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Religion and Animals
Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat -- Lama Zopa Rinpoche
EVENING SESSION: LIBERATING ANIMALS
I will explain how we usually do the practice of liberating animals so that if, in the future, you want to save the lives of animals, you will know how to do it in the most effective way—not just for yourself or for somebody else who is sick or has life obstacles to have a long life, but for the practice to be really beneficial for the animals. [See Appendix 3 for the actual practice and additional instructions.]
Amitabha Buddhist Center in Singapore and Cham Tse Ling Center in Hong Kong have been saving the lives of animals for many years. One Cham Tse Ling student takes responsibility for arranging everything related to liberating the animals. The centers in Taiwan also do this practice quite often. For quite a number of years, whenever I have visited the Taiwanese centers, there has always been an animal liberation. Saving the lives of animals is a very common practice among Chinese Buddhists and happens often at Chinese monasteries and temples.
In Hong Kong a hundred people or more—students from the center as well as other people—will go to a reservoir quite a few miles out of the city, do all the practices set up for liberating animals, then return to the city for lunch in a restaurant. First the animals have a party, then the people have a party! Because there were quite a lot of new people this last time I was there, I tried to talk a little about reincarnation and then bodhicitta.
I tried to introduce how the animals had been our mother and kind to us, so that all the people would get a strong feeling that there was no barrier between them and the animals. I wanted everyone to feel that the animals were very precious and kind to them, rather than just seeing them as beings with a lower rebirth and quite separate from them. I wanted the people to feel in their hearts that the animals were as precious as their own lives and to develop a strong thought to help them, to free them from their suffering. I wanted them somehow to generate some thought of loving kindness, compassion and bodhicitta, the thought to achieve enlightenment for them. So, all of this takes some time, and of course people get very hungry. When I did this recently in Hong Kong, some of the very new people couldn’t understand and couldn’t bear it, so they left.
One time there were some fishermen at the same place we were liberating the animals. I thought that if we paid money to the fishermen not to catch fish for that one day, we would save the lives of the fish that they would have caught. Of course, the fish wouldn’t have blessed water poured on them to purify their negative karma or be taken to circumambulate the holy objects [which is what is done in the formal practice], but at least the fish that would otherwise have been caught would have a chance to have longer lives. Of course, there is no guarantee of this, as even if they don’t get caught by humans for food, they are surrounded in the water by enemies that want to eat them. Generally speaking, however, some of the fish might have longer lives if they are not caught that day by fishermen.
The students in Hong Kong try to do this by buying a whole boat load of huge fish and big lobsters. There are many of one type of fish with a hard, strong tail by which you can hold them. Once when we did an animal liberation for Geshe Lama Konchog’s long life, there were many thousands of these fish in the boat. I had the idea to set up the altar in a small boat and then have the big boat with all the fish inside it go around the small one, but it seems it was too difficult to arrange.
Anyway, it didn’t happen.
The time before that, we set up an altar with Buddha’s relics on the large boat. I normally carry quite a lot of relics with me, many more than the basic ones I have brought here tonight. I don’t put them on an altar against a wall, because you cannot circumambulate them there. I put them on a small table in the center of my room so that, if you remember, you can circumambulate them when you come into and go out of the room. Or you can sometimes circumambulate the relics while you are chanting your commitments or mantras rather than sitting down to do them. In that way, you create many causes of enlightenment with your body. You accomplish incredible purification and accumulate unbelievable merit. If there are ten thousand holy objects on the table, each time you circumambulate you use your body to create ten thousand causes of enlightenment, as well as ten thousand causes of liberation from samsara, good rebirth, and all other types of happiness. If you circumambulate while you are reciting the prayers and mantras of your commitments, you not only get your prayers done but also create unbelievable merit with your body.
Anyway, we set up the altar on the boat, and everybody carried the various animals, including turtles, around the altar, and then released them into the water as soon as possible. This turtle is a very humble one.
[Rinpoche is looking at the turtle lamp on his table.] It is a very enlightening turtle. It illuminates all sentient beings; it eliminates the darkness of all sentient beings!
During this recent visit, however, we had many types of animals to release, including frogs and birds, so everybody carried the animals in their containers around the altar with all the Buddha’s relics. Because there were many animals and it might be difficult for some of them to survive for a long time, the general idea was that as soon as people arrived they should take the animals around the altar twenty or thirty times or as many times as possible. It is good to set up the altar with as many tsa-tsas and stupas as possible. The centers in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan have many stupas because they are made in a factory in Taiwan. In Singapore, the students set up a table with many small stupas on it, then use that as the altar to circumambulate.
Quite a number of years ago I described how to set up the altar for an animal liberation. The idea is to have five levels, one on top of another, with a large table as the bottom level. On the very top there should be a statue of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, a lam-rim or Prajnaparamita text and a stupa, as normally advised in lam-rim teachings for setting up an altar. Place as many tsa-tsas and statues as possible on the other levels.
You can use pictures of buddhas if you don’t have tsa-tsas or statues. On the bottom level set up sets of eight offerings, with flowers in vases on the corners. You arrange the offerings to the guru, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha for the benefit of the animals; it’s like a puja for the animals. This gives you the idea of how to set up the altar. This is how you can arrange an altar at the beach or near the water where you are going to liberate the animals.
Liberating animals is sometimes combined with a picnic. First you liberate the animals, then you have a picnic. It happens like this in Hong Kong. Parents often bring their children along, and it’s a very good thing for the children to do because they are trying to do something to benefit the animals. People also bring their friends. It is a way of involving other people in doing something to generate some compassion and to collect merit. It’s a social gathering, but liberating the animals enables everyone to sincerely do an action from their heart for others.
The animals are carried around the altar as many times as possible at the very beginning, before the chanting of the prayers and mantras, in case some of the animals die. Some of the fish might die because they are piled up on top of each other and cannot breathe. If the circumambulations are done immediately, even if some of the animals die during the explanation or prayers, they have already purified negative karma and created many causes of enlightenment, liberation from samsara and good rebirth. One circumambulation of holy objects can create the cause to receive hundreds or thousands of good rebirths. This is because karma is expandable—more expandable than external phenomena. One small seed can produce a large tree with tens of thousands of branches, flowers and seeds, but karma increases even more than this.
Therefore, if the circumambulations have been done, you don’t need to feel much regret if some of the animals die while you are reciting the mantras, blessing the water or doing the prayers.
After all the prayers are finished, everybody chants the mantras, then the water is passed around and everybody blesses it. After all the different mantras have been recited and the water blessed with them, you sprinkle the blessed water over the birds and other animals. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, there are usually huge sacks of small shell-fish, and buckets of blessed water are poured over the sacks to purify all of them. The blessed water is sprinkled into the containers holding the fish. Of course, the water then touches the bodies of the fish and purifies their negative karma. Once, in Taiwan, the animals were brought in huge trucks. There is a man who voluntarily helps anyone who wants to liberate animals. He brings a special truck, which has tanks of water, oxygen for the fish to breathe and all the necessary equipment. That makes it possible to liberate large fish.
At the end, when all the prayers and mantras are finished, you again take the animals round the altar, and then liberate them. One of the best ways to benefit the animals, to liberate them, is to bless water with powerful mantras, then purify the animals by sprinkling or pouring the water on them. These mantras have a lot of power, even if you don’t have any realization of bodhicitta, emptiness and so forth. Buddha explained the power and benefit of these mantras. You recite the mantras with strong faith and think that you have purified all the negative karmas of these animals.
