Q: Do you believe that youth today will be more inspired because you are in body a young person speaking and giving teachings?
HHK: Maybe, because I am included as youth. Because they are seeing my position as something special, because of that reason they are moved or they pay attention. I think that it is not that many appropriate effects are not possible. Because of that, for example, when I speak about Dharma, or teach or when I converse this one direction, the subjects I speak about most are related to the direction of Dharma. Although most of what I speak about is the traditional system, I speak about it in a contemporary manner with fresh thinking. In that way, even though they are modern people of the 21st century, because I know about these fundamental mediation techniques, and the self, for that reason, from one side the youth are able to receive the essence of those superb knowledge and moral, upright behaviors which have been passed down from ancient generations. And also, because now the world is very materialistic, if we have to be in such a place we have to make our mind stable, I assist them in being able to take care of themselves. I think it is possible that being able to stand on one’s own brings the appropriate benefit. It is like that in one way.
Q: In the United States right now with Barack Obama just being elected, we have been told it was the young people in America that made this happen. What hopes might you have for him being the new leader of the United States?
HHK: Barack Obama has become the President of America. I recognize that this depended on many significant factors. Besides having to do with politics, generally there was a relation to race and like that possibly to religion. From various relations like that, I recognize there were many significant factors that came from many directions. Because it is like that we see that his way is not like the others. During the duration of his responsibility as President he is definitely capable of producing a beneficial expression in the world. In particular, he is representative of the young people, from his side of carrying the responsibility of the 21stcentury young people, we hope he is truly able to produce a noticeable expression.
Q: Today an NGO that was started by a young Tibetan woman and my NGO in America brought the elders over from Jampaling to have the audience. What were your thoughts on this morning?
HHK: I think it has been 50 years since the Tibetan people came to escape the occupation. Honestly, like that approximately 50 years ago they left and arrived in India when they were still fairly young. Now they have already grown old. I think that each of them here in this country wish very much for it to come that they could stay in their homeland with their comrades and family. Since it is like that and because we do not have such an opportunity, on the one had this situation has me disappointed and saddened. But that is how we are. Though it is like this, I got to speak with them. And on the other hand, now in Tibet there are also many old people like them. They most likely with complete humility stay in their homeland together with the people of their household. They probably are fully wishing for a place of refuge. In such a state, thinking they are destitute of a place of refuge…the place of many of their hopes is in India. And probably at the end of their lives it appears that they are without hope and without refuge. For them it appears that their life has to end like that. Therefore, I think that the ones who have come to India have been courageous and happy. It is like that, in any case, though both sides have many deficiencies to be worked out, most important is to continually pay attention to, and end the struggle so that our later generations do not have to stay in one generation’s wretched situation. We must try to resolve this problem soon. I think that there are clear indicators that it will be quickly resolved. Why is this? For all of us time and life do not wait. They are proceeding to the finish. Since that is the case, we can still wait. I think that time and lifespan do not matter.
HHK: To say one has hope or not…I think you probably have to look at how many supportive conditions you have or not. When we have good supportive conditions, each of us can continue to hope. When we have not assembled supportive conditions or hopes are empty and futile and we find ourselves in a situation where we have to be destitute in misery.
Now, on Earth, for us to have hope, to say we have hope or not on Earth, principally is in regards to how many supportive conditions we have or not. Generally, on this Earth, when speaking about the external environment, since we have been taking with excessive use of power from the sources of the environment, there has been a great impact on the environment. Our supportive conditions, our “basic resources” are dwindling. Therefore, with regards to the environment we are always facing the fear of our basic resources declining and being used up.
Similarly, even when speaking about the human society, it has been a long time since, as it was in the past, we have had genuine feelings for the environment or had a way of living that is a genuine experiential relationship with the environment. Now the progress of our machinery and things is great. And like that, deluded, we experience living in the world. Since it is like that, we never perceive our innate human preciousness and good qualities, those exceptional distinguishing features. We are always progressing and progressing. Thinking something new. New strategies. Besides solely searching for new objects of knowledge, traverse within. What are the uncommon, uncontrived good qualities that each of us have? Ones that are indispensable, which truly must be developed? Perhaps, generally in our lives we have continually with confidence, carelessly and recklessly used our knowledge. I think perhaps it is like this if we have not paid attention. If it becomes like that, the various inner and outer supportive conditions will not be gathered or many basic resources will be exhausted, used up. Therefore, when we see it has become like that, to say there is hope on this Earth, on the one hand I think it is just talk. It is like that. Now, we must continually use those basic resources in favor of having hope. I think this is extremely important.
Jangchub Jong, Kangra Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India
October 28, 2012
“The main condition for all of these teachings and for the Empowerment of C
höd to have taken place was at the request of Lama Tsultrim Allione. Lama Tsultrim had a very strong connection with the previous Karmapa, the 16th Karmapa, and all of you know about this and know about her so I don't need to say a lot, but since I have been given the name of the 17th Karmapa, she felt a wish to reconnect with Karmapa through making a Dharma connection with me. She has had a great devotion toward the teachings of Chöd for a long time. She has been doing a lot of work to preserve and maintain the continuity of the teachings and practice of Chöd, and she has a very pure heart motivation in doing this, which I deeply rejoice in.
