“The Greatness of Small Acts”: Gyalwang Karmapa Interacts with Students at the University of Delhi

31 January 2015, New Delhi

This afternoon the Gyalwang Karmapa made his first ever visit to the University of Delhi, where he interacted with students and faculty primarily from the Department of Buddhist Studies and spoke on ‘The Greatness of Small Acts’.
He was warmly welcomed to the university with a traditional Tibetan white silk scarf and bouquet of flowers by Professor Jain Khurana, Dean of Student Welfare and Professor Hira Paul Gangnegi, Head of the Department of Buddhist Studies.
The Karmapa appeared relaxed and lighthearted, joking with the students that he didn’t really think he could teach them much.
“I’ve had several opportunities to meet with students and we’ve had a wonderful chance to share experiences and ideas,” he said. “Sometimes the way I feel after these events is that I have so much to learn from hearing about your experiences and education, that in the end I get more out of it than you do!”
Over past years the Karmapa has held a series of sustained interactions with university students and youth from different parts of the world to discuss such topics as sustainable development, gender issues and food justice. He is similarly seeking opportunities for such engagements with Indian youth.
The gathering took place at the university’s state-of-the-art Conference Centre, with the Gyalwang Karmapa seated before the students on an elaborately carved wooden chair in the modern, wood-paneled hall. With a selected audience of postgraduate students in attendance, this created a more intimate atmosphere resembling a masterclass or a close family gathering.
“Since I have the position of being a religious leader,” the Karmapa began, “most people immediately think I’m going to be speaking about something connected with religion. But that’s not really where my main interest lies. Instead, whether we’re religious people or don’t have faith in any religion, we’re all the same in being human. We’re all the same in experiencing pleasures and pain, and in being sentient beings, and that is what I consider most important.”
“When we face difficulties and problems,” he continued, “where does our power to deal with them come from? I feel it is from our education and the efforts we ourselves put into it. Only then do we develop the capability to deal with the difficulties of life. But in terms of Buddhist methods, we have the innate potential and ability in our mind. Our virtuous motivation, our love and affection for others, and our altruistic thoughts—such as the wish to benefit others—have all been planted deeply within us. I think the ability comes out of those seeds.
“Therefore, the powers of virtue are like a seed. From a seed a flower can grow. But when you plant a seed you need to take care of it. You need to provide all that it needs, and remove all the things that would inhibit its growth. It is a question of being patient and diligent in growing the seed. Similarly, we have innate compassion present within our minds and it’s important for us to nurture that so that it does not weaken, but instead actually increases.”
The Gyalwang Karmapa then described the process that starts with a thought in our mind, which leads us to say things orally. Through that we then express ourselves physically and act with our body. The actions we perform with our body will then have an effect on our human life, and on society. All of this comes about because of the thoughts and motivations in our mind, so we must pay especially close attention to these.
The Karmapa summarized that when we’re looking at the topic of the greatness of small acts, this is really talking about the greatness and benefits of the motivations that we have in our minds, and how from one small act we can have a great effect.
Next he fielded around eight questions from the students, preferring to explore some of their own ideas rather than simply continue talking himself. One of the first questions asked whether the Karmapa might reincarnate as a woman in his next life.
“I’m asked about this frequently, but actually I really don’t think this is such a big question,” he began. “The reason is that for the benefit of sentient beings, bodhisattvas will take birth and emanate many different forms—males, females, or whatever sort of form. It’s possible that a bodhisattva could appear in any sort of form. It doesn’t really matter.
“But if we look at where this question comes from, it comes from the sexist society we’re in where many people consider men to be superior and women to be inferior. But the way reincarnation works in Buddhism is that of course it can happen. Bodhisattvas can incarnate themselves as men, women, or as anything in order to help sentient beings.
“Now in terms of there being a female reincarnation of the Karmapa, that’s a difficult question for me to answer right now. The Karmapa is a lineage with a 900-year history and I’m still young. I can’t make all these decisions for the future right now, but of course it’s possible.”
In response to another question, on how to stay aware of making small, virtuous acts in our busy and hectic lifestyles, the Gyalwang Karmapa replied that we need to learn how to let our minds relax.
“In the twenty-first century, particularly for urban dwellers, our minds get really hectic and active. We’re unable to let our minds just rest naturally. It’s difficult for us to see the importance of small virtuous acts, or to even experience and feel what we are doing. What is most important for people who live in cities is that we need to learn how to let our minds rest naturally and relax. This is very important.
“We often talk about meditating by following the breath, watching and meditating upon the in-breath and the out-breath. It’s very beneficial to do this. Normally because our minds are so hectic and harried, we’re unable to really pay attention to our breath and hardly even know that we’re breathing. And yet if our breath suddenly stopped we would die.
“When we begin to just watch our breath, if we don’t think much about the future or the past, but just pay attention to the breath that we’re breathing right now and relax our mind within that, then only at that point can we really begin to appreciate our breath and see how important and valuable it really is. And, at that point we begin to get an appreciation of how amazing it is that we are alive and that we’re able to breathe. From that we can also see how important the small things in our surroundings are, and we can begin to appreciate and value the importance of small virtuous acts.
“If we’re walking down the street,” the Karmapa said in response to yet another student, “normally we don’t pay attention to whether we’re stepping on any insects or not. However if we have a virtuous thought and because of that pay attention, for ourselves it’s a small act, but for the insect it’s a matter of life and death. From this perspective our small virtuous act can even become the cause of achieving liberation and omniscience.
“If we think of doing virtue,” he concluded, “it’s not something that’s not already in our life that we then have to bring in extra from outside. It’s doing these small virtues within our everyday human life.”

