After welcoming everyone for the second day of the 4th Arya Kshema, the Karmapa continued with the discussion of the ceremony of the bodhisattva vows from Gampopa’sOrnament of Precious Liberation. Having completed the discussion of the tradition of the profound view, that of Manjushri to Nagarjuna, he elaborated upon the tradition of vast conduct, the tradition passed down from Maitreya to Asanga and known as Master Serlingpa’s tradition. The Karmapa delineated the two parts of this tradition: aspiration of the bodhicitta vow and engagement of the bodhicitta vow. He focused on the actual ceremony of the aspiration of bodhicitta and explained that before the aspirant takes the vow, he or she must contemplate whether they are ready to receive the vow. The Karmapa explained that the bodhisattva is like a hero, though these days we see movie stars as being heroes. A bodhisattva is similar to a hero because a bodhisattva is someone who has tremendous courage. The Karmapa emphasized that when we talk about rousing the attitude of bodhicitta, it is not only for ourselves nor is it merely for those close to us. Rather, we need to be able to hold all sentient beings in our hearts with compassion. The Karmapa also explained that even though from birth we naturally have compassion, we are not always able to put it into practice. He gave the following example: one of the characteristics of a human is that they know how to speak and how to communicate. However, if small children are isolated in a place where no one talks with them, they will lose the ability to speak. Similarly, if we do not use or practice compassion, it will decrease. The Karmapa added that even the frequent use of the words “loving kindness” and “compassion” are important. He said that if we live where people use these words, it creates an imprint within us, and these qualities will grow stronger. He also reflected on the experiences we have as children and the impressions they create. For instance, when parents tell children that they need to have compassion for all sentient beings, and teach them to care for even the smallest creatures, children will not feel the need to harm other sentient beings. However, if children grow up in an environment where harming sentient beings is condoned, they will not understand that like themselves, all beings have experiences of pain and suffering. Then, they begin to think that it is acceptable to harm others. The Karmapa concluded his discussion on aspirational bodhicitta and noted that in order for the aspirant to have a conceptual understanding, he or she is taught the three types of bodhisattva discipline, which include the discipline of refraining from not acting, the action of gathering virtuous qualities, and the discipline of benefiting sentient beings. The Karmapa elaborated on the vow of engaged bodhicitta and concluded the teaching in the tradition of Master Serlingpa. The Karmapa also considered the import of the bodhisattva vow. He said that, “The reason why there are so many precepts for being a bodhisattva is that the bodhisattva vow is a promise. Usually when we make a promise, it is something that we keep for this life, and the pratimoksha vows (the vows of individual liberation) are indeed kept for the period of one lifetime. But the bodhisattva vow is not like that. When we take the bodhisattva vow, we make the promise to keep the bodhisattva vow from now until we reach enlightenment. We promise and commit to doing this, and for this reason there are many different obstacles or adversities that we need to protect ourselves from or many different abilities or ways to help people that we need to train in. And, so in order for our promise to work out well, we need to protect ourselves from adverse conditions and impediments. And on the other hand, we need to do as much as we can to gather all the virtue that is an aid to the vow. This is naturally true for any kind of vow.” “So primarily, if we are able to keep this promise clearly in our minds,” the Karmapa concluded, “then I don’t think there is any difficulty to keeping all the precepts. But if the promise is not stable and if we are not able to keep it lucid and crystal clear in our mind, then it will seem like all the precepts are bothersome and difficult, and we will think that it is too hard to keep all the precepts. I think this is a sign that we do not have a clear understanding in our minds of what a bodhisattva needs to do.” With this caution, the Karmapa drew to a close the first part of the morning’s teachings on theOrnament of Precious Liberation.
In the second half of his teachings this morning, the Karmapa shared his research into the history of nuns and their status. He began by explaining the background of the name “Arya Kshema,” given to the Winter Dharma Gathering. He noted that among the disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, there were his eight greatest male monastic disciples, known for their prajna (supreme wisdom) or miracles and so forth. Likewise, there were female master disciples who were greatest at miracles or known for their prajna and other outstanding qualities. Arya Kshema is one of these and she is described in theSutra of the Wise and Foolishas the greatest in wisdom and confidence, so the Winter Dharma Gathering is named after her.
“In giving this name,” the Karmapa explained, “we are also following the saying, ‘Later disciples should practice the example of past masters.’ Previously, during the time of the Buddha Shakyamuni, there were woman arhats, bhikshunis, and woman with the eightfold purity. My thought was that we could look to them as examples, train properly in Buddhist teachings just as they did, and achieve the result of liberation. I thought they would provide inspiration and a role model.
“Actually, we had originally planned to have a conference during this nun’s Winter Dharma Gathering. The main topic was to be the lives of great individuals who achieved liberation in a female body, in particular those bhikshunis who were important disciples of the Buddha Shakyamuni. But we didn’t have enough time and it didn’t happen, so we will look into it again later.
“In any case, in Tibetan history—and this is something that historians have not paid much attention to—Karma Chakme wroteMountain Dharma for Nuns.This is from the genre of texts called “mountain dharma” that compile the instructions necessary for meditating in mountain retreats, and this is a mountain dharma text that Karma Chakme compiled particularly for nuns. In it, he says that at that time (of the 10th Karmapa), there were more nunneries than monasteries in Central Tibet, and all the nuns in these nunneries had a good basis of discipline. He wrote that they kept their precepts extremely well. For this reason, historically the nuns’ teachings spread widely in Tibet.
“But those who wrote the histories did not pay much attention to this, and later only a very few took interest in how the nuns’ Dharma spread in Tibet or in the great beings who appeared in a female body. However, in history and in fact, there have been many individuals in Tibet who gained siddhis in a female body, and there must have been many female learned individuals as well. Nuns’ communities must have flourished greatly.
“Likewise, when the monastic community was first established in Tibet, which is said to be during the time of King Trisong Deutsen (742-800), there were the Seven Men for Testing. Some say “Seven Men” and some say “Six Men.” But whether it was six or seven, when they first established the monastic community, there were not only men who went forth, but women as well. Among the queens, those who had not given birth to children went forth. When they did so and were ordained, I don’t think that they were just called nuns and dressed in monastic robes. When we say the Seven Men for Testing went forth, we clearly understand that they received the entire ordination. Likewise when women went forth at that time, I do not think it means that they merely held the intermediate vows of going forth. So when Buddhism first spread to Tibet, it seems that a community of ordained women was established from that very time.
“Similarly, there are important Sakya histories calledDocuments of the Kingsandthe Sakya Familial Lineage. These say that many daughters born into the Sakya family line became bhikshunis and give many stories about them. Later there were people who say these are not true, but that is a little hard to accept. For one thing,Documents of the Kingsand theSakya Familial Lineageare considered reliable historical documents. Also, it is a bit difficult to say that only the stories of women going forth or becoming bhikshunis are false but everything else is true. Furthermore, among the scholars from Minyak, there was one named Kashiwa Rikpe. It states in his biography that there was a community of bhikshunis at Minyak Rapgang and that there were three to four hundred nunneries. Therefore, there was a time in Tibet when there were quite a few nuns’ communities.
“During the time of Lha Lama Yeshe Ö and his successor, there was a royal proclamation that stated no one was allowed to prevent women who wanted to go forth or become bhikshunis from doing so; one must let them go forth and become bhikshunis. So at that time there must have been female aspirants; otherwise, it would have been unnecessary to say that they should be allowed to go forth and become bhikshunis. Similarly, there are several biographies of Lotsawa Rinchen Sangpo that are of varying length. One of these tells how a younger sister of his was ordained as a bhikshuni. There are many such stories.
