Archive | Religion RSS feed for this section

Meat to meatless

28 Sep


I used to think like Homer hehe…

When I was 5, I hated eating vegetables. My mum used to tell me to eat my carrots as they gave me good eyesight. But I told her that was not a rabbit. I was no Bugs Bunny. Back then, I was this nasty little carnivore.

Nevertheless, she forced me to eat my greens anyway. Her favourite emotional blackmail was to think of starving African kids. Well, that was to get me to finish my plate of food. I resented that thought. But when I reached adolescence, my appetitive grew and I ate everything – meat and greens included.

Over the years, I tried all sorts of food including meals at the occasional Chinese vegetarian restaurant. The earlier experience of dining at a Chinese vegetarian restaurant left me feeling dissatisfied. I felt I had to have meat on my plate or I couldn’t call it a meal. I came to the conclusion that I could not subsist on a vegetarian diet.

When I met Rinpoche, he explained the hypocrisy of eating meat and with the same mouth, use it to recite mantras and prayers of compassion. I listened and I get it but I did nothing about it. Then, Rinpoche continue to elaborate on the hypocrisy, he showed me various videos on how the chickens were massacred, pigs were slaughtered and cows tied upside down so it was easier to slit their throats and drain their blood.

I was shaken for a week and resumed my meat-eating ways a week later. Rinpoche continue to show me even more videos or various acts of animal cruelty. I was vegetarian for 2 weeks this time and then it became longer and longer. I realize I could not go without meat in cold turkey and so I decided to go vegetarian 5 days a week and slowly wean myself off meat.

Then one day, I went to dinner with Rinpoche at Tony Romas. Rinpoche was just going to have salad and fried onion rings. He asked me what I was going to have. I smiled sheepishly and told him that it was my break day and I was going to have steak. Rinpoche was not happy to hear that. He exclaimed that this is not a break ! How can it be break when my meal was going to be a dead animal and went on and on about it. But he allowed me to have my steak.

Over the following weeks and months, Rinpoche continue to show me even more videos of animal slaughter. The images seared in my mind that even on my ‘breaks’, I felt guilty eating meat. Each time I lift a piece of meat with my chopsticks, I remember the horrific images of the animal being slaughtered in cold blood. The final straw came when I sat through a screening of The Earthlings. I didn’t make a resolution to be vegetarian but I became one without planning. I realize I didn’t really miss meat.

There were times I ate meat by accident because the food came with pieces of meat (waiter messed my order). But I found that I didn’t crave for meat and I certainly didn’t go and look for it. It was really just conscience that keeps me meatless and looking at the variety of food we have today, it really is not that hard to be vegetarian or the very least, meatless.


I think they meant vegetables… haha!

Homosexuality & Buddhism

25 Sep

I have been reading up on Buddhist view of homosexuality. Although the view on homosexuality was not clearly defined by the Buddha but was later defined by Indian masters as ‘sexual misconduct’ – one of the ‘karmic sins’ of the body. However, contemporary Buddhist masters like the Dalai Lama and others are prone towards the idea that this traditional definition is colored by social norms of that era and leaves it open for re-interpretation. Whatever is the case, it is certainly interesting to see how Buddhist masters in the Buddhist spirit of openness, are willing to re-examine traditionally held views on human sexuality. Nevertheless, all forms of sexuality is ultimately renounced within the Buddhist monastic order in all Buddhist traditions. 

Here are just some excerpts on homosexuality that I have encountered on Wikipedia that gives a rather broad perspective on this issue:-



Among Buddhists there is a wide diversity of opinion about homosexuality. Buddhism teaches that sensual enjoyment and desire in general, and sexual pleasure in particular, are hindrances to enlightenment, and inferior to the kinds of pleasure (see, e.g. pīti, a Pāli word often translated as “rapture”) that are integral to the practice of jhāna. Some Buddhist texts advise Buddhists to avoid contact with third-gendered individuals and consider same-sex relations as sexual misconduct.

Some Buddhist leaders, like the 14th Dalai Lama and Chan master Hsuan Hua, have explicitly spoken against the act of homosexuality, which is considered harmful to the individual. Though the Dalai Lama explained “sexual misconduct” from the point of view of classical Indian texts, and as they are usually explained in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism e.g. by Tsongkhapa, the Dalai Lama expressed also “the possibility of understanding these precepts in the context of time, culture and society … If homosexuality is part of accepted norms [today], it is possible that it may be acceptable … However, no single person or teacher can redefine precepts. I do not have the authority to redefine these precepts since no one can make a unilateral decision or issue a decree … Such a redefinition can only come out of sangha discussions within the various Buddhist traditions. It is not unprecedented in the history of Buddhism to redefine [moral] issues, but it has to be done on the collective level.”; and the Dalai Lama called for further research and dialogue on this topic, “and concluded by reiterating the fact that, however the notion of sexual misconduct comes to be defined, it can never be used to justify discrimination against sexual minorities.” However, when interviewed by Canadian TV news anchor Evan Solomon on CBC News: Sunday about whether or not homosexuality is acceptable in Buddhism, the Dalai Lama responded that “it is sexual misconduct”. This was an echo of an earlier response in a 2004 Vancouver Sun interview when asked about homosexuality in Buddhism, where the Dalai Lama replied “for a Buddhist, the same sex, that is sexual misconduct”

The late Lama Thubten Yeshe, a Gelugpa Lama and founder of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition indicated that he did not consider homosexuality to be sexual misconduct. He states, “My own view, man stay with man, female stay with female, I don’t consider it good or bad. This is my opinion. It’s just no big deal, no big deal, that’s all.”

People often ask me what I think about homosexuality. They wonder, is it right, is it wrong? The answer is, it is neither right nor wrong. It is just something that people do. If people are not harming each other, their private lives are their own business; we should be tolerant of them and not reject them.

