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    28 December 2014 – 5 January, 2015

    This year the Sujata Vihar, a spacious white building with soft orange stripes highlighting its architectural features, is the site of the medical camp in Bodhgaya, which is sponsored by the Karmapa's Kagyupa International Monlam Trust. The camp was structured in three phases: two days of visits by doctors and nurses to local villages; a camp at the Sujata Vihar; and three days of care, co-sponsored by the Max Foundation,given by specialist doctors from the prestigious Max Hospital in Delhi. In addition, near the Pavilion at Tergar, four Tibetan doctors served the needs of those attending the Monlam.

    The main administrative work for the camp was handled by Kunzang Chungyalpa of the Tsurphu Labrang's Delhi Office and Lama Chodrak, head of the Kagyu Monlam Committee along with Changchup associated with Gangkar Rinpoche in Bir and his assistant, Lhakpa Tsering also from Tsurphu Labrang's Delhi office. The actual work for the camp began long before it started when a local NGO, Jam Jagran Sansthan, surveyed the local villages and met with their leaders to discuss the camps and create a disease profile of the area.  The NGO also facilitated outreach to these locales, letting people know where and when the doctors would be there.Twelve nurses arrived from Delhi and Sikkim while the six physicians came from nearby Magadha Medical College in Gaya, including two senior doctors who are associate professors and four other doctors working under them. The Monlam Trust chose in particular to work with this local NGO and the Magadha doctors, because they know the dialect, habits, and character of the region's people, who then feel more at ease and welcomed.The village visits were very successful with over eight hundred patients treated.

    Afterward, the doctors opened their offices at the Sujata Vihar, where long lines snaked around the grounds, first coming to a wide registration table. Here, an individual's basic information was entered into a form that will be digitized, providing a continuity of care. The next stop was a table with two nurses measuring basic indicators, such as blood pressure, weight, and temperature. The patient then entered one of the three consultation rooms with two doctors and a nurse each. The nurse took a disease history of the patients and their families, checked on their food habits, and made sure all their needs were addressed. After the doctor's diagnosis and prescription, the people took their script to the pharmacy in a fourth room where medications and nutritional supplements were provided free of charge as well.

    January third saw the formal opening of a clinic of specialist doctors co-sponsored by the Max India Foundation and the Kagyupa International Monlam Trust. It continued to January fifth and provided specialist care in gynaecology, dermatology, pediatrics, and internal medicine--the four areas of greatest need according to the earlier survey.  Auguring an auspicious start to the New Year of 2015, the opening event was attended by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, Mr. Khandelwal, the Commissioner of Magadh District, and Ms. Mohini Daljeet Singh, CEO, Max India Foundation.

    In her talk, Ms. Singh mentioned how delighted Max Foundation was to be working with the Gyalwang Karmapa and how hopeful she was that this collaboration would continue. She quoted the motto of the Foundation that encapsulates their sense of corporate social responsibility and the need to give back to society: "The opportunity to serve is grace. Making a difference in someone's life is our humble duty." Speaking to an issue dear to the Gyalwang Karmapa's heart, she also mentioned that as an extension of its work in health care, the Max Foundation is interested in the environment as a healthy environment promotes well-being. Ms. Singh closed with the hope that the future would bring more camps and greater cooperation between Max Foundation and the Karmapa's trust.

    The Gyalwang Karmapa then spoke, saying that he was very happy to be partnering with Max Foundation to offer free health care in Bodhgaya—the most important place for Buddhists as it is the source of wisdom in the world, the place of the Buddha's enlightenment. He noted that there are many Tibetan Buddhist prayer festivals in Bodhgaya, and it is important to give back to the people here who have been so helpful. In the future, he looked forward to working together with Max Foundation to give medical care to those in need.

    Mr. Khandelwal, the Commissioner of Magadh District, also briefly addressed the meeting, giving his appreciation to the Max Foundation and the Karmapa for their good works, promising to give whatever administrative support they might need.

    After this meeting, the Karma walked across the road to The Akong Tulku Rinpoche Memorial Soup Kitchen, which provided hot meals to the people coming for medical care. When the doctors were out in the village, the soup kitchen gave fruit and juice to all the patients. The proximity of the soup kitchen and the medical camp underscored the connection between health and nutrition, one which the dermatologist, Dr. Nitin S. Walia, was also emphasizing to his patients.  He mentioned that during these camps, it was possible to cure many of the skin infections, as they simply required the proper diagnosis and medication, plus education on hygiene and nutrition.If there are more serious cases, the Max Foundation is prepared to take these people to Delhi for treatment.  In the three days of the camp, the five doctors treated more than two thousand patients.

    Concurrent with these medical camps was the Tibetan medical service provided in three bright blue tents near the Pavilion from December 18 to January 5. One tent housed long tables of free Tibetan medicine, its herbal aromas filling the area. The two other tents were the offices of four Tibetan doctors, who alternated their times: Dr. Dawa, who is also a painter assisting the Karmapa in setting up the stage, Dr. Namgyal Qusar and his wife, Dr. Kalchou, and another woman doctor, Dr. Tseyang. Dr. Qusar has a medical center near Norbulinka, in the Dharamsala area where he treats patients with medicine he makes.

    Originally from Tibet, Dr. Tseyang works at the Bir Hospital, a branch of the Dharamsala Government Medical Hospital. Knowing that she wanted to help children and the handicapped and that it would be difficult as a Tibetan to study medicine in Tibet, at the young age of thirteen, she made the dangerous journey from Tibet over the Himalayas into India to study at the Suja School.(The Karmapa has a close connection with this school as it was the first one he visited after leaving Tibet, and all the Dharmapalas serving as guards during the Monlam come from here.) After the Suja School, Dr. Tseyang continued her studies in Bylakuppe, Sarah School, and finally, she spent six years at the Tibetan Medical Hospital in Dharamsala. Asked for an overview of the camp, she commented that her patients were mostly suffering from temporary illnesses, such as colds and intestinal problems, but they also had longer term sicknesses, such as arthritis and high blood pressure, both of which are especially benefitted by Tibetan medicine.

     In reflecting on all the medical care and the caring people who provided it, one can see that the motivation to benefit others, to lighten their suffering, and give them a chance for a healthier life has been shared by all. This universal impulse—rising from our basic goodness and residing in the hearts of all people and all true spiritual paths—was clearly evident during these special days of medical care.


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    3 January, 2015
    Monlam Pavilion

    The winter morning is damp and foggy as the alms procession sets off from the front doors of the Tergar shrine.

    The first of the 16 Arhats, who are the central figures of the procession, stands in perfect stillness at the head,grasping a small golden incense burner. Another monk holds a glittering golden parasol aloft over his head.To the front, four incense-bearers wearing yellow crested hats wait in formation to lead the way.

    The Gyalwang Karmapa descends from his rooftop quarters shortly before 7am, while the monks are still making the final preparations for the procession. Ignoring his waiting car, he spontaneously decides to instead walk the short distance across to the Monlam Pavilion, past the eager crowds of Kagyu Monlam members already lining both sides of the road.

    Speaking the day before on the meaning and importance of the alms procession, he taught the essential practice of being content with what we already have. “Consumerism has become like the religion of the world,” he said.

    When companies make advertisements, they say you need to buy this or that. You need an iPhone or an iPad. If you don’t buy this or that, you won’t look good. We’re so heavily influenced by all these advertisements that we think it’s not okay if we don’t buy those things.
    But we should reduce our desires. Advertising is always encouraging us to acquire more and more, and telling us that if we don’t we won’t be happy. They fool us with their claims.
    As the Buddha said, we must be content and have few desires. We have to remember his advice and keep it in mind. In our own mind we need to do what we can to decrease our desires and be content.

    The annual alms procession serves as a reminder of the practices of simplicity and contentment. During the Buddha's time, each monk daily took part in the alms round in order to receive offerings of their main meal from the laypeople. During the Kagyu Monlam it is rich in symbolism, led by figures representing the 16 Arhats who are the elders that vowed to protect and uphold the Buddha's teachings in the world after his parinirvana.

    During the alms procession the laypeople are symbolically given the opportunity to make offerings to the sangha, here represented by the 16 Arhats each accompanied by hisentourage, while the sangha receivethoseofferings with appreciation and contentment.

    “We should consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to practice as they did in the Buddha's times—even if it’s just for one day,” His Holiness said.“We need to recognize this.”

    As they depart from Tergar Monastery, the gelongs in the alms procession softly chant the mantra Namo Shakyamuniye while walking mindfully down the drive. This year new, life-like masks have been specially created in Hong Kong for the procession. Each mask has distinct features and a different expression, although their maroon, blue, and gold silken robes are identical. Each Arhat can be identified either by the symbolic object he carries  [For more details go tohttp://www.kagyumonlam.org/English/News/Report/Report_20140114.html] or by the mudra he displays.

    The procession slowly and mindfully makes its way through the front gate of Tergar Monastery and turns left towards the Monlam Pavilion. On both sides of the road Kagyu Monlam members stand waiting with large silken khatas in their folded hands. At the entrance to the Monlam Pavilion sixteen grand banners in vibrant multicoloured silk wait to escort the procession down the central aisle.

    On stage, the Gyalwang Karmapa and the two masters Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche stand respectfully to receive the procession. After passing down the central aisle the monks in the procession then peel off to either side of the stage, before the Arhats take their seats in a curved row along the front-most edge. Each sits with their lustrous black alms bowls on a small wooden table in front, ready to receive the offerings. Victory banners line the front of the audience before the stage.

    With the 16 Arhats and gelongs seated on stage, surrounding the three central thrones, the morning prayers then continue. The Arhats are seated at the front, with rows of monks clad in their yellow robes fanning out behind them to fill all the tiers of the stage, creating a perfectly balanced and powerful visual arrangement.Astunning picture of the Mahabodhi Stupa fills the large screen at the top of the stage, behind the golden statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, drawing the eye upwards to its peak. The background is filled with a glorious azure blue, a colour symbolic of the enlightened mind or dharmakaya.

    As the prayers continue, the first rows of people come forward to make offerings to the 16 Arhats on stage, filing past in a slow-moving line. Around two hours later the last person has finally come forward to make their offerings, and the alms procession comes to an auspicious end.


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  • 01/08/15--02:24: The Akshobhya Fire Ritual

  • Tergar Monastery
    3 January, 2015

    During the Monlam, the booth at the back of the pavilion had seen a constant flow of people coming to make offerings on behalf of friends and relatives who had died or who were ill. Now four boxes of names, two for the dead and two for the living, were stuffed full of papers bearing their names, awaiting the final ritual of the Akshobhya cycle, the Jang-sek or purifying fire ritual, which is held in front of the shrine hall of Tergar Monastery.

    During the third session of prayers on Day 6 of the Monlam, the assembly in the Monlam Pavilion recited the dharani sutras of Akshobhya Buddha.  Meanwhile, at Tergar Monastery, preparations for the puja were delayed by heavy rain which pooled on the patio where the bonfire for burning the names should be. Sheltering in the shrine hall, the monks prepared the pacifying mandala, which is placed below this bonfire.  Back at the Pavilion, as the rain pounded down unceasingly on the metal roof, there was some doubt whether the puja would be able to start on time and a suggestion it might be delayed to 9.00pm.  Fortunately, the weather cleared, and the ritual began after a short delay at 5.20pm.

    Hundreds of people clustered around to watch. This year, because of the weather, they were allowed onto the veranda itself where the Gyalwang Karmapa performed the offerings part of the ritual. He and the retreatants had completed two hours of preliminaries upstairs before they came down to complete the actual fire ritual.

    On the veranda, facing a thangka of Akshobhya, a special altar had been set up, to represent  Akshobhya’s pure land with a symbolic metal gate from which coloured string ran from corner to corner around the table, signifying the boundary. Within the pure land a metal bowl had been prepared to hold a small ritual fire. To the right of the altar, the offerings had been arranged ready: the five grains, pomegranate, white and black sesame seeds, small balls of tsampa for long-life, grasses, and so forth. A second table held the eight auspicious symbols and the five auspicious substances.

    Outside, the pacifying mandala had been placed within the hearth and firewood carefully stacked over it. Four boxes of names, of the living and the dead, waited to be burnt.

    The ritual began. Supported by the retreatants, who sat on cushions at small wooden tables, His Holiness first invoked the god of fire before lighting the small offering fire, and then made offerings to the fire god.  Outside, the main bonfire was lit by monks. The Karmapa then proceeded through the prayers and offerings to Akshobhya Buddha. Some substances were cast onto the fire, some ladled carefully.  Having finished the ritual, His Holiness got up and stood on the edge of the veranda to offer more prayers and recite the Akhshobyha mantra. Many of the watchers, not knowing this mantra, began a chant of OM MANI PADME HUM and some recited Tara’s mantra instead, as more sheets of names were added to the bonfire.  [See accompanying photographs for more detail.]

