The Winter Debates begin with a Regal Welcome for Taklung Shabdrung Rinpoche

The Winter Debates begin with a Regal Welcome for Taklung Shabdrung Rinpoche

January 17, 2016 – Tergar Monastery, Bodhi Gaya, Bihar, India

The Sujata By Pass Road leading up to Tergar Monastery was lined with sangha and lay people welcoming Taklung Shabdrung Rinpoche. Escorting him to the veranda of the main shrine hall, where the Gyalwang Karmapa stood to welcome him, was a traditional golden procession (serbang) of resonant horns and drums as well as pendants and banners, fashioned of colorful, gold-flecked brocade catching the rays of the morning sun. As Shabdrung Rinpoche’s car entered the main gate, the golden umbrella of royalty awaited him, and long white scarves were offered by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and Khenpo Karten from the Karmapa’s Office of Administration. The Karmapa warmly greeted Shabdrung Rinpoche at the main door of the shrine hall, and they entered together.

Finally, when the crowds of monks, nuns, and lay people had gone through security and taken their place in the shrine hall, the Karmapa and Shabdrung Rinpoche returned to light a silver butter lamp on a table covered in brocade. In front of the Buddha statue, they took their seats on identical chairs, set side by side between the butter lamp and a polished black alms bowl set in a golden stand. The resonant voice of the chant master lead prayers while tea and ceremonial rice were given out to everyone, marking this festive occasion.

For the first time at Tergar Monastery, Shabdrung Rinpoche was visiting the Karmapa after sitting next to him during the recent Kalachakra empowerment of HH the Dalai Lama. Shabdrung Rinpoche’s Taklung Kagyu (stag lung bka’ brgyud) lineage is one of the eight later Kagyu lineages descending from Phakmo Drukpa (1110-1170). Founded by Taklung Thangpa Tashi Pal (1142-1210), this lineage has been blessed by great masters, such as Sangye Ön Drakpa Pal (1251-1296), who built Riwoche monastery in Kham, noted for its colleges where the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism are studied.

In 1991, the present incarnation was born into the Ghazi (Ragasha) family that traces its lineage far back into Tibetan history. Shabdrung Rinpoche was chosen in 1998 to take over the mantle of the Taklung Shabdrung who was his great grand uncle. Presently, the young tulku is studying in Dharamshala at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics.

To begin the debates, the Sangha recited the Praise of Manjushri, ending in an enthusiastic repetition of his seed syllable dhi, dhi, dhi, dhi, dhi! As the monks challenged each other to respond, the Karmapa and Shabdrung listened attentively and occasionally made comments to each other. When the debate came to a close, Shabdrung Rinpoche spoke informally to the monks, encouraging them in their study and emphasizing the importance of pure vision while using view to tame their minds. When he finished, there was a warm round of applause to thank him for his talk and for coming to join them on the first day of the Winter Debates.

Continuing the Karmapa’s outreach to the Kagyu leaders, this visit of the throne holder for the Taklung Kagyu follows on last year’s visit of Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche, throne holder for the Drikung Kagyu, and emphasizes the Karmapa’s broad commitment to dialogue between all the Tibetan spiritual traditions.