KARMAPA PAST ACTIVITIES: October-December, 2010
- 28th Kagyu Monlam: Day Eight
- The Marmei Monlam Lights up the World
- 28TH KAGYU MONLAM: DAY Seven
- 28TH KAGYU MONLAM: DAY Six
- 28TH KAGYU MONLAM: DAY Five
- 28TH KAGYU MONLAM: DAY FOUR
- Compassion in Action: Karmapa visits Medical Facility and Monks' Kitchen
- 28th Kagyu Monlam: Day Three
- 28th Kagyu Monlam: Day Two
- 28th Kagyu Monlam Begins
- Guru Rinpoche Empowerment
- LAMP FOR THE PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT, TEACHINGS BY KARMAPA: DAY Three
- LAMP FOR THE PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT, TEACHINGS BY KARMAPA: DAY Two
- LAMP FOR THE PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT, TEACHINGS BY KARMAPA: DAY ONE
- Karmapa 900 Opening CeremonY, Day 2: Protecting the Karma Kagyu Teachings
- Gyalwang Karmapa Leads Assembly in Dusum Khyenpa Guru Yoga
- Karmapa 900 Launches Year-long Commemoration of Founder’s Birth: Karma Kagyu Lineage Looks to its Past with Gratitude, to its Future with Hope
- Gyalwang Karmapa Offers Clean Water to the People of BodhGaya as a Gift of Gratitude
- Karmapa 900 Website Launch: December 7, 2010
- GYALWANG KARMAPA VISITS THE ROOT INSTITUTE
- Upcoming Live Webcast Dates and Events
- AKSHOBHYA RETREAT 2010
- GYALWANG KARMAPA PAYS HOMAGE AT MAHABODHI STUPa, ATTENDS GURU RINPOCHE TSOg, and VISITS BHUTANESE MONASTERy
- GYALWANG KARMAPA ARRIVES AT TERGAR MONASTEry, BODHGAYa
- Travel schedule OF GyALWANG KARMAPA'S winter touR
- KAGYUR TRANSMISSION CONCLUDES
- Request to devotees for photographs of His Holiness Karmapa, in particular the 16th Karmapa
- Karmapa successfully completes mumbai Tour
- Karmapa Attends Opening Ceremony of Buddha Vihara
- Back to Karmapa Current activities
28th Kagyu Monlam: Day Eight
December 22, 2010 - Bodhgaya
Sojong & Long-Life Offering to The Three Senior Lamas
On the last day of the 28th Kagyu Monlam, in the early morning session, three small thrones had been set up facing His Holiness's higher throne, in preparation for the long-life offerings to three of His Holiness’ teachers: Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche, Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche, and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, who even though they are advanced in age, due to the strength of their bodhisattva vow, continue to stay in this world to turn the wheel of Dharma for the benefit of beings.
All three Ripoches who needed help to stand and walk and yet in spite of his physical handicap came to this auspicious event demonstrating their indomitable spirit, teaching to us to persevere no matter what. These three Lamas are from the last generation of Lamas who were raised in Tibet before the communist invasion and whose presence in the world helps to maintain the Buddha‘s teachings.
As usual on the last day of the Kagyu Monlam a row of banners with emblems of the eight auspicious symbols were lined up on either side of the Shrine. A monk's staff and bowl were at His Holiness's throne in preparation for the alms procession later in the morning.
First, Mingyur Rinpoche arrived. Then the young Kyabje Jamgon Kontrul Rinpoche and Kyabje Gyaltsap Rinpoche arrived together. Finally all the Rinpoches had arrived and were seated.
Today on the last day of the Monlam, there are three new shining Buddhas on a tiered shrine to the right of His Holiness’s throne. Arrayed in front of the altar’s eight tall tormas are rows of colorful victory banners and victory pendants, along with brocade umbrellas, their red and golden streamers gently moving in the early morning breeze. Facing the Karmapa and set in a line across the central aisle are three brocade thrones with high, yellow backs. They will soon be occupied by the three main elders of the Karmapa’s lineage: Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche, Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. The three senior teachers are being honored and celebrated today by His Holiness, major tulkus in the lineage, teachers, and the thousands who have gathered for the Monlam. The three will receive a long life ceremony bestowed by the Karmapa, an encomium composed by him, and a set of three books, one on each lama, especially and elegantly printed for the occasion. His Holiness has personally overseen all of these special arrangements.
This early morning, the sound of the gyalings comes from the direction of the stupa. It is here, near the Vajra Asana that His Holiness has been waiting with the three lamas. Entering from the door next to the shrine, he sits on his throne to give sojong vows for the last time during this twenty-eighth Kagyu Monlam. For the recitation of the Sanskrit texts, he moves to the lower throne and then back to the higher one as the usual breakfast of tea and bread is offered to everyone.
After His Holiness puts on the traditional semi-circular red hat of the Kagyu lamas, the ritual of the Prostration and Offering to the Sixteen Elders begins. It is an especially appropriate practice for this occasion as the text supplicates:
All you Arhats, the elders who open
The precious vessel of the Buddha’s words,
I invite you in order to spread the genuine Dharma.
Since my offerings are for beings’ benefit, I pray that you come.
Following the beginning stanzas, we find this refrain in the verses praising the sixteen elders:
Grant your blessing that the gurus live long
And that the Dharma flourish.
As the Karmapa has repeatedly pointed out, the flourishing of the Dharma relies greatly on the activities of the teachers: the two are intimately connected.
After this supplication and praise, the music of gyalings escorts the three Rinpoches as they enter from under the spreading branches of the Bodhi Tree and take their places on the three thrones: Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche sits in the middle with Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche on his right and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche on his left. From the practices recited daily, His Holiness leads the section that invites the Buddha with fervent praise and asks him to remain. This theme of supplicating the three lamas to stay in this world for the benefit of living beings and the teachings will be the central focus of the ceremony this morning.
It is Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche who first comes to stand in front of the Karmapa’s throne. Over the loud speakers, we hear the very moving voices of the Karmapa intoning prayers for his well-being and long life and Thrangu Rinpoche repeating after him, “Everything I have done, may it mature into my long life.” These aspirations are followed by a prayer to Amitabha, the deity of longevity. As his mantra is recited, the Karmapa places the black and gold Activity Hat on his head and with a delicately carved long life vase, he gives Thrangu Rinpoche a long blessing that includes the words “May you attain the siddhi of everlasting long life.” Then the Karmapa bends forward to touch foreheads with Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche in the traditional Tibetan greeting of respect and warmth. He is offered a long white kata and red cloth blessing cord, and offers the Karmapa a kata in return.
This same ceremony is repeated for Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. Many of their older students have come from abroad especially for this ceremony to be with their precious teachers who have guided their lives for so many years.
After the long life blessings, the Karmapa speaks of meditation, saying that traditionally we would now rest in a samadhi deep in the ultimate expanse of all phenomena and sustain the intention that everything positive would ripen for the three lamas. Today, however, we will rest for five minutes in meditation on vast loving-kindness. This session ends with symbols, gyalings, and drums.
Then Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche and a monk unroll a long scroll of the Karmapa’s encomium for Thrangu Rinpoche, which is written on cloth and held high by monks as Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche reads:
Thus prayed the Son of the Buddha, the King of Dharma, the Karmapa, while dwelling in the Land of Magadha in the Year of the Tiger:
You, great Bearer of the Vajra by the name of Karma Lodro Ringluk Maway Senge, having in your previous and preceding lifetimes gathered the accumulation of merit and made fine aspirations, took birth for the sake of sentient beings and the Shakya’s teachings. Therefore you studied completely the true Dharma and worldly areas of knowledge from a youthful age. By practicing the three trainings, you have brought benefit to creatures of all kinds and caused the essence of the teachings to flourish as well. Through your fine conduct, you have lived to a ripe age. For this, I praise and acclaim you most highly and bestow upon you this proclamation. So too in the future, for the sake of beings, those who stand tall or walk bent over, may your life remain as steadfast as the sun and moon throughout all time. May any wish that arises in your mind be spontaneously accomplished and fulfilled. Thus do I aspire and pray one-pointedly.
While music fills the air, the scroll is rolled up, and with a deep bow, Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche offers it to Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche. This same process will be repeated for the two other elder teachers: Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche, whose long name is Karma Tendzin Trinley Ngedon Chokyi Nyima, and for the great Bearer of the Vajra, Tsultrim Gyamtso.
Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche then arises to begin the offering of one of the three glorious buddha statues to each of the individual lamas. As they are presented, each teacher rises to touch their foreheads to the buddha before it is placed on the table before them. During the prayers that follow, His Holiness in a loving gesture offers rice in the direction of the three lamas.
To make an auspicious connection, everyone is offered rice with cashews, raisins, and coconut, scooped into small dishes made of dried leaves. Praises and dedications are chanted and then are read out the names of all the Labrangs (Administrative Offices) who are making offerings to the three elders, beginning with the highest lineage holders: the Karmapa’s Tsurphu Labrang, then from Kyabje Situ Rinpoche’s Palpung Labrang, Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche’s Labrang, Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche’s Labrang, Pawo Rinpoche’s Labrang, and Treho Rinpoche’s Labrang. These are followed by the Kagyu Monlam Committee, and then students from the Dharma centers and the sponsors of the three lamas. Three representatives from each of the groups all at the same time present to the three venerated elders the symbols of body (a statue), speech (a text), and mind (a stupa). When making offerings for a lama’s long life, these are the traditional ones, which are tied with colorful katas and here, set on trays so that is easy for the three teachers to receive this ocean of blessings. The essence all the blessings, offerings, and prayers that are presented is that the lamas’s lives remain firm as an indestructible vajra.
Finally, a set of three beautifully produced books, one on each of the lama’s lives, are offered to the three precious elders. For Thrangu Rinpoche, the book is covered in red silk and carries his picture on the cover. The book is entitled “Ocean of Philosophy,” and facing the title page is a photograph of him with the Karmapa, all surrounded by monks. The following page has a photograph of Thrangu Rinpoche and the encomium in Tibetan, followed on the next pages by translations into English and Chinese, which are provided for all the words of the book. Three stanzas each, prayers for Thrangu Rinpoche’s long life fill the next pages, beginning with Situ Rinpoche, then Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche, and Pawo Rinpoche. The layout of the pages is spacious, around the three stanzas of the supplications and also around the accompanying photos of the teacher offering the supplication and of Thrangu Rinpoche with that teacher.
The chapter on Thrangu Rinpoche’s Life and Liberation begins with a list of his eight previous incarnations and photographs from his life, including him together with the four main Kagyu tulkus whom he taught; at his monasteries in Nepal when they were under construction; with the heads of the other Tibetan traditions; with Pope Jean Paul II; on a great throne giving empowerments; reading a hand-written text, remindful of all the important texts he has published for the monastic colleges; writing calligraphy; with the large group of lamas who meet in 2002 for the Karma Kargyu at Thrangu Rinpoche's Vajra Vidya Institute in Sarnath; teaching and giving empowerments from his throne; and, of course, his inimitable smile.
The last section is a teaching from Thrangu Rinpoche on the famous Short Supplication to Vajradhara which is always chanted before his teachings, and his prayer to the Sixteenth Karmapa, Calling the Glorious Karmapa Rigpe Dorje Longingly from Afar. The final, full-page photo is of him supplicating with his palms together.
The next volume of white silk with his picture on the cover is about Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche. The format is exactly the same as the previous volume. Facing the title page, underneath the radiant photo of him is the title “Transmission by Seeing.” Following the encomium and long life prayers, the chapter on his Life and Liberation, starts with his previous two incarnations. The photos include his travel to the United States with the Sixteenth Karmapa and together with the Seventeenth in Tibet at Tsurphu; at Gyuto where he is performing a ritual with the Karmapa, remindful of all the years Tenga Rinpoche spent as the Vajra Master at Rumtek; him with the previous and present Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche; another with Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche at Benchen Monastery in Tibet and Benchen in Nepal, which Tenga Rinpoche built for Nyenpa Rinpoche; in full lama dance costume performing the Mahakala lama dance; looking at the Chakrasamvara mandala with Trungpa Rinpoche; photos from his travels to many European centers; and teaching at Rumtek. The final section gives his verses of “A Short Guru Yoga on the Root Lama Karmapa.”
The third volume is bound in deep blue silk and dedicated to Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso. Following the format of the two previous volumes, opposite the title page is a smiling photo of him and the title, “Dance of Great Bliss.” Following the prayers for his long life is the chapter on Life and Liberation. There are early photographs from Buxsar, India where he studied after leaving Tibet; with the Sixteenth Karmapa in Europe; with the previous and present Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche; with Tenga Rinpoche, Thrangu Rinpoche, and the previous Kalu Rinpoche; teaching his students Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche and Ponlop Rinpoche in Nepal and also in Sikkim many years ago at Karma Shri Nalanda Institute, the shedra at the Karmapa’s monastery in Rumtek. In Bhutan he is pictured at the nunnery he founded with the nuns who escaped with him from Tibet. Another photo shows him teaching in a large cave, the dwelling he prizes most of all, and in another he is encircled by his dancing students, and then he is dancing as well. The final chapter gives his famous Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness in a five-verse form; stanzas on How to Practice During Daily Activities; and finally, The Sky-Dragon’s Profound Roar. The last page has an image of him pointing a camera at the reader.
The long-life ceremony, which has touched the hearts of everyone present, comes to an end with the final stanzas from the Prostrations and Offerings to the Sixteen Elders:
Through the compassion of the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the three realms,
You retain the appearance of shravakas and, for as long as samsara lasts,
Will protect the Dharma and benefit beings.
May there be the auspiciousness of the great elders!
With the sound of the traditional instruments, the three lamas depart through the door to the Vajra Asana accompanied by thousands multiplied to myriads of vast and deeply felt wishes for their long lives and the success of their Dharma activity benefitting all living beings.
An Offering to the Gurus: Part I & Alms Procession
At around 10 o'clock the alms procession began. First Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche and Khenpo Lodoe Donyo Rinpoche came forward with a monk's staff in hand. Then the gelong lined up behind them. Gyaltsap Rinpoche watch as the alms procession goes by. As each monk approached the steps leading to the exit gate they were handed a large, black metal alms bowl.
A few evenings earlier, His Holiness had conducted a lively rehearsal at Tergar Monastery to ensure that we knew how to receive and hold the bowl. He had called a group of monks forward and each was handed a bowl. At that point, His Holiness handed the microphone over to one of the discipline masters, and then, to the delight of those watching, gave a comic demonstration of how not to do it—holding the bowl lopsided, holding it too high, holding it too close to the body, and so on. Then he demonstrated how to walk, with the monks following him. Suddenly he speeded up and raced round the Dukhang. Laughter filled the hall, but, as always, His Holiness, in choosing comedy, had chosen exactly the correct approach so that we would not forget the correct way to hold the bowl, with the left hand supporting the bowl beneath and the right holding the rim, or the correct pace, steady and dignified, not too slow and not too fast.
At the beginning of the alms procession there were so many gelong it was a while before the seven gelongma finally joined the line and received their bowls. Gelong and gelongma of the Taiwanese, Korean and other traditions also joined the line for the alms procession. Getsul and getsulma [novice monks and nuns] do not join the alms procession so they remained seated and the umze led them in chanting The King of Aspiration Prayers during the procession.
As the gelong and gelongma made their way along the outer circumambulation path towards the main gate, a few lay devotees standing along the circumambulation path put candies, etc into the bowls. Once we reached the main exit there were crowds of people waiting to put offerings of candy, fruit, nuts, rice, etc into the bowls.
The discipline masters and Dharmapalas were at hand for crowd control. There was a cord set up along with signs indicating to people where to stand making ample room for the gelong and gelongma to walk. On the other side of the line, there were also volunteers holding large bags; whenever the bowls became full the gelong and gelongma poured the contents of their bowls into these bags.
The purpose of the alms procession is to recall the tradition of monks and nuns begging for alms during the time of the Buddha. As Tibetan Buddhism developed monasteries developed that were sustained by the laity thus it was no longer necessary to go out for alms.
The gelong and gelongma do not keep these offerings. They are collected and distributed to different monasteries and some of the offerings are given to the poor.
At the end of the alms procession all the gelong and gelongma went to the rose garden, a beautiful park which is right next to the Mahabodhi temple and is usually not open to the public, for the final Monlam lunch.
His Holiness was seated at the very front within a white tent-like structure which had a canopy with all four sides open. There were flowers in each of the four corners and on the floor. His Holiness sat on his beautifully carved wooden chair which had been brought for the occasion. There was a bowl on the table before him.
Outside of the canopy on the right side of His Holiness sat Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche. On the left side of His Holiness was Kyabje Gyaltsap Rinpoche and Mingyur Rinpoche. All were seated on chairs with a table before them on which the bowl was set. Their attendants were standing beside their chairs.
Finally when everyone had entered and was seated, the umze began the lunch prayers. Then there was the clap of the wooden blocks, an indication to the monks and nuns that they could take up their bowls and begin their meal.
HIs Holiness who had been leaning against the back of his chair when we came in, sat up very straight, took up his bowl and began the meal and then all followed. His Holiness maintained this very straight posture for the whole meal.
At the end he said a few words in Tibetan and then in Chinese, reminding the monks and nuns of the kindness of the donors and volunteers and to dedicate their merit to them. Then he thanked the sponsors and volunteers for their meritorious work which made all of this possible.
The final prayers for the hungry spirits were said. Then His Holiness arose and left with the Rinpoches, after which all the monks and nuns got up, removed their chogus and exited the warm, sunny park.
An Offering to the Gurus: Part II
The Offering to the Gurus continued preceded by opening remarks by His Holiness.
The Lama Leads Along the Path
While the morning ceremony to honor the three elder lamas of the lineage is fresh in our minds, the Karmapa gave a short talk at the beginning of the afternoon’s session of Offering to the Gurus. He began by stating that the root of the path is the lama, the spiritual friend. We should follow a true spiritual master properly and never give up. The introduction to this practice of Offerings to the Gurus affirms:
The first of all instructions
Is not to abandon the exalted friend,
Who is the source and treasury of
All qualities, such as faith and bodhicitta.
It is difficult to recognize the nature of the mind, and without faith it will not happen. The secret mantra is based on the blessing of the lama and the lineage. To receive it, we need devotion and faith.
What is called” accomplishing the lama” does not just mean making an offering, reciting a ritual or doing a practice: it means serving the teacher with our body, speech, and mind. If we do not follow a teacher properly, we can be with hundreds of lamas without any benefit. We should follow a good lama in this life, and not just because the lama has a high status or big reputation. There are two types of lamas: one is a lama who is a learned scholar who gives us teachings, and another is a lama who instructs us on how to practice. Of the two, it is this second type on whom we should rely with great respect. A stanza or even a word from them can free us.
The Karmapa then gives refuge and bodhisattva vows as they are found in the text. He continues to say that the tendrils of myriad numbers of causes and conditions have joined together to make the pattern of our gathering. Since we are here at this essential place of practice where the Buddha became fully awakened, we should engage in the practice of genuine Dharma so that our reserve of virtue does not diminish or disappear. Beginning now and throughout our lives, we aspire to make our minds workable, to maintain our discipline, and to benefit not just ourselves but also engage in what helps others as well. If we can do this, it is wonderful. At least, we should make ourselves into a kind person.
We cannot say we are Buddhists and then avoid the practice of changing our mind. It is important to become kind and considerate people, to work on ourselves so that our conduct becomes peaceful and positive. All we do is not just for ourselves, but for all living beings. So we should make a vow to help as much as we can, and then we will not leave this life with our hands empty. Making a stash of money is of little ultimate benefit; what is truly valuable is transforming our mind and behavior.
Appreciation Of The Sponsors, And Special Address
Appreciation Of The Sponsors
As the assembly gathered for the fourth session of the day, a space was cleared between the front rows where the highest lamas were seated. Fewer than a dozen cushions were set out, and monks slowly began escorting forward a small number of people whose generosity had played a crucial role in making the 28th Kagyu MonlamChenmo possible. When all had been seated facing His Holiness, with Lama Chodrak in the front row, the special appreciation of sponsors commenced.
After expressing his gratitude for their support, His Holiness conducted a special ceremony in which each sponsor personally, and the entire assembly, were blessed one by one, for auspiciousness, by the eight auspicious substances and symbols.
Special Address: Environmental Protection, Modern Education For Monastics, And Health And Hygiene
His Holiness prefaced his special address with the disclaimer that he had already spoken so much during the three days of teachings, and the previous eight days of Kagyu Monlam that there was little left to say. His treasure chest of Dharma was in fact not inexhaustible, he stated, and was in fact now running out. Nevertheless, as usual His Holiness did indeed have apparently endless reserves of Dharma wisdom to draw on, and went on to outline three major topics.
First, elaborating on an issue that has long been of great concern to him, the Gyalwang Karmapa spoke on the urgent need to act to protect the natural environment. Global warming has had a particularly strong impact on the Himayalan region, he noted, urging monasteries in the region to take the lead, and to make a strong impact on the issue through their own environmental protection activities. His Holiness noted that the Karma Kagyu monasteries and nunneries have made inroads in that direction, holding conferences to raise awareness and taking concrete measure in environmental protections. Tens of thousands of trees have been planted, and the Gyalwang Karmapa warmly commended that fact, but cautioned that environmental action should not be limited to the monastery. To do it in a way that the broader community is included and involved would be very good, His Holiness added. This is not something to be done by working out a philosophical position on the issue, or making prayers and offering tormas. Rather, urging his followers to take practical steps to protect the environment, His Holiness said that what is necessary is direct action.
The Gyalwang Karmapa’s second major point related to the education of young monks and nuns. Generally, each monastery runs its own affairs, and maintains its practice, ritual and educational programs, he commented. This is worthy of praise and a cause of rejoicing, yet,he added, until we are enlightened, there will always be room for improvement in our activities. Monasteries are home to large numbers of young monks and nuns, and, as they now do, it is important that they continue to develop skills in the areas of ritual practice and monastic study. Yet there is also a need for them to receive a modern education. When they grow older, if they remain in the monasteries they will require such an education in order to uphold the Dharma in a way suited to modern society. In the event that they they later choose not to continue their lives as monastics, they will need skills that allow them to function within society and earn a livelihood. The monastery has a responsibility to provide such an education, and could not content itself with caring for their physical needs, as if they were just so many horses kept in a corral. Along with a Dharma education, monks and nuns should receive a basic grounding in science and other basic subjects. Otherwise, they run the risk of being left behind by the world, he said. His Holiness commented that he himself took a personal interest in studying such subjects. The Gyalwang Karmapa said he had no specific programs to suggest, but would like to ask the lamas, leaders of the monasteries and nunneries and others to begin consulting on how to achieve these aims.
The third point that His Holiness addressed was health and hygiene. His Holiness pointed out that he has not had the opportunity to slip into all the monasteries’ kitchens to see for himself how much sugar was being consumed and what the level of cleanliness was. Yet, he joked, he would be delighted to be able to make inspection tours to determine how salty the food was. In any case, His Holiness stressed the importance of keeping the utensils and cookware very clean. Tibetans and other people around the Himalayan region tend to use a great deal of salt, butter and sugar, and can hardly eat their food if it has no chili. But because monasteries are feeding large numbers of people they have a serious responsibility to work to improve health and hygiene in their kitchens. The point is not simply to make the food better tasting, but to ensure that it nourishes the body.
As he often does, the Gyalwang Karmapa articulated a vision wherein such care about health and hygiene should begin in the monasteries and nunneries, but then spread to the surrounding society.
His Holiness concluded his special address with Dharma advice, stressing the importance of taming one’s own mind, and becoming a good person who accepts responsibility for making positive contributions to the world.
Our parents cared for us and did not cast us aside, His Holiness said, and this value that they saw in us is something for us to live up to. It is up to us to make this life we have received from them meaningful. The Gyalwang Karmapa spoke of his childhood in a nomad community in Tibet. The soft green grass served as a couch and a bed, and this closeness to the natural environment brought with it a respect for that environment. In the modern world, and particularly in urban environments, His Holiness noted, we have become increasingly alienated from nature.
In offering a final message of thanks, His Holiness reported that nearly a thousand people had joined together to work to make the Kagyu Monlam possible. He singled out the contributions of Lama Chodrak, who had been serving the Kagyu Monlam for several decades. The Gyalwang Karmapa next thanked the sponsors, and stressed the importance of making vast dedications that are free of pride.
Reserving his final remarks to the kindness of all in attendance, His Holiness expressed his appreciation to the many lamas there for blessing the Monlam with their presence. He praised the sangha for their steadfast contribution, and then pointed out the tremendous efforts made by international attendees, the hardship and sacrifice they had to undergo to join the great mandala of the Kagyu Monlam. It was this vast assembly of people from around the world who made the Kagyu Monlam possible, and he thanked everyone warmly, before the final reading of the Great Dedication of this 28th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo.
Closing Dedication Prayers
For eight days the assembly of Rinpoches, monks, nuns and laypeople had gathered under the Bodhi tree in the presence of His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa and Rinpoches of the Kagyu lineage in order to offer prayers for the well-being of the world and all sentient beings.
Throughout the Monlam His Holiness had stressed our connection from beginningless time with all sentient beings, our dependence on them, and the need for all Dharma practice to arise from a basis of bodhicitta, always bearing the welfare of others in mind. He had emphasised the wide reach and inclusiveness of the Dharma, and warned of the danger of being partisan: the mistaken mindset which thinks only of ‘our lineage’, ‘our monastery’, ’our teachers’ to the exclusion of others. Even criticising another faith, he had admonished us, might be construed as abandoning the Dharma. When he gave the Akshobhya empowerment and instructed us in the practices associated with it, he repeatedly reminded us that it should be not only for our own sake but for the benefit of all sentient beings.
So it is fitting that each year the Monlam concludes with the great prayers for dedication of merit and declarations of auspiciousness including The Great Aspiration and Dedications; Mila’s Aspiration and the Aspiration for the Well-Being of Tibet; Marpa’s Song of Auspiciousness; The Dharma Blaze Aspiration.
During the The Auspiciousness of the Great Encampment, the assembly chants the memorable lines:
May people from different lands with different languages,
And of different races,
Frequently assemble here in joy and ease.
May that auspiciousness prevail.
And looking across what remains of the stone foundations and ancient relics in the Mahabodhi grounds at the joyful faces of more than 7000 people —Tibetans, other Himalayan peoples, Chinese, Europeans, Malaysians, Koreans, Vietnamese, Americans, a score of other nationalities—it seems that this aspiration has already been fulfilled under the leadership of the Gyalwang Karmapa.
Finally, there is a vigorous waving of khatags [white silk scarves] as the 28th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo concludes with Prayers to Accomplish the Truth and the words:
May the world have the good fortune of happiness!
We ask that the world be made happy.
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The Marmei Monlam Lights up the World
December 21, 2010 - Bodhgaya
Spheres of red and yellow lights descending from the outer path around the stupa enfold in their bright warmth all who’ve gathered this evening. In addition to the international sangha of ordained and lay people, there are also dignitaries who have come from afar to join in this celebration. The steps leading from the back gate down to the Bodhi Tree have been turned into a stage for the performances.
