December 28, 2009 – Under the Bodhi Tree, Bodhgaya
The recitation of the Twenty-Branch Monlam, that which provides the structure for the prayers recited during the Kagyu Monlam, is a powerful means by which we can deepen our relationship with Buddha Shakyamuni. By reciting these prayers, we prepare a place for Buddha; invite, greet and offer ablution to him; and we praise, make offerings and requests to him. To do these things beneath the Tree, where Buddha himself was enlightened, exponentially intensifies our daily encounters with Buddha.
Today, His Holiness completed a long project which is intented to enhance his disciples’ connection to the great Tibetan master Milarepa. His Holiness has given the oral transmission of the entire life story of Milarepa, page after page, year after year, for three consecutive years. Today that story drew to a close; but in coming days, the Gyalwang Karmapa will further extend the process of deepening students’ engagement with Milarepa by offering a Milarepa empowerment, a Milarepa Ganachakra, and with the live performance of a play depicting Milarepa’s life, that His Holiness composed and directed himself.
Following the reading transmission, His Holiness gave a talk on developing compassion and bodhichitta. “If there is one single thing that unites all the teachings of Buddha, it is compassion,” he said.
In describing how we can actively cultivate compassion for others, the Gyalwang Karmapa focused on the sevenfold practice for generating bodhichitta. This practice begins by recognizing that all sentient beings have been our mother, remembering their kindness, and then generating a strong wish to repay that kindness. His Holiness noted that some people have difficult relationships with their parents, a statement exhibiting His Holiness’ attentiveness to the diverse needs and experiences of his students, an example of his own great kindness. His Holiness said that people with such difficult relationships may take as their object of contemplation someone whose kindness to them they do recognize and appreciate deeply. Gyalwang Karmapa pointed out that there was once a Kadam Geshe who was raised by his aunt, after his mother died in his infancy. Since he was unable to recall his mother, Kadam Geshe used to reflect that all sentient beings had once been his extremely kind aunt!
In the afternoon, the Gyalwang Karmapa led a session to remove obstacles, featuring requesting prayers to Guru Rinpoche. He prefaced the prayers by telling the biographical story of Guru Rinpoche. His Holiness observed that there are many different presentations of Guru Rinpoche’s life story, including one tradition that places his birth shortly after the Buddha’s parinirvana. However, His Holiness chose to relate the biography as presented by Jetsun Taranatha. As one of the greatest scholars of Indian history in Tibetan history, Taranatha’s knowledge and account of Padmasambhava’s life and activities is exceptional. But also, continuing the theme of aiding disciples to connect with the great masters, Gyalwang Karmapa also noted that he had chosen this biography with the thought that it would make it easier for listeners to connect with Guru Rinpoche.
His Holiness concluded the session by guiding a meditation on compassion.
27th Kagyu Monlam: Day Five
Karmapa completes the Oral Transmission of Milarepa’s Biography