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15th Kagyu Gunchoe

Gyalwang Karmapa Presides over Three-Day Conference on The Vinaya

On Tuesday 7 February the Gyalwang Karmapa inaugurated a three-day scholarly conference, as part of the 15th Annual Kagyu Winter Debate (Kagyu Gunchö) at Tergar Monastery in Bodh Gaya. The focus of the conference was the relationship among the three levels of Buddhist ethical discipline ie the three vows (dom sum in Tibetan). Attending the conference were over 800 learned khenpos (senior monastic scholars), geshes and advanced students from Karma Kagyu monasteries and nunneries across the Himalayas.

Tibetan Buddhists uphold three levels of ethical discipline: 1) the pratimoksha vows that govern physical and verbal actions and are common to all Buddhists, 2) the bodhisattva vows that regulate thought as well as body and speech and are transmitted in all Mahayana traditions, and 3) the tantric vows that only the Tibetan traditions received from India and preserve to this day. These three levels of ethical discipline correspond to three forms of Buddhism that flourished in Indian Buddhism: the foundational system of which Theravada is the only surviving example, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Indian Buddhism was transmitted to Tibet from the 7th century onward, during a historical phase in which all were openly taught. Tibetan Buddhism alone maintains the active practice and study of all three forms of ethical discipline that characterized Indian Buddhism in its heyday.

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In Teaching During Winter Debate, Gyalwang Karmapa Stresses Integration of Study and Practice

As has become an annual custom, the Gyalwang Karmapa today addressed the entire gathering of monastics attending the 15th Annual Kagyu Gunchö (Kagyu Winter Debates) in Bodhgaya. Half an hour after the doors opened for the afternoon session, the assembly hall filled Tergar Monastery to overflowing, with nearly 1,000 monks and nuns occupying the bulk of the large hall, and laypeople seated in the little space remaining in the back and spilling outside onto the lawn surrounding the assembly hall.

The theme for His Holiness’ talk was Motivation, Conduct and Inspiration for Study and Practice. The Gyalwang Karmapa described the historical trajectory of study and debate within the Karma Kagyu, noting the influence of the Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje. He described a tendency in recent times for study institutions, or “shedra” to become distanced from the remainder of the monastery of which they form a part. With separate fund-raising efforts, separate emphasis and separate institutional structure, there is a danger that the study taking place in the shedra might appear to be separate from the activities of meditation and formal practice taking place in the rest of the monastery.

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