The Healing Continues: The Medicine Buddha Empowerment

May 31, 2014 Nuebergring, Germany
Kamalashila Institute, the Karmapa’s seat in Lagenfeld, Germany, is located in an area connected with healing for hundreds and hundreds of years. In pre-Celtic times, it was a holy place for healers, who gathered here. There are also strong Christian connections. Just three kilometers below the village is a small chapel dedicated to Saint Jodokus (600CE to 668CE), the patron saint of hospitals, hospices, and farming. In a story similar to the Buddha’s, Jodokus was the eldest prince, next in line to rule the kingdom, but he renounced his heritage to live the life of an ascetic in the woods for eight years. Afterward he traveled widely and became famous in his lifetime for healing powers and good works.
Centuries later, a duke from the Lagenfeld area was leaving for the Crusades. He made the commitment that if he came back alive, he would build a chapel for St. Jodokus. The duke did return, and to fulfill his promise, he began to construct a chapel to shelter a relic of the saint. The duke gathered stacks of wood and piles of stones near his castle. One day, a huge flood came and swept all the materials downstream. The duke took this as a sign that he should build the chapel in this new location, which turned out to be the one just below the present village of Lagenfeld. Even now, there is a famous pilgrimage to this lovely chapel every fall.
Nearby, when the construction of Kamalashsila’s main buildings was finished, a large stupa containing a shrine inside was begun. The Karmapa was consulted about which statue to place on its altar. The list of suggestions included Shakyamuni Buddha, Tara, Chenrezik, and other popular deities, but not the Medicine Buddha as people were unaware of this piece of local history. When the Karmapa gave his answer, it came swiftly and clearly: the statue should be the Medicine Buddha. So the empowerment this afternoon continues along the lines of this ancient tradition.
The central image on the shrine next to the Karmapa’s throne has been changed to a radiant blue Medicine Buddha. As on previous days, the Karmapa sat behind the carved screen to perform the preparations for an hour, giving the audience a rare chance to meditate in his presence. After taking his place on the throne and preparing the ground of the empowerment, the Karmapa paused to talk about the Medicine Buddha.
The traditional healing methods of Tibet, he said, are closely related to the Buddha’s teachings in several ways. One is the investigation of causes, which are divided into the immediate and long-term. The immediate causes and conditions pertain to the body; for example, the elements have deteriorated or bacteria have invaded. However, if we go beyond attempts to cure a particular infection or operate on a tumor, we can discover the long-term causes. These are related to the mind and mental states, such as anger and attachment. All disease is a result of many interdependent causes and conditions, so it’s important to analyze the complex of these relationships.
These days, we deal with a lot of pressures in our lives, which bring us stress. Numbers of people have difficulties with their mental and emotional states. Temporary relief is not enough here. To bring a more sustainable, deeper level of cure, we ourselves need to find ways of allowing our minds to be peaceful. The mind gives medicine to the mind; we need to use a mental medicine for our mental afflictions. A good way to begin is to make a connection with the Medicine Buddha, the King of Deep Blue light, through an empowerment, which the Karmapa then bestowed in full.
The following day, the Karmapa will consecrate the stupa at Kamalashila, which enshrines a Medicine Buddha inside, thus reaffirming this connection with the center and providing a central focus for this practice.

Purifying our negative actions: Vajrasattva Empowerment

Teaching Day 3

31st May, 2014.
Nuerburgring, Germany.

On the final day of the teachings the emphasis turned towards practice requirements for Buddhist practitioners. In keeping with the overarching theme of the ngondro or preliminary practices, the morning session was dedicated to a Vajrasattva empowerment. This is necessary for those who wish to complete the second part of the special Mahamudra preliminaries, the Vajrasattva Purification practice.
Shortly before nine o’clock, His Holiness arrived to perform the preparatory rites of self-initiation. The audience of his devotees supported his activities by softly chanting “Karmapa Khyenno”—“Karmapa, think of me”.  After an hour of preparation, His Holiness exited the auditorium and then returned swiftly to take his seat.  Joining his palms together in traditional greeting, he stood on the throne smiling warmly.  As His Holiness gazed out over the audience, embracing everyone with his love and compassion, his face was reminiscent of the bodhisattva Dorje Sempa [Vajrasattva in Sanskrit] who also smiles, partly in amusement at the childish misbehaviour we humans engage in, and partly in encouragement, like a loving, concerned parent.
Generally, the Vajrasattva empowerment prior to Ngondro is given in the Nyingma Mindroling tradition. In a short introduction, the Karmapa explained that this form of the empowerment was in the lineage of Marpa Lotsawa, one of the three forefathers of the Karma Kagyu tradition. The Vajrasattva practice is regarded as the most effective one for the purification of any wrongdoing in contravention of the three vows. When we hold a vow, and commit a negative action that breaks the vow, the Karmapa explained, the consequences are much greater. For example, though the act of killing is always a negative act, if we hold a vow not to kill, the consequences of killing are much greater, particularly in terms of the effect on one. Buddhists believe in the continuation of the consciousness, and it is this effect on the consciousness, the imprint, which continues from life to life.
Referring to the actual practice, His Holiness then explained why we have to purify all our negative actions since beginningless time. Even scientists have found it difficult to establish exactly when the universe began. Though there are theories such as the Big Bang, no one can say definitely when the universe was born. Similarly with consciousness, it is difficult to establish when exactly our mindstream began, so we purify all negative deeds from beginningless time.
In addition, we are unable to remember the misdeeds of this lifetime, let alone misdeeds we committed in our previous lives.  For this reason, as we sit in front of our shrine to practise Vajrasattva purification, we call on all the buddhas and bodhisattvas to bear witness.
There are four powers for purification, but of these the two most important are remorse or regret for the negative action we have committed and   the resolve not to commit the same negative action in future.
His Holiness emphasised that there is a distinction made between the person who has committed a negative action and the action itself. It is the action which is bad, not the person, so purification is of the negative action. It is important to understand this separation and be able to create distance between ourselves and our misdeeds; otherwise we can become overwhelmed by guilt and unable to free ourselves. Some people, he warned, are consumed by so much guilt that they cannot escape from the negativity they have created in their minds.
We need to understand that we committed the misdeed because we were under the control of negative thoughts and emotions  [the Tibetan term is nyonmong ],  almost like someone who is mentally ill. Drawing on his own experience of anger, the Karmapa illustrated how, under the sway of the nyonmong, our personality and behaviour can change radically.
“Sometimes when I was angry I became a different person. When I recall this situation, I am frightened of myself. I am not familiar with this person. Who is he? He’s very dangerous!”
If someone beats us, it’s the stick which hurts us, but we are never angry at the stick, we are angry at the person who wields the stick. Using this analogy, His Holiness argued that someone under the sway of the nyonmong is like the stick; the emotion is controlling them. We need to adopt this perspective whenever we consider both our own negative actions and those of other people. Especially, when we practise patience, we need to think very carefully and ask why the person did something to harm us
We should always differentiate between the action and the person.
The second power that the Karmapa highlighted as most important is the power of resolve not to commit the same negative action again.
He noted that some people were reluctant to make such resolutions because they felt they might break them in future. His advice was that as we cannot see the future, it’s better to promise to try not to commit that negative deed again.  We need to be courageous and make the resolution never to do such a negative action again.
His Holiness then gave the empowerment and the oral transmission of the 100 syllable mantra which is the central part of the practice.

