To open the Mandala offering practice, the Karmapa emphasized the essential meaning of the word 'mandala'. We say ‘mandala’ but it is a Sanskrit word not Tibetan, he explained. The word means ‘centre and edges’ or ‘centre and surroundings’, or ‘the primary and the edges’.
The centre is the essence. The meaning of mandala is that we are extracting the essence. In the secret mantra it's said the essence is the natural fundamental wisdom. That's what we need to extract. Beginners need to accomplish it gradually through the path.
Mandala is a method for us to extract the essence, the ultimate unified fundamental wisdom. We repeatedly make offerings to the gurus. We have to keep this aim in mind while we do the practice. By so doing, the obscurations become thinner and thinner and our qualities increase.
What is the essence we need to extract? What is our aim? We need to identify and understand this. We are trying to acquire the state of buddhahood. Eventually we will be able to achieve our aim.
An elevated tier of Buddha statues in varying mudras face each other on either side of the stage overlooking the rows of lamas and rinpoches in perfect formation. The picture conjures an image of an assembly of bodhisattvas listening to the Buddhadharma, while the impression from above shows the bodhisattvas close to the right and left sides of a great buddha throne and a vast assembly of shravakas beneath them filling all of space. Giant thangkas of the mahamudra lineage of Karmapas and heart sons line the main aisle.
''Welcome to all the lamas, monks and nuns, and members of the public who have come from all directions''. the Karmapa says, looking out at the great gathering.
ATeacher must not be seeking anything for this life but be thinking of future lives, and have the motivation of benefiting others. For the listeners, you should not let your journey go to waste, but listen, not with ordinary motivation, but with a better and kinder motivation.
I don’t have the qualities of abandonment and realization or being learned and wise but when I teach the dharma my motivation is to try to teach something that can be put into practice. Teaching something profound doesn't mean we can put it into practice in our daily lives. My hope is that the listeners will be able to make some changes and put some effort into it.
Behind the Karmapa's elaborately carved gold and black throne, with 6 steps up to its seat, stands a simple wood carved glass encased cabinet holding texts with a buddha in the central niche. Behind the cabinet is a 4-foot gold mandala set mounted on a pedestal decorated with the 8 auspicious symbols embossed onto an indigo background. The great accumulation mandala has silver auspicious symbols embossed on its massive rings and is dotted with turquoise, coral and precious jewels. The topmost peak of the mandala, known as Mount Meru, rises just below the Karmapa's throne.
What do we actually offer when we offer the centre and edges? The centre refers to 4 continents and Mount Meru? The edges refer to all the sensory pleasures and everything good, the emanated offerings that we fill the 4 continents and Mount Meru with. This definition makes a distinction between the primary and emanated offerings that we fill the centre with.
The Karmapa reads the Instructions for mandala offerings from the text: The mandala plate can be small if it is made of good material. A mandala of clay or wood should be large. The most important thing is the visualisation. You will need 2 mandala plates. Use the larger one of better material for accomplishment. For the offering, piles of precious substances are best. The least is grains moistened with saffron water.
What the text describes is the materials and size of the plate and the substances we should offer, he says. We need to know what materials mandalas are made of, the shape, the colour, the size of the mandala. We need to know these 4 things about the physical mandala.
He leaves his throne and symbolically places rice on each tier of the accumulation gold mandala set. Resuming his seat, he arranges a maroon apron in his lap and takes a mandala plate in his left hand. Using grains of barley he begins to offer the seven branch mandala offering on behalf of the entire assembly, reciting the 4 line heart of the mandala mantra. Led by the Umdze, everyone joins in the repetitions.
In the continuous chanting for half an hour the essence of mandala becomes palpable.
SA SHI PÖ CHU JUG SHING MÉ TOG TRAM
This foundation of earth, strewn with flowers and purified with scented water,
RI RAB LING SHI NYI DÉ GYEN PA DI
Adorned by Mt. Meru, the four continents, the sun and moon,
SANGYÉ SHING DU MIG TÉ PHUL WA YI
I offer it visualised as a Buddha realm;
DRO KUN NAM DAG SHING LA CHÖD PAR SHOG
May all beings enjoy this perfectly pure realm!
As 10,000 people each recite 250 repetitions, the chant creates a wave of merit, an accumulation that rapidly becomes as deep and vast as the ocean.Hidden by his throne, the Karmapa offers the mandala on behalf of the assembly while waves of mandala repetitions continue to roll.
Appropriate to the subject of today’s teachings, a magnificent mandala, over a meter tall and embossed in silver and gold, rests in front of a throne with a sculpture of the first Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa and above him, Shakyamuni Buddha. Further, appropriate to the lineage of the teachings, the thangkas lining the central aisle have been changed to those of the five Kagyu forefathers and the sixteen Karmapas.
The Gyalwang Karmapa read the section from the Torch of True Meaning on the mandala offering that covered preparing and visualizing the mandala of accomplishment as a palace (placed on one’s altar) and then preparing the offering mandala (held in our hand for accumulations) and visualizing the clearing away of impurities from the stainless nature of the mind, a nature that the mandala represents.
Following this brief description of the mandala, the Karmapa continued to discuss the second point covering the constituent material of the mandala. The best is made from gold and silver, the average from copper or bronze, and the lowest from wood or stone. The Karmapa noted that many manuals for mandala offerings written by Indian masters talk of mandalas made of clay as well. When Je Tsongkhapa was in retreat in central Tibet and making mandala offerings, he used a four-sided mandala of stone. The reason for the three types of materials, the Karmapa explained, is that some people are wealthy but quite stingy and so using a mandala of gold or silver was for their benefit. In general we do not necessarily need a mandala of such precious materials.
The third point treats the shape and color of the mandala. In general, the mandala’s shape is not fixed, the Karmapa noted; for example, it can be four-sided, circular, triangular, or like a half-moon. If it is a peaceful practice, the mandala is round; for enriching, it is four-sided; for magnetizing, like a half-moon; and for fierce activity, triangular. The mandala can be any of the five colors: white, yellow, red, green, or blue.
The fourth point is the size of the mandala. The Indian texts say, the Karmapa related, that the smallest mandala is a cubit (elbow to the end of the middle finger) in diameter and from this size, it can be enlarged as much as we are able. In the practices of the masters in the past, the Karmapa stated, there were three sizes of mandalas, large, medium, and small, to fit with the capabilities of the students or for different purposes. The maximum size was not specified, but the medium should be sixteen of our own finger widths, and the smallest, twelve, and anything smaller than that should not be used. The Torch of True Meaning, the Karmapa remarked, states that if the material of the mandala is good then the mandala can be slightly smaller, and if the material is not that good, the mandala should be a bit larger.
These four points (one from yesterday and three from today) are what we should know before making the mandala offering. To make the offerings properly, the Karmapa said, there are two parts: the preparation and the actual practice. For the preparation or preliminaries, there are again two aspects: preparing the substance to spread on the mandala and preparing the materials that will be offered. The Indian texts, the Karmapa explained, recommend using one of the five substances that come from a cow to wipe the mandala. When the liturgy states, “Om Bedza Amrita,” we can rub amrita Dharma pills over the surface of the mandala as well.
What do we use to make the actual offerings? The Karmapa stated that any of the following are good: gold or silver, different kinds of medicinal herbs or grains, and a variety of precious stones. What is actually used these days is rice, he noted, though before in Tibet it was other grains because rice was hard to find. If we are using grains, they are first husked and then steeped in water to which saffron and amrita has been added.
The Karmapa summarized that first we wipe the mandala with a substance that has come from a cow and then the grains are infused with saffron and amrita. Why is this done? According to the tantras, he said, using one of the five substances that come from a cow purifies stains and protects. Placing the grains in water infused with saffron and amrita, he continued, signifies moistening our mindstreams with love, compassion, and bodhichitta so that we are not separated from them. The five substances in the amrita signify that it has the nature of the five types, or aspects, of wisdom.
The next topic is the object or recipient of the offerings, and there are two: the Jewels in general (usually understood as the Three Jewels), and in particular, the realized lamas. During the preliminary practices, the Karmapa explained, the offering is to the Jewels in general because we clearly visualize and then make offerings to the Five Jewels. If we offer to the Buddha, it is not the same as making offerings to all the buddhas, because we are ordinary people who have not realized suchness or dharmata. But if we offer to our lama it has the same benefit, or merit, as making offerings to all the buddhas. If we have realized the single flavor of the expanse of all Dharma, however, and know that the buddhas are the same in essence, then it’s probably true that in offering to one buddha we are offering to all.
The Karmapa explained that there are many things one can offer to the lama, and among them all, the very best is a mandala offering, so it is a very important practice. Why is offering to the lama so beneficial? Our usual way of thinking, the Karmapa said, is to divide one person from another, or to make separate groups. Then we extend this to the way we think of the deities: we think that the Buddha is a person with golden skin and an ushnisha, that Chakrasamvara is blue and Vajra Varahi is red. When we say it is more beneficial to make offering to the lama than to the Buddha, then we might think, “Well Buddha is golden in color, and I won’t make offerings to him. Chakrasamvara is blue, and I’ll not give offerings to him either. And Vajra Varahi is red, and she’s not important.” Above our head, we imagine our lama, whether fat or thin, attractive or not, with a reddish or white complexion, and make offerings. But this, of course, is not the right way.
We should see the lama as the union of all the buddhas and all the yidams, the union of all the jewels and not think of the guru as a single person who resembles a friend. Instead we should consider the lama as all the buddhas combined into a single form, having all their compassion and qualities. Thinking in this way, we make offerings to the lama, seen as all the buddhas, yidams, and dharmapalas, all the three roots combined into one. Only when we make the offering in this special way is it possible that making an offering to a single lama is making an offering to all the buddhas. We need to train ourselves in seeing like this, developing faith and pure perception. Following the Karmapa’s advice, his talk was followed by the practice of offering a mandala.
This morning the Gyalwang Karmapa completed his teachings on the mandala offering practice, describing both the visualization and actual practice of offering a mandala in detail. The afternoon teaching and practice was canceled so that everyone could participate in welcoming His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, head of the Drikung Kagyu lineage. In response to this change, the Karmapa spent the whole morning completing the instructions for mandala offering, rather than continuing the accumulation practice.
