Mikyӧ Dorje’s Emphasis on Study, and the Founding of Karma Gatsal Shungluk Ling

Mikyӧ Dorje’s Emphasis on Study, and the Founding of Karma Gatsal Shungluk Ling

Spring Teaching 2023 • Two Autobiographical Praises by Mikyö Dorje • Day 8

26 April 2023

His Holiness the Karmapa began the day’s teachings by extending his warm greetings to all listeners. He then mentioned that the day prior was Bokar Yangsi Rinpoche's birthday. “I hope that his life and his activity flourish,” wished Karmapa. “Thank you to those who serve Rinpoche, in particular, Kyabje Khenpo Rinpoche, attendants and Rinpoche's parents and relatives. I'd like to also extend my greetings to all of you.”

His Holiness reminded us that when speaking on Mikyö Dorje’s thirtieth good deed, he discussed how MikyöDorje founded many monasteries in his life, and in particular monastic colleges, both shedra (for the study of Buddhist philosophy) and tsokdra (for the study of ritual and tantra) “In terms of financial support for that, Mikyö Dorje himself did what he could. He sponsored them himself.” When saying that Mikyö Dorje sponsored them, it doesn't necessarily mean that he actually gave with his own hands.

At the time that Mikyö Dorje built the monasteries and the monastic colleges, there would be a person who offered the land and the facilities for it. When he needed to build a monastery in a certain location, there would need to be money spent on that. Generally, there was a person who sponsored it, but even if there wasn't, it was sponsored by the Great Encampment.

“Now, just building a monastery isn’t enough,” His Holiness pointed out. “You also have to have someone who is taking care of the monks.” Someone with power, such as the king or the lord of that region, would support the monastery and send monks. For example, the king from Lijiang would send five hundred monks to the monastery. “So, for this reason,” he continued, “building a monastery, and in particular building a monastic college, requires many different internal and external conditions to come together. And only when you have the temple, the statues, and so forth and then also the community, the Sangha, within it.”

One point to pay attention to is that Mikyö Dorje was different than the previous Karmapas in that he primarily built shedra and took so much interest in them. As a result, during his lifetime, the philosophical colleges flourished greatly.

Karmapa noted that he believes there are primarily two different reasons why Mikyö Dorje took such interest in shedra. The first is Mikyö Dorje’s own way of thinking. In particular, because he initiated this, it is important to understand how he thought about it. The second reason is how it was seen by other schools or other people.

Reason One: Mikyö Dorje’s Own Way of Thinking

His Holiness spoke first about Mikyö Dorje’s own way of thinking. “The first Kagyupa shedra, a monastic college for philosophy, was founded in the fourteenth century by Tai Situ Jangchub Gyaltsen Rinpoche—the monastic college of Tsetang.”

Within the practice lineage of the Karma Kamtsang, the first person to establish a shedra was the Seventh Karmapa, Chödrak Gyatso. In his own charter for the Tupchen monastery about the reasons for establishing a shedra, he wrote:

“The people who study often have little interest in those who practice or little respect for them and for many reasons they will disparage and criticize them. Those who practice have no interest in study and always criticize people who engage in studies.

But the teachings of the Buddha depend upon both scripture and practice. And so this is a way that might just completely destroy the Buddha's teachings. When the practitioners don't like the people who study, and the people who study don't like the practitioners, this is a way that will destroy the teachings such that there is none left. This is an intolerable situation.”

Therefore, Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso established the monastic college for philosophy. This is primarily practicing the studies on the common sciences, Buddhism, and the scriptures of the Three Baskets. “But if you study these according to the Tibetan texts, if you accept one view, then you are conflicting with another,” cautioned His Holiness. “It then becomes a basis for feeling more attachment and aversion. So for that reason, he emphasized primarily the Indian texts and commentaries.” The Seventh Karmapa also wrote his own commentaries to Indian texts when it was lacking.

