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Dharma Talk > Discourses on the Great Perfection Dharma

4. Garab Dorje - The First Human Teacher of Dzogchen, Born to a Buddhist Nun-Princess Through Immaculate Conception

2013-06-15 Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple
(Given at Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple, Redmond, Washington, USA on June 15, 2013 after group practice of Amitabha Sadhana. Translated and edited by Janny Chow, Proofread by Christine Chan)

With reverence, we first pay homage to Reverend Liaoming, His Eminence Sakya Zhengkong Rinpoche, His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa, Vajra Acharya Thubten Dargye, the Three Jewels at the shrine, and Amitabha Tathagata, the founder of the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss (Sukhavati).

Shimu, masters, dharma instructors, reverends, dharma lecturers, dharma assistants, directors of local chapters, fellow school members, and students from across the internet. Our guests of honor today are: Mr. Ambassador Daniel Liao and Mrs. Liao dharma sister Judy, True Buddha Foundation's accountant dharma sister Teresa, TBF's legal adviser Attorney Zhou Huifang and her son, dharma sister Xu Yaqi, producer of the Taiwan CTI television program ''Light the Lamp in Your Heart,'' Professor Yeh Shuwen of National Pingtung University of Science and Technology and her son, dharma sister Huang Xiulin who is the president of the Seattle branch of the Global Federation of Chinese Business Women, Dr. Lin Shuhua, and the California four big mothers. Thank you. Greetings to everyone.

Our group practice this evening was the Amitabha Sadhana. Did anyone notice the sun today? Someone took a photograph revealing a halo around the sun. Today is not my birthday yet, so this is an early sign. There is special meaning in this ring of light which I will explain in a little while.

Amitabha is my Yidam, and he is also the head of the lotus family. Hence lotuses are everywhere in Sukhavati, the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss - lotus ponds with the water of eight merits and other kinds of lotuses. Padmakumaras have manifested from the water of eight merits and lotuses. Padmasambhava, the lineage guru of Tantrayana Buddhism, was also born from a lotus. This is why he is known as the Lotus-Born. There is a saying in China: Every family chants Amitibha and enshrines Guanyin (Avalokitesvara) in the home. Actually, Guanyin and Amitabha are together, as well as Dashizhi (Mahasthamaprapta). People just don't chant the epithet of Dashizhi as often. Images of the Three Saints of Western Pure Land usually depict Amitabha in the middle with Guanyin to his right and Dashizhi to his left. Guanyin manifests in many forms, hence everyone recognizes her and not Dashizhi. In the Pure Land School, there is also (a chapter from the Surangama Sutra) known as Mahasthmaprapta Bodhisattva Universal Chanting and it shows Dashizhi also advocating the chanting of Buddha's name. Hence, the Pure Land School advocates chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha as a means to rebirth to Sukhavati. The Pure Land School reveres three sutras and one shastra (treatise explaining an earlier sutra): Amitabha Sutra, Infinite Life Sutra, Larger Sutra on Amitabha, and Discourse on Rebirth to Sukhavati (Sukhavati-vyuhopadesa). Many other scriptures also mention Amitabha.

Nowadays when monks and nuns greet people, they join palms and say Amituofo.
When we say ''Amituofo,'' it is important that we pronounce the first syllable ''ah'' in an uplifting tone. When we seek rebirth to Sukhavati, the chanting of Amituofo should lift up our moods. Movies historically portrayed monks greeting one another by accentuating the second syllable of Amitabha's name. This, on the other hand, conveys a sensation of falling downward. Many monks now still say ''eh-Mee-tuofo'' and this is incorrect. Pronunciation is very important. Many people chant the Sanskrit mantra ''OM AH HUM'' incorrectly as ''OM eh HUM''. ''So Ha'' also has been corrupted and become ''So Po he.'' That has deviated very far from the original. Of course, Grand Master's pronunciations are not very standard either, since I have Taiwanese as well as Mandarin and Cantonese accents. Regardless, you understand my meaning. Amitabha is the founder of Sukhavati. The entire Pure Land School, a very large school, advocates the chanting of Amituofo. We used to refer to it as an ''easy path'' because one could attain rebirth to Sukhavati through reliance on Amitabha's power. This is of course a very convenient path. However, it will only take you to a mid-way station in the Pure Land, which is nonetheless a non-receding station. This is very good too because you will definitely attain Buddhahood if you do not turn back.

