Transcripts

More Words on the Environment

December 27, 2007, 4:30 PM, Translated by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche & Karma Choephel

We concluded everything the other day so that it would not be necessary to say any more today. But some people wanted me to say a bit more on a few topics. In addition to concluding the Monlam, today we have completed the practice and mantra recitation of the Medicine Buddha, so it seems there would be nothing wrong with saying a few words at this point. I am often a bit glib, so if you think it is meaningful, please keep these points in mind. If you do not, you do not have to listen.

The other day, the last day of the Monlam, I spoke on three topics. The second topic was the environment. I thought I would say a bit more now about the environment. 

Most of us gathered here today, whether we were born in Tibet or not, have connections to Tibetan Dharma and culture and to the Tibetan language. That is the kind of people we are. Likewise, most of us gathered here live in and come from India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sikkim. These countries are very close to Tibet. For this reason, all of us who live in these countries need to give some thought to protecting the environment of Tibet in order to protect our own environment. This is because most of the water, especially drinking water, in about eight Asian countries, including India, comes from Tibet. Thus, if Tibet’s environment is no longer as clean and pristine as it used to be, this presents the danger of great harm to many Asian countries. 

In particular, if the water system in Tibet does not function properly, it will cause many problems such as floods downstream, like the floods along the Yangtse River. When these great rivers burst their banks, it causes tremendous damage. There are floods and many other dangers. For these reasons the Chinese government plans to plant many forests in Tibet. India and other Asian countries are also taking a great interest in the environment of Tibet because it is such a crucial issue. 

Whenever we open our mouths, we say that Tibet belongs to the Tibetans, but what are we Tibetans doing for Tibet? Are we protecting Tibet’s environment and keeping it clean, or are we destroying it instead? 

Traditionally, Tibetans have held some ancient beliefs. If there was an impressive mountain, we would say it was the residence of some spirit, so it was a revered place that no one should disturb, nor should it be mined or quarried. If there was an impressive forest, or a boulder or cliff with an unusual shape, that was also some spirit’s residence. This belief was quite helpful. 

For example, when I was young, we did not dare go out to play on the revered mountains where the local deities lived. Forget about disturbing them—we did not even dare to walk there. We also were not allowed to put our hands in the streams that provided drinking water. This was to keep from polluting them and angering the nagas. If we had to wash our hands or feet, we had to draw some water from the stream and wash elsewhere. We were not allowed to wash, bathe, do laundry, or use any chemicals in the stream itself under any circumstances. There were similar traditions more or less everywhere. 

But nowadays everyone considers these traditions to be blind faith. Many people, especially the young, say, “That’s just blind faith. That’s just religious belief.” The protection of the environment these traditional views provided is decreasing drastically. The traditional way of seeing things is gone, but contemporary education and views about protecting the environment are not particularly widespread. The main focus is economic development and getting rich. That is what people are into. They wonder whether it is better to run a factory farm, build huge houses, or buy cars. That is the thinking that is prevalent. 

How are houses built in Tibet? They are built out of stone and wood rather than concrete. So nowadays, they use an awful lot of wood to build beautiful, Tibetan-style houses—a lot more wood than they used to. In the old days, only the monasteries would have such carving and decorations; but nowadays many ordinary people’s houses have fancy carved window and door frames and so on. At first glance, it is very lovely, but it wastes a lot of wood and stone. Entire large mountains are flattened. If all the mountains and forests are used up, there is greater danger from earthquakes and floods. There is nothing to hold back or channel floodwaters; there is nothing to contain earthquakes. Destroying everything creates a lot of problems. 

There is a lot of factory farming for meat. This did not used to exist in Tibet; it was not necessary. But nowadays factory farming is easy work. There are factory farms for hogs, chickens, ducks, and cattle. They give injections to the thinner sheep or cattle to make them fatter. This is fine, but indirectly through this, they have used a lot of steroids. Factory farms are getting bigger, and the livestock increases. All that livestock produces a lot of manure and methane, which fouls the environment. Air that used to be clean and pristine is now becoming smoggy. We Tibetans have to really think about all this. 

Tibet is on the roof of the world, and it is clean and pure. It is our own beautiful country. Even if others cannot protect it, we must keep from ruining it ourselves. If we take good care of it, we Tibetan people will not have wasted our honor and responsibility. We have already lost so much of what we had, and if we destroy more of what have in our hands, there will be nothing left that you can call Tibetan. Even if there were an agreement between Tibet and China, and we could gain freedom for Tibet, what kind of a homeland would we return to? We will have ruined our homeland. If we turn it into a huge, ugly wasteland, gaining freedom will not help us gain happiness. 

One reason all this happens—and it is our own fault—is that we do not have much interest in education. The more interest we take in learning about the environment, the more we will cherish and care for the environment. For that reason, the Dharma king Songtsen Gampo said:

In the high, pure mountain land encircled by glaciers,
The pure sounds of Sanskrit could be spoken. 
You, the people of the Land of Snow
Who have this precious human birth:
I urge you to devote yourselves to learning. 

This says that you must become educated. You have a perfect language, like Sanskrit. 

Getting such a good education is like gaining an excellent language, like Sanskrit. Tibet has an excellent environment, encircled by snow mountains so that it is protected from pollution from outside. These protect both the borders and the environment of this land perfectly. So this verse says that all those who have a precious human body there should become educated. Getting an education is very important. It is all of our responsibility that everyone become educated and protect the pure and clean natural environment of Tibet. 

As I said earlier, all of us gathered here, whether or not we were born in Tibet, have connections with Tibetan culture and language. Thus we all must protect the environment of the entire world for its future, and in particular Tibet and the Himalayan range. Tibet is probably the most important source of drinking water in the entire world. We really need to consider this. 

As I said the other day, we must consider this within each of our monasteries. I think it would be very good for any monastery in India, Nepal, or Tibet to get organized and take an interest in environmental protection. I am not an expert on environmental issues, but there are a few points we should know and follow. I will explain them to you. Please keep them in mind. If you can practice these in your monasteries and provide some education in them to the monastics and householders associated with your monasteries, this will bring benefit to all of us as communities and individuals. 
There are several points. The first is sort of like child’s play. It concerns automobiles—trucks and cars. I do not know a lot about this in India, but in Tibet, it often happens that as soon as a lama completes a three-year retreat, he absolutely must buy a truck. If he does not buy a truck and carry around Karma Chakme’s book on Toh rituals, he is not considered a real lama. We had a little monk at Tsurphu who had only been a monk for three or four years, and someone once asked him, “What do you want to do?” 
He replied, “I want to become a lama.” 
“What will you do when you are a lama?”
“I'm going do a three-year retreat, buy a truck and Chakme's Toh book, and then travel.”

He saw lamas doing this. This is what little children think lamas should do. Every lama buys his own car, and then they have to buy oil and gas for that car. Oil comes from underground, but the oil in the world is being used up, and this creates problems. These days the price of oil is increasing, and this is causing a lot of problems, right? This is why we do not need a separate car for every lama. But now everyone needs the fanciest cars with the most impressive names—German ones like BMWs or, in Tibet especially, Japanese cars like Toyotas—which use the most gasoline. Otherwise they do not feel like they have the status of a lama. 

From one perspective, I have to wonder whether this meshes with the lives of earlier masters, who are good examples of having few desires and being satisfied with what one has. Lamas are Dharma practitioners, whether or not they are monastics, which means they should be people with few desires who are content with what they have. They should not chase after the eight worldly dharmas of this life directly, although things might come to them naturally. That is how they should be. These days it is not like that, and that is a problem. 

Sometimes when lamas and monks go abroad, their sponsors offer them gifts. Sometimes sponsors buy them mobile phones, and when they do, it has to be the best one. Monks have even been known to throw away cheap phones they do not want. I have heard about this happening. If you pay for it yourself and throw it away, that is one thing. But if someone spends money to offer you something, how could it be OK to throw it away? You have to realize this. If you do not need it, give it to a friend who does. 

We need to rethink whether we should buy so many cars, especially big cars that use a lot of gas. I do not know whether this happens in India as well, but if it does, we should practice restraint, because this is not good, especially from the local people’s point of view. Most of us here in India are refugees. If the refugees are all driving the fanciest cars, the local people will hardly think of us as refugees; instead they’ll be jealous that we drive fancier cars than they do. It does not look good. It is unnecessary. So the first point is that we need to think about cars. 

The second point is that in the remote areas of Tibet, they are using a lot of solar and wind-powered electricity. This is good. It is very expensive to generate electricity, and if we use it without caring for the environment, it is very destructive to the environment. Oil-powered generation is especially expensive. 

At Tsurphu monastery, there did not used to be any electricity, but then they installed solar panels. Solar panels are still quite expensive, which makes them a bit difficult to install. It can be very expensive to provide the amount of power that can cover a large area. But solar and wind power do not have operating costs, and they do not harm the environment. They can be quite beneficial. 

In Tibet, the sun shines quite well—it is the roof of the world—so many people there use solar electricity. In some areas of North India and Nepal, particularly around Darjeeling and Mirik, it is always foggy, so you never see the sun shining, which makes for a few small difficulties. However, in our monasteries, we are big groups of people, and we have large electricity expenses. Since we are already paying for it, we should think about how to conserve electricity. Do not just pointlessly leave lights on all the time when the sun is shining and the weather is bright. I think it would be good for us to conserve electricity. That is the second point to keep in mind. 

The third point is growing trees, which I mentioned the other day. We bhikshus are not allowed to cut down trees or any other plant that has roots and bears fruit. This is the vast intent of the Lord Buddha. But not only bhikshus; all of us must keep this in mind. Most of the oxygen for all the living creatures in this world comes from trees and plants. So if we can plant even one tree, it will probably help a great number of creatures survive. Sometimes I even think it would be better to plant a single tree than to perform a life-release for many beings. 

Last year I talked about performing life-releases, giving up eating meat, and becoming vegetarian for the long lives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, myself, and many of our lineage lamas who have become elderly, so that they might continue to be with us for a long time. This year I think it would be good for each of our monasteries to plant a thousand trees, if not more. When I say plant, this does not mean that it absolutely has to be done right near the monastery. You can make connections with groups that plant forests or help someone who is planting trees. This is for monasteries that have the resources to do this. If you don’t have the resources, that is another matter. There are, however, monasteries that have some wealth and want to do something for their lama’s long life. My particular recommendation for this year is that it would be good for each monastery to plant at least one or two thousand trees. If monasteries cannot, the monks can plant the trees themselves. Sponsors would also be most welcome. Most monks don’t say they have much money, and I don’t know where they spend what money they do have. It would probably be quite good if we could make a beautiful green forest for the benefit of all living creatures, especially in Tibet.

Tibet covers a huge area, so we could plant as many trees as we want. If monasteries have to cut trees, then it would be good for them to plant a greater number than they cut. Cutting trees without replanting is the one thing that would anger the local deities and nagas, if anything would. That is another point. 

The fourth point is one that is not our responsibility as monks. Monks do not farm, right? But when farmers grow crops, they use various kinds of chemical fertilizers to make the crops grow quickly. When they do this, the first crop grows extremely well, but after it has grown, the soil loses fertility and becomes like sand, I have heard. The chemical fertilizers exhaust the soil. This is how it happens. 

There are many farms in Tibet. When we plant our crops, we should not think that this is our own field and we can do whatever we like. That is one thing to think about. The other is that the use of chemical fertilizers is exhausting the fertility of large areas of cropland. Monks do not need to work in the fields themselves, but they have many friends and relatives who do. Unless we use our overall, collective effort, it will be difficult to protect the environment. 

There are several other points, but we do not need to go through them. 

In brief, for the human race, there are two conditions in this world that can make us advance. The first condition is to go forward out of fear. All beings, including animals, will advance out of fear. They sense a danger to their existence, feel fear and terror, and find a way to remedy their situation. But I think moving forward because you see a benefit or profit is probably something that mainly we humans do. We humans are beings with brains and intelligence. But while we have these brains and intelligence, if we just hang out without doing anything meaningful, then there will be another mouth to feed, another person using up space, another body crowding the world. There will be no benefit at all. 

While living in the world, we need to demonstrate intelligence and define our vision for the future. I think that only then will our existence in the world be meaningful. We will no longer just be taking up space. We will be able to benefit the other creatures who live with us on this earth.

That is more or less it for the topic of the environment. If I say too much, the mosquitoes will have a feast. We have to protect environment . . . but we should think about whether we need to protect the mosquitoes. 

Protecting the earth’s environment is a big issue in the world now. But that is not why I am shivering on this throne talking about it. 

The Lord Buddha and many of the earlier learned and realized masters who followed him made prophecies a long time ago about how the times would become degenerate: the environment would degenerate, and beings living in it would also degenerate. These are things the earlier masters said, but we do not pay attention to them. People just talk about how it said this here and that there. 

I want to tell you a story. During the upheavals in Tibet in the 1950s, the previous incarnation of Pawo Rinpoche was looking through the prophecies of Guru Rinpoche, and thought, “This probably is going to happen.” He showed them to his steward and said, “This is going to happen. These are the prophecies of Guru Rinpoche. We need to flee into exile; we cannot stay here.” Whenever he showed these to his steward, the steward would say, “So it is! I go for refuge!” The steward would then touch them to his forehead and put them aside. 

Later the situation got worse, and even the Karmapa went to India. When Pawo Rinpoche heard about that, he said, “The prophecies predicted this! Even the Karmapa has gone. We had better go, or what will happen to us?” The steward replied, “How can that be? There are the three great monasteries of Sera, Drepung, and Ganden, and the Tibetan government palace of the Potala. It is not easy to leave. If you prepare to go, you will ruin any chance of staying.” He absolutely refused to do anything about leaving. Either he was not educated or he was complacent because he had never faced such difficult circumstances. In the end, the steward was unable to come to India and suffered terribly. He was sent to reeducation camps where he was tortured, beaten, and eventually died. 

It is similar with us. The Lord Buddha and earlier masters said a great deal about how we need to protect the environment, the forests, and the trees. But when we hear this, we just touch the text to our foreheads and say, “I go for refuge!” The eloquent and beautiful words, “May it be so! May there be benefit for all! May it happen! May this be for all sentient beings throughout space! May that be!” often pass our lips, but we do not practice them in a meaningful way. We are still wandering in the oceans of samsaric suffering because our wishes and our actions are going in opposite directions. If we continue in this way, we will remain in samsara forever. There’s no other benefit. So please keep this in mind. 

That is it. Say the auspicious prayers. It's getting late. 

Medicine Buddha Empowerment


December 25, 2007, Mahabodhi Stupa, Bodhgaya, India, Translated by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche & Karma Choephel

In addition to the 25th Kagyu Monlam, we have three days of the practice, mantra recitation, and feast offerings of the Medicine Buddha. Today is the first of these days, so I will give an empowerment connected with the Medicine Buddha. Tomorrow I will give a short Dharma teaching on the Medicine Buddha. The great Chandrakirti said:

When one has freedom and a good situation, If he does not restrain himself, He’ll fall into the abyss and lose control. Who will pull him out of there later?

We have a choice about gaining happiness in this life and future lives. We have a choice about whether to follow the genuine Dharma and the path to liberation. We have this choice this one time; it is difficult to get it frequently. This is not only the case with the Dharma. Even in terms of how we lead our lives in this world, we cannot make things happen the way we want. We do not have the control or the opportunity, and this creates many difficulties for us. This is why some people might want to be good people and do good work but find themselves in situations where they have no alternative to doing harmful jobs.

From one perspective, most of us gathered here do not have that sort of difficulty. However we look at it, there is an opportunity right before our eyes to do something virtuous. Whether we take it or not is up to us. If we wish to take it, we have the opportunity. I think that doing something virtuous, something beneficial for sentient beings at this time will make our human lives meaningful.

We have many difficulties in our lives. There are many inequalities in this world. Differences between rich and poor, or male and female, and differences in politics and resources put a lot of pressure on us and create many problems. There is no way for us to lead our lives while ignoring these difficulties. As far as religion, there are many different religions in the world. All religions have their own particular way of explaining their views, which leads them to regard one another with suspicion. Some are not only suspicious, but feel they need to make their own religion triumph over others. Thus it is not easy to live in this world. In both religious and worldly terms, the world is difficult by nature. There is no way to avoid having to endure troubles, no way to live easily and comfortably.

Is the reason there are such difficulties in the world just that the world itself is a difficult place that is by nature full of strife? It is not just that. Although the world is like that, I believe that the way we all think affects our situations greatly.

In my case, for example, my life is connected with Dharma and religious practice. From the time I was born in this world, I have lived in an environment where people have faith in religion, specifically the Buddhist religion. When Apo Gaga, or Ogyen Trinle Dorje, who spent his early years in a Buddhist environment, goes through the world and makes contact with different people and religions, sometimes he encounters difficulties. What are the difficulties? Since I was little, I have had Buddhist habits and been committed to Buddhism. Therefore, I have had to be a bit careful when meeting people of other religions. This is not because of how I feel. It is because my responsibilities put me in a position where I have to be careful. However, there would be nothing wrong with saying that the Buddhadharma is an extremely straightforward and open-minded religion. Now that I have studied the Buddhadharma and gained a decent understanding of it, I do not think my leading a dharmic life conflicts with any religion.

In Buddhist terms, the reason is that karma, cause, and result are most important. The Three Jewels may be important, but karma, cause, and result are more powerful than the Three Jewels. My being Buddhist in this life is the result of a past action. In Buddhist terms, my Buddhist way of life has come about because of karma, cause, and result. Since this is just a result of past actions, there is nothing I can do other than take it up with joy and enthusiasm.

Most other religions believe in God or a creator of the world. From this perspective, too, for me to have Buddhist views and a Buddhist way of life in this lifetime is harmonious with other religions. In terms of the beliefs of other religions, it was God who made me, and it was God who made me become Buddhist. Therefore there is nothing to do but say, “I take refuge in Him” and gladly take this on. This is why I sometimes think that my leading a dharmic life is not in conflict with any other religion. This way of thinking makes me feel comfortable and relaxed about leading a dharmic life.

I also have many worldly difficulties. One is not having any freedom, and then there are difficulties that are not my own but that other people give me. You all see this yourselves. Many people come to see me every day. You might think this is great, but they never tell me anything good. Most people tell me about their problems: “Men and women aren’t equal. You need to look into that.” Or they might say, “There is too great a difference between the rich and poor. You need to look into that.” Sometimes when the members of a family are having trouble getting along, they come and ask me what to do. If someone needs a minor operation on their ear, they ask me what to do about that. I have to do a lot of jobs. The first is doctor. Then I have to do a mother’s and father’s jobs. There are a lot of different jobs in the world, and I have to do a significant percentage of them simultaneously.

People have many problems, and how can I help with them all? Have I mastered all these different professions? No, but what can I do? When I meet people with such trust in me, it would not be right to say something like, “I don’t know. I don’t care if you are sick, suffer, or die. Go away.” I have to find some way to help with these problems. I do not have the resources to get all the things you might need. I do not have anything else I can do, and there is nothing I can say, except that I am doing what I can to take on all of your problems and remain alive on this earth. All I can do is give you advice on how to develop strength of heart. The best thing I can do is help someone develop strength in their heart.

I always try to have pure feelings of love and affection from the bottom of my heart for everyone, whether I know them or not. I try to show this attitude in the way I present myself and hold my body. When I look at people, I look with love and affection in my eyes as much as I can. Even if I can do nothing else, maybe the other person can find some new strength in their heart and a new hope. This is what I hope will happen and what others hope for as well. For some people it happens as we hope, and for some it does not. That’s the way the world is: things work out for some people but not for others. Not everything is spontaneously perfect, and there is nothing to be done about that.

When we are dealing with the difficult problems of living in the world and Dharma, the most important thing is to firmly set our minds on something, whether or not we also need to rely on outside conditions. We need to be courageous and use our intelligence well. We need to develop all our skills and means. If we can do that, although we may not be able to eliminate birth, aging, sickness, and death immediately, I think we will be able to handle our worldly problems. We cannot eliminate birth, aging, sickness, and death immediately because our bodies are impermanent things that naturally arise, remain, and perish. But if we have courage and hope, eventually we will also be able to liberate ourselves from birth, aging, sickness, and death.

I am bestowing the empowerment of the Medicine Buddha so that you may receive these benefits—this vigor of the mind or power of the heart. During the Medicine Buddha empowerment, just as during the puja, the billionfold universe becomes the palace Lovely to Behold—a pure realm as beautiful as beautiful can be, as vast as vast can be. That is how we visualize the world.

The reason this works is our strength of heart. While we are living and remaining in this world, if we only pay attention to darkness and hopelessness, we will not see anything but darkness. But if we turn our attention toward light and hopefulness, then even if we have only a little hope, we will eventually be able to find a way to reach the light. For this reason, the world environment and all the beings in it are not all bad. The beings in the world are not unilaterally vicious, and the external world is not exclusively poisonous and polluted. If we make efforts with a courageous heart, we can transform the world into a pure realm. We can transform the beings in the world so that they become the beautiful and majestic deities present within their minds.

That is why we say that the entire billionfold universe becomes the palace Lovely to Behold and all the beings within it become the Medicine Buddha. Otherwise, the world around us is not really like that, is it? Look around—we could sweep and mop morning, noon, and night, but there would still be no end to the filth in the world. This is not the palace Lovely to Behold. If you sweep and mop three times a day and there is still filth, it could not possibly be the palace Lovely to Behold. Look at the beings in the world. Every day we see in the news that someone got killed here, someone else got killed there. It seems more like we have come to the palace of the King of Death; there are not any gods and goddesses sitting around smiling, their bodies swaying in a gentle dance.

This is why Buddhists and practitioners of the Secret Mantra Vajrayana practice and take empowerments. Indirectly, this is to give all sentient beings strength of heart. If we have courage and put some effort into it, it is not impossible to transform this impure world into a pure realm; it is not impossible to transform the beings of this world into gods, goddesses, buddhas, and bodhisattvas. If we thought this teaching was just for Buddhists, our intention would probably be too limited. If that were the case, the Bhagavan Buddha would have turned the three wheels of Dharma just for Buddhists, not for all sentient beings. Thus this was actually taught to Buddhists and Vajrayana practitioners, but indirectly, it was taught to give all sentient beings strength of heart.

[Empowerment begins]

This was giving the obstructor torma. In terms of how things appear relative to one another, it is possible that obstructors could be something external to us and separate from us. However, the main obstructor is the self-cherishing and ego-clinging within us. Sometimes we do not suppress our ego- clinging or do anything about it, and instead pretend to be Lama Rinpoche. We sit in the middle of a protection circle on the vajra ground surrounded by a vajra tent and say, “OM SUMBHANI SUMBHANI blah blah . . . ” We think, Isn’t it grand to be inside this impenetrable protection circle? But this does not work. To take our fine self with its ego-clinging and self-cherishing, stick it inside our hearts, and let it have fun while saying HUNG PHAT to external obstructors does not help at all. The main thing we need to say HUNG PHAT to is inside ourselves. That is what we need to get rid of. It doesn’t help to pace around the outside of the house when the thief has already snuck in.

We give obstructor tormas to dispel maras and obstructors. Since Bodhgaya is the place where our Teacher the Bhagavan Buddha defeated the forces of Mara, I do not think there should be too many maras here. It is like practicing Vajrayana rituals in Lekdrup and such places where it is said there will not be many obstacles, so I think there can’t be any maras here. If there are any here, they must be the nice maras that we keep inside ourselves. Only when we begin to decrease the strength of the maras inside ourselves can we make any plans to help others in a way that is not connected with selfishness, ego-clinging, or the afflictions. If we make plans while bristling with ego-clinging and the afflictions, they will be mixed with ego-clinging and the afflictions. It would be impossible for them not to be.

[continues empowerment]

That was asking the master to grant us the King of Vaidurya Light as our yidam deity. Giving this empowerment is a different situation than if everyone gathered here were taking the Medicine Buddha as their particular yidam deity. I think that this empowerment was probably supposed to be bestowed upon people who were taking the Medicine Buddha as their own yidam deity. These days we give empowerments for hundreds upon hundreds of deities. We give empowerments for all the infinite yidam deities, and thus no one knows who their yidam is or which yidam to practice. This is a big problem.

It did not used to be like that: you would only take the empowerment for your particular yidam deity. No one would say, “This one is important, so I better get the empowerment. That one is beneficial, so I better get the empowerment.” Nowadays, we might think, “I have no money, so I have to get the Jambhala empowerment.” So we go to some rotund lama who looks a little bit like Jambhala and request the empowerment. If we hear that some lama has great activity, we say, “Please give me the Green Tara empowerment. Please be compassionate to me. I have a job I need to do, and this would make it go better.” I wonder whether this might really be a bit worldly.

Here it is the Medicine Buddha King of Vaidurya Light. From the time we become human beings, it is important that we help one another and have affection for one another. How did our births happen? Our births happened because our parents loved each other. If they did not love each other, we would not have been born. It is because of love and affection that our bodies and aggregates could come to be, so we all need love and affection. There are various ways to have affection for each other.

Humans have various problems, such as the problem of poor physical health, the problem of being afflicted by an illness, or the problem of having no happiness in our minds. These are physical and mental illnesses. It probably would OK to say that all our problems are illnesses. External problems that afflict our body, speech, and mind are probably illnesses. Internal problems in our minds are also illness.

Taking the Medicine Buddha King of Vaidurya Light as our yidam means that we rely on him to dispel all these external and internal illnesses. We say, “King of Vaidurya Light, please always remain above the crown of my head,” whether that happens or not. The main reason we call him the Medicine Buddha is that he is closely connected to medicine. If we help other beings get rid of their internal and external problems, that is taking the Medicine Buddha King of Vaidurya Light as our yidam deity. We could put a huge Medicine Buddha thangka in a back room, pile many volumes of Medicine Buddha practices before it, and then sit in front of it every day going blah, blah, blah. Even if we have the entire Medicine Buddha sutra memorized, if we don’t help anyone at all and just sit there chanting away while thinking, “Keep me from getting sick,” I wonder if that is taking the Medicine Buddha as our yidam. Yidam means to make a mental commitment. What mental commitment should we make? For example, there is no point in just saying to someone, “I won’t forget you. I will keep you in mind.” It is continuing their activity that is a great wonder.

Now we have come to refuge and bodhichitta. In general, whatever work we do in our daily lives in the world, we first have to have trust in the planner who gives us the work. If they are not worthy of trust and we do not place our trust in them, then our work will not go well. So first we need to have trust in a planner who is worthy of trust. Second, whatever act we are planning to do, we need to want to take it on and to have trust in it. Third, we need to have mutual trust in our coworkers and an outlook similar to theirs. In this way, going for refuge in the Buddha as the one who teaches the path, the Dharma as the actual path, and the Sangha as our companions on the path is similar to our worldly jobs. We need to have trust in the Teacher, the path the Teacher taught, and our companions in accomplishing that path. Even if we are not thinking about religion, this is necessary.

Bodhichitta is even more important than that. Just having trust does not help. How much we will be able to accomplish in our work depends upon how much strength of intention we have. If we have strong intentions, then even if we do not have much education or many skills, we can cover a lot of ground and reap great results. For example, some people who are extremely wealthy or known throughout the world do not have much education. Perhaps at first they did not have many skills and banged their heads against the wall over and over, but they developed real strength of heart, attained good results, and eventually became world famous. This depends upon intention. This is why refuge and bodhichitta are so important, not only in our Dharma practice. If we can bring Dharma practice into our own lives, it will definitely help us.

Following this is visualizing the torma and the students as the deity. As I just explained, the world environment and all the beings in it can be transformed from impure into pure. But merely being transformable does not help. Just joining your palms and saying, “May all be pure!” does not help. If we have a clear vision that we are going to do something and it will be like this, then the thought “I am going to do this” comes to our minds. If instead we just look with big eyes at a statue of the Buddha or Chenrezig and say, “May it be so! May it happen!” without thinking about it at all, this does not help. We need to turn our eyes in toward ourselves and say, “May it be so!” If we look outward all the time, the Buddha statue just sits there every day. The ones who can move are us. Actually, the Buddha is not present in the world. The Buddha figures in front of us are unmoving statues; they are symbols that we can look at and say, “The Buddha is like that.” They can’t do anything else. We are the ones who can do something. We can think, remember, and act. Perhaps I am being too logical, but I will speak directly. It does not help so much for us, who can think, remember, and act, to stare at statues that cannot think, act, or remember. I think it is far more helpful for us to look within ourselves and develop strength of heart.

Gyalwang Karmapa’s Advice on Dress Codes for Sangha


December 24, 2007, Translated by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche & Karma Choephel

I also have something to say about clothing, bearing, and demeanor. I thought about saying something last year, but it’s not easy to talk about this. But this year, if I embolden myself and say something about it, it will probably be OK. I said something about this in either 2003 or 2001. In the Buddhist tradition, there are two types of practitioners: monastics and householders. The monastics are monks and nuns, and the householders have households, and they have different garb and different demeanors. Otherwise, if the monastics get confused with the householders, or the householders get mixed up with the monastics, it will become very difficult for other people develop faith. It will be difficult to identify who is what. We won’t be able to identify whether someone is a monastic or a tantric practitioner. We won’t be able to tell people apart.

Even among our rinpoches, there are householders. I’m not at all saying that this is not good. Really. For example, Marpa and Milarepa, for whom we have the greatest devotion, were also householders. They did not wear the three Dharma robes. That’s how it is. This is not a question of more or less important. Even if you are a householder, you can have qualities of purity and realization that are superior to a monastic’s, and a monastic can have qualities of purity and realization that are superior to a householder’s. This is not a question of more or less important, but householders should wear the clothing of householders, and monastics should wear the clothing of monks and nuns. Otherwise, it will get all mixed up.

Those of us who know and understand might think this is OK as it is, but those who don’t know probably think that everyone who wears red robes is the same. If they see one person wearing red robes and the Dharma robe acting like a householder with a spouse and children, they will probably think that everyone who wears the robes is like that. They’ll think that everyone who wears red is the same. For that reason, you should really think about this. Think about what you should do. I don’t have any specific suggestions here. We should all cherish the Dharma and figure out what is the best way to act on this. I ask you all to consider this and then take some appropriate actions.

