Gyalwang Karmapa Visits Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo’s Drukpa Kagyu Nunnery

30th Sept, 2014. Dongyu Gatsel Ling Nunnery.
His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje arrived today at Dongyu Gatsal Ling, a Drukpa Kagyu nunnery founded by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo and under the spiritual guidance of His Eminence the 9th Khamtrul Rinpoche, Shedrup Nyima. This marks the Gyalwang Karmapa’s first visit to the nunnery, where he will spend two days conferring teachings and initiation, visiting the three-year retreat centre and generally encouraging and expressing his support for the nuns.
As the Karmapa arrived by road in the morning, monastic, yogic and lay members of the Khampagar community at nearby Tashi Jong lined the roads to welcome him. His Holiness was formally received at the nunnery, to the joyful sound of long horns with a ceremonial procession according to the Drukpa Kagyu tradition, with the addition of five young nuns dressed as dakinis.
As an auspicious beginning to the visit, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, the 8th Dorzong Rinpoche and Togden Chokyi Lodro—the senior Togden yogi of the Khampagar community—offered a long-life puja (tenshug) to the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, accompanied by 16 arhats offering prayers.
His Holiness spent the remainder of the morning visiting the nuns in the nunnery’s long-retreat center, where five aspiring togdenmas are now in their sixth year of solitary retreat. Escorted into the retreat center by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, the Gyalwang Karmapa gave private teachings on Mahamudra to the five retreatants. He then met individually with the five aspiring togdenmas one-by-one, to offer encouragement and personal instructions. He then blessed each of their retreat cells individually, and departed for a brief tour of the remainder of the nunnery, where he blessed the various shrine rooms and library.
The day’s activities resumed after a short break for lunch, as the entire nuns’ community of Dongyu Gatsal Ling was joined by the lamas and monks of the Khampagar Tashi Jong monastery and study institute (shedra) for a special practice session devoted to creating conditions for the nuns’ sangha to flourish. In an assembly led by the Karmapa, the monks and nuns together performed a practice text composed by the Gyalwang Karmapa himself for the flourishing of the nuns’ sangha. The Gyalwang Karmapa compiled the ritual drawing on texts connected to Mahaprajapati Gautami, the first woman to request and receive ordination from the Buddha. Mahaprajapati Gautami’s petition for monastic vows was supported by the intervention of Ananda, the Buddha’s attendant. Accordingly, the practice includes supplications to Ananda, based on a text by Nagarjuna in which Ananda is described as indivisible from Avalokitesvara.
Upon the conclusion of this group practice, two nuns stood before the assembly and delivered formal speeches of praise and welcome to the Gyalwang Karmapa, which they had recited from memory. A succession of nuns then engaged in lively debate of philosophical topics, providing a visible display of the eloquence and confidence that is one fruit of the training they receive in the nunnery.
The activities then shifted outdoors, as the courtyard of the nunnery filled with spectators for a series of sacred dances. The 8th Dorzong Rinpoche, Togden Chokyi Lodro, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo and Nupgon Chogyal Rinpoche accompanied His Holiness the Karmapa to view the nuns performing three sacred dances: the dance of the five classes of dakinis, the sacred dance of 16 female deities and a final dance of auspiciousness.
The days’ activities closed with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo leading the Gyalwang Karmapa on a tour of the main shrine hall, where every available space is painted with sacred art. The hall’s artistic programme, designed by Lama Lodro and executed by artists from Bhutan, features an intense female presence. The walls are populated with images of female deities—including all 21 Taras—female protectors, the female disciples of Milarepa, and the bhikshunis who were direct disciples of the Buddha. As he walked through the hall slowly, His Holiness—who has read extensively about the history of the early nuns’ community—commented on the various nuns depicted on the walls of the shrine room before concluding the first day’s activities.
The events of the second day include teachings and initiation and will be webcast live, with translation into English, Spanish and Chinese.

2014.9.30 法王噶瑪巴造訪傑尊瑪天津巴摩的竹巴噶舉尼眾寺院 Gyalwang Karmapa Visits Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo’s Drukpa Kagyu Nunnery



Eye on border, China fanning intra-sect rivalry: Ladakh's Buddhist leader(Hindustantimes)

Prashant Jha, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, September 25, 2014
First Published: 18:37 IST(25/9/2014) | Last Updated: 18:57 IST(25/9/2014)

At a time when Chinese incursions in Ladakh has India’s security establishment worried, Gyalwang Drukpa, the honorific title of the top Buddhist leader of the Drukpa sect with followers in Ladakh and Tibet, has accused Beijing of fanning intra-sect rivalries and using the Karmapa-led sect to take over monasteries in the holy Mount Kailash area of Tibet. This, he claims, is being done with an eye on the border issue.

