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    "An absorbing portrait of the Karmapa - in his current and previous lifetimes."
    —The Associated Press


    The Politics of Reincarnation /  
    Lea Terhune, Author

    While only a young man, Orgyen Trinley Dorje's life has been marked indelibly by devotion, intrigue, and transformation.Karmapa: The Politics of Reincarnation is his amazing story.

    For Westerners, Tibet is a land of powerful spiritual teachings, staggering mountain vistas, and geopolitical intrigue. The country's resistance to Chinese occupation, and also the growing presence of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, are not just part of our daily news but of the Western consciousness as well. In January 2000, interest hit a peak as fourteen-year-old Orgyen Trinley Dorje was thrust upon the world stage. Recognized as the Seventeenth Karmapa-arguably the second most powerful figure in the Tibetan Buddhist religious hierarchy-he made a dramatic escape from his Chinese Communist overseers to the land of the Buddha's birth, India, so that he could study with the masters of his religious lineage, follow his conscience, and be a leader to his people.

    Through wide-ranging research and interviews with key figures, including the Karmapa himself, award-winning journalist Lea Terhune unlocks the riveting tale of the Karmapa's disputed incarnation, and traces the roots of the Kagyu tradition and the history of the previous Karmapas in order to illuminate the tale of the young man born to play a key role in the future of Tibet. 

    Praise & Reviews

    "Ten years ago, the world witnessed the startling spectacle of maroon-robed Tibetan monks hurling stones, soda bottles and curses at each other at the gates of a Buddhist institute in New Delhi. The scuffle in the Indian capital was over a 7-year-old boy, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, enthroned two years earlier in a monastery in Tibet as the seventeenth incarnation of the Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu stream of Tibetan Buddhism. With that conflict as a backdrop, Lea Terhune, an India-based American journalist and a longtime student of Tibetan Buddhism, has written an absorbing portrait of the Karmapa— in his current and previous lifetimes— in her book KARMAPA: THE POLITICS OF REINCARNATION. . . .This story is important for Tibet-watchers because the Karmapa one day could succeed the Dalai Lama as the public voice of Tibet."—The Associated Press

    "Lea Terhune, a journalist based in India, has focused on the controversial figure of the new Karmapa, [who is] after the Dalai Lama, arguably the most important personage of Tibetan Buddhism. Considering the complexities involved, she did a good job, and her book is a valuable resource for anyone wanting to grok the situation."— Georg Feuerstein, Traditional Yoga Studies Interactive

    "Engaging, and easy-to-read . . . Orgyen Trinley Dorje— recognised by mainstream Tibetan Buddhism as the 17th Karmapa— is the latest in a lineage of incarnate lamas that pre-dates the Dalai Lamas and kicked off the tulku tradition. The story behind his epic escape would probably be rejected as too far-fetched by publishers of fiction. Lea Terhune flashbacks into a comprehensive overview of the Tibetan Buddhist religion and politics of pre-Communist Tibet as a precursor to the story of the Karmapas, which she recounts in painstaking historical detail. She is thorough, efficient and respectful. Lea's book is as close as you'll get to an authorised Karma Kagyu version of events. For the lay-reader unfamiliar with the machinations of Tibetan Buddhist hierarchies she lays it all out, so that by the end of the book you would know a lot more about a previously opaque area of human experience."—World Tibet Network News

    "Terhune is an experienced journalist and has worked for CNN, Radio Deutsche Welle and Voice of America. This shows through in her impartial story-telling and the depths she has gone to collect the facts and intricacies underlying the 'politics' lying below the surface of the Kamarpa's recognition. She draws on numerous interviews conducted over years with the majority of the story's key figures—including the Karmapa himself. She unlocks the mysteries underlying the recognition process and the historical background for the incarnate lineage tradition. At the same time she carefully builds the ground work for her insightful analysis of the politics surrounding the process. She goes centuries back in time to draw out the threads and tendrils of history that nuance Tibetan temporal and spiritual politics to this day. Karmapa: The Politics of Reincarnation presents a riveting tale and Trihune upholds the highest journalistic ethics throughout its telling."— Ashe Journal

    "For all the detailed insight into the process of finding and maintaining the lineage of Karmapas, Lea Terhune has woven in the personal side of the process of choosing reincarnations so effectively, that the book reads as a good novel. I spent several late nights with this fast-paced book keeping me company; it was hard to put down! "—Bella Online: The Voice of Women

    "Consider the plot line: an unusual teenager— intense, magnetic— daringly eludes his captors, who have been preventing him from enacting his role as an important leader. Imagine a treacherous escape across nine hundred miles of icy, mountainous terrain. Imagine disguises, helicopters, near misses, near connections— and, at last, our exhausted hereo reaching apparent safety. No sooner is his escape accomplished, however, than he faces a rival who claims to be the true leader. This blockbuster tale is no movie, but a true story that continues to unfold in real time. KARMAPA covers the material in a methodical way. Terhune lays out a comprehensive, footnoted examination of the history and politics of the Karmapas. Her systematic approach to the material includes a glossary, an index, and several appendices. One appendix describes the Black Hat ceremony, at which the Karmapa is believed to transform himself into the Bodhisattva of Compassion. ...Ogyen Trinley, the current Karmapa, is charismatic, wise beyond his years, and from all indications, has the X-powers to make sure the Tibetan cause remains big-screen, front-page material."—Tricycle

    Lea Terhune, Author

    Lea Terhune is a professional writer and journalist based in India, where she has lived since 1982. Currently editor of SPAN (a magazine of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi), she has also worked as a correspondent and producer for CNN International, ABC News Radio, and Voice of America. Her work has appeared in The Far-Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Yoga Journal, and ABCNews.com. She lives in New Delhi. 

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    December 29, 2012


    The torma artists are the unsung heroes of the Kagyu Monlam. Every year they labor long hours in relative obscurity, tucked away in a private space far removed from Tergar Monastery and the bustle of other pre-Monlam preparations and activities. This year there were 64 monks and nuns working from dawn to dusk on the butter sculptures and offering tormas (Tib. shalzes) for the 30thKagyu Monalm.

    Arriving at least a month before the monlam begins, the artists make many of their own tools and spend the first couple of days preparing their colorful wax-butter palette. The wax butter is made from a combination of paraffin, Dalda (a brand of Indian margarine), imported pastry margarine, and oil paint. The shalzes or “food offerings for the deities” are made out of a mixture of flour and melted Dalda that has been kneaded for a very long time. Then they are shaped by hand, carved with a knife, smoothed with the convex surface of a spoon, and finally coated with melted ghee.  They stand about 20-inches  high and are decorated with varying combinations of the eight auspicious symbols and the seven articles of royalty that have been sculpted from wax butter and mounted on wooden discs.

