Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Danger of Over Emphasis on Scholarly Study

Tonight, we did a Guru Rinpoche Practice under the guidance of Acho Rinpoche. After which, he reiterated the two methods of Buddhist practice: practice and study. To layman Buddhists like us, we can’t afford to go into a long-term retreat for intensive training but we can do our daily practice as a householder. He also mentioned a young layman Buddhist in Taiwan who became an ordained monk since young, who later left for India to study under the guidance of the 17th Karmapa for 6 years. He did very well in his debates in Tibetan Buddhism and was well regarded by H.H Karmapa as one of the best. Later, he went to Japan and learnt the Japanese Vajrayana Buddhism in Koyasan, and earned himself the qualification of an Achraya. So, he has gone through an illustrious training on Buddhism ranging from Theravada, Mahayana, Tibetan Buddhism to Japanese Vajrayana Buddhism. He is well learnt and endowed with great memory. H.H Karmapa approves his qualification as a Buddhist teacher who can start teaching others. He has also read a lot of Buddhist doctrines translated from Pali to Chinese, some of which have yet to be translated into Tibetan language. When he took part in the debates with other Tibetan lamas, he would often make them dumbfounded when he drew his citations from these doctrines which did not exist in Tibetan Buddhism. He is now planning to translate these doctrines into Tibetan language for the benefit of the Tibetan Buddhists, as he is fluent in Tibetan.

Acho Rinpoche has watched a few video clips that he posted on the Internet. From these clips, it was quite clear that those who emphasize too much on doing scholarly study on Buddhism face the dilemma of being misguided by the superficial meaning of words. For instance, someone asked him about his view on homosexuality. He did not think that homosexuality was a transgression of precept. For he opined that when Sakyamuni Buddha was about passing into Nirvana, he told Ananda that in future, all Buddhists should regard the precept as their teacher; however, some of the precepts could be forgone. At that juncture, Ananda did not seek clarification from the Buddha on which precepts could be forgone and what would the bottomline be. Later, Mahakasyapa facilitated a conference involving may fellow students to study this issue and finally decided that none of the precepts told by Sakyamuni Buddha in the past could be eliminated; however, any precept not being mentioned by the Buddha in the past must not be included either. Acho Rinpoche cited an example of the misuse of marijuana which did not exist during the time of Sakyamuni Buddha. Does it mean that the misuse of marijuana and drugs should not be included as part of the precept now? Although Nagarjuna also advocated a few other precepts which were not being mentioned by Sakyamuni Buddha during his time, they were simply ignored by this Taiwanese Buddhist because he said that only the words of the Buddha count. Someone else asked him about a sutra related to the vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and he did not seem to think that this sutra was a teaching given by Sakyamuni Buddha personally, and regarded it as one of those controversial issues. His way of explanations on the various Buddhist doctrines was indeed not quite right and worrying.

Acho Rinpoche explained that there are indeed arguments between the Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism, for the former does not recognize the authenticity of the Mahayana Sutras as being taught personally by Sakyamuni Buddha. This is indeed a problem when one emphasizes too much on his scholarly study on Buddhism and fails to attain the true state of realization through practice, which goes beyond the superficial meaning of words. So what if a person is the best debater? When he is facing his final moment in life, all these literatures that he has read in the past will only drag him back into the Six Realms of Cyclic Existence if he is just an average practitioner. When a person is unable to fully comprehend the various teachings and fails to understand the true meaning expounded by Sakyamuni Buddha beyond words, he will end up sharing his weird ideas with others which are not the true teachings of the Buddha. Therefore, Acho Rinpoche advised us that it is suffice for a practitioner to learn the primary teachings and guiding principles initially, such as the core teachings expounded in the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra, but the next important step is for us to do the practice. Practice is the only way to help us attain realization in our daily life.  

Finally, we ended our prayer by reciting the names of the Buddhas under the guidance of Acho Rinpoche, and dedicated the merits to all sentient beings - may all sentient beings be happy, free of sufferings and attain enlightenment one day. 

Reported by Sun Moon KFS on 7-10-2017 @Singapore 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Do Not Anyhow Criticize Others

          Tonight, we did a Guru Rinpoche Practice under the guidance of Acho Rinpoche. After which, he shared with us an article on the Internet which mentioned about the serious mistake of blaspheming a Bodhisattva, as such conduct is equivalent to committing a negative karma of killing all the people in this world. In fact, this is a common mistake made by us when we simply criticize others of their shortcomings; we have indeed committed a negative karma by doing so simply because we can’t tell who are the Bodhisattvas among us! Even a prostitute, a practitioner who has seemingly transgressed the precept etc., might just be a manifestation of a Bodhisattva who are trying to help the sentient beings by some skillful means! So, we should not criticize others. Even H.H Dalai Lama, H.H Jigme Puntshok, Khenpo Sodargye, Venerable Jingkong, Venerable Haitao etc., have been criticized by others too. So, who is right and who is wrong?
There are simply too many accusations on the Internet. Just ignore them. As long as a person teaches sensibly and in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings – it can be considered a right teaching. At times, a teacher may stress the importance of a particular aspect of the teaching and end up with a slightly different way of interpretation. We just need to choose a teaching that is suitable to us and apply it in practice. There is really no need for anyone to criticize others. The Mahayana Buddhism, especially that which is transmitted in China today, tends to criticize the Tibetan Buddhism wrongly due to the lack of understanding of the skillful means employed by the latter; the former has committed a very serious negative karma indeed. Therefore, Acho Rinpoche advised us that we ought to be very careful in our conduct by voiding such mistake.
Finally, we ended our prayer by reciting the names of the Buddhas under the guidance of Acho Rinpoche, and dedicated the merits to all sentient beings - may all sentient beings be happy, free of sufferings and attain enlightenment one day. 

