A Mandala Offering to Drupon Dechen Rinpoche

A Mandala Offering to Drupon Dechen Rinpoche

Tergar Shrine Room,
February 13, 2020

Shortly before the Arya Kshema, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa announced that he was designating Drupon Dechen Rinpoche to take charge of the Arya Kshema Winter Gathering for the next ten years, and also giving him responsibility to found a new shedra for Kagyu nuns.

Rinpoche presided over last year’s Arya Kshema gathering and will be presiding over this year’s too.

The nuns showed their appreciation and gratitude for his great efforts by offering a simple ku-sung-thuk mandala ceremony in the afternoon. A long line of nuns stretched beyond the temple’s main door, as one-by-one several representatives of each nunnery came forward and presented their katags. They werefollowed by the Geshes and Khenpos who would be teaching the nuns and supervising the debates.After a celebratory cup of butter tea and portion of sweet rice, richly studded with sultanas, almonds and cashews, the nuns chanted The Aspiration for the Teachings to Flourish:  

May the precious sangha, the foundation of the teachings,
Be harmonious, disciplined, and rich with the three trainings.

It was a short ceremony, lasting less than an hour.  Smiling, Rinpoche left the shrine room, and the nuns dispersed to the first debate session of the Sixth Arya Kshema.


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2020.02.13 A Mandala Offering to Drupon Dechen Rinpoche

H.E. Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche Presides over the Sixth Arya Kshema Opening Ceremony

H.E. Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche Presides over the Sixth Arya Kshema Opening Ceremony

Tergar Shrine Room,
February 13, 2020

The opening ceremony began at 8.00am when a portrait of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa was brought in procession into the shrine room and placed on the high throne. H.E. Gyaltsab Rinpoche followed the portrait onto the stage, and then took his seat in the main auditorium below.

Flawlessly, the umdzes from Tilokpur Nunnery began reciting prayers, including the Four Mothers, Refuge and Bodhichitta, the Four Immeasurables, and the Praise of Sri Samantabhadra with Aspirations. The morning continued with a combined mandala offering to His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa and to H.E. Gyaltsab Rinpoche. Then everyone enjoyed sweet butter rice and Tibetan tea in celebration.

During a short speech, Gyaltsab Rinpoche explained that he was attending the opening ceremony to say a few words at the request of His Holiness, and then gave the historical background to the Kagyu tradition of study, emphasised its importance and explained its place on the path to liberation.

He emphasised how within the Karma Kagyu lineage, the Karmapas viewed study of the dharma as very important and instituted shedras in Tibet. Within these shedras students engaged in listening, explanation and debate. Although the teachings declined in central Tibet, they continued to spread in Kham.  In particular, during the time of the 16th Karmapa, both at the old Rumtek Monastery and at the new Rumtek Monastery, the tradition of studying in depth continued. Also, during his time, many retreat centres and so forth were established, so the teachings spread and flourished greatly. Now, because of the facilities that the Gyalwang Karmapa has provided, the teachings have also expanded greatly, many people are studying, learning the texts, and learning Buddhist philosophy.

Having given a general introduction, Rinpoche now addressed the shedra nuns directly.

So in general the Khenpos have been teaching you in the shedras and so forth so you have been receiving the teachings but there is still a good reason to hold this winter dharma gathering. When we study the Dharma we need the three types of prajna: the prajna born of listening; the prajna born of contemplation; and the prajna born of meditation.

So, first we receive teachings. We go to classes and receive teachings every day and we develop the prajna of listening. Then, as we listen, we develop an understanding and this becomes our prajna of contemplation. We contemplate the teachings and this becomes the prajna of contemplation. First we need the prajna of listening and, as that it increases it becomes the support or basis, and as that increases it becomes the prajna of contemplation.

As the Bhagawan Buddha himself taught, Rinpoche continued, we need to investigate and examine the teachings for ourselves. The Buddha taught that first of all we must use logic to examine the teachings because if we accept them on the basis of faith, only because the Bhagawan Buddha taught them, we will not realise their meaning and develop true certainty. The analogy used is testing the teachings in the same rigorous way we would test for gold.

