b.1204 - d.1283
Name Variants: Chodzin; Chokyi Lama; Karma Pakśi; Karmapa 02 Karma Pakshi; Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi
The Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (karma pa 02 karma pakshi) was born in Sato ki le tsak (sa stod dkyil le tsag), in the Derge (sde dge) district of Khams. His father was Gawang Tsurtsa Prangta (rgya dbang tshur tsha sprang thar) and his mother was Sengzang Mangki (seng bzang mang skyid). They were a noble family of yoga practitioners believed to be descended from King Tri Songdetsen (khri srong lde'u btsan, 790-844).
Karma Pakshi is remembered as a remarkable child, able to read and write from the age of five or six, and was said to have the knowledge of an enlightened being. Through his extensive studies, by the age of ten he had learned the Buddhist canon. At the age of eleven, he took initiation as Chokyi Lama (chos kyi bla ma); some sources have his ordination name as Chozin (chos 'dzin), while other sources have that as the name he was given at birth. He received lineage transmissions from Lama Pomdrakpa Sonam Dorje (bla ma spom brag pa bsod nams rdo rje, 1170-1249).
Lama Pomdrakpa soon recognized the young man as the incarnation of the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (karma pa 01 dus gsum mkhyen pa, 1110-1193). Although Pomdrakpa had not received teachings from the First Karmapa, he was a disciple of the Karmapa's student, Sanggye Rechenpa Peldrak (1148-1218). In addition to giving him teachings, Pomdrakpa also directed his disciple to go into meditation retreat.
Among his other important teachers were two Nyingma lamas from Katok Monastery in southern Derge:Jampa Bum (byams pa 'bum, 1179-1252), Katok's third abbot; and Mangpuwa Sonam Bum (mang phu ba bsod nams 'bum, 1222-1282), its fourth abbot.
While spending much of his early life in retreat, during the second part of his life, Karma Pakshi moved frequently due to local conflicts and wars. He traveled throughout Tibet, mainly in the border regions between eastern Tibet and China. He was active in restoring monasteries established by the First Karmapa as well as building new ones. In 1247, he traveled to Tsurpu in Tolung, north of Lhasa (stod lung mtshur phu), where he remained for several years.
Karma Pakshi had developed a substantial reputation as a worker of miracles, and while residing at Tsurpu, he received an invitation from Khubilai Khan. At this point, Khubilai was simply a nephew of the Mongol head, Ododei, son of Ghengis, and the younger brother of the Khaghan, the head of the Mongolian Empire. Rapid successions following Ghengis Khan's death in 1227 had left numerous factions of the family vying for power. In the same year he sent for Karma Pakshi, Khubilai had taken the two heirs of the Sakya Khon family, Chogyel Pakpa Lodro Gyeltsen (chos rgyal 'phags pa blo gros rgyal mtshan, 1235-1280) and Channa Dorje (phyag na rdo rje, d. 1267) from the camp of Ododei's son, Koden, who likely had died that same year. Upon Ododei’s death in 1241, his other son, Guyug, was made Khaghan; upon Guyug’s death, the Khanate passed to Khubilai’s elder brother, Mongke (1209-1259).
The Second Karmapa met Khubilai at Rongyul Serto (rong yul gser stod), which Richardson speculated was near Dartsedo, and stayed with him less than five years before traveling around the Sino-Tibetan border regions, attracting large crowds wherever he went. Although he refused Khubilai’s request to return to his court, in 1255 or 1256 he accepted an invitation from Mongke and went to the palace of Sira Ordo, near Karakorum. It was not an unreasonable move on Karma Pakshi's part; Khubilai at his point had no obvious claim to the throne, making Mongke a far more appealing donor. Chogyel Pakpa remained with Khubilai, and when Mongke died several years later, he was thus in position to rise in power with his sponsor when Khubilai conquered China and initiated the Yuan Dynasty.
On his journey to meet with Mongke, Karma Pakshi established the Trulnang Tulpa'i Lhakhang ('phrul snang sprul pa'i lha khang). While at Mongke’s court, he grew to appreciate the Mongol principle of religious tolerance. He also participated in interreligious and philosophical dialogues and debates with other Buddhist communities, as well as Daoists, Confucianists and Nestorian Christians.
It was in Mongolia that he earned his title, Pakshi, Mongolian for "teacher".
When Khubilai succeeded in taking control of the Mongolian Empire, he accused Karma Pakshi of siding with his rival; Khubilai exiled him and put some of his followers to death. Traditional sources suggest that this situation was a result of Khubilai’s disappointment in Karma Pakshi’s refusal to remain at his court or to return when invited back; it is also thought that it was Karma Pakshi’s skill in magic that protected him and the Kagyu tradition from greater difficulties. Although he was later reconciled with his former sponsor, the Kagyu never attained the level of influence that the Sakya enjoyed. Karma Pakshi left Mongolia in 1264, and, eight years later, returned to Tsurpu. He is credited with building a temple to house large image of Śākyamuni, which was said to have originally come from Nālandā and was carried off during a Mongolian raid.
Karma Pakshi was an author of both exoteric and esoteric texts; however, few works have survived. As Matthew Kapstein has pointed out, he often wrote under the pen name “Rangjung Dorje,” which is also the name of the Third Karmapa (rang byung rdo rje, 1284-1339); this has led to considerable confusion, as well as possible contemporary misattributions of his work to that of the third Karmapa. Aside from his autobiographies, the Limitless Ocean Cycle (rgya mtsho mtha’ yas kyi skor) is perhaps the key extant work of Karma Pakshi, one that Kapstein describes as "an elaborate systematization of the Kathok tradition of teaching."
His most renowned students were Orgyenpa Rinchen Pel (o rgyan pa rin chen dpal, 1229/1230-1309/1312), who later found his reincarnation; Tashi Drakpa (bkra shis grags pa, 1200-1282), sometimes considered a pre-incarnation of the Zhwamar line of incarnations; the First Gangkar Lama, Drakpai Pel (gangs dkar bla ma 01 grags pa'i dpal, b. 1260) and Dengom (ldan sgom), who built the Lhakhang Chenmo at Tsurpu. The Blue Annals mentions Jamyang Semgyelwa Yeshe (byang sems rgyal ba ye shes, b. 1257), who became a student of Karma Pakshi’s against his father’s will; Karma Pakshi not only taught him, but also provided for his mundane necessities.
Karma Pakshi passed away in at Tsurpu in 1283; his student Orgyenpa succeeded him as abbot, and later found and educated the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (karma pa 03 rang 'byung rdo rje, 1284-1339).
Dpa' bo gtsug lag phreng ba. 2003. Chos 'byung mkhas pa'i dga' ston.
Dung dkar blo bzang 'phrin las. 2002. Dung dkar tshig mdzod chen mo. Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, pp. 30-31.
Kapstein, Matthew T. 2000. The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation and Memory. New York: Oxford UP.
Karma Pakshi. 1978. Autobiographical Writings of the Second Karmapa Karma Pakshi and a work called Spyi Lan Ring mo — a defence of the Bka' brgyud pa teachings addressed to G.yag sde Paṇ chen. Gangtok: Gonpo Tseten.
Jackson, David. 2009. "The Black Hats of the Karmapas." In Patron and Painter; Situ Paṇchen and the Revival of the Encampments Style, pp. 39-69. New York: Rubin Museum of Art.
Mkha' spyod dbang po. 1978. Karma pa chen po'i rnam thar bsam yas lha'i rnga chen. In The collected writings (gsun 'bum) of the second zwa-dmar mkha'-spyod-dban-po, vol. 2, pp. 1-87. Gangtok: Gonpo Tseten.
Richardson, Hugh. 1958-1959. "The Karma-pa Sect." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, no. 3 and 4: 139-164, no. 1 and 2, pp. 1-18.
Roerich, George, trans. 1996. The Blue Annals. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas.
Si tu Paṇ chen Chos kyi 'byung gnas and 'Be lo Tshe dbang kun khyab. 1972. History of the Karma Bka' brgyud pa Sect. New Delhi: D. Gyeltsen & Kesang Legshay, vol 1, pp. 75-159.
Tucci, Giuseppe. 1949. Tibetan Painted Scrolls. Rome: La Libreria dello Stato.
Van der Kuijp, Leonard. 1995. "'Baghsi' and Baghsi-s in Tibetan Historical, Biographical and Lexicographical Texts." Central Asiatic Journal, vol. 39, pp. 275-302.
Ye shes rdo rje, et al. 1996-2000. Gangs can mkhas dbang rim byon gyi rnam thar mdor bsdus. Volume 2, 59-61. Peking: krung go'i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang. (TBRC W25268.)
8:00AM BST 01 Jul 2014
On his first ever visit to Europe, the most prominent Tibetan Buddhist figure after the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa, talks about being taken from his family in childhood, his exile and the demands of his holy position
|The 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje at the Waldorf Astoria Ballroom, |
New York, America
Even before his birth in 1985 to a simple nomadic family in eastern Tibet, there had been signs that the boy who would be named Apo Gaga – “happy brother” – was special. His mother, it is said, had been visited in a dream by three white cranes, telling her that she would have a son who would be a great incarnation; at the time of his birth a cuckoo was seen to land on the tent where his mother lay and burst into song. The birth, it is said, was without pain, and the sound of a conch shell could be heard like music in the sky.
At the age of seven, the boy told his family that in three days a party of men would be coming to take him away. They duly arrived, a search party following instructions said to have been contained in a letter written by the 16th Karmapa – one of the most important figures in Tibetan Buddhism – before his death in America from cancer in 1981, foretelling where his next incarnation would be found, and naming Apo Gaga as that child.
In accordance with tradition, he was taken from his family to his ancestral monastery of Tsurphu in central Tibet, where in 1992 he was enthroned as the 17th Karmapa, the head of a lineage dating to the 12th century. (The lineage of the Dalai Lama dates to the 15th).
He was given a new monastic name, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, and subjected to a rigorous scholastic upbringing, which included committing to memory thousands upon thousands of pages of Buddhist philosophy and ritual. The Karmapa had been enthroned in a rare window of Chinese accommodation with Tibetan Buddhism. But official attitudes hardened. His principal teachers were forbidden to visit from exile in India; there were police at the monastery gates, and spies within watching his activities.
At the age of 14, when it became apparent that the Chinese wished to co-opt him as a puppet, and pressure on him was increased to denounce the Dalai Lama, he took flight under cover of darkness. With a small party of monks, he travelled 900 miles across the mountains into India to join the Dalai Lama, arriving footsore and exhausted in January 2000. “The Boy Who Outwitted A Superpower”, read one headline.
Since then, his stay in India has been far from easy. For many years he was more or less confined to the small monastery, borrowed from the Dalai Lama, where he currently lives, partly out of concerns for his safety but also amid reports that the Indian intelligence services suspected him of being a Chinese spy. These suspicions have long since evaporated. But due to political sensitivities he has been forbidden from visiting the monastery in Sikkim, on the border with China, that his predecessor established when he escaped from Tibet in 1959; and until last month he had been allowed to leave India only twice, for brief teaching tours in America.
But now there are signs that things are changing. Recently, however, he was to be found in Berlin, on his first visit to Europe, holding hands with monks in a Benedictine monastery to sing vespers, visiting a synagogue and the Holocaust Museum, and giving a series of teachings to thousands of his followers on such matters as “Taming the Mind” and “Cultivating Loving-Kindness”.
He had been waiting “a long time”, he says, to be given permission to travel to Europe. “Until I reached Germany, it almost felt half-dream, half-real – I couldn’t believe it was going happen. But I think this is a very meaningful occasion, because so many people – not just German people, but from different European countries – have come together. I am enjoying it.”
The fanciful Western idea of Tibetan Buddhist lamas, embodied in the person of the Dalai Lama, is of a kind of fluffy, ethereal serenity. But seated in the lounge of a Berlin hotel, flanked by monk attendants, the Karmapa presents a more sober figure – a heavy-set man of 29, moon-faced, with almond-shaped eyes set in a broad face and a piercing glance. Foregoing an interpreter, he speaks in English, occasionally clicking his tongue in irritation at himself when he fails to find the right word. Why, I ask, has it taken so long for him to come to Europe? “That’s difficult to answer, because even I don’t know the reason…”
The name Karmapa translates roughly as “man of activity”. The 16th Karmapa was a renowned teacher who travelled widely and was one of the first lamas to bring Tibetan Buddhist teachings to the West, establishing monasteries and teaching centres, and attracting tens of thousands of followers.
“He had a very large activity and involvement. I need to do a lot, but at the moment I can’t do what’s expected of me. Being the Karmapa is a great responsibility. But if there was only responsibility, I don’t feel that much pressure. But if you can’t fulfil that responsibility, due to some obstacles, that is much more difficult. At the time I became Karmapa I lost my personal life, but sometimes it seems like I’ve lost everything – personal life, and Karmapa life, too. I’m not putting any blame on anybody, but you can say this is my life; this is my karma.”
