Never Giving Up on Others

Never Giving Up on Others

Today the Karmapa began with the section in the Ornament of Precious Liberation on the eight benefits of aspirational bodhichitta. The first benefit is that aspirational bodhichitta is the gateway into the mahayana. Whether or not we are a mahayana practitioner depends on having aspirational bodhichitta in our being. It is what distinguishes the mahayana path or indicates a truly compassionate person.

And what makes compassion great is the scope of our resolve: we seek to benefit all infinite living beings without exception, to bring them happiness and free them of suffering. If we can shoulder this responsibility, our compassion is great; if not, we are just repeating empty words.

Aspirational bodhichitta is also the very basis for all the training of a bodhisattva. It is so powerful that if we can maintain it, we can even retake full ordination vows we have broken. Just keeping the vows of individual liberation (pratimoksha), however, would not allow us to retake the full ordination vows in a perfect way. From among four powers for repairing misdeeds, aspirational bodhichitta is the greatest in terms of the power of the support. Aspirational bodhichitta is also the seed that becomes the stable root for buddhahood.

Aspirational bodhichitta brings immeasurable merit, and on the other hand, the consequences of abandoning it are huge: bringing suffering, a reduced capacity to benefit others, and delay in achieving full awakening. The Karmapa added that he read in an instruction manual that if aspirational bodhichitta deteriorates, the negative consequences are as vast as space, so there are both great dangers and great benefits.

The tenth and final topic in this chapter, “The Proper Adoption of Bodhichitta,” treats the causes for losing the bodhichitta that we have cultivated. Since this is a crucial point for practice, the Karmapa spent some time discussing it. “Bodhichitta is lost when we give up on a living being,” the Karmapa said. “This commitment not to turn away from others is the most important one for the bodhisattva vow.” Bodhisattvas are dedicated to helping others, but if they turn away from other living beings, how could they possibly bring them benefit?

The Karmapa then added, “How do we measure or define what it is to give up on another?” In his commentary on Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, the Fourth Gyaltsap Rinpoche (Drakpa Döndrup, 1550-1617) writes that giving up on living beings means that your mind is not able to rejoice for them. The Kadampa spiritual friend Potowa states that if for any particular reason we get annoyed with someone, that means losing our affection and compassion for that living being. The Karmapa then gave an extreme example of abandoning another, telling of two worldly people fighting and saying to each other, “In this life we can never be together, and when we die, we’ll be buried in separate cemeteries as well.” On a different scale, he gave the example of thinking, “If an opportunity comes, I will not help this person.” Or “If there is a chance to remove a fault or an obstacle for this person, I will not do it.” These illustrate losing our affection and giving up on someone.

In his extensive explanation of the preliminary practices, Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye quotes Puchungwa, who speaks of three conditions that need to come together for losing the vow: 1) The other has to be suffering; 2) there is no one to help them; and 3) we have the ability to protect or help them. When all three of these are present and we do not help, that is abandoning the bodhisattva vow. The spiritual friend Chen Ngawa said that if we think that there is no way that we could get along with another person, that we could never be in harmony, this is giving up on them.

Continuing to cite other authors, the Karmapa spoke of the Kadampa master Shonnu Gyechok (or Könchok Sumgyi Bang), who was also a disciple of Je Tsongkhapa and wrote the most extensive commentary in Tibetan on the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. He wrote that if we think that the louse larva is so small and insignificant that it makes no difference if we kill it, that is giving up on living beings. We are not valuing their life nor remembering that even this tiny being wishes for pleasure and wants to avoid suffering. A louse and an elephant are different in size but the same in having a life force; simply because one is bigger does not make it more important.

The Karmapa summarized, saying that to give up on living beings and lose our bodhisattva vow does not mean giving up on all of them: giving up on a single being means that we have turned away from our bodhisattva vow. If we are separated from our affection or compassion and think, “Even if I could help this person, I won’t. Even if I could turn away danger for them, I won’t,” we lose the bodhisattva vow.

Atisha spoke of three types of not giving up on living beings: 1) Those who have helped us; 2) those who harm us; 3) and not giving up on a being who is actually suffering. The first type is the easiest to maintain, for we have gratitude toward those who have helped us. The second is more difficult, and we need to understand that we are linked to those who harm us through the ripening of our karma. Here, of course, the Karmapa noted, we must believe in karma as cause and effect: If we harmed someone in the past, the result is that that we will be harmed in the future. That they harmed us is not good, but we need to consider the whole human being, and as such, this person wishes for happiness and wants to avoid suffering just like us, so we should not lose our sense of respect and stop valuing them. Atisha’s third type is not giving up on a being that is actually suffering. When we see suffering, we should think of its cause—karma and the various afflictions—and this naturally brings up great compassion and love within us. Not giving up on them, we think, “Wouldn’t it be great if they were freed of this suffering and its cause?”

