The Qualities of the Gyalwa Karmapa
The Nature of the Karmapa
The Karma denomination of Tibetan Buddhism originates with a disciple of Milarepa. It reaches us today in the form of a chain of word-of-mouth teachings that comes by means of the activity of Karmapa, who is sometimes called the Black Hat Lama.
In 1999, just before H.H the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa left Tsurphu in Tibet to undertake the trek over the Himalayas to India, both H. E. Tai Situ and Khenpo Karthar carefully explained the role of the Karmapa. Unless otherwise indicated, in the first section the explanations are Tai Situ's.
- The Gyalwa Karmapa is the embodiment of all the activities of the past, present and future Buddhas of all directions. All directions are described as the 10 directions.
- The Gyalwa Karmapa is the source of all the 84,000 Dharmas, which manifested as part of the enlightenment of the Buddha Sakyamuni. In the same way, a manifestation of the source of all the limitless immeasurable teachings of the Buddhas of the three times. The past Buddhas, the present Buddhas and the future Buddhas.
- The Gyalwa Karmapa is the Supreme Master, the Supreme Lord of all the Sangha, which means the ordinary Sangha, as well as the extraordinary Sangha. The extraordinary Sangha are the Bodhisattvas. Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, whose manifestation is the Gyalwa Karmapa, is the father of all the Bodhisattvas and the father of all the Buddhas. This is so because without the compassion, which is represented by Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, there will be no Buddha, there will be no Sangha, therefore the Gyalwa Karmapa is the supreme master, the supreme lord of all the Sangha.
- The Gyalwa Karmapa is the lord of all beings, because all sentient beings need protection. There is not one sentient being who does not need protection, and there is nothing that can protect them without compassion. So the embodiment of compassion is the protector of all beings, the lord of all beings.
- The Gyalwa Karmapa is the father and mother of all sentient beings, the parent of all sentient beings. The parent nurtures the child and brings up the maturity of the child step by step, from a very helpless and innocent newborn to a fully matured, self-standing, capable adult. In this way the Gyalwa Karmapa, the embodiment of compassion, is the father and mother who matures all sentient beings… that is from ignorant sentient beings to enlightened sentient beings that are equal to him, equal to Avalokiteshvara, equal to Buddha. So he will bring each and every one of the sentient beings to his own level of realization, the level of realization, which is the Buddha’s realization.
- The Gyalwa Karmapa is the sailor who sails the ship across the ocean of Samsara, liberating sentient beings from the sufferings of the ocean of Samsara. The Gyalwa Karmapa is the sailor who sails them from danger to safety. So he is the great Bodhisattva, who is like a sailor.
- The Gyalwa Karmapa is the shepherd, who takes care of his herd. When his herd needs water, the shepherd will take it to the water, when it needs to be grazed, the shepherd will lead it to the grassland, and when it needs shade, he will take the herd to a shady place, when it needs sun, he will bring it to the sun, when it is threatened and endangered by predators, the shepherd will protect the herd. The same way Gyalwa Karmapa protects all sentient beings from the suffering of Samsara, so he is the shepherd.
- The Gyalwa Karmapa is the healer, the medicine man, and the doctor. When all sentient beings are suffering with the sickness of the three poisons: ignorance, attachment and anger, the Gyalwa Karmapa with great, limitless compassion heals them of this suffering, these three poisons. He is the healer, the medicine man, and the doctor.
- The Gyalwa Karmapa is the moon. The moon is cooling. When sentient beings are suffering and burning with defilements, the Gyalwa Karmapa is the moon that shines and leads them from the suffering of the heat of the defilements.
- The Gyalwa Karmapa is like the sun. When sentient beings are suffering from lack of discrimination, the basic ignorance of all sentient beings to grasp at an ego, a self, called dualistic grasping, they are blind, they cannot see - they cannot see what is good for them, they cannot see what is bad for them, they cannot see what is good for others and bad for others. Therefore the Gyalwa Karmapa is the sun that shines and allows every sentient being to see what is right and what is wrong, and finally overcome the deep shadow of this ignorance, this grasping at a self.
- The Gyalwa Karmapa is the friend and companion who will help and assist anybody to do good, anybody who wishes to overcome their pain, their suffering and their shortcomings. He is the friend who assists and helps them. To those who wish to do good, and those who wish to progress, the Gyalwa Karmapa is the friend and companion who will assist and help them to achieve those wonderful, noble aspirations.
- The Gyalwa Karmapa is the embodiment of the ocean of Gurus. Because the Gyalwa Karmapa is the embodiment of compassion of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that is what makes the master. The Master by definition is one who transmits the precious lineage of Lord Buddha's teaching, which is derived from limitless compassion. The Gyalwa Karmapa is the embodiment of the ocean of all the masters - the master of the lineage, the master of the enlightenment of Buddha Sakyamuni, as well as the master of the enlightenment itself, which includes the master of the Buddha Sakyamuni himself.
- The Gyalwa Karmapa is the crown deity of all the oceans of deities. The Gyalwa Karmapa is the activity of the Buddhas. All of the deities are the activities of the Buddha, as the Sambhogakaya of the Buddha. Therefore the source of all the deities is the enlightenment of the Buddha. Enlightenment of the Buddha is the fulfilment of the Buddha's aspiration to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. That is limitless compassion; therefore the Gyalwa Karmapa is the crown jewel of the ocean of deities.
