The Gyalwang Karmapa Introduces Adarsha, a New Software Program along with an Electronic Version of the Jang Kangyur

14 December, 2014 – Tergar Monastery

During the winter debates, His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa made a special time to announce the creation of a new software program for a searchable version of the Jang Kangyur (the words of the Buddha). Adarsha means mirror and the program is so named because the scriptures appear on our computer screens just like a reflection in a mirror.

The Karmapa noted that the twenty-first century is a time of technology which makes information easily available. We no longer have to travel to a library to access texts, but can download them directly from the Internet. Programs like Adarsha, which runs on a PC or a Mac, will make study and research much easier and help to preserve Tibet’s wisdom tradition as well as its culture. The Karmapa’s plan is to also make available different editions of the Kangyur and Tengyur (the commentarial treatises) as well as the collected works of the great Tibetan masters and scholars. Right now, this is a pilot project, a beta version, but in the future there will be no problem to obtain copies of it.

A few minutes into his talk, the Karmapa lifted up an elegant, small silver box. He opened the lid and took out a USB in the shape of a golden key, which held seventy-one volumes of the Jang Kangyur; they contain its first 298 texts from the vinaya through to the sutra sections. For over two years, these texts have been checked and carefully edited by a team of twenty-one people. This work of inputting and meticulously checking the texts is difficult, the Karmapa noted, as it’s rather tedious and still requires very careful attention. The team had to sit at the computer all day long and often worked until their eyes hurt. They also trimmed and resized all the scans so that they all measured the same.

The software developer for Adarsha is from Taiwan, where Internet connections are excellent and it’s easy to connect to the whole world. The texts can be searched in both Tibetan letters or in Wylie transliteration as most western scholars use the latter. Another aide to research, which took effort and time, is a comparison of various editions of the Kangyur, such as the Jang, Dege, Beijing, and Cone. This was printed in two large books.

The original text of the Jang Kangyur was the first wood block print in Tibet. It was sponsored by the King of Jang and edited by the Sixth Shamar Rinpoche Mipham Chokyi Wangchuk. When the Eighth Situ Chokyi Jungne was conducting his research for the famous Dege Kangyur, he relied mostly on this Jang Kangyur. Since these wood blocks were eventually kept in the Lithang Monastery, this redaction of the Kangyur is also known as the Lithang Kangyur. These blocks, however, were burnt so we do not have a complete edition and the prints are quite rare.

Continuing his discussion of the present project, the Karmapa mentioned that since there is always a possibility of error, the input texts are accompanied by scans of the original so they can be checked against an impartial record. For ease of search, the texts will be divided into chapters and then paragraphs, depending on their meaning. These would be given a number allowing a researcher to find a word or concept easily as the program would provide a specific reference.

The Karmapa also has plans to incorporate a dictionary into the project as well as a listing of the old spellings and their new counterparts. The older version of how to spell a word is often found in the Vinaya, for example. In the future, Sanskrit and Chinese texts will be made available so that these can be compared with the Tibetan. It would be difficult to input all these texts, but the most important can be selected, such as The Heart Sutra, The Diamond Sutra, The Pratimoksha Sutra, and so forth. Also possible will be searching for a word in all three languages as well as English.

Given the vastness of this task, the assistance of many scholars and skilled staff will be needed to complete it. The plan is to have the whole Jang Kangyur finished by 2016; the intention is to preserve and make easily available these treasures of the Buddhist tradition, thereby encouraging a delighted interest in research and study.

Conclusion of the Gyalwang Karmapa’s Gunchö Teachings Day 10: Teachings on One Hundred Short Instructions

11 December, 2014 Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya

The Gyalwang Karmapa completed the transmission of the chapter on Vast and Profound Light: Instructions on the Two Types of Bodhichitta According to the Founders of the Two Traditions by reading Mikyo Dorje’s post meditation instructions.

First come instructions on taking adversity into the path.

