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At the invitation of the Thupten Dorjedrak Aeam Chogar Chokhor Namgyal Ling Buddhist Institute, His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa came this morning to pay his respects to the Kudung of Kyabje Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche at Nyigma Vajrakilaya Buddhist Temple, who passed away in Bodhgaya on December 23, 2015. Supreme Head of the ngagyur Nyingma tradition, Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche belonged to its northern terma lineage and founded the monastery of Thupten Dorje Drak near Shimla. He also had a close connection to the 16th Karmapa Rigpe Dorje, from whom he received the cycles of teachings and empowerments known as the Treasury of Oral Instructions and the Treasury of Kagyu Mantras.
His Holiness 17th the Karmapa was welcomed today by the head Khenpo of Thupten Dorje Drak Monastery, who accompanied him to the place of the Kudung. Here, as tokens of his respect, the Karmapa lit a butter lamp and offered a kata. While seated on a throne facing the Kudung, the Karmapa chanted the Samantabhadra Prayer and made aspirations for the swift rebirth of Kyabje Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche. Before leaving, the Karmapa also consecrated a stupa of the Vajrakilaya mandala stupa on the monastery’s grounds.
The Chief Minister of Sikkim, Shri Pawan Chamling calling on the Union Home Minister, Shri Rajnath Singh, in New Delhi on November 17, 2015. (Photo: Voice of Sikkim)
The Joint Action Committee (JAC) has thanked Chief Minister Pawan Chamling for taking up the matter with the Centre on allowing 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje to visit Sikkim.
During his meetings with Union Home minister Rajnath Singh and MoS Home Affairs Kiren Rijuju at New Delhi on November 17, the Chief Minister had reiterated the demand to the Centre for permitting the 17th Karmapa to visit Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre, Sikkim.
“We are happy that the Chief Minister has once again taken up the Karmapa demand with the Central government. The Chief Minister has also submitted a memorandum stating that there will be no law and order problem if Karmapa is allowed to visit Sikkim. This is a good step by the Sikkim government,” said JAC spokesperson Thukchuk Lachungpa.
The JAC spokesperson expressed the committee’s hopes that the 17th Karmapa will soon take his seat at the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre. The committee members will meet the Chief Minister after his return to Sikkim and discuss the further course of action on the matter, he said.
“We will also submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister during his visit to Sikkim in January after consulting with the Chief Minister,” said Lachungpa.
Today His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa visited the Mahabodhi Stupa in Bodhgaya. After meeting with the head monk and the main secretary of the temple, the Karmapa walked down the main staircase and under the first gate draped in garlands of bright orange marigolds.
Led by the Nyingma Khentrul Gyangkhang Rinpoche and other Nyingma khenpos, the Karmapa passed by thousands of disciples from East and West who had come to participate in this twenty-seventh Nyingma Prayer Festival. Their offerings of white scarves and flowers lined the path into the main temple where the Karmapa offered his prostrations and prayers along with lamps and robes to the radiant statue of the Buddha.
the Karmapa walked outside the temple to the main altar for the festival, filled with offerings and beautiful tormas. Here the Karmapa offered a mandala and prayers and then continued to give katas and butter lamps to altars around the main stupa, which were dedicated to two revered lamas of the Nyingma lineage who had recently passed away: the sixth head of the Nyingma lineage, Kyabje Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche, and the great siddha, Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche. Finally, to a series of images depicting the reincarnations of Kyabje Drupwang Penor Rinpoche, the Karmapa offered a kata and butter lamps before making the return trip to Tergar Monastery.
January 14, 2016 -Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar India
On a warm and sunny day, unusual for this time of year, the Third Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering began with the Gyalwang Karmapa entering the main shrine hall at Tergar Monastery and offering three prostrations to its golden Buddha and to the life-like statue of the Sixteenth Karmapa resting on a throne on front. The hall itself was filled with over 410 nuns attending from nine nunneries in Nepal, India, and Bhutan. The sides of the hall were lined with observers including many nuns and lay women from all over the world. The webcast in English, Chinese, and Spanish made this morning’s session available to more than two thousand listeners.
The participants have come to hear the Karmapa teach every morning for fourteen days on Gampopa’s Ornament of Precious Liberation; they are seeking to improve their debating skills through daily teachings and practice; and, on top of daily observances, they will participate in four days of sadhana and ritual practices: White Tara Who Bestows All Siddhis; Karma Pakshi Guru Yoga; Offerings to the Five Long Life Sisters (Tseringma), and the extensive Chӧ Ritual, A Garland of Jewels, composed by the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje. On the last day, February 3, the nuns will engage in a closing formal debate. Further, on an astrologically auspicious day, they will perform a special puja for the flourishing of the nuns’ Dharma.
This full program of study, practice, and debate embodies the Karmapa’s wish that the nuns engage and become skilled in the three trainings of discipline, meditation, and wisdom. As he has said in the past, “I think it’s important for me to do everything I can to support the nuns’ teachings and practice, to help them develop their listening, contemplation, and meditation. So from the bottom of my heart, I want to put as much effort into this as I can. This is appropriate for me to do from now until the end of this lifetime as it fits well with the activities of the previous Karmapas, and it’s also clearly necessary in our contemporary society.”
Today, the nuns’ chanting began appropriately with the Heart Sutra and its praise of the Great Mother:
The Perfection of Wisdom beyond speech, thought, and expression, The very essence of space unborn and unceasing, The realm of experience for wisdom aware of its nature To the mother of the buddhas in all three times, I bow.
Following an extensive mandala offering to His Holiness and his personal prayers, he began with thanks to everyone who had come from near and far and also expressed his appreciation to those who had made the gathering possible. He praised the nuns for their rapid improvement in the short time of two years and expressed his gratitude to them and their teachers for their interest and enthusiasm. The Karmapa began today’s teaching on The Ornament of Precious Liberation with Chapter Nine, The Proper Adoption of Bodhicitta. He gave a reading transmission for its first pages on the essential nature of bodhicitta, and following a tea break, he began his explanations.
The reasons for studying this text are quite clear, he stated: we are followers of the Dakpo Kagyu, Gampopa’s own lineage (he is also known as Dakpo Lhaje, the Physician from Dakpo). Further, as he was about to pass away, Gampopa said to his disciples, “You all might be thinking, ‘People in the future will not be able to meet him.’ However, I have written texts, such as The Ornament of Precious Liberation and The Precious Garland of the Supreme Path. Studying them is no different from meeting me.”
The Karmapa continued to explain that the Dakpo Kagyu lineage is known as the confluence of the Kadampa tradition and Milarepa’s Mahamudra lineage; these two do not contradict each other and Gampopa taught them free of error. “These days, however,” the Karmapa added, “we do not pay much attention to the Kadampa side of the tradition and tend to forget their teaching on the three types of individuals. Yet Gampopa stated that his ability to benefit living beings was due to the kindness of the Kadampa.” If we skip over these preliminaries or the common path, the Karmapa cautioned, and jump into advanced teachings like mahamudra, it will be quite difficult for our mind to be benefitted by them. “So we begin with the training in the three types of individuals,” he counseled, “and gradually work with our mind, improving ourselves to the point that we are well prepared to enter Mahamudra practice.” This way, he noted, the Dharma will function as Dharma (the second of Gampopa’s Four Dharmas).
The Karmapa then turned to Chapter Nine, The Proper Adoption of Bodhicitta, explaining that bodhicitta is the gateway to the mahayana: “Whether or not we have entered the mahayana depends on whether or not we have generated bodhicitta, which is indispensable. In the very beginning, we must have it and with it we can do everything.” He continued, “We should develop full certainty, unshakeable belief, that this is true by studying the scriptures, engaging in the logic, and thinking about the analogies.”
The Karmapa then spoke of the scriptures and first gave the condensed meaning of two important sutras. In The Purity of Maitreya Sutra, it is said that bodhicitta resembles a diamond: it does not change and, even if it were broken into fragments, they would be more brilliant than other jewels. The sutra also states that when bodhicitta has arisen within, without doing other practices, it can become a cause for full awakening. In the Gandavyuha Sutra, it is said that bodhicitta is the seed of all the Buddha’s qualities.