I genuinely hope to be able to support the work that she does in this regard in a continuing way in the future, and from a personal perspective I feel grateful to her because this was my first opportunity to confer the empowerment of Chöd, so I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity and I wouldn't have had this opportunity if it were not for her request, and therefore I'd like to extend a special note of gratitude to her and say thank you.
So from the time I was young, I had a great interest in the practice of Chöd. I felt a connection with it like it was a karmic connection, but I did not have the opportunity to practice Chöd and I never had the opportunity to confer the Chöd Empowerment. They did the ritual of Chöd in Tsurphu Monastery every year but I did not attend this, and in fact this Chöd Empowerment was the first time I even saw the Empowerment text, so I'm very happy that this opportunity has come to pass.
I would also like to extend my gratitude to Tara Mandala for all of the work they did to organize and have these teachings happen here as well as all of the sponsors that have made this teaching gathering possible."
-- His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmpa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, Jangchub Jong, Himachial Predesh, Kangra Valley, India, October 28, 2012
His Eminence Dorzong Rinpoche comments on Lama Tsultrim and the 2012 ChödEmpowerment with His Holiness 17th Karmapa
"In particular, here with us we have Ani Tenzin Palmo and Lama Tsultrim Allione who are two great m
asters from the West and it is wonderful that you have access to them. I think that it would be good for you to further rely on them as masters and receive their oral instructions. Whatever context you practice Chöd in, it shouldn't just stay in your mouth but it should arrive in your heart and transform it. I'd like to make the aspiration prayer that in whatever way you practice Chöd that you be free from obstacles to your practice and whatever you intend to accomplish with your practice you will accomplish without hindrances."
-- His Eminence Dorzong Rinpoche, Jangchub Jong, Himachial Predesh, Kangra Valley, India, October 28, 2012
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.
Today His Holiness commenced a historical three-days of Chod teachings, conferring the empowerment for the first time ever. Hosted by His Eminence the 8th Dorzong Rinpoche at his institute in the Kangra Valley near Dharamsala, the Dharma transmission drew an international audience of practitioners from several dozen countries, as well as nuns from across the Himalayans.
"I have been enthusiastic about the Chod practice from a young age, but have had few opportunities to do formal sadhana practice, and this is the very first time I am giving the empowerment, and am very pleased to have the opportunity to do so today."
The empowerment that His Holiness conferred in the morning was based on the Opening the Door to Space text by the 3rd Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje. Following the main portion of the visualization-based initiation, His Holiness offered a torma empowerment to the event's hosts His Eminence the 8th Dorzong Rinpoche and Chogyal Rinpoche, followed by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo and Lama Tsultrim Allione, who had initially requested the Chod empowerment from His Holiness and whose Tara Mandala organization sponsored the event.
In the afternoon session, the Gyalwang Karmapa commenced teaching based on a Guiding Instruction text by the 8th Gyalwang Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje, which outlines (among other things) a weeklong Chod retreat. As an entry point into understanding the practice of Chod, His Holiness discussed Chod—a Tibetan verb that means to cut or sever—in terms of what is to be cut and what does the cutting. Otherwise, there is the danger that we leave Chod practice at the level of mere ritual. What we aim to cut with Chod practice, he explained, are the four Maras and in particular the Mara of self-grasping or fixation. What we cut this with is the prajna or wisdom that realizes essencelessness, or lack of self.
After the initial introduction, His Holiness turned to the topic of renunciation, or "definite emergence"—the clear understanding that all samsara, or cyclic existence, is suffering in nature, and the wish to definitely emerge from that. The Gyalwang Karmapa cautioned against assuming samsara is something external and separate from us. Samsara includes not only the world around us, but also exists within us and is produced by our own troubled emotional state. Addressing the largely Western audience, His Holiness noted that there is a tendency to confuse subtle forms of suffering with pleasure. As a result, we end up exerting ourselves greatly, chasing more suffering. Quoting the 8th Gyalwang Karmapa, His Holiness stated that all authentic independence is happiness, while all lack of freedom is suffering. He went on to explain that this authentic independence is something to be cultivated and an attitude that can be developed, focusing on freedom from karmic cause and effect and emotional disturbances.
Although outer conditions have a minor part to play, they cannot secure our happiness. For that, he said, we must look within.
With the morning light streaming in to the assembly hall from the east, the Gyalwang Karmapa offered teachings in the morning, while in the afternoon, at the special request of His Holiness, the audience had the privilege of receiving teachings on Chöd from His Eminence the 8th Dorzong Rinpoche.
