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    The Kagyu Monlam Organization is a charitable organization, so one of its most important aims is to serve the public through educational, health, and environmental projects.

    But we Tibetans are more accustomed to making offerings to the Three Jewels than to being generous to those in need or serving society. Since we are not used to doing that, the Kagyu Monlam has fallen short in this regard.

    But because of my hopes as well as the enthusiasm and altruism of Monlam workers, starting this year we are making some small improvements in how we serve society. This year we will have a free medical camp, where we are preparing to offer not just free medical for people but also free veterinary care for animals. In the future as well, we hope to expand this to be more beneficial and serve society better.

    For Buddhists, especially Mahayana practitioners, one of our greatest aims is to actually benefit sentient beings. It is important for us to serve and benefit all sentient beings of all groups without bias, without discriminating against who needs help on the basis of whether they are Buddhist or not, whether they are human or not, whether they are the same nationality or not, or so forth.

    For that reason, I hope and pray that in the future the Kagyu Monlam will do more programs to help the public, giving a good example for everyone so that more people, more monasteries, and more Buddhists will give service and benefit to society.

    Read More:
    Compassion in Action: Gyalwang Karmapa Inaugurates Medical Camp

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    This year we have the good fortune of convening the first Nun’s Winter Dharma Gathering at the sacred site of Bodhgaya.

    We have given this event the nameArya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering.The reason to call it this is that when the Buddha was alive, just as he had an ordained male student who was “The wisest of the wise”—Shariputra—there was also Kshema, who was the wisest of the wise among his ordained women followers.

    The Buddha said that Kshema was the most confident and wisest of his female disciples, so we have named the Winter Dharma Gathering after her with the intention that this will cause nuns to become more confident and better educated.

    The community of nuns has been present in Tibet since Dharma first spread there, but historically female monastics have not had the same facilities for studying, contemplating, and meditating as male monastics.But the times have changed and we are now in an age in this world when it is important that women are equal and that everyone is given the same educational opportunities.

    So in this time, we must take this opportunity. I think it will be extremely good to give nuns all of the facilities for studying, contemplating and meditating as well as supporting them fully in their traditional and modern educations.

    Thus we are having this special gathering and I hope this is a cause for the nuns to become more confident and also for them to understand how important it is to study , contemplate, and meditate and to practice the three trainings. It is not enough in becoming a nun to just change your name and wear monastic robes, and I am delighted to have such a gathering where nuns can come to understand this.

    I hope and pray that in the future we can continue to have these gatherings annually and that among the nuns there will come to be many great beings who uphold the teachings through both ancient and modern education, and also that there will be many great women who will be able to serve society.

    Thank you. 

    Read More:
    Announcing the Seventeenth Kagyu Gunchö
 Winter Dharma Teachings & Debates for Kagyu Shedras

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    January 11, 2014
    Tergar Shrine Hall, Bodhgaya, Bihar, India

    After the Gyalwang Karmapa's morning talk, the fully ordained sangha walks along the road from the Pavilion, turns right through the tall green gates of Tergar Monastery, and climbs the white marble stairs steps to enter the main shrine hall at Tergar Monastery. As they file in, the discipline master is striking two blond wooden sticks in a sharp and clear rhythm. Waiting inside for the monks and nuns are long rows of yellow rugs with an eight inch vermillion border where at regular intervals, over three hundred alms bowls have been set out together with a bowl for tea, a wooden spoon, and a napkin. Before the guests arrived, thirty monks and twenty-six lay volunteers have already filled the alms bowls with delicious vegetarian food, including potato curry, flavorful eggplant, mixed vegetables, rice, chili, and soup while pieces of fruit have been placed on each bowl cover, which is turned over to serve as a plate.

    When everyone has found a place, the Karmapa enters and walks down the main aisle toward a simple chair and a table with small brocade covers that have been made ready for him. He does not sit down, however, but he stands surveying the seated sangha like a father gazing at his huge family. The discipline master hits the sticks together in a descending roll, and young monks move down each of the rows, bowing to lift slightly the vermillion cloth just in front of each monk and nun, thus inviting them to partake of the meal.

    Meanwhile, the Karmapa has moved to the side of the hall and sits on the stairs leading up to the level of the large Buddha statue, the central focus of the hall. The Karmapa then moves to the back of the hall and with clear gestures, directs the servers who are offering a second round of food. Coming to the front for a while, he passes down the main aisle to the back and stands before the large, glass double doors, the light pouring in from behind him. He directs the tea servers to pass again among the sangha and offer tea from the long spouts of the round bellied pots. Passing up and down the aisle one more time, the Karmapa holds out his right hand to the discipline master who smoothly gives him the two sticks. Once more the sharp, clear sound of hard wood crackles through the shrine, announcing the end of the meal.

    As the sangha chants prayers which include the Heart Sutra and remembering the generosity of the sponsor for the meal, a white offering torma is carried out the front door. The Karmapa offers the assembly a few words of advice and the meal is over. Only then, as the monks and nuns are folding up their yellow chugu shawls and filing out of the hall, does the Karmapa sit down to eat him, the bodhisattva who first took care of everyone else.


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  • 01/14/14--04:17: The 31st Kagyu Monlam Begins

  • January 11, 2014
    Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya

    Arriving at the centre

    In the pitch black of the early morning, as lines of people make their way to Tergar Monastery, a rare winter rain falls steadily over Bodhgaya. Arriving from all directions they converge at the centre of the Gyalwang Karmapa’s vast mandala, the Monlam Pavilion, where his Buddha activities are about to commence.

    The wet, muddy paths mean the usual long queues are fast-tracked, and people pass relatively quickly down the slippery driveway. They enter through the Monlam welcome gate, adorned with fluttering prayer flags and rows of fairy lights glowing in the early morning darkness.

    Inside the vast pavilion, clouds of fragrant incense permeate the space as the neatly laid out mats gradually fill with people. Rows of monks and nuns, heads freshly shaven, sit wrapped in their warm winter dagam cloaks, while lay people bundle up in thick coats and blankets to ward off the pre-dawn chill.

    At 6am the sound of gyalings pierces the darkness and all stand to welcome the Gyalwang Karmapa into the Pavilion. He offers three prostrations to the golden Buddha at the apex of the stage and sits, facing the 9000 people gathered before him.

    The first opening verses of the refuge prayer resound throughout the pavilion, signaling a start to the 31st Kagyu Monlam Chenmo.

    The seal of Sojong

    In their first act of the Monlam, those present kneel on their right knees to recite the Mahayana Sojong vows after the Gyalwang Karmapa, sealing the 8 Mahayana precepts into their mindstreams for the coming 24 hours.

    The precepts—which will protect those that hold them from non-virtuous acts of body and speech—are encapsulated in the following verse from the Sojong ritual:

    From now on I shall not take life,
    Nor shall I take another’s things.
    I shall commit no sexual act,
    Nor shall I speak untruthful words.
    I shall give up intoxicants,
    Which are the cause of many faults.
    I shall not sit on great, high seats,
    Nor eat at inappropriate times.
    I shall abstain from perfumes and
    Necklaces, jewelry, song and dance.
    Just as the arhats at no time
    Take life or do the other acts,
    I also give up killing and so forth.
    May I achieve supreme awakening.
    May this world roiling with much suffering
    Be freed from the ocean of existence.

    Sanskrit: A bridge back to the Buddha

    As the Sojong ritual ends, the umze or chantmaster next begins the Sanskrit prayers – Refuge, theSutra of the Recollection of the Three Jewels, and the Heart Sutra.

    The unique power of blessings within the Sanskrit syllables, accumulated through 2500 years of recitation, is tangible. With a particular ability to move the minds of those who hear and recite them, the Sanskrit prayers invoke the blessings of a Buddhist dharma that goes far beyond its present manifestation, back to the time of the Buddha Shakyamuni himself.

    It was the Gyalwang Karmapa’s wish some years ago to reintroduce Sanskrit prayers into the Monlam, and the Kagyu lineage, in homage to the Indian roots of Buddhism. This daily recitation of Sanskrit prayers has become a hallmark of the Kagyu Monlam, leaving deep imprints in the minds of those who hear and recite them, and reawakening ancient karmic connections with the Buddha dharma.

    The right place

    This year people from over 30 countries have gathered together, in the sacred place of Bodhgaya, to unite in aspirations for peace in the world.

    “Many different ethnic groups and different languages from all over the world have gathered for the sake of peace,” the Gyalwang Karmapa tells those gathered. “We’ve come here with the same wishes and intentions, and the power of positive aspirations is magnified when performed together, with a single intention, by many people.”

