April 24, 2011. Leh, Ladakh


Upon arrival in Leh, Ladakh, His Holiness was welcomed with a traditional Buddhist reception. He was greeted by thousands of cheering people who had gathered in the airport and along the road all the way to the Jhokhang, the main temple of Leh city which houses the statue of Jho Rinpoche. Auspicious mandala offerings were made to him there and refreshments were served to everyone gathered.  After a brief prayer session, His Holiness then visited a photograph exhibit detailing the flood catastrophe of August 6, 2010, where hundreds of lives were lost.  
In the afternoon, he had a private meeting with the Vice President of the Ladakh Gompa Association, President of the Ladakh Buddhist Association, and the Ladakh Buddhist Association Youth Wing. They reported to him the source, event and aftermath of the floods and the details of how the community has gradually recovered since then. His Holiness expressed his deep sympathies for the losses. He commented that he had had a strong wish to come immediately after the disaster to be with the Ladakhi people, adding that due to circumstances out of his own control, he was unable to. He expressed his deep affection and appreciation for the love and support that the Ladakhi people have for him. He said that it was most important to remember those who have passed away during this catastrophe and pray for their next lives. He praised the efforts made by the Indian Government, the State Government of Jammu & Kashmir, various NGOs, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and eminent masters such as Gyalwang Drukchen Rinpoche, for all the rebuilding that has taken place since.
Accompanied by many Ladakhi followers, including prominent members of the Ladakh Gompa Association, Ladakh Buddhist Association, and Ladakh Women's Association, His Holiness visited several flood affected sites during the second day of his visit to Ladakh.  His Holiness was greeted by devotees on the side of the road throughout the journey. On many occasions, he spontaneously performed blessing ceremonies for the people gathered there.
This first site His Holiness visited was Gangles Gonpa, where he was offered a mandala by the main monks of the monastery. Following this, he went on to Manetsalding, the main town area which was one of the worst-affected areas during the flood. His Holiness made heart-felt prayers in front of over 3,000 people who had gathered, for the future benefit of the people who had passed away during the tragedy. He advised those who had survived to focus on being kind to one another and to practice shinay (calm abiding) as a means of maintaining equilibrium. Since so many people have lost a dear one, he said, healing from this grief would come if everyone could extend their love for their near ones to those un-related to them. He concluded by appreciating the mutual love and care that the Ladakhi people have for him and that he feels for them, and said that he would do whatever he can in his capacity as a lama to help those who were affected during this tragedy.
His Holiness next visited Saboo, where the sorrow and heartache of the people was palpable and men and women both cried openly when His Holiness spoke to them.  He said that people should make deep aspirations for those who passed away, praying that their next lives would be better and free of pain. He said that he himself was continually making this prayer and had done so since the tragedy.
His Holiness then went to Tashi Gatsal, where the devastation was particularly acute. After themandala offerings, he spoke to the audience gathered, gently reminding them of the healing powers of Dharma practice and asking them not to lose faith.
In the afternoon, His Holiness visited Phyang and went up to the mountain area, which is reportedly where the cloudburst water started accumulating. He preformed rabney blessing for the area and then visited Phyang Monastery, a well-known Drikung Kagyu monastery. The final visit was to Taru, to Bakula Rinpoche's monastery.
On the morning of the 26th, His Holiness gave a teaching to the general public at Jive Tsal, Choglamsar. Over 25,000 devotees were gathered at the Jive Tsal ground, having come from as far as Kargil, Nubra, and Changtang, dressed in their finest clothes for the occasion. The ground was ringed with shining white mountains under a cloudless blue sky, enhancing the festive and joyful atmosphere.
His Holiness began the teaching by asking everyone to participate in a minute of silence dedicated for the people who passed away during the flood in July. Following this dedication, he first apologized for not having been able to come to Ladakh immediately after the devastating floods in July last year, to share the grief and pain of the Ladakhi people. He praised the strong support and rehabilitation efforts of the Indian Government, the State Government of Jammu & Kashmir, and the many NGOs that stepped in to help Ladakh in its time of need. In particular, the visit by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who came and shared his loving advice with everyone, as well as the caring and concern of Gyalwang Drukchen Rinpoche and other eminent masters, would have sustained especially those who suffered from grave personal losses, he said.
His Holiness expressed his confidence that Ladakh would overcome this disaster.  “In India,” His Holiness said, “a great democracy with freedom of religion, and equal opportunities available for education and self-betterment, the Ladakhi people can rightfully strive for a great future. This is not true in the case of Tibet.” The Gyalwang Karmapa referred specifically to a young monk who self-immolated at Kirti Monastery in eastern Tibet as an act of protest in March this year. His Holiness had been greatly saddened to hear this news and to know that freedom of religious practice continues to be restricted and that the Tibetan people's human rights are so greatly repressed. He said, "The situation is very intense for Tibetan people with no room for them to express any freedom and communicate with each other and the outside world without barriers." He added his support to the concerns expressed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Kriti Rinpoche and others who have appealed to the Chinese authorities for a restrained reaction to this recent situation.
He observed that Ladakh had the great good fortune of favorable outer and inner conditions for dharma practice and added that if one were able to harness inner resolve and perseverance, one could own the dharma. He said that if we are born into a Buddhist family, we can cultivate the habits of mantra recitation and prostrations without really understanding why we are doing this. Therefore, it is very important to ask why one is a Buddhist and what one's own practice actually means. Being a Buddhist is not all-important, he added. Ladakh has many different religions that exist alongside each other and all people should give respect and caring to one another, regardless of such differences, especially since everyone has suffered together so greatly. He went on to stress the importance of a good heart and said that happiness can be achieved only when it is shared with others and this communal sharing is what will heal the Ladakhi people.
He concluded with lungs (reading transmissions) for several practices including Chenrezig and Tara, which he hoped would help alleviate the grief.

