14 March, Bodhgaya
I am very happy to be at the Root Institute once again and I am delighted to see everyone come here to listen to the dharma with such faith and devotion. I have come to the Root Institute many times and every time I get a very warm welcome and I would like to thank you all very much for this. I did not make any particular preparations for what I am going to say today, nor am I quite sure what I should say to you, but perhaps I will share my feelings about the Kadampa Lineage.
When we talk about the Kadampa Lineage, we are referring to the lineage of those who are able to engage in the entire thought of the Buddha, and all of the Buddha's speech without leaving anything out and to bring all of that onto the path to enlightenment. And this is a particular feature of the Kadampa lineage. So within their presentation of the Buddha's teachings, their discussion of the three types of individuals, and so forth, what I think is most important for our time is the example they set of being able to practice and understand all the Buddha's teachings, and to be able to take them onto the path. I think this is the most important and impressive thing about the Kadampa Lineage.
It is also a way of practicing where you do not have any bias between the different philosophical schools or between the different vehicles of Buddhism. Sometimes there is some bias between the levels of the Mahayana and the Foundation Vehicle, but the difference between these is actually nothing other than differences in the capacities of our own minds. It is a question of the extent of our resolve, or the amount of responsibility or burden that we are able to take upon ourselves. Even if we belong to the family of the Mahayana, in order to be able to really develop the capacity of our minds, then in the Kadampa tradition, we would start by studying the teachings of the sravakas and the pratyekabuddhas without casting any of it away.
Similarly, in terms of the different philosophical schools, it is well known that there are the four main schools from India. These are philosophical schools that we progress through like going up a staircase. After you understand the manner of explanation of the lower philosophical schools, then you are gradually able to understand the upper vehicles. For this reason then, the practices of the lower philosophical vehicles become companions or helpers to the practices of higher vehicles. And so for the Kadampas there is a way of practicing these without the lower becoming false in terms of the upper vehicles or without them being adversaries to the upper vehicles.
So this is a way that a single individual can practice all the different vehicles or philosophical schools of Buddhism without discriminating against any of them. It is the way to come to the essence of one’s practice within a single human lifetime.
Therefore, we look at the examples of the Kadampa masters and their teachings--the really vast, profound, and very extensive presentations--as a sort of foundation or commonality between all the different lineages that developed in Tibet. I think that all of the masters of the current lineages of Tibetan Buddhism cite the masters of the Kadampa lineage. Of course they have their own particular explanation and instructions but I feel that the basis of all of them is the Kadampa tradition. And this is because the Kadampa tradition contains all the different teachings of the Buddha within one package.
And then there are the old and new Kadampa traditions. After the appearance of Lord Tsongkhapa there emerged what is called the new Kadampa tradition. And we can talk about the difference between the old and new Kadampa but the main point to remember is that the Kadampa tradition is the basis for all of the later Tibetan dharma traditions. Therefore, it seems to me that as long as all of the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism are still extant, then the Kadampa tradition will also be present without weakening. It is as if the essence of the Kadampa tradition has completely permeated all of the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. So these are my basic feelings about the Kadampa tradition.
Does anybody have any questions?
1.) What is enlightenment?
There are many different explanations of what enlightenment is--the state of buddhahood and all of that. If we talk about it in terms of ground, path, and fruition, there are many different presentations of this and there is really no time to describe them all in detail. But actually when we think about the word buddha, in Tibetan it is translated as sangye, which means purified and developed. And the example that is given for this is a lotus that is fully in bloom.
But if we talk about what buddha means in ordinary language, it means understanding, and not just any old understanding, but great understanding. And we can also talk about the difference between consciousness and wisdom. The word for wisdom in Tibetan is yeshe and the word for consciousness in Tibetan is namshe. “Ye” in the word yeshe means primordial or from the very beginning. It is like knowing what the nature of all things has been from the very beginning. Understanding the nature of things and the way that they abide is what we call wisdom or yeshe.
Consciousness or namshe is knowing the outer appearance or the external way things are and then clinging to that. That is what we call consciousness. And so buddha means someone who understands the nature of all things as it has been from the very beginning. As ordinary individuals, when we see phenomena, we see the external appearance and do not understand that this is not their true nature. We cling to this as if it were their nature. Actually all we are seeing is the temporary way that things appear to be and then we grasp at this as if it were the actual nature of how things are.
There is a story about the Buddha that illustrates this. The Buddha was going on his alms round one day and he came to the house of someone who started criticizing him by saying, "You lazy monks are always going around and begging all the time. You should be working for your own food." He was criticizing and using a lot of really harsh and nasty language. The Buddha just stood there and listened to him and finally when he slowed down, the Buddha said, "Have you finished with what you have to say?" And the man said, "Yes I have finished." And then the Buddha said, "If you give someone something that they do not want, what should they do with it? Should they give it back to you and would you take it?” And the man said, "Yes I suppose I would take it." And then the Buddha said, "Well, all of these mean and nasty things that you have just said, and all of your criticism I do not need, so I would like to give it back to you."
What this story illustrates is that the Buddha understands the nature of how things are. He realizes that there is absolutely no point to him getting angry in any way. He realizes that the other person was speaking out of a motivation of hatred or anger but that is not a reason for the Buddha himself to get angry. So normally we would think of this as something we should get angry about. We think of this as something true and we grasp at what appears as being the nature of the actual way things are. Because of that our minds are disturbed. We take things way too seriously because we do not understand the true nature things but instead are mistaken or confused by the appearance of things. I think this is one way to explain the difference.
2.) When I see the suffering of other sentient beings, I take it very seriously. And sometimes I want to try to do something to help but it does not always work out. So is it better to wait until enlightenment to act?
Of course it is wonderful to have the interest in achieving enlightenment. This interest is primarily in order to bring benefit to sentient beings. But as it says in Atisha's Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, those people who do not have clairvoyance should not work for the sake of other beings. The reason it says this is that if we do not have a little bit of clairvoyance, we will not be able to know the minds of other sentient beings. We will not really be able to know their capacities, their inclinations, or their interests. And if we do not know that then we will not be able to teach them the dharma that is in accord with their own level. We will not be able to help them as much. For instance, we would not know if it is appropriate to teach someone emptiness or not. If we do not have clairvoyance, it is not easy to help them. So for that reason it says in the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment that without clairvoyance, you should not teach the dharma.
But also when ordinary individuals try to do things for the benefit of other sentient beings, it is said that most of the things we do enst do not. During the phase when one is a bodhisattva, then most activities we do d up not having much effect or benefit. Of course some of the things we do have benefit but mofor the benefit of others are meaningful, but it is possible of course that there would be some that would not be meaningful. And then when one achieves the state of buddhahood, all of one's activities are meaningful. There are not any that end up being pointless. So for that reason we need to achieve the state of buddhahood. Some people might think it is in order to be able to achieve some high benefit for oneself, but in fact buddhahood is just being able to work for the benefit other sentient beings, and not just a few hundred or a few thousand sentient beings, but to be able to help all those beings who have consciousness by bringing them to the point of buddhahood and omniscience. To bring beings to the state of complete enlightenment is something that only a buddha can do and this is why we need to achieve the state of buddhahood. And so once we achieve the state of buddhahood, our activities for the benefit of others will be effortless.
However, while we are still on the path, there are some small things we can do for the benefit of others even though they may not be as vast as the infinite activity of the Buddha. And we should do as much as we are capable of doing. So this does not mean just thinking to ourselves, "Oh I can't do that." We need to test ourselves. We need to try it out. If we try something out and find we are not able to help, well there is nothing wrong with that. And if we were not able to do anything, then we can make the aspiration, "In the future, may I be able to help sentient beings in this way."
In any case, we should do the things we can actually accomplish now. It is not a question of waiting until we achieve enlightenment. Since the state of buddhahood is working for the benefit of sentient beings, then the path that brings this to fruition is also bringing benefit to sentient beings. The vast activity of the children of the bodhisattvas is the activity of helping other sentient beings and if we do not practice it now then it would be difficult for us to effortlessly bring benefit to sentient beings in the future.
And so we need to train on this path and gradually go through the stages of a bodhisattva in order to achieve the state of buddhahood. And this comes out of working for the benefit of others and out of our resolve and aspiration. And it is through this that we are able to actualize the effortless activity of a buddha.
3.) Why should we aspire to be born in a pure land? Why not aspire to be born again in this realm where the dharma is so desperately needed.
The reason to make aspirations to be born in a pure realm is that there are all the harmonious conditions for practicing the dharma without any impediments. You have everything you need to practice dharma and that is the reason to be born in a pure realm. To speak in business language, there is a profit to being born in a pure land. But this does not mean that you must make prayers to be born there or that you should be born anywhere else. It is up to you what aspiration you want to make. It is your choice.
If we do what we can to be born in the happy states of the gods or humans, if we gather all the causes and conditions for being born with a precious human body, then after death we can take rebirth as someone who can do great things for the benefit of the teachings and for beings. It is possible that we can do this. If you have the resolve to do this, that is wonderful. But it is not necessarily very easy to do so. As humans in this world, we have a lot of experiences and when we try to practice the dharma, it is not easy. There are a lot of things that get in the way. We have to put a lot of effort into our dharma practice. In the pure realms, it is not like this. We do not have to put a lot of effort into it. Whether it is the power of the realm or because of Amitabha’s aspirations, you have everything that you need to practice the dharma. And there are no impediments to the practice, so there is a great profit to being born there. But it depends upon your own interest and courage. If you have the courage to make the aspiration to be born in a degenerate age such as this one, this is extremely praiseworthy. It is like the Bhagavan Buddha who made the aspiration to become a buddha at a time when the lifespan was 100 years, and because of this he was proclaimed as being the greatest of all the white lotuses of the thousand buddhas of this time. So that is also wonderful.
4.) How can we keep the heart open, be mindful, and not follow our disturbing emotions while living an active, ordinary life?
The main thing is that we need to have carefulness, mindfulness, and awareness of what we are doing. We have the habitual tendency to do unvirtuous things and for that reason we need to really apply our mindfulness and awareness. This is something that we need to understand: we have a lot of disturbing emotions and afflictions and because of that we need to be careful and aware and to apply mindfulness. And this is because from innumerable lifetimes since beginningless time we have been habituated to the afflictions and disturbing emotions. We have a very old habit for this. And so we need to replace this old habit with a new habit and we need to use our mindfulness to create this new habit within our mind.
It is similar to when we meditate upon loving kindness as an antidote for hatred. We need to meditate upon it and use it and then we need to be careful and aware in order to make it into a new habit. So we meditate on loving kindness over and over again, and when we meditate upon it, we need to protect it with our mindfulness, awareness, and carefulness. If we do not protect it, we will just lose it. So it is very important for us to protect our new habits and the most important thing is that we have a deep resolve within our hearts and minds.
Sometimes it is as if there are two people within our minds. There is one person on the side of disturbing emotions and one person on the side of virtue. And it is like we are stuck in the middle between the two of them. Sometimes we support one or the other and it is never definite which side we will support. We should take all of the power of our body, speech, and mind and decide which side we are going to support: the virtuous side or the unvirtuous side. We need to contemplate the nature of the disturbing emotions and when we have the experience where we can recognize the problems and faults, from that point onwards we should have the resolve not to be overcome by the enemy of the afflictions.
So this concludes our short session this afternoon. I would like to thank all of the people who keep the Root Institute going, all the lamas and sangha, and all the Indian staff and Bihari people who are here, and even the elephant they have outside. Whenever I come to Bodhgaya, the Root Institute offers me an invitation. I am especially grateful for this opportunity. And I would like to thank you very much for making such wonderful arrangements and preparations out of such pure motivation and I hope that I can come again and again in the future. I would also like to pray from the bottom of my heart that all of you have great auspiciousness, happiness, and wellbeing.
This year, for the first time, the ceremony was not held at the Mahabodhi stupa but transferred to Tergar Monastery and the Monlam Pavilion. It was also brought forward to six o'clock in the morning. The procession replicates the alms round from the time of Lord Buddha, a tradition which survives still today in some countries. Buddhist monks and nuns set out each morning with their bowls to collect whatever food is given them by the villagers or townspeople.
By 5.15am the first laypeople had already begun lining up along the route, guided by Kagyu Monlam volunteers, easily recognized by their emerald green volunteer vests. The alms round is conducted in silence so people were encouraged to chant the refuge prayer. After Mahayana sojong at the Monlam Pavilion, the monks and nuns gathered in the shrine room at Tergar Monastery and the round could begin. A monk bearing incense headed the procession. He was followed by H.E. Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Khenpo Dönyö and Ringu Tulku bearing metal staffs topped with rings that jingled: traditionally the noise warns animals away. Behind them came thegelong in order of seniority, and finally the gelongma.
The procession wound its way round Tergar Monastery, out through the gates, along the road and into the Monlam Pavilion, where the monks and nuns resumed their seat and continued the morning session's Twenty Branch Monlam prayers. The Gyalwang Karmapa did not take part, but watched from the terraced roof of his quarters.
For five days this year's Monlam had been held at the Monlam Pavilion, two kilometers from Bodhgaya, so it felt strange on the sixth day to be in Bodhgaya, standing at the entrance to the Mahabodhi stupa grounds at five o'clock in the morning once more. Strange, but also very comfortable, like coming home. This ancient site radiates a pervasive feeling of sacredness, as if the broken stones themselves are a repository for two thousand years of devotion, hope, and trust in the way of the Buddha. Sitting under the bodhi tree, waiting for the Gyalwang Karmapa to arrive, people commented that they missed being at the stupa. However, for once, laypeople were able to sit where the novice monks and nuns would have been sitting, closer to the shrine, His Holiness and the bodhi tree, rather than crowded into the margins, hidden behind monuments, or perched precariously on the grass banks. Perhaps they had forgotten the advantages of the pavilion, where everyone is included and can have a clear view of what is happening, albeit from a distance.
Most of the ordained sangha were at the Monlam Pavilion where Khenpo Donyo was giving sojong and then leading a Medicine Buddha puja. Only the 103 fully ordained monks and nuns taking part in the procession had come to the stupa. For once the assembly was composed mainly of laypeople.
Apart from the garlands of marigolds, varying in colour from bright citrus yellow to a rich deep orange, strewn carelessly over the palisades, there were no decorations. The great offerings of torma, fruit and sweets were arrayed on the stage at the Monlam Pavilion.
H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and H.E. Gyaltsap Rinpoche arrived shortly before 5.30am, followed, a few minutes later by the Gyalwang Karmapa and his entourage. Sitting on a low seat in front of the small shrine under the bodhi tree, His Holiness gave the Mahayana sojong vows, after the repetition of the refuge prayers in Sanskrit. . A momentary power failure meant that only those with torches could see to read the prayer,and then, the sky lightened gradually, and the golden capping of the Mahabodhi temple gleamed as it caught the first rays of light; the sounds of the sojong mantra were drowned by the bickering chatter of the mynah birds and the screech of parakeets.
His Holiness gave a short talk emphasizing the importance of Monlam and the good fortune of all those who had gathered there under the bodhi tree that morning. The crucial thing, he reminded us, was to make the commitment to work for the benefit of all sentient beings. We all had to work to make the Monlam meaningful, with pure motivations and the aspiration to benefit all sentient beings, that they might become enlightened, and enjoy peace, happiness and prosperity in all four corners of the world. We should also pray for the long life of great beings such as the Dalai Lama and the great masters of other traditions too, and remember all the neighbouring countries where there had been great suffering because of natural disasters or other troubles: India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim.
As His Holiness talked, his voice still wracked by a cold and cough, the sounds of the muezzin from the mosque close by the stupa, threatened to drown his.
In conclusion, His Holiness pointed out, all four pillars of the Buddhist sangha were at that moment present under the bodhi tree, gelong, gelongma, male lay practitioners and female lay practitioners. This made everything we did particularly powerful. Now it was up to us to develop compassion and loving kindness and transform our minds.
His Holiness turned round to face the shrine, and the chanting master led everyone in the Sanskrit prayers of refuge, generation of bodhichitta, and the heart sutra, finishing with the two four line verses which encapsulate Lord Buddha's teachings, set to a traditional bhajan-style melody.
Do not do anything that is wrong.
By now it was light. The laypeople were sent off to line up on the left-hand side along the procession route to offer flowers and khatags but no incense. Meanwhile, thegelong milled around under the bodhi tree. Finally, when the laity were in place, thegelong and gelongma formed a line and filed through the open archway in the palisade which surrounds the main temple, collected their copy of the kangyur, and began the serbang (ritual procession). First they walked along the right side of the Mahabodhi stupa, then walked up the central steps to the large outer circuit.
At the head of the procession came one of the disciplinarians, bearing incense, followed by two monks playing gyalin and two monks blowing white conches. Next, surrounded by bodyguards and monks, came Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, and the Gyalwang Karmapa, all three holding incense not texts. Behind them came the Kangyur- bearing gelong and gelongma, led by Ringu Trulku. Slowly the procession wound its way round the outer circuit, before finally returning down the steps and making a full circuit of the Mahabodhi stupa. At this point the Gyalwang Karmapa went into the temple to offer more golden silk robes, flowers and fruit to the Buddha.
The procession and crowds dispersed. Buses were waiting to take the monks and nuns back to Tergar Monastery, and for the laypeople there were tuk-tuks and cycle rickshaws eager for the first custom of the day.
When everyone arrived at Tergar Monastery there was chance for a quick breakfast before the next part of the Kangyur ceremony began in the Monlam Pavilion at 8.00am with a talk by the Gyalwang Karmapa on the history and vital importance of the Kangyur.
A summary of the Gyalwang Karmapa's teaching on the Kangyur
India is the source of Buddhism in Tibet and most of the teachings were translated from Sanskrit and other Indian languages into Tibetan. So in order to honor that, at the beginning of every Tibetan Buddhist text, the title is first written in Sanskrit, followed by Tibetan. This is done in order to recollect where the dharma comes from and to appreciate that. At the time the texts were translated, there was usually a great pandit from India and a Tibetan translator working on them together. During the first period of translation, all the texts were translated in this way and edited by great masters. They took a tremendous amount of care in producing the texts. And during the later period, they also took a lot of care with translation by traveling to India and doing a lot of editing and correction.
The Kangyur was not published at first. The teacher of Chim Jampel Yang (Tib.mchims 'jam-dpal dbyangs) made the first collection of the Kangyur and it was handwritten. Because it was kept in a shrine room called the Jam Lhakhang at Narthang Monastery, this edition later became famous as the Lhakang Kangyur (sometimes known as the Old Narthang Kangyur.). After some time in Tibet, the Kangyur Rinpoche was produced by xylograph or woodcarving in Jang, sponsored by the King of Jang. The main editor of the Jang Kangyur was the Sixth Shamarpa. Later on it was called the Lithang Kangyur, because the xylograph was stored in Lithang. The Jang Kangyur was the first Tibetan Kangyur published in Tibet and this occurred during the time of Emperor Yung Lo of the Ming Dynasty. Perhaps that was the first Tibetan Kangyur to be edited by some of the great masters of the Karma Kamtsang. The publication of the Kangyur has had a great deal of contribution from the great masters of the Karma Kamtsang.
As we said before, when we request the buddhas and bodhisattvas to turn the wheel of Dharma, if we have not taken care with the teachings they have already given, then to keep on requesting teachings from them is rather strange. If we do not practice what they have already taught and what they have not yet taught we ask them to teach, that is a little bit excessive. And generally, in regards to the Kangyur and Tengyur, we just put them between two end boards, tie them up very well, and put them up in the shrine and lock it. Sometimes we act as if we do not have to read them, but only need to preserve them in the shrine as objects of worship. If that becomes the norm, then there is a danger that the dharma will be lost.
In Tibet early on, there was a tradition of teaching the sutras, but later on, the shastras, the commentaries by the great masters, were studied much more. And then the Tibetan masters wrote and taught commentaries and those became the principle textbooks that were studied. And thereby, gradually, the direct teachings of the Buddha were studied less and less. Of course the commentaries by the Tibetan masters are perhaps clearer and easier to understand, but the [works of the] Indian masters, and especially the direct teachings of the Buddha, are the main source so therefore they must be studied. It is good to delve into the commentaries and understand them, but if we do not study the Kangyur at all, it is very strange. So the shedras and monasteries must read, study, and become familiar with the direct teachings of the Buddha as a primary source. If they never even look at the direct teachings of the Buddha, it is not possible that they will understand them very well.
As it was said by the great Drikungpa, "If the teachings are not based on the Kangyur, then it is the work of Mara." If the teachings are based merely on our teachers' experiences, it is possible in these degenerate times that some lamas might give teachings that are not really according to the teachings of the Buddha or the Kangyur, but are their own made-up instructions. It is quite possible for that to happen. If we could compare the teachings of our lamas with the direct teachings of the Buddha, then we would be able to understand whether their teachings are genuine or not. We would be able to authenticate them based on the Kangyur.
So the Buddha said, "During the time of degeneration, I will appear as the letters (texts)." So all of these teachings are an emanation of the Buddha and we have to see them as objects of refuge. Since we have not experienced the truth of the path or the truth of nirvana, at this moment the teachings are the real guide or lamp that dispels the darkness.
Thus we have a great opportunity to read [the Kangyur] now and in the future also. As far as the shedras are concerned, they should facilitate Kangyur study, examination, and research. For instance, when we talk about the Vinaya and are discussing the myriad Vinaya principles, such as whether the Gelongma ordination should be there or not, if we actually were to read the thirteen volumes of the Vinaya, then many of the things that are confusing to us would become very clear. What we don't understand will become clear, and that is what I want you all to keep in your heart. In essence, the Kangyur is the root of our dharma, the source of our teachings, and the true guide of what to do and what not to do. With this understanding, please recite the Kangyur.
Reading the Kangyur
After the procession and Gyalwang Karmapa's teaching the final part of the celebration of the Kangyur was the reading session, during which the whole Kangyur was read once. This activity generates tremendous merit.
The 103 novice monks who had been assigned the task of distributing sheets of the Kangyur busily wove their way between the rows of monks, nuns and laypeople, offering pages to anyone in the congregation who could read Tibetan. The pages came with strict instructions to remember the letter on the monk's orange badge so that pages could be returned to the correct person. This system has been devised to prevent the problems of earlier years when, following the reading, texts were found to be missing pages, or pages turned up in the wrong texts.
The Monlam Pavillion filled with the sound of people reading their pages of text in Tibetan chanting style. Within ninety minutes, the task was finished and the monks had collected the texts back in. Let's hope that this year no pages went missing or were misplaced!
On the evening of March third, the Monlam stage with its huge altar was transformed by the presence of four tall pillars arrayed across the front of the stage. In deep brown decorated in gold filigree, topped by lotus flowers, they supported the four animals—a tiger, garuda, vulture, and snow lion—that appeared to Milarepa in his famous dream. The four represent the main disciples of Marpa the Translator, through whom the Kamtshang lineage flows. In front of the stage, the rows of seats in the Pavilion are filled right up to the back while three screens on either side bring into the evening darkness the radiant and warm colors of the stage.
This is the setting for tonight's play based on the life of the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (1206-1283). Written by the Gyalwang Karmapa in a contemporary idiom, the drama focuses on three events: the arrival of Orgyenpa (1230-1312), who would hold the Karma Pakshi's lineage; the meeting of these two great lamas; and finally, Orgyenpa's meeting and recognizing the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339). During the time of the Seventh Karmapa, such dramas, based on the lives of buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other realized beings, were performed during the first fifteen days of the New Year, commemorating the time when the Buddha performed his great miracles. At Tsurphu, (the Karmapa's main seat in Tibet), the custom was to practice the Twenty-Branch Monlam in the morning and present these dramas in the afternoon.
This year, with his usual hands on approach, the Karmapa has been involved in the rehearsals as well as the stage setting. This evening he can be found in the vast storage room just behind the stage where the performers are busy getting ready. His presence and interest in all that is happening bring a liveliness to the space. A Khampa weaves a red ribbon into his long braid and wraps it around his head. Orgyenpa is having his hair grayed with a white liquid. A member of the Karmapa's administration is helping an actor, who will play an attendant of Karma Pakshi, fold the right pleats into his robes. The head of the Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts (TIPA) will play Karma Pakshi, and his young son, who is missing two weeks of school for this special opportunity, will play the Third Karmapa as a child. With the gentlest of smiles and a touch of delight, His Holiness stands in front of the young performer who is in monks' robes and wears the Karmapa's activity hat. He lifts off the hat and places his hand on the boy's head. Perhaps the Karmapa is recalling the time when he was a similar height and age, wearing the activity hat for the first time at Tsurphu.
In another corner of the hall, the performers from TCV Suja School are rehearsing their steps, the bells on their feet jangling. The Karmapa has a special connection with TCV Suja as the students are all refugees. During the first year he could travel, he went to the school and the students performed for him then as well. This evening, two boys, who came from Tibet ten years ago, sit next to their stringed instruments: a mandolin from Amdo, the dranyen, sometimes called a Tibetan guitar, from Central Tibet, and the piwang, a single stringed instrument from Eastern Tibet, the hardest to play, they say. The boys only learned about these instruments when they came to India, which underlines the importance of the Karmapa's efforts to preserve Tibetan culture and encourage these performances.
Before the play begins, Sherab Tharchin comes on stage to give background information. He says that the Seventh Karmapa was quite difficult to meet. One had to wait days to see him, and an interview was brief. He was very skillful, however, and created the Prayer Festival of the Great Encampment. It took place in a tent with one hundred pillars, golden spires, and myriad decorations of brilliant colors and precious materials such as pearls and crystals. It was so magnificent that great masters said they could not tell if it was a dream or not. In the tent, mornings were devoted to prayer, and afternoons saw the performance of these dramas, which gave both entertainment and education. It is this tradition that the Seventeenth Karmapa is reviving.
