Yongey Mingyur Dorje Rinpoche
Karma Kagyu Lineage & Guru Yoga
Kagyu Samye Ling, Scotland, August 2003. Translator: Chödrak
Karma Kagyu Lineage
The subject of this teaching is “Lineage and Guru Yoga”. So we are going to discuss the Karma Kagyu lineage. Generally there are many types of lineages in Tibet. But I don’t have time to talk about all of these, so this talk is particularly about the Kagyu lineage.
In our world the first Kagyu Lama was Tilopa who was an emanation of Dorje Chang and Korlo Demchog. Through skilful means, for the benefit of sentient beings, to be able to tame them and especially for the benefit of meditation practice, Dorje Chang emanated Tilopa.
When Tilopa was a young boy he looked after cows. He took them around the fields and through the woods. One day, when he was walking with the cows amongst trees, he saw a lot of different lights moving around and heard lots of different sounds. A dakini, Dorje Phagmo, appeared in themidst of the swirling lights and took Tilopa up to Urgyen, the pure land of Dorje Phagmo and Khorlo Demchog. There Tilopa met Korlo Demchog face to face and received all the oral instructions of the Kagyu Lineage.
When he returned to earth he started teaching Dharma. However, a lot of people questioned him and said: “Who is your lama, who is your teacher?” Tilopa replied: “I don’t have a human teacher. My teachers are Dorje Chang and Korlo Demchog.” People doubted him and said: “You can’t have it like that. You are telling us lies. Maybe you have received the blessing of the demons, so we are not going to listen to you.”
Generating great compassion and using skilful means Tilopa started to take teachings and supplicate other lamas and teachers who were around at that time. This meant that people could trust him because he was taking teachings from human teachers.
Though his essence was the same as Dorje Chang and Khorlo Demchog and he was actually a totally realised Buddha, he went through the motions of going to teachings and taking instructions and behaving as a very humble person who didn’t really have much knowledge. Gradually over time he showed people the method or the example of how to take teachings and instructions and how to practise them gradually and how to gain realisation through one’s practise. Although he didn’t need to do this for himself he did it for the benefit of others.
He travelled widely taking teachings from teachers residing in all the four directions and then condensed all these teachings. So the four lineages came from teachers of the four directions within India. He condensed all the teachings that he received from these teachers and made them into one. For example from a teacher in one direction came the instruction in tummo or the internal fire, another was the clear light, another was dream yoga and another was the illusory body. Tilopa brought together all these teachings from different teachers in the four directions. From this came the single lineage which is called the Kagyu Lineage or the “lineage of oral transmission”.
The second lama in the Kagyu lineage is Naropa. Naropa lived in Nalanda University and was very skilled in debate. He was able to defeat many people in debate and give them answers immediately, so after sometime he generated some pride about that. One day he sat on a rooftop at Nalanda University and sat reciting from a text in the sunshine. All of a sudden, while he was looking at the text, a big dark shadow appeared on the text and he couldn’t see anything. It was a shadow of a person and it covered all directions, so he looked upwards. When he looked up he saw a really ugly old lady with missing teeth and very long hair looking down at him and chuckling: “Ha ha ha.”
He said: “Who are you?” and she replied: “Who are you?” ”I’m Naropa” ”What are you doing, what are you reciting? What do you know?” He said: “I know the text.” The old woman questioned Naropa and said: ”Do you know the words or do you know the meaning of the words?” Naropa thought about it and replied: “I know the words.” ”Ha ha ha!” The old lady laughed and became really happy and danced around. She was going up and down in space, flying around, going back down to the earth and then flying up again.
Naropa thought to himself: “If she gets so excited about me saying I understand the words, what is she going to be like when I tell her I understand the meaning as well!” So he said to the old lady: “I don’t just understand the words, I understand the meaning of the words as well.” She said: “You understand the meaning of the words? Uhu.” She burst into tears, sobbing, looking very, very sad. She put her head down and all her hair fell down.
Naropa then questioned the old lady and said: “When I told you I understand the words you became very happy, but when I told you I understand the meaning you became very sad. What was all that about?” The old lady said: “You are telling me a lie, that’s why I became sad. Naropa said: “What lie did I tell you?” ”You don’t understand the meaning of the words. You just know the words. You lied to me and said you understand the meaning of the words, but you don’t really and that’s the reason why I became sad.” Then Naropa said: ”Who is there in the world now who truly understands the meaning of the words?” The old lady replied: “My younger brother Tilopa, he knows the meaning of the words.”