However, it will still take some time for the world to fully accept homosexuality. All of us must learn to tolerate the behavior of others. Just as we hope to expand our minds to include all of the universe, so we should also seek to expand our minds to include all of the many forms of human behavior.

Tolerance is a form of generosity and it is a form of wisdom. There is nothing anywhere in the Dharma that should ever lead anyone to become intolerant. Our goal as Buddhists is to learn to accept all kinds of people and to help all kinds of people discover the wisdom of the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha.” – Hsing Yun, Buddhism Pure and Simple, pp. 137–138

“Sexual misconduct” is a broad term, subject to interpretation according to followers’ social norms. Early Buddhism appears to have been silent regarding homosexual relations. However, Buddhists of Asian background, who form the majority of Buddhists in the world, consider homosexuality and transgenderism as part of sexual misconduct and usually disapprove of it.

The situation is different for monastics. For them, the Vinaya (code of monastic discipline) bans all sexual activity, but does so in purely physiological terms, making no moral distinctions among the many possible forms of intercourse.
Some Buddhist orders may specifically prohibit transgender, homosexually active, or homosexually oriented people from ordination but accept homosexuality among laypersons.

Regarding transsexual people, the earliest texts mention the possibility of a person supernaturally changing sexes; such a person is not barred from ordination, and if already ordained, simply changes orders.


House in the Mountains

22 Sep

Dear People who are karmically connected with me,

As you know I love beautiful mountains, dwellings in the mountains. Pastor Seng Piow on his own initiative has been just looking through various beautiful properties. Some are just breathtaking and when I see something beautiful I just want to share with others whom I feel might appreciate it also. This thread is just to share the pictures of the houses and the amazing environments. You don’t have to write anything or reply after my posts. You look at the pictures in your own relaxed liesure time. NO RUSH. JUST ENJOY. Just seeing some of these pictures is so relaxing and beautiful. May I share some the beauty of these places with you.

I wish all of you the opportunity to engage in deeper and more retreats as you get older because by retreats, we get closer to our Yidam and our Buddha within (mind) us. Retreats purifies tremendous karma, stabilizes our mind, overcomes obstacles, gives us real purpose, good preparation for future lives and gives us a chance to focus solely on ourselves in a good way. In the correct way. It is the best way to spend the little time we have left. We should always prepare for future lives as taught by the Sage Shakyamuni, Conqueror Tsongkapa, Heruka Pabongka in Lam Rim. We should be enthusiastic about that because it is for ourselves and we are the only one that can do this for ourselves. Meeting dharma is the result of karma collected in previous lives to afford us this opportunity to prepare. How lucky we are!! That is why I am attracted to mountain retreat houses.

So many times in life we want to do something good for ourselves by travelling, eating, getting lots of money, joining parties, dressing up, socializing, vacationing, finding partners, finding name and in the end we end up more unhappy and more bitter than we can imagine. This is not because we are bad, but because we approached finding happiness in all the wrong places without knowing it. We became more lonely and bitter than when we started. Thanks to our good karma, we found dharma, the most important find in our lives. Happiness only comes from peace we find within by the light of dharma wisdom we have applied. One of the ways to develop this wisdom is through our spiritual learning, spiritual convictions, contemplations and practice. We have to keep on learning and not stop. We can take it with us. The best thing we can ever do for ourselves is to get closer to our Yidam. And quiet retreats is one of the best ways. Having the fortune to spend time often in retreats contemplating, offering, prayering, reciting mantras and focussing on the Yidam is the best way to spend our lives and free time. We have little time left. All the great Mahasiddhas of the past gained their great attainments this way. All that we hold holy became holy this way. All that is holy exist to only point this way to us. So they show an infallible method and example to us. We are blessed. We must get closer to our Yidam. This should not be future tense always as we are not devas with immensely long lives. Our minds with the Yidam’s mind must merge by retreats, practice, learning and compassion. This is the best preparation for death and life.And all lives to come.

I have always sought the mountains, lakes, forests and solitude for this. My draw and attraction to the mountains is primarily for this reason. I wish to share this with you. Sharing the mountains and the dwellings is to share a spiritual message of retreats and therefore joining with our Yidams with you. I wish to share what makes me happy with you and what will make you happy represented by these mountains/dwellings. So on this special thread I will share beautiful pictures of houses in the mountains that bring back a ‘memory’ of dwellings in mountains perhaps for me from a different time and place. This is my most heartfelt desire and what is deep in me and you are invited. May you all realize and achieve and be loved and love without barriers.

My love, humiliy and genuine care to all of you. I sincerely wish deeply all of you will gain highest attainments and ascend to Kechara Paradise.

Tsem Rinpoche



Recently, Rinpoche wrote the above and sent it with several pictures of houses in the mountains to a few people including myself. Then, he asked me, “For years, I have been sending people pictures of houses in the mountains. Why do you think I send people these pictures?” I gave a cacophony of answers but none seemed to be the right answer. It took me awhile of asking people and finally, Rinpoche related the true reason for these pictures.

The pictures of houses in the mountains were meant to implant a thought of becoming one with our yidam. Yidam here means a personal meditational deity that could be Manjushri, Je Tsongkhapa, Vajrayogini or any other yidam. Becoming one with one’s Yidam can only be done by performing retreats in isolated places like these houses in the mountains just like those performed by the great Mahasiddhas and yogis of old in India and Tibet. By engaging in these retreats, we gain spiritual attainments and powerful transformation of the mind.

Spiritual attainments and transformation cannot be attained by being in the middle of a bustling city full of distractions and it cannot be done when we are constantly caught up with worldly affairs. It must be done in an isolated place and the ideal isolated place is where it is green, lush – has trees, rivers, mountains, lakes and so forth. Hence, Rinpoche had been encouraging people to engage in smaller retreats now to prepare them for longer retreats later. To engage in retreats, we must have some Dharma knowledge – learning and practice so we understand, appreciate and know how to engage in these retreats.

