Led by Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche, today lamas and friends, gathered at the center to make special offerings and prayers to the Buddha, recollecting his First Turning of Wheel of Dharma in Varanasi, India 2,600 years ago.
Category Archives: History
26th Story Update — Acharya Lhakpa Tshering: monk, scholar, accomplished meditator
Karmapa Center 16 is delighted to welcome Acharya Lhakpa Tshering to its Board of Directors. He will oversee fundraising for the center.
Lhakpa Tshering was born in a remote village in Dagapela in southern Bhutan. One of nine siblings, he and his family lived in an “environmentally friendly house” with no electricity or running water.
At the age of five, he remembers his father offering a butter lamp every evening of the full and new moon in front of a black and white photograph on a shelf in a corner of the house. Growing up with no electricity, Acharya said the memory of a butter lamp in the dark is still very vivid in his mind.
Once in while, his father would take down the photo and wipe off the soot that had collected on it with a piece of cloth. Later, when he was in second grade, Acharya was able to read the caption below the picture: “HH the Sixteenth Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorji.” It was a photograph that his father had cropped from a Bhutanese monthly newspaper.
His father had the good fortune of meeting His Holiness, and Acharya kindly shared the story with us.
My Father’s Meeting with His Holiness
By Acharya Lhakpa
In 1966, at the age of 32, my father, Dawa Sherpa, traveled to Sikkim with two other companions from his village to make an offering to His Holiness the 16th Karmapa in Rumtek, on behalf of his late maternal uncle for his rebirth in higher realm. Traveling by foot and vehicle for a week, they arrived in Rumtek on the 15th day of the lunar month, a full moon day. Soon after their arrival at the monastery, His Holiness was scheduled to give a Black Crown ceremony. My father and his friends considered it auspicious that upon emerging from an audience with His Holiness, they were able to receive the blessings of the black crown. After the ceremony, my father made an offering to His Holiness and requested prayers for his uncle. His Holiness responded with gracious smile. For the sake of tendrel (making a spiritual connection), my father requested His Holiness to give him the transmission of Avalokiteshvara’s six syllable mantra. Today my father still has a vivid memory of the young, majestic Sixteenth Karmapa.
Though he never met His Holiness in person, from an early age, Acharya felt a connection to him through his father.
In 1993, Acharya enrolled at Rumtek Monastery’s Karma Shri Nalanda Institute in Sikkim, India, where he served as an assistant teacher and member of the student welfare committee.
During his time at Rumtek, he received many teachings and empowerments from His Eminence Gyaltsab Rinpoche, regent of the Karmapa lineage, who in turn had received the teachings directly from the 16th Karmapa. Acharya strongly feels that his mindstream has been blessed by the lineage and that through his own engagement on the Buddhist path, his precious human life has become meaningful.
Acharya completed his post-graduate or acharya degree in Buddhist Studies in 2002. He then served as co-librarian with Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche, taught at Karma Shri Nalanda Institute and acted as an editor for Nitartha international in Kathmandu, Nepal.
In 2006, at the request of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, he moved to Nalanda West in Seattle, Washington, USA, where he supports students as a resident teacher. He is also a visiting teacher at Nalandabodhi centers throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Latin America.
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!
22nd Story Update: A world of gentleness, kindness
Greetings dear friends of KC 16,
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: email@example.com.
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.
Twenty-first Story Update: Wherever the flag is flown, the Dharma Will Flourish
Greetings dear friends of KC 16,
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.
Eighteenth Story Update: The Joy of Birds
Dear Friends 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.
Fifteenth Story Update: Tara and her connection to the Kagyu Lineage
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Twelfth Story Update: Joyful Chökhor Düchen Greetings
A joyful Chökhor Düchen to each and every one of you from The Karmapa Center 16! This day marks the first time the Buddha Shakyamuni turned the wheel of Dharma. This holiday celebrates the day the Buddha taught on the Four Noble Truths in Deer Park in Sarnath, thus laying the ground for the entire Buddhist teachings and path. This important day falls on the fourth day of the sixth lunar month in the Tibetan calendar each year, or July 24, 2020 this year.
It is believed that positive actions done on the anniversary of this sacred day are multiplied 100 million times over.
Therefore, it is a wonderful time to come together in practice and uplifted celebration in honor of the Buddha individually and collectively – however that is safely possible. Perhaps at this time of continued COVID-19 seclusion invite a few Dharma friends to gather online and reflect on the Buddha and our good fortune in being able to walk in his footsteps through his teachings.
Practicing generosity is also excellent! Consider performing an act of kindness, such as offering food, helping a being in need, planting a tree, supporting family, friends, sangha, co-workers, strangers, the community around you and so forth.
We invite you to share your completed positive action with KC16’s bot via: m.me/KarmapaCenter16. #GoKind.
Finally, dedicate the merit of all your actions toward the enlightenment of all sentient beings.
Wishing you a day filled with great appreciation for the Buddha and his teachings in your life, and all the great and small moments of being together in community, with health, joy and prosperity!
Tenth Story Update: Liberation Upon Seeing
This lunar month is the time when we celebrate Saga Dawa, the birth, enlightenment and parinirvana of the Shakyamuni Buddha.
It is also a somber time for many, as we grapple with the death of black American citizen George Floyd, which sparked protest in cities across the United States for two weeks. This, combined with COVID-19 ever present in our lives globally, has left many feeling afraid, angry and disillusioned.
During his life, the Shakyamuni Buddha foretold a prophecy, found in the Samadhi Raja Sūtra, which can give us courage for our lives now:
Two thousand years after I have passed,
The teachings will arise in the land of the red-faced men.
