December 22, 2010 - Bodhgaya

Sojong & Long-Life Offering to The Three Senior Lamas
On the last day of the 28th Kagyu Monlam, in the early morning session, three small thrones had been set up facing His Holiness's higher throne, in preparation for the long-life offerings to three of His Holiness’ teachers: Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche, Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche, and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, who even though they are advanced in age, due to the strength of their bodhisattva vow, continue to stay in this world to turn the wheel of Dharma for the benefit of beings.
All three Ripoches who needed help to stand and walk and yet in spite of his physical handicap came to this auspicious event demonstrating their indomitable spirit, teaching to us to persevere no matter what. These three Lamas are from the last generation of Lamas who were raised in Tibet before the communist invasion and whose presence in the world helps to maintain the Buddha‘s teachings.
As usual on the last day of the Kagyu Monlam a row of banners with emblems of the eight auspicious symbols were lined up on either side of the Shrine. A monk's staff and bowl were at His Holiness's throne in preparation for the alms procession later in the morning.
First, Mingyur Rinpoche arrived. Then the young Kyabje Jamgon Kontrul Rinpoche and Kyabje Gyaltsap Rinpoche arrived together. Finally all the Rinpoches had arrived and were seated.
Today on the last day of the Monlam, there are three new shining Buddhas on a tiered shrine to the right of His Holiness’s throne. Arrayed in front of the altar’s eight tall tormas are rows of colorful victory banners and victory pendants, along with brocade umbrellas, their red and golden streamers gently moving in the early morning breeze. Facing the Karmapa and set in a line across the central aisle are three brocade thrones with high, yellow backs. They will soon be occupied by the three main elders of the Karmapa’s lineage: Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche, Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. The three senior teachers are being honored and celebrated today by His Holiness, major tulkus in the lineage, teachers, and the thousands who have gathered for the Monlam. The three will receive a long life ceremony bestowed by the Karmapa, an encomium composed by him, and a set of three books, one on each lama, especially and elegantly printed for the occasion. His Holiness has personally overseen all of these special arrangements.
This early morning, the sound of the gyalings comes from the direction of the stupa. It is here, near the Vajra Asana that His Holiness has been waiting with the three lamas. Entering from the door next to the shrine, he sits on his throne to give sojong vows for the last time during this twenty-eighth Kagyu Monlam. For the recitation of the Sanskrit texts, he moves to the lower throne and then back to the higher one as the usual breakfast of tea and bread is offered to everyone.
After His Holiness puts on the traditional semi-circular red hat of the Kagyu lamas, the ritual of the Prostration and Offering to the Sixteen Elders begins. It is an especially appropriate practice for this occasion as the text supplicates:
All you Arhats, the elders who open
The precious vessel of the Buddha’s words,
I invite you in order to spread the genuine Dharma.
Since my offerings are for beings’ benefit, I pray that you come.
Following the beginning stanzas, we find this refrain in the verses praising the sixteen elders:
Grant your blessing that the gurus live long
And that the Dharma flourish.
As the Karmapa has repeatedly pointed out, the flourishing of the Dharma relies greatly on the activities of the teachers: the two are intimately connected.
After this supplication and praise, the music of gyalings escorts the three Rinpoches as they enter from under the spreading branches of the Bodhi Tree and take their places on the three thrones: Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche sits in the middle with Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche on his right and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche on his left. From the practices recited daily, His Holiness leads the section that invites the Buddha with fervent praise and asks him to remain. This theme of supplicating the three lamas to stay in this world for the benefit of living beings and the teachings will be the central focus of the ceremony this morning.
It is Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche who first comes to stand in front of the Karmapa’s throne. Over the loud speakers, we hear the very moving voices of the Karmapa intoning prayers for his well-being and long life and Thrangu Rinpoche repeating after him, “Everything I have done, may it mature into my long life.” These aspirations are followed by a prayer to Amitabha, the deity of longevity. As his mantra is recited, the Karmapa places the black and gold Activity Hat on his head and with a delicately carved long life vase, he gives Thrangu Rinpoche a long blessing that includes the words “May you attain the siddhi of everlasting long life.” Then the Karmapa bends forward to touch foreheads with Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche in the traditional Tibetan greeting of respect and warmth. He is offered a long white kata and red cloth blessing cord, and offers the Karmapa a kata in return.
This same ceremony is repeated for Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. Many of their older students have come from abroad especially for this ceremony to be with their precious teachers who have guided their lives for so many years.
After the long life blessings, the Karmapa speaks of meditation, saying that traditionally we would now rest in a samadhi deep in the ultimate expanse of all phenomena and sustain the intention that everything positive would ripen for the three lamas. Today, however, we will rest for five minutes in meditation on vast loving-kindness. This session ends with symbols, gyalings, and drums.
Then Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche and a monk unroll a long scroll of the Karmapa’s encomium for Thrangu Rinpoche, which is written on cloth and held high by monks as Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche reads:
Thus prayed the Son of the Buddha, the King of Dharma, the Karmapa, while dwelling in the Land of Magadha in the Year of the Tiger:
You, great Bearer of the Vajra by the name of Karma Lodro Ringluk Maway Senge, having in your previous and preceding lifetimes gathered the accumulation of merit and made fine aspirations, took birth for the sake of sentient beings and the Shakya’s teachings. Therefore you studied completely the true Dharma and worldly areas of knowledge from a youthful age. By practicing the three trainings, you have brought benefit to creatures of all kinds and caused the essence of the teachings to flourish as well. Through your fine conduct, you have lived to a ripe age. For this, I praise and acclaim you most highly and bestow upon you this proclamation. So too in the future, for the sake of beings, those who stand tall or walk bent over, may your life remain as steadfast as the sun and moon throughout all time. May any wish that arises in your mind be spontaneously accomplished and fulfilled. Thus do I aspire and pray one-pointedly.
While music fills the air, the scroll is rolled up, and with a deep bow, Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche offers it to Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche. This same process will be repeated for the two other elder teachers: Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche, whose long name is Karma Tendzin Trinley Ngedon Chokyi Nyima, and for the great Bearer of the Vajra, Tsultrim Gyamtso.
Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche then arises to begin the offering of one of the three glorious buddha statues to each of the individual lamas. As they are presented, each teacher rises to touch their foreheads to the buddha before it is placed on the table before them. During the prayers that follow, His Holiness in a loving gesture offers rice in the direction of the three lamas.
To make an auspicious connection, everyone is offered rice with cashews, raisins, and coconut, scooped into small dishes made of dried leaves. Praises and dedications are chanted and then are read out the names of all the Labrangs (Administrative Offices) who are making offerings to the three elders, beginning with the highest lineage holders: the Karmapa’s Tsurphu Labrang, then from Kyabje Situ Rinpoche’s Palpung Labrang, Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche’s Labrang, Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche’s Labrang, Pawo Rinpoche’s Labrang, and Treho Rinpoche’s Labrang. These are followed by the Kagyu Monlam Committee, and then students from the Dharma centers and the sponsors of the three lamas. Three representatives from each of the groups all at the same time present to the three venerated elders the symbols of body (a statue), speech (a text), and mind (a stupa). When making offerings for a lama’s long life, these are the traditional ones, which are tied with colorful katas and here, set on trays so that is easy for the three teachers to receive this ocean of blessings. The essence all the blessings, offerings, and prayers that are presented is that the lamas’s lives remain firm as an indestructible vajra.
Finally, a set of three beautifully produced books, one on each of the lama’s lives, are offered to the three precious elders. For Thrangu Rinpoche, the book is covered in red silk and carries his picture on the cover. The book is entitled “Ocean of Philosophy,” and facing the title page is a photograph of him with the Karmapa, all surrounded by monks. The following page has a photograph of Thrangu Rinpoche and the encomium in Tibetan, followed on the next pages by translations into English and Chinese, which are provided for all the words of the book. Three stanzas each, prayers for Thrangu Rinpoche’s long life fill the next pages, beginning with Situ Rinpoche, then Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche, and Pawo Rinpoche. The layout of the pages is spacious, around the three stanzas of the supplications and also around the accompanying photos of the teacher offering the supplication and of Thrangu Rinpoche with that teacher.
