Current Activities of the Karmapa November - December 2007
Bodhgaya to Varanasi, 31st December 2007
Gyalwang Karmapa left Bodhgaya early morning by road and arrived Vajra Vidhya Institute at around 1 pm which is in Saranath, Varanasi (U.P). At the arrival His Holiness was welcomed by Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche and all the monks with serbang. The VVI monks are performing the Tsedup (Long Life) puja for His Holiness. Here His Holiness will stay for 15 days as scheduled.
Transcript: An Explanation of the Kagyu Monlam logo by the Gyalwang Karmapa December 29, 2007
On December 29, 2007, His Holiness talked movingly about protecting the environment in a speech in Bodhgaya:
"There is a new logo for the Monlam this year, and I would like to explain it.
"Ever since the human race first appeared on this earth, we have used this earth heavily. It is said that ninety-nine percent of the resources and so on in this world come from the natural environment. We are using the earth until she is used up. The earth has given us immeasurable benefit, but what have we done for the earth in return? We always ask for something from the earth, but never give her anything back.
Transcript: Kagyu Monlam Chenmo's Concluding Speech from His Holiness on 28th of December.
After the Kagyu Monlam was completed, His Holiness met with many of the organizers and participants to thank them:
"The 25th Monlam Chenmo is completed, not only in this place. I believe it is also completed in everybody’s heart.
"It could be said the reason why I am leading the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo’s work is because I am the head of the lineage; I am the person who bears the name of Karmapa. However, it can also be said that it is because I believe that everyone in this work team has been my family for many lifetimes, either my parents, or other relatives. Therefore, with gratitude, I plunge into the task, hoping that I can make everybody even happier.
"While working during the Monlam, maybe due to some temporary circumstances, you may sometimes have felt upset or uncomfortable, but from the ultimate perspective I believe Kagyu Monlam Chenmo is the spring of happiness and joy. And this is also my good wish for everyone. I am not at all concerned if I could continue to lead Kagyu Monlam Chenmo in the future. What I am concerned about is whether everyone involved can work together harmoniously with one mind, and make Kagyu Monlam proceed in accordance with Dharma.
"Taking myself as an example, as leader of this Monlam, I cannot say that I have not made any mistakes in the process. Even though I have made many mistakes, as long as I am alive, even for one day, I will continue to devote myself to Kagyu Monlam. Why? This is because I hope, I wish to benefit every one of you, and even if I cannot bring real benefits to everyone, as long as my two feet are still planted on this earth, I want to bring you joy and happiness. And this has always been my wish.
"This time, there are so many people who have come to attend Monlam from all over the world. They all went back to their own countries full of joy. And this is the sign that Kagyu Monlam has really accomplished something.
"Why is it possible for Monlam to bring so many people such joy? I am only the planner; the one who really executed the plan is Lama Chodrak and everyone in this room. Because of your hard work, you made so many people so happy.
"If we want to talk about the mistakes we made – there are too many to talk about. It is understandable that we all make mistakes, but this time I really saw that everyone is completely devoted to pure Dharma with their body, speech and mind. So I want to thank everybody again. I want not only to thank you but I want to dedicate the merit of this Monlam to all of you. May you all be happier and happier in this life and in future lives and become closer and closer to perfect happiness. And I pray that everyone may never be separated from Karmapa’s activities, life after life.
" While working for the Monlam, you may have felt some afflictive emotions: you might have got angry or felt that somebody is jealous of you, or that some people took advantage of you, but if you decide to quit because of this problem of the afflictive emotions, then you should tell yourself, compared to those who make you angry or get jealous of you or take advantage of you, or abuse you, the one who trusts you is even more important. So you shouldn’t retreat because of those who are jealous of you or want to hurt you, you should march on because of the person who trusts you.
"Finally I want to thank all the Chinese workers. You have participated in different teams at the Monlam. You have worked hard and well. I trust you fully and I hope you will continue with your good work and become the pride of all the Chinese around the world."
His Holiness also thanked all the westerners who worked for the Kagyu Monlam and encouraged more people from western countries to participate. - reported byTashi Paljor
Medicine Buddha teaching at the Mahabodhi Temple Complex, December 26, 2007
HH Gyalwang Karmapa spent one session teaching on the Medicine Buddha sadhana, ‘A Sadhana of Menlha, Compiled from the Clear Expanse of Mind, A Mind Treasure Found Within the Sky of Dharma Texts called, “A Stream of Vaidurya”.’
He began by emphasizing that bodhicitta is the most important factor in one’s practice. Only through bodhicitta can one attain enlightenment, and whether one’s practice is a Mahayana practice or not is determined by one’s motivation of bodhicitta. Everything is connected with bodhicitta; there is nothing that is not. May the bodhicitta arise in those where it does not exist, and may it increase more and more in those where it does exist.
Then, Gyalwang Karmapa talked about the origins and history of the Medicine Buddha Sutra. Lord Buddha taught the Medicine Buddha Sutra in Vaishali to a gathering of 80,000 monks, 36,000 bodhisattvas, Chenrezig, Vajrapani, Manjushri, devas, humans and non-humans, and his teachings were good in the beginning, middle and end. It was Manjushri who stood up in the assembly and requested Shakyamuni Buddha to teach the Medicine Buddha practice to those beings who have inner and outer sufferings, and who live in the midst of degenerate times.
Gyalwang Karmapa went on to discuss Tibetan Buddhist history from the time of the first king, Nyatri Tsenpo, when the Bon religion existed in Tibet, and how Buddhism came to Tibet from India at the time of the great King Songtsen Gampo, and the pre-eminent translator Thonmi Sambhota, who began to render texts into Tibetan at that time.
Gyalwang Karmapa described the time of King Trisong Deutsen and the construction of Tibet’s first monastery of Samye. There was no monastic sangha in Tibet at that time, but Shantarakshita who came from Eastern India brought the Sarvastivadin lineage to Tibet and began to ordain a small number of virtuous people into the monastic tradition. He did so as a test to see whether they could uphold monastic discipline.
It was also Shantarakshita who first promulgated and practised Medicine Buddha in Tibet, to help the King. He offered the King the short, middle and long practices, and the King chose the middle length practice. After Shantarakshita, Atisha DIpankara, who founded the Kadampa tradition, spread the Medicine Buddha practice, and it was through him that the practices of the 16 Arhats and Medicine Buddha spread throughout Tibet and became very important.