I’ve talked about three topics. First, I discussed giving up meat; second, the environment; and third, clothing. Up to now I’ve primarily been focusing on the monastic sangha’s clothing and demeanor during the Kagyu Monlam. If I can do something about the motivation and demeanor of the householders—when I have the opportunity or it is the right time—I will do it. But right now I am asking you to think this over and do what you think is best. I don’t have anything else to say. If I say too much, it will get too dark.
Many respectable lamas and tulkus of the Karma Kamtsang lineage have come here, with Jamgon Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche foremost, as well as Kyabje Garwang Rinpoche from the Surmang Kagyu branch of the Karma Kagyu, and also lamas and tulkus from the Drikung and Drukpa Kagyu. I would like to thank you all for “turning your steeds in this direction,” as it’s said. These days we don’t ride horses, so I thank you for turning your steering wheels in this direction. Many members of the sangha have also come here. Some of the things I have said have been pleasant; some have been harsh. For whatever wrong I have done to the Sangha, “I admit this. I confess this. I do not conceal this. Henceforth I shall not do this again.” Because of the positive power of our pure motivations, may we be able to turn the world in the direction of peace and happiness, and in particular, since we currently are staying here in the Noble Land of India, may this country of India have the good fortune of a happy country, happy people, and prosperity. In particular, in Tibet, the Land of Snow, which has been a great source of the Buddhist teachings, the root of the teachings of sutra and tantra, may the sun of peace and happiness dawn soon. May His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the great teachers of all traditions soon be able to set foot upon the soil of Tibet. The people of Tibet wait for them just as the cuckoo waits for the rain. I dedicate this so that all their wishes may be fulfilled, and ask you all to keep this in your minds and pray.

Gyalwang Karmapa’s Advice on Protecting the Environment


December 24, 2007, Translated by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche & Karma Choephel

Now I would like to speak on the subject of the environment.

These days, the temperatures around the world have drastically changed, which has created a great danger for the world itself. This is the situation, and they are always talking about this in the news and on the TV. So we need to think about this. In olden times, we Kagyupas would stay only in remote mountain retreats in caves or stone huts—pleasant retreats—and there was no need to do such work as excavating the ground, cutting a lot of trees, or quarrying. But later, whether it was their increasing activity to benefit beings and the teachings, or whether it was because, as the saying goes, “The more you meditate on mahamudra, the more active you become,” and mahamudra meditators got too busy, those who were supposed to be doing the practices of the Practice Lineage in the high, rocky, snowy places could not manage to do that. They all came down into the valleys, and it became necessary to build many monasteries. I am not talking about our time; this happened in the past.

And now these days, in many Kagyu monasteries we say, “We’re building a new monastery,” and without any compunction we cut down all the trees, the lovely forests, that naturally grew around the monasteries. This can create great harm for the environment. Some monasteries are even selling the timber from the forests behind the monasteries. When we do that, we don’t know what harm we are creating now, but it creates problems for the world environment a few years later. When the so-called essence of the earth, the essence of the place, is harmed, this causes great harm to the world environment, and then we think, “Oh, no! What did we do?” But if we only think about it later, it’s too late. It takes twenty or thirty years to grow a single tree; they don’t grow up immediately upon planting.

For that reason, we need to understand clearly in all our monasteries in India and Nepal, and likewise in all the monasteries in Tibet, that if we are unable to conceive of all sentient beings throughout limitless space, never mind that. But we live on this earth, and everyone can see it. If our earth is destroyed by changes in the climate, there won’t be any of us Kagyupas left. There won’t be any Karma Kamtsang. We’ll all be lost. It’s not like we have Dharma protectors and Mahakala Bernakchen will save us, so that the rest of the world will be destroyed and only we will be left. That won’t happen. For that reason we need to protect the environment. We should provide some education in the monasteries about how to protect the environment. I think that would be very good.

We should not just always dig and build, but also do something to protect the environment. The sutras and tantras say that keeping the monasteries and sacred places clean has immeasurable benefits. It is the same with the earth: the earth is in great danger and it needs our care, so we should try to help protect the environment for all the beings in the world. Even if we can’t do anything else, it is not too difficult to explain the basic things we need to do to protect the world. You should educate people about this and say, “This is how it is.” So whether we are members of the sangha or lay people, if we take some interest in protecting the environment every single day, it will be very good.

That was the second point, the environment.

Gyalwang Karmapa’s Advice on Vegetarianism


December 24, 2007, Translated by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche & Karma Choephel

Now we are finishing the 25th Kagyu Monlam in a very auspicious way, and there is not a whole lot for a fool like me to say. A great crowd of monks and nuns from the different Kagyu monasteries have come here. Similarly, there are many people who have come here from Ü, Tsang, and Kham in Tibet. A great number of people from foreign countries, both East and West, have also come. For all of you to come here is, as I have already said, a wonderful great fortune for all of us, for myself and for you, and I am very happy about this.

Last year on the final day of the Kagyu Monlam, I said a few things on the subject of giving up eating meat. Almost all of you probably already know this. It seems some people did not completely understand what I said. For example, some foreign students seemed to think it meant that once you become a student of the Kagyu, meat is not allowed to pass your lips. They told all the meat-eating Kagyupas, “You can’t be a Kagyupa if you eat meat.” I did not say anything that inflammatory. If a Mahayana practitioner, who considers all sentient beings to be like their father or mother, eats the flesh of another being out of carelessness and without any compassion, that is not good. So we need to think about this and pay attention to it. All of us Mahayana practitioners, who accept that all sentient beings have been our mothers and fathers, need to think about this. For that reason, it would be good to decrease the amount of meat that we eat. That is what I said.

I certainly did not say that you are not allowed to eat meat at all. That would be difficult. Whether it is because of previous karma or their present circumstances, some people cannot do without meat. This is how it is, and there’s nothing to do about it. It’s not a problem.

If you have to eat meat, there is a proper way to eat it. Do not just grab it and stuff it into your mouth as soon as it is put on your plate. If first you think carefully about it, meditate on compassion, and recite the names of buddhas or mantras before eating, then it has some positive effects.

When I was explaining this last year, I said that one reason to give up eating meat was for the long life of the lamas. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, passed through his “obstacle year” according to Tibetan astrology, so it was for his long life. Next year will be his post–obstacle year. I also brought up my own name. On one hand, it may have been out of desperation that I said, “If you do this for my own long life, that would be good.” Some people have asked how it is that their giving up eating meat could bring me a longer life. It’s difficult to give a direct answer to that question.

But if we don’t eat meat, even if we don’t live longer, I think we will live happier lives. If we enjoy the flesh and blood of other beings, then at the time we have to go, we might feel as if this life didn’t turn out so well. We will have carelessly consumed the flesh and blood of other beings. That might happen, right? If we don’t eat meat, life might not be longer, but there is a possibility we might be more satisfied.

Many monasteries in India and Nepal have done such great, positive things as giving up meat and cooking vegetarian food instead. This is a good example for Buddhism in general, and I think it especially becomes Mahayana practice.

In our eyes, such high lamas as Jamgon Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche are the living presence of Manjushri and Vajrapani. Out of care for sentient beings, they intend to refrain from eating meat and to become vegetarian. I think that for them to have such an intention is actually a great fortune for all of us sentient beings; it is good fortune for all of their followers.

Some of the other high lamas who are here, Thrangu Rinpoche and Tenga Rinpoche, were present during the time of the previous Karmapa, and they are like the pillars of the teachings. Throughout their lives they have developed strong habits of eating meat. However, out of their concern for beings and the Buddhist teachings, they have taken great steps in this direction. For that reason, all of us who call ourselves their followers need to think about this.

Everyone is really trying their best. For example, in Tibet, in the old days there was no way to live without eating butter, cheese, and meat. Now maybe because of better environmental conditions, or because Tibetans have such strong faith, or because they are stubborn, the monasteries even in many remote places have promised to give up meat. When we think about it, there are many people here in India who generally do not like eating meat. So when those of you who live here give up meat, it is not really anything novel. For people in Tibet, however, to give up meat is a big deal. I would like to say thank you to all of them. We need to keep doing everything we can.

We should contemplate the Mahayana teachings and the precious teachings of the Kagyus. The earlier Kagyu masters gave up meat, took up a vegetarian diet, and developed pure love for sentient beings. If we ourselves can take up even the smallest aspect of this sort of action and start with something small, it will turn out extremely well, I think. So that is what I have to say about giving up meat.

The Reasons for Participating in the Monlam


December 21, 2007, Translated by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche & Karma Choephel

There are many of us, representing many different Dharma traditions, gathered here for this monlam beneath the Bodhi Tree. This monlam of the Practice Lineage of unexcelled Dakpo and Shangpa Kagyu was established by Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche. Subsequently Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche took it on out of his compassion, and this is the twenty-fifth time we have been able to hold the Monlam.

If we talk about it in terms of the Kagyu lineage, although we may not see a great result from the Monlam, it has been quite a good achievement. The ultimate result would be all sentient beings easily attaining the omniscient state of Buddhahood. You could call this the activity or the aim of this lineage. If we think in these terms, holding the Monlam is not something that reaches the ultimate result. However, I regard it as a big step toward world peace, harmony, and happiness, so for us to gather here is great good fortune. It is difficult to say whether we will have the good fortune to gather here again. It is rare to have the opportunity to gather at the stupa in Bodhgaya in the shade of the Bodhi Tree. In times of good fortune, we need to understand that they are good fortune, and it is extremely important that we practice so that whatever virtue we gather is not mixed with selfish pride and arrogance.

In particular, we hold this monlam at the end of each year, and many people come here from many countries to participate. Over the course of a year, we all do many misdeeds, and we also do many virtuous acts. So at the end of the year we gather in this sacred place and with sincere and heartfelt regret confess whatever misdeeds we have done. If we feel that we have not performed enough virtue, we can round it out by doing more. I think this is a good opportunity for us to wrap up all of the merit we have gathered and misdeeds we have purified over the course of one year.

If we do not confess all of the year’s misdeeds promptly and instead just carelessly ignore them, we will carry them around year after year after year until we have accumulated a huge pile of misdeeds. We must not do that. We have a good opportunity now, so at this time we should confess all the misdeeds we have done during the year, whether we have transgressed the precepts of our vows or committed any other act of wrongdoing. If we confess these strongly and sincerely from our hearts here in this sacred place where our Teacher Shakyamuni awakened to complete and perfect enlightenment, I think it will be unusually powerful.

Similarly, this is a wonderful place for us to do virtuous acts and gather merit. A large number of sangha members of many different traditions have assembled here, so if you want to make an offering to the lamas or the sangha, there are people to offer to. Likewise, many poor beggars from different regions have come here and are gathered around the outside of the stupa. Thus if you want to be generous to the downtrodden, there are people to be generous to. All the different types of people to whom you can make offerings or be generous have come together here, which makes this an excellent place to accumulate merit. All the conditions are right.

It is not absolutely necessary to accumulate merit through your external actions of body and speech. However, the more your merit is reflected in the way you relate to people with your body and speech, the greater an impression it makes upon your being. I think it is very beneficial if your virtuous actions are not just seeds in your mind but become actions of your body and speech.

There are many sangha members gathered here. Many of us here live under monastic discipline. There are probably also many here who do not live under monastic discipline but just wear the Buddhist robes. The reason we all have put on red robes and come together here comes down to seeing that there are a lot of benefits to wearing the red robes.

When we gather here, it is not impermissible to think about food and clothing—we do need to think about them. However, food and clothing are a minor and temporary part of this life. For example, if we have one day’s food, that will fill our stomachs for one day, but it will not help us in any way the next day. Food and clothing give us merely fleeting happiness; they cannot give us the ultimate happiness. If we can bring ourselves a greater happiness that is one hundred times stronger than that fleeting happiness, that is even more beneficial. If we think in terms of benefit, there is a greater happiness, such as that of our future lives.

Whether we believe in future lives or not, we cannot definitely say they do not exist. Therefore, we need to consider our future lives carefully in case they do exist. Otherwise, if we continue as we have been doing, we do not know where we will end up in our next life. This is why we need to start now to continually prepare ourselves for all our future lives.

We have gathered in this sacred place and have this opportunity to hold what we call a monlam. We are reciting many of the words of the Buddha and prayers composed by the earlier masters. We should do this in a frame of mind that is unlike our ordinary mind. As much as possible, we should have the kindest and best of motivations. Ordinarily we might feel some anger, pride, or jealousy. There is not much to do about this; ordinary individuals are unable to always be good. But it would be a mistake just to completely give up. We need to give our virtuous, positive side more chances so that it will triumph and give our unvirtuous, negative side fewer chances so that it will be defeated. This is where we need to concentrate our forces.

We have gathered here to do that. If we are looking for benefit, there has been benefit. But it is not just that. We are thinking about bringing benefit to all sentient beings, helping them, and freeing them. We are thinking about world peace and happiness. It should not be necessary to say how wonderful it is for us to develop bodhichitta like all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, who developed bodhichitta for the benefit of all innumerable sentient beings and engaged in vast actions.

When we sangha members are following monastic discipline or the discipline of the Kagyu Monlam, it might seem like there are many things we have to pay attention to. But the main thing it comes down to is whether we have really thought about what we are doing. If we have not, then even the smallest thing to do seems huge. But if we have really thought it through, even doing hundreds of things seems insignificant. But here we have many rules for you to follow, and there are many discipline masters here. When the discipline master is looking, you sit up straight; when he looks away, you slouch. When the discipline master turns to face in another direction, it is not OK for you to think about something else that you might need to do. The discipline masters are there to remind you to do what you are supposed to be doing. Actually, it would be better if we did not need discipline masters and our minds were naturally peaceful and tame. Achieving your own outer and inner happiness is for your own benefit, and the least we can do is tell you that. It is not enough just to say it: we need to explain it regularly. That is why we have explained and taught it everywhere, although it seems there are some people who, because of the language barrier, could not understand.

In any case, no matter how bad off we are, we have attained a human body. We have heard the sound of the Dharma and the words “the Three Jewels.” This is the kind of human body we have attained. From time to time the Dharma comes to mind. From time to time, bodhichitta and helping others come to mind. There will be differences in how clear, vast, profound, or genuine our focus is, but there are not many beginners who are immediately complete and perfect. That is not even necessary. If we were immediately spontaneously perfect, we would immediately completely realize the path and attain the omniscient state of a Buddha. That would be thinking too much of ourselves. We do not need to do that. What we have to think about is how much we can purify our thoughts.

I spoke about this the other day. When we are reciting prayers, our mouths and our minds need to work together. If we are saying “Buddha” with our mouths but inside have been taken over by a demon, that is not OK. When we say the word “Buddha,” inside ourselves we should think about a Buddha, even if all we can remember is someone sitting there with an ushnisha on his head and all the other marks and signs of a Buddha. There would be nothing wrong with that.

When we say “Dharma,” we can think of it in many ways. It is like when we talk about love and compassion, for example. When we were children, we did not know anything about love and compassion being the wish that others be happy and free from suffering—we were just kids. But our parents would say that love and compassion are important, and so we got the idea they somehow are important. If someone laughed, we would think, “Oh, that’s love and compassion.” Or if we were given a present, we would think, “That person is really loving and compassionate.” People sometimes feel that way. If at the very least you can think about it like this, that is fine. It’s better than nothing at all.

Words such as “Buddha,” “Dharma,” and “mother sentient beings throughout space” are the most impressive and eloquent of words, the finest of fine words composed by the lamas and great masters of the past. It is easy to recite such words with our mouths. But if our thoughts inside get worse and worse and we are sitting there wallowing in negativity, that is completely contradictory. We would not be holding the Kagyu Monlam; we would be holding the Negativity Monlam. We would not be gathering merit—we would be sitting here gathering negativity. There is no point in doing that. Have higher expectations of yourself. Trust yourself more. Do not deceive yourself. Even if you are unable to actually help other sentient beings, I think it would be good if at the very least you were not fooling them. It is important for you all to keep this in mind.

Each person has his or her own window onto the world of appearances. When we peer through the window, we each see the world in our own way. We see our own picture or movie. Therefore we should practice in a way that is in tune with these appearances and investigates them. Since appearances are impermanent, we should meditate on impermanence. Since appearances are deluded, we should meditate on how they are illusory. In relative appearances we need to be able to evaluate whether we should do something or not, so we need to know what to take up and what to give up. For this reason, please study and contemplate correctly. Then follow through on it. That is very important.

Mornings, we take the Mahayana sojong vows. In the past, this was something for the bhikshus and bhikshunis to do, but many others have also joined in. It probably would be good for you all to know, now that you have taken the Mahayana sojong vows, what precepts you need to follow from now until sunrise tomorrow. Do not think that it is just a matter of not eating supper! If you think that it is only about not eating supper and that there are no other precepts, that is be a problem. The precepts you repeat after me are not something you merely ought to hold. If you take the vows, you must follow the precepts. It is important to follow them. I think it would be good if I explained the precepts later. It is not good for you not to know what precepts to hold. If in the next few days I have the chance to tell you what actions you should refrain from and what actions you should do, I will explain them.

It is because of the support of donations in behalf of the living and the deceased that we are able to hold this Kagyu Monlam. Support for the Monlam does not fall from the sky or grow from the ground. Donations for the living and the deceased are a major source of support. We need to think about these donations. This is not just for monks and nuns—the householders need to think about them, too. We are all eating Kagyu Monlam bread and drinking Kagyu Monlam tea. What we are enjoying are things given by living people whose eyes are still open and whose bodies are made of flesh and blood. We really have to keep this in mind. Sometimes it is hard for all of us as individuals to save even ten or twenty rupees. But a lot of money is spent for the Monlam without a second thought. This is not to make the Monlam planners famous or popular. There are two important reasons to have the Monlam.

One reason to have the Monlam is that by gathering here in the sacred place of Bodhgaya, where our Teacher attained complete and perfect awakening, we can remember our Teacher’s deeds. A single hunter can kill many animals in one day, and some areas or mountains have almost no animals left. Fishermen go out in technologically advanced fishing boats and can put out their nets and catch many tens of thousands of fish at a time. In many areas, the fish are being wiped out. It is similar with butchers. In olden times, the best of butchers could kill perhaps a hundred animals in one day. Nowadays, because of technology, they can kill hundreds of beings in just a few minutes. The earth’s inherent nature is such that it could be sustained for a very long time, but the negative actions and karma of sentient beings are so powerful that there is a danger that life on earth will not be sustainable for much longer. If the earth is destroyed, there will be no Dharma, no earth, or anything at all left. We need to consider this carefully.

Some people say, “Everything is impermanent; everything changes. All that is left from earlier times are just the ruins.” They say this, that, and so many other things that their voices make quite a racket. They probably think they have realized impermanence. But this is not quite right. Changes of times and changes in the world are not the same. Times may change, and there may be little left of earlier times other than their ruins, but we can still tell stories about earlier times. We still tell their history, saying this happened or that happened. But if the world itself is destroyed, who will tell our story? Who will tell world history? Who will know what happened in the past? If the world is destroyed, we will lose the chance that our stories might be told. Even our names will be gone.

These days there is a lot of discussion about global warming. Some people seem to be unable to hear it; some people are able to hear it and are paying attention. But whether we know it or not, if we just look at the physical situation, the world is getting warmer. In Tibet, the primordial glaciers are melting, and there is not much of them left any more. We always talk about the snow mountains of Tibet, but these days there are just dark rocks; there is no longer any snow to be seen. When these are all gone, there will be a great danger for the humans and all the creatures who live on the shores of the world’s oceans. How many people died in the tsunami a few years ago? It is not impossible that an even stronger and more terrible one might happen in the future. When that happens, it will not help to say, “What did we do?” We have already had warnings this would happen. We are all the same in wanting to be happy and free of suffering. Knowing that such a danger is coming but nevertheless turning our backs on it is wrong. It is carelessness and a lack of mindfulness and awareness. Our selfish pride and attention to our own wants is like poisonous food. If we can develop our altruistic thoughts, then I think that participating in the Kagyu Monlam will have been meaningful.
December 21, 2007, Translated by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche & Karma Choephel

There are many of us, representing many different Dharma traditions, gathered here for this monlam beneath the Bodhi Tree. This monlam of the Practice Lineage of unexcelled Dakpo and Shangpa Kagyu was established by Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche. Subsequently Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche took it on out of his compassion, and this is the twenty-fifth time we have been able to hold the Monlam.

If we talk about it in terms of the Kagyu lineage, although we may not see a great result from the Monlam, it has been quite a good achievement. The ultimate result would be all sentient beings easily attaining the omniscient state of Buddhahood. You could call this the activity or the aim of this lineage. If we think in these terms, holding the Monlam is not something that reaches the ultimate result. However, I regard it as a big step toward world peace, harmony, and happiness, so for us to gather here is great good fortune. It is difficult to say whether we will have the good fortune to gather here again. It is rare to have the opportunity to gather at the stupa in Bodhgaya in the shade of the Bodhi Tree. In times of good fortune, we need to understand that they are good fortune, and it is extremely important that we practice so that whatever virtue we gather is not mixed with selfish pride and arrogance.

In particular, we hold this monlam at the end of each year, and many people come here from many countries to participate. Over the course of a year, we all do many misdeeds, and we also do many virtuous acts. So at the end of the year we gather in this sacred place and with sincere and heartfelt regret confess whatever misdeeds we have done. If we feel that we have not performed enough virtue, we can round it out by doing more. I think this is a good opportunity for us to wrap up all of the merit we have gathered and misdeeds we have purified over the course of one year.

If we do not confess all of the year’s misdeeds promptly and instead just carelessly ignore them, we will carry them around year after year after year until we have accumulated a huge pile of misdeeds. We must not do that. We have a good opportunity now, so at this time we should confess all the misdeeds we have done during the year, whether we have transgressed the precepts of our vows or committed any other act of wrongdoing. If we confess these strongly and sincerely from our hearts here in this sacred place where our Teacher Shakyamuni awakened to complete and perfect enlightenment, I think it will be unusually powerful.

Similarly, this is a wonderful place for us to do virtuous acts and gather merit. A large number of sangha members of many different traditions have assembled here, so if you want to make an offering to the lamas or the sangha, there are people to offer to. Likewise, many poor beggars from different regions have come here and are gathered around the outside of the stupa. Thus if you want to be generous to the downtrodden, there are people to be generous to. All the different types of people to whom you can make offerings or be generous have come together here, which makes this an excellent place to accumulate merit. All the conditions are right.

It is not absolutely necessary to accumulate merit through your external actions of body and speech. However, the more your merit is reflected in the way you relate to people with your body and speech, the greater an impression it makes upon your being. I think it is very beneficial if your virtuous actions are not just seeds in your mind but become actions of your body and speech.

There are many sangha members gathered here. Many of us here live under monastic discipline. There are probably also many here who do not live under monastic discipline but just wear the Buddhist robes. The reason we all have put on red robes and come together here comes down to seeing that there are a lot of benefits to wearing the red robes.

When we gather here, it is not impermissible to think about food and clothing—we do need to think about them. However, food and clothing are a minor and temporary part of this life. For example, if we have one day’s food, that will fill our stomachs for one day, but it will not help us in any way the next day. Food and clothing give us merely fleeting happiness; they cannot give us the ultimate happiness. If we can bring ourselves a greater happiness that is one hundred times stronger than that fleeting happiness, that is even more beneficial. If we think in terms of benefit, there is a greater happiness, such as that of our future lives.

Whether we believe in future lives or not, we cannot definitely say they do not exist. Therefore, we need to consider our future lives carefully in case they do exist. Otherwise, if we continue as we have been doing, we do not know where we will end up in our next life. This is why we need to start now to continually prepare ourselves for all our future lives.

We have gathered in this sacred place and have this opportunity to hold what we call a monlam. We are reciting many of the words of the Buddha and prayers composed by the earlier masters. We should do this in a frame of mind that is unlike our ordinary mind. As much as possible, we should have the kindest and best of motivations. Ordinarily we might feel some anger, pride, or jealousy. There is not much to do about this; ordinary individuals are unable to always be good. But it would be a mistake just to completely give up. We need to give our virtuous, positive side more chances so that it will triumph and give our unvirtuous, negative side fewer chances so that it will be defeated. This is where we need to concentrate our forces.

We have gathered here to do that. If we are looking for benefit, there has been benefit. But it is not just that. We are thinking about bringing benefit to all sentient beings, helping them, and freeing them. We are thinking about world peace and happiness. It should not be necessary to say how wonderful it is for us to develop bodhichitta like all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, who developed bodhichitta for the benefit of all innumerable sentient beings and engaged in vast actions.

When we sangha members are following monastic discipline or the discipline of the Kagyu Monlam, it might seem like there are many things we have to pay attention to. But the main thing it comes down to is whether we have really thought about what we are doing. If we have not, then even the smallest thing to do seems huge. But if we have really thought it through, even doing hundreds of things seems insignificant. But here we have many rules for you to follow, and there are many discipline masters here. When the discipline master is looking, you sit up straight; when he looks away, you slouch. When the discipline master turns to face in another direction, it is not OK for you to think about something else that you might need to do. The discipline masters are there to remind you to do what you are supposed to be doing. Actually, it would be better if we did not need discipline masters and our minds were naturally peaceful and tame. Achieving your own outer and inner happiness is for your own benefit, and the least we can do is tell you that. It is not enough just to say it: we need to explain it regularly. That is why we have explained and taught it everywhere, although it seems there are some people who, because of the language barrier, could not understand.

In any case, no matter how bad off we are, we have attained a human body. We have heard the sound of the Dharma and the words “the Three Jewels.” This is the kind of human body we have attained. From time to time the Dharma comes to mind. From time to time, bodhichitta and helping others come to mind. There will be differences in how clear, vast, profound, or genuine our focus is, but there are not many beginners who are immediately complete and perfect. That is not even necessary. If we were immediately spontaneously perfect, we would immediately completely realize the path and attain the omniscient state of a Buddha. That would be thinking too much of ourselves. We do not need to do that. What we have to think about is how much we can purify our thoughts.

I spoke about this the other day. When we are reciting prayers, our mouths and our minds need to work together. If we are saying “Buddha” with our mouths but inside have been taken over by a demon, that is not OK. When we say the word “Buddha,” inside ourselves we should think about a Buddha, even if all we can remember is someone sitting there with an ushnisha on his head and all the other marks and signs of a Buddha. There would be nothing wrong with that.

When we say “Dharma,” we can think of it in many ways. It is like when we talk about love and compassion, for example. When we were children, we did not know anything about love and compassion being the wish that others be happy and free from suffering—we were just kids. But our parents would say that love and compassion are important, and so we got the idea they somehow are important. If someone laughed, we would think, “Oh, that’s love and compassion.” Or if we were given a present, we would think, “That person is really loving and compassionate.” People sometimes feel that way. If at the very least you can think about it like this, that is fine. It’s better than nothing at all.

Words such as “Buddha,” “Dharma,” and “mother sentient beings throughout space” are the most impressive and eloquent of words, the finest of fine words composed by the lamas and great masters of the past. It is easy to recite such words with our mouths. But if our thoughts inside get worse and worse and we are sitting there wallowing in negativity, that is completely contradictory. We would not be holding the Kagyu Monlam; we would be holding the Negativity Monlam. We would not be gathering merit—we would be sitting here gathering negativity. There is no point in doing that. Have higher expectations of yourself. Trust yourself more. Do not deceive yourself. Even if you are unable to actually help other sentient beings, I think it would be good if at the very least you were not fooling them. It is important for you all to keep this in mind.

Each person has his or her own window onto the world of appearances. When we peer through the window, we each see the world in our own way. We see our own picture or movie. Therefore we should practice in a way that is in tune with these appearances and investigates them. Since appearances are impermanent, we should meditate on impermanence. Since appearances are deluded, we should meditate on how they are illusory. In relative appearances we need to be able to evaluate whether we should do something or not, so we need to know what to take up and what to give up. For this reason, please study and contemplate correctly. Then follow through on it. That is very important.

Mornings, we take the Mahayana sojong vows. In the past, this was something for the bhikshus and bhikshunis to do, but many others have also joined in. It probably would be good for you all to know, now that you have taken the Mahayana sojong vows, what precepts you need to follow from now until sunrise tomorrow. Do not think that it is just a matter of not eating supper! If you think that it is only about not eating supper and that there are no other precepts, that is be a problem. The precepts you repeat after me are not something you merely ought to hold. If you take the vows, you must follow the precepts. It is important to follow them. I think it would be good if I explained the precepts later. It is not good for you not to know what precepts to hold. If in the next few days I have the chance to tell you what actions you should refrain from and what actions you should do, I will explain them.

It is because of the support of donations in behalf of the living and the deceased that we are able to hold this Kagyu Monlam. Support for the Monlam does not fall from the sky or grow from the ground. Donations for the living and the deceased are a major source of support. We need to think about these donations. This is not just for monks and nuns—the householders need to think about them, too. We are all eating Kagyu Monlam bread and drinking Kagyu Monlam tea. What we are enjoying are things given by living people whose eyes are still open and whose bodies are made of flesh and blood. We really have to keep this in mind. Sometimes it is hard for all of us as individuals to save even ten or twenty rupees. But a lot of money is spent for the Monlam without a second thought. This is not to make the Monlam planners famous or popular. There are two important reasons to have the Monlam.

One reason to have the Monlam is that by gathering here in the sacred place of Bodhgaya, where our Teacher attained complete and perfect awakening, we can remember our Teacher’s deeds. A single hunter can kill many animals in one day, and some areas or mountains have almost no animals left. Fishermen go out in technologically advanced fishing boats and can put out their nets and catch many tens of thousands of fish at a time. In many areas, the fish are being wiped out. It is similar with butchers. In olden times, the best of butchers could kill perhaps a hundred animals in one day. Nowadays, because of technology, they can kill hundreds of beings in just a few minutes. The earth’s inherent nature is such that it could be sustained for a very long time, but the negative actions and karma of sentient beings are so powerful that there is a danger that life on earth will not be sustainable for much longer. If the earth is destroyed, there will be no Dharma, no earth, or anything at all left. We need to consider this carefully.