2015.1.31 法王噶瑪巴於德里大學開示「小善的偉大」“The Greatness of Small Acts”: Gyalwang Karmapa Interacts with Students at the University of Delhi


New logo for the "Arya Kshema Winter Gathering for Kagyu Nuns"

Designed by His holiness he 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje (2015)

It shows three nuns, their curving robes shaped like individual lotus petals; underneath on the right and left are quick, pointed strokes indicating the leaves and grounding the image.


White Tara Mantra chants by Karmapa

Dedicating the Merit at the Mahabodhi Stupa

29 January 2015, Bodhgaya.

The Gyalwang Karmapa spent almost three months in Bodhgaya, beginning in November with the monks’ Winter Dharma Gathering followed by the peaceful empowerments from the cycle of Knowing One Frees All, and then teachings on The Torch of True Meaning. These led into the 32nd Kagyu Monlam and then the nuns’ Winter Dharma Gathering, which included management and medical training for the nuns as well as debating. Further, the Karmapa made the major announcement of a program leading to full bhikshuni ordination. Also during the nuns’ gathering, the recognition and haircutting ceremony of Bokar Rinpoche’s reincarnation took place. These months have been an incredibly rich and fulfilling time, a vast cornucopia of Dharma flowing from the profound generosity and the compassionate activity of the Gyalwang Karmapa.
His last gesture was to dedicate all of this merit at the Mahabodhi Stupa, where he stopped on his way to the airport. Inside the main temple in front of the Buddha whose petaled halo of light was radiant as if studded with diamonds, the Karmapa made extensive offerings of flowers and alms bowls filled to overflowing with fruit. With his entourage, he recited prayers for the precious lamas to live long:
    Like space, may they pervade everywhere.
    Like the sun and moon, may they illuminate everything.
    Like a great mountain, may their lives be ever stable.
The prayer continued to supplicate that the teachings prosper, the sangha’s practice go well, and all who support the Dharma know good fortune.
The Karmapa then began an inner circumambulation of the stupa, making offerings to the lamas and the shrines set up in three directions. At the first side exit through the tall, carved stone fence, he turned left and went to offer a kata to the mandala and to venerated Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche, head of the Nyingma tradition, who was presiding over a gathering of monks and practitioners in a tent on the left side of the stupa. The Karmapa then continued on the inner path and passed through the back exit by the Bodhi Tree to offer a kata to the mandala and at the throne of Penor Rinpoche. Returning to the inner circuit, he proceeded around to the right side of the temple, offered a kata to the offerings on that side, and stepped though the pink stone fence one last time to give a kata to Namkha Drime Rinpoche, who stood as he waited to receive the Karmapa. Reentering the path for a final time, the Karmapa climbed up the stairs to the main gate and stopped for a moment in the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee’s reception area.
To everyone’s surprise, the Karmapa came out and headed again for the stupa’s main gate and the outer circumambulation path. The reason became clear as he turned to enter the tent where the nuns were practicing. Keeping his promise to support the female sangha, the Karmapa again offered a kata to their shrine, and to the Mindroling Khenchen who was presiding there. Finishing the outer path with a delighted group of followers, the Karmapa passed out of the main gate and walked the wide pink marble promenade along the outside of the temple, its breadth allowing some breathing room while he moved at a brisk pace. The flow of his motion carried him down a few stairs and into his waiting car.