Tonight His Holiness is serving as the Master of Ceremonies, announcing each group and making brief comments. The first group is composed of Tibetan monks who stand with their palms together, filling the whole space of the stairs with the glowing presence of their yellow robes. His Holiness comments that te Sanskrit language comes first since India was the source of Dharma. In resonant tones, the monks chant the refuge, praise of the Buddha, and before the dedication, the epitome of the Buddha’s teachings, which the Karmapa cites often:
Do not do anything that is wrong.
Conduct yourself with utmost virtue.
Completely tame your own mind.
This is the teaching of the Buddha.
Following this is a short practice of the four-armed Chenrezik that includes chanting of Om Mani Padme Hum.
Second is a group of Chinese monks and nuns in bright orange and yellow robes, who chant a supplication to the buddhas of the ten directions. Recorded music gives amplitude to the chant and at the end, they toss bits of metallic paper that catch the light as they fall to the ground.
In gray and brown robes, the Korean monks and nuns chant a beautiful prayer recited when making offerings. One monk, who has a beautiful and moving voice, sings acapella for a while with the others bowing from time to time. Then they join in the singing with a close harmony that intensifies the feeling of devotion.
The fourth group is composed of Vietnamese monks in burnt gold robes and carrying various small instruments: a bell on a stick, a wooden fish drum, a hand bell, and a small drum on a long handle that is tapped with a curved stick. They offer a captivating chant as their voices seem to move round in circles. They end with a very fast chant spurred on by the wooden hand drum.
The Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts is represented by four women in front and four men in the back, all wearing the traditional Tibetan dress. His Holiness comments that they will sing a prayer that is an aspiration for the well-being of Tibet (Bo yul bde smon). In particular, it is dedicated for the well-being of those who suffered during this year’s disasters in Tibet.
The sixth group is a blend of lay disciples from several countries in the West. The Karmapa commented that we should “collectively make the aspiration that people of all nationalities come together and make aspiration prayers.” In English and German, the group sings “Silent Night” (a traditional Christmas carol, now being sung in the West during the holiday season). The final version is a new one that includes Om mani Padme Hung and the wish that “people’s minds rest silently” and ‘awake clearly in peace.”
The following group has eighteen of Khenpo Tsultrim Rinpoche’s students from Taiwan, who sing a vajra song in Chinese, accompanied by gestures and recorded music. His Holiness remarked that it is especially appropriate to celebrate him this evening as a long life mandala had been offered to him this morning. The fact that the song is in Chinese is a sign that “the great kindness of the lama can penetrate many languages.”
The next performer is Kelsang Burkhar, (daughter of the translator Ngodup Burkhar), who offers a song of gratitude to Bokar Rinpoche. His Holiness notes that this “shows that youth of the twenty-first century can feel gratitude to their lama.” She sings, “Thank you for teaching me still.”
Before the final singing of the Lamp Prayer, there is a fifteen-minute slide show presenting the life and activity of the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa. His Holiness mentioned that he had wanted it to be more extensive but time was short as there were so many events this year. “Yet,” he said, “I hope it will inspire you.” The photographs ranged from the early years of the Karmapa in Tibet through his building of Rumtek Monastery, his residence in India, and travels throughout the world. In some of the images, the resemblance between the Sixteenth and the Seventeenth Karmapas is remarkable. (If you have pictures to contribute to this project of archiving photographs of the Sixteenth Karmapa, please contact: Karmapapictureproject@gmail.com.)
For the last event, all the groups who performed come together on the stairs to face His Holiness who sits before the Bodhi Tree with the Vajra Asana beneath. First everyone repeats after the Karmapa the prayer composed by Lord Atisha:
I offer this amazing, wondrous bright lamp
To the one thousand buddhas of this fortunate eon.
Lamas, yidams, dakinis, dharma protectors,
And the gatherings of deities in the mandalas.
Of all the pure realms of the infinite ten directions,
My parents in the fore, may every sentient being
In this lifetime and all the places they take birth
See the pure realms of the perfect buddhas directly
And then become inseparable from Amitabha.
Out of the power of the truth of the Three Jewels
And the deities of the Three Roots I’ve made this prayer.
Please grant your blessings that it be quickly accomplished.
Then everyone lights their lamps: some are tea lamps in circular flower-petal holders made of simple pottery and other are flickering candles powered by batteries. Once these lights glow throughout the darkness of the night, the Lamp Song is sung in Tibetan, English, and Chinese. After a request to remember the environment and carefully dispose of the lamps, His Holiness closes with the aspiration prayer that everyone enjoy a happiness that is unceasing.
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28TH KAGYU MONLAM: DAY Seven
December 21, 2010 - Bodhgaya
SESSION ONE: SOJONG VOWS, MEDICINE BUDDHA SADHANA & KANGYUR PROCESSION
This cool December morning after all the monks and nuns were seated, the Rinpoches arrived and took their seats. Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche, Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche, Khenpo Lodrö Dönyö Rinpoche, and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche were there. Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche and Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, who arrived in Bodh Gaya yesterday, were also able to attend.
His Holiness arrived before dawn, sat beneath the bodhi tree and bestowed the sojong vows, reminding us of our motivation, to take the vows for the benefit of beings.
After the Sanskrit prayers, the umze with his voice resonating over the intercom, never missing a beat, went into the Ritual offering to the Medicine Buddha and the Seven Tathagatas, which is now conveniently available in a supplementary book which accompanies the Monlam prayer book.
At 8 am all the gelong and gelongma, who were to participate in carrying volumes of the Kangyur for the Kangyur procession, lined up near the entrance to the Shrine to receive the volume they were to carry.
During the short, evening rehearsal of the Kangyur procession two days ago, His Holiness demonstrated how to take the volume with two hands and touch it to your forehead before putting it on your left shoulder. During the rehearsal His Holiness said that this edition of the Kangyur contained 103 volumes. This year he wanted all seven of the gelongma present at the Kagyu Monlam to participate in the Kangyur procession. Thus His Holiness explained this year there would be 96 gelong and 7 gelongma carrying the volumes of Kangyur.
We were each handed a volume, with flap facing outwards as His Holiness had specified during the rehearsal. His Holiness had stressed the importance of everyone being in unison, walking slowly, with eyes focused downwards, keeping the correct distance. There were monks on hand to assist so that everything was done according to His Holiness's instructions.
The procession made its way down the right-hand side of the Mahabodhi Stupa and up the central steps on to the outer circuit. The Kangyur was preceded by incense bearing monks, dressed in chögu and yellow tsesha [pointed hats] and two monks playing gyaling. At the head of the procession, arranged in ascending order and wearing red ceremonial hats, came Khenpo Lodrö Dönyö Rinpoche, the abbot of Mirik, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, followed by His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, wearing his Gampopa hat.
Then came the 96 bareheaded gelong and the 7 gelongma, bearing the texts balanced on their left shoulders, supported by their left hand and steadied by their right.
During the Kangyur procession the faithful devotees lined up along the circumambulation route holding flowers and katas, excitedly waiting to see the procession. They were instructed not to touch the monks and nuns or the volumes but as their devotion is so fervent and their wish to receive blessing was so strong a few just could not resist.
There were discipline masters, Dharmapalas and security people on hand to help keep the crowd in check. As one person touched my hand, the discipline master kindly told him not to do that.
There were a few instances of people trying to touch the volumes to their heads as the procession passed. Then finally one person insisted that a kata should be put on a volume of Kangyur. Even though the discipline master told him not to, he insisted and draped it around the volume, and in the end the discipline masters, some of whom were learned Khenpos, just laughed and let it be.
Finally, the procession, having completed one circumambulation, returned down the central steps and passed to the left of the Mahabodhi stupa, and all the volumes were given to the waiting monks who distributed them to the congregation in sections, just one or two sheets at a time. Thus the whole Kangyur, which contains all the teachings the Lord Buddha gave when he resided on this earth, was read within an hour or two.
SESSION TWO: CONSECRATION OF THE FRIEZE OF BUDDHA’S LIFE
Before returning to the throne for the reading of the Kangyur, His Holiness took a detour to consecrate the new sculpted stone frieze, sponsored by a Malaysian family, which runs along a section of the middle circumambulation path of the Mahabodhi Temple.
SESSION THREE: AKSHOBHYA PURIFICATION RITUAL AND DHARANI SUTRA
His Holiness returned to the Mahabodhi stupa after lunch in order to conduct a shorter Akshobhya Ritual, including the chanting of the Dharani that Thoroughly Purifies All Karmic Obscurations, and the Sutra of the Dharani that Thoroughly Liberates from All Suffering and Obscurations. His Holiness instructed those who did not have the ritual text to recite these two prayers or Akshobhya’s mantra, but not just for their own benefit; they should bear in mind all sentient beings. [Those attending the Monlam had received the empowerment but would need the transmission and the instructions before they could practice the full ritual which belongs to kriya tantra.]
His Holiness sat on a special wooden throne facing a same-height heavy, wooden, Japanese-style square altar, which was used for the offerings. The Akshobhya ritual has been preserved intact in the Japanese Vajrayana tradition, as authenticated by evidence in old Tibetan texts. Behind the altar, hung a thangka of Akshobhya Buddha, painted in Chinese style and mounted on fine, patterned paper. Akshobhya is dark blue in color, with a reddish outer robe. His left hand rests in the earth-touching gesture and his right is in the mudra of meditation. In his palm is a golden vajra.
After His Holiness concluded the ritual, he left to give a public audience at Tergar Monastery. Immediately, the specially erected shrine – the throne and the square altar, both extremely sold pieces of furniture– were dismantled, then carried with difficulty up the steps by several young monks.
At the top of the steps, their way was barred by the small entrance gate, which had to be moved to one side in order for them to ease the shrine through. The parts were then heaved into the back of a tractor-trailer to be taken to Tergar for the evening Akshobhya Purification Ritual and fire puja.
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28TH KAGYU MONLAM: DAY Six
December 20, 2010 - Bodhgaya
EARLY MORNING AUDIENCES AT TERGAR MONASTERY
As thousands of Kagyu Monlam attendees received sojong vows under the Bodhi tree at the crack of dawn, several hundred others were lining up at Tergar Monastery for group audiences with His Holiness. In response to an exceptionally large number of requests from groups attending the Monlam, the Gyalwang Karmapa added an extra session of audiences to his already packed schedule. Despite the full day of initiations and further audiences that lay ahead—and the grueling schedule he had already since well before Kagyu Monlam even began, from 6am until 8:30 am today, His Holiness offered the consummate example of selfless determination to work for others’ happiness. To ensure that none left disappointed, time after time, His Holiness graciously took khataks, invited visitors to sit, listened attentively, offered brief oral transmissions, granted blessings, answered questions, and then stood for group photos for those who requested it. He did so repeatedly without a rest for over 2 hours. After just a short break, His Holiness was whisked off to the stupa to confer the Akshobhya empowerment on all those awaiting him there.
SESSION ONE: SOJONG
Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche gave the Sojong vows this morning. Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche were also there to preside over the first session.
SESSION TWO: AKSHOBHYA EMPOWERMENT
The Akshobhya Empowerment: Entering the Vajra Family
When asked why Akshobhya is important, His Holiness responded that in general, meditation on Akshobhya is best for cleansing karma related to negative actions. Through the power of this practice of ritual purity and lustration, the force of negative karma is weakened. So when we have committed very negative actions, that is a good time to do this practice. Akshobhya is also practiced for the deceased, and this year in particular, there has been an emphasis on Akshobhya’s sutra, ritual, and dharani for the benefit of the numerous people who passed away during the earthquakes in Tibet at Jyekundo and also at Drugchu Sakul as well as those who passed away during the floods in Ladakh.
With a variety of practices and events related to him, Akshobhya figures prominently at this year’s Monlam. From November 23 to December 7, a select group of practitioners—six monks, five nuns, and four lay people—performed the Akshobhya puja next to the Karmapa’s quarters in a spacious pavilion on the roof of Tergar monastery. During the Monlam itself, for six days in the evening, along with the ritual for the deceased, the Akshobhya practice continued in the same venue. The evening of the seventh day sees the long Akshobhya fire ritual, at the end of which the names of the living and deceased, written on strips of paper, are offered to a blazing fire with some of the pieces floating aflame into the night-time sky.
For today’s empowerment, many people have come and fill to overflowing the space around the stupa. The Karmapa’s throne is higher today, covering up the statue of the baby Buddha behind him. Next to his throne and holding up a long curving branch of the Bodhi Tree, a green iron pillar is wrapped in spirals of orange and yellow marigolds. After the Mahamudra lineage prayer, tea and buns for all, the empowerment begins. His Holiness explains that this is a maturing empowerment, which means that its purpose is to place the imprint of the deity within our mind stream and also that there will be no requirements for practice.
After His Holiness performs the first part of the empowerment, he addresses those gathered, saying that the special commitment Akshobhya Buddha made is not to harm others and to benefit living beings. The Akshobhya Mandala Ritual says:
As Akshobhya gave rise to bodhicitta
Making the first of eight aspirations,
“May my mind never be angry or wishing to harm others.”
Thus may I, too, accomplish them all.
[His Holiness had mentioned in an earlier talk that his mind was more peaceful in Tibet and he did not get angry easily. Whereas in India, with all the problems, it was easier to become angry. But then he developed an interest in Akshobhya and in this practice, which was very helpful. Perhaps he was thinking of this verse.]
His Holiness continues to say that we should imagine Akshobhya to be inseparable from our lama. If we can do the practice well, we can purify even the five limitless actions that have immeasurable negative consequences. Further, we can also think that this empowerment will help to develop our compassion for all living beings. Most masters say that the practice of Akshobhya belongs to the Kriya or Action Tantra. This first level of the tantras also spread in China during the Tang Dynasty though the tradition of practicing it later disappeared.
The practice of Akshobhya is particularly apt for our time of the five degenerations, (of wrong view, afflictions, strife, life span, and the well-being of body and mind), when the afflictions are strong and living beings hard to train. It is also true that all the advances in technology have made it possible to do greater harm with less effort. So, for example, fishermen, butchers, and hunters make an even worse misfortune for themselves than before. We have also depleted our natural environment and diminished the number and variety of the animals who live there. We have razed primal forests and done tremendous harm to our environment. The responsibility that we have for all this damage has become greater as our impact grows.
Then came the mandala and long life offerings with the lines of devotees becoming longer each day. When he continues, the Karmapa speaks of the importance of Akshobhya in many of the Kagyu lineages; the Drugpa, Drikung, and Taklung. For the Kamtsang Kagyu, the sixth Shamar, Chokyi Wangchuk, composed a sadhana, called “The Ornament of Abhirati” and among the many commentaries on this are those by Situ Chokyi Jungne and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye. This particular empowerment was composed by the tenth Shamar and it is found in many of the Kagyu traditions.
Among the five buddha families, Akshobhya is the Lord of the vajra family according to Atisha and Padma Karpo. The Karma Kagyu has a special connection to vajra family and Akshobhya. The primary practices of many masters in our lineage, such as Guhyasamaja and Hevajra, belong to the vajra family. Further, the Karmapa is said to be an emanation of Akshobhya, and some of the previous Gyalwang Karmapas have stated, “I am an emanation of Akshobhya.” As a symbol of this connection, they wear the crown with a vajra in the front. Actually, the famous Black Crown (or Hat) is not really black but a deep, dark blue to represent the depth of space. Just as space is unchanging, so is the dharmata, (the nature of mind or suchness). This is the deeper meaning of the color of the crown, which is said to bring liberation upon seeing. It is also true that each of the buddha families has a different colored crown and that of Akshobhya is blue.
We are very fortunate that not only can we do the practice of Akshobhya, we can also encounter him. This practice is important for purifying our negative actions, and we can do this by taking on all the misdeeds of all living beings, making them our own, and then confessing them. We are in a special place now and so we must make vast aspirations not just for ourselves but for all living beings. If we just take the empowerment to gain things in this life—good health, long life, money, and children —there’s not much point. We don’t need to practice Dharma for this; we can get them in many other ways.
Generally, when we talk about the secret mantrayana, we say that it is for appropriate disciples, those of the highest faculties who can actually do the practice. There are many levels to understand. If we take the texts literally, there is a great danger. So we have to look at ourselves to see if we are appropriate vessels for the vajrayana or not. However that may be, we are now taking this empowerment so we have to “try.” [spoken in English]. We are in the presence of the greatly meritorious Bodhi Tree. If we need to gather the accumulations and purify afflictions, now is the time.
His Holiness then gives the sections of the empowerment and makes the dedication that the lamas live for a very long time and that the teachings also continue to benefit beings. He further gives a reading transmission for the preliminary practice he composed and also for “The King of Aspiration Prayers.”
SESSION THREE: PRAYERS FOR THE WELL-BEING OF TIBET
Long-Life Prayers For H.H. Dalai Lama, H.H. Sakya Trizin and H.H. Trulshik Rinpoche; A Short Speech On Politics And Religion
The Gyalwang Karmapa led today’s third session, devoted to the well-being of Tibet and the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other great masters of Tibetan Buddhism.
Providing context for the practice session, His Holiness first gave a talk on Dharma and politics, or religious and secular affairs. The Tibetan term ‘si’ that in this context denotes politics, more generally describes a way of bringing about short- and long-term benefit to a society or country. His Holiness noted that the Tibetan term ‘si’ also means length. In its wider sense, this term ‘si’could also apply to the Dharma, because the Dharma aims to bring about long-term benefit to society.
During the reign of the three Dharma kings of the Tibetan imperial period, the Tibetan people were ruled according to the Dharma. Later generations too prospered due to the prior rule of the Dharma kings, who sought to apply principles of Dharma in their governance. Citing the well-known line of verse stating that all phenomena are impermanent, His Holiness noted that times have of course changed greatly since then. The relation between religion and politics itself has undergone many changes over the years, and there have been periods of growth and contraction. Within Tibet, there was great fluctuation, as was the case also in Tibet’s relations with neighboring countries.
In today’s more difficult times, it is incumbent upon us as Dharma practitioners to reflect on what course of action would be beneficial and consistent with the Dharma, and what would not. When we analyze historical situations when there was great decline, we ought to consider the role that abuse of power played in bringing about those difficult times. In the past several decades, Tibetans have faced unprecedented sufferings and hardship, and hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have been forced to leave their homeland. Today, Tibetan culture and the Tibetan way of life are at high risk of disappearing forever.
Nevertheless, Tibetans are extremely fortunate in that they continue to be led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Tibetans continue to place their trust and hopes in him as their leader. Many other Tibetans—and indeed people of many countries—are working for peace and harmony between Tibet and China, the Gyalwang Karmapa noted, and have not been overwhelmed by purely political motivations. His Holiness the Dalai Lama in particular is not pursuing any partisan aims, nor does he merely promote Tibetan interests. Rather, he is working for the well-being of Chinese as well as Tibetans, so that Chinese and Tibetans can live together for many generations in mutual respect, joined as one large family.
It is important not to overlook the long history that links China and Tibet. Whereas Tibetans looked up to Indians as Dharma teachers and adopted appropriate relationships with Indians on those terms, by contrast Tibetans saw Chinese as cousins or brothers. Thus whether or not we can establish relations of mutual respect and harmony between Chinese and Tibetans depends on our own cultivation of love and compassion.
The Gyalwang Karmapa noted that Tibetans in Tibet harbor great hopes and make great aspirations that His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other great masters will one day be able to return to Tibet and re-establish a time of peace and harmony.
Stressing the importance of making requests and invoking the activity of Chenrezig, as well as Padmasambhava and the emanations of Chenrezig, White and Green Tara, the Gyalwang Karmapa cited a verse about Chenrezig’s commitment to care for Tibet:
To the north of Bodhgaya in the east,
You have the land of the kingdom of Tibet.
You have high peaks as pillars supporting the sky,
You have white snow forming crystal stupas.
You have summers beautified with turquoise blooms.
O, Chenrezig, Protector of this land of snow,
In this place you have your disciples.
At the same time, His Holiness stressed that the crucial factor determining whether we have peace and harmony is our mind. If we succumb to negative tendencies, and just criticize others and feel annoyed with one another, it will be very difficult to fix the situation, he cautioned.
His Holiness also observed that in this holy place of Bodhgaya, we may only appear to be making aspirations for happiness, but in fact we are preparing ourselves to put these aspirations into action. Thus it is important to begin with aspirations, the Gyalwang Karmapa concluded.
Spiritual teachers as well as sponsors and government officials form the key conditions that allow the Dharma to flourish. For that reason, the Gyalwang Karmapa asked all those assembled to make sincere prayers for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as well as all masters of all traditions. In India, Bhutan and throughout the Himalayas where people practice Tibetan Buddhism, these masters are the only place they can turn for guidance. Thus it was important to offer strong aspiration for their wishes to be fulfilled and their activity flourish. We should put on the strong armor of courage, His Holiness said, and make even stronger aspirations that all people be free of the sort of terrible difficulties and problems they have faced in this life and that in their next life they connect swiftly with Chenrezig.
Don’t just chant the words, His Holiness urged the assembly. Chant with your hearts, he said. Even if no feeling comes, at least reflect on the meaning as you say the words. This is important, he said. Our chanting should not be left on the level of mere words.
The recitation of prayers began with the seven-line supplication to Guru Rinpoche, which was repeated 21 times, followed by praises to the 21 Taras three times. Next were prayers for the flourishing of the Dharma of all traditions, and then long-life prayers for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Sakya Trizin, Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche and the various Kagyu masters.
Just as His Holiness had exhorted, as thousands of voices uttered fervent aspirations for the well-being of Tibet and its spiritual leaders, thousands of hearts were chanting too.
EVENING AT TERGAR MONASTERY: AKSHOBHYA PURIFICATION RITUAL
Once more Gyalwang Karmapa met with the 15 retreatants to perform the Akshobhya Purification Ritual for the sixth evening in succession.
During this Monlam, His Holiness has consistently urged people to offer the Akshobhya practice as a powerful means of clearing karmic obscurations at a time of the five degenerations.
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28TH KAGYU MONLAM: DAY Five
December 19, 2010 - Bodhgaya
SESSION ONE: SOJONG
Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche gave the Sojong vows this morning. Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Dolrob Tenga Rinpoche, Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche were also there to preside over the first session.
SESSION TWO: TEACHING BY THE GYALWANG KARMAPA
The King Of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration To Excellent Conduct
Infinite Bodhicitta For Beings Beyond Number
Pausing at the top of the stairs to remove his shoes, His Holiness descends the stairs leading to his throne and the Bodhi Tree. As usual he passes by his throne through a door of yellow cloth into the inner path around the stupa. Walking around the left side to enter the main temple, he offers prostrations to the golden Buddha and then offers a radiant set of robes to the statue.
Returning to his throne outside, the Karmapa begins to receive the offerings for his long life. The main one this morning was offered by Thrangu Rinpoche with his senior monks. Following them come long lines of devotees carrying a variety of scarves, some white and short, some so long they almost touch the ground, some golden with the eight auspicious symbols, and some bright red. Afterward, the main sponsors pass along the rows of burgundy and yellow robed monks to make individual offerings of scarves and envelopes with money inside. All the while prayers are being said or the names of sponsors and their wishes in making their offerings are being read. These declarations are almost a literary form in themselves, often quite flowery following the Sanskrit influence on Tibetan poetic thought. Lamas are described as the shining lights that illuminate the world; they are the second buddha, the ones who hold perfectly the vows of all three vehicles (Foundational, Great, and Vajra), and so forth.
There are praises along with aspirations that extend to limitless numbers of living beings who fill all space, and the merit of the offerings is dedicated so that they may swiftly attain full awakening. In line with the Karmapa’s wishes for the Monlam this year, the victims of earthquakes in Tibet and the floods in Ladakh are especially remembered. During this long recitation, servers are moving among the crowd pouring tea and passing out buns wrapped in cellophane to everyone. After these have been presented to the Buddha and a tea offering prayer has been recited (often to the teachers of the lineage or to Guru Rinpoche), His Holiness is asked to turn the wheel of Dharma.
Following his custom, he begins with some words about bodhicitta. Living beings are a source of infinite merit. Why so? When we have the wish to dispel their suffering, even for just a second, this brings us infinite merit. If this is so, then there’s no need to speak of the merit in the desire to bring all living being to unexcelled enlightenment.
If we wish to arrive at the level of Buddhahood, we have to turn our attention to what helps us attain it. Some people direct their dedication to liberation and omniscience in their next life, and at the same time, hope to get better things in this life as well. It is not necessary, however, to have such hopes or fears.
If we aspire to bodhicitta, we will naturally gain happiness in this life and the next, as our roots of virtue will increase exponentially and never run out. If we give a single drop of water or a single grain with a good motivation, this virtue, if it had a form, would be immeasurable. If we do not have this motivation, even if we make a huge material offering, there is not so much merit. If we know how to make offerings, even a small one, the merit is equal to the reach of space, for merit does not depend on material objects, but on our intention. We should not be discouraged about making a small offering as the physical aspect of the offering is not so important. What does matter is our intention, our pure motivation. We think about making an offering, we should make it a vast one.
We are here at Bodhgaya, the Vajra Seat where the Buddha became enlightened. He has said that when people cannot see him, if they come to the place where he became enlightened or entered parinirvana that would have as much merit as actually seeing him. So being here is the same as seeing the Buddha in person.
All our many friends here are directing their minds toward virtue and gathering the roots of merit through prostrating, circumambulating, giving tormas, doing prayers, and so forth. Their activities and aspirations make this a special place. This mandala of virtue and love blesses the site and the site blesses the individuals. All of this, however, is not only for our individual happiness but to bring all beings as vast as space to full awakening. Here at the Buddha’s place of enlightenment and in this special state of mind coming from our practice is the right time to make this aspiration.
His Holiness then turned to the “King of Aspirations” continuing his explanation. Basically, the aspiration prayer is speaking of following the Buddha’s example, which Shakyamitra defines as training in the ten perfections (Skt. paramitas) to gather all the accumulations. Actually, the essence of the prayer can be found the following two verses:
I offer to the Buddhas of the past
And those who dwell in all the worlds in the ten directions.
May those yet to appear fulfill their wishes
And swiftly awaken to enlightenment.
May every world in any of the ten directions
Become vast and completely pure
Filled with bodhisattvas and with buddhas
Who’ve gone beneath the lordly Bodhi Tree.
The text also speaks of living in harmony with all beings. The Buddha always abides in harmony with them. How do we do this? I’d like to tell a story here. Once there was a lay practitioner who liked beer and gambling and who hung out with similar people. Then a lama asked him, “Why are you doing this? It’s a terrible way to lead your life.” The man answered, “The King of Aspirations says that you have to get along with all living beings. If I don’t hang out with them, they won’t have the chance to connect with the Dharma.” But is this really what the prayer meant? If we just follow after others, we may have a good motivation, but it is not accompanied by intelligence, which tells us what to do and what not to. So this was not a good way to be in harmony.