Gyalwang Karmapa explained that generally such practices as Medicine Buddha belong to the Kriya Yoga class of Tantra, but some Kriya Yoga practices are related to Anuttarayoga Tantra. This Gong-ter or Mind Treasure Medicine Buddha sadhana, although based on Kriya Yoga, is an Anuttarayoga Tantra practice and more specifically belongs to the class of Ati Yoga practices. For this reason, an empowerment and transmission are needed to practice it.
Next, Gyalwang Karmapa discussed the benefits of the practice. He said that faith and trust in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is the seed of enlightenment or liberation, but he cautioned against blind faith and the faith that just prays for and expects desired results without having proper cause. Faith develops gradually, like making a clay image which begins as a rough shape only. It is important to understand the reasons why faith and trust can develop and become genuine.
Atisha made strong prayers that whomsoever would hear the name of Medicine Buddha would be rid of the sufferings of the lower realms. The name of Medicine Buddha is so powerful that it has the capacity to clear the sufferings of beings, especially in this degenerate age. The Medicine Buddha Sutra states that in the time when deadly new diseases appear and are hard to cure, the power of Medicine Buddha will become even stronger. It is said that the practice may even have the power to revive people who have already died. Although other mantras may lose their power in degenerate times, the Medicine Buddha mantra becomes more powerful, and it is especially important to recite it during these times.
Some diseases can benefit from medicine, but some cannot. In some places there are hundreds of sick beings and very few doctors, so there can be little treatment. In these cases, Medicine Buddha practice can be dedicated to those suffering beings.
Gyalwang Karmapa said that the Medicine Buddha practice can be included in either Sutra or Tantra, but Shantarakshita based the practice in the Sutra tradition. Many sadhanas are based in Tantra, and many Medicine Buddha practices are included in Kriya Yoga Tantra, so it is also not out of place if it is included in the Tantra. Gyalwang Karmapa also explained that, since the practice comes from the Nyingma tradition, recitation of the words and meditation upon the meaning should be done concurrently; meditation should not follow the recitation.
Then, Gyalwang Karmapa briefly went through the sadhana itself and described the sections beginning with refuge and the receiving of blessings. He explained that the self visualization and front visualization should be performed at the same time, but that as the practice is primarily included in the Sutra tradition, visualization does not need to be as precise and clear as in the Vajrayana. Then followed the invitation, bestowing of offerings and praise sections. During the mantra recitation, Gyalwang Karmapa said to focus the mind on the mantra rosary in the hearts of the self and front visualizations radiating light, and then to recite the mantra with good concentration.
Finally he gave the lung for the practice.
On this page, a detailed summary of His Holiness's activities is provided. At this website, we are also providing extensive reports on the activity of HIs Holiness at The 25th Great Kagyu Monlam on other pages:
Great Kagyu Monlam Aspiration, 24th December
Mahabodhi Temple: The final day of the 25th International Kagyu Monlam began at 6.00am as the mist cleared and the sky lightened. Gyaltsab Rinpoche conferred the Sojong vows, and was the presiding lama for the morning prayers. As with every previous day, the western and southern sides of the Stupa and surrounding the Bodhi Tree were crowded with monks and nuns cloaked in their maroon and orange dagams, Sangha members of other Buddhist traditions, and laypeople wrapped in shawls and warm clothing against the north Indian morning chill.
Gyalwang Karmapa joined the assembly for the short second session during which the Heart Sutra and Prostrations and Offerings to the Sixteen Elders, among other brief prayers were chanted. The main event of the morning was the Alms Procession. The gelongs and gelongmas, wearing chogos and namjars, began assembling under the Bodhi Tree at 10am in their monastic order. Gyaltsab Rinpoche led the procession followed by Mingyur Rinpoche, Khenpo Lodro Donyo Rinpoche, Ringu Tulku and other senior Rinpoches and lamas. The first hundred or so gelongs carried in their right hands the traditional monk's staff, which they tapped on the ground as they walked, making the metal rings sound. Behind the gelongs came the gelongmas, the first one of which also carried the traditional staff. A group of Korean bhikshunis followed. Each monk and nun also carried a large grey metal begging bowl in their left hands.
The procession made its way slowly around the outer circuit to the main entrance gate where the alms round began. From the gate, across the plaza and down the main road, the route was lined with people from different regions and countries, standing on the right-hand side, each offering fruit, nuts, biscuits, packs of namkeen and other edible food. Some people touched their malas and bunches of protection cords to the bowls in order to receive the blessings of the Sangha, as they made their way down to the Rose Park. The begging bowls had to be emptied every few meters because the donors were so generous and enthusiastic. All the food was collected and distributed in large bags to the Sangha after the noon meal. On the grass in the Rose Park the monks and nuns sat in silent ordered lines, overseen by the Gyalwang Karmapa, and were served by Chinese Buddhist volunteers.
For the ordained Sangha, the experience of making the alms round is very humbling. Gyalwang Karmapa's revival of this ancient Buddhist tradition into the Kagyu lineage is historic, and a significant move for the continuation of the Sangha and the time-honored relationship between ordained and lay disciples.
In the afternoon's final session, the assembly chanted the Lama Choepa ritual composed by Pal Gyalwang Karmapa in 2005. There was a tsog offering, with elaborate tormas offered to His Holiness and the Rinpoches, and hundreds of bags of food offerings handed out to every member of the assembly.
A special ceremony followed, to thank the sponsors who were placed in front of Gyalwang Karmapa's throne, during which He expressed His gratitude and appreciation for their sponsorship and offered His blessings for their well-being in this and future lives. His Holiness then gave a brief talk on three topics: vegetarianism, protecting the environment, and dress codes for sangha and laypeople, especially emphasizing that the dress of monastic and non-monastic should be distinguishable from each other so that it should be clear who belongs to which group.
Finally, to the rousing chant of many tashi auspicious prayers, His Holiness Karmapa waved a white khata and the assembly returned the gesture waving thousands of white khatas in the air. His Holiness changed this tradition in 2004 so that participants no longer throw their khatas towards the throne, but hold onto them and wave them in the air. The reason for this is to keep the environment clean, and show proper respect.