    Smoke spiralled upwards into the night as the flames rose and the fire burned fiercely. The final prayers ended, and His Holiness left, followed by the security personnel. Many of the spectators crowded around the shrine where His Holiness had just  been sitting, and wafted the smoke from the purifying ritual fire over themselves.  Half-an-hour later, the crowd had dispersed into the night.

    The bonfire continued to burn steadily.

    The following morning, as people passed on their way to the Monlam Pavilion for the final day of Monlam prayers, the fire was still smouldering.


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    Monlam Pavilion
    4 January, 2015

    Unseen by most of those who attend the Monlam, the Karmapa had worked into the early hours of the morning supervising preparations for the final day of Monlam prayers. Satisfied, that everything met his high standards, he had finally left the Monlam Pavilion at 2.00am.

    When people arrived for Mahayana Sojong at 5.45am, the stage had been transformed yet again, into a multicultural, visually stunning celebration of the Buddhist Dharma, the Kagyu tradition and the Monlam itself.

     The sixteen Chinese-style auspicious banners of the Arhats which had headed the Alms Procession the day before now lined the wings either side of the main stage, and the lowest tiers were brightened by bouquets of fresh flowers, huge chrysanthemum blooms in deep purples, whites and yellows.  On the second tier, three low thrones had been placed, for the Gyalwang Karmapa and his two heart sons, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche.  The rows of gelongs sitting on the steps had been reduced from three to two, and between the second and third tier, to left and right, a new array of offerings in three rows had been arranged for the Offering to the Gurus.  The first two rows comprised pyramids of persimmons, green grapes, red apples, and oranges, heaped onto silver and golden stands.  Above them on the third row were two long tables.  To the left were the eight auspicious symbols: the white conch; the precious umbrella; the victory banner; the golden fish; the Dharma wheel; the sacred knot; the lotus; and the treasure vase.  On the right were the seven articles of royalty: the precious wheel, the precious jewel, the precious queen, the precious minister, the precious elephant, the precious horse and the precious general.

    The morning session began with Mahayana Sojong given by Gyaltsab Rinpoche; a fitting end to this Monlam in which he has played a greater role than previously. His Holiness came for the second session, the first part of the Offering to the Gurus.

    The offerings are made at the wooden pagoda shrine on the third tier, inside which a golden image of the baby Buddha stands. This image reflects the story of the Buddha’s birth at Lumbini. According to the traditional account, the Buddha was born from the right side of his mother, as she leant against a tree. When he landed on the ground, he took seven steps in each of the four cardinal directions, and lotus flowers opened beneath his feet. Pointing his right hand towards the sky, and his left towards the earth, he declared: “In all of heaven and earth, I am the most venerated one.”  He was referring not to himself personally but to the Buddha nature which exists in every one.

    There was a special surprise for everyone this year, linking the Monlam with the Kagyu Monks’ Winter Debate. Twelve monks, drawn from all nine shedras that participated in the Kagyu Gunchoe, held a fifteen minute Tibetan-style philosophical debate. The topic was whether the ground of emptiness is a shentong or a rangtong. Is it empty of other or empty of itself? There were four responders, who sat wearing traditional yellow tsesha and the yellow chögu, and eight presenters. Drawing on both quotations from scripture and logic to make their points, the monks hotly contested the topic.  As the debate grew fiercer, the presenters' actions became more vigorous, clapping their hands, stamping their feet, and shoving and pushing each other. Tibetan debate may seem combatative but actually in essence it is cooperative, as the two sides work together to help each other reach a deeper understanding of the topic.

    The Lama Chöpa puja continued after lunch.

    This year’s Kagyu Monlam at Bodhgaya has been the largest ever, with the final tally approaching 13,000 people.

     Kagyu Sangha
     International  Kagyu Sangha
     Sangha from other traditions
     Staff and Volunteers
     Foreign lay participants
     Foreign Members of Kagyu Monlam
     Himalayan Laypeople

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    Monlam Pavilion,
    4 January, 2015

    For the closing session of the 32nd Kagyu Monlam, His Holiness as befits the Head of the Karma Kamtsang, sits alone on the second tier of the stage, above his heart sons and Rinpoches. The ceremonies begin with a mandala procession in his honour. A munificent silver and gold mandala set, so large it takes 8 people to present it, occupies a prominent position.  Two people hold the massive silver plate, two hold each side of the larger rings, one holds the smaller ring, and one has the crowning pinnacle of Mount Meru. The set is assembled on stage from an offering dish containing glistening saffron dyed grains which are poured out upon each ring rather than heaped by hand.  The chant master has to slow down the offering chant to allow for the heaps to be piled perfectly into place.  At the head of the procession is Gyatson Nyingpo RInpoche and his group from Taiwan, who have promised to sponsor the Monlam for five consecutive years, followed by Lama Kelsang, the translator Ngodrup Burkhar and Chime Dorje Rinpoche who heads a group of sixty two Taiwanese in identical duck-yellow blazers. An old man in a white chuba and long white hair is the last in a line that stretches to the back of the pavilion and out.

    After the assembly has chanted the Karmapa's long-life prayer, he puts on the Activity Crown to bless the auspicious substances, the symbols of the chakravartin, the seven articles of royalty and the eight marks of auspiciousness. Each of these offerings is presented in an elaborate silver vessel that resembles a trophy, accompanied by a slow rhythmic chant. An aerial view on the large video screens gives a momentary impression of being in a cathedral. A red carpet runs down the central aisle; there are  perpendicular columns on either side; a towering vaulted ceiling like a nave opens out above the stage; and perfectly proportioned on-stage symmetry draws the eye to the central icon of the Lord Buddha.  (When supervising stage management, the Karmapa uses a laser pen to achieve this exact balance). It is a pageant befitting a dharma king.

    After these preliminaries, the Master of Ceremonies introduces the first of three main events: a special award of the Karmapa's  footprints to Lama Chodrak, Executive Director of the Kagyu Monlam and to Lama Phuntsok, originator of the Karma Gunchoe and founder of Karma Lekshey Ling Shedra in Nepal. The Karmapa begins to speak and immediately, magically, the sun’s rays enter the Pavilion, piercing the cloudy skies outside.

    ''It's not a worldly award,” he announces, ''It’s a transcendent award.'' And then explains how this tradition of giving the Lama's footprints to his disciples was started by Lord Buddha himself. It was passed to the lineage of vast conduct, until, after the Great Lord Atisha came to Tibet, it entered  the Dakpo Kagyu. According to the tradition of the great Kagyu masters of the past, it is appropriate to give the Lama's footprints on this occasion. The Karmapa gave two usages for the footprints:

    The footprints are a symbol or representation of the Lama. So when the Lama is not present, and a transmission or lineage of empowerment has been broken, one can make offerings, recite the text with faith and devotion in the presence of the footprints, and the transmission will be restored. Secondly, if there has been a violation or breakage of samaya commitments and the Lama is not present, then one can make sincere confession in the presence of the footprints and this will restore violations of samaya.
    He then describes the rigorous conditions for making the prints:

    … it’s not just a question of the Lama putting his footprints on paper. The Lama who makes the footprints must be an authentic Lama. While making the footprints the Lama should be meditating either on profound emptiness or on great compassion. Similarly when the Lama is making the footprints he should have only pure disciples present, and no questionable ones.”
    With characteristic humility, the Karmapa credits the strong belief of his devotees, the blessings of buddhas and bodhisattvas, and the Kagyu forefathers, for enabling him to make the footprint.

    The Master of Ceremonies reads a brief account of Lama Chodrak's life and particularly commends his contribution to the magnitude and splendour of the restructured Kagyu Monlam, ''renowned among Monlams all over the world.'' Lama Phuntsok receives a similar tribute: a brief biography  eulogizing his main achievements and dharma projects, including the publication of commentaries  on the five great texts and a current project compiling the collected works of the incarnations of the Karmapas. As each in turn steps up to receive the footprints from the hands of the Karmapa, the announcer utters these memorable words:

    Today, here at the 32nd Kagyu Monlam, in the presence of His Holiness, the heart sons, and all the gods and humans, he is being awarded with these blessed footprints of His Holiness, who is indivisible from Chenrezig himself, as an ornament to bear above his head and as a support for his faith and devotion.

    The second set of awards are for the competitions during the Kagyu Winter Debate. The Master of Ceremonies reminds everyone how His Holiness restructured the debates into a competition in order to motivate the monks, invited judges from different traditions to ensure fairness and raise standards, and produced a study book, a root text with commentary that could be studied over the first three years. Although there are prizes in each topic and for individual students, it is Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche’s Lava shedra which receives the award for the highest combined total of marks, making them the overall champions.

    Finally, awards are presented to the winners of the Grand Examination of Monastic Forms. In 2004, His Holiness Karmapa brought in reforms of dress and behaviour for the nuns and monks, based on the Vinaya. He further ensured that everyone knew about this by sending teachers such as Mingyur Rinpoche out to the monasteries and nunneries to demonstrate how things should be done. Subsequently, HH Dalai Lama  and HH Sakya Trizin praised the Kagyu Monlam saying it is different from any other Monlam in the world.

    For the first time, this year every monk and nun was examined by a team of five judges, and prizes were awarded in two classes:  gelong and gelongma [fully ordained monks and nuns], and getsul and getsulma[novice monks and nuns].There are no gelongma yet, so all three prizes in the first class are awarded to gelongs:  first prize to Thrangu Tashi Choling, second to Bokar Monastery and third to Ralang Monastery. In the novice class however, monks and nuns have competed together.  The first prize is awarded to Karma Drubdey Palmo Chökyi Dingkhang Nunnery in Bhutanthe second prize to  Yongey Tergar Monastery and the third prize to Tilokpur Nunnery.

    As dusk draws in, a cold moist air again settles on the fields surrounding the Pavilion. The Karmapa's closing speech is brief.

    Mainly I’d like to say thank you to all the lamas, tulkus, masters, monks and nuns, especially the two Eminences. And all the members of the public who’ve come from far away –thank you all from the depths of my heart.
    In particular, I would like to thank this year's sponsors of the Kagyu Monlam. Gyatson  Nyingpo  Rinpoche has  been the primary sponsor for the last two or three years and this is something I rejoice in.  All the roots of virtue you’ve gathered, you should dedicate to the benefit of all sentient beings. If you can do this, your roots of virtue will spread throughout space.
    The 32nd Kagyu Monlam has been good in the beginning, the middle and the end. We’ve all gathered together. You don’t see everyone who’s working hard – those in the back, you don’t really see much. All those we see and those we don’t see who’ve all worked together and cooperated in this, we rejoice in their work and say thank you. I’d like to express my gratitude to them as well.
    The Umdzes lead the assembly in chanting numerous prayers of  auspiciousness, but the one closest to the hearts of the people is the aspiration of Mikyo Dorje in honour of the previous Karmapa, Chodrak Gyatso, and his Great Encampment.

    A blaze of good fortune, the ornament of the world!
    In the realm of the kingdom of the land of Tibet,
    To the north of the Land of Snows
    May the teachings of the Practice Lineage flourish!
    May the world have the good fortune of happiness!
    We ask that the world be made happy!

    A great cry of joy resounds as the 17th Karmapa steps with dignity out of the massive theatre while white scarves fly in the air proclaiming victory.

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    Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
    31 December, 2014

    This morning Jamgön Rinpoche entered the Pavilion casting a smile at Gyaltsap Rinpoche, as they walked together along the path that curves around to the center of the stage. When Jamgön Rinpoche was seated on his throne, as during the last two days, this morning there was a long line of offerings for his long life.This time it was led by Bokar Rinpoche's monastery while the sangha recited The Aspiration of the Bodhisattva. The head discipline master then read the list of donors interleaved with poetic expressions of their wishes for Jamgön Kongtrul’s well-being and the flourishing of the lineage, its teachers and teachings. Afterward, speaking in a clear and resonant voice that was very reminiscent of his previous incarnation, Jamgön Rinpoche began his explanation of the third of the Four Freedoms from Attachment.

    3. Parting from Attachment to Our Self-Interest

    Liberating myselfalone does not bring any benefit to

    All my mothers and fathers, the beings in the three realms.

    How terrible to leave my parents withtheir suffering

    While only focusing on myown happiness.

    May the suffering of the three realms ripen in me;

    May all my merit be carried off by living beings;

    And through the blessings of that merit,

    May they all come to full awakening.