As for the treatises, the Karmapa explained that in Maitreya’s famed Ornament of Realization, the point about bodhicitta is the very first of all the seventy points that make up the text. Chandragomin speaks of bodhicitta as the path to happiness and the basis of the Mahayana in his Letter to Disciples. The great Tibetan masters from the past taught in their key instructions that if we have the wish for emancipation and bodhicitta that are stable and developed within our being, all our virtuous actions will become a cause for omniscience. Some masters add that bodhicitta is not only the gateway to the mahayana but also the entrance to the tantra of the mahayana as well. The Karmapa stated that in reflecting on these citations from the Buddha’s sutras, Indian masters’ treatises, and the writings of the Tibetan realized lamas, we can become certain that we could not do without bodhicitta.
The Karmapa then turned to indicating through logic that bodhicitta is the gateway to the Mahayana and gave several reasons. First, from the moment we generate bodhicitta, no matter what other qualities we might have, we have become a Mahayana practitioner, he said, and we are counted among the ranks of the bodhisattvas even if we do not engage in the conduct of a bodhisattva. Second, if we lose our bodhicitta, he cautioned, no matter what other qualities we might have, such as an understanding of emptiness, we descend to the level of the foundational vehicle, so the moment we are separated from bodhicitta, we have lost the mahayana path.
“What these reasons show us,” he said, “is that it is not enough for the Dharma to be the mahayana Dharma. It is important that individuals themselves enter the Mahayana.” With a mere understanding of bodhicitta, he noted, we will remain in a mere understanding of the mahayana. With authentic bodhicitta, our practice will be authentic Mahayana practice. “True bodhicitta,” he stated, “is the touchstone that determines whether or not we are real mahayana practitioners.
The major philosophical texts give long explanations of bodhicitta, the Karmapa noted, and there is much to understand from them, but for the sake of practice, an abbreviated definition is probably more useful. As he defined it, “Bodhicitta relates to our individual capacity, our mental strength or willingness, to take on responsibility for the sake of others.” We can say that we are Mahayana practitioners, he continued, but that does not really make us so. What does, he said, is our enthusiasm and ability to bear the responsibility of helping others. We should look to see if we have this or not. If we do, he explained, only then do we belong to the Mahayana.
The “maha” of mahayana means “great” or “big,” the Karmapa explained, but usually our bodhicitta is too small. To work for all living beings is not easy, he said, for it is hard to help one being to say nothing of all of them. “‘All living beings’ may sound impressive when we say it,” he cautioned, “but our minds cannot encompass the idea.” We may think to ourselves that we are doing quite well, but actually, he noted, we are not as great as we think. Forget about offering the ultimate benefit, it is even difficult to help on a relative level, he said.
What we can do, he advised, is train our minds to become strong so they can take on increasingly greater responsibility. This is the purpose of the well-known practices of mind training (lojong) and the graduated path. The Karmapa compared this training to that of developing physical strength. We start out lifting three, four, or five pounds, then eighteen and so on, gradually building our strength so that we can finally press a hundred. Similarly, there are the mental stages of daily practice that develop our bodhicitta and increase our ability to help others.
The Karmapa then told a story about a Tibetan who had a doubt about the practice of Sarvavid Vairocana (Kunrik in Tibetan). In old Tibet, he related, this was a popular text for purifying the lower realms so when a ritual was requested for the deceased, it was usually the Sarvavid so almost everyone had the text. The questioner asked the lama whether this practice belonged to the foundational vehicle (hinayana) or to the great vehicle (mahayana).
The lama replied, “In general the text, of course, belongs to the mahayana since it is a practice of the secret mantrayana.” However, the lama was clever and looking carefully at his questioner, he said, “But for the two of us the practice belongs neither to the great vehicle nor even to the foundational one.” The Karmapa explained, “Whether the Dharma we are practicing is the mahayana Dharma or not depends on whether the individual is really practicing the mahayana. So it is not just a question of the Dharma itself, but it depends on the individual practicing it.”
Then the Karmapa shifted the question: “If we asked that lama about the Dharma we have been practicing up to now, what would he say?” If the lama replied, “It’s not the greater or the foundational Dharma,” that would not be too bad, the Karmapa remarked, but if he said, “It’s not Dharma at all,” that would be problematic. So we must ask ourselves, the Karmapa said, “Is the Dharma I’ve been practicing up to now, the actual, true Dharma? Has the Dharma become the Dharma?” It’s not easy to answer this, the Karmapa said: “We should not be satisfied with the mere appearance of the Dharma, with a practice that reflects local customs, or one that is a fake in some other way. We have to look at ourselves and see if we can engage in actual practice, in the real thing, in what’s authentic.” With this probing question, the Karmapa ended the teachings on this first day.
January 15, 2016 -Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar India
During the second day of the Third Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued his teaching on Gampopa’s Ornament of Precious Liberation, describing the causes for arousing bodhichitta. He also discussed the issue of the nun’s ordination, indicating that although he had hoped to initiate the process of giving bhikshuni ordination this year, it had to be postponed for a variety of reasons.
The teaching today was focused on the four causes of arousing bodhichitta presented in the Levels of the Bodhisattva by Asanga. The first cause of arousing bodhichitta is seeing or hearing of the powers of the buddhas and bodhisattvas. The Karmapa explained that for this reason, studying the life stories of buddhas and bodhisattvas of the past is important.
As an example, His Holiness told the story of Akshobhya Buddha. Before Akshobhya became a buddha, he made the aspiration that until enlightenment he would never be angry or perturbed by any sentient being. The Karmapa said that we need to consider deeply our own aspirations. To make an aspiration like Akshobhya’s to not become angry until Buddhahood is difficult to conceive for us ordinary beings. Therefore the Karmapa suggested we begin by making an aspiration to not become angry for a single day. Then gradually over time we can begin to develop the courage of Akshobhya.
The Karmapa also addressed the question of why it is necessary to become a perfectly enlightened buddha to benefit others. His Holiness quoted from Atisha’s Lamp for the Stages of the Bodhisattva Path, which says that to benefit other beings we must develop clairvoyance to know all aspects of their situation in order to really benefit them. Because bodhisattvas are not completely omniscient, when they work to benefit beings most, but not all, of what they do is successful. In contrast, everything that buddhas do to benefit beings is meaningful. Furthermore, the activity of buddhas is accomplished effortlessly and spontaneously.
The Karmapa emphasized that our aspiration to attain Buddhahood should not just be words—we need to look at the actual situation and understand the real benefit of achieving Buddhahood. If we develop this deep wish and remember it at all times, then achieving enlightenment will be possible.
Upon concluding his discussion of the text, the Karmapa set aside time to explain the latest developments in his plans to introduce full ordination for women in his lineage. His Holiness said there have been many rounds of discussion focused on whether or not it would be possible to confer bhikshuni ordination and what methods to use in doing so. The Karmapa said that it has now been determined that it is indeed possible, citing discussions at a 2015 conference in Dharamsala. He explained that in principle, agreement had been reached among senior heads of all Tibetan Buddhist lineages that it would be acceptable to hold bhikshuni ordinations conferred by a dual sangha consisting of monks from the Mulasarvastivada tradition practiced in Tibetan Buddhism and nuns from the Dharmagupta vinaya tradition.
The Karmapa noted that because the conferral of bhikshuni ordination to nuns in the Tibetan tradition is a significant step, it is important that it be done properly and carefully. Among the reasons for deferring the initial step is the fact that the upcoming year is considered by Tibetan society to be astrologically inauspicious. Now that it is clear that bhikshuni ordination will take place, His Holiness explained he would hold conferences this year to discuss how to proceed in practical terms.
January 17, 2016 -Kalachakra Maidan, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
This evening, H.H. the Gyalwang Karmapa traveled to the Kalachakra grounds in Bodh Gaya to inaugurate the cultural festival known as Bodh Mahotsava, taking place from January 17 to 19, 2016. Starting on a large scale in 1998, the grand gathering features cultural performances on an international scale with dancers, musicians, and singers from India, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Shri Lanka, and other nations.
With the backdrop of the stage and its models of the Mahabodhi Stupa and other architectural monuments in Bihar, His Holiness the Karmapa together with the Chief Minister of Bihar, Shri Nitish Kumar, lit a tall and elegant bronze lamp to open the three days of events.
