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    HH Karmapa praised the successive Jamgon Rinpoches excellent merit

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  • 12/30/12--00:30: Happy New Year!

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    Webcast Link

    December 29

    Smoke Offering “Clouds of Virtue and Goodness”
    06:30 - 09:00  IST


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    December 29

    Dharma Dance Performance

    09:30 - 11:00  IST


    13:00 - 14:30 Japan / Korea / Australian Western Time
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    December 30

    Commemoration Ceremony

    08:00 - 10:30  IST


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    December 29 23:30 - 2:00 Brasili Central Time
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    December 30 

    Kongtrul Rinpoche Teaching on “Calling the Guru from Afar”

    15:00 - 17:00  IST


    18:30 - 20:30 Japan / Korea / Australian Western Time
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    I prostrate to the venerable masters, the lamas!

    1. As far as I am able, I shall explain
    The essential meaning of all the excellent teachings of the Buddha,
    The path acclaimed by genuine bodhisattvas,
    The route for the fortunate who yearn for freedom!

    2. Those unattached to the pleasures of existence,
    Who strive to make the freedoms and assets meaningful,
    Fortunate ones with confidence in the path that delights the Buddha—
    Listen with sincere faith!

    3. Other than pure renunciation, there is no way to pacify
    The quest for happy results in the ocean of samsaric existence.
    Because lust for existence completely shackles all creatures,
    From the very start, pursue renunciation.

    4. Habituating the mind to the rarity of the freedoms and assets and that in life there is no time to waste
    Reverses preoccupation with this life.
    Repeatedly contemplating the unerring process of action and result  and the sufferings of samsara
    Reverses preoccupation with future lives.

    5. Accordingly, when, due to habituation, the prosperity of samsara
    Does not elicit even a moment's longing,
    And the mindset that strives for freedom at all times, day and night, emerges,
    At that point, renunciation has indeed arisen.  

    6. Nevertheless, if renunciation is not embraced by bodhicitta,
    It will not serve as the cause
    For the bliss of perfect and complete unsurpassed enlightenment.
    Therefore, the wise generate the supreme mind of awakening.

    7. Carried off by the raging currents of the four rivers,
    Bound by the tight fetters of karma, so hard to undo,
    Enmeshed in the iron net of self-clinging,
    Completely shrouded in the pitch-black darkness of ignorance,

    8. Tormented by the three sufferings without respite
    Through birth after birth in the infinite round of existence—
    Such is the condition of your mothers!
    Contemplating their plight, rouse the supreme motivation!

    9. Lacking the prajna that realizes the basic nature,
    Even if habituated to renunciation and bodhicitta,
    One is powerless to sever the roots of cyclic existence.
    Therefore, exert yourself in the methods for realizing interdependence.

    10. Whoever sees that cause and result never errs
    In the context of all the phenomena of samsara and nirvana
    Vanquishes all conceptual reference points whatsoever.
    Such a one engages the path that delights the buddhas.

    11. The unerring interdependent arising of appearances
    And emptiness free of assertions—
    As long as you experience these two understandings independently,
    You have not yet realized the intent of the Buddha.

    12. Eventually they are simultaneous rather than alternating,
    Such that, at the mere glimpse of undeceiving interdependence,
    Certainty subdues all conceptual perspectives regarding objects.
    That is when you have indeed perfected the analysis of view.

    13. In addition, when appearances eradicate the extreme of existence,
    Emptiness eliminates the extreme of nonexistence,
    And you know how emptiness manifests as cause and result,
    You will not be captivated by extreme views.

    14. When you have accurately realized the key points
    Consisting of the three primary elements of the path in this way,
    Take up solitude, my child, exerting yourself mightily
    To swiftly accomplish the ultimate aim!

    The extremely learned monk, the glorious Lobsang Drakpa, taught this to Ngawang Drakpa, a leader of the Tsakpo region.

    Translation from Tibetan by Ivonne Prieto Rose

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    December 24, 2012


    On several occasions, the Gyalwang Karmapa spoke about what would happen on December 24thChristmas Eve

    There will be a ceremony to celebrate those who have finished the preliminary practices (100,000 repetitions of four practices: prostrations with refuge and bodhicitta, Vajrasattva, mandala offering, and guru yoga.) I have done some prostrations and understand the tremendous effort it takes to complete 100,000, so I sincerely rejoice in their finishing all of them. We’re known as the practice lineage, so it’s good to live up to our reputation. The ceremony will be a ganachakra (an extensive offering puja) of Chakrasamvara. This practice frames a selection of songs of realization from The Ocean of Kagyu Songs (The Rain of Wisdom in English).

