March 27, 2010 - Dharamsala

This beginning of the 15th Shoton festival, an annual celebration of Tibetan Opera (Lhamo), was blessed and inaugurated by His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje. The event opened at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) in Dharamsala on 27th March, 2010. His Holiness presided at the TIPA performance as the chief guest. From all over India and Nepal, Tibetan Opera associations from Tibetan communities came together to perform Tibetan dramatic arts. Through dramatic performances of song and choreographed dance, vibrant traditional Tibetan artistic practices were expressed.
In Tibet, Shoton is held annually from the end of the sixth month to the middle of the seventh month (according to the Tibetan Lunar calendar) and traditionally celebrates the coming of spring and a generous harvest
This year, the participating performance company will travel to six Tibetan Schools in the Dharamsala area, to introduce this historic Tibetan art and opera to the younger Tibetan generations. The school tour commences from Lower TCV on 29 March, 2010.
The Shoton will conclude on 6th April, 2010.

By Karma Phuntsok


Karmapa's Gift to the Karmapa

In 1978, Tashi Mannox's father, Peter Mannox, was commissioned to make a container -- a tangshup -- for an image created by the 16th Karmapa, with whom he was quite friendly. Peter Mannox is the Western world's foremost maker of Dharma articles from precious metals -- a career that was indeed chosen for him by means of divination.

This container is twenty inches in length, of solid silver, and lapis enamel.

What image this container actually encases is unknown, but as Peter reports, "It is meant for transmission to the 17th Karmapa," if and when he is ever able to visit Samye Ling Tibetan Centre, in Scotland.

The whole story can be found at Peter's wonderful blog North Fife.

Friday, March 12, 2010

16th and 17th Karmapa

In 1978 i was commissioned to make a container for an image created by 16th Karmapa It's length is a Cubit, Standard cubit: elbow to end of middle finger (20") I've just measured my own and I'm 19 3/4 inches, That's me cubit wise. Width, the same as an English glory matchbox, topped with a fire surrounded triple gem in Lapiz enamel on a lotus atop a sphere. Whatever image the Tangshup contains is unknown but is meant for transmission to 17th Karmapa who will absorb and replace for the 18th Karmapa and so on for each reincarnation. This transmission will occur when His Holiness the Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje visits Samye Ling Tibetan Centre in June this year.

Tangshup, largely designed over the telephone by Akong Rinpoche. It had to have certain syllables in particular places, some hidden within the design.Everything depicted in the design is there for a reason. The whole is made in sterling silver, engraving filled by coloured resin, parcel gilt, bejewelled. On completion the cylinder was immersed in a solution of hydrogen sulphide, turning the silver blue/black, only then did did it come to life. I wept.


March 12, 2010 - Gyuto

His Holiness presided over the two-day Tantric Dialectical Examination of Gyuto Tantric University.
The examination is held every three years. In the presence of His Holiness and Khenpos, over 70 Geshe Lharimpas who have completed their studies of the four classes of tantra: Kriya Tantra, Carya Tantra, Yoga Tantra, and Annuttarayoga Tantra, took their Tantric Dialectical Examination. All the examinees came from the main three monasteries: Sera, Drepung, Gaden, and other 6 monasteries.
The previous Dalai Lama, The 13th Dalai Lama, introduced the first Tantric Dialectical Examination at Gyuto Tantric Monastery in Tibet.

2010.3.12 法王噶瑪巴主持上密院的辯經考試 Dialectical Examination Dialectical Examination of Gyuto Tantric University
Dialectical Examination of Gyuto Tantric University


Message of H.H. the Karmapa to Europe


In many countries in Europe there are numerous students connected with the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and also many people who have a direct connection with the Karmapa. Many of them have been wishing and expecting me to come to Europe for twenty or thirty years. This has become a very important purpose in my life. Since my childhood I have kept it very strongly in my heart. This year there is a strong hope that I may be able to visit Europe and this is good news for me and those who have invited me. I hope and wish that this year all our expectations and aspirations to meet together in Europe will be fulfilled.

All the centres and students have been making preparations for a long time with prayers and aspirations that I will be coming there. I am very grateful to all of you. I am hoping and aspiring to visit Europe, not only this year but also many times in the future.

