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.
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.
Gerry Wiener, who first began is Buddhist studies with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1971, recently joined the Karmapa Center 16 Board of Directors and will oversee the center’s information technology.
A software engineer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, Gerry is also a Tibetan translator. After the parinirvana of his teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche, in 1987, Gerry continued his studies under Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and, with his guidance, has focused on the development of the Nitartha Digital Library.
Gerry first met His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa in Boulder, in 1974, when Trungpa Rinpoche hosted His Holiness. Gerry received many teachings and witnessed several Black Crown ceremonies during His Holiness’s 1974 and 1980 visits to the United States. Recalling a memory from 1974, when as a member of Trungpa Rinpoche’s Vajra Guards he was asked to drive the Black Crown from Stapleton Airport in Denver to Boulder, Gerry said, “The crown was next to me, sitting on the lap of one of His Holiness’s monks. I remembered thinking, ‘I need to be so careful and not get into an accident!’”
Continuing to serve in his role as Vajra Guard, Gerry traveled to Los Angeles and stayed in the same house with the Karmapa, where he had a momentary but powerful experience. He was woken early one morning, around 5 a.m., to help His Holiness attend his birds in the backyard. “I helped His Holiness up the stairs,” Gerry said, “and he put his hand on my hands for support. I had the feeling of not being in this realm anymore, for the briefest amount of time. I felt he is in this realm, but he is not part of the samsaric realm that we abide in.”
Gerry attributes much of his good fortune in meeting the 16th Karmapa to “tashi tendrel” or karmic connection or coincidence. “We’ve been taught, and I feel this to be the case, that lineage is important,” he said. “Without teachers like the Buddha, and lineage masters like Tilopa, Marpa, etc., we really don’t have a lineage that actually goes through the 16th Karmapa and then to my first teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche, without whom I would not be (on this path) today. I want to express great gratitude to Trungpa Rinpoche, who opened the door and cared for me in a very distinct way and also, without His Holiness, there would be no Trungpa Rinpoche whom I would know, so there is some kind of tashi tendrel or karmic connection or karmic coincidence, some fortuitous karma going on that allowed me to become a Buddhist, to study with Trungpa Rinpoche, who was recognized by His Holiness and eventually to meet His Holiness.”
Along those same lines, Gerry said, he received a Praise to His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa written by Trungpa Rinpoche and had the good fortune to translate it. Below is an excerpt from the translation. The full translation will eventually reside at Karmapa Center 16.
IN PRAISE OF HIS HOLINESS THE 16TH GYALWANG KARMAPA By Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Translated from Tibetan into English by Gerry Wiener
In the mandala of profound brilliant Vajradhatu, you are the Supreme Guru of the simplicity of samsara and nirvana. Vajra luminosity, the delight that transcends words, the great bliss Heruka, holder of wisdom, the single and changing nirmanakaya, Rigpe Dorje, seeing your activities — how wondrous. You do not abide in any specific place. You are not contrived by anyone. Your activities continue without interruption. Karma Ka, I always pay homage to you. Not observed having a beginning or end, you possess the profound and vast dharma. Eternal form of Dorje Chang, you are Vajradhara in person.
Karmapa Center 16 is grateful to have longtime Buddhist practioner Lynne Conrad Marvet now serving on its Board of Directors as secretary.
An artist, performer, teacher and professional fundraiser, Lynne grew up in Chattanooga, TN, and began meditating when she was 16 years old. But it wasn’t until she met His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, four years later, that she connected with Tibetan Buddhism and the Karma Kagyu lineage of His Holiness. In 1980, while living in New York City, Lynne’s friend suggested they attend the Black Crown ceremony held in the city during His Holiness’ third, and what would be his final, tour of the United States. So, they went, and the connection for Lynne was made.
“The strongest connection to my heart was the description given for the Refuge Ceremony,” Lynne said. “At the time, I was not well versed in what taking ‘refuge’ meant. But the way His Holiness described it, I remember having a very strong feeling of ‘Yes, Yes’ this is what I want to do. I still get chills. (It was a) powerful experience: It was the principle of compassion, the power of his speech, his presence, and the message that this is a path to help transcend confusion and help all sentient beings. Because of meeting His Holiness, I felt very connected to the Karma Kagyu lineage.”