The Karmapa began the teachings by giving the reading transmission for the sections on the visualization and actual practice of mandala offering as described in The Torch of True Meaning by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye (pages 57-61). The reading transmission was then translated aloud in English and Chinese. This was followed by a break for tea.
After the tea break, the Karmapa clarified and described in detail the instructions from the section of the text he had just read. First, he explained that there are four types of mandala offering: outer, inner, secret, and especially secret. These are associated respectively with the vase, secret empowerment, prajna wisdom and word empowerments. The Karmapa explained that in this case he would be discussing the mandala offering associated with the outer vase empowerment.
Next, the Karmapa discussed the thirty seven feature and seven feature mandalas and their practice in the mahamudra preliminaries.He said the thirty seven feature mandala is the most well known mandala offering in Tibetan Buddhism, and is used in all four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The seven feature mandala is a simpler version of the mandala offering, and the one that is mostly accumulated during the preliminary practices. The thirty seven feature mandala is offered at the beginning of the practice, and also after every 108 repetitions of the seven feature mandala.
There are two parts to mandala practice: the visualization and the actual practice. Rather than explain in detail all the parts of the thirty seven feature mandala visualization, the Karmapa said people should refer to The Torch of True Meaning. After generating the visualization, the Karmapa said that in the preliminary practices he composed there is an offering of the seven branch prayer (described in the book Ngöndro for Our Current Day: A Short Ngöndro Practice and Instructions by Ogyen Trinley Dorje, KTD Publications 2010). However, in the traditional mahamudra preliminaries, this is not part of the practice.
The Karmapa continued by describing the actual practice of the mandala offering. Taking rice in both hands, you hold the mandala plate with your left hand and wipe the mandala plate with the inside of your right wrist. The inside of the right wrist is associated with the “channel of bodhichitta.” The Karmapa explained that not everyone has a channel of bodhichitta, but that we wipe the plate like this in either case in order to increase bodhichitta, or compassion for all beings.
There are different traditions for wiping the plate in clockwise and counterclockwise directions, on the outside and inside of the plate, and the Karmapa explained the meaning behind these different ways. What the different ways share in common is that wiping clockwise is associated with purifying obscurations and faults in all beings and the environment. And wiping counterclockwise on the inside of the plate is associated with the aspiration that oneself and all beings will manifest the Dharmakaya and Sambogakaya bodies of the Buddha. The Karmapa explained that normally in this tradition we wipe twice in a clockwise direction on the outside of the plate, and once in a counter-clockwise direction on the inside of the plate. This is different than what is described in The Torch of True Meaning. While you are wiping the plate you recite the 100-syllable mantra, which the Karmapa said in general is the best mantra for purifying misdeeds and obscurations.
At this point the Karmapa emphasized the importance of always having grains of rice in both our hands when offering the mandala. “Because of interdependence, if we have empty hands this will create the connection that it will be difficult for us to develop qualities, or that later we will become poor or impoverished,” the Karmapa said. In a similar way, immediately after wiping the mandala plate, it is important to sprinkle the mandala plate with amrita or cover it with flowers. The Karmapa said that leaving it empty creates the connection that there will be a longer age of darkness where there is no Buddha appears.
At this point in the instructions, the Karmapa described the recipients of the mandala offering, who are the five jewels. The five jewels are the gurus, yidams, buddhas, dharma, and noble sangha. The Karmapa explained that the primary recipient of the mandala is your guru, in the form of Vajradhara.
Next, the Karmapa described how to place the offering piles on the plate and do the visualization for the thirty seven and seven feature mandala. In both cases, the primary features of the visualization are Mount Meru in the center, surrounded by the four continents, the sun and the moon. Since there wasn’t time to explain each of the aspects of the mandala in detail, the Karmapa said there are many drawing and diagrams that we can use for reference. One of the things the Karmapa did explain about this part of the practice is that because we are offering the mandala to the recipients in front of us, we should offer the mandala in relation to them. What this means in practice is that the eastern side of the mandala plate is the side closest to your body, and the first place you pile offerings.
The Karmapa also explained how to understand the mandala we are creating and offering. “We imagine this as a pure realm that arises from the aspirations and compassionate of the Buddha,” the Karmapa said. “By making this offering, we imagine that this makes the connection that we and all sentient beings may be freed of all defilements, achieve the pure realms and also achieve the four kayas [bodies] of the Buddha.”
Finally, the Karmapa explained how use our minds to make the mandala offering as vast and beneficial as possible. He explained that if we visualize the mandala as gathering all the offerings that exist—our bodies and all sentient beings bodies, everything owned and unowned—then the mandala is the supreme of all offerings. “In its vastest expression it is like offering the entire universe,” the Karmapa said. “We’re offering not just one single Mount Meru but the entire universe, infinite beyond limits and countless. We are also offering our own body, possession, and all of our things.”
The Karmapa also explained that when we make these offerings, it is important to have complete trust in the dharma and in the jewel of the guru. He said making this kind of offering takes great courage, and we have to have faith that our guru will not give up on us.
To conclude, the Karmapa explained why we make these offerings to the five jewels. “The reason for doing this is that at this point our own body, speech, and mind are not able to bring that much benefit to other sentient beings,” the Karmapa said. “If we offer them to the gurus and to the jewels they will be able to use them. This means that eventually our own body, speech and mind will become able to bring vast benefit to all sentient beings and become meaningful. That is what is most important.”
His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang Trinley Lhundrup was accorded the highest honours in the Tibetan tradition when he arrived in Bodhgaya today. His Holiness, the 37thin the line of throne holders in the Drikung Kagyu lineage, will be the Chief Guest at the commemoration of the life and activities of the 16thGyalwang Karmapa to be held on 14thFebruary, 2016.
His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang was received at the airport by Karma Chungyalpa, General Secretary of the Tsurphu Labrang, Chamsing Ngodup Pelzom, sister to His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, Rinpoches, Khenpos and General Secretaries and representatives of Palpung Labrang, Jamgon Labrang and Gyaltsab Labrang.
Three welcome gates had been erected along the approach road to the monastery. More than a thousand laypeople holding khatags and incense lined the road from the first to the second gate to greet His Holiness and his entourage; thousands of monastics lined the road between the second gate and the main entrance to Tergar Monastery; and Rinpoches and senior monks waited beyond the gate within the shrine room courtyard. As the car approached the second welcome gate, the serbang or golden procession joined to escort it.This highest of accolades is reserved for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the highest of Rinpoches only. Monks swung censers of Tibetan incense to purify the environment, others held victory banners aloft. Musicians blew on gyalin and beat hand-held drums as they walked in a measured march ahead of the car. A monk holding the great golden parasol of royalty walked beside the car. Some monks wore yellow pointed tsesha, others red ceremonial hats. Some were clad in ceremonial brocades, others in bright red and rich orange. Slowly, in a great richness of sound, colour and scents, the grand procession drew into the grounds of Tergar Monastery through a haze of juniper smoke issuing from the sangkhang at the gates.
As His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang stepped out of the car, he was welcomed by Their Eminences Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Surmang Gharwang Rinpoche, and by Mingyur Rinpoche. He then ascended the steps to the main shrine room where the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa waited on the porch. They greeted each other warmly and after they entered the shrine room, the great temple doors were closed to afford them some privacy. Together they lit butter lamps in front of the great Buddha statue, and then His Holiness the Karmapa escorted His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang upstairs for a private reception.
The founder of the Drikung Kagyu, Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön, was a contemporary of the founder of the Karma Kagyu, Dusum Khyenpa. The First Karmapa expressed deep respect for Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön and not only received teachings from him at his monastery Drikung Thil, but saw him in a vision as a buddha and his monastery as the mandala of Chakrasamvara.
It was deeply moving to witness that 850 years later, a close connection and great warmth continues to exist between the leaders of these two great lineages.
His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang’s entourage during the visit includedAyang Rinpoche, Ontul Rinpoche, Tsewang Lama, and Khenpo Konchok Rangdol.
Bodh Gaya, Feb 15 (ANI): Thousands of Buddhist monks and devotees in Bihar offered prayers in remembrance of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. The 16th Karmapa was recognised for his incomparable merit, splendor and spreading Buddhism across the world. Devotees and monks gathered in the Mahabodhi temple in the state's Gaya city and witnessed the unveiling of the collected works of the 16th Karmapa. The 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje presided over the function. He was also joined by senior monk Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang. Chering said that Chetsang in his speech called for unity among all Buddhist sects. Around a million pilgrims and tourists visit Bodh Gaya every year to see the Mahabodhi Temple and also the tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment after going through hardships for six years in the foothills of Dhungeshwari mountain.The Dalai Lama, who took exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against the Chinese rule in Tibet, has been pressing for greater autonomy for Tibet within China through a dialogue with Beijing. China has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since the country took over the region in 1950. Beijing regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist who wants an independent Tibet.
“Upon my death and rebirth in all lives, may I go forth from home to homelessness. Following all the victors, may I train and bring excellent conduct to perfection. May I act with pure, stainless discipline that never lapses and is free of faults.” – from The King of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct, as translated in the Kagyu Monlam Book: A Compilation for Recitation.
If you joined the crowds peering through the windows of Tergar Monastery or the curtains surrounding the Monlam Pavilion on the nights of the examination of monastic forms this year, you would have been excused for thinking you were watching a choreographed dance—because in a sense that’s what the exam was. At each beat of a drum, monastics, neatly lined up in rows, were turning, bowing, putting on their shawls, and more. These actions followed a detailed sequence of forms the monastics encounter in daily life, and especially during the Kagyu Monlam.
The examination provides an opportunity for monastics to practice and hone their discipline. A competition between the monasteries provides a little extra incentive to perform to the best of their ability. The annual examination also allows for the Karma Kagyu order as a whole to develop a sense of unity and harmony in its monastic forms, under the careful guidance of the Gyalwang Karmapa.
This year, nearly 3000 monastics from 55 monasteries participated in the examination. Specifically, about 400 gelongs (fully ordained monks), 2100 getsuls (novice monks), and 400 getsulmas (novice nuns) participated in the exam. The 400 youngest members of the monastic sangha, called rabjungs, did not participate. Also, Karma Kagyu sangha from abroad and sangha from other Buddhist lineages were not examined.
