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The 29th Kagyu Monlam: Day Eight

8 March, 2012 Bodhgaya

Long Life Ceremony for the Two Lords of Refuge, Tai Situ Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche

On March 8, the Gyalwang Karmapa and the sangha gathered to offer a long life ceremony celebrating two of his heart sons, the Twelfth Tai Situ Rinpoche and the Twelfth Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche. As the dawn begins to color the edge of the sky, a huge crowd has filled the Monlam Pavilion and a special excitement runs through the air. Today will be the culmination of the eight days of prayers for peace in the world and in the hearts of all beings. Through the long life ceremony this morning, the merit of this year’s gathering is especially dedicated to the long lives of these two great lamas. The Gyalwang Karmapa has explained that what is positive in this life and throughout all our lives comes from our teachers, our spiritual friends. It is of utmost importance that they keep guiding us and awaken us from the sleep of our ignorance. We have protection and guidance now because they are with us, so we must continually ask them to live long and continually pray that their wishes be fulfilled.

Earlier in the week, the Karmapa mentioned that the Dharma is not only conveyed by words, but also visually. This morning’s ceremony will be a testament to that statement. Flanking the stage are elegant, carved wooden thrones for the two rinpoches, and in the center on an upper level, is the Karmapa’s throne. Around it in the four directions are seated four monks. Long altars line the sides of the stage with magnificent offerings: on the right are two large statues of the Buddha to be offered to the rinpoches; stacked on either side and wrapped in yellow cloth with red and blue brocade squares alternating are copies of the Kangyur (words of the Buddha). The texts are written in actual gold, following a Tibetan tradition of making a most magnificent offering. On the left are four new tormas related to the Kamtshang lineage. Towering above the shrine and topped by golden victory banners, they are radiant yet gentle in color and depict the key figures of the Kagyu lineage, starting with Marpa and ending with the first emanation of Situ Rinpoche, Drogön Rechen, and the first incarnation of Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Paljor Döndrup—another tribute to the two lamas being honored today.

In Tibetan, this ritual is known as tenzhuk (gtan bzhugs), where ten means “permanent” or “forever” and zhuk means “remain” or “abide.” Its history can be traced back to the sutra tradition and the Seven-Branch Offering, the seventh of which is requesting the buddhas to remain for a long time and not pass into nirvana. In the vajrayana with its emphasis on devotion to the lama, this branch expanded into a separate, full-fledged ritual.

Underlying the rationale for the ceremony is the understanding that, in contrast to ordinary beings, who take rebirth through the force of their karma and afflictions, noble individuals are born as they wish and remain for as long as they can help others. Their life spans are intimately connected with the lives of others, so our making these requests for them to live long is extremely important. We can actually have an effect on how long they remain with us.

The ritual for the long life ceremony was composed by the Karmapa.  It is just one page long, but profound in meaning and vast in extent as it incorporates the two traditions of sutra and tantra. In the sutras, one finds arhants who are blessed with long life, and in the tantras, one finds long life empowerments, in which long life is elicited through the power of the truth of the Three Jewels, the vidyadharas with power over life, and others. The great lamas are also encouraged to make a commitment to live a long life based on their accumulation of merit. Further, the lama’s life can be made long through the power of those making the request, which in this case would be His Holiness and the gathered sangha.

The ritual this year is the same as last year, but the way of making the offering is different. Last year, the context was the practice of the sixteen arhants, and this year, it is based on “The Offerings to the Gurus.” The change acknowledges the critical role both Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche have played as lineage gurus of the Karmapa. Further, the progression of the ceremony is in harmony with the stages of practice found in this text. For example, after blessing the ground and offerings, it presents an invitation to the gurus to be present; the ceremony today began with escorting the lamas in the “golden procession” of brilliantly colored banners and pendants, accompanied by music and two tall umbrellas, the circle of their colorful pleats swaying above the two. Gyaltsap Rinpoche was there in person and Drön Nyer Tenam, the representative of Situ Rinpoche, carried high a golden parcel, which contained a formal brocade cape (khri ber) worn by lamas when they give empowerments and, in Situ Rinpoche’s case, the red hat ceremony. During a lama’s absence from his monastery, the cape sits on his throne. In addition, when a lama cannot accept an invitation, he will send his formal cape as a substitute, and today Situ Rinpoche has sent his most precious one.