  •  During illness, think that you are suffering because in the past, deluded by self-clinging, you have struck, beaten and killed others. So the more serious the illness, the happier you should be. Visualise and supplicate the Guru, acknowledge that this is the ripening of karma from a previous life and pray that you can take on the sufferings of other beings.
  • When you are stricken with illness caused by demons, you should visualise offering your flesh and blood to the harmful spirits which are causing the difficulties, similar to the Chod practice. Begin with a short Guru Yoga practice, and at the end, pray that you can bring all these beings to enlightenment.
  • Bringing adversity to the path whatever occurs: you accept that all adversity is the result of the ripening of karma consequent on the harm you did to other sentient beings, so it is completely appropriate. Rejoice that it is happening and pray that your suffering will repay the karmic debts of other sentient beings. Supplicate the Gurus that all of your virtue will bring happiness to other sentient beings.
  • Protecting ultimate bodhichitta: as illness and pain cannot be established as truly existing they cannot harm you. By meditating on the inseparability of wisdom and compassion, realise the two types of selflessness.

Next come instructions on training in bodhichitta, in the four activities. In other words, use whatever you are doing as a method for developing bodhichitta. Think that all the forms you see are forms of Chenresig [Avalokiteshvara]. All the sounds you hear are the sounds of the six syllable mantra [Om mani padme hum]. Meditate on devotion until all appearances become pure.

The chapter concludes with instructions on what to do at the time of death.

Transfer your consciousness at the time of death using the four powers–the seed, aspiration, resolve and habituation. The power of the seed is the state of the consciousness at the moment of death, so offer up all your possessions. Make the aspiration to develop bodhichitta. Resolve to give up all self-cherishing and work only for the benefit of others. Train in great compassion.

When you die, sit in the vajra posture if you can, otherwise lie on your right side in the lion posture. Visualise your lama at the centre of a pure realm, inseparable from Amitabha, and rest in mahamudra.

Details of the Muni Trisamayavyuha Initiation

Before the Monlam the Karmapa will bestow the blessing empowerments of the 24 peaceful deities of the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje’s ‘Knowing One Frees All’. His Holiness explained that this was the first time he had ever given an extended set of initiations.

Usually, before receiving an initiation, the supplicants need a tantric empowerment. The deities in the ‘Knowing One Frees All’ are mainly from the kriya [action] and carya [conduct] tantras. There are three kriya tantra families, Tathagata, Lotus and Vajra. The Tathagata family is the highest, so covers empowerments in the other kriya families. For this reason, on the morning of 20th December His Holiness the Sakya Trizin will give the empowerment from this family, the Muni Trisamayavyuha.

There are several reasons for requesting His Holiness the Sakya Trizin to bestow the empowerment. Firstly, this tantra has come down to us in the Sakya tradition. Secondly, Sakya Trizin is a highly-respected master and practitioner. Thirdly, from accounts of the life of the Sixteenth Karmapa, it is clear that Rigpe Dorje felt very close to the young Sakya Trizin and tried to nurture him during the early years of their exile in India.

From a different perspective, inviting Sakya Trizin counters the sectarian bias that sometimes exists in the Kagyu.

Concluding Remarks

The Karmapa turned his attention once more to the monks and gave advice on correct attitude and behavior.

The Kagyu forefathers said that listening, contemplation and meditation are the way to tame a rough and unruly mind, the Karmapa told them. Tibetan nomads have a way to make yak hide supple. First they steep it in water, then they rub butter into it, then they rub it again and again with their hands. Likewise, for our minds, listening is like the water, contemplation is like the butter, and meditation is like rubbing the hide again and again. The result should be that our minds become less rough and suppler. If our minds are becoming tamer and more malleable, it is a sign that our listening, contemplation and meditation is being done effectively.

Shedra studies need to be based on an unmistaken motivation and resolve from the beginning. Hearing even a single word of Dharma should help to decrease afflictions and increase pure perceptions.

