3rd Jan – Bodhgaya.
Although the 30th Monlam has ended, the Gyalwang Karmapa is continuing his activities in Bodhgaya.
As the laughter died down, the Gyalwang Karmapa delivered a profound and reasoned teaching on Buddha-nature and the nature of mind. "All sentient beings are endowed with the potential for complete Buddhahood," he began.
They are inherently Buddhas, and inherently that Buddha-nature is completely free of any stains – it is stainless, and perfect. Yet, at the level of relative or immediate experience, our experience is not this way. Our experience is that this perfectly pure Buddha-nature is veiled by our confused outlook.
Shifting the teaching to a deeper level, the Gyalwang Karmapa then described the dharmakaya, or the Buddha's enlightened mind. "Lord Gampopa said that the nature of thoughts is dharmakaya," he explained.
'Thoughts and dharmakaya are inseparable. We have this dualistic approach of seeing dharmakaya as pure and thoughts as impure, but we need to understand the inseparability of thoughts and dharmakaya.'
The Gyalwang Karmapa spoke directly in English as he continued:
Every moment that we have thought, every moment that thought arises, we have the opportunity to recognize the nature of thought as emptiness or dharmakaya, whatever you want to call it. Thought and the emptiness of its nature are inseparable. We can't make them separate; there's no separation. Because thought itself is emptiness that means actually in everyday life we have lots of opportunity to recognize and realize the nature of thought, or nature of emptiness, or dharmakaya. But we just follow the appearances, the illusions – we don't look deeper.
The Gyalwang Karmapa then responded to several more questions from the audience, teaching briefly on the progressive views of emptiness within Tibetan Buddhism which culminate in the final Madhyamaka view. The final questioner echoed the thoughts of many gathered when she asked the Gyalwang Karmapa how his students could help and support him. "I feel energized and inspired by all the love and the support that I receive from all of you. That really is sufficient. I don't need anything more than your love and support," he replied, to resounding applause.
Continuing an annual tradition, the teaching took place at the request of the Root Institute for Wisdom Culture. The Gyalwang Karmapa taught to an overflowing gompa, with hundreds of students spilling out into the surrounding balconies and gardens. In addition to mostly international students, the audience also included local Indian children from the Root Institute's school.
31st December – Bodhgaya.
The correct way to practise the Buddhadharma
Gyalwang Karmapa explained that he had chosen this text, written by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, because the theme of the Monlam was the commemoration of the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage. He did not plan to go through the whole text this year as there was no benefit in rushing, but he hoped to be able to cover refuge and Vajrasattva, particularly as those who had taken the Vajrasattva empowerment would then have everything they needed to do the Vajrasattva practice.
[What follows is a summary of the main points.]
What counts as a genuine dharma practice? It seems that many who think they are practisingdharma aren't.
When we study the scriptures they describe the ideal way to practice dharma, and then it is up to us to practise to the best of our ability, step by step, depending on our situation. However, we should always make the effort to aim as high as possible rather than feel unconfident and underestimate our potential. Our viewpoint should be that of understanding the ideal and fixing our sights on it.
Although some of the things we regard as important practices such as going on pilgrimage, prostrations, mantra recitation, and circumambulations may be part dharma practice, it is questionable whether these alone can be termed a pure practice.
To begin with, we should have full devotion and trust in the three jewels, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, but have to examine the nature of that devotion and trust. Devotion has to come from the depths of our hearts – it's not just a matter of folding our hands together and repeating the words!
Devotion and blind faith are not the same: To develop such devotion and trust does not happen automatically, except for a few who have very strong imprints and karmic connections. Rather, generating this devotion and trust is a slow process, but both are essential for the path to liberation. Devotion has to come from a clear understanding. First we have to find a genuine lama and receive genuine teachings. From this comes clarity of mind – so that we can understand cause and effect, and understand how dharma practice can transform us. It is not enough to blindly follow what the teacher says.
We need understanding and clarity not blind faith.
An understanding of causality is the foundation of Dharma practice. We need to understand the effects of practice, what to do, what not to do, and the consequences. This is true dharma practice. When we have this clarity and certainty we can decide independently what we should do, and it adds depth to anything we do do, such as prostrations. Likewise devotion
Dharma practice should become a way of life. True devotion arises when we become clear and certain that we have no option but to act in that way. That is the basis of true devotion, practice and study. We need to have a teacher and receive teachings and instructions from that teacher. These teachings and instructions may be long or short. The important thing is that when we put these teachings and instructions into action our dharma practice becomes a way of life, not something compartmentalised into the times when we sit on our meditation cushion or practice sessions.
The guru is essential: though some people think that they can practise without a teacher. We may think we know how to do prostrations, but it is the teacher who helps us understand the nature of the practice so that our practice transforms our minds. We need three things: instructions from a teacher, study and reflection. In the end, no one attains enlightenment by completing a certain number of prostrations or circumambulations!
Ultimately, the measure of the success of our practice lies in the transformation of our minds.
The value of the ngöndro is to turn our minds towards the Dharma.
Reflecting on the first two common preliminaries – the precious human life and impermanence– counteracts attachment to this life. When we have reflected on them sufficiently, we move to the second level, reflecting on karma, cause and effect, and on the intrinsic suffering of samsara. The purpose here is to dissuade us from attachment to future lives, and to develop genuine renunciation of samsara.
Successfully completing the ngöndro is not about doing 100, 000 prostrations. If we want to know whether the ngöndro are working or not, we should check the state of our minds. Are negative emotions still controlling our mind or are they diminishing? At all times we need to apply the best antidotes to counteract negativities in our mind.
A genuine Dharma practice is not about:
Transforming ourselves is not about changing our outward appearance or aspects of our external behaviour such as our speech. It is not about suppressing our anger and dislike so that it no longer shows. That is not genuinely practising Dharma. Rather, when we transform our minds by getting rid of negative states of mind, our external appearance, speech and behaviour automatically change too. Transformation comes from within.
The following is an edited summary paraphrasing the Karmapa's teaching:
Study, reflection, meditation are interconnected when following a genuine path. What exactly are study, reflection and meditation? The wisdom that arises out of study does not mean collecting various types of teaching. When we just listen to teachings we tend to forget them. This is not the kind of study we are talking about.
Study and the wisdom that arises from study are separate. The wisdom that arises from listening comes first from remembering the words. When the meaning of the words remains in our mind-stream, this is called the wisdom that arises from listening. This wisdom is generated in us with the help of some other person. It can be a teacher or something else.
Reflection is based on careful listening and understanding. When we have complete understanding from listening, we reflect on it. We do not rely on someone else's power. We reflect again and again and try to understand it deeply.
After examination and reflection, we gain a clear understanding that if we train in this way, certain experiences will arise. The certainty thus gained through understanding and investigating, is what we call the wisdom that is generated through reflection.
Similarly we can divide reflection into just reflection and the wisdom that arises from reflection. When we develop the wisdom of reflection we understand the meaning of all the studies we have done and how it leads to transformation. We then become highly motivated and inspired to practise the teachings. That is called the wisdom generated from reflection.
The result of investigation and the wisdom arising from it is that it becomes so important to practise immediately that we feel we must go away to a quiet place and practice without delay.
However, without meditation, study becomes static. If you understand intellectually but this does not interact with your experience, it doesn't become transformative.
The word meditation means to become familiarised. We try to use what we understand to subdue our rough mind. When we make it a habit, then it becomes our life. Dharma practice is not separate from our life. We become the dharma. Dharma becomes our life. Bodhicitta is not outside, separate from our mind. Mix your experience with bodhicitta. Merging study with meditation right from the beginning is very important.
Meditation is there to improve the mind. That is dharma practice. There is nothing more to it than that. We have attained this precious human life and entered into the dharma. When we enter into the practice we need to make it true. To do that we need to turn our mind towards the dharma. We develop devotion, trust and certainty in buddha, dharma and sangha.
Death and impermanence
Everybody fears death, even animals, and barbarians who have wrong view. It is not in itself very special. Reflecting on impermanence, however, means knowing that now we have this precious human life which will not last forever. We do not have much time. When we realise the preciousness of our time right now, we need to do something at this very moment. I must do something now. I cannot delay. It becomes the most important thing to do in life.
If you have generated bodhicitta it becomes even more urgent to act because you have the capacity to work for sentient beings and do something very strong right now. The strength of that motivation brings enthusiasm and the wish to act immediately. When we do something for ourselves only, it's not that urgent, but when there is a chance to benefit many people it becomes more urgent.
A true understanding of impermanence cannot arise unless we have a strong experience of our precious human life. This frees us from too much attachment to this life's activities.
16 unfavourable states.
Reflect on the favourable conditions we have attained to practise dharma and make this life useful. Most of us have all these right conditions. If we didn't have them, we wouldn't be here at this moment.
Even if we have the right opportunities, all the positive states and freedoms, we still don't do the practice because of the 16 unfavourable conditions.
8 of these are based on present circumstances:
8 conditions are based on the mind:
We have all the right conditions because we have a special intelligence to act for long term benefit. We have the capacity to understand and formulate the thought to do something beneficial. We should not use it to harm or destroy others. In the end we destroy our own race. We need to use our special intelligence to help each other and do something great.
Look at how we treat animals: we eat their flesh, take away their habitation and make them extinct.
Once, at an environmental conference the monks were puzzled why we should try to protect the tiger. The tiger is cruel and eats gentle herbivores such as deer. However, there is a Jataka tale of the bodhisattva who offered his body to the hungry tigress. If the tiger were not important, why would the bodhisattva sacrifice his body? We are very afraid of tigers but they are not as dangerous as humans.
We destroy and inflict harm on so many beings and animals. We have created weapons that could eliminate billions of beings in one second. We are the most powerful on this earth and we have to think about our responsibilities. Not only do we inflict pain on others, but we also create causes to harm ourselves and future generations. When we see this clearly we have to take responsibility.
Impermanence and remembering death
[What follows is an abridged version of his talk.]
This is the first day of the first month of 2013 and I would like to offer my tashi delek and wishes for an auspicious year to everyone here. I offer my prayers that all of you will have good health and that all your activities for the Dharma and in the world go well. I also wish to express through you my good wishes to everyone close to you—all your family members and close friends.
In the past months here in Bodhgaya, I have been praying to the Buddha. When I was quite young, I was thought to be a lama or a tulku. I cannot say myself what kind of a reincarnation I am, but since I have received this title of being an incarnation of the Buddha Karmapa, I take it as an opportunity to be able to serve and help. I pray that in this life as well as all lives to come, making all the effort I can through body, speech, and mind, I will be able to benefit every form of life.
