Tuesday, December 31, 2013

X-Tour: Wakayama & Koyasan Tour, Japan 2013

The group at To-daiji Temple, Nara

Acho Rinpoche with Venerable Mori Taikou
After visiting Shandong in May and Mtn. Wutai in China in Sep this year, we started planning our next trip to Sri Lanka in Dec. Joanne was the one planning the Sri Lanka tour but in Oct, while we were still discussing if we should do our trekking on a sacred mountain in the middle of the night, Joanne suddenly told me that her family was not going for the trip. Nevertheless, she would continue to help us do the planning. Reason being, she promised her kids earlier that she would bring them overseas at the end of the year but her kids were not interested in Sri Lanka. When Joanne consulted the tour agent, Cathy, who arranged our last Bhutan trip, the latter suggested “Wakayama”. I had no clue where Wakayama was until I read a brochure given by Cathy later. It was actually a new Japan tourist spot which has become popular in the recent years. When I continued to read the brochure, I was surprised to find out that Koyasan was actually within the Wakayama Prefecture! At the time, Nelson from Australia informed me about some Japanese spirits approaching him, requesting our visit to Japan to help deliver the souls of the sentient beings there.
So, a group of thirty of us embarked on yet another extra-ordinary tour to Japan on 15 Dec 2013, accompanied by rainbows throughout the tour……
We visited Shikoku and Koyasan 16 years ago. How time flies! How impermanent life is! During that tour, we followed the track of Master Kukai (Kōbō-Daishi, 774–835) who founded Japanese Vajrayana Buddhism. Actually, my first connection with Japan started way back in 1989 when I made a one-month trip to Japan, representing Singapore in an ASEAN exchange programme. I was in Saga-ken of Kyushu, when I visited a big monastery of the True Mantra School of Japanese Vajrayana Buddhism. And I fostered a very close relationship with the abbot of that monastery after the visit. Doctor Qiuji was my host during my stay in Japan then. He saw me doing my daily prayer at his home and therefore, he asked me if I would be interested to visit a big monastery in Saga-ken. However, the students of the abbot who answered his call told him that his teacher’s schedule was full, with meetings scheduled up to two months later. On the next day, Doctor Qiuji and I went ahead on our own to visit the monastery. To our surprise, the abbot was standing high up on the staircase leading to the monastery, awaiting our arrival. Later, he told us that he had a dream last night, in which Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara told him to cancel all his appointments on the following day and await the arrival of a practitioner from the Lion City of Singapore.
Through an interpreter, the abbot told us that he saw Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara sitting above my crown. He invited me into his personal shrine with a huge Acala statue being enshrined. Initially, he performed some ritual and gave me blessing. Suddenly, I told him that I would like to give him blessing and consecrate the statue of Acala instead. He appeared to be very happy after receiving the blessing from me and thanked me several times. He told the interpreter that he saw me transforming into Acala during the blessing! He was very happy that I gave him blessing and consecrated his Acala statue. He also said that I was chanting an ancient Acala mantra transmitted secretly only to the abbots of the True Mantra School. Later, he offered me a monk robe and a rosary of Japanese Vajrayana lineage, symbolising my superior connection with the Japanese Vajrayana lineage.
On our first day of arrival in Japan, the winter season has already started in Japan. However, we saw lots of red maple leaves in the vicinity of Wakayama Castle. Actually, Wakayama Prefecture is the warmest place in Japan during winter; its temperature has never fallen below zero degree Celcius. No wonder we could sing “Maple Love” while enjoying the sight of snow at the same time! Koyasan was covered by snow everywhere. It snowed on our very day of arrival in Japan. Our Japanese driver told us that of course it does snow in Koyasan but the snow has never been so thick! Well, that appeared to be a snow of blessing celebrating our arrival! We, the sons of the tropical Lion City, felt exhilarated by the beautiful snow, and  we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly playing snow-fighting in Koyasan like kids.
Rainbow has never missed its promise. This time, rainbows followed us closely wherever we went. Rainbow appeared for the first time during our visit to Negoroji Temple. Venerable Mori Taikou was the monk who showed us around the temple during the visit. He had been to US in the past and read the book entitled “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” written by Sogyal Rinpoche;he felt deeply touched by the book. When he found out that I was actually from the same Nyingma Dzogchen School as Sogyal Rinpoche, he knew that we had a very close spiritual connection with each other. On the third day, a huge rainbow arc appeared near our hotel.  On the fourth day, after our lunch, another huge rainbow arc appeared in the sky. On the last day, yet another rainbow appeared in the sky when we arrived at Todaiji in Nara.  There was a cloud in the shape of a Three-legged Sacred Crow that appeared next to the rainbow, and a huge white lotus appearing in the form of cloud too. The Sacred Crow has a long history and connection with Japanese Shinto and Japanese Vajrayana Buddhism (True Mantra School of Koyasan). There was little wonder that the Sacred Crow showed itself and protected us throughout the trip.
We enjoyed the tour while doing our spiritual practice simultaneously throughout the trip. This trip benefited both the spiritual and human worlds tremendously; it was full of the radiance of Buddha Light. Our Japanese tour guide, Chiyoko San, knelt before me on the fourth night, taking refuge in Acho Rinpoche. She invited us to visit Okinawa next, as the souls of the spiritual beings there need to be delivered. Reason being, when Okinawa was invaded by the American soldiers during World War II, the Japanese soldiers and civilians were forced to retreat to the southern part of the island but most of them ended up killing themselves in the sea eventually. On the very last night of our group practice, I asked the group if anyone would want to follow me to Okinawa? I got an instantaneous response from almost everyone who said “On!” When will our next trip to Japan be? Well, I shall leave it to the Sacred Crow to make the arrangement…… 
Acho Rinpoche

