To begin, I would like to express my greetings to everyone who has come to this 37th Kagyu Monlam: His Eminence Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, who has come to preside over the Monlam; Kyabje Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche, Kyabje Mingyur Rinpoche, Kyabje Bokar Yangsi Rinpoche, and all the other lamas and tulkus; to Khenpo Lodrö Donyö Rinpoche and all the other khenpos and acharyas; to the vast gathering of the sangha; to all the members of the public, monastic and lay, who have gathered here from all over the world; and to everyone listening to this over the internet.
Now I would like to express my congratulations and Tashi Delek at the close of this 37th Kagyu Monlam, which has been virtuous in the beginning, middle and end. This Monlam opened with the three-day Pre-Monlam teachings of excellent meditation instructions by the scholar and practitioner Kyabje Mingyur Rinpoche, who gave direct advice that was easy for everyone to understand and practical. Then, during the actual Kagyu Monlam, His Eminence Gyaltsab Rinpoche gave teachings on the Kadampa master Kharak Gomchung’s Seventy-Two Exhortations, which in fact is a teaching on the stages of the path in verse form. These days it is rare for this text to be taught, so to receive it from Rinpoche along with such pith instructions that get to the point is a great fortune we should feel happy and rejoice about.
Likewise, as Khenpo Lodrö Donyö Rinpoche and everyone concerned have long hoped, yesterday during this Monlam and in this sacred place, Kyabje Vajradhara Bokar Yangsi Rinpoche received the barma rabjung vows of going forth from the embodiment of learning, venerability, and goodness, His Eminence Gyaltsab Rinpoche. For Yangsi Rinpoche to first don the saffron robes of a monk here should be considered an important event of this Monlam, and I see it as historically significant for the lineage.
What we now know as the Kagyu Monlam was begun by the previous Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche and then continued by the previous Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche. Thus, I have the hope that, following the aspirations of his predecessor, Yangsi Rinpoche will be the one who continues to uphold and sustain this Monlam when he reaches an appropriate age.
Last year (according to the Western calendar), two elderly Kamtsang Kagyu lamas outside of Tibet, Bagyod Rinpoche and Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, both passed away. They were disciples of the Sixteenth Karmapa, and both gave great service to the teachings with a pure, altruistic mind.
When Bagyod Rinpoche fled Tibet in 1959, he was able to bring with him many sacred objects and ritual items despite the many difficulties he faced. But he gave them all, holding nothing back, to Gyalwang Rigpe Dorje, and to this day those items are still used heavily during the Tsechu, Gutor, and other major pujas at Rumtek Monastery. Likewise, he established a Tibetan settlement in South India and was like a parent who nurtured and raised the monastery and community. It is also well-known that he had great powers from his practice of Manjushri Yamantaka. Though Rinpoche has now passed away, just as today’s sun will shine again tomorrow, his reincarnation will definitely come. I will bear full responsibility for his recognition, so please do not worry.
Likewise, according to the wishes of the Sixteenth Karmapa, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche went to Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in America, where he spent many decades, working tirelessly day and night to establish a dharma center and retreat center. He traveled widely to teach dharma and to guide students. His accomplishments for the teachings were greater than those of many who are called tulkus these days.
During the Offerings to the Gurus in this Kagyu Monlam, we have prayed to fulfill all the aspirations and wishes of these two great lamas who have passed, and we have made vast offerings to them. First and foremost, if we can supplicate the gurus without forgetting, practice their instructions without forgetting, and benefit other sentient beings without forgetting, we will fulfill the gurus’ aspirations. We ourselves awaken to buddhahood by doing this, and repay the kindness of sentient beings by doing this.
To sum it up, this Kagyu Monlam has been completed in a meaningful and auspicious way. This is primarily because of His Eminence Gyaltsab Rinpoche presiding over the Monlam, and because of the compassion of Kyabje Zurmang Rinpoche, Kyabje Mingyur Rinpoche, and the other lamas, tulkus, great beings, khenpos and spiritual masters. It is also due to the blessings of many thousands of members of the sangha bringing their minds together as one and directing them toward the dharma. All the members of the public, monastic and lay, have been making prayers and aspirations with the same intention. The nature of things is that through this, the results will be auspicious even if the intent is not, and we will accomplish something even without meaning to. In particular, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the workers and gurusevakas for this Monlam. Many among you have served the Monlam for over a decade. I rejoice in this from my heart and feel deeply grateful.