Reported by Sun Moon KFS on 2-9-2017 @Singapore   

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Connection Between Mid-Autumn Festival and Buddhism

          Today is the Mid-Autumn Festival. We did a Guru Rinpoche Practice under the guidance of Acho Rinpoche. After which, Acho Rinpoche shared with us a story told by Venerable Haitao with regards to the Mid-Autumn Festival. Venerable Haitao said that the folk tale about a rabbit residing in the moon was somehow related to Buddhism too. In one of the numerous past lives of Sakyamuni Buddha, he was born as the king of rabbit once. It became the spiritual leader to the animals in the forest and advocated the practice of offering on every 15th day of the month. One day, this king of rabbit made a vow that it wished to offer its body for the benefits of other sentient beings. It was a very powerful vow that shook the entire universe. Even the Jade Emperor in the heaven felt the tremors while sitting in his throne. A sentient being can be born as a Jade Emperor endowed with the greatest wealth and longevity in the heavenly realm if he abides by the Five Precepts (no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying and no overdose of alcohol) and observes the Seven Good Conducts (filial piety, reverence to the elders and teachers, gentleness in speech and conduct, no criticism of others, no lying, no scolding and no anger). So, the Jade Emperor decided to test the determination of the king of rabbit and transformed himself into a poor old man begging for food. The rabbits offered him vegetables for meal but he rejected them and demanded for meat instead. The king of rabbit did not hesitate at all and just leaped into a fire, planning to offer its body as meal to the old man. The Jade Emperor was very touched by the conduct of the king of rabbit and transformed the fire into lotus through his magical power, thus saving the king of rabbit from sacrificing itself. Ever since, come the 15th day of every month on a full moon day, we are reminded of this touching story about the king of rabbit and the importance of offering. 
Besides, the Tibetans also celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in a different way. Their version of the story was related to the Karmapa. In 1339, on the 14th day of the eighth lunar month, the 3rd Karmapa gave his teachings to his audience upon the request of the Mongolian emperor, Yuan Shun. After giving his teaching, the 3rd Karmapa passed away on the 14th of the eighth lunar month. However, on the following day, many people saw the appearance of the 3rd Karmapa in the moon above the sky! Ever since, the Karma Kagyud school of Tibetan Buddhism regarded the 15th day of the eighth lunar month a very sacred day.

Finally, we ended our prayer by reciting the names of the Buddhas under the guidance of Acho Rinpoche, and dedicated the merits to all sentient beings - may all sentient beings be happy, free of sufferings and attain enlightenment one day. 

Reported by Sun Moon KFS on 4-10-2017 @Singapore

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Right Mindset of a Practitioner

          Today is the 10th day of Tibetan Calendar, which is slated for Guru Rinpoche Puja Day. We did a Guru Rinpoche Prayer under the guidance of Acho Rinpoche. After the prayer, Acho Rinpoche continued to explain the difference between practice and study. He cited the 17th Karmapa Urgyen Trinley, who also stressed on the importance of a balancing act between the practice and study, for Sakyamuni Buddha taught the same. Karmapa said that a Buddhis Academy is a place of learning, whereas a retreat center is a place of practice; a student must learn, contemplate and practise the teachings by according equal weight to all three aspects of training. A student must not just ignore any of the three aspects of training or he is blaspheming the Buddha’s teaching and therefore committing the Five Great Sins. A person who studies in a Buddhist Academy must not just learn and contemplate the teachings without practising them, or he is just pretending to be a Buddhist. “Turning one’s mind towards the teachings and turning the teachings towards the path of enlightenment” means entering the path of practice without being distracted by the worldly pleasures.

          Acho Rinpoche also shared with us about a teaching given by Asong Rinpoche of Yaqing Monastery in the Sichuan Province of China that clearly showed how serious they are in doing the practice. Asong Rinpoche led a big group of his ordained students in doing a one month retreat in a mountain, doing solely the unique preliminary practice of the Great Perfection and Superior Wisdom Practice (大圆胜慧正行之不共前行修法). However, there are two very strict admission criteria to be complied fully by a participant, to be qualified for the practice. First, he must have already completed his Five Foundations Practice. Second, he must be an ordained person. So, a layman Buddhist is not qualified to join the retreat. However, there is another retreat being planned in the pipeline by Asong Rinpoche on the practice of “Guidance for Dharmata Bardo”  (法性中阴引) which is opened to the layman Buddhists too, which is a one-month retreat of intensive training.

