Mikyö Dorje's Unparalleled Legacy

Mikyö Dorje's Unparalleled Legacy

Spring Teaching 2023 • Two Autobiographical Praises by Mikyö Dorje • Day 13 Part Two

16 May 2023

Of all the Karmapas, the collected works of Mikyö Dorje are the most extensive that remain. Though Karma Pakshi was said to have written as many volumes as there are in the Kangyur, which has more than one hundred (some editions have 103, others 110), by the time of Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa (1504–1566 CE), only sixteen volumes remained. In contrast,  the Feast of Scholars credits  Mikyö Dorje with over thirty volumes, of which 90% are preserved in his Collected Works.

Mikyö Dorje's writing has impressive qualities. The Drepung manuscript of the commentary on the Autobiographical Verses: Good Deeds describes his output:

In terms of their composition, at the age of 22, he wrote a textual commentary on the Vinaya Sutras. At 23, he wrote the great commentary on the Prajnaparamita. ; at 24, a great commentary on the Kalapa Grammar; at 26, an extensive commentary on the Vinaya Sutras;and at 27, his great commentary on the Treasury of Abhidharma. He also wrote countless other texts of his own or commentaries on others' works, such as the Guhyagarbha Commentary on the meaning of unexcelled Vajrayana tantra.

The Karmapa explained that all these works were original compositions, not plagiarisms or based on the work of other scholars but generated by his own intelligence and understanding. The longer other scholars examined these texts, the more profound their meaning became. If we compare them with the work of other lamas, the latter are often basically texts to be recited, smoke offerings, torma offerings and other ritual practices. In contrast, Mikyö Dorje's texts contain explanations of both sutra and tantra, commentaries, notes on the historical background, pith instructions, texts on the various sciences, and notes on the historical background. The topics they explore are vast, and his vocabulary is complex. These texts, especially the commentaries on the Middle Way, Prajnaparamita, Vinaya and Abhidharma, are among the most well-known and highly respected texts not just in the Karma Kamtsang but in other Tibetan schools as well. Mikyö Dorje's commentaries on philosophical texts are very long and detailed; they include all the meanings of the words, an explanation of the meanings of different presentations, rebuttals, refutations, and so forth.

Though Dusum Khyenpa founded the Karma Kagyu, Mikyö Dorje's works are at the heart of study and practice. The Karmapa pointed out that the Karma Kamtsang recite the aspiration:

May I achieve in all my lives
A state that's never separate
From the guru, Mikyö Dorje.

They do not say "separate from Dusum Khyenpa".

These days Mikyö Dorje is not just important for philosophical studies and the texts studied in the shedras but also for daily practice. He composed the "Four Session Guru Yoga", the Chakrasamvara Mandala Puja, the torma offering to Mahakala known as the MagDaMa, the aspiration "By these, my roots of virtue…" and other texts used in monastic rituals and practices.

He had a critical role in preserving the Seventh Karmapa's text on Validity and Epistemology. It was almost lost, but Mikyö Dorje gathered the fragments together and completed the text.

He was the Tsongkhapa of the Karma Kamtsang. Through his compassionate and bodhichitta activity, the Kamtsang and the teachings will survive two-thirds longer than otherwise, as predicted by Karmapa Deshin Shekpa.

"When we consider Lord Mikyö Dorje's actions of body, speech and mind, we can say that they were all solely for the sake of sentient beings. He was engaging in benefitting beings," the Karmapa commented and then quoted from the Dhammapada:

Buddhas do not wash away misdeeds with water,
Nor do they remove the sufferings of beings with their hands,
Neither do they transfer their own realisation to others.
Teaching the truth of suchness, they liberate (beings).

The only way to teach the path to liberation is to develop your own experience and realisation, to practise and manifest it yourself. In this way, you can benefit beings and bring others to higher states. This is why the deeds of speech are seen as supreme and the most powerful among those of body, speech and mind.

To repay the great kindness of Mikyö Dorje and become his authentic followers, we need to work collaboratively to collect together and preserve his works and these namthar, the Karmapa advised. They need to be compiled, published, researched by scholars, and used in listening, contemplation and meditation. They are essential and to be cherished: "This is the best method for us to uphold, preserve, and spread the teachings. I think this is even better than founding 100 monasteries because if you build 100 monasteries and temples, in the end, all you have are empty buildings. And what's the point in that?"

A Background to Mikyö Dorje's Works

The Karmapa then focused on specific texts composed by Mikyö Dorje, the commentaries on the Middle Way, Prajnaparamita, Vinaya and Abhidharma. He explained that in the Tibetan scholastic tradition, there were the Four Difficult Texts or Topics, but it's not completely clear which they were. Sometimes it seems to mean these four— the Middle Way, Prajnaparamita, Vinaya and Abhidharma — which, combined with Validity, make the Five Great Texts [studied in shedras]. Sometimes it appears that the Four Difficult Texts were Validity, Prajnaparamita, Abhidharma, and Vinaya, without the Middle Way. In the olden days, scholars who had mastered these four texts were known as Ka-Shiwa.

The Karmapa said he would speak in terms of three topics: how Mikyö Dorje wrote the commentaries; the printed and handwritten editions of these texts; and the importance of compiling a well-edited, critical edition of the texts.

The composition of the texts

The Commentary on Entering the Middle Way:

In the Wood Dragon Year (1544), Mikyö Dorje began to write Chariot of the Practice Siddhas. In the Wood Snake Year (1545), when he was invited to Mön, he completed the text at Domtsang Rong. Karma Dana Yandapak requested it

The Commentary on the Ornament of Clear Realization [Prajnaparamita]:

In the Earth Ox Year (1529), at the age of 23, he began The Noble Ones Resting at Ease: A Commentary on the Ornament of Clear Realization and completed it in the summer of the Iron Hare Year (1531), at the age of 25, at a park outside the temple of Jamyang Gyepay Dangden. Over 150 bhikshus were observing the rains retreat there, and he completed the commentary on the first day of the waxing phase (the 16th day of the Tibetan month). As the colophon of The Noble Ones Resting at Ease says: The basis for the current Palpung edition was an edition supported by Depa Samde and the woodblocks carved at Gatsal Shungluk Ling, as the colophon states.

The Vinaya Commentary:

In 1527, when he was 20 years old, he wrote an explication of the text of the Vinaya Sutras. In the Earth Rat Year (1528), at 22, he wrote An Explication of the Text of the Vinaya Sutras, as both Pawo Rinpoche's history and Sangye Paldrup's commentaries say. In the Water Dragon Year (1532), at 26, he completed writing the  Orb of the Sun: A Great Tika on the Vinaya Sutras. We know it was the Dragon Year because the colophon states, "I began at the age of 26 and completed when I was 27." He gave it this name because of a dream he had that the sun was filling the entire world.

The Commentary on the Abhidharma:

He began writing The Springtime Cow: A Commentary on the Treasury of Abhidharma in 1532 when he was 26. He wrote the first two chapters while travelling from  Kongpo to Ü. In the Earth Pig Year (1539), he completed Chapter Three while staying at Nyuk Gyalkhang for the winter. In the Iron Ox Year (1541), he finished the 4th and 5th chapters. Finally, he completed the entire commentary in 1543. This is clear from the colophon. The composition of this commentary is also clearly described in a text called History of the Great Karmapa's Commentary on the Treasury of Abhidharma.

Extant Editions and Manuscripts

His Holiness explained that there are several editions of these extant texts; some were published by Karma Lekshey Ling, some by Vajra Vidya, one by the Jamgon Kongtrul labrang, and an edition published by Nitharta.

Chariot of the Practice Siddhas

  1. There is a woodblock edition said to be from Nyukla Lekshe Ling. It is in the 20th volume of manuscripts preserved by Raghuvira and Lokesh Chandra. However, the first six folios are missing.
  2. The Palpung woodblock. This is the basis for all modern editions in book format. It was originally prepared during the lifetime of Situ Pema Wangchuk Gyalpo, and there is a publisher's colophon by Jamyang Chökyi Gyaltsen. It is the most widespread edition.
  3. There's a manuscript preserved in the Cultural Palace of Nationalities in Beijing.
  4. In 1969, Topga sponsored the publication in Delhi of a facsimile of a manuscript edition, said to be based on a handwritten manuscript. This needs to be researched thoroughly because it is not copied from the Palpung woodblock but comes from a different source. The Karmapa believes that this may be one of the manuscripts that the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa was able to bring with him when he escaped from Tibet.

The Noble Ones At Ease

  1. There is a woodblock edition from Gatsal Karma Shungluk Ling. It was sponsored by Samde, a descendent of the Tibetan kings. The Karmapa believes that this may be the edition published at the time of Mikyö Dorje himself. It is five volumes among the old texts preserved at Jyeku Shanggu Monastery by Ato Tulku. Some of the original folios are missing from the middle of the text; they have been filled in from newer editions.
  2. Then there is the Palpung woodblock edition. Prepared during the life of Situ Pema Wangchuk, it is the basis for all the present editions in book format; it is the most widespread.
  3. There is only one manuscript extant; it is rather beautiful and in colour.

The Orb of the Sun: Commentary on the Vinaya Sutras

  1. There is a woodblock edition from Gatsal Karma Shungluk Ling.
  2. There is a Palpung woodblock edition.
  3. There is a manuscript preserved in Tibet at DrepungNechung Lhakhang.
  4. There is also a manuscriptfrom the Beijing Cultural Palace of Nationalities, at Drepung monastery.

The Springtime Cow: A Commentary on the Treasury of Abhidharma

  1. The Palpung woodblock edition is the only printed edition. They say they based it on two manuscripts, one from Palpung and one from Tsurphu.
  2. There is a manuscript from the collected works of Mikyo Dorje at the Potala Palace in Lhasa.
  3. A manuscript is also preserved at the Cultural Palace of Nationalities.

The importance of producing well-edited critical editions of these texts

The Karmapa said he believed there might be more woodblock editions and manuscripts not yet discovered, so it was important to search for and collate them.