    He then observes the unseasonal rain, and the extra difficulties this has posed to people in arriving.

    “This has made me think very much of how fortunate we are to have been able to create this pavilion,” the Gyalwang Karmapa explains, “because without it I don’t see how we would be able to convene given the weather—and who knows whether it will continue. So I think we’ve done very well indeed to be able to create this pavilion for the Monlam.”

    A rain of praises

    As the day progresses the prayers flow smoothly, one into another, in an interrupted stream of aspiration and praise.

    In a rare treat for those gathered, the Gyalwang Karmapa remains on stage the entire day, leading all four sessions on the first day of the Monlam.

    The rain continues falling throughout the day, drumming on the pavilion roof, sometimes softer, sometimes louder, like a heartbeat to the Monlam taking place below.

    And as the rain continues outside, it becomes merely an external reflection of the rain of prayers and praises falling continuously inside.


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    By Tashi Paljor
    BODH GAYA, India, 14 January 2014

    The 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje performs Tse Chu Cham ritual dance
     in Bodh Gaya, India, on 9 January 2014.
    Kagyu Office/Tashi Paljor

    January 2014 is a monkey month in the Tibetan calendar, and the 10th day is the anniversary of the birth of Guru Rinpoche, the tantric master who brought Vajrayana Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century. It is a particularly auspicious day to connect with Guru Rinpoche, one of whose main activities is to remove obstacles in the dharma — outer, inner and secret.

    In many revealed texts it is said that Guru Rinpoche promised that he himself would actually appear on the tenth day of every month, and in particular, on the tenth day of the Monkey Month.

    All the Karmapas are emanations of Guru Rinpoche, but the 17th Karmapa is said to be Guru Rinpoche himself, in person. On this day the 17th Karmapa will be the lead dancer performing in 3 of the 20 dances in an all-day Lama Dance called the Garchen Tse Chu. The dance will be performed for the first time ever in Bodh Gaya — the last occasion was at Tsurphu in Tibet. The dancers will also include His Eminence Gyaltsap Rinpoche and His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, and monks from Benchen, Mirik, and Palchen Choling monasteries, all of whom hold the tradition of the Tsurphu Garchen Tse Chu.

    History of the Tse Chu Cham

    The Garchen Tse Chu, or 10th-day Guru Rinpoche dance of the Great Encampment, was one of the major practices of the Great Encampment, which started during the time of the 7th Karmapa and lasted until the 10th Karmapa. At a time of civil unrest in Tibet, the huge encampment was caught between an army of Mongols under Gushri Khan and an army from Central Tibet. The resulting massacre saw the end of theGarchen and the 10th Karmapa barely escaping with his life.

    It was the 14th Karmapa, Tekchok Dorje, who revived the Garchen Tsechu Cham and brought it into the Tsurphu tradition, where it has been performed without interruption up to the present day.

    The Cham originates with a terton called Guru Chöwang, an important incarnation of one of the 25 disciples of Guru Rinpoche. Born in 1212, during the time of Karma Pakshi, Guru Chöwang was the second in the Karmapa lineage, and was in fact the terton for Karma Pakshi. Throughout their 900-year history, each of the Karmapas has had a particular terton who offers revealed treasure to him.

    In his recent teaching on the close connections of the Kagyu and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the 17th Karmapa described how the 16th Karmapa’s mind was intermingled with the greatest Nyingma masters of his time. For this reason the Karmapas are known as terdak— the receivers of terma treasure.

    Guru Chöwang revealed the text, Lama Sangdu, from a place called Tse in the region of Nyetong, which is where Phagmo Drupa was born. The text passed into the Kamtsang tradition through Min Droling Monastery, the Phagmo Drupa, and Palpung Monastery under the 8th Tai Situ, Chokyi Jungne.

    The Tse Chu Cham today

    The Karmapas have been the lineage holders of this Cham through the ensuing centuries. In this lifetime it was Umdze Thubten Sangpo who taught it to the 17th Karmapa.

    This terma, or revealed treasure, of Guru Chöwang is a combination of mind treasure and pure vision. The chanting of the text is a gom-ter or mind treasure. However, an oral tradition speaks of Guru Chöwang visiting the abode of Guru Rinpoche, known as the Copper Coloured Mountain or Zangdok Palri. There he saw the dakas and dakinis performing a dance. When he awoke, he recorded the movements of the dancers and it is this Cham or Vajra Dance that we will be watching on the tenth day.

    Guru Chöwang arranged the choreography and the chanting of the dance. As Lama Sangdu is the name of the revealed text, we could say that this is a Lama Sangdu Cham. To be allowed to perform the Vajra Dance, the monks are required to do the entire Lama Sangdu practice, including the creation and completion phase practices, as well as the chanting.

    There are 16 dances, and, significantly, no connecting story line. It is a recreation of the movements of the dancers as seen in the pure vision state of the treasure revealer. Thus there are no concepts to distract the mind.

    The performers and the audience both receive great benefit from the dance. It has the power to protect them and open the mind to positive activity. These positive imprints are known as liberation by seeing.

    To be able to witness this Vajra Dance performed by the 17th Karmapa, whose mind is so intermingled with Guru Rinpoche, that he is known as Guru Rinpoche himself, in the place of the Buddha’s enlightenment, means that one has accumulated enormous merit. Because of this vast merit, wishes made on this day will be accomplished.

    In HH 17th Karmapa’s words:

    We pray that by holding this puja along with the Vajra Lama dance,
    the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism may spread and flourish,
    that all declines in the environment and beings be pacified,
    that everyone in the world may be happy,
    and that all the people in the Noble Land of India,
    and in particular the state of Bihar and the sacred site of Bodh Gaya,
    may be happy and prosperous,
    and I believe that this will come true.


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    Last Updated: Wednesday, January 15, 2014, 13:37

    Bodh Gaya: Hundreds of Buddhist devotees thronged the famed Mahabodhi Temple here on Tuesday to observe the Kagyu Monlam Festival, in which devotees offer alms to monks in the hope of attaining salvation. 

    The alms offering ceremony was organised under the supervision of 17th Karmapa Lama.

    The ritual is unique to India, where has been followed even before the birth of Lord Buddha. 

    "In India, this ritual is followed ever since the birth of Lord Gautam Buddha. The monks eat only during the daytime and meditate. They thus go to the devotees and ask for alms from them," said a monk, Ambapali.

    Kagyu Monlam is a special Buddhist prayer for peace in the world. 

    This prayer is an avenue through which, in times of dire need, love and compassion can be made to spread like a great ripple outwards from Bodh Gaya. 

    Standing in long queues, devotees who had gathered from across the globe said that this ritual would help them in attaining salvation. 

    "We offer alms to the monks as we believe that by doing so we will attain salvation," said a devotee, Banko. 

    The Mahabodhi Temple complex in Bodh Gaya, the holiest of Buddhist shrines, is visited by Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka, China, Japan and the entire of south East Asia. 

    The ancient temple is believed to have been built nearly 1500 years ago. Emperor Ashok the great visited this holy place in 260 BC and built a small temple there in honour of Buddha. 

    In the year 2002 the UNESCO had declared Mahabodhi Temple as a World Heritage Site.


    First Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2014, 13:37

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    More Precious than a Wishfulfilling Jewel

    January 11, 2014
    Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya

    After a night of continuous rain across Bodhgaya, the first, brief rays of sunlight finally emerged just as the Gyalwang Karmapa prepared to begin his first teaching of the 31st Kagyu Monlam Chenmo.

    In the lead up to the program, he had earlier explained his choice of texts for this year’s activities. During the pre-Monlam teachings the week before, he had taught for three days on Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye’s text, The Torch of Certainty. And, for the teachings during the actual Kagyu Monlam itself, he chose to teach on the Eight Verses of Mind Training by the great Kadampa master, Geshe Langri Tangpa. 

    The reason for this particular combination of texts, the Gyalwang Karmapa explained, goes back to the Kagyu founding luminary Gampopa, who skilfully combined both the Kadampa and Mahamudra traditions. This year, the Karmapa explained, he wanted to also combine texts from these two traditions during his Bodhgaya activities as a conscious reflection of Gampopa’s accomplishment, in modern practice. 

    The Gyalwang Karmapa began the teaching by explaining how the text’s author, Geshe Langri Tangpa, was nicknamed ‘The Sombre One’ because he was almost never known to laugh. The reason he was always so serious, the Gyalwang Karmapa said, was because of his single-pointed focus on the suffering of sentient beings.

    “The expression on Geshe Langri Tangpa’s face was not a sign that he was depressed or overcome by misery or obsessed with his own sufferings. It was, rather, a sign of his compassionate courage and concern for others,” he explained. 

