Special Kagyu Monlam Day Seven: The Lama Chöpa, an Offering to Two Great Buddhist Teachers

Special Kagyu Monlam Day Seven: The Lama Chöpa, an Offering to Two Great Buddhist Teachers

16 February 2022

The Lama Chöpa

This extensive Ritual of Offerings to the Gurus is always performed on the last day of the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo, as a celebration or commemoration of Lamas who have given great service to the Buddhist teachings. Composed by the 17th Karmapa in 2005, it is a compilation drawn from many famous Buddhist texts

The puja often serves as a memorial to a particular Lama or Lamas who have recently passed away, and this year it was dedicated to the memory of two international Buddhist teachers, both of whom had passed away in 2022.

The first was the Vietnamese monk and world Buddhist leader, the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh. During the Vietnam War, he coined the phrase “engaged Buddhism”– a form of Buddhism which combines Buddhist meditation practice with actively working for the good of society. He was responsible for introducing ‘mindfulness’ to the West. He adapted traditional Buddhist practices such as walking meditation, sitting meditation, eating meditation, deep relaxation, working meditation and breathing mindfully so that they were more easily accessible and could be applied to the challenges of modern life. He established a modern code of ethics for daily life known as “The Five Mindfulness Trainings” which are based on the traditional Buddhist five precepts. He dedicated his life to the work of inner transformation for the benefit of individuals and society, travelling worldwide to spread the message of mindfulness, peace and living harmoniously.

In 1982, he founded “Plum Village” in the south west of France, which is now the West’s largest and most active Buddhist monastery and grew into the International Plum Village Community. He also founded an organisation to teach mindfulness in schools with over 700 monastics and 11 monasteries. He died earlier this year aged 95.

The second Lama to be commemorated was the Nyingma lama, His Holiness the 4th Dodrupchen Rinpoche, Jigme Thubten Trinley Palzangpo. Dodrupchen Rinpoche was a great Dzogchen master and the principal holder of the Longchen Nyingthik teachings. He was one of the most significant contemporary teachers in the Nyingma and Dzogchen lineages. Rinpoche was born in Tibet in 1927 but, like many Tibetan religious leaders, he was forced to flee Tibet in 1957. In exile, he made his home in Gangtok, Sikkim and founded monasteries in Bhutan, India and Nepal, including Chorten Monastery in Sikkim. Rinpoche gave many empowerments, transmissions and teachings in Sikkim. He also subsidised the printing of many important Buddhist practice texts, including Longchenpa’s Seven Treasures and Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease. He travelled to the West, to North America and Europe, especially the UK and France, leading retreats and giving teachings and empowerments. In the USA, he established the Mahasiddha Nyingmapa Dharma Centre in Massachusetts. He was 95 when he died.

As the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa explained in 2020, this puja is particularly significant because in Buddhist practice the lama is of central importance:

If we can supplicate the gurus without forgetting, practice their instructions without forgetting, and benefit other sentient beings without forgetting, we will fulfill the gurus’ aspirations. We ourselves awaken to buddhahood by doing this and repay the kindness of sentient beings by doing this.
The Special Kagyu Monlam: A Thousandfold Offering to Devi Marichi

The Special Kagyu Monlam: A Thousandfold Offering to Devi Marichi

17 February 2022

The first session of the Special Kagyu Monlam on February 17th started with a mandala offering. Karmapa then gave the reading transmission [lung] of the Sutra of the Dharani of Marichi. He explained that in the Tibetan canon, there are already several translations of the Sutra of the Dharani of Marichi of different lengths but they were somewhat incomplete. During the eighth century, a great scholar named Amoghavajra, who came from Sri Lanka to China, translated the Sutra of the Dharani of Marichi from Sanskrit into Chinese. He made three translations of the Sutra of the Dharani of Marichi, but Karmapa had chosen this translation to translate into Tibetan because he liked the way in which the text described the background and who was requesting the sutra very clearly. This translation of the Sutra of the Dharani of Marichi was the one used on Day Eight of the “Aspirations to End Adversity”.

"Generally, there is no lineage of transmission for this, but the Sutra of the Dharani of Marichi and the one that I translated are the same," said Karmapa. "There is a difference in the lengths of the words, but the meaning is the same. In actuality, it is as if I have the transmission." He went on to give the reading transmission of the Sutra of the Dharani of Marichi that he had translated from Chinese into Tibetan.

Next, he talked about the ritual of Marichi, and explained that although he had written the actual text to be recited, the notes would be added later. “Most of the notes have been written, but due to the time constraint, many explanations which are needed to be given in the notes have yet to be included,” said Karmapa. He added that perhaps during the Spring or Summer Teachings, he would be able to give the entire transmission of the notes. He then gave the reading transmission for the liturgy that was recited today.

"As mentioned before," he continued, "we have all the texts we need to recite, but the actual complete liturgy with all the notes is not ready. The texts have already been distributed among monasteries, but they are incomplete so they have not been distributed over the internet. We plan to make it into a text format or into a book and distribute it to everyone."

Karmapa then explained that it is generally said that Marichi is an emanation of the buddha Vairochana. Some people also consider her as an emanation of Chenrezig or Avalokiteśvara. In any case, he explained, Marichi is especially invoked for dispelling illnesses and epidemics, and also for eliminating dangers such as thieves and so forth. She eliminates all the enemies on the way, all the difficulties we experience on the road while traveling.

Karmapa then explained that a particular reason why we were doing the Thousandfold Offering to Devi Marichi was that it might bring benefit to the situation of the ongoing epidemic. He added that he had thought about this last year, but he was unable to implement it. Now that the Special Monlam was being held, he thought it would be a good idea to do the offering. He had created this liturgy in response to several requests by his dharma friends and acquaintances. Karmapa had also provided an image of six-armed Marichi that could be used. He had based it on an original painted by 10th Karmapa Choying Dorje.

Before beginning, he mentioned that it was a long practice that originally took four hours, but he had shortened it to three hours, including a short tea-break.

Under the guidance of the umdzes from Rumtek Monastery, there was first a recitation of the Praise of the Twelve Deeds before proceeding to the main text of the practice. Mid-session there was a short tea-break. Various monasteries and nunneries had arranged elaborate displays of offerings in their shrine halls. Most of them had been able to set up shrines to Marichi with either an image or a statue; tiers of offerings including tormas, seven offerings, water offerings, fruits, and flowers adorned the shrines. Karmapa then gave instructions on the ritual to the Sangha members before proceeding with the next half of the practice.

During the practice, Sangha members and lay practitioners could be seen circumambulating the mandala while doing mantra recitations. After the main practice was complete, the Aspiration of Mahamudra was recited, and the Thousandfold Offering to Marichi was completed. Karmapa then explained that the best thing would be for each monastery to hold their own Marme Monlam.

As the session came to an end, he said, “It was the first time we have done the Thousandfold Offering, and it turned out very well. Thank you all very much, and we will see each other in the Spring Teachings.”