Wednesday 31st December, 2008

These teachings, sponsored and organized by the Hwa-Yue Foundation from Taiwan, are the third in a series of teachings entitled: Lineage Practice Teachings. More than one thousand five hundred people filled the main assembly hall at Tergar Monastery to listen to His Holiness deliver the teachings in a mixture of Tibetan and Chinese. Chinese devotees from Taiwan and Hong Kong formed the majority of the audience. However, there were also disciples from the Americas, from Europe and from other Asian countries including Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia.

The morning and afternoon sessions began with prayers in Chinese, accompanied by traditional Chinese instruments – a wooden bell beaten to keep time, and a bronze bell. At the morning session, representatives from the audience prostrated along with the Gyalwang Karmapa.

His Holiness’ theme was teacher and student. He began by joking that these teachings, and the ‘English’ ones which would follow Monlam, were as much a test of his burgeoning linguistic skills as of his dharma knowledge and experience. He then congratulated the audience on attending the teachings in spite of the economic downturn and the recent terrorist bombings in Mumbai. Speaking confidently and fluently in Chinese, he proceeded to explore the concepts of teacher and student in Tibetan Buddhism, delighting his listeners with lively caricatures, humorous asides, and witty puns.

(Please note that what follows is a précis of the English translation of the teachings given in Tibetan, so that you can share some of the experience. We hope that a definitive translation from a full transcription of the Chinese and Tibetan will be possible later.)

Because so many different interpretations of the word exists, Gyalwang Karmapa began by clarifying the meaning of ‘lama’, the Tibetan rendering of the Sanskrit word ‘guru’, as meaning someone who is ‘heavy with good qualities’. Hence a lama was someone who possessed the qualities necessary to develop students. The characteristics of a spiritual friend and a lama were basically the same. They should be well-educated in the Dharma, able to teach the Dharma, hold Pratimoksha vows, and hold any other relevant vows, transmissions etc.

Gampopa mentioned three characteristics of a genuine lama. The first characteristic was to have cut the ties to this life. No attachment to this life meant being focused on more than this life and paying no attention to the eight worldly dharmas, but it was difficult to find someone who was completely free of attachment to this life. It was possible to talk of three types of worldly interests: the white worldly interest of the Bodhisattva, who could enjoy being praised; the mixed worldly interest when people sometimes focused on future lives, sometimes on this life; the black world ly interest when all activity was fixated on this life only. A person who could only focus on this life was not a genuine dharma practitioner. A dharma practitioner should think of future lives and the path of liberation.

The second characteristic was that they could guide their students with their great wisdom; without wisdom and intelligence a lama was unable to teach the dharma to a range of students with different needs. A lama needed to know what things to abandon and what to practise, and had to be able to teach in a way that students could understand.

The third characteristic was endowment with great compassion, so that a lama never gave up on their students, supporting them however bad they were. Without this great compassion, a lama might well abandon a very difficult student. The ideal was that a lama would want to keep their students from falling into the lower realms, even at the cost of his or her own life.

In short, a lama’s good qualities should exceed their faults. An uneducated person able to help students focus on the dharma and future lives, could be a lama, in the same way a mother who loves and cares for her children tries to pass on her best traits to them, in spite of her lack of education.

Then how could a student assess a lama’s qualities? Gyalwang Karmapa warned that, except for a few extraordinary individuals, it was very difficult to assess a person’s qualities, and impossible to know what they were thinking, so the only method was to observe the lama’s words, deeds and conduct, checking that they were in harmony, and that they did not contradict the dharma. Although a skilled imposter might fool people for a short time, they wouldn’t be able to fool all of the people all of the time!
In assessing a lama, we could also reflect on whether the lama was helping us, whether our minds were becoming clearer or calmer, whether we were engaging with the dharma more. If the mind of a student turned more to the dharma under a lama’s influence, then that was a genuine lama. A further sign was to feel joy at encountering a lama.