Some people say, “Everything is impermanent; everything changes. All that is left from earlier times are just the ruins.” They say this, that, and so many other things that their voices make quite a racket. They probably think they have realized impermanence. But this is not quite right. Changes of times and changes in the world are not the same. Times may change, and there may be little left of earlier times other than their ruins, but we can still tell stories about earlier times. We still tell their history, saying this happened or that happened. But if the world itself is destroyed, who will tell our story? Who will tell world history? Who will know what happened in the past? If the world is destroyed, we will lose the chance that our stories might be told. Even our names will be gone.

These days there is a lot of discussion about global warming. Some people seem to be unable to hear it; some people are able to hear it and are paying attention. But whether we know it or not, if we just look at the physical situation, the world is getting warmer. In Tibet, the primordial glaciers are melting, and there is not much of them left any more. We always talk about the snow mountains of Tibet, but these days there are just dark rocks; there is no longer any snow to be seen. When these are all gone, there will be a great danger for the humans and all the creatures who live on the shores of the world’s oceans. How many people died in the tsunami a few years ago? It is not impossible that an even stronger and more terrible one might happen in the future. When that happens, it will not help to say, “What did we do?” We have already had warnings this would happen. We are all the same in wanting to be happy and free of suffering. Knowing that such a danger is coming but nevertheless turning our backs on it is wrong. It is carelessness and a lack of mindfulness and awareness. Our selfish pride and attention to our own wants is like poisonous food. If we can develop our altruistic thoughts, then I think that participating in the Kagyu Monlam will have been meaningful.

17th Gyalwang Karmapa's Teachings -- The Fivefold Mahamudra

December 19–21, 2007, 7 PM at Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya , India . Translated by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche & Karma Choephel

For the next three evenings, we will have a brief teaching on the Fivefold Mahamudra.

Bodhgaya is a place where, for whatever reason, the conditions are not all that good, and wherever you look, everything is just empty, isn’t it? So when I come here to teach the Dharma and look at all of you, it’s like it is empty. My mind is emptied. When I get to Bodhgaya, I don’t have much time to do a lot of preparation, so I will just tell you whatever comes to mind. Maybe this will be less fabricated or forced. Who knows, maybe it will even be better for you.

This evening I will be teaching you the Fivefold Mahamudra. The first verse is:

If on the steed of love and compassion, you aren’t first Across the finish line of helping others, The crowd of humans and gods won’t celebrate, So apply yourself wholeheartedly to this preliminary.

If I explain the meaning of the words first, it will probably help you understand it better.

In Tibetan poetry, there is a tradition of using comparisons—metaphors and similes. Here we have a metaphor where one thing is compared to another, and the main point here is that love and compassion are described as the preliminary. So here the meaning is love and compassion, and the metaphor for them is a steed, a horse.

This horse is not at all like one in your horse races abroad. In our Tibetan horse races, the horses run all out until they are practically dead, and then all you get is a short white scarf. In your races you win lots of things—gold medals and all that. But in Tibet, you run all out and then all you get is a little white khata scarf. So if you race in a horse race and win, then all the people in the crowd will praise you.

In the same way, if you meditate on the bodhichitta of helping others, if that meditation develops within you, the gods and humans will praise you, saying, “That’s great.” That’s what this is saying.

As for the meaning, we talk about many different preliminaries. You all know these, like the precious human body, death and impermanence, and karma, cause, and result. There are lots of preliminaries. You all know that. But the one we are talking about here is loving-kindness and compassion. Why is that? It’s because loving-kindness and compassion are what is indispensable in the Mahayana. Loving-kindness and compassion are the root of bodhichitta. That is why loving-kindness and compassion are taught as the main preliminary here.

The metaphor here is a horse race. We are not racing on an actual horse, but on the horse of bodhichitta. Other horses cannot keep up with this horse, and the main point is that you must practice like that. When we Tibetans talk about practice, we say that if you want to practice really well, you need to practice so that a hundred dogs could not catch you. Even if you are being chased by a pack of a hundred dogs, they couldn’t chase you down. That is how you should practice.

We need to do our practice as fast as possible. There are problems and difficulties, but we need to be able to get to our practice before they do. We need to be like someone who is being chased by a hundred dogs, but they can’t get him.

There are two main points here. The first teaches the extent to which we need to practice, and the second is that we need to get other sentient beings to rejoice for us. Everything I am saying tonight comes down to these two points.

The first point is the extent of loving-kindness and compassion. Everyone knows what we mean by loving-kindness: it is the wish that all sentient beings be happy. Compassion is the wish that all sentient beings be free of suffering. When we say that loving-kindness and compassion should be directed toward all sentient beings, it does not mean that love and compassion must always be directed toward all sentient beings. It does not mean that wanting a particular individual being to be happy and free from suffering is not love and compassion. The extent to which we need to practice is until love and compassion are directed toward all sentient beings, but wishing for an individual sentient being to be happy and free of suffering can also be loving-kindness and compassion, I think.

Sometimes when we are meditating on loving-kindness and compassion, if we are thinking about a big group of people without seeing them as individuals, we just say, “May everyone be happy!” That is easy. For example, when we think about a lot of people, such as all the people in this hall, it is easy to think, “May they all be happy.” That’s just thinking in a general way. However, when we pick out one individual and try to meditate on love and compassion for him or her, that is something different.

You should really think about it beforehand, otherwise when you think you are meditating on love and compassion for everyone and say, “May all be happy,” you don’t really know whether that thought is genuine or not. So beginners should begin by testing themselves with one person and seeing what the extent of their love and compassion is for that one person. If we don’t do that, and instead think from the beginning that we love everyone, that has no substance. Meditating toward everyone is like air, which fills everything but does not have much substance. Then, when you get to meditating on an individual, you’d have second thoughts. There’s the danger this could happen to you.

I have thought of an analogy. If we bought a huge piece of fabric in Gaya and covered everyone’s heads with it, that would be easy. We’d just put it on top of everyone, and there would be no problem of it fitting. But if we took the fabric, cut it up, and made each and every person a hat, then there would be many different-sized heads to account for. We’d have to make the hats smaller for some and larger for others so they’d fit each person’s head. It would not be nearly as easy as just covering everyone with the huge piece of fabric. Similarly, if we just cover everyone with the huge fabric of love and compassion, that’s easy. There wouldn’t be so many lumps and bumps. But, like making hats, considering each individual person is not all that easy, so that is something we need to think through.

But if we need to think about each individual person, how many are there? There are probably a thousand or two here in this hall. If we need three or four days, or even a week, to meditate on love and compassion for one person, then meditating for a thousand people would end up taking twenty or thirty years. How long would it take to develop love and compassion for all sentient beings throughout space? We don’t know.

So what should we do? Fortunately, there’s a way around this. We can look at how people are similar and see what they are like. Of course, there are many different types of people, but we can think about them generally in terms of the reasons we should have love and compassion for them. If we look at one aspect, everyone wants to be happy and free of suffering, so in that regard everyone is the same. Of course everyone has their own character, but when we think about one aspect and then really recognize it in terms of one person, we can feel the same way toward all the similar kinds of people.

For example, in Tibet, as you all know, we always talk about our mothers in all the prayers we recite—“all sentient beings, our mothers.” So the person whom Tibetans first turn their eyes toward when they meditate on love and compassion is their mother. A mother is someone very special. Tibetans realize how kind their own mothers are, and when they think a lot about that and remember how kind she has been, they think that everyone who is a mother must be good. If you do not know a woman, and then someone says, “That is my mother,” you feel differently about her than you did before. When Tibetans hear that someone is a mother, they consider her important, someone for whom we could and should feel love and compassion. The reason this feeling arises is that first we Tibetans recognize that our own mother is someone for whom we should meditate on love and compassion, and we have contemplated this a lot. Because we identify her in this way, we can feel it for others as well. That is why it is OK for us to think of people in terms of how they are similar.

Our loving-kindness and compassion should not be partial. We need to make them as vast as possible. But like I said before, we need to be fast. It’s not enough just to have love and compassion. It is not enough just to have a kind heart in our practice. We need to develop and increase it as much as we can, using our intelligence and whatever experience we have.

However, there are many things that make obstacles for us in developing loving-kindness and compassion. So in order not to have many obstacles, we need to get there first. Then when the obstacles come around tomorrow, they’ll think, “Where’d they go? Where did the person I was going to obstruct go?” We need to fool them. How do we do that? We need to be faster than the obstacles; we need to get to our practice before the obstacles arrive. Even if we cannot confront them, we need to be able to evade them. That is the second thing we need to think about.

In general, how is it that we can quickly achieve the results of our practice? When we want to get something, we need to know what there is to get, and there must be something to aim for. First of all, there has to be something there. If there’s nothing there, we can’t get anything. When we meditate on love and compassion, we cannot merely meditate on love and compassion. We need to know what we really want: where we are going and what we are aiming for. If there is nothing to get, then you have no aim, and there will be no result for you to achieve, nothing at all. It is not just working hard at the cause and practicing love and compassion. It is not just wishing for a result. There has to actually be a result to achieve. We need to think about what it is that we need to achieve.

What we need to know is that from the very moment we plant the seed or cause, the process that brings the result has started; the result begins to ripen. In the same way, once we begin practicing, the result also begins to ripen. The result is not yet manifest, but we have to have some idea of what the result will be. If we practice without any thought of that, then there is the danger that the practice we are doing will not serve any purpose.

Sometimes we have something that we say is very precious. Since it’s precious, we put it underground, behind something, or in some high corner behind a book or something. Then there’s the danger we won’t be able to find it tomorrow. So when we practice, we might think that the result is something “secret” that we should keep hidden, an inconceivable result that we need to keep secret. Take the example of omniscience. We do not understand it, so when we are trying to achieve omniscience, it is some big secret. We think omniscience is some great thing, but we don’t comprehend it. We don’t know what it is or what it is like. For that reason we first need to recognize as clearly as possible what the result is like. We need to know it and see it for ourselves. The more we do that, the faster we will get to the result. The more we think about the result, and how the result is connected to the practice, the faster our practice will be, and the fewer obstacles there will be. If we don’t really know the connection between the cause and the result, we may want to achieve some good result, but it will be extremely difficult. That is why it is so important for us to consider the connection between cause and result.

This depends upon each of us. I won’t go into too much detail, but the essence is that at first we should not think about the things we can’t know, the things that are inconceivable or difficult to get our minds around, the big things like mahamudra or dzogchen. First of all, think about the things we can know and comprehend. If we do that, it will be easier for us to practice. The lamas will also have less work. You don’t know this, you don’t know that, and you ask millions of questions, but the lama can’t explain everything. You use up all the time you have with the lama. You end up getting farther and farther away from your practice, which is rather bizarre.

That is why we should first practice the things that we can see, know, and experience. After that, we can come to know the things that we did not know at first. After learning one thing, we can learn another, and it continues like that until omniscience: you know the unknown, and what you know becomes omniscience. Because the extent of what you know expands, there is omniscience. Otherwise, if at first you don’t know anything and think about achieving omniscience, it would be really difficult. This teaches the framework of our practice.

Next, we need to get others to feel happy and rejoice. How can we do that? Should we tell jokes to make people happy? Or should we have fun with them? We each have to think this through. Our own kind heart alone does not help. It does not help just to keep our kind thoughts inside our chests: we need to show them. Loving-kindness and compassion are about actually bringing benefit to other people. If we think that love and compassion are precious and valuable, like valuable jewels, and that we need to keep them for ourselves, then this is not really loving-kindness and compassion. Our love and compassion should be like radiating lights, and they should radiate as much as possible to help other beings.

How can we practice so that they do radiate? How can we make others happy? How can we help others? We should not merely have the loving and compassionate wish that others be happy and free of suffering. We should free them from suffering and make them happy. We should express love and compassion through our body and speech so that other people actually experience the results of our actions. Otherwise, loving-kindness and compassion are nothing special. For that reason, we need to get others to rejoice. But don’t think that the reason for getting others to rejoice is so that things turn out well for me and that everyone will praise me. That’s not it. Loving-kindness and compassion are something that everyone needs. Everyone needs to have affection for one another. We need to love and care for each other. So there is nothing wrong with giving love.

There is a story. Was it in the time of the Dharma king Songtsen Gampo? A pandita from India was having a conversation or something, and then he cut open his chest and showed the entire infinite mandala of the deity. That’s the story. So we might say, “My love and compassion are real love and compassion.” But if we cut open our chest, we’ll just see our red heart, not love and compassion. Love and compassion aren’t something you can see in the flesh of someone’s chest. Where’s the love and compassion? The heart going thump, thump, thump isn’t love and compassion. If love and compassion are inside us, no one can know about it or see it. But if we show it on the outside through the bearing of our body and speech, others will be able to see it.

It’s very important that we show it. If it’s just for our own benefit, there’s not much need for love and compassion. Love and compassion are for helping other people. If we keep them for ourselves, it doesn’t matter whether we have love and compassion. You might as well then just save your money, get rich, and have some fun. The actual reason we need love and compassion is that we need to think about the benefit of sentient beings, and our actions should be for their benefit. If we can do that, then our loving-kindness and compassion will not be just words, but will become something really authentic.

December 20, 2007, 7 PM

First of all, I would like to wish everyone tashi delek. This is the second evening of the teaching, and I would like to greet everyone.

You all must speak Tibetan really well! Yesterday evening I taught you sim ja nang. Today it’s tashi delek. I’ll think of something else for tomorrow.

I was able to teach here in Bodhgaya for the first time in 2003. I gave some Dharma teachings in the basement of the Mahayana guesthouse. There weren’t many windows in the basement, so there wasn’t much air. It was a bit difficult. But there weren’t so many people then, so it was probably OK. Then there got to be more and more people. Even though Mingyur Rinpoche built this large building, we still have trouble fitting everyone.

I consider myself a student in my Dharma practice. I don’t feel I have come to a level where I am a Dharma teacher, or, even if I have, I do not have much desire to teach. This is because teaching Dharma is not just explaining; it brings a responsibility, and I do not have any wish to just teach whenever and wherever. But many people have come, and it seems like I ought to teach, so I will teach a bit. The main thing is whether this helps you. That is my thought in teaching you. I don’t think of myself as some big professor. I’m teaching whatever I can to help you. I’m trying my best to teach you something that will help you.

Sometimes we Tibetans think in funny ways. We think that unless you can actually help, there is not much benefit in just wishing to help. We think that unless there is an actual benefit, the wish to help is pointless. But I think that in a sense this is a mistake, because it’s not just about whether or not you benefit others. We need people to want to help one another and to have affection for one another. It’s not a question of whether or not it actually is beneficial. Merely having affection for one another is very important and necessary.

Sometimes I think that while I am living on this earth, if by living this life I can bring some actual benefit to the beings of this world and all those who are connected with me, that would be wonderful, that would be best. Even if that does not happen, I will continue to lead this life. I am living for the benefit of the beings in the world, so that there will be one more person in this world with love and concern for them. That is how I think. Sometimes I think I have to do something extremely helpful, and I get attached to that. But I don’t know whether things will turn out exactly as I want. If I can help, that would be best. Perhaps my wish to help you might become one condition, even if only a tiny one, that brings you happiness.

Now I will continue with the text. The main topic this evening is the second instruction of the Fivefold Mahamudra:

If the king, your body, the yidam deity’s form, Does not reign on the throne of unchanging ground, The court of mother dakinis will not gather, So apply yourself wholeheartedly to seeing your body as the yidam.

I will explain the words. You might not understand this otherwise.

“If the king, your body, the yidam deity’s form” uses the metaphor of a king, a great and powerful king. Our aggregates and sense bases—form, feeling, conception, and the others—are pure from the very beginning. They are naturally pure. They are the yidam deity from the very beginning, already a buddha by nature, as they are inherently free of all stains and faults. This is what the king represents.

Our nature is the deity, but in terms of our ordinary perceptions, we cling to what we perceive with our five senses as soon as it appears. We cling to it as real and solid, concrete. Because of this clinging, the primordial nature of the deity cannot become manifest. So in order to purify our ordinary concepts, we meditate on the creation phase, which has the three characteristics of clear appearance, stable pride, and recollection of purity. If we meditate on the creation phase with these three characteristics, the “court of mother dakinis” will gather. That is, we will gain mastery over all phenomena of samsara and nirvana, or be able to know all phenomena of samsara and nirvana. We will be able to see them all and reach the state of omniscience. We will be able to enjoy that state, or enjoy such riches. That is the meaning. The metaphor is of a king. Because the king reigns over his kingdom well, he gathers a large court. His kingdom becomes vast.

Almost all of us here practice some sort of meditation on a yidam deity. This is important. It is extremely important to have clear appearances of the creation phase. I don’t have anything terribly deep to say about this. Sometimes we Tibetans make easy things difficult. I will try to do the opposite. I thought I would say a few things to make the difficult things easy.

Here there are two points: the creation phase with clarity, purity, and stable pride, and gaining mastery over samsara and nirvana. There are these two parts. The first is meditation, and the second is its result. What is the result we need to achieve? It is gaining mastery over samsara and nirvana. These are the two points. The first is the creation phase with clarity, purity, and stable pride.

“Clarity” means that the creation phase should have a clear appearance. The appearances of the deity’s body color, ornaments, and clothing should all be clear.

For example, behind me there is the statue of our Teacher, the Buddha Shakyamuni. This is a nirmanakaya form, a monastic form. This form is easy. When you meditate on something, first you have to know what it is. But if you have to meditate on another deity, such as Vajrasattva or Vajradhara, drawn in the Tibetan style, first you have to study the painting. You have to have some knowledge of the Tibetan style and shape of the jewelry or ornaments beforehand. Every artist draws these slightly differently, and the faces are completely different, so which one is it? Sometimes this is a real problem.

What is Vajradhara like? How should you meditate on Vajradhara? What are Vajradhara’s ornaments really like? If you want to meditate on these clearly, you have to really think about what they are like. For instance, if you meditate on your clothes, you have to be familiar with them. If you look at your own jewelry, you know what its shape is and what unusual features it has. You need your visualization to be this familiar. You are visualizing yourself as the deity, so it would be strange to visualize yourself wearing ornaments that you know nothing about. You’d think, What is this? For you foreigners who have never seen Tibetan jewelry, it is difficult. You need to think about this.

I used to think that there was a certain way that the yidam deity had to look. Although the color and implements might differ, the form was supposed to be a certain way. However, these days there is no way for us to figure out how the deity should look. Long ago in Tibet, when they first made a depiction of Green Tara, they were not sure what she should look like. They talked it over, and they had a general idea of Tara, but finally they ended up taking the most beautiful Tibetan girl and using her as a model. That is the story. They had no choice. Who knows what Tara looks like? Even lamas who actually see the deities see them with slightly different colors or implements; sometimes even the faces are different. So it is difficult to say what they are actually like.

So how should you meditate? When you are meditating on deities, if you feel as if you absolutely must visualize them exactly as they look in thangkas, then you are just visualizing them as pictures, and it becomes difficult to visualize them as living, breathing beings. You need to visualize them as living people, so first you should think about a person. Think about a good-looking person, whoever that might be. If you think in that way, it is probably OK. But you have to think carefully.

Don’t get the idea you can think about any good-looking person. You should not think about some blond Western guy or girl; most bodhisattvas have black hair, I suppose. Be careful on this one.

You need to know that there really is someone like this. Then you’ll be OK. And you don’t have to visualize the precious ornaments exactly as they are in a thangka. These days we see a lot of different kinds of ornaments. Decide which ornaments the deity is wearing. You can’t just visualize whichever ornaments you happen to think about, but if you think about it a bit and decide for yourself that they are probably like this, it will be easier to see, and I think it will be more like seeing a living person.

If we are going to meditate on Tara, for example, first we have to know the characteristics of her body, ornaments, and robes. Then we need to be able to draw a picture in our minds. We should not look at someone else’s picture and meditate. We need to be able to paint Tara’s entire figure in our minds. If we can do that, then it will be easy from the beginning. If instead we just look at someone else’s picture, it is really difficult. We don’t know anything about Tara, so there’s no way we can practice. That would be just watching a show, not practicing. In the beginning, middle, and end, practice should be something that arises from within our mind-stream. Tara should not be someone we are looking out at, as if in a picture or a movie. We should draw a clear picture of Tara in our minds. That is very important.

Sometimes it is said that when we are actually meditating, first we should visualize each part clearly, one at a time, but that is a little difficult. For example, when we picture someone we know well, it is really difficult to remember all the details clearly. If instead we remember a general, overall picture of the person, that is easier. If we try to picture each detail, it won’t feel like a living being.

Sometimes I think it’s funny. When you first think about the characteristics of Tara, for example, she is gorgeous, with white skin and long, black, shiny hair. So someone might consider himself or herself really beautiful and think, “If I just visualize myself, that would be fine. Isn’t my skin really fair? Isn’t my hair really nice? Aren’t I beautiful?” So they visualize themselves. This might happen. But in any case, first of all our visualization has to have all the characteristics that make Tara different from other deities. We need to know all these, and only then we can think of her. Whether or not the visualization comes as clearly as we would like, at first Tara does not appear in our minds, so we need to make her appear in our minds. We feel her presence. We need to think she is there, whether or not we see everything.

For example, sometimes when we are not good at the creation phase, Tara’s head might be missing. Sometimes when we don’t know how to think about it, we only see half of her. Maybe we can meditate on Tara’s upper body really well, but the lower body isn’t really there; it is not very clear. Or sometimes we have the difficulty that the upper body is not very clear. In any case, take it gradually. Take it from the beginning. It will not be exactly perfect at first. When we do practice, it comes gradually. If it had to be perfect from the beginning, we would have had to be buddhas already. That would be bizarre! So we need to go step by step.

After that there is gaining mastery over samsara and nirvana. There’s no need to talk about that right now. We can talk about mastery over samsara and nirvana later, when we get there. Maybe we cannot master them yet.

The third point is this:

If the sun of your devotion does not shine On the snow mountain of the lama’s four kayas, The streams of blessing will not flow, So apply yourself wholeheartedly to developing devotion.

I will explain this briefly. The metaphor for the lama, who is in essence the four kayas, is a snow mountain. The metaphor for praying to the lama with devotion is the sun. The blessings that come from praying to the lama with devotion are compared to the streams that flow down a snow mountain because of the sunshine.

This is a really good metaphor. Some students have such intense devotion that when the sun of their devotion shines, it makes the lamas sweat buckets. The students show so much devotion that the lama sweats.

Before, in Tibet, there were the snow mountains and glaciers, and only when the sun shone would any streams start to flow. Nowadays, with global warming, we don’t need to wait for the sun to shine. So bring on the global warming of devotion!

I don’t really have much to say about this. When I say you should have devotion for a lama, it does not sound good, because I am called a lama, and you are students. You should decide for yourselves whether you need devotion. Whether devotion happens is something between the student and the lama, an authentic lama. But mainly it is a practice on the student’s part. You need to think about this for yourselves—whether or not your lama is authentic, whether or not you need devotion. If you need to have devotion, you should think about how to do it for yourselves. I don’t have any particular suggestions about how you should develop devotion.

If you really have devotion, faith, and trust, then you should not really need much of a reason. You should not need to analyze. Naturally, when you see the qualities of the lama’s presence, or see the way the lama’s activity manifests, your perception could be transformed. That is what devotion does: it carries your mind along. Devotion is the shortest way to quickly realize the ultimate nature. If it could be found in a few words or verbal explanations, then everyone would realize the essence of the dharma nature. But this is not something you can find in words. It is primarily a question of whether you have transformed the deluded appearances in your mind. It depends upon whether your mind has been carried along by devotion. So let your mind be carried! I can only offer my hopes and prayers.

December 21, 2007, 7 PM

First of all, I would like to offer you all my greetings. This will be the last teaching on the Fivefold Mahamudra, and we have two more points to discuss: the actual practice of mahamudra and how to make dedications.

We have now come to the fourth stanza, which discusses the actual practice of mahamudra:

If in the expansive sky of the mind essence The cloud banks of your thoughts do not disperse, The stars of the two wisdoms won’t shine bright, So apply yourself wholeheartedly to nonconceptuality.

First I will explain the words.

The “mind essence” is the nature of mind—emptiness. The metaphor for the nature of mind is the sky. Even though the nature of mind is naturally pure, it is covered by stains that obscure it. If we do not purify these stains, the naturally present qualities, such as the two wisdoms of knowing the nature of all things and knowing their variety, cannot become manifest. This is like when the clouds in the sky have not dispersed and the bright light of the stars is not visible.

This discusses the essence of mahamudra practice—what we rest in during actual practice. However, today we are just giving an explanation, so we do not need to rest in meditation.

This is talking about the mind essence, the nature of the mind. Every individual thing has its own particular features, and it also has aspects that are common to other things. The particular feature of the mind is that it is naturally clear and aware. That is the particular feature of mind that is different from other things. But the nature of mind does not exist on its own, it is not something real, and it cannot be defined in a concrete way. This is similar to the nature of all things, which also do not exist on their own, are not something real, and cannot be defined in a concrete way. If we look at it in terms of this aspect of their natures, all things are by nature similar, or by nature the same.

The emptiness of the mind and the emptiness of all things are the same. Their natures are the same, not separate. For that reason, if we realize the emptiness of our minds, which is closest to us, we will be able to realize the emptiness of all things. This is because they come down to the same thing. They are not different. They are the same.

But what do “not being something real” and “emptiness” really mean? What are the emptiness of the mind and the emptiness of all things like? There are instructions on looking for the mind, such as looking to see what color it is, whether it has a form, where it stays, where it goes, or where it comes from. When we look for where the mind comes from, where it stays, and where it goes, we don’t find it, and we think, “That is emptiness. That is what emptiness is like.” But that is just our mental picture of emptiness. This is emptiness that comes out of thinking things over. When something comes from thinking things over, there is something to hold on to. We cannot think without something to hold on to. Making something that does not have anything to hold on to into something that does can only come from conceptualizing and fabricating. It is not unaltered, genuine experience. At first, we are really holding on to something. Then we try very hard to make that into nothing to hold on to. It would be difficult to say that this fabricated concept of nothing to hold on to is emptiness.

What I really think is that the moment anything exists, it does not exist on its own. The moment anything appears, it does not exist on its own. Although there is the appearance, the appearance itself does not exist on its own. This does not depend upon whether or not we analyze it. The appearance itself does not exist on its own from the moment it appears. If we can realize this, we have probably arrived at emptiness.

Usually we first have to develop an understanding of emptiness. First we have to say, “Emptiness is something like this.” Then we have to try to make it emptiness, but it is really difficult to have that happen. For example, if we have a box or something that we need to empty, we first have to take all the things out, which is a lot of work. Then when it has been emptied, we think, “This is empty.” Generally, whether the box is filled with things or not, it has space—I am not talking about emptiness—inside it. But we do not know how to make use of this space when it is already filled. In order to use it, we first have to make the box empty. Only then do we think there is space.

Of course we need to gain an understanding, but actual emptiness is really just that things do not exist on their own from the moment they appear. Emptiness does not depend upon our looking for it or making something up with our minds. Even if we realize that things lack inherent existence the moment they appear, this does not stop them from appearing. There is no need for you to stop appearances. You do not have to establish emptiness. The moment something appears, you see it as emptiness. The moment you see something as emptiness, it is an appearance. It is a mere appearance; it does not inherently exist. This is what I mean by the phrase “things do not exist on their own from the moment they appear.”

When we talk about emptiness, you might think that we cannot perceive emptiness unless we dispel the external appearances of conventional phenomena. That is not correct. Perceiving emptiness does not depend upon dispelling appearances. We grasp at things as real. We grasp at them as having characteristics and as inherently existing. From the moment something appears, we grab it and use it right away. There’s no thought first of what it might be. It immediately appears to us as if we can take it in our hands. This happens through the power of ignorance. But actually, whether we turn our attention toward emptiness does not depend upon whether we dispel all the external conventional phenomena that appear. It only depends upon whether we stop our mental grasping at things as real. That becomes something that helps us perceive the emptiness of relative things; the appearance is not a hindrance to realizing emptiness.

It is like this toy called a Mirage Hologram Generator you can get abroad. There is a saucer on the bottom, and a space inside. You put a flower or something inside, and cover it with a second glass bowl, and a 3D image of the flower appears above it. The flower is inside, not on top, but its image appears on top. You might think you want to grab it, but there is nothing to grab.

In brief, the supreme achievement of mahamudra is to have an unaltered experience. We get closer to how things really are. For us, when we have something in mind, our minds cannot accommodate emptiness, and when we have emptiness in mind, our minds cannot accommodate anything. But the way things of the world really are can accommodate things, and it can also accommodate emptiness. How is that? Without altering anything, you just rest naturally in it. Of course we are always within the nature, but because we make things up with our minds, we are not able to rest without altering. For that reason, the unaltered naturalness does not fit in our minds.

It is said that what we really have to depend upon to develop the unaltered experience of mahamudra is the lama’s blessing. So first we need to have authentic lamas who hold the mahamudra lineage and can give us the blessings to realize mahamudra. We need to follow individuals who possess these characteristics. When we follow them, they will say, “This is what mahamudra is.” At that point we need great confidence. We really need to have confidence. When we have confidence, there is no particular need to alter anything. When we just have confidence in something, it is as if it is unaltered. Once we begin to think about it, it is altered.

The feeling of confidence to say, “It is so. It is so” happens because of being able to rest in the natural state. There are many kinds of confidence, but this is confidence that the nature of things is so. It is so. First you look to see how things really are. Once you see what it is like, then whatever happens, you can say, “It is so.” Then you can rest within that. Whether the lama teaches mahamudra as it is or whether he teaches it slightly incorrectly, since he has blessing, when you think, “It is so,” there is the power of that confidence and devotion. Even if we do not make progress through the power of the lama, we can make progress through our confidence and devotion. Even if the lama is not able to teach the words and meaning exactly correctly and there are some minor mistakes, when our own confidence and the lama’s blessings combine, I think that the meaning can dawn within our beings. The subject of mahamudra is so.

Now for the final stanza:

If you don’t polish the wish-fulfilling jewel Of merit and wisdom with your aspirations, It won’t give the results you need and want, So apply yourself wholeheartedly to making dedications.