Each group of monastics was patiently judged by four khenpos, senior monastics in the order. During the exam, the khenpos kept their eyes on the monastics as they performed the various forms. The monastics were lined up in rows, with four or five monastics in the first row especially on display. The groups ranged from about 10-50 monastics at a time. During the applause at the end of each group’s performance, the khenpos took down notes, judging the precision of the forms and the harmony of the group. During the Kagyu Monlam, the khenpos also pay attention to the monastics in everyday life, taking notes about the discipline of the monastics from different monasteries. All these notes are compiled and scrutinized, and, near the end of the Monlam, the khenpos will announce which monastery is the winner of this year’s monastic forms competition.
The examination for all monastics this year included showing how their shantabs (outer monastic skirts) were tied, putting on the red zen and yellow chögu robes, placing the sitting cloth —the dingwa— on the floor properly, performing prostrations from standing and kneeling positions, sitting, receiving tea, chanting the meal prayers, drinking tea, and standing up (ideally without putting hands on the floor!). They also had to properly fold the chögu and dingwa, and place them back on their shoulders with precise position and timing. Each movement was timed by the beat of a drum or tap of a microphone, played by each monastery’s discipline master (tsultrimpa).
The gelongs had many extra forms to demonstrate, such as donning large yellow hats (tsesha), performing a small procession while holding dharma texts (pecha), and demonstrating how to put on their extra yellow monastic robe (namjar) and warm cape (dagam). For the gelongs, each group’s examination took nearly 15 minutes to complete. By contrast, the examination for each group of getsuls and getsulmas took about five minutes.
The forms are constantly evolving each year as details are added or changed according to the Karmapa’s vision. This year, as in the past, the Karmapa personally taught one group of monastics the precise forms and details he would like to see followed. These representatives in turn trained others before the examination. One new detail this year, for example, was that monastics should fold “two-fingers width” of their zens (red monastic robe) over the top of their chögus in the front. These details and the harmony that emerges from the common forms allow the monastic sangha to represent the dharma with confidence and dignity. Hopefully their efforts will inspire all of us to practice the dharma with diligence and attention to detail as well.
Produced under the direct guidance of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, Dharma King: The Life of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa in Images commemorates the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa's contribution to the practice and study of Buddhism around the world, as well as his preservation of one of Tibetan Buddhisms oldest lineages, the Karma Kagyu. This lavish full-color volume brings together for the first time 1,000 photos depicting the life of this extraordinary spiritual master. His early years in Tibet, his activities to rebuild in exile in Sikkim and India, his extensive travels bringing the Dharma to North America, Europe and throughout Asia are all documented in detail.
463 pages Co-published by KTD Publications and Altruism Press (Drophen Tsuglag) Will ship after February 14, 2016
Seated on a simple throne directly below the eighteen-foot image of Shakyamuni Buddha, a life-like replica of the Sixteenth Karmapa, cloaked in golden brocade emblazoned with dragons and flowers and wearing his black activity hat, gazed down on the assembly of 10,000 gathered to celebrate his life and activities.
Many dignitaries and eminent people from across the Indian subcontinent and the world had gathered for this special event. They included eminent Rinpoches and learned Khenpos, members of the Bhutanese royal family, politicians, government officials, academics, and thousands of ordinary monks, nuns and laypeople whose lives had been touched in some way by the 16th Karmapa. The guests were dressed in a rich variety of national dress. Tibetan dignitaries in chubas, Bhutanese in their own distinctive hand-weave stripes and checks , and Sikkimese dressed in rich, colourful brocades. All the extant traditions of the Dagpo Kagyu were represented: Drikung, Drukpa and Karma Kamtsang. On the Monlam Pavilion stage, a shrine table, decked in red and gold cloth, displayed an array of torma offerings and victory banners. To the right of the stage a torma-shaped tsog offering, cleverly crafted out of red apples, rose twelve feet high, capped with symbols of the moon, the sun and the Three Jewels.
At 9.30am the sound of gyalin announced the arrival of the Chief Guest, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang, escorted on to the stage by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa. Together the two spiritual leaders walked up to the statue of the 16th Karmapa and offered katags. Four comfortable chairs had been arranged centre stage, where HE Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and HE Gyaltsab Rinpoche were already seated. They rose to greet His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön as the Karmapa showed him to the seat of honour. Immediately, the ceremonies began with celebratory Tibetan tea and sweet rice.
Two MCs, Sherab Tharchin in Tibetan followed by Ngodup Tsering in English, provided continuity between the events. Quoting a prophecy of Shakyamuni Buddha found in the Samadhi Raja Sūtra, they set the tone for the commemoration:
Two thousand years after I have passed,
The teachings will arise in the land of the red-faced men.
They will become disciples of Avalokita.
In that degenerate time for dharma,
The bodhisattva, Lion’s Roar,
Will appear and be known as Karmapa.
He will attain the samādhi empowerment and tame beings,
Establishing them in well-being through sight, hearing, recollection, and touch.
The first event was a rendering ofThe Praise to the Three Jewelsby the nuns of Drupde Palmo Chökyi Dingkhang Nunnery in Bhutan, followed by a welcome by Mr Karma Chungyalpa, General Secretary of the Karmapa’s Office of Administration, who read out a letter from Dr Pawan Chamling, the Honourable Chief Minister of Sikkim, in which the CM had written:
We are all aware of the special relationship and the bond that the 16th Karmapa shared with Sikkim and the Sikkimese people. The 16th Karmapa was a great master who demonstrated intuitive wisdom, joy, and loving kindness, his compassionate activity for others being beyond words or concepts. He was such a highly respected teacher across the Himalayas that masters of the other lineages would also call upon him for help and advice. The reverence and the faith that the people of Sikkim had for His Holiness cannot be described in words. The belief and the approbation resonate in the heart of our people even today. Hence, this function is indeed a tribute to a great dharma guru who has touched the lives of many people all over the world.
This was followed by other messages of support and good wishes from the Central Tibetan Administration. The Hon. Home Minister, Ms Dolma Gyari, read a message from His Excellency Lobsang Senge, the Prime Minister of the CTA, and the Speaker of the Tibetan Assembly, Mr Penpa Tsering, spoke of how the 16th Karmapa performed many activities for the Buddhadharma throughout the world. He expressed the hope that the 17th Karmapa would be able to return to the 16th Karmapa’s monastery at Rumtek, and that one day both His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the 16th Karmapa would be able to return to Tibet. Mr Tempa Tsering, the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from the Bureau of Tibet in Delhi, also attended the commemoration.
The commemoration included the unveiling of three special publications: a new edition of the Jang Kangyur; the Sung Bum or Collected Works of the 16th Karmapa; and Dharma King—the life of the 16th Karmapa in Images.
The highlight of the commemoration—an address by the Chief Guest, HH the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang—followed on from the unveiling of the Jang Kangyur. Based at Dehra Dun, His Holiness has established monastic institutions, a college for higher Buddhist studies and the Songtsen Library, which houses an important collection of rare texts and serves as a centre for Tibetan and Himalayan research. He is currently working on a project to bring together all traditions of Buddhism in an annual prayer convocation at the ancient Buddhist site of Shravasti.
As the Master of Ceremonies commented in his introduction:
There is a strong historical and pure bond between the Drikung and Karma Kagyu lineages. In order to further strengthen this connection, we have invited Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche to preside over our program. And though he maintains a busy schedule, working tirelessly for the benefit of the buddhadharma, in general, and the Kagyu in particular, he kindly consented to grace us with his presence.
HH the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang began by reciting a verse for auspiciousness written by Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche. Comparing the Dagpo Kagyu to an harmonious family, he stated that in essence there are no conflicts between the different lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. He spoke briefly of his meetings with the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa in exile in India, of the teachings he received from him, and of the Karmapa’s great kindness towards him. The crux of his message, however, was the need for co-operation between all schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
We have now all arrived in the 21st century but we still keep out-of-date habits from the time when we used to live in remote areas. It was said that in Tibet each valley had a lama and each lama had a different tradition. But these days in this age of information, even if you live in a small village it is as if everybody in the world has become your neighbour, so we as Tibetans should feel like a single family. It’s time for us to practice together with the members of all of the traditions. It is very important for us to be able to support all of the lineages and all of the traditions, throughout the world. Here today we have representative of all the Dagpo Kagyu lineages, and the fact that we have gathered here is because of our samaya. Because of our samaya connection, we are able to work together and this can be of great benefit. We all have the same samaya and the same commitments, so my aspiration is that we can all work together to spread the intentions of the 16thKarmapa throughout the world and maintain his activity.
After the applause had died down, and HH Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang had resumed his seat, the programme continued with the unveiling of the two additional special publications.
After the unveilings, General Secretary Karma Chungyalpa came back on stage to give the vote of thanks on behalf of everyone present. He expressed his gratitude particularly to HH the Drikung Chetsang for his illustrious presence and erudition, to the organisers of the event, to the Bhutanese royal family, to HH the 14th Dalai Lama and the CTA for their unwavering support of the 17th Karmapa, to Pooja Bedi, granddaughter of Freda Bedi who continues to be a benefactor and friend of the nunnery her grandmother founded, to organisations and sponsors of the event from Sikkim, Ladakh, Bhutan, India and overseas, and last but not least to the Government of India for their support of the 16th Karmapa and their continuing support of the 17th Karmapa.
The 16th Gyalwang Karmapa was a great supporter of Tibetan culture and especially enjoyed traditional Tibetan opera which combines dance and song performances. It was fitting, therefore, that the morning’s programme concluded with a lhamo performance by the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts. With great vigour, they presented a traditional dance and song offering called Tashi Chotsam. Cries of Tashi Delegs(Good Fortune) and Lhagyal-lo (Victory to the Gods]) punctuated their singing, as chemar was tossed into the air. Finally, they joined together in a line dance which culminated in joyous shouting of Tashi Sho(May All be Auspicious).
And so the morning’s commemoration of the life and activity of the 16th Karmapa came to a joyful and auspicious conclusion.