2014.5.31 法王噶瑪巴2014年歐洲弘法行:金剛薩埵灌頂 Purifying our negative actions: Vajrasattva Empowerment

Conclusion – The Karmapa Concludes his Teachings with Thanks to Supporters

May 31, 2014 Nuebergring, Germany
Afterward the Medicine Buddha empowerment, the Karmapa brought the teaching program to conclusion by saying, “Although it took many years, at last this visit happened, because we continued to have hopes and aspirations. This is the first time I could step onto the land of Europe. For a long time I couldn’t come here, and it was difficult for you to come to India. This time, I could only come to Germany, but many of you from the different countries of Europe could come here, and we have now established a meaningful relationship. I am very pleased about that.
“The main thing that made it possible for me to come here is my friends in the government of India who made a lot of effort and because of their support, this trip could happen. Though they are not here, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to them. I also want to mention the Tibetan Government, and especially His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who have always supported and helped me in my activities. Without their help and support, there is no way that this visit could have happened. The German government has also helped a lot and the local centers and all the people from all over Europe who have worked together on this visit. Because everyone’s efforts, this joyful and most auspicious occasion could happen. Let us all rejoice together.”
The announcer then called up to the front of the hall about two hundred volunteers who had worked before and during the visit: “These are the people in the background who have been helping you.” A long applause followed. The Karmapa thanked them all for their work and sincere motivation. He ended the entire event with “I’m grateful to you all.” He said in English, “See you again!”
2014.5.31 延續療癒的傳統——藥師佛灌頂 The Healing Continues: The Medicine Buddha Empowerment


Gyalwang Karmapa meeting Benchen board members

On the 30th of May 2014 a group of Benchen representatives had the precious opportunity to have an audience with His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Orgyen Thrinley Dorje at the Kamalashila Institute. After a warm welcome Tempa individually introduced the groups of board members from Benchen Phuntsok Ling Allmuthen, Lotus Direkthilfe, Benchen Karma Kamtsang Poland, Karma Tegsum Tashi Ling Italy and Benchen Tashi Ling Cologne.

During the audience His Holiness Karmapa said that after a long time of trying, he finally was able to visit Europe, but unfortunately this time he couldn't make it to more places. His Holiness expressed his hope and wish that next time he could also visit Benchen centres in Belgium, Poland, Italy and other places. The Karmapa said we all are very fortunate to have had such a great master like Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche and that we all should keep on following Rinpoche's instructions.

His Holiness recounted how some years ago at one day during Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche's visit to the Gyuto Monastery, Rinpoche was talking to him about the eventual whereabouts of Rinpoche's rebirth. During the conversation Rinpoche said that he will not be reborn in Tibet but somewhere near to His Holiness and he also mentioned passing away. His Holiness said hearing these words, he did not like the sound and felt scared because it indicated that Kyabje Rinpoche might pass away soon. On the other hand, the Karmapa said that he needed to listen because he will be responsible for Rinpoche's reincarnation. His Holiness, furthermore, mentioned that it is indeed very good that the main relic stupa in Nepal has been successfully finished because he has clear indications that after completing the stupa Rinpoche will be coming back to this world soon. Finally the Karmapa added that we should not worry.

As far as we remember this is what His Holiness told us on that occasion.

Buddhistische Heiligkeit besucht Langenfeld(Rhein-Zeitung)


Langenfeld - Die Menschen sind von dem Besuch Seiner Heiligkeit überwältigt: Der 17. Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje wurde bei seiner Ankunft in Langenfeld voller Freude von vielen seiner Anhänger frenetisch gefeiert.