The role of debate is integral to the process:

When we engage in debate, what we primarily do is increase our prajna of contemplation. We take positions and we hold positions, and instead of relying primarily on words, we rely on the meaning. That increases our prajna of contemplation. In this way when we receive teachings from our khenpos, we are developing primarily the prajna born of listening and then, as we engage in debate, we are primarily emphasising the prajna born of contemplation. As we investigate and analyse the teachings, we are developing the prajna born of contemplation.

When we have these two types of prajna—the prajnas born of listening and of contemplation— we can rest in the nature of that meaning one-pointedly and that brings the prajna born of meditation. This is increased by our activity in the prajnas of listening and contemplation….

If we increase our prajna of listening and increase our prajna of contemplation, and then practise meditation, we will reach the paths of seeing and meditation. As we increase our prajnas of listening and contemplation, we reach the path where we develop the prajna of meditation and that is the path of seeing; we are seeing with our perception, so at that point we no longer need to engage in analysis.

Rinpoche asserted that developing the prajnas of listening and contemplation form a basis which can last for generations. It can increase the teachings and preserve them, which is one of the reasons for holding the Arya Kshema. Although the Gyalwang Karmapa is abroad, he is watching and will see the debates, so Rinpoche asked the nuns to debate well in order to please The Karmapa.

Finally, Rinpoche asked the nuns to take good care of their physical well-being, because in order to work on listening and contemplation they needed to be in good health, and wished them well for the Gunchö.

The ceremony concluded with long-life prayers for His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the 17th Karmapa, the Long Praises to the Kagyu Forefathers, Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa, written by the Eighth Gyalwang Karmapa, Verses in Praise of the Incarnations of the Karmapa, and finally Praises of the Buddha from the Kangyur.

After a short tea-break, the nuns continued their prayers until lunchtime, reciting the Twenty-One Praises of Tara and Prostrations and Offerings to the Sixteen Arhats to create auspiciousness for the upcoming teachings, study and debates of the winter gathering.


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2020.02.13 H.E. Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche Presides over the Sixth Arya Kshema Opening Ceremony

An Auspicious Beginning to the Sixth Arya Kshema

An Auspicious Beginning to the Sixth Arya Kshema

Tergar Shrine Room,
February 12, 2020

The Sixth Arya Kshema began with a day-long session of prayers to remove all obstacles.

Assembled in Tergar Monastery shrine room for the first time, 400 nuns from seven nunneries in India, Bhutan and Nepal, chanted together. The nunneries in attendance this year are Karma Drubdey Palmo Choskyi Dingkhang, Karma Lekshey Ling,  Khegyu Dhagma, Samten Ling, Thekchen Lekshey Ling, Thrangu Tara Abbey, and Tilokpur.  In addition to the nuns, there are two Dorje Lopons, three Geshes, six Khenpos, and nine teachers.

Those nuns who were at the Kagyu Monlam have been staying in tents in the nuns’ section of the Garchen behind the Monlam Pavillion but will move to dormitory accommodation on the top floor of the Kitchen and Dining Halls building. It’s a better environment, especially as the weather here in Bodhgaya begins to warm up very quickly at this time of year and the tents become uncomfortably hot.

Drupon Dechen Rinpoche is in charge of the Sixth Arya Kshema, with direct guidance from His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, and Tsurphu Labrang are the main sponsors. The day-to-day running of the event is in the hands of the nuns of Karma Drubdey Palmo Choskyi  Dingkhang Nunnery from Bhutan, and this year’s umdzes come from Tilokpur Nunnery in India.

On the first morning, the nuns offered the Green Tara Sabtik. In the afternoon, they recited the Heart Sutra and performed the Senge Dongma ritual. Senge Dongma, known in Sanskrit as Simamukha, is the lion-faced dakini protector, a wrathful manifestation of Padmasambhava, who eliminates obstacles.