Speaking exclusively to HT, Gyalwang Drukpa - Jigme Pema Wangchen - said that 75-80 percent in Ladakh and over 95 percent in the Kailash area are Drukpa sect followers. “There are several Drukpa monasteries in the Kailash region, but followers of the Karma Kagyu school of Buddhism are taking over our sites. They are engaged in forceful conversion. God knows where they are getting the money – but we strongly suspect it is with the help of the Chinese government.” The Drukpa leader said the issue is larger. “I believe both the Indian and Chinese governments have to deal with this. We have a border issue right here, and Drukpas guard it. China is trying to increase its control over our sites.”
Their modus operandi, according to the Drukpa leader, involves coming to monasteries offering to help. “They then change the wall painting and monument in the name of restoration. They offer money and coerce. And now, they have even started kicking our practitioners.” Wangchen claims while this started 15 years ago, when they took over the Dri ra Phug monastery; it has escalated in the past year, and two months ago, they took over the Tirthapuri monastery.
The Karma Kagyu school is led by the Karmapa. But Wangchen is quick to avoid directly blaming the senior Tibetan spiritual leader. “They are using his name, but I don’t think he is responsible. But what we know is that certain high Lamas of the sect are involved.” Wangchen has urged the 17th Karmapa as recognized by the Dalai Lama, Ugyen Thinley Dorjee, to urge his followers to restrain and return sacred heritage.
The Karmapa’s media spokesperson, Kunzang Chunvyalp, strongly denied there was any attempt to ‘forcefully concert’, and told HT “His Holiness does not believe in conversion. He has a broad outlook, and there is no conversion plan. He believes in harmony and dialogue between all sects, and we all belong to the broad Buddhist tradition.”
Giving historical context, Chunvyalp said that in the late 70s, a high lama of their sect had visited the Kailash region and witnessed how four Drukpa monasteries had been desecrated. “He had then urged that these be restored because they are very sacred.” The Karmapa’s office added local communities and local authorities often act on their own, and to ascribe it to any larger plan would be inaccurate. Chunvyalp said they had no information about the Chinese role. “We can comment only on the religious element.”

The Karmapas: The Murmur of the Black Hats (LE MONDE DES RELIGIONS)

By Jean-Paul Ribes.

What could be going on in this seven-year-old boy’s head as, perched astride a white horse, he enters Tsurphu monastery in central Tibet under a shower of white scarves?
We are in June 1992, and the Karmapa has returned home after 33 years of exile. In his new incarnation at least. This boy, who was to don the title of the 17th Karmapa and be named Ogyen Trinley Dorje, was born in 1985 in a remote camp in the Kham province of eastern Tibet to a nomad family which raised yaks, sheep and goats. He was such a happy and adventurous child that his brothers and sisters called him Apo Gaga, “happy birth”.
Then one day, lamas paid a visit to the monastery where his parents had sent him to study along with his elder brother. Before his own death a decade earlier in New York, the 16th Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje, had left written indications regarding the one who would continue the line by assuming the title that means “victorious embodiment of enlightened activity”. This lineage has continued uninterrupted for the past nine centuries on the roof of the world.
Much has transpired since Düsum Khyenpa (1110-1193), “he who knows the three times”, had a dream in which he received a black crown woven by the Dakinis (celestial messengers) from their hair. Three centuries later, a devout and visionary emperor of China offered a silk replica to the 5th Karmapa. The wearer of this crown was called chanakpa or “black hat”, another name for the Karmapas.


