His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa has kindly agreed to teach on the Heart Sutra from the 15th to 18th, this August. The special event will be webcast live on the website and translated into various languages.
SEAT OF HIS HOLINESS THE 17TH GYALWANG KARMAPA ORGYEN TRINLEY DORJE
From the Monastery of the Practice Lineage, Karma Kamts’ang (sgrub-brgyud karma kaM-tshang gyi dgon-sde):
Respectfully addressed to all the Assemblies,
Due to the arising of the many most unfortunate hindrances to the essential teaching of the Practice Lineage [Karma Kagyü], along with its Upholders, a directive decree for virtue, on behalf of His Eminence the Glorious Victorious Master, the Karmapa, Orgyen T’rinlay Dorjé (rgyal-dbang karma-pa o-rgyan ‘phrin-las rdo-rje), has been issued, which humbly requests that our [Karma Kagyü] monasteries immediately practice, in an effective manner, The Māra-Repelling Ritual for the Heart of the Transcendental Practice of Deep Insight Sūtra[PrajñāpāramitāHṛdaya Sūtra](sher-snying bdud-zlog), and The Repelling Ritual of the Lion-Faced Ḍākinī(seng-gdong-ma’i zlog-pa). Thus, each monastery, in accordance with the express purpose of this urgent command, must please take care to appropriately implement these spiritual rituals which pacify, in a non-referential way (dmigs-med du), the full range of detrimental harm to the [Buddhist] Teachings and living beings.
Humbly presented by the Lama’s Residence of the Ts’urp’u Encampment (mtshur-sgar bla-brang), on the foreign date of August 5th, 2016.
[Signed and Stamped,] His Holiness the Karmapa’s Office of Administration
(Tsurphu Labrang) Karmapa’s Office of Administration
Aug. 11: A Facebook post has suggested that one of the most revered monks from the largest Buddhist sect in Darjeeling and Sikkim has renounced monastic life.
"I am not a monk any more. I just want to study and fulfil my wish. Even though it's hard, I will try and do it," said a post attributed to the fourth Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. "With a difficult heart, I have chosen a different lifestyle and will study and pursue my dreams of becoming a doctor," added the post, dated August 1.
The Rinpoche is a 20-year-old monk in charge of two monasteries of the Karma Kagyu sect in Kalimpong and Kathmandu. Among the four sects in the region, the Karma Kagyu has the largest following, a Buddhist scholar in Sikkim said.
The Rinpoche, which means "precious teacher", is one of the four regents of the sect, which is headquartered in the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim and is led by the Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje. In the hierarchy, immediately after the Karmapa are the four Rinpoches, who function as his regents.
The monk was identified as the incarnation of the third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche on August 25, 1996, when he was a nine-month-old baby.
K.B. Yogi, a retired WBCS officer and Buddhist based in Darjeeling, said: "This development is very rare and personally I have not heard of any Rinpoche renouncing monkhood."
A Buddhist scholar who did not want to be named said: "There probably is no other instance of such a high-ranking monk renouncing monastic life.... The institution of the Jamgon Kongtrul will now remain headless till the death of the Rinpoche and the identification of his reincarnation."
The Facebook post attributed to the Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche spoke of unexplained "struggles and problems".
"I left my role on April 14th 2016 because of all the struggles and problems that have built up till now since the past 4-5 years. Now I have reached a state where it's unbearable, I have been restricted to fulfil my dreams and have not been allowed to take responsibility and stay in peace and I feel I am a burden to all."
The monk was incommunicado. The Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang, which runs the two monasteries and charitable organisations under the Rinpoche, said in a statement that it knew about his decision but did not go public with it in the hope that he would change his mind and return.
"We are, of course, open to the possibility that the Rinpoche may return one day. Until then, Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang will continue to uphold and continue the legacy, vision and aspiration of the third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche," the Labrang said.
The Facebook post suggested the monk was not considering an immediate rethink. "I don't and can't be a monk any more and I wanna be left alone and if you really do care and love me, then please leave me alone and don't come looking for me for this time. It will be a different outcome if you do!"
Friday, 12th August 2016 6:51 PM NTT Bureau, Gangtok/Siliguri
What could have been a better way than this to protest against the government that has put an embargo on 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s visit to Sikkim? The Denjong Monastries Chogchen (DMC) quacked by the government’s deaf attitude towards a series of protest in the state capital over the issue Friday decided not to celebrate the Independence day thus giving the issue yet another thrust on the demand overlooked by the union government since decades. “In view to the clarion call of the Denjong Lhadey two weeks back, we the Denjong Monasteries Chogchen (DMC) have decided not to observe the ensuing Indian Independence Day on Aug 15, 2016 out of protest to the governments for not allowing our dharma Guru Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje to visit Sikkim,” said a press release issued by Sonam Gyurme Lama, chief coordinator of Samdong Monastery in Sikkim. The release further continued saying, “When our dharma itself is not at safe hand, there is no point in feeling proud on such occasion as this. When we are suffering, we cannot rejoice ourselves with such observation.” Denjong Lhadey a body of Buddhist monks in Sikkim - the official home of the 17th Karmapa - is on indefinite relay hunger strike since July 10 demanding the Karmapa’s early entry to Sikkim. Lama in the communiqué said it is very unfortunate to see the adamant stand of the Indian government which makes them feel regret to be an Indian. The erstwhile sovereign kingdom of Sikkim was incorporated to the Indian union in 1975 to be the 22 state in the country. “We request the Indian government to make our living in India easy and with dignity if it considers Sikkimese Buddhists as its citizens. It is very disgusting that it does not trust us and our dharma as Indian,” the press release added. The 17 Karmapa issue – demanding his entry into Sikkim- is set to embarrass the centre and the Sikkim state government led by five term chief minister Pawan Chamling. Opposition parties and a large section of influential Lepcha and Bhutia communities have joined hands demanding the Karmapa’s entry to Sikkim. Ogyen Trinley Dorje who is presently at Dharmasala in Himachal Pradesh is already endorsed by the Dalai Lama as the 17th Karmapa. Leaders crossing party lines and Buddhist monks in Sikkim have come under a platform to press the centre to allow the Karmapa to visit the state barring Rumtek the official seat of the Karmapa.
Above: The Monks at a hunger strike in Gangtok. File Picture
The centre has banned his entry into Sikkim. Opposition parties and the Buddhist monks now want the centre to allow him to visit any monastery in the state other than Rumtek. Sonam Lama the Sangha (seat reserved for Buddhist monks) MLA representing opposition Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) said, “It is due to the non-serious attitude of the state government the 17th Karmapa is not able to visit Sikkim”. Nar Bhadur Bhandari the former chief minister also blamed the state government for adopting ‘dual’ standard in regard to the Karmapa issue. Kunga Nima Lepcha, spokesperson of SKM said “The state government is politicizing the whole issue which is highly condemnable” It is really sad to see revered and venerable monks lying on the street with genuine demand, a press release issued by the SKM said. http://www.newstimetoday.com/karmapa-controversy-sikkim-monks-will-not-celebrate-i-day-1471008099
Today’s teachings represent two major firsts for the Gyalwang Karmapa: it is the first time he has taught a sutra of the Buddha, and it is the first time that he has given a course of teachings in Chinese. This event is taking place in the large conference hall of the Hyatt Hotel in Gurgaon where the stage has a simple wide couch with a brocade laid down the middle. Displayed on the screen behind the Karmapa is a golden image of the Buddha known as the Incense Cloud Buddha since through reciting his invocation, clouds of numerous appear, so in the Chinese tradition, he is often supplicated before a teaching. Afterward everyone recited the Vajradhara lineage Prayer and the Heart Sutra.
At the start of this teaching, the Karmapa remarked, “Today is the day India celebrates its independence, and we Buddhists are especially grateful to India as the Buddha’s teachings first arose and spread from here. On this significant day for the country, I would like to offer my deep respect as well as make a vast aspiration for the well-being and prosperity of all Indians.”
He reminded the over 700 people in attendance, who were mostly Chinese speaking, how fortunate they were to hear teachings on the Heart of Wisdom Sutra. He remarked that for a long time, he had had the aspiration to teach a sutra like this because in Tibet it is the commentaries that are usually taught and not the sutras themselves. He hoped that this teaching would be a start for such teachings and that in the future, he could teach the Diamond Cutter Sutra (Vajrachhedika), as it is very important but too long for this occasion. After these introductory words in Tibetan, the Karmapa began his teaching in Chinese.
In addition to commenting on the translations and translators of the Prajna Paramita sutras into Tibetan and Chinese, the Karmapa discussed from the sutra itself these lines: “Thus have I heard. At one time the Bhagawan [the Victorious One] was dwelling at Rajgriha on the Mountain Like Vultures together with a great Sangha of bhikshus and a great Sangha of bodhisattvas.”
He first turned to the translations of the Heart of Wisdom Sutra in Tibetan and Chinese. There were three translations into Tibetan, the most common of which was by Yeshe De in the eighth century. Of the eleven translations into Chinese, nine are still existent, and the most common of these is the one by Master Xuanzang in 260 words. This and Yeshe De’s translation belong to the extensive versions of the Prajna Paramita Sutras. What is the difference between an extensive and condensed version? The later focuses on the meaning itself and the former includes an introduction to the sutra giving its background (time, place, teacher, teaching, and retinue) and also a concluding part that emphasizes the merits of the sutra so that it would be popular and spread widely.
The Tibetan tradition has maintained the explanation of eight Indian scholars, among them the most important and well known was Vimalamitra’s. The two most popular versions are extensive ones; however, recently an old, condensed version in Tibetan was discovered in the Dun Huang area.
The Karmapa then turned to the title of the text, Prajñāparamitā Hṛdaya, as found in the Dung Huang version, translated by Fa Chan from Tufan. Why do we need a title for every sutra? The Lankavatara Sutra states that without a title, people would be confused, so the title helps to grasp the sutra’s meaning, just as in general we name things so they can be understood. In the case of a sutra, the title can reflect its content, or the number of verses or the questioner. There are many ways to name a sutra, and this Heart Sutra is named after its content.
The next topic was an explanation of the meaning of the title word by word. The Chinese has eight characters and in Sanskrit, the title is Prajñāparamitā Hṛdaya. Pra means “accurate” and jñā means “realization” or “perfection” while paramita means “arrived at the other shore.” Hṛdaya points to “the essence” or “the core.” Usually Prajñā is translated as “wisdom” but the word has been so overused that it tends to be confused with mundane intelligence; therefore, we will use here the great tripitaka master Yijing’s translation, “accurate realization” or “accurate perception,” which is closer to the Tibetan word sherab (shes rab, knowing + higher or superior).
The Karmapa then looked deeper into the meaning of the title. Accurate perception can mean “to cognize” or “to know.” There are three types of perception: (1) the mistaken perception of mundane beings; (2) the perception of the Listeners (shravakas) and the Solitary Realizers (pratyekabuddhas), who transcend the mundane world, and (3) the incomparable perception of the tathagatas. Here, it is the third type of prajna that is meant as the first two are not ultimate.
“Accurate” means “the best,” This type of knowing is far better than all the perceptions of the mundane or supreme beings; it refers to the Buddhas’ perception. How then do we classify the perception of all the great sacred beings and bodhisattvas, who have attained the bhumis (bodhisattva levels)? Their perception is the accurate perception of the third type, because it is similar to that of the tathagatas’. Another explanation for accurate perception does not classify it into worldly or not, but speaks of it as the wisdom arising from realizing emptiness.
Paramita refers to having arrived at the other shore, which here means “parinirvana,” whereas this shore means “samsara and nirvana.” Prajna is like a boat that can take those who are struggling in samsara to the other shore of nirvana. We can speak of two explanations for reaching the other shore: (1) an instrument or method allowing us to reach the other shore and (2) already having reached the other shore. The first one refers to those on the path of learning—the bodhisattvas who are moving up the (bhūmis) levels to buddhahood—so such accurate perceiving can lead one to the other shore; it’s the ability to reach the other shore, which would mean the eleventh bodhisattva level (bhūmi), the final fruition, the attainment of buddhahood. This explanation follows Chandrakirti’s Entering the Middle Way (Madhyamakāvatāra).
Usually, when we speak of prajna, we are talking about the realization of emptiness, but actually it can also mean the sutras on prajna, which refer to emptiness; the path of prajna, which is the Buddha’s wisdom; and the fruition of prajna, which refers to the Buddha’s vast omniscience. This one is the ultimate prajna, the ultimate other shore; the former two are not ultimate because one has not arrived at the other shore. This explanation comes from Dignaga’s Summary of the Meaning of the 8,000 Verses of the Prajnaparamita Sutra (Arya prajna paramita samgraha karika). To summarize, when we refer to prajna, we are mainly referring to the realization of emptiness, prajna as fruition.
