Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Merit of Spiritual Practice is Greater In A Degeneration Age

Konde Rinpoche:
Good evening, Acho Rinpoche, Dodo Rinpoche, lama and all fellow practitioners. I am glad to be with you again. Jul this year, I was supposed to return to our Dzogchen temple in Qumalai County with my brother, to make arrangement for your visit. But we could not get our VISA to enter China. So, I requested the help of Gade Rinpoche to make the necessary arrangement for you. I was worried about the arrangement and kept calling home. They told me not to worry because they would take care of everything well. My brother-in-law, Nicai, also promised me that everything would turn out fine. Acho Rinpoche returned to his temple smoothly this time and everything turned out perfect, obviously due to your good karma.

I was given a piece of land in India and I discussed with Acho Rinpoche on building a temple. It will be named “Acho Rinpoche Retreat Centre”. It will cost less than building the hostel for our monks at our temple in Qumailai Country. Initially we thought maybe we will build a bigger temple if the sponsorship is larger or a smaller one otherwise. Finally we decided to build a small temple and gradually enlarge it in future. It is up to Acho Rinpoche.

Acho Rinpoche:
Let me add, the experience of our tour to the temple in Qumalai County was indeed inconceivable. Those who travelled with me felt touched and grateful. Our Qinghai tour guide, Liu, has a strong karmic connection with me. Yesterday, I read her note about her experience in travelling with us – it is very touching. Initially, she felt a little annoyed with us due to our frequent hygiene-breaks, and she thought that I looked too ordinary too, dressing in common attire. However, towards the end of the tour, she felt touched and wept from time to time. She said she has been handling so many tour groups in the past but there was none like ours that touched her so deeply, made her wept and kept thining about us. She was very surprised by the warm reception given to us by the local in Qumalai County – we were treated like leaders.

Konde Rinpoche was humble when he said that the reception was too simple. Those who have watched the video footages of our excursion will agree that we were treated almost like a president or chairman. Actually, we felt very touched by their hospitality – they did their best. The huge yak tent was impressive and the food was wonderful, given the poverty of the place. They just treated us like dignitaries, almost like their leaders in the government. We were moved.

Initially I thought maybe we might encounter problems without Konde Rinpoche travelling with us. Fortunately everything turned out well. Least did I expect that there was an important mission awaiting us – the meeting with the grandfather of Konde Rinpoche. His grandfather was seriously ill (due to old age). He could hardly walk and talk when we met him. He felt very uncomfortable and his whole body was cold. He could not sleep for three months. He had to sit up in his bed while sleeping. He had less than two hours of sleep every day.

Initially we decided not to visit him since Konde Rinpoche was not coming along. But we changed our plan and went to see him because he wanted to see me. Fortunately we made it or we will miss the opportunity forever. After our meeting, I decided that I ought to do something for him – I wanted to bless him. So, I invoked Guru Rinpoche and I transformed into Guru Rinpoche and blessed him. His body became warmer after the blessing. We returned to see him on the following night and he looked quite normal and could talk. He slept for four hours that night after the blessing. For the first time in three months, he could finally sleep properly. I knew then that his time was up. Indeed, he passed away one week after we returned to Singapore. He persisted in order to meet me and left after fulfilling his wish. It was indeed an extra-ordinary tour. We would like to thank Konde Rinpoche for making the arrangement and giving us a VIP reception.

We will build a small retreat centre in South India, somewhere near Dzogchen Monastery. This is another mission. I hope you will be supportive of this mission, in order to benefit the sentient beings there. Now we shall invite Dodo Rinpoche to give us a teaching.

Dodo Rinpoche:
Amitabha Buddha. Time files - it has been a few months since we last met in Taiwan. Based on your recent trip to Qinghai, I realized that Singaporean Buddhists have helped the Tibetans a great deal. Actually, the problem of Tibet started after the Cultural Revolution, with the transmission of religion and culture of Tibet to the younger generation broken for 20 years. We, the Tibetan Rinpoches and lamas hope to mend the gap and restore what is lost. Everyone is trying hard. Every Tibetan Buddhist teacher has the same wish to restore traditions that are lost. We need help from many people. Some people might wonder why we need to build so many temples. If you take a look at the situations in Tibet, Nepal and India, they are very different from those in Singapore or Taiwan; the young lamas live in a deprived condition in the former, yet they need a learning environment badly. I would like to thank all of you who helped us in the past or who will be helping us in future, on behalf of my Tibetan community. We are grateful.

