Sunday, August 20, 2017

Will the breakage of a lineage lead one to a downfall?

Tonight, we did a Guru Rinpoche Prayer with Acho Rinpoche. After which, he shared with us a post he read in the WeChat, which was a teaching given by Khenpo Sodargye. In this post, Khenpo Sodargye mentioned a teaching given by his late teacher, H.H Jigme Punchok Rinpoche, on the consequence of a student breaking his lineage. He said, when a Vajrayanist of Tibetan Buddhism deliberately breaks his lineage, the consequence of such breakage is as serious as one’s destroying one hundred stupas, and the person will certainly fall into the Three Lower Realms (animal, hell and hungry ghost). Khenpo Sodargye advised that a practitioner must be confident in his spiritual practice and make up his mind before taking any action: if he is not ready for something, it is best that he does not even start doing it at all; if he decides to do something, he must then resolve to completing it but not give up halfway. Why so? Fickle-mindedness is a flaw which cannot be taken lightly in the Law of Karma (cause-and-effect). When one is fickle-minded in his spiritual practice, he is culminating a negative propensity in his mind-stream, for such negative propensities will continue to grow stronger, thus increasing his level of sufferings in future. What he harvests from his current action will generate only meagre merits and he is unlikely to succeed in his future undertakings due to his lack of perseverance.

When a practitioner cannot persevere in his spiritual practice, he will do the same on his worldly undertakings too and will not succeed in his worldly achievement either. He cited an example of a student who went for a teaching on “Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra” but quit halfway because he changed his mind and wanted to receive the empowerment of another teaching. Although there is merit in learning the other teaching which will bear its good fruit in future, he has created a negative karma by quitting the teaching on “Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra” halfway, which will also bear its bad fruit in future. It all depends on which karma will ripen first. Generally, there is hardly anyone who could persevere in his practice right till the end but the consequence of discontinuity is indeed scary.

Acho Rinpoche expressed his personal views on this post too. He said that although what Khenpo Sodargye said was valid to some extent, it should not be generalized but assessed base on individual cases. The key consideration lies in the reason why a student chose to leave his teacher. For instance, the Tibetan Buddhist teacher who was involved in a scandal recently, impersonated as an accomplished master initially but was accused by his westerner students of wrong doings (physically and sexually assaulting his students) lately. A student who abandons such teacher is not wrong. On the contrary, if he continues with such teacher-student relationship, he will fall into the Three Lower Realms. The other Taiwanese Buddhist teacher who followed H.H Dalai Lama in his teachings was doing fine initially. However, he picked a female layman Buddhist to lead his ordained community before he passed away. The female successor was scandalous, and some of the former abbots of this community left the group, accusing her of her wrong doings. This lady even threatened those who betrayed her that they would fall into hell; she also coerced some of the novice monks into committing serious misconducts with her. These are two examples of wrong teachers who ought to be abandoned by their students. In short, we should use our wisdom to analyze the cause-and-effect of every situation and make the right choice.

Acho Rinpoche said, although the Vajrayana School has a special teaching on advising a student to view his teacher as a Buddha, H.H Dalai Lama explained that the premise of such teaching is based on a “qualified teacher”; the wrongful acts of a “wrong teacher” should be exposed publicly. Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche also said that when a student views his teacher as a Buddha, the teacher should also view his student as a Buddha. A teacher who physically assaulted his students obviously does not view his students as Buddhas. Acho Rinpoche clarified that there were indeed “crazy monks” in the past who were actually enlightened masters; however, they were very rare indeed. So, a student should observe the behavior of his teacher to determine if he conducts himself according to the teachings of the Buddha. A student may choose to leave a teacher who misconducts himself and needs not worry about falling into the lower realms because of the breakage of lineage.

Later, Dharma Sister Yue shared with us her recent experience related to the practice, through the Internet. She said, “I had a few dreams related to the practice lately. In the first dream, we went to an island with Buddha Master (Acho Rinpoche). It was surrounded by a vast ocean. We were doing a prayer with Buddha Master on the island. Suddenly, a huge black dragon appeared from the sea and it looked very angry and wanted to eat us. Buddha Master stood up calmly, chanted some mantras and blessed the dragon. Eventually, the dragon withdrew back into the sea and just swam around calmly. Later, we saw many houses inside the sea, with many residents within. It looked just like our human world, with the beings living their daily lives like we do. Next, I noticed that the sea level began to rise, submerging lots of houses. Interestingly, our island continued to float above the water and so, we were safe.  At this juncture, I heard someone screaming for help somewhere on the island. Buddha Master followed the voice and brought us along, to save the ones needing help. I could not see anyone at all but Buddha Master seemed to know where they were. He stretched out his hand and reached out to three little beings buried underneath a rock. They were of the size of Buddha Master’s finger. He blessed them and brought them back to life, revitalized and became active again. We felt very happy and laughed aloud. This dream came to a perfect closure.

