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The Dragon King Treasure Vase Practice Teachings

by Living Buddha Lian-Shen

April 10, 1992 in Los Angeles, California

Good evening masters and fellow cultivators.
I am very happy, of course, to be in Los Angeles — mainly because I get to see all of you. [applause] Of course, now that I have seen all of you, I already feel very happy, [applause] so there is no need to give any teaching. [audience laughter] Actually, all our minds are connected, and you probably already know what I have to say. This is "like minds are psychically connected." Psychic Response of The Dragon King Treasure Vase Practice

The liturgy for the Dragon King Treasure Vase Practice [edited by the Mui Yin Tong], which we just followed, was very complete. It could be described as perfect. During the group cultivation, the spiritual energy was very strong and everyone should have been able to feel it. Many spiritual entities have descended, including the Dragon Kings.

I remember the last time I came to Los Angeles — it was last year, wasn’t it? There was a drought. After the ceremony, there was a rainstorm and flood. [audience laughter] Sometimes it is not good when the Dharma power is too strong. [audience laughter] Therefore, a moderate power should be better. How has the rainfall in Los Angeles been lately? [One student replied that the rainfall had been very heavy.] Oh, too much rain! Let us ask the Dragon King to hold back! [audience laughter] There must not be any rain tomorrow, as we are going to have an outdoor fire puja. After the fire puja, we can have a little bit of rain. A light rainfall is heartwarming; that is what is called "A Little Bit of Rain." [audience laughter and applause. Editor’s note: this is the name of a popular Chinese song.] Personal Visit to the Dragon King Palace

We know that the Dragon King Sutra As Taught By Buddha Shakyamuni records the teaching of Buddha Shakyamuni when he visited the Dragon King Palace. When Buddha Shakyamuni was teaching at the Spiritual Vulture Peak, the Dragon King invited the Buddha and his disciples to visit his palace. At that time, the water separated to reveal a crystal stairway leading from the edge of the ocean all the way to the Dragon King Palace. This was the first time Buddha Shakyamuni went to the Dragon King Palace with his disciples. The second visit to the Dragon King Palace was made by Nagarjuna, and it also took place in India.

Well, who made the third visit to the Dragon King Palace? I won’t say who. [laughter; students replied, "It was Grand Master!"] You already know! [audience laughter] This is what I meant by a psychic connection! [audience laughter]

The Secret of the syllable "Mi"
Actually there is one secret I would like to tell you. The mantra of the Dragon King as recorded in the Dragon King Sutra is different from the mantra we employ in our Dragon King Treasure Vase Practice. Why do we use a different mantra? The last syllable in our mantra, "Mi," is a collective name for all dragons, whereas the mantra mentioned in the Dragon King Sutra refers to only a few Dragon Kings. When I went to the Dragon King Palace, the Dragon King himself told me that, in order to include every dragon in this mantra, the syllable "Mi" has to be used.

Now, how about this mudra that we form? If one is familiar with the original Sanskrit, one knows that this hand gesture (#) is the Sanskrit for "Mi," that is, dragons.

The Dragon King Treasure Vase Practice which is practiced in other schools uses a different mantra and mudra. In our practice, we use "Mi" because it is the collective term for all dragons and this (#) shaped mudra is the Sanskrit "Mi."

There are secrets in our Dragon King Treasure Vase Practice and I am, perhaps, the only person who truly understands them. In the history of the world there are probably only three people who understand these secrets. Buddha Shakyamuni is one; Nagarjuna is one; and I am the other one. [applause]

I do not know of anyone else who has visited the Dragon King Palace. I do know that some people made their way to the Dragon King Palace [by jumping into the sea], but they never came back! [audience laugher] Only three people could make their way back and of these, I am the only one [presently] who knows the secrets of the dragons.

The Dissemination of Tantra by Nagarjuna
Who is Nagarjuna? Nagarjuna is Buddha Shakyamuni! [applause]

Nagarjuna is the reincarnation of Buddha Shakyamuni. In Buddha Shakyamuni’s time, Tantra was not widely taught by the Buddha. However, when Buddha Shakyamuni returned to the Great Thunder Sound Temple in the Western Pureland, the Dharma Body of the Tathagata declared: "Though Buddha Shakyamuni has already achieved Enlightenment in samsara and become the founder of Buddhism, he has only taught the Sutric Pathway and not the Tantric Pathway. It is therefore necessary for the Buddha to be born in the human world one more time, to transmit and spread the teaching of the Tantra." Therefore, Buddha Shakyamuni reincarnated again in India, became Nagarjuna, and widely spread the teaching of Tantra.

