Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Right Mindset of a Practitioner

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

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

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

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

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

Practice vs Study

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

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

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Amitabha Buddha Soul Deliverance Prayer Held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 26th August 2017

On 26th August 2017, a group of thirty plus of us flew from Singapore to the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, to attend an Amitabha Buddha Soul Deliverance Prayer jointly presided over by Konde Rinpoche, Acho Rinpoche and Khenpo Shedrup (the current abbot of Dzongchen Monastery in India). The prayer started around 10am, with Konde Rinpoche presenting sacred objects (mandala, stupa and sutra) to Acho Rinpoche, praying for the good health and longevity of the latter for the benefit of sentient beings. The prayer proper commenced after that.  

          After the prayer, Konde Rinpoche gave a teaching to the participants which could be summarized in three key points. First, it takes a great deal of merits for us to be able to practise together with a precious teacher, Acho Rinpoche. He advised us to take this opportunity very seriously and learn well under the guidance of Acho Rinpoche. Second, all the Buddhas relied on their teachers to show them the way to the ultimate state of enlightenment. So, we must have 100% faith in our root teacher - cherish his presence and follow his teachings, in order to succeed in our spiritual practice. Third, we must work hard on our spiritual practice in this very lifetime by chanting the Hundred Syllable Mantra of Vajrasattva to eradicate our negative karma and reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha, aspiring for a rebirth in the pureland of Amitabha Budhda when our life in this world comes to an end. Only when we strive hard during our present lifetime on earth that, when we are finally reborn in the pureland of Amitabha Buddha, we will be able to meet him in person instantaneously when we appear from a fully blossomed lotus. A deceased who aspired to be reborn in the pureland of Amitabha Buddha will not be able to meet Amitabha Buddha in person instantaneously as he will be born into a closed lotus bud in the pureland due to his negative karma. It will take a very long time for his lotus bud to blossom fully, after his negative karma has been purified;  only then he would be able to meet Amitabha Buddha in person.

          Konde Rinpoche invited Acho Rinpoche to give his teaching to the audience too. Acho Rinpoche’s teachings could be summarized in four key points. First, we are spending too much time on our mobile phones today. We should make use of our mobiles phones to search for useful information but not waste too much of our time and energy reading all contents without selection; no one can finish reading all the contents available on the Internet in this lifetime. We should also verify the authenticity and accuracy of the information presented to us through our mobile phones, for there is too much fake news on the Internet. Second, he advised that a practitioner should keep a low profile and avoid the lime lights, or his false sense of ego will continue to grow bigger and eventually lead himself and others to a downfall instead. Third, he explained that the Vajrayana practice can help a practitioner attain a higher state of realization more swiftly in this lifetime, thus securing a higher state of attainment when he is reborn in the pureland of Amitabha Buddha. This will allow him to meet Amitabha Buddha instantaneously when he appeared from a fully blossomed lotus in the pureland when he reaches the pureland. Third, the pace of practice in this world is faster than that in the pureland of Amitabha Buddha. Reason being, this world has a mix of good and evil which can help train and purify our minds more effectively. Pureland is a world of kindness – safe but without challenges to help completely uproot the lust, hatred and ignorance in us. Therefore, a practitioner will need to spend a much longer time in the pureland to purify his mind but finally he still must come back to this world to help all sentient beings in order to attain the ultimate state of enlightenment. Fourth, he commended Konde Rinpoche for his spiritual accomplishment while remaining still very much a humble person. He told the audience that the Malaysians are indeed blessed to have Konde Rinpoche guiding them in their practice.

After lunch, we did a smoke puja. This is one of the methods of making offering to the deities and sentient beings by burning the items of offering in fire. It was then followed by another teaching given by Konde Rinpoche on the visualization method used in the Amitabha Buddha Practice. Acho Rinpoche also gave some key teachings on the Vajrayana practice. Finally, the two precious masters performed the soul deliverance prayer for all the deceased and conferred blessing to all participants in this prayer.

