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    Second Arya Kshema Winter Gathering Bodhgaya,
    12-19 January, 2015

    During the Second Arya Kshema Winter Gathering, instead of attending the teachings and debates, a group of 28 nuns have been following   a special programme. Drawn from seven nunneries–Ralang and Tilokpur in India, Karma Leksheyling, Tara Abbey, Osel Karma Thekchöling and  Samten Ling in Nepal  and Drubde Palmo Chökyi Dingkhang in Bhutan– the nuns spent eight days studying basic heaIthcare and how to respond to medical emergencies.

    The programme was born out of a meeting between the Gyalwang Karmapa and Dr. Jeffrey Chen, CEO of the Taiwanese NGO Taiwan Health Corps. The Gyalwang Karmapa had been considering initiatives for improving both the health and healthcare of nuns and Dr. Chen was interested in developing a programme of rural health worker training in monasteries and nunneries.

    The team of ten health professionals from Taiwan Health Corps, who came especially to Bodhgaya to give the training, included a surgeon, a   gynaecologist, a family physician, a dentist, a doctor trained in traditional Chinese medicine and two senior nurses.  Dr. Dawa from the Kagyu Monlam health team acted as adviser and translator.  

    To correct any misunderstandings the nuns might have, the course opened with a session on anatomy. This was followed by an overview of minor ailments such as constipation, colds and flu, fevers, stomach upsets, headaches, parasites, and anaemia, and  suggestions about primary interventions which might be sufficient, such as commonly  available medicines and supplements.  The nuns found this session particularly valuable.

     "Now we know what to do," explained one nun. "If someone has a minor illness, there is no need to send them to the doctor immediately.  For example, if they have diarrhoea, we can use rehydration and monitor what happens." A session on pharmacology ensured that they knew how to administer medicines, their side effects, allergic reactions and dangers.

    The bulk of the course, however, comprised very practical "hands on" sessions, where the nuns learned basic first aid and what to do in medical emergencies: resuscitation, how to stop or reduce bleeding, using splints to immobilise broken bones, bandaging wounds, checking head injuries and assessing burns.

    They practised CPR on specially designed dummies– a green light it up when they managed to do chest compressions correctly–and were surprised at the degree of force necessary.  "You do have to break ribs sometimes," a doctor warned them.  When it came to splinting a broken leg, they devised a way to preserve a monk or nun’s modesty by immobilising both legs with a splint tied on the outside of the robes. While learning to do the Heimlich Manoeuvre  [used when people choke],   they burst into laughter every time someone succeeded in popping the cork forcefully from the mock chest bag they were using to practise the technique.

    "We can help many people by learning this," commented a young nun from Nepal, "Not just in the nunnery, but outside in the community too."

    Another session that the nuns found particularly helpful was on women’s health. In order for the nuns to feel comfortable and able to talk openly, only the gynaecologist attended, and one of the nuns translated from English to Tibetan. After a general introduction, the nuns were free to ask whatever they wanted, and they did, raising a wide range of issues from their own personal experience and that of family and friends. Everyone agreed that this was a major source of health problems and worry in their nunneries, and that their new knowledge would be of immediate benefit when helping and advising other nuns.

    A brief description of traditional Chinese medicine was included in the course too.

    On the penultimate day there were further practical sessions, revising all the techniques which the nuns had been taught and an informal assessment of their skills. Both students and teachers felt that everyone had learnt a lot and had a lot of fun in the process; all the nuns were keen to learn more about health care and requested further training.  Finally, on the last morning, the nuns, with their trainers, had a surprise audience with the Gyalwang Karmapa, who presented every nun with a certificate of course completion.

    NGO Taiwan Health Corps, whose motto is We do it for love, have worked previously with the Root Institute in Bodhgaya, a Buddhist monastery in Bangladesh, and have run projects in Nepal, Turkestan and West Africa. This was their first time working with nuns and everyone was impressed by how much enthusiasm and effort the nuns put into the course. They hope to continue the programme over three years, across nunneries and monasteries in the Himalayan region specifically, with the aim of supporting essential healthcare in remote areas and small communities.


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    Mahabodhi Stupa, Bodhgaya,
    22 January, 2015

    The morning following his recognition ceremony at Tergar, the 3rd Bokar Rinpoche Yangsi,   dressed in the traditional golden brocade chuba of a Rinpoche, visited the Mahabodhi Stupa for the very first time.

    Accompanied by Khenpo Lodrö Dönyo Rinpoche, Bokar Rinpoche Yangsi arrived at the stupa mid-morning, and was welcomed at the entrance by a representative of the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee. Also in the entourage were Kagyu Monlam CEO Lama Chodrak, monks from his monastery at Mirik near Darjeeling, and lay disciples of the previous Bokar Rinpoche from overseas dharma centres.

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    21 January 2015, Tergar Monastery Bodhgaya.
    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, from compassion you took birth as a Shakyan;
      You vanquished Mara’s forces while others could not.
      Your body resplendent as a golden Mount Meru,
      O King of the Shakyas, 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:
      Just as before, so is it later,
      The unchanging Dharma nature.
    It 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 those, they are free of that.
    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. [add in link to the official report] After this was translated into English and Chinese, the three monks continued to relate in three languages: “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 would ask him to speak about the reincarnation of Bokar Rinpoche.”
    In response, the Gyalwang Karmapa reads his letter of recognition which is included in the account of the search. 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 that waits 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 his 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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    ÉMAHO! Wondrous Buddha of Boundless Light,

    On your right, the Lord of Great Compassion,

    And on your left, the Bodhisattva of Great Power,

    All are surrounded by countless buddhas and bodhisattvas.

