COMPASSION IS ACTION : Buddhist Nuns work to protect the Himalayas. Watch and share this inspiring story!
Our first original story of 2017 shares the inspiring approach of how Tibetan Buddhist nuns are putting the spiritual values of compassion and interdependence into action to address environmental issues impacting the Himalayan region and Tibetan plateau. Throughout India, Nepal and Bhutan monks and nuns are working to protect the Himalayas through KHORYUG, a eco-monastic network of more than 60 monasteries and nunneries established by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa.
"Environmental conservation must be the essence of our spiritual practice."—His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa.
File photo: Karmapa Lama (C) alights from a car before his departure to Mumbai, at the airport on the outskirts of the northern Indian hilltown of Dharamsala May 12, 2011. REUTERS/Shailesh Bhatnagar
China called on India on Monday not to do anything to complicate their border dispute after a senior exiled Tibetan religious leader visited a sensitive border region controlled by India but claimed by China.
The Karmapa Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's third-most-senior figure who fled into exile in India in 2000, last week went to Tawang in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, in the remote eastern Himalayas.
China disputes the entire territory of Arunachal Pradesh, calling it south Tibet. Its historic town Tawang, a key site for Tibetan Buddhism, was briefly occupied by Chinese forces during a 1962 war.
Asked about the trip, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said India was clear about China's position on the eastern end of their border.
"We hope the Indian side can respect the relevant consensus of both sides, and not take any actions that may complicate the border issue," Lu told a daily news briefing.
Maintaining peace and stability on the border and the healthy development of relations was in both parties interests, he added.
Leaders of Asia's two giants pledged last year to cool their festering border dispute, which dates back to their brief 1962 border war.
India is home to a large exiled Tibetan community, including spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who China reviles as a separatist.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning monk says he simply wants genuine autonomy for his homeland.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)
Written by Jyoti Malhotra | New Delhi | Published:January 4, 2017 4:17 am
Tibetan spiritual leader to attend international meet in Rajgir-Nalanda in March, Karmapa will travel to Sikkim.
Dalai Lama at the Kalachakra in Bodhgaya on Tuesday. PTI photo
Two years after he was taken in a car with darkened windows and no personal aide to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence in New Delhi, Tibetan Buddhism’s holiest leader, the Dalai Lama, is being given pride of place at an international Buddhist conference to be held in March in Rajgir-Nalanda, Bihar.
Equally significant, Delhi has finally come around to accepting that the Karmapa Lama, the head of the Karma Kagyu sect, is “not a Chinese spy” 17 years after he fled from the Tsurphu monastery in Tibet, but a genuine leader.
These moves are being quietly welcomed by the large Tibetan community as well as the influential strategic affairs establishment which believes “there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about” publicising the Dalai Lama’s activities even if it bothers Beijing.
Delhi, highly placed sources said, has come to the realisation that the Dalai Lama is an “asset, not a liability”.
As China exercises its muscle vis-à-vis Buddhist leaders living in India or those visiting abroad — for example, the Dalai Lama’s visit to Mongolia in November was so heavily criticised by Beijing that the Mongolian foreign minister has since promised it will never happen again — Delhi has taken the decision to nevertheless allow Tibetan Buddhism’s two most senior monks to increasingly move into the public gaze.
The Dalai Lama will travel to Arunachal Pradesh from the Buddhist conference in Rajgir-Nalanda, which takes place from March 17-19.
Beijing had objected to the visit at the time it was announced in October last year. It will be the Tibetan leader’s fourth visit to that state.
While the Karmapa is expected to soon visit Sikkim — the only state in the country from which he had been barred for the last 17 years, because the Rumtek monastery located there contains the ceremonial “Black Hat”, said to be the ultimate adornment of the rightful heir of the Karma Kagyu sect — although not yet to Rumtek, because a case against his presence there is still valid in court.
The Nalanda conference, called “Buddhism in the 21st Century”, is being formally hosted by the Ministry of Culture. The presence of the Dalai Lama for two whole days at Nalanda, along with all the top Buddhist monks, especially from Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar — as well as, possibly, Richard Gere, who is attending the ongoing Kalachakra celebrations in Bodh Gaya and may or may not be able to come back to Bihar so soon — is certain to draw international attention.
Government sources said it is one way of returning the compliment to the Dalai Lama, who has always said that as a “son of India,” he owes a great deal of his learning to the “Nalanda masters”.
But in the new year, Delhi wants to take a leaf from Beijing’s book — as well as its calendar, which has marked 2017 as the Year of the Rooster — and hopes to crow about its own strengths as well. “Buddhism took birth in India, so we must use it as our soft power,” the sources said.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is leading the charge on the invocation of Buddhism as strategic gain. Minister of State (Home) and MP from Arunachal Pradesh Kiren Rijiju has been the public go-between the Dalai Lama’s people and the government. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, who wears a Buddhist rosary since he went to China as ambassador just under a decade ago, is brushing up his contacts with the Tibetan community in India.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of External Affairs is carefully watching the unfolding spat between Mongolia and China, in the wake of the Dalai Lama’s visit to Ulaanbaatar.
After a Chinese paper called it “politically hare-brained” for Mongolia to seek help from Delhi at the same time it has asked for a cash loan from Beijing, Mongolian foreign minister Tsend Munkh-Orgil told the local ‘Onoodor’ newspaper that he “feels sorry” for allowing the Dalai Lama to visit and that he “probably wont be visiting Mongolia again during this administration”.
The Dalai Lama’s emergence from purdah in recent weeks has been nothing short of extraordinary. He was seen at Rashtrapati Bhavan, sitting beside President Pranab Mukherjee, only a few weeks ago. During his visit to Mongolia, he announced that the Jebtsundama Khutuktu — the third most important leader in the Gelugpa school, after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama — had been reincarnated. And his teachings, in Dharamsala and Delhi, in several languages including Russian, have only grown.
Bodh Gaya, Jan 10 (IANS) Tibetan religious head and 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje on Tuesday reached this Bihar town to participate in the highly-venerated 'Kalachakra' (Wheel of Time) ceremony to be presided over by the Dalai Lama.
Over 200,000 Buddhists from more than 90 countries across the world, especially the Himalayan region, have gathered at the holy site to receive teachings and the Kalachakra empowerment from the Dalai Lama.
The Karmapa has extended his organisation's full support for the mega event, said a statement from his office.
Under his direction, the Karmapa's office of administration will provide 4,000 participants with three meals per day and accommodation free of charge at the large Kagyu Monlam facility near Tergar Monastery.
Following on the heels of the Kalachakra empowerment, the Karmapa's winter programme commences with the annual Karma Kagyu Monks' Winter Debate from January 16 to February 4, it said.
During this time there will also be the fourth Kagyu Monlam animal camp, from January 18 to 26, which provides free veterinary care for animals in the Bodh Gaya area as well as an anti-rabies and sterilisation programme for street dogs.
The Karmapa, who fled Tibet and sought refuge in India in January 2000, is the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu school, one of the four sects of Buddhism.
The Dalai Lama will confer the 34th Kalachakra initiation from January 11-13, event organisers said.
This is the fourth time that the Dalai Lama has performed this sacred ritual in Bodh Gaya.
Freedom is a powerful idea. But I am not sure we are always very clear what we have in mind when we speak of it. Does freedom mean doing whatever we feel like in any given moment? Does it mean having the power and liberty to exercise our will with no obstruction? Does it evoke a state in which we have shed ourselves of all obligations to others?
Many of our notions of freedom are based implicitly on the idea that we are utterly self-sustaining and separate entities. This model leads us to feel that others’ claims on us undercut our freedom. We experience our relationships as ties that bind us and limit our freedom. Based on this, we assume that we cannot all be free, because the freedom of one person comes at the cost of another’s. If we believe that, it is small wonder that people so often seek to dominate and oppress others. This is an idea that slips into discussions of freedom—the idea that freedom is in some fundamental way a limited resource, such that one person exercising his freedom detracts from another person’s ability to be free. But this is not the case. Freedom is not a zero-sum game.
It is possible and realistic for every person to experience real freedom. The reason we have not managed to do so is we lack an understanding of what real freedom is and how it can be achieved. We need the wisdom to distinguish the egocentric pursuit of self- interest from the pursuit of authentic freedom.