Because of doing virtuous things, we have a beautiful jewel. If we do not clean and polish this jewel, and instead just leave it alone, it will get covered by so much dust from outside that eventually you will not even be able to see it. This attractive jewel is there in the middle of the dust, and we need to polish it so that it becomes stainless. Similarly, if the beautiful wish-fulfilling jewel of whatever virtue we have done is encrusted with selfish intentions, self-centeredness, and self-cherishing, it will not have any brilliance at all. If instead you take it out and show it to people, from that point it will be beautiful and stainless and give people joy. If you have a valuable thing and display it to everyone, it will become famous and turn out well. But if you keep it to yourself, only you will know about it—others will not. Therefore, in order to bring about the temporary and ultimate benefits for ourselves and others, we need to dedicate any seeds of virtue so that all sentient beings throughout space, our mothers, may attain buddhahood.

I am very happy that you all have come to the Kagyu Monlam and gathered here this evening. So I would like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

When I look out at all of you, many of you are looking up with smiling, happy, excited faces. This is what my eyes see, and I pray that in the future I may always be able to see your smiling, happy, excited faces just like this.

I am participating in the Kagyu Monlam with you, and for my own part, I dedicate all the merit and virtue I have gathered to you and all sentient beings throughout space, and I pray that you may easily attain all your temporary and ultimate wishes.

We are approaching a new year, and I would like to extend my best wishes for the new year. We are awaiting the new year with new hopes. As I have said before, in the new year, I hope even more than before to be able to fulfill the wishes of all of you who have trust in me. Most of you have traveled here from foreign countries, and many of you are my friends and acquaintances. I often think of you. My prayer is that in the new year, all of us friends may meet in many different places. That is my New Year’s wish. So I wish everyone Happy New Year.

Now I have to teach you something new in Tibetan. Sarva mangalam!

A Talk on the Relationship between Masters and Disciples

January 04, 2009, By 17th Gyalwang Karmapa - Translated by Tyler Dewar, Karma Choephel, and Ven. Lhundup Damchö for Monlam English Translation Network.

While Milarepa was training under lord Marpa, Marpa gave Milarepa nothing but a hard time in the beginning. For a long time Marpa did not grant him empowerments or instructions. During that time, Milarepa did not lose even the tiniest bit of trust in his guru, though on many occasions he did become somewhat discouraged.

We disciples who follow in the footsteps of the victorious forebears of our lineage are here today to practice. From that perspective, I thought it would be good if during this session, I spoke briefly on the guru-disciple relationship in connection with the beginning of the Kagyu Monlam.

Also, we have expanded a number of the features of the site where we are holding the twenty-sixth Kagyu Monlam, including the main gates and so forth, and I thought it would be good to briefly point out what the tormas represent. The main decorative tormas are those with images of Marpa, Milarepa, and Gampopa on the right, and on the left, those with images of the forebears of the Nyingma school of the early translations, the glorious Sakya lineage, and the Gelukpa order.

The main principle these tormas illustrate is that when we consider the Tibetan Buddhist teachings, there are basically no lineages that are not mixed with the others. When the three Dharma kings Songsten Gampo, Trisong Deutsen, and Tri Ralpachen first established the Dharma in Tibet, the lineage that emerged at that time became known as the “Nyingma school of secret mantra.” Thus the Nyingma was Tibet’s first Buddhist lineage. Later on, during the reign of King Langdarma, the teachings were wiped out of Tibet, and the later propagation of the teachings began. That is the difference between the Nyingma and Sarma vajrayana schools.

Then the oral lineage of the Kadampa masters was passed down from the glorious Atisha, and the Sakya, Kagyu, and Geluk lineages successively appeared. The stages of the teachings of all of these lineages, along with their basic starting points, are the same. The different individual lineages arose out of different lineages of lamas and instructions, but fundamentally there is not even a single lineage that is not mixed with the others. In sum, all Tibetan lineages have been passed down intermingled with the others—all of them share Dharma connections and connections of samaya.

There have sometimes been some minor incidents between the lineages because of each lineage’s different way of acting and different placement of emphasis. Some people who don’t understand practice might have occasionally found such differences discomfitting, because of which various minor incidents have occurred. But as Lama Marpa said, when he put Milarepa through innumerable, unthinkable hardships, although an ordinary person might think at first glance that he was showing Milarepa absolutely no compassion, what was actually happening was that Marpa was acting in this way so that Milarepa could purify his negative actions and obscurations. It is clear that Marpa was not behaving in this way for his own private good or without any reason or purpose.

Thus if we take such accounts as an example, in the long history of the Dharma lineages of Tibet that have survived to this day without excluding any, a few lamas have displayed different sorts of activities and life examples. Ordinary people who do not understand the Dharma might perhaps look at these various acts and get the wrong impression, lose faith, and develop misconceptions. But there is nothing that would allow one to say that such activity was in its essence inconsistent with or contradictory to the Dharma.

Therefore the presence of images of the root and lineage gurus from all of the Tibetan Buddhist lineages here today means that all Tibetan Buddhist lineages are nothing other than the teachings of the Buddha: They are all the same. For instance, it is like the eighteen schools of early Buddhism. All eighteen schools were the same in being the Buddha’s teaching, as affirmed by the account of the prophecy from King Krikin’s dream. Similarly, it is very important for each of us to be able to consider this and think about it. I think that only when that happens will we be able to remain in harmony with our samaya to our root and lineage lamas without contradicting or breaking it. It is important for all of us to stretch our minds in this direction.

Another important point is that it is insufficient to think of the “guru-disciple relationship” only in terms of the teachers we have directly met and made a connection with, without considering other gurus. There are many kinds of gurus, such as root and lineage gurus. Therefore we need to broaden our view of what we mean when speaking of “gurus.” We cannot just consider those teachers we have met and seen with our own eyes in this lifetime to be genuine teachers, while pretending not to know of any other teachers at all. Whenever we recite a meditation liturgy, even a short one, we always begin with a supplication to each of the lineage gurus from Buddha Vajradhara down from one lama to another all the way to our own root guru. It is very important for us to reflect on what the need to value the lineage lamas and recite their names is actually about.

Within our lineages, there have been many great, genuine masters of all sects, and we meditate on them as the field of merit present as a line of crown jewels at the pinnacle of our lineage. But if we cannot bring them to mind at other times when we are actually endeavoring to benefit beings and the teachings, then meditating on the field of merit itself is meaningless. Just as we visualize vibrant images of the lineage lamas in the field of merit when we meditate, when we work to perform benefit for beings and the teachings we must be able to remember the kindness of our root and lineage gurus and emulate their life examples. If we think it is basically sufficient to merely keep ourselves in line with the commands and views of our monastery’s main teacher, perhaps we are not really thinking about the teachings themselves. Perhaps we are only thinking about our own food and clothing.

The master of our own monastery is the one who kindly supports us with food and clothing. If we only focus on taking his side and supporting whatever he does or says, we will not be able to think expansively and in harmony with the general themes of the Dharma as a whole. Eventually it will be as if the vibrant square shape of the Buddhist teachings has been shattered into many different fragments and we will be unable to point to anything and say, “That’s the teaching of the Buddha.” We will find fault with everything and only have misconceptions. Thus, just as we know how to say the words “root and lineage lamas,” it is very important for us to know what those words mean.

We should have faith, interest, and trust in all the root and lineage gurus, adopting a posture of being a disciple of each of them. With this sense of well-grounded faith, whatever activities of practice and study we may engage in, they will be in harmony with the Dharma, and we will meet all the characteristics of a genuine student of the gurus. Without this faith, things will be very difficult for us. This is the reason why the gurus of the lineages are depicted on the tormas we have here. Their images are not there solely to decorate or show off to people: These tormas were made in order to help us remember the kindness of our genuine root and lineage gurus. When we see these tormas, we should remember these gurus’ kindness, and we should reflect on how difficult it would have been for us, without these gurus, to have entered the gateway of the precious teachings of the Buddha and to have an opportunity to benefit sentient beings, free from bias. It is very important that we all think about this.

We need to study the life stories of Marpa and Milarepa that I was just reading aloud, but it is not enough just to read the books: We must reflect on their meaning and engage in the practices following these masters’ life examples, and find some method by which we can apply these teachings in an immediate way in our lives. Otherwise there would be no purpose in reading the life story of Milarepa here. We would be better off studying philosophical texts or learning more about the mind training teachings instead.

The reason why I feel I absolutely must give this transmission of The Life of Milarepa is that we can get a feeling of the practice that an authentic being actually did in his own life. We can get a feeling of being able to make an intimate human connection as if we could take his hand. There are of course many other biographies of inconceivable masters, such as those of the buddhas and bodhisattvas. But ordinary people cannot even get their minds around those life stories, much less put them into practice. Yet with Milarepa, we have the story of how he started out as a completely ordinary person and committed serious wrongs, but in the end accomplished the genuine Dharma with whole-hearted commitment. I think it is the story of such an authentic master that it stays in our minds and moves our hearts.

A Talk on How We Should Practice

January 05, 2009, By 17th Gyalwang Karmapa

Translated by Karma Choephel and Ven. Lhundup Damchö for Monlam English Translation Network.

In the Jataka Tales, it says:

After studying, make practice the essence. You will be freed from the stronghold of birth with little difficulty.

Similarly, the Teacher himself said in The Vinaya Scriptures:

There are two things that monastics should do: study through listening and contemplating, and abandon through meditation.

Gampopa said:

Beginners should study earnestly. After studying the teachings, practice earnestly.

As these explain, one should first listen to and contemplate the Dharma appropriately through scriptures and then make the practice of the meaning one has studied into the essence. This is the general way to uphold the teachings. The Buddha, out of kindness, said not once but over and over that his followers should emphasize practice, and uphold, preserve, and propagate the teachings of realization properly. Doing this is extremely important.

We can understand this when we read the biographies of Milarepa and Marpa the Translator and see what they did. They didn’t sit around like us, fat, happy, and enjoying themselves. They did such great practice that they meditated until their flesh was worn down to the bone. It is from this emphasis on practice that the name “Practice Lineage” was given, but it is not as if we do not have to do any study and contemplation. We should at the very least listen to and contemplate the lama’s instructions. Even if we cannot read the great philosophical texts, there is no way we can know how to meditate unless we study and contemplate the lama’s instructions thoroughly.

In order to meditate, it is very important to first identify what we are meditating on. If we meditate without identifying that, there is the danger it will become idiot meditation or idiot Dharma. If we do not first fully comprehend through listening and contemplating the meaning of what we are meditating on, how can we practice? Without something to practice or something to meditate on, we might say, “I’m practicing” or “I’m meditating,” but there would be the danger we end up betwixt and between, not anywhere at all. We would be neither in the world nor in the Dharma. We might try to look impressive, but because we are neither in the Dharma nor in the world, there is the danger that it could be said of us that we are caught betwixt and between.

Even if the forefathers of the practice lineage did not study philosophical texts in great detail, they did give their students naked or direct instructions on the experience they realized—the instructions of an old man pointing his finger, or symbolic pointing-out instructions. There is something special that happens when someone who has experience shows a physical expression or makes a slight gesture with their hands. After pointing out experience symbolically, there is a particular way to guide students down the path, which followers of the practice lineage must know. This is also what we call the meaning lineage of realization. Most of the lamas in the ranks of the Kagyu root and lineage lamas first attained a high level of scholarship before doing meditation practice, although there are some about whom I wonder whether they themselves did such study and contemplation of philosophy.

However, even if one does not have the breadth of study and contemplation, the experience of realization of the masters of the past can be pointed out nakedly or directly to students, so there is something special that happens. I think that if members of the practice lineage can recognize what the root and lineage masters have passed down and pointed out successively and what their root lama points out through the view of experience when actually instructing them, and then can make that the essence of their practice, they will uphold and preserve the teachings of the practice lineage over time, and they will also be able to help others develop and ripen.

Why is this? With Milarepa, for instance, first his lama Marpa pointed out the experience to him through signs, and he recognized it as it was given to him. Then he practiced whole-heartedly. When we read in his life story how he devoted himself one-pointedly to practice, it makes all of us cry tears of faith and devotion, whether we are members of the Sakya, Geluk, Kagyu, or Nyingma Dharma lineages, without any distinction. In his actions, his words corresponded to the meaning, so it makes us cry and none of us can help but feel faith and devotion. If the words and meaning did not correspond, it would be difficult for it to make us feel faith and devotion. All Sakyas, Gelukpas, Kagyus, and Nyingmas respect Milarepa without any partisan bias, yet there is no history at all of him studying extensively and writing many philosophical texts. However, Lama Milarepa himself said something like, “I have no material offerings to give, but I make this offering of practice to my father and mother lamas for the rest of my life.”

Milarepa recognized the experiential pointing-out instruction that Marpa gave him. After recognizing it, he made practice the main thing. That is how he became such a great being, able to benefit sentient beings by being seen, heard, remembered, or touched. When all of us merely hear his name, we feel a special kind of amazement. As a Nyingma lama once said, sometimes when our minds are disturbed and the afflictions are strong, other great texts do not help us, but reading The Way of the Bodhisattva and The Life of Milarepa helps a little bit. That’s how it is, isn’t it?

In any case, the person known as the author of The Life of Milarepa, the Bone Ornament Yogi or Crazy Heruka from Tsang, was a skilled writer. His writing is of extremely high quality. It strikes the heart and has feeling. Beginners can also get their minds around it. He is wonderful at touching us. Thus just by hearing The Life of Milarepa, Milarepa has become a great being who benefits the beings who merely see, hear, think of, or touch him.

In order to develop the view and meditation of the practice lineage or unmistaken meditation, we need to practice an unmistaken view. For that view, there is developing full comprehension of the view of the object, emptiness, as well as the preliminaries and the follow-through practices. The preliminary and follow-through practices are all similar, but the main practice has some distinct aspects. These are a different essence, different focus, different practice techniques, and the different power of the techniques, it is said. There are also two other distinct features of the main practice: different conditions for gaining realization and different ways of taking the path. According to the Dakpo Kagyu, the different way to develop realization is that because of the blessings of a lama who has directly realized the truth and the devotion of the student coming together, the student will directly realize the truth of the path of seeing. The different way to take the path is to take direct perception as the path rather than inference.

With the object, emptiness, those who primarily study the emptiness of the mahayana sutras realize it through logical proofs of the dharma nature, such as the king of reasonings, the proof of interdependence, and so forth. For the path and post-meditation as well, they follow the path primarily by way of inferential analysis, it is said. However, these are all only ways to guide disciples with differing natures and inclinations down the path, the great teachers said; there is no contradiction between them.

So we say that we are in the practice lineage, but really we are a bit of a disgrace to the practice lineage, aren't we? I wonder whether we are going to have anything from our practice to pass on in the lineage.

It is not okay not to have read the lives of the Kagyu forefathers. When we read them, we should be amazed. We need to look at ourselves. When we read the biographies of the forefathers of the practice lineage, we feel, "Oh no!" We call ourselves followers of the great masters of the practice lineage, but when we look at ourselves, forget about being a follower—I think we are just barely not disgracing them. There’s a danger we’ll have to rewrite the verse:

The venerable guru practices like that;
We who want freedom disgrace like that.

So when we read the lives of the gurus, we wonder whether our own behavior is compatible with the lives and deeds of the lamas. There is no point to being followers of the practice lineage in name only.

Actually, it was for practice that Lama Marpa and others underwent such difficulties and made such great efforts to go to India and receive empowerments and instructions in their entirety from genuine great Indian masters. They brought those back to the dark land of Tibet, translated them, and directly taught them to their students who practiced view, meditation, and conduct, handing them down just as a father gives his wealth to his child. They have given students or followers of our contemporary degenerate times hope and an opportunity to free themselves from the suffering of birth, aging, sickness, and death. Thus from one perspective we need to feel gratitude, and that is extremely important.

If we take Gelukpas as an example, individual monks have pictures of Tsongkhapa and his two main disciples in their rooms, which shows that they remember the kindness of their body, speech, and mind. It seems as if we Kagyupas are basically slowly forgetting about Marpa, Mila, and Gampopa, as I see it. In particular, we seem to think that the words of Milarepa that we recite these days come from the hand of a buddha who awakened to buddhahood in the past and then descended from Akanishta. We don’t think he was someone human like us. The lamas show the form of an ordinary sentient being, undergo difficulties, and make strong efforts to visibly demonstrate liberation for the benefit of the students, and we are throwing this away as if it were meaningless and unhelpful. This is a mistake. At the very least, if we don’t have the chance to practice, we need to be grateful, right?

To talk about it from a broader perspective, it is primarily the outer natural world—the plants, forests, and all the other things made up of the four elements—that supports our lives, makes it possible for us to breathe, gives us good health, and so forth. Any way you look at it, it is very beneficial to us. Thus we need to be grateful to it. Yet without the slightest bit of affection we destroy any plant that sends up a shoot or any slight bump in the ground, laying them waste.

Similarly, if we think about the inhabitants of this world, our food, clothing, beds, possessions, houses—in brief, anything at all that we might need is produced through the effort and difficulties of many sentient beings. It’s not as if our houses, nice clothes, and food are somehow just there from the time we are born. It is clear that all of these occur through one sentient being depending upon another.

From the smallest things on up, even the cup of tea we drank for breakfast depended upon many sentient beings in order to be made. Some of the butter in it may have arisen in dependence upon animals, and some in dependence upon plants. But just having a plant is not enough: there need to be many people to perform the actions of extracting the oil from the plant and pressing it. There are many people who are involved in selling it and bringing it to market. That is how it is: it has to pass through many people’s hands to get here. This is why whenever we drink a cup of tea, we first make a tea offering. It is good to be grateful like that, isn’t it?

If instead we just quickly gulp down a cup of tea without any thought or consideration, I wonder whether we are genuine mahayana practitioners. If we say we practice the mahayana, at the beginning of our meditation on bodhichitta, we remember that all beings have been our mothers. We are grateful. The gratitude of wanting to repay kindness is like the root of our mahayana attitudes and training, right? We should not just be grateful to humans. In brief, the physical environment and all the forests, plants, and everything else that comprise it, are all helpful to us. They sustain us. We should be grateful to them.

So this year the main theme of the Kagyu Monlam is gratitude. Last year the main thing was environmental protection. This year the main theme is gratitude. Thus it is extremely important for us to be grateful.

When we encounter the biographies of the forefathers of the practice lineage here now, we need to remember and keep firmly in mind how they underwent difficulties and gave up wrongdoing for the benefit of their future disciples. We can supplicate them again and again, but actually, we must wholeheartedly practice meditation on the points of their instructions. These two are very close. If we first develop a grateful attitude, then fifty percent has turned out well.

Therefore if we keep a grateful attitude in mind, I think that we will be able to uphold, preserve, and spread the teachings of the practice lineage. Otherwise, we will turn the Dharma into an empty façade. We’ll keep the Dharma from doing what it should and prevent the instructions from working, making the Dharma into even more of a façade. On the outside, it will appear as if we should be called Dharma practitioners, but if that appearance fools and deceives the faithful public, then just as Mao Tse Tung said, the Dharma will be poison. If the Dharma does not work as Dharma, there is a danger of fulfilling the prediction that Dharma will be the cause that throws us back into the lower realms.

Therefore we at least need to make sure that the Dharma doesn’t turn into poison. What we call Dharma is what we have to practice in order to free ourselves from the sufferings of the three realms of samsara. That is the sort of reason we do it. If we put aside liberation from samsara, we’ll be digging ourselves in deeper and deeper. If we mix Dharma with the eight worldly concerns, cling to discipline as paramount, and think too highly of our own view, there is the danger that we will dig ourselves ever more deeply and profoundly into samsara. That’s turning the Dharma inside out and upside down; it is not at all action that is compatible with the Dharma. Therefore, we need to take this to heart.

A Talk on Being a Principled Person of Good Conduct

January 06, 2009, By 17th Gyalwang Karmapa - Translated by Ven. Lhundup Damchö and Karma Choephel for Monlam English Translation Network.

The sort of guru-disciple relationship we have seen up to this point today in the biography of the master yogi Jetsun Milarepa—the guru-disciple relationship between Lama Marpa and his disciple Mila—is unlike the guru-disciple relationships found nowadays. Theirs was not the sort of relationship today's lamas have where sometimes they say to their foreign disciples, "You have to do as I say. If you don't, you'll be breaking your samaya and will fall into hell realms." Lama Marpa's way of nurturing his disciple Milarepa was entirely with a sense of being father and son, and not like today's way of caring for disciples for the sake of food, clothing, and a little pleasant chitchat.

If we really think about it, it is not alright for one who is called a lama just to know how to sit on a high throne. A lama must know how to nurture disciples lovingly, and be able to care for them. Those lamas who simply accept many disciples, have no idea where those disciples are going, and are completely in the dark as to what to practice and what to abandon are deserving of our compassion.

In order to be a good lama, one first needs to be a good person and a good parent. For that reason, I have a few words to say today on the subject of being principled and having good conduct.

With good, principled conduct, if it feels as if someone made a law that we must behave well and with principles and then commanded others that they must act a certain way—admonishing them, “Don’t kill, don’t steal”—and only after that do we need to do it, then this is a mistake. Rather, this principled, good conduct is an indispensable condition for us to be able to stay alive and to be happy.

Even right at the time of our birth, it is through our parents' love and affection that we are cared for. The reason parents come together is their affection for each other. Then when the baby is born, they have concern for the child's future and a feeling of affection, don't they? Afterwards, as the child is growing up, in childhood and throughout youth as well, there would be no way to do without the love and affection of others.

For instance, when we are born, later when we start going to school, and from then onwards, without the support of others, we would basically become unruly. Such situations show clearly that we must depend on others. There is no way for us to sustain our lives in isolation from others. It is clear that we live by relying on society and on a community. Therefore, since we have to live our lives in dependence on human society, what if the society or community we depend on is full of people who look down on others, treat them with contempt, abuse them or, on top of that, heedlessly trample on and kill other people or other beings? It is difficult to live our lives in a society or world in which such cruel activities are taking place, isn't it? This becomes extremely painful.

Therefore when you engage in such illicit activities as killing, slandering out of jealousy, or telling lies, you are destroying your own value, and the people around you will shun you as a criminal, and as an unprincipled scoundrel. Basically, it’s as if you were being expelled from human society. Thus for these two reasons, it is very clear that we must lead our lives in dependence on others. If the society or human community on which we depend is completely filled with unprincipled, base behavior, it is difficult for us to live our lives, isn't it? If the people we depend on are contemptuous, abusive or liars, or people who lack even a shred of pity or compassion for the lives of others, forget about leading our lives there, there is a danger we will spend day and night continuously oppressed by the suffering of fear, terror, and panic, isn't there? Therefore unless we make changes to that society on which we depend, starting right now with ourselves, we probably will not come to have happiness. If we just go on in this way, doing all sorts of things or acting haphazardly, without protecting our own value ourselves, people will recognize that they have an unprincipled scoundrel in their ranks, and even if no one expels us from human society, we will naturally be cast out from it.

For this reason, there are the ethics of the ten virtues. For instance, we need to maintain the discipline against killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, divisive speech, harsh words, idle chatter, covetousness, malice, and wrong views—the three non-virtues of body, four of speech, and three of mind. This is extremely important, isn’t it? If a person's ethics are genuine—that is, if they are upstanding—they do not kill or lie. They do not commit adultery or rape, nor do they tell lies, and so forth.

Rules that have been mandated are something one has no choice about. But when it is explained that now you should not kill, and if you do kill, you will have one problem after another, then this is not a situation where you have no choice, is it? Thus in the case of those who ordain, there is no need to feel that someone else mandated a rule and only then did it become something you have to do. Optimally, one would naturally take joy in applying oneself to guarding the ethics of the ten virtues.

So we do need to have good, principled conduct, don't we? If we instead ask whether there is a need for us to engage in unprincipled and base behavior, I don't think we would need to spend much time considering before we settled that question. I doubt we would take a few days to ponder, “Should I be principled and behave ethically or should I be an unprincipled scoundrel?" and only then come to a decision. This is because our way of life and our activities speak for themselves directly. If we are principled and of good conduct, then without needing to announce that we are doing so, our activities naturally speak for themselves. How is that so? All human beings revere those who accomplish vast benefit for others, don’t they? For example, in the case of someone like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, when he is acting to bring about vast benefit for the common good of the world, because this is indispensable in today's world, he becomes a leader for peace and happiness. When one works to bring about vast benefit for others, the activities speak for themselves, and so there is no need to explain to others that they are indispensable for the world and that they are praiseworthy. The activities will simply speak for themselves.

If on the contrary we think only of our own interests, and go along mistreating other people, lying, stealing, killing, and engaging in all sorts of other unlawful activities, even if no one in our community says anything, in the view of society, we will automatically be recognized as scoundrels and wrong. Many people will not want to be around us or wish to have any connection to us.

For just such reasons, if we do good, we will be at ease in our surroundings. We will have no regrets. Others will come to relate to us with smiles and affection. They will be loyal to us. We will be able to live a life that is happy and pleasant, a life of joy and delight.

As for unprincipled behavior, since most people find it to be a matter of convenience to behave in an unprincipled way, many naturally run off to do unprincipled things. Behaving well is difficult, isn't it? This is because when the greedy, the discontented and those with tremendous avarice engage in unprincipled actions, they do so because their demands or needs get met very quickly, it seems.

The main point for principled people of good conduct is genuinely to have an altruistic attitude. The main thing is not to place their own happiness and well-being first and get their own desires fulfilled. Thus people of principled behavior think, “I must be someone who considers the happiness and suffering of others, and thinks of the world.” People of base behavior think only of their own interests. These are the people whose behavior is called base. It is quite clear that what is fundamental for anyone of principled behavior is to first reflect on the interests of many people, the aims of the world, and the aims of society at large, and then act.

All of us here have made aspirations, wishing that all sentient beings gain happiness and well-being, and wishing for peace and happiness. We have come together here with such wholesome motivations. Thus our hopes and aspiration prayers are a sort of way to lift our spirits. If some painful or unfortunate situation should arise, when we say "May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness," this brings comfort, and we feel now we have gained some hope. If we are comforted, this is a good thing, isn't it?

But when we speak of hope and aspiration prayers, it is not that we just think about what we want to happen, and then hope and make prayers for it. If we come to hope and pray solely for consolation, we will just be sitting there praying, “May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.” But if what we are praying for is to actually come about, we cannot just sit there without bringing it about in actuality, can we? If there is something that we need to actually come about, then no matter what, we must bring it about. And this statement, “May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness” is something that can come about. If we wonder how it is that this is to come about, we must each begin with ourselves. We each need to secure our own happiness and causes of happiness.

To secure our own happiness and causes of happiness, we must first act to create wholesome causes of happiness. We must create virtue. We must engage in good conduct. We must generate wholesome attitudes. These are important. If we are able to secure our own happiness and causes of happiness, then through that, in turn, others' happiness and causes of happiness will come about. Beginning from oneself, it is important to engage in good conduct and generate wholesome attitudes.

There are many different types of good, principled conduct described in each individual spiritual path, but what is described as mundane, good, principled conduct is paramount. Various sorts of behavior are described as mundane sorts of good, principled behavior, primarily in accord with the particular time and place. Thus, as is appropriate for the time and place, it is extremely important to be a good, honest person. The reasons are those that I have already explained, so there is no need to repeat it here.

In brief, we need to get along with each other. For example, if you need to prepare some food and do not yourself know how to cook, there is no choice but to pin your hopes on someone else. If that person is ill-tempered and angry, and, in addition to not cooking , fights with you, it really hurts, doesn’t it? It would be difficult to live in a society where everyone always scowls at each other, wouldn’t it?

These days there are many people who take their own lives. Within a society in which people only think about wealth, business, politics, and how to come out on top and defeat others, after awhile, when people stop placing any value on themselves and trample over others as much as they can, one can begin to feel despair, without any confidence and without friends to back one. When you start to feel like this, you think that your life in this world is futile and meaningless. Then one day one will have to kill yourself, won't you?

Nowadays, it's said that in some countries there are books that explain how to commit suicide. If you want to kill yourself, it seems there are manuals showing the various techniques to use. It has come to the point that they need to compose such things. There shouldn’t be any need for a book on how to commit suicide, should there? Our society has come to have many ways for people to commit suicide. Earlier, these would have been rejected. But these days, now that society itself has become bad and misguided, more and more people are committing suicide. As the number of people taking their own life increases, a need has developed for these suicide manuals. And then it seems that if you lack the courage to take your own life, you can call some other people who want to commit suicide, and propose a time and place to meet.

As for the need to be a wholesome, undeceitful person, it is said:

Though the earth be full of the unprincipled, you yourself must be of principled conduct. In that way, by the very nature of things, you yourself will prosper abundantly.

In the same way, even if this planet earth were filled entirely with unprincipled people, one would still need to behave in a principled way oneself. This is what I think.

One should be a good person, and become a leader in society, honest, straightforward, with politics that are not deceitful. In general, yes, politics are politics, but it is not necessary to engage in a ruthless form of politics. This is a sort of hope that I harbor. I have serious hopes for myself, but it is difficult, because the world itself is already filled with deceitful people. So even if you yourself do not think you need to act that way, they draw you into their deceptions, and at times this can become difficult. Nevertheless, I have the thought that if there were no one in the world who was not duplicitous or devious, then the world would be hopeless, pointless and futile. So with this thought, I keep the aspiration that no matter what I encounter, I must be free of duplicity or deceit, and a source of hope within the world.

Thus we need the courage to be a good person, with good, principled conduct, and we need sincere determination. Without courage and sincere determination, just taking it easy, without any problems or any work to do, there is no way to become a good person.

Nowadays in Tibet it often happens that many of the businesspeople who are bad people get lucky, while the sincere and honest businesspeople lose their investments and can’t sell their goods. This sort of thing happens, doesn’t it? In such cases, when unprincipled people's good luck increases, it looks as if they are more successful. However, people of good conduct have to undergo some slight hardship. We have to exert ourselves. There is no way to be a good person without making any efforts, doing nothing. But if we bring to bear the sort of confidence and sincere determination that says, “I don’t care what happens; no matter what, I will be a good person in the world; it is not alright for everyone in the world to be deceitful, with bad intentions and behaving badly, so I myself will be a good person,” in that case, I think at that point we can become good people without difficulty. I think it can basically come about without hardship.