2011.4.24-26 法王噶瑪巴訪拉達克撫慰居民的傷痛 HHK 2011 Spring Ladakh Activity 4/24-26



April 22-23, 2011. India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

The event was hosted by The Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness The Dalai Lama, a not for profit, non-sectarian, non-denominational organization established with the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to His Holiness in 1989.  Gyalwang Karmapa taught for three sessions exploring themes from Acharya Kamalashila’s text “The Middling Stages of Meditation”, and answering general questions from the audience.
There are certain fundamental themes in Buddhism, stated Gyalwang Karmapa, in his  general introduction. These include the view of cause and effect and dependent origination, which form   the basis of the Buddhist teachings;  samsara, the cycle of existence,  which is the cause of suffering, and the path of cessation  by which one can achieve the causes for liberation or nirvana. Common to all sentient beings is the desire for happiness and the wish to avoid suffering, but in order to fulfill  these, they need to understand and subsequently abandon the causes of suffering.  Human beings are particularly fortunate because they possess human intellect which should be used first to investigate the causes of happiness and then to establish happiness.
Gyalwang Karmapa suggested that it is failure to apply human intelligence coupled with lack of compassion which has led to many of the problems the world is experiencing today. Often actions were fuelled by the opposite of compassion−malicious intent−reflecting not only a basic lack of moral ethics,  but also  a failure to understand the true sources of happiness. We do not perceive our essential interconnectedness. Even ethical behaviour is often prompted by self-interest,   or else narrow-minded in  scope, limited to friends or family, not encompassing all sentient beings. It is as if we are trapped in an iron cage, a prison of our own making; this is essentially  the cage of grasping at a truly existent self. First we are attached to the “I“ and then to “my” − my possessions, my family, my friends, and so forth. We shut the door on those outside, and we are trapped inside. A prisoner only has access to a very few people, and, in the same way, trapped inside this iron cage, we do not know how to connect to others, and we dismiss their importance.  It’s our responsibility to destroy this prison, this iron cage of self-grasping, yet, unfortunatley, we are content in the present, and fail to comprehend how this cage is limiting our freedom. The method to liberate ourselves from this cage requires the combination of  wisdom with  love and compassion.
Focusing specifically on the text, Gyalwang Karmapa then talked about meditation on the Four Immeasureable Thoughts:
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes.
May they be free from suffering and its causes.
May they never be parted from the sublime bliss free from suffering.
May they dwell in great equanimity, free from attachment and aversion to those near and far.
The desire to benefit others is rooted in our sense of loving kindness, and the Four Immeasurable Thoughts begin with the wish for the happiness of all beings, which is the expression of loving kindness. The text suggests that we should use our mother as the example, because, usually, this view is first developed towards people close to us, and she has shown us great kindness. We should, however, also reflect on how all sentient beings have been like mothers to us −without them we would have neither food nor clothing, underlining the essential interdependence and interconnectedness which is fundamental to life!  This is an essential contemplation for Dharma practitioners, because it is the basis from which we can understand the intrinsic value and importance of all sentient beings. In addition, we need to recognise the commonality of all sentient beings in wanting  to attain happiness and avoid suffering. 
The second immeasurable thought is the wish that all beings be free from suffering,  which is the view  of compassion. Referring to his own experience, Gyalwang Karmapa illustrated how this freedom from suffering is an actual benefit in our power to give others.  “When I was a child,” he said, “ I used to eat meat, but a few years ago  I saw a documentary about the suffering of animals when they are slaughtered, and after that I had no choice but to become a vegetarian.” How long would it take to realise the suffering of other sentient beings? Did people have to wait until the Pacific Ocean turned red with blood or animals could speak in their own defence?  Nor was developing a sense of compassion contingent on disasters; there was no need to wait for 2012, and the world to be destroyed, quipped His Holiness. Compassion has to be voluntary and developed in a natural, almost instinctive way.
The next two immeasurable thoughts are the wishes for all beings to possess immeasurable happiness and immeasurable equanimity. The first of these is the antidote to envy and jealousy. It was very important for practitioners to develop the capacity to take delight in others’ happiness, to rejoice in their qualities and achievements  and not feel antagonism in the face of others’ success.
First,  though, he recommended, we  should meditate on immeasurable equanimity, the fourth immeasurable.  Most people do not have actual enemies but there are people who might be termed “false enemies”, those who have harmed us in some way, real or imagined,  towards whom we feel anger or resentment. This is the point at which we need to develop  loving kindness towards them.
Gyalwang Karmapa emphasised that Dharma practice is neither a  therapy session nor a kind of spiritual massage, but should rather  be compared to an extensive training programmme, such as soldiers undergo, which has to be practised in all aspects of our lives, not just when we are sitting on the meditation seat in the shrine room. There is a danger of inconsistencies arising when we  develop loving kindness and compassion; for example, some might develop love and compassion towards others, but not towards close family members.  It was  also just as important to meditate on love and compassion towards neutral people, those for whom we had no particularly strong feelings, neither negative nor positive. Ultimately, our loving kindess and compassion should embrace all sentient beings.  If we wanted to lead meaningful lives, we had to break out of the iron cage,  transcend ourselves, and live as part of everything.
In the second session, His Holiness considered the importance of bodhicitta and mindfulness.
He began by acknowledging how most ancient Asian spriritual traditions have profound instructions. But having the teachings is not enough, he commented, they have to be practised, and the way of practising depends on the capacity of the practitioner.
Comparing the other Buddhist vehicles and the Great Vehicle [Mahayana], His Holiness explained that, rather than seeking personal liberation from samsara, the unique contribution of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition is its commitment to transporting all sentient beings to liberation.  All great beings shared this wish.