The primary procedure Chödrak Gyatso established was that one first enters the shedra to study, and then continues on to practice the essence. In brief, when he established the first Karma Kagyu monastic college for philosophy, the main reason was because the teachings of the Buddha consisted of scripture and realization. “In order to spread them,” Karmapa emphasized, “you need to have both teaching and practice. Practice and study must be in union.” Another reason is that if the schools taught according to the Tibetan texts, the different explanations given by Tibetan masters would quite possibly increase sectarianism.

From one perspective, Chödrak Gyatso first established the Kamtsang monastic college because he wanted to have the teaching and practice to be equal. Prior to that, practice had been emphasized. Likewise, because there are many different views in different schools, he thought about ways to prevent them from coming into conflict.

“In any case,” Karmapa continued, “within the Kama Kamtsang, the first person to establish a monastic college for the study of philosophy was the Seventh Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso.” One of his students was Kama Trinleypa who founded the Karma Leksheyling shedra in Nyukla. Among many very well-known scholars who came from Leksheyling, one was Dakpo Tashi Namgyal, the lineage holder of Gampo. The second was Pawo Tsugla Trengwa, who was said to have stayed and engaged in studies there.

Not only did the Seventh Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso found the first Kagyu college, his students, such as Karma Trinleypa, also had a great influence and benefit for study and practice in the Kagyu tradition. Later, Kunkhyen Pema Karpo of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage also established a shedra. At that time however, there were a number of students in the Drukpa Kagyu monasteries who did not understand the reasons for this. They claimed that this would change the lineage and criticized him for it, as described in Kunkyen Pema Karpo’s biography.

Therefore, within the Karma Kamtsang lineage, the first person to found a shedra was Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso, and Karma Trinleypa continued it. “The one who really increased the shedras, improved the teachings of study and spread them very widely was the Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje,” noted His Holiness. The reason why he took such a great interest in study is described in the charter that Mikyö Dorje wrote for  Karma Shungluk Ling, one of the more important shedras he founded. There was a temporary charter for this shedrawhen it was within the encampment.

In the very beginning,  Karma Shungluk Ling traveled within the Great Encampment before settling down permanently in one place and becoming the Yartö Gatsal Karma Shungluk Ling. Karmapa then shared the main points of the shedra’s charter:

During the early parts of the lives of the previous Karmapas, they studied the three trainings and they spent all their time in remote places. In this way, the teachings of the practice flourished without any stains, but later the teachings of the Dakpo Kagyu weakened. In actuality, the individuals with the karmic fortune to be able to enter the teachings and practice Mahamudra were growing fewer and fewer. There were also many intellectuals who wanted to examine things logically and there were more and more such people. There were many external and internal people who had many misunderstandings and misconceptions. Thus, the Seventh Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso wrote the Ocean of Literature on Logic, which explains the commentary on validity and other texts on validity. His own greatest disciple, Karma Trinleypa, continued to benefit the teachings. And he, Mikyö Dorje, is also Karma Trinleypa’s disciple. I have tried to benefit beings with philosophical texts. For those who study them, I have provided them with a livelihood. In order to make the livelihood meaningful, I have built these monastic colleges.

From Mikyö Dorje’s Autobiography written at Namtö Mountain:

 The Seventh Gyalwang Karmapa said
 In this life, I have not even accomplished
 The study of a single verse of sutra,
 So for fools such as him to say
 That in his next life he would study and teach
 Is to rouse courage. From the time I was eighteen
 I established a shedra, and when I was 27,
 I held a college for twenty to study sutras.
 From then on, I taught as much as I could
 The dharma of sutra and teachings to match the minds
 Of the members of the sangha.

There are two different manuscripts, and although they contain a different number of words, the meaning is the same. During the first part of the Seventh Karmapa’s life, he was able to establish a shedra. In fact, he wrote commentaries on Ocean of Literature on Logic and also The Lamp of the Three Worlds, a commentary on the Prajnaparamitra. Because he was not actually able to study and teach the sutras himself, he made a promise to do so in the future.