“We don’t know, however, what the situations or circumstances were that led the nunneries and nuns’ communities to decline later. This should be researched, as there must have been some conditions for it. Later, nunneries in Tibet were quite poor and badly off. Many of you probably don’t know this, but those of you who have stayed in nunneries in Tibet probably do. The living facilities are poor, and the opportunities for study are weak. This is very clear. We don’t know whether the reason for this situation is related to politics, the dominance of any dharma lineage, or something else. This needs to be examined.
“In any case, when we say nowadays that nuns should be educated, that they should develop their qualities, and that a community of bhikshunis should be established, this is not something that has only now become important. It is not saying that what was previously insignificant has become important. Instead, it was crucial in the past, and we need to explain how that was and also dispel any doubts or misconceptions about it.
“There is a text called theGreat Exposition of the Abhidharma. When we speak of the four philosophical schools, the reason the Great Exposition school was given that name is because they explain their tenets based upon this text. When it discusses how long the teachings would remain, it mentions that the Vinaya said that Buddhism would endure for one thousand years. But when theGreat Expositionappeared, one thousand years had probably gone by since the Buddha passed away, yet the teachings still endured, even though the thousand years were over. So the arhats discussed why it was that the Buddha’s teachings remained even though a thousand years had gone by.
“Actually, the Vinaya states that the Buddha’s teachings would only remain a thousand years, but because women were ordained, that was shortened by five hundred years. However theGreat Expositionappeared in the first or second century, when the Buddhism was supposed to have disappeared. So they had a discussion about this to figure out what could have been meant by saying the teachings would remain five hundred fewer years if women were ordained. The arhats had two ways of explaining this. One was to say that this meant the teachings of complete liberation, which refer to what we usually call the ‘period of results’ when we describe the duration of Buddhism. The other explanation says that if nuns had not accepted the eight heavy dharmas, the teachings would have been shortened by five hundred years. But the nuns did accept the eight heavy dharmas, so the duration of the teachings was not decreased by five hundred years. That is the explanation they gave.
“Before we received the text of theGreat Exposition, Geshe Rinchen and I had discussed this point and thought it could be explained like that. Our understanding is exactly what we found in the text, so we gained some confidence. In any case, not knowing the entire situation, people have explained a few aspects and made a lot of noise while exaggerating things. This has led to many misapprehensions and misperceptions, which should be dispelled.
“We train in validity and say ‘It follows that…’ or ‘Because ofx….’ We stomp our feet and clap our hands, and train in debate for many years primarily to dispel misapprehensions and misperceptions. We don’t do it only to become facile. The point of studying validity and logic is to dispel misapprehensions and misperceptions. If we say we study validity and follow logic but our misapprehensions and misperceptions increase, it is a sign we have not studied well. Since we study validity and use our logics, we must examine how they accord with facts. This is what we should consider most important. Being rigidly old-fashioned and holding to one’s own biases or views without proper reasons is not the way logicians should do things. I think that this is another reason why we need to consider this thoroughly.” With a look to the future and on-going research, the Karmapa drew this special morning talk to a close.
Today the Karmapa began with the section in theOrnament of Precious Liberationon the eight benefits of aspirational bodhichitta. The first benefit is that aspirational bodhichitta is the gateway into the mahayana. Whether or not we are a mahayana practitioner depends on having aspirational bodhichitta in our being. It is what distinguishes the mahayana path or indicates a truly compassionate person.
And what makes compassion great is the scope of our resolve: we seek to benefit all infinite living beings without exception, to bring them happiness and free them of suffering. If we can shoulder this responsibility, our compassion is great; if not, we are just repeating empty words.
Aspirational bodhichitta is also the very basis for all the training of a bodhisattva. It is so powerful that if we can maintain it, we can even retake full ordination vows we have broken. Just keeping the vows of individual liberation (pratimoksha), however, would not allow us to retake the full ordination vows in a perfect way. From among four powers for repairing misdeeds, aspirational bodhichitta is the greatest in terms of the power of the support. Aspirational bodhichitta is also the seed that becomes the stable root for buddhahood.
Aspirational bodhichitta brings immeasurable merit, and on the other hand, the consequences of abandoning it are huge: bringing suffering, a reduced capacity to benefit others, and delay in achieving full awakening. The Karmapa added that he read in an instruction manual that if aspirational bodhichitta deteriorates, the negative consequences are as vast as space, so there are both great dangers and great benefits.
The tenth and final topic in this chapter, “The Proper Adoption of Bodhichitta,” treats the causes for losing the bodhichitta that we have cultivated. Since this is a crucial point for practice, the Karmapa spent some time discussing it. “Bodhichitta is lost when we give up on a living being,” the Karmapa said. “This commitment not to turn away from others is the most important one for the bodhisattva vow.” Bodhisattvas are dedicated to helping others, but if they turn away from other living beings, how could they possibly bring them benefit?
The Karmapa then added, “How do we measure or define what it is to give up on another?” In his commentary on Atisha’sLamp for the Path to Enlightenment, the Fourth Gyaltsap Rinpoche (Drakpa Döndrup, 1550-1617) writes that giving up on living beings means that your mind is not able to rejoice for them. The Kadampa spiritual friend Potowa states that if for any particular reason we get annoyed with someone, that means losing our affection and compassion for that living being. The Karmapa then gave an extreme example of abandoning another, telling of two worldly people fighting and saying to each other, “In this life we can never be together, and when we die, we’ll be buried in separate cemeteries as well.” On a different scale, he gave the example of thinking, “If an opportunity comes, I will not help this person.” Or “If there is a chance to remove a fault or an obstacle for this person, I will not do it.” These illustrate losing our affection and giving up on someone.
In his extensive explanation of the preliminary practices, Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye quotes Puchungwa, who speaks of three conditions that need to come together for losing the vow: 1) The other has to be suffering; 2) there is no one to help them; and 3) we have the ability to protect or help them. When all three of these are present and we do not help, that is abandoning the bodhisattva vow. The spiritual friend Chen Ngawa said that if we think that there is no way that we could get along with another person, that we could never be in harmony, this is giving up on them.
Continuing to cite other authors, the Karmapa spoke of the Kadampa master Shonnu Gyechok (or Könchok Sumgyi Bang), who was also a disciple of Je Tsongkhapa and wrote the most extensive commentary in Tibetan on theLamp for the Path to Enlightenment. He wrote that if we think that the louse larva is so small and insignificant that it makes no difference if we kill it, that is giving up on living beings. We are not valuing their life nor remembering that even this tiny being wishes for pleasure and wants to avoid suffering. A louse and an elephant are different in size but the same in having a life force; simply because one is bigger does not make it more important.
The Karmapa summarized, saying that to give up on living beings and lose our bodhisattva vow does not mean giving up on all of them: giving up on a single being means that we have turned away from our bodhisattva vow. If we are separated from our affection or compassion and think, “Even if I could help this person, I won’t. Even if I could turn away danger for them, I won’t,” we lose the bodhisattva vow.