It was also imperative to produce well-edited, critical editions of these texts, which consider the differences and anomalies between the extant versions of the texts and try to establish an authentic text.

At the time of the 11th Kenting Tai Situpa Pema Wangchuk, Jamyang Chökyi Gyaltsen was responsible for editing the woodblock editions of Mikyö Dorje's commentaries on the great philosophical texts. He composed publisher's colophons and wrote this at the end of the Abhidharma commentary The Springtime Cow:

When preparing this edition of the Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje's commentary on the Treasury of Abhidharma, we found no other edition like this one. There was a handwritten manuscript at Palpung itself and another manuscript in the texts at Tsurphu, which we borrowed. But in all respects—their general meaning, words, meaning, and so forth, the differences between these two are great; little was the same. In particular, the first four chapters and especially the first two were not at all similar. Though I do not know which is better, in recognising the omissions, additions, and particulars, I became somewhat skilled, and as the basis for this edition, we used the Tsurphu manuscript.

Generally, however, Mikyö Dorje wrote the text—first spontaneously and then later editing them and so forth—when there are several manuscripts, they are never the same. With the commentaries on the Vinaya Sutra, Prajnaparamita, and the Middle Way, the manuscripts and printed editions are not at all the same, but the basis for the edition must be one in which all can have confidence.

In particular, the printed editions and manuscripts of the Middle Way commentary are in their composition and style individual; the differences are great. This manuscript is an initial draft where he spontaneously wrote what he thought without changing it, and is incredible and amazing. Thus it must not be considered unimportant; it is something that researchers should know.

Further, the Karmapa cited the Autobiographical Verses: Good Deeds as an example of anomalies between editions. There are two different extant manuscripts, one from the Potala and one from Drepung. However, there is a difference of five to six folios between them. Not just that, the root verses differ too. Thus, of these two manuscripts, the Drepung manuscript seems like the initial draft, and the Potala manuscript is possibly a later manuscript that had been edited. Things which were unclear in the former are clearer in the latter. Both are crucial, so he has decided both should be included in the Collected Works that he is currently collating. There are similar significant differences in the commentaries on the great philosophical texts.

The way forward, the Karmapa suggested, is a collaborative effort amongst the shedras, similar to the way in which the Kagyu Guncho is planned. The old printed editions and manuscripts need to be compared and critical editions produced for publication. Research and editing have to be done to the standards of international scholarship. The result should be authoritative editions of the texts accepted by all the shedras.

Historically, various upheavals and destruction struck the Kagyu. Consequently, most of the works of the previous Karmapas have been lost, and it is a great fortune that most of Mikyo Dorje's work still exists. It is a jewel that needs to be restored.

The conclusion of the teaching on The Praise: He searched thoroughly

Gyalwang Karmapa now turned to verses eight and nine of The Praise: He searched thoroughly. According to the Fifth Shamar's annotated commentary, the eighth stanza teaches how Mikyö Dorje dedicated his own and others' virtue:

He wished with love to exchange himself for those thought to be great
And created connections with them through pure aspirations,
Making dedications to rouse their intelligence
For engaging in virtue—to him, I pray.

According to the Fifth Shamar, Mikyö Dorje wished with heartfelt love to exchange his own self for others thought to be great in the world, such as Brahma. Through his pure aspirations, he was able to make connections with them, dedicating his own and others' virtue as a cause for perfect enlightenment.

Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa's commentary in the Feast for Scholars says that the eighth stanza teaches an example of Mikyö Dorje's activity of liberating peace and existence forever. "Those thought to be great" refers to those who are not actually great such as the chakravartin (universal emperor), of whom Brahma is one. Though they are considered great and powerful, they are still within samsara, temporarily enjoying a pleasant result. Ultimately, because they lack the indestructible nature, they will fall from high to low because they have not transcended the nature of compounded existence, which is of the nature of suffering. Not only that, the arhats, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas up to the 10th bumi have not yet reached the ultimate stronghold. They are like travellers who still remain on the path. They haven't reached their actual destination or fulfilled their final intention. Because of this, they also deserve our compassion, and that's the reason Mikyö Dorje engages in tonglen (exchanging self and others) with them. Impelled by the power of non-referential, loving compassion, he was able to arouse in them the distinctive intelligence of wisdom and the resolve of relative bodhichitta. In order to do this, he dedicated all his own virtue - past, present, and future - and all the virtue accumulated throughout the three times, for this purpose. In brief, just as long as space remained, as long as there were sentient beings, he would perform activity that is inseparable from the activity of all the beings.

On to the ninth verse:

By the virtue thus gained by stating his qualities,
May expressing the qualities of him who has qualities
Lead to a meaningful body and mind, perfected and purified,
And fulfil the intentions of the Karmapa.

According to the Fifth Shamar's commentary, this stanza teaches how reciting this prayer fervently and for a long time fulfils the aspirations of the master himself.

According to Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa, the ninth stanza is the "inconceivable dedication and conclusion". Mikyö Dorje wrote this as a list of his own qualities without any exaggeration or denial. By stating these qualities, in the future, others would be able to understand what he was speaking about, because of understanding that they would develop faith, and because of that, they would follow his example, or at the very least, they would recite it. Any virtue, directly or indirectly accumulated, must be dedicated, so this verse is the dedication by Mikyö Dorje.

But how, questioned the Karmapa, do you gain merit or virtue from stating your own qualities? In one sutra describing his birth and life, the Buddha teaches his own deeds. By teaching his own deeds, he brings many students into ripening and liberation, thus creating virtue.

The dedication is for Mikyö Dorje's own speech to be pure and clear. It seems he had a speech impediment. Something was wrong with his tongue, and he could not pronounce his words clearly. This is evidenced by a praise of Avalokiteshvara he wrote in which he laments the problem with his tongue and lack of clear pronunciation. Ultimately, the dedication is for him to have a meaningful body in order to awaken to buddhahood and bring all beings to that state, fulfilling the intentions of the Karmapa, who is inseparable from Buddha Amoghasiddhi, the embodiment of the activity of all buddhas.

In brief, Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa explains the Praise  as a dharma teaching through Mikyö Dorje's namthar or spiritual biography, and summarises each stanza as follows:

The 1st stanza states Mikyö Dorje was not satisfied merely by being given the title of Karmapa and instead sought the actual teachings, receiving the teachings in full.

The 2nd stanza teaches that he knew how to properly distinguish dharma from non-dharma, and gave up natural and disobedient unwholesome actions.

The 3rd stanza teaches how he followed his teachers as dearly as his own life.

The 4th stanza advises understanding that everything is futile and learning to be content.

The 5th stanza advises training in bodhichitta, the essence of the Mahayana.

The 6th stanza advises only to consider the state of one's own continuum and tame one's own mind stream.

The 7th stanza advises that, instead of being satisfied with nonsense and following what others say, gain realisation through an impartial mind and through your own prajna.

The 8th stanza teaches that nothing is worth aspiring for except perfect enlightenment, so achieve that and seek lasting liberation for everyone in peace and existence.

The 9th stanza is advice to dedicate all virtues to great enlightenment.

Fifth Shamar Könchok Yenlak's commentary says that

This supplication, known in the Land of Snows as "He Searched Thoroughly…" that I have thus annotated, was offered as a praise by the Gyalwang to his great tutor Karma Trinleypa, when he was staying at Namtö Mountain. The tutor said, "I do not have such qualities as these, so I offer this praise to you, my lord," and offered it back to him.

The Karmapa explained that this was very similar to the praise by Je Tsongkhapa known as the Migtsema,which Tsongkhapa offered as a supplication to his own tutor, Geshe Redawa:

Lord who knows the stainless, Manjushri,
Great trove of limitless compassion Avalokiteshvara,
Crown Jewel of Tibetan scholars Redawa,
Shönnu Lodrö: I bow to your lotus feet.
Protect me, this bee who seeks liberation.

Geshe Redawa returned it to Tsongkhapa, saying, "It is not appropriate to praise me like this. It is worthy of the Dharma Lord Lobsang Drakpa himself," and changed it into a praise of Tsongkhapa.

In conclusion, the Karmapa said that among all the different praises used within the Karma Kamtsang, this one of Mikyo Dorje's is probably the most well-known, and drew this year's teachings on the Autobiographical Verses: Good Deeds and The Praise: He searched thoroughly to a close. He explained that there was more to be said, but he was waiting to get a couple of important manuscripts. Once he received them, he would continue the topic.

Mikyö Dorje: Man of Action

Mikyö Dorje: Man of Action

Spring Teaching 2023 • Two Autobiographical Praises by Mikyö Dorje • Day 13 Part One

16 May 2023

On the final day of this extended two-month teaching His Holiness Karmapa presented the last good deed of Mikyö Dorje in a summary that brought home the incredible capacity of what it means to work around the clock to benefit beings. (It seemed at times that the 17th Karmapa was speaking so passionately and spontaneously about the 8th Karmapa, he was recalling his own past life).

Sangye Paldrup’s Commentary from the Drepung Manuscript elucidates the meaning of the greater individual in 3 parts (v. 9–33). The most relevant is the third section - which contains seven sub-topics. The seventh describes how the six clairvoyances gave Mikyö Dorje the ability to benefit others. In order to liberate beings, we have to mature our own being. This section describes how Mikyö Dorje used his powers in a very down-to-earth skillful way.

The Divine Ear and the Divine Eye

There was nothing contrived about Mikyö Dorje’s actions. He showed in a very discreet way the clairvoyance of the divine ear. He could hear the cry of a small sentient being when a lama who had just one louse on his body came to see him. With the divine ear he could hear the cries from such a tiny creature. He could also understand the local dialects in Tibet just by hearing them and even speak them; similarly, he could teach in Sanskrit.

He also possessed the divine eye. Regarding past lives, he remembered Geshe Potawa, and Kamalashila but he never said it was his past life himself. He could speak of other beings’ previous lives, which also allows one to see beings in the bardo and where they have been reborn.  In his twenties he predicted all the signs of the 9th Karmapa’s future reincarnation. 

