KARMA PAKSHI AND A JATAKA TALE : A PLAY WITH DANCE AND A TIBETAN OPERA
3 March, 2012
On the evening of March third, the Monlam stage with its huge altar was transformed by the presence of four tall pillars arrayed across the front of the stage. In deep brown decorated in gold filigree, topped by lotus flowers, they supported the four animals—a tiger, garuda, vulture, and snow lion—that appeared to Milarepa in his famous dream. The four represent the main disciples of Marpa the Translator, through whom the Kamtshang lineage flows. In front of the stage, the rows of seats in the Pavilion are filled right up to the back while three screens on either side bring into the evening darkness the radiant and warm colors of the stage.
This is the setting for tonight’s play based on the life of the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (1206-1283). Written by the Gyalwang Karmapa in a contemporary idiom, the drama focuses on three events: the arrival of Orgyenpa (1230-1312), who would hold the Karma Pakshi’s lineage; the meeting of these two great lamas; and finally, Orgyenpa’s meeting and recognizing the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339). During the time of the Seventh Karmapa, such dramas, based on the lives of buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other realized beings, were performed during the first fifteen days of the New Year, commemorating the time when the Buddha performed his great miracles. At Tsurphu, (the Karmapa’s main seat in Tibet), the custom was to practice the Twenty-Branch Monlam in the morning and present these dramas in the afternoon.
This year, with his usual hands on approach, the Karmapa has been involved in the rehearsals as well as the stage setting. This evening he can be found in the vast storage room just behind the stage where the performers are busy getting ready. His presence and interest in all that is happening bring a liveliness to the space. A Khampa weaves a red ribbon into his long braid and wraps it around his head. Orgyenpa is having his hair grayed with a white liquid. A member of the Karmapa’s administration is helping an actor, who will play an attendant of Karma Pakshi, fold the right pleats into his robes. The head of the Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts (TIPA) will play Karma Pakshi, and his young son, who is missing two weeks of school for this special opportunity, will play the Third Karmapa as a child. With the gentlest of smiles and a touch of delight, His Holiness stands in front of the young performer who is in monks’ robes and wears the Karmapa’s activity hat. He lifts off the hat and places his hand on the boy’s head. Perhaps the Karmapa is recalling the time when he was a similar height and age, wearing the activity hat for the first time at Tsurphu.
In another corner of the hall, the performers from TCV Suja School are rehearsing their steps, the bells on their feet jangling. The Karmapa has a special connection with TCV Suja as the students are all refugees. During the first year he could travel, he went to the school and the students performed for him then as well. This evening, two boys, who came from Tibet ten years ago, sit next to their stringed instruments: a mandolin from Amdo, the dranyen, sometimes called a Tibetan guitar, from Central Tibet, and the piwang, a single stringed instrument from Eastern Tibet, the hardest to play, they say. The boys only learned about these instruments when they came to India, which underlines the importance of the Karmapa’s efforts to preserve Tibetan culture and encourage these performances.
Before the play begins, Sherab Tharchin comes on stage to give background information. He says that the Seventh Karmapa was quite difficult to meet. One had to wait days to see him, and an interview was brief. He was very skillful, however, and created the Prayer Festival of the Great Encampment. It took place in a tent with one hundred pillars, golden spires, and myriad decorations of brilliant colors and precious materials such as pearls and crystals. It was so magnificent that great masters said they could not tell if it was a dream or not. In the tent, mornings were devoted to prayer, and afternoons saw the performance of these dramas, which gave both entertainment and education. It is this tradition that the Seventeenth Karmapa is reviving.
Sherab Tharchin then gave a brief introduction to Karma Pakshi. Before the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, passed away, he said that someone would be born to carry out his wishes. Karma Pakshi was then born into the family of descendants of the Dharma king Trisong Deutsen. This Karmapa was famous for the miracles he displayed at the court of Kublai Khan and for creating the famous statue of the Buddha at Tsurphu. It is also said that he received teachings directly from Vajra Varahi. The accomplished master, Orgyenpa, was very famous but Karma Pakshi humbled him, so that he lost his pride,becoming Karma Pakshi’s student and a key figure in the Kamtshang lineage.