That was why Rinpoche send these beautiful pictures of isolated houses in the mountains to people. He said it is to implant that thought and to remind people of that thought so that they would engage in retreats later.


What pleases Kuan Yin…

13 Sep


A week ago, Tsem Rinpoche told us a wonderful story of the 1000-armed Kuan Yin. He had just received a book called Words of Power by John Blofeld. The author of the book wrote about his journeys to Hong Kong and China and his studies of Buddhism. In this particular book, he wrote a story of the 1,000 armed Kuan Yin. Rinpoche told the story and I will attempt to tell this tale here with my own words.

In China, there was a temple dedicated to the worship of a beautiful statue of the 1,000 armed Kuan Yin. The monks were strict vegetarians and completely enveloped their lives in the pursuit of the worship of Kuan Yin with meditations and chanting of Tai Pei Chou or the Great Compassion Mantra. Thus, the monks lived a spartan and simplistic lifestyle. One day, a man came to the temple to offer prayers and offerings to Kuan Yin. He was a sort of ruffian and he came bearing offerings of meat. However, he had deep faith in Kuan Yin and reverently placed his offering of meat on the altar and left.

When the monks discovered the offering, they were repulsed by the sight of the meat. They immediately decided to discard the meat. Not long after, famine and pestilence struck the land and the monks of the temple sat day and night, requesting Kuan Yin to alleviate the disaster. After 3 days of chanting, Kuan Yin’s eyes shone brightly and completely enveloped the prayer hall with light.

Then, the statue of Kuan Yin spoke,”You should not have discarded the man’s offering that day. No offerings are impure when it was offered with a pure intent. We must have compassion on all beings and accept whatever offerings that are given with pure intent. I will now answer your prayers but you must remember what I have said.”

The light from Kuan Yin’s eyes disappeared and the monks rejoiced.

The Story of the Lama’s Bell

29 Aug

Well, I love stories and was told quite a few in the last few weeks with Rinpoche. Some of which, I have never heard before and some of which Rinpoche had already told and was even recorded onto YouTube. I shall try to recollect the stories I have been told for posterity sake.

There was one day that Rinpoche was on the topic of death. He kept talking about it and he revealed that he had from time to time, experienced little panic attacks about dying. This has been going on since he was a kid. He just experienced a few days back and so, he said death was something no one could escape. Not the Buddha nor the most attained lamas down to the bumbling insect. It is not death that was scary but the inevitability and the ‘finality’ of it. cem10

Rinpoche strolling the cemetery grounds and recognizing the names of many of the tombstones

This realization hit home strongly when he went to visit his mother’s grave in New Jersey late last year. The cemetery was in the compounds of an Orthodox Church that had many of the Kalmyks buried there. The cemetery was beautiful with manicured lawns, emerald green trees and delicately carved tombstones.  The Kalmyk tombstones were carved with Dharma wheels and mantras to denote their Buddhist faith. Despite the serenity of the cemetery grounds, Rinpoche could not stave off the realization that many of the people’s names on the tombstones were people he knew in his childhood! Many of whom he had not seen in years. (Rinpoche related this greater detail here –

Then, Rinpoche began to relate a story that his mother once told him in his childhood. There lived a Mongolian lama or Bakcha. He was a very saintly lama who was well-known to be highly attained due to his meditational practice. Many people came to his little temple that was called khurul in Mongolian for help. He was well-known for his ability to heal through his breath that was infused with mantras and his accurate divinations.


One day, a man came to the lama in a desperate state. He frantically asked the lama to protect him as he said that hell guards were coming to take him away. The lama calmed him down and clairvoyantly, he knew that the man was speaking the truth. So, he told him that he could not do anything to stop death. However, the man begged and begged. In the end, the lama relented and by the power of mantra, reduced the man to a very small size. Then he hid the man under his ritual bell.

In due time, the hell guardians came to the temple searching for the man. They spoke to the lama asking for the whereabouts of this man. The lama told them that he had left a long a time ago and was not on the temple grounds. In the end, unable to find the man, the hell guardians left the temple in a huff. Once the coast was clear, the lama immediately picked up the bell only to find that the little man was gone! He was no where to be found and thus, death comes to all even when you are under the protection of the most attained lama’s bell. Rinpoche said that the way his mother told the story, he knew that she was not telling it as a mythical tale but something that had really happened.

A gift of Tara

23 Aug

Just two nights ago, Tsem Rinpoche asked Pastor Jean Ai, Pastor Niral and myself, which statue we would pick out of a selection of Amitabhas, Chenrezigs and White Taras. I pondered for awhile and finally, I forced myself to pick Tara. It’s a difficult choice! It’s not that I am so holy but I am also greedy…spiritually greedy. Hehe! Pastor Niral and Pastor Jean Ai picked Chenrezig and so, I was the odd one out. For a moment, I wondered if I had made the wrong choice but I stuck with it.

Rinpoche asked each of us why we picked that particularly Buddha. I told rinpoche that I didn’t know why initially and then, I said that although, I am pretty much a Manjushri fanatic but I have grown to like Tara very much from what I have read and that she’s very ‘sensitive’. Well, I read that she had been tremendously influential to many great Tibetan and Indian masters. In fact, she told Atisha to go to Tibet to spread the Dharma there in a vision. From my readings, Tara and Je Tsongkhapa statues were the 2 deities that seemed to manifest the most miracles in Tibet and Nepal. There are many incidences of speaking Tara statues and so forth.