The next topic concerned the translators of the sutra. Venerable Fa Chen from Tufan translated the sutra from Tibetan into Chinese using a sutra that was kept in the Dun Huang caves. Fa Chen was one of the rare masters who were fluent in Chinese and Sanskrit as well as Tibetan. He also translated texts, such as the Discourse on the Stages of Yogic Practice, Mahayana Mahaparamita Sutra, and others from Chinese into Tibetan as well as the important Commentary on the Explanation of the Profound Secrets by Master Xi Ming Yuan Che, which is the most essential text for Tibetans studying the the Mind Only School. It is also said that he translated Xuanzang’s Prajna Paramita sutras from Chinese to Tibetan. In brief, he was a rare and great scholar. One professor in the early years of the Republic of China, compared Fa Chen’s contribution to Tibet to that of Xuanzang’s to China.
The Karmapa then turned to the main text, which can be divided into eight sections: (1) the prologue, (2) the time, (3) the retinue, (4) the causes and conditions, (5) the question, (6) the answer, (7) the explanation, and (8) the rejoicing.
The prologue is the first line of the sutra, “Thus have I heard.” The Buddha has said that at the start of every sutra should be the words, “Thus have I heard.” “Thus” refers to the particular sutra, those who have assembled the sutra and heard all the content without adding anything or leaving anything out. “I” refers whoever has listened personally to the teachings and collected them.
Who is this person? Here we find different points of view. Many scholars believe that the Prajna Paramita Sutras were assembled by Manjushri. However, in a commentary on another sutra, Dignaga wrote that these sutras were collected by Vajrapani; and another point of view was expressed by Nagarjuna in his Fundamentals on the Middle Way, where he stated that all mahayana sutras were collected by Manjushri, Maitreya, and Ananda.
Another sutra quotes the Buddha as saying, “Ananda, you are my disciple who shows respect and makes offerings with your body, speech, and mind. If you respect me, you should also respect the Heart Sutra.” And the Buddha instructed Ananda to protect and take care of the Heart Sutra. According to the Tibetan tradition, the 28th and 32nd chapters of 8,000-verse version of the Prajna Paramita sutra record that the Buddha dictated the sutra to Ananda, and at least one scholar, Vimuktisena, agrees with this. Haribhadra also stated that Ananda assembled these teachings of the Buddha, while Bhāvaviveka in his Blaze of Reasoning (Tarkajvala) disagreed because he asserted that Ananda would have been unable to understand this [mahayana teaching].
However, we can consider Ananda to be the one, based on the reason cited earlier as well as on the text, the Great Dharma Drum, where the Buddhas requested Mahakashyapa to protect the mahayana sutras and Mahakashyapa put Ananda in charge of the first collection of Prajna Paramita sutras. In sum as one of those who heard the mahayana teachings, Ananda can be considered one of the people who assembled the mahayana sutras.
So there are different opinions as to who assembled the sutra: some say Vajrapani, some say Ananda, and others say Manjushri. Whom to ask? Perhaps they all together collected these sutras, so even if we find the name Manjushri, it does not mean that only he assembled the sutra.
The final opening word is “heard.” It refers to the teachings the disciples heard directly and reproduced verbatim. Important here is that these teachings were not related to them by someone else, but personally experienced. “Thus I have heard” actually refers to the entire teachings from “Thus have I heard” to the last lines of praise for the teaching.
The second of the eight sections of the sutra relates to time. “At one time the Bhagawan [the Victorious One] was dwelling at Rajgriha on the Mountain Like a Flock of Vultures.” Here “time” has two meanings: (1) Sutra has only been heard that one time and has not been repeated, so it shows the rarity of the event. In general about the number of times a teaching is given, it is said that if something is very important, the Buddha will say it three times. If someone still does not understand, then his guard, Vajrapani, will hit them with his vajra.
The collector of this teaching must have been very wise and have an excellent memory because only hearing the teaching once he remembered it in its entirety. (2) The time also refers to the perfect time that references also the perfect teacher, the perfect retinue, the perfect teaching, and the perfect place. These five are all present here.
As for the perfection of the teacher, the Bhagawan Buddha, Bhagawan has several meanings in Sanskrit, so the early translators left the word in the original. When there were multiple meanings, they did not translate the word. Bhagawan refers to (1) the Buddha, the perfection of the master; it also refers to (2) transcendence, meaning going beyond the two extremes of samsara and nirvana, and to (3) destruction, meaning destroying the four maras [the afflictions, fear of death, the aggregates, and attachment to pleasures]—what needs to be renounced or sent away.
Tibetan translates “Bhagawan” as chom den de (bcom ldan ‘das) and it refers to both transcendence and destruction. Bhagawan is also used widely in India to refer to different gods, and so the Tibetan has ‘das which gives the meaning of “passing beyond” the worldly gods.
Of the five perfections, the prefect place here is Rajgriha, which was the old capital of Magadha. In the olden days, they had trouble with fires and so the king proclaimed to all his subjects that if anyone should start a fire, that person would have to move to a remote and cold place in the kingdom. It so happened that the first fire started in the king’s own palace, so he had to move, and the new place was named Rajgriha, “the king’s sacrifice.”
In his treatise on Prajnaparamita (the Mahaprajnaparamita Shastra), Nagarjuna gave two reasons for the name. The first refers to a king who had a son with a special appearance: he had one head, two faces, and four arms. When he grew up, he was very strong and a good fighter, so he overthrew 18,000 kings, who came under the rule of Magadha. This prince was called Rajgriha.
Another reason relates to the story of a king who supported the sacrifice of animals in debate with Brahmin priests, and due to this, his body slowly sunk beneath the ground. When the prince became king, he did not want to stay in the place where his father died, so he decided to move his capital to a place around five mountains and called it Rajgriha.
The Heart Sutra mentions both Rajgriha and the Mountain Like a Flock of Vultures so that both types of disciples lay and ordained, are included. They all gathered together there at the mountain. Further, Nagarjuna’s treatise gives two reasons for why the mountain is so named. Firstly the mountain is shaped like vultures, and secondly, south of Rajgriha is a cemetery, where many vultures go to feed on decomposing corpses and then fly back to the mountain. Other sutras explain that bodhisattvas from many different realms gathered on this mountain like a flock of vultures to listen to the Buddha teach the Heart Sutra.
The next of the five perfections treats the perfection of the retinue, which consists of bodhisattvas and mahasattvas. The 8,000-verse sutra relates that the great masters and the retinue all gathered together in great numbers and served as witnesses for the teaching of the sutra. Their presence makes believable what was explained and also makes the sutra more complete. The ordained Sangha that was present is not an ordinary fully ordained Sangha but one made of up Arhats who have attained realization, so they are called great beings or mahasattvas.
Sangha refers to the gathering of at least four bhikshus. In Sanskrit, Sangha means “a community that could not be spilt by an external force.” It is a harmonious group that is united and not easily split into schisms by external forces.
Bodhisattva means “enlightened beings,” and the Tibetan translation refers to their courage with the word dpa’ bo or “hero” since they have courageously gone in pursuit of the fruit of Buddhahood. Maha means “great.” One sutra mentions that the bodhisattvas are focused on the vast numbers of living beings and at the same time they have tremendous perseverance and seven special abilities, so they are considered great.
The next words are “having come together,” so the great masters and the retinue all have come together. Earlier we saw that in order for the sutra to be explained, many causes and conditions had to come together, so this occasion is rare and precious. It is also rare to find and be able to rely on a master. But I feel that if only the great masters are there, it is not enough, nor is it enough that the Buddha speaks perfectly on the sutra, because the audience is also important. If the audience is not perfect, what is the use of the perfect Buddha?
The time has to be perfect as well and it is not easy to find a perfect time, especially when people are so busy these days. To find the perfect time to listen to the Dharma is difficult. They say that the master is perfect and here we are at a five–star hotel, but perhaps Flock of Vultures Mountain is a better place. Usually when we go to a place of pilgrimage, we see it with our physical eyes, but actually the true place is the internal mountain, which is the perfect fruition of the Buddha. It is very beautiful but sadly we cannot see it.
In considering today’s explanation of the first part of the sutra, we should reflect on the idea that it is very rare to hear these teachings, so we need to cherish this opportunity. If not, we might miss it. We might think that we should experience mundane things first, such as our professional work or enjoying the riches of the world, and then later when we are older, we will practice. But this way of thinking is not correct, because death does not wait until you are old to arrive at your doorstep. You might die at any time.
If we cherish the Dharma and think of it as precious, we will immediately start training in it. The Kadampa masters have said that all Dharma is Dharma that should be practiced today; there is not one Dharma that is for tomorrow. We must not procrastinate but begin right away. Time will not wait for us; everything is impermanent.
In thinking of the five perfections, you might experience some feeling about them and cherish the Dharma. Otherwise you might have spent years studying but you have not been deeply touched by it. You might even think it’s useless. Therefore in many Tibetan aspiration sprayers, we find the line, “Right here and now as I’m meditating on this cushion, I want to become a Buddha.” You think that this is the only opportunity, and you are not waiting for another one in the future. You must practice immediately to become a Buddha in this lifetime.
A bodhisattva’s practice may seem vast, and the path may seem very long, but in actual fact we cannot use numbers to measure it. The accumulation of vast merit can happen in an instant. Infinite eons do not mean you have to practice and count eon after eon. Bodhisattvas can accumulate all kinds of merit, including infinite merit in a moment.
The session ended with everyone reciting the auspicious words of the Essence of the Moon (Chandragarbha), the Heart Sutra, and a dedication of merit in beautiful and cascading tones that filled the hall.
By Dominique Butet; images, Olivier Adam 2016-08-19
His Holiness the Karmapa in Paris, 2016
Our initial motive for documenting the lives of Tibetan Buddhist nuns through our photography stemmed from the fact that for many years, the Western world has largely ignored their very existence. Other aspects have since emerged that have enriched this documentary approach as the question of gender equality was being played out before our very eyes with regard to the gradual emancipation of nuns through improved access to education and progressive changes to their status in society.
A number of contemporary Tibetan masters have taken a personal interest in empowering Buddhist nuns and in doing so have become spokespeople, communicating the importance of this cause throughout the world. Among them is His Holiness the Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, head of the Kagyu lineage, who we had the honor of meeting in Bodh Gaya, India in February. His Holiness overwhelmed us with the strength of his presence and won us over with the undeniable sincerity of his attention, patience, and commitment to supporting the cause of Tibetan nuns.
Dominique Butet: Why are you so deeply involved with the feminine cause?
His Holiness the Karmapa: The main thing, in terms of Buddhist teachings, is that men and women are the same. They have the same ability and the same opportunity to uphold the teachings of Buddhism. So looking at it in this way, I want to give the nuns this opportunity.
DB: What are your thoughts on the present situation for Tibetan Buddhist nuns?
HHK: Of course, a lot of progress has been made already. For example, support for the nuns is becoming much stronger, in particular support for their livelihood—that’s really a big deal. In the past, many nunneries in Tibet didn’t receive much support from laypeople and the nuns had to beg for everything. Now the situation is getting much better.
Also, in terms of education, the nuns are now able to study Buddhist texts and philosophy, which is a great advance—especially in India and Nepal, where they are about to receive the first Geshema degrees.*
What still needs improvement is, first of all, leadership. The nuns need to develop the ability to direct and lead themselves; to be able to provide their own leadership. Right now, monks provide a lot of leadership, and the [Geshema] classes are being taught by monks. In the future, nuns will be able to stand on their own two feet! Nuns who have completed the Geshema degree will themselves be able to teach other nuns.
The second difficulty for the nuns is the question of full ordination. This question has been discussed for more than 20 years, with a lot of meetings and talks. Now many people are saying that it’s time to actually put it into practice. So my hope and my encouragements are that we can create a situation where [full ordination] can happen quickly within Tibetan society.
DB: Could you explain why the lineage of fully ordained nuns died out in the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya?
HHK: I think that there probably were communities of nuns in Tibet. They were established there but then later died out. The reasons why that happened are not clear, so it’s really hard for me to explain much about that. In any case, we would like to start the process of reviving the bhikshuni ordination next year—first within the Kagyu lineage. We had hoped to begin this year but it didn’t work out, so we will try to begin next year.
DB: At the Winter Dharma Gathering for nuns in Bodh Gaya last year, you said that the nuns would first receive the “vows of going forth,” then novice vows, and then “training vows”. Finally, in the fourth year, they would be given the bhikshuni vows. Who could confer these vows?
HHK: Actually there are three different ways we could follow: the first way would be for members of the bhikshu sangha to confer the vows. The second would be to have members from both the bhikshu and bhikshuni sanghas offering the vows. As there is no community of bhikshuni within the Tibetan tradition, we could invite bikhshuni from the Chinese Buddhist tradition, while the sangha of bhikshu would be representatives from the Tibetan tradition. In that way, we could have a dual-sangha ordination. In the third option, we could invite members from the bhikshu and bhikshuni sanghas of the Chinese tradition.
Of these three different methods, the one that has been chosen is the second because it is more in tune with the Vinaya. So we will invite a sangha of Chinese bhikshuni because in the Chinese tradition there is a lineage of bhikshuni vows. I think this would also be a nice way to restore the connection between the two sanghas within the different traditions—by bringing them together to cooperate, I think it will give more power to the full ordination of the nuns and will be very beneficial for all. As most of the nuns who will be taking ordination are Tibetan and Himalayan, I think they’ll have more confidence by taking the vows within the Tibetan tradition. And Tibetan society will also be more accepting of full ordination by having bhikshu of the Tibetan tradition involved.
