Rinpoche gave this audio teaching to a few people of the puja team – about the significance of doing pujas (literal translation: a set of rituals and prayers done to remove obstacles).
Alternatively, read the full transcript below.
When we see people have problems, when we see people suffering and having difficulties, we ourselves do not have a lot of ability to help and to assist. We ourselves do not have much wisdom, we don’t have any power, we don’t have any effect, we’re not doctors, we’re not psychologists, we’re not healers. Right now we’re not.
So it’s very hard when we see other people suffer from sickness, suffer from obstacles, suffer from pain or suffer from losing something, or suffer from a loss, a death of a pet or a family. We suffer a lot and they suffer a lot. But you see, this suffering is an energy. This suffering is an energy that can be lust, that can be hate, that can be anger, that can be giving, that can be helping. It’s just an energy and how we direct it is up to us.
So when we see someone that we love and we care about, or other people – a centre member, our friend or anyone – and they need help, our heart goes out to them. Our heart going out to them and our energy put into sorry for them can be directed better. It can be directed in a form of a puja.
What is a puja? I’m not giving you the literal translation. A puja is an expression of your compassion for another person, another being. A puja is an expression, an action, a direct initiative to do something for someone who has an obstacle, who has a problem, who has a difficulty, who has some kind of pain or sickness or fear.
And so, to watch these people have fear and pain and suffering and difficulties, and we don’t do something about it doesn’t make us a better person, doesn’t help our spiritual practice, doesn’t make our minds become enlightened or open up. To do something for them is very, very correct way of opening our minds up – practising emotional generosity, expressing compassion, expressing care.
Why? Because the pujas that you guys are practising are not made up. They’re not ineffective and they’re based on an enlightened Being; in today’s case, Medicine Buddha and last time, you practised Tara. These days, Tara and Medicine Buddha really have a lot of effect, they really have a lot of blessings, they really have a lot and a lot of power to help.
So what happens is that we who do the pujas become a gateway, become a connection to help that person. So instead of just looking at someone and saying, “Oh, poor thing, poor thing; Oh poor this, poor that”, if the child is suffering from whatever reasons and they can’t do well in their studies, they’re going to fail and they can’t move on in their studies, if we do a Manjushri puja for them, it is an expression of our concern and our care; and it has energy and it will bless that person.
If that person is very sick – same thing, we do a Medicine Buddha puja and we can expedite or quicken their healing. So a puja is an expression of our care, our initiative and our sincere concern for another being.
So when people ask you what is a puja, you say not the literal translation (because the literal translation is “to clear obstacles”). But the human definition, the human meaning of puja from my point of view is an expression of your compassion; an expression of your care.
So when you do puja in that way, it is very effective. Why? Any action that is preceded by or motivated by compassion or Bodhicitta has much more effect. Any action we do that is motivated by any form, any level, any amount of Bodhicitta or compassion has more power. Why is that? Two reasons:
- When it is motivated by Bodhicitta or compassion, you are tapping into your real mind, your Buddha nature. When you tap into your Buddha nature, you push yourself to become a Buddha – very effective for yourselves.
- A second reason is when you’re motivated by compassion and care, that is the main ingredient for Dharma practice. So for Dharma practice to have effect, our mind must be free of selfishness. Selfishness and Dharma does not match; selfishness and Dharma protector practice doesn’t match; selfishness and Medicine Buddha doesn’t match; selfishness and Manjushri doesn’t match. Selfishness and Dharma practice doesn’t match.
Why selfishness and Dharma practice cannot mix
Hence if we do selfishness with Dharma practice, even after 10, 20 years, there’s not much result. Why not much result? Because our mind is still selfish. So selfishness here is not good or bad. It is a ingredient that must be removed from the soup, until the soup tastes good.
Therefore, if you do Dharma work with selfishness, it’s harmful for yourself! It’s not effective for others. Why is it harmful for yourself? Because even though you’re practising something so good from great Lamas, after so many years, you have no results, very little result – it’s harmful because you waste your time. You receive something so great, but you cannot…
Like a hungry ghost who, even if you give them very good food, their mouth is the size of a pin. They cannot fit it in, even if you give them such nice food. It cannot fit. Even a little bit, they have to squeeze it in like that. That’s really a hungry ghost.
