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KARMAPA PAST ACTIVITIES: October-December, 2012

A gift to serious practitioners: the Nag-gyal-phag-sum text

30th December – Bodhgaya.

As part of the commemoration of the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage celebration, the Gyalwang Karmapa has reproduced 300 copies of a rare text, the Nag-gyal-phag-sum, and offered it to practitioners who have completed a three year retreat, others residing in retreat centres, and leading rinpoches and lamas. The author and compiler of this text was the Fifth Shamarpa, Kunchok Yenla. The original was printed in gold ink on black paper. The main subject of the text is a practice to the three protectors Mahakala, Gyalwa Gyatso and Dorje Phagmo, hence the name. As this text was in danger of being lost completely, the intention of the Gyalwang Karmapa was to preserve this precious text for future generations.

The text originated in India. In the beginning, the three practices were separate but they were compiled into one book at the time of the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, consequently the text is regarded as particularly sacred. In the meditation tradition of the Karma Kamtsang lineage the number of practices that exist is as vast as the ocean, but it will be very important for practitioners in future to practise this text.

This rare text has an amazing history. The previous Gyalwang Karmapas had so many statues, texts and sacred relics, yet, of all of them, this text the Nag-gyal-phag-sum was regarded as one of the most important. Tragically, during the upheavals in Tibet in 1959, many things were destroyed and even this pecha vanished.

However, a monk from Khampagar [Khamtrul Rinpoche's monastery in Tibet] happened to pass through Tsurphu during his escape from Tibet, and discovered a copy of the text there. At that time the previous Khamtrul Rinpoche was staying in Bhutan, and when the monk reached Bhutan, he offered the text to him. Because of this surviving text we are still able to receive both the oral transmission and the instructions. When the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa gave his heart sons the oral transmission and practice instructions, it was based on this text.

In order to reproduce the Nag-gyal-phag-sum, the Gyalwang Karmapa borrowed the text from the current Khamtrul Rinpoche at Khampagar Tashi Jong Monastery in Himachal Pradesh. It was carefully scanned and then three hundred copies were printed in Taiwan. This new edition contains an additional chapter of 17 leaves [34 pages] which gives the transmission history, and an introduction to the text written by the 17th Karmapa himself.

Khyabje Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche's talk on Calling the Lama from Afar

30th December – Bodhgaya.

On December 30th 2012, in the radiant light of the morning, the Fourth Jamgön Rinpoche walked from Tergar Monastery through the spacious doors of the Monlam Gate, over land that the Buddha must have once trod, and into the Monlam Pavilion. Preceded by monks carrying incense, he walked down the central aisle towards a throne luminous as liquid gold and shaped like the rising sun.

After making three prostrations in the direction of the Buddha, he walked up the stairs to the large hand prints of the First Jamgön Kongtrul, which were framed in burnished gold and edged by a garden of fresh white flowers. The Fourth incarnation now offered a long white kata, which he laid out over the blossoms, and then descended to take his seat on the throne. His head was encircled by the rim of a Dharma Wheel etched in the back of the throne. It was the perfect setting for his first large public teaching on a beloved text—Calling the Lama from Afar by his first incarnation Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye. During the mandala offering preceding the teaching, the Karmapa could be seen just outside the Pavilion, and later, he stayed in a small room just off the stage, quietly present at this important event for his heart son.

In a voice reminiscent of his previous incarnation, Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche began his talk by dividing it into the three traditional sections of a noble aspiration, the main practice, and dedication. He said that before we do anything, our motivation is key, and the best of all of them is bodhicitta, which he defined as:

The motivation to listen, reflect, and meditate on the stages of
guru yoga so that all living beings in number as vast as space
may be liberated from the ocean of samsara and swiftly attain
the unsurpassable level of full awakening.

In discussing the title, Calling the Lama from Afar, he said that "Lama" referred to being equal in qualities to the Buddha and having the kindness of a good mother. We might think that "Calling from afar" meant that there is some distance between us and the lama, either in terms of time or space, but actually it is more subtle than that. On an ultimate level, our minds are the same as the Buddha's; however, on a relative level, there is a difference because the Buddha has given rise to all the enlightened qualities and we have not. Therefore, we pray that our minds will blend with the lama's enlightened mind. Jamgön Rinpoche gave three reasons why we call out to the lama: "We are suffering and have problems; we believe that our only refuge is the lama; and we trust that the supplication is meaningful and beneficial."

He taught that the next section of the text invokes the perfect mind of the lama. It covers lamas from all the main lineages and illustrates their specific kind of realization. The subsequent section enumerates our faults and our requests to our lama for specific blessings. Since the verses speak so often of blessings, Jamgön Rinpoche gave an explanation:

Blessings come from compassion and we can understand them
through four categories: the compassion that is naturally
present; the compassion that is continuous; the compassion that
is timely; and the compassion that invokes the lama's three kayas.

The first two refer to the lama whose compassion is present by nature and also continuous. The last two refer to how we can receive the blessings: they come when the time is right without our having to ask and, like Calling the Lama from Afar, they can also be invoked through our supplications.

The main point, he said, is that "supplications are the path through which blessings enter into us." They come through a devotion that sees the lama as a buddha. And it is not a blind faith, but one that is based on study and reasoning.

The last verse of the text is a supplication that the lama's realized mind and our mind become inseparable:

We supplicate you, precious lama.
Kind one, Lord of Dharma, we call out to you with longing.
For us unworthy ones, you are the only hope.
Bless us that our minds blend with yours.
We pray to the lama and ask for the blessing that our minds become inseparable, and we do this because the lama is our only hope. We have not been fortunate enough to meet the Buddha, but the lama embodies all the buddhas, so we supplicate.

Finally, we make a dedication so that the merit we have accumulated in listening to the talk and reflecting on the Dharma will not be lost. Jamgön Rinpoche encouraged us to practice from the depths of their hearts so that the practice will bring about the transformation that we all seek. He brought his talk to a close with thanks to Ngodup Tsering for translation and gave a reading transmission for Calling the Lama from Afar. Finally, he gave thanks and his wishes that all be auspicious for everyone.

After the mandala offering and prayers for Jamgön Rinpoche's long life, everyone chanted together Calling the Lama from Afar using the commemorative books that had been offered to everyone. During this time, resplendent offerings were made to him, beginning with representations of enlightened body, speech, and mind. High lamas, the administrations of great monasteries, and disciples of the present and past Jamgön Rinpoche filled the central aisle from the throne, down through the rows of thousands of monks and nuns, lay men and women, to the road outside where the stupa marking the Buddha's full awakening could be seen in the distance. People came carrying gifts of statues, stupas, bells and dorjes, Tibetan texts and Western books, rugs, brocades, musical instruments and brightly colored sacks of grains. It was a magnificent pageant worthy of a Dharma king. As they made their offerings, Jamgön Rinpoche greeted each person with kindness, gently returning their scarf with a natural blessing.

Lama, think of us. Kind root lama, think of us.
Essence of the buddhas of the three times,
Source of the sublime Dharma of scripture and realization
Sovereign of the Sangha, assembly of the noble ones,
Root lama, think of us.

Homage to the Jamgon Kongtruls

30th December – Bodhgaya.

At 7:30 in the morning a procession of monks in golden ceremonial hats set out from Tergar Monastery to the Monlam Pavilion carrying a plain wooden palanquin with a precious statue of Pema Gyalpo, one of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche. The statue is a terma treasure revealed by the 15th Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje, the father of the second Jamgon Kongtrul. Four men in brocade costumes, two in white and two in dark blue, held the palanquin. They marched slowly with regal pomp while the horns announced the arrival of the sacred image contained within a bejewelled reliquary. When it arrived at the tiered stage, the Karmapa walked down the steps with a ceremonial scarf to greet the precious image. With exquisite care he placed it just below the golden Buddha at the top of the stage. This moment of heartfelt devotion captures the relationship between the Karmapas and the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage: father and son, guru and disciple from lifetime to lifetime.

The stage was set under the Karmapa's meticulous supervision for a spectacular program commemorating two hundred years of the Kongtrul lineage. A blown-up photograph of the sacred handprints of the first Jamgon Kongtrul, Lodro Thaye, predominated centre stage with two other portraits, of the second and third Kongtruls, decorated with flowers and the seven offerings. One thousand butter lamps were flickering on the steps of the stage.

The ceremony was designed both to commemorate the lineage and honour the succession. The previous or third Jamgon Kongtrul died in a tragic car accident only twenty years ago and his representation onstage made the event a memorial ceremony. His devotion to the 16th Karmapa was a teaching beyond words. He served his Guru with body, speech and mind until the Karmapa's death in 1981 and beyond. In 1992 he died in a violent accident at the age of 38. As one of the four pillars strengthening the Kagyu lineage, it weakened the school for many years. The wounds left by the sudden passing of this beloved master have now been healed by his successor, who at 17, today took his place amongst the glorious Kongtrul reincarnations.

While the assembly of monks chanted devotional prayers to the guru, composed by the first Kongtrul, four dancers from Rumtek and four from Ralang Monastery performed a deftly executed dance known as Great Gratitude, to honour the kindness of the Kongtrul masters.

This Lama Dance is another terma based on Guru Rinpoche's life story and was revealed by the terton Guru Chowang , a contemporary of the 6th Karmapa. The costumes and the jewellery for the dance were borrowed from Gyaltsab Rinpoche.

During the mandala offering ceremony the Labrang or administration, many of whom had served the previous reincarnation, formed a procession that went from outside the Pavilion to the stage. Headed by the General Secretary Tendzin Dorje, the meditation master and the younger brother of the previous Jamgon Kongtrul, they made offerings symbolizing body, speech and mind. Monasteries from all over India, and the worldwide Jamgon Kongtrul centres moved slowly towards the stage in a seemingly endless outpouring of deep devotion.

Some of the invited guests who came to honour the 4th Kongtrul were Thrangu Rinpoche, Karma Kenchen Rinpoche, Ayang Rinpoche, Orgyen Tulku Rinpoche Tobgya-la Sadutsang, and the Hong Kong actress Faye Wong.

After the audience had been served tea and saffron rice, Ringu Tulku read a short biography of Lodro Thaye which he had composed. The Monlam chant master sang a doha composed by the second Kongtrul; while a song of praise to the third Kongtrul's devotion to the 16th Karmapa, composed by the 17th, was offered by Suja School in Bir. To the slow, haunting melody of Tashi Shok - May all be Auspicious - the palanquin was brought out and the Karmapa once again placed the statue lovingly into place as the procession returned ceremoniously to Tergar.

Commemoration of the Jamgön Kongtrul lineage

29th December – Bodhgaya.

Day One: Offerings and the dance
December 29th began the first of two days of ceremonies commemorating the Jamgön Kongtrul lineage of tulkus and making an auspicious connection with his fourth incarnation, Lodrö Chökyi Nyima Tenpey Drönme (Intelligent One, Sun of the Dharma, Lamp of the Teachings). Commemorations reflect the custom of remembering the deeds of the Buddha, and by extension our lamas, usually on the anniversary of their parinirvana or sometimes their birth. The year 2012 marked the twentieth anniversary of the passing of the Third Jamgön Kongtrul; in three days, it would be 2013, the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of the First Jamgön Kongtrul, Lodrö Thaye (1813-1899). These two events made it a perfect time for a festive occasion to also honor the present incarnation, who is now seventeen years old and studying at his monastery's Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies in Lava, near Kalimpong in northern India.