2015.1.29 法王噶瑪巴於正覺大塔行功德迴向 Dedicating the Merit at the Mahabodhi Stupa



Second Arya Kshema Gathering for Kagyu Nuns (Buddhist News)

by Naushin Ahmed, Buddhistdoor International, 2015-01-28

Opening ceremony. From kagyuoffice.org

From Gyalwang Karmapa photos

The Second Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering for Kagyu nuns took place from 8–24 January 2015. The annual event—named after Arya Kshema, a bhikshuni (nun) from the time of the Buddha, who was renowned for her wisdom and confidence—was held at Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya, in India’s Bihar State. Established last year by His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the gathering was launched to enhance the practice and education of Kagyu nuns, as well as to boost equality between nuns and monks.

Discussing the initiative behind the program, the Karmapa explained, “Another aim was that the nuns would be able to take responsibility not just for activities within their own nunneries, but also take wider responsibility for upholding the teachings” (The Karmapa). On the same website he goes on to state, “Monks and nuns are the same in being able to uphold the Buddha’s teachings, and have the same responsibility to do so. However there has been a period when nuns have not really had the opportunity to uphold the teachings, and this has been a loss for all of us.”

This year, about 400 nuns from nine different nunneries in India, Nepal, and Bhutan took part. The program began at 8.30 a.m. on 8 January, with the Karmapa leading the opening ceremony. A number of tulkus, monks, and khenpos were present, as well as His Eminence the 4th Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, who was recognized and installed by the Karmapa in 1996. Several hundred laypeople also gathered inside the monastery, where garlands of flowers decorated the hall, sweet-smelling incense was burned, and the voices of female umze (chant leaders) rang out with Kagyu lineage prayers.

The Karmapa was quick to address the issue of bhikshuni ordination: “I think it’s important for me to do everything I can in order to support nuns’ teachings and practice, and to increase their listening, contemplation, and meditation. So I want to put as much effort into this as I can, from the bottom of my heart. I think this is something that’s appropriate for me to do from now until the end of this lifetime. I think it’s something that fits well with the activities of the previous Karmapas, and it’s also something that is definitely necessary within our contemporary society” (The Karmapa).

This year, the 17-day gathering focused on discussion, debate, elementary to intermediate philosophy, and a variety of teachings, including a continuation of teachings by the Karmapa on Gampopa’s The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, introduced last year. A number of special pujas and practices were performed, including a ritual of the Sixteen Arhats and a Tara puja, as well as a ritual for the nuns’ Dharma to flourish, which the Karmapa had composed. He also personally taught the nuns most mornings from 8.30 a.m. to 11 a.m. 

In contrast, the First Annual Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering—which took place from 20 January to 2 February 2014—concentrated to a greater extent on the Karmapa’s teachings, as opposed to the more rigorous training in dialectical debate and philosophical study that was a cornerstone of this year’s event. 


Kagyu Monlam Hosts Children for Republic Day Celebration

Monlam Pavilion,
26 January, 2015

The children live in the Elizabeth Children’s Home, which is run by the Jesus Christ of Compassion Charitable Society. In what was a very special treat, they gathered with their teachers in the Monlam Pavilion, drank mango juice and munched biscuits. In addition each child received a new woollen blanket.  As part of Indian Republic Day celebrations, International Kagyu Monlam CEO Lama Chodrak organised a small party for thirty children from the local Christian orphanage.

The culmination of the celebration, however, was when the Gyalwang Karmapa himself came over to the pavilion especially to meet the children.

2015.1.26 Kagyu Monlam Hosts Children for Republic Day Celebration 慶祝印度國慶,招待教會孤兒

The Inaugural Ceremony of the Ladakh Buddhist Vihara in Bodhgaya.