This is a very practical way of helping to liberate the animals. How? By purifying their negative karmas. What do you liberate them from? From the sufferings of the lower realms. If they purify their negative karmas, they won’t have to reincarnate again and again in the lower realms.
THE BENEFITS OF CIRCUMAMBULATIONS
Another good way to liberate the animals is by helping them circumambulate holy objects. There is a story about a pig that circumambulated a stupa—it might have been Boudhanath Stupa in Nepal, but I’m not sure. Once, a dog was chasing a pig, and as the pig was running away, it circumambulated the stupa. The pig did not have any kind of virtuous motivation. It had no idea that the stupa was a holy object and that it could be purified and liberated by circumambulating it. The pig had never registered for a meditation course! Because of the kindness of the dog that chased it, the pig did one circumambulation of the stupa, and after the pig died, it was born in the higher realm of Tushita. This is why carrying the animals in circumambulations of holy objects is a practical way to help them.
And those of you who have heard the lam-rim teachings many times will have heard the story of Shrijata, who only began to practice Dharma after he was eighty years old but became an arhat in that life. When he was eighty years old, Shrijata was living at home with his family, but all the children made fun of him. Every day they would tease him. One day the old man got completely fed up with their teasing and thought, “Oh, it would be so peaceful to leave home and go live in the monastery.”
So Shrijata left home and went to the nearby monastery, the abbot of which was Shariputra, one of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s heart disciples.
When Shariputra, an arhat who excelled in wisdom, checked whether or not the old man had the karma to become a monk, he could not find any.
Shariputra told the old man, “Normally in a monastery you study or if you cannot study, you serve the other monks by cleaning and so forth. If you became a monk you could neither study nor work because you are too old.” Shariputra refused to ordain the old man as a monk.
Shrijata man got terribly upset about this. He laid his head on the threshold of the monastery and cried. He then went to a nearby park and again cried and cried. At that time Guru Shakyamuni Buddha was in India. Buddha’s holy mind sees all sentient beings all the time, so whenever a sentient being’s karma ripens so that they are receptive to guidance from Buddha, he immediately appears to them in whatever form fits their mind and guides them. This is a particular quality of Buddha; this is how Buddha works for sentient beings. When a sentient being’s karma is ripe to receive help, Buddha does not delay for even one second.
Buddha immediately appeared in front of Shrijata and asked him what was wrong. The old man explained how the abbot of the monastery hadn’t accepted that he become a monk. Buddha then said, “Because I have completed the two types of merit, the merit of wisdom and the merit of method, I can see that you have the karma to become a monk.”
Because Buddha had completed the two types of merits, which means he had purified the two obscurations, Buddha had omniscient mind and could see all the subtle karmas. In other words, the old man’s karma to become a monk was a subtle karma that only a Buddha could see.
Buddha explained that an arhat could not see this subtle karma because he had not finished the work of collecting the two types of merits so had not achieved omniscient mind.
Buddha explained to Shrijata that he had created the karma an inconceivable length of time ago when he was a fly and there was some cow dung around a stupa. One explanation is that the cow dung was floating on some water; the fly landed on the cow dung and did a circumambulation when the water went around the stupa. The other explanation is that the fly followed the smell of cow dung lying around a stupa and thus had the good fortune to complete a circumambulation. The fly had no idea that the stupa was a holy object or that circumambulating it would become a cause of enlightenment. The fly had no intention of doing a circumambulation. It was acting totally out of attachment to the smell of the cow dung. Its motivation was completely non-virtuous. Due to the power of the object, however, the circumambulation became virtue. Buddha explained that that small virtue of circumambulating the stupa created the cause for Shrijata to become a monk.
When Buddha checked to see who had a karmic connection with the old man and could look after him, it turned out to be Maudgalyayana, an arhat who excelled in psychic powers. Of Buddha’s two heart disciples, Shariputra excelled in wisdom and Maudgalyayana in psychic powers.
Buddha then offered the old man to his disciple, Maudgalyayana, who was the abbot of a monastery.
After Shrijata became a monk, the young monks in the monastery also teased him. Every day they would make fun of the old man. One day he again got completely fed up with their teasing and ran away from the monastery. He decided that he would jump into the river. At that time Maudgalyayana went looking for the old man. When he couldn’t find him in the monastery, he used his psychic powers to check Shrijata’s whereabouts and discovered that the old man had just jumped into the river. Using his psychic powers, Maudgalyayana immediately appeared there and dragged the old man from the river. Shrijata was shocked, because he hadn’t explained to his teacher what he was going to do. He could not speak for a while. In complete shock, he just stood there with his mouth open.
When Shrijata explained everything to Maudgalyayana, Maudgalyayana said, “The reason you ran away from the monastery and jumped into the river is that you lack renunciation of samsara.” Maudgalyayana asked the old man to hold onto a corner of his robes and then flew up into the sky with him.
They flew on and on until they came to a huge mountain of bones in the ocean. After they landed on the mountain, the old man asked his teacher, “Whose bones are these?” Maudgalyayana replied, “Oh, these are the bones from your past life.” The old man had previously been born as the largest animal in the ocean, as a whale. As soon as Shrijata heard his teacher say this, he generated renunciation of samsara. He realized that samsara is suffering in nature and that nothing is definite in samsara. His hair stood up on end and he generated renunciation of samsara.
He then entered the path and became an arya being in that life. Even though he began to practice Dharma only after he was eighty years old, he was able to achieve the arya path, overcome the cycle of death and rebirth and completely free himself from the sufferings of samsara. An arhat achieves total liberation from all suffering and its cause, including the seeds of delusion. He abides in that state for a number of eons until buddha sees that it is the right time to persuade his mind to enter the Mahayana path. Buddha then sends light beams from his hand and recites a certain verse to the arhat. The arhat then enters the Mahayana path, and by actualizing the arya Mahayana path gradually ceases the subtle defilements. When all the subtle defilements are totally ceased, he completes the path and becomes enlightened; he can then enlighten numberless other sentient beings.
This old man’s ability to enlighten numberless sentient beings came about through his being enlightened, which came about through his entering the Mahayana path, which came about through his becoming an arhat after entering the path to liberation, which came about through his becoming a monk. And he was able to become a monk because of the very subtle karma he created as a fly. With no idea that a stupa was a holy object that could purify the mind, just with attachment, this fly followed the smell of cow dung around a stupa and incidentally completed a circumambulation. Everything started from that small good karma.
Everything—all the realizations of the five paths to liberation and of the Mahayana path and enlightenment—started from that tiny good karma created by the fly. This shows the power of holy objects such as statues, stupas and scriptures in bringing realizations. They are very beneficial in purifying the mind and in bringing all happiness, up to enlightenment.
THE POWER OF THE OBJECT
Therefore, if you carry a container with a hundred worms around a stupa or another holy object, each time you go around you are giving enlightenment to one hundred animals. You are giving the greatest gift to those one hundred animals. If there are one thousand worms in this small packet, each time you take them around you are giving enlightenment to one thousand mother sentient beings. You are giving enlightenment to one thousand of your mother sentient beings. You are also giving them liberation from samsara; you are ending their samsaric suffering, the continuity of which has no beginning. The most terrifying aspect of samsaric suffering is that it has no beginning—you are giving liberation from this beginningless samsara to one thousand of your mother sentient beings.