The highest clairvoyance is the prajna that distinguishes obscuration, enabling one to see the defilements and know the antidote. By observing the behavior of his students, he was able to know their experiences of shamatha and insight, He never missed the chance to eliminate obstacles or enhance their practice. He also possessed the ability to absorb and understand the scriptures just by reading them.

He did not make any distinction between people based on class, behavior, generosity, or service. Regardless of their attributes, if they were a type who could be helped, he would bring them into his entourage to increase their intelligence and liberate them by instructing in the Vajrayana yogas of prana, nadi and bindu.  He even knew if they had received the teaching.

There were those he could not help, even if that person had great faith and devotion or learning, venerability, teaching, meditation, or wealth. He would give them whatever material things or respect in this life or whatever instructions and transmissions would satisfy them, but otherwise leave them alone. He wouldn’t give instructions to anyone who wanted it for egotistic reasons.

Those who had heartfelt conviction that whatever he did was excellent and whatever he said was authoritative, learned the practice and developed qualities. ‘’He was like a wise person raising a child, so I think that for those who desired liberation, this example was his greatest kindness,’’ His Holiness commented.

It is just as impossible for a swan to take milk from water, as it is to appropriate qualities. For example, some dharma aspirants would boast, “I’ve had this many empowerments, this many transmissions” and compare who had got more and within how many years. They would say, “this is my root guru,” and then have the conceit that by accumulating misdeeds they were spreading and upholding the teachings. Instead, one should behave according to whatever example a great lama shows through body, speech, and mind, thus producing clear realization in one’s own being of the guru’s mind stream. This method is interdependent with the guru. One should not have the slightest hesitation about following the guru.

His deeds responded to the supplications of the faithful. Whether it was appearing miraculously before those stricken with the suffering of sickness and death, or the power of pure perception of those with longing, he would come in person, give hand empowerments or protection knots, make dharma connections, speak simultaneously during audiences, write dharma and worldly documents, give instructions, read and respond to questions, accept offerings, make grammatical and astrological diagrams, edit and proofread, converse and have dialogues, practice mantra, train in mudras, draw and sculpt, while having tea and bread.

In every second of every minute he was continually mixing together activities, having mastered workability of body and mind. To some onlookers it seemed like unbearable physical exhaustion. They only understood later when he had finished. Those who were normally accustomed to him, however, thought he was playing like a child. They could not see how he had actually done it. In this way, he accomplished great things with little difficulty.

His deeds of speech

He spent his time teaching Dharma, writing, and debating both sutra, tantra and their commentaries. Spontaneously he would make jokes, laugh, or point out hidden faults. He was very sociable but everything he said was a crucial point of dharma; it was always instructions that struck home—pith instructions that teach crucial points of what to do and what to give up, ripping out the foundation of the eight worldly concerns, uprooting ego-clinging, and teaching virtues that brought peace.

His deeds of mind

With unbearable great compassion, he taught without distinction all those hungry for dharma. Withholding nothing, he employed his body speech and mind without hesitation. In brief, if we were to estimate the extent of his knowledge of dharma, it was as if he had spent his entire life studying Vinaya, Abhidharma, the Middle Way, Prajnaparamita, the four classes of Tantra and the Father, Mother, and Nondual Tantras. By the end of his 20’s he had written many volumes. ‘’ I’m reaching 40 and haven’t written even a single volume,’’ the Seventeenth Karmapa murmured. He also travelled to so many places that it looked like he spent his entire life travelling. He also gave empowerments. He never stopped using his body speech and mind for others.

To quote a stanza from the Fifth Shamar’s annotated commentary on the seventh, eighth, and ninth stanzas of Mikyö Dorje’s praise “He Searched Thoroughly”:

He meditated impartially on the scriptures’ meaning.
Instead of chasing nonsense, he would explain
With prajna distinguishing the expedient and definitive
The exalted definitive meaning—to him I pray.

 A brief explanation of this stanza:

He meditated impartially on the scriptures’ meaning, not falling into the extremes of existence or non-existence; with the prajna thus produced, he could distinguish what is and what is not the expedientmeaning and the definitive meaning. Instead of just repeating other peoples’ nonsense, he would explain the exalted unelaborated definitive meaning.

To do so requires transcendent patience to distinguish non-arising phenomena and transcendent prajna to know what is and what is not.

According to Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa’s commentary from the Feast for Scholars:

This seventh stanza relates his example of comprehending all the varieties of dharma without relying on others. For example, to sail the great ocean, a captain builds a ship and then sails to some part of the ocean with a crew who have similar purposes. They take the jewels according to their fortune, and accomplish benefit for themselves and others. But they cannot sail the entire ocean and take all the jewels there. Likewise, in the infinite ocean of the Buddha’s scriptures, the masters of each school are only able to find, among all the dharma teachings of the Buddha, a few that match their own fortune and are compatible with their intelligence. Mikyö Dorje saw that there is no one who is able to swallow and digest the entire text and meaning of the ocean-like true dharma.

Mikyö Dorje never clung to the thought, “I only follow this or that guru.” With no attachment for his own school and hostility toward others, he considered and examined them impartially: the twelve types of the scriptures, the words and meaning of all sutras, tantras, and pith instructions. He also implemented the causes that produced those dharma teachings—while resting in equipoise in the state of Samadhi.

He taught in accord with each student’s fortune, not out of attachment to one way. For example, what is expedient for some students is definitive for others. Sometimes what is taught as expedient can become the definitive. To explain from another angle, because all dharmas are taught to be inexpressible, everything is expedient. But the Buddha’s speech is never deceptive, and all dharma is also the definitive meaning in dependence upon each being to be tamed. Thus there is no contradiction to presenting it all as definitive meaning.

In explaining the Buddha’s intent, Gyalwang Mikyö Dorje gained the ability to comment independently on all scriptures as they were taught in the two traditions of India. In Tibet, those who were able to examine with the power of their own intelligence, instead of following the words of earlier renowned Indian scholars, were rare. Those who were proud that they were able to do any analysis, engaged in senseless detail.

   Mikyö Dorje did not write in that way. It is as if he opens our eyes to all the difficult points of all sutras and tantras that those kind of ‘scholars’ were unable to examine. What to accept and what to reject. His presentation of the view brings all the Indian siddhas and Tibetan scholars into unison with the explanations of the Great Brahmin Saraha, and of Nagarjuna.

Training in the Two Types of Bodhichitta and the Six Types of Clairvoyance

Training in the Two Types of Bodhichitta and the Six Types of Clairvoyance

Spring Teaching 2023 • Two Autobiographical Praises by Mikyö Dorje • Day 12

13 May 2023

At the start of today’s teachings, His Holiness gave a transmission of the long-life prayer that he had composed upon request for Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche’s swift recovery from his illness. He mentioned that this year is the second year that a puja is being held for Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche in Nepal, and so His Holiness wished to take the opportunity to offer some praise to Choeje Lama Phuntsok and promised to make a recording of the benefits of this puja and make it public later on.

Continuing with the main topic of this year’s Spring Teachings, His Holiness said that in today’s lecture, he would speak about the 33rd of the good deeds from the Autobiographical Verses Good Deeds. As mentioned previously, there are two manuscripts of Sangye Paldrup's commentary - one from the Potala, and one that comes from the Drepung library, between which there are big differences.

According to the outline from the Drepung manuscript, the primary topics His Holiness wished to discuss in today’s teachings were the practices in accordance with those of beings with greatest capacity - firstly, the intention, rousing bodhichitta; secondly, the action, meditating on the two types of bodhichitta; and thirdly, how Mikyö Dorje trained in the precepts of the two types of bodhichitta.                                                                     His Holiness wished to look more closely into the third aspect, the training in the precepts of the two types of bodhichitta and its seven sub-topics. Of these seven sub-topics, His Holiness had already covered the first six, thus continued with the seventh, how the six types of clairvoyance gave Mikyö Dorje the ability to benefit others, explaining that this section relates to the last of the thirty-three good deeds.                                                   

His Holiness quoted from the root text:

Someone who does not have the clairvoyance of
Exhausting defilements cannot benefit students,
So, I perfected accumulation and purification
And developed a zest for benefiting beings throughout space.
I think of this as one of my good deeds. (33)

In these degenerate times, His Holiness went on to say, there are people who say that someone who is benefiting other sentient beings - whether one is a lama, a tulku, or a rinpoche etc. - should teach one’s students the faults of samsara and the advantages of nirvana so that they may understand crucial points about the nature of happiness and suffering and strive to achieve it.

Everybody wants happiness and does not wish for suffering, yet, people do not act accordingly, i.e., they do not give up the causes for suffering and fail to create the causes for happiness. Thus, we need to use different methods to make people understand what to practice and what to refrain from, as well as to gather the accumulations of virtue and purify obscurations. In this way, the qualities of faith and so forth will ripen in the students’ mind streams. Along with the students’ gradual ripening, they will eliminate obstacles and enhance positive qualities. Moreover, the students should be made to learn the profound and vast Dharma of means and prajna [wisdom]. According to the teachings of the Buddha and other great beings, there is no other true way to bring others to ripening and liberation.

However, His Holiness went on to say, in these degenerate times, people are given the name ‘lama’ or ‘tulku’ although they often do not really understand how they should teach the path regarding what one should do and what one should avoid. Yet, because of past karma, these so-called lamas or tulkus are gathering people around them with bad characters. Guessing from their own knowledge and skills, they give them the teachings, vows of refuge, education, and meditation instructions. If their students are receptive, they continue to care for them and give them advice. If the students are not receptive, they discipline them and act a bit more forcefully or wrathfully.

Karmapa Mikyö Dorje did not really have much interest in these so-called lamas or tulkus, nor did he think the way they acted was good; he even looked at people like this with disgust as he regarded such fake “benefiting others” as being of no true benefit to others. He understood that rather than benefitting them, it would destroy everyone’s lasting happiness.