Pictures: Wakayama Tour Pictures

Sunday, November 17, 2013


We will share the reading of this book entitled “A Quiet Path” written by Xi-a-rong Khenpo tonight. One of the chapters mentions about the right attitude of a practitioner and the way of practice after taking refuge. We will be going to Mtn. Wutai soon. So, I encourage you to chant the heart mantra of Manjushri Bodhisattva before going. In this book, the author mentioned about one of his teachers, Jin Wang Khenpo, who learnt from H.H Jigme Puntsok when the former was still a very young student. He did not do well in his study and he could not understand many of the teachings. So, he prayed to Manjushri Bodhisattva and chanted a few billion times of His heart mantra. Finally, he was able to read the Five Major Commentaries with ease and became a renowned Khenpo of his time. He became a great teacher who was very eloquent in his speech and could make references readily from a wide range of sources; he had assimilated the teachings of all the sutras and commentaries in his heart. He understood all the teachings after chanting the heart mantra of Manjushri Bodhisattva rigorously. I am requesting you to just chant five hundred thousand times of His heart mantra because it can help you gain a higher wisdom.
This book mentions a quality of a practitioner – kindness. Kindness is actually easy. However, many practitioners are actually more unkind than the non-practitioners. A practitioner should reflect on his own shortcomings but not do so on others; he should discipline himself but not others. There are many practitioners who like to gossip about others but never do self-reflection. The author said, a practitioner should be humble and respectful of others. A Buddhist should abstain from hurting others at all times, in both speech and action. He should not criticize other religions including the Outer Paths, let alone other schools of Buddhism. Do not criticize other schools of Buddhism, be it Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana etc., for all of them were transmitted by Sakyamuni Buddha to address the different needs of the students. We take refuge in different schools of Buddhism due to our own karma; we should not disturb others in their practice – do not perturb the minds of others.
Many of our friends and relatives, due to various reasons, have not taken refuge in the Three Jewels. They are struggling hard in this illusory world to earn their living and pursue their so-called happiness. According to the author, such happiness is just the cause of suffering. Most people thought that they work for money and raise their children in order to achieve happiness in life but it turns out to be the cause of suffering instead. A practitioner seeks to let go of such worldly pursuits.
There was a lady who has good faith in the Buddha teachings and was considering taking refuge but she dropped the idea after seeing many Buddhists around her behaving poorly in their conduct. Therefore, we should be a good role model to others but not just tell others that we are a Buddhist when we still behave poorly in our conduct; you will make others lose faith in the Buddha teachings. A Buddhist who is arrogant and self-centered, who is fond of criticizing others will make others lose faith in the Buddha teachings and drop their idea of wanting to take refuge in the Three Jewels. Instead, a Buddhist should make others aspire to become a Buddhist too. Change yourself and make others feel that you are a humble and kind person; this is the kind of Buddhist that can bring positive influence to others around him including his friends and relatives, colleagues etc. Do not just be a Buddhist in name but not in action. The author said, on the path of enlightenment, only a heart of kindness can eventually blossom into a flower of true happiness; an evil mind can never blossom into a flower of kindness.
Master Tsongkhapa said, “A person who is kind at heart will live a happy life in his present and future lives. A practitioner must have a kind heart.  A kind person who is firm and steady will not be far from enlightenment the moment he starts walking the path of enlightenment.” So, as long as you are firm, steady and kind, when you start doing your practice, you will not be far from the attainment of enlightenment. These are a few key points for the practice. Recitation of the sutras, chanting of the mantras, being more superior than others, and yearning to teach others or become a teacher to others are just not important. The more important point is actually about being humble, training one’s own mind, becoming compassionate and benefiting others.
A Dharma Discourse given by Acho Rinpoche on 21 Aug 2013.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Only when one has taken refuge in the Three Jewels, he has truly entered the School of Buddhism and is called a Buddhist. To me, becoming a Buddhist is the most important decision in our life. Being born into this world, going to school, marrying a wife and being a top scholar etc., will pale against taking refuge in the Three Jewels. After taking refuge in the Buddha, you become the son of the Buddha, the prince of Buddha, and a seed of enlightenment is planted deep in your being which will lead you to the attainment of Buddhahood one day.
Why do we aspire to become a Buddha (the enlightened one)? If we do not attain Buddhahood, we will remain stranded in the Six Realms of Cyclic Existence (Samsara), no matter who you are. Samsara consists of the Three Upper Realms (God, Demi-god, Human) and the Three Lower Reams (Animal, Hell, Hungry Ghost). Even the highest among men like the President or Chairman of a country, or the richest man in the world, are just one of the beings within Samsara. All sentient beings within the Samsara suffer from all the imperfections in life, mental afflictions and the incessant cyclic existence of birth and death. Sakyamuni Buddha said, “This world is an ocean of suffering.” So, regardless of your highest achievement and richest wealth, or poverty as a beggar, you are just a human being who must face the inevitable process of birth, aging, sickness and death; you will not be able to break free from this cyclic existence.
A student asked Sakyamuni Buddha, “How long have we been around in this cyclic existence?” Sakyamuni Buddha said, “Imagine your skeletons accumulated after each death piling up to the peak of Mtn. Sumeru or Mt. Himalaya, which would mean millions of times. However, you do not know it because of the lack of wisdom. You have been living and dying for so long, sometimes you were born a woman, sometimes a cat, sometimes a dog and sometimes a cow….. It has never come to an end." How meaningless! You have never been able to break free from this cyclic existence. Maybe if you did good in your past life, you will be born a richer person who can afford a good meal each time. However, you are still stranded in this cyclic existence. Only when you have taken refuge in the Buddha, you have obtained an opportunity to break free from the Samsara.
