Monlam Pavilion, Bodh Gaya, India February 8, 2017
On this remarkable day, after two days of initial rituals, the followers of Gyalwang Karmapa had, for the first time, been given the opportunity to receive the grand empowerment of Chakrasamvara from the head of the Kagyu lineage.
His Holiness introduced the initiates into the meaning of Secret Mantra clarifying that the word “mantra”, in Chinese translations, means “the words of truth”.
“It is when we speak in accordance with the nature of how things are, the power of those words, and the way of bringing benefit to the world through that power,” he said and illustrated the point with stories of Angulimala and Buddha Akshobhya. The Angulimala Sutra tells of Angulimala encountering a pregnant woman unable to give birth. Buddha advised that Angulimala, who had killed many people in the past, could, by the power of the truth of his resolve not to kill anymore, help that woman give birth easily. At the time he was a bodhisattva, the protector Akshobhya made the vow to never get angry at anyone, which he kept until reaching buddhahood. His name, the Immoveable, signifies the verity of his unwavering resolve.
His Holiness explained that though it is said there are millions of Mother tantras, Chakrasamvara is the quintessence of them all. Of the three Indian sources of the Chakrasamvara tantra—Luipa, Kandipa and Krisnacarya( (Skt. Kṛṣṇācārya)— it was the one from Luipa, passed down through Naropa and then Marpa the Translator, which he was bestowing.
The 17th Karmapa then imparted the Madhyamaka tradition Bodhisattva vows by following the words found inThe Way of The Bodhisattvainitially in Tibetan, and repeated in English and Chinese. He expounded on the symbolism of the vajra as the ultimate bodhicitta that focuses on the Svabhavikakaya essence. As the “prajñā that realizes emptiness”, it breaks the iron cage of ego clinging.
Once the empowerment had been given, the siddhis were conferred to everyone present by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Drupon Dechen Rinpoche, Gyaltsen Rinpoche and Ringu Tulku Rinpoche. While this was happening, His Holiness enumerated the 8 commitments of the refuge vows given the previous day: the need to serve the guru, listen to the dharma of the Buddha, properly examine the teaching, seek liberation, be careful of your actions of body and speech, keep the vows whether they are the day-long fasting vows or the 5 lay precepts, be affectionate and compassionate to sentient beings and make offerings from time to time. He concluded with a short comment on the boddhisattva vows, the principal one being not to give up on sentient beings.
As the assembly slowly dispersed, the Gyalwang Karmapa performed the closing ceremony of the mandala’s dissolution, yet another elegant and vivid reminder of the empty nature of all phenomena.
Monlam Pavilion, Bodh Gaya, India February 9, 2017
This year sees the conclusion of a five-part teaching begun by the Karmapa on 31st December 2012, the year in which the Kagyu Monlam commemorated the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage, and hence the choice of this text by the First Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye.
The text is a guide to the ngondro or preliminaries to the practice of Mahamudra in the Kagyu tradition. First, come the common preliminary meditations—known as the four thoughts which turn the mind to Dharma, they are the precious human life; death and impermanence; karma, cause and effect; and the unsatisfactoriness of life in samsara. Then come the special preliminary practices. At successive Monlams, His Holiness has completed giving instructions on the first three: Refuge and Prostration; Vajrasattva Practice; and Offering the Mandala. This year he will be teaching the final special preliminary practice which is Guru Yoga and giving pith instructions on Karmapa Mikyö Dorje’s Four-Session Guru Yoga.
The Karmapa emphasised once more that those within the Karma Kamtsang who had just received the Chakrasamvara empowerment had committed to a daily recitation of then Four Session Guru Yoga for the rest of their lives. However, those from other traditions or not within the Karma Kamtsang were free to practice the most important guru yoga from their individual tradition instead.
The main point is that merely taking the empowerment is not enough. Taking the empowerment makes you capable or suitable for practising the path of secret mantra and so once you have taken the empowerment if you continue the practice it will be beneficial. Otherwise, if you have received the empowerment and you think that’s an end to it, there’s nothing more to be done, and just sit back and relax, that will not be good. You absolutely need to continue the practice.
For those who already had many yidam practice commitments, it was possible to transform the Guru Yoga into an all-encompassing practice by imagining that the Guru is the union of all the yidams and protectors.
Having read the first section of the text, His Holiness clarified why, when we practice guru yoga, we do not practice in our ordinary form but imagine ourselves and meditate on ourselves as a yidam deity. “We need to forcefully block ordinary impure appearances. If we block them and develop pure appearances, we will be able to easily receive the blessings,” he explained. This gives us confidence and also alters our perceptions.
However, unlike the ordinary experience of wanting to emulate a film star or pop singer whom we admire, when we visualise ourselves as a yidam deity, it is not the same as pretending to be something we are not because “all of us have within ourselves the buddha nature, the seed which can awaken to buddhahood”. The Karmapa then gave a brief summary of the two distinctive views on the nature of emptiness: shentong [empty of other] which is the basic view adopted in Mahamudra practice, andrangtong [empty of self]:
This then is the buddha nature. In the Prasangika tradition this is basically described as the object or emptiness, but in the Tathagatagarbha tradition, or the tradition of the Shentong school, which is also the Mahamudra tradition, we say that buddha nature is not merely the object emptiness, not merely a no-negation, it is not merely an absence. Instead, we say that it is the luminous wisdom, the conscious subject; it has the nature of luminosity. So in the Middle Way School, they say that this intrinsic nature of things, the dharmatā [Tib.chö nyi] is the fact that all phenomena are empty of their own nature, but they do not actually point out what that dharmatā is. In the Tathagatagarbha tradition, the Shentong tradition, they maintain this is what the dharmatā is, what the nature of all phenomena is—this conscious subject of wisdom.
So, when we meditate on a yidam deity such as Avalokiteshvara, it is not the same as pretending because we all share the same wisdom [Tib.yeshe] as the yidam deity. “In terms of the aspect of natural purity or in terms of their essence there is not the slightest difference. In terms of its form, there is the distinction whether it is obscured by the adventitious stains or not. But in terms of its nature, it is actually stainless and unobscured,” the Karmapa stated, comparing this to gold. Gold has to be extracted from ore and smelted, but there is no difference in the essential nature of the gold when it is in the ore and the gold once it has been smelted and purified.
His Holiness then considered the question on which deity we should meditate, and explained that in the Karma Kamtsang the tradition is to visualise ourselves as Vajrayogini (Tib.Dorjenaljorma) in the form of Vajravarahi (Tib.Dorjephagmo) for several reasons. First, she was the yidam deity of the Kagyu forefathers, Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa. Second, she represents the co-emergent Mahamudra. Finally, Gampopa gave Dusum Khyenpa, the first Karmapa, the practice of Vajravarahi as his creation phase practice.
“To visualise yourselves as Vajrayogini you need the empowerment of Vajrayogini. However, the Vajrayogini empowerment is restricted and cannot be given freely,” the Karmapa explained. “For that reason, I gave the Chakrasamvara empowerment….Chakrasamvara is the father aspect so I think that it is possible to then meditate on the mother aspect.”
“If you are able to visualise yourself as Vajravarahi, that’s good. If you cannot do that, visualise yourself as another yidam deity,“ he concluded.
The morning’s teaching session ended at this point. During the tea-break the assembly recited theTwenty-One Praises of Tara, and then in the second part of the morning session, everyone had the opportunity to practice reciting the Four-Session Guru Yoga, led carefully and slowly by the chant masters.
Monlam Pavilion, Bodh Gaya, India February 9, 2017
The Karmapa emphasized the importance of sustaining our commitments once we have received an empowerment and nurturing through practice the seeds it has planted. He also pointed out how we really do not know what the Buddha looked like as images of him came some 600 years after his parinirvana. He is also said to be inconceivable, but that might prevent us from establishing a heartfelt connection with him, and therefore, we meditate on the lama as inseparable from the Buddha.
The General Report
The Karmapa began his talk today by explaining the difference between the guru yoga that is a part of the mahamudra preliminaries and the Four Session Guru Yoga by the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje. There are numerous guru yogas of various lengths in the Karma Kamtsang tradition, the Karmapa explained, and among them all, the most precious is the Four Session Guru Yoga. However, people from different traditions have received the Chakrasamvara empowerment and made the commitment to do a guru yoga practice, but this does not mean that they have to do a Kamtsang guru yoga, as it is perfectly fine to do one from their own tradition.
That said we must do one guru yoga, because it is not enough to have received the empowerment. The seeds of the four kayas have been planted in our being so we need to appreciate and nurture this potential. If we just toss the seeds aside, they will simply rot away. In sum, the Karmapa stated that there are a great number of yidam deity practices and guru yoga is more encompassing as it contains them all. Whether we do a long or short one is up to us, but we must take a guru yoga into our practice.
The Karmapa then turned to the guru yoga in the Torch of True Meaning, which explains the preliminary practices in the Karma Kamtsang tradition and commented on the reading transmission he gave yesterday, which covered the visualization for guru yoga. The text seems to be saying that we can visualize the guru above our heads or in front but actually the meaning is that the guru is in the sky directly in front of our head. His throne is held up by two lions in each of its four sides and covered in brocades and silks; on top of a lotus and moon seat is our teacher in the form of Vajradhara (Dorje Chang). The text describes him as “the combined essence of all the buddhas of the three times.” From the outside, his form resembles Vajradhara, however on the inside, he is our kind root lama, who has taken the form of Vajradhara. This visualization helps us to see our lama as a realized being.