In order to fulfill that commitment, when Mikyö Dorje was 27, he started the monastic college and gave many teachings on sutra and tantra to the students. From one perspective, he established the shedra, and the second point is that he did so to fulfill the Seventh Karmapa’s intention.

Karmapa Mikyö Dorje gave many teachings on the sutras and tantras, and those who finished their studies became Rabjampas (similar to PhDs). In his own List of Accomplishments, Mikyö Dorje wrote:

Previously, in the Kagyu there were hardly any people called Rabjampas. These days in all the Karma Kagyu monasteries, there are definitely at least fifty Rabjampas.

“Another thing that we need to pay attention to,” His Holiness remarked, “is that Karmapa Mikyö Dorje not only founded monastic colleges for philosophy and study of sutras, but he also founded several different tantric colleges and spread the teachings and practice of tantra widely.” From his List of Accomplishments:

Previously, the practice of mantra was not so complicated, but these days among monastic meditators and in tantric colleges, I have instituted the study of of Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, Hevajra, Bhairva, Sarvavid, Red Yamantaka, Mahakala, Jinasagara, Vajravarahi, yoga, and Kalachakra, including the mandalas, dance, melodies, geometries, and rituals. I have also revived what we previously practiced.

Later within Tibetan Buddhism, a distinction was made between study and practice, dividing them into two parts. There were those who upheld the lineage of study and those who upheld the lineage of practice. Karmapa explained,

For example, the Sakya & Geluk are like the traditions of the lineage of study, and the Kagyu & Nyingma are primarily practice lineages. But if we look at the actual history, among the Sakya and Geluk, there were quite a few great scholars but also many great siddhas. However, when you talk about the tradition of the lineage of study and practice, it's basically a distinction of the degree of emphasis. The practice lineages primarily emphasized the teachings of practice and the tradition of study primarily emphasized study. It is not to say that the shedras had no interest in practice or that those who were interested in practice were not interested in study. It is a great mistake to think in this way.

The reason for this is as Vasubandhu said:

 The teacher’s true dharma is twofold,
 In essence, scripture and realization.
 These are upheld only by those
 Who teach them and accomplish them.

The above states that the teachings of the Buddha are combined in the two parts of both the teachings of scripture and the teachings of realization. In order to spread the teachings of scripture, you must teach it. In order to develop realization within your being, you have to practice. These two cannot be separated and are of equal importance. When practicing dharma, there is a sequence of steps. Karmapa compared this to making food. “In order to make food, first you need to know how to cook. Then you need to buy all the ingredients for what you're going to make. Then you need to actually cook the food. Similarly, in order to do practice, you need to know how to practice. If you don't know how to do the practice, you are not able to do the practice. For that reason, there is just a difference in sequence. There is absolutely no difference at all, in terms of importance, between study and practice.”

Gampopa also stated that beginners should study hard; it was important to learn what they did not know. He taught that once you have learned something and incorporated into your mind and become stable, you should practice hard. Likewise, Dusum Khyenpa said “Prajna is extremely important. Prajna of just anything at all will not do. Through the prajna of listening, you must recognize the afflictions. You must suppress them with the prajna of contemplation, and eradicate them with the prajna of meditation.”

With this view, Mikyö Dorje also had the idea that people who are under the Kagyu teachings should first study properly the text of sutra and tantra in order to establish right view. In the end, they need to meditate on the meaning that they had studied in isolated places, such as in caves or on mountains, in order to gain experience. He had them follow the traditions of the Kagyu forefathers, just as a child must uphold their inheritance.

Karmapa believed this was what Mikyö Dorje intended when establishing monastic colleges.

Reason Two: How It was Seen by Other Schools

Tsarchen Losal Gyatso was a lineage master of the Sakya school, the source of the Tsarpa tradition among the three Ngor, Dzong, and Tsar traditions of the Sakya. He was the disciple of Doring Kunpangpa. “Tsarchen Losal Gyatso was both a great scholar and a practitioner, but he was more like a siddha than a scholar,” Karmapa indicated. Initially, he entered the Gelukpa Tashi Lhunpo monastery and took novice vows from the second Dalai Lama Gendun Gyatso, who gave him the name Losal Gyatso. Later on, in order to heal an injured leg, he went to Gendun Gyatso’s lama Doring Kunpaangpa and became a Sakyapa after arousing great faith.

