As the 33rdKagyu Monlam drew to a close, the Gyalwang Karmapa offered a ceremony of appreciation to this year’s major sponsors. “Sponsor appreciation is about explaining the benefits of generosity,” he said. And so, the Karmapa offered a short teaching before performing a ritual for dedicating the virtue.
First, the Karmapa explained that merit can be accumulated through the practices of generosity, discipline and meditation. Among these, generosity is the greatest. The reason for this is that one gains the benefit of giving in this and future lifetimes. “The things you keep for yourself stay in your house when you die,” the Karmapa said. “[Whereas] what you give away is yours, because you keep that merit when you die.”
To illustrate this point, the Karmapa told a story of Drukpa Kunley who was offered a box filled with many precious jewels and corals. Drukpa Kunley kept the box for a while and wore the jewels, and then after a while gave the box back. He said “It worked for a while, but I can’t keep it, so that’s enough.” Karmapa explained that Drukpa Kunley was teaching that you don’t actually own anything forever.
The Karmapa also explained that there are three types of generosity: material things, freedom from fear, and dharma. In general terms, the Karmapa said material generosity is giving something to someone who can use it. Freedom from fear is helping people be free from fear of demons. And giving the dharma has the benefit of helping one meet buddhas and quickly achieve buddhahood.
The Karmapa said he’s noticed that sometimes people who don’t have much wealth get discouraged and think they can’t practice generosity. He said no one should be discouraged, because in a sacred place even giving a paltry thing can bring vast results. As an example, the Karmapa told the story of a child who developed great faith and threw a handful of grains towards the Buddha, of which four grains fell in his alms bowl. As a result this child was reborn as King Ashoka, the great patron of Buddhism who reigned over a vast empire,” the Karmapa said. “If you have faith and respect, the thing that you give doesn't in itself need to be some valuable thing.”
The Karmapa further emphasized the impermanence of wealth and possessions in this lifetime, and the reason for practicing giving. “Even if you are rich you may become suddenly poor,” he said. “Wealth and money are things that we need, but money is not actually that satisfactory and meaningful. The best way to make it meaningful is by practicing generosity.”
Next, the Karmapa discussed the meaning and benefits of dedicating virtue. One of the main reasons for dedicating virtue is that if we don’t do so it can be easily wasted through our later misconduct. Specifically, the Karmapa explained that getting angry at a great being such as a bodhisattva can destroy all the good deeds you have accumulated throughout eons in a single moment. Likewise, developing a wrong view that denigrates noble beings, or regretting our good deeds can destroy virtue.
“The virtues we have accumulated ourselves can be wasted or destroyed by many different causes and conditions,” he said. “So that they are not destroyed we need to make dedications, and in that way those virtuous roots will not be depleted until enlightenment, and cannot be destroyed. That is why it is important for us to do these dedications.”
With that, the Karmapa put on his black activity hat for the chanting of the offering prayers. The offering prayers include offering the eight auspicious substances (white mustard seeds, durva, etc.), the seven articles of royalty (precious wheel, precious jewel, etc.), and the eight marks of auspiciousness (precious parasol, auspicious fish, etc.). While reciting the praises and splendor of each offering, gold and silver representations of them were held up by the Karmapa, and then placed in the hands of the eleven sponsors, who were seated on stage.
Resounding in all of these prayers was the supplication, “May there be, here and now, the auspiciousness of these offerings!”
February 26, 2016-Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, India
The four tall tormas with the figures of the sixteen Karmapas have been transferred from the Pavilion to the Tergar shrine hall marking a shift in events from the Kagyu Monlam to the Winter Debates for Monks (Gunchӧ). It is here in the shrine hall that the main discussions and teachings will take place from February 26th to March 10th. The event is well attended this year with eight tulkus, twenty-nine khenpos (professors), nineteen lopons (teachers), ten discipline masters, and 926 students from nine different shedras (monastic colleges).
The opening talk was given by the Gyalwang Karmapa on two topics. The first on the discards and antidotes in the paramitas from the One Hundred Short Instructions by the Eighth Karmapa Mikyo Dorje. The Karmapa then spoke eloquently on the origins of the classification of tenets into four schools and the history of how mainly the Great Exposition School developed and commented on the Sutra School as well.
The focus of the discussions this year is Chapters Three to Ten of Gampopa’s Ornament of Precious Liberation. The first three days featured specially invited teachers, including Khenwang Yangton Tulku from HH the Dalai Lama’s Private Office, Khenwang Gen Wangchuk Dorje from the Central University of Tibetan Studies, and Khenwang Khenchen Trinle Dorje from Darjeeling, who had just published a book called, A Clear Mirror Illuminating the Words and Their Meaning to Cut Through Doubts about the Ornament of Precious Liberation, a Graduated Path for the Mahayana. The topics covered by the six speakers included the Four Dharmas of Gampopa, the status of physical embodiment, death and impermanence, love and compassion, the outline verse for Chapter Six, and aspiring bodhichitta.
Simultaneous with these teachings, during three mornings, Khyabje Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche gave the reading transmission the Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje’s commentary on the Vinaya, the Mandala of the Sun. Traditional debates on tenets are taking place, and for debates on the Collected Topics, Lorig, and Tarig, the participants have been divided into upper and lower classes. From afar, the monks’ voices can be heard from as they challenge each other in the vast space of the Pavilion. Two Western-style debates take place in the Tergar shrine hall focused on the topics: Can blind faith be considered faith or not? and Are the Dharma and the secular world opposed or not? This new format is designed to train the monks to dialogue with the modern world using its mode of intellectual exchange.
The Winter Debates are thus providing the monks with a special opportunity to refine and deepen their knowledge of traditional Buddhist topics while they are introduced to new ways of presenting Buddhist ideas.
After the teachings on impermanence and the immanence of death, the continuous supplications to the lineage, the discipline of sojong vows and aspirations for a perfect world, came the Great Spectacle to close the Monlam. It was a dharma variety show with all the features of contemporary entertainment: multi coloured laser lights criss-crossing the vast auditorium, soft gold back-lighting behind the Buddha and the Karmapa, melodic interludes linking traditional folk song and dance performances, a show-stopping virtuoso musician, and a butter-lamp chant with full audience participation. It was quite possibly the greatest show, if not on earth, then certainly in the dharma world.
The theme was the 16th Karmapa. It was he who sowed the seeds of all -encompassing love and the 17th Karmapa knows how to spread it. Using a massive stage to project it to the world, he directed the dharma play from formation to dissolution.
The backdrop was the Mahabodhi Temple standing out starkly in stone. For the first few minutes the Buddha in the foreground was in darkness. When it was lit the show could begin. With the Kagyu Monlam insignia as the screen backdrop, three gelongs acted as narrators in Tibetan, English and Chinese reading from a script. After taking refuge in the three jewels and welcoming the great tulku rinpoches, invited guests and audience, they read a description of this greatest of all spectacles from the time of the 7th Karmapa to set the historical context.