During the previous night of the 28th, people had worked long hours to prepare the Pavilion stage. In the front and center, behind three thrones for Jamgön Rinpoche, the Karmapa, and Gyaltsap Rinpoche, was a magnificent, larger-than-life-size photograph of the Third Jamgön Kongtrul, Lodrö Chökyi Senge (1954-1992), set in a garden of blue flowers. Though he passed away at a young age, the Third Jamgön Kongtrul's humanitarian activities for the destitute, young, and elderly have continued unbroken to this day. Famous for his devotion to his teacher, the Sixteenth Karmapa, Jamgön Rinpoche carried out the Karmapa's wishes and lived at his monastery in Rumtek to care for the Karmapa's sangha and to build the Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies, which remains a vital center of learning.

Further up the stairs in a garden of red flowers is a large black and white photo of the Second Jamgön Kongtrul, Palden Khyentse Özer (1902-1952), who was born as a son to the Fifteenth Karmapa. This incarnation was a great master of meditation and a teacher of the Sixteenth Karmapa, just as the first Jamgön Kongtrul was a teacher of the Fifteenth Karmapa. Finally, at the very top of the stairs in a garden of white flowers, are two framed hand prints of the First Jamgön Rinpoche, Lodrö Thaye, their graceful fingers curved with age. A great master and brilliant scholar of the rimé, or nonsectarian, movement in nineteenth century Tibet, Lodrö Thaye is famous for his Five Treasuries. Here, he preserved the Dharma of many lineages by practicing them and collecting their scriptures.

At the very top of the stage on either side, were two altars with offerings, including a huge red torma (butter sculpture). Six large screens spaced throughout the Pavilion showed an audience of over six thousand images of the events both on this stage and also what was happening outside where twenty-six white offering kilns, each one paired to a bright flag, sent their incense aloft into the morning sky.

The Karmapa led the ceremony of purification and offering performed this morning, known as Billowing Clouds of Virtue, which was composed by the First Jamgön Kongtrul for his teacher, the Fourteenth Karmapa. This genre of practice brings everything positive into this world through purifying negativity and making extensive offerings to the supreme wisdom deities all the way down to the local area protectors. This particular version included offerings to Bernachen (the Black-Cloaked Mahakala), the Six-Armed Mahakala in his blue and white forms, Dorje Lekpa, Thanglha (a Tibetan mountain deity with a connection to the Karmapa), and many others.

Special to the ceremony today was the participation of forty-two students from the TTS college Sherab Gatsal in Dharamsala. The Karmapa was like a kind father to the young dancers; he came to the five rehearsals in the Pavilion, brought them momos and sweets, and encouraged the dancers with his praise. For three intensive months, they had trained in these dances known as Lingdro Dechen Rölmo, (The Music of Great Bliss, the Dances of Gesar of Ling), and they moved with a precision and grace that was beautiful to watch. Their teacher was Tseyang Drolma, who holds the lineage of these dances, passed to her from her aunt and mother who learned them from the last lineage holder in Tibet. There in the nineteenth century, the dances appeared in a vision to Ju Mipham Rinpoche.

The Karmapa's own close connection to Gesar added his special blessing to the ceremony. Denma, the chief minister of Gesar, is considered an emanation of the Karmapa, and the Fourteenth Karmapa was born into the family lineage of Gesar. Both the Second and the Fourteenth Karmapas have composed purification and offering ceremonies based on Gesar. The Sixteenth Karmapa enjoyed the legends of Gesar and wrote poetry in their style. For Tseyang Drolma's new book on the dances, the present Karmapa wrote a long introduction detailing the lineage of the Lingdro, the connections to the Karmapas, and the profundity of the practice.

The dances are considered Dharma practice as Gesar of Ling is an emanation of Guru Rinpoche as well as Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, Vajrapani, and others. Before the performance, the dancers recite the Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche, and then during the dancing, they practice through their body, whose gestures are mudras; through their speech, considered mantra; and through their minds, which clearly sustain a visualization of the deity. The benefit for the viewers is to bring them delight in the Dharma and to create positive connections so that the Dharma and the affairs of state will prosper. It was a wonderful way to open the door for Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche's activity to flourish throughout the world.

Today, after the first section of the purification and offering ritual, the dancers came on stage in magnificent costumes. The men entered from our right holding aloft bright flags and wearing richly colored brocade chupas, tied across with multicolored scarves. From their shoulders hung a reliquary and a sheaf of arrows, and from their waist, a jeweled sword. The women entered from the left holding long-life arrows and wearing brilliant brocade chupas, (the traditional Tibetan dress with a long skirt and wrap around top), jewel necklaces, and rows of flowers in their hair. All the dancers wore long silk sleeves, extending beyond their hands so that their movements seemed to float through the air.

This first dance invoked a shower of blessings, calling to the deities to come and be present for the ceremony. The singing passed back and forth between the men and women as they moved in circles. The men's song called out to Gesar:

When we think of the Great Lion King,
Our legs dance and our hands swing to and fro,
Our voice comes in a clear and longing melody.
We call the celestial prince, bright sun of great knowing,
The lord of beings, full moon of love,
Great lion whose blessing is lightning swift.

And the women's song called out to Tara:
Om. Goddess of Emptiness, Ocean of Dharma,
Gathering of the Great Mother and her retinue of dakinis,
Brilliant and magnificent, come gathering in clouds.
Create the left row of this celestial dance.
Bring down the beautiful blessing of the mother lineage.

The next dance was one of offering and praise, which was naturally followed by a mandala offering to the Karmapa and a long line of extensive offerings, mostly by Jamgön Rinpoche's disciples from all over the world. After prayers for the lamas' long life, the fourth song, which invoked various kinds of activity, was performed with the male dancers in brilliant armor. The main dancer wore the impressive black and gold set that stood on the stage during the nine hundred year celebrations for the Karmapa. After the monks chanted the practice of Gesar as a protector, the last song of the dance wished for auspiciousness through his body, speech, mind, qualities, and activity. It ended with "May all be auspicious through attainment of great joy."

This feeling of joy was clearly present in the Pavilion as the ceremony came to a close on this first day commemorating the lineage of Jamgön Kongtrul.

The 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo Day Eight

28th December – Bodhgaya.

Early morning, Tergar Monastery
4.45 am. From the Garchen a steady stream of spectral figures emerges on to the road. The monks and nuns are making their way to the Mahabodhi stupa, two kilometres away, for a special full-moon-day Vinaya sojong, scheduled to begin at 5.00 am. Laypeople are usually not allowed to be at this bi-monthly ritual of purification of downfalls and restoration of vows and precepts which only monks and nuns attend.

Mahayana Sojong at the Mahabodhi Stupa
The Gyalwang Karmapa gave the Mahayana Sojong vows, followed by a short talk on the importance of aspirations and dedications.

A short teaching by the Gyalwang Karmapa
During the previous seven days of the Monlam, the assembly has employed body, speech and mind to make aspirations for the benefit of all sentient beings and the Dharma. Now is the time to gather together the merit generated and dedicate it for all sentient beings that they may move along the path towards enlightenment. There are two sides to polishing the two accumulations: aspiration and dedication. Our aspirations should not be limited but rather be bold, vast and profound, especially as we are gathered in Bodhgaya, the centre of the world, where all 1002 Buddhas of this age will attain enlightenment.

The Buddha nature is present in all sentient beings —we all share that same nature and are part of the same mandala. All of the virtues of body, speech and mind generated should be dedicated to enlightenment. This is the special feature of the Mahayana path, that we dedicate everything with pure motivation for the benefit of sentient beings. Infinite sentient beings are afflicted by suffering; we should take this burden on ourselves, and always bear it in mind. The generosity of the sponsors made Monlam possible. We should not forget them.

For the living, we should pray that their wishes may be fulfilled, and for the dead that they may be freed from the fearful appearances of the bardo.

Here at the Monlam in Bodhgaya, all the harmonious conditions exist for the practice of Dharma and the benefit of beings. It's not a matter of merely one or two people but of thousands, both men and women, gathered together. In addition, keeping ethical discipline means that aims can be achieved more quickly, and many people are also taking Mahayana Sojong. Under these conditions it is our responsibility to seize this great opportunity and not to waste it by procrastinating and saying, "I'll focus on Dharma later..".

"Now, on this seat.." Gyalwang Karmapa emphasised, is the time to practise. As the Khadampa masters taught, intention and action must go together or else, at the time of death, we will be full of regret at wasting this precious human life.

Session One
In front of the small shrine containing the Infant Buddha statue, Gyalwang Karmapa stood to make the offerings on behalf of the assembly. He offered incense in a small burner, formed his hands effortlessly into flowing mudras of welcome, and, during the branch of ablution, used a beautifully engraved golden ladle to pour perfumed water over the statue three times. He dried it symbolically with a khatag and then held up a golden silk cloth as adornment, concluding with the mudra for anointing.

Sessions Two and Three
During session two and the beginning of session three the Karmapa and sangha performed the Lama Choepa [Offering to the Gurus] especially dedicated to Tenga Rinpoche, one of the Karmapa's tutors, who died earlier this year. A large photograph of Tenga Rinpoche was displayed on a special shrine to the left of the Infant Buddha shrine

"The best offering", the Karmapa noted, "is the offering of the practice".

"The activities of the Buddha's body, speech and mind isn't something I need to talk about," he continued. From the time of the 16th Karmapa till now Tenga Rinpoche was the Vajracharya. He knew the details of all the practices, taught very widely and held the authentic practice lineages. Because of his great activities when he went into parinirvana he went into a special tukdam and inspired many people to practice the dharma.

"His reincarnation will come soon and take up his activities and will go on working for the benefit of all beings. We should pray for that".

"The collections of requests for the new reincarnations are many. I will read out only what I have written myself. It's called: Quickly Come".

The text, which was distributed across the gathering, is beautifully printed and decorated with the 8 auspicious symbols in colour; and recited to the melody of Calling the Guru from Afar.

Session Four
The last session always contains aspiration and dedication prayers, a speech by the Gyalwang Karmapa, and finally, prayers of auspiciousness.

The concluding prayer, written by the Fourth Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso, ends:

A blaze of good fortune, the ornament of the world!
In the realm and kingdom of the land of Tibet,
To the north of th eLand of Snows,
May the teachings of the Practice Lineage flourish!
May the world have the good fortune of happiness!
We ask that the world be made happy!
and that last line sums up the heartfelt aspiration and purpose of the Monlam.

The 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo Day Seven

27th December – Bodhgaya.

Mahayana Sojong at the Mahabodhi Stupa
The Mahayana Sojong vows were given by Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche.

Foggy vista
For those watching the webcast, please note the picture is not out of focus! This is the fog that we're encountering because of sudden wintry conditions across northern India. Fog at this time of year is not unusual. It often disrupts transport across northern India. However, this year it is much colder than usual and many of the poverty-stricken people across Bihar and other northern states are suffering immensely.

Sessions Two and Three: The Akshobhya Ritual Cycle
Gyalwang Karmapa arrived shortly before 9.00 am and greeted the rinpoches, lamas and khenpos already seated below the bodhi tree. Session Two began with the Short Vajradhara Lineage Prayer and then proceeded to the first part of today's main focus, the Akshobhya Ritual and fire puja.

The Akshobhya ritual cycle is in four parts: the first three parts which take place at the stupa are the Akshobhya Self-Visualisation ritual, the Akshobhya Mandala ritual and the reading of the Akshobhya dharani and sutra. The text for the first two parts of the ritual is only available in Tibetan in the prayer books issued to the sangha as usually only the sangha takes part because of the requirement for pure conduct.

The third part of the ritual, the recitation of the 'Dharani that Thoroughly Purifies all Karmic Obscurations' and 'The Sutra of the Dharani that Thoroughly Liberates from All Suffering and Obscurations,' is open to everyone. The recitation of this dharani is believed to purify all karmic obscurations and all the karma flowing from lifetime to lifetime. Reciting it three times daily can even cleanse the karma of the five heinous deeds, the four root downfalls and the ten non-virtues. It can be used for the dead and the living. These texts were recited several times.