You are also giving them good rebirths; you are giving good rebirths for hundreds or thousands of lifetimes to one thousand of your mother sentient beings.
I mentioned before that if there are one thousand tsa-tsas or pictures of buddha on the altar, each time you take the animals around the altar you are giving one thousand causes of enlightenment to each one of those mother sentient beings. In the same way, if there are one thousand pictures or statues of buddha or stupas, you are giving one thousand causes of liberation from samsara to each of those mother sentient beings. The same applies to good rebirths in future lives. It is good to purify the animals with blessed water, but it is also very good to bring them to circumambulate holy objects. You do not just liberate them from the lower realms, but bring them to enlightenment, by enabling them to create the cause of enlightenment. It’s really fantastic.
I once stayed in Big Sur, that very famous place in America, which to some Westerners, and perhaps some Easterners as well, is like a pure land. Ants were coming into the kitchen to eat food. The idea came to me at that time to make worthwhile their coming into the house, so I told the people staying there to collect the ants and put them in a plastic bag. We then held three tsa-tsas in one hand and moved the plastic bag with the ants around the tsa-tsas, so that they performed circumambulations.
After doing this a few times, we put them outside with some food.
By doing this, you make the ants’ coming into your house worthwhile for them. They purify negative karma and create many causes of enlightenment, liberation and good rebirths in future lives. Many human beings on this earth, no matter how long they live, never have any opportunity to see a statue of buddha or a stupa; they don’t even have the karma to see a holy object of buddha, let alone create the cause of enlightenment by circumambulating or doing prostrations to such an object. Even if they live for a hundred years, they have no karma to collect merit through the power of holy objects.
WORMS AND CRICKETS
We have here tonight hundreds of worms and crickets. The worms come from a sewer, from a fragrant blissful sewer into which all the toilet water runs. These worms and crickets were also human beings, just like us, before, but because they didn’t practice Dharma, their delusions and negative karmas caused their consciousness to migrate to their present suffering body. It looks as if there is no connection between us and them, between our body and life and their body and life. There seems to be as little connection as there is between us and the rocks and trees around us. However, we have also collected so many times the negative karma— through sexual misconduct, for example—to be born in dirty places.
That these worms have been born in a sewer or septic tank is the result of attachment. Worms are also born in the feces of the gut as a result of attachment. This is specifically mentioned in the texts. It is also mentioned that attachment to sex causes rebirth in the womb.
We have also created similar karma to these crickets numberless times in our past lives. It is just that at the moment, our good karma has ripened and we have this human body, while they have the body of a cricket; we are humans and they are animals. But we cannot be sure about our next life. At any time we could be like them. After our breath stops, at any time we could be reborn as one of those tiny worms that live in a sewer. If we had to live in a sewer, in a septic tank, we couldn’t stand it for even one minute. We might talk about our body being that of a tiny worm like this, but we don’t talk about being in such a dirty place. It is similar with the crickets. We could be born like this at any time because we have created the same negative karmas numberless times and have not purified them.
Therefore, we can understand our need of Vajrasattva practice and how extremely fortunate we are to have allowed ourselves to do Vajrasattva practice in this life and at this time.
A MOTHER’S KINDNESS
All these hundreds and hundreds of worms and crickets, all other sentient beings in the lower realms and all sentient beings elsewhere have been our own mother numberless times, just as our present life mother has been our mother numberless times. Our present mother gave us this precious human body, which allows us to practice Dharma, Buddha’s unmistaken path to happiness, to liberation and to enlightenment. This precious human body gives us all these opportunities. This is not the first time that our present life mother has been kind in giving us a precious human body with which to practice Dharma. She has been kind in this way numberless times during beginningless rebirths.
In the same way, all these worms and crickets, all other sentient beings in the lower realms and all sentient beings elsewhere have also been our mother numberless times. (When I say “these worms and crickets,” specifically concentrate on the hundreds of tiny worms and crickets that are there in this bag.) And besides having been our own mother, numberless times they have been kind in giving us a precious human body, which allows us to practice Dharma.
Think, “I could never finish repaying this first kindness of the mother in giving me numberless times a human body with which to practice Dharma. Even if I were to sacrifice my life over and over, equal in number to the atoms of this earth, for my present mother, for each of these worms and crickets and for each of the other sentient beings, I could never finish repaying their kindness.
“My present life’s mother was also kind in saving my life from danger hundreds of times every day. If she had not looked after me when I was a baby or hired someone else to look after me, I wouldn’t have lasted five minutes. As a baby, I knew nothing. I had a human body but I was no different from a worm. Within five minutes of being left alone my life would have been in danger. I would have fallen down or swallowed something harmful or been attacked by animals. So many things could have endangered my life. My present mother was kind in protecting my life from hundreds of dangers every day, and she has done the same thing numberless times during my beginningless rebirths. In the same way, these worms and crickets, all other sentient beings in the lower realms and all other sentient beings elsewhere have also been my mother and protected my life from hundreds of dangers every day.
“Even if I were to sacrifice my life over and over, equal in number to the atoms of this earth, for my present mother, for each of these worms and crickets, for each of the other sentient beings in the lower realms and for each of the other sentient beings, I could never finish repaying even their kindness in protecting me from dangers to my life.
“If all the medicines my present life’s mother gave me during beginningless rebirths when I was sick were piled up, they would fill the whole sky; there wouldn’t be any empty space left. And if all the clothing my present mother gave me in this and past lives to protect my body from heat and cold was collected together, there wouldn’t be any space left.
Each of the worms and crickets here, each of the other beings in the three lower realms and each of the other sentient beings have also given me clothing to protect me from suffering. If all the clothing that each of these beings has given me during beginningless rebirths was collected together, there wouldn’t be any empty space left. My present life’s mother has also given me food. Not only in this life but during beginningless rebirths, she has been my mother and fed me with milk from her breast.
If just the milk that my present life’s mother has fed me in past lives was collected together, it would fill the whole sky; there wouldn’t be any empty space left. Numberless times in my past lives she has given me food and drink. And each of these worms and crickets has done the same thing. Numberless times they have protected me from hunger and thirst by giving me food and drink. If all that food and drink were collected, there wouldn’t be any space left.
“I can never finish repaying this kindness. Even if I were to sacrifice my own life over and over, equal in number to the atoms of this earth, for my present mother, for each of these worms and crickets, for each of the other sentient beings in the lower realms and for each of the other sentient beings, I could never finish repaying even their kindness in giving me food and drink.
“My present life mother also gave me an education and taught me the ways of the world. She gave me the opportunity to learn to read and write, which is why I can now read Dharma books. This is not the first time she gave me an education for the sake of my own happiness; she has done this numberless times during beginningless past lives. And it is the same with all these worms and the crickets, the other beings of the lower realms and all other sentient beings. Every one of them has been kind to me in giving me an education numberless times in past lives.
“Even if I were to sacrifice my life again and again, equal in number to the atoms of this earth, to repay this kindness, I could never finish repaying it.
“My present life mother has also borne many hardships to ensure my well-being and happiness. Starting with the nine months I was in her womb, my mother has borne so many hardships. She then had to go through great pain when I was born, and endured many hardships after that. Day and night, she had to bear so many hardships to take care of me. Because of my crying, she could not even have one good night’s sleep.