And this is not only for myself. I would also like to pray for all of you that you will also be able to engage in many good works and become useful to many living beings. This prayer is my gift to you as I have nothing else to offer. I wish that all of you could be like the Karmapa. So I pray that just as I have this opportunity to help everyone, may all of you have a similar chance, and also the ability, to actually benefit others.
[The Karmapa then read aloud the section from The Torch of Certainty on impermanence and remembering death.]
Past Kadampa masters have taught about impermanence in five aspects. The first is that nothing lasts. Everything changes minute to minute as the clock ticks on and on. We, however, impose a continuum onto these changing moments, thinking, for example, that we are the same person we were as a baby, which is, of course, not true. Melding everything together, we confuse ourselves, and this is what prevents us from seeing impermanence—the reality that is happening all the time.
Secondly, we can see how changes take place outside of us. How many people have died? What famous person is now unknown? What poor person is now rich? Life is constantly shifting. What we perceive outside, however, is actually the basis for the arising of what is inside, and we should understand the experience of impermanence from within our own minds.
Thirdly, we do not know when death will come. Being young is no guarantee. Anyone can die suddenly. The fact that we are born means we must die. But we do not want this, so we surround death with fear and anxiety. What we can do instead is to prepare ourselves. If we understand death as something completely natural, we can face it with a greater peace of mind.
We could consider one day to be a whole lifetime. When we wake up, we are born; when we wash ourselves, we're cleansing a newborn; when we eat breakfast, we're drinking our mother's milk. As the day passes, we go through every stage of life: growing into an adult, becoming old, and when we go to sleep, dying. The next morning we are born again. This way of thinking has three benefits. We learn to value one day in our life, which we usually waste. Secondly, when we die, we could think that's the end; there's darkness and we're done. But actually, every moment is an opportunity, so there's hope. If we have done something wrong or have not been a good person, we have the chance to change.
Fourthly, thinking about impermanence becomes a preparation for death itself. If we can do it repeatedly, then death doesn't come suddenly as a great surprise. We've thought about it, have some experience of how changes happen, and developed a certain fearlessness.
Finally, we need to think about what will happen after death. Not being able to see something doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Life after death can't be proven with our present-day scientific instruments and knowledge. But looking at the history of science, we can see that what couldn't be proven or understood in the past could be known at a later time.
If it is the case that death is followed by nothing, it's not a problem. But if there is a life after this one, we should prepare for it. When we die, we can't carry our body with us nor our wealth. What we do take are the results of our actions and our habitual patterns which determine what our future life will be. So we need to prepare for the very long term and plan what we will do to benefit others.
We should contemplate karma, the pattern of cause and effect, not once or twice but again and again, reflecting on where positive or negative deeds will lead us. We should do positive deeds like poor people. If we give them a small thing, they care for it and keep it well. In the same way, we should appreciate every positive thing we do. Rich people feel that unless it's something monumental, it's not enough; they do not value the small, good things. But we can't do everything on a vast scale; we have to do small things and appreciate them.
We also need to get rid of what is negative, mainly the many afflictions we have—aversion, pride, and so forth. These do not disappear all at once, so we start by identifying our strongest fault, working with it, and all the rest, step by step. This is a good way to prepare for death.
If we reflect well on the precious human life and impermanence, it will free us from being locked into this life and seeking success on its terms. The great masters of the past taught that a preoccupation with getting the good life is the greatest obstacle to our Dharma practice. We cannot mix mundane success with success in the Dharma: the two have to be separate.
There are practitioners like Milarepa who went into the high mountains and wore only a simple shawl and ate very little. This was fine for him, but that doesn't mean it would work for us. If we tried to emulate him, we could not survive even one day. To give up worldly concerns does not mean that we should not eat, have clothes to wear or good things. We simply have to operate within the domain of who we are, within the boundaries of our particular traits or qualities.
We are too attached to the concerns of this life, and business people understand this, so they manipulate us through their advertising, which has an especially strong affect on young people. They suffer thinking that if they don't have the latest thing, life is meaningless. If they have it, they will be beautiful and something great will happen. They do not question: Is all this true? Will it really make me happy? Actually, it is they themselves who have to make things good and create their own happiness.
In the Dharma we use our intelligence to think about our situation and see clearly whether something is necessary or not. What benefit or problems will it create? Is this good for me in the short term? In the long run? We question to find out the truth and then live by that. If we blindly follow what others do, we cannot live our own life or discover its real purpose. If we do what benefits ourselves and others, we are actually practicing Dharma. Since we seek to become a genuine, noble person, we are not entirely concerned with this worldly life and more concerned with the Dharma.
This completes a talk on the first two preliminaries—the precious human life and impermanence and remembering death—which are the most important. We often think that once we have finished the preparation, we can just leave it behind and move on to the main practice. But that's not the case. "Preliminary" means we need to do this at the start, because it is the most important. So whatever practice we are doing, we need these two thoughts from the very beginning through to the very end. If they are not present, then the practice will not go well, so keep them in mind during the beginning, middle, and end. The great yogi Milarepa said that if we do not remember impermanence and death, our practice will not be profound. The main point is that practice has to work on our minds and transform us.
During this session, Gyalwang Karmapa continued the reading transmission of the text and his commentary. This account is based on Ringu Tulku's translation.
Gyalwang Karmapa began with a résumé of the teachings so far on the common preliminaries.
By meditating on the precious human life and impermanence we can counter attachment to the pleasures of this life and focus on future lives. No one wants to be born in the lower realms.
This leads us to reflection on the immutability of the law of karma—action, cause and result—so that we understand the effects of negative thoughts and actions. However, ultimately, it is the understanding of impermanence which leads to the realisation that there can be no lasting happiness within samsara, and this will generate the desire in us for liberation and strengthen our resolve to escape.
Action, cause and result
The Buddhadharma, he explained, is a description of reality. It describes the relationship between causes, conditions and their results. When we understand this cause-effect relationship, the actions which cause suffering and pain and those which result in benefit and happiness, we try to abandon the former and adopt the latter. That is the practice of Buddhadharma
How does this causal relationship work? It is difficult to know the detailed and very precise connection between causes and their results; it's very subtle and not straightforward. However,generally, a good cause has a good result, and a bad cause creates a bad result. The key always is motivation; whether an action becomes negative or positive depends on our motivation. The intention is perhaps more important, he suggested, than the action itself.
If our mind is not in its natural clear state but is overpowered by the kleshas – disturbed states of mind – and by the root cause of ignorance, we create negative actions which result in further suffering. The most important factor is how our mind functions. For example, killing is one of the ten non-virtuous actions, the causes of samsara. However, if we accidentally or unintentionally kill somebody, though it is still a negative action, it is not considered to be one of the ten non-virtuous actions, because the motivation to kill is absent. For it to be non-virtuous the intention has to be there.
The four common preliminaries are essential
At first we may try to accumulate positive deeds which will be the cause of a better life next time; longer life and so forth, but later our goal becomes enlightenment and liberation.
These four contemplations that turn the mind to the dharma— the precious human life, impermanence, the law of karma and the suffering of samsara —have to be understood. We need to gain some insight into them and some experience; otherwise, when we try to do the uncommon or special ngöndro practices, they will not become a cause for our liberation. If we are still driven by attachment to this life and the eight worldly concerns, we will have no genuine interest in working for the benefit of future lives. If we are only concerned about this life and this life's cravings and attachments, doing prostrations, Vajrasattva practice or mandala offerings will not really transform us. According to the Abdhidharmako?a laypeople and monastics face different challenges in this respect. The former find it hard to change their basic view and the latter have to compromise because they depend on donations for their livelihood.
When hardships arise, too many householders rely on mundane deities and ask for rituals related to them. This shows both a lack of understanding and a lack of trust in the objects of refuge. Basically, such people have blind faith and don't truly or completely understand refuge or the law of cause and effect.
The real meaning of going for refuge
Because it is said that once we have gone for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha we should not go for refuge to anyone else, there can be confusion. If you're sick, can you visit a doctor or not? Actually, this is not what taking refuge means. Nor is refuge a plea for help from a position of helplessness or powerlessness.
The real refuge is a deep understanding that until and unless I myself have actualized myself as Buddha, or reached enlightenment, I cannot completely be free from the sufferings or fear or dangers of samsara....Therefore it is not about just praying to somebody, seeking somebody's help or kindness. It's to attain it for ourselves, knowing that we ourselves can attain this power; this state where there is no suffering...it's an inner refuge.
The Gyalwang Karmapa explained,
The true meaning of taking refuge and going for refuge is that it's myself, I need to go to for refuge, I want to actualize that state of Buddhahood and I need to do something about that and I need to work towards that. That's taking refuge.
Of course there is an outer refuge – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha- because of its existence we can study and practise the Dharma. Ultimately, however, it is the inner refuge to which we need to go for refuge; we need to assume responsibility for ourselves. Some people give away all personal responsibility to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha or to their lama and say "I have faith and devotion, so now it's all up to you," then they do as they want. But if we commit negative deeds, we will inevitably suffer negative consequences; there is nothing that the lama can do to stop that happening.
This attitude is not to be confused with genuine faith and devotion to a lama. The lama or spiritual friend is essential on the path to liberation. He or she gives us instructions and guidance:
When you say rely on the teacher, have complete trust in the teacher, that means that, yes, I have trust in the teacher, I rely on the teacher, so therefore I do what the teacher asks me to do and I follow the guidance of the teacher. Thereby I assume my responsibilities.
Milarepa completely relied on Marpa, and gave everything to his teacher, but he did whatever he was told to do. He acted diligently exactly according to the teacher's instructions. Likewise we have to take responsibility, not give all the responsibility to the teacher.
The shortcomings of samsara
Gyalwang Karmapa then read the next section of the 1st Jamgon Kongtrul's text and concluded his explanation of the four common preliminary contemplations with the fourth one, the shortcomings of samsara. Under the power of negative karma and disturbed mental states we are never free, and we go from suffering to suffering. This is the nature of samsara. We have to do whatever we can to free ourselves from the control of these negative states and actions. That's the whole point!
The four special preliminary practices
Although there was not time to go into great detail, Gyalwang Karmapa then gave guidelines on how to practise the four uncommon ngöndro according to the long Kagyu ngöndro text: Refuge and Prostration, Vajrasattva Recitation, Mandala Offering and Guru Yoga. He also gave the reading transmission of his own compilation of a short ngöndro.