Rinpoche also said that Kyabje Zong Rinpoche told a disciple once that it would not be necessary to consecrate a Tara statue because she’s already blessed on her own accord. Rinpoche said that the protector likes Tara very much and that he told him through an oracle to spread Tara’s practice among other practices. He said that Tara must be very effective for us and that has got to do with the vows she made before she became enlightened that sealed her affinity with us. Naturally, it is not that she is superior to other Buddhas but the fact that she has closer affinity with us due to her vows and our karma.

Then Rinpoche gave us each a statue of the deity that we have chosen and blessed us by placing the statue on our heads while folding our hands. I was in cloud 9!

For Pastor Jean Ai’s account of why she picked Chenrezig –



Stories of Kyabje Zong Rinpoche

5 Aug


Kyabje Zong Rinpoche was known to be an accomplished debater and Tantric master who developed occult powers due to his meditational practice. 

Kyabje Zong Rinpoche is Tsem Rinpoche’s root Guru and is one of the greatest masters to have escaped Tibet after the Tibetan exodus into India. In the late 1980s, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche arrived in Los Angeles at the invitation of Geshe Tsultrim Gyaltsen at Thubten Dhargye Ling at St Andrew’s. This was where the young Tsem Rinpoche who was raised in New Jersey and living in LA at that time, met him and a deep spiritual relationship and awakening ensued. They shared an unusual bond and closeness that defied language and culture. A transmission of not just teachings, initiations but also a deep purpose that set off Tsem Rinpoche unto the road of monkhood. The following stories were narrated by Tsem Rinpoche on his blogchat of incredible stories of the imcomparable Zong Rinpoche….


His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche was considered a direct incarnation of Kedrub Rinpoche the wrathful student of Je Tsongkapa. Whenever you see Tsongkapa, along his left and right have two erudite students. The one on the left is Kedrub Rinpoche. It is said Zong Rinpoche achieved one-ness with Heruka Buddha (Chakrasamvara) lifetimes ago. Setrap took trance of the Gaden oracle (who has passed away now) and Setrap said clearly Zong Rinpoche is Kedrub Rinpoche the close disciple of Tsongkapa. This oracle was famous in Gaden Tibet. When we do our practice sincerely and surrender our attachments, we can gain much attainments and ‘powers’. But the ultimate is to achieve Bodhi mind and emptiness.

Another time while Zong Rinpoche was doing pujas in his home (ladrang), suddenly a group of people with a screaming frantic woman came in through the gate.The group holding the ‘crazy’ woman’ was begging for Zong Rinpoche’s help. Zong Rinpoche came out and calmly asked for a chair. He sat on the chair recited some mantras for a few moments and then very loudly and fiercely asked the woman “WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU WANT???!!” When he said this to her, she immediately fainted. When she came to, she didn’t know what was happening. She asked people where she was and what happened. They informed Zong Rinpoche this happens often to her. She was taken possession of an evil entity and Zong Rinpoche expelled it immediately just by his fierce wrathful compassionate voice.. After this incident, she never took ‘trance’ of this entity again and lived a normal life. Zong Rinpoche’s occult powers were famous among the monks of Gaden, Sera & Drepung and the Tibetan communities.

Much black magic was sent to H.H. Zong Rinpoche also. There was one time a group of students were sitting in the room with Zong Rinpoche in his private chambers in Gaden. People witnessed balls and streaks of light hitting and entering the roof of Zong Rinpoche’s house. One person in the audience saw the light penetrate the roof and through the ceiling and ‘hit’ Zong Rinpoche’s arm. Zong Rinpoche’s arm appeared immobilized for a moment. Zong Rinpoche signaled Gen Tsoncha to keep silent and Zong Rinpoche recited some mantras and blew on his own arm. Then his arm can move immediately again. This was witnessed by close students such as Gen Tsoncha who told many in Gaden.
Another time a group of people got someone who sounded like Zong Rinpoche’s voice on tape. They mixed some of Zong Rinpoche’s teachings and then inserted this person’s voice into the cassette tape, back then it was cassettes and no cds.. Then they brought the cassette with Zong Rinpoche’s ‘voice’ to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It was criticism against Dalai Lama supposedly from Zong Rinpoche. Dalai Lama listened to the cassette tape carefully and said clearly THIS IS NOT ZONG RINPOCHE AS HE WOULD NOT SAY SUCH THINGS. Their plans were foiled because they wanted to defame Zong Rinpoche. HH Dalai Lama never said anything further about it according to Zong Rinpoche’s close assistants. They tried many times to harm Zong Rinpoche.

His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche was a spiritual Ninja of the highest order. Next day at teachings, Zong Rinpoche told the whole audience that someone try to stab him through the window. Just before the hand with knife came in through the window, he had a very vivid dream of Four Faced Mahakala’s face ‘charge’ at him suddenly and the suddenness of it woke Zong Rinpoche and when Rinpoche woke he saw the knife in a hand. Zong Rinpoche grabbed at the hand, but the guy got startled and ran.

18 tsongkhapa

Kyabje Zong Rinpoche was known to be the known emanation of Kedrub Je (sitting on the right), the heart son of Je Tsongkhapa 

This is the King of Dharma and Master of all Three Realms Manjunatha Tsongkapa. To His left is Gyaltsab Je or Gyaltsab Rinpoche who is Chenresig incarnate. To the right is Kedrub Je or Kedrub Rinpoche who is considered Vajrapani incarnate. These three are in millions of homes, temples and shrines in Tibet, Mongolia, India, Nepal, and the world. His Holiness Zong Rinpoche is the direct incarnation of Kedrup Rinpoche. I thought I would share that with you all.

These two (Kedrub Je) were very close to Manjunatha Tsongkapa and went everywhere with Him. It is said they both had the same knowledge and attainments as Tsongkapa Himself, but out of humility they showed great deference to their teacher Tsongkapa. But they were great and eminent teachers themselves. When Kedrub Je first met Tsongkapa, he arrogantly sat on a nearby throne same height as Tsongkapa and was very fierce. As he listened to Tsongkapa’s teachings, his head bowed and stooped and slowly crawled off the throne and sat on the floor and became Tsongkapa’s heart disciple. He was a great Sakya scholar. Kedrub Je was a great master of Sakya tradition till he met Tsongkapa and continued to lean.