The Karmapa then queried: Who is the Buddha? If we do not know, how could we possibly meditate on our guru as the buddha? When we think of the buddha, the Karmapa commented, what usually comes to mind is a golden statue of a figure resting in meditative equipoise. (The Karmapa turned around to point out the tall buddha behind him.) But if we think about it, we can see that the first statues of the Buddha were created some 600 years after his lifetime, so we cannot say for sure what the Buddha really looked like.
Even if we could have been present during his life, it would have been difficult to recognize him, so we have to use our imagination to guess how he was. A story recounts that when the Buddha was practicing austerities for six years while sitting under a tree on the banks of the Naranjuna River, he became so emaciated that he came to resemble the tree itself. When a young Brahmin woman offered him yogurt (some say it was kheer, sweet cooked rice), she thought she was giving it to a tree spirit.
When he became enlightened at dawn, the Buddha again was sitting alone under a tree as many meditators in India have done for centuries. Looking at him from the outside, there was nothing special to see. He was simply relaxing in a serene and peaceful atmosphere with no one to applaud his achievement.
Usually it is said that the Buddha is inconceivable, way beyond our ordinary minds. However, if we think of him like as some mythical being, it is difficult to make a heartfelt connection with him. To remedy this, we meditate on our authentic lama as the Buddha, thereby creating a connection so we can feel closer to the progenitor of the lineage.
The Karmapa returned to the text and continued describing the field of refuge. We visualize our root guru as Vajradhara, and in a column above him are the lineage lamas, surrounded by siddhas of the Kagyu practice lineages, such as Drikung, Drukpa, Tsalpa, and Taklung plus gurus from other lineages, such as the Great Perfection, the Six Yogas, the Path and Result, Pacification, Chö, and Mind Training. Surrounding them are the gatherings of yidam deities, buddhas, bodhisattvas, heroes, dakinis, Dharma protectors and guardians. If it is too difficult to imagine all these figures, the Karmapa said it would be all right to consider that all of these beings are embodied in the central figure of Vajradhara. It is especially important to think of our lama as incorporating all of the Three Jewels.
Recalling a story about Drukpa Kunley, the Karmapa clarified why it is important to visualize our lama as connected to the buddhas, yidams, and so forth. If we do not, there is a danger of ignoring these other figures, and just focusing on the lama, whom we imagine to be a plump, yellow-robed monk or a wild tantric yogi. This is just mixing some concepts together and meditating on them, the Karmapa stated. Therefore, we must not reject the myriad figures in the field of refuge but see them as inseparably connected to our guru. Actually this is the case, since their essential nature is the same: There is not one yidam deity separate from our lama. This way of thinking also enhances our feeling that the guru above our head is worthy of veneration. In this frame of mind, we fervently supplicate the lama from the depths of our heart.
For the stages of the practice, the Karmapa explained that usually, the deity is generated through imagining the samayasattva and invoking the jnanasattva to dissolve inseparably into it. Here, however, this is not necessary, so we imagine that these two are inseparable from the beginning and that the field of refuge is directly present before us. Afterward we can recite the long lineage prayer, which is in the practice text, or the Short Vajradhara Lineage Prayer. In former times, people recited the prayer at the beginning of the Four Session Guru Yoga, starting, “My mothers, great in number as the extent of space.…”
Speaking in general about supplicating, the Karmapa remarked that there are wonderful prayers of calling the lama from afar, especially the one composed by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye. However, in these prayers, we criticize ourselves top to bottom, listing our many faults and describing how terrible we are. On the one hand, it is good to recognize our shortcomings, to see our faults as faults, but as Drukpa Kunley remarked, our supplications to the guru wind up being merely criticism and put-downs of ourselves. “Whatever direction I turn to, it’s inauspicious. Wherever I sit, grass won’t grow.” This wailing is not supplicating the lama as the texts intend.
Instead, the Karmapa explained, along with numbers of living beings as vast as space, we pray to the lama—seen as the essence of all lamas—with as much devotion as we can summon from the depths of our being. This also provides the opportunity for us to rest in meditation on the empty aspect of our experience of devotion, thus combining the practice of devotion with mahamudra.
The text then speaks of taking the four empowerments. In the secret mantra tradition, the Karmapa taught, it is important, and not easy, to maintain our samaya commitments and do the practice every day. The self-empowerment is a way to restore downfalls by taking the four empowerments described in the text. Traditionally, it is said that a broken samaya should be restored within the duration of a session, and this is another reason why Mikyö Dorje’s guru yoga is done in four sessions, two in the morning and two later in the day. With this, the Karmapa concluded the session for the day and will continue to teach the guru yoga in two sessions tomorrow.
The Gyalwang Karmapa began teaching where he had left off in Session Two, by reading the section on the words from theMukhagama of Manjushri, found inThe Torch of True Meaning, and then reflected on the idea of the root guru based on this profound text.
The Mukhagama states
Any sentient being who belittles A Vajra bearer of the future, Belittles me, so therefore I Abandon them all for a time.
I dwell in his body and receive The offerings of other practitioners. Those who please him will purify The karmic obscurations in their own being.
InThe Torch of True Meaning, Jamgon Kongtrul elaborates further that, even if you are not able to hear dharma from a famous guru such as a lineage holder, if you take as your root guru another guru who has the same experience and realisation, you will receive the blessings.
The root guru is portrayed as: “all individuals who work for the benefit of beings, sun and moon, herbal medicines, even boats and bridges.” Committing the root downfall of disrespecting the guru refers to all the gurus with whom you have a dharmic connection, not just the root guru.
His Holiness continued to read from the text. Innumerable sutras state that receiving the supreme siddhi is possible only if we meditate on the guru. That is unequalled among all practices because bodhicitta is the essence of the Buddha’s wisdom.
The text continues with a section on how examining faults in others is self-destructive by nature. The First Jamgon Kongtrul warns us not to examine others’ faults, in particular anyone who has started to practice the dharma, but to rejoice and think positively. Furthermore, we do not know who might be practising yoga internally and it is said that, other than the perfect Buddha, no individual can truly measure another. Since examining others’ faults sweeps away our good qualities, we should solely examine our own.
The concluding point of today’s portion of the text was that the intensity of blessings corresponds to our view of the guru and the level of devotion equals the level of spiritual practice. The key for rapidly receiving blessings is to meditate on the guru as a buddha.
The text reads: If you are practicing Mahamudra, you should think of the guru as the naked dharmakaya. If you want to extend your life, think of him as Amitayus or White Tara. If you want to cure illness, think of him as the Medicine Buddha. For dons, think of him as their remedy. You must view him as inseparable from the principal deities of any of the mandalas from the tantras. This is the meaning of calling him, ‘the Guardian of the Mandala’.
The Gyalwang Karmapa then explained the practice of taking empowerment from the guru while imagining him above the crown of our heads. He said that if we have transgressions of secret mantra vajrayana, the self-entry to the mandala of the deity is important for restoring these violations. Mixing the minds means effectively entering the mandala and receiving the self-empowerments.
Turning to the Four-Session Guru Yoga, His Holiness explained some essentials of the practice. It is called ‘four-session’ because it is meant to be practised four times a day: two sessions before midday and two sessions after midday. Since it is sometimes difficult for us to do four sessions, we should aim to recite it at least once a day. The reason for four sessions is that it is a powerful tool for purifying root downfalls. If a root downfall goes beyond the duration of one session, from the time we commit it to the time we restore it, then it is difficult to recover it. If it doesn’t go beyond that duration and we restore it in that time, it is not considered to be a root downfall.
Returning to the teachings on the guru yoga in Jamgon Kongtrul’s text, the Karmapa related that we should not see the guru as a single individual, but the union of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, deities of the mandala, and the union of all the jewels. We should consider him inseparable in essence from the founder of Buddhism, Buddha Shakyamuni, and from Gampopa, the founder of the Dakpo Kagyu, because the Lord Buddha himself prophesized that Gampopa would continue the Buddha’s teaching. As Vajradhara is the teacher of mantra, it is important that the guru is seen as inseparable from him as well.
Finally, you should imagine your root guru as inseparable from one of the incarnations of the Karmapa, whichever one you feel the greatest connection with. “The question is: who is your root guru?” he asked, and continued by saying that, as practitioners, we will have many gurus. Among the many lamas who have given us guidance, the root guru is the one who has shown particular affection for us. It is the one who has displayed the greatest kindness for us.
On finding the root guru, the Karmapa asserted, fundamentally, we do not need to look outside ourselves to see who our root guru is. Rather, we should examine what experience or feeling arises in our minds. Our tendency, however, is to examine the external qualities of a lama; we look at his fame, the size of his monastery, his education, his looks, but we fail to pay attention to the level of his realization.