    He began by saying that we should think that we are listening to the Dharma this morning for the benefit of all beings limitless as space; for their sake, we must achieve the state of completely perfect buddhahood, the unified state of Vajradhara. With this pure attitude and motivation, we should listen to the Dharma.

    The third of the Four Freedoms reads:

    If you are attached to your own self-interest, you have no bodhichitta.

    The commentary on the root text continues:

    When free of attachment, you pass into nirvana.

    When you pass into nirvana, you find happiness.

    But the melody of experience, parting from the four attachments,

    Has no benefit if it liberates just you.

    When we attain true nirvana, we attain ultimate happiness, the melody of experience, the freedom from attachment. It is said that those practicing in the foundational vehicle, the listeners and the self-realized buddhas, seek liberation and peace mostly for themselves. However, as practitioners of the mahayana, we take the path of the greater individual. Atisha describes such a person in his Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment:

              Through knowing their own suffering,

              They are filled with the wish to extinguish

              The suffering of themselves and others―

              Such is the great individual.

    Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye (the First Jamgön Kongtrul) writes in his Treasury of Knowledge: "Under the sway of great compassion, they become fully awakened in order to efface the suffering of all living beings."

    Jamgön Rinpoche then continues quoting the main text:

    Liberating myself alone does not bring any benefit to

    All my mothers and fathers, the beings in the three realms.

    How terrible to leave my parents with their suffering

    While only focusing on myown happiness.

    As Buddhists, we accept karma with its cause and effect, so we must also say that all sentient beings in the three realms, not one left out, have been our parents. Due to birth and death, sometimes we have seen them as friends and sometimes as enemies. Yet,as our parents, they have cared for us with great kindness.The Prajnaparamita Sutra in 8000 Linesstates that they gave birth to us, cared for us, raised us, and protected us.If we were to turn our backs on their suffering and immerse ourselves in searching only for personal happiness, that would be dreadful.

    The text continues:

    May the suffering of the three realms ripen in me;

    May all my merit be carried off by living beings;

    And through the blessings of that merit,

    May they all come to full awakening.

    To paraphrase the first two lines: "May I take all loss and defeat upon myself. To all living beings, may I give away all my own merit, all my virtues and all the good things that I have from this life and lives from beginningless times. By the blessings of this merit, may every living beingcome to full awakening."Merely thinking this brings incredible merit in itself.

    Explicit in this passage is the result of practice, being able to exchange oneself for others; implicit here is the cause, meditation on love and compassion. "Love" here means wishing to bring all beings into happiness. In his Garland of Jewels, Gampopa explains that gods and humans who have love are protected from all poisons and weapons, are able to accomplish every goal they set, and can be reborn in the realms of Brahma.

    "Compassion"means wishing to free all sentient beings from suffering and its causes. It has inconceivable benefits as revealed in the Realization of Avalokiteshvara. If we have just this one quality, it will bring all the Dharma into the palm of our hand. What is this one thing? Great compassion.

    If we meditate intensively on love and compassion, we will naturally develop bodhicitta and there are two types: aspirational bodhicitta and engaged bodhicitta. The primary practice of engaged bodhicitta is to exchange self with others. In Maitreya’s Ornament of Clear Realization, bodhicitta is described as wishing to achieve perfect enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.

    In general, bodhicitta can be classified in three ways: in terms of examples, stages of the path, and characteristics. Maitreya's text mentioned above gives twenty-two examples, which include the ground, a boat, a treasure, the wish-fulfilling jewel, an elephant, and clouds.

    In terms of paths and levels, there are four types: (1) the bodhicitta related to our aspiration or intention; (2) pure intention;(3) ripening; and (4) purifying obscurations.

    In terms of characteristics, there are two types: ultimate and relative bodhicitta.The essence of ultimate bodhicitta can be described by three attributes: it has the essence of emptiness and compassion; it never moves from its ground; and it is free of all conceptual complexity. A sutra explains that ultimate bodhicitta is: beyond the mundane world, free of conceptual proliferation, extremely clear, the object of ultimate truth, stainless, and unmoving, like a lamp not stirred by the wind.

    And relative bodhicitta is as described above―the wish to attain full awakening in order to benefit all sentient beings―and there are two types, aspirational and engaged, which can be explained in different ways. According to Gampopa's Ornament of Precious Liberation, one tradition comes through Manjushri to Nagarjuna and on to Shantideva, while another comes from Maitreya to Asanga and then Serlingpa.

    In the first tradition, aspirational bodhicitta is the wish to go somewhere, i.e., full awakening, whereas engaged bodhicitta is actually going there, actually engaging in practices that bring us to enlightenment. The second tradition holds that aspirational bodhicitta is to think, "For the sake of all sentient beings, I shall achieve buddhahood."It is a commitment to the result. Engaged bodhicitta is the commitment to the cause, the practice of the six paramitas that lead to full awakening.

    Developing bodhicitta in these ways is essential. It is said that the distinction between the childish and the noble ones is bodhicitta, so it truly is the gateway into the mahayana. In The Levels of the Bodhisattva, Asanga describes four causes of bodhicitta:(1) belonging to the family, or having the aptitude of the mahayana; (2) being accepted by the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and a spiritual friend; (3) compassion for all living beings limitless in number; (4) having no fear when thinking of the suffering in samsara and of all the difficulties one must undergo plus the willingness to accept obstacles. We should make all the effort we can to create these causes.

    After the recitation of The Aspiration for Mind Training, Jamgön Rinpoche gave brief meditation instructions. The first was to sit in the seven-point posture of Vairocana and settle our minds for a while. Then he asked us to contemplate how horrendous it is to leave sentient beings, all of whom have been our kind mother, caged in suffering and seek happiness only for ourselves. Then we should think that we will commit to achieving complete and perfect awakening, doing everything we can to achieve this goal. Rest in equipoise meditating on this, he concluded.

    After the meditation, Jamgön Rinpoche read the prayers for the living and deceased. He asked that as he recited the dedication, people especially remember those who perished in the Air Asia flight. Though not originally phrased as an instruction, it was a clear teaching on bringing bodhicitta into our daily lives.

    The world also seems to have appreciated the teachings on this Guru Rinpoche day as a bright rainbow touched down next to the Bodhgaya stupa.


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    A large appliquéd image of Buddha Shakyamuni, flanked by the bodhisattvas Maitreya and Manjushri, overlooks all. This is the thangka which was unveiled at Kagyu Monlam 2012

    Below is the altar with eight three-foot high offering tormas on the top row. On the bottom row are the 8 auspicious symbols and 7 articles of royalty.

    Each offering torma displays one of the eight auspicious symbols and one of the eight auspicious substances.

    To the right of His Holiness’ throne is the shrine which contains an image of the yidam deity, in this case Tara, and the tormas for use in that session.

    Inside the shrine is the Tara torma. The ritual master is holding a Manjushri torma.

    In Kriya tantra all the female deities share the same basic torma. It is white and stupa shaped.

    At the base there are four stylised lotus petals. Two colourful medallions decorate the front. Above them is a sun and moon disc topped by wish fulfilling jewels.

    The colour of the parasol indicates the colour of the yidam deity. This is White Tara.

    This is the torma for Green Tara.

    This torma is for the Great Mother Prajñaparamita who is yellow. The same form of torma will be used for the other yellow female deities such as the Leaf-clad Hermit and Marichi.

    This is the torma for Kurukulle who is red.

    The most ornate and colourful torma is that of Manjushri. Known as the Sword Torma it bears Manjushri’s emblem – a sword. ..

    …and resembles a neat pile of traditional Tibetan Buddhist texts, symbolising wisdom.

    This Manjushri torma with a yellow parasol is for Manjushri Arapatsa who has a yellow body.

    There is a general torma shape for other male yidam deities. This red torma with five decorative medallions is for Amitayus…

    …and a similar one serves for Blazing Ushnisha

    The same shaped torma with five medallions but in white is for Avalokiteshvara.

    Finally comes the stupa torma of Maitreya, so called because its shape resembles a traditional Tibetan Buddhist chorten or stupa.

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    The Shangpa Kagyu tradition belongs to the Eight Great Practice Lineages (sGrub brgyud shing rta brgyad), which came to Tibet from India. The word Kagyu (bKa' brgyud) literally means "oral transmission" and Shangpa (Shangs pa) refers to the place where the lineage's founder Khyungpo Naljor (978? ̶ 1079?) settled, the Shang valley in Central Tibet to the north of Shigatse.  Although the lineage bears the name ‘Kagyu’ it is not related to the Dagpo Kagyu of which the Karma Kagyu is a part.  The Dagpo Kagyu are the lineage of Tilopa, through NaropaMarpa Lotsawa,  Milarepa and Dagpo Lhaje  [Gampopa ] while the Shangpa lineage descends from  two Indian women siddhis: Tilopa's student  Niguma, who was Naropa's sister,  and Sukhasiddhi . Both were root teachers of Khyungpo Naljor

    Over the centuries, the Shangpa Kagyu has remained rather unknown, as most of its principal lineage holders chose to live as hidden yogins. The Shangpa Kagyu also does not have an established tradition of reincarnate tulkus carrying on the lineage so there are very few instances of the heads of the lineage reincarnating as another hierarch; the great majority of masters became the head of the lineage through the realization engendered by their practice and study.

    This absence of a monastic seat and a reincarnation lineage has also meant that the Shangpa practices and teachings were dispersed through other lineages. The nineteenth century masters Jamgön Kongtrul Lodro Thaye and Jamyang  Khyentse Wangpo collected them, and Jamgön Kongtrul included these in his Treasury of Oral Instructions. He also restored an old retreat center (entrusted to him by his teacher Situ Chökyi Jungne of Palpung Monastery) and set it up as part of his residence at Tsadra Rinchen Drak to focus on retreats in the eight practice lineages, but primarily the Shangpa Kagyu. This year before and during the Monlam sees a commemoration of two Karma Kagyu lamas who were also lineage holders of the Shangpa Kagyu, Kalu Rinpoche and Bokar Rinpoche. 2014 is the twenty-fifth anniversary of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche's parinirvana and the tenth anniversary of Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche's.  Before the Monlam, three events have marked this occasion: the Gyalwang Karmapa bestowing the empowerments for Knowing One Frees All; the rich and inspiring exhibit of photographs of the two teachers; and two elegant books illustrating their lives.

    For the Monlam itself, a new altar was created that further honors these two masters in the form of the tormas. The first row of figures in all of the tormas relates to the Shangpa Kagyu tradition, which was carried by Kalu Rinpoche (1905-1989) and his heart son, Bokar Rinpoche (1940-2004), both of whom were primary lineage holders. The lineage has also been carried by other lamas.

    A close connection also links the Karmapas and the Shangpa Kagyu. In recent times, the Sixteenth Karmapa requested the previous Kalu Rinpoche to give all the Shangpa Kagyu transmissions to his heart sons, so the lineage of the Shangpa practice is held today by Tai Situ Rinpoche, Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche, and Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche. Further, the Seventeenth Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje received the complete transmission of the Shangpa Kagyu from Gyaltsap Rinpoche and again when he received the transmission of Jamgön Kongtrul's Treasury of Oral Instructions. Bokar Rinpoche also came to teach the Seventeenth Karmapa, so there is a long and close connection between the lineages of the Shangpa Kagyu and the Karma Kagyu, which is being celebrated this year by honoring the two great teachers, Kalu Rinpoche and his heart son, Bokar Rinpoche.

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  • 01/12/15--22:54: Relic of the 15th Karmapa

  • His Holiness the 15th Karmapa (1871-1922), Khakhyab Dorje, was born in the Tsang province of central Tibet. He was recognised and enthroned by the Kyabgon Drukchen Mingyur Wanggi Gyalpo. He received the transmissions of teachings from Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye and studied with many great masters. He gave empowerments throughout Tibet, and preserved many rare texts by having them reprinted. He was known for his poetry and his perfection of the profound path of the Six Dharmas of Naropa.

    Khakyab Dorje was the first in the line of Karmapas to marry. He had three sons, one of whom was recognised as the second Jamgon Kongtrul Palden Khyentse Oser. Khakyab Dorje was also one of the predicted lineage holders of Chokgyur Lingpa’s (Choling Terton) termas (hidden teachings).


    The relics were offered by Lama Tsultrim Gyaltso Rinpoche at a Relic event in Stockholm in 2007.

    Lama Tsultrim received these from Karma Wangyal who recovered these relics in 1990 when a stupa was destroyed revealing the body. Many relics appeared on the ground.


