February 29, 2020, Avalokitesvara Group Practice
As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, people are getting uneasy and cautious at the same time. For the Avalokitesvara group practice on February 29, many disciples showcased their civic mindedness when they came to the session in their masks.
In fact, disciples generally make it a point to wash hands regularly, so as to protect themselves and others. This also ensures that Grandmaster has a safe environment to propagate the dharma and that everyone receives great blessings from Grandmaster, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. There is a modicum of happiness even in these trying times.
The True Buddha Foundation (TBF) is also aware of the needs of disciples in this difficult period. Hence, after the auspicious completion of the Avalokitesvara group practice, the TBF invited Living Buddha Lian-sheng to perform remote blessings on cards bearing the image of the Tara-who-saves-from-contagious-diseases and talisman to eradicate the plague.
Simultaneous webcast took place during which Grandmaster blessed the cards at Taiwan Lei Tsang Temple, Federal Tantric Buddhism Chen Foh Chong Malaysia, Hong Kong Lei Tsang Temple [Buddhism H.K. Lui Tsang Szu Ltd.], Indonesia Lei Tsang Temple [Vihara Vajra Bumi Nusantara], and Brazil Zhendi Lei Tsang Temple. The cards were printed for distribution by the temples.
Grandmaster's blessing was so all-encompassing that anyone with affinity was blessed; Grandmaster prayed that people remain healthy and safe from the COVID-19 disease.
After completing the blessing ritual, Grandmaster discoursed on the night's principal deity, Avalokitesvara. The Bodhisattva is known for her tens of billions of emanations, such as the Thousand-Armed-Thousand-Eyed Guanyin, Wish-fulfilling Guanyin, Horse-headed Guanyin and Cundi Guanyin. As Avalokitesvara can appear anywhere in any form, the whole of Tibet worships her wholeheartedly -- Tibet is the holy ground of Avalokitesvara. According to the Common Chapter, Avalokitesvara will appear in whatever form to preach to any sentient being, as long as it suits the sentient being and it is able to deliver him or her.
Grandmaster had expounded on the 11-faced Guanyin in the past. The 11 faces symbolize 11 grounds of the bodhisattva path. When one’s spiritual cultivation has reached beyond the 10th ground, one is considered a Buddha. Hence, Avalokitesvara was previously known as a Buddha with the name, "Tathagata Who Knows the True Dharma"; now, Avalokitesvara is known as Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva because she’s come to the saha world to deliver sentient beings. She is a great Bodhisattva.
Shangri-la's first king was an emanation of Manjushri; the second king was the White Lotus King. Their real identities? They are all emanations of Avalokitesvara. Ganesha is also an emanation of Avalokitesvara.
In Vajrayana, cross-emanations are well-known. Avalokitesvara is the attendant of Amitabha, and Amitabha himself has many emanations. For instance, White Padmakumara is an emanation of Amitabha, and therefore its original ground is Amitabha’s. Even Padmasambhava emanates from Amitabha. The Maha Cundi Buddha-Mother, one of the eight principal deities of True Buddha School, hails from the same family of Avalokitesvara. Padmakumara also comes from the same family of Avalokitesvara, which is also Amitabha’s. Vajra Protectors such as Hayagriva or Six-armed Mahakala are all emanations of Avalokitesvara.
The emanations of Avalokitesvara are therefore countless, and she has the perfect Four Immeasurables of loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity.
Loving-kindness means giving happiness to people; compassion pertains to eradicating suffering from people; joy refers to the undertaking of philanthropic activities based on one’s inclination [rejoicing in the welfare of others]; equanimity refers to equality, non-partiality and universal transformation. Hence, even to one’s enemies, one is able to practice loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity.
The spirit of Yeshe Tsogyal is similar to Avalokitesvara’s. According to Yeshe Tsogyal’s biography, an incident took place while she was practicing on the path of the Bodhisattva. A leper, who was abandoned by his wife, asked Yeshe Tsogyal if she could be his wife since he needed one, and since she was known to be able to give up anything. The Buddha-Mother sacrificed herself to become his wife in order to deliver him. Another story detailed a cripple approaching the Buddha-Mother and telling her that his doctor told him that he could walk again only if Yeshe Tsogyal’s knee-caps were fixed on his legs. Yeshe Tsogyal gave him her knee-caps and she became crippled instead. Hence, the spirit of Yeshe Tsogyal is the same as that of Avalokitesvara.
In the same way, Grandmaster is also willing to let go; life and death can be given up. If someone with COVID-19 were to come to him, he would bless him or her. Even if Grandmaster were to get infected in the process, he is fine by it as long as the patient can recover. Death is not a concern to Grandmaster. Grandmaster has the immeasurable equanimity of letting go.
Next, Grandmaster discoursed on the Lamdre.
According to the Lamdre, there are expedient and wisdom paths. Grandmaster said there must be two paths, because only then can there be development and completion stages [in spiritual cultivation].
The development and completion stages are represented by the Garbhadhatu and the Vajradhatu respectively. If there is no Garbhadhatu, then there won’t be Vajradhatu. If there is no spiritual cultivation, then there won’t be any attainment of Buddhahood. The same principles apply -- in Garbhadhatu, if there are no ordinary folks, then there won't be people becoming Buddha. This is because the development stage symbolizes the beginning of spiritual cultivation for an ordinary person. The completion stage represents the state where one is on the cusp of Buddhahood.
Mantras, visualizations, mudras, and samadhi are expedient methods. When a person achieves attainment, he or she can be said to be very near to the final path, also known as the wisdom path. After achieving true attainment, one can then abandon the expedient methods. However, one must remember that this attainment is foundational upon the expedient path, which also means that attainment comes from the development stage.
The Lamdre also mentioned inner demons. What is an inner demon? According to the Lamdre, it literally means “the owner of corpse-land”; in other words, it is the lead-ghost in a cemetery. For example, Vajra Protector Puba was initially the “owner of corpse-land” until Padmasambhava subjugated him. After that, Puba became a protector of Buddhas and Buddhism.
The Lamdre also stated the phrase, “protector gods of a boundary”. These are protector gods of a place, and examples include Mountain Gods and City Gods. They can cause hindrances to the practitioner [because the practitioner’s piercing radiance may cause discomfort and displeasure to them]. To eradicate these hindrances, the practitioner must offer what the gods like best. If he or she presents pleasing offerings, then he or she will get great powers. If the gods do not like what was presented to them, then they will cause hindrances.
Confucius said before, “Respect all gods and ghosts at a distance.” One may offer things to the gods and ghosts to make them happy so that they may render some help, but ultimately, one should believe only in Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and not in the ghosts and gods.
Inner demons can use beauty, fragrance, tastiness and touch to entice and mislead the practitioner. Therefore, the practitioner must be discerning and clear-headed. Sometimes, during meditation, inner demons come to cause hindrances to the practitioner such that he or she is unable to truly enter samadhi. Hence, one must remember the marks [to be used for discerning the real principal deities from the fake ones].
After gaining awakenment, one won't be misled by the ghosts and gods. One can offer something to the ghosts and gods, so that they can provide some assistance and not create hindrances. However, one must bear in mind that one cannot take refuge in ghosts and gods. One must take refuge only in the Root Guru (Vajra Archarya who has achieved attainment), Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
After the exciting discourse, Grandmaster bestowed the refuge-taking initiation on the new disciples. He also blessed the compassionate water and performed the consecration ritual on the Buddha statues and images. Before leaving the temple, Grandmaster touched the crown of every disciple in turn. May all wishes come true.