fast, faster than someone else who fights back, who shows no respect, who doesn’t listen, who does the opposite of the teacher.

In ordinary life, for ordinary ways, in your ordinary situations, one must have a teacher. In fact, everything we have learned is because of our teachers. Whether the teacher was our parents, at school, an uncle, etc. we have had to have a teacher in order to learn, to get to our place now. Now, that is for ordinary life, which is for 60, 70, 80 years.

Now, for spiritual life, in which you want enlightenment, where the roads, the direction, the way, the method is much, much, much more complicated. Much, much more difficult. Much, much more longer and even dangerous at times. How can one achieve this without a teacher? How can one achieve this without a spiritual guide? How can one achieve this without a sifu? There’s no way one can achieve it without a sifu. One can read; there are many things you won’t understand. One can meditate; what does one meditate on? Without the teacher, one cannot expand, one cannot grow, one cannot ever get past or get any kind of results.

Then, for example, in this fortunate aeon, one thousand Buddhas will appear. The fourth Buddha was Shakyamuni. Before that, there were three Buddhas — Krakuchchhanda, the first one, Kanakamuni, Kashyapa. Three Buddhas, the fourth was Shakyamuni. Even after Shakyamuni, so many superior Buddhas and bodhisattvas appeared. Manjushri, Guanyin Pusa, to teach, to manifest. So many great saints and masters in China, Tibet, and Mongolia, all over the world, Jesus Christ, Muhammad. So many have appeared in the world to teach. We have never ever been able to attend their teachings. We have never ever had the fortune to listen to their teachings and, therefore, to be subdued by them, to be tamed by them. And therefore, even to practise what they have taught. We have never had that opportunity.

We, at our stage, at this point in our lives, will probably never see the Buddha. It doesn’t mean the Buddha doesn’t exist. We do not have the karmic affinity, and the karma is very strong, too strong the negative karma, in order for us to see an enlightened being. So, how can we actually get the Dharma if we cannot get the Buddha to teach? In order for wood or tinder to catch fire from the sun, we need a magnifying glass. That sun is like a Buddha, the magnifying glass is like your guru, and the tinder or the wood is like yourself. In order for that tinder or that wood to catch fire, you need to concentrate the rays of the sun, the heat of the sun, through the magnifying glass, to catch fire. The magnifying glass is like your guru, the tinder is like yourself, and the sun is like a Buddha. It works in this kind of way. Otherwise, if you stick the tinder or the wood right under the sun, it’s never going to catch fire, never ever going to catch fire.

Geshe Potawa said that the guru is like someone who gives a dying person food during a famine, whereas the Buddhas are like those who give slabs of meat in times of plenty. Suppose we had escaped poverty and had become rich; someone then gave us food and property. Similarly, we will have visions of many Buddhas, receive inspiration from them, and so on, when we have already reached higher paths. But this is no help to us while we are in our present pitiful state.

In our present pitiful state, where we can’t see the Buddhas, we cannot receive their teachings and hear from them, who is the one that is compassionate enough to teach us? Who is the one that is compassionate enough to give us guidance and to help us, to put up with our delusions, put up with our anger, to put up with our complaints, to put up with our childish problems, to listen to us, to guide us, to patiently teach us, all day into the night, free of charge, no expectations. Who is the one that actually teaches you?

During famine, when someone gives you food, when you’re poor, when someone gives you a little bit of money, and because of that, you start a business, you become very wealthy. After that, you get many patrons, you get many rich people, many come to your shop, and many people do business with you. Who is more kinder to you? The rich patrons, the high patrons, the aristocratic people who come afterwards; or that single simple person who helped you in the beginning? That single simple person is like your guru whereas the Buddhas are like the patrons that come later on. You can only see the Buddhas by practice. The practice can come only from your teacher. Without your teacher’s blessings, without your teacher’s practice, without your teacher’s instructions and giving you the Dharma, how will you ever reach a state that you can actually see the Buddhas? How can you reach a state where you actually can perceive and listen to the Buddhas directly?

Think about yourselves, how you were before you met your gurus, before you met your teachers. You were no different from the wild animals, tigers, or leopards living in the forest, except our body was called ‘a human body’. I see the last life in that way, no joking. Before meeting our guru, we were like animals, only thinking of our own needs, having enough to drink and eat and sleep. Now, we can check the difference after we have met our gurus. We can check the progress in our lives, in our minds, in our motivation, and in our thinking. How much Dharma understanding do we have now? That is how much freedom we have to practise. We have the opportunity to practice from our side; there is that much freedom. It is important to compare this present with the past ways. How were we before we met our teachers? How were we thinking? What were we focused on? What did we have aims in life? We were no different from any wild animals who ate, drank, slept, mate.

 

The Kindness of Our Teacher

In 2008, Rinpoche led a group of 61 pilgrims to powerful holy sites in Kathmandu Valley.

In 2008, Rinpoche led a group of 61 pilgrims to powerful holy sites in Kathmandu Valley.

After we met our teachers, after we received the Dharma from our teachers, not the Buddha, how did your mind change? How did you realise your mistakes? And did the guru teach you how to make money or teach you how to leave samsara, period? If he has taught you how to make money, it is something very small. If he or she has taught you Dharma, she or he has given you the method to get out of your sufferings 100% completely.

How were you before you met your gurus? How empty was your life? How purposeless was your work? How fruitless was your existence? How anxiety-filled were you, coming closer and closer to death? Since you have met your gurus, have your actions changed? Has your thinking changed? Have you seen life on a higher spectrum? Have you seen existence in a different light? Who brought that to you? Who changed that for you? It was your guru. It was your teacher. It was the ones who gave you Dharma.

And it was not in a worldly way where they expect things, want things, expect payment or want things from you. They gave it out of the motivation that you may be free, out of compassion. How kind is that person? How can we ever pay that person back even if we give over our house, our fortune, our cars, millions of dollars? How do we pay that person back? Does enlightenment have a price tag? Is there a worth, a limited worth on enlightenment, or is it limitless, the worth?

You will never ever be able to pay back the kindness that your guru has given you. Never. Your guru has taught you reality, has taught you the nature of suffering, has taught you the methods to get out of suffering, has blessed you and prayed for you and wished for you to get out of suffering without any expectations. How were you before this? How did you act, think, and what did you do before this? How much have you changed, even with one session of Dharma you have received from your guru? How can you ever pay this person back? How?

And how do we pay our gurus back? Do we pay them back by giving them money? Do we pay them back by being stingy? Do we pay them back by showing them disrespect? Do we pay them back by showing them wrong actions? Do we pay them back by talking uselessly, senselessly, asking them ridiculous worldly questions about money, finance, and relationships? How did we repay our guru back? Do you think your guru wants money, respect, name, and fame from you? If you think that, it is the wrong guru. It’s a wrong thinking. And if the guru is like that, it is not a guru.

Your guru expects payment back in the form of practice, in the form of true Dharma practice. This is the only way you can ever even attempt to pay your teacher back, you can even attempt. Not pay him back, but attempt. He teaches you on the basis of compassion. He teaches you on the basis of reality. He has spent time studying; he has spent his time for free, he has given up his pleasures, his worldly pursuits; he has given up all anxieties for money, for the position, for status, in order that he can study the Dharma, practise it, and convey it to you to change your lives.

How can we pay someone back who has given us that? How? How will you ever even get near enlightenment, or hear about karma, hear about Buddha’s teachings without the guru teaching you? How? You will never ever be able to see the Buddha. You will never ever be able to perceive the Buddha. Even if you open up a Dharma book, you will understand 10%, 15%. You will not even have the time, the energy, to read and study and meditate over and over. How will you get this without the guru? How are you now, before you have met your teacher? How were you before you have met the teacher? Think about that. This was spoken by His Eminence Zopa Rinpoche, by the way.

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Sometimes, we find it difficult with the lama. He may say to do something, and even if we do it that way, he then says no, and he says do it differently. It is so difficult to please him. We work hard in the hot sun or cold while thirsty or hungry, and for years, we bear criticism from people who complain about us, from the East, from the West, from all ten directions.

On top of that, after we explained our work to the lama, our guru, expecting a compliment, “Oh that’s very good, fantastic, thank you,” we get something else instead. We have a hard time being squeezed so much. It’s difficult to do work and not knowing exactly what to do, exactly what the lama wants. The scolding of the guru is like a wrathful mantra, purifying your hindrances and purifying your negative karma.

The conclusion is that all the hardships and criticisms become incredibly worthwhile. Why? He is destroying your ego, your attachment. Did you do the work to get a compliment? If he says do it like that, and you come back and you do it like that, and he says, no, do it the other way. If you get angry, it shows he’s mirroring your feelings. He’s mirroring your mind. He’s showing you how attached, what an angry person, impatient person you are. How kind that person is even to put up with that kind of action.

In the Lamrim, it says that if the lama shows he is pleased, it doesn’t mean that he is really pleased. Or if the lama shows he is displeased, it doesn’t mean that he is really displeased. Maybe his mind is actually pleased, but he has to show displeasure for some purpose. This is what a skilful, perfect, real guru does.

When the lama gives, it’s like this, so you can’t really judge. When you think, “Oh, my lama’s manifesting like this, now I’m going to be completely berserk.” It doesn’t mean that he is necessarily displeased. Perhaps he’s testing you. The more we think of these good qualities, the more our wrong thoughts are obscured, cut down. You see, it’s common to be able to see many good qualities that we don’t have ourselves in someone else. And when we see these qualities, we can’t find fault at the same time, so it’s a puzzle sometimes, seeing fault and then these good qualities. It is seeing these qualities that, however, stops the thought of finding fault from arising.

As the great Lama Tsongkhapa said,

“The more we see good qualities, the less we see mistakes in others, as smaller and weaker their faults become.”

How do we know what we’re seeing is reliable? How do we know we’re reliable? Forget a guru who may be meditationally advanced and shows different aspects to you. Angry, not angry, happy, sad, enjoying, not enjoying, relaxing, studying, showing you different aspects. Forget a guru who is properly potentially very advanced in his meditation. Even an ordinary person, when we meet them, we don’t know. We cannot trust our judgement, whether they are doing right or wrong. Sometimes, when we see someone, we think, oh very bad, very mean, not a nice person. When we talk to them, we find out they’re a very nice person. And vice versa.

 

The Good Qualities of Our Teacher

Rinpoche giving teaching at Kechara House, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche giving a teaching at Kechara House, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

How can we judge a guru by what he’s doing exactly? How can we judge? What we’re trying to say is, how can you depend on your limited abilities to judge? How can you depend? How do you know your guru is not enlightened, manifesting in an ordinary way? How do you know your guru is not Buddha Shakyamuni’s emanation? How do you know that your guru has not the best intentions for you? How do you know? How can you make that differentiation? How can you judge? Cannot.

We have oceans and oceans of mistakes. We have a few very good qualities. Looking at ourselves, honestly, in terms of your few qualities, obscured by all your mistakes so that you see only your good qualities, this is how your mind has been trained to see yourself. Even with all your negative qualities, all your negative traits, all your bad qualities and delusions, still you have trained yourself to see yourself in a good way. So, if you look at the guru in the same way, your mind can be trained to develop guru devotion similarly. And I’m sure your personal gurus have much more good qualities than you for you to base your training on.

The great Kache Yeshe Gyaltsen stated,

“I am so fortunate to be able to find even a few qualities in a guru. Even my impure mind is able to see these many qualities. How many qualities must be seen by someone who is pure?”

Think of how many non-virtuous thoughts arise in each day. Your mind is constantly overwhelmed by negative karma and disturbing thoughts, which obscure your mind and create obstacles. Think! With a mind so heavily obscured by impure karma, impure view; it is a miracle that you see anything pure in your guru at all. It is incredible. With so much negative karma, with so much suffering, with so many delusions and illusions and ignorance, it’s incredible that you can see one or two good qualities of your guru at all. How can you judge your teacher, then? Then, one who teaches you the path to enlightenment. How can you, on a logical basis?

 

The Promise We Made to Our Teacher

H.E. the 25th Tsem Rinpoche (right) greeting the current Kyabje Zong Choktrul Rinpoche (left) in 2006.

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche (right) greeting the current Kyabje Zong Chocktrul Rinpoche (left) in 2006.

No one has asked you, no one has put a gun to your head and said, “This is your guru.” You make the choice. You examine. You check out his qualities, which we’ll talk about shortly. You check out, does he have the qualifications to be a guru? Do you have an affinity? Do you have faith and confidence? No one is forcing you. No one is making you. No guru is saying, “Come, come, come, be my disciple.” No one.

Once you have made a choice, it is sealed. You must follow the proper conduct of a guru and disciple. The proper conduct. No two ways about it. No leniency. Do you want enlightenment? Do you need the Dharma? Do you need the Dharma? You need the guru. If you have a guru, you must follow the conduct with a spiritual teacher. If your piano teacher comes, and you beat them, and you cough at them, sneeze at them, you point your feet at them, you punch them, you shout at them, you scream at them, you tell them all your problems, I don’t think they’re going to come back the next day unless they’re crazy of course. How about your guru, who teaches you enlightenment?

When you make a promise to your guru, it should be kept. You are not making a promise to an ordinary person, to an ordinary being. You are making a promise to a person who is holding the 253 Pratimoksha vows, who studies and practises Dharma 24 hours a day, who meditates, who prays, who teaches, who has the blessings of the Buddhas. In Manjushri’s tantra, he quotes, “In the future, the Buddhas will appear in ordinary form – in the form of your gurus.”

If he appears in his regular form, how will you see him? Can you see the Buddha? Can you see Shakyamuni? Can you see Guanyin? Can you see Manjushri? Can you see? Cannot. If you cannot see and hear them, how will you get the teachings? If they manifest in a very high form, you cannot see them. If they manifest in a very low form, it’s of no benefit to you (like a bridge, like a dog). Of course, there are manifestations out there; they have the power to manifest, to benefit. But they manifest in a medium form, in the form of an ordinary human being with their so-called ‘problems’, with their so-called ‘delusions and faults’, so that they can be closer to you. So that you can relate to them easier. So that they can use themselves as an example for you to show you how you can also improve, that you have hope also.

If a guru manifested perfectly, doesn’t touch the ground, walks three cubits up from the ground, is floating, has a halo around him, never smells, doesn’t have to take a bath, how will you ever think? “Oh, I can’t get near that. That’s not accomplishable by me.” If you have a Buddha or an enlightened being who manifests in an ordinary way, in a simple way, in a way that you can relate to, with all the so-called problems that you have, and start it off the same way you did and gradually improve; it is inspiring, it is moving, it is excellent for us, it is an example, it’s exemplary.

Generally, even the appearance of purity or beauty, in the sense objects, depends on your karma or your mind. Since the appearance of everything depends on your mind, on your karma, there is no way for a Buddha to manifest other than according to your karma. There is no other way for you to see the Buddha. Now, since your karma is impure, you can see this by thinking about even one day of your life. The only way a Buddha can manifest is in an ordinary form, which means having mistakes and delusions according to your karma.

A glass of water will be seen by a spirit. They will see it according to karma as putrid, as mucus, as urine, undrinkable because of their karma. A human being will see the water as an object to drink. The gods will see it as nectar, according to their karma. Likewise, when we see one person, one person will like them, another person will hate them, another person will have neutral feelings. It is not that object, it is not that person; it is your karma that forces you to see it that way, this way or that way.

Even if the Buddha manifests in a pure way, you will see impurities. Like Devadatta, who saw Buddha as impure all the time, tried to kill him, tried to murder him, tried to defame him. Of course, it cannot be successful. Even if the Buddha, even if your gurus are perfect, you will not be able to perceive it. You see them as imperfect. Why? Because your karma is imperfect. Because your obscurities and your ignorance are deep. So you will always see your gurus as imperfect, even if your guru is perfect.

Arya Asanga who meditated on Maitreya Buddha for twelve years. Click to enlarge.

Arya Asanga who meditated on Maitreya Buddha for 12 years.
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The great Arya Asanga meditated on Maitreya Buddha for 12 years. After 12 years of meditation, when he finally left his cave to give up, he saw a dog filled with maggots outside. After 12 years of meditation on Maitreya Buddha, which is compassion, which is love. Gyalwa Jampa, Maitreya means love. Maitri is love in Sanskrit. He saw a dog outside filled with maggots. Out of great compassion, he didn’t dare just take the maggots off and kill them. He also didn’t dare to leave it there because it was hurting the dog. So, he cut a piece of his flesh so that the maggots have something to eat, not starve to death, and then bent down and licked the maggots off, one by one, with his tongue. If he used his hands, he would crush them and kill them. Out of great compassion, he licked the maggots off the dog and put it on, with his eyes closed, with all the blood and the pus and the smell rotten. Licking one maggot and putting it on his own flesh that he has cut off.