Nagarjuna was the head of the eight schools in India. However, his principal accomplishment was to open the Iron Tower in South India where he met personally with Vajrasattva, to receive the teaching of Tantra directly from Vajrasattva. Nagarjuna then transmitted Tantra to the sentient beings in samsara. This is a great secret. It also means that both the Sutra and Tantra were transmitted to us by Buddha Shakyamuni. [applause] Today only Sheng-yen Lu can reveal and explain both this secret and this truth. [applause] The One Hundredth Book

You all know that I have just finished writing my one hundredth book. I mentioned earlier during dinner that, with the completion of the one hundredth book, the responsibilities of this life of mine have come to a rest. What am I going to do in the future? Well, from now on, I can take things easy! [laughter] What does this mean? I don’t know yet all that it encompasses but, as I discussed with you during dinner, I know that it means that from now on I shall feel more relaxed and do more as I please.

I don’t plan to teach a new practice to you during this visit. In fact, the Dragon King Treasure Vase Practice which you practiced this time was extremely well executed. Many Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Dharma Protectors, and Dragons descended. In fact, when the dragons came in, they entered this cup of water I have here, then emerged to soar up to the Space. They flew in from that side, entered into the cup of water to play with the water, then flew out from the other side. So what I am drinking now is the Dragon Soup. [audience laughter and applause] What is this called? Dragon Saliva Soup, isn’t it?

When one goes to the ocean to offer the treasure vase, one has to remember to both recite the mantra and form the mudra with concentration. One also has to be sincere when one prays and tosses the vase into the ocean. If one concentrates and is sincere, one’s goal will definitely be auspiciously fulfilled.

This is my brief teaching for tonight. If you have any questions regarding your practice, or any other matters, you may ask them. All questions will be answered, as we have many masters here tonight.

[For a few minutes the audience was silent. Then, Master Lian-jen spoke, "If there are no questions, we will start with the Dragon King Treasure Vase Empowerment."]

Before the empowerment, let me say this. I don’t mean to imply that you must raise questions, but it seems to me that something is quite unusual if there is not even one question. [audience laughter] Can it be that you are all adepts now? [audience laughter] It is not often that we have the opportunity to meet with each other. How can it be that there is not even one question?

[Q] When one chants the Dragon King Mantra, does one have to hold the mudra or do visualization?

[A] There is the so-called "Unification of the Three Secrets" wherein the mudra, mantra, and visualization are carried out simultaneously. When one becomes an adept in meditation, one can chant the mantra, hold the mudra, and engage in visualization at the same time. But, in general Tantric practices, the three elements are not combined. One first does the visualization, then chants the mantra. During visualization, one can hold the mudra because holding the mudra does not affect the process of visualization. However, the chanting of mantra during visualization might influence the effectiveness of both. Sometimes one might become distracted from visualization because one is concentrating on the mantra, or vice versa. Therefore, ordinarily, these three elements are not done simultaneously. When one attains the highest level, the "Three Secrets" can be merged but, as a beginner, one does not visualize when one chants the mantra. One only visualizes during the step of visualization.

[Q] How does one visualize the Dragon King transforming into the Five Buddha Wisdoms?

[A] This is a very difficult visualization to do. In general, human beings as well as Buddhas have the Five Wisdoms. The Five Wisdoms in Tantra are associated with the five directions — east, south, west, north, and center — and are represented by the Five Buddhas. When one visualizes the manifestation of the Five Wisdoms in the Dragon King, one can visualize the Five Buddhas of the five directions appearing in five different positions inside the body of the Dragon King. This is a very good way of visualization.

Each of the Five Buddhas represents a wisdom. For example, the west is the Wisdom of Profound Insight, and the central Buddha, Mahavairocana, is associated with the Wisdom of the Embodied Nature of the Dharmadhatu. Visualizing the Five Buddhas inside the body of the Dragon King is one way of visualizing the Five Wisdoms. How else does one visualize Wisdom? Even I do not know how to visualize Wisdom. Therefore, just visualize the images of the Five Buddhas in the five different positions in the Dragon’s body — that is the visualization of the Five Wisdoms.

[Q] Must one have one’s porcelain Buddha statues consecrated first before enshrining them at the altar?

[A] I have mentioned elsewhere that one can enshrine a porcelain statue, or one can break a porcelain statue. What I mean by this is, when one enshrines a statue, one is using the statue as a meditation tool; when one breaks a porcelain statue, one is promoting productivity. This is because, after one breaks a statue, one still has to buy another statue, and the cycle thus repeats. If one preserves one’s statue forever, the statue business will not be very good.