The Buddha Dharma is the highest teaching in this world; the rest are considered the Outer Paths. So, after taking refuge in the Buddha, you must not take refuge in the Outer Paths. Another word, after doing your doctorate, you do not go study in the primary or secondary schools. Taking refuge in the Buddha is the most important decision in your life. What do you do after taking refuge? “Do good. Avoid evils.” This is the fundamental behaviour of a Buddhist. You must not behave like an ordinary person who is greedy and do bad things to others; taking refuge will be a meaningless act then as it makes no difference from one who has not taken refuge. If someone has not taken refuge in the Buddha but he is a good person who did many good things, he fares better than those who have taken refuge. Those who have taken refuge in the Buddha should reflect on your own behavior and strive to do better than others. You must strive to eradicate your selfishness and serve others – help the sentient beings.
The teachings of the Buddha Dharma are vast like an ocean. It is impossible for you to learn and practice all in one life. However, we can focus on one teaching and not be over ambitious. What we just did was to focus on doing only one practice. There are many schools of Buddhism including the Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana, Pure Land, Zen etc. We belong to the Vajrayana. One of my lineage came from True Buddha School. I am a reincarnated master from the Nyingma of Tibetan Buddhism; I was the abbot of a monastery in Qinghai Province in China. When they found me, I was given the lineage of Nyingma. So, my practice is a union of both the True Buddha School and Nyingma.  
The highest attainment in the Hinayana is Arahat. Pure Land Buddhism told you that the attainment of Buddhahood is very difficult, that you will need to go through a period of Three Big Kalpas before attaining Buddhahood; there is no such thing as attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. The Pure Land School teaches the incessant recitation of the name of Amitabha Buddha. When one attains a steady mind through the recitation of the name of Amitabha Buddha, he can be reborn in the Western Blissful Pure Land and start learning the Buddha Dharma there. Why don’t we start learning the Buddha Dharma now? We can do it swifter here. Vajrayana believes in the attainment of Buddhahood in this lifetime because it has a very special method. There are four major sects in Vajrayana including Kagyud, Sakya, Nyingma and Gelug. Gelug belongs to H.H Dalai Lama. Kagyud has H.H Karmapa. Sakya has H.H Sakya Trizin. Nyingma has six branches; we belong to one of the braches called “Dzogchen” (Great Perfection).
The highest attainment in Vajrayana is the practice of “Dzogchen”, the peak of the Nine Paths. There were many patriarchs of Nyingma Dzogchen who attained “rainbow body” when they passed away. They passed away in a sitting posture and their physical bodies transformed into rainbow before disappearing into space. The Dzogchen practice of our school is indeed very inconceivable. Those who followed me to the Shandong Tour this time witnessed the appearance of rainbows wherever we went; it does have a connection with the Dzogchen practice. When you have accomplished the Dzogchen practice, you will attain Buddhahood in this lifetime and rainbows will appear wherever you go. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will follow you. When you accomplish your Dzogchen practice, you are just a living Buddha no different from Sakyamuni Buddha. So, it is important to know that only Refuge can lead us out of the Samsara.
If you ask me, “What is the benefit of leaving the Samsara?” The state of enlightenment is beyond words. It is beyond the comprehension of sentient beings. It is beyond the conceptual thinking of all men. Sakyamuni Buddha said, He could manifest numerous Emanation Bodies to help all the sentient beings in the universe. This is an inconceivable state of enlightenment. Spiritual practice is about getting oneself out of the Samsara first, followed by helping others to get out of the Samsara next. Share with others what you have learnt including the people around you, your kids, your family, your relatives and friends, gradually enlarging the circle to the whole universe and all sentient beings; wishing that they will take refuge in the Buddha and attain Buddhahood one day; transforming this world into a Pure Land is our ultimate aim.
Tonight, after taking refuge, you should do good and avoid evils, practice well for the sake of enlightenment, and share with others your attainment. Although Tantra can help one attain Buddhahood in one lifetime, it is actually not that easy. It requires you to focus fully on doing the practice, which is not easy. If you cannot attain Buddhahood in this lifetime, do it in your next life; if you fail to do so still in your next life, continue to do it in your next three lives, six lives, twelve lives……. One day, you will definitely attain Buddhahood! Anyway, Vajrayana is indeed a swifter path than other schools of Buddhism.
Vajrayana also requires a practitioner to abide by the precepts strictly. Our prayer book contains many important teachings, including the sadhana and precepts. A practitioner cannot transgress the precepts of Dzogchen. We have the Five Precepts, Fourteen Root Downfalls etc. Of course, I do not expect you to be able to abide by all the precepts immediately. You can start by abiding by one, two, three, four, gradually increasing the number. One day, you will naturally be able to abide by all the precepts. There is no immediate success or immediate Buddhahood; it requires a long period of practice. Precept is very important. When Sakyamuni Buddha was about to pass into Nirvana, His students asked, “When you are gone, where can we find our next teacher?” He told his students “Let the precepts be your teacher.” That shows the importance of precept. Everyone should abide by the precepts strictly, do good and avoid evils, and help others.
One more point. Vajrayana brothers and sisters are closer than our family members. Our existence spans across numerous lifetimes. When you pass away from this life, you will not recognize those people whom you are associated with in this life when you make a return in your next life. You will not even know where they have gone in their next lives. Your connection with them only lasts one lifetime. However, the connection among Vajrayana brothers and sisters will last forever. Once you have taken refuge in me, our connection will never end; you will follow me life after life to do your practice. This is a very profound affinity. Like the saying goes, “A teacher for one day will be one’s father for an entire lifetime.” “Father”, in our context, does not refer to a relationship that only lasts one lifetime; it refers to an eternal relationship. And you are eternal Vajrayana brothers and sisters. So, you must treat one another closer than your own family members. You will all come with me to the Blissful Pure Land in future.  
A Dharma Discourse Given By Acho Rinpoche on 5 May 2013, in Shandong Province, China for seven Shandong students who just took refuge in Acho Rinpoche. 