January 26, 2015
The road into the Vihar has been lined in soft orange and cream satins embellished with gold sequins, and just after the gate into the Vihar, a large Dharma wheel has been chalked on the red carpeting. Nearby are a group of five male dancers with tall brocade hats and their maroon and white striped stoles. Just behind them wait five Ladakhi ladies, wearing their distinctive clothing and headdress—a wide turquoise studded wave that dips down over their forehead to end in a single beautiful stone. They carry long-spouted brass pitchers of liquor, the traditional offering of welcome in the Himalayan region. In the courtyard, about four hundred ordained and lay people wait before an open area reserved for the dance performances. Just beyond it, an elevated pavilion has been set up with a throne for the Gyalwang Karmapa, net to which is a shrine with an impressive three-foot Buddha statue lined below with the traditional seven offering bowls and a butter lamp.
Minutes before two o’clock, the distant sound of a siren becomes audible. Soon the Karmapa’s car pulls up and he steps out to the welcome of dancers, the enchanted sound of the shehnai (a north Indian oboe), and two sets of double kettle drums. Walking to the ceremonial plaque that has been set up with a curtain and a kata, he pulls the string to reveal gold letters carved into a coal black stone: “The Ladakh Buddhist Vihara was inaugurated by His Holiness the XVII Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje on the 26th of January, 2015 at 2 pm in the presence of Ven. Lobzang Tashi, President of the Himalayan Buddhist Association, Tsewang Thinles, President Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) Leh, Ladakh/General Secretary Himalayan Buddhist Association.”
The Karmapa then walks up a few steps to the veranda of the finished building and cuts a bright orange ribbon tied across the door to one of the new rooms. Thinking of what would be useful to Ladakhi pilgrims, the planners have equipped each room with an attached bath and a kitchen. The Karmapa then turns and moves to the pavilion where he lights a lamp in front of the Buddha before taking his seat on the throne.
The Karmapa is accompanied by the young Druppön Dechen Rinpoche, who has a special connection with Ladakh. His previous incarnation, who was a great practitioner, built monasteries there and in 2000, the present one was born in Changthang Nyuma, Ladakh. At the age of two, he was recognized by the Karmapa and at four, the yangsi went to Rumtek Monastery, beginning his studies at the age of five. After learning the rituals along with their music and mudras plus memorizing all the texts for the practices performed in the monastery, he passed the rigorous exam to be a chant master at the age of thirteen. Since the founding of Rumtek Monastery, he is the youngest one to have been awarded this title.
The program for the afternoon alternates dances by a troupe from Ladakh and speeches by important Ladakhi personages. The first speaker was Sh. Tsewang Thinles, president of the Ladakh Buddhist Association, who thanked the Karmapa for coming and reminded people that the Karmapa had laid the foundation stone for the new building in 2013. Sh. Tsering Namgyal, a member of the Minority Commission for the Government of India, expressed his hope that the Karmapa would be able to resume all the activities of his previous incarnation. Dr. Sonam Wangchuk, Executive Councilor, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council expressed his thanks for the Karmapa’s continued spiritual support.
The third dance of the birds was especially charming as the women fluttered long white katas like wings to float them around the dance and fly them off the courtyard. The next address was by Sh. Thupstan Chhewang, a Member of Parliament, who spoke of his plans for development, and the last dance featured the five men in black hats, folded over to the side and resembling a beret. They carried the same bronze pitchers as the women did earlier, and as a final flourish, the placed them atop their black hats as they continued to dance in a circle and then dash off through the side exit.
On behalf of the Vihar, the Karmapa descended from this throne to present gifts to officials, the engineer, and contractors. Returning to his seat, he addressed the gathering, beginning with welcoming everyone. The Karmapa rejoiced that in this perfect place of Bodhgaya, the most supreme in the entire world, they had been able to build a Vihara where not only Ladakhis but people from all over the Himalayan region could come to stay. Of all Buddhist pilgrimage sites, this one is the most important. He hoped that their plans to build other viharas at sites special to the Buddha’s life would also go as smoothly and be as successful as the one here in Bodhgaya, and he offered his support and help for these projects as well. Mentioning that he had been to Ladakh three times, he expressed the hope that he would be able to return in the future.
Next followed a dance of auspiciousness which came to a temporary end when the male dancers gave their stoles to several people, who then went into the audience and offered the stoles to the important speakers, inviting them to join in. Everyone seemed to know the steps well and more people came to participate, including three women, who used the dupatta of their salwar kameez as the stole in their dance. It was a festive, familial way to share the blessings and happiness of the occasion.
After a vote of thanks from Sh. Rinchen Namgyal, President of the Ladakh Buddhist Association’s Youth Wing, the officers and speakers offered katas to the Karmapa and, instead of his attendants who usually do this, it was the Karmapa himself who received the katas and returned them around people’s necks to highlight an auspicious connection. The official event came to a close as the Karmapa departed to the sound of the drums and shehnai. Afterward, tea and bread were served to everyone, continuing the feeling of a closeness and warmth the occasion had created.

2015.1.26 法王噶瑪巴為拉達克佛教精舍揭幕 The Inaugural Ceremony of the Ladakh Buddhist Vihara in Bodhgaya.