    The torma artists began on November 16 this year and finished about three and a half weeks later. Every year the senior artists get faster and are able to produce two or three large statues apiece. The junior artists work on smaller statues, or create the decorative motifs that are mounted on the wooden plaques (Tib. gyentras) between and around the statues. Some of the less experienced artists make the decorations (Tib. gyens) for the shalzes. Karma Kagyu monasteries and nunneries throughout India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sikkim send an average of two people each year to participate in the torma-making process. This year, many of them were seasoned professionals with a lot of experience from previous  years but some were new and had to be trained on the spot. The Gyalwang Karmapa is the mastermind behind the designs; he comes up with a different scheme every year and closely monitors the works in progress to make sure they are shaping up according to his instructions.

    There are six senior artists who return annually to supervise the process and teach the newest recruits. Lama Sangye, the torma master,  lives at Ralang Monastery in Sikkim, and has completed a three-year-retreat at Pullahari in Nepal. As a youth, he studied statue-making for many years with the two most highly-regarded sculptors in Bhutan. Lama Gelek also completed a three-year retreat and serves as the shrine master (Tib. chöpon) at Bokar Rinpoche’s monastery in Mirik. He is a trained thangka and mural artist. Özer Nyingpo, the Karmapa’s personal shrine master is a very talented sculptor. Karma Samten is also an exquisite sculptor and a thangka painter in his own right. Karma Wangchuk is a great natural artist. As a child he taught himself to draw and as a young adult he learned to sculpt exceptionally well. Besides sculpting statues each year, he also paints the extra flourishes on the finished figures, such as coloring the lips and “opening the eyes” of the Buddhas, lineage masters, and assorted deities. Tashi Tsering has also evolved into one of the most talented sculptors and returns every year.
    This year there were twelve large tormas and 32 shalzes. Four tormas were displayed on the two altars in the Monlam Pavlion and eight tormas were set up at the Mahabodhi stupa on December 24th for the last three days of the Kagyu Monlam.

    The altars at the Monlam Pavilion were on the uppermost tier of the stage, placed on either side of the large golden Buddha statue. Each shrine featured two gyentras, with shalzes and flower arrangements placed to the left and right and Korean style offerings in cylindrical containers below.

    The four tormas at the Pavilion represented the four main transmissions of the sutras and the tantras. In these tormas, there is a connection between the figure on the top and the figure in the middle. The figure on the bottom section of each of the four is a dharma protector whose activity loosely relates to that of other two figures.

    So from left to right, in the first torma, Saraha is on the top, the first Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa is in the middle, and Tseringma of the Five Sisters is on the bottom. There is a close connection between the Karmapa lineage and Saraha because the first Karmapa is considered to be an emanation of Saraha, who was one of the greatest Indian Mahasiddhas.
    The second torma features Buddha Sakyamuni on top, Ananda in the middle, and Dzambhala 

    on the bottom. Ananda, the middle figure, received all of the teachings that Buddha Sakyamuni ever gave.

    In the third torma, Padmasambhava is on the top, the translator Vairotsana is in the middle, and the protectress Ngak Sum Ekajati is on the bottom. Padmasambhava and Vairotsana are connected in that Vairotsana lived during the time of Padmasambhava, King Trisong Deutsen, and Shantarakshita in Tibet. Besides being one of the greatest Tibetan translators, Vairotsana was one of the three main masters to bring the Dzogchen teachings to Tibet. His emanations have been important tertons and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye is considered to be one of his emanations.

    In the fourth torma, the noble Nagarjuna is on the top, Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye is in the middle, and Gyu Gön, the protector of the tantras is on the bottom. As for the connection between the top and middle figures, Nagarjuna is considered to be the second Buddha and the holder of the sutric and tantric traditions. And Lodro Thaye is similar to Nagarjuna because in his famous “Five Treasuries” he brought together and preserved a huge array of teachings. So in the sense of the breadth and depth of the teachings he collected, Lodro Thaye is comparable to Nagarjuna. This torma has a special significance because 2013 will mark the 200th anniversary of Jamgon Kongtrul’s birth and his lineage is being commemorated at this year’s Kagyu Monlam.

    The altar arrangement at the Mahabodhi Stupa was vast and beautiful, spanning the width of the entire front area beneath the Bodhi tree. Besides the usual shrines for the butter sculptures, offering tormas,  flowers, candles, and Korean-style offerings of candies, nuts, dried fruits, and platters of fresh fruit, there was a smaller shrine placed in-between, featuring a large framed photo of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche, in honor of his passing earlier this year.

    The two shrines on either side of the Bodhi tree held four gyentras each. Facing the Mahabodhi Stupa, the main theme of the tormas on the left side were the four great deeds of the Buddha. On the right side, the Kagyu Lineage masters as well as the four main lineages of Tibet were featured.

    Regarding the tormas on the left, each gyentra featured a deity on top, a representation of one of the Buddha’s four great deeds in the middle, and an offering goddess underneath. In the first torma from left to right, Buddha Sakyamuni is on the top, the deedDemonstrating   Miracles” is underneath, and the White Goddess of the Eternal Knot named “the One with the Lotus” is on the bottom.

    In the second torma from the left, Chenrezig is on  top, the deed of “Becoming Enlightened” is in the middle and a white goddess carrying a wheel named “She Who Creates Fear” is on the bottom.

    In the third torma from the left, the protector Achala, blue holding a sword is on top, the deed of “Turning the Wheel of the Dharma” is in the middle and a blue offering goddess holding a lotus, named “The One of Light,” is on the bottom.

    In the fourth torma, Tara, the deity who eliminates obstacles is on top, in the middle is the deed, “Buddha Descending from Tushita Heaven,” and on the bottom is the blue goddess holding a victory banner called “the Victorious One.”

    The upper section of each torma on the right hand side shows one of the four main lineages of Tibet; the middle sections contain the great masters of the Kagyu Lineage, and the bottom sections contain four more offering goddesses.

    So in the first torma on the right, in the upper section is Sakya Pandita, representing the Sakya Lineage, in the middle section is Marpa Lotsawa, and on the bottom is a red offering goddess holding an umbrella, called Dangchenma, “the One of Radiance.”

    In second torma, in the uppermost section is Longchenpa, representing the Nyingma Lineage, in the middle is Jetsun Milarepa, and on the bottom is a light red offering goddess holding a vase called, “the One with the White Skirt.” She is called this because she wears a diaphanous white skirt.

    In the third torma, Je Tsongkhapa is on top, representing the Gelukpa, Lord Gampopa is in the middle and on the bottom is a green goddess holding a conch shell called “the Stainless One.”
    In the fourth torma, Dolpo Sherab Gyaltsen is on the top representing the Jonangpa  lineage. The Jonangpa is not usually considered to be one of the four main lineages, but here, instead of putting a Kagyu Lineage master, they have put the founder of the Jonang Lineage. 

    Incidentally, Dolpopo Sherab Gyaltsen lived at the same time as the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje and the two masters shared a dharma connection. It was said that before Dolpopo became famous, Rangjung Dorje prophesized, “You will have a very special [philosophical] view,” indicating that he would develop the Shentong view.

    The middle section showsPakmo Drukpa ,and on the bottom of this torma there is another green offering goddess called ‘the Supremely Attractive One’, who holds two golden fish. Pakmo Drupa is featured here because he was Gampopa’s main student and the younger Dagpo Kagyu lineages descend from him.