When I hear what people say about freedom sometimes, it sounds to me like longing to live out the fantasy of being independent and absolutely autonomous individuals, of being free of consequences and responsibilities—that is to say, exempt from the principle of interdependence. But there is no such thing. We cannot exist out- side causality or outside the connections of interdependence, and so freedom cannot be a matter of escaping from those connections.
Only freedom developed on the basis of a realistic view of who we are and how we relate to others can be authentic—and extended universally to all. If we acknowledge our interdependence, and take into account the vast networks of interconnections in which our lives and actions are embedded, we will find that our own freedom is inseparable from the freedom of all other people. When we truly appreciate this fact, we experience interdependent freedom—a freedom that does not detract from others’ freedom. This is the freedom that we can all enjoy together without conflict.
Freedom’s Inner Conditions
Freedom does not start from the outside. Although external conditions have a part to play, that is not where freedom originates. This might sound backward, but authentic freedom arises initially from inner conditions. Its deepest roots are within us.
Most often when we speak of freedom, what we actually have in mind are freedom’s outer manifestations. This may be the gravest error we make in our understanding of freedom. If we think we will achieve freedom when we can exercise complete control over our immediate environment, we overlook the single most important determinant of authentic freedom: our own minds.
Our mind has unlimited potential. It is not bound to any one position or viewpoint. What we think or feel—our mental state—is not simply determined by outer circumstances. Because of this, no matter how challenging our external conditions might be, we can experience freedom if we cultivate the inner resources that allow us to feel free. The basis for establishing authentic freedom is within us.
If you can access a sense of inner freedom no matter what is going on around you, you are experiencing freedom. As important as outer liberties are, freedom does not consist solely in enjoying physical or verbal liberty, such as freedom of movement or freedom of speech. We may have the liberty to do and say as we wish and yet still be deeply unfree mentally or emotionally. This is why inner freedom is key. When we have freed our minds and hearts from within, our happiness no longer depends on making the rest of the world serve our self-centered goals. Not only that, we gain freedom to work to change the external conditions that have the potential to limit or obstruct our freedom from outside, and we also have what we need to be able to work for the freedom of others.
What are we looking for when we seek freedom? Maybe at the bottom of it all, the freedom we seek is the experience of genuine happiness. Since this is an inner experience, external things cannot be the measure of our happiness or our freedom. We will come back in a moment to the question of what we mean by happiness and how it enables us to experience freedom, but I think if we examine our own experiences, we can see that whether we call it freedom or not, if we feel free, we feel happy, and if we feel happy, we also feel free. The state of mind and the feeling we seek can be called freedom, or it can be called happiness. But whatever name we give it, if we want to experience happiness or freedom, we must cultivate the inner conditions that give rise to those states.
Plucked from a humble nomad family to become the leader of one of Tibet’s oldest Buddhist lineages, the young Seventeenth Karmapa draws on timeless values to create an urgent ethic for today’s global community.
Coming February 2017! Click “Add to Cart” to preorder.
“We are now so interdependent that it is in our own interest to take the whole of humanity into account. Hope lies with the generation who belong to the twenty-first century. If they can learn from the past and shape a different future, later this century the world could be a happier, more peaceful, and more environmentally stable place. I am very happy to see in this book the Karmapa Rinpoche taking a lead and advising practical ways to reach this goal.”—His Holiness the Dalai Lama
“The Karmapa illuminates a major paradigm shift that is already underway—from independent and unconnected to interdependent and interconnected. As a visionary thinker, he shows us how this shift can lead us to a healthier planet and happier lives. As a heart-centered spiritual leader, the Karmapa shows us what we need to do to get there.”—Chade-Meng Tan, author of Search Inside Yourself
“This important new book will convince you that a commitment to social and environmental justice flows naturally from mindfulness of interdependence. The Karmapa’s vision of a heart-centered spiritual practice fills one with hope, even as it addresses the most serious challenges facing us today. One of the most influential Tibetan Buddhist teachers of our times, the Karmapa has written a courageous book that will change how you see your place in the world—and inspire you to act to make it a happier and kinder one.”—Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Happiness
“For two hundred years the dominant paradigm of reductionism and fragmentation has created the illusion that we are separate from nature. We have violated the very processes that maintain life. The Karmapa invites us to be aware of our connections with the natural and social worlds that are the condition of our being as he gently walks us through a journey to courageous compassion. This book should be read by everyone—young and old, Buddhist and non-Buddhist. It is a survival guide for humanity.”—Dr. Vandana Shiva, environmental activist and author of Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace
We have always been, and will always be, interconnected—through family, community, and shared humanity. As our planet changes and our world grows smaller, it is vital we not only recognize our connections to one another and to the earth but also begin actively working together as interdependent individuals to create a truly global society.
The Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is uniquely positioned to guide us in this process. Drawing on years of intensive Buddhist training and a passionate commitment to social issues, he teaches how we can move from a merely intellectual understanding to a fully lived experience of connection. By first seeing, then feeling, and finally living these connections, we can become more effective agents of social and ethical change.
The Karmapa shows us how gaining emotional awareness of our connectedness can fundamentally reshape the human race. He then guides us to action, showing step by step how we can change the way we use the earth’s resources and can continue to better our society. In clear language, the Karmapa draws connections between such seemingly far-flung issues as consumer culture, loneliness, animal protection, and self-reliance. In the process, he helps us move beyond theory to practical and positive social and ethical change.
Indo-Asian News Service ■ firstname.lastname@example.org
HH the Sakya Trizin, HH the Gyalwang Karmapa and HH Taklung Shabdung Rinpoche at the Kalachakra Empowerment in Bodhgaya, 11th January, 2017
Tibetan religious head and 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje on Tuesday reached here to participate in the highly-venerated ‘Kalachakra’ (wheel of time) puja to be presided over by the Dalai Lama.
Over 200,000 Buddhists from more than 90 countries across the world, especially the Himalayan region, have gathered at the holy site to receive teachings and the Kalachakra empowerment from the Dalai Lama.
The Karmapa has extended his organisation’s full support for the mega event, said a statement from his office.
Under his direction, the Karmapa’s office of administration will provide 4,000 participants with three meals per day and accommodation free of charge at the large Kagyu Monlam facility near Tergar Monastery.
Following on the heels of the Kalachakra empowerment, the Karmapa’s winter programme commences with the annual Karma Kagyu monks’ winter debate from January 16 to February 4, it said.
During this time there will also be the fourth Kagyu Monlam animal camp, from January 18 to 26, which provides free veterinary care for animals in the Bodh Gaya area as well as an anti-rabies and sterilisation programme for street dogs.
The Karmapa, who fled Tibet and sought refuge in India in January 2000, is the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu school, one of the four sects of Buddhism. The Dalai Lama will confer the 34th Kalachakra initiation from January 11, event organisers said.
This is the fourth time that the Dalai Lama has performed this sacred ritual in Bodh Gaya.
On January 10th the Gyalwang Karmapa arrived in Bodh Gaya where he will reside at Tergar Monastery and attend the 34th Kalachakra empowerment bestowed by HH the Dalai Lama. Today, HH the Karmapa arrived in the late morning to join HH Sakya Trizin on the podium near HH the Dalai Lama and 120,000 devotees from 90 different countries, who are receiving the well-known empowerment.
In support of this special event, the Karmapa’s office of administration is offering food and lodging free of charge to 4,000 people, including monks, mainly from Sera Monastery and Dzongsar Shedra, as well as lay devotees from the Himalayan region, poor school children and old people. Tergar is also a temporary home to the Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts, whose members use the spacious stage in the Monlam Pavilion for practice and store their costumes on site. They all are staying in the extensive Kagyu Monlam facilities at Tergar Monastery. Additionally, in response to requests, food is also being offered to people in need.
Today’s session of the Kalachakra empowerment finished around three after which the Karmapa returned to Tergar Monastery. Here, for over two months, will take place the winter programs organized by the Karmapa from the middle of January to the middle of March. The extensive schedule includes teachings, practice, empowerment, clinics to benefit the local community, and New Year’s celebrations. The general schedule is the following.