Atisha spoke of three types of not giving up on living beings: 1) Those who have helped us; 2) those who harm us; 3) and not giving up on a being who is actually suffering. The first type is the easiest to maintain, for we have gratitude toward those who have helped us. The second is more difficult, and we need to understand that we are linked to those who harm us through the ripening of our karma. Here, of course, the Karmapa noted, we must believe in karma as cause and effect: If we harmed someone in the past, the result is that that we will be harmed in the future. That they harmed us is not good, but we need to consider the whole human being, and as such, this person wishes for happiness and wants to avoid suffering just like us, so we should not lose our sense of respect and stop valuing them. Atisha’s third type is not giving up on a being that is actually suffering. When we see suffering, we should think of its cause—karma and the various afflictions—and this naturally brings up great compassion and love within us. Not giving up on them, we think, “Wouldn’t it be great if they were freed of this suffering and its cause?”
The Karmapa emphasized that training in not giving up on any living being is mentioned first as it provides the basis for the vow of aspirational bodhichitta. He then brought in the First Karmapa’s statement that even if someone is going to harm your body or diminish your possessions, if you continue to help and care for them without despair or sadness, that is not giving up on a living being. We need real courage to do this and let go of our own benefit to think of others first. If we are focused on our own success or attached to our body or possessions, it is difficult to continually help others, so we need to loosen our clinging to ourselves.
The Karmapa then cited an example from the Kadampa teachings on the stages of the path: Your house catches on fire and you immediately start to flee outside. At the threshold of the front door, when you have one foot out and one foot in, you remember the other people left behind and think, “Saving myself is not enough. There are others I must protect,” and so you return inside to help. Great bodhisattvas think like this but for ordinary people, it is difficult due to their fixation on themselves. To remedy this, we need to do all we can to develop the realization that ourselves and others are equal, in that we both have the feelings of pleasure and pain. With this remedy and vivid example of what it means not to turn away from others, the Karmapa concluded his talk on theOrnament of Precious Liberationfor this morning.
On December 28, 2016, in a historic letter sent to his Kagyu nunneries in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, the Karmapa officially announced that the actual process of establishing full ordination for nuns in the Karma Kamtsang tradition would begin. He stated that at the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, on the auspicious day of the full moon in the Month of Miracles, (the first month in the Tibetan calendar, falling on March 12, 2107), the shramaneri (getsulma) vows would be conferred on those nuns wishing to take full ordination.
Following much deliberation, a path to full ordination was established. It was decided that the nuns would hold these shramaneri vows for a year, after which they will take the shikshamana (gelopmaor training) vows from Dharmaguptaka nuns and keep them for two winters or two summers. Finally, they will receive the bhikshuni (gelongmaor full ordination) vows with the participation of nuns from the Dharmaguptaka tradition and Tibetan monks from the Mulasarvastivadin tradition. This gradual path follows the Karmapa’s reasoning that in establishing full ordination for women, it is crucial to move step by step, laying a solid foundation and building upon it. An important part of this three-stage process is that the vows are transmitted along a female lineage at each level, so the Dharmaguptaka nuns play a critical role here.
This year’s ceremony, therefore, is the culmination of years of extensive research and careful consideration of the many complex aspects of the process. Fundamentally, the Karmapa’s willingness to open this opportunity for full ordination reflects his modern and deep understanding of the gender issues in Buddhism and his whole-hearted support for women in Buddhism and nuns. In his book,the Heart Is Noble, the Karmapa stated:
The categories of masculine and feminine are often treated as if they were eternal truths. But they are not. They have no objective reality. Because gender is a concept, it is a product of our mind and has no absolute existence that is separate from the mind that conceives of it. Gender categories are not inherently real in and of themselves.
Relating this to the actual situation, the Karmapa has said during the Arya Kshema gathering:
Monks and nuns are the same in being able to uphold the Buddha’s teachings, and have the same responsibility to do so. However, there has been a period when nuns have not really had the opportunity to uphold the teachings, and this has been a loss for all of us.
Both the Karmapa and HH the Dalai Lama have often emphasized the importance of the four pillars of the Sangha—male and female fully ordained nuns and female and male lay practitioners. Scriptures state that for a land to be considered a noble one, all four of these must be present.
Citing precedent within his own lineage as well as the necessity of bringing Buddhism into the 21st century (his life’s mission), the Karmapa has committed himself to supporting the nuns for his entire life:
I think it’s important for me to do everything I can in order to support nuns’ teachings and practice, and to increase their listening, contemplation, and meditation. So I want to put as much effort into this as I can, from the bottom of my heart. I think this is something that’s appropriate for me to do from now until the end of this lifetime. I think it fits well with the activities of the previous Karmapas, and it’s also something that is definitely necessary within our contemporary society.
To give the first, shramaneri vows, the Karmapa invited nuns from Nan Ling Nunnery (also known as Daksinawana Bhiksuni Sangha Ashram) situated in an isolated area of western Taiwan. It was founded in 1981 and their sixty nuns observe an old tradition of the Dharmaguptaka vinaya (monastic discipline) while also following the mahayana with a focus on the practice of Amitabha. According to their vinaya, abbess (khenmo) bestowing the vow must request permission from her sangha to bestow the vows, and since this was given, the abbess was able to come to Bodh Gaya for the historic event.
This year, though the minimum number of nuns needed to confer the shramaneri vows is two, nine nuns from Nan Lin Nunnery came to help with the ceremony. Among them were the two main teachers, who must be present: the abbess Shih Jian Sheng, who gave the vows and the scholar (lopon) Shih Jian Ru, who taught the vinaya. The other nuns came to assist in the intensive daily teaching from March 3 to 11. During these very full days, the nineteen nuns from the Himalayan region, who were taking the vows from these Dharmaguptaka nuns, studied the vinaya in the morning and the procedures of the ceremony in the afternoon. Two nuns, one Tibetan fluent in Chinese and one Chinese fluent in Tibetan, helped to translate the ceremonies so that the nuns knew what they were saying and what they had to do.
Reflecting the great importance of taking these vows, before the ceremony, the nuns spent hours in a ritual of repentance and purification, examining their minds to eliminate obstacles. This process is part of ensuring that all the conditions are right for taking the vows and that the nuns have become a proper vessel for them. Then during the ceremony itself, something is present as the vow in a subtle form that comes into this vessel and at that moment the nun receives the ordination.
Before this happens, during the ceremony itself, the nuns are questioned extensively to see if they are, indeed, suitable vessels for the vows. They are asked questions about the thirteen major obstacles that would prevent them from ever taking the vows, the sixteen that must be cleared before they can, and so forth. Since this questioning takes considerable time, it was decided that some of the nuns would start taking the vows a day earlier and the entire process would be completed on the full moon day.
On March 11, under the great spreading limbs of the Bodhi Tree, next to the main stupa and the Vajra Seat where the Buddha attained full awakening, a special area was cordoned off for the ceremony and covered in red floral rugs. On the nuns left rose the gray stone wall of the Mahabodhi Stupa, where four niches held images of the Buddha, decorated in fresh garlands of yellow and orange marigolds. Wearing Chinese style nuns’ robes, stitched in burgundy cloth for the occasion, the nuns sat in rows facing the abbess and scholar. The two Dharmaguptaka nuns sat behind desks with images of the Buddha, and on the ground in front of them was a special cushion covered in a brocade mandala.
From 7am onward, the nuns came up one by one to bow and kneel here as they answered the extensive questions about obstacles, which were posed by abbess Shih Jian Sheng. She also asked each nun if she could hold and maintain each of her requisite ten vows, to which each participant replied, “Yes, I can.” After responding to the khenmo, the nun stood and bowed before the scholar Shih Jian Ru, who pronounced the name of the new getsulma and the exact date and time of the vow conferral, which she recorded.
