The Gyalwang Karmapa Bestows Initiations from "Knowing One Frees All"
Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
20- 25 December, 2014
At the request of the Kagyu Monlam Committee, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa is kindly bestowing a special series of initiations, the twenty-four peaceful deities of “Knowing One Frees All”(Chig shes Kun drol), composed by the Ninth Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje (1556–1603). Though the Karmapa has given a great number of individual empowerments, this is the first occasion in this lifetime that he has bestowed such a series of initiations. This special program from December 20 to 25 is given in commemoration of the First Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche, who passed away twenty-five years ago, and of the Second Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, who passed away ten years ago.What follows below is some background information for "Knowing One Frees All"―its traditions, structure, and the present Karmapa's connection to it.
Depending on the capacity and inclinations of beings, the Buddha taught various types of dharma, which can be subsumed into two categories, the sutras and the tantras. The key difference between these two is the initiations given in the tantric tradition. The tantras are further divided into four main types: kriya, charya, yoga, and anuttara yoga, each one of which has its own special empowerments. The Hevajra initiation, for example, has a particular structure and way of being given. In order to receive these initiations and their practices, many Tibetan masters travelled to India, and in turn, Indian masters came to Tibet to bestow them. In doing so, the masters transmitted the specific view, initiation, and practice related to each individual deity.
It was difficult, however, to receive this immense variety of initiations, and so collections were made. Two famous ones came from India. The realized master Mitra Yogi gathered one hundred initiations into a text known as "The Hundred of Mitra" (Mitra brGya rtsa), which was translated into Tibetan by Rinjung Zhiwa and known as "The Hundred of Rinjung" (Rin byung brGya rtsa). Another Indian compilation was made by Abhayakara (Mijikpay Jungne,Mi 'jigs pa'i 'byung gnas) and known in Tibetan as "The Ocean of Sadhanas," (sGrub thabs rGya mtsho).Compendia of initiations were also created in Tibet, such as Jamgön Kongtrul Lodro Thaye's "Precious Treasury of Termas."
The Ninth Karmapa's initiation text "Knowing One Frees All"and Mitra Yogi's text of one hundred initiations differ from other collections that have specific initiations for each deity. In"Knowing One Frees All,"the ways of bestowing theinitiations are the same: a templateserves as a basis for giving the initiations, while the names of the deities are changed. This stable framework is what the One in the title points to. The practices, however, are different depending on the deity. (Recently, they have been translated into English and Chinese, so that disciples may do a practice to which they feel a special connection.)
It seems that this type of compilation created by the Ninth Karmapa is unique in Tibet. Why so? In his Introduction to A Compendium of the Classes of Tantra, the Sakya scholar Loter Wangpo (a disciple of Jamgön Kongtrul Lodro Thaye) explained that it takes a very special lama to bring together so many initiations and distil them into one. First of all, the lama must have realization, and secondly, the yidam deities must give their permission. And in order to receive these initiations, a disciple must have received an empowerment from one of the four classes of tantra. To make sure that this happens and to show his great respect for the Sakya tradition, the Karmapa invited His Holiness Sakya Trizin to bestow an initial empowerment from his own tradition of the highest kriya tantras.
Turning to the text itself, it is divided into three sections:(1) the practices of the peaceful deities known as "The Garland of the Peaceful Ones;" (2) the practices of the fierce deities, known as "The Garland of the Fierce Ones;" and (3) the protector practices known as "The Garland of Lightning." At Palpung Monastery in Eastern Tibet, the Eleventh Situ Pema Wangchuk Gyalpo (1886–1952) made a wood block print of "Knowing One Frees All" but it did not include the protector section. When the Sixteenth Karmapa gave the initiations to his four heart sons, he gave the protector section from a text, handwritten in ume script, which subsequently disappeared. So when Situ Rinpoche offered the initiations to the present Karmapa, he could only offer the first two sections. To keep the transmission of the protector practices unbroken, the Karmapa had searched for them extensively. In 2007, when he met with Shamar Rinpoche in Delhi, the Karmapa asked him to share a copy of these initiations if he had one. Shamar Rinpoche replied that he would go back and look, but nothing ever came of it.
The Karmapa then heard that Yuthok Khenpo was going to Tibet and asked him to search for the text. When he arrived there, Yuthok Khenpo asked around and discovered that a lama in Eastern Tibet had a copy. Yuthok Khenpo travelled there, found the lama, and made a photocopy, which came into the Karmapa's hands about a month ago, in November of 2014. Once the Karmapa receives these protector empowerments, he will have received the entire range of empowerments from his own tradition as well as many from other schools.
Though the text is now complete with all three parts, the Karmapa is only bestowing the initiations for the peaceful deities. If he gave the fierce deities, there might be some misunderstandings, and one should be very careful not to create confusion, so this year the Karmapa is just bestowing the twenty-four peaceful initiations. For each of these, the Ninth Karmapa created three different lengths of initiations, extensive, medium, and brief. The present Karmapa will be giving the medium length, which has five main sections related to body, speech, mind, qualities, and activities. There is also a torma initiation which can be given.
The tormas that are actually offered during the initiations are divided into four types. (1) In the Kriya tradition, all the female deities are combined into a torma called chokdok (lCog rDog), which probably refers to the single peak of these tormas. (2)For all the six initiations of Manjushri, the torma is known as the Sword Torma (Ral gri ma), referring to the sword he carries aloft. (3) The torma for Maitreya is known as the Stupa Torma, referring to his emblem. (4) For all the other initiations, there is a general torma known as the Torma of One Hundred Deities, where "hundred" has the meaning of many.
In general, these initiations are known as "permission initiations" or "permission blessings" (rJes gnang), because they give the permission, or lama's blessing, to meditate on the deity, recite the mantra,practice samadhi in relation to the deity, and also to care for or benefit others through this practice. Eventually, through meditation and realization, one can also give the initiation, though many conditions have to come together for this to happen.
Finally, for this series of initiations, the Karmapa has created new wang tsak (dbang tsak), the cards of images that are found in the deity's mandala and also shown by the lama to disciples during the initiations. The Sixteenth Karmapa had the wang tsak for "Knowing One Frees All" as did Gyaltsap Rinpoche who printed copies and gave a set to the present Karmapa. However, in comparing these images with the descriptions in the text, His Holiness found that some of the emblems and the adornments were incorrect. He sent instructions to the painter in Tibet on how to redraw the images, so some are the same and some are redesigned. In addition, the Karmapa also altered the traditional size of the cards, increasing it to about six by nine inches so that people taking the initiations can see them more clearly.
In this flow of his great kindness, the Karmapa has opened the door to important practices of his lineage, through making sure that people have the right preparation; bestowing the actual initiations; giving explanations; and finally, providing the practices to bring his blessing and that of the deities into our direct experience.