Sherab Tharchin then gave a brief introduction to Karma Pakshi. Before the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, passed away, he said that someone would be born to carry out his wishes. Karma Pakshi was then born into the family of descendants of the Dharma king Trisong Deutsen. This Karmapa was famous for the miracles he displayed at the court of Kublai Khan and for creating the famous statue of the Buddha at Tsurphu. It is also said that he received teachings directly from Vajra Varahi. The accomplished master, Orgyenpa, was very famous but Karma Pakshi humbled him, so that he lost his pride,becoming Karma Pakshi's student and a key figure in the Kamtshang lineage.
The first scene of the play takes place in the Karmapa's quarters at Tsurphu. The sleeping monks provide comic relief as they try to wake each other up and pull themselves together. Echoed by a chorus, Karma Pakshi sings in a piercing voice about Orgyenpa coming from Latö: "He's like the sky that covers the earth." The next vignette is of Orgyenpa and his attendants on the road to Tsurphu where they are met by Karma Pakshi's monks. In the following scene, Orgyenpa is formally escorted to the monastery, and the initially well-behaved crowd that has gathered to greet him turns into fractious chaos as they push and shove to get close to the lama for his blessing. It takes five strong Khampas with their staves to bring them under control. Recognizing this very familiar scene, the audience laughs and applauds.
When he meets the Karmapa, Orgyen still carries himself with a certain hauteur, but Karma Pakshi subdues him in a perfect recounting of what Orgyenpa had been thinking. The Karmapa then gives him the Gyalwa Gyamtso empowerment and offers him the activity hat and a text. Karma Pakshi also gives Orgyenpa a pointing out instruction:
Sherab Tharchin then reappears to continue his narration. Karma Pakshi had said that when all the activities of this life were finished, he would come back to Latö and he asked Orgyenpa to recognize his reincarnation. Karma Pakshi was the first tulku, but this recognition of the Third Karmapa would become the first time a great master had recognized another tulku of a great master. In the final scene, Orgyenpa hears about a boy who says he is the Karmapa, so he sets up a high throne, figuring that only the Karmapa would dare to sit on it. The young boy appears and naturally climbs the stairs to sit on the throne. From his previous life, the reincarnation remembers conversations with Orgyenpa and what he had given the older master—the activity hat and a text. So Orgyenpa calls for the activity hat and places it on the boy's head, first rather lopsidedly, which draws a laugh from the audience. As the finale, the Suja school dancers come on stage, their long red and white sleeves rhythmically waving to the pulsing drums.
Finally, our narrator explains that the next performance of Tibetan opera is based on a Jataka tale, recounting a previous life of the Buddha as the king Lodro Zangpo. The actors and actresses come from the Rumtek Opera Society, formed in 1961 during the time of the Sixteenth Karmapa, who was very fond of Tibetan opera. Sometimes, the group would perform for seven days in a row. Among the actors tonight are original members of the society, who have trained the new generation, helping to preserve this tradition started in Tibet by Thangtong Gyalpo (1385-1464). The opera ends with all the actors on stage and a lively Ki ki so so lha gyalo! All victory to the divine!
At the end, His Holiness is invited on stage where he gives long white scarves of thanks to the director of TIPA, the principal of the Suja School, and the head of the Rumtek Opera Society. The Karmapa speaks of his hope to revive the traditions of the Seventh Karmapa, noting that the teachings of the buddhas and bodhisattvas come in many forms, not just Dharma talks. The aspirations and prayers of the Twenty-Branch Monlam help countless living beings and seeing these lives of great beings can leave a strong impression on our minds, turning them more deeply to the Dharma. His Holiness then thanks all the performers and dedicates the merit of the evening toward sewing the seed of positive karma in all of us and toward the long life and freedom from obstacles of the great teachers amongst us, beginning with his Holiness the Dalai Lama. May peace and compassion pervade the world.
8 March, 2012 Bodhgaya
Long Life Ceremony for the Two Lords of Refuge, Tai Situ Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche
On March 8, the Gyalwang Karmapa and the sangha gathered to offer a long life ceremony celebrating two of his heart sons, the Twelfth Tai Situ Rinpoche and the Twelfth Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche. As the dawn begins to color the edge of the sky, a huge crowd has filled the Monlam Pavilion and a special excitement runs through the air. Today will be the culmination of the eight days of prayers for peace in the world and in the hearts of all beings. Through the long life ceremony this morning, the merit of this year's gathering is especially dedicated to the long lives of these two great lamas. The Gyalwang Karmapa has explained that what is positive in this life and throughout all our lives comes from our teachers, our spiritual friends. It is of utmost importance that they keep guiding us and awaken us from the sleep of our ignorance. We have protection and guidance now because they are with us, so we must continually ask them to live long and continually pray that their wishes be fulfilled.
Earlier in the week, the Karmapa mentioned that the Dharma is not only conveyed by words, but also visually. This morning's ceremony will be a testament to that statement. Flanking the stage are elegant, carved wooden thrones for the two rinpoches, and in the center on an upper level, is the Karmapa's throne. Around it in the four directions are seated four monks. Long altars line the sides of the stage with magnificent offerings: on the right are two large statues of the Buddha to be offered to the rinpoches; stacked on either side and wrapped in yellow cloth with red and blue brocade squares alternating are copies of the Kangyur (words of the Buddha). The texts are written in actual gold, following a Tibetan tradition of making a most magnificent offering. On the left are four new tormas related to the Kamtshang lineage. Towering above the shrine and topped by golden victory banners, they are radiant yet gentle in color and depict the key figures of the Kagyu lineage, starting with Marpa and ending with the first emanation of Situ Rinpoche, Drogön Rechen, and the first incarnation of Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Paljor Döndrup—another tribute to the two lamas being honored today
In Tibetan, this ritual is known as tenzhuk (gtan bzhugs), where ten means "permanent" or "forever" and zhuk means "remain" or "abide." Its history can be traced back to the sutra tradition and the Seven-Branch Offering, the seventh of which is requesting the buddhas to remain for a long time and not pass into nirvana. In the vajrayana with its emphasis on devotion to the lama, this branch expanded into a separate, full-fledged ritual.
Underlying the rationale for the ceremony is the understanding that, in contrast to ordinary beings, who take rebirth through the force of their karma and afflictions, noble individuals are born as they wish and remain for as long as they can help others. Their life spans are intimately connected with the lives of others, so our making these requests for them to live long is extremely important. We can actually have an effect on how long they remain with us.
The ritual for the long life ceremony was composed by the Karmapa. It is just one page long, but profound in meaning and vast in extent as it incorporates the two traditions of sutra and tantra. In the sutras, one finds arhants who are blessed with long life, and in the tantras, one finds long life empowerments, in which long life is elicited through the power of the truth of the Three Jewels, the vidyadharas with power over life, and others. The great lamas are also encouraged to make a commitment to live a long life based on their accumulation of merit. Further, the lama's life can be made long through the power of those making the request, which in this case would be His Holiness and the gathered sangha.
The ritual this year is the same as last year, but the way of making the offering is different. Last year, the context was the practice of the sixteen arhants, and this year, it is based on "The Offerings to the Gurus." The change acknowledges the critical role both Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche have played as lineage gurus of the Karmapa. Further, the progression of the ceremony is in harmony with the stages of practice found in this text. For example, after blessing the ground and offerings, it presents an invitation to the gurus to be present; the ceremony today began with escorting the lamas in the "golden procession" of brilliantly colored banners and pendants, accompanied by music and two tall umbrellas, the circle of their colorful pleats swaying above the two. Gyaltsap Rinpoche was there in person and Drön Nyer Tenam, the representative of Situ Rinpoche, carried high a golden parcel, which contained a formal brocade cape (khri ber) worn by lamas when they give empowerments and, in Situ Rinpoche's case, the red hat ceremony. During a lama's absence from his monastery, the cape sits on his throne. In addition, when a lama cannot accept an invitation, he will send his formal cape as a substitute, and today Situ Rinpoche has sent his most precious one.
Prior to the procession, the Karmapa, Situ Rinpoche's representative, Gyaltsap Rinpoche, and monks had gathered in the Akshobhya shrine room on top of Tergar Monastery. Here at four-thirty in the morning, His Holiness performed a Vajrapani ceremony for the investiture (mnga' gsol), a special blessing to empower them, and offered traditional gifts of monk's clothes and shoes to both rinpoches. Now, as the procession enters the Monlam Pavilion, His Holiness waits on his throne in the center of the stage. The procession moves slowly down the main aisle between two long rows of white, swooping scarves held by men and women from the East and West. Two nights before, the Karmapa had carefully rehearsed them so that the curves of the white garlands between each person would be exactly the same.
Set below the three thrones on stage were two red lacquer chairs from Japan, covered in brocade. When the text asks the Buddha to "take your seat with ease," Gyaltsap Rinpoche sat here first and the shrine master then offered the two lamas water for drinking and water for bathing. The remaining five of the seven traditional offerings—flowers, incense, lamps, scented water, and food—were made by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. Then everyone was offered tea and saffron rice. The ceremony continued with a section that reflected the sutra tradition. The two rinpoches made offerings to the sangha of robes, which were accepted on behalf of the sangha by the four monks surrounding the Karmapa. The merit of this offering was dedicated to their long lives. For a short while, the Karmapa and Gyaltsap rested in meditation, and this merit, too, is dedicated to long life. The vajrayana tradition was represented by the Karmapa offering the rinpoches long life pills and the nectar of immortality. Drön Nyer Tenam holds the yellow-wrapped formal cape of Situ Rinpoche in front of the Karmapa who touches it with the long life vase. Afterward, Gyaltsap Rinpoche stands in front of the Karmapa and repeats his words, making a commitment to live for a long time. The lines include "May this life find its full and complete fruition." At the end, the Karmapa tossed flowers into the air.
Two long brocade boxes were set next to His Holiness's throne from which he lifted out a long scroll with a proclamation, known as the scroll of great praise (bzings bstod kyi byang bu). The Karmapa reads is a clear, strong voice the proclamation:
I touch the crown of my head to the feet of our teacher, who is skillful and compassionate. From the very beginning, you, Pema Döyön Druppa [for Situ Rinpoche], Karma Drakpa Tenpa Yarpel [for Gyaltsap Rinpoche], have been the essence of the utter perfection of the qualities of abandonment and realization. In this Unbearable World Realm, your fine activities of teaching, debate, and composition are as wondrous and amazing as all the qualities and activities of the Victors and their children in the three times coalesced into one.
You are a great friend to wandering beings even though they had not known you before. You rouse all from the sleep of ignorance and liberate them from the ocean of samsaric suffering. You have taken upon yourself to bear the entire burden of upholding, spreading, and protecting the teachings of the essence of the Practice Lineage through accepting hardship day and night.
Now rejoicing in your indefatigable courage, in order to sing your praises and remember your fine deeds and legacy, today on this auspicious day, I proclaim your greatness. I praise you and invest you. You are the master empowered through the crown of your head, prophesied in the scripture called "The Master of Great Maitreya" [for Situ Rinpoche], "Great Upholder of the Secret Treasury" [for Gyaltsap Rinpoche].
I request that in the future you remain as a kinsman to beings and the teachings as long as samsara lasts, and that by striving to perform the deeds of the three wheels unified as one, you spread the teachings of true Dharma everywhere, shining the bright sun of the teachings of practice throughout the three worlds. Thus I seal this.
After each reading, the Karmapa offered the brocade box with its proclamation and a kata to each of the rinpoches. Gyaltsap Rinpoche wore the kata lining the fold of his outer robe and sat powerful and unmoving as the scroll rested on the table in front of his throne.
As the sangha recited a special text on giving a jeweled topknot, a wheel of accomplishment, a conch shell, a drum, a victory banner, and hanging pendant, the appropriate offerings are made on stage a formal choreography of flowing color and precision. Then Khenpo Thupten Karma from Sherab Ling gave an explanation of the mandala. In a language rich in metaphor and a voice that seems to come out of an ancient time, he invoked auspiciousness and good fortune. He praised the rinpoches saying that they have been able to spread light in all the worlds through the power of meditating on the nature of things just are they are. The khenpo spoke especially of the five certainties of place, time, teacher, retinue, and teachings. For example, the place is the vajra seat of enlightenment where 1002 buddhas will attain full awakening.
Next, representatives from the Tsurphu Labrang (administration) and from the Kagyu Monlam offered mandalas to Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche, and then two representatives each from the five heart sons' labrangs came forward to make their offerings to the two great lamas: the offering of the body was made by Situ Rinpoche's Palpung Labrang, of speech by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche's Labrang, of mind by Gyaltsap Rinpoche's Labrang, of qualities by Nenang Pawo Rinpoche's Labrang, and of activity by Treho Rinpoche's Labrang. This last one included a very special gift. Situ Rinpoche had a seal that was given to one of his previous incarnations by a Chinese emperor. It had been kept at Situ Rinpoche's seat, Palpung Monastery, for many years, but had disappeared. The Karmapa was able to find it and offer it back to him as part of this ceremony.
On the six screens in the Pavilion, a video of Situ Rinpoche was shown. He began saying that he went to the peerless Lord for refuge and that his teacher who sits above his head has been so kind. He asked that the Karmapa, the play and activity of all the buddhas, grant the siddhis of body, speech, and mind. Situ Rinpoche spoke of the history of the Kagyu Monlam and said its power brings great benefit and happiness to all living beings. With great faith he rejoiced in this and asked the Karmapa to continue the Kagyu Monlam as one of his main activities. He concluded, "If it pleases the guru, may I live to the age of 108." Gyaltsap Rinpoche then read his commitment in the form of a verse:
So that living beings may be benefited
These commitments were followed by the Offerings to the Sixteen Elders, with the refrain, "Grant your blessings that the lamas live long and that the Dharma flourish." At end of this ritual, the Karmapa gave each rinpoche a stunning and exquisitely crafted book of their life stories with photographs. (See separate feature :Two Magnificent books: The Life Stories of Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche)
After a break, the ceremony continued with an extensive series of traditional offerings, known as the Feast of Tsaru. This contains the Five Fives, each one presented by a row of five lay and monastic men and women: five grains for a harvest of virtue; five jewels for abundant prosperity; five medicinal herbs for freedom from the illnesses of the three poisons; the five essences for the realization of suchness; and the five perfumes for the purifying water of samadhi.
A lengthy praise of the rinpoches was read by the discipline master while further offerings were made by long rows of disciples from around the world. Then the Karmapa read the classic offerings of the eight auspicious substances, the seven precious articles, and the eight auspicious signs. As he read each one, a sculpted image of the individual offering radiating its gold and silver was first given to the Karmapa and then taken to the two thrones as offerings to Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche. Perhaps the Karmapa was remembering the first time he himself was offered these auspicious objects—during his own enthronement at Tsurphu in 1992 when it was Situ Rinpoche making the offerings to him.
The morning's recitation of prayers concluded with the final part of the Offerings to the Sixteen Elders:
A Detailed description of the four tormas
Beginning with stage center, first comes the torma of Marpa Lotsawa, who brought back from India the thirteen main tantras of the Kagyu lineage and the mahamudra teachings. To his right is his consort, Dagmema, and to his left, is his son, Darma Dode. At the top of this torma is Amitayus, the Buddha of Long life in his sambhogakaya form; he is one of the three main deities of long life. Beneath Marpa is an offering of a torma and fruits, and below this is Mahakala, the principal protector of the Kamtsang lineage.
The next torma features Marpa's main disciple, Milarepa, famous throughout Tibet for his songs of realization and intense practice. On Milarepa's right is his moon-like disciple, Rechen Dorje Drak, and on his left is Ngen Dzong Tenpa, one of his three main disciples. Above Milarepa is Namgyalma (the Lady of Complete Victory), another of the deities of long life, and just below him are life-like offerings of the pleasurable objects of the five senses—a mirror for form, small cymbals for sound, scented water for smell, luscious fruits for taste, and soft cloth for tangible objects. Beneath these is Tseringma, a goddess of the Himalayas who became a student of Milarepa and protectress of the Kamtsang.
In the center of the third torma is Gampopa, the sun-like disciple of Milarepa. To his right is his nephew, Gomtsul Tsultrim Nyingpo, who carried on the lineage of Gampopa's main seat, and to Gampopa's left is Pakmodrupa, whose disciples were the progenitors of the eight younger lineages. Above Gampopa is Drölkar (White Tara), the third of the deities of long life and the personal yidam deity of Gampopa. Marpa and Milarepa were lay practioners, but Gampopa was a monk, so below him are the thirteen requisites of a monk, the articles they need for daily living, such as a sieve for filtering water. Below these is Damcan Garwa, the blacksmith who holds samaya. A form of Dorje Lekpa, he is a protector of the lineage and often depicted with Mahakala and Mahakali.
The final torma presents the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, whose 900th anniversary has been celebrated throughout the past year. To his right is Drogön Rechung, considered the first manifestation of Tai Situ Rinpoche, and to the Karmapa's left is Paljor Döndrup, the first Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche. Above Dusum Khyenpa is Padmajungne, (the Lotus Born), one of the many names of Guru Rinpoche, of whom Dusum Khyenpa is an emanation. Below Dusum Khyenpa is the offering of the eight auspicious signs, and below them, the female protector, Palden Lhamo.
Kagyu Monlam hosts a celebratory lunch
Following the long-life offerings to H.E. Kenting Tai Situpa and H.E. Gyaltsap Rinpoche, there was a special buffet lunch in the shrine room at Tergar Monastery for invited guests only.
Gyalwang Karmapa, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche headed the lunch; at their table, a chair and place were set symbolically for Situ Rinpoche.
Other guests included rinpoches, three year retreat lamas, khenpos, chötrimpas, and umzes from the Kagyu monasteries at the Monlam, as well as representative from each of the nunneries, the labrangs of Tai Situpa and Gyaltsap Rinpoche, and lay sponsors. The buffet was prepared by the same team who had been cooking for the sangha, and entertainment was provided by students from TCV Suja, who performed traditional Tibetan songs and dance with youthful vigour.
The highlight of the function was the presentation of a facsimile of a rare text to all Kagyu monasteries and nunneries. No one had known about the existence of this text, a commentary on the Six Yogas of Naropa by the Fourth Gyaltsap Rinpoche,Dragpa Dundrub (1550-1617), until a handwritten copy from Mongolia was offered to the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa. Thought to be the only surviving copy, His Holiness then presented it to Gyaltsap Rinpoche. Finally, the monasteries and nunneries grouped together for photos with His Holiness.
His Holiness thanks the sponsors and makes concluding remarks Thank You Speech for Sponsors
Gyalwang Karmapa began the talk by thanking the sponsors. His Holiness said that the Kagyu Monlam prayer festival is made possible by the causes and conditions of the sponsors and because of their devotion and generosity. His Holiness said accumulation of merit creates more positive conditions.
Gyalwang Karmapa explained the benefits of giving and accumulating merit. He said positive causes bring positive results and that there are two types of conditions: the outer and the inner condition.
His Holiness said sponsorship fulfills the outer condition. While outer conditions are important, if there is no inner condition, then it is unlikely to produce true peace of mind. He said, for instance, Sangha members should have more positive inner conditions, so that they can share their positive inner conditions with others attending the prayer ceremony.
He then said that he would like to thank all the sponsors big and small. His Holiness especially thanked Mr. N. Dorjee, member secretary of the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee. As a token of appreciation and gratitude, he also offered scarves and a souvenir medallion of Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa to each of the sponsors.
His Holiness said since he had already said a lot over the past few days, all he wanted to do was to express his gratitude and say thank you. He said he felt grateful to all the monks, incarnate lamas and retreat masters, amongst others who had gathered in Bodhgaya. He also declared the 29th Kagyu Monlam a success.
However, Gyalwang Karmapa said, Tibetan Buddhism is going through a difficult time. In this degenerate age, Gyalwang Karmapa said, we need to have a long term view. We should not just think about the short-term benefits of Buddhism but about how the teachings of the Lord Buddha can survive for a long time.
He said that everyone present should consider how they could contribute to the preservation of the Dharma, and how the Dharma could benefit the maximum number of sentient beings. He said we have to think along those lines if we want to ensure the survival of the dharma.
In previous Monlams, he said, he had talked a little bit about vegetarianism and environmentalism. However, it seemed that now everybody was doing quite well and that he had nothing specific to say about them. He qualified this by saying that the situation was not yet perfect, and there was still need for improvement. Indeed, there is always room for improvement as long as we have not reached enlightenment. His Holiness then talked about the debt of gratitude the Karma Kagyu lineage owes to the First Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa. He also said a little about the request for the long life performed for H.E. Kenting Tai Situ Rinpoche and H.E. Gyaltsap Rinpoche. The teachings and guidance of great masters are extremely important as they awaken us from the slumber of ignorance. Therefore, we need them to live long and for all of their wishes to be accomplished, he explained.
He expressed his gratitude to H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche for actively participating in the Monlams and asked us to pray that his activities flourish; to Khenpo Lodro Donyo Rinpoche from Bokar Ngedon Choling Monastery; and to all the other khenpos, vajra masters, chant masters and retreat masters who had come to attend the Kagyu Monlam.
His Holiness explained the reason he had taken responsibility for the Kagyu Monlam over the past few years was his wish to continue the work started by Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche and Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche. He said he hoped that Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche's reincarnation would come soon and that his activities would flourish.
Kagyu Monlam has become an international prayer festival with many people from around the world. Although it is difficult for the Gyalwang Karmapa to travel abroad, they have come to see him. Such a gathering fulfills the aspiration of the founders to have people from many countries speaking different languages getting together for the peace ,happiness and well-being of all sentient beings.
Nearly a thousand people had been working to support the 29th Kagyu Monlam. Without them it would be impossible, especially those who looked after the environment at the different sites, keeping everywhere clean. He also thanked the members of the working team for their assistance and hard work.
Before the final section of the Monlam prayers began, the dedication prayers and prayers for auspiciousness, the Gyalwang Karmapa talked about the dedication of the merit accumulated during the prayer festival. His Holiness said that he would like the merit to be dedicated to the happiness and welfare of all sentient beings and hoped that they could live in peace and stability.
He also particularly remembered those deceased in the previous year and recited the names of those he knew personally.
He said finally he would like to thank those who had come to the Monlam and also expressed his gratefulness to the country of India (particularly, the state of Bihar) from where we received the lineage teachings. Since Tibet is also a source of dharma, His Holiness wished that all the people and divine beings residing in Tibet might be freed from all negative conditions. He also prayed that the aspirations of the heads of the Tibetan Buddhist schools and all great masters be fulfilled, and that their activities flourish. Gyalwang Karmapa particularly prayed that the activities of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama continue to flourish and that he might live a long and healthy life.
Concluding prayers of dedication and aspiration
As happens each year, the afternoon's final session went from strength to strength as rousing dedications and aspirations followed fast. Most people had brought khatags to wave for auspiciousness, and as the aspirations continued, the khatag waving increased until the Monlam Pavilion appeared as an ocean of maroon, gold and white.
Thus ended the 29th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo. People smiled serenely as they picked up their maroon bags of tsok and made their way out of the pavilion. There was no pushing or shoving as is usual in great crowds, no short-temperedness, no harsh words, as approximately 8000 monks, nuns and laypeople waited patiently for their turn to pass through the gates on to the road. It seemed as if, for one moment, in dusty, fly-blown Bodhgaya, Dewachen had been realized.
7 March, 2012 Bodhgaya
Sojong and the alms procession
5.30am and at the Monlam Pavilion, H.E.Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche was giving the Mahayana sojong vows. Meanwhile, at Tergar Monastery 500 metres away, there was noisy bustle as laypeople arrived with their food offerings to find a good place on the circuit for the alms procession.
The Akshobhya Ritual at the Monlam Pavilion
After the alms procession, and the Twenty Branch Monlam, the main focus of the day's prayers at the Monlam Pavilion was the Akshobhya Ritual.
Usually only ordained sangha are involved in these prayers, although laypeople attend the sessions. Monks and nuns performed the Akshobhya Self-Visualization, the Akshobhya Mandala Ritual, and the Reading the Akshobhya Sutra.
The theme of purification concluded with the recitation of the Dharani Sutra.
The Akshobhya Purification Ritual and Fire Ceremony
This year, the Akshobhya retreatants have returned to offer the Akshobhya Purification Ritual every evening during the final six days of Monlam, before offering the final purification ritual and fire puja on the evening of the 7th day, which is March 7, 2012.
Before and during the Monlam, the organizers have been collecting donations to make prayers for the deceased and those living who are in great difficulty. The Akshobhya fire ceremony is seen as having a special power to help those who had died and are in the intermediate state of bardo.
His Holiness the 17th Karmapa performed the Akshobhya fire ceremony on the evening of the March 7, the penultimate evening of the Kagyu Monlam. Also present were the Akshobhya retreatants......................................................
The actual prayer ceremony started at 6.00 pm when His Holiness arrived and sat on the portico in front of the main entrance to Tergar Monastery shrine hall, flanked by the Akshobhya retreatants. A painting of Akshobhya had been hung in front of the His Holiness' throne. A table held rituals and tormas (ritual cakes) necessary for the ceremony.
Gyalwang Karmapa sat there facing the image of Akshobhya.
The 21 monks, nuns and laypeople who had been participating in the Akshobhya retreat were seated on the porch around the Gyalwang Karmapa.
Monks were helping with the fire ceremony. Two boxes were placed near the fire: one contained the names of the deceased and the other contained those of the living.
As His Holiness and the retreatants said the prayers, the attendants put the papers with the names of the deceased and the living in the fire. Monks worked the fire by pouring melted ghee over it, (clarified butter), and also ensured that the papers were burned. More sticks were fetched to the keep the fire going.