When the Seventh Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso held the first Monlam in the Kagyu tradition on the Otang Dawatang plain of Kongpo during the Festival of Miracles from the first to the fifteenth of the first Tibetan month, the Gyalwang Karmapa sat on a low seat in front of a shrine covered with inconceivable offerings and prostrated with respect. In the morning he recited the Twenty-Branch Monlam, and in the afternoon there were various entertainments—enactments of the lives of the Buddha or the great masters from India and Tibet, dramas of universal emperors and Tibetan, Chinese, and Mongolian kings, and enactments of the wars between the gods and demigods.
Wherever the Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso pitched his encampment, rainbows appeared, flower petals showered like rain, and epidemics would cease. Crowds of over ten thousand would gather even in empty, remote areas. But more numerous than the throngs of people by day were the hosts of gods and spirits at night. During the fortnight of the festival of miracles, the Monlam was held under a tent of rainbows, showers of blossoms, and indescribable wonders. The New Year’s celebration of the encampment was renowned as the greatest of spectacles.
This evening it was an audience packed with local dignitaries, ordained sangha, Himalayan people, international foreigners, and undefined orange-robed mendicants - as varied a group as could have attended the Great Encampment.
The program was planned in the classical style, to inform and delight. Like a meditation sadhana, refuge and bodhicitta defined the beginning, honouring the 16th Karmapa was the main section with song and dance performances from the countries of his activity, and dedication of merit was the finale in lamps of light.
To direct the mind towards bodhicitta, young nuns from Bhutan (Drupde Palmo Chokyi Dingkhang Nunnery) in saffron robes glided onstage in two single files meeting in the centre and sang the sadhana of Chenresig to the melody of Tears of Faith. Their high clear voices and innocent faces like an angelic chorus turned the Pavilion into a vast cathedral with the audience humming OM MANI PADME HUNG.
Performers from the Derge Cultural Revival Association in Bir literally kicked off the main part of the spectacle with a song ''Good Lama'' celebrating the enthronement of the glorious 16th Karmapa, Wearing the finest Tibetan felt boots, and dressed in richly decorated Khampa costumes, they swayed and shuffled, hair plaited with amber and coral, tasselled hats swinging. The background screen showed a shifting pattern of golden clouds as if to display nature's radiance.
To commemorate the 16th Karmapa's poem predicting the invasion and destruction of Tibet, Dzogchen Tulku Pema Tashi gave a solo performance of Ala Tala accompanied by Tibetan guitar and flute.
A troupe from The Royal Academy of Performing Arts in Bhutan paid tribute to the 16th Karmapa's connection with their four hereditary kings by performing his song in praise of the country, king and people, entitled Druk Menjong, the land of medicinal herbs. The lead singer, Pema Samdrup, held an intricately carved 7 stringed lute or drangyen with the head of a water dragon said to ward off evil spirits. The troupe wore traditional costumes with long tasselled embroidered belts and moved slowly in semi-circles. They tied the golden offering scarves around their necks, swaying gracefully from side to side while musicians played flute, lute and an exquisitely painted dulcimer.
The narrators then informed us of the profound connection between the 16th Karmapa and India. Centuries ago he incarnated as the Mahasiddha, Saraha. In 1956, he was invited by the Indian Government to celebrate the 2500th anniversary of the Buddha's parinirvana in Bodhgaya. And when he was constructing his monastery in Sikkim in the 1960s, Prime Minister Nehru's government offered financial aid. In the early 80s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi donated land in Delhi to establish an Institute for Buddhist Studies.
TIPA, the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, celebrated the cultural co-operation between Tibetans and Indians in a song that was worthy of Bollywood. In a surprising departure from their usual slow-paced style, they sang a Hindi song in a very upbeat way - in Tibetan dress and without the Bollywood dancing. Enthused by the sound of Hindi pop music, the audience immediately responded with cheers and applause while the screen showed a burst of flowers and a blast of laser lights.
Right in the middle of traditional performances by acknowledged cultural organisations, came a sudden change of pace. To remind us of the 16th Karmapa's love for animals, a masterful musician from China, Chuen Jun, used a two stringed instrument called an erhu to recreate The Hoofbeat of the Horse. Dressed in white, a lock of hair falling on his face, he became one with his instrument in a virtuoso performance. The screen showed horses galloping wildly over a plain in Tibet, the sound of their hooves matching the music. The audience clapped wildly, invigorated.
The hidden land of Sikkim where the 16th Karmapa established his seat has continued to hold special significance for the Karmapa lineage, more so now than ever. The Sikkimese' longing for their Guru to return was the theme song of their performance, entitled The Gateway of Song. The troupe of 25 dancers playing Tibetan guitar and flute represented the Department of Cultural Affairs and Heritage. In the background, the screen showed the 16th Karmapa performing the Black Hat ceremony at Rumtek, and it seemed to be almost in slow motion as one experienced the stilling of time.
An aspiration for the teachings to flourish entitled Ocean of Merit and Wisdom, composed by the 16th Karmapa, brought the nuns from Bhutan back onto the stage, this time accompanied by an extraordinary guitarist. The screen documented the 16th Karmapa's activities in the West, particularly his loving intimate contact with children. We saw him in Europe and the USA, and with his birds. At this point the long haired guitarist really let go and played Western style rock music.
A famous Tibetan pop singer called Phurbu Lhama sang a song called The Amazing Karmapa in a loud clear voice.
And then came the grand finale of the Marme Monlam, the feast of the senses. Karmapa walked slowly onto the stage and took his throne below the Buddha. Golden lights beamed on him, while his lamp was lit, and music played softly. The lamps of the nuns onstage were alight. Soon thousands of lamps in the audience were also glowing, fluttering like moths in the night breeze, and twinkling. The laser beams criss-crossed the length of the Pavilion. Twirls of smoke went up from the lights like butter lamps into the sky. Onscreen there were cosmic explosions and simultaneous golden lasers.
The final picture was of the Karmapa holding a lamp while lasers crisscrossed lotuses on the screen, and the nuns onstage led everyone in Jowo Atisha’s Lamp Prayer.
May the bowl of this lamp become equal to the outer ring of this world realm of the great Three Thousands. May its stem be the size of the King of Mountains, Mt. Meru. May its oil fill the surrounding oceans. In number, may a hundred million appear before each and every buddha. May its light dispel all the darkness of ignorance from the Peak of Existence to the Incessant Hell and illumine all the pure realms of the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions so they are clearly seen.
OM VAJRA ALOKE AH HUM
For a moment we were inside infinite universes of light. For a moment we entered a pure land. And then it all dissolved into itself. The insignia of the Monlam on a black screen was all that remained, like a seed syllable.
Tibetan protester Kalsang Wangdu is shown in an undated photo.Photo courtesy of an RFA listener
A Tibetan spiritual leader urged Tibetans on Friday not to self-immolate in protest against Chinese rule, following the recent deaths of two Tibetans who set themselves ablaze and died.
“This week, two young Tibetan children, one in Tibet and one in India, have burned themselves to death,” Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, one of two claimants to the title of 17th Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, wrote in a post on his Facebook page.
“These events pain me deeply,” he said. “I could not bear to think of it when I heard the news, and for that reason I want to make a request of my fellow Tibetans at home and abroad.”
The first death by self-immolation occurred Monday when Kalsang Wangdu, an 18-year-old Tibetan monk from Maretsokha Aryaling monastery, burned himself to death to protest Chinese rule near his monastery in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Nyagrong (Xinlong) county, according to a source in the region.