Then, after licking it for a few minutes, the dog wasn’t there. He opened his eyes, Maitreya Buddha was standing in front of him. And he shouted at Maitreya Buddha out of frustration, “I meditated on you for 12 years. Where were you? Where have you been? Why do you come now?” And Maitreya Buddha said, “I have been with you for all 12 years. Due to your karmic obscurations, you could not see me. You had one last karmic obscuration left that was purified. I manifested myself as a dog ridden with maggots to see your compassion. The minute you were able to develop that compassion, the last vestige of your negative karma was purified.

Now you can see me. If you do not believe me, pick me up and take me to the market and see who sees me.” Arya Asanga took Maitreya and put him on his shoulders and proudly took him into town and said, “Hey everybody, look at Maitreya Buddha!” Some people saw an old maggot-ridden dog. Some people didn’t see anything. One old woman, who had slightly good karma, saw the foot of Maitreya only. Just the foot. A golden, beautiful, lotus-like foot glowing. And then Arya Asanga was convinced.

You cannot trust your senses. Cannot trust. You don’t know what your guru is. He may look, she may look like an ordinary person, an ordinary being, sick, getting hungry, maybe he’s getting sick in order to let you practise compassion and kindness. Maybe he is poor to help you practise charity. Maybe he shows anger to teach you patience. To see if you have patience, if you can develop it.

How do you know his actions are not a reflection of your own actions? How do you know? You cannot judge your eyes. You cannot judge your faulty eyes, your faulty mind, and your faulty decisions. You cannot. From morning to night, how many faulty decisions do we make? How can we trust ourselves? It would be better to assume that our guru is a Buddha than to make the drastic mistake to think he is not the Buddha.

 

The Reflection of Deluded States of Mind is Unreliable

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The guru is made up of four elements: SA (ས་) earth, CHU (ཆུ་) water, ME (མེ་) fire, LUNG (རླུང་) air. The statues are made up of four elements: earth, air, water, and fire. This is not a Buddha. This is a representative of the Buddha. This Buddha cannot eat, he cannot move, he cannot teach, he cannot feel, he cannot console you. He just sits there stiffly, staring at you, waiting for more offerings. Whereas if you can visualise this as the guru, as the Buddha, why can’t you visualise your guru as the actual living Buddha? They’re made of the same materials.

In fact, your guru would be a much better visualisation because he can actually eat what you offer to him, therefore collecting merit. He can actually console you. When you request for Dharma, he can actually teach you. He can actually guide you and help you. The guru is no other but Buddha. Buddha Shakyamuni, in the form of Vajradhara, has preached and has predicted in the time of degenerate times,

“In the degenerate times in the future, I will manifest in the form of ordinary monks, ordinary teachers, to guide, to teach you, to help you, to assist you.”

He has already predicted. That was predicted by Buddha Vajradhara himself, which is just Shakyamuni’s other name, just another name. It was Buddha Vajradhara himself who said that your spiritual teacher is to be seen as the Buddha.

Therefore, if you have faith and take refuge in the Buddha’s teachings, you will try to understand what Buddha meant by this statement. Buddhas exert a great positive influence on the world in the same way as does the sun. But just as the magnifying glass is needed to focus the rays of the sun in order for the tinder to catch fire, so too a spiritual teacher is required to focus the Buddha’s enlightening influence onto the disciples’ mind stream and inspire them to follow a spiritual path. Thus, as living examples representing the Buddhas, spiritual teachers carry on the work of all enlightened beings, acting as an accessible focal point for your practice to gain Buddhahood yourself.

If your spiritual teacher acts in a seemingly unenlightened manner, and you feel it would be hypocritical to think him or her a Buddha, you should remember your own opinions are unreliable and that the apparent faults you may see may be a reflection of your own deluded states of mind. Also, you should think that if your spiritual teacher acted in a completely perfect manner, he or she would be inaccessible, and you would be unable to relate to him or her. It is therefore, out of your spiritual teacher’s great compassion that he or she may show apparent flaws. This is part of his or her skilful means of teaching you. Your teacher is mirroring your own faults; therefore, check within and learn how to remove your shortcomings. If you are only intent on criticising your teacher, you will never be able to benefit from him or her (or finding faults only).

Through a wholehearted commitment to your spiritual teacher, showing respect, serving him or her, making offerings, you build up a positive potential that would allow you to become liberated from all your sufferings. Such service is done not to benefit your teacher but for your own sake. When you plant seeds in a field, it is not to benefit the earth, it is to benefit yourself. You will harvest the crops.

Therefore, with a proper committed attitude towards your spiritual teacher, seeing him or her as a Buddha, the positive energy you exert in his or her direction, the closer you become towards Buddhahood itself. Likewise, if you hate your spiritual teacher, generate negative energy toward him or her, you are deliberately casting yourself away from his or her state of enlightenment and freedom from pain, which he or she represents. As a result, you bring intense suffering upon yourself. Therefore, if you see faults in your spiritual teacher and tend to belittle him or her, remember that your opinions are unreliable, and only unhappiness can result from despising the state of happiness he or she represents.

 

Commentary on 50 Verses of Guru Devotion

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Remember your spiritual teacher’s kindness to teach you during this degenerate age after Buddha Shakyamuni has passed away. You must develop loving respect for him or her. Your teacher guides you despite your delusions and does not force you to undergo very difficult hardships like Milarepa and others have had to endure in the past. He or she gives you initiations, oral teachings, transmits the unbroken lineage of Dharma coming from the Buddha.

Your spiritual teacher inspires you to attain the state and helps you materially when you need it. If you lack loving respect for your teacher, it is impossible to become enlightened. If you do not have respect for the state of Buddhahood he represents, how can you attain what you do not respect, what you despise, what you belittle?

These various aspects of committing yourself wholeheartedly to your spiritual teacher by means of your thoughts are taught extensively in texts such as the Gandavyuha Sutra, by the Buddha. These points and their scriptural references are found in detail in the Lamrim by Je Tsongkhapa, which is based on that sutra spoken by the Buddha. The Gurupanchashika, by Ashvaghosha, this text was written 400 years after Buddha passed away. Its scriptural sources are a wide range of texts, including the Guhyasamaja, Kalachakra, Chakrasamvara, Vajradakini, Vajra-hrdayalamkara Tantras. The specific tantric sources for each verse are given in the Lama Ngachupa, or this commentary.

What they are trying to say is, this text is not something, again, made up by the Tibetan lamas. The original source was Buddha. Redefined, re-commentated on, and respoken on by Buddha’s disciples later on. The actual source is Buddha Vajradhara himself, Buddha. Later on, commentated, in many scriptural sources and condensed into a very nice, small, and easy to read, easy to study text based on the sutra written by Buddha, the Gandavyuha Sutra by the Buddha. It has a scriptural source. Any Dharma talk, any Dharma teaching, any information from the Buddha must have a scriptural source. It must originate from the Buddha. If it does not, it is unreliable. We cannot teach it. It must have a source. This is the source of this text.

So, it has 50 verses that we should recite every day, 50 stanzas. Each stanza has a commentary under it. Of course, you don’t need to read the commentary, but you should read the stanzas every day. It is very important.

(1) Bowing in the proper way to the lotus feet of my spiritual teacher, who is the cause for me to attain the glorious state of Vajrasattva. I shall condense and explain in brief what has been said in many stainless tantric texts about wholehearted commitment to the spiritual teacher. Listen with respect — first stanza.

(2) All the Buddhas residing in every land in the ten directions have prostrated three times (each day) to their tantric masters from whom they have received the highest empowerments. (Is there a need to mention that you should too?)

(3) Three times each day, with supreme faith, you must show the respect you have for your spiritual teacher, who teaches you by pressing your palms together, offering a mandala as well as flowers, and prostrating and touching your head to his feet.

As a disciple, you must regard your spiritual teacher as an enlightened being. Even from his own point of view, he is not enlightened, and you, his disciple, have gained Buddhahood before him, you must still show him respect and pay homage. Because it is because of him you have become enlightened. Thus, learning from a spiritual teacher should not be like killing a deer, and extracting its musk and then discarding its corpse. After you have made use of your teacher, you just throw them out. No need anymore, don’t want anymore, don’t care. “I’m enlightened. Goodbye.” Wrong. Your enlightenment will go down. You will never get enlightened.

Thus, learning from a spiritual teacher should not be like killing a deer, and extracting its musk, and then discarding its corpse. Even after attaining enlightenment, you still must continue to honour your teacher who made all your achievements possible. In all your representations of Guanyin Pusa, in our country and in China, always Guanyin has Amitabha in her hair. Why? Amitabha is her spiritual guru, is her teacher. Even though she is enlightened, and she is completely free, how does she become enlightened? On the basis of her sifu. Therefore, she keeps her sifu always on the top of her hair wherever she goes, to let you know that she has become enlightened because of her sifu. Always.

Even the Buddhas still, when they become a Buddha, respect their sifu. How about us who are not enlightened? Who are far away from enlightenment. Who still need their instructions, the nectar-like instructions from our teacher, to become enlightened. How much must we respect our teacher if Guanyin respects hers and she is already enlightened?

Although enlightened, Guanyin, also known as Chenrezig in Tibetan, still shows respect to her guru Amitabha as symbolised on her head.

Although enlightened, Guanyin, also known as Chenrezig in Tibetan, still shows respect to her guru Amitabha as symbolised on her head.
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(4) If you hold ordination vows and (your guru) is a layman or your junior, (in public) prostrate while facing such things …

What happens is if your teacher is a lay person and you’re a monk or a nun, and you’re in public, you should not prostrate to him/her directly; prostrate to an object near him like a stupa or a Manjushri statue or a Buddha statue, to avoid worldly scorn because they do not understand. But in your heart, you prostrate to your teacher. Of course, in private, it’s different.

(5) As for serving (your guru) and showing him respect, such as obeying what he says.

If he tells you not to do something negative, you must stop. If he gives you a certain advice, and you have asked for it, you must comply and do. If you make a promise to your teacher, you must fulfil it. If you do not comply, fulfil, or do, don’t ask. If you ask, you comply and fulfil. If you comply and fulfil, you will get the benefits of serving your guru, who is a Buddha. It would be the same effect as serving the Buddha because you have visualised him as the Buddha, and he is the representative of the Buddha. And in his actions, he is teaching you and doing all the actions of a Buddha because you cannot see the Buddha yourself.

Standing up when he comes. Showing him to his seat. These should be done even by those with ordination vows. Avoid prostrating and unorthodox actions in public, such as washing his feet, if he is a layperson.

(6) In order for the words of honour of neither the spiritual teacher nor the disciple to degenerate, there must be a mutual examination beforehand (to determine if each can) brave the teacher-disciple relationship.

No one has forced you. You check out the teacher first. You see if he is someone that you can actually have confidence in, take refuge in, that you can actually follow, you can gain, he has the requirements that can help you to become an enlightened being. Does he or she? That is your choice. No one has forced you.

A fully qualified guru must have these qualifications: a mind that is controlled by moral discipline, practice of moral discipline; a mind that has become peaceful and undistracted through the practice of concentration; reduced self-grasping through the practice of wisdom; greater knowledge than the disciple; delight in teaching the Dharma; a wealth of scriptural knowledge; deep and stable realisation of emptiness; great skill in explaining the Dharma; compassion and love for his disciples; enthusiasm for teaching the Dharma; being free from discouragement or laziness. A guru must have those qualities.

Similarly, a disciple must have five qualities: a mind that is well-balanced, free from strong attachments to worldly enjoyments and strong aversions; the wisdom to discriminate pure Dharma teachings that will bring real benefit from the teachings that are false; without this wisdom, a disciple is easily confused and led astray when listening to, or reading mistaken teachings, a strong wish to practice the Dharma; great faith and respect for his or her spiritual guide for the Dharma; the ability listen to or to read the Dharma without laziness or distraction. It is said that when a fully qualified Mahayana disciple relies upon a fully qualified Mahayana spiritual guide, the attainment of enlightenment is very quick.

But these days, the benefits of relying on a qualified teacher, by a qualified student, the benefits, there are eight main ones. We will progress towards enlightenment very fast; we will delight all the Buddhas. When you make offerings to the Buddhas, you collect the merit of making offerings to the Buddhas. When you make offerings to your guru, you collect two merits: one of pleasing the Buddhas and one of making offerings.

Because it is said in the Manjushri tantra that if we serve our guru, make our offerings to our guru, and we think of, and we do any actions thinking that he is an enlightened being, all the enlightened beings immediately would dissolve into him, whether he is an enlightened being or not. Not to say he is not; you’re not sure. Better not take a chance. All enlightened beings will immediately dissolve into him and will delight in your offerings and will be pleased. Why will the Buddhas be pleased when you make offerings to your guru? Because they know they cannot communicate to you directly, but they may communicate to you indirectly through your gurus.

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So when you make offerings to your guru, meditating and believing and thinking and knowing that they are the Buddhas, you will collect two merits: the act of making offerings and simultaneously pleasing the Buddhas. Whereas if you make offerings to the Buddhas directly, you collect one merit: the act of making offerings, full stop. The benefits are: we progress towards enlightenment, we delight all the Buddhas, we are not harmed by demons or other influences, we come under the protection of the Three Jewels immediately because the guru is the Buddha, his speech is the Dharma, his body is the Sangha.

We easily overcome our faults and delusions. He is the one who actually trains us, takes care of us, helps us, guides us, listens to us. In fact, he mirrors our faults and our delusions. And he compassionately listens to, puts up, and takes in all your delusions, your pride, your ignorance, your anger, all your childish talk, and all your knowledge about samsara. He takes it all, listens to it patiently and, in fact, tries to skilfully again bring you back to Dharma. We will easily overcome our faults and delusions by relying on the guru 100%.

Number five, our experience and realisation of spiritual grounds and paths greatly increase. Of course, they greatly increase! How will they increase if no one explains it to you, passes the lineage to you, teaches you, guides you, helps you? How will it increase? Definitely not.

We will never lack spiritual friends in our future lives. If we cultivate a good guru devotion now, we will never ever have to worry for our future lives. Either that teacher, again you will meet them, and they will again teach you and assist you, or if that is not possible for any other reasons, you will meet another qualified teacher. Again and again.

By not cultivating a correct guru devotion, correct guru practice, in your next lives or in this life, you will meet false teachers, false gurus who will teach you the wrong thing, the wrong way, and lead you down to hell with them. By cultivating a correct guru devotion, and guru motivation, and guru practice, you will, in fact, become enlightened very fast. And until enlightenment, you will be taken care of by your guru every single lifetime, again and again, and again, and again if not by that guru, by another qualified guru. Whether you are in a faraway land, you’re in a land filled with gurus, or you’re in a land that has no teachings, no Dharma, because of the force of your karma and your previous lives of holding guru commitments, you will again meet a qualified spiritual teacher no matter where you are in this world.

Wherever you are born, whatever situation, you will meet your guru again or another qualified guru who will help you to progress on your spiritual path where you have left off in your previous life. By the power of supplicating and praying to your guru now. If you want a qualified guru, if you’re enjoying one now in your current life, if you want that again because you don’t feel that you can get enlightenment in this life, you must cultivate the spiritual friend now by correct action, correct motivation, correct practice, correct conduct. Then you will meet again, in a future life, with a correct teacher, who will help you to progress again and again and again.

In the One Hundred Verses for the Tingri People by Padampa Sangye, it says if we rely on the spiritual guide, he can lead us wherever we wish to go, and so we should repay his kindness by offering faith and respect. If we wish to attain enlightenment, our spiritual guide will lead us there. If we wish to gain realisation of the first spiritual ground (ས་དང་པོ་, SA DANGPO), he will lead us there. If we wish to attain liberation, he will lead us there. If we wish to be born in a pure land or heavenly god realm, he will lead us there, wherever we want to go in samsara, to the highest god realm, to get a better human life, to become a Buddha, to go to a pure land, wherever you want to go, the guru can guide you. He can guide you.