    There is wonderful, immeasurable happiness and joy

    In this realm called Sukhavati.

    The moment I pass from this life,

    Without taking another birth,

    May I be born there and behold the face of Amitabha.

    Having made this aspiration,

    May all the buddhas and bodhisattvas of  the ten directions

    Give their blessing that it be fulfilled without hindrances.


    Victors and your children of the ten directions and three times, think of me.

    I rejoice in the completion of the two accumulations.

    All the virtue I have gathered throughout the three times, 

    I offer to the Three Jewels.

    May the teachings of the Victorious Ones flourish.

    I dedicate virtue to all sentient beings.

    May they all attain buddhahood.

    May all roots of virtue, collected into one,

    Ripen in my mental continuum.

    May the two obscurations be purified and the accumulations be perfected.

    May there be long life, no illness, and deepening experience and realization.

    May I traverse the ten bodhisattva levels in this life.

    At the moment of passing from this life,

    May I immediately be born in Sukhavati.

    Once born there, may the lotus open,

    And may I attain buddhahood with that body.

    Having attained awakening,

    May I forever guide beings with emanations.

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    January 24, 2015
 Tergar Monastery

    For the final event of the Second Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, the Tergar shrine hall has been set up with tables for the defenders, set across the center aisle in front of the Karmapa’s throne, and with a microphone for the challengers who will stand two thirds of the way back towards the shrine door. This is to keep the challengers, who can get quite enthusiastic as a group, at a certain distance from the defenders.

    The young Druppön Dechen Rinpoche sits at the head of the first row of teachers and khenpos. In a previous lifetime, when he was the guide for the Karmapa’s seat at Tsurphu in Tibet, Druppön Dechen Rinpoche was very kind to a group of nuns who had no home. He generously gave them teachings and also a place to stay at Tsurphu; several of them came to live in the famous caves of the previous Karmapas, located on the middle circumambulation path. His tulku seems to be continuing his support of nuns in this next life, too.
    This evening is the culmination of the daily debating that has happened since the nuns arrived. The three responders (those sitting on the ground) are nuns from Tara Abby (Thrangu Rinpoche), Karma Drubdey (Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso), and Samten Ling (Gyalpo Rinpoche). The challengers, who number up to sixteen, are from Tilokpur Nunnery (the Gyalwang Karmapa), Dongyu Gatsal Ling (Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo), and Ralang Nunnery (H.E. Gyaltsap Rinpoche).
    To begin, at the back of the central aisle, the three nuns place their yellow cockade hats curved like crescent moons on the red carpet in front of them. After three bows, they walk up the aisle to offer a kata to the Karmapa’s table and then take their seats facing the challengers. As usual, the first challenger begins with a dialogue that establishes the definitions of the terms, in this initial case, it is the category of relationship, which actually deals with cause and effect.
    After the nuns have been debating for a while, one of the khenpos on the side joins in the animated exchange to challenge the defending nun and then another teacher adds his voice. She, however, remains unflappable, responding to them both with aplomb and a smile. The debate moves through the classic territory of the reasoning on being one or many—the key analytical tool used in Chandrakirti’s Entering the Middle Way. “Do phenomena have a single essence or not?” “Is the essential nature of permanence and impermanence the same or separate?” “If it’s the same, then give me an example of something that is both impermanent and permanent!” And when the answer was slow in coming, the challenging nuns took up a chorus of Chir! Chir! Chir! Give your reason! The debate was energetic and, just as the monks do, one nun wraps her zen (stole) around her waist (the equivalent of rolling up your sleeves) and leans into her hand claps that punctuate her statements. A round of enthusiastic applause greets the end of the debate.
    The next group of defenders comes forth, bows, and walks down the aisle to offer their katas to the Karmapa, who keeps them as a special sign of an auspicious connection. The topic now is universals and particulars. The nuns again start the discussion with definitions and then move into the substance of the debate: “If it’s a thing, it follows that it’s not a universal.” Again the debate is lively and the nuns again demonstrate that they are at home in this new form they have only been studying for two years. At the end, a single nun comes forth to close the debate. She mentions that Dharma is essential for happiness and joy, and that the benefit of debate is that it can help lead us all the way to the level of Buddhahood.
    After a break, the Karmapa speaks, first showing a beautiful new logo for the Arya Kshema gathering. It shows three nuns, their curving robes shaped like individual lotus petals; underneath on the right and left are quick, pointed strokes indicating the leaves and grounding the image. After welcoming everyone, the Karmapa notes that there were many different activities and they all went well because people were working harmoniously together. We should all take joy in the fact that we could be here. The Karmapa also praises the nuns saying that this is only the second gathering of the nuns and the monks had gathered eighteen times; however, the nuns had improved at a much faster rate than the monks. All the nuns should rejoice in this and the Karmapa offered his thanks as well.


