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INTRODUCTION TO VAJRAYANA
The Lord Buddha Sakyamuni spent 55 years traveling many parts of India to spread the Buddha Dharma. To meet the needs of sentient beings, Buddha Sakyamuni turned the great Wheel of Dharma three times and taught 84,000 means whereby sentient beings can enter the door to Buddha Dharma and ultimately to Englightenment. These teachings are divided into the Sutras, the Vinaya and the Abhidharma, as well as Tantra. The first three categories of the Teachings were openly taught and transmitted whilst Tantra was taught by the Buddha to only a select few of his disciples.
Since Buddha Sakyamuni's passing away into Para nirvana, Buddhism has developed into three main schools, namely Theravada (school of the Elders), Mahayana (the Great Vehicle), and Vajrayan (the Diamond Vehicle), Mahayana Buddhism is a Buddhist school whose practitioners seek to bring Enlightenment to all sentient beings suffering in Samsara, and not just themselves.
Buddhism in Tibet was practiced as early as the 6th century A.D. There are four main schools of Mahayana Buddhism in Tibet. They are: the Nyingmapa, the Sakyapa, Kagyudpa and Gelugpa. All these schools sahre the basic teachings of the Buddha and have the same objective. These schools of Mahayana Buddhism are different only in terms of their terms of their individual histories and practices, i.e. the different schools stem from different saintly founders, and the techniques practiced by each school are variously suited to different types of beings seeking Enghtenment.
Vajrayana Buddhism is a branch of Mayahana Buddhism and the goal of its practitioners is similar to that of Mahayana Buddhists. The main difference between the practice of Vajrayana Buddhism and Mayahana Buddhism lies mainly in its employment of Tantra, or Tantric practices, to greatly accelerate the spiritual development of the practitioner. It also has the potential to allow the practitioner to be Enlightened in one lifetime of practice. The Tantric practices employed by Vajrayana Buddhism are mainly handed down in a closely guarded manner through Guru-Disciple relationships.
Vajrayana practices utilize unique skilful methods involving meditation, the recitation of mantras and various visualization techniques to purify the pracitioner's body, speech and mind. Subsequently, the practitioners able to accumulate a great amount of merit, which, in turn, will enable the practitioner to swiftly oversome their accumulated negative karma and defilements, accelerate the development of great compassion and wisdom, leading ulitmately to Enlightenment.
The Guru-Disciple relationship is very significant feature of Vajrayana Buddhism. The practitioner has to be guided by a qualified Guru at all times. The practitioner, in turn, must have complete faith and trust in the ability of the Guru to guide him or her towards Enlightenment. This will not only allow the disciple to fully receive blessings and wisdom from the Guru himself, but also from the Gurus of the entire lineage.
THE KAGYU LINEAGE
The Kagyupa School is particularly known for its emphasis on meditation practice, rather than intellectual study and for the strength of the Guru-disciple relationship which can bring ordinary beings to Enlightenment in one lifetime.
The Kagyu lineage, originated with the great yogi Tilopa who lived in Northern india sometime around the 10th century A.D. Tilopa received the four special transmissions (T:bka-babs-bzhi) and mastered them. Although there is some discrepancy in historical sources regarding the identities of the masters associated with each of the four transmissions the most common consensus indicates that their sources are as follows :
The first of the four came from Nagarjuna and consists of two tantras, the 'Sangwa Dupa Tantra' (Skt. Guhyasamaya) and the "Denshi Tantra". It also incorporates the practices called 'Illusory Body'
(T: sgyu-lus) and '(T: pho-ba).
The second special transmission came from Nakpopa and includes the tantra called 'Gyuma Chenmo' (Skt: Mahamaya) and the practice called 'Conscious Dreaming' (T: rmi-lam).
The third special transmission came from Lawapa. It includes the 'Demchok Tantra' and the practice of 'Clear Light' (T: od-gsal).
The fourth was transmitted from Khandra Kalpa Zangmo and includes the tantra known as 'Gyepa Dorje' (Skt: Hevajra), and the practice called 'Tummo'.
These teachings were passed on from Tilopa to Naropa, and were systematized as the Six Yogas of Naropa that are considered a central theme in the Kagyu Lineage.