Therefore, coming back to Milarepa's biography, whether one is a monastic or a layperson, it is very important that we have affection for one another and believe in one another’s value. However much fighting there is in the world, however much darkness there is, we must be able to serve as small lamps in that darkness. This is extremely important. If there were only darkness and not even a single lamp, there would be absolutely no way for us to avoid what we need to avoid and take up what we need to take up. Thus I consider it very important that we exert ourselves and shoulder this responsibility.

That is about it on being a good, principled person. This is not only for monastics. Also for laymen and laywomen, it would be excellent if beginning from today you could begin to be principled people of good conduct—good people.

The Gyalwang Karmapa’s Special Address to the Kagyu Monlam

January 11, 2009, Translated by Karma Choephel

I have the opportunity to give a special address today, but I do not have anything special to say. Maybe all the special topics have been used up. Last year I took the opportunity to say some things about environmental protection, and the year before that I had the chance to talk about giving up meat and being vegetarian. Everyone has really taken a lot of interest in these issues. With the issue of vegetarianism, it has not been just the Tibetan monasteries in India and Nepal. Many monasteries of all lineages in Tibet itself have actually implemented a vegetarian diet. This deserves accolades. 

I feel that interest in environmental protection is also growing. Students from abroad in particular have taken a special interest in this issue. They have made plans for environmental protection, and are putting a great deal of effort into implementing them. This is very good, and I would like to thank everyone for this. But you don’t need to clap! 

This year I don’t have any particular issue to address. If I say something special every year, you might pay attention to it, but if I were to say something every year it would no longer be special. It would become normal, and then we might not emphasize putting it into practice. Since that is a possibility, I will not say much. 

Last year I did speak about the environment. The climate has changed and temperatures worldwide are unbalanced. The ice packs at the earth’s poles are melting and the weather is getting warmer in Tibet. We are approaching a critical situation. This is not going to affect only one ethnic group or one country; It will impact the fate of the entire globe, so we all need to work together. It is very important that we educate ourselves as much as possible, and that we take greater interest in the current scientific thinking on climate change and environmental protection. 

In Tibet, we have passed down our own particular methods of environmental protection from generation to generation. This is very good. However, there might be some people who have a basic interest in environmental protection, but lack adequate education as to the best ways to protect the environment in a particular time and place. This is why we need to emphasize education and interest in contemporary sciences, particularly environmental science. This is an unmatched opportunity to do something beneficial for Buddhism and sentient beings in general. Since we live in this time, we need to make real efforts at this. 

In particular, I have produced a book of guidelines for environmental protection that will be distributed to all the monasteries once the Tibetan translation has been completed. It has been finished in English and Chinese, and there are plans to produce it in other languages as well. Once this is done, all the monasteries, dharma centers, associations and individuals in the different countries of the world should motivate themselves to do something about this situation that is threatening the world. There is no better Dharma practice than doing something good for all the beings who live and depend on this world. From a worldly perspective as well, this is a critical life-and-death situation. Please keep this in mind. This is my first point. 

My second point concerns the five-minute meditations we held during the Milarepa teachings over the past few days. Actually, if you have never been instructed in meditation and then are told to meditate, it must be a bit difficult. But if you call yourself a member of the practice lineage, you should be someone who puts their main emphasis on meditation practice. If we merely claim to be in the practice lineage verbally, without giving any appearance of doing any meditation or practice, we are disgracing the lineage that among all lineages is supposed to be the most practice-oriented. Members of the practice lineage should have minds that are somewhat tamed or that settle peacefully, but we don’t seem to be like that. For that reason, it would be good for all the different monasteries to plan to make time in their daily schedules for some meditation—at least five minutes. 

All the monasteries have many lamas who have completed retreats, and these lamas should be put to use. Of course we need to help those abroad, but we should also help all the Tibetans, Nepalis, and Indians. It is not OK to just follow the money. Thus the better among the lamas who have completed retreats should give daily instructions in meditation. They may teach meditation on the four thoughts that turn the mind or on something else, but at the very least there should be five minutes of meditation per day. If this happens and we have the opportunity to gather for another Kagyu Monlam, I hope that your posture and physical appearance will be better during the meditation. I hope it does not get worse. We will be able to tell if you have been meditating regularly. If when I look out at you I think, “They are really meditating,” that is a sign that you have been meditating regularly. On the other hand, if when I look out you are not sitting in the posture of a meditator but slouching like a sleepyhead, that is a sign that things have not gone so well. So it would be good to include this in your daily schedule. After all, we are a practice lineage. There is no point to just carrying the empty name of a “practice lineage.” Thus putting a strong emphasis on practice and meditation is the second point. 

For the third point, during the work leading up to the Kagyu Monlam, I have had many opportunities to interact with many young monks. We have quite a few young monks and nuns who are very intelligent and know how to use their brains. But we are not used to using our brains and so we do not give them any training or chance to develop their skills. If we let them remain ignorant fools, it seems to me that their human lives will be wasted, so we should give them education. If they normally work in the monasteries or perform a job that is connected with the Dharma, we should help them develop their skills and creativity, and they will know better how to do their jobs. 

If monks and nuns do not know how to do anything in the monastery, we should not look down on them. If we give them skills and jobs instead, these young monks and nuns will not go to waste. They will be able to have an education and skills in this life, and this will also help Buddhism and the monasteries. For this reason, all the monasteries should take an interest in education. This should be in Buddhism—even if only the four thoughts that turn the mind and the stages of the path—and also in languages such as English, Hindi, and others. We are a Mahayana sangha, so we need to work to help the teachings and beings, and in particular work on behalf of people of many different inclinations and ethnicities. If we intend to bring vast benefit to beings and the teachings, we will need to employ various different methods, approaches and activities. It would not work just to follow traditional customs. For this reason, everyone should take an interest in education and develop the skills of the monks and nuns in all the monasteries. It’s good to make them use their brains, isn’t it? They should not just be left behind like sheep. This is the third point. I don’t have anything else in particular to say. 

Finally, today we are bringing the 26th Kagyu Monlam to a successful conclusion, so we should dedicate the virtue we have created during it. We should make the aspiration that this virtue become the seed of peace and happiness for all the limitless beings throughout space, and that it become a cause that increases and gives power to our love and affection. In particular, we should keep in mind those beings to whom we are directly connected, the beings who live on this planet, and dedicate the virtue we have done to them. We should make the vast aspiration that they may receive this just as we have dedicated it. 

As I explained yesterday, if we foster the precious teachings of Buddhism in a dharmic way, they are the source of happiness for wandering beings. But if we mix the Buddhist teachings with excessive clinging to our own views and practices as best or with attachment, aversion, or delusion, there is the danger that will cause us to lose this root of help and happiness. For that reason, if you are a fully renounced monastic, a Buddhist, or a practitioner, you should keep that in mind without ever forgetting it. Our biggest fault is that we get into dire straits and forget that we are monastics, Buddhists, and practitioners, and then display all the worst traits of our characters. Therefore we need to continually recognize who we are, without ever forgetting. This is extremely important. 

The Buddhist teachings from Tibet have been seriously threatened in terms of study, practice and activity. They are good in general, but many aspects have deteriorated, so please pray that through the power of these roots of virtue what has deteriorated may be revived and what has not been harmed may flourish. 

Similarly the great Buddhist master, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has been ill a few times recently. This is a sign that we need to heighten our alertness. Thus we should pray fervently that all the great beings live long, benefit many sentient beings, and turn the wheel of Dharma. 

The foundation of the teachings is the Sangha, but in Tibetan society we do not really seem to hold the Sangha in high regard. In Thailand, Taiwan, and other Buddhist countries, members of the Sangha are highly respected. People treat them reverentially, and join their palms in prayer to them. But we Tibetans treat them as equals. We pay great respect to the rinpoches, tulkus, supreme nirmanakayas, great masters and kings of dharma, but do not really understand that the Sangha under them is the foundation and root of the teachings. Yet this understanding is very important. Although the custom of recognizing the upholders of the teachings as tulkus appeared in Tibet, generally in terms of the system of the teachings of the Bhagavan Buddha, it is the Sangha as a whole that upholds the Buddha’s teachings, not individuals. It is the community of the Sangha that upholds the teachings. So may the Sangha of the ten directions be harmonious and well disciplined. In particular, as I said the other day, the Tibetan lineages are all one teaching with many different methods. We need to recognize them as all being one. It is very important that we have unmistaken faith in and samaya with the upholders of these teachings. For that reason, please pray for them. 

This year there have been terrible situations, such as the disturbances in Tibet, the earthquake in China, many people dying in the natural disaster in Burma, and many people unexpectedly losing their lives in from the terrorism in Mumbai. In Bihar as well, many people died in the flooding. Please keep these beings and the suffering of all beings in your mind as you make the dedications. 

New Codes of Discipline for Kagyu Monlam

By His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa
 
Date: 2004/07/28
Place: Gyuto, India

The reason why I invited the Uchos and representatives from 19 Kagyu monasteries of Nepal and India here is to express my thoughts on future planning of Kagyu Monlams.

Firstly about myself, I have spent my childhood like an ordinary child in my country. Later the Kagyupas gave me the grand name of Karmapa. My responsibility became quite heavy and my concern about Kagyupa flows naturally.

Frankly speaking, it will not be possible for me to compete with the kindness and the activities of previous Karmapas but timely change is important.

Coming to the point of talking on Kagyu Monlam, this is not an inovation after we reached India. This was initiated three hundred years back, by the 7th Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso, the 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje, the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje, and the 10th Karmapa Choying Dorje. During those days, although it was not called Kagyu Monlam specifically, but all Kagyupas gathered to appreciate the kindness of Gautama Buddha and to pray for peace in the world, just like today's Kagyu Monlam.

Similarly during the 7th Karmapa Chodrak Gyastso, the tradition of celebrating the four major festivals associated with the life of Buddha and especially celebrating the Chotrul Duechen, on the first month of the lunar calendar existed then.. During the festival, the precious relics of the garchen, yellow gold, dark gold and many other offerings never heard and seen in Tibet used to be displayed and changed daily. Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso would prostrate in front of the offerings.

In the mornings, he would himself recite the Great Aspiration prayer, which is one of the most important prayers today, with great respect. In the evenings the stories of the great masters of India and Tibet would be performed in wonderful song and dance drama.

Chotrul dawa coincides with Buddha’s festival and the Tibetan New Year. Normally, Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso did not grant long audiences to his faithful, but when tea is served to the Sangha the public was granted very short audiences. However during the relatively long morning prayer session the public would come just to have a glimpse of the Karmapa. According to the records the general public would come to watch the Garpa Losar performance of the year.

Since we have to try to follow the footsteps of our past masters as closely as possible, it is very important to understand and study the great deeds of these noble masters, and practice the true Dharma even in these degenerate times.

I myself have consistently studied the history and deeds of our past masters, and I hope that the Monlam ceremony should not just be good, but should be excellent in all respects.
 


Aspiration Prayer Rituals

Although there is nothing wrong in reading from the compilation of the Kagyu Monlam prayer book which is red in color, but there is also The 20 Chapter Aspiration Prayers composed by the 7th Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso. During the great masters’s time, this prayer used to be read during the Gar-Ki Chotrul Monlam.

I have received such a prayer book, and it is a very good one. It is Sutra rituals which are the teachings of the Buddha. There are also other compilation of prayers of each particular lineage of Buddhism which therefore often cause inconvenience to many who attend the Monlam from other lineages, such as Sakya, Nyingma and Geluk.

Since Buddha’s teachings are universally respected and beyond any doubts, I feel that it would be most suitable if we can recite these prayers as compiled by Karmapa

Chodrak Gyatso . I am presently compiling and editing this prayer book.

The 20 Chapter Aspiration Prayers was first recited during the Lhabab Duechen which is on the 15th day of the 9 th month. Thereafter, whenever there is a major Buddhist festival these prayers are chanted with sincere aspiration vows, and as recorded in the Chojung Khe-pai and Kamtsang Chojung texts, miraculous incidents would occur, such as the appearance of rainbows, the raining of flowers, in Kongpo district where eagles are rarely seen, many eagles are seen circling the skies, the ground covered with fresh flowers, and fragrant rain.

Therefore, we will base our prayers on this compilation. It is also necessary to add some supplements, such as the popular prayers composed by ancient Indian masters in praise of Buddha, Kyebar Phagto, Lha le phuljung, Ngag wo ngag to, and Topa Gya Nga chupa. I think it will be very good if we recite these prayers.

Normally when we recite the long life prayers, we only recite Kamtsang prayers, which is necessary. Earlier this was known as Kamtsang Monlam but now it is called Kagyu Monlam, a very grand name. So the prayer compilation has to match the grand name. Otherwise the name and the fact may not match.

We started this Kagyu Monlam for the development of Buddha dharma in general and Kagyu teachings in particular. We should also recite the prayer for long life of the great masters of Drikung Kagyu, Drukpa Kagyu and Taklung Kagyu. Otherwise it will be biased, and will harm the unity of Kagyu. Similarly since Rumtek and Sherabling are the two major monasteries of Kamtsang, the chant masters of these two monasteries should lead the daily prayers alternately. Since the recitation of the prayers this time is slightly different from before, I will explain them in detail later on.
 


Prayer Ceremony Rules of Conduct

As we all are followers of Buddha so we must follow the three advices of Buddha. If one is an ordained monk, he must obey the precepts of the Rabjung. If one is a Buddhist layman he must obey the precepts the Ge-nyen. Although both Gelong and Ge-tsul monks attend the Kagyu Monlam, yet many of them lack some of their required possessions.

For example some Gelongs don't have Namjar, some don't have Thango and Lhungsey. Many things are lacking. According to the ancient by laws of Kagyu monastery, all Gelong must have the three possessions: the three dharma robes, a begging bowl and a sitting mat. It was compulsory to have them.

According to regulations in the Karma Shungluk Ling, laid down by the 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje it was stressed that in this institution of monks the three robes, sitting mat and bowl are absolute requirements. Therefore, in our Kagyu Monlam, even if we could not provide for the all Getsuls, but at least we must provide for all the Gelongs as soon as possible. The crescent-shaped cape is also necessary because mornings and evenings in Bodhgaya is cold. Wearing a coat or wrapping the shawl (gsan) on the head is not correct so the crescent-shaped cape is both comfortable and acceptable by rule.

The three dharma robes are skirt(thango), shawl (lago, chogo), and shawl(namjar). Since these are important, I have given a small amount offering to the representatives of the monasteries to provide the required robes for the monks. Actually an under-garment beneath the present skirt is necessary, so we thought a lighter under-garment would be better. The color also must be the three permissible ones. I will give a sample of the colors tomorrow.

The proper way of wearing the three dharma robes must be according to the prescribed rules. According to Karmapa Mikyo Dorje, the three dharma robes should be worn around from the top of the shoulders and should not cover the face or twisted in a casual manner. Especially the under-garment and skirt should reach up to the ankles and not any longer than that. The vest (tongaks) must be neatly tucked under the belt.

Vinaya rules also prescribed blessing for the possessions. Therefore, the fully ordained monks must have their robes (Namjar) duly blessed.

I hope that during the Kagyu Monlam, all fully ordained monks will take the Mahayana vows (Bodhisattva's vow) every morning. Those Getsuls and laypersons, who wish to take vows may also do so and abstain from taking evening meals.

On the first day of sojong, four senior fully ordained monks from this congregation will deliver the Mahayana vows and bless the possessions.

While attending the assembly, the fully ordained monks will wear the skirt (thangsham) and under-garment (thangsham san), wrap the dharma robe(lago, chogo), and the shawl (nulsan) around the shoulders, drape the shawl(namjar) on the shoulder, wear the crescent-shaped cape (dhakham) on the back, yellow hat and begging bowl in hands, prostrate three times and proceed to their seats in an orderly way.

When the master lama is seated the hats must be held in the hands to show respect, and put on the right side when seated.

While coming to attend the teachings, one need only drape the shawl(namjar) on the shoulders and the dharma robe(lago, chogo) wrapped around the shoulders, but there is no need to carry the bowl, the hat and the crescent-shaped cape (dhakham).

According to tantra, it says that during the assembly and teaching if some one has to leave the room they must prostrate three times before leaving as a form of seeking permission and three times before sitting down as a form of apologizing.

The multi-color hat that we wear used to be called meditation hat and perhaps only great mediators(sgom-chens), used to wear them. Karmapa Mikyo Dorje said, in the rules for monasteries, that the yellow hat(tse sha) must be worn, and that in most large monasteries it was the custom to wear this hat.

The seating posture in the assembly, as laid down in some ancient rule texts, must be in accordance with the Sevenfold posture of Vairochana(Nam nang Choe dun) which is not easy. Therefore, a similar style such as legs crossed in vajra asana, hands in meditation posture(chag nyam shag), and backbones straight like an arrow, chin slightly bent down, eyes focused on the tip of nose, and meditate and recite prayers without diverting the mind from compassion and Mahamudra.

Even if this is not achievable, while reciting prayers, at least we should refrain from talking or looking around casually. Otherwise such recitations are neither prayer nor meditation and one is only fooling oneself and others. This rule for prayer is not only for fully ordained monks but also applicable to novices and layperson.

Moreover, one must sit in the assembly in an orderly manner.. Rows must be uniform and enough spaces left in between for tea servers and disciplinarians to walk around. The seating order must be according to Vinaya rules duly respecting seniority.

The fully ordained monks must, before taking tea and offerings recite with folded hands the mantras for purification of the offerings, namo baghawati sumeru kalpa rajya tathagataya aryate samnyag sambudhaya, tyatha om kalpe kalpe maha kalpe kalpepari shodhani swaha. After reciting they must with respect and folded hands receive the offering. Fully ordained monks must recite these mantras by heart and recite to purify offerings.
 


Seats

Thirdly talking about seats, during the Kagyu Monlam, which used to be held at the time of Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso, who always preferred to sit on a mat and not on the throne. Therefore, when we come here and pray at the great site of Buddhism, in Bodhgaya and, in front of the great stupa of Buddha, it is not proper to sit on a high throne. Hence, in keeping with the deeds of the former Kagyu masters all of us will sit on a low mat. However, during the teaching, a throne is allowed to highlight the teacher and to show respect for his great teachings.

It is possible that some people may argue that the teachings of Kagyu must flourish and therefore, sitting without a throne is not proper. We have seen that earlier when our Kagyu lineage was at its peak, great masters preferred low seats. Therefore, this will be in accordance with the great deeds of the ancient masters of abandoning greed and pride. To follow this path will definitely help spread and glorify the Kagyu teachings and not harm it. We should have no doubts about this.

Similarly the disciplinarians(ge kos), of the monasteries have a heavy responsibility. If they sit at one place then they will not be able to see the situations in other parts of the room. Therefore they must walk around the assembly.

To begin with, the disciplinarians and their assistants must check the list of the monks and see that they are all present at the assembly. Otherwise many monks are absent from the assembly and wander around in markets. They must concentrate on the discipline at the assembly. If somebody violates the rules then they must be advised and not punished immediately. It is not proper to admonish the monks in public places.

Also these days many monks wear fancy shoes, which look odd, and not a good example. We must, therefore, also wear proper simple shoes. All the monks must shave their heads frequently.
 


Conclusion

To conclude, please bear in mind seriously what I have said above. I also consider all previous Karmapas as my masters and I have never in my life been arrogant of the fact that I am the Karmapa. My responsibility is to contribute to the great deeds of the past masters and to preserve, protect and promote the pure teachings of the past masters during this degenerate time. This is not only my responsibility but everyone else’s as well. 

Therefore, you must all strive hard with pure motivation for the development of the Kagyu lineage. Especially during the Monlam, as a Bhikshu, your every thought and conduct must be in accordance with that of Buddha’s aspirations, and they must not even for a moment be delayed or postponed. We must not sit back and blame the degenerate times but must be courageous enough to face it.

All of us Kagyupas must take up the cause of the Kagyu lineage as a personal responsibility and must strive hard for the advancement of the Dharma.

It is not right to hold the narrow opinion that your Kagyu is the true Kagyu and others as non-Kagyu; then you are abandoning the Dharma, a disgrace to the Kagyu and not an honor to the lineage.

Generally speaking all the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism are interconnected with each other and have their roots in Vajradhara. To provoke differences among each other will weaken the samaya bonds between them.

In the future, I have great confidence that all the other masters of Kagyu will join us in the coming Monlam. Perhaps some of you may consider my view as childish. I am an ordinary being and therefore, doubtful whether all my activities are true to the dharma. But I have with the best of intentions and will do my utmost for the Dharma.

I hope this will not displease some of the masters, and hope that this will set a good example for all the future devotees of Kagyupa. Thank you.

 

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Translated from the Chinese text (a direct translation from the Tibetan text) by the translation group of Hwa Yue Foundation, Taipei, Taiwan, November 2005. With grateful reference to the English translation by Jamyang Dorje for Dharma Nectar, January 2004.

17th Gyalwang Karmapa's Teachings -- “Living The Dharma” - 1

17th Gyalwang Karmapa's Teachings -- “Living The Dharma”

English Translator: Ringu Tulku Rinpoche
Place: Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, India
Period: 1/12 ~ 1/14, 2009

Session: 1/12 AM Session

Notation: The ‘[HHK]’ at the beginning of a paragraph indicates that it is His Holiness the Karmapa’s own words in English.

We have been given the opportunity at this occasion of the Kagyu Monlam, as organized by the Kagyu Monlam planning committee, to offer some teachings specifically for Westerners. 

[HHK] I’m very happy. I’m very happy to see that so many people have come. For the next few days I’m going to talk about “Living the Dharma”. Maybe I’m a little bit busy (pointing up). I don’t know. This is the first time I have given a teaching in India, especially for Westerners. 

[HHK] So, you have the opportunity to see Bihar, and visit the holy place of Buddhism. Over the last few days, I have been a little busy. And then some of you suggested I speak in English, but I don’t think my English is good enough yet. I have begun to teach in English at Gyuto Monastery this year. Just a little bit. Perhaps this is my preparation for visiting Western countries. 

For the last few days, I have been busy with the Kagyu Monlam. I’m a little tired so I will retire from speaking English this morning. Maybe this afternoon, tomorrow, or other days I might be able to speak more in English.

Today, many people have gathered from many different countries, all over the world. We all have the opportunity to be here. Friends have come from different countries, with different environments, different ways of life, and different situations. We have all come here to this place to discuss “Living the Dharma”: how to live in accordance with the Dharma in different environments and in different situations. 

I would like to discuss with you my own experience on how to live according to the Dharma. However, as you know, I am still quite young. I do not know whether I have enough experience to guide you, but I will try to discuss this during these teachings.

DHARMA IS NOT MERELY A RITUAL

To begin with, what is Dharma? Generally, when most people try to practice Dharma, or say that they practice Dharma, they sometimes understand it as a ritual, something that you do with your body, your speech, or through special actions or activities. And if that is the case, then you need to devote special time for that activity. This type of Dharma practice usually happens in your shrine room or in your meditation room. You need to reserve special time for this manner of practice. 

However, if you look deeply, the Dharma is not only that. Dharma is not a ritual; it is not something you do only with your body and speech. Dharma is actually something that transforms your mind. For example, if we are aggressive or angry, then we may look inside and try to find reasons why we should not feel that way. We instruct ourselves, we try to change it, and then slowly, we become less angry. Or, if we are somebody with a lot of attachment or clinging, we may try to do something about it. We look inside, correct ourselves, transform ourselves from within, and then start to lessen that emotion. That is what we actually mean by Dharma practice. 

You do not need to find special time for this kind of Dharma practice. You can do this form of practice even while you engage in your profession, your work. It can be done in concert with your daily livelihood. It involves reflecting on your aspirations, your way of thinking, and how you act and react. When you can change that, along with how you relate to other people – through your reactions and connections - you become aware of what you are doing. Examining that and then working in this way is, I think, a very important kind of Dharma practice. 

In my life, I feel that I am becoming increasingly busy. I feel that the time I have for sadhana practices and meditation is steadily decreasing. These days, I meet many people and I try to help them. My practice generally revolves around my way of thinking and how I actually live my life. I try to live my life with the intention of benefiting other beings. I look at my mind and my intentions, and see whether or not my priority is the happiness of others. At this time, that is essentially my main practice.

When I was young, I spent a lot of time reciting prayers and doing meditation both morning and evening. Each time, I would spend about one hour on these prayers. However, these days, I meet many people with whom I make loving connections. 

DHARMA IS ALIVE AND REAL

Therefore, when I am awake, when I am eating, or even when I am asleep, I think about the people who I meet. These people appear in front of me, whether close to me or within my mind, and so I feel that I am not separated from them. Therefore, I feel that my practice, “living the dharma”, is more vibrant and filled with direct feelings. It is not like simply doing prayers, where one does not have living people to connect with. Then it more or less becomes an aspiration, a general prayer. But the practice I do nowadays has become alive and real, because I’m directly dealing with people who are actually there and with whom I have a relationship. 

I have not caught a cold yet. It is fine if I do get a cold but it has not happened so far. When I was young, I had to attend to my many studies. I was often so tired that I wished I would become ill. It is said that, in Tibet, when somebody becomes ill, the doctor will usually check their urine and their pulse. Once a lama who was feigning illness put some soy sauce in his urine and sent it to the doctor. I have yet to do that.

We come from many different countries of the world, and live in many different societies and environments. But the main thing is that we think about other beings. The most important thing is to keep all other beings in our focus and in our minds, maintaining a vivid connection. We must not forget sentient beings. If we do forget them, we become distracted, or we lose contact with the people that we wish to benefit. Then our laziness takes over. Therefore, I think it is very important that we keep other beings in our minds and are aware of them in front of our eyes. It is important that we not disregard them. 

As Mahayana practitioners, our main focus is not to give up on sentient beings. Therefore, if we can keep sentient beings always within our minds, within our focus, we have discovered the essential foundation. 

CONCERN FOR OTHERS LEAD TO OUR OWN TRANSFORMATION

If, in our minds, we can bring to being the happiness and suffering of many people, that will then help us to transform ourselves. Otherwise, if we just have concern for ourselves alone, there is no need to change. If one is alone and free, then there is no need to do anything. We may even feel that if we change, then we will disappear, or something bad will happen to us. However, if we think about many people, think about their happiness and their problems, and if we maintain a certain feeling of responsibility or concern about their welfare, then there arises a strong inclination, a strong desire to change ourselves. 

As there are many people, there are many different kinds of problems. Both happiness and unhappiness abound. When my concern is drawn to them, that image comes to my mind, the acknowledgment of the importance of other people. When concern for my own welfare and self-interest begins to diminish, my way of seeing, of being, becomes transformed. Therefore, an essential part of the practice is to keep in mind other people and to experience them either face to face or simply within the mind. With that, we can lessen self-cherishing, our habit of merely looking out for our own self-interest.

This kind of loving kindness and compassion toward all sentient beings is like a wish fulfilling gem. When we have one thing that is most important, then we do not have doubt; we do not have to decide what the most important thing is. When we keep that focus, it becomes easier to give up what needs to be given up, and also to apply the antidote to our mind’s poisons. 

Generally, it is very difficult to work with our mind’s poisons. We are reluctant to give up the control of our negative emotions. We may roughly understand the problems and the disadvantages of kleshas, but we do not deeply see that it is something we need to be rid of completely. We have to see it as something completely negative. That is difficult. 

DEDICATION TO BODHICITTA CLEARS UP ALL DOUBTS

I’ll give you an example. People have many relationships, whether with men or women. Sometimes you don’t know whether you want to go with this person or that person, or maybe this is right, maybe this is not right. We are always a little bit confused. We remain filled with doubts and indecisiveness. 

But once you really fall in love with somebody, then all the doubts are cleared. All of those relationships you have had before become part of the past. You have decided that this is the person you love and want to spend your life with. This helps you to focus your life on something. Dedication to bodhicitta is the same. It is like a wish-fulfilling gem. And when you have that, when you are working for the benefit of all sentient beings, then your heart becomes full of joy. There is no uncertainty. You have completely decided and your purpose is clear. 

Therefore, as long as we do not find that wish fulfilling gem in our hearts, we will always have some doubt. What is good or not good to do? Which is better? Our mind becomes uncertain and we come upon problems and indecision. But once we possess bodhicitta, the wish-fulfilling gem, then our lives’ purpose becomes very clear and Dharma practice becomes easy. 

Generally, there is a similarity between what we call Dharma practice and how to live our lives in a proper way. In our ordinary lives, separate from the Dharma, if we have many doubts and much confusion, our purpose or our objective is not very clear. If we do not have a clear stance and focus, then we find ourselves lost in confusion, concerns, and thoughts. In this way, life does not go very well. 

DHARMA IS TO BENEFIT BEINGS

Dharma practice is similar. First, we must have a very clear understanding. Our purpose, our objective, our view, our stand – we need to understand these unambiguously. Then our Dharma practice can become clear and easy. Otherwise our practice, mired in thoughts, becomes not Dharma practice at all, but rather a religion. It becomes a system. And when this happens, many things come with it: gods, ghosts, good, bad, different kinds of dogma, and other various occurrences. With this, the real practice is lost. In the application of Dharma, there are also views and concepts to a degree, but when we really apply the Dharma in our lives, it is unnecessary to understand much of the philosophy and such. It is certainly good if we understand them, but if we don’t, that is also fine. The main thing is to work for the benefit of beings. And when that happens, we are applying the Dharma to our lives. 

Many people who come to me ask, “How should I practice? Which diety or yidam should I practice?” I usually respond that they should probably practice Cherenzig – Avalokiteshvara - or Tara. However, it is difficult to understand Cherenzig and Tara and so they get confused. “Which kind of Cherenzig? The one with 2 arms, 4 arms or a thousand arms?” You know, a thousand arms – shaking all of those hands can be a bit difficult. 

When you do not understand the true meaning of Chenrezig, which is loving kindness and compassion, then you do not understand the relationship between the yidam and yourself. Therefore, because the yidams or the deities are not like lamas who you can visit and talk with, you may feel they are things that come out of the sky. When there is no basis for the understanding of practices like bodhicitta and emptiness and so forth, the practice becomes more or less like blind faith. It does not constitute “living the Dharma”.