Marme Monlam: After a short break, everyone returned to the Stupa at 7.00pm for the Lamp Offering ceremony, Marme Monlam, the closing session of the International Kagyu Monlam. Battery-operated candles were distributed to the lay people, while the gelongs and gelongmas carried small lotus lights. Gyalwang Karmapa, flanked by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche sat facing the Bodhi Tree.
The prayers began with The All Pervading Benefit of Beings, followed by the same Sanskrit prayers that have been chanted each morning by the assembly. The Korean bhiksuni choir then sonorously chanted The Five Fragrances and Seven Prostrations, and a group of Chinese bhiksus and bhiksunis chanted The Ten Direction Prayer. Everyone then joined together with a choir of western disciples to chant Ah World, a song composed by Gyalwang Karmapa in appreciation of the world and as a plea to those of us who inhabit the world to engender peace and happiness everywhere, and to treat the world carefully so she will not be destroyed.
The Aspiration for The Well-Being of Tibet, composed by Gyalwang Karmapa, was chanted next, led by Umze Ozer Rabten, to a beautiful melody, also composed by His Holiness.
Three sounds on the gong heralded the simultaneous switching on of the lotus lamps by gelongs and gelongmas who had been taught by His Holiness how to switch them on in unison the evening before. This was joined by a burst of candles. The Stupa Mandala resembled a Pure Land beneath the full moon. There was a great camaraderie and happiness between all the participants, and a swell of emotion rose.
As the lotus lamps changed colours, fading from red through blue, green, yellow and pink, His Holiness transmitted the Marme Monlam first in Tibetan, then in Chinese and finally in English, and the assembly joined in chanting the prayer in the three languages to an enchanting and uplifting orchestral arrangement, again composed by His Holiness Karmapa.
Closing prayers concluded the ceremony, and Gyalwang Karmapa, Jamgon Kongtrul and Gyaltsab Rinpoche left, followed by the Sangha members and lay disciples carrying their lights and candles high in the air. All participants circumambulated the Stupa chanting Karmapa Khyeno in rousing tones and the 25th International Kagyu Monlam came to a successful end.
Distribution of free food and blankets: Kagyu Monlam participants from Samye Ling Buddhist Centre in Scotland organized a distribution of bags of lentils for the poor and destitute. Women and children thronged noisily around the Mahayana Hotel from 6.00am in the morning waiting for the hand-out.
Canadian members from Toronto, accompanying Lama Tashi Dhondrup, one of the main sponsors of this year's Monlam, organised an impromptu distribution of free blankets at the same time.
After a hard day working at the camp, the volunteers came to Tergar Monastery to have a group photo taken with Gyalwang Karmapa in the Great Hall. There was some confusion and much laughter when they were ordered to say "cheese" by one of the photographers.
Medical camp: This was the final day of the medical camp organized by Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps. - Tashi Paljor
Great Kagyu Monlam Aspiration, 23rd December
Mahabodhi Temple: Procession of the Kangyur
The main event of the morning was the Procession of the Kangyur; all 108 volumes of the Sutra and Vinaya were carried by monks in procession around the outer and inner circuits of the Mahabodhi temple. The procession began from the bodhi tree at 7.30am. At its head came the incense-bearing, yellow-hatted chostenpas, the discipline masters, behind them a solitary monk blew a large white conch, which represents the sound of the Noble Dharma. After that came two monks blowing gyalings. Master Hai Tao, a Taiwanese lama, in the ochre robes of the Chinese Mahayana tradition, and the Venerable Hye Neung, Tibet House, Korea, in the long grey robes of a Korean monk, led the next section. They were followed by Mingyur Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpoche, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and the Gyalwang Karmapa, in that order, wearing their red tsesha which signify high Rinpoches in the Kagyu tradition, and carrying posna (traditional Tibetan incense holders). They were followed by 104 gelongs and the 4 most senior gelongmas, each bearing a volume of the Kangyur, suspended between left shoulder and left palm. Slowly, gracefully, step-by-step, placing stockinged or bare feet mindfully on the stone pavement, the Sangha processed along the side of the Mahabodhi Stupa itself, up the steps and onto the outer circuit. There, thousands of people lined either side of the path, offering katags (Tibetan white ceremonial scarves), incense and flowers, particularly the long stemmed pink lotuses which can be bought from the urchins crowding round the entrance to the Mahabodhi site. In the background, from the area near the bodhi tree, came the sound of the chant master leading a slow chant of the refuge prayer in Sanskrit.
The morning sun shone down brightly on the processing monks and on the crowd, as the procession wound its way the complete length of the outer circuit before returning down the steps to the Mahabodhi temple itself and back to the bodhi tree.
The volumes of the Kangyur were then distributed to the different monasteries and sections of each volume, approximately ten pages, were allocated to individual monks, and the reading of the Kangyur began.
Gyalwang Karmapa visits the Nyingma Monastery: A fter the morning session at the Mahabodhi Temple, the Gyalwang Karmapa visited the Nyingma Monastery which is hosting getsuls and getsulmas (novice monks and nuns) for the midday meal. Gyalwang Karmapa watched as the monks and nuns formed orderly lines as they queued for their lunch. He inspected that day's meal ¨C rice and lentils. He also visited the small clinic, offering Tibetan and allopathic medicine, and talked with the staff. The clinic is being run by Kagyu Monlam medical team: Dr Subatom from Nepal, and a Tibetan doctor Amchi Drubgyu Tendar from Rumtek, Sikkim.
Gyalwang Karmapa eats lunch with the gelongs and gelongmas: During Kagyu Monlam the gelongs and gelongmas have been keeping the Sojong vows, so they do not eat after midday; lunch, their main meal, is served at Tergar Monastery. After the morning session at the Mahabodhi temple, buses transfer the nuns and monks to Tergar Monastery where they gather in the Main Hall, sit in long rows, and observe the new codes of conduct for sitting and eating. A team of Chinese Buddhist volunteers prepares cooks and serves the food each day as an offering and service to the sangha. Today Gyalwang Karmapa joined them for lunch: rice, vegetable tempura, mixed vegetables, French fries, paneer, yoghurt and fruit.