Ein alter Mann küsst seine Hand: Der Karmapa (rechts) sieht sich nicht in der Funktion eines religiösen Missionars, sondern eher als die Stimme einer alten fernöstlichen Weisheitslehre im interkulturellen Dialog mit der modernen Welt.
Foto: Elvira Bell

Stundenlang hatten Hunderte vor Freude strahlende Menschen, unter anderem viele traditionell gewandte Nonnen und Mönche aus aller Welt, Seine Heiligkeit in der Vordereifelgemeinde erwartet.
Seit der Gründung des Instituts für buddhistische Studien im Jahre 1981 wartete man darauf, das Oberhaupt im Zentrum begrüßen zu dürfen. Der Karmapa wird nach dem Dalai Lama und dem Panchen Lama als bedeutendster Vertreter des tibetischen Buddhismus verehrt und als eine vielversprechende Hoffnung für das Überleben des tibetischen Buddhismus und seiner Kultur angesehen. Nachdem die ursprünglich für 2010 geplante Reise wegen Visaproblemen abgesagt wurde, war es nun endlich soweit. Banner, der geheimnisvolle Klang der Muschelhörner und Rauchwerk hießen den 29-Jährigen bei seiner ersten Europareise in der beschaulichen Gemeinde willkommen.
Beim Gang vom Eifeldom bis hin zum Eifelkloster - unter dem traditionellen Schirm - wurde Karmapa, der als spiritueller Meister eine neue Generation vertritt und durch sein Charisma und seine Offenheit fasziniert, von vielen Gläubigen begrüßt. Trotz der vielen Sicherheitskräfte gelang es dabei etlichen Menschen, ihn kurz zu berühren.
"Seine Heiligkeit zu treffen, das ist für mich das Allergrößte", erzählt Karma Sherab Choedron. "Es ist ein unvergesslicher Tag. Der größte Traum meines Lebens ist in Erfüllung gegangen. Und es wird auch mein letzter sein." Die in Langenfeld lebende 70-Jährige stand - wie viele andere Nonnen und Mönche - mit einem Freiheitsbanner am Straßenrand. Überbordende Freude spürte auch Schwester Tenzin Dapel. Die 34-jährige Schweizerin lebt seit einigen Jahren in einem indischen Kloster. Mit Mehl hatten tibetische Mönche insgesamt acht große Glückssymbole auf den Weg gezeichnet, den der Karmapa mit seinen Begleitern zu seinen persönlichen Räumen im Institut ging.
Die eigentliche Willkommenszeremonie für den hohen Würdenträger fand im Anschluss im Kamalashila-Institut statt. Zum ersten Mal bestieg Seine Heiligkeit seinen Thron im Gebetsschrein des Klosters. Ausgesuchte Persönlichkeiten, unter ihnen Tobias Röder, der Geschäftsführer des Kamalashila-Instituts, und Horst-Günter Rauprich, der Erste Vorsitzende der Karma-Kagyü Gemeinschaft Deutschland, brachten dem geistigen Oberhaupt des Karma-Kagyü-Ordens des Tibetischen Buddhismus ein großes, schönes Mandala dar und reichten ihm die traditionellen symbolischen Opferungen für Körper, Rede und Geist.
Im Anschluss wurde allen Anwesenden Tee und Reis gereicht. Zu Beginn der Zeremonie hatte Horst-Günter Rauprich das Kamalashila-Institut vorgestellt, das zunächst 18 Jahre lang in Schloss Wachendorf bei Euskirchen beheimatet war, ehe es am 12. August 1999 in Langenfeld feierlich eröffnet wurde.
In tibetischer und in englischer Sprache sprach Seine Heiligkeit dann zu den Gläubigen. Seit seinem siebten Lebensjahr sei er immer wieder gebeten worden, nach Europa zu kommen. "Jetzt ist es endlich wahr geworden. Ich bin sehr erfreut, hier zu sein." Am kommenden Sonntag, 1. Juni, wird der junge Lama mit den Bürgern von Langenfeld zusammentreffen und einen Vortrag über "Weisheit und Mitgefühl - die gemeinsame Grundlage aller Religionen" halten. Das Leitthema seiner insgesamt zweiwöchigen Tour durch Deutschland lautet: "Die Zukunft beginnt jetzt!"
Um die Knappheit an Plätzen in der Eifel - alle Veranstaltungen waren innerhalb von drei Stunden ausverkauft - zu kompensieren, wurde das Programm für die Belehrungen Seiner Heiligkeit in Berlin erweitert.

Dewachen (Sukhavati) Prayer Chanted by the 17th Karmapa

ÉMAHO! Wondrous Buddha of Boundless Light,

On your right, the Lord of Great Compassion,

And on your left, the Bodhisattva of Great Power,

All are surrounded by countless buddhas and bodhisattvas.

There is wonderful, immeasurable happiness and joy

In this realm called Sukhavati.

The moment I pass from this life,

Without taking another birth,

May I be born there and behold the face of Amitabha.

Having made this aspiration,

May all the buddhas and bodhisattvas of  the ten directions

Give their blessing that it be fulfilled without hindrances.


Victors and your children of the ten directions and three times, think of me.

I rejoice in the completion of the two accumulations.

All the virtue I have gathered throughout the three times, 

I offer to the Three Jewels.

May the teachings of the Victorious Ones flourish.

I dedicate virtue to all sentient beings.

May they all attain buddhahood.

May all roots of virtue, collected into one,

Ripen in my mental continuum.

May the two obscurations be purified and the accumulations be perfected.

May there be long life, no illness, and deepening experience and realization.