Dedications and thanks
Gyalwang Karmapa concluded the session by first dedicating the merit from the last few days:
...whatever positive deeds we have accumulated, whatever positive things we have done, I would like to dedicate them for all the sentient beings throughout space, that they may find lasting peace and happiness and great enlightenment. And I request you also to do the same...
Then he specially thanked Kyabje Jamgon Rinpoche and Kyabje Gyaltsab Rinpoche , followed by all the khenpos, the tulkus, the sangha, and people who had come from very far away places, facing lots of difficulties and problems, and overcoming all of them. Moving on, he thanked those who had joined the Monlam via the webcast.
Finally, he thanked the Government and people of India:
The Government and people of India have always been very gracious and have been very kind to all of us, so I would like to thank the Government and people of India in general, especially the Government and the people of Bihar, particularly the administration and the concerned authorities and the local people in Bodhgaya. Because for us Bodhgaya is a very, very important place and we believe that not only the land, but all the people are actually blessed by the Buddha. So, therefore, you have created and you have given us this great opportunity and space and positive environment to perform this great Monlam, so therefore I would like to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. And not only that, but I would also like to dedicate whatever positive results or positive karma we've generated, for the wellbeing of this country, the government, and all the people of India and Bihar, and especially of Bodhgaya.
30th December – Bodhgaya.
As part of the commemoration of the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage celebration, the Gyalwang Karmapa has reproduced 300 copies of a rare text, the Nag-gyal-phag-sum, and offered it to practitioners who have completed a three year retreat, others residing in retreat centres, and leading rinpoches and lamas. The author and compiler of this text was the Fifth Shamarpa, Kunchok Yenla. The original was printed in gold ink on black paper. The main subject of the text is a practice to the three protectors Mahakala, Gyalwa Gyatso and Dorje Phagmo, hence the name. As this text was in danger of being lost completely, the intention of the Gyalwang Karmapa was to preserve this precious text for future generations.
The text originated in India. In the beginning, the three practices were separate but they were compiled into one book at the time of the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, consequently the text is regarded as particularly sacred. In the meditation tradition of the Karma Kamtsang lineage the number of practices that exist is as vast as the ocean, but it will be very important for practitioners in future to practise this text.
This rare text has an amazing history. The previous Gyalwang Karmapas had so many statues, texts and sacred relics, yet, of all of them, this text the Nag-gyal-phag-sum was regarded as one of the most important. Tragically, during the upheavals in Tibet in 1959, many things were destroyed and even this pecha vanished.
However, a monk from Khampagar [Khamtrul Rinpoche's monastery in Tibet] happened to pass through Tsurphu during his escape from Tibet, and discovered a copy of the text there. At that time the previous Khamtrul Rinpoche was staying in Bhutan, and when the monk reached Bhutan, he offered the text to him. Because of this surviving text we are still able to receive both the oral transmission and the instructions. When the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa gave his heart sons the oral transmission and practice instructions, it was based on this text.
In order to reproduce the Nag-gyal-phag-sum, the Gyalwang Karmapa borrowed the text from the current Khamtrul Rinpoche at Khampagar Tashi Jong Monastery in Himachal Pradesh. It was carefully scanned and then three hundred copies were printed in Taiwan. This new edition contains an additional chapter of 17 leaves [34 pages] which gives the transmission history, and an introduction to the text written by the 17th Karmapa himself.
30th December – Bodhgaya.
On December 30th 2012, in the radiant light of the morning, the Fourth Jamgön Rinpoche walked from Tergar Monastery through the spacious doors of the Monlam Gate, over land that the Buddha must have once trod, and into the Monlam Pavilion. Preceded by monks carrying incense, he walked down the central aisle towards a throne luminous as liquid gold and shaped like the rising sun.
After making three prostrations in the direction of the Buddha, he walked up the stairs to the large hand prints of the First Jamgön Kongtrul, which were framed in burnished gold and edged by a garden of fresh white flowers. The Fourth incarnation now offered a long white kata, which he laid out over the blossoms, and then descended to take his seat on the throne. His head was encircled by the rim of a Dharma Wheel etched in the back of the throne. It was the perfect setting for his first large public teaching on a beloved text—Calling the Lama from Afar by his first incarnation Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye. During the mandala offering preceding the teaching, the Karmapa could be seen just outside the Pavilion, and later, he stayed in a small room just off the stage, quietly present at this important event for his heart son.
In a voice reminiscent of his previous incarnation, Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche began his talk by dividing it into the three traditional sections of a noble aspiration, the main practice, and dedication. He said that before we do anything, our motivation is key, and the best of all of them is bodhicitta, which he defined as:
The motivation to listen, reflect, and meditate on the stages of
In discussing the title, Calling the Lama from Afar, he said that "Lama" referred to being equal in qualities to the Buddha and having the kindness of a good mother. We might think that "Calling from afar" meant that there is some distance between us and the lama, either in terms of time or space, but actually it is more subtle than that. On an ultimate level, our minds are the same as the Buddha's; however, on a relative level, there is a difference because the Buddha has given rise to all the enlightened qualities and we have not. Therefore, we pray that our minds will blend with the lama's enlightened mind. Jamgön Rinpoche gave three reasons why we call out to the lama: "We are suffering and have problems; we believe that our only refuge is the lama; and we trust that the supplication is meaningful and beneficial."
He taught that the next section of the text invokes the perfect mind of the lama. It covers lamas from all the main lineages and illustrates their specific kind of realization. The subsequent section enumerates our faults and our requests to our lama for specific blessings. Since the verses speak so often of blessings, Jamgön Rinpoche gave an explanation:
Blessings come from compassion and we can understand them
The first two refer to the lama whose compassion is present by nature and also continuous. The last two refer to how we can receive the blessings: they come when the time is right without our having to ask and, like Calling the Lama from Afar, they can also be invoked through our supplications.
The main point, he said, is that "supplications are the path through which blessings enter into us." They come through a devotion that sees the lama as a buddha. And it is not a blind faith, but one that is based on study and reasoning.
The last verse of the text is a supplication that the lama's realized mind and our mind become inseparable:
We supplicate you, precious lama.
Finally, we make a dedication so that the merit we have accumulated in listening to the talk and reflecting on the Dharma will not be lost. Jamgön Rinpoche encouraged us to practice from the depths of their hearts so that the practice will bring about the transformation that we all seek. He brought his talk to a close with thanks to Ngodup Tsering for translation and gave a reading transmission for Calling the Lama from Afar. Finally, he gave thanks and his wishes that all be auspicious for everyone.
After the mandala offering and prayers for Jamgön Rinpoche's long life, everyone chanted together Calling the Lama from Afar using the commemorative books that had been offered to everyone. During this time, resplendent offerings were made to him, beginning with representations of enlightened body, speech, and mind. High lamas, the administrations of great monasteries, and disciples of the present and past Jamgön Rinpoche filled the central aisle from the throne, down through the rows of thousands of monks and nuns, lay men and women, to the road outside where the stupa marking the Buddha's full awakening could be seen in the distance. People came carrying gifts of statues, stupas, bells and dorjes, Tibetan texts and Western books, rugs, brocades, musical instruments and brightly colored sacks of grains. It was a magnificent pageant worthy of a Dharma king. As they made their offerings, Jamgön Rinpoche greeted each person with kindness, gently returning their scarf with a natural blessing.
Lama, think of us. Kind root lama, think of us.
30th December – Bodhgaya.
At 7:30 in the morning a procession of monks in golden ceremonial hats set out from Tergar Monastery to the Monlam Pavilion carrying a plain wooden palanquin with a precious statue of Pema Gyalpo, one of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche. The statue is a terma treasure revealed by the 15th Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje, the father of the second Jamgon Kongtrul. Four men in brocade costumes, two in white and two in dark blue, held the palanquin. They marched slowly with regal pomp while the horns announced the arrival of the sacred image contained within a bejewelled reliquary. When it arrived at the tiered stage, the Karmapa walked down the steps with a ceremonial scarf to greet the precious image. With exquisite care he placed it just below the golden Buddha at the top of the stage. This moment of heartfelt devotion captures the relationship between the Karmapas and the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage: father and son, guru and disciple from lifetime to lifetime.
The stage was set under the Karmapa's meticulous supervision for a spectacular program commemorating two hundred years of the Kongtrul lineage. A blown-up photograph of the sacred handprints of the first Jamgon Kongtrul, Lodro Thaye, predominated centre stage with two other portraits, of the second and third Kongtruls, decorated with flowers and the seven offerings. One thousand butter lamps were flickering on the steps of the stage.
The ceremony was designed both to commemorate the lineage and honour the succession. The previous or third Jamgon Kongtrul died in a tragic car accident only twenty years ago and his representation onstage made the event a memorial ceremony. His devotion to the 16th Karmapa was a teaching beyond words. He served his Guru with body, speech and mind until the Karmapa's death in 1981 and beyond. In 1992 he died in a violent accident at the age of 38. As one of the four pillars strengthening the Kagyu lineage, it weakened the school for many years. The wounds left by the sudden passing of this beloved master have now been healed by his successor, who at 17, today took his place amongst the glorious Kongtrul reincarnations.
While the assembly of monks chanted devotional prayers to the guru, composed by the first Kongtrul, four dancers from Rumtek and four from Ralang Monastery performed a deftly executed dance known as Great Gratitude, to honour the kindness of the Kongtrul masters.
This Lama Dance is another terma based on Guru Rinpoche's life story and was revealed by the terton Guru Chowang , a contemporary of the 6th Karmapa. The costumes and the jewellery for the dance were borrowed from Gyaltsab Rinpoche.
During the mandala offering ceremony the Labrang or administration, many of whom had served the previous reincarnation, formed a procession that went from outside the Pavilion to the stage. Headed by the General Secretary Tendzin Dorje, the meditation master and the younger brother of the previous Jamgon Kongtrul, they made offerings symbolizing body, speech and mind. Monasteries from all over India, and the worldwide Jamgon Kongtrul centres moved slowly towards the stage in a seemingly endless outpouring of deep devotion.
Some of the invited guests who came to honour the 4th Kongtrul were Thrangu Rinpoche, Karma Kenchen Rinpoche, Ayang Rinpoche, Orgyen Tulku Rinpoche Tobgya-la Sadutsang, and the Hong Kong actress Faye Wong.