The chapter on Thrangu Rinpoche’s Life and Liberation begins with a list of his eight previous incarnations and photographs from his life, including him together with the four main Kagyu tulkus whom he taught; at his monasteries in Nepal when they were under construction; with the heads of the other Tibetan traditions; with Pope Jean Paul II; on a great throne giving empowerments; reading a hand-written text, remindful of all the important texts he has published for the monastic colleges; writing calligraphy; with the large group of lamas who meet in 2002 for the Karma Kargyu at Thrangu Rinpoche's Vajra Vidya Institute in Sarnath; teaching and giving empowerments from his throne; and, of course, his inimitable smile.
The last section is a teaching from Thrangu Rinpoche on the famous Short Supplication to Vajradhara which is always chanted before his teachings, and his prayer to the Sixteenth Karmapa, Calling the Glorious Karmapa Rigpe Dorje Longingly from Afar. The final, full-page photo is of him supplicating with his palms together.
The next volume of white silk with his picture on the cover is about Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche. The format is exactly the same as the previous volume. Facing the title page, underneath the radiant photo of him is the title “Transmission by Seeing.” Following the encomium and long life prayers, the chapter on his Life and Liberation, starts with his previous two incarnations. The photos include his travel to the United States with the Sixteenth Karmapa and together with the Seventeenth in Tibet at Tsurphu; at Gyuto where he is performing a ritual with the Karmapa, remindful of all the years Tenga Rinpoche spent as the Vajra Master at Rumtek; him with the previous and present Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche; another with Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche at Benchen Monastery in Tibet and Benchen in Nepal, which Tenga Rinpoche built for Nyenpa Rinpoche; in full lama dance costume performing the Mahakala lama dance; looking at the Chakrasamvara mandala with Trungpa Rinpoche; photos from his travels to many European centers; and teaching at Rumtek. The final section gives his verses of “A Short Guru Yoga on the Root Lama Karmapa.”
The third volume is bound in deep blue silk and dedicated to Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso. Following the format of the two previous volumes, opposite the title page is a smiling photo of him and the title, “Dance of Great Bliss.” Following the prayers for his long life is the chapter on Life and Liberation. There are early photographs from Buxsar, India where he studied after leaving Tibet; with the Sixteenth Karmapa in Europe; with the previous and present Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche; with Tenga Rinpoche, Thrangu Rinpoche, and the previous Kalu Rinpoche; teaching his students Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche and Ponlop Rinpoche in Nepal and also in Sikkim many years ago at Karma Shri Nalanda Institute, the shedra at the Karmapa’s monastery in Rumtek. In Bhutan he is pictured at the nunnery he founded with the nuns who escaped with him from Tibet. Another photo shows him teaching in a large cave, the dwelling he prizes most of all, and in another he is encircled by his dancing students, and then he is dancing as well. The final chapter gives his famous Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness in a five-verse form; stanzas on How to Practice During Daily Activities; and finally, The Sky-Dragon’s Profound Roar. The last page has an image of him pointing a camera at the reader.
The long-life ceremony, which has touched the hearts of everyone present, comes to an end with the final stanzas from the Prostrations and Offerings to the Sixteen Elders:
Through the compassion of the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the three realms,
You retain the appearance of shravakas and, for as long as samsara lasts,
Will protect the Dharma and benefit beings.
May there be the auspiciousness of the great elders!
With the sound of the traditional instruments, the three lamas depart through the door to the Vajra Asana accompanied by thousands multiplied to myriads of vast and deeply felt wishes for their long lives and the success of their Dharma activity benefitting all living beings.
An Offering to the Gurus: Part I & Alms Procession
At around 10 o'clock the alms procession began. First Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche and Khenpo Lodoe Donyo Rinpoche came forward with a monk's staff in hand. Then the gelong lined up behind them. Gyaltsap Rinpoche watch as the alms procession goes by. As each monk approached the steps leading to the exit gate they were handed a large, black metal alms bowl.
A few evenings earlier, His Holiness had conducted a lively rehearsal at Tergar Monastery to ensure that we knew how to receive and hold the bowl. He had called a group of monks forward and each was handed a bowl. At that point, His Holiness handed the microphone over to one of the discipline masters, and then, to the delight of those watching, gave a comic demonstration of how not to do it—holding the bowl lopsided, holding it too high, holding it too close to the body, and so on. Then he demonstrated how to walk, with the monks following him. Suddenly he speeded up and raced round the Dukhang. Laughter filled the hall, but, as always, His Holiness, in choosing comedy, had chosen exactly the correct approach so that we would not forget the correct way to hold the bowl, with the left hand supporting the bowl beneath and the right holding the rim, or the correct pace, steady and dignified, not too slow and not too fast.
At the beginning of the alms procession there were so many gelong it was a while before the seven gelongma finally joined the line and received their bowls. Gelong and gelongma of the Taiwanese, Korean and other traditions also joined the line for the alms procession. Getsul and getsulma [novice monks and nuns] do not join the alms procession so they remained seated and the umze led them in chanting The King of Aspiration Prayers during the procession.
As the gelong and gelongma made their way along the outer circumambulation path towards the main gate, a few lay devotees standing along the circumambulation path put candies, etc into the bowls. Once we reached the main exit there were crowds of people waiting to put offerings of candy, fruit, nuts, rice, etc into the bowls.
The discipline masters and Dharmapalas were at hand for crowd control. There was a cord set up along with signs indicating to people where to stand making ample room for the gelong and gelongma to walk. On the other side of the line, there were also volunteers holding large bags; whenever the bowls became full the gelong and gelongma poured the contents of their bowls into these bags.
The purpose of the alms procession is to recall the tradition of monks and nuns begging for alms during the time of the Buddha. As Tibetan Buddhism developed monasteries developed that were sustained by the laity thus it was no longer necessary to go out for alms.
The gelong and gelongma do not keep these offerings. They are collected and distributed to different monasteries and some of the offerings are given to the poor.
At the end of the alms procession all the gelong and gelongma went to the rose garden, a beautiful park which is right next to the Mahabodhi temple and is usually not open to the public, for the final Monlam lunch.
His Holiness was seated at the very front within a white tent-like structure which had a canopy with all four sides open. There were flowers in each of the four corners and on the floor. His Holiness sat on his beautifully carved wooden chair which had been brought for the occasion. There was a bowl on the table before him.
Outside of the canopy on the right side of His Holiness sat Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche. On the left side of His Holiness was Kyabje Gyaltsap Rinpoche and Mingyur Rinpoche. All were seated on chairs with a table before them on which the bowl was set. Their attendants were standing beside their chairs.
Finally when everyone had entered and was seated, the umze began the lunch prayers. Then there was the clap of the wooden blocks, an indication to the monks and nuns that they could take up their bowls and begin their meal.
HIs Holiness who had been leaning against the back of his chair when we came in, sat up very straight, took up his bowl and began the meal and then all followed. His Holiness maintained this very straight posture for the whole meal.
At the end he said a few words in Tibetan and then in Chinese, reminding the monks and nuns of the kindness of the donors and volunteers and to dedicate their merit to them. Then he thanked the sponsors and volunteers for their meritorious work which made all of this possible.
The final prayers for the hungry spirits were said. Then His Holiness arose and left with the Rinpoches, after which all the monks and nuns got up, removed their chogus and exited the warm, sunny park.
An Offering to the Gurus: Part II 
The Offering to the Gurus continued preceded by opening remarks by His Holiness.
The Lama Leads Along the Path
While the morning ceremony to honor the three elder lamas of the lineage is fresh in our minds, the Karmapa gave a short talk at the beginning of the afternoon’s session of Offering to the Gurus. He began by stating that the root of the path is the lama, the spiritual friend. We should follow a true spiritual master properly and never give up. The introduction to this practice of Offerings to the Gurus affirms:
The first of all instructions
Is not to abandon the exalted friend,
Who is the source and treasury of
All qualities, such as faith and bodhicitta.
It is difficult to recognize the nature of the mind, and without faith it will not happen. The secret mantra is based on the blessing of the lama and the lineage. To receive it, we need devotion and faith.
What is called” accomplishing the lama” does not just mean making an offering, reciting a ritual or doing a practice: it means serving the teacher with our body, speech, and mind. If we do not follow a teacher properly, we can be with hundreds of lamas without any benefit. We should follow a good lama in this life, and not just because the lama has a high status or big reputation. There are two types of lamas: one is a lama who is a learned scholar who gives us teachings, and another is a lama who instructs us on how to practice. Of the two, it is this second type on whom we should rely with great respect. A stanza or even a word from them can free us.