Hundreds of devotees and Monlam guests from around the world took part and witnessed the esoteric ceremony. Guards sat on the stairs leading up to the temple, ensuring that prayers were conducted smoothly. No one was allowed to enter the porch.
Often the flames reached high, lighting up the faces of those witnessing the puja, clearly moved by the power of this ritual.
Ranged along two sides of the temple, members of the audience watched the ceremony and listened to the reassuring and calming sound of His Holiness' voice. A scattering of people from around the world and of all colors sat on the lawns in front of the temple and filled the drive to the main gate.
At one point the electricity went off, in the ensuing darkness, the glow of the fire lit up the evening sky.
Finally, His Holiness led everyone in the recitation of the six-syllable mantra, Om Mani Padme Hung, with melody, creating a touching spectacle and a fitting finale to an elaborate puja which had lasted for more than a month.
Where words fail to communicate, rituals succeed, it seems.
Evening at the Monlam Pavilion
From Tergar Monastery, the sound of vigorous drumming could be heard, punctuated by the voice of the Gyalwang Karmapa broadcast over the sound system. Another rehearsal was under way. His Holiness was checking personally that everything was in place for the long life offerings to H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche and H.E. Gyaltsap Rinpoche the following morning, and supervising the rehearsal for the Marme Monlam the following evening.
6 March, 2012 Bodhgaya
The main events today centred around the Kangyur, the Tibetan collection of sutras or the written record of the words of the Buddha. This is covered in a separate feature.
Novice monks and nuns did not go to the Mahabodhi stupa. The Mahayana sojong vows at the Monlam Pavilion were given by Khenpo Dönyö. While the Kangyur procession was under way at the stupa, those at the pavilion recited the Menlha (Medicine Buddha ritual).
Session Three: Prayers for the well-being of Tibet
The current troubles in Tibet mean that this year's Monlam prayers for the well-being of Tibet have taken on an urgency and great significance. Each year, His Holiness unfailingly attends this session. The prayers in this section were written mostly by His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.
There must have been very many heavy hearts amongst the monks and nuns as they recited them, especially those whose families are still in Tibet. Pilgrims arriving from Tibet have brought with them stories of the suffering there.
The Gyalwang Karmapa himself, in recent public statements, has hinted that the situation in Tibet, of self-immolations and increasing crackdowns and repression by the Chinese authorities, weighs heavily on him.
This is what he said in a statement in February, made in Bodhgaya:
As tensions escalate, instead of showing concern and trying to understand the causes of the situation, the Chinese authorities respond with increasing force and oppression. Each new report of a Tibetan death brings me immense pain and sadness; three in a single day is more than the heart can bear. I pray that these sacrifices have not been in vain, but will yield a change in policy that will bring our Tibetan brothers and sisters relief.
Having been given the name Karmapa, I belong to a 900 year old reincarnation lineage that has historically avoided any political engagement, a tradition I have no intention of changing. And yet as a Tibetan, I have great sympathy and affection for the Tibetan people and I have great misgivings about remaining silent while they are in pain. Their welfare is my greatest concern.
As he recited the prayers, the webcast camera caught him grim-faced, staring steadfastly ahead.
I am sure that within this new great encampment, those aware of the tragic situation in Tibet, were praying from the depths of their hearts.
Rehearsals at the Monlam Stage
Early evening, the Gyalwang Karmapa went to the Monlam Pavilion to supervise the reorganization of the stage and rehearsals for two upcoming events: the Long Life Offerings to H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche and H.E. Gyaltsap Rinpoche, and the Marme Monlam. Both will be held on the eighth and final day of this year's Monlam. The rehearsals continued long into the night.
5 March, 2012 Bodhgaya
Once more the day at the Monlam Pavilion began early at 5.30am.
The webcast team was in their places, ready to start broadcasting as Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche commenced the Mahayana Sojong vows. He sat on a cushion facing the assembly and read the vow-taking ritual from a sheet of paper, monks, nuns and laypeople repeating the vows after him.
Dawn broke slowly over the fields of baked earth relieved by clumps of rough grass that surround the pavilion. Prayers from the Mahabodhi stupa 2Km away, broadcast by loudspeaker over the countryside at maximum volume could be all too clearly heard.
The chanting master asked everyone to kneel, and began to recite the refuge vows in Sanskrit; in the background, a chorus of grey mynah birds gained strength.
Gyalwang Karmapa joined the puja after the short break for breakfast, for the chanting of the Twenty Branch Monlam.
Akshobya and Amitabha Empowerments
His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa bestowed Akshobhya and Amitabha empowerments on March 5, 2012. Gyalwang Karmapa arrived at the Monlam Pavilion around 9:00 am. After prostrating three times he sat on the throne and put on his black activity hat. After a mandala offering at around 9:15 am, His Holiness gave a brief talk on the history of Buddha Akshobhya.
A picture of Buddha Akshobhya (known as Mitrukpa in Tibetan), a copy of the one painted by His Holiness in 2011, was distributed to all those in attendance. His Holiness told how there was once a bhikku who promised that he would never be angry and not feel hatred to anybody until he reached enlightenment. Buddha then predicted that this bhikku would be called Akshobhya, or unmoving, or that which cannot be disturbed.
He became Bodhisattava Akshobhya, or Buddha Akshobhya, in the spatial Buddhafield where there are no negative activities. According to the teachings of the Buddha Shakyamuni, reciting the Akshobhya mantra will help completely purify negative deeds. His Holiness said that the practice originated from Atisha Dipankara, and was made into one of the Kriya yoga tantras by one of the Shamar Rinpoches.
According to Vairocana tantra, His Holiness said, the buddhas are all-knowing and have the wisdom to teach all sentient beings according to their respective mental dispositions. They have the skillful means to teach students according to their situation. Some are given the teachings of Shravakayana, some Prateyakabuddha, some are given teachings which are relevant for buddhas, and some which are meant for humans.
Buddha gives whatever students need and whatever will benefit them most. Buddha is very skillful and completely compassionate. If somebody needs to be taught about selflessness, he will teach about that; if somebody needs to learn more about bodhicitta, he will teach about bodhicitta. If he or she does not need, or will not benefit from bodhicitta Buddha will not talk about bodhicitta to them.
His Holiness also said that those of us on the Buddhist path need to be broadminded. One should not say that one is Mahayana and that other paths are not good, or insult them, or be intolerant of them. Dharma is dharma. Such a discriminatory attitude towards others is not good.
His Holiness also explained the meaning of the Sanskrit word "mantra", which means to protect, i.e. to give protection to the mind. He said that this is something that you have to work on the subtle mind, and it is not about using rituals and religious instruments. The main understanding of the Vajrayana is about our mind. As we have discussed, Vajrayana works to transform our negative vision, or view, and purify how we see things. Because of our strong way of grasping, we see things in a deluded way; we do not see them the way they are.
When we understand emptiness, we know that everything arises from emptiness. It is therefore important to understand emptiness. The goal of Mantrayana is to protect our mind, to protect our mind from the wrong way of seeing. Or in other words, help avoid it from seeing something as true or independently arising.
Gyalwang Karmapa said that, of the many qualities that Buddha possesses, compassion is the most important. As pointed out earlier, Buddha helped others overcome suffering in whatever way possible and always thinks about the welfare of all the sentient beings. He always taught in a way that is best suited to them. For instance, for some people, the concept of selflessness is the most important while for others it is not. Then there are those who need the concept of skillful means. The goal is the same– to be liberated from samsara. Therefore, Buddha taught everybody according to their own particular situation.
At around 9:50 am, His Holiness gave the vase empowerment, after which he gave the crown empowerment.
Finally, a Mandala offering was made to thank for the empowerment.
His Holiness began the Amitabha empowerment at around 10:00 am.
His Holiness said as long as we have negative emotions it is very difficult to be born in the Amitabha realm. However, because of the special dedication of Amitabha, if one really practices and prays to be born in Dewachen (Amitabha Realm) and focuses on Amitabha, than one can be born in Dewachen. His Holiness said that the practice comes from Tulku Mingyur Dorje. When he was young, Tulku Mingyur Dorje had a vision of the Buddha who told him that if you practice Amitabha you will travel straight like an arrow to the Amitabha realm.
Finally, His Holiness said that the main goal of the dharma is to transform and improve our mind, which means to become a better human being. Dharma has to be integrated into life and if one is a true practitioner the dharma and the person are not separate.
Lunch with the sponsors and rinpoches at the Royal Residency Hotel
The Gyalwang Karmapa hosted a lunch for the major sponsors of the 29th Kagyu Monlam at the Royal Residency Hotel, and was accompanied by leading rinpoches.
Private audiences and other duties
Website viewers may sometimes wonder where the Gyalwang Karmapa is. There are days when he only attends one session at the Monlam Pavilion. Yet, each year during the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo he works ceaselessly, rising early and retiring to bed after midnight. Much of the work he does is hidden. Sometimes it involves planning and management meetings or rehearsals of upcoming events. A major part of his daily schedule is an extensive list of private audiences. These are conducted in his quarters on the roof of Tergar Monastery, usually each afternoon. During the Monlam, the majority who request audiences belong to groups representative of dharma centres across the world. Also included, however, are visiting Rinpoches, Khenpos and monks from Kagyu monasteries and shedras world-wide, Rinpoches from other schools of Buddhism, members of the Bhutanese royal family, local Indian dignitaries, Tibetans on pilgrimage from Tibet, and a few fortunate families and individuals.
The list for this afternoon's audience, for example, contained nearly 400 names, and the audience ran for nearly three hours.
Rehearsal for the Kangyur and Alms processions
Another aspect of the Gyalwang Karmapa's tireless efforts to ensure the smooth running of the Monlam are the preparations and rehearsals that he supervises. Having successfully managed the Karma Pakshi production, he turned his attention to the Kangyur and Alms processions. At 6.30pm, when most volunteers were relaxing after a hard day's work, His Holiness gathered all the participants in these two processions together in the Monlam Pavilion to explain exactly what their duties were, to remind them of the correct procedures and modes of behavior expected of them, and to demonstrate personally when necessary, all delivered with his characteristic teasing and playful humour underscored by seriousness, and the insistence that everything should be done to the best of one's ability for the benefit of all sentient beings.
He particularly focused on the 103 getsul, novice monks, who will be responsible for handing out and collecting in the pages of the Kangyur which are distributed throughout the congregation during the reading of the Kangyur ceremony. Eachgetsul is designated by a letter written on a special badge. Using a map of the pavilion, His Holiness explained which areas each would be responsible for, and lined them up at the end of their allotted rows.
4 March, 2012 Bodhgaya
This morning began with another first. H.E. the Fourth Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Chökyi Nyima gave the Mahayana Sojong vows to those gathered before dawn at the Monlam Pavilion for the very first time. The surrounding fields resounded with the chattering of waking birds, as, in a deep voice, reminiscent of the Gyalwang Karmapa, the sixteen year old led the congregation for the first time.
Significantly, this Monlam, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche has assumed a more prominent role. Earlier, he was in evidence at each session of the Gutor Mahakala Puja, supporting the vajra master Gyaltsap Rinpoche. In addition he gave a short teaching on Calling the Lama from Afar and led the Subduing the Ground vajra dance.
Born in Central Tibet on November 26, 1995, Rinpoche was located in the summer of 1996 by a search party following instructions given by the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. During this Monlam, His Holiness commented how, of all the recognitions of trulkus he made while he was in Tibet, this was the one he experienced most strongly and clearly. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche travelled to India in 1997 and now lives at the monastery established by the previous Jamgon Kongtrul in Lava, West Bengal.
Gyalwang Karmapa's teachings on the pure realms to the East and West —Day 4
At the Monlam Pavilion on the morning of March 4, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued his teaching on the purelands. After he takes his seat on the throne, tea and biscuits are offered to everyone while the aspirations and names of the sponsors are read out by the discipline master.
It is not as if we get involved in Dharma because we are at a loose end and have nothing better to do. I am talking to you because I think it is really important, and you have to see for yourself if you think so, too. You are not just passing time here, having to sit through all of this. That is not the right reason to be here.
The word dharma in Sanskrit has ten different meanings. It was translated into Tibetan as chos, which means to change, to transform, or to make better. We have to alter our mind, transform it. What does this change entail? It does not mean undergoing plastic surgery to make our face more beautiful, nor does it mean hair implants or dying our hair. This is not the shift intended. When we talk of Dharma, it is not an alteration that tools can perform: only mind can transform mind. You have to use your mind to change your mind.
To begin with, you can meet with your mind and talk to it, making clear what is good and what is not. You can also watch your mind, determine what is going on, and take responsibility for what it is doing. In brief, you give yourself counsel and follow it, thereby transforming your mind. If you look inward and analyze, you can see that sometimes the mind is turning in a positive direction and sometimes not. Which part of your mind you follow, depends on you. Just as when someone is telling you what to do, you can choose to do it or not. We have to decide for ourselves. One side of your mind says , "You should get upset and angry." The other side says, "You mustn't do that. You have to be more open and compassionate." By inspecting your mental processes, you observe what is going on and take control.
Then you have to come to a conclusion and make a real decision: This is what I will do. If you do not have this resolve, then your plan will not be stable, and you will fluctuate between positive and negative actions. If you have a clear and stable commitment, your decision is consistent in the beginning, middle, and end.
Then His Holiness turned to talk about Akshobhya, saying that in Tibet his mind was more at ease, but when he came to India, many problems surfaced so he could become upset and angry. He had an interest in Akshobhya, which he then pursued, doing as much research as he could. He discovered that there was a bodhisattva named Great Vision who made the commitment that until he became fully awakened, he would not get angry. That was a big decision—to keep this commitment just until one dies would not be easy. So the Karmapa thought that he, too, should make a similar promise: Until I die, as much as I am able, I will not get angry or upset with anyone.
Since we make a commitment with our body, speech, and mind, we have to treat all three as servants, who are under the power of this commitment; otherwise, they might not obey us. We offer our body, speech, and mind to this promise, so they will follow its guidance. Nevertheless, sometimes we forget, so we have to remind ourselves every day. If we do so, then after a few months, our commitment will become a natural part of our life. So thinking in this way, the Karmapa made his promise. Then he thought it would be good to record it so that he would automatically be reminded whenever he was about to do something contrary to his promise, but it seems that our technology is not quite at this level yet.
When we say "Dharma," it concerns understanding what is good and bad, what is beneficial and what is not. We need to use this power, demonstrate and arouse it in a big way. If we do not know the Dharma well, we might do strange things, so we must study and develop our understanding. Many practice the vajrayana without knowing its actual meaning. We may think we have to have all sorts of implements and do strange things, and then our family might think we are being misled or have gone astray. But to practice vajrayana is not strange or different: it is directly related to our daily life.
There are different levels of vehicles (yanas) and some might think there is a large difference between them, but that is not the case. Some might mistakenly think that vajrayana is good and mahayana is not. Just as the four elder and eight younger schools are not higher or lower, the vehicles are not bigger and smaller or better and worse, or one more popular than the other.
Thegs pa is the Tibetan word used for "vehicle" (yana in Sanskrit) and it means "to lift" or "to carry." For example, different animals have different capacities to carry a load: an elephant can carry a big burden that would be too much for a goat. In a similar way, the difference in our practice depends on the extent of our bodhicitta, the aspiration to attain full awakening for the sake of all living beings. How much responsibility are we willing to take? How much of a load can we carry? Is it just for ourselves or for all other beings?
We can practice the vajrayana without malas, bells, dorjes, and so forth. These are things that anyone can purchase or possess. We should look to the essence of the three vehicles, which can be understood in terms of their focus—which of the three poisons and its antidote is central? In the foundational vehicle, renunciation, the antidote for excessive desire, is emphasized; in the bodhisattva vehicle, compassion and love, the antidote for anger, are most important; and in the vajrayana, taking the result as the path, the antidote for ignorance, is prominent. The vajrayana emphasizes wisdom so that impure view is cleared away. In all the vehicles, therefore, you are working with the afflictions. If you find an antidote, a way to deal effectively with the affliction, you are doing Dharma practice. If you are sincerely working with the difficult emotions and wrong views, only then you are doing Dharma practice.
The great masters have said that if you understand one Dharma, or one teaching of the Buddha, then put that into practice. If you understand two, put these into practice. Some people think that Dharma practice is to make us happy and relax our mind. Our work in a big, busy city is stressful so we escape to a special place for practice, trying to bring a little peace, happiness, and relaxation to our minds. This is not a bad thing, but the Dharma is not limited to stress reduction, which has too narrow a focus. Further, if we go to a spa for a massage, a sauna, and other treatments, the effect does not last long; in a few days, it is gone. The practice of Dharma is not like taking a drug and then everything is fine.
The practice of Dharma is like exercising or carefully following a course of training, which is powerful and deeply significant. For example, if you are in the military, you train every day, and in the same way, with the Dharma, you have to train your mind daily, not just to relax but to be able to relate to whatever is happening around you. You integrate your practice with whatever conditions you meet so that you are not carried away by them and do not lose your patience.
Patience or forbearance is not like the Shaolin monks, who become very strong fighters and can split bricks with their hands and so forth. Real patience means that we see the afflictions as faults, not positive qualities, and recognize that they are our real problems. The moment they appear, we immediately see that they are negative. Then no matter what people say to us, we will not be thrown off. Real patience does not mean we are wimps, but we know naturally when to be firm and not.
Understanding the basis of Dharma is crucial. In this life, we must come to see the nature of mind directly. Our Dharma practice is to find what is true, to see the truth. This experience is not something that we bring in from the outside or something that runs counter to facts. It is not useful to fabricate something in our mind that is not there; we need to understand our mind as it actually is. Milarepa understood the nature of samsara and of negative actions. Since he understood the facts, he practiced the Dharma and become a siddha, a fully realized master.
The Buddha first taught the Four Truths of the Noble Ones, the first of which is suffering—birth, old age, sickness, and death—and the second truth shows the origin of suffering and examines its causes. We have to understand these, because enlightenment is actually the complete understanding of how things really are. This is what full awakening is. The Dharma teaches us what our world is all about, how it is in all its aspects.
The Karmapa then turned to the topic of Akshobhya, or Mitrukpa, the Immoveable One. Yesterday some people were feeling sleep, so today I brought volume kha of the Kangyur (the Teachings of the Buddha), which has an Akshobhya text of about seventy pages with forty-nine chapters so now you can really doze off, he joked.
Twenty-five years after the Buddha became enlightened, he was in Rajgir (Vulture Peak) along with 2,500 fully ordained sangha members. Shariputra asked about the aspirations of past bodhisattvas, saying that if the Buddha were to speak of them, it would be an inspiration, and further, the sangha could learn about what to do in future. In response, Buddha taught this Sutra of the Features of Victorious Akshobhya's Realm. The sutra revolves around the generation of bodhicitta, which functions as an armor so that others' weapons will not harm you. Here, armor is a metaphor for patience.
The Buddha began the sutra by saying that a thousand buddha realms from here is a pureland called Abhirati where a past buddha, Great Vision, taught the six paramitas to his followers. Then one monk kneeled on his right leg, put his shawl over his right shoulder, and placed his palms together. He said that he wanted to practice the vast path of the bodhisattva. The Buddha Great Vision responded that the practice of the bodhisattva's way is extremely difficult. Why so? Because you cannot get angry at any living being. You must remain stable, unperturbed, or unmoved by anything anyone might do. The monk responded with complete sincerity that until he became enlightened, he would generate bodhicitta and never become angry with anyone and never be disturbed by what another might do. If this did not happen, it would be as if he had deceived all the buddhas of the ten directions.
So the monk generated bodhicitta and made eight commitments, the first of which was that his mind would not be disturbed by anger. The Buddha Great Vision prophesied from this time onward, the monk would have the name Abskobhya, the Unmoveable One, in all his lifetimes until reaching buddhahood when he would be known as Akshobhya Buddha.
The monk also made eighteen aspirations, which included: I will remember the Buddha with every step I take; every lifetime I will be ordained; and I will never criticize the four communities of the sangha (the male and female ordained and lay sangha). In addition, the monk made seven earnest aspirations. To show that his commitment was irreversible, he made the billion world systems quake (without any harm) with his right toe.
We should follow the example of Akshobhya Buddha. Of course, we will not be able to do all that he did, but we do what we can and that is very good. If we cannot do anything, we pray that in the future we will come to resemble Akshobhya. If we can keep the thoughts, "I will not get angry with anyone,' and "I will not have the thought to harm anyone," then we are really practicing.
When we practice Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezik), our compassion develops. It is not that we simply become familiar with the deities, but we actually develop and integrate their qualities. We do not need to please them for they do not need anything. When we offer prostrations, for example, it is not for them, but for us. We wish to be born in a pureland, and that comes about through these kinds of practices.
Then it was time for meditation. The Karmapa talked about dedication, saying that first we have to create a positive action so that we have something to dedicate. This is different from an aspiration prayer, when we generate a vast intention to benefit others, but there is no specific deed to dedicate. We can make aspirations even if we have not done anything special, which is not to say that they are not important. After the Buddha first generated bodhicitta, he practiced for three countless eons; during this time everything he did benefited others and all of it he dedicated for their benefit. Thanks to his immense, almost infinite, aspirations and dedications, when he became enlightened, all his activities happened without effort.
When we first generate bodhicitta and continue to do so, it is a kind of prayer: we want to bring lasting peace and happiness to all beings, so it is a huge aspiration. The benefits of bodhcitta like this are very powerful and long-term. They allow us to practice for countless eons without tiring. It is taught that because of the Buddha's aspirations, the Dharma rests in the palm of our right hand. Our aspirations have gathered us here, and now we need to make aspirations for innumerable living beings, all of whom are connected to us, so that they attain full awakening and discover irreversible peace and happiness within. Please make this aspiration now.
There are those whom past masters could not help, so we aspire to liberate these people, too, for it is important that everyone becomes enlightened. Ordinary people can help others to a limited extent but most of this assistance turns out to be rather ineffective. If we really want to help, we must know what people really need, and for that, the higher perceptions are indispensable, so we must have stable shamatha meditation. When a bodhisattva gives assistance, nothing is useless, everything is meaningful.
Ordinary people do not know how to investigate or how inference works. Like a blind person, they are led around by their preferences. How could they help others? We need to be very clear and hold a great aspiration throughout the day and night. This is not easy, but if we can manage it, we have accomplished someth
The Removal of Obstacles: The Twenty-One Praises of Tara, prayers to Tara and Sarasvati.
Session Three today was devoted to obstacle-removing prayers, predominantly repetition of the nyer-chig or Twenty-One Praises of Tara, followed by other prayer to Tara and a prayer to Sarasvati. Arya Tara, known as Jetsun Drolma (rje btsun sgrol ma) in Tibetan, is a female bodhisattva, the female aspect of Avalokiteshvara, who combines compassion and action. Her name means "the one who liberates" because she liberates from fear and from mental obscurations.
Before the recitation of the Twenty One Praises to Tara began, the Gyalwang Karmapa gave an introductory talk.
He began by recounting one story of the origins of Tara.
Millions of years ago in a resplendent, multi-coloured world system where a Buddha abided, there lived a Princess called Yeshe Nangwa – the Light of Wisdom - who spent millions of years making offerinsg to the buddhas and bodhisattvas. Each day she made offerings of jewels which filled an area 12 leagues across.
She developed the resolve of bodhichitta, and at that time, the bkikkshus all exhorted her to aspire to become male: You have gathered many roots of virtue so if you make the aspiration to have a male body you will be able to accomplish all your wishes.
But the Princess could not be persuaded. In the end, she told them: There is no male. There is no female. There is no individual at all. Labeling things male and female creates great confusion in the world.
She made the vow: Many have become Buddhas in a male body, but there is no one who has achieved Buddhahood in female form, so, until such time as samsara is emptied, I will take only a female birth.
Through practice and meditation she achieved the path of seeing and then achieved the samadhi which can liberate all sentient beings. Because of this, every single day, each morning, she was able to commit hundreds of different acts for the benefit of sentient beings. She was able to understand the minds of beings and lead them on to the path of Dharma. She did the same each afternoon. Her previous name had been Princess Yeshe Nangwa; now she was renamed as Tara (the Liberator).
Both the Indian and Tibetan masters explain the meaning of her name in similar ways. She is called Liberator because she can liberate sentient beings from the sixteen types of fear and so forth, and she can gather the eight things that are necessary.
The Gyalwang Karmapa then went on to give a short commentary on the meaning of the "21 Praises".
Some versions of "21 Praises of Tara", he explained, have a short praise at the beginning, which was written by the Noble Atisha. According to one story, while Atisha was at Nyethang, he prayed to Tara. There was a prophecy that he could accomplish 20,000 Tara recitations in one day, so as this seemed impossible, he asked Tara for advice. She gave him a shortened form of the 'Praises' that he could use: Om Jetsunma Drolma la chag tsel lo (Om. I prostrate to the Noble Lady Tara).
Om incorporates three sounds oh-ah-hum and represents the body, speech and mind of the buddhas. In the mantra it refers to the body, speech and mind of Tara.
Je in Jetsunma means she is like the mother of the Buddhas.
She is called noble lady– Jetsunma – because she holds all three types of vows in her mindstream and because she does not reside in samsara.
She is called Drolma because she liberates all sentient beings.
Chag tsel lo means to prostrate, and we prostrate to Tara with body, speech and mind.
The praises can be broken down into three sections. In the first section, we prostrate to Tara's sambogakaya form. She is described as "the quick and heroic", describing her activity. "Who arose from the open heart on the lotus face of the three world's protector": these lines refer to Chenresig (Avalokiteshvara), who is the protector of the three realms, and the story that Tara was born from a tear on his lotus face. The praises continue with references to both her wrathful and peaceful forms. Some show respect to her as a bodhisattva and buddha. This section concludes with the line :Who, frowning with the syllable HUM conquers the seven levels.