May I traverse the ten bodhisattva levels in this life.

At the moment of passing from this life,

May I immediately be born in Sukhavati.

Once born there, may the lotus open,

And may I attain buddhahood with that body.

Having attained awakening,

May I forever guide beings with emanations.

The heart of Dharma practice: the three trainings

Nuerburgring, 30th May, 2014
Teaching Day 2: Session 2
Having contemplated the four thoughts that turn the mind to Dharma, and having understood the purpose of Dharma practice, how should one practise Dharma? His Holiness addressed this issue by giving a short explanation of each of the three trainings in ethical conduct, meditation, and wisdom. “All of Dharma practice is contained in these three,” he said.
The first training is in conduct. Human beings, unlike most other sentient beings, have moral discernment: we can distinguish between what to do and what not to do. But we often make mistakes because we are too short-sighted; we focus on temporary benefits and do not consider the long term.
The 17th Karmapa is well-known for his concern for the environment and his appeal for a world with less greed and more compassion. As an illustration of focusing on temporary benefits, he spoke of how, in order to gain short-term comforts for themselves, humans have created long-term effects which are causing great harm to other living beings and the environment. His Holiness stressed that we should never exploit the world we live in for the purpose of short-term benefits. He suggested that too many people regard the earth as an object that they can use as they like, and ultimately all her resources will be exhausted. But the earth provides for all our needs and gives us life.
“Rather than considering the Earth as a material thing, we should consider it as a mother who nurtures us;from generation to generation we need this loving mother,” he urged.
In addition, because of our self-centred attitude, we commit grave errors. On an individual level, we sometimes do things which cause harm to many others in order to ensure our own comfort. On a larger scale, one country might destroy the peace and happiness of other countries solely for its own benefit. Similar actions can be directed against different ethnic groups or different religions. Returning to an environmental theme, His Holiness gave a further example of our selfishness, reminding everyone of the cruelty and disregard with which humans treat defenceless wildlife. We destroy their habitats, dispossess them, and even kill them for our own benefit. In summary:
“Right conduct means that when we understand what is best in the long-term for ourselves and for others, this becomes the motivation for our actions.”
The second training is in meditation. One of the reasons many Dharma practitioners do not make as much progress as quickly as they expect is because they have not developed good meditation skills in both calm-abiding and analytical meditation. Shamatha [calm abiding meditation] shouldmake our minds clear, sharp, and focussed. The Karmapa observed that, ironically the 21st century is both the best and the worst of times to practice shamatha meditation. It is extremely difficult because we have to live alongside so many distractions –computers, smart phones, entertainment and so on.
On the other hand, the 21st century could be the right time, because faced with the high degree of stress created by our frenetic lives, we realise the need to calm the mind and develop inner peace. The Mahamudra tradition of shamatha is particularly beneficial because it can be practised anywhere and everywhere in all the activities of everyday life. We can practise it sitting, walking, or while we are working.

Many people find it difficult to meditate. The 3rdKarmpapa Rangjung Dorje was once asked whether there was a method by which one could become enlightened without any meditation. His answer was, “Yes there is, but it will not be of benefit to you, because you will try to meditate on it.”
“We all understand why the human mind is sometimes called ‘monkey mind”’, the Karmapa pointed out. So what causes obstacles when we try to meditate? Is it too difficult for us? “No”, His Holiness replied, “It’s because it’s too easy.” We are accustomed to thinking and analysing everything. We are so used to always being active and keeping busy, it is very difficult to know how to rest in the natural state.
Although there are many different ways to practice shamatha, many masters prefer the technique of focussing on the breath, because breathing is both natural and unintentional. We have no choice but to do it, so we are not doing anything new, merely focussing on something which exists already—we just have to be aware
Sometimes we have problems focussing on one thing because other thoughts arise. We may try to suppress them, but thoughts will keep on coming, so we should just let them be, and stay aware of the flow of thoughts.
In general, shamatha should be practised first, followed by vipasshyana. But in the practice of Mahamudra there is a union of the two. The classical Buddhist texts give instructions on how to measure the level but it is better to just give practical advice on how to practice this union.
For example, if a thought or emotion such as anger arises, there’s no need to suppress it or stop it, nor do we have to hang on to that thought; rather, we should just be aware of the thought. There’s no need to analyse or examine its nature— just look at it.
When a negative emotion arises, if you just let it be, it will disappear because it is not supported by the truth, like a liar who eventually loses credibility.
“When a negative emotion arises, there’s no need to be afraid or nervous, just look at that situation, regard that negative emotion as being like a person who tells lies. There’s no truth behind it,” he explained in English.
Then the negative emotion will lose its power, though this technique may not completely uproot the negative emotions. It is viewed as the union of the two forms of meditation, shamatha and vipasshyana, because your mind is peaceful but you are aware of the emotions and thoughts arising. Thus you recognise the nature of your mind.
The fourth training is in sherab or wisdom. This is the method by which we are able to uproot the negative emotions and understand the nature of reality.Sherab—the wisdom which perceives the true nature of reality—is more than a philosophical or intellectual understanding. You experience directly the way things are. In order to develop this wisdom, we need to cultivate solitude; this is especially important for beginners. True solitude requires the outer condition of few distractions and the inner condition of a calm mind. These two conditions have to come together through the blessing of the teacher and the devotion of the student.
In the Vajrayana, students sometimes feel frightened of the Lama, but this is another misunderstanding. We should regard the teacher as our spiritual friend, someone who is a hundred percent trustworthy, a good friend, who will show us the right direction and benefit us long term.
Traditionally, a student would spend most of the time with the teacher, and would never be far away. They would meet every day perhaps for discussion or for the student to give feedback to the lama. This frequent interaction between student and teacher would engender an exceptionally close relationship, so that the teacher could become a part of the student’s heart and mind.
These days, however, more often ,the teacher sits on the throne giving instructions and empowerments, and that closeness has been lost. The teacher may be somewhere in Asia and the student in Europe. Sometimes, though, despite this physical distance, there can be inner closeness. Conversely, if student and teacher stay together that does not guarantee closeness; there can be inner distance.
Finally, the Karmapa gave the reading transmission of the short ngondro practice the Mahamudra preliminaries that he had composed, so that people could begin that practice if they wished.
He explained how this version of the ngondro had arisen out of necessity, and that it was suitable for busy people in the West, who might not have time to read long sadhanas. He himself always encourages people to complete the longer traditional one whenever possible.
“So don’t do it just because it’s composed by me,” he concluded.