    Three years ago in 2009, we celebrated a Milarepa ganachakra for meditators who had finished the preliminary practices (ngöndro). Then to inspire and encourage those to do the practice, we promised a special ceremony in three years for anyone who would complete the preliminaries. It takes real discipline and perseverance to work through the difficulties we encounter while accumulating the required numbers, so this sustained effort is worthy of being honored. It’s also true that practice is the best offering we can make to our lamas and the masters of the past who form our lineage.

    Tonight after the puja, I will be making a special gift to people in three different groups who have finished their ngöndro: those who completed it in the past three years, those who completed it before that, and those who did these practices in other lineages. There are three precious pills: a white pill with traces from the jaw of Marpa; a red one with traces from the meditation belt and hair of Milarepa; and a blue one with traces from the meditation belt and blood of Gampopa. It is my hope that this event will inspire practice and foster virtuous attitudes in all the followers of the Practice Lineage and also those who practice in any of the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.

    It is said that when one becomes a buddha or bodhisattva, one is able to benefit others through seeing, hearing, remembering or touching them. These relics belong to the last category of touch or contact.

    As one enters the shrine hall on the evening of the 24th, one can see a group of monks and disciples in the front preparing for the ceremony. As usual, the Karmapa is striding from place to place as he directs all the activity. The thrones should be placed on the floor of the shrine facing the Buddha. The large silver skull cup filled with amrita goes on a separate table in front of him. Next to the shrine should be large trays filled with blessed rilbu (pills) of barley flour, butter, and sugar to be given out at the end of the puja. On the top row of the shrine, there should be tormas ornamented with the eight auspicious syllables; on the middle, flowers and incense, and on the final row, offerings related to the five senses.

    Sitting before a large and resplendent Buddha and then a life-like statue of the Sixteenth Karmapa is a cluster of five elaborately carved golden tables. The highest holds a gold-framed image of a statue of the First Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, known as the Silver Statue Resting in Space. It was made and consecrated by the Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje, who had many lamas, but Nyenpa Rinpoche was the most important. It is called “resting in space”because a thread can be pulled underneath without meeting any resistance. As a finishing touch to setting up the whole shrine, the Karmapa walked up to the table and with great reverence placed directly before the image of Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, a beautiful, covered cup filled with precious jewels.

    Then the sangha began to enter the shrine hall. In the center section sat the fully ordained monks, on their right were the fully ordained nuns, and on the left, the novice monks. In total, the ordained sangha numbered over six hundred. The far left was filled with more than a hundred lay people, headed by an old Neshang couple, he in orange down jacket, and she in a navy chupa and warm red shawl.

    The text for the evening, arranged by the Karmapa, was displayed on two screens for everyone to see. The title in Tibetan is Kagyu Gyurtso, where “gyur” refers to a spiritual song, and “tso” to ocean. The tradition of singing spiritual songs goes back to India and the great master Saraha. Marpa brought it back to Tibet where his main student Milarepa became Tibet’s undisputed master of song.

    The custom of the sangha gathering to sing these songs began with Mikyö Dorje (1507-1554) and then spread to other Kagyu lineages, such as the Drikung, Drukpa, and Shangpa. When Sangye Nyenpa passed away, Mikyö Dorje gathered into a collection songs of realization by earlier masters.  As years and then centuries passed, the songs of other masters were added so that finally it took a whole day to chant the text.  Since there would not be enough time during the Kagyu Monlam, the Karmapa selected some of the most profound songs beginning with Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, and Milarepa.

    This evening, following the tradition of the Ocean of Songs, the Karmapa read a prose introduction and then everyone sang the songs. The selected verses spoke of experience, realization, and the qualities of an awakened mind, all of which relate directly to practice. Tilopa, the Indian mahasiddha at the head of the Kagyu lineage, put this into verse:
    Oil is the essence of a sesame seed.
    Though the ignorant know it’s there,
    They can’t extract it, as they do not see
    The branches of dependent arising.
    Though spontaneous, natural wisdom
    Is present in everyone’s mind, it can’t be realized
    'Til the lama points it out.
    If you pound a seed to remove its husk,
    The essential oil will emerge. Just so the lamas teach
    That suchness as an object’s essential nature
    Remains inseparable from it.
    Kye ho! This meaning, deep and difficult to fathom
    Became clear just now. That’s amazing!
    Like this one, set to beautiful melodies, the songs are truly inspiring and just reciting them can deepen our understanding.

    As the puja drew to a close, prayers were made that all be auspicious though the blessings of the lamas and yidam deities of the lineage. Then the Karmapa announced that it was time to come forward, and he would give the precious relics to each person. As the lines started to form, headed by those who had finished their ngöndro in the last three years, the Karmapa said in English, “Don’t bring katas. Don’t bring offerings.  It’s my turn to offer to you.”