Beings could be divided into three capacities or levels, and different practices existed for each of these levels of attainment. It was foolish to  try to attempt to practise beyond our appropriate level; one should train in the basics first as  it is impossible to bring benefit to all sentient beings until we have tamed our own minds.  For the Mahayana practitioner, however, the  root of the path is bodhicitta, the mind of enlightenment -  the fundamental cause and condition of the Mahayana vehicle.  Thus it is crucial that we understand the reasons for developing bodhicitta. An example, often given in this context, is that of a family  asleep when their house catches fire. A member of the family makes his escape to safety, but on the threshold, with one foot in the house and one foot outside, he remembers the rest of the family, and goes back inside to save them. Hence bodhicitta has two aspects: liberating others and liberating one’s self. To think only of the benefit of others would be to fall into the extremes.
Bodhicitta strives for complete enlightenment. Why? If we compare a fully-enlightened person, a Buddha, and someone who is still training on the path, there is a difference in capacity. The Buddha has perfected his capacity.  As you cannot benefit every being by a single method, the Buddha needs to be omniscient in terms of knowing all phenomena. This omniscience does not mean knowing how many different insects there are, rather it means knowing all the methods which can lead to the liberation of sentient beings. This all-knowing mind, knowing all phenomena, starts by placing attention on each phenomenon.
There are many different paths and methods for bringing sentient beings to happiness and  freeing them from suffering. Some originate in spiritual traditions and others do not. Yet, it is important that we respect and understand them all,  because each of them reveals a path for a person of a certain outlook or disposition. 
However, there is often confusion over the nature of happiness. The things we view as happiness− the happiness of everyday experience−is contaminated happiness, affected by the suffering of change,  and similar to  the relief we feel when we put down a heavy load.  Only nirvana or Buddhahood is true happiness. Some people look for happiness in external things but this is not lasting happiness. For example we buy a new car and experience a sense of happiness and pleasure for a few days, and then the feeling fades. Thus, we confuse a temporary  feeling of pleasure  with ultimate happiness.  Or we throw a party or go fishing or hiking. Again, the sense of happiness is temporary because it is dependent on external conditions. We should, instead, use our intelligence to analyse what leads to true happiness, and then we will realise that in order to be happy, in order to develop natural, effortless happiness, we need to look inside ourselves. For example, when we meditate we feel peaceful, because it’s like coming home; our mind is relaxed, not worrying about the past or the future, but focussed on the present moment.  This state is not dependent on external conditions.  However, because it is not possible to spend the day in meditative concentration − we are busy people −  we need a method which we can use in our daily lives.  In essence, we need to remain mindful,  whatever we are doing, and use the analytical part of our mind to observe whatever arises, and then, at the end of each day, we should ask ourselves, “What have I done today?”.
Even if we can only develop mindfulness for some part of each day or some activities, it will make our lives meaningful.
In the final session, Gyalwang Karmapa  discussed the two forms of meditation − insight meditation and calm-abiding− and the meaning of emptiness.
Short-temperedness, he commented, seems to be on the rise in the 21st century – there are so many situations in which we begin to feel irritated  and even lose our tempers, for example  when queueing in the hospital or the post office.  Meditation is a way to overcome this tendency.
There are two methods of training in calm-abiding meditation or samatha. One is in formal practice in a quiet place where we adopt the vajra position, and focus our mind. The second way, however, is to develop mindfulness whatever daily activity we are engaged in – being present in that moment− whether we are eating or working, driving, and so forth. We need to practise  both  methods in order to calm our minds. Sometimes, if we go out into the countryside or into the mountains,  places where there are few distractions, we can relax and rest from our daily life, and let our minds be at ease.  Similarly, daily meditation practice can become a way to rest our minds.
In our busy lives, we  do not always have opportunity to go on retreat, and it is often difficult to find time for a formal daily meditation practice in our daily lives; for this reason we need to  consider how we can bring meditation into our daily activities. Of course it is good to have a daily morning and evening formal practice of prayers and meditation − like the soldiers mentioned in the first session who are prepared for battle through extensive training exercises. When we undertake an exercise regime we are advised that the warm-up phase is most important. Daily meditation practise functions as both the warm-up phase and also as the recharging of our batteries. Being mindful throughout the day in all situations ensures that we use our time meaningfully, not wasting it.
What then is meditation? The word in Tibetan means cultivating the habit or becoming accustomed to something. Once we have become used to it, it becomes effortless. There are many approaches to meditation, and Gyalwang Karmapa said he was not familiar with all of them himself, but key to meditation practice is that when a situation jolts or disturbs us emotionally, such as making us angry, being able to be mindful at that point, being able to stand back and observe the play of the mental afflictions, will have the effect of diminishing the degree of disturbance. Rather like our experience of dealing with physical pain; when we focus our awareness on it, the pain diminishes. Thus it is important to nurture this practice of minfulness in our daily lives.
Special insight or analytical meditation, vipassana, focusses on emptiness, the understanding of the fundamental nature of reality which can root out the ignorance which is the basis of cyclic existence, namely the clinging to the mistaken idea of an inherently-existent self.  Some people may think that emptiness is the negation of everything, so nothing exists, and selflessness means no self, so how can we accumulate karma and so on. This is the extreme of nihilism and is not the meaning of emptiness or selflessness. To say that something does not exist is not profound, whereas the meaning of emptiness is profound. It is not the same as non-existence. For example, when we analyse a vase, we cannot find the imputed object. What is this not-finding?  Is it the not-finding of something that exists or the not-finding of something that does not exist?  We are searching for something that does exist and not finding it. What does this mean? We are not saying that the vase does not exist, but rather, that we have misunderstood how it exists. It appears to us as if it exists from its own side, so when we search, we cannot find it. It does exist but not in that way. Similarly, to think that emptiness means non-existence is  wrong.