“For my happiness and well-being, she also created much negative karma through generating discriminating thoughts of anger and attachment, and as a result she will have to experience much suffering. Because of me, she was obliged to generate all these delusions, which caused her to engage in much negative karma, because of which she will again have to experience all those sufferings. She has borne many hardships for me numberless times in my past lives. In the same way, these worms and crickets, all other beings in the lower realms and all other sentient beings elsewhere have also borne many hardships for me, for my happiness, numberless times. They have all suffered greatly for my happiness. When they were my parents, they totally sacrificed their lives for me, cherishing me more than their own life. They worked hard for many years to earn the money they needed to take care of me, to give me food and everything else I needed. All these sentient beings suffered greatly for me, and I allowed them to suffer like this.
“Even if I were to sacrifice my life again and again, equal in number to the atoms of this earth, for each of these sentient beings, including my present life’s mother and each of these worms and crickets, I could never finish repaying their kindness in bearing hardships for my happiness and well-being. I could never finish repaying them for this kindness.
“At this time, I have received a perfect human body and have met the Buddhadharma. I know enough Dharma to understand what is right and to be practiced and what is wrong and to be abandoned. I have met the leader of the blind, the virtuous friend. Therefore, if I want to repay their kindness, I have every opportunity to do so. Because they want happiness and do not want suffering, they need to be liberated from all their suffering and its causes, karma and delusion. Therefore, the best way to repay their kindness is to liberate them from all their suffering and its causes. At this time, I have the opportunity to repay their kindness in this way.
“Sentient beings lack a leader of the blind, a virtuous friend, and are completely possessed by the Mara of the delusions—ignorance, anger and attachment. They are tormented by the three types of sickness, or suffering, of samsara—the suffering of pain, the suffering of change and pervasive compounding suffering. It’s as if every movement they make is a step towards the lower realms. It’s as if every action of their body, speech and mind is non-virtuous. Because their mind is completely controlled by delusions, such as attachment and so forth, every action they do becomes a cause to be born in the lower realms. They are like a blind person whose every step is leading them towards a cliff.
“It is now my turn to repay their kindness. To do that I need to practice Dharma—to listen to, reflect and meditate on the path to enlightenment.
How wonderful it would be if all sentient beings were to have happiness, including enlightenment, and the causes of happiness. I must cause them to have happiness and its cause.” Think of your present life’s mother, of these worms and crickets, of all other beings in the lower realms and of all the rest of the sentient beings.
“How wonderful it would be if all sentient beings were to be free from all suffering and its causes. I will free them from all their suffering and its causes.” Think of your present life’s mother, of all these worms and crickets, who have been your mother and been most kind, of all the other beings in the lower realms; and of all other sentient beings elsewhere.
“And I must do all this work of freeing them from all their suffering and bringing them all happiness, including enlightenment, by myself alone. I must do it by myself alone.” Again, think of your present life’s mother, of all these worms and crickets, of all the other beings in the lower realms and of all other sentient beings elsewhere.
“At the moment, I cannot even guide myself, let alone others. Who can guide them? Who has all the qualities and power necessary to guide sentient beings perfectly? Only the omniscient one, only buddha. The only one who can work perfectly for sentient beings, liberating them from all their suffering and bringing them to enlightenment, is buddha.
Therefore, first I myself must achieve full enlightenment.”
We can use this general motivation for both the animal liberation and the light offering. Think, “For the same reason, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, I am also going to make the light offering.” SPECIFIC MOTIVATION FOR ANIMAL LIBERATION AND LIGHT OFFERING
We will now make some specific motivations for doing these practices of liberating animals and offering lights.
“We are liberating these animals and offerings these lights for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Buddha of Compassion.
May His Holiness immediately show the aspect of being healed from pneumonia and show the aspect of perfect health.
“May the lives of all the other virtuous friends be stable and may all their holy wishes be accomplished immediately.
“May Lama ?el Rinpoche also have a stable life and be healthy. Like Lama Tsong Khapa, may he bring benefit as extensive as the sky to all sentient beings, by having the same qualities that Lama Tsong Khapa had.
“May all the holy beings from the different traditions who came to benefit other sentient beings also have stable lives, and may all their holy wishes be accomplished immediately.
“May all the members of the sangha have stable lives. May all their wishes to practice Dharma be accomplished immediately. May they be able to listen, reflect and meditate; may they be able to live in pure morality; and may they complete the scriptural understanding and actualization of the path in this life.
“In particular, may the FPMT sangha have long lives and receive all the support and other conditions necessary for them to practice Dharma.
May they always have a happy, courageous mind that is inspired to live in pure vows. May they always be free from loneliness and any other emotional thoughts that torture the mind. May they regard their vows not as a prison but as a source of enjoyment. May they enjoy achieving enlightenment, liberation from samsara and good rebirths in their future lives. May they enjoy living in their vows and studying the Dharma.
“May all the benefactors who financially support the teachings of the Buddha, the sangha and Dharma facilities, have long lives. May all their wishes to offer service to other sentient beings, to the teachings of the Buddha and to the sangha be accomplished immediately. In particular, may all the benefactors of the FPMT be healthy and have long lives.
May all their wishes for success in business and so forth be accomplished immediately in accordance with the holy Dharma.
“May all the students in this organization, especially those who sacrifice their lives and bear many hardships in offering service to others and to the teachings of Buddha through this organization, be healthy and have long lives. May all their wishes that accord with the holy Dharma be accomplished immediately.
“Most importantly, may these practices of liberating animals and making light offerings enable us to actualize the steps of the path to enlightenment in this very lifetime.
“Also, may the specific wishes of those who are offering the lights be actualized, especially the wishes of the students from Mexico, who initiated this light offering. May the retreat center in Mexico be wish-fulfilling for all sentient beings. By receiving all the necessary support, may the retreat center be able to immediately pacify the sufferings of body and mind of all sentient beings and spread the complete teachings of Lama Tsong Khapa in the minds of all sentient beings. In this way may it become most beneficial for all sentient beings. May the retreat center be able to spread the Dharma, particularly Lama Tsong Khapa’s teaching, in the minds of all the students who come to that center and in the minds of all the Mexican sentient beings and be able to liberate numberless sentient beings.
“In the same way, may all the projects here at Land of Medicine Buddha and at all the other centers around here be accomplished immediately.
May all the rest of the FPMT projects be accomplished immediately by receiving all the necessary support. May the 500-foot Maitreya Buddha statue be completed immediately by receiving all the necessary support. May all the meditation centers be most beneficial for all sentient beings, spreading the complete teachings of Lama Tsong Khapa in the minds of all sentient beings, by receiving all the necessary support.
“May all these projects, centers and statues cause loving kindness, compassion and bodhicitta to be generated in the minds of all sentient beings. Because of that, may no sentient being experience war, famine, earthquake, dangers from fire or water or anything else undesirable. May all these projects, centers and statues cause all sentient beings to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.
“May the liberation of these animals and the offering of all these lights prevent the occurrence of a third world war, with the killing of many millions of people.” Dedicate also for this.
“May all countries be guided by religious leaders, by Dharma leaders.