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  • 12/30/12--05:24: The Kangyur Procession

  • Carrying the words of the Buddha

    Mahabodhi Stupa, Bodhgaya
    December 26, 2012

    On December 25, the day before the Kangyur procession, the Gyalwang Karmapa met with a select group of nuns and monks in the Tergar Shrine room. After wishing them a Merry Christmas, he prepared them for the next day by demonstrating how to hold a sacred text—balanced on the left shoulder and supported by both hands—and how to pass it from one person to another. He also reminded them to stay equidistant and to move at the same pace. All this detailed training would be evident the following day at the stupa.

    December 26 was the first day of the 30th Kagyu Monlam held at the Mahabodhi stupa. Early in the morning, the Karmapa gave the sojong vows and remained for the Kangyur procession. As he waited for it to start, the Karmapa stood in front of his throne, low and humbly set before a carved wooden pavilion sheltering a statue of the young Buddha, itself below a huge curving branch extending out from the center of the Bodhi Tree as its soft green leaves glistened with dew. Underneath, to the right of the Karmapa was Jamgön Rinpoche and on his left, Gyaltsap Rinpoche; behind them, the ninety-eight monks and five nuns with full ordination put on their yellow shawls, preparing to carry the one hundred and two texts of the Kangyur.
    The long column of participants was led by a pair of monks wearing yellow cockade hats and playing reed horns followed by another pair playing white conch shells. After them came monks bearing incense and then Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Jamgön Rinpoche, and the Karmapa, all wearing the Gampopa hat. Following in their footsteps were the monks and nuns, each carrying a wrapped text of the Kangyur.
    The procession started around the inner temple and went through the ancient gate, its pink-tinted stone covered with loops of bright orange and yellow marigolds. They climbed up the front stairs to circumambulate the outer path, which was lined with people from all over the world. They showed their respect for the Dharma by holding offerings of flower garlands, mandalas of marigolds, roses, white freesia, and large maroon dahlias in the middle. One woman held a plate with a small Buddha statue surrounded by flowers. Others held white scarves and some a single pink lotus. The procession was stately, moving at a slow pace. The khenpos and chant leaders stayed behind in their seats to chant “Namo Shakyamuniye,” “Homage to Shakyamuni,” and then the refuge in Sanskrit, which resonated throughout the park around the stupa. From a distance, it looked as if the monks were being moved along by the beautiful sound, their golden robes brilliant against the grey stone.
    As the procession moved along, people fell in behind the monks and nuns, becoming a colorful crowd walking in the path of the Dharma. When the lamas had completed one circle around the stupa, they returned down the main steps, which led straight into the central shrine and the famous golden Buddha enthroned there. At the temple door, the leading musicians turned left to complete the circumambulation of the stupa and returned to their places near the Bodhi Tree. Once everyone had settled in, the Karmapa began a brief talk on the Kangyur and its importance:
    Today at the stupa we will be reading aloud the Kangyur (the collection of the Buddha’s teachings). Usually, we go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and today we are celebrating the Dharma in its two aspects of scripture and realization. Our understanding of Buddhism  comes from the words in the precious Kangyur. If we are studying, contemplating, or meditating on the Dharma, we must rely on the Kangyur since it is the source, or foundation, for them all. The Kangyur resembles the trunk of the tree of Dharma or its central channel. It gives us what we need to know, such as what we should take or give up.
    If we have a Dharma text, we might wrap it in brocade, put it on a shrine, and make offerings to it. This is not enough however: we have to look into the texts and come to understand them. Even if we understand, we might not pay them much attention. Our attitude here depends on whether we practice or not, and on whether we know the value of these texts or not. When we recite the Seven Branch Prayer, we ask the Buddha to turn the wheel of Dharma, and this he has done, giving extensive teachings, but we do not consider them. This is due to our arrogance or stupidity. We should study, contemplate, and meditate upon what the Buddha has already taught. If we don’t, then it’s very strange to ask the Buddha to give new teachings, which we do every day as we say the Seven Branch Prayer. So please keep in mind the importance of working with the teachings, of studying and practicing them.
    Most of the texts from the Kangyur were brought from India; however a number of them were translated from Chinese, (which has a larger Kangyur than the Tibetan), and also from other countries like Shinjang. Then all of these had to be translated. Ignoring the difficulties and taking up their task with joy, the translators brought these texts into Tibetan. These scriptures became the basis for commentaries and explanations of the major treatises, and for oral instructions given by Tibetan scholars and masters of meditation. There is nothing written about the Dharma that did not ultimately rely on the Kangyur, so we can rest assured that these texts are a trustworthy source of the stainless Dharma. In brief, we can say that the Kangyur is the source for all Dharma.
    If we look at the etymology of the word Kangyur, we can see that ka (bka’) refers to the words of the Buddha and gyur (’gyur) refers to the texts that were translated (the “n” comes from putting these two syllables together). There is a long history of translating into Tibetan, beginning with the seventh century when the Dharma King Songtsen Gampo was living at Yambu Lhakhang and encouraged Thunmi Sambhota to begin translating texts. In the eighth century, the Dharma king Trisong Deutsen established a center for translators at Samye Ling where one hundred panditas (scholars) from India and one hundred translators from Tibet worked together for many years translating, editing, and clarifying the texts. They were not puffed up with a little knowledge, but highly learned, gifted in language, and rich in experience of the practice.
    From my own experience, I understand a little bit about translating. I worked on the translation of a Chinese text into Tibetan and learned how great the kindness of the translators was and how significant their efforts were.
    To return to the history, through to the end of the reign of King Tri Ralpachen, new texts were translated and the old translations were corrected and edited. With the advent of Langdarma, who sought to destroy the teachings, translation came to an end. In the tenth century, the Kings of Western Tibet Yeshe Ö and Changchup Ö encouraged translators, such as Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo, so the process of translating began again, especially of the tantras, which now form the latter part of the Kangyur. In the eleventh century, Atisha also made a great contribution to the process of bringing texts into Tibetan. For almost two hundred years, from the early eleventh to the late twelfth centuries during the new transmission of Dharma in Tibet, a succession of great scholars translated texts mainly related to view and logic.
    The first assembling of all these texts had to wait until the twelfth century and the great scholar Chin Jampay Yang, who assembled the first Kangyur in Tibet. As the years passed and the Dharma continued to spread, many editions of the Kangyur ere put together: the Tselpa, Litang, Beijing, Chone, Dege, and Jang, to name a few. The first wood-block print was made during the Ming dynasty in China and known as the Narthang Kangyur.  In Tibet, the first wood-block print was sponsored by the King of Jang, (hence the Jang Kangyur), and redacted by the Sixth Shamar, Chokyi Wangchuk in the seventeenth century.
    Due to the great kindness of the Buddha and the Dharma Kings of Tibet, all these texts of the Kangyur remain today as a support for our accumulation of merit and wisdom. For those who understand, the Kangyur has all the flawless methods for attaining in one life the level of ultimate union or full awakening. In contrast to other teachings, the Dharma found in Tibet has all five vehicles present, and so it’s possible to practice them all. The Kangyur also contains the key instructions of the great masters and the various lineages as well. Reading it inspires our conviction and faith in the Dharma, which then grows, enabling us to see that the Kangyur is like a rare jewel. Please keep this in mind as you read the texts. 
    When the Karmapa finished his talk, the chant masters began the reading of the Kangyur with the famous verse from The Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct:
    May I teach the Dharma in every single language—
    The parlance of the gods, the speech of nagas,
    The idioms of the yakshas, kumbhandhas, and humans—
    In all the languages that beings may speak.
    The texts, wrapped in yellow cloth with a bright red square in one corner, were passed out one by one, as each monk took responsibility for dividing the pages of a volume among the sangha members, collecting it afterwards, and making sure that all the pages were complete and in their proper order before they bound up the text again in its yellow cloth.  As the reading began, a maroon sea of monks and nuns, each a wave curved over their texts, began to recite the words of the Buddha. They rose into the morning light, moving through the air like the fragrant incense an old woman swung from her censer as she made her way around the stupa.