January 16, 2017–February 4, 2017: The twentieth Kagyu Guncho, the Winter Debates for monks, which continues from past years the program of debate and the study of Gampopa’s graduated path of practice (lam rim), the Ornament of Precious Liberation.
January 19 to 26, 2017: The fourth Kagyu Monlam Animal Camp, which provides free veterinary care for all animals from camels to cats.
February 7, 2017–February 8, 2017: The Grand Empowerment of the Five Deities of Chakrasamvara. Those receiving the initiation will take a commitment to recite the Four Session Guru Yoga at least once a day for the rest of their lives. The empowerment will not be webcast.
February 9, 2017–February 10, 2017: The Karmapa will continue to teach Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye’s Torch of True Meaning, focusing this year on Guru Yoga. February 11, 2016: The Karmapa will give the transmission and explanation of the Eighth Karmapa’s Four Session Guru Yoga, which will not be webcast.
February 13, 2017–February 19, 2017: The 34th Kagyu Monlam, seven days of prayers as well as teachings on Geshe Potowa’s Soliloquy.
February 21, 2017–February 25, 2017: Garchen Gutor Puja, which are practices performed in the Tsurphu tradition to clear away obstacles.
February 26, 2017: A Smoke Offering known as Clouds of Amrita.
February 27, 2017–March 1, 2017: Tibetan New Year’s Celebration, following the Tsurphu tradition.
March 2, 2017: Marme Monlam, an evening’s celebration of song and dance ending with an offering of lamps and prayers.
March 6, 2017–March 18, 2017: The 4th Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, the annual gathering of nuns to debate and study Gampopa’s graduated stages of practice (lam rim), the Ornament of Precious Liberation.
January 16, 2016 – Tergar Monastery, Bodhi Gaya, Bihar, India
The Sujata By Pass Road leading up to Tergar Monastery was lined with sangha and lay people welcoming Taklung Shabdrung Rinpoche. Escorting him to the veranda of the main shrine hall, where the Gyalwang Karmapa stood to welcome him, was a traditional golden procession (serbang) of resonant horns and drums as well as pendants and banners, fashioned of colorful, gold-flecked brocade catching the rays of the morning sun. As Shabdrung Rinpoche’s car entered the main gate, the golden umbrella of royalty awaited him, and long white scarves were offered by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and Khenpo Karten from the Karmapa’s Office of Administration. The Karmapa warmly greeted Shabdrung Rinpoche at the main door of the shrine hall, and they entered together.
Finally, when the crowds of monks, nuns, and lay people had gone through security and taken their place in the shrine hall, the Karmapa and Shabdrung Rinpoche returned to light a silver butter lamp on a table covered in brocade. In front of the Buddha statue, they took their seats on identical chairs, set side by side between the butter lamp and a polished black alms bowl set in a golden stand. The resonant voice of the chant master lead prayers while tea and ceremonial rice were given out to everyone, marking this festive occasion.
For the first time at Tergar Monastery, Shabdrung Rinpoche was visiting the Karmapa after sitting next to him during the recent Kalachakra empowerment of HH the Dalai Lama. Shabdrung Rinpoche’s Taklung Kagyu (stag lung bka’ brgyud) lineage is one of the eight later Kagyu lineages descending from Phakmo Drukpa (1110-1170). Founded by Taklung Thangpa Tashi Pal (1142-1210), this lineage has been blessed by great masters, such as Sangye Ön Drakpa Pal (1251-1296), who built Riwoche monastery in Kham, noted for its colleges where the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism are studied.
In 1991, the present incarnation was born into the Ghazi (Ragasha) family that traces its lineage far back into Tibetan history. Shabdrung Rinpoche was chosen in 1998 to take over the mantle of the Taklung Shabdrung who was his great grand uncle. Presently, the young tulku is studying in Dharamshala at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics.
To begin the debates, the Sangha recited the Praise of Manjushri, ending in an enthusiastic repetition of his seed syllable dhi, dhi, dhi, dhi, dhi! As the monks challenged each other to respond, the Karmapa and Shabdrung listened attentively and occasionally made comments to each other. When the debate came to a close, Shabdrung Rinpoche spoke informally to the monks, encouraging them in their study and emphasizing the importance of pure vision while using view to tame their minds. When he finished, there was a warm round of applause to thank him for his talk and for coming to join them on the first day of the Winter Debates.
Continuing the Karmapa’s outreach to the Kagyu leaders, this visit of the throne holder for the Taklung Kagyu follows on last year’s visit of Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche, throne holder for the Drikung Kagyu, and emphasizes the Karmapa’s broad commitment to dialogue between all the Tibetan spiritual traditions.
January 17, 2016 – Tergar Monastery, Bodhi Gaya, Bihar, India
The Winter Debates have brought together over 1000 monks from 9 monastic institutes belonging to the Karma Kagyu tradition. From January 17 to 22, 2017, the Gyalwang Karmapa will continue his teachings on the 8th Karmapa’s One Hundred Short Instructions This year he will cover two of them: “The Direct Instructions on the Great Compassionate One, Avalokiteshvara” and “Instructions on the Three Essential Points” (also a practice of Avalokiteshvara). These will be webcast live each day from 9:30 to 10:30 and 11 to 12 in the morning (Indian standard time) through the Karmapa’s website http://kagyuoffice.org/webcast/ in Tibetan, English, Spanish, and Chinese.
From January 16 to February 4, 2017, the monks will also pursue a vigorous program of debate and discussion. The Karmapa remarked, “We are following the Indian tradition which has debaters and judges to analyze their performances. This year there are five judges: a Sakya khenpo from the Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö College; from among the six great seats of the Nyingma comes a judge from Dzogchen Monastery; from among the three great seats of the Gelukpa, a Geshe Lharampa from Drepung’s Gomang College; for the Kagyu, a khenpo was requested from the Bhutanese government, and so we have a Drukpa Kagyu khenpo; and finally, there is a khenpo from the Jonang tradition.”
“The reason for inviting scholars from different traditions,” the Karmapa explained, “is to show our respect for them and to develop our mutual connections.”
The debates will focus on the second chapter (treating direct valid cognition) from Manjushri’s Smile: a General Discussion of Validity by the 6th Shamar, Chokyi Wangchuk. The Karmapa related that before his visit to the US about three years ago, he had read the outer life story of Karma Chakme (1613-1678), who wrote that he had memorized the General Discussion of Validity so the Karmapa knew there was a text and its name. When he went to the US, the text was found complete, except for the discussion of the chapter on validity. This text is important because it gives the main points of the 7th Karmapa, Chödrak Gyatso’s text, the Ocean of Literature on Validity, and reveals the positions to hold. The Karmapa said he hoped that the General Discussion of Validity would make it easy to realize the 7th Karmapa’s treatise.
In the US, the Karmapa also found the text of a General Discussion of the Vinaya, but he has yet to find the General Discussion on the Prajna Paramita and there also seems to be a General Discussion of the Madhyamaka.
This year the monks will also consider the views of the Mind Only school, which were taught for a month at the Karmapa’s temporary residence in Gyuto Monastery by a nun, who was a renowned expert in the Mind Only tradition that had spread widely in China. With the help of a skilled translator, she instructed monks, who had been selected to represent all the nine monastic institutes. Under the guidance of the Karmapa, their Committee for Compilation prepared a booklet on the Mind Only school, a draft of which was sent in December to all the shedras, so they could have a common basis for study.
The Karmapa wrote an introduction for this text and remarked that originally the plan was to study both the Mind Only and the Middle Way schools this year, but the Mind Only was so vast that it was decided to focus in it and leave the Middle Way for next year. The Karmapa is also putting together a compilation of Mind Only texts from the Chinese, but it is not ready yet.
Finally, the study of the Ornament of Precious Liberation, Lord Gampopa’s stages on the path (lam rim), will continue with seven sessions of papers and discussion. Starting with chapter nine and moving through chapter 16, they will cover the respective topics of the Proper Adoption of Bodhichitta, the Precepts for Generating Aspiring Bodhichitta, the Perfection of Generosity, the Perfection of Moral Discipline, the Perfection of Patience, the Perfection of Diligence, and the Perfection of Meditative Concentration. The remaining chapters will be completed next year.