One the following night, I had my second dream. In this dream, we went to a mysterious place marked by 26 English alphabets. This was a very secluded place. It was a huge green forest, with every tribal village marked by the alphabets. When we reached an E tribal village, the sentient beings there had wings and they were flying about in the air. Buddha Master continued to give us teaching while walking around the villages. Suddenly, I saw many colorful birds appearing in the sky, dancing so beautifully in the sky. We felt very happy watching the show. Suddenly, the birds flew towards us and then I realized that it was because the sentient beings there were flying among them, welcoming the arrival of Buddha Master.

In my third dream, I saw that we were all dragons. My best friend and I could transform into human form at will, appearing as dragon and human interchangeably. The sense of transformation was very vivid and I thought I could not be dreaming. In that dream, I was telling myself that ‘No wonder Buddha Master told us that we were from the dragon family. It is actually true.’ We could fly and swim in the sea at will, and freely.”

In my fourth dream, I saw a purple Buddha Eye, the one that I usually saw during my prayers. In the center of the Buddha Eye was a Sakyamuni Buddha sitting in a meditative posture. I could sometimes see some alphabets, such as YC, and rainbow lights in numerous shapes and sizes.

I am grateful for the blessing of Buddha Master. My homage to the Sun Moon Lamp Buddha.”

Lastly, Acho Rinpoche led us in the recitation of the various titles of the Buddhas and dedicated the merit to this world which is facing a very difficult time. May all sentient beings be happy and their sufferings eradicated. And may all sentient beings attain enlightenment swiftly.

Reported by Sun-Moon KFS on 19-8-2017 in Singapore.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

What is the practice of a Buddhist?

          Tonight, we did a Guru Rinpoche prayer. After which, Acho Rinpoche mentioned that Dharma Brother Zhong just asked him many questions related to the practice. The last question raised by Zhong was indeed a very good one: how should one practise the teachings after becoming a BuddhistAcho Rinpoche advised that a Buddhist should practise the Three Teachings viz. precepts, meditation and wisdom. Minimally, a Buddhist must abide strictly by the Five Precepts and do good. The Five Precepts include no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no excessive drinking of alcohol (drunk), no lying and no killing; a Buddhist must not transgress any of the said precepts. It is indeed difficult for anyone to eradicate his negative propensities formed after the numerous lifetimes. However, a Buddhist must henceforth resolve to gradually eradicate his negative propensities no matter how long it would take. For a person who has not attained the state of full enlightenment, he will continue to face the issues of his negative propensities; even a renowned teacher is not spared of this dilemma. Grand Master advised his students not to pick on his shortcomings but should learn his positive values instead. In addition to the need to abide by the precepts, a Buddhist should also do all actions that will bring benefit to others.   

          A Buddhist should also practise the Six Perfections (offering, discipline, tolerance, diligence, meditation and wisdom). Offering includes the offering of teachings, offering of wealth and offering of fearlessness. When one comes across a good teaching such as the Lotus Sutra, he should share the teachings with others; this is considered an offering of the teachings. Building temples, printing the teachings and helping the poor are considered the offering of wealth. When one helps to dispel the sense of fear in others and even sacrifices himself to protect others, is considered making offering of fearlessness. A person who is rich in this life must have offered his wealth to help others in his past life; such action of kindness would have helped him earn the good merits for this life. A person who is poor in this life had obviously not offered his wealth to help others in his past life; such action lacking in kindness would not have helped him earn any merit for this life. Therefore, a poor person should try his best to offer his wealth to help others in this life, so that he will earn his merits and become a rich person in his next life. A Buddha is also known as “The Holy One Who Has Perfected The Two Full Accomplishments”, which refers to his full accomplishment of merits and wisdom. Tolerance is another crucial practice of the Six Perfections. Anyone living in this world must tolerate all the adversities in life including the nagging of his wife and criticism of others etc.  When one learns to tolerate an adversity in life, he is likely to feel being treated unfairly while trying very hard not be carried away by his negative emotions; not losing one’s head is a commendable achievement. However, the ultimate teaching of tolerance actually requires a person to not feel emotional at all in the face of adversity. Diligence means doing one’s spiritual practice with vigor. Meditation is just part of the spiritual practice. Finally, our innate wisdom will naturally unfold through the practice of meditation.