In this way, may everyone live their life with loving kindness, compassion and bodhicitta. May people think only of benefiting and never of harming each other. May everyone enjoy the perfect happiness of Dharma.”
It is for these reasons that we are liberating animals and offering lights.
MEANS OF PROLONGING LIFE
Liberating animals is one method for curing sickness, especially cancer.
One should save the lives of a hundred animals (or as many as possible) every week or, if that is not possible, every month. If you have cancer, this is extremely important, because it is one way of prolonging your life. Causing others to have longer lives affects your own life; it prolongs your life.
Another way to cure cancer is through reciting the mantras of specific deities with which you have a karmic connection. This is like taking specific medicines to kill germs. Certain deities have manifested to protect sentient beings from the harms of nagas—beings who can become conditions for sicknesses, including cancer. Harm from nagas—nyen in Tibetan—is one condition in the development of cancer. In other words, besides the cause of cancer, karma, there are harmful beings that can become conditions for cancer. There is an association between cancer and harm from nagas. The Vajrapani-Hayagriva-Garuda deity, for example, specifically manifests to protect sentient beings from naga harm, as well as harmful spirits such as landlords [shi-dag] and so forth. The reason why meditating on these particular deities or reciting their mantras is able to heal cancer, even terminal cancer, is that the sickness is associated with harm from nagas. This is why these particular aspects are able to be effective.
Pujas and many other practices can be done to prolong life, but liberating animals and serving other sentient beings are especially effective.
Helping sick people by giving them food, drink, clothing, shelter or medicine is also a cause of long life. One way of prolonging life is by creating good karma, which is the cause of long life. Another way is by reciting the mantras of the particular deities that protect against naga harm and so forth.
I have personal experience of about six people who completely recovered from cancer through practicing meditation. Every one of them had terminal cancer and had been told by their doctors that they had only two or three months to live.
My very first experience was with a Canadian woman called Ann, a very successful fashion consultant. She made a thousand dollars an hour selling her ideas to people in the fashion business. When I was in Australia many years ago, I received a message from Karuna about Ann, and I advised her to recite Vajrapani mantras and to liberate animals. I didn’t send any blessed pills or anything like that. I simply advised her to visualize Vajrapani above her crown and nectar beams being emitted by Vajrapani to purify her, and to liberate a hundred animals or the number of animals equal to her years of age. Basically, she did just these two practices and after some time completely recovered from the cancer.
Ann was in the hospital when she received my message, and the doctors advised her to stay there. However, she said, “I want to go. I have to do these things.” After two or three months, I think, when she returned to the hospital for a checkup, the doctors could not find any sign of the cancer. They were very surprised. This was the first time they had seen anyone cured of cancer by meditation. The doctors said that they wanted to write a book about her case, but she replied, “No, you don’t need to write a book. I will write the book.”
Many TV reporters wanted to interview her, but she didn’t know how to explain how meditation could cure cancer. At that time she had not actually met the Dharma; she had just started to take an interest and hang around a Dharma center because of a friend. Anyway, that’s all that she did, and so far, after many years, the cancer has not come back. She was the first person in my experience to completely recover from cancer through meditation.
She came to Kopan to thank me for giving her the rest of her life.
When she came to see me, I made a deal with her. I told her to go to Bodhgaya to take the Kalachakra initiation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I’m not sure whether that happened, but later, in Delhi, she did introduce His Holiness when His Holiness gave a teaching there.
Think that you are liberating these animals and offering these lights for all those people who have passed away to have good rebirths and to achieve enlightenment. And for those people who have cancer or another sickness to be healed and to have long and meaningful lives. The purpose of having a long life is to have a meaningful life, a life that is beneficial for others.
First we take refuge [La-ma sang-gye la-ma ch?... x3]. Next, we generate bodhicitta, the altruistic mind to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings [Dag-dang zhen-d?....x3]. [See also Appendix 2 and Chapter 28, Wednesday, February 24.]
Now we purify the place. We bless the place by visualizing it as a pure land of buddha, as an offering to the buddhas and bodhisattvas that we will invoke [Tam-ch?du-ni....].
Now, we bless the offerings. This mantra has the power to bless not only all the offerings here—all the lights, the water, the flowers—inside and outside, but offerings in other places. Also bless all the water offerings, which appear as nectar to the buddhas, inside and outside the FPMT Memorial Shrine. Also bless all the offerings in the house where I’m staying. There are nearly 300 water bowls there and more than 4,000 lights, as well as flower offerings—think that they are all multiplied. Also bless all the light and water offerings at Kopan Monastery. Also bless the many hundreds of offerings in the gompa in the Taipei center in Taiwan, as well as those in the Taichung and Kaohsiung centers. We will bless them all together then offer them [Lha-dang mi-yi....].
While you are reciting the mantra, play all the musical instruments that you have, including gongs, and think that you are offering music to the buddhas. In this way, you create the cause of enlightenment [OM NAMOBHAGAWATE....x3]. There is no pop music!
This mantra has the power to cause each of the numberless buddhas in all ten directions to receive clouds of offerings. The next prayer, The Words of Truth, causes the buddhas to actually receive the numberless offerings that you have visualized. Visualize that each buddha in the ten directions and each being in the Guru Puja merit field receives skies of light and nectar offerings [K?-chog sum-gyi den-pa dang....].
Visualize the Guru Puja merit field and do the invocation [Ma-lu sem-chen....].
Since you have done the Guru Puja this morning, you have already done the seven-limb practice. There are usually a series of prayers to be done when you liberate animals—the four immeasurables, the seven-limb practice, mandala offering, lam-rim prayer and recitation of the various mantras. Some animals, such as frogs and pigeons can hear, but I’m not sure whether fish can hear. It might be difficult for some animals to hear the prayers and mantras, but the recitation plants the seed of enlightenment in the minds of those that can, so there is an added advantage for them. Because it takes a long time to recite them, I will omit those prayers this time.
Now we will just do the meditation of making the extensive offerings.
[Rinpoche paused for meditation after each of these offerings.] Think of all the lights and water offerings here, inside and outside the gompa and of those at the FPMT Memorial Shrine, the Aptos house, and all the other places that I mentioned. Now think that we share all these offerings with all sentient beings. We give all these offerings to each hell being, each hungry ghost, each animal, each human being, each asura, each sura and each intermediate state being. We give them all to all sentient beings.
We then make offering to the Guru-Triple Gem together with the sentient beings or on their behalf. In this way, every sentient being collects the merit. If there were one million light and water offerings here, every sentient being would get one million causes of enlightenment. If we make the offering on their behalf, every sentient being gets that merit. That is incredible! Because of a shortage of merit, people have a lot of difficulties in their lives—they can’t find jobs to support themselves, their business fails or they can’t pay their debts. They even reach the point of wanting to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge or a building. Think, “I’m going to make all these offerings on behalf of all sentient beings.” You can also think that you are making the offerings to achieve enlightenment yourself in order to enlighten all sentient beings.
First offer all these offerings here. Don’t think that you are offering water. Always think that you are offering nectar. Think how all these water offerings appear to the buddhas as pure nectar. Offer all the nectar and lights here in the Land of Medicine Buddha gompa, at the FPMT Memorial Shrine, at the Aptos house and at all the other places. With your palms together in prostration, offer all the lights and nectar to the Guru Puja merit field, meditating that the essence of each being in the merit field is your root virtuous friend. Your offerings generate infinite bliss in the mind of each of these holy beings. Offer not just once but many times—ten or eleven or twenty-one times or whatever. Next, offer all these offerings to all the holy objects here in the gompa and elsewhere at LMB, meditating that their essence is the root virtuous friend. Each time you make offerings, infinite bliss is generated within them. First prostrate by putting your palms together, then make the offerings as many times as possible.