    He then turned to the text, commenting that since it was so short—just eight verses long—he felt confident he would be able to get through it all in the two days of teachings. 

    Moving to the first verse, he explained that sentient beings are more valuable or more important than ourselves. In fact, he said, a practitioner of Mahayana mind training must think that all beings throughout space—all beings who experience sensations of pleasure and pain—are more precious than a wishfulfilling jewel. 

    “In Indian legend there is said to have been something called a wishfulfilling jewel that was extremely rare,” he explained. “It was extremely hard to find, found only in the depths of the ocean. If you managed to get hold of one, it would fulfill any prayer you made. But in spite of this, all the wishfulfilling jewel could give you was temporary, unlimited wealth and resources. It could not give you omniscient Buddhahood.” 

    The Gyalwang Karmapa then skillfully adapted the analogy to the modern world.

    “If a wishfulfilling jewel doesn't mean anything to you, then the statement that all beings are more valuable than a wishfulfilling jewel is not going to strike you. So how about saying, all sentient beings are more valuable than money. In fact, sentient beings are a hundred, a thousand, a million, a billion times more valuable than any amount of money.” 

    “Why are sentient beings so valuable? Because in order to achieve awakening we need bodhicitta, and in order to generate bodhicitta we need compassion. And because compassion must be generated with respect to sentient beings, sentient beings are infinitely precious and necessary for our awakening.” 

    Without other beings, the Gyalwang Karmapa explained, we would not be able to generate the bodhicitta that is the root of the path to awakening. Therefore, without other beings, we could in fact not achieve awakening ourselves. 

    The Gyalwang Karmapa next described his vision of the close, interconnected world we inhabit today.

    “In this 21st century, within the society of this world as a whole, or within the individual societies that make it up, we are even more closely connected to other beings than at any time in the past. In a sense the world is getting smaller, because we now live in an information era. Our connection to others is much closer, much more immediate.” 

    As a direct and immediate demonstration of this closeness, even as he spoke about 1500 viewers were tuning into the live webcast simultaneously from all corners of the world, while his words were translated and broadcast in 11 different languages within moments of his uttering them.

    “This means that we are more able than in the past to both help—and harm—others,” he continued. “Our happiness and suffering and their happiness and suffering are now so closely connected that they’re really inseparable, and this connection cannot be severed.” 

    “In the past it was possible for us to maintain the illusion of separation between self and others….But it is becoming much clearer in the present day that there is no separation between self and others.”

    As the teaching session wound to a close, the Gyalwang Karmapa led the assembly in five minutes of meditation on the equality of self and others. The vast hall fell silent as 9000 people guided by the Gyalwang Karmapa, simultaneously directed their minds towards a state of equanimity. 

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    The Way of the Authentic Practitioner

    January 12, 2014
    Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya

    The Gyalwang Karmapa enters the Pavilion as usual from the right side, walking around to the front with security guards on all four sides, while monks with incense and jalings precede him. Going up the three stairs, he stops to make three bows before taking his seat on the throne facing the thousands who have gathered for this second talk. After a mandala offering, more than a hundred people fill the main aisle all the way out to the gate near the road; they hold their long scarves in white, and yellow and slowly walk down the aisle to make their offerings. The Karmapa relates to each one as they pass in front of him, sometimes reaching out his hand to touch their head, sometimes nodding, sometimes giving a slight smile. He then makes his own prayers and begins his talk with thanks to all who have been working so hard.

    He begins with the second verse:

    Whenever I’m in the company of others,
    I will regard myself as the lowest among all,
    And from the depths of my heart
    Cherish others as supreme.
    An authentic practitioner of mind training, no matter where we may be or with whom we may be, will always view others as superior. Practitioners will never be arrogant about some minor traits such as their appearance, youth, wealth, or education.

    Pride is unacceptable and this is not just some baseless assertion. There is a very important reason why pride is unacceptable: all of our positive qualities  ̶  our virtues, learning, and so forth ̶as well as all of our possessions and resources come to us through the kindness of others.
    Geshe Dromtönpa has said that the water of qualities cannot stay on the ball of pride.  Like this ball, our minds are so packed with pride that nothing else can enter. We miss the opportunity to improve ourselves, because we think, "I'm just fine." In the sutras, the Buddha said, "Pride is the root  of complacency and makes you incapable of improving."

    Often confidence and pride are confused, but they are very different. Confidence is a virtue and something we really need. Pride is an affliction and something to discard. What is pride? Pride is when your mind becomes filled with a sense of your own accomplishments. Not only does this prevent improvement, but caught in pride, we compare ourselves to others and always find them lacking. This is the worst problem of pride.

    We should remember that when we do good things, ultimately, we are doing them for our own benefit. Some people feel the need to advertise their virtues to others and may feel disappointed if others refuse to accept that they actually have them. We should be like children, who, not considering the tastes of the adult world, draw from their own sense of things. In the same way, our own practice is a reflection of our own needs and so forth; it is not designed to be presented directly to others.

    Virtue should warm us like hand warmers. If our own virtue does not produce some heat or warmth for ourselves, we are left with nothing to share with others. The purpose of virtue is to improve our own state of mind.  Confidence is important, because if our good intentions become frozen within us, we can become like a block of ice, lacking any warmth whatsoever. In sum, we need confidence, but not pride.

    The Third Verse

    In my every action, I will watch my mind,
    And the moment destructive emotions arise,
    I will confront them strongly and avert them,
    Since they will hurt both me and others.
    Whatever practitioners are doing, walking sitting, or sleeping, they will always watch their mind alertly, actively investigating what it is doing and what state it is in. By paying close attention like this, as soon as affliction arises, they are committed to noticing it and casting it out instantly like a poisonous snake that has landed in their lap.  Our mental afflictions are our worst enemies. They conquer us, harm other beings, and destroy our discipline.  Whether dharma becomes authentic or not depends upon whether it serves as an effective remedy for the afflictions.
    It is said that bodhichitta (the wish to attain enlightenment for the sake of all) is what differentiates the Mahayana from the Hinayana. This difference, however, is not found in the Dharma they teach but in the attitude of the practitioner. For example, we might chant the Four Immeasurables (May everyone have happiness and its causes, and so forth), but if the wish for it to really happen is not present within our mind, just chanting these lines does not make us Mahayana practitioners.
    It is not enough for us to cultivate a mind of love and compassion and some kind of meditative state while safe in our shrine rooms. This alone will not remedy our afflictions: we need to continually cultivate a mind imbued with dharma. Especially, when our mind is disturbed, Dharma needs to arrive on the scene and it should make no difference where we are: at work, interacting with family and friends, and so forth. It is in these situations that the power of our Dharma practice and our aspirations must become evident. If this does not happen, being able to chant and mediate in our shrine rooms is not enough, because that type of Dharma practice is of no use in helping others.

    Our training is analogous to that of warriors. Training a soldier is very expensive and involves many years of intense learning, the purpose of which is to defeat the enemy in an actual battle. If the warriors are successful, then all the training and sacrifice will have been worth it; if not, it was all a waste. Practitioners are also preparing to do battle with their enemy, the afflictions.  When we feel good practicing in ideal circumstances, our competence in fighting the afflictions is not really tested. We cannot tell if Dharma has become a remedy or not. Courage and the power of the Dharma must arise in situations of crisis and mental disturbance. This is crucial.
    Continuing the analogy of doing battle, we need to apply two remedies to the afflictions: a powerful external remedy, the invading army, and an internal remedy, inciting rebellion in the country we wish to invade. By analogy, we learn to understand that our afflictions are tyrants, so we incite our own rebellion  against them. If we are successful with this internal remedy, the external one will be easy.  While the strength of an invading army is important, it relies on the support of completely trustworthy rebels within the invaded country. Our biggest problem is that we have not rebelled one hundred percent against our afflictions: sometimes we recognize them as defects, but  sometimes we let ourselves enjoy them. We are untrustworthy, lukewarm rebels. To become trustworthy rebels, we must become fully certain that the afflictions are defects and learn to dislike them. As long as we indulge the afflictions, we cannot get rid of them.

    The Fourth Verse

    Whenever I see ill-natured beings,
    Or those overwhelmed by heavy misdeeds or suffering,
    I will cherish them as something rare,
    As though I’d found a priceless treasure.
    When we encounter people who are ill-natured or verbally abusive, rather than fleeing their company, we should recognize them as a tremendous and precious opportunity to practice mind training. Here in Bodhgaya, we are confronted with things we might find unpleasant  ̶ extremely poor people without basic food or clothing, and some even lacking limbs ̶ so we might try to avoid them. Furthermore, we are temporarily thrust into inconvenient housing situations, perhaps with difficult roommates, who are extremely talkative and maybe most of what they say  is negative. We should recognize all these difficulties as real opportunities to practice.  

