If Dharma is indestructible, why does it need to be defended?
It’s true, Dharma is indestructible. Truth is truth. Nothing can change that. However, that does not mean that Dharma will always be available to us. In fact, the Buddha foretold that the Dharma would disappear from the world in these degenerate times. Therefore, when someone attacks the Dharma or a pure teacher or a Buddhist temple and sangha,that is cause for concern. When people attack a pure teacher on Twitter out of meanness or for fun, that too is a cause for concern.
A tulku chooses to take rebirth out of compassion for all sentient beings. He or she returns to samsara (ordinary existence) to assist those who have karma with him or her on their path to liberation. From an ordinary point of view, that may sound like silly superstition. Most people have a hard time with the idea of rebirth, but conscious rebirth? That’s pushing it! Yet this is exactly what the tulku system is about. We can’t know for sure as we are still ordinary sentient beings with no special powers. We basically have to believe what we’re told or not. But there are indications thattulkus give that can inspire devotion in the student and help them make up
their mind whether to believe or not.
One example is relics.
Relics are physical signs of great attainment. They are found in the cremated remains ofvery high lamas, for example. Sometimes they take the form of ringsel, small, pearly beads that are found in the ashes of the body. Ringsel also sometimes form on the outside of stupas that hold precious relics. Some are white or pearl colored, others are of different colors, red, pink, etc. They are considered very precious and inspire devotion in the students.
Another type of relic is bone relics. These include bones that are found after cremation with the shape of various Buddhist deities appearing naturally in them. Another type of bone relic is kept at KPC. It is a small piece of the kapala of Genyenma Ahkön Lhamo, apparently the only piece of the kapala to survive after the Chinese destroyed Palyul Monastery. The Tibetan letter “AH” is formed in one of the skull’s sutures (the place where the individual bones of the skull knit together). It is said that the original kapala had other syllables as well in the bone. This sort of relic is said to indicate that the practice of the person was so strong that they came to embody the very essence of the seed syllables, which then appear in the body. There may also be teeth and blood relics.
The purpose of these relics is to demonstrate that enlightenment is within the grasp of all. The relics come from masters who have bodies just like we do. They are not some sort of deity or master race. They’re just like us except that they have defeated suffering by following the teachings of the Buddha.
Miracles are also sometimes performed by enlightened tulkus in order to inspire devotion. The Buddha described three types of miracles: the power to appear as many persons, to pass through walls, to fly through the air and to walk on water; the powerto read others’ minds; the power to guide people on the path to enlightenment using skillful means. He said that thelatter was the only fit type of miracle to practice as the aim was to end the suffering of others. He expressly forbid his monks from performing miracles to impress others or to gain converts as they do not lead to enlightenment. The true miracle of a tulku then is the ability to lead his or her students to enlightenment.
That is why it is important to defend Dharma from those who would attack it because Dharma is the most valuable possession anyone can possibly have. Without Dharma, wecontinue to revolve in cyclic existence, moving from one life of suffering to another with no hope of escape. Only Dharma offers us the ability to do this. Someone who would attack Dharma and seek to destroy it – and there are many who do – are trying to steal our own happiness. That is worth defending.