The Gyalwang Karmapa Discusses Nuns’ Ordination; Teaches on Bodhisattva Vow
January 22, 2016-Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
During the eighth day of teaching at the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, the Gyalwang Karmapa discussed questions related to giving bhikshuni ordination to nuns. He also continued his teaching on rousing bodhichitta through taking the bodhisattva vow, based on chapter nine of the Ornament of Precious Liberation by Gampopa.
The Karmapa began by congratulating the nuns in attendance for the confidence and enthusiasm they have developed since the first Arya Kshema Gathering. “As I look out, I see that you’ve all gained confidence and self-esteem, knowing that you are capable of doing things and taking action,” the Karmapa said. “I see this in your expressions and I am very happy…. No matter what we are doing, if we first of all do not have confidence in ourselves, it is difficult to get anything done no matter what it might be, whether in the Dharma or in worldly activities.” The Karmapa added, “I think it is important to recognize how difficult it is to find such confidence and to know how much value it has.”
The Karmapa also spoke about the many impediments nuns face when they seek to increase their confidence and enthusiasm. In particular, he said, there are those who say that the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha would be decreased by 500 years if women are ordained. The Karmapa stated that it is difficult to find a clear textual basis for this assertion.
Based on the Karmapa’s own research, he said that over the past year he has found strong textual evidence that calls into question the notion that the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha would be decreased if nuns were given full ordination. Specifically, the Karmapa found a reference to this issue in a text called The Treatise of the Great Exposition, which comes from the Exposition School, a branch of the Sarvastivada School—one of the 18 original schools of Buddhism. This text was not translated into Tibetan until the mid-20th century, but there were historically three different translations into Chinese.
In this text, the authors raise a number of doubts and try to clarify points that are not clear in the sutras. One of the questions asked is: “The Buddha prophesized that the teachings would only remain 1,000 years, and that they would be diminished by 500 years if women were ordained. Since women were indeed ordained, that would mean the teachings should only remain 500 years. However, the teachings still remain. [This text was written 600 years after Shakyamuni Buddha passed away.] Why is that?”
The text offers two different responses to this question. First, it says that when the sutras discuss the teachings being decreased by 500 years if women ordain, what was meant is “the period of liberation” would be decreased—not the teachings in general. The period of liberation is the phase after Buddha’s enlightenment when students would achieve arhathood, or individual liberation.
The second response in the text is that when women were originally ordained by the Buddha, they needed to accept eight “heavy rules” in order to keep the teachings from being decreased by 500 years. The Treatise of the Great Exposition says that because the nuns accepted these eight rules, the duration of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings has not decreased. The Karmapa said this authentic and authoritative scriptural reference should help to eliminate any doubts about giving full ordination to nuns.
The Karmapa continued discussing his own views regarding why the Buddha did not initially allow women to ordain and why the eight rules were instituted. Specifically, the Karmapa said that during the time of the Buddha, women had a much lower standing in society than men—far lower than today. The fact that the Buddha gave women the ability to take full ordination was something “unprecedented and astonishing in his society,” the Karmapa said.
“So when we see that the Buddha did not immediately allow women to become ordained, I think the reason is because of the societal situation of that time and place,” the Karmapa explained. “But in any case, the Buddha, seeing the reasons and the benefits, allowed women to go forth and ordain. The eight rules are based on the societal conditions of that era. This becomes very clear when we look at the vinaya.”
The Karmapa continued, “The fact that in the 21st century we’re not able to do everything the Buddha taught 2,500 years ago, such as to give the bhikshuni vows, is really an astonishing situation. But it comes down to the point that from this day on, we should not worry about things that are unnecessary and unimportant. Instead we should increase our enthusiasm and our inspiration to bring benefit to the teachings and sentient beings by upholding, spreading, and propagating the teachings. If we do this I think it will work out well.”
After the tea break, the Karmapa returned to teaching on the Ornament of Precious Liberation by Gampopa, in particular on the ritual of taking the bodhisattva vow. The first point the Karmapa explained was why rousing bodhichitta through meditation and through ritual are both important. The Karmapa said that according to the great master Atisha, it is important to first train our minds in relative bodhichitta through the meditation of mind training, or lojong, in order to make the ritual of taking the bodhisattva vow meaningful.
“Rousing bodhichitta comes from training the mind, but there is still a reason to adopt it through ritual,” the Karmapa said. “The ritual will stabilize your earlier bodhichitta and will make you more aware of the benefits of having bodhichitta and the defects of not having bodhichitta, and so forth. So there is a reason to do it.”
Next, the Karmapa explained the qualities of someone from whom we can take the Bodhisattva Vow. Such a person must be skilled, venerable and capable. Being skilled means being able give advice on how to develop bodhichitta, being able to perform the ritual, and knowing how to uphold the precepts. Being venerable means having taken the Bodhisattva Vow and upholding the precepts. Finally, being capable means being able to make the student understand what they are doing. Specifically, the Karmapa said it is important that the vows be explained in a language the student speaks. “The student needs to be able to understand what they are doing while taking the vow,” the Karmapa said.