The Alms Procession
The Alms Procession of gelong and gelongma took place at the end of the second session. In Buddhism, almsgiving is the respectful support shown by laypeople to the ordained Buddhist sangha. The custom of alms rounds was not simply an expedient way to feed the Sangha but an expression of the interdependence between the Bhikshu or Bhikshuni and the laity. By offering sustenance to the Sangha with pure motivation, laypeople have an opportunity to be inspired by virtue, accumulate merit, and also to share in the merit generated by a monk or nun's spiritual practice. The offering is made to the monastic ideal rather than to the individual monks and nuns, and in response, they should strive to maintain that ideal of discipline and pure conduct .During the Buddha's time, monastics were not permitted to cook or store food, so they had to eat what was freely offered to them by the lay community. Over the centuries, the custom of alms rounds was maintained in some Buddhist countries, but was not adhered to in Tibet since the monasteries there were supported by laity and there was no longer a need for individual monastics to make alms rounds.

In 2004, the Gyalwang Karmapa incorporated the alms round into the Kagyu Monlam as a symbolic ceremony to remind participants of this ancient Buddhist tradition. In the same way he urged Monlam attendees to make a personal connection with Sakyamuni Buddha, and many of the early traditions the Karmapa revived, such as reciting prayers in Sanskrit and honoring the Gelong and Gelongma ideals, were supports for this.

Yesterday morning, in keeping with the custom of previous years, people wishing to offer alms to the Sangha gathered outside of the Stupa entrance at around 8:30 a.m. Dharmapalas and helpers had begun preparations at about 7:30 a.m., stringing a rope barrier from the shoe area outside the Stupa down to the entrance of the Jai Prahash Udyar Park . The day before, an announcement had been made about the correct procedure to follow. Participants should stand behind the rope on the right side of the procession and should not burn incense or offer hot food or money. Light packed foods or sweets in wrappers should be placed in the begging bowl gently with respect. The number of monks and nuns in the procession was expected to be 500.

At 9:30 a.m., the Gyalwang Karmapa came up the steps in front of the Stupa and entered the BTMC Reception office. A few minutes later, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche joined him there. This signaled that the time had come for the procession of monks to leave the temple towards the outer gate where lay disciples eagerly awaited with their offerings.

The procession was led by a senior monk from Ralang Monastery wearing a yellow hat and holding a bundle of burning incense. Kyabje Gyaltsab Rinpoche was next, holding a ringing staff and a large begging bowl. He was followed by three other Rinpoches holding the ringing staffs from the ancient tradition, as well as scores of Gelongs and Gelongmas carrying their alms bowls.

The procession was enhanced by Tenzin Dorje from Jamgon Kongtrul's Labrang who scampered ahead adorning their path with flower petals strewn from a large wicker basket. The thronging crowd behind the rope was nearly bursting with excitement, trying their best to place offerings inside the begging bowls, with the usual street urchins underfoot trying to grab at the candies that missed their mark and fell on the pavement. By contrast the Sangha procession was hushed and dignified. As the procession slowly descended the steps from the outer Stupa entrance area onto the main road, the path began to narrow as it snaked past the street vendor's stalls and led down into the entrance of the park. Once inside the park, the procession is supposed to be restricted to Sangha only, and except for the Karmapa who conducts the ceremony, no one is supposed to speak.

Inside the park were eight rows of mats, four on each side of a center aisle. At the head of the mats, the Gyalwang Karmapa stood next to a blue canopied tent with his golden chögu over his left shoulder. The blue tent was decorated with the Kagyu Monlam logo and draped with flower garlands. As Gyaltsab Rinpoche entered the dining area of the park, he took his place to the left of Karmapa. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche was already seated on the Karmapa's right. They sat at small tables on either side of the Karmapa's tent.

As the monks filed in behind the Rinpoches, they were holding their begging bowls in their left hands with the fingers of their right hands grasping the rim of the large bowl. They took their seats quietly and as their columns slowly filled up the Karmapa strolled along the rows of monks. The two groups of Sangha (four rows each) faced each other as they sat in meditation. They said the meal prayer with their hands folded, repeating it over and over, led by the Monlam's discipline master, Khenpo Kelsang from Rumtek Monastery.

After the meal prayer, the helpers came out with their pails of food and ladled it into the Sangha's bowls. Karmapa walked around holding a microphone, while the Refuge prayer was recited. Finally the Sangha began to eat the food in their bowls with wooden spoons. In the meantime, Karmapa circled the group of diners acknowledging the lay helpers lined up in blue vests and red head scarves along the back. Servers continued to serve the Sangha seconds from the food pails. After a while, the Karmapa sat down and started to eat. The meal was eaten in silence with mindfulness in the spirit of Mahamudra meditation practice. After the meal was finished, the Karmapa spoke briefly, followed by the group chanting the Heart Sutra. Then there were dedication prayers, which signaled the end of the ceremony. The monks and nuns rose, adjusted their robes and chögus and filed out of the park. Afterwards, the Karmapa called the serving staff up for a group photograph. There had been about 90 helpers participating in this event. The vegetarian meal had been prepared in the morning at Tergar monastery and brought over to the park by the monlam helpers. Gyalwang Karmapa returned to Tergar after the third session in order to complete the private audience schedule from yesterday. Although he met more than three hundred people on Wednesday, time ran out and about a hundred had to be sent away, according to an attendant. These people were invited to attend for a specially scheduled audience this afternoon.

The Akshobhya Retreat
A group of specially invited people, usually those who are ordained or who have completed the three year retreat, complete a two week retreat prior to Monlam, and then take part in the Akshobhya fire puja. As this is the second Akshobhya Ritual Cycle of 2012, the previous one was in March, the retreat this time was very small, only six people: Chime Dorje Rinpoche, four monks and a laywoman, Tashi Sangmo.

The Akshobhya Ritual
According to the Buddhist teachings the present age is one of degeneration when all beings in samsara [the cycle of existence] are suffering because of negative thoughts and actions. The Akshobhya ritual is a very powerful purification practice done for the benefit of all sentient beings. It can liberate not only the practitioners themselves from the fear of an unfortunate rebirth, but other beings as well. The Buddha Akshobhya promised that the merit generated by reciting one-hundred-thousand of his long dharani mantra and making an image of him could be dedicated to other people, both living and dead, and this would assure their release from lower states of existence and rebirth in spiritually fortunate circumstances.

Gyalwang Karmapa has commended this practice as very suitable at a time when negative forces are increasing in the world.

The Akshobhya ritual is in four parts: the first three parts took place at the stupa, where a special altar, displaying some of the offerings needed for the fire puja, was set up in front of a thangka of Akshobhya Buddha. The three parts at the stupa were:
A. The Akshobhya Self-Visualisation
B. The Akshobhya Mandala ritual
C. The reading of the Akshobhya dharani and the Akshobhya sutra
The text for the first two parts of the ritual is not available to the general public. The third part, the recitation of the 'Dharani that Throroughly Purifies all Karmic Obscurations' and 'The Sutra of the Dharani that Thoroughly Liberates from All Suffering and Obscurations' is open to everyone. The recitation of this dharani is believed to purify all karmic obscurations and all the karma flowing from lifetime to lifetime. Reciting it three times daily can even cleanse the karma of the five heinous deeds, the four root downfalls and the ten non-virtues. It can be used for the dead and the living.

The Akshobhya Jang-Sek [fire puja]
This took place in the evening. Before and during the Monlam friends and relatives had been making donations and giving the names of the deceased and the living who were experiencing great difficukties such as illness, in preparation for the Akshobhya Fire Ritual. The purpose of this type of fire puja [jang-sek] is purification and pacification.

The Gyalwang Karmapa conducted the main puja on the porch of the temple.

Below the steps, a brick fire pit was constructed and a 'pacification' sand mandala drawn in it. Then logs were piled on top. The fire was lit during the second half of the puja, and the names of the living and the dead were piled onto the flames.

The 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo Day Six

26th December – Bodhgaya.

Once more some of the teams who support the Monlam had to work late into the night and arrive at the stupa early in the morning so that the site was prepared. By the time the Gyalwang Karmapa arrived before daybreak, new altars and torma had been set out, all the equipment for audio and webcasting had been transferred, and the sangha were sitting in their newly allotted places.

The area under the Bodhi tree was festooned with fresh garlands of yellow and gold marigolds. Fairy lights lit up the banks around the outer kora—the route which pilgrims circumambulate—and a signboard proclaimed "The 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo. Sarva Mangalam".

As soon as he arrived, Gyalwang Karmapa went to the shrine room and offered prayers in front of the precious Buddha statue. He then went to the Monlam site under the bodhi tree and conferred the Mahayana Sojong vows. Returning to the shrine room, he offered a set of golden silk robes, [Each day during the Monlam, a new set of silk robes will be offered.] and performed the hair-cutting ceremony for two Taiwanese disciples who wished to take ordination.

Kangyur Procession
On December 25, the day before the Kangyur procession, the Gyalwang Karmapa met with a select group of nuns and monks in the Tergar Shrine room. After wishing them a Merry Christmas, he prepared them for the next day by demonstrating how to hold a sacred text—balanced on the left shoulder and supported by both hands—and how to pass it from one person to another. He also reminded them to stay equidistant and to move at the same pace. All this detailed training would be evident the following day at the stupa.

December 26 was the first day of the 30th Kagyu Monlam held at the Mahabodhi stupa. Early in the morning, the Karmapa gave the sojong vows and remained for the Kangyur procession. As he waited for it to start, the Karmapa stood in front of his throne, low and humbly set before a carved wooden pavilion sheltering a statue of the young Buddha, itself below a huge curving branch extending out from the center of the Bodhi Tree as its soft green leaves glistened with dew. Underneath, to the right of the Karmapa was Jamgön Rinpoche and on his left, Gyaltsap Rinpoche; behind them, the ninety-eight monks and five nuns with full ordination put on their yellow shawls, preparing to carry the one hundred and two texts of the Kangyur.

The long column of participants was led by a pair of monks wearing yellow cockade hats and playing reed horns followed by another pair playing white conch shells. After them came monks bearing incense and then Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Jamgön Rinpoche, and the Karmapa, all wearing the Gampopa hat. Following in their footsteps were the monks and nuns, each carrying a wrapped text of the Kangyur.

The procession started around the inner temple and went through the ancient gate, its pink-tinted stone covered with loops of bright orange and yellow marigolds. They climbed up the front stairs to circumambulate the outer path, which was lined with people from all over the world. They showed their respect for the Dharma by holding offerings of flower garlands, mandalas of marigolds, roses, white freesia, and large maroon dahlias in the middle. One woman held a plate with a small Buddha statue surrounded by flowers. Others held white scarves and some a single pink lotus. The procession was stately, moving at a slow pace. The khenpos and chant leaders stayed behind in their seats to chant "Namo Shakyamuniye," "Homage to Shakyamuni," and then the refuge in Sanskrit, which resonated throughout the park around the stupa. From a distance, it looked as if the monks were being moved along by the beautiful sound, their golden robes brilliant against the grey stone.

As the procession moved along, people fell in behind the monks and nuns, becoming a colorful crowd walking in the path of the Dharma. When the lamas had completed one circle around the stupa, they returned down the main steps, which led straight into the central shrine and the famous golden Buddha enthroned there. At the temple door, the leading musicians turned left to complete the circumambulation of the stupa and returned to their places near the Bodhi Tree. Once everyone had settled in, the Karmapa began a brief talk on the Kangyur and its importance:
Today at the stupa we will be reading aloud the Kangyur (the collection of the Buddha's teachings). Usually, we go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and today we are celebrating the Dharma in its two aspects of scripture and realization. Our understanding of Buddhism comes from the words in the precious Kangyur. If we are studying, contemplating, or meditating on the Dharma, we must rely on the Kangyur since it is the source, or foundation, for them all. The Kangyur resembles the trunk of the tree of Dharma or its central channel. It gives us what we need to know, such as what we should take or give up.