When we watch an actor in a film,  he appears to us as if he really exists, but we know that he doesn’t. There is the mere appearance of the actor, which exists in dependence on various causes and conditions such as the reel of film, the film projector, the screen and so on.  Therefore, this appearance is a dependent origination, produced by many causes and conditions. The appearance exists but the actor does not exist as he appears. It seems to have a true existence, that is how it appears to the mind, but it is a mere appearance.
In the same way all composite phenomena do not exist in the way in which we impute them to exist. They appear to us as if they are non-dependent. The “I” ,for example, appears to us as independent and autonomous, occupying the centre of our world, not depending on any causes or conditions.  In actuality, though the “I” exists,  it does not exist in the way it appears to us. It exists in dependence on many causes and conditions.
Essentialy, emptiness means an opportunity or opening. As  Nagarjuna said:
For whatever emptiness is possible, for that everything is possible.
Since things are empty, there are limitless  opportunities for everything and anything to arise.
We think of ourselves as  self-sufficient  and independent, but through meditation on emptiness our minds are opened to the understanding that we are part of everything, and intrinsically interconnected.  When we view ourselves as independent we have a blinkered, narrow perspective, but through an understanding of  emptiness our minds are  opened up, becoming vast, extensive and at ease.  Whenever we feel under pressure, the feeling is so concrete. Yet,  thinking of emptiness, that feeling dissipates completely.  The view of emptiness is far more than  a topic for research or discussion between university professors;  such things can be pointless. Emptiness is an idea that has a practical application to our daily lives, something which brings benefit.
Gyalwang Karmapa joked how once, when he took an examination, he only came second, so his tutor fudged the result to make the number two look like a one [easier to do in Tibetan script]. People often seem to have a negative view of zero.  However, without zero, first and second do not exist.  Perhaps we should approach emptiness in the same way, as the source of all possibilities.
The teaching session concluded with questions from the audience.
Finally, at the end of the third session, there was a special presentation to all members of the audience of the second edition of the commemorative book written for the yearlong celebration of the 900th anniversary of the birth of the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa.
These beautifully produced books were signed on the spot by the Gyalwang Karmapa and presented personally to each individual.

2011.4.22-23 法王噶瑪巴於新德里教授《修次中篇》Karmapa teaches on  “The Middling Stages of Meditation”


Remembering the 16th Karmapa (Tricycle)

April 20, 2011

In the 10th century AD, at the great Buddhist monastic university Nalanda in Bihar, India (which is currently being rebuilt), there was a monk named Naropa who was of the school's best and brightest students. Despite his academic standing, upon hearing of a great yogi named Tilopa, Naropa immediately felt great devotion to him and, wanting to learn on a deeper, more experiential level, resolved to leave the university behind in order to seek him. After a great search and many hardships, Naropa found Tilopa and is said to have attained a very high level of spiritual realization.

Naropa then taught Marpa, a great translator credited for transmitting a vast amount of Buddhist teachings from India to Tibet. Marpa did this not just through translation work, but also by physically transporting texts, on foot, over the course of several challenging journeys through the Himalayas.

One of Marpa's chief disciples was Milarepa, a yogi who is revered as one of the greatest saints of Tibetan Buddhism. Spiritually powerful from birth but born into tragic circumstances, Milarepa is said to have destroyed an entire village through the use of advanced black magic. Yet, under the tutelage of Marpa, Milarepa was able to work through all of this negative karma and achieve a high level of awakening in the very same lifetime.

Milarepa then taught Gampopa, an accomplished doctor, who in turn taught a man namedDusum Khyenpa, the first Gyalwa Karmapa. The Karmapas are the oldest line of tulkus in Vajrayana Buddhism and are the head of Karma Kagyu school, one of the major schools within the greater Kagyu lineage. The line of Karmapas continues to this day.

I recently had the privilege of watching the film Recalling a Buddha: Memories of the Sixteenth Karmapa, by filmmaker Gregg Eller.
Everyone I heard speak about the Sixteenth Karmapa described him in such commanding terms, in ways I'd never heard someone described. This was consistent between local meditation centers, on breaks at retreats at large land centers, and teachings given by Tibetan lamas. It made me want to find out more about him. Both Westerners and Tibetan lamas commented on his presence, about how their minds would stop, the inspiration of seeing the Black Crown Ceremony, and also a personal power that was different from charisma, which wasn't a trait I'd associated with high lamas.
–Gregg Eller
Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1924-1981) was the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa. Like his spiritual forefathers, he was a profoundly fascinating and powerful person.  Yet, unlike his forefathers, he existed in modern times, travelled the world, and was deeply involved in the transmission of the Vajrayana Buddhism to Europe and North America.

The film covers many aspects of the Karmapa's life. From his escape from the Chinese in 1959, the instruction and guidance he gave his many accomplished disciples, his travels to North America and his relationship with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and his sangha, the blessings he bestowed on the vast multitudes that would come to see him, his death, and the legacy he left behind.

One of the things that struck me about the film was that there was not a great deal of direct footage of the Karmapa, which, considering that the film was a documentary about him, lead me to think that perhaps there just isn't much footage of him in existence at all. Aside from arare interview from the late 70s local access TV program, The Vermont Report, the vast majority of the footage of him is all of ceremonies. This works to the film's benefit because instead relying on direct footage, the story of the Karmapa is told through interviews with those that knew him and were close to him.