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    January 5-7, 2015 Taj Darbar Hotel, Bodhgaya
    Guided by the Gyalwang Karmapa’s broad vision of developing the inner potential and capacity of nuns, a group of 28 Karma Kagyu nuns recently completed a management skills training workshop. Running from January 5-7 at the Taj Darbar Hotel, Bodhgaya, over the course of 3 days the nuns were given an extraordinary opportunity to train in different aspects of management skills including communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, and leadership. The workshop also included a dedicated session on gender awareness, exploring different aspects of gender and the surrounding social processes.
    The workshop was organized by the Kun Kyong Charitable Trust, which the Gyalwang Karmapa established in 2013 for promoting education, women, the environment, health, and welfare. It was conducted by the well-known women’s rights organization Jagori, and delivered by Ms Suneeta Dhar, Director of Jagori, and Mr Tejinder Bhogal of Innobridge Consulting. Coming from 7 nunneries in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, the nuns ranged in age from16 to 56, with many already occupying senior management positions in their nunneries. For most, it was the first time in their lives they’d been given the opportunity for such training.
    Speaking at the opening session, Gyalwang Karmapa’s elder sister, Jetsunma Ngodup Pelzom, encouraged the nuns to take full advantage of this precious opportunity. “We need to take it seriously,” she told them, “so in the future we can extend the opportunities for this training to many more nuns. Women’s empowerment is an important part of His Holiness’s broad vision, and is something we all need to work together towards.”
    Asked at the beginning of the workshop what their goals and aspirations were, the nuns’ response was unequivocal: “We want better teachers and opportunities for higher education,” they said.
    But even as he is working to create better educational opportunities for them, the Gyalwang Karmapa has long recognized that, on its own, educating the nuns isn’t enough. His Holiness has emphasized that in addition to the increased educational opportunities that are now being afforded to them, the nuns also need to develop greater self-confidence. This gender awareness and management skills workshop forms part of his ongoing efforts at building confidence and empowering his nuns.
    “One of the things I’ve learnt from this workshop is to know our inner potential and ability, and to find confidence within ourselves,” said one of the participating nuns during the workshop.
    “At first we thought nuns can’t do these things and only monks are very brave. At first it seems impossible to achieve our goals,” said another nun. “But if we try, and if we have encouragement and support, nothing is impossible for us nuns.”
    Over the three days the nuns were led through a series of workshop sessions— including role plays, interactive games, and videos—aimed at developing and honing their skills in communication, teamwork, and decision-making. The workshop emphasized collaborative learning through groupwork, allowing the nuns to cooperate and learn from one another.
    For example, in small groups they covered ways to understand topics such as ‘what is a healthy nunnery’ and ‘what makes an effective manager’, while different focus groups worked on problem solving for issues including ‘difficulties working with the community’ and ‘difficulties working with monks’.
    They also explored in detail concepts such as power, conflict, different communication styles, assertiveness, and the role of leaders.
    On the third day the trainers led the nuns through a dedicated session on gender awareness, where they first explored ‘gender’ as a social construct as opposed to a biological fact. This led to discussions of social norms and values, the condition and position of women, and the idea of gender equality. The trainer Ms Suneeta Dhar reminded the nuns of the Gyalwang Karmapa’s own conviction that women’s rights are human rights. “His Holiness’s vision on gender equality is so inspiring and inclusive,” said Ms Dhar. “He leads us all to think about how the universe can be transformed.”
    Throughout the workshop all the nuns were given opportunities to speak before the entire group. At the opening session many of the nuns were barely audible as they spoke, hunched over and shyly looking down, yet by the end of the first day they had already gained substantial confidence in projecting their voices and opinions in front of others.
    When asked for their feedback at the end of the workshop, the nuns were confident and inspired.
    “We will use this communication and management training in our everyday life when working and dealing with different people and broader society,” a group of the nuns said.
    “We have to face many difficulties in our daily working life. When we face those difficulties we need confidence to tackle the problems without losing hope—and to have compassion and patience within us and around us.”
    Another nun succinctly summarized the confidence-building benefits of the workshop: “We need change in our minds first—and this is exactly what the workshop is doing.”
    At the conclusion of the training the nuns met with the Gyalwang Karmapa to brief him on the results of the workshop. He told them he was very happy with the outcomes, and offered them his continuing support.
    Prior to the workshop, in October 2014 the Kun Kyong Charitable Trust ran a 3-day pilot empowerment training program facilitated by Jagori, in Sidhbari near Dharamsala. Twenty nuns from the Tilokpur nunnery took part in the pilot workshop, with very positive results. This second workshop in Bodhgaya builds on the pilot workshop and was offered to more nuns from a range of Himalayan nunneries, again with very positive results.
    From January 8-24 the Second Annual Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering for Nuns is being held at Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya. During this gathering around 400 Karma Kagyu nuns will train and practice in advanced Buddhist philosophy, dialectical debate, and a broad range of other dharma activities.


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    8 January 2015 Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya
    This week the historical Second Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering for nuns began at Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya. The annual gathering brings together Karma Kagyu nuns in a program focused on advanced training in philosophy and debate.
    “When we initiated this Winter Dharma Gathering for nuns the primary aim was to strengthen the education within Kagyu nunneries,” the Gyalwang Karmapa said. “Another aim was that the nuns would be able to take responsibility not just for activities within their own nunneries, but also take wider responsibility for upholding the teachings.”
    “Monks and nuns are the same in being able to uphold the Buddha’s teachings, and have the same responsibility to do so,” he continued. “However there has been a period when nuns have not really had the opportunity to uphold the teachings, and this has been a loss for all of us.”
    This year around 400 nuns from 9 different nunneries in India, Nepal, and Bhutan have gathered. The two-and-a-half week program includes intensive philosophical study and dialectical debate, complemented by daily teachings from the Gyalwang Karmapa.
    At around 8.30am on January 8, the Gyalwang Karmapa was escorted into the Tergar shrine room for the opening session by two nuns skillfully playing gyalings, while a third nun led the way with sweet incense.
    The shrine was arranged into rows of raised platforms for the nuns, who sat with quiet dignity, backs straight, resplendent in their yellow outer robes. His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche sat on a throne to the Gyalwang Karmapa’s left, at the head of the first row of nuns, while several other tulkus, khenpos, and monks were also present. Several hundred lay people filled all the remaining space in the room, eager to take part. Garlands of golden flowers adorned the doorways and pillars, adding a celebratory atmosphere to the gathering.
    The opening session began with the pure and confident sound of the female umzes’ voices ringing throughout the gompa, leading the entire gathering through the refuge, bodhicitta, and Kagyu lineage prayers. In a clear demonstration of their devotion and support for the nuns, a large group of sponsors then made mandala offerings to the Gyalwang Karmapa and all the nuns.
    As was the case during the first Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, the Gyalwang Karmapa wasted no time before raising the issue of bhikshuni ordination. He explained to the nuns that some precedent for granting full ordination or Bhikshuni vows existed, from the time of the Eighth Karmapa.
    “The Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje, wrote a collection of vinaya rituals. In this he wrote: if you need to give the Bhikshuni vows then you should change the Bhikshu ritual to be able to do it. Therefore, the male Bhikshu sangha on its own is able to give the Bhikshuni vows.
    “Among all the collections of vinaya rituals in Tibetan, it’s probably only Mikyo Dorje who has altered the Bhikshu vow ritual for the Bhikshunis. He was known to give the Bhikshuni vow with only the Bhikshu sangha giving the vow. When we look at the activity of this previous Karmapa, he also put a lot of effort into supporting and reviving the nuns’ communities in general.
    “I think it’s important for me to do everything I can in order to support nuns’ teachings and practice, and to increase their listening, contemplation, and meditation. So I want to put as much effort into this as I can, from the bottom of my heart. I think this is something that’s appropriate for me to do from now until the end of this lifetime. I think it’s something that fits well with the activities of the previous Karmapas, and it’s also something that is definitely necessary within our contemporary society.”
    The Gyalwang Karmapa then continued his teaching on Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation, begun last year, picking up from chapter 6 in the text on the topic of karma cause and effect. “This is the most important text to unify the instructions of the Kadampa and Mahamudra lineages, and for that reason it’s something all Kagyupas should study,” he told the nuns. He highlighted how important and wonderful it was that the nuns now had the opportunity to study the five great texts traditionally studied in the shedras.
    While last year’s inaugural Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering focused on the Gyalwang Karmapa’s teachings, this year the nuns have now spent the past year studying basic logic and elementary to intermediate topics of philosophy, so during the Winter Dharma Gathering there will be greater emphasis on actual training in debate. The Gyalwang Karmapa teaches the nuns from 8.30–11am most mornings, while each evening the nuns practice their dialectical debating skills on different selections from the ‘Collected Topics’ or ‘Dudra’. Several special pujas and practices are also scheduled, including a Tara puja, Chöd: A String of Jewels, and a special ritual for the nun’s dharma to flourish, composed by the Gyalwang Karmapa himself.
    The Gyalwang Karmapa’s teachings during the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering are also being webcast live around the world, with translation into English, Chinese, Spanish, Polish, Korean, and German. Around 1000 people from 60 different countries tuned in for the opening session.


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    10 January 2015 Root Institute, Bodhgaya
    In what has become an annual tradition during his winter activities in Bodhgaya, the Gyalwang Karmapa returned once more to Root Institute to teach for an afternoon.
    This year, in his seventh such visit to the institute, he offered a profound and inspiring talk on impermanence. Root Institute is part of the FPMT organization (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition), and is a centre which particularly attracts many international dharma students.
    An hour before the Gyalwang Karmapa’s arrival at the centre, the institute was blessed by the auspicious arrival of a rescued elephant, whose upkeep and ongoing care are sponsored by the institute’s Spiritual Director, Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The elephant, a female named Ragnini, arrived adorned in elaborate silk brocade, with intricate painted patterns and a headpiece of glittering silver jewels, ready to welcome the Gyalwang Karmapa in grand style.
    The atmosphere inside the main shrine room was peaceful and intimate as the waiting crowd calmly found their places. As they waited a slow chant of Karmapa Khyenno began inside the room, while outside the pathway was lined with young children and staff from both the Maitreya School and the Tara Children’s Home for local HIV orphans. The children waited happily, ready to escort the Gyalwang Karmapa into the shrine room with their sweet and angelic chants of Om Mani Padme Hum.
    When he entered the shrine room the Gyalwang Karmapa first paused for a moment behind the teaching throne to offer long, white silk khatas before the golden statues of Buddha Shakyamuni and other Gelug masters. Once seated, he then received a mandala offering from the senior managing staff of Root Institute.
    The Gyalwang Karmapa began by commenting that though he had been asked to teach on a particular verse from the Diamond-Cutter Sutra, as this verse really related to impermanence he would instead teach more broadly on the topic.
    “Impermanence is a situation we can see every day. But just seeing and hearing about impermanence isn’t enough – we need to really incorporate it into our beings,” he began.
    “If someone were to say to us, ‘you only have one hour left in your life’, what are we going to do in that one hour? We spend most of our time in a lot of busyness and distraction and put off the things that are most important to do. We aren’t really aware of what it is that we actually need to accomplish. But if we think to ourselves, ‘I’ve only got an hour left’, we’re immediately going to remember exactly what is most important to do.”
    “Meditating upon death and impermanence inspires us to feel like we need to seize the opportunity of this life. We need to use and value it. This is an opportunity that we’ll not get again.”
    He reminded those gathered that because everything is impermanent, we have the opportunity to change in every second, every minute, and every hour.
    “If things weren’t impermanent then the old situation would just continue and there would be no chance for change. But because things are impermanent we are able to improve. Impermanence gives us room for hope.”
    He then drew an analogy of how we can think about impermanence as being like music.
    “Music is always changing from moment to moment – sometimes the melody goes up, sometimes it goes down, sometimes it gets louder or sometimes softer. Changes are happening all the time. If there were no changes it would always be the same, and then the music would just be a monotone. But because it’s impermanent the pitch can change and we can have beautiful melodies that rise and fall.
    “Impermanence is the same. Because there is change then we have the opportunity to experience things in this lifetime we’ve never experienced before. We can see things we’ve never seen before. We can have appearances that we’ve never perceived before.”
    The Gyalwang Karmapa reminded the gathering that even if we make mistakes, impermanence makes it possible for us to learn from those mistakes and still go on to greatness.
    “We should recognize everyone is able to change,” he said. “It’s like Milarepa. In the first part of his life he did terrible deeds and killed many people. Yet in the second part of his life he practiced hard and achieved great accomplishment. We have the same opportunity. We need to recognize that we have this opportunity and take ownership of it. It’s important to strive hard to use our opportunity.”
    He then taught that the greater the difficulties we face, the greater the opportunities we have for change.
    “When we have difficulties we shouldn’t identify them as being difficulties – we should instead identify them as being opportunities. Many great people have appeared in the past, and they’ve all come out of the difficulties they’ve had. Because of these difficulties they’ve had an opportunity and become people who are unlike anyone else. They’ve been able to take the difficulties and use them as a source of learning, education, and advice.”
    “You aren’t born a great person – it’s because of the great difficulties and suffering that you face that you then are able to become a great person. Whether or not someone becomes a great being depends upon how they deal with the difficulties that arise. We should not consider difficulties to be our enemies, but rather our friends. If we do that we can use them to improve ourselves.”
    As the teaching session wound to a close, the Gyalwang Karmapa expressed his appreciation for the many different social service projects being undertaken at Root Institute, and offered his encouragement and support that they continue. He thanked the organizers for inviting him, and said that he hoped to be able to return again in future years.
    After leaving the shrine room he then made his way outside, escorted by the long-term director of Root Institute, Venerable Labdron, and headed directly over to where Ragnini the elephant stood patiently waiting. The Gyalwang Karmapa spent five minutes gently hand-feeding her fresh bananas—with palpable joy evident from both sides.
    Finally the Gyalwang Karmapa stood for a minute before the institute’s recently repaired Nagarjuna statue, which he had been specially requested to re-consecrate. He offered handfuls of flower petals while reciting a prayer by Nagarjuna, before continuing on his way back to Tergar Monastery.