After the audience had been served tea and saffron rice, Ringu Tulku read a short biography of Lodro Thaye which he had composed. The Monlam chant master sang a doha composed by the second Kongtrul; while a song of praise to the third Kongtrul's devotion to the 16th Karmapa, composed by the 17th, was offered by Suja School in Bir. To the slow, haunting melody of Tashi Shok - May all be Auspicious - the palanquin was brought out and the Karmapa once again placed the statue lovingly into place as the procession returned ceremoniously to Tergar.
29th December – Bodhgaya.
Day One: Offerings and the dance
During the previous night of the 28th, people had worked long hours to prepare the Pavilion stage. In the front and center, behind three thrones for Jamgön Rinpoche, the Karmapa, and Gyaltsap Rinpoche, was a magnificent, larger-than-life-size photograph of the Third Jamgön Kongtrul, Lodrö Chökyi Senge (1954-1992), set in a garden of blue flowers. Though he passed away at a young age, the Third Jamgön Kongtrul's humanitarian activities for the destitute, young, and elderly have continued unbroken to this day. Famous for his devotion to his teacher, the Sixteenth Karmapa, Jamgön Rinpoche carried out the Karmapa's wishes and lived at his monastery in Rumtek to care for the Karmapa's sangha and to build the Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies, which remains a vital center of learning.
Further up the stairs in a garden of red flowers is a large black and white photo of the Second Jamgön Kongtrul, Palden Khyentse Özer (1902-1952), who was born as a son to the Fifteenth Karmapa. This incarnation was a great master of meditation and a teacher of the Sixteenth Karmapa, just as the first Jamgön Kongtrul was a teacher of the Fifteenth Karmapa. Finally, at the very top of the stairs in a garden of white flowers, are two framed hand prints of the First Jamgön Rinpoche, Lodrö Thaye, their graceful fingers curved with age. A great master and brilliant scholar of the rimé, or nonsectarian, movement in nineteenth century Tibet, Lodrö Thaye is famous for his Five Treasuries. Here, he preserved the Dharma of many lineages by practicing them and collecting their scriptures.
At the very top of the stage on either side, were two altars with offerings, including a huge red torma (butter sculpture). Six large screens spaced throughout the Pavilion showed an audience of over six thousand images of the events both on this stage and also what was happening outside where twenty-six white offering kilns, each one paired to a bright flag, sent their incense aloft into the morning sky.
The Karmapa led the ceremony of purification and offering performed this morning, known as Billowing Clouds of Virtue, which was composed by the First Jamgön Kongtrul for his teacher, the Fourteenth Karmapa. This genre of practice brings everything positive into this world through purifying negativity and making extensive offerings to the supreme wisdom deities all the way down to the local area protectors. This particular version included offerings to Bernachen (the Black-Cloaked Mahakala), the Six-Armed Mahakala in his blue and white forms, Dorje Lekpa, Thanglha (a Tibetan mountain deity with a connection to the Karmapa), and many others.
Special to the ceremony today was the participation of forty-two students from the TTS college Sherab Gatsal in Dharamsala. The Karmapa was like a kind father to the young dancers; he came to the five rehearsals in the Pavilion, brought them momos and sweets, and encouraged the dancers with his praise. For three intensive months, they had trained in these dances known as Lingdro Dechen Rölmo, (The Music of Great Bliss, the Dances of Gesar of Ling), and they moved with a precision and grace that was beautiful to watch. Their teacher was Tseyang Drolma, who holds the lineage of these dances, passed to her from her aunt and mother who learned them from the last lineage holder in Tibet. There in the nineteenth century, the dances appeared in a vision to Ju Mipham Rinpoche.
The Karmapa's own close connection to Gesar added his special blessing to the ceremony. Denma, the chief minister of Gesar, is considered an emanation of the Karmapa, and the Fourteenth Karmapa was born into the family lineage of Gesar. Both the Second and the Fourteenth Karmapas have composed purification and offering ceremonies based on Gesar. The Sixteenth Karmapa enjoyed the legends of Gesar and wrote poetry in their style. For Tseyang Drolma's new book on the dances, the present Karmapa wrote a long introduction detailing the lineage of the Lingdro, the connections to the Karmapas, and the profundity of the practice.
The dances are considered Dharma practice as Gesar of Ling is an emanation of Guru Rinpoche as well as Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, Vajrapani, and others. Before the performance, the dancers recite the Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche, and then during the dancing, they practice through their body, whose gestures are mudras; through their speech, considered mantra; and through their minds, which clearly sustain a visualization of the deity. The benefit for the viewers is to bring them delight in the Dharma and to create positive connections so that the Dharma and the affairs of state will prosper. It was a wonderful way to open the door for Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche's activity to flourish throughout the world.
Today, after the first section of the purification and offering ritual, the dancers came on stage in magnificent costumes. The men entered from our right holding aloft bright flags and wearing richly colored brocade chupas, tied across with multicolored scarves. From their shoulders hung a reliquary and a sheaf of arrows, and from their waist, a jeweled sword. The women entered from the left holding long-life arrows and wearing brilliant brocade chupas, (the traditional Tibetan dress with a long skirt and wrap around top), jewel necklaces, and rows of flowers in their hair. All the dancers wore long silk sleeves, extending beyond their hands so that their movements seemed to float through the air.
This first dance invoked a shower of blessings, calling to the deities to come and be present for the ceremony. The singing passed back and forth between the men and women as they moved in circles. The men's song called out to Gesar:
When we think of the Great Lion King,
And the women's song called out to Tara:
The next dance was one of offering and praise, which was naturally followed by a mandala offering to the Karmapa and a long line of extensive offerings, mostly by Jamgön Rinpoche's disciples from all over the world. After prayers for the lamas' long life, the fourth song, which invoked various kinds of activity, was performed with the male dancers in brilliant armor. The main dancer wore the impressive black and gold set that stood on the stage during the nine hundred year celebrations for the Karmapa. After the monks chanted the practice of Gesar as a protector, the last song of the dance wished for auspiciousness through his body, speech, mind, qualities, and activity. It ended with "May all be auspicious through attainment of great joy."
This feeling of joy was clearly present in the Pavilion as the ceremony came to a close on this first day commemorating the lineage of Jamgön Kongtrul.
28th December – Bodhgaya.
Early morning, Tergar Monastery
Mahayana Sojong at the Mahabodhi Stupa
A short teaching by the Gyalwang Karmapa
The Buddha nature is present in all sentient beings —we all share that same nature and are part of the same mandala. All of the virtues of body, speech and mind generated should be dedicated to enlightenment. This is the special feature of the Mahayana path, that we dedicate everything with pure motivation for the benefit of sentient beings. Infinite sentient beings are afflicted by suffering; we should take this burden on ourselves, and always bear it in mind. The generosity of the sponsors made Monlam possible. We should not forget them.
For the living, we should pray that their wishes may be fulfilled, and for the dead that they may be freed from the fearful appearances of the bardo.
Here at the Monlam in Bodhgaya, all the harmonious conditions exist for the practice of Dharma and the benefit of beings. It's not a matter of merely one or two people but of thousands, both men and women, gathered together. In addition, keeping ethical discipline means that aims can be achieved more quickly, and many people are also taking Mahayana Sojong. Under these conditions it is our responsibility to seize this great opportunity and not to waste it by procrastinating and saying, "I'll focus on Dharma later..".
"Now, on this seat.." Gyalwang Karmapa emphasised, is the time to practise. As the Khadampa masters taught, intention and action must go together or else, at the time of death, we will be full of regret at wasting this precious human life.
Sessions Two and Three
"The best offering", the Karmapa noted, "is the offering of the practice".
"The activities of the Buddha's body, speech and mind isn't something I need to talk about," he continued. From the time of the 16th Karmapa till now Tenga Rinpoche was the Vajracharya. He knew the details of all the practices, taught very widely and held the authentic practice lineages. Because of his great activities when he went into parinirvana he went into a special tukdam and inspired many people to practice the dharma.
"His reincarnation will come soon and take up his activities and will go on working for the benefit of all beings. We should pray for that".
"The collections of requests for the new reincarnations are many. I will read out only what I have written myself. It's called: Quickly Come".
The text, which was distributed across the gathering, is beautifully printed and decorated with the 8 auspicious symbols in colour; and recited to the melody of Calling the Guru from Afar.
The concluding prayer, written by the Fourth Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso, ends:
A blaze of good fortune, the ornament of the world!
27th December – Bodhgaya.
Mahayana Sojong at the Mahabodhi Stupa
Sessions Two and Three: The Akshobhya Ritual Cycle
The Akshobhya ritual cycle is in four parts: the first three parts which take place at the stupa are the Akshobhya Self-Visualisation ritual, the Akshobhya Mandala ritual and the reading of the Akshobhya dharani and sutra. The text for the first two parts of the ritual is only available in Tibetan in the prayer books issued to the sangha as usually only the sangha takes part because of the requirement for pure conduct.
The third part of the ritual, the recitation of the 'Dharani that Thoroughly Purifies all Karmic Obscurations' and 'The Sutra of the Dharani that Thoroughly Liberates from All Suffering and Obscurations,' is open to everyone. The recitation of this dharani is believed to purify all karmic obscurations and all the karma flowing from lifetime to lifetime. Reciting it three times daily can even cleanse the karma of the five heinous deeds, the four root downfalls and the ten non-virtues. It can be used for the dead and the living. These texts were recited several times.
The Alms Procession
In 2004, the Gyalwang Karmapa incorporated the alms round into the Kagyu Monlam as a symbolic ceremony to remind participants of this ancient Buddhist tradition. In the same way he urged Monlam attendees to make a personal connection with Sakyamuni Buddha, and many of the early traditions the Karmapa revived, such as reciting prayers in Sanskrit and honoring the Gelong and Gelongma ideals, were supports for this.
Yesterday morning, in keeping with the custom of previous years, people wishing to offer alms to the Sangha gathered outside of the Stupa entrance at around 8:30 a.m. Dharmapalas and helpers had begun preparations at about 7:30 a.m., stringing a rope barrier from the shoe area outside the Stupa down to the entrance of the Jai Prahash Udyar Park . The day before, an announcement had been made about the correct procedure to follow. Participants should stand behind the rope on the right side of the procession and should not burn incense or offer hot food or money. Light packed foods or sweets in wrappers should be placed in the begging bowl gently with respect. The number of monks and nuns in the procession was expected to be 500.