In the second section, the prostrations are made to her dharmakaya form. This section begins with the line: I prostrate to you whose conduct is blissful.
The third section describes the benefits of reciting the praises. At dawn it is good to remember the peaceful aspects and make aspirations. In the evening one should remember the wrathful aspects. There is then the aspect of benefits for both oneself and for others, and the number of times the praises should be recited. To recite these praises is the best way to ensure that we have what we need. Tara clears away obstructions and difficulties. Reciting the praises is especially important at this time when there are many obstacles; Tara can bring harmonious conditions and long life as stable as the vajradharma.
The 29th Kagyu Monlam: Day three - Gyalwang Karmapa's teachings on the pure realms to the East and West
3 March, 2012 Bodhgaya
According to science, this earth is the only planet where all of the positive conditions exist for human life. So to have all the conditions necessary for life is very rare. And human beings have a special quality that other beings lack: we are able to distinguish right from wrong. Many species of living beings have become extinct, but among those that exist, humans are the most intelligent because they have the capacity for ethical or moral discernment, knowing which actions are positive and which are negative. It is not just a matter of gain and loss in the short term; we can also comprehend what is beneficial in the long term. But even though we have this capacity, so far we have not used it very well. We tend to only look at what is good for ourselves in the short term, but we do not look closely enough at what is best for everyone in the long run. On top of that, for our own benefit or that of our immediate communities, we mistreat other groups of beings and create a lot of damage and loss of life. In this way, because of negative human activities, many beings have been killed and have become extinct.
And in the same way, all the problems in the environment are due to the mistakes of human beings. In one way, there has been vast technological and material development, making it easy to communicate and travel. But in another way, we are living in degenerate times. By this I mean that natural and traditional ways of doing things are being replaced by all kinds of artificial or made-up methods.
Because of this, human beings have arrived at a time when we really need to think deeply. We have all kinds of ease and assets in our environment, creating the right kind of conditions to practice dharma. And these conditions not only facilitate dharma practice, but also enable us to engage in positive actions. Thus we need to use our great capacity for intelligence to understand how to act in ways that are the most beneficial for ourselves and for others. If we can do that, then this precious human life will become useful and fruitful.
Furthermore, when we talk about our lives we are not just referring to our individual bodies. We are part of an interconnected web and whether or not our lives become meaningful depends upon acknowledging this interdependence and using our minds, thoughts, and actions in such a way that they will be beneficial, not just for ourselves, but for everyone.
Now today I will finish teaching about Amitabha's pure realm:
1) How do we create conditions to be reborn in Dewachen?
It is said in the Amitabha Sutra, "If anybody hears my name, and then makes a prayer or aspiration to be born in Sukhavati, unless that person has created the five heinous deeds or abandoned the dharma, if they are not born there, then I will not be enlightened." So Amitabha says that if someone really aspires to be born in Dewachen, and practices positive deeds, he will make it possible for them to be born there. But first you have to aspire to it and focus your mind on it. Then you must accumulate positive deeds and dedicate those deeds to be born in Dewachen.
In the Amitabha Sutra, the Buddha says to Sariputra, "If someone concentrates on Dewachen for one to seven days, then if that person dies, they will necessarily be born into Dewachen. So therefore one must pray to be born into Dewachen."
And in another sutra called Chime Nada, "The Drums of Deathlessness," it says that if you recite the name of Amitayus, you can also be born in Dewachen or Sukhavati. The conditions for being born there are:
1) With devotion and a clear, inspired mind, you recite the name of Amitayus or Amitabha.
2) You must perform many positive deeds and dedicate them to being reborn in Dewachen.
As for the special causes or complete conditions, try to generate within yourself all the qualities of the bodhisattvas that reside in Dewachen. What are those qualities? The bodhisattvas lack hatred or anger, are very diligent, and never tire of learning. Even if they possess an ocean of knowledge they are never satisfied and all of their senses have been tamed and are under control. So we need to try to cultivate those same qualities and that comprises the complete cause of being born in Dewachen.
And what kind of life forms can create the conditions to be born there? Anybody--gods, humans or non-humans—can as long as they have the capacity to transform or direct their minds in a positive and virtuous way. Also, regarding all those causes described in the sutras, it is not enough to just do them once. We have to practice them again and again and we have to generate strong devotion and confidence in the teachings of Buddha Sakyamuni.
Ordinary positive deeds will cause us to take a good samsaric birth but special positive deeds create the conditions for us to be born in Dewachen. These special deeds need to be done with a clear understanding and confidence in Amitabha's realm and also in Buddha Sakyamuni's teachings. Being undistracted is very important too. It is not enough just to recite the Buddha's name or mantra but we must do it one-pointedly. And likewise, if we perform positive deeds in a state of non-distraction, we will create the causes and conditions to be born in Dewachen. So these are ways to create conditions for ourselves to be born in Dewachen.
2) How can we create the conditions for others to be born in Dewachen?
We should not practice dharma for our own gain or honor but we should practice from the depths of our heart so that other beings may be born into Dewachen. We should read the Amitabha Sutra and the Chime Nada Sutra aloud so they are heard by other beings. And when we recite the names and mantras of the buddhas, we can encourage others to recite the names and mantras also. So in order to create the conditions to be reborn in Dewachen, we request or teach people to abide by their precepts and create positive deeds. Furthermore, we allow them to hear the name of Amitabha and his sutra. We can also spread sand or material that is blessed by the recitation of mantras and sutras on others' bodies and them show Amitabha's form. We can make prayer flags so that all beings will be touched by the wind that is blown through the mantras and representations of Amitabha. So these are some ways to help other people to create the causes and conditions to be born in Dewachen.
Animals like birds and pigs are unable to recite the names of the buddhas, so we recite the mantras or names in their ears in order to create the causes for them to be born in Dewachen. There are many stories about that. About a month ago, I heard something but I don't know whether it is true or not. A person wanted to eat frog meat and went to the market to buy some frogs. Apparently, skinning frogs can be done quite easily. So this person bought three frogs, skinned the frogs, and brought them to his home. By the time he got home, one frog had already died. Another frog that had been skinned was still breathing a little bit. So that frog was looking up at the person with large eyes. This spooked the person and he began to recite the mantra of Amitabha. Slowly, the dead frog revived and the frogs listened carefully to the mantra, Om Ami Dewa Hri. And then one of the frogs seemed to be reciting Amitabha's mantra. So this is an incident I read about, but I don't know if it really happened or not.
In short, most of us aspire to be reborn in Dewachen. In Tibet this has been the case for a long, long time and the same is true for Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. These traditions have been around for a long time and there are many great masters who are very skilled in the practice. However, some are rather strange because they say that we should only do the practice for rebirth in Dewachen. That is mistaken, I think. Some people are very inspired to be born in Dewachen but maybe others are not. So you cannot tell all of them that they must only do Amitabha's practice and nothing else. Even Buddha Sakyamuni never said this.
Because as I said before if you really want to create the complete causes and conditions for rebirth in Dewachen, then you must engage in all the practices of the Buddhadharma such as study, reflection, meditation, generation of bodhichitta and the bodhisattva's way of life, and the three trainings. People prefer an easier way so that is why some people say that Amitabha's practice is the only one to do and you do not need anything more. That is not right. If our aspiration is that small and simple then we risk becoming a sect by thinking "only my way is the right way." We have to be very careful about that otherwise we could create sectarianism.
Generally in the Buddhadharma, any dharma practice we do can cause us to be born into Dewachen. There is nothing that does not become a cause for us to be born into Dewachen. The only criteria are whether we are especially inspired and praying to be born there or not.
A three-minute meditation on Bodhichitta
In order to meditate on Bodhichitta, first it is important to meditate on compassion. Meditation is like a mirror or coin with two sides. Facing out is renunciation and facing in is compassion. In Tri Gyatsa, "100 Instructions" by the Karmapa Mikyo Dorje, there is a very nice instruction on how to meditate on compassion. I will try to go through this a little bit.
As I said before, we have attained the precious human life. The main feeling of gratitude we need to have is to our mother. Because she gave us this body, we should be extremely grateful to her. In order that we live, our parents went through many difficulties and did a lot of positive and negative things. And the reason they did the negative deeds is because of their love for their children and grandchildren. All the business they did and cultivation of the land, etc. was not just for their own livelihood but to keep their children and grandchildren alive and well. So because of all these positive and negative deeds they did for our benefit, they might be born into lower realms in their next lives. Because of this, we have to be responsible for them in some way.
Similarly, all sentient beings are like our parents. When we talk about parents, there are many different types of parent. There are the parents who gave us our body, and the parents who have been kind to us in other ways. Our parents gave us life, but other beings on earth also gave us things that allowed us to keep on living. If we eat food, it comes in a package, and we don't know who prepared it. Even though we don't know their names, some people definitely cultivated and cooked this food and packaged it for us to enjoy. Therefore, many, many people, who like our parents became causes for our survival, have been very kind to us. Anyway, to be able to feel gratitude is a very important thing. When we feel compassion, kindness, and gratitude, we become content, happy, and joyful. Thus, feeling gratitude is very beneficial and important for us as human beings.
And compassion is actually feeling gratitude for all sentient beings and remembering that all those beings in samsara have a lot of suffering and problems. When we really see that situation we feel unbearable compassion and sadness and become inspired to free them from their sufferings. So we have to cultivate that kind of sincere and burning aspiration thinking, "I want to free all beings from their suffering!" This is what we will meditate on today.
Imagine all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, like Amitabha and Avalokiteshvara, present in the sky in front of us. Then recollect all the positive deeds that we have done in the three times, past, present, and future, and offer them to the buddhas. And because we offer them to the buddhas, the Buddhadharma spreads. And because it spreads more people create positive deeds and those positive deeds are also dedicated. There is the power of creating positive deeds and the positive deed of offering that to the Buddha and the result is the spread of dharma and that creates a lot more positive deeds for many people and is dedicated for the benefit of all sentient beings. And the positive deeds that come out of that, we also dedicate for the benefit of others and the positive deeds that come out of this dedication we dedicate again. So there is an endless cycle of positive things, and we dedicate in this way, creating an unending cycle of dedication. Maybe we will do some prayer and recitation first and then meditate.
At this point the Dewachen Monlam is chanted, followed by the meditation bell.
1.50pm and the Monlam Pavilion is buzzing. People returning from lunchbreak are greeting friends, others are sitting quietly, the sangha are putting on their yellow prayer shawl in spite of the early afternoon heat. Steadily the flow of people – monks, nuns and laypeople - fills the great tent. Everything and everyone appears strangely tinted by the pale blue light filtering through the blue tent cloth and blue PVC tarpaulin. A wind picks up and ruffles the tent cloth. The PVC tarpaulin snaps, rustles and crackles in the breeze.
This is the third of eight days; there is a feeling of harmony and unity of intent within the Pavilion. At 2.00pm promptly the chanting master begins the first prayer of the session "The King of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct".
H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and H.E. Gyaltsap Rinpoche presided over the afternoon sessions.
2 March, 2012 Bodhgaya
At the close of the first day, the chief chötrimpa (disciplinarian) gently chided some of the monks for being late for the first session of the Monlam. Today, everyone was on time.
The session began with Gyaltsap Rinpoche bestowing the Mahayana Sojong vows, proceeded on to the refuge prayers in Sanskrit, and then on to the Twenty Branch Monlam. The Gyalwang Karmapa attended the second session of the Monlam but not the other sessions. He worked busily in his quarters with preparations and audiences. He also visited the Nyingma Monastery and dropped in on the gelong and gelongma who eat lunch in the shrine room at Tergar Monastery. In the evening he went to the Monlam Pavilion to supervise the final rehearsal for the evening performance of "Karma Pakshi" on the 3rd March.
Gyalwang Karmapa's teachings on the pure realms to the East and West—Day 2
March 2, 2012, underneath the blue arch of the Monlam Pavilion, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued to teach on the pureland of Sukhavati (Dewachen). Yesterday, he talked about who could be born there, and after looking at various aspects of the question, he concluded that anyone who could engage their mind in virtuous actions could take rebirth in Sukhavati. Today he explained the purpose and particular benefits of being born in this pureland. Among these are avoiding the experience of the lower realms and the feeling of suffering, whether physical or mental, for this is a place (or level of realization) where we do not need to experience suffering or its origins. Instead, every day we will witness a festival of miracles. Further, in every lifetime until we become enlightened, we will attain all the leisures and resources. The most important benefit, however, is that the conditions obstructing liberation and omniscience are fewer and those that support attainment are greater.
What are these opposing inner conditions on a physical level? The body degenerates and grows old, experiences disease and weakness. The elements decline; eventually our life force fades away; and finally we die. While alive, we are poor and destitute and busy with maintaining a place to stay, food, and health. These experiences do not exist in Sukhavati. Mentally, the opposing conditions are mainly grasping on to the self of an individual and the self of phenomena on a coarse level. This has become manifest as having a great fixation on our place, our body, and objects we own. In brief, our self, this "I," is greatly favored; we think about it almost constantly.
Further, we have the wrong view that disparages karma cause and effect, and we also have the thought to harm others. The afflictions, such as aversion and excessive desire, have come to the surface. Due to our ignorance, we do not know others' minds, or the higher perceptions, and so forth. All these negative conditions, which are coarse, manifest, and mostly mental, do not exist in Sukhavati.
Connected to both the body and mind are the five things that veil or obscure our samadhi: seeking pleasure, maliciousness, torpor and sleepiness, agitation and excessive regret, plus doubt. Through these, we take up what is negative and cannot turn our mind to virtuous activity. We gather the karma that propels us into lower rebirths. Through body, speech, and mind, new negative karma is accumulated and the old is brought to fruition. In Sukhavati, these kinds of counterproductive conditions that are internal obstacles to liberation and omniscience are minimal.
Externally, negative conditions also arise—fires, floods, poisons and weapons, all the things related to what brings harm. Further, there are all manner of negative spirits that bring harm as well as enemies, thieves, and so forth. The five objects of the senses (forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile objects) can also obstruct. In Sukhavati, these outer, or objective, conditions that give rise to what is unvirtuous, or that cause something else to do so, are also minimal.
In Sukhavati, conducive conditions, those in harmony with the path of practice, predominate. For example, we can take birth in another world and practice the path there. We do not die involuntarily, so we have a long life. Many positive qualities are born within—we attain the siddhis, the higher perceptions, the various special eyes, such as the wisdom eye or the divine eye. During one morning, we can come before the buddhas of the ten directions and make limitless offerings. Born near them we can receive key instructions. Without hindrances and just as we wish, we can attain everything to be enjoyed—the nourishment, clothing, residences and so forth in numberless buddha realms. And these pleasures will not promote or encourage the afflictions; rather, they are an aid leading to the experience of the genuine Dharma. We feel always blissful like those in the state of the third meditative concentration. Thoughts related to the genuine Dharma—such as impermanence, the nature of suffering, the meaning of no self—arise effortlessly within our mindstream. Present in Sukhavati are also great beings, such as buddhas and chakravartins. In sum, there are many positive conditions that help an individual to move along the path.
As for the outer conducive conditions, there is no need to mention the blissful joy found in Sukhavati. In addition, Amitabha, Avalokiteshvara, and Vajrapani are always present. From the pure realms in the ten directions come vast numbers of bodhisattvas-and arhants with their retinues, who remain in Sukhavati and turn the wheel of Dharma. Positive outer conditions appear without effort. The sounds relate not to ordinary phenomena, but to the Dharma which is naturally heard, telling of impermanence, peace, and no self. The beauty of the realm—the wishfulfilling trees, the celestial gods and goddesses—does not cause afflictions or distractions, but brings to mind what is virtuous on this profound and spacious path: the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha as well as samadhis, faith, emptiness, and full knowing. What arises is a mind wishing to attain liberation and omniscience. Therefore, although there are outer objects, they function as perfect conditions for accomplishing the path. In sum, compared to other pure realms, with this immense provision of outer and inner positive conditions, Sukhavati provides a special opportunity—profound, vast, and swift— to attain the qualities of the path.
After this discussion, His Holiness backs up his explanations by reading citations from a sutra, How the Pureland of Sukhavati Is Arrayed. The quotes speak of Sukhavati as a place where even the name of suffering does not exist; where one has all possible resources; and where the concepts of self and other are not present. In brief, the reason that we want to be reborn in the buddha realm of Sukhavati is that we can meet numerous spiritual friends, true buddhas such as Amitabha and true bodhisattvas such as Vajrapani. Through this, qualities of the paths and levels will arise; through bringing these benefits to mind, our practice will develop.
Then the Karmapa discussed some of the disputed points about Sukhavati, the first one being whether listeners, solitary realizers, gods or humans could be reborn there. In a sutra related to Amitabha, it is said that they all could take birth in Sukhavati. Nagarjuna affirmed the same. It was also said that since all causes and conditions are perfect, everyone born in Sukhavati has the five higher perceptions and the five eyes, (the physical, divine, wisdom, etc). There are also discussions about how the five pleasurable objects of the senses are enjoyed. Since they are experienced through a samadhi of perfect joy, involving a pliant and relaxed body and mind, attachment does not manifestly arise.
To summarize, in Sukhavati, all the positive outer and inner conditions are present, and the negative outer and inner conditions are absent. The most important point, however, is that we can actually meet the Buddha and listen to his teachings. Bodhisattvas and spiritual friends also give advice, so that we can enter the path leading to liberation and omniscience in a very profound, swift, and vast manner.
The Karmapa then shifted the topic, saying that if I continue like this people will be going to sleep, so I'll change topics and talk about science. I am not schooled in this and have just a basic understanding so there may be mistakes in what I say. He then spoke of the vast number of galaxies, the clouds of billions of stars, the unimaginable number of universes there are. We know very little about them, so it is not impossible that among them we could find Sukhavati. Some say that Sukhavati is just a product of our habitual patterns, some kind of imprint in our mind. However, there are both pure and impure universes, and ordinary people can only see the latter. There are many things that we cannot see with our physical eye and we still believe to exist because we know them through inference or by implication.
The Karmapa also spoke of Mt. Meru and the universe as it is presented in the Abhidharmakosha, saying that some of the measurements do fit what modern science has found, and general statements, such as the preponderance of water over land, are also true. When the texts speak of the "golden ground" they do not necessarily point to something made of gold; "The Golden Field" was a name for Indonesia, the home of Atisha's teacher with the same name, and gold can also be understood as the essence of the earth. In sum, these statements are based on samadhi and not technology so we have to study and reflect on them.
Then the Karmapa returned to the discussion of Sukhavati. Some say that it is not true that birth in Sukhavati brings one swiftly up the bodhisattva levels, because there is no suffering to create discontent and renunciation. Some also say that one day of practicing discipline in an impure, difficult world is worth more than practicing in a pure one. Here we need to understand that Sukhavati is beyond the three worlds of desire, form, and formlessness. From Sukhavati, we can go to myriad other realms and listen to the Dharma, which talks of impermanence and suffering so these are not unknown. Contrary to rebirth in Sukhavati, suffering in the impure realms is the result of unwholesome activity. It is also true that those who take rebirth in Sukhavati have already practiced Dharma deeply and passed beyond laziness, and so forth, so their renunciation comes naturally. Further, discipline develops more quickly and deeply in Sukhavati because there is a preponderance of positive conditions that foster it. Ultimately, the true nature of discipline does not change no matter where it is practiced.
His Holiness then followed his talk with a meditation. The main way we can take rebirth in Sukhavati is through clearing away the obscurations in our mind. We should then visualize the Buddha Amitabha, with Avalokiteshvara to his left and Vajrapani to his right in front of us. We acknowledge, or confess, previous negative actions and vow not to commit them again. This delights Amitabha, who smiles and radiates lights that come to purify the obscurations of our body, speech, and mind, allowing the qualities of Amitabha's body, speech, and mind to arise within us.
After the meditation, the Karmapa comments that there are many different prayer festivals held here in Bodhgaya and what supports them is the money that comes from donations for the living and deceased. There is no other way for the sangha to serve the donors except to make excellent aspirations their behalf, wishing that they find an easy path to enlightenment. And this is done by remembering the qualities of the Buddha, who appeared in this world and taught the Dharma. Due to this, we could work together and hold this Kagyu Monlam. So even when taking a sip of water, we should remember his kindness. We take the example of his life as an instruction and make a great effort to become able to do as much as the Buddha did to help living beings, to bring them peace and happiness.
Some people might say that this is just an aspiration, even so we still have to make it and this is the time to do it. Our prayers may be just words in the beginning, and we aspire that we can actually accomplish them. One of the main characteristics of the mahayana is making vast plans for the future to help beings until the end of endless samsara.
A drop of water in an ocean will not disappear until the ocean does. Similarly, if we dedicate a small virtuous action to full realization, it will not disappear until we attain full awakening. Whether these actions become a cause for Buddhahood or not, depends on this dedication. We are the driver of the car and can choose its direction. When the right circumstances gather, a small seed can become a great tree with numerous flowers and fruits. So a small virtue can be imbued with a vast aspiration. The result we achieve depends on the scale of our intention.
So we need to be over-confident in our aspirations: May I become a Buddha today. The main point is not to think of me alone, my things and so forth. If we analyze this me and these things, we find nothing real, nothing truly existent. Everything is interdependent. If we think about a package of food we have, it happened due to numerous causes and conditions coming together. Praise and fame come from others; the air we breathe comes from many things outside us. It is also true that when many people are together and make a strong aspiration, it becomes more powerful. If men and women gather, and also if the male and female ordained and lay sangha assemble, their aspirations are more powerful. Please keep this in mind.Read Full Report
29 1 March, 2012 Bodhgaya
The sounds of auto rickshaws reverberated through Bodhgaya in the wee hours of March 1st, 2012 as monks, nuns and laypeople made their way to Tergar Monastery to attend the first day of the eight-day Kagyu Monlam prayer festival, and to receive Mahayana Sojong vows. Sojong vows taken for the benefit of all beings are called Mahayana sojong vows.
The Tibetan word sojong is the equivalent of the Sanskrit uposatha. The reason why the vows taken in our tradition are called the Mahayana sojong vows is the unique motivation. Ordinary uposatha precepts are usually taken with the intention to purify one's negativities and to attain one's own liberation. However, if we take these ethical vows with the intention of benefiting all beings, then - owing to the great power of motivation - the results of maintaining self-discipline are immeasurably bigger.
The sun was yet to rise but the sky was already luminous. Hundreds of monks of all ages – adorned in their maroon robes and yellow prayer robes resting on their left shoulders – could be seen quietly walking by the side of the road leading up to the monastery. The serenity of the moment was occasionally disrupted by the auto-rickshaws whizzing past them on the potholed roads.
After going through the security check at the gate, monks and nuns were guided by chötrimpa (monks in charge of discipline) as they made their way to their allocated seats, designated based on monasteries and nunneries as they had been in the previous three days of teachings by Gyalwang Karmapa.Senior gelongs, or ordained monks, were seated on the stage closer to Gyalwang Karmapa according to their seniority. His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and His Eminence Gyaltsap Rinpoche, two senior lamas of the Karma Kagyu school attended the session, and sat to the left and right of His Holiness' seat respectively.
At 5:30 am, Gyalwang Karmapa arrived at the Monlam Pavilion to the accompaniment of the melody of gyaling (a Tibetan religious instrument). After an elaborate Mandala offering, he delivered an explanation on Mahayana sojong before bestowing Mahayana Sojong vows on the monks, nuns and laypeople in attendance.
Gyalwang Karmapa began by welcoming various monks and nuns from around the world who had come to Bodhgaya to attend the teachings. His Holiness spoke about the main purpose of the gathering. He said that the world is full of suffering, conflict and hatred while friendship and caring for others is less and less. His Holiness said that negative forces far outweigh the positive forces in the world. Therefore, he said the collective aspiration of the Monlam is to develop loving kindness and compassion towards others.
He said the future of the world is really in our hands. As a human being, we have the ability to differentiate between good and evil. We have to know we have to work not just for short-term benefit but must have the wisdom to work towards our long-term condition. However, we seem not to have used the wisdom to work for the long-term benefit, and thus we keep on focusing on the short term. We also tend to work only for ourselves, for our own selfish objectives. We have forgotten that we are all connected and we live in the same world, and that our lives are interdependent.
However, if we keep focusing on our own selves, we will never be free from conflicts and problems. Consequently, we have to seriously face this problem and thus work and aspire towards a better world through more wholesome activities. For instance, we all know that we eat meat and we end up killing so many animals. Therefore, I also hope that during these eight days of prayers we reflect on these issues; I also want all of us to open our hearts and think about the wellbeing of all sentient beings.
We all know if we walk along this self-cantered path, we will only end up creating more problems. In fact, he continued, you might say that we are not going to get very far. Therefore, I request everyone to think about it. All of you have the Kagyu Monlam Prayer Book in which we have prayers and aspirations from the great masters of the past. In these texts, you will know how the previous masters made aspirations and with such sincere motivation. As their followers, we should learn to emulate their qualities as we recite these texts.
In the past, we held the Monlam prayer gathering near the Mahabodhi stupa. This year we have moved to the Monlam Pavillion because we feared that it might be too hot. Even though we are not able to hold the Monlam in front of the Mahabodhi temple, we are still in the sacred place of Bodhgaya. Now it is up to us as individuals how we wish to practice and make aspirations. I hope everyone will make great and noble aspirations.
As part of this year's Monlam the Gyalwang Karmapa will give a commentary on some of the prayers which are recited. He began with a short explanation of the Sutra in Three Sections which is part of the 20 Branch Monlam and thus is recited daily during the Monlam.