Historically, in Tibet, the Karmapas are held to be supreme reincarnations and to possess miraculous powers. The 16th Karmapa was famous for having conversations with birds, changing the weather, and predicting the future. His (American) doctor recounted that for three days following his death in an Illinois hospital the area around his heart remained warm, and his skin retained the pliancy of a living person.
|Ugyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th living Buddha|
High lamas never speak of their own accomplishments – the Karmapa insists that he does not consider himself “a good practitioner” – but stories of signs and wonders surrounding him abound. Shortly after arriving at his monastery of Tsurphu, he is said to have pressed his fingers into the granite foundations of a new temple that was under construction, leaving imprints clearly visible in the rock. He was eight. From the age of 10, he was recognising other young incarnate lamas through visions that come to him in deep meditation; in one case, giving instructions on where a two-year-old boy whom he had identified as Jamgon Kontrul Rinpoche would be found, he constructed a replica of the house using his Lego set.
Followers believe that simply to be in his presence is to see the face of a Buddha. In short, the purpose of his life is held to be everybody else’s happiness, but talking with him one senses that it has been lived largely at the cost of his own. Had he ever thought what his life would have been like had he not been recognised as Karmapa?
“If I was a normal person? I don’t have that sort of knowledge or experience, but I think if I’d been just a simple monk, an ordinary monk… maybe happier then.” He pauses. “Sometimes I see birds flying free and I think maybe it would be better to be a bird.”
Without his Buddhist practice to fortify him in his tribulations over the past 14 years, he says, it would have been easy to succumb to despair. “I have this understanding and outlook that has helped me very much. Buddhist practice brings me more energy and strength and equanimity, so I can bear the circumstances with more patience.”
Many people, I suggest, would look to him for an answer to the question of how to find happiness. “I don’t think I’m that learned, you know, but I do have some experience from a young age, facing lots of challenges. I’m always thinking that happiness is not just a feeling on your emotional level. It’s more to do with realisation or state of mind. To be in happiness rather than it be a feeling that just comes and goes. We are always expecting that outside things will bring us happiness. But our desire for these material things is limitless, and it’s difficult to fulfil. Sometimes even breathing itself is a kind of happiness. The very ordinary and very simple things brings you the most happiness.”
A few days earlier he had managed to take a walk without the customary procession of officials and dignitaries. “Just sightseeing… The weather was quite good; I could feel the wind… it was a very pleasant day. And suddenly I feel… I’m breathing out and breathing in; and it was very satisfying.” He smiles. “That kind of feeling…” He makes this most commonplace activity sound like a kind of miracle. “This is also happiness if you can realise it.”
In the years since his escape from Tibet, the suppression of Buddhism under Chinese rule has, if anything, worsened, and dissent has taken a saddening new turn. In the past five years some 131 Tibetans, many of them monks, 21 of them women, have self-immolated in protest at Chinese rule. He sighs deeply when this is raised. Those who have died made a “very brave sacrifice”, he says.
“But I don’t want to see my fellow Tibetans die this way. And I don’t see any result coming out. I don’t think the Chinese government will change policy; we don’t see that. Also we don’t see any international reaction – a little bit, but not much. So therefore I think this is a big loss rather than we gain a result. Also, according to Tibetan Buddhism we need to cherish this very precious human life; this kind of sincere motivation they can put into education, so that more Tibetan people can do more things to help the Tibetan cause. That is, I think, more sufficient than self-immolation.”
As the most prominent Tibetan Buddhist figure after the Dalai Lama, it is widely assumed that it is the Karmapa who will assume the role of spiritual figurehead and symbol of the Tibetan cause when the Dalai Lama dies.
In an interview earlier this year, he reiterated his “unequivocal” support for the Dalai Lama’s call for autonomy for ethnic Tibetans within China. But he emphasises that he does not see his future role as a political leader. “We all know His Holiness is becoming old – according to the Tibetan calendar, he’s 80 years old this year. I think it’s very important to have this understanding that we need to be ready to fulfil his wishes. But that does not mean I need to have some extra position. Because I am already the Karmapa; historically this is a very important spiritual leader, and I think I don’t need more; I can’t do more.”
|Karmapa visits the landmark Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya|
In recent years, he has taken a particular interest in the environment, establishing his own environmental organisation, Khoryug, which last year hosted a conference in Delhi on water supply. Many of the world’s great rivers flow out of the Tibetan Plateau — the Yellow River, Yangtze Kiang, Mekong, Salween, Sutlej and the Brahmaputra, supplying water to half of the world’s population. Climate change and intensive Chinese development in Tibet has contributed to the desertification of grasslands, the drying of lakes and river systems and the dislocation of nomadic communities on the Tibetan Plateau.
“For me, this is very important because when you are telling people about the Tibetan cause, people immediately think: 'Oh this is a political issue,’ and lots of people don’t want to touch a political issue – lots of nations don’t want to touch this political issue. There needs to be a different kind of approach. The political way… over 50 years we don’t get any good result. But when you’re talking about the environmental issue of Tibet, this is different thing. It’s not just a Tibetan issue. It’s a Chinese issue, an Asian issue, a world issue; Tibet is the most important environmental region. So to protect the Tibetan environment is also connected to the Tibetan way of life, culture and religion – it’s all related.”
|The 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje performs his first Mahakala dance ritual|
Could he foresee a time when he would return to Tibet? “I think so. All the Tibetan people, including the Dalai Lama, want to go back to their home; nobody wants to live and die in another place. But if I said, 'I want to go back to Tibet,’ then people will manipulate this and say, 'I want to go back to China.’ ” He shrugs. “This is the situation.”
Earlier that afternoon he gave a talk on the subject of compassion. Malaria, poverty, pollution – all, he said, were great killers, but the lack of compassion and what Buddhists call “loving-kindness” was one of the greatest killers of all. It was because of this that “very sad things” had happened to Germany – “two world wars and the Holocaust”. You could have heard a pin drop in the conference hall when he said this.
But loving-kindness, he went on, was man’s natural state from childhood. “Due to some fortunate circumstances, I was born as the child of very good parents. Love and care for others was cultivated because of their example. My spiritual journey started with them.”
When he escaped from Tibet, they remained behind; he has not seen them in 14 years. This I suggest, must be very difficult. “Very difficult… Sometimes I think that even though I have this high title as Karmapa, spiritual leader, I can’t do what an ordinary human being can do – you need to be with your parents, you need to do some service [for them], but I can’t do that.” He pauses. “For this, sometimes I feel very, very sad.”
What does reincarnation - taking rebirth after death - mean under Buddhism?
The Karmapa, 26, is revered by Tibetan Buddhists as the 17th reincarnation of a 900-year old spirit and heads one of the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism Photo: AFP/Getty Images|
Tibetan Buddhism holds that there are two ways that someone can take rebirth after death. The first is to be reborn involuntarily, under the sway of ‘karma’, drawn back to life by destructive emotions and desires. This is the fate of most of us. A few, select others, through the power of compassion and prayer to benefit others, are believed to be able to choose their place and time of birth as well as their parents.
The process of identifying these reincarnates, or "tulkus" as they are known, is a unique mixture of magic and politics.
In a monastic society, where celibacy was the rule, it has served for more than 900 years not only to affirm the Buddhist teachings of a realised soul choosing the circumstances of their rebirth for the benefit of mankind; it also ensured a continuity of spiritual and political hierachy.
It is an inexact science, practiced in different ways across the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Karmapas, who introduced the system of identifiable reincarnation in the 11th century, are unique in leaving a letter of prediction before their death, specifying where their next incarnation will be found. In other lineages, identification will usually involve a mixture of dreams, divinations and the consulting of oracles.
Dozens of lamas are held to be tulkus (meaning "Buddha’s Emanation Body"), but of these the Dalai Lama is by far the most important and the best known.
The son of a farmer, he was discovered when he two years old, following a number of signs, which he recounts in his autobiography. The first concerned the embalmed body of his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama who died at the age of 57 in 1933. During its period of sitting in state, the head was discovered to have turned from facing south to north-east.
Shortly afterwards, the Dalai Lama’s Regent, himself a senior lama, had a vision. Gazing into the sacred lake of Lhamoi Lhatso, he saw the Tibetan letters Ah, Ka and Ma, followed by an image of a three-storey monastery with a gold and turquoise roof. Finally he saw a small house with strangely shaped guttering. The letter Ah led him to conclude the reincarnation would be found in the north-eastern province of Amdo.
A search party duly travelled to the region, arriving at Kumbum monastery - indicated by the letter Ka - which was three-storeyed with a turquoise and gold roof. A search of the neighbouring villages led them to the house with strangely shaped guttering where the young Lhamo Dondrub, as he was then known, was found.
There the child was given a traditional test of being presented with a number of items, including a bowl and prayer-beads, that had been that had been owned by his predecessor, mixed in with several similar items that had not. In every case the child correctly identified those belonging to the 13th Dalai Lama, saying ‘It’s mine. It’s mine...’
The boy was taken to Lhasa and formerly installed as the Dalai Lama in the Potala palace. It was there, according to one story, that one day exploring with an attendant he came upon a box and pointed to it, exclaiming "My teeth are in there!" Inside, were the dentures belonging to his predecessor.
The Dalai Lama has said that being a tulku is like being a raw diamond - not worth much until it is cut and polished by teachings and practice.
He has also expressed caution about the process to select the next Dala Lama following his death.
In 2011 he issued a set of guidelines, "so that there is no room for doubt or deception", clearly designed to prevent the Chinese trying to seize hold of the process of recognising his successor, as they did in 1995 with the 11th Panchen Lama, and installing their own puppet candidate. The child recognised as the Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama vanished from the public eye shortly after his selection, and his present whereabouts are unknown.
In his guidelines the Dalai Lama stated that when he is "about 90", he will consult with other high lamas and the Tibetan public and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. If it is decided it should, he will leave clear written instructions on the recognition being carried out "according to past tradition".
This, he has hinted, could include the metaphysically tortuous possibility of manifesting himself as "an emanation" in another body while still alive, effectively choosing an adult successor in his lifetime, rather than reincarnating in a child born after his death.
The Tibetan cause is an 'environmental issue'
The 17th Karmapa explains to Mick Brown that the Tibetan cause is an environmental issue as well as a political one
The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the Tibetan lama who, it has been widely speculated, will succeed the Dalai Lama as the figurehead for Tibetan Buddhism has told the Telegraph that he believed that Tibetan cause was environmental issue as well as political one.
The Himalayas, sometimes called the world's "third pole", aree covered with thousands of glaciers. It is water from those glaciers helps feed some of the world's most important rivers, such as the Ganges and the Indus.
"When you are telling people about the Tibetan cause, people immediately think this is a political issue. Lots of people don't want to touch a political issue and also lots of nations don't want to touch a political issue," he said.
"But when you are talking about the environmental issue of Tibet, it is different. The Himalayan glaciers are a water source of Asia. It is an environmentally very important area."
"That is why to protecting the Tibetan environment as connected to Tibetan way of life, culture and religion."
30th June 2014 – Gangchen Kyishong, Dharamsala.
Today, at the invitation of Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, His Holiness visited the new Kashag building during a short visit to Gangchen Kyishong, Dharamsala.
His Holiness’ first stop was the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, which he visits regularly in order to consult and research its vast collection of old Tibetan texts. From there, he made his way to the Tibetan government-in-exile’s Kashag (Cabinet Office) building, where the prime minister’s office is located.
This is the first time that the Gyalwang Karmapa has had the opportunity to visit the new building, which was inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on 2nd June 2011. The Sikyong graciously welcomed His Holiness at the entrance and escorted him into his office, where they conversed for half an hour. The prime minister then accompanied His Holiness on a tour of the new building.
Lobsang Sangay studied law, and was a Senior Fellow at the East Asian Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School until he was elected to lead the Tibetan government-in-exile on April 27, 2011. In his role as Sikyong, Lobsang Sangay has emphasized the importance of seeking a peaceful, non-violent resolution of the Tibet issue.
Both the treasury and opposition bench in the Sikkim assembly stood united as a resolution seeking Buddhist Guru Gyalwa Karmapa to Sikkim was adopted by the house, the last day of the budget session.
The Sikkim Legislative assembly has adopted a private member's resolution requesting the Government of India to facilitate the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorjee to Rumtek monastery. The resolution was adopted by the house after it was moved for consideration by SDF MLA Bek Bahadur Rai and Sangha MLA, Sonam Lama. The resolution was supported by the SKM MLAs expressing their gratitude for bringing out the resolution hoped that Karmapa will be facilitated to the Rumtek Monastery at the earliest. The centre has placed a ban on seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje's travel to Sikkim following several controversies.
