Special Kagyu Monlam Day Seven: The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa’s Closing Advice

Special Kagyu Monlam Day Seven: The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa’s Closing Advice

16 February, 2022
Following the Lama Chöpa, the Gyalwang Karmapa spoke briefly, outlining plans he would like to develop in the coming year and drawing the Special Monlam to a conclusion. He then led the closing dedication and aspiration prayers.

In the true spirit of the Monlam, the nuns and monks wildly waved khatas in rejoicing and the first Internet Special Monlam concluded successfully. The Marme Monlam Lamp Prayer would be celebrated in individual nunneries and monasteries.

The Gyalwang Karmapa’s Advice

Normally we would gather in Bodhgaya to hold the Kagyu Monlam, as we have been doing now for over thirty years. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, it is difficult for everyone to gather, and for this reason, for the last two years, we have been unable to hold the Kagyu Monlam in Bodhgaya as we would normally have done. However, because of the great advances in technology these days, we are able to connect over the internet via a webcast, just as if we were all gathered together in person. And so, in this way, we have been holding this internet Kagyu Monlam. For the last seven days, we have all prayed for the teachings to flourish and for the benefit of sentient beings.

I think a few of you might not know much about the Monlam, so I think it’s a good idea to say a few words about it. In terms of its history, the seeds or beginnings of the Kagyu Monlam that we now have originated at the time of the Seventh Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso. He had a custom of holding Monlams on the four great Buddhist Holy Days— the anniversaries of the Buddha’s great deeds. This tradition disappeared at the time of the Tenth Karmapa Chöying Dorje, because there were no longer the facilities and everything necessary to hold a Monlam. However, later, even during the lifetime of the Sixteenth Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, there was still a tradition of holding Monlams at Tsurphu Monastery. These, then, are all part of the Kagyu Monlam, but the person who actually began holding a true Kagyu Monlam in India was the previous Kalu Rinpoche. It was during the 1980s that he began a programme of reciting the Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct in Bodhgaya under the Bodhi Tree. After Kalu Rinpoche passed away, the previous Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche took the primary role in continuing to maintain and sustain the Kagyu Monlam tradition. Not only that, we also had what was called the Kagyu Sangha Monlam—the Great Kagyu Sangha Aspiration Prayer. So, at that time, a great number of sangha gathered in Bodhgaya to hold a Monlam and recite aspirations. Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche created all the facilities and everything you needed to do this.

After I arrived in India, the Kagyu Sangha Monlam gradually changed its name to become the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo (Great Kagyu Monlam). The reason the name changed was because many people at that time agreed that it would be a good idea to change the name. After it was given the name “Kagyu Monlam”, there have been various further changes, such as the liturgy that is recited, the rituals, or many other different aspects. In particular there have been changes in the guidelines for the conduct of the sangha, making it a more formal organisation and establishing common rules of conduct. We trained heavily in these things, and I think it has brought some benefit to the teachings. There’s not too much to say about it now, but there are things I need to say.

Within the Karma Kagyu, there have been many great masters from Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa, and others. We hold pujas on the anniversaries of their passing away, and I think it would be very good if all the monasteries and nunneries could gather together over the internet and hold pujas together on these anniversaries. So, there would be a puja on the same day and there would also be an opportunity to have discussions about the namthar—the liberation stories of the masters. This would be an opportunity to speak about their teachings, their writings, and discuss them.

The anniversaries—the parinirvanas—of Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa, are something we commemorate in all of the Kagyu monasteries and nunneries. We all do this, and we do it in a very wonderful way. I think it’s very important for us to continue to do this to the best of our abilities.

It was the glorious Dusum Khyenpa who founded the Kamtsang Kagyu, so I think we need to pay more attention to the anniversary of his parinirvana. We need to gather all our energies of listening, contemplating and meditating and hold an event together on that day as well. In modern times, one very important master especially for the Karma Kamtsang, is Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, so I think it is important to gather and celebrate his anniversary together, too.

All of the Karmapas and their heart sons have been equally kind towards us and all sentient beings, and it’s not possible to say this one was kinder or that one was more important. However, it would be a little difficult for us to commemorate all the anniversaries of all the Karmapas and their heart sons—there would be so many.
I think, though, that there are some very important ones. In my opinion, one of them is the Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje. Karmapa Deshin Shekpa’s prophecy about him was really accurate, though I don’t know whether it was actually given by Deshin Shekpa or from another later lama. It spoke about how he would write great philosophical works and commentaries on many texts. And this is what he did—he opened our eyes in the Karma Kamtsang to philosophy. For this reason, I think, Mikyö Dorje is “He who has shown us the way.” His writings were so enriching they made the Karma Kamtsang central to the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. That is the kindness of Mikyö Dorje and that is why we should remember him especially.