We do not have the opportunity, at present, to meet the Buddhas actually or receive instructions from them directly. We need to commit ourselves to a spiritual guide whom we can cultivate right now. A relationship that is beneficial in terms of our spiritual development. We may find that we can easily and naturally develop a beneficial relationship with a particular teacher as a result of our having performed virtuous actions toward that person in the past. If you have a link with that person in the past, you will definitely have a natural affinity, unexplainable.

H.E. the 25th Tsem Rinpoche graciously bestows a blessing upon a high-ranking Indian official who appeared suddenly, seeking blessings at the Mahabodhi Temple grounds.

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche graciously bestows a blessing upon a high-ranking Indian official who appeared suddenly, seeking blessings at the Mahabodhi Temple grounds.

You should not cultivate a guru relationship with someone who has a high name, someone who has a big entourage, someone who has a big name such as a high Rinpoche. Your guru devotion and your guru practice in the person you receive Dharma from has nothing to do with the person’s status, form, appearance, name, or position. “Oh, it’s a very high guru. He sits on a very high throne, has lots of incarnations, he has lots of entourages,” we run there. And then a simple monk who actually is pure, can teach you the Dharma, we abandon them. Wrong.

If you have 10 gurus, if one of your gurus is a simple ordinary monk, a humble monk, and one of your gurus is the Dalai Lama, in your heart, you should think of them exactly the same. Offer them the exact same respect, because to you, from your deluded mind, from your aspect, you should see them as truly enlightened beings, whether their status is high or low.

We should not develop a relationship with a guru because he is charismatic, because he is attractive in appearance, because he teaches the Dharma eloquently, because he is a scholar, because he is knowledgeable, because he has a high name, because he’s wealthy, because he has a lot of disciples, because people praise him. We should not develop a relationship with any teacher for any of those wrong vehicles, through any of those wrong vehicles.

We should develop an affinity with a teacher because we can understand the teachings from this person, we can relate to this person, they can guide us to enlightenment, regardless if they are lay or monk, regardless if they’re high name or low name, regardless if they’re attractive or not attractive, regardless if they’re scholarly or not scholarly. It’s better to take your guru as a simple monk, who doesn’t have a lot of knowledge, but inspires you and helps you to practise, than to take a high scholar that doesn’t practise anything he says, who will probably end up in hell anyways.

Do not take gurus because they have the names of Rinpoches. Do not take your gurus because they have high names, they have previous incarnations and they’re enlightened. That is not the way. Even if they are fully enlightened, but because of your obscurations, you will see mistakes in them. You will see.

Before you take a guru, examine the person: do they have the qualifications? In this degenerate time, it is far harder to find a guru that we can view perfectly. The criteria here, for us today, now, all of you, should be: does this person that I take as a guru concern himself more with this life or the future lives? If this person concerns himself more with the future lives, therefore, his actions will accord. If this person is more concerned about this life, his actions will accord.

If it’s the latter, it will not be a qualification that you can go for. If that person is more concerned about their future lives, naturally, they will not be after wealth, they will not be after appearance, good places. They will be studying Dharma, practising morality, teaching, meditating, praying. So the criteria here is, is this person more concerned about this life or the future lives? If this person is more concerned about the future lives, AND he can convey the Dharma, he can inspire you, you have benefited from his Dharma, you can take him as a guru.

Once you have taken him as your guru, once you have accepted, there is no formal ceremony. You go up, you prostrate, you make a million-dollar offering, and say, “Can I be your disciple?” Once, you can be sitting – the Dalai Lama cannot meet every single person who comes up and says, “I accept you, I accept you, I accept you, I accept you…” It’d be hundreds and thousands of people. One Kalachakra initiation is 40,000 people. In this audience, if anyone has thought, “I take this person as my guru from now on,” the bond is sealed. It is nothing verbal. It is nothing spoken. It can be spoken; it can be unspoken. It is up to you.

You can have one guru, two gurus, three gurus, four, fifty; Tsongkhapa had 45 gurus, the great Atisha had 150. You’re thinking, “Oh my god, if I had to make an angpow to all 150 gurus, that’d be the end of me.” That’s not the point. You get whatever teachings, you sustain whatever relationships you can.

Each guru has something to offer. If one guru can fulfil all your needs, fine, you take one guru. If you need another guru to fulfil another aspect, you can take two, three gurus. But all of them are exactly the same. But in order to take the second teacher, you must have the permission of the first. Without the permission of your first teacher, you cannot get teachings from the second. If you do, no attainments will arise. It is respect. If your first teacher for any reason should say “No,” don’t think, “Aiyo, this mean guru, he just wants to keep me for himself and blah blah blah….” If you think like that, forget it. If you have three gurus, you lose faith in one, even if your other two gurus…

 

Go to Part 4: Guru Devotion

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The Importance of Maintaining Good Thoughts

Mahasiddha Santipa.  Click to enlarge.

Mahasiddha Santipa.
Click to enlarge.

There’s a great lama who was invited to Sri Lanka from India. It’s an Indian monk who was quite attained. He became enlightened before his guru. He viewed his guru as an enlightened being; therefore, he became a Buddha before his guru. One day, he was going to Sri Lanka from India, and of course, at that time, you didn’t have luxury liners, so with his entourage, he walked across the ocean. As he was walking across the ocean to Sri Lanka — walking on the water, showing his miraculous powers — with his entourage, he thought just for a split second, “Hmm … even my guru couldn’t do that.” Then, he went right into the water. Immediately, he lost his power. Immediately. Because it is by the compassion of his teacher, it is by relying on his teacher that he has become enlightened. And then, as he was drowning, he called out to his guru, and his guru appeared in the sky and said, “Hmm, very naughty.” Then he regretted, and immediately, he could come on the water. It’s in this book. Santipa. I just remembered the name. The Mahasiddha Santipa.

Your attainments, any goodness you have in your life that is truly good, not money, not position and power, any real goodness you have in your life – the lessening of negative activities, the destruction of the negative mind, improvement of the virtuous mind, any thought toward enlightenment, any thought toward practice, any thought toward the Three Jewels, any wish to gain enlightenment – have been instilled in you by your teacher. It must be the Buddha working for us. He is definitely committing Buddha’s actions. He is actually doing Buddha’s actions for us. You can sit in front of that wooden Buddha for 50 years, and if he talks to you, call me. Even if he drinks a glass of milk, it doesn’t help you at all. You can’t get Dharma. But your guru can convey the Dharma to you. And whether you take one as a guru or not is up to you. It is an unspoken communication.

A true guru will never ever say, “Oh, be my disciple.” A true guru will never say, “Oh, you are my disciple.” A true guru will hide his qualities, will NOT tell you what his attainments are, will tell you that he is stupid, will tell you that he is dumb, will tell you that he is angersome, will tell you that he is not qualified, will tell you that he is lazy and that he is not advanced in his practice. A true guru will tell you that.

A false guru will tell you that he floats in the sky, he sees Guanyin, and he can talk to Amitabha. That’s a sign of a false guru. Guru or no guru, why is that a sign of a false guru? A real guru has modesty, has humbleness; that’s one of the qualities he has cultivated in his practice. If he doesn’t have that, how can he be preaching humbleness and all that? A true guru will never ever reveal. But don’t be fooled. Don’t think he is angersome. Don’t think he is stupid. Don’t think he doesn’t have attainments. Don’t think he does not know what he’s doing. Don’t be fooled by his humble talk. Do not think that simply because he said so, it is so, because a true guru will never ever reveal his attainments. Never, out of humbleness.

A vintage photo showing some Tibetans around the area coming up to H.E. Tsem Rinpoche to request for blessings.

A vintage photo showing some Tibetans requesting H.E. Tsem Rinpoche for blessings.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we know is Avalokiteshvara. He never says. He says, “I’m just a simple Buddhist monk, my name is Tenzin Gyatso.” He runs around saying that. What about us? I must be a mule or something. A true guru will never ever reveal his qualities to you. Ever. Will never ever say it. It is only by your practice, by your meditation, by your attainments, slowly, you will see the qualities of your guru. Slowly.

And the best way not to lose faith in your guru is not to focus on his supposedly negative qualities that you falsely perceive due to your impure karma. If you focus on that again and again, naturally, it becomes bigger. The best way is not to concentrate and not think about it. Once you have made the commitment, what choice do you have? You don’t focus. You, in fact, think about his kindness, think about the fact that he teaches you freely, he teaches you without expectation, only what he wants is your freedom and your happiness. That is his motivation.

To contemplate what you were doing before you met the Dharma, before you met your teacher. To contemplate on his kindness again, that he is willing to teach you 24 hours, any time. He is zealous. He is happy. He is excited to guide you, to teach you. If you are low intelligence, he’ll be patient and teach you slowly. If you’re smart, he teaches you fast. If you’re in between, he goes in between. If he needs to tell you about your meditation 50 times, he will tell you 50 times. Jokingly, angrily, any way he can to get you to do it. Who is more kinder than that? It is even more kinder than one’s parents, if I may. Your parents are beneficial for one life. Your guru is beneficial for all your future lives until you become enlightened.

That doesn’t mean, “Get off the chair, Mom, my guru is coming.” No, not like that. It’s showing you the worth. Think about that. Then it says here, those are the benefits. Now, the criteria here is if your guru actually thinks about the future life more than this life. Actually, does he think about that?

 

The Dangers of Breaking Our Commitments

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche performed an auspicious puja to Vajrayogini in Naropa’s meditational cave, Nepal.

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche performed an auspicious puja to Vajrayogini in Naropa’s Cave, Nepal.

Now, the dangers of breaking a guru commitment. The dangers. Since our spiritual guide is an emanation of all the Buddhas, if we forsake or show contempt for him or her, this action will have the same effect of forsaking and showing contempt for all the Buddhas. The guru is not a godlike figure who is going to punish you. If you can gain these many benefits by devoting yourself to him, by forsaking him, you will get these many disbenefits. It’s very obvious. Every moment our anger that arises in our minds to our spiritual guru destroys all the good karma that we can create in an aeon.

Every time we think about it, every single moment we think about a negative action toward our guru is an aeon of merits we have destroyed. So, if this morning we’ve made beautiful offerings and then right afterward we see something and we think negative things about our guru, that offering is finished, no merits have been accrued. So what’s the use? Even though we may practise secret tantra for aeons, if we forsake our spiritual guide, no realisations. You can do any meditations, you can do any practice, you can do any type of teachings, you can do any type of course with any other teacher; if you have broken your commitments with your current teacher, then you will not gain any attainments. The blessings of the Buddhas are cut off. The magnifying glass has been removed. It would be impossible to gain new realisations and the realisations that we have already gained will degenerate. What we have already gained will start to degenerate immediately. We’ll fall back to our negative states of mind, slowly but surely.

We shall be afflicted with misfortunes such as disease, fear, possession of evil spirits easily. We shall take rebirth in the lower realms repeatedly. In many future lives, we shall not meet well-qualified spiritual guides, and we shall be without Dharma. And whenever we do meet a spiritual guide, we shall continue to lack faith and respect. Even in the future, if we meet a very qualified spiritual teacher, we will not like them, we will see fault, we will run away, as a result of breaking our guru commitments.

Then, in ancient times, in order to receive any teachings, empowerments, etc. An initiation or empowerment was not something casual. By making a disciple wait a long time, a teacher impressed on him the seriousness of entering the teachings, the tantric path, testing his commitment and assuring that he was properly prepared. Often, a spiritual teacher will make a disciple wait even longer before agreeing to teach him anything. He would repeatedly test his character, and only when he had understood him well would he accept him as a disciple. The disciple also must test his potential teacher and determine if he is fully qualified. He must be confident that he will be able to devote himself fully to his spiritual master. Before entering a formal teacher-disciple relationship, you have complete freedom of choice, for once such a bond has been established, these teachings on your way of interacting must be followed with wholehearted commitment.

(7) A disciple with sense should not accept as his spiritual teacher someone who lacks compassion, who is angersome, vicious or arrogant, possessive, undisciplined, or boasts of his knowledge.

(8) A spiritual teacher should be stable in his actions, cultivated in his speech, wise, patient, and honest. He should neither conceal his shortcomings nor pretend to possess qualities he lacks. He should be an expert in the meanings of the tantra and its ritual procedures, of medicines and turning back obstacles. Also, he should have loving compassion and complete knowledge of the scriptures.

(9) He should have full expertise in both sets of ten fields, skilled in drawing the mandalas, full knowledge of how to explain the tantra, supreme pure faith, and his senses fully under control.

He should have those qualities. Again, it says in the text further down that, in general, the criteria would be, if he focuses more on his future lives than this life. Because it is difficult to find a fully qualified student and a fully qualified teacher in these degenerate times. Very difficult.

If you take as your spiritual teacher, a master with all these qualifications and powers, and he accepts you as a disciple, you must commit yourself fully to him. Although it is possible that out of delusion you might disagree with your teacher, never show him disrespect or despise him from the depth of your heart. You can disagree with him. You can see that something is wrong. But never despise, never show disrespect. Explain nicely. If he still doesn’t agree, leave it. Don’t argue.

(10) Having become the disciple of such a protecting teacher, should you then despise him from your heart, you will reap continuous suffering as if you have disparaged all the Buddhas.

(11) If you are so foolish as to despise your teacher, you will contract contagious diseases and those caused by harmful spirits; you will die a horrible death caused by demons, plagues, and poisons.

(12) You will be killed by wicked kings or fire, which is wrong law; by poisonous snakes, water, witches or bandits, by harmful spirits or savages, and then be reborn in a hell.

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche making prostration to his root guru’s incarnation, Kyabje Zong Choktrul Rinpoche at Zong Ladrang during a pilgrimage to Gaden Monastery in 2006.

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche offers prostrations to his root guru’s incarnation, Kyabje Zong Chocktrul Rinpoche at Zong Ladrang during a pilgrimage to Gaden Monastery in 2006.

What it means is if you disparage your guru who has taught you the Dharma, you are inviting disaster immediately. In modern times, you will have accidents, you will have problems, you will have misfortunes, you will have many things, everything, disharmony, everything will come about the minute you disparage your guru from your heart. You don’t even have to verbalise it. You can say it from your mouth, “Oh, my guru is excellent, he’s wonderful, he’s my teacher.” But from your heart, if you think negative things, you hate him, you disparage him, immediately, you will have the negative effects. Immediately, you will feel it.

And the only way to stop it is not to run away. The only way to stop it is not to run to the temples. The only way to stop it is to swallow your pride and ego, prostate to your teacher with an offering, and confess. And from your heart confess, not from your mouth. Once you have confessed and swallowed your pride and admitted you’re wrong because you’re full of delusions, you have won. You have won the battle against your ego. And immediately, you will see situations change. Immediately.

(13) Never disturb your teacher’s mind. Should you be foolish and happen to do this, you will surely boil in hell.

It means, if you have something proper, if you have something right to talk to your teacher, talk to him. Ask, get the answer, and follow. Do not uselessly waste his time. Do not bother him about trivial affairs. Do not try to get his attention, grab for his attention, be competitive with his other disciples. It shows your lack of practising Dharma. It shows your wrong view about the guru: that if you do more for him, if you help more, and you try to assist more, or if you give more, he will show you more compassion. You are degenerating his state of enlightenment.

He is compassionate. He is equal with all his students, regardless of their station, their positions in life, their wealth, their positions, their power. It is regardless of their positions and station in life. He will treat you equally. So if you think you can get more attention, more teachings, more blessings from him by running around and following him, doing whatever he says, giving him a lot of money, giving him a lot of assistance and help, you are wrong. He will treat everyone equally. Completely equally.

(14) Whatever fearful hells have been taught such as Avici, the hell of uninterrupted pain, it is clearly explained that those who disparage their teachers will have to remain there for a long time.

These hells are not a place that we go to. These hells are created individually from the karma of our minds. From our karma, all these places will appear individually just for us. Custom made.

(15) Therefore, exert yourself whole heartedly, never to belittle your master who makes no display of his great wisdom and virtue.

You have to ask your teacher for teachings. You must prostrate, give offerings with humbleness, ask for the teachings. He’s not a big ego trip here. He doesn’t teach you to display his knowledge. A true guru hides his knowledge, hides his attainments, hides his position, hides who he really is because he is humble, because pride and ego have been destroyed. Therefore, he is humble. You must ask.

Offering of the representations of Buddha’s body, speech and mind to H.E. Tsem Rinpoche before the start of a Dharma teaching session.

Offering representations of Buddha’s body, speech and mind to H.E. Tsem Rinpoche before the start of a Dharma teaching session.