He has been living at Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh since his escape to India in January 2000. The Karmapa is the head of the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism with its headquarters at richest Rumtek monastery. Since the death of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa in 1981, the Rumtek monastery has been without a head because of multiple claimants to the top seat. CM Pawan Chamling had also raised the issue during his meeting with the PM earlier this month. His government has submitted at least 16 representations to the centre regarding the Karmapa to Sikkim demand.
From a story recounted by Eric Pema Kunsang about H.H. 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje:
One night, the Karmapa called out for his body servant, who at that time was Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. The Karmapa asked him to arrange a shrine and bring a certain text as they needed to do a name-burning ceremony. So Chokyi Nyima woke up the monks, and they set up a small shrine at the Karmapa’s bedside with the tormas etc. As soon as everything was ready, Karmapa opened the text and started chanting while he performed the name-burning. Afterward, His Holiness sat quietly gazing into midair, as if he could see something there in space. Then he shouted the sacred syllable several times and snapped his fingers. Eventually, he finished chanting the text, wrapped it back up and motioned for the monks to take the shrine away. There was no explanation as to what had just happened. Chokyi Nyima was used to this sort of thing, and so he went back to bed.
Several hours later a monk came running into the quarters shouting, “Yishin Norbu! Wish-Fulfilling Jewel! The King of Bhutan has just passed away, and we have received a call from the Bhutanese Court requesting you to perform the name-burning ceremony for him. They said that you are the one in whom they have the most faith and asked that you do it immediately.” The Karmapa turned calmly toward the panting monk and said, “Tell them I already did it.”
Later, he confided in Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, “Whomever I have had a link with in this life, either good or bad, they always come before me when they are passing through the bardo. Even though they no longer have a physical body, I always recognize who they are. They also know who I am since the spirit in the intermediate state is clairvoyant. If they have a pure karmic connection they will remain in my presence until I liberate them. If not, they will fly off and never come back for they have taken on some new form in a new life.”
Yishin Norbu! Yishin Norbu! Please wait for me. I am coming with you!
b.1284 - d.1339
Name Variants: Karmapa 03 Rangjung Dorje; Rangjung Dorje; Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje
The Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (karma pa 03 rang byung rdo rje) was born in 1284, on the eighth day of the first month of the wood-monkey year, in Tsa Pugang Zhurmo (tsa phu gangs zhur mo) His father, named Chopel (chos dpal), is described as a Nyingma practitioner; he is also said to have bestowed Zhije teachings on his son.
While still a young child his parents brought him on pilgrimage in Tsang, visiting, among other things, the famous sandalwood image of Avalokiteśvara in Kyirong (skyid rong). At the age of five he received lay vows and numerous tantric initiations from Orgyenpa Rinchen Pel (o rgyan pa rin chen dpal, 1229-1309) at his monastery of Butrasang (sbud tra sang). According to tradition, Orgyenpa is said to have identified the youth as the reincarnation of his teacher, the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (karma pa 02 karma pakshi, 1203/04-1283), and to have declared "As my guru's esoteric name was Rangjung Dorje, I will name you that." Other, earlier sources, however, have it that the name Rangjung Dorje was given to the boy by Kunden Sherab (kun ldan shes rab, d.u.), who gave him his novice vows. Scholars have suggested that it was in fact Rangjung Dorje himself who made the assertion that he was the reincarnation of Karma Pakshi, whom he further identified as the rebirth of Dusum Khyenpa (dus gsum mkhyen pa, 1110-1193), to whom he gave the titles Second and First Karmapas, respectively.
Before his tenth birthday Rangjung Dorje is said to have had visions of protectors -- in some tellings Mahākāla -- who told him to go to Tsurpu (mtshur phu), the seat of the previous Karmapas. There he received teachings on various topics including Kālacakra and Chod from Sherab Pel (shes rab dpal, d.u.), Nyenre Gendun Bum (gnyan ras dge 'dun 'bum, d.u.), and Namtsowa Mikyo Dorje (gnam mtsho ba mi bskyod rdo rje, d.u.).
In 1301, at the age of eighteen, he received complete ordination from Zhonnu Jangchub (gzhon nu byang chub), acting as abbot, and Gendun Rinchen (dge 'dun rin chen), acting as disciplinarian. He studied the five standard topics of a monastic curriculum -- Pramāṇa, Prajñāpāramitā, Madhyamaka, Abhidharmakośa, and Vinaya -- with Shakya Zhonnu, an abbot of Sangpu (gsang phu) Monastery. He received the complete teachings of Padampa Sanggye (pha dam pa sangs rgyas, d. c.1117) and Orgyenpa from Nyedo Kunga Dondrub (snye mdo kun dga' don grub, b. 1268), and instructions in the Karma Kagyu tradition from Lama Dzogden Namtso (bla ma rdzogs ldan gnam mtsho, d.u.).
He then went to Karma Gon (karma dgon) in Kham, the monastery founded by the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (karma pa 01 dus gsum mkhyen pa 1110-1193), in 1147. He established the hermitage of Lhateng (lha stengs), and visited Tsawa Gang (tsha ba sgang).
Back at U he donated a parasol to the Jo statue in the Jokhang, and briefly traveled to Kongpo to settle a dispute. At Tsurpu he constructed a temple with a gilded roof, and established the Dechen Teng (bde chen stengs) hermitage at Druzhi (gru bzhi). He continued his education, receiving Kālacakra teachings numerous tantric initiations from Kunga Dondrub; medical instruction from Bare (sba ras), Guhyasamāja and other tantric traditions from Tsultrim Rinchen (tshul khrims rin chen, d.u.); and Dzogchen Nyingtik (rdzogs chen snying thig) from Rigdzin Kumārāja (1266-1343) and, separately, from Rikhor Repa (ri khor ras pa, d.u.).
He then went again to Kongpo, where he remained for three years. He established the Nakpu Hermitage (nag phu ri khrod) and several other institutions, and practiced in the mountains.
In 1326 Rangjung Dorje returned to U, where he gave teachings and mediated a dispute between the Tselpa and Karma Kagyu communities.
He then went east again, building an iron bridge over the Sokchu (sog chu; a left-bank tributary of the Salween) to the east of Karma Gon and then, going down to Kongpo, entering retreat at Nakpu.
At some point he met with Dolpopa Sherab Gyeltsen (dol po pa shes rab rgyal mtshan, 1292-1361), a connection that later historians, namely Jamgon Kongtrul ('jam mgon kong sprul, 1813-1899) used to credit Rangjung Dorje with espousing the zhentong (gzhan stong) view.
Rangjung Dorje returned to U in 1331, and that year he received an invitation from the Yuan Emperor Toq Temur (r. 1328-1332) to visit the Imperial capital of Dadu, modern-day Beijing. He arrived there on November 6, 1332. Toq Temur died while the Karmapa was en route, and his successor, Irinchinbal, died while the Karmapa was in the capital. He mediated a dispute over the succession, and was present when Toghan Temur (r. 1333-1370) was enthroned in Shangdu. While in the capital he gave the new emperor religious instruction and he secured the titles situ (司徒) and guoshi (國師) for his student Kunga Dorje (kun dga' rdo rje, 1309-1364), the abbot of Tsel Gungtang (tshal gung thang). He also secured a tax exemption for Tsurpu. He left in 1334, passing through Wutai Shan, Minyak and Markham, and arrived in Tsurpu the following year. He spent the winter of that year at Samye. Having received permission to leave China only after having promised to return in two years, not long after he had arrived in Tibet he was forced to return to China, leaving in 1336 and arriving in Dadu in 1337.
In 1338, at an assembly of officials, he is said to have declared "I, a yogin, am like a cloud. May all those who wish to grasp the meaning of my teachings do so quickly." He passed away less than a year later, in 1339, on the fifth day of the fifth month of the rabbit year.
The Third Karmapa composed widely, on diverse topics such as Doha, scriptural commentaries, astrology, Chod, and biography. Several of his works on Mahāmudrā, such as the famous Prayer to the Definitive Meaning of Mahāmudrā (nges don phyag rgya chen po'i smon lam) have remained classics. Another famous work is the Profound Inner Meaning (zab mo nang don), a commentary on the Annutarayoga tantras, written in 1322 at Dechen Teng.
Among his prominent disciples were the First Zhamarpa, Drakpa Sengge (zhwa dmar 01 grags pa seng+ge, 1283-1349), and Longchenpa Drime Ozer (klong chen rab 'byams pa dri med 'od zer, 1308-1364).
Bkra shis dbang 'dus. 1989. Yon gong ma thog the mur gyis karma pa'i chos rje sku phreng gsum pa rang byung rdo rje la bstsal ba'i 'ja' sa. In Bod kyi lo rgyus yig tshags dang gzhung yig phyogs bsdus dwangs shel me long, pp. 237-238. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang. TBRC W22022.
Blo bzang chos grags dang bsod nams rtse mo. 1988-1989. Karma rang byung rdo rje. In Rtsom yig gser gyi sbram bu. Xining: Mtsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang, vol. 1, pp. 219-222. TBRC W19680.
Bsod nams 'od zer and Zla ba seng+ge. Rang gi bla ma karma pa yi brgyud pa yongs su bzung thub par bskyangs pa dang thub dbang sku gdung mchod gnas su byon pa'i skor. In Grub chen o rgyan pa'i rnam par thar pa byin brlabs kyi chu rgyun, vol. 1, pp. 184-186. Gangtok: Sherab Gyeltsen Lama. TBRC W23940.
Chos grags ye shes. 2009. Dpal karma pa rang byung kun mkhyen chos grags rgya mtsho'i zhabs la bstod pa'i phreng ba rnams. In Gsung 'bum / chos grags ye shes. Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang. TBRC W1KG4876.
Chos kyi 'byung gnas. 1990. Zhwa nag gsum pa rang byung rdo rje. In Gsung 'bum/chos kyi 'byung gnas, vol. 11, pp. 284-333. Sansal: Pelpung Sungrab Nyamso Khang. TBRC W26630. Also published in Sgrub brgyud karma kaM tshang brgyud pa rin po che'i rnam par thar pa rab byams nor bu zla ba chu shel gyi phreng ba, vol. 1, pp. 192-241. Delhi: Gyaltshan & Kesang Legshay, 1972. TBRC W23435.
Chos kyi 'byung gnas and Tshe dbang kun khyab. 1998. Sems dpa' karma rang byung rdo rje'i rnam thar. InSgrub brgyud karma kaM tshang gi brgyud pa rin po che'i rnam par thar pa rab 'byams nor bu zla ba chu shel gyi phreng ba, vol. 1, pp. 239-399. Kunming: Yun nan mi rigs dpe skrun khang. TBRC W24686.
Douglas, Nik, and Meryl White. 1976. Karmapa - The Black Hat Lama of Tibet. London: Luzac & Company LTD.
Dri med 'od zer. 2009. Rgyal ba rang byung rdo rje la dri tshig le'ur byas pa. In Gsung 'bum dri med 'od zer, vol. 24, pp. 426-430. Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang. TBRC W1KG4884.
Gzungs 'bum thar. 2004. Karma rang byung rdo rje dang khong gi gsung 'bum. In Bod kyi rig gnas spyi rnam rin chen kun 'dus, pp. 276-278. Xining: Mtsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang. TBRC W30072.
Jackson, David. 2009. "The Black Hats of the Karmapas." In Patron and Painter; Situ Paṇchen and the Revival of the Encampments Style, pp. 39-69. New York: Rubin Museum of Art.
'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros. 1981-1985. Karma pa rang byung rdo rje'i bla sgrub zab don snying thig. InGsung 'bum 'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros, vol. 5, pp. 319-331. Gangtok: Dzongsar khyentse labrang. TBRC W21813.
'Jam dbyangs tshul khrims. 1997. Karma pa rang byung rdo rje. In Karma pa sku phreng rim byon gyi mdzad rnam, pp. 97-111. Lanzhou: Kan su'u mi rigs dpe skrun khang. TBRC W18133.
'Jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha' yas. 2007. Gter ston brgya rtsa. In Rin chen gter mdzod chen mo, vol. 1, pp. 404-696. New Delhi: Shechen, pp.
'Jigs bral ye shes rdo rje. 1996. Rgyal ba'i dbang po karma pa rang byung rdo rje. In Bdud 'joms chos 'byung, pp. 219-221. Chengdu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang. TBRC W20827.
Karma nges don bstan rgyas, et. al. 1994. Thams cad mkhyen pa chos rje rang byung rdo rje'i rnam thar mdor bsdus. In Karma pa sku 'phreng bcu drug pa tshun rim par byon pa'i rnam thar phyogs bsgrigs, pp. 114-157. Delhi: Konchhog Lhadrepa. TBRC W1KG3815.