The Karmapa also had a few words for the laypeople who had attended the teachings. He said how happy he was that they had come, even though it felt to him as if they had been short-changed, as the main emphases of the teaching was for the monks.

“It encourages me and makes me feel like I have support,” he said and thanked them.

Enhancing Bodhichitta— Day 9: Teachings on One Hundred Short Instructions

9 December, 2014, Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya

During the teaching today, the Gyalwang Karmapa gave the monks the oral transmission and practice instructions for the 8th Karmapa Mikyö Dorje’s Four Session Guru Yoga, the practice recited over loudspeakers across the Garchen last thing each evening at 10.00pm.

First, however, His Holiness read a short section from Mikyö Dorje’s text, continuing the instructions on how to increase bodhichitta. The whole chapter can be understood as an extensive Guru Yoga practice, with a visualisation of the gurus in front of you, and continuous supplication of them. Within this section, the instructions on tonglen meditation continue.

By the blessings of the Guru and your own compassion, visualise that all the happiness and virtue you have exits on the out breath and transfers to all other sentient beings. Then, as you breathe in, you inhale their suffering in the form of black smoke. First you visualise this happening to those you feel close to, your parents, family and friends, gradually extending the circle of your compassion to include those in the wider society you belong to, until finally you are giving away your virtue and happiness to all sentient beings and taking their suffering upon yourself. At the end, you visualise that all the gurus dissolve into you, and you become a buddha blazing in splendour. The subtle light from your body pervades all the universes, bringing all sentient beings to buddhahood. Imagine that the sources of refuge melt into you, and then rest in equipoise. If a thought arises at this point, begin the tonglen meditation again.

You conclude the practice with the aspiration, “May I cherish others more than myself; may I take their suffering upon myself.”

In this way, ensure that whatever you do becomes mind training. Recognise anything not on the path to enlightenment as delusion. Whenever you have either physical or mental suffering visualise that you are taking on the faults of all sentient beings. Whether we feel attachment or aversion to others, we should always cherish others more than ourselves.

We can check whether our practice of tonglen is successful or not. When training in bodhichitta, if we still feel hatred for those who have wronged us or if we are still attached to prosperity, it is a sign that we have not been training our mind correctly. If bodhichitta fails to arise, it is a sign we are training poorly. If we have a temporary wish to cherish others when we are meditating, but then afterwards we are only concerned for the purposes of this life, it means our mind training is not stable, like a field of young shoots destroyed by frost.

The Gyalwang Karmapa advised that if any of these faults occur we should confess them through the four opponent powers of purification: regret for the action, reliance on the objects of refuge, applying the antidote, and resolving not to repeat the action. We need to practise gathering the two accumulations and purifying the obscurations. In particular, we should practise Guru Yoga with great fervor.

The Gyalwang Karmapa then gave the oral transmission of the Four Session Guru Yoga and gave detailed instructions on the visualisations which accompany this practice. He also discussed the role of the Karmapas.

In his summing up, His Holiness made some important general observations about samaya and devotion to the guru.

He spoke about the importance of maintaining samaya—the sacred bond created between a guru and his or her students during empowerments—and linked the problems which had arisen within the Kagyu during the last two hundred years to the many violations of samaya. These violations of samaya are the greatest enemy and the greatest obstacle, he warned. If there are infringements of samaya, we need to recognise the faults, confess, and make the commitment not to repeat them in the future.

His Holiness then raised the question: What is an authentic guru? Firstly, we need to look beyond appearances. When Naropa, a high-caste prince, first met Tilopa his guru, Tilopa was in the form of a low-caste fisherman, drying fish on the riverbank. If Naropa had rejected Tilopa at that point, there would never have been any Kagyu! Whatever the guru does, it is important not to develop misconceptions.