When we talk about being harmonious with others, there is a big difference between hanging out with people and being truly harmonious. Being in harmony means making a good connection, one which is not one based on the afflictions. To give another example: If someone else is angry, we do not respond with anger, but show great compassion. In this way, we sow the seeds of good imprints in our minds. Looking at living beings in terms of their nature, we should get along with them, but when it comes to their afflictions and misguided thoughts, we should not emulate them. Getting along with people means relating to them in accord with the Dharma.
Being harmonious also means respecting all living beings as buddhas and bodhisattvas. It is due to their kindness that buddhas and bodhisattvas are able to attain full awakening, so we can think of them as the source of enlightened beings. And it is always important to remember the causes. We can think of living beings as the field to which we make offerings and regard ourselves as being lower. We are humble in respect to all living beings. If we think of ourselves as superior and others as inferior, bad, or difficult, we think we must change them into something good. Being arrogant like this is not the way. We should become someone who always puts others first. Just as people in India transport things on their heads, the most valued part of the body, it is there that bodhisattvas carry all living beings.
When we gradually train in the sequence of prostrating and praise, we become able to praise others. This is why we train. If we make offerings and then criticize others, we are doing two contradictory things. Whether we praise the Buddha or not, it does not make any difference to him. It’s like a flower keeping its fragrance whether we throw it or not. So we praise the buddhas and bodhisattvas in order to train our mind. They are so captivating, so attractive, everything that we want to be, so it is rather easy.
Actually, if we think about it, the fact that the buddhas and bodhisattvas have a vast ocean of qualities is not as amazing as when living beings, so habituated to the afflictions, develop one positive quality. This is truly wondrous. So we need to praise and think of as a lama or bodhisattva all the living beings who may have one or two virtuous thoughts in their mind. This training in offering praise, of course, will not happen immediately, but gradually as we train on the path.
We will have to move along more quickly now as the time is running short, so let us look at the verse on languages. [This is a verse that His Holiness recites at the beginning of the teachings.]
May I teach the Dharma in all languages—
In those of the gods, the nagas, the yakshas,
Of the kumbandhas and humans, too,
In as many languages as living beings know.
In the beginning I did not have much of a feeling for this verse, but then that changed. I thought what a wonderfully vast aspiration this prayer is, wishing to connect with all beings through their own language. If we could just say one verse in all the different languages of this world, we could share this Dharma with others. Those of you who have come here have spent a lot of money and some do not know English, or Tibetan, or any of the Indian languages. I am sorry that I cannot talk directly with all of you. I thought of becoming a scholar and training in all the languages, but maybe all I can learn is Yes and No.
Actually, there is a story about one man who studied Yes and No in many languages and then he had a chance to go abroad. He came to a place that was guarded by a big, burly man, who asked him, “Are you going to fight with me?” Not understanding the question, the traveler wondered, “Shall I say Yes? Or No?” He decided to say Yes, and the hulk beat him to a pulp. The next day, the traveler was walking in the same area and met the brawny man again. He had, however, changed his mind and asked, “Do you want to be my friend.” After the disastrous Yes, this time the traveler was sure he wanted to say No, and again he was creamed. So maybe we have to know more than Yes and No.
Another verse states:
Free from afflictions, karma, and the works
Of maras, may I act in every realm.
Like a lotus to which water does not cling,
Unhindered like the sun and moon in space.
When we are pulled around here and there by our karma, afflictions, and the maras, we can put on the armor of our compassion and wisdom to protect ourselves and not fear these.
I’ll act to fully quell the suffering
Of lower realms and bring all beings to joy.
I’ll act to benefit all beings throughout
The reaches of the realms and the directions.
Buddhism talks about infinite realms in all directions, up, down, and around, in whatever size they may be, which are all filled with living beings. We act to benefit everyone and not just once but for all eons. Lifetime to lifetime, we are able to remain in the lower realms just to help one living being. On another scale, it is infinite living beings whom we vow to bring to buddhahood. This seems to be a task we cannot accomplish, but bodhisattvas have tremendous courage; they can even give their own flesh and limbs. This is so because the roots of virtue we accumulate are not for ourselves but for all living beings, to whom we dedicate all that we do.
Another verse states:
And may I always meet those spiritual friends
Who have the wish to bring me benefit
By teaching conduct that is excellent.
I’ll never do anything to disappoint.
Spiritual friends are there to help us but when we place them too high up and make them into gods, it is difficult to have the feeling of being close to them. Some people hear the name of a lama and they get afraid. A spiritual friend is our good friend, someone to whom we turn our minds, seeking to be in harmony with them. So a lama is someone who is close to your mind and wishes you well, so there is no need to fear them.
The next verses combine the ten bodhisattva levels with the ten perfections. [What follows are excerpts from the Karmapa’s comments.]
The buddhas possess the ten powers, and the power of miracles which allows them to enter in a single instant [the Karmapa snaps his fingers] all the realms; in one moment they can be everywhere to help all living beings at the same time. Now that is being swift and vast.
The power of the vehicle in terms of the mahayana means that our aspiration to help others is so powerful that everything we do becomes beneficial. People are very busy with work these days and it is difficult to help others directly, but if we know how to sustain our bodhicitta, we can be helping all the time. When we are drinking tea or coffee, we can benefit others. We do not have to make a special time, thinking, “Now I’m going to help.”
The text also speaks of the power of conduct which is virtuous in the beginning, virtuous in the middle, and virtuous in the end. Whether an action becomes virtuous or not, depends on these three stages: at the start is the motivation of bodhicitta; in the middle is good practice; and in end is the dedication of merit to benefit others. Like this, the buddhas spend countless eons practicing, all in order to help living beings.
“The power of love is pervasive everywhere,” means that we imbue the whole extent of space with love. The universe is not small like the little mat we sit on: it is vaster than all space. The moment we feel bodhicitta we have infinite merit. We should develop the resolve that whatever I do, whether I’m happy or sad, I will help others. Awakening to buddhahood comes down to just this.
Living beings have different capacities, shapes, and colors. Only the Buddha can understand all the causes for these. As ordinary beings, we have to understand the inclinations and minds of others through their physical actions and verbal expressions.
“The King of Aspirations” ends with a series of dedications, the essence of which is that for living beings as limitless in number as space is vast, we pray that whatever we do, even the slightest virtue, may bring them onto the path of happiness, and that ultimately, we all may realize the true nature of phenomena and be liberated from the ocean of samsara.
This concludes a brief explanation of “The King of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct.” It was the primary focus of the Kagyu Monlam when Kalu Rinpoche began it in 1984 and remains central to our practice. I hope that my few comments have been helpful to you.
Attaining the state of full awakening is in order to benefit others. All masters of the past accomplished all they did for this sole purpose. This should also be our intention, and not just during the time of the Monlam, but all the time. If we can make this commitment, then I feel that these talks will not have been wasted.
At the end there was a minute of meditation on anything one wished and the recitation of the first twelve verses of the aspiration prayer, which epitomize its vast intention with its countless, immeasurable, numberless buddhas and atoms encouraging our minds to expand beyond the limits of space and include every being in our hearts and minds, wishing them freedom from suffering and the greatest happiness of full awakening.
AFTERNOON & EVENING: TERGAR MONASTERY
Public And Private Audiences, Dress Rehearsals, And Akshobhya Purification Ritual
During the Monlam, most of His Holiness’ time away from the Mahabodhi stupa is taken up with audiences. Each day he sees hundreds, sometimes more than a thousand people, from India, Tibet, Bhutan, Taiwan, China, South East Asia, Europe and the Americas.
Then, every evening he meets with the fifteen Akshobhya retreatants, comprising four laypeople, five nuns and six monks, to offer the Akshobhya Purification Ritual in the small shrine room on the roof of Tergar Dukhang.
His Holiness has emphasised the importance of the ritual this year; firstly, following the great loss of life in the two natural disasters which affected Tibet and in the flash floods in Ladakh; secondly, because this is an age where negative forces seem to be gaining in power and the natural balance between human activity and the environment has been disrupted.
Today there was a heavy programme of audiences, which finished well past 6.00pm. Consequently, the dress rehearsal for the Kangyur Procession, the Alms Procession and Marme Monlam, supervised by His Holiness personally, was delayed, and the Akshobhya Purification Ritual, which His Holiness always leads, started much later than scheduled and didn’t conclude until 10.30pm.
The following morning (Day Six) His Holiness was up well before dawn and began giving private audiences in his quarters at 6.00am, before going directly to the Mahabodhi Stupa to bestow the Akshobhya Empowerment.
This day, which is not unusual, provides a thought-provoking and moving example of the way in which the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa works ceaselessly and selflessly for the benefit of beings.
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28TH KAGYU MONLAM: DAY FOUR
December 18, 2010 - Bodhgaya
SESSION ONE: SOJONG
Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche gave the sojong vows. Those in attendance were Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche, Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Bagyö Rinpoche and many younger Rinpoches.
TEACHING BY THE GYALWANG KARMAPA
The King of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration to Excellent Conduct
Upholding the Dharma means Taming Our Minds
As usual the second session began with prostrations to the beat of a wooden bell, followed by the refuge prayer, and a mandala offering to His Holiness.
An extensive list of sponsors, read while the tea servers skilfully eased their way between the crowded rows of monks, nuns, and laypeople, was interrupted by two offering prayers, the first in Sanskrit, the second in Tibetan, then the reading of the list continued while people sipped their butter tea and munch on soft white bread rolls.
Gyalwang Karmapa began by reminding everyone that saving ourselves from the suffering of the lower realms and samsara while neglecting other sentient beings is not sufficient. Bodhicitta is essential and the root of bodhicitta is great compassion, which is non-partisan and offered freely to all sentient beings without distinction.
Then he asked the assembly to check their motivation for attending Monlam. Has it become a mere habit? Something we have to do at this time each year? It is important to have the correct motivation, he warned, to be committed to and focussed on the purpose of the Monlam, and otherwise attending the Monlam is of little value.
As to negative actions, some texts define them as actions of body and speech, and others as actions of body speech and mind. Whatever the case, the root of all negative actions lies in the mind; that’s where the seed for a negative action is found. Continuing the analogy, he said that if we remove a seed from the ground, it cannot grow into a tree, and so we have to remove the seed of negative actions from our minds.
Conversely, we should understand that virtuous actions, even if we only do one or two or they are small, can still be a very powerful purification. If someone falls down, you pick them up. Similarly, we need to purify our bad karma, and Bodhgaya is the best of all places to do it. The practice of Vajrasattva is very good for purifying negative deeds resulting from the afflictions during this lifetime. During the 28th Monlam he will give the Akshobhya Empowerment, and the Akshobhya Purification Ritual is the best way to simultaneously purify negative karma and accumulate merit. However, reciting sadhanas will bring no benefit if we fail to recognise and regret our misdeeds. Virtue arises in an unclouded mind and that’s why it is stronger than non-virtue.
His Holiness then told a story to illustrate the importance of acknowledging our faults.
Once upon a time, two monasteries – let’s call them A and B- stood atop a mountain. The monks in A were an unhappy lot, always arguing and falling out with each other, whereas the monks in B were the opposite, always happy and smiling, living harmoniously with each other.
Concerned by the great disparity between the two monasteries, the abbot of A set out for B to investigate.
At B he met one of the novice monks and said,
“I hear that in your monastery everyone’s really happy. Why?”
Without hesitation, the little monk said,
“That’s because we always make lots of mistakes.”
The abbot was very puzzled by this answer then he witnessed the following incident. One of the monks was washing the floor. A second monk appeared, lost his footing on the wet floor and fell down. Immediately, the first monk rushed over and helped him to his feet, exclaiming,
“I’m so sorry, it’s all my fault! I used too much water."
A third monk came over to them, protesting,
“No, no, it was my mistake for telling you to wash the floor.”
Finally, the one who had fallen over said,
“No, no! It was my own fault. I wasn’t being careful.”
Then the abbot understood what the little monk had meant.
If someone makes a mistake, admits it and recognises it, it makes for harmony, but if people walk around being too proud to admit when they are in the wrong, it makes for conflict.
The 4th branch of the Aspiration is the branch of rejoicing. The text lists five groups:
And I rejoice in all that is the merit
Of all the victors and the buddhas’ children,
Of the self-buddhas, learners and non-learners,
Of all the wanderers of the ten directions.
The last category refers to ordinary beings and their accumulation of merit. We should rejoice in this with neither pride nor jealousy. Gyalwang Karmapa then explored the importance of rejoicing as one of the greatest practices: it encourages us to be virtuous; rejoicing in great merit is meritorious in itself; the greater we rejoice, the more merit; it is the antidote to jealousy, one of the most harmful afflictions.
Returning once more to a theme which has run through this and his earlier teachings during this year’s Monlam, the Gyalwang Karmapa said that it was wrong to rejoice solely in the virtues of our own school and the virtuous acts of our own lineage masters while ignoring the virtues of masters in other schools. As all the teachings of the Buddha and bodhisattvas hold great virtue, such a sectarian view amounted to abandoning or rejecting the Dharma, and, as prophesied in the sutras, such conflicts would cause a decline in the teachings.
What then does it mean to uphold the teachings? To tame your mind. Apply the antidotes, then you are upholding the teachings. Train in the three trainings: listen, reflect, meditate. And rejoice in the good that is done by all people.
Returning to the text itself, the next request is to turn the wheel of dharma:
I request all those guardians who have
Wakened to buddhahood and found detachment—
The lamps of the worlds of the ten directions—
To turn the Wheel that cannot be surpassed.
The meaning of ‘turning the wheel of Dharma’ depends upon our perspective. Sometimes our pride can cause an obscuration of the Dharma, commented His Holiness.
The Dharma of the Buddha is like the wheel on the chariot that will take us to the other side of samsara, but the cart won’t move until we turn the wheel. Only then can we escape samsara. We have to respect every word of the Buddha, and also respect the Lama. It is also important to teach people at an appropriate level so that they can follow the steps along the path. Within the whole world realm every part, even the smallest particle, is encompassed within the Buddha’s teaching, and is pervaded by the activity of the buddhas and bodhisattvas, in every part of the universe. We have the great fortune to have the opportunity to encounter this vast Dharma, and having considered the benefit, we have to ask for the wheel of Dharma to be turned.
Following his enlightenment, Lord Buddha spent 49 days in the forest without speaking; he thought that the Dharma he had realised might be too profound for ordinary people, and then someone requested him to teach, and after that, he did. We have to be like the Khenpo, ardent for knowledge of the Dharma, who went from Lama to Lama pleading, “Please teach me this text...Please teach me that text...” In the Vinaya Sutra the Buddha says he does not do what he is not asked.
The next part of the text contains the request not to pass into nirvana:
With my palms joined, I supplicate all those
Who wish to demonstrate nirvana to stay
As many aeons as atoms in the realms
To aid and bring well-being to all wanderers.
Shakyamuni Buddha first developed bodhicitta then spent three kalpas gathering the accumulations, before he finally became enlightened. The Buddhas manifest in the sambhogakaya [the enjoyment body, of bliss and clear light] for those who have purified their minds, other buddhas and bodhisattvas, and in the nirmanakaya [the created body, which appears in time and space] for ordinary beings.
Requesting the Buddhas to stay to teach the Dharma is very important. Ordinary, childish individuals cannot be taught by the Buddha, and, Shakyamuni Buddha passed away 2500 years ago, so we do not have the fortune to meet him. Though there are an innumerable number of Buddhas, the people we can ask for teachings are our spiritual friends, the Lamas. We should recall the qualities of all the Lamas who uphold the teachings and appreciate the, which is why the Monlam included a remembrance of the kindness of Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche, Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso in a special ceremony on the eighth day.
Gyalwang Karmapa reminded everyone that for us the kindest lamas are in the practice lineage, but also, in particular, we have the Dalai Lama, who is praised as being a second Buddha. If we have the wonderful opportunity to see his face and hear his words, we have immensely good fortune, but we often don’t realise this, in which case it has no meaning for us.
At this point, Gyalwang Karmapa returned to the importance of taking responsibility to transform our minds. All of the practices [in the King of Aspirations] beginning with prostration and progressing down to the request not to pass into nirvana, are, essentially, practices we can all do and methods for taming our minds.
Every word of Dharma has the power to tame our minds.
Once more, His Holiness used a story to make everyone laugh and bring his message home.
Once upon a time there was a man with a huge, suppurating boil on his neck, so he went to consult Drukpa Kunley, who told him he needed to make a torma for it, so the man made a torma. Then Drukpa Kunley told him to throw the torma away.
“How can I throw the torma away? Where could I throw it?” asked the man. “There are buddhas in all of the ten directions.”
So Drukpa Kunley said,
“Give it to me!”
He took the torma and threw it really hard at the man. It hit him on the neck, burst the boil, and the pus was released.
Our internal enemy is the afflictions and the three poisons, so we need to review our progress each month, to make sure that the instructions we have received and the mantras we recite are working. The principal point is whether we can tame our minds or not. Taming our minds is not instantaneous, and it’s not something which can be bought, but, whatever we do, that should be the aim in our minds. If we forget this and put the Dharma aside and use the practice to work for a different aim, it is very difficult for the Dharma to be effective.
An example might be reciting Tara because we want children, or wanting a new house. These worldly aims are not commensurate with the aims of the Dharma, so such a practice ceases to be a Dharma practice. We need to use our body, speech and mind, for the aims of the Dharma.
In a holy place such as Bodhgaya, many people circumambulate, prostrate, and light butter lamps and so forth, but whether such are virtuous or not depends on our attitude. Our annual pilgrimage here is an ideal opportunity to review the year that has passed—remember misdeeds we need to regret, rejoice in the virtue we have created, and aspire to do better in future.
The short meditation was on generating the wish to liberate all sentient beings. First we should remember the kindness of our parents, or those who had shown us love, those who have nurtured and helped us. Even consider the wider environment and all the living things that support our lives.
Recall that there is not a single person here who has not been our parent or our best friend.
Generate the wish to liberate them from the suffering of samsaric existence.
The final instruction: Don’t go to sleep! We should sharpen our minds, focus in meditation.
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Compassion in Action: Karmapa visits Medical Facility and Monks' Kitchen
December 17, 2010 - Bodhgaya
As usual, the medical facility this year is set up at the Nyingma Monastery, the residence for many of the monks and also a site that is accessible to the local population. Halfway across a broad courtyard, surrounded in all sides by double stories of residential rooms, are two rooms with a long veranda outside. It is here that people wait to see the Tibetan doctor, the dentist, or the doctors trained in Western medicine.
In the first room, two Tibetan doctors work in a room that is partitioned off by white sheets from the rest of the room. Outside this consultation area, filling the shelves along the walls are bulging indigo bags with Tibetan written on white labels. Some have their drawstrings closed and some open, showing the dark brown pellets, known as “rilbu” (“the round ones”, the name for pills) that come in a variety of sizes. Three assistants, one nun and two lay people, count out the prescriptions and these are given away free as are all the other medicines and treatments in the clinics.
Behind this partitioned space is the dental clinic. A small, low bed serves as a dental chair and next to it on a folding chair is a gleaming silver suitcase, one by one by two feet, that contains the dental machine. A young Tibetan is having his teeth cleaned by a monk from Rumtek Monastery, who recently started to study with the dentist Hannah and has learned very quickly. After the Monlam, he will take the machine back to Rumtek to provide basic services there. Hannah is talking through a translator to a young woman who has an impacted wisdom tooth and advising her about surgery.
In the room next door is the clinic for Western medicine with three doctors and about thirteen assistants. Some serve as translators, some hand out medicine, and some help to organize the patients. There is a long table on the veranda for people to sign in and a row of red plastic chairs for those waiting.
The distant sound of a siren announces the coming of the Karmapa, and soon his entourage, kicking up some dust, pulls into the wide open space of the quadrangle. He heads first for the dental clinic and examines the machine and the setup as well as the medicine lined up along the wall. As he is leaving, he receives a new toothbrush. Next the Karmapa ducks behind the white walls of the Tibetan doctor’s room and, after warmly greeting him, examines his record book as well as a small tablet for prescriptions. Swiftly, he then moves next door to the clinic for Western medicine, where the three doctors and thirteen assistants in bright blue jackets wait to greet him. Accepting their white scarves, the Karmapa stops to speak to the doctors and some of the volunteers. He picks up one of the boxes of medicine from those stacked along the wall with notes above them describing what they generally treat (pain, diabetes, lungs, etc) or what kind of medicine they are. After he thanks everyone, he walks out into the courtyard where a large yellow umbrella is waiting to shield him as he walks around the corner to see the kitchen.
This year, the kitchen is set up under a high roof to give spacious shelter from the elements. Huge pots, some four or five feet across, sit over their fires. His Holiness lifts a couple of the wide flat lids to see what is underneath. A special pot for heating tea water is five feet tall and four feet in diameter with a bright log fire burning underneath. The Karmapa calls the cook to his side and they walk together to the bamboo rows set up to manage the crowds as they come into the serving table. His Holiness enters one of the aisles and goes up to the table to see what was in the pots. One has the feeling that he does not want to miss anything, that his curiosity extends to the smallest detail.
The cook accompanies him to the far entrance of the courtyard where the cars are waiting, and then suddenly His Holiness disappears up the stairs to the second floor of the building near the gate. On the veranda, a desk chair and the long rectangle of a table have been covered with beautiful brocade. Set out for him is the rice, dahl, and string beans plus carrots that will be served to everyone today. The Karmapa checks with the cook making sure that there is no garlic or onions in the food as they are prohibited for those taking the sojong vows. He tastes everything and comments, “It’s delicious. You’ve done well.” Drinking tea from the traditional covered wooden bowl, he stands to look out over the courtyard and talks with Lama Chodrak about the food at the Mahayana Hotel where many members of the Kagyu Monlam have their lunch. People have made donations and wear cards that allow them in. Lama Chodrak mentions that the food is said to be good and His Holiness replies that he will soon come to the hotel to see how it is.
The Karmapa then descends the stairs with a flurry of security around him and returns to Tergar Monastery to join the fully ordained monks (gelong) and nuns (gelongma) who eat in the shrine hall there.
GYALWANG KARMAPA LUNCHES WITH THE SANGHA
After the two morning sessions, buses are provided to take all the Bhikshunis and Bhikshus to Tergar Shrine Room for a silent lunch. Today when going towards the Shrine Room the sound of sirens could be heard approaching the monastery, an indication His Holiness Karmapa may have found time in his busy schedule to join the Sangha for lunch, his first time for this Kagyu Monlam.
His Holiness entered through the side door and walked around the Shrine Room inspecting the neatly lined rows of bowls filled with food which young monks, nuns and lay volunteers had prepared beforehand. His Holiness did one circumambulation around the Shrine room walking briskly behind one of the security guards who seemed to have problems keeping up with Karmapa’s quick and lively pace. Then His Holiness sat on his beautifully carved wooden chair and watched as the volunteers pour hot water in the plastic bowls for the Bhikshunis and Bhikshus.
His Holiness, having just come from a visit to the Medical Camp, did not have his chogu with him. It was brought to him by an attendant. His Holiness draped the folded chogu [yellow prayer outer robe] over his left shoulder as he waited for the remaining Bhikshus to enter the Shrine Room , don their chogu, and be seated on their dingwa [a special rectangular maroon cloth carried by Sangha to sit or lie on].
From a distance, in the dim light His Holiness could be seen in his trademark stance of shifting from one foot to another , while he was waiting for people to enter. Finally, everyone had poured in and sat down.
The umze began to chant the offering prayers. His Holiness went to the front door and watched as the Sangha prayed. Then he spoke with some of the volunteers as the Sangha were handed their bowls so they could begin their meal. Before eating everyone took some of the food, such as the rice, and made what is called a chambu [traditional Tibetan food offering to the hungry ghosts].
This tradition was prescribed by the Buddha Sakyamuni himself because at the time when the Buddha walked on this earth there was a hungry spirit who had no food and so she would eat her children. The Buddha told her not to do that and ordered the Sangha to offer food to the hungry spirits at every meal. The chambu is left on the plate until the end of the meal when prayers are said to accompany the offering to the hungry spirits.
His Holiness paced back and forth and watched as the Sangha silently partook of their meal. Volunteers went back and forth offering seconds to those who wanted more. On the very first day the umze [chantmaster] had told everyone to be sure to eat enough as the next meal would only occur the following morning.
At noontime at the sound of the wooden blocks everyone put down their bowls and the prayer for offering food to the hungry ghosts was recited as volunteers came by and picked up the chambu.
His Holiness standing near the volunteers, motioned to them with his hands in prayer posture, thanking them for their kindness in preparing and serving the meal.
After the chambu offering prayer we recited the Heart Sutra with the umze whose voice resonated over the intercom. As everyone got up, removed their chogus and began to exit, His Holiness sat down to have his lunch. Then everyone boarded the buses which took them back to the stupa for the afternoon session of the monlam.
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28th Kagyu Monlam: Day Three
December 17, 2010 - Bodhgaya
SESSION ONE: SOJONG
Today, before dawn, on the third morning of the 28th Kagyu Monlam, the whole assembly of monks and nuns gathered under the bodhi tree, which was lit up by a few overhead lights. All ordained Sangha were wearing their maroon dagams [heavy cloaks] awaiting the arrival of the master who would bestow the sojong vows. This morning was a little cooler than the previous mornings.
As the sky began to lighten, Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche arrived, followed by the young Jamgon Kontrul Rinpoche.
Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche, Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche, Yonge Mingyur Rinpoche and other senior Kagyu lamas were in attendance this morning to receive the vows.
Kyabje Gyaltsap Rinpoche came down the central aisle, stood before the Shrine, put on his chogu and namcho, and made three prostrations. He then knelt in prayer towards the stupa before turning around and facing the congregation. As he recited the sojong liturgy we all recited after him and finally with the third repetition we received the vows.
After the bestowal of the vows, the sun arose. All lights were turned off as the natural light of the sun lit up the beautifully decorated shrine. The various combinations of colours were an offering to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas and a feast for the eyes of all looking. The blue, white and yellow cloth, beautifully arranged behind the tormas, brought to mind the colours of the 16th Karmapa’s dream flag and the devotion of the people who set up the Shrine.
Then the umze [chantmaster] began the Sanskrit prayers, which we do each morning, as the young novice monks and nuns appeared carrying large baskets of Tibetan bread rolls to pass out to everyone, followed closely by the tea kettle carriers. After everyone was served, the umze began the food offering prayers. Everyone held up their bowl of tea and bread to offer it to the Three Jewels, then after the Rinpoches began to partake of the tea and bread everyone followed suit. For those who had taken sojong on Thursday, this was their first food since noon that day.
SESSION TWO: TEACHING BY THE GYALWANG KARMAPA
The King of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration to Excellent Conduct
Parting from Wrongdoing
As an aid to setting the motivation for his teaching during the day’s second session, His Holiness cited a verse from the King of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration for Noble Conduct.