Among the Sakyapas, there were three learned in sutras, Yak, Shön, and Rong, and three learned in tantras, Ngor, Dzong, and Tsar. Those learned in both were Gorampa, Shakay Chokdne, and Taklung. Thus, Tsarchen was considered a master of tantra. He studied dharma with many lamas, including Karma Trinleypa. He had two great disciples, Khyentse Wangchuk and Mangtö Ludrup Gyatso, who were like the sun and moon. Later on, Gyalwa Sönam Gyatso also studied from him, while the Fifth Dalai Lama also studied from his lineage of disciples. The latter also wrote a biography of Tsarchen.

Karmapa then explained what Tsarchen Losal Gyatso wrote in his autobiography:

When he came to Kyetsal in Dreyul, a place where there was a great monastic college, it was at the same time as Mikyö Dorje arrived. Lord Rinpung ordered all his subjects to welcome him. The lords and teachers of Dreyul were excited to make grand preparations, but Losal Gyatso thought that there was not much of a connection necessitating such a wish. The Karmapa was of course a great being, but from what he had heard and thought, the Karmapa was originally among Gampopa’s three main students, the three men from Kham, Dusum Khyenpa or Khampa Oser. What was appropriate for them was primarily to serve the transmission of the Practice Lineage descended from the instructions of the Indian masters Naro and Maitrīpa, and the Tibetans Marpa, Milarepa, and so forth. But as in the saying, “Leaving the stupa that needs it black; painting the rock that does not white,” (when what needs to be whitewashed is the stupa, but instead one whitewashes a cliff), he is doing things he does not need to do, and seems like he is competing with what the Sakyas and Geluks do. He also has a lot of relations with worldly ministers, officials, and minor officials and does a lot of actions that increase the eight concerns. Likewise, he disregards the gurus of his lineage and their scriptures, discards the Shentong for the Rangtong view, and he sends away the better tulkus and monks. I don’t feel any faith in Mikyö Dorje.

Karmapa then gave his own opinion on why Mikyö Dorje took such interest in study. “At that time, there were many Sakya and Geluk philosophical colleges, but I do not think that Mikyö Dorje was trying to compete with or imitate them.” During the times of the Kagyu forefathers, there were quite a few who had the karmic fortune to strive single-mindedly at practice. Later, within the Kagyu and in the other schools, as the teachings gradually deteriorated, there were fewer and fewer who had the karmic fortune, faith and prajna to do so. Similarly, there were many misapprehensions, misconceptions, and doubts about the Kagyu dharma and lineage. “Thus,” His Holiness reasoned, “Mikyö Dorje saw that it was important to increase education about the dharma in general and the Kagyu lineage in particular.”

The way Mikyö Dorje spread the teachings was different from others. Looking at his works, we see that he especially valued the works of the Kadampa masters including Potowa’s Blue Notebook and the Long Soliloquy, and the writings of earlier Kagyu masters such as Marpa, Mila, Gampopa, Pakmodrupa, and Shang Tsalpa. He engaged in listening, studying and teaching  them to a great degree. He also wrote many different commentaries and always emphasized the view of the Kagyu forefathers when talking about the sutras and tantras.

In particular, he called Drigung Jigten Sumgön’s Single Intent “the great philosophical school of the Dakpo Kagyu.” During his life, he studied and taught it frequently, so in his Collected Works, there are four volumes on just the Single Intent. For these reasons, it is clear that Mikyö Dorje’s purpose in spreading the teachings of study was not merely to imitate or compete with others. As Tai Situ Jangchub Gyaltsen said in his last testament:

When he spoke about the purpose for establishing the monastery in Tsetang, he said that the Sugata and Buddha of the Three Times himself was both a scholar and had achieved accomplishment. In later times, our great meditators did not rely primarily on scholars, and everyone criticized them as “stupid, ignorant meditators who know nothing.” There was the problem that the dharma was effective dharma and the people were not effective people.