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    Webcast Link

    December 31 - January 1
    Morning Session

    08:30 - 10:30  IST


    12:00 - 14:00 Japan / Korea / Australian Western Time

    11:00 - 13:00 Taiwani / Honk Kong / Singapore / Beijing

    10:00 - 12:00 Vietnam Time Zone

    8:45 - 10:45 Nepal Time

    Europe / Africa  

    7:00 - 9:00 Moscow Standard Time

    5:00 - 7:00 Central African Time

    4:00 - 6:00 Central European Time

    3:00 - 5:00 British Standard Time

    U.S.A. / Latin America  

    0:00 - 2:00 Brasili Central Time

    December 30-31 22:00 - 0:00 Eastern Standard Time / Venezuela

    December 30-31 21:00 - 23:00 Central Standard Time

    December 30-31 19:00 - 21:00 Pacific Standad Time

    December 30-31 17:00 - 19:00 Hawaii Time Zone

    December 31 -January 1

    Afternoon Session

    15:00 - 17:00  IST


    18:30 - 20:30 Japan / Korea / Australian Western Time

    17:30 - 19:30 Taiwani / Honk Kong / Singapore / Beijing

    16:30 - 18:30 Vietnam Time Zone

    15:15 - 17:15 Nepal Time

    Europe / Africa  

    13:30 - 15:30 Moscow Standard Time

    11:30 - 13:30 Central African Time

    10:30 - 12:30 Central European Time

    9:30 - 11:30 British Standard Time

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    6:30 - 8:30 Brasili Central Time