The same day, Dorje Tsering, a 16-year-old Tibetan student living in India, set himself on fire to protest China’s policies and rule in Tibetan areas after telling his parents he hoped to do something “for the cause of Tibet,” a Tibetan source in exile told RFA. He was hospitalized but died of cardiac arrest late Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported.
He was the eighth Tibetan to self-immolate outside China since 1998, according to the London-based rights group Free Tibet.
Karmapa noted that despite the nearly 150 Tibetans inside Tibet and abroad who have self-immolated to make a strong statement against Chinese rule and call for Tibet’s independence, no one in the international community has responded to those acts in ways that help the Tibetan cause.
“Within Tibetan society, people will applaud them for a few days, saying, ‘He’s a hero,’ ‘She’s a heroine’ or ‘That is incredible,’ he wrote. “But that does not help."
“It is important to deeply consider the physical pain of those who set themselves on fire and the mental suffering of the relatives they leave behind, as well as whether this will help or harm Tibet, immediately, within a short while, or in the long term,” he said.
‘Sense of community’
Karmapa implored his fellow Tibetans to increase their “sense of community” and abandon their “attachment to old ways,” a reference to self-immolations.
“The Tibetan land is vast, but the Tibetan people are few in number,” he said. “Therefore, it is critical that every individual Tibetan remain alive in order to preserve the land and people of Tibet.
“In particular, most of those who have immolated themselves have been young," he said. "They are our hope and lifeblood for the future. This non-stop expenditure of life is a severe drain on Tibet as a whole.”
There have been 144 self-immolations by Tibetans living in China since a wave of fiery protests began in 2009.
Most protests feature demands for Tibetan freedom and the return of spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since an abortive uprising in 1959. A handful of self-immolation protests have been over local land or property disputes.
གཟའ་འཁོར་འདིའི་ནང་བོད་ཕྱི་ནང་གཉིས་ཀར་ལོ་ཆུང་བྱིས་པ་རེ་རང་སྲེག་བཏང་འདུག །སེམས་ལ་ན་ཟུག་ཆེས་ཆེར་སློང་བའི་གནས་ཚུལ་འདི་དག་རྣ་བར་ཐོས་དུས། བཟོད་ཐབས་བྲལ་ཏེ་སླར་ཡང་གཞིས་བྱེས་བོད་མི་སྤུན་ཟླ་ཡོངས་ལ་འབོད་སྐུལ་ཞིག་ཞུ་འདོད་བྱུང་། This week, two young Tibetan children, one in Tibet and one in India, have burned themselves to death. These events pain me deeply. I could not bear to think of it when I heard the news, and for that reason I want to make a request of my fellow Tibetans at home and abroad. ༢༠༠༩ ལོ་ནས་ད་བར་བོད་ཕྱི་ནང་དུ་བོད་མི་བརྒྱ་ཕྲག་དང་ཕྱེད་ལ་ཉེ་བས་གཅེས་པའི་རང་ལུས་ཞུགས་སུ་ཕུལ་ཏེ་ཚད་མཐོའི་ལས་འགུལ་ཤུགས་ཆེར་སྤེལ་མོད། འོན་ཀྱང་མིག་སྔར་དེ་ལ་ཐོབ་འོས་པའི་སེམས་ཁུར་དང་། ཚེ་སྲོག་ལ་རིན་ཐང་དང་བརྩི་འཇོག །དེ་བཞིན་ཁོང་ཚོས་རང་སྲེག་གཏོང་བའི་རྒྱུ་རྐྱེན་དང་མངོན་འདོད་གང་ཡིན་ལ་དོ་ཁུར་བྱེད་མཁན་རྒྱལ་སྤྱི་དང་རྒྱལ་ཁབ་གང་ཡང་ཕལ་ཆེར་བྱུང་མེད་པའི་ཚོད་ཙམ་རེད། From 2009 to the present, nearly 150 Tibetans within Tibet and abroad have immolated their own precious bodies, making the strongest of statements. But neither among the international community nor in any other country has anyone shown the concern that such an act should warrant, any respect for the value of their lives, or any interest in the situation and aspirations that led them to immolate themselves. བོད་མི་ནང་ཁུལ་དུའང་དང་པོ་ཉིན་ཤས་རིང་དཔའ་བོ་རེད། དཔའ་མོ་རེད། ཧ་ལས་པ་རེད་ཟེར་འུར་སྒྲོགས་བྱེད་པ་ཙམ་གྱིས་མི་ཕན་པར། རང་སྲེག་གཏོང་མཁན་གྱི་ལུས་ཀྱི་ན་ཚ། ཤུལ་ལུས་ནང་མི་ཚོའི་སེམས་ཀྱི་སྡུག་བསྔལ། བོད་ཀྱི་འཕྲལ་ཕུགས་རྒྱང་གསུམ་ལ་ཕན་གནོད་ཅི་ཡོང་ཐད་བསམ་གཞིགས་གཏིང་ཟབ་བྱེད་རྒྱུ་གལ་ཆེན་པོ་རེད། Within Tibetan society, people will applaud them for a few days, saying “He’s a hero,” “She’s a heroine,” or “That is incredible.” But that does not help. It is important to deeply consider the physical pain of those who set themselves on fire and the mental suffering of the relatives they leave behind, as well as whether this will help or harm Tibet, immediately, within a short while, or in the long term. ངའི་ངོས་ནས་མགོ་ནག་བོད་མི་གཅིག་ཡིན་ཡང་མུ་མཐུད་བདེ་ཐང་ངང་གསོན་གནས་ཡོང་བའི་གསོལ་འདེབས་ཞུ་རྒྱུ་ཡིན། བོད་ཡུལ་ནི་དེ་འདྲའི་རྒྱ་ཆེ་བ་ཞིག་ཡིན་ཡང་། བོད་པ་ནི་གྲངས་ཉུང་མི་རིགས་ཤིག་ཡིན་པས་བོད་ཀྱི་སྣོད་བཅུད་སྲུང་སྐྱོབ་ཀྱི་སླད་བོད་མི་རེ་རེ་ཡང་གསོན་པོར་འཚོ་རྒྱུ་ནི་ཧ་ཅང་གལ་གནད་ཆེ་ཞིང་། ལྷག་པར་རང་སྲེག་གཏོང་མཁན་ཕལ་ཆེར་ན་གཞོན་ཤ་སྟག་རེད་ལ། ཁོང་ཚོ་ནི་འབྱུང་འགྱུར་གྱི་རེ་བ་དང་སོན་རྩ་ཡིན་པས། འདི་ལྟར་ཚེ་སྲོག་གི་འགྲོ་གྲོན་བར་མེད་དུ་འགྲོ་བ་ནི་བོད་སྤྱི་ལ་མཚོན་ན་གྱོན་གུད་ཚབས་ཆེན་ཞིག་རེད། As a fellow Tibetan, I ask all of you to continue living good and healthy lives. The Tibetan land is vast, but the Tibetan people are few in number. Therefore it is critical that every individual Tibetan remain alive in order to preserve the land and people of Tibet. In particular, most of those who have immolated themselves have been young. They are our hope and lifeblood for the future. This non-stop expenditure of life is a severe drain on Tibet as a whole. ང་ཚོས་ཕ་ཡུལ་གྱི་མ་འོངས་པ་དང་། མི་རིགས་ཀྱི་དཀའ་སྡུག་སེལ་བའི་ཆེད་དུ་དབུགས་ཀྱི་རྒྱུ་བ་གཅིག་ཡིན་ཡང་གཅེས་སྤྲས་དང་། ཆུ་ཚོད་སྐར་མ་གཅིག་ཡིན་ཡང་དམ་འཛིན་གྱིས། ཕུ་ནུ་ནང་མཐུན། སྤྱི་སེམས་གོང་སྤེལ། རྙིང་ཞེན་གུ་དོགས་ཀྱི་བློ་སྤངས་ཏེ། གནའ་དེང་གི་ཤེས་ཡོན་ལ་འབུར་དུ་ཐོན་པའི་གྲུབ་འབྲས་ཐོབ་པ་བྱས་ཏེ། ནམ་ཞིག་བོད་མི་རྣམས་རང་གི་རྐང་ཐོག་ཏུ་རང་ཉིད་ལངས་ཐུབ་པ་ཞིག་བྱུང་ན་གཞི་ནས་རང་རེའི་འདོད་དོན་འགྲུབ་ངེས་རེད་སྙམ། For the sake of our homeland’s future, to relieve the hardships of our people, we should treasure each single breath we take. Use even a single hour or minute well. We should build harmony among our people, increase our sense of community, and give up narrow-minded attachment to old ways. We need to achieve significant results in our education, both traditional and modern. I think that once the Tibetan people are able to stand on their own two feet, we will be able to fulfill our primary aspirations. ཀརྨ་པ་ཨོ་རྒྱན་ཕྲིན་ལས་པས། སྤྱི་ལོ་ ༢༠༡༦ ཟླ་ ༣ ཚེས་ ༤ ལ་ཕུལ། Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje March 4, 2016
Hotel Anand International, Bodhgaya, Bihar 24-26 February, 2016
“It is of great concern to me that over the last sixty years so much of the priceless heritage of Tibetan Buddhism has vanished, not just through theft and deterioration, but because of lack of knowledge and skill in preservation. Over the last twenty years alone far too many irreplaceable works of art such as thangkas, statues, dance costumes, texts, and other sacred artifacts have been lost to future generations.” – His Holiness 17th Gyalwang Karmapa