If we have a Dharma text, we might wrap it in brocade, put it on a shrine, and make offerings to it. This is not enough however: we have to look into the texts and come to understand them. Even if we understand, we might not pay them much attention. Our attitude here depends on whether we practice or not, and on whether we know the value of these texts or not. When we recite the Seven Branch Prayer, we ask the Buddha to turn the wheel of Dharma, and this he has done, giving extensive teachings, but we do not consider them. This is due to our arrogance or stupidity. We should study, contemplate, and meditate upon what the Buddha has already taught. If we don't, then it's very strange to ask the Buddha to give new teachings, which we do every day as we say the Seven Branch Prayer. So please keep in mind the importance of working with the teachings, of studying and practicing them.

Most of the texts from the Kangyur were brought from India; however a number of them were translated from Chinese, (which has a larger Kangyur than the Tibetan), and also from other countries like Shinjang. Then all of these had to be translated. Ignoring the difficulties and taking up their task with joy, the translators brought these texts into Tibetan. These scriptures became the basis for commentaries and explanations of the major treatises, and for oral instructions given by Tibetan scholars and masters of meditation. There is nothing written about the Dharma that did not ultimately rely on the Kangyur, so we can rest assured that these texts are a trustworthy source of the stainless Dharma. In brief, we can say that the Kangyur is the source for all Dharma.

If we look at the etymology of the word Kangyur, we can see that ka (bka') refers to the words of the Buddha and gyur ('gyur) refers to the texts that were translated (the "n" comes from putting these two syllables together). There is a long history of translating into Tibetan, beginning with the seventh century when the Dharma King Songtsen Gampo was living at Yambu Lhakhang and encouraged Thunmi Sambhota to begin translating texts. In the eighth century, the Dharma king Trisong Deutsen established a center for translators at Samye Ling where one hundred panditas (scholars) from India and one hundred translators from Tibet worked together for many years translating, editing, and clarifying the texts. They were not puffed up with a little knowledge, but highly learned, gifted in language, and rich in experience of the practice.

From my own experience, I understand a little bit about translating. I worked on the translation of a Chinese text into Tibetan and learned how great the kindness of the translators was and how significant their efforts were.

To return to the history, through to the end of the reign of King Tri Ralpachen, new texts were translated and the old translations were corrected and edited. With the advent of Langdarma, who sought to destroy the teachings, translation came to an end. In the tenth century, the Kings of Western Tibet Yeshe Ö and Changchup Ö encouraged translators, such as Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo, so the process of translating began again, especially of the tantras, which now form the latter part of the Kangyur. In the eleventh century, Atisha also made a great contribution to the process of bringing texts into Tibetan. For almost two hundred years, from the early eleventh to the late twelfth centuries during the new transmission of Dharma in Tibet, a succession of great scholars translated texts mainly related to view and logic.

The first assembling of all these texts had to wait until the twelfth century and the great scholar Chin Jampay Yang, who assembled the first Kangyur in Tibet. As the years passed and the Dharma continued to spread, many editions of the Kangyur ere put together: the Tselpa, Litang, Beijing, Chone, Dege, and Jang, to name a few. The first wood-block print was made during the Ming dynasty in China and known as the Narthang Kangyur. In Tibet, the first wood-block print was sponsored by the King of Jang, (hence the Jang Kangyur), and redacted by the Sixth Shamar, Chokyi Wangchuk in the seventeenth century.

Due to the great kindness of the Buddha and the Dharma Kings of Tibet, all these texts of the Kangyur remain today as a support for our accumulation of merit and wisdom. For those who understand, the Kangyur has all the flawless methods for attaining in one life the level of ultimate union or full awakening. In contrast to other teachings, the Dharma found in Tibet has all five vehicles present, and so it's possible to practice them all. The Kangyur also contains the key instructions of the great masters and the various lineages as well. Reading it inspires our conviction and faith in the Dharma, which then grows, enabling us to see that the Kangyur is like a rare jewel. Please keep this in mind as you read the texts.

When the Karmapa finished his talk, the chant masters began the reading of the Kangyur with the famous verse from The Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct:

May I teach the Dharma in every single language—
The parlance of the gods, the speech of nagas,
The idioms of the yakshas, kumbhandhas, and humans—
In all the languages that beings may speak.

The texts, wrapped in yellow cloth with a bright red square in one corner, were passed out one by one, as each monk took responsibility for dividing the pages of a volume among the sangha members, collecting it afterwards, and making sure that all the pages were complete and in their proper order before they bound up the text again in its yellow cloth. As the reading began, a maroon sea of monks and nuns, each a wave curved over their texts, began to recite the words of the Buddha. They rose into the morning light, moving through the air like the fragrant incense an old woman swung from her censer as she made her way around the stupa.

The 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo Day five

25th December – Bodhgaya.

Mahayana Sojong
Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche gave the Mahayana Sojong vows. Those who have taken Mahayana Sojong have to wait until daybreak in order to eat again. As the days pass, it seems the fog each morning thickens, and today it was impossible to tell when night ended and day began. However, breakfast was served at 6:35 am. The bread, fresh from the huge Garchen kitchen which produces 10,000 Tibetan breads each morning, was still warm, and we were able to wrap our hands around steaming cups of salty Tibetan butter tea for comfort against the cold.

Session Two: Vajrasattva Empowerment
The assembly chanted "Karmapa kyenno" while the Gyalwang Karmapa completed his preparations, meditating before the Buddha statue higher up on the tiered Monlam stage.

Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche took their seats, and then the Karmapa returned formally in procession to begin the empowerment. First he concluded the teaching on the Three Primary Elements of the Path by Je Tsong Khapa, and then, at the beginning of the empowerment, he linked the view of emptiness from the text with the empowerment, emphasising the importance of remembering that In a sense everything is emptiness.

He explained that this particular Vajrasattva empowerment had come from India via Marpa the Translator. During the empowerment, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Gyaltstab Rinpoche and Surmang Gawang Rinpoche represented the assembly, receiving the body, speech and mind initiations directly. Gyalwang Karmapa explained that the body initiation confers permission to visualise oneself as the deity; the speech initiation gives permission to recite the mantra; the mind initiation gives permission to meditate on the mind and experience of the buddhas.

During the session the Karmapa also announced the publication of a book specially for the commemoration of the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage celebrations: The Illuminating Orb of the Sun. Photographs Recalling the Incarnations of Jamgon Kongtrul

Session Four
The final session in the afternoon ended earlier today in order to allow time for the relocation to the Mahabodhi Temple site.

Gyalwang Karmapa's activities
In the afternoon Gyalwang Karmapa gave private audiences to more than two hundred devotees, many from Dharma centres world-wide. Today's audience included people from Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, his seat in Woodstock, New York, U.S.A., Karma Choeling in Auckland, New Zealand, and Samye Ling in Scotland.

In the early evening he visited the main shrine room at Tergar to speak briefly to the nuns and monks rehearsing for the Alms and Kangyur processions.

The 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo Day four

24th December – Bodhgaya.

Mahayana Sojong
The monks and nuns attending the Monlam are expected to attend the whole day at the Pavilion and to take the Mahayana Sojong vows unless they are ill or old. In addition, every morning so far the rear of the pavilion has filled with an astonishing number of laypeople who also wish to keep Sojong during the Monlam. Mahayana Sojong is a very powerful practice taken for restoration and purification of broken vows and precepts. As in all Mahayana practices its foundation is bodhichitta, the mind of enlightenment, and the motivation is:
"for the sake of all sentient beings; to benefit them; to liberate them; to eliminate famine; to eliminate illness"...
Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche gave the Mahayan Sojong vows, enunciating them carefully two syllables at a time, for everyone to repeat.

Session Two
During the teaching on the "Three Primary aspects of the Path", Gyalwang Karmapa gave the Bodhisattva Vows, and also gave two lungs [reading transmission of the text ] for the short ngondro practice which he himself composed in 2006 specifically for use by students living in the developed world who might not have time to complete a more extensive ngondro practice, and for the longer ngondro written by the Ninth Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje as a preliminary to Mahamudra.

Session Three
A large section of empty blue mats was noticeable at the front of the laypeople's area. Friends of Kagyu Monlam had gone for their special audience with the Gyalwang Karmapa. The third session often contains special prayers. Today the focus was on the removal of obstacles. To this end the "Praises of the Twenty-One Taras" was recited , followed by other prayers to Tara and to Sarasvati.

The 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo Day three

23nd December – Bodhgaya.

Mahayana Sojong
As Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche began giving the Mahayana Sojong vows, the generator malfunctioned, leading to a massive power failure; the stage and much of the pavilion were plunged into darkness. Unfazed, Rinpoche waited calmly, and resumed the Sojong ritual as soon as power was restored.

Gyalwang Karmapa's activities
Gyalwang Karmapa attended the second session and taught on "Three Primary Elements of the Path". Much of the remainder of his day was taken up by audiences.

In the afternoon a public audience with Gyalwang Karmapa was scheduled for 3.00 pm in Tergar main shrine hall. However, so many people had arrived and the crush was so great that the time of the audience was moved forward. Approximately 2000 people—the head of security commented that there were too many to count precisely — gathered for the audience. So many attended that it was necessary to set up a special security system. Those waiting were gathered on the lawn to the left of the shrine hall, where they joined a giant conga which snaked its way back and forth across the lawn until finally they reached the metal detector gate and security check. From there they had to queue once more to enter the hall. Having received a blessing, a red protection cord and a photo of Karmapa, people left from the other side. As fast as they exited, a continuous stream of others arrived, rushing around Tergar monastery to join the queue, as word of the audience spread across Bodhgaya.

Old people on walking sticks hobbled through the gates as quickly as they were able, mothers holding babies and clutching young children, youths in blue jeans, leather jackets and gelled hair, non-Tibetan sangha, Bhutanese, Sikkimese and Himalayan people in traditional dress, Tibetans, Westerners, Chinese, all thronged into Tergar; it seemed as if the whole world was represented. Two hours later, the Karmapa went up to his quarters to begin the schedule of private audiences, mainly groups of international students from various centres world-wide. These audiences finished shortly before 6.00 pm.

The 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo Day two

22nd December – Bodhgaya.

The work of the Kagyupa International Monlam Trust
The annual Kagyu Monlam in Bodhgaya is organised by The Kagyupa International Trust, a charitable organisation registered in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India.

Although its main activity is the Monlam festival, it also organises various charitable activities within the Bodhgaya area to coincide with the festival. These have included free medical camps, food for the poor, distribution of blankets and rice to the poor, and work to improve the environment.

Early morning at Tergar and the Monlam Pavilion
At 4.00 am promptly the wake-up gong resounded across the Garchen, followed shortly afterwards by a loud broadcast of the Gyalwang Karmapa chanting Milarepa's aspiration prayer. The monks stirred and stumbled and coughed their way into the day.

Once more, a heavy mist lay over the land as ghostly people made their way to Mahayana Sojong at 6.00 am in the Monlam Pavilion. The morning temperature had fallen considerably and even inside the pavilion their breath misted in the cold air. From outside, the fog rolled in through its open sides. The fortunate ones among the monks and nuns were able to huddle into their dhagams— the heavy woollen cloak born of winters in Tibet—but the majority only wore regular robes and the yellow prayer robe. Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche gave the Mahayana Sojong vows.

Gyalwang Karmapa's activities
On the second day Gyalwang Karmapa attended the second session to continue his teaching on the Three Primary Elements of the Path. He then visited the VIP kitchen and the special lunch for gelong and gelongma [fully ordained monks and nuns] in the shrine room at Tergar. During the afternoon he gave private audiences.

The 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo begins

21st December – Bodhgaya.