    In these four tormas, there is no  particular relationship between the figures on  top and the ones in the middle, but by including the Jonangpa, Dolpopo and  Pakmo Drupo, all of the elder and younger lineages of Tibetan Buddhism are represented in the tormas of the 30th Kagyu Monlam.

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    December 30, 2012


    At 7:30 in the morning a procession of monks in golden ceremonial hats set out from Tergar Monastery  to the Monlam Pavilion carrying a plain wooden palanquin with a precious statue of Pema Gyalpo, one of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche. The statue is a terma treasure revealed by the 15th Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje, the father of the second Jamgon Kongtrul.  Four men in brocade costumes, two in white and two in dark blue, held the palanquin. They marched slowly with regal pomp while the horns announced the arrival of the sacred image contained within a bejewelled reliquary.  When it arrived at the tiered stage, the Karmapa walked down the steps with a ceremonial scarf to greet the precious image. With exquisite care he placed it just below the golden Buddha at the top of the stage. This moment of heartfelt devotion captures the relationship between the Karmapas and the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage: father and son, guru and disciple from lifetime to lifetime.  

    The stage was set under the Karmapa's meticulous supervision for a spectacular program commemorating two hundred years of the Kongtrul lineage. A  blown-up photograph of the sacred handprints of the first Jamgon Kongtrul, Lodro Thaye, predominated centre stage with two other portraits, of the second  and third Kongtruls,  decorated with flowers and the seven offerings.  One thousand butter lamps were flickering on the steps of the stage.

    The ceremony was designed both to commemorate the lineage and honour the succession. The previous or third Jamgon Kongtrul died in a tragic car accident only twenty years ago and his representation onstage made the event a memorial ceremony. His devotion to the 16th Karmapa was a teaching beyond words.  He served his Guru with body, speech and mind until the Karmapa's death in 1981 and  beyond.  In 1992 he died in a violent accident at the age of 38. As one of the four pillars strengthening the Kagyu lineage, it weakened the school for many years. The wounds left by the sudden passing of this beloved master have now been healed  by his successor, who at 17, today took his place amongst the glorious Kongtrul reincarnations.  
    While the assembly of monks chanted devotional prayers to the guru,  composed by the first Kongtrul, four dancers from Rumtek and four from Ralang Monastery performed a deftly executed dance known as Great Gratitude, to honour the kindness of the Kongtrul masters.
    This Lama Dance is another terma based on Guru Rinpoche’s life story and was revealed  by the terton Guru Chowang , a contemporary of the 6th Karmapa. The costumes and the jewellery for the dance were borrowed from Gyaltsab Rinpoche.

    During the mandala offering ceremony the Labrang or administration, many of whom had served the previous reincarnation, formed  a procession that went from outside the Pavilion to the stage. Headed by the General Secretary Tendzin Dorje, the meditation master and the younger brother of the previous Jamgon Kongtrul,  they made offerings symbolizing  body, speech and mind. Monasteries  from all over India, and the worldwide Jamgon Kongtrul centres moved slowly towards the stage in a seemingly endless outpouring of deep devotion.

    Some of the invited guests who came to honour the 4th Kongtrul were Thrangu Rinpoche, Karma Kenchen Rinpoche, Ayang Rinpoche, Orgyen Tulku Rinpoche Tobgya-la Sadutsang, and the Hong Kong actress Faye Wong.

    After the audience had been served tea and saffron rice, Ringu Tulku read a short biography of Lodro Thaye which he had composed.  The Monlam chant master sang a doha composed by the second Kongtrul; while a song of praise to the third Kongtrul's devotion to the 16th Karmapa, composed by the 17th, was offered by Suja School in Bir. 

    To the slow, haunting  melody of Tashi Shok - May all be Auspicious - the palanquin was brought out and the Karmapa once again placed the statue lovingly into place as the procession returned ceremoniously to Tergar.

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    December 30, 2012


    On December 30th 2012, in the radiant light of the morning, the Fourth Jamgön Rinpoche walked from Tergar Monastery through the spacious doors of the Monlam Gate, over land that the Buddha must have once trod, and into the Monlam Pavilion. Preceded by monks carrying incense, he walked down the central aisle towards a throne luminous as liquid gold and shaped like the rising sun.

    After making three prostrations in the direction of the Buddha, he walked up the stairs to the large hand prints of the First Jamgön Kongtrul, which were framed in burnished gold and edged by a garden of fresh white flowers. The Fourth incarnation now offered a long white kata, which he laid out over the blossoms, and then descended to take his seat on the throne. His head was encircled by the rim of a Dharma Wheel etched in the back of the throne.  It was the perfect setting for his first large public teaching on a beloved text—Calling the Lama from Afar by his first incarnation Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye. During the mandala offering preceding the teaching, the Karmapa could be seen just outside the Pavilion, and later, he stayed in a small room just off the stage, quietly present at this important event for his heart son.

    In a voice reminiscent of his previous incarnation, Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche began his talk by dividing it into the three traditional sections of a noble aspiration, the main practice, and dedication. He said that before we do anything, our motivation is key, and the best of all of them is bodhicitta, which he defined as:

    The motivation to listen, reflect, and meditate on the stages of guru yoga so that all living beings in number as vast as space may be liberated from the ocean of samsara and swiftly attain the unsurpassable level of full awakening.

    In discussing the title, Calling the Lama from Afar, he said that “Lama” referred to being equal in qualities to the Buddha and having the kindness of a good mother. We might think that “Calling from afar” meant that there is some distance between us and the lama, either in terms of time or space, but actually it is more subtle than that. On an ultimate level, our minds are the same as the Buddha’s; however, on a relative level, there is a difference because the Buddha has given rise to all the enlightened qualities and we have not. Therefore, we pray that our minds will blend with the lama’s enlightened mind. Jamgön Rinpoche gave three reasons why we call out to the lama: “We are suffering and have problems; we believe that our only refuge is the lama; and we trust that the supplication is meaningful and beneficial.”

    He taught that the next section of the text invokes the perfect mind of the lama. It covers lamas from all the main lineages and illustrates their specific kind of realization. The subsequent section enumerates our faults and our requests to our lama for specific blessings. Since the verses speak so often of blessings, Jamgön Rinpoche gave an explanation:

    Blessings come from compassion and we can understand them through four categories: the compassion that is naturally present; the compassion that is continuous; the compassion that is timely; and the compassion that invokes the lama’s three kayas.

    The first two refer to the lama whose compassion is present by nature and also continuous. The last two refer to how we can receive the blessings: they come when the time is right without our having to ask and, like Calling the Lama from Afar, they can also be invoked through our supplications.

    The main point, he said, is that “supplications are the path through which blessings enter into us.” They come through a devotion that sees the lama as a buddha. And it is not a blind faith, but one that is based on study and reasoning.

    The last verse of the text is a supplication that the lama’s realized mind and our mind become inseparable:
    We supplicate you, precious lama.
    Kind one, Lord of Dharma, we call out to you with longing.
    For us unworthy ones, you are the only hope.
    Bless us that our minds blend with yours.
    We pray to the lama and ask for the blessing that our minds become inseparable, and we do this because the lama is our only hope.  We have not been fortunate enough to meet the Buddha, but the lama embodies all the buddhas, so we supplicate.

