The Debates Conclude with the All-Night Grand Debate

The Debates Conclude with the All-Night Grand Debate

Tergar Shrine Hall,
29 February 2024

༄༅། །བོད་རབ་རྒྱན་ཤིང་འབྲུག་ལོའི་བོད་ཟླ་ ༡ ཚེས་ ༢༠ དང་། སྤྱི་ལོ་༢༠༢༤ཟླ་ ༢ ཚེས་ ༢༩ ཉིན། གནས་མཆོག་རྡོ་རྗེ་གདན། གཏེར་སྒར་རིག་འཛིན་མཁའ་སྤྱོད་དར་རྒྱས་གླིང་གཙུག་ལག་ཁང་དུ། འཕགས་མ་བདེ་བྱེད་མའི་དཔྱིད་ཆོས་ཐེངས་བརྒྱད་པའི་མཚན་ཕུད་དམ་བཅའ་ཆེན་མོའི་བརྙན་ཕྱོགས་བསྡུས་ཡིན།

After the Gyalwang Karmapa’s final teaching session, the nuns and their teachers gathered in Tergar Shrine Hall for the concluding session of the 8th Arya Kshema. This was in three parts. First came the so-called All-Night Grand Debate, second was the awards ceremony for the nuns, and finally thank-you certificates and gifts were presented to all those who had helped in the organisation of the gathering.

The All-Night Grand Debate is the traditional conclusion of annual monastic debate gatherings, a marathon session of the grand debate which lasts all night. Some Tibetan schools still keep this tradition, but within the Karma Kamtsang the debate ends before midnight.

The nuns, their teachers, the judges, staff from Tergar and Tsurphu Labrang, all gathered together in the shrine hall to witness the debates.

As this is a celebratory occasion, the nuns participating in the debates wore ceremonial dress, a beautiful brocade tönka (waistcoat). The three responders wore the tse sha, the pointed hat which is thought to derive from the hats which the pandits used to wear at Nalanda Monastery.

The audience listened intently as the group of nuns presenting the arguments displayed their skills, challenging the responders seated in front of the assembly, who countered them confidently, drawing on logic and Buddhist scriptures.

2024.02.29 The Debates Conclude with the All-Night Grand Debate
Debate Competition Awards Ceremony

Debate Competition Awards Ceremony

Tergar Shrine Hall

29 February 2024

༄༅། །བོད་རབ་རྒྱན་ཤིང་འབྲུག་ལོའི་བོད་ཟླ་ ༡ ཚེས་ ༢༠ དང་། སྤྱི་ལོ་༢༠༢༤ཟླ་ ༢ ཚེས་ ༢༩ ཉིན། གནས་མཆོག་རྡོ་རྗེ་གདན། གཏེར་སྒར་རིག་འཛིན་མཁའ་སྤྱོད་དར་རྒྱས་གླིང་གཙུག་ལག་ཁང་དུ། ད་ལན་རྒྱ་བལ་འབྲུག་གསུམ་གྱི་ཀཾ་ཚང་གི་བཙུན་མའི་བཤད་གྲྭ་ཁག་ལྷན་ཅིག་ཏུ་འདུས་ཏེ། འཕགས་མ་བདེ་བྱེད་མའི་དཔྱིད་ཆོས་ཐེངས་བརྒྱད་པ་དུས་ཡུན་ཟླ་བ་གཅིག་གི་རིང་ལ་བཙུན་མ་རྣམས་ནས་བསྡུས་རྟགས་བློ་གསུམ་ལ་ལུང་རིགས་བརྒལ་བརྟག་དང་། རྩོད་དཔང་མཁན་པོ་རྣམ་པས་ལེགས་པར་དཔྱད་དེ། རྟིང་འགྲན་བསྡུས་རྟགས་བློ་གསུམ་གྱི་རྟགས་གསལ་རྩེ་ཕུད་དང་དམ་བཅའ་རྩེ་ཕུད་དང་བརྩོན་འགྲུས་རྩེ་ཕུད་དང་གསུམ་་གྱི་བཙུན་མ་སོ་སོར་སྐྱབས་རྗེ་སྒྲུབ་དཔོན་བདེ་ཆེན་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་མཆོག་གི་ཕྱག་ནས་གཟེངས་བསྟོད་རྟགས་མ་དང་ལེགས་སྐྱེས་བསྟར། དེ་རྟིང་རྩོད་དཔང་མཁན་པོ་སོ་སོར་ཐུགས་རྗེ་ལེགས་འབུལ་གྱི་གསོལ་རས་སྩལ། 
དེ་རྗེས་དཔྱིད་ཆོས་དང་འབྲེལ་བའི་བཀའ་བརྒྱུད་སྨོན་ལམ་གྱི་སྤྱི་ཁྱབ་འགན་འཛིན་བླ་ཀརྨ་ཆོས་གྲགས་མཆོག་དང་གཏེར་སྒར་དགོན་པའི་དངུལ་གཉེར་བླ་མ་ཚེ་རིང་མཆོག་དང་། དཔྱིད་ཆོས་གོ་སྒྲིག་པ་སྐྱེ་རྒུའི་བདག་མོ་ཆོས་གླིང་གི་མཁན་པོ་དང་བཙུན་མ་རྣམ་པ་དང་གཉེར་པ་དང་། མཆོད་བཞེངས་པ་དང་། སྒྲ་སྐྱེལ་ཚན་པ་སོ་སོར་མཚུར་ཕུ་བླ་བྲང་གི་ནང་དོན་འགན་འཛིན་རྒྱལ་མཚན་བསོད་ནམས་མཆོག་གི་ཕྱག་ནས་ཐུགས་རྗེ་ཆེ་ཞུའི་གསོལ་རས་བསྟར་འབུལ་དང་། མཇུག་ཏུ་སྐྱེ་རྒུའི་བདག་མོ་ཆོས་གླིང་གི་བཙུན་མ་རྒན་ཀརྨ་ལགས་ནས་འཕགས་མ་བདེ་བྱེད་མའི་བཙུན་མའི་དཔྱིད་ཆོས་ཐེངས་བརྒྱད་པའི་མཇུག་བསྡུའི་ཐུགས་རྗེ་ཆེ་ཞུའི་གསུང་བཤད་སྒྲོགས་སྦྱང་དང་བཅས་དཔྱིད་ཆོས་ཐེངས་བརྒྱད་པ་རྡོར་གདན་དུ་ལེགས་པར་གྲུབ་བོ། །