The Karmapa emphasized that training in not giving up on any living being is mentioned first as it provides the basis for the vow of aspirational bodhichitta. He then brought in the First Karmapa’s statement that even if someone is going to harm your body or diminish your possessions, if you continue to help and care for them without despair or sadness, that is not giving up on a living being. We need real courage to do this and let go of our own benefit to think of others first. If we are focused on our own success or attached to our body or possessions, it is difficult to continually help others, so we need to loosen our clinging to ourselves.

The Karmapa then cited an example from the Kadampa teachings on the stages of the path: Your house catches on fire and you immediately start to flee outside. At the threshold of the front door, when you have one foot out and one foot in, you remember the other people left behind and think, “Saving myself is not enough. There are others I must protect,” and so you return inside to help. Great bodhisattvas think like this but for ordinary people, it is difficult due to their fixation on themselves. To remedy this, we need to do all we can to develop the realization that ourselves and others are equal, in that we both have the feelings of pleasure and pain. With this remedy and vivid example of what it means not to turn away from others, the Karmapa concluded his talk on the Ornament of Precious Liberation for this morning.

2017.03.08 Never Giving Up on Others
Keeping the Bodhisattva’s Promise

Keeping the Bodhisattva’s Promise

After welcoming everyone for the second day of the 4th Arya Kshema, the Karmapa continued with the discussion of the ceremony of the bodhisattva vows from Gampopa’s Ornament of Precious Liberation. Having completed the discussion of the tradition of the profound view, that of Manjushri to Nagarjuna, he elaborated upon the tradition of vast conduct, the tradition passed down from Maitreya to Asanga and known as Master Serlingpa’s tradition.

The Karmapa delineated the two parts of this tradition: aspiration of the bodhicitta vow and engagement of the bodhicitta vow. He focused on the actual ceremony of the aspiration of bodhicitta and explained that before the aspirant takes the vow, he or she must contemplate whether they are ready to receive the vow. The Karmapa explained that the bodhisattva is like a hero, though these days we see movie stars as being heroes. A bodhisattva is similar to a hero because a bodhisattva is someone who has tremendous courage. The Karmapa emphasized that when we talk about rousing the attitude of bodhicitta, it is not only for ourselves nor is it merely for those close to us. Rather, we need to be able to hold all sentient beings in our hearts with compassion.

The Karmapa also explained that even though from birth we naturally have compassion, we are not always able to put it into practice. He gave the following example: one of the characteristics of a human is that they know how to speak and how to communicate. However, if small children are isolated in a place where no one talks with them, they will lose the ability to speak. Similarly, if we do not use or practice compassion, it will decrease. The Karmapa added that even the frequent use of the words “loving kindness” and “compassion” are important. He said that if we live where people use these words, it creates an imprint within us, and these qualities will grow stronger.

He also reflected on the experiences we have as children and the impressions they create. For instance, when parents tell children that they need to have compassion for all sentient beings, and teach them to care for even the smallest creatures, children will not feel the need to harm other sentient beings. However, if children grow up in an environment where harming sentient beings is condoned, they will not understand that like themselves, all beings have experiences of pain and suffering. Then, they begin to think that it is acceptable to harm others.

The Karmapa concluded his discussion on aspirational bodhicitta and noted that in order for the aspirant to have a conceptual understanding, he or she is taught the three types of bodhisattva discipline, which include the discipline of refraining from not acting, the action of gathering virtuous qualities, and the discipline of benefiting sentient beings. The Karmapa elaborated on the vow of engaged bodhicitta and concluded the teaching in the tradition of Master Serlingpa.

The Karmapa also considered the import of the bodhisattva vow. He said that, “The reason why there are so many precepts for being a bodhisattva is that the bodhisattva vow is a promise. Usually when we make a promise, it is something that we keep for this life, and the pratimoksha vows (the vows of individual liberation) are indeed kept for the period of one lifetime. But the bodhisattva vow is not like that. When we take the bodhisattva vow, we make the promise to keep the bodhisattva vow from now until we reach enlightenment. We promise and commit to doing this, and for this reason there are many different obstacles or adversities that we need to protect ourselves from or many different abilities or ways to help people that we need to train in. And, so in order for our promise to work out well, we need to protect ourselves from adverse conditions and impediments. And on the other hand, we need to do as much as we can to gather all the virtue that is an aid to the vow. This is naturally true for any kind of vow.”