His Holiness equated that kind of attitude to shopping for things based on their appearance. “Be your own store,” he advised, and, continuing the metaphor, invited us to examine the wealth of our faith, because that was the currency for finding the guru. It was not so difficult to find a guru, he suggested, if we had faith, devotion and pure perception, because buddhas and bodhisattvas are waiting to help us day and night, but we needed to give them a chance and open the gate for them with the key of our faith and devotion.
However, to those who still felt that they were unable to find their root guru, great masters have said that, if a person has received the tradition of Gampopa, they could consider him to be their root guru.
Even though we should examine our feelings, we need to use our intelligence and discernment too. His Holiness reminded us not to mistake our motivation while examining the lama. We should not be looking only for negative aspects but trying to find good qualities.
With those words, he brought the morning’s session to a conclusion.
A year after the launch of the ADARSHA website, which lets you read and conduct searches of ancient Tibetan documents in a digital format, the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje has announced the launch of a second website: DHARMA EBOOKS. Both websites are part of the DHARMA TREASURE project, which operates under the editorial guidance of the Karmapa and actuates his vision to use modern technology to preserve and propagate ancient traditions.
Whereas ADARSHA focuses only on the Kangyur, Tengyur and other Buddhist scriptures in Tibetan, DHARMA EBOOKS will contain a greater range of Buddhist e-books, including important texts from the Buddhist canon, commentaries and practice texts. Though some are still only available in Tibetan, others have been translated into many different languages.
Karmapa Mikyö Dorje’s Four-Session Guru Yoga, for example, is available in nine languages.
The Gyalwang Karmapa was actively involved in designing the website. The letter ཨ in the logo on the Homepage is his calligraphy. He contributed the images of Milarepa and Gampopa which feature in the title. They were taken from a very old 14th-century text of Lord Gampopa’sOrnament of Precious Liberation. Similarly, the image of the Buddha heading the Introduction page is taken from another ancient pecha which was written by His Holiness the 1st Dalai Lama and is now in the Karmapa’s private collection.
The books are mostly in epub format which is compatible with Apple Mac computers, ipads and iphones. Epub also works on MS Windows, Android and Kindle, though some of the features may not work. The website contains a helpful user guide for epub on various devices. Although the majority of books are designed to be downloaded for reading, some books have an option to be read online.
The site is easily navigated by categories and tags. All the e-books are under creative commons copyright. You can use the contents of the e-book for free but under the following conditions: if you redistribute you must quote the source; you cannot use the e-book for commercial purposes; you cannot redistribute e-books which have been changed in any way.
And for those fortunate ones who have just received the Chakrasamvara empowerment here in Bodhgaya and who will be practising Karmapa Mikyö Dorje’s Four-Session Guru Yoga, the practice text can be downloaded from the website, accompanied by a very special audio version read by His Holiness the 17 th Karmapa himself, with the intention of helping people learn the practice.
The Karmapa began the afternoon session by reading from the remaining text of the Guru Yoga section of the Torch of True Meaning:
“There are four factors for devotion to become the path….if you see the guru as having faults, the impurity of your own mind stream is to blame. How could Buddhas have any faults? Let them do what they will, even should you see them having sexual relations, telling lies and so on, meditate thinking: this is the best way to train disciples, because of this he will undoubtedly ripen and liberate many sentient beings. This is a hundred, a thousand times more marvelous than keeping a pure moral code….
In particular, when he reprimands you, think that this extinguishes bad karma; if he slaps you, think that he is driving away spirits and obstructors; above all, think that due to his compassion he has treated you as a father does a child and is not being a false friend. He is being very kind.
If he seems displeased and is not paying attention to you, think that this is because your karmic obscurations have not been purified. Strive at the methods to purify your obscurations and please the guru by serving his body, speech and mind. In brief, the first factor is not finding fault with the guru. Second….recognize that whatever he does is a positive quality. Third….resolve to stop expecting or worrying. Fourth….focus all your actions of body, speech, and mind on serving him.
For the training, everything is contained within two things: accomplish whatever the guru commands and do whatever he wishes....”
After he finished reading from the text, the Karmapa noted that this completes the instructions for Guru Yoga that are found in the Torch of True Meaning and that what follows are the instructions on the main practice. Actually the main practice is really taught in Mahamudra, theOcean of Definitive Meaning, he said, and what is taught here is just a distillation or a synthesis of that, but it is not necessary to go over that now.
[In the Guru Yoga section] there were many things said about the topic of the lama—many things about how to meditate upon Guru Yoga. “But actually,” the Karmapa said, “there are different types of individuals with varying capacities, and in particular there are those people who are appropriate vessels for practicing the Secret Mantra Vajrayana. Such people should be able to practice according to all the special instructions that are given in the text. But it is difficult for everyone to be able to do exactly as is written in this text and I do not think it is even necessary to do that,” the Karmapa added. “And this is an important point to understand.”
“In particular there are four points for taking devotion as the path,” he elaborated,
1. Do not think of the guru’s faults.
There is a difference between what is taught in the texts and reality. If we examine the situation carefully, no one is wholly positive or negative: everyone has a mixture of faults and qualities. So it is hard find the perfect guru. It is not like we can take the text in our hands and go looking for the perfect guru, comparing him with the text, ticking off qualities: he has got this one, he has got that one. We cannot do that.
We can even see this in worldly situations when we are looking for a partner: we want someone who has all positive qualities and no faults. People say to me, “I have trouble finding a partner,” and that is because they have such high hopes. Some people set their criteria so high that the only person who could possibly meet those criteria would be themselves and so they must stay alone, living with themselves. If that were the case, it would be very strange. Thus, if we want the qualities then we also must accept the faults.
It is also important to understand the purpose and reasons for serving the guru. For example, when bees collect pollen from flowers, they know exactly what their task is and they do it perfectly. In this example, the guru is like the flower and the captivating qualities of the guru’s mind are like the pollen that must be retrieved. Moreover, when bees collect pollen from flowers, the colour of the flower is irrelevant, nor does it matter if the flower is beautiful or not. The most important thing is the pollen that they need to obtain. We need to think about this like a business enterprise. We need to extract what is profitable and leave the rest. We should become close to the spiritual master and cultivate a mutual connection with them. So that is the first point and that is looking at it from a negative point of view.
2. Think that everything the guru does is positive.
The second point is from a positive point of view: we should see everything the guru does as a quality and as an opportunity to train our minds. I think this is the basic meaning. So no matter what the connection between the guru and disciple, do not let it go to waste. See everything that happens as a way to train the mind and improve oneself. Look for the opportunity to do that.
Basically, the trust between the guru and disciple should be indestructible; it should be stable and lasting, and something to have true confidence in. Even in society, when a man and woman really love each other, their connection cannot be harmed or destroyed by any other circumstance. It is like a vajra rock.
3. Resolve to stop expecting or worrying.
We should not have expectations, nor hope to get something out of our relationship with the guru as if it were a business deal. We should recognize that our own devotion is our responsibility--a task that we must undertake ourselves. It should not be the case that if the lama treats us in one way we will have devotion and if he treats us in another, we will not.
When we have devotion for the guru, it is not just for a single lifetime, but life after life and birth after birth, and we should release ourselves from the binds of hope and fear.
4. Always have a pure and admiring attitude.
The fourth is that we should always have a pure, admiring, and loving attitude towards the guru. We need to do whatever our guru demands and accomplish whatever he wishes. There is nothing that is not included in these two.
Primarily the relationship between the guru and disciple is a dharmic one. If the guru tells you to do something worldly and you do not do it, it is probably okay. But if he teaches you something dharmic and you actually practice it, then this reinforces the connection between the guru and disciple. It is important to actually practice the dharma that the guru teaches.
The relationship with the guru should span many lifetimes, but if we do not do any of the dharma practices, then it will be difficult to follow him from life to life.
“So that completes that,” the Karmapa said, and he went on to give the reading transmission for theFour–Session Guru Yoga.
Displaying creative and informed scholarship of history, the Karmapa divided his morning talk among four main topics that clarified key features of his incarnation lineage: the history of the Karma Kamtsang, including the concept of the four earlier and the eight later lineages; how the name Karmapa came about; the meaning, actual color, and origination of the Black Crown; and how the mantra “Karmapa Khyenno” arose.
In the morning, the Gyalwang Karmapa discussed key elements of his tradition as a preparation for explaining the practice in the afternoon. Beforehand, however, he made some important points about doing the practice. People can listen to the explanation, but in order to do the actual practice, they must have received an empowerment in the highest yoga tradition (anuttara yoga). He also counseled that if we know Tibetan, it is best to chant the text in Tibetan, which is available in a pecha format. For the most part, the words of the practice belong to the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje and a few are those of his students who compiled the text.
The Karmapa divided his talk among several sections: the history of the Karma Kamtsang lineage; how the name Karmapa came about; the meaning and origination of the Black Crown; and how the mantra “Karmapa Khyenno” arose. For the first, the Karmapa explained that Gampopa had numerous students and among them, four were lineage holders, known as the founders of the four earlier lineages of the Dakpo Kagyu tradition: Barom, Phakdru, Kamtsang, and Tsalpa Kagyu. From Phakmo Drupa stemmed the eight later lineages: Drikung, Taklung, Trophu, Lingre, Martsang, Yelpa, Yasang, and Shuksep Kagyu.