Non-Sectarian (Rime)

I would like to let the new comers know about our background. Actually, our connection with Tibetan Buddhism is very strong. There are friends from Tibetan Buddhism who often pay us visits including the Khenpos and lamas from Nyingma, Gelug, Sakya and Kagyud. I am a “rime” (non-sectarian). I learnt from many schools of Buddhism during the initial stage of my practice including Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana; Kagyud, Nyingma, Gelug and Sakya. I don’t care who you are, as long as you have something worth learning, I will learn from you. I always assume that I have nothing and  I am always prepared to learn from scratch and from everyone.
 I have been learning non-stop during the past 30 years; I have never stopped learning, listening and reading. I have learnt a lot from books, including two, three hundred books written by Grand Master, which I will usually finish reading at night on the very day I got hold of one, assimilating the essence of Grand Master’s teachings. I also read books written by Tsultrim Lodro Khenpo, Sodaji Khenpo, Master Nan Huai Jin, H.H Jigme Puntsok, H.H Diglo Kyentse, Master Liu Rui Zhi, Master Chen Jian Min etc. As long as you are capable of writing something, I will read it. They are my source of learning, I regard them all as my teachers and I learn from them.
Of course, I know that one is unable to attain enlightenment by simply reading. The books are just a guide telling a practitioner the various methods of practice. You will not be able to attain enlightenment after reading the Three Tipitakas and the Five Major Commentaries because they are just a finger pointing at the moon; you will not be able to reach the moon through mere reading the finger. If reading the books alone can give the reader the state of enlightenment, who among the students of Grand Master has attained enlightenment so far after reading the two, three hundred volumes of book written by Grand Master?  Even those who have been named by Grand Master for “hitting the target” (attaining the state of realization) can still fail the tests. In this regard, they are no different from those who are unable to “hit the target”. In my opinion, spitirual practice is never an easy task – it is something that needs to be done life after life. I have been practicing for numerous lives, non-stop, till now.
The books can provide us with some experience which can enrich the contents of our teaching. However, the true wisdom does not come from the books; it comes from your own attainment; it comes from your own mind. Someone asked a Kagyud Master, “Is this book suitable for reading?” The master said, “Books have nothing to do with your true attainment. Don’t read them - get them out of the way.” He denied the usefulness of the books immediately because they will not give you the true attainment.
My view is that, reading is fine. However, you should realize that it will not bring you the true state of attainment. You will need to work on it. No doubt you will learn the experience of others from the books and know the teachings are as such but after learning the teachings, you will need to apply them in your practice. The books will not be able to set you free because everyone has different propensities acquired from the numerous past lives that must be treated differently; the tests are therefore different for the different individuals. No one could find all the answers in books. Maybe you will be able to find something close that gives you some insight - “I see, it is so!” However, the books have nothing to do with your true attainment. We cannot do away with the books entirely, of course. We should still read them but we should let go of them after reading. Everyone should understand this point. The tests will come one after another during the entire process of practice; they will never end.
Tantra can help one attain Buddhahood in a single lifetime. However, in reality, it is very difficult to achieve that. If you are a reincarnated enlightened master or Buddha, you will be able to attain Buddhahood in a single lifetime. Otherwise, one has to practice life after life, including myself. I have been practicing rigorously for 30 to 40 years by now; I used every opportunity in my life to practice and I blend the practice into my daily activity – reading, meditation, recitation etc. I learn from many teachers. I spent all my available time on practice. Today, I managed to achieve a little attainment which is insignificant in my opinion. So, do not think that practice is easy as just chanting a few mantras, forming a few mudras, doing some visualization etc. It is not that easy. Practice spans across thousands of lifetimes, and it requires a practitioner to learn humbly.
I am a “ligme” (non-sectarianism). It does not matter whether it is Hinayana, Mahayana or Vajrayana, as long as you give the right teachings, I will learn from you.  I only believe in one “yana”  – the Buddha-yana. As long as you are teaching the Buddha Dharma,  giving the right teachings, I will learn from you. This is my spiritual path. I hope you will practice with vigour. If you think that you can grasp everything in this world including your kids, family, career etc. and at the same time aspire to attain enlightenment – let me tell you this – it is impossible! Of course there are some individuals who are able to do so but I will not be the one for sure!
Even Grand Master has been practicing life after life before attaining Buddhahood. I hope that you will treat spiritual practice as the most important thing in life and let go of other worldly concerns. If you can do this, you will stand a chance to attain Buddhahood in this single lifetime. If you give worldly concerns the highest priority, you will never be able to attain Buddhahood; you can only wait for Grand Master or someone capable of bringing you to the Western Blissful Pure Land when you pass away from this life. Anyway, you will still need to do your practice in the pure land; you might as well start doing your practice now. Please ponder on what I have just said.
A Dharma Discourse given by Acho Rinpoch on 14 Oct 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Refuge & Lineage of Transmission