He instructed his students to update him on their spiritual progress but told them that he will not be pleased even if a student had a vision of one hundred deities, for he will be more pleased by an old man who came to seek his teachings. This old man was hit by a road accident earlier and came to seek help from the monastery. When he was introduced to the precious teachings at the monastery, he felt so grateful to the accident which brought him to the monastery and helped him find the most precious purpose in life. Later, when he returned to his hometown to visit to his family and relatives, he felt like a stranger in this once familiar surroundings. At that juncture, he realized that his real home was actually - Yaqing Monastery! Asong Rinpoche was very pleased with the mindset change of this old man because this is the sign of a practitioner who has made a true spiritual progress. A practitioner who has severed his attachment to the secular relationship with his family has truly entered the door of the Buddhadharma; the one who has yet to do so continues to wander outside the door. Acho Rinpoche felt the same too that when a practitioner has finally eradicated his five poisons of lust, hatred, ignorance, arrogance and suspicion, including severing his attachment to the secular relationship with his family and relatives, only then will he be able to attain the state of enlightenment. He commended highly of the serious attitude of the Yaqing practitioners in their spiritual pursuits, under the guidance of Asong Rinpoche.

          Next, Acho Rinpoche shared with us a dream that he had last night. It was indeed a very special and auspicious dream that made us feel extremely joyful after hearing it. Finally, we ended our prayer by reciting the names of the Buddhas under the guidance of Acho Rinpoche, and dedicated the merits to all sentient beings - may all sentient beings be happy, free of sufferings and attain enlightenment one day. 

Reported by Sun Moon KFS on 30-9-2017 @Singapore

Practice vs Study

Tonight, we did a Guru Rinpoche Prayer under the guidance of Acho Rinpoche. After which, he shared an article posted by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche (Dzongsar Rinpoche) on the Internet. Dzongsar Rinpoche has set up many Buddhist Academies in India, Bhutan and Tibet which have produced more than one thousand ordained Buddhists today. However, he is now wondering if these students are Budddhist practitioners or mere scholars? Besides, did they learn the true Buddhadharma? Most of these students could recite the various sutras without referring to the books, and there are about one hundred Khenpos among them (Buddhist scholars) who are qualified abbot candidates for the various monasteries and qualified teachers for the various Buddhist sects. He could not help but asked himself, “How many of these Khenpos have actually attained the state of realization?” According to his observations, many of these students have become very egoistic! In fact, many of the ordained ones, scholars and Khenpos have developed a big ego as they pride themselves as scholars who are knowledgeable of  the teachings. They have lost their most genuine and original faith in the teachings. They even belittle the various spiritual practices including the chanting of mantra, meditation, circumambulation of stupas, construction of stupas etc., by saying “Well, all such things are just emptiness, we don’t need to do those.”  They are very fond of making such remarks. Next, Dzongsar Rinpoche used an analogy to explain what he meant by a scholarly study. He said, a person who has never visited the Bodhigaya in India (where Sakyamuni Buddha attained his enlightenment) will study the map first but he may not be keen to go there personally. On the contrary, there are others who thought that they had no time to study the map and simply decided to just buy an air ticket and head straight to Bodhigaya! The Khenpos have learnt about the teaching on emptiness but they may not be keen to visit Bodhigaya personally, whereas others simply embark on the journey that might be full of challenges but will certainly reach the destination eventually.
          Acho Rinpoche said that there are only two possible ways of learning the Buddhadharma: learning through practice and learning through study. Learning through practice includes going into a retreat for an intensive training or practising in our daily lives. One who merely studies the teachings in a Buddhist Academy is just learning through study. A person who does not learn the basic teachings might go astray because the spiritual path is indeed full of challenges. However, a person who learns too much of the teachings but does not apply them in his practice will never be able to break free of the Six Realms of Cyclic Existence. He came across Khenpos who appeared panic when faced with challenges, due to the lack of real practice. There are also people who had visions of the spiritual deities and auras during their practice but could not understand the reason of such experience and might go astray too. Recently, he saw a video footage on the Internet of a Taiwanese nun appearing on TV, criticizing other spiritual communities of their behaviors. She sounded hostile, arrogant and impatient. This is a sign of one knowing too much of the teachings in theory but fails to tame his own monkey mind. Acho Rincpohe said, if he must choose between practice and study, he would rather choose the former – practice! In the past, the Nyingma and Kagyud sects placed greater emphasis on the need for practice than study. However, recently there seems to be a change in their emphasis that they began to place a greater emphasis on the study of the teachings like the Gelug, stressing on the need to study the five main doctrines too. He opined that when a person over emphasizes on the study of the theoretical aspect of the Buddhadharma, he will perpetually be stranded in the realm of conceptual thinking and will never be able to attain the state of enlightenment.
          Finally, we ended our prayer by reciting the names of the Buddhas under the guidance of Acho Rinpoche, and dedicated the merits to all sentient beings - may all sentient beings be happy, free of sufferings and attain enlightenment one day.  

Reported by Sun Moon KFS on 28-9-2017 @Singapore