When Naropa heard the name “Tilopa” all of the hairs on his body stood on end and all the hair on his head stood up, tears streamed from his eyes and great natural devotion arose in him. He asked: “Where is Tilopa?” and the dakini replied: “He is in a cemetery quite far off.” Then all of a sudden the old lady disappeared. Naropa thought: “I really must go and meet this Tilopa.”
In Nalanda monastery there were many monks’ apartments and so during the nighttime he got up and ran away. He searched and searched but he couldn’t find Tilopa. He experienced many difficulties and problems trying to find him but finally he did. When they met, Tilopa wouldn’t teach Naropa anything. He started to give him more problems. But Naropa had great faith and listened to whatever Tilopa said.
One day Tilopa and Naropa went to a top of a very tall building. It was maybe nine stores high. Tilopa was just looking around from side to side. Looking to the space he said: “Hmm, if I had a student with faith, if I told him to jump off this 9-storey building, he would just do it!” Naropa looked around and thought: “There is nobody here except me.” Tilopa continued: “If somebody had faith in me they would just jump off immediately.” Naropa looked around again in case somebody else had arrived and he thought: “I’m here just on my own. Maybe Tilopa means me.” So then immediately he threw himself off the building. When he hit the ground he broke all his arms and legs. Tilopa came down - slowly. ”What happened to you?” he said, “Are you in pain?” ”I’m not only in a lot of pain, I’m almost a corpse!” Naropa replied. ”In that case I’m going to call you Naropa.” In Tibetan na means illness, ro is a name for a corpse and pa means a person. So Naropa means “the person who is sick like a corpse”. Tilopa gave him that name. Then he said: “No problem, doesn’t matter.” and put his hand over Naropa’s body. In one second Naropa’s body was healed, even better than before he jumped. Like that Tilopa gave Naropa twelve difficult things to do but still wouldn’t teach him any dharma.
Naropa came to Tilopa one day, offered a mandala and supplicated him saying: “Please, please, give me the teachings.” He had completed all the difficult tasks Tilopa had given to him and he supplicated for the teachings. All of a sudden Tilopa took off one of his shoes, grabbed Naropa by his hair and said: “You can’t understand the nature of mind by words, you need to recognize it yourself!” and hit him with the shoe across his face. Naropa just collapsed, unconscious. When he emerged from the unconscious state, he had truly vast and open realisation of the nature of mind. So then Tilopa and Naropa became identical, of the same nature. Their realisation was the same level. They didn’t become the same person but their realisation of the nature of mind was the same.
Naropa became a powerful and accomplished siddha. The striking of the shoe across Naropa’s face was Tilopa giving him the lineage of the meaning. And now, after Naropa had fallen unconscious and woken up, Tilopa gave him the instructions of the meaning of the word, all the transmissions. So then, why did Tilopa give twelve difficult tasks to Naropa? It was like his preliminary practise or his ngöndro; he was purifying all the different things that Naropa needed to purify. Because he purified all his negativities with the twelve difficult tasks, then in one moment he could realise, recognise the nature of his mind.
Naropa passed his lineage to Marpa Lotsawa. Marpa stayed with Naropa for twelve years and seven months. Naropa bestowed on Marpa the entirety of all transmissions, though Marpa also had to go through some difficulties. Then Marpa passed on all the teachings to Milarepa. Milarepa also had to endure some difficulties: one day Marpa told him to build a house in a triangular shape, then he said: “Destroy it, I want to make a round house.” Then he wanted Milarepa to make a rectangular house.
After completing all these difficult tasks Marpa gave Milarepa the lineage of the meaning and all the oral instructions. Milarepa then gave all the instructions to Gampopa, but Gampopa did not have to go through too many difficulties. He was very lucky! (Just joking.) Gampopa stayed with Milarepa for three years. In a gradual way Milarepa passed down the entire lineage to Gampopa.
From Gampopa the lineage developed into several lineages: four main ones and eight minor ones. The four major ones are the Kamtsang Kagyu, Baram Kagyu, Phagdru Kagyu and Tsalpa Kagyu. Those are the four main lineages of the Kagyu. The eight minor ones are Drikung Kagyu, Drukpa Kagyu, Taklung Kagyu, Marpa Kagyu, and so on. [Editor's Note: 1. Drikung 2. Drukpa 3. Taklung 4. Yasang 5. Trophu 6. Shuksep 7. Yelpa 8. Martsang ] These days the Karma Kamtsang Kagyu is the predominant one of the four great lineages. There are a few Baram Kagyu people around but the majority of the other Kagyu lineages have faded away.