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    20 January 2015, Tergar Monastery

    During the Second Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, the Gyalwang Karmapa led a special ritual that he himself had composed, making powerful aspirations in support of all female practitioners and particularly for the flourishing of the nuns’ dharma.
    Blending his voice with those of the female chantmasters, the Karmapa led the gathering through a recitation drawn from the ‘Sutra of Repaying Kindness, Great Skill in Means’, in praise of the qualities of nine exceptional Bhikshunis who were the direct disciples of the Buddha. “May we have the merit to uphold the teachings properly like the Buddha’s mother, the elder Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati Gautami,” the verse began.
      “May we be supreme among all with prajna and confidence like Bhikshuni Kshema,
      May we be supreme among all with miraculous powers like Bhikshuni Utpalavarna,
      May we be supreme among teachers like Bhikshuni Dharmadatta,
      May we be supreme among those who uphold the vinaya like Krsa Gautami,
      May we be supreme among those who discern the sutras like Bhikshuni Kachangala,
      May we be supreme among those who have memorized what they heard like Bhikshuni Soma,
      May we be supreme among those who generate merit like Bhikshuni Supriya,
      May we be supreme among those with restraint like Bhikshuni Yasodhara.”
    The bhikshunis described in this verse each practiced and attained great accomplishment under the Buddha’s guidance, and all reached the level of Arhat (or ‘Arhantini’, as female Arhats are known in Sanskrit). Therefore, this beautiful verse serves as a powerful inspiration for nuns and female practitioners today, who may look up to these female Arhantinis as outstanding examples.
    The three-hour-long ritual has now become a key event during the nuns’ Winter Dharma Gathering. Called ‘A Ritual for Women’s and Especially Nuns’ Dharma to Flourish, Based on the Inseparability of Noble Chenrezig and Noble Ananda’, it was specially composed by the Gyalwang Karmapa before the inaugural Arya Kshema gathering in 2014. It includes the Mahayana Sojong ritual, recitations from the ‘Bhikshunivibhanga’ and other vinaya scriptures, as well as supplications to Ananda and verses of auspiciousness.
    At times spontaneously leading the puja, together with the female chantmasters, the Gyalwang Karmapa also led another recitation drawn from the same ‘Sutra of Repaying Kindness, Great Skill in Means’, which relates the story of how Mahaprajapati, the Buddha’s own step-mother, first requested the Buddha to allow women to go forth and ordain. After the Buddha’s initial refusal of her request, his attendant Ananda then interceded and requested the Buddha on their behalf, to which the Buddha finally agreed. It was due to Ananda’s kindness that women were allowed to ordain, the Buddha said, and therefore in the future both Bhikshunis and laywomen should think of Ananda with their whole hearts.
    “They should respect him, serve him, call him by name, and continually be grateful to him. They should not forget him in the six periods of day and night, and remember him,” the sutra reads.
    It then describes how if a woman takes the Mahayana Sojong precepts with full concentration and diligence on certain auspicious days, it is prophesied that Ananda will protect her and accomplish her wishes through miraculous powers.
    The sutra continues that just as in the past Ananda requested the Buddha to allow women to go forth and enter the teachings, it was prophesied that in the future he would be the supreme guardian for all those women who have faith in the dharma.
    “May every woman in the world’s physical and mental harms and sufferings be pacified, and may they gain independence and complete powers and abilities,” the sutra says. “May all women who go forth perfect the aggregate of discipline that pleases the Nobles, and complete their study and teaching of the three baskets of scriptures, and their meditation practice of the three trainings.”
    During the puja an exquisite thangka of Avalokitesvara was prominently placed above the Gyalwang Karmapa’s throne. Avalokitesvara was depicted in Indian style: standing, clothed in a saffron-colored lower-garment, with the Bhikshu Ananda emanating from his open right-hand palm and resting in space. The image was a beautiful visual illustration of the inseparability of Avalokitesvara—the Buddha of compassion—and Ananda.
    Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche also took part, seated on thrones to the Gyalwang Karmapa’s right and left, heading the first two rows of nuns. Throughout the puja, the gathering of nuns, monks and laypeople united in their aspirations for the nuns’ dharma to prosper, with supplications specifically for dispelling obstacles and unfavorable conditions as well as for protection.


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    Monlam Pavilion,
    26 January, 2015

    The children live in the Elizabeth Children’s Home, which is run by the Jesus Christ of Compassion Charitable Society. In what was a very special treat, they gathered with their teachers in the Monlam Pavilion, drank mango juice and munched biscuits. In addition each child received a new woollen blanket.  As part of Indian Republic Day celebrations, International Kagyu Monlam CEO Lama Chodrak organised a small party for thirty children from the local Christian orphanage.

    The culmination of the celebration, however, was when the Gyalwang Karmapa himself came over to the pavilion especially to meet the children.