Early morning at Tergar and the Monlam Pavilion By 5:15 am long lines of people, nuns, monks and laypeople, had formed along the road from the pavilion as far back as the main gates of Tergar monastery. The morning was dark and chill but they waited patiently to pass through the stringent security checks. Although it now has a greater capacity than last year, the vast space of the Monlam Pavilion filled steadily. Seats to left and right of the central aisle were allocated to nuns and monks respectively. The rinpoches, tulkus, khenpos, and some gelongs were seated on the stage. A space near the front was reserved for international sangha, and other designated areas were allocated to members of Kagyu Monlam, VIPs, and special guests. Clad in their distinctive yellow panelled waistcoats, disciplinarians patrolled the rows of monks and nuns.

At 6:00 am promptly, the gyalings sounded, and led by an incense bearer and monks playing the gyalings, Gyalwang Karmapa arrived on the stage and the 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo began.

Opening remarks by the Gyalwang Karmapa

Facing the congregation of monks, nuns and laypeople, Gyalwang Karmapa gave the Mahayana Sojong vows before making some opening remarks.

He emphasised the great opportunity that everyone gathered for the Monlam had been given to pray on behalf of all sentient beings. "We should treasure this opportunity and not waste it," he warned.

It was our great good fortune that we had come together in the sacred place of Bodhgaya with those who upheld the Kagyu lineage: Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, many other rinpoches, lamas, khenpos and so forth.

"Now that we have come to this sacred place and have the conditions to accumulate great merit we should be diligent, have great aspirations and generate bodhichitta," he explained. Finally, he thanked everyone who had come, especially those who had come from far away.

The Twenty-Branch Monlam

The first session each morning is the recitation of the Twenty Branch Monlam, compiled by the Gyalwang Karmapa in 2006. Sitting on a low throne at the head of the congregation, he faced the Buddha images and the altars to lead the opening Sanskrit prayers; Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche sat on his right, Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche on his left. After the initial prayers, Refuge and Bodhichitta, the Gyalwang Karmapa rose and walked up the steps to the shrine of the small golden Buddha statue.

This year six video screens have been placed around the pavilion, enabling everyone to see what is happening in greater detail than ever before. Thus, for the first time, everyone was able to see the Gyalwang Karmapa assuming the role of chöpön and performing the rituals which accompany the first nine stages of the Twenty-Branch Monlam such as offering incense and pouring perfumed water over the golden Buddha. His task finished, Gyalwang Karmapa resumed his seat at the head of the assembly to lead the rest of the Twenty-Branch Monlam prayers.

Gyalwang Karmapa gave two special short commentaries on the prayers:

Session One: A short commentary on the Sutra in Three Sections

This sutra was translated into Tibetan during the time of King Trisong Detsen because it was judged to be one of ten sutras which the king should practise in order to purify his negative actions.

The Karmapa emphasised the importance of this sutra for its use in purifying the negative deeds accumulated by all of us from beginningless time, as we go from life to life, trapped in samsara, like water from the well. We have lived so many times, that we have lived in every place, and during that time we have accumulated so many negative actions lifetime after lifetime that the whole universe is too small to contain them. Unless they can be purified, they will ripen and cause us great suffering in the future. This is especially true for those of us who continue to commit negative actions even though we hold vows and have made promises to practice the dharma. Sometimes we may not know that what we are doing is wrong, but sometimes we commit misdeeds in spite of knowing. These negative deeds or downfalls, if they are not purified, can lead us to rebirth in the lower realms. As even the effects of a small negative deed can grow steadily stronger and negate our positive actions, it is essential to purify our negative actions daily.

In order to purify, we practice using the four powers or antidotes. The first antidote is the power of the object of support or reliance. In this sutra that support is the 35 Buddhas; even to hear their names, and to make offerings or prostrations will generate powerful purification. In order to do this we should visualise all 35 Buddhas in front of us, with Buddha Shakyamuni in the centre, surrounded by the others, seated in vajra posture, and visualise them as not separate from our own root guru. The second antidote is the power of regret. We need to develop deep regret for all our negative actions, as if we have eaten poison. The third antidote is the power of reparation. In this case we can recite or read the sutra. Finally, there is the power of resolution, resolving never to commit the deed again.

We cannot remember all our misdeeds, including the five heinous ones, but we can have the motivation to purify them. In the same way, we can have the motivation to purify all our negative actions of this lifetime, since childhood, those we remember and those we can't remember.

It is impossible to help others when we are influenced by negative deeds, so we need to purify ourselves.

Session Three: Explanation of the Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct

During the third session, the Gyalwang Karmapa gave a brief teaching on the prayer titled, "The King of Aspirations: the Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct." This is the aspiration prayer made by Samantabhadra, one of the eight bodhisattvas, and it is also known as a prayer made by all buddhas and bodhisattvas. The Karmapa taught:

The first section of the prayer encompasses the Seven Branch Prayer: prostrations and praise, offerings, confession, rejoicing, request to turn the wheel of Dharma, supplication not to pass into nirvana, and dedication. The purpose of the Seven Branches is to purify our mind streams, so it is very important. It is said that there are ten aspects to aspiration prayers, such as vowing to bring conduct to completion, to mature all living beings, and to wish that they all attain full awakening.

Since there was not enough time to explain all the verses, the Karmapa picked out a few key ones to focus on. The first:

May I always associate with those
Who act in harmony with my own conduct.
In body, speech, and mind may we behave
As one in conduct and in aspirations.

This verse is important for those who have taken vows. It is important that our thoughts and conduct be harmonious and that we rejoice in each other's positive behavior. This is especially necessary these days when people take sides and are attached to their own positions.

The second verse he mentioned is:
In that fine, joyous mandala of the Victor,
I'll take birth in a beautiful, great lotus.
I also will receive a prophecy
Directly from the Victor Amitabha.

This is a prayer everyone one can make, women and men, the lay and ordained. We make the wish to be reborn in the pure realm of Amitabha, which is possible if we continually make prayers and accumulate merit. Once we are born there, Amitabha will make a prophecy about when we will become a buddha.

Finally he felt that this famous verse of dedication is very important:

The brave Manjushri knows things as they are
As does, in the same way, Samantabhadra.
I fully dedicate all of these virtues
That I might train and follow in their example.

Even if we are good at making aspiration prayers, we should take the previous bodhisattvas as an example and follow after them. They are the model to show us how to dedicate merit. Since we are not yet realized, it is difficult to make a perfect dedication. What would this be? There is no concept of a person making the dedication, the dedication itself, and the act of making it.

It is also key that we relate these prayers to the depths of our hearts and minds, so they are not just words we are saying and lovely tunes we are chanting. We must blend their meaning together with our mind and then dedicate the merit wholeheartedly for the benefit of the teachings and all living beings. This is true for all prayers we make at Kagyu Monlam.

The Gyalwang Karmapa spent the whole day at the Monlam Pavilion and attended all four sessions of the prayers.

The Winter Debates in Bodhgaya.

19th December – Bodhgaya.

The sixteenth session of the Winter Debates began this year on November 23 at Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya, India. The daily schedule included debates during the morning and in the afternoon, the Karmapa's teaching on a text by the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje, called The One Hundred Short Instructions. Throughout his presentation, the Karmapa emphasized the importance of balancing study with practice, of tempering intellectual pursuit with realization arising from experience. In the Tibetan tradition, debating is an integral part of intellectual and experiential training. Its purpose is to probe an individual's knowledge of Dharma, to remove doubts, and to elucidate what is not clear. Debating helps to ensure that understanding does not stay at the level of words, but goes deeper into the meaning. It also allows a great number of topics to be explored in a short time and to be retained more easily.

The custom of debating entered into the Kagyu tradition through the great scholar, Chapa Chökyi Senge, a Kadampa who was a teacher of the First Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193). Marpa also brought the tradition of debate to Tibet, however it was Je Tsongkhapa who developed extensively the practice of debate along with the collected topics of logic so that they became a special trait of the Gelukpa tradition. The Winter Debates originated at the Geluk monastery of Ratö located in the Jang area of Central Tibet. Then in 1997, Chöje Lama Phuntsok of Lekshey Ling Shedra suggested that it would be excellent to start a tradition of Winter Debates for the Kagyu shedras, so the first session was inaugurated and they have continued regularly up to the present.

In previous years, the debates were conducted with judges from within the Kagyu tradition, and the atmosphere was more relaxed, as the monks enjoyed getting to know each other and exchanging ideas. To enliven the monks' interest and raise the esteem for the debates within the Kagyu monasteries, the Karmapa decided to change their format and add an element of competition.

The first major change was an historic one: never before in the history of Tibet had judges from all four traditions been invited to evaluate Kagyu debates. This year, there were scholars from the Nyingma, Sakya, Geluk, and from within the Kagyu, the Drikung and Drukpa lineages. There were none from the Karmapa's own lineage, the Karma Kamtsang, so the judges could not be accused of partiality. Further, they stayed in Tergar and the head judge rotated every day.

People often pay lip-service to the ideals of non-sectarianism. But knowing of the ultimate benefit, the Karmapa, lion-hearted, boldly invited all the lineages into the heart of the Kamtsang shedras. It took considerable courage to invite other traditions to judge the debates. One might hesitate for fear of revealing one's special techniques or of exposing one's weaknesses to the world. For their part, the judges appreciated his openness, and from their side, they worked very hard for over two weeks, attending not only the central debates but also the additional sessions.

Of the ten shedras present for the Winter Debates, eight were participating in the main debates, held during the morning in the main shrine hall at Tergar Monastery.* In the afternoon and evening, additional debate sessions took place in the Monlam Pavilion, so day and night the sound of challenging voices and clapping hands could be heard. And the monks continued to discuss matters as they circumambulated the shrine hall and walked back and forth to their rooms or meals.

The Karmapa's second innovation was to structure the debates like a tournament with prizes at the end. Half of the points were awarded to the monasteries for the monks' performances as the defender of a thesis and half were awarded to the questioning opponent's monastery. The subjects for debate covered three areas: the collected topics of the logic texts, the classifications of mind, and the classifications of reasons. From within these, especially difficult questions were chosen, such as the presentation of uncommon contradictions or the difference between what is direct and valid and what is spurious. The basis for all of these exchanges was were the major treatises that the monks study in the shedras.

Over twelve days, the eight teams were reduced by a process of elimination to two each for the three topics. In the first rounds, four teams were eliminated; in the second, they were narrowed to two teams for each of the three topics, and on the last day, these winning teams debated the three topics to decide the winners and runners up for the three categories as well as the overall winner of the debates.

On December 13th, the final debate on classifications of the mind was shifted to the evening in the Monlam Pavilion so that everyone could easily see the event. On the steps rising behind the main platform, the Karmapa, Jamgön Rinpoche, and Gyaltsap Rinpoche sat on brocade covered chairs behind ornately carved wooden tables. Below them were the five judges, and further down on the apron of the stage were two smaller thrones for the defenders from Bokar Rinpoche's Thösam Norling Gatsal. Some twenty feet back, stood two microphones for the ten questioners from Jamgön Kongtrul's Rigpe Dorje Institute. The defender's position is actually the most difficult as they are vigorously challenged by a group of lively monks at the mics who often move in perfect unison, tuning into the same point with the same words.

To begin the final debate, the two defending monks came forward and made three bows in the direction of the Karmapa and then took their seats, wrapping themselves in their maroon cloaks and setting beside them the yellow cockade hat they would wear when quoting texts to back up their arguments. As with all the debates, the session lasted forty minutes, which were which were counted down on digital clocks displayed over two screens on either side of the stage. The element of passing time added to the heightened intensity of the evening, as the monks waited to see who would win the coveted prizes. At the end of the debate, one monk, walking in slow circles in front of the others, gave an elegant summary, making the traditional dedication of merit and expressing everyone's wishes for auspiciousness to spread throughout the world.