As far as to the ends of the blue sky,
As far as to the ends of sentient beings,
Until the end of karma and afflictions,
Thus far are the ends of my aspirations.
This reflects the vastness of the spontaneous aspirations of bodhisattvas, he said, which is grounded in the vastness of their great compassion that has arisen in their minds. When we speak of mind, the Gyalwang Karmapa said, Buddhist texts offer numerous ways to analyze and classify types of mind. However, the most important of minds or mental states are wisdom and compassion. The term for ‘wisdom’ in Tibetan is sherab, with she meaning consciousness or understanding, and rab meaning best. The term for compassion is nyingje, with nying meaning heart and je meaning lord. As such, wisdom can be understood as the best of minds and compassion as lord or supreme of hearts. By practicing the two indivisibly, enlightenment can be brought within our reach, His Holiness stated.
Between compassion and wisdom, His Holiness said that Buddha’s own way of guiding disciples and teaching the Dharma reveals that compassion is primary. For example, the Buddha did not insist on having all his students think as he did. Rather, he offered various presentations in accordance with what would benefit his students and what they could most easily understand and practice. For this reason, we may say that when Buddha opened the door to Dharma, he did so out of compassion.
Compassion is thus indispensable, and therefore it is essential that we give up violence and cease harming others. This does not mean simply refraining from physically or verbally assaulting others, but includes the source from which such actions spring: the mental states of anger, hatred, jealousy, resentment and greed. Among the 10 unvirtuous actions described in Buddhist texts, the three of body and four of speech come about when we harbor resentment towards others. That is to say, it all boils down to our mind. Even if our negative thoughts or attitudes do not lead to physical and verbal harm to others, the mere presence of such mental states within us is harmful to us. There is a wise saying that even before anger harms others, it has already harmed the one who is angry, and this is clearly the case, the Gyalwang Karmapa stated.
Rather than such disturbing mental states, what we need is peace and a sense of comfort within ourselves. Nowadays, His Holiness observed, there is growing awareness of the importance of inner peace. Yet our lifestyle has become increasingly busy, such that it causes us to lose our peace of mind. His Holiness recollected that during his childhood in a nomadic region of eastern Tibet, people needed to work no more than three to four hours a day, and spent the rest of their time warming themselves in the sun, talking to one another and drinking tea. By contrast, people living in urban environments seem to be working 24 hours a day, and even then do not have enough time to finish their jobs. Our lives are regulated by the clock, rather than by what it is necessary to do, His Holiness observed. Technology has captured our imagination and we are carried away by our fascination with electronic goods, but this is not the fault of the machines or electronic devices. It is a mistake, he said, to expect human beings to function as machines, working around the clock without rest. We seem to have developed such an expectation, and there are cases of factory workers committing suicide due to the pressure placed on them to perform.
Along with practicing non-violence and ceasing harming others, the Mahayana teachings require us additionally to act to benefit others. This is necessary if we are to live up to the name of Mahayana practitioners that we claim for ourselves. His Holiness then related an anecdote, which he emphasized was a true story, of a person who had recently become Buddhist. When this man was driving his car, he was struck by a truck. The truck driver descended from his truck and began berating the man, accusing him of being at fault. The new Buddhist had the thought that he lacked the wisdom of a Buddha, but needed to train himself in the compassion of a Buddha. Therefore, he did not respond verbally to the man’s accusations. After a police officer arrived, the truck driver continued his abusive rant and his false accusations. Suddenly, there was a downpour of heavy rain, and the truck driver moved to return to his truck, but then noticed that the rain was not falling on him, although the driver of the car himself was being drenched by the rain. As he looked about, he saw that the driver, practicing compassion, was holding the umbrella up over his head, exposing himself to the rain. He was at once struck by the incongruity between his own abuse of the driver, and the driver’s kindness to him, and regretted his behavior. The truck driver then admitted to the police officer that he had been at fault. This shows the power of compassion, and inspires us to practice it even if we may lack the wisdom to do so perfectly.
Returning to the text, His Holiness made some additional comments on the branch of offering. One danger in making offerings, he said, is that our act of offering can be rendered improper or impure due to the object itself that we offer, as well as due to our attitude in offering. Nagarjuna’s Ratnavali gives a clear presentation of forms of ‘wrong livelihood’ associated with offerings, enumerating five that monastics must avoid, and five for householders to give up.
In general, His Holiness observed, it is said to be difficult for monastics to give up sustenance, while what is difficult for householders to abandon are their views, particularly their tendency to seek ordinary refuges and their lack of conviction in karmic cause and effect. For example, when they face sickness or a family crisis, householders tend to turn to worldly refuges rather than to the three jewels.
In Buddha’s day monastics subsisted on alms given by the lay community, and continue to do so today in some Theravada countries. A monk or nun might receive only rice, or only dal, and that had to suffice for them for the day. Monastics relied entirely on what others voluntarily offered them. For this reason, there was a temptation to manipulate or act deceitfully in order to gain the means of sustenance. These faulty ways of gaining offerings constitute wrong livelihood in the case of monastics.
His Holiness noted that there were instances when even senior monastics engaged in flattery or were particularly friendly towards potential benefactors in hopes of receiving material support from them. Of course, His Holiness commented there is no fault in showing kindness to others, including our sponsors, but to do so in hopes of gaining offerings is wrong.
Another fault that can creep into monastics’ dependence on offerings from the lay community is giving gifts to sponsors or potential sponsors in hopes of getting back more later from them. A further form of wrong livelihood for monastics is to insinuate that they would like the sponsors to offer something. For example, if a given benefactor has offered something to one monk, another monastic might highly praise that act and stress how beneficial it had been, in hopes that the benefactor would give something to them as well. Additionally, pretending to have spiritual qualities that one lacked in order to gain offerings also constitutes wrong livelihood, and must not be done.
In the case of householders, wrong livelihood refers primarily to their means of earning a living. The five wrong livelihoods in this context refer to making offerings of objects attained with money earned by selling sentient beings, such as animals, by selling meat, weapons, poison or through selling alcohol.
This concluded His Holiness’ presentation on offerings. He turned next to the branch of confession, as expressed in the text in the line:
Under the influence of desire, hatred
And ignorance, I have committed wrongs
Using my body, speech and also mind—
I confess each and every one of them.
Sometimes, His Holiness observed, we focus on certain negative deeds done earlier in life, such as killing birds, frogs or other small animals. Once people gain some understanding later in life, they may feel great regret for such acts done as children. To sincerely confess these is excellent, but confession should not be limited to such deeds.
Rather, the Gyalwang Karmapa stated, the negative acts that are particularly important to confess are any and all acts we have done that contradict our vows. Within the Buddhadharma, we have the opportunity to take three types of vow—the outer vows of pratimoksha, the inner vows of a bodhisattva and the secret vows of tantra. Setting aside these technical Buddhist categories, His Holiness said, in general terms if one makes a solemn commitment or accepts a serious responsibility, but later does something that contravenes that commitment, this has a very deep impact on our mind within the same life.
Setting aside past lives, if we try to recollect all the mistakes and wrongs we have done in this life, it would be extremely difficult to bring them all to mind. So while it is good to remember and confess as much as possible, more importantly we need to generate a sense of regret for all the misdeeds we have committed since time immemorial.
As an aside, His Holiness noted that it is said that misdeeds or negative actions have one positive quality, and that is the fact that they can be confessed and purified.
All our misdeeds are commingled with afflictions and arise based on them. All the afflictions in turn arise from confusion or ignorance. Ignorance is compared to a boss, with attachment, anger and the remaining afflictions serving as the henchmen of ignorance. This is because ignorance suggests to us mistaken ways of acting, and anger and attachment impels us to actively engage in them. Yet these are faults in the mind, and based on those we engage in physical and verbal misdeeds.
Heretofore, we have been speaking of misdeeds we engage in ourselves directly. Even heavier than these are instances when we encourage or get someone else to engage in wrong deeds for us. His Holiness gave an example from his childhood in Tibet, where people were unwilling to engage in killing themselves, and so hired a butcher to slaughter their livestock on their behalf. This is doubly wrong, for we are involving others in our own wrongdoing. In this sense, His Holiness said, it would be better to kill the animals oneself, rather than make someone else do so on one’s behalf.
In addition, rejoicing in the wrongdoing of others also incurs negative karma and is counted as a misdeed. For example, if we were to hear that our archenemy were beaten, tied, imprisoned or killed, and then rejoiced, this would also be a misdeed. If on top of the mental rejoicing, we expressed our delight or approval of the harmful act physically or verbally, this would be even more serious. His Holiness cautioned that rejoicing in acts that one has taken vows to refrain from doing oneself can actually cause one to lose those vows. Monastics for whom abstaining from killing is a root vow are in danger of losing their vows altogether if they express their delight in someone’s else act of killing either by physical or verbal means, such as clapping one’s hands or exclaiming approval. Laypeople run the same risk of losing their vows through such acts of rejoicing.
There can be many wrongs that we do not recollect and thus will not regret having done. However, we can reflect that the buddhas through their omniscience do know all the misdeeds we have done. With that in mind, we can then confess all the deeds that the buddhas know we have done under the influence of the afflictions, with body, speech and mind, since beginning-less time, and add to that the acts of all other sentient beings. In this way, our confession practice can become inclusive, vast and powerful. Nevertheless, although we may add others’ deeds to our own when we are generating regret and confessing, we should not pay any substantial attention to others’ mistakes. It is our own faults we are concerned with recognizing and remedying.
Purification is made complete through the application of what are called the four powers—regret, resolve, support and antidote. Each of the four powers has its own benefit in terms of purifying, His Holiness, serving to counteract different forms of karmic results.
The four are called powers because they have the power to purify our misdeeds. Among the four powers, His Holiness said, the most important is the power of regret, which entails recognizing our wrong deeds as wrong. When the power of regret is combined with the power of resolve—in which we determine not to repeat our wrongdoing—the remaining two powers, of support and antidote—will come naturally, His Holiness said.
If we feel content to have done misdeeds, there is little chance of changing, and we will continue to enjoy and look forward to engaging in further wrongdoing, the Gyalwang Karmapa reflected.
Regret too can be grounded in an understanding of the results of our misdeeds, which is rebirth in the three lower realms—the animal, hungry ghost and hell realms. These three correspond to the three main delusions of ignorance, attachment and anger, respectively. We can perceive animals directly, but people often express skepticism about the remaining two realms. Yet His Holiness suggests that we do not need to see them directly, for it is sufficient to observe our own minds when under the power of attachment and anger. This alone offers a glimpse of what the hungry ghost and hell realms are like. For example, when we burn with anger, we can see how anger consumes us like the fires of hell consume those who live there.
We must examine what anger and hatred do to us—how they transform us—in order to understand how deeply problematic they are for us. To fully work to remove them, we first need to see them as entirely and completely harmful and undesirable. Often a serious obstacle to our practice is that, on the one hand, we dislike our anger, but, on the other, we feel it serves some purpose. Yet we need to reach the point that we see our afflictions as utterly revolting, and almost feel nauseous when we see them arising.
The power of support entails going for refuge and generating bodhicitta. These two basic practices that we do regularly have a purifying effect. However, only when combined with a resolve not to commit the wrongdoings is the purification full and complete. His Holiness raised the question of whether failing to keep the promises or resolves we make to abstain in future from negative deeds constitutes a form of lying. It does not, he explained, as long as we have a sincere and genuine wish to refrain and feel a sense of resolve at that time that we make the resolve. If later we find ourselves unable to follow through, this is not a lie. For example, we might be asked if we plan to go somewhere and reply yes, because at the time we do intend to do so. If later it turns out that we do not make the trip, this does not render the previous assertion a lie.
The crucial point is to regret the misdeeds we have done. However, if we allow ourselves to wallow in guilt and cling to a self-image of ourselves as wholly faulty and good for nothing in this life or in the next, this is extremely harmful, and is clearly not the point of confession practice. Reflecting that we did not arrive in this life perfect, but came with a beginning-less personal history of engaging in wrongdoing, we should not feel shocked or discouraged by our present misdeeds. On the contrary, the mere fact that in this life we recognize our wrongdoing as wrong is already wonderful, and can be a source of great reassurance and joy.
His Holiness related that he once had the thought that the Tibetan word for confession – shakpa – is etymologically connected to dividing or splitting, in the sense of cutting something in half with a knife. This aspect of separating ourselves from our own misdeeds is an important component of the practice of confession, he said. This shakpa or parting from our wrongdoing entails not only giving up misdeeds in the future. It also indicates that we ought not to continue carrying our past wrongdoings, holding on to them as if they were still part of who we are.
With this profound advice, His Holiness concluded the teaching and turned to guiding the motivation for a meditation on bodhichitta.
All sentient beings in the three realms are wandering in samsara, not just at the moment, but at all times and continuously, the Gyalwang Karmapa reflected. Yet they are unaware that they are mired in suffering, and do not see their suffering as suffering. In their confusion, they would not recognize the magnitude of their own suffering even if it were pointed out to them.
His Holiness offered the analogy of a frog in a pot of water on a fire. The frog might find it pleasantly warm at first, and by the time it realized that it was being cooked it would be too late. Similarly all our mother sentient beings are trapped in fiery pits of suffering, but do not recognize this fact, and do not know what they ought to do or what they ought not do.
With these deeply moving comments, His Holiness sounded the gong and the vast assembly sat together for several minutes of meditation.
WEBCASTING IN SAMSARA:
THE WEBCAST FAILS TO GO OUT
The webcasting team had arrived on time at 5.30am in the chilly pre-dawn to find that they had lost their internet connection. They began a rigorous sequence of checks and established that, unbeknown to them, during the night, the fibre optic cable which delivers the fast 2 Mbps connection had been cut. Meanwhile, the minutes were ticking away. It would require checking three to four kilometres of cable to find where the fault lay and the Gyalwang Karmapa was due to arrive at 9.00am to continue his teaching on The King of Aspirations.
The absence of any sign of panic at this point is a tribute to both the technical expertise and the professionalism of this team which comes together each year to deliver the webcast of the Monlam. Displaying remarkable calmness, they set out to find a solution—and found one. One of the team had a USB modem Internet connection, and this was used to send out a low resolution webcast of the second session.
Meanwhile, the internet engineer, Tenzin Norbu from Dharamsala, was checking the cable, and miraculously located the break within a couple of hours (it could have taken as many days!), so was able to repair the cable. The webcast was back on line by lunchtime.
As a member of the team commented later, “Every year, we expect to encounter obstacles – it’s all practice here – keeping calm when there are difficulties. We have to see these problems as opportunities for practice. As His Holiness says, it’s ‘living the Dharma’.”
Ordained sangha from 84 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries have registered for this year’s Kagyu Monlam Chenmo, the greatest number of institutions ever. And they’re not only from the Karma Kagyu tradition. The breakdown of institutions is as follows: 57 Kagyu, [both Karma and Drukpa Kagyu] 14 Nyingma, 9 Geluk, 3 Sakya and 1 Jonang.
In addition there are guests from both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions in India, Burma, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and Singapore.
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28th Kagyu Monlam: Day Two
December 16, 2010 - Bodhgaya
SESSION ONE: SOJONG
Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche gave the Sojong vows this morning.
Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche, Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche and Yonge Mingyur Rinpoche were also there to preside over the first session.
SESSION TWO: TEACHING BY THE GYALWANG KARMAPA
The King of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration to Excellent Conduct
Their minds prepared with the sojong vows taken before daybreak under the Bodhi tree, the assembly of thousands of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen received the nectar of Dharma from His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa during the day’s second session.
His Holiness began by citing a verse from the dedication of the Sutra of Golden Light, which is regularly read during the Kagyu Monlam:
May all those who are beaten, bound in fetters,
Placed in desperate situations,
Agitated by thousands of kleshas.
And undergoing unbearable dangers and misery
He pointed out that there are many situations where people intentionally inflict harm on one another and place no importance on the feelings of others. In particular, human beings often completely disregard the feelings and wellbeing of animals. We who have gathered in the sacred site of Bodhgaya are currently experiencing great fortune in being here, His Holiness said. This should serve as a reminder to us of the need to change our minds. We should take this opportunity to bring about a transformation in our attitudes. Our ordinary attitude is one that leads us to err and to cause problems for ourselves. We need to reflect carefully what changes we need to make to our attitude and our conduct, and to think seriously about how to do so.
Returning to the commentary on the King of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration of Excellent Conduct, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued with the presentation of the prayer in terms of a division into ten major aspirations. The two aspirations covered in this day’s session were offering and, briefly, confession.
Offerings are presented differently in sutras and tantra, he explained, but the King of Aspirations follows the sutra presentation. In this context, the King of Aspirations guides us in making two types of offerings, surpassable and unsurpassable, and begins with the former.
I make an offering to these victors of
The best of flowers and the finest garlands.
Cymbals and ointments, the best parasols,
The best of lamps, and incense the most fine.
I make an offering to these victors of
The finest robes, the finest fragrances,
And powders in heaps equal to Mount Meru,
Arranged in the most sublime of displays.
The idea is to make offerings of whatever and however much we have, His Holiness commented. We may feel that we have nothing that is really worthy of offering. But in their great compassion for us, the buddhas and bodhisattvas gladly receive our offerings even if we have only humble offerings to make.
The seven types of offerings listed here are flowers, garlands, cymbals and so forth, but there are various enumerations of seven types of offerings. Dromtonpa said that the seven that appear here in the King of Aspirations are the seven offerings that Atisha described when he spoke of seven offerings.
The flowers spoken of in this context may not be actual flowers that we possess, but flowers that we can only imagine. We can even visualize that they have been sent over the Internet, His Holiness suggested. In any case, we should visualize the flowers and other offering substances as being pleasing to all five senses. In the case of flowers, they should be beautiful to behold, with petals that make a lovely sound when they rustle, having an exquisite scent, edible and delicious, and soft and pleasing to the touch—thus delighting in terms of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
The garlands we imagine offering can be inspired by the garlands of flowers of different colors, scents and shapes that we find in India, His Holiness suggested. Cymbals can include all musical instruments, and even to refer more broadly to music per se.
Ointments should be imagined as fragrant, and can be medicinal or have cooling properties. Lamps can be natural sources of light, such as the sun, moon and stars, as well as manufactured lamps that are lit by electricity or oil. The oil-lit lamps could be visualized as burning fragrant oils. The incense we offer can also be natural or manufactured.
In the second verse, the robes can be imagined as keeping us warm and to be of the finest fabric. The best parasols might be visualized as having a handle and staff of vaidurya. The Gyalwang Karmapa explained that buddhas and bodhisattvas are able to emanate parasols as vast as the world, with bells that sound with Dharma teachings.
His Holiness commented in that spirit that the large parasol that was hung above the Dusum Khyenpa statue on the stage during the Karmapa 900 celebration was enormous, so much so that it turned out to be too large to hang, so it had to be slightly reduced in size.
The best of fragrances refers to perfumes or any fragrance in liquid form, while powders refers to fragrant substances that have been ground into powder. The line, “Arranged in the most sublime of display,” is not limited to powders, but includes arrangements of robes, parasols and so on.
In any case, no matter what the specific offerings in question might be, when we speak of ‘offerings,’ the original Sanskrit term is puja. Etymologically, the term puja means ‘to please.’ Speaking more poetically, puja fills the heart with delight. The pleasure that we generate by making offerings to the buddhas and bodhisattvas is not the contaminated pleasure we ordinary beings experience, a pleasure that naturally turns to pain. Rather, it is an uncontaminated form of pleasure or delight.
We tend to focus on the actual substances or objects that are being offered, but that is not the crucial aspect of an act of offering. Rather, it is the delight that is produced by the offering. We do use the term ‘offerings’ or ‘puja’ to denote the objects that we give in order to produce delight in the mind of the recipient. But when we use the term ‘offerings’ or puja in this way, we are actually using the word for the result (puja in the sense of pleasing) to the cause (that which pleases.)
Generally, His Holiness observed, everything that we do as Dharma practitioners should act as an antidote to our afflictions or kleshas. Otherwise, that Dharma is not functioning as Dharma for us. This branch of offering serves as an antidote to our stinginess. When we are tight-fisted and do not wish to give away what we have, that is stinginess, which is directly opposed by making offerings.
His Holiness noted that there are numerous ways our acts of offering can become impure, for example, if we are giving what we would otherwise discard, such as stale cake. What is crucial here is not the actual object but the attitude or mental state involved. The point is to train our minds. If we ask ourselves what is pleasing to the buddhas and bodhisattvas, it is clear that it is not to accumulate offering substances or objects. Rather, their aim is to liberate sentient beings from suffering. The way that we beings can be liberated is through our own actions in accumulating merit and eliminating misdeeds. There is no one who can do this on our behalf. The buddhas and bodhisattvas can and do serve as supremely inspiring models for us, but they cannot act in our stead.
Although in the sutras there is often discussion of offering what is owned and what is not owned, nowadays the world has been carved up and sold off, and even the moon is now being divided into sections claimed by various nations.
His Holiness commented that when Jowo Atisha arrived in Tibet, he was struck by how pure the water was, and suggested that it would make an excellent offering substance, because it is so pure, but also because it is freely available and thus does not give rise to stinginess.
Next His Holiness turned to the unsurpassable offerings, which are the offerings that can be given by great bodhisattvas.
I also imagine offering to all victors
That which is vast and unsurpassable.
I offer and bow to the victors with
The power of faith in excellent conduct.
Such bodhisattvas emanate innumerable bodies and each pore emanates another set of innumerable bodies. And each of those bodies makes offerings, continually. Though this is beyond our ability to conceive, they can do so within the dharma expanse due to the power of their aspirations and samadhi. This is currently beyond our ability, but if we make these aspirations with great faith, it can be of immense benefit. We can imagine that a small bowl of water that we offer is as large as the universe and are enjoyed continually by the buddhas and bodhisattvas for many eons. To make an unsurpassable offering we can make the aspiration that our offering becomes just like the offerings made by Manjushri and Samantabhadra.
During Buddha’s lifetime, there was a householder by the name of Deva who was childless. It was the custom of the day that the wealth of those who lacked heirs was appropriated by the king. When Deva died, Kimg Bimbisara received his wealth, which amounted to 80,000 bars of gold. This was startling because during his lifetime, he lived as a pauper, wearing poor clothes and riding in a poor chariot. The Buddha then was dwelling in Rajagriha, and commented on this situation when King Bimbisara asked him about it. Buddha stated that stingy people may have wealth but are unable to share it, whereas people of intelligence make great offerings with it. Buddha further explained that because Deva had been so stingy, his roots of merits were severed, and as a result he fell into a lower realm. This can be compared to squirrels who are able to collect many nuts and seeds, but are unable to plant seeds, so that their harvest of merit continues. Deva in a previous life had made an offering to a pratyekabuddha and dedicated that merit to never be reborn in a lower realm. However, he later regretted the generous deed. Due to that, although he had the karmic cause to be wealthy by virtue of his offering, yet due to his regret he was unable to enjoy that wealth. The intelligent may have little to give but can increase their merit greatly by giving skillfully, His Holiness noted. If you never lose your spirit of generosity, you will never become impoverished, he said.
Hearing this explanation by Buddha, King Bimbisara had the idea that henceforth he should give only to Buddhists, but not to non-Buddhists. Buddha soundly condemned that notion, explaining that all sentient beings need food and clothes, so you should give to all. We are surrounded by impoverished people who lack access to medical care and food. Even if we are unable to meet their material needs, we need to train our minds to aspire to do so. We can ask ourselves if we have reluctance to give the best of what we have, but are willing to give away what we do not value greatly, that is an attitude heavily influenced by stinginess.
His Holiness recounted a situation he had seen in a documentary of a child with a disease that required expensive blood treatments. To help raise funds for his medical treatment, the children sold stuffed animals and gave the money to his mother. For those children, this was a vast gift, and His Holiness had the thought that any offering he himself might give would pale in comparison to what the children gave, even if it were far more money.
His Holiness touched briefly on confession, emphasizing the importance of confessing any lapses to our vows. This is crucial because breaking commitments is damaging to our mental condition within the same life, leaving us discouraged. He said he would save a more detailed presentation for the following day.
Under the influence of desire, hatred
And ignorance, I have committed wrongs
Using my body, speech and also mind—
I confess each and every one of them.
The teaching session closed with a brief meditation on the kindness of sentient beings. All of us on this planet exist and survive in dependence on one another. All of what we enjoy, such as the clothes we wear, comes from others. Much of the fabric that warms us comes from animals, so without then we would lack even much of the material that covers our bodies. Even if not, generally our clothes have been manufactured, thus passing through many hands before reaching us. All that we have and rely on literally has passed through thousands of hands and tens of thousands of steps before coming to us, and in this way all sentient beings are extremely kind to us. It is actually amazing to consider just how much kindness we receive from countless others.
His Holiness shared a feeling he had one day while circumambulating Gyuto Monastery. Normally, we harbor some expectation that happiness will be produced by some new experience or acquisition. In this way, we project happiness into some imagined future. But happiness is in this moment and is available for us to experience at any moment. While walking around Gyuto, His Holiness said he contemplated the great number of conditions that had to come together in order for the air that he was breathing to be available to him, As he did so, he was filled with a sense of wonder at the fact that the natural environment on its own had made this available at every moment of every day. If we had to arrange it on our own, we would be unable to, yet all the air we need is effortlessly available to us at all times, and this alone can be a source of great happiness.
With this as the preparation for contemplation on interdependence and the kindness of others, the assembly meditated together in silence. As they did, thousands of people breathed together the air that is given so freely, and enjoyed together the second session of the Kagyu Monlam—another condition of goodness and happiness that is made possible for us through the kindness of thousands of others.
AFTERNOON ACTIVITIES OF THE GYALWANG KARMAPA
His Holiness did not return to the Mahabodhi Stupa for the afternoon sessions but engaged in a grueling schedule of meetings, interviews and audiences back at Tergar Monastery.
At 3.00pm he gave a public audience to several hundred people in the main shrine room at Tergar Monastery.
This year, in addition to Life TV from Taiwan, which always films the Monlam, there are four other film crews working on documentaries with His Holiness, requiring his direct involvement and time.
The American photographer, James Gritz, who took many of the marvellous photographs of Gyalwang Karmapa on his visit to America in 2008, is here to make a film on the Monlam. Or rather, what began as a documentary about the Monlam , and is now expanding into other areas.
Mary Young has returned to continue filming her study of the Tibetan butter sculpture tradition. Gyalwang Karmapa has assumed the role of overall director for an expanded version of Mary’s original documentary.
Ani Choekyi is here once more from Hong Kong with a crew of volunteers to film the Monlam and produce a DVD.
Finally, Terris and Leslie Nguyen Temple, famed for their creation between 1992-1997 of two giant appliqué thangkas for Tsurphu Monastery, Tibet, are here filming interviews in connection with their latest thangka project.
