28th Story Update —The 40th Anniversary of His Holiness Karmapa’s Parinirvana

On the 4oth anniversary of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje’s parinirvana, the Karmapa Center 16 held a five-day commemoration joined by Tibetan Buddhist masters with a special connection to His Holiness, such as His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche, His Eminence Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Khandro Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Ayang Rinpoche and Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche.

These special events included two days of prayers to Medicine Buddha and three days of practice on the Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje Guru Yoga. Tai Situ Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche each composed a Guru Yoga for Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. Both of these are practiced in alternation at the Karmapa Center 16, annually. This year’s 40th anniversary coincided with the turn of the Guru Yoga composed by Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche. The events were joined in person by 13 members of the sangha, several lay practitioners and many more followers over the internet.

Guru Yoga shrine

The teachings and addresses offered by the various Buddhist masters centered, in general, on their experience with His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, and in particular, the teachings they received from him.

Karmapa Center 16 celebrated the extraordinary, enlightened activities of the 16th Karmapa on the occasion of his 40th parinirvana anniversary.

The Anniversary of Gampopa

On this full moon day, the Karmapa Center 16 performed the Guru Yoga written by Dabzang Ngedon Tenpa Rabgye to honor the parinirvana of one of the forefathers of the Kagyu Lineage, Lord Gampopa, whose heart son was Düsum Khyenpa, the first Karmapa. In performing this Guru Yoga, the Karmapa Center 16 joined other monasteries, centers, and individuals all over the world that recalled the kindness of Gampopa, today.

Nineteenth Story Update: Parinirvana Day of the First Karmapa

Rinpoche and lamas performing extended practices in the KC16 Shrine Room.

On this auspicious day of the Parinirvana of Düsum Khyenpa (1110-1193), the First Karmapa, KC16 Rinpoche and Lamas perform extended practices.

Historically, in Tibet, there were three “seats” of the Karmapas correlating with the sacred abodes of body, speech and mind of the Glorious Chakrasamvara. Kampo Nenang is the lower seat of “body”, Karma Gön is “middle seat” of speech and Tsurphu is the “upper seat” of the heart, or mind. Tsurphu became the main seat of all the Karmapas. Düsum Khyenpa attained Parinirvana at Tsurphu. We can see that the place of attainment of Parinirvana is important, and again remember what a special circumstance it is that His Holiness the 16th Karmapa attained Parinirvana in Zion, Illinois.  

Shrine for Düsum Khyenpa, the First Karmapa’s Parinirvana Day.

34th Anniversary of the 16th Karmapa’s Parinirvana Commemorated at The Karmapa Center 16

ON OCTOBER 21st, 2015, the Tibetan Tsurluk lunar calendar anniversary, Lamas and guests gathered at Karmapa Center 16 to mark the 34th anniversary of the parinirvana of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. The previous Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, passed away on November 5th, 1981 at the American International Clinic (now Cancer Treatment Centers of America) in Zion, north of Chicago, Illinois. The Karmapa Center 16 is located approximately 5 miles west of the exact parinirvana site, in neighboring Wadsworth, Illinois. This year marked the first time the anniversary of His Holiness’ passing was officially commemorated in this historic area itself.

In the days approaching the anniversary, Lamas and guests gathered from around North America preparing the shrine, feast substances and elaborate torma offerings. On the morning of October 21st, Venerable Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche lead a Guru Yoga practice of the 16th Karmapa composed by Rangjung Rigpe Dorje himself, with recent additions by H.E. Gyaltsab Rinpoche. After tea and lunch breaks, practice concluded with a Mahakala puja.

Lama Phuntsok shared his mixed feelings recalling the parinirvana in 1981, when he was present in Zion. Although the occasion being commemorated was a sad one, he was happy that the 16th Karmapa’s legacy was being recognized in this landmark area. Lama pointed out that while ordinary beings die wherever their karma propels them, His Holiness the 16th Karmapa was a fully realized being and thus made a conscious choice to pass in this specific place. Lama said that although he does not know what His Holiness’ reasons were, he is certain that it is important for students of the Kagyu lineage to remember and mark this site.

Lama Rabten explained that the site of the 16th Karmapa’s parinirvana is, for our lineage, a pilgrimage site equivalent to the four major sites of the historic Buddha’s life. Specifically, the Zion area is equivalent to Kushinagar, the site of the Buddha’s parinirvana. We don’t need to travel all the way to India to connect with the blessings of the lineage and accumulate the merit of pilgrimage – we have a sacred site right here in North America.

Lama Tenam and all the other Lamas expressed a shared aspiration that Karmapa Center 16 can host annual commemorations of the 16th Karmapa’s parinirvana, that many Lamas and dharma students can gather here to practice, and that this beautiful, relaxed place can gradually develop as a major pilgrimage site.