In Buddhism, we cannot go and convert because without asking, without requesting, in fact three times with offerings with a sincere heart, we cannot receive the teachings. And when we teach the teachings, people cannot be standing up. When you make a throne for the teacher, of course, the teacher is holy, but you are actually making a throne for the Dharma knowledge that he possesses, the Dharma that is being conveyed. You are putting the Dharma on a high seat, on a high throne. Not necessarily that person. So when you put them on a high throne decorated with flowers, silks, and cushions, and make incense and bring incense, you are, in fact, inviting the Dharma in.

When we bring the teachers in, and we bring the incense in front of them, it isn’t that you smell so bad that he’s got to get rid of the smell, air freshener here. That’s not the point. The point is you are inviting the Dharma in. It is so pure and so excellent, like a ray of hope and a ray of light. So you are inviting the Dharma in with something precious and fragrant. And when you put them on the throne, it is to show your respect. It is to show your respect for the Dharma. That’s why monks or teachers are put on a throne in all Buddhist countries: to show respect for the holy Dharma, your second refuge.

It is not to uplift that person. The more beautiful, the more ornate, shows the more devotion you have towards the Dharma, the Dharma talk, and the Dharma that’s being conveyed. That’s why we put these thrones. The second reason is: a lot of the teachers are a little short, so they can’t see the back when you put them on the floor, but I don’t think that’s the main reason. In my case, no problem, I can still see you. I think I’m the tallest one in here.

So, the state of Buddhahood is one of complete liberation from all sufferings, ignorance, disturbing attitudes, and obstacles. It is the attainment of all good qualities, complete perfection, and total omniscience. Despising or belittling such a state by disparaging your teacher, you cast yourself in the opposite direction from happiness and freedom. Having contempt for wisdom and liberation, you gain instead bondage and pain. Such tormented states are what we have been described in the scriptures as the various hells.

As he has no pretensions and is never boastful, he will always hide his good qualities and never hesitate to admit his shortcomings. Your guru will be the first one to tell you his shortcomings, what is wrong with him, what is bad about him. He will be the first one to tell you. He will be the last one to tell you about his good qualities, any auspicious dreams, any powers he may or may not have. He will be the last one ever to say it. In fact, he will never say it. Never.

If you do not recognise such traits as an indication of his perfection, humility, and skilful means, you may make this serious mistake of belittling or seeing faults in him. You may actually believe that what he says is that, and then you treat him like so. Very dangerous. Because if he is not like so, you’re going to be in a very big hot vat of oil, boiling away.

Having established a formal bond with this spiritual teacher and, through him, entering the pathway to Buddhahood, you have then cast yourself into terrible suffering if, from the depths of your heart, you break this link. Therefore, you must have great awareness, for although a proper commitment to your spiritual teacher will elevate you to full enlightenment, a breach will be a downfall.

His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Choktrul Rinpoche sitting on a beautiful ornate throne, which represents great respect to teacher and the Dharma.

His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche sitting on a beautiful, ornate throne, which represents great respect for the guru and the Dharma he possesses.

(16) If you lack awareness, you have shown disrespect to your spiritual teacher: reverently present an offering to him and seek his forgiveness. Then, in the future, such harms and plagues will not befall you.

Since your spiritual teacher is a Buddha, disrespect cannot offend him, cannot anger him in the ultimate way. Therefore, if you repent and beg for his forgiveness, immediately, he will say, “Yes, I accept.” Immediately. Then, by the force of your faith, respect, and devotion, you need not experience any misfortune.

The beneficial effects of wholehearted commitment to your spiritual teacher and the dire consequences of a breach of it are not rewards and punishments from a godly master. They follow directly from cause and effect. Your spiritual teacher is the focal point for your practice, leading to enlightenment. The more committed you are towards the state of perfection he represents, the closer you come towards this goal. Despising him can only take you further away into darkness and ignorance.

(17) It has been taught that for the teacher to whom you have pledged your word of honour to visualise as your meditational deity, you should willingly sacrifice your wife, your children, even your life. Although these are not easy to give away, is there a need to mention your fleeting wealth?

Any guru will never ask for your wife, will never ask for your wealth, will never ask for this. It is not actually offering your wealth, your wife, your possessions. It is the will and total commitment and faith that you are able to if you are asked. Of course, you will never be asked. But it is that state of mind that you have detached, that you are able to. But, of course, a guru will never ask that of you. What guru is going to say, “Can I have your wife?” That’s crazy. And some of the wives, we don’t want. Just kidding. But it is the state of mind that is able to; that has so much faith and trust. When Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son to God, of course God was not going to take his only son, but Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only beloved son, his own flesh and blood, on the altar to God. And at the last moment, before the knife was plunged into the son, God said, “Stop.” That is the same. As I told you, all religious practice is the same. It manifests in a different way.

(18) Such practice of offering can convert even Buddhahood on a zealous disciple in his very lifetime. Otherwise, it might be difficult to attain in countless millions of lives, aeons.

(19) Always keep your word of honour. Always make offerings to the enlightened ones. Always make offerings also to your spiritual guide, for he is the same as the Buddhas.

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche saw every gift offered to him and patiently read through every single card, letter, and note he received after it had been offered up to the Buddhas.

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche would personally look at every gift, offer it up to the Buddhas, and carefully read through every card, letter and note.
Click to enlarge.

If you are to make an offering to the altar or to your guru, it would be better to your guru. Why? Because he is the Buddha for you. He is the one who teaches you. He is the one who guides you. And if you visualise him as the Buddha and you offer to him as the Buddha, it is the same that you are visualising a piece of stone, a piece of wood, a piece of brass, as the Buddha. If you can offer a glass of water, angpows and flowers to that statue and collect merit, why can’t you collect it by offering it to your guru? It is a matter of faith and knowing the difference — that there is no difference. It is your view.

By making offerings to your guru, he will actually drink it, and you will collect the merits. By offering wealth to your guru, he will actually use it for the Dharma. By having this kind of devotion that you can offer everything material that you have without a blink of an eye to your guru, shows your lack of attachment, your destruction of miserliness, and the higher states of enlightenment that you’ve already come near and achieved. It is a reflection of your own mind. When you have reached that state, you have no need for wealth or anything. It will spontaneously come to you. It will spontaneously come.

(20) Those who wish to attain the inexhaustible state of Buddha’s wisdom-body should give to their teacher whatever they themselves find pleasing, from the most trifling objects to those of the best quality.

If we have something excellent, that should be offered to your guru. If you have two flowers, the nicer big one you keep, the smaller, skinnier one that’s dying, one of the leaves has fallen, you say, “Oh my beautiful, wonderful, fabulous guru, give me enlightenment,” and offer it up to him. He’s not stupid. What you give is what you get. So cliché huh?

(21) Giving to your teacher is the same as making continual offerings to all the Buddhas. From such generosity, much positive potential is gathered. From such collection comes a supreme, actual attainment of Buddhahood. Making offerings to your spiritual teacher as a representative of all the Buddhas is extremely important. Such generosity is symbolic of your total dedication to achieve Buddhahood.

If, because of miserliness or selfishness, you hold back from giving what you find most pleasing and offer only what you do not want for yourself, how can you promise to give yourself totally for the work of benefiting all sentient beings? It’s just a farce. It’s just a lie. Without any attachment, you must be willing to sacrifice everything for your attainment of enlightenment.

Through your teacher, the offering mandala symbolises this dedication, your body, speech and mind, even the entire universe. If you’re poor like Jetsun Milarepa, it does not matter that you do not have riches to offer. What is important is that your state of mind and willingness to sacrifice anything for the sake of your spiritual teacher, enlightenment, and all sentient beings. The offering then is your practice, but if you have wealth, you must never hesitate to use it for building up positive potential.

There are three types of offerings to your guru:

  1. Offering of material gifts and items
  2. Offering of service
  3. And the best out of the three and the one that your guru actually expects and wants, is: the offering of your spiritual practice.

If you have taken refuge, you decrease hateful bad states of mind, delusions. You decrease that. You offer that up to your guru. You have recited the prayer of Heart Sutra one million times; you offer that up to your guru. You have gotten rid of anger; you offer that up to your guru. Your guru wants your practice. Out of the three, we should do all three, but the main one is practice. The main one. If you do not do the main one, practice, and you just give material things, you do get merits, you do get positive potentials, and you are making a relationship with the Buddha, but it is not the purpose of guru devotion. That is not the purpose.

And the gurus, once they get the offerings, it will be like a tiger looking at grass. He’s not going to eat it, he doesn’t care, he doesn’t look. He doesn’t care. Whatever offerings you give up to your guru, he probably will not care because he is not attached, and he might just turn around and give it away immediately because he’s not attached. But once you’ve offered up to your guru, you shouldn’t be attached. “What happened to the item I gave him? He gave it away to her, and I don’t like her!” Then you’ll have lost the whole point. When you offered up to your guru, you have collected the merit. Whatever he does with it, throws it out of the window, gives it to your enemy, doesn’t matter anymore. It shows your attachment.

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(22) Therefore, a disciple with good qualities of compassion, generosity, moral self-control, and patience should never regard his spiritual teacher as different from Buddha Vajradhara.

Buddha, same, Vajradhara. Your spiritual teacher, the meditational deities and Vajradhara, the form Buddha assumes in the tantras, are all the same in nature. They are exactly the same. They are like a single person in a drama, changing masks and costumes, and playing different roles. The same is true if you have many teachers. You must regard them all as Buddhas, differing only in the face he wears.

The ability to see your spiritual teacher as not different from Buddha Vajradhara depends on your motivation. If you have developed an enlightened motive of bodhicitta, you’re striving to become a Buddha yourself, in order to be able to benefit others, the stronger this motive, the more the thought of enlightenment comes to pervade your mind completely. Thinking only of enlightenment and ways to achieve it, you will automatically be able to see your spiritual teacher in terms of this state because nothing else will be in your mind.

The more you wish to attain enlightenment, the clearer you see the necessity for your teacher to be a Buddha. Thus, with strong compassion of wishing others never to suffer, you can commit yourself easily and with joy. Through the practice of the perfection of generosity, the disciple, the moral self-control, patience, and so forth, centred around your spiritual teacher, you will then be able to attain his state.

(23) You should never tread on even your teacher’s shadow because the fearsome consequences are the same as destroying a stupa. Is there a need to mention never stepping on or over his shoes, or sitting in the place, or riding on his mount?

You should never sit in your teacher’s seat. You should never use your teacher’s items. You should never use your teacher’s shoes, his clothes, his place, his bed, his sheets, his throne. You should never even tread over it. You should treat it with great respect, as an object of offering, which it is. If your guru is that holy, surely his items are holy.

You should even respect his entourage, his servants, if he’s a lay guru his wife, his children, with respect. By showing the things that are close to him respect, the people that work with him respect, you are showing him respect. Without them, how can the guru work? Without them, how can the guru function completely? In fact, they are examples of pure guru devotion and exemplary, and examples for you to follow. How can you put down examples that you should emulate and follow?

Even your guru’s wife if he’s lay should be respected. Even his children and his servants should be respected. The great Milarepa, whose teacher was a lay person called Marpa. Marpa was a very enlightened person. He had a wife called ‘Dakmema’. When the wife would go milk the cows, Milarepa himself would jump into the mud and have her step on his back so that her feet would not touch the mud, so she could milk the cows. Out of deep respect for his guru, he saw his guru and the wife as inseparable. Same respect. That’s how he became enlightened in one lifetime.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge

To respect our guru, his items, his personal possessions, his things, his entourage, his family, his close ones, all we should respect as much as we respect the guru. You should never walk ahead of the guru. You should never talk senselessly to the guru. When he comes in, one should rise. Every time, all the time. When he sits, you may sit. When he stands, you must stand. You must not carelessly sit there and spread eagle yourself on the floor and watch your guru go back and forth like a show. When he stands up, you stand up. When he sits, you sit. When he eats, you eat. You don’t sit in front of him and munch away, “Hey guru, what Dharma teaching are we having tonight?” No respect. It shows your lack of respect towards what he is doing.

And do not argue near him. Do not argue with him. Do not argue with others around him. Do not disturb his mind with your delusions. The reason he’s there is to control your delusions. So, if you’re practising delusions next to him, what’s the point? When he’s there you should control yourself to the best of your ability and not argue, fight and do negative things and negative actions around him. It is training for you. So once you do it, twice you do it, three times you do it, you can apply it any time later on. You have trained yourself.

You should not have an arrogant attitude towards your guru. It will become a major hindrance to your attainment of Buddhahood. Buddhas do not have arrogance. Arrogance and Buddhas are ‘gelwa’ (འགལ་བ་) or opposites [contradiction]. If you have arrogance, you cannot be a Buddha. Very simple. Who is the best person to practise the destruction of arrogance? Your guru who gives you the Dharma. So, one should not sit in his place. One should not use his items. One should not tread ahead of him. When he or she walks in, one should stand up with respect with your head bowed. You are respecting not only that person, but the Dharma that person has conveyed to you. Think about it. Is it logical?

(24) A disciple having great sense should obey the words of his teacher joyfully and with enthusiasm. If you lack the knowledge or ability to do what he says, explain in polite words why you cannot comply.

(25) It is from your spiritual teacher that actual attainments, higher rebirth and happiness come. Therefore, make a wholehearted effort never to transgress your teacher’s advice.

If you cannot do something sincerely, not because you’re lazy, not because you’re stingy, not because miserly, not because you just don’t want to do it; if you sincerely cannot do it, if you explain, of course he’s going to say okay.

Don’t run away from your responsibilities. Don’t escape from his orders. Don’t avoid him because you cannot do it out of your laziness or any other delusions. Or if you actually cannot and you sincerely ask, of course, he fulfils. But you will know from your side if you’re sincere or you’re asking because you’re lazy. If he tells you something, you should not do it because you’re scared and you’re going to get punished, and there’s bad karma, and you run around like a chicken with no head. You should try to understand his intention. You should try to find out what the intention is. Try to think about it. But again, with our limited wisdom, if we cannot find out, we go ahead and do it and be patient and not comment. Rather, try to understand his intentions and aim. Your teacher will only tell you to do what is beneficial for yourself and others. Don’t fight him once you’ve accepted.

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche giving teaching at Kechara House city centre, in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche giving a teaching in Kechara House.

What he asks may be difficult, and his immediate purpose may not be obvious. You should receive his advice joyfully, with deep gratitude for the concern he has given for your welfare. Examine yourself honestly if you can follow his wishes. If you cannot comply, do not be rude and do not be arrogant. Explain politely and with extreme humility what the difficulty is. Your teacher will not be unreasonable as a Buddha is filled with great compassion. If, however, you can avoid transgressing his advice, this is best. Following the spiritual path as he directs, you can achieve not only the ordinary actual attainments — siddhi — of extra physical powers and ordinary powers but also become a fully enlightened being.

You should also not speak loudly, which will come later on, near your guru. You should not laugh and joke loudly near your guru. That might disturb his meditation or his studies. One should not talk about trivialities. One should avoid all kinds of arguments, fights, all kinds of negative actions near your guru to the best of your ability. It is training grounds. It is the battleground with your delusions. It is the war of the century.

(26) Guard your teacher’s belongings as you would your own life. Treat even your teacher’s beloved family with the same respect you show for him. Have affectionate regard for those closely around him as if they were your own dearest kin. Single-mindedly think in this way at all times.

(27) Never sit on the same bed or seat as your teacher, nor walk ahead of him. At teachings, do not wear your hair in a topknot, a hat, shoes, or any weapons. Never touch a seat before he sits down, or if he happens to sit on the ground, do not place your hands proudly on your hips or wring them before him.

(28) Never sit or recline while your teacher is standing, nor lie while he is sitting. Always be ready to stand up and serve him skilfully in an excellent manner.

(29) In the presence of your teacher, never do such things as spit, cough, or sneeze without covering your head. Never stretch out your legs when at your seat, nor walk back and forth without reason before him, and never argue.

(30) Never massage or rub your limbs. Do not sing, dance or play musical instruments for other than religious purposes. And never chatter idly or speak in excess or too loudly within the range of your teacher’s hearing.

Never chatter or speak loudly within the range of your teacher’s hearing. Why? To train yourself. If you’re one hour together with your teacher during the day, and you restrain yourself, and then you do two hours, three hours, and you restrain yourself; slowly your speech will be cultivated. It will avoid the four non-virtues of speech by cultivating with your guru. You think, “He is a Buddha. I will not disturb the Buddha. I will not commit negative actions near my guru who is a Buddha.” And it’s an excellent training ground for you. A statue cannot scold you, a guru can. And some gurus scold a lot.