Enthralled by the way the buddhas and bodhisattvas truly benefit beings, Mikyö Dorje had this very strong feeling and thought to emulate them in order to work for sentient beings’ benefit.  

His Holiness quoted from the Prajnaparamita in Eight-thousand Verses:

Subhuti, it is thus. A bird cannot fly without wings. Subhuti, likewise a bodhisattva cannot teach Dharma to beings without clairvoyance. Subhuti, therefore bodhisattvas should practice transcendent prajna to accomplish clairvoyance. With that clairvoyance, they will easily accomplish the benefits they wish to bring sentient beings.

Similarly, it says in the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment:

Just as a bird whose wings are not fledged
Cannot fly in the sky,
Without the powers of clairvoyance,
One cannot benefit beings.

Once Atisha said to Dromtönpa, his main student: “Upasaka, as long as you do not have clairvoyance, do not nurture a group. It is like an archer with no eyes. You have no idea what you will hit.” To illustrate this point, His Holiness shared a story of a foreigner who once visited Sera monastery in South India and was shown different representations of past masters; seeing an image of Dromtönpa with long hair, he asked the temple keeper whether the person was male or female; not knowing the correct answer, the temple keeper replied wrongly that Dromtönpa was female.

His Holiness went on to explain that there are two types of clairvoyance, worldly clairvoyance as well as supramundane or transcendent clairvoyance. With the help of worldly clairvoyance, one will be unable to bring students onto the path of great enlightenment. Mikyö Dorje saw that one must realize the student’s capacity through the supramundane or transcendent clairvoyance of knowing the extinction of defilements and bring them onto the path of great liberation. He was able to perceive the student’s capacities directly, as well as their faculties and latencies and then teach them the Dharma and perform activities appropriate for them. All the virtuous actions that Mikyö Dorje himself performed were efforts to achieve this clairvoyance of knowing the extinction of defilements and he dedicated all his roots of virtue toward that aim.

There are many causes for achieving undefiled clairvoyance; the main one is to receive teachings from innumerable Mahayana teachers and to study, contemplate, and meditate in the presence of them in a limitless way, such as is illustrated in the stories of many bodhisattvas who follow an incredible number of teachers. Bodhisattva Norsang was such an example, His Holiness added, showing us how to follow our teachers; he quoted from the Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct:

I will purify completely oceans of realms
And liberate completely oceans of beings.
I will completely see the oceans of Dharma
And totally realize the oceans of wisdom.

I will purify completely oceans of conduct,
Perfect completely oceans of aspirations,
Offer completely to the oceans of buddhas,
And act for oceans of eons undiscouraged.

For this reason, Sangye Paldrup, the author of the commentary on Mikyö Dorje’s Good Deeds, said that Mikyö Dorje cared for those who sought the Mahayana, depended upon him or who placed their hopes in him in such a manner as mentioned in the Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct. He must have either had the actual clairvoyance of knowing the extinction of defilements or at least something like it, His Holiness added.

When Sangye Paldrup was approached by some people who said, “If the Karmapa is your guru, so since the Karmapa is a buddha, you should not have any doubt whether he has the clairvoyance of knowing the extinction of defilements.”, Sangye Paldrup replied that that was true and that his guru Mikyö Dorje was often said to be the essence of the buddhas and bodhisattvas - the Karmapa. However, an ordinary sentient being such as he was had no way of knowing whether his guru Mikyö Dorje was a buddha or an incarnation of the Karmapa; he could merely follow the words of great ancient and modern masters and have confidence that he was the Karmapa. Sangye Paldrup made notes based on authoritative sources such as the liberation story by Akhu Atra, which says, “There were virtuous omens at his birth, and his deeds were comparable to the buddhas and bodhisattvas in their youth;” and the liberation story by Gampo Khenpo Shakya Sangpo, who had achieved mastery of practice; the liberation story by Lama Pönyik, and the liberation stories said to be by Mikyö Dorje himself. Other than that, he had not perceived any of his clairvoyance, visions of yidam deities, or the like.

His Holiness commented that Mikyö Dorje himself had said: “Those who bear the title Karmapa are merely the blessings of the activity of the Karmapa himself.” Aside from that, he himself had no thought that he was a rebirth of the Karmapa.

The Karmapa then spoke openly about his own experiences as a child when he was tested to see whether he was a tulku or not, how his selection of items during the testing was rather hit-or-miss, and how sometimes his attendants would brief him beforehand or indicate which objects he should choose. They would also brief him on what he had to say.

Mikyö Dorje’s name was often misappropriated by his attendants and people in his retinue for material gain. For example, they would write verses which showed previous connections with the Karmapa and present them to the supplicant as if they were written by Mikyö Dorje, or they would tell a supplicant who was asking about past and future lives, that Mikyö Dorje had made a bad prediction for their future. Then the offerings would increase and the prediction would improve. This is why Mikyö Dorje maintained that his previous liberation stories were unreliable: “It was all a pretense, so one cannot rely on any of my previous ’liberation stories.”  He tells how:

In some previous liberation stories, some old lamas, in order to prove that I was the Karmapa, made a comparison to the life stories of earlier Karmapas so that others would believe it. There were many who said, “I shall prepare a life story of His Holiness’ deeds.” I have not done such deeds as they say in expressing the twelve deeds of my life story, but I have made the aspiration that in my next life, I may, through the path of mantra, display the example of the twelve deeds of a supreme nirmanakaya. I also did not recognize Konchok Yenlak as the incarnation of the Shamar through clairvoyant powers. I merely had to serve the testament that Tulku Chökyi Drakpa [the previous Shamar] had himself made.

When Mikyö Dorje spoke thus, most people thought, “His Holiness is pretending not to remember past lives, so such words are not intended literally.” However, Sangye Paldrup acknowledges that Mikyö Dorje was speaking truthfully. His reasoning is that for this guru not to have any of the qualities of the Karmapa such as miracles does not mean that he is not the Karmapa, because it is seen that buddhas and bodhisattvas emanated and blessed many emanations that did not have all the qualities of a buddha, the telepathic powers of a buddha, or qualities of remembering past lives and so forth. For example, dogs and pigs that are nirmanakayas of the buddha do not appear to have a buddha’s qualities of remembering past lives, but we are unable to say that they are not emanations of the buddha.

The Karmapa reminded everyone of the story of the Bodhisattva Maitreya  appearing to Asanga as a maggot-ridden dog. Whether or not Mikyö Dorje remembered past lives or displayed miracles, is not merely an appearance of experience. Ordinary individuals had shared perceptions of his miracles.  When the Chinese emperor Jǐngtài was punishing Domes Goshir for saying the Karmapa’s golden letter was false, the emperor and most minsters inside the Golden Hall saw His Holiness with the Black Crown appear in the sky. At that time, two cranes— birds symbolizing long-life—circled the spire of the palace. On the morning of their arrival, the Tai Kyen and others sent by the emperor to escort the Karmapa arrived at the encampment and saw the Karmapa, wearing the black hat with a golden blaze, in the midst of rainbow clouds above the peak of a snow mountain. The envoy and soldiers all saw this.

By the river Nyakchu, the encampment gathered, looking for a ferry, but they couldn’t agree a price with the ferrymen, so the latter refused to take them across. That evening, the river froze. The encampment was able to walk across the river, but as soon as they had crossed safely, the ice melted. At that time, some saw the Karmapa Mikyö Dorje flying in the sky above the water.

In many places in Kham, Kongpo, and other regions, he left hand and footprints in rock.

During a consecration ceremony at Sok Zamkhar Monastery, the grains of barley that he tossed, didn’t fall to the ground but filled all the surrounding fields and in the summer it sprouted. There were uncountable instances when, with statues, paintings, and such, a multitude of barley grains (thrown for consecration) would remain in the sky directly above the image for many days. Not only that, even the horses, mules, dzos, and dogs left hoof and foot prints. And after they had died, their bones emanated piles of relics radiating light that amazed all who saw or heard about them; there are many such amazing signs.

It seems some people forged his hand and foot prints. Mikyö Dorje warned them that it was not good to do this, as it was wrong for people to gather the accumulations based on fakes.

Whether or not he had the clairvoyance of telepathy, most who came into his presence, whether they had faith or not would feel, “He knows without impediment that I had such and such a thought and everything I’ve done in secret.” When Mikyö Dorje’s words turned out to be true, it was because he was using his profound prajna to infer from their behaviour and knowing their faults and qualities from that. Thus, he would jokingly say, “This is not telepathy. I knew it from observation. I knew it from observing your eyes and tongue, so guard your tongue!” Some fortunate fools with faith said, “I don’t dare think a bad thought in His Holiness’ presence.” No one was able to fool him or get away with lying. People observed that when they had a good thought or a bad thought, this would be reflected in the Karmapa’s expression. “It was as if he was scanning you,” the Karmapa explained and described how people with few karmic obscurations were able to perceive people with strong afflictions. “Some people immediately have this feeling, when they're brought into the presence of someone who has murdered someone or killed someone, they just feel unease, a sort of discomfort with them.”

One of Mikyö Dorje’s songs says that there is actual contamination from those with extreme afflictions:

This illness disturbing the elements of the body
Is nothing but a fault in my students’ dharma practice.

When he had an illness, it was because the students did not really act in accordance with the Dharma. On the other hand, when people with few afflictions and great faith and devotion came to him, he would immediately appear to feel better, appear pleased, and speak. According to the words of Sangye Paldrup:

If you want the guru to always be healthy and not to get sick, make sure that your own mind stream is not affected by the faults of wrong thought. Moreover, you must have devotion to the guru that is free of boasting and sectarianism, supplicate, and invoke blessings, and so forth. Doing this assiduously is important.

Sometimes, when he visited a remote area rife with thieving and banditry, Mikyö Dorje would know more about it than his friends and other people around him. Whether someone was close to him or not, even if their external behaviour was excellent, if their internal intentions were bad, they could not deceive him. If their intentions were good, but at that moment their behaviour was bad because of afflictions, out of compassion, he never gave up on them. To obstinate fools and braggarts, he would say, “Your situation is like this…” clearly.        For example, the Lowo Tokden said they had achieved siddhi. He summoned them and said, “You have not achieved siddhi. You have been blessed by a big demon.”