Reported by Sun-moon KFS in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 26 Aug 2017.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Meeting KYCO in Malaysia

On 26th August 2017, we visited KYCO (Kuan Yin Contemplative Order) at Petaling Jaya in Malaysia with Konde Rinpoche and Acho Rinpoche. Master Tony Wong is the founder of KYCO and he is the teacher of Sister Sherwin. She arranged this wonderful meeting among the three Buddhist masters. On our arrival, Konde Rinpoche and Acho Rinpoche presented the sacred objects to Master Tony, who is 78 year-old, praying for his longevity and health for the benefit of the sentient beings. Later, Master Tony told us about his spiritual journey on how he was converted from Christianity in his early days to a Buddhist teacher today.

In the 70s’ Master Tony prayed to Kuan Yin (Avalokiesvara) to save his brother who was struck by cancer. One day, Master Tony was possessed by a high spirit who claimed himself to be “Lord of the North”, who came to help him based on the request of the “Lord of the East”. As a Christian, Master Tony was completely clueless of what happened. He could not control his actions although his mind remained calm and composed. The high spirit blessed his sick brother through him. His family members brought in two Taoist practitioners in an attempt to help him in vain. Instead, the high spirit ordered the two Taoist practitioners to just sit down on the floor while watching “him” blessing the sick man. Actually, Master Tony’s prayer to Kuan Yin was heard and the Lord of the North was therefore dispatched to help him (he found out later that the Lord of the North was actually Celestial Emperor Xuan Tian). Since then, Master Tony came under the tutelage of the immortals - Xuan Tian and Ji Gong (crazy monk). Gradually, he learnt the teachings of the Buddha. However, one day, they told him that he actually belonged to Kuan Yin and they would hand him over to Kuan Yin for his personal tutelage next.

Master Tony was an English educated Chinese who knew nothing about the faith of Kuan Yin at that point in time. However, Kuan Yin advised him not to read any books in the market as none of the books could accurately describe who Kuan Yin truly is. In fact, Master Tony made a promise to Kuan Yin when he prayed for his cancer-stricken brother that he would serve Kuan Yin if Kuan Yin could save his brother. So, Kuan Yin gave Master Tony personal teachings and the latter recorded all the teachings received over the years in writing. Kuan Yin advised Master Tony to practise on his own first for a period of time before teaching others. Kuan Yin also selected his students by allowing only the qualified ones to come under his guidance. Kuan Yin also prophesized that there would be many practitioners, Buddhists and practitioners of other faiths including the Tibetan Buddhism practitioners, coming to meet Master Tony in future, who will assure him of his path of practice being the right one. 

In the 80s’ H.E Tai Situpa of the Karma Kagyud of Tibetan Buddhism visited Malaysia for the first time. On his first meeting with Master Tony, the former requested to meet the latter for dinner. This was how the closely-knitted relationship started between the two. Ever since, many more Tibetan Buddhist masters and monks came visiting Master Tony. His students are mainly English educated Chinese like him who could hardly read Chinese. It was indeed amazing that the teachings of Kuan Yin could be so well transmitted to the English educated, thanks to Master Tony who took on the responsibility to do so. The teachings of Kuan Yin recorded by Master Tony are indeed infused with the wonderful flavor of the Buddhadharma.

Sister Sherwin became acquainted with Konde Rinpoche when she sought his help to deliver the soul of her late mother. When Master Tony met Konde Rinpoche, the former felt a sense of familiarity with the latter. Master Tony felt that he must be a student to Konde Rinpoche in his past life. He knelt before Konde Rinpoche and requested the latter to perform a “powa” practice for him in future, when he passes away. It was indeed a very touching moment. However, Konde Rinpoche told the audience that he would not want to perform “powa” for Master Tony but instead, pray for his longevity and hope that he would live till 108 year-old.

Master Tony told the audience that he read Acho Rinpoche’s book entitled “Dancing in the Sky” several years back. He felt rejoiced when reading the book and wished to meet the author one day. He felt very happy meeting Acho Rinpoche today and felt a similar sense of familiarity with the latter; he believed that the three of them must be spiritual brothers in their past lives. Acho Rinpoche told the audience that he found similarities in the spiritual journeys between Master Tony and his. Acho Rinpoche was also a Christian from young but he became a Buddhist later and had numerous inconceivable experiences throughout the years too.  

