February 26, 2015 – Vajra Vidya, Sarnath
The first month of the Tibetan New Year is called the Month of Miracles since the Buddha demonstrated different miracles each day for fifteen days. It is said that during this month, the effect of practice is multiplied one hundred thousand times. February 26th is the eighth day of this first month; in general, the eighth day of any month is the one for engaging in the practice of the Medicine Buddha. In this way the Gyalwang Karmapa chose an especially propitious time to perform a long-life ceremony for his teacher, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche.
The evening before, the Karmapa could be seen roaming the shrine hall as he directed a crew of monks to transform the main altar and area around it. A large and heavy throne along with its tall table was moved from one side to another and then back again while onlookers smiled, remembering how Marpa put Milarepa through building up and taking down the many towers. The central focus unfurled beneath the central golden Buddha, was an impressive scroll painting of a brilliant red Amitayus with three faces and six arms. This practice is special to the Karmapa’s Kamtsang tradition and is known as the Long-Life Practice Uniting the Three Roots. It is the same practice that Thrangu Rinpoche performed for the benefit of the Karmapa just six days before.
The puja began today a little after 6:30 in the morning, when the reed horns accompanied the Karmapa into the shrine hall and to the center of the altar where he lit a large butter lamp, its light reflecting softly off his face as he bowed toward it. Once on his throne, the Karmapa began the puja, leading it with his resonant voice filling the shrine hall. The preparations for the long life blessing ended with the profound verse on the nature of mind:
Without birth, death does not come.
- Radiating, nothing radiates—brilliance.
Withdrawing, no reference to self or other.
Duality gone, indivisible the continuum.
Free of dependence is the nature’s expanse.
In the pregnant pause that followed, Thrangu Rinpoche entered the shrine hall wearing a brilliant red pandita’s hat, its long curve adorned in three gold bands representing the mastery of all three vehicles. He sat on a throne that was placed below the image of Amitayus, the blessings of long life flowing to Thrangu Rinpoche as the Karmapa offered a mandala and circled the long life arrow through the air, its five-colored pendants swinging in all directions to gather blessings and the power of the life force. Wearing his famous Activity Hat and standing in front of Thrangu Rinpoche, with a powerful grace the Karmapa offered him the long life substances, such as the long-life nectar, pills, torma, and arrow. The Karmapa then returned to his throne, and as his representative, Tulku Damchö holding a brilliant golden, red, and blue square of brocade in his hands offered to Thrangu Rinpoche the traditional eight auspicious substances, the seven articles of royalty, and the eight auspicious signs. The ceremony concluded with tashi prayers for auspiciousness and long life accompanied by a interlude of telescoping radung horns, cymbals, drums, and reed horns which carried the prayers into the wide universe.
During his teaching the following day, the Karmapa commented to the great joy of everyone: “…the main thing about my visit to Vajra Vidya Institute is that I was able to make a long life offering to Kyabje Thrangu Rinpoche yesterday. I was very glad to make it with such a strong prayer that Kyabje Rinpoche will be able to live long in order to bring great benefit to the teachings and beings. The feeling I got is that Rinpoche will be able to live a long time and bring great benefit—I’m very happy about this.”