It has been said that we should observe a guru for up to twelve years to check whether they are authentic or not. This does not mean checking them for faults, but primarily assessing whether they have qualities or not. But once we have made a commitment and begun to serve the lama, even if we find faults, it is important not to break samaya of body speech or mind with them if we want to follow the path of the secret mantrayana. This is extraordinarily difficult because if your guru is an authentic guru anything you do which does not conform to the dharma is breaking samaya.

We are all dharma friends here, the Karmapa continued. We are gathered together in a single mandala and we have all received empowerments together. When minor things happen we should be prepared to forgive. Whatever our dharma friends do, we need to recognise that, from one aspect, it is our own fault, the result of bad karma we have accumulated from something we did in the past. Consequently, when we recognise them as our fault, it is unlikely that we will break samaya.

Samaya is an extremely special connection between guru and disciple, which can lead to the transfer of an authentic guru’s realisations to the disciple, if that disciple has unbearable, uncontrived devotion and faith.

Devotion in Tibetan is mö-gu. Mö means ‘longing’ and gu [pa] means dedication. We need to please the guru, by making offerings—practice, service, and material goods—but best of all is to always obey the guru’s command and accomplish their wishes.

Generating Bodhichitta— Day 7 and 8: Teachings on One Hundred Short Instructions

7- 8, December, 2014

The Gyalwang Karmapa began as usual with the command: Please arouse Bodhichitta and listen to the teaching.

Having covered the common preliminary meditations which form the basis for all further Dharma practice in previous sessions, on Sunday [Day 7] the section on the actual practice of arousing bodhichitta began.

The text explains that you should develop aspirational bodhichitta then take the Bodhisattva vows with engaged bodhichitta. But first come detailed instructions on several meditations to prepare the mind. The whole text is an extended Guru Yoga, and, thus, at each stage there is a supplication to the Guru for his blessings in order to accomplish the practice.

Initially, so that your being becomes more malleable, you practise shamatha meditation in an isolated place and develop meditative stabilisation. Meditating on the breath, you begin by counting from 1-10 breaths, and then step by step increase until you can focus perfectly on 1-100 breaths. As a result, the mind becomes peaceful and tame, and you naturally engage in virtue without effort.

The next section, eliminating conceptual fabrications, you look directly at your mind, and rest simply. This is followed by the contemplation that all phenomena are like dreams in order to realise that appearance and emptiness are not contradictory. Next is a section on analysing the nature of unborn awareness. Then comes a section on looking at the mind with the mind, and a further section on practising through meditation, followed by a section on eliminating the mental factors: whatever we see or think, we just rest without changing anything.

“Just as clouds and mist arise in the sky and dissolve into the sky, all the appearances of thought, subject and object come from the dharma expanse and dissolve into the dharma expanse.”

There is then a meditation on resting in the essence of the paths and grounds.

Whatever we are doing, we should never lose the feeling of meditation. Do not grasp at what appears as true but recognise that it is like an appearance in a dream. Keep the precepts. Avoid downfalls. Engage in the ten dharma practices, and offer everything to the Three Jewels.

Now the instructions on generating bodhichitta begin. First, you should meditate on compassion for those it is easy to feel compassion for, beginning with the kindness of your mother in this life, who has made it possible for you to follow the path of liberation. But imagine that this mother, when she dies, will fall into the lower realms. How can you help her?

In the next stage of the meditation, the compassion you feel for your mother is extended to all sentient beings because they have also been your mother at some time. Now, they are about to fall into the lower realms. The text states your compassion should be “like an armless mother whose child is being carried away in a flood”. At this point, you should determine to stay in samsara for as long as it takes to benefit all your mother sentient beings. As the only hope for them is the Three Jewels, imagine that you have the wisdom and compassion and the ability to protect them. Then devote yourself entirely to the Gurus because they know what to do to benefit your mother sentient beings. Consider the sufferings of all these sentient beings and how difficult it is to repay their kindness. Supplicate the Gurus. Expand your compassion further. Think of the billions of universes, the innumerable beings who inhabit them, all of whom have been your mother. Meditate on them with unbearable compassion.