From one perspective, if Kagyupas do not study, then they don’t know their own selves. From another perspective, people criticize them for not knowing anything; they stay up in the mountains and spend four or five months hibernating in the winter. “There's no choice but to engage in study and teaching. I think it's just that they had come to a point where they had to do it.” His Holiness indicated, “It's not a question of anyone trying to compete.”

On the other hand, instead of leaving the special views of the Dakpo Kagyu only in notebooks to put by pillows, we should be able to explain them in accord with the words of the Buddha and the intent of the great scriptures. To do so becomes a great contribution to Buddhism in general, and something that can be discussed with others. Karmapa pointed out:

If you're unable to explain how they accord with the words of the Buddha and the great scriptures, then even if you proclaim them to be wonderful pith instructions, other people are not going to understand them. This posed a lot of difficulties. For this reason, when Mikyö Dorje taught, he emphasized the views of the Kagyu forefathers, and explained them in ways that fit with the Buddha's words and the meaning of the great treatises.

In the present day, Mikyö Dorje’s works are considered important and sacred. These days we have in the Karma Kagyu the Eight Great Texts that we can study and be proud of because of the Seventh and Eighth Karmapas, and Drukpa Pema Karpo. If they had not written commentaries on them, even if a shedra wasestablished, there would be no text to study. Only now, centuries later, are we beginning to really see the incredible benefit brought by Mikyö Dorje.

For example, the commentaries of Mikyö Dorje, which the Sixteenth Karmapa had reprinted, arrived in Tibet in the 1990s. This had a strong influence on Kagyu scholars and they were very delighted. Dharma friends from other lineages were amazed, saying, “Is it possible you Kagyupas could have such texts as these?” For a couple of centuries the Kagyu shedras had been torn down, and the transmission of teachings on the great texts had been lost. Later in Kham, shedras were established in Palpung and Zurmang, but they could only teach the thirteen great texts, and were unable to study or teach the great texts of the Seventh and Eighth Karmapas. “Thus,” His Holiness reasoned, “it is understandable that we and others thought that there were no Kagyu or Kamtsang commentaries on the Five Great Texts.”

Nevertheless, it was considered that Kagyus studying philosophy and established monastic colleges were competing against the Sakya and Geluk and not taking responsibility for the Practice Lineage. If they did not study, they would be called “idiot meditators, marmots in the mountains.” No matter what the Kagyu did, they were criticized.

1. How the Karma Gatsal Shungluk Ling was Established

Mikyö Dorje had founded many monastic colleges and tantric colleges, among them the Karma Gatsal Shungluk Ling. Karmapa organized his discussion on this into ten different points.

According to the Feast for Scholars and the Golden Rosary of the Kagyu Lineage, this shedra was founded in 1532, in the tenth month of the Water Dragon year. When Mikyö Dorje and the Great Encampment were staying at Tawa Tsalkung in Kongpo, there were ten monks from Leksheyling, including the scholar Rinchen Lekpa and Rabjampa Sangye Yeshe. They were like the foundation, in addition to which there were other well-known scholars who had studied with Mikyö Dorje, including Ngari Rabjampa Choklang Lekpa, Khampa Rabjampa Senge Sangpo, Gugey Rabjampa Deaden and others. In total, there were over twenty scholars, due to whom they could found the Karma Shungluk Ling monastic college within the Great Encampment.

As mentioned before, the Great Encampment traveled to different places. The Karma Shungluk Ling monastic college also went with the encampment. “The Great Encampment was like the mother,” described His Holiness, “and then there were secondary camps, like the Shamar and Gyaltsab encampments and so forth.”