At the request of the Gyalwang Karmapa, a group of 17 nuns representing all eight Karma Kagyu nunneries completed an intensive three-day training to learn techniques for documenting and preserving the treasures owned by their nunneries, such as statues, thangkas, and texts. In addition, the nuns learned to interview and video-document elders about the history and significance of various treasures; the elders are in many cases the sole holders of this knowledge. The training took place at a hotel close to Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya, following the completion of the Kagyu Monlam.
The program was organized and funded by the Kun Kyong Charitable Trust, of which the Karmapa is the primary patron. The trust began offering annual workshops for nuns last year, with the aim of teaching them skills that will help them to uphold the dharma. Last year’s workshop was on communication and leadership. An emphasis in this year’s training was also preparing the nuns to teach and share the information on treasure preservation with others at their nunneries. For example, two or three nuns were required to present their work after every group activity. Even over three days, the nuns’ confidence in standing up in front of a group and giving a presentation improved dramatically.
The director and lead instructor of the training, Ann Shaftel, became an expert in sacred art preservation at the advice of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, who told her “preservation of Buddhist paintings and statues is your Dharma work for this lifetime.” That advice propelled Shaftel to receive two graduate degrees and to eventually hold advanced international standing in the field of Art Conservation. During this time she has worked with dozens of monasteries and art museums to preserve sacred Buddhist tangible culture. She also developed this Treasure Caretaker Training—normally offered as a 10-day workshop—for training monks and nuns to become leaders in the preservation of their monastery collections.
One of the main skills the nuns learned in the training was how to create digital documentation of all the treasures in their nunnery, including those in shrine rooms and storerooms. This means taking photographs (using their mobile phones) and creating notes regarding condition, dimensions, artist, how it is used in the monastery, and other details, for each piece. This information can be used to create a digital inventory, which most monasteries do not yet have. In the case they have difficulty getting access or using the technology, Shaftel also taught the nuns how to draw images and take notes on paper about each piece. “Better to have some documentation than no documentation,” she told them. However, with mobile phones being fairly ubiquitous now, and the hands-on experience they received through the training, the nuns seemed eager and capable of creating digital documentation at their nunneries.
Notably the favorite part of the workshop for the nuns was learning how to interview elders about their treasures. The nuns took turns interviewing each other about their precious treasures (imagination was involved), while filming each other with their phones. Part of the interview training included making the elder comfortable and offering tea, and making sure to get their permission to film and share their stories. While this part of the workshop involved much laughter and fun, the training is critical for saving many stories passed through an oral tradition regarding the history and meaning of many sacred artifacts.
The nuns also learned practical tools for preventing damage and deterioration of the treasures in their storerooms. In particular, they learned about how to protect thangkas, texts, and other sacred objects from getting damaged by humidity, light, insects, and other factors. This knowledge is crucial for the nunneries that experience the monsoon season, when mold and humidity can create major problems for old texts and paintings. The nuns also learned labeling techniques. While it seems simple, many monastery storerooms lack proper labels, which can make things difficult to find. Without labels, certain objects can also be mysterious when found, if there is no documentation about what it is or where it came from and the oral history has been lost.
One of the topics Shaftel emphasized in the workshop was the importance of confidentiality. In the past, monasteries often avoided creating treasure inventories because of security issues; the reasoning being that if others knew what they had in their storerooms they would be at greater risk for theft. However, not having an inventory puts treasures at risk in other ways. For one, pieces can go missing with no one noticing. And during times of natural disaster or political upheaval—such as the recent earthquakes in Nepal—inventories help storeroom keepers to make sure nothing gets left behind or lost. Having an inventory also helps with organization; knowing where a precious thangka is in a storeroom helps one avoid digging through an entire box of thangkas looking for one, which damages the fragile paintings and fabric. The digital images can also aid in conservation, or re-creation, of the artwork in the future.
On the final day of the workshop, the nuns’ were delighted by a visit from Karmapa’s sister Chamsing Ngodup Pelzom, who offered some words of advice:
In all Buddhist traditions, it is said that we should not lean on others, but stand on our own two feet and walk along our path. Many of us have little education and come from small villages, but that should not stop us from trying to do whatever we can… to take advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves so we can become a model for others. A few nuns can make a big difference. You’ve received training, learned it well, and when you go back to your nunneries you will teach it to others so hundreds will benefit.
27-29 February, 2016 -Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya, India
With impeccable concentration and speed, Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche offered an important reading transmission this week to the monastics gathered for the Kagyu Gunchö Winter Dharma Teachings and Debates for Kagyu Shedras, including HE Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. The transmission was offered over three mornings in the Tergar Shrine.