It’s very difficult to remember past lives. Although there could be countless past lives it is not necessary that we remember them because there are many complicated hurdles between lives and also much karmic obscuration. But when I was very young I used to look at many children’s books from Europe and, somewhat inspired by those, I sometimes had an experience of being in the natural environment of ancient Europe, where I was living in a very pleasant and happy way.

I think the most important thing is to follow in the footsteps of the 16th Karmapa. Whatever activities he started and imprints or impressions he left with his body, speech and mind in Europe and in the people of Europe, I wish to follow it up, continuing his activities and lay a good foundation in my students. This is my first wish.

And secondly, as a Buddhist leader living in the 21st century I also hope to work towards bringing not only outer material progress, but to bring inner happiness and well being to the people of this world, finding a way to create the outer developments as a means to develop inner peace and joy.  This is where I place my hope and efforts.

It is not only that I like Western culture but I consider myself as someone who has a great love for Western civilization. Especially I have a great admiration for Western technology, poetry and many things that happened in Europe. The history of Europe is very moving to me and I am constantly studying it with great interest.

I believe that all religions are trying to bring all the people of the world out of the slumber of ignorance and bring them nearer to the facts of reality. I fully trust that the Christian religion like all others is also working towards sowing the seed of benefit and happiness towards the humanity. As a Buddhist and as a human being I consider love, kindness, affection towards one another and friendship to be some of the most important and natural qualities of human life. I think all religions are trying to work on developing these qualities in every being. I believe the religions are working on promoting positive conducts and inspirations of people and therefore I think they are certainly very beneficial.

I think the world is moving together very quickly. Communication is becoming very fast. Communication and understanding between east and west is growing and because of this movement, the concept that the whole world is one is now becoming clearer. Therefore it becomes very important for all of us to think about the whole world and try to work for the benefit of all. I also try to work as much as possible towards that goal. I think it is very much the need  of the time for all of us to do so.

I don’t have any special aspiration to spread Buddhism. For those who have connections with the dharma then I have the responsibility and the duty to work to bring them the dharma practice; that is my responsibility. I am ready and waiting to give all my service and guidance to them according to dharma. Whether you call it dharma or not the main thing is to become a good person, to have good thoughts and positive actions; to become beneficial to all beings. Sometimes I feel that the name of religion or Buddhism is not very useful. That gives the impression that it is limited and exclusive.

This world is a very big family with thousands and thousands of beings and all of us are dependent on each other.  It is important that we should respect and appreciate each other, recognizing each other’s importance.

We should try to create a world with kindness and love.  I think in the future it is the responsibility of all of us to create a more equal and loving world. I would like to work towards that end with my best capacity. I think it is important for all of us to do the same.


His Holiness the Karmapa and Women's Issues (Buddhadharma Magazine)

a pillar is missing from our house:
gyalwang karmapa on full ordination for women

Article by Dharmadattā Nuns' Community member Lhundup Damcho, originally written for publication in German in Dharma-Nektar Magazine.

An abbreviated version of this article will appear in the Spring 2010  edition of Buddhadharma Magazine. Download a pdf of this and the accompanying articles on women's place in Buddhism.

