Day Six: The Initiations of ‘Knowing One Frees All’ - Gyalwang Karmapa Blesses More Than 10,000 people
Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
25 December, 2014
The Karmapa arrived in a ceremonial silk chögu, which draped in glistening folds over his robes. Once he was seated on the throne, however, it was quickly concealed by a heavy woollen cloak . Around his neck he wore a maroon muffler to protect his throat and chest. Even though the sides of the pavilion had been hung with heavy Tibetan door cloths, a chilly draught swept across the stage, and the butter lamps on the golden shrine guttered uncertainly. The unusually cold, wintry weather was continuing across North India.
This morning was the last of the Chikshey Kundrol initiations, so celebratory sweet rice was served as well as bread and butter tea. From his throne, the Karmapa watched the distribution of rice and tea carefully, to ensure that everyone was served and no one left out before he began the morning’s empowerments. Then he began.
23. Single Amitāyus
His Holiness gave the medium length form of the initiation: the body, speech, mind, qualities and activities of Amitayus, with the torma empowerment.
Amitayus is red with one face and two arms, holding a vase which contains the nectar of immortality and wisdom.
Though all of the buddhas of the three times are equal in their power of compassion and have the ability to bestow the siddhi of long life, His Holiness explained, it is Amitayus who is praised as supreme in this respect. The Lord Buddha himself taught Manjushri this mantra of the ‘Sound of the Drum of Deathlessness’, which came from the world realm Immeasurable Quality. The Buddha there Immeasurable Infinite Life and Wisdom said that the life of anyone who recites the 108 mantras of the 108 names of the Buddha will be lengthened. Based on this dharani, the Indian Mahasiddha Jetari composed a sadhana of the nine deities of Amitayus.[The other eight identical forms which surround Amitayus in the mandala are east Vajra Amitayus, south Ratna Amitayus, west Padma Amitayus, north Karma Amitayus, northeast Avaloka Amitayus, southeast Guna Amitayus, southwest Jnana Amitayus, and northwest Achala Amitayus.]
Padmasambhava accomplished this practice with his consort Mandarava. Later she, in the form of Machik Drupey Gyalmo [Queen of Siddhas], taught Milarepa’s disciple Rechungpa, who brought the practice to Tibet. The Sixth Karmapa Thongwa Dönden composed an outer, inner and secret practice of Amitayus which is the tradition of the empowerment given today. The order of the initiations had been changed, and now the Amitayus initiation fell on the last day. His Holiness expressed his hope that this would be an auspicious omen and blessing that everyone present would have a long life and be protected from untimely death.
24. Single Maitreya
The last initiation of the 24 deities in the Chikshey Kundrol was that of the Protector Maitreya. First Gyalwang Karmapa gave the background and lineage of the empowerment.
When Shakyamuni descended from the Tushita Heaven he requested Maitreya to be his regent. Maitreya is one of the great bodhisattvas and will become the fifth Buddha of this world. The lineage of the empowerment comes from the great Indian master Abhayakara Gupta’s text “Ocean of Sadhanas”, explained the Karmapa.
“When the Protector Maitreya comes to this world as the future buddha, it is my prayer and aspiration that all of us gathered here will have the fortune to encounter his teachings,” the Karmapa said. “I think that if everyone here generates as much pure perception and faith as they are able, it will definitely happen.”
I think this is a very good connection. For that reason when I give the Maitreya empowerment I will try to place the torma on the heads of everyone here. The most important thing is our aspiration. During the time of the buddha there were many students who, because of the power of previous aspirations, were able to meet the buddha, receive dharma teachings and serve him. For that reason it is our aspiration that is most important.
His Holiness then gave the empowerment in the short form, as time was limited.
After the conclusion of the empowerment, there was a magnificent body, speech and mind, qualities and activities long-life mandala offering to His Holiness, led by Karma Khenchen Rinpoche, the principal organiser of the event, and Lama Choedrak, the CEO of the International Monlam. They were accompanied by Rigdzin Gyatson Rinpoche, the main sponsor of the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo. The offerings included large statues of Ushnisha Vijaya, White Tara and Amitayus, all long-life deities. Following, came others connected with the Kagyu Monlam as well as representatives of all the administrations of the various Rinpoches and monasteries present, bearing more traditional gifts: Buddhist texts, a set of robes, rolls of colourful silk brocades, huge bags of barley, money offerings and so forth. Bringing up the rear was an eighty-five year old Tibetan, clad in white, and symbolising long life.
There was then a short break during which everyone recited Maitreya’s aspiration
The assembly of more than 10,000* people waited to see what would happen next. How could Gyalwang Karmapa fulfil his promise to offer the torma empowerment to everyone? Very few knew that late the night before, His Holiness had visited the pavilion and devised a plan.
The Gyalwang Karmapa returned to the throne and from there directed the staff to divide the people in the huge auditorium into sets of opposing rows, two-deep, with a walking space between.
Taking up the Maitreya torma, he first blessed the Rinpoches and Khenpos on the stage. Then he descended the steps into the huge auditorium. Followed and preceded by an entourage of security personnel and attendants, the Karmapa began at the centre and made his way to the left of the Pavilion first. Walking down the rows of devotees, he blessed those on the left- side of the row. Returning up the rows, he blessed those on the right-side of the row.
Everyone was deeply affected by the great kindness that His Holiness showed in this effort to include everybody in the last empowerment. Swiftly and tirelessly, he moved up and down the rows, touching the crown of people’s heads with the Maitreya torma in his right hand, while ceaselessly ringing a ritual bell with his left. Some were completely overwhelmed and wept. Other faces shone with happiness.
Nearly two hours later, as the Karmapa returned to the throne to perform the completion rituals for the empowerment, the assembly clapped and cheered. The completion of the empowerments with a final demonstration of the authentic Lama’s great compassion and loving kindness had been an extraordinary and unprecedented Christmas gift for all.
*More than ten thousand people were officially registered as participants in the Chikshey Kundrol, and many more had arrived on the day without registering, so the unofficial estimate of those present is 11,000.