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.

Fourth Story Update: James Gimian Shares His [Video] Recollections About His Holiness the 16th Karmapa

“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 … so there is undoubtedly great value in any visual connection made with him.”*

— His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa

During this difficult time of the global coronavirus pandemic, we can find solace and inspiration by seeing images, watching videos, and perhaps recalling one’s own experience of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa. His spontaneous and joyous actions benefited beings wherever and in whatever way conditions permitted, despite any obstacles. 

We are pleased to present a way to visually connect with the 16th Karmapa by sharing photographs and videos about him. Contemplating his life and the lives of other lineage masters can benefit our mind stream and help us find the courage to open our hearts as we move through distressing times. When we benefit ourselves in this way, we are better equipped to support others both directly and indirectly.

We hope these offerings about His Holiness are indeed uplifting and an inspiration for yourself, your family, friends, colleagues and communities. We will soon include new ways to share acts of kindness so that those positive actions may ripple outward to be felt far and wide.  

This week’s video features James Gimian, who first became involved with Buddhism in 1972, as a student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Two years later, he held a lead role during His Holiness the 16th Karmapa’s first visit to the United States for the ten day Dharma Festival in San Francisco, in 1974. In the video interview Mr. Gimian, who is the publisher of Mindful Magazine, describes how His Holiness was a vital catalyst for introducing Buddhism to the West by facilitating “the diaspora of the teachings coming to the west.” 

Knowing that His Holiness was instrumental in the blossoming of Buddhism in Western culture, Mr. Gimian also recognizes how the Stupa in Wadsworth, in the Heartland of America, will serve as “ground zero for the dharma becoming deeply rooted in North American soil.” 

The story of His Holiness’ positive influences on those who cared for him at the end of his life in Illinois, reminds us of the power we all have to make a difference in the lives of others and vice versa. It made us think with tremendous gratitude and prayers for the safety of the millions of brave and selfless pandemic healthcare workers around the world. We can also follow His Holiness’ example and express gratitude, kindness, joy, generosity, and compassion in our everyday interactions regardless of challenging circumstances. We can be the positive change we all long for.

We give great thanks to everyone who has generously donated to help bring this vision to fruition by supporting our campaign for the Stupa. While the campaign will continue through June, we understand that making a donation is not possible for many at this time. Should you be able to give or feel moved to support the campaign at any point, your gift will be gratefully received.

We wish you all good health and well being, and look forward to sharing more about His Holiness with you next week.

*Excerpted from Dharma King: The Life of the 16th Karmapa in Images

James Gimian shares the significance of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa’s visits to North America. Video produced by Sam Scoggins. (Click on photo to view video)

Third Campaign Update: HH the Sakya Trichen [Video] Story About His Holiness the 16th Karmapa

Dear Friends,

As we reach out today, we acknowledge that there are few places that have not been touched by the coronavirus. Many countries, states, and towns have instituted shut downs and continue to publish daily safety measures. The World Health Organization gives us international information, updates and  perspective. 

KC16 Lamas are in strict retreat doing extended prayers for coronavirus. We’ve posted some pictures on Facebook of a fire puja, may they be beneficial! While this is not an ideal time for a fundraising campaign, we thought that hearing stories about His Holiness the 16th Karmapa is helpful for this time, so we will do our best to continue sharing stories in the next few months.  

This week, we’re delighted and honored to hear His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trichen Rinpoche,* talk about his relationship with His Holiness, the 16th Karmapa. In this video, HH Sakya Trichen explains that building a stupa is a very meritorious action because, “by building a stupa it will emanate many blessings and benefits to all sentient beings so that everybody will have good peace and harmony throughout the world.” This merit is doubled because it is for His Holiness the 16th Karmapa.

*His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trichen Rinpoche, was the 41st and longest reigning Sakya Trizin.

As of this third week of the campaign, we’ve reached $132,500 USD from over 200 donors. Likewise, we’ve had the support of nearly 780 social media shares and over 200 campaign followers! We’ve made significant strides toward our fundraising goal. 

Thank you for your continued support of our campaign and for sharing this with your family and friends. Please be safe and healthy. Stay tuned for more exciting campaign updates in the week ahead! 

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. 

Click photo to view video of Ani Pema Chödrön | Mark Elliott, Interviewer | Doug Beechwood, Producer

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. 

HHK16 Paranirvana Stupa Crowdfunding Campaign Launches (March 1, 2020)

It has been a long time since we’ve had news to share about the progress of The Karmapa Center 16’s vision to build a Parinirvana Stupa and retreat center for His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. 

We are delighted to inform you that we have at long last received preliminary approvals from the Village Board for the building plans! Therefore, we are able to announce the launch of a $1 million crowdfunding campaign to begin the stupa temple, a house for His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, and retreat housing. The whole site will be a peaceful place to practice, conduct pilgrimage and learn about Buddhism and the Karma Kagyu lineage. 