However, if we bring the Dharma and all of its experiences into our lives, then it is a little difficult, especially for those of us who are beginners. In our lives, we have many problems. We also have certain empty spaces in our lives. That is where the Dharma needs to be applied. We need to use the Dharma to work on these difficulties and to find solutions. We can use it to fill these empty holes or voids in our lives through spiritual practice. 

INCORPORATE DHARMA INTO LIFE

If we can do that, then the Dharma and life become one. I believe there is a difference between simply transporting the Dharma into your life and using your problems as a means of incorporating the Dharma into your life. You can use the Dharma to work on your life, which is the most important thing. 

For example, many people have led a good life, with harmony in their families and so on. But then, they enter into the Dharma. Not understanding things clearly, they then bring many changes to their lives. For instance, in our practice we use vajras, bells, purbahs and various other things. When such things are brought into the home, other family members may become a little uneasy. Sometimes disharmony is created within the family because we do strange things in our attempt to bring the Dharma into our lives. 

I do not think that is the right way to do it. As life is the most important thing, we have to find the problems in our lives and then work towards them. We must try to understand the Dharma and use those understandings to fill the voids, whatever problems are in our lives. We do not need to change too much in terms of how we are living our lives or our relationships with our families and friends. Nevertheless, we do end up becoming better people. 

OUR LIVES BECOME DHARMA

For beginners, I believe the most important thing is to directly use the problems in your life as an opportunity to contemplate the Dharma. You should think: when in difficult times, how can the Dharma benefit me? When you infuse even the smallest opportunity with the Dharma and use the Dharma to solve that problem, gradually you can live your whole life in accordance with the Dharma. Only then can you balance your life and the Dharma. Otherwise, without having this understanding, you will create turmoil in your life just as the people in the example I gave previously did by forcefully bringing the Dharma into their lives. 

If we live with the intention of being useful and helpful to others, we can understand the Dharma better. We live the life of the Dharma in this way. Then gradually, as our connection with and practice of the Dharma strengthens, as we bring the Dharma into our lives, slowly, our lives become the Dharma. In so doing, we can bring more balance into our lives. We do not need to disturb the harmony, thus creating imbalance. However, we can use the Dharma in a very beneficial way. The Dharma, in general, is used to transform our minds, transform our personality or way of being. We are changing or transforming into something positive, ourselves. To accomplish this, we need instructions.

RECEIVE INSTRUCTIONS IN DIFFERENT WAYS

Generally it is said that we must receive these proper and profound instructions from a genuine lama. But then, it is not always easy to find a genuine master. Sometimes, we feel that we have found a genuine master only to discover that is not the case. Therefore, it is not easy to find a genuine master. 

The masters or the teachers from whom you have received instructions can be of two kinds. There is one kind of master or teacher who genuinely practices the Dharma, and has direct experience with the Dharma. These are the ones you can truly rely on, the ones to whom you can go for refuge. But then there are others who are not like that, but from whom you can receive teachings. From them, you can understand the Dharma. Both are important. Even if you cannot find the kind of teacher or master who you can completely rely on and take refuge in, you may still find people with whom you can study the Dharma. Through that, you can increase your understanding of the Dharma. This is also very beneficial and important. 

These teachers I refer to are the human beings, the masters who are actual living beings. However, all masters and teachers do not need to be living human beings. Sometimes, as it is said, everything that appears can be a Dharma, can be a teacher or a lama. In mind training, it is said that a negative happening, a negative incident, can be our teacher also. For instance, look at the four seasons: summer, winter, spring, and autumn. If we simply look at it in the usual sense, we think, “Oh now it is winter, we need more clothes” or “Now it is summer and it is hot”. But if we look deeply, we can see that it is continuously changing, everything is continuously changing. The winter is the disappearance of warmth and all the different kinds of growth. Summer turns into winter and so on. When we look deeply, we can understand impermanence from the seasons. And that itself is a teaching. 

Therefore, if we look deeply at life, we can discover many instructions, living teachings. When we speak of listening to the teachings, though, it is not necessary to hear in words. What we see or feel can also instruct us. There are many different ways of learning and understanding the Dharma. It is not necessary to learn solely through hearing. 

So that is all for this morning. We will meet again at 3 o'clock. Last year, we talked about environmental protection and now we have brought a booklet in English and Chinese that outlines some environmental guidelines. If anyone wants one, you can buy it in the shop behind the temple. 

Thank you.


Session: 1/12 PM Session

Notation: The ‘[HHK]’ at the beginning of a paragraph indicates that it is His Holiness the Karmapa’s own words in English.

INTEGRATING FORMAL PRACTICE INTO OUR LIVES 

Good afternoon, everybody.

This morning I spoke about formal practice and the way to integrate the Dharma into our lives. I was not saying that you should abandon formal practice, retreats and meditation. I was answering a question many people have asked who have come to see me. They seem to have a substantial amount of work to do. Therefore, they do not have much time to meditate and do formal practices. They are so overwhelmed with work, so exhausted, that they do not have any remaining energy to perform those activities. For that reason, it is not absolutely necessary that you practice Dharma by doing the formal practice. I was also not claiming that lamas are meditators, that we do proper practice and the rest of you cannot achieve this. So therefore, I thought this afternoon I would talk about how we can integrate the formal practice into our lives.

Generally speaking, Dharma practice is not merely something that must be done in monasteries, temples, in retreat or even in your own room. It is something that you can do anywhere: in the office, or in places of leisure, like a picnic. It can even be performed in prisons. Once you truly grasp the essence of Dharma practice, you can practice anyplace and in any situation. As some great Dharma masters have said, you can even practice Dharma in your sleep, if you know how to do it. Our life is spent half awake and half asleep, so if we can accomplish useful things while sleeping, that is very good. 

That kind of a practice, though, is not meant to completely replace all formal practice. We have to do some formal practice. For instance, when you get up in the morning, you should go to your shrine room, if you have one. If you do not, then maybe you have someplace quiet to sit. When you go there, sit down and relax your mind for a while - think about the qualities and the teachings of your lama; think about refuge. If you are engaged in some formal practice, recitations or such, do that. Then relax your mind a bit. Next, you should make a clear and strong aspiration for the day, saying, “Today. I will do something that is beneficial and helpful to people. Even if I cannot do something good, at least I will try not to do anything harmful.” It is important to make that kind of strong aspiration. If you do that, then most likely the day will become useful and auspicious.

Then when you arrive in the office or wherever your workplace may be, sit in your chair or anyplace you can find and allow your mind again to relax a bit. Generally, once we leave our homes and set out to work, our mind is thrown into turmoil on the way. As a consequence, our mind experiences agitation and lack of peace throughout the day. So, upon arriving to work, take some time to regain that peaceful mind with which you left your house. I was going to say relax for five minutes, but I think five minutes may be a bit too long. Your boss might say, “What are you doing? You’re not doing any work?” Maybe one or two minutes is more reasonable. During that time, think that whatever work you are doing must be something that is needed for and useful to society. Make the aspiration or commitment to carry out your work in a positive way, one that will be useful and beneficial. If you do this with a genuine motivation, then the work you perform can also become a practice of giving, a form of generosity.

In the same way, when you’ve finished your work and you come home to your family and your children (if you have any), you want to take care of them in a loving way. You want to bring your children up in such a way that they will be useful to the world, now and in the future. Raising your children, then, also becomes the practice of Dharma. It is not that you must bring the children into the Dharma for it to be considered Dharma practice. To bring up your children in a way that would be beneficial to the world, to make that aspiration and sincerely work towards it, is itself a truly noble practice. 

In summary, before you take care of children, or before you start out your work, taking some time to quiet yourself is extremely important. Or we can say this is a kind of formal practice. This is very important. You need to take a moment to purposefully or deliberately think about the aspiration for the task because it does not just happen by itself. We need o make a deliberate effort to see, feel, and think in this way. It is important, especially for beginners, to deliberately think, make our aspirations and try to turn our minds toward that aspiration before you start out any tasks. That becomes a very important step in formalizing our practicing.

In a similar way a loving relationship between husband and wife can also become a catalyst for our Dharma practice. The caring that is shared between husband and wife is a kind of respect for life, a cherishing of life. Starting with this feeling of caring and loving, one should gradually extend it to the surrounding environment. In a story I have previously mentioned, there is a couple who is deeply in love. They have great love and respect each other. Because they have so much love for each other, even when the husband comes out to water flowers in the garden, he is emanating joy, and caring for the flowers with love. This is an example of how one can extend love and caring to a wider surrounding.

GIVE OUR MIND A HOME TO RETURN TO

One thing that is important and that we cannot do without is giving our mind some rest. We need to bring peace and joy to our mind. When we make time to meditate or to do certain practices, it is for this reason. We are training our mind in bringing peace, rest and relaxation. Otherwise, our mind cannot rest; it cannot find peace. It is too distracted, too turbulent. It is as if it were ill, as if our mind had a fever or a cold. Without deliberate rest and relaxation, our mind does not act in a peaceful manner. Therefore, training our mind to bring about peace and rest is very important.

[HHK] Usually, we get lots of pressure from our work and from our families. We think we have to do this, we have to do that. We are overwhelmed by work. There is so much we think we have to do. So in order to get some relief from the pressure, we turn to Dharma centers, but then we find lots of things to do there - maybe more pressure. And if you do not do well, the lama says you have broken samaya. 

[HHK] So they also become a source of pressure. What we need to do with our practice is to use it to find inner peace, not outside peace, inner peace. We can use our practice to make a place where our minds can be peaceful. So our minds have a sanctuary, like a happy home. Because this reason, we have to make some time every day to let our mind relax. Maybe it’s a good idea is to recite for ten minutes – recite?

[Translator] Rest.

[HHK] Oh, not reciting. Rest for ten, twenty, fifteen, thirteen – ok ten minutes every three hours. Please.

[Translator] We must leave a little bit of time to ourselves in order to rest.

[HHK] Please, sometimes.

[Translator] Also, our mind is very distracted and so it has to have some place to come back home to. If we are wandering around, then we need to have a home to return to in order to relax and rest.

Therefore, we need to find a certain peace, a certain kind of relaxed joy in our mind. In order to do that, it is best if we can find a way to meditate, to concentrate or focus our mind on something. But even if you do not have much time or energy to focus your mind, then let your mind relax without too much hope and fear. Do not let your mind wander into the past or worry about the future, but let it relax in the present moment. In this way, you can find peace and ease in your mind.

This is an anecdote that I have already recounted, but maybe I can tell it again. There was a king who built a new palace. However, he had many valuable items stored in his old palace. He wanted to bring all of these items into his new palace overnight but he was reluctant to entrust this task to just anyone for he feared having his valuables stolen. There was only one minister in whom he could trust. He told this minister, “If you are able to bring everything that is in my old palace to the new one in one night, then I will supply you with all of the things you will need for the rest of your life, like money, properties, servants…everything.” So the minister worked very hard day and night, and in the end he was able to shift everything from the king’s old palace to the new one. The king was very happy and he gave him everything that he needed. The minister then went home, very tired but completely satisfied. He fell down in his bed and relaxed. 

SATISFACTION BRINGS ABOUT RELAXATION

We need to find this kind of relaxation, one that rewards us after we have achieved something. It is important to relax. Generally, people find it difficult to be totally satisfied and so finding relaxation does not come easily. However, we have many things: we have enough food to eat and clothing to wear; we have accomplished many positive things. For instance, we are here gathered from all over the world. This is itself an achievement. We have accomplished something. Fifty or sixty years ago, this would not have been possible, but now it is. Therefore, we should feel some satisfaction. We can then be able to relax and rest our minds.

After the teaching, however if you all go and just fall down in your beds, people may ask, “Are you sick? What’s happening?” And then if you reply, “Oh, the Karmapa gave me the idea to rest,” that is not the case. So please, do not say that.

LETTING GO OF ANYTHING ELSE

Therefore, in attaining that sense of satisfaction and finding peace and relaxation, your mind plays an important role. You must start with a determination to practice. Next, you need to focus on the specific task you are performing and let go of everything else in your mind. Let go of the past, the present, and the future. Let go of all thoughts and focus solely on your current task. As you can see, whether or not you truly achieve a peaceful, relaxed state depends on your mind. For example, in my personal case, I do not have much time these days to engage in formal practice and meditation. However, when I was asked to do practices or prayers by others, at that moment, I fully concentrate on what I am doing and let everything else go. I do not let anything else come into my mind. 

This is very important. In the mahamudra, for instance, we talk a lot about - Ye-Lan-Mi-Shie [in Tibetan] --- which means letting go of the mind. Ye-Lan-Mi-Shie means having freedom from concepts or thoughts. It is important to make a clear aspiration that “I will do this and nothing else.” When you do this, you will be able to relax and find peace.

ATTACHMENT: OBSTACLE TO PEACE OF MIND

One significant obstacle to finding peace of mind is attachment or clinging. When one is strongly attached to something, it is difficult to separate one’s mind from that. Thus, it becomes a formidable obstacle to one’s peace of mind. Take anger, for instance. It is sometimes with us, but not always. When we’re angry or when certain very strong anger or hatred comes up, then it is disturbing. But it does not always come. Attachment, on the other hand, is something which is more consistently present. Therefore, it is something that is not easy to separate from ourselves. It disturbs our peace of mind.

There is a Tibetan saying that applies to the relationship we have with our attachment. It involves a desirable cup that burns to the touch. If you try to hold a burning cup, it will injure your hand. However, if you don’t hold it, then it will fall to the ground and break. You desperately want to drop the cup because it is burning your hand, yet you cannot let it go without causing it to break. This is how we feel about the object of our attachment: you get it but it hurts you. But then when you want to let go of it, and you are not able to. 

How does attachment and clinging arise? When we are attached to something, we tend to see only its positive side. We don’t acknowledge any negative qualities. We focus only on the good. Therefore, when we are attached to something, the goodness of the object and our mind cannot be separated. They become one. When the object of our attachment appears in our mind, it appears as something completely positive. Unless it appears in this way, the object does not appear in our mind. So therefore, the goodness of the object of our attachment along with its appearance comes together.

The object of our attachment is seen as a very desirable thing. The sole reason is that we like it; it is desirable to our mind. Because of this, it is something from which we cannot bear to be separated. 

You can see that attachment or craving takes away our freedom, it dominates us. People try to create things that are desirable to others. When someone wants to sell us something, they try to find out which objects will attract our mind most effectively. What are the things that will create such a strong desire in us that we fail to be concerned about the cost? When such objects are created, our mind has such a strong craving for it that we cannot resist. It does not matter how much we spend. The main point is that we become overpowered by our attachment to that object and, in the process, we lose our freedom to choose whether or not we want it. Our mind is totally taken over by that object. This is important to understand.

When I was young, I was taken to China. Sometimes the people would take me out shopping. They would take me to the shops where there were nice dolls and other such toys to play with. There were so many fine and interesting things, but, of course, we could not buy everything. I discovered that if you give over to your attachment or to desire completely, then it can lead you to steal because you simply cannot buy everything. Now of course, I understand that some people steal out of necessity, but it is also possible to resort to stealing because of too much desire; there are too many nice things.

Thus, when thoughts of our object of attachment come to mind, they are imbued with desire and positive qualities. Of course, there are some objects which are more desirous than others, but basically what is deemed desirable and undesirable has much to do with our own mind. We create the desirability. For instance, if everyone claims a particular object is positive, then we, as a collective identity, identify that as something desirable, something good. Therefore, the desirability and undesirability is something that we, as a society, create. This is also important to understand.

Consequently, that which makes our mind attracted to things, and thus captive to it, becomes the attachment. When we are overpowered by attachment, we lose our freedom. That also feeds in to the way we see and how we think. It is not that the object creates the attachment; it is our mind, how we react to that object. It is our mind that relinquishes our freedom.

Our view of the object of attachment is not completely accurate. Our mind, overpowered by too much attraction or desire, overvalues the quality of that object. For instance, take a diamond. These days there are many fake diamonds. If someone were to make a fake diamond that looks like the real thing, then I may mistake it. Consequently, my perception of this fake diamond as a real one is incorrect. The desire I have for it is based on a misconception.

[HHK] One hundred.

[Translator] Yes, one hundred percent. Therefore, the objects that I am attached to, I see as one hundred percent good, although in actuality that is not the case. I am seeing it as one hundred percent desirable when in fact is not one hundred percent desirable at all. For that reason, there remains a difference between the way an object is and the way our mind perceives it. 

LOVING KINDNESS AND ATTACHMENT

You might say, then, that your loving kindness, your compassion for others, is also comprised of desire. Therefore, is that not attachment? Your mind does not wish to let go of the compassion you have for these beings. However, the difference lies in the fact that attachment’s sole motivation is the desire to have something. The desire becomes so strong that you lose any sense of control over your mind; you lose your freedom to choose. But when we have compassion and love for other beings, our intention is not to forsake them, not to let them go. Maybe they have been very kind to us. The motivation is genuine. The choice is yours to make. As opposed to the captivity inherent in desiring something, you have the freedom to choose to like these people, to have compassion for these people. You don’t want to give up on them. Therefore, the difference between not giving up on sentient beings out of loving kindness and not giving up our attachment to an object is that attachment comes with feelings of grasping, limitations, and captivity. You do not have control and you cannot let go. But in compassion and loving kindness, it is more open and free. There is a warm feeling in connection with this, as opposed to a feeling of limitation and confinement. This is very different.

Most of you are householders and so you often face this challenge of attachment. But when we say that attachment is something negative, it is not to say that desirable object or every kind of attachment is negative. You do not have to give up everything that you are attached to. Some people think that they have to give up everything in order to dispel all attachment, but that is incorrect. That is not what I am saying. 

What you have to do is to gage your relationships and your attachments on the right reasons, on the right motivation. When attachment becomes unreasonable, unclear, and limiting, then the outcome is pain and suffering later on. That is not what you want. Sometimes you get into something, like a relationship, without proper understanding or proper motivation and it becomes very difficult to get out of it. This creates many problems for everybody, on both sides. Therefore, if you look deeply and if you can understand it, you can find a good reason. If your motivation is clear, then you can develop relationships in a very positive way, bringing harmony and benefit rather than harm.

This brings to mind a story. It is said that there was once a couple that was not getting along. They were not talking to each other. One day, the husband had to ask his wife something, so he wrote it in a note. It said, “The mother of the family, I have to get up at nine tomorrow morning. Please wake me up.” He then went to sleep. When he woke up, he realized that he had overslept. It was already ten o’clock. He was quite annoyed and angry at his wife for not waking him up. He got out of bed and went to the kitchen. There, he saw that next to the note he had left, was another one. It read, “You must wake up now. It is already nine thirty.” 

Therefore, it is not to say that you cannot have any attachments, that you cannot talk with others, or that you have to sit in meditation all of the time. That is not the case. Relationships, whether they are with family or others, should not become a source of suffering, a source of problems. They should instead be a source of happiness. Thus, we have to see it and understand it in a certain way. The essential thing is our attitude towards our relationships, how we perceive them. That becomes very important. And if it is done with the proper motivation, then it does not need to be a source of suffering.

WHAT IS THE PROPER WAY?

I have said that we must think in a proper way. What does this mean? To illustrate this point, I will give an example. Generally in Vinaya, the rules for ordained monks, you cannot touch a woman. Once, there were two monks who came out from their monastery to travel to another place. When they approached the valley, they noticed that there was quite a big river they would have to cross by foot. Also, on the bank of this river, they saw a woman who could not cross the water by herself due to the strong current. Upon seeing them, she asked these monks whether they would help her to cross this river. The young monk said, “No, no, we cannot help you because we are monks and we cannot touch a woman.” 

The elder monk thought a minute, however, and he said, “OK, I’ll carry you on my back.” So he carried her on his back and then left her on the other bank. The two monks then continued on their way. After quite a long time, the young monk said to the older monk, “Isn’t it true that we monks should not touch a woman?” The older monk said, “Yes, that’s true.” The young monk continued, “But you were carrying this woman through the river.” Then the older monk replied, “I have carried her through the river, but I left her on the bank.” “Weren’t you still carrying her?”

This shows the difference between thinking about things on a surface level versus finding the deeper, more profound meaning through meditation and contemplation. Therefore, one does not always have to take what is said or what is written solely at face value. 

QUESTION AND ANSWER

I will now go through some of the questions that were sent to me this morning.

Q: His Holiness speaks often of the importance of blending our life and the Dharma. Having not heard His Holiness speak about his views on the importance or balance of formal practice and retreat versus carrying these practices or understandings to daily life, something that His Holiness thinks are not so important these days, meaning formal practice and retreat, etc. Could His Holiness please speak about his views about the importance of or lack of formal practice retreat of various lengths?

A: Whenever someone comes to see me, they always complain, saying, “I don’t have time to practice. What can I do?” Because of this, I suggested in my teaching that even if you don’t have time, you can still practice. That should not completely hinder you from doing some practice. But I never said that you should not practice formally. Of course if you can practice formally, that is very good. If you can go on retreat, that is also very good. But when you do go on retreat, I feel that the retreat is something you do when you really want to find the inner peace, where your body, speech, and mind can rest in solitude. With the motivation to seek out solitude and to find peace of mind, you go on retreat. That is a true retreat. 

But if your mind is totally distracted when you place your body in retreat, then it is unclear whether or not you are really on retreat; it is actually more like a prison. You put your body in a situation where it cannot move, but your mind wants to. However, if your body, speech, and mind are truly inspired to find solitude when you do the retreat, then it will not be difficult for you. You are there because you truly wish to be there, you have the right attitude, the right aspiration. Thus, your retreat is successful. I very much encourage people to do this kind of retreat. 

Then again, people sometimes do retreats in a very traditional way. You might think because some people complete three year retreats, I had to do a three year retreat also. However, the retreat has to be done in a proper way. It has to be inspired by true practice, not done just as a tradition because other people are doing one, two, and three year retreats. Otherwise, if you are just following tradition, then after one or two years, you may become fed up with the retreat. Then it will not be so useful. So if you find time and you have the right attitude and the right motivation to go on retreat and do formal practices, that is good. I very much encourage you to do that. 

On the other hand, when people say that they do not have time to practice, I believe that is also fine. When they say this, I know that they are interested in doing practice. They feel bad because they do not have time to practice. Their interest is something positive. They feel the need to practice, but they cannot find the time. They seek to find a way to practice. Actually, I very much appreciate that too.

Q: So the next question is: Your Holiness, most people experience many problems with attachment. Can you give some guidance on how, as householders, one can have love and patience in a relationship without attachment?
A: We have two hands. However, with one hand maybe you have to meditate and with the other, you need to shake hands with someone. That may be possible, or it may not be. The main thing is when you practice Dharma, wisdom and compassion both have to be present. Wisdom and compassion are the essential points. Therefore, when we talk about wisdom, being able to think and examine, not only from one side, but from all sides, we have to understand - we truly have to examine. 

In our lives, these two cannot be separated. We must have compassion, love, and we also must have wisdom. When we talk about what is necessary and what is not necessary or what we must give up or what we should take on, these things are decided by wisdom. So when we talk about wisdom, it is not something that we have to study a great deal. It is not like that. We have to understand what is beneficial, what leads us to positive effects and what leads us to suffering and negative effects. We have to understand how to distinguish these. We then need to abandon the things that result in problems and suffering, and take on those that bring about happiness and benefit. 
Therefore, the understanding is that when we look at something, it is not one hundred percent good or one hundred percent bad. We need to see things in a clear way. And through that wisdom, united with compassion, we then need to work on it. That is the main point.

Today, we will stop here and recite the Sanskrit portion of the dedication.

17th Gyalwang Karmapa's Teachings -- “Living The Dharma” - 2

17th Gyalwang Karmapa's Teachings -- “Living The Dharma”

English Translator: Ringu Tulku Rinpoche
Place: Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, India
Period: 1/12 ~ 1/14, 2009

Session: 1/13 AM Session

Notation: The ‘[HHK]’ at the beginning of a paragraph indicates that it is His Holiness the Karmapa’s own words in English.


[HHK]: Good Morning. (Clears throat.) Maybe I have a little cold today. The blessing of Bodhgaya? 

Yesterday I introduced to you a small booklet about environmental protection. I would like to say a few things about that.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION GUIDELINES IN FIVE AREAS

Last year at Kagyu Monlam, I had a chance to provide some instructions regarding environmental protection. In the booklet, I raise five points: protection of the forests, trees and plants; protection of water sources; wildlife protection; waste management; and climate change. 

FOREST PROTECTION

For human beings as well as for all of the animals, life is the most important thing. All of the monasteries in both India and Tibet – especially in Tibet – are surrounded by many trees. Before we knew about environmental protection, the forests were sometimes cut and the trees were sold. Now, as a measure of protection and prevention, we have tried to curtail the cutting of trees around the monasteries and have also made an effort to plant more. 

WATER PROTECTION

Tibet’s rivers are important sources of water for many people. Scientists refer to Tibet as the third largest pool in the world. In the Himalayas, there is so much ice and snow that the whole Himalayan region, including Tibet, is the source of water, and thereby the source of life, for millions of people throughout Asia. Mount Kailash is regarded as the source of the four great rivers that come to India. Also, there are many rivers going from Tibet into China. All of these rivers have become the life-giving source for the majority of people in a large region of Asia. Therefore, it is crucial that we protect these sources of water and prevent the pollution of these waters. 

WILDLIFE PROTECTION

Protection of the animals is another topic I would like to address. A few years ago, it was considered fashionable to wear the skins of tigers and leopards as decoration, but because of instructions from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the number of Tibetans who wear animal skins has significantly decreased. Unless they are forced to wear skins, there is no longer much interest in this. This is a great help in preventing the extinction of animals such as tigers and some leopard species in Asia. 

Vegetarianism is also relevant here. Even if we cannot completely become vegetarian, it is very important that we at least think about eating meat in connection with the environment. When we have to raise so many animals for human consumption, a lot of natural resources must be used to feed the animals and this has a direct impact on the environment as well. 

WASTE MANAGEMENT

There is a movement taking place regarding waste management. It was discovered that, up until now, the monasteries have not had much training or background in waste management. Training sessions and demonstrations are now taking place, starting within the monasteries and then going public. The plan is for these mediations to occur in Tibet and then travel to the larger Himalayan region. From there, all Buddhists should try to become examples of good waste management. 

ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE

The fifth point is climate change. We are discovering that there is a very serious crisis going on in the world as a whole and it is adversely affecting the Himalayan region in particular. I am told that the change in climate is happening more swiftly and intensely in the Himalayan region, some say perhaps five times faster. So therefore, the effects of climate change are dramatically affecting people from all over the world. 

I have heard that the UN is planning some bold moves, following our lead. In our own individual efforts, it is also important for us to try and follow these examples in any way we can. We always say, “May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.” Now when it comes time for us to take responsibility for that, we can find out whether we are truly uttering these prayers from our hearts and actually putting this into action or whether it is just words we murmur through our mouths. We have this chance to do something for the happiness of sentient beings. We should try to work on that.

This morning I have a little bit of a headache, so maybe I will start with some questions and see what happens.

RECEIVING BLESSINGS THROUGH MEDIATED SOURCES

Q: “In listening to His Holiness’s teachings on CDs and DVDs, has the lung [Tibetan, meaning oral transmission] been received and have the practice instructions been received, or not?

A: [HHK]: And also the empowerment? 

Today, for instance, I am talking to you, giving instructions, a lung, and so forth. Maybe this talk is also available on the internet and many people will tune in. 

Now, the question is, when a teacher is instructing and students are listening, the teacher has the intention of explaining a particular teaching in a particular place, whether or not the student can be seen. There is a purpose, a deliberate intention on both sides. In that case, it could be that the transmission is received, because the teacher intends to instruct these students and the students are taking part in the teaching, whether the teacher sees the students or not. 

But if that is not the situation, if people just happen to listen, I do not know whether or not they receive the transmission. CD’s and DVD’s were not there in the Buddha’s time, so I cannot say exactly how this would work. But I think that if there are deliberate intentions, then for some individuals, the transmission may be received through video and other mediums like that.

On the other hand, I do not believe this works in situations where a lama confers a lung without knowing who is receiving it, or when a lama gives a lung to students who are not aware of receiving it. One does not know who is getting and who is giving. The lama should know that people are receiving the lung, and the people should know that they are being given a lung. There must be some kind of connection. Otherwise, it does not seem to work. 

Looking at the questioner, he seems to have some doubt whether it is possible. If there is any doubt, then usually it does not happen.

THE ORIGIN OF FEAR

Q. His Holiness, how does Buddhism explain fear? Where does it come from, how does it grow in our mind, and how can we stop this? 

A: Sometimes, we are attached to negative or harmful things and we cannot give them up. Ultimately, we come to view the five aggregates as the self. Each of them is not the self, but we believe that all of them put together form “I” or the self. Consequently, we take this aggregated self as something real and solid. Because of this, we develop a fear that this entity which I call “myself”, these aggregates, is something that I might lose, something to which bad things may happen. This is how fear develops within us. 

The true source of fear is this: the clinging to self, to identity. Because I see self as something separate, something whole, something that is solid and independent, therefore, I fear losing that independent self; I fear being sick, I fear something bad happening to “me”. This is the true source of all fear. 

Now, if you can look deeply, you will see that these aggregates do not exist like that; they are not something independent, not something totally solid or one. They are like an illusion, and the more you can see them as an illusion, as interdependently arising, then you begin to see that there is little need for fear. If, for instance, we see ourselves, the aggregates, as a reflection of the moon in the water, the reflection of the moon in the water does not get damaged, no matter what you do. You can beat it, you can do whatever, yet nothing is lost, nothing is destroyed. So therefore, when you better understand interdependence and dependent origination - when you experience it deeply - then these fears diminish. 

The essential point that we must clearly understand is cause and effect. The remedy to fear is seeing things as they actually are. For instance, when I was a young child, I feared thunder and lightning. However, once I was able to understand how these occur - many different things coming together, such as summertime, clouds, etc. – I did not need to be afraid anymore. 

This shows that the more you understand causes and conditions, how things really are, the less reason there is to have fear. 