After a hard day working at the camp, the volunteers came to Tergar Monastery to have a group photo taken with Gyalwang Karmapa in the Great Hall. There was some confusion and much laughter when they were ordered to say "cheese" by one of the photographers.
Medical camp: Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps moved back to Birla Mandir in Bodhgaya to conduct a further two days of free treatment.
Akshobhya Fire Puja: This was the conclusion of a week of the Akshobhya Ritual, a powerful purification practice, which Gyalwang Karmapa had been leading each afternoon at the Mahabodhi Temple.
The final ritual ¨C the fire puja ¨C was held in the main hall at Tergar Monastery shortly after 9.00pm, and did not end until 12.30am. Gyalwang Karmapa was Vajra Master. As part of the ritual, the names of the deceased, written on paper, were burnt in a ritual fire. Only a few lamas were allowed to participate in the ceremony, those who had completed the retreat and kept Sojong; other monks and the general public gathered outside and watched through the windows.
Great Kagyu Monlam Aspiration, 22nd December
Mahabodhi Temple: Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche gave the Sojong Vows. Gyalwang Karmapa attended the sessions before and immediately after lunch.
Medical Camp: This was the second day that the free camp staffed by Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps was held in the village of Vinobapuri. The camp was set up in a local private school. On the first day 731 patients arrived. On the second day there were 826, and when the clinic finally closed in the evening, there were still about two hundred patients who had not been seen. Most of the patients were women and children; there were very few old people. Many of the children were suffering from conditions such as clubfoot and hernia which could easily be corrected by surgery. Many had distended bellies and bleached hair, both signs of malnutrition. Coughs, colds, earache and worms were the most common complaints, and there were probable cases of tuberculosis. Sadly, several of the children had been severely disabled by polio. India has a major nationwide polio immunization drive each year, but it hasn't yet reached Vinobapuri.
After a hard day working at the camp, the volunteers came to Tergar Monastery to have a group photo taken with Gyalwang Karmapa in the Great Hall. There was some confusion and much laughter when they were ordered to say "cheese" by one of the photographers!
Rehearsals for the Marme Monlam: This year's Marme Monlam will be even more elaborate than before. Candles have been replaced by electric lights, and the sangha will be issued with special lotus- shaped lights which change through pink, blue, green. The driving force behind these changes is Gyalwang Karmapa, and at 8.00pm he came down to the Main Hall of Tergar Monastery, where the gelongs and gelongmas had assembled, and personally conducted a rehearsal. First, the new lotus lamp lights were distributed and everyone had to practise a synchronized switching on and off. Then groups representing the different languages - Tibetan, English, Chinese and Korean - performed their set pieces, which they will sing during the Marme Monlam on Monday. Finally, everyone practised the Marme Monlam Prayer to a new melody composed by His Holiness.
Great Kagyu Monlam Aspiration, 20-21, December
Mahabodhi Temple: Gyalwang Karmapa arrived at 6.00am and conferred the Sojong vows.
Before beginning the morning prayers, he spoke to the assembly. He began with a short description of the history of Kagyu Monlam and explained that the Kagyu Monlam was able to happen because of the coming together of causes and conditions including merit; even being fortunate enough to attend the Monlam was rare, a testimony to the merit every one there had accumulated. He told everyone how fortunate they were to have attained a precious human life, to have heard the Dharma, and now to have the opportunity to visit a holy site. He talked about the value of attending Kagyu Monlam at Bodhgaya, the great opportunity it offered to all practitioners because of the sacredness of Bodhgaya itself.
Further, as Monlam coincided with the year drawing to its close, it provided an ideal opportunity to carefully examine and reflect on positive actions and wrong-doing committed over the year. Because of the sacredness of Bodhgaya, powerful purification was possible if faults were confessed sincerely.
By the same token, the power of merit accumulated at Bodhgaya was amplified and it was an ideal place and time to accumulate merit from different activities. For example, the great gathering of the Sangha made it possible to make offerings, the number of beggars and poor people made it possible to practise generosity, and it was important to dedicate that merit for the well being of all sentient beings.
He told the Sangha specifically to reflect on why they were there and to always remember the teachings of the Buddha and the lineage masters and make the aspiration to follow their teachings to the best of their ability .He reminded them that the purpose of the Codes of Conduct was not mere observance, but to feel their importance and internalize the attitudes that the behaviour was designed to cultivate.
He reminded everyone that advanced knowledge of Dharma was of little value without the development of loving kindness and compassion.
He then gave a short overview of The Heart Sutra before leading the first session of the Monlam prayers.
In the second session, Gyalwang Karmapa continued the transmission of The Life of Milarepa and gave a commentary on the Green Tara practice before leading the chanting of The Twenty One Praises to Tara to a melody he himself composed.
Medical Camp: The medical camp was held in the village of Vinobapuri, forty minutes from Bodhgaya. More than seven hundred people came. Several of those treated were suffering from serious illnesses, but, once more, the majority of patients who presented themselves were suffering from diseases linked with poverty and malnutrition.
Evening Teaching at Tergar Monastery: The 25ht was the third and final evening of Gyalwang Karmapa’s teaching on The Fivefold Mahumudra. Verse four reads:
Gyalwang Karmapa explained the metaphor. . . . (For a continuation of this extended summary of the Wednesday teachings, go to His Holiness's Teachings at the 25th Great Kagyu Monlam)
After the teaching on the fifth and final verse, the Gyalwang Karmapa first gave the transmission in Tibetan of the Ngondro he himself had written, explaining that, as the compiler of the text, he was the only one who could give this particular transmission.
He then gave the transmission of the Mahamudra Aspiration Prayer, composed by the Third Karmapa, followed by the transmission of several mantras.
Finally he gave the transmission of The Fivefold Mahamudra in Tibetan, English, Chinese and Korean. The audience really appreciated his efforts in doing this and each transmission was applauded enthusiastically.
In conclusion he thanked everyone for coming, and apologized that pressure of time had meant only three days were available for the teaching. He explained how happy he had been every night to see so many people with joy on their faces and smiling eyes; it was a sight he would never forget. He rose, stepped gracefully down from the throne, and left the hall, smiling shyly and blessing everyone as he went.