Next this unbearable compassion has to be extended to those whom you regard as your enemy or towards whom you feel aversion. These beings have also been our parents and friends in previous lives, but moving from life to life, we have forgotten. Especially develop unbearable compassion for them too. Think in this way: if I return their harm with help, it will cancel out the karmic debt between us.

The subsequent meditations use physical postures and supplications to the gurus and yidam deities to enhance our compassion.

[Day8] The next section of the text contains instructions on different meditations which can be used to generate loving kindness, the wish that all beings be happy and have the causes for happiness, and follows a similar pattern to the advice on developing compassion.

First we consider the mother of this life and how we could not bear to see her suffering. We wish an end to her suffering and want her to be happy. Having generated loving kindness for her, we then extend this to all other mother sentient beings, imagining especially how because they are ignorant of the law of karma cause and effect, they experience intolerable suffering. We then extend this further to include all those us regard as enemies.

The next section begins the actual practice of bodhichitta, taking the suffering of all other sentient beings upon you. It combines a Guru Yoga practice with tonglen, giving your happiness to others and taking on their suffering.

First we reflect how we have committed many misdeeds from beginningless time, under the power of the three poisons, and pray that the karma caused may ripen on us, but, in addition we pray that we may take on the suffering incurred through the ripening of the karma of all other sentient beings. We vow, “I will take upon myself the burden of the suffering of all sentient beings.”

The instruction tells us to visualise the Guru Yoga, consider your kind mothers and practice tonglen for them. Then dedicate the merit to mother sentient beings and imagine that they achieve Buddhahood.

The section ends with a summary of the whole practice: meditate on the four preliminaries, supplicate the guru, exchange self for others, and rest in non-conceptual equipoise.

Preparations for the conference
In addition to the transmission of One Hundred Short Instructions, His Holiness gave the oral transmission of Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation up to the chapter on The Spiritual Friend.

He also spoke to the monks about the extensive preparations for the conference on The Jewel Ornament of Liberation. The Gyalwang Karmapa talked of the research that had been undertaken in order to establish an authentic text. A group of Khenpos had studied the texts of the different editions and the citations. They also consulted with Geshe Lharampas from Gyuto Monastery, and even His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

Masters from other Kagyu lineages have been invited to the conference. The aim is for the conference to become an ornament for the teachings. The purpose of the conference is for the sake of the teachings and bringing happiness to all sentient beings.

Prior to the Monday session, His Holiness held a private meeting with the Gunchö Khenpos and those monks who had completed their shedra studies to talk about Tantra.

The Common Preliminaries are the Foundation of Dharma Practice – Day 6: Teachings on One Hundred Short Instructions

6 December, 2014, Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya

The theme of karma cause and effect begun yesterday continued.

The first meditation concerned all aspects of karma cause and effect combined.

The meditation begins with a reflection on how, lifetime after lifetime, we have clung to our bodies, our possessions, our families and friends, ignoring impermanence and the certainty of death, only to be reborn again in the lower realms, not knowing how to free ourselves from the prison of samsara. Having accepted that our lives are impermanent, we should then use contemplation and meditation to develop certitude that karmic cause and effect is infallible.

When we consider our own self-clinging, we should contemplate how we have been deceived by this mistaken view from beginningless time, and then resolve to completely eliminate self-cherishing.

The text moved on to the final contemplation in the four common preliminaries, that of the defects of samsara.

Mikyö Dorje’s text details the three types of suffering.

With reference to the first, the suffering of suffering, he describes the suffering of the three lower realms. In the different hell realms, beings endure suffering far greater than anything we experience as humans. To fall into these realms is a consequence of acts of hatred or anger. Then there are the hungry ghosts who live tortured lives and can never be satisfied. Finally, there are the animals living in fear, eating each other, caught on hooks, forced to plough fields, or else deprived of their milk and offspring.
If you are born in any of these three lower realms, in addition to the suffering you must endure, you are also unable to practice Dharma, Mikyö Dorje warns.