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2020.02.12 An Auspicious Beginning to the Sixth Arya Kshema

Nuns Complete Umdze Training

Nuns Complete Umdze Training

Monlam Pavillion Library
January 15 – 27, 2020

Under the guidance of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, nun umdzes have gradually assumed a greater role at the Kagyu Monlam in Bodhgaya.

To begin with, the Karmapa encouraged the nuns to provide their own umdzes to lead the prayers during the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering. Assisted by Khenpo David Karma Choephel, His Holiness personally coached them in the melodies for the rituals which he incorporated into this annual assembly of Kagyu nuns in Bodhgaya. As they gained in confidence, following further instructions from His Holiness, the nuns joined the team of umdzes during the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo itself, and nowadays the team of eight umdzes comprises four nuns and four monks.

Prior to the 37th Kagyu Monlam, Kagyupa International  Monlam Trust organised an Umdze Training Course for monks and nuns.  The course ran from January  15 - 27, 2020 and was based in the Monlam Pavillion library. Of the 56 participants, 16 were nuns, drawn from Thrangu Tara Abbey, Karma Drubdey Dargyeling,  Karma Thekchen Leksheling and Palpung Yeshe Rabgyeling nunneries. Not all were inexperienced umdzes; for some it was more of a refresher course; they had already been invited by the Gyalwang Karmapa to act as umdzes at the North American Kagyu Monlam in 2018 and had also been part of the umdze team at the Kagyu Monlam previously.

The training was led by Rumtek Umdze Öser, assisted by four senior umdzes from Benchen, Leksheyling, Ralang and Dilyak monasteries. The trainees studied and rehearsed the most important prayers used during the Kagyu Monlam, with particular emphasis on precise timing,  correct pronunciation and  the exact melody.

On January 28th, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche began his teachings on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, and four of the nuns joined the four monks who led the preliminary and closing prayers.

The Incense-Making Project for Nuns Resumes for a Third Year

The Incense-Making Project for Nuns Resumes for a Third Year

Monlam Pavillion 
January 4 – 26, 2020

17 nuns from different Kagyu nunneries attended this third training course in Tibetan incense making, organised and sponsored by Tsurphu Labrang, the office of administration of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, and the Kagyupa International Monlam Trust. The project was initiated by His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa and is now under the direction of Drupon Dechen Rinpoche. The course was run by Dr Dawa, assisted by Chiu Ju Yueh, a professional Chinese incense maker from Taiwan, and Chomo Jangchub Drolma, who acted as translator, as well as lead incense-maker. It covered all aspects of incense making and mainly focused on using traditional methods when possible.

This year, as previously, two qualities of incense were produced, based on ancient formulas provided by His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa. The less expensive one was made from just two ingredients: cedar and white Himalayan rhododendron. The more expensive one— from a recipe recorded in the Sorig Patra by Deumar Geshe Tenzin Phuntsok, a highly-respected physician in 18th century Tibet —contains thirteen medicinal herbs and substances including nagi, cloves, cardamom, Kashmiri saffron, white sala and bdellium. Both incenses were made using the highest quality, pure ingredients gathered from the Himalayan regions of India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. The nuns also produced a high-quality chilli powder made from Manang chillies.

Wearing overalls, facemasks and gloves, the nuns’ first task was to grind all the ingredients. Three methods were used depending on the nature of the substance. Minerals and hard substances were ground using a round stone rolled on a stone block, herbs, leaves, spices, and chillies were ground in an electric grinder, and the ground chillies were pounded into a fine powder using a pestle and mortar. Once the different ingredients had been sifted, they were combined proportionately, according to the formulas, and liquid was added to make a mixture which could be piped through a machine to form long strings of incense. These were cut to size and layered in wooden boxes to be placed to dry on the roof of the Monlam Pavillion. 

On January 8th, the Ven. Khenchen Lodoe Donyo Rinpoche, who had been presiding over the 22nd Kagyu Gunchoe, visited the project and enthusiastically joined in, using the stone base and round stone to grind the minerals.

Once dried, the incense will be repacked into presentation boxes to be sold during the 37th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo, and all proceeds from the sale will go towards education for the Karma Kagyu nuns, and especially for supporting the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering.

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