27th Kagyu Monlam: Day Six – Milarepa Empowerment, Ganachakra Talk on “Positive Politics”
December 29, 2009 – Under the Bodhi Tree, Bodhgaya
The sixth day of the 27th Kagyu Monlam offered students numerous ways to continue connecting to Milarepa and the Kagyu practice lineage. In the morning, the Gyalwang Karmapa conferred a Milarepa Empowerment to a massive gathering, including to such holders of Milarepa’s illustrious lineage as: His Eminence Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche, His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche, His Eminence Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche, Bhayoe Rinpoche, Khenpo Lodoe Dhonyoe, Drupon Dechen Rinpoche and Drikung Gyese Rinpoche.
Also among those fortunate enough to receive such an empowerment, directly from the Gyalwang Karmapa, was the entire troup of actors who will be performing the drama on The Life of Milarepa composed by His Holiness, to be staged at the conclusion of the Monlam.
Continuing the day’s celebration of Milarepa’s life and practice heritage, in the evening His Holiness led a Milarepa Ganachakra gathering, at Tergar Monastery, for those who had completed the Four Preliminary Practices (ngondros) of the Kagyu tradition.
His Holiness had recounted earlier, in his reading of the biography of Milarepa, that Milarepa had buried several sacred objects for his disciples to unearth after he passed away. Among the inheritance Milarepa left was a piece of cloth that he had worn throughout his meditative awakening. This cloth was blessed so that its qantity would never be exhausted, no matter how many times it was cut up and distributed. His Holiness possesses of a piece from this cloth, and as a gesture of his appreciation for their efforts in their practice, His Holiness offered a piece to each of those in attendance at the ganachakra gathering.
In between the empowerment and ganacakra gathering, His Holiness attended the afternoon session of the Monlam. He the led the aspiration prayers for the flourishing of the Dharma in Tibet, and for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness Sakya Trizin and masters of all sects who are maintaining Tibetan Buddhism. His Holiness began the session by commenting on the phrase ten si, used in Tibet to refer to the productive relationship between the Buddhadharma and the sphere of government, or politics. The term si can be taken to refer to politics or to the activities aimed at benefiting society more widely. It can also refer to future lives, and thus future generations, and implies our responsibility to care long-term for our society.
“Some people say that politics and religion should be kept separate and that Dharma practitioners ought to steer clear of politics,” His Holiness commented. “However, this is entirely mistaken,” he said. He cited the example of Buddha Shakyamuni himself, who began life as a prince and later, after his enlightenment, actively guided and advised numerous kings. Nagarjuna and many other holy beings also addressed kings in their compositions. Gyalwang Karmapa especially hailed His Holiness the Dalai as a consummate example of one who actively applies the Dharma to social needs in a manner that benefits not only Tibetan people but also the entire world. This reflects the fact that the Dharma exists as a means of creating peace and harmony in the world.
If Dharma practitioners remain completely aloof from society, even though it is clear that the Dharma has so much to offer society, then we are failing to allow our Dharma practice to live up to its fullest purpose. Gyalwang Karmapa noted that people in Tibet are undergoing a very difficult period of great instability. If we choose not to seek to act in response to this situation, we cannot call what we are engaged in Dharma or compassion.
“If we had only our own well-being to think of,” His Holiness said, “it would be fine to simply remain in mountain hermitages meditating alone. However, this is not the case. Given the extreme sufferings taking place in the world and in Tibet in particular, we cannot afford to sit back and do nothing for society.”
However, His Holiness cautioned that there are negative and positive ways to engage in politics. If we engage in politics, or political activism, interacting with our ‘opponents’ in an egocentric manner, this goes against the principles of our Dharma practice. But with what he called ‘positive politics,’ our engagement is completely motivated out of a concern for the well-being of others, and of future generations and future lives as well. This form of ‘politics’ is entirely consistent with Dharma.