Never massage or rub your limbs. Do not sing or dance or play musical instruments for other than religious purposes. And never chatter idly or speak in excess or too loudly within the range of your teacher’s hearing. In fact, that’s good to do at any time. Any time. All these examples of improper behaviour are prohibited not because your spiritual teacher will be offended. Buddhas cannot be affected by rudeness. It is because you wish to attain his state of perfection and have great respect for his achievement that you should not act in a coarse or arrogant or inconsiderate manner.

The customs outlined here are not meant to be unnatural and cruel restrictions. If you are sitting cross-legged at a discourse and this becomes uncomfortable, you are certainly permitted to lift your knees and shift your position, even sit with your legs stretched. But to sit casually with your feet stretched out towards your teacher reflects flippant, disrespectful attitude. Receiving a discourse is not like attending a sporting event. It is not for your amusement but for your attainment of enlightenment that you are with your teacher. Therefore, you must show him great respect and always be alert to his needs and comfort.

 Everyone stands to show utmost respect and to welcome H.E. Tsem Rinpoche and His Eminence the 7th Panglung Oracle as they enter the Wisdom Hall at Kechara Forest Retreat.

Everyone stands respectfully to welcome H.E. Tsem Rinpoche and the Venerable 7th Panglung Oracle as they enter Wisdom Hall at Kechara Forest Retreat.

(31) When your spiritual teacher enters the room, stand up from your seat and bow your head slightly. Sit in his presence respectfully. At night or at rivers, or on dangerous paths, with your teacher’s permission, you may walk before him.

(32) In the direct sight of his teacher, a disciple with sense should not sit with his body twisted around, nor leaning casually against pillars and such. Never crack your knuckles or play with your fingers and clean your nails.

We wouldn’t do that with anybody. Imagine cleaning your nails in front of people. How gross huh? Of course, that’s quite obvious, isn’t it? You must always be considerate of your spiritual teacher as he is the one who will show you the way to complete freedom from all your sufferings, and how to liberate others. He is more precious than anything else. If he is in danger, you must protect him. Do not sit back idly and proudly as if you own the entire world.

(33) When washing your teacher’s feet or his body, drying, massaging, or shaving him; precede such actions with three prostrations and at the conclusion, do the same. Then attend to yourself as much as you like.

Whatever actions you do according to your guru, a true one that has a lot of respect will prostrate three times, get the discourse, offer something, get some advice, get something, and then when they finish, prostrate three times again. That is, any action with your guru should be preceded and ended with those actions. You are not prostrating to an old man or to someone just sitting there. You are prostrating to a fully enlightened being who has given you an opportunity to collect merit. Your primary concern is with your spiritual teacher and your attainment of his enlightened state. Only afterwards should you care for yourself.

(34) Should you need to address your spiritual teacher by his name, add the title ‘Your presence’ after it. To generate respect for him and others, further honourifics may be used.

We should never just say, “Teacher this, teacher that”. We should use it with respect. When we use it with respect, it shows our respect, and also, it inspires other people to generate respect for our teacher. Not that we want to get a big party or a big group, but in order that they can also get teachings.

(35) When asking for your teacher’s advice, first announce why you have come. With palms pressed together at your heart, listen to what he tells you without letting your mind wander about. Then what he has spoken, you should reply, “I shall do exactly as you have said”.

(36) After doing what your teacher has told you, report what has happened in polite, gentle words. Should you laugh or cough, clear your throat, or yawn in his presence, cover your mouth with your hand.

Never waste your teacher’s time by coming to him merely for idle chatter. After making prostrations three times, announce the purpose of your visit directly, ask your questions in a straightforward manner with extreme politeness and humility. If your spiritual teacher gives you advice or asks you to do something, examine yourself to see if you can comply. If you cannot, then excuse yourself and explain why.

Do not promise to do something and then go back on your word. The consequences of such disobedience and negligence are very serious, but if you can comply, tell him you will do what he says. Keep him informed of your progress and always report, in the end, what you have done. Anything small that you have promised to your teacher, anything small, you should make sure that you comply before you promise.

If you have promised something to your teacher, and you have negligently forgotten it, not taken care of it, not taken the pains, and have not gone out of your way to accomplish it, or just forgot about it, it shows your disrespect, it shows your lack of commitment, and it shows your lack of faith, and it shows your lack of sincere practice.

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche greeted one of his gurus, H.E. Gangchen Rinpoche, who was believed to be an emanation of Medicine Buddha. He was among the first few people who recognised Rinpoche as a Tulku.

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche greeting one of his gurus, H.E. Gangchen Rinpoche, who is an emanation of Medicine Buddha. Gangchen Rinpoche was among the first few people who recognised Tsem Rinpoche as a tulku.

Buddha was able to go through six years of asceticism. When your guru asks you for something small, you give the excuse ‘you have forgotten’. Quite shameful. It shows your lack of commitment. And we never forget to eat. We never forget to take a bath. We never forget to go out. We never forget to go to the salon. We never forget to fix our hair and fix our makeup. And that’s for this life and for a few moments. How can we forget to comply with something our teacher has asked us? In fact, it would be beneficial for us to comply. It shows our lack of commitment, faith, and simple laziness.

(37) If you wish to receive a certain teaching, request three times with your palms pressed together while kneeling before him with your right knee. Then at his discourse, sit humbly with respect, wearing appropriate clothing that is neat and clean, without ornaments, jewellery or cosmetics.

(38) Whatever you do to serve your teacher or show him respect should never be done with an arrogant mind. Instead you should ever be like a newly-wed bride, timid, bashful and very subdued.

(39) In the presence of your spiritual master who teaches you the path, stop acting in a conceited, coquettish manner. As for all other improper actions like these, examine them yourself and discard what is wrong.

It is improper for a spiritual master to offer to teach without being specifically requested. He cannot. He teaches to benefit his disciples, not to display his knowledge. Therefore, it is important to make such requests in a proper, formal manner. However, do not try to pressure your teacher into teaching something too advanced for your level. He will judge when you are ready. Do not haughtily order him to do what you think is best. “Well, I think you should do that, don’t you think so?”

When attending his discourse, remember it is not a social event. The only reason you are there is to learn how to attain enlightenment for the benefit of others. You have not come to show off your wealth or beauty to others, so do not adorn yourself like a peacock. Also, be aware and considerate of the social customs of those around you. Never dress in a manner offensive to others that would cause their minds to become disturbed. Be neat, clean, and unostentatious, sitting with great respect for your spiritual teacher.

When serving your teacher, do not be childish. Whatever service you do or offerings you make, are for you to attain enlightenment through its merits. Do not do such things so that you can boast to others how pious and devoted you are. No positive potential is to be gained from arrogance. Do not serve your teacher with haughty pride as though you were doing him a great favour. He does not need your help; he is a Buddha. But you need his help very much, for by allowing you to perform small tasks, he is giving you a great opportunity to build up positive potential. Therefore, remember his kindness in allowing you to serve.

Also, do not act in a coquettish manner, flirting with your teacher as though you could win his favour in this way. Your spiritual teacher is a Buddha with equal loving compassion for all. He will not be impressed by your frivolous behaviour.

(40) If you are requested to perform a consecration, an initiation, a mandala, or a fire offering ceremony, gather disciples and deliver a discourse; if your teacher is in the area, you must have his permission.

If you are to teach, give a discourse, or explain, you must have your teacher’s permission. Without your teacher’s permission, if you teach, your disciples will not gain attainments.

(41) Whatever offerings you receive from performing such rites, you must offer to your teacher first. Your teacher will take a portion; you will be able to keep the rest.

(42) In the presence of his teacher, a disciple should not act as a spiritual teacher.

When you are in your teacher’s presence, you should never act like a spiritual teacher. Your students should not serve you, should not prostrate, should not do anything to you, but they should direct it to your teacher. Like we will respect our grandfather more than our father. Similarly, because of the grandfather, my father and I are both alive. Because of my father, my grandfather is not alive.

Like that, when your teacher’s teacher comes, then of course you don’t say, “Goodbye teach, hello grand-teach”. No, that’s not the point. You don’t throw your teacher out and get your teacher’s teacher to show him respect. It is that it is not proper. It’s not proper. But in your heart, of course you show respect to your current teacher. And then when your other teacher left, you can resume all the actions you normally do with your teacher, physically. Mentally it’s always been there. So if your teacher’s teachers come and you’ve had something against your teacher for a long time, it’s not the time to slap him around.

If your spiritual teacher lives far away, you should write to him for permission and to accept a disciple or give any teachings. You should write. You should write. Those are examples, no need hmm…

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When we view our guru as a Buddha, we do not need to visit any holy places. We do not need to visit any holy statues. The holiest statue is our guru. The holiest place is our guru’s residence. We do not need it.

(43) Whenever you make an offering to your teacher, or whenever your teacher presents you with something, a disciple with sense will present and receive this using both hands and with his head slightly bent, humbly.

(44) Be diligent in all your actions, alert and mindful, never to forget your words of honour. If fellow disciples transgress, correct each other in a friendly manner.

All disciples who receive tantric empowerments from each other are vajra brothers and sisters. You should have great affection for each other, among each other, and to help each other stay on the path. Dharma brothers and sisters. By correcting each other, you please your teacher and everyone benefits. If there is unity and harmony among Dharma friends, this will spread into the lives of the others around you.

(45) If, because of sickness, you are physically unable to bow to your teacher and must do what normally would be prohibited, even without his explicit permission, there will be no unfortunate consequences if you have a virtuous mind.

A whole-hearted commitment to a spiritual teacher is not a fanatical practice. If you’re ill and your teacher enters the room, you need not stand up and prostrate. If you have something to present and you’re too weak to extend your hand, it is, of course, permissible even if your teacher bends down and receives it from you from the bed. This is not showing disrespect for your teacher because, in your heart, you wish to do what is proper, but your physical condition prevents you. However, there are certain things for which there are no exceptions. You must never disturb your teacher’s mind, boast, be arrogant or disrespectful, no matter what the circumstances.

In this picture, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche was doing special prayers for his student, Lama Yeshe, who was ill. However, Lama Yeshe’s mind was extremely clear and bright. Lama Yeshe was leaning towards Kyabje Zong Rinpoche in deep respect and devotion.

When Lama Yeshe was very ill, his guru Kyabje Zong Rinpoche performed special prayers for him. Despite his illness, Lama Yeshe leaned towards Kyabje Zong Rinpoche with deep respect and devotion.

(46) What need is there to say much more. Do whatever pleases your teacher and avoid anything he would not like. Be diligent in both of these.

(47) Actual attainments follow from doing what your teacher likes. This has been said by Buddha Vajradhara himself. Knowing this, try to please your spiritual teacher fully with all the actions of your body, speech, and mind.

Everyone wants only happiness and never to experience any suffering. The source of these achievements is your spiritual teacher, for he shows you the path to Buddhahood and, by his living example as an enlightened being, inspires you to travel the path yourself. If you realise this, you will understand the importance of a single-minded commitment to your spiritual teacher, and you will do only what pleases him. As the source of these teachings is the Buddha Vajradhara, you should put aside all doubts, follow them with full conviction, and you can attain enlightenment.

What pleases your teacher that is your practice leading to Buddhahood. Thus, your motivation for pleasing him should be bodhicitta and your wish to help others. You should not be prompted by worldly desires such as seeking your teacher’s praises or fatherly approval. Moreover, if your teacher scolds you, examine your feelings. If you have not intentionally belittled him or sought to annoy him, and if you have not responded to his scolding with anger or accusations that he is “unenlightened”, then you have not committed a breach of your commitment to him. In such situations, it is totally inappropriate to become depressed, despondent, or to feel self-pity and guilt that your teacher does not love you anymore. To do so is an indication of your strong ego-grasping, which causes you to take his criticism too personally.

Marpa scolded and even beat Milarepa many times. This was not because he personally disliked him, but because out of compassion, he saw the need for skilful means that were forceful. Thus, if your spiritual teacher is wrathful with you, try to see this as a method he is using to tame your mind and lead you to enlightenment. As a Buddha, how can he possibly hate you?

(48) After a disciple has taken refuge in the Triple Gem [Three Jewels] and developed a pure, enlightened motive, he should be given this text to recite daily; how to abandon his own arrogant self-will and follow in his teacher’s footsteps along the graded path of enlightenment.

(49) By studying the prerequisites, training, and the wholehearted commitment to a teacher and the graded path, comments about sutra and tantra, you will be a suitable vessel to hold the pure Dharma. You may then be given such teachings as tantra. After receiving the proper empowerments, read out the 14 root vows and then take them sincerely to heart.

This text was written to be recited daily so that disciples would not forget the important points of how to conduct themselves with their spiritual teacher. When your master has prepared you in this way for tantric teachings, and you have become a suitable vessel, then it is proper for him to initiate you. He will then explain the tantric vows and you must be sure never to transgress them.

50Verse_58

As I have not made the mistake, when writing this work, of adding my personal interpretation, may this be of infinite benefit to all disciples who wish to follow their teachers. By the limitless positive potential I have built up in this way, may all sentient beings quickly attain the state of Buddha.

This was written by the great Ashvaghosha and it was translated by the great Rinchen Zangpo, together with the great Indian abbot, Padmakaravarma.

So this scripture, the source is Buddha Vajradhara. It was further abbreviated and written commentary in stylised, poetic stanza form by the great master Ashvaghosha, and it was translated into Tibetan by the great Rinchen Zangpo, with the great Indian abbot, Padmakaravarma. So, the text has a source. The text has a reason. The text is valid. That is the reason for writing the author, writing the source, citing the source, citing the author, citing the translator — to give it authenticity. We cannot run around and compose these kinds of texts and say, “You do it and it’s the Buddha’s words.” You must cite its authenticity. This is what this author has done.

Now, when they say “recite daily,” it doesn’t mean all the comments in between. Of course, you read that once. But the stanzas: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27… To recite that daily, to remind you of what your commitments are. If you recite all your meditational practices, you do all your mantras, and you do all your offerings, but you do not have proper guru conduct, you will not gain enlightenment. Reciting this is not a torturous act. It is not to brainwash you. It is not to torture you. It is not to make you follow a guru mindlessly. It is to remind you what is the conduct toward a being who is enlightened, who is teaching you enlightenment, or who represents a state of enlightenment that you wish to achieve.

The proper conduct to the guru is not fanatical. It is based on logic. It is based on your physical and mental capabilities. And the guru is the greatest training ground for you to destroy your delusions, destroy your illusions, destroy your hatred, destroy your anger, destroy all the ten non-virtuous acts that you have engaged in since you were born, from your previous lives up until now. Even from this morning to tonight, what actions have you committed? More on the positive or negative? More committed towards worldly, senseless activities that bring the three lower realms to you closer? Or activities that bring you closer to enlightenment? Your guru is the greatest training ground for you to become an enlightened being.

If you can practice all the qualities that I have mentioned here with your guru, you will be able to practice all this with all sentient beings. When you can practice this with all sentient beings, without any feeling of hurt or attachment or detachment, nothing; you have realised emptiness, you have gained compassion. Your guru is the battleground for you.

And the best thing about it is that your guru does not expect anything from you except your Dharma practice. Anything you do in relation to your guru — offer food, offer materials, service, massaging, helping, assisting; it is not for him, it is for you. If you think it is for him, you have been mistaken. Your visualisation is wrong, your motivation is wrong, your thinking is wrong, your idea is wrong from the start. Therefore, you will not accrue the actions. If you visualise that he is a Buddha and you’re massaging a Buddha and by massaging a Buddha, you eliminate negative karma for you to become sick in the future and all sentient beings to be sick in the future, you will acquire that. If you think you’re massaging because you’re going to get a yelling, then that’s the benefit you get. You don’t get a yelling.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The motivation depends on you. If you make an offering to your guru of a million dollars in order to impress your friends and show off and how wonderful you are and fabulous, no merits. If you make an offering of one dollar sincerely, and that’s all you have, and you wish to gain enlightenment; you will gain enlightenment by that act because your guru is a representative, the ambassador of the Buddhas. Without your guru, you will never ever see the Buddhas. You will never ever meet the Buddhas. You will never even hear the teachings; if you hear it, you’ll be confused, lost. If you attempt to practise it, dangerous. If you do the wind meditation, you get the wrong wind, you go crazy.