Prior to the procession, the Karmapa, Situ Rinpoche’s representative, Gyaltsap Rinpoche, and monks had gathered in the Akshobhya shrine room on top of Tergar Monastery. Here at four-thirty in the morning, His Holiness performed a Vajrapani ceremony for the investiture (mnga’ gsol), a special blessing to empower them, and offered traditional gifts of monk’s clothes and shoes to both rinpoches. Now, as the procession enters the Monlam Pavilion, His Holiness waits on his throne in the center of the stage. The procession moves slowly down the main aisle between two long rows of white, swooping scarves held by men and women from the East and West. Two nights before, the Karmapa had carefully rehearsed them so that the curves of the white garlands between each person would be exactly the same.

Set below the three thrones on stage were two red lacquer chairs from Japan, covered in brocade. When the text asks the Buddha to “take your seat with ease,” Gyaltsap Rinpoche sat here first and the shrine master then offered the two lamas water for drinking and water for bathing. The remaining five of the seven traditional offerings—flowers, incense, lamps, scented water, and food—were made by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. Then everyone was offered tea and saffron rice. The ceremony continued with a section that reflected the sutra tradition. The two rinpoches made offerings to the sangha of robes, which were accepted on behalf of the sangha by the four monks surrounding the Karmapa. The merit of this offering was dedicated to their long lives. For a short while, the Karmapa and Gyaltsap rested in meditation, and this merit, too, is dedicated to long life. The vajrayana tradition was represented by the Karmapa offering the rinpoches long life pills and the nectar of immortality. Drön Nyer Tenam holds the yellow-wrapped formal cape of Situ Rinpoche in front of the Karmapa who touches it with the long life vase. Afterward, Gyaltsap Rinpoche stands in front of the Karmapa and repeats his words, making a commitment to live for a long time. The lines include “May this life find its full and complete fruition.” At the end, the Karmapa tossed flowers into the air.

Two long brocade boxes were set next to His Holiness’s throne from which he lifted out a long scroll with a proclamation, known as the scroll of great praise (bzings bstod kyi byang bu). The Karmapa reads is a clear, strong voice the proclamation:

Proclamation
In the Year of the Dragon, the son of the Buddha and Lord of the Dharma, the Shr? Mah?karmika, dwelt in Magadha at the pinnacle of the essence of enlightenment.

I touch the crown of my head to the feet of our teacher, who is skillful and compassionate. From the very beginning, you, Pema Döyön Druppa [for Situ Rinpoche], Karma Drakpa Tenpa Yarpel [for Gyaltsap Rinpoche], have been the essence of the utter perfection of the qualities of abandonment and realization. In this Unbearable World Realm, your fine activities of teaching, debate, and composition are as wondrous and amazing as all the qualities and activities of the Victors and their children in the three times coalesced into one.

You are a great friend to wandering beings even though they had not known you before. You rouse all from the sleep of ignorance and liberate them from the ocean of samsaric suffering. You have taken upon yourself to bear the entire burden of upholding, spreading, and protecting the teachings of the essence of the Practice Lineage through accepting hardship day and night.

Now rejoicing in your indefatigable courage, in order to sing your praises and remember your fine deeds and legacy, today on this auspicious day, I proclaim your greatness. I praise you and invest you. You are the master empowered through the crown of your head, prophesied in the scripture called “The Master of Great Maitreya” [for Situ Rinpoche], “Great Upholder of the Secret Treasury” [for Gyaltsap Rinpoche].

I request that in the future you remain as a kinsman to beings and the teachings as long as samsara lasts, and that by striving to perform the deeds of the three wheels unified as one, you spread the teachings of true Dharma everywhere, shining the bright sun of the teachings of practice throughout the three worlds. Thus I seal this.

After each reading, the Karmapa offered the brocade box with its proclamation and a kata to each of the rinpoches. Gyaltsap Rinpoche wore the kata lining the fold of his outer robe and sat powerful and unmoving as the scroll rested on the table in front of his throne.

As the sangha recited a special text on giving a jeweled topknot, a wheel of accomplishment, a conch shell, a drum, a victory banner, and hanging pendant, the appropriate offerings are made on stage a formal choreography of flowing color and precision. Then Khenpo Thupten Karma from Sherab Ling gave an explanation of the mandala. In a language rich in metaphor and a voice that seems to come out of an ancient time, he invoked auspiciousness and good fortune. He praised the rinpoches saying that they have been able to spread light in all the worlds through the power of meditating on the nature of things just are they are. The khenpo spoke especially of the five certainties of place, time, teacher, retinue, and teachings. For example, the place is the vajra seat of enlightenment where 1002 buddhas will attain full awakening.