The Karmapa then gives refuge and bodhisattva vows as they are found in the text. He continues to say that the tendrils of myriad numbers of causes and conditions have joined together to make the pattern of our gathering. Since we are here at this essential place of practice where the Buddha became fully awakened, we should engage in the practice of genuine Dharma so that our reserve of virtue does not diminish or disappear. Beginning now and throughout our lives, we aspire to make our minds workable, to maintain our discipline, and to benefit not just ourselves but also engage in what helps others as well. If we can do this, it is wonderful. At least, we should make ourselves into a kind person.
We cannot say we are Buddhists and then avoid the practice of changing our mind. It is important to become kind and considerate people, to work on ourselves so that our conduct becomes peaceful and positive. All we do is not just for ourselves, but for all living beings. So we should make a vow to help as much as we can, and then we will not leave this life with our hands empty. Making a stash of money is of little ultimate benefit; what is truly valuable is transforming our mind and behavior.
Appreciation Of The Sponsors, And Special Address
Appreciation Of The Sponsors
As the assembly gathered for the fourth session of the day, a space was cleared between the front rows where the highest lamas were seated. Fewer than a dozen cushions were set out, and monks slowly began escorting forward a small number of people whose generosity had played a crucial role in making the 28th Kagyu MonlamChenmo possible. When all had been seated facing His Holiness, with Lama Chodrak in the front row, the special appreciation of sponsors commenced.
After expressing his gratitude for their support, His Holiness conducted a special ceremony in which each sponsor personally, and the entire assembly, were blessed one by one, for auspiciousness, by the eight auspicious substances and symbols.
Special Address: Environmental Protection, Modern Education For Monastics, And Health And Hygiene
His Holiness prefaced his special address with the disclaimer that he had already spoken so much during the three days of teachings, and the previous eight days of Kagyu Monlam that there was little left to say. His treasure chest of Dharma was in fact not inexhaustible, he stated, and was in fact now running out. Nevertheless, as usual His Holiness did indeed have apparently endless reserves of Dharma wisdom to draw on, and went on to outline three major topics.
First, elaborating on an issue that has long been of great concern to him, the Gyalwang Karmapa spoke on the urgent need to act to protect the natural environment. Global warming has had a particularly strong impact on the Himayalan region, he noted, urging monasteries in the region to take the lead, and to make a strong impact on the issue through their own environmental protection activities. His Holiness noted that the Karma Kagyu monasteries and nunneries have made inroads in that direction, holding conferences to raise awareness and taking concrete measure in environmental protections. Tens of thousands of trees have been planted, and the Gyalwang Karmapa warmly commended that fact, but cautioned that environmental action should not be limited to the monastery. To do it in a way that the broader community is included and involved would be very good, His Holiness added. This is not something to be done by working out a philosophical position on the issue, or making prayers and offering tormas. Rather, urging his followers to take practical steps to protect the environment, His Holiness said that what is necessary is direct action.
The Gyalwang Karmapa’s second major point related to the education of young monks and nuns. Generally, each monastery runs its own affairs, and maintains its practice, ritual and educational programs, he commented. This is worthy of praise and a cause of rejoicing, yet,he added, until we are enlightened, there will always be room for improvement in our activities. Monasteries are home to large numbers of young monks and nuns, and, as they now do, it is important that they continue to develop skills in the areas of ritual practice and monastic study. Yet there is also a need for them to receive a modern education. When they grow older, if they remain in the monasteries they will require such an education in order to uphold the Dharma in a way suited to modern society. In the event that they they later choose not to continue their lives as monastics, they will need skills that allow them to function within society and earn a livelihood. The monastery has a responsibility to provide such an education, and could not content itself with caring for their physical needs, as if they were just so many horses kept in a corral. Along with a Dharma education, monks and nuns should receive a basic grounding in science and other basic subjects. Otherwise, they run the risk of being left behind by the world, he said. His Holiness commented that he himself took a personal interest in studying such subjects. The Gyalwang Karmapa said he had no specific programs to suggest, but would like to ask the lamas, leaders of the monasteries and nunneries and others to begin consulting on how to achieve these aims.
The third point that His Holiness addressed was health and hygiene. His Holiness pointed out that he has not had the opportunity to slip into all the monasteries’ kitchens to see for himself how much sugar was being consumed and what the level of cleanliness was. Yet, he joked, he would be delighted to be able to make inspection tours to determine how salty the food was. In any case, His Holiness stressed the importance of keeping the utensils and cookware very clean. Tibetans and other people around the Himalayan region tend to use a great deal of salt, butter and sugar, and can hardly eat their food if it has no chili. But because monasteries are feeding large numbers of people they have a serious responsibility to work to improve health and hygiene in their kitchens. The point is not simply to make the food better tasting, but to ensure that it nourishes the body.
As he often does, the Gyalwang Karmapa articulated a vision wherein such care about health and hygiene should begin in the monasteries and nunneries, but then spread to the surrounding society.
His Holiness concluded his special address with Dharma advice, stressing the importance of taming one’s own mind, and becoming a good person who accepts responsibility for making positive contributions to the world.
Our parents cared for us and did not cast us aside, His Holiness said, and this value that they saw in us is something for us to live up to. It is up to us to make this life we have received from them meaningful. The Gyalwang Karmapa spoke of his childhood in a nomad community in Tibet. The soft green grass served as a couch and a bed, and this closeness to the natural environment brought with it a respect for that environment. In the modern world, and particularly in urban environments, His Holiness noted, we have become increasingly alienated from nature.
In offering a final message of thanks, His Holiness reported that nearly a thousand people had joined together to work to make the Kagyu Monlam possible. He singled out the contributions of Lama Chodrak, who had been serving the Kagyu Monlam for several decades. The Gyalwang Karmapa next thanked the sponsors, and stressed the importance of making vast dedications that are free of pride.
Reserving his final remarks to the kindness of all in attendance, His Holiness expressed his appreciation to the many lamas there for blessing the Monlam with their presence. He praised the sangha for their steadfast contribution, and then pointed out the tremendous efforts made by international attendees, the hardship and sacrifice they had to undergo to join the great mandala of the Kagyu Monlam. It was this vast assembly of people from around the world who made the Kagyu Monlam possible, and he thanked everyone warmly, before the final reading of the Great Dedication of this 28th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo.
Closing Dedication Prayers
For eight days the assembly of Rinpoches, monks, nuns and laypeople had gathered under the Bodhi tree in the presence of His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa and Rinpoches of the Kagyu lineage in order to offer prayers for the well-being of the world and all sentient beings.
Throughout the Monlam His Holiness had stressed our connection from beginningless time with all sentient beings, our dependence on them, and the need for all Dharma practice to arise from a basis of bodhicitta, always bearing the welfare of others in mind. He had emphasised the wide reach and inclusiveness of the Dharma, and warned of the danger of being partisan: the mistaken mindset which thinks only of ‘our lineage’, ‘our monastery’, ’our teachers’ to the exclusion of others. Even criticising another faith, he had admonished us, might be construed as abandoning the Dharma. When he gave the Akshobhya empowerment and instructed us in the practices associated with it, he repeatedly reminded us that it should be not only for our own sake but for the benefit of all sentient beings.
So it is fitting that each year the Monlam concludes with the great prayers for dedication of merit and declarations of auspiciousness including The Great Aspiration and Dedications; Mila’s Aspiration and the Aspiration for the Well-Being of Tibet; Marpa’s Song of Auspiciousness; The Dharma Blaze Aspiration.
During the The Auspiciousness of the Great Encampment, the assembly chants the memorable lines:
May people from different lands with different languages,
And of different races,
Frequently assemble here in joy and ease.
May that auspiciousness prevail.
And looking across what remains of the stone foundations and ancient relics in the Mahabodhi grounds at the joyful faces of more than 7000 people —Tibetans, other Himalayan peoples, Chinese, Europeans, Malaysians, Koreans, Vietnamese, Americans, a score of other nationalities—it seems that this aspiration has already been fulfilled under the leadership of the Gyalwang Karmapa.
Finally, there is a vigorous waving of khatags [white silk scarves] as the 28th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo concludes with Prayers to Accomplish the Truth and the words:
May the world have the good fortune of happiness!
We ask that the world be made happy.
2010.12.22 第28屆噶舉大祈願法會第八天 28th Kagyu Monlam: Day 8

