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Mahakala Puja Part Four: Lama Dance

20 February, 2012 Bodhgaya


February 20th was a day full of firsts. It was the first time that the Gyalwang Karmapa has performed in the lama dances since coming to India in January of 2000. It was the first time that the Karmapa, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, and Gyaltsap Rinpoche have participated together in the dances. It was the first time in India that the Karmapa could engage in the full length of the Mahakala practice that precedes the Tibetan New Year, and it was the first occasion when all the Kagyu Sanghas have gathered for this practice. All of these firsts came together on the twenty-ninth day of the last month in the Tibetan calendar, which is dedicated to protector practice, making this a particularly powerful occasion for the removal of obstacles and negativity.

The day actually started the previous night at 11pm with the beginning of “The Abridged Burning Up Anger,” and the chanting continued through to 5:30 the next morning. The thundering sound of the two immense drums and about thirty smaller ones as well as the swift pace of the chanting must have helped the Sangha to Read the rest of this article

Mahakala Puja Part Two: The Preliminaries for The Main Mahakala Practice

13 – 15 February, 2012

On the afternoon of February 13, after the Karmapa returned from the shrine room to his quarters, the sangha continued with the Mahakala ritual. Special to this day is the practice called “The Four Elements and Three Parts” (’Byung bzhi cha gsum), which removes obstacles for the practice of the next days. Pieces of roasted barley dough that bore the imprint of a hand were passed out to each participant. The dough was then rolled into a ball, flattened, and pressed to parts of the upper body that were ill. Divided into three, the pieces were returned to monks passing through the sangha with large containers. While the text of the practice was being chanted from two screens in front of the hall, the collected pieces were carried outside, and the direction in which they were placed had been determined by an astrologer.

On the evening of the thirteenth, the main shrine hall was transformed into a protector shrine dedicated to the practice of Mahakala. An imposing suit of medieval Read the rest of this article

Mahakala Puja Part One: Introduction, Empowerment and Reading Transmission

Februrary 12—13, 2012

For many days before the Tibetan New Year, the sangha traditionally engages in a practice of the Protector Mahakala (known as Gutor) to clear away the obstacles of the previous year and open the way for the new one to come. This year in Bodhgaya, the Seventeenth Karmapa has organized ten days of Mahakala practice, empowerments, reading transmissions and explanations to take place at Tergar Monastery, his residence here. The sessions began with empowerments on February 12 and will continue through February 21. Special this year is the text of the practice, which His Holiness has revived after this powerful ritual had lain dormant for centuries.

Empowerment, Reading Transmission, and Explanation

Traditionally, for every practice, one should receive these three: the empowerment that matures, the transmission that links to the blessings of the lineage, and the explanation that clarifies the text. On Read the rest of this article

Gyalwang Karmapa Supervises Rehearsal of The Cham Dances

Februrary 10, 2012 – Bodhgaya.

As the Tibetan year draws to a close, Tsurphu traditionally offers a special ritual known as Gutor. This ten-day long ritual is dedicated to the Great Protector of the Karma Kagyu, Gonpo Bernakchen, (Mahakala in Sanskrit). This year’s ritual will be very special as, for the first time since the Gyalwang Karmapa came to India, the complete Tsurphu Gutor Ritual will be offered, including ritual dances, known as Cham in Tibetan, performed by monks from seven Karma Kagyu monasteries in Nepal and India: Rumtek, Ralang , Mirik, Benchen, Phodong, Old Rumtek, and Old Ralang. An audience of about one hundred devotees clustered together in the chilly shrine hall at Tergar Monastery to watch an all-day rehearsal of the Cham.

The dancers wore partial costume – jackets decorated with rich brocades, white, embroidered Tibetan boots, topped with brocade, and, swinging from their belts, a golden brocade chab-shu. The chab-shu , a Read the rest of this article

Gyalwang Karmapa Presides over Three-Day Conference on The Vinaya.

Februrary 7-9, 2012 – Bodhgaya.

On Tuesday 7 February the Gyalwang Karmapa inaugurated a three-day scholarly conference, as part of the 15th Annual Kagyu Winter Debate (Kagyu Gunchö) at Tergar Monastery in Bodh Gaya. The focus of the conference was the relationship among the three levels of Buddhist ethical discipline ie the three vows (dom sum in Tibetan). Attending the conference were over 800 learned khenpos (senior monastic scholars), geshes and advanced students from Karma Kagyu monasteries and nunneries across the Himalayas.

Tibetan Buddhists uphold three levels of ethical discipline: 1) the pratimoksha vows that govern physical and verbal actions and are common to all Buddhists, 2) the bodhisattva vows that regulate thought as well as body and speech and are transmitted in all Mahayana traditions, and 3) the tantric vows that only the Tibetan traditions received from India and preserve to this day. These three levels of ethical discipline correspond to three Read the rest of this article