In Sukhavati, there are nine levels of lotus-births. I mentioned before that there were originally twelve levels. There is a description of how the twelve levels became nine in the novel Investiture of the Gods. In the story, there was a Mother Turtle Spirit whose head was cut off and the severed head transformed into many harmful germs, like the kind causing Avian Influenza. Amitabha then gave Padmakumara a cloth bag and said, ''Go down into the world to retrieve all those germs.'' When White Padmakumara came down into the world and saw all the germs from the Mother Turtle Spirit, he opened his bag and gathered all the germs before tying it up again. On his way back to Sukhavati, White Padmakumara stopped to admire the scenery ''Wow! What a beautiful samsara! Such nice mountains and waters!'' Distracted, White Padmakumara put down the bag. As a result, some of the germs escaped. To where did those germs fly? Because they were close to Sukhavati, the germs flew there and consumed the lower three strata of the twelve levels of lotus-births. Thus, nine levels of lotus-births remain.

It was an unexpected turn of events that three of the twelve levels of lotus-births were consumed by the germs of the Mother Turtle Spirit. This is probably one of the reasons White Padmakumara had to descend and incarnate into the world, bringing all the Padmakumaras with him. But, having nine levels left is not bad: the top three levels, the middle three levels, and the lower three levels remain.

A wife said to her husband, ''Honey, I saw the most beautiful handbag today. It is so stylish and has such beautiful color!'' She continued describing the bag in detail. Her husband said, ''Just get to the point. No need to talk so much.'' The wife then said, ''It costs thirty thousand US dollars.'' Thus, I shall not digress and will stick to the main points regarding Amitabha. There are two main points. First, you must abide in a mind of one-pointedness. The most important teaching about the Amitabha Sutra is to chant the Buddha epithet with a focused mind. If your mind is scattered, then chanting will not work. Actually, much of your chanting does not bring results. Why? Because your mind is distracted. Some dharma teachers suggest that chanting with an unfocused mind is better than not chanting at all. Most of the time, your mind has drifted elsewhere while you are still chanting: ''Amitofuo! Amituofo! …'' Upon hearing a thunderclap, you may be startled and chant aloud ''Amituofo!'' This last one is for real. So, sometimes even in distraction there are moments of concentration.

Here is a story. An old lady devoted herself to chanting the name of Amitabha. Each time after chanting Amituofo, she would put a seed into a bucket. Finally, she met up with the Yama King. The Yama King asked her, ''How much chanting have you done?'' She said, ''A lot. Look at this bucket.'' The Yama King put his hand into the bucket and as soon as he grabbed the seeds, they crumbled into powder. ''You have chanted in vain.'' There was however one seed that remained firm and did not crumble. It turned out that on one occasion, there was a thunderclap as she was chanting, and for that one moment she called out to Amitabha with a focused mind. Again, I have digressed, but we should indeed keep our mind focused when chanting mantras or sutras. When your mind is not distracted, your chanting will definitely be empowered with brilliant radiance.

There is a saying posted in many monasteries: ''You may want to move waters in many rivers, but you should never disturb the mind of a spiritual practitioner.'' This is very important. We have many monks and nuns in our temple. A female lay practitioner coming to the temple may cause a monk to become amorous with her, or a tall and handsome man visiting the temple may cause a nun to think, ''What a tall and handsome man! Why did I become a nun?'' These are examples of disturbing the mind of spiritual practitioners. On the other hand, if a spiritual practitioner's mind can be so easily disturbed, then he or she is not a true practitioner either. A spiritual practitioner should train himself to become single-minded, so that he always is mindful of his Yidam under any circumstance. Amitabha, Golden Mother of Jade Pond, and Ksitigarbha are always in my heart. Hence, no matter what you are doing, always be mindful of your Yidam watching over you in the empty space. Regardless of any situation, your Yidam is forever there, inside your body, in the empty space, and surrounding you. This is to keep your mind focused from distractions.