At 9:30 a.m., the Gyalwang Karmapa came up the steps in front of the Stupa and entered the BTMC Reception office. A few minutes later, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche joined him there. This signaled that the time had come for the procession of monks to leave the temple towards the outer gate where lay disciples eagerly awaited with their offerings.
The procession was led by a senior monk from Ralang Monastery wearing a yellow hat and holding a bundle of burning incense. Kyabje Gyaltsab Rinpoche was next, holding a ringing staff and a large begging bowl. He was followed by three other Rinpoches holding the ringing staffs from the ancient tradition, as well as scores of Gelongs and Gelongmas carrying their alms bowls.
The procession was enhanced by Tenzin Dorje from Jamgon Kongtrul's Labrang who scampered ahead adorning their path with flower petals strewn from a large wicker basket. The thronging crowd behind the rope was nearly bursting with excitement, trying their best to place offerings inside the begging bowls, with the usual street urchins underfoot trying to grab at the candies that missed their mark and fell on the pavement. By contrast the Sangha procession was hushed and dignified. As the procession slowly descended the steps from the outer Stupa entrance area onto the main road, the path began to narrow as it snaked past the street vendor's stalls and led down into the entrance of the park. Once inside the park, the procession is supposed to be restricted to Sangha only, and except for the Karmapa who conducts the ceremony, no one is supposed to speak.
Inside the park were eight rows of mats, four on each side of a center aisle. At the head of the mats, the Gyalwang Karmapa stood next to a blue canopied tent with his golden chögu over his left shoulder. The blue tent was decorated with the Kagyu Monlam logo and draped with flower garlands. As Gyaltsab Rinpoche entered the dining area of the park, he took his place to the left of Karmapa. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche was already seated on the Karmapa's right. They sat at small tables on either side of the Karmapa's tent.
As the monks filed in behind the Rinpoches, they were holding their begging bowls in their left hands with the fingers of their right hands grasping the rim of the large bowl. They took their seats quietly and as their columns slowly filled up the Karmapa strolled along the rows of monks. The two groups of Sangha (four rows each) faced each other as they sat in meditation. They said the meal prayer with their hands folded, repeating it over and over, led by the Monlam's discipline master, Khenpo Kelsang from Rumtek Monastery.
After the meal prayer, the helpers came out with their pails of food and ladled it into the Sangha's bowls. Karmapa walked around holding a microphone, while the Refuge prayer was recited. Finally the Sangha began to eat the food in their bowls with wooden spoons. In the meantime, Karmapa circled the group of diners acknowledging the lay helpers lined up in blue vests and red head scarves along the back. Servers continued to serve the Sangha seconds from the food pails. After a while, the Karmapa sat down and started to eat. The meal was eaten in silence with mindfulness in the spirit of Mahamudra meditation practice. After the meal was finished, the Karmapa spoke briefly, followed by the group chanting the Heart Sutra. Then there were dedication prayers, which signaled the end of the ceremony. The monks and nuns rose, adjusted their robes and chögus and filed out of the park. Afterwards, the Karmapa called the serving staff up for a group photograph. There had been about 90 helpers participating in this event. The vegetarian meal had been prepared in the morning at Tergar monastery and brought over to the park by the monlam helpers. Gyalwang Karmapa returned to Tergar after the third session in order to complete the private audience schedule from yesterday. Although he met more than three hundred people on Wednesday, time ran out and about a hundred had to be sent away, according to an attendant. These people were invited to attend for a specially scheduled audience this afternoon.
The Akshobhya Retreat
The Akshobhya Ritual
Gyalwang Karmapa has commended this practice as very suitable at a time when negative forces are increasing in the world.
The Akshobhya ritual is in four parts: the first three parts took place at the stupa, where a special altar, displaying some of the offerings needed for the fire puja, was set up in front of a thangka of Akshobhya Buddha. The three parts at the stupa were:
The Akshobhya Jang-Sek [fire puja]
The Gyalwang Karmapa conducted the main puja on the porch of the temple.
Below the steps, a brick fire pit was constructed and a 'pacification' sand mandala drawn in it. Then logs were piled on top. The fire was lit during the second half of the puja, and the names of the living and the dead were piled onto the flames.
26th December – Bodhgaya.
Once more some of the teams who support the Monlam had to work late into the night and arrive at the stupa early in the morning so that the site was prepared. By the time the Gyalwang Karmapa arrived before daybreak, new altars and torma had been set out, all the equipment for audio and webcasting had been transferred, and the sangha were sitting in their newly allotted places.
The area under the Bodhi tree was festooned with fresh garlands of yellow and gold marigolds. Fairy lights lit up the banks around the outer kora—the route which pilgrims circumambulate—and a signboard proclaimed "The 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo. Sarva Mangalam".
As soon as he arrived, Gyalwang Karmapa went to the shrine room and offered prayers in front of the precious Buddha statue. He then went to the Monlam site under the bodhi tree and conferred the Mahayana Sojong vows. Returning to the shrine room, he offered a set of golden silk robes, [Each day during the Monlam, a new set of silk robes will be offered.] and performed the hair-cutting ceremony for two Taiwanese disciples who wished to take ordination.
December 26 was the first day of the 30th Kagyu Monlam held at the Mahabodhi stupa. Early in the morning, the Karmapa gave the sojong vows and remained for the Kangyur procession. As he waited for it to start, the Karmapa stood in front of his throne, low and humbly set before a carved wooden pavilion sheltering a statue of the young Buddha, itself below a huge curving branch extending out from the center of the Bodhi Tree as its soft green leaves glistened with dew. Underneath, to the right of the Karmapa was Jamgön Rinpoche and on his left, Gyaltsap Rinpoche; behind them, the ninety-eight monks and five nuns with full ordination put on their yellow shawls, preparing to carry the one hundred and two texts of the Kangyur.
The long column of participants was led by a pair of monks wearing yellow cockade hats and playing reed horns followed by another pair playing white conch shells. After them came monks bearing incense and then Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Jamgön Rinpoche, and the Karmapa, all wearing the Gampopa hat. Following in their footsteps were the monks and nuns, each carrying a wrapped text of the Kangyur.
The procession started around the inner temple and went through the ancient gate, its pink-tinted stone covered with loops of bright orange and yellow marigolds. They climbed up the front stairs to circumambulate the outer path, which was lined with people from all over the world. They showed their respect for the Dharma by holding offerings of flower garlands, mandalas of marigolds, roses, white freesia, and large maroon dahlias in the middle. One woman held a plate with a small Buddha statue surrounded by flowers. Others held white scarves and some a single pink lotus. The procession was stately, moving at a slow pace. The khenpos and chant leaders stayed behind in their seats to chant "Namo Shakyamuniye," "Homage to Shakyamuni," and then the refuge in Sanskrit, which resonated throughout the park around the stupa. From a distance, it looked as if the monks were being moved along by the beautiful sound, their golden robes brilliant against the grey stone.
As the procession moved along, people fell in behind the monks and nuns, becoming a colorful crowd walking in the path of the Dharma. When the lamas had completed one circle around the stupa, they returned down the main steps, which led straight into the central shrine and the famous golden Buddha enthroned there. At the temple door, the leading musicians turned left to complete the circumambulation of the stupa and returned to their places near the Bodhi Tree. Once everyone had settled in, the Karmapa began a brief talk on the Kangyur and its importance:
If we have a Dharma text, we might wrap it in brocade, put it on a shrine, and make offerings to it. This is not enough however: we have to look into the texts and come to understand them. Even if we understand, we might not pay them much attention. Our attitude here depends on whether we practice or not, and on whether we know the value of these texts or not. When we recite the Seven Branch Prayer, we ask the Buddha to turn the wheel of Dharma, and this he has done, giving extensive teachings, but we do not consider them. This is due to our arrogance or stupidity. We should study, contemplate, and meditate upon what the Buddha has already taught. If we don't, then it's very strange to ask the Buddha to give new teachings, which we do every day as we say the Seven Branch Prayer. So please keep in mind the importance of working with the teachings, of studying and practicing them.
Most of the texts from the Kangyur were brought from India; however a number of them were translated from Chinese, (which has a larger Kangyur than the Tibetan), and also from other countries like Shinjang. Then all of these had to be translated. Ignoring the difficulties and taking up their task with joy, the translators brought these texts into Tibetan. These scriptures became the basis for commentaries and explanations of the major treatises, and for oral instructions given by Tibetan scholars and masters of meditation. There is nothing written about the Dharma that did not ultimately rely on the Kangyur, so we can rest assured that these texts are a trustworthy source of the stainless Dharma. In brief, we can say that the Kangyur is the source for all Dharma.
If we look at the etymology of the word Kangyur, we can see that ka (bka') refers to the words of the Buddha and gyur ('gyur) refers to the texts that were translated (the "n" comes from putting these two syllables together). There is a long history of translating into Tibetan, beginning with the seventh century when the Dharma King Songtsen Gampo was living at Yambu Lhakhang and encouraged Thunmi Sambhota to begin translating texts. In the eighth century, the Dharma king Trisong Deutsen established a center for translators at Samye Ling where one hundred panditas (scholars) from India and one hundred translators from Tibet worked together for many years translating, editing, and clarifying the texts. They were not puffed up with a little knowledge, but highly learned, gifted in language, and rich in experience of the practice.
From my own experience, I understand a little bit about translating. I worked on the translation of a Chinese text into Tibetan and learned how great the kindness of the translators was and how significant their efforts were.
To return to the history, through to the end of the reign of King Tri Ralpachen, new texts were translated and the old translations were corrected and edited. With the advent of Langdarma, who sought to destroy the teachings, translation came to an end. In the tenth century, the Kings of Western Tibet Yeshe Ö and Changchup Ö encouraged translators, such as Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo, so the process of translating began again, especially of the tantras, which now form the latter part of the Kangyur. In the eleventh century, Atisha also made a great contribution to the process of bringing texts into Tibetan. For almost two hundred years, from the early eleventh to the late twelfth centuries during the new transmission of Dharma in Tibet, a succession of great scholars translated texts mainly related to view and logic.
The first assembling of all these texts had to wait until the twelfth century and the great scholar Chin Jampay Yang, who assembled the first Kangyur in Tibet. As the years passed and the Dharma continued to spread, many editions of the Kangyur ere put together: the Tselpa, Litang, Beijing, Chone, Dege, and Jang, to name a few. The first wood-block print was made during the Ming dynasty in China and known as the Narthang Kangyur. In Tibet, the first wood-block print was sponsored by the King of Jang, (hence the Jang Kangyur), and redacted by the Sixth Shamar, Chokyi Wangchuk in the seventeenth century.