At the initial founding of  Karma Shungluk Ling monastic college, the main teacher was not recorded, but Karmapa posited that it was probably one of the ten different scholars invited from Lekysheyling, possibly Rinchen Lekpa. Rinchen Lekpa was one of the many Rabjampa scholars among Mikyö Dorje’s direct disciples who did the most for the teachings and beings. He later went to Kham and founded a monastic college at Rati Ganden Ling in Minyak, where he taught the Five Great Texts. Although this college was destroyed by Mongol armies, it later became a Nyingma monastery, Rati Monastery, and is still intact these days.

2. Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa’s Tenure as Acharya at the Shedra

In the ninth month of the Water Snake Year (1533), Mikyö Dorje gave Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa a statue of himself made from precious materials, a handwritten manuscript of the great Vinaya commentary that he had written, and a cushion with a silk-embroidered lion. Because of Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa’s connections from previous aspirations, Mikyö Dorje appointed him as the teaching acharya for Karma Shungluk Ling, as described in Tsuglak Trengwa’s own biography The Mirror Reflecting the Confused Face. Beginning with logic, for the remainder of his tenure he taught the five great texts—Middle Way, Prajnaparamita, Vinaya, Abhidharma, Validity—as well as the Profound Inner Meaning, Hevajra Tantra, and Sublime Continuum. He also taught grammar and other sciences. He helped develop many scholars who could teach the infinite sutras and tantras.

3. Ngari Rabjampa Choklang Lekpa’s Tenure as Acharya

In the second month of the Fire Bird Year (1537), when Mikyö Dorje and the encampment were staying at Lungshö Tashi Tang in Drigung, Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa had spent five years as the acharya of Karma Shungluk Ling. His resignation was accepted by Mikyö Dorje, who upon considering which scholar should bethe next acharya, decided to appoint Ngari Rabjam Choklang Lekpa to the position.

In the Earth Dog Year (1538), Mikyö Dorje and the encampment spent Losar at Tsurphu Monastery and then moved on to Nyukla. While there, Mikyö Dorje told the faculty of Nyukla Leksheyling and the scholars from the encampment’s monastic college Karma Shungluk Ling that they should hold a symposium on the finer points of the Five Great Texts. It is described in the Kagyu Sertreng that the two monastic colleges engaged in explanation and debate as suggested, thus pleasing Mikyö Dorje.

In 1539, Mikyö Dorje and the encampment stayed in Shika Rinpung. While there, Mikyö Dorje gave teachings on his own commentary on the Prajnaparamita, Rest for Yogis. to  Karma Shungluk Ling. At that time, the scholar Palkhang Lotsawa served as a professor for grammar, teaching the Kalapa Grammar, composition, poetry, and grammar.

In the Iron Bird Year (1540), after New Year and the Monlam, Lord Topgyalwa’s brother went forth and was ordained by Mikyö Dorje. His monastic name was Karma Dondam Yangdak Pak. From then on, he studied and completed his education at Karma Shungluk Ling. He later returned to his homeland and founded the monastic college, the Topgyal Karma Vinaya Center. Through his scholarly activity, the Kagyu teachings flourished. His Holiness commented, “This is just one illustration of how even high-status individuals such as Lord Topgyalwa’s brother would enter monasteries and complete their training.”

After that, the Lord of Rinpung requested that Mikyö Dorje and the encampment spend three years in the region of Tsang. Mikyö Dorje responded that he preferred staying in remote places and did not accept the invitation. At that time, he directed his attention to improving Karma Shungluk Ling, and thus the lord offered many monks. Few of those did well in their studies, so only a couple were able to become learned enough to uphold the scriptures.

Likewise, from time to time, Mikyö Dorje would teach the Middle Way and the Single Intent. “When he did this,” Karmapa explained, “all the people in the Karma Shungluk Ling also got the opportunity to receive many teachings from Mikyö Dorje, I believe.” Therefore, Karma Shungluk Ling had the particular transmission of Mikyö Dorje’s explanations and received many opportunities that others did not.