I spent most of my time in Taiwan and roughly know the problems facing the world today, such as global warming, natural calamities etc. We understand that life is very fragile, especially so for the mankind in future. The Buddha said, “Everything is impermanent.” The value of life does not lie in its length of time, nor in the wealth or status of a person. The point is – is it meaningful? There are several ways to explain its value. In most cases, the actual value is determined by whether it can bring benefits to other sentient beings. The numerous crises facing the world can only be reduced through inner and outer spiritual practices. The Buddha said, “Mind is the creator of all phenomena.” We must bring positive influence to the world through the positive strength of our inner mind.

There are two parts to the practice: the purification of our mind and the purification of our body. In Vajrayana Buddhism, there is a spiritual attainment called “Rainbow Body”. It is accomplished through the purification of one’s inner mind and physical body. One’s physical existence will then become rainbow-like. That’s my understanding. We need to start from training our mind. Basically, it means breaking free from our ignorance and ego which are our in-born propensities difficult to kick. The most difficult part about spiritual practice is not fasting, being naked or practicing in austerity. The biggest hurdle for enlightenment is taming our own mind,our desires.

A person will know who is good to him and who is bad to him without learning, after being born into this world. Even a toddler who cannot yet speak knows that. This is the in-born “ego”. Buddhism teaches us to let go of our ego but this is the most difficult part. For one who has been practicing for many life times, it could be easier for him to kick his ego or self-pride. Otherwise, it will be very difficult for a first-timer. One will find it very difficult to practice what he does not have or dislikes. So, this is the value of Buddhism and our aspiration to practice. It is not easy for us to change the world. But everyone has the responsibility to make it a better place because we are Buddhists - we are given the advice to do so by the Buddha. We should bring positive influences to the people around us, and we must tame our own ego and self-pride. This is the only way to bring peace to the world and reduce the occurences of major crises. If we train our mind well, our inner peacefulness will naturally calm the external word – this is the power of a positive mind. A positive mind will only happen through practice – mind training. There are both the teachings and true attainment in Buddhism. Teachings are just education, whereas true attainment is realized only through practice – no work no gain. We should learn the teachings and act accordingly to the teachings, taking one step at a time, do it every day, maybe scoring 100 marks or 50 marks, it does not matter. How much we could put into practice will become our true attainment.

I hope that we can become a true practitioner of the Dharma and we can achieve true spiritual attainment. Only then we are able to help the world when it is hit by disasters, by dedicating the merits of our cultivations to the victims. Take a look at Thailand which is hit by a major flood now – millions of people are displaced. The major disasters hitting the world are increasing in number over the years. This is an outer manifestation of our inner mind in a state of flux (fear and limitless desires). Guru Rinpoche said, an ordained monk who observed the precepts for 100 years in the past would accumulate less merit than an ordained monk who observes the precepts for merely one day in the current degeneration age. When the going becomes tougher, the merit gained from overcoming the difficulty in practice will become even more valuable.

We are connected through our affinity. I thank Acho Rinpoche for giving me the opportunity to do my sharing. Thanks.

Acho Rinpoche:
I would like to thank Dodo Rinpoche for his sharing. Besides the major flood in Thailand, South Turky was also hit by a major earthquake just few days ago – 7.2 rectal scale (23 Oct 2011). Thousands of houses have collapsed in the earthquake. There are many students still buried under the rubble. Today is the third day and the 72 golden hours have passed. There was a 2-week old infant being saved from the rubble yesterday. That place is under developed and lacks resources. Many countries in the world are trying to help them now, including Singapore. We, the Vajrayanists, ought to feel for them as though they are our relatives being buried under the rubble. We should feel the pain of those who are buried underneath the rubble. We should dedicate the merits of our practice to them and hope the situation can improve.