    Finally, we make a dedication so that the merit we have accumulated in listening to the talk and reflecting on the Dharma will not be lost. Jamgön Rinpoche encouraged us to practice from the depths of their hearts so that the practice will bring about the transformation that we all seek. He brought his talk to a close with thanks to Ngodup Tsering for translation and gave a reading transmission for Calling the Lama from Afar. Finally, he gave thanks and his wishes that all be auspicious for everyone.

    After the mandala offering and prayers for Jamgön Rinpoche’s long life, everyone chanted together Calling the Lama from Afar using the commemorative books that had been offered to everyone. During this time, resplendent offerings were made to him, beginning with representations of enlightened body, speech, and mind. High lamas, the administrations of great monasteries, and disciples of the present and past Jamgön Rinpoche filled the central aisle from the throne, down through the rows of thousands of monks and nuns, lay men and women, to the road outside where the stupa marking the Buddha’s full awakening could be seen in the distance. People came carrying gifts of statues, stupas, bells and dorjes, Tibetan texts and Western books, rugs, brocades, musical instruments and brightly colored sacks of grains. It was a magnificent pageant worthy of a Dharma king. As they made their offerings, Jamgön Rinpoche greeted each person with kindness, gently returning their scarf with a natural blessing.
    Lama, think of us. Kind root lama, think of us.
    Essence of the buddhas of the three times,
    Source of the sublime Dharma of scripture and realization
    Sovereign of the Sangha, assembly of the noble ones,
    Root lama, think of us.

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    December 31, 2012

    The correct way to practise the Buddhadharma

    Gyalwang Karmapa arrived in procession. He prostrated three times and then took his seat on a low throne, an adaptation of an armchair design, surrounded by his lamas, with Gyaltsab Rinpoche on his right and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche on his left. The translator Ringu Tulku sat at the head of the first row of lamas, and lounging behind him, cheeky little Drupon Dechen Yangsi could be clearly seen on the all-revealing monitors.

    Gyalwang Karmapa explained that he had chosen this text, written by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, because the theme of the Monlam was the commemoration of the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage.  He did not plan to go through the whole text this year as there was no benefit in rushing, but he hoped to be able to cover refuge and Vajrasattva, particularly as those who had taken the Vajrasattva empowerment would then have everything they needed to do the Vajrasattva practice.

    [What follows is a summary of the main points.] 

    What counts as a genuine dharma practice?  It seems that many who think they are practising dharma aren’t.

    When we study the scriptures they describe the ideal way to practice dharma, and then it is up to us to practise to the best of our ability, step by step, depending on our situation. However, we should always make the effort to aim as high as possible rather than feel unconfident and underestimate our potential. Our viewpoint should be that of understanding the ideal and fixing our sights on it.

    Although some of the things we regard as important practices such as going on pilgrimage, prostrations, mantra recitation, and circumambulations may be part dharma practice, it is questionable whether these alone can be termed a pure practice.

    To begin with, we should have full devotion and trust in the three jewels, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, but have to examine the nature of that devotion and trust. Devotion has to come from the depths of our hearts – it’s not just a matter of folding our hands together and repeating the words!

    Devotion and blind faith are not the same: To develop such devotion and trust does not happen automatically, except for a few who have very strong imprints and karmic connections.  Rather, generating this devotion and trust is a slow process, but both are essential for the path to liberation.Devotion has to come from a clear understanding. First we have to find a genuine lama and receive genuine teachings.  From this comes clarity of mind – so that we can understand cause and effect, and understand how dharma practice can transform us. It is not enough to blindly follow what the teacher says.

    We need understanding and clarity not blind faith.

    An understanding of causality is the foundation of Dharma practice. We need to understand the effects of practice, what to do, what not to do, and the consequences. This is true dharma practice.  When we have this clarity and certainty we can decide independently what we should do, and it adds depth to anything we do do, such as prostrations. Likewise devotion 

    Dharma practice should become a way of life. True devotion arises when we become clear and certain that we have no option but to act in that way. That is the basis of true devotion, practice and study.  We need to have a teacher and receive teachings and instructions from that teacher. These teachings and instructions may be long or short.  The important thing is that when we put these teachings and instructions into action our dharma practice becomes a way of life, not something compartmentalised into the times when we sit on our meditation cushion or practice sessions.

    The guru is essential:  though some people think that they can practise without a teacher. We may think we know how to do prostrations, but it is the teacher who helps us understand the nature of the practice so that our practice transforms our minds. We need three things: instructions from a teacher, study and reflection. In the end, no one attains enlightenment by completing a certain number of prostrations or circumambulations!

    Ultimately, the measure of the success of our practice lies in the transformation of our minds.
    The value of the ngöndro is to turn our minds towards the Dharma. 

    Reflecting on the first two common preliminaries – the precious human life and impermanence– counteracts attachment to this life.  When we have reflected on them sufficiently, we move to the second level, reflecting on karma, cause and effect, and on the intrinsic suffering of samsara. The purpose here is to dissuade us from attachment to future lives, and to develop genuine renunciation of samsara.

    Successfully completing the ngöndro is not about doing 100, 000 prostrations. If we want to know whether the ngöndro are working or not, we should check the state of our minds. Are negative emotions still controlling our mind or are they diminishing?  At all times we need to apply the best antidotes to counteract negativities in our mind.

    A genuine Dharma practice is not about:
    • Following rules or emulating anyone; it is about transforming ourselves and we are the only ones who can do that by working on our negative states of mind.
    • External things and rituals;  it concerns our minds and internal transformation.
    Transforming ourselves is not about changing our outward appearance or aspects of our external behaviour such as our speech. It is not about suppressing our anger and dislike so that it no longer shows. That is not genuinely practising Dharma. Rather, when we transform our minds by getting rid of negative states of mind, our external appearance, speech and behaviour automatically change too. Transformation comes from within.

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    January 1, 2013

    In possibly the most spectacular Marme Monlam ever, the stage at the Pavilion was the setting for a great gathering of enthusiasts who came to celebrate the grand finale of the 30th Kagyu Monlam.

    A huge garuda flanked by an eagle is set towards the back of the stage with a snow lion and tiger set forward, all on massive wooden plinths.  Two gigantic lamps reflect onto the blue stage floor giving the impression of the moon in water. Butter lamps in pink glass lotus bowls flicker inside larger metal containers beside the golden Buddha, with offerings laid in front - dominated by the snowy slopes of Mount Kailash. Two large drums are at the forefront on either side of the stage.

    The VIPs include many notable Gaya figures: the Deputy Inspector General of Police, the District Magistrate, Mr Dorjee, Secretary of the Bodh Gaya Management Committee, Nagar Panchayat officials from the local governing body, and Mr Kiran Lama, General Secretary of the International Buddhist Council of Bodh Gaya. Each is presented with a lamp, a tray of fruit, and a book of Sanskrit prayers in multiple translation.