A short teaching by Gyalwang Karmapa: An explanation of the Sutra in Three Sections
The Sutra in Three Sections is also called The Confession of Downfalls to the Thirty-five Buddhas. For countless eons we have taken many different bodies and have taken births in innumerable realms. And we have so much karma and obscurations accumulated from those lifetimes, that if we were to gather them all together in a bunch the entire space would not be large enough to hold it.
Now among these karmas, some will definitely ripen and some will not definitely ripen. There are various types. According to the tradition of the foundation vehicle, they say that with those karmas that will definitely ripen there is no way to purify them if we do not confess them. So unless we confess them, they will definitely ripen upon us, just like a death that we have to pay back. Since we would definitely have to experience the result of that karma, we must make confession in order to repay those debts.
According to the Mahayana, between the karma that is definitely experienced and the karma that is not definitely experienced, that which is definitely experienced is the one that we have committed intentionally. The karma that will not be definitely experienced is the one we have not intentionally performed. In other words, since that seed has not flowered much, then it will not definitely ripen into experience.
But if we have done great and terrible misdeeds then we need to have a very strong and powerful confession to serve as an antidote. If we have accomplished a great misdeed and we have merely a small antidote, then we will not be able to purify that obscuration. For example, there is the story of the king who made confession to the buddhas for an entire eon and still he ended up in the incessant hell realm. If he had not made confession, he would have spent an even longer time in the incessant hell realm, so this illustrates the power of confession–it reduced his time there. In any case, now that we have entered the gate of the dharma, we may think that we have pure vows and have kept pure samaya commitments, but there are many misdeeds that we continually accrue. Atisha said that he had never been stained by a downfall of the Vinaya though he had had a few downfalls of the Bodhisattva vow, but the downfalls of the Secret Mantra fell down like rain. Thus, many downfalls occur all the time, even without us knowing it. If we do not properly confess them we will fall down into the lower realms. That is why the misdeeds are called "downfalls."
So even if we do not have downfalls, but only minor infractions, if we have enough infractions it is the same as committing a downfall. And so if we do not confess our downfalls and infractions every day, then they will bring us bad karma. Even if we only commit small misdeeds, if we do not know how to confess them, they gradually accumulate and eventually become like a great misdeed. However, if we confess them, even if they are not completely purified, they are diminished. So it is said that for the wise, even a great misdeed is very light because since they know how to make confession, their misdeeds do not affect them very strongly.
When we make confession, we need to rely on the four antidotes. If we do not rely on the four antidotes when confessing then we will not be able to purify our misdeeds. The antidotes are: the power of remorse, the power of reliance, the power of remedial action and the power of the promise not to repeat the misdeeds.
The Sutra in Three Sections was taught by the Buddha himself. Before Trisong Detsen, the King of Tibet became king, he had committed many misdeeds. And since 108 wise men said that there was nothing better than this sutra for purifying misdeeds he started the practice of reciting this every day. This is how the tradition began in Tibet.
In India there was no tradition of reciting this every day, but in Tibet there is such a tradition. Because of this tradition, when visitors from India came to Tibet, they criticized the Tibetans, saying, "Everyone in Tibet must have very great misdeeds!" In any case, the benefits of reciting the names of each of the 35 buddhas and thinking of their qualities is described in the Compendium of the Disciplines written by Shantideva.
Now there are different ways in which the 35 buddhas are described, but in any case, we visualize a lotus flower in the sky in front of us. In the center of the lotus is Buddha Shakyamuni. Sitting on the petals surrounding him are the other 34 buddhas. They are all similar to the Buddha in their qualities and in their traits, such as sitting in the vajra posture, being golden, wearing the three dharma robes and so forth. We should imagine this in front of us and then we visualize that in their presence we recite the three sections: the confession, the prostration and the dedication. We imagine that we emanate many different bodies and with great remorse and shame we regret our downfalls in front of them as though a poison arrow had struck our hearts. We confess the misdeeds we have committed in this way.
In order to purify our misdeeds, we go for refuge to these buddhas. We describe their qualities, and we prostrate to them. Then after we prostrate we follow the power of the antidote. After that we think that we will never again do these deeds, not even once. We need that strong mind of commitment that we will never, ever do them again. If we do an authentic confession in this way then we will be able to purify all of our misdeeds. And so it is necessary to think in a vast way about this.
For the first four days of the Monlam this year, the second session is devoted to teachings by the Gyalwang Karmapa on the eastern and western pure realms, followed by meditation instructions.
Gyalwang Karmapa's teachings on the pure realms to the East and West —Day 1
The teachings this week will be about the Eastern and Western Buddhafields and on the fifth day, there will be empowerments of Akshobhya and Amitabha. To begin with, all of us have the great fortune to be gathered together in the most sacred place of Bodhgaya and the most important thing is to make our motivation correct. For a teacher the motivation should not be worldly, but rather it should be a sincere wish to help others become liberated from samsara.
And as for the people who listen to the teachings, they should not do so out of the eight worldly dharmas, but in order to bring about long-term benefits. If people receive teachings just to fulfill worldly concerns, then it will not become true dharma. Therefore both the teacher and the students need to purify their motivation and make sure it is in accord with the dharma.
The Buddha Realms of the East and the West
Abhirati in the east, and Dewachen or Sukhavati in the west, are known as the Eastern and Western Buddhafields. Generally, in these degenerate times there are very few conditions to practice dharma and, even when we have some opportunities, there will be a lot of obstacles. In particular, the basis for both worldly and spiritual accomplishment is the practice of shamatha and nowadays it is very difficult to accomplish this because there is so much distraction and technical and material progress, especially in big cities. If there is no real foundation of shamatha, it's difficult to practice vipassana. Of course, some people will understand but it is difficult for the majority to advance even in a worldly sense without shamatha. Therefore, it goes without saying that to make progress in the stages of meditation you need a stable practice of shamatha.
In order that we have the opportunity to practice dharma without obstacles in our future lives, we must pray and dedicate our positive actions towards that end. And if we do so, there is a possibility that we will be born in the pure realms where we can make continuous progress and never fall back.
In China there are certain schools of Buddhism dedicated to being born in the western pure realm of Dewachen. In Tibet, there is no particular school dedicated to this, but all of the lineages engage in practices and prayers to be born in pure realms.
In order to reach Amitabha's pure land, we need to create the causes and conditions for it. What are the things that will bring about those conditions? Whether a person is a human or non-human samsaric being, as long as one has a mind that can be made more virtuous, one has the potential to be reborn in Dewachen. The Buddha said that if we make aspirations and we dedicate our merit and do positive actions, then unless we have committed the five most heinous deeds or have completely given up the dharma, we can develop the potential to be reborn in Dewachen. Furthermore, anybody, man or woman, who has devotion and respect towards the sutra of Dewachen, or towards Amitabha or his heart sons, Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani, has the potential to be reborn there. According to Karma Chakme, since Chenrezig is the heart son of Amitabha, if you recite Karmapa Khyenno, then it is also easy to be born into Amitabha's pure realm. Also it is said that Amitabha made this promise, "Unless all beings become enlightened, I will never become Buddha." Because of the power of Amitabha's aspiration, anybody who prays to be reborn in Dewachen, generates bodhichitta, and creates all the right conditions prescribed in the sutra, can actually be born in Amitabha's pure realm.
Now the second point: what is the need or purpose to be born there? This will be discussed tomorrow.
The third point is related with Abhirati, Akshobhya's pure realm. In the last few years I have taken some interest in Akshobhya and we have offered the fire puja of Akshobhya at the Kagyu Monlams. I have also created some Akshobhya retreats here with Lamas from different countries and tried to explain what I knew about this practice. One reason I did this is because technical and material progress in the 21stcentury means that the activity of human beings is very powerful and has a great effect, unlike in ancient times. We harm other beings and the environment very much. Thus it is an age when we are creating very strong negative karma. Therefore if we practice Akshobhya, I think it will help a lot because Akshobhya is a Buddha especially meant to purify negative karma.
For example, there is no comparison between hunters and fishermen in ancient times and thosee today. The hunters of ancient times had primitive weapons of stone, and then later on, simple iron weapons. Now they have guns and all kinds of poison, and killing is much swifter and more convenient. Likewise, fishermen these days have big nets and using technology can locate the largest shoals of fish. In one net they can catch thousands of fish. So this is a time when many negative actions thrive.
However, when we accumulate very strong negative karma, the power and blessings of the buddhas become that much stronger also. Their force, their blessing, and their positive influence become more powerful. Because of that, the Buddha Shakyamuni said, "During degenerate times you should do Akshobhya's practices." Mitrukpa, orAkshobhya, means "unmoving" or "unmoved." His mind has never been disturbed by hatred or anger.
In the present time, there is a lot of anger, conflict, and violent minds that create negative deeds. Even though there are strong negative deeds there are also strong antidotes. The great masters of the Kagyu lineage in the past belonged to the Akshobhya family. For instance, when Milarepa received the empowerment of Gyepa Dorje, his flower fell in the east. Therefore he was called "Gyepa Dorje" and it was clear that he belonged to the Akshobhya family. And the Karmapa also belongs to the Akshobhya family. To signify this, he wears the Black Hat. Actually, the color of the Karmapa's hat is dark blue, like the changeless nature. Changelessness is signified by dark blue because people think that the sky does not change. Everything else changes, but the sky is empty. In the same way, the true nature does not change and since in that way it is similar to the sky, the color blue signifies the changeless nature. Therefore the Karmapa's Black Hat originally was dark blue.
Finally, even though we have the blessings of the lineage with us, we still have to practice diligently and joyfully. It is very important to practice with joy. Many people feel they have to acquire things that they do not have and they try hard to practice dharma as if it were something from the outside that we do not have within us. That is not the correct way to approach it. We need to comprehend what naturally abides within us and to look deeply within ourselves at the kindness and love that is already there rather than disregard the positive qualities we have.
From tomorrow onwards, we will talk about the Akshobhya practice.
The Gyalwang Karmapa returned to the Monlam Pavilion after lunch for Session Three, and gave a short teaching on The King of Aspirations: The Aspiration for Noble Conduct.
He then returned to his quarters at Tergar Monastery to conduct audiences during Session Four.
And finally some statistics about the 29th Kagyu Monlam This year there are:
35 Rinpoches in attendance
Gyalwang Karmapa's Teachings on the Vajradhara Lineage Prayer Session Two: Material things cannot bring true happiness
27 February, 2012 Bodhgaya (Monlam Pavilion)
Gyalwang Karmapa began the second day of his teachings on the Vajradhara Lineage Prayer by providing further explanations on the previous day's teachings on the history of the Karma Kagyu lineage. His Holiness spoke at length on the role of Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche in the history of the Karma Kagyu tradition.
He said that Jamgon Lodro Thaye is the first Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and his reincarnation, Jamyang Khyentse Oser, was born as the son of the Fifteenth Gyalwang Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje. The Fifteenth Gyalwang Karmapa decided to include him as one of the heart sons, along with Tai Situpa, Shamar Rinpoche, Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Pawo Rinpoche and Treho Rinpoche. Including the Karmapa, this brought the total number of heart sons in the Karma Kamtsang tradition to seven. Gyalwang Karmapa said Jamgon Kongtrul was clearly predicted in the prophecies of Lord Buddha. He said Jamyang Khyentse Wangmo and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye were extremely influential figures in the rime or the non-sectarian movement in Tibet. They propagated all the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.
They received all the empowerments and instructions available during that time. They not only remained non-sectarian in principle but also actively practiced it. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche traveled all over Tibet and received transmissions from whoever had them. For instance, there was a story about how Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche received a rare transmission from a blind person. He read line by line and had the blind person repeat after him, thereby receiving the transmission. How much effort they put into receiving these teachings is something beyond our imagination.
Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye also compiled the Five Treasuries, which run into hundreds of volumes. He was so indefatigable, according to one story, that when he was over 80 years old and found it difficult to write, the pen was tied to his hand. His activities included the composition, The Prayer for the Well-Being of Tibet, which is read during the Kagyu Monlam. Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye personally used to read it six times a day. The relationship between Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche is so strong that it should serve as a role model for all of us. They were both each others' student as well as teacher to each other. The Fifth Gyalwang Karmapa predicted that anyone who had the opportunity to come in contact with Jamgon Kongtrul and Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche would be liberated from samsara (the same was also said to apply to Terton Chogyur Lingpa.)
In addition, Jamgon Kongtrol Lodro Thaye is extremely important not only for the Karma Kamtsang school but also for Tibetan Buddhism as a whole. His detailed notes on the teachings and transmissions he received amount to one big volume, about 1,000 pages long. It was published in Tibet last year and is a great source of information. Jamgon Kongtrul's work is invaluable for all those who want to know the history and details of the 13 tantric and sadhana practices, which originate from Marpa. We have preserved these teachings so purely because of Jamgon Kongtrul's efforts.
The Fifteenth Karmapa Khakyab Dorje and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye enjoyed a great relationship. The Second Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Jamgon Khyentse Oser, was the son of the Fifteenth Karmapa Khakyab Dorje. Khakyab Dorje had great devotion to Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye. Consequently, before he passed away, he had told the Karmapa that he would come back as his son. Jamgon Khyentse Oser, the Second Jamgon Kongtrul, was a great master of Mahamudra. The Sixteenth Karmapa would seek the help of Jamgon Khyentse Oser whenever he had questions regarding Mahamudra. Although he was the son of the Karmapa, he was said to have a very humble demeanor. He was able to connect with everybody easily.
As you all know, the Third Jamgong Kongtrul Rinpoche—Lodro Chokyi Senge—was extraordinary in both dharma and mundane activities. He was an important confidante of the Sixteenth Karmapa, for whom he did a lot of work, including building and looking after the Buddhist institute in Rumtek monastery in Sikkim. Unfortunately, he passed away in a car accident. Many people believe if he had not passed away, the Karma Kagyu School would not have become embroiled in so many conflicts. His activities were very widespread and many of you who met with him must still feel those connections. When the Sixteenth Karmapa was ill, Jamgon Kongtrul went out of his way to serve his teacher. I have heard that before he passed away, the Sixteenth Karmapa said, that even though he might not have had the opportunity to pay back his gratitude in that life, he would do so in the next life.
The Fourth Jamgon Kongtrul was recognized by me when I was just a child. When I was in Tibet, there were some restrictions on recognizing reincarnations. In spite of these restrictions, I was able to recognize over 40 trulkus, some overtly and some secretly. Of them all, the clearest was Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. With regards to the others, I had a mixture of clarity and lack of clarity. But amongst all of them Jamgon Kongtrul was extremely clear. I am confident that his activities will be beneficial for all of the Karma Kamtsang tradition. His activities will be strong and stable. I also request all of you to contribute and support him in his activities, for Buddhism in general and the Karma Kamtsang in particular.
Since I have a knack of getting caught up in problems, I request all of you to support Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche's activities. In 2012, it will be 20 years since the Third Jamgon Kongtrul passed away – and the bicentennial of the birth of the First Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye. Consequently, the theme of the next Kagyu Monlam will be Jamgon Kongtrul and his activities.
We have the teachings of Buddha because of Shakyamuni Buddha's efforts and dedication for many lifetimes. If we talk about Buddhism, it comes from the tireless work and efforts of many great beings in the past. The Karma Kamtsang tradition is the same. The school is flourishing because of the many masters who worked tirelessly. The fact that we have a living tradition is due to the efforts of these masters. The teachings have been preserved thanks to this great effort by a great many people. If we know what their activities were and the efforts that they made, we will be able to appreciate it more and it will help us understand the greatness of these teachings and the tradition, and to follow in the footsteps of these masters. It will also help facilitate a certain kind of devotion and appreciation to arise in our minds. Otherwise, if we take it for granted, genuine devotion may not arise. It is therefore important to know the stories and be inspired by these masters. Therefore, I am spending time talking about these masters.
Gyalwang Karmapa pointed out that as the head of the Karma Kagyu Lineage he also finds it necessary to say a little bit about troubles that had befallen the Karma Kagyu School. He said since we are all samsaric beings, some attachment and aversion is inevitable. He, however, said it is important to take a long view. He said that it is important to be mindful and not fall into the trap of attachment and aversion because there is the risk that it might lead to the disintegration of the Karma Kagyu's golden lineage. Some attachment and aversion might sometimes be necessary. Nonetheless, it is important from our side to exercise caution and refrain from getting involved in conflicts. We have to remain sincere, have a good heart and not do anything negative or harmful to others. This will be important in the long run for the long-term interest of the Karma Kagyu tradition. He said that it was difficult for him to talk about these matters but as the lineage holder of the Karma Kagyu tradition, he had to say a little about these things. However, he could only say so much and then it was up to us to think more about these matters.
Gyalwang Karmapa then came to the main teachings focused on the Mahamudra Lineage Prayers, or Dorje Chang Tungma. He went on to explain the following stanzas:
His Holiness further explained the Tibetan word shenlok. He said there are many different translations of this word, such as "detachment," "revulsion" and "disgust." Gyalwang Karmapa said that the closest meaning of the word is perhaps the feeling one experiences when accidentally stepping upon a pile of feces on the road. While sometimes detachment can be interpreted as being indifferent to both good and bad, Gyalwang Karmapa said he does not think that is "shenlok."
One of the most important yogis, Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen, a great Sakyapa master, said that if you are attached to this life, you are not practicing dharma. If you are attached to samsara, then it is not renunciation. If you are attached to yourself, then you are not a true bodhisattava. If you are clinging, then it is not the right view. The Four Dharmas of Gampopas are in essence the same. For a person to be totally liberated from samsara there has to be e a hand, feet and the main body.
In addition, Gyalwang Karmapa said that for detachment or revulsion there is one-sided or incomplete detachment. For instance, if you were to put grass in front of carnivorous animals, they would not eat it; that is not complete revulsion. If you put meat in front of a deer, it will not eat it because deer are herbivorous. Also, most of the birds, except crows, do not hoard things. These are all kinds of detachment but not complete detachment. Rather, it is simply not in their nature to be attracted to them.
What do we mean by true renunciation, true detachment, or true revulsion? There are three levels of detachment. At the very least, we need to feel revulsion with this life. At the level of beginners, we see no use being attached to this life. If we are more advanced, then we feel no attachment to samsara. If we are very advanced, then we are not attached to peace or complete or partial peacefulness.
How should we feel disgusted with this life? This is my opinion, so I am not claiming that it is correct: when we say we practice dharma, what we mean is that we practice it primarily eyeing our future lives. If you just practice for this current life, then it is not real dharma. Practicing Dharma is not for this life, it is for the long run. Of course, we have to earn a livelihood but the main purpose of dharma is for the benefit of future lives. But if we get our priorities wrong, dharma becomes less important. Most people have got their priorities wrong and have got it upside down. Therefore, it can be said that whether you are a practitioner or not depends upon whether you are looking at the short term or the long-term benefit.
For instance, Milarepa completely gave up the welfare of this life. He lived in the Snow Mountains, and he did not have anything to eat, nor did he have any companion. It is not possible for us to follow his example because we might die of hunger, cold or loneliness. I am not saying that everybody has to practice like Milarepa. But what I am saying is that it is important to think about the long-term. As a dharma practitioner, our goal is the long-term, and the rest is secondary. That is what we mean by the term dharma practitioner: someone who prioritizes the welfare of a future life over the present life. For example, a dharma practitioner can be a businessman, but his or her main goal is practicing for future lives. In this way, if business is not so good, there is no major cause for concern, because, as a dharma practitioner, business is only a secondary objective, not the primary one. Though there may be problems with the business, there are other things that could be done. There is no need to commit suicide. There are many monks and nuns here. Some are true sangha, and others are not. Some of them only come to take tea and bread or to collect alms. Attending Kagyu Monlam with material goals is not right because we are here to pray for world peace. On the contrary, if we practice properly and accumulate merit, coming here will become meaningful.
The people who do not believe in future lives can also practice dharma. Generally there needs to be some merit in order to generate belief in the next life. For instance, some of us believe that our happiness comes from external or material things. If we look deeply then material things are not the source of happiness. Many people from developed countries have come to understand this. Material things do not bring lasting peace and happiness; they produce more difficulties, more problems, and unhappiness. When we think about it carefully, to only pursue material things is not the source of our happiness. We have to understand that true happiness has to come from within, from developing a certain kind of contentment. It is not based on gaining material things.
Therefore, having detachment, some kind of renunciation, or distaste for material things will bring happiness to our lives. This is another way of understanding not being attached to this life. Material things do not necessarily bring lasting peace. Real happiness has to come from within. So when we talk about shenlok, it is sometimes also said that "meditation" should not be taught to the wrong person because then it will be used for wrong objectives. Meditation has to be given to the person who has developed disgust with the samsaric state of being. Therefore, the great masters have said meditation has to have the right ownership. The foot has to be strong because with a good foot a person can walk towards enlightenment. If you teach meditation to those who have aspirations only for this life, it will be used for that purpose and nothing more. It is therefore important to use it in the right away.
Then Gyalwang Karmapa related three stories. The first one was one about Gyalwa Yangonpa's encounter with Zambala, the God of Wealth. Once Gyalwa Yangonpa was in retreat and making a water offering to Zambala. Out of the water bubbles appeared two Zambalas, one black and the other yellow. The Zambalas told him they wanted to give him whatever he asked for. Gyalwa Yangonpa said," I do not need anything because I live in solitude in a remote area." He told Zambala, "If you really want to give something, please give it to the beggars."
The second story was of Druptop Ugenpa, who was a student of Karma Pakshi and Gyalwa Gotsangpa. He once came to Magadha in India. There he had a vision of the Indian deity Ganesha. Ganesha offered to become his protector, if he made torma offerings to Ganesha and stayed in Bodhgaya for three years. In addition, Ganesha would also offer him one third of the world. His Holiness said he was not sure whether the world meant the whole world or just India. Gyalwa Gotsangpa responded: "I know that you need meat and blood, which I cannot give you. And how long I stay in Bodhgaya is totally up to me. Moreover, if you gave me one-third of the world, what would I do with it?" If you are too attached to material things, you end up losing your independence.
The third story was 900 years old. Once upon a time a rich man lived next door to a poor man. Every evening, the rich man would hear the poor man sing and wonder why the poor man was so happy. Was it because he had so little money? So one day, after the poor man had gone out to go begging, the rich man left a huge piece of gold, as big as the size of a goat's head, in the man's room. When the poor man came back, he was surprised to see it. He thought that somebody must have forgotten it and contemplated ways to return it to its owner. However, later he thought that it must have been left by higher beings, who perhaps wanted to look after him because he was so poor. Then the poor man began to make plans about how to spend the gold, how to invest the money and how to build a new house. Lost in thought, he forgot to sing that night. Meanwhile, the rich man was watching the poor man from the window. This proves we often lose sight of our goals. We pursue wealth to seek happiness. This is not right. Material things will never bring us lasting peace and happiness.
Gyalwang Karmapa's Teachings on the Vajradhara Lineage Prayer Session One: Great masters of the Karma Kamtshang lineage
26 February, 2012 Bodhgaya (Monlam Pavilion)
February 26 is the first of the three days of teachings by the Gyalwang Karmapa to both the lay and ordained sangha. Coming from all over the world, they fill the ground under the vast blue arch of the tent, reminding us that the early incarnations of the Karmapa traveled widely with his retinue who stayed in tents, hence the name Tsurphu Gar, the Encampment of Tsurphu. Flanked on either side by four stands of flowers, the Karmapa's carved wooden throne is set up between the apron of the stage and the stairs that ascend up to the Buddha statue. Just behind the Karmapa's throne are paintings of central figures from the four different lineages in Tibet.
Accompanied by the sound of gyalings, the Karmapa enters the Monlam Pavilion, makes three bows, and takes his seat on the Dharma throne. With three bells, everyone makes their bows and then recites in Sanskrit the refuge and two short teachings plus a dedication, which is followed by the Short Vajradhara Lineage Prayer. While translators of ten different languages sit in front of him, the Karmapa includes in his prayers one to teach the Dharma in many different tongues. After an offering to him for his long life, the teachings begin.
The text the Gyalwang Karmapa will be teaching for three days is entitled "The Short Vajradhara Lineage Prayer." He began playfully by saying that just looking at the name, you might think that there is a short Vajrdhara and a tall Vajradhara. Actually, it means the short prayer of Vajradhara as compared to longer prayers of Vajradhara. The author is Bengar Jampal Zangpo, who is regarded as a reincarnation of the Kadampa Geshe, Langri Tsangpa. Bengar Zangpo was also a root teacher of the Seventh Karmapa, Chodrak Gyatso.
Usually, teachings about this prayer are preceded by an explanation of how to meditate on the lineage, displayed in a refuge tree either as a gathering of lamas or as a line with one set directly above the other. Today, however, the teachings will be a commentary on the meaning rather than an extensive explanation of this meditation.
In India, the mahamudra lineage comes through Tilopa, Naropa, and Maitripa, and in Tibet, through Marpa, the great translator. He went to India three times and studied with the masters of meditation and texts, Naropa and Maitripa, who were famous all over India. Studying with many others, Marpa received teachings on all four sections of the tantra. He received a prediction that his disciples would be more advanced than their teacher and that their students would be even more realized, so that his lineage would be like a river ever increasing in its flow. Marpa's main students were known as the four pillars. From among them, it was Ngok Choku Dorje who received the transmission of the teaching lineage of the tantras. Due to him, this lineage continues, not only in the Kagyu but also in other schools.
Another tantric lineage that Marpa brought back from India was that of the practice lineage, which was transmitted to Milarepa. He preserved it through following exactly his teacher's instructions and through undergoing great hardships—meditating in the remote areas of high snow mountains and subsisting on nettles. Milarepa attained most profound experiences of the lineage.