    4:30 - 6:30 Eastern Standard Time / Venezuela

    3:30 - 5:30 Central Standard Time

    1:30 - 3:30 Pacific Standad Time

    December 30-31 23:30 - 1:30 Hawaii Time Zone

    January 1

    Marme Monlam

    19:30 - 20:30  IST


    23:00 - 0:00 Japan / Korea / Australian Western Time

    22:00 - 23:00 Taiwani / Honk Kong / Singapore / Beijing

    21:00 - 22:00 Vietnam Time Zone

    19:45 - 20:45 Nepal Time

    Europe / Africa  

    18:00 - 19:00 Moscow Standard Time

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    15:00 - 16:00 Central European Time

    14:00 - 15:00 British Standard Time

    U.S.A. / Latin America  

    11:00 - 12:00 Brasili Central Time

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    The Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje discussed different aspects of the educational system currently in place at the Kagyu shedras ( Buddhist universities ). The talk was given during the last day of the 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo in Bodhgaya India.

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    As part of the Commemoration of the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage, the Lingdro dance was performed at the Kagyu Monlam Stage in Bodhgaya, India. The commemoration festivities took place during the 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo, under the supervision of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje.

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  • 12/30/12--21:41: The Akshobhya Ritual Cycle

  • December 27, 2012

    The Akshobhya Retreat

    A group of specially invited people, usually those who are ordained or who have completed the three year retreat, complete a two week retreat prior to Monlam, and then take part in the Akshobhya  fire puja. As this is the second Akshobhya Ritual Cycle of 2012, the previous one was in March, the retreat this time was very small, only six people: Chime Dorje Rinpoche, four monks and a laywoman, Tashi Sangmo.

    The Akshobhya Ritual

    According to the Buddhist teachings the present age is one of degeneration when all beings in samsara [the cycle of existence] are suffering because of negative thoughts and actions. The Akshobhya  ritual is a very powerful purification practice done for the benefit of all sentient beings. It can liberate not only the practitioners themselves from the fear of an unfortunate rebirth, but other beings as well.  The Buddha Akshobhya promised that the merit generated by reciting one-hundred-thousand of his long dharani mantra and making an image of him could be dedicated to other people, both living and dead, and this would assure their release from lower states of existence and rebirth in spiritually fortunate circumstances.

    Gyalwang Karmapa has commended this practice as very suitable at a time when negative forces are increasing in the world.

    The Akshobhya  ritual is in four parts: the first three parts took place at the stupa, where a special altar, displaying some of the offerings needed for the fire puja, was set up in front of a thangka of Akshobhya Buddha. The three parts at the stupa were:

    A.  The Akshobhya Self-Visualisation

    B.  The Akshobhya Mandala ritual

    C.  The reading of the Akshobhya dharani and the Akshobhya sutra

    The text for the first two parts of the ritual is not available to the general public. The third part, the recitation of the 'Dharani that Throroughly Purifies all Karmic Obscurations' and 'The Sutra of the Dharani that Thoroughly Liberates from All Suffering and Obscurations' is open to everyone.  The recitation of this dharani is believed to  purify all karmic obscurations and all the karma flowing from lifetime to lifetime. Reciting it three times daily can even cleanse the karma of the five heinous deeds, the four root downfalls and the ten non-virtues.  It can be used for the dead and the living.

    The Akshobhya Jang-Sek [fire puja]

    This took place in the evening. Before and during the Monlam friends and relatives had been making donations and giving the names of the deceased and the living who were experiencing great difficukties such as illness,  in preparation for the Akshobhya Fire Ritual. The purpose of this type of fire puja  [jang-sek] is purification and pacification.

    The Gyalwang Karmapa conducted the main puja on the porch of the temple.

    Below the steps, a brick firepit was constructed and a 'pacification' sand mandala drawn in it. Then logs were piled on top. The fire was lit during the second half of the puja, and the names of the living and the dead were piled onto the flames.