Zong Rinpoche was very ill with walking stick and cannot barely move. Setrap took trance in the Gaden oracle and went to Zong Rinpoche’s house and personally offered mandala to Zong Rinpoche to extend his life. Zong Rinpoche refused. So Setrap relented and said, stay and oversee the unmistaken incarnation of Trijang Rinpoche is discovered and enthroned. Stay until Trijang Rinpoche’s incarnation is found and enthroned. To this Zong Rinpoche agreed. Zong Rinpoche’s diseases disappeared, he didn’t need a walking stick and became robust again. Zong Rinpoche oversaw the complete procedure of Trijang Rinpoche’s discovery and incarnation. Afterwards, Zong Rinpoche thanked his assistants after breakfast, entered clear light for three days and passed. He had full control over his winds, channels and drops and showed clearly his mastery of tantra. We do reincarnate, it’s just Zong Rinpoche controls his and where he goes and when he goes. We can achieve that thru tantra.


Mind-blowing teaching from LA

26 Jul


All stimuli that serves to excite or disgust are based on lack of true permanence therefore only exist in a projected manner.

Tsem Rinpoche 

Recently on facebook, I was asked by Rinpoche to elaborate on this quote for the benefit of Victor Choi. This teaching was recently given to a bunch of students who are assisting Rinpoche here in Los Angeles. Rinpoche frequently adds Dharma to everything that we do here and often gives powerful and insightful teachings to help further our spiritual path. Hence, I thought I blog about this explanation as it was based on my understanding of a recent teaching that Rinpoche gave. Here it is :- 


Stimuli refers to any experience, people or object that serves to make us happy, unhappy, attached or something that make us want to runaway from it. This could be our partners, career, family, friends, possessions, house, car, cigarettes, alcohol, childhood experience, teenage experience and so forth. 

Rinpoche says that these stimuli lack true permanence because our opinion and reaction to these stimuli can change due to maturity, experience, knowledge, advice, environment etc. The stimuli from its side, does not actually change. It is our opinion and hence, our reaction to it that actually changes. This shows that what we like or don’t like about a stimuli was really just a projection, which is illusory or unreal. 

hollywood (1)

Projections are just an impermanent value that we place on stimuli that does not really bring long term benefit. For example, career, money, relationship and marriage are believed to be the source of happiness according to society, culture and the media. However, if we think deeper and look closer into many examples around us, can we logically say that these people are truly happy when they just focus on career, money, relationships and marriages. 

If these things truly bring happiness, then the more money we get or the higher we climb on the corporate ladder or the more or the longer the relationship and marriage we have, we should be happier and happier. However, due to habituation and other reasons, we still pursue these stimuli although they never brought real benefit over and over again across lifetimes. 

And for each of us, the stimuli that we tend to be attached to is different from individual to individual. All of us have a certain attachment to a certain stimuli. This is something to ponder and Rinpoche stress that this is not right or wrong or even a condemnation. It is something to make us realize the true nature of these stimuli so we can balance our lives with Dharma. We can change and transformation comes with new input, knowledge, Dharma, merits, contemplation, effort and so forth. Hope this little explanation helps.

PS: I have pictures of Los Angeles and Hollywood in this post because the city, Hollywood, glitz and glamor represents everything illusory.


Martin’s Question

5 Jun

Recently, Tsem Rinpoche shared another powerfully intellectual and yet practical teaching regarding the difference between the perception of an ordinary being and that of the Buddha or an enlightened being. I transcribed it for your reading pleasure. It’s a good thought-provoking read and if you have any questions, you can pop me one and I will do my best to answer you.



Is the state of enlightenment also an experience albeit a prolonged one? Or is the phenomenon of ‘experience’ altogether absent in that state? Does an enlightened being feel as human beings feel but with perfect understanding of that feeling?  Or are feelings absent?

Thank you


Enlightened beings do not experience per se like the way we do. They do not see something, like it, feel attached and from attachment, create grasping. Then, from grasping, create different mental states of aversion or liking and then, engaging in the act and from there, getting stuck in the act and becoming overwhelmed by the act. And then, being overwhelmed by the habituations of the act and further becoming caught up in the act, thus creating various karmas and then doing it over and over  again.

So, therefore, an enlightened being does not experience the positive or negative from a deluded mind. When we experience things from a deluded mind, our experience can be positive or negative and then, grasping comes. In reaction to something ‘negative’, a grasping towards eliminating it ensues and then the actions that follows and then, the karmas that follows and then the repeat of the action which becomes the habituation and all the tumultuous states of mind that follows that action comes and then we are stuck in quicksand. When we see something we like, we grasp at it, the same thing happens afterwards except we desire more of it. So, enlightened beings definitely do not experience or grasp in that manner. They just perceive. When they perceive, it is without attachment because the deluded mind which arises from the ‘I’- consciousness or the ‘I’– grasping are not present.

In answer to your wonderful and very well-thought out question – therefore enlightenment is a permanent state. It is not a state to achieve. It is not a state to grasp at. It is not a state to be grasped. It is not a state to be looked for. It is a state already within us. So, it is not about achieving it. It is actually finding it for a lack of a better word. It is finding that enlightened state. So, when we find that enlightened state and to be in that enlightened state, we must eliminate the space that is already occupied, which is grasping onto a non-existing ‘I’, hatred that arises from that ‘I’, desire, fears, attachment, delusions, sensory grasping and all that arises from that non-existent ‘I’.