This world is facing numerous major disasters, including natural calamities and financial crisis which is caused by the greed of the financial sector. The whole financial sector has turned into a huge monster swallowing everything. This monster is conspiring with the government, academic institutions and the media to cheat the whole world, swallowing the wealth of the whole world. They warn the world that the global economy must not be let collapsed or the whole world will collapse. This is a big disaster. If the global economy collapses, the world will be thrown into a state of chaos, and our hard earnings will just evaporate into thin air overnight. How so? Each time they start printing more currency notes, our savings will reduce significantly in value. We work hard here and they spend all our money elsewhere. They are lazy to work and are merely scheming about taking others’ money away. The world is indeed in a state of chaos. Most people want to earn the most money in the shortest time without working hard for it. Sp, this world ends up facing many problems. “Mind is the creator of all phenomena.” It is the “desire” in men that created this world; this is the consequence of the inner desire of mankind manifesting outward. When the world is in a state of flux, the power generated from our spiritual practice will become greater.

Recently I read a book about a Taiwanese spiritual medium trying to help others through spiritual consultations with the deities. There was a strange phenomenon being mentioned in the book – “those people seeking help were either facing a major crisis in life or had incurable illnesses”. The medium found a commonality among these people – “none of them ever did anything good in their life! Even the deities could not help them! ”

In this degeneration age, a person is born with an instinct to fight and compete with others, who is eager to outdo others at all times. He never thinks of wanting to help others but cares only for himself. Our educational system has gone astray – people who are more intelligent and highly educated are more inclined to cause harm to the world. When they face big problem in their life and seek help from the spiritual world - the spiritual world cannot help them because they had never done anything good in their life, not even a small act of kindness. I found it very pitiful! Why on earth had this people not done any good act in their entire life?

"A Bodhisattva is fearful of the cause, whereas the sentient being is fearful of the effect." When a sentient being faces the consequence of a bad karma and rushes to seek help from the deities, it is just too late! A Bodhisattva is fearful of the cause and therefore avoids planting a bad seed, no matter how small it seems. Every thought that arises in our mind must be good and should mean to benefit others.

We are very lucky that we are spiritual practitioners in this degeneration age, and we are able to help others through our practice. What will we do when we face “impermanence” in our life one day? What should we do? How can we depart from this world freely? Or do we want to end up like those seeking help from the Buddha only in time of crisis? I really feel sad after reading the book – how on earth has the world become like this today? Too many people are selfish and never think of benefitting others.

There was another medium mentioned in the same book too. He helped to build a monastery in India, for a Vajrayana group. He met a senior Rinpoche and became a big donor, helping the latter to build a monastery.

There are not many monasteries in Singapore because there are not many ordained folks here. But there are many ordained folks in India and Tibet but not enough temples to provide them with shelter. We will build a temple in India (Acho Rinpoche Retreat Centre, near Dzogchen Monastery in South India), to give them a place to live, to learn and to practice the Dharma without worrying too much of their basic needs. We will dedicate the merits to the world. We are walking on the right path, a path that will lead to our ultimate enlightenment in future.

I am thankful to you for sharing the same mind set during all these years, walking on the right path. Thank you. I would also like to thank Dodo Rinpoche for giving us a warm reception in Taiwan last year when we visited his meditation centres. Amitabha Buddha.

A discourse given jointly by Konde Rinpoche, Dodo Rinpoche and Acho Rinpoche on 26 Oct 2011.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Long Lasting Merit of Spiritual Practice

(The 1st meeting between Acho Rinpoche and Summer in North India, in 2007.)

Acho Rinpoche:
Now we will invite the new members to share with us the cause of their initiation into Buddhism and their views on the practice. I think this will be helpful to the rest. The rest of you have been around for a long time and you already know one another quite well by now.

(New members shared their experience with the rest.)

I agree to the views of Dharma Brother Zibing. Practice does not mean just meditation. Everyone is born with a different intellectual capacity and therefore everyone has different needs for the teaching. Some people need meditation, some do not. Some people think that meditation is very crucial but some could already be good enough to skip it. However, meditation is a necessary process to some people. Everyone needs a different teaching, and that gives rise to the different methods of practice.