The Gyalwang Karmapa Consecrates Land for a New Kitchen

January 26, 2015
Inside the now empty and rambling frame of the Monlam kitchen with the bound lengths of bamboo still supporting deep blue tarpaulins, a small shrine has been set up. On the brocade covered table are two rows of the traditional offering bowls, and in front, a large offering cup on its stand sits next to a plate with a white torma. Not far away, a small rectangular area of earth has been opened in the brick floor.
Around eleven in the morning, the Gyalwang Karmapa comes walking through the nearby field with the young Druppön Dechen at his side and accompanied by a small group of monks. He will perform a special ceremony (sometimes called taming the earth) to request the land and gratify the local spirits. The offerings are divided into three main phases. First, the white torma and a golden libation (gser skyems) are offered to the earth goddess to solicit the land from her. The Karmapa kneels in front of his chair with Druppön Dechen to make prayers. A stick of incense is brought to the Karmapa and offerings are made to the local deities (sa bdag). As he plays the bell and dorje, Druppön Dechen holds his incense while the offering of a golden libation is carried off. The final offering is for the spirits (‘byung po), which include the elemental spirits of the earth, water, fire, and air.
Then the Karmapa rises from his chair and circumambulates the symbolic site of the consecration. He gives the spade, tied with a white kata, to the young Druppön Dechen and instructs him how to make the first ceremonial scoops of earth in the four cardinal directions and the center. The Karmapa ties a long white kata to a wood post anchored in the center of the rectangle and makes the final offerings of rice, tossing it into the air as the prayers for auspiciousness are recited: “May all be auspicious here during the day. May all be auspicious during the night….”

2015.1.26 法王噶瑪巴為祈願法會新廚房用地灑淨 The Gyalwang Karmapa Consecrates Land for a New Kitchen


Gyalwang Karmapa Commemorates Republic Day

26 January, 2015 – Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya

In what has become an annual event during his winter programme, the Gyalwang Karmapa joined in the flag-raising ceremony to celebrate Indian Republic Day.

More than a hundred young monks with their teachers lined up in straight lines on the patio outside the Tergar Monastery shrine hall, and stood smartly to attention, below the flagstaff. Members of the regular police force in their knife-crease, pressed khaki uniforms and the paramilitary protection squad in blue-and-grey camouflage stood to attention beside them. As one, they presented arms with their automatic rifles or saluted, while the Indian national flag was raised. Emblazoned with the Buddhist Emperor Ashoka’s 24-spoke chakra wheel in navy blue, the tricoloured flag —with saffron, green and white panels— has become the symbol of modern, democratic India.

Also present at the ceremony were members of His Holiness’ Tsurphu Labrang staff and Tibetan security personals, most of whom are either serving soldiers on secondment to security duties or ex-soldiers. Many monks, nuns and foreign visitors clustered round and joined in too.

The Gyalwang Karmapa has often spoken of the debt the Tibetans owe the Noble Land of India, being both the birthplace of Buddhism and a place of refuge or His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people. He watched with deep respect as the flag rose high until its colours caught the morning sun.

The young monks sang the National Anthem and chanted Buddhist prayers for the happiness and well-being of the world and all sentient beings. Then they enthusiastically waved small national flags before feasting on celebratory Indian sweets.

Immediately afterwards the Gyalwang Karmapa received the Indian security personnel upstairs in his audience room and presented each of them with Indian sweets as gratitude.


Gyalwang Karmapa Blesses the Site for the New Monlam Kitchen

Monlam Pavilion Grounds, Bodhgaya,
26 January, 2015

The Gyalwang Karmapa assisted by a small entourage of Drupon Rinpoche Yangsi, Geshe Rinchen Ngodup, Khenpos and the ritual master  performed a short sa-lung  ritual in the huge Monlam kitchen area.

For several years now,   all meals for the thousands of monks and nuns attending the Kagyu Monlam have been prepared and served in this massive tented bamboo structure.  Each year it has to be erected before Monlam starts and dismantled afterwards, so the hope is that in the future it may be replaced by a permanent structure.

Tibetans believe that the earth is sacred and not just theirs to use as they choose, so a sa-lung ritual, comprising offerings and prayers, is performed to request permission from the earth goddess  and the local deities and spirits who dwell  on the land, before any development can take place.

A small altar had been set up, with two sets of traditional offerings−water for drinking, water for foot-washing, flowers, incense, light, scented water, food represented by two large white tormas, and music. One set was for the earth goddess and one for the local deities and spirits. In front of these two rows stood a special square-based white torma, with three discs, and a long-stemmed ritual cup containing tea and biscuits. These were the offerings for the earth goddess.

During the first part of the ritual, after prayers had been recited, the white torma and the goblet were carried outside into the nearby field by the ritual master, and offered to the earth goddess.  Next offerings were made to the local deities:  the Gyalwang Karmapa offered incense and the ritual master refilled the cup and returned outside to offer a libation of hot tea to the ‘owners of the land’ A third libation was made to the spirits.

In the second part of the ritual, the Gyalwang Karmapa circumambulated the symbolic centre of the land -a small square of earth which had been cleared in preparation –in a clockwise direction, blessing the area with scattered rice. He then enlisted the help of Drupon Rinpoche, handing him a mattock, to perform the symbolic groundbreaking ceremony.  A wooden post, supported by bricks, was erected in the centre of the square, and the Karmapa wrapped a katag around it, before leading dedication prayers for auspiciousness.

