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The Time of Death is Uncertain So Practice Now! Day 4: Teachings on One Hundred Short Instructions

Gyalwang Karmapa continued the section in the text on the theme of death and impermanence, the second contemplation of the four common preliminaries. Today’s transmission began with a powerful evocation of the moment of death. Death is inevitable and cannot be escaped, however wealthy or powerful we are. Life is short and the time of death is uncertain, what can we have confidence in? Only the Dharma.

The text continues with various meditations on death and impermanence, followed by examples from different Buddhist texts and namthar which reinforce this view.

Life is like people meeting at a weekly market; the next day everyone is gone. The only thing which will accompany us at death is the Dharma. Thus we need to supplicate the Gurus, be diligent in our dharma practice, and devote our lives to virtue, as a matter of urgency.

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There is Not a Moment to Lose Day 3: Teachings on One Hundred Short Instructions

This chapter Vast and Profound Light: Instructions on the Two Types of Bodhichitta began with the fundamental importance of Guru Yoga on the path to enlightenment, followed by instructions on the first of the four meditation topics which form the common preliminary practices of Tibetan Buddhism. Their purpose is to ‘turn the mind to dharma’, and the first topic is the precious human life.

In yesterday’s discourse, the 17th Karmapa explained how a human life in and of itself is not necessarily a precious human life. Many people face obstacles or lack the conditions needed for practising dharma. Indeed, it is a rare achievement to attain a precious human life, like a blind sea turtle who struggles to the surface once in a hundred years and yet manages to put his head through a yoke floating on the ocean swell.

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The Blessings of the Lamas and This Precious Human Life Day 2: Teachings on One Hundred Short Instructions

In Session One, the text had spoken of the four ways in which students can serve the Lama. Today’s section began with examples of disciples who showed great devotion towards their Lamas and the benefits derived from this.

Jetsun Milarepa faced great hardship; he lived like a beggar in an isolated place with no one to share in either his happiness or his sorrows. However, as Dusum Khyenpa said, if you remember the qualities of the Lamas and supplicate them with great fervour, the power of the devotion and strength of the blessings is uninterrupted. For that reason Milarepa was able to stay in a remote place, in spite of all difficulties. “It’s like having an iron-rod of devotion in your heart,” explained the Karmapa.

Gyalwa Gotsangpa was another example of great devotion. He practised extremely hard in a cave in a cliff-face for twelve years, and made the commitment that the cave, the cliff and the person should become one. People could hear the echo of his supplications on the far side of the valley.

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The Gyalwang Karmapa Commences Kagyu Gunchö Teachings

The Gyalwang Karmapa entered the shrine room of Tergar Monastery, preceded by incense bearers and monks playing gyalins. Hundreds of monks from Karma Kagyu shedras were waiting with great anticipation for the first session of his teachings during this the 18th Gunchö. Joining them were many international lay students who sat to the back and sides of the hall.

Once the Karmapa was seated, the Venerable Choje Lama Phuntsok, founder of the Gunchö in 1997, made the mandala offering to request the teachings. This year’s winter debate session has been organised by his shedra, Karma Lekshey Ling, in Nepal. A few minutes later, the Gyalwang Karmapa, in his opening remarks, thanked Lama Phuntsok warmly for his hard work and commended his devotion to the teachings.

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The Eighteenth Kagyu Gunchö is Under Way

Each winter, monks from Kagyu shedras [monastic universities] across India and Nepal gather together under the guidance of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa to engage in a month of intensive study and vigorous debate. This annual event is called the Gunchö, a Tibetan word which means ‘winter dharma’. This is its eighteenth year. The 2014 Gunchö was inaugurated by the Karmapa on the 20th November, before he left for his teaching programme in Delhi, and will continue until 17th December. The eight shedras participating in the debate competition this year are: Karma Shri Nalanda Institute from the Karmapa’s seat in Rumtek; Lungrik Jampal Ling from Situ Rinpoche’s Sherab Ling Monastery; Rigpe Dorje Institute from Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche’s monastery in Lava; Vajra Vidya Institute, from Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche’s monastery in Sarnath; Lekshey Ling, Chöje Lama Phuntsok’s Shedra in Nepal; Thösam Norling Gatsal, Bokar Rinpoche’s shedra; Tergar Ösel Ling from Mingyur Rinpoche’s monastery; and Zurmang Shedra Lungtok Norbu Gatsal Ling from Garwang Rinpoche’s monastery.

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