Karma Thinley. 1980. The History of the Sixteen Karmapas of Tibet. Boulder: Prajna Press.
Khu byug. 2004. Karma pa rang byung rdo rjes yod med 'gal 'du ma yin zung 'jug dbu ma'i lam du gsungs nas 'chad nyan mdzad pa. In Bod kyi dbu ma'i lta ba'i 'chad nyan dar tshul blo gsal mig 'byed, pp. 210-211. Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang.
Mkha' spyod dbang po. 1978. Chos rje thams cad mkhyen pa rang byung rdo rje'i rnam thar tshigs bcad ma. In The Collected Writings (Gsung 'bum) of the Second Zhwa dmar Mkha' spyod dbang po, vol. 2, pp. 123-163. Gangtok: Gonpo Tseten, Palace Mon., Gangtok.
Mi nyag mgon po, et. al. 1996-2000. Karma pa rang byung rdo rje'i rnam thar mdo bsdus. In Gangs can mkhas dbang rim byon gyi rnam thar mdor bsdus, vol. 1, pp. 102-105. Beijing: Krung go'i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang. TBRC W25268.
Nor brang o rgyan. 2006. Karma pa rang byung rdo rje. In Gsung rtsom nor brang o rgyan, pp. 639-643. Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang. TBRC W1GS66291.
Petech, Luciano. 1990. Central Tibet and the Mongols -- The Yuan- Sa-skya Period of Tibetan History. Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, Rome, pp. 86-87.
Richardson, H.E. 1958-1959. "The Karma-pa Sect. A Historical Note." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, no. 3-4, pp. 139-164; no. 1-2, pp. l-18.
Roerich, George, trans. 1996. The Blue Annals. 2nd ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, pp. 488-493.
Schaeffer, Kurtis. 1995. "The Enlightened Heart of Buddhahood: A Study and Translation of the Third Karmapa Rang byung rdo rje's Work on Tathāgatagarbha, the De bzhin gshegs pa'i snying po gtan la dbab pa." M.A. thesis, University of Washington.
- Location: Bodhgaya
- Dates: 20 November– 17 December, 2014
Debate Competition: First Round: 20 – 25 November
Free day: 26 November
Puja: 27 November
Teachings on the “Hundred Short Instructions” from 28th November – 11th December 2014.
- First Roundcontinued: 28 November – 3 December
- Free day: 04 December
- Puja: 05 December
- Debate Competition: Semi-finals: 06 – 11 December
- Debate and discussion: 12 December
- Debate Competition: Finals: 13 December
- Conference on Gampopa’s ” The Jewel Ornament of Liberation” from 14th – 17th December 2014.
Grand Examination of Monastic Forms
- Date: December 19, 2014
- Location: Monlam Pavilion
- Time: 8 am–4 pm
The Initiations of “Knowing One Frees All” and Vajrasattva
- Dates: December 20–25, 2014
- Location: Monlam Pavilion
- Times: 8:00–10:30 am
- 2:00–4:30 pm
Virtue in the Beginning
Teachings on The Torch of True Meaning
- Dates: December 26–27, 2014
- Location: Monlam Pavilion
I 8:00–9:00 am Teachings onVajrasattva Practice from་The Torch of True Meaning
9:00–9:30 am Tea break
9:30–10:30 am Vajrasattva practice
II 2:00–3:00 pm Teachings on Vajrasattva Practice from The Torch of True Meaning
3:00–3:30 pm Tea break
3:30–4:30 pm Vajrasattva practice
Virtue in the Middle
The Kagyu Monlam
- Dates: December 29, 2014–January 4, 2015
- Location: Monlam Pavilion
Day 1: Monday, December 29, 2014
I 6:00–8:30 am Mahayana Sojong, The Twenty-Branch Monlam
II 9:00–10:30 am Teachings on The Four Freedoms from Attachment
III 1:30–3:00 pm The Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct, Maitreya’s Aspiration, Aspiration from The Way of the Bodhisattva
IV 3:30–5:00 pm The Twenty-Branch Monlam
Day 2: Tuesday, December 30
I 6:00–8:30 am Mahayana Sojong, The Twenty-Branch Monlam
II 9:00–10:30 am Teachings on The Four Freedoms from Attachment
III 1:30–3:00 pm The Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct, The Sukhavati Prayer “I Prostrate with Respect…”
IV 3:30–5:00 pm The Twenty-Branch Monlam
Day 3: Wednesday, December 31
I 6:00–8:30 am Mahayana Sojong, The Twenty-Branch Monlam
II 9:00–10:30 am Teachings on The Four Freedoms from Attachment
III 1:30–3:00 pm Praises of Tara and Saraswati
IV 3:30–5:00 pm The Twenty-Branch Monlam
Day 4: Thursday, January 1, 2015
I 6:00–8:30 am Mahayana Sojong, The Twenty-Branch Monlam
II 9:00–10:30 am Teachings on The Four Freedoms from Attachment
III 1:30–3:00 pm Prayers to Guru Rinpoche: Clearing the Path of Obstacles and Spontaneous Fulfillment of Wishes
IV 3:30–5:00 pm The Twenty-Branch Monlam
Day 5: Friday, January 2
I 6:00–8:00 am Mahayana Sojong, Medicine Buddha
8:00 Kangyur Procession
II 9:00–10:30 am Reading the Kangyur
III 1:30–3:00 pm Prayers for the Well-Being of Tibet
IV 3:30–5:00 pm The Twenty-Branch Monlam
Day 6: Saturday, January 3
I 6:00–8:30 am Mahayana Sojong, The Twenty-Branch Monlam
9:00 am Alms Procession
II 1:30–3:00 pm The Sutra in Three Sections, Akshobhya Sutras
III 3:30–5:00 pm The Twenty-Branch Monlam
5:00 pm Akshobhya Fire Puja
Day 7: Sunday, January 4
3:30 am Fifteenth Day Sojong (Ordained sangha only)
I 6:00–8:30 am The Twenty-Branch Monlam, Sixteen Arhats
II 9:00–11:00 am Offerings to the Gurus
III 1:00–2:30 pm Offerings to the Gurus
IV 3:00–5:00 pm Sponsor Appreciation, Special Address
Virtue in the End
The Marme Monlam
- Date: January 5, 2015
- Location: Monlam Pavilion
- Time: 7:00 pm
On February 18th, 2000, the leaders of Tibetan Buddhism and thousands of well wishers gathered at the Main Temple in Dharamsala, India to celebrate the 60th anniversary of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama's Enthronement. There were religious ceremonies, speeches, dances, and the first performace of 'A Joyful Aspiration', a poem written by His Holiness, the Karmapa during his escape into exile. and set to music by the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts. You can read news accounts of the event from BBC.
Sunanda K. Datta-Ray
Jul 08, 2014
A group of red-robed monks waited in a curve of the road that wound up from Teesta towards Gangtok. A Kalimpong lama had died, my Nepalese Hindu driver said indifferently. “They are waiting for him.” It wasn’t until a day later that I learnt the deceased monk was Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, the 14th Red Hat Lama, a powerful prelate whose passing, on June 11, can have repercussions on Himalayan religious politics.
I didn’t make immediate inquiries because Gangtok is always so beguiling. The town seems more crowded. More brick high rise buildings dominate the skyline. If you look down, the roads and pavements are dirtier than ever. But there is a clean crispness in the rain-washed mountain air. A smile always twinkles in the eyes of local folk. On a clear day, you could look out from the elegance of my suite at the Denzong Regency hotel to the snows of Kanchenjunga. On the other side shimmered the ancient red-roofed Rumtek monastery where the last Chogyal of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal, was installed as head lama in 1933. Tragically, Rumtek became notorious some years ago as the scene of pitched battles by opponents of Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa lama.
My visit had nothing to do with that controversy. It couldn’t have been more secular in fact, for Sikkim University’s gently scholastic vice-chancellor, Dr T.B. Subba, had invited me to deliver the foundation day lecture. It was a particularly welcome invitation for a university that had been one of the Chogyal’s dreams. It was denied to him, which made it a particularly gratifying — if humbling — experience for me to play some small part in the dream’s belated realisation. Sikkim University is a bustling place with more girl students than boys but it badly needs to be concentrated in a single campus.
My theme was “The ‘Near Abroad’ concept for big countries like the US, Russia, China and India”. That Russian term, also translated as sphere of influence, allowed me to discuss how nations manage neighbourhoods that are important for strategic, economic, ethnic and cultural reasons. Globally, the Ukraine crisis made it topical. Historically, the subject’s significance lies in American attempts to extend the Monroe Doctrine — the most explicit articulation of the Near Abroad theory — to promote its geopolitical interests in Europe and Asia.
India’s rulers are not given to cerebral analyses of their actions. But by inviting all the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation leaders, and the Prime Minister of Mauritius and Tibet’s Prime Minister-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, to his swearing-in ceremony, Narendra Modi highlighted a welcome appreciation of India’s rights and duties in its Near Abroad. That was confirmed when he made Bhutan — India’s closest friend in the region — his first destination abroad. Travelling in Europe at the time, I was delighted to learn he hadn’t rushed to thank the Americans for granting him a visa as his first act in office.
Bhutan is an independent kingdom and Sikkim now a state of India. But with Tibet, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar, they comprise a sensitive Near Abroad for both India and China. The British called the region the “Belgium of Asia” and warned it could become another “Alsace”, the province over which France and Germany squabbled throughout history.
P.N. Dhar, Indira Gandhi’s principal secretary, invoked the Near Abroad theory (without using the phrase) in his memoirs, Indira Gandhi, the “Emergency” and Indian Democracy. Rejecting pious fiction about the Sikkimese yearning for democracy and India holding a referendum to ascertain their wishes, he confirmed that RAW’s R.N. Kao personally supervised all the seemingly spontaneous events that led to the annexation. “This process had started several months before the storm broke in April 1973.” In short, RAW set Sikkim’s revolutionary ball rolling before the Sikkimese knew they were revolting. The reason? China’s conquest of Tibet had made Sikkim “an area of geo-strategic importance overnight”. It was the Near Abroad.
In the lively question and answer session following the lecture, someone mentioned India’s “big brother” attitude in the neighbourhood. That allowed me to emphasise that good diplomacy does not mean outright acquisition which generates hostility, as Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine demonstrate. The 1950 treaty with Sikkim and subsequent agreements gave India every power it needed to safeguard legitimate strategic and economic interests. It is only because of a fortuitous concatenation of circumstances that the annexation did not provoke armed resistance. Participants at last year’s seminar at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford, where I launched a new revised edition of Smash and Grab: Annexation of Sikkim asked precisely this. Why didn’t the Sikkimese rise in revolt like the Nagas?
That question didn’t come up at the Sikkim University function. I wonder how the chief guest, R.B. Subba, would have responded if it had. A former bureaucrat, R.B. Subba, a Limbu (or Tsong) like the vice-chancellor, is the state’s human resource development minister. I was greatly impressed by his phlegmatic (though silent) acquiescence in all that was said. Times have obviously changed. The Sikkimese now display a new mature confidence.
I hope a matching maturity will inform India’s response to the young Karmapa lama, now that his most formidable opponent has gone. As the Tibetologist, Thierry Dodin, writes in Tibet Sun, Shamar Rinpoche best understood how to play on fears of China and fuel the Indian security community’s suspicions about the Karmapa. Having already demonstrated his appreciation of Mr Sangay’s symbolic significance, Mr Modi can now further define his Near Abroad strategy by acknowledging that the Karmapa can be a valuable Indian asset. The Sikkimese, including Mr Subba and his chief minister, Pawan Chamling, would be delighted if the Karma Kagyu sect’s head is allowed into Sikkim to start with.
The writer is a senior journalist, columnist and author
Beautiful print of a watercolor painted by His Holiness. Duplicated on the bottom of each print is His Holiness' signature, the date he signed the original, and His seal.
Tsering Dhondup: It is said that at the time of your birth numerous auspicious signs were witnessed in your village. Do you remember your past life and the circumstance of your birth?
by Tsering Dhondup, The Times of Tibet , Feb 25, 2005
Toronto, Canada -- H. H. the Karmapa: In my view, the essence of Buddhism consists in reducing physical, mental and verbal defilement. Here is the transcipt of the interview with His Holiness the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorjee
H.H. Karmapa: Frankly speaking, I do not remember anything about my birth; I am a normal child like any other. What has or has not happened were beyond my decision. Yes, my parents and relatives told me that there were numerous auspicious signs- signs like the sound of conch shell being blown, which occurred during the time of my birth, was similar to that witnessed when the 5th and 13th Karmapa were born.