The live webcast is being watched around the world. On the first day of the Monlam there were about 1000 ‘hits’. On the second day, there were approximately 800.
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28th Kagyu Monlam Begins
December 15, 2010 - Bodhgaya
SESSION ONE: SOJONG
On the very first morning of the 28th Kagyu Monlam before dawn, after the Sangha of Rinpoches, Khenpos, Lamas, monks, nuns and lay devotees were seated, proceeded by a procession of monks and the sound of blaring trumpets, His Holiness arrived and took his seat below the Bodhi tree, where the previous Buddhas and all the thousand and two Buddhas of this fortunate eon will attain enlightenment.
His Holiness first met briefly with a group of Taiwanese devotees who made him offerings. Then he put on his black activity crown and, while standing before his seat, holding a white khata which was blowing gently in the wind he awaited the arrival of the precious statue of the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, which has been known to speak.
As His Holiness stood there, the sound of trumpets were heard in the distance, forewarning us of its arrival. The procession of monks wearing yellow hats, led by two monks blowing trumpets, ushered in the statue which was held very carefully on either side by two monks each with kata in hand. Passing by the congregation with bowed heads, they handed the speaking statue of Dusum Khyenpa to His Holiness who put it on the Shrine where it was visible to everyone.
For those who attended the 900 Year Celebration of Karmapa and the pre-Monlam teachings, it was yet another opportunity to see and be in the presence of this blessed statue. And for those who had just arrived for the Monlam it was their first opportunity to see the statue. So His Holiness is making sure that everyone who comes to Bodhgaya for this year's festivities will get a chance to see this remarkable statue before it is taken to other parts of the world for the one year Karmapa 900 Year Celebration.
His Holiness then sat down in preparation for bestowing the twenty- four hour, Mahayana Sojourn precepts. His Holiness explained how it was first important to give rise to the proper motivation, that is, one's purpose for taking the vows is the wish to benefit beings and to lead then to a state of enlightenment.
His Holiness then went on to explain each vow, not to kill, not to steal, not to sit on large precious beds. But he added that if you are staying in a hotel it's alright to sleep in whatever bed there is in your room. His Holiness explained that although the monks and nuns already have these precepts of individual liberation, in this circumstance these vows are taken with the specific motivation of bodhicitta to eliminate the suffering of sentient beings.
We all kneeled to receive the vows, reciting after His Holiness three times. And during the third repetition His Holiness told us we should think we have received the vows.
Then we went on to the Sanskrit prayers which we say each morning at the very beginning of the first session, a reminder of our Sanskrit roots, Tibetan Buddhism having been translated from the Indian Sanskrit.
Then His Holiness rose to put on his Dagam, the crescent shaped cape that the ordained Sangha wears in the cool Bodhgaya mornings to keep warm.
He offered a bath to the Buddha statue on the shrine as the congregation recited prayers. Then he exited to the back of the main shrine area to circumambulate the stupa. After circumambulating he returned to his seat beneath the bodhi tree and joined the congregation in prayer.
Thus with the very first activity, on the very first day of the Kagyu Monlam, His Holiness paid homage to the Lord Buddha Sakyamuni at the spot where he attained enlightenment 2500 years ago, while the congregation of Rinpoches, Khenpos, Lamas, monks, nuns and lay devotees offered prayers of praise and prostrations and offerings, etc to the Lord Buddha.
SESSION TWO: TEACHING BY THE GYALWANG KARMAPA
The King of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration to Excellent Conduct
Gathering the Accumulations and Purifying Obscurations
During a half hour break after the sojong vows, the Karmapa’s throne is turned around from the Bodhi Tree to face the monks, nuns, and lay practitioners who fill the space in front of him. His Holiness sits before a statue of the Buddha as a child and a softly-colored mural of the Buddha meditating underneath a spreading tree with disciples nearby. The speaking statue of Dusum Khyenpa is placed to his left, resting in the middle of a mandala thick with deep red rose petals.
After taking refuge, everyone chants the first twelve verses of “The King of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct,” (also known as the Samantabhadra Prayer), which is the text the Karmapa will teach for five days. As usual, the mandala offering is followed by offerings for his long life, this time given by the main sponsors, the Tsurphu Administrative Office, and then others. His Holiness makes the aspiration that all living beings come to the state of enlightenment through the merit of the offering these sponsors are making to the sangha.
While servers move among the red and golden robed sangha to offer tea and large packets of crackers, the Karmapa gives a warm welcome to everyone who has come, beginning with the great teachers down to the newest practitioners. He said that is wonderful all of us could gather here in this sacred site of Bodhgaya and thanked everyone for coming.
Mentioning that this is the second session of the day and the first teaching session, he said that his responsibility is to give us an explanation of “The King of Aspirations.” This prayer is the seed Kalu Rinpoche planted years ago when he started the Kagyu Monlam with 100,000 repetitions of the prayer. Each time we have met here, we have continued to recite it 100,000 times. “This King of Aspirations” has become the symbol and the very heart of the Monlam, which is reason good enough for us to study it this year.
All of us have gathered here in Bodhgaya where 1002 buddhas are awakened: it is a great ocean of power, so we should all maintain an unmistaken, pure intention and pure actions while we participate in these teachings. As he has said many times, if we are not actually able to do this practice, even if we just listen, even if we are just a child of five or six years, it is helpful.
“The King of Aspirations” comes from the Gandhavyuha Sutra, one of the greatest mahayana sutras. It is said that the Buddha taught it over twenty-one days, quite a short time. According to some explanations, the Gandavyuha is the most extensive and longest of the mahayana sutras. There are numerous versions of the sutra in widely differing lengths. The longest one has eighty-one volumes and exists in Chinese but not in Tibetan. Even this very long version, however, is not complete, for it has only 45,000 volumes and the full version has 100,000. It is also said that the sutra was taught in nine places, including the Radiant Palace, and various god realms, such as Tushita and Having Power Over Appearances to Others.
Before the Dharma spread in Tibet, the mahayana spread in China, and this sutra was one that took hold there. Especially popular was a three chapter version, which contained this prayer, a chapter on Gandavyuha, and a chapter on pure conduct. Since the Gandavyuha is one of the most important mahayana sutras, I thought I’d give you a short introduction. If I tell you too much now, there’ll be no time to talk about the aspiration itself.
Since we recite this “King of Aspirations” all the time, it would be good to combine the words with the meaning. If we always recite this but cannot explain the meaning to ourselves, to say nothing of others, that’s not good. So I’m hoping to spark your interest. There are many Indian commentaries, for example, by Dignaga and Shakyamitra. There are also many in Tibetan including Mendong Tsampa’s, which is short and easy to understand. The most famous one in Chinese is by Ching Yang, who was said to be an emanation of Samantabhadra.
Of all the categories, the first one is prostrations. The text reads:
I prostrate to all lions among humans
As many as appear, excepting none,
In the three times in worlds of ten directions
Sincerely with my body, speech, and mind.
With the power of this prayer for excellent conduct
I fully prostrate to all victors with
As many bodies as atoms in all realms
With all the victors right before my mind.
Upon one atom are as many buddhas
As atoms in the midst of bodhisattvas.
I thus imagine that victorious ones
Completely fill the entire dharma expanse.
With sounds from oceans of melodious traits
I extol the qualities of all the victors,
Whose oceans of praiseworthiness will never
Run dry, and praise all of the Sugatas.
Here, at the beginning, what we basically have is the Seven-Branch prayer. In its first category of prostrations, we find physical prostrations, mental prostrations, and in the Chinese, the praises of the fourth verse are considered as verbal prostrations.
In general, this aspiration teaches us how to enter the path of liberation and omniscience as well as how to practice this path. However, this is not a path what we can point to with our finger: The path is actually the causes and conditions that lead to buddhahood, and these are present within ourselves. To develop along the path, we need to focus our minds and change our way of thinking, which allows us to gather merit and purify ourselves of obstacles. The best way to do this is through the Seven-Branch Prayer as both processes are included within it.
For some of us, the Seven-Branch Prayer is so familiar that we think it’s easy and not so important. We should consider, however, that many sutras speak of huge numbers of realms in which the buddhas are surrounded by hosts of bodhisattvas. What practices are these bodhisattvas doing? The Seven-Branch Prayer. So it is one of the most important practices we can do.
At the beginning of the aspiration are the prostrations. It is said that one excellent prostration includes all the other six branches. If we have faith and respect expressed through our body, speech, and mind, this is the second branch of offering, which pleases the buddhas. Making offerings does not always mean that you are arranging things on a shrine. This prostration can also be a confession of our faults. Once we have purified these, we naturally rejoice. By gathering accumulations and undergoing purification, we are making ourselves into an appropriate vessel for the Dharma, into a person who can hear all the teachings. So even if we are not actually asking the buddhas to turn the wheel of Dharma, because we have become this fine vessel, they naturally teach. The buddhas have realized the nature of all phenomena and become fully awakened, so they do not need the teachings: it is the students who need them. If there is no one who listens, the buddhas will not turn the Dharma wheel. So becoming able to receive the teachings is like asking the buddhas to teach.
Becoming a vessel also relates to asking the buddhas to remain and not pass into nirvana. If they have nothing purposeful to do, the buddhas will not stay, so just the fact that we become a recipient of their teachings encourages the buddhas to remain. If just a few people could gather the accumulations and purify themselves in this way, the buddhas will not depart. So the benefits of doing prostrations are inconceivably vast.
Generally, when we place our palms together in reverence, it is said that the empty space between them represents the dharmata or no self. If we cannot understand this deeply, we can at least have a feeling of it. If we do not have this sense, then we might as well hold up a mobile phone and say it is the dharmakaya. However, if we do have a feeling, through which we can transform our mind, this has real benefit.
It is also taught that the right and left hands joined together represent the union of skillful means and wisdom. We seek to develop this path: if it has not arisen, we give rise to it and if it has arisen, we evolve it further. From the vajrayana perspective, placing our two hands together brings all the root and secondary winds into the central channel.
Next, in doing a prostration, we put our hands in three places. If we explain this according to the vajrayana, placing our hands at our crown releases what binds the crown chakra so the invisible ushnisha appears. Placing our hands before the creases near our throat releases the sixty branches of speech. Placing our hands at the heart (considered to be in the middle of our chest), fosters the conditions for developing the omniscience of the buddhas. This is an explanation by means of assertion. If we explain by means of negation, then we are releasing the negative aspects of body, speech, and mind.
In the Tibetan tradition, and that of the Chinese mahayana, we stand in between each prostration. However, it is said that this was not the way centuries ago at Nalanda in India. The Chinese monks who spent time there, some staying as long as twenty years, do not report standing up between prostrations. They kneeled and touched their head to the ground three times. There are indeed many different explanations of prostrations. Some say we need to touch all parts of our body to the ground while others say we have to hold our breath in a certain way. The purpose of a prostration is to show our respect.
The verse states, “I prostrate to all victors with /As many bodies as atoms in all realms.” How can we explain these inconceivable things? Due to their miraculous powers, all the buddhas could fit on the head of a pin. When we talk of the smallest particles that scientists research, we have to imagine that all the buddhas of the three times and all realms are there.
Think about how many stars there are. There are more than the grains of sands on our earth. We don’t really know how many there are so it’s difficult to wrap our minds around this. We’re talking about the infinite infinite. There is no way for us to understand this intellectually.
In a single atom, there are as many buddhas as there are atoms, and not just buddhas but bodhisattvas, hearers, and solitary realizers. In all directions, the whole expanse of dharma is filled. This is the mental prostration.
Then come the oceans of praises and these, too, can be understood in different ways. Some say that one being has innumerable heads and minds, and each head has infinite mouths. It’ s not too easy to comprehend this and I prefer to think of it as innumerable bodies, each of which proclaims the qualities of the buddhas. And not just once, but myriad times, and not in one place but in a vast number of them. One way to make the praises vast would be to put them up on the website.
The reason we make extensive prostrations and praises is that our resolve to develop bodhicitta needs to be as vast as the expanse of all phenomena, and we need a way to make this understandable to our minds. We should have the feeling that our compassion reaches out to all beings and down to the very smallest atoms. The light of our compassion brightens all the atoms of all the beings in the universe.
It is important to understand that we are making a prostration with our body and at the same time, our mind should be focused on the prostration. If it is not, then we are not doing a real prostration. From the Buddha’s perspective, there’s no need to prostrate. The prostration is for our own benefit so that we can gather the accumulations and purify ourselves. It does not change the Buddha, but we do it to develop our own qualities. The bees take what is best from a flower and we need to take what is best from our mind by seeing its positive qualities. We should praise the slightest virtuous action or thought. Otherwise, it is as if we were worshipping a god instead of practicing Dharma. In the same way, we need to respect the virtues, even the slightest one, of all living beings. So when we are prostrating, it is not only showing respect to the buddhas and the bodhisattvas of all directions: we are prostrating to all the virtue in the world.
Now we will meditate for a while. We belong to the practice lineage, so we know how to meditate. Today we will focus on bodhicitta. When we fly in a plane, we can look out the window and see the different roofs of all the houses below and think about all the people who live in them. They have had many problems, even coming close to death, and still they have not found ultimate happiness. They are still dissatisfied and this is due to their mistaken intentions.
It is not that the food they eat or the clothes they wear are wrong. Nor is it their speech. Primarily, it is their minds: they do not know what brings suffering and what brings happiness, and so they engage in a cause that brings the opposite of what they want. Basically, it all comes down to our mind: if we can eliminate our mistaken understanding, we can free ourselves. We should see that everyone wants happiness and freedom from suffering, which they do not have now. Therefore we feel sad for them and want to use our body, speech, and mind to free them from their suffering and bring them to true happiness. Now we will rest in meditation for three minutes.
Afterwards, His Holiness puts on the Activity Hat and opens a maroon colored folder with the Great Aspiration placed inside. For the living and then the deceased, this is an extensive prayer, vast and detailed wishing for every possible goodness to come to all living beings, and for every possible protection to shield them from any danger or difficulty. It is also a prayer for the environment and those who govern, for the great teachers to live long and the Dharma to last. The Karmapa reads up to the last words of the line, which are “May it be so!” and these are repeated by everyone together.
His Holiness then reads the names of the living and deceased for whom prayers have been requested. This is followed by the “Dharani for the Fulfillment of Aspiration Prayers,” which concludes the first morning of the Kagyu Monlam with the wish that whatever aspirations have been made will find their manifestation within our world.
SESSION THREE: ASPIRATION PRAYERS
After lunch at Tergar Monastery, His Holiness attended the Third Session at the Mahabodhi Stupa which included the recitation of the “The King of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct,” and Maitreya’s Aspiration.
EVENING: THE ADDITIONAL AKSHOBHYA RITUALS BEGIN
His Holiness then returned to Tergar Monastery where he gave audiences until well after 6.00pm. Later he attended the first of the additional Akshobhya Rituals scheduled for this year’s Monlam in the small shrine room on the roof of Tergar Monastery. The Akshobhya Ritual will be performed for six consecutive evenings before the final Fire Ritual and burning of the names of the dead on the seventh day of Monlam in the evening.
Approximately 2000 people are now logging on to the Kagyu Monlam website each day.
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Guru Rinpoche Empowerment
December 13, 2010 - Bodhgaya
A Blessing for Our Path of Practice
This morning there are two additions to the stage. Beneath the enthroned Dusum Khyenpa is a large statue of Guru Rinpoche, glistening in gold. He will be the focus for this morning’s empowerment, which is based on the form of Guru Rinpoche known as the Lotus of Blazing Light, (Padma Obar), found in the practices of the Embodiment of the Three Jewels. This is especially auspicious for two reasons. The first Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa, who is being celebrated this year, is considered an emanation of Guru Rinpoche. Secondly, this form of his practice is widespread throughout the Himalayan region and this year’s teachings are especially intended for people from this area.
Beneath Guru Rinpoche and sheltered in a small wooden pavilion with its roof curving gently upward is a shining statue of Atisha, wearing the red pandita hat and holding his hands in the teaching mudra. It is his Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment that has served as the basis for the Karmapa’s Dharma talks this year.
Earlier than usual, His Holiness comes quietly in from the side of the stage to make the preparations for the empowerment. In the middle of the steps, above a yellow sun that ripples up the stairs, and before the enthroned statue of Dusum Khyenpa, sits a low table covered in brocade. It is lined with the traditional offerings and in the middle are the Karmapa’s bell and vajra. The chant master sits nearby and the shrine master waits in attendance. The chanting of the Guru Rinpoche mantra is punctuated by the clack of the Karmapa’s damaru and the ringing of his bell.
The preparations finished, His Holiness comes down to stand in front of his throne, looking down the path of the central aisle and waiting for the arrival of the Dusum Khyenpa’s speaking statue. His attendant offers him the Activity Hat of the Karmapas, which is the same as the one worn by the statue of Dusum Khyenpa behind him. In the distance, barely audible, are the first rising tones of the jalings. The Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche, memorized by almost every Tibetan, is chanted again and again:
Hum. At the northwest border of the land of Uddiyana,
In the center of a lotus rising from its stem,
You have discovered supreme, wondrous siddhis.
Renowned as the one born from a lotus,
You’re surrounded by an untold host of dakinis.
I practice following your example.
Please come here to bestow your blessings upon us.
As the sounds of the jalings come ever closer, His Holiness takes out a beautiful long white scarf and holds it across his two hands with his palms joined. As the line of procession enters the central aisle, the last lines of the prayer are chanted: “Please come here to bestow your blessings upon us.” The tall, curved yellow hats of the monks bring the sunlight inside. Right behind them comes the speaking statue of Dusum Khyenpa in a light-colored wood pavilion resting on a platform. It is carried high by four men wearing gold brocade chubas and vermillion red hats, which are surrounded by fringes swaying as they walk down the path. When they come near the steps to the stage, the monks withdraw to either side allowing the statue to proceed directly to the Karmapa. It is taken out of the pavilion and placed on the table right next to the Karmapa’s throne.
After tea and long life offerings are made, the chanting continues with the text appearing on the four large screens, two set along either side of the monks and lay people so everyone can see. After the purification rituals and offering to the local spirits, His Holiness places the bright red pandita hat on his head. Its top curves forward and its long brocaded flaps pass over his shoulders and down his back. In 1992, the Karmapa wore a smaller version of this same Pandita hat when he gave his very first empowerment (Chenrezik) at his main seat of Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet.
On behalf of everyone, two monks offer a mandala, and then removing his ceremonial hat, the Karmapa begins his talk, which will finish his teachings on the Lamp to the Path for Enlightenment. Its last eight verses discuss the vajrayana and so are most appropriate for this occasion.
His Holiness comments that vajrayana practice involves many samayas and among them, the main one is the samaya with our lama, because all of them come down to our connection with the body, speech, and mind of our lama. First, we have to find the right lama through examination.
Some texts say that we should examine a lama for twelve years. These days, maybe that’s too long but still you have to examine. Do not rely on rumors or blind faith. Use your intelligence to see if the lama is genuine.
Of course, to se this, we must first know what the qualities of an authentic lama are. We need an education about what makes for a good lama and what does not. When we find a genuine lama, we can engage in genuine practice. Actually, the vajrayana is for people of great ability and excellent discipline. Until we have become like that, we need to be very careful in the practices we do.
These last days, we have briefly gone through this text and I haven’t been able to explain extensively. As I mentioned before, following Gampopa, the masters of the Karma Kamtsang practice a blend of the Kadampa teachings and Milarepa’s mahamudra lineage. Those who could do these practices were very fortunate. To appreciate this history and remind ourselves of it, we have gone through this text of Atisha.
We are all followers of the Buddha’s Dharma, no matter which of its traditions we follow. It is important to study, reflect, and meditate upon them. If we cannot do this now, we pray that these teachings have created the auspicious conditions for us to do it in the future.
If we think about Tibet, it is in a desperate situation, a real crisis. We have to work hard as we have a great and heavy responsibility to preserve the teachings and the culture of Buddhism, especially that of Tibet. We must understand this and take it to heart. In particular, we should not waste our time criticizing others. This makes for a lot of trouble with no positive result. It also means that our practice is not working.
What do we really need? The Wish-fulfilling Jewel, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok gave this as his last instruction: “Don’t lose your standpoint. Don’t disturb others’ minds.” (Rang tsugs ma shor/ gshan sems ma ‘khrug.) We need to take a firm stance based on what we understand, and further, we should not do anything that would disturb another’s mind. His Holiness the Dalai Lama works day and night to preserve our religion and culture, and other great masters are doing the same. They are sacrificing everything for this cause and we also need to help.
Today we finished the text and tonight I’ll have a really good sleep, because I fulfilled my responsibility. Now I’ll go through the empowerment, which is to bring blessings into our mind streams. It is said that a good connection is made when the lama’s blessing meets the students’ devotion. There was a Kadampa master, who practiced for a long time, and he had an attendant who served him with great devotion.
In the end it was the attendant who first realized emptiness. Milarepa is a great example of devotion. When you have devotion, you have energy to practice, for devotion is not lazy. You don’t pull out a pillow and take a nap. Devotion means putting the instructions into practice. If you have the greatest devotion, you will also have the greatest diligence.
At first we had decided not to webcast the empowerment, but due to bodhicitta that was reversed. Will you who are watching receive the blessings? I don’t know. Perhaps. If you have devotion to Guru Rinpoche you will. It is said if you have devotion, Guru Rinpoche comes and sleeps on your doorstep. Nevertheless, it is better to request the empowerment from a lama. Even if you are sitting in the same place as the lama, without focus and devotion, you won’t receive many blessings. However, I do not think it is a good idea to set a tradition of people receiving empowerments over the Internet or by DVD.
In degenerate times, it is very important to practice Guru Rinpoche.My parents have tremendous devotion to him. When I was five or six, I had to do a practice based on the Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche.
We were nomads and every year we had to participate in drawing lots for good, grazing land. Beforehand my father insisted that we spend the day reciting the puja for Guru Rinpoche.
The Karma Kamtsang lineage has a very close relationship to Guru Rinpoche and it is said that all the Karmapas’ minds are inseparable from Guru Rinpoche.
In general there are two ways of doing practice: through negating (the via negativa) and through establishing (the via positiva). Of the two, the most important for practice is the way of negation, as it relates, for example, to the vows and samayas we keep. But practice is not only negating. After negating, we establish something, for example, bodhicitta. And when we speak of negating, it does not mean eliminating or tossing away some external thing. Both negation and establishment are done inwardly in terms of our minds. In brief, we counter our afflictions and accomplish wholesome actions. Also, it is important to realize that negating and establishing do not refer to setting up our lineage as the best one and then opposing others.
Sometimes we have too much attachment to our teacher, lama, or school. This is not good. Rather, we should work on our mind. Practice is all about taming our minds. This means that we have to be careful and arrest the mind that wishes to harm.
[His Holiness bestows the empowerment.]
He then counseled that you have received the empowerment, and it is now up to you to practice, which is essentially about transforming your mind and refraining from indulging your negative emotions. We humans can be quite dangerous, so at least we should become someone who is not an embarrassment to Buddhism.
After this, comes the time for His Holiness to bless the thousands who have come for the empowerment. The life-like statue of Dusum Khyenpa is brought down and placed on the Karmapa’s throne while the Karmapa himself dons his Activity Hat, mirroring his previous incarnation now residing just behind him. His Holiness is sitting at the edge of the stage and it is people from the Himalayan region who come up first for a blessing as they are special this year. After them come over eight thousand followers, each one receiving a direct blessing from a piece of Dusum Khyenpa’s robe, wrapped in cloth, which the Karmapa holds in his right hand. At the end, he receives an ovation for his immense effort.
To finish the empowerment, His Holiness goes back to the table where he made the preparations. Returning to the front of the stage, he receives through speeches in English and Chinese, the appreciation of all who have attended the teachings and empowerment.
His Holiness states that it is now 2 o’clock and everyone must be tired. The main thing he would like to say is that these are profound teachings from Atisha, and he hopes that we have found something to please our minds. He is happy to see the affection and love people have for each other. In the same way, he hopes that all the people living on this same earth will regard each other as family, like parents and children. He prays that all live in harmony and great love. The Karmapa also thanks those who had worked on the Karmapa 900 celebration, saying that his wishes are completely fulfilled. The merit from everything is dedicated to all living beings so that they attain great happiness, and it is especially dedicated to the people of India and Tibet with whom we have close relationships.
May the activities of His Holiness the Dalai Lama be free of all obstacles and may he live long. May the activities of all the great masters flourish. May they stay well and have peace and happiness. May all of you here bring happiness to yourself, your countries, and all living beings.
The Karmapa then puts on the Activity Hat and stands holding a kata in front of the stage. The palanquin with the shrine of Dusum Khyenpa returns to carry the statue back down the aisle and out into the world for this coming year of tours.
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LAMP FOR THE PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT - TEACHINGS BY THE GYALWANG KARMAPA: DAY Three
December 12, 2010 - Bodhgaya
We Live to Benefit Beings
As usual, the lilting chant of Karma Khyenno fills the pavilion. After the Karmapa is seated on his throne, today’s long life offering is made by Khenpo Donyo and the Mirik Monastery of Bokar Rinpoche.
His Holiness begins by speaking of people who are destitute and without protection. For all of them, we should have a special compassion. We should extend it to those who are difficult to transform, who have engaged in many negative activities, and thereby brought suffering upon themselves in this and future lives. We should see all of them as a treasure and feel a particular compassion for them.
All the living beings who surround us have been our enemies, friends, or someone somewhere in between. These are the possibilities in the present and they will be so in the future. If someone is our enemy now, there is no certainty that she or he has always been or will be like that. The condition of being an enemy is temporary. We Buddhists believe in birth following after birth. Some people have a hard time accepting this. However, just because we cannot see something, does not mean that it is not there. Just because we have not found something does not prove its nonexistence.
And if reincarnation is true and we do not prepare ourselves, we could be taking a big risk. If we spend all our strength on this life only, and suddenly the scientists find out that indeed there is a next life, it might be too late for us. So we have to think carefully. A spiritual friend is difficult to find, good teaching of the Dharma is difficult to find, and someone who is meditating on bodhicitta is difficult to find.
Drugpa Kunley stated that it is more profound to meditate on the living beings of the six realms than to meditate on all the Buddhas or yidam deities. They can be a bit difficult to imagine with their thousand arms and eyes. So Drukpa Kunley said it is more profound to meditate on the suffering of the six realms, than all the buddhas, because we can see and hear this suffering without having to meditate. And if we do meditate on it, this misery is something that moves us, something we can feel in our heart.
If we look inside, we can see that one part of our mind tells us to do positive things and follow Dharma; another part tells us to enjoy ourselves and that it’s not necessary to follow the Dharma. Which voice will we listen to? We cannot listen to both. We should trust the voice that tells us to do positive things. If we follow our shadow side, then it is the same as being in the company of negative friends, for they are nothing other than our afflictions.