    Skipping to the Sixth verse

    Even when someone I have helped,
    Or in whom I have placed great hopes
    Mistreats me very unjustly,
    I will view that person as a true spiritual teacher.

    In brief, this verse teaches us to repay harm with benefit. The great Drukpa Kagyu master Padampa Sangye said that when our lama is pleased with us, all of us feel devotion. But when our lama scolds us, it becomes clear whether or not we have real faith. We could just run out the door. When nothing is going wrong, anyone can seem a good person. But when adversity strikes, our faults are revealed. We practice dharma so that we can withstand great adversity. The test of the authenticity of our practice is: When faced with adversity, such as betrayal, can we face it in a Dharmic way or not? If we can, we are good practitioners.

    The Fifth Verse

    Whenever someone out of envy
    Does me wrong by attacking or belittling me,
    I will take defeat upon myself,
    And give the victory to others.
    As a practitioner of mind training, we accept another person’s abuse or disparagement, recognizing it as a means of purifying our previous wrongdoing. We take the defeat, or inflict the loss, upon our own self-cherishing and attachment, and we give the victory to others’ needs and wishes. This does not mean, however, that we stay passive and unresponsive. For example, if someone sues us, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t defend ourselves. The question is: What is the state of our mind while doing so? Primary here is the training of our mind. A situation where we have no choice but to deal with aggression and opposition is an opportunity to train our mind under very real circumstances.  Soldiers, for example, will sometimes engage in training exercises with live ammunition because it sharpens their skills in battle.

    The Seventh Verse

    In brief, directly or indirectly,
    I will offer help and happiness to all my mothers,
    And secretly take upon myself
    All their hurt and suffering.
    As the most secret, pith instruction of mind training, we also take into ourselves all the roots of wrongdoing and the resultant suffering of beings.  Before beginning this exchange of self with others, however, we must first practice recognizing self and others to be equal. Only then can we practice exchanging self and others, which was actually considered a secret instruction in the early Kadampa tradition and was not widely known or taught.

    The Eighth Verse

    I will learn to keep all these practices
    Untainted by thoughts of the eight worldly concerns.
    May I recognize all things as like illusions,
    And, without attachment, gain freedom from bondage.

    The meaning of this verse is that all aspects of the accumulation of merit must be embraced by the accumulation of wisdom; otherwise, they will not lead to Buddhahood. We make the commitment to embrace all of these virtuous practices with the transformative elixir of emptiness.

    The main point of mind training is that we are exercising our mind. The practice is not just words: it has to be carried out on a daily basis, just as we do physical exercise. It is also important to generate the momentum of a careful plan, setting a clear intention about what we will do with our mind throughout the day. In the evening we should assess whether or not we have stuck to our plan. If we do not plan our mental day, our minds will run wild.

    At the end of his teaching, the Karmapa gave the instruction to meditate on exchanging ourselves with others, while reciting the aspiration for mind training. Since its words are especially powerful, they permit us to perform the meditation at the same time.


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    The 17th Karmapa is not an emanation of Guru Rinpoche. He is Guru Rinpoche.
    Tai Situ Rinpoche in a private  interview

    The Vajra Lama Dance staged on the 10th January, 2014 at the Monlam Pavilion Bodhgaya was in many ways a parallel historical event to the dramatic opening scenario which established Buddhism in 8th century Tibet.

    The great Indian tantrika known throughout the Himalayas as Guru Rinpoche or the precious Guru  was invited to Tibet by the reigning King, Trisong Deutsen, to dispel the obstacles to the establishment of Samye, the first monastery in Tibet.

    The Abbot, Shangarakshita, could not accomplish it, because he was a scholar whose knowledge was sutra based. Nor could all the wealth and power of the great King. It needed a tantric mahasiddha to transform the energy.

    There were obstacles from the indigenous shamanistic religion. And obstacles from the lha or mountain gods, as well as malevolent spirits or demons.

    The Lotus-born Padmasambhava was the great tamer of beings. To prepare the ground for Samye  - the place of the inconceivable - he performed a magnificent Cham or Lama Dance.

    According to the Fifth Dalai Lama, Padmasambhava performed a Vajrakilaya dance  and the rite of 'thread cross' or (Tib) namkha to assist the King and Abbot.  His tantric dance cleared away all the obstacles, enabling the monastery to be built in 767. He also tamed the local spirit protector, Pehar Gyalpo, and bound him by oath to become the head of the entire hierarchy of Buddhist protective spirits.
    Guru Rinpoche's activity in Tibet also cleared the ground for women to be honoured as fully as men, possessing an even greater capacity to attain enlightenment.  ''Male and female'', he replied to his consort, Yeshe Tsogyal, ''there is no difference. But if she develops the mind bent on enlightenment, a woman's body is better''.

    Together with Yeshe Tsogyal, he concealed both earth and mind terma treasure. An imbalance of the elements, he predicted,  would bring about a degenerate age with natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, and drought, war and violence, affecting the minds of practitioners. The dharma would become only words written down in texts, subject to corruption. To renew the dharma, he hid treasures - texts, empowered ritual objects, and visions -  into the mind stream of his 25 heart disciples to be revealed at the right time by their reincarnations.

    The ritual practice of Lama Sangdu is such a terma treasure, and one of the most important.  Lama Sangdu means 'embodiment of the master's secrets, and it is a saddhana of the Guru's heart. The Cham or Vajra Lama Dance is the heart of the Lama Sangdu ritual.
    The entire ritual has held a special place in the Karmapa lineage for the past 800 years, ever since it was revealed by the pre-eminent treasure revealer, Guru Chowang, a speech emanation of King Trisong Deutsen - one of the 25 heart disciples of Guru Rinpoche.  Guru Chowang  visited  the Copper Coloured Mountain of Padmasambhava in a pure vision and saw the dakas and dakinis dancing; later he turned his vision into an extraordinary Vajra Lama Dance. Guru Chowang (born in 1212) offered his treasure to the second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi who was the terdak or designated rightful owner of the terma.
    The following century the fifth Karmapa, Deshin Shegpa, predicted that the Kagyu lineage would nearly come to an end between the 16th and 17th Karmapas.  He predicted that the 'demon', a samaya breaker, would be destroyed by a heart emanation of Padmasambhava.http://kagyuoffice.org/traditional-materials-on-recognition-of-the-17th-karmapa/prophecy-of-the-5th-karmapa/

    At the time of the 17th Karmapa's birth there were clear signs from Guru Rinpoche.  His mother dreamed of 3 white cranes; one was holding a letter with beautiful golden writing and when asked who had sent them, they replied it was Guru Rinpoche.  As a child he knew the 7- line prayer of Guru Rinpoche without being taught and recited it to clear obstacles and create favourable circumstances.  When a forest fire was threatening their village, he recited the prayer and blew the fire into another direction.
    In conclusion, we have a Lama Vajra Dance coming directly from Guru Rinpoche,  performed by the Karmapa - known to be the same as Guru Rinpoche -  at a time of great obstacles for the Kagyu Lineage -  on the tenth day of the month, when the precious Guru said he would appear in person to those with faith. This was indeed an auspicious alignment.  In parallel with the conditions that prevailed in 8th century Tibet, one could expect something to happen.
    The queues began at 2 am and by 4 am had snaked half a kilometre across the Monlam field. Those who arrived at 5 am thought they would not get into the Pavilion which seats 10,000, but no one was turned away.
    The stage was set with a 30 foot high thangka of Guru Rinpoche, surrounded by his eight manifestations and two consorts, on loan from the 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche whose image was portrayed under that of Guru Rinpoche. On the two sides of the aisles leading to the stage, 12 foot high thangkas of the Karmapa lineage were hanging like sentinels guarding the mandala.

    Just by seeing the Karmapa perform the Lama dance, one can attain the vajra bodyGyaltsap Rinpoche.