Following on from the ‘All-Night Debate’, Drupon Dechen Rinpoche presented certificates and medals to the winners from the debate competition. All the nuns who participated in the competition received a certificate, signed by the Gyalwang Karmapa.
Drupon Dechen Rinpoche also presented signed certificates of thanks to all those who had helped in the organisation of the Arya Kshema programme—the adjudicators, khenpos and teachers, the monk in charge of Tergar Shrine Hall, Kagyu Monlam CEO Lama Choedrak, the organisers from Khyegu Dagmo Choeling nunnery, the sound team, staff from Tsurphu Labrang, and so forth.

Thanks to everyone’s efforts, the 8th Arya Kshema had been a great success.

2024.02.29 Debate Competition Awards Ceremony
Gyalwang Karmapa’s Closing Remarks

Gyalwang Karmapa’s Closing Remarks

29 February 2024

At the conclusion of the sixth day’s teaching on the Fifty Verses, the Gyalwang Karmapa spoke to those attending the Arya Kshema. The following is a transcript edited slightly to improve readability.

The Arya Kshema Spring Dharma Gathering started after I arrived in India. [The Kagyu Gunchoe started before the Gyalwang Karmapa came to India in 2000.]

The reason for starting the Arya Kshema was that within our Kagyu tradition, just as the monks have the Kagyu Gunchoe, the nuns should have a similar format. Its main purpose is to increase the enthusiasm and courage of the nuns. The principal thing is for you nuns, from your own part, to become more courageous, to increase your enthusiasm and strength of mind. Actually, if you feel a little discouraged, no matter however much the people around you say, it won’t make much of a difference. So, the main thing is that you, from your own side, need to become more courageous, and I think this is a good opportunity for that. It’s a good stage for it. If you can use the powers of your body, speech and mind to spread the teachings of the Buddha in general, and, in particular, so that the nuns’ community may flourish, so that within the nuns’ community, listening, conduct, contemplation, meditation and practice may all improve. It is important for all of you to rouse your enthusiasm for working at this.

In any case, for the future, these days the nuns’ community is becoming more and more important. For example, both inside and outside Tibet, there are places where previously there were no nunneries, where new nunneries have been founded. There are more and more nunneries. Likewise, in the past most of the nunneries had no opportunities for engaging in study, whereas nowadays most nunneries have a shedra, so the nuns can engage in listening and contemplating the great philosophical texts. They now have the facilities for this and these facilities are becoming better and better. So, in the future, the nuns’ communities have an opportunity and also a responsibility for improving facilities for the nuns. This is why it’s important for you to increase your enthusiasm and your courage.

In the past, I have spoken about establishing a central shedra for the nuns and I hope we can get this project going soon. Perhaps it would be best to found this shedra somewhere in Nepal. 

Also, in Bhutan we have Karma Drubdey Palmo Choskyi Dingkhang. This is a very old nunnery now and because of the local geography there’s a danger of flooding and earthquake, so they have no choice but to move to a different site and build a new nunnery. Up until now, a fair number of people have helped with this project, and I should like to take this opportunity to thank them. If there are others who are able to continue this help, I’d like to request you to help as much as you can.

That’s basically it.

[At this point, there was a short mandala offering and concluding prayers for auspiciousness.]

So tonight, there's the all-night debate, but I'm not sure I can come to that. I think I've said everything I need to say and this evening the time doesn't work out.

In any case, now I would like to say thank you to all the nuns and nunneries that have come and participated in this Arya Kshema. I think it would be very good if even more of you could come next year. The Arya Kshema shouldn’t be like the ‘diamond’ in the Tibetan story of Nyichoe Sangpo, that melts away and just gets smaller and smaller. [ed. Nyichoe Sangpo is a Tibetan folklore hero similar to Aku Tonpa. He fooled a miserly chieftain with a ‘huge diamond’ which was, in fact, a block of ice. When it was put in the sun, it melted away!]

There are some nunneries who have had understandable reasons why they couldn't come this year. So next year, unless there is a significant issue preventing them from coming, I think it would be really good if everyone were to come, because this is something we're doing for the benefit of Buddhism in general. It's not just for the benefit of a particular nunnery or labrang. The Buddhist teachings in general need to flourish, and if that turns out well, all the nunneries and labrangs will naturally have more strength and power, and so forth. If only some nunneries are involved, from the outside it might appear to be going well, in the short term. But, it needs to go well for all the nunneries, otherwise, in the long term, it will decline. 

This is a really important point for everyone to understand.

This year it didn't work out, but after not too long, I really would like to come in person to the Arya Kshema Spring Dharma Teachings and participate in person, to serve in person. This is my strong hope.

In particular, I'd like to say thank you to Kyabje Drupon Rinpoche as well as all the khenpos and teachers from all the nunneries, and everyone who teaches and so forth. This year, especially, there have been many judges in the debate competition.
I'd like to say thank you to the debate judges. And so that is that.