Tsering Dhondup: How do you compare your life here in India to that back in Tibet?
H. H. the Karmapa: Tibet is my country and I feel that I was happy living there; but I do not feel any unhappiness living in India.
Tsering Dhondup: What in your view is the essence of Buddhism?
H. H. the Karmapa: In my view, the essence of Buddhism consists in reducing physical, mental and verbal defilement. We should not harm other beings even if we cannot help them. It is important to develop love, kindness and sincere motivation. It is very important to practice these Bodhisattva qualities and contemplate on the essence of Bodhichitta.
Tsering Dhondup: How can one manage negative emotions like attachment, fear hatred, pride, etc?
H. H. the Karmapa: Lord Buddha has shown that there are limitless methods to tackle one's problems. We must understand these methods. The important qualities are contemplation on the loving kindness, compassion, emptiness and meditation and practice them in our daily life. We must sincerely dedicate these qualities for the benefit of other sentient beings. It is also very important to have a genuine master to guide one in the right way.
Tsering Dhondup: The human society is beset with numerous problems, or rather, conflicts. How do you think they could be best addressed?
H. H. the Karmapa: There are many problems in our society and all these occur due to selfish motives. Important tools to resolve conflicts can be developing compassion to other beings, developing sincere motivation and putting effort to bring unity and harmony. It is important to think others as more important than oneself.
Tsering Dhondup: How can we make our life more meaningful by applying the concepts of Buddhist philosophy?
H. H. the Karmapa: Our body, speech and mind are laced with defilement due to which we find ourselves subject to various kinds of suffering. We must strive for happiness by training our mind. If we manage to train our mind, we can bring peace, happiness, harmony and joy for all sentient beings. The problem is that we are not practically achieving them because we fail to train our mind. Buddhism is a very strong tool for taming the mind and bringing it to a peaceful state. So, if we can train our mind, we can definitely achieve peace and happiness, which is the ultimate aim of our life.
Tsering Dhondup: How do you compare modern life to the ancient?
H. H. the Karmapa: The only difference that I find between ancient and modern life is the development of modern scientific technology. With the development of science and technology, there are fast communication between nations and individuals. But despite the absence of these, I feel that our ancient ancestors had more joy and happiness. People in the past were more peaceful, more motivated, more patriotic, and there was more love among the people. I respect the ancient people because they were very genuine and sincere in nature and understanding. And ancient culture is richer.
Tsering Dhondup: Do you have any special advice for our readers?
H. H. the Karmapa: I have not much things to say now, yet I believe that it is very important to build one's life in a very meaningful way. Thinking about making one's own life as well as dedicating work for the goodness of other beings is equally important. The modern life is more busy and tougher, so it is important to strive to build sincere intention, motivation and indulge in positive and pure actions. As a Tibetan, we should not waste our time. We must do our own work as well as we must think about our nation to bring more unity and harmony among ourselves as well as with other people. Development of positive wishes is also very valuable.
Source: Tibetan Review
This article excerpt is based on a number of stories in the press, published in such places as The New York Times, ABC News, the London Telegraph, Newsweek and the Nalandabodhi website, and a review of photographs, which have been assembled in great quantity on the web by numerous trekkers who have passed through these parts. Most of the information was kindly supplied by Nalandabodhi website editors and researchers. Since the Karmapa and his escape team have been publicly silent about his escape route and motivations, and I have no access to inside information, my reconstruction no doubt contains inaccuracies. However, investigative journalists have exhaustively probed the story, and I have done my best to put together a coherent account based on those reports. I list the major news accounts on which I have relied at the conclusion of this article.
In springtime a cuckoo will come to Tibet.
Its lovely song will strike sadness in your heart.
Then you will wonder where the man Rigdröl is.
Will not you, who depend on me, know untold grief?
On the day the swan circles the edge of the lake
And leaves its fledglings in the darkening swamp,
The day the white vulture soars in the depths of the sky,
You will wonder where the man Rigdröl is.
O Fledglings, I feel untold grief for you.
Now I will not explain much; this is but a jest,
Yet unified with ultimate reality.
When the Lord of the Path is held by the king of birds,
In prayer I aspire that we gather in great joy.
For this life, take this as the essential point to be heard:
Speech is indestructible sound like an echo.
Mind is empty, free of material concerns.
Excerpt from a song written by His Holiness the 16th Karmapa (1944), translated by Michelle Martin. Translation © Michelle Martin 1994.
Background: The XVIth Gyalwang Karmapa is forced to leave Tibet
In 1944, before Mao Zedung had prevailed in China, and long before the Chinese army entered Tibet in force, His Holiness Karmapa predicted that he ("Rigdröl") would soon be required to leave Tsurphu, his monastery in Tibet. In a poem in 1944, he mentioned his "untold grief" in parting and in leaving his "fledglings" (disciples) behind, but he promised he would meet again with his students "in great joy" in Tsurphu "when the Lord of the Path is held by the king of birds," that is, in 1993. (Interpretation of the song provided to Michelle Martin by Thrangu Rinpoche.)
Tsurphu has been the home of the Karmapas since the time of Dusum Khyenpa, the first Karmapa, who lived at Tsurphu from 1184 until his parinirvana in 1193. Karma Pakshi, the second Karmapa, built Tsurphu into an imposing presence. Over the centuries other Karmapas continued to expand Tsurphu, and sometimes to rebuild it when it suffered destruction by earthquake and conquerors. Dezhin Shekpa, the fifth Karmapa, predicted that "although Tsurphu will be destroyed and rebuilt many times, this monastery will be in existence until the end of this world."
Hugh Richardson, a British diplomat and scholar, described the entrance to Tsurphu Monastery based on a visit he had made in 1946:
The monastery stood in the shelter of a scrub-covered hill on the north side of a high, bare and narrow valley. In front, flowed a small tributary stream of the Tolung River. After passing through a narrow gate in the high wall surrounding the monastery, one came to a wide paved courtyard with buildings on three sides, the west side being open. In the center stood a stone pillar dating from the reign of Ralpachan and describing the foundation of a temple at Changbu in Tolung. It is opposite a flight of steep stone steps leading to a doorway, with a chain curtain, into what was perhaps a Gönkhang (Mahakala Prayer room).
The Karmapas resided at Tsurphu until 1959, when His Holiness the XVIth Karmapa fled to India. He eventually settled in Rumtek, Sikkim, which was to become the seat in exile for the Karma Kagyu. During the cultural revolution in the mid 1960s, the monastery was systematically dynamited until all the buildings were destroyed. The cultural revolution was not the first time Tsurphu had been damaged, and it has always later been rebuilt under the direction of the Karmapas.
The XVIIth Gyalwang Karmapa Returns to Tolung Tsurphu Monastery
In 1981, the XVIth Karmapa entered parinirvana. In 1992, His Holiness the XVIIth Karmapa fulfilled the promise of the Karmapas, and returned to Tsurphu, a boy of seven. The Karmapa was self-identified, so to speak, through a letter that the 16th Karmapa had left behind in the care of His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche. The seventeenth incarnation of the Karmapa matched the predictions of the letter, as interpreted by senior Kagyu scholars. Due notice was given to the Office of the Dalai Lama, who examined the evidence and issued a "Buktham Rinpoche," official letter acknowledging the incarnation. His Holiness Sakya Trizen, the head of the Sakya, and His Holiness Mindrol Ling, one of the heads of the Nyingma, also offered their own acknowledgments. Even Beijing acknowledged that the Karmapa had been found in Tibet.
For many years the young Karmapa performed the activities of a bodhisattva, continuously meeting with people, studying and meditating as much as he could, sometimes performing ceremonies, sometimes dispensing "miracles," sometimes simply playing with toys, always presiding over the rebuilding of Tolung Tsurphu, seat of the Karmapas for nine hundred years. His Holiness tried to keep to completely spiritual pursuits, but as the years went by, obstacles to his activity increased.
His Holiness was not free to engage in the education and training required of a Karmapa. His Holiness' main teachers, His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche and His Eminence Gyaltsab Rinpoche, were unable to obtain visas to visit Tsurphu, and His Holiness was not permitted to leave Tibet. The Karmapa was not able to engage in the triad of activities, which passed on the lineage: key instructions, reading transmissions, and empowerments of the Kagyu tradition. So, although the Karmapa appeared to be able to do what he wished within the confines of Tsurphu, he merely had some apparent freedom to stay at the monastery and rebuild it; he did not have real freedom to learn, to teach, to enlighten.
In China, moreover, many officials believe it is the duty of every person and every institution to engage in some "patriotic" activities. Officials thus repeatedly requested of the Karmapa that he support the Chinese-selected Panchen Lama, denounce the Dalai Lama, give speeches prepared by politicians, appear at certain ceremonies, acquiesce to the repackaging of the Karmapa's positions. From a religious point of view, such requests are not appropriately made to a Karmapa and are not the appropriate activities of a Karmapa. The Karmapa often refused inappropriate requests. Those free thinkers in the Lhasa area who observed the Karmapa remarked upon his independence and spirit. But they also knew that the pressures on him to conform would continue to build.
Prophetic Signs for a Flight to India
In addition, the Karmapa reportedly pondered an image in a thangka painted in the 19th century, based on a vision by the terton Chogyur Dechen Lingpa. It is said that Guru Rinpoche appeared to the 19th century adept Chogyur Dechen Lingpa in a vision and prophesied the names and circumstances for Twenty-one Karmapa incarnations. Dechen Lingpa was a great nonsectarian master and lineage holder in the Nyingma school, who explicitly described his vision of the prophecy to Karmai Khenchen Rinchen Tarjay, Abbot of Karma Monastery. Artists rendered the vision in a painting.
In the painting, the Seventeenth Karmapa, named Pal Khyabdak Ugyen Gyalway Nyugu Drodul Trinley Dorje Tsal Chokle Nampar Gyalway De by Padmasambhava, is depicted under a pine tree in discussion with someone who can be identified by his clothing as an incarnation of Tai Situ Rinpoche. The Karmapa is reported to have remarked when still in Tibet that the scenery in the thangka illustration, amidst which the Karmapa figure and the Tai Situ figure were placed, did not look like the arid Tsurphu monastery region, but rather resembled the more lush vegetation of India. The XIIth Tai Situ Rinpoche is currently the Karmapa's primary teacher, and Situ Rinpoche's monastery, as well as the Karmapa's Rumtek monastery, are in India. Guru Rinpoche's prophecy indicated that the Karmapa would receive transmissions from H.E. Situ Rinpoche in India.
Although it seemed prophesied that the Karmapa receive lineage transmissions in India, Chinese officials refused to grant him permission to visit there. The Karmapa made many requests for a visa. Though government representatives had promised to issue a visa many years ago, they continued to renege. Years went by; no visa was granted. His main teachers continued to be barred from teaching him in Tibet.
In 1998, a different type of sign manifested. The Karmapa one day refused to return to his main residence, and instead directed some of his monks to get him something from the library, which was attached by a passageway to his main residence. The monks went to the library and could not easily find what the Karmapa had asked for, so they began to search for the Karmapa's requested item. They never found it; rather, they discovered two apparent assassins hiding there, armed with knives and possibly explosives. The men were captured and turned over to the authorities, but apparently were never prosecuted.
Meticulously Planning an Audacious Flight
Karmapas are motivated solely by their pledge to liberate all beings. When the conditions in Tsurphu threatened to obstruct the XVIIth Karmapa's activity of liberating beings, planning commenced for a daring escape to India.
The plan involved enormous risk. The Chinese had allowed disciples to rebuild Tsurphu, but from the beginning had also instituted security measures to keep the Karmapa and monks under state control. Security guards were constantly outside the door of any room he occupied. He was forbidden to leave the monastery unless he secured permission from a government administrator. His mail and foreign visitors were monitored by security agencies. Reportedly, some monks at the monastery were paid to report suspicious activities to the authorities, and there were undoubtedly fully qualified intelligence agents amidst the monastic population.
As the Karmapa got older, Beijing increased security and tightened the restrictions on the Karmapa's movement. Still, things were not impossible. He was, after all, the Karmapa.
At the end of September, 1999, His Holiness directed a very close disciple to make plans for His Holiness to escape Tsurphu before Losar, February 5th. This disciple took two other close disciples of the Karmapa into his confidence, and the three formed a Karmapa escape team, swearing an oath together to tell absolutely no one of their plans. Had the plan to escape been discovered, the participants faced certain arrest. The Karmapa himself could be arrested, or at a minimum subjected to round-the-clock security, which could forever end whatever small opportunity he had remaining to evade his watchers.
Over the next two months, the three monks scouted different escape route options. Tsurphu is located about 40 miles northwest of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. The closest border exit point was 200 miles distant. Crossing at that point would subsequently require the Karmapa to cross over a glacier-covered pass near Mount Everest. Another option was to cross into Mustang, which involved traveling over 400 miles inside Tibet, then traveling through Mustang and somehow crossing over the Annapurna mountain range at its northwestern edge.