January 16, 2016 -Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya, Bihar
Today’s teachings began with the sound of melodic chanting of the opening prayers; the nuns’ voices were led by a female chant master (umze). After the donations and offerings of white scarves by the lay sponsors, the Gyalwang Karmapa resumed the teachings on the 9th chapter of The Ornament of Liberation regarding relative bodhicitta. Picking up where he left off yesterday, he continued, “In terms of the methods for meditating on bodhicitta and the way to train and develop it, all of the texts on mind training are basically ways to meditate on bodhicitta, to train one’s mind in bodhicitta.” There is a text by the 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje, called The One Hundred Short Instructions. In it, he explained, there are two methods for developing bodhicitta: one is considering samsara in general, and the other is considering individual sentient beings. To illustrate the first one, His Holiness referenced a verse by Nagarjuna saying that just as the earth, water, fire, wind, and just as the grasses and forests are the basis for sentient beings’ enjoyments, so too may I be the basis for all of their happiness and benefit.
Just as we have the earth, plants, forests, and all the natural world as the basis for our happiness, the Karmapa explained, so should we also be the basis of happiness for all others. “Our aspiration is that we, too, may be the basis and source of benefit and happiness for all sentient beings. We need to think about this aspiration and contemplate it for a long time until we have a strong longing and wish that we actually become it.” Further, if you look at this great earth, he continued, there are magnificent vistas and some landscapes that are completely pure. “Thinking, hearing, and remembering the earth brings benefit. We should also make the prayer that we, too, [can be of benefit]. It is important to develop the aspiration, ‘May I become like this.’” The earth is the basis of benefit for all sentient beings, not just for humans, not just for animals, but for all sentient beings.
The Karmapa differentiated between a limited bodhicitta and a vast, spacious bodhicitta for all beings. Through expanding our compassion beyond just our circle of family and friends, we develop an expansive attitude: our compassion is not just for our loved ones, friends and families, but for all sentient beings. The Karmapa asked us to take our compassion a step further—to develop it not just for those near to us, but even towards our enemies. “The other important point,” he continued, “is that when we have enemies or people who wish to harm us, sometimes dislike naturally arises; sometimes we don’t care what happens to them. But since we are Dharma practitioners, particularly of the Mahayana, when others cause us harm, we need to take a more spacious attitude.” His Holiness emphasized that it is important not to give up on those who dislike or wish to harm us. They, too, are often experiencing suffering. When someone has done something negative to us, the Karmapa advised, “It’s important for people training in the dharma to make a distinction between the individual and the act. For example, they may have been under the control of their afflictions, their environment, or their surrounding conditions. Realizing this, we can have a more spacious outlook.”
In closing, the Karmapa reminded us of what it means to be a Buddhist. “Being a Buddhist is not just about being kind in this lifetime. The bodhisattva’s vow lasts from lifetime to lifetime. We need to think about not just short term [happiness and suffering], but of lifetime after lifetime until there are no more sentient beings, until all beings are enlightened. Bodhicitta is not just about having a good heart for the short term. Being a bodhisattva is working from now until Buddhahood.” With that, His Holiness wrapped up the teachings of the day and then made an announcement regarding the study program for the nuns.
“In the past,” he said, “I have talked about how we should set up a curriculum for study in the shedras and the study institutes in the various Kagyu nunneries. We needed to discuss this and determine a good curriculum—what topics, their order, how many years to study them, and so forth.” He said, “I’ve thought about this, but have not really been satisfied. Then at the end of last year, I received an old book that had a text from the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje, in which he discussed the situation of various Kagyu monasteries during that time. Among the pages is a discussion of the curriculum they followed for their studies—the courses, their order, the topics they studied—and it is very clear. Now that I have received this, I think it’s possible for us to develop a good curriculum for our shedras.”
He continued, “From the time of the 7th to the 10th Karmapas, we knew that there were Kagyu shedras and that they were wide spread, but what we needed to know was what they studied and how. Knowing this, whether we are able to do it or not, we can at least use the lives and activities of the great masters of the past as examples for ourselves in making a new curriculum. This is my hope. Now that we can see their writings and know what they studied and how they did things, I’m inspired.” He noted that since there is historical backing for what he could do, he felt more comfortable in making these plans.
“In 1985 in Tibet,” the Karmapa explained, “people didn’t know there were any texts by Kagyu masters on the five great philosophical topics. Of course, they knew about the instructions on mahamudra and the Six Yogas of Naropa and so forth, but people did not know about these commentaries on the five great philosophical topics. So when Mikyo Dorje’s first appeared in Tibet, many people were surprised, and not just masters from other traditions, but even Kagyu masters did not know about these important commentaries.” As a consequence, many Kagyu masters would go to other traditions to study philosophy.
“Up to the time of the 10th Karmapa,” the Karmapa explained, “there were many shedras and scholars with a great tradition of study, but from that time onward, this tradition has declined since the Karma Kamtsang lineage of the explanation was more or less broken.” So when knotty points arose in a text, there was no commentary for reference. “But last year when I was visiting America,” he recounted,” I was given a text by the 6th Shamar Chokyi Wangchuk, which contains a general discussion of validity. It is an extremely clear text, which takes all the difficult points from the 7th Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso’s Ocean of Reasoning (treating Dharmakirti’s Commentary on Validity) and discusses them lucidly, presenting a general discussion as well as our own tradition.” The Karmapa commented, “Now that we have this text that is so explicit, we can see exactly what the answers to these difficult points are.”
This text by Chokyi Wangchuk also mentions another text with a general discussion of the Prajnaparamita, and the Karmapa hoped that it would appear in the future as well.
In closing he stated that with the rediscovery of this text on validity, it will be possible to determine the curriculum for our study. He concluded with hope that “during this Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, we will be able to determine the curriculum. Then if the nunneries implement it, I believe that in the future this will truly spread our tradition of explanations.” After this closing statement, the day’s merit was dedicated. Given what the Karmapa has said, it appears the Kagyu nuns of the Karma Kamtsang will play an instrumental role in reviving the study of the commentaries belonging to its lineage of explanation.
We were really fortunate that His Holiness the Karmapa fulfilled his promise to visit Tushita just before Christmas. It was a short morning visit, but very sweet.
Director Dr. Renuka Singh, in her welcome speech, quoted His Holiness the Dalai Lama who has said that whereas the last century belonged to people of his generation, the 21st century belongs to young leaders like the Karmapa, who have a great responsibility to guide people in these challenging times.
His Holiness the Karmapa started his visit by saying how he felt a good spiritual feeling as soon as he entered Tushita and that he appreciated that.
His Holiness the Karmapa, Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre, New Delhi, India, December 2015. Photo courtesy of Ven. Kabir Saxena.
In his short interaction with the approximately 30 people who had gathered, His Holiness said that the emphasis given to mindfulness practice at the present time has not been wholly positive. He felt it had been commercialized and thus its effect cheapened. He warned us against using Dharma in this way. His Holiness also stressed the tremendous importance of motivation in our practice. This determines whether what we do is Dharma or not.
His Holiness then carefully ate one biscuit and nodded appreciatively.
Then, while Ven. Kabir Saxena read out some words of thanks, people bustled around His Holiness to have photos taken with him, to which he kindly and patiently consented.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s thanks to His Holiness for visiting were conveyed, as well as a plea for His Holiness’ guidance in these degenerate times. We requested His Holiness to have a long and healthy life, for his holy wishes to be fulfilled and recalled a moving image His Holiness himself had used some years back in which he said he would like to have the moon always be the bearer of his love for us, even when his body is no longer present.
After His Holiness left, the glow of his love still pervaded the small Tushita gompa. How fortunate we are!
January, 17, 2016 -Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
Continuing his explanation of how to meditate on relative bodhichitta, the Gyalwang Karmapa turned to the second one of considering individual beings to be like our mother. The reason we do this, he explained, is that all living beings have been abundantly kind to us. “We do not necessarily have to think of our parents here,” he added, “but simply remember how kind, loving, and affectionate living beings have been to us.” If we believe in past and future lives, he explained, we can consider that from beginingless time until now, we have taken innumerable births with different bodies and changing parents so that at one time or another, all living beings have taken a turn as our parents.
“If we do not believe in past lives,” he suggested, “there is still a way that we can meditate on all living beings resembling our mothers by reflecting on the situation in this world where we live. These times are known as the Information Era, and thanks to the Internet, we are becoming increasingly connected.” If we think about it a bit, he said, we can see clearly that our very lives depend on other people and other things. Usually the food we eat was grown by others, and the clothes we wear were stitched by others. We do not see or know them, yet still receive their kindness. “Therefore,” he concluded, “we depend on each other and support each other. This is our situation in the world. The kindness of one person allows another to live, so we are the kindness and we also depend on it from others.”