Examining the Guru and the Student

Examining the Guru and the Student

Spring Teaching 2024 • Fifty Verses on the Guru • Day Six
29 February 2024

During the last day of teachings during the Spring Dharma gathering, His Holiness the Karmapa continued with the outline from Drogön Chöpak’s summary:

I. The introductory points connected to the composition.
II. The points regarding the text.
III. The concluding summary.

The middle has two subtopics:

A.    What should be done before taking a master
B.    What should be done after taking a master

Within this, the first one has three further subtopics:

1.     How to request someone to be a guru.
2.     In particular, how to request a householder or junior.
3.     Examining the connections to have confidence in each other.

Today’s teachings is on the third of these, which has two points:

a.     The reason to examine the connection.
b.     The qualifications.

The Reason to Examine the Connection
The first of these points, the reason to examine the connection, is the beginning of today’s teaching. According to Je Tsongkhapa’s commentary, there is the brief and general explanation of how to follow the guru. The text explains the main reason why the guru and student should examine each other.

The wise first examine the connection

Between the master and disciple,

Since guru and student would have the offense

Of straying from the same samaya. (v. 6)

“This teaches the reason why they should examine each other,” pointed out Karmapa. "The other day I read a quotation from the Kalachakra commentary The Stainless Light.” It reads that some people say that when practicing the Vajrayana, the way you should follow a guru or a master from whom you receive the empowerment, dharma, and the instructions, is that:

The master's qualities should be taken,

Their faults should never be taken.


Prostrate to vajra masters who have

Received the supreme empowerment.

According to this idea, whether the guru has faults, or is qualified or not, is not something we need to examine. We should assume that they have only qualities and follow them as they are.  By following them in this manner and doing whatever they say, it will work out.

Karmapa clarified, “The people who say this are actually fools who do not really know how to practice the secret Vajrayana. This is a sign of them not knowing how to follow a Vajrayana guru.” The reason for this is that in the Vajrayana, the Buddha himself said that we need to examine the guru who gives us the empowerment, the transmissions, and the instructions. This is also said here in The Fifty Verses that we should not take someone who is uncompassionate, angry, cruel, arrogant, unrestrained, and so forth. These texts emphasize that it is very important for us to examine the guru before we take them as our guru.

“Not only that,” His Holiness elaborated, “if after we have started to follow them, we realize that the guru doesn't have the qualifications, then we should speak nicely to them. You shouldn't immediately say something like, ‘You don't have the qualifications.’ You should make an offering of a little bit of money or something.” You should not continue to follow them. You can show the guru some respect and then skillfully remove and distance yourself from them, instead of continuing to follow them.

Thus, it is undeniable that you need to examine the guru before you follow them. If you didn't need to examine them, there would be no reason for the Buddha to say that.

We might have doubts when it comes to examining the guru. “If we must examine, how can we really know the qualities or faults in someone else's being? Is this something that we can actually know for ourselves?” asked Karmapa.

When we look at whether someone has faults or qualities, then we primarily look at their external expressions of body and speech. However, these aren’t actually inner mental qualities, so we cannot say that faults and qualities are merely external appearances. Even if a person has no faults on the outer level, they may still have faults on the inside.

Likewise, some people might seem like they have no qualities on the outside, but on the inside do in fact have qualities. So, it is important to not only consider the qualities that we can see from the person’s external actions of body and speech. We must examine the character and the nature of that person to see whether they truly have qualities or faults.

His Holiness noted, “If we try to examine someone else, are we actually able to figure it out? If we think about it, this is a really crucial point.” There are quotations where the Buddha says:

Bhikshus, moreover, individuals should not evaluate individuals. Bhikshus, if an individual evaluates an individual, they will be destroyed. Bhikshus, I or someone like me is able to evaluate an individual.

Thus, we are not able to really tell if another person has faults, or is a bad person, and so forth. We cannot rely on their external appearances alone or how they appear to us over a short period. There is no way we can immediately say whether they are a good person or a bad person. If we are a bit bold and say that we can do so, it could be quite risky.

As above, the Buddha said, “I or someone like me is able to evaluate an individual.” So, someone such as the Buddha is able to evaluate another being, but ordinary people are not able to truly evaluate other beings. To summarize, as the Buddha said, individuals should not evaluate individuals.

Four Things not to be Scorned.
Likewise, there is also Master Nagarjuna’s commentary on the Prajnaparamita in 100,000 Lines that is preserved in Chinese. This contains a quotation from the Four Agamas scriptures, in which the Buddha says to King Ajatashatru, “There are four things that you must not do.”

The first analogy he gives is that even a young prince will become a king. Even if they are still a little child, they have the hope of becoming king in the future. Because they will become a king, you should not scorn them.

“This is something that King Ajatashatru himself would understand because he was a king,” said Karmapa. Even a young prince should not be scorned, because it's possible that when they become a king in the future and they remember how you scorned them when they were young, they will treat you accordingly. For this reason, you cannot scorn even a young prince.

The second example is a venomous snake from India. Even though it may be a tiny snake, such as a krait, because its poison is potent enough to kill a person, you should not scorn or disregard it.

The third analogy is a little spark of fire, which could be the condition that cause an entire mountain burn. Even if there is only a tiny spark or flame, we should not disregard it, or scorn it, or ignore it, because even that tiny spark could immediately burn an entire mountain.

Likewise, if there is a young novice monk or nun, or as we say in the Lhasa language, “little monks”, even such a young novice should not be scorned. The reason is that in the future they may achieve the miraculous powers of a noble being. They may be able to gain powers of producing miracles, and so for that reason we should not scorn them, even if they are just a young novice monk.

“When we look at these words of the Buddha,” explained Karmapa, “the main topic that he's speaking about is that we shouldn't disregard or underestimate, or say this person is that.” We shouldn't judge other people and say this is a good person or this is a bad person. We shouldn't judge other people like this and decide what they are for ourselves. “What other people are thinking or what qualities they have, what sort of powers they have, or even whether they are an emanation of a buddha or a bodhisattva, we just can't know.”