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    24 January 2014 Tergar Monastery
    After two-and-a-half weeks of daily teachings from the Gyalwang Karmapa, intensive debate training for the participating nuns, and a variety of other dharma activities, the Second Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering successfully concluded.
    “We’ve had a long string of dharma activities here in Bodhgaya,” the Gyalwang Karmapa said during the closing ceremony, “starting with the Kagyu monks’ Guncho, the Kagyu Monlam, and now the nuns’ Winter Dharma Gathering. They have all gone very well, and this is because everyone here worked together as one. We can all take joy in this.”
    Beginning in the morning, on the final day the Gyalwang Karmapa first led a Tara puja which then continued on through the afternoon. Tara is renowned as having taken a vow to become fully enlightened in a female form. She is particularly supplicated for protection and removal of obstacles, thus making the Tara puja especially appropriate for concluding the nuns’ Winter Dharma Gathering.
    The evening’s closing ceremony began with the nuns showcasing their debating skills before the Gyalwang Karmapa. This culminated the intensive daily debate practice during the Winter Dharma Gathering as well as ongoing training throughout the year in their respective nunneries.
    Next the Karmapa gave an important speech to the nuns, who were gathered together from nine different nunneries in three countries for the final time this year. He began by explaining his historic plans for restoring nuns’ ordination in the Tibetan tradition, beginning next year.
    “The biggest event during next year’s Third Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering will be reinstituting the novice and training vows for nuns within the Tibetan tradition,” he said. “This will be an historical event.”
    The Karmapa then outlined his plans to standardise the curriculum in the nuns’ shedras, and announced that he would later hold a week-long meeting at Gyuto Monastery for this process and invite leading scholars to assist.
    “In the nunneries it’s important that we have good education and also good health,” he continued. “We consider these both to be extremely important, so we have decided that within the nunneries we’ll sponsor the wages and travel expenses for teachers. Likewise, we’ll try to help the nunneries establish clinics and bring in nuns or doctors who have diplomas and proper certification.”
    “This year we also gave leadership training to a few nuns from each nunnery, and likewise we also gave basic health and first aid training to a few nuns from each nunnery. We will continue this training so we can support the nuns in becoming independent.”
    “However, in order for all this to happen we need more information about what is happening in each nunnery. So, in order to have better communication we may also need to create a new division for nun’s affairs within the Tsurphu Labrang. This would particularly look after the needs of nuns, and is something I think would be beneficial.”
    Next the Gyalwang Karmapa announced some the provisional dates for next year’s activities: the pre-Monlam teachings, to be held just before the 33rd Kagyu Monlam, will begin on 12 February 2016, while the Third Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering is currently scheduled to run from 26 February until 14 March, 2016.
    The Gyalwang Karmapa closed the Winter Dharma Gathering by offering his sincere thanks and appreciation to all the many people who had helped to make it happen.
    “I’d like to thank all the workers who’ve helped in the Winter Dharma Gathering. Likewise, there are many laypeople from abroad who have come and participated in various ways, whether by making donations or by offering support through your great intentions. This has been very beneficial for the nuns’ gathering and a great help. I’d like to thank you for paying such special attention, and giving special respect, to the nuns.”


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    26 January, 2015 – Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya

    In what has become an annual event during his winter programme, the Gyalwang Karmapa joined in the flag-raising ceremony to celebrate Indian Republic Day.

    More than a hundred young monks with their teachers lined up in straight lines on the patio outside the Tergar Monastery shrine hall, and stood smartly to attention, below the flagstaff. Members of the regular police force in their knife-crease, pressed khaki uniforms and the paramilitary protection squad in blue-and-grey camouflage stood to attention beside them. As one, they presented arms with their automatic rifles or saluted, while the Indian national flag was raised. Emblazoned with the Buddhist Emperor Ashoka’s 24-spoke chakra wheel in navy blue, the tricoloured flag —with saffron, green and white panels— has become the symbol of modern, democratic India.

    Also present at the ceremony were members of His Holiness’ Tsurphu Labrang staff and Tibetan security personals, most of whom are either serving soldiers on secondment to security duties or ex-soldiers. Many monks, nuns and foreign visitors clustered round and joined in too.

    The Gyalwang Karmapa has often spoken of the debt the Tibetans owe the Noble Land of India, being both the birthplace of Buddhism and a place of refuge or His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people. He watched with deep respect as the flag rose high until its colours caught the morning sun.

    The young monks sang the National Anthem and chanted Buddhist prayers for the happiness and well-being of the world and all sentient beings. Then they enthusiastically waved small national flags before feasting on celebratory Indian sweets.

    Immediately afterwards the Gyalwang Karmapa received the Indian security personnel upstairs in his audience room and presented each of them with Indian sweets as gratitude.


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    January 26, 2015
    Inside the now empty and rambling frame of the Monlam kitchen with the bound lengths of bamboo still supporting deep blue tarpaulins, a small shrine has been set up. On the brocade covered table are two rows of the traditional offering bowls, and in front, a large offering cup on its stand sits next to a plate with a white torma. Not far away, a small rectangular area of earth has been opened in the brick floor.
    Around eleven in the morning, the Gyalwang Karmapa comes walking through the nearby field with the young Druppön Dechen at his side and accompanied by a small group of monks. He will perform a special ceremony (sometimes called taming the earth) to request the land and gratify the local spirits. The offerings are divided into three main phases. First, the white torma and a golden libation (gser skyems) are offered to the earth goddess to solicit the land from her. The Karmapa kneels in front of his chair with Druppön Dechen to make prayers. A stick of incense is brought to the Karmapa and offerings are made to the local deities (sa bdag). As he plays the bell and dorje, Druppön Dechen holds his incense while the offering of a golden libation is carried off. The final offering is for the spirits (‘byung po), which include the elemental spirits of the earth, water, fire, and air.
    Then the Karmapa rises from his chair and circumambulates the symbolic site of the consecration. He gives the spade, tied with a white kata, to the young Druppön Dechen and instructs him how to make the first ceremonial scoops of earth in the four cardinal directions and the center. The Karmapa ties a long white kata to a wood post anchored in the center of the rectangle and makes the final offerings of rice, tossing it into the air as the prayers for auspiciousness are recited: “May all be auspicious here during the day. May all be auspicious during the night….”