Out of the eight minor lineages the Drukpa Kagyu, Taklung and Drikung Kagyu are still present and the rest of them but most of the other five have disappeared. So there are three branches of the Kagyu existing today. There are others like the Shangpa Kagyu, the Surmang Kagyu and Nedo Kagyu, but they do not belong to the four major and eight minor lineages, they are like separate branches, although they are Kagyupa lineages.
Within the Kagyu tradition, the main point, the main practise is the practise of meditation. What came down most predominantly in the tradition of the Kagyu are the instructions of how to practise, how to meditate. In the Gelukpa tradition the main emphasis is on the studying of the texts, although the Gelukpas still have practise. In the four major lineages of Tibetan Buddhism they all have their own particular specialities or something very particular to them. It's said that the Kagyu lineage is called the lineage of blessings. This is because there is a great blessing to be obtained through the lamas' pure intention, devotion and faith, connected through interdependence with the pure lineage.
So the explanation of the lineage is completed. Now we will talk about Guru Yoga.
Within the Hinayana or Theravadin tradition the lama, (the teacher) is
not of major importance. The teacher is regarded more as a learned
spiritual friend, who is a normal human being but spiritually advanced
more than oneself. On the Mahayana path, one's perception of the teacher
is like somebody who is on the bodhisattva levels who has attained
spiritual accomplishment. The teacher is like a doctor and the student
is like a sick person receiving medicine. That's how you perceive the
teacher to be. That's within the Mahayana and bodhicitta practice. When
it comes to the Vajrayana viewpoint of the teacher, then the teacher is
perceived as Buddha. What is the reason for this? It is because if you
view the teacher as the Buddha you obtain blessings of the Buddha. Why
is the swift accomplishment of blessings obtained? Because between the
lama and ourselves there is a connection, a very good, positive
Buddha Sakyamuni and Buddha Dorje Chang are very important, but if we were to supplicate Sakyamuni or Dorje Chang directly and we also supplicated the lama, then supplicating the lama would be more beneficial to us and it would bring swifter blessing. So the lama is more important. Why is that? Because we have never received empowerments, instructions or scriptural authorisations from Dorje Chang or the Buddha Sakyamuni, we have never heard them speak, we have never heard their teachings. Since we are able to receive these things from the lama, the lama is more important for us.
We are given an example of what it is like for all of the blessings of the Buddha to be condensed in the lama and then for one to obtain the blessing of the lama. For example: this is the United Kingdom and the sun shines all over the United Kingdom. I have piece of paper in my hand. If you want to burn this piece of paper and place it on the grass in the sunshine, it will be difficult to burn it. But if I bring along a magnifying glass, and I place it above the paper, the sun's rays will be concentrated into the paper and it will burn very quickly. The Buddha's blessing is like the sunshine. One's lama is like the magnifying glass and through him comes the sunlight, which is the blessing. Having connected with the lama's lineage, one obtains all the blessings of the Buddhas through him.
The main technique or main practice for us as Vajrayana practitioners is that of Guru Yoga. Through practising Guru Yoga we will swiftly receive all the blessings. If we have blessing we can attain enlightenment very quickly. If you remember when we were doing the prostrations and refuge practice we had the "objects of refuge" and of them there is the lama who is the embodiment of all of the objects of refuge. Also in the Dorje Sempa practice, when you are visualizing Dorje Sempa above your head, he is inseparable from one's own lama. Then one does the yidam practise of the development stage where one should feel that the yidam and the lama are inseparable. Then there are the dharma protector practices where one feels that the dharma protector and the lama are inseparable.
Based on these practices one can swiftly obtain the blessings and the progress through the stages of enlightenment. What is the reason for this? It is based on having a very strong positive connection between ourselves and the lama, because we have had the empowerments, the scriptural transmissions and the instructions. Even if we don't receive all these three sections from the lama, if we receive empowerment from him or just instructions or just scriptural transmission, each of them separately, we still have a very positive connection.
So then, when we supplicate the lama, whether we obtain the blessings of all the Buddhas or just the lama depends on our faith. If we don't have faith, even if our teachers were Dorje Chang and the Buddha Sakyamuni and we were next to them all the time, no blessing would enter us. As an example, Buddha Sakyamuni had a monk called Gelong Legpe Karma. He stayed with the Buddha for 25 years. But he didn't generate any devotion for the Buddha. Therefore he didn't receive blessings. So even if our lama is like a normal person and he doesn't have very high realisation, if out of our faith we perceive him to be a Buddha then we will receive all the Buddha's blessing completely. So generating faith for the lama is very important.