And when the hungry ghost takes the food and it goes down their long, thin, grey neck, when it comes to their stomach, it burns like gastric. It burns and burns and burns – in fact, the food creates pain. Why? They have the karma to experience that.
So therefore, if you do Dharma work, Dharma practice, Dharma meditation, Dharma anything with selfish motivation or innate selfishness, the effect is very little. Why is it very little? Because Dharma and selfishness is the opposite.
If you have oil and you put a wick on top and you want to light it, but you keep putting water, it will burn out. Even if you have oil, it will burn out. Even if there is oil in the lamp, if you put water, the water mixes with the wick and the fire has to go out even if there is still oil.
So oil is like Dharma – it can light up a room. You can open up the oil, you put a wick on top, floating (like in Chinese temples), and you light it; it lights up and you can see things in a dark room. But if you keep putting water, the light goes out, even if there is oil.
So water is like selfish motivation in this case; oil is like Dharma. Hence, if you have oil and you can light and you can see, why do you need to move around in the dark like this? Why you keep putting water?
Similarly, if you do Dharma work, people think, “How come I do my sadhanas for so many years, I do my mantras for so many years and I do Tsok, and I don’t have any power and in fact, my mind becomes more lazy and worse?” Because you haven’t removed the main ingredient – selfishness.
If selfishness never gets removed, how many years do you have left to your life? How many years? Aren’t you afraid of your death? Aren’t you afraid to be alone and close your eyes and no one can help you? Aren’t you afraid of what you’re going to see after death?
If you are selfish and you cover your actions, it means you’re afraid people know you’re selfish. But you know what? People knowing you’re selfish is quite scary but what’s even more scary is when you die and your selfishness comes back to you. That’s very scary.
So hence, if you’re selfish, your Dharma work cannot get results. So two options: (1) get rid of Dharma work and be selfish or (2) get rid of selfishness and do Dharma work. Of course, it has to be number 2. Very simple. The more selfish we are, the more ineffective our practice is. The more water we put into the oil, the less we can light.
So therefore, instead of thinking of how to get how to get rid of selfishness, instead of blaming, instead of hiding, instead of avoiding, we should just stop the selfishness. You see, if you just stop the selfishness, you win.
Why? You don’t have to put energy to hiding, to avoiding, to defending, to protecting your ego. You don’t have to. Why? Put the energy towards cutting your selfishness out, not toward covering selfishness! Both ways is energy; both ways, you have to use your petrol.
So therefore, it’s time for us to wake up and do something now. Now! Why? What are we waiting for? What result are we waiting for? What time, what year are we waiting for? How many years do we need to wait? How many years? When we started Dharma 10 years ago, 20 years ago we said we’re going to do Dharma.
And then we start and we go, “Oh, it’s difficult, I’ll do it next year. Oh, now I have work, I’ll do it 2 years from now. Oh, when I’m 30 or 40, I’ll do it.” And then we keep making time to delay the real, actual Dharma practice. And what happens? When we look back, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years are gone.
And a lot of these people who ran away from Dharma, they run away from themselves because they’ve been running and running and running, so when they face the real Dharma, they run again. Why do they have to run? Because they never create the causes to face themselves. Never. How do you know that? Where there’s smoke there’s fire.
So you use an example like this: because they’re not successful in any part of their life. Because they’re not successful in any part of their life, you know when they’re running away from Dharma, they’re running away from themselves. If they’re very successful in other parts of their life and they run away, okay… maybe there is something else involved.
So let’s say that Beng Kooi just works a normal job, she cannot get married, she doesn’t have many friends, people don’t like her and then she joins Dharma. After 5 or 6 years, she runs away. She says, “Oh, Rinpoche’s bad, the Dharma students are bad, the Ladrang’s bad, KH is bad, Yoke Fui is bad, this is bad, that is bad.” They run and tell other people that. Fine. Stupid people listen and say, “Oh, maybe it’s true huh…”
Smart people say, “Wait a minute… but you didn’t do much with your life. Your don’t have many things in your life.” So if you keep saying it’s bad maybe the problem is not Dharma; maybe the problem is you. Why is it you? Because why is it that you fail at everything? You can think that way. My point? This is not criticism for people who left.
This is for us to examine by logic about ourselves – how we run away.