The latter exit point was much further away, but it had some advantages. Mustang was a traditional location of many Kagyu monasteries, and less than two hours over the China-Nepal border was Lo Manthang, a village located at the top of the Kali Gandaki river valley. The Kali Gandaki valley area north of Kagbeni--the traditional area known as Mustang--has been opened by special permit for trekkers since 1992, and below Kagbeni, at the southern end of the valley, was the western leg of Nepal's famed Annapurna trekking circuit, and modern travel facilities
Under Chinese law, Tibetans did not need a visa to go to Mustang, and could enter by permit if they could show a valid business purpose. Two of the Karmapa's escape planning team did obtain permits in December, in anticipation of the escape, and went into Mustang to do some scouting. They brought back photos of the area for the Karmapa to review.
The Mustang route was decided on, and preparations were completed just before the western New Year. On December 28, 1999, the first stage in the plan sprang to life, a three-prong strategy to get the Karmapa outside the front gate of the monastery undetected.
One member of the escape team had made arrangements earlier to leave for a business trip. After picking up provisions for a 15 day journey, on December 28th he left with another driver, in a taxi. They headed towards Lhasa, where they were dropped off on the main highway near the Tholung River, closer to Lhasa. There they waited.
Simultaneously, a senior lama who also was a member of the escape planning team, prepared to leave on a fundraising trip in western Tibet. The trip had been earlier announced and approved. For this lama's journey, the monastery had acquired a new Mitsubishi S.U.V., to sensibly replace an old truck that had formerly been used for fundraising. It was time for a new car, and neither the fundraising trip or vehicle purchase raised any suspicions. The lama chose to leave for his trip on December 28. He waited outside the monastery gate, purportedly for his driver. In actuality, the Mitsubishi was close by, with the driver waiting at the wheel.
Unbeknownst to anyone in the monastery other than the escape team and the cook and attendant for the retreat, two additional members of the traveling party on "the fundraising trip" were to be the Karmapa and his elder teacher. Both drivers for the escape were told of the plan only on the 28th, when the three-prong initiating strategy was underway.
The third prong of the meticulously planned escape had begun a few days earlier, when the Karmapa had announced he was going into a solitary retreat for eight days. In such circumstances, his security guards would routinely wait outside the retreat quarters. They would not expect to physically see the Karmapa for the duration of the retreat. Only his cook and attendant would see him each day. This was a not uncommon occurrence.
The Great Escape
Darkness came late to Tsurphu, but by zero hour--December 28, 1999, 22:30 hours--it was night. While the rest of the world prepared to celebrate the new millennium in traditional ways, the Karmapa prepared a different type of activity.
The Karmapa rapidly changed from his monk's habit into brown trousers, a down jacket, a hat and a scarf. The third member of the escape planning team entered the room, his elder teacher, also ready to leave. They opened the window and the Karmapa and his teacher carefully climbed out, then worked their way onto the roof of the adjoining Mahakala shrine. The party edged their way to the end of the roof, with the aim of making a short drop at the low point of the roof into the courtyard unobserved. The night was freezing, and the remaining monks at Tsurphu should have been preoccupied with activities inside. It was critical that no one saw the two figures leaving the monastery, for disaster would have been the result of recognition.
Down in the courtyard, the "fundraising-trip" member of the team spotted something that would make one's heart leap into one's throat: another monk stepped into the courtyard where the escaping Karmapa was headed. For all he knew, this curious monk was part of the covert Chinese surveillance apparatus. Keeping calm despite extraordinary pressure, the lama yelled out "Have you seen my driver?" The cry served as a warning to the Karmapa and his teacher, who remained out of site until the curious monk went back inside. The danger had passed.
No one else was out on that chilly night, and the Karmapa and companion dropped down the ten feet from the roof, crept to and through the courtyard and made it out the front gate unobserved. Leaping into the waiting Mitsubishi, they sped off towards Lhasa, where at the entrance to the main road they picked up the other two companions waiting at the river.
Isabel Hilton, "The Flight of the Lamas," The New York Times Magazine, March 12, 2000.
Rita Beamish, "Escape from Tibet," ABCNEWS.com, March 10, 2000.
Sudip Mazumdar and Melinda Liu, "A Buddha Busts Out," Newsweek, March 6, 2000.
Mick Brown, "Battle of the Lamas," The London Telegraph, March 4, 2000.
Karmapa: the Sacred Prophecy (Kagyu Thubten Choling 1999)
|This article is part of the contents published in Bodhi Issue 5 (Spring 2000). You can purchase this issue or subscribe to Bodhi at the Bodhi Dharma Store.|
April 20, 2011
In the 10th century AD, at the great Buddhist monastic university Nalanda in Bihar, India (which is currently being rebuilt), there was a monk named Naropa who was of the school's best and brightest students. Despite his academic standing, upon hearing of a great yogi named Tilopa, Naropa immediately felt great devotion to him and, wanting to learn on a deeper, more experiential level, resolved to leave the university behind in order to seek him. After a great search and many hardships, Naropa found Tilopa and is said to have attained a very high level of spiritual realization.
Naropa then taught Marpa, a great translator credited for transmitting a vast amount of Buddhist teachings from India to Tibet. Marpa did this not just through translation work, but also by physically transporting texts, on foot, over the course of several challenging journeys through the Himalayas.
One of Marpa's chief disciples was Milarepa, a yogi who is revered as one of the greatest saints of Tibetan Buddhism. Spiritually powerful from birth but born into tragic circumstances, Milarepa is said to have destroyed an entire village through the use of advanced black magic. Yet, under the tutelage of Marpa, Milarepa was able to work through all of this negative karma and achieve a high level of awakening in the very same lifetime.
Milarepa then taught Gampopa, an accomplished doctor, who in turn taught a man namedDusum Khyenpa, the first Gyalwa Karmapa. The Karmapas are the oldest line of tulkus in Vajrayana Buddhism and are the head of Karma Kagyu school, one of the major schools within the greater Kagyu lineage. The line of Karmapas continues to this day.
I recently had the privilege of watching the film Recalling a Buddha: Memories of the Sixteenth Karmapa, by filmmaker Gregg Eller.
Everyone I heard speak about the Sixteenth Karmapa described him in such commanding terms, in ways I'd never heard someone described. This was consistent between local meditation centers, on breaks at retreats at large land centers, and teachings given by Tibetan lamas. It made me want to find out more about him. Both Westerners and Tibetan lamas commented on his presence, about how their minds would stop, the inspiration of seeing the Black Crown Ceremony, and also a personal power that was different from charisma, which wasn't a trait I'd associated with high lamas.
Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1924-1981) was the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa. Like his spiritual forefathers, he was a profoundly fascinating and powerful person. Yet, unlike his forefathers, he existed in modern times, travelled the world, and was deeply involved in the transmission of the Vajrayana Buddhism to Europe and North America.
The film covers many aspects of the Karmapa's life. From his escape from the Chinese in 1959, the instruction and guidance he gave his many accomplished disciples, his travels to North America and his relationship with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and his sangha, the blessings he bestowed on the vast multitudes that would come to see him, his death, and the legacy he left behind.
One of the things that struck me about the film was that there was not a great deal of direct footage of the Karmapa, which, considering that the film was a documentary about him, lead me to think that perhaps there just isn't much footage of him in existence at all. Aside from arare interview from the late 70s local access TV program, The Vermont Report, the vast majority of the footage of him is all of ceremonies. This works to the film's benefit because instead relying on direct footage, the story of the Karmapa is told through interviews with those that knew him and were close to him.
Interviewed in the film (and I don't think I've missed anyone) are Dzongsar Khyenste Rinpoche, Jetsun Khandro Rinpcohe, Dr. Mitchell Levy, He Who Stands Firm, Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Ngodup T. Burkhar, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, Tenga Rinpoche, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Tenzin Palmo, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Tenzin Parsons, Judy Lief, Gene Smith, Traleg Rinpoche, Beru Khyentse Rinpoche, Tai Situ Rinpoche, Achi Tsepal, and Shamar Rinpoche. There is more wisdom, love, affection, and insight in these interviews than I could ever describe.
Getting to speak to any one of the participants in Recalling a Buddha would have been the privilege of a lifetime. The sum effect of their descriptions of Karmapa helped me appreciate a certain order of magnitude of human development. I came to understand that presenting those recollections to provide the historical, biographic and dharmic context of the Karmapa and his activity was going to be the real work of a documentary film. Hearing that context from living witnesses was also going to be more moving and engaging than having a narrator try to convey such a context. For a viewer, the effect would be more cumulative and meaningful.
What I am most fascinated by regarding the Karmapa is that among those that knew him, just about everyone recalls witnessing occurrences that are beyond the conventional understanding of reality.
One of the things the 16th Karmapa is widely known for that I have always been intrigued by is his relationship and communications with animals. In the film Gyaltsap Rinpoche recollects:
Karmapa was a prominent and great personality. Normally, when great individuals can go to different places, they might want to go to fancy places‚ big clean tourist attractions. Whenever His Holiness had the opportunity, he always wanted to go where there were animals. Birds mainly but all animals, be it a zoo, be they birds, snakes, buffaloes, whatever kinds of animals. Usually, these are not the cleanest or the most convenient places. But he wanted to go and connect with them. He would offer prayers and blessings, repeating mantras for instance. By connecting with such an enlightened being, it is quite certain that they will experience higher forms of rebirth. I recall that aspect of His Holiness' life very strongly.
Even in Rumtek, during the rainy season, we would find creatures. Sometimes monks would find snakes. Then His Holiness would tell the monks to bring the snakes and he would keep them. Later, he would set them free. Same with frogs. After blessings, prayers, he would set them free. Karmapa had utter confidence in the basic potential of all beings. The Buddhist tradition says that all beings without exception are endowed with "yeshe nyingpo" or "buddhanature."
Ngodup T. Burkhar, one of the Karmapa's translators, tells this story:
I once saw a bird standing on His Holiness' index finger. His Holiness began giving the bird transmission. I call it transmission because it was not like normal recitation of mantra. Then, he would just gently blow on the bird. People said, "Oh no. This bird is sick and it's dying." Then the bird was standing there perfectly still. I thought 'hmmm, maybe the bird fell asleep?' It was not moving or tilting in any way. The bird had died meditating, still standing. Great buddhas and bodhisattvas can communicate teachings even to animals, giving them transmission, showing love and affection. When you see it happen before your eyes you think, So that's what they are talking about in the teachings.
Perhaps what the Karmapa was most known for, like the Karmapas before him, was the Black Crown Ceremony, which he performed many times throughout the world. The Black Crown represents the power to benefit sentient beings, witnessing the ceremony it is a tremendously powerful blessing [video of ceremony below]. Tenga Rinpoche recalls,
As of we traveled, people has different experiences in the meeting his Holiness. Some recognized their nature of mind simply by observing the Black Crown Ceremony. Some even saw a kind of light on the top of the Black Crown ornament. There were many of these experiences among disciples in North America.
One recollection of the Black Crown Ceremony that particularly interested me was from Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche,
I served in the Vajra Crown ceremony, playing different parts. It was very interesting. All the monks told me different things—that sometimes the Crown is heavy and sometimes it's light. They'd told me this but I never believed it. I thought it was some kind of mythical story. But then I really experienced it. In America I carried the Vajra Crown in ceremonies and one time it was so heavy that I was worried I was going to lose control and drop it on the stage. I was feeling so ashamed. It was like someone was pushing down on my shoulder. Other times it was so light and I felt like a weight lifter. How come? It was light like lifting a paper box or something. They told me that it was reflecting the audience's karma. When the audience's karma is heavy the crown becomes heavy. When the audience’s karma is more positive and light the crown becomes light. I experienced this, a first hand experience. It's not just a story you hear.
Something else that I found both very interesting and immensely sad was in the section about the Karmapa's death. Dr. Mitchell Levy, who was present when he died, explains that the Karmapa had widespread cancer that was in a very advanced stage, a state that by all accounts should have been extremely painful. Yet, somehow, he was perfectly peaceful and calm and didn't appear to be in any pain at all. Dr. Levy states that it was the Doctors' belief that he SHOULD be in pain, despite His Holiness saying that he wasn't, that lead them to administer strong painkillers. It was only once he was drugged and became groggy that his vital signs became disrupted, which was the beginning of his death. Levy recalls that it was clear that it was the sheer power of his will that was keeping him awake, alive, and serene. Just this month a study was released which indicates that meditation is a more effective pain-killer than morphine, and this study was conducted only with beginner practitioners, not advanced tantric masters like the Karmapa. Contemplating this, I am left thinking that Buddhist masters like the great Kagyu lineage holders and many others in other Buddhist traditions have long possessed knowledge and abilities of which Western science has only begun to scratch the surface of. But I digress...