    The Karmapa walks in to cheers and applause, sits next to Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche, as the packed assembly of monastics and laypeople chant the entire Chenresig prayer.

    As the performers come onto the stage, the display of costumes in perfect composition with colour co-ordinated splashes is scene painting at its finest. It shows clearly the artistic eye of the Karmapa.

    The show starts with a drum performance by 3 women and 3 men, the professional U - theatre from Taiwan. The renowned Taiwanese flute player Garry Wu commences with a plaintive melody and the U-theatre performers use balletic warrior movements to sound the drums. Both the U-theatre and Garry Wu offer dramatic performances later in the evening; Garry Wu receiving applause and cheers from the crowd for his stunning flute solo.

    The refuge prayer in Sanskrit is chanted by ten monks from Rumtek wearing saffron robes. A Song of Corsica Island is sung in French by a Corsican lady, Dominique. A Vietnamese group chants “In praise of Buddha” and displays a banner in gold with the inscription Long Life Prayer for His Holiness the 17th Karmapa. They hold pink lotus flowers and sound a rhythmic gong. When a Korean group sings like a choir, the audience claps in rhythm.

    A Tibetan song called Drangtshe Yangyen with a flute player and singing by 5 women  and 5 men, in turquoise and blue costumes, also receives thunderous applause.

    A composition by the 17th Karmapa, The World, has the tone of experimental music sung in French by a group from various European countries.

    An entry called Food Offering of 8 Goddesses by Milarepa is a spectacular adornment with girls from Taiwan, China and Hong Kong wearing silk saris and Tibetan dress, forming graceful arm movements in imitation of the thousand armed Chenresig.

    In the grand finale the audience holds butter lamps and chants the Marme Monlam Prayer with Karmapa, Gyaltsap Rinpoche and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, each holding a large lotus lamp.

    May the bowl of this lamp become equal to the outer ring of this world realm...

    May its light dispel all the darkness of ignorance...

    In the light of thousands of candles, the Gyalwang Karmapa stands and gracefully leaves the pavilion, followed by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche. Thus ends the 30th Kagyu Monlam on the first day of the new year.

    The dazzled, delighted audience walks into the darkened night singing Karmapa Chenno.


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    January 1, 2013

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    December 31, 2012

    Taking Responsibility

    The following is an edited summary paraphrasing the Karmapa's teaching:

    Study, reflection, meditation are interconnected when following a genuine path.  What exactly are study, reflection and meditation?

    The wisdom that arises out of study does not mean collecting various types of teaching. When we just listen to teachings we tend to forget them. This is not the kind of study we are talking about.

    Study and the wisdom that arises from study are separate. The wisdom that arises from listening comes first from remembering the words. When the meaning of the words remains in our mind-stream, this is called the wisdom that arises from listening. This wisdom is generated in us with the help of some other person. It can be a teacher or something else.

    Reflection is based on careful listening and understanding. When we have complete understanding from listening, we reflect on it. We do not rely on someone else's power. We reflect again and again and try to understand it deeply.  

    After examination and reflection, we gain a clear understanding that if we train in this way, certain experiences will arise. The certainty thus gained through understanding and investigating, is what we call the wisdom that is generated through reflection.

    Similarly we can divide reflection into just reflection and the wisdom that arises from reflection. When we develop the wisdom of reflection we understand the meaning of all the studies we have done and how it leads to transformation. We then become highly motivated and inspired to practise the teachings. That is called the wisdom generated from reflection.

    The result of investigation and the wisdom arising from it is that it becomes so important to practise immediately that we feel we must go away to a quiet place and practice without delay.

    However, without meditation, study becomes static. If you understand intellectually but this does not interact with your experience, it doesn't become transformative.

    The word meditation means to become familiarised.  We try to use what we understand to subdue our rough mind. When we make it a habit, then it becomes our life. Dharma practice is not separate from our life. We become the dharma. Dharma becomes our life. Bodhicitta is not outside, separate from our mind. Mix your experience with bodhicitta.  Merging study with meditation right from the beginning is very important.

    Meditation is there to improve the mind. That is dharma practice. There is nothing more to it than that. We have attained this precious human life and entered into the dharma. When we enter into the practice we need to make it true. To do that we need to turn our mind towards the dharma. We develop devotion, trust and certainty in buddha, dharma and sangha.

    Death and impermanence

    Everybody fears death, even animals, and barbarians who have wrong view.  It is not in itself very special. Reflecting on impermanence, however, means knowing that now we have this precious human life which will not last forever. We do not have much time. When we realise the preciousness of our time right now, we need to do something at this very moment. I must do something now. I cannot delay. It becomes the most important thing to do in life.

    If you have generated bodhicitta it becomes even more urgent to act because you have the capacity to work for sentient beings and do something very strong right now. The strength of that motivation brings enthusiasm and the wish to act immediately. When we do something for ourselves only, it's not that urgent, but when there is a chance to benefit many people it becomes more urgent.

    A true understanding of impermanence cannot arise unless we have a strong experience of our precious human life. This frees us from too much attachment to this life's activities.

    16 unfavourable states

    Reflect on the favourable conditions we have attained to practise dharma and make this life useful. Most of us have all these right conditions. If we didn't have them, we wouldn't be here at this moment.

    Even if we have the right opportunities, all the positive states and freedoms, we still don't do the practice because of the 16 unfavourable conditions.

    8 of these are based on present circumstances:
    1. strong negative emotions disturb us too much;
    2. we are under the influence of corrupting companions;
    3. we hold false views and practice;
    4. we are subject to extreme laziness;
    5. due to previous bad deeds a flood of obstacles advances;
    6. we are under the control of other people;
    7. we enter the dharma because we need food or clothing;
    8. we may seemingly be in dharma but it is for profit or renown.

    8 conditions are based on the mind:
    1. we have too much attachment to the body or wealth;
    2. our character is extremely coarse and all our acts are very mean;
    3. no matter how much the teacher explains, we have no fear of the lower realms;
    4. we have no faith in the blessing of liberation;
    5. we enjoy doing unwholesome things;
    6. we don't want to practice dharma like a dog is disinclined to eat grass;
    7. we violate the roots of bodhisattva and other vows;
    8. we break the sacred commitments to guru and vajra brothers and sisters.

    We have all the right conditions because we have a special intelligence to act for long term benefit. We have the capacity to understand and formulate the thought to do something beneficial. We should not use it to harm or destroy others. In the end we destroy our own race. We need to use our special intelligence to help each other and do something great.

    Look at how we treat animals: we eat their flesh, take away their habitation and make them extinct.

    Once, at an environmental conference the monks were puzzled why we should try to protect the tiger. The tiger is cruel and eats gentle herbivores such as deer. However, there is a Jataka tale of the bodhisattva who offered his body to the hungry tigress. If the tiger were not important, why would the bodhisattva sacrifice his body?

    We are very afraid of tigers but they are not as dangerous as humans. We destroy and inflict harm on so many beings and animals. We have created weapons that could eliminate billions of beings in one second. We are the most powerful on this earth and we have to think about our responsibilities. Not only do we inflict pain on others, but we also create causes to harm ourselves and future generations. When we see this clearly we have to take responsibility.