As a practitioner, be mindful of your Yidam when carrying out all daily activities: eating, dressing, lounging, walking, receiving education, and having a good time. This way you will not break the precepts. Eating provides an opportunity to perform the ritual of deliverance and mandala offering. Dressing provides an opportunity for armor protection. When lounging, perform a demarcation ritual to transform your living area into a sacred space. When walking, engage in diligent chanting of the name of Buddha or mantras. When you are at school, studying or listening to dharma teachings, visualize the Yidam in the empty space together with you. When you are at your happiest moments, be mindful of your Yidam. This is true practice. We will stop here with our talk on Amitabha today.

We will continue with the discourse of the Nine Stages of Great Perfection. I will introduce the first guru of the Nine Stages of Great Perfection in the human world: Garab Dorje. He was born in the kingdom of Urgyen. His birth was quite miraculous. At the time, a daughter of a king was Buddhist and had taken vows to become a bhiksuni. At that time in India, she was known as a brahman woman. While devoting herself to spiritual practice, she dreamt of a crystal stupa and the descent of a Buddha Light. A buddha held the crystal stupa over her head to give her an empowerment three times. A white sparkling beam of pure light entered her body. This was a princess and an unmarried Buddhist nun and yet she became pregnant. This was a troubling matter. Many miracles and mysteries accompanied the birth of most of the lineage gurus. You cannot separate religion from miracles. A religion sans miracles is not a religion. This Buddhist nun was in the same situation as Mary, mother of Jesus, who became pregnant while still a virgin. Her belly got bigger and bigger.

A lord in the Trayastrimsha Heaven by the name of Double Fire had a son, Semlhag Chen, who was the eldest among the five hundred devas. In my last discourse, I talked about Semlhag Chen receiving the empowerment of Dzogchen from Vajrapani and doing the practice in the deva realm. Later, he incarnated into the human world and was born of the bhiksuni. When the nun who was very pure suddenly found herself with child, she felt very ashamed and decided to get rid of the baby after he was born. So, she secretly carried the baby to a pit inside a cave and abandoned him there. After some time, she went back to see if the baby had starved to death, and to her surprise, the baby was still alive and smiled at her. At that moment, a holy spirit appeared and told her that the baby was an incarnation of a holy saint, and she must take him home to raise him. Recognizing that this was true, the nun brought the baby home. Her father, the king, also believed that the child was a holy saint and gave him the name Prahevajra (Garab Dorje), meaning Vajra of Ultimate Bliss. This was a miracle in ancient India, not as well-known as Jesus Christ whom everyone knows.

Chen Quanfang has told this joke before. A woman gave birth in a hospital and the obstetrician congratulated her, ''Congratulations! You have given birth to a son. Share this good news with your husband.'' The woman said, ''I don't have a husband.'' When the obstetrician heard that, he then said, ''Ah, then share this good news with your boyfriend.'' The woman said, ''I do not have a boyfriend.'' ''Oh?'' The doctor did not know what to say. Finally, he said, ''In that case, congratulations to you! The second Jesus has been born.'' How did the nun, who did not have a husband or boyfriend, conceive? Good thing the holy spirit appeared to tell her that the baby was incarnated from a holy saint, and the king also believed this and named him Garab Dorje.

When Garab Dorje was seven years old, he was able to debate with five hundred panditas who were learned masters in India and won. He was very gifted. Later, he decided to travel to a place called Sun Light Mountain to pursue spiritual practice. Well, that brings us back to the ring of light surrounding the sun today. That halo represents Garab Dorje, because I am talking about him today. He remained in the Sun Light Mountain meditating until he was thirty-two years old. Then Vajrapani appeared before him and uncovered the terma of the Nine Stages of Great Perfection placed in his mind-stream. Once that was revealed, he attained realization completely: ''Oh! So I have already learned and practiced this Nine Stages of Great Perfection while I was still in the celestial realm.'' So, at the age of thirty-two at Sun Light Mountain, he suddenly attained Buddhahood. This bright light around the sun manifested today was what he had achieved while practicing in the Sun Light Mountain. So today, a great sun in the sky emanates the light of Garab Dorje.