4. The Monastic College settles permanently at Lhunpo Gang in Yartö

In the spring of 1543, Mikyö Dorje and the encampment were invited by Lord Lha Bukpachen to Lhunpo Gang, Yartö. The lord earlier that year had planted various trees on a flat piece of land and built a Naga shrine there, erecting a pillar on the side of which was carved, “Gatsal Dharma Palace.” He hoped that in the future, this could be a monastery of the Karmapa.

Mikyö Dorje and the lamas from the encampment gathered and consecrated the land. They performed ceremonies and blessed the ground, and laid the foundation of a temple, and the encampment’s monastic college Karma Shungluk Ling settled there permanently. Not only was it located in Yartö, the lord had also named that location Gatsal Dharma Palace, so when the monastic college was founded there, it was named Yartö Gatsal Karma Shungluk Ling.

5. The Area of Yartö Lhunpo Gang and Lha Bukpachen

In Tibet, there is a really well-known mountain called the Lha Shampo. The valley that flows down from that is called the Yarlung Valley, and there are three parts to it. There are the upper, middle and lower parts, with the upper part called the Tö, and the specific place being called Lhunpo Gang. The palace of the lord of the area was Samdrup Dechen Tse, or Samde for short.

The family of Lord Lha Bukpachen was descended from the Tibetan emperor Darma Udam Tsen, also known as Langdarma, who had two sons, Ösung and Utsen. “There are two explanations regarding this, one stating that Lha Bukpachen’s family came from Ösung, whereas the De dharma history relates that the family came from Utsen.” Karmapa noted, “This is an area that still needs more investigation.”

In the old days, lords and other important people would often have gardens where they would enjoy themselves. In the middle, there would be a little pool or pond. It was quite a beautiful and attractive place that Lha Bukpachen offered to the Karmapa upon which to build the monastic college .

6. The Rules and Regulations of Gatsal Karma Shungluk Ling

Before the shedra settled permanently in Yartö, while it was still part of the encampment, Mikyö Dorje wrote a charter with the rules and regulations for the monastic colleges called “The temporary charter for Gatsal Karma Shungluk Ling.” Since it was temporary, His Holiness explained that Mikyö Dorje must have given a more detailed charter after they had settled at Gatsal Ling.

7. The Consecration of the Temple for the Monastic College

At the end of the ninth month or the beginning of the tenth month of the Iron Dog Year (1540), Mikyö Dorje and the encampment came to Yartö Namgyal Gang. At that time, the temple and everything had been completely built. Mikyö Dorje gave teachings to all the monastics in the encampment and had many discussions on the difficult points. Karmapa mentioned that the consecration was done at that time as well.

8. Printing Wood-Block Editions of Scriptures

Around 1553, Mikyö Dorje asked Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa to prepare wood-block editions in Gatsal Karma Shungluk Ling of the Third Karmapa’s Auto-Commentary on the Profound Inner Meaning, the Seventh Karmapa’s Ocean of Literature on Logic, and Mikyö Dorje’s Great Tika on Prajnaparamita, among other texts. “It seems that the commentary on the Vinaya Sutras root was also printed there,” His Holiness indicated. “The wood blocks are no longer there, but some of the old texts are probably still extant. Among them, one of them is the commentary on the Vinaya Sutras.”

After Mikyö Dorje passed away, his regent was Shamar Konchok Yenlak. His student was the Ninth Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje, whose own student was Shamar Chökyi Wangchuk, who was later the teacher of the Tenth Karmapa Chöying Dorje.

9. What became of Karma Gatsal Shungluk Ling; exploring the connection with Ganden Thösam Dargye Ling

The Gelukpa monastery Ganden Thösam Dargye Ling, also in Yartö, was established in the eleventh month of 1651 when the Fifth Dalai Lama came to Yarlung. It was among the thirteen great monasteries he established. It is in the southern part of the present-day Tibetan Autonomous Region in the region of Neudong, Yarttö Yultso, Chöde Gong city. It is one of the larger Geluk monasteries in the southern area.