The first Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa, traces his spiritual heritage to an ancient Buddha (Jina) with a blue body and a radiant face called Vajradhara (Dorje Chang in Tibetan), the “diamond holder”, who unites in himself limitless compassionate action (karuna) and wisdom (prajna).
Tradition has it that this Buddha appeared to the Indian yogi Tilopa and transmitted the “mahamudra” ritual, the great seal which, much later, would be at the heart of the Karma-Kagyu school. Tilopa transmitted the oral tradition to another yogi, Naropa, who in turn passed it on to a rough Tibetan peasant-mystic, Marpa. Marpa was so keen about his spiritual quest that he left his home several times to study at the feet of Indian masters. After receiving the knowledge from Naropa, Marpa returned to his farm to help “awaken” Milarepa, the cotton clad one, whose Hundred Thousand Songs embellishes world literature.
Milarepa’s chief disciple and spiritual successor was a young doctor from the Dagpo region who was called Gampopa after he founded a monastery on the flanks of Gampo mountain. It was he who would give shape to a spiritual order based on the oral (Tibetans say “murmured”) teachings, the rituals and most importantly, the compassionate action for the benefit of all beings: the Kagyupa tradition*.
To ensure the school’s continued existence, the first Karmapa decided to designate his own future rebirth, the body that would house his spirit (tulku, see box on page 52), by leaving precise, written indications that would help identify him. The reformers of the Kadampa (the Virtuous) and the Gelugpa schools adopted this method for choosing successors of the Dalai Lama as well as other major Lamas including the Panchen Lama.


Düsum Khyenpa’s first reincarnation, Karma Pakshi (1204-1283), had Kublai Khan, the future Emperor of China, as disciple. The relation was broken for a while when the Lama chose to support his elder brother Mongka. They reconciled when the all-conquering emperor came to the Lama and implored: “Master, remember me, pray for me, bless me.” Was he then the first to use the expression “Karmapa Chenno”, still used today by the Kagyu community?
The following three Karmapas were all close to Chinese emperors, without being submissive in the least. On the contrary, they were rather demanding, successfully obtaining pardons and commuting death sentences from their imperial students – Mongol emperors were not gentle with their Han subjects. All the Karmapas exhibited one distinguishing constant: the refusal of temporal power in spite of repeated offers from China. No doubt this explains why the link between spiritual master and sponsor disciple (Chö-yon) continued unbroken as long as the Ming and Qing dynasties retained the imperial throne.
By nature Karmapas shunned all conflict, always looking for a compromise. It is said that the 5th Karmapa, Dechin Chegpa (1384-1415), was so gentle that he could not reprimand his disciples as that might discourage them, he would appear in their dreams in order to complete his teachings. All lived in the greatest simplicity and accepted with equanimity both the honors and titles conferred on them by Peking and the reversals of fortune engineered by court intrigues. But it was not always so, and certain “regents” had the Karmapa accompany them, against their will and with Mongol intervention, on more or less warlike adventures, sometimes even against the new school which had come to power since 1635, represented by the Dalai Lama.
This rivalry, however violent, did not endure. The closest encounter took place when the itinerant camp of the 10th Karmapa, Chöying Dorje (1604-1674) was besieged by Güshi Khan, an ally of the 5th Dalai Lama. It is said that the Karmapa survived only by taking flight, literally, in the form of a bird. But the adventure had a happy end, with this magnificent scene of reconciliation found in the Namthar:
“He (the Karmapa) presented himself at the Potala and met the Great Fifth who solicitously enquired at length about his journeys and religious practices. As the Cheu-jé (Karmapa) was advanced in age and a little hard of hearing, the conversation took place via an intermediary. There followed a banquet and excellent gifts. Later, when he paid a visit to the Jowo, the most sacred Buddha statue in all of Tibet, there occurred innumerable visions. The Cheu-jé himself was seen in the form of Songtsen Gampo (a Tibetan king of the 7th century) in Jowo’s heart.”


Coming to our own times, this goodwill and mutual respect between the prelates – if not the disciples – is evident in the words of the 14th Dalai Lama in the course of the interview he granted us at Dharamsala on the occasion of the arrival of the 17th Karmapa after his perilous escape in early 2000: “As far as I am concerned, I had great regard for the 16th Karmapa. He used to come to Lhasa very often and I have transmitted to him many initiations, including that of Kalachakra despite the fact that he was my elder and we were both very young at the time. We were very close to each other and when I went to China on Mao’s invitation, he formed part of my entourage. I think he also accompanied me on one of my trips to India. When we returned from China, I sent representatives across all the provinces and schools to affirm our unity. He was also very close to my mother, who liked him very much.”
Is it then surprising that when the Chinese tried to cozy up to the present Karmapa in the hopes of turning him into a potential rival to the Dalai Lama, he immediately thought of fleeing? An anecdote reported to us should have given them a hint. When a Chinese high official asked the Karmapa, who was then barely 10 years old, to express a wish, he replied:
“Of what use, you will not be able to grant it.”
“Do you think there is anything that I cannot grant?” asked the high official.
“I want to meet the Dalai Lama.”

