Gyalwang Karmapa’s Special Address to the 38th Kagyu Monlam

Gyalwang Karmapa’s Special Address to the 38th Kagyu Monlam

25 January 2024

I would like to give my greetings to Chamgon Vajradhara, who has made a deep connection with the Monlam, to Zurmang Garwang Rinpoche, Kyabje Mingyur Rinpoche, Bokar Rinpoche and all the other Tulkus,  as well as all the gurus, the khenpos,  spiritual friends, as well as the ocean of the Sangha.

I would like to offer my greetings and hope you are all well.

Today is the last day of the 38th Kagyu Monlam so today I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest thanks to the leader of this gathering, the lord of the family, the Dharma lord, Chamgon Vajradhara.

Now, as you all know, in terms of Tibetan history, Chamgon Situ Rinpoche, is an important lama in Tibet. There is a supplication in recognition of the Chamgon Situpa that speaks about how he was a subject of King Bindusara named Mahabala.

He took many rebirths in India, and then from the time of Marpa Choekyi Lodro, he had many rebirths in Tibet, and from Drogon Rechen (1148-1219) onwards, he had many lifetimes as a great master of the practice lineage of the Karma Kamtsang.

During his different lifetimes, he often displayed the way of being a great master with great accomplishments. In particular, when we say the title of “Tai Situpa,”, this is the title that was first given to Situpa Choekyi Gyaltsen (1377-1448). There are two Situpa Choekyi Gyaltsens in the lineage and this refers to the earlier one, who was a student of the Fifth Karmapa Deshin Shekpa (1384-1415). The Ming Emperor Yongle gave him the title of ‘Guan Ding’.  The title Kenting is derived from this. Consequently, Karmapa Deshin Shekpa gave him the title ‘Situpa’. His later reincarnation Situpa Tashi Namgyel was a student of Sixth Karmapa Thongwa Dönden(1416-1453)

In brief, the various incarnations of the Situpa Rinpoches are one of the earliest lines of tulku in Tibetan history. Among the Karmapa and his heart sons, after the Karmapa and the Shamarpa lineages, the next earliest is the Situpa.

So, from the time of the first Situ Rinpoche until the seventh, they spent their time overseeing the monastery of Karma Gӧn and performed vast activity while they did so.

The eighth Situpa was the Mahapandita Choekyi Jungne. Not only was he important in the Karma Kamtsang, but he was also one of the most influential figures in Tibetan studies after Shongtӧn Lotsawa and his student Pang Lodrӧ Tenpa. Particularly at that time, when there were a lot of political problems for the Karma Kamtsang, One of these was that the twelfth Karmapa, Changchub Dorje, and the eighth Shamar had been invited to China by the Qing Emperor, but on the way, both of them passed away. This created a very difficult situation, as if the teachings of the Karma Kamtsang were like a headless body. However, at this time the Situ Panchen took upon himself a great responsibility and oversaw the Karma Kagyu teachings and prevented them from decreasing. At that time, he also founded the monastery of Palpung at Babang in Kham. As a consequence, from the 17th century onwards,the main Karma Kamtsang monastery in the region of Kham, was Palpung, and it became a centre of study in the Tibetan sciences: Tibetan grammar, poetry, healing, mythology, and so forth. These five areas of knowledge spread widely. Thus, in terms of the Tibetan sciences, in all areas of knowledge in general, Palpung became a very important monastery.

In particular, our current Chamgon Dorje Chang Pema Donyö Druppa, is, in terms of listening contemplation, and meditation, or being learned, venerable and good, or any other way you consider, is a guru with all the qualities, as goes without saying. In India, he founded the Palpung Sherabling Monastery, and he has also been overseeing the Palpung Monastery along with its branch monasteries in Tibet. He has recognized many tulkus of all the different Dharma lineages, as well as raised them.  He has also given the Pratimoksha, the Bodhisattva, and the tantric vows to many monks and nuns within the Karma Kamtsang lineage.

In addition, he has provided great opportunities and facilities for everyone to study all the different areas of knowledge. In doing so, he has had an incredible influence, and has shown incredible kindness to the teachings in general.

He is like the life force of our teachings, like the great pillar of our teachings.

Of the four heart sons, the main ones who are living are Chamgon Tai Situ Rinpoche and Vajrapani’s emanation, Gyaltsab Rinpoche. Both of them, whether we speak of them in terms of worldly things or Dharma activities, have played an essential and influential role and have shown great kindness to our lineage.

In particular, the Guru Vajradhara himself has now come to preside over the 38th Kagyu Monlam.  You can definitely say that this is an historical event, really important and very meaningful.

Not only has he come as the guide of the teachings, he has also given the Red Crown ceremony. He gave a teaching on Maitreya’s Aspiration, and the teaching and the empowerment of Maitreya. So many people came to this empowerment, that there was no room in the Pavillion and many had to wait outside. But disregarding the difficulties, Rinpoche himself went down through the entire crowd, giving everyone the blessing, which is an incredible kindness to all.

Especially, in this Monlam, Rinpoche had his own particular vision of what we should do and said that we should recite The King of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct one million times. In addition, we were to recite the Vajrasamaya mantra one hundred million times. He gave us a great opportunity to gather vast accumulations of merit. Because of this, I'd like to take this good opportunity, on my own part, to express my rejoicing in all of Rinpoche's work and the benefit he has done and express my deeply-felt gratitude.

So generally, when you talk about the Karmapa and the heart sons, they're very important, as everyone knows, it goes without saying. But to reiterate, with some earnestness, I should say, the 13th Karmapa, Dudul Dorje, and Situ Panchen Choekyi Jugne both had a direct disciple whose name was Karma Shenphen Gyatso. He wrote a text containing the life stories of the great masters of the Karma Kagyu, in which he said that all of the Karmapa’s heart sons are empowered as agents of his activity. If this is so, we can't say, “ Our monastery's guru” and, “Their monastery's guru.” It's not something you can say. That’s why the Gyalwang Karmapa himself displayed the same respect to all of the heart's sons without any distinction.

Showing respect in this way is not just merely being diplomatic or intended in a worldly way for a political aim.  It's actually for a very important reason in terms of the Dharma. The reason is that the heart sons, and in some lifetimes their students, and in some lifetimes their gurus, perform their activity in terms of being inseparable as master and student. There's a particular need for this. When you talk about master and disciples or gurus and their disciples, we speak about this great connection between them. Sometimes they appear as gurus, sometimes they appear as disciples, but in any case, they're always inseparable from each other as guru and student.

To be specific, in the Collected Works of the 9th Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje, there is a prayer to the guru and his five disciples. Likewise, the 13th Karmapa, Dudul Dorje, also wrote a prayer but his refers to six masters of the Karma Kagyu. Dudul Dorje wrote this prayer of his own accord—no one asked him to do it—and he wrote this prayer so that the teachings of the master and his heart sons should flourish.

In the Kagyu Monlam prayer book, we have included a prayer to the seven masters and their disciples [ ed. A Prayer for the Long Lives of the Seven Masters and Disciples of the Karma Kamtsang]. I used this supplication by the 13th Karmapa, and added a verse to the Jamgӧn Rinpoche by the 15th Karmapa. This practice in the Karma Kamtsang was founded by the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, and from then on the successive Karmapas have been the masters of the teachings.

This is true for the Tibetan teachings in general, and in particular for the Karma Kagyu tradition. The masters and all of the disciples have been like the crown jewels of the Karma Kamtsang teachings: the Shamarpa and the Situpa, Jamgӧn, Gyaltsab, Pawo and Treho. All of these are the Karmapa’s principal or primary students, his senior students. The Karmapas have installed them  to perform his activity through their own activity. It displays his confidence in this way.

For this reason, whether in a monastery or a labrang, we should have no bias. We should have indistinguishable faith and devotion in all of them. This is critical. Particularly when we consider the Karmapas’ heart sons, the attendants of the heart sons should think, “Our guru is, in general, a teacher of the Karma Kamtsang as a whole, and someone who is carrying out the consummate activity of the Karmapa.” So it's very important for the attendants to think that they are supporting the teachings of the Karma Kamtsang.  It is very important for us to serve our gurus in this fashion.

The reason for this particular title of the Karmapa’s heart sons, and why we should have particular faith in them, is because they are the people who uphold the teachings, the masters of the teachings. They are different from other lamas, other teachers and trulkus. That is why they were given these titles, and we should have confidence in this. All those who serve these gurus, all the attendants, need to think about this and should have the same attitude as they serve the gurus.

During the 38th Kagyu Monlam, some 58 Kagyu monasteries and nunneries have sent monks and nuns here. There have been 95 khenpos and trulkus. There have been 692 bhikshus, 3,916 novices and nuns, and then 115 international monks and nuns, as well as many monks and nuns from other lineages.

So, in total during this Kagyu Monlam, there have been over 4,058 Sangha members.

Likewise, within the organization of the Kagyu Monlam, there have been 88 primary workers,102 volunteers, 541 helpers, as well as 79 local helpers and so forth. Hence, there are over 819 people who are actually working for these teachings.

In addition, there are also many people who have come from India, Nepal and Bhutan, and we have registered over 980. We also have many people who have come from other countries. The total of international participants that have registered is 861.

Many other people, who have not registered, have also come, but they are not included in the accounting.

But it’s obvious that quite a few people have come. For example, there was the question of people not fitting inside the Monlam Pavillion and needing to sit outside or on the lawn.

We were in this sacred site of the Buddha; there was virtue in the beginning, virtue in the middle, and the virtue in the end. Now we should dedicate all that virtue for the benefit of all sentient beings throughout space so that they can quickly achieve the state of omniscience and perfect Buddhahood.

The Karmapa’s dedication

That all the illness, famine and war in this world may be quelled or pacified.

That the teachings of Buddhism may spread throughout the world without ever declining.

That, in particular, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as well as all of the other great masters, who uphold the teachings of all the lineages, may live long and engage in activity that spreads throughout space.

That the teachings of the Dakpo Kagyu may spread throughout all five continents and four oceans like a great parasol that shades the four continents.

That all those beings who uphold the teachings may be harmonious, have pure discipline, and spend their time engaging in the activities of teaching and practising the dharma.

That all our parents, all sentient beings, with whom we have a connection, whether good or bad in nature, quickly receive the blessings of the Three Jewels and quickly achieve Buddhahood.

This is my dedication.