Last winter, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa stunned an international audience in Bodhgaya by making an unprecedented declaration of commitment to ordaining women as bhikshunis in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Responding to a question as to when there would ever be bhikshuni ordination in the Tibetan tradition, His Holiness leaned forward and spoke directly in English. “I will do it,” he said. As enthusiastic applause broke out across the large assembly hall, Gyalwang Karmapa cautioned against expecting quick results. “Be patient,” he said. “Be patient.”
“As to when it will begin, and when there will be bhikshuni ordination,” His Holiness stated, during his annual winter teachings at Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya last December. “I cannot say when exactly the right time will be. But I am making every effort, with a sincere motivation, and I believe there is great hope. So please rest easy. The bhikshuni vows that lead to liberation and enlightenment are extremely important, and are in a sense the root of the Buddha’s Dharma. Therefore I do not believe it is wise to act hastily. So please relax, and please be patient.”
Despite the warning that full ordination was not imminent, Gyalwang Karmapa’s statement in Bodhgaya was nevertheless ground-breaking, for it constitutes the first time that any spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism has publicly committed to making bhikshuni ordination available. His Holiness’ declaration marks the culmination of intensive research into the feasibility of establishing full ordination for women according to the monastic code that regulates Tibetan Buddhism. More broadly, it reflects Gyalwang Karmapa’s intense commitment to women’s issue and to nuns in particular.
At present, women in Tibetan Buddhism may take a lower level of ordination, as novice nuns (Tibetan: getsulmas) or (Sanskrit: shramanerikas), but they do not have the opportunity to take the highest level of ordination that Buddha Shakyamuni initially created for women: bhikshuni or gelongma ordination. Full ordination for women is available in Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese Buddhist traditions, and has recently been re-established for nuns in the Theravada Buddhist tradition of Sri Lanka. Tibetan Buddhism still lags behind these traditions in the movement towards offering equal spiritual opportunities to women.
For the past several decades, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has consistently spoken out in favor of establishing bhikshuni ordination in the Tibetan tradition. To date, progress toward that goal has been incremental, consisting mainly of inconclusive conferences and discussions. Gyalwang Karmapa’s acceptance of a personal role in extending the opportunity of full ordination to women thus marks a decisive step forward on a path that His Holiness the Dalai Lama first asked Tibetan Buddhists to traverse.
Not just a women’s issue
During a stay in Sarnath, India, Gyalwang Karmapa granted an interview to discuss his views on bhikshuni ordination. His Holiness began by describing his reasons for taking such a strong stance on the matter.
“There are several issues and several purposes,” he said.“If something is missing — such as gelongma vows, which do not exist in the Tibetan community—this affects the getsulmas and rabjungmas as well.… It affects the basic ordination of women. This means it is a very important issue.”
But His Holiness went on to point out that the issue of bhikshuni ordination in Tibetan Buddhism is not only an issue of concern to women: “It also affects the whole teachings,” he added. “There are two types of people who practice the teachings, women and men. There are two types of holders of the teachings, male and female. So what affects women automatically affects the teachings, and impacts the flourishing of the Dharma.”
Just days before his public statement in Bodhgaya, Gyalwang Karmapa presided over a five-day vinaya conference that he himself had convened during the Kagyu Winter Debates. High on the agenda of that conference was the question of bhikshuni ordination. His Holiness spoke at length to the large gathering of Kagyu khenpos, monks and nuns on the importance of establishing bhikshuni ordination in Tibetan Buddhism.
His Holiness pointed out that Buddha Shakyamuni himself offered bhikshuni ordination to women as a means to bring about their liberation from samsara. The need to offer women all the conditions to achieve liberation is particularly clear from a Mahayana perspective of compassion and sense of responsibility for the well-being of others, he added. Nowadays the majority of those who seek the Dharma in Dharma centers outside India and Tibet are in fact women, he noted.
Along with the need for bhikshuni ordination to support women on their path to liberation, bhikshuni ordination is needed for the benefit of the Dharma, to allow the teachings to spread and become fully accessible to people throughout the world, His Holiness explained. He commented that the four circles of disciples that Buddha created were like four pillars in a house. (The four pillars are bhikshus, bhikshunis, female holders of lay precepts and male holders of lay precepts.) Since the bhikshuni order was one of those four pillars, and is now lacking in Tibetan Buddhism, the house of Buddha’s teachings is missing an important condition needed to remain stable.
His Holiness suggested that while there are procedural issues to be resolved, any obstacles need to be weighed against the great need to offer bhikshuni ordination to qualified female candidates. As such, research into the issues surrounding ought to take place with an appreciation of the need to offer women the opportunity to follow the complete path to liberation that Buddha created for them, he stressed.
grappling with procedural issues
Earlier in 2009, Gyalwang Karmapa  summoned khenpos from the major Karma Kagyu monasteries for several months of study and research under vinaya experts at his residence in Dharamsala. Gyalwang Karmapa himself was directly engaged in exploring the various options for conferring valid full ordination of women. According to the Mūlasarvāstivāda vinaya followed by Tibetan Buddhism, standard ordination practices stipulate that a sangha of bhikshus as well as a sangha of bhikshunis be present at the ritual ceremony to fully ordain new women. Yet a bhikshuni order does not appear to have been brought to Tibet from India. This absence of bhikshunis in Tibetan Buddhism has posed a stumbling block to the modern efforts to establish full ordination for women.
However, a number of great Tibetan masters of the past did fully ordain some of their female disciples. Such masters include no less authoritative a figure than the Eighth Karmapa, Je Mikyö Dorje, one of the greatest vinaya scholars in Tibetan history. In the end, these isolated instances of ordinations did not result in the formation of a bhikshuni order in Tibet. Nowadays, two major options have been considered in Tibetan monastic circles. One is ordination by a bhikshu sangha alone, which would consist of monks from the Tibetan Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition. Another is what is known as “dual sangha ordination,’” in which the sangha of Tibetan bhikshus conferring the ordination would be joined by a bhikshuni sangha from a separate vinaya lineage, the Dharmagupta lineage preserved in Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese Buddhism.