DB: In Bodh Gaya this year, you mentioned that you would like to set up a common monastic college, or shedra, for Buddhist nuns. Could you tell us more about that?
HHK: Sixteen years ago, I came to India. And actually in these 16 years I haven’t been able to get a real residence of my own. My own personal situation is difficult; it’s mixed up with politics and other difficulties, and it’s sometimes hard for me to accomplish all my wishes exactly as I would like. So even if I wanted to build a shedra by myself it might be difficult. The main thing is that there are many nuns who are Indian citizens and I think that if they take on the responsibility and build a shedra, then it will be possible. Sure, we have many shedras within different nunneries, but it’s not like bringing all the energies together. As you know, it’s difficult to get enough teachers to teach the nuns. So if we had an institute for the nuns, we could give them a place where they would be able to study at a higher level. But it is not just a question of nuns; there are many other women who want to study the Dharma, so thisshedra would be a place for all women to study.
DB: You saw the nuns debating a few weeks ago—what do you think of their ability?
HHK: It has been three or four years since I first saw them debating. The nuns were really beginners at that time—in the first year, there only were one or two who actually knew how to debate. In the second year it was a little bit better, and in the third year I noticed incredible improvements in terms of confidence as well as in the logic they used for debating. So when we saw this progress, we were very, very happy. I’m now sure that the nuns will further raise their level very quickly.
DB: How do you see the future for Buddhist nuns in the Tibetan tradition?
HHK: In Tibetan society we talk a lot about interdependence, we could also say circumstances or auspicious connections. Since we began working with the nuns, all of the connections have turned out very well, and because of this I have developed great confidence and courage. In the future, I’m sure that the teachings of the nuns will flourish.
DB: Your Holiness, thank you for your time and attention.
The Karmapa’s hopeful conclusion and optimism resonated within our hearts and minds for a long time after we took our leave, and we were reminded of a paragraph from His Holiness’ book The Heart Is Noble: Changing the World from the Inside Out:
“We need to recognize that the most important qualities of today are those that most societies consider as being ‘feminine:’ communication, listening to the needs of others. The coming era will be more ‘feminine’ and women will make a greater contribution.”
His Holiness the Karmapa has been able to accommodate and overcome many obstacles and difficulties related to living in exile; he knows how to meet each day and rejoice in daily life, and is fully committed to wearing the colors of the feminine future.
For the benefit of all sentient beings!
HH the Karmapa in Bodh Gaya, March 2016
* The Geshe (feminine: Geshema) is a Tibetan Buddhist academic degree for monastics, emphasized primarily by the Gelugpa lineage of Vajrayana Buddhism, but also awarded in the Sakyapa school. It is equivalent to a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy and is awarded after a 17-year course of study. Until recently, the qualification was only open to monks.
Olivier Adam is a freelance photographer and teaches photography in Paris. He is a contributor to various magazines and works regularly for The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama as a photographer during the Dalai Lama’s visits to Europe.
Dominique Butet is a teacher and a journalist. After meeting Olivier Adam in 2010, she joined his project to document the daily lives of Buddhist nuns across the Himalayas. Dominique contributes to various media outlets, and in 2016 co-wrote a book on meditation for children, Yupsi le petit dragon.
The session began with an invocation to Incense Cloud Buddha, whose golden image beamed down from the screen above the stage. This is the traditional Chinese way to begin all teachings, because when Incense Cloud Buddha lights his incense all the buddhas are summoned to listen to the teaching. Another feature of these study sessions is the recitation of the Heart Sutra in Chinese, sung to a particular musical style known as the Ocean’s Wave: a rolling, rhythmic chant, with descant and alto harmonies, peaceful and soft like the motion of gentle waves on the surface of the ocean.
Previously, in the opening session, the Karmapa had delineated the eight sections of the sutra and commented on the first three: the prologue, the time and the retinue. He now moved on to explore the section on the necessary causes and conditions.
To begin with, however, he gave more details of the story concerning the origin of the name Rajagriha, which some interpret as meaning ‘Rajah’s Sacrifice’. The name of the rajah or king who insisted on animal sacrifice was Vasu. Vasu was a lay Brahmin, but growing tired of the world, he took ordination.
One day, however, a dispute arose between ordained Brahmins and lay Brahmins. The lay Brahmins maintained that sacrificing animals and eating the meat were an essential part of the ritual as set down in the scriptures. The ordained Brahmins contested this strongly. Finally, the latter suggested they consult the ordained Rajah to adjudicate in the matter. But that night the lay Brahmins secretly went to see Vasu, and asked for his support. So, the following day, when the ordained Brahmins asked Vasu whether it was right to kill animals during sacrificial ceremonies, he replied that ritual sacrifice was in accord with the Vedic scriptures and therefore they should. The ordained Brahmins were shocked and asked for Vasu’s own personal view. Vasu replied, “In my opinion, a sacrificial ceremony for the gods must include the sacrifice of animals, but after their deaths they will be reborn in the heaven realm. “
The ordained Brahmins were very angry. They scolded him, called him a liar and even spat at him. Then they cursed him, and immediately Vasu sank into the ground up to his ankles. The Brahmins gave him a second chance. Again they questioned him, but again he said that of course animals should be sacrificed, and he sank up to his knees in the ground. This question and answer continued, until, finally, only Vasu’s head was visible above ground.
The Brahmins gave him one last chance. They urged him to admit that he was wrong, tell the truth, and they would still be able to save him, but Vasu reflected on the humiliation that would entail, and also on the Vedic texts which praised the sacrifice of animals to the gods. So, with his last breath, he maintained once more that sacrificing animals is not a crime. The ordained Brahmins said that they never wanted to see him again, and he disappeared below the ground.
As a consequence, his son moved the capital of the kingdom. It also became the custom before slaughtering sacrificial animals to tell them to lay the blame on Vasu, and this practice still continued at the time of Nagarjuna [c.150-250 CE].
Section 4: The Causes and Conditions which led to the teaching of the Heart Sutra At that time the Bhagavan entered the samadhi called Profound Light. At that same time, the noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, looking into the practice of the profound perfection of wisdom, saw that the five aggregates by their nature were empty.
His Holiness commented that at the beginning of all sutras there is a common epigraph. This section, however, is the specific prologue explaining the causes and conditions which led to this particular sutra. “At that time” refers to the point in time where the Buddha entered samadhi before he began his teaching. Because the Buddha was able to recognise that the positive karma of all those present had ripened, he knew it was the right time to teach the Dharma, and for that reason “he entered the samadhi called Profound Light.”
The word profound, His Holiness explained, refers to the ultimate emptiness. Vimalamitra asserted that emptiness is referred to as profound because it transcends all extremes of experience. Similarly, in the Perfection of Wisdom in 8000 Lines [Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra] it is stated that “Profound Light” means emptiness. It adds: “Prajñāpāramitā is profound; hard to see and hard to explain.” From this one can see that it is profound because it has transcended concepts and language.
Vasabandhu in his Daśabhūmika-sūtra uses the terms profound silence, profound nirvana, profound emptiness, and so forth. In total, he gives nine explanations for the use of the word profound.
Buddha usually rests in samadhi, the Karmapa continued, and would remain in that state, so there was no need for him to enter into samadhi. The Buddha appears to enter into samadhi from the point of view of other beings. He manifests as entering into samadhi in order to enable the retinue, whose main teacher was Avalokiteshvara, to understand profound emptiness and to understand his thoughts, his intentions and his world. Normally, except for Buddhas, other sentient beings would be unable to understand the Buddha’s thoughts, even the bodhisattvas, but the Buddha has a special power of blessing so that people can share his thoughts. The Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya Vastu states that even ants and insects were able to share the Buddha’s thoughts by this power.
“Samadhi” means a state of focused concentration: letting the mind rest in silence through the power of concentration and mindfulness so the meditator is undistracted by the external environment. The mind is clear, stable and able to rest evenly on an object.
In the Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra, it is mentioned that samadhi is the source of all merit in both Mahayana and Theravada traditions. Vasubhandu in his Abhidharmakośa stated that keeping vows leads to rebirth in the heavenly realms but meditation will lead to liberation.
“Without samadhi,” the Karmapa commented, “you cannot even escape this desire realm, much less attain liberation.”
His Holiness then explored the many different meanings of the Sanskrit term dharma. First of all, it has the meaning of maintaining, and can refer to the maintenance of all phenomena, as they have a self-sustaining nature. Here it refers to the Buddha’s true dharma, a special ability to maintain or sustain itself.
There are many different types of dharma, for example the Two Truths, the Four Noble Truths, the Threefold Training, and so on. But the dharma referred to here is the true dharma of samadhi, and a particular type of samadhi, the practice of profound transcendent wisdom.
The sutra says “at that same time.” Not only is the Buddha concentrating on profound emptiness but Avalokiteshvara has also entered that state. At the very moment that the Buddha entered samadhi, simultaneously Avalokiteshvara entered that state.
Avalokiteshvara is described as “a bodhisattva mahasattva” which means that he is a great bodhisattva who has attained level eight or above in the bodhisattva levels.
…the noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, looking into the practice of the profound perfection of wisdom, saw that the five aggregates by their nature were empty.
“Avalokiteshvara saw the true nature of the five aggregates which is emptiness,” His Holiness stated. “This suggests that if practitioners in later generations are able to see the true nature of the five aggregates as being empty, their wisdom [prajna] will manifest.”
Section 5: The Question
Then through the power of the Buddha, the venerable Shariputra spoke these words to the noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva. “Son of a noble family, how should any son or daughter of a noble family train when they wish to practise the profound perfection of wisdom?”
Both the Buddha and Avalokiteshvara have entered samadhi and now will discuss emptiness, His Holiness observed. “Venerable” is a term of address which shows respect, he explained, and the name “Shariputra” means “the child of Shari.” Shari was his mother’s name, and means “the bird of 100 tongues.” Two explanations have been given for her name. One suggests that she had beautiful eyes like the bird. The other says that when she became pregnant with Shariputra she became very intelligent especially in debate, and so she was called Shari. Vimalamitra’s commentary on the Heart Sutra explains that Shariputra is addressed as venerable in recognition that he has cut through all obscurations.
Of Lord Buddha’s two main disciples, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, Shariputra excelled in wisdom, thus he was the natural candidate to ask the question on emptiness, but he asked the question “through the power of the Buddha.” Here, the Buddha’s power, out of the three powers of body, speech and mind, refers to the Buddha’s mind.
Then, having received the Buddha’s blessing, Avalokiteshvara, answered Shariputra’s question. This is a very important point because it shows that the Buddha’s sutras may not necessarily come from the Buddha himself, but they can still be the authentic words of the Buddha. The Karmapa now explored the claim from many Theravadan scholars that the Mahayana teachings are not the authentic words of the Buddha, but were composed by Nagarjuna. His Holiness suggested that this view can be challenged from both historical evidence and from the sutras in the Theravadan canon. In early Theravada Buddhism there were two main schools, the Sarvāstivāda and the Mahasanghika.
The Sarvāstivādins said that all the records of the words of the Buddha can be classified into twelve categories : sutras, poetic summaries, prophecies, discourses and verse, intentional statements, contextual accounts, testimonies of realisation, historical explanations, accounts of former lives, detailed explanations, wondrous discourses, and definitive explanations. The most important category to consider here is detailed explanation, which refers to vast content. The Mahasanghika had nine categories, which also included detailed explanation.
In an important, well-known text from the Theravadan Abhidharma Pitaka, the Heart Sutra is categorised as detailed explanation. Parsva, the elder who converted Asvaghosha to Buddhism and became his teacher, also assigned the Heart Sutra to the detailed explanation category.
Further evidence for the authenticity of Mahayana texts comes from references in Theravadan texts to terms linked with the Mahayana, for example the ten bhumis and the ten paramitas, which means that there must have been a source they were working from.
From the historical evidence, research by modern scholars dates the birth of the great master Nagarjuna to circa 150 C.E. and the earliest known translation of a Mahayana sutra, the Exalted Sutra on the Perfection of Wisdom, from Sanskrit into Chinese is dated 179 C.E. From these dates it is obvious that this sutra must have been in circulation in India before the birth of Nagarjuna. So it is possible to assert that Mahayana philosophy and texts were not created by Nagarjuna. This raises the further question of why Theravadan scholars would doubt their authenticity as the words of the Buddha. His Holiness suggested two key reasons:
• Mahayana teachings are very profound and difficult to understand, and have to be collected buy the great Bodhisattvas; • The content of Mahayana sutras is very vast, while the lifespan of beings in the human realm is limited and their memories are poor, so many of the sutras were assigned to the protection of the yakshas and heavenly beings and kept in the heavenly realms. The Theravadins were unaware of their existence.
In conclusion, His Holiness stated though the Heart Sutra was not spoken directly by the Buddha, it contains the Buddha’s blessings. Such blessings can be divided into three aspects, those of body, of speech and of mind. The Heart Sutra belongs to the blessings of the Buddha’s mind.