Next, representatives from the Tsurphu Labrang (administration) and from the Kagyu Monlam offered mandalas to Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche, and then two representatives each from the five heart sons’ labrangs came forward to make their offerings to the two great lamas: the offering of the body was made by Situ Rinpoche’s Palpung Labrang, of speech by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche’s Labrang, of mind by Gyaltsap Rinpoche’s Labrang, of qualities by Nenang Pawo Rinpoche’s Labrang, and of activity by Treho Rinpoche’s Labrang. This last one included a very special gift. Situ Rinpoche had a seal that was given to one of his previous incarnations by a Chinese emperor.  It had been kept at Situ Rinpoche’s seat, Palpung Monastery, for many years, but had disappeared. The Karmapa was able to find it and offer it back to him as part of this ceremony.

On the six screens in the Pavilion, a video of Situ Rinpoche was shown. He began saying that he went to the peerless Lord for refuge and that his teacher who sits above his head has been so kind. He asked that the Karmapa, the play and activity of all the buddhas, grant the siddhis of body, speech, and mind. Situ Rinpoche spoke of the history of the Kagyu Monlam and said its power brings great benefit and happiness to all living beings. With great faith he rejoiced in this and asked the Karmapa to continue the Kagyu Monlam as one of his main activities. He concluded, “If it pleases the guru, may I live to the age of 108.” Gyaltsap Rinpoche then read his commitment in the form of a verse:

So that living beings may be benefited
And the teachings of the Buddha flourish,
I will definitely remain stable and live
For more than one hundred years.

These commitments were followed by the Offerings to the Sixteen Elders, with the refrain, “Grant your blessings that the lamas live long and that the Dharma flourish.” At end of this ritual, the Karmapa gave each rinpoche a stunning and exquisitely crafted book of their life stories with photographs. (See separate feature :Two Magnificent books: The Life Stories of Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche)

After a break, the ceremony continued with an extensive series of traditional offerings, known as the Feast of Tsaru. This contains the Five Fives, each one presented by a row of five lay and monastic men and women: five grains for a harvest of virtue; five jewels for abundant prosperity; five medicinal herbs for freedom from the illnesses of the three poisons; the five essences for the realization of suchness; and the five perfumes for the purifying water of samadhi.

A lengthy praise of the rinpoches was read by the discipline master while further offerings were made by long rows of disciples from around the world. Then the Karmapa read the classic offerings of the eight auspicious substances, the seven precious articles, and the eight auspicious signs. As he read each one, a sculpted image of the individual offering radiating its gold and silver was first given to the Karmapa and then taken to the two thrones as offerings to Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche. Perhaps the Karmapa was remembering the first time he himself was offered these auspicious objects—during his own enthronement at Tsurphu in 1992 when it was Situ Rinpoche making the offerings to him.

The morning’s recitation of prayers concluded with the final part of the Offerings to the Sixteen Elders:
Grant your blessing that the Dharma remain a long time.
May the ocean of merit become complete,
The ocean of pristine wisdom become pure,
And the ocean of qualities become perfect.
May we transcend all that is mundane.
As the golden procession reformed, the Karmapa stood surrounded by the four monks and watched as it moved slowly down the main aisle, the umbrellas of great lamas, gently swaying above.

A DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE FOUR TORMAS

Beginning with stage center, first comes the torma of Marpa Lotsawa, who brought back from India the thirteen main tantras of the Kagyu lineage and the mahamudra teachings. To his right is his consort, Dagmema, and to his left, is his son, Darma Dode. At the top of this torma is Amitayus, the Buddha of Long life in his sambhogakaya form; he is one of the three main deities of long life. Beneath Marpa is an offering of a torma and fruits, and below this is Mahakala, the principal protector of the Kamtsang lineage.