Milarepa had numerous great students who were highly realized, the two greatest of whom are known as the sun-like and moon-like disciples. The latter was Rechungpa, famous for his hearing lineage and for passing away without leaving any physical remains. One of his famous disciples was Khyung Tsangpa, and his student was Lorepa. There are many supreme masters who maintain this special hearing lineage of Rechungpa. Another student was Nyandzong Repa Changchup Gyalpo, who had a lineage called the Nyendzong hearing lineage.
The most important lineage holder of Milarepa was Gampopa, who founded the Dagpo Kagyu. He is also known as Noble Dawa Shonnu (Youthful Moon) and Dakpo Lhaje (the Doctor from Dakpo). In three sutras, he was predicted by the Buddha, saying there will be someone called Gelong Tsoze, which means a Bhikshu who is a doctor. His nephew was Gompo Tsultrim Nyingpo (or Gomtsul), who held the lineage of the main seat of Gampopa, known as Densa Kagyu, which his descendants continued. Gomtsul's main student was Shang Yudrakpa or Tsondru Drakpa, from who stems the Tsalpa Kagyu, one of the four elder Kagyu schools.
It was also predicted that Gampopa would have 500 purified students and 500 still to be purified. From among these, there were 800 highly qualified meditators and of these, the principal ones were the three men from Kham. One of them, the Grey-Haired Khampa or Dusum Khyenpa (the First Karmapa), founded the lineage of the Karma Kamtsang. Another of the three, Khampa Dorgyal or Palden Pakmodrukpa, founded the Pakdru Kagyu. This lineage spread the most widely since all the eight younger schools of Karma Kagyu stem from him. Another direct student of Gampopa is Barompa Darma Wangchuk who started the Barom Kagyu lineage, home to many great masters. His student was Trishi Repa, who became a teacher of the Chinese emperor, and his teachings continue to this day.
The Vajradhara Prayer speaks of "the four elder lineages" and these come from Gampopa and his nephew Gomtsul, who were very similar in their realization. There were no students of Gampopa who did not also receive teachings from Gomtsul as well. These four lineages are the Tsalpa Kagyu, Karma Kagyu, Barom Kagyu, and Pakdru Kagyu; some add the Densa Kagyu to make five. These are called the elder lineages as they all come directly from Gampopa and his nephew Gomtsul; the younger lineages all come from the students of Gampopa's students.
This is an extremely important point because one might misunderstand (especially if the termche is translated as "greater" and chung as "lesser") and think that the four elder lineages are better— more powerful, valuable, or famous—and that the eight younger lineages are not as good—being smaller, weaker, or not so important. But this is not the case. The direct disciples of Gampopa and Gomtsul are the elder, and the next generation stemming from them, especially Pakmodrukpa, are known as the younger.
Some writers say that the term four elder and eight younger (che bzhi chung brgyad) was not there before Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, a contemporary of the Fourteenth Karmapa, but this is not correct. In writings of Taklung Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who lived at the time of the Tenth Karmapa, we find this term so it predates Jamgon Kongtrul.
When translating the Kagyu Monlam Prayer Book, we decided to use the terms "elder" for the direct disciples of Gampopa and Gomtsul and "younger" for the lineages of their students. This way of translating also follows a tradition related to three families of Ling Gesar, in which these terms che, chung, and also bar (middle) appear: the first was the lineage of the elder and the second of the younger, which was actually more powerful. So in Tibetan the term che can mean "the elder brother"and chung can mean "younger brother." It's very important to be clear about this so that we do not use the term to mean than some lineages are better than the others.
Since this is a Drupgyu Karma Kamtshang gathering, it might be useful to explain this name, too. Drupgyu (sGrub brgyud) refers to the practice lineage; Karma is from Karmapa, the one who performs the activities of all the buddhas; and Kam comes from Kampo Gangra, the name of a place in Lithang in Eastern Tibet; Tshang literally means "nest" and by extension, "dwelling or place," so the name could be translated as "the Karmapa's practice lineage from Kampo Gangra." This sacred place of Chakrasamvara is where Gampopa told Dusum Khyenpa to practice, and if he did, his activity would spread throughout Tibet. Dusum Khyenpa's final realization was also here at Kampo Gangra.
In addition to the name of Karma Kamtshang, we also find Karma Kagyu (Kar ma bka' brgyud). The first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, was not popularly known as Karmapa, though in a vision he had received this name as the performer of the activities of all the buddhas. People have different theories about the origin of this name. Some say that it comes from the fact that the Dusum Khyenpa stayed for a long time in Karma Gon, and so his lineage took its name from this place. Some historians say the name Karmapa was given only to the second Karmapa, so the Karmapas begin with him, and Dusum Khyenpa is then considered the first holder of the Black Crown. So there are different ways of explaining the origin of the name Karmapa and, by extension, of Karma Kagyu.
There is also a variety of predictions about the number of the Karmapa's incarnations. Chokgyur Lingpa wrote that for seven generations, the Karmapa's rebirth or reincarnations (yangsi, yang srid) will appear and then there will be thirteen manifestations (trulpa, sprul pa) making for a total of twenty-one. There is a prediction from Guru Rinpoche that the Karmapa will have only seven reincarnations. The Fifth Karmapa predicted that there will be twenty-five. Drupchen Nyakre Sewo stated that there will be 1002 Karmapas, and though they might not be throne holders or carrying the name of the Karmapa, they will be performing the Karmapa's activities, so it is said that the Karmapa's activities will not finished until all the activity of the 1000 buddhas comes to a close.
Others say that his activity will last until the end of samsara. Let us take a brief look at the differences between what are known as reincarnations and as manifestations. A manifestation arises from its own basis, or foundation, and there can be many manifestations. For example, an arhant can produce manifestations, but they have no independent power to think or act for themselves; the basis that produced them (the arhant in this case) must first think and act. By contrast, manifestations of the Buddha can think and act on their own. Now in the case of a reincarnation, the basis of manifestation itself takes rebirth. Further, the way manifestations happen depends on the capacity of the people who are manifesting. For example, if they have the level of realization, they can emanate manifestations of their body, speech, mind, qualities, and activity.
Tulkus can be recognized in two main ways: through connection and through similarity. Not all tulkus are manifestations of buddhas or bodhisattvas. When people make powerful prayers, practice well, maintain good conduct and discipline, and gather the accumulations, they create the auspicious connection to take birth as a special individual; due to the aspirations they have made in the past, they will now have the capacity to help numerous living beings. A highly realized master can see this potential and will give them the name of a tulku. This benefits them in developing their positive potential as they will have more opportunities to increase their merit and wisdom will come to them. Since their aspirations are genuine, they are able to benefit others. In a lighter tone, His Holiness added that we cannot call everyone a tulku. If we did, who would be left to offer respect to the tulkus?
Through many generations, the Karmapa has had uncountable numbers of students; the greatest among them, he recognized as having attained his level of abandoning what is negative and attaining what is positive. These disciples are known collectively as the father Karmapa and his heart sons (rgyal ba yab sras). Their relationship is that of a teacher and student, but calling them father and son points to their special connection: a father does not have so many children, and a teacher can have many students. His Holiness presented the heart sons in their historical order.
The first of these special students is the Shamarpa. The Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, predicted that about one hundred years later, he would have two reincarnations with the equivalent level of abandonment and realization, even though they would be described as teacher and student. One of them would wear the Black Hat and the other a Red Hat. This lineage of enthroned reincarnations continued through to the Tenth Shamarpa. At this time, problems arose and so the Tibetan government did not allow his reincarnations to be recognized or enthroned.
Just previous to this Tenth Shamarpa, there were two claimants for the reincarnation of the Ninth Shamarpa, because two lamas had recognized two different children. Due to Chinese influence, there was a lottery system of selecting a name from a golden vase, so in this way, Tashi Tsepay (his family name) Shamar was enthroned. The second reincarnation, Nam Ling (his family name) Shamar continued to take birth up to the time of the Fifteenth Karmapa.
When the Tenth Shamarpa passed away, there were three generations of lamas who were said to be reincarnations of the Shamarpa, but they were not enthroned. Therefore, if one counts all who were enthroned, the present Shamarpa is the eleventh, and if one counts those who were not enthroned, he is the fourteenth. Since for three generations, the Shamarpas were not enthroned, when the Sixteenth Karmapa came to India, he asked the Fourteenth Dalai Lama to allow the recognition of Shamarpa. His Holiness gave his consent, and this is how the present Shamarpa was enthroned.
The First Situpa was a direct disciple of the Fifth Karmapa, Dezhin Shekpa. Since then the Situpas held responsibility for the seat of Karma Gön, one of the three main seats of the Karmapa. In general, all the Situpas were important but especially so was the Eighth Situ Chokyi Jungne, also known as Situ Panchen. When Karmapa and Shamarpa went to China, Situ Rinpoche requested to travel with them, but the Karmapa asked him to remain in Tibet. As it happened, on the way to China, both the Karmapa and Shamar Rinpoche passed away within a few days of each other, so the responsibility for the lineage fell on the shoulders of Situ Rinpoche. He carried this responsibility magnificently and engaged in vast activity. He established Palpung Monastery in Kham and helped to preserve all aspects of Tibetan culture. He was a great scholar in all the branches of study found in India and Tibet as well as a superb artist. We owe Situ Chokyi Jungne tremendous gratitude.
After the Fourth Situpa, Mingyur Chokyi Gocha, and the Fifth Situpa died at a young age, yet his incarnation is still counted among the numbers of Situpas, making the present one the Twelfth Situpa. Another Situpa, Lekshey Mrawa, (born between the Seventh and Eight Situpas) was recognized, but at that time, the Kagyu school was undergoing a period of weakness. Since the members of the family were rather arrogant, they did not offer their child for enthronement, so this incarnation died at a young age and is not numbered among the Situpas.
The Eleventh Situpa was a serious person who published all the words of the Eighth Karmapa Mikyo Dorje, including his profound commentaries, so it is thanks to him that we still have these texts. He also established a shedra or an institute for the study of Buddhist philosophy. We will talk about the present Situpa on the last day of he Monlam.
The First Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Goshir Paljor Döndrup, was a contemporary of the author of our text, Pengar Jampel Sangpo. Both masters were teachers of the Seventh Karmapa, who received the vinaya and ordination from Pengar Jampel Sangpo and most of the teachings and transmissions from the First Gyaltsap Rinpoche. Pengar Jampal Sangpo was also known as Lama Rinpoche Wang Gyapa (Precious Lama with Hundreds of Empowerments) as there was not one empowerment he did not have from all the lineages. This came about because the Sixth Karmapa knew that he would be his teacher in the next life, so he sent him everywhere to receive all the reading transmissions, empowerments, and instructions, which Pengar Jampal Sangpo could then pass on to the Seventh Karmapa, allowing all of this precious Dharma to remain intact in Tibet. After this first incarnation, the Gyaltsap Rinpoches incarnated in unbroken succession. During a war between Central and Western Tibet, which involved the Mongolians as well, the Karma Kamtsang school suffered greatly and almost disappeared. Using skillful means, the Eighth Gyaltsap Rinpoche made a connection with the Mongolian leader Goshri Khan and, thereby, was able to save Tsurphu Monastery and preserve the Kamtsang lineage as well as other Kagyu schools. That the Kamtsang Kagyu remains today is thanks to Gyaltsap Rinpoche.
Pawo Rinpoche and Treho Rinpoche
In the Kagyu tradition, the First Pawo Rinpoche, Tsuklak Trengwa, was a supreme scholar of the history of Tibetan Buddhism, and to this day his history is still highly respected and widely read. We do not know much about Treho Shabdrung Rinpoches. It is said that his name is one of a certain position or rank, of which there are two, senior and junior. The one included in the six father and sons is the junior one. His incarnations have continued. This has been a brief introduction to the five sons and their father, the Karmapa. Tomorrow, we will continue this discussion of the lineages that have given us such a rich heritage of scholarship and practice.
22 February, 2012 Bodhgaya
Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya held its Tibetan New Year prayer ceremony on February 22, 2012. At around 7 am, two major lamas of the Karma Kagyu tradition, His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and His Eminence Gyaltsap Rinpoche, entered the shrine room to lead the prayers, the first day of the three-day Tibetan New Year prayer festival. Monks, nuns and laypeople expectantly queued outside as early as 6 am, entering the monastery's main shrine room gradually at sunrise. Soon the monastery's main hall was packed to the brim. Visible from the main door and the windows were hundreds sitting on the portico of the monastery, partaking in the celebrations from the outside.
The two lamas, sitting on thrones facing each other, led the prayers to clear away the obstacles and make an auspicious start to the new Water Dragon Year. The monks began to read from the texts, especially compiled by the Gyalwang Karmapa for the New Year prayer ceremony. At around 8 am, the golden beams of sunshine came rolling into the shrine room, enveloping the two rinpoches in its resplendent brilliance. At around 8:20 am, the two rinpoches left the stage to receive the Gyalwang Karmapa, who soon entered wearing his black activity hat. The assembly continued chanting from the prayer book while the rinpoches offered prostrations to His Holiness. Some time later monks came to offer Tibetan butter tea and traditional sweet rice.
At around 10:00 am, the prayers ended and the congregation formed long lines and waited patiently to receive blessings from and make offerings to Gyalwang Karmapa, Gyaltsap Rinpoche and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche.
Those gathered outside were first to present traditional white Tibetan scarves and receive red blessing cords. An estimated 3500 people were there and the audience lasted for nearly two-and-a-half hours. The devotees were very diverse in terms of nationality and color. Some were new, and some were older students, and many of them – especially those from the Chinese diaspora – could be heard or seen reading from the Tibetan language prayer book.
Also present during the morning's ceremony were Tibetan laypeople in colorful traditional dresses, celebrating the arrival of the Water Dragon Year and receive the blessings from the Gyalwang Karmapa. Several of them were from Tibet. In addition to sacred threads, participants were also offered a large crisp cookie called a donkey's ear (Tibetan: bhungo amchoe khapsey) because of its shape. These Tibetan fried biscuits were especially prepared in a nearby hut before New Year at the rate of 700 a day...
On the second day, the sangha gathered in the Tergar shrine hall to share a meal with the Karmapa. The discipline master directed the monks to their places and the shrine hall was filled to the edge with the golden color of the chogu, the golden shawl of the ordained monks and nuns. On the evening, the Gyalwang Karmapa, Gyaltsap Rinpoche, and selected members of the sangha gathered on the portico of Tergar Monastery. His Holiness led the practice for this protector of Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet. Gyaltsap Rinpoche joined him in prayers for the protector who was first tamed by the Fifth Karmapa, Dezhin Shekpa.
21 February, 2012 Bodhgaya
On the afternoon of the last day of the Tibetan year of the Iron Rabbit, His Eminence Gyaltsap Rinpoche bestowed the Buddha Amitayu Long Life Empowerment at the Monlam Pavilion in Bodhgaya from 2:00 pm on February 21, 2012. He was giving the empowerment at the behest of Gyalwang Karmapa. His Eminence's throne was set in front of the pavilion, with the newly consecrated giant thangka of Buddha Shakyamuni serving as a magnificent backdrop to the ceremony. His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche was seated on the right, along with other rinpoches and lamas, including Khenpo Lodro Dhonyo from Bokar Ngedon Choling Monastery in Mirik. Monks from all over the world took part in the ceremony, which lasted for over an hour. First Gyaltsap Rinpoche talked briefly about the significance of the Protector Mahakala for the Kagyu tradition. According to him, the Second Karmapa, Karmapa Pakshi, had said that the mind of the Karmapa and Mahakala are inseparable.
His Eminence Gyaltsap Rinpoche also commented upon the previous day's lama dance performance. Watching lama dance in Bodhgaya, he mentioned, is especially valuable because it has been said that protectors dwell in the eight charnel grounds surrounding Bodhgaya. He said watching the lama dance performance helps clear away obstacles, works as a method of purification, and also helps accumulate vast amounts of merit for oneself. According to him, particularly beneficial is witnessing Gyalwang Karmapa perform lama dance. Traditionally, the Karmapas perform lama dance in order to help sentient beings, he said. Seeing Gyalwang Karmapa perform lama dance helps accumulate a vast amount of merit, and the result is even stronger when done with strong faith and devotion. However, even watching it as a spectacle, can also bring positive results, not just to us humans, but also to animals fortunate enough to have the opportunity to glimpse the performance. His Eminence said he had seen the 16th Karmapa perform cham dances in the past, and now, having the opportunity to watch the 17th Karmapa dance was a matter of great fortune to him personally.
His Eminence said that there are two things necessary for a long life: the first is the cause, which is the accumulation of merit, and the second is the condition, which is receiving empowerment from the lama. If you do not have the cause, then mere empowerment is not enough. As a part of the cause, he said, one has to give up killing and also stop living off or creating suffering for others. His Eminence then told a story from the Jataka Tales regarding King Chandraprabha. At the end of the King's very long life, someone came asking for his head. The king decided to give his head, despite counsel against it by his minister. However, as a result of the accumulation of merit by this selfless deed, in his next life the King had a very long and healthy life. Even though we are not able to lay down our lives like King Chandraprabha, at least, we can give up killing and causing suffering to others, His Eminence said. We can also conduct life release as a means of accumulating merit for long life. Receiving the long-life empowerment can also help raise one's life force which is known as lungta - windhorse - in Tibetan. According to the Tibetan tradition, raising lungta can help improve one's health and ward off demons and spirits who might want to harm us.
21 February, 2012 Bodhgaya
This morning, in a two-hour ceremony at the Monlam Pavilion, a magnificent appliqué thangka of Buddha Shakyamuni, flanked by the bodhisattvas Maitreya andManjusri, was unfurled and consecrated. It had taken six months, from June to December 2011, to make the thangka, measuring 20 feet by 30 feet. It was constructed in a prayer hall at Gyuto Monastery, the Gyalwang Karmapa's current residence in North India, under the close supervision and direction of the Gyalwang Karmapa himself, who visited the project at least once a day. On completion, the thangka was carefully packed into a specially constructed metal cylinder and brought across India by lorry from the north eastern Himalayan foothills to Bodhgaya on the central western plains.
Rehearsals for the ceremony, began just after 7.00am and finished at 10.00am; patiently the Gyalwang Karmapa instructed everyone in precisely what to do and when. The ceremony itself began at 10.15am when the rolled-up thangka entered the Monlam Pavilion, in a formal procession of incense bearers, gyalin and auspicious banners. It was carried down the central aisle by the five young men who had helped Master Tailor Tenzin Gyaltsen make it. They were dressed alike in traditional Tibetan clothing, white shirts, dark blue chubas, red sashes and black leather boots. The thangka was placed carefully in position on the altar at the centre of the stage, above a row of eight white butter sculptures and a lower row of offering bowls, and the consecration ceremony began.
This impressive ceremony was a reminder of the literary and musical talent that the Gyalwang Karmapa has displayed since his teens. He compiled the prayers specially for the event, and was involved at all stages of the composition of the accompanying music - a collaborative work between the Gyalwang Karmapa, his chanting masters and Taiwanese music professor Ying Hwang-Yi. Traditionally, in Tibetan ritual, certain instruments are used for particular rituals. This musical arrangement, however, employs every single ritual instrument, from the smallest cymbals to the largest horns, a first in the history of Tibetan ritual music. And, although the melodies for the chants were traditional, the rhythms were altered. The Gyalwang Karmapa's vision was for the music to embody all four activities: pacifying, enriching, magnetizing and wrathful. Meditative musical interludes were interspersed between the sections of prayers.
The thangka had been securely tied to two ropes suspended from the domed ceiling of the pavilion, and, forty-five minutes into the ceremony, it was carefully hoisted to the rhythmic clash of a single set of cymbals. Concealed within a cluster of rinpoches, Gyalwang Karmapa could be seen directing this critical stage, beating time with his hands. The audience gazed awe-struck as the beauty and magnificence of this huge brocade image was revealed. But the face of the Buddha remained hidden by a covering of golden silk. The music and prayers continued, then, slowly, the covering was lifted. As the serene face of the Buddha was revealed, many of those watching began to cry. It was an overwhelmingly powerful and profound experience of thongdrol –liberation on seeing– the dynamic action of a sacred object which can plant the seeds of liberation in the mindstreams of those who beheld it.
The consecration ceremony continued with offerings. Gyalwang Karmapa donned his golden brocade Gampopa hat to make the mandala offering, assisted by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. He then gave a short talk in which he traced the history of such thangkas back to the Fourth Karmapa, commented on the auspiciousness of such an event at the sacred site of Bodhgaya on New Year's Eve, and requested everyone to make sincere aspirations.
After the ceremony had concluded with aspiration and dedication prayers, the offering of khatags to the thangka and throwing rice for auspiciousness, the Gyalwang Karmapa called up the Master Tailor Tenzin Gyaltsen and his five assistants. Placing long, silk khatags around their necks, he thanked them for the great efforts they had made in order to complete the project.
At midday, the Gyalwang Karmapa, followed by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche, left the stage, and the audience was able to come forward to offer their own prostrations and khatags.
The thangka is part of the Gyalwang Karmapa's plan to revitalize the 600-year old tradition which originated when the Fourth Karmapa, Rolpe Dorje (1340 - 1383), made the first brocade thangka- of Buddha Shakyamuni with the bodhisattvasMaitreya and Manjusri - in Hor Yul, Mongolia. He was prompted to make the thangka after one of his students dreamt of a Buddha image 100 metres tall. According to historical records, this original thangka survived until the time of the Tenth Karmapa Chöying Dorje (1604-1674), when, ironically, it was destroyed by the Mongolian army which had invaded Tibet. The Seventeenth Karmapa has said that not only is it auspicious to revive this tradition at the time of the 900th birth anniversary of the First Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa, but also making a giant thangka can generate great merit which could be of collective benefit, especially for the welfare of Tibetans at this difficult time.
Gyalwang Karmapa envisages this thangka as merely the first stage; in future he hopes to commission one which is ten times bigger than this one, one that will be a hundred metres high.
20 February, 2012 Bodhgaya
February 20th was a day full of firsts. It was the first time that the Gyalwang Karmapa has performed in the lama dances since coming to India in January of 2000. It was the first time that the Karmapa, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, and Gyaltsap Rinpoche have participated together in the dances. It was the first time in India that the Karmapa could engage in the full length of the Mahakala practice that precedes the Tibetan New Year, and it was the first occasion when all the Kagyu Sanghas have gathered for this practice. All of these firsts came together on the twenty-ninth day of the last month in the Tibetan calendar, which is dedicated to protector practice, making this a particularly powerful occasion for the removal of obstacles and negativity.
The day actually started the previous night at 11pm with the beginning of "The Abridged Burning Up Anger," and the chanting continued through to 5:30 the next morning. The thundering sound of the two immense drums and about thirty smaller ones as well as the swift pace of the chanting must have helped the Sangha to stay aware and awake through the long hours of the night. After a brief break at the end of the puja, the Karmapa strode into the shrine hall wearing the Activity Hat and ascended his golden throne to bless the monks who would be performing lama dances later on that ay—quite a feat after so little sleep.
The invitation card sent out for the lama dances began:
In Praise of Mahakala
On February 20, the monks gathered at Tergar
The chief guests were Jetsun Pema, the sister of the Dalai Lama, and her husband, Tenpa Tsering, the representative of the Dalai Lama at the Bureau of Tibet in Delhi. Sitting next to Jetsun Pema was Ngodrup Paldzom, the sister of the Gyalwang Karmapa, making two generations of great lamas' sisters sitting side by side. Behind them, the Pavilion was filled with Sangha and lay practitioners who had come to watch these meditations in motion, these mandalas come to life. It is said that the practice of lama dancing gives benefits for the dancers and for the audience as well. The dances belong to the category of yogic exercises that are a part of the Six Yogas of Naropa. They develop the dancers' experience, realization, and positive qualities while also setting positive imprints in the mind since these dances are performed for the benefit of others. For the audience, the dances also leave positive imprints that will help to create good conditions for practice and turn one away from wrong paths, eventually leading to the realization of Buddhahood. This is the fundamental setting of Dharma practice that underlies all of the performances.
The audience is also very fortunate to witness these dances, since they do not exist in the vinaya tradition and are only present by implication in the tradition of bodhisattvas. The dances really began with the vajrayana, following the Buddha's injunction to use skillful means in harmony with disciples' minds to bring them into the Dharma. It is said that King Dza had a vision of Vajrapani who taught the King dances, so they were practiced in India by the mahasiddhas, but kept totally secret. In Tibet, Guru Rinpoche performed a magnificent dance during the consecration of the first great monastery at Samye. For the Kagyu tradition, the dances were preserved through the Marpa Kagyu, especially in the Guhyasamaja and Hevajra tantras, but it was only with the Seventh Karmapa, Chodrak Gyatso, that they became public. So it is thanks to the generosity of the Karmapas that the dances can be seen today. The day of dancing began with a procession of the Hazhal Mahakala torma from the Tergar shrine hall to the Monlam Pavilion. Victory banners led the way while long trumpets, jalings, and cymbals sounded over the green fields stretching out on either side of the road. The torma was slowly carried down the main aisle of the immense sky-blue arch of the pavilion and up on to the left side of the stage where a platform waited. Two burning sticks flamed in front of Hazhal's mouth while a tall finial of woven threads was added on the top to create a very imposing figure.