The first scene of the play takes place in the Karmapa’s quarters at Tsurphu. The sleeping monks provide comic relief as they try to wake each other up and pull themselves together. Echoed by a chorus, Karma Pakshi sings in a piercing voice about Orgyenpa coming from Latö: “He’s like the sky that covers the earth.” The next vignette is of Orgyenpa and his attendants on the road to Tsurphu where they are met by Karma Pakshi’s monks. In the following scene, Orgyenpa is formally escorted to the monastery, and the initially well-behaved crowd that has gathered to greet him turns into fractious chaos as they push and shove to get close to the lama for his blessing. It takes five strong Khampas with their staves to bring them under control. Recognizing this very familiar scene, the audience laughs and applauds.
When he meets the Karmapa, Orgyen still carries himself with a certain hauteur, but Karma Pakshi subdues him in a perfect recounting of what Orgyenpa had been thinking. The Karmapa then gives him the Gyalwa Gyamtso empowerment and offers him the activity hat and a text. Karma Pakshi also gives Orgyenpa a pointing out instruction:
Now, recognize that empty appearances are the dharmakaya, unimpeded energy is the sambhogakaya, and diverse appearances are the nirmanakaya. Therefore, all that could possibly appear is of one taste with the three kayas.
Sherab Tharchin then reappears to continue his narration. Karma Pakshi had said that when all the activities of this life were finished, he would come back to Latö and he asked Orgyenpa to recognize his reincarnation. Karma Pakshi was the first tulku, but this recognition of the Third Karmapa would become the first time a great master had recognized another tulku of a great master. In the final scene, Orgyenpa hears about a boy who says he is the Karmapa, so he sets up a high throne, figuring that only the Karmapa would dare to sit on it. The young boy appears and naturally climbs the stairs to sit on the throne. From his previous life, the reincarnation remembers conversations with Orgyenpa and what he had given the older master—the activity hat and a text. So Orgyenpa calls for the activity hat and places it on the boy’s head, first rather lopsidedly, which draws a laugh from the audience. As the finale, the Suja school dancers come on stage, their long red and white sleeves rhythmically waving to the pulsing drums.
Finally, our narrator explains that the next performance of Tibetan opera is based on a Jataka tale, recounting a previous life of the Buddha as the king Lodro Zangpo. The actors and actresses come from the Rumtek Opera Society, formed in 1961 during the time of the Sixteenth Karmapa, who was very fond of Tibetan opera. Sometimes, the group would perform for seven days in a row. Among the actors tonight are original members of the society, who have trained the new generation, helping to preserve this tradition started in Tibet by Thangtong Gyalpo (1385-1464). The opera ends with all the actors on stage and a lively Ki ki so so lha gyalo! All victory to the divine!
At the end, His Holiness is invited on stage where he gives long white scarves of thanks to the director of TIPA, the principal of the Suja School, and the head of the Rumtek Opera Society. The Karmapa speaks of his hope to revive the traditions of the Seventh Karmapa, noting that the teachings of the buddhas and bodhisattvas come in many forms, not just Dharma talks. The aspirations and prayers of the Twenty-Branch Monlam help countless living beings and seeing these lives of great beings can leave a strong impression on our minds, turning them more deeply to the Dharma. His Holiness then thanks all the performers and dedicates the merit of the evening toward sewing the seed of positive karma in all of us and toward the long life and freedom from obstacles of the great teachers amongst us, beginning with his Holiness the Dalai Lama. May peace and compassion pervade the world.
Recently the Gyalwang Karmapa went through a medical examination in Germany, his doctor strongly advise him to stop all Dharma propagation activities so that he has more time and space to treat some of the medical conditions that he has. After much consideration, the Gyalwang Karmapa decided to cancel this year’s Asia Dharma Teaching, i.e. the Diamond Sutra Teaching.