In between these sessions, discussions will take place on two additional topics: Is it proper for the ordained Sangha to eat meat? Is it proper for tantric practitioners to drink alcohol? The program will also include debate contests and a day of reciting An Ocean of Kagyu Songs of Realization (also translated as the Rain of Wisdom). With their long days of study, debate and discussion framed in practice, the monks will have very full twenty days.
January 17, 2017 – Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
The main shrine hall at Tergar was filled to the far walls with monks who had come from India, Nepal, and Bhutan for this year’s Twentieth Winter Debates. Today the Gyalwang Karmapa began his discussion of two sections from the 8th Karmapa’s text, One Hundred Short Instructions. Both relate to the embodiment of all the Buddhas’ compassion, Avalokiteshvara, and are known as the Direct Instructions on the Great Compassionate One, Avalokiteshvara, and the Three Essential Points.
The Karmapa remarked that the numerous practices related to Avalokiteshvara along with their instructions mainly belong to five oral lineages, well known in Tibet, that descend from Atisha, Gelongma Palmo, Dawa Gyaltsen, Mitra Yogi, and Tsembupa. Today’s text stems from the tradition of the mahasiddha Tsembupa, who met Vajra Yogini face-to-face and received instructions from her. His lineage is closely related to anuttara yoga and the secret mantrayana; this practice from his tradition is complete with the preliminaries, main meditation, and conclusion. It is simple and easy to do, yet the key instructions are very profound, so much so that past masters have treated it as a secret instruction.
Turning to the life story of Tsembupa, the Karmapa remarked that actually Tsembupa is a nickname, meaning “all sewn up,” because his clothes were stitched together with patches. Nyan is his family lineage and he was born in the region of Shakpo, but it is not clear where this is and his dates are unknown. Tsembupa was well versed in both sutra and tantra and spent most of his life in isolated places doing practice.
One day when he was praying to Vajra Yogini, she appeared directly to him and taught the instruction about Avalokiteshvara. Later as Tsembupa practiced, one of the parts was not clear to him, so he prayed to Vajra Yogini again and she reappeared to teach him one more time, giving him the entire instruction. Afterward, some people offered Tsembupa a monastery, but he declined and remained in retreat focused on Vajra Yogini and becoming a realized master in his lifetime.
Tsembupa had six disciples who held his lineage. The main one was his younger brother, Dharma Ö, who had looked at numerous sutras and tantras searching for a key instruction with all the main points, but could not find the right one. So he prayed to the Jowo in Lhasa and when Dharma Ö was walking the streets of the city, he came across Tsembupa. Recognizing him as a realized master, Dharma Ö asked for instruction and became realized as well. These teachings of Tsembupa have spread widely into the traditions of the Kadampas, Sakyas, and Dakpo Kagyus.
The Karmapa then turned to speak of the practice itself, which begins with the common preliminaries, the Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind—reflecting on the precious human rebirth, impermanence, karma’s cause and effect, and the defects of samsara. Since this is not an explanation based on words but experience, it is important to practice these four until direct experience arises in our being; otherwise, subsequent practices will not take effect.
A Kadampa Geshe has taught that the Four Thoughts must be practiced in succession until an experience arises of each one; without this, it is not permitted to do other practices. This way, the Karmapa explained, one could spend a whole lifetime on one of the Four Thoughts and then aspire to practice the other three in future lives. However, the 8th Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje felt that this way of practicing was a bit too strict and narrow, because some people might not be able to come to an experience of the first thought (the preciousness of a human rebirth) and become discouraged. They might, however, be able to experience the second, third, or fourth one. If they are told that they must keep on practicing the first one, it might not be so skillful for them.
For example, they might be able to meditate and gain an experience of impermanence, the second thought, and the power of realizing this would help them to realize the first one. So in the beginning, we can test to see which of the four opens into experience and start there. Through using various methods, we can find one that works. In the end, the Karmapa noted, the Kadampa and 8th Karmapa’s approaches are not contradictory.
The four uncommon preliminaries cover refuge and bodhichitta (with prostrations) to make the disciples into a suitable vessel for the Dharma; mandala offerings to gather the two accumulations; Vajrasattva to purify obscurations; and guru yoga to receive blessings. “Some of you,” the Karmapa noted, “have finished the 100,000 repetitions of these four and others have not, but you can still do this practice.”
This concluded the common and special preliminaries in general, which are then followed by the specific preliminaries, the main meditation, and the conclusion related to this Avalokiteshvara practice. The preliminaries can be divided into the creation and completion phases. The Karmapa first turned to the creation phase of the visualization and read the section of the text on going for refuge.
This involves visualizing three Avalokiteshvaras above our head in three different colors with mandalas of three different elements in their hearts and three spheres of the three same colors (the essence of the Three Jewels) above each of the mandalas, and a four-armed Avalokiteshvara in our heart. To this latter one, we make fervent supplications with complete whole-hearted devotion, until we are on the verge of fainting as the text states. This is the main point here.
The next section the Karmapa read was on bodhichitta, the mind of awakening. As before there are three Avalokiteshvaras above one’s crown, and on a moon disk in each of their hearts are respectively, the First, Second, and Eighth Karmapas, who recite the six-syllable mantra for the benefit of all beings. In turn we aspire to become like each one and recite the name mantras of the three Karmapas and the six-syllable mantra.
The Karmapa explained that bodhichitta is what distinguishes this path from paths of the Listeners and Solitary Realizers. He also mentioned that Mikyö Dorje wrote the refuge and bodhichitta for this text so the form and arrangement of the field of refuge and the way of generating bodhichitta are different from other traditions.
As an aside, the Karmapa spoke about the origin of the mantra, Karmapa Khyenno (“Karmapa, know me”) or Karmapa Zig (“Karmapa, see me”). It is difficult to say when it came about, he said, but it seems that even before Buddhism spread in Tibet, the people had the custom of invoking their many gods with “Khyenno” (“Know me”) or “Zig” (“See me”). When Buddhism developed in Tibet, this custom was gradually transferred over to the new spiritual path.
We know at least, he said, that this happened after the time of the Fifth Karmapa, Deshin Shekpa, because when he was in China, at the behest of the Ming Emperor, a compilation was made of the names and mantras of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas. Beneath the image of Deshin Shekpa was the six-syllable mantra of Avalokiteshvara and not Karmapa Khyenno. History relates that from this time dates the tradition of many people reciting the six-syllable mantra with the understanding tha it relates to both the Karmapa and Avalokiteshvara.
The next part of the text the Karmapa read was the beginning of the main practice, when one visualizes a central lotus with four branches and in the middle a resplendent Avalokiteshvara, who is Mikyö Dorje internally. On the four surrounding lotuses appear reflections of Avalokiteshvara in four different colors, representing the Four Immeasurables, whereas in the principal figure’s heart is the syllable HRI, the essence of nondual wisdom. When the mantra are recited lights radiate, making offerings to the Noble Ones, benefitting living beings, and finally dissolving into one and purifying faults. All the merit is dedicated to full awakening.
The Karmapa thought that Mikyö Dorje probably wrote this section as well since the colophon states that he wrote “the refuge, bodhichitta, and so forth.” This passage was probably included within the “so forth.” The Karmapa concluded his explanation saying that this is a special visualization, and it would be beneficial to practice it. If there would be time later, he would like to give more detailed explanations.
During the teaching at the Kagyu Gunchoe this morning, His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa clarified that the commitment for those taking the empowerment would be to offer a Guru Yoga practice daily. This Guru Yoga did not have to be Karmapa Mikyo Dorje's Four Session Guru Yoga. It could be another Guru Yoga Practice from a different tradition.
January 18, 2017 – Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
Today the Gyalwang Karmapa continued his talks on the practice of Avalokiteshvara, moving on to discuss the main mediation practice of creation and completion. He began by reading the text, which describes coming to enlightenment in various ways: through emptiness, through the seat of sun and moon, through the syllable for speech, through the emblem for the mind, and through the perfection of the body.