Due to the great kindness of the Buddha and the Dharma Kings of Tibet, all these texts of the Kangyur remain today as a support for our accumulation of merit and wisdom. For those who understand, the Kangyur has all the flawless methods for attaining in one life the level of ultimate union or full awakening. In contrast to other teachings, the Dharma found in Tibet has all five vehicles present, and so it's possible to practice them all. The Kangyur also contains the key instructions of the great masters and the various lineages as well. Reading it inspires our conviction and faith in the Dharma, which then grows, enabling us to see that the Kangyur is like a rare jewel. Please keep this in mind as you read the texts.
When the Karmapa finished his talk, the chant masters began the reading of the Kangyur with the famous verse from The Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct:
May I teach the Dharma in every single language—
The texts, wrapped in yellow cloth with a bright red square in one corner, were passed out one by one, as each monk took responsibility for dividing the pages of a volume among the sangha members, collecting it afterwards, and making sure that all the pages were complete and in their proper order before they bound up the text again in its yellow cloth. As the reading began, a maroon sea of monks and nuns, each a wave curved over their texts, began to recite the words of the Buddha. They rose into the morning light, moving through the air like the fragrant incense an old woman swung from her censer as she made her way around the stupa.
25th December – Bodhgaya.
Session Two: Vajrasattva Empowerment
Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche took their seats, and then the Karmapa returned formally in procession to begin the empowerment. First he concluded the teaching on the Three Primary Elements of the Path by Je Tsong Khapa, and then, at the beginning of the empowerment, he linked the view of emptiness from the text with the empowerment, emphasising the importance of remembering that In a sense everything is emptiness.
He explained that this particular Vajrasattva empowerment had come from India via Marpa the Translator. During the empowerment, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Gyaltstab Rinpoche and Surmang Gawang Rinpoche represented the assembly, receiving the body, speech and mind initiations directly. Gyalwang Karmapa explained that the body initiation confers permission to visualise oneself as the deity; the speech initiation gives permission to recite the mantra; the mind initiation gives permission to meditate on the mind and experience of the buddhas.
During the session the Karmapa also announced the publication of a book specially for the commemoration of the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage celebrations: The Illuminating Orb of the Sun. Photographs Recalling the Incarnations of Jamgon Kongtrul
Gyalwang Karmapa's activities
In the early evening he visited the main shrine room at Tergar to speak briefly to the nuns and monks rehearsing for the Alms and Kangyur processions.
24th December – Bodhgaya.
23nd December – Bodhgaya.
Gyalwang Karmapa's activities
In the afternoon a public audience with Gyalwang Karmapa was scheduled for 3.00 pm in Tergar main shrine hall. However, so many people had arrived and the crush was so great that the time of the audience was moved forward. Approximately 2000 people—the head of security commented that there were too many to count precisely — gathered for the audience. So many attended that it was necessary to set up a special security system. Those waiting were gathered on the lawn to the left of the shrine hall, where they joined a giant conga which snaked its way back and forth across the lawn until finally they reached the metal detector gate and security check. From there they had to queue once more to enter the hall. Having received a blessing, a red protection cord and a photo of Karmapa, people left from the other side. As fast as they exited, a continuous stream of others arrived, rushing around Tergar monastery to join the queue, as word of the audience spread across Bodhgaya.
Old people on walking sticks hobbled through the gates as quickly as they were able, mothers holding babies and clutching young children, youths in blue jeans, leather jackets and gelled hair, non-Tibetan sangha, Bhutanese, Sikkimese and Himalayan people in traditional dress, Tibetans, Westerners, Chinese, all thronged into Tergar; it seemed as if the whole world was represented. Two hours later, the Karmapa went up to his quarters to begin the schedule of private audiences, mainly groups of international students from various centres world-wide. These audiences finished shortly before 6.00 pm.
22nd December – Bodhgaya.
The work of the Kagyupa International Monlam Trust
Although its main activity is the Monlam festival, it also organises various charitable activities within the Bodhgaya area to coincide with the festival. These have included free medical camps, food for the poor, distribution of blankets and rice to the poor, and work to improve the environment.
Early morning at Tergar and the Monlam Pavilion
Once more, a heavy mist lay over the land as ghostly people made their way to Mahayana Sojong at 6.00 am in the Monlam Pavilion. The morning temperature had fallen considerably and even inside the pavilion their breath misted in the cold air. From outside, the fog rolled in through its open sides. The fortunate ones among the monks and nuns were able to huddle into their dhagams— the heavy woollen cloak born of winters in Tibet—but the majority only wore regular robes and the yellow prayer robe. Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche gave the Mahayana Sojong vows.
Gyalwang Karmapa's activities
21st December – Bodhgaya.
Early morning at Tergar and the Monlam Pavilion By 5:15 am long lines of people, nuns, monks and laypeople, had formed along the road from the pavilion as far back as the main gates of Tergar monastery. The morning was dark and chill but they waited patiently to pass through the stringent security checks. Although it now has a greater capacity than last year, the vast space of the Monlam Pavilion filled steadily. Seats to left and right of the central aisle were allocated to nuns and monks respectively. The rinpoches, tulkus, khenpos, and some gelongs were seated on the stage. A space near the front was reserved for international sangha, and other designated areas were allocated to members of Kagyu Monlam, VIPs, and special guests. Clad in their distinctive yellow panelled waistcoats, disciplinarians patrolled the rows of monks and nuns.
At 6:00 am promptly, the gyalings sounded, and led by an incense bearer and monks playing the gyalings, Gyalwang Karmapa arrived on the stage and the 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo began.
Opening remarks by the Gyalwang Karmapa
Facing the congregation of monks, nuns and laypeople, Gyalwang Karmapa gave the Mahayana Sojong vows before making some opening remarks.
He emphasised the great opportunity that everyone gathered for the Monlam had been given to pray on behalf of all sentient beings. "We should treasure this opportunity and not waste it," he warned.
It was our great good fortune that we had come together in the sacred place of Bodhgaya with those who upheld the Kagyu lineage: Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, many other rinpoches, lamas, khenpos and so forth.
"Now that we have come to this sacred place and have the conditions to accumulate great merit we should be diligent, have great aspirations and generate bodhichitta," he explained. Finally, he thanked everyone who had come, especially those who had come from far away.
The Twenty-Branch Monlam
The first session each morning is the recitation of the Twenty Branch Monlam, compiled by the Gyalwang Karmapa in 2006. Sitting on a low throne at the head of the congregation, he faced the Buddha images and the altars to lead the opening Sanskrit prayers; Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche sat on his right, Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche on his left. After the initial prayers, Refuge and Bodhichitta, the Gyalwang Karmapa rose and walked up the steps to the shrine of the small golden Buddha statue.
This year six video screens have been placed around the pavilion, enabling everyone to see what is happening in greater detail than ever before. Thus, for the first time, everyone was able to see the Gyalwang Karmapa assuming the role of chöpön and performing the rituals which accompany the first nine stages of the Twenty-Branch Monlam such as offering incense and pouring perfumed water over the golden Buddha. His task finished, Gyalwang Karmapa resumed his seat at the head of the assembly to lead the rest of the Twenty-Branch Monlam prayers.
Gyalwang Karmapa gave two special short commentaries on the prayers:
Session One: A short commentary on the Sutra in Three Sections
This sutra was translated into Tibetan during the time of King Trisong Detsen because it was judged to be one of ten sutras which the king should practise in order to purify his negative actions.
The Karmapa emphasised the importance of this sutra for its use in purifying the negative deeds accumulated by all of us from beginningless time, as we go from life to life, trapped in samsara, like water from the well. We have lived so many times, that we have lived in every place, and during that time we have accumulated so many negative actions lifetime after lifetime that the whole universe is too small to contain them. Unless they can be purified, they will ripen and cause us great suffering in the future. This is especially true for those of us who continue to commit negative actions even though we hold vows and have made promises to practice the dharma. Sometimes we may not know that what we are doing is wrong, but sometimes we commit misdeeds in spite of knowing. These negative deeds or downfalls, if they are not purified, can lead us to rebirth in the lower realms. As even the effects of a small negative deed can grow steadily stronger and negate our positive actions, it is essential to purify our negative actions daily.
In order to purify, we practice using the four powers or antidotes. The first antidote is the power of the object of support or reliance. In this sutra that support is the 35 Buddhas; even to hear their names, and to make offerings or prostrations will generate powerful purification. In order to do this we should visualise all 35 Buddhas in front of us, with Buddha Shakyamuni in the centre, surrounded by the others, seated in vajra posture, and visualise them as not separate from our own root guru. The second antidote is the power of regret. We need to develop deep regret for all our negative actions, as if we have eaten poison. The third antidote is the power of reparation. In this case we can recite or read the sutra. Finally, there is the power of resolution, resolving never to commit the deed again.
We cannot remember all our misdeeds, including the five heinous ones, but we can have the motivation to purify them. In the same way, we can have the motivation to purify all our negative actions of this lifetime, since childhood, those we remember and those we can't remember.
It is impossible to help others when we are influenced by negative deeds, so we need to purify ourselves.
Session Three: Explanation of the Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct
During the third session, the Gyalwang Karmapa gave a brief teaching on the prayer titled, "The King of Aspirations: the Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct." This is the aspiration prayer made by Samantabhadra, one of the eight bodhisattvas, and it is also known as a prayer made by all buddhas and bodhisattvas. The Karmapa taught:
The first section of the prayer encompasses the Seven Branch Prayer: prostrations and praise, offerings, confession, rejoicing, request to turn the wheel of Dharma, supplication not to pass into nirvana, and dedication. The purpose of the Seven Branches is to purify our mind streams, so it is very important. It is said that there are ten aspects to aspiration prayers, such as vowing to bring conduct to completion, to mature all living beings, and to wish that they all attain full awakening.
Since there was not enough time to explain all the verses, the Karmapa picked out a few key ones to focus on. The first:
May I always associate with those
This verse is important for those who have taken vows. It is important that our thoughts and conduct be harmonious and that we rejoice in each other's positive behavior. This is especially necessary these days when people take sides and are attached to their own positions.
The second verse he mentioned is:
This is a prayer everyone one can make, women and men, the lay and ordained. We make the wish to be reborn in the pure realm of Amitabha, which is possible if we continually make prayers and accumulate merit. Once we are born there, Amitabha will make a prophecy about when we will become a buddha.