Other illustrious and esteemed guests included HE Surmang Gharwang Rinpoche, Kyabje Ayang Rinpoche, Kyabje Thrangu Rinpoche, Kyabje Dorzong Rinpoche, Ontul Rinpoche, Gyalpo Rinpoche, Drikung Gyalsey, Bardor Tulku, Ringu Tulku, Ngeden Tulku, Yodrak Tulku, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen; Members of the Bhutanese royal family: Yab Drashok Ugyen, Yum Thuji Zangmo; Rani Disket Wangmo of Ladakh; Sri Ratan Sanjay DIG, Sri Suran Chettri SP Sikkim, Mr Justice S. Wangdi, Mr Tashi Densapa Director of Tibetology and Former Secretary of Govt. of Sikkim, Mr Kunzang Sherab President(JAC) and Former Secretary Govt. of Sikkim, Mr Kunzang Sherab, Ms Pooja Bedi, Dr Raj Kotwal, Sri Kumar Ravi DM, Mr Tenzin Choenyi, Mr Sonam Topden Gen.Sec(JAC) Dilip Kumar Airport Director Gaya, Mr Sonam Damdul Former Kagyu MP Tibetan Assembly.
The text for the Guru Yoga practised on the afternoon of the 16th Karmapa Commemoration Day was based on a guru yoga entitled “The Shoot of the Four Kayas,” combined with the Dusum Khyenpa guru yoga that the 17th Karmapa wrote for the Karmapa 900 celebration. He inserted the visualisation from the 16th Karmapa’s guru yoga and the ganachakra from Milarepa's guru yoga on the eve of the Commemoration Day, celebrated on February 14th.
The 16th Karmapa lived during a golden age when the world was freer and more open than it is today and it allowed his activity to happen spontaneously. He gave very few formal teachings but taught instead through his presence. In the age of peace and love, he was a living example of all-embracing love and compassion, so it seemed appropriate that his commemoration day fell on February 14th, a day celebrated for love. The 16th Karmapa was both universally loved and highly venerated. Guru yoga was the main practise of his many devotees whose hearts overflowed in supplication and the three lights of blessing from his body, speech and mind intermingled. His heart came out of the cremation pyre, unburned by the flames and was enshrined in a stupa at Rumtek, where it was said to grant all wishes. He even appeared in dreams and visions to his devotees after his parinirvana. For many 60's spiritual seekers worldly love was truly transformed into spiritual devotion. For Tibetans, guru yoga was always the heart of the path.
The stage was set with a 12 foot high stupa made entirely of tsok in the form of red apples. The statue of the 16th Karmapa was in front of the Buddha and his image in Black Crown splendour also appeared on the large screen. The 17th Karmapa entered, placed a katag on the table in front of the 16th Karmapa and then sat at a small table on a cushion in the centre with his assembly of monks.
The Vajradhara Lineage Prayer started the 2 hour supplication to the guru that opened the heart in an ever increasing litany of devotion. Lamas and monks from all traditions, nuns, laypeople clad in white - Tibetan, Western, and Chinese - filled the hall to overflowing, pulsing to the varied notes of devotional heart-felt prayer. A large screen reproduced the lines of the text which the assembly chanted in unison.
After taking refuge, arousing bodhicitta with a prayer for the happiness of all sentient beings, purifying with the vajrasattva mantra, and reciting the 4 line mandala offering we came to the heart of the practice - the essential mahamudra supplication to the guru:
I pray and supplicate my precious lama
Bless me that my mind may let go of belief in a self
Bless me that contentment may arise in the stream of my mind
Bless me that non-dharmic thoughts may cease.
Bless me to realise that my mind is unborn.
Bless methat delusion may naturally subside.
Bless me to realise that everything is Dharmakaya.
Precious lama, I pray to you.
As the assembly chanted Karmapa Chenno, a photo of the 16th Karmapa appeared on screen.
Bless me that my mind become one with yours. Bless me to achieve clear appearance in the great yoga, the unified body. Bless me to know adversity as siddhi and see all that appears as the dharmakaya. Bless me that the afflicted appears as wisdom and gain mastery over the wheel of ornaments, the inexhaustible body, speech, mind, qualities, and activity of the perfect buddha, the great and glorious Karmapa.
Nuns with glowing faces from Drupde Palmo Chökyi Dingkhang Nunnery in Bhutan sang in high clear voices, holding ganachakra tormas, their voices, like dakinis, making the offering of pure sound.
The closing prayers for auspiciousness made the final wish:
May the teachings of the Practice Lineage flourish!
May the world have the good fortune of happiness!
May every February 14th be celebrated as the 16th Karmapa Guru Yoga day, a time when attachment transforms into devotion and passion into compassion.
The ninety two year old Khenpo Khatar Rinpoche left in a wheel chair, smiling, while the Yangsi Bokar Rinpoche skipped out after him.
The Tara Shrine Room was transformed into a conference room with a large chair for the Gyalwang Karmapa placed in front of the shrine and a table holding eight microphones, laid like flowers across the front. Facing him were rows of reporters, twenty in all, who had come to attend this joint press conference, covering both the ceremony commemorating the 16thKarmapa on February 14th, the day before, and the 33rdKagyu Monlam which will begin on February 16th, the day after.
Changdzo Karma Chungyalpa gave the reporters some background information and read the important message from the Chief Minister of Sikkim, which underlined the close historical connection of the Karmapas with Sikkim.
The first question asked about the Karmapa’s activities in relation to the environment. He responded that this fall, Khoryug (his environmental organization) met for the fifth time in Dharamsala, with representatives from the Karma Kagyu monasteries and others as well. During the Kagyu Monlam, many people gather here, the Karmapa said, and it would be important to make announcements to raise awareness of the environment among the participating monastic and lay Sanghas as well as among the local people and monasteries.
Another question was asked about the religious procession that took place after several days of practice. The Karmapa responded that at the end of ceremonies preceding the Tibetan New Year, there is a religious procession that includes an effigy into which all the negativity of the past year has been gathered. Burning the effigy represents consuming by fire all inauspicious and adverse conditions. People send all that is unfortunate into that symbol to be burned away. It is somewhat similar to the Hindu custom from the Ramayana (Ravana-Dahan) related to the demon Ravana: his effigy goes up in fireworks, symbolizing the triumph over evil.
To a question about the future of Tibet, the Karmapa replied that the self-immolations have come to number more than 140, and in looking at this, one can see the situation there is getting worse and more restricted and lacks a climate of accommodation. On the other hand, H. H. Holiness the Dalai Lama is in good health, and the determination and spirit of the Tibetan people is unwavering and stronger than ever. There are also changes happening in China, and given the time we live in, greater changes are imminent. So it is not that we are without hope, and we will continue to make efforts. There is always a window of hope.
The Karmapa mentioned that he was especially concerned about the environment in Tibet and added that the whole world should be concerned as well as India and the countries neighboring on Tibet. What benefits or harms Tibet would especially have an effect on India. He felt that this environmental issue was not getting the attention it deserved.
The next question was “Would you like to go to Tibet?” The Karmapa responded that of course, one would want to return. Speaking as an ordinary person, when he left Tibet, he had to abandon his parents, friends, and home. From the spiritual point of view, he had to leave behind his monastery and followers, and all those who came to him for advice. Under such circumstances any individual would want to return home. But when and how that could happen he could not even answer to himself, as the situation is not in his hands, so how could he possibly answer the questioner?
The final question was about building a hospital in Bodh Gaya, and the Karmapa answered that those involved with the Kagyu Monlam wish from their hearts to express their gratitude to the people and the place of Bodh Gaya. Here it is difficult to find immediate medical care when there is an emergency. In the past and now in the present, we are doing all we can, he said, to provide medical and social services, with medical clinics and a soup kitchen during the Monlam. He added that it would be good for the local people to have a well-equipped hospital here in Bodh Gaya. Yet, as you know, there are many preparations that need to be taken care of here in India before one can do anything. We are pursuing this aspiration and hope to be able to express our gratitude in this way and benefit the local people here in Bodh Gaya.
After the Karmapa departed, it was mentioned that a prosthetic leg and calipers camp will take place this March jointly between Tsurphu Labrang (Karmapa's Office of Administration), Max Foundation, and Jaipur Foot.
Before dawn, thousands of nuns, monks and laypeople filed through the security checks into the Monlam Pavillion for the first day of the 33rd International Kagyu Monlam. All those who walked along the road passed under a simple welcome gate. Made from cloth and plywood mounted on a wooden frame and painted in a pinkish sandstone colour, the gate is designed to be a fusion of temple traditions rather than one particular style. Below its lintel, multi-coloured prayer flags display the dhayani mantra of Akshobhya Buddha, which has the power to purify all those who pass beneath. A large sign declares “Welcome” in Tibetan.
While people were gathering in the pavillion, HE Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche visited the Mahabodhi Stupa in order to make offerings to the Golden Buddha on behalf of the Karmapa, to create auspiciousness for the Monlam.
Shortly after 6.00am, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa arrived at the pavillion to bestow the Mahayana Soljong vows. He sat on stage facing the congregation and asked everyone to take the vows with the pure motivation that they were taking them for the sake of all sentient beings. After the vows, he spent a little time clarifying the eight precepts that accompany them. He explained that monastics and laypeople who hold vows should take the Mahayana Soljong vows with the resolve of bodhichitta and pay careful attention to keeping them. He then gave some advice on how to interpret them. For instance, the prohibition against using high seats, designated as above a cubit in height, does not extend to people staying in hotels where there is no choice over where they sleep. In that case it was not necessary to sleep on the floor in order to keep the Soljong vows. Likewise, those who have diabetes or need to take medicine with food and so forth, are excused from keeping the vow which restricts eating to before noon. On the other hand, abstaining from sexual activity is an absolute, and the correct interpretation of the ban on perfumes, necklaces, song and dance concerns avoiding the things we do in order to enhance our attractiveness to others.
The Soljong finished as the sky lightened over the first day of the 33rd Kagyu Monlam.
His Holiness continued his address.