There’s a long tradition of celebrating the Karmapas’ anniversaries. For example, there were many who remembered the anniversary of the parinirvana of Dusum Khyenpa. It is said that Drogön Renchen often celebrated it. Basically when we commemorate the anniversaries of a guru, the most important aspect is to generate faith and devotion through transmission and their writings. Then we are able to receive their blessings. This is said in the tantras; it is also said in the words of the great masters of the past. It is a time when we can receive the blessings of the root and lineage lamas, and we can develop the siddhis quickly.

As to the question of the exact time or the exact date when we should celebrate them, there are many different ways of calculating this, both Tsurphu and Phuk astrological calculations. In general, Tibetans use the Phuk-tsi but we also use the Tsur-tsi, so I’ll speak about what we should do later.
It is important to bear in mind that we should celebrate the anniversaries of Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa, Dusum Khyenpa, Mikyo Dorje, and Rangjung Drugpe Dorje. As we are now connected over the internet, all of our monasteries and nunneries should gather together for these celebrations, and we can also include all the students from home and abroad. We can gather together and recite prayers and hold discussions on the lives of the great masters.

Now the second point is the Spring Teachings. I had a letter from the organisers of the Arya Kshema and they asked me to speak about this and to continue as I did last year, and that was my original plan. The probable time will be from the 11th of March until the 12th of April. I think that’s a good period of time. I mentioned this to the nunneries, and they all agreed. So we will probably start on the 11th March and continue until the 12th April. The teachings will be just over a month long, and I will continue on the topic of the “Good Deeds" the autobiography of the Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje. I’ll announce the specific details of the schedule later.

Now in terms of the general situation in the world, in some ways the pandemic seems to be getting better, but there are still quite a few people being infected by it. I think it’s important for people not to get too careless or over-confident, but to continue to be cautious. Many people I know of have died already. For example, both Lama Tenpai Gyaltsen and Nyeshang Lama Sherap Gyaltsen caught Covid-19 and passed away, and there were quite a few others. It is not something we should underestimate or dismiss; it’s important for us to be careful. And particularly within India, it’s especially important to be careful.

The final thing is the transmission of the Marichi puja. Tomorrow, before the ritual, I will give the reading transmission [Tib. lung]. Now some monasteries have said that they’d like to give a mandala offering of thanksgiving, so I think we should have a short mandala offering at the beginning, and so, if you make it at that time, that will do.

And so that’s basically all I have to say.

So next, I’d like to read the Great Aspiration that was read during the time of Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso and revised by the Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje. As I read it, you can listen to it and understand. The main point is that as we are practitioners of the Mahayana Dharma, all sentient beings, not one left out, should be brought to perfect enlightenment. We should strive to hold this thought. No matter what we do, we should always try to maintain the motivation of wishing to benefit other sentient beings, that’s the ideal of compassion, we should never be without a feeling of bodhicitta.

And so today, we have all the merit we have gathered during this Monlam, as well as all the merit that we and all other sentient beings have gathered in any of the three times, and we should combine all this merit into one and dedicate it for the benefit of all sentient beings. And especially important, we should not just think about this life or limit this to our family and friends, Usually, we are influenced by feelings of liking or disliking others, but if we think about it in terms of the true Dharma, we need to disregard the idea of others being close to us or distant from us. All sentient beings are the same in wanting to be happy and wanting to be free of suffering, so we have to think of them in the same way. From the Dharma point of view, we cannot sometimes say, “ I just don’t like that person, I won’t help that person.” We must remember that our goal is to liberate them, especially when we are gathered here now. You can’t be both a practitioner and a worldly person, so if you are going to be a practitioner you need to think in terms of the Dharma. Of course, it’s difficult to make sure that all your actions and thoughts are in accord with the Dharma. But, if you don’t at least try to do that, if you try to compromise and ask, “How much can I do this?” then being a Dharma practitioner is a dry and empty name. And if it doesn’t help you, how can it help any other sentient being?

And so now as I read this, that is one reason why it’s so important to have vast aspirations and dedications, and particularly in this Kagyu Monlam. We have all the sponsors, there’s the one from Singapore who has sponsored for many years, and likewise there are the people, the sponsors who sponsored the projectors and all the monitors as well as the Kagyu Monlam, those who gave small gifts to all the members of the Sangha, and many other different sponsors. In particular, at this time, there are many people in the world who have difficulties because of the epidemic. Many people have the problem of falling ill, and others have problems because of the economic consequences of the pandemic. In brief, basically, we need to remember that no one wants to have suffering. We should make sure that it doesn’t happen. We should pray that they get the happiness they want, that they may achieve the ultimate happiness, and that this may happen quickly.

And so please think about this, as I recite.