For the main practice of creation and completion, first, meditating that our heart is empty is enlightenment through emptiness. Meditating that in its center are a lotus, sun, and moon is enlightenment through the sun and moon, the seat. Meditating that in its center there is a white HRIH is enlightenment through the syllable, speech. Light radiating from the HRIH purifies our misdeeds and obscurations accumulated from beginningless lifetimes so that our body becomes a mass of white light in the shape of a lotus. This is enlightenment through the emblem, mind. The lotus transforms into Avalokiteshvara with a wisdom being the size of a thumb in his heart, and again in the wisdom being’s heart is the syllable HRIH. It radiates out and turns the entire universe into a palace and its inhabitants into Avalokiteshvara. Meditating like this is enlightenment through the perfection of the body.
First we find a suitable, quiet place, create a comfortable seat, and sit down in equipoise with our legs crossed. The Karmapa commented that in the creation phase of the four tantras, one meditates on the deity and here it is Avalokiteshvara. There are many ways to create the visualization—the three stages of the ritual, the three vajra points of meditation on the body and so forth—here, it is the sequence of five stages of enlightenment. While aware of our ordinary body, we look into our chest and see our heart as empty. This represents the first of the five stages, enlightenment through emptiness. However, this is not just thinking that our heart is empty; we should recall suchness, the nature of all things as well.
In the middle of this empty heart of suchness, a lotus on a stem arises from the syllable PAM, and on top of it, a full moon disk arises from the syllable AH. This seat is the second of the five stages, enlightenment through the seat. The lotus represents the wish for enlightenment and the moon, relative bodhichitta. For the practice to be effective, we should recall the significance of the lotus and moon, or recollect the purity. If we just visualize a lotus and moon, it is not that beneficial for our minds. In the middle of the lotus and moon is the white syllable HRIH, which symbolizes the life force and mind of Avalokiteshvara. This stage is the third, enlightenment through the syllable or speech or through the seed. The white HRIH radiates multi-colored lights in all directions, and they purify every misdeed and obscuration accumulated in our lives from time immemorial. The light fills our body (or our five skandhas) and it transforms into a white lotus on a stem. This represents the fourth stage, enlightenment through the mind, the emblem.
The lotus and stem then completely transform into Avalokiteshvara with one face and four arms. The main two arms are joined together in prayer at his heart; the lower right usually holds a white crystal mala, and the lower left, a white lotus. He is adorned with a variety of ornaments and wears upper and lower garments made of silk. He sits in the vajra posture on the lotus and moon disk. His color is white, not a dull but a brilliant and radiant white like a snow mountain struck by rays of the sun. Avalokiteshvara is smiling and his eyes are filled with compassion. The Karmapa commented that like peaceful deities, his eyes are long and shaped like a bow; they are neither wide open nor closed, but half open and emanating great compassion. (The eyes of fierce deities are wide open, bulging and round.)
One could go into the many details of Avalokiteshvara’s appearance, the crown and upper arm ornaments, and so forth, but actually painters drawing images of the deity need these, but they are not so useful for meditators. What is important is to know what they tell us about Avalokiteshvara and, recalling who he is, experiencing the feeling we have for him. For example, if we call to mind someone we love, their image will appear in our mind along with our feeling for them. We do not think too much about the details, what clothes they are wearing, the pattern on their shirt, and so forth. If our mind gets entangled in these small things, that will impede the experience of the feeling, and this is the most important thing—feeling very close to Avalokiteshvara.
Up to now, we have visualized a white lotus flower, which transforms into Avalokiteshvara who is the size of our own body. His three places are marked with OM AH HUNG, and in his heart is the wisdom being, an inch in height, in whose heart is a white letter HRIH with visargah (two stacked spheres following it). The HRIH radiates lights, which strike the whole universe, turning it into a pure celestial palace and it also touches all its inhabitants, so that their bodies turn into numerous Avalokiteshvaras. This is the fifth branch, enlightenment through perfection of the body.
Lama Nyan (Tsembupa) explained that the purpose of purifying the world (vessel) into a celestial palace and its inhabitants (contents) into Avalokitsehvara is to train our mind in pure vision or pure perception. This will not actually happen now, but purifying the world by seeing it as a palace creates the connection to be born in an utterly pure land in the future. Purifying by perceiving whomever we are with, wherever we are as a yidam deity creates the connection for them to become our disciples in the future.
The white letter HRIH in the wisdom being’s heart radiates effulgent lights to the Potala Mountain (the pure land of Avalokiteshvara) and invites him primarily and also all the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions. They all come and dissolve into the samaya being, and the samaya being and the wisdom beings become inseparable.
Lama Nyan commented here that the purpose of this visualization is that by meditating on one deity, all deities are accomplished. It is important to realize one deity as all of them, he said, because if we do not, then in one session we would practice Avalokiteshvara and his mantra, and then in another, Hayagriva and his mantra. Practicing like this we would not have enough time to meditate on all the deities. Further, Lama Nyan explains, this type of practice would not become clear or profound; we would also be picking and choosing among the yidam deities, so the realization that makes one a true master would not arise. Therefore, we meditate on one yidam deity and invite all of them to dissolve into this one; for example, we see ourselves as Avalokiteshvara and meditate upon him not just as a single deity, but as embodying all the buddhas and bodhisattvas. This is said to be a core instruction that can make all our virtues vast and continuous.
The Karmapa then read the concluding section of the creation phase, which contains the above teaching of the wisdom beings dissolving into the samaya beings. Then the lights shine and invite the buddhas of the five families, who bestow the four empowerments with nectar from the vases they hold in their hands; the excess liquid overflows, turning into Amitabha as your crown ornament. Light radiates out again and turns all beings into Avalokiteshvara, who recite the six-syllable mantra. Meditate that the yidam deity is emptiness without any reference point and dedicate the virtue to enlightenment.
Specific to Tsembupa’s tradition is the teaching that the buddhas of the five families represent the outer aspect or form, and their inner essence is one’s own lama. Usually the five buddhas are invited from the pure land of Akanishtha, but here in Tsembupa’s tradition (and in particular in the instruction manual from the 5th Shamar Rinpoche), if the lama is alive, we imagine them coming from wherever our guru might be; if they have passed away, they come from the pure realm of Akanishtha. In sum, in receiving these empowerments, the five buddhas represent the form of the deity and the essential nature is the lama. Similarly, after the five bestow the empowerment and Amitabha appears as the crown ornament, he, too, is in essence your lama.
Here Lama Nyan Tsembupa comments that one practitioner can have connections with many different lamas and, to put it colloquially, some of them are our favorites and for others, we do not have as much devotion. We can imagine the central lama to be the one for whom we feel the most devotion, and then imagine that those who feel the farthest away, dissolve into the ones who feel closer, and finally these dissolve into the main lama, who then embodies them all.
It is important to meditate on all one’s lamas as inseparable, thinking that all the other lamas are the same in essence as our favorite one. If we do not do this, then we are picking and choosing among our teachers and will not be able to develop pure perception and realization. This accepting and rejecting makes for negative connections, and if we have a mistaken connection of faith and samaya with one lama, it will affect our ability to make a connection with other lamas. It is important to have faith and pure perception for all lamas. Being human, however, we will have preferences, so we place our favorite lama in the center but do not think of this lama as a single entity; rather, we know this lama to be the embodiment of all the lamas with whom we have a connection. They are in essence the same and the main lama contains all the others. This is the way we can have faith and devotion to them all.
The Karmapa then turned to the mantra recitation. We visualize that from the HRIH in the heart of the wisdom being within us, lights radiate and strike all living beings, turning them into Avalokitsehvara. In some manuals, it is said that the HRIH is surrounded by the MANI mantra, and though this is not in the 8th Karmapa’s commentary, it is all right to visualize like this. The power of our reciting the mantra inspires the Amitabha on our crown, the embodiment of all the lamas, to say the mantra. All living beings who have been transformed into Avalokiteshvara recite the mantra as well. Some manuals say that we can imagine, though it is not easy, that all the microorganisms within our body transform into Avalokiteshvara and recite the mantra. If we can visualize like this (a stable clear visualization helps), the mantra recitation becomes uncountable. Lama Nyan explained that this is the purpose of visualizing ourselves, the guru in the form of Amitabha, and numberless sentient beings reciting the mantra.