Your guru guides you, teaches you, gives you an object to emulate, and a great training ground for your destructive emotions that are so strong. And again, remember how you were as stated in Rinpoche’s book before you met your teacher. Worse than a wild animal because you have the potential to be more, but you do the same as a wild animal, therefore worse. Like a policeman and an ordinary man who steals. Of course, the action is the same, the object is the same, but the policeman will be worse because he is the one that enforces not stealing. Think about it. Think about it carefully.

Then, if you do not allow yourself to dwell upon the faults that my spiritual guide may appear to have, and if I concentrate only upon his good qualities, attention to his good qualities will gradually exclude attention to his faults. It is a training.

There are four reasonings that lead us to develop more conviction that our guide is a Buddha. There are four lines of reasoning that we can follow to have more conviction that our spiritual guide is a Buddha:

  1. Buddha Vajradhara said that spiritual guides are Buddhas. He will emanate, he will manifest in the future in the form of ordinary spiritual guides that lead you because you have ordinary karma that can only perceive ‘ordinary’ beings.
  2. Our spiritual guide performs the enlightened actions of the Buddhas: teaching, turning the wheel of Dharma, guiding compassionately, compassionately extolling, compassionately scolding you, compassionately giving you advice, taking care of you physically, sometimes materially, taking care of you emotionally. He does all the actions of an enlightened being. He is performing the enlightened actions of a Buddha for you.
  3. In these degenerate times, Buddhas continue to work for the benefit of all living beings through your gurus. Only through your gurus can the Buddhas work for other sentient beings because the true way a Buddha can benefit you is by giving you the Dharma.
  4. And the only person that can give you the Dharma is your guru. Appearances are deceptive, and our own opinions are unreliable. We cannot even judge the person next to us, let alone our spiritual teachers and people who may be enlightened, or close to it, or attained. If we were to have a wrong judgement and act upon it, the consequences would be quite dangerous. We will be pulling ourselves and pushing ourselves away from enlightenment.

50Verse_60

Then, how to develop respect for our spiritual guide by remembering his or her kindness?

  1. Remembering that our spiritual guide is kinder than all the Buddhas because he is the one that is patient enough to teach you, to guide you, to put up with you./li>
  2. Remembering that our spiritual guide is kinder even than the Buddha Shakyamuni in the example that during difficulties, if someone gives you some money and you’re able to build a big business and later you can attain all the great patrons and you can move up in life, it’s because of that simple person who gave you something in the beginning. It is the guru who has given you instructions to destroy your negativities, destroy your delusions, purify your negative karma so that later on you can actually see the Buddha. And it is said in the Manjushri tantra that if you visualise, believe and trust that your guru is Buddha, you will collect the merits, the path and the result will be the same. Which means if you visualise that your guru is the Buddha, you will collect the merit that you will actually receive teachings from a fully enlightened being such as Maitreya and Manjushri himself in the future. You will collect that kind of merit because that’s what you have been praying to. Just like if you pray to a Buddha Shakyamuni statue here that is made of wood, you keep praying, you ask for teachings, you ask for enlightenment; you will create the karma for them to actually appear and to see them, and to get teachings from them. You will create that. And then, in this life and all future lives, you will never ever be separated from a compassionate guru. Compassionate.

Highly realised scholars such as Tilopa, Naropa, and Atisha taught Dharma and helped disciples to attain liberation, full enlightenment. But we were not among those who benefited from their advice. The great Kadampa teachers came, but again, we were not among their disciples. Je Tsongkhapa came, and other realised teachers, Guru Rinpoche, but we were not among their disciples. If we ask, “Whose disciple am I? Who is now revealing the spiritual path to me?” we shall see that our spiritual guide is now showing us the same kindness that the Buddhas of the past showed their disciples. Therefore, as far as we ourselves are concerned, our present guru is kinder than all the Buddhas.

Sometimes, the blessings of the spiritual guide are extremely extraordinary as in the case of the Geshe Jayuwa, who without exerting effort in meditation, gained concentration naturally through the power of his spiritual guide’s blessings. There are many examples, such as the example of Naropa, who found it exceedingly difficult to receive teachings from his spiritual guide, Tilopa. Tilopa just gave him problems, but he did so to help Naropa purify his mind. On one occasion, instead of giving Dharma instructions, Tilopa threw a handful of dust into his disciple’s face, whereupon Naropa developed single-pointed concentration and remained there, undistracted, for one week. All the problems that Tilopa gave were blessings in disguise.

A painting of the two illustrious panditas Tilopa and Naropa, his student who showed great guru devotion practice.

A painting of the illustrious mahasiddha Tilopa, and Naropa, his student who showed great guru devotion practice.

As I told you, offering actions of bodily and verbal respect, such as making prostrations or reciting verses, offering material things, offering service, offering our Dharma practice. This is what your guru wants. Usually, when our sense powers, the eye sense power, the ear sense power, the nose sense power, the tongue sense power, and the body sense power, or our mental power comes into contact with the respective objects — form, sound, smell, taste, tactile objects and other phenomenon — delusions easily arise in the mind, causing us to engage in harmful actions that bring suffering as their result. When we have eliminated self-grasping, which is the root of all delusions, our sense powers and their objects can come into contact without generating delusion. Until that time, we can practise protecting the doors of our senses.

We can do it in two ways: — protecting our doors from the sense of delusions or the arising of delusions. The delusions which act through the five sensory powers; the delusions (ignorance, hatred and desire) acting through your ear, your nose, your tactile feeling, your taste, your touch, your smell. The minute you see something attractive, the minute you feel something attractive, the minute you desire something attractive, immediately your desires get up, move, and you act upon it. When you act upon it because it is motivated by desire, therefore, you get negative results. How to avoid that? Number one and number two, two ways.

  1. Is to totally avoid it by running into the caves. Impossible for us right now. And the only cave I know about is Ipoh, too far.
  2. Is to avoid it, eye contact. If you see a beautiful girl going that way, try to look this way. Even on the first day, you go like that, okay. Second day you go like that. Third day, you make it less. The first day you may turn three times. The second day, make it twice. The third day, make it once. And the next day, don’t look anymore. By not looking, you slowly train your mind, by not concentrating. When you go to the store, you see a Gucci handbag for 5,000 ringgits, you resist. You try not to look. You try to avoid. You go back to the window, look, think about it again, walk away. Think about it again and have your girlfriend drag you by your neck away. Slowly avoid it. Slowly destroy that distraction. Immediately, you cannot resist, of course. Slowly you can resist; you can break it away. Slowly, definitely, you can break it away.

And with that constant … with guru devotion, serving your guru by your body, speech, and mind, especially by practice: ten avoidances, holding the vows of refuge, and lessening your delusions by the two ways I just mentioned; you will be able to advance very fast in your spiritual practice. Even if you cannot meditate a lot, even if you cannot do many prostrations, if you serve your guru correctly and well, to the best of your ability, you will advance faster than anyone else.

Atisha had great disciples; some scholars, some meditation masters, some were cooks, his cooks, who never studied one word of Dharma, who worked for him ceaselessly, who had faith that he was the Buddha, who cooked for him; and in Tibet when you cook it’s not just a matter of going to the market and buying vegetables. You have to go far away and get the supplies. You have to run to the river to get the water. You have to get wood from the forest.

 

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One Response to Refuge and the Guru

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  1. Jacinta Goh on Apr 7, 2024 at 10:02 pm

    Refuge is very important. It’s kind of like the root of our own salvation.

    We need to learn how what is refuge, the reason for it, how to take refuge, how to devote ourselves properly to our spiritual guide, the avoidance of pitfalls and much more. This article could be our lifesaver and our checklist.

    Even after years of being in Kechara, I have to visit this article often, to serve as a reminder, to strengthen those good quality that I may have and especially to eradicate those non virtuous ones as soon as possible. Thank you Rinpoche.

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  • Samfoonheei
    Saturday, Apr 20. 2024 04:08 PM
    Momo is a dumpling made of all-purpose flour and filled with either meat or vegetables. Inspired by Tibetan dumplings, the dish is a very popular Nepali street food. It is one of my favourite foods. Last year while in Kathmandu I am fortunate given the opportunity to learn and made vegetarian Momos.
    Thank you Rinpoche for this sharing as it reminds me of trip there visiting some of the Holiest sites and trying my hand making momos then.

    https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/students-friends/making-nepalese-momos.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Saturday, Apr 20. 2024 04:06 PM
    Bouddha, also known as Boudhanath, is a stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal which is located about 11 km from outskirts of Kathmandu. Its massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal and the world. The Boudhanath Stupa pyramid is coated with over 60 pounds of gold, is one of the largest and one of the most significant Buddhist monuments in the world. This great Stupa is home to precious relics and this semi-circular structure stands out with its majestic mandala, recognized by UNESCO in 1979 as a World Heritage Site. The Boudhanath is the most sacred sites in Tibetan Buddhism outside of Tibet, reflecting the cosmological tenets of Buddhism. Was there last year June joining thousands of pilgrims circumambulate the stupa.
    The aerial view of this Boudhanath Stupa is magnificent indeed. Looking merely at the pictures is a blessing.
    Thank you Rinpoche for this sharing.

    https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/art-architecture/aerial-view-of-bodha-stupa.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Saturday, Apr 20. 2024 04:04 PM
    Shanti Stupa in Pokhara was built by Nipponzan-Myōhōji monk Morioka Sonin with local supporters under the guidance of Nichidatsu Fujii, a Buddhist monk and the founder of Nipponzan-Myōhōji
    A famous site where locals as well as foreign tourists will go there throughout the year. One have to climb 400 steep steps to get to the Pagoda, it was worth the climb, as its situated on the Anadu Hill at the height of 1100 meters.
    Shanti Stupa shrine was built as a symbol of peace designed to provide a focus for people of all races and creeds, and to help unite them in their search for world peace. It has also become a tourist attraction as it provides a panoramic view of the Annapurna range, Pokhara city and Fewa Lake. The white pagoda has two tiers for tourists and religious visitors to circumambulate. Its location on the hilltop provides a splendid view of sunrise and sunset for visitors. Hopefully I could visit this amazing Holy site soon.
    Thank you Rinpoche for this great sharing

    https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/art-architecture/pokhara-stupa.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Saturday, Apr 20. 2024 04:04 PM
    Its an old blog yet its hold many wonderful memories for The Tsem Ladrang team , I am sure. They are the ones who found a beautiful house in the hills of Naranthan in Kathmandu, Nepal. The place is serene and peaceful with beautiful mountains ranges. Looking at the old pictures its breath-taking and brilliant. The Ladrang is surrounded by scenery of outstanding natural beauty. Having a spacious yard, guest quarters, butterlamp house, to mention a few. The Ladrang has a spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and Kathmandu Valley.
    Thank you Rinpoche for this sharing and teachings.

    https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/me/tsem-ladrang-naranthan-nepal.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Saturday, Apr 20. 2024 04:02 PM
    Buddhist Pilgrimage in Nepal is the best trip that takes us to the spiritual centers where Buddhism’s practices and meditations emerged. Nepal is popular for its Buddhism practices and itself is the birthplace of the originator Gautam Buddha. This beautiful Himalayan nation hosts the amazing Buddhist trails, monuments and stupas. It’s the place where the Buddha meditated and the Buddha enlightened the people with wisdom. Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, boasts many caves, stupas, and monasteries that are associated with Bodhisattvas, Buddha and Siddhas. The cave of Naropa and his guru Tilopa is beside Pashupatinath temple, bank of the holy Bagmati River. All these caves is considered as the holy site and Buddhist pilgrimage sites as the caves is the place where Naropa received training, teachings and had visions of Vajrayogini.
    I am fortunate to have visited this Holy caves while at Kathmandu last year.
    Thank you Rinpoche for this sharing .

    https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/travel/puja-at-naropas-cave-kathmandu-nepal.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Saturday, Apr 20. 2024 04:00 PM
    The Lord Buddha was born in 623 BC in the sacred area of Lumbini, southern Nepal.Lumbini is one of the world’s most important spiritual sites for the Buddhist pilgrims from around the world. The site is a popular place of Buddhist pilgrimage for many yearly. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. The tranquility, aura and peace that we would experience in Lumbini makes it among the most holy places to visit in the world. I am fortunate going to this holiest place of Buddha birthplace last year with my Dharma brothers and sisters .It is the place where, according to Buddhist tradition, worth visiting
    Thank you Rinpoche for this sharing.

    https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/external-article/the-birth-palace-of-gautam-buddha
  • Samfoonheei
    Tuesday, Apr 2. 2024 02:06 PM
    Very interesting and informative article. In most cultures, women is consider as lower in status compared with men. Ancient times in India, man took the lead while women is seconded. But times has changed for the better where women are not degraded in society. They receive equal recognition, appreciation, and stature, yet in countries and places around the world, women are still viewed as inferior and treated accordingly. But in Buddhism women have been increasing in number and has proven that many of them have gained full enlightenment in a female body. In Buddhism is concerned there’s no discrimination toward women ,both men and women are equal. There‘s many female Mahasiddhas and Yoginis as in this blog. May it inspired many more to come. Interesting article and its great sharing knowledge.
    Thank you Rinpoche with folded hands,

    https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/courtesans-of-ancient-india.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Tuesday, Apr 2. 2024 02:05 PM
    Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, one may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people may also feel pressure or a sense of choking. Sleep paralysis is a temporary inability to move or speak. It’s not harmful and should pass quickly, but at times can be frightening. It can affect anyone but is most common in young adults and they might have hallucination. The scary facts about sleep paralysis is those who suffer from it have said it felt like someone was choking them on their chest so they could not breathe.
    As for me I have not experience as such before as least i know now what i can to do.
    Thank you Vinnie Tan for sharing. Interesting read of these stories related to sleep paralysis.

    https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/science-mysteries/sleep-paralysis-medical-or-paranormal.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Tuesday, Apr 2. 2024 02:03 PM
    nteresting as this texts been composed after being inspired to do so . That’s interesting as this nature are traditionally considered exceptionally potent in their blessings if the claim of divine inspiration is authentic. According to the account in the introduction, the author composed this text after being divinely inspired to do so. It’s a very rare kind and its acceptance been recognised and received praise by very high lamas of our tradition. Reading this article tell us all of how powerful Dorje Shugden when we invoke in our prayers.
    Interesting read of the short biography of Ven. Geshe Kunchok Gyaltsen, the author of Mass of Vajra Fire.
    Thank you Rinpoche for this sharing.

    https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/mass-of-vajra-fire-invocation-of-the-mighty-dorje-shugden.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Tuesday, Apr 2. 2024 02:01 PM
    That’s wonderful Rinpoche has composed prayers in English so as everyone could recite and practice. For beginners is such a meaningful insights and perspectives without commitments and initiation. Moreover each prayers is for a specific blessing that helps practitioners to gain attainments and overcome obstacles. Easy and simple for everyone to start off.
    We are fortunate that everything Rinpoche did brought tremendous benefit to all sentient beings. Whatever prayers Rinpoche has composed are especially potent with blessings.
    Thank you Rinpoche and writers for this sharing.

    https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/holy-prayers-to-invoke-the-divine.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Tuesday, Apr 2. 2024 01:59 PM
    A great article , revisit this again of Tibetan Lamas and their dogs. As now I have a pet doggie with me, I came to understand more of them . Dogs are the most amazing creatures, they give us unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive. Buddhists believe dogs also have the potential to become enlightened and can teach us about responsibility, love, and other Buddhist principles. The Q & A by Sandra Klein’s interview with the Venerable Gonsar Rinpoche gave us a better understanding and very informative of Tibetan dogs under Lamas care. ccording to the Buddha Dharma, all sentient beings have Buddha nature — from ants to humans. Though we often look at dogs as wonderful companions an teach us to embrace Buddhist principles. They, themselves, embody many of these principles.
    Thank you Rinpoche for this great sharing.