          Acho Rinpoche also mentioned two cases of dispute which occurred in the Buddhist circle recently. The first case is related to a Tibetan Buddhist teacher who lives in the west, who is being accused by his westerner students for his misconducts. The second case is related to a successor of a Buddhist sect in Taiwan. The Tibetan Buddhist teacher being mentioned in the first case has been teaching in the west for about 30 years by now, who has established more than 100 seats worldwide and who has tens of thousands of westerner students. However, he was being accused by his closed disciples for his misconducts such as beating up his students and sexually assaulting his female students. His students consulted H.H Dalai Lama on how should this problem be handled. H.H Dalai Lama told the students that although this teacher is a good friend of his but the latter has indeed misbehaved. Initially, this teacher offered to enter a retreat and stopped his teachings. However, he was finally forced to fully relinquish his role as the spiritual director of all the seats worldwide. The second case is related to a Taiwanese Buddhist sect which is quite huge in size. Many of its ordained and layman students attended the teachings of H.H Dalai Lama in the past on the Lamrim (“Stages of the Path” by Master Tsongkapa). However, before the late abbot of this Taiwanese Buddhist sect passed away, he appointed a Chinese female layman Buddhist to be his successor as he believed that she is the reincarnation of Master Khedrup Gelek Pelzang.  This lady has been leading the ordained community of the sect since then, which is a clear violation of a rule set by Sakyamuni Buddha in the past. She is also being accused of having wrongful affair with a novice monk in her sect. Some of the students of this sect consulted H.H Dalai Lama on whether it is wrong for a lady to lead an ordained community, and they also complained about her other wrongful actions. Similarly, H.H Dalai Lama advised the students to publicly expose the wrongful acts of a Buddhist teacher, in order to protect the true teachings of the Buddha. Acho Rinpoche supports the rule set by Sakyamuni Buddha that a layman Buddhist must not lead an ordained community. However, Acho Rinpoche disagrees with the view that a female cannot be a spiritual leader (this is a common view held by most of the traditional Buddhist sects that belittle the spiritual capacity and attainment of a female practitioner) because historically, there are indeed great adepts among the female practitioners.    

          Acho Rinpoche said that there are all sorts of news being circulated on the Internet, with true facts and fake news mixed together, causing a lot of confusions to the readers. A practitioner will need to differentiate between the truth and fake news using his wisdom, to avoid being misled into the wrong paths; this is indeed a sad situation of the current age of degeneration. In short, the most crucial point is just that a practitioner must abide by the precepts strictly and do his daily spiritual practice with vigor.

Reported by Sun-moon KFS on 12-8-2017 @Singapore

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

9 Negative Habits to Be Abandoned by Advanced Practitioners

           Tonight, we did a Guru Rinpoche Prayer under the guidance of Acho Rinpoche. After which, he shared with us the following story about a student who consulted Venerable Hui Lu of Taiwan on his spiritual practice. The student is a practitioner who abides strictly by the precepts; however, he just cannot tolerate his fellow practitioners who fail to do so. He criticized others for failing to abide by the precepts and felt troubled by this matter. Venerable Hui Lu asked him if Sakyamuni Buddha would feel troubled in the same way that he did. The student said that he did not think so. Venerable Hui Lu told his student that Sakyamuni Buddha would certainly accommodate the shortcomings of others and would not criticize them. He told his students that the latter only scored 50 marks out of 100 for abiding by the precepts, and the remaining 50 marks will need to be earned based on his tolerance of the shortcomings of others. Sakyamuni Buddha was a very disciplined person but he accepted the fact that others were not. When a person thinks that he has done better than others in terms of upholding the precepts, he will inevitably start scrutinizing the shortcomings of others and criticize them, thus committing negative karma through his speech. In that sense, he will not score 100 marks in his practice of upholding the precepts. The student returned to his own Buddhist center and continued to do his practice by focusing on his own conduct and not paying attention to the shortcomings of others. People of his center noticed the change in him and later learnt the teachings given by Venerable Hui Lu too. Acho Rinpoche advised that a practitioner should not criticize the shortcomings of others but, on the contrary, wish for their gradual improvements instead. Not only that, a practitioner should learn to rejoice in the good deeds of others. Generally, a person will feel jealous about others doing better than himself out of ego, and fail to rejoice in the success of others; such mindset will only impede his progress on the path to enlightenment.