Interviewed in the film (and I don't think I've missed anyone) are Dzongsar Khyenste Rinpoche, Jetsun Khandro Rinpcohe, Dr. Mitchell Levy, He Who Stands Firm, Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Ngodup T. Burkhar, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, Tenga Rinpoche, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Tenzin Palmo, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Tenzin Parsons, Judy Lief, Gene Smith, Traleg Rinpoche, Beru Khyentse Rinpoche, Tai Situ Rinpoche, Achi Tsepal, and Shamar Rinpoche. There is more wisdom, love, affection, and insight in these interviews than I could ever describe.
Getting to speak to any one of the participants in Recalling a Buddha would have been the privilege of a lifetime. The sum effect of their descriptions of Karmapa helped me appreciate a certain order of magnitude of human development. I came to understand that presenting those recollections to provide the historical, biographic and dharmic context of the Karmapa and his activity was going to be the real work of a documentary film. Hearing that context from living witnesses was also going to be more moving and engaging than having a narrator try to convey such a context. For a viewer, the effect would be more cumulative and meaningful.
–Gregg Eller
What I am most fascinated by regarding the Karmapa is that among those that knew him, just about everyone recalls witnessing occurrences that are beyond the conventional understanding of reality.

One of the things the 16th Karmapa is widely known for that I have always been intrigued by is his relationship and communications with animals. In the film Gyaltsap Rinpoche recollects:
Karmapa was a prominent and great personality. Normally, when great individuals can go to different places, they might want to go to fancy places‚ big clean tourist attractions. Whenever His Holiness had the opportunity, he always wanted to go where there were animals. Birds mainly but all animals, be it a zoo, be they birds, snakes, buffaloes, whatever kinds of animals. Usually, these are not the cleanest or the most convenient places. But he wanted to go and connect with them. He would offer prayers and blessings, repeating mantras for instance. By connecting with such an enlightened being, it is quite certain that they will experience higher forms of rebirth. I recall that aspect of His Holiness' life very strongly.

Even in Rumtek, during the rainy season, we would find creatures. Sometimes monks would find snakes. Then His Holiness would tell the monks to bring the snakes and he would keep them. Later, he would set them free. Same with frogs. After blessings, prayers, he would set them free. Karmapa had utter confidence in the basic potential of all beings. The Buddhist tradition says that all beings without exception are endowed with "yeshe nyingpo" or "buddhanature."
Ngodup T. Burkhar, one of the Karmapa's translators, tells this story:
I once saw a bird standing on His Holiness' index finger. His Holiness began giving the bird transmission. I call it transmission because it was not like normal recitation of mantra. Then, he would just gently blow on the bird. People said, "Oh no. This bird is sick and it's dying." Then the bird was standing there perfectly still. I thought 'hmmm, maybe the bird fell asleep?' It was not moving or tilting in any way. The bird had died meditating, still standing. Great buddhas and bodhisattvas can communicate teachings even to animals, giving them transmission, showing love and affection. When you see it happen before your eyes you think, So that's what they are talking about in the teachings.
Perhaps what the Karmapa was most known for, like the Karmapas before him, was the Black Crown Ceremony, which he performed many times throughout the world. The Black Crown represents the power to benefit sentient beings, witnessing the ceremony it is a tremendously powerful blessing [video of ceremony below]. Tenga Rinpoche recalls,
As of we traveled, people has different experiences in the meeting his Holiness. Some recognized their nature of mind simply by observing the Black Crown Ceremony. Some even saw a kind of light on the top of the Black  Crown ornament. There were many of these experiences among disciples in North America.
One recollection of the Black Crown Ceremony that particularly interested me was from Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche,
I served in the Vajra Crown ceremony, playing different parts. It was very interesting. All the monks told me different things—that sometimes the Crown is heavy and sometimes it's light. They'd told me this but I never believed it. I thought it was some kind of mythical story. But then I really experienced it. In America I carried the Vajra Crown in ceremonies and one time it was so heavy that I was worried I was going to lose control and drop it on the stage. I was feeling so ashamed. It was like someone was pushing down on my shoulder. Other times it was so light and I felt like a weight lifter. How come? It was light like lifting a paper box or something. They told me that it was reflecting the audience's karma. When the audience's karma is heavy the crown becomes heavy. When the audience’s karma is more positive and light the crown becomes light. I experienced this, a first hand experience. It's not just a story you hear.
Something else that I found both very interesting and immensely sad was in the section about the Karmapa's death. Dr. Mitchell Levy, who was present when he died, explains that the Karmapa had widespread cancer that was in a very advanced stage, a state that by all accounts should have been extremely painful. Yet, somehow, he was perfectly peaceful and calm and didn't appear to be in any pain at all. Dr. Levy states that it was the Doctors' belief that he SHOULD be in pain, despite His Holiness saying that he wasn't, that lead them to administer strong painkillers. It was only once he was drugged and became groggy that his vital signs became disrupted, which was the beginning of his death. Levy recalls that it was clear that it was the sheer power of his will that was keeping him awake, alive, and serene. Just this month a study was released which indicates that meditation is a more effective pain-killer than morphine, and this study was conducted only with beginner practitioners, not advanced tantric masters like the Karmapa. Contemplating this, I am left thinking that Buddhist masters like the great Kagyu lineage holders and many others in other Buddhist traditions have long possessed knowledge and abilities of which Western science has only begun to scratch the surface of. But I digress...
In any case, judging from how long I have gone on about this film, it should be pretty clear that I think it is an important work that is very much worth watching. It can be ordered here.