Finally he felt that this famous verse of dedication is very important:
The brave Manjushri knows things as they are
Even if we are good at making aspiration prayers, we should take the previous bodhisattvas as an example and follow after them. They are the model to show us how to dedicate merit. Since we are not yet realized, it is difficult to make a perfect dedication. What would this be? There is no concept of a person making the dedication, the dedication itself, and the act of making it.
It is also key that we relate these prayers to the depths of our hearts and minds, so they are not just words we are saying and lovely tunes we are chanting. We must blend their meaning together with our mind and then dedicate the merit wholeheartedly for the benefit of the teachings and all living beings. This is true for all prayers we make at Kagyu Monlam.
The Gyalwang Karmapa spent the whole day at the Monlam Pavilion and attended all four sessions of the prayers.
19th December – Bodhgaya.
The sixteenth session of the Winter Debates began this year on November 23 at Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya, India. The daily schedule included debates during the morning and in the afternoon, the Karmapa's teaching on a text by the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje, called The One Hundred Short Instructions. Throughout his presentation, the Karmapa emphasized the importance of balancing study with practice, of tempering intellectual pursuit with realization arising from experience. In the Tibetan tradition, debating is an integral part of intellectual and experiential training. Its purpose is to probe an individual's knowledge of Dharma, to remove doubts, and to elucidate what is not clear. Debating helps to ensure that understanding does not stay at the level of words, but goes deeper into the meaning. It also allows a great number of topics to be explored in a short time and to be retained more easily.
The custom of debating entered into the Kagyu tradition through the great scholar, Chapa Chökyi Senge, a Kadampa who was a teacher of the First Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193). Marpa also brought the tradition of debate to Tibet, however it was Je Tsongkhapa who developed extensively the practice of debate along with the collected topics of logic so that they became a special trait of the Gelukpa tradition. The Winter Debates originated at the Geluk monastery of Ratö located in the Jang area of Central Tibet. Then in 1997, Chöje Lama Phuntsok of Lekshey Ling Shedra suggested that it would be excellent to start a tradition of Winter Debates for the Kagyu shedras, so the first session was inaugurated and they have continued regularly up to the present.
In previous years, the debates were conducted with judges from within the Kagyu tradition, and the atmosphere was more relaxed, as the monks enjoyed getting to know each other and exchanging ideas. To enliven the monks' interest and raise the esteem for the debates within the Kagyu monasteries, the Karmapa decided to change their format and add an element of competition.
The first major change was an historic one: never before in the history of Tibet had judges from all four traditions been invited to evaluate Kagyu debates. This year, there were scholars from the Nyingma, Sakya, Geluk, and from within the Kagyu, the Drikung and Drukpa lineages. There were none from the Karmapa's own lineage, the Karma Kamtsang, so the judges could not be accused of partiality. Further, they stayed in Tergar and the head judge rotated every day.
People often pay lip-service to the ideals of non-sectarianism. But knowing of the ultimate benefit, the Karmapa, lion-hearted, boldly invited all the lineages into the heart of the Kamtsang shedras. It took considerable courage to invite other traditions to judge the debates. One might hesitate for fear of revealing one's special techniques or of exposing one's weaknesses to the world. For their part, the judges appreciated his openness, and from their side, they worked very hard for over two weeks, attending not only the central debates but also the additional sessions.
Of the ten shedras present for the Winter Debates, eight were participating in the main debates, held during the morning in the main shrine hall at Tergar Monastery.* In the afternoon and evening, additional debate sessions took place in the Monlam Pavilion, so day and night the sound of challenging voices and clapping hands could be heard. And the monks continued to discuss matters as they circumambulated the shrine hall and walked back and forth to their rooms or meals.
The Karmapa's second innovation was to structure the debates like a tournament with prizes at the end. Half of the points were awarded to the monasteries for the monks' performances as the defender of a thesis and half were awarded to the questioning opponent's monastery. The subjects for debate covered three areas: the collected topics of the logic texts, the classifications of mind, and the classifications of reasons. From within these, especially difficult questions were chosen, such as the presentation of uncommon contradictions or the difference between what is direct and valid and what is spurious. The basis for all of these exchanges was were the major treatises that the monks study in the shedras.
Over twelve days, the eight teams were reduced by a process of elimination to two each for the three topics. In the first rounds, four teams were eliminated; in the second, they were narrowed to two teams for each of the three topics, and on the last day, these winning teams debated the three topics to decide the winners and runners up for the three categories as well as the overall winner of the debates.
On December 13th, the final debate on classifications of the mind was shifted to the evening in the Monlam Pavilion so that everyone could easily see the event. On the steps rising behind the main platform, the Karmapa, Jamgön Rinpoche, and Gyaltsap Rinpoche sat on brocade covered chairs behind ornately carved wooden tables. Below them were the five judges, and further down on the apron of the stage were two smaller thrones for the defenders from Bokar Rinpoche's Thösam Norling Gatsal. Some twenty feet back, stood two microphones for the ten questioners from Jamgön Kongtrul's Rigpe Dorje Institute. The defender's position is actually the most difficult as they are vigorously challenged by a group of lively monks at the mics who often move in perfect unison, tuning into the same point with the same words.
To begin the final debate, the two defending monks came forward and made three bows in the direction of the Karmapa and then took their seats, wrapping themselves in their maroon cloaks and setting beside them the yellow cockade hat they would wear when quoting texts to back up their arguments. As with all the debates, the session lasted forty minutes, which were which were counted down on digital clocks displayed over two screens on either side of the stage. The element of passing time added to the heightened intensity of the evening, as the monks waited to see who would win the coveted prizes. At the end of the debate, one monk, walking in slow circles in front of the others, gave an elegant summary, making the traditional dedication of merit and expressing everyone's wishes for auspiciousness to spread throughout the world.
The MC for the evening was from Sherab Ling and served this year as the head discipline master. He introduced the debate and announced the prizes at the end. A table on stage right was set with seven trophies, with certificates for the winners, and a stack of large, rectangular replicas of the checks to be given. Alongside these were three new mobile phones. The prizes were awarded on the basis of three criteria: the monks' ability to stay on topic; their use of quotations that were relevant and within their own tradition; and finally, their conduct in maintaining decorum and respect for others.
As the debate ended and the award ceremony began, the Karmapa came down the steps to the front of the platform to give out the prizes. The first award of a Wisdom Text trophy along with a certificate and a check of 25, 000 Indian rupees for their monastery went to Sherab Ling, the runner up in the debates on the collected topics. The same prizes for the runner up in the second and third categories of the classifications of mind and of reasons were both awarded to Rigpe Dorje Institute. The top winners in these same three categories—Rigpe Dorje for the first two, and Sherab Ling for the last one—each received an elegant and transparent, smaller Sword of Wisdom, certificates, and a check of 50,000 for their monastery. The top prize, which was the greater Sword of Wisdom, certificate, and check of 100,000 for the monastery, was awarded to Bokar Rinpoche's shedra for the best performance over the whole period of the Winter Debates.
The final three prizes went to three individual monks. The top award of a new iPhone 5 was given to a monk from Sherab Ling for being consistently diligent. The next prize, the newest Samsung Galaxy, went to another monk from Sherab Ling for being the best defender. The final trophy of an HTC mobile went to a monk from Tergar monastery for being the best questioner.
As the excitement from the award ceremony subsided, the judges took turns speaking about their experience and the practice of debate in general. All five mentioned how impressed they were by the Karmapa's wisdom and learning, his qualities as a spiritual leader and human being, and his great humility. One judge remarked that although all five came from different traditions, when they compared the marks they had assigned to the debaters, their numbers were very similar, so there was a natural consensus on what constitutes good debating. Another judge spoke of the blessings of the lineage that can be received through debate. Yet another judge emphasized the importance of studying Dharma, the highest form of education. He also said that all the monks won prizes, as each one had the opportunity to deepen his understanding of the definitive Dharma.
The Karmapa cautioned the monks not to let the awards go to their heads or focus on personal achievement but to remember a wholesome pride in the Dharma and all its qualities and to let the awards be an inspiration to study even harder. He mentioned that debates belong to the practice of integrating experience and study and remain an important vehicle for training in the Dharma.
In his advice to his winning monks from Bokar Rinpoche's shedra, Khenpo Dönyö echoed the Karmapa's way of thinking when he said that it is thanks to the Karmapa, the lineage lamas, and their teachers that the monks had the benefit of this special opportunity. Performing with excellence is the best offering that they could make.
The Winter Debates concluded with four days of presenting papers and discussing three aspects of the vinaya (monastic discipline): the ceremony of restitution and purification; the summer retreat; and the ceremony to end the summer retreat. At the conclusion of the seminar on December 19, the Karmapa received feedback from the monks on all aspects of the Winter Debates and on how to improve them. He also spoke of instituting in the future a Winter Debate session for the nuns, which would be a wonderful revolution.
On the evening of December 19, the Karmapa gave extensive thanks to everyone, from the monks who participated, through the monks in the administrations of Tsurphu and Tergar, all the way up to the government of Bihar. He also prayed that people would seek to help each other and create peace in the world. He concluded that when good deeds are done, it is important to dedicate them for the benefit of others and to make aspiration prayers as well. With these good wishes for the teachings to expand, and in particular, for the tradition of discussion and debate to flourish, he concluded the Sixteenth Winter Debates.
* The eight were: 1) Karma Shri Nalanda Institute from the Karma's seat in Rumtek; 2) Lungrik Jampal Ling from Situ Rinpoche's Sherab Ling Monastery; 3) Rigpe Dorje Institute from Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche's monastery in Lava; 4) Benchen Nangten Tösam Ling from Tenga Rinpoche's monastery; 5) Lekshey Ling, Chöje Lama Phuntsok's Shedra; 6) Thösam Norling Gatsal, Bokar Rinpoche's shedra; 7) Tergar Ösel Ling from Mingyur Rinpoche's monastery; and 8) Zurmang Shedra Lungtok Norbu Gatsal Ling from Garwang Rinpoche's monastery. Two shedras were present but did not participate in the formal debates: Nedo Tashi Chöling from Karma Chakme's monastery and Drodön Kunkhyab Chöde from Kalu Rinpoche's monastery.
12th December – Bodhgaya.
An historic occasion.
