THE KANGYUR PROCESSION AT THE MAHABODHI STUPA
Most of the ordained sangha were at the Monlam Pavilion where Khenpo Donyo was giving sojong and then leading a Medicine Buddha puja. Only the 103 fully ordained monks and nuns taking part in the procession had come to the stupa. For once the assembly was composed mainly of laypeople.
Apart from the garlands of marigolds, varying in colour from bright citrus yellow to a rich deep orange, strewn carelessly over the palisades, there were no decorations. The great offerings of torma, fruit and sweets were arrayed on the stage at the Monlam Pavilion.
H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and H.E. Gyaltsap Rinpoche arrived shortly before 5.30am, followed, a few minutes later by the Gyalwang Karmapa and his entourage. Sitting on a low seat in front of the small shrine under the bodhi tree, His Holiness gave the Mahayana sojong vows, after the repetition of the refuge prayers in Sanskrit. . A momentary power failure meant that only those with torches could see to read the prayer,and then, the sky lightened gradually, and the golden capping of the Mahabodhi temple gleamed as it caught the first rays of light; the sounds of the sojong mantra were drowned by the bickering chatter of the mynah birds and the screech of parakeets.
His Holiness gave a short talk emphasizing the importance of Monlam and the good fortune of all those who had gathered there under the bodhi tree that morning. The crucial thing, he reminded us, was to make the commitment to work for the benefit of all sentient beings. We all had to work to make the Monlam meaningful, with pure motivations and the aspiration to benefit all sentient beings, that they might become enlightened, and enjoy peace, happiness and prosperity in all four corners of the world. We should also pray for the long life of great beings such as the Dalai Lama and the great masters of other traditions too, and remember all the neighbouring countries where there had been great suffering because of natural disasters or other troubles: India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim.
As His Holiness talked, his voice still wracked by a cold and cough, the sounds of the muezzin from the mosque close by the stupa, threatened to drown his.
In conclusion, His Holiness pointed out, all four pillars of the Buddhist sangha were at that moment present under the bodhi tree, gelong, gelongma, male lay practitioners and female lay practitioners. This made everything we did particularly powerful. Now it was up to us to develop compassion and loving kindness and transform our minds.
His Holiness turned round to face the shrine, and the chanting master led everyone in the Sanskrit prayers of refuge, generation of bodhichitta, and the heart sutra, finishing with the two four line verses which encapsulate Lord Buddha's teachings, set to a traditional bhajan-style melody.
Do not do anything that is wrong.
Conduct yourself with utmost virtue.
Completely tame your mind.
This is the teaching of the Buddha.
By now it was light. The laypeople were sent off to line up on the left-hand side along the procession route to offer flowers and khatags but no incense. Meanwhile, thegelong milled around under the bodhi tree. Finally, when the laity were in place, thegelong and gelongma formed a line and filed through the open archway in the palisade which surrounds the main temple, collected their copy of the kangyur, and began the serbang (ritual procession). First they walked along the right side of the Mahabodhi stupa, then walked up the central steps to the large outer circuit.
At the head of the procession came one of the disciplinarians, bearing incense, followed by two monks playing gyalin and two monks blowing white conches. Next, surrounded by bodyguards and monks, came Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, and the Gyalwang Karmapa, all three holding incense not texts. Behind them came the Kangyur- bearing gelong and gelongma, led by Ringu Trulku. Slowly the procession wound its way round the outer circuit, before finally returning down the steps and making a full circuit of the Mahabodhi stupa. At this point the Gyalwang Karmapa went into the temple to offer more golden silk robes, flowers and fruit to the Buddha.
The procession and crowds dispersed. Buses were waiting to take the monks and nuns back to Tergar Monastery, and for the laypeople there were tuk-tuks and cycle rickshaws eager for the first custom of the day.
When everyone arrived at Tergar Monastery there was chance for a quick breakfast before the next part of the Kangyur ceremony began in the Monlam Pavilion at 8.00am with a talk by the Gyalwang Karmapa on the history and vital importance of the Kangyur.
A SUMMARY OF THE GYALWANG KARMAPA'S TEACHING ON THE KANGYUR
India is the source of Buddhism in Tibet and most of the teachings were translated from Sanskrit and other Indian languages into Tibetan. So in order to honor that, at the beginning of every Tibetan Buddhist text, the title is first written in Sanskrit, followed by Tibetan. This is done in order to recollect where the dharma comes from and to appreciate that. At the time the texts were translated, there was usually a great pandit from India and a Tibetan translator working on them together. During the first period of translation, all the texts were translated in this way and edited by great masters. They took a tremendous amount of care in producing the texts. And during the later period, they also took a lot of care with translation by traveling to India and doing a lot of editing and correction.