          Next, Acho Rinpoche shared an article he read on the Internet which talked about 9 negative habits in spiritual practice which should be abandoned. Initially, a practitioner will be told to abandon his attachment to his family, his wealth, his career, his relationships etc., which are considered the more obvious attachments in our worldly pursuits. However, to an advanced practitioner, there are more subtle attachments in the spiritual practice that should also be abandoned.
1st, abandon the “duration of practice” one has gone through. An advanced practitioner tends to feel proud about his long duration of practice and thinks that he is more advanced in his spiritual practice than others. However, spiritual accomplishment is not measured by the duration of practice because there are those who had attained enlightenment immediately when being initiated into the practice.
2nd, abandon the “number of sutras” one has read. An advanced practitioner tends to feel proud about the large number of sutras he has read. However, the amount of reading does not translate into a true spiritual accomplishment of a practitioner. The Sixth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism, Master Hui Neng, understood the teaching of Diamond Sutra when he first heard it. There are many who have read the numerous sutras and yet do not understand the teachings expounded.
3rd, abandon the “spiritual experience” one has attained. There are numerous methods expounded by the Buddha, tailored for the different needs of the individuals. Every method is designed to lead a practitioner to the state of enlightenment one day. So, an advanced practitioner should not assume that his own experience is the only authoritative method.
4th, abandon “arguments”. An advanced practitioner tends to assume that his views about the Buddhist teachings is the most accurate and ultimate one, and like to debate with others to prove his points. So, he should abandon the differences in opinion and not debate with others.
5th, abandon the “tendency of wanting to teach others”. An advanced practitioner tends to assume that he knows a lot more than others and like to teach others, and claim credit when others seem to be making improvements. However, a person will naturally attain spiritual realization when the time is ripe, not because of the teaching given by someone. There is no need for one to claim credit over the progress of others as that will only create a sense of arrogance in the “teacher”.  
6th, abandon the “merits of offering”. A practitioner should understand the profound meaning of “Formless Offering” and “mental activities free of attachment”, and does not feel attached to the merits of offering.
7th, abandon the pride of making “connections with the great masters”. All the great maters are great because of their high spiritual attainment, which has nothing to do with us. One should not brag about his connections with the many great masters and take their glamor as his own.  
8th, abandon the “wish for recognition”. When one yearns for the recognition and praises of others, he is desiring a worldly achievement which will impede his spiritual progress and binds him to the state of suffering.
9th, abandon the “practice”. When a practitioner has reached the final stage of spiritual cultivation, he must abandon even the conceptual thinking of “practice”. When one attains the state free of ego, what is the basis for a conceptual thinking of “I” who does the “practice”? When one still has the concept of “I” who does the  “practice”, he is still bound to the state of worldly achievement.
Acho Rinpoche said, “practice” is only an expedient method. In the past, those who were busy cooking in the kitchens and cleaning in the toilets were the ones who finally attained enlightenment, simply because they were selflessly working for others.  These 9 negative habits to be abandoned are targeted at the advanced practitioners because they are the ones who will face the dilemma of “self-attachment” and “teaching-attachment”.  As long as one has not truly abandoned such habits, he will never attain the state of enlightenment.

Reported by Sun-moon KFS on 6-8-2017

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Vajrayana Practice Can Eradicate Misconceptions and Mental Fabrications

          Tonight, we did a Guru Rinpoche Prayer with Acho Rinpoche. After which, Acho Rinpoche gave the two crucial teachings as follows.  

          First, in this digital age where social media on the Internet is very effective in information dissemination, we might accidentally help in disseminating the wrong information and commit a negative karma when we share information without scrutinizing its accuracy. Today, there are many Buddhist teachers criticizing the Vajrayana Buddhism as they fail to understand the more profound teachings unique to this school of Buddhism. Although they do understand the more basic teachings of Buddhism and gave the correct discourses on such subjects to their audiences, when we posted such discourses in the social media, the social media engine will automatically present other discourses given by the same Buddhist teachers including their misleading interpretations and criticism of the higher Vajrayana teachings. So, Acho Rinpoche cautioned us to be careful about sharing Buddhist discourses in the social media.