The text, called Mandala of the Sun, is a commentary on the vinaya written by the 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje. It includes the root text of the vinaya and an annotation on this root text by Tshonawa Chenpo. The text has not yet been translated into English. Since the vinaya is the Buddha’s teachings on monastic vows, the reading transmission was offered only to ordained monks and nuns.
There were many auspicious connections evident in Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche offering the transmission of this text. The first was that the 1st Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche was the root guru of the author, the 8th Karmapa. The present, 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, explained that he received the transmission of the text from the 16th Karmapa at Rumtek when he was very young. It was therefore fitting that a life-like statue of the 16th Karmapa sat on the throne above Rinpoche during the transmission. Rinpoche also explained that the 17th Karmapa requested that he give this reading transmission.
Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche offered an introduction in Tibetan to the monks and nuns. He expressed his happiness that he could offer the transmission, and that there were so many monastics present from all the Kagyu Shedras to receive it. He also said that the flourishing of the dharma is not just due to a few teachers, but the entire monastic community and their holding of the vows. Therefore, he asked the monastics to put the text into practice and to pass it to future generations.
During the transmission, Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche read with great speed as well as a sense of ease. He is known as one of the best and most proficient readers in the Karma Kamtsang lineage. It was a phenomenal to listen to his precise pronunciation of the syllables and also to see his eyes scanning quickly across the pages. At times, the Gyalwang Karmapa was quietly present listening as well. On two mornings, the Karmapa walked around the shrine as the discipline master normally does. His presence alone caused everyone present to straighten their backs and their robes.
At the end of the transmission, Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche offered some words of advice for the monks about implementing the practice of the text. A group of monks, nuns and lay people offered him a mandala, and many monastics came up with katas to make offerings. With humility, Rinpoche came down from his throne to receive an offering from HE Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, and then quietly departed. Afterwards many other monastics went to the throne to make further offerings and to touch their heads to the throne. There was a palpable sense of joy amongst the monastics from having been able to receive the transmission of this precious text.
The Karmapa Foundation Europe (KFE) is most happy to announce that His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, has generously accepted to visit Europe for a third time in 2016.
This visit has now been authorised by the Government of India to whom the Foundation expresses its vivid thankfulness. His Holiness will teach Dharma in new European countries and places: Geneva, Zürich and Paris.
On behalf of all European students and friends, the KFE gives its warmest welcome to His Holiness and has no doubt that the visit will be as memorable as the previous ones so far. It invites everybody and in particular all those people from Europe and outside who have not yet had the opportunity to see His Holiness to try and attend these teachings given in May and June 2016.
Please click here to see the complete list of public events, locations and links to the websites and the information about the ticket sales.
Switzerland & France
21st May 2016 - 5th June 2016
Switzerland – Geneva & Bülach / Zürich
Organised by The International Buddhist Rigdzin Community.
His Holiness the Karmapa will speak mainly in Tibetan and his teachings will be translated into French in Geneva and German in Bülach/Zürich.
Each year at the Kagyu Monlam, and continuing afterward in the shrine hall at Tergar Monastery, tall sculpted images known as tormas grace the altars with their lofty elegance. Both new and experienced artists worked for over a month to create these exquisite images. The artists make many of their own tools and spend the first couple of days preparing their colorful wax-butter palette. The wax butter is made from a combination of paraffin, Dalda (a brand of Indian margarine), imported pastry margarine, and oil paint.
This year the tormas portray all sixteen Karmapas, each one distinct in personality, in the emblems they carry, and in their setting. The central figures of the four elaborately decorated tormas are the First to Third Karmapas and, in harmony with the theme of celebrating the life and deeds of the 16th Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje, he is the main image in the final one. In addition to the Karmapas, each torma depicts a set of traditional offerings, placed below the main image. At the base of the torma, are four powerful animals—a white lion and an ox from the usual world of animals, and the precious horse and precious elephant from the special world of the mandala offerings.
The diagrams below show the arrangement of the images of the Karmapas in the tormas as well as the offerings and the animals.
Approaching the end of his three-month winter program in Bodhgaya, the Gyalwang Karmapa launched his final social initiative, a camp to provide artificial limbs and special braces for polio sufferers in the Gaya district from March 5 to 9, 2016. Held in partnership with Jaipur Foot, a branch of the NGO Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS) and Max India Foundation, the social service arm of the Max Group of Companies, the camp is estimated to have benefitted around 500 persons.
On the morning of March 8, His Holiness the Karmapa walked from Tergar over to the Pavilion where he met with Padma Shri V. R. Metha and Ms. Mohini Daljeet Singh. Together they toured the virtual facility room by room with V.R. Metha explaining to the Karmapa the process of assessing the patients, making a Plaster of Paris cast for the artificial leg, and how that becomes a basis for the artificial limb. They also stopped by the supply room where crutches, special shoes, tricycles with seats (almost 80 were given out), and wheelchairs (close to twenty were needed) were stored.
Afterward, a press conference took place at Tergar Monastery, and in addition to Padma Shri V. R. Metha and Ms. Mohini Daljeet Singh, also present for the occasion were Mr. Nagze Dorje, Secretary, Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC) and Mr. Vijay Kumar, Additional District Magistrate (ADM), Gaya district.
After warmly welcoming everyone, HH the Karmapa said that at a site so sacred to Buddhists, he was grateful to have this medical camp to serve the local people, and that it could not have happened without the support of Max Foundation and Jaipur Foot. He also extended his gratitude to all who had volunteered their services and expressed the hope that in the future they would be able to work together again to bring happiness and well-being to the people of the Gaya area.
Padma Shri V. R. Mehta Executive President, BMVSS, led their team at the camp. In partnership with Stanford University, BMVSS has developed a special knee joint that allows for ease of movement and they are now working on an artificial hand. The organization follows an open-door policy that welcomes anyone with a disability, without any discrimination, cutting across geographical, social, religious, and gender bias. The NGO has benefited about one and a half million disabled in India and also held camps for the disabled in 27 countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Last year, in partnership with the Karmapa’s Kagyu Monlam Trust, Max India Foundation under the guidance of its CEO, Ms. Mohini Daljeet Singh, conducted a multi-specialty health camp at Bodhgaya benefitting 1,785 people. The Foundation has won several awards including the Golden Peacock Award four times for Corporate Social Responsibility and has benefitted almost 1,600,000 underprivileged persons in partnership with 326 NGOs in 385 locations.
This year the Foundation returned to work with Jaipur Foot on this special camp. Employees from Max Financial Services (Max Life Insurance) office at Gaya, helped with the organization of the camp and contributed to the cost of artificial limbs and braces being provided. It has in the past conducted eight annual camps with BMVSS benefitting about 3,000 people.
The camp itself was held at the Kagyu Monlam Pavilion, half of which had been transformed from a vast shrine hall into a temporary factory producing prosthetics and braces; a huge hostel where 200 people could stay while waiting for their artificial limbs and training; and a restaurant to feed those in need along with their relatives who had come to support them. Tsurphu Labrang, the Karmapa’s Office, organized all infrastructure and physical facilities for the camp including the food and board for those undergoing treatment. With their blue vests identifying them as part of the Labrang team, the monks could be seen throughout the open space, serving food, helping people with new limbs to walk, making the plaster gauze for the casts, and working in registration.