When Acho Rinpoche was still a child, there were Taoist master, Christian pastor and Buddhist monk who came to his house, asking his mother to let them take him a way – to be their successors in their faiths. When he was studying in the university, he started searching for answers to the many problems in life and went through many schools of philosophy and religion, searching for the right path. Finally, he settled down in Buddhism. Ever since, he has been a serious Buddhist practitioner. In the early years, someone brought him to a place with many believers. When the abbot was giving him blessing, he felt scared and started chanting the Great Compassion Mantra silently in his heart. However, the spiritual guide (spirit) left the abbot forever since that moment. Later, someone else brought him to another place and the abbot spent at least two hours trying to find out his true identity in vain, through his spiritual guide (spirit). The spiritual guide was unable to tell the true identity of Acho Rinpoche as the latter was clearly much higher in his spiritual attainment; the spiritual guide told the abbot that he could only see a ball of light!

In the 80s’ Acho Rinpoche visited Japan under an ASEAN-Japan Exchange Programme, and he was being arranged to stay in the house of a doctor, Akiyoshi,  in Saga Prefecture. However, Acho Rinpoche spent most of his time reading, doing his prayer and meditating instead of touring around the place. Doctor Akiyoshi found it strange and recommended him to meet a good friend of his, who was a senior abbot of a temple in the area. However, this abbot was very famous and had many appointments made in advance. They were told that it would take two months for their appointment to be made. So, they decided to just give it a miss and would visit the temple on their own. When they arrived at the car park of that temple, to their pleasant surprise, the abbot was standing near the car park – awaiting their arrival. The abbot told Akiyoshi that last night he was instructed by Kuan Yin to cancel all his appointments tomorrow and wait for the arrival of a very important person. He said that Acho Rinpoche was just the person because he “saw” Kuan Yin appearing above his head. The abbot invited them to enter his shrine and then started chanting some mantras and blessing Acho Rinpoche. Suddenly, Acho Rinpoche started chanting a mantra and blessing the abbot instead. The abbot was very surprised and he invited Acho Rinpoche to enter his personal shrine this time. There was a very huge statue of Acala being enshrined in this shrine, about two-storey tall. The abbot requested Acho Rinpoche to bless the Acala statue. Later, the abbot told Akiyoshi that Acho Rinpoche was actually chanting a very ancient version of Acala mantra, which would only be transmitted to the senior abbots in the Japanese Vajrayana Buddhism. The abbot also wrote a line on the paper which read “green dragon has manifested”. Acala Practice is the highest practice in Japanese Vajrayana Buddhism. “Green dragon” is the emblem of Acala. The abbot said that when Acho Rinpoche was blessing him, he saw the former transforming into Acala! The abbot was obviously shaken by the unexpected experience and he felt very touched. On this very first meeting between the two, the abbot presented a full set of sacred objects representing the lineage transmission to Acho Rinpoche which included a robe, rosary, crown etc., signifying that Acho Rinpoche has obtained the lineage of Japanese Vajrayana Buddhism.

Acho Rinpoche also told the audience about his connection with Konde Rinpoche. Konde Rinpoche is the abbot of the Horthang Monastery in Qing Hai Province of China. He met Acho Rinpoche in Singapore. One day, Konde Rinpoche dreamt of his root guru, Lama Ajun Toden Lodoe Gyatso, instructing him to offer a Guru Rinpoche’s crown to an important person. So, he prayed to Ejakati (One Knot), the most important Dharmapala (protector) of Ningma, for a clearer instruction on who this important person would be. Then, Konde Rinpoche had a vision of Acho Rinpoche in his meditation. He sought further advice from a few more seniors including Kade Rinpoche of Horthang Monastery, all of whom confirmed that Acho Rinpoche was indeed the reincarnation of the former abbot of Horthang Monastery. Acho Rinpoche told us that actually, before he was being recognized by Konde Rinpoche as a reincarnated Buddhist master, he already knew his true identity. He had frequently seen himself in a lama’s attire in either his dreams or meditation. He often found himself flying in space during his sleep, and saw the numerous sentient beings seeking his blessing below. He returned to the Western Blissful Pureland of Amitabha Buddha in his dream once and saw the numerous high beings seated on their lotus thrones.

Lastly, KYCO presented a birthday cake to Acho Rinpoche, celebrating his birthday which happened to fall on the same day. Finally, Master Tony showed us around his center (which was designed by Kuan Yin), bringing this auspicious meeting to a perfect closure.

Reported by Sun-moon KFS in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 26-8-2017