28th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo - The Three Elders Long Life Blessing Ceremony - Tibetan

Recorded at the Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhi Gaya, India, December 22, 2010

Today on the last day of the Monlam, there are three new shining Buddhas on a tiered shrine to the right of His Holiness's throne. Arrayed in front of the altar's eight tall tormas are rows of colorful victory banners and victory pendants, along with brocade umbrellas, their red and golden streamers gently moving in the early morning breeze. Facing the Karmapa and set in a line across the central aisle are three brocade thrones with high, yellow backs. They will soon be occupied by the three main elders of the Karmapa's lineage: Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, Dolop Tenga Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. The three senior teachers are being honored and celebrated today by His Holiness, major tulkus in the lineage, teachers, and the thousands who have gathered for the Monlam. The three will receive a long life ceremony bestowed by the Karmapa, an encomium composed by him, and a set of three books, one on each lama, especially and elegantly printed for the occasion. His Holiness has personally overseen all of these special arrangements.



December 21, 2010 - Bodhgaya

Spheres of red and yellow lights descending from the outer path around the stupa enfold in their bright warmth all who’ve gathered this evening. In addition to the international sangha of ordained and lay people, there are also dignitaries who have come from afar to join in this celebration. The steps leading from the back gate down to the Bodhi Tree have been turned into a stage for the performances.
Tonight His Holiness is serving as the Master of Ceremonies, announcing each group and making brief comments. The first group is composed of Tibetan monks who stand with their palms together, filling the whole space of the stairs with the glowing presence of their yellow robes. His Holiness comments that te Sanskrit language comes first since India was the source of Dharma. In resonant tones, the monks chant the refuge, praise of the Buddha, and before the dedication, the epitome of the Buddha’s teachings, which the Karmapa cites often:
Do not do anything that is wrong.
Conduct yourself with utmost virtue.
Completely tame your own mind.
This is the teaching of the Buddha.
Following this is a short practice of the four-armed Chenrezik that includes chanting of Om Mani Padme Hum.
Second is a group of Chinese monks and nuns in bright orange and yellow robes, who chant a supplication to the buddhas of the ten directions. Recorded music gives amplitude to the chant and at the end, they toss bits of metallic paper that catch the light as they fall to the ground.
In gray and brown robes, the Korean monks and nuns chant a beautiful prayer recited when making offerings. One monk, who has a beautiful and moving voice, sings acapella for a while with the others bowing from time to time. Then they join in the singing with a close harmony that intensifies the feeling of devotion.
The fourth group is composed of Vietnamese monks in burnt gold robes and carrying various small instruments: a bell on a stick, a wooden fish drum, a hand bell, and a small drum on a long handle that is tapped with a curved stick. They offer a captivating chant as their voices seem to move round in circles. They end with a very fast chant spurred on by the wooden hand drum.
The Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts is represented by four women in front and four men in the back, all wearing the traditional Tibetan dress. His Holiness comments that they will sing a prayer that is an aspiration for the well-being of Tibet (Bo yul bde smon). In particular, it is dedicated for the well-being of those who suffered during this year’s disasters in Tibet.
The sixth group is a blend of lay disciples from several countries in the West. The Karmapa commented that we should “collectively make the aspiration that people of all nationalities come together and make aspiration prayers.” In English and German, the group sings “Silent Night” (a traditional Christmas carol, now being sung in the West during the holiday season). The final version is a new one that includes Om mani Padme Hung and the wish that “people’s minds rest silently” and ‘awake clearly in peace.”
The following group has eighteen of Khenpo Tsultrim Rinpoche’s students from Taiwan, who sing a vajra song in Chinese, accompanied by gestures and recorded music. His Holiness remarked that it is especially appropriate to celebrate him this evening as a long life mandala had been offered to him this morning. The fact that the song is in Chinese is a sign that “the great kindness of the lama can penetrate many languages.”
The next performer is Kelsang Burkhar, (daughter of the translator Ngodup Burkhar), who offers a song of gratitude to Bokar Rinpoche. His Holiness notes that this “shows that youth of the twenty-first century can feel gratitude to their lama.” She sings, “Thank you for teaching me still.”
Before the final singing of the Lamp Prayer, there is a fifteen-minute slide show presenting the life and activity of the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa. His Holiness mentioned that he had wanted it to be more extensive but time was short as there were so many events this year. “Yet,” he said, “I hope it will inspire you.” The photographs ranged from the early years of the Karmapa in Tibet through his building of Rumtek Monastery, his residence in India, and travels throughout the world. In some of the images, the resemblance between the Sixteenth and the Seventeenth Karmapas is remarkable. (If you have pictures to contribute to this project of archiving photographs of the Sixteenth Karmapa, please contact: Karmapapictureproject@gmail.com.)
For the last event, all the groups who performed come together on the stairs to face His Holiness who sits before the Bodhi Tree with the Vajra Asana beneath. First everyone repeats after the Karmapa the prayer composed by Lord Atisha:
I offer this amazing, wondrous bright lamp
To the one thousand buddhas of this fortunate eon.
Lamas, yidams, dakinis, dharma protectors,
And the gatherings of deities in the mandalas.
Of all the pure realms of the infinite ten directions,
My parents in the fore, may every sentient being
In this lifetime and all the places they take birth
See the pure realms of the perfect buddhas directly
And then become inseparable from Amitabha.
Out of the power of the truth of the Three Jewels
And the deities of the Three Roots I’ve made this prayer.
Please grant your blessings that it be quickly accomplished.
Then everyone lights their lamps: some are tea lamps in circular flower-petal holders made of simple pottery and other are flickering candles powered by batteries. Once these lights glow throughout the darkness of the night, the Lamp Song is sung in Tibetan, English, and Chinese. After a request to remember the environment and carefully dispose of the lamps, His Holiness closes with the aspiration prayer that everyone enjoy a happiness that is unceasing.