Shortly after the ceremony, Lynne met her first Tibetan teacher, Khyabje Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche who served, from 1978 until his death in 2019, as abbot of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in Woodstock, New York, the first Karma Kagyu monastery established in the United States and the North American Seat of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. Her current and longtime teacher is Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, acknowledged as a heart son of the 16th Karmapa.
Lynne shared with us a special description of the life of the 16th Karmapa spontaneously spoken by Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, guru of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, during an interview in Seattle in 1999. She had supplicated Khenpo Rinpoche for his words about His Holiness, which were then translated from Tibetan into English by Ari Goldfield.
THE WONDERFUL, MIRACULOUS LIFE STORY OF HIS HOLINESS THE 16TH GYALWANG KARMAPA By Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche
In the glorious valley of Gurum, there is a monastery called Tsurphu. It is the palace of glorious Chakrasamvara. The all-pervasive lord is Rangjung Rigpe Dorje himself. Simply meeting him causes faith to expand. Simply listening to his speech vanquishes the darkness of doubt. Receiving pith instructions from him causes dualistic appearances to be self-liberated. This is his wonderful, miraculous life story. He brings outer, inner and other together in Mahamudra and causes all of existence to shine as the infinite expanse of purity. His practice of the rituals of the four classes of tantra is uninterrupted. This, too, is his wonderful, miraculous life story…
Listen to Lynne read the rest of the story:
When asked about the stupa for Karmapa Center 16, Lynne said in many ways, it is incredible that the stupa doesn’t already exist.
“His Holiness had such a huge impact on people,” she said. “And, because he passed away (in Zion, IL), that place is blessed. To continue to share that with many generations to come, it is important to have a physical representation of his sacred body, which is what the stupa is: his enlightened body, speech, and mind. To have a stupa there will be a great blessing to not just those in close proximity but to the entire United States.”
“Recently, I’ve been thinking about the importance of blessings and what that does for one’s practice. I can’t say enough of adhisthāna or blessings that can be received as a result of the physical presence of the teacher or the representations of enlightened beings… It is something very real even though it is intangible. The Karmapa Center 16 is already that place, but it will increase, I have no doubt. It is important for us to invest in this dream.”
As we learned in the previous email, His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, taught extensively and intensively with physical gestures and by his mere presence. In the video below, Don Winchell describes how he also created the environment around him and the way it brought about unexpected transformations.
A student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Winchell served on the support team for the 16th Karmapa’s 1976 visit to North America.
Through this delightful example of the enlightened activity of His Holiness, may we all aspire to create a world of gentleness and kindness!
We have received wonderful responses to the stories we’ve posted, and some included a personal experience with the 16th Karmapa. If you’d like to share your memories or photos of His Holiness with us, please send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, we offer our heartfelt thanks for your continued interest and support of KC16. May the Center be of great benefit to all beings.
Many of us have seen the yellow and blue Dream Flag or Namchen Banner of the 16th Karmapa, but not many of us may know the story behind it. We had the good fortune to speak to the person who, at the request of His Holiness, sewed the original flag — Deborah Luscomb.
Deborah is a longtime student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and a professional seamstress. At the request of her teacher, she oversaw the national textile production — from wall coverings, bedspreads and chair upholstery to banners, shrines and thrones — for the 16th Karmapa’s third visit to North America. The first special request from His Holiness of Deborah was to make a new brocade cover for the Black Crown hatbox. The second special request was to make the Dream Flag, which was raised on Midsummer’s Day 1980, at Marpa House in Boulder, CO. In this video, Deborah recalls what happened:
Several inches of snow whiten the grounds at the Karmapa Center 16, while in front of the main house the yellow and blue Dream Flag flies despite the weather, and dharma indeed does flourish.
With best wishes for a peaceful and joyous 2021, we send you our heartfelt thanks for your continued interest and support of KC16.
During the rise of the coronavirus pandemic, adoptions and sales of pets have similarly soared around the world, bringing companionship, comfort and joy to many. His Holiness the 16th Karmapa understood that joy and extended his deep compassion and love to all animals, though most especially to birds.