If a lama had only a few good qualities it was still possible to take them as one’s lama, because it might be that their qualities exceeded their faults, or that they held the altruistic intention. Gyalwang Karmapa referred to the First Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche who travelled across Tibet, receiving instructions from many lamas. Some of these were only village lamas, uneducated and illiterate, but he received transmissions and empowerments from them. In some cases he even had to teach them the alphabet first! So, although the rule was to find a lama who possessed more qualities than we did, this may not always be the case, if we had a special purpose.

Finally, there should be a mutual connection between the teacher and the student.
Gyalwang Karmapa then turned his attention to what it means to be a ‘student’.
According to Gampopa, a student should possess three characteristics: they needed to be able to ‘bow down to the lama with respect that has no pride’, the student must follow the lama’s instructions joyfully, and finally the student must engage in actions that are pleasing to the lama.

First, Gyalwang Karmapa explored what it means to be able to bow down to a lama with respect that has no pride. He reminded us that often, out of ignorance, we believe we have qualities that we do not possess, and this makes us vulnerable. We need to be protected from ourselves. The role of the lama is to teach us the path, otherwise we will be prey to our own afflictive mental states and emotions.

Our very birth is the product of these afflictive mental states, and our karma controls when we will die. The four sufferings of birth and death, ageing and sickness are beyond our control. What we often call happiness is not true happiness but only a change in the degree of suffering or a temporary relief, similar to someone going from extreme heat into a cool place. At first it is a great relief from the heat, and then you begin to feel cold, and finally you are freezing. Feelings of happiness end up as suffering. Thus, we have to rely on a lama to teach us the Four Noble Truths which will lead us on the path of liberation.

The Sutras teach that the lama is similar to or equal to the Lord Buddha. In the Diamond Vehicle teachings the lama is Buddha, and so we have to train our minds, like exercising the body, in order to habituate ourselves to see only the good qualities and not the faults of the lama. In the Sutras Buddha promised that he would appear as Vajradhara to help sentient beings, and the lama is the only one who can fulfill the activities of the Buddha.

All buddhas and bodhisattvas ‘woke’ out of the wish to help sentient beings, but sentient beings had to be open to this help, and the key was faith. Regarding an ordinary lama as Buddha was to treat the lama as the representative of the Buddha, in an unbroken lineage passed down from the Buddha. The lama was like a magnifying glass on a pile of cut hay in sunlight. Without it the hay would not catch fire, but if you used a magnifying glass to focus the sun’s rays, it would catch fire.
We had to be careful because we could not always see people as they really were. Naropa thought Tilopa was a fisherman when he first met him. Mila thought Marpa was a farmer. Appearances are deceptive, often affected by our karma. Even a street dog might be a buddha. We could never be sure.

The second requirement was to follow the lama’s instructions. Since the lama is the one who shows what is to be abandoned and what is to be adopted, it is important to put into practice whatever the lama says. However, if in some instances we are unable to do the practices given us, it is permissible to go to the lama and give clear reasons why one is unable to do it, and in this case there would be no degeneration of samaya. If, on the other hand, we knowingly decide not to do what the lama has instructed then there would be degeneration of samaya.

Finally, His Holiness commented on ‘actions that please the lama’. He explained that this did not mean praising the lama or making material offerings, as people sometimes seemed to think. Rather, it meant practicing the dharma teachings and oral instructions. That is an offering to the lama.

2009.1.2 法王噶瑪巴─第三期華人宗門實修: 噶舉祖師教言第一天 The First Day of Karmapa's Lineage Practice Teachings
First Day of Karmapa's Lineage Practice Teachings



Friday 26th December, 2008

His Holiness Karmapa graciously accepted an invitation from the Root Institute, the F.P.M.T. Dharma centre in Bodh Gaya, and addressed the staff and a general audience which included a group who were about to undertake a short retreat course on the Bodhisattva Vow. His Holiness was accompanied by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.
His Holiness emphasized the preciousness of bodhichitta - the altruistic intention. Quoting, he explained that if bodhichitta were to take physical form the universe would be too small to contain it, the reality of bodhichitta was sometimes misunderstood. It was far more than kind thoughts towards others or common acts of kindness. Bodhichitta arose from a deep understanding of the suffering of all sentient beings, tremendous compassion, the resolve to achieve Buddhahood for one’s self and the determination to work unceasingly for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Gyalwang Karmapa reminded everyone:
All happiness comes from cherishing others;
All suffering comes from cherishing one’s self.
He commented that we were living in an age when we were faced with not just the mental and emotional stability of our own minds, but also drastic changes and imbalance in the world. The degree of self-interest and self-cherishing in the world and the dreadful consequences of these were becoming self-evident. We all needed to recognize the harmfulness of self-cherishing and the benefits of truly cherishing others, not just as an elusive idea, but as a living experience applied to our own lives, translated into practice in our interactions with others and the environment.