The MC for the evening was from Sherab Ling and served this year as the head discipline master. He introduced the debate and announced the prizes at the end. A table on stage right was set with seven trophies, with certificates for the winners, and a stack of large, rectangular replicas of the checks to be given. Alongside these were three new mobile phones. The prizes were awarded on the basis of three criteria: the monks' ability to stay on topic; their use of quotations that were relevant and within their own tradition; and finally, their conduct in maintaining decorum and respect for others.

As the debate ended and the award ceremony began, the Karmapa came down the steps to the front of the platform to give out the prizes. The first award of a Wisdom Text trophy along with a certificate and a check of 25, 000 Indian rupees for their monastery went to Sherab Ling, the runner up in the debates on the collected topics. The same prizes for the runner up in the second and third categories of the classifications of mind and of reasons were both awarded to Rigpe Dorje Institute. The top winners in these same three categories—Rigpe Dorje for the first two, and Sherab Ling for the last one—each received an elegant and transparent, smaller Sword of Wisdom, certificates, and a check of 50,000 for their monastery. The top prize, which was the greater Sword of Wisdom, certificate, and check of 100,000 for the monastery, was awarded to Bokar Rinpoche's shedra for the best performance over the whole period of the Winter Debates.

The final three prizes went to three individual monks. The top award of a new iPhone 5 was given to a monk from Sherab Ling for being consistently diligent. The next prize, the newest Samsung Galaxy, went to another monk from Sherab Ling for being the best defender. The final trophy of an HTC mobile went to a monk from Tergar monastery for being the best questioner.

As the excitement from the award ceremony subsided, the judges took turns speaking about their experience and the practice of debate in general. All five mentioned how impressed they were by the Karmapa's wisdom and learning, his qualities as a spiritual leader and human being, and his great humility. One judge remarked that although all five came from different traditions, when they compared the marks they had assigned to the debaters, their numbers were very similar, so there was a natural consensus on what constitutes good debating. Another judge spoke of the blessings of the lineage that can be received through debate. Yet another judge emphasized the importance of studying Dharma, the highest form of education. He also said that all the monks won prizes, as each one had the opportunity to deepen his understanding of the definitive Dharma.

The Karmapa cautioned the monks not to let the awards go to their heads or focus on personal achievement but to remember a wholesome pride in the Dharma and all its qualities and to let the awards be an inspiration to study even harder. He mentioned that debates belong to the practice of integrating experience and study and remain an important vehicle for training in the Dharma.

In his advice to his winning monks from Bokar Rinpoche's shedra, Khenpo Dönyö echoed the Karmapa's way of thinking when he said that it is thanks to the Karmapa, the lineage lamas, and their teachers that the monks had the benefit of this special opportunity. Performing with excellence is the best offering that they could make.

The Winter Debates concluded with four days of presenting papers and discussing three aspects of the vinaya (monastic discipline): the ceremony of restitution and purification; the summer retreat; and the ceremony to end the summer retreat. At the conclusion of the seminar on December 19, the Karmapa received feedback from the monks on all aspects of the Winter Debates and on how to improve them. He also spoke of instituting in the future a Winter Debate session for the nuns, which would be a wonderful revolution.

On the evening of December 19, the Karmapa gave extensive thanks to everyone, from the monks who participated, through the monks in the administrations of Tsurphu and Tergar, all the way up to the government of Bihar. He also prayed that people would seek to help each other and create peace in the world. He concluded that when good deeds are done, it is important to dedicate them for the benefit of others and to make aspiration prayers as well. With these good wishes for the teachings to expand, and in particular, for the tradition of discussion and debate to flourish, he concluded the Sixteenth Winter Debates.

* The eight were: 1) Karma Shri Nalanda Institute from the Karma's seat in Rumtek; 2) Lungrik Jampal Ling from Situ Rinpoche's Sherab Ling Monastery; 3) Rigpe Dorje Institute from Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche's monastery in Lava; 4) Benchen Nangten Tösam Ling from Tenga Rinpoche's monastery; 5) Lekshey Ling, Chöje Lama Phuntsok's Shedra; 6) Thösam Norling Gatsal, Bokar Rinpoche's shedra; 7) Tergar Ösel Ling from Mingyur Rinpoche's monastery; and 8) Zurmang Shedra Lungtok Norbu Gatsal Ling from Garwang Rinpoche's monastery. Two shedras were present but did not participate in the formal debates: Nedo Tashi Chöling from Karma Chakme's monastery and Drodön Kunkhyab Chöde from Kalu Rinpoche's monastery.

The revival of the Great Encampment (Garchen)

12th December – Bodhgaya.

An historic occasion.
In Bodhgaya on December 12, 2012, history was made: for the first time in four hundred years, the Karmapa's Great Encampment, Ornament of the World, was established. (Follow link for a brief history.) Its form this time is serried waves of large forest and soft green tents pitched on the fields next to Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya. The focal point of the whole area is the Gyalwang Karmapa's quarters, fenced off by woven bamboo and containing the bright yellow tent that is his residence and shrine hall. It is flanked on either side by dark blue tents. One is a Protector Shrine for Mahakala with his gold and black banner rising high above it and the banners of Palden Lhamo and Damchen on either side. The other tent is a residence for Kyapje Jamgön Rinpoche and Kyapje Gyaltsap Rinpoche. In the four corners of the area are lighter blue tents for the guards and attendants. The grounds are ornamented with a profusion of red, orange, and yellow flowers backed by rows of long green-leaved plants and bushes.

The initial ceremonies
On the first morning, coming through a fresh, cool mist, the sound of reed horns pierced the air. It was soon followed by the golden robes of the musicians, leading the way for the Gyalwang Karmapa, who strode along a path with Jamgön Kongtrul close by. With great dignity, the Karmapa entered his tent, the color of sunshine, to reside on his throne next to the altar. Khyabje Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche followed immediately afterward, sitting on a throne opposite the Karmapa, as the two rows below them filled with senior monks.

Together the lamas performed the ceremony of purifying and offering (sang chö) known as Heaping Clouds of Nectar. Based on Tibetan and Chinese traditions, the ceremony's purpose is to purify the outer world, the entire environment, and the inner world, all its inhabitants. The ceremony is also an offering to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha above, and a generous giving to those below in the lower realms. Special substances were offered in abundance—fragrant woods, such as juniper and sandalwood, plus nutritious grains, elegant fabrics, and many precious substances. They were carried to the twenty-six white sculpted kilns that arch in a semi-circle behind the Pavilion, their aromatic smoke blending with the misted air to perfume the grounds. The theme of the ceremony was also displayed in the seven radiant banners for sang chö that were created to encircle the Karmapa's tent. A modern touch were the solar panels, set next to the tent to provide electricity, signaling again the Karmapa's deft ability to blend tradition with the modern world.

Simultaneous with this first ceremony was another performed by Khyabje Gyaltsap Rinpoche, which he began within the Monlam Pavilion. For this second set of rituals, which had three aspects, Gyaltsap Rinpoche first performed the ceremony in the Pavilion and then walked through the Great Encampment, the sound of his bell growing softer and louder as he moved away and came close to pause at the Karmapa's tent. Gyaltsap Rinpoche's first round of the encampment was to expel negative spirits that could cause harm and as he walked he tossed great sprays of yellow mustard seed to send them away. The second round was for purification, and he carried a golden vase with consecrated water that he poured onto a brass plate as he recited prayers. The third was for auspiciousness, and in all directions Gyaltsap Rinpoche generously offered blessed rice and flowers into the air. This final time he wore the Gampopa brocade hat as he stood in front of the Karmapa's tent and offered the auspiciousness that had been gathered throughout the morning. This then concluded the preparatory ceremonies for the afternoon's official opening of the gate.

The Gate Opening ceremony
To create an auspicious occasion, it is not only the area of the Great Encampment, the space, that matters but also the time. The afternoon of this day of December 12, 2012 (12.12.12) was constellated in a very fortunate and profound way according to how Tibetans understand the disposition of the stars and planets. In the afternoon, the Karmapa walked to the Encampment's impressive main gate, which had in large letters the official name for the Encampment in Sanskrit, Dzambudvipa Alankara Mahapandap, and in Tibetan, Garchen Dzamling Gyen, "The Great Encampment, Ornament of the World." Khenpo Garwang explained that gar refers to a place where many tents are pitched, and since they cover a large area, it is called chen "great." At its peak, the Encampment was home to an institute for higher Buddhist studies, to artists creating in the famous Karma Gardri (the tradition of the Karmapa's Encampment) style, and to hundreds of individual retreatants as well as monks who performed the traditional ceremonies. Since it was such a rich environment, nourishing every aspect of Buddhist practice, the Tibetan people gave it the name dzamlingor "world" and gyan or "ornament." And since it was the residence of the Gyalwang Karmapa, it was also known as The Karmapa's Great Encampment, Ornament of the World.

It is this magnificent tradition that was revived today with the Gate Opening Ceremony. The gate was festooned with swags of marigolds and a braided sash of red, yellow, blue, and white scarves spanning the space between the gate's pillars. Surrounded by a great gathering of monks, the Karmapa stood in front of the gate, flanked by Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche, all three of them wearing the gold and rose colored hat of Gampopa. They chanted prayers for auspiciousness, invoking eight each of the tathagatas, bodhisattvas, protectors, and offering goddesses, and aspiring that in this place, the Garchen tradition would again flourish to bring peace, well-being, and realization to all corners of the world.

Proceeding into the Garchen, the three lamas blessed the main tent area and then returned to the Karmapa's yellow tent to complete the ceremonies. With the statue of the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, behind him, the Karmapa along with his two heart sons gave audience to the Akshobya retreatants, to the khenpos (professors) and senior monks, to the little monks from Tergar Monastery, and then all the other monks and nuns, each of them offering scarves and receiving a blessing from all three rinpoches on the thrones, and a blessed cord from the Karmapa. Finally, lay disciples could also offer a scarf to the Karmapa and receive his blessing. Thus ended the ceremonies of a day shaped by the far-reaching vision of the Karmapa, whose great compassion does not forget to reach out and touch all living beings.

On the evening of this first night, so the tents would not be left empty, specially chosen monks will sleep in them : two have been selected from each of the ten shedras attending the Winter Debates, plus two representatives each from the Karmapa's administration, from the Kagyu Monlam's administration, and from the five administrations of Situ Rinpoche, Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche, Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Pawo Rinpoche, and Treho Rinpoche. Zimpön Gelek Könchok would sleep in the Karmapa's tent. The following nights, up to 15 monks will stay in each of the tents, bringing alive this ancient tradition.

The Seventeenth Karmapa and the Great Encampment
In the beginning, the Karmapa had no plans to recreate the Great Encampment. However, after the last Kagyu Monlam in March 2012, Lama Chodrak went to speak with the governing committee of Bodhgaya's Mahabodhi Stupa, as he has done for many years. He discovered that the regular time for the Kagyu Monlam had already been reserved by another group and that they had also rented the usual places for the monks to stay. When the Karmapa heard of this, he reflected on the situation and then became very enthusiastic about setting up tents and holding the first days of the Monlam at the Pavilion next to Tergar. The engineer Chokyi Gyatso took the main responsibility for all the construction and Karma Yeshe was also there to help. The main financial support came from Lama Chodrak, who had been gathering funds to erect a permanent residence for the monks. He generously offered this money to the Karmapa to purchase tents and set up the camp.