Mikyö Dorje continues to teach that we should meditate on the principal deity as emptiness without any reference point. This means that all forms become the union of appearance and emptiness like a reflection; all sounds become the union of sound and emptiness like an echo; and all movement of the mind becomes the union of clarity and emptiness, like a mirror image. Resting in emptiness like this at the end of the practice is very important. Though it is not in the 8th Karmapa’s commentary, afterward we should recite the 100-syllable mantra to purify any omissions or additions to the practice and dedicate the merit. This concludes an explanation of a complete version of the creation phase practice.
The Karmapa added here that we could combine the practice of emptiness with the fourfold emptiness from the Heart Sutra: “Form is emptiness; emptiness is form; emptiness is none other than form; and form is none other than empty.” This original version would be the first of the three unions with emptiness described just above. Then the fourfold emptiness is applied to sound—sound is none other than emptiness, and so forth—and finally to the mind’s cognitions.
Next comes the completion phase and the Karmapa commented that in other manuals, after the dissolution phase, the practice of the channels and winds is mentioned; here, however, Mikyö Dorje explains completion in terms of practicing mahamudra (the Great Seal). Usually the texts speak of three kinds of mahamudra: sutra mahamudra, tantra mahamudra, and essential mahamudra. For our discussion, the first two suffice, and in Mikyö Dorje’s text, sutra mahamudra is emphasized. One could say that most of the mahamudra manuals teach sutra tradition mahamudra; the essential nature of the practice is the perfections and the practices are compatible with the tantra tradition.
The Karmapa will continue teaching the completion phase tomorrow.
January 19, 2017 – Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
Having finished explaining the creation phase, His Holiness turned to the completion phase. He read the passage from the text that speaks of three focuses for the practice of mahamudra: 1) staying undistracted like a soldier whirling his sword as he enters battle; 2) being skilled in abiding without altering like an elephant herder; and 3) sustaining freely like a bird taking off and returning to a ship.
The first example refers to a keenly aware mind that is also open to thought. The second refers to the fact that an elephant herder does not have to run around a lot, so it points to looking inward at the mind, letting cognitions dissipate, and relaxing. The third example is of a bird on a ship in the middle of the ocean. If the bird flies away, it will have no other place to land but the ship. In the same way, when a practitioner is resting in samadhi, no matter what thoughts they might have, by applying mindfulness and awareness, these subside back into the samadhi.
Next, the text speaks of the key point that allows everything that appears to become spiritual practice. With the goal of attaining genuine awareness, we should apprehend appearances with mindfulness and the feeling of letting them do whatever do whatever they want. Then we should devote ourselves to supplications, practice, and dedications. Once you have this awareness, you will not need external teachers. No matter what adversity occurs, you will know how to take it as an aid on the path.
Following this, the Karmapa spoke about the Six Yogas of Continual Flow (chu bo rgyun gyi rnal ‘byor), which relate to practices that should be done continually between meditation sessions: the yoga of eating, of clothing, of residing, and of sleep plus the two practices of transference and bardo. Here in our text, Mikyö Dorje speaks of the yogas of residing and sleep plus transference and bardo.
When the text discusses the completion phase, the Karmapa noted, it emphasizes the practice of mahamudra, and these teachings are usually not given right away; one needs to have completed the preliminary practices first which make one a suitable vessel for the Dharma. So, the Karmapa discussed the different ways of understanding mahamudra in general and the practice of calm abiding.
There are two main types of mahamudra, sutra and tantra, the Karmapa began, and scholars debate what the difference is between them is or if there is a difference at all. From the point of a third type, the essence mahamudra, there is no difference. “As it is generally known,” the Karmapa remarked, “the sutra mahamudra comes from Gampopa’s teachings based on the Samadhiraja Sutra (King of Samadhi Sutra). Mikyö Dorje states that most mahamudra instruction comes from the sutra tradition and explains that this tradition is not different from the Middle Way free of mental elaboration, which he presented in the Chariot of the Kagyu Mahasiddhas (Mikyö Dorje’s commentary on Chandrakirti’s Entering the Middle Way). The Kagyu practice of sutra mahamudra and the great Middle Way are the same thing with two separate names.” The Karmapa remarked that usually mahamudra instructions based Indian texts belong to the sutra tradition, which does not require an empowerment as the tantric traditions do, and therefore, the sutra tradition is generally followed.
When meditating, the Karmapa continued, we should leave three things unaltered: our body, speech, and mind. Our body sits in the seven-point posture of Vairochana. The stale winds related to our speech are cleared out with three breaths each through the right nostril, the left nostril, and both together, after which we just let them be. Our mind remains unaltered, isolated from thoughts of the past, present or future: it does not chase after thoughts from the past, does not summon thoughts of the future, or does not engage thoughts of the present. We simply abide in equipoise, letting the mind be.
Next the Karmapa discussed the three stages of meditation, illustrated above by the three examples. The first is to abide undistracted as a soldier entering battle. The Great Brahmin Saraha stated that when practicing mahamudra, we are not meditating and not not meditating. We are resting, one-pointed and relaxed. Our meditation is not something fabricated by thought, such as thinking “I’m meditating on this.” However, not having anything on which to meditate is not the same as not meditating at all while just remaining our typical self.
To sustain mahamudra meditation, the Karmapa continued, we need to post the sentry of mindfulness so that we are not distracted even for an instant. On the one hand, there is nothing special going on (we are not meditating on a particular thought), and on the other hand, we are resting without distraction. In brief, we are abiding one-pointedly without distraction in a relaxed way.
It is important to remain undistracted, the Karmapa emphasized, and it is our mindfulness that recognizes thoughts and knows our situation. “Nothing special going on” does not mean not meditating or being sunk in a blank state: our mind is clear, vivid, and aware of the changes happening within it. For example, if a thought of hatred arises, mindfulness catches it, knows it. This should not make us feel uncomfortable and think, “Oh no, I should send this bad thought away.” Rather, we can rest one-pointedly on the concept that is present to us, and naturally its power will decrease. The Karmapa explained, “All concepts are mistaken apprehensions, so if we look at them directly, it’s as if they become embarrassed and naturally go away.”
The Karmapa then turned to the second example of remaining without altering like an elephant herder. Here, we are free of hoping not to be distracted and free of the fear that we will be. Our mind is not too tight and not too loose—it is perfectly taut. All we need to do is recognize the concept and rest within it. The text illustrates this through the counter example of a hunting dog whose energy is spent by tenaciously chasing after a deer. We do need to find the thought and recognize it, but then following it so insistently is not helpful. We simply need to relax and prolong this state without altering it.
The Karmapa brought in another example of two wrestlers competing to see who is stronger; one is big and strong and the other is small and weaker. The smaller one must use all their strength, which will soon dissipate. The stronger one will not have to us all his power, just enough to do the job. Similarly, to prolong the flow of meditation, we do not need to use too much power. Like the weaker wrestler, if we spend all our strength at the beginning it will soon dissipate, which is what happens when we run after our thoughts. So, when a thought arises, there is no need to chase it down. Simply recognize it and rest in equipoise clearly and naturally.
The third example is the bird circling back to the ship. If the boat is in the middle of a vast ocean and the bird takes flight, the only place it can land is on the boat, so it must return. Like the bird, whenever our mind takes off into a stream of thoughts, the only place to which it can return is the practitioner’s mind resting in samadhi. The Karmapa commented that if one abides one-pointedly in samadhi and can relax right within it, this state is not disturbed by whatever thought arises, whether of hope or fear, the eight worldly concerns, or the three poisons. They are immediately recognized, and through mindfulness and awareness these become the samadhi.
The mahamudra tradition also explains three ways of abiding or resting, which are free of hope and fear: resting right within abiding, resting right within motion, and resting right within awareness or emptiness. In practicing these three, the Karmapa explained the importance of sustaining mindfulness and awareness: if we focus on a thought, for example, it will change when a new one appears. When we are not able to continue meditating on the old thought, we become somewhat uncomfortable since we cannot remain within the focus. However, what is most important is not the object of focus, which can change, but maintaining the continuum of mindfulness and awareness. The Karmapa remarked that this was a brief teaching on shamatha or calm abiding meditation and that there is nothing specific in this commentary on vipashyana or insight meditation.