    https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/animals-vegetarianism/dogs-in-tibetan-monasteries.html
  • Brent
    Tuesday, Mar 26. 2024 04:47 PM
    Living with my wife, whose world is meticulously painted with the hues of OCD, is a journey that intertwines the essence of love with the complexities of the human mind. Her relentless pursuit of cleanliness and order, transforming even the most negligible corner into a testament of organization, often dances on the fine line between admiration and frustration. The sight of her steering clear from trash bins as if they were labyrinths of chaos, serves as a poignant reminder of the battles she fights within. Yet, it’s through these very battles that I’ve learned the profound language of patience and the unspoken strength of support. Therapy, in its gentle embrace, has been a beacon of light for her, guiding her through the stormy seas of OCD. It has not only offered her solace but has also unveiled the strength of her spirit, teaching us both the beauty of resilience. As she journeys through the pathways of healing, I stand by her, a testament to the power of love and the enduring promise of hope. Together, we navigate the complexities of her world, discovering that within the challenges lie opportunities for growth, understanding, and an unbreakable bond. https://www.mindfullyaliveonline.com/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/
  • Samfoonheei
    Friday, Mar 15. 2024 07:31 PM
    Venerable Ajahn Chah was a Thai Buddhist teacher of the Buddhadhamma and a founder of two major monasteries in the Thai Forest Tradition. Well respected and loved as a man of great wisdom, he was also instrumental in establishing Theravada Buddhism in the West. Interesting life story, how he chose to leave the settled monastic life and became a wandering ascetic. Walking across Thailand, lived in forests, caves and cremation grounds while learning from the meditation monks of the Forest of various monasteries. He wandered through the countryside in quest of quiet and secluded places for developing meditation. He even lived in tiger and cobra infested jungles, using reflections on death to penetrate to the true meaning of life. After years of wandering, Venerable Ajahn Chah established a monastery where he taught simple, practice-based form of meditation, and attracted a numerous of students including western foreigners. He was one of the greatest Dhamma teachers of the modern era. His wise teachings have continued to guide thousands of people along the path of Dharma. Venerable Ajahn Chah’s teachings of the Thai Forest Tradition gradually spread across all over the world. Several of Ajahn Chah’s Western students have since established monasteries throughout the world. Just in Thailand itself, there are more than 300 branch monasteries in Ajahn Chah’s tradition. Ven erable Ajahn Chah used his ill health as a teaching point, emphasizing that it was a living example of the impermanence of all things and reminded people to endeavour to find a true refuge within themselves. The legacy of Venerable Ajahn Chah’s teachings and legacy continues into the modern age.
    Thank you Rinpoche for this great sharing.

    https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/great-lamas-masters/venerable-ajahn-chah-the-forest-monk.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Friday, Mar 15. 2024 07:30 PM
    Wonderful blog written on the practice of Kalarupa for us to understand better. As an emanation of Manjushri, Kalarupa’s practice helps us to destroy ignorance and to develop wisdom overcoming our anger and suffering . Awesome Kalarupa manifested in multiple forms to help sentient beings who personifies enlightenment by the conquest of anger. Kalarupa also regard as one of the three main Dharma protectors of the Gelugpa is extremely fierce and ugly, and tames all kinds of spiritual ugliness. The fierceness of his iconography teaches us to remind ourselves that all the causes and effects of anger arising from ignorance are dreadful and distorted.
    Thank you Rinpoche and Pastor Antionette for this detailed sharing,

    https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/kalarupa.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Friday, Mar 15. 2024 07:27 PM
    Nepal is a very spiritual country, having a huge Dorje Shugden mural in Kathmandu, is indeed a big achievement for Kechara. Located on Charkhal Road in Dilli Bazaar, the mural can be found midway between our two Dorje Shugden chapels which are in Putalisadak and Chabahil. It is also very close to one of Kathmandu’s largest shopping malls. Many locals , tourist will be able to connect them to a powerful deity that is so closely associated with their culture. Well the mural not only beautiful but also full of symbolism and everyone merely by seeing it is blessed. Thanks to those talented artists and generous sponsors making it a success.
    Thank you Rinpoche for this sharing.

    https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/travel/spectacular-dorje-shugden-mural-in-kathmandu-nepal.html

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

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I must thank my dharma blog team who are great assets to me, Kechara and growth of dharma in this wonderful region. I am honoured and thrilled to work with them. I really am. Maybe I don't say it enough to them, but I am saying it now. I APPRECIATE THESE GUYS VERY MUCH!

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The Unknown

The Known and unknown are both feared,
Known is being comfortable and stagnant,
The unknown may be growth and opportunities,
One shall never know if one fears the unknown more than the known.
Who says the unknown would be worse than the known?
But then again, the unknown is sometimes worse than the known. In the end nothing is known unless we endeavour,
So go pursue all the way with the unknown,
because all unknown with familiarity becomes the known.
~Tsem Rinpoche

Photos On The Go

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According to legend, Shambhala is a place where wisdom and love reign, and there is no crime. Doesn\'t this sound like the kind of place all of us would love to live in? https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=204874
4 years ago
According to legend, Shambhala is a place where wisdom and love reign, and there is no crime. Doesn't this sound like the kind of place all of us would love to live in? https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=204874
108 candles and sang (incense) offered at our Wish-Fulfilling Grotto, invoking Dorje Shugden\'s blessings for friends, sponsors and supporters, wonderful!
4 years ago
108 candles and sang (incense) offered at our Wish-Fulfilling Grotto, invoking Dorje Shugden's blessings for friends, sponsors and supporters, wonderful!
Dharmapalas are not exclusive to Tibetan culture and their practice is widespread throughout the Buddhist world - https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=193645
4 years ago
Dharmapalas are not exclusive to Tibetan culture and their practice is widespread throughout the Buddhist world - https://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=193645
One of our adorable Kechara Forest Retreat\'s doggies, Tara, happy and safe, and enjoying herself in front of Wisdom Hall which has been decorated for Chinese New Year
4 years ago
One of our adorable Kechara Forest Retreat's doggies, Tara, happy and safe, and enjoying herself in front of Wisdom Hall which has been decorated for Chinese New Year
Fragrant organic Thai basil harvested from our very own Kechara Forest Retreat farm!
4 years ago
Fragrant organic Thai basil harvested from our very own Kechara Forest Retreat farm!
On behalf of our Puja House team, Pastor Tat Ming receives food and drinks from Rinpoche. Rinpoche wanted to make sure the hardworking Puja House team are always taken care of.
4 years ago
On behalf of our Puja House team, Pastor Tat Ming receives food and drinks from Rinpoche. Rinpoche wanted to make sure the hardworking Puja House team are always taken care of.
By the time I heard about Luang Phor Thong, he was already very old, in his late 80s. When I heard about him, I immediately wanted to go and pay my respects to him. - http://bit.ly/LuangPhorThong
4 years ago
By the time I heard about Luang Phor Thong, he was already very old, in his late 80s. When I heard about him, I immediately wanted to go and pay my respects to him. - http://bit.ly/LuangPhorThong
It\'s very nice to see volunteers helping maintain holy sites in Kechara Forest Retreat, it\'s very good for them. Cleaning Buddha statues is a very powerful and effective way of purifying body karma.
4 years ago
It's very nice to see volunteers helping maintain holy sites in Kechara Forest Retreat, it's very good for them. Cleaning Buddha statues is a very powerful and effective way of purifying body karma.
Kechara Forest Retreat is preparing for the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations. This is our holy Vajra Yogini stupa which is now surrounded by beautiful lanterns organised by our students.
4 years ago
Kechara Forest Retreat is preparing for the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations. This is our holy Vajra Yogini stupa which is now surrounded by beautiful lanterns organised by our students.
One of the most recent harvests from our Kechara Forest Retreat land. It was grown free of chemicals and pesticides, wonderful!
4 years ago
One of the most recent harvests from our Kechara Forest Retreat land. It was grown free of chemicals and pesticides, wonderful!
Third picture-Standing Manjushri Statue at Chowar, Kirtipur, Nepal.
Height: 33ft (10m)
5 years ago
Third picture-Standing Manjushri Statue at Chowar, Kirtipur, Nepal. Height: 33ft (10m)
Second picture-Standing Manjushri Statue at Chowar, Kirtipur, Nepal.
Height: 33ft (10m)
5 years ago
Second picture-Standing Manjushri Statue at Chowar, Kirtipur, Nepal. Height: 33ft (10m)
First picture-Standing Manjushri Statue at Chowar, Kirtipur, Nepal.
Height: 33ft (10m)
5 years ago
First picture-Standing Manjushri Statue at Chowar, Kirtipur, Nepal. Height: 33ft (10m)
The first title published by Kechara Comics is Karuna Finds A Way. It tells the tale of high-school sweethearts Karuna and Adam who had what some would call the dream life. Everything was going great for them until one day when reality came knocking on their door. Caught in a surprise swindle, this loving family who never harmed anyone found themselves out of luck and down on their fortune. Determined to save her family, Karuna goes all out to find a solution. See what she does- https://bit.ly/2LSKuWo
5 years ago
The first title published by Kechara Comics is Karuna Finds A Way. It tells the tale of high-school sweethearts Karuna and Adam who had what some would call the dream life. Everything was going great for them until one day when reality came knocking on their door. Caught in a surprise swindle, this loving family who never harmed anyone found themselves out of luck and down on their fortune. Determined to save her family, Karuna goes all out to find a solution. See what she does- https://bit.ly/2LSKuWo
Very powerful story! Tibetan Resistance group Chushi Gangdruk reveals how Dalai Lama escaped in 1959- https://bit.ly/2S9VMGX
5 years ago
Very powerful story! Tibetan Resistance group Chushi Gangdruk reveals how Dalai Lama escaped in 1959- https://bit.ly/2S9VMGX
At Kechara Forest Retreat land we have nice fresh spinach growing free of chemicals and pesticides. Yes!
5 years ago
At Kechara Forest Retreat land we have nice fresh spinach growing free of chemicals and pesticides. Yes!
See beautiful pictures of Manjushri Guest House here- https://bit.ly/2WGo0ti
5 years ago
See beautiful pictures of Manjushri Guest House here- https://bit.ly/2WGo0ti
Beginner’s Introduction to Dorje Shugden~Very good overview https://bit.ly/2QQNfYv
5 years ago
Beginner’s Introduction to Dorje Shugden~Very good overview https://bit.ly/2QQNfYv
Fresh eggplants grown on Kechara Forest Retreat\'s land here in Malaysia
5 years ago
Fresh eggplants grown on Kechara Forest Retreat's land here in Malaysia
Most Venerable Uppalavanna – The Chief Female Disciple of Buddha Shakyamuni - She exhibited many supernatural abilities gained from meditation and proved to the world females and males are equal in spirituality- https://bit.ly/31d9Rat
5 years ago
Most Venerable Uppalavanna – The Chief Female Disciple of Buddha Shakyamuni - She exhibited many supernatural abilities gained from meditation and proved to the world females and males are equal in spirituality- https://bit.ly/31d9Rat
Thailand’s ‘Renegade’ Yet Powerful Buddhist Nuns~ https://bit.ly/2Z1C02m
5 years ago
Thailand’s ‘Renegade’ Yet Powerful Buddhist Nuns~ https://bit.ly/2Z1C02m
Mahapajapati Gotami – the first Buddhist nun ordained by Lord Buddha- https://bit.ly/2IjD8ru
5 years ago
Mahapajapati Gotami – the first Buddhist nun ordained by Lord Buddha- https://bit.ly/2IjD8ru
The Largest Buddha Shakyamuni in Russia | 俄罗斯最大的释迦牟尼佛画像- https://bit.ly/2Wpclni
5 years ago
The Largest Buddha Shakyamuni in Russia | 俄罗斯最大的释迦牟尼佛画像- https://bit.ly/2Wpclni
Sacred Vajra Yogini
5 years ago
Sacred Vajra Yogini
Dorje Shugden works & archives - a labour of commitment - https://bit.ly/30Tp2p8
5 years ago
Dorje Shugden works & archives - a labour of commitment - https://bit.ly/30Tp2p8
Mahapajapati Gotami, who was the first nun ordained by Lord Buddha.
5 years ago
Mahapajapati Gotami, who was the first nun ordained by Lord Buddha.
Mahapajapati Gotami, who was the first nun ordained by Lord Buddha. She was his step-mother and aunt. Buddha\'s mother had passed away at his birth so he was raised by Gotami.
5 years ago
Mahapajapati Gotami, who was the first nun ordained by Lord Buddha. She was his step-mother and aunt. Buddha's mother had passed away at his birth so he was raised by Gotami.
Another nun disciple of Lord Buddha\'s. She had achieved great spiritual abilities and high attainments. She would be a proper object of refuge. This image of the eminent bhikkhuni (nun) disciple of the Buddha, Uppalavanna Theri.
5 years ago
Another nun disciple of Lord Buddha's. She had achieved great spiritual abilities and high attainments. She would be a proper object of refuge. This image of the eminent bhikkhuni (nun) disciple of the Buddha, Uppalavanna Theri.
Wandering Ascetic Painting by Nirdesha Munasinghe
5 years ago
Wandering Ascetic Painting by Nirdesha Munasinghe
High Sri Lankan monks visit Kechara to bless our land, temple, Buddha and Dorje Shugden images. They were very kind-see pictures- https://bit.ly/2HQie2M
5 years ago
High Sri Lankan monks visit Kechara to bless our land, temple, Buddha and Dorje Shugden images. They were very kind-see pictures- https://bit.ly/2HQie2M
This is pretty amazing!

First Sri Lankan Buddhist temple opened in Dubai!!!
5 years ago
This is pretty amazing! First Sri Lankan Buddhist temple opened in Dubai!!!
My Dharma boy (left) and Oser girl loves to laze around on the veranda in the mornings. They enjoy all the trees, grass and relaxing under the hot sun. Sunbathing is a favorite daily activity. I care about these two doggies of mine very much and I enjoy seeing them happy. They are with me always. Tsem Rinpoche

Always be kind to animals and eat vegetarian- https://bit.ly/2Psp8h2
5 years ago
My Dharma boy (left) and Oser girl loves to laze around on the veranda in the mornings. They enjoy all the trees, grass and relaxing under the hot sun. Sunbathing is a favorite daily activity. I care about these two doggies of mine very much and I enjoy seeing them happy. They are with me always. Tsem Rinpoche Always be kind to animals and eat vegetarian- https://bit.ly/2Psp8h2
After you left me Mumu, I was alone. I have no family or kin. You were my family. I can\'t stop thinking of you and I can\'t forget you. My bond and connection with you is so strong. I wish you were by my side. Tsem Rinpoche
5 years ago
After you left me Mumu, I was alone. I have no family or kin. You were my family. I can't stop thinking of you and I can't forget you. My bond and connection with you is so strong. I wish you were by my side. Tsem Rinpoche
This story is a life-changer. Learn about the incredible Forest Man of India | 印度“森林之子”- https://bit.ly/2Eh4vRS
5 years ago
This story is a life-changer. Learn about the incredible Forest Man of India | 印度“森林之子”- https://bit.ly/2Eh4vRS
Part 2-Beautiful billboard in Malaysia of a powerful Tibetan hero whose life serves as a great inspiration- https://bit.ly/2UltNE4
5 years ago
Part 2-Beautiful billboard in Malaysia of a powerful Tibetan hero whose life serves as a great inspiration- https://bit.ly/2UltNE4
Part 1-Beautiful billboard in Malaysia of a powerful Tibetan hero whose life serves as a great inspiration- https://bit.ly/2UltNE4
5 years ago
Part 1-Beautiful billboard in Malaysia of a powerful Tibetan hero whose life serves as a great inspiration- https://bit.ly/2UltNE4
The great Protector Manjushri Dorje Shugden depicted in the beautiful Mongolian style. To download a high resolution file: https://bit.ly/2Nt3FHz
5 years ago
The great Protector Manjushri Dorje Shugden depicted in the beautiful Mongolian style. To download a high resolution file: https://bit.ly/2Nt3FHz
The Mystical land of Shambhala is finally ready for everyone to feast their eyes and be blessed. A beautiful post with information, art work, history, spirituality and a beautiful book composed by His Holiness the 6th Panchen Rinpoche. ~ https://bit.ly/309MHBi
5 years ago
The Mystical land of Shambhala is finally ready for everyone to feast their eyes and be blessed. A beautiful post with information, art work, history, spirituality and a beautiful book composed by His Holiness the 6th Panchen Rinpoche. ~ https://bit.ly/309MHBi
Beautiful pictures of the huge Buddha in Longkou Nanshan- https://bit.ly/2LsBxVb
5 years ago
Beautiful pictures of the huge Buddha in Longkou Nanshan- https://bit.ly/2LsBxVb
The reason-Very interesting thought- https://bit.ly/2V7VT5r
5 years ago
The reason-Very interesting thought- https://bit.ly/2V7VT5r
NEW Bigfoot cafe in Malaysia! Food is delicious!- https://bit.ly/2VxdGau
5 years ago
NEW Bigfoot cafe in Malaysia! Food is delicious!- https://bit.ly/2VxdGau
DON\'T MISS THIS!~How brave Bonnie survived by living with a herd of deer~ https://bit.ly/2Lre2eY
5 years ago
DON'T MISS THIS!~How brave Bonnie survived by living with a herd of deer~ https://bit.ly/2Lre2eY
Global Superpower China Will Cut Meat Consumption by 50%! Very interesting, find out more- https://bit.ly/2V1sJFh
5 years ago
Global Superpower China Will Cut Meat Consumption by 50%! Very interesting, find out more- https://bit.ly/2V1sJFh
You can download this beautiful Egyptian style Dorje Shugden Free- https://bit.ly/2Nt3FHz
5 years ago
You can download this beautiful Egyptian style Dorje Shugden Free- https://bit.ly/2Nt3FHz
Beautiful high file for print of Lord Manjushri. May you be blessed- https://bit.ly/2V8mwZe
5 years ago
Beautiful high file for print of Lord Manjushri. May you be blessed- https://bit.ly/2V8mwZe
Mongolian (Oymiakon) Shaman in Siberia, Russia. That is his real outfit he wears. Very unique. TR
5 years ago
Mongolian (Oymiakon) Shaman in Siberia, Russia. That is his real outfit he wears. Very unique. TR
Find one of the most beautiful temples in the world in Nara, Japan. It is the 1,267 year old Todai-ji temple that houses a 15 meter Buddha Vairocana statue who is a cosmic and timeless Buddha. Emperor Shomu who sponsored this beautiful temple eventually abdicated and ordained as a Buddhist monk. Very interesting history and story. One of the places everyone should visit- https://bit.ly/2VgsHhK
5 years ago
Find one of the most beautiful temples in the world in Nara, Japan. It is the 1,267 year old Todai-ji temple that houses a 15 meter Buddha Vairocana statue who is a cosmic and timeless Buddha. Emperor Shomu who sponsored this beautiful temple eventually abdicated and ordained as a Buddhist monk. Very interesting history and story. One of the places everyone should visit- https://bit.ly/2VgsHhK
Manjusri Kumara (bodhisattva of wisdom), India, Pala dynesty, 9th century, stone, Honolulu Academy of Arts
5 years ago
Manjusri Kumara (bodhisattva of wisdom), India, Pala dynesty, 9th century, stone, Honolulu Academy of Arts
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    This video went viral and it's a must watch!!
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ASK A PASTOR


