A New Edition of the Jiang Kangyur Commemorates the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa Rigpe Dorje
The Pavilion, Bodh Gaya,
14 February, 2016
At the center of the stage for this splendid celebration of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, was a large wall of yellow cloth flanked by swaths of bright red. In front were four elegant chairs and carved wooden tables for the chief guest, HH Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche, and also HH the Gyalwang Karmapa, as well as Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche. The impressive backdrop of brilliant color covered a cabinet (18 feet wide by nine feet high) holding a new edition of the Jiang Kangyur, which was released in commemoration of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. After the first celebratory speeches, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa came to the lectern to address the crowd of thousands gathered for this special occasion.
He began by extending a warm welcome to all who had come: “To the great holder of the Kagyu teachings, HH Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche, who has kindly consented to be present at this ceremony commemorating the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, I would like to offer my respectful welcome and warm greetings. Likewise, to all the guests who have come, led by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche and including all the reincarnate lamas, learned khenpos, members of the Sangha, and those who have come from afar, I’d like to offer a warm welcome and tashi delek.” Among these guests were over 100 tulkus and khenpos.
The Karmapa then spoke of the history of the Jiang Kangyur: “It was originally published by the King of Jiang (or Satam), the emperor Wutsen, who was like a Dharma king and whose Buddhist name was Mipham Sonam Rabten. This Jiang Kangyur was the very first woodblock edition of the words of the Buddha to be printed in a Tibetan area, so it has an immense historical significance as well as its own inherent value.” Only a few of the original woodblocks remain, the Karmapa noted, and only two or three copies of the prints can be found in the entire world. “In order to restore and revive the teachings of the Buddha,” he explained, “we have had this opportunity to preserve the Kangyur, the precious words of the Buddha, using modern technology.”
After giving thanks to all who worked on the project, the Karmapa turned to the history of the emperors of Jiang and the Karmapas. “Generally, the emperors of the Jiang dynasty had an excellent Dharma connection with the Gyalwang Karmapas. The fifth emperor Mu Ching had great devotion for the 7thKarmapa Chodrak Gyatso (1454–1506), and the seventh emperor Mu Ting invited the 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje (1507–1554) to Jiang, making offerings to him and showing him great respect. Following the instructions of the 8th Karmapa, the emperor did not wage war against Tibet and also promised to send yearly offerings to Central Tibet.”
“During the reign of Mu Zeng, the 13th emperor of the Jiang dynasty,” the Karmapa continued, “the kingdom flourished and knew its widest extent. From the northern area of Kham down to the southern area of Jiang along with neighboring Tibetan areas, a large sweep of territory came under his power. Further, Mu Zeng had been very skilled in grammar and poetry and had a deep appreciation of the Dharma as well. It was during the time of this highly accomplished emperor that the Jiang Kangyur was published.”
“In general, the words of the Buddha (Kangyur) and the translated treatises (Tengyur) spread widely in the areas of Tibetan culture,” the Karmapa explained, “and this is due to the special activities of the Karmapas and the Shamar Rinpoches.” The 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje played a role in what came to be known as the Tsalpa Tengyur. And further, the Karmapa noted, “In the entire world, the first Tibetan edition of the words of the Buddha was produced during the time of the Ming Emperor Yongle (1360–1424) and is known as the Yongle Kangyur. This emperor had a special connection with the 5th Karmapa Deshin Shekpa (1384–1415), who edited this edition of the Kangyur.”
During the Cultural Revolution, the Karmapa stated, Tibet experienced great political changes and tremendous damage was done to its cultural resources and religious texts. “The 16th Karmapa Rigpe Dorje,” he said, “had the vast aspiration and deep resolve to restore the teachings of the Buddha: not only did he print 500 copies of the Dege Kangyur in Delhi from 1976 to 1979, but also distributed them to the monasteries and libraries of all Buddhist traditions without the slightest bias. At end of 1981, the 16thKarmapa also began the reprinting of the Tengyur, which was continued by his General Secretary.”
For all of these centuries of connections between the Karmapas and the publishing of Buddhist texts he has enumerated, the 17th Karmapa felt it was appropriate to release this historic new edition of the Jiang Kangyur on the occasion of celebrating the life of the 16th Karmapa Rigpe Dorje.
He concluded with a beautiful aspiration prayer:
“Whatever virtue comes from reprinting this edition of the Jiang Kangyur, I would like to dedicate so that the teachings of the Buddha in general may spread to the far corners of the earth, and the one who is like the eyes and heart of the Tibetan people, H.H. the Dalai Lama, may live for a very long time and see his activity flourish. May the great beings of all the lineages live long and may their activities spread, and in particular, may the great masters of our Dakpo Kagyu lineage, the supreme Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche along with other masters have long lives and increasing activity. May the Sangha be harmonious, maintain pure discipline, and see its Dharma activities of study and practice surpass the limits of time. In this world, may the adversity of war, famine, and other sufferings disappear and joy and well-being prevail. May everyone give their sincere and sustained support to each of these aspirations.”
The Stunning Beauty of the New Jiang Kangyur
Celebrating this release of the Jiang Kangyur are special contributions in the first volume by the Karmapa’s heart sons: Situ Rinpoche offered a calligraphy; Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, a drawing of a stupa; Gyaltsap Rinpoche, an auspicious verse; and Pawo Rinpoche a calligraphy. In general, the new edition is mainly based on a woodblock print that was found in Tibet, and also available were scans of a version found in Orissa, India. The Karmapa supervised the entire process beginning to end from finding the texts, scanning and inputting them, to designing himself everything related to the publication and presentation of the volumes—the size of the text, color of the ink, the elegant containers, and even the handsome carved cedar cabinet for the 109 volumes found in the center of the stage today.
The actual preparation of the text, including the scanning, cleaning, and sizing of the woodblock print, was done in Taiwan. The texts were also printed there in red ink just as the edition of the Dege Kangyur published by the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. Originally, the pages of the source texts were connected together in an accordion style, which is also found in the texts from the Dunhuang caves. This method keeps the page order intact and prevents pages from being lost. For this edition, however, the Karmapa chose the more traditional Tibetan way of loose pages, which are a very generous size, measuring 70 cm by 20 cm. Each volume has around 300 pages with traditional hard covers placed in the front and back. These are decorated in an exquisite soft yellow brocade depicting interlaced flowers. The text pages and end covers are held together by two grosgrain straps passing through golden Tibetan-style buckles.
This bound text is then placed in a box covered in brocade with the same pattern as the text end pieces, but in light teal. At one end of this container is a gold-covered plate with the Tibetan reference for the text. The elegant box is then wrapped in a thicker fireproof material in burnished gold with a floating cloud design. Instead of the usual flat square of material folded around the text, the special material has been sewn into a long bridge, into which the length of the box slips to be held securely in place. Finally, a broad piece of the golden material with gently scalloped borders, folds over the top from the front and back and is wrapped around three times with a matching strap. At one end of this external cover are the traditional multicolored flaps, on which is written information about the text inside. It would be hard to imagine a more elegant presentation of the Buddha’s words.