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New Year’s Eve: Unfurling the Large Appliqué Thangka

21 February, 2012 Bodhgaya

This morning, in a two-hour ceremony at the Monlam Pavilion, a magnificent appliqué thangka of Buddha Shakyamuni, flanked by the bodhisattvas Maitreya andManjusri, was unfurled and consecrated. It had taken six months, from June to December 2011, to make the thangka, measuring 20 feet by 30 feet. It was constructed in a prayer hall at Gyuto Monastery, the Gyalwang Karmapa’s current residence in North India, under the close supervision and direction of the Gyalwang Karmapa  himself, who visited the project at least once a day. On completion, the thangka was carefully packed into a specially constructed metal cylinder and brought across India by lorry from the north eastern Himalayan foothills to Bodhgaya on the central western plains.

Rehearsals for the ceremony, began just after 7.00am and finished at 10.00am; patiently the Gyalwang Karmapa instructed everyone in precisely what to do and when. The ceremony itself began at 10.15am when the Read the rest of this article

Mahakala Puja: Clearing away Obstacles

16 – 21 February, 2012

The morning of February 16th began with the participants formally assuming their seats (gral ’dzin) in the shrine hall. Standing outside the shrine hall and before more than one thousand monks and nuns, the discipline master read out the names of those taking responsibility for the various aspects of the practice. They are given a specific place so that they can do their respective work. The list began with Situ Rinpoche and continued all the way to the younger monks, who pass up and down the aisles offering tea. After the list of names was called out, the rest of the sangha moved quickly into their places. In general, the discipline master oversees the proper functioning of the practice within the shrine hall, and so once everyone was settled into their places, he gave a Dharma Talk (tshogs gtam), explaining what each person could and could not do.

When the Gyalwang Karmapa came in to the shrine hall for the ceremony, he was wearing The 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

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