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

Monday, June 5, 2017

Times and Recognition

Sunday, June 4th, preparatory rituals continue. The sand mandala is not finished and the mandala makers are busy while we perform the ritual, finishing at the end of the morning. Just about three hours of puja (for those who are familiar with it: we practiced the dakyé – visualization of oneself – and a tsok – a festive offering – of Gyalwa Gyamtso). The whole morning was of course in the presence of the Karmapa who spent a moment after the ritual to take a look at the mandala and its realization.

Each one is awaiting the imminent arrival of the Karmapa

A free afternoon allows me to go meet with the elderly khenpo who inquired about leap years (see the last posting entitled « In Between Times (Stories) ») When the Roman Calendar Comes to the Himalaya). I had carefully prepared a precise answer: I started with the creation of Rome (birth of the first Roman calendar), then continued with Pompulius, the second king of Rome who completed the first calendar. Then I jumped ahead in time to the emperor Julius Cesar (the inventor of the leap year!), finishing with the Pope Gregory at the 16th century. Our man, the khenpo, is enthusiastic and the translator is thoroughly enjoying himself. He asks questions which continue to surprise me a bit: what is the difference between a king and an emperor in the Roman Empire? Another question, less surprising: as I had explained the exact duration of a year (365 days 5 h 48 min, 198 sec), he asked me what the source was. I was struck to see how this scholar, one of the senior khenpos of the shedra at Kalimpong, over the course of an exchange became the student, taking down notes and asking me at times to go a bit slower so that he wouldn’t miss anything.

Monday, June 5, the drupcho begins. We tried, the night before, to have a time, even just approximate for the start of the ritual in the morning. We went to see an authority in the person of the umzé (the chanting master): “We don’t know yet, we have to go see His Holiness (the Karmapa)”. It is 7:30 p.m. At about 9:30 p.m., we manage to get an hour from someone who was more or less certain, because well, no one really knew. So through different sources, I deduced that I ought to be ready at 6:00 a.m.

The tent prepared for the kangyur reading

So, I arrived this morning at 6:00 in the courtyard (like Peïo) : completely deserted. A monk comes by, so I ask and he tells me “probably 7 or 7:30”. So I have a little time to spare. But just to be sure, I ask another monk who comes along and he tells me:
-It’s at 6:00
-But it is 6 :00 !
- Oh, really? Oh, so then at 7:00
- ...

Karmapa attentively looks on at the progression of the mandala

So I came back at 7:00 and Karmapa finally arrived at 7:30. But that’s not the problem. The perpetual vagueness of time begets a question: no one ever knows the time of the next event, but everyone is ready when it begins. I have to admit that that leaves me with a hint of envy and quite appreciative. But this vagueness is circumstantial as these are “events” while the regular schedule of the shedra is precise and constant; the students have no time to dally:

- 5:00 – 6:30 a.m.: rise and study
- 6:30 – 7:30: Manjoushri practice (bodhisattva of knowledge) together in the temple
- 7:30 – 8:00: breakfast
- 8:00 – 12:00: coursework and personal study depending on the program
- 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.: lunch
- 1:00 – 3:00: coursework and personal study depending on the program
- 3:00 – 3:30: tea break
- 3:45 – 5:45: debate (two by two, then in groups)
- 6:00 – 7:00: Mahakala practice (ritual for Dharma protectors) together in the temple
- 7:00 – 8:00: dinner
- until 10:00: study
This is their daily schedule, everyday except Sundays and vacation in January, for 12 years.

With the presence of the Karmapa and the drupcho, the hours change and are far less definite. It could be that in the end, we spent 10 hours in the temple today (7:30-12:30 and 14:00 – 19:00), doing continuous rituals with a pause of 10 minutes in the morning and the afternoon. We accomplished the full Gyalwa Gyamtso ritual twice (tsok and Mahakala only in the afternoon).

The finished mandala

While we practiced in the temple, the tent (in plastic) was also prepared as a temple for the reading of the kangyur (the collection of 103 volumes of the Buddha’s words). And those that cannot yet read, they recite mani(s). Everyone is included….

Shamar Rinpoche isn’t mentioned anywhere here, neither during the ritual nor between sessions; regardless, his presence is everywhere. Of course, that is just my own feeling. Nevertheless, when you speak to anyone about Shamarpa in this shedra, the response is naturally imbued with gratitude, because as each one knows, this place exists in great part due to Shamarpa; thanks to him, they are there. They also know that it is Karmapa and very concretely, Jigme Rinpoche who has made the succession possible. This shedra is the fruit of their activity.

Just as the 16th Karmapa, these masters have the view to render the dharma durable. In certain parts of the world, it has to bloom, in other places it needs to be rebuilt, and still others, it needs to be reinforced. In Europe, we have to continue to build and bring it to fruition; here in Kalimpong none of the acquired qualities can be lost. But in one place as in another, it is thanks to the heritage of this lineage that the Dharma is preserved, which means notably that everyone can find the best conditions to practice in the most authentic way possible. That is where the word recognition is not a futile word at all.

Lama Puntso


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