The names that she recorded establish in history the nuns who received their shramaneri vows as part of this inspiring process to restore full ordination for nuns in the Tibetan sangha. Underlining their commitment to practice, more than half of these nuns have completed a three-year retreat. From Thrangu Rinpoche’s Thrangu Tara Abbey in Nepal came Karma Drukdrama, Lobsang Khando, Karma Wangchuk Lhamo, and Tsultim Sangmo. From Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche’s Karma Drubdey Palmo Chokyi Dingkhang in Bhutan came Karma Konchok and Sherab Zangmo. From Karma Thinley Rinpoche’s Chökhor Thekchen Lekshay Ling came Thapkhe Dolma, Kunga Dolma, Kunchok Wangmo, Choekyi Dolma, and Deckey Wangmo. From Kenting Tai Situ Rinpoche’s Palpung Sherab Ling in India came Karma Changchup Choedon and Kelsang Choedon. From HH the Karmapa’s Karma Drubgye Dhargey Ling in India came Lodan Chhering and Dechen Choden. And from Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche’s Woser Karma Thekchok Ling in Nepal came Sherab Palmo, Karma Lodro Dechen, Karma Choden, and Mingyur Sangmo.
The ceremony finished in the late afternoon, and it turned out that the nuns had been very well prepared so the ceremony went very smoothly and quickly, and all but one nun could receive the vows. This final nun would take them the next day during the celebratory ritual when the Karmapa would be present. Today’s landmark occasion ended with showering the nineteen nuns in red, pink, and yellow flowers. These still adorned them as they stood to bow once again to the abbess and scholar, acknowledging their key role in opening the doors to this special world of practice for nuns.
After three days of talks on Gampopa in the morning and then debate for the rest of the day from March 6 to 8, the nuns engaged in three days of practice in the main shrine hall of Tergar Monastery. Beside the Karmapa’s throne were two stunning paintings: the one on his right depicting the mandala of Gyalwa Gyatso (Red Avalokiteshvara), and to his left was a lively, swirling presentation of the Five Tseringma (long life) goddesses, making it seem that they had just appeared out of the high mountain winds. Between the two, was the more simple, carved wooden throne where the Karmapa sat as a powerful presence for the three days.
The first practice in the morning was the Karma Pakshi Sadhana and Feast Offering, composed from a pure vision that came to a previous incarnation of Mingyur Rinpoche, the founder of this Tergar Monastery. The practice relates to the thangka (scroll painting) of Gyalwa Gyatso that hangs next to the Karmapa, since the five deities of this mandala are also found in the sadhana of Karma Pakshi. The text of the Karma Pakshi practice begins with beautiful teachings on the nature of the mind, such as:
If you remain without clinging to anything that appears, whatever arises is liberated of itself.
Not wandering from this, seeing nakedly with mindfulness and awareness—that is the path.
As if demonstrating this, during the morning break, the Karmapa came down from his throne and walked around the shrine hall, talking to the nuns, especially the chant leader, and making adjustments in how things were set up. After playfully engaging with the hard-working staff, he returned to his throne to finish the practice.
Earlier, the Karmapa had explained that there is a custom of combining the practice of Karma Pakshi with that of Tseringma, which is the practice for the afternoons. At 1:30, the Karmapa came back to the shrine hall to preside over this practice of Tseringma, which this year involves torma offerings and a practice of repairing and fulfilling, often performed for the purpose of extending the lama’s life. The previous day, the Karmapa had explained that Tseringma practice is continuing from last year (when this version was first published by his Altruism Publications), so that the community of nuns would flourish and be free of any obstacles to their study and practice.
The Karmapa also explained that Tseringma is the principal one of the twelve goddesses or spirits who protect Tibet. And she is not merely a goddess, but an extraordinary being as Milarepa chose her to be the holder of his teachings in the non-human world. Milarepa stated, “My teachings will be held among humans by the Teacher from U (Gampopa, who was from central Tibet) and Tseringma will hold them in the non-human realm.”
This dual holding of the teachings harks back to the Buddha and his decision to have two types of beings hold his teachings. He considered entrusting them just to humans, but they have a short life so the teaching would not last long. If he gave them to the gods, however, they are continually distracted by sensual pleasures and, therefore, careless. So the Buddha decided to install Mahakshayapa as his regent in the human realm, and appointed the Kings of the Four Directions as the holders of his teachings in the non-human realm. Milarepa was following, therefore, a custom dating back to the time of the Buddha.
The Karmapa also mentioned that last year, this Tseringma practice was also performed so that the reincarnation of Tenga Rinpoche would come quickly, and this again year it will be recited so that he may be swiftly found.
During the long hours of the puja, the Karmapa sat on the throne as straight as the long-life, beribboned arrow that rose from the table next to him.
For the third year in succession, the Taiwan Health Corps has been working with Kagyu nuns during the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering.
Twenty-one nuns from eight nunneries—Ralang, Tilokpur and Palpung Yeshe Rabgye Ling in India, Karma Leksheyling, Tara Abbey, Osel Karma Thekchöling and Samten Ling in Nepal, and Drubde Palmo Chökyi Dingkhang in Bhutan– have successfully completed a nine-day training in basic health care.
Dr Jeffrey Chen, CEO of the Taiwanese based NGO Taiwan Health Corps, first responded to a request from the Gyalwang Karmapa to develop initiatives to improve the health and healthcare of nuns more than three years ago. This year he has returned for a third time with a team of six health professionals to provide basic training for a new batch of nuns. The team comprises Professor Kuo Su Chen, a specialist in Women’s Health, Dr Chin Min Yi, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, Dr Wei Cheng Chou, urologist and surgeon, Hsin-Yu Lee, an EMT instructor, and Nurse Practitioner Lee Shun Yun.
Jamyang Dorje, who runs the clinic at Namo Buddha [Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche’s monastery in Nepal] has joined the workshop this year as translator for the programme. Information, instructions, questions and answers have to flow continuously between English, Tibetan and Nepali.
The overall mission of the THC is to facilitate essential healthcare in remote areas and small communities by training up health workers who can provide first-line medical assistance. Though the Bodhgaya programme is only for nuns, THC operates a similar programme in Nepal for monks. Topics covered during the nine days are: women’s health; basic anatomy and physiology; the Heimlich manoeuvre; CPR; preliminary intervention for head injuries, fractures, bleeding etc (first aid); setting up a health-care station; preliminary intervention treatments for diarrhoea; the use of commonly available pharmacology; an introduction to Chinese medicine.
For the first three days of the programme, in order for the nuns to be able to attend the Gyalwang Karmapa’s teachings in Tergar Shrine Hall, training started early and finished late. The first session ran from 7.30am – 9.30am, and then, after lunch, there were two sessions, from 1.30pm – 6.30pm and from 7.30pm – 8.30pm. On the other six days classes ran from 8.30 am – 12.30pm and 1.30pm – 5.30pm.
THC emphasises the practical application of what is being learned, so that, by the end of the course, the nuns not only know the theory but can actually do it and, as, Dr Chen recounted, nuns and monks from earlier THC training programmes provided invaluable help in monasteries and villages after the devastating earthquakes in Nepal. Indeed, nuns who had trained during the January 2015 health worker programme were recruited to help Dr Chen at the hospital in Kathmandu where his team were based after the earthquake. “It was very shocking for them at first,” he explained, “to see such traumatic injuries in real life, open wounds, bones sticking through the skin. But they did really well and it gave them first-hand experience in emergency trauma care.”