Then comes the suffering of change. All the pleasures of samsara are temporary. Although we may have been born in a higher realm, there will still be many problems and much suffering is inevitable, for example we will be parted from loved ones, and this is true even in the god realms, where death is a far greater suffering than in other realms.
Finally, there is the all-pervasive suffering of conditioned existence, which means that all our actions of body, speech and mind, are the seeds of future suffering. In samsara, all pleasure and happiness will turn to suffering.

Contemplating this, we should develop renunciation and want to escape from the sufferings of samsara ‘like a bird flying from a frozen lake’. Thus, our minds are turned to the path to liberation. In this way, from the correct practice of the common preliminaries, we develop fear of samsara and renunciation, love and devotion towards the guru, compassion for all sentient beings, and the wish to achieve liberation.

The three vows become ‘a ferryman who can carry us across the river’. Keeping these vows purely without any infractions is essential. We must supplicate the Gurus that we may develop unbearable compassion for all sentient beings and achieve the level of omniscience.

Commenting on the text, the Gyalwang Karmapa emphasised the importance of meditating on the four common preliminaries before beginning the meditations on bodhichitta.

Since beginningless time we have grasped at the five aggregates as ‘I’, we think of ‘my body’ and ‘my mind’, and have committed many unvirtuous acts in pursuit of what this ‘I’ wanted. We repeatedly forget the kindness of our mother sentient beings. Because of our concentration on ‘me’ and ‘mine’ we have made a prison for ourselves, an iron cage of ego-clinging, which cuts us off from most other people as surely as a prison cell would. And we don’t even realise we are in prison.

The only way to free ourselves from this prison is through our compassion for other sentient beings which will force us to break out in order to help them.

His Holiness illustrated this with the story of an only child who committed a crime and was imprisoned. Because he was in prison, there was no one to care for his parents and, in addition, they suffered mentally at the thought that their son was in prison. They became ill from worry and neglect and had to be hospitalised. They needed someone to help them, but there was no one. The son needed to free himself from prison in order to help his parents.

All our parents who have been kind to us from beginningless time are outside the prison we have made, and waiting for us to escape so that we can help them. We need to think about the process by which we have put ourselves in prison, and of all the beings who have been kind to us. We need to develop compassion and give up self-cherishing.

These four common preliminaries are extremely important, and we have to meditate on them until we have stability and confidence. They need not be practised in the order they appear, but rather the order in which we practise them should be based on what is most effective for us personally. They are called the preliminaries not because they are of lesser value than later practices, but because they are the indispensable basis for our practice and must be completed first.

“If we do not practice the four common preliminaries well,” His Holiness explained, “the actual practices will not go well.” For example, the great masters said, “If you have not meditated on death and impermanence, Guhyasamaja will not be profound.” The profundity of a practice depends on its benefit for your mind. If you have contemplated death and impermanence properly, reciting the three lines of the refuge prayer is profound because you have a stable view.

Likewise, whether we have entered the Middle Way [Madhyamika] depends on our view. If when we study the Madhyamika, we find afflictive emotions are growing stronger, perhaps we feel more partisan, and the clinging to our own school grows, we do not have the Middle Way view in our beings. Likewise, when we practise Mahamudra if we grow proud, we do not have the view.

When people hear the term ‘preliminary practices’, they immediately think of the uncommon preliminary practices–prostrations, Vajrasattva, Mandala and Guru Yoga– but in fact the real foundation is the four common preliminaries. We must have established these in our being through contemplation and meditation before we move on.

The Conference on The Jewel Ornament of Liberation

His Holiness gave further details of the conference from 13th – 16th December, which would be part of a three year programme of in-depth study and discussion of this great Dagpo Kagyu text.

Finally, he gave the oral transmission of the first part of The Jewel Ornament of Liberation.