His Holiness then illustrated this further by describing the type of person who, when we look at them, appears to be poor with nothing to eat and no clothes to wear. But in the future, that person’s situation might change, and they could become a very rich person or even become the leader of a country. So, for this reason, we should not ignore them.

“These days,” he added, “no matter who comes into shops and stores, we should treat them all properly.” Whether they are wearing good clothes and have a nice complexion, or they are wearing bad clothes and don't look so good, we shouldn't disregard them or look down on them because even rich people will sometimes wear bad clothes. You might look at them and never think that person would be so rich, but in the very end when they buy something, then you know that person has a lot of money and that they are quite rich. “Before they buy anything, you have no way of telling,” Karmapa reminded us. “You might think they're just a common, poor person. So even those working in a shop, or in big stores, need to view all people the same way because it is impossible to know who is rich and who is not.”

Ascertaining Faults and Qualities
Likewise, The Ascertainment of Validity says, “There is no evidence that ascertains another’s faults or qualities.” The intent of this is that there is no inference based on facts that can tell you with absolute certainty whether someone else has qualities or faults. We may think that although we cannot actually see the qualities in their mind, we can more or less tell whether someone has qualities based on their behavior of body and speech. “We can figure that out, right? But that's not certain,” cautioned His Holiness. The reason for that is that it can be difficult for us to tell from most expressions of body and speech whether a person has faults or qualities. This is because most of our actions are made up by the mind.

Karmapa explained that we use the mind to plan to do something, such as choosing to present oneself in a certain way. Because the action is preceded by this fabrication of the mind, even if someone has greed or hatred, they might act as if they don't. Conversely, even if they are free of greed and attachment, it may seem as if they have these faults.

Because of this, it is difficult to tell solely from a person’s expressions of body and speech how they are. You cannot really say with certainty that because someone’s behavior is really bad, they must be a horrible person.

You might think that someone is a really great, fine, upstanding person and they are bound to have qualities, but in fact they have a really dark heart. You cannot just hold the expressions of a person’s body and speech as being authoritative ways to tell what kind of person they are.

Instead, it's the opposite: we should not merely cling to the short-term external expressions of body and speech, but rather, we should get to know a person and examine their behavior. His Holiness expanded on this, saying, “Once you get to know them and become familiar with them and you examine them over and over again, if you do this for a long time, then at some point, only then can you begin to get an idea of what they're like.” Unfortunately, most of us look at people’s behavior or their expressions and regard our immediate reactions as the most important factor. Really getting to know people and familiarizing ourselves with them can be difficult for us.

Evaluating Others through the Eight Causes
Karmapa continued, “So what it says in the sutras is that you shouldn't judge others.” This means that we should not be audacious and judge people, saying they are a certain way. However, if it is necessary for us to evaluate another person, then we must do so through the eight causes as taught in The Hundred Actions:

Bhikshus, therefore, if an individual must evaluate another, that individual must examine that person according to eight causes: their behavior, sphere, friends, companies, lifestyle, learning, physical actions, and verbal actions.

It is said in the sutra that you have to examine people’s basic, normal behavior through the eight causes. “What's their regular behavior like? Do they practice misdeeds and so forth? Where do they go? What are their hangouts?”

His Holiness mentioned that some people like to go to restaurants, some people like to go to bars, and some people like to go gambling and so forth. “So, you need to go and see their sphere, or the places where they ordinarily go,” he advised. We should then also observe their friends and relatives: are they wicked people or not, are they negative friends? Are their acts of body and speech misdeeds or not? Furthermore, what is the way they earn their livelihood? “How do they earn their living to support themselves? Is it a wrong livelihood, or is it a good livelihood? You need to examine that as well,” Karmapa cautioned.

The Hundred Actions also says to examine their learning. His Holiness posited, “Perhaps this means, what do they usually listen to? Do they usually listen to Dharma and so forth?” To summarize, it is through these eight different ways of looking at a person that we need to examine them. Only then can we really begin to get a good idea of what they are like and then begin to judge them.

In other words, if there is even a single fault in another person, we tend to look down on them, which is unreasonable because we all have many faults. Merely because someone has a few faults is not a clear indicator of what kind of a person they are.

In this way, you might say that there is no way to measure another person, since you are not able to really judge them clearly. On the other hand, it may sometimes be necessary to evaluate them. In that case, you have to be careful and you need to use the eight different ways of examining them, and think about them from many different perspectives.

“Primarily,” Karmapa reviewed, “we need to become well-acquainted with a person and get to know them and then think about them. We can't just immediately know whether someone has only a few faults, or just look at a few of their actions and say with certainty what sort of a person they are.”

Examining the Connection
In terms of how this is taught in the Textual Explanation of Following the Guru, the Sanskrit commentary says we must examine both the gurus and the disciples, as well as the connection between them. If the student wants to follow the guru and be with them, they need to examine the guru first as they cannot make a good connection with someone otherwise. “And so who is going to do this?” asked Karmapa. “It says, the wise. This essentially means, people who have some courage and intelligence should do the examination.”

It means that the examiner should not be someone who follows in ignorance or with blind faith. This must be an individual who knows what is good and is able to distinguish what is an ethical choice. They must be a wise person who is intelligent and learned. What they need to examine is whether that guru or student's clothing, speech, and behavior are pure or not.

A. Guru Examining the Disciple
When the person comes to the guru to make them their guru, then the guru must check. The main thing is that a student’s intentions must be good; their motivations must be pure. Likewise, the guru should also ask the people who are connected to that student, what they are like. After the guru has examined them in this way, they can get an idea of what that person’s history and motivation is. If you need to care for students, then the main thing is that the student begins to follow the guru and wants Dharma teachings. The most important point is to find out their initial motivation and primary aim.