Before returning to Tergar Monastery, His Holiness visited the Royal Bhutanese Monastery in order to check on progress in making the Kagyu Monlam torma (butter sculptures).
This year a film crew from US is making a documentary about the unique Tibetan tradition of butter sculptures, so His Holiness drew the word ‘torma’ with brush and ink in Tibetan calligraphic style for them.

2008.12.26 噶瑪巴菩薩戒開示HHK Teaches on Bodhisattva Vow & visits Royal Bhutanese Monastery
His Holiness teaching on the Bodhisattva Vow and
visiting the Royal Bhutanese Monastery



Wednesday 24th December, 2008

In the afternoon the Gyalwang Karmapa distributed small presents – a bag and an umbrella from this year’s Monlam souvenirs – to the staff of Tsurphu Labrang and to members of the Kagyu Monlam Working Team.


December 24, 2009 - Under the Bodhi Tree, Bodhgaya

As His Holiness moved through the dawn mist yesterday to take his place under the graceful branches of the Bodhi Tree, the long-awaited 27th Kagyu Monlam was officially underway. The theme for this year’s prayer gathering is "gratitude," and this theme was surely reflected in the hearts of the thousands of disciples who managed to bring together the conditions to be present in Bodhgaya after this year of economic turmoil.
The Gyalwang Karmapa opened Kagyu Monlam by offering the 24-hour Mahayana Sojong precepts to the immense gathering of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen. His Holiness has noted in the past that aspirations made by men and women together are more powerful and carry greater effects, as are the aspirations made by people holding vows. As such, the Mahayana Sojong ceremony is a particularly appropriate way to open Kagyu Monlam, since it allows monastic and lay to observe pure ethical discipline and so to strengthen the power of the prayers they make throughout the day.
During the second session of the day, His Holiness continued the reading transmission of The Life of Milarepa that he had begun in previous years. This year he will conclude that transmission, and in honor of that, the Monlam will be followed by the performance of a play composed and directed by His Holiness himself, depicting Milarepa’s biography.
With simultaneous translation into nine languages, Gyalwang Karmapa took the opportunity to comment on Milarepa’s life, noting that Milarepa’s renunciation was greatly fueled by the suffering he had experienced in his earlier life – the suffering he underwent at the hands of his aunt and uncle, as well as the hardships that he endured in his efforts to receive Dharma teachings. This shows us what a powerful teacher our suffering can be, and its value in producing renunciation. Without suffering, His Holiness said, there is no renunciation.
Following a practice he instituted last year, the teachings session concluded with a meditation guided by His Holiness himself. For many practitioners, the opportunity to meditate in the presence of this extraordinary spiritual master has become yet another of the many highlights of the Kagyu Monlam.
Those not able to attend in person may add their aspirations from afar by logging into the live webcast of this year’s Kagyu Monlam. For details, see the Kagyu Monlam website.

2009.12.24 第二十七屆噶舉大祈願法會第一天  27th Kagyu Monlam open

27th Kagyu Monlam Opens in Bodhgaya



Saturday 20th & Sunday 21st December, 2008

Gyalwang Karmapa completed the reading transmission of the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje’s The Lion’s Roar which Destroys Confusion. He described the Four Yogas of Mahamudra, one-pointed, simplicity, one-taste, and no-meditation, and the three stages within each yoga – lower, middle, greater – and mapped each one onto the five paths and ten levels of the Bodhisattva. His Holiness went on to explain the phrase “appearances are mind”, and to speak more on the controversies between the rangtong and shentong viewpoints.
Finally His Holiness addressed the foreigners present – thanking them for attending the teaching and wishing them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – first in Chinese and then in English.