Some people say that meditating on compassion brings them more suffering and pain, and so it’s difficult to meditate on it. Actually, this is not the case. Due to great compassion, we become fearless. It is only when we do not understand how to meditate on compassion properly that we will have pain. It is also extremely important to realize that we are not meditating on suffering, but on the people who are suffering. This is a key distinction.
Some people first think about what is difficult, something that is totally beyond their capacity. Actually, we should first ask ourselves, “What can I do?” And since we are beginners, we start with what is not so difficult.
We know that living beings do not want to suffer, so we wish them to be free of it. And this is not just a casual wish: we should feel as if something very dear to us is about to be consumed by fire. In this situation, we would not focus on how intense the fire is, but on the best way to move this precious object to safety.
Once the Buddha was asked if this world is permanent or impermanent. He did not reply directly, but asked a question in return: If you were a hunter in the forest and another hunter by mistake shot you with a poisoned arrow, would you spend your time worrying about where the arrow came from? Or would you try to pull out the arrow? In the same way, we do not focus on the suffering but on how to be free of it.
The text speaks of three types of suffering. The suffering of suffering is the normal pain we feel. The suffering of change is, for example, our happiness vanishing into sadness. Freeing ourselves from this type of suffering, however, brings only temporary relief like shifting a heavy load from our tired right shoulder to the left one. This movement brings the temporary happiness of relief, but not an ultimate and stable happiness. The third type of suffering is all-pervasive suffering, which comes with taking birth or appropriating the five aggregates.
The text then speaks of bodhicitta. If we have a good heart, we could call it bodhicitta, but actually, this is not enough: Bodhicitta must encompass all living beings with the wish that they be free of all suffering and find lasting happiness. This is great compassion.
Perhaps some examples would help. A father and son are walking along a path through an empty, fearful place when they lose their way and become separated. After much searching, the father finds the path again and with delight puts his right foot on it. But as he starts to lift his left foot, he remembers his lost son, so he immediately turns back to go and find him.
In the same way, we wish to be free of samsaric suffering and then we remember all living beings who are like our children and lost in the limitless suffering of samsara. We cannot abandon them, so we go back to find them and bring them into the right path.
Wishing enlightenment for ourselves alone is not the right view. We have to think about what causes enlightenment and then we will see that to develop our compassion, we need all living beings: they are a cause of our enlightenment.
There’s another example of a house on fire and the father naturally started to run outside to escape it. At the threshold of the door, with one foot outside, he remembered his family and jumped back inside to save them.
Looking out for oneself is easy; looking out for others is not. Everyone wants to do something for themselves. That is OK, but we cannot forget helping others. We should check our minds to see if we are still fixated on ourselves. When we think “I”, then others are out there. Have we singled ourselves out from others? Is there a sense of distance? Behind me is a statue of the first Karmapa, which was made in Thailand. It is so life-like that some people mistook me for him and thought I had arrived early. Now we have to think: Is it true that we two are separate? Or not?
In the Middle Way Philosophy, we use many analytical methods to understand interdependence but we do not need them here. We can just look at our lives. The food we eat comes from others; the clothes we wear come from outside as well. Even the air we breathe is not ours: it comes from the trees and plants. Being sustained by what comes from outside of us does not happen just once, but every moment of every day for our whole lives. We are able to live because of others.
The teachings often speak of the right or harmonious conditions. These depend on other beings, so we have to do something positive for them; we should help everyone to progress and have something good, because we know that everything is interdependent. When we only think of ourselves, we are still dependent on others. So even if we do not want to, we have to do good, because we cannot help but rely on others.
When we are always thinking of others, we become part of them and lose our focus on ourselves.
During the cultural revolution in Tibet, there was a lama from Golok who was asked to destroy a stupa. If he refused, he would be sent to prison. But this lama had a ninety-year-old mother and he was the only one left to look after her. If he didn’t destroy the stupa, he would not be able to serve his mother. What could he do? After thinking for a long time, he told his mother, “I’m going to prison.” She replied, “Forget that you have a mother. And stay well in prison.”
Another lama was asked to kill stray dogs, and when he refused, his hand was crushed between stones. Afterwards, he said, “I didn’t suffer much. At this time, I found a use for my hand because it did not kill the dogs.”
Sometimes when we’re feeling compassionate, it is from a position of superiority: “I’m up here, a positive, powerful and important person, and those suffering are down there.” If we are really compassionate, we become part of these people. When we want to help them, we do not feel separate, but one with them.
Actually, any kind of compassion is good. When people are young, some have compassion naturally. Others take a lot of teachings, study, and think a lot: “I have to become compassionate.” This way we fabricate compassion and it is less strong than the compassion that comes naturally. In my homeland, fall is the time when animals are killed, usually by suffocation. Family members do not do the killing, but bring in others. In those days, I felt such intense compassion, but it is not the same as now; it was much better then— an unbearable compassion. Now I have all the thoughts, and know the ways to practice, but the spontaneity is not the same. It was like a chick still inside the egg, moving around in the shell.
All the positive deeds we do are dedicated in order to discover this natural compassion. It involves a process. First we understand what it is that we are, then we understand the world and how things are, and then we learn what the practice is really about.
Today we are in Bodhgaya, where all the thousand Buddhas of the world have been and will become enlightened. Some people who come on pilgrimage here from Tibet, dedicate the merit of even a few steps made in the direction of Bodhgaya.
When I escaped from Tibet, first I did a mo (divination), to see if it would be possible or not. I didn’t have the trust that I would be able to escape, although there was a kind of deeper certainty. Some say that I left in order to bring the black hat back to Tibet. But if you weigh a person’s life against a hat, it’s clear that the balance is in favor of the person’s life. You don’t exchange your life for a hat. I left because I needed to get the teachings and transmissions and all my teachers are here in India. If I could have flown, I would have, but it was not possible. The only way out was to escape by foot.
I also had the concern that when I became eighteen or nineteen, I might be given a political status and forced to say negative things about His Holiness the Dalai Lama and also forced to work against the cause of Tibet. I could not do this. So I said to others, “Even if I can make a few steps toward India and then I die, it doesn’t matter. I am going.” So with lots of difficulties and hardships, I was able to make it to India. These days as well, for people who come from Tibet and China, it is not easy to get a passport and visa, and still they came to this sacred and auspicious place.
It is important that we all have gathered here, If we want to clean a place using just one stalk of kusha grass, it will take a very long time, but with many stalks together, we can get the job done more easily. Similarly, it is more powerful when we have a large crowd and both genders—monks as well as nuns, female as well as male lay practitioners— praying together. With our hearts and minds combined together, we can make strong prayers and there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.
Buddhas and bodhisattvas intentionally come in the form of human beings to give continuous aid to others. The Karmapa started the tulku system, which is a way of not abandoning living beings: the Karmapas come back to the world again and again in order to help them.
The Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa has helped so much for the last nine hundred years. All the activities of the lineage he created have benefitted thousands and thousands of living beings, bringing them to liberation. Due to the kindness of the first Karmapa, lineage holders have appeared. So if to these lamas you make prayers, offerings, and dedications, they will have a great benefit and power. What are the benefits of the teachings? Living beings are led to a more positive life and into true happiness.
Why do we ask that the buddhas live long? To benefit beings. If they don’t to this, then there is no need for them. Buddha generated bodhicitta and developed wisdom and compassion for eons, finally becoming enlightened: all this was in order to help living beings.
People with good intentions are very precious, since many deceive others and few are trustworthy. If everyone becomes like this, it is very sad. People are too concerned with an outcome that benefits themselves: “If I win and get what I want, I’ll do this. If I’m defeated and don’t get what I want, I’ll do that.” Not wavering like this, our positive intention should be our guide in making a firm and clear decision: “Whether I have difficulties or not, I shall take this path. If I am happy, I will share it with everyone. If I am unhappy, may I carry this by myself alone.”
All creatures are living by the light of one sun and from the same oxygen in our air. We may have different religions, faiths, and cultures, but we have the same wish to be happy and be free of suffering. The world is becoming smaller and smaller; if there is trouble in one place, it spreads to all. Furthermore, the environment is deteriorating, so we live with anxiety that a catastrophe will happen. Last year, we saw many earthquakes that caused great loss of life and much destruction.
One thing we can actually do right now is to work on our mind. At least if we become a better person, there is one bad person less.
Now let us take the bodhisattva vow. We say to ourselves: “To bring all living beings to enlightenment, may I become enlightened.” Please make at least that much of an aspiration. If you have a higher understanding, then think, “Living beings have so many problems. It’s not the time for me to relax. I have to do something. I must move into high gear.”
All those who want to take the vows, please kneel, and if you cannot actually do it, then make the intention to kneel. Now think, “May I be able to bring all beings to lasting happiness. Never giving up this intention, I’ll do something from today and until I attain full awakening.”
His Holiness does his prayers and continues saying that we need a refuge tree—the Buddha was enlightened under the Bodhi tree—so we should imagine in front of us the Buddha who is in the sky or on the ground. Recall a lama whom we trust the most and also the lineage of buddhas and bodhisattvas. Feel that all living beings surround you.
Then His Holiness gives the vow while those taking it repeat after him. After the third repetition, he states that those who feel they have received the vow, have done so. They should think, “I want to generate bodhicitta for all living beings so that they may attain full awakening. I’ve now made this decision. My promise is sealed. I must bring a permanent end to the suffering of living beings and establish them in permanent happiness.”
His Holiness then returns to the text, emphasizing certain points. Space knows no limits, and our intention to benefit others is even more limitless than limitless space. Think about this. When we talk about our mind, our intention is larger than space. Our bodies are small, but we can send out our intentions to everywhere there is space and beyond.
The texts speak of giving up four negative actions, What are they? First is to fool the lama, sangha, and others through lies. The source of qualities is the lama and the source of kindness is our parents. There is nothing worse than fooling people like these. The sangha also has to think about not fooling their sponsors, who have gone through so much effort to be able to make donations. They must be an unmistaken recipient for these. If we fool others, we are in danger of losing our aspiration bodhicitta and then we would lose our engaged bodhicitta, and as a consequence, our vajrayana vows.
The second point is not to cause regret when it is not appropriate. For example, your friend has done something wonderful and out of jealousy, you say it is not that good. You friend might then regret a positive deed, so we have to be careful about what we say to others.
The third is not to criticize bodhisattvas or say anything disrespectful. Actually, we do not know who is a bodhisattva. A bug may be a bodhisattva. Our minds are fogged by dense ignorance, so we really do not know how others’ minds are. We may have a lot of information and some knowledge, and we do not really know how things are.
Fourth is causing harm to others. This is another way to lose our bodhicitta. In the political arena, there are people who use war as an instrument for their goals. However, if you kill, then others will want to kill in return and so the killing continues. We must find peaceful ways to be in the world. And it is also important that we do not do anything to cause the teachings to decline.
As I mentioned yesterday, the main thing is not to give up on even one living being. We maintain our desire to help, whether it is of temporary or ultimate benefit. This includes doing good deeds so that we will take a positive rebirth and be able to continue helping living beings in the future. This is another way of not giving up on them. If we maintain this intention well, then even if we take birth as a tiger, we will not forget.
In this light, I have thought about vegetarianism, which is actually about developing a kind heart. When we hear about slaughtering pigs by shooting them in the head with a small gun, our hearts suffer, so I wrote an aspiration that I may never be separate from all living beings who are as limitless as space and who are experiencing suffering in their lives. It is important for us to make aspirations for a good rebirth, one in which we would not harm living beings. For example, Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye made the aspiration that he would take a future birth in which he did not have to eat meat.
As a representative of all beings, I’d like to thank you for taking the bodhisattva vow today.
Our Future is in our own Hands
The following is an edited account of the teaching not a transcription, and is derived from the English translation, not the original Tibetan.
Gyalwang Karmapa began the afternoon session by conferring the transmission of the longer Mahamudra Ngondro (Foundational Practice) at the request of an individual. He then resumed his preparatory teaching for receiving the engaged Bodhisattva vow, based on Jowo Atisha’s text.
Some say that in order to take the Bodhisattva vow, you should have a basis of one of the individual liberation vows. Others say that you do not need the Vinaya, but generally, you cannot start to work for the benefit of people before you have given up harming them. The refuge vows, therefore, are the basis. You have to take the vows from a qualified teacher:
v.23 …one skilled in the vow ceremony,
Who lives by the vow and has
The confidence and compassion to bestow it.
There are two types of vow – ones taken from a teacher, and ones, which can be taken without a teacher. Vinaya vows are always taken with a teacher, but the Bodhisattva vow can be taken without. According to the Ornament of Manjushri’s Buddha Land Sutra, Manjushri as Ambaraja, took the Bodhisattva vow in the presence of the protectors. His Holiness then read verses 26-31 of the text, which describe how it was done, and explained that this could be done in the absence of a teacher.
In terms of the procedure for taking the engaged Bodhisattva vow, it is important to know the downfalls, which differ superficially in number according to text and tradition. This does not mean that they are contradictory, rather that some are elaborations and also that there are different stages, according to the experience or level of the practitioner. The more advanced may be given 18 downfalls for example, and the less advanced may have fewer. His Holiness gave examples. He advised that people should try to observe what they could and train in that; there was some leeway.
There is a composite of 18 downfalls, which people who wished to take the engaged Bodhisattva vows should study and understand a little.
- To praise oneself and criticise others for personal gain
- To refuse to give wealth or Dharma out of miserliness
- To fail to forgive people who ask for forgiveness
- To give up on the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
- To steal offerings
- To reject the Dharma
- To harm the Sangha in some way
- To commit the 5 heinous deeds
- To hold a wrong view
- To destroy villages, towns etc
- To teach emptiness to the untrained
- To turn people away from the Dharma
- To make people give up pratimoksha discipline
- To disparage sravakas and pratyekabuddhas
- To lie about realisations
- To receive offerings under false pretences
- To make harmful rules
- To abandon bodhicitta and helping sentient beings
In the morning people received the aspiration Bodhisattva vows. However, an aspiration doesn’t make things happen. The difference between aspiration bodhicitta and engaged bodhicitta is the difference between someone who wants to do something and someone who does it. Aspiration has to be transformed into action. For example, working to protect the environment saves the lives of many sentient beings. We need to protect the snow mountains so that the snow doesn’t melt and so that all the great rivers of the world can continue to flow. Protecting these rivers will save millions of sentient beings who either live in them or depend on them. It is very important to take action. Quoting from the first line from the Four Immeasurables prayer: May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness, His Holiness warned that sometimes when we recite this we are merely paying lip service, whereas we should be creating something concrete and helpful.
Engaged bodhicitta does not require extreme sacrifices such as cutting off a hand. Such actions have to be practised skillfully, as, for example, in one of the Jataka stories, somebody gives an eye, makes a dedication, and then the eye comes back. Somebody who is highly advanced can only do this. You have to be able to give without any regret. But it is not necessary to go to these extremes: you can make a start in small ways at your own level.
We are gathered here in this really holy and sacred place of Bodhgaya. The Buddha foretold that if people in the future, who had not been able to meet him, went on pilgrimage with pure motivation and devotion to places where he had been, it would be the same as meeting him. Our mind is the main thing. Someone said once, “We are so deluded and so ignorant, it is extremely fortunate that I see my lama as a human being, and not as a dog or a donkey.”
We hold our future in our own hands, to use the occasion to create something good for the future, so we should use this opportunity. Sometimes one action can achieve many things.
[Gyalwang Karmapa then gave the engaged Bodhisattva vow, and the assembly repeated the vow for the first time.]
His Holiness told how he used to be short-tempered when he was a child in Tibet and in India because there were so many difficulties. He would regret losing his temper afterwards, determine not to lose it again, but then forget. However, he was influenced by the story of the gelong who asked, “What is the most important thing to attain enlightenment?” and the answer was “not to get angry, not to get disturbed”, and so he vowed “From this moment I will never get angry with anybody,” and from that time on he was known as Mitrugpa – the one who is never disturbed – until he became the Buddha Mitrugpa [Skt.Akshobhya].
We do not know where we will be reborn next, but we vow “until I become enlightened”, so why not during this life? One of the worst things is to make promises and break them. His Holiness suggested that what we need is a new invention: a tape recorder that automatically records our promises, linked to an alarm, to warn us and remind us of our promises whenever we are about to break them but that technology doesn’t exist, so all we can do is to remind ourselves of our promises again and again.
All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have done this before us. We have to pray with the determination to be enlightened this very day – that strongly! We have to motivate ourselves to take personal responsibility to liberate all the beings who have not been liberated and release them from the ocean of samsara.
[The assembly repeated the vows for a second time.]
The afflictions, such as anger and jealousy, don’t make us feel good, so we need to remind ourselves,” I have this precious bodhicitta which will help me and all other sentient beings, so I don’t need these afflictive states. I can let them go. Even when I have to confront difficulties, I have this method, this bodhicitta, in good and bad times.
[The assembly repeated the vows for the third time.]
The Bodhisattva vows are not for this life only but until we become enlightened, so even if we commit downfalls, if we do not abandon the main aspiration, we won’t lose our vows.
His Holiness then returned to the Lamp for the Path to the next section, which discusses meditation (verses 34 – 38). We have to be very careful when we want to help other sentient beings so that we can see whether our help will benefit them or not, and for this we need to develop higher perception. It is accomplished through effort not laziness, and requires the attainment of calm-abiding (shamatha).
Verse 40, describing the meditation technique, quotes from a text written by one of Atisha’s teachers, “Place the mind on any one Virtuous focal object.”
Sometimes we see meditation as something very important, Is it hard to meditate because it is too difficult or because it is too easy? Maybe it is too easy. We need to be more relaxed but we make it more strenuous. His Holiness gave another illustration from his personal experience: “Usually I don’t smile, so in group photos they always ask me to say cheese, but even if I try to smile I look strange, so it’s not easy for me.” Meditation is also very because it’s a natural state; we want to be relaxed, we don’t want to be distracted. If you kick a football hard into the water it will bounce back out, but if you place it carefully on the water it will stay put.
Verses 41- 54 This section introduces emptiness.
Buddha said that you don’t look for the nature of the thing by getting rid of the thing. Whatever is appearance, that is emptiness. It’s not that first the vase exists and then through analysis it becomes empty. The vase you see is appearance, but when you examine it, you can see that it does not exist independently. When you see a film of me it appears I am there but at the same time you know I am not there, my form is there. Through technology, the appearance is there, but the appearance doesn’t mean it exists in that way. There is nothing which arises independently so there is nothing which does not have the nature of emptiness. Emptiness is not the same as non-existence, such as the horn of the rabbit. The crux is establishing how it exists–it doesn’t exist in the way we thought it existed. Vajrayana talks of the union of appearance and emptiness. The way it exists is not the way that we at this moment think it exists.
The Madhyamaka view of emptiness is established through negation.
The Mahamudra view is established through experience.
Beginners should perhaps start with analysis and then move to experience.
Sometimes we talk about emptiness but it has no impact in our daily lives; for example there is no independent “I” or “me” yet, we have the arrogance to think ourselves free and independent.
The Nepalese King Mahendra made Nepal into a democracy, so one day, someone was lying down in the road, and this was stopping the traffic. So a crowd gathered to find out what had happened. The person said, “Now it’s. a democracy, I’m free, so I’m sleeping in the street.”
That’s not how democracy and freedom should be. You know about interdependence, and you know that you have responsibilities whatever we do has an effect on others.
These days we all live under stress and tension; perhaps if we consider interdependence and emptiness we will feel more relaxed. Belief in emptiness and selflessness is part of the Four Seals of Buddhism. We are easily deceived by appearances-things appear concrete but everything is emptiness. However, causes and conditions are not empty, so don’t ignore karma.
Finally, the Gyalwang Karmapa referred to the special prayers to be held on the 8th day of the Monlam in gratitude for the services of three great living lamas Thrangu Rinpoche, Tenga Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso, and the wish that they will remain. Three books of their teachings have been published specially.
His Holiness appealed to all Kagyu Dharma Centres to join in by reciting Long Life Prayers, the Vajrasattva Mantra, Seven Line Prayer, and the Sixteen Arhat Prayer on that day.
He also expressed the hope that Bokar Rinpoche’s reincarnation be found quickly.
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LAMP FOR THE PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT - TEACHINGS BY THE GYALWANG KARMAPA: DAY TWO
December 11, 2010 - Bodhgaya
True Dharma Practice Transforms Our Mind
Today the chanting started at eight-thirty with the famous prayer to Guru Rinpoche, “Eliminating Obstacles on the Path.” Present today in the front row were Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, Dolop Tenga Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche, Khenpo Donyo, and Bagyo Rinpoche.
The setting is the same as yesterday except the ornamental brocade umbrella which usually accompanies a high lama to symbolize a noble rank, is now stationed at a corner of throne with the practical function of protecting the Karmapa from the hot rays of the morning sun. Karmapa Khyenno is chanted with a lovely new melody.
To the sound of the jalings, His Holiness walks down the central aisle with an ease of dignity belying his years. Coming to the stage stairs, he removes his shoes and walks straight ahead to a long brocade laid out in front of his throne below Dusum Khyenpa and the Buddha. After three slow and careful bows, he takes his seat and opens a long text, swathed in golden silk.
Today again there are offerings for the Karmapa’s long life, this time by sponsors from Southeast Asian Dharma centers. The Karmapa then recites his prayers, which include a stanza from the Aspiration to Excellent Conduct expressing the wish to connect with every living being through all types of utterances:
May I teach the Dharma in all languages—
In those of the gods, the nagas, the yakshas,
Of the kumbandhas and humans, too,
In as many languages as living beings may know.
His Holiness followed this with the praise to interdependence, which begins Nagarjuna’s famous Fundamentals of the Middle Way:
Whatever arises in dependence
Has no cessation and no arising
No extinction and no permanence
No coming and no going,
And is neither different nor the same.
Mental constructs completely stilled,
It is taught to be peace.
I bow down to the genuine words
Of the perfect buddhas.
As he recites the last two lines, the Karmapa bends forward in a deep bow and then finishes his last prayer.
The Karmapa began by saying that an older monk from Tergar Monastery had passed away last night and asked for prayers. Everyone chanted a supplication to Chenrezik and his mantra, Om Mani Padme Hung. His Holiness concluded the practice with the aspiration that the monk enter the correct path in his next life and swiftly become enlightened.
The Karmapa then began to teach. It is said that without mind training, we are like the picture of a lamp: devoid of actual light, it cannot dispel darkness. Similarly, not truly transforming our mind, we are just the image of a Dharma practitioner, so the practice of Dharma cannot function to do its work of bringing us to full awakening.
What is the meaning of the word Dharma (in Tibetan cho)? It means “to transform,” “to make changes,” or “to alter.” This is not a change forced by something outside like a hammer: it is the actual discovery of an antidote for our afflictions. It functions just like the medicine we take when we are sick. In this way, the afflictions will start to lose their power, and we are better able to deal with them. This undermining of our afflictions is the destination, the true goal, of all the teachings.
The first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, said that through the wisdom of listening and studying, we come to understand the nature of our mind; through the wisdom of reflection, we come to control our afflictions; and through the wisdom of meditation, we uproot the afflictions completely.
This process is very important as it is the afflictions that trouble our mind. It could be said that the purpose of all Dharma is to work on the afflictions. When the Dharma connects with our afflictions, the Dharma becomes the Dharma and the instructions become worthwhile. If this is not the case, it’s like making offerings to the East for spirits who abide in the West. With you back to the target, you’re facing the wrong direction.
For working with the afflictions, the Kadampa spiritual friends have a system of counting black and white pebbles. With a heap of each color, you count one white pebble for a positive thought and one black pebble for a negative one. At end of a session or of the day, you see what is left. If there are a lot of black pebbles, you chide yourself for being so negative. If there are more white ones, then you congratulate yourself. In either case, you make the commitment to do better the next day. You can also remember, “Today I used this remedy for that affliction.” Like this, we can work for a year on our afflictions and then see how we have changed. Otherwise, it will be difficult to transform as we have no way to improve ourselves.
In this special place of Bodh Gaya and at this special time of the first Karmapa’s 900th anniversary, we are extremely fortunate to have with us so many great masters and so many practitioners who have gathered together. We must, therefore, think in a different way and make a special effort to do our practice.
We repeat often, “May I attain full awakening for the sake of all living beings.” But nothing is really happening within our minds, we are just mouthing some words. [His Holiness picks up a bunched kata lying next to him and vigorously swings at his cushion, imitating someone killing a bothersome insect. Then he gently raises his palms and softly blows across them, commenting, “Maybe we should do like this.”]
Though our body, speech, and mind, we should engage in positive actions with a clear intention. For example, refraining from killing does not just happen: you make an clear decision, a firm commitment, not to kill and this makes your intention into something positive. Since everything comes back to the mind, we should talk to our mind and give it advice. We should both counsel and analyze our minds. The Buddha Shakyamuni has given us effective methods for working on our minds; however, whether we use them or not depends on us. The Buddha does not sit there and tell us what to do all the time. We are our own savior, our own protector. We should give ourselves the gift of a good future.
Some people say, “Well, this is my personality. It’s just the way I am.” That’s an excuse not to change. Right now, our personality is coarse, so we need to work on it: this is the only way.
If we do not have the discipline that allows us to make these changes, then it is like a treasure bereft of an owner. Similar to the natural resources of gold, silver, or oil, we may have a treasury of good deeds, but we need to engage in them with discipline, for this will turn them into a basis for a good rebirth. The true cause for this is excellent discipline. Having good thoughts is not enough: you have to act on them.
In sum, it is said that renunciation presides over meditation and that discipline is the basis of positive action.
[His Holiness then gave the refuge ceremony.]
We go for refuge to the Buddha as the teacher, the Dharma as the path, and the sangha as companions. To lead our lives well, at first, we need the guidance of those who are kind to us, such as our parents. Then, we need to learn and develop our body and mind to become an independent human being. This process resembles studying the Dharma. As we move along this path, we need friends, those who support us, or life partners with whom we can work together.
Through taking refuge, we are ultimately seeking liberation, which is lasting peace. It is not a temporary thing, like being voted into office and then losing the election the next time around. Further, liberation cannot be purchased or brought in from the outside. In truth, it is not far away, waiting for us in the East while we are sitting in the West: liberation is found within our own mind. This is where we experience suffering. Rocks and the earth do not suffer because they do not have minds.
What is the source of our suffering? Our karmic actions and our afflictions. When impelled by our afflictions, we act in a negative way, the result is suffering. So we have to work on our afflictions, which cause our misery and dissatisfaction.
How do we do this? 2,500 years ago, the Buddha was a prince with everything one could wish for. Then he saw a sick person, an old person, and a corpse. He also saw a monk. When the prince asked, “Who is this person?” The reply was “Someone who has renounced the world.” So the prince also renounced the world in order to become free. Through years of practice, he discovered a middle way between asceticism and indulgence and thereby became enlightened. The Buddha completely understood the way things are. He moved from relying on consciousness (rnam shes) where only the forms or images of things are seen, to realizing primordial wisdom (ye shes), when the true nature of all phenomena is seen.
