His Holiness Karmapa gave a short commentary:
The Lord Buddha said that two things were essential: study and practice. Gampopa advised people to study first. The Kagyu is known as the practice lineage, and meditation plays a central role; it is the lineage of experience and realization. Like Milarepa, we had to receive the instructions, and then put them into practice. This involved hardship and effort.
Some Kagyu masters had studied extensively and then practiced, but others had had little formal study. Milarepa had not studied widely, but he had great devotion. He received the instructions, the direct understanding of how to practice, and then he practiced.
A Nyingma lama once said that when we were really suffering and our minds were deeply disturbed, the only things which helped were Shantideva’s Way of the Bodhisattva, and The Songs of Milarepa. Correct meditation depends on correct view, and the correct view is emptiness. The lama, who has direct experience of the nature of the mind, gives instructions to the devoted student who must study, analyze, gain a conceptual understanding and practice it. His Holiness commented that although Kagyu say they are the practice lineage, when we study the biographies of great masters it can make us feel ashamed. As the saying goes, “The great master practiced this way, and I disgraced him.” We should be grateful to the great masters and take them as our model. We look at Milarepa and say, “This was an extraordinary person, but it’s not possible to do what he did”, rather than take him as an example to follow.
We also need to be aware of interdependence. The environment supports us, all the plants and trees that grow, and yet we mindlessly destroy it. We cut down the forests, and claim every bit of land we can, without a thought for the environment and the other sentient beings with whom we share it. We forget that all the basic necessities which we need to live are provided by myriad beings – even a cup of tea. There’s a tea-bush, and the tea-picker, and then we need milk or butter, and the person who made the tea – so many people are involved in order to sustain our lives, we should remember them with gratitude. Instead we just gulp the tea down and never consider the kindness of others. This is not what Mahayana Buddhism teaches. A Mahayana Buddhist has to understand interdependence and appreciate the kindness of other sentient being with deep gratitude.
This is one of the themes of Kagyu Monlam – to be grateful.
Mao Tse Dung said that religion was poison to society. Indeed, Gampopa said that if you do not practice dharma in the correct way it can lead to rebirth in the lower realms. So we really have to understand the dharma and practice it properly.
At this point, the chant masters led the singing of Milarepa’s doha, on how to see the face of the deity.
Gyalwang Karmapa urged everyone to work to develop equanimity, rather than swinging between aversion and attraction. Aversion and attraction operated in religion too. Sectarianism was very bad, and not what the Buddha taught. The Buddha practiced equanimity as evidenced by the equal treatment he gave to his cousin and antagonist, Devadatta, and his own son, Rahula.
Then His Holiness taught a meditation visualizing the Lord Buddha at the moment of his enlightenment – smiling, eyes filled with love, and a radiant golden glow, and, for five minutes, everyone sat silently on meditation.