For example, if we remove someone’s eyes, ears, nose and we kind of nullify their nervous system, they won’t have their 5 perceptions. They can’t taste, touch, see and they can’t hear. Therefore, when someone is bereft or without their 5 senses, they can’t perceive. So therefore, ordinary sensory perceptions are also something that arises from the non-existent ‘I’. How does ordinary sensory perception arise from the non-existent ‘I’ because the non-existent ‘I’ has that element of non-existent ‘I’ and that denotes grasping. That grasping manifests in the sensory perception of I want this. I smell this. I hear this. I touch this. I desire this. I want this. So, when we have that kinda of grasping, it re-habituates ourselves to grasp at more.


When we have that grasping, it re-habituates us over and over until we reach a point where we cannot even hear, see, perceive, understand or listen to anyone or anything – the Dharma, a monk, a teacher, a friend or wisdom. We cannot hear anyone or perceive anyone teaching us otherwise. In that way, we are so caught up in our delusions. We are so caught up in our graspings. We are so caught up in our self- perceived ‘I’ and all that arises from it which is grasping, sensory perception, attachments, anger and hatred. We are so caught up in it and if we are told anything else, we will see that person or that doctrine as the enemy. We will see that as someone that disrupts, disturbs and destroys our peace of mind. Our false peace of mind.

Therefore, when we reach that point, we wish to escape from the Dharma. We wish to escape from the truth – Dharma or whatever we call as the truth. We wish to escape that truth. We wish to escape that meaning, that realization, that understanding and the institution along with the people, the doctrine and everything that has to do with it because it threatens our so-called false peace of mind. Why does it threaten our  peace-of-mind? Because that peace of mind that we have is being enraptured or caught up in our habituations, caught up with our sensory perceptions, caught up in our graspings, caught up in our good or bad or caught up in our prejudices and that all arises from self-grasping ‘I’. So, when we do that in one lifetime and after 2 lifetimes and after 3 lifetimes, it is very difficult to escape. Hence, a blind turtle coming up a hundred years and having a ring slip through its neck is a very good analogy of the rarity of our samsaric situation to practice. And once we get Dharma and we have a chance to become better, we should never ever let it go and go back to it.

Hence, the analogy of the blind turtle and having a ring go through his neck is the rarity of hearing the teachings, hearing the Dharma and hearing the truth. Remember, the Dharma is hearing the truth, not in the sense that Buddhist Dharma is the ultimate truth but Buddha taught the ultimate truth. So that means that in his teachings, you have the ultimate truth. There is possibility there are other teachers and other masters, other manifestations of the truth that may come under different labels, different people, different ideas and in different types of outer appearances, different dimensions or different planets. It’s possible but right now, we have the Buddha manifesting as the Buddha in our world and the Buddha speaking the universal truth.

I would like to re-iterate that this truth of  the self-grasping mind or the non-existent ‘I’ that creates the self-grasping mind that blinds us is not something Buddha made up or something that is indigenous of just Buddha’s perception. It is something that exists and because the Buddha became a Buddha by process of eliminating it, he was able to perceive it and to expound it and share with us. Therefore, when we come across such a rare doctrine, we should do everything we can – by fighting all the heavy torrential currents of the river, to go ‘upstream’ instead of ‘downstream’. That means to understand, practice and to put it into our minds because the chance is absolutely rare and it would not come again easily due to the explanation I just gave.  I hope this helps a little bit. Thank you very much.

Sarva Mangalam.

All auspiciousness to you.

Tsem Rinpoche

Worship by Fire – Fire Pujas

29 May


Kyabje Zong Rinpoche offering sticks into the fire – mouth of the deity. 

Here’s another set of teachings that Tsem Rinpoche recorded on his phone and sent to a few people including myself. It was all about fire pujas also known as Jinsek in Tibetan. It took me quite a bit of time to transcribe and edit it for your reading pleasure. Take time to read it as it has powerful Dharmic explanations in it.


In general, there are many types of deities which are a manifestation of various energies, realizations and the compassion of the Buddhas. These deities specifically emanate at a particular time for an individual or a group.

If someone solicits, prays or they have a difficult situation at that time, a Buddha will manifest in a particular form – color, shape, size, stance, facial expression and holding the necessary implements to overcome, subdue and purify that particular karma or ailment of that person. So, once that’s done, when other people do that puja, a lineage of pujas begins from there. So, one deity can have hundreds of different emanations and many different types of pujas as well. Each puja in these traditions may be slightly different but the effect is the same. It depends on which tradition you belong to.

Amongst all pujas, the fire puja is considered the king of all Pujas. It is the most powerful of all pujas within Tibetan Buddhism and its purpose is basically to remove all obstacles and its stains – drima to enlightenment. It is for purifying ordinary appearances,  ordinary unwholesome actions and especially for repairing broken pledges, promises and vows. Those are very strong causes for us to have negative doubts, delusions and negative ideas. The reason we have a lot of negative ideas and delusions towards something that is good for us for example, Dharma is because of the broken pledges and promises that we had in the past. Fire pujas purifies that when we do it continuously with faith and good samaya.

The fire pujas are performed with special ingredients. Special mandalas are constructed at the site and there are peaceful, increase, subjugation and forceful or wrathful fire pujas. The peaceful fire pujas are to remove inauspiciousness,  problems that might be coming to our lifespan, wisdom, wealth, growth of Dharma – hearing, contemplating and meditating on the Dharma. To pacify those problems that may come or delay those problems until we purify it. While, the increase fire pujas is to increase merit, health, lifespan, wisdom and spiritual wealth especially on the hearing, contemplation and application of the Dharma. The control fire pujas is to turn negative circumstances around in our favor as long as we have a good motivation. The last one mentioned is the wrathful fire puja and is only performed when the peaceful, increase and control fire pujas are not effective due to the powerful amount of karma we have. We use wrathful methods to overcome whatever obstacles and ailments obstructing us to growth, wealth, health and practice.