When we heard about the Gyalwang Karmapa’s decision to cancel the teaching, our emotions evolved from unspeakable shock to calm contemplation. Eventually, we understand the difficulty and necessity to make such a decision. We will continue to pray that the Diamond Sutra Teaching to be held in future, yet we are unsure when and where the teaching will be held. Therefore, we will begin the refund process for those who had registered for the teaching after we had negotiated with the hotel for refund.
Even though we feel a sense of regret that the Diamond Sutra Teaching cannot be held, yet we understand and …
In 2016, the Centre had lifted restrictions on 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, movement within India after five years. Following this, he visited Arunachal Pradesh, an area claimed by China.
Sujit Nath | News18.com Updated:July 26, 2017, 11:31 PM IST
Kolkata: Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to grant permission to 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, to visit the state.
Any such visit to the by the Tibetan leader living in exile in India is likely to anger China. This comes at a time when the two countries are engaged in a standoff in Doklam plateau in the Sikkim sector.
In 2016, the Centre had lifted restrictions on Dorje’s movement within India after five years. Following this, he visited Arunachal Pradesh, an area claimed by China.
“I also invited the Prime Minister to visit Sikkim after the rainy season came to an end this year, which he agreed and promised to make a trip soon,” Chamling told the media after his mee…
གཟའ་འཁོར་འདིའི་ནང་བོད་ཕྱི་ནང་གཉིས་ཀར་ལོ་ཆུང་བྱིས་པ་རེ་རང་སྲེག་བཏང་འདུག །སེམས་ལ་ན་ཟུག་ཆེས་ཆེར་སློང་བའི་གནས་ཚུལ་འདི་དག་རྣ་བར་ཐོས་དུས། བཟོད་ཐབས་བྲལ་ཏེ་སླར་ཡང་གཞིས་བྱེས་བོད་མི་སྤུན་ཟླ་ཡོངས་ལ་འབོད་སྐུལ་ཞིག་ཞུ་འདོད་བྱུང་། This week, two young Tibetan children, one in Tibet and one in India, have burned themselves to death. These events pain me deeply. I could not bear to think of it when I heard the news, and for that reason I want to make a request of my fellow Tibetans at home and abroad.
༢༠༠༩ ལོ་ནས་ད་བར་བོད་ཕྱི་ནང་དུ་བོད་མི་བརྒྱ་ཕྲག་དང་ཕྱེད་ལ་ཉེ་བས་གཅེས་པའི་རང་ལུས་ཞུགས་སུ་ཕུལ་ཏེ་ཚད་མཐོའི་ལས་འགུལ་ཤུགས་ཆེར་སྤེལ་མོད། འོན་ཀྱང་མིག་སྔར་དེ་ལ་ཐོབ་འོས་པའི་སེམས་ཁུར་དང་། ཚེ་སྲོག་ལ་རིན་ཐང་དང་བརྩི་འཇོག །དེ་བཞིན་ཁོང་ཚོས་རང་སྲེག་གཏོང་བའི་རྒྱུ་རྐྱེན་དང་མངོན་འདོད་གང་ཡིན་ལ་དོ་ཁུར་བྱེད་མཁན་རྒྱལ་སྤྱི་དང་རྒྱལ་ཁབ་གང་ཡང་ཕལ་ཆེར་བྱུང་མེད་པའི་ཚོད་ཙམ་རེད། From 2009 to the present, nearly 150 Tibetans within Tibet and abroad have immolated their own precious bodies, maki…
The land of Sikkim, at the border of India and Tibet, was consecrated as a hidden sanctuary for the Buddha's teachings during the present epoch by the second Buddha, the great master Padmasambhava, who blessed it with the vajra wisdom of his body, speech, and mind. Through the infallible power of his aspiration and through our great effort, the monastery Shaydrup Kunkhyap Otong Khyilway Tsuklakhang (the Temple of Pervasive Teaching and Practice Blazing with a Thousand Lights), has been established for the preservation of the precious doctrine of the Buddha, which is the source of all benefit and happiness in existence and tranquility, and for the sake of all beings in the world.
