Rinpoche: You were ordained by Kyabje Denma Locho Rinpoche, then you came to Arizona, and because you wore your robes then people were attracted to you.
Student: I was in a grocery store, walking down the aisle with a youngster who works there, she was probably sixteen years old, and she said, “I really like your outfit, it reminds me of Gandhi. It’s so peaceful.”
Rinpoche: That is great. I am very happy to hear that. You should know that is your benefit to the world. That is the benefit of just being Sangha, of wearing the robes.
If you were Sangha but you didn’t wear robes, then people would not know, but with robes on there is no question. That is how the robes have incredible benefit for the mind. When people show respect for your wearing the robes, or for the robes, this plants the seed of enlightenment, of liberation. This is how you benefit sentient beings, by planting the seed of liberation. Some people are attracted to the robes, and they might have the wish to be like that. Even if they can’t become Sangha in this life, just thinking that is purification. If they generate that wish even one time, they create karma to become Sangha in their next life.
What other comments have you had when wearing your robes?
Student: People ask me questions. One man came up to me and said very respectfully, “May I ask you a question?” and I said, “Yes, but I may not know the answer.” He asked me what “Rinpoche” means.
You never know what people are going to say when they approach you. That’s the way he started the conversation, then he went into a lot of discussion on how he has asked other people questions who think they know the answer, but they usually don’t. He said how he had met people who said they didn’t know anything, and they knew a lot, those were the ones who knew something, and other people who said they knew a lot, but it turned out didn’t know much.
I can’t remember everything he said, he talked for a long time, and finally I said, “Please have a seat,” because he was standing up talking. It was in a coffee shop, and he said, “Oh, yes. I would never presume to be so disrespectful to sit before you have invited me.”
Also, one time I was at a gas station pumping gas. The woman in the car in front of me said, “What religion are you?” I said, “Buddhist” and she said, “That’s what I thought.” Then she waited a while, she was pumping gas, and then turned to me and said, “Do you like your religion?”
Rinpoche: That’s a very important question because of what’s happening in the world. Because of some religions so many people die, they harm others in the name of religion.
Student: I said, “Yes, I love it” and then she said, “I’m glad, because I hate mine.” She really said that. Then when she was ready to leave she said, “Have a nice day.” She couldn’t think of anything else to say. I think what she was trying to do was to say thank you for something.
Rinpoche: That’s great. When you go out you are bringing great peace. You should be so happy, you should be rejoicing all the time.
Student: I do, I do. You probably already know this, but before I go out, I try to be mindful enough to always say, “May the minds of all those who see these robes be blessed until they reach total enlightenment.”
Rinpoche: It is very good to motivate in this way. But do you say “bliss” or “blessed”? Bliss is good, but there are many types of bliss. Hindus have bliss, kundalini, bliss of chakras, and also through meditating on shamatha they have bliss. Hindus have that bliss that causes you to be born in the form and formless realms. In these realms there is so much bliss but still it is samsara. If there is no refuge, no bodhicitta, no renunciation, then it is just samsara, nothing special.
Lower tantra also has bliss, but if you pray for highest tantra bliss, which is the clear light bliss and void, then that’s good.
The following is what you should pray as a motivation or also as a dedication:
Through the merits of the three times collected by me and others, may anyone who sees me, touches me, remembers me, thinks about me, talks about me, sees my pictures, may all their negative karma immediately be purified, and may they never ever be reborn in the lower realms.
May they find faith in refuge and karma, refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and karma, then actualize bodhicitta, which is vast like the sky.
After they have actualized bodhicitta, may all their wishes be fulfilled.
This comes after they have actualized bodhicitta because then whatever they wish for is according to the Dharma. It is important that you make this prayer after they have achieved bodhicitta, otherwise maybe somebody has the wish to harm the world and then you are creating success for their wish. Also, you can add “according to the Dharma,” and then it makes it very clear. Otherwise, you could be praying for someone to harm another or even for someone to commit suicide; many people want to die.
May they never be born in the lower realms.
May their sicknesses immediately be healed, as well as any sufferings of the body and mind.
May they be free from spirit harm.
May they achieve the path to enlightenment by quickly achieving bodhicitta.
And especially may they be liberated from their negative karma and actualize Lama Tsongkhapa's teachings.
This is the way to pray.
Regarding when people ask you what the robes mean, it is good to prepare the answer. A few years ago, when we were in Madison, two students had just taken ordination. Every time they went out people were happy and wanted to talk to them. Many times they asked what the robes meant. We all decided that it would be good to answer in the same way.
Here is the story about that:
“One evening in Deer Park, USA, six Sangha members were sharing stories about strangers in the grocery stores, book stores, gas stations, etc., who come up to us and either tell us how happy they are to see us or ask us why we are wearing robes. One of the monks looked at Rinpoche and asked, "What is the best way to reply to a child who asks me why am I wearing robes?" Rinpoche asked each of the Sangha what they would say and then Rinpoche offered his reply:
'I follow the Buddha, who has compassion for all, who has shown the complete path to achieve perfect, complete happiness and freedom. The foundation of our practice is not to harm others or ourselves and to help benefit others as much as we can. For that purpose, I shave my head and wear robes, which is the easy way to practice Buddhism. The meaning behind this is to be free from the cycle of death and rebirth and from the cause of all afflictive emotions, such as ignorance and attachment, which bring all the pain and confusion in this life.'
“Rinpoche said we can elaborate or take the essence of this message, depending on the circumstance and situation, who you are speaking to, etc. Rinpoche said, of course, if you know something better to say then say that, otherwise you can say the above. Rinpoche said this is just to give you an idea what to say, it’s not like you should only say this or just read the card.
“Each time you explain why you are ordained, the reason gives you the opportunity to awaken other sentient beings’ minds and to enlighten them. It gives you the opportunity to free them from all sufferings and bring them to ultimate happiness, enlightenment.
“We developed the idea of carrying ‘business cards’ with the following things on the front: our name, a very beautiful picture of the Buddha or His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the address and phone number of the closest FPMT center, or FPMT International Office, the FPMT web address, and email address. On the back we could print the paragraph of Rinpoche's explanation.”
So, that means when people ask you about the robes, you have a great opportunity to educate them, otherwise they might think we are like Indian sadhus.