We are beginning the 33rd Kagyu Monlam today. People have gathered from 40 countries and many different language groups. We shall be making prayers together for the sake of world peace and the happiness of all sentient beings. We are very fortunate…there are many areas in the world where there is war and conflict, but here we are at ease. It is extremely beneficial to be here; we should recognise our good fortune and remember how rare it is to achieve this opportunity…
As Kagyu Monlam is an annual event, he explained, it affords us a unique chance to take stock of the year which has just gone. We can make the aspiration to continue doing the good things we have done and we can generate real remorse for our mistakes and misdeeds, and resolve not to do them again.
He then turned his attention to the monks and nuns and warned them to keep a pure motivation and fulfil their responsibilities. Out in the world, he said, people work and then they get paid.
But sometimes it seems as if monastics don’t do this. It is as if we have become the biggest thieves and robbers in the world. The offerings that people give us do not fall from the sky, so we should do the work…even if we only recite a single word of prayer…
The purpose of becoming a monk or a nun is not to have good food and clothing or to become popular but to spread the Buddha’s teachings.
We can’t all be like Milarepa and give up food and clothing…but keep in mind your responsibilities. The monastic codes aren’t just something to be done, but something to be done enthusiastically.
Similarly, householders, should always remember the precepts, maintain good behaviour and not commit any harm.
The Soljong section was complete. Deftly His Holiness’ seat was rearranged to face towards the Buddha, and the Three Daily Observances in Sanskrit began: Taking Refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha; The Sutra of the Recollection of the Three Jewels; and The Sutra of the Heart of Transcendent Wisdom.
On the top tier of the stage, stood the new eighteen-foot high Buddha, clothed in robes of golden silk, edged with red. The altar to the Buddha’s right held two large tormas, displaying images of the Karmapas, the eight auspicious symbols, and seven offering bowls. The altar to the Buddha’s left held two more tormas displaying images of the Karmapas, the seven articles of kingship, and seven offering bowls. Two tiers below was the wooden pagoda style shrine which contains an image of the infant Buddha, decorated with garlands of flowers in yellow and lavender. Either side of the shrine, in place of the more usual butter lamps, circles of smokeless candles burned brightly in two special containers.
On the stage behind His Holiness sat the Rinpoches and Khenpos. On the tiered wings to either side of the enlarged stage, sat the fully ordained sangha, both monks and nuns.
After a short break for a breakfast of butter tea and bread, the morning ritual continued with the Twenty Branch Monlam. The two new high definition screens mounted either side of the enlarged stage, enabled everyone in the vast auditorium to watch as the Gyalwang Karmapa invited the Buddhas to come and made the offerings which traditionally would have been accorded to visiting royalty in Ancient India: perfumed water for bathing, drying the body with soft cloth, offering robes, and anointing with perfumed oil.
Finally, before the Sutra in Three Sections was recited, His Holiness gave a short explanation. The sutra comes from the 22nd section of the Ratnaguta Sutra which was taught by the Lord Buddha at Shravasti in the presence of 500 arhats and 1000 bodhisattvas. There were different interpretations of the three sections but the most common view was that the three sections were prostration, confession, and dedication. The sutra began with refuge prayers so that we would remember the qualities of the Three Jewels. There was a method, described by Naropa and Tsongkhapa, of including the names of the buddhas in the section on confession. This was used by the bodhisattvas as the main practice on the path, and was particularly important for confessing downfalls of their bodhisattva vows. If we know how to practise this sutra correctly, all the practices are complete within these three sections, and the sutra has the power to bring us all the way to the state of perfect enlightenment.
On the first day of the 33rd International Kagyu Monlam there were:
Monastic Institutions: 55 Rinpoches and Tulkus: 45
Once more this year, laypeople outnumbered sangha.
On the first day of the 33rd Kagyu Monlam, a long queue of white-clothed lay people led by lamas and rinpoches sponsored the mandala offering - heaps of red coral proffered on a burnished gold mandala plate. The assembly of monks in gold and maroon at the front, with rows of lay people in white at the back turned the entire Pavilion into an artistic design; more significantly, it also revived the tradition of white cotton, symbolic of purity for Hindu pilgrims in India. Uniformity in the assembly reminded everyone we were there for one purpose: to listen to the dharma.
After welcoming their Eminences, Goshir Gyaltsap and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Kagyu masters and sponsors, ordained and lay people the Karmapa began his teaching on one of 3 great forefathers of the Kadampa lineage. As well as being a Kadampa forefather, Potawa was said to be a reincarnation of one of the 16 Arhats and the previous incarnation of the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa.
The Karmapa reiterated that when teaching the dharma, the teacher's motivation should not be connected with worldly aims. His main point, however, was that the listeners should be free of the 3 faults typified by 3 vessels. The first vessel is upside down which means no water will remain in the bowl.
We may be in the hall in the ranks of listeners but if we don’t direct our attention to it we won't receive the dharma.
The second vessel is a leaky bowl. If it has a crack, the water will flow out the bottom.
If we listen but don't catch or hold onto the words, we will forget it and not know how to practise. We need to focus our mental consciousness on the words so we won't forget the meaning.
The third vessel has poison in it and this poison is of two types. The first poison is common to all beings: greed, hatred and desire. For example, if we have great attachment and listen to the dharma so that our business will flourish, this is the poison of listening with greed. Similarly if our motivation is associated with hatred, then we are like a vessel filled with the poison of hatred. Delusion is the poison of not realizing the dharma is teaching us what to do and what not to do. If we don't recognise that, the dharma becomes mixed with the poison of delusion.
The point of listening, contemplating and meditating is to try to eliminate the 3 poisons. If we identify and eliminate them then our meditation will go well. If not, it will be difficult to liberate ourselves from samsara.
The second type of poison is sectarian bias which can arise when we engage in philosophy. The reason we go forth (as monks and nuns) is to protect ourselves from the 3 worldly poisons. But if we were to go to a Dakpo Kagyu master and from then on we were only pro- Kagyu, and didn’t even prostrate to masters of other schools, we are sectarian. This is like adding fuel to the fire. By engaging in philosophy we have increased our sectarian bias.
''No matter what we do, it’s like food mixed with great poison and is a terrible danger.''
When cooking a meal we need to make sure the dishes don't have poison and are clean. Similarly when listening to the dharma, we have to check our motivation and see if it’s connected with greed, hatred and delusion.
The Karmapa's commentary on the word 'soliloquy' added the right spice to flavour the text. Speaking to oneself can mean that no one will listen to the instructions; there is no one else to speak to but yourself. It conveys sadness or weariness. Another interpretation of soliloquy is that it acts as a reminder to oneself to do something better. So then it becomes inspired.
A soliloquy is something turned inside, because we are speaking to ourselves.
Sometimes we need to do this. Sometimes directing our words outside is not as beneficial. In this way, we have no ambitions for old age, or concern whether we will be happy or sad, whether we have enough food or clothing or whether others will criticize us. We have no concerns for this life. What will be, will be and we leave it to karma.
Continuing on this theme, the Karmapa noted that in A 100 Short Instructions of Mikyo Dorje, there was a nice explanation of the meaning of the Tibetan word for instruction as guidance.
Some people complained that the Eighth Karmapa Mikyo Dorje didn't know how to give guidance. In his instructions he admitted that it was quite true, no one goes where I guide them. I guide them to the 4 kayas but they won't come. If they won't move then it’s not guidance. If you show the path and people don't walk it, then it's not guidance at all.
These instructions show the way we must go and if we don't go then there is no guidance.
Potowa‘s main practice was meditation on impermanence, the Karmapa said in conclusion.
He had no time to waste worrying about whether he had time to practise. The reason for this is that death and impermanence is definite.
We can speculate that maybe this or that will happen, but only one thing is definite: from the day we've been born, we are going to die. We don't know how or when, so we start making plans, yet we cannot make plans because we don't know when we will die. There is nothing we can do to inoculate ourselves against death. Many things will cause death. We cannot prevent it. We can even die eating tsampa. We can choke on it.
''Think of the meaning of death and impermanence and meditate on it for 5 minutes,'' he instructed the assembly. The immense space immediately became like a 'still life' as movement stopped and eyes shut out the main gate to the world. The teaching closed with offerings for the living and the deceased.
For a very long time, I have wanted to do something to commemorate the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. Although it has taken me so long to do something that honors his memory, it is a great privilege for me to be able to produce this book now. The aim of this publication is not merely to collect historical images, but to produce certain feelings and emotions. This book should serve as something impervious to the processes of birth and death, allowing us to know and to feel that we have never been parted from the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa – that he is in fact with us still. For those who did not have the great fortune to meet him themselves, I hope this book offers a glimpse of what it meant to encounter him personally. The 16th Gyalwang Karmapa seldom gave Dharma teachings through words, but taught intensively through physical gestures, and tamed beings through his mere presence. As a tribute to this special quality of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, this book offers these images as a basis for experiencing his physical presence. One of his major activities was to liberate all those who saw him, as he did when donning the Black Crown, so there is undoubtedly great value in any visual connection made with him. I make aspiration prayers that all those who see these photos or hold this book in their hands may receive the full benefit of his actual presence. Great beings are not born great, but in the course of their lifetime from birth to parinirvana, their activities naturally come to reflect their greatness. These photos reveal the gradual unfolding of an astonishing range of activities, all accomplished in one far-too-short life. Among his many life achievements, the 16th Karmapa presided over the Karma Kamtsang lineage during the tumultuous transition from its traditional bases in Tibet into diaspora, where it was no longer supported by the traditional culture and geography of Tibet. He ensured that his heart sons and the other lamas upholding the Karma Kamtsang all had a sound base in Sikkim after their escape from Tibet, and provided them with leadership, hope and a vision for the future in a land that was new and alien to them. Except through sheer spiritual power and fierce commitment, it is hard to imagine how anyone could bring the lineage through such radical changes intact, much less lead it to flourish. Yet looking at these photos, we can feel clearly the spontaneous joy of his perseverance, which makes his accomplishments seem so effortless. I am deeply inspired by the 16th Karmapa’s resilience in the face of these obstacles. I take courage in how much he could achieve despite the great adversities he faced. When we look at these photos, we are gazing back at a golden age that prevailed under the leadership of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. We may yearn to return to those golden times, when the lineage was whole and united. I myself look on that period with great longing, and am constantly praying that we can enjoy again that time of harmony and wholeness. Just as the images of all the places he visited and the people he met are united here in these pages, my heartfelt aspiration is that we can all join together to work side-by-side to benefit the beings of this new century. I pray that this happen soon; the magnitude of the suffering of beings is too great, and the social and environmental challenges facing the world today are too heavy for us to bear separately, and can only be fully addressed if we are united. The idea of publishing such a commemorative volume was originally conceived as part of the Karmapa 900 celebrations, but due to the enormity of the task of researching and collecting all the images, it required until now to complete. I would like to express my thanks to all those who helped in creating this book, especially to Damchö for undertaking this project on my behalf, and to Louise Light for all her work in designing the book, as well as to the generous sponsors and to all those who contributed photographs. Ogyen Trinley Dorje, The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa
His Holiness 16th Karmapa in Tibet.