Next we offer all the offerings here at Land of Medicine Buddha, at the Aptos house, at Kopan and in all the centers in Taiwan to all the holy objects in India. First prostrate to them, meditating that each of these holy objects is your own root virtuous friend, then make offerings as many times as possible. Offer all the lights here inside and outside the gompa.
Next, with the guru yoga mind, we offer all these offerings to every single holy object in Tibet. First prostrate by putting your palms together.
Think especially of the most precious Guru Shakyamuni Buddha statue blessed by Buddha himself in the Lhasa Temple. Also think of the large stupa that we built recently at Sera Monastery in Tibet.
With your palms together, prostrate and offer all these offerings to all the holy objects in Nepal, including the most precious stupa at Swayambhunath. Swayambhunath Stupa contains a crystal stupa that is a manifestation of the dharmakaya. It is not man-made but spontaneously appeared from the ocean. It was brought from mainland China as predicted by Buddha. Also prostrate and make offerings to Boudhanath Stupa. Due to the family who built Boudhanath Stupa, the Buddhadharma was able to spread in Tibet and was preserved there for many years. Because of this, many beings became enlightened through actualizing the Mahayana path, and now Buddhism has spread throughout the whole world. Many thousands of people outside Tibet, even in the West, have been able to find meaning, satisfaction and peace in their lives. All these opportunities to follow the path to enlightenment have come from Boudhanath Stupa. Think of all the other holy objects in Nepal, and with guru yoga mind, prostrate and make offerings to them.
By putting your palms together in this simple prostration, you immediately achieve eight benefits, as I mentioned the other day [Chapter 31, Saturday, February 27].
Another sutra mentions ten benefits of putting the palms together to a statue or even a picture of buddha, a stupa or a text [see light offering practice, Chapter 20, Wednesday, February 17].
Therefore, it is extremely important to prostrate even when we are making offerings. According to the number of holy objects in that country, by simply putting our hands together we create that many causes of enlightenment, that many causes of liberation and that many causes of good rebirth in our next life. The powerful merit we create also takes care of everything—health, wealth, success, long life—in this life, by the way.
It takes care of this life; becomes the solution for the problems of this life.
With the guru yoga mind, now prostrate and make offerings to all the holy objects in other Buddhist countries and in the rest of the world.
Now prostrate and make offerings to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Buddha of Compassion. Those who have a Dharma connection should also prostrate and make offerings to Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche and Denma Loch?Rinpoche. Prostrate and make offerings to any other virtuous friend that you have in India. Think that they generate bliss within their holy minds.
Do the same with any virtuous friend that you have in Nepal.
Prostrate to His Holiness Chobgye Trichen Rinpoche, Trulshig Rinpoche and any other virtuous friend with whom you have a connection, then make offerings.
Those who have a Dharma connection with Ribur Rinpoche or Geshe Sopa Rinpoche should also prostrate and make offerings to them.
Now, with the guru yoga mind, prostrate to all the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in the ten directions and make all these offerings to them.
By meditating that their essence is the root virtuous friend, prostrate to all the holy objects in the ten directions, to all the statues, stupas and scriptures of buddha. Then make offerings to them as many times as possible.
Next, to develop compassion, prostrate and make offerings to the Thousand-armed Buddha of Compassion; to have success, prostrate and make offerings to the seven Medicine Buddhas; and to be able to offer infinite benefit to all sentient beings, prostrate and make offerings to Kshitigarbha. Visualizing these deities as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, make offerings to them as many times as possible.
We have collected skies of merit many times. By generating the motivation of bodhicitta, we collected skies of merit. By making offerings to all the buddhas in the ten direction and to the merit field during the blessing of the offerings, we collected skies of merit. We collected skies of merit each time we made offerings to the merit field; to the holy objects in each country; to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in the ten directions; to all the statues, stupas and scriptures; to all the virtuous friends.
And by offering to the Thousand-armed Buddha of Compassion and the seven Medicine Buddhas, we collected the same merit as if we had made offerings to all the buddhas.
We have collected infinite merit over and over again by making the offerings in this way. Now give all the infinite merit we have just collected, as well as all the other merit we have collected today and all our past, present and future merit, to all sentient beings. Make charity of all this merit and all the happiness, including enlightenment, that results from this merit to all sentient beings.
Give this merit and its results, including enlightenment, specifically to every single hell being, to every single hungry ghost, to every single animal, to every single human being, to every single asura, to every single sura and to every single intermediate state being.
Offer the merit and its results also to all the arhats and bodhisattvas so that they can complete the path to enlightenment. Also offer the merit to all the gurus, as a condition to help them benefit others.
RINPOCHE’S OFFERINGS ON SPECIAL DAYS
For about the past five years, I have made offerings to the monasteries.
My plan was to make offerings on every special day of Buddha. There are actually seven of these special days, but the birth, enlightenment and passing away in the sorrowless state are combined on one day. On those special days of Buddha and on solar and lunar eclipses, I make offerings mainly to the monasteries of my gurus, the teachers with whom I have a Dharma connection. During this period [the first two weeks of losar], I’m not sure exactly when the offerings are being made, since the first fifteen days of the Tibetan year are special days. Some offerings will definitely have been made today, the fifteenth [day of the first Tibetan month]. The three major monasteries of Sera, Ganden and Drepung each has two, three or four thousands of monks, and each of these monks receives a tea, bread and money offering at morning puja.
There is also a public fund, to which many people have made donations, to make food offerings to the monks of Sera Je College (not to the whole of Sera Monastery, just to Sera Je). Lunch is offered every day to the more than two thousand Sera Je monks. This offering of one meal has been happening for some time. Although donations have been made by many people, most of the money basically came from one or two major Taiwanese benefactors.
On every special day, a meal, tea and money are offered to the monks of Trulshig Rinpoche’s monastery [in Nepal]. The two Tantric Colleges do Drug-chu-ma and Kalarupa pujas and receive tea and money offerings.
And there is Kopan Monastery, of course. During this period the monks and nuns receive a food and money offering on at least one day.
In the past they received offerings on a few days, but I’m not sure whether this practice has been continued. Tea, bread and money offerings are also given to the monks of His Holiness Chobgye Trichen Rinpoche’s monastery and His Holiness Sakya Trizin’s two monasteries. I have taken initiations from His Holiness Sakya Trizin. Different monasteries are requested to do different pujas. The Sakya monasteries are generally asked to do Hevajra or Vajrayogini self-initiations and the Gelug monasteries are mostly requested to do Medicine Buddha puja. I think one or two of the monasteries might do the Sixteen Arhats puja.
Also, for the past five years, the monks at Nalanda Monastery receive a food offering on auspicious days. I think they have ice cream—and maybe chocolate!
On every special day of Buddha, Marcel and I together offer whitewash, saffron, a decorated canopy and the umbrella on top to the Boudhanath Stupa. We also offer flowers in each direction. This has been happening for the past few years.