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    January 26, 2015
    The road into the Vihar has been lined in soft orange and cream satins embellished with gold sequins, and just after the gate into the Vihar, a large Dharma wheel has been chalked on the red carpeting. Nearby are a group of five male dancers with tall brocade hats and their maroon and white striped stoles. Just behind them wait five Ladakhi ladies, wearing their distinctive clothing and headdress—a wide turquoise studded wave that dips down over their forehead to end in a single beautiful stone. They carry long-spouted brass pitchers of liquor, the traditional offering of welcome in the Himalayan region. In the courtyard, about four hundred ordained and lay people wait before an open area reserved for the dance performances. Just beyond it, an elevated pavilion has been set up with a throne for the Gyalwang Karmapa, net to which is a shrine with an impressive three-foot Buddha statue lined below with the traditional seven offering bowls and a butter lamp.
    Minutes before two o’clock, the distant sound of a siren becomes audible. Soon the Karmapa’s car pulls up and he steps out to the welcome of dancers, the enchanted sound of the shehnai (a north Indian oboe), and two sets of double kettle drums. Walking to the ceremonial plaque that has been set up with a curtain and a kata, he pulls the string to reveal gold letters carved into a coal black stone: “The Ladakh Buddhist Vihara was inaugurated by His Holiness the XVII Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje on the 26th of January, 2015 at 2 pm in the presence of Ven. Lobzang Tashi, President of the Himalayan Buddhist Association, Tsewang Thinles, President Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) Leh, Ladakh/General Secretary Himalayan Buddhist Association.”
    The Karmapa then walks up a few steps to the veranda of the finished building and cuts a bright orange ribbon tied across the door to one of the new rooms. Thinking of what would be useful to Ladakhi pilgrims, the planners have equipped each room with an attached bath and a kitchen. The Karmapa then turns and moves to the pavilion where he lights a lamp in front of the Buddha before taking his seat on the throne.
    The Karmapa is accompanied by the young Druppön Dechen Rinpoche, who has a special connection with Ladakh. His previous incarnation, who was a great practitioner, built monasteries there and in 2000, the present one was born in Changthang Nyuma, Ladakh. At the age of two, he was recognized by the Karmapa and at four, the yangsi went to Rumtek Monastery, beginning his studies at the age of five. After learning the rituals along with their music and mudras plus memorizing all the texts for the practices performed in the monastery, he passed the rigorous exam to be a chant master at the age of thirteen. Since the founding of Rumtek Monastery, he is the youngest one to have been awarded this title.
    The program for the afternoon alternates dances by a troupe from Ladakh and speeches by important Ladakhi personages. The first speaker was Sh. Tsewang Thinles, president of the Ladakh Buddhist Association, who thanked the Karmapa for coming and reminded people that the Karmapa had laid the foundation stone for the new building in 2013. Sh. Tsering Namgyal, a member of the Minority Commission for the Government of India, expressed his hope that the Karmapa would be able to resume all the activities of his previous incarnation. Dr. Sonam Wangchuk, Executive Councilor, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council expressed his thanks for the Karmapa’s continued spiritual support.
    The third dance of the birds was especially charming as the women fluttered long white katas like wings to float them around the dance and fly them off the courtyard. The next address was by Sh. Thupstan Chhewang, a Member of Parliament, who spoke of his plans for development, and the last dance featured the five men in black hats, folded over to the side and resembling a beret. They carried the same bronze pitchers as the women did earlier, and as a final flourish, the placed them atop their black hats as they continued to dance in a circle and then dash off through the side exit.
    On behalf of the Vihar, the Karmapa descended from this throne to present gifts to officials, the engineer, and contractors. Returning to his seat, he addressed the gathering, beginning with welcoming everyone. The Karmapa rejoiced that in this perfect place of Bodhgaya, the most supreme in the entire world, they had been able to build a Vihara where not only Ladakhis but people from all over the Himalayan region could come to stay. Of all Buddhist pilgrimage sites, this one is the most important. He hoped that their plans to build other viharas at sites special to the Buddha’s life would also go as smoothly and be as successful as the one here in Bodhgaya, and he offered his support and help for these projects as well. Mentioning that he had been to Ladakh three times, he expressed the hope that he would be able to return in the future.
    Next followed a dance of auspiciousness which came to a temporary end when the male dancers gave their stoles to several people, who then went into the audience and offered the stoles to the important speakers, inviting them to join in. Everyone seemed to know the steps well and more people came to participate, including three women, who used the dupatta of their salwar kameez as the stole in their dance. It was a festive, familial way to share the blessings and happiness of the occasion.
    After a vote of thanks from Sh. Rinchen Namgyal, President of the Ladakh Buddhist Association’s Youth Wing, the officers and speakers offered katas to the Karmapa and, instead of his attendants who usually do this, it was the Karmapa himself who received the katas and returned them around people’s necks to highlight an auspicious connection. The official event came to a close as the Karmapa departed to the sound of the drums and shehnai. Afterward, tea and bread were served to everyone, continuing the feeling of a closeness and warmth the occasion had created.