He mentioned Venerable Hui Lu in Taiwan who, although criticized some of the Vajrayana practitioners for their misconducts, recognized Vajrayana Buddhism as one of the legitimate schools of Buddhism. Venerable Jin Kong recognized Vajrayana Buddhism as one of the legitimate schools of Buddhism too, as he studied under Master Zhangjia of Vajrayana Buddhism in the past and learnt about the profound teachings of Vajrayana Buddhism. However, he confessed that he is not the right material for Vajrayana Buddhism and chose Pureland Buddhism for his practice instead. Venerable Hai Tao was ordained as a Mahayana monk initially but took refuge in the 17th Karmapa Urgyen Trinley of Karma Kagyud, and he actively promotes the Vajrayana teachings henceforth. He is being labelled as a “betrayer of the Mahayana Buddhism” by many Mahayana teachers. There is a Mind-only Mahayana School in Taiwan which openly criticizes Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism and even displayed huge banners outside its building slamming Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism as cult. Its members even distribute pamphlets at Mass Rapid Transit stations, outlining the misdeeds of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism.

Second, when a student consulted Venerable Hui Lu about which sutras to choose for recitation, he advised them that any sutras can do. However, he said that the recitation of sutras is just an expedient method. There are only two truly effective methods which can help a practitioner attain Buddhahood swiftly: a firm belief in the universal law of karma (cause-and-effect) and the practice of letting-go. When we firmly believe in the law of karma, we will be extremely careful about our actions including our inner thoughts. Letting-go is best explained by the saying “When our crazy mind stops, our innate state of enlightenment unfolds.” Venerable Hui Lu said that the Three Tipitakas and Twelve Canons are just too voluminous to be completely studied by anyone; however, a practitioner could just master the two methods mentioned and attain enlightenment swiftly. Acho Rinpoche agreed with his view too but opined that letting-go is easier said than done. Let-go means letting go of our attachments. Our attachments are the natural outcomes of our misconceptions and mental fabrications. Mental fabrications are none other than one’s desire, hatred and ignorance. One desires a pleasant experience and praises of others but hates an experience which turns out to be against his wish and the criticism of others. Misconceptions include one’s perceiving his physical body as real and feeling of distress when his body falls ill, and his perception of this world being real. Sakyamuni Buddha told us that this life of ours is not real including this world but ordinary people just cannot comprehend the profundity of his teachings. A practitioner must transcend the bewildered state of misconception and mental fabrication, in order to attain the enlightened state of an Arahat, which is also known as the first level of Bodhisattvahood and sainthood. However, it is very difficult for one to eradicate his state of ignorance and attain the ultimate state of letting-go. How could one let go of his attachments? How could one eradicate his desire, hatred, ignorance, arrogance and suspicion? How could one maintain a clear and calm mind amidst the interactions between his six sensual organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind) and the external environmental conditions, while remaining fully aware of their illusive nature?     

Acho Rinpoche said that our sadhana (daily spiritual practice) book has all the antidotes built-in for treating the problem caused by misconceptions and mental fabrications. Every section of the practice consists of visualization (the most crucial antidote), mantra and mudra, all of which were designed to purify our body, speech and mind, in order to bring us to an ultimate state free of mental fabrications one day. Ordinary people are plagued by incessant thoughts (monkey mind). Incessant thoughts are created by one’s body, speech and mind. So, when we do our daily spiritual practice according to the Vajrayana teachings, we visualize ourselves transforming into Guru Rinpoche (purification of mind), chant the heart mantra of Guru Rinpoche (purification of speech) and form the mudra of Guru Rinpoche (purification of body), thus cutting the incessant mental fabrications and accomplishing a purified state of body, speech and mind. Also, when we do the practice, we must visualize the presence of our foes and friends, our family and relatives, our fathers and mothers from our past lives, and all sentient beings in the Six Realms (god, demi-god, human, animal, hell, hungry ghost), with them surrounding us and doing the practice together. When we prostrate to the holy beings, we will visualize the numerous sentient beings prostrating to the holy beings at the same time. When we visualize the holy beings blessing us with lights on our foreheads, throats and chests, we will visualize the rest of the sentient beings being blessed by the holy beings likewise. When we invoke the holy beings to descend to our altars during the practice, we will visualize the appearance of every single one, one after another. Our visualization must be done slowly and clearly, for a practice session to be considered as “perfect”. Last but not least, one must not practise for his own sake but for the sake of all sentient beings; this is a very important mindset for the attainment of Buddhahood.

Reported by Sun-moon KFS on 5-8-2017