I have also started to make offerings to a small stupa at the back of the main Swayambhunath Stupa. It is said to have been the first stupa at Swayambhunath. The large stupa happened because people made many prayers at this small stupa.
There is also the M?-lam festival in Nepal. For the past two years it has happened at Kopan, but this year Lama Lhundrub didn’t accept to hold it there, so it will happen at the Gelug monastery in Boudha. It is attended by more than two thousands monks, as well as nuns, and they are given lunch, tea throughout the whole day and a money offering.
The money offering might be one hundred rupees or ten rupees for each monk or nun—it’s not the same each time. The monks are requested to dedicate for the FPMT centers and students and for those people who are sick or who have died and for whom I have been asked to pray. Many Medicine Buddha pujas are done, as they might help bring about the success of the various centers and projects. This is in addition to the pujas the monasteries already do for the Maitreya Project. Even though all these pujas are also dedicated towards the success of the Maitreya Project, separate pujas for the success of the Maitreya Project are also done in various monasteries.
The reason I’m telling you all this is that these are also your merits.
You can also dedicate all these merits to having realizations and to achieving enlightenment. At the times that these pujas are being done in all these monasteries, you can also dedicate all these merits.
I make these offerings to the monks in the monasteries of my gurus because it creates much more merit. If, by thinking of the guru, you offer a cup of tea, a glass of water or even a candy to one of the pores of your guru, you collect more merit than if you had made offerings to all the numberless past, present and future buddhas and to all the statues, stupas and scriptures in the ten directions. This applies to making offerings to your guru’s family (wife, husband or children), friends, neighbors, or even animals (cat, dog or horse). The merit of making offerings to all the numberless past, present and future buddhas is small when compared to the merit of offering even a glass of water to one of the guru’s pores with thought of the guru. The monks in these monasteries have the same gurus. Even Kopan has three hundred monks and there are many thousands of monks in the other monasteries, all of whom have His Holiness the Dalai Lama as their guru and many of whom are also disciples of my other gurus.
I’m just telling you this so that you know how to collect extensive merit. Let’s say that there is a monastery with a thousand monks and all of those monks are disciples of one of your gurus—His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for example. Even if you have only one rupee, if you offer that rupee to all those monks by thinking of your guru, as I mentioned before, in dependence upon each monk, you collect more merit than having made offerings to all the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and all the statues, stupas and scriptures in the ten directions. Even if what you have to offer is just one teabag, but you offer that teabag with thought of your guru to a monastery with a thousand monks who are disciples of your guru, you collect unbelievable merit. (Of course, there is also more merit because you are offering to ordained people.) You don’t have to make a huge offering. Even if you offer only one rupee, you can still collect unbelievable merit.
So far, these offerings haven’t been publicized, but I thought to do so in the future as other people might want to participate in making these extensive offerings. The offerings to all these monasteries can then happen every year. People who want to participate will later be given the opportunity to collect merit through making continuous offerings. My idea is to set up funds so that these offerings can be continued forever, or as long as the monasteries exist. [See Mandalamagazine, May-June, 1999.]
Thinking that all these merits are also yours, now dedicate the merits.
We collected numberless merits by dedicating all the merits to all sentient beings. Now dedicate these merits in the following way: “May any suffering sentient beings have ripen upon me. May any happiness and merit I have ripen upon all sentient beings.” (By dedicating like this, we also collect numberless merits.) “Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may all the father and mother sentient beings have happiness, may the three lower realms be empty forever, may all the bodhisattvas’ prayers be accomplished immediately and may I be able to cause all this by myself alone.
“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may the Buddha of Compassion, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and all other virtuous friends have stable lives, and may all their holy wishes be accomplished immediately.
“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may I be able to offer benefit as extensive as the sky to all sentient beings, as Lama Tsong Khapa did, by having the same qualities within me that Lama Tsong Khapa had, from now on in all my future lifetimes.
“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings—which exist, but are totally non-existent from their own side—may I—who exist, but am totally non-existent from my own side—achieve Vajrasattva’s enlightenment— which exists, but is totally non-existent from its own side—and lead all sentient beings—who exist, but are totally non-existent from their own side—to that enlightenment—which exists, but is totally non-existent from its own side—by myself alone—who also exists, but is totally nonexistent from its own side.”
Dedicate for all those people whose names were mentioned before.
Dedicate also for all those whose names I have received and for whom I have promised to pray, for those who rely upon me and for those who have died.
“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may all those people whose names were read out or have been given to me and who have died, as well as the numberless beings who have died and been born in the lower realms, immediately be liberated from all those sufferings and reincarnate in a pure land where they can become enlightened or receive a perfect human body in all their future lifetimes and achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible by meeting a Mahayana guru and the Mahayana teachings.
“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, whenever I hear that somebody is sick, may just my hearing of it cause that sentient being to be healed immediately. Whenever I hear that somebody has died, may just my hearing of it cause that sentient being not to be reborn in the lower realms, or if born there, immediately be liberated from the lower realms and achieve enlightenment quickly, through being born in a pure land or through receiving a perfect human body and meeting a Mahayana guru and the Mahayana teachings. If that sentient being has been born human but has no opportunity to practice Dharma, may they receive a perfect human body.”
Dedicate for all the sick people whose names were mentioned before.
“May they immediately be healed of their cancer or other sicknesses.
May they be free from whatever problem they have and make the rest of their life most beneficial by actualizing the steps of the path to enlightenment, especially bodhicitta, in this very lifetime.
“Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, may all the requests made by the people who offered these lights be accomplished immediately.
“May I, the members of my family, all the students and benefactors of this organization and all other sentient beings meet only perfectly qualified Mahayana gurus in all our lifetimes. From our side may we be able to see them only as enlightened beings and do only actions that are most pleasing to the holy mind of the virtuous friend. May we be able to immediately fulfill all their holy wishes.
“Whatever kind of life I experience—happy or suffering, healthy or unhealthy, gain or loss, rich or poor, living or even dying, even rebirth in a hell realm—may all these experiences and every action I do from now on be most beneficial for all sentient beings, causing them to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible. May whatever happens in my life be most beneficial for all sentient beings. Even if I receive criticism from people, may it be most beneficial for sentient beings. Even if I receive praise from others, may it be most beneficial for sentient beings. If I am healthy or even if I have a sickness such as cancer, may it be most beneficial for all sentient beings.”
As I mentioned before, also dedicate for the success of all the centers and projects, especially the building of the Maitreya statue. “May all the students and benefactors have long lives and good health and may all their wishes be accomplished immediately in accordance with the holy Dharma. May they actualize the lam-rim path in this very lifetime.
“May the general teachings of Buddha, and also the teachings of Lama Tsong Khapa, spread in all directions and flourish, and may I be able to cause this by myself alone.”
We will read the dedication prayer for the light offerings one time.
[“These actually arranged and mentally created light offerings....”] Recite the multiplying mantras to multiply each merit 100,000 times. [Recitation of multiplying mantras.] Now recite the Buddha’s name that actualizes all the prayers that we have done and also multiplies each merit 100,000 times.
“Due to the blessings of the eminent buddhas and bodhisattvas, due to unbetraying dependent arising, and due to my special attitude, may all my pure prayers be accomplished immediately.”