For example, if the Buddha sees a danger, he would not be affected by it because he knows its nature; he is not deceived by what is arising in the present moment. Ordinary beings, however, will feel afraid and suffer because they see only superficial appearances. If someone does something negative to the Buddha, he does not take on this suffering and carry it around with him, because he sees the nature of the situation. Appearances deceive ordinary people, who do not even know that they are being deceived. This way we suffer and remain bound to samsara. The Buddha knows all this and gives teachings so that we can move along the path to finding true freedom.
The term sangha can refer to the Buddha, a spiritual friend, or the more ordinary sangha of the ordained. When we relate to teachers, it is important to see them as Dharma friends. Some people are afraid of lamas and I don’t understand why. We should see them as a good friend, who helps us along the path. Of course, we have first to see if this person can serve as a trustworthy friend or not and this is a gradual process.
On the path, we need Dharma friends who have kept their samaya. In general, we make a promise to be friendly with all living beings throughout space but first we have to be friendly with the people who surround us. If not, how can we relate to the vast number of all living beings?
In sum, to become fully awakened, we need a very good teacher, excellent methods of practice, and Dharma friends along the path.
Once we have taken refuge, there a few things to understand. First, when we go for refuge to the Buddha, we no longer take refuge in mundane deities; when we take refuge in the Dharma, we make the commitment not to harm living beings; and when we take refuge in the sangha, we make the decision to avoid negative friends.
Now to comment on these one by one. (1) Not to go for refuge to worldly gods does not mean that we cannot sometimes bow or make offerings on certain occasions. What it does mean is that we do not take refuge from the depth of our being, because these deities can only help us on a temporary basis and not ultimately: they cannot lead us out of samsara. For example, you might seek the shade of a tree to get out of the sun, but when the sun moves, so does the shadow. So it’s a temporary protection and worldly deities are like that.
It is important to understand that there are different kinds of protectors. Dharma protectors are there to guard the teachings; they are servants of the Dharma. On the other hand, there are wisdom protectors, who are great bodhisattvas, or enlightened beings, appearing in the form of protectors. To them we can go for refuge.
The main point is that in the Dharma, we work on ourselves and train our minds. To give tormas and make offerings to Buddha or to engage in prostrations are not enough to free us from suffering: we have to change ourselves, find our wisdom through meditation and engage in good conduct.
When we go for refuge to Dharma, we vow to refrain from harming living beings. It is said that the Dharma bring us to remain in peace with our minds undisturbed. So harming refers to more than causing physical suffering: it means to avoid creating any suffering at all. In foundational vehicle, it is said that we should refrain from any negative deed; and in the mahayana, we make the further commitment to help living beings as well.
In the world, conflicts arise due to different religions and so His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that just saying “world peace” is not enough because people make war saying they do it for the sake of peace. What we need is peace through non-violence. We have to bring non-violence into peace-making.
The nature of Buddhism is non-violence, which we can find through controlling our mind and discovering an inner peace that is not disturbed by afflictions. Further, it’s important to transform our minds not only in relation to enemies, but also in terms of those close to us. We must think and act carefully at al levels. Even the thought, “I don’t want to harm,” is really wonderful.
When we go for refuge to the sangha, it is said that we should avoid negative friends. How do we understand this? Negative friends do not have horns or an ugly face. They are people who engage in a sectarian view and say, “These Gelugpas, Sakyapas, Bonpos, and so forth, are not good.” This is splitting the sangha. We go for refuge to all the Buddhas, all the Dharmas and all the Sanghas. If we do not see all of them in a positive way, then we go against our refuge vows.
The Buddha gave different teachings to different people. To some, he said there is a self (atman), and to others, there is no self. So clearly, there are differences, and we cannot say,”This is good Dharma or “That is bad Dharma.” This is the study lineage” “This is the practice lineage.” Splitting the sangha like this brings nothing positive.
We have a number of Dharma lineages in Tibet, and each one has its merits. If we become attached to being Kamtshang Kagyu, it is not good. We should think in a correct way that accords with the Dharma. The Buddha came into the world and prayed that the Dharma would spread like the radiant sun. If the sangha remains in harmony, then surely the Dharma’s life will be long.
Drukpa Kunley said that if we don’t agree with a friend’s negative actions, we can just refrain from doing them. If we give advice to others and we cannot change or reform them, we simply do not participate in what they do, and this is all right.
The seventh Karmapa, Chodrak Gyatso, sent an open letter to the Tibetans. I have the Karmapa’s teaching, this is my activity. And anyone who enters into Dharma is connected with this. Anybody who enters into Buddhism is a member.
The great master of India, Dorje Denpa, sent to Dusum Khyenpa many gifts and said, “You will be in charge of the Buddha’s Dharma.” The Karmapa’s lineage, however, is not from India or China, no is it from Vajradhara. This lineage comes from the teachings of the Buddha. In Tibet, we have different lamas, different monasteries, and different lineages. Fundamentally, all of these are same: there is no difference in the teachings. So if we talk against any lama or against any tradition, we are going against the Dharma.
In sum, it is not easy to transform ourselves completely. We simply do what we can based on our individual capacities. If that’s just one short practice, that is good. Please take this to heart.
Developing Compassion for all Sentient Beings
The Gyalwang Karmapa began by explaining how Atisha’s text was predominantly used by Mahayana practitioners, both the Sutrayana and the Vajrayana. The perfect method is aspiration bodhicitta with its training, and action bodhicitta.
First we should begin by accumulating merit:
v. 7 Facing paintings, statues and so forth
Of the completely enlightened one,
Reliquaries and the excellent teaching
Offer flowers, incense–whatever you have.
We make the seven-part offering, which is generally similar to the seven-branch offering of prostrations, offerings, purification and so forth, as, for example, in the Samantabhadra Dedication Prayer….
v.8 With the seven-part offering
From the [Prayer of] Noble Conduct
…and then we go for refuge.
With the thought never to turn back
Till you gain ultimate enlightenment,
v.9 And with strong faith in the Three Jewels,
Kneeling with one knee on the ground
And your hands pressed together
First of all take refuge three times.
Till you gain enlightenment signifies the special Mahayana refuge commitment until enlightenment.
Having taken refuge we have to train in loving kindness and compassion, firstly in aspiration bodhicitta and then in action bodhicitta.
The root of bodhicitta is compassion so we need to develop a natural compassion such as is shown by a mother or a nurse. Having made the seven-branch offering we should train to gradually transform our minds so that our principal mindset is one of compassion. One method for achieving this is to consider all sentient beings as having been our mothers at some time, and contemplate their kindness,. This does raise the question of previous and future lives. Buddhists argue that consciousness depends on a preceding moment of consciousness and use this logic to support reincarnation. Also, these days there is evidence collected by scientists of children who remember previous lives.
Generally, mothers are used as an example because of the great compassion and love they show for their children, but it is possible to imagine instead anyone who has been kind and affectionate towards you, such as a dear friend. Using the example of a mother, first, when we are born, we are a mass of flesh, the product of our parents. Our parents then give us food and clothing, all we need when we are cold. In Tibet there is no central heating and no heaters, so when a baby or infant gets cold, the mother tucks the child inside her chuba; it’s the mother’s own body which acts as the furnace. The mother cleans up the waste we excrete, she feeds us with milk from her breast, speaks to us and treats us with great affection. When we are older she still continues to give us food and clothing from her own resources, even sometimes at a cost to herself.. Mothers go through such difficulties for their children, shed so many tears. Their one thought is for the good of their children. Now we need to perceive how these kind parents are trapped in the suffering of samsara, experiencing unbearable suffering. Consequently, we should develop strong compassion for them.
There are, however, some people who might take the opposite view. Since everyone has been our enemy in a previous life, for example, when we were animals, others killed us for meat or for our fur and hides, we should view other sentient beings with hatred!!
In such a case, we have to consider which view is more beneficial. If we can develop loving kindness and bodhicitta we can attain enlightenment, whereas if we develop hatred we will just sink deeper into the lower realms. It’s true though that we abuse animals in this world. If they took us to court over our cruelty to them, they would win!
Further, we should also remember that all sentient beings are similar in having feelings of pleasure and pain. Even if someone is our enemy there will be a reason, and it is often our fault that we have not taken care. Perhaps we have been unhelpful or disrespectful.
A second ground for developing compassion is that though, sometimes it is possible to find happiness through knowing correctly what is to be done and what is to be abandoned, many sentient beings confuse the causes of suffering with the causes of happiness. For example, out of her caring, a mother bird kills countless worms and insects in order to feed her chicks, but this accumulation of negative actions, lifetime after lifetime means that the mother bird moves further and further away from a fortunate rebirth. Mothers have done so many negative things for the sake of their children and consequently continue to wander in samsara.
We are all interconnected and dependent on each other. Many people earn their living by killing other sentient beings in order to provide us with meat and so forth. If no one consumed these products, there would be no killers. No factory farms! We need to take responsibility and when we see suffering,we should want to do something about it.
A third reason is that under the effect of the afflictive emotions we have all become a little crazy. When we see someone who is insane we don’t hold their behaviour against them. Yet, we are all a little insane! Made so by the afflictions. Hence, we should practice patience. If someone hits us with a stick on the head, we get angry at the person. We don’t get angry at the stick because it had no control, it didn’t wish to hit us. We need to think of the person who harms us in the same way. It is as if the person is drunk, intoxicated by the alcohol of the afflictive emotions and under their control. This is how we should view it. The Buddhas and bodhisattvas do not abandon sentient beings who are under the control of the afflictive emotions, so we should train with their example in mind. When someone is offensive, we might have a momentary reaction but we should not allow ourselves to bear a grudge as that would be in contradiction of the Bodhisattva vow.
The fourth reason is to consider the suffering of our mothers. All sentient beings want to be free of suffering, and though we may find it difficult to envisage the suffering of the lower realms, it is possible to see so much suffering in the world: war-torn countries, famine, orphans, lawless places, places where all hope has been lost. We see these on the news.
At the very least, when we see such things, we should make prayers for those places. Instead, we simply pass comment, “Oh, there’s a war in that place...” or “There was an earthquake there…” without ever considering the people caught up in those terrible situations. When we read the newspapers or watch TV, we can use the activity as a way to bring benefit to others, by offering prayers for them. We cannot train in bodhicitta while ignoring the suffering of others..Many masters in the past stayed in retreat, but they were bringing benefit to beings. Benefit to beings doesn’t just mean bringing truckloads of food for example, though that can be good.
We also need the instructions on emptiness and compassion in order to bring benefit to beings. We don’t need grand Dharma centres. When we teach the Dharma we should be like beggars—a beggar gets a single rupee, and is satisfied. We can think, “I did a little virtue.”
I heard a story, I think it is true. There was a very wealthy man who wanted to demonstrate his wealth to his friends so one day he took them out on his yacht. He also took a huge pile of $100 bills. Once they were out at sea, he made a great display of casting these dollar bills away into the ocean. Just to show how rich he was!
Even if we only do one positive thing we should not discount it. For example, if you help an elderly person who has difficulty walking take a few steps, you feel good, don’t you?
The seven- point mind training recommends:change your attitude but remain natural. Sometimes we think that practising the dharma means buying all the ritual instruments and equipment, but this might even casue conflict in your own family. Rather, your attitude has to be to create benefit for sentient beings, and that includes your family.
An infinite number of sentient beings are experiencing an infinite amount of suffering, so we need to develop infinite compassion. But it is difficult to change and to develop mindfulness. Some people really don’t understand anything! It is difficult to tolerate their presence and difficult to help them. But we are doing this for the benefit of all sentient beings, even for the benefit of just one being. Karma Pakshi said that he came to tame just one being – the Mongol emperor.
We need to develop compassion as vast as space.An image which I find helpful is that of a powerful beam of light. If you shine it from below, it only lights up a part, buty if you take it to the top of Mount Everest, the beam of light will fill the world around. This is what we need to do with our compassion.
In old Tibet, when people went on pilgrimage, they would recite mantras as they circumambulated holy places, and then they would dedicate the merit to all sentient beings. They didn’t know much about the world – they didn’t know where America was, and some believed Russia was inhabited by cannibals – but they did know that all sentient beings share the experiences of happiness and suffering, and so they made the aspiration that well-being should extend in all the ten directions.
Think of it! We all live on the third planet from the sun in our solar system, and our solar system is like a grain of sand in the galaxy, yet, even though we know nothing of these other worlds and solar systems, we can make an aspiration for the well-being of all sentient beings, throughout the universe.
There’s not a day or a moment in which we are not under the control of this enemy of the afflictions negative emotions and our mother sentient beings have been in its clutches since beginningless time. We need to develop compassion for these people.
We can also contemplate our own suffering, and from there consider the sufferings of other sentient beings.
Here’s a true story. There was a dog-owner who found the body of a dog and decided to use it for meat. When the family pet, a female dog who had just given birth to five or six puppies, arrived, they tried to give her some of the meat but she refused it, and she wouldn’t let her puppies eat it either. The people were insistent and were going to eat the meat, so the dog gave her puppies one last look, and ate some meat. Immediately she was taken violently ill, vomited blood, and died. Unbeknown to the family, the meat had come from a dog which had been poisoned and there was still poison in the meat! The family buried the mother dog, and a hundred people came to the funeral. Later the dog was reburied in a cemetery and a dog-shaped gravestone erected. That dog was acting for the benefit of sentient beings– animals also have love and affection. If animals can do it, we humans should be able to do it too, but we often think too much, and are indecisive.
This is the auspicious occasion of the birth anniversary of Dusum Khyenpa, an example of how great people come back again and again to work for the benefit of sentient beings. The Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje, said that even to be born as a dog in the presence of the Karmapa depended on the accumulation of merit. We need to remember the kindness of our root lamas. We should consider their actions. How they donned the armour of courage and were able to bring benefit to beings.
The session concluded with the Gyalwang Karmapa bestowing the five precepts (upasika vows).
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LAMP FOR THE PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT - TEACHINGS BY THE GYALWANG KARMAPA: DAY ONE
December 10, 2010 - Bodhgaya
Compassion is the Essence of the Path
In Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha has walked the land, moving along his way to the Bodhi Tree and full awakening, the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, has presided over the Kagyu Monlam since 2004 and given teachings to his disciples. This year he has built a vast stage for Dharma teachings and cultural performances. Above it are monumental arches covered with azure blue cloth, and in its middle is a golden canopy, floating like the sun in empty space. Aligned underneath is a statue of the Buddha, framed in a shell of radiant light, and then a statue of the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, who is so life-like that many people think the Karmapa has come early and is meditating on his throne. Next, just after the circle of a brilliant sun cascades down the steps, is the Karmapa’s throne, surrounded by generous bouquets of flowers. Seen from the end of the pavilions that host thousands of guests, the perspective of the central aisle gives a brilliant and spacious image of the lineage, descending from the Buddha to the first Karmapa and coming down to the present 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje.
It is he who will start teaching today on the great Indian scholar, Jowo Atisha’s famous Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. Beforehand, the sound of the lay and ordained sangha chanting the mantra “Karmapa Khyenno” (Karmapa, you are the one who knows) fills the early morning with its gentle, peaceful sound. Soon the high-pitched jalings pierce the air with their rising tones to announce His Holiness’s arrival down the central aisle to his throne in front of Dusum Khyenpa and the Buddha. He makes three reverential bows to them, and settles on his throne as the early morning sunlight shines on his face.
After several chants, including the Tashi Prayer for auspicious beginnings, he is given the traditional offerings for a long life, which are presented by Gyaltsap Rinpoche, (one of the four main Kagyu tulkus), Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, (the Karmapa’s teacher), Mingyur Rinpoche (the abbot of Tergar Monastery), Bagyod Rinpoche (owner of the statue of Dusum Khyenpa that will travel the world this year), and Lama Chodrak, the main organizer of the Kagyu Monlam.
After the Karmapa is asked to turn the wheel of Dharma, he makes his own prayers, ending with his hands together in a deep bow of great respect to the Buddha and the lineage.
Opening the teachings, the Karmapa first traced the history of his teachings here in Bodh Gaya, where they began in a small hall of the Mahayana Hotel. When it became too small, they were moved to the Taiwanese temple and then again to Tergar Monastery’s shrine hall, and finally this large site where thousands can be accommodated. Atisha can be linked to the Kagyu through Gampopa who first studied in the Kadampa lineage before meeting Milarepa and receiving his mahamudra (Great Seal) teachings. After Gampopa combined these two streams, this river has become one of the main currents of practices done by the Kagyu Lineage.
I would like to mention here that if there is something good and positive in what I am saying, please take this in and try to practice it. My main audience for these teachings is people from the Himalayan region and also for general public so please take this into account as you listen.
Shantideva has written that a human life is difficult to obtain and if we do not use it well, we may not find one again. This, of course, relates to the first of the four thoughts that turn the mind: the precious human birth. It is not enough, however, to understand this intellectually: we must take it into our hearts. A precious human birth is difficult to attain because it requires so many different causes. We might think that there is a problem of overpopulation in the world, so how could it be so difficult to get a human birth? But we are talking about a precious human rebirth, and this is special, requiring many positive deeds in the past. Think how difficult it is to do one positive act, and then think how much more difficult it is to do this all the time.
Human beings have an intelligence that allows them to make distinctions between what they should take up and what they should give up. We should extend this intelligence to encompass all beings vast as space and understand what helps or harms them. And this should not be just a mental act: we should try to help on a practical level. Otherwise, our intelligence can be more dangerous than the most ferocious tiger. In sum, we need to think carefully and on a vast scale.
If we are true Dharma practitioners, devotion is not enough. The starting point of Dharma is to appreciate the preciousness of human beings and the benefit and harm that we do. In order to become enlightened as Vajradhara, we first need to become a good human being and understand our mind. Otherwise, we are just imitating others.
We should speak a little about the author of this text. Jowo Palden Atisha was born in Bengal, and became a highly realized being. His most inspiring action was coming to Tibet and turning the wheel of Dharma in Tibet, giving deep and vast teachings including the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. All the teaching on the stages of the path stem from this text. It has been said that if Atisha had not come to Tibet, Tibetans would have been blind.
In general, this teaching is important because it is profound and non-sectarian. At his university, Vikramashila, all the schools were present and asked Atisha to become their leader. Atisha knew and respected all different schools and vehicles, including the deep teachings of Nagarjuna and the vast teachings of Asanga, which he understood to be in harmony with each other.
How then should we listen to these teachings? As if our throat were parched and we desperately needed a drink of water. Some people think they already know the Dharma, so their minds are filled with pride and they cannot hear. We should not be like this. There are many different ways to teach, but I think it’s important to teach what goes into our hearts and what inspires us. I do not want to look learned, but give you what is useful to you. All the Buddha’s teachings are about how to transform yourself. And you should not just listen to me: you have to think for yourself so that you can transform yourself.
We are trying to become enlightened, searching for wisdom that will free us of our ignorance. And we are not talking here about religions or schools, but any wise teaching that is useful and established as good. We should not throw this away like tossing grass in front of a carnivorous animal.
One of the Karmapas has said that our samsara is a small samsara, and the Buddha’s samsara is a big samsara. How to understand this? We are focused on the limited samsara of our life while the Buddha is constantly in samsara to help living beings and there is no end to this. Samsara is the office of the Buddha, his field of work, and he never leaves that space.
Bodhisattvas help everyone, even someone who is only interested in this life. And, actually, this is the first type of the three types of people discussed in Atisha’s text. The second type relates to those who wish to be free of samsara. And the third is those who work for the benefit of others. We should reflect upon which one applies to us. It has been said that there is no difference in the depth of Dharma but the difference is in the depth of our mind. We need to know our minds well enough to know the right time for a practice. If we try to walk a high wire from the very beginning, we may well pay a visit to Yamaraja, (the Lord of Death).
For great beings, everything is done through compassion. The wish to eliminate the suffering of all living beings is the mahayana motivation. In addition, the vajrayana brings a sense of urgency to our wish to free living beings from suffering, and this gives a special feeling to the practice. If you are in a burning fire, you would not complacently sit there, but exit in great haste. In the same way, when you see living beings’ suffering, is no time to relax. Mahayana translates as “the Great Vehicle” and it is great because of great compassion. How much responsibility can you take? For one person? For many? If you are able to take responsibility for others, whether you call yourself a mahayana follower or not, you are one.
We need to reflect upon compassion from many different angles, and not just through thoughts but from our heart and bones. Once bodhicitta (the wish to become enlightened for the sake of others), arises in us, then we are bodhisattvas. But if we let go of one living being, if we give up on just one person, then we lose that bodhicitta.
People ask why there are so few Buddhists. The reason is that being a Buddhist is difficult: we have to study and practice. Most people want something that is easy–you just stretch out your hand, and you have it. It is through study and practice that Buddhists seek the two benefits: temporary and ultimate. The temporary one protects us from lower births and suffering in this realm; the ultimate one is full awakening. We need to understand what the benefits are and have the motivation to attain them.
The root of bodhicitta is both love and compassion, but compassion is more important. We can develop these by thinking of ourselves and our own body. We can experience how much we wish to avoid suffering and how we also wish for increasing freedom. Then we can extend this and understand that all beings resemble us in these wishes. It is not that we are over here and other living beings are at a distance over there. If we see someone in pain, we ask ourselves, “What would it be like to have that discomfort?” We feel ourselves into their situation.
There are many diverse religions, cultures, histories, and civilizations but all of us live under one sun and moon and on one earth, and we breathe the same oxygen, so we are like one family. We must feel the suffering and happiness of others: we carry all the suffering together and share the happiness. There is a famous quote: If I have happiness, may it be shared by everyone; if others have suffering, may I carry it all.
Discord will Ultimately Lead to the Destruction of the Dharma
The sun had moved across the sky when the Gyalwang Karmapa returned at 3.00pm to resume his discourse. The parasol which had shaded him during the morning session was no longer necessary. He prostrated before ascending the teaching throne, then began.
The following is an edited account of the teaching not a transcription, and is derived from the English translation, not the original Tibetan.
The teachings of Lord Buddha do not contain contradictions but are skillful means for reaching different people at different stages on the path to enlightenment. The Tibetan tradition of Buddha’s teachings contains both the Tripitaka and the Four Tantras. The teachings exist alongside experience, and, when the profound meaning is understood, though there might be different ways of explaining words, and the level might differ, there is no contradiction. If you correctly understand the profound meanings of the teachings, you will comprehend how all the teachings of the Buddha, the treatises by the Indian masters, and so forth, all contribute as the method on the path to enlightenment. Those scholars who express doubts of authenticity because of contradictions, are concentrating on semantics and not the profoundest levels of meaning. For instance, when Lord Buddha sometimes says that the self (Skt atman) exists, and then sometimes says the self does not exist (Skt. anatman), it is not that he is contradicting himself but that, through his compassion, he is using skillful means to benefit people by teaching according to their needs
Further, the profound meaning of the Dharma is not contained in external appearances such as statues or monasteries. The different schools of Tibetan Buddhism are rather like a salesman’s pitch, focusing on the special qualities of his goods, because it is geared to the individual needs and tastes of the clients. People, however, become confused and cannot see beneath these externalities, mistakenly adopting the view that their school is correct or better and that others are wrong. The Dharma is not such superficial appearances but the teachings combined with experience.
The first important aspect when considering Jowo Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment is that it provides a complete teaching on the path to enlightenment, from the very beginning to the ultimate realizations. Such a comprehensive overview helps us understand the teachings and realize that there are no contradictions.
(The teaching was interrupted at this point by the Tea Offering which took the form of an offering to Atisha.)
The second important aspect of the text is that it contains all the Buddha’s instructions and hence the name Kadampa (ed. note :the Tibetan Buddhist tradition founded by Jowo Atisha’s disciple Dromtön Gyelway Jungnay). In this two-syllable word, the first part ka refers to the Buddha’s speech, and the second part dam refers to instructions. Thus all the Buddha’s instructions help somebody to progress along the path to enlightenment, and all the words in the Tripitakas and in the Four Tantras are instructions. The Lamp for the Path is a teaching which can be practised in a day—incorporating the main path, branch teachings, all the methods, and all the instructions necessary for someone to attain enlightenment—written in an easily accessible way.
First must come contemplation of this precious human life. We should continue this practice until we fully understand and appreciate its meaning, even if it takes a whole lifetime. Some practitioners seem to think a practice can be done and finished in a certain amount of time, and then request a new one, sometimes going from one Lama to the next, in search of new practices, saying, “I’ve been practising Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara). What shall I practise now? Drolma?" as if a practice lasted a fixed time and now the time has expired!
We need to appreciate that all the teachings that the Buddha gave contribute to enlightenment, in the same way that a skilled doctor tries different methods, medicines, diets etc. in order to cure the patient. One instruction may be more useful to you, but every instruction is beneficial.
These days there has been a development of more extensive study programmes in Kagyu monasteries and nunneries but this is not in conflict with the notion of the Kagyu as the Practice Lineage. We need to appreciate that all the study texts and treatises are not simply for study but are practice manuals too. Study and practice go together. Buddhist practice should not just be based on faith, but on understanding. Hence many of the Karmapas produced scholarly works and many of the great meditation masters also recommended study, because if you don’t understand how to practice, all the empowerments, reading volumes of texts on Mahamudra and so forth, and even the presence of the Great Vajradhara himself, won’t help you.
It is important for us to understand what it means to abandon the Dharma. This is one of the worst misdeeds. The principal reason for the degeneration of the Dharma in our time is discord in the Buddhist community, as was predicted. It was said that Buddha Shakyamuni’s teachings would come to an end because of such disharmony. The illustration given was that even when a lion dies, the other animals in the jungle are still too afraid to eat the carcass. How then does it come about that the body is destroyed? By small insects that eat it from within. In the same way, that’s how Buddhism will be destroyed.
Abandoning the Dharma includes divisive speech. We should abandon criticism and negative remarks not just concerning our own Buddhist school, but other Buddhist schools, and other religions. The original Sangha split first into four and then eventually into eighteen schools. Often our priorities are wrong. We concentrate on the survival of our own Dharma lineage when the survival of the Buddha’s teachings is the important thing. There was once a Lama who was asked to write an aspiration for the flourishing of the dharma and made the point that the whole Dharma should remain, not just that of the school he belonged to. In addition, we need to recognize that there are different Buddhist Dharmas, Mahayana, Theravada, Vajrayana, and many non-Buddhist Dharmas, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism and so forth.
There is an important place for honest debate and exchange of ideas but not for pointless negative criticism; it is wrong to look down on or disregard other schools. Much of the damage which is contributing to the destruction of the Dharma is fuelled by attachment to one’s own school. Especially here in Bodh Gaya, everyone should make sure that they are not harming the Dharma in any way.
Great compassion arises from contemplating one’s own suffering in samsara, under the sway of negative emotions. An example from my own experience is when people come to see me, I am often saddened because I feel unable to help them, but this makes me more determined to practice. And that’s the crux of the matter, we have to practice. It seems to me that renunciation and compassion are like a two-way mirror—look inwards and it becomes renunciation, look outwards and it becomes compassion.