Contemporary scholars state that the term “the four earlier and eight later lineages” came from Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye (1813-1899). However, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there lived a master named Taklung Ngakwang Namgyal who composed a famous history of the Taklung lineage. This contains a tea offering mentioning the four earlier and eight later lineages that descended from Gampopa.
Further, the Fourth Kamtrul Rinpoche, Chökyi Nyima (1730-1779), wrote in his autobiography about the four elder lineages. These two texts, therefore, both predate Jamgön Kongtrul and indicate earlier sources for the term.
In general, the Karmapa commented, there are two ways to understand the four elder and eight younger lineages: they can refer to the Kagyu lineages in general or only to the Karma Kamtsang, as explained in Karmay Khenchen Rinchen Dargye’s commentary on the Short Vajradhara Lineage Prayer. Here, he states that they refer to four and eight disciples of the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa. The present Karmapa emphasized that the Tibetan words che and chung, which are usually translated as “greater” and “lesser,” should actually be translated as “earlier” and “later,” as it is not a question of which lineage is better but of historical precedence. To support his position, the Karmapa referred to the stories of Gesar of Ling, in which the lineages stemming from his three brothers, the older, middle, and younger, are called the greater, middling, and lesser in terms of their seniority. Here it is a question of age, not of greatness, similar to the four earlier and the eight later Kagyu lineages.
The Karmapa then addressed the topic of the name Kamtsang Kagyu. Usually, he said, it is considered a synonym for Karma Kagyu but actually, there is a slight difference. The Kamtsang Kagyu arose from Dusum Khyenpa who was a direct disciple of Gampopa, and founder of one of the four elder lineages. It seems that the name Kamtsang arose earlier than the Karma Kagyu, as the first part of the name Kamis taken from Kampo Nenang, the place where the First Karmapa stayed in retreat and where he realized mahamudra. Of the three main seats he founded that were related to his body, speech, and mind, this is the place of his body. Tsang literally means “nest” or by extension, “isolated place,” so Dusum Khyenpa nested at the remote Kampo Nenang just like a bird.
The next question was how did the Karmapa receive his name? In some Tibetan histories, the Karmapa remarked, it is said that the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, was given this name because he founded a monastery called Karma Khading. However, the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, wrote in his versified autobiography that this monastery was not founded until his time, so the attribution to the First Karmapa is incorrect. Pawo Tsuklak Trengba (1504-1566) mentions in his history of Dharma, AFeast for Scholars,(and it is mentioned in other histories as well) that when Dusum Khyenpa was ordained at the age of sixteen, he had a pure vision of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas bestowing on him the Black Crown and enthroning him with the name Karmapa, the one who performs the activities of all the buddhas.
In general, the Karmapa observed that a member of the ordained sangha may have have many names—the name before ordination and afterwards, the secret name given upon entering a certain mandala, even a name the people in general gave them. The Karmapa thought it was reasonable to say that Karmapa was one of the many names of Dusum Khyenpa. It was not well known but kept secret since it was bestowed in a pure vision. On the other hand, the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, was famous as the Karmapa, so the secret name of the previous incarnation had became the public name of the subsequent one. This happened with several Karmapas; for example, the secret name of the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, was Rangjung Dorje, and this was the public name of the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje.
This custom has confused many people. The colophon of the text called the Cycle ofInfinite Oceans,(which included AnInfinite Oceanof Philosophical Schools, An Infinite Ocean of Validity, An Infinite Ocean of Questions and Responses, and so forth), states that it is written by Rangjung Dorje. Many thought that this meant the third Karmapa, however, it was actually referring to one of the many secret names of Karma Pakshi, which then became the public name of the Third Karmapa.
Similarly, Rölpay Dorje is a secret name of the Third Karmapa, and it became the public name of the Fourth Karmapa, Rölpay Dorje. We know that this is a secret name of the Third Karmapa because in a line from his text the Profound Inner Principles, he mentions, “look this up in my text the Appearance of the Light of Mandalas.” This is a rare composition of his that the present Karmapa received recently. Its colophon states that it was written by Rangjung Rölpay Dorje, confirming this as one of the Third Karmapa’s names.
The Karmapa summarized that during the time of the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, only a few people knew that he carried the name Karmapa, but the Second Karmapa himself often said, “I am the one famous as the Karmapa.” So this is one proof. Another proof the Karmapa mentioned to illustrate that the secret name of the previous Karmapa becomes the public name of the subsequent one is that in his Great Commentary on the Yoga Tantra, the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje, wrote that the great masters of sutra and tantra are Butön (Rinchen Drup 1290-1364) and Rangjung Dorje. Mikyö Dorje explained that this latter name refers to the Second Karmapa (Karma Pakshi with a secret name of Rangjung Dorje) and the third holder of the Black Crown Rangjung Dorje. There are many other historical sources, the Karmapa commented, but no time to discuss them here.
The next topic related to the Karmapa as the bearer of the Black Crown, which has been present from the time of the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa. In his autobiography, Karma Pakshi speaks of a crown of black silk that no one had ever seen before. Also Dharma histories, such as the Feast for Scholars, recount that the Black Crown probably dates from the time that Dusum Khyenpa was in retreat at Kampo Nenang. Here he had a vision of Saraha wearing a black hat, which became the model for one that Dusum Khyenpa created.
The Karmapa then talked about the color of the crown. In Tibetan it is called zhwa nag po, literally “Black Crown,” but actually its real color is blue-black (mthing nag). The Karmapa referred to the empowerment of Chakrasamvara that he had recently given, and within its vase initiation, there is the crown empowerment. Here, each of the buddhas of the five families has a crown the color of his body: Akshobhya’s crown is deep blue or blue-black, Ratnasambhava’s is yellow-gold, and Vairocana’s is white. The Karmapa wears a blue-black crown to indicate that he is the vajra mind of all the buddhas and that he belongs to the vajra family of Akshobhya. Further, many of the Karmapas have “Dorje” as part of their name: Rangjung Dorje, Rigpe Dorje, and so forth (a total of ten out of seventeen Karmapas). It was only later, the Karmapa remarked, that the emperors of China, in particular those of the Ming dynasty, offered the Karmapa a jeweled Black Crown; the original Black Crown, however, goes all the way back to the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa.
Another question concerns the origin of the ceremony for displaying the Black Crown. It is difficult to say, however, when it actually began. The earliest historical source we have, the Karmapa observed, is of the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje (1507-1554) giving a Black Crown ceremony. There are two Black Crowns: one named Dzamling Yezhwa was offered to the Sixth Karmapa Thongwa Donden, by a Ming emperor, and the other is called Meaningful to Behold (mthong ba don ldan), but its origin is not clear.
The Karmapa then turned to discuss the source of his name mantra, Karmapa Khyenno. History records that at the invitation of the Emperor Yongle, the Fifth Karmapa (1384-1415) traveled to the Chinese capital of Nanjing. From this period dates a deep connection between the Secret Mantra tradition of Tibet and the Chinese people. After this time, the Karmapa explained, a book was composed in different scripts (Tibetan, Chinese, Lantsa, and so forth) that gave the images and names of buddhas, bodhisattvas, and yidam deities of the Secret Mantrayana along with their name mantras. The page of the Fifth Karmapa has his image with his name below and off to the side is the mantra Om Mani Padme Hung, not his name mantra Karmapa Khyenno.
Since the Karmapa is considered an emanation of Avalokiteshvara, the Karmapa commented, it is not surprising to find the six-syllable mantra associated with him. There was also a tradition of people (known as maniwa, the mani people) putting the mantra to a melody and singing it to benefit others as they traveled around Tibet. This custom dates from the time of the Second Karmapa, as does the tradition of mani wheels. This is confirmed, the Karmapa stated, in a history by the sixth or seventh Benchen Lama, in which he discussed the benefits of mani wheels and traced them back to Karma Pakshi. So there is a special connection between the Karmapas and the six-syllable mantra.
So then how did the name mantra Karmapa Khyenno come about? It is difficult to say that it was begun by one specific person. There is a Tibetan tradition, which predates the arrival of Buddhism, in which people would call out to their deities, asking for protection: “Khyenno!” (Think of me!) “Zigso!” (Look at me!) People would ask their deity to protect them, Lha Khyenno, (Deity know me!) This somewhat resembles the English expression “My God!” and one would be hard pressed to say exactly from whom or when this came about. Likewise, it seems that Karmapa Khyenno surfaced in a natural way from the Tibetan people. They said the words and as their wishes were accomplished, slowly the phrase transformed into a mantra with the power of true words.
This completed the introduction to the Karmapa’s lineage, detailing what is special to it, and in the afternoon he will explain the visualizations for the practice of the Four-Session Guru Yoga.
In the afternoon lecture on The Four-Session Guru Yoga, the Gyalwang Karmapa gave nuanced instructions to the assembly on visualisations essential for this profound sadhana practice. In a truly gracious manner, His Holiness extended the session until late in the afternoon in order to deliver detailed and comprehensive guidance to gathered initiates.
