Gyalwang Karmapa’s Speech ( A Special Emphasis on Nuns 2014: A Retrospective)
February 2nd, 2014
First of all I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all the spiritual friends, scholars, and members of the monastic and lay communities who have come to this closing ceremony of the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering.
We have held this gathering over the course of two weeks, and for over one week I spoke both in the mornings and afternoons, so I feel that I have run out of anything to say. I don’t have anything in particular to say. It’s like grinding sand to extract oil.
However, the various nunneries have made the request that it would be good to have the opportunity to take the bhikshuni vow. We didn’t plan this—it’s not as if we said to them, “You do this, you make this request.” At first I didn’t know about it. When I first heard there was a request, I didn’t know what it was.
As I said the other day, whether the teachings of Buddhism are present or not depends upon whether the Dharma Vinaya is present or not, and that primarily comes down to whether the three foundational rituals of the Vinaya are practiced or not. Though I am merely a mediocre follower of the Buddha, I rejoice that you have had the resolve and confidence to make such a request in order that the root or basis of the teachings does not wane. So first I would like to thank them for having such an idea and such courage.
For many years, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that we need the complete fourfold community in Tibet and that it would thus be good if there were the lineage of the bhikshuni vow. He has put a lot of effort into this. Likewise the khenpos, acharyas, and geshes of all the different lineages have had many discussions on this subject. This is because it concerns the lifeblood or the foundation of the Buddha’s teachings, so everyone has taken great interest in this. It is not that there is no interest.
However, for one thing this issue is extremely important, and likewise the rules in the vinaya must be based on the words of the Buddha that even an arhat as great as a mountain is not allowed change them. Thus it has been difficult for everyone to come to a decision that does not contradict the three baskets of the Buddha’s teachings.
I myself have had the opportunity to go to several meetings to discuss the issue of reviving the lineage of the bhikshuni ordination. In those meetings, it has been discussed that there are three ways that the lineage of bhikshuni ordination could be revived. The first is that there is a way for the male bhikshu sangha on its own to confer the bhikshuni vows. This is because in the past many Tibetan scholars and great practitioners have given bhikshuni vows with the male sangha alone.
The second method is to confer the bhikshuni vow through the dual male and female sanghas. However, there is no bhikshuni community in Tibet, so for the bhikshuni sangha, bhikshunis from another tradition—primarily the Chinese Dharmaguptika tradition—would be invited. They would assemble along with a sangha of Tibetan bhikshus from the Mulasarvastivada tradition and confer the bhikshuni ordination. So this is the second option.
The third option is for a dual male and female sangha from another tradition— the Chinese Dharmaguptika tradition—to confer the vows. So that is another option.
But fundamentally there are only two options: conferring the vow with a single sangha or with a dual sangha, to put it in a nutshell.
But how shall I put this, many geshes have spoken at great length about this. In any case, many people think it would be good for there to be a lineage of the Mulasarvastivada bhikshuni vows because the Tibetan Vinaya is from the Mulasarvastivada tradition. Thus it would be good for any bhikshuni sangha or community of nuns to be from the Mulasarvastivada tradition. If we were all the same tradition, the teachings would not be divided into different parties. Since there there are these reasons and this benefit, many people express the opinion that it would be good to be from the same tradition.
I don’t think that this would present any particular difficulties. The reason is because if the ordination were conferred by the male sangha, it is hardly necessary to say that the lineage of the vow would be from the Mulasarvastivada, because the bhikshus themselves would give it. Even if the vows were conferred by a dual sangha, if the male sangha were from the Mulasarvastivada tradition, the lineage of the vow that the supplicants would receive at this time would be from the Mulasarvastivada tradition. The reason is because the actual vow is received from the sangha. In the dual ordination, there are two sanghas, the male and the female. Since there are two, the actual vow is received from the male sangha. This is extremely clear in the Buddha’s words as well as in the treatises of the Indian masters. Thus the lineage of the bhikshuni vow that is received in that situation is the Mulasarvastivada lineage. It would not be too bold to say that this is basically decided.
Thus it is probably not so that there would be no opportunity to revive the bhikshuni vow or the community of bhikshunis. There is an opportunity, and there is a way to do it. But like the English expression, there is a “right time.” We need the appropriate occasion—not too early and not too late. It’s like seasonal rains—too early is no good, too late is no good.
So for that reason I will keep this hope you have expressed to me in mind. I will ask His Holiness the Dalai for his advice and opinion. Also I will consult the senior lamas from the different lineages as well as the senior lamas of the Kagyu lineage and spiritual masters inside the Karma Kamtsang lineage, and when there are the wishes, aspirations, and support of all of them, I will do as much as I can so that the community of bhikshunis will be as undisputed, untarnished, and unexcelled as possible. I have said this before, and I say again today that it is my responsibility to do as much as I can for this. This is because I have the title of the Karmapa, so this is a task that I must undertake. So I will do as much as I can.
That is one topic. The other topic is that…
This Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering is something that has never occurred before in the many centuries of the precious Kagyu lineage. It’s OK to say that. But this did not happen because I have such great skills, such great compassion, or such great intelligence, as I said the other day. I’m speaking from my heart—I’m not just mouthing this words.