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    December 27, 2012

    In Buddhism, almsgiving is the respectful support shown by laypeople to the ordained Buddhist sangha. The custom of alms rounds was not simply an expedient way to feed the Sangha but an expression of the interdependence between the Bhikshu or Bhikshuni and the laity. By offering sustenance to the Sangha with pure motivation, laypeople have an opportunity to be inspired by virtue, accumulate merit, and also to share in the merit generated by a monk or nun's  spiritual practice. The offering is made to the monastic ideal rather than to the individual monks and nuns, and in response, they should strive to maintain that ideal of discipline and pure conduct .During  the Buddha's time,   monastics were not permitted to cook or store food, so they had to eat what was freely offered to them by the lay  community. Over the centuries, the custom of alms rounds was maintained in some Buddhist countries, but was not adhered to in Tibet since the monasteries there were supported by laity and there was no longer a need for individual monastics to make alms rounds.

     In 2004, the Gyalwang Karmapa incorporated the alms round into the Kagyu Monlam as a symbolic ceremony to remind participants of this ancient Buddhist tradition. In the same way he  urged Monlam attendees to  make a personal connection with Sakyamuni Buddha, and many of the early traditions the Karmapa revived, such as reciting prayers in Sanskrit and honoring the Gelong and Gelongma ideals, were supports for this.

    Yesterday morning, in keeping with the custom of previous years, people wishing to offer alms to the Sangha gathered outside of the Stupa entrance at around 8:30 a.m. Dharmapalas and helpers had begun preparations at about 7:30 a.m., stringing a rope barrier from the shoe area outside the Stupa down to the entrance of the Jai Prahash Udyar Park . The day before, an announcement had been made about the correct procedure to follow. Participants should stand behind the rope on the right side of the procession and should not burn incense or offer hot food or money. Light packed foods or sweets in wrappers should be placed in the begging bowl gently with respect. The number of monks and nuns in the procession was expected to be 500.

     At 9:30 a.m., the Gyalwang Karmapa came up the steps in front of the Stupa and entered the BTMC Reception office. A few minutes later, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche joined him there. This signaled that the time had come for the procession of monks to leave the temple towards the outer gate where lay disciples eagerly awaited with their offerings.

    The procession was led by a senior monk from Ralang Monastery wearing a yellow hat and holding a bundle of burning incense. Kyabje Gyaltsab Rinpoche was next, holding a ringing staff and a large begging bowl. He was followed by three other Rinpoches holding the ringing staffs from the ancient tradition, as well as scores of Gelongs and Gelongmas carrying their alms bowls.

    The procession was enhanced by Tenzin Dorje from Jamgon Kongtrul’s Labrang who scampered ahead adorning their path with flower petals strewn from a large wicker basket. The thronging crowd behind the rope was nearly bursting with excitement, trying their best to place offerings inside the begging bowls, with the usual street urchins underfoot trying to grab at the candies that missed their mark and fell on the pavement. By contrast the Sangha procession was hushed and dignified. As the procession slowly descended the steps from the outer Stupa entrance area onto the main road, the path began to narrow as it snaked past the street vendor’s stalls and led down into the entrance of the park. Once inside the park, the procession is supposed to be restricted to Sangha only, and except for the Karmapa who conducts the ceremony, no one is supposed to speak.

    Inside the park were eight rows of mats, four on each side of a center aisle. At the head of the mats, the Gyalwang Karmapa stood next to a blue canopied tent with his golden chögu over his left shoulder. The blue tent was decorated with the Kagyu Monlam logo and draped with flower garlands. As Gyaltsab Rinpoche entered the dining area of the park, he took his place to the left of Karmapa. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche was already seated on the Karmapa’s right. They sat at small tables on either side of the Karmapa’s tent.

    As the monks filed in behind the Rinpoches, they were holding their begging bowls in their left hands with the fingers of their right hands grasping the rim of the large bowl. They took their seats quietly and as their columns slowly filled up the Karmapa strolled along the rows of monks. The two groups of Sangha (four rows each) faced each other as they sat in meditation. They said the meal prayer with their hands folded, repeating it over and over, led by the Monlam’s discipline master, Khenpo Kelsang from Rumtek Monastery.

    After the meal prayer, the helpers came out with their pails of food and ladled it into the Sangha's bowls. Karmapa walked around holding a microphone, while the Refuge prayer was recited. Finally the Sangha began to eat the food in their bowls with wooden spoons. In the meantime, Karmapa circled the group of diners acknowledging the lay helpers lined up in blue vests and red head scarves along the back. Servers continued to serve the Sangha seconds from the food pails. After a while, the Karmapa sat down and started to eat. The meal was eaten in silence with mindfulness in the spirit of Mahamudra meditation practice. After the meal was finished, the Karmapa spoke briefly, followed by the group chanting the Heart Sutra. Then there were dedication prayers, which signaled the end of the ceremony. The monks and nuns rose, adjusted their robes and chögus and filed out of the park. Afterwards, the Karmapa called the serving staff up for a group photograph. There had been about 90 helpers participating in this event. The vegetarian meal had been prepared in the morning at Tergar monastery and brought over to the park by the monlam helpers.

