17th Gyalwa Karmapa"Buddhism is a way of life through which we develop the qualities of our mind.
This way of life is very unusual, as it is a means to attain happiness without harming others.



Travel Log—Commemorating Shamarpa's Parinirvana with Karmapa in Kalimpong

See the original in French

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sand Mandala

I cross paths with Nendo Rinpoche. He is one of the only holders of the knowledge of our lineage's rituals. We have already met at Dhagpo and at Bodhgaya.
A short dialogue:

How are you?
I'm well.
You health is good?
Yes, but you never know how things evolve.
So, you are well *today*?
No, I am well *right now*!

And there he goes off to the temple to verify the final preparations for the ritual that begins in half an hour. We begin with courtesies and it ends, just like that, with a flash teaching on impermanence before I even had the chance to see it coming.

The ritual is planned for 8 am in the morning. The day is consecrated to drawing the divinity's mandala with multi-colored sand, but beforehand, a consecration ritual must be performed. Karmapa arrives, then the monks enter the temple, thereby filling it up. Everyone waits and the discipline master indicates his seat to each person without hesitating (according to criteria that seem quite precise). It's comfortable!

Karmapa takes his throne and the ritual begins even before everyone has the chance to settle into their spot. Not a second wasted; they're old hands at this! The accomplishment of each phase is polished to a tee, with just enough tiny hiccups to keep things relaxed. Karmapa is particularly absorbed in his focus: one part of the ritual on the throne, another part in front of the support that will be the base of the mandala, and again on his throne.

After four hours of ritual, a bowl of rice soup, and a cup of milk tea, everything is spiritually ready to draw the mandala. The whole is at once natural and profound, at once relaxed but focused and (very) attentive. In the crows, a group of monks, Nendo Rinpoche among them, eats quickly in the temple and begins drawing the mandala (they have until late this evening). Tomorrow, there will be a second day of preliminary rituals, then the following three days we will intensively accomplish the practice of Red Chenrezig, Gyalwa Gyamtso (the ocean of the victorious).

For many, the idea of a yidam (meditation deity), often remains a bit mysterious. Jigme Rinpoche explains that, “We cannot directly contact the bodhisattvas because they no longer have their physical form. However, to create a connection and realize the qualities of their minds, we can use symbolic forms.” Thus, the ritual becomes a means to link us to enlightened qualities so that we can realize them ourselves. This is the meaning of yidam practices, from the simplest to the most complex—their diversity allows each of us to find a practice that corresponds to our needs. Of course, there are prerequisite conditions to unite in order to accomplish these practices, but they are nonetheless accessible, according to the capacity of each individual.

The “ritual team” at Kundreul Ling monastery gave Peïo (a monk who accomplished a three-year retreat at Le Bost and who is currently studying Tibetan and philosophy here at the shedra) the mission to film the different phases of Gyalwa Gyamtso practice. Typically, the transmission of the formal aspect is done through observation over time. But the Western lamas that learn the rituals use video support (with Karmapa's authorization) because they do not always have the opportunity to remain in India long enough to learn through osmosis.

Nowadays, several of Dhagpo's monastic lamas have learned the rituals and have developed decent knowledge. Because of this, Nendo Rinpoche and other Tibetan monks make the journey to Kundreul Ling Monastery from time to time to carry out drupcho, notably so that the Westerners can continue their training. Furthermore, Nendo Rinpoche will be going in two weeks to carry out the same Gyalwa Gyamtso ritual with a sand mandala for one week.

For the moment, our afternoons are free, which leaves time to exchange with the monks, some professors, and also Westerners. Of course, the photographer Tokpa Korlo is to be found, but also the head of KIBI's library (I haven't quite got all the names down yet), or Diane from SABA foundation related to EDC. That's a lot of acronyms! I'll come back to it later.


Lama Puntso


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