Today’s guided lecture was the crowning session, not only for the training on The Four-Session Guru Yoga, but for the long series of teachings on The Torch of True Meaning which has stretched over five Kagyu Monlams.
A distinct feature of each Kagyu Monlam is the formal daily lunch in Tergar shrine room specially prepared and offered to fully ordained Sangha, those who hold the vows ofgelong[bhikshu] orgelongma[bhikshuni]. All gelong and gelongma are expected to attend.
In the Tergar Shrine room, rows of carpet-covered cushions awaited with places already laid when the 300 monks and 11 nuns arrived directly from the morning’s prayer session. Each place setting had a large metal alms bowl, a small plate holding two papadums, a tea bowl, and a small carton of fruit juice.
Having put on their yellow chögü, the monks and nuns filed into the shrine room silently, and took their seats according to seniority. The eleven nuns sat in single file on the far right-hand side of the shrine room. The most senior monks occupied seats to both sides of the central aisle with Rinpoches and senior khenpos seated at small tables at the head of the assembly.
Immediately the servers set to work: laypeople dressed in Mahayana Sojong white and young monks traversed the rows of seated Sangha, distributing rice, dal and vegetables from stainless steel buckets, as much as anyone wanted. Rice was served first and each monk and nun carefully put aside some of this rice as an offering, pressing it with their right hand into a shape of five sections. After recitingThe Sutra of Recollecting the Three Jewels,lunch began. The Sangha ate mindfully in silence.
As they ate, Khenpo Kelsang Nyima from Rumtek Monastery delivered a short address, reminding them that they should remember the kindness of the sponsors and of their special responsibility during the Monlam to set an example and uphold the Vinaya codes.
The staccato beating of a wooden bell signalled the end of lunch at 11.30am. In unison, the Sangha laid down their spoons and placed the lids on their alms bowls. While they recited the Heart Sutra, young monks collected the rice offerings and took them outside to be offered to the Queen of Pretas and her 500 hungry children. This custom is based on a story found in the Vinaya Pitaka. The rice offerings are a substitute for the human babies that the demoness used to kill in order to feed the 500.
Dedication prayers and prayers for auspiciousness concluded the meal. Maintaining their dignified silence, the monks and nuns took off their chögü, folded them carefully and placed them over their left shoulders, then filed outside. Lunch was finished and their daily fast had begun. They would not eat again until after daybreak the following day.
A special feature of the annual Kagyu Monlam are the elaborate butter sculptures designed by the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. These beautiful tormas were featured in the documentary,Torma: the Ancient Art of Tibetan Butter Sculpture, completed in 2014 under the guidance of His Holiness. The film highlights the extraordinary level of craftsmanship that goes into creating the wax butter sculptures. Even though butter sculpture exists in other cultures, the Tibetans have taken the art form to dizzying heights.
Long before the Karmapa took over direction of the Monlam in 2004, he had begun reviving the Kamtsang traditions of Marpa, Mila, and Gampopa. The Kamtsang tormas were one of the many traditions he set about revising. The first tormas he designed for the Monlam in 2005 honored the founding Karma Kagyu masters, but in subsequent years, he has expanded the subject matter significantly. Each year he chooses a different theme, but the same six torma supervisors return to train the aspiring junior artists: monks and nuns culled from Karma Kagyu monasteries and nunneries throughout the Himalayan region. This year there were 65 artists working in total: 53 monks and 12 nuns. They began on January 24, 2017 and finished just in time to set up the three-tiered altars for the first day of the Monlam.
The altars span the Pavilion stage and are notable for their simplified elegance. There are eight large tormas, four on the left and four on the right, with three main sections each.The butter sculptures reside on the upper tier of the shrine, flanked on either side by red and yellow flower arrangements in golden vases. On the middle shelf are the shalzes, impressive with their sculpted ornaments representing the eight auspicious substances, the eight auspicious symbols, and the seven articles of royalty. Each shalze sits on its own carved, wooden stand. On the bottom shelf of each shrine are seven, large ornate bowls filled with offering water.
The central theme of this year’s tormas are the first eight Karmapas; their depictions run across the center. On the upper level of the tormas are the Gyen Truk Chok Nyi (the Six Ornaments and the Two Supreme Ones). The six ornaments are: Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Asanga, Dignaga, Vasubhandu, and Dharmakirti; the two supreme ones are Shakyaprabha and Gunaprabha.
Across the bottom section of the tormas are representations of eight kings: the Four Guardian Kings, and the Four Mountain Kings of Tibet.
The Four Guardian Kings are sometimes called the Four Heavenly Kings, and are found in Indian, Chinese, and Tibetan Buddhism. They reside on the innermost ring of islands (the lower slopes), around the four-sided mythical Mount Sumeru, the center of the idealized Buddhist and Hindu worlds. Their names are: Vaishravana (North), Dhitarashtra (East), Virudhaka (South), and Virupaksha (West). Commonly found as mural paintings in the entrance-ways of Buddhist temples, they are the guardian kings of the four directions.*
The Four Moutain Kings of Tibet are the powerful, fierce protector gods associated with famous moutains in Tibet. In the East, in Amdo is Majel Pumra; in the West is Nyenchen Thangla, in the South in southern Kham is Yejel, and in the North in northern Kham is Jogchen Dongrel. The worship of mountain gods was one of the most important forms of nature worship among ancient Tibetans and has continued to the present day. Here, the torma artists have done justice to their haughty magnificence. These eight tormas exhibit museum quality artwork but will most likely be destroyed at the end of this year’s events, a powerful reminder of the impermanence of all conditioned phenomena.
Sujata Vihar, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India — 14 February, 2017
The essence of the mahayana teachings is bodhichitta, the wish to attain full awakening so we have the capacity to truly benefit others. From the very beginning of entering the path, the focus is on others: there is not only the wish to help them but the actual engagement in specific activities. For many years now, the Kagyu Monlam has sponsored medical care for the local population, following the Karmapa’s directive: “When we do something for people, we have to do it genuinely as if we are doing it for ourselves.”
The first three days of the camp, called the Multi-Specialty Medical Camp, are held in conjunction with Max India Foundation. It has won many awards for its Corporate Social Responsibility, which focuses on healthcare for the underprivileged. Its CEO, Mohini Daljeet Singh, has come each year to Bodh Gaya to oversee the camp and meet with the Karmapa. Among the large network of Max Hospitals in India, this year she sent out a request to the Max Hospital in east Delhi, and six doctors responded with the wish to participate. Many of them had already staffed in free clinics in the Delhi area and their specialties covered pediatrics, internal medicine, family medicine, and general surgery.
Also participating in the camp are three Tibetan women doctors trained in allopathic medicine from Sikkim, and eight Tibetan nurses from Delhi and Sikkim, who are followers of the Karmapa. Finally and importantly, there are two senior doctors from the local Gaya Medical College, who will help during the camp and also with the people who need follow-up care. Near the Monlam Pavilion, easily accessible to the participants is the Tibetan Medical Camp, where Tibetan medical doctors provide free diagnosis and medicines as well as two Tibetan physiotherapists offering their services. In total, there are fifty people volunteering at the camps this year.
From the Karmapa’s Office of Administration, Lhakpa Tsering for many years now has been organizing the camp, which this time extends from February 14 to 18. The day starts at 9 am and finishes around 5 pm or when all the patients have been taken care of. To let people know about the camp, for days beforehand a vehicle with a recorded announcement has circulated through Bodh Gaya and the surrounding ten villages and leaflets in Hindi have been distributed in a five-kilometer radius.
Each year, Lhakpa Tsering explained, they have tried to develop their services and add value to what they are doing. This year, in addition to diagnosis, counseling, free medicine, and hospital referrals, they have added the awareness of preventative measures people can take to improve their health. The nurses have prepared presentations in Hindi, and in the main hall where the camp takes place, short movies are continually shown, covering topics such as the dangers of smoking, the importance of hand-washing, breast cancer and TB awareness as well as how to prevent malaria, hepatitis, and typhoid. Also new this year is free diagnostic testing on the advice of the doctors.
On this first day of the camp, some 100 people have arrived in the morning on a large white bus. Separated into lines of men and women, who often have children in their arms or by their sides, they are lined up in front of a long table where three nurses take their initial information. The patients range in age from two to ninety-one. Afterward they move inside to have their vital signs taken and then watch the informative films while waiting see a doctor. On this first day 600 people received medical care, and that number or more are expected for the remaining days.
Late in the morning the Karmapa arrived to tour the facilities and meet the staff. He was welcomed by Mohini Singh and Lhakpa Tsering, and invited inside to see the pharmacy and meet the staff. He entered each of the four offices, greeted all the doctors, and then walked across the street to visit the Akong Tulku Rinpoche Memorial Soup Kitchen, located at a Buddhist monastery near the medical camp, so that patients waiting to return home can have a meal.(**) The head monk greeted the Karmapa and they walked together to the outdoor shrine with a lovely statue of the Buddha to whom the Karmapa offered a white scarf. He then proceeded to view the kitchen, peering into the bags of cabbages and carrots and greeting the workers, before posing for a group photo with all the volunteers. With the Karmapa’s presence and blessing, there was a feeling of quiet joy that the camp had gotten off to a wonderful start.