Naropa transmitted his knowledge to Marpa, the great translator who journeyed from Tibet to India in order to receive instructions and who subsequently returned to Tibet and spread the teachings of the Dharma.
His student Milarepa, became one of the Tibet's great yogis. Through perseverance in the practice of Mahamudra and the Six Yogas of Naropa, he achieved profound realization of the ultimate nature of reality.
Milarepa's transmission was carried on by Gampopa, the physician from Dagpo. He studied the Kadampa traditions, which is a gradual path that includes what is called the Lam Rim teachings. He also met Milarepa, and attained realization of ultimate reality under his guidance . He established monastic institutions, taught extensively and attracted many students. Four of his disciples founded the four major Kagyu schools :
Babrom Kagyu founded by Babrom Dharma Wangchuk
Pagdru Kagyu founded by Phagmo Trupa Dorje Gyalpo
Tsalpa Kagyu founded by Shang Tsalpa Tsondru Drag
Kamtsang Kagyu, also known as the Karma Kagyu School founded by Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa.
It was the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, who received the complete Mahamudra transmission from Gampopa.
The eight minor Kagyu lineages originated disciples. These eight lineages are :
The different Kagyu lineages are not referred to as major and minor in terms of the instructions they contain, they are equal in that respect . The four major lineages are known as major in that they originate with Gampopa himself, whereas the eight minor lineages originate with a later generation of masters. Nowadays, among the four major Kagyu lineages only the Karma Kagyu remains prevalent. Among the eight minor Kagyu lineages only the Taglung, Drukpa and Drikung Kagyu still exist as independent lineages.
One can distinguish several transmission within each lineage. However, all major buddhist traditions in Tibet have a lineage of the Pratimoksha-vows and a lineage of the Bodhisatvva-vows.
The Kagyu order is the medium of transmission of the meditative teachings known as Mahamudra. These teachings were first developed through the spontaneous insight of the great Indian siddha or saint Tilopa (988-1069). Their realisation was passed down from guru to disciple through the great progenitors of the lineage Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa and successively through the seventeen Gyalwa Karmapas up to the present time.
THE GOLDEN KAGYU GARLAND
"The Golden Kagyu Garland" refers to the masters who are holders of the lineage in which Mahamudra is a main theme. They are the Indian masters of the lineage and the successive reincarnations of the Karmapas and their most important students who pass on the transmissions to Him. The lineage holders are selected by the Karmapa himself which ensures that the teachings remain intact and pure.
The Karmapa himself always chooses the teacher who will pass on the lineage to him in his future incarnation. He is a great bodhisattava who has the capacity to perceive the realization and qualities of others. It is through this ability that He selects his own guru. There is no fixed rule which defines the teacher in advance. In some cases the lineage holders are eminent reincarnates and in other cases exceptional practitioners without high status in the religious hierarchy.
Another aspect of the Karma Kagyu lineage is the interim directors of the adminstration who are caretakers of the Karmapa's monasteries in between His reincarnations. These caretakers are not lineage holders. For example the 14th Karmapa, Thegchog Dorje, installed the head of the Drugpa Kagyu, the 9th Drugchen Mipham Chokyi Gyamtso (also known as Mingyur Wangi Gyalpo), as the interim director of the adminstration. The 16th Karmapa, in accordance with the Indian law, installed a legal body, the Karmapa Charitable Trust, and appointed the trustees.
Presently it is their responsibility to run the affairs of the seat of the Karmapas and the affiliated monasteries and centers till the coming of age of the 17th Karmapa.