2010.12.22 - 28th Kagyu Monlam: Marmei Monlam  第28屆噶舉大祈願法會 點燈祈願晚會


December 21, 2010 - Bodhgaya

This cool December morning after all the monks and nuns were seated, the Rinpoches arrived and took their seats. Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche, Dorlob Tenga Rinpoche, Khenpo Lodrö Dönyö Rinpoche, and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche were there. Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche and Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, who arrived in Bodh Gaya yesterday, were also able to attend.
His Holiness arrived before dawn, sat beneath the bodhi tree and bestowed the sojong vows, reminding us of our motivation, to take the vows for the benefit of beings.
After the Sanskrit prayers, the umze with his voice resonating over the intercom, never missing a beat, went into the Ritual offering to the Medicine Buddha and the Seven Tathagatas, which is now conveniently available in a supplementary book which accompanies the Monlam prayer book.
At 8 am all the gelong and gelongma, who were to participate in carrying volumes of the Kangyur for the Kangyur procession, lined up near the entrance to the Shrine to receive the volume they were to carry.
During the short, evening rehearsal of the Kangyur procession two days ago, His Holiness demonstrated how to take the volume with two hands and touch it to your forehead before putting it on your left shoulder. During the rehearsal His Holiness said that this edition of the Kangyur contained 103 volumes. This year he wanted all seven of the gelongma present at the Kagyu Monlam to participate in the Kangyur procession. Thus His Holiness explained this year there would be 96 gelong and 7 gelongma carrying the volumes of Kangyur.
We were each handed a volume, with flap facing outwards as His Holiness had specified during the rehearsal. His Holiness had stressed the importance of everyone being in unison, walking slowly, with eyes focused downwards, keeping the correct distance. There were monks on hand to assist so that everything was done according to His Holiness's instructions.
The procession made its way down the right-hand side of the Mahabodhi Stupa and up the central steps on to the outer circuit. The Kangyur was preceded by incense bearing monks, dressed in chögu and yellow tsesha [pointed hats] and two monks playing gyaling. At the head of the procession, arranged in ascending order and wearing red ceremonial hats, came Khenpo Lodrö Dönyö Rinpoche, the abbot of Mirik, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, followed by His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, wearing his Gampopa hat.
Then came the 96 bareheaded gelong and the 7 gelongma, bearing the texts balanced on their left shoulders, supported by their left hand and steadied by their right.
During the Kangyur procession the faithful devotees lined up along the circumambulation route holding flowers and katas, excitedly waiting to see the procession. They were instructed not to touch the monks and nuns or the volumes but as their devotion is so fervent and their wish to receive blessing was so strong a few just could not resist.
There were discipline masters, Dharmapalas and security people on hand to help keep the crowd in check. As one person touched my hand, the discipline master kindly told him not to do that.
There were a few instances of people trying to touch the volumes to their heads as the procession passed. Then finally one person insisted that a kata should be put on a volume of Kangyur. Even though the discipline master told him not to, he insisted and draped it around the volume, and in the end the discipline masters, some of whom were learned Khenpos, just laughed and let it be.
Finally, the procession, having completed one circumambulation, returned down the central steps and passed to the left of the Mahabodhi stupa, and all the volumes were given to the waiting monks who distributed them to the congregation in sections, just one or two sheets at a time. Thus the whole Kangyur, which contains all the teachings the Lord Buddha gave when he resided on this earth, was read within an hour or two.
Before returning to the throne for the reading of the Kangyur, His Holiness took a detour to consecrate the new sculpted stone frieze, sponsored by a Malaysian family, which runs along a section of the middle circumambulation path of the Mahabodhi Temple.
His Holiness returned to the Mahabodhi stupa after lunch in order to conduct a shorter Akshobhya Ritual, including the chanting of the Dharani that Thoroughly Purifies All Karmic Obscurations, and the Sutra of the Dharani that Thoroughly Liberates from All Suffering and Obscurations. His Holiness instructed those who did not have the ritual text to recite these two prayers or Akshobhya’s mantra, but not just for their own benefit; they should bear in mind all sentient beings. [Those attending the Monlam had received the empowerment but would need the transmission and the instructions before they could practice the full ritual which belongs to kriya tantra.]
His Holiness sat on a special wooden throne facing a same-height heavy, wooden, Japanese-style square altar, which was used for the offerings. The Akshobhya ritual has been preserved intact in the Japanese Vajrayana tradition, as authenticated by evidence in old Tibetan texts. Behind the altar, hung a thangka of Akshobhya Buddha, painted in Chinese style and mounted on fine, patterned paper. Akshobhya is dark blue in color, with a reddish outer robe. His left hand rests in the earth-touching gesture and his right is in the mudra of meditation. In his palm is a golden vajra.
After His Holiness concluded the ritual, he left to give a public audience at Tergar Monastery. Immediately, the specially erected shrine – the throne and the square altar, both extremely sold pieces of furniture– were dismantled, then carried with difficulty up the steps by several young monks.
At the top of the steps, their way was barred by the small entrance gate, which had to be moved to one side in order for them to ease the shrine through. The parts were then heaved into the back of a tractor-trailer to be taken to Tergar for the evening Akshobhya Purification Ritual and fire puja.

2010.12.21 - 28th Kagyu Monlam: Day 7 第28屆噶舉大祈願法會第七天

28th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo - The Akshobhya Buddha Puja

Akshobhya Buddha Puja performed by His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa at the 28th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo Prayer Ceremony on 12/21/2010 in Bodh Gaya, India.

In Vajrayana Buddhism, Akṣobhya (Sanskrit अक्षोभ्य "Immovable One") (Japanese for 阿閦如来 Ashuku nyorai; Chinese 阿閦如来 āchùrúlái; Mongolian for Ködelüsi ügei) is one of the Five Wisdom Buddhas, a product of the Adibuddha, who represents consciousness as an aspect of reality. By convention he is located in the east of the Diamond Realm and is the lord of the Eastern Pure Land Abhirati ('The Joyous'), although the Pure Land of Akṣobhya's western counterpart Amitābha is far better known. His consort is Māmāki and he is normally accompanied by two elephants. His color is blue and his attributes include the bell, three robes, and staff, along with a jewel, lotus, prayer wheel, and sword. He has several emanations.



December 20, 2010 - Bodhgaya

As thousands of Kagyu Monlam attendees received sojong vows under the Bodhi tree at the crack of dawn, several hundred others were lining up at Tergar Monastery for group audiences with His Holiness. In response to an exceptionally large number of requests from groups attending the Monlam, the Gyalwang Karmapa added an extra session of audiences to his already packed schedule. Despite the full day of initiations and further audiences that lay ahead—and the grueling schedule he had already since well before Kagyu Monlam even began, from 6am until 8:30 am today, His Holiness offered the consummate example of selfless determination to work for others’ happiness. To ensure that none left disappointed, time after time, His Holiness graciously took khataks, invited visitors to sit, listened attentively, offered brief oral transmissions, granted blessings, answered questions, and then stood for group photos for those who requested it. He did so repeatedly without a rest for over 2 hours. After just a short break, His Holiness was whisked off to the stupa to confer the Akshobhya empowerment on all those awaiting him there. 
Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche gave the Sojong vows this morning. Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche were also there to preside over the first session.
The Akshobhya Empowerment: Entering the Vajra Family
When asked why Akshobhya is important, His Holiness responded that in general, meditation on Akshobhya is best for cleansing karma related to negative actions. Through the power of this practice of ritual purity and lustration, the force of negative karma is weakened. So when we have committed very negative actions, that is a good time to do this practice. Akshobhya is also practiced for the deceased, and this year in particular, there has been an emphasis on Akshobhya’s sutra, ritual, and dharani for the benefit of the numerous people who passed away during the earthquakes in Tibet at Jyekundo and also at Drugchu Sakul as well as those who passed away during the floods in Ladakh.

With a variety of practices and events related to him, Akshobhya figures prominently at this year’s Monlam. From November 23 to December 7, a select group of practitioners—six monks, five nuns, and four lay people—performed the Akshobhya puja next to the Karmapa’s quarters in a spacious pavilion on the roof of Tergar monastery. During the Monlam itself, for six days in the evening, along with the ritual for the deceased, the Akshobhya practice continued in the same venue. The evening of the seventh day sees the long Akshobhya fire ritual, at the end of which the names of the living and deceased, written on strips of paper, are offered to a blazing fire with some of the pieces floating aflame into the night-time sky.