The other half of the large space of the Pavilion served as debate court and dining hall for monks attending the Winter Debates, who often continued their discussions over meals. An aerial view of the whole Pavilion would show the two main concerns of the Mahayana path–wisdom and compassion in action.
There were many touching stories from people who came for care, including twenty-five-year old Shabnam Katur from Belea, whose determination was impressive. She was born without lower legs and came to Bodh Gaya by herself, taking auto rickshaws and the train. She had studied for her BA in education from Devendra Patahk Sarvodaya College and it was one of her teachers who told her about the clinic. In the morning of her first day, she could not stand but by the evening she managed to hold herself upright for ten minutes. The next day she was practicing walking, going up and down a path between two bamboo railings while the volunteer monks gave her encouragement and support.
From Jalanbad about 64 kilometers away came Awinash Kumar, who had lost his leg in a motorbike accident at the age of 22. Hearing about the clinic, he was inspired and applied for a job in life insurance before coming to be fitted with a new leg, which will allow him to go to work easily.
10 March, 2016 -Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, India
This year the Winter Debates lasted for fifteen days and encompassed a wonderful variety of ways to train the mind and deepen understanding. In addition to daily meditation, there were traditional debates on the philosophical positions of the Vaibhashika and Sautrantika Schools as well as the yearly debates on Collected Topics, Types of Evidence, and Types of Minds. Papers were presented on Gampopa’s Ornament of Precious Liberation covering the second chapter on the spiritual friend up to the eighth chapter on refuge, and western-style discussions on two topics: 1) Can blind faith be considered faith? and 2) Are the Dharma and the secular world opposed or not?
Starting at 8 p.m. on March 9, the final debate went into late hours and began with the topic of what it means to be contaminated or not. Since there was no competition between the shedras this year, the two teams on either side of the debate were taken from different shedras. Despite their various teachers and training, the monks quickly developed their responses and moved as one body, clapping their hands to drive their points home. The debate was enlivened further when two of the khenpos joined in from their tables on the sidelines.
The next morning, HH the Gyalwang Karmapa opened the final session of the Gunchö with an historic discussion of the curriculum for the Kamtsang Kagyu shedras (monastic colleges). The Karmapa explained, “Since we have not had continuous transmission of our commentarial tradition, in the past we were not able to determine a special course of study for the Karma Kamtsang. The curriculum for the Kagyu shedras was mixed with studies taken from other traditions.” Last year, the Karmapa remarked, while in the U.S., he received a text in which the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje (1556-1603) described the special tradition of the Kamtsang Kagyu shedras, which were flourishing during his time. The Karmapa has taken this text as a basis for designing a new curriculum. With a quote from Rabgye Kunga Lingpa, found in the 9th Karmapa’s text, His Holiness laid out the approach he would use to organize study in the shedras:
While explaining the commentaries, we should look at those from India and those from our lineage holders. As a basis for study, we should use those texts that accord with (1) an overview, (2) with what has been clearly resolved through reasonings, and (3) with important commentaries. The texts we study should be composed by authentic lamas from our own tradition and accord with its philosophical positions.
The Karmapa commented that this concise presentation of how to study was excellent. In brief, he said, it means that the analysis and overall discussion of philosophy should be based on texts written by lineage holders, mainly focusing on the previous Karmapas. In the Gelukpa tradition, for example, the focus is on texts by Je Tsongkapa and his disciples as well as synopses of these texts written by scholars in the Gelukpa tradition. For the Kagyu followers, it fair to say that only the Kamtsang Kagyu and the Drukpa Kagyu have commentaries on all five main philosophical texts, which are major Indian works on Prajna Paramita, the Middle Way, Validity, Dharmakirti’s Commentary on Validity, Vinaya, and the Abhidharma. In the Kamtsang, these commentaries are more complete and extensive—thorough and well-edited commentaries that provide an excellent basis to uphold and propagate the tradition.
To decide the actual way and course of study, the Karmapa met with the professors, teachers, teaching assistants, and discipline masters present during the Gunchö to discuss the curriculum. Focusing on the nuns’ shedras, they decided the path of study for both nuns and monks. [Make a link to the special report on the new curriculum]
Many circumstances have brought about this new chapter in the history of the Karma Kamtsang: the discovery and publishing of the 8th Karmapa’s texts; the surfacing of Manjushri’s Laughter: An Overview of Validity, and the 9th Karmapa’s book on the Kamtsang shedra studies; and especially the present Karmapa’s courageous and unwavering commitment to reviving the brilliant tradition of study and practice in his Kamtsang lineage. With this renewed curriculum, the Kagyu shedras are on their way to restoring their past glory when the shedras were flourishing during time of the 7th, 8th, and 9th Karmapas, all of whom were great scholars and authors as well as realized masters.
Following the remarkable announcement about the curriculum, Karmapa laid out the schedule for the Dharma activities in Bodh Gaya for next year, including the monks’ Gunchö, the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo, Tibetan New Year (Losar), and the nuns’ Arya Kshema Winter Gathering. In a surprise turn, the Karmapa appointed khenpos, who are usually focused on the studies in the shedras, to fill the positions in the shrine hall of Chant Master, Shrine Master, and Discipline Master. The Karmapa said he was encouraging them to be proficient both in study and practice.
Attention then focused on evaluating this year’s programs. It was noted that the monks who presented papers were well prepared from their work at Gyuto, where not only did they ask many subtle questions to deepen their understanding, but also learned how to do research at an international level. They compared various editions of the text and noted the differences, found the sources for the quotations in the text, and looked for other sources to support or refute Gampopa’s statements in the Ornament of Precious Liberation.
On a personal level, the monks said that they felt tremendous gratitude to His Holiness for providing this opportunity to delve into a text at such a deep level, and they hope to be able to do so at their monasteries in the future. Another participant mentioned that the real way the teachings will stay relevant and last is through these kinds of exchanges and research. A younger monk said that he had thought the Kagyu tradition was focused on meditation and had not been aware that there were such scholarly treasures in the lineage.
One Khenpo noted that the Western-style discussions helped to clarify a more general picture of the text—its landscape came into view—while the debates helped to clarify specific points and develop certainty as well as a readiness to respond to questions. Sharing meals, tents, and talk, the monks from different monasteries all said they had the sense of becoming a family. The Karmapa nurtured these connections by coming to the discussions and participating himself in very lively exchanges. One memorable event was when he left his chair to stand among the monks and engage in a heated debate for over forty minutes on whether buddha nature could be considered permanent or not.
The Nineteenth Winter Debates were brought to a close with the Karmapa individually thanking the numerous people from the cook to the khenpos whose hard work had made these fifteen days possible. Prayers for auspiciousness sent the benefits and the blessings of this special time out into the entire world.
PROGRAM & ONLINE BOOKING (Translation English, French, German...)
- Saturday, May 21rst: "Meditation, source of inner peace" (Geneva) - Sunday, May 22nd: "Medecine Buddha" and "Buddhism and Science" (Geneva) - Saturday, May 28th: "Transforming your daily sufferings" (Zürich) - Sunday, May 29th: "Avalokiteshvara - Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion" and "Buddhism and Environmental Care" ( Zürich)
Noting that he had been coming to Root Institute for many years, the Gyalwang Karmapa greeted everyone warmly and said that it would be good to have a question and answer session.