“Why is it necessary to examine this?” asked Karmapa. “The reason is most people will have impure intentions.” For example, some people may not want to serve the guru at all, and feel they should not have to attend to or serve the guru in any way. Or they may think they will immediately achieve a result without the necessity to practice. They may want to be like a king, someone who has a lot of power and money, who doesn't have to do anything because they can get whatever they want.

To reiterate, most worldly people have impure intentions and motivation. They want to not have to work too hard and yet immediately gain the result. They think, “The secret mantra is so incredible and if I practice it, I'm immediately going to get some important result and gain some sort of power.” If that is their wish, they have come requesting the dharma with an impure motivation. For that reason, we need to examine them and check whether their motivation is pure or not. If we know that their motivation is pure, then the guru can make the connection. If their motivation is impure, then do not make the connection. This is how the guru should examine the disciple.

B. Student Examining the Guru
It’s also the case that the student should examine the guru, which must be done before following the guru. When we wish to make a connection with a particular guru, we must check: is it appropriate to make a connection with this type of guru? If you make a connection with this guru, will it bring you benefit? The reason why we have to examine it is because most worldly people, again, do not have good motivations. Some people may not be qualified masters, but they pretend to be. They may speak nicely or say  things that sound good, yet they may act contrary to the dharma or like charlatans and do all sorts of negative things.

The student needs to observe whether the guru has a pure intention or not. Do they really think about others with love and compassion? If the student sees that the guru they want to follow does not have pure intentions, then they should not make any connection with them.

Furthermore, if a student who has impure intentions makes a connection with a guru who has impure intentions, what will happen? Or, if either one of the guru or the student has impure intentions,  what will happen? They will both violate samaya. They will have the same violation, meaning that both the guru and student have strayed from and violated the same samaya. Because of this, both will incur bad results in the future, which can become a cause for falling into the lower realms.

For this reason, if a student’s intentions are impure, the guru should not make a connection with them. Likewise, if the guru has an impure intention, the student should not make a connection with them. “If you make a connection with someone with impure intentions,” His Holiness emphasized, “it creates difficulties for the student as well as the master. This question is really important whether the intentions and motivation are pure or not.”

Another point is that when looking for a guru, each person has a different idea about the sort of guru they want. Some people think that the guru should be someone who is a little bit strict when you are doing practice, while others think that they need a guru who is really compassionate, who is not too strict, and who is spacious.

Using a worldly example, when looking for a partner, everyone has different ideas about what sort of partner they should have. They might think, “I need someone who looks really good,” or, “I need someone who is tall,” or, “I want a partner who is really stable.” People might have many other different hopes in a partner, but no matter what sort of a hope they have, they will go looking for a person using that hope as their basis.

In the same way, your motivation when seeking a guru is what is important. If you understand your motivation, then naturally you can see whether you are going to meet someone who matches your initial motivation, or at least you will get closer to meeting that sort of person.

This is similar to Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen’s explanation in his Elucidation of the Fifty Verses. The text says that before you make a connection with a guru you must examine the connection. If you make the connection of master and disciple before examining each other, there is the danger of violating samaya. For that reason, you need to examine the connection first.

“If we also look at Je Tsongkhapa's commentary, it is basically the same,” His Holiness pointed out. The guru who is worthy of respect and the student who pays respect; before these two make a mutual connection of guru and disciple, should they examine each other first or should they make the connection right away? As we have seen, it is important that they first examine each other before making the connection of guru and disciple. The person who is giving the Vajrayana dharma should look at whether the recipient is going to be a receptive vessel or not, just as the receiver needs to look at whether the giver of the dharma is qualified or not.

If a connection is made with just anybody, there is the risk that the guru will give the dharma to people who are not appropriate vessels. As mentioned, if the guru does this, then not only will the guru violate samaya, but the student will violate samaya also. For this reason, these examinations are very crucial.

Selecting an Appropriate Vessel for the Dharma
As it says in the explanatory tantra The Vajra Mala,

Just as the milk of a lioness 
Should not be put in a clay bowl, 
Do not give those who are not vessels 
The tantras of the mahayoga.

The question here is whether the prospective student is an appropriate vessel or not, whether they are like a leaky or a poisoned vessel. If, for example, we are going to eat some really delicious food, we need to have a bowl to put it in. If the bowl itself is leaky, no matter how nice the food is, it is going to leak out, and it will all be wasted. Likewise, if a vessel contains poison, then, of course, even putting delicious food in it is extremely dangerous. Additionally, if the vessel is overturned then you cannot possibly put any food in it. So, whether the student is receptive or not is like a vessel that you're putting food in. If you are serving good food, you need to have a good vessel to put it in.

These days, people will go to a nice restaurant where the food is expected to be good. The portion may be tiny, such as in fancy restaurants where there is only a small portion of food in the middle of a huge plate. There may be a design, some sort of artificial decoration such as a huge plate with a few stones, on top of which they put a little bit of food. “So people don't know what they are supposed to eat. Are you supposed to eat one of the stones itself?” His Holiness said, “Sometimes you have the question: there are so many things here, what are you supposed to actually put in your mouth? It's like us village people, we don't know what’s going on!”

It is the same with the dharma; the form is really critical. No matter how great or important the dharma is, if the student is not an appropriate vessel, is it appropriate to give them the dharma? Is it something that is certain to benefit their being? This is something we need to examine.

It is not only that the dharma being sacred is what benefits us, despite its importance. Of course, the dharma of emptiness is really sacred and important. However, merely being profound and significant does not mean that you can teach just anyone at all the dharma of emptiness, as it is not necessarily going to benefit people.