A monlam or aspiration is not merely saying, “May it be so!” It is something we must put into practice and that we must sustain. In the Mahayana, we speak about bodhichitta. That is foremost an aspiration. Without it, there are no bodhisattvas, let alone buddhas. We need to see if we can keep our bodhichitta and aspirations until we reach the essence of enlightenment or buddhahood. There are two types of bodhichitta, aspirational and engaged. When we are working now toward the Kagyu Monlam, I think this is engaged bodhichitta. So I’d like to ask you all to not get discouraged. Please take heart, find energy in your bodies, and keep up the good work.
I would like to ask you all to take all the virtue we have gathered in this great Monlam, combine it with all the virtue gathered in the three times, and dedicate it so that the teachings of Buddhism may flourish and sentient beings may be happy. In particular, please dedicate it so that His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who for us Tibetans is like our eyes and our heart, may live long and so that his wishes may be spontaneously fulfilled. Please dedicate it so that the great beings who uphold the great dharma lineages and that of the Yungdrung Bön also live long, and so that their activities flourish.
In particular, please dedicate it so that through teaching, practice, and activity by way of the union of revulsion and devotion, the glorious Dakpo Kagyu tradition may increase just as the rivers swell in summer. We also should pray that all the Kagyu lineages—the Drikung, Taklung, Drukpa, Barom, Yelpa, Kamtsang, and so forth—may be harmonious and have pure samaya. May the beings who uphold the teachings be harmonious, always praising each other, and may the sponsors of the teachings have increasing merit.
Please pray that all degenerations in the world such as disease, famine, and war may be pacified. In particular, for over four months from last September until this January, terrible wildfires have raged in Australia, burning forests equal in size to South Korea and killing tens of millions of living creatures, it is reported. Similarly, a severe contagious disease has struck China, killing over six hundred people and leaving tens of thousands of patients in critical condition. This has brought great fear and difficulty for everyone around the entire world. The primary cause for this is harming wild animals, it is taught. Thus, according to our abilities, we should give up eating meat for one month, one year, or for the rest of our lives. Even if we find that we must eat domesticated animals, it is best not to eat the flesh of wild animals. It also goes without saying that no matter how large or small the harm we cause to another being’s life, it is the cause of sooner or later experiencing the same difficulties ourselves. In brief, I ask you please make dedications and aspirations so that your own benefit and others’ benefit is spontaneously and effortlessly accomplished according to the dharma.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say a few words about my own situation. I have been staying in a sort of retreat. My health has improved, I’ve lost some weight, and I am certainly happy. What I would primarily like to explain today are the two things I would like to accomplish or do while in retreat.
The first is that the Jewel Ornament of Liberation is the most important work written by the King of Dharma, Gampopa. It is the only text on the lam rim or stages of the path that teaches the union of the Mahamudra and Kadampa lineages. I have been searching for a commentary on it for a long time, but it is difficult to find complete, old commentaries. There are some instructions on it by Zurmang Lekshe Drayang, but he did not write any direct commentary on the words or their meaning, and the text is also incomplete.
In recent times, I obtained a commentary on the Jewel Ornament by Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa, but it primarily discusses it from the aspect of the stories. There is also Revealing the Hidden Meaning by Khenpo Lodrö Donyö and Resolving Doubts by Dzigar Khenpo Trinley Dorje, and there are also annotations by a Drikung khenpo. But there seems to be no complete commentary.
For the last few years, therefore, we have held conferences on the Jewel Ornament where we have been engaging in detailed research into this profound foundational text of the Dakpo Kagyu by way of comparing editions, searching for the sources of citations, and resolving difficult points. My responsibility has been to review the results of research by the participants in those conferences, reexamine everything carefully, and compile it into a major commentary on the Jewel Ornament that comments on both the text and the meaning. Generally, I have no confidence or education to be able to write such a major commentary, but just as the Tibetan saying goes, when you have no feet to walk on, you have to hobble on your knees. If I do not write one, it would be hard to find anyone to do it. So my hope is that, even if I can’t finish the entire commentary while in retreat, I can at least finish half.