In the past, Dharma Brother Maoxin helped out at a certain meditation centre for a long time and he had a serious eye condition that could not be cured. He looked very worried when he came to seek my help because he nearly became blind. At that point in time, I was wondering why couldn’t anyone at that meditation centre help him with his problem? I told him, “Ok! Come to me.” After blessing him, his eyes recovered fully. He joined us for our recent Vietnam tour – a mind training tour. I still remember we met each other in Taiwan just last year, including his brother. He has joined us now but his brother has yet to do so. He told me that his brother had a dream recently. He dreamt of me teaching and blessing a large group of people. So, I think his brother will join us in future too. Maoxin said he could feel the powerful force of blessing during our group prayers. He felt a solidifying sensation filling his whole body and finally understood what “power of blessing” is all about. Not only could he feel the power of blessing in my shrine, he could also feel the power of blessing coming straight from me towards him when he sat at the same table with me during a meal. He is full of spiritual joy now.

Now, we will come back to Summer (Yatong). 5 years ago, we bumped into each other in North India during our visit to the sacred places of the Buddha. We exchanged our glances and she nodded to me and struck a conversation with me when she noticed that I am a Chinese. That was how we established our spiritual connection. Least that I know, we would meet again 5 years later.

I wrote in our book entitled “X-Tour: The Tour of Birth and Death” – “We parted after exchanging our first glances and making acquaintance.” I said then that “I hope we would meet again in future, be it in Africa, Tibet or any other places.” For she continued to travel to the different corners of the world, I did not know where she would be heading next. She could end up in South Africa, Nepal or any other places in the next moment. I did not expect to meet her in Vietnam this time. Maybe we should thank Facebook for making it happen. I seldom play with such tool and I do not have a Facebook account but we were somehow reconnected through such social networking tools. It was just coincidental that when she made up her mind to go into a meditation retreat in Myanmar, we contacted her and invited her to join us for our Vietnam tour.

I don’t know where she will be going next. She has no schedule, like many Tibetan practitioners who have no plans. I bet if you ask her how long she will be gone, she will not know the answer either. Maybe she will just go there and decide based on the situation then, probably stay there for 1 to 2 years if the situation permits or just leave if it doesn’t. That’s how it is. She has no baggage – no family baggage, no work-life baggage. She just goes forward and seeks the path to enlightenment. Most of us are unable to do so. At least, she has let go of her materialistic life. My deepest impression of her was that she had only one piece of garment when we first met her in India. I was curious about how she managed to get by with only one piece of garment – did she not need to change it? She told me that she would usually find a very cheap lodging place and wrap herself in a scarf, and wash her only piece of garment during this period. She had only one piece of garment but we have so many, and we continue to buy more. She could let go of her needs for more garment but we can’t. However, I notice that she is travelling with more pieces of garment this time.

We were heading to the North but she was heading to the South when we met in India. She wanted to return to where we came from 2 to 3 hours ago, in darkness at night. I told her she must not do so, it would be dangerous for her. So, we remained in the hotel for dinner and stayed there overnight. On the next day, I gave her some money in US currency. She told me that the money could support her trip to South Africa for half a year. I was thinking to myself that I could have just spent the money within a day. I was touched by her readiness to let go of her monetary possession. So, I would like to invite her to do her sharing tonight. We are unable to do what she does in this respect and that is something we ought to learn from her. Of course, I hope that she could finally fulfill her wish.

When I met Acho Rinpoche in his pilgrimage tour, I was on my own pilgrimage tour too. I just read the story of the Buddha when I was in Nalanda. There are eight most important sacred places of the Buddha, including Nalanda where Buddha first embarked on his spiritual path of practice, Bodhgaya where He attained enlightenment, Vaisali where he preached etc. The eight sacred places made up His whole autobiography. The most important point was that the Buddha began his spiritual journey as an ascetic, a beggar, a spiritual seeker, with no money at his disposal. He made it and that goes to show that it can be done. When I first met you, I already ran out of money; I would just walk or take a free ride for my travelling. Sometimes, I would feel exhausted, running out of food and water. Sometimes, I made very good connections with people.