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    January 1, 2013

    Impermanence and remembering death

    [What follows is an abridged version of his talk.]

    This is the first day of the first month of 2013 and I would like to offer my tashi delek and wishes for an auspicious year to everyone here. I offer my prayers that all of you will have good health and that all your activities for the Dharma and in the world go well. I also wish to express through you my good wishes to everyone close to you—all your family members and close friends.

    In the past months here in Bodhgaya, I have been praying to the Buddha. When I was quite young, I was thought to be a lama or a tulku. I cannot say myself what kind of a reincarnation I am, but since I have received this title of being an incarnation of the Buddha Karmapa, I take it as an opportunity to be able to serve and help. I pray that in this life as well as all lives to come, making all the effort I can through body, speech, and mind, I will be able to benefit every form of life.

    And this is not only for myself. I would also like to pray for all of you that you will also be able to engage in many good works and become useful to many living beings. This prayer is my gift to you as I have nothing else to offer. I wish that all of you could be like the Karmapa. So I pray that just as I have this opportunity to help everyone, may all of you have a similar chance, and also the ability, to actually benefit others.

    [The Karmapa then read aloud the section from The Torch of Certainty on impermanence and remembering death.]

    Past Kadampa masters have taught about impermanence in five aspects. The first is that nothing lasts. Everything changes minute to minute as the clock ticks on and on. We, however, impose a continuum onto these changing moments, thinking, for example, that we are the same person we were as a baby, which is, of course, not true. Melding everything together, we confuse ourselves, and this is what prevents us from seeing impermanence—the reality that is happening all the time.

    Secondly, we can see how changes take place outside of us. How many people have died? What famous person is now unknown? What poor person is now rich? Life is constantly shifting. What we perceive outside, however, is actually the basis for the arising of what is inside, and we should understand the experience of impermanence from within our own minds.

    Thirdly, we do not know when death will come. Being young is no guarantee. Anyone can die suddenly. The fact that we are born means we must die. But we do not want this, so we surround death with fear and anxiety. What we can do instead is to prepare ourselves. If we understand death as something completely natural, we can face it with a greater peace of mind.

    We could consider one day to be a whole lifetime. When we wake up, we are born; when we wash ourselves, we’re cleansing a newborn; when we eat breakfast, we’re drinking our mother’s milk. As the day passes, we go through every stage of life: growing into an adult, becoming old, and when we go to sleep, dying. The next morning we are born again. This way of thinking has three benefits. We learn to value one day in our life, which we usually waste. 
    Secondly, when we die, we could think that’s the end; there’s darkness and we’re done. But actually, every moment is an opportunity, so there’s hope. If we have done something wrong or have not been a good person, we have the chance to change.

    Fourthly, thinking about impermanence becomes a preparation for death itself. If we can do it repeatedly, then death doesn’t come suddenly as a great surprise. We’ve thought about it, have some experience of how changes happen, and developed a certain fearlessness.

    Finally, we need to think about what will happen after death. Not being able to see something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Life after death can’t be proven with our present-day scientific instruments and knowledge. But looking at the history of science, we can see that what couldn’t be proven or understood in the past could be known at a later time.

    If it is the case that death is followed by nothing, it’s not a problem. But if there is a life after this one, we should prepare for it.  When we die, we can’t carry our body with us nor our wealth. What we do take are the results of our actions and our habitual patterns which determine what our future life will be. So we need to prepare for the very long term and plan what we will do to benefit others.

    We should contemplate karma, the pattern of cause and effect, not once or twice but again and again, reflecting on where positive or negative deeds will lead us. We should do positive deeds like poor people. If we give them a small thing, they care for it and keep it well. In the same way, we should appreciate every positive thing we do. Rich people feel that unless it’s something monumental, it’s not enough; they do not value the small, good things. But we can’t do everything on a vast scale; we have to do small things and appreciate them.

    We also need to get rid of what is negative, mainly the many afflictions we have—aversion, pride, and so forth. These do not disappear all at once, so we start by identifying our strongest fault, working with it, and all the rest, step by step. This is a good way to prepare for death.
    If we reflect well on the precious human life and impermanence, it will free us from being locked into this life and seeking success on its terms. The great masters of the past taught that a preoccupation with getting the good life is the greatest obstacle to our Dharma practice. We cannot mix mundane success with success in the Dharma: the two have to be separate.

    There are practitioners like Milarepa who went into the high mountains and wore only a simple shawl and ate very little. This was fine for him, but that doesn’t mean it would work for us. If we tried to emulate him, we could not survive even one day. To give up worldly concerns does not mean that we should not eat, have clothes to wear or good things. We simply have to operate within the domain of who we are, within the boundaries of our particular traits or qualities.

    We are too attached to the concerns of this life, and business people understand this, so they manipulate us through their advertising, which has an especially strong affect on young people. They suffer thinking that if they don’t have the latest thing, life is meaningless. If they have it, they will be beautiful and something great will happen. They do not question: Is all this true? Will it really make me happy? Actually, it is they themselves who have to make things good and create their own happiness.

    In the Dharma we use our intelligence to think about our situation and see clearly whether something is necessary or not.  What benefit or problems will it create? Is this good for me in the short term? In the long run? We question to find out the truth and then live by that. If we blindly follow what others do, we cannot live our own life or discover its real purpose. If we do what benefits ourselves and others, we are actually practicing Dharma. Since we seek to become a genuine, noble person, we are not entirely concerned with this worldly life and more concerned with the Dharma.

    This completes a talk on the first two preliminaries—the precious human life and impermanence and remembering death—which are the most important. We often think that once we have finished the preparation, we can just leave it behind and move on to the main practice. But that’s not the case.  “Preliminary” means we need to do this at the start, because it is the most important. So whatever practice we are doing, we need these two thoughts from the very beginning through to the very end. If they are not present, then the practice will not go well, so keep them in mind during the beginning, middle, and end. The great yogi Milarepa said that if we do not remember impermanence and death, our practice will not be profound. The main point is that practice has to work on our minds and transform us.

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    January 3, 2013, Bodhgaya


    Although the 30th Monlam has ended, the Gyalwang Karmapa is continuing his activities in Bodhgaya.

    On the morning of January 3, 2013, he gave an impromptu teaching on the nature of mind to a large group of international students gathered at the Root Institute for Wisdom Culture, Bodhgaya. Teaching in a mixture of Tibetan and English, he began the session by inviting questions from the students gathered. The first question was soon put forward: How do we experience Buddha-nature on a practical level “I thought that if you asked me questions it would make it easier for me,” he joked in English in response to the depth of the question, adding, “But this question makes it more complicated for me!”

    As the laughter died down, the Gyalwang Karmapa delivered a profound and reasoned teaching on Buddha-nature and the nature of mind. “All sentient beings are endowed with the potential for complete Buddhahood,” he began.

    They are inherently Buddhas, and inherently that Buddha-nature is completely free of any stains – it is stainless, and perfect. Yet, at the level of relative or immediate experience, our experience is not this way. Our experience is that this perfectly pure Buddha-nature is veiled by our confused outlook.