Set stage center were three ten-foot statues of a powerful dark blue Bernakchan in the center, Mahakali mounted on her blue mule to his right, and a brown Vajrasadhu on his mount to the left. Specially brought for the performance today, the three are veiled with lengths of silk. In front of Bernakchan is his torma from the shrine and two golden kapalas. On the flights of steps behind him are seats for the Gyalwang Karmapa, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, and Gyaltsap Rinpoche. Directly in line with the Karmapa's seat and placed on the stairs rising behind him is the new statue of the Sixteenth Karmapa, followed by the First Karmapa's statue and finally Shakyamuni Buddha with brilliant gold rays radiating from his body. To create a link to Tibet, the arch of the wall behind them is painted with a mural of snowy Mt. Kailash, rising into a deep blue sky that is the same color as the late afternoon skies here. The whole stage thus gives a visual lineage, starting from Shakyamuni Buddha and going through the Karmapas to Bernakchan.
The actual dances began with the consecration or taming of the ground, a dance that comes from Guru Chowang's Tenth Day dances. Based on the pure vision of this treasure discoverer, these dances are divided into eight sections and still performed in both the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions. The lead dancer was Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, who wore a fierce mask and red brocade robes, their side vents opening in bright vermillion pleats as he moved. He led a large circle of numerous dancers with fierce masks, several with bird faces, their long beaks partly open. The two wild yaks were dressed in indigo brocade and their masks had curving horns. The tall white antlers of the deer were tied with fluttering ribbons in the Dharma colors red, green, blue, yellow, and white, which have many meanings, relating to the five wisdoms, and so forth. In the center of the circle stood an elder lama who had left Tibet with the previous Karmapa.
As soon as the dance finished, on came the clowns. Two old men with big noses, fringes of hair, and a hump in the back of their chupas. They went through classic slapstick routines and the audience loved it. One does a prostration and falls head first into a somersault over his big hump. The two sit half-sprawled by the incense pot and vigorously fan the smoke over themselves, spoofing Tibetan purification rituals. Without noticing where he is, another comes to sit in front of the Hazhal torma; when he finally glances up, the fright sends him spread-eagled on the ground.
During all this comedy, the colored veils are removed from the three main statues, equivalent to inviting this triad to be present. The two old men then lead the procession of incense and offerings that brought His Holiness on stage to make offerings to the Hazhal torma. A beautiful gold-embossed cup was filled with tea and various grains and then offered from each direction by the Karmapa as the monks chanted and music played. When he has finished, the Karmapa sits down right in front of the Bernakchan statue at stage center. The second dance is that of the skeletons, four sprightly dancers with their stylized bones piped in red on their white shirts and pants. Their dance is full of leaps and spins, ending with cartwheels and spectacular back flips to exit the stage.
They are followed by the Dance of the Two Deer and Two Wild Yaks that flowed into the Dance of the Maras and Negative Spirits. Both performances involve four monks and relate to dealing with enemies. The next dance is that of the Gate Protector, which was composed by the Fourteenth Karmapa, Thekchok Dorje. The dance is a solo and was performed by His Holiness, grace and power flowing effortlessly from him. In the beginning, an effigy symbolic of all that is negative was placed in the center of the stage and the Karmapa held different hand implements as he performed the dance in front of it: a silver hook on a staff turning slowly above and below; a lasso held between his index fingers and thumbs, moving in circles in front of him; an iron chain with jewel bead ornaments; two brown feathers crossing in graceful turns; and a bell decorated in gold. The dance with each implement ended with a quick double step and a leap. As he stands facing forward, His Holiness is then given a silver phurpa, which he holds directly in front of his face, his concentration riding down and out from the point. After handing it to an attendant, he performs the final implement dance of the bow and arrow and departs the stage with his retinue of musicians and incense bearers. During the performance, Gyaltsap Rinpoche could be seen at the edge of the stage watching intently.
For quite a while, the monks chant sections from the Mahakala ritual and then the Dance of Four-Armed Mahakala begins with monks carrying incense at the head of a long row of masked dancers. In sets of four, they are robed in elegant brocade of rampant dragons, in gold, bright blue, dark blue, red, and green. Midst the masks are two birds, three yaks and one tall deer. As the dance comes to a close, the deer stays behind to dance the famous Deer Dance. He begins by offering huge sprays of grain into the air above and bowing to the statue of Bernakchan. The deer has bells on his feet that keep the rhythm of his movements—stylized running steps interspersed with swirling leaps. The monks bring out a rug and place it in front of the effigy. The deer descends onto the rug and begins a slow and electrifying dance while kneeling, bending back so far his antlers touch the ground and coming quickly forward, then twisting around a hundred and eighty degrees and spinning back. There is a complete sense of precision and control in these extended movements. With his sword he strikes the effigy and pieces are scattered on stage and into the audience. After this long period of kneeling, he comes into a squatting position and from there leaps around in an amazing circle. Then other dancers join in the dance and they exit the stage together.
The morning finishes with the offering of white scarves (katas) from the Tsurphu Labrang, (the Karmapa's administration) first to the statues of the two Karmapas and then to the dancers by tying the long katas around their necks. The timing of this is a special trick as the dancers have to be caught while they are moving. Other sponsors follow the Labrang and by the end of the performance, the dancers are swathed in white. Before the dance ends, the old clown in a blue chupa appears and goes into the audience. He takes a cap from one man's head and wearing it backwards, he sits in the VIP section to joke with a yellow-robed Theravadin monk, who laughs and plays along with him. The clown calls for a photographer and poses with his head on the monk's shoulder. On stage, the dancers had moved into a spiral and as it unwinds they exit the stage. The head guests, Jetsun Pema and Tenpa Tsering go up the stairs that ascend to the Buddha and offer katas to the Karmapa. The whole audience is then invited to lunch at Tergar Monastery.
After lunch, the monks chanted long sections from the Mahakala practice, continuing to interweave the ritual they have chanted for the past days with the dances. The next Dance of the Pureland Protectors featured numerous dancers carrying three-foot, red and black triangle banners, which waved rhythmically back and forth in harmony with the triangle shaped sleeves of the dancers' brocade robes. This dance as well as the two previous ones (Four-Armed Mahakala and the Deer) were composed by Ga Lotsawa. He met Mahakala and his retinue in a vision whence came the dances. Ga Lotsawa was one of the teachers of the First Karmapa and so these dances came very early into the lineage.
Gyaltsap Rinpoche led the ninth dance, Maraya. He was easily distinguished by the smoothness of his movements and the gracefulness of his hands, which held a sword and a silver kapala lined in vermillion; he wore a large metal mirror on his chest and a white sash in a half circle over the front of his robes. The Dance in the Rhythm of Seven and Eight came next with eight monks dressed in bright blue dragon brocade and the deer and yak making another appearance in this circle dance. These two dances come from a pure vision of the Seventh Karmapa, Chodrak Gyatso.
Once the dancers had left the stage, the Karmapa, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche descended the stairs to stand in front of Mahakala. While the monks chanted, they made repeated offerings to the protector and his retinue in a large libation cup. At the end, the three lamas stepped forward and together offered five long katas in five auspicious colors, placing one length-wise underneath each of the three statues. It was a visual reminder of these teachers' ancient connection to each other and to these practices.
After a break came the grand finale , the Dance of the Black Hat, which comes from the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje. Some thirty monks encircled the stage and the main dancer anchored the mandala in the middle. They all wore black hats, which ascend from a wide brim trimmed in black, to a cone shape mounted by a skull topped by a flaming jewel. The back of the hat is decorated with a braid of five-colored katas that open out into billowing strips of red, yellow, white, blue, and green. The focus of the dance was the offerings made from the front of the stage by the central dancer. These included a kapala brimming with swirling red waves and a black bird with curving lines of bright colored dots to indicate its wings. After the central dancer offered them in the center of the mandala, these were all carried down the central aisle and given outside.
The final torma offered was Hazhal. The two top wicker pieces were dismantled, the katas offered by the faithful as they circumambulated Benakchan were removed, and a tall banner was set next to him. A group of monks gathered around and lifted the torma up, carrying it to stage center and down the central aisle while accompanied by dancers in a slow step. As Hazal passed out of the pavilion, the dancers returned to the stage. Following the Tsurphu tradition, this torma was burned on a stacked triangle of wood in the northeast direction, the flames bright enough to be seen from the Pavilion. During this time, in the place where the torma had been on stage, the monks drew in chalk a triangle with flames and mantra on which the torma platform was then placed upside down. Chants were performed to reverse obstacles, while the main dancer stood in each of the four directions and placed his vajra on the platform, performing the Torma Dance (gTor bro).
The afternoon is brought to a close with the chanting of The Victorious Melody, composed by the Fifteenth Karmapa, Khakhyab Dorje. Wearing long meditation capes in maroon, the monks all gather on stage in a large semi-circle facing the three statues. Among the thirteen chant masters, the four main ones come from the Kagyu monasteries of Rumtek, Ralang, Mirik, and Benchen. As their voices resonate through the long tones of the melody, a twenty-foot thangka of Bernakchan is raised to the arching blue roof. This is the day's final blessing for all who have come.
The monks then return to the Tergar shine hall to make the dedications for the benefit of all beings. Later in the evening, Gyaltsap Rinpoche performs a brief fire puja to eliminate any obstacles that might remain. In sum, this day has seen twenty-four hours of practice in different modalities: the ritual of Burning Up Anger, the lama dancing, the unveiling of three new statues, the special torma offering of Hazhal, and the rising of the Bernakchan thangka. Evident to all was the richness and variety of the tradition and the great good fortune of being in the presence of the Karmapa, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, and Gyaltsap Rinpoche to celebrate the Dharma at the end of the year.
16 – 21 February, 2012
The morning of February 16th began with the participants formally assuming their seats (gral ’dzin) in the shrine hall. Standing outside the shrine hall and before more than one thousand monks and nuns, the discipline master read out the names of those taking responsibility for the various aspects of the practice. They are given a specific place so that they can do their respective work. The list began with Situ Rinpoche and continued all the way to the younger monks, who pass up and down the aisles offering tea. After the list of names was called out, the rest of the sangha moved quickly into their places. In general, the discipline master oversees the proper functioning of the practice within the shrine hall, and so once everyone was settled into their places, he gave a Dharma Talk (tshogs gtam), explaining what each person could and could not do.
When the Gyalwang Karmapa came in to the shrine hall for the ceremony, he was wearing The Activity Hat (las zhwa), which he does on especially important occasions, thereby signaling how very significant he considers this practice of Mahakala. This morning the new prints of the long version of “Burning Up Anger” were carried into the shrine hall and distributed to the sangha. They are at the core of the Karmapa’s effort to revive this practice, just as the Kagyu Monlam Book is at the heart of his effort to rekindle the recitation of the Twenty-Branch Monlam compiled by the Seventh Karmapa. The monks quickly pass up and down the rows distributing the maroon and gold texts. The chanting begins with a recitation of the lineage for this practice, tracing it back through the centuries to make a link between the nuns and monks here and those of the distant past.
In front of His Holiness, two rows of monks line the central aisle. At the head of the left row is a throne for Situ Rinpoche. Next to him is Gyaltsap Rinpoche, the Vajracharya, or vajra master, who guides the practice. Across the aisle, the Fourth Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche leads the other row. Following in a line from these thrones on both sides of the central aisle are seats for rinpoches and khenpos from Kagyu monasteries all over the world. Flowing down from them to the ends of the rows are some thirty long-handled drums (lag rnga) with meadow-green skins; they rest on tables behind the monks and rise up in a six-foot wave to be played in unison with the two main drums (rnga chen) whose immense circles, reaching up to the ceiling, punctuate the ends of these two main rows. Their ivory-colored skins span seven feet and are set in a tall, impressive frame of dark wood with golden metal embellishments. Brought from Japan, the drums are an offering from Södo, Mingyur Rinpoche's elder attendant, who passed away just weeks ago.
In front of the shrine hall, on the elevated floor of the altar, five tall paintings framed in gold are arrayed behind the Gyalwang Karmapa’s throne. The Buddha in the middle is flanked by images of the main teachers in each of the four schools, who are in turn surrounded by their main disciples below and their yidam deities above. These images are a visual sign of His Holiness’ deep commitment to a non-sectarian approach to the Dharma.
Then starting on the far left of the shrine, seated on a throne is a life-size statue of the Sixteenth Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje, so life-like that one naturally bows when seeing it. The same is true for the statue of the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, placed on a throne just to the other side of the Tara shrine. This statue presided over the Karmapa 900 celebrations last year at Tergar. After the central statue of a golden Buddha, come the protector shrines: the first one has rows of offerings depicted in paintings of black and gold and also in metal replicas; the second altar presents four red tormas, sculpted offerings that are four feet high. The main image is the heart-shaped torma embodying Bernakchan himself and the other three represent offerings to him of medicine, torma, and rakta.
Not far from the protector altars, in the far right corner of the main shrine hall, stands an awe-inspiring torma of the head of Bernakchan. It belongs to the general category of a torma offered to the fire (rgyag gtor) and in particular, it is known as the Mouth Opened-Wide with Ha (Ha zhal). The torma is surmounted by two tiers of intricately interwoven thread-crosses in the shape of umbrellas, which are known as the palace of Bernakchan. The area below the head is considered to be that of the mundane world. A fence of interlaced black and red sticks surrounds this bottom square to prevent any captured negative spirits from escaping. Underneath everything are the visualized mandalas of the elements.
The purpose of this practice is to benefit living beings and the teachings, so Bernakchan consumes all that is negative, all adverse conditions, all who make obstacles for the Dharma and for those who practice a true path. Everything that is adverse, especially from the previous year, is eliminated. The Hazhal torma will be offered on the last day of the practice, February 20, which is the twenty-ninth day of the Tibetan lunar calendar and especially dedicated to protector practice.
Returning to the practice of February 16, in the afternoon the monks reconvened to chant for about three and a half hours the shorter version of “Burning Up Anger.” It is known as “The Cinnabar One” (mTsal ma) since the first parts of the longer text to be recited are indicated in vivid red. The middle length text is known as “The Golden One” (ser ma) since these first parts are marked in Gold, (it will be chanted on the last day), and the long version is the full length text of “Burning up Anger,” (sDang ba rnam sreg).
After a short break, Gyaltsap Rinpoche led a short practice to bless the Ha zhal torma. He had overseen all phases of its creation and completed the process with this consecration. This ceremony ended the preliminaries for the long practice of "Burning Up Anger."
Starting the next day, February 17, and continuing through the 19, the sangha followed a rigorous schedule of six sessions a day, which began at four in the morning and finished around nine-thirty at night. Breakfast was served in the shrine hall, and as is traditional, the first tea offering and offering to the Sangha was made by the Gyalwang Karmapa. On February 18, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche were present, and His Holiness came for the final session during which thukpa (noodle soup) is served. The following day followed the same schedule and numerous offerings were made to the sangha. Usually during the tea offering, the discipline master stands between the two large drums and holds his yellow cockade hat flat in front of him. On top of it is a sheet of paper with a poetic statement of the purpose of the offerings—for the long life of the lamas, for the spread of the Dharma, and also for the finding of a reincarnate lama, such as Khyabje Bokar Rinpoche. These good wishes are then multiplied through the practice of the sangha that day.
Following tradition, the following day lama dances were performed and they will be covered in a separate report.
On February 21, the last day of the Mahakala rituals began in the dark hours of the early morning, the stars ranging wide in the navy sky. As the pulsing of the large drums and the rolls of the cymbals woke the quiet countryside, there began the phase of taking the siddhi or accomplishments that have accumulated through these many long hours of ritual. The large Mahakala torma was lifted from the altar and brought to the side of the Gyalwang Karmapa’s throne. He touched his head to the torma and took a small piece of it to eat as a blessing. The torma was then offered to Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche. With many tashi prayers for auspiciousness to spread throughout the universe, the ceremony came to a close.
After a brief break, the sangha reassembled for the smoke offering puja, known as "Massing Clouds of Amrita." Such a practice usually ends the rituals before the New Year, its purpose being to cleanse all negativity and to make vast offerings to all levels of deities from the Buddha to the local protectors of the land. As the Karmapa and sangha recited this puja, smoke billowed from the two vase-shaped hearths in front of the monastery gates and rose into the morning sun.
13 – 15 February, 2012
On the afternoon of February 13, after the Karmapa returned from the shrine room to his quarters, the sangha continued with the Mahakala ritual. Special to this day is the practice called “The Four Elements and Three Parts” (’Byung bzhi cha gsum), which removes obstacles for the practice of the next days. Pieces of roasted barley dough that bore the imprint of a hand were passed out to each participant. The dough was then rolled into a ball, flattened, and pressed to parts of the upper body that were ill. Divided into three, the pieces were returned to monks passing through the sangha with large containers. While the text of the practice was being chanted from two screens in front of the hall, the collected pieces were carried outside, and the direction in which they were placed had been determined by an astrologer.
On the evening of the thirteenth, the main shrine hall was transformed into a protector shrine dedicated to the practice of Mahakala. An imposing suit of medieval armor, black and golden colored with intricate inlaid designs, now stands in front of the hall. Next to the main Mahakala altar with its impressive tormas are three rows of small black thangkas their drawings traced in sinuous gold. The offerings they depict are based on the text called “Offerings for Three Occasions” (sKabs gsum ma’i mchod pa) and include a variety of food, weapons, and clothes.
In the early morning of the following day, the Mahakala ritual began with the daily practice text. While mantras were being chanted, Gyaltsap Rinpoche continued to give the reading transmission while Jamgon Kongtrul held the reading lamp for him, the page turning luminous as if lit from within.
Report by Michele Martin
Conclusion of the Reading Transmission and Mantra Recitation
15 February, 2012
The reading transmission was finally accomplished during the morning session on 15 February, and the mantra recitation continued all day in the shrine room. Gyalwang Karmapa joined the assembly for the final session in the afternoon. Nearly a thousand monks and nuns crowded into the shrine room. Outside, on the veranda, every available space was filled with lay followers, craning their necks to peer through the few open windows and doors in order to catch a glimpse of the Gyalwang Karmapa, Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Kyabje Gyaltsap Rinpoche.
Meanwhile, monks worked steadily to complete the preparatory work for the main ritual: inside the shrine hall, to the right of the podium, partially concealed by a blue silk screen, they were constructing a complex, twelve-foot high Mahakala torma called a dhö, which will be burnt after the Cham dances on 20th February. On the podium itself, monks were arranging the torma and other offerings.
Februrary 12—13, 2012
For many days before the Tibetan New Year, the sangha traditionally engages in a practice of the Protector Mahakala (known as Gutor) to clear away the obstacles of the previous year and open the way for the new one to come. This year in Bodhgaya, the Seventeenth Karmapa has organized ten days of Mahakala practice, empowerments, reading transmissions and explanations to take place at Tergar Monastery, his residence here. The sessions began with empowerments on February 12 and will continue through February 21. Special this year is the text of the practice, which His Holiness has revived after this powerful ritual had lain dormant for centuries.
Empowerment, Reading Transmission, and Explanation
Traditionally, for every practice, one should receive these three: the empowerment that matures, the transmission that links to the blessings of the lineage, and the explanation that clarifies the text. On the morning of February 12, His Holiness gave the empowerment of Mahakala in Tergar's spacious shrine hall, which, from wall to golden-medallioned wall, was filled with nuns and monks in burgundy robes. Down both sides of the high-ceiling in the central area were hung thangkas of the Kagyu masters, through whom this lineage of Mahakala practices has passed. Chanting wafted through the air, and before the Gyalwang Karmapa entered the temple, a small bird landed on the back of his throne to add its voice to the melody. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche awaited His Holiness’arrival near their seats to the side of the main throne.
His Holiness began with three formal bows to the main Buddha statue, and after the mandala offering, he began a general explanation of the practice, stating that there are worldly protectors and those who transcend the world. The former can give certain siddhis, or accomplishments, but the latter actually help one become liberated from samsara, through eliminating the afflictions and karma that imprison us in an endless cycle of rebirths. Belonging to this second type, the wisdom protector Bernakchan is not separate from the heart of the Buddha. The actual empowerment of body, speech, and mind was given through an elaborate torma, (a sculpture made of barley flour and butter), a mala, and the image of a vajra.
In the afternoon, His Holiness gave the empowerment of Mahakali, who has numerous other forms and names, such as Remati, Dusolma, and Palden Lhamo. On a relative level, she is the powerful one of the desire world. Ultimately, she is known as the Self-Arisen Queen, the one who appears from the wisdom of the expanse of all phenomena. After this empowerment, His Holiness gave a reading transmission for the required practices.
On the morning of February 13th, Gyaltsap Rinpoche began the second stage, the reading transmission, which was quite special as his first incarnation was the one who requested this practice. In the afternoon, the Karmapa continued the transmission. After finishing one section, he began with the third stage of explanation, elucidating the history of the lineage—how it started in India, spread to Tibet, and finally came into the Karmapa’s lineage through Pomdrakpa, who gave the practice to the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi. Then the Karmapa talked at length of the many different ways to visualize the deities as a self-generation or frontal visualization.
He also spoke in English of the daily commitment for the practice, yet advised that what is most important is to practice seriously. We should mix practice with daily life, so that it is not just during sadhanas that we are involved in meditation. Our behavior and our motivation should be transformed. If we recite a sadhana and there is no change, this is a sure sign that we are not practicing correctly. He then translated this advice into Chinese. The afternoon ended with a dedication of merit for the benefit of all beings throughout the world.
To understand better this historic moment in the lineage, Khenpo Garwang was asked to provide some background information for the readers of the website on the practices and the history of Mahakala.
The Origins of the Protector Mahakala
Gelong Deway Khorlo (Bhikshu Wheel of Joy) belonged to the retinue of a previous Buddha named Sangye Tsuktorchan (Buddha with an Ushnisha). The bhikshu had developed special cognitions and could also demonstrate miracles. Proud of his abilities, he competed with the Buddha and, of course, he lost, which disappointed him greatly. Then the god Shiva appeared and said to him, “If you pray to be born as my son, I will give you dominion over the three realms.” Since he desperately wanted to be victorious, the bhikshu prayed to Shiva. However, Sangye Tsuktorchan knew of this and said to the bhikshu, “Except for some temporary happiness, being born as Shiva’s son has little benefit.” So the bhikshu confessed his faults, and the Buddha prophesied that he would be born as Shiva’s son, generate the resolve to become fully awakened to benefit others, and finally become enlightened as the Buddha Telway Wangpo.
Following the Buddha’s prediction, the bhikshu was reborn as the son of Shiva and Umadevi. His skin was very dark, his appearance terrifying and his power great, so he was given the name Mahakala, The Great Black One. His sister was called Remati. He roamed the three worlds and came to Bodhgaya when the Buddha became fully awakened. There Mahakala made the commitment to guard the Buddha's teachings, becoming a powerful protector for sincere practitioners.
The Karmapa's Connection to Mahakala
In India, the teachings on Mahakala (also known as Bernakchan) were given by the Buddha, but they had to wait for the right time to be revealed and propagated. Almost a thousand years later, one of the great mahasiddhas, Dombi Heruka (eighth to ninth century), was staying in Hahadropa Cemetery. Mahakala and his retinue appeared clearly to the Heruka and reconfirmed his commitment to protect the teachings. Dombi Heruka asked him, “Where are the sadhanas for your practice?” And Mahakala replied that they could be found in the terraced steps of a particular stupa. Dombi Heruka then retrieved the texts and spread these teachings and practices in India.
The transmission of Mahakala’s practices came to Tibet through the translator Zangkar Lotsawa (Zangsdkar lo tsa ba, also known as Mal gyo). When he went to India, even though Dombi Heruka had passed away, his wisdom body appeared to Zangkar Lotsawa. Dombi Heruka gave him the transmission of Mahakalatantras, including the empowerments and the sadhanas. This transmission eventually passed to Pomdrakpa, who was a main teacher of the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (1206-1283). Through the centuries, this transmission has been passed down the lineage right up to the present day.
Karma Pakshi wrote many sadhanas for Mahakala, and one of the most important was “The Three Cycles of the Protector,” which contained all the instructions for how to meditate, how to chant, and so forth. Karma Pakshi said that the Black Hat Lama (the Karmapa) and the Black-Cloaked Protector are inseparable. As a lama, he is the Karmapa, and as the one who guards and spreads the teachings, he is the Protector Bernakchan. And so it makes no difference whether a lineage exists or not between Karmapa and Mahakala, because they are not different. Karma Pakshi said that if one wanted proof of their connection, one need only look at the Karmapa’s teachings, which were flourishing due to the activity of Mahakala.
In his spiritual biography, several events illustrate their connection. Karma Pakshi relates that one time “the mandala of Mahakala’s face appeared in a vision; it covered the earth and sky, staying present for a whole day. Further, Mahakala’s eyes appeared like suns and moons; innumerable rays of light gathered in great masses; and a thundering HUM roared from his mouth. There arose limitless activity to overpower all of apparent existence. After, Karma Pakshi went to the country of Korig where he cured many who were sick, crippled, or disabled, just by slapping them, and so his fame as a realized master spread in all directions.” (Excerpted from The Life Stories of the Karmapas by Khenpo Sherap Phuntsok.)
The Text for the Ritual
The text which has been used this year is longest ritual of Mahakala, called “Burning Up Anger” (sDang ba rnam sreg), which was written by the Sixth Karmapa, Thongwa Donden (1416-1453), at the request of the First Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Paljor Donden (1427-1489). The monks, however, named it “The Boring Mahakala” because it took so long to chant. They failed to see the great benefits it had, which included expanding the Karmapa’s activity, his resources, and renown. So the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje asked his disciple KonchokYenlak to abbreviate the ritual, which he did, giving this new text the name, “A Condensed Version of Burning Up Anger” (Sdang ba rnam sreg las btus pa). These days, this text is known as “The Ritual of Mending and Supplication” (bsKang gsol), and it is practiced widely in Kagyu monasteries and centers.