His Holiness opened the day with a discussion of the qualities that make disciples worthy recipients of the Dharma. He then resumed the explication of the 8th Gyalwang Karmapa's guiding instructions for seven-day Chöd retreat. During the second day of the retreat outlined by Mikyo Dorje, the focus is on compassion. In that context, His Holiness explored the distinction between immeasurable compassion and great compassion, while underscoring the need to train in both. Immeasurable compassion refers to the immeasurable number of sentient beings, whereas the greatness of great compassion refers to the fact that not a single being is left out. As such, the focal point is different, the Gyalwang Karmapa explained.
We may cultivate compassion for all beings on this planet, and this would be a form of immeasurable compassion, since there are numberless humans, animals and other sentient beings on this earth. With great compassion, there is a quality of absolute inclusiveness, such that it expands outward to any world where beings have a mind and therefore experience pain and wish for happiness. When we are training in great compassion, we must guard against becoming indifferent to the suffering of any other being. For example, His Holiness observed that we might pass a cage with many chickens crammed into it on the way to slaughter without connecting from the heart with their suffering. If we train first in the mind of definite emergence or "renunciation," we are effectively training ourselves in compassion for ourselves and developing our ability to genuinely empathize and connect with others who are suffering. To that end, the Gyalwang Karmapa recommended to begin meditating on compassion with specific objects, rather than a nameless, faceless mass of "all sentient beings." His Holiness particularly stressed the importance of cultivating compassion, because it is the presence of unbearable compassion that makes the "swift path" of tantra swift.
On the third day of the Chöd retreat, the object of meditation is refuge. His Holiness cautioned against confusing "taking refuge" with "going for refuge." Taking refuge in the sense of pleading and supplicating with an impoverished attitude is not the point. Rather, we go to refuge in order to bolster our desire and commitment to achieve Buddhahood. As such, the Gyalwang Karmapa explained that when we go for refuge, we should understand that we are going to the state of the objects of refuge. The fourth and fifth days of the Chöd retreat are devoted to bodhichitta and the mind that relinquishes body and possessions alike, or tong sem.
To a packed assembly hall, in the second afternoon session His Eminence Dorzong Rinpoche offered a masterful overview of the historical transmission of Chöd in the various lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. Rinpoche went on to cut to the essence of Chod practice, relating it to the nature of mind and the distinction between samsara and nirvana. As Rinpoche taught, he drew on quotes from masters ranging from the great Indian logician Dignaga to Tsangpa Gyare, the founder of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage in which Rinpoche himself is an important lineage holder.
Many audience members commented on the combination of profundity and clarity that marked Rinpoche's presentation. His excavation of the difference between samsara and nirvana was particularly striking to many. "When we become free of conceptual elaborations, that is nirvana," Rinpoche stated. "As long as we are apprehending a difference between subject and object, that is samsara."
For the third consecutive day, around a thousand disciples of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa made their way from the surrounding valley and mountainsides back to Dorzong Monastic Institute. Sited on a hilltop and nestled amidst pristine forest as far as the eye can see, the exquisitely painted main shrine hall of Dorzong Institute offers an ideal setting for this historical Dharma transmission by His Holiness on Chöd practice. The skilled hand of the 8th Dru-gu Choegyal Rinpoche, a highly accomplished artist, was everywhere in sight both in the elaborately painted main shrine hall and throughout the institute's grounds.
The first topic for today's session was a history lesson. Recounting key events from the remarkable life of Machig Labdron, the Gyalwang Karmapa stated that Machig Labdron was taught by her mother to read. Gyalwang Karmapa recollected that his own father had made a conscious choice to teach all of his own children to read, including the girls. His family's valuing of education for girls was anomalous and considered unnecessary according to local values. His Holiness said that his sister—who is now present with him in India and was in fact attending the teaching—also excelled as a young girl at reading Tibetan.
As the Gyalwang Karmapa detailed Machig Labdron's spiritual accomplishments, he made it clear that hers was a tradition of direct experience of Prajnaparamita. Although she had many male disciples as well as female, His Holiness observed that her Dharma system was extremely beneficial for women.
As he resumed the commentary on the 8th Gyalwang Karmapa's instructions for seven-day retreat, His Holiness turned to the practice of offering the body (Sanskrit: dehad?na; Tibetan: lüjin), which is the meditation theme for the sixth day of the weeklong retreat.
From time to time, His Holiness switched into English to clarify a point or elaborate on the translation. Throughout the three days, the humorous interplay between the English translator, Tyler Dewar, and His Holiness has served as an expression of the joy shared by lama and audience.
Cautioning that until one has attained the bodhisattva's bhumis, one is not literally enjoined to offer one's body, the Gyalwang Karmapa described an occasion from a past life of Buddha Shakyamuni, when he cut off his head and offered it to someone who had asked for it. The Gyalwang Karmapa then laughingly interjected that if we say someone first cut off his own head and then gave it, the wording of this just sounds wrong.
Widening the scope of what might initially be understood as lüjin, His Holiness stressed that in this practice we train ourselves in giving everything—including the merit and karmic fruits that come from giving. Doing so, he explained, helps us cut our clinging to self.
