And Now, Live from Gyuto, . . .
A television doesn't look out of place in one's living room, but when it's in the front of a Buddhist shrine room, it certainly gets one's attention.
This morning's Monlam session began with the usual Sojong Vows and Sanskrit prayers, but when 9 a.m. came around, the television in the front of the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra shrine room came to life, it brought us a pleasant surprise: His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa.
Although the setting was the same as His Holiness' recorded message played earlier this week - his library at Gyuto Monastery - there was a major difference: the speech was being given live, via webstream.
After greeting the participants (and particularly his own teacher, the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche), Karmapa apologized for not coming to the Monlam (he was unable to obtain a visa to travel to the United States), but said he was happy that his sister, Jestunma Ngodup Palzom, was able to attend. "I hope that through her presence, you will feel my affection for you," he said. "I'm also seeing you on the Internet [via webstreaming] and I see your faith and devotion. I'm praying along with you."
The speech was received warmly by participants, some of whom sat with hands folded in devotion as His Holiness spoke.
Lives of the Karmapas
Thrangu Rinpoche's talk today covered the activities of the 16th and 17th Karmapas.
"The 16th Karmapa's deeds were inconceivable," said Thrangu Rinpoche, speaking admiringly of his root guru. "All the Karmapas have great activity, but his was even more so."
Although Tibet has produced many great teachers, few were able to leave the "pure realm surrounded by snow mountains," as Tibet is called in aspiration prayers.
But because of circumstances, His Holiness was forced to leave Tibet, and while this might be seen by some as an unfortunate circumstance, Rinpoche said, it actually enabled him to spread the dharma throughout the entire world.
Great kings of the past in India and China spread the dharma in their regions, Rinpoche said, but His Holiness the 16th Karmapa spread the dharma "from Alaska to Chile, and from Norway to New Zealand."
The 16th Karmapa expanded his seat in Sikkim and created seats around the world, including Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in the United States.
In considering monasteries such as KTD, Rinpoche said that some people think buildings are not important to the dharma and that practice and study are more important than creating structures. However, this view is not correct. While beings are transient in this world, changing over every generation, the buildings that house the dharma teachings will remain and help generation after generation, he said.
Speaking about the 17th Karmapa, Rinpoche said His Holiness' activity is still unfolding. His being born in Tibet was important, as was his leaving for India, Rinpoche. His birth in Tibet helped revive dharma in that land, and his leaving for India will help him spread the dharma throughout the world.
His other contribution has been the reviving and reforming the Kagyu Monlam. "He has turned it into a beautiful event that inspires people … it's a beautiful ornament that decorates the teachings of the Buddha. It transforms the minds of the sangha members who come to it … it's an incredible and wonderful dharma activity."