The Gyalwang Karmapa visited the course twice. The first time he watched the class and showed great interest in the removable body parts of the anatomical dummy. He took out the lungs and the liver and then, holding up the heart, to everybody’s delight, he joked, “This is my heart!” The second time, the Karmapa came to the closing ceremony, thanked the doctors and nurses, congratulated the students, and presented course completion certificates to the participants.
Though the THC team are the instructors and the nuns are the students, Dr Chen feels strongly that there has been a two-way exchange of learning.
"Actually we are meant to be the teachers, “he reflected,” but we are learning a lot from them. It's difficult to explain, but working with these nuns [and monks] has brought about changes in my mind. For example, previously, small things would irritate me, make me feel uncomfortable or angry. Now, I find those little things are no longer important. And my respect for them and their culture has grown tremendously.”
Likewise, he has learned a lot from his interactions with the 17th Karmapa.
“When I am going to see him," Dr Chen continued, “I usually have a lot of questions and suggestions or I want to talk about problems...but then when I meet him, everything falls into place, and all the problems and questions seem insignificant. I am left with nothing more to say.”
It has been an intensive nine days, but already the planning has begun for next year. In 2018 THC hopes to take the programme to a new level and is planning to run an advanced course in first aid skills for between 30 - 40 nuns at Tergar during the Arya Kshema. The nuns will learn how to suture a wound and how to remove the sutures, and how to use a defibrillator alongside CPR. They will also learn basic acupuncture and moxibustion techniques. A parallel course will be held for monks in Nepal. THC will then donate a defibrillator to all the monasteries and nunneries where someone is trained to use one.
In addition, the team has prepared a new health manual which can be used on the courses and distributed across the nunneries. Dr Dawa, a member of the Kagyu Monlam medical team who has previously worked on the training courses with Dr Chen, is currently translating it into Tibetan.
As for the nuns themselves, it has been a steep but exciting learning curve; they are all confident that now they are equipped to better help not just their nunneries but the community in general.
GANGTOK, March 16: A delegation of monks from various monasteries of Sikkim staged a sit-in protest outside the BJP national headquarters in New Delhi today demanding the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje to be allowed to visit and bless the people of Sikkim. The delegation led by Denjong Lhadey chanted slogans demanding and also submitted a memorandum with the demand to the Prime Minister’s Office through senior officials. The memorandum reiterates the Denjong Lhadey’s demand to urgently send the Buddhist spiritual leader to Sikkim. The monks on dharna outside the BJP office were also detained by Delhi police at Mandir Marg police station and later released, informs a press release.
In November of 2015, during the 6th Khoryug Conference, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa set the aspiration that all Khoryug monasteries and nunneries should develop practical skills and knowledge for disaster preparedness and response. He later explained that “We were all affected greatly by the earthquake in Nepal and wanted to know how we could help so that in the future we are not just taken by fear but prepared to be useful and deal skillfully with the situation.” With proper training, Khoryug monastics can not only protect their monastery or nunnery but also provide essential assistance and care to their local communities, often in areas where professional aid may not be readily available.
Khoryug in Nepal has pursued this aspiration by partnering with the White Mountain Training Institute to conduct a series of four workshops entitled Disaster Preparedness: Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training. On August 24, 2016, senior instructor Dr. Behrouz Moghaddasi and assistant trainer Lama Jyamyang Dorje began the second of these workshops, leading a five day course for 40 monks, nuns, and laypeople at Odsel Karma Tek Chok Ling Nunnery in Boudha.
Khoryug Nepal Coordinator Khenpo Chokey emphasized that “The opportunity for the monks and nuns to participate in this disaster management training was made possible due to the kindness of His Holiness the Karmapa. Disasters are uncertain and unpredictable, so it is important to prepare ourselves to act when the time comes to execute search and rescue.”
The participants learned quickly that this would be a hands-on and active workshop as Dr. Behrouz asked them to present answers on questions about common disasters in Nepal and essential needs after a disaster. Dr. Behrouz challenged students to consider the urgency to act before and after a disaster. Dr. Behrouz explained, “Why is this disaster preparedness training essential? You can’t expect help to come in time.”
Over the next several days, the participants learned the basic causes and effects of disasters and developed their ability to assess a disaster situation and implement the most appropriate response plan while continuously reviewing and revising that plan according to the situation. They also practiced finding and securing safe locations for evacuation, having the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety kits, effective situation assessment, rapid assessment of the victim, triage during mass casualties to save the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time, civilian first-aid and cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), focusing on rescuer safety and teamwork, and managing psychological trauma through the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) process.
Participants diligently practiced critical skills in, for example, assessing a scene and victim or demonstrating CPR and methods to lift and transport victims. They realized quickly that these skills needed to be reflexive and second nature if they are to be effective first responders during the next disaster. Participant Nyima Dorje (Sherpa) of Thrangu Monastery described, “I am here to learn how to save myself and others when a disaster happens because I have experienced the issues in the 2015 Nepal earthquake. Before, I could only support victims verbally because I did not have the hands-on, technical skills to help.Now, I have learned how to assist unconscious or choking victims through the CPR and CAB procedure. I understand how to check for vital signs and pulses, so I can assist with basic first aid.”
In addition to the technical skills, Dr. Behrouz also focused on mental health to ensure that psychological trauma does not impact the health of rescuers and victims. Dr. Behrouz explained, “It is not only the physical. You also need PPE for your mental well-being to manage the psychological stresses of rescue work. Balance is very important and may be different for each person.” It was key for participants to learn that they cannot expect to save others if they do not first save themselves.
The participants were able to test their mettle as first responders with a three-hour field exercise simulation to culminate their training. This exercise was taken very seriously. Since a disaster could strike at any time, this opportunity allowed participants to practice their skills in a safe setting while developing their team dynamic, so they are prepared to act in the case of a real emergency. In closing, Dr. Behrouz gave a final reminder, “A lot of good work! There needs to be teamwork with discipline to save lives.” In the coming months, Dr. Behrouz will follow up with CERT trainees with practical field exercises and simulations to continue developing and honing their disaster response skills.
The Long Life Empowerment of the Three Roots Combined is one of the practices associated particularly with the Karma Kamtsang, and this is the second successive year that the empowerment has been given. Last year, His Holiness the Karmapa himself gave the empowerment, but this year it was given by Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, who originally gave the empowerment to His Holiness when he bestowed the Treasury of Precious Terma, or Rinchen Terdzo empowerments some years ago. Before the empowerment began, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa made an elaborate body, speech, and mind offering to Gyaltsab Rinpoche. For this offering the Karmapa descended from his throne and Gyaltsab Rinpoche also came down from his throne to receive the offerings. It was a moving moment, when the two stood face to face, while the beautiful ritual offering prayer resounded in the background. After the offering was complete the Karmapa bowed deeply and reascended his throne. At this point, Gyaltsab Rinpoche returned to his seat also. Then Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche introduced the empowerment with a brief explanation:
I’d like to ask everyone here to listen today with the attitude of bodhichitta thinking that it is for the sake of bringing all sentient beings to the state of Amitayus that you are receiving this empowerment. Today I am giving you the empowerment for the Three Roots Combined. It is a sadhana where we practice the guru as the form of Amitayus, the yidam deity in the form of Chenrezig, and the protector in the form of Bernakchan, united in a single body. When the third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje was resting in non-dual equipoise, or samadhi, at that point he received the blessings of Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava, and had a pure vision of the three roots combined into a single body. He realized, he had a vision that he himself, Rangjung Dorje, was the same as the three roots. At that time the mantra of that practice also appeared in his mind. This is the pure vision that he had.