Legitimacy: towards the end of the controversy

The Tibetan community has found itself, for a time, divided by the controversy surrounding the Karmapa. In fact, while Orgyen Trinley Dorje was recognized as the 17th Karmapa in 1992 by several high dignitaries of the Karma-Kagyu school and even by the Dalai Lama himself, another young man, Trinley Thaye Dorje, was installed as the 17th Karmapa in 2003 by other dignitaries of the school and in particular, Shamar Rinpoche.
Will the latter’s sudden demise, on 11 June of this year, bring an end to the controversy, the rival candidacy he had set up, that cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 17th Karmapa? Some experts like the Tibetologue Thierry Dodin seem to think so. He writes: “His demise leaves a lacuna which his entourage will find hard to fill. His protégé, Trinley Thaye Dorje, whom he spent twenty years trying to win acceptance for as the true Karmapa, has not been able to project a strong personality or emerge from his mentor’s shadow. ”
Thaye Dorje, who is more often than not referred to as, to quote the words of the Dalai Lama, “Shamar Rinpoche’s candidate”, has himself declared publicly, in December 2012, that personally speaking, he would submit to the decision of the Tibetan government.
There now remain only a handful, mainly in the West, who continue to stoke a controversy that may soon resolve itself, allowing for the 17th Karmapa to rejoin his monastery at Rumtek in Sikkim, from which he is still barred by Indian authorities. The Indian authorities too seem less convinced by the smear campaign that projected Orgyen Trinley Dorje as a Chinese agent by pointing to the fact that he was the only one to be recognized by both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities.
This could, on the contrary, be a factor that bodes well for Tibetan Buddhism in the future.


1) What are the principal goals we must achieve in the 21st century?
If we are to leave future generations a home that they can thrive on, we must find a way to live in harmony with our planet, to live sustainably and responsibly. Climate change is already devastating the world we know – whether unleashing severe natural disasters on people and turning them into refugees, or destroying crops and ecological habitats all over the world. And yet, all the nations on this planet continue to use up even more fossil fuels than they have in the past despite feeling the consequences in this very moment.
It is not difficult to recognize that there is a causal relationship between the environmental crisis and the rampant consumerism that exists in our societies. Why is there such an unending appetite for things? We seem to have a deep-seated conviction that acquiring more material goods will make us happy. Even if our own logic and experiences tell us otherwise, everything around us – the advertisements, television shows and movies, magazines, social media and so on – urges us to ignore that evidence and continue our mindless behavior.
Therefore, a goal of ours must be to hit pause. We should pause and assess whether we really want to continue on this path. Do we want to keep measuring our success in life so heavily in terms of external goods? At this rate there really are not enough resources to go around, so if we do not pause and reassess, we will only continue to sow the seeds for violence, whether to the planet or amongst ourselves.
Although the earth’s resources have natural limits, our own greed has no natural boundaries, and so we must learn to limit our desire ourselves. We must do this not only to protect the planet but to find a way to share the earth’s bounty fairly among all living beings. A life based on pursuing things is fundamentally unsatisfying. As the Buddha said, chasing our desires is like drinking salty water. The more we drink, the thirstier we become. Therefore, I believe that where we find meaning in life as individuals and as society will need to change in the 21st-century. We need to pause, slow down and simplify.
2) What are the qualities we need to develop in order to achieve them?
I think compassion is a quality that can be of tremendous power in our efforts to address the environmental crisis, and to find deeper meaning in life. When we think of our efforts to protect the environment as a way of caring for all the beings that live on this planet, and of expressing our love and gratitude for all the earth has given us already, then our work for change can be rooted in compassionate caring for others. Compassion as a motivation is much more powerful and wholesome than fear or anger, and is much more able to last in the long term. It also brings more happiness in and of itself.
Another quality that I believe we must develop in order to achieve a more sustainable future is a sense of contentment. This is a powerful antidote in a society where advertising constantly tells us that we do not have enough. Contentment is the best form of wealth in that it gives us the highest satisfaction. We can gain it simply by learning to recognize and appreciate what we already have, including our own inner resources. We can cultivate the perspective that what we have is enough and that we want others to have enough too. A simple way to do this is to stop and reflect on how many long chains of causes and conditions needed to come together for us to simply be able to breathe. Something that is completely indispensable for our existence, that for our very lives we depend on having constantly available, and here it is available to us at every moment with no effort on our part. We can cultivate a sense of wonder and simply joy at the generosity of our planet and develop a conviction that other living beings, people and animals, should be able to share in this.
3) Since childhood you say you wanted to meet His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, risking your life, you went to India and now you have met him, what is your impression of His Holiness the Dalai Lama? What relationship do you have?
I feel an unwavering devotion for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Since the time I fled Tibet at the age of fourteen, he has been nothing but kind and caring to me. I feel utmost gratitude to him for taking the time out of his busy schedule to advise me over the last fifteen years. Without a doubt, my activities have been successful due to his support and his guidance. People often ask me whether as the Karmapa I experience any worries or tensions and if so, how do I address them. Of course I do. I like to tell them that just like them, I turn to my teachers for wisdom and in the case of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, his very presence dissolves my worries and uncertainties.
Sometimes I get asked the question in media interviews whether I will become the next Dalai Lama. This is always very strange since only the 15th Dalai Lama can be the next Dalai Lama. The Karmapas have never played a political role in the history of Tibet and I myself have no interest to become a political leader. However, as much as I can support His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s spiritual goals and activities, I will do so with all of my energy. Without his omniscience, we Tibetans would be totally lost.
Translation from French by Bettina Gazelle

