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Guru Rinpoche Empowerment

December 13, 2010 – Bodhgaya

A Blessing for Our Path of Practice

This morning there are two additions to the stage. Beneath the enthroned Dusum Khyenpa is a large statue of Guru Rinpoche, glistening in gold. He will be the focus for this morning’s empowerment, which is based on the form of Guru Rinpoche known as the Lotus of Blazing Light, (Padma Obar), found in the practices of the Embodiment of the Three Jewels. This is especially auspicious for two reasons. The first Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa, who is being celebrated this year, is considered an emanation of Guru Rinpoche. Secondly, this form of his practice is widespread throughout the Himalayan region and this year’s teachings are especially intended for people from this area.

Beneath Guru Rinpoche and sheltered in a small wooden pavilion with its roof curving gently upward is a shining statue of Atisha, wearing the red pandita hat and holding his hands in the teaching mudra. It is his Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment that has served as the basis for the Karmapa’s Dharma talks this year.

Earlier than usual, His Holiness comes quietly in from the side of the stage to make the preparations for the empowerment. In the middle of the steps, above a yellow sun that ripples up the stairs, and before the enthroned statue of Dusum Khyenpa, sits a low table covered in brocade. It is lined with the traditional offerings and in the middle are the Karmapa’s bell and vajra. The chant master sits nearby and the shrine master waits in attendance. The chanting of the Guru Rinpoche mantra is punctuated by the clack of the Karmapa’s damaru and the ringing of his bell.

The preparations finished, His Holiness comes down to stand in front of his throne, looking down the path of the central aisle and waiting for the arrival of the Dusum Khyenpa’s speaking statue. His attendant offers him the Activity Hat of the Karmapas, which is the same as the one worn by the statue of Dusum Khyenpa behind him. In the distance, barely audible, are the first rising tones of the jalings. The Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche, memorized by almost every Tibetan, is chanted again and again:

Hum. At the northwest border of the land of Uddiyana,
In the center of a lotus rising from its stem,
You have discovered supreme, wondrous siddhis.
Renowned as the one born from a lotus,
You’re surrounded by an untold host of dakinis.
I practice following your example.
Please come here to bestow your blessings upon us.

As the sounds of the jalings come ever closer, His Holiness takes out a beautiful long white scarf and holds it across his two hands with his palms joined. As the line of procession enters the central aisle, the last lines of the prayer are chanted: “Please come here to bestow your blessings upon us.” The tall, curved yellow hats of the monks bring the sunlight inside. Right behind them comes the speaking statue of Dusum Khyenpa in a light-colored wood pavilion resting on a platform. It is carried high by four men wearing gold brocade chubas and vermillion red hats, which are surrounded by fringes swaying as they walk down the path. When they come near the steps to the stage, the monks withdraw to either side allowing the statue to proceed directly to the Karmapa. It is taken out of the pavilion and placed on the table right next to the Karmapa’s throne.

After tea and long life offerings are made, the chanting continues with the text appearing on the four large screens, two set along either side of the monks and lay people so everyone can see. After the purification rituals and offering to the local spirits, His Holiness places the bright red pandita hat on his head. Its top curves forward and its long brocaded flaps pass over his shoulders and down his back. In 1992, the Karmapa wore a smaller version of this same Pandita hat when he gave his very first empowerment (Chenrezik) at his main seat of Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet.

On behalf of everyone, two monks offer a mandala, and then removing his ceremonial hat, the Karmapa begins his talk, which will finish his teachings on the Lamp to the Path for Enlightenment. Its last eight verses discuss the vajrayana and so are most appropriate for this occasion.

His Holiness comments that vajrayana practice involves many samayas and among them, the main one is the samaya with our lama, because all of them come down to our connection with the body, speech, and mind of our lama. First, we have to find the right lama through examination.

Some texts say that we should examine a lama for twelve years. These days, maybe that’s too long but still you have to examine. Do not rely on rumors or blind faith. Use your intelligence to see if the lama is genuine.

Of course, to se this, we must first know what the qualities of an authentic lama are. We need an education about what makes for a good lama and what does not. When we find a genuine lama, we can engage in genuine practice. Actually, the vajrayana is for people of great ability and excellent discipline. Until we have become like that, we need to be very careful in the practices we do.

These last days, we have briefly gone through this text and I haven’t been able to explain extensively. As I mentioned before, following Gampopa, the masters of the Karma Kamtsang practice a blend of the Kadampa teachings and Milarepa’s mahamudra lineage. Those who could do these practices were very fortunate. To appreciate this history and remind ourselves of it, we have gone through this text of Atisha.

We are all followers of the Buddha’s Dharma, no matter which of its traditions we follow. It is important to study, reflect, and meditate upon them. If we cannot do this now, we pray that these teachings have created the auspicious conditions for us to do it in the future.

If we think about Tibet, it is in a desperate situation, a real crisis. We have to work hard as we have a great and heavy responsibility to preserve the teachings and the culture of Buddhism, especially that of Tibet. We must understand this and take it to heart. In particular, we should not waste our time criticizing others. This makes for a lot of trouble with no positive result. It also means that our practice is not working.