2014.5.30 法王噶瑪巴2014年歐洲弘法行:大手印禪修 Mahamudra Teaching

Karmapa’s heart advice on Dharma practice

Teaching Day 2

30th May, 2014. Morning Session 1.
Nuerburgring, Germany.

In the first of two sessions this morning, the 17th Karmapa clarified what it means to really practice Dharma.

First he dealt with some misconceptions. Many people have mistaken expectations about Tibetan Buddhism. They believe that Tibetan Buddhist practices have magical properties or miraculous powers that can solve all problems; if you’re ill, a Lama or prayers will heal you; if you have economic problems you will become rich. Though some advanced practitioners may be able to cure illness and help others, His Holiness warned that this is very unusual. The practice of Dharma is not intended to solve such problems. “The practice of Dharma is there to solve the most fundamental problems in life,” he explained. What are these problems? However healthy we are, however successful or rich, there is no guarantee that we will be happy. We all experience mental suffering, agitation, and negative emotions. How then can we ever find peace of mind and happiness? The answer is that we can only become truly happy by transforming our minds: “The main purpose of Dharma practice is to train and transform your mind. Other things are incidental, not the main focus.”

A second misconception is that we have to give up a normal way of life to become a Dharma practitioner. On the contrary, Dharma practitioners need to integrate Dharma practice into every aspect of their lives, and use everyday activities as a way of practising Dharma.

A third misconception is that because we are Dharma practitioners, we should be perfect. We shouldn’t be short-tempered. We shouldn’t be jealous. We shouldn’t have too much attachment, and so forth. This leads some people to suppress these emotions, and, because they feel ashamed by them, they pretend not to have them. His Holiness advised that suppressing these negative emotions is of no help whatsoever, as we have avoided dealing with them directly. If we continue in this way, there is the danger that we may even begin to suffer from mental problems or a point will come when we can’t control the emotions any longer and they burst out in a very destructive way.

His Holiness assured everyone that it was a mistake to believe that negative emotions are “not allowed” because you are a Dharma practitioner. On the other hand, as a Dharma practitioner, you should not feel free to give them full rein either. What a Dharma practitioner should do is work with these negative emotions slowly, step by step, and learn how to control them, and, thus, eventually be rid of them. Speaking in English, from his own experiences of negative emotions, the Karmapa said: “Because I’m the Karmapa, people in their mind think I’m like the Buddha or like a god—no emotion. If I show anger they are shocked or they think I’m just playing. Sometimes, I’m really angry and they think, ‘How can the Karmapa be angry?’

He continued: “The day we become Dharma practitioners we don’t become a nice person. Working with emotions such as anger or hatred takes a long time, perhaps five or six years of inner dialogue with our negative emotions.”

Sometimes we fail to recognise negative emotions. However, by carefully observing our minds, we can familiarise ourselves with them. If we do this, we will not have to force the negative emotions into submission, they will diminish naturally.

His Holiness provided a story to illustrate this: Once upon a time there was a couple, who lived with their in-laws. The young wife had a very difficult relationship with her mother-in-law. The wife loved her husband and didn’t want to hurt him, but the situation with the mother-in-law was intolerable. So, in the end she decided that her only way out was to kill her mother-in-law.

She went to a doctor who gave her a medicine that he said would kill the mother-in-law slowly. It would take about a year. The doctor advised the wife that she should add the medicine daily to her mother-in-law’s food, but, when she was offering the poisoned food, she should always pretend to be kind and respectful.

The wife followed the doctor’s instructions. However, as time went on, she found that her relationship with her mother-in-law had changed, and they had become much closer. Now the wife no longer wanted to kill her mother-in-law, but she was fearful that the effects of the poison she had been administering might be irreversible. Frantically, she consulted the doctor. How could she undo the work of the poison?

The doctor reassured her. He had not prescribed poison at all. His intention from the beginning had been to heal the relationship.

We should deal with our negative emotions in a similar way and learn to understand our mind.

more pics on flickr

2014.5.30 法王噶瑪巴2014年歐洲弘法行:大手印禪修 Mahamudra Teaching  

The Empowerment of the Eighty-Four Mahasiddhas

Teaching Day 2

30th May, 2014.
Nuerburgring, Germany.

On the morning of the 30th, a double-tiered shrine was set up next to the Karmapa’s throne. On the top level, the central focus was the image of a deep blue Vajradhara (Dorje chang), surrounded by the powerful eighty-four mahasiddhas. It is flanked by two vases with their curving spouts and peacock feathers. In front of Vajradhara is placed a metal mandala plate with heaped rice and next to it, a glistening long life vase. On the level below are the seven traditional offering bowls, one of which has a tall sculpted torma, an offering of nourishment, which is decorated with two circular flower ornaments in red and blue. All these blessed objects on the shrine are the basis for a vast mental offering that fills space.