Plans were made to pitch two hundred tents and create all the necessary facilities for the monks and nuns staying there. In addition to the solar panels on all the individual tents and in the Karmapa's area, also on the agenda were solar powered strip lights along the walkways and the tall lights surrounding the Pavilion. An elaborate water recycling system was also planned, which included ponds filled with reeds, lotus flowers, and other local plants. (See the longer article on the environment). With all these aspects, the site naturally turned into an encampment. When asked if it could be named The Great Encampment, Ornament of the World, the Karmapa was delighted and also gave special names to three "continents" or areas of the camp. To the left and right of the Karmapa's quarters (described above) is an area for monks known as Densely Arrayed (a name for the pure realm of Akanishta, also used for Tsurphu itself). Near the immense, kitchen tent with its two-tiered roof is another section for monks called The Array of Lotuses (related to the pure realm of Amitabha). And behind the Pavilion is the nuns' area known as The Array of Turquoise Leaves (the name of Tara's pure realm).

The way the revival of the Garchen came about can be seen from two perspectives. From the perspective of all the planning and labor that went into reviving the Great Encampment, many people with a variety of skills worked very long and hard to set it up. From another perspective, it happened spontaneously, arising without effort. It is hoped that the practice of all the monks and nuns residing in the Great Encampment will equal that of their forebears and also be spontaneously accomplished for the benefit of a

Gyalwang Karmapa teaches daily during the annual Winter Debates

11th December – Bodhgaya.

From 23 November to 11 December the Gyalwang Karmapa taught daily during the annual winter Kagyu Gunchoe Debates at Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya. Over this three-week period he offered the reading transmission and teachings on a text by the Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje, called One Hundred Short Instructions (Tri-thung Gyatsa). "I like this text very much," he commented on the first day of the teachings, adding that in Tibet he used to read it aloud to others as a hobby or to pass the time.

The Gyalwang Karmapa taught primarily to an audience of Khenpos and monks participating in the winter debates, however, simultaneous translations into English and Chinese were offered, and many international students also attended. The number of international students grew day by day, until the gompa quickly reached capacity.

The Eighth Karmapa's text One Hundred Short Instructions is divided into chapters covering a broad range of topics, arranged according to the path the dharma practitioner traverses. Commencing with the 'Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind Towards the Dharma', the Gyalwang Karmapa emphasized the preciousness of our human life, as well as the need for renunciation from worldly concerns.

"If we are dharma practitioners then our priority should be to practice the dharma first and worldly activities second, and not the other way around," he said. "Practice of dharma and pursuing worldly life cannot go together: one person cannot be a householder and an ordained renunciate at the same time; one person cannot accomplish the goals of the lower realms and liberation at the same time; one person cannot ride two horses at the same time. One cannot walk with one foot stepping forward and the other backward." Gyalwang Karmapa added, "Many international students complain of their agony that though they want to practice the dharma, they have no time." Over the following days, returning again to the theme of renunciation, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued, "The goal of our renunciation should be to commit to what is beneficial for beings, and to what serves the cause of the dharma."

During the three-week period the teachings continued through a range of topics as the Gyalwang Karmapa paid attention to particular chapters of the text. As the days progressed, he returned again and again to the theme of relying on an authentic, genuine guru. "When the student matches the teacher there is no need to hesitate; the relationship is very clear and very direct," he said. "You should feel that if it's enough to please the Lama then that is enough for yourself. Sometimes people wonder, why is it so important to please the Lama? When we talk of pleasing the Lama it's not a question of just pleasing a single Lama. If we please an authentic, genuine Lama, that is the same as accomplishing the dharma.

Gyalwang Karmapa Pays Homage At Mahabodhi Stupa

14th November – Bodhgaya.

The Gyalwang Karmapa left Tergar Monastery at 9 am today 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 Bande 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 Shabdrung monastery's Monlam prayer.

The Gyalwang Karmapa Tells Students In Search Of Peace: Just Relax

9th November – New Delhi.

The Gyalwang Karmapa left Dharamsala for Delhi on Tuesday 6th November, at the beginning of his winter programme.

While in Delhi, he visited the American Embassy School, his third such visit, and spent the afternoon answering questions from students, parents and teachers. His Holiness visited school as part of Peace and Global Citizens initiatives. His Holiness arrived with little pomp and sat in the theatre, answering questions from students. Although the students came from younger age groups the questions they posed showed forethought and insight. His Holiness responded simply and frankly, describing his own life experiences, making practical suggestions, and exploring with his young audience the common values which we, as human beings, should hold- compassion, loving kindness and an appreciation of the interdependence of all sentient beings on planet earth.

One student asked, "What is the most important value of the Tibetan culture?" The Karmapa responded in a low voice, interspersed with English words, and shared with the audience by a translator. "The life that we live is a pretty simple life, We put at the center of our life altruism, the wish to benefit others. We're pretty direct and straightforward. I think if you look at Tibetan culture, the most important values at the center of our culture are loving kindness and compassion, and we develop these feelings not just for other human beings but for all forms of life. Whatever we do, whatever activities we engage in, whatever studies we do, we always try to put the value of other beings in the center."

He was open about neither choosing nor necessarily having fun in his role as Karmapa. In response to the question, "How did you decide to be a Karmapa?" he shook his head and laughed. "Decide?"

"So actually, I did not decide to be a Karmapa. In the west, people have a lot of choice and generally you decide what you want to study and when you finish your studies, you decide what job or career you want to have, but that was not the case with me. When I was 8 years old, I was just a normal boy. I played with other kids. I had a normal boy's life. Then some people came and they told me, 'You're the Karmapa.' At that time, I didn't even understand what the Karmapa was … I thought, if I'm the Karmapa, I'll probably get a lot of toys. I found out later being a Karmapa is not all that fun. It's a lot of work and a lot of responsibility and a lot of studying. So becoming the Karmapa was not something I decided. It was more like something that just fell from the sky."

"What can we do to maintain peace?" asked a student.

"We have so many different things that we're constantly doing, and there are all these changes going on all the time, so it's really not that easy, is it? I would say, to put it simply, just relax. Just relax and stay quiet. Generally speaking, this is a difficult question. For you, as kids, to be able to make peace, maybe don't make it too complicated. Make it simple. Just relax."

After the event, the Gyalwang Karmapa attended a dinner in his honour hosted by the Middle School Principal.

On Saturday 10th November, he flew from Delhi to Bodh Gaya, where he will be based at Tergar Monastery until mid-January 2013. During that time he will preside over the Kagyu Gunchö from 21st November – 13th December 2012. This is the winter debate session attended by monks from the various Kagyu monasteries and colleges. He will attend the 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo from 21st- - 28th December, the annual prayer festival whose purpose is to generate peace and happiness for all sentient beings. In addition the Gyalwang Karmapa will give teachings to the monks at the Gunchö, teachings and empowerments during the Kagyu Monlam, and more teachings after the Monlam.

Dorzong Monastery Conducts Ceremony for Long Life Of Gyalwang Karmapa
As Chöd Transmission Draws to Close

29th October – Dorzong Monastery, Gopalpur.

Several thousand people converged on Dorzong Monastic Institute today to hold a long-life ceremony for His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. In attendance were deeply devoted Rinpoches, Togdens, Khenpos, monks and nuns from across the Himalayan region, as well as international disciples from over a dozen countries. Following the long-life puja offered to him by Dorzong Monastic Institute, the Gyalwang Karmapa conferred the Amitayus long-life empowerment on all those assembled.

The long-life ceremonies mark the conclusion of the Gyalwang Karmapa's five-day visit to Dorzong Monastic Institute. Three of those days were dedicated to empowerment and teachings on the practice of Chöd, organized by Tara Mandala and requested by Lama Tsultrim Allione and Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.

Dorzong Monastic Institute was founded by His Eminence the 8th Dorzong Rinpoche, who noted: "Along with the previous and present Kyabje Khamtrul Rinpoche of Tashi Jong, His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa was one of my outstanding root gurus. I am extremely pleased to be able to host His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who is also my root guru."

On the second day of the Chöd transmission, the audience also had the rare privilege of receiving a Dharma discourse by His Eminence Dorzong Rinpoche. In his profound teachings, Rinpoche explored the distinction between the oft-misunderstood terms, samsara and nirvana. He stated, "The only difference between samsara and nirvana is whether or not we recognize the true nature of our mind."

His Holiness the Karmapa commented: "These teachings have been provided primarily for female practitioners. Although there is no gender in the Dharma—since the Dharma has to do with working with the mind, and the mind is neither male nor female, the Chöd teachings come to us from a female lineage, through Machig Labdron, a person who applied herself to the practice of Dharma in the form of a woman's body. She can thus serve as an inspiration and empowering example to women wanting to practice the Dharma."

He explained that he was offering the Chöd empowerment and teachings, "to further inspire and help women re-connect with their confidence."

Tibetan Children Village School of Gopalpur performed cultural programs after the empowerment.

Day Three of Chöd Teachings: "Seeing Ourselves as Part of Others"

28th October – Dorzong Monastery, Gopalpur.

For the third consecutive day, around a thousand disciples of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa made their way from the surrounding valley and mountainsides back to Dorzong Monastic Institute. Sited on a hilltop and nestled amidst pristine forest as far as the eye can see, the exquisitely painted main shrine hall of Dorzong Institute offers an ideal setting for this historical Dharma transmission by His Holiness on Chöd practice. The skilled hand of the 8th Dru-gu Choegyal Rinpoche, a highly accomplished artist, was everywhere in sight both in the elaborately painted main shrine hall and throughout the institute's grounds.

The first topic for today's session was a history lesson. Recounting key events from the remarkable life of Machig Labdron, the Gyalwang Karmapa stated that Machig Labdron was taught by her mother to read. Gyalwang Karmapa recollected that his own father had made a conscious choice to teach all of his own children to read, including the girls. His family's valuing of education for girls was anomalous and considered unnecessary according to local values. His Holiness said that his sister—who is now present with him in India and was in fact attending the teaching—also excelled as a young girl at reading Tibetan.

As the Gyalwang Karmapa detailed Machig Labdron's spiritual accomplishments, he made it clear that hers was a tradition of direct experience of Prajnaparamita. Although she had many male disciples as well as female, His Holiness observed that her Dharma system was extremely beneficial for women.

As he resumed the commentary on the 8th Gyalwang Karmapa's instructions for seven-day retreat, His Holiness turned to the practice of offering the body (Sanskrit: dehad?na; Tibetan: lüjin), which is the meditation theme for the sixth day of the weeklong retreat.

From time to time, His Holiness switched into English to clarify a point or elaborate on the translation. Throughout the three days, the humorous interplay between the English translator, Tyler Dewar, and His Holiness has served as an expression of the joy shared by lama and audience.

Cautioning that until one has attained the bodhisattva's bhumis, one is not literally enjoined to offer one's body, the Gyalwang Karmapa described an occasion from a past life of Buddha Shakyamuni, when he cut off his head and offered it to someone who had asked for it. The Gyalwang Karmapa then laughingly interjected that if we say someone first cut off his own head and then gave it, the wording of this just sounds wrong.

Widening the scope of what might initially be understood as lüjin, His Holiness stressed that in this practice we train ourselves in giving everything—including the merit and karmic fruits that come from giving. Doing so, he explained, helps us cut our clinging to self.

Sharing with the audience his personal vision of this practice, His Holiness described it as letting go and extending to see ourselves as part of all sentient beings. "What we take to be us and what we take to be others are not two separate things," he said. "Our body, speech and mind and the body, speech and mind of other sentient beings are not two separate things."

Chöd practice prepares us to transform our relationship to the five psycho-physical aggregates that ordinarily form the basis of what we think of as "I." When we do the practice fully, he explained, these five aggregates that were previously the focus of our self-fixation are no longer seen as "I" or "mine." As such, the result of successful Chöd practice is to sever the self-fixation that is the root of all our suffering.