Kindness and Love, a teaching by the Karmapa upon his visit to the Suja School.

25th Sept, 2014. TCV Suja School.
On the morning of September 24th, His Holiness and entourage travelled to the Tibetan Children’s Village at Suja, 57 kms from Gyuto Monastery, near the Tibetan Settlement of Bir. On the way, they stopped to greet community leaders and people who had gathered on the roadside to welcome His Holiness at both Tashi Jong and Sherab Ling. Upon arriving at the Suja TCV school, His Holiness was welcomed with deep respect by the school’s Director, and the children, teachers and many others who lined the road. That morning, the children performed for him the play of Milarepa.
After lunch, groups of students engaged with the “Tibet Our Country” program presented His Holiness with their projects about Tibetan culture. His Holiness later expressed his appreciation for the presentations.
The next day, at their request, His Holiness addressed the students and staff of the large community. He focused on the value of respect, kindness, and love. As he pointed out, all beings have the experiences of happiness and suffering, not just humans, so it is essential to respect all forms of life. Humans “are the most terrifying animal though, because their actions affect the entire planet and all its inhabitants, which is something that no big and powerful animal such as the tiger, leopard or elephant can do. What’s more, over and above our individual power of body, speech and mind, humans have the support of machines, which multiplies our effect one hundred or one thousand times. Because it’s like that, we must each take responsibility for our actions. If we don’t, if we just do whatever we want, the entire world is in great danger. And therefore, kindness and love are extremely important.
“We have the propensity for showing kindness and love from birth, it is part of our nature. However, it has been turned off by our upbringing or different circumstances, and we have become habituated to not using it. And because of this, there is much difficulty in the world. Our lack of respect, kindness and love is killing the world more than any epidemic diseases. Why is this happening? It is because we don’t take responsibility; we think others’ situations are not our business. We are too self-involved to pay attention to others.
“But take for example our clothing. Though we will probably never meet the people far away who have made our brand-name clothing, we receive the benefit that they give us on our own body. In this same way, we have never heard of or seen most of the people who support us, but we do receive benefit from them indirectly. So what we understand from this is that we, the world’s people, live in dependence on each other. No one is able to survive through their own resources alone, independent of others. I am part of the other, the other is part of me. Thus, if we think about how things actually are, we have no choice but to think about each other, to be interested in each other.
“But most people do not have the desire to think like this, or to take responsibility in this way. They feel it is too difficult, that they don’t have the ability or the strength. If they do think about it, they feel it is a great burden; they don’t see it as something they can do with joy and delight. Why is this? It’s because they don’t have kindness and love. If a person has a kind and loving mind, then they feel a natural delight, joy and willingness to work for others.
“So we see that kindness and love are essential for our survival. Furthermore, if an individual wishes to accomplish something with his or her life, if they want to accomplish something great, it is extremely difficult without kindness and love. Many people think that if they want to become great and famous, they need to have a good education. They think that if they get the highest degree of education, then they will get a good job, and they will be able to be of benefit. But there is no guarantee of that at all. Some scholars have studied how people accomplish something satisfying and successful with their lives. They discovered that about 10% of success depends on knowledge, 5 or 6% on experience, 3 or 4% on favorable circumstances and confidence, and the rest, on one’s relationships with others. And what is the foundation of good relationships with others? Kindness and love.”
His Holiness concluded his visit with an audience for the staff, and the consecration of the school. It was a highly successful visit, an example for all of the activity of kindness and love.