This empowerment of the eighty-four mahasiddhas is the first one the Karmapa will give in Europe. The siddha, or accomplished masters’ tradition, is a lay one that includes both men and women. They were the great meditators of India, whose lineage comes into the Kagyu school through Tilopa, who some say is the greatest of all the siddhas and who met Vajradhara directly.

During the morning talk, the Karmapa shared memories from his life in Tibet:”Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche came twice to Tibet for short visits to give me empowerments, reading transmissions,and instructions, but of course, they couldn’t give me all of them. So when people asked for empowerments, I only had a couple to give, and I was always repeating these, as I had not been able to receive others. I was not feeling good about this. Having only two to give was a bit embarrassing. Then I was a bit of a child with a child’s mind. And my attendants were always pressing me to give bigger and more empowerments, so before I left Tibet, I gave this big empowerment of the Eighty-Four Mahasiddhas two times.I felt really good about it. This was not just the empowerment of one mahasiddha, but eighty-four.”

The Karmapa spoke of how he first received this empowerment. Before he was recognised as the Karmapa, his family took him to see Situ Rinpoche at his main seat, Palpung Monastery.The Karmapa recalled, “It’s far from my home town, but we went there for a reason. My father thought I was a special person. He told me that when I was born auspicious things happened. But we didn’t know which tulku I might be. We didn’t believe it was the Karmapa, he was too high. So my father brought me to see Situ Rinpoche and to find out if I was a special tulku.

“At that time, Situ Rinpoche gave many big empowerments, including this one. I was sitting together with other monks. I was five, maybe six years old and a bit naughty. I didn’t visualise anything, but was going here and there. I don’t think I really received the empowerment, but I was a bit puffed up, thinking I had. Before I left Tibet, I gave this initiation two times, and today is the next time after that. The empowerment has all four levels, but we will do only the first one.”

After lunch, the monks placed an intricately carved wooden screen in front of the shrine. About an hour before the empowerment, the Karmapa came to sit behind it and perform the preparatory practices. An audience of some fifteen hundred chanted Karmapa Khyenno, and from time to time, the sound of the Karmapa’s bell could be heard clearly ringing through the sonorous field the chanting created.

Having finished his preparations, the Karmapa walked back to the throne and took his seat. He gazed down for a moment, pausing, and then looked out to the audience and began to chant the text in a resonant, powerful voice: “So that all living beings may be freed of suffering and come to the level of Vajradhara….” After a few minutes he paused to explain that there are two levels of empowerments, the preparatory and the actual. Today, he would give the vase empowerment, which is the initial level.

But first, he had promised to give the refuge vows, so he started with a pithy explanation of their meaning. If we are slightly sick, we can try to cure ourselves, but if we have a serious illness, then we have to see a specialist and find a top hospital with excellent nurses and everything needed for our care. If we can do all this, the chances of our healing are greater. The situation is similar to the suffering of samsara. If we wish to be free of this illness, we must rely on the doctor of the Three Jewels and take the medicine of the Dharma. The real meaning of taking refuge, therefore, is to practice, to make use of the Dharma. We make a commitment to do this and promise to keep it.

The Karmapa then turned to the empowerment and explained that this would be a blessing one. He donned the bright red pandita hat with its curving peak and thin gold stripes, and received the mandala offering and the representations of body, speech, and mind from Chime Rinpoche.Stopping for a moment during the empowerment, the Karmapa spoke briefly of the eighty-four mahasiddhas. “Actually,”he said, “there are more than eighty-four mahasiddhas. These highly accomplished masters, both men and women,can be found in India, Tibet, and even in Europe where they may remain unknown. This special group of eighty-four gathered at a ganachakra, or Dharma feast, maybe something like a party, during which they all received the full blessing of their teacher.”

The blessing empowerment ended with a mandala offering of thanksgiving and the dedication of merit for the sake of all living beings. To complete the empowerment, the Karmapa took his place again at the shrine behind the screen, while light filtered through its filigree panels to cast patterns on his robes, making them float as if coming in from another world.