Karmapa then introduced the results of research by Gen Thupten Öser. When Gen Thupten Öser visitedGanden Thösam Ling and questioned the monks, they maintained it was founded in the 11th century by Ra Lotsāwa Dorje Drakpa.

However, there is also an account that it was founded in the 17th century by the Fifth Dalai Lama. The monks themselves suspected that it had been a Kagyu monastery previously. Gen Thupten Öser found various evidence for this;

  • On the second storey of the temple there is a Mahakala shrine;
  • The Eighth Karmapa’s short torma offering, the Madakma, was found in the monastery’s recitation texts;
  • The texts also included the Kamtsang general offering to dakinis which reads, “Drowolung in the south, Drok Lachi Chuwar, Jomo Tashi Tseringma and her sisters, Glorious Daklha in the east, Tölung Tsurphu, Kampo Nenang, Karma Riling, Pungri in the east,” and so forth, listing the names of Kagyu retreat sites and monasteries, but the monks did not pay attention to that.
  • The monks remembered that before the Cultural Revolution, there was an old statue of Vajradhara atop the shrine hall that was built when it was a Kagyu monastery, but it was later destroyed.

What then was the connection between Ganden Thösam Dargye Ling and Karma Gatsal Shungluk Ling?  The Karmapa referred to a passage in the first volume of the Fifth Dalai Lama’s autobiography The Fine Dukula Cloth which states “In the Iron Hair Year, the ruins of the Karma Kamtsang were transferred to Ganden Thösam Dargye Ling.” There are two ways of understanding this, he explained. The first is that there was a Karma Kamtsang monastery which had been destroyed, and Ganden Thösam Dargye Ling monastery was built on its ruins. Another is that there were still monks at the Kagyu monastery, but it was converted to another tradition.

The autobiography further mentions:

In the Iron Bird Year, Thösam Dargye Ling had previously existed, but in the remains of Gatsal in Yartö, the old temple and the areas were given to the Geluk tradition, including the temple, the shrine hall, the ladrang, the kitchen in the east, and the surrounding dormitories.

This means that by 1656, Thösam Dargye Ling had been built. The many lands for the sangha which had been given to Karma Gatsal Ling were all transferred to Thösam Dargye Ling. Likewise, a new temple and new kitchen were built.

Thus, Karmapa concluded, it is clear that the Gelukpa Ganden Thösam Dargye Ling was previously Karma Gatsal Shungluk Ling.

His Holiness summarized:

The main point here is that Karmapa Mikyö Dorje founded many monastic colleges for sutra and tantra but none of them remain. There were no places where they could continue to hold the Karma Kagyu traditions. Presently, we have now founded many monastic colleges in the Karma Kamtsang colleges, and this is actually very rare and important. We are studying texts that we have not been able to study for many centuries, whether those written by Mikyö Dorje, the Seventh Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso, the Third Karmapa Ranjung Dorje, or other Karma Kagyu masters.

When we look back at the times of the Seventh and Eighth Karmapas, the shedras were thriving and we should keep this in mind. We should also make sure to cherish our current opportunity to be able to study at the shedras and have access to texts to study.”

Just as Mikyö Dorje himself thought about it, we need to have both study and practice. Although ours is a tradition of practice, we need to have the faith that comes from knowing, the prajna on the profound points of the pith instructions, and the diligence that helps us to really practice.

His Holiness noted that although it is rare for people to dedicate their entire life to practice, we should not be intent on only practicing without listening and contemplation. Doing so will attract criticism from other lineages. “Therefore,” he reiterated, “when we are studying at the shedra, we need to remember to combine study and practice.” Taking the practice lineage as the basis, we need to be able to incorporate what we have listened to into our being, and be able to explain the pith instructions of the Kagyupas in a way that matches the words of the Buddha and the philosophical texts of the past. We can only walk forward with the other tradition lineages if we are able to do this.

Karmapa concluded the day’s teachings by cautioning that if we just think, “Oh, I have all these incredible instructions that no one could possibly understand. They don't even need to understand them,” and stay in some remote place, eventually we will deteriorate and not improve.