Usually, we think in terms of self and other as if there were a gap or separation between us. We also assume, the Karmapa noted, that our self is in control and autonomous and that the same is true for the other. But that is not the case, he said, for we depend on each other: our happiness and pain depend on others and their happiness and pain depend on us. It is important to recognize this. We are a part of others and others are a part of ourselves, he stated. Once we understand that this is the way things are, we naturally develop the feeling of wanting to do something about the sufferings of living beings and to help them find happiness.
Even if we know that this deep connection is the real situation, he stated, very few of us are ready to take responsibility for it. “People are fearful because they do not have great compassion,” he remarked, “but without this compassion, we will not have the confidence or even the idea to take responsibility for others.” It is important to make a distinction between sympathy (or empathy) and great compassion, he continued. “Usually when we think of sympathy or ordinary compassion, we think in terms of a subject in a good situation, who feels compassion, and the object of that compassion, who is someone more deprived.” With this mindset, he said, we are seeing them as different.” We need to change this, he said, so that we see the other’s suffering as a part of ourselves. This is hard to do physically but mentally, the one professing compassion can shift their attitude, he suggested, and open themselves to feeling the pain and suffering of others. They can also come to see that everyone has the same nature.
These days, scientists are talking about how all living beings naturally have compassion. The great philosophical texts of Buddhism also talk about this and how beings have different levels of compassion. We all have the seed of compassion, the Karmapa stated, but it is rather weak and underdeveloped as if we have shut the door on it. He gave the example of a child, who has the ability to speak, but if they happen to grow up in the wilds with no human companionship, they will not learn to talk. In the same way, the blossoming of compassion in someone depends on the surroundings. If the word compassion is heard often enough, then it will develop; otherwise our hearts will be hardened and insensitive.
We have an innate potential for compassion but, he cautioned, we need to train or it will not develop. With a great opportunity to expand our compassion, we must not let it go to waste but make every effort to enlarge it. With this counsel, the Karmapa ended the morning’s teaching.
January 18, 2016 -Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya, Bihar, India
During the fifth day of the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued his teaching on generating bodhichitta based on Gampopa’s Ornament of Precious Liberation. He also discussed methods he would like to see enacted for promoting the continued flourishing of the Kagyu nuns study and contemplation of the great philosophical texts.
The Karmapa’s teaching today focused on how to generate equal compassion for all beings—our friends, our enemies, and those we feel neutral towards. First, the Karmapa said we need to examine the false idea that we are independent from other beings. The fact alone that our physical body comes from our parents is evidence we are not independent things. Furthermore, from the moment we are born, we are dependent on the kindness of our parents and others for our survival.
“When we really think about our own situation we can see that this life of ours is interdependent, produced by other conditions,” the Karmapa said. “Everything is dependent on something else. Looking at this, we see this is not some philosophical presentation but it is actually the value and basis of our human life.”
Using the power of our intelligence to contemplate this interdependence is the basis for generating true compassion, the Karmapa said. Specifically, this understanding helps us to avoid the pitfall of only generating compassion for those we like, and not for those we dislike—this is actually attraction and aversion, not compassion. The Karmapa said that almost anyone can generate compassion for friends, but developing compassion for enemies and those we feel neutral towards is great compassion.
“For compassion there are no friends, enemies, or anyone neutral either,” the Karmapa said. “All sentient beings are the same in wanting to be free from suffering, and in that respect they are equal. Therefore, our compassion should be equal for all sentient beings.”
During the second half of the morning program the Karmapa reflected on success of the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gatherings so far, and discussed what he sees as important next steps for furthering the development of Kagyu nuns’ scholarly training.
In reflecting on this, the Karmapa noted that it has now been three years since this gathering began, providing an opportunity for Kagyu nuns to begin listening and contemplating the great philosophical texts. “The results of that are turning out nicely,” the Karmapa said.
To promote the continued flourishing of the nuns’ study and contemplation, the Karmapa said he would like to see a common Kagyu shedra (monastic college) created for Kagyu nuns. Currently, he said there are shedras in some nunneries, but this situation can make it difficult to find adequate teachers and financial resources for all of the separate programs. A common shedra would help to improve the quality of the education and make effective use of resources.
The Karmapa said this facility could also provide a place for nuns and lay women from all over the world to study Buddhism and do research at international standards. The Karmapa noted that nearby, there could also be a home for the community of bhikshunis who will be receiving the planned ordination. Specifically, the Karmapa said that to ensure the future of the lineage, it would be valuable for the bhikshuni sangha to gather together in a single space rather than live scattered in many different nunneries.
The Karmapa asked for representatives from each of the nunneries present at the Arya Kshema to meet in the new Tibetan year and come up with a plan for this overall nuns’ shedra. “It would be good to do this as quickly as possible,” he said.
The Karmapa also announced that as of the next Arya Kshema there will be a debate competition for the nuns, rather than simply debate training. “I believe you are ready,” he said, addressing the nuns. A debate competition is held each year for the monks, and the Karmapa said this has led to great improvement. He said a little competition can be good if it helps generate inspiration and enthusiasm for our studies.
A beautiful new temple of the Nyingma lineage now graces the land of Bodh Gaya. The Gyalwang Karmapa was invited to consecrate this richly decorated hall of Ngagyur Palyul Shedrup Choekhor Dargyeling, built under the guidance of Kyang Khang Tulku. For this auspicious time, the beginning of the road to the temple was covered in a long white canopy; from it descended bright strings of pearls, crystals, and spheres of orange and gold—a shower of blessings to greet the Karmapa as he passed beneath. His entourage slowly moved past triple rows of nuns and monks holding white scarves before entering into the new temple.
This sacred hall is lined with golden statues depicting the one thousand buddhas of this fortunate era, and on the central altar is a large statue of Shakyamuni Buddha in the earth-touching mudra, flanked by Guru Rinpoche and Chenrezik. The Karmapa walked to the shrine for H. H. the Dalai Lama and there he lit a large silver butter lamp to begin the ceremony. After he had taken his seat on the high throne placed in front of the Buddha, a mandala and the supports of body, speech, and mind were offered to him along with prayers for his long life.
After other prayers, the Karmapa briefly addressed the rinpoches, khenpos, heads of local temples and dignitaries as well as the lay and ordained sangha present for the celebration. Warmly greeting all who had come, the Karmapa also extended his sympathy on the passing of Khyapje Chatral Rinpoche, who so greatly benefited the teachings in general and the Nyingma Dharma in particular. Looking around the hall, the Karmapa praised all those who worked on the construction for fulfilling Drupwang Penor Rinpoche’s wish to build a temple in Bodh Gaya, the most precious place on earth. The Karmapa prayed that from here, the teachings would spread and benefit all beings.
His talk was followed by supplications chanted with heartfelt devotion in Pali, Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese, while the closing dedications were in Tibetan for the well-being of the world and its inhabitants as well as for the long lives of the lamas. Afterward the Karmapa descended from the ornately carved throne to bless the impressive statues with his prayers. Soon after he joined the special guests of honor for a festive lunch. Before returning to his residence at Tergar, the Karmapa gave individual blessings to the foreign guests in the newly consecrated shrine hall.
A 10-member delegation of Joint Action Committee (All Sikkim Buddhist Organization) met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 18 and submitted a memorandum demanding that the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorjee is allowed to visit Sikkim without any further delay.
The JAC delegation had called on Modi at Raj Bhawan here where he had halted for the night during his two-day visit of Sikkim.
Chief Minister Pawan Chamling had also placed the demand regarding the 17th Karmapa to the Prime Minister during the function at Chintan Bhawan on January 18.
In the memorandum, the JAC reminded the Prime Minister about the repeated requests made to the Union government by the State government to allow the Karmapa to visit Sikkim where his headquarters lie at Rumtek monastery in east district.
The JAC further gave its position on the perceived misconceptions regarding the Karmapa that, it said, seems to make the Union government reluctant on allowing the religious leader to visit Sikkim.
Regarding concern that the Karmapa’s presence in Sikkim would provoke clashes between his supporters and supporters of the rival claimant resulting in law and order problem in the sensitive border State, the JAC maintained that such fear is unfounded.
“The State has a strong and stable government under the dynamic and popular leadership of Chief Minister Pawan Chamling and is capable of handling any law and order problem, if at all, which may arise from the Karmapa’s presence in Sikkim. In any case, this fear is unfounded. The State government has, in its many requests to the Centre to allow Karmapa to come to Sikkim, only done so after considering the law and order question thoroughly,” submitted the JAC.