I have the feeling that it is solely due to the compassion and aspirations of the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions, our Teacher the Buddha Shakyamuni, those with great compassion and concern for monastics and the community of bhikshunis such as the Noble Ananda, the forefathers of the Kagyu lineage, and the successive incarnations of the Karmapa, masters of our Karma Kamtsang lineage. They have not actually come here physically and spoken aloud, and we cannot see them. But they regard us from the invisible expanse, give us confidence through their compassion, and bless us with their aspirations. Because of this, this gathering has been virtuous in the beginning, middle, and end. There has been no internal or external discord or difficulty at all from the time it began until now.
One way that we can consider this is that if what you are doing is Dharmic, it is something that is worthy to be done, and it is clear that while doing it you have the support of the lamas, yidam deities, and Dharma protectors. For that reason, if we in the future are doing something that is truly Dharmic, it is important for us to do it with great confidence and accomplish it without procrastination. Once you have begun, you will have the support of the lamas, yidams, and Dharma protectors. I really believe this.
The reason is because in my life there have been many problems, I have encountered many difficulties, and I have had to make many big decisions. For example, when I first came here from Tibet, if I were to say the probability that I would actually escape from Tibet, it would be hard to say there was even a 1% chance. But because of the lamas, yidams, dakinis, and dharma protectors, or since my resolve or motivation was unmistaken, I was able to have confidence and take the first step. If I were to have used my own intelligence and discernment and thought about it, it would have been difficult to take even one step. It is through faith and belief alone that I came here. For that reason, looking at my own life I feel that we could say that it is faith and belief. Or else before we do any virtuous thing we ourselves need to give it value, find belief in it, and take a step. If we were to wait for someone else to place a value on it before we took a step, it would be very difficult.
So that is why we have been able to start this Winter Dharma Gathering, and this is really because of the compassion and kindness of the masters of the past and the lamas and spiritual friends who are currently alive, as well as of the khenpos, masters, teachers from the various shedras, and sangha members who have actually come here, of the various ladrangs and monasteries. All of them have enthusiastically supported this from the bottoms of their hearts. For example, when we were working the other day, the cushions had to be moved here and there, things carried from one side to the other. I’m not easy to satisfy, so everything had to be schlepped three or four times. And the people who did this were the khenpos and tulkus—the khenpos and tulkus all became porters. Normally a khenpo is someone who puts on airs, sitting on a throne and pointing out things to his students. But all the khenpos, teachers, and instructors who were here this year—you can’t say there were that high but you can’t say they were too low as they are the leaders of our monasteries—have given their support with their bodies, speech, and minds.
It was the same with the nuns from the various nunneries. At first it was uncertain how it would turn out and so I had to take the bold step and say we would hold this gathering. I had to impose this, because I was a bit apprehensive or worried about how would the nuns respond, how the debates would go, and how it would all turn out. But when we actually began the Winter Dharma Gathering, it was unlike any other. We have held the Kagyu Gunchö seventeen times, and you can’t say that this was any better or any worse than that. So it has turned out very well.
And it turning out well is due to the organizers of the Winter Dharma Gathering, especially the nuns. They all recognized this good fortune for what it is and combined all their efforts of body, speech, and mind into one, so it has been equally good on the outside and inside.It has been good in the beginning, middle, and end. I really ought to thank each of you individually, but we don’t either the time or the custom of doing that. Maybe that’s good—if I were to shake hands with each of you it would take several hours. Instead I would like to say thank you to all of you.
This year’s Winter Dharma Gathering is just a beginning, and the path ahead is very long. But some people say that once you have begun, fifty percent is done. The Kadampa spiritual friends said this—once you achieve a precious human body you are halfway down the path to buddhahood. To put it plainly, the path to buddhahood is extremely long, and achieving a precious human body means you have already reached halfway. It’s like that. Now that we have started this, we are halfway there. We’ve done fifty percent. Now we need to make efforts at the remaining fifty percent continuously without break and without flagging.
So for my own part I will continue to give my support and assistance, as I have said before. But impermanence is scary, isn’t it? We don’t know what will change. When I say “impermanence,” I’m not saying “death and impermanence.” Various changes occur. As the time and circumstances change, my own situation and position will change with them. There’s no certainty. For example, my mother’s younger sister died today. She had the hope of seeing me before she passed away, but that didn’t happen. Many things happen like this. So impermanence comes, but regardless of what happens, I will continue to offer my support.
Also monastic colleges have now been founded within our nunneries, and it is important that the instructors be of the highest quality. Similarly, it is very important that the curricula be well-designed.
Whatever work you do, whether worldly or Dharmic, you need the resources—not just financial but human as well. These are very important, so we can continue to offer opinions and have discussions of these. We can figure out what is best to do, and no matter how many nunneries there are we can establish centers for practice and study. This shouldn’t be just giving a name and saying “We have a retreat center and a monastic college.” They must live up to the name and be of high quality. I think it is critical that we bring this about.
I won’t speak too long. I’m holding everything up so I won’t speak too long.
Thus we have held this Winter Dharma Gathering that has been virtuous in the beginning, middle, and end. I would like to express my prayer that through whatever virtue there has been in this, may Buddhism in general may spread and flourish, may sentient beings may be happy, and especially may all sentient beings may achieve whatever temporary benefit and ultimate happiness they desire, just as all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas wish.
May all of the communities of Buddhist nuns in this world and especially the community of nuns in the Snow Land of Tibet grow and thrive, and may their study and practice increase like the waxing moon. I am making this dedication for my part, and ask you to make the same aspiration.