For today’s empowerment, many people have come and fill to overflowing the space around the stupa. The Karmapa’s throne is higher today, covering up the statue of the baby Buddha behind him. Next to his throne and holding up a long curving branch of the Bodhi Tree, a green iron pillar is wrapped in spirals of orange and yellow marigolds. After the Mahamudra lineage prayer, tea and buns for all, the empowerment begins. His Holiness explains that this is a maturing empowerment, which means that its purpose is to place the imprint of the deity within our mind stream and also that there will be no requirements for practice.
After His Holiness performs the first part of the empowerment, he addresses those gathered, saying that the special commitment Akshobhya Buddha made is not to harm others and to benefit living beings. The Akshobhya Mandala Ritual says:
As Akshobhya gave rise to bodhicitta
Making the first of eight aspirations,
“May my mind never be angry or wishing to harm others.”
Thus may I, too, accomplish them all.
[His Holiness had mentioned in an earlier talk that his mind was more peaceful in Tibet and he did not get angry easily. Whereas in India, with all the problems, it was easier to become angry. But then he developed an interest in Akshobhya and in this practice, which was very helpful. Perhaps he was thinking of this verse.]
His Holiness continues to say that we should imagine Akshobhya to be inseparable from our lama. If we can do the practice well, we can purify even the five limitless actions that have immeasurable negative consequences. Further, we can also think that this empowerment will help to develop our compassion for all living beings. Most masters say that the practice of Akshobhya belongs to the Kriya or Action Tantra. This first level of the tantras also spread in China during the Tang Dynasty though the tradition of practicing it later disappeared.
The practice of Akshobhya is particularly apt for our time of the five degenerations, (of wrong view, afflictions, strife, life span, and the well-being of body and mind), when the afflictions are strong and living beings hard to train. It is also true that all the advances in technology have made it possible to do greater harm with less effort. So, for example, fishermen, butchers, and hunters make an even worse misfortune for themselves than before. We have also depleted our natural environment and diminished the number and variety of the animals who live there. We have razed primal forests and done tremendous harm to our environment. The responsibility that we have for all this damage has become greater as our impact grows.
Then came the mandala and long life offerings with the lines of devotees becoming longer each day. When he continues, the Karmapa speaks of the importance of Akshobhya in many of the Kagyu lineages; the Drugpa, Drikung, and Taklung. For the Kamtsang Kagyu, the sixth Shamar, Chokyi Wangchuk, composed a sadhana, called “The Ornament of Abhirati” and among the many commentaries on this are those by Situ Chokyi Jungne and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye. This particular empowerment was composed by the tenth Shamar and it is found in many of the Kagyu traditions.
Among the five buddha families, Akshobhya is the Lord of the vajra family according to Atisha and Padma Karpo. The Karma Kagyu has a special connection to vajra family and Akshobhya. The primary practices of many masters in our lineage, such as Guhyasamaja and Hevajra, belong to the vajra family. Further, the Karmapa is said to be an emanation of Akshobhya, and some of the previous Gyalwang Karmapas have stated, “I am an emanation of Akshobhya.” As a symbol of this connection, they wear the crown with a vajra in the front. Actually, the famous Black Crown (or Hat) is not really black but a deep, dark blue to represent the depth of space. Just as space is unchanging, so is the dharmata, (the nature of mind or suchness). This is the deeper meaning of the color of the crown, which is said to bring liberation upon seeing. It is also true that each of the buddha families has a different colored crown and that of Akshobhya is blue.
We are very fortunate that not only can we do the practice of Akshobhya, we can also encounter him. This practice is important for purifying our negative actions, and we can do this by taking on all the misdeeds of all living beings, making them our own, and then confessing them. We are in a special place now and so we must make vast aspirations not just for ourselves but for all living beings. If we just take the empowerment to gain things in this life—good health, long life, money, and children —there’s not much point. We don’t need to practice Dharma for this; we can get them in many other ways.
Generally, when we talk about the secret mantrayana, we say that it is for appropriate disciples, those of the highest faculties who can actually do the practice. There are many levels to understand. If we take the texts literally, there is a great danger. So we have to look at ourselves to see if we are appropriate vessels for the vajrayana or not. However that may be, we are now taking this empowerment so we have to “try.” [spoken in English]. We are in the presence of the greatly meritorious Bodhi Tree. If we need to gather the accumulations and purify afflictions, now is the time.
His Holiness then gives the sections of the empowerment and makes the dedication that the lamas live for a very long time and that the teachings also continue to benefit beings. He further gives a reading transmission for the preliminary practice he composed and also for “The King of Aspiration Prayers.”
Long-Life Prayers For H.H. Dalai Lama, H.H. Sakya Trizin and H.H. Trulshik Rinpoche; A Short Speech On Politics And Religion
The Gyalwang Karmapa led today’s third session, devoted to the well-being of Tibet and the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other great masters of Tibetan Buddhism.

Providing context for the practice session, His Holiness first gave a talk on Dharma and politics, or religious and secular affairs. The Tibetan term ‘si’ that in this context denotes politics, more generally describes a way of bringing about short- and long-term benefit to a society or country. His Holiness noted that the Tibetan term ‘si’ also means length. In its wider sense, this term ‘si’could also apply to the Dharma, because the Dharma aims to bring about long-term benefit to society.
During the reign of the three Dharma kings of the Tibetan imperial period, the Tibetan people were ruled according to the Dharma. Later generations too prospered due to the prior rule of the Dharma kings, who sought to apply principles of Dharma in their governance. Citing the well-known line of verse stating that all phenomena are impermanent, His Holiness noted that times have of course changed greatly since then. The relation between religion and politics itself has undergone many changes over the years, and there have been periods of growth and contraction. Within Tibet, there was great fluctuation, as was the case also in Tibet’s relations with neighboring countries.
In today’s more difficult times, it is incumbent upon us as Dharma practitioners to reflect on what course of action would be beneficial and consistent with the Dharma, and what would not. When we analyze historical situations when there was great decline, we ought to consider the role that abuse of power played in bringing about those difficult times. In the past several decades, Tibetans have faced unprecedented sufferings and hardship, and hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have been forced to leave their homeland. Today, Tibetan culture and the Tibetan way of life are at high risk of disappearing forever.