    Shifting the teaching to a deeper level, the Gyalwang Karmapa then described the dharmakaya, or the Buddha's enlightened mind.  “Lord Gampopa said that the nature of thoughts is dharmakaya,” he explained.

    ‘Thoughts and dharmakaya are inseparable. We have this dualistic approach of seeing dharmakaya as pure and thoughts as impure, but we need to understand the inseparability of thoughts and dharmakaya.’

    The Gyalwang Karmapa spoke directly in English as he continued:

    Every moment that we have thought, every moment that thought arises, we have the opportunity to recognize the nature of thought as emptiness or dharmakaya, whatever you want to call it. Thought and the emptiness of its nature are inseparable. We can’t make them separate; there’s no separation. Because thought itself is emptiness that means actually in everyday life we have lots of opportunity to recognize and realize the nature of thought, or nature of emptiness, or dharmakaya. But we just follow the appearances, the illusions – we don’t look deeper.

    The Gyalwang Karmapa then responded to several more questions from the audience, teaching briefly on the progressive views of emptiness within Tibetan Buddhism which culminate in the final Madhyamaka view. The final questioner echoed the thoughts of many gathered when she asked the Gyalwang Karmapa how his students could help and support him. “I feel energized and inspired by all the love and the support that I receive from all of you. That really is sufficient. I don’t need anything more than your love and support,” he replied, to resounding applause.

    Continuing an annual tradition, the teaching took place at the request of the Root Institute for Wisdom Culture. The Gyalwang Karmapa taught to an overflowing gompa, with hundreds of students spilling out into the surrounding balconies and gardens. In addition to mostly international students, the audience also included local Indian children from the Root Institute’s school.


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    January 6, 2013


    When teaching on compassion, the Gyalwang Karmapa has continuously emphasised that feeling compassion towards other sentient beings was not enough.  Our compassion has to be turned into action. As temperatures dipped to freezing point and below across North India, the Gyalwang Karmapa bought and distributed over a thousand warm blankets to Bodhgaya’s poorest.

    Several thousand people from Bodhgaya and nearby villagers, mostly women with small children, queued for hours at the gates to the Monlam Pavilion before the scheduled time of 3:00 pm. The Gyalwang Karmapa then spent nearly an hour inside the Monlam Pavilion personally handing out the thick woollen blankets to each delighted recipient.  Their stressed and worn faces lit up as they received the Gyalwang Karmapa’s gift, together with his compassionate blessing.

    Later, as they dispersed across the surrounding fields clutching their new blankets, their delight could be clearly seen on their smiling faces. Later that evening, the brand new grey blankets could be seen wrapped around the shoulders of many of the beggars lining Bodhgaya’s streets.

    This active expression of the Gyalwang Karmapa’s compassion has helped protect over one thousand people from the deadly cold. Every winter thousands of people, many of them homeless, die from cold across North India. Each of the thousand new blankets gifted by the Gyalwang Karmapa is made from thick wool, perfectly suited to the freezing winter conditions.

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    January 1, 2013

    During this session, Gyalwang Karmapa continued the reading transmission of the text and his commentary. This account is based on Ringu Tulku’s translation.

    Gyalwang Karmapa began with a résumé of the teachings so far on the common preliminaries.
    By meditating on the precious human life and impermanence we can counter attachment to the pleasures of this life and focus on future lives. No one wants to be born in the lower realms.

    This leads us to reflection on the immutability of the law of karma—action, cause and result—so that we understand the effects of negative thoughts and actions. However, ultimately, it is the understanding of  impermanence which leads to the realisation that there can be no lasting happiness within samsara, and this will generate the desire in us for liberation and strengthen our resolve to escape.

    Action, cause and result

    The Buddhadharma, he explained, is a description of reality. It describes the relationship between causes, conditions and their results. When we understand this cause-effect relationship, the actions which cause suffering and pain and those which result in benefit and happiness, we try to abandon the former and adopt the latter. That is the practice of Buddhadharma

    How does this causal relationship work?  It is difficult to know the detailed and very precise connection between causes and their results; it’s very subtle and not straightforward. However, generally, a good cause has a good result, and a bad cause creates a bad result. The key always is motivation; whether an action becomes negative or positive depends on our motivation. The intention is perhaps more important, he suggested, than the action itself.

    If our mind is not in its natural clear state but is overpowered by the kleshas – disturbed states of mind – and by the root cause of ignorance, we create negative actions which result in further suffering. The most important factor is how our mind functions. For example, killing is one of the ten non-virtuous actions, the causes of samsara. However, if we accidentally or unintentionally kill somebody, though it is still a negative action, it is not considered to be one of the ten non-virtuous actions, because the motivation to kill is absent. For it to be non-virtuous the intention has to be there.

    The four common preliminaries are essential  

    At first we may try to accumulate positive deeds which will be the cause of a better life next time; longer life and so forth, but later our goal becomes enlightenment and liberation.

    These four contemplations that turn the mind to the dharma—the precious human life, impermanence, the law of karma and the suffering of samsara —have to be understood. We need to gain some insight into them and some experience; otherwise, when we try to do the uncommon or special ngöndro practices, they will not become a cause for our liberation. If we are still driven by attachment to this life and the eight worldly concerns, we will have no genuine interest in working for the benefit of future lives. If we are only concerned about this life and this life’s cravings and attachments, doing prostrations, Vajrasattva practice or mandala offerings will not really transform us. According to the Abdhidharmakośa laypeople and monastics face different challenges in this respect. The former find it hard to change their basic view and the latter have to compromise because they depend on donations for their livelihood.

    When hardships arise, too many householders rely on mundane deities and ask for rituals related to them. This shows both a lack of understanding and a lack of trust in the objects of refuge. Basically, such people have blind faith and don’t truly or completely understand refuge or the law of cause and effect.

    The real meaning of going for refuge

    Because it is said that once we have gone for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha we should not go for refuge to anyone else, there can be confusion. If you’re sick, can you visit a doctor or not? Actually, this is not what taking refuge means. Nor is refuge a plea for help from a position of helplessness or powerlessness.

    The real refuge is a deep understanding that until and unless I myself have actualized myself as Buddha, or reached enlightenment, I cannot completely be free from the sufferings or fear or dangers of samsara....Therefore it is not about just praying to somebody, seeking somebody’s help or kindness. It’s to attain it for ourselves, knowing that we ourselves can attain this power; this state where there is no suffering...it’s an inner refuge.
    The Gyalwang Karmapa explained,

    The true meaning of taking refuge and going for refuge is that it’s myself, I need  to go to for refuge, I want to actualize that state of Buddhahood and I need to do something about that and I need to work towards that. That’s taking refuge.
    Of course there is an outer refuge – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha- because of its existence we can study and practise the Dharma.  Ultimately, however, it is the inner refuge to which we need to go for refuge; we need to assume responsibility for ourselves.  Some people give away all personal responsibility to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha or to their lama and say “I have faith and devotion, so now it’s all up to you,” then they do as they want.  But if we commit negative deeds, we will inevitably suffer negative consequences; there is nothing that the lama can do to stop that happening.