In brief, it was as if there was nothing he did not know about all beings’ intentions and behaviours, but Mikyö Dorje had no wish for material things or fame and never acted as fools in this degenerate age who assert they have clairvoyance. Mikyö Dorje said that he was an ordinary sentient being with no clairvoyance at all, so that people did not feel embarrassed or become angry and to prevent people from making projections or exaggerations.

Later in his life, people came from Central and Eastern Tibet to ask him to do divinations. He told all of them, “I don’t know how to do them,” and would not make predictions. He acted in accordance with the Prajñaparamitain Twenty-five Thousand Lines: “An irreversible bodhisattva does not make predictions saying ‘You will have a son’ or ‘You will have a daughter,’ and never has the fault of making such predictions.”

Sometimes, however, there were faithful people who would come asking him with tears in their eyes to predict where their deceased parents had been reborn. He said he was reluctant to refuse people in such pain, so he would do the divination of writing the names of the six realms inside balls of dough and they would pick one. He never claimed to have clairvoyance.

After a short break, His Holiness went on to speak about Mikyö Dorje’s telepathic powers and the clairvoyance of remembering past lives. There are accounts from the life stories of the previous Karmapas that speak of most Indian and Tibetan scholars and siddhas being in the same mindstream as the Karmapa. When Mikyö Dorje spoke about the life stories of previous Karmapas, most people who listened to him must have known that these were his previous incarnations.

When an individual passed away, Mikyö Dorje would say that he had dreamed about this deceased individual, and that they had been reborn. He would not say anything more. But his attendants would exaggerate it and say that the Gyalwang Karmapa said that he saw the deceased so-and-so in the bardo and that he saw what happened to them in the bardo state, and that so-and-so was reborn in a particular place. Thus, there were a lot of projections and exaggerations.

Whether or not one has the clairvoyance of the extinction of defilements, whether Mikyö Dorje himself actually had them, is something that Sangye Paldrup could not tell. But he did have the prajna that distinguishes obscuration from antidote which did not depend on others’ words; he was able to understand the meaning of the great texts, the words of the Buddha and the commentaries, merely by reading them. Moreover, by merely observing the behaviour of the students who depended on him, he was able to know their experiences of shamatha and insight, so he never missed the chance to eliminate obstacles or enhance their practice.

For those practitioners of the secret mantra and the practices of nadis, pranas and bindus, he gave instructions or empowerments; he could see whether that was beneficial to that person, could clearly examine and see whether someone’s experiences were good or bad and what level of practice they would have as well as give clear predictions.

At this point, His Holiness concluded today’s teachings.

Into the Depths of the Guru-Student Connection

Into the Depths of the Guru-Student Connection

Spring Teaching 2023 • Two Autobiographical Praises by Mikyö Dorje • Day 10

2 May 2023

With warm greetings to the source of refuge, the noble Sangha, primarily monks and nuns as well as the lay students, the Gyalwang Karmapa opened the tenth teaching session. This session focuses on the 32nd (out of 33) Good Deed from Mikyö Dorje's Two Autobiographical Praises, which reflects upon the profoundness of the guru-student relationship, preceded by some additional comments on the 31st Good Deed discussed in the previous session.

According to the outline from Sangye Paldrup’s Commentary on the Meaning (Drepung manuscript), this is in the passage discussing Mikyö Dorje’s practice of the path of the greater individual (v. 9–33), further divided into 3:

  1. The intention: rousing bodhichitta (v. 9)
  2. The action: meditating on the two types of bodhichitta (v. 10–21)
  3. How he trained in the precepts of the two types of bodhichitta (v. 22–33)

The Karmapa explained that he was speaking about the third, and among its seven sub-topics, addressing the fifth.

To recapitulate the sub-topics are:

  1. How he trained in the six transcendences
  2. How he trained in purifying his own continuum
  3. How he trained in the ways of all bodhisattvas
  4. How he acted in accord with the time and place
  5. How he acted in fruitful and fruitless situations, which has 2 parts:
  1. How he did what is fruitful, and
  2. How he gave up what is fruitless – the topic to be completed in today's session

In his text Instructions in Training in the Liberation Story Mikyö Dorje speaks on the subject of giving up what is fruitless.

In a degenerate time, while we try to uphold, preserve and spread the teachings, we commonly come into contact with people who act on the basis of the afflictions and tend to enter debates based on sectarianism or competition. Even if you don't wish to compete with them, they attempt to compete against you – such situations occur more often than not.

At such a time, you should uphold the teachings while remaining peaceful and subdued in the actions of your body, speech and mind.

When sponsors provide you with right livelihood, people (this happens particularly among monastics) who feel jealous might disparage you, cut connections with you, accuse you of things you haven't done or even harm your body and possessions – it could go as far as instigating a danger to your life or, at the very least, bring obstacles to your vows and samayas to pass.

Due to this, in order that those who make connections to you and have gathered for the sake of the true Dharma are not influenced by these adverse conditions - you must stay as far away from such jealous and competitive people as you can.

You should keep to places free of the nine bases of malice:

A) Three for oneself:

Having the feeling that:

  1. They harmed me.
  2. They are harming me now
  3. They will harm me in the future

B) Three for those who are connected to you, friends and relatives:

Having the feeling that:

  1. They harmed us before
  2. They are harming us now
  3. They will harm us is the future

C) When some people are helping those who don't like you; knowing that they are your enemies, they continue to make connections with them:

Having the feeling that:

  1. They helped my enemy,
  2. They are helping my enemy,
  3. They will help my enemy

The solution to these issues is relocating to a remote place where such thoughts will not occur. Should you stay in a place which breeds attachments and aversions, even your sleep could become seriously disturbed. And you should go along with your friends, people who will not create such obstacles.

Still, if you come to a more suitable place and the difficult conditions continue to occur, it means you need to distance yourself both physically and mentally.

By the same token, you yourself should try to receive offerings in a non-obvious way, remaining humble. It is important to give up the extreme of hardship and the extreme of luxury - residing in such a place where your body, speech and mind will not be distracted so you can engage in virtue.

Next, the Karmapa focused on the 32nd of the 33 Good Deeds: how he trained in the two bodhichittas. This is the sixth of the seven sub-topics and concerns how he accomplished the two benefits through the power of devotion.

Some people have had pure perceptions of me
Because I resolved that my guru, whom I trusted first of all,
In essence is the Three Jewels and understood
That he has the three kayas and five wisdoms.
I think of this as one of my good deeds. (32)

According to Mikyö Dorje’s Instructions in Training in the Liberation Story from his Collected Works, he had four root gurus (foremost of whom was Drubthob Sangye Nyenpa) and he considered all of them to be the Buddha in essence, the essence of the Three Jewels – knowing them all to posses the Three Kayas and Five Wisdoms. He wrote, “Due to my own perceptions of my gurus other people have such pure perceptions of me.”

As mentioned, one should stay in such a place, surrounded by such people that offer isolation for body and mind while maintaining a distance from situations that generate attachments and aversions. In order to spend this life practicing, making a strong commitment, you need to have supporting circumstances.  What does this mean?

Just as raising and nurturing a child hinges on the parents being good people from a good family, likewise the accumulation and purification of a receptive student depends on the authenticity of their guru – and the student adopts the qualities present in the guru's mind-stream. Now, there is but one way of doing this: first, you must think of yourself as the lowest of servants while seeing the guru as an inexhaustible source of all qualities – like a mine of treasures. If one was to look for a gold or a diamond mine, one would go to various places, different countries known to have great mineral deposits and if by some chance one stumbled upon a vein of gold, one would be very happy. Buying a place alleged to be a gold mine but which produces nothing would be distressing.

Similarly, you should always see your guru as a mine of precious substances and then, in order to gain these precious qualities, you should never, not even for an instant, let your body, speech and mind be overcome by distractions. In addition, you should continuously develop virtuous roots, such as the 37 factors of realisation. Having a lot of enthusiasm to do so is essential, since the effort to do the work will naturally flow from such enthusiasm.

Furthermore, a stable wish to become virtuous will not be taken away from you or be diminished by anyone, no matter what adverse circumstances may arise. This will swiftly ripen as prajna different from the kind of prajna we gain by engaging in regular studies. You will know that critical point that recognises what you should and should not do. You will know what is the true Dharma and, due to your comprehension of that critical point, no matter what dharma you practice, it will develop like the waxing moon—this is the nature of how things are.

Some people do the opposite these days; they do a little bit of study with the prajna of listening and contemplating without internalising it. Then, when some confidence arises, they feel like they can teach the Dharma without necessarily getting the empowerments, instructions and transmissions from a guru because, they think, it's all in the texts. If they happen to get a wealthy sponsor and, thereafter, start to amass more and more students, they begin to think of themselves as on-a-par with all the teachers of the past and present and develop real pride. They acquire a certain status, and then can't stay in one place—they want to build a monastery, make statues, give empowerments, teachings and instructions and they gain the appearance of a guru with great activity. So, if the teacher's motivation is impure, the result is impure behavior and a lot of pride, which then causes them to develop envy as well. Consequently, the student will adopt those same characteristics of pride and jealousy – resulting in an impure lineage. Some temporary benefits, like food and clothing, might be gained, but in actuality, this only increases the origins of suffering, karma and afflictions. This kind of guru-student connection is futile.

With regard to this, Gyalwa Götsangpa said: “You must pray to an authentic guru, but supplicating like a dog or pig is not enough.” That is to say, you should supplicate someone worthy of supplications, not just anyone, like a dog or a pig. Don't supplicate those who are not truly qualified. With that in mind, once you find a qualified guru, you need to follow them properly – and this is a critical point you'll find in whichever Buddha's words or treatises you might read. It is very clear: this is the foundation of our Dharma practice. Further, apart from being someone who has entered the path of liberation and omniscience and knows how to teach it, the guru should be someone who has the love, compassion and power to prevent you from entering the wrong path and bring you to the good one. This is contingent upon your karmic connection. Even though a good, authentic guru is there, the connection cannot be established if the karmic connection is not present. In the histories of the past, we see that many great lamas appear but still people cannot make a connection with them due to the lack of a karmic connection.