We met in Vaisali and we went together to Kusinagar and Jetavana Garden next. We parted after our trip to Jetavana Garden. Actually, I was planning to go to a temple near the hotel, about 7 km away. I thought it was fine for me to walk there from the hotel but you folks insisted that I should not do so, saying that it was too dark and too dangerous. You said you would feel uneasy if I should end up in any danger. I said it was safe in India but you said I just should not do so. You wanted me to stay overnight at the hotel. We had our dinner at this beautiful hotel. When we parted, you told me to stay behind in the hotel for one night. I said it would be too expensive, at 2,000 rupees per night. 2,000 rupees could last me for half a year. You were worried about my safety and paid for my lodging at the hotel, and you gave me some additional cash. At that point, Acho Rinpoche used a word that really moved me to tears. He said, “We would like to make an offering to you.” I was shocked by the word “offering” because it is usually used in reverence of someone of a higher spiritual attainment. I was expecting the word “donation”, to someone as ordinary as I. That was my first time accepting a monetary offering from others. I still remember Acho Rinpoche gave me a 100 dollar note in US currency. Dharma Sister Chan and others also gave me some money too. I almost cried. I remained in a state of shock even after you folks left. I wrote many things in my diary on that day but they have not been published in my blog yet. The impact was very great and lasting.

Acho Rinpoche:
Why did I use the word “offering”? To me, all sentient beings are essentially equal. Since you are a serious spiritual seeker, you must be a real practitioner. To me, there is no question of higher or lower in my offering to you. Since you aspire to walk the path to enlightenment in order to help other sentient beings, you are a precious being. Of course, I should make offering to someone precious. I still remember asking you, “Don’t you feel worried about falling sick, since you travel without money?” She told me that initially she fell sick easily but became healthier over time. When she could not find any lodging in the temple, she would just sleep in an open field. I asked her was she not afraid of baddies? After all, she is just a lady. She said she was not afraid. She said she usually would have an intuition about whether it would be safe to go into a certain house. Well, she has been travelling safely in the past 5 years. I felt touched about what she said to me in Vietnam during our tour, “When you made up your mind, everything will work out nicely to fulfill your wish.”

I believe in one thing – “When you make a wish that is strong and clear, realize it. The force of the entire universe will be with you.” (Summer said this idea came from a book entitled “A Miraculous Tour of a Teenage Shepherd”.) The only point that one must make sure is that this wish must be a genuine wish but not a mere desire. Sometimes we can’t differentiate between a genuine wish and a desire. But if we can quiet our mind and listen to our inner voice, we can pacify the noise and see clearly the most important wish in our life. We will then know what our destiny is. Basically, there will be no fear and deprivation when we simply walk on our path of destiny.

Acho Rinpoche:
Summer mentioned an important point about spiritual practice. When one aspires to the bodhicitta, he does not need to worry about anything else - do not worry about money, do not worry about environment, do not worry about family etc. For when you aspire to bodhicitta, the Dharma Protectors will come forward to assist you and help you realize your wish and fulfill your bodhicitta. This is a very important point. The most important point is – have we aspired to bodhicitta? If we have, we will overcome all adversities in life, and the Dharma Protectors will come forward to assist us. This is how I feel after going through so many rounds of our “mind training tour”. All adversities will be eradicated and transformed into positive conditions, and a situation will become conducive in enabling us to complete the tour successfully, allowing us to accomplish our mind training practice and help some of the sentient beings along the way.

Take our recent Vietnam tour for instance. We managed to help some of the Vietnamese walk the path to enlightenment. Our tour leader and local tour guide joined us for our night prayers several times, and they too could feel the inconceivable power of blessing. No matter how much money you make in this life, no matter how many houses you own, no matter how great or influential your career is, when you draw your last breath, they will just vanish into thin air - these things will not be related to you at all. When you die, you will not be able to bring along any of them. You will only bring along your own karma and the merit of your spiritual practice.

Every X-tour is a mind training tour planned by the Bodhisattvas, which aims to help the numerous sentient beings. We just have to follow the instruction and the power of blessing will happen naturally. The power of blessing will last forever – it will follow you life after life and help you moment to moment. It will not vanish after you depart from this world but will follow you forever. Konde Rinpoche said that the world will be hit by numerous disasters going forward. Who knows what would happen on 21 Dec 2012? Will mankind become extinct? Will earth vanish? No one knows. What is certain is that major disasters will happen. They have already happened in the past few years, outnumbering the occurrences recorded in the history of mankind in the last few hundred years. They have become more frequent and larger in scale, including natural calamities, hurricanes, earth quakes, floods etc. The big flood hitting Thailand lasts a long time, and it will be followed by plague naturally. The SARS that hit us few years ago suddenly vanished; we realized that it was the blessing of Grand Master that helped to eradicate the plague. However, Grand Master said that there will be a more serious plague than SARS that will hit us, that will cause a much greater casualty.