“So primarily, if we are able to keep this promise clearly in our minds,” the Karmapa concluded, “then I don’t think there is any difficulty to keeping all the precepts. But if the promise is not stable and if we are not able to keep it lucid and crystal clear in our mind, then it will seem like all the precepts are bothersome and difficult, and we will think that it is too hard to keep all the precepts. I think this is a sign that we do not have a clear understanding in our minds of what a bodhisattva needs to do.” With this caution, the Karmapa drew to a close the first part of the morning’s teachings on the Ornament of Precious Liberation.

2017.03.07 Keeping the Bodhisattva’s Promise
Ordained Nuns and Their History: The Karmapa Reports

Ordained Nuns and Their History: The Karmapa Reports

7 March, 2017 – Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya

In the second half of his teachings this morning, the Karmapa shared his research into the history of nuns and their status. He began by explaining the background of the name “Arya Kshema,” given to the Winter Dharma Gathering. He noted that among the disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, there were his eight greatest male monastic disciples, known for their prajna (supreme wisdom) or miracles and so forth. Likewise, there were female master disciples who were greatest at miracles or known for their prajna and other outstanding qualities. Arya Kshema is one of these and she is described in the Sutra of the Wise and Foolish as the greatest in wisdom and confidence, so the Winter Dharma Gathering is named after her.

“In giving this name,” the Karmapa explained, “we are also following the saying, ‘Later disciples should practice the example of past masters.’ Previously, during the time of the Buddha Shakyamuni, there were woman arhats, bhikshunis, and woman with the eightfold purity. My thought was that we could look to them as examples, train properly in Buddhist teachings just as they did, and achieve the result of liberation. I thought they would provide inspiration and a role model.

“Actually, we had originally planned to have a conference during this nun’s Winter Dharma Gathering. The main topic was to be the lives of great individuals who achieved liberation in a female body, in particular those bhikshunis who were important disciples of the Buddha Shakyamuni. But we didn’t have enough time and it didn’t happen, so we will look into it again later.

“In any case, in Tibetan history—and this is something that historians have not paid much attention to—Karma Chakme wrote Mountain Dharma for Nuns. This is from the genre of texts called “mountain dharma” that compile the instructions necessary for meditating in mountain retreats, and this is a mountain dharma text that Karma Chakme compiled particularly for nuns. In it, he says that at that time (of the 10th Karmapa), there were more nunneries than monasteries in Central Tibet, and all the nuns in these nunneries had a good basis of discipline. He wrote that they kept their precepts extremely well. For this reason, historically the nuns’ teachings spread widely in Tibet.

“But those who wrote the histories did not pay much attention to this, and later only a very few took interest in how the nuns’ Dharma spread in Tibet or in the great beings who appeared in a female body. However, in history and in fact, there have been many individuals in Tibet who gained siddhis in a female body, and there must have been many female learned individuals as well. Nuns’ communities must have flourished greatly.

“Likewise, when the monastic community was first established in Tibet, which is said to be during the time of King Trisong Deutsen (742-800), there were the Seven Men for Testing. Some say “Seven Men” and some say “Six Men.” But whether it was six or seven, when they first established the monastic community, there were not only men who went forth, but women as well. Among the queens, those who had not given birth to children went forth. When they did so and were ordained, I don’t think that they were just called nuns and dressed in monastic robes. When we say the Seven Men for Testing went forth, we clearly understand that they received the entire ordination. Likewise when women went forth at that time, I do not think it means that they merely held the intermediate vows of going forth. So when Buddhism first spread to Tibet, it seems that a community of ordained women was established from that very time.

“Similarly, there are important Sakya histories called Documents of the Kings and the Sakya Familial Lineage. These say that many daughters born into the Sakya family line became bhikshunis and give many stories about them. Later there were people who say these are not true, but that is a little hard to accept. For one thing, Documents of the Kings and the Sakya Familial Lineage are considered reliable historical documents. Also, it is a bit difficult to say that only the stories of women going forth or becoming bhikshunis are false but everything else is true. Furthermore, among the scholars from Minyak, there was one named Kashiwa Rikpe. It states in his biography that there was a community of bhikshunis at Minyak Rapgang and that there were three to four hundred nunneries. Therefore, there was a time in Tibet when there were quite a few nuns’ communities.