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    The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa teaches on Gampopa's "Jewel Ornament of Liberation" during the 2nd annual Arya Kshema Winter Gathering for Kagyu Nuns. Recorded at Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya, India. January 8-23, 2015.

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    by Naushin Ahmed, Buddhistdoor International, 2015-01-28

    Opening ceremony. From kagyuoffice.org

    From Gyalwang Karmapa photos

    The Second Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering for Kagyu nuns took place from 8–24 January 2015. The annual event—named after Arya Kshema, a bhikshuni (nun) from the time of the Buddha, who was renowned for her wisdom and confidence—was held at Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya, in India’s Bihar State. Established last year by His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the gathering was launched to enhance the practice and education of Kagyu nuns, as well as to boost equality between nuns and monks.

    Discussing the initiative behind the program, the Karmapa explained, “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” (The Karmapa). On the same website he goes on to state, “Monks and nuns are the same in being able to uphold the Buddha’s teachings, and have the same responsibility to do so. 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, about 400 nuns from nine different nunneries in India, Nepal, and Bhutan took part. The program began at 8.30 a.m. on 8 January, with the Karmapa leading the opening ceremony. A number of tulkus, monks, and khenpos were present, as well as His Eminence the 4th Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, who was recognized and installed by the Karmapa in 1996. Several hundred laypeople also gathered inside the monastery, where garlands of flowers decorated the hall, sweet-smelling incense was burned, and the voices of female umze (chant leaders) rang out with Kagyu lineage prayers.

    The Karmapa was quick to address the issue of bhikshuni ordination: “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 Karmapa).

    This year, the 17-day gathering focused on discussion, debate, elementary to intermediate philosophy, and a variety of teachings, including a continuation of teachings by the Karmapa on Gampopa’s The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, introduced last year. A number of special pujas and practices were performed, including a ritual of the Sixteen Arhats and a Tara puja, as well as a ritual for the nuns’ Dharma to flourish, which the Karmapa had composed. He also personally taught the nuns most mornings from 8.30 a.m. to 11 a.m. 

    In contrast, the First Annual Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering—which took place from 20 January to 2 February 2014—concentrated to a greater extent on the Karmapa’s teachings, as opposed to the more rigorous training in dialectical debate and philosophical study that was a cornerstone of this year’s event. 

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    Designed by His holiness he 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje (2015)

    It shows three nuns, their curving robes shaped like individual lotus petals; underneath on the right and left are quick, pointed strokes indicating the leaves and grounding the image.

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    9 January, 2015

    Many people have accumulated a lot of good merit during his life time, but the most important and influential, in fact, is the moment of approaching death. Some people may perform good deeds in his life, but at dying, they may arise such great anger and hatred, and this will let him be born lower realm. The feats shining example of King Ashoka who with splendid meritorious exploit, he is predicted by Lord Buddha that a virtuous ruler who will appear after hundred years of time and he will built eighty-four thousand pagodas (stupas).

    When King Ashoka suffers from and reaches the moment of dying, one his chamber maid who assisting him by fanning, who perhaps doze over her duty and accidentally his King Ashoka's head with her fan. King Ashoka is very angry. He thinks that being the ruler of his own country, he is insulted by lady's action, before he die, he arises strong anger at such moment, it results he to be reborn as a poisonous dragon.

    Therefore, during dying, it is best to have a lama (teacher) who we possessed faith to stay by our side, rather than to let a teachers do not trust to stay near us, or someone who will make us angry to accompany at our side. Because death is the key, even if one has accumulated great merit in his lifetime, if an evil thought arises during his dying moment, he will therefore reborn to the lower realm; or even if one has committed a lot of evil deeds during his lifetime, but he repents it before he die, his life will still subject to change.

    After listening to such words, we still can not say: "I can act wildly against law and public opinion today, anyhow it is still good if I make great efforts at dying." By occasion at the time of real dying, for example, we have experienced great sufferings from accident or or serious illness, maybe we don't even have time to "think". Therefore, we must grasp the opportunity to do Dharma practice when we still alive.

    ~ The teaching from the second session of "Jewel Ornament of Liberation" during Ceremony of the Second Arya Kshema.http://gyalwangkarmapa.blogspot.tw/2015/01/blog-post_73.html

    Translated by 龔詠輝

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    Monlam Pavilion Grounds, Bodhgaya,
    26 January, 2015

    The Gyalwang Karmapa assisted by a small entourage of Drupon Rinpoche Yangsi, Geshe Rinchen Ngodup, Khenpos and the ritual master  performed a short sa-lung  ritual in the huge Monlam kitchen area.

    For several years now,   all meals for the thousands of monks and nuns attending the Kagyu Monlam have been prepared and served in this massive tented bamboo structure.  Each year it has to be erected before Monlam starts and dismantled afterwards, so the hope is that in the future it may be replaced by a permanent structure.

