HH the 17th Karmapa at the Women's Monastery in Tilokpur
from notes made during the visit beginning Feb. 20,
That afternoon, the Sacred Lama Dance was performed by the Tilokpur nuns, and
many other cultural performances were offered by various Tibetans, Indians, and
foreigners. It was moving and inspiring to watch people pour their hearts into
their particular art, out of their love and devotion for the Karmapa.
On the morning of the 21st, His Holiness began the week's teachings by
speaking a bit about the life of Tilopa. I will quote him
(his translator) here.
"Many of us try to get a purpose or a meaning for our life in this world.
The time that we have on this earth is quite short and our life is
impermanent, very easily destroyed. Because our time in this life is very
short, and so uncertain and easy to lose, taking this into account ... whether
we are able to get the essence of, or the essential purpose of this life, it
does not depend on whether we can do lots of things. Whether we get that
essence or not depends on whether we can get something that is really the
essential importance of this life.
So what is the essential purpose of our life?
I think if we can give everything that we have for the society, everything
we have for the purpose of bringing benefit to others, I think that is the
purpose of our life. So when I say 'whatever' we have, I mean our life, our
intelligence, our talents, and whatever. When I say 'etc.', it means whatever
capacities or things that we have that we can use. When we say to give our
life, of course our life is very valuable, it's very important, but it does
not mean that if we give our life, that's the most beneficial thing. I have
seen and many of you have seen, for instance, in Tibet the cattle, yaks, and
deer give their lives for human beings, and of course their lives are very
important, very valuable, but
even then, if they give their lives for us, then the purpose of that becomes
only to feed us, to make us not get hungry for a while, or to give us some
strength in our body. It kind of remains limited to that. Other than
that, that does not help to bring us from unhappiness to happiness and things
like that, which brings a great benefit to other beings. It's very difficult
to have this kind of a thing, even by giving their lives.
Instead, if we can offer or give all our intelligence and our talents and
through that dispel the difficulties of this world and make that as an
offering I think it becomes much more beneficial, much more limitless in its
benefits, and much less negativity.
In this world there have been many beings, chiefly the human beings but
other beings also who have done great benefit by offering their intelligence,
mind, their talents, and the same like the subject today, Tilopa, was like
that through his realization, through his understanding, his greatness, he's
been able to do lots of benefit for a great number of beings.
If somebody found a medicine for a serious illness, but if this medicine
was not given to anybody else, and was kept as a secret, then it would not
benefit any beings, but if instead that medicine was spread throughout the
world and everybody where made to know about this, then that medicine would be
of great benefit, it would save lots of lives, and it would be of great
benefit. So therefore to understand Tilopa's contribution, it is very
important to understand the realizations, the wisdom that Tilopa represents.
To understand that, we have to look into the story of Tilopa, how he went
through difficulties, how much effort he made, how he attained those
understandings, wisdoms, and qualities that were his loving-kindness and
compassion. And all those things we understand from the living stories, his
He then went on to give a brief history of Tilopa's birth and childhood,
including his education and journey to the land of Uddiyana, where he received
Vajrayogini. He said that it doesn't matter whether
or not Tilopa had actually been to the cave we visited or even the area of the
monastery. He said what makes a place blessed, is our
"The most important thing is that we are establishing a place where we
would practice the teachings, the lineage which is coming from Tilopa, and if
practicing that, the teachings of Tilopa, and if we are holding that lineage
and establishing a place to do that, that is where Tilopa would really be. If
he hasn't been there before, he would come here now. So therefore it's not the
most important thing to find out whether Tilopa came here or not, rather it is
important to hold his lineage and to practice his teachings, then it is
possible that he would actually appear here as well."
He related the story of Tilopa giving his clothing to a beggar who was
riddled with lice, and in exchange taking the beggar's cape and wearing it so
that the lice would have his body to feed on and not die, and his students
beseeching him to get rid of the lice after he became weak and ill.
Tilopa said that he had wasted many lives and this "is the time that I'm
using this body, this life in order to help others. So therefore, I see this
life as being really purposeful
and useful, so even if I die in this way, I will think that I have used this
life in a most useful, most purposeful way, so therefore, I'm not going to
change this, I'm not going to give this up."
That afternoon, [HH Karmapa] gave the Long Life Empowerment and also Refuge (in
English) and the Bodhisattva vows.
February 22nd-25th, His Holiness gave the teaching on the 37 Practices of a
Bodhisattva. It would take pages and pages for me to even attempt to convey his
instructions, but I will just say that while teaching on each stanza of the
text, he emphasized the development of and practice of bodhichitta in our daily
lives. His Holiness composed a tune for the
stanzas of The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva, which we sang together in Tibetan
at one point.
I should mention that His Holiness also offered the reading transmission for the
Ngondro practice, which was specially composed for non-Tibetans.
During these teachings, we celebrated His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche's birthday.
Birthday cake as well as other sweets were given out to all attendees, and we
were able to offer katas in honor of His Eminence at an altar that had been
prepared with his photograph. His Holiness spoke about Tai Situ Rinpoche with
deep respect and devotion, referring to him
as his lama who seems "all-knowing."
I will simply quote His Holiness' closing statements, as there is nothing
else that I could write that would be worthy. I will say that many people that
afternoon wept openly.
"My body is male, but my mind has lots of feminine qualities, so I find
myself a little bit both like male and female, and so therefore of course I
have great aspirations to be of benefit for all sentient beings, but
especially I have a commitment to work for the welfare of the woman and
especially the nuns, and as long as I live, as long as I have this life, I
would like to work one-pointedly and diligently for their cause. I have this
responsibility for being the head of this school of Buddhism, and from that
point of view also, I promise that I will try to do my best, that the
community, the sangha of the nuns would progress and would have all the
necessary practices, all the necessary elements that is necessary to progress,
to have the right kind of advancement in their field -- I will do my very
best. I don't know how much help I have been to you, but I feel that you have
been a great help to me. I feel extremely grateful to you all, for all of you.
Sometimes I feel that my life is useless because I feel that what I do does
not really help anybody or anything, and by being here, because of all of you,
I feel that I've been some help, I've been some use and that gives me great
satisfaction, gives me great sense of purpose and sense of satisfaction in
myself, and for that I would like to thank all of you from the bottom of my
heart. All of you, although from tomorrow we go to different places, I always
keep you all in my prayers. All my good wishes and best wishes [are] always
there and if there is anything, whenever there is anything that I can do to
help any of you, I will be there waiting for you."
There is so much more that could be written, but I would never
know when to stop, so I simply chose a closing point. It was an incredible
experience, and the people who are still in this area of India are still
speaking about it with awe. Paul said something to the effect that His
Holiness seemed to wrap the entire area in a warm, loving, comforting blanket.
It did indeed feel like I imagine a loving mother's womb to be.
Please forgive any discrepancies and know that they come from my ignorance,
and anything that is correct comes through the blessing of His Holiness