Nevertheless, Tibetans are extremely fortunate in that they continue to be led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Tibetans continue to place their trust and hopes in him as their leader. Many other Tibetans—and indeed people of many countries—are working for peace and harmony between Tibet and China, the Gyalwang Karmapa noted, and have not been overwhelmed by purely political motivations. His Holiness the Dalai Lama in particular is not pursuing any partisan aims, nor does he merely promote Tibetan interests. Rather, he is working for the well-being of Chinese as well as Tibetans, so that Chinese and Tibetans can live together for many generations in mutual respect, joined as one large family.
It is important not to overlook the long history that links China and Tibet. Whereas Tibetans looked up to Indians as Dharma teachers and adopted appropriate relationships with Indians on those terms, by contrast Tibetans saw Chinese as cousins or brothers. Thus whether or not we can establish relations of mutual respect and harmony between Chinese and Tibetans depends on our own cultivation of love and compassion.
The Gyalwang Karmapa noted that Tibetans in Tibet harbor great hopes and make great aspirations that His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other great masters will one day be able to return to Tibet and re-establish a time of peace and harmony.
Stressing the importance of making requests and invoking the activity of Chenrezig, as well as Padmasambhava and the emanations of Chenrezig, White and Green Tara, the Gyalwang Karmapa cited a verse about Chenrezig’s commitment to care for Tibet:
To the north of Bodhgaya in the east,
You have the land of the kingdom of Tibet.
You have high peaks as pillars supporting the sky,
You have white snow forming crystal stupas.
You have summers beautified with turquoise blooms.
O, Chenrezig, Protector of this land of snow,
In this place you have your disciples.
At the same time, His Holiness stressed that the crucial factor determining whether we have peace and harmony is our mind. If we succumb to negative tendencies, and just criticize others and feel annoyed with one another, it will be very difficult to fix the situation, he cautioned.
His Holiness also observed that in this holy place of Bodhgaya, we may only appear to be making aspirations for happiness, but in fact we are preparing ourselves to put these aspirations into action. Thus it is important to begin with aspirations, the Gyalwang Karmapa concluded.
Spiritual teachers as well as sponsors and government officials form the key conditions that allow the Dharma to flourish. For that reason, the Gyalwang Karmapa asked all those assembled to make sincere prayers for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as well as all masters of all traditions. In India, Bhutan and throughout the Himalayas where people practice Tibetan Buddhism, these masters are the only place they can turn for guidance. Thus it was important to offer strong aspiration for their wishes to be fulfilled and their activity flourish. We should put on the strong armor of courage, His Holiness said, and make even stronger aspirations that all people be free of the sort of terrible difficulties and problems they have faced in this life and that in their next life they connect swiftly with Chenrezig.
Don’t just chant the words, His Holiness urged the assembly. Chant with your hearts, he said. Even if no feeling comes, at least reflect on the meaning as you say the words. This is important, he said. Our chanting should not be left on the level of mere words.
The recitation of prayers began with the seven-line supplication to Guru Rinpoche, which was repeated 21 times, followed by praises to the 21 Taras three times. Next were prayers for the flourishing of the Dharma of all traditions, and then long-life prayers for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Sakya Trizin, Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche and the various Kagyu masters.
Just as His Holiness had exhorted, as thousands of voices uttered fervent aspirations for the well-being of Tibet and its spiritual leaders, thousands of hearts were chanting too.
Once more Gyalwang Karmapa met with the 15 retreatants to perform the Akshobhya Purification Ritual for the sixth evening in succession.
During this Monlam, His Holiness has consistently urged people to offer the Akshobhya practice as a powerful means of clearing karmic obscurations at a time of the five degenerations.

2010.12.20 -  28th Kagyu Monlam: Day 6 第28屆噶舉大祈願法會第六天



December 19, 2010 - Bodhgaya

Kyabje Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche gave the Sojong vows this morning. Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Dolrob Tenga Rinpoche, Khenchen Yongzin Thrangu Rinpoche and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche were also there to preside over the first session.
The King Of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration To Excellent Conduct
Infinite Bodhicitta For Beings Beyond Number
Pausing at the top of the stairs to remove his shoes, His Holiness descends the stairs leading to his throne and the Bodhi Tree. As usual he passes by his throne through a door of yellow cloth into the inner path around the stupa. Walking around the left side to enter the main temple, he offers prostrations to the golden Buddha and then offers a radiant set of robes to the statue.
Returning to his throne outside, the Karmapa begins to receive the offerings for his long life. The main one this morning was offered by Thrangu Rinpoche with his senior monks. Following them come long lines of devotees carrying a variety of scarves, some white and short, some so long they almost touch the ground, some golden with the eight auspicious symbols, and some bright red. Afterward, the main sponsors pass along the rows of burgundy and yellow robed monks to make individual offerings of scarves and envelopes with money inside. All the while prayers are being said or the names of sponsors and their wishes in making their offerings are being read. These declarations are almost a literary form in themselves, often quite flowery following the Sanskrit influence on Tibetan poetic thought. Lamas are described as the shining lights that illuminate the world; they are the second buddha, the ones who hold perfectly the vows of all three vehicles (Foundational, Great, and Vajra), and so forth.

There are praises along with aspirations that extend to limitless numbers of living beings who fill all space, and the merit of the offerings is dedicated so that they may swiftly attain full awakening. In line with the Karmapa’s wishes for the Monlam this year, the victims of earthquakes in Tibet and the floods in Ladakh are especially remembered. During this long recitation, servers are moving among the crowd pouring tea and passing out buns wrapped in cellophane to everyone. After these have been presented to the Buddha and a tea offering prayer has been recited (often to the teachers of the lineage or to Guru Rinpoche), His Holiness is asked to turn the wheel of Dharma.
Following his custom, he begins with some words about bodhicitta. Living beings are a source of infinite merit. Why so? When we have the wish to dispel their suffering, even for just a second, this brings us infinite merit. If this is so, then there’s no need to speak of the merit in the desire to bring all living being to unexcelled enlightenment.
If we wish to arrive at the level of Buddhahood, we have to turn our attention to what helps us attain it. Some people direct their dedication to liberation and omniscience in their next life, and at the same time, hope to get better things in this life as well. It is not necessary, however, to have such hopes or fears.
If we aspire to bodhicitta, we will naturally gain happiness in this life and the next, as our roots of virtue will increase exponentially and never run out. If we give a single drop of water or a single grain with a good motivation, this virtue, if it had a form, would be immeasurable. If we do not have this motivation, even if we make a huge material offering, there is not so much merit. If we know how to make offerings, even a small one, the merit is equal to the reach of space, for merit does not depend on material objects, but on our intention. We should not be discouraged about making a small offering as the physical aspect of the offering is not so important. What does matter is our intention, our pure motivation. We think about making an offering, we should make it a vast one.
We are here at Bodhgaya, the Vajra Seat where the Buddha became enlightened. He has said that when people cannot see him, if they come to the place where he became enlightened or entered parinirvana that would have as much merit as actually seeing him. So being here is the same as seeing the Buddha in person.
All our many friends here are directing their minds toward virtue and gathering the roots of merit through prostrating, circumambulating, giving tormas, doing prayers, and so forth. Their activities and aspirations make this a special place. This mandala of virtue and love blesses the site and the site blesses the individuals. All of this, however, is not only for our individual happiness but to bring all beings as vast as space to full awakening. Here at the Buddha’s place of enlightenment and in this special state of mind coming from our practice is the right time to make this aspiration.

His Holiness then turned to the “King of Aspirations” continuing his explanation. Basically, the aspiration prayer is speaking of following the Buddha’s example, which Shakyamitra defines as training in the ten perfections (Skt. paramitas) to gather all the accumulations. Actually, the essence of the prayer can be found the following two verses:
I offer to the Buddhas of the past
And those who dwell in all the worlds in the ten directions.
May those yet to appear fulfill their wishes
And swiftly awaken to enlightenment.
May every world in any of the ten directions
Become vast and completely pure
Filled with bodhisattvas and with buddhas
Who’ve gone beneath the lordly Bodhi Tree.
The text also speaks of living in harmony with all beings. The Buddha always abides in harmony with them. How do we do this? I’d like to tell a story here. Once there was a lay practitioner who liked beer and gambling and who hung out with similar people. Then a lama asked him, “Why are you doing this? It’s a terrible way to lead your life.” The man answered, “The King of Aspirations says that you have to get along with all living beings. If I don’t hang out with them, they won’t have the chance to connect with the Dharma.” But is this really what the prayer meant? If we just follow after others, we may have a good motivation, but it is not accompanied by intelligence, which tells us what to do and what not to. So this was not a good way to be in harmony.