With this, the morning study session came to an end. “Now let’s talk about attaining Buddhahood,” the Karmapa remarked, as he began to put away his notes, and set the scene for the afternoon session.
This afternoon, the Karmapa continued to discuss the eight sections and focused on the fifth point, the question Shariputra posed:
Son of a noble family, how should any son or daughter of a noble family train when they wish to practice the profound perfection of wisdom?
The Karmapa narrowed his discussion to two phrases from this sentence: “son or daughter of a noble family” and the “wish to practice.” From the first, “son or daughter of a noble family” (in Sanskrit kulaputra and kuladuhitā), he selected the word family, which actually means “caste” in Sanskrit, while in a Buddhist context, it refers to those born into the mahayana who have become the Buddha’s child, hence son or daughter of the Buddha’s family or lineage. In a commentary on the Heart Sutras, Haribhadra states that “family” here indicates the qualities of being able to be enlightened, so “caste” refers to a person who can perfectly engage and practice that potential.
Even now it is an Indian custom to emphasize the cast system. Among themselves, members of certain castes will address each other as “Son or daughter of a noble family.” Since this type of polite address is part of an ancient Indian custom, Atisha states in his commentary on the Heart of Wisdom Sutra that “son or daughter of a family” refers to those who are focused on enlightenment: These individuals “wish to practice the profound perfection of wisdom” with the goal of becoming fully awakened. They have the aspiration to practice, but are not on the mahayana path as yet, though they have great respect for it and an aspiration to benefit living beings with a connection to the mahayana. Most of the commentators on this text believe that “noble family” or “caste” in this text refer to those born in the Buddha’s family or the mahayana family.
Different lineages define caste in different ways. There are also discussions of the four different types of noble beings—the Listeners, the Solitary Realizers, the Bodhisattvas, and the Buddhas. Further the mahayana, madhyadmaka, and mind-only schools define caste differently. There are also two basic ways of looking at caste through (1) the qualities we are born with and (2) the qualities that we develop.
The Karmapa then looked at the word desire, which he defined as “having hope for” or “wanting to do something.” What we usually know as desire and the desire referred to here in the sutra represent two different emotions or states of mind. In Buddhism, there is a special term for what is understood as an insatiable desire or covetousness. In the abhidharma, desire is set apart and defined differently from covetousness. Desire is a simple wanting, a wish for something but covetousness is a strong clinging to worldly things that cannot be released or given up. Nevertheless we are often unable to differentiate between these two and meld them together. The object of desire is vast and not limited to worldly things or even to the Dharma. The object of covetousness is solely for worldly things, the various kinds of enjoyments related to the senses or between two people.
Merely wanting the Dharma, therefore, would not be covetousness and to want something might not bring suffering either. For example, wanting to benefit others will not bring pain or suffering. On the other hand, covetousness is guaranteed to produce suffering. In brief, desire is more neutral, it can be good or bad, and covetousness is definitely an affliction. Desire is more pure and covetousness is negative. We should not, however, think about desire in too complicated a way, for then it can transform into covetousness, so just think of it simply.
The Karmapa then brought up the term practice. The sutra states: “…practice the profound perfection of wisdom.” Most Buddhists this word a lot. What does it mean? It is hard for us to grasp its true meaning and there are a number of ways to define it. Some writers interpret the term based on the characters themselves and say practice means, “to correct one’s conduct.” Others say it refers to spiritual practice and others think of it as a way to communicate with gods, ghosts, and bodhisattvas.
To look into the meaning, we need to divide the Chinese word into its two characters: Xiu meaning “to repair, correct,” or “to make right,” and Xing meaning “practice, conduct,” or “walk.” Xing comes first in Tibetan (cho pa, spyod pa) and is followed by Xiu (che pa, spyad pa), so the order is reversed from the Chinese. What does this important word Xing mean? It means, “to use prajna (wisdom) to realize profound emptiness.”
The mahayana sutras often speak of three aspects to the Dharma: the ground, path, and fruition. “Ground” refers to the theoretical foundation or the view; “path” refers to the wisdom that recognizes the foundation; and “result” points to the result of this wisdom.
The key point explicated in the Heart Sutra is emptiness, which is the ground of the sutra. But if we look at the text of the sutra, we will see that Shariputra did not ask about emptiness; rather, he asked how does someone practice who wants to practice the profound prajna paramita? His question comes from the point of view of the path; it is based on the path, rather than on the ground or theory.
Why does Shariputra not ask directly about emptiness? Many people come to ask me such direct questions. “What is the nature of our mind?” “What is pointing out the nature of mind?” “Can you point it out to us directly?” They do not ask how to train in or how to realize the nature of mind. They just want me to point it out to them directly. They say, “I do not have enough time to practice. Can you just show it to me?”
Why does Shariputra not ask directly about emptiness but how to train in it? The first reason is that the ground, which is the essence of the mahayana, and the practice of mahayana are intimately connected. As a mahayana practitioner, we need to practice mahayana theory or thought. In other words, we must use the mahayana path to experience the mahayana ground. This means that theory and practice cannot be separated. Often we think that theory is theory and practice is practice and they are not linked at all. We should not think, however, that the Buddha’s theory is a kind of thinking, something conceptual.
Mahayana practice is to experience and realize mahayana emptiness. So Shariputra asked Avalokiteshvara how to train in mahayana method, how to develop and allow mahayana wisdom to manifest. Avalokiteshvara responded from emptiness itself. This indicates that for this wisdom to manifest, one has to completely realize emptiness.
Many students ask me, “I want to have my wisdom manifest.” Or “I’m very stupid, can you make me wiser?” People think that I can do a surgery, open up their brain and insert something like a memory card so they will become very smart. For our wisdom to manifest, the most important thing is our view. If you have the right view, then wisdom will gradually manifest. Without an accurate view or ground, wisdom is not likely to come forth. And we cannot use our mundane intelligence, because it does not resemble true wisdom and does not go deep enough. For true wisdom to manifest, you need the right view.
Here, Shariputra is asking from the point of view of wisdom and Avalokiteshvara is answering from the point of view of emptiness. The emptiness is the object and the subject is consciousness; it is similar to the relationship of a pillar (the object) and the eye consciousness (the subject) that perceives it.
In the first session, we mentioned different kinds of prajna or wisdom. The path prajna refers to the question posed by Shariputra and the nature prajna refers to Avalokiteshvara’s response in explaining profound emptiness. This concludes the discussion of the first reason why Shariputra did not ask about emptiness but wanted to know how to train in prajna.
The second reason relates to the relationship of theory and practice. As a disciple of Buddha Shakyamuni, our focus should not emphasize theory too much, but place more emphasis on how to put theory into practice. When we’re too focused on theory, our brains can get a little strange; slowly a gap will develop between the Dharma and our practice. Questions will crowd our mind. So we have to use the theories and put them in to practice, not just keep them in our heads. We need to use our mind to truly experience the philosophy and then we can clarify our doubts. Putting these ideas in to practice is the best way to clear away our doubts. Therefore, Shariputra asked how to practice and not for an explanation of emptiness.
In the Heart Sutra, we are taught a method to help us work on our mind. What is important is whether or not your mind has been worked on. If we have read many sutras and yet our minds have not changed at all or improved some, then that is a real pity. It is so sad that it makes you want to cry. In another sutra, it is said that theory and thought are but methods that allow us to develop or manifest our wisdom.
The third reason for Shariputra’s question relates to a text of Maitreya, the Ornament of Clear Realization which is highly regarded in Tibet and which treats topics such as the eighteen types of emptiness and so forth. It suggests various ways to analyze emptiness and reveal what is not seen. There are numerous prajna paramita sutras in India; the longest is over three million words long, and then there are those with one hundred thousand verses, twenty thousand verses, eighteen thousand verses, eight thousand verses and many others. In China the longest and most complete Prajna Paramita sutra is the one in 600 fascicles or volumes translated by Xuanzang; there are also the sutras in one hundred thousand and twenty-five thousand verses plus others.
All the sutras present emptiness; they show the stages of realizing it, beginning with an ordinary mind and going all the way to buddhahood. There are many different sutras, different levels of detail and different numbers of verses. The complete stages leading to emptiness can only be found in the longer sutras, such as those in ten or eight thousand verses. The Diamond Sutra and Heart Sutra are shorter, and although they do suggest how to practice emptiness and develop wisdom, they do not relate the process in detail; there is no blueprint on how to become a buddha.
In brief, what we need to know is that the word Xiu means that we need to correctly train our mind. How do we redress or correct our mind? We continue to understand the theory of emptiness but we do not stop there; the theory has to have some effect on our mind. Xing means that we need to train our mind with the method of understanding emptiness. We use the wisdom from understanding emptiness to train our mind. Emptiness is not just theory; we have to make the understanding of emptiness part of our daily lives.
Maitreya outlines three different activities of a bodhisattva but these would be difficult for a beginner, so someone starting out on the bodhisattva path can practice the ten Dharma activities: (1) writing out the letters of the Dharma; (2) making offerings; (3) listening to the Dharma; (4) being generous, (5) reading the Dharma; (6) memorizing the Dharma; (7) explaining the Dharma; (8) reciting the Dharma; (9) contemplating the Dharma; and (10) meditating on the meaning of the Dharma. Tonight we will start together with practicing the first one, writing out the letters, and write out a copy of the Heart Sutra.
Buddhism has many different methods of practice, but if we do not practice diligently, then they are useless. As was mentioned earlier, the Kadampa masters said that all Dharma needs to be practiced today. We need the attitude of, “Right now is my chance. This very moment I will create my future.” If we do not work hard to understand the mahayana way of thinking, then even if the Dharma is very effective, it will have no impact on us at all.
Following the meaning of the term Xiu Xing, we now know that we should diligently try to understand emptiness. You have come from far and spent money to be here and receive this explanation of the Heart Sutra. The most important thing is that when you return home, you must continue to work hard on getting to know emptiness. This is the true way to practice the Heart Sutra.
Following the advice of the Gyalwang Karmapa to practice the ten Dharma Activities, this evening everyone gathered again in the main hall to practice the first one: writing out the letters of the Dharma. On the tables in front of every cushion was an elegant, accordion-pleated book. It contained facsimiles of the Karmapa’s calligraphy in Chinese, including the Heart Sutra and the Praises of the Thirty-Five Buddhas. The texts had been screened so that the letters appeared in a soft shade of grey, giving a model to be copied over with the calligraphy pen set next to the book.
For over an hour the hall was filled with the spacious melody of a classical stringed instrument and the feeling of intense concentration as one nun reminded people to write from their heart. Part way through, the Karmapa entered the hall and walked down the main aisle, stopping now and then to look at people’s work. He took his seat on the stage and wrote out a copy of the sutra as well, giving a special blessing to the occasion.
While the whole country was celebrating its 70th Independence Day with fervour, monks in Sikkim celebrated it in a novel way; they celebrated it with black armbands. These black armbands were the sign of despair and discontent against alleged insensitivity and indifferent attitude of the government towards their demand, even after their hunger strike of more than a month.
The monks, supported by the Buddhist communities in the state, have been demanding that the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje should be allowed to visit Sikkim since soon his escape from Tibet in 2000 to India. Since then various cultural and political groups in the state have been raising their voice for it. The monks from different monasteries in the state organized a rally- ‘Peace and Aspiration rally’- in Gangtok on July 10, 2016. The government’s response was not a positive one; it ignored it completely. Reading from the first signs, Denzong Lhadey Tsopa, an organisation of the monks, had decided to fast till the demand was accepted.
Karmapa is the highest order in the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Majority of the Buddhists in Sikkim belong to this sect. Rumtek Monastery in East Sikkim is the abode of Karmapa. It was built by 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje in 1966 and was named as Pal Karmapa Densa Shed Drub Cho Khor Ling meaning ‘The seat of His Holiness The Gyalwa Karmapa’. Hence demands were raised to get permission for the 17th Karmapa to live in Rumtek Monastery. But there was a major problem in this demand.
Ogyen Trinley Dorje supported by Tibetan religious head Dalai Lama is not the only one who claims to be Karmapa. Trinlay Thaye Dorje who came to India in 1994 from Tibet because of the threat from the Chinese government is also another candidate for the post. His candidature is no less than the Ogyen Trinley because he is supported by Shamar Rinpoche, the second highest rank in the Kagyu monk’s hierarchy. The disagreement about the real 17thKarmapa has reached judiciary and is presently subjudice.
The monks and Buddhists in Sikkim consider Ogyen Trinley Dorje as the original 17thKarmapa. But now the matter is subjudice, they changed their demand from reinstating Ogyen Trinley Dorje as the 17th Karmapa to permit him to visit Phodong or Ralang Monastery for the Drukpa Tsheshi prayers instead of Rumtek monastery. Drukpa Tsheshi is one of the important Buddhist festivals in the state. Since this demand was also ignored, lamas who were in hunger strike since 10 July are now demanding that he should be allowed to visit any place that the government suggest at the least. The issue of Karmapa visit to Sikkim became one of the major political issues in the State. By and large every political party in the state promised that they will bring him to Sikkim in every election since the year 2000. State legislative Assembly election in 2014 was no way different. The issues is more important for the candidates who are contesting for Sangha seat. Article 371 (f) of the Indian constitution gives space for the Sangha seat to give monks representation in the governance of the State. Only the monks from different monasteries of Sikkim can vote for Sangha candidates. Needless to say, the trusts of monks on the candidate in bringing Karmapa greatly influences their choice while voting. Moreover, the adequate numbers of voters from Buddhist communities make the issue undeniable for any political outfits in the State.