Later, the Eighth Karmapa Mikyo Dorje, when he was practicing and resting in samadhi, also had a pure vision of receiving the mantra of the three roots….Then the 9th Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje, wrote a ritual liturgy for this and practiced it as well.
Later the great terton or treasure revealer, Chokgyur Lingpa, also received this practice as a revelation or terma. The practice has the same deity and the same mantra and though the ritual is a little bit longer, otherwise it is the same. The practice that came from the mindstream of the Karmapas and the revelation of Chokgyur Lingpa are the same, and since Chokgyur Lingpa’s had some other aspects to it, all this came into the practice lineage of the Karma Kamtsang. When you receive this empowerment, since it is an empowerment of the gurus, the yidam and the dharma protectors at the same time, it is more potent and a more beneficial empowerment than other empowerments.
With that, Gyaltsab Rinpoche graciously bestowed this auspicious long life empowerment on all the fortunate ones in the assembly. At the end, dutsi and special long life pills made out of tsampa were passed out to the audience for blessing. At this point, Gyaltsab Rinpoche donned his Gampopa hat once more and a formal mandala offering was presented by the Kagyu Monlam CEO, Lama Chodrak, as well as the Karmapa’s sister, Chamsing-la, Khenpo David Chophel, Khenpo Tengye, Lama Chophel and others. This completed the Long Life Empowerment of the Three Roots Combined.
During an audience with His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa on the 2nd March 2017 he told me that Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche Yangsi's exploration team should come to the Tergar Monastery, Bodgaya, during the nun's winter seminar at the time of the three days of Tseringma puja. During the end of the puja on the third day His Holiness sent a Rumtek Khenpo to ask me to step forward to the throne.
Previously His Holiness had presented the first prediction letter to Drubwang Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche on the 24th February 2016, the second item of prediction, the first drawing, was given to the exploration team and the second drawing was presented to me last year. Now at this occasion His Holiness gave me the second letter of prediction with a katag.
His Holiness requested that the exploration team should come after the puja to further discuss the details. Then after giving us detailed explanations about the second letter His Holiness told us to go back to Nepal to search for the reincarnation for a third time. Following the prediction letter under the guidance of Drubwang Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche we are now on the search.
In the meantime, as we all know, His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa announced in a Webcast that he will soon introduce Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche's reincarnation.
Khoryug announces the launch of its latest publication, “Disaster Management Guidelines for Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries and Nunneries,” on March 22nd, 2017, during the first day of the 8th Khoryug Conference. His Holiness the 17th Karmapa will launch the book of guidelines, a collection of practical recommendations on preparing, responding and recovering from disasters common in the Himalayas. The book also features a chapter from His Holiness on addressing and healing the heart and mind from a disaster. http://khoryug.info/khoryug-announces-launch-of-disaster-management-guidelines/
March 14, 2017 Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
YANGSI KYABJE TENGA RINPOCHE seems on his way back: HH KARMAPA just announced the following at the end of his teachings on the Jewel Ornament of Liberation: "You might remember, it was a year or two ago - during the winter dharma gathering - we started looking for the reincarnation of Bokar Rinpoche; we searched for and found the reincarnation and brought him here during the winter dharma gathering. And so now if all the external and internal conditions will work out properly, if there are the proper signs and so forth, it’s quite possible and we have the hope that we will be able to look for and recognize the reincarnation of the Lord of Refuge Tenga Rinpoche and bring him here to this winter dharma gathering. It is not certain that this is gonna happening, there is no definite thing that it is gonna happen, it is quite possible that it might happen; and so in case that it does happen, then we may well have to extend this Gunchö for a couple of extra days; but this really depends on whether it is going to happen or not. It is actually, this recognizing tulkus, it seems like it is happening a lot during the nuns’ winter dharma gathering, and it is so much happening during the winter dharma gathering, I think everyone is going to start coming down here and they are going to wait until the nuns’ winter dharma gathering and then when this starts they are all gonna come and really passing the requests that you have to find these tulkus. But it’s not possible that is always going to work out that way. Actually before when I was in Tibet, I recognized thirty or forty different tulkus. At that time the government was a little bit strict about it; we couldn’t do it all openly….there were 30 or 40 tulkus that I did recognize at that time. And then when I came to India, there weren’t so many, perhaps only three or four tulkus that I recognized since I have come to India. Actually it is no longer necessary to have someone recognizing tulkus because there are lots of people who are willing to do it. Some are recognized by their father, some are recognized by their mothers, there are all sorts of people who are recognizing tulkus these days; so it’s not necessary to recognize anymore." ~Transcript by Sylvester Lohninger https://www.facebook.com/sylvester.lohninger/posts/997379187060898
At 9.00am, 72 delegates, representing 27 different monasteries and nunneries, schools and communitiesfrom across the Himalayan region, gathered at Tergar Monastery for the 8th annual Khoryug conference. Khoryug was founded in 2009 by the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje as an environmental association of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries all working towards environmental protection, sustainability and climate change resilience.Khoryug is an initiative of Kun Kyong Charitable Trust. This year’s conference welcomed 38 delegates from Nepal, 26 from India and 8 from Bhutan. Khoryug’s Program Officer, Lhakpa Tsering and Khoryug Adviser, Dekila Chungyalpa, began the day by greeting everyone warmly.
At the request of the Khoryug members themselves, this year’s conference will provide an introduction to the topic of waste management, a difficulty which is faced by every single monastery and nunnery. Waste management is a seemingly insurmountable problem in communities where there is no infrastructure for waste collection or disposal and limited recycling opportunities.
A second focus of this year’s conference is Disaster Management. When His Holiness the 17th Karmapa arrived at 10.00am, his first duty, after leading the delegates in a short prayer, was to ceremoniously open Khoryug’s newest publication, Disaster Management Guidelines for Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries and Nunneries.Three years in the making, this bookl provides guidelines on the five most common areas of vulnerability that Himalayan communities face: flood; storm; fire; landslide; and earthquake. In addition, the book contains a final chapter of advice, composed by His Holiness himself, on maintaining personal mental well-being and helping those who are suffering from trauma or emotionally distraught following a disaster.
His Holiness explained how the earthquakes in Sikkim and Nepal had demonstrated clearly the need for training Khoryug members in disaster management.
“During the earthquake in Nepal, the monasteries all had great difficulties. Many of the monks went into the surrounding communities to help, and did excellent work… very beneficial. But in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, we hadn’t had any training. We wanted to help but didn’t know what to do,” he explained. “If we have the training, we can institute disaster management teams in each monastery, so that each monastery’s sangha can protect themselves and also help the surrounding communities.”
He emphasized that training needed to be on-going and continuously refreshed with follow-up courses. He also suggested that those who had been trained in first-aid could be deployed during the Kagyu Monlam as first-responders when people were taken ill or collapsed.
After His Holiness’ introduction, Dekila Chungyalpa detailed the purpose of the bookletand the various components of disaster management.Pointing outthe three main stages of disaster management, she showed how monasteries and nunneries can plan and prepare for situations ahead of time and thereby avoid potential disasters or at least reduce their effect.
Disaster Preparedness: Carefulpreparation in advance is required to reduce the risk of a disaster occurring or the risk of injury from a disaster. For example, if there are 50 monks in a monastery, there has to be enough emergency food and water stored for 50 people.
Disaster Response: Institutions need to have plans in place for what to do when a disaster happens. This includes having clear exit points, knowing who will lead and establishing safe areas where people cangather.