When we talk about being harmonious with others, there is a big difference between hanging out with people and being truly harmonious. Being in harmony means making a good connection, one which is not one based on the afflictions. To give another example: If someone else is angry, we do not respond with anger, but show great compassion. In this way, we sow the seeds of good imprints in our minds. Looking at living beings in terms of their nature, we should get along with them, but when it comes to their afflictions and misguided thoughts, we should not emulate them. Getting along with people means relating to them in accord with the Dharma.
Being harmonious also means respecting all living beings as buddhas and bodhisattvas. It is due to their kindness that buddhas and bodhisattvas are able to attain full awakening, so we can think of them as the source of enlightened beings. And it is always important to remember the causes. We can think of living beings as the field to which we make offerings and regard ourselves as being lower. We are humble in respect to all living beings. If we think of ourselves as superior and others as inferior, bad, or difficult, we think we must change them into something good. Being arrogant like this is not the way. We should become someone who always puts others first. Just as people in India transport things on their heads, the most valued part of the body, it is there that bodhisattvas carry all living beings.
When we gradually train in the sequence of prostrating and praise, we become able to praise others. This is why we train. If we make offerings and then criticize others, we are doing two contradictory things. Whether we praise the Buddha or not, it does not make any difference to him. It’s like a flower keeping its fragrance whether we throw it or not. So we praise the buddhas and bodhisattvas in order to train our mind. They are so captivating, so attractive, everything that we want to be, so it is rather easy.
Actually, if we think about it, the fact that the buddhas and bodhisattvas have a vast ocean of qualities is not as amazing as when living beings, so habituated to the afflictions, develop one positive quality. This is truly wondrous. So we need to praise and think of as a lama or bodhisattva all the living beings who may have one or two virtuous thoughts in their mind. This training in offering praise, of course, will not happen immediately, but gradually as we train on the path.

We will have to move along more quickly now as the time is running short, so let us look at the verse on languages. [This is a verse that His Holiness recites at the beginning of the teachings.]
May I teach the Dharma in all languages—
In those of the gods, the nagas, the yakshas,
Of the kumbandhas and humans, too,
In as many languages as living beings know.
In the beginning I did not have much of a feeling for this verse, but then that changed. I thought what a wonderfully vast aspiration this prayer is, wishing to connect with all beings through their own language. If we could just say one verse in all the different languages of this world, we could share this Dharma with others. Those of you who have come here have spent a lot of money and some do not know English, or Tibetan, or any of the Indian languages. I am sorry that I cannot talk directly with all of you. I thought of becoming a scholar and training in all the languages, but maybe all I can learn is Yes and No.
Actually, there is a story about one man who studied Yes and No in many languages and then he had a chance to go abroad. He came to a place that was guarded by a big, burly man, who asked him, “Are you going to fight with me?” Not understanding the question, the traveler wondered, “Shall I say Yes? Or No?” He decided to say Yes, and the hulk beat him to a pulp. The next day, the traveler was walking in the same area and met the brawny man again. He had, however, changed his mind and asked, “Do you want to be my friend.” After the disastrous Yes, this time the traveler was sure he wanted to say No, and again he was creamed. So maybe we have to know more than Yes and No.
Another verse states:
Free from afflictions, karma, and the works
Of maras, may I act in every realm.
Like a lotus to which water does not cling,
Unhindered like the sun and moon in space.
When we are pulled around here and there by our karma, afflictions, and the maras, we can put on the armor of our compassion and wisdom to protect ourselves and not fear these.
I’ll act to fully quell the suffering
Of lower realms and bring all beings to joy.
I’ll act to benefit all beings throughout
The reaches of the realms and the directions.
Buddhism talks about infinite realms in all directions, up, down, and around, in whatever size they may be, which are all filled with living beings. We act to benefit everyone and not just once but for all eons. Lifetime to lifetime, we are able to remain in the lower realms just to help one living being. On another scale, it is infinite living beings whom we vow to bring to buddhahood. This seems to be a task we cannot accomplish, but bodhisattvas have tremendous courage; they can even give their own flesh and limbs. This is so because the roots of virtue we accumulate are not for ourselves but for all living beings, to whom we dedicate all that we do.
Another verse states:
And may I always meet those spiritual friends
Who have the wish to bring me benefit
By teaching conduct that is excellent.
I’ll never do anything to disappoint.
Spiritual friends are there to help us but when we place them too high up and make them into gods, it is difficult to have the feeling of being close to them. Some people hear the name of a lama and they get afraid. A spiritual friend is our good friend, someone to whom we turn our minds, seeking to be in harmony with them. So a lama is someone who is close to your mind and wishes you well, so there is no need to fear them.
The next verses combine the ten bodhisattva levels with the ten perfections. [What follows are excerpts from the Karmapa’s comments.]
The buddhas possess the ten powers, and the power of miracles which allows them to enter in a single instant [the Karmapa snaps his fingers] all the realms; in one moment they can be everywhere to help all living beings at the same time. Now that is being swift and vast.
The power of the vehicle in terms of the mahayana means that our aspiration to help others is so powerful that everything we do becomes beneficial. People are very busy with work these days and it is difficult to help others directly, but if we know how to sustain our bodhicitta, we can be helping all the time. When we are drinking tea or coffee, we can benefit others. We do not have to make a special time, thinking, “Now I’m going to help.”
The text also speaks of the power of conduct which is virtuous in the beginning, virtuous in the middle, and virtuous in the end. Whether an action becomes virtuous or not, depends on these three stages: at the start is the motivation of bodhicitta; in the middle is good practice; and in end is the dedication of merit to benefit others. Like this, the buddhas spend countless eons practicing, all in order to help living beings.
“The power of love is pervasive everywhere,” means that we imbue the whole extent of space with love. The universe is not small like the little mat we sit on: it is vaster than all space. The moment we feel bodhicitta we have infinite merit. We should develop the resolve that whatever I do, whether I’m happy or sad, I will help others. Awakening to buddhahood comes down to just this.
Living beings have different capacities, shapes, and colors. Only the Buddha can understand all the causes for these. As ordinary beings, we have to understand the inclinations and minds of others through their physical actions and verbal expressions.
“The King of Aspirations” ends with a series of dedications, the essence of which is that for living beings as limitless in number as space is vast, we pray that whatever we do, even the slightest virtue, may bring them onto the path of happiness, and that ultimately, we all may realize the true nature of phenomena and be liberated from the ocean of samsara.
This concludes a brief explanation of “The King of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct.” It was the primary focus of the Kagyu Monlam when Kalu Rinpoche began it in 1984 and remains central to our practice. I hope that my few comments have been helpful to you.
Attaining the state of full awakening is in order to benefit others. All masters of the past accomplished all they did for this sole purpose. This should also be our intention, and not just during the time of the Monlam, but all the time. If we can make this commitment, then I feel that these talks will not have been wasted.
At the end there was a minute of meditation on anything one wished and the recitation of the first twelve verses of the aspiration prayer, which epitomize its vast intention with its countless, immeasurable, numberless buddhas and atoms encouraging our minds to expand beyond the limits of space and include every being in our hearts and minds, wishing them freedom from suffering and the greatest happiness of full awakening.
Public And Private Audiences, Dress Rehearsals, And Akshobhya Purification Ritual
During the Monlam, most of His Holiness’ time away from the Mahabodhi stupa is taken up with audiences. Each day he sees hundreds, sometimes more than a thousand people, from India, Tibet, Bhutan, Taiwan, China, South East Asia, Europe and the Americas.
Then, every evening he meets with the fifteen Akshobhya retreatants, comprising four laypeople, five nuns and six monks, to offer the Akshobhya Purification Ritual in the small shrine room on the roof of Tergar Dukhang.
His Holiness has emphasised the importance of the ritual this year; firstly, following the great loss of life in the two natural disasters which affected Tibet and in the flash floods in Ladakh; secondly, because this is an age where negative forces seem to be gaining in power and the natural balance between human activity and the environment has been disrupted.
Today there was a heavy programme of audiences, which finished well past 6.00pm. Consequently, the dress rehearsal for the Kangyur Procession, the Alms Procession and Marme Monlam, supervised by His Holiness personally, was delayed, and the Akshobhya Purification Ritual, which His Holiness always leads, started much later than scheduled and didn’t conclude until 10.30pm.

The following morning (Day Six) His Holiness was up well before dawn and began giving private audiences in his quarters at 6.00am, before going directly to the Mahabodhi Stupa to bestow the Akshobhya Empowerment.
This day, which is not unusual, provides a thought-provoking and moving example of the way in which the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa works ceaselessly and selflessly for the benefit of beings.

2010.12.19 - 28th Kagyu Monlam: Day 5 第28屆噶舉大祈願法會第五天