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    December 28, 2012

    On the last day of the Monlam, the Karmapa usually  expresses his gratitude to the sponsors who facilitate the Monlam on a material level; reminds us all to activate bodhicitta and get going on the bodhisattva path, and sets his sights on a practical program for the year ahead.

    One year he made a speech about vegetarianism that shook up his monasteries and dharma centres worldwide. Another year he focused on the environment. In almost every talk he  reminds us of the unbearable suffering of animals which we humans have caused. There's still a long way to go on all fronts, but indeed Bodh Gaya has now become cleaner in some places, there are more vegetarians, especially amongst Tibetans, and the dogs in particular look like they managed to regain at least some of their animal rights.  

    This year the Karmapa referred to the Great Encampment in the heyday of the 7th Karmapa five hundred years ago, and concluded that the ever increasing international sangha was a sign that the prayers for the continuation of the great Ornament of the World were truly being fulfilled. "There were many people of different languages from different tribes and countries. They actually made prayers, and this prayer has come into effect."

    The splendid ceremony continued with chanting and symbolic representations, while the Karmapa outlined his three point plan.  It seemed to herald a visionary restoration of the Great Encampment with facilities for education and retreat for monks, nuns, and laypeople.

    It is difficult to do justice to the magnificence of the final ceremony when sponsors from all over the world queued up to file past the Karmapa and make their offerings. They held precious mandala sets, flowers in silver bowls, golden statues of the Buddha, stupas, texts, cloth, carpets - all draped in lavish silk offering scarves.

    Then each of the seven precious articles of royalty in gleaming silver were presented to him, followed by the 8 auspicious symbols. He held them while the assembly chanted prayers for auspiciousness. Several times the Karmapa led the assembly in reciting the dedication and warned that unless we dedicate our virtue we will accumulate pride and lose masses of merit.
    He emphasized how  important it is to be grateful because gratitude is the cause of happiness and joy.  "If you can’t be grateful then whatever happens you cannot find happiness, you cannot have joy, you cannot have wellness in yourself. Gratitude is very important if you want to have happiness and joy."

    Having set the stage under the bodhi tree in the sacred place of Bodh Gaya, the Karmapa then delivered his vision for the new year.

    He made three points about the preservation of the dharma:

    "Whether the Buddha-dharma exists in the world or not depends on whether there are the three principal activities of the sangha."  One activity is meditation retreat and therefore the first point was to reinstate the tradition of the yarnay or rainy season retreat - either for one and a half months or three months, keeping all the Sojong vows as in the Monlam.

    The second was a reiteration of an essential point about the importance of the four pillars of the sangha.

    The Buddha talked about four types of followers – the gelong and gelongma, and the upāsaka and female upāsikā. These are called the pillars of the teaching of the Buddha. If the Buddha's teaching is like a house then all these four pillars have to be there. Otherwise the teaching of the Buddha doesn’t exist, or doesn’t become stable. It is not fully there. That’s why it is very important to educate male and female sangha members, and male and female non-monastic followers in study, contemplation and practice.
    Right now, the Karmapa continued, there were retreat centres but no shedras or study institutions for the nuns. "We need to give full opportunity to men and women. The Buddha gave it so we should do it also. And we monks have to help them establish it."

    With complete commitment he stated that 2013 would be a year of preparation for a conference to be held in 2014 which he would personally attend. "There’s no other way, we have to do it". The third point was to bring together study and practice and not to separate colleges and retreat places.

    The Monlam ended with a series of prayers for auspiciousness. White scarves like flying doves waved in the air at each verse ending in 'tashi shok' (may it be auspicious). The final prayer composed by Mikyo Dorje, the 8th Karmapa, was a reminder of the glorious Great Encampment:
    He who accomplishes all the activity
    Of all the buddhas of the three times and ten directions
    Is the Karmapa known as Chodrak Gyatso
    May his good fortune, joy and goodness spring forth here and now!
    May the essence of the teachings, the teachings of the Karmapa,
    The activity of the victors, victorious over the four maras
    In uninterrupted fullness fill all directions to their ends
    And may this always flourish - may this flourishing be auspicious!
    A blaze of good fortune, the Ornament of the World
    In the realm and the kingdom of the land of Tibet
    To the north of the Land of Snows,
    May the teachings of the Practice Lineage flourish!
    May the world have the good fortune of happiness!
    We ask that the world be made happy!
    While the horns heralded the departure of the Gyalwang Karmapa from  the bodhi tree, the monks folded their golden ceremonial hats and the new Ornament of the World  closed in a blaze of sunset colours.