The Karmapa then read from the text explaining that no matter where you might go, with ardent faith meditate clearly that the world is a palace and all sentient beings are Avalokiteshvara. To practice the yoga of sleep, focus on a clear blue space at your fontanel (where the plates of your skull meet at the top of your head). By focusing on here, thoughts dissipate and the mind feels weightless. Rest in nonthought, meditate a little on emptiness, and then lie down to sleep.
Lama Nyan commented here that the sleeping half of our lives we spend pointlessly like animals. After receiving this instruction, we can use sleep as part of our spiritual training. It is often said, the Karmapa noted, that if we fall asleep with a virtuous thought in mind, our sleep would also become virtuous.
At the time of death, you should feel faith and practice whatever was your first yoga, so visualize noble Avalokiteshvara above your crown. Focus on a white sphere of light—the essence of your mind—on which the six syllables are written as if in vermillion. Meditate that Avalokiteshvara is saying “oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ,” which allows the sphere to achieve his state.
The Karmapa advised that whatever practice we might be doing, we should begin with refuge and bodhichitta, conclude with dedication and aspiration prayers, while between sessions we should practice the Six Yogas of Continual Flow. The first of these six is the yoga of eating, during which we visualize ourselves as Avalokiteshvara and our lama above our crown. Imagine the food to be divine amrita and bless it with OH AH HUNG. Also visualize as Avalokiteshvara, all living beings in the universe as well as all the parasites and microbes in your body. Imagine that they receive the amrita and are delighted. Lama Nyan remarked that before hearing this instruction, we are just like animals eating grass, but afterward, eating can have the purpose of perfecting the form and formless two kayas.
The Karmapa emphasized that it is especially important for the Sangha to offer their tea and food (known as dkor, or offerings to the Sangha) with prayers to the lamas and the Three Jewels, remembering that these offerings were given by faithful sponsors. Not doing so entails a karmic debt and will bring obscurations to liberation. Thinking that we have no time and enjoying the offerings immediately is not the right way. If we hold one of the vows, then we can receive these offerings, but they should always be offered first.
Practicing the yoga of clothing, especially when it is new, you imagine that it is celestial clothing; seeing you self as the deity bless it with OM AH HUNG and offer it. For the yoga of the place, wherever you are staying, inside or outside a dwelling, see it as an infinite palace and offer it to the lamas and deities thus making it part of the two accumulations.
Shamar Rinpoche explains the Six Yogas a bit differently, the Karmapa noted, including as one of them circumambulation. We can transform wherever we go by imagining that on our right is Avalokiteshvara, a deity’s palace, or a stupa with the deity and retinue. Each step we take is equivalent to circumambulation, so we do not need to journey to a stupa or monastery.
Shamar Rinpoche gives another way to practice the yoga of sleep, the Karmapa remarked. We visualize ourselves as the yidam deity, and above our crown is our lama who embodies them all. The wisdom being in our heart who is an inch tall radiates light upward through the central channel, which links the figures in our heart and at our crown. The light from the wisdom being strikes the lama above our crown who dwindles in size to one inch and passes down along the central channel to reside as the lord of the family above the head of the wisdom being. Try not to have other thoughts than these, and relaxing into emptiness, fall asleep.
The Karmapa explained that we can do this practice at the end of a workday when there is nothing left to do. We sit on our bed, create the visualization, and at the end, let our mind be spacious and relaxed. In this way, we fall asleep.
The Karmapa then read the last part of the text, which presents the lineage of the practice, beginning with Avalokiteshvara, Vajra Yogini, mahasiddha Tsembupa, Chilhepa, and moving down to Jampel Sangpo, who wrote the Mahamudra Lineage Prayer. He was a teacher of the 7th Karmapa, Chödrak Gyatso, and with him the text entered the Karma Kamtsang lineage. Finally, the transmission came to the author of this text, Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje, who wrote the preliminaries, refuge, bodhichitta, and so forth. From Tropu Gyatso come the field of accumulations, the main practice, and mahamudra, the essence of which is based upon the mahasiddha Tsembupa’s instructions.
In conclusion, the Karmapa mentioned that this lineage of Tsembupa is important to the Jonang tradition and represents one of its four main practices. Coincidently, this twentieth Winter Debates is the first time a Jonang Khenpo has been invited to be a judge, so there is wonderful internal and external connection at play.
January 20, 2017 – Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
Today the Gyalwang Karmapa began a teaching based on the Three Essential Points, the next section from Mikyö Dorje’s One Hundred Short Instructions. The three points relate to the essence of practice for this life, for the time of death, and for the bardo. This practice for developing compassion is related to Avalokiteshvara and was given by the great Mitra Yogi to Tropo Lotsawa. Mikyö Dorje’s text, however, does not give Mitra Yogi’s complete instruction, but only his verse on view, meditation, and conduct.
The root text divides into three sections or three types of explanation: the overview, the detailed explanation, and the conclusion (where we find Mitra Yogi’s verse). In the Eighth Karmapa’s instruction, this last section is explained extensively, especially the part focusing on view.
The verse for the first section, the overview, reads:
In this life meditate continually on the yidam deity.
When dying, meditate on the instructions for phowa.
In the bardo, meditate on blending.
These are the essential points for continual meditation.
The first line indicates the practice for this life; the second, the practice for dying (transference); and the third, the practice for the bardo. The fourth line connects to the other three and unites them into continual practice. The Karmapa remarked that if we are to benefit from these practices and be able to do them, we must start now and practice continually like the flow of a river—not a lot on one day and then nothing on another. This is a key point.
The first practice, meditating continually on the deity as a practice for this lifetime, involves four points: recalling impermanence to inspire practice, developing bodhichitta, supplicating the lama and the yidam, and meditating on our mind as nonarising. Our lama is visualized above our head and the deity, in our heart while we meditate on the mind as not arising, or on the mind’s nature free of an essence.
Commenting on these, the Karmapa said that any practice will go well if we recall impermanence, which functions to reverse attachment to this life. This is important because we do not know when death will arrive. We regard samsara as having the very nature of suffering, and give up attachment to the things of this life. This stage of the path is for lower and middle level individuals.
The second practice of rousing bodhichitta is to fully develop great compassion, wishing not only that we ourselves are freed from samsara but taking on the burden that is the responsibility to liberate all living beings by engaging in the conduct of a bodhisattva. The best way to train ourselves in bodhichitta is through the seven instructions on cause and result, the main two of which are seeing the equality of ourselves and others, and exchanging self for other. To truly develop bodhichitta, however, we should go through all the stages. This practice is for superior individuals.
The third point is supplicating the lama on our crown and the yidam deity in our hearts. The Karmapa explained that after rousing bodhichitta, perfecting the two accumulations, and attaining buddhahood, we will be able to benefit all living beings. At present we do not have this capacity, so we need to expand our compassion, one that cannot bear to see the suffering of all living beings who are tormented in samsara and the lower realms. With a feeling of overwhelming compassion, we think, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could free all these beings?” We supplicate Avalokiteshvara and the 1000 buddhas of this fortunate eon to bless us to attain this ability, and not in the far future, but right now so that we can immediately begin to help others.
Describing the visualization in the 8th Karmapa’s text, the Karmapa said that above our crown is a white crystal stupa with 1000 doors (like the traditional Gomang Stupa); sitting in the middle of a jeweled throne with the seat of a lotus and moon disk is red Amitayus (in essence is our lama), who wears the three Dharma robes and holds an alms bowl filled with wisdom nectar. The 1000 doors are opened wide and in each one resides one of the 1000 buddhas of this fortunate era. They take the form and the color of the traditional buddhas of the five families: those in the east appear as Vairochana, those in the south as Ratnasambhava, those in the west as Amitabha, and those in the north as Amoghasiddhi.
Above the crystal stupa is a vast field of refuge, composed of the kagyu lamas, the buddhas and bodhisattvas, listeners and solitary realizers, and so forth; they are inconceivable in number. In our heart is a freshly blossomed white lotus with 1000 petals, in the middle of which Khasar Khechari Pani (a form of Avalokiteshvara) resides. He has one face and two hands, the right holds the mudra of supreme generosity, and the ring finger and thumb of his left hand hold the stem of a white lotus that flowers near his ear. He is sitting at ease with one leg straight and the other bent. In his crown, throat, and heart are oṃ, āḥ, hūṃ. Amid the hair knotted on his crown resides Amitabha, adorned in jewels and marked with oṃ, āḥ, hūṃ in his three places. In Khasarpani’s heart is a white hrīḥ with a visargah (the two stacked spheres to its left). around which spins the six-syllable mantra.