So,when you have an authentic guru along with the karmic connection, you need to approach them and request the siddhis that will eliminate adverse conditions and create positive ones. Many people think that gaining siddhis is similar to receiving an inheritance from a parent – like it's some sort of a thing. We think that when the guru puts the vase on our head, there is some feeling that we have received something.  Consequently, some students focus on getting and retaking empowerments, but when the guru is teaching the Dharma every day for a month, they see no point in attending. As a matter of fact, when the guru teaches the Dharma, and after listening you contemplate it - that's where the blessing is. Most people, unable to understand this, think that when something, even a rock or a mobile phone, gets placed on their head, the blessings are received.

In actuality, receiving blessings and siddhis is not at all like that. Siddhis are like the qualities of abandonment and realisation the guru has in their mind-stream which they achieved by practicing the accumulations and purification in the past. Despite knowing that, some of us think: “The buddhas and bodhisattvas of the past have worked hard and now I don't have to do anything. Now, please give me some sort of an accomplishment. You've done all the work, you have all the wisdom of knowing, all the compassionate love and power - now just give us something.” As if the gurus owe us something. We need to practice the accumulations and purification in order to gain the qualities of abandonment and realisation in the same fashion as the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the past did.

 Whether it’s your root guru or a lineage guru, or whether it’s the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the past, the student needs to reflect on how they aroused bodhichitta. How did they practice the path of accumulation and purification? How did they achieve the siddhis?  Then, the student has to make the same commitment: I'm going to do the same thing. I'm going to practice it well.

“And if you do it well, then before long, you will naturally swiftly awaken to the unexcelled perfect Buddhahood to benefit both yourself and others,” the Karmapa asserted.

Siddhi is not like a lump of some substance which is given to you by the guru.If they could give it like that, it would be very easy but, basically, there is nothing to give. There are blessings, of course, but you have to work hard. “There's nothing where you don't have to work at it, where you don't have to even lift a finger. There's no teaching like that in the Buddhist teachings.”

The Karmapa now spoke about this in terms of Sangye Paldrup’s Commentary on the Meaning:

These days, when people state their affiliation with a certain lineage, they speak out of a sectarian fixation. Such notions were present in the past as well, including Mikyö Dorje's time. We may not even know how to practice the dharma of our own school but we maintain attachment to ‘my school' or ‘my sangha’ with a devotion of fixation, without paying much attention to great scholars and practitioners of any other lineage.

Is this the actual authentic faith and devotion described in the scriptures? It is not. We mistake for devotion the kind of familiarity analogous to attachment we have to the people from our own family, school, or town.

Mikyö Dorje’s approach was completely different: He said testing whether a guru was authentic or not was like testing the quality of gold by splitting, polishing and rubbing it. He reached this understanding by himself. When Mikyö Dorje was young, he didn't have a lot of power and he had very little control. As the administrators of the Great Encampment were second-rate people, they wouldn't allow him to study with great, authentic gurus but chose his teachers from those lamas with whom they had good connections, presenting them as authentic gurus.

Actually, one lama really worthy of being Mikyö Dorje's guru was the 4th Shamar Chen-ngawa Chökyi Trakpa, a senior lama in the Karma Kamtsang lineage with great education, but they didn't allow him to study with this guru. Later, his primary guru became Sangye Nyenpa, although when he was little, they wouldn't allow him to study with Sangye Nyenpa either. They told Mikyö Dorje that there was nothing surprising or amazing about Sangye Nyenpa.

One would think that Mikyö Dorje, being the Karmapa, would be able to do whatever he wanted, but it wasn't like that. However, he was a clever person and he managed not to follow them. He used his own intelligence.

Some people follow a guru only to later back away very quickly, as if they had never followed them,  but Mikyö Dorje wasn't like that. Once he followed someone as a guru, he saw them as the essence of the Three Jewels, as the embodiment of the Three Kayas and Five Wisdoms, basically as an actual Buddha. This sort of certainty is important because, in addition to being mere ordinary individuals, we are also just beginners and if someone appears who can truly guide us – this is the very activity of the buddhas. Although authentic gurus come in the form of a person, they have all the qualifications described in the sutras and tantras. Because he had a great understanding of this, Mikyö Dorje saw his gurus as the embodiment of the Three Jewels.

It is possible that some of the people who give us direction are emanations of buddhas and bodhisattvas and some are ordinary individuals - it is difficult for us, ordinary people, to distinguish. Whatever the case, we, the students, need to have the confidence that they're able to teach us the Dharma which is good in the beginning, middle and end, and have the ability to produce the path to liberation for beings. If they can do that, then that's a fully developed blessing and activity of the Buddha.

Then, the timing has to be right.

Due to the knowing wisdom, loving compassion and their activity, the authentic guru will come at the right time to ripen the student's mindstream.

The transference of blessings is not something that can be seen, like being possessed by a god. Normally, when someone is possessed by a god or a demon, their face, their speech and mannerisms become altered. So one might imagine that, when the student receives the blessings of the buddhas and bodhisattvas, it is a similar channelling. It is not like that. It is quite natural. And necessary. Whether they feel something at that point or not, they have received it – if they’re ready. This is the foundation for Buddhism remaining in the world; primarily when a receptive student’s mindstream is ripened by a qualified, authentic guru. When their mindstream is ripened, they are able to enter the path to liberation. This is the basis of the further spreading of the Buddha's words.

The meeting of the moment of the student's mind's ripening and the moment of the appearance of the qualified guru is the point of genesis – the moment when the receiving of the blessings occurs. “If you do not receive blessings at that time, there's not much blessing that you can receive,” the Karmapa stated.

He then paraphrased some lines from the Summary Verses which refer to the Indian tradition that Lake Anavatapa is the source of all the waters in the world. The waters are bountiful, emerging as rivers, lakes and so forth. These rivers flow through the world and ripen all the flowers and fruits and develop crops on their way. They all stem from the same source —Lake Anavatapta —and originate from the power of the Naga lords within it. In like manner, the Bhagavan Buddha is the original source of all the blessings. He taught the Dharma to his disciples. Further, in keeping with the connections of cause and effect,  because he had disciples, those disciples were able to spread the Dharma, produce faith in other beings and free them from suffering. All this benefit has as its source the Bhagavan Buddha.

We receive some blessings from our root and lineage gurus, but how did the gurus develop this? Transforming someone's mind is not easy. If someone never had compassion, it is difficult to ignite this feeling inside of them. If they have a little bit of compassion and are able to develop more, it is all due to the guru's kindness. And for the gurus to be able to help us develop a tiny bit of compassion within ourselves – this is simply due to the power of compassion of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas.

This compassion, concentrated into one and set within a context of multiple causal conditions – is the transference of blessings. Then, we are able to develop a tiny bit of compassion within. Like an electric cord transfers electric energy from the socket, they connect us and ripen the mind-streams of disciples.

Upon finding confidence in this crucial point, the prajna that develops intensifies the power of all our accumulation and purification. Whatever virtue we practice is different than any other virtue - it initiates mutual pure perception. When the guru looks at the student, they will be able to have pure perception of the student and in turn, when the student looks at the guru they will be able to have pure perception of them.

His Holiness reiterated that if the guru is prideful, this impurity will reflect on the student and they will become proud too, because the student reflects the pride in the guru. Their respective faults infect each other and there will be impure perception.

Conversely, when students perceive that the guru has the wish for liberation, has compassion, faith and devotion, that perception spills over to the students. So, when you have receptive students, they will see the guru as guru, as the yidam deity from the mandala. This is primarily the sign of the purity of the student's mind-stream.

It is in that wise that Mikyö Dorje saw all of his four gurus as the buddhas among whom the most significant one was Sangye Nyenpa Drubthob. Along with this perspective, he had unshakeable faith in all of those who upheld the teachings of the Buddha – not only when seeing their actual body but also upon the mere sight of their statues, their writings in books or a piece of their robes. Simply upon setting his eyes on things that they had seen, used, or touched, he would perceive the actual activity of the Buddha. Indeed, one should see the ground the guru walks on or the air he breathes as the very activity of the Buddha.

And, truth is, Mikyö Dorje had that feeling. He had that pure perception. He had such pure perception of Sangye Nyenpa in particular. No matter what text he wrote – a great philosophical text or instructions, commentaries or even a sadhana - the opening line expresses homage to Sangye Nyenpa.

At times, Mikyö Dorje would raise some objections to the writings of his other gurus, other Karma Kagyu lamas, however, he never once objected to any of Sangye Nyenpa’s writings. Sangye Nyenpa, the lord of the family, had blessings to give. Supplicating him was effective. To think of him was to think of something valuable. To speak his name was to speak a valuable name. Mikyö Dorje saw him as the life force of the Practice Lineage, as the essence of the ocean of jewels, devotion to whom could not be shaken.

Sangye Paldrup writes that, whenever someone in the retinue would disparage Sangye Nyenpa even slightly, Mikyö Dorje’s would say: “Say what you like. I have certainty that he is an actual buddha.” Saying this, he would have a look of conviction and certainty.

Merely hearing of this example of Mikyö Dorje’s devotion is really fortunate for us.

Mikyö Dorje repeatedly said:

There is no choice but to see him as a buddha. He is the wish-fulfilling jewel we seek but cannot find. If you supplicate someone who has the unbroken lineage of siddhas, the unbroken lineage of the ultimate realisation, without feeling there is any near or far, presence or absence, it will bring out the power of the blessing.

He can give the two siddhis to those who have the fortune. If you know how to think, who could not have faith in one such as him?

Mikyö Dorje stated, My devotion arose effortlessly and naturally. It did not come from considering reasons. Pure perception of the guru’s body, speech, and mind always appears as the wheel of wisdom and interconnected with that, others have had various pure perceptions of me.