In 2014, State Legislative Assembly passed two resolutions urging the Central government to allow Ogyen Trinley’s visit to Sikkim.
But the present contradiction between the monks and the state government is about the place of his visit. According to the protesting lamas the government is trying to confuse and manipulate the situation by requesting Central government to allow Ogyen Trinley to visit Rumtek Monastery. While knowing that this could not be achieved because the case is in the judicial process, such insistence by the government has desolated the monks. Moreover, rather than heeding to the grievances of the citizens, those in power are adding into their misery by eschewing the issue. Various Bhutia Lepcha Buddhist organisations of Sikkim and a Joint Action Committee (for restoration of Democracy in Sikkim) submitted the memorandums on 10 and 11 august respectively to the Governor requesting him to look into the matter. To date no reply has been received from the gubernatorial office.
While governor maintained the silence and ignored the issue, representatives from the government visited the protestors on 11th August 2016. But the insensitivity and callousness attitude of the government towards their demand was increasingly leading to desperation. The protesters have been sitting on a hunger strike since 33 days in the Bhutia-Lepcha House in the Tibet road, Gangtok. According to the protestors when the ministers visited them they had shown concern on water and electric supplies in the BL house than discussing the issue for which they were protesting.
However, even such attitudes of the authorities could not deter the monks from their steadfast protest. And on 15th of August more monks joined them to celebrate Independence Day with a black armband. They are now planning to the march towards the Nathula, Indo-Chinese border and one of the favorite tourist spot in Sikkim, if authorities continued such attitudes. And for the government the need of an hour is that it should understand the situation and start the real dialogue with these monks rather than beating around the bush.
(Ugen Bhutiya is a Doctoral Fellow at the Department of History, Sikkim university. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )
His Holiness began the fourth session of his commentary on the Heart Sutra by reviewing the topics that had been covered in the previous sessions and then resumed his commentary on Section Five, the question:
Son of a noble family, how should any son or daughter of noble family train, when they wish to practise the profound transcendent wisdom?
The Karmapa skilfully explained how what appears to be one question actually encompasses all aspects of the practice of the Mahayana from the beginning of the path to the attainment of buddhahood. Shariputra appears to ask how someone who wants to practise diligently should train, but there are in fact five questions embedded in this one question.
• What mind-set is needed in order to cultivate or familiarise ourselves with prajna pāramitā (the perfection of wisdom)? • What kind of conduct or actions should we carry out in order to cultivate or familiarize ourselves with prajna pāramitā? • What kind of direct realisation should we attain in order to cultivate or familiarize ourselves with prajna pāramitā? • Which method of practice should we use? • What realisations are necessary in order to cultivate and familiarize ourselves with prajna pāramitā?
These five questions correspond to the five paths, so Shariputra is actually asking how a bodhisattva should practise on the path of accumulation, the path of joining, the path of seeing, the path of cultivation, and the path of no more learning.
The Vajradhara Lineage Prayer expresses the wish: “Throughout all my lives, may I not be separate form the perfect lama. Perfecting the qualities of the paths and levels, may I quickly attain the state of Vajradhara.” The paths are the five paths and the stages are the ten bhumis (levels) of the bodhisattvas who have directly realised emptiness. His Holiness clarified that the difference between the five paths and the ten levels is one of scope. The former is broader and includes ordinary bodhisattvas, whereas the ten bhumis, because they are based on the realization of emptiness, are limited to those who have realized emptiness.
The five paths are graduated and followed sequentially from the very beginning until the attainment of buddhahood. In addition, within each path there are stages: the path of accumulation has three stages (lesser, middling, and greater), the path of joining has four stages ((heat, peak, forbearance, highest dharma), the path of seeing has sixteen stages (or moments), and the path of cultivation consists of the ten bhumis.
Avalokiteshvara’s answer is the sixth section of the sutra. When Avalokiteshvara answers Shariputra’s question, there are in fact eleven different replies in accordance to the different abilities of his audience.
Though the audience listening to the Heart Sutra had higher mental faculties, His Holiness commented, there were still different capabilities, so the answer was given in two sections. The first part was intended for those with lesser capabilities, and the second part was for those with higher capabilities. The second part included the secret mantra itself, which contains all the key points for those of the highest level, who would be able to understand everything directly through a few words. Avalokiteshvara’s answers correspond to the five embedded questions. The first two of the five questions on the mind-set and conduct have only one answer:
…Any son or daughter of noble family who wants to practise profound transcendent wisdom should view it in this way.
Simply put, His Holiness commented, this refers to all who have the right to listen to the prajna pāramitā teachings and who want to practise. To “view it in this way” means to use four types of meditation to closely examine all phenomena.
The third question on the direct realisation necessary to cultivate transcendent wisdom has an answer in five parts, which relate to these five sections of the text as follows:
(1) “They should view the five aggregates correctly as naturally empty. Form is emptiness; emptiness is form.” (2) “Emptiness is none other than form; form is none other than emptiness.” (3) “In that way, all phenomena are emptiness without characteristics, unborn, unceasing, without stains, and without freedom from stains, without decrease and without increase.” (4) “Therefore, in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, no perception, no formation and no consciousness, no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body and no mind, no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, and no dharmas. There is no dhatu of the eyes, no dhatu of the mind, up to no dhatu of consciousness. There is no ignorance and no extinction of ignorance, up to no ageing and death and no extinction of ageing and death.” (5) “Likewise, there is no suffering, no origin, no cessation and no path…” The fourth question, on the method of practice, has a two-part answer: (1) “Since bodhisattvas have nothing to attain, they abide relying on the perfection of wisdom.” (2) “Since their mind is free of obscuration, they have no fear; completely transcending all error, they reach the perfection of nirvana.” The final question, about the necessary realizations, has a three-part answer: (1) “By relying on the perfection of wisdom, all the Buddhas abiding in the three times come to the unsurpassable, authentic and complete awakening of manifest, perfect buddhahood.” (2) “Unsurpassable.” (3) “Authentic”
The Karmapa reiterated the importance of shamatha (calm abiding) meditation on the path, and detailed the four stages of shamatha meditation, as defined in the Sutra of the Explanation of the Profound Secrets. These should be practised in sequence.
The first stage, called reflection with concept, belongs to the path of accumulation and is aimed at beginners. Beginners need to extensively absorb, listen and contemplate Mahayana thought and to examine, analyse and affirm the various distinctions and logic. Such a process requires analytical ability, and for this reason it is called “discriminating.”
The second stage, reflection without concept, belongs to the path of joining. The practitioner now practises their meditative concentration without analysis, so it is known as “non-discriminating.”
In the third stage, through meditative concentration and powerful analysis, the practitioner is able to directly experience emptiness. At this point the practitioner’s meditative concentration is the union of shamatha and vipashyana (insight), and is called the path of seeing because the practitioner has seen emptiness directly for the first time, and consequently becomes a noble being. Subsequently the wisdom gained from seeing emptiness is maintained on the path of cultivation.
This stage of meditation is known as the object of the extreme of things, because on the path of seeing and on the path of cultivation the meditator is able to see the true nature of all things, the emptiness (extreme) of all phenomena (objects).
With ceaseless practice, the meditator ultimately attains buddhahood and their meditative concentration achieves the ultimate perfection. Because all that has to be done has now been accomplished, this final stage of meditation is known as the object of the accomplishment of all things.
“However,” His Holiness quipped, “it doesn’t mean that you can retire. There is a saying: Our samsara is a small samsara, but Buddha’s samsara is the big samsara…Buddha can never leave samsara because he is in samsara to benefit sentient beings. Samsara is his office.”
“Why then would we want to become a buddha?” His Holiness asked. “Because for ordinary beings, when we want to benefit others, we may not always be able to do so. Bodhisattvas are able to do so most of the time but not always. Buddhas can succeed in benefiting others all the time.”
His Holiness then summarised the five paths to buddhahood.
From the very beginning, hearing and contemplation is vitally important because we need to stabilise our understanding and knowledge of the Mahayana teachings. This is the path of accumulation. We then need to gradually cultivate our concentration in order to further analyse and examine what we have heard and contemplated. Then, through actual practice, we develop a deep understanding and experience.
This is the path of joining, preliminary to the path of seeing. Once the practitioner has a direct realization of emptiness that is stable, they have arrived at the path of seeing, and then they move along the stages of the path of cultivation, until they finally arrive at the path of no more learning.
“In Buddhism theory and practice should not be separated. We should first listen and contemplate and then put what we have learnt into practice,” he emphasised. “Practice deepens our understanding of what we have learned. The wisdom gained from listening is the recognition of the nature of the afflictions. The wisdom from contemplation is to know how to deal with these afflictions, and the wisdom from practice is to know how to further deal with the afflictions.”
Returning to the beginning of Avalokiteshvara’s answer, His Holiness explored the meaning of the first part of his response: (1) “They should view the five aggregates correctly as naturally empty….” The five aggregates are the very basis for our clinging to the sense of “I.”
In the second part of the first reply, the text states: “Form is emptiness; emptiness is form.” Form comes first because it is the container for the other four aggregates. Recognizing the emptiness of form eliminates the container of form, and then everything inside will be dispersed, the Karmapa explained.
The text continues with the emptiness of sensation, perception, and formation. The reference to the emptiness of sensation targets lay people, for whom enjoyment rules like a king. The emptiness of perception is aimed at the ordained, for whom there are different schools of thought, and based on these, they claims for the superiority of their particular school. Sensation and perception are two of the 51 mental factors. They have been selected because they are at the root of the problem. The other 49 factors belong to formation, and the fifth skandha is consciousness.
The second part of the first response reads: ”Form is emptiness; emptiness is form.” These two assertions are safeguards against falling into either of the two extremes of samsara or nirvana. Since sentient beings desire the enjoyments of form, they have fallen into samsara. To prevent them from falling into samsara, they have to be freed from their attachment to the enjoyments of form. However, someone who desires emptiness instead of form would fall into the other extreme of nirvana. An analogy is a blind person walking along a narrow path with a forbidden place on one side and a precipice on the other. If someone were to shout a warning, “Watch out to the left!” they would veer to the right and fall over the edge on the left side, and the same would be true for the other side. The only safe path is to keep to the middle.
The lines “Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. Emptiness is none other than form; form is none other than emptiness” explain the object of meditation for those on the path of joining. To say “form is empty” does not mean that form does not exist, but rather that form and all phenomena do not exist in the way that we experience them.
“Precisely because phenomena do not exist the way we experience them,” His Holiness commented, “they have the ability to manifest. They manifest because of dependent arising. From this perspective, we call it form. Whatever form we see is itself emptiness. Other than that there is no other emptiness, because the nature of form is empty, so to look at it from the point of view of its nature, it has never existed. Therefore, in actuality it doesn’t exist but appears to exist.”
To explain this situation, His Holiness used the analogy of the moon reflected in water: The water can clearly reflect the moon, but the actually water never had a moon within it. The image of the moon can appear clearly on the surface of the water, but it is not really there. Likewise, in dreams we see objects clearly but they, too, are not truly existent.
Many people misunderstand “empty” to mean non-existent, but this is not the case. The word empty in this context has a special, unique meaning, which makes it difficult to comprehend. His Holiness concluded by saying that he would continue the discussion of emptiness in the afternoon.
This afternoon the Karmapa continued to examine some of the points that he had talked about in the morning, when he focused on the lines of the sutra: “Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. Emptiness is none other than form; form is none other than emptiness.” Continuing from here, the sutra names the other four skandhas:
Likewise sensation, perception, formation, and consciousness are empty.
When Avalokiteshvara explained emptiness, he started with the five skandhas: form, sensation, perception, formation, and consciousness. Using modern terms, we can classify these into two categories: matter, the first skandha of form, and mind (or psychology), the remaining four. All phenomena fall into the categories of these five skandhas. In our daily lives, we focus on material things and also what is in our mind, so the five skandhas are related to our body (the physical) and mind (the mental).
The purpose of practicing emptiness is to remove our ignorance, or misunderstanding, based on our body and mind. And therefore, Avalokiteshvara explained to Shariputra that a practitioner needs to begin by analyzing their body and mind to see that both are indeed empty. Practice, therefore, is not something that we look for outside but we turn our minds inward to observe and analyze.
In the morning, we looked at Shariputra’s question in which was embedded five questions on how a bodhisattva should train. With the subcategories, these five were expanded to eleven, and Avalokiteshvara replied to them all.
With the lines, “Shariputra, any son or daughter of a noble family, when they wish to practice the profound perfection of wisdom, should look at it in this way…” Avalokiteshvara expresses how beginning bodhisattvas should train on the paths of accumulation and joining.