[A full transcript of this teaching should be available early in 2008.]
Great Kagyu Monlam Aspiration, Wednesday 19th December
Mahabodhi Temple: Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche gave the Sojong Vows and led the first part of the Monlam prayers. There was a change in the schedule and Pal Gyalwang Karmapa arrived at 7.00am for the conclusion of a special Tsedrub Ritual for him, sponsored by The Kagyu Monlam Working Team. The Tsedrub began at Tergar Monastery on December 13th and concluded at the Mahabodhi Temple this morning, with the offering of a Tenshug (usually referred to as a ‘Long Life Prayer’). Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche was the Vajra Master.
Medical Camp: On the second day of the medical camp, the staff worked through from 8.30am until 5.00pm in order to meet a growing need. Word had spread through the community and more than 900 patients arrived, including many of the local children who were very eager to collect free pencil cases and lollipops but rather reluctant to take their medicine!
Evening Teaching at Tergar Monastery: In the evening Gyalwang Karmapa began a special three day teaching for foreign students. In all, nearly 2000 people were there to listen to His Holiness teach on the text The Fivefold Mahamudra by Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon.
The teaching was scheduled to begin at 7.00pm but by 5.00pm queues had begun to form, and by 6.15pm the great hall at Tergar Monastery was chock-a-block; those arriving later were forced to sit outside on the veranda in the chilly night air.
It was clear that the teaching had been carefully planned to reflect the needs of an international audience. As people arrived, they received a free copy of The Fivefold Mahamudra containing the text in Chinese, Korean, Tibetan and English, and a leaflet of the opening prayers, which were recited in Sanskrit, English and Chinese. The teaching itself was translated into Chinese, English, Korean and Russian.
Five minutes before Gyalwang Karmapa appeared; the chant master came and began to lead the Karmapa Khyenno (Karmapa, think of me). Everyone joined in and the sound of the mantra rose to fill the vast space. His Holiness arrived promptly, walked briskly across the dais, prostrated gracefully three times, and greeted the audience warmly with folded palms before mounting the throne.
The first verse of The Fivefold Mahamudra reads:
Gyalwang Karmapa explained that this was a metaphor based on a Tibetan-style horse race, linking it with a Tibetan saying which tells people to study and practice Dharma with such speed that a hundred dogs will be unable to catch them. . . . (For a continuation of this extended summary of the Wednesday teachings, go to His Holiness's Teachings at the 25th Great Kagyu Monlam)
Gyalwang Karmapa concluded the evening by conferring the Refuge Vows, emphasising that in future no one should take refuge in worldly things. True refuge is in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. He emphasised that, having taken refuge, the important thing was to do no harm, but work for the benefit of all sentient beings.
As he left the platform, the congregation applauded loudly. He acknowledged this with a shy smile and a blessing, before disappearing into the wings and back upstairs to his private quarters on the roof. - Tashi Paljor
Great Kagyu Monlam Aspiration, Thursday 20th December
Mahabodhi Temple: Before dawn broke, Choje Gyaltsab Rinpoche conferred the Sojong vows at the Mahabodhi Temple and led the first session of the Monlam from 6.00am until 9.00am.
Gyalwang Karmapa joined the assembly at 9.30 am, resuming his transmission of The Life of Milarepa. He then gave a commentary on the Prayer of Samantabhadra: The King of Aspiration Prayers before leading the chanting of it. After lunch, he returned to the Mahabodhi Temple to lead the Akshobhya Ritual in the third session.
Medical Camp: More than a thousand people arrived for medical treatment at the camp. Staff reported that the majority of local patients were suffering from diseases associated with poverty; the result of sub-standard living conditions, lack of clean water, and especially malnutrition. Indeed, most of the patients were malnourished; the children especially were underweight and undersized for their age.
Gyalwang Karmapa referred to the Tibetan idea that if something helps it’s of use. . . . (For a continuation of this extended summary of the Thursday teachings, go to His Holiness's Teachings at the 25th Great Kagyu Monlam)
The evening concluded with Gyalwang Karmapa conferring the Bodhisattva Vows. - Tashi Paljor
18th December, 2007. After attending the second session of the Kagyu Monlam at the Mahabodhi Stupa, the Gyalwang Karmapa went to Birla Mandir in Bodhgaya to bless the activity of the Medical Camp there. This camp is one of the special events offered this year in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Kagyu Monlam. It aims to alleviate the suffering of the local community by providing free medicine and treatment for local people. In spite of the development of tourism in Bodhgaya, the holiest site of Buddhism in the world, many people who in Bodhgaya today are in desparate straits, too poor to afford even the most basic medical treatment or medicine. Poverty, disease and deformity haunt the streets of this small town.
After the Gyalwang Karmapa decided that the Kagyu Monlam should offer a medical camp, his sister, Chamsing Ngodrup Palzom, oversaw the preparations and Dr Liu Chi-Chun, from Taiwan, the founder and president of the Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps, rose to the challenge of providing a medical team, medicine and equipment. He is very experienced in leading teams of doctors and nurses on mercy missions to different parts of Asia. He is already well-known in the Tibetan community for his medical camp every year in Dharamsala, which he organises in conjunction with Ngari Rinpoche, His Holiness the Dalai Lama's younger brother. Dr Liu Chi-Chun delivered a team of 50 medical personnel, doctors, pharmacists and nurses from Taiwan to conduct the camp. The camp offers allopathic medicine for a wide range of conditions, medical check-ups, and dentistry. A supporting team of Indian students from Fo Guang Shan Buddhist College are working voluntarily as translators for the medical team.