The ceremony concluded and it was time for tea and Indian sweets to celebrate.

2015.1.26 法王噶瑪巴為祈願法會新廚房用地灑淨 The Gyalwang Karmapa Consecrates Land for a New Kitchen


Gyalwang Karmapa Makes Historic Announcement on Restoring Nuns’ Ordination

24 January 2015,Tergar Monastery
During the Second Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering the Gyalwang Karmapa made the historical announcement that, beginning next year, he would take concrete steps towards restoring nuns’ vows in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
Beginning with the restoration of the novice ‘getsulma’ and training ‘shikshamana’ nun’s vows next year, which will be conferred with the assistance of a special contingent of nuns from the Dharmagupta tradition, this will then lay the necessary framework leading to ‘gelongma’ or ‘bhikshuni’ full nun’s vows in the future.
“The biggest event during next year’s Third Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering will be reinstituting the novice and training vows for nuns within the Tibetan tradition,” he said. “This will be a historical event.”
“Many people might think I’m doing this because others want me to,” the Karmapa explained. “But I’m not doing it to placate anyone or in response to anyone. No matter how others see it, I feel this is something necessary. In order to uphold the Buddhist teachings it is necessary to have the fourfold community (fully ordained monks (gelongs), fully ordained nuns (gelongmas), and both male and female lay precept holders). As the Buddha said, the fourfold community are the four pillars of the Buddhist teachings. This is the reason why I’m taking interest in this.”
Inviting the Dharmagupta nuns, who hold bhikshuni ordination, to confer the first two levels of vows to a limited number of nuns in the Tibetan tradition will ensure that their novice and training ordinations are conducted in a proper and complete ceremony from an unbroken lineage. These novice and training vows may then form the basis for future full ordination.
At present within the Tibetan system, which follows the Mulasarvastivada vinaya tradition, there is no lineage for conferring bhikshuni or full nun’s ordination. The invited group of nuns will consist of ten or twenty fully ordained nuns from a nunnery in the Dharmagupta tradition renowned for their careful upholding of the vinaya
During the daily teachings of the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, the Gyalwang Karmapa had earlier discussed the issue of nuns’ ordination in some detail. The full comments of his talk follow:
“When the Buddha gave women the opportunity to ordain, he gave them everything they needed in order to practice all the paths and levels in their entirety. There are many people these days who are afraid that it would harm the teachings if women were ordained and in particular if they are given the bhikshuni ordination. But I think there is absolutely no need to have such suspicions, because the Buddha has already allowed it.
“In order to have the complete practice of the three trainings, you first have to have the superior training in discipline. Then, on that basis comes the superior training in samadhi, and then the superior training in prajna. Within Tibetan Buddhism we might say that for women it’s not possible to have the complete training in the superior practice of discipline, and the reason is because there are no bhikshuni vows.
“Moreover, because there are no bhikshuni vows we can’t say there are really any proper novice nun vows either. So without any proper novice vows it is difficult to say that there is a true ordained sangha of women who have gone forth. That’s the situation we’re in, and it’s an unfortunate situation for Buddhism in general.
“Over the last ten or twenty years, led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, many of the masters of Tibetan Buddhism, including many high lamas, geshes, and khenpos, have engaged in discussions with good intentions. There have been many discussions, and people have put great effort into this—I have seen and experienced this for myself.
“We’ve had a lot of talk and research into the words of the Buddha, the treatises by Indian masters, as well as the Tibetan scriptures. It sometimes seems that over the past twenty years we’ve only had talk and research, but we haven’t actually put anything into practice. It’s been like this for a long time.
“It seems to me that you can give the bhikshuni vows either through the single sangha or through the dual sangha. But the proper way—to have a well-recognised, legal bhikshuni ordination—is best to have the dual sangha. If you have no other choice then it can be done by the single sangha. Yet in order to have the dual ordination you then have to have the transmission of the lineage of the bhikshuni vows, and now that’s only remaining within the Chinese tradition.
“However, before you can have such a dual ordination you must first have the proper novice vows and then the nun’s ‘training’ vows, the shikshamana vows. To do this properly will take at least three or four years. Starting next year, we can begin the preparations for a limited number of nuns from each nunnery to begin the process, and provide them all they need. This will begin a process that will then take three or four years. But my hope is that we can begin it next year.”
With this statement the Gyalwang Karmapa announced his intention to ensure that the nuns first received proper novice vows and proper shikshamana ‘training’ vows—a necessary prerequisite to full ordination in the future. It is necessary for nuns to hold and keep these ‘training’ vows without any violation for a prescribed period of time prior to full ordination, usually a couple of years.
After he made this statement in Tibetan during the teachings, the room, which was filled with nuns, monks and laypeople, erupted into spontaneous applause. The Gyalwang Karmapa then paused in his talk for his English interpreter to translate it; upon hearing it for a second time, the gathering erupted into loud applause once more.
When he returned to the topic a few days later, during the Arya Kshema closing ceremony, the Gyalwang Karmapa elaborated further:
“For this to happen, if we begin next year, first of all we need to give the vows of going forth, then the novice or sramaneri vows. Following that are the shikshamana or training vows, which you then need to hold for the next years. Finally, in the fourth year we’ll be able to give the bhikshuni vows. Once we have bhikshunis it will then be another ten years before they will be able to give anyone else the bhikshuni vows. So this will take a long time, and I’ll be in my 40s when we get to the end of the process.
“Now, after I first mentioned this the other day, a very wonderful coincidence happened. In order to give the vows we need to have bhikshunis come to do this. On a particular day recently, when we were doing the Mahakala puja, a group of bhikshunis came to see the puja. I asked them whether they were from a particular Dharmagupta nunnery renowned for strict observance of the vinaya, and they confirmed that they were. So this is a really excellent coincidence, and it is very auspicious that it spontaneously happened. We spoke about my plans, I explained my intentions, and they accepted the invitation. Next year they’ll send ten or twenty bhikshunis to come. This is a really wonderful, unplanned, spontaneous auspicious connection.”
During his earlier comments to the nuns, the Gyalwang Karmapa had emphasised that it would only be for a small, select group who were ready.
“I’m not doing this in order to placate anyone or in response to anyone else, and you should also keep the same thought in mind,” he instructed the nuns. “You should not do it in order to please others or for any such reason. Rather, if you look within yourself and see whether you have pure motivation and are ready to put effort into it, then it is something that will bring meaning to your human life.”