On the third day of the 34th Kagyu Mönlam, His Holiness the Karmapa joined the Mönlam Members' lunch, which is set out every day at the Mahayana Hotel for the duration of the event. Long before the arrival of the Karmapa, the Members had already been queuing patiently in a long line that stretched from the lobby all the way across the forecourt of the hotel to the street outside, waiting for their turn in the dining room. The Members were, of course, thrown into a flurry of excitement, hurriedly reaching for katas, as the news of the Karmapa's impending visit spread. As the wait went on, they spontaneously broke into chantingKarmapa Khyenno.And not long after, they were indeed heard, as the queue moved aside and the Karmapa's car rolled in.
His Holiness went directly to the dining room where a table had been prepared for him, and the early-bird Members were waiting with more chants ofKarmapaKhyenno. His Holiness briefly went up to check the buffet, then resumed his seat as a laden tray made its way to him. As the Karmapa took out his chopsticks and mindfully sampled the meal, Members were torn between their need to get their own food - especially those trying to keep to the strictures of their Sojong vows - and their admiration of the Karmapa sitting in their midst. For many, hunger won out, and as piled plates went past and new entrants gained the dining room, excited giggles broke out as they realised whose presence they had walked in to. The Karmapa didn't stay long, though, and quickly moved on to visit the Milarepa exhibition, also being held at the Mahayana Hotel until the end of the Mönlam.
The exhibition centered on photographs of the most significant places in Tibet and Nepal connected with episodes in the lives of Milarepa and his disciples. Most of the photographs were taken directly by Lama Dawa, the organiser of the exhibition, over a period of three years. For some of the photographs of Nepal, he relied on the help of a local monastery, as the uncertain situation in the country prevented access to the sites by outsiders. Among the most spectacular were surely the Fortress of the Central Channel, on the site where Milarepa practised on a diet of nettles; the Lotus Cave on the western side of Mount Kailash; and Lapshi Snow Mountain, prophesied by Marpa as a sacred site for Milarepa.
As Tibetans crammed along the corridor waiting for a view of the Karmapa, Lama Dawa escorted him along giving a commentary on the exhibition. Having reached the end of the main gallery of photographs, His Holiness returned to where a table was set with tea and biscuits, and had a chance to look at some exhibits in more detail. He also took in the central room of the exhibition, where photographs were complemented with thangkas, statues, precious manuscripts and relics of Marpa and Milarepa. On his way out, the Karmapa took the time to greet and talk to the waiting Tibetans. Then the sirens were on, the car rolled away, and only the queue of the Members still waiting for lunch remained.
GANGTOK, February 16: Monks under The Denjong Lhadey on Thursday afternoon concluded their two-day foot rally from Rangpo to Gangtok covering a distance around 41 Km. The rally ended at BL House, Tibet Road here at around 4.30 pm.
The rally was undertaken to highlight the pending demand that the 17th Karmapa is allowed by the Union government to visit and bless Skiikm. The monks under The Denjong Lhadey are already on an indefinite realy hunger strike at BL House since August 6, 2016.
Addressing the gathering, Sangha MLA Sonam Lama said criticism of his involvement in the Karmapa demand is irrelevant considering the religious importance of the cause.
“There are sections of people who criticise my involvement in the Karmapa demand but dharma stands as the most important aspect for us monks,” said Lama.
Lama said the monks would now take the demand directly to the Prime Minister. We believe that the state government is not giving us the right response, he said.
The monk had halted at Sangkhola yesterday night and resumed their march today morning.
Some of the elderly monks collapsed due to tiredness and weakness at Samdur, 7th Mile enroute to Gangtok. Traffic movement was disrupted for around 40 minutes till the monks were rushed to the STNM hospital in ambulances. It is informed that some of the monks were discharged from the hospital by evening.
The Sangha MLA, in his address, claimed that Chief Minister Pawan Chamling did not stop at the national highway to enquire about the monks while he was on his way to Gangtok. The monks were marching along the highway near 32 Number area.
Our hope on the State government died yesterday when the Chief Minister chose to ignore the marching monks, said lama. We understand that as our Chief Minister, his schedules are tight but sparing a mere three minutes with the marching monks on the way is not a big deal either, he said.
We were positive that the Chief Minister would make a brief stopover and give his advice on our dharma demand, said The Denjong Lhadey in a press statement. However, the marching monks were ignored, it said.
Meanwhile, SKM president P.S. Golay met the monks in the morning hours at Sangkhola. Former SDF minister Ran Bahadur Subba also met them at 5th Mile, Tadong.
According to a SKM release, Golay said it is a serious matter that monks have to come out on the streets to highlight their demand. He reiterated the support of SKM to the monks and their demand.
The State and Union governments should take proper steps to fulfill this long pending demand, he said.
All India Bikkhu Sangha and Shakya Muni College, Bodhgaya—14 February, 2017
On the second day of the 34th Kagyu Monlam, the Gyalwang Karmapa blessed the opening of the Akong Tulku Memorial Soup Kitchen, which this year will operate for five days from the 14th to 18th of February. For many years the soup kitchen has offered nutritious hot food to the people of Bodhgaya and surrounding villages. This forms an ideal partnership with the Kagyu Monlam Medical Camp as the two organisations continue to work together to fulfill the Gyalwang Karmapa’s aspirations for a world where everyone is valued and cared for equally: putting non-partisan compassion into practical action.
The idea for offering to run a soup kitchen at the Kagyu Monlam came about twelve years ago, when a group of Akong Tulku Rinpoche’s students from Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland came to the Kagyu Monlam for the first time. Touched by the extent of suffering they witnessed in India, they asked themselves: “What would Rinpoche do if he were here?” As a great humanitarian, Akong Rinpoche was renowned for his way of direct activity rather than just talking and so his students tried their best to follow his example.
Once more the Soup Kitchen is situated at the All India Bikkhu Sangha and Shakya Muni College, which kindly offers their garden and a cooking space for the soup kitchen each year. It is just across the road from the Tourist Bungalow facilities where the Medical Camp is located and so when the local people have received their medical treatment they are then able to sit together and enjoy their lunch of rice, dahl, vegetables and fruit which we serve to hundreds of people each day.
Vin Harris, the director of the soup kitchen said: “Of course, giving food is important, everyone needs to eat, but the human connections matter as well. We encourage our volunteers to really engage with those they are serving with kindness. In this way the artificial barriers between us become less solid. The people we meet on the streets of Bodhgaya are beginning to relate to us as friends and this in itself feels worthwhile and meaningful.”
The Gyalwang Karmapa’s vast vision and sense of purpose for the Kagyu Monlam is clear for all to see but his sense of care and attention to details is equally inspiring. When visiting the soup kitchen, he genuinely took the time to find out what was happening and to encourage his followers in their efforts.
Bikkhu Pragya Deep, the leader of the All India Bikkhu Sangha was present to welcome the Gyalwang Karmapa and His Holiness offered a khata and prayers at their shrine. This year, the Akong Tulku Memorial Soup Kitchen has sponsored a solar-powered hot water system for the comfort and convenience of the Bikkhus and the many pilgrims who visit them in Bodhgaya.
From the first day, cooks from Tergar Monastery, volunteers from Kagyu Samye Ling and Kagyu Samye Dzong in the U.K., and volunteers from the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo have been working in harmony to bring benefit to local people. This has been made possible by the continued support of Lama Chodrak for the project along with the management skills of Lama Tenzin and Lhakpa Tsering.
It brings great happiness to both those who give and to those who receive as we all do our best to help bring to life the compassionate aspirations of the Gyalwang Karmapa and all Kagyu Lineage Holders.
Monday, 13 February 2017 Thriving Aspirations for the World come from a Peaceful Mind
Just before the break of dawn, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa led the assembly of many thousands into the seven days of virtue and pure aspirations of the 34th Kagyu Monlam.
With a wish to re-establish ancient connections, His Holiness has instated Sanskrit chants at the beginning of the first session. The impressive Sanskrit sounds resounded in harmony through the dark of the Bodhgaya morning, reminiscent of Buddhism’s origins.
“This is the Vajra Seat, the essence of enlightenment,” the Karmapa said and initiated this Monlam by imparting the Sojong vows followed by advice on how to make our aspirations truly fruitful.
He inspired those gathered there with his advice on the need to bring peace to one’s own mind in order to bring peace to the world. You need to have peace in your mind, endowed with love and compassion, to be able to make aspirations from the depths of your heart,”; he counselled and added that, at least for these seven days, we need to be our best selves.
He talked about the people he met who had come from Tibet. Though ordinary people, they wished for peace in the world wholly and honestly, from the bottom of their hearts.
“It is very rare to find that type of person. When I see people like that, I think: maybe there is still hope for the world, for sentient beings.”
He laid bare the perils of convincing oneself of being a bodhisattva but acting out of selfishness. It makes one’s mind fixed and ill-suited for change. “It is really dangerous to pretend to be a protector of beings,” he warned.
He personally assumed the role of chöpon for the opening rituals of the first session. He walked through a royal court-like setting of Khenpos, Rinpoches and Tulkus, flanked by hundreds of gelong and a handful of gelongma on the wings of the stage, up the steps to a small, elegant wooden mandala where a statue of Buddha as an infant was placed.