From an article in The Daily Freeman, May 21,1980.
Gaya, Feb 17 (ANI): Hundreds of Buddhist monks held special prayers for world peace and prosperity in Bihar. The 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje presided over the week-long special prayer session of 33rd ‘Kagyu Monlam’. According to a Buddhist website, the word monlam could be translated as "the path of aspiration". Tibetan mon means a wish, desire, aspiration and lam - a path. “The 33rd Kagyu Monlam 2016 is officially commencing from today and at present his holiness 17th Karmapa is in session,” said head of publicity department of Kagyu Monlam, Gompo Chering.
Every three years HH the 17th Karmapa offers a reward to those who have completed the 400,000 long ngondro or traditional foundation practices: refuge recitations and prostrations, the Vajrasattva 100 syllable mantra of purification, the Mandala offering of the universe and Guru Yoga. Each of these practices prepares the ground for receiving advanced yidam practices and Mahamudra on the Vajrayana path. Refuge and prostrations to the Mahamudra lineage focuses the mind on the Kagyu lineage masters; recitation of the Vajrasattva mantra cleanses negativity; the Mandala offering accumulates merit; and through Guru Yoga we receive the blessings of the lineage through the three gates of body, speech and mind.
At 7 pm the Karmapa walked in casually and re-arranged the 1000 international practitioners who gathered in the Pavilion. He called everyone onto the stage, and as if by prior arrangement, there was indeed exactly the right number of people to sit in each space. Nuns and monks in robes, and laypeople in white each received a white shawl with a red triangle sewn into the upper centre back, symbolizing our profound connection with the lineage of Milarepa, who wore only a cotton cloth and practised tumo in the freezing Tibetan winters. With a nun as Umdze or chant master we all sang the Songs of Realization of the Kagyu masters. At a certain point the Karmapa joined the Umdze and the union of male and female voices, both powerful and clear, led the assembly into the essence of devotion, with the Karmapa as lineage father guiding his family.
After the ganachakra ritual, we received a delicious concoction which we were told to eat completely on the spot without leaving any remainder. As the ritual closed the Karmapa announced, without any kind of fanfare, that he had made some pills containing the 16th Karmapa's blood which he would like to hand to us. These were not to eat he said, but to keep with us. He moved deftly up and down the aisles handing a packet to each person until 11 pm, without showing the slightest sign of fatigue. Similarly we emerged into the quiet darkness energised and blessed by the lineage father in body, speech and mind.
One very good news: On the 5th February (see photo) we had an audience with His Holiness Karmapa. We requested whether there is any need for shapdens and His Holiness has adviced concerning Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche's coming reincarnation. His Holiness told us we need to perform 100,000,000 (dung) Guru Rinpoche mantras and 1,000,000 (sa ya) 21 Tara prayer. The indication by His Holiness is that Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche is already born on this earth. I hope I can tell you more news gradually step by step. I am so happy and hope you all are too. KI KI SO SO LHA GYAL LO The tear down of the Maitreya shrine hall at Benchen Monastery, Kathmandu, is finally processing more rapidly after five months. The deconstruction works that are now going very well have almost reached the ground floor. The little monks who are still staying in Parphing are now having their holidays. All the older monks from Swoyambhu and the Shedra in Parphing are now in Bodhgaya. Drubwang Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche is still in Parphing at the time and will soon come to Bodhgaya as well. http://benchen.org/en/monastery-nepal/news/444-good-news-from-benchen-monastery
The tradition of the Dagpo Kagyu is the confluence of two great streams: the practice of Mahamudra from Milarepa and the Six Yogas of Naropa, and the mind training tradition received from Jowo Atisha and transmitted through the Kadampa masters. Both streams were united in Lord Gampopa. Mind training is the necessary foundation for the practice of Mahamudra, the Karmapa explained, which is why he chose to teach from the Kadampa masters as much as possible during the main Monlam. This year’s text—also calledThe Long Soliloquy of Mind Training—was too long to be taught in one year, so he would continue the teaching at next year’s Monlam.
Geshe Potowa Rinchen Sal spent seven years serving Dromtönpa, the principal student of Atisha and founder of the Kadampa tradition, and received the oral instructions for mind training from him during this time. Later, Geshe Potowa was appointed the abbot of Dromtönpa’s monastery, Reting, in the Reting Tsampo Valley north of Lhasa. This position gave him a great opportunity for developing influence and personal gain, but after a year, he resigned. As the soliloquy reveals, his friends could not understand his actions. He returned home and founded a monastery in Bayö, where his two main students were Geshe Sharawa Yönten Drak and Geshe Langri Thangpa, known as the 'Sun and Moon of Ü' (U is central Tibet).
Geshe Potowa’s main practice was the contemplation of impermanence. Once, a lay practitioner asked him, “If you can only do one practice, what should you do?” Without hesitation, Geshe Potowa replied, “If you can only practice one dharma, practice impermanence.” Meditating on impermanence, makes you seek out the Dharma. For that reason Geshe Potowa advised his students to meditate on death and impermanence again and again and again.
When you truly remember death, all things will be like hay heaped before a carnivore. When the suffering of samsara truly nauseates you, the thought will frequently occur to you that you need nothing at all. At that time, your mind will genuinely turn away from ambitions for this life, and your attitude will be completely incompatible with anyone else’s.
It is very difficult to change our ways. Even at the Monlam, His Holiness commented, it is difficult to keep pure discipline for a day. However: When you have the certainty that you are going to die it is no longer difficult to give up misdeeds and cultivate virtue.
It is also impossible to make progress on the path to enlightenment if we have conflicting aims. As Geshe Potowa said:
One arrow cannot kill two deer. One dog cannot bite both your ankles. You cannot sew with a two-pointed needle. If you step forward with one foot and back with the other, you will never get where you are going. Likewise you cannot accomplish both this life and the next, and the next and following lives are more important. Thus you must practice Dharma genuinely.
Either our aims are focused on what we can gain in this life or they are focused on future lives. If we are committed to the path of Dharma our focus is on future lives. These are not just different aims but contradictory so it is impossible to hold them simultaneously. When our aim is for this life we have to commit non-virtue in order to achieve our goals, whereas if our aim concerns future lives we have to accomplish virtue. Though there are obvious material needs in this life, they should not be allowed to predominate. If we want to move forward we have to move both feet in the same direction.
The Karmapa drew everyone’s attention to the amount of time we waste every day. This life is very short, he said, but we spend half our time asleep, and even waste a lot of the time when we are awake. We need to think seriously about how we use our time. We wake up and immediately our time is consumed by activities. We get up, eat breakfast, go to work and so forth. If we can focus on a single aim, we will achieve more.
Because Geshe Potowa saw worldly aims as pointless, his attitude conflicted with that of others.
Many people have been concerned for me and given me advice—―Don’t be like that. You’ll have trouble when you are old. Keep a few things; it will aid your spiritual practice. You need to nock and shoot your own arrow. To them I say thank you; your advice to me may be true. But I have never thought they were concerned for me. Instead, I have felt even more depressed and disgusted—none of them think about the Dharma. It might be so if we were not to die, but death is certain. We do not know when we will die. What will you do if you die while still accumulating things?
Geshe Potowa practised what he preached. People were flabbergasted when he gave up the opportunity to be in charge of Rateng Monastery. Continue like this, his friends warned, and you will become a street dog. When you’re old, you’ll face lots of difficulties. You need to accumulate some things which will benefit you when you’re old, they advised.
Unfortunately, their advice made Geshe Potowa feel even more depressed because these people had failed to consider what would happen when they died.
…none of them think about the Dharma. It might be so if we were not to die, but death is certain. We do not know when we will die. What will you do if you die while still accumulating things? After you die, you could practice Dharma if you are reborn human, but you don’t know where you will be reborn or go after death.
When we consider this, His Holiness commented, we realise that it is our great good fortune that we have not died so far. We should regret the time we have wasted so far, and resolve not to leave this life empty-handed.
The teaching concluded with The Aspiration to the Stages of the Path by the great Kadampa master, Je Tsongkhapa, founder of the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Then came the dedication prayers for the living and the dead—a final reminder of Geshe Potowa’s words:
You do not know when you will die, so resolve not to procrastinate about the Dharma. Nothing else will help at the time of death, so resolve to not be attached to anything.
The Gyalwang Karmapa concluded the teachings for this 33rdKagyu Monlam today, continuing his explanation of Geshe Potowa’sLong Soliloquy of Mind Training. In particular, the Karmapa spoke about how to incorporate the dharma into our beings, and how to examine and develop confidence in a spiritual friend. After his explanation of Potowa’s text, the Karmapa gave three reading empowerments. He also discussed plans relating to next year’s Akshobhya retreat—which will be practiced by nuns from the Karma Kagyu nunneries—and for theTorch of True Meaning pre-Monlam teachings on guru yoga.
The Karmapa began the teaching today by reading and discussing a paragraph from Potowa’s soliloquy, which included the following lines:
“When you truly remember from your heart that you will die, you will be able to give up on this life. For the first time, you will have laid the genuine foundation for the Dharma… If you do not turn your mind away from this life… you will not be any different from an ordinary person” (Potowa, p.3).
Expanding on Potowa’s words, the Karmapa said we may think we are practicing the dharma, but often we are deceiving ourselves. “If you do not turn your mind away from this life, it may look like you are practicing the dharma,” the Karmapa said, “But all the hardships you undergo will be pointless—like chasing after water in a mirage.”