Singapore was hit by SARS too, although it is spared of natural calamities, hurricanes, earth quakes etc. Will Singapore be spared of disasters? My answer is – no! I felt that Singapore will be hit by many disasters going forward, including some people would suddenly die of strange illnesses. So, do not assume that Singapore will be spared because it is free of natural calamities. It will be hit by many disasters too, just like other places in the world. Only spiritual practice can protect a practitioner. So, please practice seriously in order to attain true liberation and enlightenment. Give spiritual practice the first priority, and leave the rest aside – this is a very important point.

(The 2nd meeting between Acho Rinpoche and Summer in Vietnam, in 2011.)

A discourse given by Acho Rinpoche on 12 Nov 2011.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

X-Tour: Vietnam 2

On 19 Dec 2008, we, a group of Vajrayanists, went to Vietnam. We visited Hanoi, Saba, Halong Bay, Hue, Danang and Hoi An. In May 2009, we published a travel book on our Vietnam tour.

On 2 Sep 2010, we went to Vietnam again. This time, we visited the Ho Chi Minh City (HCM), the Mekong Delta, the Guchi Tunnel and Vungtau, a beach resort situtated 125km away from HCM. In Vungtau, we paid respect to a giant statue of Jesus on a hill top, where thousands of dragon flies were dancing around the hill, as if they were the angels giving us a welcoming party!

We visited several arts galleries and saw some beautiful pictures showing snowcapped mountains and fields of wild flowers. Initially I thought maybe the artists did their paintings after visiting Switzerland or New Zealand in winter. But I was later told by our Vietnamese tour guide, “Prince Chu Chu”, that the beautiful landscape was his hometown – Dalat. At that point in time, I decided that I must make a trip to Dalat before publishing our second travel book on our Vietnam tour.

The opportunity finally came! On 5 Nov 2011, a group of 21 of us boarded the “iron bird” once again for a 6-day tour to HCM, Phanthiet and Dalat. Phanthiet is located in the south-eastern coastal line of Vietnam, famous for its fishing village and beach resorts. There is a vast piece of sand dune here where we did our sand boarding. It reminded us of our memorable experience doing sand boarding in The Pinnacles, Nambung National Park of Perth in Australia several years ago. Phanthiet is serene, like Pali of Indonesia. We saw many Russion tourists on the streets in Phanthiet.

We did not see any traffic lights in Dalat. That was truly an eye-opening experience to a group of city dwellers like us. We strolled along the Xuan Huong Lake in the evening, and relished a cup of Vietnamese coffee while admiring the serenity of the lake, the greeneries in the surrounding and the reflections of villas and pine trees on the quiet surface of the lake…, what an enjoyable experience! The flowers in Dalat Garden abound, making us reluctant to shut our eyes even for a moment…. And we saw lots of lavenders blossoming fully in a quiet corner in the garden. That prompted me to think about when we would be making our trip to Hokkaido - my hometown in my past life in my dream.

On our return to HCM, we visited the city hall, an old cathedral and a heritage post office. We also had our dinner onboard a cruise, enjoying the music and dance performances while admiring the night scenes along the Saigon River. We saw a group of Korean tourists who were seemingly drunk, singing and dancing wildly. “A Midnight Kiss” (a Chinese song) lingered for a long time in the air above Saigon River that night….

Now the image of Sister Zhen (our Vietnamese tour guide) suddenly appeared in my mind. She told us about how the Chinese fled Vietnam during the Vietnam War, with many of them drowning in the sea as a result. She had tried to flee too, twice, in vain. We told her candidly, had she managed to board the “pirate” ship, we would not have met her today. One could imagine how pitiful the lives of the Chinese were during that period! These pictures of sorrow that appeared in my mind seemed to be out of place. Heaven! Why must sentient beings go through such sufferings…?

This time, there was a special traveler who joined us for the tour. She was none other than the main character in the 5th Chapter of our travel book entitled “X-Tour: The Tour of Birth and Death (North India & Nepal)”. To her, travelling means spiritual practice. The spiritual connection between us had quietly rekindled. Where will Summer be next? Which part of the world? Only heaven knows!


Acho Rinpoche
23 Nov 2011

More pictures: