Teaching on His Holiness Karmapa

I have been living and teaching here for many years and up till now have not had the auspicious opportunity to teach in the early part of the New Year.

Today is not only close to the beginning of the year but it is the third day of the Tibetan year, which is considered especially sacred. Therefore I am delighted to have this opportunity to begin a new cycle of teaching on this auspicious day. Because of the day on which these teachings are beginning, I felt that the most auspicious and beneficial explanation to give, would be about the lives of His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa.

When you study the biographies of the Gyalwang Karmapas you come to the conclusion that each one seems even more magnificent and bearing even greater blessings than the one before him. Therefore it would be impossible to attempt to choose from among them and say, this one is the most inspiring life, or this one is the most inspiring biography. Which leaves us really with only one course of action, to start from the beginning, with the first Gyalwang Karmapa. I am going to begin explaining the life of the first Gyalwang Karmapa and gradually, over time, complete the biographies of all sixteen of the previous Karmapas up to the Sixteenth Gyalwang, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. I think that this is the most complete and auspicious way to present it.

The biography of the First Gyalwang Karmapa begins with a one-line Sanskrit supplication or invocation “Guru Ratna Karmakaye” which means, “I pay homage to the precious guru, the Karmapa.”

What follows upon this is a brief explanation, or indication, of the immeasurable qualities of the Gyalwang Karmapa. The first thing said about His Holiness the Karmapa, is that he is the essence and embodiment, in one, of the body, speech, mind, qualities and activities of all tathagatas, all buddhas of all times (past, present and future) and all ten directions. The meaning of this is that His Holiness the Karmapa is not the emanation of one buddha. You cannot limit what His Holiness is by saying he was this buddha in the past, and now he is His Holiness, or he will be this buddha in the future and now he is His Holiness. All of the qualities of the bodies of each and every buddha, without exception, who has ever appeared, who is present now anywhere, and who will ever appear, are complete within the body of His Holiness. All the qualities of the speech, mind, virtues and boundless activities of each and every buddha of any time and any place, are complete within His Holiness’s speech, mind, virtues and activities. He is in one embodiment, the essence of all buddhas without exception.

The text continues, he is also the source for the eighty-four thousand aggregates of dharma, or heaps or classes of dharma teaching. Since His Holiness Karmapa is the embodiment of all buddhas, and since dharmas issue forth as the expression or teaching of buddhas, he is the source of all dharma teaching. He is also the embodiment of all the qualities and realization expressed in the eighty-four thousand different types of dharma teaching.

As well, he is the lord or chief of all of the arya sangha. This means that in the experience or perception of bodhisattvas, the arya sangha, he displays the sambhogakaya. In the experience of the ordinary sangha, the sangha of ordinary individuals, he displays the nirmanakaya. In either case he is the principal ­figure, ruler, chief and lord of the sangha. As the sambhogakaya, he is the teacher of all bodhisattvas. As the nirmanakaya, he is the teacher of all human beings.

Therefore, being the embodiment of all of the buddhas, all of the dharma, and the chief of the sangha, he is called “The Lord of Dharma.” His activity, which is constant, pervasive, and free of any kind of limitation or partiality, is the constant liberation of beings. Because of his activity of freeing beings from the intense suffering of lower states, bringing them to higher realms, bringing them to a state of liberation, and finally bringing them to a state of omniscience, he is also called “The Protector of Beings.” His activity will continue, will ­persist, until each and every sentient being has been liberated and samsara is finished.

He is next called omniscient. Omniscient, here, means that His Holiness, in each and every instant, knows or sees everything about every single sentient being. Not only is he aware of everything about everything, he is also constantly aware of the nature of all things. Moreover, there is no contradiction whatsoever, between his awareness of the ultimate nature of things, including the ultimate nature of beings, and his awareness of the particular details of beings’ dispositions, previous lives, karmic accumulations, and so on.

Omniscience, by itself, were it not accompanied by consummate and utterly impartial loving kindness, would be of no benefit to beings per se. Therefore it is mentioned that, with great love, he constantly regards all beings who fill space. With great love means that His Holiness has the same loving-kindness and compassion for each and every sentient being without exception. There is no being for which he has any less compassion than for any other. He continually engages in an inconceivable variety of methods for liberating beings.

Therefore, it next says, he protects beings from all lower states. This means that he frees beings from the three lower states of the hells, the realms of the pretas and the animal realm, bringing them to a state of relative happiness in the higher realms, and eventually to liberation and omniscience.

Next the text says, the Karmapa has realized the equality of all things. Although he regards all beings with constant compassion and engages in unceasing activity for their benefit, he never wavers from the complete recognition and experience of the fundamental nature, or equal nature of all things. He brings them to this realization—he causes beings to realize that sameness. Freeing beings from lower states, he then frees beings from samsara, bringing them to that realization.

Then it says his every action is the conduct of utter excellence, which shows the paths of happiness and suffering. When it says that his every action is the conduct of utter excellence, it means that every single thing that he says or does, is done purely for the benefit of others, and is in fact the inconceivable conduct of a great bodhisattva.

When it says that he teaches, or shows the path to happiness and the path of suffering, it means he brings beings to a state of happiness by teaching them how to accomplish the causes of happiness, by teaching beings virtue. And he protects beings from the path of misery, or the path of disaster, by showing or explaining to beings how unvirtue leads to suffering and therefore to abstain from it.

Next it says he shows the way to the citadel of omniscience. Not only does he lead beings from the states of misery in the lower realms, not only does he lead beings to liberation from samsara, but he leads each and every being to the state of full buddhahood, or omniscience, the ultimate result. Therefore, he escorts beings to the place of omniscience. He engages in actions necessary to gradually lead beings all the way to buddhahood. He guides beings into the ocean of the dharmadhatu. With his omniscience, his knowledge of both existence and tranquility, both samsara and nirvana, and with his miracles of body, speech and mind, he gradually leads beings into an immersion in and recognition of the ultimate nature of all things. Therefore, he teaches the ocean of things to be known of the past, present and future in order to guide beings to recognition of the nature of things. He teaches all that needs to be recognized, and he teaches the nature of all things that have or will ever occur in the past, present or future. In that way, he is the displayer, the emanator of the mandala of the aryas. This refers especially to his function as a master or guru of Vajrayana. He is not only the embodiment of all buddhas, he also displays the mandalas of all buddhas in the experience of disciples. He is the source of all mandalas. He is the basis for the experience of any and all mandalas in the minds of students.

His Holiness causes all virtues to flourish. He inspires beings in such a way that they cannot but act virtuously. Therefore, he is like the great physician who heals the sickness of the three poisons. If we use an analogy to understand His Holiness’s activity, we could say that he is like a great physician in that he heals the sicknesses of attachment, aversion and apathy. Another analogy is that he is like the great captain who guides beings across the ocean of samsara, or existence. He is like the captain who skillfully steers the ship which carries beings to liberation. Yet another analogy, he is like the moon, which dispels the agony or the torment of the kleshas. His Holiness’s activity is like the cooling rays of moonlight which dispels the heat of the day, and its torment. In the same way, his compassion is refreshing and cooling, and cools down the agony of one’s kleshas. However, he is also like the sun, which conquers the darkness of ignorance. His wisdom is as bright and as powerful, and as pervasive as sunlight. It illuminates all things in the perception of someone who is touched by it. He is the most holy spiritual friend who brings about all goodness and all happiness. Because of his qualities, his omniscient wisdom, impartial loving-kindness, and tremendous, incalculable power to benefit beings, he is the source of everything good that happens.

Therefore, he is the essence of the ocean of siddhas and vidyadharas. He is the essence of the lineage. He is the essence of all the mahasiddhas of India, the eighty-four, and so on. Likewise, he is the essence and embodiment of all the qualities and realizations of all of the siddhas and vidyadharas of Tibet.

Here he is referred to as the holy, glorious guru, both root and lineage. We call him the root guru because we have met, and heard the speech of, and been blessed by, His Holiness, in the form of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, whom many of us have met, and also in the form of the 17th Karmapa Ugyen Trinley Dorje, whom many of us have met, and the rest of us will meet. So, in short, he has been our guru in the past and is our guru in the present. He is the root guru. He is also the lineage guru.

However, he is not only the guru, he is also the lord of all mandalas, the Pervasive Lord of the Ocean of Mandalas of Yidams. Any mandala of any deity, such as Chakrasamvara, Hevajra, Guhyasamaja, and so on, is ultimately the mandala of His Holiness. All of the qualities displayed in these mandalas, which represent the pervasive activity of His Holiness’s wisdom, are embodied in him alone. He is the Lord of all mandalas, and the Lord of the Wheel, because his activity, which benefits beings and which liberates beings, is pervasive, unlimited, constant and effective.

He is also the Lord of the Assemblies and Feasts of all dakas and dakinis, or viras and dakinis. He is the one who presides over all of the feasts and assemblies of all dakas and dakinis in all realms. 

He is the actual presence of the Holder of the White Lotus, the protector of the Himalayan region. The Holder of the White Lotus is the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. The actual presence among us, of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, is His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa.

Then finally this initial homage to His Holiness concludes with the composer of the text saying, “with great respect of body, speech and mind, I pay homage to you, and go for refuge to you.”

The introduction continues, “throughout all time and all situations please protect me with your great compassion and bless me.” This means, not only the attitude of the composer of the biography, but by extension an attitude which we are enjoined to have ourselves; which is entrusting oneself utterly to the teacher, from this moment onward until you attain buddhahood, and in all situations. This means without distinction, so that you don’t think you need protection only at some times, and not others or without any distinction of being awake and being asleep, and so on. The basic idea of this part of the text, which is introductory, is supplication to the Karmapa, based upon the recollection of his ­qualities.

Therefore, it continues, in the great equality of the dharmadhatu, the Karmapa is the dharmakaya guru, that nature itself which pervades all existence and tranquility, all samsara and nirvana. The Karmapa is himself the dharmakaya and is beyond all conceptual elaboration. He is the dharmakaya of twofold purity. His nature is primordially pure, but he has also removed the adventitious obscurations, which obscure that nature within us. Therefore he is the dharmakaya of twofold purity.

Through great compassion he manifests in the experience of others in two ways. Although he is the perfect embodiment of the abandonment of all ignorance and the realization of all wisdom, he nevertheless manifests as the display of spontaneous presence in the akanishtha realm, or the highest realm of the sambhogakaya. In manifesting as the sambhoghakaya, his manifestation is not single. It is unlimited in variety, extent and number. All of the boundless magical displays of the peaceful and wrathful deities of the sambhogakaya are the displays of His Holiness’s dharmakaya. Moreover, for the benefit of beings who can not experience the sambhogakaya, throughout all worlds in the universe, he emanates as innumerable varieties of nirmanakaya, the activities of which are inconceivable. He emanates as the nirmanakaya of artifice, which is to say some of his emanations produce various objects which are beneficial to sentient beings. He manifests as the supreme nirmanakaya of birth—his display as His Holiness himself. Also he manifests in different ways in different realms. For example, to animals he manifests as an animal. To humans he manifests as a human. If he were to manifest as a human being to animals, he would not be able to benefit them effectively. In that way his manifestation is utterly unlimited, and inconceivable. In this realm, which is called Saha, of which our world is a part, he is the actual presence of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in the form of the Gyalwang Karmapa.

His Holiness acquired the insurpassable ambrosia of full awakening eons ago, but has not abandoned beings, has not disappeared. He nevertheless continues to, as long as samsara persists, free beings from this otherwise endless ocean of suffering. Now his activity in freeing beings, which in general can be said to be the primary quality of his activity, is inexhaustible. Which means, first, it never stops and, second, it is unlimited in extent. No one can say Karmapa is active here but not active there. His activity is like a wheel that is constantly turning. Throughout immeasurable eons, he continues to bring beings to the path and bring beings to the completion of the path.

Therefore, when we talk about the Karmapa, whom we consider unequalled in his commitment and actual achievement of the liberation of sentient beings, to say he did this and then he did that is always going to be a concession to what we are capable of perceiving and understanding. He has attained the dharmakaya of the twofold purity: pure from the beginning and pure in the removal of adventitious defilements. What the Karmapa actually is, is that twofold purity, that unlimited and utterly inconceivable dharmakaya. Thus because he is that, he is also the complete display of the sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya. Because he is the dharmakaya, he is all of the sambhogakaya and every nirmanakaya. His activity is therefore pervasive. It is permanent in the sense that it is continuous. It never stops. There is no place where his activity cannot be found. Therefore it is extremely difficult to appraise this, or to say this was the life or the acts of the Karmapa. Even with regard to how he teaches, his teaching is not limited to one specific aspect of dharma. For the great method of the various vehicles, he leads beings gradually to the great vehicle. You cannot say that the Karmapa only teaches Vajrayana or the Mahayana or that he only teaches the common vehicle. He will teach whatever is necessary in order to lead beings to and on the path. Eventually he is leading beings to the ultimate vehicle of the Mahayana, including the Vajrayana. Thus it says he finally leads beings to the single ultimate vehicle and bestows upon beings the attainment of the deathless state of the ultimate ­freedom.

Therefore, when we try to estimate or understand or encompass in our minds the extent of His Holiness’s activity, we need to remember that in every one of the pores of his skin he emanates and gathers all of the pure realms of all buddhas. All of the realms and all of the mandalas of all buddhas are found complete in each and every tiny part of his form. He, at any moment, continually regards with great equality, all of this, all pure realms and all of the impure realms as well. This is obviously something that we cannot conceive of, let alone encompass with our minds. So this presentation of His Holiness’s history will necessarily be, to some extent, a concession to what our minds can handle. It is like one drop of water from the ocean of his activity. However it has been composed and will be presented in order to nourish and revive the habit of faith.

Continuing from where we left off yesterday morning, the part of the text of the biography that we have completed, is the initial homage and promise to compose the text. This concludes with the final stanza of this section, which is the request for the blessing of the Karmapa that the composition of the text be successfully completed. The first line of this stanza is: “May the guru grant his blessing to me.” This means, may the guru of unequalled kindness, the glorious Karmapa, grant his blessing to the composer of the text that he be able to successfully describe something of the Karmapa’s life, and by extension, may he grant his blessings to to those of us who are reading it, as well. Implicit in this stanza, which concludes the promise to compose the text, is the reason why it is worthwhile. The text says, “All beings who hear or see this, lead them with the hook of your compassion.” The meaning of this is that anyone who makes any kind of ­connection with the Gyalwang Karmapa, through making that connection, will gradually be grasped, or gotten hold of, by the hook of the Karmapa’s compassion. Any man or woman who has any kind of connection with the Karmapa, even down to hearing his name will, through forming that connection, gradually be liberated from samsara. Therefore, the reason why this text is being composed is so we can make that kind of connection with the Gyalwang Karmapa.

Next follows the introduction to the biography. It begins, “The glorious guru, the Karmapa, is the embodiment of the activity of all victors, all buddhas of the past, present and future. He is the teacher of ourselves and of all beings.” This means that the Karmapa is the embodiment of all buddhas and therefore is the teacher of all beings. “The great drumbeat of his name is renowned throughout all realms of samsara and nirvana.” The Karmapa is renowned throughout samsara in the sense that his activity pervades samsara. Likewise, he is renowned in nirvana in that he is the teacher in all of the realms of the trikaya. He appears in the realms of the dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya under different names but nevertheless these are all expressions of the Gyalwang Karmapa himself. So his activity, and therefore his renown pervades all samsara and nirvana.

By merely hearing his name, samsara is ended. This means that any being who hears the name Karmapa, or the supplication, “Karmapa Cheno,” or “Karmapa Khyenno” will eventually be free from samsara. Because merely hearing the name of the Karmapa, even without recognition, even without faith, regardless of whether the being is a human, animal or anything else, causes the beginning of that being’s gradual liberation from all of samsara. Therefore, he is the Great Dharma King of the Three Realms. The idea of the Dharma King of the Three Realms is that the buddha is superior to all three realms. The buddha transcends the realms of desire, form and formlessness. The buddha is like the monarch who oversees the realms. Therefore the Karmapa is the Dharma Raja, or Dharma King of the Three Realms. He is the buddha.

The text continues, according to the perception of those who are trainees, or fit to be trained by the causal vehicle, those who are practitioners of the vehicle of the sutras, he generated the aspiration to attain supreme awakening, he generated bodhicitta. After that, for innumerable kalpas, he gathered the two accumulations of merit and wisdom, and completed the path through the perfection of these accumulations: the ripening of his own continuum and that of others, along with the purification of realms. This refers to how a bodhisattva prepares the realm in which he attains final buddhahood, such as Amitabha’s creation of Sukhavati, and so on.

Having completed this, in the end, through his attainment of the vajra-like samadhi, he conquered the two obscurations, the cognitive obscuration and the afflictive obscuration, together with all habits, and made manifest the insurpassable wisdom which knows the variety of things and the nature of things. That is the way that the Karmapa’s attainment of enlightenment is seen according to the causal vehicle. Essentially what is being said here is that as he is the embodiment of all buddhas, his path includes the twelve deeds of any buddha.
However, according to those who are practitioners of the resultant vehicle, practitioners of the Vajrayana, without needing to rely on an externally created mandala, an external support, in the manner of fully recognizing his own nature as the primordially present great vajra-mandala of the body, speech and mind of Vajradhara, he entered, or discovered these mandalas, and therefore he accomplished the three accumulations. The three accumulations are the perfect accumulations of moral discipline, meditative stability, and wisdom. Here, the three accumulations mean that he, through that realization which was all-embracing and complete, and included all aspects of the path bound into one, attained the moral discipline, which is beyond outflow or degeneration, spontaneous meditative stability, and wisdom.

Through perfecting those three accumulations, in that spontaneous way and to an unsurpassable degree, he conquered all of the three obscurations: the cognitive obscurations, the mental afflictions and habits. Therefore, his channels were purified, and become the stainless Avadutti. His winds entered into that great sound, or nada, which is beyond coming and going. His drops, freed from outflow and degeneration, dissolved into that great indestructible drop which is beyond all conceptual elaboration. Therefore, he attained perfect buddhahood as the sambhogakaya adorned with the seven features of union. Although he had already attained this, his spontaneously present and unceasing activity, which always has corresponded to the individual needs of beings, persists and will persist until samsara is emptied. Although he has attained the sambhogakaya, he has continued and will continue to demonstrate this activity through emanations which are unlimited in extent and in variety. The extent of this, the actual nature of it, and the quality of it, is something that only a perfect buddha can really understand and appreciate. It is not even something that can be correctly understood by great aryas. In other words, even bodhisattvas cannot really understand or appreciate the extent of the Karmapa’s awakening and the Karmapa’s activity and how, without wavering from his attainment of perfect buddhahood in the sambhogakaya, he demonstrates the innumerable nirmanakayas. The reason why bodhisattvas cannot understand it is because they still, in spite of their relative degree of awakening have the cognitive obscuration that prevents their direct understanding of this.

If the activity of the Gyalwang Karmapa cannot even be appreciated fully by bodhisattvas, then it need not be said that it is beyond what we can conceive of. However, if we limit ourselves to what can be contained within our minds, then in the past, the Karmapa has manifested as innumerable buddhas, innumerable supreme nirmanakayas, of whom an example is the buddha of the past called Shenpen Namröl, or Display of Benefit for ­Others.

In short, at any given time throughout innumerable worlds, he has simultaneously demonstrated in those worlds the twelve deeds of a supreme nirmanakaya. Moreover, in the future, he will continue to demonstrate this manifest attainment of supreme awakening as a supreme nirmanakaya. An example of this, is the sixth buddha among the one thousand buddhas of this fortunate eon called the Lion’s Roar, or sometimes The Display of the Lion, the buddha, Sengye Namröl. At the time of the sixth buddha, for example, he will also simultaneously demonstrate, in billions of worlds, the attainment of awakening, the twelve deeds of the supreme nirmanakaya and so on.

Right now, he is active in demonstrating the twelve deeds of a supreme nirmanakaya in innumerable realms. For example, he is active as the Buddha Amitabha in the realm of Sukhavati, demonstrating the twelve deeds of a buddha. However, not only is he demonstrating, or displaying the form of a buddha, but also that of a bodhisattva. Therefore he is present in innumerable realms as the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, as well as the emanations of Avalokitesvara, all of which are the activity of the Karmapa, emanating in a manner that corresponds to the appearance of the beings of all six realms.

Numerous masters of the past have also been emanations of the Karmapa. For example, the great guru Padmasambhava is an emanation of the Karmapa, as was the glorious Saraha, the foremost of the mahasiddhas of India. Other emanations of the Karmapa include Acharya Vira, the Indian master; Padampa Sangyay; and then in Tibet, the disciple of Guru Rinpoche called Gyalwa Chokyang; the Kadampa master, Geshe Potowa; the great pundit Shakya Chokden, and Karma Chagme Rinpoche and so on. All of these are emanations of the Karmapa. He is also emanated as kings: the king of Tibet, Songtsen Gambo, and the Yunglo emperor of the Ming Dynasty in China.

In short, Karmapa emanates in whatever manner is necessary or most effective in order to benefit beings. For those beings who are best tamed by encountering a buddha, he will appear as a buddha. For those who are best tamed by encountering a bodhisattva, he will emanate as a bodhisattva. For those that are best tamed by encountering a shravaka or a pratyekabuddha he will emanate as those. For those to be tamed by Brahma, he will appear as Brahma. For those to be tamed by Indra he will appear as Indra. Likewise he can appear as a chakravartin, a mahasiddha, a pundit, as a monk, or a brahmin, as a rishi, a king, a minister, a householder, or as a god, a naga, or spirit. He can appear for those who will be taught best by men, as a man, and for those who are taught best by a women, as a woman. For those who are taught best by children, he can appear as a little boy, or as a little girl. For animals he can appear as a lion, or an elephant. He can appear as a horse, a bird, or a tamed animal. He can appear as apparent inanimate objects: food and medicine, as boats and bridges. He can appear as the elements themselves: earth, water, fire and wind. In short, the Karmapa’s manifestations are unlimited and appear in whatever way is going to be most beneficial.

Therefore, the miraculous and the magical display of his emanations, are truly inconceivable. We can only imagine what we can do ourselves. We literally, it is said, whose minds are self-projecting, can not conceive of anything beyond ourselves, cannot really understand how this is possible. 

This is something that His Holiness has actually spoken of. When the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa came to America, at one time he was asked, “Are there other emanations of bodhisattvas in the world? For example, do they exist in our society, in countries like America and Europe, and so on.” In answer, His Holiness said, “There are a lot of them. They are all over the place. But they are difficult to recognize. They are not necessarily going to look like me. They are not necessarily going to have a shaven head, wear the robes of a Buddhist monk, and so on.”

Here, what is going to be talked about in the lives of the Karmapas will be the actual principal incarnations, the actual Karmapa himself. These are the ones that were predicted in the stainless prophecies of the great master Padmasambhava, who said that there would arise in Tibet a vajra master, a great lord and teacher of the dharma, who would wear a black crown, who would be no different from himself. He predicted that these emanations of the Karmapa would follow one after another, with definite names, which he listed. For example, Guru Rinpoche in his prediction gave the names of the twenty-one Karmapas, up to the twenty-first, and explained that there would be other emanations or manifestations as we have seen, throughout the six realms.

Any contact with the Gyalwang Karmapa, as has been evident throughout the history of the Karmapa, and as was predicted by Guru Rinpoche in his predictions, whether it be seeing, hearing, recollecting or physical contact, prevents rebirth in the lower realms, leads one immediately to a higher rebirth, and gradually to full liberation. This is said, again and again, in the predictions of Guru Rinpoche and in the statements of the various Karmapas themselves. This means that the power and benefit of contact with His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa is so extreme, that to have any contact, to even hear the name, let alone to actually meet the Karmapa, depends upon having accumulated a great deal of merit in the past. It is certain that we all have accumulated this because we are all here. We are all in contact with the Gyalwang Karmapa. All of us have either already met His Holiness, or will meet His Holiness.

Liberation through seeing means that merely by seeing His Holiness in his appearance as a human being among us, one will not be reborn in lower states and one will gradually move toward liberation. Liberation through hearing, means that hearing His Holiness’s voice, or hearing his biography explained, will also cut off rebirth in lower states and gradually lead one to liberation. Liberation through recollection means that by recollecting anything about His Holiness, his physical appearance, his mannerisms, his qualities, and so forth, and also recollecting his deeds, his biography throughout his lifetimes, and so on, in the same way cuts off lower rebirth and brings liberation. Finally, and especially, liberation through physical contact means that being touched by His Holiness, and when he travels of course, he gives his blessing with his hands, directly cuts off rebirth in lower realms and leads to the end of samsara.

Anyone who has this kind of contact, any of these four types of contact, will not be reborn in lower states and will pass gradually toward liberation. Moreover, someone who has any of these types of contact with faith, who actually has faith in the Karmapa while seeing, hearing, recollecting, or touching him not only will eventually be liberated, but could quite possibly complete the paths and stages in this world, in this life. This is by no means impossible because of the power and the benefit of His Holiness’s influence. The influence or blessing of His Holiness is also by no means limited to formal instruction or teaching. Of course, we define a teacher as someone who teaches us, or instructs us in the dharma. However teaching is not limited to a literal explanation of the method of practice or the meaning of dharma. Everything the Karmapa does, everything the Karmapa says, is done to purify the obscurations of beings with whom he has contact. Therefore, really everything he says and does is a form of instruction, including his commands, his requests, every form of communication and manifestation he engages in.