The Lifestory of Düsum Khyenpa

Ringu Tulku Rinpoche
Teachings on the Dohas of Düsum Khyenpa
DK1_1 The Lifestory of Düsum Khyenpa

Recorded at Kagyu Samye Dzong Edinburgh, April 12, 2011
Published for the Bodhicharya Online Shedra in December 2011
Transcribed by Albert Harris

This year, we are celebrating the nine-hundredth anniversary of the birth of the first Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa, and the nine-hundredth year of the existence of Karmapas as Karmapas because the first Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa was born in 1110 in Tibet, in Kham, in a very kind of remote place – in fact, not very far from the place where I was born – and since then, 2010 was the nine hundredth year.  The Karmapa’s birth date is not recorded, it’s not known.  So, it was decided to start this celebration from the day of his passing away; and that happened in December, 2010.  And so in one year the Karmapa’s nine-hundredth anniversary will be celebrated.

The first Karmapa was called Düsum Khyenpa but he was not called Düsum Khyenpa from the beginning.  Later on, because of his clairvoyance, he happened to be called Düsum Khyenpa: Düsum Khyenpa means seer of the three times.  This quality he had right from the beginning, even when he was very young and he was just looking after yaks.  His friends, when they had kind of lost a yak, then they would go to him and say, “Where’s my yak?”  And he would kind of sit down and he would close his eyes and say, “You go in that village,” and they would go and find them.

Then around the age of twenty he became a monk.  He got renounced from the samsara.  Some say, because he was very much disappointed by a love affair.  He didn’t look that good  [laughter].  Some say that he looked a little bit like a monkey and he later told that it is because a long, long time back he used to insult a monk and call him “monkey” and because of that he had to take rebirth as a monkey for five hundred times.  Then, when he became a human being, he looked a little bit like a monkey. But he said, “This is the last time I’m looking like a monkey!  [Laughter] I’ve totally purified that karma.  So since now, I’m looking very good”, and since then all Karmapas looked very handsome.  [Laughter]
So, he went to central Tibet and he studied very much under many Kadampa masters,   the Madhyamika philosophy; all kinds of Abhidharma teachings; Buddhist logic. Some of those teachers [were the] main kind of lineage holders of these teachings he studied with.  He became a very learned and renowned scholar.  And then he met the Gampopa.  So you know all about Gampopa, the main lineage holder of Milarepa.  As you know, Milarepa was one of the main students of Marpa.  Marpa was the translator who brought teachings from India.  He studied at Nalanda University and studied under great masters like Naropa and Maitripa and many others, even Saraha – not Saraha, Saraha in his dreams – Shantipa and many others.   He translated lots of tantras into Tibetan.

So he had two – you can say – different lineages.  One was his academic or study lineage.  So he had some students like Ngok, to whom he passed on the studies of tantras, Guhyasamaja tantra and many other tantras and those tantric study lineages went another way, not through Milarepa.  Actually, it went very much to the Gelugpas.  Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelugpa, is very much like the lineage holder of Marpa.  It is not very much well-known and I don’t think it’s very much talked about, but it is a fact that sometimes Marpa is studied more by Gelugpas than by the Kagyupas.

I recently met a monk, a Gelugpa geshe and he was saying that whenever he hears the name of Marpa he’s so inspired the tears come to his eyes.  It was true, we were talking about Marpa and he was shedding tears and “What’s wrong with you?”, you know.  [Laughter]  So that’s because he was very much studied in the Gelugpa tradition and Tsongkhapa loves him and talks so highly of him.  The pith instruction teachings of Marpa were given to Milarepa:  like Mahamudra, Six Yogas and Chakrasamvara and Vajrayogini.   These kind of pith instructions were given to him and then he became totally realised.  He actualised those teachings and became, as you know, one of the most renowned yogis of Tibet – the singing yogi sometimes people call him.

So this lineage was passed on to Gampopa and Gampopa also studied lots of Kadampa teachings.  So he combined these two:  the Mahayana and the Bodhisattvayana teachings, graded path teachings that he received from Kadampa masters, which comes from Atisha Dipankara and the pith instruction teachings of Mahamudra and Six Yogas which came from Milarepa.   These combined together he taught to his students. That made the main kind of course of his teachings, and that became quite later on called Kagyupa.  So sometimes Kagyu is called Dakpo Kagyu from Dakpo Lhaje, the name of Gampopa is sometimes called Dakpo Lhaje, the doctor of Dagpo. Dakpo is the name of the place.  Gampopa is also the name of the place, Gampo is the name of the mountains; so from the name of the place where he was meditating or where his monastery later came, he was known as Gampopa.

So Karmapa went to see him along with another two Khampas – monks – from around that region where he was, so they were known later on as the ”Three Men from Kham”.  The three men from Kham became the main students of the Gampopa and he was not only studying very hard but he was also practising, sometimes in very harsh conditions.  Once he was put into a cave where he couldn’t at all stand up or stretch his body, he just had only a place to sit and nothing else for several months.  Like this, he practised and he practised very hard.
And then, it is said, he was sometimes also hard tested.  Some of you know the story that once he thought that he had the realisation, he had some experience of the truth, the nature of the mind.  Then he went to tell this to his teacher and he told him, thinking that his teacher would be veryhappy, because he was making an offering of his experience which he thought would be very good.  But it was not like that.  His teacher was not happy at all.  Gampopa said, “You got it totally wrong.  I thought you were one of my best students and I had so much hope for you.  But what you have said, what you have understood is 100 % wrong.  So you just go back and change everything, revise everything, make it totally right and then only come back.”

So he went back and had full confidence in his teacher, really great devotion and reverence.  So he went back and revised everything, he tried to change everything and then came back and told him again.  And he was even more upset.  He said, “You know, this is nothing different from what you told me last time.  You just go back and change everything so that it’s 100 % opposite of it and then only come back.

