Commemorating the Great Sixteenth Karmapa: the Dharma King
Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya,
Seated on a simple throne directly below the eighteen-foot image of Shakyamuni Buddha, a life-like replica of the Sixteenth Karmapa, cloaked in golden brocade emblazoned with dragons and flowers and wearing his black activity hat, gazed down on the assembly of 10,000 gathered to celebrate his life and activities.
Many dignitaries and eminent people from across the Indian subcontinent and the world had gathered for this special event. They included eminent Rinpoches and learned Khenpos, members of the Bhutanese royal family, politicians, government officials, academics, and thousands of ordinary monks, nuns and laypeople whose lives had been touched in some way by the 16th Karmapa. The guests were dressed in a rich variety of national dress. Tibetan dignitaries in chubas, Bhutanese in their own distinctive hand-weave stripes and checks , and Sikkimese dressed in rich, colourful brocades. All the extant traditions of the Dagpo Kagyu were represented: Drikung, Drukpa and Karma Kamtsang. On the Monlam Pavilion stage, a shrine table, decked in red and gold cloth, displayed an array of torma offerings and victory banners. To the right of the stage a torma-shaped tsog offering, cleverly crafted out of red apples, rose twelve feet high, capped with symbols of the moon, the sun and the Three Jewels.
At 9.30am the sound of gyalin announced the arrival of the Chief Guest, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang, escorted on to the stage by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa. Together the two spiritual leaders walked up to the statue of the 16th Karmapa and offered katags. Four comfortable chairs had been arranged centre stage, where HE Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and HE Gyaltsab Rinpoche were already seated. They rose to greet His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön as the Karmapa showed him to the seat of honour. Immediately, the ceremonies began with celebratory Tibetan tea and sweet rice.
Two MCs, Sherab Tharchin in Tibetan followed by Ngodup Tsering in English, provided continuity between the events. Quoting a prophecy of Shakyamuni Buddha found in the Samadhi Raja Sūtra, they set the tone for the commemoration:
Two thousand years after I have passed,
The teachings will arise in the land of the red-faced men.
They will become disciples of Avalokita.
In that degenerate time for dharma,
The bodhisattva, Lion’s Roar,
Will appear and be known as Karmapa.
He will attain the samādhi empowerment and tame beings,
Establishing them in well-being through sight, hearing, recollection, and touch.
The first event was a rendering of The Praise to the Three Jewels by the nuns of Drupde Palmo Chökyi Dingkhang Nunnery in Bhutan, followed by a welcome by Mr Karma Chungyalpa, General Secretary of the Karmapa’s Office of Administration, who read out a letter from Dr Pawan Chamling, the Honourable Chief Minister of Sikkim, in which the CM had written:
We are all aware of the special relationship and the bond that the 16th Karmapa shared with Sikkim and the Sikkimese people. The 16th Karmapa was a great master who demonstrated intuitive wisdom, joy, and loving kindness, his compassionate activity for others being beyond words or concepts. He was such a highly respected teacher across the Himalayas that masters of the other lineages would also call upon him for help and advice. The reverence and the faith that the people of Sikkim had for His Holiness cannot be described in words. The belief and the approbation resonate in the heart of our people even today. Hence, this function is indeed a tribute to a great dharma guru who has touched the lives of many people all over the world.
This was followed by other messages of support and good wishes from the Central Tibetan Administration. The Hon. Home Minister, Ms Dolma Gyari, read a message from His Excellency Lobsang Senge, the Prime Minister of the CTA, and the Speaker of the Tibetan Assembly, Mr Penpa Tsering, spoke of how the 16th Karmapa performed many activities for the Buddhadharma throughout the world. He expressed the hope that the 17th Karmapa would be able to return to the 16th Karmapa’s monastery at Rumtek, and that one day both His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the 16th Karmapa would be able to return to Tibet. Mr Tempa Tsering, the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from the Bureau of Tibet in Delhi, also attended the commemoration.
The commemoration included the unveiling of three special publications: a new edition of the Jang Kangyur; the Sung Bum or Collected Works of the 16th Karmapa; and Dharma King—the life of the 16th Karmapa in Images.
