The Ornament of the World: the Karmapa's Vision for 2013
December 28, 2012
On the last day of the Monlam, the Karmapa usually expresses his gratitude to the sponsors who facilitate the Monlam on a material level; reminds us all to activate bodhicitta and get going on the bodhisattva path, and sets his sights on a practical program for the year ahead.
One year he made a speech about vegetarianism that shook up his monasteries and dharma centres worldwide. Another year he focused on the environment. In almost every talk he reminds us of the unbearable suffering of animals which we humans have caused. There's still a long way to go on all fronts, but indeed Bodh Gaya has now become cleaner in some places, there are more vegetarians, especially amongst Tibetans, and the dogs in particular look like they managed to regain at least some of their animal rights.
This year the Karmapa referred to the Great Encampment in the heyday of the 7th Karmapa five hundred years ago, and concluded that the ever increasing international sangha was a sign that the prayers for the continuation of the great Ornament of the World were truly being fulfilled. "There were many people of different languages from different tribes and countries. They actually made prayers, and this prayer has come into effect."
The splendid ceremony continued with chanting and symbolic representations, while the Karmapa outlined his three point plan. It seemed to herald a visionary restoration of the Great Encampment with facilities for education and retreat for monks, nuns, and laypeople.
It is difficult to do justice to the magnificence of the final ceremony when sponsors from all over the world queued up to file past the Karmapa and make their offerings. They held precious mandala sets, flowers in silver bowls, golden statues of the Buddha, stupas, texts, cloth, carpets - all draped in lavish silk offering scarves.
Then each of the seven precious articles of royalty in gleaming silver were presented to him, followed by the 8 auspicious symbols. He held them while the assembly chanted prayers for auspiciousness. Several times the Karmapa led the assembly in reciting the dedication and warned that unless we dedicate our virtue we will accumulate pride and lose masses of merit.
He emphasized how important it is to be grateful because gratitude is the cause of happiness and joy. "If you can’t be grateful then whatever happens you cannot find happiness, you cannot have joy, you cannot have wellness in yourself. Gratitude is very important if you want to have happiness and joy."
Having set the stage under the bodhi tree in the sacred place of Bodh Gaya, the Karmapa then delivered his vision for the new year.
He made three points about the preservation of the dharma:
"Whether the Buddha-dharma exists in the world or not depends on whether there are the three principal activities of the sangha." One activity is meditation retreat and therefore the first point was to reinstate the tradition of the yarnay or rainy season retreat - either for one and a half months or three months, keeping all the Sojong vows as in the Monlam.
The second was a reiteration of an essential point about the importance of the four pillars of the sangha.
The Buddha talked about four types of followers – the gelong and gelongma, and the upāsaka and female upāsikā. These are called the pillars of the teaching of the Buddha. If the Buddha's teaching is like a house then all these four pillars have to be there. Otherwise the teaching of the Buddha doesn’t exist, or doesn’t become stable. It is not fully there. That’s why it is very important to educate male and female sangha members, and male and female non-monastic followers in study, contemplation and practice.
Right now, the Karmapa continued, there were retreat centres but no shedras or study institutions for the nuns. "We need to give full opportunity to men and women. The Buddha gave it so we should do it also. And we monks have to help them establish it."
With complete commitment he stated that 2013 would be a year of preparation for a conference to be held in 2014 which he would personally attend. "There’s no other way, we have to do it". The third point was to bring together study and practice and not to separate colleges and retreat places.
The Monlam ended with a series of prayers for auspiciousness. White scarves like flying doves waved in the air at each verse ending in 'tashi shok' (may it be auspicious). The final prayer composed by Mikyo Dorje, the 8th Karmapa, was a reminder of the glorious Great Encampment:
He who accomplishes all the activity
Of all the buddhas of the three times and ten directions
Is the Karmapa known as Chodrak Gyatso
May his good fortune, joy and goodness spring forth here and now!
May the essence of the teachings, the teachings of the Karmapa,
The activity of the victors, victorious over the four maras
In uninterrupted fullness fill all directions to their ends
And may this always flourish - may this flourishing be auspicious!
A blaze of good fortune, the Ornament of the World
In the realm and the kingdom of the land of Tibet
To the north of the Land of Snows,
May the teachings of the Practice Lineage flourish!
May the world have the good fortune of happiness!
We ask that the world be made happy!
While the horns heralded the departure of the Gyalwang Karmapa from the bodhi tree, the monks folded their golden ceremonial hats and the new Ornament of the World closed in a blaze of sunset colours.