2014.9.24-25 法王噶瑪巴於蘇嘉學校開示愛與慈悲 Kindness and Love, a teaching by the Karmapa upon his visit to the Suja School.



Thongdrol: Liberation Through Seeing - The Feature Film

by David Cherniack

New Preview of Thongdrol: Liberation through Seeing from David Cherniack on Vimeo.

A visually stunning, feature length, theatrical documentary on the magical Tibetan sacred art form that was developed by the Karmapas.

His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa. For letters of support for the film please click on the Link

This theatrical documentary has the active support and guidance of His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa.The Karmapa is the traditional leader of the Karma Kagyu, one of the major branches of Tibetan Buddhism. The first Karmapa was the original Tibetan master to intentionally take rebirth.

The film is being made by experienced professionals: a producer/director who has made more than 60 documentaries, a Visual Effects producer who has won two Oscars, and talented cinematographers.

Filming in ultra high definition 4k has been underway since the January shoot in Bodhgaya that is featured in the preview video. For a more extensive, much better resolution version of the preview please download at https://www.dropbox.com/s/ny3pqmwcbqm5tyf/Preview.mp4?dl=1

We're in need of additional funds to continue production. We have already shot material costing $200,000, raised through private donation. The money we are raising on KickStarter will enable us to shoot an important sequence in the Himalayas before weather makes it impossible in October. The film's planned budget is $2,000,000 with extensive visual effects sequences. The remainder of the funding will be raised through private donations in the Fall and Winter.

Please keep in mind that films like this are not funded by broadcasters anymore, even in countries that have a long tradition of support for the documentary form. (If there was a contest or cooking, or better yet, a contest AND cooking, somehow involved, it might be looked upon more favorably by broadcasters). As it is what it is, we have to depend on people like you who want to watch a film like this and are willing to contribute what they can. 

(To make a U.S. tax deductible donation to the film contact us directly for information about our 501C3)
ABOUT THE PROJECT      Thongdrol is a Tibetan word that means liberation though seeing. Something is seen that liberates. On a basic level it can be anything that turns the person seeing toward the spiritual path. On an advanced level it can be the instantaneous act of seeing the world through liberated eyes...the non-deluded eyes of the fully awakened.