In any case, judging from how long I have gone on about this film, it should be pretty clear that I think it is an important work that is very much worth watching. It can be ordered here.
|Lord Karmapa with the Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche|
The Sixteenth Karmapa Lama, supreme spiritual head of the Kargyu school of Tibet, was an incredible being. He was one of those rare beings of whom it may be said, here indeed was a living Buddha, a fully realized "awake" human being. It is hard to describe him. His personality radiated in a tremendous way, his love was palpable, and though he walked amongst us as a man, one was left with the impression that behind the human personality there existed an ancient, unmoving vastness - the Buddha-mind itself. The Karmapa was utterly fearless.
When we first came to hear of the Karmapa, he was a refugee-Lama from Tibet, residing in Rumtek, Sikkhim. The first to tell me about this incredible Enlightened Master was one of his more ardent devotees, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, when I was a kid of seventeen years old, but I really did not come to know the Karmapa personally until many years later. I remember, in the monastery, under Trungpa Rinpoche's abbotship, we westerners used to daily make salutation to the Kargyu lineage, and part of the words of prayer we uttered referred to "Knower of the Three-Times, Omniscient Karmapa" (du-sum chos-je kun-khyen kar-mapa....), yet at that time we hardly understood to whom we were honoring. It was the Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche who actually made the connection, which enabled many of his students (myself included) to meet the Lord Karmapa. The photograph above shows the Karmapa Lama at the Dharma Centre of Canada, in Ontario, Canada, with Namgyal Rinpoche, as his foremost western disciple, sitting at his feet, and demonstrates I think, the wonderful closeness of their relationship.
When one came before the Karmapa, this blazing presence would shoot towards one, and at that moment one knew - one really knew - that one was kneeling before a truly great being. Great in the most spiritual sense of greatness. Not ego greatness. Not politically great, not great in an ecclesiastical sense (although, in the Kargyu school he was that, too, of course), but great in a uniquely human way. He was a sort of huge meaningful presence, full of goodness and light and love. Everything about him was good. There was was light too. Sometimes this light was quite tangible, an aura of rainbow translucence that seemed to radiate from his form, to vibrate in the air around him.
I think of the Karmapa Lama not so much as a teacher of mine, as rather my Teacher's Teacher. Although I did in fact receive teachings and empowerments from His Holiness, just as many of us did, it was seeing the unique "master-disciple" relationship between Karmapa and Namgyal Rinpoche which leaves the greatest impression upon my mind. It was in that relationship that there was born an understanding of what real love between disciple and master is all about. It was through that relationship, that I came to understand how this love has nothing to do with "obedience," or "following" another person, or one person being "higher" and the other "subservient," as the Guru-disciple bond is often portrayed, but rather it is a matter of completely true love. And the tighter that bond, the more egoless it becomes.
I was for a short while fortunate enough to receive a little grace from the blessed presence of Jean Dunn, the late woman disciple of the Master Nisargadatta Maharaj. At the time I knew her she was mortally ill. Nothing was spoken between us, and no verbal discourse on her part took place, yet the teachings which it was possible to receive from that beautiful woman during the few months when I knew her were of the deepest and the most profound nature. The vehicle of her wisdom was love, and it was simply through the communion of one heart with the other, in the depths of meditation, that understanding was mercifully communicated. The grace of that was all due to her. This is the only way in which I can draw a parallel to the visible relationship which existed between His Holiness the Karmapa and my teacher Namgyal Rinpoche. I am not saying that they did not communicate in words, but it was the far more immense silent communication that went on between them, which was by far the most significant.
His Holiness the XVIth Karmapa Lama was considered the 16th reincarnation in succession of Gampopa's disciple Du-sum Khyenpa who lived between 1110-1193 AD. Gampopa was the main disciple of the great yogi Milarepa. Milarepa's teacher, in turn, was Marpa, and Marpa was the disciple of the Indian master Naropa. This lineage of great masters was founded by a famous tantrik yogi from Bengal named Tilopa. Even prior to Tilopa we have lists of various masters, male and female, through whom knowledge was passed down. Thus, this lineage represents the passing down of a accumulative stream of very ancient wisdom, the knowledge of how human beings can come to know the intrinsic nature of their own mind. The Kargyu school of Tibet, headed by the Karmapa, was formed in Tibet to preserve and teach this knowledge, and as such this school may be considered a store-house of various wisdom-lineages.
The first Karmapa Lama, Du-sum Khyenpa, had a great natural ability for meditation and spent many years as a hermit, meditating in the forest and living alone in mountain caves. After years of meditation, he attained complete enlightenment, and the sages of the earth acknowledged him a living Buddha. Du-sum Khyenpa acquired a very great number of powerful disciples who instituted a line of work in the Kargyu school which caused it to become known specifically as the "practice tradition" of Tibet. Here the term "practice" implies the custom amongst Kargyu lamas of spending many years in isolated retreat, alone in the wilderness. The headquarters of the school was established at Tsurphu monastery, a little north of Lhasa in the center of Tibet, and Tsurphu was the principal seat of the Karmapa Lamas for seven hundred years, until the recent invasion of Tibet. Destroyed by the communists, Tsurphu is swiftly regaining its distinction as the Karmapa's "home," and unquestionably shall hold that position for the future.
The second Karmapa Lama (1204-1283) was the first "reincarnation" to be so recognized. He was found as a baby and put through rigorous tests, to prove that he was infact the re-birth of Du-sum Khyenpa. Once recognized, he was put through an intense course of education, and drilled in meditation, to regain the full state of accomplishment of his previous life. Then, as an enlightened wisdom-master, he was entrusted once more with all the ancient wisdom embodied in the ancient Tantric texts and oral lineages of knowledge. Since then, each successive reincarnation of the Karmapa has always been viewed as a special custodian of the secret wisdom of the mystics of this world. The second Karmapa's renown was so great that he was asked to visit the imperial court of Kublai Khan, who in that era was supreme ruler of most of Asia, Russia and the Middle East. There is an historical record to the effect that Kublai Khan held a grand council at his court, to which all representatives of the world religions were invited. Teachers over every major religion on earth attended. The Pope of Rome sent cardinals. Magi from Persia were present. India's most respected sages went. Of all these wise men and ecclesiastics, the one who impressed the Great Khan the most was the Karmapa, and it was he who was given the imperial title of "Pakshi," meaning highest spiritual teacher.
I cannot list nor describe the worthy qualities of all the successive Karmapa's here. The third Karmapa (1284-1339) was a renowned meditator and hermit, and an author of some of the finest meditation instruction manuals belonging to the Kargyu school. He also introduced Dzogchen doctrines from the old Nyingma tradition into the Kargyu school. The fifth Karmapa Lama (1384-1415) was the spiritual guide of the Chinese emperor Yung-lo. And so on down through history, this quite unique being, life after life, has preserved Kargyu wisdom and with infinite compassion, kept a watching eye over the doings of the world.
The XVI Karmapa incarnation was born in 1924. Shortly after his birth, a Kargyu lama called Situ Rinpoche opened a sealed envelope that had been left by the previous XV Karmapa, and found there in a "prediction letter" describing where and under what circumstances the new child could be recognized. Situ Rinpoche summoned the parents and told them that the child born to them would be enthroned as the XVI Karmapa. His Holiness the Dalai Lama confirmed the recognition.
The XVI Karmapa Lama began to display miraculous powers around the age of eight. When he first performed his assumption of the Black Crown, a Kargyu mystical ceremony repeated by each Karmapa Lama, it is said that thousands of people were amazed to see supernatural rainbows filling the air and a rain of flowers, which covered the ground all around this exceptional Lama.
In 1959 Lord Karmapa left Tibet with a group of 160 refugees. At Rumtek he founded a new, temporary seat. There he ordained during his residence over 3,000 monks and nuns, and inspired untold numbers of foriegn students from all over the world to take up the practice of the Dharma. He died on 5th November 1981. Since then his reincarnation has been found and is currently undergoing training.
It is hard, if you have never met an exceptional being like the Karmapa, to actually believe that all this reincarnation stuff is true, or that such a miraculous being could exist on earth. I am sure that some of you have read about various saints, prophets, or saviors, or yogis and avatars, in religious scriptures or in metaphysical books. However, it always seems that they lived a very long time ago, and it is questionable if their so called "miracles" were authentic, or just stories which have "grown in the telling" over the centuries. Jesus is said to have walked on water. Moses spoke to God face to face. And in Buddhism too, we have plenty of stories, legends, etc., about saints out of the past - quite frankly, many of these legends are probably pure myth. But I do believe that human saints can, and have, worked genuine miracles, and one of these Great Beings was the Karmapa Lama, whom I knew, and about whom I can testify. He was without question a miracle-worker, a powerful saint. He was a miracle-worker, nevertheless that is not the point I want to make: the real miracle that came out of the life of the XVI Karmapa was the phenomenal love with which he touched all of us. Most of all, if you want to know what the Karmapa was like, it would be this that I would emphasize. Karmapa was Love. He was love incarnate.
And now, I truly wait for the next incarnation to make his impact upon our sorry world.
Source: A Buddhist Library
Remembering the Sixteenth Karmapa's First Visit to America
HIS HOLINESS VISITS
There had been a tremendous fundraising effort that enabled us to welcome His Holiness [the Karmapa] in a style appropriate to a dharma king. But there was no way we could have known what would actually happen. Perhaps [Chögyam Trungpa] Rinpoche himself did not quite anticipate the effect that His Holiness would have. He had been rather diffident about His Holiness during the years before that, giving us the impression that he was mostly some kind of figurehead. But when His Holiness arrived at the airport in New York, Rinpoche prostrated to him right there on the tarmac, and from that moment on Rinpoche went into an energy state that we had never seen before. Everything changed.
At various times throughout Rinpoche's life, every few years or so, there would be a sudden change of direction for the sangha. The visit of His Holiness Karmapa was one of those times. Rinpoche traveled in advance of His Holiness' arrival. He would often keep everyone up all night with preparations.
Rinpoche arrived in Boulder to set up the situation there for His Holiness' arrival from Karme Chöling, the new name that His Holiness had given Tail of the Tiger, meaning "the dharma place of the Karma Kagyus." By then a large hall that had once been the home of the Freemasons had become the main shrine hall of Karma Dzong. This was newly painted and had the prajnaparamita mantra, "Om Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha" inscribed all around the walls. Many new banners were designed for the first time for this occasion and a high throne was built for His Holiness …
His Holiness finally arrived in Boulder, with his entourage of monks blowing their gyalings, instruments like Tibetan oboes. Rinpoche, wearing a Tibetan outer garment, lead His Holiness into Karma Dzong carrying burning incense in the traditional way. His Holiness gave many teachings and abhishekas - blessings or empowerments. An abhisheka can be simply a way for a great teacher to bring the blessings of the lineage to the participants, or an empowerment to actually practice a particular vajrayana practice. In this case the abhishekas were simply to bring blessings …
Regardless of my own reticence, His Holiness did have a profound effect on many people and indeed on the spread of genuine dharma in the West altogether. With his tremendous kindness, his warm smile and powerful radiance, he was like the sun warming, nourishing, and cheering up the world wherever he went. He was inquisitive about everything he saw. Once in Los Angeles he pointed to all the many joggers and asked, "Where are they all going?" When he was told they weren't going anywhere but were just running he broke out into astonished laughter. He loved all animals, but especially birds. He had a large cage in his room in which he kept birds of many varieties and seemed to understand and communicate with them.
Perhaps his majesty and radiant compassion were most powerfully to be felt during the Black Crown ceremony, which he performed in every city he visited. In this ritual His Holiness ceremonially holds on his head a black crown, a replica of one that was given by Yung-lo, Emperor of China, to the fifth Karmapa. The original was said to have been made from the hairs of dakinis (female deities who protect the teachings) after Yung-lo had had a vision of the Crown on the fifth Karmapa's head. As the Karmapa holds the crown on his head, he slowly recites the mantra of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. It is said that during those few minutes he brings to earth the transcendent form of Avalokiteshvara and radiates the bodhisattva's pure compassion. He sat on the high throne, so that all could see him and as he sat there he truly seemed like the dharma king he was said to be - that is, a perfectly enlightened being in human body. It certainly was a magnificent occasion.
© 2008 Jeremy Hayward. Excerpted with Permission; all rights reserved. Photos courtesy of Shambhala Archives; all rights reserved.
The following account was written in 1996 at Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet by Ward Holmes, a student of His Holiness Karmapa.