The Karmapa commented that Mikyö Dorje is declaring here that he had uncontrived faith and devotion not because he himself was a great being but because Sangye Nyenpa Drubthob’s body, speech and mind were completely pure by nature. Due to that law of causality, when people saw Mikyö Dorje, they would have pure perceptions of him also.

Apropos this, Drikung Jigten Sumgön said that everything knowable in existence performs the activity of the Buddha.

How should we understand this?

The deeds of the Buddha are benefiting sentient beings, right? Even though there are different bodies of the Buddha, such as the dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya, we commonly think of his nirmanakaya - the monastic who appeared 2500 years ago in a human body. We think that that is the Buddha who turned the wheel of Dharma and so forth.

Still, if we think of it from another perspective, a buddha doesn't necessarily have to act through a human form but can act through endless possible emanations and manners; in the form of animals, for instance, or even inanimate objects like water, mountains, rocks or stones, just like the plants and leaves in the pure realm of Sukhavati, moved by the wind, give rise to the sound of the Dharma.

Thus, if you have the connections of karma and aspirations, anything can perform the activity of the Buddha.

The crux of the matter is: because a guru such as Sangye Nyenpa and a student such as Mikyö Dorje, know how to use the eyes of their unconfused wisdom and they know how to look with the eye of faith, they needn't develop a contrived devotion based on examination and analysis, instead - the devotion naturally arises from within.

Take a skilled jeweller, for example. If they're looking at beryl, or if they're talking about diamonds, and so forth, they've got a lot of experience. Because they have so much experience, if a jewel or a gemstone is given to them, they don't need to look at it closely, they don’t need to think about it, they don't need to examine it, they immediately know whether or not it's a jewel. In like manner, the eye of faith and unconfused devotion are able to perceive without much deliberation. With that, uncontrived faith and devotion blaze in the depths of one's heart naturally.

So how did people who had a good connection with Mikyö Dorje due to their previous karma have pure perception of him?

Sangye Nyenpa (who, in fact, was his teacher for only three years) said to the young Mikyö Dorje: “From the time you are 18, teach the paths of the three types of individuals but don't teach the Secret Mantra, the stages of the path. From the time you are 27, guide students through the stages of the path of devotion to the guru and instructions on Secret Mantra Vajrayana, and in particular, the Mahamudra.” In accord with this advice, Mikyö Dorje brought tens of thousands of students who could train in the teachings and develop realization to take the pratimoksha vows; not only bhikshu but most likely bhikshuni vows as well, and the bodhisattva and Secret Mantra vows.

In particular, influenced by the prophecy of Dakpo Rinpoche that the eight impure things will bring problems, because of the way Mikyö Dorje communicated cause and effect, many gave up the eight impure things—land and property, profit and loss in business, dairy animals, livestock, meat, alcohol, armour and touching weapons (even carrying a small knife).

In the old days in Tibet, the Karmapa elaborated, fights between monasteries would often occur. The lamas and khenpos would act as generals and the ordinary monks would be pressed into being soldiers. They'd put their begging bowls over their heads as improvised helmets, carry their ringing staffs, wrap their robes around tightly and march off to fight.

Mikyö Dorje even advised students not to ‘loosen their belts and lay down' which meant that they should sleep ,fully-clothed, in a sitting posture. Making the bed and putting clothes on takes a fair amount of time, whereas if you're sleeping in a sitting position, then you simply sit up a little straighter and that's enough - you're ready for meditation.  

Mikyö Dorje had quite a few  students like this. They dwelled in silence, hid their qualities, and did not conceal their faults. They did not worry about what sponsors or negative friends thought. They abided within chaste conduct. Among such students there were a few who would have pure experience and perception of their nadis, prana and bindus ablaze.

The purity of the student’s being hinges on their recognition of the guru's purity which rests on the actual purity of the guru. It also depends upon the guru's discernment of the student's receptiveness and potential for becoming pure. For example: if a student doesn't see the guru’s compassion, it is unlikely that they will develop compassion within themselves. Equally, if the guru hasn't given up on this life, no matter how much they try to convince the student to do so, it is very hard for the student to develop any experience or realisation of giving up on this lifetime. The point where the karmic connection comes in, the Karmapa explained, is the overlap of the guru's purity and the student's aptitude for this feeling and recognition (without which the benefit does not take root). If there is a karmic connection, this one particular guru will seem rather different from other gurus. Otherwise, it would be somewhat like two blind people discussing the appearance of rainbows. They can discuss all they want for eons but, having never seen one, they will never reach an actual conclusion.

Thus, the guru and the student need to get along; they need to have a similar outlook.

When both the master and the disciple are thinking analogously in virtue, the power of virtue increases naturally. The same is true for the reverse: those who are matched in greed increase the power of greed.

If you have a virtuous person meeting a wicked one, what happens? Who is stronger? If the virtuous one is stronger, then there is a little bit of help but if the wicked one is stronger, then it's rather difficult. Bearing that in mind, it is really important for those seeking liberation to abandon false spiritual guides and negative friends, because the latent power of their virtue will be overwhelmed by the power of the other’s misdeeds, rendering all their previous virtue ineffective.

The same is true of the opposite situation: if you don't have much virtue but happen to meet a guru or spiritual friend who is powerful in virtue, this will turn your small roots of virtue into great roots of virtue.

Owing to all of this, those who were able to see Mikyö Dorje's activities of body, speech and mind as good had pure perception and, with faith and devotion, were receptive to his compassion and blessings.

Tibetans use the metaphor of the eyelet of faith which is needed for the hook of compassion — a hook needs to have something to hook onto or into— in order to be effective together. The Karmapa explained,” No matter how sharp the hook of compassion is, without a strong, stable eyelet of faith, it can’t hook on to anything, and if the hook of compassion pulls too hard, unless you have a good, strong eyelet of faith, it's going to break, and you'll lose the hook, right?”  At times we may think that the buddhas and bodhisattvas have no compassion for us. However, if we reflect on it, instead of accumulating good karma, we've done actions to displease them. This makes it difficult for them to hook us with the hook of compassion – and we may end up devoid of any protector, defenseless.

That said, among Mikyö Dorje’s followers, were those who had spent a long time with him, attendants, great meditators and scholars, who acted with total disregard for the consequences in the next life, and didn’t even have a conscience or sense of propriety in this lifetime. Instead, their actions brought great disgrace to the teachings of the Buddha and the Karma Kamtsang. None of them were actually doing anything of benefit. Even so, Mikyö Dorje didn’t criticise, scold or kick them out. Just the reverse - he felt more compassionate and taught them even better. This led some people to say that his students didn’t practice properly.

In that regard, Sangye Paldrup, the author of the commentary on the Good Deeds, said that Mikyö Dorje would help all of those who needed help in the Dharma or in material ways, in a corresponding manner. Their bad behavior wasn't Mikyö Dorje’s fault. In effect, those students, whether due to past karma or circumstance, were there only in order to gain food, clothing, fame or prosperity in this life, and only had the appearance of being a meditator or Dharma student. They either failed to notice Mikyö Dorje’s qualities of body, speech, and mind, or, if they did see his qualities, they failed to value them and regarded them as pointless. They were focused instead on power and status—this is what they relished. They were only interested in a dharma which focused on this life, important people and political activities.So even though Mikyö Dorje was acting in accord with the Buddhadharma, they failed to recognise that.

It seems that they were following Mikyö Dorje as yet another way of gaining accreditation, it gave them the status of a Dharma practitioner and they were praised as such. Especially when they were doing practice, they were seen by others as having real fortitude.  Wherever they went, they were accorded status — they were put at the top, seen as a really important guru or practitioner, a good scholar. They expected people to say, “Better put them at the head of the row.” This is what they hoped for, and if they didn’t achieve it, they would get angry and criticise.

Although Mikyö Dorje gave them the great flavour of the Dharma nectar, they couldn’t taste it or feel pleasure in it. Instead, they took much more interest and joy in accomplishing things in this life.

Though this would suffice for today, His Holiness said, that there were a few more topics to be taught in relation to this subject in the following sessions:

  1. The history of one of the main Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche statues at Tsurphu, called Mungu Barnangwa in Tibetan, which was built during the time of Mikyö Dorje.
  2. The Karmapa’s Black Pills, which are considered very sacred. Actually, they are closely connected to Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche as it was he who told Mikyö Dorje to make these black pills.
  3. The most significant among the numerous Guru Yogas of Karma Kamtsang, the Four Session Guru Yoga.
  4. The four great texts Mikyö Dorje wrote commentaries on
  5. Discussion on the recognition of Shamar Konchok Yenlak.

His Holiness said that these were subjects which required much elaboration, but the teachings had to finish soon. If there was time and possibility, he could make some recordings and release them so that everyone could listen together.

Then, after reciting prayers, the session was brought to a close.

Distinguishing Fruitful and Fruitless Situations

Distinguishing Fruitful and Fruitless Situations

Spring Teaching 2023 • Two Autobiographical Praises by Mikyö Dorje • Day 9

27 April 2023

On the ninth day, the Gyalwang Karmapa reviewed what he had discussed in the previous session: how Mikyö Dorje founded monastic colleges for the study of philosophy through the sutras; tantric colleges for the study of Vajrayana; retreat centers for the practice on the paths of means and liberation, the six yogas, and mahāmudra. Today he would speak only about the 31st good deed from the Autobiographical Verses “Good Deeds.” Before the teachings concluded, he would express a main point about Mikyö Dorje.

The Karmapa returned to the outline of Mikyö Dorje’s attendant, Sangye Paldrup, author of Commentary on the Meaning (Drepung manuscript) to explain the root verses. Sangye Paldrup did not give glosses on the words but wrote about the meaning of the text. Among the practices of the lesser, middle, and greater individuals he continued to speak about the third: how he practiced the path of the greater individual (v. 9–33).