    Before the performance begins, the dancers line up to receive the Karmapa's  blessing, a reminder  of the sacredness of this live re-enactment of the vision from the Copper Coloured Mountain. He wears the gold encrusted brocade kept for special occasions under his maroon robe and puts on the black Activity Crown. The monks prostrate to the shrine and the giant thangka of Guru Rinpoche as they leave.
    In the grand opening dance, called Serkhyem, or golden offering, twenty- one monks from Rumtek  accompany the Karmapa, all wearing conical black hats adorned with the Kalachakra seed syllable. They move slowly, deliberately  in the perfectly synchronized rhythm that accompanies a royal procession.  Karmapa dances the lead role wearing an enormous melong or mirror, an accoutrement of the fully realized mahasiddha. First he holds a kapala in one hand and a phurba in the other; then he holds a serkhyem aloft, and tosses the blessed nectar upwards into the air, offering it to the lamas and yidams, protectors  and local deities as the dancers circle in magnificent black brocades each holding serkhyem.  The deep slow drumbeat is punctuated with cymbals and a guttural sound from the chant master like a hiccup pulses through the pavilion. A gold parasol is held aloft at centre stage while the black hat dancers step solemnly in glistening brocades that derive from centuries old Tibetan designs, creating a visual masterpiece.
    In the Karmapa's introduction to the sacred performance he reminded the audience that the nature of all phenomena is the union of appearance and emptiness:
    This sacred lama dance with such a long history and profound meaning is totally unlike any kind of ordinary or mundane dance. The essence of the vajra dance is the recognition of the nature of all phenomena as the union of appearance and emptiness. The practitioners of the vajra dance use their own body, speech and mind not as ordinary body, speech and mind but those of the deity, and the dance becomes a way to express this. Therefore when a realised practitioner performs the lama dance they can cause the blessings of the body, speech and mind of the deities to actually enter the body, speech and mind of the viewers.
    Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche both lead the third dance, an invocation to bless the phenomenal world and transform it into the Copper Coloured Mountain. They appear in resplendent gold and blue costumes respectively, playing the bell and damaru while they dance.  From the back of the stage the Karmapa stands like a theatre director, intensely focused, as if guiding every move that the young Jamgon Kongtrul makes.
    When they stand facing the shrine and the thangka, while chanting prayers to invoke the deities, a palpable feeling of blessing arises as in a saddhana when the wisdom deities merge with the imagined deities. Then the dancers circulate around the stage playing damarus and bells; the clack of drum and and tinkle of bell resonate in the Pavilion temple. Their costumes are like a sumptuous feast prepared in gold, red, blue, green, and white.  Lacey nets cover the brocade like a frontispiece. Monks with the fringed yellow hats known as tsesha come onstage and play horns.

    The moment the troupe of dancers and monks exit, there is an explosion on the roof of the Pavilion like horses' hooves clattering on metal. Not an ordinary rainstorm with a drop by drop preparation, but a deluge pouring from the sky. Ten thousand faces look upwards in awe and wonder at the rain of blessings from the Copper Coloured Mountain.  Some are joyful and radiant, others weep with devotion.  Many are  inspired to prostrate to the shrine.  It is certain that Guru Rinpoche has replied with the thunderous applause of celestial gods and goddesses. It leaves an indelible impression beyond words.
    About a half an hour later during an aptly named dance called Wrathful Splendour, while  21 dancers hold swords,  Guru Rinpoche  gathers the forms of the five poisons into his heart and transforms their remains into wisdom nectar.  The sun appears lighting up the gold dragons emblazoned on black brocade, bedazzling the eye. The play of phenomena merges with the dance of appearance and emptiness.
    The Golden Procession of Guru Rinpoche, with his eight emanations, two consorts, ministers and warriors and the rest of his entourage is always the piece de resistance of this grand Vajra Lama Dance. But on this occasion it was not only an elaborate spectacle but an historic precedent. It was the first time that women have been allowed to perform in a Cham dance, or even allowed to be onstage with the monks.

    The sound of their voices, clear and lucid like water drops, was a sound never heard before in any monastic Cham. Dancing with bell and damaru in front of the gigantic golden masked figure of Guru Rinpoche, their steps placed delicately like footprints on water, we were suddenly at the Copper Coloured Mountain with the celestial dakinis.

    It must have delighted the great Guru. The massive golden mask of the Guru crowned with a parasol and supported by several attendants because of its great weight, was not a hollow crown. Inside the golden mask of the Precious Guru is the human form of the Precious Guru, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the Gyalwang Karmapa. His eyes appear at the level of the Guru's skull-cup as he supports the weight of the hollowed image on his shoulders while seated on the throne. No one can see this, but in his hands he is holding a precious antique statue of Guru Rinpoche.



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    Scroll painting Of Ming Dynasty, Length 4948cm, Width 66cm, The first year of Yongle in Ming Dynasty (1403 A.D.), Ming Chengzu Zhu Di sent a representative to Tibet to invite Halima (Karmapa). In the winter of the fourth year of Yongle (1406 A.D.), Halima started his journey to Nanjing. Ming Chengzu established camp-style residential area in the capital and the Linggu Temple for Halima and his entourage. In the beginning of the following year, Halima and his entourage arrived at Nanjing. He was welcomed by the Emperor, the Queen, the Prince, the officials, and the public.  (Source)

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    January 12, 2014
    Tergar Shrine Room, Bodhgaya

    As the second day of the Kagyu Monlam entered its afternoon session, nearly 1100 ‘Friends of the Kagyu Monlam’ gathered at the Tergar Shrine room for a special group audience with the Gyalwang Karmapa. Arriving early to pass through the security checks, the long queue wound its way around the entire gompa and well out into the street as the members patiently waited.
    Each year, individuals have the option to become Friends of the Kagyu Monlam through a fixed donation amount. This is a key method of supporting the Monlam, and offers a range of benefits for members, such as designated seating throughout, meals provided at the Mahayana Hotel, and a special group audience with the Gyalwang Karmapa.

    “You play an important part in the existence and flourishing of the Kagyu Monlam,” the Gyalwang Karmapa told the gathered members, with his words being translated into both English and Chinese.

    He then described his vision for the role of the Kagyu Monlam, to spread peace and happiness in the world.

    “The most important aspiration of the Kagyu Monlam is that it doesn’t only happen in Bodhgaya,” he said, “but that from one lamp being lighted to another, the radiance of the Kagyu Monlam will spread continuously throughout the world. From one country to another, like galaxies of stars – I aspire that we invoke the radiance of the lamp of the Kagyu Monlam all over the world, and contribute to the peace and wellbeing of the world.”

    “The Kagyu Monlam started in a very small way and then by the power of all the conditions coming together, quite organically began to expand,” he continued. “And now the Kagyu Monlam has become a global dharma activity happening internationally. This is through the power of those with confidence or faith joining the Monlam, and you are among those.”

    Being a member of the Kagyu Monlam is like being a member of a loving family, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued.

    “We’re simply a big family, and we’re members of that family. It can be a family of warmth, a mandala of loving-kindness and compassion. We have the privilege to be a member of this big family of loving care, and it is important that we don’t forget that this is the very essence of being a member of the Kagyu Monlam family.”

    Each person then received a set of truly special gifts from the Gyalwang Karmapa, including one of his personal calligraphies—a stunning golden ‘Hung’ seed-syllable set against an auspicious red backdrop, which he explained could be hung on the door for good luck during the upcoming Chinese New Year; an exquisite golden pendant depicting a many-armed Chenrezig deity bordered in diamonds; another small pendant, adorned with his own image, to be worn around the neck; as well as blessing cords and a vibrant colour picture with his image on one side and a long-life prayer for him on the other side.

    As the group slowly started to move forward to receive their gifts, the spontaneous chant of ‘Karmapa Chenno’ began, spreading quickly until all voices were united. The slow chanting continued for half an hour as the queue inched forward, finally subsiding to a whisper, and leaving a tangible poignancy in the room. Many among the crowd were moved to tears as, one by one, members of the Kagyu Monlam family received the Gyalwang Karmapa’s personal blessing.


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    As the expanse of simplicity, the unchanging space of reality,
    Your enlightened vajra mind, embodiment of the Heruka,
    Manifests in the form of the guru until the end of time.
    Peerless guide, may your life be long!

    To ensure that the aspirations of Kaybje Mingyur Rinpoche are fulfilled and that his life is stable, this aspiration was made on March 16th, 2012 by the Karmapa Orgyen Trinley in response to the requests of his students. May it be virtuous!

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    January 14, 2014
    Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya

    The Alms Procession, an annual feature of the Kagyu Monlam in Bodhgaya, took on a new form and meaning this year when the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa revived another Kagyu tradition, the Procession of the 16 Arhats. Originally, during the time of the 7th, 9th and 10th Karmapas, this procession of the 16 Arhats was held on the final day of the Monlam Chenmo. During the time of the 15th and 16th Karmapas it was held on full-moon day in the first month of the Tibetan year.