At the Birla Mandir, the medical staff and various guests assembled to greet the Gyalwang Karmapa: Mingyur Rinpoche, Gyaltong Rinpoche , Gen Tenzin of Namgyal Branch Monastery and Lamas representing the variousTibetan monasteries in Bodhgaya, Lama Choedrak, CEO of Kagyu Monlam, Tibetan lay officials, and a small group of local Indian officials. After a brief inspection of the camp, during which the Gyalwang Karmapa met medical staff and some of the patients, he greeted the guests. Then the guests left for a special lunch at the Royal Residency Hotel, hosted by the Kagyu Monlam Organising Committee. The chief guests were Dr Liu Chi-Chun, Master Hai Tao of Life TV, Taiwan, and the Venerable Hye Neung, Tibet House, Korea. In spite of an extremely demanding schedule, Pal Gyalwang Karmapa made the time to attend the lunch, and distributed small souvenirs to all the guests personally. The staff at the medical camp treated 488 patients on the first day. Additionally, they decided to forgo their lunchbreak so that the camp could be open throughout the day, in order for the monks and nuns, who are usually at the Mahabodhi Stupa at other times, to be able to attend more easily. - Tashi Paljor
At 5.15a.m of the 17th, the dark streets of this small town, little more than a village, were already alive with hundreds of people making their way through the pre-dawn gloom to the Mahabodhi Temple. Monks and nuns and laypeople, both Tibetans and foreigners, thronged through the massive red Torii gates. Designed by Gyalwang Karmapa and engineered by Choekyi Gyatso, they were built by eight carpenters brought in specially, and took three months to complete. For two whole days and nights, the carpenters worked non-stop to erect them at the entrance to the Mahabodhi site.
These massive gates represent the entrance to sanctuary. Inside, the grounds of this ancient site was transformed by a hundred thousand tiny lights, hanging from the trees and walls surrounding the sanctuary. The multitude of small stupas around the Mahabodhi Temple had been garlanded with yellow and orange marigolds, and small water pots containing marigold heads had been placed along the tops of the walls. Beneath the spreading branches of the bodhi tree was an array of magnificent butter sculptures. Behind the Gyalwang Karmapa's throne was a glorious Mandala of the palace of Akshobya; all the beings contained within are bodhisattvas and the palace is created from precious stones.
By 5.30am most of the sangha, more then 4000, were seated and waiting, huddled in their cloaks against the morning cold. Gelongs (fully ordained monks) sat at the front and gelongmas (fully ordained nuns) sat behind them Then came the getsuls (novice monks) and behind them the getsulmas (novice nuns). Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche were seated to left and right of the Gyalwang Karmapa's throne. Approximately 2000 laypeople sat in designated areas, and on the walls and grass banks surrounding the main temple.
The sound of a police siren heralded the arrival of Gyalwang Karmapa. The sangha participants stood, donned their yellow robes and waited under the Bodhi Tree as His Holiness entered the site to the ceremonial sound of gyalings. He circumambulated the Stupa and took his place at the head of the assembly, a powerful presence, unshakeable and grounded in stability. He immediately presided over the 24-hour Sojong vows, a practice which accumulates merit and removes negative karma, so that the ceremony could be finished before the sun rose. In the context of Sojong, he explained that the important goal was to try to do positive deeds and to examine all our thoughts and actions.
Then, following His Holiness's new additions to the Monlam prayers, the assembly chanted the refuge and Bodhichitta prayers, the Heart Sutra and other verses from the Sutras in Sanskrit. The ancient chants floated on the chilly morning air, connecting all those in attendance here in 2007 to the dawn of Buddhism almost three thousand years ago. Again, His Holiness honored the crowd by giving a short commentary on Refuge and on Bodhichitta, explaining the importance of pure motivation: "the motivation in taking refuge should extend beyond a wish for well-being in this life; it needs to be seen as an aspiration for future lives, and should include the aspiration for liberation from samsara and ultimate enlightenment." HH Karmapa advised people who could not yet keep the bodhisattva vows to make an aspiration to be able to take them and keep them in the future.
His Holiness led the prayers from the Kagyu Monlam Prayer Book, the Twenty-Branch Kagyu Monlam Chenmo, originally composed by the Seventh Karmapa, Choedrak Gyatso, and racently re-formulated by the Seventeenth Karmapa, Thus His Holiness introduced the example of that earlier time in the Kagyu lineage of some six centuries ago, further reviving this tradition. After the Three Daily Observances of Prostration, Reciting Sutras and Dedication, the assembly chanted the assembly chanted Samantabhadra's King of Aspiration Prayer, the Aspiration for Noble Conduct, and Maitreya's Aspiration, from the Branch of Aspiration.
During the second morning session, Gyalwang Karmapa resumed his transmission of The Life of Milarepa begun at the previous Monlam. The theme was purification of negative deeds. The Karmapa's recounting of Milarepa's life reached the point the narrative when Milarepa's life changed direction completely and Milarepa was desperate to study the Dharma, which the Karmapa described as like someone who was very thirsty and longed for a glass of water. His Holiness analogized the Buddha to a doctor, his students, ourselves, as the patients, and the Dharma as the medicine. He emphasized that this analogy expresses the correct attitude for listening to dharma teachings. Our motivation should never be tainted by the eight worldly concerns. The second session concluded, as it always does, with The Great Aspiration: Monlam Chenmo, and Dedications for the Living and the Deceased.
Roots of virtue of the three times were dedicated so that they will not be lost or used up. They are dedicated for the attainment of unsurpassable perfect enlightenment for oneself and others, in the presence of His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa as the dedicator. These prayers were followed by the Dharani for the fulfilment of aspiration prayers. The session having concluded, the gelongs and gelongmas filed out to board buses to take them to Tergar Monastery where they were served lunch by the Chinese Buddhist community.
In the third session, after lunch, the Gyalwang Karmapa performed the Ritual of Vajra-Akshobhya, the Buddha with whom the Karmapa lineage holds a special connection. This ritual powerfully purifies negative karma in the world, hence promoting the security and well-being of all sentient beings, harmony and peace, and the preservation of the world environment.
A short fourth session, which included long-life prayers for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa and other important Kagyu lamas, and a prayer for the reincarnation of Bokar Rinpoche, concluded the day's prayers, along with the Dharma Blaze Aspiration for the flourishing of the Dharma, and Protector Prayers. Finally, as His Holiness stood to leave the Bodhi Tree, the entire assembly slowly chanted the Descent of Sacred Auspiciousness that Transforms One, composed by the Gyalwang Karmapa himself:
- Tashi Paljor
An Interview with The Gyalwang Karmapa on the Aspirations of the Great Kagyu Monlam (December 13, 2007)
His Holiness Karmapa explains the new initiatives and vast and profound intentions of this year's Great Kagyu Monlam, which commenced on December 17, 2007, in Bodhgaya, India. The Monlam takes place each year at the Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Bodhgaya, which marks the spot where the Buddha attained enlightenment. Interview with the Gyalwang Karmapa
The Gyalwang Karmapa Welcomes Gelongmas to the Tibetan Tradition (December 13, 2007, Tergar Monastery)
13 December, 2007: This year, there is a strict code of conduct which all gelong and gelongma attending Kagyu Monlam must observe. All gelong and gelongma will have undergone three days training and a test in this code of conduct. During the Monlam they will be expected to attend every Monlam session, including the daily Sojong. They will eat only from the alms bowl, not eat after midday, and, on the final day, they must join the Alms Procession.