Before the building's foundation was begun, I performed the customary removal of impediments and, using a sand mandala, the ritual of Chakrasamvara, blessing the location so that it is his wisdom mandala. In that and similar ways, the site has been consecrated m…
A group from Palpung Wales, which actually consisted of people from all over UK, traveled to join the His Holiness 17th Karmapa’s first teaching weekend in London, Battersea. It was an absolute privilege to be part of that weekend, in many ways. We received touching and inspiring teachings from His Holiness Karmapa on Geshe Langri Tangpa’s famous “Eight verses of Mind Training,” a key instruction on how to bring the Dharma into daily life. At the same time it was like a gesture of welcoming His Holiness Karmapa’s 17th incarnation to this country for the first time. Meeting with the many Dharma friends and coming together in His Holiness’s mandala was a very heart-warming experience. We were also very fortunate to have a group audience with His Holiness on Saturday afternoon. From original Palpung Wales group it slowly formed into a Palpung United group of about 60 people from Wales, Ireland and Slovenia, and some from Italy as well. It was a great chance, although only…
THE PRACTICE OF DHARMA involves certain possibilities. How these potentials evolve into actual situations for the practitioner, and how much is possible within these situations depends on the capacity of individual beings. It depends upon the level of teachings that one is able to relate to, such as Mahayana or Hinayana. At this particular time in our lives, the practice of the Mahayana teaching is possible. It is absolutely precious and absolutely rare. Our concern for development and our sense of responsibility has placed us in a position to integrate the preciousness and rarity of the Mahayana teaching with our lives. Through it there is the possibility of the experience of no-returning back into Samsara and the experience of ultimate bliss that is self knowing and in which there are no doubts. In the midst of the wanderings of our minds we might sometimes fall into thinking that whether one practices or not, the Dharma will always be available. If you have tha…
TIBETAN DHARMA IS BASED ON Mahayana Buddhism and in Tibet there is a special Mahayana tradition. Centuries ago, Indian Mahasiddhas collected the essence of the Buddha's teachings which were subsequently brought to Tibet. Down to this present day, it is still possible to study these same teachings at an educational institution. In addition, you can actually come to experience the effect of what you have learned and enjoy the fruit of what you have practiced. I have confidence that you all are capable of experiencing this fruition of Buddhahood. The heart of Mahayana teaching is the practice of experiencing bodhicitta, or the enlightened mind. Bodhicitta can be seen from two aspects--the aspiration to benefit oneself and to benefit others--but when you are truly doing the practice then you generate bodhicitta that includes both yourself and all other beings. As you are working in the world or accomplishing some task, if you do it with the intention of benefiting…
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Densal: This is your third tour to America. Do you have any observations you would like to share about it, and about the growth of the Dharma in the United States? H.H.: The responsibility of the teacher is to always give the teachings. It doesn't matter that only a short time has passed, or a long time has passed; what matters is that the teachings are continuously given. Sometimes it may seem to be more appropriate to teach because most people are at leisure and have a lot of time, and it appears to be a good time to give teach…
The Gyalwang Karmapa graced KTD, his monastery in North America, with a short private visit toward the close of his international tour in July of 2017. Please enjoy the video celebrating this joyful occasion, along with the photos of his arrival, the traditional Tea and Rice Welcome Ceremony, and consecration of the new Stupa Project site.
The Gyalwang Karmapa Consecrates the Eight Auspicious Stupa Project at KTD (July 2017)
Today’s episode comes from the Gyalwang Karmapa’s maiden tour of Canada where he gave teachings all over the country. Many Canadian students had been waiting for years to hear him speak, and so it was a particularly special occasion.
This teaching is on the subject of meditation and how we can use this Buddhist practice to find inner freedom and bring about a more happy and beneficial life. The Karmapa approached the topic from the point of view of his own personal experience, and a wonderful, practical and sometimes humorous occasion unfolded over the course of the hour.
The talk is in Tibetan with an English translation and has been slightly edited for length and audio clarity.