After the gathering chanted invitations to the Sugatas, the Gyalwang Karmapa performed the rites of washing, drying, and offering clothes and anointment, then completed the ritual with prostrations.
During this time H.E. Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche was absent; he had gone to simultaneously perform a special offering at the Mahabodhi Temple.
The assembly chanted Praises from the Sutra of Ornamental Appearance, repeating the words: “I prostrate to you who rely on nothing”.
In a short teaching the Karmapa gave on The Sutra in Three Sections, the essential practice for restoring the Bodhisattva Vows, he recounted an old anecdote. In ancient India, this sutra was recited by those who committed great misdeeds. But Tibetans recited it daily. When certain Indian masters arrived in Tibet, they noted humorously that Tibetans must have transgressed a lot.
But, the Karmapa explained, in the billion-fold universe, our misdeeds are countless. Among all of them, the greatest are the violations of the three vows which are repaired through reading this sutra.
The first section is confession. He advised us to read this while thinking we are in the presence of the 35 Buddhas, taking them as the power of support, offering prostrations and confessing to them all of our misdeeds from beginningless time. The second section focuses on rejoicing. It is said that rejoicing and meditating on the merit of all buddhas, bodhisattvas, pratyekabuddhas and shravakas, bring an incalculable amount of merit. It is one of the easiest and most powerful ways of gathering merit. Dedication for all beings to attain enlightenment, the topic of the third section, is paramount for preventing the loss of virtue due to anger or regretting having done a virtuous deed.
Immersed in this sublime atmosphere, in the grandeur of the Monlam Pavilion, over 10 000 people from more than 50 countries chanted in harmony for peace in the world, and the 34th Kagyu Monlam was opened, leaving us nothing else to do but rejoice.
The second session on the first day of the 34th Kagyu Mönlam started with the Mandala Offering with 37 Features, for which a long line of lay practitioners formed up, their white clothing, accented by the five-coloured silks of the offerings they were bringing. Slowly, they filed past the Gyalwang Karmapa’s throne as the recitation of the Supplication to the Lineage of the Bodhisattva Vow followed the Mandala Offering, and returned to their seats, beaming with joy as they held on to the red ribbons they had received from His Holiness.
The Karmapa then resumed his teaching on the Long Soliloquy from the Great Kadampa Master Potowa, at the point where he had left off last year.
Master Potowa's text quotes the great Indian teacher, Lord Atisha, and the Karmapa explained that Atisha Dipamkara had crystallised the meaning of the scriptures by distinguishing three types of individual: greater, middling and lesser. The distinction corresponds to the level of Dharma that these individuals are able to practice. The lowest type of practitioner would be one who practices from fear of falling into the lower realms in the next life. His Holiness commented:
These days, many people do not reach even that. In order to fear the suffering of the lower realms one has to remember them, otherwise one does not turn one's mind from this life. A deep belief in the karmic law of cause and effect is also needed, the Karmapa added, an understanding of how one's actions condition rebirth in the lower realms.
But there are very few people who truly understand how karma works, and even then they find that they are unable to abandon wrong actions and engage in virtuous actions, the Karmapa observed. Such people are said not to have gathered the accumulations. He commented, further, that these days some practitioners go to a master and request refuge and the Bodhisattva vow, but then, when they do not get what they expected, they become afraid of acknowledging their master. If pressed, they say that they only took refuge and bodhichitta. The Karmapa related this to the words of Master Potowa when he writes:
That is failing to understand that refuge and bodhichitta are the root of the entire Dharma, so it is an extremely grave fault. I have found qualities in every word spoken by those from whom I have received Dharma. The only thought that has occurred to me is that I could never buy it for money.
Speaking of 'only refuge and bodhichitta', the Karmapa reiterated, is an extremely frightful and pitiable thing to say; it's tantamount to presenting refuge and bodhichitta as though they were not Dharma.
The Karmapa pursued the analysis of the relationship between student and guru with the example of people who request Dharma teachings from a master but also request that the master not tell anyone else about their receiving the teachings. In a time of degeneration, the Karmapa said, this is a sign of a difficult connection between student and guru, worthy of compassion and pity.
Continuing, the Karmapa reminded the assembled Mönlam:
If we practice Dharma as it is taught, the most important thing is the guru, the spiritual master. For example, when looking for a bride, one first examines her parents, her background, to find out who she is. Or when buying a horse, one examines its mouth, teeth, back and front. So much more, then, with the guru, whom we trust to be a protector, a guardian, a head of family, not just for this life but for every life until enlightenment. The guru is so extremely important that we have to thoroughly examine whether they are truly a great being, having all the qualifications, and only then ask them to be our spiritual master.
“But we don't do that these days,” the Karmapa countered. We find a Lama who is 'high-profile', whom everyone can see, and nowadays some of these are deceiving their students. This is a fault in the guru, of course, but also a fault in the student, in that they have defective faith. The Karmapa stressed that we should not have blind faith: If we examine the qualities of the guru in body, speech and mind and have confidence in them, we develop faith that no-one else will be able to block or stop. Until then, if we say that we are doing meditation on devotion or on the guru, we are making a false claim. But the Karmapa also acknowledged that although we seek a great being, it's hard to find someone with such compassion.
If we want to accomplish the guru we need to offer to the guru, do puja to the guru. The word 'puja' means to please, and what pleases the guru is the practice of the three vows and of the three trainings.
In the Secret Mantra tradition, this includes imagining the guru as the principal deity.
But the Karmapa also cautioned that these days, things are being fabricated, such as new mantras like Om Vajra Guru [name of guru] Ah Hung". According to the Karmapa, this is the sign of a really bad guru. What a guru really should be teaching is the practice of the three vows and three trainings, practices for the students to tame their mind. A guru who would teach only visualising the guru as a deity and not direct the students to train their minds would be an impostor.
The Karmapa concluded the first day's teaching by reminding practitioners that, as Master Potowa wrote, merely knowing Dharma does not help; to practice properly it does not suffice to recite words, we need to incorporate the Dharma in our beings, make the connection of the Dharma with our mind stream. The Karmapa urged all participants, during the recitation of the aspiration and dedication prayers at the end of the session, to have strong faith in the Three Jewels and a strong wish for the aspirations to be realised, seeing those sponsors whose names are read out in the dedications for the living and the deceased as representatives on behalf of all sentient beings.
The second session of the teaching began with the text:
Thus there are few who have turned their minds away from this life. Many say they are bodhisattvas, but I wonder whether they are really focused on this life. I think about what I would do if I were to die tonight and have never considered any ambitions for tomorrow and thereafter. Because of that, I have understood the critical points of Dharma. That alone is the greatest sustenance for meditation. I had thought it would be likewise for others too, but when I tell them, their attitudes have never been compatible with mine.
His Holiness commented that this illustrates how Potowa applied the Dharma that he knew as an antidote to the afflictions. Knowing the Dharma and teaching the dharma are not sufficient. The Dharma has to be practised as it is taught, internalised and applied to our lives.
In the text, Geshe Potowa explains that people express concern for him. They label his views as too extreme and try to dissuade him from his practice. This, he argues, is one of the four black dharmas [downfalls of the Bodhisattva Vows], making someone regret doing something which they should not regret. He feels discouraged and depressed that concerned people give such advice because it is obvious to him that they have not understood the Dharma. It is as if they are saying: “Do whatever you can to not be liberated from samsara”. The problem, as he sees it, is that too many Dharma practitioners are still concerned about mundane things and have not really renounced samsara.
His Holiness commented that there are very few who turn their minds away from this life, very few who feel revulsion for this life, but there are many who claim to be bodhisattvas in order to become well-known in this life. “According to Potowa, we should not care at all whether other people consider us to be bodhisattvas or not…If we have no attachment to this life, whether we are bodhisattvas or not, whatever happens in this life our minds will remain undisturbed,” he observed.
Potowa makes no plans for the future and mistakenly presumes that others practise similarly. Because of this, others worry about what will happen to him and fear he will die in desperate circumstances. He, in turn, feels pity and compassion for them because they are so focused on this life and have failed to understand the Dharma.
The Karmapa continued his commentary:
We need to turn inwards and find inner conviction, belief and confidence, otherwise knowing how to meditate is of no benefit, and knowing how to teach dharma does not help…we have to realise and truly believe that all composite phenomena are impermanent. In addition, we need to recognise and resolve that this life is futile.
Other people try to make Potowa regret the way he practices. He, on the other hand, sees how people waste their lives focused on getting food and clothing. His Holiness commented further that the sutras teach that by rejoicing in another’s virtue we gain half ourselves. Hence, if they had known the Dharma, the people should have been rejoicing in Potowa’s dedication to the Dharma. Instead, their advice to Potowa and their actions show how attached they are to this life. Potowa found it impossible to discuss Dharma with such people and just let them prattle on.
Potowa describes how even people who were considered to be good Dharma practitioners had the wrong priorities; they said they intended to stay in a monastery to practise the Dharma intensely but first put all their efforts into accumulating food and clothing so that they would not be dependent on anyone. “There are no more than just one or two practitioners who think, ‘Let this life turn out as it will,’” he states.