Question: Your Holiness, Sometimes when you do a lot of practice, you get a bit tense. Is it good to give yourself a break for a little while? I just finished prostrations and want to take a break before Dorje Sempa.
The Karmapa: In general, it is said that our way of practicing should not be too loose or too tight, just like the strings on a guitar. Since neither extreme would work well, we need to find the golden mean. If we try too hard, that is a fault; if we do not try enough, we are lost in laziness. Sometimes, our mind can get a bit tired out, and so taking a break is fine.
Question: Tibetan Buddhism has spread widely in the last five decades or so, but perhaps not so deeply. Do you think this next generation of teachers needs to take a new approach? Because we have reached a critical point in the world in terms of ecology, violence, and so forth.
The Karmapa: If you look into Google searches for the word Buddhism, you’ll find that the numbers have gone down; whereas the numbers for mindfulness and meditation have gone up. This indicates that the enthusiasm for Buddhism as a religion has decreased, but the interest in what it teaches has increased. The source of mindfulness and numerous meditation practices is Buddhism; however, these have been come detached from their source and commercialized. On the other hand, these practices have opened opportunities for more people to study and learn.
That said, there is a danger of diminishing, or even losing, the value and standards of Buddhism as taught in its scriptures. The Dharma has become fashionable as an aid to alleviate mental problems, but this has only a short-term effect. The long-term goals, liberation or omniscience, as traditionally described are in danger of disappearing.
To respond directly to your question, these days from within Buddhism, it is the practical applications that are important. There is a lot of philosophy in Buddhism, but it is difficult for philosophy alone to help us in the urgent situations, which you mentioned, such as the environment. Greed, the habit of wanting more and more, needs to be controlled but here philosophy will not benefit much, though it can help to set the values we have in this life. What we actually need are practical methods and here Buddhism has vast experience of the mind and how it works—how it moves and how it settles. Especially within Tibetan Buddhism, there is nothing that is not included in terms of practical methods. In our modern times, these can be very useful to train our minds.
Question: I’ve been looking at the Geluk and the Kagyu traditions in terms of their understanding of wisdom (ye shes). In the Geluk tradition it is said that we do not have it until we have entered the path, whereas in the Kagyu tradition, it’s called “primordial wisdom,” and we already have it. Are these completely different perspectives?
The Karmapa: In the Kagyu tradition, the practice of mahamudra is presented in three aspects: sutric mahamudra, tantric mahamudra, and essential mahamudra. The treatise that is the source for sutric mahamudra is known as Maitreya’s Supreme Continuum or (Ratnagotra Vibaga). Here we find the term “the naturally present potential” (rang gzhin gnas rigs). The Kagyu understand it to be present in all living beings and give it the name “wisdom” whereas the Gelukpa understand it to be emptiness itself. The Kagyu see this naturally abiding potential as the subject, wisdom, and the Geluk see it as the object, emptiness, whence the differences in their understandings.
The difference is also due to dissimilar ways of interpreting the second and third Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma. Chandrakirti’s Entering the Middle Way presents the second Turning as definitive and the first and third Turnings as expedient; however, there are also those who describe the third Turning as the definitive one. They explain that the name wisdom was given to Buddha nature (bde gshegs snying po or sugatagarbha). In the Sutra of the Lion’s Roar, buddha nature is explicitly taught as wisdom.
In China there was a philosophical school called the Buddha Nature School, which did not exist in Tibet. One does find in Tibet similar views, such as the Shentong (empty of other) School, the Jonangpas, and some of the Kagyupa, who define the third Turning as definitive, describe buddha nature as wisdom, and speak often of mind’s luminous nature. Therefore, these differences of interpretation and diverse approaches to the Turnings of the Wheels of Dharma have created different understandings of wisdom.
Question: These days in the West, it’s difficult to establish a personal relationship with a teacher as students did in the past. What should we do?
The Karmapa: It is true that in the old days in Tibet, students would gather around a lama in one place and spend a long time together. Since it was not the 21st century with its long hours of work, the Tibetans could stay as long as they wished. If a lama was well-known, there might thousands or tens of thousands of students around him, but I doubt they all could have a personal contact with him. It was not like today when lamas are expected to take care of a student’s place to live, their food, and so forth. Back then a student came to the lama and received oral instruction; then they went out to practice and returned to report on their experience. The lama would evaluate their situation and then give advice and instruction. If student had obstacles, the lama would explain what to do. I think these close relationships, however, were more for special students.
These days what is most difficult for practice are all the distractions, which make it increasingly hard to bring one’s mind together and be focused. In our culture of things, we are constantly pulled in different directions and busyness takes over. To practice well, we need to have a stable and continuous engagement, but all the distractions work against this. The biggest difficulty we have is not letting ourselves be overly influenced by external distractions. It is important to look into this and consider its implications.
Question: Since chanting and mantra are a big part of practice, how can one make the Dharma available to people who are deaf and have never heard a sound?
The Karmapa: I have thought about this before and wondered what could be done for people who do not hear and are using sign language. The benefits of practicing mantras and practicing mudras are similar, so you could show them mudras and explain them. This way they can connect with mental peace and the Secret Mantrayana, and a special feeling could arise though their practice.
After the dedication of merit, the Karmapa left the intimate shrine hall and paused on his way home to feed a gaily decorated elephant, considered an auspicious sign and one of the precious offerings in the traditional mandala practice.
20th March, 2016 – Sarnath: His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje will convene the 7th Khoryug Conference for Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries and Nunneries on the topic of Disaster Preparedness and Risk Reduction tomorrow.
Lasting from the 21st of March to the 24th of March, the conference will be held at Vajra Vidya Institute, Sarnath, and will be facilitated in partnership with the National Institute of Disaster Management of the Government of India. The conference will be attended by over 50 monastic representatives from over 25 monasteries and nunneries.
In organizing this 4-day conference, His Holiness the Karmapa is acting on his resolve to prepare monasteries and nunneries for potential disasters and to train monks and nuns to become first responders and risk reduction educators for local communities. The Himalayan region has seen three severe earthquakes just in the past five years: Sikkim 6.9 on the Richter scale in 2011, Nepal 7.3 in 2015, and Manipur 6.7 in January of 2016. Disaster management experts and seismologists have issued several warnings that these earthquakes have re-ruptured tectonic plates that were already cracked and increased the likelihood of more severe earthquakes to hit the Himalayan region.
Over the weeks that followed the Nepal earthquake, 8 Khoryug monasteries and nunneries provided assistance to over 12,000 families spread out over 15 districts in Nepal. In the immediate aftermath, over 100 families were given immediate shelter within monastic compounds and an additional 2,200 people received direct medical support from doctors hired by the monasteries and nunneries. Monks and nuns also joined rescue teams, helped clear villages and roads of rubble, donated blood, volunteered at hospitals and schools and organized activities for children where schools had been destroyed. His Holiness has directed Khoryug; an association of over 50 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and centers in India, Bhutan, and Nepal that work on environmental issues under his auspices; to learn from and follow the example of these monasteries and provide training on disaster risk reduction, response, and recovery strategies to all interested Buddhist monasteries and centers in the region.