Visualizing clearly, we supplicate the lama on our crown in the form of Amitabha and the 1000 buddhas of the fortunate eon. With devotion overflowing, we pray that all beings be released from samsara. This invokes a stream of blessings in the form of lights that descend from the lama’s heart, pass down our central channel, and dissolve in to the heart of Khasarpani visualized in our heart. Alternatively, on each of the 1000 petals of the lotus in his heart is the red letter Ah. Through the force of our devotion, these blaze with dancing flames, and light from the heart of the lama above us comes down the central channel and dissolves into the letters Ah and making their blessing powerful.
Between sessions we should engage in analytic meditation on the absence of a self in a person and in phenomena, and then rest our minds on the meaning we have discovered. That was a brief explanation of the first point.
His Holiness then addressed the second essential point, which is for the time of death and presents presents the practice of transferring consciousness (‘pho ba). The root verse states:
After offering your own body,
Entirely give up all dependencies.
By training in the shaft of light,
Shoot the mind to Tushita.
The Karmapa explained that there are three mandatory parts for the practice of phowa: eliminating the impediments, gathering the favorable conditions, and actually doing the practice. The impediments, or obstacles, refer to our attachments to our body, possessions, or places. They weigh us down so that no matter how much we would wish, we cannot fly up to Tushita. It is like tying a stone to a bird’s wing, so it cannot leave the ground. If we wish to take flight, we need to overcome our fixation on our body. One way of doing this is to offer our illusory body as a ganachakra or feast offering. This is similar to the practice of severance (explained later in Mikyö Dorje’s instructions), so we could also follow the visualizations of severance here.
The second line states “Entirely give up all dependencies,” which means to separate from attachment for friends, relatives, places, and wealth. We see the people in our lives as having assembled for the time being, like those who have come at the same time to a shopping center and will soon go their separate ways. This resembles the process of dying when we must separate from everything to which we are attached—our personal connections, our wealth, and all our possessions. Ultimately these are without purpose and pointless, so we must find ways to reduce and eliminate this clinging.
The third step, the Karmapa explained, is to gather the positive conditions. To be born in Tushita, we need to feel a fervent longing and make intense aspirations as well as dedicating all the virtue we may have in order to be born there. These three represent the favorable conditions.
The fourth step is the actual practice of transference, covered in the last two lines, which involves training with a shaft of light through which we shoot our mind up to Tushita, the beautiful Joyous Heaven that is part of the desire realm. We imagine it in front of us and see in the middle a golden Maitreya who resides on a lion throne and faces our world, looking at us.
We pray to him from the depth of our heart, requesting to be rescued from samsara. From him comes a long tube of light that reaches our open fontanel. The Khasarpani (the essence of our mind) in our heart looks up and sees that the shaft of light goes directly to a brilliant golden mandala, shining like a sun in the heart of Maitreya, and so Khasarpani travels along that path. In sum, there are three thoughts here: the shaft of light comes to our crown; it is recognized as the path to Tushita; and we have a fervent longing to go there.
Through the power of supplicating again, from the heart of Maitreya lights radiate in the form of a hook with descends through the channel of light and, catching the Khasarpani in our heart (the essential nature of our mind), pulls him upward through our fontanel to the heart of Maitreya where he dissolves, so that our mind and Maitreya’s mind become inseparable. Rest in equipoise here. Once more lights radiate from the heart of Maitreya and we emerge from his heart as a youthful god, sitting on a 1000-petaled lotus in front of Maitreya with the sole wish is to partake of the mahayana Dharma. Imagine that you have taken such a rebirth.
This completed a brief explanation of transference. The Karmapa commented that the explanation used the example of Tushita, but we could think of other pure lands, such as Sukhavati, or of being born in the presence of our own kind lama, and becoming inseparable from them. We evoke the lama who comes from wherever they are—their present residence if living or from a pure land If not. The lama comes in front of us and our minds are blended as one.
The Karmapa commented that this concluded the teaching for the time of dying, and now we need to practice, as it is difficult to engage this meditation when we are actually in the process of leaving this world. This teaching of the Three Essential Points, the Karmapa noted, spread widely through different lineages and it would be good to read other accounts of the practice. Tomorrow he will give teachings on the bardo, the second practice.
The annual Kagyu Monlam Animal Medical Camp has begun and will run until 29th January, 2017. This year the camp is located in front of the main entrance gate to the Monlam Pavilion.
Over ten days, an international team of vets and para-vets will be delivering important animal welfare and public health initiatives to the people of Bodhgaya and surrounding villages. As in previous years, camp activities include:
a street dog sterilisation and anti-rabies vaccination programme;
an outpatients clinic where local people can bring both pets and livestock for free treatment;
an outreach programme of vets and veterinary assistants travelling to local communities to treat animals and give advice on husbandry;
an educational initiative to instruct both children and adults in rabies prevention and compassionate treatment of animals.
The core veterinary team is from the Sikkim Anti-Rabies Animal Health Division, Government of Sikkim and is headed by Dr Thinlay Nedup and his wife Dr Diki Palmu Sherpa, assisted by Joy from the NGO Dogs of Gaya. They have been joined by three vet volunteers from Australia, three local vets from Gaya, and monks from various Kagyu monasteries.
The main sponsors for this year’s camp are the Brigitte Bardot Foundation which is funding all medicines, veterinary equipment and some of the educational materials, and the Kagyupa International Monlam Trust, which has facilitated the camp and provided free food and accommodation for staff as well as travelling expenses for Himalayan staff. Additional educational materials have been provided by Khoryug, the Gyalwang Karmapa’s environmental organisation.
After three years of working together, the team is now well-established in the area and trusted by local people. Immediately the camp opened, patients appeared, and when the team goes out to round up stray dogs for treatment, local villagers support their efforts because they realise the benefits for everyone.
In addition, the team’s work is now informed by its knowledge of local conditions and customs. For example, they noticed that local goats were suffering excessively from parasitic and bacterial infections causing diarrhoea. When they investigated further, the team discovered that it was the local custom not to give the goats drinking water during cold weather; local villagers believed that drinking cold water made the goats ill. Consequently, the goats became dehydrated and, when they were released daily to forage, they were drinking stagnant, contaminated water from ponds and roadside ditches. Once the villagers were told the real source of the illness, they began giving water to the goats and the incidence of diarrhoea decreased drastically.
The educational initiative with local children is particularly successful this year. The children are choosing to come to the animal camp on their own initiative, partly the team suspects because of the free colouring books and crayons. They are consolidating their knowledge from previous years. They have learned how to interpret dog body language so that they can avoid being bitten, what to do if they are attacked by an aggressive dog, and how to clean a wound if they are bitten.
Finally, each day on average 40 dogs, mainly street dogs, are de-sexed and vaccinated against rabies, and up to 180 outpatients are treated.
A delegation of Denzong Lhade (Monk Body) led by Sangha MLA Ven. Sonam Lama met with 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje on August 23, 2016.
GANTOK, January 22: Sangha MLA Sonam Lama has expressed his optimism that the permission would be granted by the Union government to 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje to visit and bless Sikkim.
I am keeping track of the whole development very closely and therefore very positive that the 17th Karmapa would soon be visiting Sikkim to bless all of us, said the Sangha MLA in a press statement on Sumday.
Lama said the indefinite rely hunger strike by the monks under the banner of‘The Denjong Lhadey’here at BL House shall culminate into good news and development not before too long now. He thanked the various Sikkimese monk bodies, Denjong Monastic Chogchen, all the monasteries for directly or indirectly supporting the ongoing movement of The Denjong Lhadey.
I once again urge upon the dharma abiding people of Sikkim from all walks of life and political affiliation to render a final common support to the Sikkimese monks in realizing early arrival of the 17th Karmapa to Sikkim, appealed the Sangha MLA.