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     The Mid-Day Meal in Tergar Shrine Room

    December 22, 2012

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    December 28, 2012


    Early morning, Tergar Monastery

    4.45 am. From the Garchen a steady stream of spectral figures  emerges on to the road. The monks and nuns are making their way to the Mahabodhi stupa, two kilometres away, for a special full-moon-day Vinaya sojong, scheduled to begin at 5.00 am. Laypeople are usually not allowed to be at this bi-monthly ritual of purification of downfalls and restoration of vows and precepts which only monks and nuns attend.  

    Mahayana Sojong at the Mahabodhi Stupa

    The Gyalwang Karmapa gave the Mahayana Sojong vows, followed by a short talk on the importance of aspirations and dedications.

    A short teaching by the Gyalwang Karmapa

    During the previous seven days of the Monlam, the assembly has employed body, speech and mind to make aspirations for the benefit of all sentient beings and the Dharma. Now is the time to gather together the merit generated  and dedicate it for all sentient beings that they may move along the path towards enlightenment.

    There are two sides to polishing the two accumulations: aspiration and dedication. Our aspirations should not be limited but rather be bold, vast and profound, especially as we are gathered in Bodhgaya, the centre of the world, where all 1002 Buddhas of this age will attain enlightenment.

    The Buddha nature is present in all sentient beings —we all share that same nature and are part of the same mandala. All of the virtues of body, speech and mind generated should be dedicated to enlightenment. This is the special feature of the Mahayana path, that we dedicate everything with pure motivation for the benefit of sentient beings. Infinite sentient beings are afflicted by suffering; we should take this burden on ourselves, and always bear it in mind.

    The generosity of the sponsors made Monlam possible. We should not forget them.

    For the living, we should pray that their wishes may be fulfilled, and for the dead that they may be freed from the fearful appearances of the bardo.

    Here at the Monlam in Bodhgaya, all the harmonious conditions exist for the practice of Dharma and the benefit of beings. It's not a matter of merely one or two people but of thousands, both men and women, gathered together. In addition, keeping ethical discipline means that aims can be achieved more quickly, and many people  are also taking Mahayana Sojong.  Under these conditions it is our responsibility to seize this great opportunity and not to waste it by procrastinating and saying, "I'll focus on Dharma later..".

    "Now, on this seat.." Gyalwang Karmapa emphasised, is the time to practise. As the Khadampa masters taught, intention and action must go together or else, at the time of death, we will be full of regret at wasting this precious human life.

    Session One

    In front of the small shrine containing the Infant Buddha statue, Gyalwang Karmapa stood to make the offerings on behalf of the assembly. He offered incense in a small burner, formed his hands effortlessly into flowing mudras of welcome, and, during the branch of ablution, used a beautifully engraved golden ladle to pour perfumed water over the statue three times. He dried it symbolically with a khatag and then held up a golden silk cloth as adornment, concluding with the mudra for anointing.

    Sessions Two and Three

    During session two and the beginning of session three the Karmapa and sangha performed the Lama Choepa  [Offering to the Gurus] especially  dedicated to Tenga Rinpoche, one of the Karmapa's tutors,  who died earlier this year.  A large photograph of Tenga Rinpoche was displayed on a special shrine to the left of the Infant Buddha shrine

     "The best offering", the Karmapa noted, "is the offering of the practice".

    "The activities of the Buddha's body, speech and mind isn't something I need to talk about," he  continued.  From the time of the 16th Karmapa till now Tenga Rinpoche was the Vajracharya. He knew the details of all the practices, taught very widely and held the authentic practice lineages. Because of his great activities when he went into parinirvana he went into a special tukdam and inspired many people to practice the dharma.

     "His reincarnation will come soon and take up his activities and will go on working for the benefit of all beings. We should pray for that".

    "The collection of requests for the new reincarnations are many. I will read out only what I have written myself. It's called:  Quickly Come".

    The text, which was distributed across the gathering,  is beautifully printed and decorated with the 8 auspicious symbols in colour; and recited to the melody of Calling the Guru from Afar.

    Session Four

    The last session always contains aspiration and dedication prayers, a speech by the Gyalwang Karmapa,[See separate feature.] and, finally, prayers of auspiciousness.

    The concluding prayer, written by the Fourth Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso, ends:
    A blaze of good fortune, the ornament of the world!
    In the realm and kingdom of the land of Tibet,
    To the north of th eLand 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!
    and  that last line sums up  the heartfelt aspiration and purpose of the Monlam.

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