Sharing with the audience his personal vision of this practice, His Holiness described it as letting go and extending to see ourselves as part of all sentient beings. "What we take to be us and what we take to be others are not two separate things," he said. "Our body, speech and mind and the body, speech and mind of other sentient beings are not two separate things."
Chöd practice prepares us to transform our relationship to the five psycho-physical aggregates that ordinarily form the basis of what we think of as "I." When we do the practice fully, he explained, these five aggregates that were previously the focus of our self-fixation are no longer seen as "I" or "mine." As such, the result of successful Chöd practice is to sever the self-fixation that is the root of all our suffering.
As the 8th Gyalwang Karmapa's description of the seven week retreat drew to a close, so too did these three extraordinary days of empowerment and teachings by the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. The final day of the retreat, like the final portion of the session, is devoted to dedication of merit. We dedicate in order to ensure that our practice takes us in the direction we want to go, His Holiness explained. Surely no one in the audience at that moment wished to go anywhere at all, as both organizers and His Holiness uttered many warm words of thanks. Thus drew to a close this historical occasion, when His Holiness the 17th Karmapa for the first time in this lifetime transmitted a practice in which the Gyalwang Karmapa has been an important lineage holder since the 13th century.
Choje Lama Phuntsok, of the Karma Lekshey Ling Shedra holding the dharma transmission of the Karma Kagyu Accomplishment Lineage, has taken on the responsibility of establishing a large primary school in Nepal that combines Buddhist instruction with a modern education in classes one to eight. He has asked for a letter of support, so with that in mind I request that you assist him in any way possible.
Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje, at the sacred site of Bodhgaya, March 12, 2012
Karma Leksheyling Institute not only preserves the ancient culture but also works at implementing contemporary ways of studies, since 2009, by establishing the study of trainings that are related to Buddhism. But we face many problems. The biggest problem is to provide all needed facilities to run the school. For this reason, we started to work on extending the structure, which can be seen in the attached drawing. The pupils and students who are already lining up to receive a good education in the new school will, In the future, benefit many sentient beings.
We need everyone’s support and have to ask all friends and devotees to donate as best as they possibly can for this new school project.
Two men holding the Ming letter which was written by the Chinese emperor Wu-tsung to the eighth Karmapa Mikyod dorje (Mi-bskyod rdo-rje) in 1516. Richardson was shown this letter on a visit to Tsurphu monastery. It is being held unrolled by two men and supprted on two chairs. The scripts written in Chinese and Tibetan are clearly visible. The building in the background is most probably the living quarters (lha brang) of the Karmapa at Tsurphu monastery.
Tathagath Great Precious Prince of Dharmawas one of the Three Major Princes of Dharma. In the fifth year of Yongle(1470 A. D.), Ming Emperor Chengzu conferred the honorific title of “Tathagath Great Precious Prince of Dharma” upon Karmapa, the fifth Rinpoche of the Karma-bkav-brgyud-pa Sect and bestowed upon him a seal. From them on, Rinpoches of Karmapa Black Hat Sect of successive generations were all conferred upon the title of “Great Precious Prince of Dharma”, who was higher in status than Great Vehicle Prince of Dharma and Great Compassion Prince of Dharma. It was the highest honorific title among leading figures of Tibetan Buddhism.
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.
As the main daily program of the Monlam, His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa and other senior tulkus and lamas will lead a gathering of several thousand of monks, nuns, and faithful laypeople in praying earnestly for there to be peace in the world and for the blessings of the wisdom, love, and power of the buddhas and bodhisattvas to touch all living beings. His Holiness will also give teachings on Je Tsongkhapa’s Three Primary Elements of the Path, which presents the essence of all the Buddha’s scriptures, instructions on refuge and bodhichitta as well as Vajrasattva practice from The Torch of Certainty, various instructions on meditation, and short explanations of some of the texts recited during the Monlam. His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche will give instructions on the profound, swift path of Calling the Guru from Afar. There will also be prayers for the well-being of Tibet, a Kangyur procession and recitation of the words of the Buddha for the sake of those who are venerable, Medicine Buddha practice, prayers to Guru Rinpoche and Tara to remove obstacles, and an Akshobhya purification ritual for the sake of the deceased. Additionally there will be a commemoration of the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage, an alms procession, the Offerings to the Gurus from the sutra tradition, and the Marme Monlam lamp offering ceremony.
Recorded at Kagyu Samye Dzong Edinburgh, April 12, 2011
Published for the Bodhicharya Online Shedra in December 2011
Transcribed by Albert Harris
This year, we are celebrating the nine-hundredth anniversary of the birth of the first Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa, and the nine-hundredth year of the existence of Karmapas as Karmapas because the first Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa was born in 1110 in Tibet, in Kham, in a very kind of remote place – in fact, not very far from the place where I was born – and since then, 2010 was the nine hundredth year. The Karmapa’s birth date is not recorded, it’s not known. So, it was decided to start this celebration from the day of his passing away; and that happened in December, 2010. And so in one year the Karmapa’s nine-hundredth anniversary will be celebrated.