Since the longer text of the Sixth Karmapa had fallen out of practice for so many years, it was very difficult to find a copy. The Seventeenth Karmapa had looked everywhere for an original and no one, inside or outside of Tibet, had ever seen or heard of it. But the present Gyaltsap Rinpoche happened to have a photocopy of a hand-written version, which seems to be the only extant copy of the text. He lent it to His Holiness and this is the one that was input, and then five hundred copies were printed for the gathering in Bodhgaya.
The practice is being reinstated this year as it makes an auspicious connection with all that is excellent: it brings benefits to the teachings and to all living beings while bringing about prosperity and positive influences. Further, the place of Bodhgaya, the Vajra Seat of the Buddha’s enlightenment, is the perfect site, and sangha members from many different monasteries and centers, all linked to the Karmapa, have gathered here. It is a wonderful opportunity to restore this practice that has been long in decline. So from among all the myriad Mahakala practices, such as those composed by the Fifteenth Karmapa, this one called “Burning Up Anger” has been chosen to purify the negative karma of the previous year and usher in the New Year of the Dragon.
It is hoped that reinstating this longer version of Mahakala practice in Bodhgaya will cause the Dharma to flourish widely and bring benefit to immeasurable numbers of beings.
Februrary 10, 2012 - Bodhgaya.
As the Tibetan year draws to a close, Tsurphu traditionally offers a special ritual known as Gutor. This ten-day long ritual is dedicated to the Great Protector of the Karma Kagyu, Gonpo Bernakchen, (Mahakala in Sanskrit). This year's ritual will be very special as, for the first time since the Gyalwang Karmapa came to India, the complete Tsurphu Gutor Ritual will be offered, including ritual dances, known as Cham in Tibetan, performed by monks from seven Karma Kagyu monasteries in Nepal and India: Rumtek, Ralang , Mirik, Benchen, Phodong, Old Rumtek, and Old Ralang. An audience of about one hundred devotees clustered together in the chilly shrine hall at Tergar Monastery to watch an all-day rehearsal of the Cham.
The dancers wore partial costume - jackets decorated with rich brocades, white, embroidered Tibetan boots, topped with brocade, and, swinging from their belts, a golden brocade chab-shu. The chab-shu , a square bag holding a small water-container, represents the water pot which fully ordained monks traditionally carry. The cold climate in Tibet forced them to wrap the water pot in cloth to prevent the water from freezing. Over the years, the pot became smaller and the cloth transmuted into the chab-shu.
More than forty dancing monks circled the shrine hall, bodies swaying, arms rising and falling, as they rehearsed the routines under the eagle eyes of the Gyalwang Karmapa and Gyaltsab Rinpoche. The dances were accompanied by the susurration and clashing of cymbals, deep, resonant Tibetan chanting and the insistent beat of the largest temple drum.
The dances began with the Ground Purification Dance and included Protector Dances, a Skeleton Dance, a Yak and Deer Dance, the Monkey Protector Dance, and the famous Black Hat Dance. The dances involved a range of tempos and footwork and hand and body gestures. The Deer flourished their antlers and bowed to the Buddha, the Skeletons jiggled around, the Monkeys jumped up and down, arms dangling at their sides.
Some dances were very vigorous: lively leaps, hops and vigorous jumps and squats. Others were more sedate, as if in slow-motion: bent legs raised almost to waist height, foot turned outwards, followed by a ponderous step or two and a slow twirl. The monks' faces were strained with concentration, and, in spite of the chill in the hall, the dancers could be seen surreptitiously wiping the sweat from their faces.
As the rehearsal proceeded, three sparrows dived and whirled above the dancers. The little birds flitted from thangka to thangka or perched momentarily on the great mandala offering set on the table at the front of the shrine hall. Above the table, on the podium, a life-like statue of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa sits impassively on the throne.
The Gutor will start on the 14th February and the Cham dances will be performed on the 20th. At that time, the monks will don masks and full costume, and it is possible, though not yet definite, that the Gyalwang Karmapa himself, Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Kyabje Gyaltsab Rinpoche will join in parts of the Cham, which would transform the ceremony into an even more unique event.
Februrary 7-9, 2012 - Bodhgaya.
On Tuesday 7 February the Gyalwang Karmapa inaugurated a three-day scholarly conference, as part of the 15th Annual Kagyu Winter Debate (Kagyu Gunchö) at Tergar Monastery in Bodh Gaya. The focus of the conference was the relationship among the three levels of Buddhist ethical discipline ie the three vows (dom sum in Tibetan). Attending the conference were over 800 learned khenpos (senior monastic scholars), geshes and advanced students from Karma Kagyu monasteries and nunneries across the Himalayas.
Tibetan Buddhists uphold three levels of ethical discipline: 1) the pratimoksha vows that govern physical and verbal actions and are common to all Buddhists, 2) the bodhisattva vows that regulate thought as well as body and speech and are transmitted in all Mahayana traditions, and 3) the tantric vows that only the Tibetan traditions received from India and preserve to this day. These three levels of ethical discipline correspond to three forms of Buddhism that flourished in Indian Buddhism: the foundational system of which Theravada is the only surviving example, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Indian Buddhism was transmitted to Tibet from the 7th century onward, during a historical phase in which all were openly taught. Tibetan Buddhism alone maintains the active practice and study of all three forms of ethical discipline that characterized Indian Buddhism in its heyday.
Two years ago, there was a similar conference which concentrated on the individual liberation vows. This year's conference focused on the bodhisattva vows.
Prior to this year's conference, leading Karma Kagyu scholars and the Gyalwang Karmapa himself spent months researching a wide range of Indian and Tibetan textual sources which address the topic. The group of senior scholars met daily with the Gyalwang Karmapa to pore over ancient Indian scriptures as well as later Tibetan commentarial treatises. During the conference, the scholars presented the findings of their collective research to the assembly, and opened the topics for general discussion and lively debate.
The first day's discussion focused on different rituals and traditions for taking the bodhisattva vows. Gyalwang Karmapa spoke briefly on the historical background and the differences among the six different Indian systems and the four principal Tibetan schools of philosophy.
On the second day, the focus was on issues that arise in upholding the various forms of ethical discipline, with an eye to finding harmony among all three levels of vows. The afternoon session included discussion of contemporary ethical issues, such as abortion, sexual relationships, and fine points related to theft, in relation to upholding or breaking vows.
The third day covered how to resolve apparent conflicts between the vows, and how the bodhisattva vows may be restored after violations.
In addition, His Holiness contributed his own perspective on three other issues he regards as important: vegetarianism, protecting the environment, and whether monks and nuns should be involved in political activities in Tibetan society. The conference concluded with a feedback session. Gyalwang Karmapa asked for comments on this year's conference from those who had attended, both scholars and students, and suggestions for the next conference.
In the afternoon, the Gyalwang Karmapa made a short visit to the Bhutanese Monastery in order to check on the progress of this year's butter sculptures. The eight butter sculptures (Tib. torma ) for Monlam 2012 portray lineage masters of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and the Four Great Deeds of Lord Buddha – his birth, enlightenment, teaching the Dharma, and his parinirvana. In addition, twelve special butter sculptures have been commissioned for use in the ceremonies to be held on the final day of the Monlam which will be at the Monlam Ground not the Mahabodhi Stupa. These twelve include ones depicting the three fathers of the Kagyu tradition, Marpa Lotsawa, Jetsun Milarepa and Lord Gampopa.
Februrary 6, 2012 - Bodhgaya.
Reports have just emerged that three more Tibetans set themselves ablaze within a single day in eastern Tibet. This comes shortly after four Tibetans immolated themselves and others died in demonstrations in Tibet during the month of January. As tensions escalate, instead of showing concern and trying to understand the causes of the situation, the Chinese authorities respond with increasing force and oppression. Each new report of a Tibetan death brings me immense pain and sadness; three in a single day is more than the heart can bear. I pray that these sacrifices have not been in vain, but will yield a change in policy that will bring our Tibetan brothers and sisters relief.
Having been given the name Karmapa, I belong to a 900 year old reincarnation lineage that has historically avoided any political engagement, a tradition I have no intention of changing. And yet as a Tibetan, I have great sympathy and affection for the Tibetan people and I have great misgivings about remaining silent while they are in pain. Their welfare is my greatest concern.
Tibetan demonstrations and self-immolations are a symptom of deep but unacknowledged dissatisfaction. If Tibetans were given a genuine opportunity to lead their lives as they wished, preserving their language, religion and culture, they would neither be demonstrating nor sacrificing their lives. Since 1959, we Tibetans have faced unimaginable loss, yet we have found benefit in adversity. Many of us rediscovered our true identity as Tibetans. We rediscovered a sense of national unity among the people of the three provinces of Tibet. And we came to value a unifying leader, in the person of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. These factors have given us all great grounds for hope.
China speaks of having brought development to Tibet, and when I lived there it was materially comfortable. Yet prosperity and development have not benefited Tibetans in the ways that they consider most valuable. Material comfort counts for little without inner contentment. Tibetans live with the constant suspicion that they will be forced to act against their conscience and denounce His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Chinese authorities persistently portray His Holiness as the enemy. They have rebuffed his repeated efforts to find a peaceful and negotiated solution to the Tibetan-Chinese problem. They dismiss the heartfelt faith and loyalty with which the Tibetan people universally regard His Holiness. Even Tibetans born in Tibet decades after His Holiness the Dalai Lama had gone into exile still regard him as their guide and refuge not only for this life, but for life after life. Therefore, constantly depicting His Holiness the Dalai Lama in hostile terms is an affront that benefits no one. In fact, striking at the heart of Tibetan faith damages the prospect of winning Tibetans' trust. This is neither effective nor wise.
I call on the authorities in Beijing to see past the veneer of wellbeing that local officials present. Acknowledging the real human distress of Tibetans in Tibet and taking full responsibility for what is happening there would lay a wise basis for building mutual trust between Tibetans and the Chinese government. Rather than treating this as an issue of political opposition, it would be far more effective for Chinese authorities to treat this as a matter of basic human welfare.
In these difficult times, I urge Tibetans in Tibet: Stay true to yourselves, keep your equanimity in the face of hardship and remain focused on the long term. Always bear in mind that your lives have great value, as human beings and as Tibetans.
With the prospect of the Tibetan New Year in sight, I offer my prayers that Tibetans, our Chinese brothers and sisters, and our friends and supporters across Indian and around the world may find lasting happiness and true peace. May the New Year usher in an era of harmony, characterized by love and respect for each other and for the earth that is our common home.
Ogyen Trinley Dorje,
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Februrary 3, 2012 - Bodhgaya.
The Gyalwang Karmapa participated today in the opening of the Bodh Mahotsava 2012, a three-day cultural festival commemorating the 2,600th anniversary of Buddha Shakyamuni's enlightenment here in Bodhgaya.
In the afternoon, His Holiness inaugurated a ceremony in which Lord Buddha's relics were paraded through the village atop an elephant. Upon arriving at the Mahabodhi Society of India, the Gyalwang Karmapa first said prayers before the image of Lord Buddha. Next, he ascended to a lofty podium, which he shared with Bihar Minister of Tourism, Sunil Kumar Pintoo. In company with the minister, the Gyalwang Karmapa ceremoniously handed the precious relics of Lord Buddha to a senior monk seated atop a lavishly adorned elephant. As the relics made their dignified way through Bodhgaya, they were escorted by a long and colorful procession of monks, dancers, musicians, delegates from around the world and around India, as well as more elephants and camels.
Festival activities continued in the evening when the Gyalwang Karmapa was invited to join the Chief Minister of Bihar, the Sri Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, as well as a host of ministers, including the Ministers of Tourism, Power, Food and Scheduled Tribes departments of the Bihari government. The event included a gala cultural programme with song and dance performances by troupes from Thailand, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Ladakh and Sikkim, as well as speeches by the Gyalwang Karmapa, the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister. Held on the Kalachakra grounds, the programme attracted over 8,000 people, including representatives of various embassies, national delegates and local attendees.
In his speech, the Gyalwang Karmapa noted the substantial progress that has been made in improving material conditions within Bihar. He spoke of the importance of education, and observed that Lord Buddha spent his life after enlightenment educating all those he encountered, from every walk of life and every caste without discrimination. The education that Lord Buddha offered was not aimed at external development, he observed. Rather, it was designed at instructing people to recognize the true causes of lasting happiness and to eradicate the ignorance that is our major obstacle to happiness. After Lord Buddha had dispensed his teachings in all directions, the Buddhadharma spread and took root in neighboring countries. Now, the Gyalwang Karmapa stated, we have reached a wonderful historical moment where those cultures that had been the beneficiaries of Dharma from India now had the opportunity repay that kindness by offering the Dharma back to India.
The Chief Minister, Shree Nitish Kumar, also addressed the audience. He spoke of his experiences attending the recent Kalachakra Puja by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in which the Gyalwang Karmapa also participated. He said that he had observed the discipline of the Buddhist audience of hundreds of thousands sitting for hours on end as they listened attentively to the talks. When he wryly commented that it would be quite a feat to get so many Biharis to sit still for so long, the crowd erupted in laughter.
The second and third day of the festival will focus on Bihari and Indian cultural contributions, respectively. The event was jointly organized by the Bihar government's Department of Tourism, the District Administration of Gaya and the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee.
Februrary 2, 2012 - Bodhgaya.
As has become an annual custom, the Gyalwang Karmapa today addressed the entire gathering of monastics attending the 15th Annual Kagyu Gunchö (Kagyu Winter Debates) in Bodhgaya. Half an hour after the doors opened for the afternoon session, the assembly hall filled Tergar Monastery to overflowing, with nearly 1,000 monks and nuns occupying the bulk of the large hall, and laypeople seated in the little space remaining in the back and spilling outside onto the lawn surrounding the assembly hall.
The theme for His Holiness' talk was Motivation, Conduct and Inspiration for Study and Practice. The Gyalwang Karmapa described the historical trajectory of study and debate within the Karma Kagyu, noting the influence of the Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje. He described a tendency in recent times for study institutions, or "shedra" to become distanced from the remainder of the monastery of which they form a part. With separate fund-raising efforts, separate emphasis and separate institutional structure, there is a danger that the study taking place in the shedra might appear to be separate from the activities of meditation and formal practice taking place in the rest of the monastery.
The Gyalwang Karmapa cautioned strongly against this, underscoring the complementary relation of study and practice. His Holiness went on to explore the correct relationship between study and practice not only within a monastery but also within a single practitioner. Study through reading and listening to Dharma teachings should become a basis for reflection, he said. In turn, this education that comes from studying and reflecting forms the basis for meditative practice. As such, study is neither an end in itself nor an activity that can yield its final fruits without the practice of meditation.
At the same time, His Holiness encouraged those present to devote themselves wholeheartedly to their studies while they have the opportunity, and offered advice on how to make the most of that opportunity. He identified several factors that pose serious obstacles to our study—laziness, pride and non-virtuous friends who mislead or distract us. Finally, the Gyalwang Karmapa offered detailed advice on how to guard against the three.
His Holiness spoke in Tibetan, and simultaneous translation was provided into English, Chinese, Spanish and French. The entire afternoon teaching was webcast live, with 500 computers connecting to view the event from around the world.
January 28, 2012 - Bodhgaya.
The Gyalwang Karmapa left Tergar Monastery at 9 am today with a small entourage to pay homage at the central shrine of Buddhism, the Mahabodhi Temple, home to the Bodhi tree and other sites linked with the time when Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment.
The Gyalwang Karmapa was welcomed by Mr N.T. Dorje, Secretary of the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee, and the Head Monk-in-Charge the Venerable Pande Chalinda. His Holiness was escorted in procession through the Mahabodhi Stupa Ground and went directly to the main shrine room. Having prostrated three times, he presented traditional offerings of light, fruit, flowers, a donation and a new golden silk robe for the Buddha image, and then recited prayers.
Leaving the shrine room, Gyalwang Karmapa walked round to the area behind the temple, under the Bodhi tree, where he offered khatas at the alters of the ongoing Nyingma Monlam.
January 27, 2012 - Bodhgaya.
His Holiness departed Delhi today for Bodhgaya, After a two-week stay at Gyuto Monastery where he worked on the editing of various texts and overseeing the completion of a giant Thangkha. His arrival was eagerly anticipated at Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya, the monastery of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.
In preparation for His Holiness' arrival in Bodhgaya, almost a thousand monks of Kagyu Gunchoe and Tergar Monastery decorated the road leading to the monastery. Long before His Holiness' flight had even landed at the airport in Gaya, the abbots and monks donned their ceremonial robes, and began rehearsing their instruments.
As the car carrying the Gyalwang Karmapa reached the road leading to the monastery's gates, a golden procession of monastics wearing their best brocade played a musical welcome and solemnly escorted His Holiness forward. By the time the procession had reached the main assembly hall of the monastery, many hundreds of disciples had gathered. Among those jostling for a glimpse of their revered guru were hundreds from across the Himalayan region, as well as Tibetans and international disciples.
January 11, 2012 - Bodhgaya.
The Gyalwang Karmapa today concluded a brief but fruitful visit to Bodhgaya to receive the Kalachakra for World Peace initiation conferred by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. After arriving on January 3, the Gyalwang Karmapa was also occupied granting daily public audiences to groups ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 people daily. On the final day of the Kalachakra puja, the Gyalwang Karmapa also attended a long-life empowerment and offering ceremony for His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
As many as 300,000 had pilgrims gathered in the village of Bodhgaya for the Kalachakra for World Peace ceremonies. Thousands of Buddhists from across the Himalayan region joined Tibetans coming directly from Tibet itself in what was the most important public religious ceremony in years for the vast community of followers of Tibetan Buddhism in India and around the world.
The first public audience granted by the Gyalwang Karmapa drew over 8,000 newly arrived Tibetans. The Gyalwang Karmapa delivered a rousing hour-long address to the crowd, urging Tibetans within Tibet to unite and to seek out skillful means to preserve Tibetan culture. On the following day, His Holiness the Karmapa received a group of over 10,000 devotees from across the Himalayas, and on subsequent days, received Tibetans living in India, and Indians from across the nation as well as international disciples.
Among the many disciples from overseas on hand to attend the Kalachakra initiation was Richard Gere, who had a private audience with the Gyalwang Karmapa on November 9.
Also attending the Kalachakra puja was Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki also attended a special event to felicitate His Holiness the Dalai Lama on January 10, in which the Gyalwang Karmapa also participated.
During his stay in Bodhgaya, His Holiness the Karmapa further participated in a non-sectarian (rime) prayer gathering, along with His Holiness Sakya Trizin, had of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism, and the Ganden Tripa, formal head of the Gelugpa school, and presided over by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The event in Bodhgaya marked the 32nd occasion since 1954 that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has conferred this important initiation. Prior to this, the most recent Kalachakra given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama took place in Washington, DC, USA. The Gyalwang Karmapa also traveled to the US to attend that event last July.
Gyalwang Karmapa Gives Blessings to 10,000 Himalayan People,Joins His Holiness Dalai Lama, Other Leaders, for Non-Sectarian (Rime) Prayers
January 7, 2012 - Bodhgaya.
Following his earlier address to 8,000 newly-arrived Tibetans, the Gyalwang Karmapa yesterday received over 10,000 people from across the Himalayan region. Large delegations from Ladakh, Spiti, Manali, Kulu, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Sikkim and West Bengal, as well as from Nepal and Bhutan came seeking His Holiness the Karmapa´s blessings. After delivering a Dharma talk to the vast crowd, the Gyalwang Karmapa granted each of the 10,000 people an individual blessing.
The Gyalwang Karmapa yesterday also participated in a pan-Tibetan Buddhist prayer gathering, over which His Holiness the Dalai Lama is presiding in Bodhgaya. Along with the His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Gyalwang Karmapa, His Holiness the Sakya Trizin was also in attendance. HH Sakya Trizin and the Gyalwang Karmapa are the heads of the Sakya and Karma Kagyu orders of Tibetan Buddhism, respectively. The three are the seniormost Tibetan lamas in India, and their joint participation drew crowds so dense that movement around the Mahabodhi Stupa came to a virtual standstill as pilgrims strained for a glimpse of the heads of their faith. For the estimated 300,000 pilgrims on hand for the Kalachakra puja in Bodhgaya, the opportunity to attend prayer sessions with their most revered spiritual leaders was a moment not to be missed.
Called Non-Sectarian Prayer Gathering, or Rimé Monlam, the prayers for world peace are held at the Mahabodhi temple, at the site where Lord Buddha was enlightened two and a half millennia ago.
Addressing 8,000 Newly-Arrived Tibetans in Bodhgaya, Gyalwang Karmapa Urges Tibetans to Unite, To Preserve Tibetan Culture and Religion
January 6, 2012 - Bodhgaya.
In Bodhgaya yesterday, His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa spoke to a large group of 8,000 Tibetans, urging them to unite and preserve Tibetan culture and religion within Tibet. Newly arrived from Tibet, the Tibetans are in Bodhgaya to attend the Kalachakra initiation puja, presided over by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Speaking warmly to the huge gathering, the Gyalwang Karmapa acknowledged the arduous journey the Tibetans had undertaken to reach India. "We received the Buddha dharma that is so precious to us directly from India," he said. "Now, many of us have settled here in exile. Therefore I do not need to tell you how close and profound this relationship between Tibet and India is. From the hardships you yourselves were willing to undertake to come here to this holy place of Bodhgaya, you can perceive this directly. This alone shows very clearly the deep sense of devotion and affection that we Tibetans feel for India."
With reverence, the Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, described His Holiness the Dalai Lama's pivotal role in uniting the Tibetan people. He warmly praised His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his activities and the vast scope of his vision in leading the Tibetan people.
"The main job of you Tibetans within Tibet is to guard and preserve Tibetan culture and religion," the Gyalwang Karmapa said. "It is the job of us Tibetans in India and other free countries to let the world know what is going on within Tibet."
He went on to stress, "I want you to know that we here in exile are well aware of the sufferings and problems you face in Tibet. Do not despair, please think long term and seek out skillful means to guard the Tibetan religion and culture."
Turning to history for lessons on how to do so, he described how Tibetans have safeguarded the Buddhadharma, since the time they received it from India in the 7th century. He observed, "We Tibetans have guarded and handed it down from generation to generation as our most valued inheritance from India. Today the Buddhadharma, with its teachings of non-violence and altruism, remains in the world as a common treasure for all the world to use and enjoy."
In contrast to the flourishing of Buddhism during the earlier period when Tibet was united, the gradual growth of internal squabbling and sectarianism led to decline and landed Tibetans in their current situation, the Gyalwang Karmapa said. However, today, Tibetans are able to overcome internal divisions and unite under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, their supreme guide, he added.
Going forward, the Gyalwang Karmapa said, "the main condition that will allow Tibetans to preserve our religion and culture will be to pull together and to stand united." As such, regional and sectarian prejudice and partisanship are grave obstacles. He called on Tibetans to set aside sectarian divisions.
"We all share a common identity as Tibetans," he said. "If that can be kept in mind, then together we can face whatever situations occur."
As his speech drew to a close, the Gyalwang Karmapa spoke of the longing that all Tibetans share to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama return to Tibet, saying he too shared that wish with then. "I always hold you Tibetans in my heart and am continually praying to be able to return and to be able to serve you in Tibet," the Gyalwang Karmapa said.
After speaking to the gathering for over an hour, the Gyalwang Karmapa stood for two hours, giving an individual blessing to each and every member of the 8,000-strong crowd. Many in the crowd were seen weeping, as they experienced what for most is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of the most highly revered leaders of their faith. The newly arrived Tibetans had earlier been received by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in similar fashion.
January 3, 2012 - Bodhgaya.
The Gyalwang Karmapa departed Sarnath this morning for Bodhgaya, where he will receive the Kalachakra Initiation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. During his stay in Bodhgaya, the Gyalwang Karmapa will also offer audiences to the vast crowd of devotees who have gathered from Tibet and across the Himalayan region.
His Holiness left Vajra Vidya in Sarnath before 9am, and travelled back the same route that Lord Buddha first took after his enlightenment. Meanwhile, in Bodhgaya, by noon the road approaching Tergar Monastery was flanked by a long line of Himalayan people seeking to catch a first glimpse of the Gyalwang Karmapa. The white scarves they planned to offer as a symbol of their respect and devotion fluttering in the wind, those eager to receive the Gyalwang Karmapa waited patiently until around 2pm, when his traveling party finally came within their view.
A large yellow parasol hovered above him as the sound of horns announced the long awaited moment of his arrival, as His Holiness' stay in Buddhism's holiest site has officially begun.
January 1, 2012- Sarnath, Varanasi.
As an auspicious and joyful start to the new year the Gyalwang Karmapa joined the monastic assembly of Vajra Vidya Institute for prayers and practice, including the Offerings to the 16 Elders practice.
Following the prayers, the Gyalwang Karmapa addressed the assembly, which included visiting international disciples as well as the resident lamas and monks of Vajra Vidya. His Holiness spoke first in Tibetan, and then in English.
Echoing his New Years Message, His Holiness noted that there has been a great deal of talk that the year 2012 will be a year of natural disasters and turmoil. We cannot predict what lies ahead and the potential for great change in our environment and in society is indeed present in any given year, he said. He added that our external environment is very important and also a source of great kindness to us.
Whatever upheaval may occur in the world around us, the root of our happiness and wellbeing remains the same. The cause of the health and happiness we desire for the new year lies within each of us, in our cultivation of inner peace and love towards others, the Gyalwang Karmapa said.
Whatever happens in 2012, our responsibility remains the same: to seek ways to make our brief lives on this planet of utmost benefit.
His Holiness concluded by wishing all—in Tibetan and in English—good health and a happy and meaningful life in 2012.
HH Gyalwa Karmapa
Detailed biographical information about His Holiness the 17th Karmapa is available from the drop down menus above. The materials are divided into:
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