Disaster Recovery:These are practical plans to aid quick recovery after the disaster, such as how people will be accommodated or where temporary toilets will be dug.
Dekila also addressed Disaster Mitigation, which is not featured individually in the book. Mitigation includes actions which can reduce the severity of a disaster such as making buildings earthquake resistant. These interventions often require consultation with experts such as architects or engineers and need large infrastructural investment.
Within the booklet, different chapters have been color-coded so that they can be found easily. Throughout the book some guidelines have been marked out in boxes, designating actions geared towards the administrators within an institution.
But the main aim of the booklet, as Dekilaurged, is for everybody to prepare now, and not wait for adisaster to happen. The delegates left the morning session equipped with their copies ofDisasterManagement Guidelines and their homework: to read it and come prepared to give feedback on the second day of the conference.
In 2015, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa announced during the 6th Khoryug Conference that all Khoryug monasteries and nunneries should receive disaster management training. Khoryug Nepal took up this initiative by partnering with the White Mountain Training Institute, whose head trainer Dr. Behrouz Moghaddassi introduced them to the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training program. Over the course of 2016, Khoryug Nepal organized four five-day trainings with Dr. Behrouz for a total of 125 monks and nuns.
During the afternoon, Khoryug Nepal monks and nuns showcased their CERT skills with a disaster response demonstration. 30 participants from Nepal led the audience through a series of emergency and disaster scenarios.
All of the monastics performed their duties efficiently and intently. While the dramatic play-acting periodically generated comic relief and laughter from the audience, the CERT monastics remained steadfast and resolved to provide the best care to all “victims.” As survivors of the 2015 Nepal earthquake, their professionalism highlighted the seriousness with which they have embraced this initiative. There was no doubt by the end of the demonstration that the skills and knowledge that these CERT monastics have gained through their training will undoubtedly prove vital and life-saving in the event of a disaster.
Two nuns demonstrate what to do upon discovering an unconscious victim and how to perform CPR. CPR is performed when a victim is found unconscious, not breathing and without pulse.
When performing CPR, the responder pumps the heart of the victim by compressing the chest 30 times, followed by breathing into the victim’s mouth twice. The process repeats until the victim is resuscitated or professional medical help arrives.
Two CERT monastics display the marking system used by rescue teams to document all of the essential information from a site. This marking system is recognized internationally by professional rescuers and provides crucial information like when the building or site was searched, how many victims were found and what hazards exist inside.
The group also simulated an earthquake scenario in which a building had partially collapsed with many victims inside. Following CERT procedure, the Team Leader, Lama Jamyung, directed the triage, search and rescue and medical teams to search the building, sort the victims according to the severity of their injury, apply first aid and extract them from the building. Other teams stayed back to keep documentation and provide further medical care to rescued victims.
As all of you know by now, on the 21 of March, 2017, at 9am Indian time His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa introduced Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche Yangsi in the Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya. Rinpoche is a four years old boy but from time to time I see him as an old man. It is hard to believe he is that young.
I am very sorry at the moment I am very busy. I will later let you know details about the search and how we found Yangsi Rinpoche and provide you with photos and video clips for you to enjoy.
Drubwang Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche instructed us to wait for His Holiness’ advice to Yangsi Rinpoche how to further proceed from here.
Drubwang Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche could not come to this occasion of His Holiness’ introducing Tenga Rinoche’s Yangsi since he has a schedule in Bhutan that was arranged long time ago. As you all know Bhutan is a remote area and in order to join teachings and initiations elderly people have to be carried on peoples backs and face all kinds of hardships on the way that may take up to three or four days. Therefore Rinpoche has to maintain his schedule. Furthermore, the main ceremony, the enthronement of Yangsi Rinoche, will commence later at another time that is yet to be announced following His Holiness’ forthcoming advice.
Video from Tsurphu Labrang Media available on youtube:
The three-day Khoryug conference organized by Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa, concluded at the Tergar monastery in Bodh Gaya with a call to monks and nuns to protect the environment across the Himalayan region. The Khoryug conference also released a book written by theKarmapa that contains, disaster management guidelines for over 65 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries spread over across the Himalayas and in South India. Khoryug, a network of monasteries and nunneries, was established in 2009 and has so far organized at least seven regional workshops and one international workshop-cum-conference to create awareness among Tibetans about the significance and need to protect the Himalayan environment. Taking a serious view on how the Himalayas are extremely vulnerable to climate change and also an acknowledged earthquake zone, the Karmapa in 2015 decided to provide specialized training to monks and nuns to take up disaster management, environment protection, relief and rescue operations, and also entered into an agreement with the national Institute of Disaster management of the Union home ministry , the second battalion of the National Disaster Response Force and the White Mountain Training Institute to spearhead the campaign in a scientific manner. The 17th karmapa, head of the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu lineage, one of the largest schools of Tibetan Buddhism, is a committed environmentalist and vegetarian. Addressing the monks and the nuns on the concluding day of the three-day conference the Karmapa said, “I am asking monasteries and the nunneries to study disaster management guidelines and share what they learnt from the local communities”. He also stressed on the need of saving the most sacred river, the Ganga, that originates from the Himalayas.
During his opening address of the 8th Khoryug Conference, the 17th Karmapa revealed his design for a new Khoryug logo. The new design depicts Mount Kailash at the center with rivers flowing down to Lake Mansarovar, all of which is embraced by two hands.
His Holiness explained that he chose to portray Mount Kailash in the new logo due to its great significance in Hindu and Buddhist cosmologies. Referred to as Mount Meru in ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts, Mount Kailash features in both Hinduism and Buddhism as the physical and metaphysical center of the universe. It continues to have considerable importance in both Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism today. Ancient Indian texts depict four great rivers, including the sacred Ganges, originating at Mount Kailash and flowing down the four faces of this King of Mountains. Ancient Tibetan scriptures also describe the rivers similarly, referring to them flowing down the four sides of the Precious Snow Mountain. His Holiness further explained that the outer dark green border of the logo contains two hands at the bottom, signifying the way in which we all must work to care for and support the environment.
THIS LOGO ILLUSTRATES THE TIES BETWEEN INDIA AND TIBET AND ALSO BRINGS ATTENTION TO HOW TIBET AND THE HIMALAYAS PLAY A BENEFICIAL ROLE FOR ALL OF THE SURROUNDING LANDS AND PEOPLE.
The second reason His Holiness gave for selecting Mount Kailash and the sacred turquoise lake of Mansarovar was because they so perfectly represent the geographical significance of Tibet and the Himalayas. He noted that this logo illustrates the ties between India and Tibet and hopefully also brings attention to how Tibet and the Himalayas play a beneficial role for all of the surrounding lands and people.
“With their abundance of snow mountains and glaciers, Tibet and the Himalayas are often described as the third pole of the world and are the source of many of the great rivers in mainland Asia.” He noted, “Due to that, this region is also known as the “water owers of Asia.” We can see that much of the region’s water originates from Tibet and the Himalayas. Therefore, its life-giving significance cannot be minimized.”
Lastly, His Holiness said that Mount Kailash has particular importance for the Kagyu lineage primarily because Jetsun Milarepa, one of the great Kagyu masters of Tibetan Buddhism, meditated there and in turn, so did many other Kagyu forefathers.