While the Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje and other great masters in Tibet held bhikshuni ordinations using this first option—a bhikshu sangha alone—such a method was not universally accepted among Tibetan Buddhist schools. “Although perhaps in the vinaya we can find sources for ordination by the bhikshu sangha alone, this is something disputed and controversial,” His Holiness said. “I do not want to make more controversy, because nowadays Tibetan Buddhism is all together in exile, and if one lineage acts on its own, for example, if I give the ordination in our school alone, then other schools may be uncomfortable with that, and that is not good. But there are other ways and methods available to do so.”
Asked which method he favors, Gyalwang Karmapa said: “I think the best way is dual sangha ordination, with the Dharmagupta tradition and Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition acting together. This is a more profound way. It would mean not only that we can offer gelongma vows, but also if we did this, we would create a relationship between Dharmagupta and Mūlasarvāstivāda. This would also be beneficial for the harmony between Buddhist schools.”
A major objection lodged against dual sangha ordination has been that it would entail a “mixing” of traditions, potentially raising questions as to which vinaya lineage the bhikshunis would then hold, or which procedural rules should prevail during the ceremony itself. But His Holiness dismisses the gravity of this concern. “I do not think this is a major problem,” he said. “Why? There are many sources, but basically Buddhism evolved into 18 different sects, but they are all pure. They all proceed according to the Dharma. Each school has a different vinaya, and according to their own vinaya and rituals, the vows can be generated. This means it is not a problem to hold dual sangha ordination with different vinaya lineages.”
In such a scenario, the vows that the new bhikshunis receive would be Mūlasarvāstivāda, the tradition followed by Tibetan Buddhism. According to Mūlasarvāstivāda ordination procedures, “the bhikshuni vows actually come from primarily the bhikshu sangha, not the bhikshuni sangha,” His Holiness explained. “Since in the dual sangha ordination, the bhikshu sangha will be from the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition, this means the bhikshuni  vows will be from the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition.”
During the teachings in Bodhgaya, Gyalwang Karmapa had stressed that results would not come overnight. “I do not think there are major obstacles or challenges,” he told Dharma-Nektar. “But we do need to develop our views on the matter. There are some old views and old ways of thinking, and people who hold them are not prepared to accept bhikshuni ordination. But I do not think this is a big obstacle. The main need is for some leader to take a step, to move beyond conferences and discussions. What is needed is to take full steps.”
Thus far, many Tibetan Buddhists have looked to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to take the initiative in organizing bhikshuni ordinations. When Gyalwang Karmapa was asked why he himself was now willing to accept the responsibility for doing so, he said: “His Holiness the Dalai Lama always takes responsibility. But he has lots of activities and is very busy, so he cannot devote a great deal of his attention to this issue and try to find sources and join every conference himself. He cannot simply focus on this issue. …Maybe I have more time, and so more opportunities to find some sources and hold conferences. And I also have some sort of personal interest in it myself.”
Gyalwang Karmapa added, “I just want to be a simple Buddhist practitioner. I just want to give some suggestions or information to Tibetan nuns, to encourage them and increase their confidence. This is very important. I can’t take bhikshuni vows. Some Tibetan nuns will take these vows. They need encouragement and they need to know the benefits and the importance of bhikshuni vows.”
working for the welfare of women
In the end, what is perhaps most noteworthy about Gyalwang Karmapa’s stance is precisely the degree of his personal involvement. In an extraordinary articulation of his concern for nuns’ welfare, Gyalwang Karmapa concluded a series of teachings he gave at Tilokpur Nunnery in India in 2007 by stating: “My body is male, but my mind has lots of feminine qualities, so I find myself a little bit both male and female. Therefore although of course I have high aspirations to be of benefit to all sentient beings, I especially have a commitment to work for the welfare of women and especially of nuns. As long as I have this life, I would like to work one-pointedly and diligently for their cause. I have this responsibility as the head of this school of Buddhism, and from that point of view also, I promise that I will try to do my best to see that the nuns’ sangha will progress … I will do my very best.”
Indeed, Gyalwang Karmapa’s willingness to work for the welfare of nuns extends well beyond settling procedural policy or issuing statements. His Holiness himself has undertaken to translate a volume of biographies of Chinese nuns from Chinese into Tibetan. While that translation project is ongoing, he is next planning to translate a collection of narratives of the lives of Buddha’s direct female disciples from the classical literary language of the Tibetan canon into colloquial Tibetan, in order to make the examples of these early nuns’ lives more available to modern Tibetan readers.
His Holiness himself traces his early involvement with the bhikshuni issue in particular to the time when he instituted new discipline rules for monastics attending the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo. “We were deciding how to organize the gelongs and getsuls, and there were some gelongmas from the Chinese tradition. Then we needed to think: Where do they sit? How do we make arrangements for them?” Since that time, bhikshunis have been given a prominent place at the annual Kagyu Monlam events in Bodhgaya, with special invitations issued to bhikshunis to attend.
At a later point, His Holiness added, he came across an important source from the Eighth Karmapa, Je Mikyö Dorje. “We rediscovered an old text in the collected works of Mikyö Dorje on rituals,” His Holiness said. “In that text, he said that in Tibet there was no bhikshuni lineage, but that we can give bhikshuni vows using the bhikshu rituals. I thought, ‘Oh! This is news!’ I thought, okay, maybe… This was a sort of small beginning.”
From that small beginning to the historical moment of establishing full ordination for women in Tibetan Buddhism may be a long journey. But it will not be the first long journey this exceptional lama has completed in order to benefit beings and the Dharma. And given his youthful age and his remarkable determination, it will surely not be the last.