The author of “The Quiet Path”, Xi-a-rong-bo Khenpo, mentioned about taking refuge in this book. He said, some people thought that it is suffice to just have the Buddha in their hearts and that taking refuge is unnecessary. Actually, of course it is best to have the Buddha in one’s heart but it will not be suffice for one to be just complacent about the accumulation of merits in his past lives. Taking refuge in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) is the only means to help us break free from the Six Realms of Cyclic Existence. Without refuge, we will be helplessly drowned in the ocean of samsara. So, it is insufficient to just bear the Buddha in mind. One should seek an enlightened master and take refuge in him, and obtain the lineage of transmission. He said, some of the practices have the pre-requisite of a lineage of transmission. If you do not take refuge, you will not be able to obtain the lineage of empowerment. You will not be able to obtain the lineage of empowerment regardless of how rigorous you do the practice because you have not acted according to the teaching. So, taking refuge is very important.        
Master Atisha was a highly revered Buddhist Master in India and Tibet. He was one of the spiritual leaders in the early stage of establishment of Buddhism in Tibet. He stressed the importance of taking refuge and made it a point to expound the teaching in every assembly during his time in Tibet. He was thus being addressed as the “Refuge Pandita”. He considered taking refuge the most important practice. If an accomplished master like Atisha took it so seriously, one can guess the true importance of this teaching.
Without taking refuge, it will be very difficult for you to practice accordingly. He also said that one must go through the proper ritual of taking refuge before a qualified master in order to obtain the “body of refuge”. This is the right method of taking refuge in the Dharma. Without taking refuge, a person who offers incense and prostrates before a Buddha, or recites a sutra, cannot be regarded as a real Buddhist. He said, only one who has taken refuge is considered a true Buddhist. Especially in Vajrayana Buddhism, the lineage of transmission is very crucial.
He said, when you have decided to take the practice seriously, you must keep an open mind and learn, without your own opinions, from the Buddha. You will not be able to break free from the cyclic existence without learning from the Buddha. So, you should express your determination before a lineage of transmission that “I must attain Buddhahood! I must attain enlightenment!” and learn from the master of that lineage. However, taking refuge is not ordination. Sakyamuni Buddha transmitted the teaching of taking refuge in order to bring a person into the Dharma, enabling him to start walking the path of enlightenment. It does not require the person to become a monk or nun. He can practice as a layman Buddhist, at home. Both a layman Buddhist and an ordained practitioner can practice the Dharma and they stand an equal chance of attaining enlightenment.
It is important for you to obtain a refuge certificate and a spiritual name but it will be even more important for you to revere your Vajra Master and the Three Jewels, have full faith in them and obey them. You must never betray your Vajra Master and the Three Jewels in the face of great adversity, even at the risk of losing your life. There is nothing more valuable and important than taking refuge in a qualified master and the Three Jewels in this world. Taking refuge and learning the Dharma are the most important thing that you have done in this life.
All the teachings transmitted by Sakyamuni Buddha are spiritual jewels. The Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana give the same advice on taking refuge. The different schools of Buddhism are a result of the different methods taught by the Buddha for the different target audience, tailoring the methods to their different needs. All methods will ultimately lead the practitioners towards the path of enlightenment. There is no other way. So, we should not criticize any method for being the wrong one.
“Sangha” refers to the spiritual friends on the path of enlightenment. You must not take refuge in any Outer School (as opposed to the Inner School of Buddhism). According to Hinayana, four monks can form a Sangha (spiritual community). According to Mahayana, a practitioner who has attained the state of emptiness is a qualified Sangha, regardless of whether he is a layman Buddhist or an ordained Buddhist. Sangha is a source of refuge. In Vajrayana Buddhism, a Tulku or re-incarnated Rinpoche who is a layman Buddhist can be your source of refuge too.
After taking refuge in Buddhism, a student must observe the precepts. First, he must maintain a strong faith in the Vajra Master and the Three Jewels. No matter what happens, he must revere his Vajra Master and the Three Jewels. Second, he must place all the Buddha images, monk robes and Buddhist literatures at clean places and not simply place them anywhere or walk over them (which are acts of transgression). Third, a Vajra Master and the Three Jewels are the only sources of refuge; he must not take refuge in other parties.
Also, he said that we should feel sorry for the animals being killed for food in the market. A Buddhist should develop a sense of compassion towards all sentient beings and aspire to help them. Vajrayana Buddhism encourages vegetarianism. After taking refuge, it will be better if a practitioner can become a vegetarian. If he cannot do so due to health, work or other reason, he should at least refrain from killing live animals including fish, prawn etc. If he must continue to eat meat, he should just eat only three types of “Clean Meats”. Meat eating will create bad karma. Although eating three types of “Clean Meat” will also create bad karma, it is slightly better than directly killing the animals for food.
Many people mistaken that Vajrayana Buddhism allows meat eating, while Mahayana Buddhism widely practiced in China disallows meat eating. Actually, all schools of Buddhism including Mahayana, Hinayana and Vajrayana encourage vegetarianism. Nowadays, H.H Dalai Lama and H.H Karmapa are encouraging all Buddhists to embrace vegetarianism. Almost all Tibetan monks are vegetarians now, including the author himself who said a Vajrayanist must be a vegetarian.   