His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, in a video statement recorded at the Karmapa Center 16, said “I would request everyone who has a connection of faith toward the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa to support these projects as much as possible.” View the video on the campaign’s GoFundMe page.

To contribute to manifesting this vast vision donate today!

The Karmapa Center 16 celebrates Parinirvana of His Holiness

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, with Tyler Dewar translating, welcomes guests to the celebration of His Holiness’ Parinirvana.

The annual weekend celebration of the Parinirvana of the 16th Karmapa

Under a full moon shining on the waters of Lake Michigan, the annual weekend celebration of His Holiness, the 16th Karmapa’s Parinirvana opened with a teaching by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche on Friday, November 4, at the Illinois Beach Hotel in Zion, Illinois.

Damayonti Sengupta, founding board member of The Karmapa Center 16 (KC16), greeted the audience, many of whom had traveled long-distances to be there, hailing from Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico and numerous cities across America. Sengupta introduced the President of KC16 Board of Directors, Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche, who was present at the time of His Holiness’ death; Board Vice President and caretaker of the Center Lama Phuntsok Samkhang; and Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, who envisioned the Center and was a life-long student of His Holiness.

FRIDAY NIGHT TEACHING: Manifesting loving-kindness and compassion

After extending a warm welcome to everyone, Rinpoche gave a teaching on loving-kindness and compassion that illustrated how his teacher, the 16th Karmapa (HHK16), manifested those qualities at all times towards all creatures throughout his life.

Rinpoche spoke about the physical and mental challenges present in our world today, about our fear that this is the worst time ever. Yesterday looks better, he said, even though the problem is the same. He then referenced an interview with His Holiness during the Cold War. Rinpoche recalled that His Holiness burst into laughter when the journalist asked him about current international tensions, replying “The world is always the same!”

We all want to make the world a better place, Rinpoche continued, but who will do that? You or me and how shall we do it? If we focus on the material problems and potential solutions, we miss the point of who is suffering, the people who are going through the hardship and pain. Looking beyond the labels, race, religion, the differences, we then see the similarities — we all are looking for freedom, joy and happiness. “If we can connect heart to heart, the boundaries do not exist, there is no judgement,” he said. “When we connect brain to brain, there are so many differences, so many concepts about differences. When we pay attention to the person, we connect with the heart of loving-kindness and compassion.”

Research today now shows what the Buddha taught over 2500 years ago — that all sentient beings possess loving-kindness and compassion. Buddha’s teaching to love all sentient beings without bias is present in every wisdom teaching of the world. “The one who manifested that unbounded love for all was His Holiness, my teacher,” Rinpoche said.

Rinpoche then gave the remainder of the talk in Tibetan, with Nalandabodhi translator Tyler Dewar translating into English.Though it is difficult to image all the enlightened qualities of HHK16, Rinpoche said he had the good fortune of being nurtured as a young boy by the 16th Karmapa and as his attendant, he witnessed His Holiness’ many activities. There are many profound instructions given by gurus and teachers, Rinpoche said, but the most profound teaching is the life example of a master, seeing how a great master uses the teachings to help self and others. While many people teach loving-kindness and compassion, His Holiness’ conduct manifested those qualities all the time towards all creatures. His mere presence — his great humor and joy — gave relief to many who met him. “His service focused on beings who needed his help,” Rinpoche said. “We only saw him performing benefits for other sentient beings. We hear the word bodhisattva thrown about, but he is the true example.”

Rinpoche cited several personal examples of His Holiness’ altruistic activities and said that the flourishing of the Buddhadharma and Vajrayana Buddhism in the West is due to the vision HHK16. He spoke about His Holiness’ visits to the West, his encouragement of young lamas to establish centers here and his intentional blessing to America by passing away in Zion. He was the first Karmapa to display Parinirvana outside of Tibet. Parinirvana, Rinpoche explained, is when the enlightened mind of a great master parts with the enlightened body and dissolves into the space of true nature.

KC16 is an important project, Rinpoche said, because it is a physical commemoration of the life example of His Holiness, and when we recollect his life example full of loving-kindness and compassion, we can extract blessings to manifest those teachings in our own life.

Karmapa means “one who manifests enlightened activity.” Karmapa makes manifest all the compassionate actions of the Buddha. “The actions of HHK16 matched the meaning of his name,” Rinpoche said. His Holiness focused on others. When we focus on another human being, heart to heart, then self focus naturally disappears, and we are freed from delusion or confusion of a superimposed self-image. Research corroborates that, Rinpoche said, confirming that those who focus on others have greater joy and happiness.

Concluding the evening’s talk, Rinpoche said, “We are celebrating the immeasurable heart of compassion that manifested in this master. We are trying to emulate that experience of joy and caring and loving-compassion.”

Tea and snacks were served after Rinpoche’s talk, allowing old and new friends to greet and meet each other.