When I gave the discourse of the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, there was a manifestation of six black footprints in the sky above the Taiwan Lei Tsang Temple. When I announced that I would teach the Long Eyebrow Arhat, two strips of long eyebrow-like clouds appeared in the sky. Tomorrow I will confer the Acala (an emanation of the Great Sun Tathagata) Empowerment. One of the mudras of Acala is the Four Verticals and Five Horizontals. Yesterday evening, in the sky there was the manifestation of a cloud in the formation of four vertical and five horizontal lines. Where else can you find such a cloud formation? Nowhere else. Today I am talking about Garab Dorje, and the Sun Light Mountain appeared in the sky. I will talk about Acala's mudra of four vertical and five horizontal lines tomorrow. These are very remarkable signs.

Lately our fellow students have encountered many miracles. Take dharma brother Hung from Edmonton for example. Please stand up. Upon learning that I had cured my illness after traveling to Korea to circumambulate around the Medicine Buddha, he decided to emulate me. He traveled to Japan to circumambulate around the Buddhist temples and pagodas there. When I saw the statue of the Medicine Vaidurya Light Buddha in Korea, I performed a full body prostration. Medicine Buddha revealed himself to me, and I knew then that I would recover from my illness. Dharma brother Hung from Edmonton also went to pay homage to the Medicine Kings Temple in Japan. The Medicine Kings are Medicine Vaidurya Light Tathagata, Medicine King Bodhisattva, Medicine Superior Bodhisattva, Sunlight Bodhisattva, and Moonlight Bodhisattva. Later that night, he had a dream wherein Grand Master, not Medicine Vaidurya Light Buddha, appeared to him. Grand Master inserted many acupuncture needles into his back. Soon after that dream, the back pain he had suffered for fifteen years completely disappeared (audience applause). Was this true? (Dharma brother Hung replied, ''Yes!'') Will you please stand up to show everyone that this did happen. He told me these events and also told many others. This was a miracle! Grand Master transforming into the Medicine King to perform acupuncture! Actually, I don't know acupuncture. I could do that in dreams, but I cannot do it in reality because I don't have a license in oriental medicine nor acupuncture. Someone asked, ''Do you know how much I make a year? My annual salary is eight million dollars.'' ''What do you do to make eight million dollars a year?'' ''I dream.'' Of course, you can make as much as you like in your dreams. Dharma brother Hung was healed in a dream, and that is also a form of spiritual response.

After my return (to the United States) this time, I saw that my granddaughter, whose face used to be round and pretty, was now gaunt and her entire body covered in rashes. She has skin allergies! I felt very sorry for her. Why did she have all these allergies? Also, my grandson is ten years old, but he looks so small. Will he grow taller little by little? It is strange as it seems he has not grown! Could he have taken after his grandfather? Don't take after me! I have been suffering this disadvantage for very long. He is handsome but short. So, I worry about them. Last week, they came to stay overnight at our house, and I grabbed both of them, Lu Jun and Lu Hong, and brought them to kneel down before Golden Mother of Jade Pond. They were both in this posture, palms joined and laughing. I told them, ''Don't laugh! This is official business, I am going to ask the Golden Mother to bless you both.'' I prayed to the Golden Mother to empower my grandson to grow taller little by little and my granddaughter to be healed from her allergies. Using the Four Vertical and Five Horizontal Mudra to turn some water into the Golden Mother water, I gave each a cup to drink. I also gave them special blessings and the power was so great that both of them were vibrating. They called out, ''Ah Gong! Ah Gong!'' And I said, ''Blessing, Blessing!'' A week later, I inquired Fo-chi about Lu Jun's skin allergy. He said, ''Oh! It is half gone.'' Her skin allergy was so severe that she had red, oozing rashes all over. Now it is finally drying up and the redness slowly disappearing. If this healing continues, in a year, her skin will become very fair. After a year, all traces of the rash will completely disappear. Some say it will take several months only. Children's skin heals faster than adults'. I hope she will heal little by little until all rash are gone. As for my grandson, it has only been a week, so how much taller can he grow in a week? So, I can't say anything about him yet. But we can see improvements in my granddaughter in a week. This is also a miracle! Does anyone have any miracles to share? Oh! Okay, pass the microphone around in the audience.