The second thing is that while I am abroad, opportunities to meet with Gyalwa Thaye Dorje are a little easier. I have now met with him twice. During the first meeting, we got to know each other and established trust. Our second meeting was about the topic of Kunzik Shamar Rinpoche’s reincarnation. On that occasion, we collaborated to write a long life prayer for Shamar Rinpoche together. There were primarily two reasons for writing it.
The first is that it has been about five years since Shamar Rinpoche passed away, so the reincarnation has probably already been reborn. Thus, if we think about the signs and connections, it is better to recite a long life prayer than to continue reciting the prayer for his swift rebirth, so we wrote the prayer.
The second is that in the future, it is extremely important that Shamar Rinpoche’s reincarnation be recognized without any mistake or confusion, without any “our side” or “their side.” Having a unanimous recognition is absolutely crucial for Buddhism in general and our lineage in particular, and with this in mind, Gyalwa Thaye Dorje and I intend to cooperate in the search and recognition. The prayer illustrates that commitment.
Generally, my taking interest in Shamar Rinpoche’s reincarnation is a way to follow the example of Gyalwang Rigpe Dorje’s activity. This is because the Tenth Shamar Chödrup Gyatso was accused of leading the Gorkha armies into Tibet in the eighteenth century. When he passed away, the Tibetan government prohibited the enthronement of reincarnations of the Shamar Rinpoche. For over 170 years, the reincarnations of Shamar Rinpoche could not be publicly recognized.
Then, after fleeing to India in 1959, the Sixteenth Karmapa requested permission from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to recognize and enthrone Shamar Rinpoche. Among all of the great lamas, contemporary or past, who have upheld the teachings of the Kamtsang Kagyu, there is almost none who was not recognized by the Sixteenth Karmapa. We do not hold any doubts or suspicions about them. It is the same with Shamar Rinpoche. Not only that, needless to say, the Sixteenth Karmapa made a huge effort to recognize him, so it must have had great significance. That’s why it makes an ordinary person like me think: If Gyalwang Rigpe Dorje went to such great effort, then it must be very important.
In his history of the Nyingma and Sarma traditions of tantra, Kunzik Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo wrote this about the Tenth Shamar, “However, no one could possibly block the permanent, single, pervasive activity the buddhas engage in spontaneously.” As Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo wrote, an obstacle did arise for the Tenth Shamar’s activity. Recognizing his reincarnation was prohibited, and his Yangpachen Monastery was converted to a Geluk monastery. But in the end the obstacles could not block him, and the reincarnations were once again recognized, and Yangpachen Monastery was once again returned to the Kagyu. Similarly, there were external and internal obstacles to the activity of the previous Shamar, Mipam Chökyi Lodrö, but they were not obstacles for him alone; I think they were obstacles for our entire Kamtsang Kagyu. When obstacles arise, you must do something to dispel them; giving up is to give in to the obstacles, and how could that be right?
I see the reincarnation of Shamar Rinpoche as a crucial point for bringing unity to the Kamtsang, and am putting effort into it. If the reincarnation of Shamar Rinpoche is disputed, in the future, all the Kamtsang high lamas will be disputed and the Kamtsang will be completely split. The attachment and hatred will be the same as in a feud that lasts for generations. If we fall under its power, all the majesty and power of over nine hundred years of history will be destroyed. As I see it, everyone will scorn and despise the Kamtsang, and there is the danger that in the end, there will be nothing left that we could call the Karma Kamtsang.
So I think that it is critical for us to reconsider this, looking at it from a wider perspective and taking a long-term view. I’m just one little person talking about thinking big, but it is still too early to say whether it will work out as I hope. The main thing is that it is important for everyone to support and pray for this.
I haven’t much else to say. To close, I would like to wish that in this new year, you may all be healthy, that all your dharmic activities will be accomplished as you wish, and that we may see each other again soon. Thank you.