“They should see accurately that all skandhas are empty by nature,” shows that those on the path of seeing will see all phenomena as empty. There is not one phenomenon they do not see as empty. There is not one phenomenon for which they cannot recognize its empty nature.
From that line, through most of the sutra, up to “completely transcending all error, they reach the ultimate nirvana,” indicates that through this path, bodhisattvas gradually remove their intellectual obscurations and reach nirvana.
The following line is: “By relying on the perfection of wisdom, all the buddhas dwelling in the three times come to the unsurpassable, authentic, and complete awakening of manifest, perfect buddhahood.” This expresses the path of no more learning.
The Karmapa then turned back to look at Avalokiteshvara’s key lines that follow the explanation of the emptiness of the individual skandhas: “Therefore, Shariputra, all phenomena are emptiness, without characteristics, unborn, unceasing, without stains and without freedom from stains, without decrease and without increase.” This line shows how emptiness manifests itself, how it comes to the surface.
Avalokiteshvara explains to Shariputra how to make use of the five skandhas to see the true nature, as a lead into seeing emptiness. This is why Avalokiteshvara first speaks of the four-fold emptiness (“Form is emptiness,” etc.) of the five skandhas. It introduces us to emptiness in a complete way. Now, however, there is a problem: How do we come to understand this emptiness? How can we recognize it through the five skandhas? How do we practice and cultivate this wisdom?
We need to know why the Buddha first talked about emptiness. The main reason is to remove our clinging, so first we must recognize how we cling to things. Then we can solve the problem: once we clear away our clinging, we will be able to see emptiness. In the morning we spoke about the path of seeing, which is seeing emptiness. In our confusion, we take the world to be solid and real; we do not experience the empty nature of what appears due to our mistaken understanding. Seeing emptiness refers to a time when we are not entrapped by concepts. We do not see anything that is mistakenly manifested in our minds, nor do we see anything we take to be truly existent.
What the sutra is saying is that not seeing is the best type of seeing. In the morning we emphasized that emptiness does not mean to be completely without something, a kind of void or lack. It means emptiness is not what we think it is. What does that mean? Emptiness does not contain what we think exists. What we think exists, does not; however, this does not mean that something completely does not exist. This means that what we know now from our experience is basically wrong. Why? Because we strongly think that things truly exist on their own. Since this attachment is wrong, all that we see is an illusion, a fantasy. Emptiness is telling us that these illusions are not real. They are fake, and that is why the Buddha calls them empty.
Usually people understand “empty” to mean an absence, a complete nonexistence. But actually, empty refers to the fact that what we now know is an illusion and, therefore, does not exist. This does not mean, however, that the thing itself does not exist. This point is extremely important.
This recalls what Tilopa told his disciple Naropa: “Son, it is not things that entrap you but your attachment to them.” Tilopa means that things in themselves cannot imprison us; it is our own attachment that serves as an obstacle.
There is a key point here: Emptiness is not built on nothing; something that existent is the foundation for emptiness. In other words, because things exist, you can say that they are empty. Due to our attachment and misunderstanding, we do not know the true nature of things. If all the things outside did not exist, then we could not talk about emptiness. If nothing existed, then nothing could be empty, and you could not talk about emptiness at all. It is due to existence that there is emptiness, and not to nonexistence.
In his text Entering the Middle Way, Chandrakirti writes that an ordinary being’s knowledge is based on misunderstanding. How would we know that our knowledge is wrong? Chandrakirti further states that if what we see manifesting is the truth as it is, then we all would be noble beings, not ordinary, and would know the actual nature of things. But the situation is not like this: what we ordinary people see manifesting is an illusion; we do not see the truth of phenomena. In brief, what we see is mistaken and what noble beings see is accurate.
In our lives we often meet with setbacks or pressure, and the Buddhist teachings as well as modern psychologists say that the stress people feel mostly comes from a wrong understanding of things. This can also happen because we think too much. In brief our basic confusion is the source of our suffering and problems.
The above explanation shows that what we know is subjective and does not match with the way things truly are, and in this way we can see that our way of knowing is fundamentally flawed. In other words, it is rubbish.
There are different types of attachment. The practice of emptiness is to dissolve our basic attachment, ignorance, or confusion. What do you think when you hear the word ignorance? Usually we think of it as an object.
The Dakpo Kagyu master Gampopa had four great disciples who held his lineage and through whom his teachings descended. One of these was Phagmodrukpa, who had traveled widely asking many masters about the causes of being trapped in samsara and the causes of life and death. Most of them answered that ignorance was the cause. None of these answers, however, inspired or touched Phagmodrukpa.
When the future lineage holder first met Gampopa, he was eating tsampa (roasted barley flour). Gampopa showed the heap of tsampa to Phagmodrukpa in a way that told him, “My tsampa is more valuable than your realization.” Phagmodrukpa asked the great teacher, “What are the causes of cycling in samsara?” Gampopa replied, “Thought remains in samsara.” This made an instant connection with Phagmodrukpa and he was inspired. Before he had heard a lot about ignorance and attachment, but he did not see how our mind could connect with ignorance. He thought that ignorance is ignorance and mind is mind.
There are three main types of attachment: to the thing itself, to the causes, and to the results. Through these three types of attachment, we are led toward what is good or bad, to the origin of suffering or its cessation, to holding someone or something far or near, and so forth. All the afflictions come from this. Clearly we need to dissolve these three types of attachment, and if we can manage to dissolve their root, they all can be extinguished.
For this purpose, the Buddha taught the three doors or openings to liberation: emptiness, the absence of signs, and being without any wishes. The first opening, emptiness, dissolves attachment to the cause or origin of things; the second opening, the absence of signs, dissolves attachment to the things themselves; and the third opening, being without any wishes, dissolves attachment to the result or fruition.
This third door relates to all our thoughts and plans for the future. In Buddhism, the word wish is understood to mean “hope” or “expectation,” so being wishless is a way to eliminate attachment to a future result.
After the skandhas, the sutra speaks of emptiness again: “…all phenomena are emptiness, without characteristics, unborn, unceasing, without stains and without freedom from stains, without decrease and without increase.”
The first opening is the “emptiness” here, which works with attachment to the cause. The second opening relates to being “without characteristics, unborn, unceasing, without stains and without freedom from stains,” and this works with attachment to thing itself. And the third opening, being without any wishes, relates to the phrase “without decrease and without increase,” and this works with attachment to the future. This discussion is more detailed than the earlier one on the emptiness of the five skandhas.
All attachment is subsumed in these three types, so if we can dissolve these three, we will be able to see emptiness. In sum, this part of the sutra teaches us how we can come to see emptiness.
This same section of the text can be looked at under the rubric of the eight profound meanings: “(1) emptiness, (2) without characteristics, (3) unborn, (4) unceasing, (5) without stains and (6) without freedom from stains, (7) without decrease and (8) without increase.”
The first point of emptiness points out the true nature of things, which is different from what we think it is. Taking (2) without characteristics as the result, (3) unborn and (4) unceasing function as its causes. Usually we think of things as real, and further, that these real things are born and cease, so these two points work to dissolve that confusion. We are also attached to classifying things into what is pure and what causes afflictions, what is polluted and not, bad and good, etc., so (5) without stains and (6) without freedom from stains eliminate this misunderstanding. (7) Without decrease and (8) without increase mitigate against attachment to results. Usually we are mistaken about a result and hope that it will be better than we expect, and (8) without increase clears this away. Or perhaps we do not have expectations or hopes and maintain a kind of rigid objectivity, which is also mistaken, so (7) without decrease works with this.
These eight profound meanings show the way to eliminate our mistaken attachment to every little thing. So (1) emptiness is key since what we think exists does not. For an ordinary being to efface attachment, they have to start at its home base. The eight profound meanings are a kind of reverse psychology, showing what is the case through negation, so that we can recognize emptiness.
Most people think that emptiness is difficult to understand, but if you compare it to bodhichitta, emptiness is much easier to understand. Although emptiness sounds profound and difficult, the logic of emptiness is always the same. It is hard for us to understand because of the discrepancy between what we are thinking and what emptiness is; so we need to change the way we are thinking and the sutra gives us many ways to comprehend emptiness and to shift our minds. Once we have some recognition of emptiness, it will become stable because emptiness never changes. It is a truth.
Bodhichitta is much harder to understand than emptiness because bodhichitta is for all living beings; we have to take note of every one, and each one has their own special qualities and differences. There are also complicated causes and conditions in their relations with us, and some people are nice to us, and others, not. Both lay and ordained people can understand this.
In an aside, the Karmapa notes that a commentary states that to be ordained, one has to leave home, and there are big and small homes to leave. Leaving one’s own home is a minor renunciation. However, if one renounces fame, fortune, and all such things of samsara, when you do not like them any more, that is renouncing the vast home—the major and real renunciation.
Returning to the topic of bodhichitta, he said that it is difficult to feel compassion for all living beings. Most of the time we think that having a small wish to help others is bodhichitta, but bodhichitta is not that easy to achieve. This is the first reason why bodhichitta is more difficult than emptiness. The second reason is that emptiness is understood through logic, but bodhichitta is a practice that works with emotions. Analyzing with logic can be done in a more straightforward, confident manner: what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. When it comes to emotions, there are many things that shift them around, and it is also very hard to say what is right and what is wrong emotionally so it is very complicated.
We often think that bodhicitta is easier, and all we have to do is go and receive bodhisattva vows, but we think understanding emptiness is very hard and we have to wait for the lama to give us blessings. But in fact it is not like that. To rouse true bodhichitta requires a lot of practice and we have to accumulate a lot of merit. Of course, understanding emptiness also requires these, but the amount of merit rousing bodhichitta requires ten or a hundred times more than understanding emptiness. We also need extensive practice and training like that of a special squad, which has to deal not with an ordinary country, but with the entire galaxy, and that is not so easy. You have to watch all living beings, keep thinking of others, and put yourself in their place.
We could summarize this discussion by referring to the old masters, who have said that to deeply understand the truth of all phenomena, there are two aspects: profound emptiness and vast bodhichitta.
To continue looking at emptiness in different ways, the Karmapa turned back to the sutra and the lines:
Therefore, Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, no perception, no formation and no consciousness, no eyes, no ears, no nose, no body and no mind, no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, and no dharmas (phenomena). There is no dhatu of the eyes, no dhatu of the mind, up to no dhatu of consciousness. There is no ignorance and no extinction of ignorance, up to no aging and death and no extinction of aging and death. Likewise there is no suffering, no origin of suffering, no cessation, and no path. There is no wisdom, no attainment and no nonattainment. Therefore, Shariputra, since bodhisattvas have nothing to attain, they abide relying on the perfection of wisdom. Since their mind is free of obscuration, they have no fear….
To eliminate our wrong understanding of emptiness, Avalokiteshvara names many things that we might not understand correctly as being empty. He started out with the five skandhas, which are most intimate to us as they relate to our body and mind. These are the foundation on which Avalokiteshvara tells us that other things are empty, which the Heart Sutra classifies into six types: (1) the five skandhas, (2) the twelve sense bases, (3) the 18 elements or dhatus, (4) the twelve links of dependent arising, (5) the four noble truths, and (6) the merit of practice. These again can be divided into the ordinary or basic foundation, the first three, and the special foundation, the last three.
The Karmapa then read from “Therefore, Shariputra…” to “no dhatu of the mind…” when he paused to relate a story.
In China, he said, there are many mahayana practitioners who know the Heart Sutra and in past Tibet all the ordained Sangha knew the Heart Sutra. In the early days of Buddhism there, the monks and nuns would recite every day after lunch the Prajna Paramita Sutra in 8,000 verses for the benefit of their sponsors. The Tibetans do try very hard. Then a great master came from India and said this was too much and very hard, not only on them but on the sutra as well, which was becoming worn from being passed around so much. It would be best, therefore, for them to chant the essence, the Heart Sutra. There was also the custom in Tibet of memorizing the Prajna Paramita Sutra in 10,000 verses.
The Karmapa added that there was once someone listening to these recitations of the Prajna Paramita sutras and hearing, “no ears, no eyes, no nose, no tongue,” said, “Why don’t they just say ‘No head’?” [Laughter.]
Returning to the quotation above, the Karmapa continued to explain that the first five are the skandhas; the next six are the inner sense bases (ayatanas) or the sense faculties and the six outer sense bases or their objects. Then adding the six types of consciousnesses, we have the eighteen dhatus or elements, through which ordinary beings pursue the various sense objects. Consciousness coming into contact with these objects creates a condition for attachment to arise.
So we can see that the five skandhas and the eighteen dhatus cover all material things as well as our mind. They give us different ways to categorize and analyze them. The sutra provides such complex topics because people have different abilities and levels of understanding. Some can hear a discussion of the five skandhas and see the link between the mind and material things, the outer objects. They can experience, recognize, and understand the connection between the mind and outer objects. For others, however, this is not enough; they need further explanation and more details, such as the eighteen dhatus.