Saturday 20th December, 2008

Displaying both erudition and a sense of humour, Gyalwang Karmapa continued his transmission and exposition of the text. He dealt with two new issues. The first was whether or not it was valid to rank the Consequentialist Middle Way School and the Autonomous Middle Way School, holding one as a higher view than the other. The second was with regard to rangtong (self-empty) and shentong (other-empty). His Holiness explored the historical context of the debate between the proponents of rangtong and shentong, the acceptance of the shentong view in the Khamtsang Kagyu, and the role of the Jonang School.
Gyalwang Karmapa then moved on to highlight the interrelationship between study and practice. He stressed that all the texts, both sutra and tantra, were written or taught for the purpose of practice and there was not one single word in the canon that was not a quintessential instruction to bring us to awakening. Even the commentarial treatises were written for this purpose.
Practice without the study which brings understanding and study without the intention of informing practice would not bring us to awakening. Faith was necessary - this was true of all religions - however we needed intelligence and wisdom too. His Holiness joked that a popular way to develop intelligence and wisdom was to recite Manjushri’s mantra, but the really effective method was debating, analyzing, and carefully examining in order to thoroughly establish the meaning.

2008.12.21 法王講授《 獅子吼:中觀概要》Teaching on the Lion’s Roar that Destroys Confusion
His Holiness teaching on The Lion's Roar that Destroys Confusion



Friday 19th December, 2008

Following some changes, the retreat began on Friday 19th December, a day later than originally planned, and will last for fifteen days, concluding on 2nd January 2009. There are 16 monks, drawn from all the Kagyu monasteries, in retreat. The retreat is a preparation for the Akshobhya Ritual to be held on the 9th and 10th January 2009, during the 26th Kagyu Monlam. This year’s ritual will be especially dedicated to all those who lost their lives in the typhoon which hit Burma, the March disturbances and demonstrations in Tibet, the Sichuan earthquake in China, and the November terrorist attack on Mumbai (Bombay).
During the retreat the monks, who must have already completed a three year retreat in order to qualify, offer four sessions each day of the Akshobhya Saddhana, and keep strict soljong. They do not eat after midday. They do not eat meat or any ‘black’ foods - onion, garlic, eggs – and their food is specially prepared by a small team of volunteers: a Taiwanese nun is the chef, assisted by two Sikkimese laymen. During the retreat the monks will receive teachings on Akshobhya from the Gyalwang Karmapa.



Thursday 18th December, 2008

Gyalwang Karmapa gave a scholarly overview of some of the issues in the Tibetan canon, with particular reference to differences between Tibetan and Chinese texts. He focused on the Tibetan and Chinese versions of the Five Works of Maitreya, using internal evidence from the texts themselves to argue a logical order.
He also began the transmission of the main text for the teaching : The Lion’s Roar that Destroys Confusion by 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje.



Wednesday 17th December, 2008

Madhyamika is noted as being a very difficult area of study, yet, each day, the number of people attending the teaching has grown, and this prompted His Holiness to tell a funny story. Looking around the large assembly hall at Tergar, he told how a Geshe had gone abroad to deliver a teaching on the Middle Way approach. The first day there was a good number of people present. The following day there were fewer, and this continued until the final day, when the Geshe found himself addressing an empty room. His Holiness concluded that this was definitely not the case at Tergar.
Gyalwang Karmapa began by relating the life of Aryadeva, comparing the Chinese and Tibetan versions of his life story. Aryadeva is famous for his “400 Verses”, and for his skills in debating with non-Buddhists. According to some sources, he came from a royal family in Sri Lanka, studied with Nagarjuna in South India, and became his direct disciple.
His Holiness then returned to the previous day’s discussion of what it means when the Middle Way school says it does not make any assertions of its own while making assertions in others’ frames of reference . He emphasized again that it does not mean the Middle Way school adopts the view of the other school. It was important to recognize that accepting others’ assertions for the sake of argument did not mean accepting their views per se. As to the question of what is meant by ‘self’ and ‘other’, the ‘other’ referred to was not as we normally understand ‘other,’ but referred to one who is not in the state of meditative equipoise i.e. someone in the post meditative state. There were three phases of others’ frame of reference: no analysis, partial analysis, complete analysis.
He explained how he had found it useful in his own life to remember “I have no assertions”, because, not only did this lead to a decrease in pride, it also reduced clinging to one’s own religion or sect. Such clinging was dangerous because it could lead to prejudice and many problems, as witnessed by events in the 21st century. In the end, it was not being a Buddhist which was so important, but what we do. There were people from many different religious traditions who were doing good in the world, and it was not good to criticize people for not being Buddhist.
With reference to Tibetan Buddhism, it had developed into four schools, but the important thing to remember was their commonality not their differences: all studied the Middle Way approach, all practised the Vinaya, and all followed a Vajrayana practice.