    The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa has given this tradition new life by incorporating it into the Alms Procession, and he invested his time and energy to ensure that it went well. On Sunday evening, amid much laughter, he personally chose the gelongs who would represent the arhats in the procession. He checked each candidate, made jokes about height and weight, and debated whether an arhat could wear glasses or not. Sadly, because of the masks they have to wear, the short-sighted didn’t qualify. He then ushered them upstairs to check that the costumes and masks fitted them. On Monday evening he stayed in the Monlam Pavilion late into the night to supervise the re-arrangement of the stage and general seating for the Alms Procession.  And today, throughout, the procession, the Gyalwang Karmapa was directing – occasionally he could be seen speaking through a microphone concealed in his robes.

    The 16 Arhats [Tib. Neten Chudruk], also known as the 16 Elders, were personally chosen by Shakyamuni Buddha from amongst his disciples.  He asked them to remain in the world, protecting the Dharma for as long as beings are capable of benefitting from the teachings, and they vowed at the time of  his parinirvana to remain in the world and maintain the Dharma until the teachings came to an end at the appearance of the next World Buddha, Maitreya.

    This continues to be their role, so the prayer to the 16 Elder is usually recited during teachings:

    Arya Arhats, emanations of the Buddha,
    You protect the Dharma for beings’ benefit.
    16 elders, you personify compassion.

    As His Holiness explained, “ We’re inviting the Arhats to join…mainly in order to help the Dharma flourish.  The Dharma teachings  are the sole medicine, the sole salve for all sentient beings. It’s the only medicine to eliminate the sufferings of sentient beings.”

    The 16 Arhats wear costumes and masks; their features and the style of their robes reflect the Chinese tradition of the Arhats which was introduced into Tibet at the time of the restoration of Buddhism in the 10th century and recorded in a great thangka. Each of the Arhats can be distinguished by what he is holding and the size of his retinue. In order, the Arhats are:

    1.    Angaja (Tib. Yenlag Chung): retinue 1300; holds a small incense burner and fan
    2.    Ajita (Tib. Ma Phampa) : retinue 100;  his hands rest in meditation
    3.    Vanavasin (Tib. Nagnané): retinue 1400;  points his finger and holds a fan
    4.    Kalika (Tib. Düden Ten): retinue 1,100; has golden earrings
    5.    Vajriputra (Tib. Dorje Möbu): retinue 1000;  points his finger and holds a fan
    6.    Bhadra (Tib. Pal Zangpo): retinue 1200; teaches and meditates
    7.    Kanakavatsu (Tib. Sergyi Be'u): retinue 500; holds a jeweled lasso
    8.    Kanaka Bharadhvaja (Tib. Serchen): retinue 700;  his hands rest in meditation pose
    9.    Bakula (Tib. Bakula): retinue 900;  holds a mongoose in his left hand
    10. Rahula, the Buddha's son (Tib. Drachen Dzin):retinue 1100; holds a crown
    11. Chudapanthaka (Tib. Lamtren Ten): retinue 1600; his hands rest in meditation
    12. Pindola Bharadvaja (Tib. Dza Sönyom Len): retinue 1000; holds a text and an alms bowl
    13. Mahapanthaka (Tib. Lamten;): retinue 900; holds a text and teaches Dharma
    14. Nagasena (Tib. Lüdé): retinue 1200; holds a vase and a staff
    15. Gopaka (Tib. Bechepa): retinue 1400; holds a text in his hands
    16. Abheda (Tib. Michepa): retinue 1000; holds a stupa

    The procession started from the main shrine room of Tergar Monastery. Preceded by three incense bearers and 16 banners, the 16 Arhats and their retinues circumambulated the main temple once before making their way through the main gate and along the road towards the Monlam Pavilion. In previous years, the procession route was lined with laypeople making offerings. This year, instead, the Karmapa chose the Kagyu Monlam Members to form a guard of honour on either side of the road, to welcome the 16 Arhats.

    Non-members and the sangha were directed to wait inside the pavilion, where the Gyalwang Karmapa and his two heart sons, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, sat on the stage, leading the prayers. The chant masters first recited the Refuge prayer and then began the recitation of the Prostrations and Offerings to the 16 Elders.

    As the serbang passed under the welcome gate, the prayer concluded, and the gyaling, horns drums and cymbals burst into sound, echoing through the pavilion. The Gyalwang Karmapa, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche stood respectfully to greet the Arhats as the procession slowly made its way down the central aisle on the red carpet laid out especially for them the night before. At the stage, the banner bearers filed off to right and left, and the Arhats with their retinues took their places on the stage. The final retinue included foreign sangha and gelongma.

    Once everyone was seated, the Arhats in pairs on cushions, their retinues behind them on carpets, the pavilion was filled once more with the prayer of Prostrations and Offerings to the 16 Elders, as representatives of the Gyalwang Karmapa’s labrang came forward to make the first simple offerings, placing them into the alms bowls placed on ornately carved wooden tables in front of each pair of Arhats.  They were followed by laypeople who were allowed to come forward and make small offerings of fruit, biscuits, sweets and so forth.  As their alms bowls filled, the arhats passed them back, the bowls were emptied into white plastic sacks, an empty one was passed forward, and the process began again.

    After the conclusion of the ceremony, the gelongs and gelongmas ate their midday meal in the pavilion, under the gaze of the Gyalwang Karmapa, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche.


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  • 01/18/14--02:34: In Praise of the Gurus

  • January 15, 2014
    Sessions 1, 2, 3
    Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya

    Although still cloudy, the land was clear of mist and fog this morning, when the gong sounded clearly across the Garchen at 3.00am, waking the monks and nuns in order to attend the full-moon day sojong for ordained sangha at 4.00am, administered by Khenpo Lodrö Dönyö Rinpoche. Laypeople began arriving at the Monlam Pavilion two hours later to receive the Mahayana Sojong vows bestowed by the Gyalwang Karmapa.

    On the top tier of the stage, the great tormas rose magnificently, set against a translucent blue sky peppered with white clouds, projected on to the new screen background, installed three days ago. This screen will be used for visual effects during the Marme Monlam on 16th January, and stretches the width of the stage, concealing the painting of Mt. Kailash.

    The thangka of Guru Rinpoche had been taken down to reveal once more the giant golden Buddha in repose at the apex of the stage.  Behind the Gyalwang Karmapa’s low seat, the multi-coloured banners from yesterday’s Alms Procession with the Sixteen Arhats hung, eight on each side.

    After giving the sojong vows, His Holiness gave a short talk, explaining the prize giving ceremony which would take place in the afternoon and the importance of the ritual texts- the 13 tantras of Marpa- which were being preserved by individual monasteries at his request.

    As the morning session of the Twenty Branch Monlam progressed, the gelongs and Rinpoches seated on the Monlam stage, donned their yellow tsesha, representing a pandit’s hat, and His Holiness climbed the steps to the small shrine of Buddha as an infant which stands midway, directly below the large golden Buddha and the altars. There he assumed the role of ritual master, performing the different mudras and offerings which accompany the twenty branches – including incense, symbolic washing and drying, and anointing with precious oils.

    Traditionally, the second and third sessions on the last day of the Kagyu Monlam are dedicated to the Lama Chöpa: Offerings to the Gurus. October 2013 saw the death of two important Rinpoches within the Kagyu tradition and, as the Gyalwang Karmapa explained,   the first session of the Lama Chöpa this year was dedicated to their memory.

    The first to pass away was Kyabje Chagme Rinpoche who died in New Delhi. In his late 80s, Chagme Rinpoche was a senior and highly respected master holding both Kagyu and Nyingma lineages. He was the head of Nyedo Tashi Choling Monastery in Nepal, and was widely renowned for his skills in astrology and Tibetan medicine. In particular, Rinpoche was esteemed for his ability to cure different diseases and was sought out by people all across the Himalayan region. Chagme Rinpoche’s previous incarnations had played an important historical role. The 1st Karma Chagme Rinpoche ensured the continuity of many Karma Kagyu lineage transmissions and practices at a time when they might otherwise have been lost.

    Later the same month, Kyabje Dr. Akong Rinpoche was tragically killed in Chengdu, China. With Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Akong Rinpoche founded the first ever Buddhist monastery in the West at Samye Ling in Scotland. After Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche moved to the USA, Akong Rinpoche continued the work at Samye Ling, promoting the work of the Kagyu lineage throughout the U.K. and parts of Europe through the Samye Dzong organisation. At Samye Ling and Holy Isle he built retreat centres and a shedra [institute for Buddhist studies]. He was also involved in the search for the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, and accompanied His Holiness to Tsurphu near Lhasa in Tibet.  However, for many Tibetans, his most important contribution was his social work in Tibet through his organisation, Rogpa. He built and supported orphanages, old people’s homes, hospitals and schools, in addition to supporting monks and monasteries.