The first Karmapa was called Düsum Khyenpa but he was not called Düsum Khyenpa from the beginning. Later on, because of his clairvoyance, he happened to be called Düsum Khyenpa: Düsum Khyenpa means seer of the three times. This quality he had right from the beginning, even when he was very young and he was just looking after yaks. His friends, when they had kind of lost a yak, then they would go to him and say, “Where’s my yak?” And he would kind of sit down and he would close his eyes and say, “You go in that village,” and they would go and find them.
Then around the age of twenty he became a monk. He got renounced from the samsara. Some say, because he was very much disappointed by a love affair. He didn’t look that good [laughter]. Some say that he looked a little bit like a monkey and he later told that it is because a long, long time back he used to insult a monk and call him “monkey” and because of that he had to take rebirth as a monkey for five hundred times. Then, when he became a human being, he looked a little bit like a monkey. But he said, “This is the last time I’m looking like a monkey! [Laughter] I’ve totally purified that karma. So since now, I’m looking very good”, and since then all Karmapas looked very handsome. [Laughter]
So, he went to central Tibet and he studied very much under many Kadampa masters, the Madhyamika philosophy; all kinds of Abhidharma teachings; Buddhist logic. Some of those teachers [were the] main kind of lineage holders of these teachings he studied with. He became a very learned and renowned scholar. And then he met the Gampopa. So you know all about Gampopa, the main lineage holder of Milarepa. As you know, Milarepa was one of the main students of Marpa. Marpa was the translator who brought teachings from India. He studied at Nalanda University and studied under great masters like Naropa and Maitripa and many others, even Saraha – not Saraha, Saraha in his dreams – Shantipa and many others. He translated lots of tantras into Tibetan.
So he had two – you can say – different lineages. One was his academic or study lineage. So he had some students like Ngok, to whom he passed on the studies of tantras, Guhyasamaja tantra and many other tantras and those tantric study lineages went another way, not through Milarepa. Actually, it went very much to the Gelugpas. Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelugpa, is very much like the lineage holder of Marpa. It is not very much well-known and I don’t think it’s very much talked about, but it is a fact that sometimes Marpa is studied more by Gelugpas than by the Kagyupas.
I recently met a monk, a Gelugpa geshe and he was saying that whenever he hears the name of Marpa he’s so inspired the tears come to his eyes. It was true, we were talking about Marpa and he was shedding tears and “What’s wrong with you?”, you know. [Laughter] So that’s because he was very much studied in the Gelugpa tradition and Tsongkhapa loves him and talks so highly of him. The pith instruction teachings of Marpa were given to Milarepa: like Mahamudra, Six Yogas and Chakrasamvara and Vajrayogini. These kind of pith instructions were given to him and then he became totally realised. He actualised those teachings and became, as you know, one of the most renowned yogis of Tibet – the singing yogi sometimes people call him.
So this lineage was passed on to Gampopa and Gampopa also studied lots of Kadampa teachings. So he combined these two: the Mahayana and the Bodhisattvayana teachings, graded path teachings that he received from Kadampa masters, which comes from Atisha Dipankara and the pith instruction teachings of Mahamudra and Six Yogas which came from Milarepa. These combined together he taught to his students. That made the main kind of course of his teachings, and that became quite later on called Kagyupa. So sometimes Kagyu is called Dakpo Kagyu from Dakpo Lhaje, the name of Gampopa is sometimes called Dakpo Lhaje, the doctor of Dagpo. Dakpo is the name of the place. Gampopa is also the name of the place, Gampo is the name of the mountains; so from the name of the place where he was meditating or where his monastery later came, he was known as Gampopa.
So Karmapa went to see him along with another two Khampas – monks – from around that region where he was, so they were known later on as the ”Three Men from Kham”. The three men from Kham became the main students of the Gampopa and he was not only studying very hard but he was also practising, sometimes in very harsh conditions. Once he was put into a cave where he couldn’t at all stand up or stretch his body, he just had only a place to sit and nothing else for several months. Like this, he practised and he practised very hard.
And then, it is said, he was sometimes also hard tested. Some of you know the story that once he thought that he had the realisation, he had some experience of the truth, the nature of the mind. Then he went to tell this to his teacher and he told him, thinking that his teacher would be veryhappy, because he was making an offering of his experience which he thought would be very good. But it was not like that. His teacher was not happy at all. Gampopa said, “You got it totally wrong. I thought you were one of my best students and I had so much hope for you. But what you have said, what you have understood is 100 % wrong. So you just go back and change everything, revise everything, make it totally right and then only come back.”
So he went back and had full confidence in his teacher, really great devotion and reverence. So he went back and revised everything, he tried to change everything and then came back and told him again. And he was even more upset. He said, “You know, this is nothing different from what you told me last time. You just go back and change everything so that it’s 100 % opposite of it and then only come back.”
So he went back and he tried to change and he couldn’t change anything. He came back after a few months and he fell at his feet and said, “Now you can beat me, you can kill me if you want but there is nothing I can change, this is what I see.”
