Day Three: The Initiations of ‘Knowing One Frees All’ - An Offering of Meditation and Practice to Kalu Rinpoche and Bokar Rinpoche
Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
22 December, 2014
A dense, opaque fog blankets the holy land of Bodhgaya as morning dawns on the third day of the “Knowing One Frees All” (Chikshey Kundrol) empowerments.
Outside the mandala of the Monlam Pavilion, thousands of people make their way through the cold and misty morning air to join their place in the long queue snaking down the road. Inside the mandala of the Monlam Pavilion, the Praises to Tara resounds, led by the Umzes, half an hour before the empowerments’ scheduled start time. And at the secret heart of the mandala, upstairs in the Monlam Office building behind the Pavilion, the Gyalwang Karmapa once again conducts the preparatory empowerment rituals in the shrine of his private library, hidden from sight.
At 8am gyaling horns herald the Gyalwang Karmapa’s arrival into the pavilion for the start of the morning session. Fresh, warm bread rolls and steaming-hot, sweet tea are distributed to all the participants while they chant the opening Kagyu Lineage Prayer. Wrapped in their thick coats and woollen blankets, the participants purify and offer the tea and bread with both Sanskrit and Tibetan prayers before they enjoy the warm, welcoming breakfast on a particularly cold winter’s morning.
“I would like to tell you a little bit about the reasons and the purposes for giving you the empowerments,” His Holiness explains during the morning session.
2014 is the 25th anniversary of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche’s passing away, as well as the 10th anniversary of Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche’s passing away. For this reason it is a very special anniversary year, particularly for the Monlam, since the deceased Kalu Rinpoche and Bokar Rinpoche really had unequalled kindness for the Kagyu Monlam.
Initially we made a plan to have a remembrance of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche and Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, and we decided that since they were primarily interested in practice and meditation it would be best to give an offering of the dharma. So therefore the reason for giving these empowerments of “Knowing One Frees All” is to commemorate the anniversaries of these two masters passing away, as well as to make an offering to them of practice and meditation.
The Gyalwang Karmapa launches straight into the opening liturgies of the first empowerment. His hands dance sublimely through the air as he performs the mudras while grasping his sacred vajra and bell; his deep voice chants the melodies and mantras with a sonorous resonance. Throughout the empowerment he communicates in gestures of body, speech, and mind that are exquisite, precise, and potent with tantric symbolism.
Throughout this third day, the Gyalwang Karmapa offers the eight-thousand strong assembly five empowerments – three in the morning session, and two in the afternoon session – beginning with the empowerment of the female deity Great Mother Prajnaparamita.
7. Great Mother Prajnaparamita (Yum chen sher phyin ma)
The Gyalwang Karmapa turns first to the prajnaparamita sutras, and explains that many different dharani mantras appear in the long, middle, and short length Prajnaparamita sutras. These include the well-known mantra in the Heart Sutra: TADYATA GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SWAHA.
These dharani mantras were not actually in the tantras, he explains, but when the masters who were preparing the Tibetan Kangyur were arranging the texts, they took these mantras from the sutras and included them as part of the kriya tantra.
The practice of Great Mother Prajnaparamita in fact appears in all the different classes of tantra: kriya, carya, yoga, and anuttara yoga. Therefore we can say that the practice of the Great Mother Prajnaparamita fits within the practice of all the sutras and tantras, and also within all four classes of tantra, so we can actually practice it in accord with each of these different classes.
Next the Gyalwang Karmapa explains that the particular prajnaparamita tradition of this empowerment comes from a female emanation of Prajnaparamita, known as Machig Labdron, a great yogini who achieved accomplishment and siddhi in Tibet.
“There are many who have achieved accomplishment through the tantras, but only Machig Labdron achieved it through the sutras,” he says. “She realized the meaning of the sutras on prajnaparamita and achieved siddhi on this.
“Her primary instructions are on the Chod or severance practice, and what we sever in this practice are the four maras. Within the Chod practice, the creation phase is the meditation on the Great Mother Prajnaparamita.”
The Gyalwang Karmapa explains that the practice relating to the current empowerment descends from Machig Labdron, while the sadhana was composed by the 6th Karmapa, Thongwa Dönden.
8. Ushnisha Vijaya (gTsug tor rnam par rgyal ma)
Next the Gyalwang Karmapa offers the empowerment of Ushnisha Vijaya, which is in the tathagata family of the kriya tantras. He explains that the dharani mantra was requested by Avalokiteshvara and taught by Amitabha while he was in the pureland of Sukhavati, as well as by Buddha Shakyamuni. The empowerment has descended from the tradition of the Ocean of Sadhanas by Abhayakara.
9. Ushnisha Sitatapatra (‘Phags ma gtsug tor gdugs dkar)
The third empowerment is Ushnisha Sitatapatra, the White Parasol with her large retinue. This is also within the tathagata family of the kriya tantras. The Gyalwang Karmapa explains that within the tathagata family there is the principal of the tathagata family, the master of the family, the mother, the ushnisha, the wrathful male and female deities, the messengers, as well as other aspects of the family for a total of eight, and among these she is the ushnisha of the family. The empowerment is based on a longer sadhana written by the 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje.
“This mantra of the white parasol comes from when the Buddha Shakyamuni was in the “heaven of the thirty-three” in meditation. From his ushnisha, the crown protuberance on the top of his head, came the sound of this dharani mantra, which was then included by those who compiled all the tantras,” he says.
10. Blazing Ushnisha (gTsug tor ‘bar wa)
Returning after the lunch break, the Gyalwang Karmapa begins the afternoon session with the fourth empowerment for the day, Blazing Ushnisha. The purpose of this initiation is to avert all illness, harm, bad circumstances, bad dreams, obstacles and the various types of sorcery another might cast upon us, he explains. The mantra is in the root tantra of Manjushri. The empowerment is again part of the kriya tantra, included within the ushnisha section of the tathagata family. It was passed down by Abhayakara, from his Ocean of Sadhanas.
11. Five Queens of Awareness (Rig pa’i rgyal mo lnga)
The fifth and final empowerment is the Five Queens of Awareness, also known as the Five Protectresses. These five female deities are: Infinite Galaxies, Great Peacock, Shitavana, the Pursuer, and the Holder of Secret Mantra. The sadhana is from the tradition of Abhayakara, and was passed from Buton Rinpoche through several others down to the 6th Karmapa, Thongwa Donden.