They will become disciples of Avalokita.
In that degenerate time for dharma,
The bodhisattva, Lion’s Roar,
Will appear and be known as Karmapa.
He will attain the samādhi empowerment and tame beings,
Establishing them in well-being through sight, hearing, recollection, and touch.
And so it is, just as the Shakyamuni Buddha predicted. We have had the great good fortune to encounter His Holiness the 16th Karmapa’s teachings on love, kindness and compassion in this life — just when we and the world need them them the most.
Today we share with you Liberation Upon Seeing, produced by the Karmapa Picture Project. May all beings viewing these images of His Holiness be liberated instantly! Click on the photo below to view the video.
In the forward to the book Dharma King, a quote by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa speaks to the relevance of this video — with its collection of images of the 16th Karmapa’s life — and its immeasurable benefit to us now:
[The 16th Gyalwang Karmapa] seldom gave Dharma teachings through words, but taught intensively through physical gestures and tamed beings through his mere presence… one of his major activities was to liberate all those who saw him, as he did when donning the Black Crown, so there is undoubtedly great value in any visual connection made with him.
Following the example of His Holiness — by embodying loving-kindness and acting thoughtfully — we too can work to help others. It is said that any good deed performed during the month of Saga Dawa is multiplied as many as one hundred million times, so it is an especially auspicious time to perform positive actions!
One simple action to help create more widespread kindness and offer a chance for others to connect with His Holiness through images would be to:
• Share our posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #GoKind
• Submit your acts of kindness to the KC16 bot via: m.me/KarmapaCenter16
With deepest appreciation to all who continue to support The Karmapa Center 16 in all its endeavors.
Click on the photo below to view the video Liberation upon Seeing. Karmapa Khyenno!
Second Campaign Update: Ani Pema Chödrön’s Story About His Holiness the 16th Karmapa
During this time of the global pandemic of coronavirus, when anxiety and fear are rampant, we are fortunate to be able to connect with the dharma, with our genuine heart of goodness and our wish to benefit beings—no matter what. We have the opportunity to be mindful and aware of our actions, how they affect ourselves and others, and to kindly help stop the spread of the virus (see the CDC page).
We are even more fortunate that we are able to connect with the presence of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, to then slow down and move through the world with aware kindness in a spacious, relaxed state.
Ani Pema Chödrön* was a close student of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa and in the attached, inspiring video interview (16 minutes), she recalls being in the presence of His Holiness: “It was like he dwelled in this timeless, present state, and you were just drawn right into that.” She shares the impact he had on her life and those of countless others. She also highlights why building the stupa at KC16 is so important to the world.
Many of you realize the importance of the stupa project — in just two weeks, since our official kick off on March 1st, we’ve raised 129,000 USD from 190 donors! We’ve had the support of over 750 social media shares, with nearly 200 followers watching the campaign and actively getting the word out. We are building more momentum by the moment.
With a joyous heart, we offer great thanks to everyone for your kindness, generosity and support of our cause. Please continue to widely share our campaign with others as that is a huge contribution in itself.
We hope this week’s KC16 Parinirvana Stupa crowdfunding campaign update, featuring Ani Pema Chödrön, will be of great benefit. See you next week with another update and very special video story celebrating the great life and teachings of His Holiness!
*Ani Pema Chödrön is an American Tibetan Buddhist. She is an ordained nun, former acharya of Shambhala Buddhism and disciple of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She has written several dozen books and audiobooks, and is principal teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Place of Parinirvana
The American International Hospital where His Holiness attained Parinirvana still exists, but has grown and expanded and changed ownership. It is one amongst a network of centers, now called Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Midwest Regional Medical Center. People refer to this facility as the Chicago Center, although it is located in Zion, IL, about 45 miles north of the heart of the city of Chicago. The cancer center is about a mile and a half from Lake Michigan in the State of Illinois, approximately three miles from the Wisconsin border. Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of the US and Canada, formed by glaciers. Illinois Beach State Park creates a recreational accessible space for humans and animals alike.
Directly west of the cancer center is Shilo Park alive with a pond, geese and ducks and other waterfowl. To the north is Historic Shiloh House, the former residence of the city’s founder, Dr. John Alexander Dowie—who preached divine healing and whose intention was to build a religious utopia and planned industrial community in the early 1900s (+ more). The park was designed/built as a central point with “spokes” extending outward in all directions. From what we’ve researched, this design had some kind of religious energetic significance. It seems interesting that Dowie chose this specific place to build a utopian society, with God as ruler, and His Holiness 16th Karmapa also chose this location to pass into Parinirvana.
Additional Historical Information
After the organization of the Christian Catholic Church in Zion, Dowie dreamed of a city where his congregation would be free from the evils of the world, a city where God would be the ruler. He first looked for land south of Chicago in the Blue Island area, but the land was not suitable, so he looked north of the city. In the fall of 1899, Dowie visited the land north of Waukegan and envisioned what he would come to name “Zion City.” After successfully securing options on approximately 6,600 acres of land, he unveiled his plan for Zion City at the Watchnight Service the eve of the New Year 1900. It would be a city where his congregation could worship, work, and play free from the temptations of the world. Zion City was the only city, besides Washington D.C., that had plans completed before the first spade of dirt was turned. There would be places of employment—he imported a lace mill from England—schools, and recreational facilities, all controlled by John A. Dowie. The land would be leased to the people, with definite restrictions, for 1100 years. Dowie reasoned that Christ’s return was to be within 100 years and then the millennium, after which there would be no need for leases. The people would share in the profits of the industries in Zion City and the profits, tithes, and offerings would be sufficient for the support of the Christian Catholic Church in Zion.