What type of faith do we have to generate? We have to have faith that the lama and the Buddha are inseparable, that they have the same qualities. There are two reasons for this: one is based on the relative truth and one on the ultimate truth. The reason related to ultimate truth is that the lama has Buddha nature and the Buddha nature is Buddha. Therefore the lama and all of the Buddhas are identical in nature. So then the lama really is the Buddha. Not only is the lama Buddha, the student also is Buddha. Why is that? Because the student also possesses Buddha nature.
If you understand that it is called the ultimate guru yoga. It is like the lama's mind and one's own mind meet and become one. When we say the lama's mind and the student's mind are united and become mixed, it's not like you have to pick some substance in the right hand and some substance in the left hand, grind them and mix them up together. It doesn't mean that. What it means is firstly is that one's own nature and the lama's nature are the same. Understanding that one also understands that all the Buddhas are identical in nature. When you fully understand or realise that, we can say the lama's mind and one's own mind become inseparably mixed. That is the reason relating to the ultimate truth.
What is the reason connected to the relative truth? The Buddha said that generally all the Buddhas possess compassion and skilful means. For all the vast amount of sentient beings the Buddhas do what they can to help each individual being in ways appropriate to that being's nature. We ourselves have negative karma and illusions. Because of our impure perceptions we cannot perceive things purely. Right now at this very moment Dorje Chang is present before us. We can't see him. We can't hear his teachings. This is due to our negative karma and negative or impure perceptions.
So, what are we able to see when we look at the lama? We can see somebody who is rather similar to us, somebody who has flesh and blood, who has suffering, who appears to be like us because they have suffering and mental defilements. That type of person we can perceive. So the Buddhas in their infinite wisdom, compassion and skilful means emanate beings who look like us; like Karmapa, Tai Situ Rinpoche, in the world now there are present many beings like that. They look like us, they need to eat food, they become sick, they need to take medicine from time to time, and they also manifest death. And sometimes they make a few little mistakes.
So they appear to be like us and because of that we are able to see them and relate to them. And we are able to listen to the teachings they give. But really, they themselves, their true nature is that of the Buddha. They are identical with that, because they are emanations of Buddha. If the lama has all the characteristics and he possesses the true lineage, he is the emanation of Buddha. That's the reason relating to the relative truth.
So when we put it in brief, we need to have faith and supplicate the lama. The root of blessing depends on our generating faith and devotion for the lama. In Milarepa's life story we hear what he did and what kind of experiences he had, how he generated faith and so on. One day one of Milarepa's students approached him and said: "You know, when you were with Marpa, he gave you all those difficult things to accomplish and you did all of them, you practiced and finally you became enlightened. Surely you aren't a human being like us; we can't hope to do these kinds of things. Maybe you are an emanation of Dorje Chang or maybe another Buddha - would you please tell us, whose emanation you are?" Milarepa replied: "For you to think that I am an emanation of Buddha is a very good thing for you, but as far as I'm concerned, I don't know whose emanation I am. Even if I happen to be a reincarnation of a hell- being, because you perceive me as an emanation of a Buddha it's very beneficial for you."
So then we can see that everything depends on the generation of faith and devotion. If you understand that the nature of the lama is the same as the Buddha but that the lama's kindness is even greater than that of the Buddha, then you will naturally give rise to faith and devotion for him. That's the explanation showing us that the nature of the lama and the Buddha is identical.
Now we can discuss how it is that the lama's kindness is greater than that of the Buddhas. Even though Dorje Chang and Buddha Sakyamuni are very important and great beings, you are not able, or not fortunate enough, to hear their teachings, to obtain empowerments or scriptural authorisations from them, you are not even able to meet them. But we can actually meet the lama physically, hear his speech, and receive his teachings, empowerments and instructions. If we were to meet Dorje Chang Buddha in person and ask for teaching, if he was going to liberate us and lead us to enlightenment, what could he give us? He could give us the instructions of how to practise and liberate ourselves within one lifetime. Higher or better teachings than that he would not be able to give us. He couldn't just pick us up and throw us into a Pure Land.
And this type of instruction one's own lama can also give: how to liberate oneself in one lifetime and become enlightened. We are not able to perceive Dorje Chang but we can perceive our own lama. So, who is more kind to us: Dorje Chang or the lama? It is the lama. If one understands that point, faith and devotion will arise. This is why in Vajrayana tradition the practice of Guru Yoga is not only very important, it is the main point. That is the general meaning of Guru Yoga.