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    Monlam Pavilion
    5 January, 2015

    In a place where no light has shone for a thousand years, bringing a single lamp there dispels the darkness immediately. Likewise, we have many difficulties and problems in our lives, and our aspirations are like a lamp that can dispel them all. 
    With these words, the Marme Monlam began, focussing attention immediately on its purpose to bring ‘virtue in the end’ to the 32nd Kagyu Monlam. At the culmination of the largest Kagyu Monlam in Bodhgaya, more than 12,000 people listened as the Gyalwang Karmapa told everyone:

    Our programme this evening is not like an ordinary worldly show to distract us... Instead, we need to listen with awareness, and keep our aspirations and hopes in mind. This is very important.
    In recent years, the final act of the Monlam has often tended towards separation from the main programme, becoming instead an entertainment with a spiritual element, reflected by some groups chanting mantra or prayers. By restructuring the event around the theme of the Seven Branch Offering Prayer, His Holiness effectively reversed this trend and restored the prime focus of our aspirations to light the world and dispel the darkness. He turned the Marme Monlam into a meditation practice session, reprising the ones both he and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche had led during the teachings.

    In a second innovation this year, he placed nuns at the very heart of the Marme Monlam programme. As we were led through the Seven Branches, they became the unifying element,  and assumed some of the roles previously taken by monks. His Holiness chose a group of nuns from Drubdey Palmo Chökyi  Dinkhang nunnery in Bhutan, and  for a month, he rehearsed them in moving, standing and sitting with dignity and stillness. In silence their long line wheeled around the rooftop patio outside his quarters, supervised by senior nuns. Simultaneously, His Holiness instructed them in the songs they were to sing at the Monlam, with the help of David Karma Choephel.

    The Masters of Ceremony –in Tibetan, English and Chinese–introduced the first act:

    The only source of all short-term and ultimate benefit and happiness is bodhichitta... that is the wish to bring others benefit and happiness...we must have the compassionate attitude of wishing to free all others from suffering. The best method for developing uncontrived compassion is to bring the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, embodiment of the compassion of all buddhas, into your being.

    As they spoke, the nuns moved silently into their positions on the darkened stage, and then grounded the whole evening in the bodhichitta intention with their opening, the Chenresig saddhana  All-Pervading Benefit of Beings  sung to the melody "Tears of Faith" composed by the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa.

    The Seven Branch Prayer meditation began with the second act – two male Newari dancers performing  the Offering Dance of Vajravarahi. This dance, brought to Nepal in ancient times and passed down from y.ogi to yogi in a secret tradition, was in two contrasting parts. First the figure of peaceful Vajravarahi  swirled across the stage, long locks loose, white silken garments flowing as she danced lithely, adorned with a golden, many-peaked crown and towering topknot. Then, mid-way through the dancers changed; Vajravarahi returned in wrathful form, swathed in red silk, three eyes blazing on her face and wearing a long garland of skulls. The lyrics accompanying the dance expressed the Branch of Prostration. 

    For the second branch, the Branch of Offering, the nuns returned once more. Arrayed across the tiers of the stage, they proferred lotus-shaped lamps, white conches, plates piled high with fresh fruit and glittering golden stupas.  Of all seven branches this is regarded as the source of greatest merit. In prefect harmony the nuns sang an offering of the five enjoyments: flowers with excellent shape and colour, incense whose scent wafts in all directions, lamps that dispel the darkness of ignorance, cooling scented water, and food that is delicious and sweet, composed by the Sixth Karmapa Thongwa Dönden. As they sang, a profusion of images of the five offering substances streamed across the stage backdrop, and strobe lights swirled around the pavilion.

    The focus of the next meditation was confession. Renowned Taiwanese flautist Dr Gary Wu played a heart-searching, plaintive melody, accompanied by a trio of lute, zither and dulcimer. The Karmapa’s instructions were clear:

    …think with intense regret of all the misdeeds and non-virtues you have done in the past as you listen to the plaint of the flute, and confess your past wrongs with as much fear and regret as if you had swallowed poison.
    But with true regret and full confession comes hope. Quoting from the Light of Gold Sutra, we were assured:
    If one who has done tremendous misdeeds 
    Over the course of thousands of aeons 
    Confesses them fully a single time,
    They all will be purified.
    As Gary Wu faded out, the stagehands moved in and skillfully changed the sets while the Masters of Ceremony introduced the next act.  Within the space of a few minutes, the solemnity of the flute solo was replaced by the energy of youth and hip-hop.  Striding back and forth across the stage, Dawa Tsona, a Tibetan from the Netherlands, delivered his tongue-twisting lyrics impeccably, a twenty-first century version of Karmapa Khyenno, to the delighted cheers and applause of the young monks and nuns, and the amazement of others. This was an unexpected and unrestrained Branch of Rejoicing.

    The tenor of the evening changed yet again, as the nuns returned to the stage. Jetsun Milarepa’s Song of Interdependence was the foundation for a contemplation on Requesting the Buddhas to Remain.  “Listen to this while taking joy in the idea of giving meaning to your precious human life,” was the meditation instruction. His Holiness read out the doha or song of spiritual experience in Tibetan first, and then the nuns sang it. Gary Wu and his trio and a handpicked group of young musicians from the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts provided a musical accompaniment, which blended with the nuns’ clear steady voices without overpowering them.

    The lights faded, the stagehands moved unobtrusively, and the audience was distracted by the voices of the Masters of Ceremony, elegant in robes and traditional Tibetan felt boots, as a new scene unfolded–a dance troupe from Ladakh who offered the Branch of Supplication, in the form of a traditional song and dance called “The Fifth Interdependence”. The performers, wearing multi-coloured costumes and hats representative of different regions, came on stage each bearing a long white khata and different offering substances. In pairs they placed the offerings on a table in front of the Gyalwang Karmapa, before slowly retreating backwards, making way for another pair.  They sang  of the noble conduct of the ancestors, the parents who raised us, the gurus who guide us, and the leaders of great people—but in actuality, the  words were a long life offering, requesting the buddhas to remain. As the dance progressed, the energy and rhythm picked up, and before long the crowd was whistling and cheering them on enthusiastically through their steps.

    Dedicating merit is crucial: 

    Just as a water drop that falls in the ocean

    Will not dry up until the ocean has dried,

    Likewise a virtue dedicated to enlightenment

    Will not be exhausted until you reach enlightenment.

    Gary Wu and his trio of musicians returned to the stage for the Branch of Dedication, expressed through their music.

    The Seven Branches were complete.

    As the programme concluded with Atisha’s Lamp Prayer, the meditation came full circle, returning to the theme of light, especially the inner light. The Karmapa’s script reminded everyone:

    The nature of a lamp is light. What it symbolizes is our own inner lamp—the naturally present luminous essence of the mind that is called luminous wisdom. We must realize that the nature of our own minds, the self-arisen luminous wisdom itself is the supreme and ultimate lamp. 
    The Gyalwang Karmapa rose from his seat in the audience and moved to sit on the stage at the feet of the golden Buddha. Concealed in the shadows to left and right of him, the choir of nuns filed in and sat waiting silently. Two nuns came forward gracefully, one from either direction, and stood before him. His Holiness slowly recited the Marme Monlam prayer three times, in Tibetan, then English, then Chinese. Taking up the lotus lamp from the table in front of him, he lit it, and from that flame lit the lamps of the two nuns, who returned to each side of the stage to spread the light. Slowly, the symbol of the true nature of mind passed between them, from nun to nun, a symbol of spreading enlightenment.

    Across the Pavilion, the light spread from lamp to lamp, illuminating the darkness, as everyone joined in singing the Lamp Prayer, recalling, as they did, His Holiness’ instructions: 

    The lamps and candles of various different types, shapes, and colours that we hold in our hands are like a galaxy of stars that have come down to earth. We should bring our bodies, speech and mind into one, and visualize this as we recite the prayer.
    The  Monlam was over for another year. As the crowds drifted away, many carried their candles outside, placing them on kerbstones, railings and barricades, where they flickered and danced against the  shadows. Most flames were quickly extinguished but a few continued to burn brightly and steadfastly against the encroaching night.

    [Various local dignitaries attended the Marme Monlam. From the Mahabodhi Temple,they included Bikkhu Chalinda (Chief Monk), Sri Bam Bam Chaudharg, (Temple Secretary), and Sri Namsee Dorjee, (Secretary of The Mahabodhi temple Management Committee). The Ven. Tenzin came to represent Namgyal Branch Monastery, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s monastery in Bodhgaya. From the administration they included Sri R.K. Khandelwal, IAS, Commissioner, Magadh Division, Gaya, and Sri Sanjay Kumar Agarwal, IAS, District Magistrate, Gaya. The latter had also shown great interest in the recent Animal Camp.]


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    Root Institute,   Bodhgaya
    January 10,  2015

    The Karmapa's annual  visit to Root Institute in Bodhgaya is a natural welcome to the beginning of a new year,  like the first buds of spring. Orange and gold marigold flowers inside rings of offering bowls surround a dominant statue of Nagajuna; and a chalk drawn mandala of auspicious symbols strewn with petals at the entrance to the temple awaits the Karmapa's footsteps.

    Ragnini, an elephant, stands to the side of the mandala, richly caparisoned  in the tradition of temple elephants, in a silver head-dress and a red embroidered tapestry on her back. Her trunk is adorned with painted symbols. The mahout on her back does not carry an iron pick as he usually does, and there are no chains on her ankles. She is waiting patiently, possibly in anticipation of the abundant fruit basket filled with bananas and apples which His Holiness bought specially for her and sent before his arrival.  Recently she completed an extended outer kora of the Bodhgaya temple. Right now she is enjoying a respite from her work life as a captive animal. The hope is to buy enough land to let her and her elephant sister, Bodhicitta, live unchained.

    The sound of sirens pierces the profound stillness, heralding the arrival of His Holiness.  As the door of the black Audi opens, Indian school children from the Tara School Project established by Root, greet him with posies of flowers.  The head nun, Thubten Labdron,  beams a warm smile and presents a white offering scarf. ''Is this the fourth or fifth time I am at Root?'' asks the Karmapa as he settles comfortably on the throne.  ''Seven? I can't think how many; it doesn't matter. You all made lovely elaborate preparations for me. There is no need since I've been here so many times but thank you for that.''

    This launches his talk on impermanence, inspired by a verse in the Diamond Cutter Sutra. We can see impermanence every day, but seeing and hearing about it isn't the same as incorporating it into our being. The first thought that changes the mind towards Dharma is contemplating the precious human body, which we have right now.

    Our body is a phenomenon that arises and perishes in a second. If we have a great task we need to fulfil, we have to embark on it immediately. It's not okay to procrastinate. If we're going to do something great, and we put it off for a few days there is no certainty we will do it.
    Meditation on impermanence, he emphasizes, is not to cultivate a fear of death. The fear of death is natural, even to animals. It's to make us realise that with this bodily support we have a great task to accomplish and if we die before completing it, we will regret it.

    If someone were to say, you have only one hour left in your life, what would you do? We spend most of our time doing all this busy work but we are relaxed about the things that are most important. We are not really aware what we need to accomplish. If we had only one hour left, we'd have to think about what we're going to do. If we think we have time, we will spend our lives being lazy and slothful.
    The essence of meditating on impermanence is that it inspires us to use this opportunity by becoming aware of it and valuing it more highly. This will produce diligence. Such an opportunity to benefit ourselves and others will not happen again.

