Special Photo Exhibition Commemorates Kyabje Kulu Rinpoche and Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche
20 – 26 December, 2014-12-28
A major theme of the 32nd Monlam is remembering with gratitude the lives of these two great teachers of the Kagyu lineage, Kalu Rinpoche (1905 – 1989) and Bokar Rinpoche (1940-2004), both of whom were masters within the Shangpa tradition of the Karma Kagyu.
As His Holiness explained:
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.”
But in addition to offering the six-day initiation series of the Chikshey Kundrol, the Gyalwang Karmapa commissioned a special exhibition of photographs which is being held in a specially created exhibition area near the entrance to the Monlam Pavilion.
His Holiness inaugurated the exhibition on the morning of 20th December, 2014. He arrived at 9.00am with Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche, and they were joined by His Holiness Sakya Trizin’s two sons, Ratna Vajra Rinpoche and Gyana Vajra Rinpoche.
Two women in exquisite turquoise silk brocade chubas held a large red ribbon across the entrance. Donning his golden brocade ceremonial hat, the Karmapa recited prayers and scattered rice and metok tsampaka [magnolia michelia seeds] in a short blessing (rab-ney)and inauguration ceremony. Then he cut the ribbon and went inside. Ms Ja Jen Wu, who is responsible for organising the exhibition, gave His Holiness a guided tour of the images, explaining in some detail the stories behind them. The Karmapa showed particular interest in some of the older photographs from Tibet, and other rare glimpses of these two Rinpoches who were responsible for establishing the Kagyu Monlam in India.
There were poignant moments as they stopped to look at photographs of Bokar Rinpoche in Tibet with a nine-years-old Karmapa playing with a radio-controlled helicopter, specially purchased by Rinpoche in Hong Kong. Another shows Rinpoche standing tall, no sign of ill-health, and beaming; this photograph was taken the day before he died of a heart attack at the age of 65. The 17th Karmapa and Bokar Rinpoche were very close, both in Tibet and later, after the Karmapa came to India. At that time, when the fourteen year-old arrived unexpectedly in Dharamsala in January 2000, Bokar Rinpoche was one of his most important tutors, as witnessed by a photo of His Holiness the Dalai Lama flanked by Bokar Rinpoche and an adolescent Karmapa. During many months spent at Gyuto Monastery, the Karmapa’s residence near Dharamsala, Bokar Rinpoche taught the young Karmapa Gampopa’s ‘Jewel Ornament of Liberation’, Maitreya’s ‘Uttaratantra’, the Hevajra Tantra, and many other important texts.
In contrast, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa never met the previous Kalu Rinpoche, but Kalu Rinpoche was one of the tutors of the Sixteenth Karmapa. Rinpoche began his studies as a monk at Palpung Monastery in Tibet, the seat of the Tai Situpas. From an early age he was noted for his intelligence and he studied under the 15th Karmapa Khakyab Dorje, and the 11th Tai Situpa, amongst others. He then spent 15 years as a wandering yogi in Kham, and, on his return to Palpung, Drupon Norbu Dondrup entrusted him with the rare transmission of the teachings of the Shangpa Kagyu tradition. Kalu Rinpoche was highly regarded as a master of meditation. As well as the Sixteenth Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, his students included Reting Rinpoche, the Regent of Tibet. After the upheaval in Tibet, at the end of the 1950s, he came to India and re-established his monastery at Sonada in Darjeeling. From there, he travelled to the West and, like the 16th Karmapa and the 14th Dalai Lama, was integral in the spread of Tibetan Buddhism in Europe and North America.
The history of the photographs is interesting. The majority come from Bokar Rinpoche’s own private collection. A year before he died, Rinpoche handed over three boxes of photographs to two of his students from Bokar Asia in Taiwan, a Himalayan nun Ani Sonam and Ja Jen Wu, and asked them to keep them safely. That was in 2003. Then suddenly, a few months ago, out of the blue, the Gyalwang Karmapa contacted them and asked them to produce the exhibition and two commemorative books. “How did he know we had those photos?” asked Ja Jen.
The remainder of the photographs in the exhibition were contributed by the 17th Karmapa himself. He also confirmed the choice of photographs for the exhibition.
Two elegant souvenir albums are also available as part of the tribute. The first, in a blue cloth cover, contains photographs and a biography of Kalu Rinpoche, composed by Khenpo Lodro Donyo Rinpoche. The second, in a brown cloth cover, contains photographs and a little-known autobiography entitled “A Bouquet of White Lotuses”, which ends a few months before his death.