    Tibetans believe that the earth is sacred and not just theirs to use as they choose, so a sa-lung ritual, comprising offerings and prayers, is performed to request permission from the earth goddess  and the local deities and spirits who dwell  on the land, before any development can take place.

    A small altar had been set up, with two sets of traditional offerings−water for drinking, water for foot-washing, flowers, incense, light, scented water, food represented by two large white tormas, and music. One set was for the earth goddess and one for the local deities and spirits. In front of these two rows stood a special square-based white torma, with three discs, and a long-stemmed ritual cup containing tea and biscuits. These were the offerings for the earth goddess.

    During the first part of the ritual, after prayers had been recited, the white torma and the goblet were carried outside into the nearby field by the ritual master, and offered to the earth goddess.  Next offerings were made to the local deities:  the Gyalwang Karmapa offered incense and the ritual master refilled the cup and returned outside to offer a libation of hot tea to the ‘owners of the land’ A third libation was made to the spirits.

    In the second part of the ritual, the Gyalwang Karmapa circumambulated the symbolic centre of the land -a small square of earth which had been cleared in preparation –in a clockwise direction, blessing the area with scattered rice. He then enlisted the help of Drupon Rinpoche, handing him a mattock, to perform the symbolic groundbreaking ceremony.  A wooden post, supported by bricks, was erected in the centre of the square, and the Karmapa wrapped a katag around it, before leading dedication prayers for auspiciousness.

    The ceremony concluded and it was time for tea and Indian sweets to celebrate.


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    24 January 2015,Tergar Monastery
    During the Second Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering the Gyalwang Karmapa made the historical announcement that, beginning next year, he would take concrete steps towards restoring nuns’ vows in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
    Beginning with the restoration of the novice ‘getsulma’ and training ‘shikshamana’ nun’s vows next year, which will be conferred with the assistance of a special contingent of nuns from the Dharmagupta tradition, this will then lay the necessary framework leading to ‘gelongma’ or ‘bhikshuni’ full nun’s vows in the future.
    “The biggest event during next year’s Third Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering will be reinstituting the novice and training vows for nuns within the Tibetan tradition,” he said. “This will be a historical event.”
    “Many people might think I’m doing this because others want me to,” the Karmapa explained. “But I’m not doing it to placate anyone or in response to anyone. No matter how others see it, I feel this is something necessary. In order to uphold the Buddhist teachings it is necessary to have the fourfold community (fully ordained monks (gelongs), fully ordained nuns (gelongmas), and both male and female lay precept holders). As the Buddha said, the fourfold community are the four pillars of the Buddhist teachings. This is the reason why I’m taking interest in this.”
    Inviting the Dharmagupta nuns, who hold bhikshuni ordination, to confer the first two levels of vows to a limited number of nuns in the Tibetan tradition will ensure that their novice and training ordinations are conducted in a proper and complete ceremony from an unbroken lineage. These novice and training vows may then form the basis for future full ordination.
    At present within the Tibetan system, which follows the Mulasarvastivada vinaya tradition, there is no lineage for conferring bhikshuni or full nun’s ordination. The invited group of nuns will consist of ten or twenty fully ordained nuns from a nunnery in the Dharmagupta tradition renowned for their careful upholding of the vinaya
    During the daily teachings of the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, the Gyalwang Karmapa had earlier discussed the issue of nuns’ ordination in some detail. The full comments of his talk follow:
    “When the Buddha gave women the opportunity to ordain, he gave them everything they needed in order to practice all the paths and levels in their entirety. There are many people these days who are afraid that it would harm the teachings if women were ordained and in particular if they are given the bhikshuni ordination. But I think there is absolutely no need to have such suspicions, because the Buddha has already allowed it.
    “In order to have the complete practice of the three trainings, you first have to have the superior training in discipline. Then, on that basis comes the superior training in samadhi, and then the superior training in prajna. Within Tibetan Buddhism we might say that for women it’s not possible to have the complete training in the superior practice of discipline, and the reason is because there are no bhikshuni vows.
    “Moreover, because there are no bhikshuni vows we can’t say there are really any proper novice nun vows either. So without any proper novice vows it is difficult to say that there is a true ordained sangha of women who have gone forth. That’s the situation we’re in, and it’s an unfortunate situation for Buddhism in general.
    “Over the last ten or twenty years, led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, many of the masters of Tibetan Buddhism, including many high lamas, geshes, and khenpos, have engaged in discussions with good intentions. There have been many discussions, and people have put great effort into this—I have seen and experienced this for myself.
    “We’ve had a lot of talk and research into the words of the Buddha, the treatises by Indian masters, as well as the Tibetan scriptures. It sometimes seems that over the past twenty years we’ve only had talk and research, but we haven’t actually put anything into practice. It’s been like this for a long time.
    “It seems to me that you can give the bhikshuni vows either through the single sangha or through the dual sangha. But the proper way—to have a well-recognised, legal bhikshuni ordination—is best to have the dual sangha. If you have no other choice then it can be done by the single sangha. Yet in order to have the dual ordination you then have to have the transmission of the lineage of the bhikshuni vows, and now that’s only remaining within the Chinese tradition.
    “However, before you can have such a dual ordination you must first have the proper novice vows and then the nun’s ‘training’ vows, the shikshamana vows. To do this properly will take at least three or four years. Starting next year, we can begin the preparations for a limited number of nuns from each nunnery to begin the process, and provide them all they need. This will begin a process that will then take three or four years. But my hope is that we can begin it next year.”
    With this statement the Gyalwang Karmapa announced his intention to ensure that the nuns first received proper novice vows and proper shikshamana ‘training’ vows—a necessary prerequisite to full ordination in the future. It is necessary for nuns to hold and keep these ‘training’ vows without any violation for a prescribed period of time prior to full ordination, usually a couple of years.
    After he made this statement in Tibetan during the teachings, the room, which was filled with nuns, monks and laypeople, erupted into spontaneous applause. The Gyalwang Karmapa then paused in his talk for his English interpreter to translate it; upon hearing it for a second time, the gathering erupted into loud applause once more.
    When he returned to the topic a few days later, during the Arya Kshema closing ceremony, the Gyalwang Karmapa elaborated further:
    “For this to happen, if we begin next year, first of all we need to give the vows of going forth, then the novice or sramaneri vows. Following that are the shikshamana or training vows, which you then need to hold for the next years. Finally, in the fourth year we’ll be able to give the bhikshuni vows. Once we have bhikshunis it will then be another ten years before they will be able to give anyone else the bhikshuni vows. So this will take a long time, and I’ll be in my 40s when we get to the end of the process.
    “Now, after I first mentioned this the other day, a very wonderful coincidence happened. In order to give the vows we need to have bhikshunis come to do this. On a particular day recently, when we were doing the Mahakala puja, a group of bhikshunis came to see the puja. I asked them whether they were from a particular Dharmagupta nunnery renowned for strict observance of the vinaya, and they confirmed that they were. So this is a really excellent coincidence, and it is very auspicious that it spontaneously happened. We spoke about my plans, I explained my intentions, and they accepted the invitation. Next year they’ll send ten or twenty bhikshunis to come. This is a really wonderful, unplanned, spontaneous auspicious connection.”
    During his earlier comments to the nuns, the Gyalwang Karmapa had emphasised that it would only be for a small, select group who were ready.
    “I’m not doing this in order to placate anyone or in response to anyone else, and you should also keep the same thought in mind,” he instructed the nuns. “You should not do it in order to please others or for any such reason. Rather, if you look within yourself and see whether you have pure motivation and are ready to put effort into it, then it is something that will bring meaning to your human life.”