    Rather than seeing impermanence as bad, we should see t it as positive. If things were permanent old situations would continue and nothing could change. Impermanence gives room for things to improve.

    It's like music; sometimes the melody goes up, sometimes down.  If there were no change it would always stay on the same pitch. Change allows us to have beautiful melodies.
    In every minute there is opportunity for change. This morning's misdeed we may regret and rectify by the evening. Everyone can follow the example of Milarepa who accumulated great misdeeds in the first part of his life and changed completely in the second part.

    Take ownership of opportunity and strive hard to use it, he exhorted the audience. Habitual patterns lock us into believing we don't have the chance.  

    We say the situation isn't right and we blame others. He or she blocked me. When there's a new government, we think we have a new leader who will effect change. We always look for someone outside to make changes.
    What happens when things don't work out?

    We think things always work for other people, rich people, but for myself, nothing works out. When difficulties come we give up.  Great beings have emerged from their difficulties. They used them as a source of learning, and then they became great beings. It's because of hindrances that we become great; we don't become a great being by living in comfort. If someone offers you a delicious meal, you don't need to be patient. If things are always good, we can't improve.

    It is important for us to have difficulties in order to bring out who we truly are. Obstacles are our friends, not our enemies because they bring out our strengths.  If an expert karate or judo master has a mediocre opponent, he has no chance to bring out his powers. Only if they have opponents who are better do they have an opportunity to train. The biggest obstacle to change is pride. We think we're okay as we are. We need to win, to transcend, to be victorious and triumph over pride. If we are self satisfied, there's no opportunity to change.

    In closing, the Karmapa praised  the Maitreya school and the medical clinic for the benefit it brought to the local area. Thanking all the workers and supporters involved with these projects, he said,

    This is the land of Magadha, the noble land of the Aryas, the source of wisdom, where all Buddhas awaken to enlightenment.  Twenty five hundred years ago the Buddha awoke to enlightenment in this place. In future, many great buddhas will come to guide sentient beings.  Many people from all over the world come here, so it is your responsibility to be an example and lead them to a good destination. Thank you all very much.

    As the Karmapa leaves the shrine room he goes straight to Ragnini whose moment has come. He smiles as he feeds her the fruit from his hand and waves the last banana in the air before offering it, watching with delight as she curls her trunk playfully into her mouth. He then goes to the statue of Nagarjuna and tosses petals in consecration.

    Behind him the elephant is smiling. May this be the moment that liberates her from the chains of existence.


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    Druk Ngawang Thubten Chokling Monastery, Bodhgaya
    14 January, 2015

    Directly behind Tergar Monastery, where HH Karmapa resides in Bodhgaya, is the monastery of the Shabdrung of Bhutan. The present Shabdrung Yangsi is eleven years old and lives in Bhutan. His parents, however, have travelled here with their second child, a boy of five. A monastery without a resident rinpoche lacks magnetising power and thus the place looks rather forlorn. But for three days of the year, during the annual Guru Rinpoche festival, it comes alive with the sound of traffic on the dusty pot-holed road that leads through a poor Indian village to the main gate. The Bhutanese arrive in traditional dress, crammed into cars, motor rickshaws and the new environmentally-friendly electric trolleys. The prayer flags fly, and the golden canopy comes out, transforming the temple entrance into a VIP seating area. To the right is a throne that awaits the arrival of the 17th Karmapa, who has been a regular guest here since he started coming to the Monlam.

    The Bhutanese cham is significantly different from the Tibetan, originating as it did  with the visions of  Jampal Dorje, the son of the founder of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, in the 17th century. The dancers have more flexibility, their movements are lithe and somehow contemporary, even feminine in style.

    Devotees line both sides of the long playing field leading to the monastery holding white offering scarves: Bhutanese, Europeans and a significant number of Malaysians and Taiwanese. A procession greets the Karmapa's black car at exactly 10 o'clock.  Masked dancers sway, while jesters cavort, and monks in dark orange robes blow horns and gyalins.  It just happens that the first glimmer of sun melts the fog at precisely the same time as the Karmapa enters the temple. Once inside there are three enormous statues: the Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and the first Shabdrung of Bhutan. He lights a butter lamp, chants a Mahakala prayer and blesses a new mask of Yamantaka  before he takes his customary seat on the throne outside. The Khenpo, Tshokey Dorje sits beneath him talking to His Ho>liness almost continuously. As they talk, three clowns make floppy prostrations to the Karmapa, in jest. Another poses for a photo with him. The idea is to distract the crowd while the dancers prepare.

    It is the second day of the dance called Dungam, the dance of the wrathful deities of Lama Gongdu, a treasure cycle discovered by terton Sangye Lingpa (1314-1396).  Four dancers appear in the form of deer wearing stag masks with antlers to subdue all the evil spirits who try to destroy the dharma.  The next dance is performed by the durda , the cremation ground protectors, wearing skull masks.  They catch the spirits of the dharma obstructors and put them into a black triangular spirit trap. In the final act they will take out their phurbas to liberate the spirits from evil karma.  In between here is a shift to a dakini dance, in which the movements of the dancers are flexible like swans, flowing from one graceful step to the next. It is in an elegant, well-rehearsed, confident performance.

    On the balcony of the monastery, where another scene is being enacted, the Khenpo brings out a tray with some objects on it, among them a phurba used to destroy obstacles. The Karmapa blesses it. Soon afterwards at midday, the Karmapa stands up to depart while his devotees flock in singular pursuit. The Guru Rinpoche dancers barely miss a beat.

    Sonam Dorje, the head monk confides: ''We rejoice that His Holiness comes here every year to bless our Tsechu.   His time is very precious, yet he sacrifices it and sits here for two hours. We would like to thank His Holiness for guiding and taking care of us. His Holiness Karmapa is the  only one who comes here to visit us.''


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    Day 1: Karma, Cause and Effect
    8 January, 2015
    During the first Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering for Nuns last year, the Karmapa began teachings on The Jewel Ornament of Liberation (literally, The Ornament of Precious Liberation). This is the most important treatise written by Gampopa the Physician (Sgam po Lha rje, 1079–1153), for it combines the instructions of two great rivers—the kadampa and mahamudra lineages. All kagyu practitioners should value, take an interest in, and study this text. The Karmapa said that he himself considers it very important.
    The Karmapa continued his teachings, saying that this year, we have not only the nuns from the kagyu monastic colleges, we also have nuns from the practice sections of the nunneries. If they had no other jobs to do, they were allowed to stay on after the Kagyu Monlam for this gathering of nuns. This enables them to receive these teachings and also promotes the connection between our branches of teaching and practice. Only if these two come along together will we be able to uphold the Buddha’s Dharma. Here in Bodhgaya, nuns focusing on practice can gain more interest and excitement about study, and nuns focusing on study can become more enthusiastic about practice.
    This blending together of the two sections provides a way of finding mutual faith and pure perception; it is only through teachings and practice that the sangha can uphold the teachings of Buddha, so it is critical to unify them. If there is a gulf between those focused on study and those focused on practice, then not only will this cause discord within the ordained sangha, it will also cause the teachings of Buddha to wane, so a separation should be avoided. In particular, learning alone is not enough. In order to teach the dharma truly, we need experience in our being, for only then are the instructions no longer dry—they become rich and moist.
    Now to turn to the text. We had completed the Fifth Chapter on the sufferings of samsara, so now we come to the Sixth Chapter on karma, cause and effect What causes the sufferings that were explained in the previous chapter is the karma of afflicted action. Talking about karma cause and effect in terms of virtue and non-virtue is an extremely simplified way of understanding it. We do something to someone else and same thing will happen back to us. But when we look at karma more deeply, it’s not at all simple or easy to understand. Actually, karma cause and effect is a difficult and complicated topic, because it is related to all sentient beings in the entire universe.
    For example, think about rain falling from the sky. At first glance, it seems to be a simple event, but if we look into its causes and conditions, we discover that rain is an intricate phenomenon, dependent on many different aspects coming together—temperature, winds, clouds forming, and so forth. This is why our weather forecasts are often so inaccurate. This complexity of falling rain is similar to that of karma cause and effect and the reason why it is said that only the omniscient Buddha can know, for example, the causes of the colors in a peacock’s feather. Knowing karma falls within the sphere of the Buddha’s omniscience, so even listener arhats cannot know karma cause and effect. It is difficult even for a bodhisattva to explain it. Karma is not just a connection between a few individuals—it’s the interrelationship of all sentient beings throughout the sum of space in the entire universe. The results are also extremely complex as there are myriads of circumstances that affect the ripening of karma.
    This presentation of karma cause and effect is a particular feature of Buddhism. Ultimately, many religions come down to a single cause, but in Buddhism, we talk about everything arising from a variety of different causes and conditions; no single autonomous creator or thing can be established. A multiplicity of situations gives rise to a phenomenon, so it is difficult to state that there is a single, autonomous, or initial cause. If we can come to an understanding of karma cause and effect like this, it will not only help us understand Buddha Dharma, but also benefit us in this human life as well.
    In Buddhism, we talk about the ten non-virtues: the three related to the body, killing, stealing, and improper sexual conduct; the four related to speech, lying, abusive language, slander, and meaningless talk; and the three related to mind, envy, malevolence, and distorted views. Of course, in general, there are many different non-virtues, which are not included in these ten; they simply represent the most severe, or most perilous of the misdeeds. In addition, you must engage in these ten intentionally and be aware you are doing them for the act to count as non-virtue. If you are simply walking along and without thinking, brush off an insect and kill it, that’s not a non-virtue because it is not intentional. It is killing, but it is not deliberate.
    For both the ordained and lay sangha, Buddhism teaches a discipline to refrain from committing these ten non-virtues. They are unwholesome by nature, even if you don’t have vows, even if you are not a Buddhist. If you yourself commit the three non-virtues that relate to the body, of course, you are at fault, and not only that, if you order someone else to do these, you accumulate the same karma as if you had done them yourself. It is the same with the four misdeeds related to speech. And here, you do not have to actually say something to accrue a misdeed. For example, suppose that you pretend to be mute and someone asks you if you are clairvoyant. If you nod your head, they’re going to understand that you are.
    To actually commit one of the ten non-virtues, there are five aspects that must be present: the basis, conception, intention, affliction, and completion of the act. If all five are not involved, it is not considered an actual commission of a non-virtue. If we have time, we can talk more about these later.
    Day 2: The Ten Non-Virtues
    9 January, 2015
    The Gyalwang Karmapa opened the second teaching session by continuing the reading transmission, this time giving the section of the text relating to the ten non-virtuous actions. He then explored these in greater depth, picking up from the previous day.
    He first explained what refraining from the non-virtues actually means. Merely not doing a negative action is in itself neutral, and doesn’t necessarily become a virtuous action. Instead, in order for it to become virtuous, we need to actively refrain from the non-virtuous action.
    To take the example of killing, in order for non-killing to become virtuous, when looking at the being you would kill you then have to understand that when the wish to kill arises, this is extremely bad. You also need to see that the preparation for killing is extremely bad, and then actively decide to refrain from that. This active refraining is what becomes a virtue. So merely passively not killing is not the actual virtue of abstaining from killing.
    Next the Karmapa explored the five aspects that must be present in a non-virtuous action—conception, affliction, intention, preparation, and completion—in more detail.
    The reason that conception is included is because it needs to be an accurate conception. For example, if you thought that Tashi was Lobsang and then kill Lobsang, it would be mistaken. So we need to distinguish whether the conception is accurate or not.
    Next are the afflictions, which motivate the action but are not the actual deeds. They are conditions that instigate the act but are not the act itself. Then comes the motivation, such as an intention to kill. We’d have to say that this is a misdeed because without this wish or intent, then there’s no killing. For example, if you have a sheep but don’t have the motivation to kill, then you won’t sharpen the knife or engage in any preparations. For that reason the intention or wish to kill is non-virtuous.
    Then there’s the preparation or action of killing, such as catching and stabbing a sheep. There are many different ways to slaughter a sheep. If you don’t use them then the sheep won’t die. Without the preparation or action there’s no misdeed. Finally, there’s the completion of the act, but it’s difficult to say this itself is a misdeed. The actual misdeed with killing is the motivation or intent to kill, and the physical and verbal acts we perform leading up to it and in carrying it out.
    The misdeeds and non-virtues of body and speech are relatively straightforward and easy to understand, but those of mind are a bit more difficult and less straightforward. In brief, covetousness is an affliction that’s a type of desire, malice is a type of aversion, and wrong view is a type of ignorance.
    There are two types of afflictions, latent and manifest. As an analogy, take a glass or bowl filled with very dirty, silted water. If you let it sit for a while and don’t disturb it, the silt and contamination will settle to the bottom and we won’t be able to see it, as if the water was clear.
    Similarly our mind is polluted and contaminated with the afflictions. At times there’s no connection between the five faculties of our mind and external objects, and so the afflictions then settle down. However, just as with a glass bowl of water, if you stir it with a stick all the muck and silt will immediately come up in the water and it’s instantly evident how contaminated the water actually is. When our five faculties encounter external objects of form, this becomes the condition that stirs up the latent afflictions within the mind and they become evident.
    The Jewel Ornament of Liberation talks about many different types of results coming from each non-virtue. When discussing fully ripened results, we often say all happiness arises from virtue and all suffering from non-virtue. But we need to distinguish fully ripened results from the feelings of pleasure and pain. For example, through performing virtues, we can also experience suffering or other results that are painful. Likewise, through non-virtues we can have the dominant result that is pleasurable. These are temporary feelings of pleasure and pain from our actions.
    Many different dominant and compatible results are also described. The text states that the dominant result of killing would be dying before your life force is exhausted. This is difficult for us to see and tell, but we know of people who die early, such as young people who suddenly die. Another dominant result of killing is that the potency of medicines will decrease: you could eat as much medicine as if it were tsampa, and still it would not benefit you. A single dose isn’t enough, and you need a double dose to be effective. You might eat one hundred supplements or receive one hundred different long-life empowerments, but more beneficial for your life is to spend a single day with the vow of non-killing. This will give you more power, cure illness, and allow for long life.
    The Karmapa stressed the subtlety and complexity of karma, cause and effect. During Buddha’s own lifetime, people would ask questions about profound emptiness to Shariputra. There was no need to ask the Buddha because Shariputra would be able to give a good answer. But questions about karma cause and effect even Shariputra wouldn’t answer. They would only ask these questions of the Buddha. Karma, cause and effect is extremely subtle and very problematic—so complicated only the Buddha can truly fathom it.
    Day 3: The Ten Non-Virtues (continued) and The Three Vows
    10 January, 2015
    Today the Gyalwang Karmapa once again began by giving more of the reading transmission of the text, before revisiting the previous day’s teaching on the ten non-virtues. Out of the five aspects that must be present, including conception, motivation, affliction, preparation and completion, he explored the aspects of preparation and completion a little further.
    Returning once again to the example of killing, in terms of the preparation, there are two ways to do this—either carrying out the killing yourself, or having another person do it. Either way it becomes the actual commission of the act. This includes killing with a weapon, poison, or killing with mantras and spells, etc. In Tibet it used to be that if you killed someone with a weapon or poison, it was considered a sign of weakness and was seen as bad. But to kill someone with sorcery or spells was a sign of a lot of power, and this was considered good! But in terms of karma, cause and effect, these methods of killing are the same.
    There is a question that comes up about rejoicing. Suppose that instead of doing the killing yourself you have someone else do it. The question is that if you rejoice when someone else kills on your behalf, do you yourself incur the actual commission of that act? The great master Shakyaprabha said that if you rejoice mentally in something and express it through body and speech, then you’ll incur a defeat. But we need to examine further whether that’s the actual commission of the act or not.
    For the completion of the act after engaging in the preparations, if the other being who’s being killed dies before the killer, then the killer has the actual commission of the act. But if the other being doesn’t die, or if the killer dies before the one being killed, then it’s not the actual commission of the act. Also, if we’re walking and we accidentally kill a bug by stepping on it, this is merely the preparation of killing and not actual commission of killing. Likewise, if a physician has the wish to help and gives wrong medication and then the patient dies, this is also not the actual commission of killing.
    If you don’t have the actual commission of the misdeed then it won’t produce fully ripened results. But the Karmapa cautioned that we have to be careful, as there are some instances where these acts may still produce results.
    He then turned to the four non-virtues of speech, and in particular, lying. A lie does not necessary have to be a lie spoken out loud. We can also tell it through a manner of not-speaking, as if pretending not to understand. There are ways to lie without speaking, and you can also have someone else tell a lie. The completion of the act is that the other person understands the meaning of the lie you are telling.
    When we’re telling lies there’s a difference between telling lies and lies that are one of the four defeats. For the lies that become one of the four defeats, these are about having supreme human qualities. But for lies that are the ten non-virtues, these are those that fulfill the aspects of basis, preparation, intention and completion. If any of those aspects are not fulfilled, such as the completion because the other person doesn’t understand the lie, then it’s merely idle chatter not a lie.
    Next the Gyalwang Karmapa discussed an important exception: that the seven non-virtues of body and speech may be allowed for bodhisattvas. For example, there may be occasions when bodhisattvas are required to use harsh speech.
    But, this could then raise a difficulty, because harsh speech is motivated by the afflictions. If harsh speech is allowed for bodhisattvas, does this mean that the afflictions in general are allowed for bodhisattvas?
    Here we need to distinguish between harsh speech, and harsh speech that is non-virtuous. When we talk about it being motivated by the afflictions, then we take it for granted we are discussing non-virtuous harsh speech. But when bodhisattvas are using it, we’re talking about harsh speech that is not motivated by afflictions.
    Next the Gyalwang Karmapa shifted emphasis slightly, turning to the topic of the three vows. All three vehicles of the dharma, the Foundational, Mahayana, and Vajrayana vehicles, are taught in order to tame our own minds and that of others. There is not a single teaching that is not a remedy for the afflictions. For this reason, the practices of all three vehicles are included in the practice of keeping the three vows, which are the Pratimoksa, Bodhisattva, and Vajrayana vows. In the Tibetan tradition all three vows are practiced in their entirety by a single sentient being. Doing this is extremely difficult, and extremely amazing.
    There are many different presentations of the three vows written by the great masters of the past, and these also include many debates. Are the three vows the same in essence, or separate? The reason why there are so many different explanations, debates, and commentaries on this is because it’s such an important point.
    Each of the three types of vows needs to function as an antidote for our afflictions. They are the same in this. However they each emphasize different afflictions. For example, the Pratimoksa vows primarily emphasize the antidotes for desire, the Bodhisattva vows mainly emphasize the antidotes for hatred and aversion, while the Vajrayana vows emphasize the antidotes for ignorance.
    The Gyalwang Karmapa explained that within the context of the Vajrayana vows, we need to distinguish the afflictions carefully. It can happen that at the time of the cause, the motivation is compassion, but at the time of the act, the motivation is aversion and hatred: this is wrathful activity. Therefore, in certain circumstances wrath and hatred may also be allowed for bodhisattvas.