Continuing in the text, the next section the Karmapa read and discussed included a description of the lesser, middling and greater types of person.
“Among those, the lesser type of person turns their mind away from this life and practices the Dharma from fear of the lower realms in the next life. But there is no way to bring people to develop within themselves even the qualities of a lesser person,” writes Potowa
The Karmapa explained that in Potowa’s opinion it is meaningless to talk about people achieving Buddhahood or the level of an arhat, because most people won’t even achieve rebirth as humans or gods. Rebirth in the lower realms is caused by unvirtuous actions, and the Karmapa said it is rare to find people who completely give up unvirtuous activity for fear of rebirth in the lower realms. “Even people who say they are upholding the dharma act out many unvirtues,” he said.
The Karmapa continued by discussing the hinayana and mahayana vehicles. Hinayana translates as “the lesser vehicle,” and the mahayana as “the greater vehicle.” However, the Karmapa explained that these descriptions of lesser or greater are meant only in relation to each other, and not in relation to ourselves. “In relation to ourselves the hinayana is not a lower vehicle, it is an unexcelled vehicle,” he said. “If someone has the practice of the mahayana in their beings then they can say the hinayana is lesser, but for us we are not even able to practice the hinayana in our beings.”
The Karmapa continued reading from Potowa’s soliloquy.
“This [not developing the qualities of even a lesser person] is because people make a Dharma connection such as refuge or bodhichitta with a spiritual friend, but later they will not call him their master out of respect. They think that if they call him their master, others will criticize them, so they keep it a secret. If someone asks them, “Isn’t that your master?” they reply, “I only took refuge and bodhichitta with them.” That is failing to understand that refuge and bodhichitta are the root of the entire dharma, so it is an extremely grave fault.”
The Karmapa explained that there are two faults here. The first is not understanding that refuge and bodhichitta vows are the basis of the dharma. The second fault is not developing proper faith and confidence in one’s spiritual friend before asking for teachings from them. “In the beginning, what is most important is the lama,” the Karmapa said. And so it is necessary to examine one’s lama carefully before choosing them. The Karmapa said he often thinks people take more interest and care in selecting cell phones and laptops than they do in selecting their guru. A relationship with a guru is a connection that lasts for this life and all future lives, and so the Karmapa urged us to take great care in making this decision.
“In this consumerist era we’ve developed a bad habit,” the Karmapa said. “When we buy something and it doesn't work we take it back to the store and say it doesn’t work. If we follow a lama and later it doesn't work out well, we say it’s the lama’s fault. There isn’t someone we can lodge a complaint with. We need to take responsibility for this ourselves.”
The Karmapa explained what it means to examine the guru, and how it is the means for developing unshakeable faith and confidence in them. In particular, the Karmapa explained that examining the guru doesn’t mean looking only for their faults, it means looking for their positive qualities. “If we are seeking out their faults we will see problems where there are no faults,” he said.
Especially when someone is practicing guru yoga, the Karmapa said it is critical they use their intelligence to examine the body, speech and mind of their guru. This kind of examination is what helps us develop conviction in their enlightened qualities. “This is the real faith that cannot be taken away,” he said. “If we don’t do this, then our devotion to the guru is just superficial appearances.”
Continuing, the Karmapa said we need to be careful that the dharma isn’t just something we talk about. “Dharma is something we need to incorporate into our own beings, so that the dharma and the individual mix together like combining milk and water,” he said.
The Karmapa gave the reading transmission for three texts. First, he gave the reading transmission for the common and uncommon preliminary practices (Ngöndro) in the text he himself compiled Ngöndro for Our Current Day: A Short Ngondro Practice and Instructions (by Ogyen Trinley Dorje, KTD Publications 2010).
Next, the Karmapa gave the reading transmission of “The Chariot for Traveling the Noble Path,” the traditional Ngöndro practice practiced in the Karma Kagyu lineage (read from Chinese version of The Torch of True Meaning).
The third transmission the Karmapa gave the reading was the Four Session Guru Yoga.
The Karmapa described this practice as “a great source of blessing”, and explained that this practice of Four Session Guru Yoga could serve as all daily yidam practices combined if we do it with the recognition that the guru is the embodiment of all the yidams.
The Karmapa further explained that only people who have received the empowerment of Chakrasamvara or Vajravarahi should practice it, because you need to visualize yourself as Vajravarahi, and if you have not received the empowerment this is not permissible. However, the Karmapa said it would be allowed if your guru had given you a special blessing and instruction to practice it. He also explained why these yidams are so important to the Karma Kamtsang lineage. In particular, he explained Chakrasamvara is the primary yidam deity of the Dakpo Kagyu in general, and that for the Karma Kamtsang, the yidam Vajravarahi is the primary yidam deity.
Furthermore, the Karmapa explained that because the blessings of the lineage come through these two practices, Vajravarahi and Chakrasamvara, it is important that the empowerments are only given to certain advanced practitioners. However, the Karmapa said the empowerment for yab Chakrasamvara alone does not need to be as strict as the empowerment for Vajravarahi. To do the practice of Four Session Guru Yoga, for Chakrasamvara, the Karmapa explained, receiving only the vase empowerment would be sufficient, and he is considering giving this empowerment at the 34th Kagyu Monlam.
Next year’s teaching will be on the Guru Yoga section of Torch of True Meaning, and His Holiness thought the Four Session Guru Yoga would be an appropriate practice. He explained that from the time of the 10th Karmapa onward in the great encampment there was a thangkha of the Four Session Guru Yoga that came from a pure vision of Tai Situpa Chökyi Gyaltsen. This thangkha is now quite rare, and the Karmapa said he is thinking of painting one. He said there is also set of instructions on the Four Session Guru Yoga, which he is hoping to publish next year.
Before closing with prayers, the Karmapa also announced plans relating to next year’s Akshobhya retreat. The Karmapa said that he noticed during the Ganachakra that there were quite a few nuns present. Consequently, next year he would like to give the opportunity for five nuns from each of the eight Karma Kagyu nunneries to participate in the two-month Akshobhya retreat. To select nuns in the fairest way possible, the Karmapa asked the nunneries to draw lots and give him the names the next day.
To the great one who elucidates the Kagyu teachings, HH Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche, who has kindly consented to be present at this ceremony commemorating the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, I would like to offer my respectful welcome and warm greetings. Likewise, to all the guests who have come, led by Khyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Khyabje Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche and including all the reincarnate lamas, learned khenpos, members of the Sangha, and those who have come from afar for this special occasion, I’d like to offer a warm welcome and tashi delek.
As we are commemorating the incomparable protector who has been greatly kind to us, the sovereign of the family and of an ocean of mandalas, the great Vajradhara, Gyalwai Wangpo, the 16th in the line of the Karmapas’ incarnations, Palden Rangjung Rigpe Yeshe Lungtok Chokyi Nyima Trinle Donkun Drupai De Palzangpo, I would like to offer an explanation of the Jiang, or Litang, Kangyur which we have reprinted. It was originally published by the Dharma King of Jiang (or Satam) Muk Tsang whose Dharma name was Karma Mipham Sonam Rabten, given to him by Gyalwai Wangpo Vajra Shri.
This Jiang Kangyur is the very first woodblock edition of the words of the Buddha that was printed in a Tibetan region and so it has an immense historical significance as well as its own inherent value.
Eventually, the woodblocks for the Jiang Kangyur were brought to Litang (hence the alternate name) where they remained, but these days only a few of original woodblocks remain. Further, there are just two or three printed copies of the Jiang Kangyur remaining in the world today. So in order to restore and revive the teachings of the Buddha, we have had the meritorious opportunity to use modern technology in preserving the Kangyur, the precious words of the Buddha. On behalf of myself and all the workers, I would like to say that I have boundless joy, happiness, and satisfaction that we have been able to complete this project. It was a considerable undertaking that involved great expense as well. A large number of people have worked on it and given support, and though there are too many to name, I would like to take this opportunity to offer them my greatest appreciation and warm greetings on this special occasion.
Generally, the kings of the Jiang dynasty had an excellent Dharma connection with the Gyalwang Karmapas. The fifth king Muk Ching had great faith and devotion for the 7th Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso (1454–1506), and made great offerings to him. The seventh king Muk Ting invited the 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje (1507–1554) to Jiang, making offerings to him and showing him great respect. Following the intention of the 8th Karmapa, the king did not wage war against Tibet and also promised to send yearly offerings to Central Tibet.
During the reign of Muk Tsang, the 13th king of the Jiang dynasty, the kingdom had spread widely and was prosperous; from Litang in northern area of Kham to Chamdo in the west, a large sweep of territory came under his power. Further, Mu Zeng was very skilled in grammar and poetry and had a deep appreciation of the Dharma as well.
It was during the reign of this highly accomplished king that the Jiang Kangyur was published and then transmitted. In Describing the Sources of the Kangyur by Garwang Thamche Khyenpa Chokyi Wangchuk, we find the explanation that the original [handwritten] manuscript that served as a basis for the Jiang Kangyur was “the best among the later editions. It was given its name based on the time period and its owner and known as the Tsalpa Kangyur. The masters and scholars who edited, annotated, and corrected it, included Zhonu Tsul Shakyai Gyaltsen, one or two in the succession of the Gyalwang Karmapas, Thamche Khyenpa Chenga Chokyi Drakpa, and Go Lotsawa. In Tibet these days, it is the peerless jewel.” The text also states that the Chinese emperor Ching Ngam Tatsi made offerings to the Tibetan regent. To benefit living beings, the emperor invited the Great Bodhisattva [Gyalwang Karmapa] and, treating him like a chief minister, the emperor called together a meeting of his great ministers. The emperor had the inclination to be satisfied, and without making a great effort, he felt that he had swiftly accomplished a great purpose.