What do we really need? The Wish-fulfilling Jewel, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok gave this as his last instruction: “Don’t lose your standpoint. Don’t disturb others’ minds.” (Rang tsugs ma shor/ gshan sems ma ‘khrug.) We need to take a firm stance based on what we understand, and further, we should not do anything that would disturb another’s mind. His Holiness the Dalai Lama works day and night to preserve our religion and culture, and other great masters are doing the same. They are sacrificing everything for this cause and we also need to help.

Today we finished the text and tonight I’ll have a really good sleep, because I fulfilled my responsibility. Now I’ll go through the empowerment, which is to bring blessings into our mind streams. It is said that a good connection is made when the lama’s blessing meets the students’ devotion. There was a Kadampa master, who practiced for a long time, and he had an attendant who served him with great devotion.

In the end it was the attendant who first realized emptiness. Milarepa is a great example of devotion. When you have devotion, you have energy to practice, for devotion is not lazy. You don’t pull out a pillow and take a nap. Devotion means putting the instructions into practice. If you have the greatest devotion, you will also have the greatest diligence.

At first we had decided not to webcast the empowerment, but due to bodhicitta that was reversed. Will you who are watching receive the blessings? I don’t know. Perhaps. If you have devotion to Guru Rinpoche you will. It is said if you have devotion, Guru Rinpoche comes and sleeps on your doorstep. Nevertheless, it is better to request the empowerment from a lama. Even if you are sitting in the same place as the lama, without focus and devotion, you won’t receive many blessings. However, I do not think it is a good idea to set a tradition of people receiving empowerments over the Internet or by DVD.

In degenerate times, it is very important to practice Guru Rinpoche.My parents have tremendous devotion to him. When I was five or six, I had to do a practice based on the Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche.

We were nomads and every year we had to participate in drawing lots for good, grazing land. Beforehand my father insisted that we spend the day reciting the puja for Guru Rinpoche.

The Karma Kamtsang lineage has a very close relationship to Guru Rinpoche and it is said that all the Karmapas’ minds are inseparable from Guru Rinpoche.

In general there are two ways of doing practice: through negating (the via negativa) and through establishing (the via positiva). Of the two, the most important for practice is the way of negation, as it relates, for example, to the vows and samayas we keep. But practice is not only negating. After negating, we establish something, for example, bodhicitta. And when we speak of negating, it does not mean eliminating or tossing away some external thing. Both negation and establishment are done inwardly in terms of our minds. In brief, we counter our afflictions and accomplish wholesome actions. Also, it is important to realize that negating and establishing do not refer to setting up our lineage as the best one and then opposing others.

Sometimes we have too much attachment to our teacher, lama, or school. This is not good. Rather, we should work on our mind. Practice is all about taming our minds. This means that we have to be careful and arrest the mind that wishes to harm.

[His Holiness bestows the empowerment.]

He then counseled that you have received the empowerment, and it is now up to you to practice, which is essentially about transforming your mind and refraining from indulging your negative emotions. We humans can be quite dangerous, so at least we should become someone who is not an embarrassment to Buddhism.

After this, comes the time for His Holiness to bless the thousands who have come for the empowerment. The life-like statue of Dusum Khyenpa is brought down and placed on the Karmapa’s throne while the Karmapa himself dons his Activity Hat, mirroring his previous incarnation now residing just behind him. His Holiness is sitting at the edge of the stage and it is people from the Himalayan region who come up first for a blessing as they are special this year. After them come over eight thousand followers, each one receiving a direct blessing from a piece of Dusum Khyenpa’s robe, wrapped in cloth, which the Karmapa holds in his right hand. At the end, he receives an ovation for his immense effort.

To finish the empowerment, His Holiness goes back to the table where he made the preparations. Returning to the front of the stage, he receives through speeches in English and Chinese, the appreciation of all who have attended the teachings and empowerment.

His Holiness states that it is now 2 o’clock and everyone must be tired. The main thing he would like to say is that these are profound teachings from Atisha, and he hopes that we have found something to please our minds. He is happy to see the affection and love people have for each other. In the same way, he hopes that all the people living on this same earth will regard each other as family, like parents and children. He prays that all live in harmony and great love. The Karmapa also thanks those who had worked on the Karmapa 900 celebration, saying that his wishes are completely fulfilled. The merit from everything is dedicated to all living beings so that they attain great happiness, and it is especially dedicated to the people of India and Tibet with whom we have close relationships.

May the activities of His Holiness the Dalai Lama be free of all obstacles and may he live long. May the activities of all the great masters flourish. May they stay well and have peace and happiness. May all of you here bring happiness to yourself, your countries, and all living beings.

The Karmapa then puts on the Activity Hat and stands holding a kata in front of the stage. The palanquin with the shrine of Dusum Khyenpa returns to carry the statue back down the aisle and out into the world for this coming year of tours.

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