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    14 January 2015
    Druk Ngawang Thubten Chokling Monastery, Bodhgaya
    On 14 January, dancers, leaping and prancing, came out to greet the Karmapa as he arrived at Ngawang Thubten Chokling, a Bhutanese Drukpa Kagyu monastery. They escorted the Karmapa along the path, lined with well-wishers offering their katas, to the welcome gate and further to the dance grounds and the main temple beyond, where the Abbot and senior monks waited to greet him. They invited the Karmapa inside where he lit a butter lamp and then took his seat on the veranda, surrounded by flowing yellow silk curtains. Under a golden canopy, the Karmapa enjoyed the colorful dances by the Bhutanese monks, who are justly famous for their agility and spirit.


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    15 January 2015 Tergar Monastery
    In one of the key rituals of the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, and a particularly rare and precious opportunity for those gathered, the Gyalwang Karmapa led an extended day-long Chöd puja.
    “There are both masculine and feminine Chöd practices,” he said in the lead up to the puja. “This Chöd practice was passed down from Machig Labdrön, so it’s a feminine practice, and I thought it would have particular meaning for us to do it during the nuns’ Winter Dharma Gathering.”
    Chöd is renowned as a practice lineage established by a woman, the enlightened female master Machig Labdrön, and female practitioners have traditionally excelled in the practice. However, the Gyalwang Karmapas have historically had a particularly close connection with Chöd practice, and are direct holders of the Chöd lineage. His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa has been enthusiastic about Chöd practice from a young age.
    The Gyalwang Karmapa arrived in the Tergar shrine room at 9am to preside over the puja, and remained on his throne for most of the day, until the puja finally concluded around 5.30pm.
    The text, called Chöd: A String of Jewels, was composed by the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje. The extended ritual guides practitioners in a detailed practice designed to cut through our attachment and ignorance—particularly our gross attachment to the body—through the means of prajña or wisdom that realizes emptiness.
    The Tergar shrine room was filled to bursting point with people eager to take part in the Chöd puja, spilling out onto the surrounding balconies. Many carried their ritual implements, consisting of special ‘chodar’ damaru drum and bell, while a large group were clothed in the white and red ‘ngagpa’ robes of lay tantric practitioners.
    Inside the shrine room rows of raised platforms were arranged facing inwards for the nuns, with many monks also filling the remaining rows of cushions behind them. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche once again sat in a throne at the Gyalwang Karmapa’s own right, at the head of the first row.
    After an auspicious opening with the Guru Rinpoche prayer, the beautiful voices of the female umzes soared through the melodies, leading both male and female practitioners alike through the ritual. The effect of hundreds of chodars and bells resounding in perfect unison was powerful. This display of unity served as a visual and aural reminder of the single, focused intent of all the circles of disciples present—both male and female, monastic and lay.
    The rising and falling melodies of the Chöd puja were perfectly suited to the female voices, which remained clear, bell-like, and unwavering throughout the day. Nuns performed all the key roles in the puja, such as chantmasters, playing the haunting thighbone ‘kangling’ horns, as well as the huge ‘ngachen’ puja drums.
    Once again, as with each previous day during the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, a large group of sponsors made generous mandala offerings to the Gyalwang Karmapa and all the sangha present, in a further demonstration of their strong and ongoing support for the nuns’ Winter Dharma Gathering.


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    January 18, 2015 -Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya
    At the end of the teachings this morning, the Gyalwang Karmapa announced that in the evening, there would be a special ceremony for the deceased. After he left the shrine hall, the ordained sangha wrapped themselves up in their warm, woolen zens and the lay people pulled on their puffy jackets and slung their scarves around their head and shoulders to brace against the cold outside. Many of the exiting crowd headed quickly for the Tsurphu Administration’s office near the side gate into Tergar. Here, on the shiny black desks, they would find rose pink sheets of lined paper with “Deceased” printed at the top. On these, they wrote the names of loved ones, relatives and friends, who had passed away. During the evening’s puja, these sheets would be offered to a ritual fire that, after prayers, mantras, and supplications, cleansed away negativities and obstacles for those whose names went up in flames.
    The puja being performed was an essential version of “Overturning the Depths of Samsara” (‘Khor ba dong sprugs), which is a special form of a standing red Avalokiteshvara with one hand holding a flower garland and the other, a vase. Coincidently, this deity was the very first empowerment that the Karmapa ever gave. It was on September 29, 1992 when he was eight years old and living at Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet. Two days before, over twenty thousand people had come from everywhere in the Land of Snow and the world for his enthronement and this empowerment was his gift to them.
    For this evening’s puja, Osel Nyingpo, the Karmapa’s personal shrine attendant, had placed a table before the Karmapa’s throne and set upon it seven large offering bowls, a beautiful butter lamp, and an elevated platform holding a mandala plate on which is placed a ceremonial vase tied in red silk with an image of the deity nestled against a small fan of layered peacock feathers. Special for this ceremony is the eighteen inch metal stand on the right of the platform. From its crossbar, covered in a deep yellow kata, hangs a piece of paper (or name card), representing the deceased and covered in line drawings of the objects of the five senses, and so forth. Stacked next to it are all the rose pink sheets from the Tsurphu Office, now filled with names listed by the monks, nuns, and lay people attending the puja this evening. All of these will also be included in the prayers.
    The Karmapa enters the shrine hall surrounded by the sound of jalings. Once he is settled on his throne, the ceremony begins with prayers to Guru Rinpoche followed by the practice of Overturning the Depths of Samsara. During this ritual, the Karmapa calls in the consciousness of the deceased to abide in the symbolic paper on the stand and then blesses it with saffron water from the conch, flicked by a long stalk of supple kusha grass. With a precise and swift gesture, the Karmapa throws mustard seeds to clear away obstacles, and purifies the consciousness, signified by pouring water from the vase over a small round mirror of metal. Osel Nyingpo then takes the stand, walks down the main aisle, carpeted in a rich red rug, and turns to bow several times to the Karmapa with statues of the Sixteenth Karmapa and the Buddha directly behind him.
    Osel Nyingpo then returns the vase to the Karmapa, who takes it to bless in four places the paper symbolizing the deceased’s consciousness. Offerings are made of the five sense objects—food, incense, cloth, and so forth—and a teaching is given on not being attached to samsara and to travel to Dewachen as a body of light. The deceased’s consciousness is imaged in the form of a white Ah and transferred into the heart of Amitabha. After the lineage prayer that is usually recited after the Four Session Guru Yoga, Osel Nyingpo brings in a large metal basin, over which he holds the metal stand. Having taken the flame from a gently burning lamp on his table, the Karmapa lights the bottom of the paper with a long stick wrapped in cotton, thus starting the process of consuming by fire all the obscurations of the deceased: “With the flames of wisdom, all impurities are cleansed away in the expanse of primordial purity, clear and deep.”
    In no time, the papers curl up in flames, their light reflected on the Karmapa’s radiant face while his lips move in prayer and his left hand rings a resonant bell. He continues his prayers while adding the rose colored papers to the flames, momentarily rising up higher than his head. For a long time, the papers burn while the drum and cymbals roll. At the end, the Karmapa circles the vase above the basin, pouring a clear stream of water to bless and extinguish the last flames. The evening comes to a close with additional texts, including a heart-felt chanting of the Prayer To Be Reborn in Dewachen:
      May we take birth in Dewachen.
      Once we’re born there, may the lotus open;
      In that body, may we be enlightened.
      Thus fully awakened, may our emanations
      Guide living beings ’til the end of time.