This original hand-written manuscript of the Kangyur was the only one of its kind in Tibet at that time and considered the best among all manuscripts. Famous as the Tsalpa Kangyur, it was named after its time and its owner. This Kangyur was edited and annotated by many great scholars, including Zhonu Tsultrim Shakyai Gyaltsen and previous incarnations of the Karmapas and Shamar Rinpoches, so it was renowned in Tibet as the incomparable Tsalpa Kangyur. This new printing of the Jiang Kangyur was based on this Tsalpa manuscript. Later, when the great scholar, the all-knowing 8th Situ Chokyi Jungne, was preparing to print the Dege Kangyur, he referred mostly to the Jiang Kangyur, though he did change the order and edit it.
In general, the words of the Buddha (Kangyur) and the translated treatises (Tengyur) spread widely in the areas of Tibetan culture, and this is due to the special activities of the Karmapas and the Shamar Rinpoches. For example, in the entire world, the first Tibetan edition of the words of the Buddha was produced during the time of the Ming Emperor Yongle (1360–1424) so it is known as the Yongle Kangyur. The 5th Karmapa Deshin Shekpa (1384–1415) had a special connection with this text and edited it. In these accounts, we can see clearly how the Karmapa and their heart sons offered their support and service to publishing the words of the Buddha.
At the time of the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (1284–1339), Tsalpa Drungchen Monlam Dorje had a relationship of priest and patron with the Mongolian Emperor asked him for support [to publish a Tengyur] so the emperor gave to Tsalpa Situ the seal of a Situ and also gifts. Likewise, Tsalpa Situ asked [the 3rdKarmapa Rangjung Dorje] for advice on how to arrange and print the Tengyur. There are the records that can be found. Whether this Tengyur is the Tsalpa Tengyur or the Thukdam Tengyur of the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje is not very clear. What we know is that there was definitely a relationship between Tsalpa Drungchen Monlam Dorje and the 3rd Karmapa.
You might ask “What is the connection between the release of the Jiang Kangyur and today’s commemoration of the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje?” Especially, during the ten years of the Cultural Revolution, the Tibet’s political situation underwent tremendous change, and Tibet also experienced great destruction of its cultural resources and religious texts. The 16th Karmapa Rigpe Dorje had the vast aspiration and deep resolve to restore the teachings of the Buddha from their foundation. His extraordinary activity made it possible to print 500 copies of the vermillion Dege Kangyur in Delhi from 1976 to 1979, and further, he opened wide the gates of generosity and distributed the Kangyur to the monasteries and libraries of all Buddhist traditions without the slightest bias. At end of 1981, the 16thKarmapa also began the reprinting of the Tengyur, which was continued and completed by his General Secretary Damcho Yongdu.
On this occasion when we are commemorating the activities of the 16th Karmapa, we decided to also unveil this precious Jiang Kangyur. As we have just seen, there are numerous connections between the Karmapas and the printings of the Kangyur and Tengyur so it is most appropriate to combine these two events here today at our celebration.
Whatever virtue comes from reprinting this edition of the Jiang Kangyur, I would like to dedicate so that the teachings of the Buddha in general may spread to the far corners of the earth, and the one who is like the eyes and the heart of the Tibetan people, H.H. the Dalai Lama, may live for a very long time and see his activity flourish. May the great beings of all the lineages live long and may their activities spread, and in particular, may the great masters of our Dakpo Kagyu lineage, the supreme Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche along with other masters have long lives and increasing activity. May the Sangha be harmonious, maintain pure discipline, and see its engagement in the ten Dharma activities surpass the limits of time. In this world, may the adversity of war, famine, and other conditions that create suffering disappear and joy and well-being prevail. May everyone give their sincere and sustained support to these aspirations.
At the center of the stage for this splendid celebration of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, was a large wall of yellow cloth flanked by swaths of bright red. In front were four elegant chairs and carved wooden tables for the chief guest, HH Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche, and also HH the Gyalwang Karmapa, as well as Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche. The impressive backdrop of brilliant color covered a cabinet (18 feet wide by nine feet high) holding a new edition of the Jiang Kangyur, which was released in commemoration of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. After the first celebratory speeches, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa came to the lectern to address the crowd of thousands gathered for this special occasion.
He began by extending a warm welcome to all who had come: “To the great holder of the Kagyu teachings, HH Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche, who has kindly consented to be present at this ceremony commemorating the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, I would like to offer my respectful welcome and warm greetings. Likewise, to all the guests who have come, led by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche and including all the reincarnate lamas, learned khenpos, members of the Sangha, and those who have come from afar, I’d like to offer a warm welcome and tashi delek.” Among these guests were over 100 tulkus and khenpos.
The Karmapa then spoke of the history of the Jiang Kangyur: “It was originally published by the King of Jiang (or Satam), the emperor Wutsen, who was like a Dharma king and whose Buddhist name was Mipham Sonam Rabten. This Jiang Kangyur was the very first woodblock edition of the words of the Buddha to be printed in a Tibetan area, so it has an immense historical significance as well as its own inherent value.” Only a few of the original woodblocks remain, the Karmapa noted, and only two or three copies of the prints can be found in the entire world. “In order to restore and revive the teachings of the Buddha,” he explained, “we have had this opportunity to preserve the Kangyur, the precious words of the Buddha, using modern technology.”
After giving thanks to all who worked on the project, the Karmapa turned to the history of the emperors of Jiang and the Karmapas. “Generally, the emperors of the Jiang dynasty had an excellent Dharma connection with the Gyalwang Karmapas. The fifth emperor Mu Ching had great devotion for the 7thKarmapa Chodrak Gyatso (1454–1506), and the seventh emperor Mu Ting invited the 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje (1507–1554) to Jiang, making offerings to him and showing him great respect. Following the instructions of the 8th Karmapa, the emperor did not wage war against Tibet and also promised to send yearly offerings to Central Tibet.”
“During the reign of Mu Zeng, the 13th emperor of the Jiang dynasty,” the Karmapa continued, “the kingdom flourished and knew its widest extent. From the northern area of Kham down to the southern area of Jiang along with neighboring Tibetan areas, a large sweep of territory came under his power. Further, Mu Zeng had been very skilled in grammar and poetry and had a deep appreciation of the Dharma as well. It was during the time of this highly accomplished emperor that the Jiang Kangyur was published.”
“In general, the words of the Buddha (Kangyur) and the translated treatises (Tengyur) spread widely in the areas of Tibetan culture,” the Karmapa explained, “and this is due to the special activities of the Karmapas and the Shamar Rinpoches.” The 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje played a role in what came to be known as the Tsalpa Tengyur. And further, the Karmapa noted, “In the entire world, the first Tibetan edition of the words of the Buddha was produced during the time of the Ming Emperor Yongle (1360–1424) and is known as the Yongle Kangyur. This emperor had a special connection with the 5th Karmapa Deshin Shekpa (1384–1415), who edited this edition of the Kangyur.”
During the Cultural Revolution, the Karmapa stated, Tibet experienced great political changes and tremendous damage was done to its cultural resources and religious texts. “The 16th Karmapa Rigpe Dorje,” he said, “had the vast aspiration and deep resolve to restore the teachings of the Buddha: not only did he print 500 copies of the Dege Kangyur in Delhi from 1976 to 1979, but also distributed them to the monasteries and libraries of all Buddhist traditions without the slightest bias. At end of 1981, the 16thKarmapa also began the reprinting of the Tengyur, which was continued by his General Secretary.”
For all of these centuries of connections between the Karmapas and the publishing of Buddhist texts he has enumerated, the 17th Karmapa felt it was appropriate to release this historic new edition of the Jiang Kangyur on the occasion of celebrating the life of the 16th Karmapa Rigpe Dorje.
He concluded with a beautiful aspiration prayer:
“Whatever virtue comes from reprinting this edition of the Jiang Kangyur, I would like to dedicate so that the teachings of the Buddha in general may spread to the far corners of the earth, and the one who is like the eyes and heart of the Tibetan people, H.H. the Dalai Lama, may live for a very long time and see his activity flourish. May the great beings of all the lineages live long and may their activities spread, and in particular, may the great masters of our Dakpo Kagyu lineage, the supreme Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche along with other masters have long lives and increasing activity. May the Sangha be harmonious, maintain pure discipline, and see its Dharma activities of study and practice surpass the limits of time. In this world, may the adversity of war, famine, and other sufferings disappear and joy and well-being prevail. May everyone give their sincere and sustained support to each of these aspirations.”
The Stunning Beauty of the New Jiang Kangyur
Celebrating this release of the Jiang Kangyur are special contributions in the first volume by the Karmapa’s heart sons: Situ Rinpoche offered a calligraphy; Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, a drawing of a stupa; Gyaltsap Rinpoche, an auspicious verse; and Pawo Rinpoche a calligraphy. In general, the new edition is mainly based on a woodblock print that was found in Tibet, and also available were scans of a version found in Orissa, India. The Karmapa supervised the entire process beginning to end from finding the texts, scanning and inputting them, to designing himself everything related to the publication and presentation of the volumes—the size of the text, color of the ink, the elegant containers, and even the handsome carved cedar cabinet for the 109 volumes found in the center of the stage today.
The actual preparation of the text, including the scanning, cleaning, and sizing of the woodblock print, was done in Taiwan. The texts were also printed there in red ink just as the edition of the Dege Kangyur published by the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. Originally, the pages of the source texts were connected together in an accordion style, which is also found in the texts from the Dunhuang caves. This method keeps the page order intact and prevents pages from being lost. For this edition, however, the Karmapa chose the more traditional Tibetan way of loose pages, which are a very generous size, measuring 70 cm by 20 cm. Each volume has around 300 pages with traditional hard covers placed in the front and back. These are decorated in an exquisite soft yellow brocade depicting interlaced flowers. The text pages and end covers are held together by two grosgrain straps passing through golden Tibetan-style buckles.
This bound text is then placed in a box covered in brocade with the same pattern as the text end pieces, but in light teal. At one end of this container is a gold-covered plate with the Tibetan reference for the text. The elegant box is then wrapped in a thicker fireproof material in burnished gold with a floating cloud design. Instead of the usual flat square of material folded around the text, the special material has been sewn into a long bridge, into which the length of the box slips to be held securely in place. Finally, a broad piece of the golden material with gently scalloped borders, folds over the top from the front and back and is wrapped around three times with a matching strap. At one end of this external cover are the traditional multicolored flaps, on which is written information about the text inside. It would be hard to imagine a more elegant presentation of the Buddha’s words.