In his Treasury of Abhidharma, Vasubhandu writes that living beings have diverse capacities of understanding the relation between the mind and outer things, so all the categories are a way to help them. The five skandhas, the twelve sense bases, and the eighteen dhatus are directly related to us ordinary beings, whether we practice or not. These first three are part of samsara and the basic things to which we are attached. Tomorrow morning we will look at the special foundations beginning with the twelve links of dependent arising.
The last afternoon of the Heart Sutra teachings saw a celebration of the entire seminar. The hundreds of low meditation tables in the hall had been set with a plate of the famous Taiwanese pineapple cake and a cup of renowned high mountain tea, both of which had been brought from Taiwan to India.
After His Holiness entered the hall and took his seat on the stage, the event began with twenty people taking three minutes each to share their experience of the seminar. Standing near the stage where the Karmapa sat in a high backed chair, and facing hundreds of people, they passed the microphone from one to the other and spoke of how they had been touched by the Karmapa’s presence, by his teaching so clearly and directly in Mandarin, and by the profound words of the sutra. Some people cried and the audience, which had paid rapt attention to all the stories, responded by clapping to give them support to finish their story.
These stories were followed by a male singer and a female musician playing the Chinese lute. They performed a version of the Heart Sutra, and then the Dalai Lama’s long life prayer for the Karmapa, which appeared in Chinese on the large screen behind them so that everyone could participate.
Ani Miao Rong then introduced a slide show so that people could see what the organizers were doing behind the scenes. It also presented many images of the Karmapa as he taught and of the disciples as they listened to the teachings and shared this time together.
Afterward the Karmapa was invited to speak. He began:
Last year after the Monlam, I had the thought that I’d like to teach the Heart Sutra and do it in Mandarin. So I told Khenpo Tengye and Ani Miao Rong, and asked them and Hwa Yue Foundation to organize this course. The final decision was made merely 5-7 months ago. In giving the teachings, I have tried my best and really hope that they have inspired and benefitted you.
At this time, I feel very grateful that when I was young, the government had arranged for some teachers to come and teach me Chinese…. I am deeply grateful to my Chinese teachers since, due to their hard work, I am able to teach the Dharma in Mandarin, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my teachers.
The Karmapa spoke eloquently of his relationship to China:
In my heart I have a deep feeling that in the past I had a very deep connection with China. In my mind, sometimes there appear some of the old places I have lived in… and I can even smell it.
I’m deeply grateful to all of the past Karmapas, because I feel that who I am now and my connection with the Chinese disciples today, it is not due to myself but to the past Karmapas and their compassion. And now I feel a lot of gratitude to them, especially the second Karmapa, because he dreamt of Chienbo Wenshu (Thousand Bowl Manjushri) who gave him this prophecy: “In the future you should make everywhere in the east your land.
With such a prophecy, I feel that the Karmapa has made many aspirations, especially the fifth Karmapa. Perhaps during his time is when the Han Chinese truly made a connection with Tibetan Buddhism. It is said that it started with the fifth Karmapa. No matter what, this time around, I am grateful to all of the past Karmapas who gave me this opportunity to be able to connect with you and spread the Dharma in Mandarin. Thank you.
After the applause subsided, the Karmapa continued:
Since the teachings were given in Mandarin, we had to prepare the subject matter ahead of time, and this has to be done well. We were lucky to have had a group of great masters to help: Yang Ting Tulku, Geshe Rinchen Ngodup, Khenpo Lodro Tenzin, Lodro Rinchen, and Ani Miao Rong. I’d like to thank them for helping me.
He continued with his thanks:
From a young age, I have met many great lamas and received their teachings and their compassion, and have also been supported by so many Dharma brothers, sisters, and friends. I feel that due to them, I have been able to get to where I am today. It was not easy, so I would like to thank all these lamas and all these friends.
In this lifetime I feel very honored that I’ve been able to learn Mandarin and feel that I can use it and also learn more languages so that in every lifetime I will be able to speak more beneficial things to all of you. Thank you everyone, thank you.
Ani Miao Rong then offered her remarks saying that now everyone who has had the opportunity to listen to the Karmapa’s teachings, should pray that His Holiness will be able to give us teachings every year and to teach in Mandarin to benefit his Chinese disciples. Three representatives of the organizers then made offerings to the Karmapa and the ordained Sangha. And for the final event, the Karmapa came down from the stage and passed among all the rows of participants giving each one a scroll of the Heart Sutra that he had calligraphed, which was printed in gold—a perfect ending to a perfect teaching.
The final session of the 17th Karmapa’s commentary on the Heart Sutra began with a brief explanation of the variations in the view of emptiness among three schools of thought: the Middle Way, Mind Only, and Empty of Other. His Holiness explained that the differences among these schools are to help living beings dissolve their various afflictions. It is hard to say which schools are good or bad, higher or lower. It is important to understand this, he emphasized. We should focus on learning their teachings, which will help resolve our doubts. Otherwise, people might say that the Middle Way is the best compared to the Mind Only school, which does not seem to be quite true.
However, whether Middle Way is good or not really depends on us. If we are truly inspired by its thought, and it caused us to change or improve, then it is good. If we haven’t changed, even if we learn the famous teachings like mahamudra or dzogchen, they will all be useless. “In the past in Tibet, there was a great practitioner who said, ‘Knowing the teachings of Dzogchen is not enough. The people themselves must become Dzogchen.’ I feel that this is a very important teaching to be remembered in our hearts,” the Karmapa said.
Returning to the text of the Heart Sutra, he turned his attention to the section that introduces the twelve links of dependent origination:
There is no ignorance and no extinction of ignorance, up to no ageing and death, and no extinction of ageing and death.
These twelve links can be followed either clockwise, in which case they describe the process which traps us in the suffering of cyclic existence, or anti-clockwise, which reverses the process and frees us from samsara.
This process is visualized in the Wheel of Existence. A sutra tells that the Buddha manifested as a painter and drew this image, which can still be found at the entrance to a monastery’s shrine hall. At the centre of the Wheel are the symbols of desire, anger and ignorance—the rooster, the snake, and the pig. The next circle depicts virtuous and non-virtuous actions, shown as a white path leading upward and a black path leading downward. Next are depicted the six realms of existence, and finally in the outer circle, the images for the twelve links. Yamantaka, the Lord of Death, holds the wheel while biting down on the top. Through visual allegories, the painting illustrates how the twelve links work. On the outer rim from the top clockwise, they are as follows:
1. Ignorance—a blind old woman holding a walking stick 2. Formation—a potter moulding pottery 3. Consciousness—a monkey in the treetop 4. Name and form (mind and body)-either a boat with a boatman or a tent inhabited by someone 5. The six sense bases—an empty house with six windows 6. Contact—a couple embracing 7. Sensation—a person struck in the eye by an arrow 8. Craving—an alcoholic drinking from his bottle 9. Grasping—a monkey plucking fruit from a tree 10. Becoming—a pregnant woman 11. Birth—a woman in childbirth 12. Old age and death—an old man carrying a corpse on his back
His Holiness explained that the first stage is our (1) ignorance, or wrong perception, which shapes the many actions of the second stage, (2) formation. This leads in turn to our (3) consciousness being involuntarily trapped in samsara and to having (4) a mind and a body, or name and form, which gives us the (5) six sense bases or sources. We start to have (6) contact with the material world in the form of the six sense objects, and experience (7) sensations, which bring on various (8) cravings. These in turn, lead to (9) grasping, which engenders (10) becoming, and the sufferings of (11) birth, followed by (12) old age and death. By reversing the process, we dismantle it stage by stage, all the way back to (1) ignorance and so free ourselves from samsara. The Karmapa added, “In these images we can see our lives. They feel really familiar, don’t they?”
The Heart Sutra continues to list the negation of Four Noble Truths:
Likewise, there is no suffering, no origin of suffering, no cessation, and no path.
The Buddha taught these during the first turning of the wheel of Dharma, and they form the core of his teachings. The first two truths explain samsara as (1) suffering (the result) and (2) its origin (the cause). The second two truths explain nirvana as (3) cessation (the result) and (4) the path (its cause).
The Heart Sutra continues:
There is no prajna, no attainment, and no non-attainment.
This section refers to the merits of practice. In brief bodhisattvas practicing on the path will gradually increase their prajna, attain realization, and eliminate their afflictions.
Whereas the five aggregates, the twelve sense bases, and the eighteen dhatus are the ordinary foundation and relate to samsara, the twelve links of interdependent origination, the Four Noble Truths, and the merits of practice make up the special foundation and relate to nirvana. Those seeking liberation tend to cling tightly to the special foundation, but they should recognise that the twelve links and the Four Noble Truths are also empty. They should cling neither to samsara nor to nirvana.
Therefore, Shariputra, since bodhisattvas have nothing to attain, they abide relying on the perfection of prajna. Since their mind is free of obscuration, they have no fear; completely transcending all error, they reach the ultimate nirvana.
How do the bodhisattvas train? On the path of seeing, they realize the nature of emptiness, and since this fundamental realization of emptiness continues on the path of learning, bodhisattvas will not acquire any new realization of emptiness. This is the meaning of “no attainment.” They abide relying on the perfection of prajna.
Their fundamental prajna will not have any mistaken experience and so their confusion comes to an end. Hence:
Since their mind is free of obscuration,…
Bodhisattvas training on the path rely on the practice of the perfection of prajna, which is what they will ultimately attain. “The mind free of obscuration” refers to the mental obscurations that affect us and lead to confusion. Bodhisattvas gradually eliminate these cognitive obscurations and liberate their minds.
Bodhisattvas in training are not the same as an ordinary being, a Listener, or a Solitary Realizer. The difference is that bodhisattvas can endure profound emptiness, accepting it completely and fearlessly; hence …they have no fear;…
They are also able to rid themselves of the subtlest confusions and therefore:
…utterly transcending all error, they reach the ultimate nirvana.
The text continues:
By relying on the perfection of prajna, all the buddhas dwelling in the three times, come to the unsurpassable, authentic, and complete awakening of manifest, perfect buddhahood.
These lines explain the path of no more learning, the attainment of buddhahood. Nagarjuna’s disciple Aryadeva once said, “The perfection of prajna is the one single thing that leads to door of liberation, and this is what makes the perfection of prajna supreme.” All the buddhas of the past, present, and future rely on this prajna that realizes emptiness to attain unsurpassable buddhahood: There is not a single buddha who did not practice such prajna to become a buddha. “The three times” means that it does not matter who it is or when a person attains buddhahood; they have no choice but to reply on the perfection of prajna.
“Awakening” here translates the Sanskrit word bodhi meaning “to awaken” or “to wake up from.” Right now we wander through a dreamscape created by our confusion. When we become a buddha, we will completely awaken from this dreaming. This is
…the unsurpassable, authentic, and complete awakening…
“Authentic” here distinguishes the Buddha’s realization from that of the Listeners and Solitary Realizers: they also have realization, but only the Buddha’s realization is the authentic, deep realization of emptiness, the perfection of prajna. And therefore, it is naturally “unsurpassable,” because no other result is superior to it. This realization is …of manifest, perfect buddhahood.
The Buddha’s realization is “perfect” because it is utterly free of error. This means that not only does the Buddha understand the profound truth of things, but also his knowledge is vast and omnipresent—only the Buddha has such an awakening. And he has not just a perfect understanding of the profound truth of all phenomena, but vast and omnipresent knowledge. Having come to full awakening, a practitioner will attain the essence of the dharmakaya and realize thoroughly the truth of all phenomena. This perfect realization—the ultimate, penetrating realization of truth—is attained through relying on the perfection of prajna.
The Karmapa then turned to the topic of the five paths—accumulation, joining, seeing, learning, and no more learning. When this subject comes up, he noted, people often wonder which one of them they have achieved. But it is not that easy. To even enter the path, beginners need to start with listening and contemplating, taking refuge and then the bodhisattva vows. After these, we cultivate bodhichitta through engaging in mind training. Here “mind” refers to bodhichitta, so we are training in developing bodhichitta. If we work hard at it, bodhichitta will naturally arise within us, and at that point, we have entered the path of accumulation. On this path, according to mahayana practice, a practitioner maintains bodhichitta while contemplating emptiness.
“If you do not have uncontrived bodhicitta, you have not started on the path. It requires great courage to have uncontrived bodhicitta. If it were easy, the bodhisattvas would not be called heroes,” the Karmapa remarked. “Bodhisattvas have tremendous courage and are able to sacrifice themselves. This kind of courage is very hard to find, so we must practice more if we want to rouse bodhichitta. If we train our mind, there is a possibility that we will have such courage.”