Tuesday 16th December, 2008

The assembly hall of Tergar Monastery was packed with monks and laypeople to listen to the second part of Gyalwang Karmapa’s teachings which continued this afternoon. This is only a brief report on the session. It may be possible later to provide a fuller report from the transcription of the Tibetan.
Because of Nagarjuna’s importance in establishing the Middle Way school of Buddhist philosophy Gyalwang Karmapa began with an overview of Nagarjuna’s life. Accounts of his life exist in both Chinese and Tibetan sources. The earliest Chinese source, written approximately one hundred years after Nagarjuna’s death, predates Tibetan sources. It seems he was born in South India into a Brahmin family, and studied Buddhism in South India. After many years of practice he reached an understanding of emptiness. There are also references to prophecies about Nagarjuna, but there is a need to exercise caution when citing prophecies, because the true intention and meaning of a prophetic text can only be disclosed by its author.
Gyalwang Karmapa then gave the transmission of the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje’s “Concise Summary of the Middle Way”.
In a detailed analysis of what the Middle Way school means when it describes its position as not having any assertions of its own while making assertions only in others’ frames of reference, Gyalwang Karmapa said that this often caused confusion so it was important to clarify its meaning.
In an important aside with reference to study and practice, His Holiness pointed out the serendipitous nature of sectarian affiliations, since most people practice within a particular tradition either because of a past life karmic connection or an accident of birth. Neither of these could be the basis for asserting the superiority of one’s own tradition!



Monday 15th December, 2008

Each year, during the Karma Gunchoe, the Gyalwang Karmapa gives a dharma teaching. Although strictly part of the Karma Gunchoe and not part of Kagyu Monlam, many of the Kagyu Monlam staff as well as lay students of His Holiness and pilgrims attend these teachings. Consequently, for the first time, simultaneous translation into Chinese and English has been made available this year.
The teaching will be based primarily on The Lion’s Roar which Destroys Confusion, a text written by the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje
In the first session, the Gyalwang Karmapa began by emphasizing the importance of motivation and intention these days, since modern methods of transport had made travel so much easier than in the past and great determination and perseverance were no longer necessary. Without correct motivation and intention, there would be no real benefit in travelling to Bodh Gaya on pilgrimage or to receive teachings. Further, it was important to concentrate on the great fortune of being able to be here rather than on any difficulties we might have experienced or be experiencing, and use the opportunity fully to carry out the twin dharma activities of study and practice.
His Holiness then discussed how different traditions may have evolved within Tibetan Buddhism, and the importance of studying the texts and viewpoints of different schools.
Finally, he gave a brief overview of the development of Madhyamika philosophy, beginning with the great Bhavaviveka who first used the term the “middle way” which avoids the extremes of eternalism and nihilism, in his treatise Lamp of Wisdom.



Friday 12th December, 2008

In the morning of the 12th of December, the Gyalwang Karmapa completed his first public engagement, visiting the Mahbodhi Stupa. He was greeted by the President of the Mahabodhi Management Committee, who presented His Holiness with a traditional Tibetan khatag. He then went to the Mahabodhi stupa main temple and into the shrine hall where he prostrated three times, offered Mandala prayers and recited the Praise of the Twelve Deeds of Lord Buddha. He then completed two circumambulations: one inner and one outer circuit.
The visit to the Mahabodhi Stupa was followed by a visit to the Bhutanese Temple, where His Holiness inspected the work in progress on the butter sculptures for the Kagyu Monlam. The sculptures are being prepared by a group of monks and nuns, chosen for their expertise from several Kagyu monasteries and nunneries.
In the afternoon the Gyalwang Karmapa presided over an assembly of the participants in the 12th Annual Karmae Gunchoe. He spoke about the origins of debate in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and its importance. He encouraged all the monks attending the Karmae Gunchoe to have sincere motivation and good understanding in their dharma practice.