||THE KAGYU REFUGE TREE
The 17 incarnations of the Gyalwa Karmapas have been as follows (click on links for lifestories, teachings, and images of the successive Karmapas):
HH1 Karmapa - Dusum Khyenpa - 1110 - 1193
HH2 Karmapa - Karma Pakshi - 1204 - 1283
HH3 Karmapa - Rangjung Dorje - 1284 - 1339
HH4 Karmapa - Rolpei Dorje - 1340 - 1383
HH5 Karmapa - Deshin Shegpa - 1384 - 1415
HH6 Karmapa - Thongwa Donden - 1416 - 1453
HH7 Karmapa - Chotrag Gyamtso- 1454 - 1506
HH8 Karmapa - Mikyo Dorje - 1507 - 1554
HH9 Karmapa - Wangchuk Dorje - 1556 - 1603
HH10 Karmapa - Choying Dorje - 1604 - 1674
HH11 Karmapa - Yeshe Dorje - 1676 - 1702
HH12 Karmapa - Changchub Dorje-1703 - 1732
HH13 Karmapa - Dudul Dorje - 1733 - 1797
HH14 Karmapa - Thegchog Dorje - 1798 - 1868
HH15 Karmapa - Khakhyab Dorje - 1871 - 1922
HH16 Karmapa - Rangjung Rigpe Dorje- 1924 - 1981
HH17 Karmapa - Trinlay Thaye Dorje- 1983
||His Holiness The 17th KARMAPA
The Gyalwa Karmapa is an enlightened being, the holder of the teachings of the transmission of the Kagyu lineage. The teachings of this lineage originate from the Buddha and have been preserved in a pure and authentic form up to the present day through transmission from master to disciple. The Gyalwa Karmapa is the recipient of these teachings and the entire blessing that they confer. The teachings cannot be confined merely to texts. They are living and experienced by great adepts of whom Gyalwa Karmapa is an example.
Trinlay Thaye Dorje - the 17th Karmapa, was born in 1983 in the Year of the Pig. He is the first-born of the 3rd Mipham Rinpoche of the Nyingmapa School of Buddhism. The 17th Karmapa's father is the third reincarnation of the 1st Mipham Rinpoche, who was the head of 13 Nyingma monasteries in Kham, Tibet. He was a descendant of many generations of doctors and learned medical scholars. His mother, Dechen Wangmo, is the daughter of a noble family descended from King Gaesar of Ling. br>In November 1996, he joined the monkshood by receiving refuge vows at Buddha Gaya Temple.
He then was given the name Trinley (meaning Buddha activity) Thaye (limitless) Dorje (unchanging). Thinley Thaye Dorje is the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa tulku or incarnation. As the head of the Kagyu order of Buddhism in Tibet since the twelfth century, he embodies, represents and guides its accumulated spiritual energy. The Tibetan teaching concerning tulkus tells us that although the moment of Enlightenment releases one from the forces leading to rebirth, an Enlightened intelligence which transcends individuality or ego in the ordinary sense may decide to continue to work on Earth for the benefit of all sentient beings. This Enlightened intelligence therefore chooses births over a certain period of time in a series of human individuals. Trinlay Thaye Dorje, the seventeenth Karmapa Currently, HH 17th Karmapa, Thaye Dorje continues to reside at the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute (KIBI) in India where he is pursuing an intensive Buddhist education.
|| His Holiness the 14th SHARMAPA
The 14th HH ShaMarpa, Mipham Chokyi Lodro was born in Derge, Tibet, as the nephew of HH 16th Karmapa. At the age of four he was recognized by the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpei Dorje as the 14th Shamarpa reincarnation.
Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche remained with the 16th Karmapa until his death in 1981. The Shamarpa received the entire transmission of the Kagyu lineage's teachings from the Karmapa and other renowned Tibetan masters.
After the death of 16th HH Karmapa, the 14th HH ShaMarpa devoted his entire time and effort and started to undertake numberous of projects, one of each is completing a large institute of Buddhist studies in New Delhi. According to the wishes of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa. The Karmapa International Buddhist Institute (KIBI) is meant to serve as an establishment of higher learning to further universal wisdom and compassion, based on the correct study and translation of the great treatises of Buddhism. The Institute currently offers courses in Buddhist studies for both monastic and lay students. Aside from this project, he had also completed the reprinting of the "Tengyur" a body of 244 volumes in which prominent Indian and Tibetan masters elucidate the teachings given by the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. HH ShaMarpa also supports and offers guidance to Rumtek Monastery, the seat of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa.
Rinpoche recently founded the Shri Diwakar Vihara Institute, a Buddhist Research and Educational Institute in Kalimpong, India and he is the founder of the worldwide BodhiPath Buddhist Centers.
The 14th HH ShaMarpa travels to both the western and the eastern countries worldwide, where he teaches at the many Kagyu centers.
In 1994, Shamar Rinpoche officially recognized His Holiness the 17th Karmapa Thrinley Thaye Dorje who now resides in India and France where he receives Dharma instruction and training.