"I was leading a group overland from Kathmandu to Tibet, returning to Tsurphu Monastery on May 3, 1996. At that time, I found His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, looking radiant and wonderful. After receiving His Holiness's blessing, the tour group went to visit the Venerable Drupon Dechen Rinpoche, the head lama responsible for rebuilding the whole of Tsurphu Monastery over the last ten years, as it had been completely destroyed in the cultural revolution.
"Rinpoche proceeded to tell us of the miraculous events that took place in Tsurphu with His Holiness this winter. On the twelfth day of the first Tibetan month (Friday, March 1, 1996), His Holiness set out with sixteen monks on the longest, most difficult of the circumambulation treks at Tsurphu called the Tse-Khor. There are three main kora walks and this is by far the most strenuous. In my ten years of going to Tsurphu, I had never yet attempted this one!
"On the sacred mountain of Gyab-Ri-Thugje-Chenpo, His Holiness stopped at a place along this great walk known as Damchenpa, and there proceeded once again to stick his right hand into solid rock, making a clear impression of his hand (first hand print was performed in April 11, 1993). He and the group then continued higher and higher into the mountain, where few foreigners have ever ventured to go. Again near a fresh water spring, next to a cave that the Fourth Karmapa had meditated in, he stuck three fingers into solid rock, making a black indented mark distinctly seen!
"Then, toward the end of this lengthy kora, they returned to a place very near the current three-year retreat center of Samten Ling. Behind it, about 100 feet away or so, His Holiness Karmapa inscribed the famous mantra 'Karmapa Khyenno' with his maroon robe (the dzen) into the solid rock. The mantra writing was brownish red, written on a grayish-black colored rock. The monks couldn't believe it, so one of them, Lama Nyima (his writing teacher), tried to wash off a portion of what appeared to be a red chalk. However the writing would not come off, even after washing the rock quite vigorously. In fact it then appeared even clearer.
"After hearing these amazing stories from Drupon Rinpoche, I decided I would go myself to see these miraculous occurrences. So, on May 11, a doctor from my group, Gary Septon, along with the caretaker of the Tsurphu guest house, whose name is Tsedrup, and I hiked to the place where the first hand print was to be found. The other people in our group continued along the main kora. After about a half-hour walk above the main path, which is about a one-and-a-half hour's walk from the monastery itself, we came across a place with many prayer flags and there it was, the first of the new hand prints.
"At first, I think I didn't really want to believe it. I asked the doctor if he saw it and he said, 'Yes, it is quite obvious.' We proceeded to take many, many pictures from all angles. Then we met Kelsang Tashi, a lama from Tsurphu, who has been to Hong Kong and Taiwan on a few occasions. He had a camera from some Taiwanese disciples and was also taking pictures of these miracles. He said he was now going to continue on the long trek to the spring to take pictures of the miracle of His Holiness's three fingers imprinted into the rock. We said good-bye to him and eventually came down to the main Ri-khor path to walk to the place of the site of the mantra Karmapa Khyenno inscribed in stone by His Holiness. The mantra, in Tibetan characters, was clear enough and easily seen by all of us. The others did not read Tibetan, so it may not have meant too much to them; nevertheless they were quite amazed at what they saw and a little baffled too. Since I could read Tibetan, it was quite obvious to me, except for the No (Na naro No in Tib.) at the end of the mantra.
"At around three o'clock that same day, I was able to have a photo session with the Karmapa that had been arranged the day before. I saw His Holiness the previous day but he was acting a little shy because many monks where around. I went in alone for this photo session and he acted happy, joking and racing around, and helping to organize a procedure he knew so well, since this was our seventh or eighth photo session in the past four years. It brought me great joy to know he was his joyous and playful self, yet I noticed a powerful dignified maturity had definitely manifested.
"His Holiness has changed a lot, but when the setting and situation is right, he still becomes very dynamic, energetic, and sometimes a bit wild! I was able to notice this change immediately, as we had played and studied together for an hour or so each day for over six months, during 1992-93 and part of 1994. Those days are sadly over, as it is not possible for him to study English now. They say, in the near future, he will again be able to learn English.
"One day in the early part of this year a Tibetan man from Kham offered His Holiness a very large, extremely friendly adult deer which is now living in the compound of the lower summer garden. His Holiness foretold that the deer would come to visit him. The next day without anyone leading this deer, he found his way from the lower summer palace and on his own, traveled up to the monastery, proceeding to walk up two flights of difficult steep stairs, and entering directly into the room of His Holiness. There, the deer received his blessing! EH MA HO!
"It was certainly a joyous trip to reunite with the Karmapa and to see the clear evidence of his miraculous powers and activities. When I had stayed at Tsurphu in October 1995, I requested a few divinations (mo in Tib.) that later turned out to be exactly correct.
When we intend to listen to the teachings, we should generate the proper motivation, the altruistic mind of bodhichitta.
All the buddhas of the past, entering the path, expressed their motivation. Likewise, the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, when he entered the path, he uttered five hundred aspiration prayers. Thanks to the power of his prayers he was able to, in the times of Kali-Yuga, turn the Wheel of Dharma and manifest the Twelve Great Deeds. Similarly, all the buddhas manifest their activities as a result of the power of their previous prayers.
We gathered here in order to recite aspiration prayers known as the Kagyu Monlam. The practice of group prayers was held by all Karmapas, in all of their incarnations. The tradition flourished particularly during the times of the 7th Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso. When he was residing in the Pongpo area in Tibet he used to call prayer meetings during which not only prayers were recited but also performances of traditional Tibetan operas were organized, particularly those depicting the histories of great kings who were the incarnations of Bodhisattvas known as Kala Wangpo Kings.
His Holiness personally supervised these meetings and laid down the programme. During the Monlam ceremony, everyone could receive the Karmapa’s direct blessing. These kinds of events are described in detail in the "Life stories of the Karmapas."
Monlam prayers took place not only at the seat of the Karmapa, Tsurphu. In those times the Karmapa along with a huge entourage traveled from place to place. All the monks and lay people camped in tents like nomads. This peregrine camp was called dzam ling gar chen (literally "big camp of the world"). Kagyu Monlam was therefore held in tents, and moved from place to place and was held on various occasions, for example, during the first Tibetan month, which is called dawa bum gyur ("the month when everything is multiplied a hundred thousand times") and is the month in which the Buddha performed miracles, or in the fourth month saga dawa when Buddha’s birth, awakening and passing into Parinirvana are commemorated. Thus Kagyu Monlam was practiced in various places and at different times.
The scriptures say that during those prayers, monks and lamas should be wearing hats called in Tibetan tse sha, which literary means "pointed hat." This tradition began with Deshek Phagmo Drubpa, the great master of ceremony. The yellow hat was a traditional head cover in his monastery. You have certainly noticed that Tenga Rinpoche and Sangtrul Rinpoche wear different hats, red ones. They are traditional hats for the Kagyu school of Buddhism, called sha tra ("multicoloured hat") also used in other sub-schools like Drikung Kagyu and Drugpa Kagyu. Depending on the tradition they can differ a little but those are the proper meditation hats of the Kagyupa lineage.
The great Kagyu Monlam ceremonies have been organized for a long time. Nowadays, His Eminence Drubwang Kalu Rinpoche, a great master of Kagyu lineage considered to be a second Milarepa, who has achieved all experiences and realization, went through great hardships of practice for the benefit of others and gained extraordinary proficiency in leading students. Led by great love and compassion for his students, he put a lot of effort into establishing a tradition of carrying out the Kagyu Monlam prayer festival every year in Bodh Gaya or Vajrasana in India.
When Kalu Rinpoche left his body, one of his principal spiritual sons – Khyabje Bokar Rinpoche, continued to organize these prayers in Bodh Gaya for many years.
Recently, the embodiment of the activities of all buddhas, Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Thinley Dorje arrived safely in India and manifested an activity that is the fulfillment of prayers and the fulfillment of aspirations of all the previous Karmapas. In his great compassion, for the benefit of sentient beings he carried on and greatly expanded the annual Monlam prayer ceremony in Bodh Gaya. Because these events are so special, I urge anyone who might have time and possibility to travel to India and take part in them.
Bodh Gaya is believed to have accumulated five exceptional excellent conditions. First of all, it is a perfect place. All among the thousand buddhas of our Good Kalpa will achieve enlightenment there. Those who manifested themselves up until now are: the first Buddha of our kalpa, Krakuchandra, the second Buddha Kanakamuni, then Buddha Kasyapa and the Buddha of our times, Shakyamuni - they all reached Awakening in Bodh Gaya.
Secondly, it is the perfect time. Kagyu Monlam always takes place during the eleventh Tibetan month, according to the lunar calendar, and the tenth day of this month is the last day of the Monlam. It is a very particular month when King Trisong Detsen invited Guru Padmasambhava to come from India to Tibet and asked him for a special teaching. Guru Rinpoche turned the Wheel of Dharma for twenty five disciples giving them empowerments and deep teachings known as Kagye Chökyi Gyatso. He gave this special transmission exactly on the tenth day of the eleventh month.
Thirdly, the perfect teacher is there. Who is he? His story began many kalpas ago, when King Rashtrapati (sanskr.) was ruling. He had many sons. The youngest one, Dharmapati was very special. He had so much love and compassion that seeing suffering of sentient beings, he wanted to liberate them, leading them to the state of buddhahood. He went for a retreat to the peak of Mount Meru where he remained in deep samadhi for many years. Through this practice over time he reached full stability in samadhi, purified all the defilements and obscurations of his mind and realized the ultimate truth, the nature of Dharmadhatu. Then, all the buddhas of ten directions came from their Pure Lands, appeared in front of him and said: "Full of devotion son of our heart, from now on you will perform the activity of all the buddhas." Saying that, they gave him the name Karmapa (karma means "activity" or "to act"), or "the one who is the embodiment of the activity of all the buddhas." Then one hundred thousand Dakinis from three worlds appeared before the Karmapa and said unanimously: "You are the one who performs the activity of a Buddha. As a sign of that you will be crowned" and each of them gave him a single hair from her head and they wove a crown out of those hair. Then they put the crown on his head. From this time on, the Karmapa has the crown above his head, but it can be seen only by those who have purified their minds and removed obscurations and significantly diminished negative karma. We ourselves, if we have enough belief and devotion we will be able to see the Karmapa as a real Buddha. So, talking about perfect teacher, I mean His Holiness the Karmapa himself.
Fourth, we have the excellent retinue. The most important person among those who accompany His Holiness the Karmapa is Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, who every year participates in Kagyu Monlam. He is a very special person: his incarnation will be the last of the thousand buddhas of our kalpa named Ruchika (tib. Möpa Nangdze).
Bodhisattva Vajrapani is the embodiment of the power of all the buddhas. Gyaltsab Rinpoche, another teacher who comes every year to the celebrations in Bodh Gaya is the incarnation of Vajrapani.
Along with these two precious masters, the Kagyu Monlam is always attended by many lamas, tulkus, khenpos and fully ordained monks and nuns – in total 6-7,000 people accompany His Holiness. They make this perfect retinue.
The last, fifth perfection is the perfect Dharma. The set of prayers recited during this gathering was personally selected by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa. The main one is the Zang Chö Monlam prayer ("The Aspiration for Noble Excellent Conduct") taken from a sutra, which are the words of Buddha Shakyamuni himself. Many other sutras are recited like the "King of Glorious Sutras, the Sublime Golden Light." Apart from sutras taught by the Buddha himself, this collection includes also many other sutras and prayers written by many who have achieved realization: a prayer by Maitreya, Avalokiteshvara, prayers of the great Indian Masters like Nagarjuna, Dharmakirti and Asanga.
Moreover, His Holiness the Karmapa placed in this collection prayers written by great masters of the past, who were fathers of all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. We will find texts from the Nyingmapa tradition, texts of the great master Longchenpa. From the Sakyapa tradition, there is a prayer by Sakya Pandita - Sachen Kunga Nyingpo. From the Kagyu tradition there are prayers written by the 1st Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa and the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje. From Gelukpa tradition there are prayers by Je Tsongkhapa.
To sum up briefly, what is the message of all the Monlam prayers, it should be said that it is above all the wish to bring great benefit to all sentient beings, for all beings to purify their contaminations and obscurations, negative emotions and stop creating seeds of future suffering. There are also prayers for all good to flourish, in particular to achieve the two kayas: the formless Dharmakaya for our own benefit and form kayas for the benefit for others.
So, if we can take part in the full Kagyu Monlam ceremony, that is truly wonderful, we are very lucky. If it is not possible, let's try to go there for a day or few days at least, to participate in prayers and listen to the deep teachings. Let's remember, that we have that precious body, we have good conditions and we should use them well, for doing good. Let's do not forget about it.
Speech by Tenga Rinpoche given at the first Kagyu Monlam in Grabnik in 2010.