    Two large portraits were placed in a central position on the middle tier of the Monlam stage. After the offerings to the shrine, His Holiness presented katags to the portraits and the Lama Chöpa ritual included a special mandala offering to the two lamas.

     After the lunch break, the Lama Chöpa ritual continued.


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  • 01/18/14--02:50: Closing the Mandala

  • The Final Session of the 31st Kagyu Monlam

    January 15, 2014

    A giant golden Buddha has replaced the thangka of Guru Rinpoche on the stage as the setting for the last day of the Monlam. Sixteen exquisite hand painted Chinese silk lanterns, eight on each side, are the ornaments for auspiciousness to close the mandala. Some of the lanterns have auspicious animals - tiger, lion, peacock, vulture, garuda- and others the 8 auspicious symbols and goddesses. Each cylinder is hanging with long gold decorative strands separated by crystal beads, creating a delicate, twinkling display of abundance.

    With a sea of sangha surrounding him, the Karmapa honoured the monastics before going on to show his appreciation of the sponsors. As the main sponsor of this Monlam was Gyaltsap Rinpoche, the Karmapa first presented his entourage with representations of the Buddha in the form of statues and texts.

    In the course of the evening, the Karmapa continued his support of both branches of his lineage, practice and study. He explained that in 2002, the monasteries had gathered for the first time at Vajra Vidya Institute, and during that meeting, the thirteen tantras of Marpa were distributed among twelve monasteries in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. A few days ago, the Karmapa had asked the monasteries to report on their performance of these tantras, saying that he would give to those who had continuously practiced their tantra, a set of thangkas of the yidams from the four tantras that had been commissioned and overseen by a previous Situ Rinpoche. The main discipline master read the names of the twelve monasteries and the reports of their practices as representatives came forward to receive a large rectangular box over which the Karmapa draped a long yellow kata.  These thangkas are essential references for visualizations, a fundamental part of Vajrayana practice.

    During the Winter Debates, five scholars from other traditions had been invited to judge the debates. As the Karmapa explained, these yearly gatherings are fulfilling their purpose of raising the level of study in the monastic colleges. Beginning last year, prizes have been awarded for the best performances and this new tradition continues. The monasteries are awarded a trophy, a certificate, and a large donation. Suspense filled the Pavilion as the announcer repeated "And the prize goes to…" several time before giving the name.

    The winners in the three main categories, which represent the fundamentals of the whole system of debate, were the following: For Collected Topics (the basic definitions of terms), first place went to Bokar Rinpoche’s shedra and second place to Situ Rinpoche's Sherabling shedra. For Classifications of Evidence, first place went to Sherabling and second place, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche's Rigpe Dorje Institute. Finally, for Classifications of Mind, first place went to Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche's Rigpe Dorje Institute and second place to Thrangu Rinpoche's Vajra Vidya Institute. Individual prizes were also given to the best holder of a thesis, the best challenger, and the most diligent debater.

    Returning to the practice aspect of his lineage, the Karmapa next offered a beautifully printed and boxed text of three major practices for the Kagyu, Bernakchen, Dorje Pakmo, and Gyalwa Gyamtso, to representatives of the sixty-two institutions (monasteries, retreat centres, and monastic colleges), which came to the Monlam.

    Usually in his closing speech, the Karmapa expresses his agenda for the year ahead but this time, it was late and therefore his speech was somewhat abbreviated. To make up for that, he generously proposed to fund new retreat centres so that practitioners could spend 5-6 months practising the Marpa tantras. In the spirit of giving everything he could to fulfil his activity as the Buddha Karmapa, he also offered to give the necessary empowerments and key instructions.

    Amidst the waving of white scarves and the cries of Tashi Shok, the 31st Kagyu Monlam came to a close.

    A blaze of good fortune, the ornament of the world!

    In the realm and the kingdom of the land of Tibet

    To the north of the Land of Snows;

    May the teaching of the Practice Lineage flourish!

    May the world have the good fortune of happiness!

    We ask that the world be made happy!

    (Prayers to Accomplish the Truth)

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    Monlam Pavilion and Tergar Monastery
    January 14, 2014  

    The Akshobhya Mandala  Ritual
    Reading of the Akshobhya dharani and the Akshobhya sutra
    Monlam Pavilion, Session 3

    A special shrine with an image of Akshobhya Buddha had been arranged mid-way on the tiered Monlam Pavilion stage, complete with the precious substances which would be used later during the fire puja, and torma offerings. The Gyalwang Karmapa sat on a special raised seat in front of the shrine. The text for the first part was not available to the general public, only to monastics and the Akshobhya retreatants. During the recitation of the text, His Holiness made offerings at the shrine.

    The latter part, the recitation of the Dharani that Throroughly Purifies all Karmic Obscurations andThe Sutra of the Dharani that Thoroughly Liberates from All Suffering and Obscurations, was 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 is effective for the benefit of both the dead and the living.

    The Akshobhya Jang-Sek [fire puja]

    Outside Tergar Shrine Room

    This is the concluding ritual in the Akshobhya series for the purification and removal of obstacles and negativities. Before and during the Monlam friends and relatives had been making donations and giving the names not just of the deceased but also of the living who were experiencing great difficulties such as physical or mental illness. All these names have been written down on sheets of paper to be burnt during the puja. The purpose of this type of fire puja  [jang-sek] is the removal of obstacles and negativities through purification and pacification.

    Each year the Gyalwang Karmapa conducts the fire puja on the penultimate day of the Kagyu Monlam, in a cordoned off area on the porch of the temple. No one is allowed inside this cordon except for monks who are qualified to attend and the retreatants. Below the steps, a brick firepit is constructed and a 'pacification' sand mandala drawn in it. Then logs are piled on top. The fire is lit during the second half of the puja, and the papers containing the names of the living and the dead are tossed into the flames.

    The fire burns until all the names have been consumed and the ritual concludes with dedication prayers.


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    January 6, 2014

     Continuing his immense generosity, the Gyalwang Karmapa bestowed a second empowerment of Guru Rinpoche, this time from the terma (rediscovered treasures) of Guru Chowang.  This great terton (treasure revealer) was a speech emanation of the Dharma King, Trisong Deutsen, and a reincarnation of Gyalse Lhaje, who was predicted to have thirteen successive reincarnations. Guru Chowang was the second of these and the last was the great master, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, a pillar of the nonsectarian movement of nineteenth century Tibet.

    Again today, the Karmapa is seated on his high throne, and rising behind him is the immense thangka of Guru Rinpoche. He first performs the preliminaries of the initiation: purification by pouring blessed water over a sparkling mirror; cutting the boundaries for the empowerment by making offerings; and setting the blazing tent of vajras as protection. He reads in a resonant voice the introduction to the empowerment, which explains that this is a guru yoga, a practice devoted to realizing the inseparability of our body, speech, and mind with those of the lama, so that we will be able to bring all living beings to full awakening. The lama is the essence of all the buddhas, and Guru Rinpoche himself is known as the Second Buddha. He remains in neither extreme of samsara or nirvana, and therefore, can benefit others through an immeasurable variety of activities. Until the end of samsara, he will remain as a wish-fulfilling gem.

    Guru Chowang's text for the empowerment comes from The Four Round Empowerments of Lama Sangdu cycle. The name can be translated in several ways: Guru Guhayasamaja; the Lama as the Embodiment of all Secrets; or in a meaning translation, The Practice of Guru Rinpoche (the lama): A Compendium of the Profound Meaning (which is self-secret). Among his eighteen terma, Guru Chowang discovered five heart termas, which are mainly concerned with practices of devotion to the lama (guru sadhana), the terton's main dispensation. This Lama Sangdu empowerment comes from these heart termas and offers a sadhana of the peaceful Guru in the form of Vajradhara.

    The empowerment text quotes the terton as saying that he is the embodiment of all the Tathagatas. On a more mundane level, the Karmapa explains that Guru Chowang was one of the most important among the greater and lesser tertons who appeared in Tibet. The great tertons, known as the great nirmanakayas, are enumerated as the five great kings and the two supreme nirmanakayas. Guru Chowang was one of these two supreme nirmanakayas.

    At the very time of his birth in 1212, Guru Chowang's father was writing out in gold ink the famous text, Reciting the Names of Manjushri. He had just come to the words, "Great Lord of Dharma" (Cho means "Dharma" and wangchuk means Great Lord"), so he gave this name to his son. That this child would be of great benefit to the Dharma was prophesized by many masters of the time ̶Kadampa Geshes, Lord Jigten Sumgön, Lama Shang, and other tertons with precognition.