That is why, from the perspective of business, products such as women’s nylon stockings are very good — they ruin very easily. If one could wear the same pair of nylons until one became an old lady, the nylon business would not be good. [audience laughter] That was what I meant when I made the statement.

Regarding the question of consecration, I can answer it this way. One can consecrate statues or not consecrate statues. Why do I say this? This is because a statue will automatically become consecrated if one pays homage to it with sincerity and devotion. On the other hand, if one does not pay homage, or chant, or do visualizations with any kind of devotion, then even a consecrated statue will be useless. Consecration is only a ritual during which one invites the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas to come and stay in one’s altar. In truth, if one pays sincere homage to the Buddhas, the Buddhas will come automatically, even if no consecration rite has been performed by a Buddhist master.

Sometimes, therefore, when people consecrate their statues, they simply write on the statue, "Please Come Automatically." My teacher taught me that — don’t imitate it when you go home! [audience laughter] One of my teachers also said, "What should one write when one consecrates a statue? Just write with a brush in the air, `Please Come Automatically,’ and the Buddha will come by himself." [audience laughter]

If fact, they do come automatically. But they absolutely do not come merely because one has performed the ritual or paid a high level master to perform the ritual. What matters is the devotion of the disciple and how the disciple makes offering to the Buddha, how one pays homage, how sincerely one repents, chants, and meditates in front of Him. When the disciple is able to get in tune with the Buddha, then the Buddha "comes automatically." If the disciple has no devotion at all, even the most accomplished master having performed the consecration ritual will not change the fact that the Buddha will just come for a short while, to have a snack and go away.

[Q] What is the Empowerment of Dharma Milk?

[A] One needs to personally experience it. It cannot really be explained. When I am home in the morning, I pour a glass of milk and then spill some on top of my head. This is the Empowerment of the Dharma Milk! [audience laughter and applause] One can visualize the Great White Light of the Universe as white as milk flowing into one’s body through the crown, then one’s body is transformed into a vase and filled with the Dharma Milk. Afterwards, all one’s skin pores open up and many bugs, such as centipedes and scorpions, as well as harmful black liquid run out through the skin pores and the toes. This is the Empowerment of Dharma Milk.

One has to first visualize the white milk, the Dharma Light, entering one’s body. Then one visualizes the black vapor running out. It would be wrong to visualize the exiting of the black vapor before the entering of the Dharma Light.

[Q] How does one visualize the Practice of Sacrificing One’s Body?

[A] In the Practice of Sacrificing One’s Body, one visualizes one’s right eye flying out to turn into the sun and one’s left eye flying out to turn into a moon. Then one visualizes oneself transform into a triangular-shaped Mount Meru. This is followed by the visualization of one’s skin turning into the earth and one’s blood turning into rivers. On the land many trees are growing. All these trees, rivers, mountains, and land are completely offered to all sentient beings for their use. This is the visualization of the Practice of Sacrificing One’s Body.

[Q] How about the bones?

[A] Bones are very hard, and they can be transformed into rocks.

[Q] Which Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have scriptures on their Lotus thrones?

[A] There is a scripture on the Lotus throne of Manjusri Bodhisattva. Does anyone know this and know which scripture it is? It is the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra.

The works of Tsongkhapa consist of The Exposition of the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment and The Exposition of the Stages of Tantra. Actually Tsongkhapa did not write them, he only edited them. The former was a synthesis of the essence of the Sutras, and the latter contains his viewpoints on Tantra.

However, what has been passed down to us, like the scripture on the lotus throne, is neither one of the two books mentioned; it is a book that was written by the Honorable Atisha. It should be explained this way: Tsongkhapa made a comprehensive study of the Honorable Atisha’s writings, then turned them into those two books.

Tsongkhapa was the incarnation of Manjusri Bodhisattva. He had a special facial feature. What was it? He had a dimple. [audience laughter and applause]

When the Yong He Palace was being built in Beijing, Mainland China, the statue of Tsongkhapa looked very austere and unpleasant when finished. One sculptor decided to make a change so that Tsongkhapa would appear more approachable. So he used a mallet and banged once on Tsongkhapa’s face, creating a dimple. [audience laughter] Then Tsongkhapa looked as if he were smiling, and he appeared more benevolent.

[Q] Should the Grand Master’s books be translated into English, so Westerners can receive the teaching?