Regarding the rumours circulated by rivals that the Karmapa could be a Chinese agent leading to concerns that his presence in Sikkim would be detrimental to national security, the JAC asserted that such fear is unsubstantiated and demeaning to the people of Sikkim.
“The people of Sikkim are loyal Indian citizens who will not tolerate anti-national activities on their soil and the external borders are heavily and securely guarded. Any fear that the Karmapa may be a Chinese plant to destabilize Sikkim is unsubstantiated and demeaning to the people of Sikkim,” said the JAC.
In the 15 years that the Karmapa has been in India, none of his activities have remotely shown that he is a Chinese plant, it said.
The JAC also mentions in its memorandum that the pending court case regarding Rumtek monastery is a separate issue and does not bar the Karmapa to come to Sikkim and staying in another monastery.
According to a JAC member, the Prime Minister told the JAC delegation that he is aware of the matter and assured the delegation to take up the matter on a serious note.
The JAC has also thanked the Chief Minister for taking up the Karmapa issue with the Prime Minister as one of the major demands from the Sikkim government during the Chintan Bhawan function.
January 20th 2016 -Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya, Bihar After wishing everyone a good morning, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued the reading transmission from the Ornament of Precious Liberation, resuming the ninth chapter with its the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Topics. These cover relative and ultimate bodhicitta, various causes that give rise to bodhicitta, and sources from which the vows can be taken. According to Gampopa’s text, the sources include vows that can be taken directly from a preceptor, or in the absence of a qualified guru, a Buddha image or visualization can be substituted.
Following the reading transmission, the Karmapa discussed whether or not genuine bodhicitta can arise from the mere recitation of a liturgical text. He explained that many masters have debated whether genuine bodhicitta can arise simply due to conducting a traditional ritual. Instead of relying only on the ritual, he emphasized that it is important to give rise to the feeling of bodhicitta. “No matter how many times we go through the ritual of taking the vows, no matter how many empowerments we take, if we don’t develop the feeling, [then it is just words].” We cannot just leave our practice of the Dharma up to mere tradition or mere custom, just following what others say is the tradition. Doing this will not bring us much benefit individually. We need to develop the genuine feeling of bodhicitta, from which we can develop our own individual connection with dharma. Otherwise, if it is done merely out of tradition, it does not bring us nearly as much benefit.
To increase the efficacy of one’s practice of bodhicitta, the Karmapa advised, more important than merely reciting the ritual is to develop true bodhicitta. He stated, “When you hear a spiritual master or guru give an explanation or describe bodhicitta, this can be the cause to give you interest and longing for it. Then you develop a particular feeling within yourself, and it’s quite possible that this can lead you to develop bodhicitta. Or it can be the awakening of your Mahayana potential, due to which you feel compassion for sentient beings. When you have that special compassion for sentient beings, then [arousing bodhicitta] can also occur. But I think it is difficult for it to just happen by reciting the words of the liturgy.”
Concluding the day’s teaching, the Karmapa made a special request to the audience and all listeners. He asked that everyone recite the Medicine Buddha mantra for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Karmapa requested, “Starting on the 24th of January, I’d like to ask everyone, please, in general as a community and individually, to recite as many Medicine Buddha mantras as you can. Please recite and count as many mantras as you can.” The Gyalwang Karmapa further announced that a Tseringma puja will be held next week, also for the benefit and the long life of the Dalai Lama. The practice can also help to create pure discipline for its practitioners.
The Medicine Buddha mantra to be recited is he following: TAYATA OM BHEKANDZE BHEKANDZE MAHA BHEKANDZE RANDZA SAMUNGATE SOHA
January 21, 2016- Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
[The Gyalwang Karmapa’s recent talks have been detailed and extensively researched, so it was decided to make a version available that resembles a lightly edited transcript for those who wish to read the longer report, which follows this summary for those who prefer brevity.]
The Gyalwang Karmapa continued his explanation of the rituals for rousing bodhichitta in the two lineages, one stemming from Manjushri and the other from Maitreya. Some scholars, the Karmapa noted, say that the traditions differ not only in their rituals but also in actuality, because they understand Manjushri’s lineage to belong to the Middle Way school and Maitreya’s to the Mind Only school. Other scholars do not agree with these attributions.
After a long discussion of the pros and cons, the Karmapa summarized the view of his Karma Kamtsang tradition that the ritual for generating bodhichitta. There is a danger, he cautioned, in labelling the two traditions as “Middle Way” and “Mind Only,” because the Middle Way view is usually considered superior to the Mind Only view, so automatically, the ritual of the Middle Way would become superior to the Mind Only ritual. Further, this labelling would also disparage Asanga by putting him into the lower level of the Mind Only school. Therefore, instead of these two terms, the Karmapa explained, we speak of the lineages of the profound view (Nagarjuna) and the vast action (Asanga).
The Karmapa then turned to the question of what an authentic ritual is. He quoted Drukpa Kunlek who said that ultimate bodhichitta arises from the very essence of the ritual. What is it? The blessing of the lama. The Karmapa added that a real ritual is a means to understand the profound meaning. Though there is a debate about whether ultimate bodhichitta can come about through a ritual, the Karmapa advised that what is more important for us is the question of whether relative bodhichitta arises or not. If we do not make efforts and train our minds with skillful means and wisdom, even relative bodhichitta will not arise.
The Karmapa then made a surprising statement. Actually, he said, it is more important to generate compassion for oneself than it is to generate it for others. Usually our compassion is turned outward s, but we should have the courage to turn inward and investigate how we ourselves suffer. The pain we personally experience, he explained, is the basis for developing real compassion, which then extends from ourselves out to others and enables us to truly understand their situation: “They suffer as I do. How great it would be if they were released from it.” In sum, just as we see our suffering and have compassion for ourselves, so we develop it for others, based on our own experience. This way of generating compassion is very important.
The Extensive Version of the Gyalwang Karmapa’s Discussion of Relative and Ultimate Bodhichitta
The Gyalwang Karmapa has been teaching about two traditions or lineages for the bodhisattva vow. In The Ornament of Precious Liberation, Gampopa describes one lineage as stemming from noble Manjushri and passing down through Master Nagarjuna and Master Shantideva, and the other lineage as coming from noble Maitreya and descending through Master Asanga and Master Serlingpa. The Karmapa said that he will take these two traditions as his starting point.
In his commentary on Entering the Way of the Bodhisattva, Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa (1504–1566) writes about the differences in the two traditions concerning how the vows are taken. The Karmapa first explained the tradition of Shantideva, which entails six stages of preparation: (1) making offerings, (2) confessing, (3) rejoicing in virtue, (4) requesting the buddhas to teach, (5) requesting them not to pass into nirvana, and (6) dedication. The actual ceremony has two parts: generating the resolve and taking the vow. The concluding ritual has two parts: celebrating oneself and praising others, or in other words, rejoicing for oneself and rejoicing for others.
In the ritual from Maitreya’s lineage, the Karmapa explained, the preparation has three aspects: supplicating, gathering the accumulation of merit, and going for refuge. The actual taking of the vows has a single aspect, rousing bodhicitta, and the conclusion has two parts, rejoicing and the commitment to uphold the vows. These explanations of the rituals in the two traditions pertain to aspirational bodhicitta.
The ritual for engaged bodhicitta, he continued, has different preparations, seven in all, which include supplication, asking about common and uncommon obstacles, and so forth. The actual ceremony has only one part, rousing engaged bodhicitta. The concluding ritual has five aspects, including the benefits of the vow, the precepts, and so forth. With this, the Karmapa concluded his discussion of the order, or framework, for taking the bodhisattva vow in Maitreya’s tradition.
The Karmapa noted that there are some slight differences in the two rituals, and he has taken the commentary of Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa as the basis for his discussion.
Now there are some scholars, the Karmapa continued, who claim that the two traditions are different, not only in ritual but also in actuality, because they say that the tradition of Manjushri belongs to the Middle Way school and the tradition of Asanga belongs to the Mind Only school. Other scholars, however, state that the two traditions are not separate. The prime promoter of the view of separate traditions is Sakya Pandita (1182–1251), who states in his Differentiating the Three Vows: “There are two ways to generate bodhichitta in the Mahayana—according to the Middle Way (Madhyamika) or according to the Mind Only (Chittamatra). Their views are different and so are their rituals.” Other scholars do not agree with him and state the rituals are not different.