The next torma features Marpa’s main disciple, Milarepa, famous throughout Tibet for his songs of realization and intense practice. On Milarepa’s right is his moon-like disciple, Rechen Dorje Drak, and on his left is Ngen Dzong Tenpa, one of his three main disciples. Above Milarepa is Namgyalma (the Lady of Complete Victory), another of the deities of long life, and just below him are life-like offerings of the pleasurable objects of the five senses—a mirror for form, small cymbals for sound, scented water for smell, luscious fruits for taste, and soft cloth for tangible objects. Beneath these is Tseringma, a goddess of the Himalayas who became a student of Milarepa and protectress of the Kamtsang.

In the center of the third torma is Gampopa, the sun-like disciple of Milarepa. To his right is his nephew, Gomtsul Tsultrim Nyingpo, who carried on the lineage of Gampopa’s main seat, and to Gampopa’s left is Pakmodrupa, whose disciples were the progenitors of the eight younger lineages. Above Gampopa is Drölkar (White Tara), the third of the deities of long life and the personal yidam deity of Gampopa. Marpa and Milarepa were lay practioners, but Gampopa was a monk, so below him are the thirteen requisites of a monk, the articles they need for daily living, such as a sieve for filtering water. Below these is Damcan Garwa, the blacksmith who holds samaya. A form of Dorje Lekpa, he is a protector of the lineage and often depicted with Mahakala and Mahakali.

The final torma presents the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, whose 900th anniversary has been celebrated throughout the past year. To his right is Drogön Rechung, considered the first manifestation of Tai Situ Rinpoche, and to the Karmapa’s left is Paljor Döndrup, the first Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche. Above Dusum Khyenpa is Padmajungne, (the Lotus Born), one of the many names of Guru Rinpoche, of whom Dusum Khyenpa is an emanation. Below Dusum Khyenpa is the offering of the eight auspicious signs, and below them, the female protector, Palden Lhamo.

KAGYU MONLAM HOSTS A CELEBRATORY LUNCH

Following the long-life offerings to H.E. Kenting Tai Situpa and H.E. Gyaltsap Rinpoche, there was a special buffet lunch in the shrine room at Tergar Monastery for invited guests only.

Gyalwang Karmapa, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche headed the lunch; at their table, a   chair and place were set symbolically for Situ Rinpoche.

Other guests included  rinpoches, three year retreat lamas, khenpos,  chötrimpas, and  umzes from the Kagyu monasteries at the Monlam, as well as representative from each of the nunneries, the labrangs of Tai Situpa and Gyaltsap Rinpoche, and lay sponsors. The buffet was prepared by the same team who had been cooking for the sangha, and entertainment was  provided by students from TCV Suja, who performed  traditional Tibetan songs and dance with youthful vigour.

The highlight of the function was the presentation of a facsimile of a rare text to all Kagyu monasteries and nunneries.  No one had known about the existence of this text, a commentary on the Six Yogas of Naropa by the Fourth Gyaltsap Rinpoche,Dragpa Dundrub (1550-1617), until a handwritten copy from Mongolia was offered to the Seventeenth  Gyalwang Karmapa.  Thought to be the only surviving copy, His Holiness  then presented  it to Gyaltsap Rinpoche. Finally, the monasteries and nunneries grouped together for photos with His Holiness.

HIS HOLINESS THANKS THE SPONSORS AND MAKES CONCLUDING REMARKS THANK YOU SPEECH FOR SPONSORS

Gyalwang Karmapa began the talk by thanking the sponsors. His Holiness said that the Kagyu Monlam prayer festival is made possible by the causes and conditions of the sponsors and because of their devotion and generosity. His Holiness said accumulation of merit creates more positive conditions.

Gyalwang Karmapa explained the benefits of giving and accumulating merit. He said positive causes bring positive results and that there are two types of conditions: the outer and the inner condition.

His Holiness said sponsorship fulfills the outer condition. While outer conditions are important, if there is no inner condition, then it is unlikely to produce true peace of mind. He said, for instance, Sangha members should have more positive inner conditions, so that they can share their positive inner conditions with others attending the prayer ceremony.

He then said that he would like to thank all the sponsors big and small. His Holiness especially thanked Mr. N. Dorjee, member secretary of the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee. As a token of appreciation and gratitude, he also offered scarves and a souvenir medallion of Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa to each of the sponsors.

CONCLUDING TALK

His Holiness said since he had already said a lot over the past few days, all he wanted to do was to express his gratitude and say thank you. He said he felt grateful to all the monks, incarnate lamas and retreat masters, amongst others who had gathered in Bodhgaya. He also declared the 29th Kagyu Monlam a success.

