2013/12/31

The Seventeenth Karmapa In India (2013)


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2013/12/29



2013/12/29

Inexpressible Gratitude: Reflections on the Akshobhya Retreat


December 29, 2013
Tergar Monastery


The first part of the Akshobhya retreat—recitation of the sadhana and collection of 100,000 or more of the dharani mantra — concluded on 28th December, 2013. Now the retreatants are offering  three and a half days of fire pujas during which they will chant a further 10,000 purification mantras.  The fire pujas begin at 5.00am, with pairs of retreatants working in together in a specially constructed gazebo on the roof of Tergar Shrine hall.  There are 16 fires in all. These fire rituals invoke the power of the peaceful not wrathful White Akshobhya and are offered for the purification of all sentient beings. On the first day, His Holiness acted as the vajra master, using a microphone and speaker to lead everyone through the ritual.

Speaking of their experiences during the six-week long retreat, the retreatants described it as an extraordinary, powerful and life-changing experience. 

They spoke of the great compassion the Gyalwang Karmapa had shown for their ‘outer circumstances’ during this time: nutritious food, prioritizing their needs over his own, serving them personally, and only eating his own lunch later, after all the retreatants had been fed. One nun told how she had got too close to the butter lamps and her sen  accidentally caught fire. Once the flames were out, His Holiness had taken off his own sen and given it to her.

They spoke of the extraordinary guidance and teachings he gave them through the retreat, his patience and never-ending kindness. As one retreatant said, “No words can express my feelings.  I have been ordained for 33 years and received many teachings, but this has been the ultimate Dharma experience. Nothing compares.”  Another spoke of “his presence, his kindness, his openness… inspired everyone. Our hearts are full of gratitude and joy which could last as long as we live.” 

 “He has made certain that this practice will enable us to bring other people on to the path of liberation.”

Finally, several expressed surprise and wonder at the amazing sense of humour that His Holiness displayed, and thought that they were very privileged to glimpse this less serious, informal aspect.


2013/12/27

Uma Debate



December 27, 2013
Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya, India

In the main shrine hall of Tergar Monastery, a large chair with a curving back covered in luminous white silk has been placed in front of the Buddha. His Holiness the Karmapa has taken his seat there to witness and participate in today’s debates on the Middle Way (Madhyamaka) view. The participants are senior monks and teachers from various monasteries, who have formed two groups, one of the defenders, seated behind a row of ornately painted tables, and the other of the questioners, who are gathered behind a standing microphone about fifteen feet away. Displayed on two screens flanking the Karmapa are digital clocks, counting down the split seconds of the fifty minutes for this debate.
The debate is unhesitating, animated, and vigorous. In the midst of the intense exchanges, the Karmapa listens with complete attention, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with a critical look. He raises his arms out, stopping the debate to challenge and clarify. The usual protocol of great deference is not in place as the debaters come back with forceful replies. The Karmapa and his disciples are responding to each other as monks have throughout centuries, with the full involvement of body, speech, and mind.
The topics of the debate cover key points of the Middle Way view. Is an instance of the definitive meaning, the actual ultimate or the nominal ultimate? How does the meaning of the actual and nominal ultimate shift in the three instances of no analysis, slight analysis, and thorough analysis? How do we know what is the correct view of Middle Way? Can we define it as that which leads to the realization of emptiness? What is the true difference between the empty of self (rangtong) and the empty of other view (zhentong)? Responding to this, the Karmapa suggested that the empty of other view works within the framework of the presence and absence of something while the empty of self view works within the framework of being and not being something. The questions are key and invoke the depths of the philosophical heritage of the lineage.
When the buzzer brings the end of the fifty minutes, the Karmapa is still debating. His attendants and security come to give him his shoes and move away the table from in front of him, but he moves it back so he can slap it with his hand to make a point and continues to talk for a while. Long after it’s over, the liveliness of the debate reverberates through the air.