2015.1.24 法王噶瑪巴的歷史性宣佈:恢復藏傳佛教尼眾的戒律傳承 Gyalwang Karmapa Makes Historic Announcement on Restoring Nuns’ Ordination


Successful Conclusion of the Second Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering

24 January 2014 Tergar Monastery
After two-and-a-half weeks of daily teachings from the Gyalwang Karmapa, intensive debate training for the participating nuns, and a variety of other dharma activities, the Second Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering successfully concluded.
“We’ve had a long string of dharma activities here in Bodhgaya,” the Gyalwang Karmapa said during the closing ceremony, “starting with the Kagyu monks’ Guncho, the Kagyu Monlam, and now the nuns’ Winter Dharma Gathering. They have all gone very well, and this is because everyone here worked together as one. We can all take joy in this.”
Beginning in the morning, on the final day the Gyalwang Karmapa first led a Tara puja which then continued on through the afternoon. Tara is renowned as having taken a vow to become fully enlightened in a female form. She is particularly supplicated for protection and removal of obstacles, thus making the Tara puja especially appropriate for concluding the nuns’ Winter Dharma Gathering.
The evening’s closing ceremony began with the nuns showcasing their debating skills before the Gyalwang Karmapa. This culminated the intensive daily debate practice during the Winter Dharma Gathering as well as ongoing training throughout the year in their respective nunneries.
Next the Karmapa gave an important speech to the nuns, who were gathered together from nine different nunneries in three countries for the final time this year. He began by explaining his historic plans for restoring nuns’ ordination in the Tibetan tradition, beginning next year.
“The biggest event during next year’s Third Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering will be reinstituting the novice and training vows for nuns within the Tibetan tradition,” he said. “This will be an historical event.”
The Karmapa then outlined his plans to standardise the curriculum in the nuns’ shedras, and announced that he would later hold a week-long meeting at Gyuto Monastery for this process and invite leading scholars to assist.
“In the nunneries it’s important that we have good education and also good health,” he continued. “We consider these both to be extremely important, so we have decided that within the nunneries we’ll sponsor the wages and travel expenses for teachers. Likewise, we’ll try to help the nunneries establish clinics and bring in nuns or doctors who have diplomas and proper certification.”
“This year we also gave leadership training to a few nuns from each nunnery, and likewise we also gave basic health and first aid training to a few nuns from each nunnery. We will continue this training so we can support the nuns in becoming independent.”
“However, in order for all this to happen we need more information about what is happening in each nunnery. So, in order to have better communication we may also need to create a new division for nun’s affairs within the Tsurphu Labrang. This would particularly look after the needs of nuns, and is something I think would be beneficial.”
Next the Gyalwang Karmapa announced some the provisional dates for next year’s activities: the pre-Monlam teachings, to be held just before the 33rd Kagyu Monlam, will begin on 12 February 2016, while the Third Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering is currently scheduled to run from 26 February until 14 March, 2016.
The Gyalwang Karmapa closed the Winter Dharma Gathering by offering his sincere thanks and appreciation to all the many people who had helped to make it happen.
“I’d like to thank all the workers who’ve helped in the Winter Dharma Gathering. Likewise, there are many laypeople from abroad who have come and participated in various ways, whether by making donations or by offering support through your great intentions. This has been very beneficial for the nuns’ gathering and a great help. I’d like to thank you for paying such special attention, and giving special respect, to the nuns.”