The second Karma Trinleypa wrote a text known as The Chariot of the Karmapa, which is a general explanation of the sutra and tantra. Here he mentioned a text, composed by Parkhang Lotsawa, which stated clearly that the Middle Way and the Mind Only schools have different traditions; they are separate and the former is superior to the latter. There are differences in who takes and who gives the vow, the ritual and the precepts. Since the view of the Middle Way is more profound and open, and the skill in means is also different, its ritual is more spacious. In relation to the Middle Way, the view of the Mind Only is traditionally considered somewhat lower, so the ritual is a little more narrow or restricted. This stance resembles Sakya Pandita’s: since the Middle Way view is slightly better than the Mind Only, there is also a difference in their skill in means, and so the rituals also diverge.
Contrary to these positions, Atisha Dipankara has written that the two traditions of Manjushri and Maitreya are not separate, but accord one with the other. He saw that the intentions, or ways of thought, belonging to Nagarjuna and Asanga (lineages that Atisha had received) were in harmony—they are all Buddhist rituals. Atisha himself composed a ritual for generating bodhicitta that encompassed both traditions.
In The Path to Enlightenment, Je Tsongkhapa writes that between Asanga and Nagarjuna’s traditions, there is a difference in the words of the ritual for generating aspirational bodhichitta, but not in the meaning. Those who say that these two traditions correspond to the Middle Way and the Mind Only schools and, therefore, have different recipients, rituals, precepts and so forth, have simply not analyzed well.
Again referring to Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa’s commentary on Entering the Way of the Bodhisattva, the Karmapa explained that the view of this text resembled that of Je Tsongkhapa in that both masters say there is no difference in the actual meaning of the two rituals. Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa wrote that the two rituals are based on two types of disciples: one type prefers things short and simple so Nagarjuna’s ritual is for them; others like elaborate rituals—with stages of preparation, the main part, and various concluding practices—so the tradition from Asanga’s Bodhisattva Levels is for them. But the essence of the two is the same; they do not contradict each other in any way.
The Karmapa then summarized the Karma Kamtsang view on the ritual for generating bodhichitta. There are two problems with the terms Middle Way and Mind Only. First of all, labelling the two traditions as “Middle Way” and “Mind Only” and then claiming that they are separate is quite open to refutation, he said. The danger is that the Middle Way view is usually considered superior to the Mind Only view, so automatically, the ritual of the Middle Way would become superior to the Mind Only ritual. Further, this labelling would also disparage Asanga by putting him into the lower level of the Mind Only school. It is better then not to use the terms Middle Way and Mind Only.
In brief, within the Kagyu tradition, and especially within the Karma Kamtsang tradition, we do no use these two terms are not used; rather, the tradition speaks of the lineages of the profound view (Nagarjuna) and the vast action (Asanga). The Eighth Karmapa Mikyo Dorje’s collected writings contain a ritual for generating bodhichitta, in which he writes, “Talking of the Middle Way and Mind Only traditions is popular these days.” So he described the terms as being in vogue, the Karmapa noted, but he himself did not use them, preferring to call the two traditions “the profound view” and “the vast action.” This approach minimizes the contradictions that could arise through using terminology that distorts the actual situation.
The Karmapa then turned to some difficult or debatable points. The earliest translation of the Buddha’s words into Tibetan was a text known in Tibetan as Phangthung Chagyapa. Two traditions tell of how it arrived: one speaks of a text falling from the sky during the reign of King Lha Thothori Nyantsen (fifth cen., 28th king of Tibet), and the other relates that it was brought to Tibet by an Indian scholar. Whatever the case may be, the Seven-Branch Offering Prayer taken from this text was used by the early Tibetan kings when they were building temples. Further, the exact words of this prayer can also be found in volumes from the Dunhuang caves, indicating that the text was highly valued in those times. This early text, the Karmapa continued, talks of both relative and ultimate bodhichitta.
Further, the One Hundred Short Dharma Teachings, Collected by Jowo Atisha, contains a ritual for generating bodhichitta, which speaks of ultimate bodhicitta. Then turning to the mediations in the lower tantras, the Karmapa mentioned the well-known creation phase meditation, in which a practitioner focuses on a full moon disk as embodying relative bodhicitta and on the vajra standing in its middle as ultimate bodhichitta.
In considering whether or not ultimate bodhicitta can arise based on a ritual, the problem comes with the sutra tradition. Some say this is possible and others, not. Those who deny the possibility are Sakya Pandita and his follows, for he writes in his Exposition of the Three Vows: “Ultimate bodhicitta only comes about through meditation; it does not arise through a ritual.” On the other hand, the great Nyingma scholar Ngari Panchen Pema Wangyal (1487–1542) wrote in his Perfect Conduct: Ascertaining the Three Vows (the most important Nyingma text on the topic) that in the Secret Mantrayana, ultimate bodhichitta can arise through ritual. In the sutra tradition, however, one only makes the commitment to generate it, and then later engages in practice to bring it about.
Turning to the traditions of those who say it is possible to generate ultimate bodhichitta through a ritual, the Karmapa spoke of a statement Gampopa made in his collected works, affirming that there are rituals in connection with aspirational, engaged, and ultimate bodhicitta. This implies that ultimate bodhichitta can arise through a ritual. In his long treatment of the three vows, Kunkhyen Pema Karpo (1527–1592) writes that in Nagarjuna’s ritual for generating bodhichitta, one finds both relative and ultimate bodhichitta and also that these vows should be taken successively.
Further, in his Treasury of Knowledge, Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye states that one cannot say categorically that ultimate bodhichitta does not arise through a ritual. Lodro Thaye gives a logical argument for why it could happen by referring to the fourth or word empowerment in the Secret Mantrayana. Here, wisdom arises through the power of words, and since this is true, one cannot say that ultimate bodhichitta could not also arise through the words of a ritual. If we accept that the word empowerment can generate wisdom, we have to also accept the power of the ritual to generate ultimate bodhichitta.
In sum, the Karmapa said that in terms of ultimate bodhichitta being generated through a ritual, there are the two scriptural proofs—the earliest text translated into Tibetan and Nagarjuna’s ritual for generating bodhichitta—and also the logical proof established by Jamgon Kongtrul.
The Karmapa then paused to relate a story from Tibetan history concerning a meeting of the Seventh Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso (1454–1506) and the famous yogi Drukpa Kunlek (1455–1529). Drukpa Kunlek had traveled to Kongpo, a region in southern Tibet, to meet with the Seventh Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso. The Karmapa gave him commentary on two texts, The Profound Inner Meaning and The Indivisibility of the Winds and Mind, as well as bestowing Dharma articles so they had made a good connection.
One time, the Karmapa was discussing the Dharma and asked the scholars around him, “Can a ritual give rise to ultimate bodhichitta?” The scholar Powo (his region of Tibet) Kachuwa (meaning that he had mastered ten major texts) replied, “The Sakya tradition states that you cannot but for we teachers and students, it doesn’t make any different. Whichever way is fine.”
At this time, Drukpa Kunlek was sitting off to the side as he was not considered a scholar. He offered, however, the comment that ultimate bodhichitta has to be generated from a ritual and actually arises from the very essence of a ritual. Otherwise, it would be difficult for ultimate bodhichitta to appear. What is this essence of the ritual? It is the blessing of the lama—from this ultimate bodhichitta arises. If this blessing is not present, Drukpa Kunlek said, the ritual cannot be considered a real one. To support his position, he cited a verse from the Hevajra Tantra, which he had fully memorized. The verse stated that co-emergent wisdom, beyond expression, does not arise from anywhere else but the instruction of the lama, their skill in timing and means, and the merit of the disciple.
Drukpa Kunlek commented that a ritual is not the ding! ding! of a bell nor the dung! dung! of a drum. A ritual is the means to understand the profound meaning. If a ritual is just the words and music, it loses its very basis and thus could not be found anywhere. The day afterward this discussion, people looked at Drukpa Kunlek in a different light, seeing him as one who knew texts.
The Karmapa commented that there’s a lot to be understood here. We have no choice but to speak of two types of rituals: the meaning, or true ritual, and the verbal ritual. We have seen that many say ultimate bodhichitta does not just come from a ritual. What about relative bodhichitta? Can it arise from a ritual? Usually we assume it can, but just reciting the words that were memorized and saying “This is the method,” will not make it happen. What is said about ultimate bodhichitta could also be said about relative bodhichitta: It does not come from a ritual, but from meditation. We need to cultivate relative bodhichitta by training in the key instructions of the tantras, by meditating on the equality of self and other, and so forth. Mere words are not enough.