PURPOSE SHOULD OVERSHADOW NEGATIVE EXPERIENCES

Q: How do I deal with the negativity I’ve experienced in my mind due to conditions in India? Physical discomfort causes mental unhappiness. I am no sooner here than I want to go back home to my comfortable existence. This attachment to comfort, cleanliness, non-pollution and no crowds, noise, etc, etc, makes me feel like I am punishing myself and making myself suffer by coming to India, and especially to Bodh Gaya. So much back pain, stomach troubles, headaches, etc, etc.... It used to be a great adventure to come to India, but now, the negativity it brings up far outweighs the positive mind state I seek. What should I do?

A: I have already told you that you are fortunate to have the opportunity to come to Bihar. Probably, none of you has come here for a picnic.

If you came here for a picnic, maybe it is not the right place to come. But you all came for another purpose, a spiritual purpose. Your primary purpose should be to discover a spiritual experience. These things that come up along the way, like colds and stomach trouble, are all part of the journey, part of the experience. For example, when you are traveling somewhere, you must go through the hassle of taking airplanes, trains, cars; there are many things you go through which are part of the journey, but do not constitute the main purpose. The main purpose of this journey is not about getting a headache or stomachache, but rather to obtain the mind training instructions through these experiences. Therefore, this is what we have to understand in order to work on the spiritual experience. If anybody came here for a picnic, they better look more carefully at the tour guide. 

When I came to Bodh Gaya, I also struggled with a little bit of fear. I was worried that I might get sick. Generally, I have many attendants and plenty of good food. That is not the case here, though. However, I do not worry much because there are so many things for me to do here. I have to teach, among many other things. Therefore, when you are busy with things like that, you generally forget to worry about what might happen and what might not happen. Sometimes I even wish that I would become sick, because then I would feel like I am really here; I would truly feel the signs of being in Bihar. But it does not often happen. 

I feel that when your mind is happy, in a joyful state, then even the discomforts you experience can sometimes become like an ornament, not causing you much suffering. But this does not mean to say that you should get sick. You should not get sick, so please be careful. Here in Bihar, in India, it is not the same as in your countries, so you have to be careful in how you eat, drink and act. You must take care of your health. 

COMTEMPLATE THE REASONS TO BE COMPASSIONATE

Q: Is it really possible to become compassionate by simply deciding to be?

A: You can test yourself to see whether or not it works. 

It is, indeed, important to make the decision to be compassionate. However, prior to that decision you must contemplate the reason for this resolve. Why must you be compassionate? When you understand the reasons, then the seeds of compassion can take root and begin to grow in your mind. Only then do you have the choice to make the decision to be compassionate. Being compassionate is not like working, where you decide to do something and then you go ahead and do it. It is not something that is external to us. Rather, it is something that we give rise to or cultivate internally. Therefore, progressive training is required. For instance, once you have gone through preliminary practices and preparations, then the seeds of compassion have taken root. Only then, when you encounter a situation where compassion is needed, will you be able to give rise to compassion spontaneously, without deliberately making the decision to do so. It becomes innate. Your practices, contemplations and cultivation of compassion during normal times allow this spontaneous rise of compassion to be possible.

BUDDHADHARMA IS TO PURIFY THE MIND 

Q. What exactly is ‘transforming emotions’ in Vajrayana? For example, how do we do it in the Chenrezig sadhana and practice?

A: Buddhadharma is for clearing all of the impurities from the mind. Therefore, all Dharma can be seen as a direct antidote for negative emotions and kleshas. Different teachings and methods target different emotions. The main focus of a practice might address attachment, ignorance, aversion, or anger. This depends on people’s needs and their individual stage of practice. 

Generally speaking, there are three ways of dealing with the mind. For beginners, we try to evade the kleshas or mind-poisons. We avoid involvement with them; we run away. That is the first stage. Second is to actually confront these emotions. We challenge them and work directly with them, with the intention of ridding ourselves of these negative emotions. The third stage is where wisdom illuminates with much more clarity and strength. Here, our wisdom and skillful means are more mature and our mental power becomes stronger. At this stage, we develop the skills to view these kleshas as friends, not as enemies. By befriending negative emotions, we can skillfully use them to gain insight into the true nature of mind. By applying our awareness, we can see that the nature of these kleshas is no different from the true nature of our mind. Therefore, there are different levels. You must work on it step-by-step as your mental strength develops. 

HOW TO DEAL WITH ATTACHMENT IN RELATIONSHIPS

Yesterday, we talked about working with attachment, anger, and other kinds of negative emotions. Today, I will touch on that a bit more and maybe this question can become the subject of my teaching this morning. 

Yesterday, when I talked about attachment, I said that it has a quality which can be described as holding on strongly, or clinging, to something. That is because attachment has that aspect which says, “This is something very nice and I alone must have it. Nobody else should have it. It should be completely mine.” That is what naturally comes with attachment. 

I will give an example. Imagine there is a couple who is in love. One day the husband is seen talking to another lady, one more beautiful than his wife. What does the wife think? Even if she does not say anything, she feels a certain jealousy. That is attachment. 

Attachment is something in which I and me are most important. “It is for me. It is mine. I own this.” Attachment is closed. It doesn’t tolerate freedom or space. Love, on the other hand, is not like that. It is not about want and ownership. Love is generous, wanting joy and happiness for others. If the one you love wants something, you support it, and try to help them obtain it. However, one spouse may take ownership of the other and believe that their husband or wife should do whatever they want them to do. They feel their partner should speak and act in accordance with their ways. That is attachment, because it is about ME and being under MY control. 

Of course, when people get married, there is a sense of ‘mine’, of togetherness and belonging. You want to give him or her everything you own, so you go about making sure that everything you have is owned by both. If there is craving, though, it is very difficult to have a happy life together because each is only thinking of ‘me’, what I want and what I own. No one is offering space and freedom to the other. Love entails freedom, giving and openness within that sense of belonging. If you do not always think from your own perspective and do not try to control and possess the other person, but rather do your best to think from the other’s perspective, then things will eventually improve. 

PACIFYING ANGER AND AGGRESSION

Aggression is essentially anger. When you are experiencing anger or aggression, it is expressed clearly in your face and your body language. Your demeanor becomes very rough. It is not difficult to recognize anger and aggression when it arises. However, to work with it, to find antidotes to it, you must rely on patience. Sometimes you might feel that someone has mistreated you or incited you to become angry. Therefore, you think that you have a right to be angry. You feel that you have reason to react in this way. When you have that mentality, it becomes very difficult to deal with aggression. You find it justifiable and necessary to react in an aggressive, angry way. 

There are, of course, many different ways of dealing with this. One effective way is to work directly with the emotion through your own understanding of why it is harmful to be aggressive. You can apply reasoning, questioning the source and nature of your anger. Another method is to recollect certain words or teachers that are inspiring to you. For example, if you have a genuine master or lama, you can think of him or her when you become angry. You may recollect your lama telling you not to become so angry. Also, you may recollect certain teachings or books that were very impressive or inspiring for you. These can help your anger subside.

The third method you can try for pacifying anger is to divert your attention from the one, particular incident that angers you. We often focus solely on one point, on the one personal incident that brought us to this feeling of aggression. We concentrate our mind completely on that. As we maintain focus on this incident, our anger continues to become stronger until we feel we must do something, we must act on our anger. 

So instead of focusing on one incident, you should divert your mind, shift your attention, even to other things that make you angry. Through this, you will see that your anger can be towards many things, even yourself. When you refocus to the many things about which you are angry, then your anger becomes diminished - because it is not solid. If you are not focused on one thing, if you recognize there are many things that incite anger in you, perhaps you will recognize that you do not need to be so angry about any one thing. I find this method to be particularly helpful. 

Once, there was a shepherd who had many sheep to look after. However, these sheep were quite unmanageable. He had to milk them, but instead of behaving for him, they were running and jumping around. It was very difficult for him and he became very angry. So he hit one of the sheep. Upon this, all of the other sheep became even more unruly. He proceeded to hit many sheep. After he had beaten fifty or sixty sheep, he became exhausted and a little bit angry with himself. Then he started to laugh at himself and surrendered his anger towards the sheep. If he had had only one or two sheep maybe he would have beaten them to death, but because there were so many sheep to focus on, he could not continue to be angry. So therefore, if we can divert our anger to many things or many areas, we have a better chance of letting go.

USING RELATIVE TRUTH TO ARRIVE AT OUR ULTIMATE NATURE 

Q. How can we understand the ultimate nature if we only have the tool of relative reality? 

A: You do have to understand ultimate truth through relative truth—otherwise there is no basis for understanding ultimate truth. When we talk about the ultimate nature of things, it has to be understood through the nature of interdependence. Everything is interdependent. For instance, when you think of something short, it is relative to something long. One object is shorter than the other object. If you say something is long, then there must be something shorter. 

In the same way, we say East because there is a West and North because there is a South. There is nothing that can be established that is not relative to or based on something else. Therefore, everything is interdependent. For instance, we might say, “This is a cup” or “This is a vase”. We imagine that cup or vase is there on its own. But unless we make the designation that there is a vase, the vase does not exist. We must first say, “This is a vase because a vase has these certain characteristics”. The many attributes that designate the object is a vase are contributed by our mind. When we put water in the vase, then it becomes a water container. When we put tea in the cup, it becomes a tea cup. It was not a tea cup or water vase beforehand; these are dependently arising, dependently designated. 

When we talk about emptiness, we are talking about interdependence, dependently arising, dependently designated. There is nothing that exists on its own, nothing that exists independently without many contributions and designations coming together. Without dependent origination, therefore, the nature of all things is emptiness. 

When we talk about emptiness, is has to be based on an understanding of the relativity of all things. Looking at ‘the reflection of the moon on water’, we can see that there is nothing there. Even that is dependently arisen, dependent on the existence of the moon and the water, on the ability of water to reflect. All of these things must come together to enable us to see the reflection of the moon on the water. That is emptiness. Emptiness and interdependence are inseparable. Everything is dependently arising; nothing exists on its own. Therefore, the nature of everything is emptiness. And because everything is emptiness and everything is interdependent, then everything is possible. 

We believe that everything is as it appears, as we see it, but it is not like that. When we think about poisonous plants, they are viewed as very negative because they can kill us if we eat them. However, if another animal eats these same plants, it will not die. It is not poisonous to the animal. So is that poison, that “poison-ness”, really existent on its own? If it did exist on its own, then it would kill everything. 

As it is, nothing exists on its own. It is all interdependent. It is all dependently arising. Ultimately, it is all emptiness. To understand ultimate truth, we must understand the nature of relative truth. They are inseparable. If we think of ultimate and relative truth as two separate things, then that gives rise to nihilism. We tend to think of ultimate truth as ‘something out there’. However, that is not the case. This togetherness and inseparability, this notion that things are, by nature, empty, is actually quite wonderful. Because everything arises interdependently, anything is possible. This is the most essential and profound view of Buddhadharma or emptiness.


Session: 1/13 PM Session

Notation: The ‘[HHK]’ at the beginning of a paragraph indicates that it is His Holiness the Karmapa’s own words in English.

Today we will continue with the questions and answers. If I talk on one point for a long time, you may just get bored. 

There are many questions, so we have picked some of the more interesting ones.

AN EXPLANATION OF REINCARNATION USING BUDDHIST LOGIC

The first question we have selected is:

Q: How do you explain reincarnation to people who are completely unfamiliar with Buddhist logic, teachings or concepts?

A: When we talk about reincarnation, rebirth, or afterlife, we observe one thing that is common to most people, regardless of what their particular religious or philosophical beliefs may be. We strongly feel that when someone dies, they are still present in some way. We do not believe that they are completely separated from us. If we allowed ourselves to think that we were forever separated from the ones we love, never to meet again, that would bring too much suffering. This feeling is universal. Many people hold this belief, no matter what background or culture they are from. That is the first point.

Secondly, in this world, new things are continuously being discovered, some of which were once believed to be impossible. Through research or other methods, we sometimes find that that which we had doubted in the past is actually possible. We can judge the situation of life after death in the same way. It is practical, and perhaps healthy, to have doubts about it, but it is not possible to completely dismiss this notion.

Thirdly, there are many people who remember, or think they remember, their past lives. This is not only something that happens in Buddhist countries or among the people who believe in an afterlife. Different types of people from various countries claim to have had this experience. The remembering of past lives is something people cannot totally explain. Therefore, we could put this in the category of doubtful occurrences as well. 

So, if we view this notion from the Buddhist point of view, then the logic is as follows. Take the example of a baby who has just been born. This baby breathes and is aware and conscious. The breath, the body, and the consciousness of the baby have manifested due to certain causes and conditions. From the Buddhist point of view, things come into existence through the continuity of previous causes and conditions. In addition, these causes and conditions must be of the same quality and nature. That is, things can only be produced by a cause of the same nature that previously existed. Therefore, the consciousness of the baby has to be caused by another consciousness that previously existed. That is the Buddhist view of the continuity of consciousness. 

Consciousness, by nature, is aware, clear, and luminous. We all individually experience the mind’s capability to be aware of things. The cause of it cannot be matter because consciousness itself is not matter. If that were the case, then all of the materials we see now might become consciousness one day! That would be impossible.

In other words, something that is awareness or consciousness cannot be caused by matter. It has to be caused by non-matter. Therefore, consciousness has to be caused by a similar cause and condition, which has to be another consciousness.

It is a general aspect of Buddhist logic to prove the existence of a previous consciousness such that the idea of reincarnation is truthful. There are many different approaches to this reasoning, but this is the main one in Buddhist logic. This approach utilizes reasoning to validate reincarnation. The major difficulty encountered by many people is that it is very hard to directly experience this, especially in the twenty-first century. People think they have to see things in order to believe it. Nevertheless, there are ways, like meditation, that can be used to experience it directly. It was recorded in the sutra that when one enters a deeper meditative state in which the gross consciousness has subsided and a more subtle consciousness has been uncovered, one can recollect one’s previous lives. Of course, there are many other methods used to achieve this, like hypnosis.

GIVING AND RECEIVING

Q: Your Holiness, please could you explain the meaning of the antidote giving victory to others and could you please give an example? 

A: Here, there are two things. One is actually giving victory to others, and the other involves mind training: you allow your mind to give victory to others. For instance, when we perform the Tonglen (giving and receiving) practice in our meditation, it is a meditative experience. We take on all of the negativity of others, receiving it as a dark cloud of pollution. We take this in on ourselves. Then we give freely to all sentient beings our positive actions, good health, and all of the beneficial things that we possess. This is a form of mind training.

Some people fear that practicing Tonglen with those who are sick - maybe those with a cold or a headache - will in turn make themselves sick. They fear the sickness will transfer to their own bodies. However, Tonglen is not about getting sick. It is done to transform our way of experiencing the world; it is a training that is meant to change our mind. 

One way of doing the receiving aspect of the Tonglen practice is to visualize your self-cherishing is as a burning lamp in your heart. The self-cherish here refers to that you place your own desires above all, do not care for others, and instead insult them in order to raise yourself up so that you can be superior. Taking care of yourself is not the error. The mistake is when you neglect or belittle the interest of others. This is the self-cherishing we talk about here. So in this particular way of Tonglen practice, you breathe in the problems, sufferings, and negative experiences of others in the form of a dark smoky cloud, and let that enter into you. That dark smoky cloud then extinguishes the lamp of your own self-cherishing, your selfishness. By doing this over and over again, little by little a shift starts to happen in your mind. That is the main purpose of the practice: to change your mind, to transform your attitude and your way of experiencing the world. Tonglen is not about directly experiencing everyone’s problems. Otherwise, Buddha Shakyamuni would be sick all the time. He would need a truck-load of tissue paper and Sariputta and Moggallana would be constantly busy supplying it for him. That would be too much. It is not like that. 

When you practice the giving aspect of the Tonglen, there is also an important point to be noted. You do not offer something that you do not intend to give. If you were to give something that you did not mean to offer, then it would not be given; it would be stolen, robbed, or lost. But Tonglen is not like that. You give what you want to give. And when you do this, you do not lose it; you get something out of it. For instance, say you give a very nice gift to somebody, something that you really want to give to them. Once you present it, you do not feel lost, but rather happy, satisfied that you could give the person what you wanted to give to them. In the end, there is something left within us, a satisfaction, a joy, a certain gratification. So even though you have relinquished this nice thing to someone else, you obtain a similar type of satisfaction and joy in yourself, too. In this way, when you practice Tonglen, it is not that you have lost something. When you give all of your merits, all of your positive deeds, it is not that there is nothing positive left in you. In fact, you never actually lose anything. Tonglen practice is simply about training the mind.

Now if we actually practice this in our lives, then we must clearly understand it. It is not that we must always give victory or benefits to others and take on defeats or loss. We have to see; we have to examine the time, place and situation. For example, many people give such things as their kidneys. Even though some people have only one kidney, most have two. It is, of course, good to have two kidneys. However, if someone has lost function in both kidneys, and you are in a position to give them one of yours, you may choose to do so. Giving such a lifesaving gift without any regret will bring you joy. You do not feel that you have lost a kidney, but rather that you have been able to use your kidney in a positive way. That is very satisfying. On the other hand, if you just give without a purpose, then it is not beneficial. 

Another instance of giving victory to others involves two people who both want the same thing. Imagine that you are vying for a position with another person. If you truly believe that the job would be positive for and helpful to this other person, then you might turn down the position so that the other person may have it. That is also very beneficial because you have given it to the other person. It is not that you have lost it, because you have given it away freely. You have given the benefit to the other person. It is a gift, a form of generosity. 

However, you shall act according to your level of mind. It’s not that “I am practicing Tonglen, so I have to give it, even if I don’t want to.” It is beneficial to give only if you are convinced that you are able and willing to do so without regret and that this gift will be useful. However, if you feel you will only have regret, then you should not give it. Giving only because you feel you are supposed to is not right. It is almost like doing positive things simply to avoid going to hell. 

The motivational factor should be to benefit other people. If the act is beneficial, and if you are prepared to make that sacrifice (knowing that your level of experience and practice have prepared you for this), then only under these circumstances should you perform this practice. It is not only about you giving all of the benefit and victory to others and taking in all of the losses and suffering. It has to be based on the timing, the need, and the level of your own practice. 

MINDFULNESS AS AN ANTIDOTE TO STRESS

Q: How can it be possible to live happily in a busy city with millions of people without becoming lonely?

[HHK] New York.

Q (continued): The trees are sad; the water is full of chemicals, and the air seems dead. People do not talk to each other and I am afraid. What can we do? What can I do?

A: When you are in New York, you do not need to look at the calendar to figure out if it is Saturday or Sunday because people’s behavior will inform you. On Saturday and Sunday, people stop and talk to each other when they walk. The atmosphere is much more leisurely. But on weekdays, they just hurry about, not talking to anybody. People are just too rushed to engage in any sort of unhurried activity. 

I think that our lives have become very fast-paced. Before, there was no advanced technology. Then came trains, cars, airplanes, etc. and life, in turn, became much faster. It has, in fact, become so fast, so advanced, that we just spend our time catching up. Technology is making life so rapid that everything becomes immediate. It is difficult. It seems that as soon as you start a journey, you have arrived. When I traveled to America this year, I arrived before my mind was totally prepared to be there. The first stop of my American trip was New York. We were staying on the top of a building that was many stories high. You could not see the ground. It was a funny feeling. 

Therefore, I think the most important thing here is what I previously discussed: you must try to give your mind some rest, some relaxation. Of course, you have to work, like everybody else. You might question why it is that you have to work. The work provides you with livelihood; it allows you to live. Since you need to work, it is essential to keep your mind relaxed while you are working just as the meditation instructions I mentioned before. If you know how to let your mind rest, then no matter how busy you are with body or speech you will be able to cope with it. 

Take myself as an example. When I look at my own life, I see that I am usually quite busy. I don’t have to run around, but I have many things to do. But because I maintain a certain peace of mind, even if I am busy with my body and speech, my mind sustains the lead. Therefore, it lessens the pressures I feel. The responsibility is outside; it is external. The mind, resting in a peaceful state, provides ease to our day. In other words, when our mind is very peaceful and pliable, it will be able to react at any times or catch up at any circumstances.

Let me illustrate this point by another example. Take a man and a horse racing. The horse is definitely faster than the man. Because the horse moves more swiftly, it can run a little bit and then rest, run a little bit and then rest, and slowly the man catches up. Your pliable mind is like that horse. When your mind becomes more pliable, or becomes more aware, maybe through meditation practices, you can always be the lead, always surpass all business and responsibilities.

Therefore, the busy activities of the body and speech are less likely to stress you, and you can always find a space inside of you. If you have that relaxed and pliable mind, just like the all-surpassingly fast horse, then it will free you from the strains of pressures. 

We usually are very busy in our daily life. However, no matter how busy I am, I often recollect what the Buddha said: you need to have mindfulness and awareness. It is really important! So what is mindfulness or awareness? It is as if you are looking from above, seeing a clear picture of what is going on around you. When that awareness is present, then you will not be drowned or overwhelmed by those activities. When you possess this mindfulness, you feel that you are in charge. Things become much clearer and less stressful. 

Here I will give another example to make it even clearer. For instance, if somebody falls in water and becomes completely overwhelmed and frightened, then that person can drown. But if that person can retain his awareness, meaning he can start to recollect - “Who am I? I am a person, who knows how to swim.” “Where am I? I am in water, but I don’t want to stay here. I need to be back to the land” etc. - that awareness dispels the overwhelming fear of the moment and then the person would start to swim to the land. Therefore, awareness is extremely important! 

ENTERING VAJRAYANA PRACTICE

Q: Can beginning Dharma practitioners do the Chenrezig puja immediately, or should they get some instructions first? If yes, which ones are necessary?

A: If you know someone who can instruct you in this practice, then that is fine. You can practice because you have received the instructions. You can ask for clarifications and things like that, so you can continue to practice and learn at the same time. For all Vajrayana practices, though, you must first get the empowerment. The empowerment is, in essence, an instruction; it is the teaching in itself. If you receive the instruction at the time of the empowerment, then you do not need an additional instruction. You can use that instruction. You can practice and meditate on that. However, if you did not grasp the meaning of the instructions from the empowerment, and you do not have anybody to instruct you, then it may not be useful to practice Vajrayana.

ACTING AS EXAMPLES OF LOVING KINDNESS

Q: The cause of attachment is the sense of self. The purpose of dharma practice is to benefit all beings. Correct? How can we deal with other people’s attachment in the work place? Very often, self-interests, attachment and conflicts co-exist. How can we deal with this situation? 

A: If we look to the Buddha, we will see that he has completely done away with kleshas. So therefore, when the Buddha goes into a crowd, by the power of his own state of mind - his Samadhi, his realization - everybody’s kleshas appear to be completely pacified. Nobody gets totally emotional or disturbed; no one directly experiences or feels disturbed emotions while in the presence of the Buddha. For great Shravakas or Arhats, this placation does not happen as frequently for them as they do not have as much power as the Buddha. Before going to the town, they usually make a strong aspiration that nobody who is around them feels disturbed, or experiences overwhelming emotions. Due to these aspirations, it is mostly expected that people who meet them do not get too much affected by their negative emotions. 

For most of us, when we go out, we try as much as possible to show our best. I have a friend who often tells me that he needs to be taller. I tell him that he is tall enough; he is as tall as me. But he replies, “No, no. I must be very tall, because when you’re tall, then people look at you. You’re more noticeable. You’re looking good.” Most of the time when we go out, we are concerned with our appearance. We try to make ourselves up so that people will be attracted to us. Sometimes people even become envious of us. We view that as the typical way of presenting ourselves. When we engage in this, however, it is difficult for the people we meet to break away from their kleshas because we are actually provoking them with our appearance. Therefore, I think it is very important that we try to present ourselves in such a way that loving-kindness or caring for others predominates. Then it is less likely that mental disturbances or negative emotions will arise in those around us. Sometimes we do not need to express how we actually feel. If we present ourselves in a positive and compassionate way, the people around us will feel less negativity. That is very important. 

For example, in Bihar, cleanliness is lacking and people do not have very good hygiene. So when you put your garbage in a trash can, it may have an effect on the people who see you do this. They may realize that this is something they should be doing also. So your own actions, your own examples, can sometimes influence others as well.

THE EFFECT OF BODY, SPEECH, AND MIND ON OUR APPEARANCE

Q: I have wondered why people look the way they do? Why are some blessed with beauty while others are not? What are the causes of our physical characteristics? Some people have small ears, and some have large ones, etc. I have never heard any explanations of this.

A: In Tibet, we say that those people with big ears have this characteristic because the teacher pulled their ears too much when they were young. Therefore, their ears became very big. According to the Chinese, the Buddha has big ears. So if you have this quality, you are supposed to be very grateful. 

These aspects of appearance also depend on your race. Different races have different characteristics. Environmental surroundings also play a role. And finally, it also has something to do with karma. Karma has three aspects: the karma of body, speech and mind. Your appearance has a lot to do with these three aspects of karma. It is said that usually if you do something good with your body and speech, then that creates the circumstances or conditions to have a better looking body. The positive deed of your body and speech result in a positive appearance of you. For instance, you may wonder why Chenrezig or Avalokiteshvara is always smiling. It is not only that Avalokiteshvara has a very positive mind, but also that he has committed many positive deeds with his body and speech. Therefore, it is not only that your mind has to maintain a positive state, but your body and speech must create positive deeds as well. It is very important. For instance, it is said that usually I do not smile much; my expression tends to be more sober. I am actually a little worried about what kind of appearance I will have in the future. But I think I have a positive mind. So I hope it will be ok.

EARTH AS THE BUDDHA’S WITNESS

Q: What is meant by the Buddha when he said that the earth was the witness of his enlightenment?

A: Buddha said that the earth is the basis of all the beings, moving or unmoving. Therefore, the earth has no preference. It views all phenomena as completely equal, and is thus like a mother to all. So one reason why it is taken as the witness is because it holds no bias. Secondly, all of the practices and positive deeds that the Buddha accomplished were done on the earth. Therefore, the earth was a witness to those.

Generally, there is no need to have a witness. But the Buddha declared the earth as his witness to make these qualities of the earth clear. When he touched the earth after saying this, the earth shook in six ways. 

PROVIDE OTHERS WITH WHAT YOU ASPIRE TO

Q: Half of the people at the Monlam are women. It is the 21st century now, and you have spoken so much about Tara and her promise to always be reborn as a woman. How can you hand out such a sutra as the Sutra of Dharani that Thoroughly Liberates from All Sufferings and Obscurations? This states that whenever people who venerate Durgati-shodhana-raja are born, they will have a male body. Some of us do not ever want a male rebirth. Please can you explain?

A: Tara made this kind of aspiration is because of the needs of beings, and thus her such aspiration becomes a benefit to beings. Therefore, the main definition of aspiration is “to provide others with what you aspire to”. Then why is there such an aspiration of “to be reborn with a male body” in many sutras? It is because of the social condition under which those sutras were written. In ancient India, the female’s social status was very low. Therefore many females did not want to be females, and they would then make such an aspiration as that “May I be reborn as a male.”

Of course, for Tara, she made a different aspiration that she wanted to continuously benefit beings life after life, in a form of a female not a male. This is due to her special aspiration, and she knows the importance of the equality between males and females. Particularly, she is aware of the suffering of women and that it is of no benefits when the inequality between males and females becomes prominent. Therefore she aspires to benefit beings in a female body until she reaches enlightenment. 

Over all, this illustrates a great point here that making aspirations is very important. At the same time, one should make aspirations that can actually benefit beings. Naturally, different social backgrounds will stimulate different aspirations. Therefore, you do not necessarily aspire to be reborn as a male, nor should you be like Tara to always be reborn as a female. 

Judging from the statement of this question, it seems to me that the questioner wishes to be reborn as a female but is troubled by the “to be reborn as a male” appeared in many sutras. What is avowed in a prayer is not something that automatically must be the standard Buddhist way of thinking. What you pray for is what you aspire to. It is not as if whatever is found in a Buddhist prayer necessarily constitutes the Buddhist view. This has to be very clearly understood. You can pray for whatever you aspire to. For instance, although those words are written in the Dharani Sutra, you need not to worry about that. It really does not matter. When reciting such sutras, you can still recite this aspiration as it is written, but in your mind you make a different aspiration that you want to be reborn as a female just like Tara did. 

On the other hand, even when being inspired by Tara or practicing the sadhana of Tara, it does not mean that you shall benefit females as Tara did, or you shall do things simply because Tara had done the same. This is not like that. You should be proactive and enthusiastic in your own right. And if you can really feel that you can better benefit females by being reborn as a female, only then such aspiration of yours can really be accomplished!

17th Gyalwang Karmapa's Teachings -- “Living The Dharma” - 3

17th Gyalwang Karmapa's Teachings -- “Living The Dharma”

English Translator: Ringu Tulku Rinpoche
Place: Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, India
Period: 1/12 ~ 1/14, 2009

Session: 1/14 AM Session

Notation: The ‘[HHK]’ at the beginning of a paragraph indicates that it is His Holiness the Karmapa’s own words in English.

[HHK]: Good morning. 

Since we do not have much time this morning and I am feeling a little ill, perhaps we will do the Lung - reading transmission for Ngondro Practice - in Tibetan only. First, I will answer some of the questions and then we will do the refuge ceremony. 

MEANING OF “KARMAPA KHYENO”

Q: What is the profound meaning of reciting “Karmapa Khyeno”?

A: The meaning of “Karma” is action or activity, and “Karmapa” means the one who does the activity. The activity here refers to the activity to benefit beings, and that is the main concern of the Buddhas in the ten directions and of the three times. 

As to the origin of this title, it comes from a pure vision that the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, had when he was sixteen years old. As he first took the monastic vow, he had a vision that all of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and the 100,000 Dakinis made a black hat out of their hair, and then offered it to him to wear. He was then consecrated or enthroned as the doer, the one who does the activities of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. It was at that time that Dusum Khyenpa received the title “Karmapa”. 

Additionally, the name “Karmapa” does not necessarily refer to one particular individual. It can also be a general name for all Dorje Lopons – the Vajra Masters, or Vajra Acharyas - who do the activities of the Buddha. Therefore, it can be regarded as the general name for all great and genuine lamas. It is acceptable to call every lama “Karmapa”.