2015.1.24 第二屆讖摩比丘尼辯經法會圓滿日 Successful Conclusion of the Second Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering

The Nuns Prove Themselves in Debate

January 24, 2015
 Tergar Monastery

For the final event of the Second Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, the Tergar shrine hall has been set up with tables for the defenders, set across the center aisle in front of the Karmapa’s throne, and with a microphone for the challengers who will stand two thirds of the way back towards the shrine door. This is to keep the challengers, who can get quite enthusiastic as a group, at a certain distance from the defenders.

The young Druppön Dechen Rinpoche sits at the head of the first row of teachers and khenpos. In a previous lifetime, when he was the guide for the Karmapa’s seat at Tsurphu in Tibet, Druppön Dechen Rinpoche was very kind to a group of nuns who had no home. He generously gave them teachings and also a place to stay at Tsurphu; several of them came to live in the famous caves of the previous Karmapas, located on the middle circumambulation path. His tulku seems to be continuing his support of nuns in this next life, too.
This evening is the culmination of the daily debating that has happened since the nuns arrived. The three responders (those sitting on the ground) are nuns from Tara Abby (Thrangu Rinpoche), Karma Drubdey (Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso), and Samten Ling (Gyalpo Rinpoche). The challengers, who number up to sixteen, are from Tilokpur Nunnery (the Gyalwang Karmapa), Dongyu Gatsal Ling (Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo), and Ralang Nunnery (H.E. Gyaltsap Rinpoche).
To begin, at the back of the central aisle, the three nuns place their yellow cockade hats curved like crescent moons on the red carpet in front of them. After three bows, they walk up the aisle to offer a kata to the Karmapa’s table and then take their seats facing the challengers. As usual, the first challenger begins with a dialogue that establishes the definitions of the terms, in this initial case, it is the category of relationship, which actually deals with cause and effect.
After the nuns have been debating for a while, one of the khenpos on the side joins in the animated exchange to challenge the defending nun and then another teacher adds his voice. She, however, remains unflappable, responding to them both with aplomb and a smile. The debate moves through the classic territory of the reasoning on being one or many—the key analytical tool used in Chandrakirti’s Entering the Middle Way. “Do phenomena have a single essence or not?” “Is the essential nature of permanence and impermanence the same or separate?” “If it’s the same, then give me an example of something that is both impermanent and permanent!” And when the answer was slow in coming, the challenging nuns took up a chorus of Chir! Chir! Chir! Give your reason! The debate was energetic and, just as the monks do, one nun wraps her zen (stole) around her waist (the equivalent of rolling up your sleeves) and leans into her hand claps that punctuate her statements. A round of enthusiastic applause greets the end of the debate.
The next group of defenders comes forth, bows, and walks down the aisle to offer their katas to the Karmapa, who keeps them as a special sign of an auspicious connection. The topic now is universals and particulars. The nuns again start the discussion with definitions and then move into the substance of the debate: “If it’s a thing, it follows that it’s not a universal.” Again the debate is lively and the nuns again demonstrate that they are at home in this new form they have only been studying for two years. At the end, a single nun comes forth to close the debate. She mentions that Dharma is essential for happiness and joy, and that the benefit of debate is that it can help lead us all the way to the level of Buddhahood.
After a break, the Karmapa speaks, first showing a beautiful new logo for the Arya Kshema gathering. It shows three nuns, their curving robes shaped like individual lotus petals; underneath on the right and left are quick, pointed strokes indicating the leaves and grounding the image. After welcoming everyone, the Karmapa notes that there were many different activities and they all went well because people were working harmoniously together. 

We should all take joy in the fact that we could be here. The Karmapa also praises the nuns saying that this is only the second gathering of the nuns and the monks had gathered eighteen times; however, the nuns had improved at a much faster rate than the monks. All the nuns should rejoice in this and the Karmapa offered his thanks as well.

2015.1.24 法會圓滿日,尼眾辯經場上展英姿 The Nuns Prove Themselves in Debate