The connection between the Karmapa lineage and birds is legendary. The 10th Karmapa created artwork around birds, while the 13th Karmapa was renowned for his ability to communicate with his feathered friends. According to many students and attendants, birds literally flocked to the 16th Karmapa. Observers remarked that the Karmapa treated his birds as disciples, and they often displayed signs of meditative accomplishment in his presence.
A longtime student of His Holiness, Mary Jane Bennett, recounts a story in The Miraculous 16th Karmapa, when the Karmapa once said to her, “I don’t have to buy birds, you know. I just have to look at them and be with them. Being with them is my best medicine.” Bennett writes that she “could see that was true. After any journey to visit animals of any kind, His Holiness would return with a rosy glow on his face. When His Holiness lay dying in a hospital near Chicago, one of his close disciples, a driver and bird procurer, Steve Roth, brought a rare purple breasted gouldian finch and left it in his room. The joyful sound of birdsong would accompany his passage to parinirvana.”
Years before, Roth had asked the Karmapa why he liked birds so much. His Holiness replied, “Just try to sense their joy!”
What birds are you seeing and hearing around you? Pause, look, listen, and just be with them, as His Holiness says. Can you sense that powerful, compassionate connection with birds – or other animals? Can you feel the joy?
We send you all our best wishes and thank you for your continued interest and support of KC16.
KC16 celebrates the day His Holiness the 16th Karmapa attained Parinirvana according to the Western calendar. Therefore, November 5 is the day!
Each year a long guru yoga puja is conducted in alternating years of a composition by Chamgon Tai Situ Rinpoche and one by Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche. This year KC16 will be performing the guru yoga by Chamgon Kenting Tai Situ Rinpoche.
Please join us in commemorating this auspicious day by dedicating your practice to His Holiness.
In a recent post, we learned that one of the main practices of the 16th Karmapa was Tara, but did you know that White Tara was His Holiness the 16th Karmapa’s’ yidam? We practice Tara for three main reasons: She is powerful, her blessings are fast, and she is immeasurably kind.
White Tara is practiced by all four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism and is the main deity of other Buddhist practitioners and scholars, including the great master Atisha. She played an important role helping Buddhism flourish once again in Tibet, following some great obstacles, when Atisha was invited to Tibet to reestablish the teachings. Wondering whether he should go or not, Atisha supplicated the White Tara statue in Bodhgaya. She appeared to him in a pure vision and said his journey would be a complete success, that it would benefit many sentient beings, but it would lessen the years of his life.
Due to his great bodhicitta, Atisha went ahead to Tibet and, as prophesied by Tara, accomplished the enormous task of revitalizing and reforming the teachings, and founding Kadampa Buddhism. With good reason, Tara has since been one of the four main yidams of the Kadampa lineage.
Tara is also an important deity in the Kagyu lineage that began when Milarepa’s student Gampopa integrated the Mahamudra teachings of Milarepa with the Kadampa teachings of Atisha, including the practice of Tara. Green Tara symbolizes the fearless and compassionate energy of our mind’s true nature and the resolve to dispel suffering and fear, while White Tara is associated with longevity and healing practice.
KC16 will join Nalandabodhi International for its fifth annual Tara Drupchen to be held online from September 24 to 27, 2020, offering prayers and smoke pujas in Tibetan.
As a precursor to the Tara Drupchen, please enjoy this special audio file of Tara practice in Tibetan recorded in the shrine room at KC16:
We hope you will join us for the Drupchen! The event is free and everyone is welcome to participate by joining practices online, making prayer requests, aspirations, and offerings, and choosing to #gokind in thought, word, and deed. For information and registration please email: email@example.com.
Most of you know the Tara Sadana is a daily practice at KC16, but did you know that it was the main daily practice of the 16th Karmapa? According to his personal secretary, Zhanag Dzogpa Tenzin Namgyal, His Holiness practiced Tara every morning. (This and other stories about His Holiness can be found here.)
Since the beginning of the pandemic, KC16 has performed the Tara Sadhana more extensively than usual to call upon Tara to help alleviate the associated suffering as well as other specific and general fears and obstacles.
This September, we have the opportunity to join NBI in virtually sharing this powerful practice. We invite you to participate with us in the Drupchen to help spread much needed peace and joy for ourselves, our loved ones and every being around the globe.