31 January 2015, New Delhi
Designed by His holiness he 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje (2015)It shows three nuns, their curving robes shaped like individual lotus petals; underneath on the right and left are quick, pointed strokes indicating the leaves and grounding the image.
by Naushin Ahmed, Buddhistdoor International, 2015-01-28
|Opening ceremony. From kagyuoffice.org|
|From Gyalwang Karmapa photos|
The Second Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering for Kagyu nuns took place from 8–24 January 2015. The annual event—named after Arya Kshema, a bhikshuni (nun) from the time of the Buddha, who was renowned for her wisdom and confidence—was held at Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya, in India’s Bihar State. Established last year by His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the gathering was launched to enhance the practice and education of Kagyu nuns, as well as to boost equality between nuns and monks.
Discussing the initiative behind the program, the Karmapa explained, “Another aim was that the nuns would be able to take responsibility not just for activities within their own nunneries, but also take wider responsibility for upholding the teachings” (The Karmapa). On the same website he goes on to state, “Monks and nuns are the same in being able to uphold the Buddha’s teachings, and have the same responsibility to do so. However there has been a period when nuns have not really had the opportunity to uphold the teachings, and this has been a loss for all of us.”
This year, about 400 nuns from nine different nunneries in India, Nepal, and Bhutan took part. The program began at 8.30 a.m. on 8 January, with the Karmapa leading the opening ceremony. A number of tulkus, monks, and khenpos were present, as well as His Eminence the 4th Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, who was recognized and installed by the Karmapa in 1996. Several hundred laypeople also gathered inside the monastery, where garlands of flowers decorated the hall, sweet-smelling incense was burned, and the voices of female umze (chant leaders) rang out with Kagyu lineage prayers.
The Karmapa was quick to address the issue of bhikshuni ordination: “I think it’s important for me to do everything I can in order to support nuns’ teachings and practice, and to increase their listening, contemplation, and meditation. So I want to put as much effort into this as I can, from the bottom of my heart. I think this is something that’s appropriate for me to do from now until the end of this lifetime. I think it’s something that fits well with the activities of the previous Karmapas, and it’s also something that is definitely necessary within our contemporary society” (The Karmapa).
This year, the 17-day gathering focused on discussion, debate, elementary to intermediate philosophy, and a variety of teachings, including a continuation of teachings by the Karmapa on Gampopa’s The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, introduced last year. A number of special pujas and practices were performed, including a ritual of the Sixteen Arhats and a Tara puja, as well as a ritual for the nuns’ Dharma to flourish, which the Karmapa had composed. He also personally taught the nuns most mornings from 8.30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
In contrast, the First Annual Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering—which took place from 20 January to 2 February 2014—concentrated to a greater extent on the Karmapa’s teachings, as opposed to the more rigorous training in dialectical debate and philosophical study that was a cornerstone of this year’s event.
26 January, 2015
The children live in the Elizabeth Children’s Home, which is run by the Jesus Christ of Compassion Charitable Society. In what was a very special treat, they gathered with their teachers in the Monlam Pavilion, drank mango juice and munched biscuits. In addition each child received a new woollen blanket. As part of Indian Republic Day celebrations, International Kagyu Monlam CEO Lama Chodrak organised a small party for thirty children from the local Christian orphanage.
The culmination of the celebration, however, was when the Gyalwang Karmapa himself came over to the pavilion especially to meet the children.
26 January, 2015 – Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya
In what has become an annual event during his winter programme, the Gyalwang Karmapa joined in the flag-raising ceremony to celebrate Indian Republic Day.
More than a hundred young monks with their teachers lined up in straight lines on the patio outside the Tergar Monastery shrine hall, and stood smartly to attention, below the flagstaff. Members of the regular police force in their knife-crease, pressed khaki uniforms and the paramilitary protection squad in blue-and-grey camouflage stood to attention beside them. As one, they presented arms with their automatic rifles or saluted, while the Indian national flag was raised. Emblazoned with the Buddhist Emperor Ashoka’s 24-spoke chakra wheel in navy blue, the tricoloured flag —with saffron, green and white panels— has become the symbol of modern, democratic India.
Also present at the ceremony were members of His Holiness’ Tsurphu Labrang staff and Tibetan security personals, most of whom are either serving soldiers on secondment to security duties or ex-soldiers. Many monks, nuns and foreign visitors clustered round and joined in too.
The Gyalwang Karmapa has often spoken of the debt the Tibetans owe the Noble Land of India, being both the birthplace of Buddhism and a place of refuge or His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people. He watched with deep respect as the flag rose high until its colours caught the morning sun.
The young monks sang the National Anthem and chanted Buddhist prayers for the happiness and well-being of the world and all sentient beings. Then they enthusiastically waved small national flags before feasting on celebratory Indian sweets.
Immediately afterwards the Gyalwang Karmapa received the Indian security personnel upstairs in his audience room and presented each of them with Indian sweets as gratitude.
Monlam Pavilion Grounds, Bodhgaya,
26 January, 2015
The Gyalwang Karmapa assisted by a small entourage of Drupon Rinpoche Yangsi, Geshe Rinchen Ngodup, Khenpos and the ritual master performed a short sa-lung ritual in the huge Monlam kitchen area.
For several years now, all meals for the thousands of monks and nuns attending the Kagyu Monlam have been prepared and served in this massive tented bamboo structure. Each year it has to be erected before Monlam starts and dismantled afterwards, so the hope is that in the future it may be replaced by a permanent structure.
Tibetans believe that the earth is sacred and not just theirs to use as they choose, so a sa-lung ritual, comprising offerings and prayers, is performed to request permission from the earth goddess and the local deities and spirits who dwell on the land, before any development can take place.
A small altar had been set up, with two sets of traditional offerings−water for drinking, water for foot-washing, flowers, incense, light, scented water, food represented by two large white tormas, and music. One set was for the earth goddess and one for the local deities and spirits. In front of these two rows stood a special square-based white torma, with three discs, and a long-stemmed ritual cup containing tea and biscuits. These were the offerings for the earth goddess.
During the first part of the ritual, after prayers had been recited, the white torma and the goblet were carried outside into the nearby field by the ritual master, and offered to the earth goddess. Next offerings were made to the local deities: the Gyalwang Karmapa offered incense and the ritual master refilled the cup and returned outside to offer a libation of hot tea to the ‘owners of the land’ A third libation was made to the spirits.
In the second part of the ritual, the Gyalwang Karmapa circumambulated the symbolic centre of the land -a small square of earth which had been cleared in preparation –in a clockwise direction, blessing the area with scattered rice. He then enlisted the help of Drupon Rinpoche, handing him a mattock, to perform the symbolic groundbreaking ceremony. A wooden post, supported by bricks, was erected in the centre of the square, and the Karmapa wrapped a katag around it, before leading dedication prayers for auspiciousness.
The ceremony concluded and it was time for tea and Indian sweets to celebrate.
January 24, 2015 Tergar Monastery
For the final event of the Second Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, the Tergar shrine hall has been set up with tables for the defenders, set across the center aisle in front of the Karmapa’s throne, and with a microphone for the challengers who will stand two thirds of the way back towards the shrine door. This is to keep the challengers, who can get quite enthusiastic as a group, at a certain distance from the defenders.