Then Gampopa said, “You are right. You are right. [laughter] You have been always right but I wanted to make sure that you were that confident. That even your own teacher, in whom you have complete devotion, tells you that it’s wrong, still you cannot change it. I want that kind of conviction and confidence. Now we have got it. Now you know how to practise. Now you go away! Go back to Kham! Go to this mountainous place.” Gampo Kangra. You know Tibet has lots of snowy mountains, glaciers, at least used to have, now it’s all melting, but… ”So you go there!” It’s a little bit to the border to almost Burma.”You go there and then meditate and don’t come out till you get realisation.”
So he went there and he meditated and practised for I don’t know how many years and there he got the realisation; and he got full realisation. And it is said that when he got that kind of realisation then as a kind of acknowledgement or appreciation of his great achievement, a hundred thousand dakinis came and made a cap with their hair and put it on his head. And that’s why the black hat, we call the Karmapa the Black Hat Lama, that’s coming from there. It is said that since that time all the Karmapas have a black hat made of… I don’t know whether all those one hundred thousand dakinis were all Asians [laughter] but you know the black hat.
And then, later on – it’s only later on during the Fifth Karmapa’s time – the Fifth Karmapa was invited by the Emperor of China, that time I think it was the Ming Dynasty, because the Emperor’s mother passed away who was devoted to the Tibetan lamas, and then, the Karmapa went there and he performed lots of miracles and things like that; and then the Emperor was kind of surprised because he saw that the Karmapa was wearing two hats, one upon another. One day he came and said, “Why are you wearing two hats, one upon another?” And the Karmapa said, “No, it’s not like that. One hat is there all the time, and another one I’m just wearing for the other people, but they don’t see it so you must be seeing it, the original hat.” Then he [the Emperor] said, “Can I make a kind of a hat which looks like what I see and make an offering to you so that you can show what kind of hat you have on all the time?” So he said, “OK, if you want.” So that’s why he made the hat, a little bit like this [pointing] but different, and that was offered to the Karmapa and that’s
what we call the “Karmapa’s Black Hat” that he'd use in the ceremonies – the black hat ceremony – when the Karmapa does the black hat ceremony, he puts on that hat which was made by the Chinese Emperor because he saw the original kind of hat of the Karmapa.
So therefore, then Karmapa also, at a later age, I think, at a very later age when he was in his seventies, more than sixties, he went back to central Tibet and started to build the Tsurphu monastery. Therefore he had three: he built three small monasteries, two in Kham and one in Tsurphu and that is how the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism started. Generally, from Gampopa’s students started what we call the four sub-schools of Kagyupa.
Then one of the three men from Kham, the Phagmo Drupa, from his students started the eight later sub-schools of kagyu. Sometimes in the prayers it’s written, it’s translated as four great and eight lesser; that’s the wrong translation. Chempo and Chungchung in Tibetan can mean greater and lesser or it can mean elder and younger. So the schools that came from the direct students of Gampopa became the four senior or the elder sub-schools: and then the schools that came from the students of Gampopa’s student – Phagmo Drupa’s students – were called the eight later subschools of Kagyu.
So Karmapa became very important also because he was the first – I think most of you know – to start the tulku system in Tibet, recognising the reincarnate or the rebirth of the lamas. As you know, Buddhism believes that everybody is a rebirth of somebody, everybody is reborn again and again and again, that’s the general understanding of Buddhism. But in Tibet the Karmapa started a new system where the rebirth of a great lama was recognised and said that this is the rebirth of that lama.
So, first time the Karmapa wrote a letter before he died and gave it to his main student, I think Drogön Rechen, and said, “I will come back and this is where I will be born so that’s where I will be found, the second Karmapa.” And in this way, this is something a little bit different for the Karmapas than the other tulkus. The Karmapas mostly recognised their own tulkus. The last Karmapa usually leaves a letter and then, through that letter, the next Karmapa is found. Until this time, the Seventeenth Karmapa also was found with a letter left by the Sixteenth Karmapa with Situ Rinpoche. He didn’t tell him that this was the letter; he just gave him a kind of protection amulet.
Then everybody was searching for this letter all over the place and was asking everybody, “Do you have any letters? Do you have a letters? Anything the Karmapa gave you?” So for many years they didn’t find anything. Then one day, Situpa thought, “This was given to me by the Karmapa, maybe this is something.” He always thought it was just a protection. And then he opened it and he found an envelope there, I've seen the envelope, and on the top of the envelope it was written in red pen that “You must open this on horse year.” It was written like that. And then he opened and then he read the letter, a very clear letter, you have seen this letter. So that was kind of the system which happened from that time onwards, and the Karmapas were kind of special, but he was the first tulku and since then many – His Holiness the Dalai Lama and many other lamas - and Tibet became full of tulkus [laughter]. Every monastery, almost, had a tulku; some had more than one tulku, so that’s like that.