At a special meeting for gelongma (Sanskrit: Bhiksuni), held in his private room at Tergar Monastery this morning, the Gyalwang Karmapa welcomed everyone who had come to attend the 25th Kagyu Monlam. He then gave a short talk, discussing the reasons why he had specially invited the gelongma to attend the Kagyu Monlam.
He recounted how, in 2004, when he took on the responsibility of overseeing the running of Kagyu Monlam, he began looking into the Vinaya and researching codes of conduct.
The Tibetan sangha has both gelong (fully ordained monks) and getsul (novices) but no gelongma (fully ordained nuns) only getsulma (novices). Yet, there are many gelongma from other traditions who don Tibetan robes. Because of his concern over the absence of the gelongma ordination in the Tibetan tradition, he began searching the Sutras and the Vinaya, looking more closely into the issues, trying to find a way in which he could help the gelongma. The more he studied, the more his interest and concern grew.
There was, however, an obstacle to this research, because, according to the Vinaya, a getsul is not supposed to study the gelong and gelongma Vinaya, and he himself was a getsul. However, because he is a doctrine holder and holds a position of great responsibility, he did study these texts, trusting that he would not incur any fault. After studying the issue, he felt deeply that if there were a gelongma sangha in the Tibetan tradition, it would be a glorious achievement.
Gyalwang Karmapa cited two reasons why it had been difficult to establish a gelongma ordination lineage in the Tibetan tradition.
Firstly, the Vinaya is the foundation upon which the Buddhist sangha relies, so changes are difficult to make. The constitution of a country cannot be changed immediately, but it can be changed through a lengthy process. Similarly, the Vinaya could be changed, but the process would be very slow. Hence, it would have been difficult to start the tradition of gelongma in Tibet.
Secondly, there is the inflexibility of some members of the sangha who think that there is no need for gelongma.
However, the Gyalwang Karmapa explained, it was his hope that the participation of gelongma in Kagyu Monlam, would eventually lead to the establishment of a gelongma sangha in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, because their excellent conduct would bear witness to all of the grace of the gelongma tradition. He reminded them that they therefore had a responsibility to live up to these expectations.
Finally, he said he prayed that all the nuns would stay well and that no obstacles would arise, so that they could attend the Monlam from beginning to end.
He concluded by offering each gelongma a complete set of robes.
11 December, 2007:.At one of the last meetings with the Kagyu Monlam Committee members before the 25th Annual Monlam ceremony commenced, the Gyalwang Karmapa shared a clear and moving vision of how to realize the Kagyu Monlam most effectively:
HH Karmapa began his talk by clarifying the origins of the reasons and conditions for Monlam, explaining that Monlam means "aspirations", giving as an example Shakyamuni Buddha. When the Buddha made the aspiration to attain the mind of enlightenment, he offered a simple bowl of soup. A bowl of soup seems a small thing, but he offered it with pure motivation of the ultimate aspiration for enlightenment. So, although small, its blessings pervaded the whole of space and benefited all beings.
Similarly, the power and blessings generated by the Kagyu Monlam depend on the pure motivation and aspirations of each individual participant involved. This may seem easy but in fact is not. Pure motivation requires one to put aside individual concerns and work solely for the benefit of all sentient beings, whose numbers are as limitless as space. Participants need to firmly establish this mindset before the Monlam starts. In order to accomplish this, we need a firm, stable foundation and strong motivation. Without this, when we are confronted with difficulties and stress, we will find ourselves prey to the afflictive emotions such as anger, pride or ego-grasping. Without this, it becomes extremely difficult to maintain both our motivation and aspirations, and without that, we will have lost the whole purpose of the Monlam gathering.
If pure, strong motivation extends from the very beginning to the very end, so all will be good in the beginning, good in the middle and good at the end. The purpose and fundamental root of the Kagyu Monlam is to remember the kindness of our Teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni, and to pray for the peace and happiness of all beings with whom we share this world. We are continuing and preserving a pure lineage which we must not blemish.
His Holiness warned that taking his remarks simply as "fine words" is not enough, and asked the Monlam participants to accept the great challenge to put the pure aspiration into practice. We need to integrate these words into our mind stream - developing loving kindness and compassion. In the end it all comes down to our own individual intention, whether it is vast and deep or shallow. Respect and co-operation are also essential so that we can become friends and develop harmony and peace, which can then extend throughout the world. If we become annoyed or angry or speak harshly or walk around with black expressions, we defeat the object of Monlam. Transforming the mind is difficult for beginners; it is easier to modify our speech and behavior. But if we are able to do just this, the purpose of Monlam will be achieved.
His Holiness recalled that he began working for the Kagyu Monlam after Bokar Rinpoche had passed away in 2004, stating: "At that time there was a question whether the Monlam would continue or not. I had already been preparing myself for the Monlam. Even though I had no organizational experience, I took up the challenge, out of a feeling that I had a close relationship with Bokar Rinpoche, and because I have so much support. When I look back over the past few Kagyu Monlams in which I participated, I feel we still have a lot to accomplish and a long way to go. It would be disappointing if yet another year of our lives were to go by without bearing fruit. So, while remembering the kindness of Lord Shakyamuni Buddha, and holding the benefit of all sentient beings firmly in our minds, let us dedicate ourselves to the root cause of the Monlam gathering for world peace, harmony and happiness for all." - Tashi Paljor
Final Debates Mark End of 11th Annual Winter Retreat for Debate and Logical Study (December 11, 2007)
11th December, 2007. In the afternoon of the 11th, the Gyalwang Karmapa attended a group photo session to memorialize the ending of their 11th annual Karma Gönchö. In the evening, the Gyalwang Karmapa watched the final Karma Gönchö debate as it took place in the main shrine hall of Tergar Monastery. Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and all the Khenpos also attended. The finale of the debate was between all the eight monasteries who participated the Karma Gönchö. - Tashi Paljor
6th December, 2007. Representatives of the Jonang tradition of Tibetan Buddhism began celebrating its Sixth Monlam Prayer for World Peace at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya on 6th December. The Gyalwang Karmapa was requested to attend the Monlam and lead the prayers, and His Holiness attended with Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. When he arrived, he was welcomed by Chogtrul Ngawang TashiGyaltsen Rinpoche and Khen Rinpoche Choe-kyi Nangpa Chog of the Jonang Tradition. A great crowd of Tibetans, Indians, tourists, and well-wishers, many offering khatas, incense or lotus flowers, were also waiting to greet him.