So he went back and he tried to change and he couldn’t change anything.  He came back after a few months and he fell at his feet and said, “Now you can beat me, you can kill me if you want but there is nothing I can change, this is what I see.

Then Gampopa said, “You are right.  You are right.  [laughter]  You have been always right but I wanted to make sure that you were that confident.  That even your own teacher, in whom you have complete devotion, tells you that it’s wrong, still you cannot change it.  I want that kind of conviction and confidence.  Now we have got it.  Now you know how to practise.  Now you go away!  Go back to Kham!  Go to this mountainous place.”   Gampo Kangra.  You know Tibet has lots of snowy mountains, glaciers, at least used to have, now it’s all melting, but… ”So you go there!”  It’s a little bit to the border to almost Burma. ”You go there and then meditate and don’t come out till you get realisation.” 

So he went there and he meditated and practised for I don’t know how many years and there he got the realisation; and he got full realisation.  And it is said that when he got that kind of realisation then as a kind of acknowledgement or appreciation of his great achievement, a hundred thousand dakinis came and made a cap with their hair and put it on his head.  And that’s why the black hat, we call the Karmapa the Black Hat Lama, that’s coming from there. It is said that since that time all the Karmapas have a black hat made of… I don’t know whether all those one hundred thousand dakinis were all Asians [laughter] but you know the black hat.

And then, later on – it’s only later on during the Fifth Karmapa’s time – the Fifth Karmapa was invited by the Emperor of China, that time I think it was the Ming Dynasty, because the Emperor’s mother passed away who was devoted to the Tibetan lamas, and then, the Karmapa went there and he performed lots of miracles and things like that; and then the Emperor was kind of surprised because he saw that the Karmapa was wearing two hats, one upon another.  One day he came and said, “Why are you wearing two hats, one upon another?”  And the Karmapa said, “No, it’s not like that.  One hat is there all the time, and another one I’m just wearing for the other people, but they don’t see it so you must be seeing it, the original hat.”    Then he [the Emperor] said, “Can I make a kind of a hat which looks like what I see and make an offering to you so that you can show what kind of hat you have on all the time?”  So he said, “OK, if you want.”  So that’s why he made the hat, a little bit like this [pointing] but different, and that was offered to the Karmapa and that’s
what we call the “Karmapa’s Black Hat” that he'd use in the ceremonies – the black hat ceremony when the Karmapa does the black hat ceremony, he puts on that hat which was made by the Chinese Emperor because he saw the original kind of hat of the Karmapa.

So therefore, then Karmapa also, at a later age, I think, at a very later age when he was in his seventies, more than sixties, he went back to central Tibet and started to build the Tsurphu monastery.  Therefore he had three: he built three small monasteries, two in Kham and one in Tsurphu and that is how the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism started. Generally, from Gampopa’s students started what we call the four sub-schools of Kagyupa.

Then one of the three men from Kham, the Phagmo Drupa, from his students started the eight later sub-schools of kagyu.  Sometimes in the prayers it’s written, it’s translated as four great and eight lesser; that’s the wrong translation.  Chempo and Chungchung in Tibetan can mean greater and lesser or it can mean elder and younger.  So the schools that came from the direct students of Gampopa became the four senior or the elder sub-schools: and then the schools that came from the students of Gampopa’s student – Phagmo Drupa’s students – were called the eight later subschools of Kagyu.

So Karmapa became very important also because he was the first – I think most of you know – to start the tulku system in Tibet, recognising the reincarnate or the rebirth of the lamas.  As you know, Buddhism believes that everybody is a rebirth of somebody, everybody is reborn again and again and again, that’s the general understanding of Buddhism.  But in Tibet the Karmapa started a new system where the rebirth of a great lama was recognised and said that this is the rebirth of that lama.

So, first time the Karmapa wrote a letter before he died and gave it to his main student, I think Drogön Rechen, and said, “I will come back and this is where I will be born so that’s where I will be found, the second Karmapa.”  And in this way, this is something a little bit different for the Karmapas than the other tulkus. The Karmapas mostly recognised their own tulkus. The last Karmapa usually leaves a letter and then, through that letter, the next Karmapa is found.  Until this time, the Seventeenth Karmapa also was found with a letter left by the Sixteenth Karmapa with Situ Rinpoche.  He didn’t tell him that this was the letter; he just gave him a kind of protection amulet. 

Then everybody was searching for this letter all over the place and was asking everybody, “Do you have any letters?  Do you have a letters?  Anything the Karmapa gave you?”  So for many years they didn’t find anything.  Then one day, Situpa thought, “This was given to me by the Karmapa, maybe this is something.”  He always thought it was just a protection.  And then he opened it and he found an envelope there, I've seen the envelope, and on the top of the envelope it was written in red pen that “You must open this on horse year.”  It was written like that.  And then he opened and then he read the letter, a very clear letter, you have seen this letter.  So that was kind of the system which happened from that time onwards, and the Karmapas were kind of special, but he was the first tulku and since then many – His Holiness the Dalai Lama and many other lamas - and Tibet became full of tulkus [laughter].  Every monastery, almost, had a tulku; some had more than one tulku, so that’s like that.