The third point the Karmapa discussed was the physical and mental supports that one needs in order to newly develop bodhichitta. In terms of the body, the Karmapa said one can develop bodhichitta in any of the six realms—as a god, deva, human, animal, hungry ghost, or hell being. “There is no realm where you can’t develop bodhichitta,” he said.
In terms of the mental support one needs for developing bodhichitta newly, the Karmapa quoted the Kadampa masters, who say it is essential that you have gone for refuge to the Three Jewels—the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The Karmapa said it is also necessary to have longing and enthusiasm to take the vow, and also the body, speech and mind capable of accomplishing it.
The Karmapa also discussed whether it is necessary to have taken the vows of individual liberation in order to take the vows of aspirational bodhichitta. He explained how the great masters have differing views, and yet Gampopa’s position on this has been unclear. The Karmapa said that the monks have been researching Gampopa’s view and it will be discussed during their Winter Gathering.
The Karmapa continued his explanation, mentioning that the Kadampa masters, who were of the opinion that the vows of individual liberation were necessary. He explained that at the time of the Kadampa masters in Tibet, there were false views about the Dharma and questionable conduct, which were likely some of the reasons the Tibetan masters invited Atisha to Tibet—to correct the teachings. The Karmapa stated that because of the false views propagating at the time, the Kadampa masters had to be strict in their practice to counteract misunderstanding and poor ethics.
The Karmapa said that while many Kadampa masters did engage in serious tantric practice, they did so in private. Their main concern seems to have been presenting a strict framework for Dharma practice to counteract the decline they saw. It was a skillful means for that period in the history of Tibet.
The Karmapa also observed that there are signs that not all Kadampa practitioners were particularly fond of yogis (ngakpas). To illustrate this, the Karmapa told a story about Rechungpa—one of Milarepa’s two main disciples— getting kicked out of a Kadampa monastery because of his white robes. He also spoke about of Milarepa’s other main disciple, Gampopa, being told by his Kadampa friends that his dreams of a white clad yogi (Milarepa) were a bad omen.
With these stories illustrating the situation in Tibet many centuries ago, the Karmapa closed his teaching. The Arya Kshema will continue with a long White Tara puja on January 24.
Dear Dharma Brothers and Sisters,
As all of you know by now, on the 21 of March, 2017, at 9am Indian time His
Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa introduced Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche
Yangsi in the Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya. Rinpoche is a four years old boy but
from time to time I see him as an old man. It is hard to believe he is that
I am very sorry at the moment I am very busy. I will later let you know details
about the search and how we found Yangsi Rinpoche and provide you with photos
and video clips for you to enjoy.
Drubwang Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche instructed us to wait for His Holiness’ advice
to Yangsi Rinpoche how to further proceed from here.
Drubwang Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche could not come to this occasion of His
Holiness’ introducing Tenga Rinoche’s Yangsi since he has a schedule in Bhutan
that was arranged long time ago. As you all know Bhutan is a remote area and in
order to join teachings and initiations elderly people have to be ca…
December 28, 2016, in a historic letter sent to his Kagyu nunneries in India,
Nepal, and Bhutan, the Karmapa officially announced that the actual process of
establishing full ordination for nuns in the Karma Kamtsang tradition would
begin. He stated that at the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment in Bodh Gaya,
on the auspicious day of the full moon in the Month of Miracles, (the first
month in the Tibetan calendar, falling on March 12, 2107), the shramaneri (getsulma)
vows would be conferred on those nuns wishing to take full ordination. Following
much deliberation, a path to full ordination was established. It was decided
that the nuns would hold these shramaneri vows for a year, after which they
will take the shikshamana (gelopmaor training) vows from Dharmaguptaka
nuns and keep them for two winters or two summers. Finally, they will receive
the bhikshuni (gelongmaor full ordination) vows with the
participation of nuns from the Dharmaguptaka tra…
Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
many preparations are underway for the Getsulma (novice) ordination to be held
during this 4th Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering. The Karmapa plans to hold
the ordination on the auspicious full moon day of Chötrul Duchen, the historic
day that marks fifteen days after Losar and commemorates the time when the
Buddha performed a different miracle each day to instill devotion. As the
Karmapa mentioned during the first day of the Arya Kshema, this year initiates
the historic path to the process of full ordination, which will occur in stages
over several years. This is a well-thought process that grants nuns the
opportunity to practice the authentic vinaya path. They will take the Getsulma
vows in the tradition of a strictly observant tradition of Mahayana Vinaya
nuns, thus garnering respect for their sangha and demonstrating their life-long
commitment to their vows. Since there is no lineage for fully ordained nuns in
On 21st March at the Tergar Monastery in Bodh Gaya, India, at 9:30am His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa introduced Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche's reincarnation to the world with an introduction ceremony. It was not more than that. Please do not misunderstand this fact. It was not an enthronement nor a hair cutting ceremony. It was simply an introduction of Rinpoche's yangsi (reincarnation). Please don't confuse the differences. There are lots of meanings in the various ceremonies of our tradition.