How the greater individual practiced has three parts:

  1. The intention: rousing bodhichitta (v. 9);
  2. The action: meditating on the two types of bodhichitta (v. 10–21);
  3. How he trained in the precepts of the two types of bodhichitta (v. 22–33).

The Karmapa was speaking about the third.

The third part had seven sub-topics, of which he had already discussed four parts:

  1. How he trained in the six transcendences;
  2. How he trained in purifying his own continuum;
  3. How he trained in the ways of all bodhisattvas;
  4. How he acted in accord with time and place;
  5. How he acted in fruitful and fruitless situations.

This had two subtopics.

  1. How he did what is fruitful;
  2. How he gave up what is fruitless.
  1. How he accomplished the two benefits through the power of devotion.
  2. How the six clairvoyances gave him the ability to benefit others.

Today the Karmapa would continue with the fifth point with two subtopics. Yesterday he had spoken about the first subtopic of the fifth point: how he did what was fruitful. Today he would speak about the second: how he gave up what was fruitless.

The root verse:

But to avoid the turbulence this might bring
Or conflict among communities, I made rules
To keep to isolated places, reliant upon
A beggar’s food and robes made out of rags.
I think of this as one of my good deeds. (31)

Yesterday the Karmapa spoke of how Mikyö Dorje accomplished fruitful activities: how he thought about the needs of the teachings and beings, how he built monasteries, built statues, printed texts, and gathered the sangha.

Now he began to discuss the second: how Mikyö Dorje gave up what was fruitless. He gave the example that when looking from the outside, it seemed beneficial to build a temple, a monastery, statues, stupas, and gathering the sangha. Externally, it might seem good and beneficial but could instead be harmful. It might even have looked beneficial for the dharma, but in fact would not  benefit beings. So, it became harmful, for not only should one not do these activities, but one should avoid these activities. Mikyö Dorje said he avoided such activities.

Sangye Paldrup commented that most of Mikyö Dorje’s attendants and his entourage said he had great merit and his activity was very vast, so it was a great opportunity because of his position to do something powerful like the Sakya and Drikung Kagyu did in the past, when they held both secular and religious power. In worldly terms, it would not have been difficult for him to gain such power; he would be unrivaled. The attendants stressed he should not sever connections to sponsors such as the Chinese emperor, for he could become very influential and powerful. In particular, during Mikyӧ Dorje’s time, the king of Jiang converted to Buddhism. He was very powerful in the region of Eastern Tibet and invited Mikyö Dorje to go visit. His attendants urged Mikyö Dorje, not to let slip the opportunity but to go and build monasteries. They suggested he should build a huge monastery in Jiang because the King’s sponsors had often requested him to do this, and they would give as much help and financial support as needed. As an attendant, Sangye Paldrup was in a position to hear these internal discussions, and this is one that he overheard.

Mikyö Dorje replied,

What you say is true. I did go to Jiang once. The king of Jiang asked me to stay and said he would build me a great monastery. If I went to Jiang, there would be no difficulty in doing that. But even if I established a large monastery, and gathered so many monks, it would still be very hard to be of benefit to ourselves and others—or even just for one person to benefit. The present-day schools like the Sakya and Geluk have large forces of people, and within them, the young monks revere older monks, everyone witnesses this, and it looks impressive. But in our schools, if we gather people, sometimes they make mistakes and cause external conflict, and sometimes internal conflict can damage the teachings of the Buddha. These situations just occur naturally. So would it really work out well to do that? It might seem to benefit sentient beings, but in reality, we are destroying sentient beings, using the dharma as an excuse to only accomplish worldly things. I can’t do that sort of work.

At that time also, Kongpo was mainly a Karma Kamtsang area, and sponsors offered their children as tax payments. If they had three sons, one son would be offered as a monk; usually they offered the most intelligent one. Although this was the tradition previously, Mikyö Dorje shook his head and refused. “I’m not going to gather anyone through deceit.”

Mikyö Dorje believed that building a large monastery would create jealousy and conflict. The monasteries would become monastic fortresses that helped or harmed others. From the outside, they might have looked good, as if the monks were practicing the dharma diligently, but inside the monks would just eat and enjoy themselves. These were retreats used to fool others. Many of these monastic colleges held different positions, such as whether they were from the earlier or the later period, comparing “our tradition” to “their tradition,” and this would increase sectarianism.

His Holiness explained how the meditation camps (chokdra in Tibetan), operated during the time of the Seventh and Eighth Karmapas.

Each meditator would have their own individual, conical-shaped tent, a very confined space, in which they lived. They would stay isolated and not communicate with others. They would do their practice sessions within the tent, they would sleep there at night sitting up in meditation posture because they were not allowed to lie down or rest their head on a pillow, and for that reason they never loosened their meditation belt. They would spend three years in meditation retreat, just as practitioners do today.

However, sometimes people abused this system.  There were so-called meditation camps where “they selfishly filled their bellies”. These people were staying alone like  meditators but their motivation was wrong and their meditation retreat became a wrong livelihood; they were just consuming the offerings made to the Three Jewels. They used supporting and propagating the teachings as the excuse, but in actuality, what they were doing were pointless activities, a distraction. If you looked at them from the outside, it seemed virtuous, but it was only the appearance of virtue, unsustainable and pointless, and this would often last for a long period of time over months and years. When it became difficult, the meditator would end up committing non-virtuous actions.

The Karmapa summarized:  

“There’s no point in any of these. You should throw these away like hay. You shouldn’t stay near people who act out of self-interest for only this lifetime for their own food and own clothing. You should follow the example of the great forefathers and practice as hard as you can for your entire lifetime.”

Mikyö Dorje himself stayed in Tsurphu. The word Tsur means “the valley” and phu “the upper part of the valley.” There were many different retreat places in the mountains around this area. There was a place called Kung (Tib. སྐུངས ) where Mikyö Dorje stayed doing meditation practice where he wrote several texts. He liked going to very unpopulated places in valleys. Not just in Tsurphu.

When he was young, the Karmapa himself visited Kung. He described it as a very nice place. There were very simple, rough structures where the meditators could shelter made from rocks and stones without doors, where one could practice like in the old days.

Mikyö Dorje would go to a very isolated place and stay in such structures —not even a proper hut with a door—in unpopulated valleys and remote places all over Tsang. There were many great places to practice the dharma. The most important thing for him was to act without provoking jealousy, to be as unobtrusive as possible in his practice. He said this repeatedly. He did not like making a commotion and went to places where there were not many sponsors or Kagyupas, where people didn’t really know him; this was what he liked best. 

He also said, “I would like to stay at Lha Jomo Gangkar in Nyetang, Semodo in Namtso, and the like.” He intended to go to retreat sites of Milarepa, caves in Tö such as Lachi, Latö Gyalgyi Shr; he also wanted to go to Milarepa’s six fortresses and stay there practicing. However, many monks and students came from Eastern Tibet to see him and he realized that if he were to go far away on retreat  it would be difficult for the people in Kham,  so he chose to stay rather than go. He disliked a lot of activity and busyness. He enjoyed isolation and solitude. When he heard about the great masters from the past going to those isolated places, he had a great feeling for these places because he took such delight in solitude.

Sangye Paldrup thought this was primarily a way that Mikyö Dorje got others to go to isolated places and practice dharma, because, being a great bodhisattva, Mikyö Dorje himself did not need to stay in solitude.

From the Prajnaparamita (8000 line):

When those who stay in forests or in towns
Are free of interest in the two vehicles but are definite toward great enlightenment,
This is the solitude of engaging in benefiting beings.

The Karmapa explained the meaning:

If you don’t have any self-interest, have the bodhichitta of the Mahayana, wear your armor of wishing to benefit all sentient beings, and remain undiminished, even if you stay in towns or among crowds, that is the great solitude of the bodhisattva. The great bodhisattvas do not need to go to remote places.

Solitude means being free from self-interest. It doesn’t mean you are free from distractions or diversions. If you have solitude and undiminished relative bodhichitta, then no matter where you are, no matter how many people are around, that bodhichitta helps you remain in the greatest solitude. This is how it is for the bodhisattvas.

This was different for shravakas because they have no concerns about being isolated from self-interest. But for the bodhisattvas, they need to be free of any self-interest. In addition to being free from any self-interest, they need undiminished relative bodhichitta. If you think this way, a great being such as Mikyö Dorje showed this ability, he lacked any self-interest, continually practicing bodhichitta whether staying in an isolated place in a valley, or among people, for him there was little difference.

But for ordinary people who practiced the dharma and stayed in isolated places where they were isolated from diversions, from any ‘thorns of dhyana’, when they went into isolated meditation, such retreat places were beneficial.

This was said in the Treasury of the Abhidharma:

Householders have difficulty in believing in the Three Jewels.

It was difficult for householders to study the correct view. They would make supplication to worldly deities or idols and offer flowers or milk or incense.   

Also, for monastics it was difficult to have the right livelihood because they were entirely dependent upon others, they had to rely on their sponsors so they would flatter, pacify, or mollify them. There was a great danger this would happen. That was why it was difficult to train in the livelihood of the monastics.

This was also why Mikyö Dorje felt building large monasteries could bring problems. The way Mikyö Dorje thought about such things was that building such monasteries caused harm and not benefit. He went to isolated areas with a humble livelihood. He had a great interest in staying in places like that.

The Karmapa then said this was a good place to finish for today. There were many things to say about Mikyö Dorje that would take another year, so he did not need to speak about everything. A few points remained. He felt that one was about the Fifth Shamar Rinpoche, Konchok Yenlak, Mikyö Dorje’s main disciple. There were some situations about him that the Karmapa didn’t know about before, and that many people still do not know about.

During the first year of the Spring Teachings, the Karmapa had seen an old manuscript that discussed difficulties in the recognition of the Fifth Shamar Rinpoche, but the text was incomplete. The first few pages were missing. However, later, when he wanted to refer to it, he was unable to find it. He has looked for two years without finding the document, but there are other documents to research, and a few other related topics to speak about.

The Karmapa concluded the session with the dedication prayers.