March 4, 2010

The Office of Administration of His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa (Tsurphu Labrang) at Gyuto Tantric University has been reorganised. The new structure will take effect from March 4th, 2010, for a term of one year, with responsibilities allocated as follows:
1. Thupten Sherab: Director of Finance and Accounts & Secretary Tibetan
tl.finance.account@gmail.com, 9418294401
2. Lama Phuntsok: Director of Information and Communication
tl.info.co@gmail.com, 9882735918

3. Karma Tenkyong Wangpo: Director of Internal Affairs
tl.internal@gmail.com, 9418540297

4. Gompo Tsering: Director of External Affairs
tl.external@gmail.com, 9816045556

5. Karma Thinley Yongdu - Director of Supplies and Procurement, 1892-236637

6. Chemed Choegyal: Secretary (English)
tl.sy.eng@gmail.com, 9816315336

7. Sonam Tsewang: Director of Legal Matters/Delhi Office
tl.delhioffice@gmail.com, 9818443684

From Information and Communication.


March 4, 2010 - Gyuto

At 7 am this morning, His Holiness bestowed the inaugural prayers for the appointment of new office bearers who have now been assigned to look after the different sections of Karmapa's Office of Administration (Tsurphu Labrang).
The prayer was attended by both Chagzoes, Ngodup Palzom.
The newly appointed office bearers are:
Thubten Sherab
Lama Phuntsok
Cheme Choegyal
Gonpo Tsering
Sonam Tsewang

2010.3.4 法王噶瑪巴任命法王辦公室各部門負責人之任命儀式 Appointment of the new Administrative Office
Appointment of the new Administrative Office