His Holiness has stated that the hair-cutting ceremony and the enthronement shall only take place after Yangsi Rinpoche is seven years old. The dates of the enthronement and hair-cutting ceremonies will be decided only later by His Holiness and Drubwang Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche. It is not certain when the ceremonies will take place. Until then he is going to spend time with his parents playing with the children in the village openly in a clean and …
This text is based on a draft by Michele Martin who conducted interviews with Tempa Yarphel, the search team and others. Thankfully this text was edited by Tempa and Tashi Sautter and may deviate from Martin’s final version that will be published elsewhere.
Ever since he passed away on March 30th, 2012, finding Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche’s reincarnation (yangsi) has been awaited with tremendous hopes and great devotion, especially in the Karma Kamtsang lineage. When traveling in Germany, His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa spoke about him on August 30th, 2015: “While here in Germany, I had the opportunity to meet briefly with many students of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche and share some remarks with them. It has been a while now since he passed away but during all this time, his students and I myself have been continually remembering Rinpoche. This recollection has caused our faith, devotion, and love for him to continue flourishing.”“
Before Rinpoche passed away, he spoke a few words to m…
SE Report GANGTOK,
March 16: A delegation of monks from various monasteries
of Sikkim staged a sit-in protest outside the BJP national headquarters in New
Delhi today demanding the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje to be allowed to visit
and bless the people of Sikkim.
The delegation led by Denjong Lhadey chanted slogans
demanding and also submitted a memorandum with the demand to the Prime Minister’s
Office through senior officials.
The memorandum reiterates the Denjong Lhadey’s
demand to urgently send the Buddhist spiritual leader to Sikkim. The monks on
dharna outside the BJP office were also detained by Delhi police at Mandir Marg
police station and later released, informs a press release.
In November of 2015, during the 6th Khoryug Conference, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa set the aspiration that all Khoryug monasteries and nunneries should develop practical skills and knowledge for disaster preparedness and response. He later explained that “We were all affected greatly by the earthquake in Nepal and wanted to know how we could help so that in the future we are not just taken by fear but prepared to be useful and deal skillfully with the situation.…
Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
the second half of his teachings this morning, the Karmapa shared his research
into the history of nuns and their status. He began by explaining the
background of the name “Arya Kshema,” given to the Winter Dharma Gathering. He
noted that among the disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, there were his eight
greatest male monastic disciples, known for their prajna (supreme wisdom) or
miracles and so forth. Likewise, there were female master disciples who were
greatest at miracles or known for their prajna and other outstanding qualities.
Arya Kshema is one of these and she is described in theSutra of the Wise and
greatest in wisdom and confidence, so the Winter Dharma Gathering is named
after her. “In
giving this name,” the Karmapa explained, “we are also following the saying,
‘Later disciples should practice the example of past masters.’ Previously,
during the time of the Buddha Shakyamuni, there were woman arhats, bhikshu…
the third year in succession, the Taiwan Health Corps has been working with
Kagyu nuns during the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering. Twenty-one
nuns from eight nunneries—Ralang, Tilokpur and Palpung Yeshe Rabgye Ling in
India, Karma Leksheyling, Tara Abbey, Osel Karma Thekchöling and Samten
Ling in Nepal, and Drubde Palmo Chökyi Dingkhang in Bhutan– have
successfully completed a nine-day training in basic health care. Dr
Jeffrey Chen, CEO of the Taiwanese based NGO Taiwan Health Corps, first
responded to a request from the Gyalwang Karmapa to develop initiatives to
improve the health and healthcare of nuns more than three years ago. This year
he has returned for a third time with a team of six health professionals to
provide basic training for a new batch of nuns. The team comprises Professor
Kuo Su Chen, a specialist in Women’s Health, Dr Chin Min Yi, a doctor of
traditional Chinese medicine, Dr Wei Cheng Chou, urologist and surgeon, Hsin-Yu
For the Gyalwang Karmapa, the Tibetan New Year began in the
first hours of the day, as he met in the Tergar Monastery shrine hall with
tulkus, khenpos, and masters from various monasteries and received their
khatas. In return he gave them his blessing and a traditional bright red cord.
The monks recited prayers for peace in the world and the flourishing of the
teachings as well as the very long life of the Karmapa. Afterward the entire
monastic and lay Sangha gathered at 4:30 am in the Monlam Pavilion for a
special long-life practice based on theThree
Roots Combined, calledA
Life-Force Indestructible like a Vajra. The practice was led by the
Karmapa’s heart son, Gyaltsap Rinpoche, who had bestowed this empowerment the
previous day. In February of 2016 the Karmapa had also given this empowerment,
and at the time commented on its importance for his Kamtsang Kagyu lineage. The
short lineage is traced back to a text based on the pure visions of th…