more pics on flickr

2014.5.30 八十四大成就者灌頂 The Empowerment of the Eighty-Four Mahasiddhas



The Way of Guru Yoga

The Afternoon of May 29th, 2014
At the beginning, the Karmapa recited prayers to the root lama and then made a beautiful, long, deep bow in a movement of profound devotion and respect. This gesture embodied the entire teaching, communicating it with a power and elegance beyond words.
In this prelude, the Karmapa reprised the theme of the preliminary practices. The topic for the morning talks was the common preliminaries, which belong to the sutra tradition; the uncommon preliminaries belong to the path of the secret mantrayana (or vajrayana). They number four—refuge and bodhicitta, Vajrasattva, mandala offering, and guru yoga—and this fourth practice would be the focus of the talk today.
Providing some background, the Karmapa explained that the teachings of the Buddha came to Tibet from India beginning in the seventh and eighth centuries. The vehicle of secret mantra took root in Tibet as well as two others, the great vehicle and the vehicles of the hearers and the solitary realizers. This meant that all three vehicles (yanas) were complete in Tibet.
Further, the Dharma came from India in two main waves, known as the earlier and later spreading of the Dharma. The Kagyu teachings belong to the second wave. All of these later schools shared a common focus on the vajrayana with its emphasis on guru yoga.  Here, the relationship of teacher and student is crucial, and it was due to this that the uniquely Tibetan system of reincarnate lamas (tulkus) developed beginning with the Karmapa. He did not want to give up the profound and intimate connection with his students when he died, and so he took in order to continue teaching them. The system of recognizing tulkus started with the 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, who was recognized as a reincarnation of the 2nd Karmapa, Karma Pakshi.
The Karmapa noted that many of the people in the audience had met the 16th Karmapa and listened to his teachings, and that through a strong karmic relationship, he had received the name of the Karmapa. It had now become his responsibility to look after the centers and students of the Karma Kagyu lineage.  This shows the deep and continuous relationship between teacher and student that cannot be interrupted by death.
The Karmapa emphasized that the relationship between a teacher and student is not just a physical one; it’s an inner, profound connection that relates to this world and also beyond. It is through the lama’s compassionate caring and the student’s devotion that a link is created between them. Among the different kinds of affection, the lama’s affection for a student is a special one. A lama understands the suffering of others and wishes to free them from their more obvious problems that cause pain and suffering. But their affection does not stop here. True teachers want their students to go to the root causes of their suffering—the afflictions and ignorance—and uproot them completely. Students should be aware of this and know that when they are receiving instructions, a teacher is focusing purely on how to eliminate the very basis of their suffering.
From the side of the student, devotion to the lama is paramount. Mögu, the word for devotion in Tibetan, has the two meanings of longing and respect. The disciples see the inspiring qualities of the lama that steal their heart away, and they long to have these qualities, too.  Further, these are not physical but inner qualities, such as compassion, wisdom, and kindness. Through deeply appreciating these, a real respect—not just an outer show—naturally arises within the student and practice can become continuous.
To summarize, in the Kagyu lineage, a lama first trains in wisdom and compassion to develop the qualities of a teacher in themselves. The student practices in order to inherit these, receiving the teacher’s kindness and the blessing of the lineage.  That is the key point of the relationship between a teacher and a student.
This transmission of the lineage is ineffable: it’s nothing you can see, but still it’s there, like the protection good parents give their children, which is also a kind of blessing; the children feel it, but can’t put a finger on it. In a similar way, when our mind is unsettled and full of concepts, we might meet a fine lama and simply through being together for a little while, our disturbances would subside. I myself have this experience when I go to see my teachers, such as the Dalai Lama.  We should learn to do this for ourselves by practicing step by step and developing progressively the qualities of the lama. This is how blessings work: they are not material, not something that is handed over quickly like an object, but they arise from a gradual process of coming to embody the qualities of the lama. This is the true blessing.

2014.5.29 Karmapa in Germany

Interdependence and responsibility

Teaching Day 1

29th May, 2014. Morning Session 2.
Nuerburgring, Germany.

After a short break, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa continued his teaching on the four thoughts that turn the mind to Dharma. He began by discussing the dangers of being self-centred and of misunderstanding the true nature of self.
Because we lack courage and confidence or because we are trapped in the prison of our own self-centredness, we ignore opportunities to make our life meaningful and to fulfil our human potential.
When reflecting on his own experience, he had reached the conclusion that at those times when we feel stressed by our responsibilities or under pressure, the root cause is that we do not have sufficient compassion. Thus, we need to develop our love and compassion in order to release this power to benefit others.
This focus on ourselves is based on a misapprehension of what the ‘self’ and ‘I’ really are. Although there is, of course, a sense of self, if we reflect, we understand that the self is dependent on many things, whereas we mistakenly perceive it as independent. Just as the different parts of our body depend on other parts, we cannot survive without the environment around us or the support of other people and living things. Interdependence is far more than a philosophical view. A realisation of our interdependence has to become a basis for action. It has to become a way of life. Understanding interdependence will not just affect our relationship with other people, but will affect our relationship with the whole living world. Also, when we understand interdependence we realise our duty and responsibility to protect the environment.
The second contemplation on death and impermanence is a message of hope for everyone, he asserted. There is no need to dwell only on the death aspect. Everything changes, moment by moment. Nothing stays the same. But instead of seeing this as a loss or being fearful of it, we should regard it as a potential for limitless opportunities. None of us needs to be trapped by the past. If we have done a great wrong, we can change. Whatever was done to us, we can leave it behind and move on: “If we meditate on impermanence, we can see that every moment there is an opportunity to start again.”
If we understand impermanence and the moment-by-moment nature of our own existence, we can cherish each moment of our lives and use them to the full. Even a person with only five minutes left to live can use those five minutes effectively to become a better person and make their lives meaningful. The message of this contemplation is: While we are alive, it is never too late to change.
Moving on to the third topic, His Holiness commented, that the idea of karma may often seem very complex and difficult. However, he gave a simple analogy which everyone could appreciate. Referring to his first impressions of Germany, how green and healthy the trees were, he explained that when we see those trees, “we know that they are being cared for. We don’t need to be told this. We know what kind of people live in the area. That’s how karma is.”
Whatever we do, we need to do with a good motivation. We need to assume responsibility and take action. That is karma.
And karma is linked to interdependence. “One individual’s small aspiration can affect the whole world,” he said. Mistakenly, people often regard the Buddha as superhuman. We underestimate the power we each have, the innate potential to become a Buddha.
We all have an inner Buddha. “Our Buddha is like a child, it hasn’t grown sufficiently, so we need to nurture it.” This is our great responsibility.
Finally, the Karmapa used the fourth topic, the faults of samsara, to highlight several of his concerns about life in the developed world. These include the dangers of consumerism and unchecked greed and their devastating effects on the environment.
Although everyone knows that they want to be happy and don’t want to suffer, they don’t know how to achieve this, he said. We are often confused, thinking that something will lead to happiness when in fact it leads to suffering. We believe wrongly that the enjoyment of luxuries and sensual pleasure will lead to happiness. But this will always be impossible because eventually we become dissatisfied and want more and more.
This thoughtless chasing after our own material benefit has led us to be totally oblivious of the needs of the other creatures with whom we share this planet.
The world’s resources are limited, but our desire and greed know no bounds. So, because of this mismatch, we are heading towards environmental disaster. The Earth itself has been like a mother to us, providing us with all our needs: she is the source of life and well-being. But in our reckless race to exploit all her resources, we have totally disregarded her and are on course to destroy her. If she is to survive, we cannot continue to live as we do. When we realise this, we have to take action. We cannot stand by and do nothing.
Everyone has to take responsibility for what is happening to the environment. As individuals we have to make radical changes in our lifestyles, choose to live more simply, and be content with less.