For example, some students in the past have done pujas and fire pujas for prolonging their life, for their parents – mothers and fathers and  after the puja was done, you can see that it made a difference. That’s very kind of the teacher to recommend that and for the student who does it as well. When the student does it for their parents, it alleviates their problems, increases their lives and even saves their lives in some cases. So we should always remember that kindness and that we should always try to increase the Dharma so that other people may receive that form of kindness as well. Therefore, fire pujas is very very effective in many ways when done accordingly with samaya.

So, in the past we can see fire pujas, long life pujas, pilgrimage pujas or recitation pujas can help our family, friends, loved ones and our children. There have been many cases  where children have passed their exams because of pujas. There are cases where fathers’ and mothers’ lives have been saved or increased or their health has improved. Never forget that kindness because it is rare that someone has the ability to do that for our parents through pujas. This can only come about by having a Dharma center, organization, with the Sangha and having people together creates a receptacle or a place where these powerful methods can be taught, practiced and be of further benefit to others. So, that’s very very important to do that.

Fire pujas is also specifically for purifying ordinary appearances, unwholesome actions, broken pledges, inauspicious circumstances and removing negative karma that obstruct us from doing our Dharma practice. The fire pujas are offered to 4 main objects of offerings. The first one is to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, deities (yidams), dakas, dakinis, arhats, shravakas, pratyakayas and highly accomplished arhats. Second set is offered to the worldly protectors and highly powerful beings in the area and then, the third is to all sentient beings and the last offering is made to spirits and hungry ghosts because they are always hungry, wandering, lonely and thirsty. So we give them some temporary relief.


Offering of a torma to Agni as thanksgiving for using the fire to invite the wisdom deity to abide in. 

In general, there are thirteen main ingredients. In different traditions, the ingredients may vary slightly but the meaning is pretty much the same. What we do is we generate the fire, purify it and invite the fire god Agni, make offerings to him and get permission from him to use the fire. We are not praying to him but asking for permission. After that, we remove Agni and then, within the fire, we generate the deity of the Yidam or the protector. So, if the fire puja is to White Tara, we generate White Tara or Vajrayogini or Yamantaka or a Dharma Protector. So, lets say that it is to a Dharma Protector, we invite the Dharma Protector to enter the fire. It is because the Dharma Protector is indestructible, arising from the full enlightened mind, he abides within the fire and he opens his mouth and we offer the purified offerings to him, of melted butter, sesame seeds, Tsa Durva grass, rice, rice with curd, kusha grass, mustard seed, barley which is unhusked barley, normal barley which is husked, lentils, wheat, sticks and finally all the ingredients mixed.

So, these are the 13 ingredients offered step-by-step. We recite the mantra of the deity, for example our Dharma Protector Setrap. We recite Om Maha Yaksha Tsa Soha and we place the offering into the fire or into the mouth of Setrap directly. This is considered very powerful and efficacious. The first offering, we offer melted butter, which represents the increase of lifespan, merit and prosperity. So, if our parents are sick when a fire puja was done and a lot of butter was offered to the yidam or the deity in order to increase the lifespan of our parents. So, when we stick with the Dharma, we assist our parents because only Dharma can change their karma for better things. So we can offer a lot of melted butter to the deity. That’s why the offerings should be abundant as much as possible. There’s no limit to increasing one’s lifespan so if we are doing it for a loved one – our parents, our beautiful mother, our sacred father, our children or whomever it is. You can even do this for your pets and it will increase their lives when we visualize the butter as a purified substance offered into the mouth of the deity itself. So, this is very important for all of us to do fire pujas at least once or twice a year for whatever purpose stated earlier.


A mandala of the deity is usually constructed out of sand on the spot where the fire puja is to take place

Number two, we offer sesame seeds. The sesame seeds removes non-virtues, negative karma, broken samaya, negative thought, negative speech and negative actions. We may think that we can  do and say as we want and if anybody say we can’t, they are infringing on us, they are judging us or they are being judgemental. That’s not true! All the Dharma books in the world talk about what we need to purify. They talk about the faults of our three poisons – ignorance, hatred and desire and how they afflict us and create problems for us. That’s not criticism. That’s giving you wisdom. So, we shouldn’t say “don’t judge me” or “don’t criticize me” because that is a barrier we create so we don’t hear the truth or we don’t deal with the truth. So, by offering purified sesame seeds, we remove non-virtues that create obstructions to our mind to perceive, understand, apply and operate from wisdom. It is by the power of wisdom that purifies our mind that operates from ignorance to receive,  hear and to be near wisdom or to be near a lama – Dharma. This doesn’t mean we will practice because we have karmas that obstruct it. Hence, offering the purified sesame seeds represents the  purification of non-virtues that obstruct us to higher attainments, higher thoughts, higher practice and growth.

The next one is Tsa Durva – grass and by offering that, we increase one’s lifespan. We increase it not to engage in negative actions but is meant to engage in positive actions. To be in the situation where there’s positive thoughts, actions, friends and information where we would do positive work in order to benefit ourselves and others. The next one is to offer rice. Offering rice is to increase merits. The more merits we have, the more understanding blossoms. The more understanding blossoms, the less confusion we have and the less confusion we have, the more we can progress on our spiritual practice and be of benefit to others.

The next one is rice with curd is offered to increase great happiness – Gewa Chenpo. Offering of rice with curd is to increase worldly happiness,  spiritual happiness and to gain the great bliss of a fully enlightened Buddha. The next one is Kusha grass, which is offered for protection. It is protection from negative influences from above, below, the 4 corners and the 4 intermediate directions – the 10 directions. The next one we offer is mustard seed. Mustard seed is offered to the deity purified in order to clear obstacles. This is obstacles of what we want to achieve, for example in KFR, we want to be of tremendous benefit to others, to get all of our permits and complete all of our construction work and have programs going and all that.