CREATING MERIT FOR THE ANIMALS
We can now do some circumambulations with the worms and crickets. If it is okay to keep them overnight, they can also be taken on more circumambulations tomorrow. We will take them around the outside of the building instead of inside the gompa because we then circumambulate the many thangkas and statues in the gompa. We will also include the prayer wheel in the circumambulation. This is much better, because the animals then get to circumambulate many more holy objects.
We will do this just three times, because you have to do one more session.
Then, if it is okay to keep the animals overnight, anybody who would like to take them on more circumambulations can do so in the break-times tomorrow. They can stay here until tomorrow afternoon or evening. I don’t know how long they can stay here, but the more circumambulations they do the better. In this way they get a lot of benefit and you get a lot of benefit. You all get the benefit together.
Thank you so much, thank you very much.
We will chant mantras as we go around.
RINPOCHE’S HOLY RELICS
This is a relic of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave it to us to put in the Maitreya Buddha statue. All together I have eight, but I’ve got only three or four here. As you go around, you can pray.
This is a relic of Lama Atisha. If you have heard a lam-rim teaching from the very beginning, you will know the life story of Lama Atisha, and why Lama Atisha is so important to us. After there was some corruption of the Buddhadharma in Tibet, people were confused as to how one person could practice sutra and tantra to achieve enlightenment. There were a lot of misunderstandings, especially about tantric practice. People thought that if they practiced sutra they could not practice tantra and vice versa.
The Dharma king of Tibet, Lhalama Yeshe ? wanted to invite Lama Atisha to spread the Dharma and make the Buddhism in Tibet pure, so he went to look for gold. Near Nepal an irreligious king captured Lhalama Yeshe ?and put him in prison. The king’s nephew, Jangchub ? then offered the irreligious king all the gold that Lhalama Yeshe ?had collected and requested him to free Lhalama Yeshe ? However, the irreligious king refused the gold, saying that when the gold was piled up he was still lacking gold equal to the size of the Dharma king’s head.
When Jangchub ?told his uncle, who was still in prison, what had happened, Lhalama Yeshe ?said, “Don’t give even one handful of gold to this irreligious king. Send all of the gold to India. Offer it to Lama Atisha and invite Lama Atisha to Tibet to spread the Dharma. I will sacrifice my life and die in prison. I will give up my life so that Lama Atisha can be invited to Tibet to spread the Dharma.”
The king then died in prison. All the gold was sent to India with a group of translators, who invited Lama Atisha to Tibet. When Lama Atisha came to Tibet, he met King Jangchub ? who explained all the problems to Lama Atisha. Lama Atisha then wrote Lamp of the Path to Enlightenment, which integrates all the teachings of Buddha, both Mahayana sutra and Mahayana tantra, as a graduated practice that one person can follow to achieve enlightenment. From that time the confusion was completely eliminated and the Buddhism in Tibet became pure.
What is called “lam-rim” started from when Lama Atisha wrote Lamp of the Path to Enlightenment, and this teaching has also spread to other parts of the world, including the West. By integrating the entire teaching of Buddha into one person’s practice to achieve enlightenment, the lam-rim gives everyone the opportunity of meditating on and experiencing the path to enlightenment. We, as well as many other people in the West, have this incredible opportunity because of Lama Atisha’s kindness.
These are Lama Atisha’s relics, given to me by His Holiness Sakya Jigdrol [Dagchen] Rinpoche, who lives in Seattle. He said that he received these relics from the Sakya storehouse of relics in Tibet. When you circumambulate, you can look at the relics and pray.
This is a statue of Maitreya Buddha, given to me by Denma Loch?Rinpoche. It is many hundreds of years old and is one of the holy objects from a Tibetan monastery. I have another very old and very beautiful Maitreya statue, a tsa-tsa with mantras around it, but I didn’t bring it here. The tsa-tsa was made by Tsawa Khenpo, for whom Lama Tsong Khapa wrote The Three Principles of the Path. His monastery was built four years before Ganden Monastery, which is Lama Tsong Khapa’s monastery. This lama built a Maitreya Buddha statue that was several stories high, and the Maitreya tsa-tsa came out of that large statue. I’m telling you the story of the Maitreya tsa-tsa, but it’s not here; it’s at the Aptos house!
This small stupa was given by Lama Atisha to Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo, the great translator.
Inside here are the relics of three past Buddhas. I received them from Doctor Wangdu, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s doctor, in Dharamsala, and he got them from the Tibetan government storehouse of relics. They are many thousands of years old. Many relics of Buddha and of the ancient yogis are kept in the Tibetan government storehouse.
There is also a relic of the past Buddha’s tooth. A monk brought three pieces of Buddha’s tooth from Tibet. They came from Gyalwa Ensapa, a disciple of one of Lama Tsong Khapa’s direct disciples, who became enlightened within one lifetime, like Milarepa. His holy body was gilded, but the Chinese communists destroyed it. All the relics were thrown away, but one family secretly took the relic of Buddha’s tooth. They kept it and would burn and crush it to use as medicine when anyone in the family was sick. A monk brought three pieces from Tibet. He offered one to Chobgye Trichen Rinpoche, and Rinpoche put it in the crown of the three-story Maitreya Buddha statue that Rinpoche had built in Boudhanath. He was going to offer another relic to His Holiness Sakya Trizin.
There are also relics of Lama Atisha and many precious relics of ancient yogis from inside the famous statue of Shakyamuni Buddha in Lhasa.
This Tara statue belonged to the Lawudo Lama, who is said to be my past life. It is the devotional object that he always carried with him, and this is why the face and hands are worn away.
That’s the end of my advertisement....
HOW TO CIRCUMAMBULATE
Before you circumambulate, first generate the motivation. Think that you are leading all sentient beings in the circumambulations. Visualize that beams emitted by the holy objects purify you and all the sentient beings. Then think that you all receive all good qualities.
When you do circumambulations, you can dedicate the first circumambulation to all sentient beings, but especially the hell beings. When you finish the circumambulation, think that you have purified all sentient beings and give all the merit to them. They all become enlightened, especially the hell beings. Dedicate the second round to all sentient beings, but especially the pretas. When you have finished the circumambulation, dedicate all the merits to all sentient beings, but especially to the pretas. They all become enlightened. Do the same for all the animals, humans, asuras, suras and intermediate state beings.
You can then circumambulate for your gurus, dedicating for them to have long lives and for all their wishes to be fulfilled. You can do another circumambulation and dedicate it for the teachings to exist a long time.
In this way you can dedicate nine circumambulations, the first seven being for the beings in the six realms plus those in the intermediate state, the eighth being for the gurus and the ninth for the teachings. This is just one idea of how you can make circumambulation very effective, very beneficial.
When we circumambulate, our mouth should be reciting holy prayers or powerful mantras and our mind should be feeling devotion.
As well as prostration of body, there are prostration of speech (praising Buddha) and prostration of mind (generating devotion). In a similar way, there are circumambulations of body, speech, and mind. While your body is walking around the holy objects, your speech is reciting praises or mantras and your mind is feeling devotion. Generate the motivation for the circumambulations by thinking, “The purpose of my life is to free all sentient beings from all their sufferings and bring them to enlightenment; therefore, I must achieve enlightenment.
It is for this reason, for the benefit of all sentient beings, that I am going to do these circumambulations. Each circumambulation is for every single sentient being.”
[Then everybody followed Rinpoche on several circumambulations of the gompa and prayer wheel.]