We know from the history of our lineage that teaching is not limited to conventional instruction. For example, the way Tilopa taught Naropa was hardly what we would normally call instruction. If we were to look at the way Tilopa taught Naropa we would tend to call it abuse. However the result of this was that he was liberated and became the renowned mahasiddha, whom we call Naropa. The way that Marpa taught Milarepa was also for the most part not what we would call instruction. It was a type of what we would normally call abuse, so intense that people cry when they hear or read about Marpa’s treatment of Milarepa. If you think about it, you shouldn’t cry about it, you should rejoice in it, because through Marpa’s instruction, Milarepa attained buddhahood in one lifetime.

Now, His Holiness’s instruction to us to create this monastery, including the residential part of it, and so on, might seem to some of you to be needless trouble. You might think, why do we need to engage in such a vast enterprise. In fact the creation of this, the fulfillment of his vision is not a distraction from practice. It is the essence, or the very life of our special and unique path. By creating this we create an environment and container for the gathering of accumulations and the purification of obscurations. Therefore, the creation of that container itself includes those ends or results.

Due to His Holiness’s unflagging aspiration and commitment to the benefit of beings, he has reappeared amongst us as the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. His activity has been extraordinary, in that by taking rebirth in Tibet, as he has done, he has illuminated the torch of dharma merely by being present, merely by allowing people to see his face and to experience his presence. He has illuminated the torch of dharma in the midst of a situation of great misery. Merely by taking rebirth there, he has begun the dispelling of the misery of the Tibetan people.

Anyone who comes in contact with him, who meets him even once, will not only be happy in this life, but also will be connected with him, and accepted by him as a disciple throughout all future lives. Any contact with him, and any enactment of his intentions or visions, plants the seed of all possible virtue and all possible qualities. This really is my main point in beginning and going through this text of His Holiness’s biography.

You may think that you have been brought here to be asked for money, to be begged to work harder for the monastery. In short, you may feel that I am trying to get you to do something that is just going to cause you more trouble. That is not what I am trying to do at all. I am trying to explain to you why working to bring about His Holiness’s intentions and vision, is actually establishing the basis of liberation for yourself.

Therefore, because the Karmapa bestows liberation through being seen, heard, touched or thought of, the fact that he can manifest in this way; that he continues to manifest in this way, in the midst of an era in the world of such intense degeneration, makes him renowned, like the sun and the moon. He actually tames or liberates the beings of the most degenerative age, who are the most difficult to work with, the most difficult to free. His compassion and skill is such that he actually brings beings in the most degenerate situations into contact with his body, speech, mind, qualities and activity. Essentially that is what his lives have consisted of in various ways throughout history, bringing beings into contact with his qualities.

Now, there are really three aspects to the histories of the Gyalwang Karmapa. There is the outer aspect, there is the inner aspect and there is the secret aspect. But the inner and secret or hidden aspects are very hard to appreciate, even for great bodhisattvas. They are inconceivable even to bodhisattvas. So, forget about us! Even his outer history, in other words, even his external deeds which can be perceived and to some extent understood linearly by ordinary beings, are like a boundless ocean. So any description of the lives of the Karmapa is really just one drop out of a boundless ocean that is itself, only the surface of his deeds.

All of us are followers of His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa, so no doubt we all have devotion and faith. However, the reason why I have gone through this lengthy introduction to the biographies in such detail is that this is more than simply a statement of the Karmapa’s preciousness or value. It is more than simply saying that the Karmapa is inconceivably magnificent. It is actually stating why it is that the Karmapa is what he is. And everything that has been said here about His Holiness is true of all of his lives. It is true of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. It is equally true of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. Now as for the details of the various incarnations, starting with the first and going on through them, it is my intention to go through these gradually in future seminars.

So to conclude, please dedicate the virtue of this session, and all virtue and merit accumulated throughout the past, present and future to the complete attainment of all of His Holiness’s intentions and vision.     


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