[A] It is our plan to translate the books into English, and we are doing this now. The English Group Practice Text that is now available was prepared by the Purple Lotus Society. In the future, we will continue with the publication of books in English. Also, in the Purple Lotus Journal, many articles appear in English translation.

[Q] Why do some people, after receiving the Grand Master’s blessing, immediately become cured while others do not?

[A] Actually, this is what is known and discussed as karma in Buddhism. For example, all of us were able to gather together today. This can be attributed to the arising of many causes and conditions. People on the outside cannot meet with me or chat with me as you are doing, as their karma is not yet ripe.

Many people come to ask for help, and some are immediately healed while others do not get any better. Why is this so? Sometimes this is due to the fact that the karma is not ripe. How is this explained? In some people there is a strong affinity between themselves and the Grand Master, and a line of connection is quickly established. In these cases the energy from me can enter very quickly into their bodies. However, in some cases, although they come to ask for help, there is an insulator, like a very hard layer of plastic, enveloping their bodies. Even though I try my best to empower them with my energy, and even though they are praying very sincerely for help, I cannot transmit the energy, this Dharma power, to them. The layer of plastic-like insulation has to be cut open and removed, revealing their own bodies; then, with our empowered energy on them, they will be cured.

My explanation might not necessarily satisfy you, but this is the best way to describe the problem. I know I have used very great efforts to help some people, but I am just not able to communicate with them. That is why I described the blockage as a very thick layer of plastic insulating them.

If one does not have this layer of plastic then, even though one is very ill, one will recover very quickly when our Dharma power descends on one. A chronic illness of ten to twenty years’ duration can be cured. Even terminal cases with a three or twelve month life expectancy (as diagnosed by physicians) can be cured. This is what I mean by karma.

It is as if the layer of plastic is karma. My inability to instill the Dharma power in such people is a kind of fate, a kind of cause and condition. I don’t know if this will help you in understanding it or not.

[Q] What is a spiritual response [yogic confirmation]?

[A] It is very difficult to explain spiritual responses. "It is like one drinking water, only one knows how warm or cold the water is." We can only say spiritual responses are "touching." [audience laughter] When there is contact or touch, there is spiritual response. Nothing can be done if there is no touching, no contact.

[Q] Two weeks ago, I received a letter from the Grand Master, and I did not understand its meaning. Then that night, Grand Master appeared in my dream. In the dream, I was at the Rey Tseng Temple in Redmond. The Grand Master used a very long and slender brush, dipped its tip in cinnabar, and made a red dot at my brow-point. Then the Grand Master signed his name on my face. [audience laughter] I wonder if the Grand Master is aware of this? [audience laughter]

[A] Fine. Let me tell you, this is a dream of prophecy. But, in any case, if one has any questions about one’s dreams, the solution is very easy. Just send a letter to me with a 29 cent stamp enclosed! [audience laughter]

[Q] What is a disciple who has received a prophecy supposed to do?

[A] In general, a disciple with a "prophecy" bestowed on him has to practice Buddhism. After practicing Buddhism, one has to become a Buddha. The bestowing of prophecy is very special, perhaps there is the implication of urging you to shave your head and become a monk. [audience laughter and applause]

(The student responded, "Excuse me, the Grand Master’s mention of shaving one’s head reminded me that, in my dream, there were about seven or eight Dharma brothers surrounding me in the temple. Their heads were all shaved and they were wearing yellow robes. The Grand Master gave each of them a red dot, about thumb-size, of cinnabar on their brow-points. Then it was my turn and, afterwards, Grand Master signed his name.")

[Q] Where should one enshrine the statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas?

[A] This is a very good question. After I had purchased my first statue, a Kuan Yin statue from a bookstore in Taichong, I placed it on the window sill. Actually, this was a very bad spot. If one knows Feng-shui, one should place the statue at a place where there is no draft, and the chi is strong. In addition, the area should be very clean and suitable for one to do physical homage and meditation. Choosing a location is important because it represents the devotion and reverence in one’s heart.

Of course, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas should not be placed in the kitchen where fruits are kept. Neither should they be placed in one’s bedroom because the bedroom is relatively unclean. I have mentioned before that, if one wants to enshrine the statues in one’s bedroom, one has to clear out a corner in the room and place a screen around the statues. One opens the screen when one practices. This is an expedient method.

[Q] How tall should the altar be?

[A] If one knows geomancy, one knows that the number seven and its multiples are auspicious numbers, such as 49, 56, and 63 inches.

[Q] Why is it that I have trouble quieting my mind when I meditate at home, and it is less of a problem when I am in a group meditation? When I meditate, sometimes the Deity that I visualize does not come and other Deities come instead. Why?

