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.