The Kangyur was not published at first. The teacher of Chim Jampel Yang (Tib.mchims 'jam-dpal dbyangs) made the first collection of the Kangyur and it was handwritten. Because it was kept in a shrine room called the Jam Lhakhang at Narthang Monastery, this edition later became famous as the Lhakang Kangyur (sometimes known as the Old Narthang Kangyur.). After some time in Tibet, the Kangyur Rinpoche was produced by xylograph or woodcarving in Jang, sponsored by the King of Jang. The main editor of the Jang Kangyur was the Sixth Shamarpa. Later on it was called the Lithang Kangyur, because the xylograph was stored in Lithang. The Jang Kangyur was the first Tibetan Kangyur published in Tibet and this occurred during the time of Emperor Yung Lo of the Ming Dynasty. Perhaps that was the first Tibetan Kangyur to be edited by some of the great masters of the Karma Kamtsang. The publication of the Kangyur has had a great deal of contribution from the great masters of the Karma Kamtsang.
As we said before, when we request the buddhas and bodhisattvas to turn the wheel of Dharma, if we have not taken care with the teachings they have already given, then to keep on requesting teachings from them is rather strange. If we do not practice what they have already taught and what they have not yet taught we ask them to teach, that is a little bit excessive. And generally, in regards to the Kangyur and Tengyur, we just put them between two end boards, tie them up very well, and put them up in the shrine and lock it. Sometimes we act as if we do not have to read them, but only need to preserve them in the shrine as objects of worship. If that becomes the norm, then there is a danger that the dharma will be lost.
In Tibet early on, there was a tradition of teaching the sutras, but later on, the shastras, the commentaries by the great masters, were studied much more. And then the Tibetan masters wrote and taught commentaries and those became the principle textbooks that were studied. And thereby, gradually, the direct teachings of the Buddha were studied less and less. Of course the commentaries by the Tibetan masters are perhaps clearer and easier to understand, but the [works of the] Indian masters, and especially the direct teachings of the Buddha, are the main source so therefore they must be studied. It is good to delve into the commentaries and understand them, but if we do not study the Kangyur at all, it is very strange. So the shedras and monasteries must read, study, and become familiar with the direct teachings of the Buddha as a primary source. If they never even look at the direct teachings of the Buddha, it is not possible that they will understand them very well.
As it was said by the great Drikungpa, "If the teachings are not based on the Kangyur, then it is the work of Mara." If the teachings are based merely on our teachers' experiences, it is possible in these degenerate times that some lamas might give teachings that are not really according to the teachings of the Buddha or the Kangyur, but are their own made-up instructions. It is quite possible for that to happen. If we could compare the teachings of our lamas with the direct teachings of the Buddha, then we would be able to understand whether their teachings are genuine or not. We would be able to authenticate them based on the Kangyur.
So the Buddha said, "During the time of degeneration, I will appear as the letters (texts)." So all of these teachings are an emanation of the Buddha and we have to see them as objects of refuge. Since we have not experienced the truth of the path or the truth of nirvana, at this moment the teachings are the real guide or lamp that dispels the darkness.
Thus we have a great opportunity to read [the Kangyur] now and in the future also. As far as the shedras are concerned, they should facilitate Kangyur study, examination, and research. For instance, when we talk about the Vinaya and are discussing the myriad Vinaya principles, such as whether the Gelongma ordination should be there or not, if we actually were to read the thirteen volumes of the Vinaya, then many of the things that are confusing to us would become very clear. What we don't understand will become clear, and that is what I want you all to keep in your heart. In essence, the Kangyur is the root of our dharma, the source of our teachings, and the true guide of what to do and what not to do. With this understanding, please recite the Kangyur.
READING THE KANGYUR
After the procession and Gyalwang Karmapa's teaching the final part of the celebration of the Kangyur was the reading session, during which the whole Kangyur was read once. This activity generates tremendous merit.
The 103 novice monks who had been assigned the task of distributing sheets of the Kangyur busily wove their way between the rows of monks, nuns and laypeople, offering pages to anyone in the congregation who could read Tibetan. The pages came with strict instructions to remember the letter on the monk's orange badge so that pages could be returned to the correct person. This system has been devised to prevent the problems of earlier years when, following the reading, texts were found to be missing pages, or pages turned up in the wrong texts.
The Monlam Pavillion filled with the sound of people reading their pages of text in Tibetan chanting style. Within ninety minutes, the task was finished and the monks had collected the texts back in. Let's hope that this year no pages went missing or were misplaced!