In keeping with His Holiness’ direction, over 50 monks and nuns will have received the training needed to lead their communities in the event of local disasters such as earthquakes, fires, and floods over the course of the next four days. Khoryug will also introduce several shareable documents including a booklet and a poster in English and in Tibetan that provide important information on how to reduce risks and ensure the safety of individuals and communities.
Visit The Official Website of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa – www.kagyuoffice.org and www.khoryug.info for more information on the conference.
7th Khoryug Conference, Day One 21st March, 2016 Vajra Vidya Institute, Sarnath
Over 70 delegates representing 29 monasteries and nunneries gathered today at Vajra Vidya Institute in the sacred town of Sarnath to begin the 7th Khoryug Conference on Disaster Preparedness and Risk Reduction, chaired by His Holiness the 17th Gwalang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. The primary goal of the conference is to initiate disaster preparedness and risk reduction training for monks and nuns. With this training monasteries and nunneries will become equipped with effective disaster management plans and knowledge and ultimately supply first responders and educators to their local communities.
After a warm welcome by the conference’s host, Very Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche, His Holiness the Karmapa addressed the congregation to reiterate his resolve to prepare monasteries and nunneries for potential disasters and to train monks and nuns to become community actors and supports for disaster preparedness, response and recovery.
During the conference delegates will participate in a variety of educational presentations, group discussion, and hands on training. Khoryug has partnered with India’s National Institute of Disaster Management, represented by Professor Rakesh Kumar Singh and Professor Chandrani Bandyopadhyay, whose expertise will direct the educational component of the conference.
This component began today with presentations from both professors. Professor Singh presented on the significance of protecting cultural heritage in the face of increasingly unpredictable climate- and human-caused disasters. Professor Bandyopadhyay introduced key concepts in disaster management, such as distinguishing between a phenomena like an earthquake and the disaster that follows. As Professor Bandyopadhyay effectively explained to the group, “An earthquake is a shaking of the ground that can happen anywhere. Why do similar magnitude earthquakes have disastrous outcomes in some places and mild outcomes in others? Because what matters is not the ground that is shaking but what is on top of the ground that is shaking.”
Participants also heard today from Dekila Chungyalpa, who highlighted recent Khoryug activities like the planting of over a hundred thousand saplings in 2015 alone. They also heard presentations from the Khoryug Country Coordinators of India, Nepal and Bhutan which summarized specific Khoryug projects in these countries over the last year, including organic gardening, rainwater harvesting and waste segregation for recycling.
The day concluded with a moving presentation by Khenpo Chokey of Pullahari Monastery in Nepal, who graciously shared insights and lessons learned during the relief efforts of the 2015 Nepal earthquake. His presentation not only grounded the day’s more theoretical learning in lived experience but also provided valuable advice for the coming trainings. Khenpo Chokey explained that when a disaster strikes our instinct may be to immediately rush to the aid of those in need. However, the efforts of Nepal monasteries and nunneries during the 2015 earthquake taught them that “We must not just rush into the situation without proper planning and preparedness. We must embrace compassion, wisdom and patience in our rescue and relief actions.”
The first step in disaster management is understanding your hazards and identifying your risks. During the second day of the Khoryug conference, participants consequently focused on deepening their knowledge of the hazards they face and learning how to identify the vulnerabilities that put them at risk for disaster.
To achieve this aim delegates spent the morning learning about the science of natural disasters from Dekila Chungyalpa, the Khoryug adviser, who explained how phenomena like plate tectonics, forestation, and the water and carbon cycle shape and spur disastrous events like earthquakes, floods and landslides. She further explained how climate change is resulting from human development and in turn exacerbating the severity and frequency of natural disasters, particularly in the Himalayan region.
Professor Bandyopadhyay from the National Institute of Disaster Management then led the conference in both a presentation and group activity on risk assessment in monasteries and nunneries. After offering the conceptual framework for assessing risk, Professor Bandyopadhyay organized delegates into a scavenger hunt to search for vulnerabilities and risks present in various locations around Vajra Vidya Institute. The activity allowed participants to identify typical disaster risks that are found in most monasteries and nunneries ranging from exposed wiring and poor ventilation in a butter lamp house to the lack of emergency exits and training on how to use a fire extinguisher in a hostel.
In the afternoon delegates worked with Lhakpa Tsering and Damaris Miller to brainstorm the particular disaster risks in their area and to imagine an actual disaster scenario. Delegates were presented with two educational guides that Khoryug has produced on disaster management, including a poster with short tips and guidelines for management of earthquakes, floods and fires as well as a booklet with more extensive information. Both materials are available in English and Tibetan and delegates drew on their own experience to provide feedback for improving the documents for wider distribution.
Dekila Chungyalpa and Mr. Rakesh Singh closed out the day by transitioning the group into developing action plans. Dekila shared a presentation on mitigation measures that monasteries and nunneries can take to reduce their vulnerability in the case of a disaster. She demonstrated how many of the environmental projects monasteries and nunneries have already undertaken double as mitigation measures, such as solar energy, organic gardening and rainwater collection and lauded monasteries that are adopting green design strategies into new constructions.
Mr. Rakesh Kumar finished the session by clearly laying out a framework for creating a disaster management plan that encompasses crucial elements like mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery and capacity building. Participants will spend the next two days receiving hands-on training and creating their own disaster management plans. Reflecting on the conference thus far one delegate noted, “We used to feel helpless when we thought about natural disasters but knowing now that there are things we can do to protect ourselves makes me feel more confident.”
Varanasi, March 22 -- The 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje and other Buddhist spiritual leaders discussed the issue of ecological imbalance in the Himalayan region and other parts of the country at a conference in Sarnath on Monday.
'Disaster preparedness and risk reduction' was the theme of the seventh Khoryug Conference for Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries and Nunneries.
The meet began at Vajra Vidya Sansthan, an institute for Buddhist studies.
Before the conference, Karmapa, who heads one of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, performed special worship at the Sansthan for human welfare and world peace.
Several Buddhist spiritual leaders accompanied him during the worship.
Twelve followers of Buddhism from China, Nepal, Taiwan, Tibet, France and Italy also participated in the special prayers which were completed in two rounds. Starting at 9am, the first round concluded at noon. The second round took place between 2pm and 5pm.
Buddhist Monk Karma, a representative of the Sansthan, said, “The Karmapa was welcomed with chanting of mantras before the worship. Triratana puja and several rituals were performed. An Idol of Lord Buddha was offered rice, kesar mixed water and Tibetan Torma.”
In the afternoon, Buddhist spiritual leaders discussed the issue of environmental imbalance. The conference is being held in partnership with the National Institute of Disaster Management.
Fifty monastic representatives from over 25 monasteries and nunneries are attending the conference. According to an authorized spokesperson, the Karmapa is acting on his resolve to prepare monasteries and nunneries for potential disasters and to train monks and nuns to become first responders and risk reduction educators for local communities.
After his arrival on Sunday, the Karmapa was given a special welcome. He would leave for Delhi on March 25.