His Holiness illustrated the dilemma:
If we were to live for fifty years, we would spend twenty-five of those asleep. Of the twenty-five years remaining, until you’re twenty years old, you don’t have the maturity to practise like that. So once we have reached maturity, that leaves just five years to practise. We spend a quarter of that time acquiring food and clothing. So, of that remaining five years we have only three quarters left to either practise the Dharma or do worldly things. And during the remaining time, if we think that first we are going to accomplish all we need for this life and then we will accomplish everything we need for the next life, there will not be enough time.
Having made it very clear: “It’s not possible to accomplish everything for both this life and the next,” he concluded.
The Karmapa then compared those who have not turned away from the concerns of this life, who worry about old age and death, to bees collecting nectar. The bees spend all their time gathering pollen from flowers only to have their honey stolen in the end. There is nothing stable or lasting in this life because everything is impermanent, everything is in a state of flux, and in the end we die.
“If we cling to permanence and have strong attachment this will only increase our suffering,” he advised.
To conclude the teaching, His Holiness led a ten-minute Shamatha meditation on the sound of a special singing bowl, made from diamond dust, the residue when diamonds are cut.
“Today, I will pretend to be an artist,” he joked.
The pavilion fell completely silent as monks, nuns and laypeople sat straight-backed and focused while the Karmapa skillfully varied the speed, intensity and pitch of the resonating bowl.
After welcoming everyone, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued reading from the text of Geshe Potowa:
In my opinion, we must flee the suffering of samsara—the very thing we are seeking to eliminate—and gather incalculable accumulations to achieve the result, perfect buddhahood. We should practice whatever is said to have the greatest merit. When selling something like woolen cloth, if we give the buyer an extra four or five pounds without them knowing it, this will bring great merit.
The Karmapa commented that we need to put as much distance as possible between ourselves and the world of samsara so that we can end our suffering. Until now, we have experienced misery even though we wanted to avoid it. Who is fooling us? The culprit is our own mind and its attachment the pleasures and tasks of this life. It is our fixation on this lifetime that is to blame. An analogy for the situation is a fishing line with a sharp, metal barb at the end, and we are the fish hooked by these pleasurable objects we find in this life. This attachment will only pull us into another rebirth in samsara with all of its suffering.
As an aside, the Karmapa remarked that some people say they have given up on this life, but if we examine well, we can see that it is not true. Someone might take robes to gain respect, but they do not develop the qualities that would earn it, so they give up being a monk, grow their hair long, and wear a yogi’s clothes, advertising themselves as someone living the simple life. Such people are found everywhere and their search for respect is a sign that they have not yet turned away from this life.
After indicating what needs to be given up, the Karmapa turned to what should be taken up: a vast accumulation of merit, necessary to achieve full awakening. It should happen quickly so that we can begin as soon as possible to help others. How we might do this Potowa illustrates with the example of someone selling woolen cloth. If we gave the buyer an extra four or five pounds without letting them know, that would gather great merit.
The Karmapa then read the next section of the text:
When I say this, others reply that this is taking a loss without receiving anything in return. It would be better to give it away, they say. Actually, Dharma practitioners should not want anything in return and take delight when others, who are like their parents, win instead of themselves. If practitioners are not like this, it will be impossible for them to awaken to buddhahood. Further, [this attitude of seeking something in return] is the opposite of meditating on the Four Immeasurables.
The Karmapa commented that if we were secretly generous, others would think we were a complete idiot. Such behavior is pointless, they say, since we lose and get nothing in return. At least if we let them know of our generosity, they would be grateful. Potowa replies that if you think only of this lifetime, then it is as you say. But if you are a true practitioner, you have no expectation of a reward for your activities. You seek nothing in return.
For example, if parents have a beloved son, they would wish for him to come out on top. It would be more important for things to go well for their son than for themselves. It is similar for those who seek enlightenment: They prefer that others gain merit rather than themselves. It is this attitude that we need to develop and not just for those close to us but for all the infinite numbers of living beings, whether friend or enemy. Without this motivation, it is impossible to attain buddhahood. We might repeat the first two Immeasurables—May all beings have happiness and its causes. May they all be free of suffering and its causes—but we are just mouthing the words; what we think and what we say are in sync.
The Karmapa continued with the text:
To achieve buddhahood, we should be capable of giving away even our body and life if it would benefit others, not to mention our possessions. If a “practitioner” loses nights of sleep over a small business loss, not only are they unable to help others, they are also harming themselves.
For example, when one morning, someone offers tea to the monks in a remote valley, others might say that this person has gained merit, and the individual as well will think they have done something virtuous. But then this person stays in a well-populated valley or monastery, buying when goods are plentiful and selling when they are scarce. They neither sell at the going rates nor use the accepted measures, such as quarts and ounces. Until they achieve their wishes, they keep on pushing, not giving up until their own hopes are fulfilled and others are left powerless and miserable. This is not just one or two people, but many beings in the ten directions; it is not just for one day, month, or year but for their whole lives. In brief, they feel good if they do something virtuous for one morning but do not feel a moment’s discomfort for spending their entire lives accumulating misdeeds. I wonder what kind of a mind they have. What assurance could they know?
The Karmapa commented that if we wish to help others, we should be ready to give not only our possessions and wealth but also our very life if there is good reason to do so. This trader, however, is distressed by losing half of the load from their pack animal. How could such a person achieve buddhahood? They are like a hollow dummy that has been stuffed. On the outside they look like something but on the inside there is nothing of value. That sort of person, the Karmapa observed, could be called a lama, khenpo, master, and so forth, but these titles are just an outer show with nothing behind. Temporarily they might get some profit from this ruse, but in the end, they will know a great loss.
In a village where people have gathered, one person offers breakfast to the monks living in one valley. Others will look at this and think that this sponsor has gathered considerable merit, and the individual will also think they have done a good thing and even boast of what they have done, promising to continue in the future. Then they go to a place where goods are plentiful, securing them at a cheap price only to sell them later at a huge profit when things are scarce. They do not follow the accepted local prices, but insist on their inflated figures, and use all kinds of clever reasons to get what they want, making people miserable. Then they say to themselves, “I’m not doing this for myself but for the benefit of the lamas and the monasteries.” It is not just one person who does this but many, and they do it not just for one day, but a whole lifetime. This is not a good way to live.
Similarly some people do some practice and prayers in the morning and feel good about it but then they engage in misdeeds for the rest of the day or the rest of their lives without feeling any remorse. One has to wonder what is in their hearts. What sort of mind do these people have? What sort of assurance about the future can they have?
The Karmapa returned to reading the text:
Considering how they have come under the control of ego-clinging and desire, there’s no need to speak of them being liberated by seeing that their misdeeds have no inherent existence. In the first place, they haven’t even heard that in the next life, misdeeds ripen as rebirth in the three lower realms. Even if they have heard, they do not think about it. Instead, without shrinking from ill repute in this life and suffering in the next, they are able to sacrifice everything—their body, life, and Dharma—if it seems they might gain some wealth. They deserve our compassion for this is the epitome of being drowning in the causes of suffering.
The Karmapa commented that at the time of Geshe Potowa (1027-1105) and the time of Mikyö Dorje (1507-1554), there were many titles for Dharma practitioners: Chöje (Lord of Dharma), Drupthop (Realized Master or Siddha), Jetsun (Lord), Kunkhyen (Omniscient) and Gyalwang (the Lord of Victors). The Karmapa made a distinction between two other titles: a reincarnation (kukyeoryangsi) and an emanation (tulku) of body, speech, and/or mind. There are also titles for scholars, such as Pandita (a scholar) or Rabjampa (person of profound learning), or they are named by what they have learned by heart—a scholar who has memorized 300,000 stanzas or even a scholar who has memorized 3 million stanzas. There were many names to be given.
Nevertheless, no matter what title people might use, if we look at how much ego-clinging they have and how much they take things to be real, there is no chance they will be liberated by seeing that things do not truly exist and that misdeeds are empty. In the first place, they have not even heard that misdeeds ripen as rebirth in the three lower realms. Or if they had heard it, they do not think about it.
On this cautionary note, the Karmapa ended his talk for the morning. It was followed by meditation on the sound of a bowl gong. The Karmapa asked people to meditate continuously on the sound as it grew larger, and then as it diminished, to see now the mind become increasingly subtle.
Afterward, the Karmapa explained that when he recites the dedications for the living and those passed away (from the collected works of the First Karmapa), he is acting as the representative of everyone, so we should all hold in mind the same prayer, wishing that all beings, as great in number as space is vast, and in particular all those connected to the Kagyu Monlam, have happiness and joy; that the living experience auspiciousness and those passed away find a good rebirth.
His Holiness requested all the nuns tocome to the main shrine room of Tergar Monastery at 7pm saying he had a gift for them. When His Holiness arrived he explained that someone had sponsored jackets for the nuns to keep them warm. In a joking mood, he took one of the jackets out of its bag and read the label, "17th Karmappa Exclusive design" and then noted that they were 'one size fits all'. As he held it up, he wondered if they would fit the chubby nuns! No matter what size, each nun was overjoyed to receive this gift from His Holiness!