(A dharma sister said: Greetings to you, Grand Master. On June 1st, I asked Master Lianzhe to bring a photograph of my granddaughter to Grand Master for a blessing. She had eczema on both her cheeks. After the blessing from Grand Master on June 1st, a photograph from June 3rd shows that the red rashes disappeared.)

Wow! There are many instances like this in our True Buddha School. There were red rashes on her cheeks (as shown in the photograph). Another photograph taken two days later showed that the rash had completely healed (audience applause). Congratulations! This is wonderful. Chen Quanfang also had a similar experience. She told me the other day that her kneecap was painful, ''Grand Master, please touch my knee.'' I patted her knee once. That same evening, the pain was gone. That pain had bothered her for a very long time. Since patting her knee two weeks ago, the pain has not recurred (audience applause). Is there anyone else? Please pass her the microphone.

(A dharma sister said: I have never testified before, but I must share this with everyone this time. My first cousin told me in March that he had been diagnosed with late stage liver cancer. I was very worried when I learned the news. I immediately telephoned and faxed this information to Master Lianzhe of True Buddha Diamond Temple. Master Lianzhe lit a candle for three consecutive days for my cousin, and he suggested I fax a supplication to Grand Master who was at the Taiwan Lei Tsang Temple at that time. I have a copy of my fax to Grand Master as proof. It was an urgent situation because he was going to be operated on in two days and his cancer was already late stage. After sending the fax, I prayed to Grand Master to compassionately bless my cousin.
Two or three days later, when I telephoned home, they told me that my cousin had a successful surgery. I was very happy. Since my family was busy taking care of him during his recovery, I did not have a long talk with them for some time. About one month later, when I called home again, my cousin's wife told me that she personally had seen His Holiness Living Buddha Lian-sheng appearing at the hospital to help my cousin. Thank you, Grand Master. I am very grateful to you for saving my cousin.) (audience applause)

Very well! Very well! Let us continue with Garab Dorje. After attaining enlightenment, he began delivering sentient beings. He went first to the charnel ground, which was an above-ground site for putrefaction of bodies in India. Bodies were left there for birds and insects to feed on, kind of like the Tibetan sky-burials. In sky-burials, the flesh is sliced off and tossed into the sky to be fed to the vultures. In the charnel grounds in India, most corpses were wrapped in cloth and deposited there. So, the entire charnel ground was a very scary place. At the same time the charnel ground was the best place for cultivation as it was also a place where dakas and dakinis gathered. Very strange! It was a different culture. It was a place of horror, yet most practitioners gathered there because they wanted to be mindful of the fact that one day they would also die and be left there. Such surroundings spurred one to be more diligent in practice and to let go of love, hatred, bank accounts, cars, houses, beautiful wives and mistresses, etc. At that time, many practitioners converged at the charnel grounds, and many listened to Garab Dorje who had gone there to disseminate the teachings of the Nine Stages of Great Perfection. Finally, Manjushrimitra, the second human guru of the Dzogchen lineage appeared one day. When Manjushrimitra went to hear the Nine Stages of Great Perfection teachings, he was well liked by Garab Dorje. After receiving empowerment from Garab Dorje, Manjushrimitra stayed with his guru for more than seventy years. Garab Dorje was thirty-two years old when he attained enlightenment and went to the charnel ground. Since Manjushrimitra stayed with him for over seventy years, did Garab Dorje live to over a hundred years old? Very few Indians lived over a hundred years then. In fact, one year in India was equivalent to half a year of our time today. So, Manjushrimitra actually stayed with Garab Dorje for thirty years. Some people say Shakyamuni Buddha had taught the dharma for forty-nine years, when it was most likely twenty-five years in our time. It has been said that Shakyamuni Buddha lived to over eighty years old, but that may not have necessarily been the case. It was very likely closer to sixty something years of age.

After passing the lineage of the Nine Stages of Great Perfection to the second guru - Manjushrimitra, Garab Dorje then entered nirvana. His entire physical body disappeared and transformed into a rainbow which soared into the sky. This kind of nirvana was very remarkable. Padmasambhava also entered nirvana the same way. His body also transformed into a rainbow and ascended into the empty space and disappeared. That was how Garab Dorje, the first human master of Dzogchen, concluded his life. Tomorrow I will talk about the second master Manjushrimitra.

Om Mani Padme Hum.
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