The highlight of the commemoration—an address by the Chief Guest, HH the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang—followed on from the unveiling of the Jang Kangyur. Based at Dehra Dun, His Holiness has established monastic institutions, a college for higher Buddhist studies and the Songtsen Library, which houses an important collection of rare texts and serves as a centre for Tibetan and Himalayan research. He is currently working on a project to bring together all traditions of Buddhism in an annual prayer convocation at the ancient Buddhist site of Shravasti.
As the Master of Ceremonies commented in his introduction:
There is a strong historical and pure bond between the Drikung and Karma Kagyu lineages. In order to further strengthen this connection, we have invited Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche to preside over our program. And though he maintains a busy schedule, working tirelessly for the benefit of the buddhadharma, in general, and the Kagyu in particular, he kindly consented to grace us with his presence.
HH the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang began by reciting a verse for auspiciousness written by Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche. Comparing the Dagpo Kagyu to an harmonious family, he stated that in essence there are no conflicts between the different lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. He spoke briefly of his meetings with the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa in exile in India, of the teachings he received from him, and of the Karmapa’s great kindness towards him. The crux of his message, however, was the need for co-operation between all schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
We have now all arrived in the 21st century but we still keep out-of-date habits from the time when we used to live in remote areas. It was said that in Tibet each valley had a lama and each lama had a different tradition. But these days in this age of information, even if you live in a small village it is as if everybody in the world has become your neighbour, so we as Tibetans should feel like a single family. It’s time for us to practice together with the members of all of the traditions. It is very important for us to be able to support all of the lineages and all of the traditions, throughout the world. Here today we have representative of all the Dagpo Kagyu lineages, and the fact that we have gathered here is because of our samaya. Because of our samaya connection, we are able to work together and this can be of great benefit. We all have the same samaya and the same commitments, so my aspiration is that we can all work together to spread the intentions of the 16thKarmapa throughout the world and maintain his activity.
After the applause had died down, and HH Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang had resumed his seat, the programme continued with the unveiling of the two additional special publications.
After the unveilings, General Secretary Karma Chungyalpa came back on stage to give the vote of thanks on behalf of everyone present. He expressed his gratitude particularly to HH the Drikung Chetsang for his illustrious presence and erudition, to the organisers of the event, to the Bhutanese royal family, to HH the 14th Dalai Lama and the CTA for their unwavering support of the 17th Karmapa, to Pooja Bedi, granddaughter of Freda Bedi who continues to be a benefactor and friend of the nunnery her grandmother founded, to organisations and sponsors of the event from Sikkim, Ladakh, Bhutan, India and overseas, and last but not least to the Government of India for their support of the 16th Karmapa and their continuing support of the 17th Karmapa.
The 16th Gyalwang Karmapa was a great supporter of Tibetan culture and especially enjoyed traditional Tibetan opera which combines dance and song performances. It was fitting, therefore, that the morning’s programme concluded with a lhamo performance by the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts. With great vigour, they presented a traditional dance and song offering called Tashi Chotsam. Cries of Tashi Delegs(Good Fortune) and Lhagyal-lo (Victory to the Gods]) punctuated their singing, as chemar was tossed into the air. Finally, they joined together in a line dance which culminated in joyous shouting of Tashi Sho(May All be Auspicious).
And so the morning’s commemoration of the life and activity of the 16th Karmapa came to a joyful and auspicious conclusion.
Other illustrious and esteemed guests included HE Surmang Gharwang Rinpoche, Kyabje Ayang Rinpoche, Kyabje Thrangu Rinpoche, Kyabje Dorzong Rinpoche, Ontul Rinpoche, Gyalpo Rinpoche, Drikung Gyalsey, Bardor Tulku, Ringu Tulku, Ngeden Tulku, Yodrak Tulku, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen; Members of the Bhutanese royal family: Yab Drashok Ugyen, Yum Thuji Zangmo; Rani Disket Wangmo of Ladakh; Sri Ratan Sanjay DIG, Sri Suran Chettri SP Sikkim, Mr Justice S. Wangdi, Mr Tashi Densapa Director of Tibetology and Former Secretary of Govt. of Sikkim, Mr Kunzang Sherab President(JAC) and Former Secretary Govt. of Sikkim, Mr Kunzang Sherab, Ms Pooja Bedi, Dr Raj Kotwal, Sri Kumar Ravi DM, Mr Tenzin Choenyi, Mr Sonam Topden Gen.Sec(JAC) Dilip Kumar Airport Director Gaya, Mr Sonam Damdul Former Kagyu MP Tibetan Assembly.