A thangka of Choying Dorje, the 10th Karmapa, who was himself a brilliant artist.
Tibetan thangkas are a primary form of thongdrol. Though their subjects widely differ they all represent a sacred vision of Totality. Some venerate the lives of great masters. Others display wrathful deities as meditation objects that represent aspects of the enlightened being. All turn the mind toward the spiritual.  The Karma Gadri style of thangka painting is exquisitely detailed, with beautiful natural pigments.  It is named after the Great Encampment of the Karmapas where it emerged. For hundreds of years the Karmapas traveled and taught throughout Central Asia and China in a huge mobile monastery of tents. The style of painting that emerged in the Encampment added the natural world as an integral part of the thangka's sacred vision. Karma Gadri thangkas resonate with environmental awareness. A timely film on the subject is in keeping with his His Holiness, the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje's teaching that respecting the environment is a sacred human responsibility.
The film is being shot using the latest digital cinema production equipment at 5k+ resolutions. This will portray all the stunning detail in Karma Gadri thangkas and allow us to create exceptionally fine cinematography of the natural world, allowing the film to function as a kind of thongdrol itself, a contemplation of the spiritual through seeing spectacular images and image making, of landscapes and rituals that plant seeds in the mind of the viewer. It will use extensive visual effects sequences to reconstruct episodes from the history of the Karmapas and the Golden Rosary lineage and their development of the Karma Gadri style. Through CGI animation, it will take us on a journey into the visual universe of the thangkas, exploring their symbols and illuminating the magical lives of the extraordinary yogis who created them.
THE PROJECT STATUS       The film is now about 25% shot.
Principal photography which has been completed:
  • In January, 2014 at the Kagyu Monlam festival in Bodhgaya, India, including spectacular aerial footage during the Procession around the Mahabodhi Temple where the historical Buddha was enlightened.
  • In India with His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje on the historical development and spiritual and ecological significance of the Karma Gadri style of thangka art. This includes a sequence of His Holiness as he does a brush drawing while talking about painting as meditation.
  • The principal interview with His Eminence the 12th Kenting Tai Situ Rinpoche on the history of the Karma Gadri style and the role played by one of his predecessors: Situ Panchen, the 8th Situ Rinpoche who was revered as a polymath and a brilliant artist. His Eminence talks eloquently about the act of painting while demonstrating his technique on a Karma Gadri thangka.
  • In England, India, and Tibet with Terris Temple and Leslie Nguyen Temple who took three years of their lives to re-create a 35 meter appliqué thangka (goku) at Tsurphu Monastery, the Karmapas historical seat. The original was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.
  • In Sweden with Thomas Dalarud, a Gega Lama trained thangka painter, who does brilliant natural landscape photography inspired by his Karma Gadri training.
Principal photography remaining:
  • In India
    As one of the many visual effects scenes we will reconstruct the Great Encampment in Ladakh and shoot historical sequences.
  • USA
    We will film in New York at the Rubin Museum: their collection of Karma Gadri thangkas; an interview with Karl Debrezceny; the pre-emininent scholar on the 10th Karmapa, and a teaching tour of elementary school students as they learn about thangka art and its significance.
  • Canada
    in Halifax with Ann Shaftel  who is a world renowned authority on thangka restoration and preservation. Thangkas were created to be rolled for portability. Although their construction was well suited for this, over many decades and centuries they become particularily susceptible to wear and tear. Karma Gadri thangkas have their own unique issues because their landscaped backgrounds tend to be applied with thinner layers of paint. With the support of the 17th Karmapa, Ann has initiated a campaign to preserve the treasures held in monasteries, nunneries, private collections, and museums. 
  • China and Tibet.
    • Principal photography in China will include various historical locations between Nanjing and the Western part of the T.A.R. with stunning aerials shot from drone-coptors.
    • We will also film at Palpung Monastery in Sichuan, the seat established by the 8th Tai Situpa where he revived and enhanced the Karma Gadri style. Kenting TaI Situ Rinpoche has given permission to film the magnificent works of art created by Situ Panchen, the 8th Situ Rinpoche, that are rarely, if ever, displayed.
    • We also have plans to obtain ultra high resolution visuals of the rare thangkas locked away in the vaults of another famous monastery of the Karma Kargu tradition.
  • Visual Effects
    • 15-20 minutes of the 90-105 minute film will be high production-value visual effects sequences. Using CGI the film will create animated incidents from the lives of the previous Karmapas, all done within a 'Karma Gadri' style.
    • A significant feature of the methods used will be that we have motion captured the 17th Karmapa's facial expressions. We will use them to animate 3D models of his previous incarnations.
    • The film will also use CGI to compress the highly complex and lengthy process of creating a thangka, beginning with the intricate sacred geometries that underlay the work and contribute to its spiritual impact (thongdrol) as the work is viewed.
The Project Personnel
  • His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa is the advisor and authority on the contents of the film. http://kagyuoffice.org/
  • David Cherniack, the writer, director and executive producer, is a distinguished Canadian filmmaker with a long filmography of more than 60 documentaries on spiritual subjects for broadcasters, including six documentaries which feature His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  http://AllinOneFilms.com

  •  Terris Temple, executive producer, presented the original idea for the film to His Holiness, the 17th Karmapa. He has been a thangka painter in the Karma Gadri tradition since the late 1960s.  He was a long-time student of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, and the 17th Karmapa has known him and his wife, painter Leslie Nguyen Temple, since he was a child at Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet, where they reconstructed the 40 meter Karma Gadri gö-ku between 1992 and 1997. In 2006-2007 they reconstructed the Norbu Drabche and are presently working on drawings for the Tsechur Drabche.  His web site http://tibetcolor.com/ 

  • Scott Ross, producer supervising CGI/Visual Effects, has won two Oscars from three nominations, (TITANIC, WHAT DREAMS MAY COME and THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON). Scott ran Industrial Light and Magic for George Lucas in the 1980's and in the 90's he started Digital Domain with James Cameron.
  • Zsolt Ekho Farkas, CGI artist. His web site is http://mediadigital.hu/ekho/
  • Kris Belchevski, cinematographer and RED camera guru.
  • Mark Mackay, cinematographer and guru of a rare sort.
  • As well, there are the wonderful volunteers: Trisha Lotzer, intrepid legal advisor, Garrett Staab who works on this Kickstarter campaign, Shining Guo, who has done translation for us into Chinese.