    By his thirteenth year, Guru Chowang was fully trained in the common and uncommon arts and sciences as well as the disciplines of the Vajrayana. At the age of seventeen, he received the complete transmission of the ripening empowerments and liberating instructions of the famous terton Nyangrel Nyima Özer (13th century, the first of the great Tibetan treasure revealers) from his youngest son,Namkhape. Thus Guru Chowang became a holder of these termas and was recognized as a speech emanation of Nyangrel. For these reasons, the termas of Nyangrel are known as the former termas and those of Guru Chowang as the later ones.

    At the age of eighteen, Guru Chowang met the great scholar Shakya Pandita and studied Mahayana texts on bodhichitta with him. The young terton also and also studied with masters of other lineages, so by the time he was twenty, he was both highly learned and attained.
    In general, most tertons and their recovered texts belong to the earlier Nyingma tradition, but Guru Chowang was unusual in that he discovered nyingma cycles of Dharma and also cycles of Dharma from the later traditions, which is general refer to the Kagyu, Sakya and Geluk traditions. For example, Guru Chowang revealed a terma of Marpa the Translator known as The Tower Treatise (Sekarma), a text on the Six Yogas. Written in Marpa's blood as it came from his finger, the text was concealed in Lhodrak. The indication for the treasure, which said that it should be revealed in seven generations, came into the hands of Guru Chowang and he revealed the text. Another special trait of Guru Chowang's terma is that most of his retrievals of terma were performed in public (tromter), another reason why he was considered an undisputed great terton.

    A great terton is distinguished from a lesser one by whether or not they have revealed three types of terma: a guru sadhana, a terma related to the great perfection, and one of the Great Compassionate One (mahakarunika). Not only did Guru Chowang reveal cycles of terma in all three categories, he discovered numerous guru sadhanassadhana, especially those related to Guru Rinpoche. Of all these, the most profound is from his five mind or heart terma and known as Lama Sangdu.

    How was this terma revealed? A terton named Drakpa Ngonshe had revealed treasures from Samye Monastery, and one was a list (karchak), or parchment scroll, of mind treasures to be discovered. Based on this list, a disciple of his known as Lhatso Jamphel had made preparations to extract the terma, but he died.  Other Vajrayana practitioners had also wanted to investigate the list but due to hail and lightning, they were forced to flee. This scroll then came into the hands of Guru Chowang when he was thirteen, but when he showed it to his father, he said, "What are you doing with this parchment scroll? It has been the cause of death and ruin. Do you want to die?" So the father took the list and hid it.

    Later, Guru Chowang was able to repossess the list. When he was twenty-two, the terton traveled with a realized practitioner of severance (chö) to a place in Lodrak called Staircase to the Sky. Since he had both the list of the terma to be recovered and their keys, Guru Chowang gradually revealed them. There are many miraculous stories about this, but we do not have enough time today to talk about them.

    The Karmapa concluded his explanation saying that since this a Guru Rinpoche practice, we regard him and our root guru as inseparable ̶ the main point of Guru Yoga. We should pray earnestly with complete devotion that he bestow the common and supreme siddhis for the benefit all living beings.

    The Karmapa then began the main empowerment, during which Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche received the series of initiations on behalf of everyone present. 

    Afterward, an extensive mandala was offered as a thanksgiving to the Karmapa, manifesting his brilliance as Guru Rinpoche and blessing all who had the good fortune to be in his presence as well as all those held in the vast embrace of his compassion.


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    The 8 manifestations of Guru Rinpoche accompanied by their entourage are led by the golden procession (serbang) with musical instruments, banners, and so forth.

    The main figures in the serbang include the Guru Rinpoche statue, his two consorts (Mandarava and Yeshe Tsogyal), Guru Tsengye (8 manifestations of Guru Rinpoche), Shantarakshita, King Trisong Deutsen, Vairochana, 8 Goddesses of Gratitude, Indra, Hashang (the Chinese monk), and the Kings of the Four Directions .

    The two wrathful manifestations of Guru Rinpoche, Sengge Dradok and Dorje Drolo, dance along with the procession.

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    Nuns from Thrangu Tara Abbey and Palchen Choling perform in the Tse Chu Lama Dance, featuring Eight Goddesses of Gratitude making offerings to Guru Rinpoche.

    Inside the mask of Guru Rinpoche on stage, is the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. His eyes appear at the level of the Guru's skull-cup as he supports the weight of the hollowed image on his shoulders while seated in a golden chair. No one can see this, but in his hands he is holding a precious statue of Guru Rinpoche revealed by the great terton Jatsön Nyingpo.

    The Tsechu lama dance took place on Jan 10, 2014, Bodh Gaya, India, as part of the special program of the 31st Kagyu Monlam.

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    January 13, 2014
    Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya

    Echoes of enlightenment

    The morning dawns grey and foggy on the third day of the Monlam, as all gather at the Monlam Pavilion where the Gyalwang Karmapa once more gives the day’s Sojong Vows.

    Shortly afterwards he leaves the stage to prepare for the Kangyur Procession, the only major activity of the 31st Kagyu Monlam scheduled to take place at the Mahabodhi Stupa.

    2500 years after Shakyamuni Buddha attained awakening beneath the branches of the sacred Bodhi Tree, today the Gyalwang Karmapa returns a complete copy of all the Buddha's words—known in Tibetan as the Kangyur—to the place of origin, the centre of the Buddhist universe.

    These are words born of an enlightened mind that have since spread out in all directions, like golden threads weaving through time and space, and that still linger thousands of years after they were uttered.

    Yet the Buddha's words themselves are merely an imprint, a captured representation of the enlightened wisdom behind them; they are echoes of an ineffable realisation that is beyond language, beyond words, which is still tangible to this day at the holy site of awakening.

    These echoes of enlightenment, the Buddha's words, have the power to liberate those who hear and understand them. So it is with supreme reverence that the Gyalwang Karmapa today leads the entire collection of the Buddha's words in procession, to circumambulate the very seat of awakening. 

    A walking meditation

    Crowds greet the Gyalwang Karmapa as he arrives at the Mahabodhi Stupa at 7am—an hour earlier than scheduled—where he first stops briefly at the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee Office. He then descends the main stairway into the heart of the stupa and heads directly for the inner sanctum.

    The Gyalwang Karmapa personally carries a set of new golden silk robes to offer and adorn the sacred Buddha statue inside the inner sanctum, where he is joined by the two heart sons, Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Kyabje Gyaltsab Rinpoche.

    Meanwhile, 98 fully ordained monks, or gelongs, and 5 fully ordained nuns, or gelongmas, assemble beneath the Bodhi Tree. Each sangha member wears the yellow chugu or outer robe; most walk barefoot, without even socks, despite the cold stones underneath.

    The Gyalwang Karmapa emerges from the inner sanctum and begins to circumambulate the inner kora path, pausing near the Bodhi Tree, where the 103 volumes of the Kangyur are distributed amongst the sangha, and the procession begins.

    Kyabje Gyaltsab Rinpoche takes the lead, followed by Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, the two heart sons ushering the way. The Gyalwang Karmapa follows next, holding a simple incense stick as he walks, his face an expression of the Buddha's calm serenity.

    One by one the monks and nuns fall into procession behind the Gyalwang Karmapa, each reverently bearing a text filled with the Buddha's words carefully balanced on their shoulder, supported by both hands. Their gazes are gently fixed in front of them, their gait slow and measured. They walk slowly and mindfully around the stupa, as if in walking meditation, some quietly chanting mantras as they go.

    Led by the Gyalwang Karmapa and the two heart sons, the procession of the Kangyur, or entire corpus of the Buddha's words, is led slowly and carefully on a circumambulation of the Mahabodhi Stupa—an act of utmost veneration towards the liberating power of the Buddha's pure speech.

    Devotees line the paths as the Kangyur passes by, some carrying white khatas, others holding fresh lotus flowers. The crowds are noticeably smaller than in previous years—most people still over at the Monlam Pavilion—making for a calmer, more serene and meditative circumambulation.

    After two days of wet and gloomy weather, it is only during the Kangyur procession that the sky clears into a cloudless blue, the sun finally shining through without obstruction.

    Speaking the Buddha's words

    After the outer and inner circuits are completed, the Gyalwang Karmapa and Gyaltsab Rinpoche pause once more in the office at the top of the stairs. There they wait until the last gelong and gelongma have filed out of the stupa, and the last text has been carefully carried out, before they too finally depart around 8am.

    Back at the Monlam Pavilion, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche presides over the assembly as a complete set of the Kangyur texts is distributed amongst the assembled sangha, each person receiving a page or two. Over the next 90 minutes those gathered will recite aloud the entirety of the Buddha's precious words that were translated into Tibetan, putting into speech the echoes of a fully enlightened mind.


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