His Holiness Bestows Akshobhya Empowerment in New York

(April 12, 2015 – Flushing, New York) During the long lunch break after the morning’s Akshobhya teaching, many of the 2,000 attendees took advantage of the warm spring weather to wander through the spacious park adjoining the teaching venue. While His Holiness the Karmapa privately conducted the preparatory rituals for the empowerment, the public strolled through the grounds or relaxed on the grass under a stainless, deep blue sky.
After chanting the opening invocations of the empowerment, His Holiness began by commenting that he felt he might have a special karmic connection with the Buddha Akshobhya, and in fact, successive Karmapa reincarnations have been seen as none other than Akshobhya himself. He explained that out of the five tantric Buddha families, most of the yidams of the great Kagyu forefathers have also been from the Akshobhya or vajra family.
“As a sign of this family affiliation, the uncommon crown of the Karmapa is the Black Crown of the vajra family,” His Holiness said. “Though we normally refer to the Karmapa’s crown as the Black Crown, really it is very dark blue. In the Vajrayana this color represents the dharmata, which is the unchanging nature of the mind of all buddhas.
“Buddhas possess what is called body secret, speech secret and mind secret. The mind secret is an utterly unchanging wisdom. In order to depict that we use the metaphor of the sky or space, and therefore the color dark blue is used to represent this wisdom. So the color of the Karmapa’s crown represents the unchanging dharmata.”
In the morning’s teaching, His Holiness had taught that even though we may go through the external rituals of practice such as putting an image of the deity in front of us, lighting incense and repeating some mantras, the essence of Akshobhya practice is the courage to overcome anger, and to develop an immoveable stability of mind that is beyond agitation.
During the afternoon’s empowerment the Karmapa emphasized that the significance of the Akshobhya empowerment and its related practice is too great to explain in just a few minutes. Though he teaches on the Akshobhya practice for one full month during the annual Akshobhya retreat in Bodhgaya, even this amount of time was not enough, he said.
“Strictly speaking,” the Karmapa said, “authentic empowerment is an introduction producing a recognition of the mind’s nature. But let’s consider this a transmission of blessing here today.”
As the empowerment ritual wound through its stages, His Holiness directly conferred the blessings on the crowns of a group of lamas led by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, who moved forward to represent all those in attendance.
By receiving the blessings of the body, speech, mind and activity of Akshobhya, those in attendance were empowered to practice the non-dual and immoveable mind of Akshobhya, free from the stains of anger and other kleshas.
At the conclusion of the empowerment a mandala of thanks was offered by Lama Tsewang Rinpoche, founder of the Danang Foundation that organized the weekend’s teachings and empowerment. He headed a large line of disciples, who came forward bearing the eight auspicious symbols and other offerings. Next the Karmapa gave the reading transmission for the daily practice of Akshobhya, before offering his heartfelt aspirations that the lives of each and every person be happy and the whole world be filled with goodness.
With the close connection between the successive Karmapas and Buddha Akshobhya clearly evident, those gathered were all the more fortunate to receive the Akshobhya empowerment directly from His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, while a glorious deep blue New York sky—the color of the dharmata—radiated outside.

 Photography by Lama Sam.


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