    This attitude is not to be confused with genuine faith and devotion to a lama. The lama or spiritual friend is essential on the path to liberation. He or she gives us instructions and guidance:

    When you say  rely on the teacher,  have complete trust in the teacher, that means that, yes, I have trust in the teacher, I rely on the teacher, so therefore I do what the teacher asks me to do and I follow the guidance of the teacher. Thereby I assume my responsibilities.
    Milarepa completely relied on Marpa, and gave everything to his teacher, but he did whatever he was told to do.  He acted diligently exactly according to the teacher’s instructions. Likewise we have to take responsibility, not give all the responsibility to the teacher.

    The shortcomings of samsara

    Gyalwang Karmapa then read the next section of the 1st Jamgon Kongtrul’s text and concluded his explanation of the four common preliminary contemplations with the fourth one, the shortcomings of samsara. Under the power of negative karma and disturbed mental states we are never free, and we go from suffering to suffering. This is the nature of samsara. We have to do whatever we can to free ourselves from the control of these negative states and actions. That’s the whole point!

    The four special preliminary practices

    Although there was not time to go into great detail, Gyalwang Karmapa then gave guidelines on how to practise the four uncommon ngöndro according to the long Kagyu ngöndro text: Refuge and Prostration, Vajrasattva Recitation, Mandala Offering and Guru Yoga.

    He also gave the reading transmission of his own compilation of a short ngöndro.

    Dedications and thanks

    Gyalwang Karmapa concluded the session by first dedicating the merit from the last few days:

    ...whatever positive deeds we have accumulated, whatever positive things we have done, I would like to dedicate them for all the sentient beings throughout space, that they may find lasting peace and happiness and great enlightenment.  And I request you also to do the same...
    Then he specially thanked Kyabje Jamgon Rinpoche and Kyabje Gyaltsab Rinpoche , followed by  all the khenpos, the tulkus, the sangha, and people who had come from very far away places, facing lots of difficulties and problems, and overcoming all of them.

    Moving on, he thanked those who had joined the Monlam via the webcast.

    Finally, he thanked the Government and people of India:

    The Government and people of India have always been very gracious and have been very kind to all of us, so I would like to thank the Government and people of India in general, especially the Government and the people of Bihar,  particularly  the administration and the concerned authorities and  the local people  in Bodhgaya. Because for us Bodhgaya is a very, very important place and we believe that not only the land, but all the people are actually blessed by the Buddha. So, therefore, you have created and you have given us this great opportunity and space and positive environment to perform this great Monlam, so therefore I would like to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. And not only that, but I would also like to dedicate whatever positive results or positive karma we’ve generated, for the wellbeing of this country, the government, and all the people of India and Bihar, and especially of Bodhgaya.

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    Commemoration of the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage
    A gift to serious practitioners: the Nag-gyal-phag-sum text

    December 30, 2012

    As part of the commemoration of the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage celebration, the Gyalwang Karmapa has reproduced 300 copies of a rare text, the Nag-gyal-phag-sum, and offered it to practitioners who have completed a three year retreat, others residing in retreat centres, and leading rinpoches and lamas. The author and compiler of this text was the Fifth Shamarpa, Kunchok Yenla. The original was printed in gold ink on black paper. The main subject of the text is a practice to the three protectors Mahakala, Gyalwa Gyatso and Dorje Phagmo, hence the name. As this text was in danger of being lost completely, the intention of the Gyalwang Karmapa was to preserve this precious text for future generations.

    The text originated in India. In the beginning, the three practices were separate but they were compiled into one book at the time of the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, consequently the text is regarded as particularly sacred. In the meditation tradition of the Karma Kamtsang lineage the number of practices that exist is as vast as the ocean, but it will be very important for practitioners in future to practise this text.

    This rare text has an amazing history. The previous Gyalwang Karmapas had so many statues, texts and sacred relics, yet, of all of them, this text the Nag-gyal-phag-sum was regarded as one of the most important. Tragically, during the upheavals in Tibet in 1959, many things were destroyed and even this pecha vanished.

    However, a monk from Khampagar [Khamtrul Rinpoche’s monastery in Tibet] happened to pass through Tsurphu during his escape from Tibet, and discovered a copy of the text there. At that time the previous Khamtrul Rinpoche was staying in Bhutan, and when the monk reached Bhutan, he offered the text to him. Because of this surviving text we are still able to receive both the oral transmission and the instructions. When the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa gave his heart sons the oral transmission and practice instructions, it was based on this text.

    In order to reproduce the Nag-gyal-phag-sum, the Gyalwang Karmapa borrowed the text from the current Khamtrul Rinpoche at Khampagar Tashi Jong Monastery in Himachal Pradesh. It was carefully scanned and then three hundred copies were printed in Taiwan. This new edition contains an additional chapter of 17 leaves [34 pages] which gives the transmission history, and an introduction to the text written by the 17th Karmapa himself.

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    January 9, 2013

    Guru Rinpoche comes to the dance

    On the eighth day after the close of the Kagyu Monlam, the Karmapa was welcomed to Druk Ngawang Thubten Chokling, the monastery of the spiritual king or Shabdrung of Bhutan. A jubilant crowd lined both sides of the road into the monastery courtyard holding offering scarves to greet the Karmapa's car. Two dancers performed in front of the car while a group playing music on conch, horns and cymbals accompanied his vehicle. He was seated under a golden canopy on the throne usually reserved for the Yangsi Shabdrung, who was recognised by the Karmapa in 2004 but is not yet permitted to leave Bhutan.

    Sonam Dorje, the Shabdrung's attendant exclaimed how wonderful it was to have the  presence of Guru Rinpoche himself in the form of the Karmapa.  " To see this kind of sacred dance in Bodhgaya where all the buddhas are enlightened, is very rare; and to see it in the presence of the Karmapa, who is Guru Rinpoche in human form, makes it an even more special occasion."

    It was the third and last day of the Guru Rinpoche dance. Cham or sacred dance is considered to be part of the ‘thong drol’ tradition—liberation by seeing. It is not an entertainment but a sacred dance which should be both performed and watched in a meditative state. As if by  arrangement, the sun came out from the thick blanket of fog covering Bodhgaya, enlivening the sparkling brocades of the dancers as they relaxed into meditation and performed 3 dances: Dance of the Drum Beaters, Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Grounds, and Tshokling - a dance to pacify those who would harm the dharma. Their movements were flexible like swans, flowing from one graceful step to the next in an elegant, well-rehearsed, confident performance.

    The Karmapa watched with absorption, taking short breaks while the comic actors were strutting about, to talk intimately  with the Khenpo of the monastery, Tshokey Dorje . Three dances and two hours later, he departed from the arena as smoothly as he had entered. The dances went on with light-hearted joy for the rest of the day, including the dance of the 8 manifestations of Guru Rinpoche, after a mid-day lunch break. It felt like Guru Rinpoche was there the whole time, embodied in Karmapa, and then in blessing form through the masked dancers.

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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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