There’s one special kind of thing which happened with Karmapas. Although Karmapa was a very highly revered lama, head of a school for a long lineage, for nine hundred years of existence and sixteen or now seventeen Karmapas, and had lots of devotees not only among the Karma Kagyu people but all over Tibet. But he never had any kind of political title; he never took any kind of temporary power or political assignment or role or anything. He always remained a spiritual teacher. And most parts of the Karmapa’s lineage even were not staying in the monasteries, I think it started around the Fourth Karmapa until very late until about tenth or even later. It was a camp,a tent camp, and the camp was always moving throughout Tibet. So therefore, the Karmapa’s main headquarters, you can say if you like, was called the Karma gar, gar meaning the camp, the Karmapa’s gar. Even now, when Karmapa writes a letter or something, it's from Karma gar. It’s a camp. And I think because of that, maybe, because he traveled all over Tibet and [did not stay in] one place, all over Tibet there is lots of devotion and reverence to the Karmapa. There’s an open letter of the Karmapa where he says that I, Karmapa have no particular school, every Buddhism is my school. So, if there is any conflict, if you make any conflict between the schools, you are not my follower. So he wrote a letter like that.
For most of human history, people all over the world had a simple lifestyle that made use of natural resources sustainably, and avoided significant damage to the Earth. In recent times, however, our lives and our relationship with the environment have become increasingly complex—and problematical because we now have tremendous power to harm the living world.
The lifestyle of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries is making huge demands on the natural environment. We make unprecedented use of resources such as water, wood, and soil,without correctly understanding what the outcomes will be. In particular, we use fossil fuels recklessly, ignoring the fact that they cause ever higher carbon dioxide emissions, and therefore dangerous global warming as a result. We imagine we need all kinds of cleverly-advertised consumer products, without really evaluating whether they are truly important or useful to us. There seems to be no limit to human desire, but there is clearly a limit to how much Mother Earth can sustain our greed.
The Buddha and his original monastic community followed a way of life that was mindful, frugal, and without waste. It did not fall into the extremes of poverty or hoarding, and it manifested the key principle of the Middle Way. Our lifestyle today should be modelled on this principle—neither too hard nor overly indulgent. If something we desire is beneficial and does not harm the environment it could be considered necessary. If that is not the case, let us think twice about whether we want or need it at all. As Ashvagosha said in his Twenty Verses on the Bodhisattva Vow: For others and also for yourself, Do what is useful even if painful, And what is both useful and pleasurable, Not what gives pleasure but is of no use.
This active decision-making process represents a choice made out of awareness, rather than made blindly. Our actions match our spiritual aspirations. Our aspiration as Dharma practitioners is to free all living beings from suffering. Wherever there is suffering, we wish to transform it into happiness and equanimity. We understand that our sense of self is misleading. In reality, the self is not independent from the rest of life around us, even the air we breathe. The principle of interdependence shows us that all life is connected, and that our individual actions have consequences in the larger world. This is the karmic relationship between cause and effect. It clearly applies also to global warming, which has been caused by humans extracting fossil fuel reserves laid down hundreds of millions of years ago and burning them to produce heat, mechanical, and electrical energy. By doing this we have released fossil carbon gas into the atmosphere of our planet.
As Dharma practitioners we have a responsibility to reverse negative actions through skillful means. To ensure that there is a healthy future for all life on Earth, we should be in the forefront of efforts to reduce carbon emissions and replace fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy—wind, solar, (appropriate) water, and geothermal power. We should also take a lead in the protection of forests and rainforests. Their destruction contributes greatly to climate breakdown, while their preservation cools the Earth and ensures its biodiversity. Indeed, we should be part of a global effort to plant many more trees and forests.
I grew up in a remote area of Tibet following a centuries-old way of life. People used water, wood, and natural resources with great care and they generated little or no waste. Even as a child, I planted a tree to protect our local spring and asked my father to protect it when I left for my monastic seat at Tsurphu. We had little formal education, but we inherited a deep traditional concern for our environment. Even as children we regarded many mountains, rivers, and some wild animals as sacred, and treated them with respect accordingly. Now scientists tell us that if we do not make fundamental changes in the way we do business as a global society, we stand to lose over half the species on Earth by the middle of this century. Is this not unbearably sad? Can we not do better than stand idly by, when we know this process of mass extinction is taking place in our own lifetime? Climate breakdown is already impacting all our lives, and without urgent corrective action it will only become more devastating. Here in the Himalayan region, our climate is warming three times faster than the global average rise in temperature. This is having dire consequences for our great glaciers, which are part of the third largest store of ice on Earth—the so-called “Third Pole.” Upon it depend the ecology and way of life of Tibet, together with the water supply and food of billions of people in China, India, and Pakistan.
We humans have already done such immense damage to the environment that it is almost beyond our power to heal it. The challenge is far more complex and extensive than Buddhists can tackle alone. However, we can take a lead, and to do so we must educate and inform ourselves. This is the time when our pure aspirations and our bodhisattva activity must come together. This is the time to ensure a safe-climate future for our planet. This aspiration comes from my heart.