“Why is the Heart Sutra called the quintessence of all prajna paramita sutras?” the Karmapa asked. For its all-encompassing structure and for the emphasis the main text places on the single, most important question for all mahayana practitioners: How do we practice the perfection of prajna? From the perspective of the structure of practice, Avalokiteshvara first gives the four-fold emptiness and the eight profound meanings to explain how to understand and train in the thought of the perfection of prajna. (This represents the ground.) He initially applies the four-fold emptiness to the five skandhas, and then relates both the four-fold emptiness and the eight profound meanings to the twelve sense bases, the eighteen elements (dhatus), the twelve links of dependent arising, the Four Noble Truths, and the merit of practice. (This represents the path.) Lastly, he states that by relying on the perfection of prajna, all buddhas attain full awakening. (This represents the fruition.) Therefore in a very short space, the sutra condenses the whole of the mahayana into its ground, path, and fruition. Further, the Karmapa remarked, in the mantra, the sutra links the five paths of the bodhisattvas. The Heart Sutra is structured into the three divisions of the prologue, the main text, and the completion. In sum, the Heart Sutra is faceted like a radiant jewel, precious and rare, that can be viewed from many angles.
This section concludes the first part of Avalokiteshvara’s answer, (which is section 6, from among the eight sections in the first talk) aimed at those with lesser capability. The second part of his answer for those of higher capability (section 7, the explanation) is the mantra:
Therefore, the mantra of the perfection of prajna is a mantra of great awareness, an unsurpassed mantra, a mantra equal to what cannot be equaled, a mantra that utterly pacifies all suffering. It should be known as the truth since it does not deceive. [The Chinese adds, “It is a secret mantra.”]
Those of higher ability are able to understand the prajna of perfection’s entire ground, path, and fruition upon hearing the mantra. Often mantras are classified as belonging to vajrayana, and sutras are classified as belonging to the mahayana, but here we find the two together. The Sanskrit word mantra can be divided into man meaning, “to understand” and tra, “to rescue” or “to protect.” Since all buddhas rely on the perfection of prajna to attain full awakening, the mantra can carry both meanings of understanding the truth and of rescuing beings. The mantra is termed “secret” because it is so profound that ordinary beings are unable to understand it.
In general there are different types of mantra, the Karmapa noted. Worldly mantras help to accomplish short-term goals and to grant specific requests. They are found worldwide and employed to cure disease, avoid ill fortune, pray for rain, and so forth. Another kind of mantra is the dharani (Sanskrit, dhāraṇī), which means “the essence of” or “to hold.” A dharani is usually found at the end of a sutra and encapsulates its very essence. Each bodhisattva, such as Avalokiteshvara, has their own dharani that embodies the aspiration, prajna, compassion, and all the other virtues that are the essence of that bodhisattva. The text speaks of the mantra as:
…a mantra of great awareness, an unsurpassed mantra, a mantra equal to what cannot be equaled, a mantra that utterly pacifies all suffering. It should be known as the truth since it does not deceive.
“Great awareness” refers to prajna, the prajna directly perceiving emptiness; vast and omnipresent, it sees the empty nature of all phenomena. No other prajna can match the prajna realizing truth, and so it is “unsurpassable.” “What cannot be equalled” is emptiness and “equal to what cannot be equalled” is “full awakening.” That is the distinguishing feature of this mantra. What is its effect? The mantra “utterly pacifies all suffering,” which indicates that prajna severs the root of suffering. The description of the mantra ends by stating that the prajna and truth such a mantra embodies is not deceptive, so it should be known to be the truth.
The Heart Sutra continues:
He then uttered the mantra of the perfection of prajna: Tadyathā, oṃ gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā
In an aside touching on the modern world, the Karmapa commented that some people think they are doing great things by just reciting the mantra. The mantra does represent prajna but if we do not have that prajna active in our mind, just repeating the words is nothing special. If we are reciting the mantra and feel inspired, it can help, but just parroting it is useless.
Returning to the text, the Karmapa explained that the mantra is made up of six Sanskrit words. When translators were bringing the sutras into Tibetan, they kept some words in transliteration and just preserved their sound. Similarly we saw earlier that if a word had too many meanings, it was also left in its original language.
The individual words of the mantra, the Karmapa explained as follows: Gate means, “to go forward,” para means “the other shore” (in paramita “perfection” as well). Sam means “already” and bodhi means “buddhahood” while soha is given many meanings, such as “vast” or “perfection.” The entire mantra would then translate as:
Go forward, go forward, go forward to the other shore, arrive at the other shore, and quickly attain buddhahood.
The Karmapa discussed a medley of interpretations for the mantra, noting that since it holds the essence of whole sutra and of profound prajna, its meaning is very vast. Tibetan masters in the past, for example, explained that gate, gate refers to going forward to the realization of the Listeners; paragate refers to the realization of the Solitary Realizers and parasamgate points to arriving at the realization of the mahayana. Other masters looked at the mantra through the lens of the three doors or openings to liberation: Gate, gate refers to the first opening of emptiness; paragate points to the second opening, being free of characteristics; and parasamgate alludes to the third opening, being free of wishes.
Dromtönpa, a lay Kadampa master, wrote that the first gate referred to the path of accumulation and the second gate, to the path of joining. Paragate referred to the path of seeing and parasamgate, to the path of learning. Finally bodhi svaha indicated the path of no more learning.
Faxian, an early Chinese translator of the sutra, wrote that gate, gate stands for spirit of the mahayana, because we cannot not go forward alone, but need others to progress. Gate, therefore, is said twice: the first time for ourselves and the second for the others. Paragate indicates the other shore or where we are headed. “And if you are a boatman,” the Karmapa noted in passing, “the benefit is greater if you take others along with you.” Parasamgate is the other shore itself or bodhi. Finally, through the practice of the perfection of prajna, we can arrive at full awakening, and therefore, svaha.
Master Kukai (Kobo Daishi, or Hong Fa in Chinese) brought the vajrayana (known as Shingon) to Japan. He explained that the first gate referred to the Listeners and the second one, to the Solitary Realizers; paragate indicated mahayana practice and parasamgate, vajrayana practice. Bodhi svaha referred to how all these practices will lead to the perfect awakening.
Since this is a secret mantra, many masters in the past did not speak of it. Why would Avalokiteshvara what to change that? “The mantra is secret yet it is spoken about, isn’t that contradictory?” the Karmapa asked. Actually, buddhas and bodhisattvas do not have anything they want to keep secret. The difference between the foundational school and the vajrayana lies in the people and their understanding. If they understand, the mantra is not secret; if they do not understand, the mantra remains secret. Buddhas and bodhisattvas are waiting to teach and benefit living beings; the problem is that they have closed the main door and so the buddhas and bodhisattvas cannot enter.
In a lighter vein, the Karmapa shifted to the present day: “People ask me, ‘Where is my Guru?’ They want me to give them his name, address, and telephone number. If it were so easy, I would have given you all Amitabha Buddha’s phone number!” The problem, he advised, lies within us. Our desire for the Dharma is not pure or correct enough, and therefore we are unable to find a guru. We need to know that all the bodhisattvas and buddhas are waiting to benefit living beings, he stated. They are there waiting outside the door, but we have closed it shut. “If the door of our faith and confidence is open, I am sure they will rush in to help us,” he reassured, adding, “our desire for Dharma should be straightforward and not too complex or strange.”
Continuing his explanation, the Karmapa remarked that those who understand Buddha’s meaning by simply listening to the mantra would be very few, which shows how difficult it is to understand its message. Avalokiteshvara then concludes his response on how those of lower and higher capacity should practice:
“Shariputra, this is the way that bodhisattvas mahasattvas should train in the profound perfection of prajna.”
This line completes Avalokiteshvara’s explanation, the seventh section, and leads into the eighth section, that of rejoicing.
Then the Bhagawan arose from samadhi and proclaimed to the noble Avalokiteshvara, bodhisattva mahasattva, “Excellent! Well done, well done! Son of a noble family, it is exactly so. It is just like that. The profound perfection of prajna should be practiced just as you have taught, and all the tathagatas will rejoice.”
This quotation can be divided into two parts. The first part, from “Then the Bhagawan rose” to “as you have taught,” shows the Buddha’s support for Avalokiteshvara’s response. The five paths of the bodhisattvas should be practiced just as he had accurately taught. The second part of the quotation, “and all the tathagatas will rejoice,” shows that not just the Buddha and bodhisattvas endorse what Avalokiteshvara said but all the tathagatas do as well.
Finally, the Heart Sutra concludes with the eighth section on rejoicing:
After the Buddha spoke these words, the venerable Shariputra, the bodhisattva noble Avalokiteshvara, the entire gathering, and the world with its gods and humans, the demi-gods and the gandharvas, all rejoiced and praised the words of the Victorious One.
All those who had gathered for the teachings received the answer they had sought—a cause to rejoice and praise what the Buddha had said. With this, the Heart Sutra draws to a close.
As these teachings on the Heart Sutra also came to their conclusion, the hall resounded with appreciative applause. After thanking all the people who had helped him prepare for the teaching, the Gyalwang Karmapa then gave a short refuge ceremony and concluded his four-day commentary on the Heart Sutra by giving the oral transmission of the text in Tibetan.
The four days have been an awe-inspiring demonstration of His Holiness’s grasp of the complexities of the Heart Sutra, coupled with his ability to get to the heart of the text and express its meaning in terms that everyone could understand. For all those present, listening to this direct exposition has been the most extraordinary privilege.
GANTOK, September 10: Scores of monks staged a sit-in outside the Raj Bhawan gate here today seeking to meet Governor Shrinwas Patil and reiterate their demand that the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje be allowed to visit Sikkim.
The demonstration outside the Raj Bhawan gate lasted for nearly three hours after which a 10-member delegation was granted appointment with the Governor.
Some monks, among those who have been on a relay hunger strike at BL House, Tibet Road here with the demand since the past 63 days, later met the Governor and placed their memorandum. Sangha MLA Sonam Lama and SIBLAC convenor Chewang Lama was also part of the delegation of monks under Denjong Lhadey’s banner.
“We called on the Governor to know about the progress in our demand. He has given positive assurances,” said Lama to reporters.
According to Lama, the delegation sought details of actions taken by the Governor’s office on the demand among other issues discussed during the hour-long meeting.
The decision to meet the Governor was taken as the State government has failed to act on the demand, added the Sangha MLA.
The relay hunger strike by the Buddhist monks would continue until a concrete assurance is given by the Centre on the Karmapa demand, it was informed.
Centre to hold meeting in Delhi tomorrow to discuss the issue
SHIMLA: Though the Sikkim government had urged the central government to allow 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje to visit Rumtek Monastery, the ministry of home affairs has raised fresh concerns over the security of 30-year-old Buddhist monk, who is the parallel head of Kagyu sect of Buddhism.
The Centre has called a meeting in Delhi to discuss issues related to security of Dorje. “Inputs from intelligence agencies about threat perception to Karmapa will be ascertained in the meeting in New Delhi. The home ministry has also sought inputs from the state government about Karmapa’s security arrangement,” said a senior police official, who requested anonymity. The meeting is scheduled on September 13 and will be chaired by the home secretary.
WHO IS DORJE?
In 1999, Ogyen Trinley Dorje at the age of 14 made an escape from Tsurphu monastery in China controlled Tibetan autonomous region. Dorje’s escape had made world headlines. It took the Indian intelligence agencies by surprise.
Dorje claimed that he, along with his attendants and elder sister Nodup Palzom, had travelled 1,450 km on horseback, train and helicopter to reach Dharamsala. Since the time of his escape, Dorje remains under watchful eyes of security agencies. The government has clamped restrictions on his movements.
Dorje at present resides at back side of tightly guarded Gyuoto Tantric monastery in Dharamshala. The monastery made headlines in 2011 when sleuths recovered more than `6.5 crore (foreign currency), which included 12 lakh Chinese Yuan. The cash recovered during raids belonged to the Karmae Garchen Trust headed by the Karmapa. Police arrested a cashier of the Trust, Rabgay Chosang.
ABOUT THE CONTROVERSY
Dorje was recognised the head of Karma Kagyu School of Buddhism, the Tibet’s exiled temporal head the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso. Dorje is followed by a majority of Tibetan population and other Buddhist devotees. The other claimant to the seat is Delhi-based Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje, who was recognised by Shamar Rinpoche as incarnation of 16th Karmapa Ranguan Rigpe Dorje.
The Indian government has banned the 17th Karmapa from visiting the Rumtek Monastery for the past 17 years, following his escape from Tibet in 1999 and controversy over the real reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa. Intelligence agencies are apprehensive that Beijing anointed him to serve its long ulterior motives to change the mindset of Budhist population in India to favour China. Even after 17 years of his escape Beijing has still not denounced Dorje — the Chinese government still recognises him as the real head of the Kagyu Karma Sect.
Dorje’s supporters that include some high-profile leaders of Sikkim, for long have been demanding relaxing restriction on movement of Dorje. They had been lobbying hard to persuade the central government to allow him to visit Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, which was originally built by 12th Karmapa Changchup Dorje in the 18th century. It was later rebuilt and renovated by the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje after his escape from Tibet in 1959. Rumtek is considered the real seat of Karmapa lineage in India.
Today we are happy to bring you the tenth episode in the new Podcast series containing selected talks and teachings by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa.
This special teaching took place in the USA and has Tibetan with an English translation.
During this episode, the Gyalwang Karmapa discusses how to meditate on emptiness, and how such meditations can lead to the natural development of compassion. Emptiness opens us up to a new realm of possibility, gratitude, and freedom which can lead to greater compassionate action.