 A Dharma Discourse given by Acho Rinpoche on 16 Aug 2013

Breaking Free from Cyclic Existence

The teaching of “impermanence” is a key teaching in Vajrayana Buddhism, which is repeatedly stressed by all the Khenpos and Rinpoches, regardless of their sects and the level of practice. They have been practicing for a long time, at least for ten to twenty years, but their teachers would continue to stress the importance of the teaching of “impermanence” throughout their training. The same teaching would be repeated in many ways, in any assembly and in any discourse, in order to make them feel very deeply about the impermanence of life. As long as you have not developed a sense of impermanence in you, you will be easily influenced by worldly enjoyments, and a sense of love and hatred which will perpetually bind you to the cyclic existence (samsara). Actually, what they are trying to say is that life is impermanent, and we can die anytime and very soon. So, we should strive to break free from such cyclical deaths.  When you truly feel the urgency of death, you will develop a sense of renunciation swiftly and lose your interest in all the worldly concerns; this will make you focus all your energy on the practice leading to the ultimate freedom.
Gunga Wangchok Lama gave a lot of teachings in his life and he had groomed many Khenpos. In one of his books, he cited a phenomenon in the cyclic existence - “In the human world, one's father could become his son and one's mother could become his wife.” A father could be reborn as a son to his own son. A mother could be reborn as a wife to her own son. Also, “One's enemy could become his close relative.” Your enemy from previous life could be reborn as your family member and create trouble for you. Cyclic existence, as its name suggests, never ends. We are clueless of who will become who next? This is how we go through the endless cycles of birth and death. When we obtain a human birth again, we might bump into our late father who has become our child etc. Sakyamuni Buddha told his students that sometimes, your father in this life would become your son in his next life; your son in this life would become your father in your next life; your mother in this life would become your wife in her next life; and your wife would become your enemy in her next life. The roles keep changing and they will never remain the same.
During the time of Sakyamuni Buddha, there was an Arahat by the name of Jia-tuo-yan, who went around for alms one day. He came across a house where he saw a woman eating pork while holding a baby in her arm and breast feeding him. There was a dog right in front of her house which was waiting for a chance to eat a bit of the gravy from the meat that she was eating. Later, that woman threw a piece of bone at the dog after finishing the meat. Sakyamuni Buddha told the Arahat, “Do you know that the meat eaten by that woman came from a pig that was the rebirth of her late father? Her father fell into the animal realm. The baby who was sucking her milk was the enemy who killed her husband; she was feeding him with her milk now and loved him so much. Her mother was reborn as a dog because of her own negative karma. Now, the daughter threw a piece of bone on the face of her late mother (the dog), and the mother was chewing the bone of her former husband (the pig). Her late mother was reborn as a dog and her late father was reborn as a pig. The Arahat, after witnessing the phenomenon realized that all the worldly relationships are but transient; he developed a very strong sense of renunciation as a result.
                Many students developed a sense of renunciation after hearing this strange phenomenon from Sakyamuni Buddha. They found cyclic existence absolutely meaningless for one’s father, son, student, spouse  etc. are just transient relationships that will continue to change and one is just going round and round a circle. The Arahat developed a sense of renunciation and completely lost his attachment to the Three Realms (Desire Realm, Realm of Form and Formless Realm) thence. What Sakyamuni Buddha was trying to do was to break our attachment to this life, especially our attachment to our family. As long as you love your children, your parents etc., you are actually blinded by the superficial value of cyclic existence, which is very scary.
Sakyamuni Buddha also mentioned about the Heaven Realm. The heavenly beings enjoyed great fortunes in heaven but they would fall into hell and suffer great hardships when their merits are exhausted. This is real. Heavenly beings enjoyed great sensual pleasures in heaven and they live a very long life that could last for thousands of years, equivalent to millions of years in the Human Realm. They could touch the beautiful breasts of the female heavenly beings and enjoyed the sense of touch. They could also touch the slim waist of the female heavenly beings and enjoyed the sense of touch. However, when their merits are exhausted, they will plunge straight into two gigantic iron mountains in hell.  Their bodies will be scotched by the fire of hell and cut into pieces by iron birds. The iron birds will cut away your eyes, your nose, your mouth and your tongue; you will feel the greatest pain and misery in hell. These are inconceivable fruits of negative karma in hell. One enjoyed inconceivable sensual pleasures in heaven and went through inconceivable pains in hell next. In the human world, your relatives and friends will have their roles change from life to life…… Therefore, Sakyamuni Buddha kept telling us about the impermanence of life, and that we should break free from this cyclic existence, and  break free from sufferings. When we realize that the human world is full of sufferings, we should turn towards the teachings of the Buddha and put them into practice. Only through practice, we can eventually break free from the cyclic existence.  
A Dharma discourse given by Acho Rinpoche on 29 Jun 2013


Saturday, September 21, 2013

An Extra-ordinary Mind Training Tour: A 9-Day Tour of Ping Yao, Mtn. Wutai and Cliff Hanging Temple in Shanxi Province, China

(Dragon Rock at Qingliang Temple)
 (Mother-Buddha Cave)
(Buddha Eye & Wisdom Sword)
This 9-day tour to Ping Yao, Mtn. Wutai and Cliff Hanging Temple came as a surprise to us as it was not within our original plan. First, we just came back from the Ancient City of Qilu in Shandong, China in May this year. Next, Dharma Sister Chan suddenly took a one-year no pay leave from her work and was planning to make her 4th pilgrimage tour to Mtn. Wutai in early August, and she invited me along. So, we set off again for China. It was expected to be a very small group but it turned out to be a 40-strong group. On 31th August, we took a flight to China from Singapore, meeting the rest of the group from Shandong Province in Taiyuan who travelled by train separately.