Rangjung Dorje wrote the Mahamudra Aspiration, and Distinguishing Consciousness from Wisdom. Here is the former:
Aspirations for Mahamudra
Gurus and yidams, deities of the mandala, Buddhas of the three times and ten directions and your children, Consider me with kindness. Grant your blessing that all my wishes be realized.
Sprung from the snow-mountain of the pure actions and intentions-- Mind and those of all sentient beings without limit-- May the river of virtue undefiled by the three spheres flow into the ocean of the four bodies of Buddha.
As long as I have not realized this, Through all my life times, birth after birth, May not even the words for defilement and suffering be heard, And may I enjoy the prosperity of oceans of happiness and virtue.
Having obtained this excellent, free, and well-favored life, Along with faith, energy, and intelligence, Having attended a worthy master and received the pith of the sacred instructions, May I practice the sacred Dharma properly in all my lives without interruption.
The study of scriptures frees one from the veil of ignorance. The contemplation of oral instructions overcomes the darkness of doubt. Light born of meditation illuminates the way things are. May the radiance of the three wisdoms increase.
The significance of the ground is the two truths, free from the extremes of eternalism and nihilism. The excellent path, the two accumulations, free from the extremes of assumption and denial. The result obtained is the two benefits, free from the extremes of existence and peace. May I meet the Dharma, which is free from error.
The ground of refinement is mind itself--indivisible luminosity and emptiness: the refining--the great vajra composure of Mahamudra: What is to be refined--the incidental stains of confusion: The result of refining--the unstained Dharmakaya: may I realize it.
Confidence in outlook is cutting assumptions about the ground. The key to meditation is maintaining that without distraction. The supreme activity is to exercise the sense of meditation in everything. May I have confidence in outlook, meditation and activity.
All Dharmas are projections of the mind, As for mind, there is no mind; mind's nature is empty. Empty and immediate, mind appears as everything. Investigating it well, may I settle the basic points.
Appearances, which never existed in themselves, have been confused as objects; Awareness itself, because of ignorance, has been confused as a self; Through the power of dualistic fixation I wander in the realm of existence. May ignorance and confusion be completely resolved.
It doesn't exist; even Buddhas do not see it. It doesn't NOT exist; it is the origin of Samsara and Nirvana. No contradiction; conjunction, the middle way. May I realize the pure being of mind, free from extremes.
If one says, "It is this," nothing has been posited. If one says, "It is not this," nothing has been denied. Unconditioned pure being transcends intellect. May I gain conviction in the ultimate position.
Not realizing it, one circles in the ocean of Samsara. Realizing it, Buddha isn't anywhere else. "It is everything," "It isn't anything"; none of this. May pure being, the basis of everything, be realized.
Since appearance is mind and emptiness is mind, Since realization is mind and delusion is mind, Since arising is mind and cessation is mind, May all assumptions about mind be eliminated.
Unpolluted by meditation with intellectual efforts, Undisturbed by the winds of everyday affairs, Not manipulating, knowing how to let what is true be itself, May I become skilled in this practice of mind and maintain it.
The waves of subtle and coarse thoughts calm down in their own ground. Motionless, the river of mind abides naturally. Free from the contaminations of dullness and torpor, May I establish the still ocean of shamatha.
When one looks again and again at the mind which cannot be looked at, And sees vividly for what it is, the meaning of not seeing, Doubts about the meaning of "is" and "is not" are resolved. Without confusion, may my own face know itself.
Looking at objects, there is no object; one sees mind. Looking at mind, there is no mind; it is empty of nature. Looking at both of these, dualistic clinging subsides on its own. May I realize sheer clarity, the way mind is.
Free from mental constructions, it is called Mahamudra. Free from extremes, it is called Madhyamika. Everything complete here, it is also called Maha Ati. May I attain the confidence that, it understanding one, all are realized.
The great bliss of nonattachment is continuous. Sheer clarity without fixations is free of obscurations. Passing beyond intellect, non-thought is naturally present. May these experiences continually arise without effort.
Attachment to good and fixation on experience subside on their own. Confusion and evil concepts are cleared away in the realm of ultimate nature. In the ordinary mind, there is no rejection or acceptance to separation or attainment. May I realize the truth of pure being, complete simplicity.
While the nature of beings has always been full enlightenment, Not realizing this, they wander in endless Samsara. For the boundless suffering of sentient beings May overwhelming compassion be born in my being.
While such compassion is active and immediate, In the moment of compassion, its essential emptiness if nakedly clear. This conjunction is the undeviating supreme path; Inseparable from it, may I meditate day and night.
From the power of meditation come eyes and actual knowledge. Sentient beings are ripened and domains of enlightenment refined. Aspirations for the realization of all aspects of Buddhahood are fulfilled. May I complete these three -- fulfillment, ripening, and refinement -- And become a Buddha.
By the compassion of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions And the power of whatever pure virtue there may be, May my wishes and those of all beings be fulfilled.
(courtesy of sacred-texts.com)
And here is a link to the Nalanda Translation Committee version: