Sunday, July 25, 2010
Interview on the meaning, importance and history of the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo.
Recorded at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, July 15, 2010
English translation ( Chinese coming soon )- 1 Session 8 min
So if you'd like to see Humble the Bunny and his amazing antics (including his meditation with his owner) you can check out the link:
The image of Humble going up and being blessed by the Akshobya vase and having saffron water drizzled on his little white head sure sticks with you. May all creatures have such good fortune in all their future lives!
Monday, July 19, 2010
"Most of the time we understand each other, even without using words," says Xia Liu, who also goes by the American name Gloria. "Sometimes I wonder why that is, and I think, maybe we were sisters in a previous life!"
Although it's called the North American Kagyu Monlam, this week's event at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra has become a United Nations of sorts - participants have come from many states and several countries to be a part of the landmark event.
Sitting together at lunch on the final day of Monlam Saturday, Elsa and Gloria - and two of their new friends Marcella Elizabeth Castor Benitez and Emilia Urra - recounted the unusual set of circumstances that threw them together into what appears to be a fast and wonderful friendship.
Gloria, originally from Beijing, China (and now living in Florida) and Elsa, born and raised in Colombia, met each other the way a lot of people do these days - in cyberspace.
Both had an interest in Buddhism, and met the dharma before they met each other. They connected with KTD through its various websites and webgroups. Eventually, they both connected (several months apart) with KTD teacher Lama Karma Drodhul and joined his Mahamudra Ngondro support group on Google.
"I had asked about Ngondro on the KTD website, and they guided me to Lama Karma's webgroup," Elsa said through an interpreter. "We found out later that I had been to KTD to see Lama Karma for his Ngondro Retreat in January, and Gloria had been to the Ngondro retreat in April. So you could say we had a connection through Lama Karma."
Independently of each other, they made the decision to attend the historic first North American Kagyu Monlam after reading about it on the Internet. After making their travel plans, fate finally arranged a meeting between the two of them.
"Lama Karma had arranged for me to stay with a woman near KTD, and she got sick, so I didn't have a place to stay," Gloria said. Elsa also had been guided by Lama Karma to a rooming situation, and when it didn't work out, the two "met" on the Google webgroup and decided to try to room together when they arrived in the Woodstock area.
Elsa had arrived by plane from Colombia in the New York area and taken a bus to New York City's Port Authority bus terminal for her connection to Kingston, where they hoped to grab a cab to their rooming place. Not knowing New York and not knowing English, Elsa had a scary time on the airport shuttle bus.
"I didn't know that the bus was taking us through a tunnel and eventually was going to take me to my bus to Kingston," said Elsa. "I thought we weren't even at the Port Authority bus terminal, and I refused to get off the bus, saying "I want to go to Port Authority!"
Luckily, a transit policeman who spoke Spanish came to her aid, and Elsa was soon on her way to meet Gloria in Kingston.
From the moment they met, they felt a strong bond, Gloria said. "It's like we've known each other for a long time, and we've only just met," she said. "I have to admit I haven't been this happy for a while."
After arriving at Monlam, Gloria, who is fluent in English, scoured the KTD grounds looking for a Spanish translator to help Elsa with the Monlam puja. That's how they met Marcella, a Colombian woman who traveled to Monlam from Germany (where she attends university), and Emilia, who traveled all the way from Chile to the Monlam.
"I was in Lama Karma's Ngondro group too," Emilia said. "It's like Lama Karma was the connection for all of us!"
But what was even more interesting was that after having lunch with Elsa, Marcella suddenly realized they'd met before - when Marcella came to Elsa's candle shop in Bogota some years before. "I'd forgotten about it completely … until I suddenly recognized her that day at lunch!"
A highlight of the trip for Elsa and Gloria was an after-puja trip to KTD's Three-Year Retreat Center at Karme Ling.
"We went one evening after puja, and it was just like heaven to me," Elsa said. They came home greatly inspired by the beauty and blessing of the grounds at Karme Ling, and returned the next day for an overnight stay at the Karme Ling Lama House.
All who have met the women say their bond, although improbable because of the distance they've lived from one another up until now, is very special. "It's wonderful to see how happy they are to have met one another," Marcella says.
Elsa agrees. "For me, Gloria is a surprise bos from which dakinis take treasures," she says, with Marcella interpreting. "She teaches me in every moment."
Although the Monlam is over, they're already making plans to attend the 2011 event in Vancouver.
"Elsa has promised to learn some English next year," says Gloria with a smile. "And I'll try to get better with my Spanish!"
Saturday, July 17, 2010
The five-day event will be conducted from June 22 through 26, 2011, at Thrangu Monastery in Vancouver, Canada. The concluding day of the program is scheduled for June 26, His Holiness Karmapa's birthday.
To get an advance look at the home of next year's Monlam, check out:
We're making plans now for our 2011 trip. How about you?
A television doesn't look out of place in one's living room, but when it's in the front of a Buddhist shrine room, it certainly gets one's attention.
This morning's Monlam session began with the usual Sojong Vows and Sanskrit prayers, but when 9 a.m. came around, the television in the front of the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra shrine room came to life, it brought us a pleasant surprise: His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa.
Although the setting was the same as His Holiness' recorded message played earlier this week - his library at Gyuto Monastery - there was a major difference: the speech was being given live, via webstream.
After greeting the participants (and particularly his own teacher, the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche), Karmapa apologized for not coming to the Monlam (he was unable to obtain a visa to travel to the United States), but said he was happy that his sister, Jestunma Ngodup Palzom, was able to attend. "I hope that through her presence, you will feel my affection for you," he said. "I'm also seeing you on the Internet [via webstreaming] and I see your faith and devotion. I'm praying along with you."
The speech was received warmly by participants, some of whom sat with hands folded in devotion as His Holiness spoke.
Lives of the Karmapas
Thrangu Rinpoche's talk today covered the activities of the 16th and 17th Karmapas.
"The 16th Karmapa's deeds were inconceivable," said Thrangu Rinpoche, speaking admiringly of his root guru. "All the Karmapas have great activity, but his was even more so."
Although Tibet has produced many great teachers, few were able to leave the "pure realm surrounded by snow mountains," as Tibet is called in aspiration prayers.
But because of circumstances, His Holiness was forced to leave Tibet, and while this might be seen by some as an unfortunate circumstance, Rinpoche said, it actually enabled him to spread the dharma throughout the entire world.
Great kings of the past in India and China spread the dharma in their regions, Rinpoche said, but His Holiness the 16th Karmapa spread the dharma "from Alaska to Chile, and from Norway to New Zealand."
The 16th Karmapa expanded his seat in Sikkim and created seats around the world, including Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in the United States.
In considering monasteries such as KTD, Rinpoche said that some people think buildings are not important to the dharma and that practice and study are more important than creating structures. However, this view is not correct. While beings are transient in this world, changing over every generation, the buildings that house the dharma teachings will remain and help generation after generation, he said.
Speaking about the 17th Karmapa, Rinpoche said His Holiness' activity is still unfolding. His being born in Tibet was important, as was his leaving for India, Rinpoche. His birth in Tibet helped revive dharma in that land, and his leaving for India will help him spread the dharma throughout the world.
His other contribution has been the reviving and reforming the Kagyu Monlam. "He has turned it into a beautiful event that inspires people … it's a beautiful ornament that decorates the teachings of the Buddha. It transforms the minds of the sangha members who come to it … it's an incredible and wonderful dharma activity."
We're either diligent - or a little bit crazy. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.
Writing for the Chinese-language Ocean of Merit blog are Monica Liu and Pi-Chun Chen. They collect their notes in a combination of Chinese and English, and file their stories from their laptops. Representing the English-language North American Kagyu Monlam blog are Bill Skinner, Lori Volpe and Lama Kathy Wesley. All are combining their love of their languages and writing with affection for the Kagyu Monlam. We hope you've been enjoying the result - after all, we're staying up late for you!
We'll be filing our Day Five story in about an hour, but watch for three or four more stories from the NAKM blog over the next few days. We'll be publishing an interview with Jetsunma Ngodup Palzom (His Holiness Karmapa's sister), as well as feature stories about a woman's journey to ordination during Monlam, and an amazing (albeit improbable) international friendship that formed during the five days of the event.
Gotta go now ... we don't want to stay up ALL night!!!
"His Holiness says things have to be done correctly," Karma Choepel said.
So here is the mantra, in Sanskrit pronunciation:
Namo bhagavate Akṣhobhyāya tathāgatāyārhate saṃyaksaṃbuddhāya.
Tadyathā: oṃ kaṃkani kaṃkani, rochani rochani, troṭani, troṭani, trāsani, trāsani, pratihana, pratihana. Sarva karma paraṃ parāṇime sarva sattvānāñcha svāhā
First, he welcomed all those present to the North American Kagyu Monlam at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra (KTD). In particular, he sent warm wishes to his dear spiritual friend and teacher, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, and KTD President, Tenzin Chonyi.
His Holiness noted that each being conducts life according to the individual’s aims or goals. Those of us on the Mahayana path wish for peace and happiness for ourselves and for every other being, and we conduct our lives with the aspiration to help all beings attain that peace.
The Kagyu Monlam is intended to give rise to these aspirations in us. It began in Bodhgaya, but in recent years has spread to other locations, such as KTD in North America. We should be very delighted and confident about this, he said.
His Holiness noted that KTD was founded through the great resolve and aspiration of the XVIth Gyalwang Karmapa. He planted the seeds of dharma here. Since then, many people -- young and old, long-time workers and recent arrivals, President Chonyi and laborers -- have worked with pure motivation to develop this important dharma center into what it is today.
This week's Kagyu Monlam in North America, he said, which is being undertaken with pure motivation and great enthusiasm, truly continues the vision of the 16th Karmapa, and it makes the 17th Karmapa deeply happy. For these reasons, he expressed his gratitude to all of us.
Although he had hoped to attend personally, things did not work out to allow that. For that, His Holiness begged our pardon.
However, His Holiness said, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche is a great meditator and a great teacher. He has been very kind to KTD and is very kind to lead the Kagyu Monlam this week. “Think of him as my representative,” His Holiness said.
Noting that his sister, Ngodup Palzom, was at KTD this week, His Holiness said that we may also think of his sister as his representative. Even if, as he teased her, she may have missed one of the prayer sessions.
In addition to his “representatives,” Karmapa mentioned that he has been able to see us himself, by means of the internet (live streaming), observing that we are all praying with great sincerity, and assuring us that he is joining us in making the aspiration prayers.
The happiness of beings depend on each other, His Holiness said. Accordingly, he said, we need good motivation and good intentions. . . for our own happiness, but also for the happiness of even the smallest microorganism. We bring the aspirations to mind, and we need to keep them in mind. It is good that we do this, at the Kagyu Monlam.
Friday, July 16, 2010
What's 2.3 pounds and challenges even the most diligent dharma practitioner?
The Kagyu Monlam Prayer Book.
The beautifully designed book, sporting the elegant Kagyu Monlam symbol in blue and yellow, is full of sacred and inspiring prayers. And "full" is the operative word in this sentence.
After admiring the book, the next challenge is to hold it.
Except for the lamas, who have tables for holding their books, the rest of the audience at the North American Kagyu Monlam needs to hold the book in their hands.
Over the last few days, a variety of styles of book-holding have emerged. There's the "elbow-tucked-in" style with the open book held in front of the heart; there's the "shift from hand to hand" method utilized by (ahem) people with less upper body strength; and the simple, solves-the-whole-problem method of letting the book rest in the lap.
Still others put cushions in their laps as book holders. One lucky person even brought a wire shelf stand for their books.
Whatever the style, it's a certainty that Kagyu Monlam participants are working on their physical, as well as spiritual, strength.
After three days of partly cloudy, cool skies, July heat settled over Monlam today, as people spent the morning seeking shade in any place possible -- under the eves of the New Wing at KTD, under the courtyard tent, and under colorful umbrellas.
Several participants remarked that they felt the heat was helping them were purify their karma. "I hope this is purifying my karma for being reborn in the hell realms!" one participant joked.
In spite of the heat, participants maintained a joyful, if wilted, mood.
"There's nothing like it," said one participant. "It's like being in a monastery," said another.
Yeshe Wangmo, a retreat lama who is making a film about the artwork of torma, says she's been enjoying the special atmosphere of fellowship and prayer that is Monlam.
"It's like a mini Bodhgaya," Wangmo said. "This event captures the feeling of the main Monlam in India. In fact the umdze (Sonam Paljor) remarked to me that leading the prayers here made him feel homesick for Bodhgaya."
In the morning teaching session, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche continued his series of descriptions of the activities of the Gyalwang Karmapas.
The 10th Karmapa, Choying Dorje, was an artist and craftsman, who painted many inspiring depictions of the great masters of India and Tibet. Many of these paintings still exist, and can be seen in Asia, Rinpoche said.
Artwork has a special quality, Rinpoche said, in that it can inspire people to practice the dharma. "We know these statues are made of rock or metal, but it's not just any rock or any metal, " he said. "It's special rock and special metal that has a special power - the power to remind us of the Buddha and the Dharma … This is why it's important for us to supplicate and make offerings to these images."
The 10th Karmapa also created the very first woodblock print of the Kangyur, the compiled teachings of the Buddha, Rinpoche said. This was very important, as these teachings were rare and hard to find before the woodblocks were made.
The 11th Karmapa, Yeshe Dorje, recognized many incarnate teachers (tulkus), including Situ Chokyi Jungne, whom Karmapa recognized by letter before his death.
The 12th Karmapa, Jangchuk Dorje, was the guru of the 8th Tai Situ, who founded the Palpung monastery in Kham, Eastern Tibet, to firmly establish the Kagyu Dharma in Eastern Tibet.
The 13th Karmapa, Dudul Dorje, led a simple, uncomplicated life, teaching birds, animals, and mice the holy dharma. His life was so simple that it attracted criticism from a well-known teacher of the era, but Rinpoche said the criticism was actually a form of praise, extolling the virtues of Karmapa's simplified life and teachings. He mainly taught the dharmas of not returning insults for insults, not returning blows with blows, not returning anger with anger, and so forth.
The 14th Karmapa, Thekchok Dorje, was a contemporary of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Chokchur Dechen Lingpa. During his time, Situ Pema Nyingje founded the 3-year retreat facility at Tsurphu monastery, seat of the Karmapas. Karmapa himself did the retreat, acting as an ordinary monk, Rinpoche said.
The 15th Karmapa was a student of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, traveling twice to eastern Tibet to receive teachings from his master. Jamgon Kongtrul was famous for compiling the Five Treasuries, five works of great teachings, empowerments, and other sacred dharma works. Khakyap Dorje caused the Treasury of Precious Terma, the Rinchen Terdzod, to be published, and went on to write three important works that refuted criticisms of dharma teachings.
Planning Next NAKM
After lunch, planning on next year's Monlam began with a meeting called by Lama Chodrak, representative of the main Kagyu Monlam in Bodhgaya, who called a meeting of North American center lamas to discuss plans for the next Monlam.
Final plans are yet to be announced, but it's believed that the Second North American Kagyu Monlam will be in Vancouver, Canada in late spring, 2011.
At mid-afternoon, the Shrine Room was stifling in the 90+ degree heat and typical East Coast humidity, without a hint of a breeze to provide relief. Lydia Leung, a generous Monlam sponsor, took matters into her own hands and drove to the local home supply store and acquired 7 oscillating fans. Volunteers and lamas hastily assembled them during the afternoon break, bringing a welcome change to the final chanting sessions.
Each afternoon, chanted prayers include numerous recitations of King of Aspiration Prayers: The Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct. Earlier in the week, we reported on the use of English language for one recitation, in place of the traditional Tibetan text. Today, the Chinese language recitation debuted, led by Ani Lodro Lhamo. A substantial Chinese-speaking group of practitioners lifted the aspirations in a beautiful melody that filled the Shrine Room and the tent in the courtyard.
When the afternoon session of chanting began, Thrangu Rinpoche was absent from his seat, but with good reason - he was acting as a preceptor for two people - one man and one woman - who took monastic vows this afternoon.
Ngoc Bich Kim, a Khmer (Cambodian) Travinh woman from Vietnam who has lived in the United States since 1989, took nun's vows, and Michael Heaton, the shrinekeeper at KTD, took monk's vows.
As the newly minted monastic took her seat during the puja, her sister monastics greeted her with warm smiles and pats of the hand. During the break, the new "Ani" (sister) Lhamo was given a white scarf by a fellow nun, and shown how to arrange her many new robes. "It's a lot of fabric!" she remarked, trying the wrestle with the burgundy and yellow cloaks.
About an hour later, Michael Heaton bustled into the shrineroom in his new robes, going about his duties now as Choepel Zangpo. His appearance surprised some fellow KTD staffers, as some had not known of his decision to ordain.
But one person who did know was Lama Karma Drodhul, who was part of Choepel's ordination ceremony.
"It's wonderful," Lama Karma said. "It is somehow so appropriate that the person who is tending the shrine and helping to introduce people [and visitors] to the shrine here at KTD would be a monk."
First of all, the hats are worn at several special points in the puja: when the Buddhas and enlightened beings are invited to be present, and when auspicious prayers are recited at the end, among others.
But for the symbolism, we asked Karma David Choepel, Thrangu Rinpoche's translator, who has been the many Monlam events around the world.
"The Yellow Crested Hat is just loaded with symbolism," Karma Choepel says. "The golden color is symbolic of the golden form of Shakyamuni Buddha. The many threads on the crest of the hat represent the 84,000 teachings of the Buddha."
But what about that unusual crested shape?
"Oh, I'm not quite sure about that," Karma Choepel said. "But you have to remember that the Greeks did come to Kashmir in the 3rd Century!"
Photo Credit: Stephanie Colvey
Writing: Lama Kathy Wesley
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Today was the sacred "center" day for the 5-day event, the holy day known on the Tibetan calendar as Chokhor Duchen - "The Great Time (duchen) of the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma (Chokhor)."
The day commemorates the first teaching given by Shakyamuni Buddha after his enlightenment - the teaching on The Four Noble Truths given to the Buddha's first five disciples at Deer Park in Varanasi.
The opening days of the Monlam saw about 300 people in attendance daily, but this morning, with the program featuring the empowerment of Akshobya Buddha, nearly 700 people filled the courtyard tent at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra.
Monastics surrounded the throne of the Very Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche before the event, and the rest of the crowd was perched in row after row of folding chairs. Four large monitors broadcast the webstreaming feed so even those in the back rows could get a close look at the empowerment.
During his opening remarks, Very Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche remarked about the significance of the empowerment.
"We are extremely fortunate to have this Kagyu Monlam at KTD," Thrangu Rinpoche said. Following the directions of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rinpoche added, the Kagyu Monlam program includes the traditional purification empowerment of Akshobya.
Akshobya's blessing, Rinpoche said, helps remove afflictive states and karmic obscurations, obstacles and problems we may experience in our daily lives.
Obstacles and obscurations impede us in our lives, Rinpoche said, and if we recite the mantra of Akshobya, it has the power to purify our obstacles. If the mantra is recited for others, it will help them with the sufferings of illness and death.
Akshobya's blessing can even extend to our beloved pets, Rinpoche said. "If we recite the mantras for them we can help at death to protect them from falling into the lower realms."
At the conclusion of the empowerment, Rinpoche sat patiently at the front of the stage in a chair, blessing each person with the vase of water consecrated with the mandala of Akshobya.
One of the more interesting participants waiting in the line was a large white rabbit, carried by a loving friend in a small cardboard box. As the woman brought her rabbit to Rinpoche for blessing, he smiled, touched the vase right between the rabbit's ears, and trickled blessed saffron water on its head!
Following this, a group of children surprised Rinpoche with a performance of songs of Milarepa in English, translated by Jim Scott under the direction of Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso.
Ironically, as the empowerment came to a close, garbage trucks rumbled onto the property near the empowerment tent. "It was actually inspiring," said one participant. "It was as though the garbageman was collecting our kleshas and obscurations and taking them away!"
During the afternoon session, the Rinpoches and sangha performed the blessing ritual of Akshobya for the living and the dead. Large sheets of paper - white for the deceased, and pink for the living - decorated the sides of the Shrine Room before the puja, which lasted most of the afternoon.
After the prayers began, monks and nuns took the name sheets off the walls and placed them in neat stacks on the shrine. Later in the sadhana, the stacks of names - and the beings they represented - were blessed by Thrangu Rinpoche.
The sadhana included torma offerings and a symbolic empowerment for the deceased, plus a long-life puja for the living. At the conclusion, both sets of names were burned in a purifying fire outside the KTD Shrine Building.
There was a moment on unexpected excitement early on in the puja, as the volunteer fire-makers performed their work were a little too well, and created enough purifying smoke to set off the monastery smoke alarms, even though the fire was outside!
Quick work by Shrinekeeper Michael Heaton and Technician Dan Curtis silenced the alarms, and the chanters never missed a beat.
As the pujas ended for the day, participants wended their way back to their hotels, filled with happy memories of a very holy day.
Photo credits: Stephanie Colvey
When Amy McCracken and Bonnie Snyder began their shift as volunteer ushers at the first North American Monlam, they knew they would be responsible for ensuring a good experience for Monlam visitors. Little did they know they would also be building historic bridges in the midst of an historic event.
On the first morning, they met a group of 10 Vietnamese Buddhists from a temple in Virginia, and began helping them with what might have been a major obstacle: a glitch with FM broadcast equipment for translation of the teachings into Vietnamese.
"The group had come with two translators - Hao Ton and Sue-Sue Luu from Viet Nalanda Foundation - ready to translate the teachings," Amy said. But when the equipment wasn't available, the group moved ahead and decided to stay and participate, just the same.
Over the next few minutes, Amy helped facilitate the purchase of six sets of Monlam prayer books, and Bonnie showed the two monks and one nun and laypersons to their seats.
Amy said she felt an immediate bond with the group, led by The Ven. Thich Kien Khai, Abbot of Hoa Nghiem Vietnamese Buddhist Temple of Fort Belvoir, VA. "I had studied with Thich Nhat Hanh," she said. "And I felt a connection with them immediately."
The faith and devotion of the group was special, Bonnie said. "They were just so open and present and joyful," she said. "It was a beautiful unfolding for them, to be part of this event. They kept saying, 'We are here at the first, the very first, Kagyu Monlam in America."
It wasn't long before something else was sparked in the little group.
"One of the monks, Thich Thong Chau, told me he was looking at the artwork in the shrine room [at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra] - the thangkas, the statues, the elaborate painting all around the room," Bonnie said. "And he said it inspired him to make a wonderful gift."
The gift was a little memory stick - a small computer flash drive, less than the size of a stick of gum - that contained literally thousands of photographs that Thich Thong Chau had taken over the last five years of traveling around Buddhist Asia.
The artwork, of paintings, statues, and other sacred objects, had a special meaning for the abbot, who told Bonnie he was inspired to begin the collection of photographs by an unusual dream.
"He told me he had a very long dream of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa," Bonnie said. "He said the Karmapa told him to begin collecting this artwork."
Over the next five years, the monk traveled to Cambodia, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and other places, making high-resolution photos of breathtaking artwork.
In that moment in the KTD shrineroom, Thich Thong Chau was inspired to make a gift of the collection to His Holiness' monastery in America.
"It was a true offering of the 21st Century," Amy said. "It was a gift of digital pictures on a memory stick!"
The formal offering to KTD was arranged with the help of Bonnie, Amy and KTD External Affairs Director Tom Schmidt. Also assisting was Minh Tran, a business professional from Washington, DC who had just tagged along on the trip at the last minute.
Thich Thong Chau first offered the collection in front of the large golden Buddha statue in the KTD Shrine Room, and then showed the photos (with the help of a laptop computer) to KTD Abbot Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche in his room at the KTD temple. The memory stick - with the special art collection - now stays at KTD.
The group left on Wednesday with great delight and appreciation for the historic visit to Monlam.
This was just one example of the truly international flavor of Amy and Bonnie's work.
"We also met two lamas from Hong-Kong, and spoke with Vera Za, who had just helped with the Sixth Kagyu Monlam in Hong Kong," said Amy. "That's been the fun part for me - the women from the kitchen who make the tea, standing in the doorway will ask to share the Monlam prayer book and we will chant together. … Here we are in New York, but it's an international gathering."
Sue-Sue also informed us that the Viet Nalanda Foundation website has numerous materials and teachings of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa translated into Vietnamese. She asked us to share this link with you: http://www.vietnalanda.org/karmapavisit-ktcnj2008.html
Sue-Sue and her husband Sy provided translation services in connection with His Holiness's US visit in 2008 at KTC New Jersey.
Keepin' it Green
KTD and the Monlam organizing group made extensive efforts to reflect the wishes of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, and to minimize the environmental impact of the first North American Kagyu Monlam. Rather than using throw-away plastic bottle, each guest and volunteer received a stainless steel water bottle upon entering the event, and was asked to refill it at convenient water stations. The dining room utilized only ceramic or biodegradable dishes, and attendees were urged to reuse paper tea cups. After each meal, kitchen staff helped diners to sort their trash, making sure that all recyclables wound up in the proper containers. All food served at Monlam was organic.
Milarepa Children's Chorus
After the empowerment, the Milarepa Children's Chorus, under the auspices of Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, offered three songs of realization, dedicating the merit of their performance to the long life and good health of Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche.
Their concert included: Butterlamp Offering Song, All These Forms, and An Aspiration for the World.
Members of the Chorus are:
Tsering Karma Zangmo
Sonam Karma Chamtso
Rochelle Weithorn, Artistic Director. Paul Griffin, Chorus Director.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Check out Art Veloira's blog:
And the Ocean of Merit Facebook Page:
And Yeshe Wangmo's blog:
After breakfast the mountain was cloaked in mist as participants arrived for the second day of the first North American Kagyu Monlam. The weather lent an ethereal air to the moment, as though we were perched in the clouds reciting our prayers to the heavens around us.
"This is what places like KTD were created for," said one participant, as she worked her way toward her seat. Places to foster the dharma and promote its realization.
In fact, during the morning the local deities (or, at least the clouds) themselves came into the shrine room, rolling through the open front door and into the shrine hall.
First-day jitters had obviously had a chance to subside, and the quality of the chanting was smoother and more harmonious. People were feeling inspired by the event and ready to make the Kagyu Monlam their own.
The morning teaching covered the lives of the Third through Ninth Karmapas, detailing their various deeds.
The Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, was a great scholar and meditator who continued the Karmapas' relationship with the emperors of Mongolia. He wrote many texts, including ones on the Outer, Inner, and Other Kalachakra. In the Kalachakra text, Rangjung Dorje lays out the system of astrology and calendar-making of the Tsurphu tradition. During Thrangu Rinpoche's remarks, he urged modern practitioners to take up the work of preserving and holding the precious Tsurphu calendar-making tradition
The Fourth Karmapa, Rolpai Dorje, continued the work with the Mongol emperor, and the Fifth Karmapa, Deshin Shekpa, began a relationship with the Chinese Ming emperor. The Sixth Karmapa, Tongwa Donden, wrote the Chakrasamvara text used by Karma Kagyu practitioners today. The Seventh Karmapa, Chodrak Gyatso, concerned that the common people seldom saw great teachers, traveled the country in an encampment called "The Great Encampment, Ornament of the World." The Seventh Karmapa staged plays about the lives of Buddha, and introduced many people to the dharma. "Now, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa is doing the same thing, " Thrangu Rinpoche said. "His Kagyu Monlam is spreading around the world and bringing benefit for many beings."
The Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje, lived a simple life but was a great scholar who wrote many treatises, including "Disk of the Sun" on the Vinaya monastic discipline. "He also taught the way of Guru Yoga with his "Guru Yoga of the Four Sessions," Rinpoche said. "He told us with his words about the practice of one-pointed devotion, with lines such as, "If is is not me praying to you, then who is praying? If it is not you looking at me with compassion, then who is looking at me?"
The Ninth Karmapa, Wangchuck Dorje, brought many of the previous Karmapas' works to fruition. He also established a seat in Sikkim, which was ready when His Holiness the 16th Karmapa escaped there.
After the prayers for those who have passed away, the lunch break began. During the break, volunteers collected names for prayers for the living and the dead, which will figure prominently in the prayer service on Thursday. Also on Thursday, Thrangu Rinpoche is expected to give the Akshobya empowerment, as part of the observance of the holy day of the Buddha's First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma.
When Thrangu Rinpoche came into the room for the afternoon session, the mist had dispelled and a cool breeze wafted in as afternoon participants came in from the rain. (Those sitting in chairs outside in the tent in the morning are admitted to the shrine room in the afternoon, and vice-versa, as a way of allowing as many participants to be in the shrine room daily as possible.)
During the regular afternoon chants, the routine was broken up when, after several recitations of the King of Aspiration Prayers in Tibetan, Thrangu Rinpoche's translator Karma David Choepel, announced the page and said, "in English."
The group then participated in a lovely English-language chant led by Karma Choepel, with English readers from many nations participating. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, sitting next to Thrangu Rinpoche, beamed with a smile as he listened to the English-language chanters, including his nephew Lama Karma Drodhul.
Fortuitously, KTD Publications received two new books today - several preview copies of "Ngondro for Our Current Era," by His Holiness 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, a book giving details of a Mahamudra Ngondro practice composed by His Holiness; and several cartons of "The Heart of the Dharma, Mind Training for Beginners" by Thrangu Rinpoche. These books will be available to the public in a day or so.
Photo credit: Stephanie Colvey.
What's your favorite Monlam prayer?
"The King of Aspiration Prayers. It's the principal prayer of the Mahayana tradition. That's why we recite it so many times [in the Monlam prayer event]. Of all the prayers the bodhisattvas make, of all their aspirations, this one summarizes them all. It is the sublime speech of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra, who was renowned for the strength and power of his aspirations. We're praying to be like him, to have our aspirations be like his."
-Lama Zopa Borodin, Albany Karma Thegsum Choling
Rain, Rain, Go Away ...
During morning prayers, participants in the shrine room might have smelled something burning. There was a good reason: three Tibetan tradesmen from New York City were having their own private smoke offering puja in an effort to stop the rain that had been drenching the mountain for more than 12 hours.
The workers - Dah Dak, Gon Dak, and Loga - had spent the last few months doing painting, floor finishing, and other tasks at KTD, working for Construction Manager Patrick Cliett. Before the Monlam, the three men spent several hours laying gravel in the courtyard for the floor of the Monlam prayer tent. They were getting ready to go home, and decided to do a smoke offering ritual (or "sang" puja) to ask for an end to the rain that had flooded part of the tent floor the night before.
"They were burning incense in the [sang burner] by the door to the Tara Shrine room," said Bill Skinner, a security volunteer who observed the prayers. While the incense burned outside, the workers stood in the doorway to the main shrine room, reciting the Tibetan chants they obviously knew by heart.
One even walked to the front door of the monastery and put his hand out occasionally to see if raindrops were continuing to fall, Bill said.
At last, the rain began to taper off. The puja had been a success.
After the sky had cleared and their work was done, they ate their lunch and headed for home.
Prayer quote of the day:
"Through my endurinng morality,
"Discipline, and austerity: and through my having
"Worshipped the buddhas of the ten directions,
"May the Dharma blaze for a long time.
(From the Dharma Blaze Aspiration, quoted by Lord Atisha in his compendium of the sutras).
Photo credit: Stephanie Colvey
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Prayer quote of the day:
“And thus, by all the merit I have gained,
“May every living being, leaving none aside,
“Abandon all their evil ways,
“Embracing goodness now and ever more.”
(From Shantideva’s “The Aspiration from The Way of the Bodhisattva,” Monlam Prayer Book, Second Edition, Page 137)
The night before the event began, a lonely mosquito perched on the belly of the bronze baby Buddha statue sitting in a bowl of saffron water used in the “bathing of the Buddha” ritual. Was she waiting for Dewachen?
Credits: Photos by Stephanie Colvey, Robert Hanson-Sturm and Savile Sanders.
The centers represented at the North American Kagyu Monlam include:
Kagyu Thubten Chöling
Mahavajra Dharma Center
Vajra Vidya Retreat Center
Karma Thegsum Chöling New Jersey
Karma Sonam Dargye Ling
Karma Tekchen Zabsal Ling
Dallas Karma Thegsum Chöling (KTC)
Palpung Choekyi Gyaltsen Buddhist Study Group
Rigpe Dorje Center, Montreal
Kagyu Thegchen Ling
Greenville (NC) KTC
Kagyu Dzamling Kunchab KDK-NYC
Karma Rimay O Sal Ling, Maui
Did we leave anyone out? Let us know!
When the Very Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche entered the room to the blare of gyaling horns, the crowd of yellow-robed monks and laypersons stood in spine-tingling silence as Rinpoche first bowed and then knelt down in the center of the assembly to take the Sojong Vows in the presence of the giant golden image of the Buddha Shakyamuni.
Then Thrangu Rinpoche spoke of the deeds of the Karmapas as his main teaching. Today he spoke of the activities of Dusum Khyenpa, the First Karmapa, and Karma Pakshi, the Second Karmapa.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Assembling at the "Gampopa Gateway" for
the unveiling of the bronze plaque of the
Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, Abbot of
Karma Triyana Dharmachakra.
Rinpoche smiling in front of
the new plaque.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Monks and volunteers will continue to stream in on Monday, settling in before the event's opening on Tuesday. There is much enthusiasm and energy in the air as KTD staff and volunteers attend to all the details involved in orchestrating the first North American Kagyu Monlam.