When we think about Buddhism in general, we must think about people's inclinations. Before getting to know someone's capacities and interests, we cannot know if the Buddhadharma is even going to help that person. Although as Buddhists we believe in the Buddhadharma, and we think it is important, it is difficult to say that it is appropriate for everyone.

Even among Buddhists, we cannot say that Mahayana dharma is appropriate for everyone. There are people for whom the Foundation vehicle dharma is more appropriate than the Mahayana dharma, and the same with the Vajrayana. 
“Now, the Vajrayana dharma is really important and significant,” His Holiness elucidated, “but you can't ignore whether a person is an appropriate vessel for that Vajrayana dharma or not.” So when we are teaching the Buddhadharma we need to think about this. Even if we were to say that people's capacities and inclinations are irrelevant, when it comes to the actual practice, it is not necessarily appropriate for everyone.

Examining the Qualifications
Following this in Drogön Chöpak’s summary, comes the section on examining the qualifications and the general characteristics to avoid and to be followed. According to Je Tsongkhapa's commentary, this includes examining the one to be respected and the one who respects them.

There are two points:
I. The reasons for examining each other.
II. Who to follow or avoid after examination.

This second point has two further parts:

A. The characteristics of those who should be avoided. 
B. The characteristics of those who should be followed.

First are the “characteristics of those who should be avoided”:

Wise students do not take as a guru
Someone who is uncompassionate,
Angry, cruel, arrogant, unrestrained, 
Greedy, or self-aggrandizing. (v. 7)

His Holiness noted that the Sanskrit manuscripts differ somewhat from the Tibetan, which says, “Wise students do not take as a guru”. In comparison, the Samudaya sutra says that those who are intelligent, upon seeing an individual who has these seven faults, should not follow them as a guru, nor should they accept them as a student. This is how it is understood.

The Seven Faults as Described in the Sanskrit Commentary
The Sanskrit commentary reads,

The wise do not take as guru or student
Someone who is uncompassionate,
Angry, cruel, arrogant, unrestrained,
Greedy or self-aggrandizing.

The Sanskrit commentary explains these seven faults, referring to who not to take as guru or as student. The wise means someone who has the flawless intelligence of a learned person. The wise do not take the people who have these seven faults: they should not be followed as a guru, nor should they be accepted as a student.

According to this, being compassionate means someone who has the wish to extract suffering and the cause of suffering. Anyone who is outside of that is uncompassionate, someone who does not have compassion at all.

Angry means someone who is really combative, always aggressive and negative. They are unable to practice any patience. If someone says a bad word to them or does something bad to them, they immediately try to harm that person. It means they are a really angry, short-tempered person.

Cruel means someone with a harsh mind, someone who is malicious and harbors evil intentions.

Arrogant means that someone is slightly full of oneself. If they have a few qualities, or if they are somewhat good-looking, or have a bit of money, they are prideful because of that.

Greedy here means wanting other people's belongings. When other people have things that they themselves don't have, they think, “Oh, if I could only get that for myself.” People with that sort of strong greed is what we mean by greedy.

Unrestrained means someone who acts carelessly, and who is not even-keeled. This is someone who usually does not have a lot of awareness of their behavior and they do whatever they want.

The last fault is self-aggrandizment. This means someone who in all respects praises themselves while criticizing everyone else. They praise themselves, saying, “I'm the best. I'm the greatest. I've got the best discipline, I'm a really great person.”

The Seven Faults as Described in The Intent of Padmavati
Karmapa then presented the faults as written in The Intent of Padmavati, which is a commentary on the Samvarodaya Tantra. This text lists the same seven faults: someone who is uncompassionate, angry, cruel, arrogant, unrestrained, greedy or self-aggrandizing. The explanation gives a quote from the tantra, saying in part,

The uncompassionate are like field workers. The angry: their minds are disturbed and because they are not patient, they speak harshly. The cruel have harsh and pitiless minds, and the arrogant are full of themselves. Greedy is wanting to consume things that you should not consume.

The text explains each of these words and gives a more detailed explanation of each of these words from the tantra. “I thought this was very nice,” remarked His Holiness, who then elucidated further.

In terms of The Intent of Padmavati commentary, uncompassionate means someone like field workers or farm workers. This is not saying that all farm workers are uncompassionate. What we mean by uncompassionate here is that, even in your own life, you may not consider the life of the tiniest insects at all and just squish them. If there is a mosquito around, you may think it is really annoying and going to bite you, so you immediately smack it and kill it. So, someone who gives no value to the life of even the tiniest insect, and who will just kill one at the slightest nuisance, is what is meant by “uncompassionate”. Among humans, although it is rarer to find people who kill other humans, there are a lot of people who kill insects. However, there are also people who really value the lives of the tiniest creatures and small insects. That sort of person is a compassionate one. The opposite is those people who do not value those small beings’ lives and who kill them, so that is what we should understand this to mean.

In this commentary, people with anger are those whose minds are disturbed and who are not patient. They cannot stand any trouble and because of that, they immediately say harsh things or insult people. Even if they do not fight with another person, they may speak meanly to them.

Cruel here means those who have harsh or malicious minds, who will intentionally do exactly that which is going to harm another person. They will do whatever they can to harm others. In particular, this refers to people who are cruel to bhikshus and other monastics and cannot even bear to look at them.

His Holiness continued, explaining that arrogant means someone who is full of themselves because of their own lesser qualities. Perhaps they were born in a good family and are arrogant about that, or maybe they are good-looking or have nice hair, and they think they are really great and special because of that.

Greedy is, as mentioned before, always wanting to consume things belonging to other people. There are other people's things that we shouldn't consume ourselves, but we think, “Oh, if I could only have that,” and we become really greedy for it.

Next, unrestrained means careless, like when someone is drunk. If they drink a lot of alcohol, then they are unable to control their behavior anymore. They become careless with and unable to control their body, speech, and mind.