By offering unhusked barley, we create the causes for increasing wealth, material resources, necessities, food, clothing, properties, water, anything that we need to be of benefit to others. It is also anything our body needs in order to have a healthy strong life in order to be of benefit to others. So, offering unhusked barley increases wealth. The next one is the offering of husked barley. This offering is to gain rapid accomplishments. So, it is to gain rapid accomplishments of whatever practices, mantras, meditations, recitations, study, contemplation, application that we do from the Dharma. By offering barley, we create the causes and the karmic effects of gaining rapid accomplishments.

The next offering is lentils is to gain strength, which was what Kensur Rinpoche used to say “Thuk Chenpo”. To gain strength of body, mind and speech – to speak courageously about the Dharma no matter how we are criticized. It is to have a strong body and not be sick easy or not to be easily affected by negative elements. It is also to have the strength of mind – not to easily give up, not to find fault with others, situations or find others to be blamed. It is also to have the strength not to put the blame on others when we fail, give up or have doubts. This doubt comes from unethical behaviour or behaving unethically and saying it is ethical or justifying that it is ethical and thus creating the karma for us to always think negatively. Therefore, lentils is to gain great strength of body, speech and mind.

The next offering is wheat. Wheat is to overcome illness. Illness here is of the body and mind that we have to be purified and healed along with future illness. Next offering is that of sticks purified and buttered. These sticks are offered in order to gain high accomplishments – mental high states of being, thinking and status that is used in order to be of benefit to others. The last offering is mixed ingredients and offered to increase wisdom, study, understanding and strength to overcome our weaknesses. It increases the ability to practice and become a fully enlightened Buddha.

The whole purpose of Dharma is to become a fully enlightened Buddha. We can listen to all the Buddha’s teachings, our Guru’s teachings and we can consider it a scolding, criticism, judgement or we can take all the Buddha’s teachings and what the Guru tells and explains to us as wisdom. It is something for us to measure by because of everybody, whatever advice we give us contradicts our own projections and our own attachments. Whatever teachings that have been given to us, whatever wisdom or knowledge that have been given to us, we always see it as an attack on our attachments, we become defensive, we become angry, we say you are judging us but it is not the case. All the Dharma books, gurus, they are suppose to teach the Dharma. They are suppose to give us the Dharma. Our Guru cannot encourage us to go indulge, you know to create negative karma, drink, smoke, womanize and harm and lie and steal. Our Guru can’t do that. Our Guru is not suppose to do that and will not do that. So, if our Guru is teaching us the Dharma, our Guru is not our enemy but our friend. But sometimes when it comes to the face of our attachments, we see our Guru as the enemy but actually not.

So therefore, our Guru is not our enemy. If we really wanna say he’s our enemy, it’s the Dharma. The Guru is telling us the Dharma. For example, if a message has been given to us on a CD deck and we don’t like the message and we smash up the CD deck. The CD deck is not at fault. The CD deck is a vehicle for the Dharma to come through. You smash up the CD doesn’t matter also because the message is not the CD or the CD player but the message is from the person that is coming from. And that person is giving the message from knowledge or wisdom wherever it is obtained. So therefore, by smashing up the CD player all that, it will not help. Like that, if we criticize or we say negative things and we create problems for the teacher or the Dharma center because we don’t like what its told us. We feel it is judging us. That’s wrong view. Why is that wrong view? Because it is something that make us face our attachments which will create karma, which will definitely come back to us.

The Buddha cannot be wrong so therefore, it is giving us wisdom. It is giving us the measuring stick to check and to look at and to understand. Hence, when Pabongka Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche, Zong Rinpoche, when they give great teachings to thousands of monks in the monastery, they taught the same way. They told us what was wrong. They told us what was on our mind. They told us about wrong view. They told us about our attachments. They told us about our karma and its effects and what will happen and we didn’t feel it was scolding. We didn’t feel it was judgment. We saw it as wisdom. So therefore, the last one when we were offering the mixed items, it gives us the ability and blessings to realize advice and teachings that is part of the path to become a fully enlightened being.

So, fire pujas in that way is very effective and powerful if we do it continuously. Then, after all 13 ingredients have been offered, we make a final offering of the sensory items to the Buddha, Bodhisattvas and deities and especially to the deity that has been invited to abide within the wisdom fire. After that’s done, we have the deities return to the pure lands and then we make a final offering to the fire deity called Agni and thank him for using the fire. At the end, we conclude and dedicate and we leave the fire burning as long as possible. We don’t add anything to keep the fire burning and we don’t put it out either. If it rains on it, its fine. We can leave the fire burning until the next day and we can clean up. The fire pujas ashes can be used as relics. It can be placed into stupas, it can be worn, it can be scattered on the ground, it can be put on plants or it can be used  to bless the land. The person that is doing the fire puja must have gotten the initiation of the deity and perform the  sadhana daily without breaking and also have done the full retreat and have done the fire puja of the deity. Then, when they do the fire puja again and again. It is very effective.

So, I have requested these fire pujas to be done at our beautiful Kechara Forest Retreat to dedicate to all of our sponsors, friends, volunteers and students who have contributed a thousand dollars, a million dollars, a million hours, a million cleanups – sweeping, cooking – whatever they have done. Sponsors is not just money. It is everyone who have contributed. For all the meaning of the 13 ingredients to come true for all of them and for our existing students and future students to come. So, the fire pujas are also done to dedicate to all the hardworking students so that their Dharma, learning, meditation, practice and especially application of Dharma will increase. So, we are doing a lot of fire pujas on the Kechara Forest land so that in the future, whoever comes will be blessed, will feel peace, will have healing, will gain wisdom, will want to do Dharma and will be able to develop the inner higher attainments in order to become a fully attained being.