- The Gyalwa Karmapa is the Lord of the ocean of protectors. All the protectors, the Dakas and Dakinis, all are there to fulfil the activities of the Buddha. The Gyalwa Karmapa is the embodiment of the activities of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. All the protectors, all the Dakas, all the Dakinis are there to fulfil the activity of the Buddha, and the Gyalwa Karmapa is the master, the lord of all the protectors, the ocean of protectors. These three above particulars (12-14) are known as the three oceans: The ocean of the Guru, the ocean of the deities, and the ocean of the protectors.
- The Gyalwa Karmapa is the embodiment of the great Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. The great Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara has taken the vow to not attain Buddhahood until all sentient beings are liberated from the suffering of Samsara and have attained Buddhahood. Therefore, until the last sentient beings have attained Buddhahood, the Gyalwa Karmapa’s activity will continue, and his manifestation, in the form of limitless compassion, will continue.
Tai Situ Rinoche's Conclusion
This is a very simple way to describe the limitless immeasurable qualities and immeasurable definitions of the Gyalwa Karmapa.
This is like trying to describe the limitless space by describing the space in our own hand, which is very limited, although it somehow describes, because space in our own hand is consistent of the qualities of the limitless space itself. So this simple way, in fifteen particulars of the Gyalwa Karmapa's limitless qualities are briefly and simply described.
We as individuals are very fortunate. We are tremendously fortunate to be part of the mandala of the Gyalwa Karmapa's activity, because through the activities of the Gyalwa Karmapa, which is the activity of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, all sentient beings will be liberated from the suffering of Samsara and attain enlightenment. This fortunate situation will be truly meaningful if we can practise and implement what the Gyalwa Karmapa is, which is limitless compassion.
Try your best to sincerely generate limitless compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings. There is only one way, as far as we are concerned, that we can generate the limitless compassion, and that is to sincerely vow:
May I attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings to attain Buddhahood.
There cannot be anything more limitless than that. Only one thing will be more limitless, and that is to vow: May I assist all sentient beings to attain Buddhahood, and may I be the last one to attain Buddhahood when all sentient beings have attained Buddhahood. That is what Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva vowed. So we try to follow in the footsteps of our master and of the aspiration of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva.
All of these particular points which describe the Gyalwa Karmapa, for example when it says, he is the sun, he is the moon, he is the medicine, it does not mean literally that he is like the sun or the moon or the medicine.
It is the compassion of the Buddha, which manifests in the form of medicine that heals the suffering of the sentient beings. It is the compassion of Buddha which manifests in the form of the sun that shines. So in that way the Gyalwa Karmapa is the sun, the moon, the medicine, etc. As a human being the Gyalwa Karmapa will manifest until the last sentient being attains Buddhahood.
In these particular incarnations that are manifesting one after the other and are according to prophecy of the Buddha Shakyamuni and of Guru Rinpoche, according to these prophecies the last incarnation of the Gyalwa Karmapa will predict and point out and direct us, the disciples to the next incarnation. And this will continue, according to Guru Rinpoche's prophecy, until the last sentient being attains Buddhahood.
Particularly, twenty-one incarnations are prophesized one after another. Even the names and the descriptions were given by Guru Rinpoche.
The present seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa, according to the prophecy of Guru Rinpoche and according to the sacred letter and sacred prophecy, the relics of the Karma Kagyu lineage and also according to Buddhism at large, His Holiness is right now* living at Tsurphu [also writtenTsuripu] Monastery, and his sacred name is Urgyen Trinley Dorje. His name is long and the middle part of the name prophesized by Guru Rinpoche is Urgyen Trinley Dorje.
We are all very fortunate that we have this great connection and are part of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa.
This will continue until twenty-one Karmapas, which is in the prophecy of Guru Rinpoche by the name and by the description. [But] We should never have the misunderstanding that Gyalwa Karmapa's incarnations will stop at twenty-one, the Gyalwa Karmapa's incarnations will continue until the last sentient being becomes enlightened. They will continue forever, in that sense.
Even the qualities of the dust, in which Karmapa's foot stepped, the blessing and quality of that dust, I will not be able to comprehend. But because of the lineage, some of his qualities can be presented and taught in these fifteen points.
The group recitation of the Gyalwa Karmapa guru yoga is very important and meaningful in the Buddhist lineage, because when you are in a group and you sincerely recite or do something good and positive, then everybody's merit and wisdom is common.
In the Tibetan language, there is a particular vocabulary that describes this, which means that when all of us together, as one like-minded group are doing something positive together, then we are sharing the merit, the benefit and the wisdom together. So in that way, for one person to chant a lot of numbers of prayers will take a long time, but in a group, if we sincerely and happily pray together, then everybody shares everybody's merit.
This is not a kind of excuse that each one of us cannot do a lot, but this is a quality in itself, it has its own merit, it has its quality. Sincerely, one-minded, sincere to each other, happy with each other and pure together, we unite our force, and in that way, each and every one of us receives the merit of everybody. It is not only that each and every one of us shares our merit with everybody. So it is one of the traditional ways to pray, in a group this is very, very meaningful, there is so much quality and benefit in this. You are sharing your prayers with everyone so that everyone gets the merit and benefits of everyone.
~ A teaching by H. E. Tai Situ Rinpoche in Taipei, Taiwan on November 9, 1999