“During the time of Lha Lama Yeshe Ö and his successor, there was a royal proclamation that stated no one was allowed to prevent women who wanted to go forth or become bhikshunis from doing so; one must let them go forth and become bhikshunis. So at that time there must have been female aspirants; otherwise, it would have been unnecessary to say that they should be allowed to go forth and become bhikshunis. Similarly, there are several biographies of Lotsawa Rinchen Sangpo that are of varying length. One of these tells how a younger sister of his was ordained as a bhikshuni. There are many such stories.

“We don’t know, however, what the situations or circumstances were that led the nunneries and nuns’ communities to decline later. This should be researched, as there must have been some conditions for it. Later, nunneries in Tibet were quite poor and badly off. Many of you probably don’t know this, but those of you who have stayed in nunneries in Tibet probably do. The living facilities are poor, and the opportunities for study are weak. This is very clear. We don’t know whether the reason for this situation is related to politics, the dominance of any dharma lineage, or something else. This needs to be examined.

“In any case, when we say nowadays that nuns should be educated, that they should develop their qualities, and that a community of bhikshunis should be established, this is not something that has only now become important. It is not saying that what was previously insignificant has become important. Instead, it was crucial in the past, and we need to explain how that was and also dispel any doubts or misconceptions about it.

“There is a text called the Great Exposition of the Abhidharma. When we speak of the four philosophical schools, the reason the Great Exposition school was given that name is because they explain their tenets based upon this text. When it discusses how long the teachings would remain, it mentions that the Vinaya said that Buddhism would endure for one thousand years. But when the Great Exposition appeared, one thousand years had probably gone by since the Buddha passed away, yet the teachings still endured, even though the thousand years were over. So the arhats discussed why it was that the Buddha’s teachings remained even though a thousand years had gone by.

“Actually, the Vinaya states that the Buddha’s teachings would only remain a thousand years, but because women were ordained, that was shortened by five hundred years. However the Great Exposition appeared in the first or second century, when the Buddhism was supposed to have disappeared. So they had a discussion about this to figure out what could have been meant by saying the teachings would remain five hundred fewer years if women were ordained. The arhats had two ways of explaining this. One was to say that this meant the teachings of complete liberation, which refer to what we usually call the ‘period of results’ when we describe the duration of Buddhism. The other explanation says that if nuns had not accepted the eight heavy dharmas, the teachings would have been shortened by five hundred years. But the nuns did accept the eight heavy dharmas, so the duration of the teachings was not decreased by five hundred years. That is the explanation they gave.

“Before we received the text of the Great Exposition, Geshe Rinchen and I had discussed this point and thought it could be explained like that. Our understanding is exactly what we found in the text, so we gained some confidence. In any case, not knowing the entire situation, people have explained a few aspects and made a lot of noise while exaggerating things. This has led to many misapprehensions and misperceptions, which should be dispelled.

“We train in validity and say ‘It follows that…’ or ‘Because of x….’ We stomp our feet and clap our hands, and train in debate for many years primarily to dispel misapprehensions and misperceptions. We don’t do it only to become facile. The point of studying validity and logic is to dispel misapprehensions and misperceptions. If we say we study validity and follow logic but our misapprehensions and misperceptions increase, it is a sign we have not studied well. Since we study validity and use our logics, we must examine how they accord with facts. This is what we should consider most important. Being rigidly old-fashioned and holding to one’s own biases or views without proper reasons is not the way logicians should do things. I think that this is another reason why we need to consider this thoroughly.” With a look to the future and on-going research, the Karmapa drew this special morning talk to a close.

The Arya Kshema Winter Gathering for Nuns Begins in Bodhgaya

The Arya Kshema Winter Gathering for Nuns Begins in Bodhgaya

The Main Shrine Hall, Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
March 6, 2017

On this first day of the 4th Arya Kshema Winter Gathering, the Karmapa welcomed 560 nuns from nine different shedras (scholastic colleges) and their teachers, along with large groups of nuns from Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, and China as well as a few from the West plus the community of laywomen. From March 6 to 18, the shedra nuns will be participating in the thirteen days of teachings, debate, and ritual ceremonies.