Self-aggrandizment means criticizing the qualities of others and praising oneself.

The Seven Faults as Described by Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen
It is presented similarly in Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen’s Elucidation, but there, when talking about the qualifications, he describes two different types. The first stanza speaks about the qualities that are to be avoided, and the second about the qualities that should be taken.

Regarding the qualities of someone to avoid, this is saying that when students wish to take as a guru someone who is uncompassionate and so forth, the intelligent student should not take that person as a guru. This principle can be applied either way: the wise guru also should not take this person as a student. This is the same as described in Je Tsongkhapa’s commentary.

“In any case,” His Holiness continued, “when talking about being uncompassionate, what we should say is that if you do not have the compassion of wishing to free all sentient beings from their suffering, then you are not appropriate to be a vessel of the Mahayana dharma.” Because it is most important for the guru to have compassion, then that quality is listed first.

Next we have the angry, the cruel, and the arrogant – these are the people who are really full of their own qualities and are prideful. The greedy are those clinging to possessions tightly and having a strong craving or attachment. The unrestrained means those who are loose about engaging the bases of the precepts with their three gates. The self-aggrandizing boast about even their slightest qualities. These are not good qualities.

Why to Emphasize Qualities More than Faults
However, from another perspective, Karmapa advised that one thing we need to consider in this degenerate time is that it is difficult to find a vajra master who is entirely free of those faults and possesses all the qualities. In Approaching the Ultimate, Padma Karma wrote,

As it’s an age of strife, gurus have qualities and faults mixed. 
They aren't entirely free of misdeeds in all ways. 
Whoever has greater qualities and behaves well 
Is one whom disciples should follow.

So, His Holiness advised, if there is someone with both good qualities and faults, you can weigh the two. If there are faults, but these are outweighed by the qualities, then that is acceptable.

From The Tantra of Subahu's Questions:

Those who have all qualities 
Are extremely rare in times of strife.
Someone who has half, or a quarter, or an eighth of the qualities 
Should be followed as a friend of the mantra practitioner.

At the minimum, a potential guru or disciple should have an eighth of the qualities of the Buddha, the great masters of the past have explained.

“Moreover,” His Holiness continued, “many of the Kadampa masters have written in their various works that the minimum qualification for a guru is to consider the next life more important than this life. Between the world and dharma, they should consider dharma more important.” This should not be mere words, but it has to be someone who deeply, from their very heart, works diligently at practicing dharma for the sake of the next and future lives. It is similar in the context of this mantra.

Likewise, in Je Tsongkhapa's Great Stage of Mantra, the qualifications he lists as absolutely necessary for a guru are a summary of what many Tibetan masters have said. The indispensable qualifications of a guru are:

  1. Having received the complete empowerment and abiding in vows and samaya.
  2. From having seen the practices of the gurus in the lineage, knowing the ten suchnesses and being well-versed in the empowerment rituals.
  3. First doing the approach practice and being allowed or not forbidden by their deity.

According to this text, a guru absolutely must have these three qualities. Even if the master does not have all the qualities explained before, they should be free of the fault of completely ignoring them and must make efforts to perfect their qualities.

Looking at the Guru 
His Holiness moved on to his final topic of this year’s Spring teachings, reminding us that whether we are looking for a guru or a student, it is a person we are looking for, not a god. Sometimes when examining all the different qualifications, it is easy to believe that the person we are looking for is someone free of all faults and having all the qualities, like some sort of a god.

There are many authoritative gurus who have some of the seven faults listed earlier. Karmapa gave the example of Marpa, who was known for being short-tempered. When he was young, he drank and gambled, and really liked to fight. His father thought, “I have to send my child away to get some education to see if he can calm down a bit. Otherwise, there's a danger that he's going to kill someone, or someone else is going to kill him. He's not going to turn out well otherwise.” Since he was such a difficult person, he insisted on sending Marpa to Drokmi Lotsawa to study. Later, although Marpa himself became a great master and scholar, he never tamed his short temper. It was well known that when Milarepa followed him, he gave Milarepa a really difficult time.

“From one perspective,” His Holiness noted, “as I have said, whether a guru or a student, we're looking for a person, a human being. We're not looking for a god.” If you seek someone who has no faults and all the qualities, exactly as described in the texts, it will be very difficult to find one. Not only is it difficult, but from another perspective, maybe it's precisely because they have faults that they will be of greater benefit for us.

In several areas where they deeply revere the Karmapa as a great guru, people wonder whether the Karmapa is actually human or not. His Holiness shared that some people had even asked him, “Do you need to go to the bathroom? The Karmapa probably doesn’t have to, right?” Such people think the guru is like a god who doesn’t behave like an ordinary human being.

It is possible to be too extreme when looking for a guru. We may think that we are looking for a god-like person who has all the qualities and none of the faults. His Holiness demystified this, saying, “In brief, we are looking for a good friend.” Thinking in terms of a ‘spiritual friend’, what sort of friend do you want? “At the minimum, we are looking for a friend who is going to show us the path. We need to be quite earnest about this,” he urged, “because we can't make friends with everyone. The main point is that the more interest we take in it, the more value that we give to it,” he emphasized. It depends upon your motivation, be it the guru or the student. The guru needs to show the students the path for this and future lifetimes. When looking at the qualifications of the guru, we must remember they have to be someone whose teachings we can actually bring into our practice and that we can actually use in our human life – something that we can work with in this lifetime. Karmapa closed the Arya Kshema Spring teachings with the comment, “Otherwise, those teachings would be just dry words that are of no help to us, like a half-understanding of the Dharma. There would be no benefit to ourselves. I think that's important for us to understand.”