The initial ceremonies
Together the lamas performed the ceremony of purifying and offering (sang chö) known as Heaping Clouds of Nectar. Based on Tibetan and Chinese traditions, the ceremony's purpose is to purify the outer world, the entire environment, and the inner world, all its inhabitants. The ceremony is also an offering to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha above, and a generous giving to those below in the lower realms. Special substances were offered in abundance—fragrant woods, such as juniper and sandalwood, plus nutritious grains, elegant fabrics, and many precious substances. They were carried to the twenty-six white sculpted kilns that arch in a semi-circle behind the Pavilion, their aromatic smoke blending with the misted air to perfume the grounds. The theme of the ceremony was also displayed in the seven radiant banners for sang chö that were created to encircle the Karmapa's tent. A modern touch were the solar panels, set next to the tent to provide electricity, signaling again the Karmapa's deft ability to blend tradition with the modern world.
Simultaneous with this first ceremony was another performed by Khyabje Gyaltsap Rinpoche, which he began within the Monlam Pavilion. For this second set of rituals, which had three aspects, Gyaltsap Rinpoche first performed the ceremony in the Pavilion and then walked through the Great Encampment, the sound of his bell growing softer and louder as he moved away and came close to pause at the Karmapa's tent. Gyaltsap Rinpoche's first round of the encampment was to expel negative spirits that could cause harm and as he walked he tossed great sprays of yellow mustard seed to send them away. The second round was for purification, and he carried a golden vase with consecrated water that he poured onto a brass plate as he recited prayers. The third was for auspiciousness, and in all directions Gyaltsap Rinpoche generously offered blessed rice and flowers into the air. This final time he wore the Gampopa brocade hat as he stood in front of the Karmapa's tent and offered the auspiciousness that had been gathered throughout the morning. This then concluded the preparatory ceremonies for the afternoon's official opening of the gate.
The Gate Opening ceremony
It is this magnificent tradition that was revived today with the Gate Opening Ceremony. The gate was festooned with swags of marigolds and a braided sash of red, yellow, blue, and white scarves spanning the space between the gate's pillars. Surrounded by a great gathering of monks, the Karmapa stood in front of the gate, flanked by Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche, all three of them wearing the gold and rose colored hat of Gampopa. They chanted prayers for auspiciousness, invoking eight each of the tathagatas, bodhisattvas, protectors, and offering goddesses, and aspiring that in this place, the Garchen tradition would again flourish to bring peace, well-being, and realization to all corners of the world.
Proceeding into the Garchen, the three lamas blessed the main tent area and then returned to the Karmapa's yellow tent to complete the ceremonies. With the statue of the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, behind him, the Karmapa along with his two heart sons gave audience to the Akshobya retreatants, to the khenpos (professors) and senior monks, to the little monks from Tergar Monastery, and then all the other monks and nuns, each of them offering scarves and receiving a blessing from all three rinpoches on the thrones, and a blessed cord from the Karmapa. Finally, lay disciples could also offer a scarf to the Karmapa and receive his blessing. Thus ended the ceremonies of a day shaped by the far-reaching vision of the Karmapa, whose great compassion does not forget to reach out and touch all living beings.
On the evening of this first night, so the tents would not be left empty, specially chosen monks will sleep in them : two have been selected from each of the ten shedras attending the Winter Debates, plus two representatives each from the Karmapa's administration, from the Kagyu Monlam's administration, and from the five administrations of Situ Rinpoche, Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche, Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Pawo Rinpoche, and Treho Rinpoche. Zimpön Gelek Könchok would sleep in the Karmapa's tent. The following nights, up to 15 monks will stay in each of the tents, bringing alive this ancient tradition.
The Seventeenth Karmapa and the Great Encampment
Plans were made to pitch two hundred tents and create all the necessary facilities for the monks and nuns staying there. In addition to the solar panels on all the individual tents and in the Karmapa's area, also on the agenda were solar powered strip lights along the walkways and the tall lights surrounding the Pavilion. An elaborate water recycling system was also planned, which included ponds filled with reeds, lotus flowers, and other local plants. (See the longer article on the environment). With all these aspects, the site naturally turned into an encampment. When asked if it could be named The Great Encampment, Ornament of the World, the Karmapa was delighted and also gave special names to three "continents" or areas of the camp. To the left and right of the Karmapa's quarters (described above) is an area for monks known as Densely Arrayed (a name for the pure realm of Akanishta, also used for Tsurphu itself). Near the immense, kitchen tent with its two-tiered roof is another section for monks called The Array of Lotuses (related to the pure realm of Amitabha). And behind the Pavilion is the nuns' area known as The Array of Turquoise Leaves (the name of Tara's pure realm).
The way the revival of the Garchen came about can be seen from two perspectives. From the perspective of all the planning and labor that went into reviving the Great Encampment, many people with a variety of skills worked very long and hard to set it up. From another perspective, it happened spontaneously, arising without effort. It is hoped that the practice of all the monks and nuns residing in the Great Encampment will equal that of their forebears and also be spontaneously accomplished for the benefit of a
11th December – Bodhgaya.
From 23 November to 11 December the Gyalwang Karmapa taught daily during the annual winter Kagyu Gunchoe Debates at Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya. Over this three-week period he offered the reading transmission and teachings on a text by the Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje, called One Hundred Short Instructions (Tri-thung Gyatsa). "I like this text very much," he commented on the first day of the teachings, adding that in Tibet he used to read it aloud to others as a hobby or to pass the time.
The Gyalwang Karmapa taught primarily to an audience of Khenpos and monks participating in the winter debates, however, simultaneous translations into English and Chinese were offered, and many international students also attended. The number of international students grew day by day, until the gompa quickly reached capacity.
The Eighth Karmapa's text One Hundred Short Instructions is divided into chapters covering a broad range of topics, arranged according to the path the dharma practitioner traverses. Commencing with the 'Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind Towards the Dharma', the Gyalwang Karmapa emphasized the preciousness of our human life, as well as the need for renunciation from worldly concerns.
"If we are dharma practitioners then our priority should be to practice the dharma first and worldly activities second, and not the other way around," he said. "Practice of dharma and pursuing worldly life cannot go together: one person cannot be a householder and an ordained renunciate at the same time; one person cannot accomplish the goals of the lower realms and liberation at the same time; one person cannot ride two horses at the same time. One cannot walk with one foot stepping forward and the other backward." Gyalwang Karmapa added, "Many international students complain of their agony that though they want to practice the dharma, they have no time." Over the following days, returning again to the theme of renunciation, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued, "The goal of our renunciation should be to commit to what is beneficial for beings, and to what serves the cause of the dharma."
During the three-week period the teachings continued through a range of topics as the Gyalwang Karmapa paid attention to particular chapters of the text. As the days progressed, he returned again and again to the theme of relying on an authentic, genuine guru. "When the student matches the teacher there is no need to hesitate; the relationship is very clear and very direct," he said. "You should feel that if it's enough to please the Lama then that is enough for yourself. Sometimes people wonder, why is it so important to please the Lama? When we talk of pleasing the Lama it's not a question of just pleasing a single Lama. If we please an authentic, genuine Lama, that is the same as accomplishing the dharma.
14th November – Bodhgaya.
The Gyalwang Karmapa left Tergar Monastery at 9 am today 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 Bande 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 then recited prayers.
Leaving the shrine room, Gyalwang Karmapa walked round to the area behind the temple, under the Bodhi tree, where he offered khatas at the alters of the ongoing Shabdrung monastery's Monlam prayer.
9th November – New Delhi.
The Gyalwang Karmapa left Dharamsala for Delhi on Tuesday 6th November, at the beginning of his winter programme.
While in Delhi, he visited the American Embassy School, his third such visit, and spent the afternoon answering questions from students, parents and teachers. His Holiness visited school as part of Peace and Global Citizens initiatives. His Holiness arrived with little pomp and sat in the theatre, answering questions from students. Although the students came from younger age groups the questions they posed showed forethought and insight. His Holiness responded simply and frankly, describing his own life experiences, making practical suggestions, and exploring with his young audience the common values which we, as human beings, should hold- compassion, loving kindness and an appreciation of the interdependence of all sentient beings on planet earth.
One student asked, "What is the most important value of the Tibetan culture?" The Karmapa responded in a low voice, interspersed with English words, and shared with the audience by a translator. "The life that we live is a pretty simple life, We put at the center of our life altruism, the wish to benefit others. We're pretty direct and straightforward. I think if you look at Tibetan culture, the most important values at the center of our culture are loving kindness and compassion, and we develop these feelings not just for other human beings but for all forms of life. Whatever we do, whatever activities we engage in, whatever studies we do, we always try to put the value of other beings in the center."
He was open about neither choosing nor necessarily having fun in his role as Karmapa. In response to the question, "How did you decide to be a Karmapa?" he shook his head and laughed. "Decide?"
"So actually, I did not decide to be a Karmapa. In the west, people have a lot of choice and generally you decide what you want to study and when you finish your studies, you decide what job or career you want to have, but that was not the case with me. When I was 8 years old, I was just a normal boy. I played with other kids. I had a normal boy's life. Then some people came and they told me, 'You're the Karmapa.' At that time, I didn't even understand what the Karmapa was … I thought, if I'm the Karmapa, I'll probably get a lot of toys. I found out later being a Karmapa is not all that fun. It's a lot of work and a lot of responsibility and a lot of studying. So becoming the Karmapa was not something I decided. It was more like something that just fell from the sky."
"What can we do to maintain peace?" asked a student.
"We have so many different things that we're constantly doing, and there are all these changes going on all the time, so it's really not that easy, is it? I would say, to put it simply, just relax. Just relax and stay quiet. Generally speaking, this is a difficult question. For you, as kids, to be able to make peace, maybe don't make it too complicated. Make it simple. Just relax."
After the event, the Gyalwang Karmapa attended a dinner in his honour hosted by the Middle School Principal.
On Saturday 10th November, he flew from Delhi to Bodh Gaya, where he will be based at Tergar Monastery until mid-January 2013. During that time he will preside over the Kagyu Gunchö from 21st November – 13th December 2012. This is the winter debate session attended by monks from the various Kagyu monasteries and colleges. He will attend the 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo from 21st- - 28th December, the annual prayer festival whose purpose is to generate peace and happiness for all sentient beings. In addition the Gyalwang Karmapa will give teachings to the monks at the Gunchö, teachings and empowerments during the Kagyu Monlam, and more teachings after the Monlam.
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HH Gyalwa Karmapa
Detailed biographical information about His Holiness the 17th Karmapa is available from the drop down menus above. The materials are divided into:
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