Especially these days, the Karmapa noted, we recite the texts at great speed, but often do not know what we are saying or understand that words that pass from our lips. It would be difficult for even relative bodhichitta to arise this way. The texts say, “Imagine you have realized this,” but how is that possible without a real connection?
The Karmapa related a story about the great Kadampa master Potowa (1027–1105), who took monastic vows with an abbot, but stated that it was only later that he actually felt he had received them when he was in the presence of the lay master Dromtonpa Gyalwai Jungne (1004/5 to 1164). Potowa related, “I was attending a Dharma talk by this old layman from Reting Monastery (Dromtonpa), and at that time I could give rise to true renunciation so the actual vows arose within.” The Karmapa noted that this is similar to what Drukpa Kunlek said—actual experience has to be at the basis of the vows or rituals.
Here, Potowa is explaining that without real renunciation it is not possible to have the discipline of the vows. Just because the lama recites, “This is the method,” does not mean that the discipline of renunciation has arisen. We need to train, to analyze and make efforts to give rise to authentic renunciation. (The Karmapa mentioned in passing that true renunciation can also arise on the basis of a key instruction.) Therefore, when we develop the real wish for liberation, this is what should be known as the actual ritual of taking the vow.
The Karmapa advised that though there is a debate about whether ultimate bodhichitta can come about through a ritual, what is more important for us is the question of relative bodhichitta. If we do not make efforts and train our minds with skillful means and wisdom, even relative bodhichitta will not arise.
Actual relative bodhichitta does not come from words passing through us and slipping out. We should reflect that giving rise to bodhichitta is difficult even for the arhats of the Listeners and Solitary Realizers who belong to the Foundational Vehicle and have the five special type of vision and five types of precognition. How could it be easy for us who are at a much lower level and lack their abilities? When the lama repeats “This is the method,” it is not really a method for us because bodhichitta does not arise. So we must intensively train our minds and accumulate an immense amount of merit.
There is also the story of Shariputra, the Karmapa continued, who was the Buddha’s main disciple and foremost in wisdom. He had a hard time developing relative bodhichitta, so how could it not be difficult for us? We should not be lulled into thinking that everything is all right, that things are going well. We must analyze and see if we actually have true bodhichitta or not.
Someone might ask us, “Are you a Buddhist?” and we reply, “Of course.” And to the questions of being a follower of the Mahayana or the Secret Mantrayana, we give the same glib reply. But what about this question: “Are you a good person?” This will give us pause. Sometimes we are and at others, well, not exactly. Is there not a contradiction here? How could we be a Buddhist, to say nothing of belonging to the Mahayana, without being a good or moral person in worldly terms? We are caught in this lazy assumption and do not reflect on the actual situation.
If we really look at things as they are, it is not easy, for example, to embody the Four Immeasurables, love, compassion, and so forth. We might observe that someone was crying when they saw another person’s suffering, and just think, “Well, even non-Buddhists can have compassion.” But to have true compassion is not easy. This kind of thinking shows that we do not really understand ourselves, that we have not deeply investigated our mind. It is extremely important to delve into our mindstream and understand what is happening.
Actually, the Karmapa said, it is more important to generate compassion for oneself than it is to generate it for others. Usually our compassion is turned outward and expressed toward others but we need to know how we ourselves suffer. In the teachings, it is said that turning to look outward at others, we generate compassion for them, and turning inward to look at ourselves, we generate renunciation, wishing to be liberated from samsara. We should be courageous in knowing the nature of our own suffering, and develop compassion based on that experience.
So first we turn inward to understand how we suffer and develop compassion through the pain we personally know. As the texts say, “Take your own body as an example.” We start from our experience and extend our knowing from there to other people, thinking, “They suffer as I do. How great it would be if they were released from it.” We can recall that other beings are in our same situation: they do not want to suffer and wish to be happy. Just as we see our suffering and have compassion for ourselves, so we develop it for others, based on our own experience. This way of generating compassion is very important.
January 22, 2016-Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
During the eighth day of teaching at the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, the Gyalwang Karmapa discussed questions related to giving bhikshuni ordination to nuns. He also continued his teaching on rousing bodhichitta through taking the bodhisattva vow, based on chapter nine of the Ornament of Precious Liberation by Gampopa.
The Karmapa began by congratulating the nuns in attendance for the confidence and enthusiasm they have developed since the first Arya Kshema Gathering. “As I look out, I see that you’ve all gained confidence and self-esteem, knowing that you are capable of doing things and taking action,” the Karmapa said. “I see this in your expressions and I am very happy…. No matter what we are doing, if we first of all do not have confidence in ourselves, it is difficult to get anything done no matter what it might be, whether in the Dharma or in worldly activities.” The Karmapa added, “I think it is important to recognize how difficult it is to find such confidence and to know how much value it has.”
The Karmapa also spoke about the many impediments nuns face when they seek to increase their confidence and enthusiasm. In particular, he said, there are those who say that the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha would be decreased by 500 years if women are ordained. The Karmapa stated that it is difficult to find a clear textual basis for this assertion.
Based on the Karmapa’s own research, he said that over the past year he has found strong textual evidence that calls into question the notion that the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha would be decreased if nuns were given full ordination. Specifically, the Karmapa found a reference to this issue in a text called The Treatise of the Great Exposition, which comes from the Exposition School, a branch of the Sarvastivada School—one of the 18 original schools of Buddhism. This text was not translated into Tibetan until the mid-20th century, but there were historically three different translations into Chinese.
In this text, the authors raise a number of doubts and try to clarify points that are not clear in the sutras. One of the questions asked is: “The Buddha prophesized that the teachings would only remain 1,000 years, and that they would be diminished by 500 years if women were ordained. Since women were indeed ordained, that would mean the teachings should only remain 500 years. However, the teachings still remain. [This text was written 600 years after Shakyamuni Buddha passed away.] Why is that?”
The text offers two different responses to this question. First, it says that when the sutras discuss the teachings being decreased by 500 years if women ordain, what was meant is “the period of liberation” would be decreased—not the teachings in general. The period of liberation is the phase after Buddha’s enlightenment when students would achieve arhathood, or individual liberation.
The second response in the text is that when women were originally ordained by the Buddha, they needed to accept eight “heavy rules” in order to keep the teachings from being decreased by 500 years. The Treatise of the Great Exposition says that because the nuns accepted these eight rules, the duration of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings has not decreased. The Karmapa said this authentic and authoritative scriptural reference should help to eliminate any doubts about giving full ordination to nuns.
The Karmapa continued discussing his own views regarding why the Buddha did not initially allow women to ordain and why the eight rules were instituted. Specifically, the Karmapa said that during the time of the Buddha, women had a much lower standing in society than men—far lower than today. The fact that the Buddha gave women the ability to take full ordination was something “unprecedented and astonishing in his society,” the Karmapa said.
“So when we see that the Buddha did not immediately allow women to become ordained, I think the reason is because of the societal situation of that time and place,” the Karmapa explained. “But in any case, the Buddha, seeing the reasons and the benefits, allowed women to go forth and ordain. The eight rules are based on the societal conditions of that era. This becomes very clear when we look at the vinaya.”
The Karmapa continued, “The fact that in the 21st century we’re not able to do everything the Buddha taught 2,500 years ago, such as to give the bhikshuni vows, is really an astonishing situation. But it comes down to the point that from this day on, we should not worry about things that are unnecessary and unimportant. Instead we should increase our enthusiasm and our inspiration to bring benefit to the teachings and sentient beings by upholding, spreading, and propagating the teachings. If we do this I think it will work out well.”
After the tea break, the Karmapa returned to teaching on the Ornament of Precious Liberation by Gampopa, in particular on the ritual of taking the bodhisattva vow. The first point the Karmapa explained was why rousing bodhichitta through meditation and through ritual are both important. The Karmapa said that according to the great master Atisha, it is important to first train our minds in relative bodhichitta through the meditation of mind training, or lojong, in order to make the ritual of taking the bodhisattva vow meaningful.
“Rousing bodhichitta comes from training the mind, but there is still a reason to adopt it through ritual,” the Karmapa said. “The ritual will stabilize your earlier bodhichitta and will make you more aware of the benefits of having bodhichitta and the defects of not having bodhichitta, and so forth. So there is a reason to do it.”