[A] Regarding the first question, if one has more restless thoughts when meditating at one’s home but less restlessness at group practices, it is best that one asks oneself why, because no one else can know why this is happening!

In general, there is no fixed rule why one is more distracted at home or at the temple. Some people have the opposite problem. They are more distracted at group meditations but when they go home, they are able to maintain a more intense concentration. No generalization really applies. It has to do with one’s own particular habits and not much to do with anything else.

Regarding the second question, it can be likened to the situation in which one visualizes and invokes a certain Buddha, but that Buddha does not come, and instead Kuan Yin manifests and stays behind. This is, of course, a very mysterious situation. But, it can be gradually altered. By training one’s mind through cultivation, one can gradually change this situation.

In the past, there was a person who wanted to emulate the Grand Master’s practice of making offerings to the Garuda, as well as to ghosts and spirits. So he went outside to recite these invoking verses, "The great Garuda, all the spirits in the wilderness, ..." The problem was, each time he visualized the great Garuda, there would be an archer from below aiming an arrow at the bird. [audience laughter] And this arrow never missed! He was trying to make offerings to the bird, but each time, without fail, as soon as he visualized the bird, the bird would be shot! He was extremely troubled by this, but he could do nothing about it.

He could not make the archer disappear because as soon as he visualized the bird, the archer would be there, aiming his arrow at the bird. [audience laughter] And the worst was that the archer never missed. [audience laughter] If it went on like this, wouldn’t all Garudas eventually be killed? [audience laughter]

Finally, I told him, "If you cannot make the archer and arrow disappear, try visualizing the arrow missing its mark. Visualize the arrow shooting right by the wing of the Garuda but not hitting it." He trained himself this way and gradually he succeeded. Now he is able to do the practice of making offerings to the Garuda.

It is true that during the process of visualization, there is a force in one’s subconscious that is beyond one’s conscious control. Though one consciously tries to visualize in a certain way, the subconscious mind also exerts an influence. Below the subconscious, there is the deep conscious mind. Below the deep conscious, there is another deeper consciousness which is referred to as the ninth consciousness, "amala," in Tantra. Sutrayana only mentions eight kinds of consciousness and the eighth one is "alaya." That is why we are not always able to control our subconscious.

[Q] When one does the practice of the Amitabha Yoga, what should one do if Kuan Yin manifests instead?

[A] I once had the same problem. For example, I did the Amitabha Yoga, but instead Kuan Yin came. I then told myself, "This is fine since Kuan Yin and Amitabha are of the same family." I just went on with my practice. Now if I visualize Amitabha of the Western Pureland and Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, who is a guide in the Nether World manifests instead, I can still solve the problem very easily. I just visualize Ksitigarbha emitting light on me, then I visualize his face transforming into that of the Amitabha. This way it becomes a double blessing from the two different Deities. One can use this method as long as it is not the demon king who manifests when one visualizes the Amitabha. [audience laughter]

[Q] Often when I sit down to do meditation, tears immediately start to well up. Why?

[A] In general, this is due to one’s affinity with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. When their energy descends, one may be moved to tears.

[Q] If one needs to travel and there is no one at home to worship at the shrine, what should one do?

[A] This is very simple. Before going away, one only needs to tell the Deities that one is going away. [audience laughter] When one takes a vacation, the Deities will also take a vacation. [audience laughter and applause] So don’t worry about it. Many people are so used to worshiping at their shrine every day that, when they skip a day, they feel very bad. They wonder what will happen to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas when there is no one at home to make offerings. Actually the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will take a trip themselves. [audience laughter]

[Q] Can I place the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in a certain place and then cover them with sheets?

[A] Isn’t this a bit overzealous? [audience laughter] You cannot lock them up! [audience laughter] Even when one travels by air, one can still visualize that one is meditating at the shrine at home.

[Q] Tomorrow is the day of the Lotto. Can Grand Master tell us the winning numbers, so we can build a Rey Tseng Temple in Los Angeles?

[A] We haven’t offered the treasure vase to the Dragon King yet, and he is already thinking about tomorrow’s Lotto. [audience laughter] I remember when I was living in the He-Tso Estate in Taiwan, I enshrined the Kuan Yin, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, and the Golden Mother of the Jade Pond on the altar, and my mother would then place the Taiwan Lotto tickets in front of the statues, so the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas could read the numbers. His request reminds me of what my mother used to do. [audience laughter] But, I don’t think my mother ever won anything at all.

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