HH Karmapa first visited the shrine room of the Mahabodhi Temple, where he prostrated and then offered a set of silk robes to the image of Shakyamuni Buddha. Afterwards he sat under the bodhi tree, in front of a crowd of about two thousand monks, nuns and laypeople and led the aspiration prayers. Following the prayers, Khen Rinpoche offered a Mandala to His Holiness, and then His Holiness gave the transmission [lung] of the Names of Manjushri [Jam-phel-tsen- choe] and a short talk, which highlighted the importance of both the Jonang Monlam and the contribution of the Jonang tradition to Tibetan Buddhism. - Tashi Paljor
On December 6th , the Gyalwang Karmapa presided over an examination of members of the sangha under a new code of conduct for monks and nuns, which is now mandatory for all members of the sangha attending Kagyu Monlam. The monks were examined by the Committee of Discipline Masters, appointed by His Holiness and headed by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.
The code of conduct focuses mainly on:
Later , in the evening, His Holiness called an assembly of all the monks participating in the Winter Retreat for Debate and Logical Study (Karmae Gonchoe), who are presently staying at Tergar Monastery. He personally instructed them on how to sit during prayers and how to recite the prayers with the correct melodies employing the properly concordant rising and falling of the voice, in preparation for the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo. - Tashi Paljor
Karmapa Presides at the 11th Annual Winter Retreat for Debate and Logical Study involving Hundreds of Shedra Students (beginning November 12, 2007)
At the Winter Retreat for Annual Debate, monks line the corridors of Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya to engage in debate over the logical tenets of the Buddhist study system
The 11th annual Karma Gön Chö Winter Retreat for Debate and Logical Study commenced on 12 November at Tergar Monastery in Bodhaya and is scheduled to continue through 15 December. Over seven hundred shedra monks have gathered here for this year's Karma Gön Chö from institutions such as:
At the request of the Karma Gön Chö committee, His Holiness will give teachings on Gampopa's Lam Chog Rinchen Tringwa commencing from 20th November. The organizer of the Karma Gön Chö for this year is Palpung Lungrik Jampal Ling. The Karma Gön Chö commenced with the offering of a Mandala to His Holiness from Khenpo Karma Tenzin of Palpung.
The Karmapa offers a robe to the image of the Buddha in the renowned Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya. Ven. Bodhi Pal is standing on the left.
9th November: His Holiness left Gyuto temple for his winter tour, travelling by air to Delhi. There, the Secretary to the Bureau Office of His Holiness Dalai Lama in New Delhi and Karma Thopden, former Indian Ambassador to Mongolia and a Member of the Indian Parliament, received His Holiness at Radisson Hotel.
November 10: His Holiness arrived at Vajra Vidya Institute (VVI) at Saranath, Varanasi, U.P. Venerable Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche welcomed His Holiness at the Varanasi airport. His Holiness received teachings from Venerable Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche during his stay. District magistrate of Varanasi Mrs. Meena made a courtesy call on His Holiness at VVI.
17th November: His Holiness left VVI by road to Bodhgaya in Bihar. On the arrival at Tergar Monastery at Bodhgaya, His Holiness was welcomed by hundreds of shedra monks from different Kagyu monasteries, who have assembled at Tergar for the 11th annual the Karma Gön Chö Winter Retreat for Debate and Logical Study. The monastics, along with their Serbangs, escorted His Holiness into the main shrine hall.
18th November, His Holiness inaugurated the exhibition of 8th century Tibetan artifacts by Dzongkar Choede Monastery, on display at the Mahayana Guest House in Bodhgaya. Later His Holiness visited the Mahabodhi Temple to offer a robe to the main Buddha statue. Ven Bodhi Pal of Mahabodhi Temple Management Committee welcomed His Holiness.
Reception of HH Dalai Lama (Nov 7, 2007)
His Holiness Dalai Lama was greeted by the Gyalwang Karmapa, Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche, Speaker of Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile Mr Karma Chophel, Deputy Speaker Mrs Gyari Dolma, members of Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, and heads of the all the Tibetan institutions in Dharamshala upon his arrival at the Gaggal airport near Dharamsala.
His Holiness Dalai Lama returned to Dharamsala after an historic visit to the United States, where he was awarded the nation's highest civilian honour, the Congressional Gold Medal, on October 17. Also duriing the visit to North America, he was officially met with a warm diplomatic welcome by the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, in his Parliament Hill Office in Ottawa. - Tashi Paljor
HH Gyalwa Karmapa
Detailed biographical information about His Holiness the 17th Karmapa is available from the drop down menus above. The materials are divided into:
17th Karmapa (His Holiness's current activities and schedule)
Background (Kagyu history regarding predictions about the 17th Karmapa)
In Tibet (His Holiness's early years, enthronement in Tibet and activity at Tsurphu Monastery)
In India (The Karmapa's escape to India and activities in India)
Reference (Official releases from the Kagyu Office and historical background documents referenced in other sections)
When not traveling, His Holiness holds regular public audiences at his temporary camp at the Gyuto Ramoche Tantric University in Dharamsala, HP, India
Kagyu Office of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa (about the Kagyu Office)
Web pages © Kagyu Office except as noted in the text of the page or on the copyright notice page (click link for copyright information); photographs, drawings and images © Kagyu Office except as noted in the text of the page or on the copyright notice page (click link for copyright information)
Web design by His Holiness Karmapa's Office of Administration