Risks and challengesLearn about accountability on Kickstarter

The people behind this film are committed to seeing it through to its completion. As the producer/director I have made over 60 documentaries for broadcast, six of them with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. The producer overseeing the Visual Effects component ran Industrial Light and Magic for George Lucas and started Digital Domain with James Cameron to do Titanic and other Hollywood films, one of which, What Dreams May Come, won an Oscar for Visual Effects.



Karmapa Joins Meeting of India’s Spiritual Leaders Convened by Dalai Lama

20-21st Sept, 2014 – Hyatt Regency, New Delhi.
The Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, joined His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other Indian faith leaders this past weekend in Delhi for an unprecedented meeting—convened by His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself—for the spiritual leaders of India to agree to an action plan that would allow them to lead society in addressing major issues of the day. As a sign of the conference’s success in promoting harmony and consensus among the nation’s spiritual leaders, the two-day meeting yielded the Delhi Declaration of 2014, a document affirming their unanimous commitment to specific goals and outlining the measures they jointly agreed to undertake to accomplish those goals.
In convening the conference, His Holiness the Dalai Lama called on India’s religious leaders to join together to lead society on several urgent issues of our times, including: environmental issues, women’s empowerment, closing the gap between the rich and the poor, promoting human values within the education system, counteracting violence committed in the name of religion, and reassessing religious practices and ritual in light of the changing times. The conference coincided with the United Nations’ Day of Peace.
During his inaugural address, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said: “Some historians say that 200 million people were killed in the 20th century as a result of wars and violence. The 21st century must become the century of peace.” He called on religious leaders to assume responsibility for creating peace in their own communities and to work together to bring about peace between communities. “The time has come,” he said. “We should be more active.”
Echoing this vision of spiritual leaders’ potential to lead positive changes within society, the Gyalwang Karmapa said during the conference, “There is much we can do for the benefit of the future of the world.”
Noting that India has a 1000-year old tradition of religious tolerance, His Holiness the Dalai Lama further called on India to let the world know of its remarkable history and inspire the world with its example of diverse communities living in harmony. The nine distinct religious communities that have flourished in India—Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain, Jewish, Baha’i and Zoroastrian—were represented at the conference by important leaders, including Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan and His Eminence Cardinal Gracias.
Speaking during a roundtable discussion, the Karmapa underscored the cultivation of personal relationships, describing it as crucial to create the mutual understanding and trust that are indispensable for genuine harmony among religious groups. Too often, he said, greater emphasis is placed on the public image presented of the relationship between leaders of different religious orders.
“We need to improve relationships on a personal level, not just what appears to the public. Building trust and understanding is very important,” the Gyalwang Karmapa said. “For that, there should be a personal relationship.”
Also participating in the roundtable were 25 senior Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jain and Baha’i leaders as well as other Tibetan Buddhist lamas, including Taklung Shabdrung Rinpoche, head of the Taklung Kagyu order, and Thuksey Rinpoche of the Drukpa Kagyu order.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama spent time at each of the roundtable discussions, moving from group to group. On the first day, he took the opportunity to stress gender equality and to present his case for the need to review practices that are a matter of cultural circumstances and no longer suited to our times. “Times change,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama said. “Buddha basically gave equal rights to bhikshus and bhikshunis, but at the same time, when bhikshus and bhikshunis come together, the bhikshunis have to remain behind, even if it is a novice monk. I feel that is a cultural aspect. It is time to change these things.”
The conference covered the themes of environmental protection and women’s empowerment—causes that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has long championed within Tibetan Buddhism and which the Gyalwang Karmapa has actively worked to promote as well. In addition, His Holiness the Dalai Lama asked spiritual leaders to reach out to non-believers, and find ways to articulate their concerns in terms of secular values that could be shared by all.
During the plenary sessions, participants raised the issue of the potentially divisive effects of religious identities. A delegate publicly thanked His Holiness the Dalai Lama for entitling the conference “A Meeting of Diverse Spiritual Traditions of India” rather than “Religious” traditions.
“We have been talking about the difference between religion and spirituality,” the Karmapa stated during the discussion session. “I think all religions began from spirituality, because those who became founders did not just have philosophical views, but they had experiences: actual, lived experiences. I think we need to pay more attention to experience.”

2014.9.21 法王噶瑪巴出席達賴尊者召開的印度精神領袖會議 Karmapa Joins Meeting of India’s Spiritual Leaders Convened by Dalai Lama