Commemorating the Anniversaries of Milarepa and Marpa on Chӧtrul Duchen

Commemorating the Anniversaries of Milarepa and Marpa on Chӧtrul Duchen

Tergar Monastery Shrine Hall Veranda,
24 February 2024

༄༅། ། བོད་རབ་རྒྱན་ཤིང་འབྲུག་བོད་ཟླ་ ༡ ཚེས་ ༡༤ཉིན། གངས་ཅན་གྲུབ་པའི་གཙུག་རྒྱན་རྣལ་འབྱོར་ཡོངས་ཀྱི་དབང་ཕྱུག་ཆེན་པོ་རྗེ་བཙུན་མི་ལ་རས་པ་མཆོག་ལོངས་སྤྱོད་རྫོགས་སྐུར་བཞེངས་པའི་ཉིན་མོ་དང་། ཚེས་ ༡༥ ཉིན་སྐྱེས་མཆོག་སྒྲ་བསྒྱུར་གྱི་རྒྱལ་པོ་མངའ་བདག་མར་པ་ལོ་ཙཱ་བ་ཆོས་ཀྱི་བློ་གྲོས་མཆོག་ལོངས་སྤྱོད་རྫོགས་སྐུར་བཞེངས་པའི་ཉིན་མོ་སྟེ། འཕགས་ཡུལ་གནས་མཆོག་རྡོ་རྗེ་གདན། གཏེར་སྒར་རིག་འཛིན་མཁའ་སྤྱོད་དར་རྒྱས་གླིང་གཙུག་ལག་ཁང་གི་མདུན་དུ། འཕགས་མ་བདེ་བྱེད་མའི་དཔྱིད་ཆོས་ཐེངས་བརྒྱད་པའི་འདུས་མང་ནས་མངའ་བདག་མར་པ་ལོ་ཙཱ་བ་དང་རྣལ་འབྱོར་གྱི་དབང་ཕྱུག་མི་ལ་རས་པའི་སྐུ་
བརྙན་དྲུང་དུ་མཆོད་པ་དང་མར་མེ་ཚར་དུ་དངར་བ་འབུལ་བཤམས་དང་འབྲེལ། ཕྱི་དྲོ་ཕྱག་ཚོད་བདུན་པའི་ཐོག་ཏུ།
དུས་གསུམ་རྒྱལ་ཀུན་ཕྲིན་ལས་ཀྱི་རང་གཟུགས། དཔལ་༧རྒྱལ་བའི་དབང་པོ་༧ཀརྨ་པ་སྐུ་ཕྲེང་བཅུ་བདུན་པ་ཆེན་པོ་མཆོག་གི་ཞལ་སྔ་ནས་ཀྱིས་དྲྭ་བརྙན་ཐད་གཏོང་དུ་དབུ་བཞུགས་མཛད་དེ། འཕགས་པ་བདེ་བྱེད་མའི་དཔྱིད་ཆོས་ཐེངས་བརྒྱད་པའི་འདུས་ཚོགས་ཀྱི་དབུ་བཞུགས་སྐྱབས་རྗེ་སྒྲུབ་དཔོན་བདེ་ཆེན་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་མཆོག་གཙོ་བོར་གྱུར་པའི་བཙུན་དགོན་བཤད་གྲྭ་ཁག་གི་མཁན་པོ་སློབ་དཔོན་རྣམ་པ་དང་བཙུན་མའི་འདུས་དམངས་དང་། གཉུག་མར་གནས་པའི་གཏེར་སྒར་འདུས་པ་དང་། བདེ་བྱེད་མའི་གོ་སྒྲིག་པ་མཚུར་ཕུ་བླ་བྲང་གི་ལས་སྣེ་རྣམ་པ་དང་། གཞན་ཡང་བཀའ་བརྒྱུད་སྨོན་ལམ་གྱི་ལས་སྣེ་དང་། གློ་བུར་ལྷགས་པའི་དད་འདུས་བརྒྱ་ཕྲག་དུ་མ་ནས་མི་ལའི་བླ་སྒྲུབ་ཀྱི་འདས་མཆོད་ཀྱི་ཚོགས་འཁོར་་གཟབ་རྒྱས་བསྐོར་ཏོ། །

23rd February 2024 was the anniversary of Jetsun Milarepa’s parinirvana and the following day –24th February–was the anniversary of Marpa his teacher’s parinirvana.

To commemorate these two occasions, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa composed two new praises, the first for Jetsun Milarepa which he released on 23rd February, and the second for Marpa Lotsawa, which was released on 24th February. Then, in the evening of  24th February, the nuns, their khenpos and teachers at the Arya Kshema Spring Gathering in Bodhgaya joined together  with  staff from Tsurphu Labrang, the sponsors of the Arya Kshema, staff from Kagyu Monlam, and monks from Tergar to offer the Milarepa Guru Yoga.  

The 24th of February was highly auspicious because it was Chӧtrul Duchen, the Festival of Miracles, which falls on the Full Moon day of the Month of Miracles, the first month in the Tibetan lunar calendar. Traditionally, the first fifteen days of the Tibetan year celebrate the fifteen days during which the Buddha displayed miracles for his disciples to increase their devotion, and this celebration culminates on the fifteenth day. It is one of the four great festivals of Tibetan Buddhism.

Although the ritual used was a Milarepa Guru Yoga, thangkas of both Marpa and Milarepa were displayed above the shrine in order to focus the commemoration on both. The ritual was held outside to capture the full beauty and magical atmosphere of the occasion. Myriad strings of lights hanging from the walls of the monastery alongside hundreds of butter lamps placed on the steps of the shrine hall lit up the night.

On site, Drupon Dechen Rinpoche led the ritual, but the Gyalwang Karmapa presided over the internet, and the event was webcast worldwide.

2024.02.24 Commemorating the Anniversaries of Milarepa and Marpa on Chӧtrul Duchen