Ask the Pastors

A section for you to clarify your Dharma questions with Kechara’s esteemed pastors.

Just post your name and your question below and one of our pastors will provide you with an answer.

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CHAT PICTURES

Pastor Seng Piow guides us on the flow of Dorje Shugden puja, its benefits, significant of Chanting the names of Manjushri and also explaining the dedication for the sponsors and to those in need before we start the puja as we have 2 newcomers today.
17 hours ago
Pastor Seng Piow guides us on the flow of Dorje Shugden puja, its benefits, significant of Chanting the names of Manjushri and also explaining the dedication for the sponsors and to those in need before we start the puja as we have 2 newcomers today.
Two Pastors in da house! Double the merits, double the happiness. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta
17 hours ago
Two Pastors in da house! Double the merits, double the happiness. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta
Mr. Cheah Fook Wan offered lights and incense to The Three Jewels prior to the puja in Ipoh. (KISG - Kin Hoe)
1 week ago
Mr. Cheah Fook Wan offered lights and incense to The Three Jewels prior to the puja in Ipoh. (KISG - Kin Hoe)
Kechara Ipoh Study Group has carried out Mother Tara prayer recitations on Sunday afternoon in Ipoh. (KISG- Kin Hoe)
1 week ago
Kechara Ipoh Study Group has carried out Mother Tara prayer recitations on Sunday afternoon in Ipoh. (KISG- Kin Hoe)
Powerful Dorje Shugden puja @ Jalan Seang Tek, Penang. Every Saturday, 3 pm. Remove obstacles and grant blessings to fulfil wishes. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta. 6th April 2024
2 weeks ago
Powerful Dorje Shugden puja @ Jalan Seang Tek, Penang. Every Saturday, 3 pm. Remove obstacles and grant blessings to fulfil wishes. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta. 6th April 2024
Rejoice to the volunteers (also kind sponsors) who cleaned the Gyenze Chapel and made abundant offerings to Gyenze. ~ Alice
4 weeks ago
Rejoice to the volunteers (also kind sponsors) who cleaned the Gyenze Chapel and made abundant offerings to Gyenze. ~ Alice
Offered beautiful flowers abundantly to Gyenze. ~ Alice
4 weeks ago
Offered beautiful flowers abundantly to Gyenze. ~ Alice
Offered beautiful flowers abundantly to Gyenze. ~ Alice
4 weeks ago
Offered beautiful flowers abundantly to Gyenze. ~ Alice
Our weekly Dorje Shugden Puja @ 23/3/2024 . William, as the umze is seen here burning incense powder as we are about to recite the Sangsol Prayer to Dorje Shugden composed by Ganden Serkong. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
4 weeks ago
Our weekly Dorje Shugden Puja @ 23/3/2024 . William, as the umze is seen here burning incense powder as we are about to recite the Sangsol Prayer to Dorje Shugden composed by Ganden Serkong. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
And here's Mr Wong of KSK Ipoh who dropped by to pray and offered some donation to the Chapel. Kechara Penang Study Group. Pic by Siew Hong & uploaded by Jacinta.
1 month ago
And here's Mr Wong of KSK Ipoh who dropped by to pray and offered some donation to the Chapel. Kechara Penang Study Group. Pic by Siew Hong & uploaded by Jacinta.
Today's puja (16/3/2024) ended around 420pm, Jacinta was the umze of the day. Pic by Siew Hong. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
1 month ago
Today's puja (16/3/2024) ended around 420pm, Jacinta was the umze of the day. Pic by Siew Hong. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
Group photo taken after the last session, sealed with King of Prayers. Come and join us next time! Sayonara - 9-10th March 2024 - Kechara Penang DS Retreat by Jacinta.
1 month ago
Group photo taken after the last session, sealed with King of Prayers. Come and join us next time! Sayonara - 9-10th March 2024 - Kechara Penang DS Retreat by Jacinta.
Abundance altar! Fruits, flowers, Mee Koo (traditional Penang buns), Bee Hoon, sourdoughs and snacks are some of the offerings to Rinpoche, Buddhas & Bodhisattvas. Kechara Penang Dorje Shugden Retreat 9-10th March, 2024 by Jacinta.
1 month ago
Abundance altar! Fruits, flowers, Mee Koo (traditional Penang buns), Bee Hoon, sourdoughs and snacks are some of the offerings to Rinpoche, Buddhas & Bodhisattvas. Kechara Penang Dorje Shugden Retreat 9-10th March, 2024 by Jacinta.
Siew Hong, one of retreatants and an active member of Kechara Penang group proudly presented her torma to be used during the Kalarupa puja. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta
1 month ago
Siew Hong, one of retreatants and an active member of Kechara Penang group proudly presented her torma to be used during the Kalarupa puja. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta
Torma making was taught by Pastor Seng Piow and held one day before the retreat. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta
1 month ago
Torma making was taught by Pastor Seng Piow and held one day before the retreat. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta
Penang Dorje Shugden Retreat cum Puja, 9-10th March 2024 led by Pastor Seng Piow with 12 retreatants. Uploaded by Jacinta
1 month ago
Penang Dorje Shugden Retreat cum Puja, 9-10th March 2024 led by Pastor Seng Piow with 12 retreatants. Uploaded by Jacinta
The celebration ended with a Dorje Shugden puja, dedicated to all the sponsors, our loved ones and as well as for the happiness & good health for all sentient beings. May Rinpoche return swiftly too and taking this opportunity wishing all Happy Chinese New Year and Gong Xi Fa Cai from all of us, Kechara Penang Study Group. Uploaded by Jacinta.
2 months ago
The celebration ended with a Dorje Shugden puja, dedicated to all the sponsors, our loved ones and as well as for the happiness & good health for all sentient beings. May Rinpoche return swiftly too and taking this opportunity wishing all Happy Chinese New Year and Gong Xi Fa Cai from all of us, Kechara Penang Study Group. Uploaded by Jacinta.
Seen here, Pastor Seng Piow set off firecrackers - welcoming of the upcoming year with enthusiasm and positive energy. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta
2 months ago
Seen here, Pastor Seng Piow set off firecrackers - welcoming of the upcoming year with enthusiasm and positive energy. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta
In this pic, Pastor Seng Piow is sharing Dharma with newbies ~ Sharyn's friends. It's always good to make light offerings at the beginning of new year. By making light offerings, you are able to dispel the darkness of ignorance and achieve wisdom. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
2 months ago
In this pic, Pastor Seng Piow is sharing Dharma with newbies ~ Sharyn's friends. It's always good to make light offerings at the beginning of new year. By making light offerings, you are able to dispel the darkness of ignorance and achieve wisdom. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
One the day of Losar (new lunar year), it is always beneficial for Buddhist practitioners to get together in making abundant offerings to Buddhas on the altar to usher in goodness, prosperity and well-being of our loved ones. It's more auspicious this year as Losar and the Chinese New Year begin on the same date, 10th Feb, 2024. Back in Penang, our Kechara members came together to decorate the altar with abundance offerings for Dorje Shugden puja @3pm. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
2 months ago
One the day of Losar (new lunar year), it is always beneficial for Buddhist practitioners to get together in making abundant offerings to Buddhas on the altar to usher in goodness, prosperity and well-being of our loved ones. It's more auspicious this year as Losar and the Chinese New Year begin on the same date, 10th Feb, 2024. Back in Penang, our Kechara members came together to decorate the altar with abundance offerings for Dorje Shugden puja @3pm. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
Mr. Dared Lim was offering water bowls on behalf of Kechara Ipoh Study Group. (Kin Hoe)
3 months ago
Mr. Dared Lim was offering water bowls on behalf of Kechara Ipoh Study Group. (Kin Hoe)
Jun from Ipoh was offering mandarin oranges to Mother Tara and The Three Jewels. (Kin Hoe)
3 months ago
Jun from Ipoh was offering mandarin oranges to Mother Tara and The Three Jewels. (Kin Hoe)
Prior to our puja in Ipoh, Mr. & Mrs. Cheah Fook Wan were preparing for the offerings to the Buddhas. (Kin Hoe)
3 months ago
Prior to our puja in Ipoh, Mr. & Mrs. Cheah Fook Wan were preparing for the offerings to the Buddhas. (Kin Hoe)
On Sunday afternoon, Kechara Ipoh Study Group has carried out Mother Tara prayer recitations in Ipoh. (Kin Hoe)
3 months ago
On Sunday afternoon, Kechara Ipoh Study Group has carried out Mother Tara prayer recitations in Ipoh. (Kin Hoe)
Some of the best shots taken during Thaipusam in Penang. Swee Bee, Huey, Tang KS, Nathan, Choong SH and Jacinta volunteered. Wai Meng came all the way from KL to help out. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta
3 months ago
Some of the best shots taken during Thaipusam in Penang. Swee Bee, Huey, Tang KS, Nathan, Choong SH and Jacinta volunteered. Wai Meng came all the way from KL to help out. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta
Simple yet powerful ally ~ Bhagawan Dorje Shuden. Kechara Penang Study Group consists of Chien Seong, Hue, Choong SH, Tang KS, Swee Bee and Jacinta. Wai Meng came all the way from KL to help out. Uploaded by Jacinta.
3 months ago
Simple yet powerful ally ~ Bhagawan Dorje Shuden. Kechara Penang Study Group consists of Chien Seong, Hue, Choong SH, Tang KS, Swee Bee and Jacinta. Wai Meng came all the way from KL to help out. Uploaded by Jacinta.
Thaipusam in Penang. Some of the best shots. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta
3 months ago
Thaipusam in Penang. Some of the best shots. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta
Nothing beats having a sacred audience with our lineage lamas. It's not selfie or wefie, but we have the best 'groufie'!!! 20th Jan 2024, Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
3 months ago
Nothing beats having a sacred audience with our lineage lamas. It's not selfie or wefie, but we have the best 'groufie'!!! 20th Jan 2024, Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
Welcoming our lineage Gurus to our Penang Chapel today! Pastor Seng Piow explained the significance of having Guru Tree and introduced to us our lineage lamas, Buddhas, deities, protectors and etc.
3 months ago
Welcoming our lineage Gurus to our Penang Chapel today! Pastor Seng Piow explained the significance of having Guru Tree and introduced to us our lineage lamas, Buddhas, deities, protectors and etc.
Umze for the day was Siew Hong. She's just been with us for slightly more than a year now but she's proven her capability in leading the puja. Our Penang group members are so proud of her and her commitment in attending the weekly puja. Despite being eloquence and smart, she has beautiful chant as well. When she leads, make sure you are there to hear her chant for yourself! Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
3 months ago
Umze for the day was Siew Hong. She's just been with us for slightly more than a year now but she's proven her capability in leading the puja. Our Penang group members are so proud of her and her commitment in attending the weekly puja. Despite being eloquence and smart, she has beautiful chant as well. When she leads, make sure you are there to hear her chant for yourself! Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
Umze for the day was Siew Hong. She's just been with us for slightly more than a year now but she's proven her capability in leading the puja. Our Penang group members are so proud of her and her commitment in attending the weekly puja. Despite being eloquence and smart, she has beautiful chant as well. When she leads, make sure you are there to hear her chant for yourself! Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
3 months ago
Umze for the day was Siew Hong. She's just been with us for slightly more than a year now but she's proven her capability in leading the puja. Our Penang group members are so proud of her and her commitment in attending the weekly puja. Despite being eloquence and smart, she has beautiful chant as well. When she leads, make sure you are there to hear her chant for yourself! Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
Tara Recitation is on now at KISG - Wai Meng
4 months ago
Tara Recitation is on now at KISG - Wai Meng
Photo from Wan Wai Meng
4 months ago
Photo from Wan Wai Meng
A sea of yellow ~usually in Tibetan Buddhism yellow represents growth. We prayed that our Penang group will grow in terms of people, wealth and attainments too. _/\_ Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
4 months ago
A sea of yellow ~usually in Tibetan Buddhism yellow represents growth. We prayed that our Penang group will grow in terms of people, wealth and attainments too. _/_ Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
After Dorje Shugden puja @3pm, we had Rinpoche's Swift Return puja too. We laughed as Sis Swee Bee was commenting that Tang should smile ~ here's the reason why we laughed.  Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta Goh
4 months ago
After Dorje Shugden puja @3pm, we had Rinpoche's Swift Return puja too. We laughed as Sis Swee Bee was commenting that Tang should smile ~ here's the reason why we laughed. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta Goh
4 months ago
Today's (9/12/2023)Dorje Shugden puja led by Gordon. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
4 months ago
Today's (9/12/2023)Dorje Shugden puja led by Gordon. Kechara Penang Study Group by Jacinta.
4 months ago
4 months ago
Dharma sharing by Hue before we proceeded with DS puja & Rinpoche Swift Return puja. Hue is one of the long time Kechara Penang members and he comes to puja regularly. He shared that he truly believes that Dorje Shugden and Rinpoche always there guiding him. He shared how sometimes DS will give him hints to avert troubles ahead or to alert him when he 'misbehaved'. Hope many will come to know more about this powerful Dharma Protector, Dorje Shugden aka DS. Having Dorje Shugden is like having a powerful ally that will protect us day and night. Just trust Him and have faith. Kechara Penang Study Group, 25/11/2023 by Jacinta.
5 months ago
Dharma sharing by Hue before we proceeded with DS puja & Rinpoche Swift Return puja. Hue is one of the long time Kechara Penang members and he comes to puja regularly. He shared that he truly believes that Dorje Shugden and Rinpoche always there guiding him. He shared how sometimes DS will give him hints to avert troubles ahead or to alert him when he 'misbehaved'. Hope many will come to know more about this powerful Dharma Protector, Dorje Shugden aka DS. Having Dorje Shugden is like having a powerful ally that will protect us day and night. Just trust Him and have faith. Kechara Penang Study Group, 25/11/2023 by Jacinta.
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Dorje Shugden
Click to watch my talk about Dorje Shugden....