2008.12.12 十二屆冬季辯經法會開幕 His Holiness visits Mahabodhi and opens the Karma Gunchoe
His Holiness visits Mahabodhi and opens the Karma Gunchoe



December 11, 2008

His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa arrived at Tergar Monastery at dusk. Many devotees, local Tibetans and six hundred monks have been waiting for hours eagerly to have a glimpse and blessing of His Holiness. He arrived from Delhi via Patna to Bodhgaya. This is the beginning of his annual winter tour.

The monks holding Serbangs were led by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and all the head Khenpos of different monasteries who are attending the annual Karmae Gunchoe Winter Debate.

2008.12.11 法王抵達菩提迦耶HH Karmapa's arrival at Tergar in Bodhgaya, India>
His Holiness Karmapa arrives at Tergar December 11, 2008

Video footage and other information are available at the Monlam blog.
The schedule through the 20th:

December 12

His Holiness will visit the Mahabodhi Stupa in the morning. This will be his first visit to the Stupa for this tour. At Tergar in December, His Holiness is formally presiding over the 12th Karmae Gunchoe, the Kagyu Annual Winter Program of Philosophy and Debate (Karma Gön Chö). The Karmae Gunchoe involves extensive debate and philosophical inquiry into the teachings of the Lord Buddha and Kagyu Lineage, and is participated in by khenpos (professors) and monastic students from the different shedras (monastic colleges) of the lineage from all over the region.
The program begins with an address by His Holiness on the importance and relevance of the annual Gunchoe meeting of Karma Kagyu Monastic Colleges.

December 13

His Holiness will conclude the instruction on the Gunchoe program.

December 15-20

His Holiness will give teachings to the 12th Karmae Gunchoe participants on Madhyamaka based on the Ninth Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje's text elucidating on the landmark Prasangika Madhyamaka text by His Holiness the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje.


12th Annual Karmae Gunchoe Debate Session from December 11th to 29th, 2008:

His Holiness presides over the 12th Annual Karmae Gunchoe Winter Debate and Logical studies session which will be held at Tergar Monastery located at Bodh Gaya (Bihar). During the Session His Holiness will give teachings on Umaë Dües Dhon Sur khol Senghe Nga ro (Lion's Roar: the synopsis of the middle way).

Teaching in Bodhgaya from December 31st to January 2nd, 2009:

His Holiness will give a public teaching at Tergar Monastery, the topic will be: “The Teachings of Kagyu Masters.”
More information about this teaching, please click the following link: Hwa Yue Foundation

26th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo from January 4th to 11th, 2009:

His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa will preside over the 26th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo prayers for world peace which will be held at Bodhgaya. During the Monlam course His Holiness will confer Soljong vows and give teachings. This year His Holiness has initiated: In order to bestow blessings and merits to the people of all nations in a literal manner during the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo, His Holiness requested a collection of small stones to be gathered from each and every country of the seven continents. The stone collections will be used in the construction of a stone altar. His Holiness will personally perform a blessing ritual during the Kagyu Monlam, and the merits will then be dedicated to every human being in the world so that we all may have peace, safety, and happiness while being free from illness, hunger, disputes, and wars. Click the following link for more detail:

Teaching in Bodhgaya from January 12th to 14th, 2009:

His Holiness will give public teaching at Tergar Monastery, the topic will be: “The Gyalwang Karmapa shares his experiences: Living the Dharma.” The teaching will be focused primarily for the students from Western Countries. Click the following link for more detail:http://www.kagyumonlam.org/English/News/Announcement/2009_HHK_Teaching.html.

From January 17 to 25, 2009

His Holiness will be in Saranath, Varanasi.

On 29th of January, 2009

His Holiness will be back to Gyuto, Dharamsala.