In order to generate bodhicitta we have to realize that wherever we are in samsara, there is suffering, and extend the wish to be free of suffering to all. The Mahayana cannot exist without bodhicitta, and this has to be complemented by an understanding of emptiness and selflessness.
All of these come together in Vajrayana. This is why we say that the preliminary is deeper than the actual practice. First we accumulate merit and purify ourselves so we need to take refuge and practice the Seven Branch Practice. In the text, Jowo Atisha describes three capacities of beings, but it is important to understand that all three levels are related.
In Vajrayana, the Lama is very important. Therefore, you need to know how to relate to the Lama, and how to receive empowerments and ripen yourself. You must understand and practice samaya and the Vajrayana precepts. It is very important not to break the samayas, so you especially have to understand the root samayas. As you go higher on the Vajrayana path, the negative consequences of breaking the samayas or precepts grow increasingly greater and greater.
The Lamp for the Path contains five sections: first refuge, second aspiration bodhicitta and action bodhicitta, third calm-abiding meditation, so that you can help others, fourth the skillful means, and fifth the union of wisdom and compassion. From beginning to end this text is for practice today The commentary used will be the one written by the Fourth Gyaltsap Rinpoche which accords with Kadampa Geshe Sharawa.
The text opens with homage to the Three Jewels.
I pay homage with great respect
To all the Victorious Ones of the three times,
To their teaching and to those who aspire to virtue…
and respect to people who have more qualities than we have.
Urged by the good disciple Jangchup Wö…
Atisha wrote this book at the request of Jangchup Wö, the King of Ngari.
I shall illuminate the lamp
For the path to enlightenment.
If you have a lamp you can see the path at night and won’t get lost—this book is the lamp to help travelers on the path to enlightenment.
Verse two introduces the three capacities of beings:
Understand there are three kinds of persons
Because of their small, middling and supreme capacities.
I shall write clearly distinguishing
Their individual characteristics.
and verses three, four and five define each capacity.
Know that those who by whatever means
Seek for themselves no more
Than the pleasures of cyclic existence
Are persons of the least capacity.
Those who seek peace for themselves alone,
Turning away from worldly pleasures
And avoiding destructive actions,
Are said to be of middling capacity.
Those who through personal suffering,
Truly want to end completely
All the suffering of others
Are persons of supreme capacity.
At this point, the teachings broke for lunch.
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Karmapa 900 Opening CeremonY, Day 2: Protecting the Karma Kagyu Teachings
As thousands gathered before daybreak for Karmapa 900, the image of Buddha Shakyamuni was already basking in golden light beneath the painted sun on the Karmapa 900 stage. From dusk to dawn, this second day of the commemoration was devoted to the protection of the Karma Kagyu teachings received from Dusum Khyenpa, whose 900th birth anniversary will be celebrated throughout the upcoming year. With 108 smoke offerings in the morning and 100,000 offerings to Mahakala in the afternoon and evening, the day of practice was centered on Mahakala, whose history as Dharma protector of the Karma Kagyu is nearly as long as the lineage itself.
Morning Smoke Offering Ceremony
The crowd repeatedly rose to its feet respectfully, as the Karma Kagyu’s seniormost lamas entered and took their seats one after another: His Eminence Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, His Eminence Jamgön Kongtrul, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, Tenga Rinpoche, Bayö Rinpoche, Yonge Mingyur Rinpoche, Khenpo Lodrö Dönyö, the young Drupön Dechen Rinpoche and many, many others. His Holiness then took the stage, and donned his black Action Crown with great dignity.
As it had on day one, the “speaking statue” of Dusum Khyenpa arrived escorted by a spectacular ceremonial procession. As the statue neared the front of the grounds, three masked figures entered the stage, representing three major Dharma protectors—Mahakala, Mahakali, and Vajrsattva. After dancing a joyful dance of welcome, the three protectors offered khatas to the precious image of Dusum Khyenpa, to show their respect and to welcome it.
The Gyalwang Karmapa offered some comments for the occasion. Noting the long association of Six-Armed Mahakala with the Karma Kagyu lineage as its particular protector, His Holiness explained that the offering ceremony was being held as an expression of gratitude to the Dharma protectors, principally Mahakala.
However, simply relying on Dharma protectors to ensure the longevity of the lineage was clearly not sufficient, His Holiness said. Referring to comments that Samdhong Rinpoche, Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile had made during his speech as chief guest of Karmapa 900 the previous day, the Gyalwang Karmapa stated that harmony among the sangha was an essential condition for the protection of the Dharma. The need to maintain pure samaya with one’s lama is also exceedingly important, His Holiness continued.
The Gyalwang Karmapa further reminded the audience that we have all been born in an era when the Dharma has greatly declined and is well advanced in its slide towards extinction. As such, His Holiness said, we should feel ourselves to be extremely fortunate to have met the Buddhadharma, and in particular the teachings of the Kagyu lineage. Yet we must not allow ourselves to simply rest contented, but must make active efforts to ensure that the teachings of the practice lineage remain available long into the future, His Holiness said.
The remainder of the morning session was taken up with the offering practice itself. By noon, 108 clouds of incense smoke had been offered from 108 incense furnaces (sang khang in Tibetan) specially constructed around the stage area. The morning sky filled with fragrant smoke, as the most aromatic substances harvested in Lachen in northern Sikkim were burnt as thankful offerings to the Karma Kagyu protectors.
During the afternoon, accompanied by many lineage lamas, monks, nuns and lay yogis, His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa performed Mahakala practice at a sacred site associated with Mahakala half an hour’s drive from Bodhgaya. Many centuries earlier, Six-Armed Mahakala had appeared to the Indian mahasiddha Shawaripa as he practiced in a cave set in the mountain above. As such, Mahakala practice is greatly enhanced by being performed on such a spot consecrated by the deity himself.
Meanwhile, back on the Karmapa 900 stage in Bodhgaya, His Eminence Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche led thousands of monks and nuns in an extensive 100,000 Offerings practice to Mahakala. The altar was adorned with a full set of metal armor, forged according to the traditional design, and offered to the protector.
The day concluded with the Gyalwang Karmapa and other lineage lamas re-joining Gyaltsab Rinpoche on the Karmapa 900 stage to complete the 100,000 Offering practice. When the ritual was complete, His Holiness shared some final thoughts with those assembled.
The elaborate celebration had taken a tremendous deal of work, His Holiness commented. It was one thing to work hard to make an event a success, but it was quite another, he said, to work hard in a way consistent with the Dharma. The Gyalwang Karmapa observed that Karmapa 900 had virtually moved in and turned Tergar Monastery upside down, and extended his heartfelt thanks to Yonge Mingyur Rinpche and to Tergar Monastery itself for their generous support and tolerance.
The purpose in holding such an event commemorating Dusum Khyenpa’s 900th birth anniversary is to recollect the kindness of the lama, His Holiness stated. In the past, there had been little need for such commemorations in the Karma Kagyu lineage, because the strong emphasis on practice has ensured that we always kept our lamas in our hearts or on the crown of our heads, and practiced according to their instructions. But in the 21st century, the Karma Kagyu has moved far from its mountain seats and hermitages, and has taken up residences in bustling towns and cities full of distraction. Karma Kagyu practitioners thus needs to be reminded of the deeds and the great qualities of the past masters. Indeed, in order to enhance the devotion that is so fundamental to the practice lineage, it is essential that we understand the reasons why our past masters are valid objects of veneration, respect and devotion. Karmapa 900 is aimed at creating an opportunity for us to learn more of their great deeds and at inspiring us to develop their great qualities within ourselves.
Yet this Karmapa 900 celebration is just a beginning, His Holiness said. There is the possibility for it to become a first step towards again establishing a firm base for the Karma Kagyu and to spread it just as Dusum Khyenpa had done.
As the sun was setting, His Holiness finished his final comments, the opening ceremony came to a successful conclusion and the crowd dispersed with a sense of hope and great joy.
With that, the two days Karmapa 900 events were over. Yet as the Gyalwang Karmapa noted, the year of celebration has just begun—and, under His Holiness’ guidance, a whole new era worth celebrating seems poised to begin as well.
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Gyalwang Karmapa Leads Assembly in Dusum Khyenpa Guru Yoga
(December 8, Bodhgaya) For the final session of the Karmapa 900 Opening Ceremony’s first day, the focus was firmly on the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, with three hours of Dusum Khyenpa Guru Yoga practice. His Holiness himself especially compiled the text used for the session, entitled Streaming Shower of Blessings. The blessings were showering indeed, as His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa, His Eminences Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche and other Karma Kagyu lineage holders led a gathering of bhikshus, bhikshunis and yogis of the Karma Kagyu lineage in a palpably powerful evening of intense practice.
Admission to the evening activity was open only to fully ordained monks and nuns and to those who have completed a three-year retreat. As their admission ‘ticket,’ those who qualified received a full-color photo of Dusum Khyenpa from the lineage thangka series from Palpung Monastery in Tibet. During the session, the assembly hall was a sea of saffron monastic robes ringed by lay practitioners, many in white cotton. The portico surrounding Tergar Monastery’s main hall was filled with members of the general public content to listen and watch from outside—and the energy that filled the hall no doubt penetrated the walls to reach them outdoors as well.
The evening began with an oral transmission of the practice text. The Gyalwang Karmapa explained that the text was largely a compilation of other practice texts, including compositions by the four regents of the Karma Kagyu lineage. His Holiness requested the two regent lineage masters attending the session—His Eminence Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche and His Eminence Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche—to confer the oral transmissions for the prayers that had been composed in their previous incarnations. The Gyalwang Karmapa himself conferred the oral transmission of the remaining portions of the text.
As tsog was distributed to the assembly, His Holiness joyfully urged all not to be bashful but to eat their fill, and not to set their cups on the ground but to enjoy the tea steaming hot and straightaway. Along with more traditional fare, the food distributed included a huge layer cake, frosted like a birthday cake. Because Dusum Khyenpa was the first being in history to intentionally reincarnated, thus founding the Tibetan institution of reincarnate lamas, this was likely the world’s first cake for a 900th birthday celebration. In this way, the tsog served as a sweet reminder of the extraordinary qualities of the Karmapa lineage, sustained today by the exceptional being leading the evening’s gathering: His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje.
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Karmapa 900 Launches Year-long Commemoration of Founder’s Birth: Karma Kagyu Lineage Looks to its Past with Gratitude, to its Future with Hope
(December 8, Bodhgaya) One could say it was many months in the making. One could also say it was 900 years in the making. In either case, the opening ceremony of Karmapa 900, the yearlong celebration of the 900th birth anniversary of the First Karmapa, was a magnificent display of gratitude toward the past, and optimism for the future of the Karma Kagyu lineage.
The ceremony combined sacred song and dance by Indian classical musicians as well as traditional Tibetan performers, reflecting the commitment to preserving Tibetan culture as well as the deep respect for Indian culture that was expressed by His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who presided over the opening ceremony. However, as splendid as the performances were, the speeches were equally remarkable for their universal expression of trust placed in His Holiness the Karmapa as a spiritual leader for the 21st century, for the Tibetan people and for the world at large.
“We have the hope and we believe that there is an opportunity that the Seventeenth Karmapa will accomplish as much as all the previous sixteen Karmapas put together,” said the Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile and chief guest at the Karmapa 900 event, Samdhong Rinpoche, in an unequivocal affirmation of the confidence placed by the Tibetan people in His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje.
Prior to serving as Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Samdhong Rinpoche founded and headed the Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies in Varanasi, and an accomplished Sanskritist and scholar. In addition, he is a highly respected reincarnate lama in the Gelug order. In strong expression of harmony and mutual respect, Samdhong Rinpoche emphasized the many historic ties that link the Kagyu and Gelug schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Samdhong Rinpoche noted that the Fourth Karmapa, Rolpe Dorje, was one of the first teachers of Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug order, establishing a relation of teacher and disciple between the Kagyu lineage and Gelug school. Speaking with great respect for the contributions that past Karmapas have made to Tibetan society as well as religion, Samdhong Rinpoche also noted that among the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the Kagyu’s very name is a reflection of its direct and unbroken connection to the teaching lineage received from India.
Although unable to attend personally, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was present in the numerous expressions of gratitude and prayers made for his long life. Representing His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama was Tsering Phuntsok, Minister of the Department of Religion and Culture of the Tibetan government in exile, read a letter of congratulations from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. A venerable representative of His Holiness Sakya Trizin also read a message of support from the head of the Sakya order of Tibetan Buddhism. The speaker of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, Penpa Tsering, shared the stage as well, lending an additional voice of support on behalf of the Tibetan people.
In addition, Drigung Rinpoche sent a delegation to represent him at the ceremony, as did Khamtrul Rinpoche. As such, in a remarkable show of solidarity among the sects of Tibetan Buddhism, senior representatives of Gelug, Sakya, Drugpa Kagyu and Drigung Kagyu all participated in today’s celebration of the founder of the Karma Kagyu.
Regents of the Karma Kagyu order, His Eminence Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche and His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche took the stage alongside His Holiness, while countless other senior Karma Kagyu lamas were also in attendance for the momentous event. Speaking as president of the Karmapa 900 Organizing Committee, Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche read a poem that he had composed especially for the occasion.
The expressions of support were not limited to representatives of the Tibetan secular and religious communities. The chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, governor of Bihar too sent a letter stating, “I am glad to know that the opening ceremony of the 900th birth anniversary of the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, is going to be organised under the auspices of His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje on 8th and 9th of December, 2010, at Bodhgaya…” The governor of Bihar Devanand Konwar also wrote in a warm letter of support: “I am happy to learn that Karmapa 900 Organising Committee is celebrating the 900th birth anniversary of Dusum Khyenpa… and many other related activities under the auspices of His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje.”
Reflecting the long centuries of historical ties between the Karmapas and Sikkim, the governor of Sikkim, B.P. Singh, and the chief minister of Sikkim Pawan Chamling, both send strong messages of congratulations as well.
The stage ground seats 5,300, but was already full even before the morning’s program began. As people continued arriving, hoping to witness the grand event, the grounds were ringed with those content to stand watching from outside. More than 1,800 viewers logged in to the live webcast, ensuring that disciples and supporters of the Karma Kagyu lineage around the world were able to participate as well. In another display of the inclusive spirit of the Karmapa lineage, the ceremony was translated and broadcast live in eight Asian and European languages.
As such, an untold number of viewers from all around the world were watching the Karmapa 900 opening ceremony. What they saw no doubt dazzled their eyes. But what they heard and felt surely warmed their hearts as well. His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa listened to the Indian singer performing a sacred song of the Indian master Tilopa with respect and rapt attention, and looked to the speaking statue of Dusum Khyenpa with gratitude. As all eyes turned to the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa during this opening ceremony of Karmapa 900, what the audience saw was a vision of a glorious future and what they heard was a joyful song of hope.
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Gyalwang Karmapa Offers Clean Water to the People of Bodh Gaya as a Gift of Gratitude
8th of December 2010, marks the celebration of the auspicious opening of the Karmapa 900 ceremony, a year-long event, which commemorates the birth of the founder of the Karma Kagyu Lineage; Dusum Khyenpa. As part of the celebration, Khoryug inaugurated a clean drinking water facility, gifted by His Holiness the Karmapa to the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee.
The water facility is powered by a high-tech water filter, which provides 500 liters per hour and was installed by the company Aqua Solutions from Bangalore. The quality of the water is equal to and in some cases, surpasses that of bottled water. It is situated along the entrance to the main gate of the Mahabodhi Stupa and will be managed by the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC) in the future.
His Holiness conceived of this project during the 2009 Kagyu Monlam, when he noticed that a lot of plastic waste was being generated due to people drinking bottled water. He was informed that public water filters are found only in a few places in Bodh Gaya. He said:
“Bodh Gaya is the place where Buddha was enlightened, which means that it is the birthplace of the most-valued teachings of wisdom and compassion. We should treat this land with respect and protect its natural environment. During Buddha’s time, the river Niranjana flowed gloriously. But, these days, we hear that it is drying up. We must do everything we can to protect these water sources and to minimize wastes that are polluting this sacred land.”
The inauguration was attended by Chief Guest, Bantey Bhikku Chalinda, Chief Monk of Bodgaya Temple, and representative member from BTMC, Dr. R.H. Mishra, Khoryug monks and nuns, press, and hundreds of followers. The Representative of BTMC thanked His Holiness, and said that water is the source of life and therefore, this gift of water would benefit the poorest of the poor, and the downtrodden the most.
His Holiness said that he hopes his followers will use water from this source as an alternative to bottled water since the plastic waste that is then generated can take up to a million years to decompose naturally and emits toxic fumes when burned.
“Bodh Gaya hosts the Kagyu Monlam every year and provides for the needs for thousands of followers from the Kagyu lineage. I offer this small project in gratitude to the kindness showered on us. Without water, there can be no life. I pray that this source of clean water benefits the local people of Bodh Gaya as well as the visitors who come here for pilgrimage.”
Following the inauguration ceremony which included special prayers of auspiciousness and blessings, throngs of people gathered at the taps to collect water, which they now considered to be “Due-tsi” or nectar.
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Karmapa 900 Website Launch: December 7, 2010
The official Karmapa 900 website is scheduled to go live at www.karmapa900.org on December 7, 2010. Karmapa 900 is the year-long commemoration of the 900th birth anniversary of the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa.
With the aim of allowing Dharma friends, disciples and well-wishers of the Karma Kagyu lineage around the world to connect with Karmapa 900 from afar, the site will offer up-to-date news on all Karmapa 900 events throughout the year, as well as full coverage of the opening ceremony scheduled for December 8 and 9, 2010, in Bodhgaya, India.
Along with a wealth of background material on Dusum Khyenpa and the Karmapa lineage, the site will also feature "Anniversary Poem," a poem specially composed by His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa, and a message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama regarding Karmapa 900.
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GYALWANG KARMAPA VISITS THE ROOT INSTITUTE
December 3rd, 2010
This was the fifth occasion on which the Gyalwang Karmapa has visited the Root Institute, an FPMT centre in Bodhgaya. The Institute had requested a short teaching on the Heart Sutra for a group of course participants and staff at the centre, who were joined in the small shrine room by other residents and Dharma students.
After opening prayers led by two monks from Namgyal Branch Monastery in Bodhgaya, the Gyalwang Karmapa began his talk by expressing appreciation to the Root Institute for their work in helping the poor and disadvantaged people of the area. Some of their work includes the Shakyamuni Buddha Health Care Programme and the Tara Children’s Project, which cares for HIV-positive orphans. His Holiness emphasized the ideal importance of transforming compassion into positive action.
He then moved on to explore, firstly, the interdependence of all phenomena, and then the profound meaning of emptiness and its application in everyday life: how an understanding of emptiness can help us see things as they really are, helping us break through the veil of illusion which prevents us from appreciating the fundamental nature of all phenomena. Emptiness is not to be confused with nihilism, rather it should be seen as opportunity. Because of emptiness it is possible for all phenomena to manifest; emptiness is the fundamental nature of all phenomena.
Following his talk, the Gyalwang Karmapa met and spoke with children from the Tara Project and helped launch a small hot air balloon proclaiming: SAVE THE CLIMATE ACT NOW. He also talked with local people working in various capacities at the Institute.
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AKSHOBHYA RETREAT 2010
November 27, 2010
This year’s retreat, under the guidance and supervision of His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa, began on November 23rd at Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya. The retreat is part of the preparations for the Akshobhya Fire Ritual, and the Fire Ritual occurs on the penultimate evening of the annual Karma Kagyu Monlam Chenmo. The ritual takes place in the shrine room opposite His Holiness’ living quarters, on the roof of the temple at Tergar.
The retreat lasts for two weeks. This year there are sixteen retreatants, drawn from Kagyu communities worldwide and comprising three laypeople, five nuns and eight monks. On the first day the Gyalwang Karmapa conferred the Akshobhya empowerment (Tibetan: wang) on those taking part and gave the transmission (Tibetan: lüng). During the retreat he will give a daily teaching to the participants on the ritual’s significance.
The Akshobhya ritual is a very powerful purification practice done for the benefit of all sentient beings. It can liberate not only the practitioners themselves from the fear of an unfortunate rebirth, but other beings as well. The Buddha Akshobhya promised that the merit generated by reciting one-hundred-thousand of his long dhayani mantra and making an image of him could be dedicated to other people, both living and dead, and this would assure their release from lower states of existence and rebirth in spiritually fortunate circumstances.
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GYALWANG KARMAPA PAYS HOMAGE AT MAHABODHI STUPa, ATTENDS GURU RINPOCHE TSOg, and VISITS BHUTANESE MONASTERy
November 20, 2010
The Gyalwang Karmapa left first thing in the morning with a small entourage to pay homage at the central shrine of Buddhism, the Mahabodhi Temple, home to the Bodhi tree and other sites linked with the time when Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment.
The Gyalwang Karmapa was welcomed by Mr N.T. Dorje, Secretary of the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee, and the Head Monk-in-Charge the Venerable Pande Chalinda. His Holiness was escorted in procession through the Mahabodhi Stupa Ground and went directly to the main shrine room. Having prostrated three times, he presented traditional offerings of light, fruit, flowers, a donation and a new golden silk robe for the Buddha image, and recited prayers.
Leaving the shrine room, Gyalwang Karmapa walked around to the area behind the temple, under the Bodhi tree, where he joined a session of a Guru Rinpoche Tsog, at the request of a local Drukpa Kagyu Monastery, Sangak Choeling Monastery, the sponsor of the tsog.
On his return journey to Tergar Monastery, His Holiness stopped to visit the Bhutanese Monastery where each year a dedicated group of specially trained monks and nuns prepare the extraordinary butter sculptures - or in Tibetan torma- for the annual Kagyu Monlam Chenmo.
This year there are eight large torma in preparation. Each torma portrays a scene from the Life of Buddha, and is crowned by an image of one of the first eight Karmapas, flanked by their two main disciples.
The monks and nuns started work at the beginning of November and have made excellent progress.
His Holiness discussed their work with them and made a few suggestions.
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GYALWANG KARMAPA ARRIVES AT TERGAR MONASTEry, BODHGAYa
November 19, 2010
The Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje flew into Gaya Airport on Friday morning. He was welcomed by Ayang Rinpoche, Lama Chodrak and members of the Tergar Monastery staff.
The road to the monastery had been prepared for the Gyalwang Karmapa’s arrival with welcome gates and hundreds of the 16th Karmapa’s blue-and-yellow dream flags and four-coloured Dharma flags strung along each side of the road.
Preceded by the red flags and wailing sirens of a police escort, the cavalcade reached Tergar Monastery soon afterwards, to be greeted by the happy, smiling faces of several hundred monks and laypeople waiting excitedly with their offerings of incense and khatas.
On arrival, the Gyalwang Karmapa went immediately into the Tergar Monastery shrine room and prostrated three times to the Buddha image before going upstairs to his quarters on the temple roof.
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Travel schedule OF GyALWANG KARMAPA'S winter touR
November 17, 2010
Nov 17, 2010
His Holiness leaves Dharamsala for Delhi.
Nov 19, 2010
Arrives in Bodhgaya via Kolkata by flight.
Nov 20 Dec 3, 2010
10 days Akshobhya retreat and meditation.
Dec 8 9, 2010
Opening ceremony for Karmapa 900 Celebration.
Dec 10 12, 2010
3 days teaching on Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment
Dec 15 23, 2010
28th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo
Jan 3 4, 2011
Leaves Bodhgaya and reaches Dharamsala via Delhi.
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KAGYUR TRANSMISSION CONCLUDES
November 2, 2010
On Tuesday 2nd November Kyabje Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche successfully concluded his transmission of the Tibetan collection of Buddhist sutras known as the Kagyur.
The transmission had taken almost two months and entailed reading 100 volumes of Buddhist scriptures. There were two sessions of the transmission held each day. The morning sessions usually began at 6.00am and afternoon sessions at 2.00pm. Sessions lasted on average three hours, but sometimes lasted four or even five hours.
In addition to His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, those attending the transmission included Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, Kyabje Khamtrul Rinpoche, Rinpoches, Lamas and Nuns.
After the reading transmission concluded on the final morning , there was a closing ceremony, Monks from Tsurphu Labrang offered a mandala and long-life prayers to Sangye Nyenba Rinpoche, followed by general dedication prayers.
Traditional Tibetan tea and sweet saffron rice were served and everyone offered a khata to Rinpoche.
During the dedication prayers His Holiness spontaneously composed a long-life prayer for Rinpoche, copies of which were printed out immediately and handed round to the other participants so that everyone there could recite it.
Simultaneously, a group of monks from Tsurphu Labrang went to Lhagyalri on the kora around the Dalai Lama’s palace in McLeod Ganj, in order to offer a fire puja and hang thousands of prayer flags for the auspiciousness of the occasion.
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Request to devotees for photographs of His Holiness Karmapa, in particular the 16th Karmapa
October 30, 2010
This year marks the 900th year since the birth of the First Karmapa Düsum Khyenpa (1110-1193), who founded the lineage of Kagyu in 1139 C.E.
It is said:
Those who observe the anniversary
Of the passing of their lamas and venerate them,
Will soon be born among their first circle
Of disciples, and become a guide for beings.
Monasteries and dharma centers of the Karma Kagyu, the lineage of practice, are collaborating to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the birth, in Tresho, Kham, of the First Karmapa Düsum Khyenpa, the glorious crown jewel of the practice lineage.
As part of the 900th year celebration, His Holiness Karmapa's Office of Administration (Tsurphu Labrang) is collecting photographs of His Holiness Karmapa, in particular the 16th Karmapa.
The Tsurphu Labrang is requesting all devotees, students, and Dharma benefactors to please share your photographs of His Holiness, and to be a part of the celebration.
Should you have photographs to share, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Karmapa successfully completes mumbai Tour
October 13 to 15, 2010 - Mumbai
His Holiness successfully completed his Mumbai tour which was requested by Bouddha Sabah Association, Chembur. His Holiness inaugurated the Bouddha Vihara at Chembur and gave teaching at Dr. Ambedkar High School ground where thousands of people have gathered.
Local MLA Shri Chandrakant Handore gave a hearty reception for His Holiness.
In His teaching, His Holiness emphasized the importance of understanding our human nature through proper study in Buddhist teaching and exemplary paths followed by Dr. Ambedkar and others. True peace and happiness does not lie in materialistic development but lies in mental progress through proper understanding of Buddha’s teaching.
His Holiness appreciated all members for their tireless work for the construction of the Buddha Vihara and preservation of Buddha’s Teaching by following the foot steps of Dr. Ambedkar, the great scholar and visionary.
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Karmapa Attends Opening Ceremony of Buddha Vihara
October 13, 2010
His Holiness will be visiting Mumbai to attend the opening ceremony of Buddha Vihara at the invitation of Boudha Sabha Chembur. He is scheduled to give a teaching at the ceremony on October 14.
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