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    29 January 2015, Bodhgaya.

    The Gyalwang Karmapa spent almost three months in Bodhgaya, beginning in November with the monks’ Winter Dharma Gathering followed by the peaceful empowerments from the cycle of Knowing One Frees All, and then teachings on The Torch of True Meaning. These led into the 32nd Kagyu Monlam and then the nuns’ Winter Dharma Gathering, which included management and medical training for the nuns as well as debating. Further, the Karmapa made the major announcement of a program leading to full bhikshuni ordination. Also during the nuns’ gathering, the recognition and haircutting ceremony of Bokar Rinpoche’s reincarnation took place. These months have been an incredibly rich and fulfilling time, a vast cornucopia of Dharma flowing from the profound generosity and the compassionate activity of the Gyalwang Karmapa.
    His last gesture was to dedicate all of this merit at the Mahabodhi Stupa, where he stopped on his way to the airport. Inside the main temple in front of the Buddha whose petaled halo of light was radiant as if studded with diamonds, the Karmapa made extensive offerings of flowers and alms bowls filled to overflowing with fruit. With his entourage, he recited prayers for the precious lamas to live long:
      Like space, may they pervade everywhere.
      Like the sun and moon, may they illuminate everything.
      Like a great mountain, may their lives be ever stable.
    The prayer continued to supplicate that the teachings prosper, the sangha’s practice go well, and all who support the Dharma know good fortune.
    The Karmapa then began an inner circumambulation of the stupa, making offerings to the lamas and the shrines set up in three directions. At the first side exit through the tall, carved stone fence, he turned left and went to offer a kata to the mandala and to venerated Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche, head of the Nyingma tradition, who was presiding over a gathering of monks and practitioners in a tent on the left side of the stupa. The Karmapa then continued on the inner path and passed through the back exit by the Bodhi Tree to offer a kata to the mandala and at the throne of Penor Rinpoche. Returning to the inner circuit, he proceeded around to the right side of the temple, offered a kata to the offerings on that side, and stepped though the pink stone fence one last time to give a kata to Namkha Drime Rinpoche, who stood as he waited to receive the Karmapa. Reentering the path for a final time, the Karmapa climbed up the stairs to the main gate and stopped for a moment in the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee’s reception area.
    To everyone’s surprise, the Karmapa came out and headed again for the stupa’s main gate and the outer circumambulation path. The reason became clear as he turned to enter the tent where the nuns were practicing. Keeping his promise to support the female sangha, the Karmapa again offered a kata to their shrine, and to the Mindroling Khenchen who was presiding there. Finishing the outer path with a delighted group of followers, the Karmapa passed out of the main gate and walked the wide pink marble promenade along the outside of the temple, its breadth allowing some breathing room while he moved at a brisk pace. The flow of his motion carried him down a few stairs and into his waiting car.


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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 fulfill, 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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