Next, the Karmapa explained the qualities of someone from whom we can take the Bodhisattva Vow. Such a person must be skilled, venerable and capable. Being skilled means being able give advice on how to develop bodhichitta, being able to perform the ritual, and knowing how to uphold the precepts. Being venerable means having taken the Bodhisattva Vow and upholding the precepts. Finally, being capable means being able to make the student understand what they are doing. Specifically, the Karmapa said it is important that the vows be explained in a language the student speaks. “The student needs to be able to understand what they are doing while taking the vow,” the Karmapa said.
The third point the Karmapa discussed was the physical and mental supports that one needs in order to newly develop bodhichitta. In terms of the body, the Karmapa said one can develop bodhichitta in any of the six realms—as a god, deva, human, animal, hungry ghost, or hell being. “There is no realm where you can’t develop bodhichitta,” he said.
In terms of the mental support one needs for developing bodhichitta newly, the Karmapa quoted the Kadampa masters, who say it is essential that you have gone for refuge to the Three Jewels—the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The Karmapa said it is also necessary to have longing and enthusiasm to take the vow, and also the body, speech and mind capable of accomplishing it.
The Karmapa also discussed whether it is necessary to have taken the vows of individual liberation in order to take the vows of aspirational bodhichitta. He explained how the great masters have differing views, and yet Gampopa’s position on this has been unclear. The Karmapa said that the monks have been researching Gampopa’s view and it will be discussed during their Winter Gathering.
The Karmapa continued his explanation, mentioning that the Kadampa masters, who were of the opinion that the vows of individual liberation were necessary. He explained that at the time of the Kadampa masters in Tibet, there were false views about the Dharma and questionable conduct, which were likely some of the reasons the Tibetan masters invited Atisha to Tibet—to correct the teachings. The Karmapa stated that because of the false views propagating at the time, the Kadampa masters had to be strict in their practice to counteract misunderstanding and poor ethics.
The Karmapa said that while many Kadampa masters did engage in serious tantric practice, they did so in private. Their main concern seems to have been presenting a strict framework for Dharma practice to counteract the decline they saw. It was a skillful means for that period in the history of Tibet.
The Karmapa also observed that there are signs that not all Kadampa practitioners were particularly fond of yogis (ngakpas). To illustrate this, the Karmapa told a story about Rechungpa—one of Milarepa’s two main disciples— getting kicked out of a Kadampa monastery because of his white robes. He also spoke about of Milarepa’s other main disciple, Gampopa, being told by his Kadampa friends that his dreams of a white clad yogi (Milarepa) were a bad omen.
With these stories illustrating the situation in Tibet many centuries ago, the Karmapa closed his teaching. The Arya Kshema will continue with a long White Tara puja on January 24.
January 24th 2016-Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya, Bihar
Today His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa presided over a White Tara puja in the main shrine hall of Tergar Monastery. The hall was decorated with garlands of marigolds, strings of their yellow and orange flowers hung from the door of the main entrance and on each of the sixteen pillars of the traditional Tibetan style monastery. Bouquets of white lilies and red roses lined the front of the stage. The Karmapa took his seat on the high, golden throne, this time on the main stage, where space was also made for a three dimensional mandala. On its top tier was a gold statue of White Tara, the Goddess of Long Life. A miniature parasol, one of the eight auspicious symbols, floated above the statue. To the left of Tara was a torma sculpture created to represent her, and to the right of the gold statue, was another torma dedicated to the 21 Taras. Gold and silver mandalas were set in the four directions and in between them were offering bowls filled with saffron water and rice, representing the eight auspicious, peaceful offerings of two the kinds of water, flowers, incense, light, food, perfume and beautiful sounds. All of the beautiful Dharma objects on the shrine came from the Karmapa’s personal collection.
The second tier of the mandala held offering bowls filled with rice, incense sticks, and flowers, a precious offering known in Tibetan as metok tsampaka. The final base tier of the mandala held long rows of tormas. With the stage so beautifully set and incense filling the hall, His Holiness led the nuns in making offerings, praises, and requests to the deity through the recitation of the sadhana (liturgical) text entitled, A Ritual Practice of White Tara Called “Bestowing All Siddhis.” The nuns chanted verse after verse of praise in unison with periodic clashing of cymbals, the pounding of drums and ringing of bells.
The particular benefit of this sadhana is that it brings a long and stable life to those who hold the teachings and for others it vanquishes fear, and continued engaging in virtuous actions keeps fear away. The text was composed by the 5th Shamar, Konchok Yenlak, and written based on sadhanas composed by previous lamas. The sadhana was later expanded upon by the 14th Karmapa, Thekchok Dorje, according to the wishes of the 9th Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje.
The sadhana practice continued into the afternoon, and in the final session the nuns, who filled the shrine hall to its edges, chanted long life prayers for great lamas and for the Gyalwang Karmapa, thereby dedicating to others the meritorious results of their practice of White Tara, Goddess of Long Life.
January 26, 2016-Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya, Bihar, India
Today the shrine in the main hall at Tergar Monastery was again transformed, this time for three days (January 26–28) of practicing the Karma Pakshi Guru Yoga in the morning and in the afternoon, the offering ritual to the Five Tseringma (Long Life Sisters). In the new setting, which the Karmapa had arranged the night before, two shrines filled the central space of the shrine stage. On the right was a long, embroidered thangka of Karma Pakshi, flanked in brilliant white scarves, which brought alive the rich colors in the image of this Second Karmapa along with his yidam deity and main disciples. Two large tormas (offering sculptures) were set beneath it, and the lower one had a skull cup and butter lamps on either side. The final row held beautifully embossed gold and silver offering bowls, their generous size filled with the traditional substances.
On the left was displayed a lovely thangka of Tseringma, painted in the spacious style of the Karmapa’s Encampment with an unusual, dynamic and flowing line for the images. In front of this tall image was a torma painted in light turquoise with mountains, flowers, and floating clouds to evoke the place where Tseringma stays. On either side of this were skull cups and rows of butter lamps while below, another row of the traditional offerings completed the picture.
In between the two thangkas and set on the main floor was the Karmapa’s golden throne. On the ornately carved table on his right resided a large statue of a radiant Milarepa, his right hand resting on his knee and the left holding a skull cup filled with nectar. Next to him was a tall long life arrow with the ribbons of the five colors of the elements and of the five Tseringma as well.
After the Karmapa took his seat on the throne, the Karma Pakshi Guru Yoga began. The essence of this practice came to Namcho Mingyur Dorje (1645–1667) in a vision of Karma Pakshi and his retinue. The sadhana is widely practiced in the Kagyu tradition and contains profound teachings on the nature of the mind, such as a teaching from one of the female figures in his vison: “Kye Ho! Self-aware wisdom is beyond expression. The world of attachment appears from the radiance of mind itself.” This underlying current of Mahamudra realization surfaces throughout the practice, such as at the end, when practitioners are advised, “In post-meditation, all the diverse appearances of samsara and nirvana / are the great, transparent and unceasing play of creative energy itself.”
The afternoon brought an extensive practice of the Five Tseringma, who are protectors of the Kagyu lineage and Tseringma also functions as a yidam and a lama. They have a special connection with Milarepa, whose dialogues with them are famous. Earlier the Karmapa had explained that during the time of his previous incarnations, this practice of Tseringma was performed extensively at his seat of Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet. The practice was considered as important as other extensive practices (drupchen) of major deities. The Karmapa commented that Tseringma was a protector of all the Kagyu lineages, and she was also closely connected to Milarepa, who said, “In the human realm, my teachings are held by the Teacher from Central Tibet (Gampopa). In the non-human realm, they are held by Tseringma.” Further, as one who holds the teachings of Milarepa, the Karmapa continued, Tseringma was also a lama who gave teachings to previous Kagyu Lamas such as Yang Gonpa (1213–1258/87) and the First Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa (1110–1193).
This year the Tseringma puja will be held for three days and the Karmapa voiced the hope that in the years to come, the nunneries would engage in the extensive practice of Tseringma every year. There is also a rarely performed wealth ritual written by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, he said, which the nuns will begin next year. The practice of Tseringma is also, and especially, a long life practice as well as being an aid for keeping pure discipline. This year, the Karmapa explained, the reason to do the practice is for the long life of H.H. the Dalai Lama, who seems pleased about this, so the Karmapa asked everyone to do it as carefully as they could.