The Karmapa noted that there are two special aspects to this year’s event. First of all, the nuns from seven shedras will be competing for the first time. The judges will be three Geshemas, nuns who have recently passed all the exams after years of intense study of the major treatises and received the equivalent of the Geshe degree from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Karmapa remarked that having these brilliant nuns as judges indicates our respect for them and also inspires other nuns to attain the highest level of excellence.

Secondly, after years of research and discussion, the Karmapa related, we will start the historic path to full ordination for nuns in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. This year Dharmagupta nuns from Nan Lin Nunnery in Lantou on the west coast of Taiwan will assist in giving the Getsulma (novice) vows which will be held for one year. Afterward the Gelopma (special vows), which are held for two winters or two summers, will be given, and finally the full ordination of the Gelongma vows. The Karmapa emphasized the importance of following a graduated path and going carefully step-by-step to build a strong foundation.

The Karmapa then returned to Gampopa’s Ornament of Precious Liberation picking up where he had stopped last year—the section on the ceremony for taking the bodhisattva’s vow from the ninth chapter on the “Proper Adoption of Bodhichitta.” He reminded his listeners that there are two lineages for taking the vows: one passes from Manjushri through Nagarjuna and the other from Maitreya through Asanga. The first one is usually associated with the Middle Way school and the second with the Mind Only school. The Karmapa stated, however, that this implies a hierarchy with the Middle Way being considered superior, so it is better to refer to the two as the lineage of the profound view and the lineage of vast conduct.

The ceremony for lineage of the profound view is further divided into two: a ceremony in the presence of a guru and not. When, as King Amba Manjushri was taking the vows, he did so in a ceremony without a guru. This is described here in the Ornament of Precious Liberation as it is in Atisha’s Lamp for the Path of Enlightenment. However, the scriptures on the bodhisattva vehicle state that it should not be too easy to take these vows. We should exert ourselves in searching for a guru, and if we are not successful, we can take the vows in a ceremony without one. Further, we may have found an authentic teacher, but in order to serve them, there may be a danger to one’s life or vows of chase conduct. Since this is the same as not finding a guru, in this situation we can also take the vows without a lama.

Referring again to King Amba, the Karmapa explained that the king had made offerings to the Buddha called Melody of Thunder for many years. When it came time to dedicate the merit, the king had wanted to do so for the sake of achieving the level of a sravaka or pratyekabuddha arhat. Then a voice from the sky encouraged him, “You must dedicate the merit to achieving buddhahood.” Following this advice, King Amba gave rise to genuine bodhichitta. The words he spoke, or the ceremony he performed, are found in the sutra called Establishing the Pure Realm of Manjushri, which is part of the Ratnakutra sutras. This is the ceremony we can do when not finding a guru.

Regardless of whether the ceremony is with or without a lama, we must first train our minds in aspirational bodhicitta so that it is not mere words, but comes from the depth of our heart. This is the actual basis for taking the vows. At a minimum, for one week beforehand, we should train our minds in bodhichitta through the pith instructions on cause and effect or in the practice of exchanging ourselves for others or the equality of self and other. Of course, it would be difficult to generate authentic bodhichitta in one week, but at least this training will create imprints in our mind. On the other hand, if we cannot say for sure what bodhichitta is, if it remains some intellectual fabrication and we merely repeat the words of the ceremony, it would be difficult to say that we have truly received the vow.

The Kadampa spiritual friend Potowa explained the stages of the practice. First we meditate to recognize that all living beings are our mothers and then feel gratitude to them for their kindness. This can bring about great love, and from this, comes great compassion. Then we can find the extraordinary intention that leads to the generation of bodhichitta.

The Kadampa master Netsulpa said the only way to bring perfect benefit to others and ourselves is to achieve buddhahood. As long as we remain in samsara, we cannot even accomplish our own aims to say nothing of benefitting others. Shravakas and pratyekabuddhas are able to partially accomplish their own aims, but they are unable to benefit others. Achieving full awakening, which comes about due to bodhichitta, is the only way that we can spontaneously benefit both self and others.

The causal chain leading to bodhichitta travels back through compassion to loving kindness, to gratitude for others’ kindness and to recognizing that they have been our mothers. This, in turn, depends on entering the view of the transitory collections, meaning that one has the view of a self (that longs to benefit others). This is said to be the tathagatas’ love. Geshe Sharwa’s explanation is basically the same as this sequence of causes, though he phrased it differently.