SATURDAY TEACHING: The spiritual journey

After a torrential morning downpour, the rain stopped in time for guests to gather at KC16, located on 10 bucolic acres in the township of Wadsworth, Illinois, five miles from the hospital where His Holiness passed into Parinirvana on November 5, 1981. Everyone took a seat in a large tent erected next to the barn on the property for Rinpoche’s teaching. Damayonti welcomed everyone to the Center, the blessed land and blessed teacher, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. Tyler again translated for Rinpoche.

Rinpoche began the teaching by recounting the story of the Buddha and his journey of awakening. An Indian prince, Siddhartha was full of curiosity about discovering the meaning of life and the real truth behind what we see, hear, feel and experience. That genuine enthusiasm led him on a “beautiful journey,” which he achieved under the Bodhi Tree. “It was a moment of awakening,” Rinpoche said. “Awakening is very short. It is the journey, the dream, to that moment that makes it beautiful.” Of course, awakening is also beautiful, he said, but it is one moment. The path is what is really exciting.

What the Buddha showed us was not just about the moment of awakening but also about the journey of what did and didn’t work. We have all chosen a path for living, Rinpoche said; the Buddha’s teaching involves living a life of caring for others, with wisdom, love and compassion. “His teaching is a genuine science of mind and way of living,” Rinpoche said. “It is controversial as it is other-centered not ego-centered. Like pure water — and we’ve had a lot of water today! — Buddha’s teaching can quench the thirst of beings’ minds tormented by thoughts and emotions.”

However, a good container is necessary to hold the nectar of dharma, he said, or it cannot be put into good use. If the container is not good, then no matter how profound the teaching, it is difficult to bring the wisdom and compassion to others. The vision for KC16 is to create a pure container to hold the dharma and share it with “as many limitless beings as possible.”

If the container could be anywhere in the world, then why in Zion, Illinois, Rinpoche asked. Because this is where His Holiness passed into Parinirvana. “That moment,” he said, “is the most potent moment.” Zion is a “sacred place of our most important master of the 20th Century. His Holiness dissolved into the dharmakaya right here in Zion.”

There is a spiritual power in the earth of a sacred place, and it influences the activities performed there, Rinpoche continued. “A sacred place has the energy to bring more joy, compassion, love and awakening from deep state of delusion.”

Rinpoche then told the story of the first Karmapa’s spiritual journey that took place 1400 years after the Buddha and finished with the spiritual journey of the 16th Karmapa that brought him to the United States.

So, how do we connect with the 16th Karmapa, Rinpoche asked. If we recollect His Holiness, then a connection is made, he answered. To properly recollect, one needs the experiential connection of directly seeing the presence of the Karmapa. “That is why we are building the stupa,” Rinpoche said, “to establish the center as a commemoration of the Karmapa so people can make a direct connection with him.”

The goal also includes building a museum and library to learn about the Karmapa through texts, videos, photos and other memorabilia.Together we will accomplish that goal, Rinpoche said. No single skill will make it happen; rather it is everyone’s contribution who is interested in making a connection. Rinpoche invited everyone back to the Center to do retreat, work practice and/or provide financial support. “With everyone’s help, the power of the blessing will blaze.”

Rinpoche concluded the talk by thanking everyone who helped with the weekend and thanked the leaders of the Wadsworth Village before inviting guests to view the relics of His Holiness and other masters on display at the front of the tent. Nalandabodhi translator Chris Stagg explained the significance of each relic.

In the evening, KC16 gave a dinner party for the guests — held in the barn! Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche shared how the project began, recounted being in the presence of His Holiness, the importance of this project and praised the work of staff members, honoring Lama Phuntsok who oversees and cares, on an ongoing basis, for every detail at the Center. Damayonti then thanked by name the major donors and volunteers. She highlighted the importance of each contributing donor at any level and the vital work of volunteers, which is a beautiful and fortunate opportunity for everyone to make a meaningful connection with the life example of the 16th Karmapa. The evening was a joyful celebration!

PARINIRVANA SUNDAY: Puja and prayers

Early Sunday morning, the day of His Holiness’ Parinirvana, sandhill cranes, Canada geese and other flocks of birds passed over the tent where the 16th Karmapa Guru Yoga and puja were held in Tibetan. The puja began at 8 a.m., included a short break for breakfast, and ended at noon. Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche presided over the puja, with Lama Phuntsok leading the chants as umdze.

Lunch was held in the barn, with Wadsworth Mayor Glenn Ryback and Village Board Trustees Ben Dolan, Doug Jacobs and Jim Zegar and their families, including Charlie, the Zegar’s dog. The Wadsworth dignitaries attended the afternoon session of Guru Yoga held in English, with Nalandabodhi member Stephanie Johnston leading the chants as umdze.

At the conclusion of the puja the weekend guests departed, brightening the gray, foggy day with their bright, warm smiles. The joy of being together — the presence of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche and practicing on the sacred land of His Holiness’ Parivnirvana — was evident: it a brilliant display of blessings received.