There’s one special kind of thing which happened with Karmapas.  Although Karmapa was a very highly revered lama, head of a school for a long lineage, for nine hundred years of existence and sixteen or now seventeen Karmapas, and had lots of devotees not only among the Karma Kagyu people but all over Tibet.  But he never had any kind of political title; he never took any kind of temporary power or political assignment or role or anything.  He always remained a spiritual teacher.  And most parts of the Karmapa’s lineage even were not staying in the monasteries, I think it started around the Fourth Karmapa until very late until about tenth or even later.  It was a camp,a tent camp, and the camp was always moving throughout Tibet.  So therefore, the Karmapa’s main headquarters, you can say if you like, was called the Karma gar, gar meaning the camp, the Karmapa’s gar. Even now, when Karmapa writes a letter or something, it's from Karma gar. It’s a camp.  And I think because of that, maybe, because he traveled all over Tibet and [did not stay in] one place, all over Tibet there is lots of devotion and reverence to the Karmapa. There’s an open letter of the Karmapa where he says that I, Karmapa have no particular school, every Buddhism is my school.  So, if there is any conflict, if you make any conflict between the schools, you are not my follower.  So he wrote a letter like that.

©Ringu Tulku Rinpoche
This is a transcript of a recorded teaching by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche. The transcript has only been lightly edited and is meant to be used within the Bodhicharya Online Shedra study context.



Saturday 9th April, 2011 - Gyuto

On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of Gyalwang Karmapa’s followers from the Drukpa Kagyu tradition travelled especially from different parts of Himachal Pradesh to join together in offering a Drukpa Kagyu Tenshug for His Holiness in the main shrine room of Gyuto Ramoche Monastery.
Many travelled for hours in order to reach Gyuto; some, from the remote regions of Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti, had even travelled for days. From early in the morning, the courtyard below the temple began to fill with their cars, jeeps, motorcycles and hired buses.
His Eminence Khamtrul Rinpoche from Khampa Gar Monastery, Tashi Jong Tibetan refugee settlement, led this special Drukpa Kagyu Tenshug. Many other leading Rinpoches and community leaders from the Himalayan region supported him.  Those who attended included His Eminence Chogon Rinpoche, His Eminence Dorzong Rinpoche, Chogyal Rinpoche, Nupgon Chogya Rinpoche, Poppa Rinpoche, Somang Rinpoche, Tulku Ngawang Gelek and Jetsunma Ani Tenzin Palmo.
In addition to Khampa Gar, monks and nuns also represented Dechen Chokhor Monastery in Kulu, Jangchup Zong Monastery in Gopalpur, and Donghud Gatsaling Nunnery. They were accompanied by several hundred laypeople came from Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti and Kulu Districts.
The numbers attending the long-life offering swelled to more than a thousand as hundreds more people, who had come for the weekly Saturday afternoon audience, crammed in to the shrine room, or gathered  two and three deep outside on the veranda, peering through the windows and doors.

2011.4.9 竹巴噶舉供奉法王噶瑪巴長壽法會 Drukpa Kagyu Tenshug



April 5-7, 2011

The Gyalwang Karmapa  spent two –and- a- half days in Tibetan Children’s Village School (TCV) near Bir Tibetan settlement, Himachal Pradesh, at the invitation of TCV Suja School, who requested him to be Chief Guest at their 25th Anniversary celebrations.
He was welcomed warmly with serbangs to TCV School by community leaders and the senior monks of local monasteries, before proceeding to TCV Suja School where staff and students gathered eagerly outside to greet him.

25th Anniversary Celebrations at TCV Suja School
On April 6th, His Holiness presided over the 25th anniversary ceremony, during which he gave a talk to the students.
Mr. Thubten Lungrik, Education Kalon [cabinet minister] in the Tibetan government-in-exile and Mr. Tsewang Yeshi, President of TCV also spoke. Students and staff gave a performance of traditional Tibetan songs and dances.
Later His Holiness visited the school exhibition, displaying the pupils’ work on Tibetan culture, Science, and Recycling and Environmental Protection.
In the evening there were two competitions: Tibetan elocution and a quiz on the life of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
Manjushri Empowerment
On April 7th His Holiness gave the Manjushri empowerment. In addition to staff and students at the school, thousands of people, especially many senior citizens, came from Bir and other local settlements. His Holiness blessed everyone individually which took more than two  hours.

2011.4.5 法王噶瑪出席蘇嘉西藏兒童村學校第25屆校慶 Karmapa visits Tibetan Children’s Village School



4th April, 2011
His Holiness arrived back at Gyuto Monastery, his temporary residence, after successfully completing his visit to Sarnath where he gave his Spring Teachings for both Tibetan and international students.
His Holiness will now resume his normal routine of study, audiences and local visits.

Gyalwang Karmapa Gives Audience for Tibetan Community in Delhi
March 27th, 2011
More then 300 People from the Tibetan Camp, at Majnukatilla gathered in the hall at Rohini TCV Youth Hostel, northeast of Delhi.
His Holiness first gave the transmission of the Chenresig Saddhana, and then spoke about the urgency of preserving the unique Tibetan culture, during which he urged people to take greater responsibility on a personal, individual level concerning the recent announcement of His Holiness Dalai Lama’s retirement.
Gyalwang Karmapa at the Damekh Stupa, Sarnath, Varanasi
March 23rd, 2011
His Holiness presided over a special prayer meeting for world peace at this ancient Buddhist site.
He arrived at 4.00pm, and began by circumambulating the outer circle of the Stupa complex, pausing to feed vegetables to the deer, a reminder of the deer who used to live here in the deer park at the time when Lord Buddha gave his first sermon here.
Seated under a golden parasol on the lawn in front of  the Damekh Stupa Gyalwang Karmapa led  half an hour  of prayers for the well-being of all sentient beings, and then completed several circumambulations of the stupa itself. He then walked slowly towards the Mulugandhkutti Buddha relic temple. Inside the temple he sat down in front of the huge golden Buddha and continued prayers.

2011.3.23 法王噶瑪巴朝拜達美克佛塔&主持杜松虔巴上師薈供 Gyalwang Karmapa at the Damekh Stupa, Sarnath, Varanasi