We visited an ancient city – Ping Yao on our first day, staying overnight at Yong Sheng Yuan Inn within the ancient city. On the following day, we took a good look at the ancient city and made our final stop at the office and bedroom of the county official. The upper floor of the bedroom was actually a shrine worshiping fox spirit. Actually, the ancient city of Ping Yao was the only place in China where the official seal of the county official was guarded by a fox spirit. It was indeed an eye-opener. A physical seal was being guarded by a spiritual being – how strange it was! Anyway, we paid our respect to the fox spirit nevertheless and returned to our inn, ready to set off for Mtn. Wutai. Surprisingly, a fox spirit suddenly spoke through Dharma Sister Zhen and requested my blessing; it left soon after receiving my blessing. And we finally set off for Mtn. Wutai.  

On the 3rd morning, Dharma Sister Qing woke up from her dream and “saw” a fox tail resting comfortably over her body. The fox spirit actually followed us to Mtn. Wutai and requested to follow us back to Singapore to continue practicing with us. I told Dharma Sister Qing that she should learn to sing “The White Fox” made famous by Chen Rui because I believe she would be able to express the passion of a thousand-year old fox spirit very well, ha ha!

A sun halo appeared at the moment our coach entered the area of Mtn.Wutai.  Bodhisattva Manjushri and His large entourage of Bodhisattvas and Dharma Protectors came forward to welcome us. There is a spiritual bond between the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Vajra Protectors with the X-Tour!

On the first night at Mtn. Wutai, a young couple took refuge in me. When they knelt before me, two loud thunders were heard in the sky. Dharma Brother Shao casually made a remark, “Who on earth would play with fireworks at this hour?”  Immediately, a heavy downpour ensued. I told the group that the thunders were set off by the dragons and the rain was a welcoming gesture of mountain-cleansing prior to receiving important guests. On the following day, Dharma Brother Shao had a vision of The Fifth Prince of Dragon in his meditation. The latter told him that the two thunders last night were his creation. Actually, all the immortals, Buddhas, gods and Dharma Protectors on Mtn. Wutai were already waiting for our arrival! Namo Amitabha Buddha!

We visited the Naluoyan Grutto in Eastern Peak and had a vision of many Dzogchen masters practicing in that spiritual space including the late H.H Jigme Puntsok.

We also visited the Western Peak where there were several sacred sites associated with Guru Padmasambhava. We met the abbot of Xilai Temple, Venerable Miao Qing, and his student, Venerable  Miao Yi. We felt a strong karmic connection with one another, and Venerable Miao Yi learnt from me the mudra and mantra of Guru Padmasambhava. Finally, I gave an empowerment to the group using the Eight Merits Water originated from a local spring.

When we next arrived at Qingliang Temple (Cooling Temple), I realized that the place was indeed very cooling.  The entire dragon family appeared to welcome us. We climbed up the mystical Dragon Rock and did a practice above the rock. We could feel the inconceivable blessing power of the rock. The Dragon Rock is where the dragons will take a rest after performing their duties of giving rain to earth; the rock can re-energize their bodies. We took many photographs of this rock, with rainbow lights seen appearing around my body and the rock beneath my feet. One of the pictures showed our book “Bhutan Tour” turning into a piece of white light when I was handing it over to a lama from Wuming Buddhist School of Seda. It was surrounded by rainbow light too. Actually, the “Bhutan Tour” already became a hit in the spiritual world.

Our original plan was to visit the Cliff Hanging Temple as our last stop. I was there 13 years ago and I was planning for a re-visit. Unfortunately, there was a land slide affecting that area and we had to cancel our plan. Instead, we went to Avalokitesvara Cave. There were a few Chinese Buddhists doing a full length prostration in the main hall then, so we decided to skip that place and continued our way to the cave. We came across another Fifth Dragon Prince Temple half-way up the hill. We entered the temple to pay our respect to Bodhisattva Fifth Prince. On our way out, we noticed a small rainbow arc reflecting on the steps outside the temple. Initially, we thought it was just a reflection from a window. However, it suddenly turned into a shape of a Buddha Eye, with a Wisdom Sword of Bodhisattva Manjushri appearing right in the center. I knelt before the rainbow eye and Wisdom Sword to pay my homage. Soon after, several Tibetan lamas and local Chinese Buddhists followed suite – they also knelt before the rainbow to pay their homage. After that, several Chinese Buddhists also knelt before me to pay their respect and I offered them our X-tour books in return.

During the entire mind training tour of Mtn. Wutai, our group became the focal point of the place, attracting the attention of the people wherever we went. There were many local Buddhists who followed us in chanting the mantras and circumambulating the stupas.