His Holiness then discussed how, after eight years, the Khoryug association should develop and move forward in the future. Summarizing the achievements of the past eight years, the Karmapa commented that Khoryug monasteries and nunneries have been very effective in India, Nepal and Bhutan and Khoryug efforts have even reached Tibet and had some impact there. However, its influence and effectiveness have been limited by working within a defined geographic area. He suggested that Khoryug expand its influence by occasionally organizing international conferences in order to draw on the knowledge and experience of international experts and international organizations.
WE NEED TO DEMONSTRATE HOW TO TAKE THE DATA FROM OUR BRAIN AND BRING IT DOWN INTO OUR HEARTS SO THAT PEOPLE ARE INSPIRED TO ACT AND PUT INTO PRACTICE WHAT THEY ALREADY KNOW.
Depending on the location, communities face a variety of environmental difficulties which require cooperation at a larger scale. The Karmapa emphasized that while Khoryug has great potential, it also has a serious responsibility to bring about change in the larger society. He said that religious organizations play a particularly important role because of their influence on the hearts and minds of people and due to their ability to shape people’s motivations and behaviors. Though scientists are able to provide plenty of information, people often do not internalize this knowledge or put it into practice.
Tapping his head and then his chest for emphasis, His Holiness impressed upon the point that “We store this information in our brains and never think that we need to bring it down into our hearts. This is an important responsibility of religious leaders. We need to demonstrate how to take the data from our brain and bring it down into our hearts so that people are inspired to act and put into practice what they already know.”
THE VERY NATURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION IS VIRTUOUS.
In conclusion, His Holiness thanked everyone for their hard work and the benefit they have created for the environment. He emphasized that although monks and nuns may have begun this work due to his suggestion, he sees that they have realized for themselves the importance of environmental protection. Although it is difficult to predict what happens in the future, as Buddhist practitioners it is important to continue working for the environment in order to benefit all sentient beings. He said “We must prepare now for the difficulties and challenges that climate change and environmental degradation will bring in the future to our region and people.”
In his final remarks, the Karmapa returned once more to the root motivation of bodhicitta:
“By working for the environment we bring benefit to the entire world. That should be our attitude and that should be our resolve. Whether you call it bodhicitta or altruism, it is an attitude rooted in the Buddhadharma. In this way, what we are doing in worldly affairs is also in harmony with the Dharma. Because the activities we are doing are inherently virtuous, even if there is no visible result, the very nature of environmental protection is virtuous. Consequently, we should feel some satisfaction and contentment. What we are doing helps the world in general and is also of benefit for ourselves. So, please continue to do this work.”
On 21st March at the Tergar Monastery in Bodh Gaya, India, at 9:30am His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa introduced Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche's reincarnation to the world with an introduction ceremony. It was not more than that. Please do not misunderstand this fact. It was not an enthronement nor a hair cutting ceremony. It was simply an introduction of Rinpoche's yangsi (reincarnation). Please don't confuse the differences. There are lots of meanings in the various ceremonies of our tradition. His Holiness has stated that the hair-cutting ceremony and the enthronement shall only take place after Yangsi Rinpoche is seven years old. The dates of the enthronement and hair-cutting ceremonies will be decided only later by His Holiness and Drubwang Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche. It is not certain when the ceremonies will take place. Until then he is going to spend time with his parents playing with the children in the village openly in a clean and natural environment. In that area there are no motorized vehicles at all besides a helicopter flying by from time to time. The air and the water are very clean. From a materialistic perspective the area is very poor, lacking luxury items like electronics and so forth. The people there, however, are very content living peacefully and harmoniously.
15 nuns joined forces with professional Chinese incense maker Ru-Ruei Chung, translator Ani Jangchub and Dr Dawa to make high-quality Tibetan incense, an income generation project to support the education of the nuns.
Gyalwang Karmapa visited the workshop every day to check on their progress.
Using only the best quality, natural ingredients, the nuns’ first task was to grind down the herbs and special substances.
This was done by hand using traditional methods: a large round stone was used on a stone surface. It was physically demanding work and many nuns suffered blisters during the nine days it took to prepare all the ingredients.
His Holiness worked alongside the nuns.
And also spent time conferring with Dr Dawa and Ani Jangchup Dolma.
The ingredients had to be measured carefully and mixed together.
The mixture was then fed through a special machine to produce long spaghetti-like strands of incense.
These strands were carefully separated…
And cut to the same length...
His Holiness took a keen interest in all parts of the process.
The incense was laid carefully in wooden boxes and placed on the roof to dry.
Once dry, the sticks of incense were divided equally
And packed into bundles.
The bundles were placed in individual boxes with an explanatory leaflet describing the contents and benefits of the incense.
This is the most expensive incense made from 13 special ingredients.
The blue boxes contain the cheaper one which contains only 2 ingredients. Altogether the nuns made 1600 boxes of incense for sale.
The second day of the 8th Khoryug conference was largely dedicated to internal reporting, focus group analysis, and decision making.
Participants first reviewed the Disaster Management Guidelines and made suggestions on how to improve the recommendations and knowledge provided by the book. Conference participants then split into focus groups to reflect together on the successes and challenges faced in their disaster management initiatives over the past year and how to improve their approach. The focus groups also carried out analysis to identify information and capacity gaps that will become future priorities for Khoryug. Each group included representatives from India, Nepal and Bhutan so that participants could hear firsthand about the experiences in other countries and draw upon this diversity to devise the best solutions.
All representatives agreed that holding smaller localized workshops in 2016 on disaster management was a very successful approach in providing specialized training to monastics. Participants felt the training workshops had been effective in framing the need for individual disaster management strategies and for providing practical skills in disaster response. At the same time, many monks and nuns expressed wanting further training to advance their knowledge and skills. Monastics particularly requested an expansion of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), first aid and firefighting training as well as training of monastic CERT trainers.
As for Khoryug’s future activities, the focus groups identified several different areas in which they would like further training and support. In addition to disaster management training, several monasteries and nunneries requested assistance from disaster mitigation experts who would be able to provide engineering and architectural solutions to mitigate the impact of disasters. They also requested in-depth training on waste management and landslide safety, as well as continued general education on environmental and disaster science. Many participants also identified a desire to build organizational capacity in terms of building partnerships, fundraising, and communications.
While the feedback from the focus groups was collated and organized, Khoryug Fellow Damaris Miller presented a framework for making a disaster management plan. She explained that a disaster management plan could be organized under the same categories as the disaster management guidelines: prepare, respond and recover. A plan must include all of the preparations for disaster such as seeking out and addressing hazards and collecting emergency supplies, determine the safest response protocols like a chain of command and evacuation procedure, and assign duties to all of the recovery teams such as the teams to manage search and rescue or distribution of emergency supplies. Above all she emphasized that a plan was only useful to the extent that it was practiced and updated continuously.
Khoryug representatives then took a vote on what Khoryug should prioritize in the coming year based on the feedback from focus groups. Focus will be given to waste management, organizational capacity building and advanced disaster management training.
The day concluded with an address from His Holiness the Karmapa’s sister, Chamsing Ngodup Pelzom. She entreated the representatives to share what they have learned with the young monks and nuns in their monasteries and nunneries. While the focus on large-scale responses are beneficial for the larger society, she asked that they also pay equal attention to teaching and modeling good environmental habits for young monks and nuns so that their love for the environment and environmental protection comes naturally and instinctively as they grow older.
Khenpo Gawang, one of the first Khenpos instructed by His Holiness to help build up Khoryug as an association during the early years, also addressed the conference. He emphasized how important the environment is for all sentient beings and how it is essential for all of us to appreciate and cultivate deep love and care for the earth which provides for us all so unconditionally.