Buddha once said, “When the Dharma is nearing extinction, I myself will come as Vajra Masters or Vajra Acharyas, and then do the activity of the Buddha.” What is the activity of the Buddha? It is to bring out the Buddha nature in people – the side of them that is positive, white, or light. To bring that out is to do the activity of the Buddhas. So therefore, when we talk about the “Karmapa” or say “Karmapa Khyeno”, it is also generally to bring out the positive action of the Buddhas in all sentient beings. 

Finally, in “Karmapa Khyeno”, “Khyeno” means “please think of me”. With this, we remember the lama again and again, constantly keeping in mind the positive qualities of the lama and praying to him or her. Milarepa once said, “When I am in a crowd, I call for my lama from my heart.” In the same way, you can evoke the lama, holding him or her in your heart. It is not necessary to say it aloud. But if you want to say it aloud, there is also nothing wrong with that.

STATE OF MIND AT THE TIME OF DEATH IS IMPORTANT

Q: Could His Holiness please give some advice for supporting a non-Buddhist as they come close to death, especially if it’s your parent?

A: Whether one has entered into Buddhist practice or not, everybody has the opportunity to be reborn in a pure or positive realm. They do not necessarily have to be practicing Buddhism to have a positive life next time. The most important thing is what circumstances or what state of the mind the person who is dying has at the time of death. That is very important. If we can create the circumstances for the person to have a positive state of mind as they are dying, I think that will be very helpful. Because even people has not had the opportunity to do many positive things throughout their life, if they have a positive state of mind at the time of death, that could directly influence their next life. Therefore, it is very important to create the situation or atmosphere that will evoke a positive state of mind in the one who is dying.

There is a story that relates to this. Once there was a man who had been a butcher all his life. Because of this, he had killed many beings. At his time of death he met a Bhikshu, and this monk told him about the Buddha. He felt such devotion and inspiration that he died with one hand doing homage prostrations. Then, sometime after he died, all of his family members had a dream. They all dreamt that the butcher came to them and said, “I am being reborn as a piglet at our neighbor’s home. You will immediately recognize me when you go because one of my feet is a human hand.” When they went to the neighbor’s and looked, they actually found a small pig with one human hand. Therefore, they bought it and took the small pig to the monastery to save its life. This is not just a story; it is a fact. I even saw the photo of the small pig. So therefore, one’s state of mind at the time of death is very important.

Q: Everything we know in the West is questionable. Please give us a simple message of hope to take home and share. What is your view on the highly-prophesied shift of consciousness reported to be in 2012? 

A: When I talk about refuge, I can then incorporate the first part of the question, the message of hope. In regards to the second part, it is not impossible for people’s minds to make a shift. I believe there is a possibility of that happening. 

LUNG FOR SHORT NGONDRO PRACTICE

Now we will leave the questions there and do the reading transmission, the Lung, for the ngondro, or preliminary practices, which I have composed.

This was created especially for foreigners, the non-Tibetans. It is also for myself, though. The year before last, I was asked to give a teaching on ngondro. To finish teaching traditional ngondro in three days was not possible; it was even not possible to read through it in that short a time. So this version is also for me. 

(HHK gives the reading transmission of the short ngondro practice.)

I understand that many of you are starting to do the ngondro practice. Maybe in the afternoon I can give a brief teaching on this in a concise way, especially the Vajrasattva practice and Guru Yoga. Last time when I taught Guru Yoga, I did not allow any recordings to be made, so this time maybe I can say something which you can also put on record. 

REFUGE

Now I will perform the refuge ceremony. Taking refuge means that we find a source of refuge, a support. For example, when we have parents who love us very much, we are encouraged; we gain hope and assurance. Thus, refuge provides hope, assurance, and courage. Today, the people of the world are experiencing many crises, including the economic crisis. They have many different problems that trigger a loss of hope, and lack complete confidence in all things. They struggle to find something they can depend on. Therefore, by taking refuge, by finding a support, maybe we can generate a new hope and confidence.

When we were very young and undesirable things happened to us – such as being frightened by something – we sought refuge by spontaneously calling Mother or Ma. We ran towards our mother. In the same way, when we face the sufferings or difficulties of samsara, when the problems of the world loom over us, we need to find some kind of protection or refuge. If we cannot discover something outside ourselves, then we must find something inside, a spiritual refuge, something that will give us inner protection and inner strength.

FINDING REFUGE WITHIN ONESELF

There is a story that relates to this. Once there was a man who was a good lama. He worked very hard, accomplishing positive things. He had many students, and numerous people came to see him. However, some of the other monks who were his friends told him, “What you are doing is not good. You are causing a great deal of trouble for yourself. Now that you have so many students and so many centers, you will be burdened with many questions. Every trouble they have, they will bring up to you. You will never be left in peace. So actually, you are creating a very bad situation for yourself.”

The lama thought for a while, and then replied, “If that happens, it is not a problem. I can climb up Mount Everest and disappear and then nobody will find me.” His friends said, “No, no, that’s not possible. There are mountaineers, and they will find you. They will talk about the lama they saw, and soon everybody will know about it. They will all come there, and again they will bother you”.

Then the lama thought and responded, “In that case maybe I can go to the moon, and nobody will find me.” And the monks said, “No, there are still people who go to the moon, like the American astronauts who went there. Besides, you will become even more famous if you go to the moon, and even more people will approach you. So that is not a solution.”

Then the lama thought for a while and said, “Now I have found a way: I can say that the real lama is in your heart. Don’t ask me any questions. Ask the lama in your own heart.” 

We can view the Buddha’s teachings in a similar way. The Buddha Shakyamuni came and passed away 2500 years ago. Though this embodiment of wisdom and compassion no longer exists, we should not be worried or sad. His teachings and activities to benefit beings are still here; the people who genuinely understand and practice those teachings are here as well. Thus, we can see a continuing presence of those people who represent his body, speech, and mind today. 

However, just to have exposure to these teachings and the people who are still practicing and presenting them is not enough. We need to practice these teachings ourselves. We should rely on genuine lamas, get close to other practitioners, and apply the Buddha’s teachings accordingly. If you practice and study, there is no difference between that and actually meeting the Buddha. Therefore, if we can study the Dharma and apply it ourselves, we will find that protection, that confidence within ourselves.

THE THREE SOURCES OF REFUGE

Human beings have a highly developed brain with an advanced capacity. We can say there are three reasons why the human brain has developed so much. One reason why we are advanced is the transmission of experience from past generations. The second reason is that we do not simply copy what others needed in the past and remain there. We also use our own intellect and find our own new ways of doing things through our intelligence and wisdom. The third reason is that life is full of ups and downs, positive experiences and suffering. Because of this, we also need people: we need friends, companions with whom to share our joys and struggles. We support each other and we go forward. Because of these three reasons, the human brain and human life have become quite advanced. 

This is analogous to the three sources of refuge. We need the Buddhas to give us guidance on how to free ourselves from suffering and pain, and how to find lasting peace and happiness. Then there is the path, the teachings on how we can accomplish this while using our own understanding. Finally, there are the friends who we work with, those of us who support each other along the path, our companions or the Sangha. 

THE REFUGE CEREMONY

Now there is not much time left, so we will do the refuge ceremony. We have to think of Buddha as the guide, the teacher who gives us guidance. Then we must think of the Dharma as the path and the Sangha as the friends or companions who go with us. So please repeat the refuge prayer with me. Those who can kneel, please kneel. Those who cannot kneel, please just fold your hands together at your heart.

(HHK recites the refuge vow three times)

For those who took refuge vows, you have to try to observe those refuge vows. You all should know what to do and what not to do.

You all come from faraway places, from many different countries. When you go back home, you need to carry something back with you. So therefore, in the afternoon I will teach a little bit on ngondro so that you can continue practicing that. We will also do some meditation together. 

SPREAD THE JOY AND PEACE OF THE KAGYU MONLAM

We had asked people to bring stones from every country in the world, and had used them to build a stone stupa under the bodhi tree. During the Kagyu Monlam, we said prayers and blessed those stones. So now I would like to give each of you a stone from this stupa as a gift. As you bring the stones with you back to your country, the prayers and blessings carried by the stones can also spread to every corner of the world. In the same way, may the joy and peace of the Kagyu Monlam pervade the world. This is my aspiration. 

It is not that you will receive a stone from the country you are from. I will just give one stone to each of you. Maybe an American will get a stone from Iraq, or a Chinese will get a stone from Tibet. I just give the stones out, but I do not know where they come from.


Session: 1/14 PM Session

Notation: The ‘[HHK]’ at the beginning of a paragraph indicates that it is His Holiness the Karmapa’s own words in English.

PREPARATION FOR THE BODHISATTVA VOW

Some people have asked me to present the Bodhisattva Vow, so I will do that now. Since there are only a few people who have asked for the Upasaka Vow, the five precepts, that is something we can do this evening in a private audience. 

There are many different liturgies through which you do the Bodhisattva Vow. Among them, it seems the one that is in the Bodhicharyavatara is the easiest and the best. So, to receive the Bodhisattva Vow, first we have to generate bodhicitta. And to do that, we have to think and to understand the seven point instructions of the causes and conditions. For instance, you must understand that all sentient beings have been your mother, and, remembering the kindness she bestowed on you, be grateful for that. Or you can feel the equality of yourself and others, understanding that it is important to exchange the happiness you are experiencing with the suffering of others. Inspired by strong compassion, you aspire to work for the elimination of the suffering of all beings. And in order to do that, you must find a way to attain enlightenment. By thinking in this way, there are two steps to this process: the wish to eliminate the suffering of all beings, and then, for that reason, the need to first liberate yourself. It is very important to start with this kind of understanding and strong aspiration. 

As we think ‘for the benefit of all sentient beings, and the suffering of all sentient beings’, we also have to consider the container of sentient beings - this world. This world is the container in which all sentient beings live; it has the capacity to provide for their necessities in this world. Therefore, we need to be aware that the environment is essential, and we should acknowledge that we have been quite unaware of the destruction of the environment. For instance, we destroy the forests and other parts of the environment in a horrible way without any compassion or consideration. Therefore, the environment should also be an object of our compassion and concerns. We should have a clear understanding of things and know what we should and should not do. Motivated by this, we then wish to obtain enlightenment. That shall be the way that we generate bodhicitta and aspiration. 

Here we have talked about how to generate compassion for beings and the environment. Simply having this aspiration in and of itself is very good. However, in order to really obtain the Bodhisattva Vow, you need to put your aspirations into actions. You need to be empowered by the motivation that: “In order to accomplish this, I am willing to take practical actions.” You should make the vow that: “Until I obtain enlightenment, I will continue to perform the various activities of bodhisattvas, such as the practices of the six paramitas, etc.” This aspect of bodhicitta is what we call “action bodhicitta”.

Additionally, it is very important to understand that we have to make aspirations according to our level of mind strength, courage, and attainment. It is very good to generate bodhicitta and take the Bodhisattva Vow. This aspiration, by itself, contains a lot of merit. However, if you do not know how to work at your own level of strength, then it might not be as beneficial because you will feel you have to do something that you cannot do. 

By analogy, when we take the Bodhisattva Vow, we are inviting all sentient beings as our guests to enlightenment. So therefore, it is very important that we accomplish what we have promised to do. It will be quite disappointing if we regret that promise or we are not able to accomplish it, because then we are essentially deceiving people. Therefore, make your aspiration according to your own level and train on it step by step without giving up. Doing this is very important.

Generally, it is of great benefit to aspire to receive the Bodhisattva Vow. It is said in the sutra that the merit of generating bodhicitta, the aspiration to benefits beings, when given a form, will be so vast that it will pervade all space, especially, if you give rise to action bodhicitta. Then, even if you are not doing anything – if you are sleeping or completely distracted - that merit will still continuously increase.

This description of the benefit of arousing bodhicitta is not just words. There is a profound meaning to understand. When we say that “if the benefit of generating bodhicitta has a form, then it will pervade all space”, this is not merely words. The Buddha had told us in the sutra that wherever there is space, there are endless beings; wherever there are endless beings, there is limitless defilement; wherever there is limitless defilement, there is boundless suffering; wherever there is boundless suffering, there is the need for our kindness and compassion. Therefore, when we think of our bodhicitta in this way, we can then say that bodhicitta covers all of the places where there are sentient beings. If there are sentient beings wherever there is space, then we might start to feel that our bodhicitta is truly covering all space and reaching all sentient beings. 

In Tibet, for instance, in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, most people did not know much about the different countries of the world. Maybe they had heard about America or some other big countries, but they didn’t even know about Russia. Sometimes when people talked about Russia, or Eluosi, it was something that turned into a prediction like, “In the future there will be some people coming called Eluosi, or the Russians, and they are so strange that they eat human beings.” They thought of it like a fairy tale or myth. They didn’t know any details about the countries of the world. But at the same time, they had this understanding that wherever there is space, there are sentient beings. Whoever sentient beings are, they need to be loved and to be free from suffering. Therefore, their compassion, bodhicitta, was also there for them. So even though they did not possess a detailed description of the various countries in the world, they cared for all beings and had this understanding of covering all sentient beings throughout space with a sense of compassion. 

With this, when you truly give rise to bodhicitta, you shall have all beings, the mother-like beings, in your heart. In this way, your love, compassion, and care will spontaneously pervade all space. Thus, we say that when you generate bodhicitta, the virtue and merit of that is boundless throughout space.

So maybe there is no more to be said. If we just talk, talk, talk, then our lives are just full of talking. So we should not talk too much; we should just do it. So let us do the Bodhisattva Vow.

BODHISATTVA VOW

Perhaps it is better for me to say it in English so that you understand more. However, I am not very well prepared, so it is better for me not to do it in English; otherwise, you might have difficulty understanding me at all. 

First we will do it in Tibetan because of my attachment to Tibetan. Those who can kneel please kneel. 

[HHK] Those who can’t kneel, then that’s OK.

Then join your palms together. Since we have done a lot of practice before, we assume that we have already accomplished the accumulation of positive deeds and merits, and are ready to receive the Bodhisattva Vow at this time.

[Karmapa recites the Bodhisattva Vow in Tibetan with the congregation repeating after him.]

When we complete the third repetition, those of you who want to take the vow, imagine that you have received it. For those who have just generated bodhicitta, you shall also feel that you have received it. Following that, we will go through the English text simply to clarify and strengthen it in you. Nonetheless, you will have obtained the Bodhisattva Vow at the end of the third repetition in Tibetan.

[Karmapa recites the Bodhisattva Vow in Tibetan for the third time, with the congregation repeating after him.]

You can sit down. Now again to clarify and strengthen that, we will go through it one time in English:

[HHK:] “Until I reach enlightenment’s essence, I go for refuge to the Buddhas, to the Dharma, and the assembly of bodhisattvas, too, I go for refuge.
Just as the sugatas of the past aroused the mind of bodhicitta, 
just as they followed step-by-step the training of the bodhisattvas, 
so, too, shall I, to benefit wanderers, arouse the mind of bodhicitta. 
So, too, shall I follow step-by-step, the bodhisattva’s training.”

[HHK:] OK, makes clear, I hope.

We have been very fortunate to obtain the bodhisattva’s attitude. So therefore, we must rejoice – it is as if we have received a most precious jewel or treasure. When we have such a valuable thing, then even when negativities or small problems occur or when negative emotions overtake us, it makes it easier to let them go. The small negativities still remain, but we have this most precious thing. So with that kind of understanding, we acknowledge the value and truly rejoice in the bodhicitta that we have generated. This is very important. It is a conviction that says, “Now I have got it; now I will do something concrete.” 

Now you can reflect on that and I will read the words on my own.

[Karmapa recites the liturgy in Tibetan.]

THE VAJRASATTVA PRACTICE

Now we will do something from the ngondro practice. We cannot discuss all of the ngondro practices, but we will do the Vajrasattva and then the Guru Yoga practices from this short book. This, my abbreviated sadhana of the four uncommon preliminaries, is based on the ngondro text composed by the 5th Sharmapa, Konchok Yenlak. This is a very old text. 

[Rinpoche reads from the English text as follows:] 
The Vajrasattva meditation and recitation practice, which purifies negativities and obscurations has two parts. 

First during meditation sessions recite:

‘Above the crown of my head, on a lotus -moon seat,
Is Guru Vajrasattva, white in color, adorned with ornaments,
With one face and two arms, 
Holding a vajra with his right hand and a bell with his left, and seated in the vajra posture.’

Clearly visualize at Vajrasattva’s heart center a moon disc, upon which sits a HUM, encircled by the mantra garland. 

Due to your supplicating him, a stream of amrita fills his body and descends from his right big toe, entering the Brahma aperture at the top of your head.

All your obscurations and past negative actions, embodied in a substance that looks like ink or dark smoke, leave your body as all of your body’s parts are filled with amrita. 

While doing this visualization, recite Vajrasattva’s mantra as many times as you can.

Then you recite the Vajrasattva mantra. 

Next, confess your past negative actions and vow not to perform them again by reciting the following:

‘Noble ones who know and see everything, think of us,
Since beginningless time, under the power of the three poisons,
We have transgressed the three vows and the victor’s commands in body, speech, and mind.
We admit and confess these downfalls and misdeeds,
And promise not to do them again — may we not experience their results.’

Saying this, confess and resolve not to repeat your misdeeds.
Vajrasattva says, “Your misdeeds are purified,” and is pleased. He melts into light and dissolves into you. Rest in equipoise.

Second, between sessions, whatever afflictions or thoughts that arise, be mindful of them as soon as they arise. Completely cut through them and rest in freedom from fixation.

Whatever sentient beings you see, hear, or think of — especially those who have done terrible misdeeds — visualize Vajrasattva above their heads and recite the hundred-syllable mantra.

THE FOUR POWERS IN VAJRASATTVA PRACTICE

Basically, the Vajrasattva practice is done to purify negative deeds and obscurations. If you can rely on the four powers in order to purify these, then your practice will become stronger and more effective.

The first is the power of support; the second is the power of applying antidotes; the third is the power of regret; and the fourth is the power of resolve. 

The power of support consists of two parts: the support of the Buddhas, and the support of sentient beings. Here it mostly refers to the Three Jewels — the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha — and the generation of bodhicitta. It is stated in the sutra that negative karma can be purified simply by going for refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and generating bodhicitta. Therefore, when you do the second part of the ngondro practice, the Vajrasattva practice, you shall still begin your practice with the recitation of the refuge prayer and the generation of bodhicitta described in the first part of the ngondro practice, refuge and prostrations. You should do this regardless if you have completed this first practice or not. Maintaining this will be better for your practice.

The second power is that of applying antidotes, which generally refer to any positive deeds you perform. But here in the context of the Vajrasattva practice, it refers to the actual sequential practice itself, the meditation, the visualization, and the recitation of the Vajrasattva mantra. 

As written in the text, first you feel and visualize the presence of Vajrasattva above your head. Vajrasattva is the union of and inseparability from emptiness and wisdom. Note that it is not enough just to think he is there; you have to really feel that he is there. In Vajrayana, it is very important to truly feel the object of your practice. 

Next, you fervently pray to Lama Vajrasattva that all of your negative deeds and obscurations be purified. Visualize at the heart center of Vajrasattva, a moon disk, upon which sits a HUNG, encircled by the mantra garland. Because of your strong supplication, you feel that a stream of amrita flows out of the syllable HUNG and fills up Vajrasattva’s enlightened form, and then comes out from his right big toe. It then enters into your body through your fontanel. Imagine that all of the negative deeds and obscurations of your body, speech, and mind are completely purified. You will feel that your body has become very clean like a transparent bottle, clear from both outside and inside, as all of the negative deeds and obscurations are completely removed. 

While doing this part of the visualization, you can think of all of your misdeeds, or you can reflect on any particular negative thing you have done, any specific defilement you have, any individual thing you wish to repent, or any particular vow you have transgressed. Then feel that it has been completely cleared up and purified. 

The third power, the power of regret, is to truly repent the negative deeds we have done. It is similar to having a disease in your body that has brought about the formation of a pustule. If you really want to take it out, you have to recognize where it is and then cut it open to squeeze it out. After that, you are rid of the pustule and will not be hurt again. So, in the same way, you need to recognize and repent the negative deeds you have done, and then go through the purification process to remove them. This is a very important part of the purification process. 

The fourth one, the power of resolve, is a strong commitment or conviction to not repeat these kinds of negative deeds again in the future. If that fervent commitment or intention is not present, then however much you have been purified, you are still not completely purified. You should think that even if you have to give up your life, you still will not repeat the same mistake, misconduct, or sin. Your various kinds of negative karma can only be completely eradicated through this intensity, this strength of conviction. Not repeating the same misdeeds again is very important and also very difficult to do. In order to have this happen, you need to apply the third power, that of regret, to see the negative side of these misdeeds, and to develop a complete revulsion for repeating them. When that happens, you will strongly feel the commitment to never do them again, and that is the basis of true purification.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SAMAYA

Generally speaking, the real basis of all of the realizations and attainments that result from our practice is our samaya and observation of the vows. Observing the vows and samaya becomes the main essence of Vinaya. It is said in the Vinaya that if you keep the Vinaya Vows in a proper way, even if in this life you cannot attain any of the stages of realization such as the stream-enterer, in the next life, even upon hearing one verse of the Buddha Dharma, you can attain a very high realization such as the seeing stage. The life story of Shariputra is a good example. It is due to the power of observing vows and samaya. 

In a same way, the tantras also stress the importance of keeping one’s samaya. It is said that if you truly keep the samaya, then even if you have not practiced or meditated much in this lifetime, within about eight to sixteen lifetimes, you can still naturally reach the seeing stage or obtain enlightenment. Therefore, it is important not to give up what you have promised or committed to do. When you break your promise or vow, even in this life, it can create a difficult situation or great discouragement for you. So therefore, it is very important to keep the vows and samaya.

Although at times, of course, we may break some of the vows of samaya. We then need to purify that; we need to bring it back. We should not overlook that or take it lightly. The important thing is to take it very seriously.

All in all, the practice of Vajrasattva is for purification of all kinds of negative deeds and obscurations. It is especially effective for purification of breaking vows and samaya. Through the Vajrasattava practice, one can restore the broken vows and the failing promises, and even make them stronger than before. It can also compel one to become even more serious about the various vows observed. 

FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE VAJRASATTVA PRACTICE

When some people think of the practice of Vajrasattva, they immediately start with the visualization, thinking such things as: “What’s the color of Vajrasattva?” and “Where are the hands?” and “What does each hand hold?” They forget about the repentance, the power of regret and resolve, and the revulsion of misdeeds. Though it is good to have a clear visualization of Vajrasattva, it is even better to have these four powers present in your practice to truly make it a practice of purification.

When you do the Vajrasattva practice, you recite the long one hundred syllable mantra and count the number of recitations toward the mantra accumulation. At the end of the recitations, you can do the six syllable mantra: Om Vajrasattva Hum. This you can do a few times but the main recitation is the long one. 

Usually for the Vajrasattva practice, we recite the long mantra a hundred thousand times. However, when it comes to the first preliminary practice of ngondro, the refuge and prostrations, it seems that some Westerners have difficulty with the prostration part. Therefore, I have made an exception: you can do at least one thousand prostrations. As to the other parts of the ngondro practice, I have not made any changes, and you shall observe the one hundred thousand times of accumulation as it is in the traditional version. 

However, I do not mean to discourage you from doing one hundred thousand prostrations. You are very welcome to do so. After you finish a thousand prostrations, if you have more time you should continue doing more prostrations. Simply do not use the one thousand prostrations as an excuse for not being able to practice. 

GURU YOGA: VISUALIZATION

Before we get into the practice of Guru Yoga, we need to do the refuge and generation of bodhicitta. You should feel that you and bodhicitta are united into one meaning, that you are inseparable from bodhicitta, and only then proceed with the Guru Yoga practice. 

There are two Guru Yogas: the common Guru Yoga and the uncommon one. The uncommon Guru Yoga refers to the six yogas of Naropa, and there is not enough time for that here, so we will only talk about the common Guru Yoga. 

The Vajrayana is considered a quick path or a shortcut, and the main reason lies in the devotion one has towards one’s guru. 

In some traditions, it is said that when you visualize or meditate on the lama, you should do so as the lama is in his/her current living form without turning him/her into Buddha or a bodhisattva. That is sometimes said to be more effective. But here, in the general Guru Yoga practice, we visualize the lama as Vajradhara, Dorje Chang.

Why do we visualize the lama as Vajradhara? It is to dispel our view of the lama as an ordinary person; we need to have this pure vision of the lama as the omnipresent Lord Vajradhara. 

According to the Vajrayana, we try to transform our ordinary way of seeing things. Therefore, to begin with, you also visualize yourself as the yidam. Although you can visualize yourself as any of the yidams, in the Karma Kamtsang lineage, the common yidam is usually Dorje Palmo, Vajravarahi. So therefore, you should visualize yourself as Vajravarahi.

Thus, it is very important to visualize Vajravarahi in the correct way; that is, to visualize Vajravarahi as the union of emptiness and appearance, together, at the same time. In other words, visualize everything turning into emptiness, and out of that emptiness appears the form of Vajravarahi. See yourself in the form of Vajravarahi, in which emptiness and appearance are inseparable. With this kind of understanding, visualize the form of Vajravarahi. Then on top of the head of Vajravarahi is the lama as Vajradhara. After the visualization is complete, do the seven-branch prayer as an offering to the lama.

In Vajrayana, when you visualize yidams or deities, the first thing is to view them as the union of wisdom and skillful means. That is, first you have to understand that the true nature of all dharmas and all phenomena is emptiness. Even if you do not realize it completely, thinking that “this is emptiness, that is emptiness, and everything is emptiness” is good enough for here. Building on this understanding, you deliberately give rise to the form of the yidam. In this way, within one consciousness there are two parts: the first part is that everything is emptiness, and the second part is the clear display of appearances. So therefore, the one consciousness does two activities at the same time; that is, employing skillful means and wisdom. The wisdom is in seeing the emptiness, the nature of all phenomena. The skillful means refers to the various forms of the visualized deities. 

Additionally, when we visualize a deity, that deity has the qualities of an enlightened being. There is something very special in Vajrayana which I’ve taught under the Bodhi Tree at times. It is that we use the causal principle, the principle of cause and condition, to apply the result of enlightened experience right at the beginning of the practice by working on the union of wisdom and compassion. Through this kind of practice, one can obtain the realization of the union of Dharmakaya and Rupakaya.

Although in Prajnaparamita vehicle it talks about wisdom and compassion as well as Dharmakaya and Rupakaya, it does not clearly state the cause for the direct realization of Dharamakaya and Rupakaya. In Vajrayana, when doing the visualization, it clearly tells us that one consciousness embodies both wisdom and skillful means just as we visualize that the yidam appears out of emptiness. This is the reason why Vajrayana has been described as a vehicle of fruition or a quick path. 

In summary, when practicing Guru Yoga, we first generate bodhicitta. Secondly, we visualize that everything turns into emptiness and the form of the deity appears out of this emptiness. Next, we visualize the lama as Vajradhara above our head, etc., following the sequence.

Now, when you visualize yourself as the yidam, Vajravarahi, there are a few points that need to be noted. First, you should visualize it very clearly. Second, you should also have the pride of that deity. It entails you to have the conviction that you are Vajravarahi. Next, visualize Vajradhara on top of your head. Since you then have to visualize yourself offering the seven-branch prayer to Vajradhara, it is extremely important you have a very clear visualization of the yidam. At that time, your pride at being the yidam shall lessen a little. Otherwise, at that point, you might think, “I am already the yidam, Vajravarahi. Why do I still need to make offerings to the lama?” Therefore, before making the offering, you should lessen your pride, but maintain the clarity. Next, you direct the seven branch practice to the lama and see the lama as the embodiment of the four kayas. Then pray with complete devotion.

When we talk about seeing the lama as the embodiment of the four kayas, you need to understand the four kayas very well, or it will become difficult. Therefore, the key point of this part of the supplication is that you shall truly feel and see the positive qualities of the lama, however small they might be. Strongly reflect on any positive qualities you see in the lama and then make the prayers. 

[HHK] Pray from your heart.

Pray from your heart, and you will feel that the lama is pleased. The delighted lama then emits lights to bless and purify your three gates. Then you receive the three empowerments. 

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS

Now we have to stop here to give out the stones. If there is too little time left, then I am afraid I might have to throw stones at you. 

I am very happy that you could all come and that we could meet here. I know that you have come from fifty-six different countries. I could not prepare very well, but we did all come here and meet. For me, that which I am saying in the teaching is not the most important thing. More important is that we could see each other and be in the same place. That is very important to me.

[HHK:] OK, I have really enjoyed seeing you all with my two eyes. I am very happy that we shared these three days together. I feel that I have made a connection with everyone of you, especially by reading and answering your questions. You have lots of questions.

Though I could not answer all of your questions, I have more or less read through all of them. 

[HHK:] Thank you all very much for your questions. 

[HHK:] I hope to see you all again and again, maybe at Kagyu Monlam next year. Thank you very much. Thank you.

First we will recite the prayers and then do the distribution of the stones. When we pray in the Kagyu Monlam, we do not merely pray with words. I can almost visualize that each word in the prayers is uttered out of our compassion, and it is almost like golden letters emitting out of our mouths that permeate everything in the world, like air. As the golden and compassionate words of the prayers pervade all places, they congregate everyone’s benevolent minds together. This very power of compassion and the power of the prayers will dwell in this world for a long time. The meeting of us will be like the reunion of the mother and the child, full of warmth and compassion. Praying like this, we have blessed the stones in the Kagyu Monlam. I hope that as you bring back the stone to wherever you are from, you also bring back this feeling of love and compassion to every corner in the world. 

Although we live in distant places, in my mind I always feel your presence. I pray that you become a light, reflecting brightly wherever you are in the dark world, and that I can see you clearly like stars everywhere. I pray that you become a light wherever you are in that very place that would lighten the darkness of problems, sufferings, wherever they may be in this world.
 

ACKNOWLEDGMENT 

People who contributed to the English transcriptions, English to Chinese translation, proofreading, and editing of this teaching:

Ani Miaorong, Ani Renzhan, Khenpo Tengye, Chi-ying Chang, Dean Hill, Dorophy Tam, Jeffrey Chen, James Forro, Kate White, Laura Hill, Lynn M. Wilson, Max Maksimik, Min Yao, Pi-Chun Chen, Sheena Shii, and Sue-Ching Chang.