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    21 January, 2015
    A crescendo of anticipation has built up to this most special day when Bokar Rinpoche’s reincarnation (yangsi) will be presented to the world. The day before, the Gyalwang Karmapa had announced:
      Tomorrow is the first day of twelfth Tibetan month so we’ll recite the smoke offering (sang) puja, Billowing Clouds of Amrita. Also tomorrow morning—and we’ve waited for this a long time, more than ten years—finally at 10am Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche will be introduced. At that time, we’ll recite the Prostrations and Offerings to the Sixteen Elders. This ceremony will be broadcast over a live webcast so that many disciples of Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche will be able to see it and participate.
    In preparation for this momentous event, the Karmapa spent hours the evening before in the shrine room making sure that everything was perfect. A small throne covered in bright brocades is set up between Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Khenpo Rinpoche Lodrö Donyö from Bokar Rinpoche’s monastery in Mirik, who has carried the responsibility of caring for the monastery and finding the reincarnation ever since Bokar Rinpoche passed away in 2004.
    For hours, the Karmapa supervised the arranging of a richly laden altar and the adorning of the grand statue of the Buddha with new robes, their golden light a shimmering river in the center of the shrine. Every detail was considered again and again; even the offerings filling the Buddha’s alms bowl are renewed. The final touch is a twenty-five foot long white kata laid across the lap of the Buddha as the last offering.
    On the twenty-first starting at 7am, the sang puja by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye is performed with nuns in the lead and taking up most of the shrine hall, which seems appropriate given the previous Bokar Rinpoche’s devotion to Tara. The puja visualization fills all of space with a multitude of offerings made to the buddhas down through all levels of beings; no one worthy is left out, nothing suitable to offer is not given. Afterward the Karmapa bestows a reading transmission for the beautiful long life prayer he wrote for the yangsi in three stanzas: one for his past life, one for the present, and one for the future. It is a prayer that will follow Bokar Rinpoche throughout this life and the numerous ones to follow.
    After this preparation, the ceremony for Bokar Rinpoche begins a little after 10am with the entrance of the Karmapa, who walks to his throne with great dignity, regal like the king of Dharma that he is. The Karmapa is famous for recognizing tulkus, perhaps his most amazing ability. Since his coming to India, Bokar is the third reincarnate lama he has recognized, and perhaps the first tulku recognition and hair cutting ceremony to be webcast live. Over six thousand people from all over the world will connect through the web.
    As a prelude to describing the search for him, comes an eloquent praise of Bokar Rinpoche, which is also a profound Dharma teaching. Three monks standing near the Karmapa give the words in Tibetan, English, and Chinese.
      Skilled in means, you vanquished Mara’s forces when other could not. Your body resplendent as a golden Mount Meru, fearless Shakyamuni, grant us goodness. The ultimate nature of all phenomena, the nature of our mind, the potential of buddha nature, is just the way it is described: as it is before, so is it later. The unchanging Dharma nature is free of arising, ceasing, or changing. The bodhisattvas who dwell on the levels are free of birth, death, aging, or decline. The noble ones have abandoned completely the suffering of death, disease, and aging. Birth is due to karma and afflictions. Since they are free of the latter two, they are also free of birth. Yet for the buddhas and bodhisattvas to accomplish limitless benefit for living beings, those whose character is compassion, display birth, death, aging, and illness. As this shows, they display the inconceivable illusion of birth. This is the nature of buddhas and bodhisattvas, and thus is it now with the reincarnation of Bokar Rinpoche, the glory of Buddhism and of sentient beings.
    After this, Khenpo Rinpoche Lodro Donyo is invited to relate the essential facts of the search for the reincarnation of Bokar Rinpoche. He reads:
    “When the supreme guide and master Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche passed to nirvana, enthroning his supreme nirmanakaya reincarnation became a responsibility which none of the branches of Bokar monastery could shirk. After his passing away in 2004, the traditional forty-nine days of puja were held. At the request of Mirik Monastery, His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje came to Mirik and presided over the last day of the puja. The following day Khenpo Rinpoche Lodrö Donyö along with the monastery’s khenpos, lamas, chant masters, officials including the general secretary and managers, and teachers as well as the monastic and lay communities associated with the monastery offered the Gyalwang Karmapa a mandala and representations of body, speech, and mind. They then fervently requested the Gyalwang Karmapa to identify Bokar Rinpoche’s reincarnation through his wisdom. The Gyalwang Karmapa graciously consented, and they were filled with limitless joy.
    “During the decade that has since passed, they have made their request again every year. The lamas and students from Dharma centers in Asia and the West, and Rinpoche’s devoted students from India, Nepal, and Bhutan repeatedly reminded His Holiness in a variety of ways, but aside from receiving his consent, the requests bore no fruit.
    “At a meeting of the Kagyu Monlam working team after the conclusion the Thirty-First Kagyu Monlam in January, 2014, the Gyalwang Karmapa said for the first time that he hoped everyone would be able to meet the reincarnation of Bokar Rinpoche during the Thirty-Second Kagyu Monlam. Everyone was filled with great hope. On the thirtieth of January, during a celebration of the Tsurphu New Year, the Karmapa gave a letter identifying the reincarnation, which reads:
      In the north of the hidden land of Sikkim, in front of a mountain shaped like a lhashö torma, there is the six-year-old son of a father whose name has a ta and a mother whose name has an a. If he is recognized as the reincarnation of Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, it will be beneficial for the teachings and beings.
    The Gyalwang Karmapa
    22 January, 2015
    “Several senior monastery officials were immediately appointed as a search committee, and based on the letter, they identified three children, the names of whose parents, the topography of whose birthplace, and whose ages mostly matched the identification letter. But when presented to His Holiness, he gave no specific instructions on what to do or who it was.
    “During the Thirty-Second Kagyu Monlam held in Bodhgaya in December 2014, there was a great expectation of seeing the reincarnation’s face, but it did not come to pass.
    “On the sixth of January, after the Thirty-Second Monlam was completed, the Gyalwang Karmapa specially invited Khenpo Rinpoche Lodrö Donyö to a dinner gathering for the Monlam working team, which was also attended by the two heart sons. After the meal, the Karmapa said with great delight, ‘Though I had hoped that Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche’s reincarnation would be able to come to this year’s Monlam, the timing did not work out. But we should be able to bring him to the upcoming Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, and Khenpo Rinpoche should go bring the reincarnation to Bodhgaya.
    “On the eighth, Khenpo Rinpoche departed for Gangtok, accompanied by a party including Khenpo Gawang as a representative of the Tsurphu Ladrang. They arrived there on the ninth. In addition to the identification letter from last year, they based their search on the Gyalwang Karmapa’s advice to search in the village of Dilkhyim in the North Sikkim district. The Gyalwang Karmapa had also recently provided new, more detailed maps and diagrams of the reincarnation’s birthplace and information about the number of members in his family. Khenpo Gawang and the general secretary searched in Dilkhyim and found one boy who matched all of the criteria. They relayed the information to His Holiness, who told them to wait while continuing the search.
    “On the twelfth, His Holiness said that the boy who had been identified a few days earlier should be brought to Khenpo Rinpoche, so the boy was brought to the Norkhill Hotel in Gangtok where he was staying. With boundless delight, Khenpo Rinoche blessed the reincarnation by touching his head and hands with the previous Bokar Rinpoche’s Shakyamuni statue that had been his support for his vows and the blessed image of Tara that had been his support for meditation. He also performed a cleansing ritual. His Holiness told them that same evening to come to Bodhgaya quickly, so they departed the next day for Bodhgaya, arriving on the morning of the fifteenth.
    “As related above, throughout the process the Gyalwang Karmapa used his wisdom and great compassion to identify the reincarnation of Bokar Rinpoche without mistake, fulfilling the wishes that everyone from Bokar monastery and its associated branches as well as all of the faithful disciples from dharma centers around the world have held in their hearts for many years. It is due solely to the compassion and bodhichitta of His Holiness that the reincarnation has been recognized—were one to fill the entire universe with jewels and offer it to him, it would not repay even a fraction of his kindness. All the disciples of Bokar Rinpoche, monastic and lay, bow with body, speech, and mind and join their palms at the crowns of our heads to express with a single voice their thanks for his unsurpassable kindness.”
    The three monks continued to relate in three languages that “Gyalwang Karmapa is the embodiment of the activity of all the buddhas of the past, present, and future, Avalokiteshvara in human form. The nature and manifestations of all phenomena appear clearly in the mirror of his wisdom. So we ask him to speak about the reincarnation of Bokar Rinpoche.” In response, the Karmapa reads his letter of recognition which is included in the account of the search above. He then dons his black and gold activity hat, and the practice of the Sixteen Elders (or Arhats) begins. These elders are known as the protectors of the Dharma, and the words of the text are particularly appropriate for this occasion:
      Sixteen Elders, you have cast aside your own welfare
      And remain in the jungle of samsara for the benefit of others.
      Come here through your commitment and compassion….
      I invite you to this garden of precious merit.
      I pray that you come since my offerings are for beings’ benefit.
    At this point in the text, the chanting stops, and the sound of reed horns is heard coming from the back of the Pavilion. Preceded by monks wearing yellow cockade hats, the yangsi in a golden yellow, full length chupa walks down the main aisle to stand in front of the Karmapa. Here, he performs three bows on a square of yellow brocade framed in red. With these the traditional hair cutting ceremony begins. The yangsi offers the Karmapa a long white kata and receives one back. He makes the traditional offering of a mandala, and the representations of body (a statue), speech (a text), and mind (a stupa) to the Karmapa.
    Afterward, the young Bokar Rinpoche sits on the square of brocade in front of the Karmapa to receive refuge vows and the precepts from him. After three more bows, he stands near the throne while the Karmapa cuts a piece of his hair, blesses him with water from an ornate vase, and reads out the formal proclamation of young tulku’s recognition and new name:
      I hereby recognize Karma Palden Lodrö Chökyi Gyaltsen Chok Tamche Le Nampar Gyalway Lha, whose father is named Tensang and whose mother, known as Jama Ama, is actually named Yardren, from the village of Dilkhyim in the North Sikkim District of India, as the Third Bokar Rinpoche.
      Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje
      in the Wood Horse Year, 21 January 2015
    The inspiring name translates as Karma Glorious Intellect, Victory Banner of the Dharma, Divine One Utterly Victorious Over All. The yangsi now receives a kata and red blessing cord from the Karmapa, which completes this first major ceremony in a tulku’s life. The yangsi then turns to offer a kata to Gyaltsap Rinpoche, who gives him a wrapped present, and to Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, next to whom the newly recognized Bokar Rinpoche takes his seat on the throne waiting for him.
    As the puja starts again, its refrain takes on added meaning after the recognition:
      Grant your blessing that the gurus live long,
      And that the Dharma flourish.
    Khenpo Rinpoche Lodro Donyo leads the representatives from Mirik Monastery in offering a mandala and representations of body, speech, and mind to his new student and old teacher. The longer the young reincarnation sits on the throne the more comfortable he seems, as if he is settling into a familiar world; he touches foreheads with some of the monks and blesses other fully with his child’s hand, old and young at once. Actually, it is Khenpo Rinpoche at his side who seems younger, almost childlike in his great delight and joy to be sitting next to his beloved teacher at last.
    Before the end, the puja is paused for a festive offering of tea and rice. During the silence, the discipline master of the nuns reads out the names of the donors on this auspicious day and elaborate praises of the new yangsi. Streams of offerings continue and the ceremony ends with long life prayers for the Gyalwang Karmapa, whose brilliant and inconceivable wisdom has made this day possible.


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