2014.5.29 法王噶瑪巴2014年歐洲弘法行:「四加行」Nürburgring Teaching Day 1

Interpreting the Buddha Dharma for the 21st century

Teaching Day 1

29th May, 2014. Morning Session 1.
Nuerburgring, Germany.

The mission of the 17th Karmapa in the 21st century is mainly Dharma activity. However, the Dharma must change in order to suit the time and the needs of society and its people. Its essence will still be Buddha Dharma but I may give it a new external shape.
17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje

His Holiness The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, began his first ever European teaching programme with a skilful presentation of a classic Buddhist contemplation, the four thoughts that turn the mind to Dharma. In an address which acknowledged the wide range of interest and experience in the audience of 2000 people, he rewove the ancient philosophy of Tibetan Buddhism in a way which was meaningful and accessible to all.
It was an amazing and moving moment for the Buddhist practitioners present, many of whom could hardly believe that finally their teacher was here in Europe. A feeling, it seemed, that was shared by His Holiness who began his talk by saying how long he had waited for this moment:
“It feels that it’s one of the most meaningful things I have done in my life. It’s like coming home to my family. This gives me great pleasure and happiness.”
The three days of teachings and empowerments are being held at the Bitburger Event-Center. Within this vast concrete and steel auditorium, the stage itself is set as a simple but stunning Pan-Asian fusion. Designed to represent a pagoda, the two lower tiers in blue depict the sea and the sky, whereas the uppermost tier, where His Holiness sits on a carved wooden throne, is red to symbolise sacred ground. The blue backdrop and lighting effects portray the translucent quality of light at the North and South poles, the purest places on earth. The eye is naturally drawn to a large thangka of Lord Buddha which hangs from one of the gantries behind His Holiness’ throne. It is painted in the colours and style of theKarma Gadri school of Tibetan Art, developed by the Karmapas, and depicts the moment, shortly after his enlightenment, when Shakyamuni Buddha asked the earth to be his witness. On either side of the stage stands a large white vase of traditional Japaneseikebana [flower arrangement] in a special style known as rikka. The lines and images of deep red peonies, multi-coloured birds of paradise, stark branches and greenery combine to symbolise the whole world of living things.
During the first two sessions, the 17th Karmapa provided a fresh and thought-provoking look at the four thoughts that turn the mind to Dharma, otherwise called the four common preliminaries: this precious human life; death and impermanence; karma: cause and effect; and the defects of samara.
Earlier this month, in another teaching, he emphasised the importance for Buddhist practitioners at all levels of thoroughly contemplating these four in order to “turn the direction of our minds”, warning that “If we do not effect some sort of change in our mind streams and how we think, no matter how much we do the main practice, it will not benefit us. It will not become an antidote for the afflictions; in fact it might even increase the afflictions.”
Contemplating these four is essential “in order to mix the mind with Dharma”.
Today, however, he presented them as a tool which could be used by anybody who wanted to make their lives meaningful, of benefit to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. He spoke frankly about his own experiences and encouraged people to assume responsibility for themselves, for others, and for the environment.
Beginning with the contemplation on this precious human life, His Holiness explained that traditionally, a precious human life is one which is useful, full of opportunities, and has few obstacles to the practice of Dharma. Dharma, however, should be understood in a context far wider than religion; the practice of Dharma is about fulfilling our human potential.
A precious human life, therefore, is one which is meaningful; a life in which we can develop our innate positive qualities and act in a way which is beneficial both to ourselves and to others. It is a life in which we can become more compassionate and practise non-violence.
All human beings have some positive, innate qualities, such as loving kindness and compassion, and we have to develop these. It’s not that you have to become someone completely different; you need to bring out the natural qualities within you. That’s Dharma practice. We practise the Dharma within our normal everyday lives. To practise Dharma means to become a better human being.
From experience he recounted how he was no different from other people and had had to work hard to develop his own positive qualitiesin order to fulfil his role as the Karmapa.
In my case, I was just like any other child, a normal child. Then at seven, when I was given the name Karmapa, it was not like I was given an injection or an elixir, I had to study and practise. People came to see me with expectations, and they put their trust in me.Slowly I understood the duties and responsibilities attached to the title.
All human beings have such duties and responsibilities, he argued, for their own welfare, and for the welfare of their families and friends, even for the whole world. We need the courage to assume these duties and responsibilities and to work to accomplish the full potential of this precious human life.

2014.5.29 法王噶瑪巴2014年歐洲弘法行:「四加行」Nürburgring Teaching Day 1