So rousing bodhichitta comes out of various causes and conditions, not just a single cause, and it is important to train our mind in these and develop bodhichitta in stages. Whether we are discussing Nagarjuna’s tradition of the profound view or Asanga’s tradition of vast conduct, the necessity of first training our mind remains the same.

The Karmapa then gave a reading transmission up to the third point, Taking the Special Form of Refuge. Afterward, he turned to speak about issues related directly to the nun’s gathering. It is said that our greatly compassionate teacher, Shakyamuni Buddha sacrificed one third of his lifespan so that the teachings would flourish and remain a long time. Some 2,600 years have gone by since he passed away, and until now, the teachings have remained continuous in the world, bringing great benefit and happiness to many beings. Included in the third of his lifespan that the Buddha sacrificed for the teachings are the teachings for the nuns, or those with a female body, so they could practice the three trainings or the three vows.

How we know this is based on the Dharma Blaze Aspiration, which is actually from a sutra taught by the Buddha called, the Sutra of the Essence of the Moon. This was not translated into Tibetan, but Atisha quoted from it in his Compendium of the Sutras and his citation included the Dharma Blaze Aspiration. At the end of this aspiration, there are two lines: “May my retinue flourish” and “May my retinue be respected.” The Tibetan, however, simply says, “My retinue,” and it is not clear what this means. Fortunately, the Sutra of the Essence of the Moon was fully translated into Chinese during the sixth century.

In this version, we find the Dharma Blaze Aspiration and also an explanation of “my retinue” as indicating the four types of retinue (bdag ‘khor rnam bzhi). The aspiration states, “May my retinue be respected through the power of bringing into the proper view those who had previously held the wrong views of the extremists.” Retinue here refers to the four types of retinue: the fully ordained monks and nuns as well as the laymen and laywomen. In brief, there are two groups of monastics and two groups of householders. The Buddha was making the aspiration that by the power of his declaring words of truth, may his four types of retinue flourish. This alone shows us clearly that the Buddha had the aspiration or hope that the community of fully ordained nuns would flourish.

It is sometimes said in Tibetan groups or in Buddhist centers that if women become nuns, it will harm the teachings. The same thing is also said about instituting the gelongma vows. However, if these steps would really harm the Dharma, the Buddha would not have wished for the nuns to flourish. If we think about these matters, we have to consider them in a spacious and broad-minded way.

The Karmapa closed out the morning with advice to the nuns on how to compete in debate without falling prey to worldly aversion and attachment. He suggested they remember that debate is for blending the Dharma with their mind. It is also good to relax a little bit to make their minds peaceful. The Karmapa offered his hopes and prayers that the Arya Kshema Winter Gathering would be virtuous in the beginning, the middle, and the end. The assembly then recited the Third Karmapa’s Aspiration of Mahamudra, a profound text on the nature of mind, which, in its focus on the ultimate nature, parallels the Heart Sutra chanted at the beginning of the teachings. Both texts describe and celebrate the perfection of wisdom embodied by women.

2017.03.06 The Arya Kshema Winter Gathering for Nuns Begins
Photo Story: The Arya Kshema Incense Project

Photo Story: The Arya Kshema Incense Project

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15 nuns joined forces with professional Chinese incense maker Ru-Ruei Chung,  translator Ani Jangchub  and Dr Dawa  to make high-quality Tibetan incense, an income generation project to support the education of the nuns.

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Gyalwang Karmapa visited the workshop every day to check on their progress.

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Using only the best quality, natural ingredients, the nuns’  first task was to grind down the herbs and special substances.

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This was done by hand using  traditional methods: a large round stone was used on a stone surface. It was physically demanding work and many nuns suffered blisters during the nine days it took to prepare all the ingredients.

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His Holiness worked alongside the nuns.

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And also spent time conferring with Dr Dawa and Ani Jangchup Dolma.

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The ingredients had to be measured carefully and mixed together.

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The mixture was then fed through a special machine to produce long spaghetti-like strands of incense.

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These strands were carefully separated…

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And cut to the same length...

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His Holiness took a keen interest in all parts of the process.

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The incense was laid carefully in wooden boxes and placed on the roof to dry.

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Once dry, the sticks of incense were divided equally

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And packed into bundles.

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The bundles were placed in individual boxes with an explanatory leaflet describing the contents and benefits of the incense.

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This is the most expensive incense made from 13 special ingredients.

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The blue boxes contain the cheaper one which contains only 2 ingredients.

Altogether the nuns made 1600 boxes of incense for sale.