As the 8th Gyalwang Karmapa's description of the seven week retreat drew to a close, so too did these three extraordinary days of empowerment and teachings by the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. The final day of the retreat, like the final portion of the session, is devoted to dedication of merit. We dedicate in order to ensure that our practice takes us in the direction we want to go, His Holiness explained. Surely no one in the audience at that moment wished to go anywhere at all, as both organizers and His Holiness uttered many warm words of thanks. Thus drew to a close this historical occasion, when His Holiness the 17th Karmapa for the first time in this lifetime transmitted a practice in which the Gyalwang Karmapa has been an important lineage holder since the 13th century.

Day Two: Gyalwang Karmapa and Dorzong Rinpoche Teach

27th October – Dorzong Monastery, Gopalpur.

With the morning light streaming in to the assembly hall from the east, the Gyalwang Karmapa offered teachings in the morning, while in the afternoon, at the special request of His Holiness, the audience had the privilege of receiving teachings on Chöd from His Eminence the 8th Dorzong Rinpoche.

His Holiness opened the day with a discussion of the qualities that make disciples worthy recipients of the Dharma. He then resumed the explication of the 8th Gyalwang Karmapa's guiding instructions for seven-day Chöd retreat. During the second day of the retreat outlined by Mikyo Dorje, the focus is on compassion. In that context, His Holiness explored the distinction between immeasurable compassion and great compassion, while underscoring the need to train in both. Immeasurable compassion refers to the immeasurable number of sentient beings, whereas the greatness of great compassion refers to the fact that not a single being is left out. As such, the focal point is different, the Gyalwang Karmapa explained.

We may cultivate compassion for all beings on this planet, and this would be a form of immeasurable compassion, since there are numberless humans, animals and other sentient beings on this earth. With great compassion, there is a quality of absolute inclusiveness, such that it expands outward to any world where beings have a mind and therefore experience pain and wish for happiness. When we are training in great compassion, we must guard against becoming indifferent to the suffering of any other being. For example, His Holiness observed that we might pass a cage with many chickens crammed into it on the way to slaughter without connecting from the heart with their suffering. If we train first in the mind of definite emergence or "renunciation," we are effectively training ourselves in compassion for ourselves and developing our ability to genuinely empathize and connect with others who are suffering. To that end, the Gyalwang Karmapa recommended to begin meditating on compassion with specific objects, rather than a nameless, faceless mass of "all sentient beings." His Holiness particularly stressed the importance of cultivating compassion, because it is the presence of unbearable compassion that makes the "swift path" of tantra swift.

On the third day of the Chöd retreat, the object of meditation is refuge. His Holiness cautioned against confusing "taking refuge" with "going for refuge." Taking refuge in the sense of pleading and supplicating with an impoverished attitude is not the point. Rather, we go to refuge in order to bolster our desire and commitment to achieve Buddhahood. As such, the Gyalwang Karmapa explained that when we go for refuge, we should understand that we are going to the state of the objects of refuge. The fourth and fifth days of the Chöd retreat are devoted to bodhichitta and the mind that relinquishes body and possessions alike, or tong sem.

To a packed assembly hall, in the second afternoon session His Eminence Dorzong Rinpoche offered a masterful overview of the historical transmission of Chöd in the various lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. Rinpoche went on to cut to the essence of Chod practice, relating it to the nature of mind and the distinction between samsara and nirvana. As Rinpoche taught, he drew on quotes from masters ranging from the great Indian logician Dignaga to Tsangpa Gyare, the founder of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage in which Rinpoche himself is an important lineage holder.

Many audience members commented on the combination of profundity and clarity that marked Rinpoche's presentation. His excavation of the difference between samsara and nirvana was particularly striking to many. "When we become free of conceptual elaborations, that is nirvana," Rinpoche stated. "As long as we are apprehending a difference between subject and object, that is samsara."

Gyalwang Karmapa Confers Chod Wang For First Time 

26th October – Dorzong Monastery, Gopalpur.

Today His Holiness commenced a historical three-days of Chod teachings, conferring the empowerment for the first time ever. Hosted by His Eminence the 8th Dorzong Rinpoche at his institute in the Kangra Valley near Dharamsala, the Dharma transmission drew an international audience of practitioners from several dozen countries, as well as nuns from across the Himalayans.

  "I have been enthusiastic about the Chod practice from a young age, but have had few opportunities to do formal sadhana practice, and this is the very first time I am giving the empowerment, and am very pleased to have the opportunity to do so today."

The empowerment that His Holiness conferred in the morning was based on the Opening the Door to Space text by the 3rd Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje. Following the main portion of the visualization-based initiation, His Holiness offered a torma empowerment to the event's hosts His Eminence the 8th Dorzong Rinpoche and Chogyal Rinpoche, followed by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo and Lama Tsultrim Allione, who had initially requested the Chod empowerment from His Holiness and whose Tara Mandala organization sponsored the event. 

In the afternoon session, the Gyalwang Karmapa commenced teaching based on a Guiding Instruction text by the 8th Gyalwang Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje, which outlines (among other things) a weeklong Chod retreat. As an entry point into understanding the practice of Chod, His Holiness discussed Chod—a Tibetan verb that means to cut or sever—in terms of what is to be cut and what does the cutting. Otherwise, there is the danger that we leave Chod practice at the level of mere ritual. What we aim to cut with Chod practice, he explained, are the four Maras and in particular the Mara of self-grasping or fixation. What we cut this with is the prajna or wisdom that realizes essencelessness, or lack of self.

  After the initial introduction, His Holiness turned to the topic of renunciation, or "definite emergence"—the clear understanding that all samsara, or cyclic existence, is suffering in nature, and the wish to definitely emerge from that. The Gyalwang Karmapa cautioned against assuming samsara is something external and separate from us. Samsara includes not only the world around us, but also exists within us and is produced by our own troubled emotional state. Addressing the largely Western audience, His Holiness noted that there is a tendency to confuse subtle forms of suffering with pleasure. As a result, we end up exerting ourselves greatly, chasing more suffering. Quoting the 8th Gyalwang Karmapa, His Holiness stated that all authentic independence is happiness, while all lack of freedom is suffering. He went on to explain that this authentic independence is something to be cultivated and an attitude that can be developed, focusing on freedom from karmic cause and effect and emotional disturbances.

  Although outer conditions have a minor part to play, they cannot secure our happiness. For that, he said, we must look within.

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26th October – Dorzong Monastery, Dharamsala.

His Holiness the Karmapa initiates a historic transmission, mainly for female practitioners

(26 October, 2012, Palampur, Himachal Pradesh) In an unprecedented three-day event, His Holiness the 17thKarmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is granting initiation and teachings on Chöd. A spiritual practice developed by Machig Labdron, a Tibetan yogini in the 11th century, Chöd is practiced by nearly all sects of Tibetan Buddhism to this day. Approximately 1,000 people from across the Himalayan region and around the world are here to attend this historic Dharma transmission, which is being conferred for the first time by His Holiness in response to a supplication made by a western Buddhist woman, Lama Tsultrim Allione, on behalf of all women practitioners. Lama Tsultrim was ordained in 1970 as a Buddhist nun by His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, and later pursued the path as a lay practitioner.

The teachings and empowerment are taking place through 28 October and hosted at Dorzong Monastic Institute (Jangchub Jong) in Kangra Valley, Himachal Pradesh, by His Eminence the 8th Dorzong Rinpoche, a highly respected senior lineage holder within the Drugpa Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dharma transmission is reserved for serious practitioners, while a long-life initiation to be offered to the general public on 29 October at Dorzong Institute. Apart from several hundred Buddhist nuns from around the Himalayas, the event has attracted disciples from dozens of different countries.

Expressing his delight regarding the occasion, His Holiness the Karmapa said: "Since the time of the 3rd Karmapa who wrote the first commentary on Chöd, the Karmapas have maintained a close connection to this practice. I myself feel a deep bond with these teachings coming from Machig Labdrön. She is the perfect embodiment of wisdom and compassion and has inspired Buddhist practitioners for many centuries. I am especially pleased that I can offer this encouragement and support to female practitioners from around the Himalayan region and the world, and pray that the good merit from this event generates peace."

The Gyalwang Karmapas are the historical holders of the direct lineage of Chöd, which is based on the Indian Buddhist deity Prajnaparamita, the Mother of all the Buddhas, embodiment of wisdom. Of the eight practice lineages of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Chöd is the only lineage established by a woman. In that spirit, Tara Mandala, a Vajrayana Buddhist organization that focuses on the Chöd lineage, based in Colorado, U.S.A. and founded by Lama Tsultrim Allione, sponsored numerous delegations of nuns from across the Himalayas to attend this event.

Lama Tsultrim Allione, said: "Prajnaparamita, the mother of all the Buddhas, is the personification of transcendent wisdom. She represents the feminine principle in Buddhist tradition, and is the basis of Machig Labdrön's teachings. The Chöd practice, which seeks to feed rather than fight what appears to be the 'enemy', offers a much needed new paradigm for today's world that promotes compassion and integration instead of polarization."

Lama Tsultrim went on to say: "His Holiness the Karmapa is uniquely suited to give this Dharma teaching and empowerment. Like previous incarnations of the Karmapa who also held the Chöd lineage, His Holiness has demonstrated an unconditional commitment to working for the well being of women, and agreed to our request to dedicate this event to women practitioners all around the world."

Contact: Kunzang Chungyalpa 09609872866 Contact: Lama Tsultrim Allione tsultrimallione@gmail.com

Indescribable, inconceivable and inexpressible Prajnaparamita is unborn and unceasing – the very nature of space. She is the realm of your own self-cognizing primordial wisdom. I pray homage to the Mother of the Buddhas of the past, present and future.

Gyalwang Karmapa graces TCV's 52nd Founding Anniversary

23rd October – TCV, Dharamsala.

The Tibetan Children's Village (TCV) School today marked its 52nd anniversary that was presided over as the Chief Guest by the Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorjee.

"Taking this opportunity, I would like to request the students not to waste their precious youth and concentrate their time on education," His Holiness said while expressing that it is also important to impart traditional as well as modern education.

Ngawang Phelgye, the Chief Justice Commissioner of the exiled Tibetan Justice Commission; Penpa Tsering, the Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in exile; Kalon for religious affairs Pema Chinnjor and other cabinet ministers; representatives from the Indian Government offices, Tibet supporters, and donors and well wishers of TCV organization were the other dignitaries of today's event.

Exile filmmakers must remember situation in Tibet, says Gyalwang Karmapa


16th October – Norbulingka, Dharamsala.

His Holiness The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje reminded exile film enthusiasts of the situation in Tibet and the Tibetans who have risked everything in communicating Tibet's desperate situation to the outside world through visuals.

Gyalwang Karmapa was speaking at a benefit event held yesterday for the upcoming fourth 'Tibet Film Festival' at the Norbulingka Institute in Dharamshala.

Organised by the Swiss-based Filming for Tibet, the Festival is dedicated to imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, who was detained shortly after completing filming on his documentary film 'Leaving Fear Behind'.

The Festival, which will be held simultaneously in Dharamshala from October 27 to 28 and in Zurich from October 26 to 27 with a similar programme, also aims to support and give platform to young Tibetan filmmakers.

"Films are a good medium to spread awareness on the issue of Tibet to the world and to promote our tradition and culture internationally," Gyalwang Karmapa said.

"We Tibetans might lack opportunity or financial support but we do not lack in talent," the 27-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader said while encouraging the new Tibetan filmmakers.

During the event, some entries of last year's short film competition of the Festival were also screened.

"We are blessed to have His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa with us at this event and his support for the Tibet Film Festival," Nyima Thondup, coordinator of the Festival said. "Tibet Film Festival expresses its deepest gratitude for your support towards our initiatives and efforts."

"Tibet Film Festival focuses on films made by Tibetan filmmakers from both Tibet and in exile and supports their work by highlighting them at the festival thereby providing platform to aspiring filmmakers," he added.

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