Dharma Brother Hong from Australia had a vision of Long Eye Browed Arahat coming forward to welcome our arrival. He also had a vision of the late Chairman Mao. Many members of our group had different levels of spiritual response, especially the Shandong members who just took refuge in me recently who have since developed a strong faith in the teaching of Samsara (cyclic existence). The numerous manifestations of the spiritual world were simply awe-inspiring and inconceivable……
Acho Rinpoche
16 Sep 2013

Saturday, August 3, 2013


By H.E Acho Rinpoche
1.             Prostration
Prostrate to the Buddha Family, Bodhisattva Family and Vajra Family. Next, pay equal respect to the three Families and all heavenly beings.
2.             Offering
Place some rice grains in both palms. Visualize Mtn. Sumeru in the centre, surrounded by Four Heavens in the east, west, north and south, and flanked by a sun and a moon in the east and west respectively. Visualize the rice grains within our palms transforming into precious gems, filling Mtn. Sumeru and Four Heavens fully. Present the precious gems to all the holy beings.
Recite the Offering Verse once:
Mtn. Sumeru, Four Heavens and a sun and moon. May I offer all the precious gems filling Mtn. Sumeru, Four Heavens and a sun and moon fully, to the Buddhas. May the merits generated from these wonderful offerings, eradicate the negative karma and bring about a swift enlightenment.
Chant the Offering Mantra 3 times:
“Om. Sarva. Tatagatha. I-ta-mu. Guru-lana. Men-cha-la. Khan. Ni-li-ye. Ta-ye-mi.”  (嗡。沙爾娃。打他架打。衣打木。古魯拉那。面渣拉。襟。尼裏耶。打耶咪。)
3.             Four Refuge
Chant the Four Refuge Mantra 3 times:
 “Namo Gurubeh. Namo Buddhaya. Namo Dharmaya. Namo Sanghaya.” (南摩古魯貝。南摩不打耶。南摩达摩耶。南摩僧伽耶。)
4.             Heart Sutra
Recite the Heart Sutra:

Thus have I heard. Once the Buddha was dwelling in Rajagriha at Vulture Peak, together with a great gathering of the sangha of monks and a great gathering of the sangha of bodhisattvas. At that time the Buddha entered the samadhi that expresses the dharma called “profound illumination,” and at the same time noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, while dwelling in the profound state of prajnaparamita, realize the emptiness of the five skandhas and break free from all sufferings.
Then, through the power of the Buddha, venerable Shariputra said to noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, “How should a son or daughter of noble family train, who wishes to practice the profound prajnaparamita?”
Noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, said to venerable Shariputra, “O Shariputra, a son or daughter of noble family who wishes to practice the profound prajnaparamita should see in this way: the five skandhas are emptiness. Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. Emptiness is no other than form; form is no other than emptiness. In the same way, feeling, perception, formation, and consciousness are emptiness. Thus, Shariputra, all phenomena are emptiness, where there is no birth and no cessation, there is no purity nor impurity, there is no increase nor decrease. Therefore, Shariputra, in emptiness, there is no form, no feeling, no perception, no formation, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no appearance, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no mental fabrication; no eye realm up to no mind realm, no ignorance, no end of ignorance; no old age and death, no end of old age and death; no suffering, no origin of suffering, no cessation of suffering, no path of practice; no wisdom and no attainment of wisdom; as there is  no attainment,  bodhisattvas who dwell in the profound state of prajnaparamita will be free of mental obscuration. As there is no mental obscuration, there is no fear. Thus, they break free from delusions and attain the ultimate nirvana. All the Buddhas of the past, present and future, by means of prajnaparamita, fully awaken to unsurpassable, true and complete enlightenment. Therefore, the great mantra of prajnaparamita, the mantra of great insight, the unsurpassed mantra, the unequalled mantra, the mantra that eradicates all suffering, is the Truth. The prajnaparamita mantra is said in this way:
Thus, Shariputra, the bodhisattva mahasattva should train in the profound prajnaparamita.” Then the Buddha arose from the samadhi and praised noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, saying, “Good, good, O son of noble family; thus it is, O son of noble family, thus it is. One should practice the profound prajnaparamita just as you have taught and all the Tathagatas will rejoice.”
When the Buddha had said this, venerable Shariputra and noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, that whole assembly and the world with its gods, humans, asuras and gandharvas rejoiced and praised the words of the Buddha.
5.             Mantra
Chant Avalokitesvara’s Heart Mantra 108 times: “Om Mani Padme Hom”. (嗡。嘛尼。唄咪。吽。)
6.             Name of Buddha
Recite the name of Amitabha Buddha 3 times:
Namo 36 Trillion And 119,500 Amitabha Buddhas of the same name (南摩三十六万亿一十一万九千五百同名同號阿弥陀佛。)
7.             Dedication of Merit
Recite the Dedication Verse:
May I be reborn in the Western Blissful Pure Land together with all who recite the name of the Buddha. May I repay the Four-fold Kindness (parents, nation, teachers, sentient beings) and help the Three Lower Realms (animal, hell, hungry ghost). May I meet the Buddha and end the cyclic existence of birth and death. May I help all sentient beings like a Buddha would. (愿同佛者,同生极乐上报四重恩,下济三途苦,佛了生死,如佛度一切。)

Note. This is a simple daily practice taught by Acho Rinpoche for the English-speaking ones who are keen to start a simple  daily Buddhist practice early without going through the formal process of taking refuge etc. One could learn the full version of the practice from a qualified master when he is ready to do so. (The Chinese text is also included only for reference purpose.)