However, Gyalwang Karmapa said, Tibetan Buddhism is going through a difficult time. In this degenerate age, Gyalwang Karmapa said, we need to have a long term view. We should not just think about the short-term benefits of Buddhism but about how the teachings of the Lord Buddha can survive for a long time.

He said that everyone present should consider how they could contribute to the preservation of the Dharma, and how the Dharma could benefit the maximum number of sentient beings. He said we have to think along those lines if we want to ensure the survival of the dharma.

In previous Monlams, he said, he had talked a little bit about vegetarianism and environmentalism.  However, it seemed that now everybody was doing quite well and that he had nothing specific to say about them.  He qualified this by saying that the situation was not yet perfect, and there was still need for improvement. Indeed, there is always room for improvement as long as we have not reached enlightenment.  His Holiness then talked about the debt of gratitude the Karma Kagyu lineage owes to the First Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa. He also said a little about the request for the long life performed for H.E. Kenting Tai Situ Rinpoche and H.E. Gyaltsap Rinpoche.  The teachings and guidance of great masters are extremely important as they awaken us from the slumber of ignorance. Therefore, we need them to live long and for all of their wishes to be accomplished, he explained.

He expressed his gratitude to H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche for actively participating in the Monlams and asked us to pray that his activities flourish; to Khenpo Lodro Donyo Rinpoche from Bokar Ngedon Choling Monastery; and to all the other khenpos, vajra masters, chant masters and retreat masters who had come to attend the Kagyu Monlam.

His Holiness explained the reason he had taken responsibility for the Kagyu Monlam over the past few years was his wish to continue the work started by Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche and Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche. He said he hoped that Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche’s reincarnation would come soon and that his activities would flourish.

Kagyu Monlam has become an international prayer festival with many people from around the world. Although it is difficult for the Gyalwang Karmapa to travel abroad, they have come to see him. Such a gathering fulfills the aspiration of the founders to have people from many countries speaking different languages getting together for the peace ,happiness and well-being of all sentient beings.

  Nearly a thousand people had been working to support the 29th Kagyu Monlam. Without them it would be impossible, especially those who looked after the environment at the different sites, keeping everywhere clean. He also thanked the members of the working team for their assistance and hard work.

Before the final section of the Monlam prayers began, the dedication prayers and prayers for auspiciousness, the Gyalwang Karmapa talked about the dedication of the merit accumulated during the prayer festival. His Holiness said that he would like the merit to be dedicated to the happiness and welfare of all sentient beings and hoped that they could live in peace and stability.

He also particularly remembered those deceased in the previous year and recited the names of those he knew personally.

He said finally he would like to thank those who had come to the Monlam and also expressed his gratefulness to the country of India (particularly, the state of Bihar) from where we received the lineage teachings. Since Tibet is also a source of dharma, His Holiness wished that all the people and divine beings residing in Tibet might be freed from all negative conditions.  He also prayed that the aspirations of the heads of the Tibetan Buddhist schools and all great masters be fulfilled,  and that their activities flourish.  Gyalwang Karmapa particularly prayed that the activities of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama continue to flourish and that he might live a long and healthy life.

CONCLUDING PRAYERS OF DEDICATION AND ASPIRATION

As happens each year, the afternoon’s final session went from strength to strength as rousing dedications and aspirations followed fast. Most people had brought khatags to wave for auspiciousness, and as the aspirations continued, the khatag waving increased until the Monlam Pavilion appeared as an ocean of maroon, gold and white.
The prayers concluded with aspirations written by the forefathers and masters of the Kagyu lineage,
Mila’s Aspiration,
Lord Marpa’s Song of Auspiciousness,
Gyalwa Drikungpa’s With excellence, like a mountain of gold
Jowo Atisha’s The Dharma Blaze Aspiration
Seventh Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso’s  Auspiciousness of the Great Encampment
And finally,
Prayers to Accomplish the Truth written by the Seventh Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso and the Eighth Karmapa  Mikyo Dorje.

Thus ended the 29th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo. People smiled serenely as they picked up their maroon bags of tsok and made their way out of the pavilion. There was no pushing or shoving as is usual in great crowds, no short-temperedness, no harsh words, as approximately 8000 monks, nuns and laypeople waited patiently for their turn to pass through the gates on to the road. It seemed as if, for one moment, in dusty, fly-blown Bodhgaya,  Dewachen had been realized.

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