How do we actually practise the Guru Yoga? How do we do it? If we have the understanding and appreciation that the lama's mind and the Buddha's mind are identical and that the lama is in fact a Buddha, then we can meditate on his body. If one is not able to generate that strength of faith, then instead one can think that the lama manifests as an appearance like Buddha Sakyamuni or Buddha Dorje Chang, rather than in his normal physical form. One also thinks that his manifestation contains and is identical to, the essence of all of the Buddhas. One supplicates one's lama saying: "May I myself and all sentient beings be free from suffering, temporary suffering now and all the suffering up until the point we reach the end result, which is a perfect enlightenment". And then: "Please give me the blessing that I will have the realisation of Mahamudra, please give me all the blessings." One prays like that.
Some people like to meditate on their lama in the form he normally has, how he normally appears and that's okay for them. But some people don't like that. Rinpoche knows someone who was practising Guru Yoga but wasn't enjoying it. The reason was that when he meditated on the form of the lama on top of his head, he remembered that in real life the lama was constantly coughing, so when he visualized the lama on top of his head he was uncomfortable, because the lama kept on coughing. There is another person, who unfortunately has a very pointed head, so when he visualised the lama he felt the lama couldn't sit on the point of his head and kept on falling off!
In India there was one person who had the experience that when he tried to meditate on the form of his lama upon his head he kept on falling off on one side or the other. So he went to his teacher and asked what he could do. The lama said: "Oh, you put the lama at the bottom and you sit on top of his head!" So then the person meditated like that and it became very clear, the lama didn't move. So he said to his lama: "I meditated as you instructed and it was very clear, very good." Then lama said: "Now you need to revert back to the original way, with you on the bottom and the lama on the top. He did this, and this was also very clear. The reason why he couldn't achieve this in the first place was because he had a very tight grasping idea that he had to have a clear visualization of the lama. Because of his intensity and grasping for that his mind became too tight and so the lama would fall all over the place. When he turned around and changed it so that he was on top and the lama was on the bottom, he didn't quite like that position so, because he didn't have grasping, it became very clear. Afterwards he understood the meaning of what had happened and he could meditate very well.
If one can meditate the form of one's lama and the form of Dorje Sempa as inseparable, one understands the meaning of Guru Yoga as it is explained in the ngöndro. When one is practising refuge and prostrations, other than during the ngöndro, one visualises one's guru in the form of Dorje Chang in front of one.
What is the main part of the practice of the Guru Yoga? It is the receiving of the empowerments. There are four empowerments. The first one is received when from lama's forehead a white light radiates and touches one's own forehead. One feels that one's physical obscurations, defilements and impurities are completely purified, and one receives the blessing of the body of the lama. That is called the vase empowerment.
The second empowerment is received when from the lama's throat a red light radiates and touches one's throat centre and one feels that all of one's impurities, obscurations and defilements related to speech are completely purified and one has received the blessing of the lama's speech. This is called the secret empowerment.
The third empowerment is received when from lama's heart centre a blue light radiates and strikes one's heart centre. One feels that all of the defilements, obscurations and impurities related to mind - our mental impurities - are completely purified and one has received the blessing of the lama's mind. This is called the wisdom-knowledge empowerment.
The fourth empowerment is received when one imagines that simultaneously
white, red and blue lights radiate from the lama's three places and
strike one's own three places. One feels that all of the impurities,
defilements and obscurations of body, speech and mind are completely
purified and one has received in totality all the body, speech and mind
blessings of the lama. This is called the word empowerment.
Previously, when visualizing the lama external to oneself and supplicating him, that part is related to relative truth.
That is the end of the explanation of the Guru Yoga. Do you have any questions?
We have had new information coming in: Marpa spent sixteen years (no twelve, as stated above) and seven months with Naropa.
Question: Due to Naropa's misconception that Tilopa was asking him to jump would he have had the same result whether he jumped or not? Was it wise for him to jump at that point because he wasn't told to do so directly?
Rinpoche: It is true that Tilopa did not directly instruct Naropa to jump but he did it indirectly, because there wasn't anybody else there on the roof with them. If Naropa didn't have wisdom, he wouldn't have listened to the lama's instruction. But he had wisdom so he listened to the instructions.
Q: But there wasn't any instruction.
R: It was an indirect instruction, because there was nobody else standing there and he took the meaning to be that I'm a person who has faith, so it must be me because there is nobody else here, so I jump. We have an example of indirect instructions or meanings in many places, not just here.
Q: If one has faith and devotion to several lamas, does one put them all into one form of the main lama and think they are all the same?
R: That is what was told yesterday, yes. That's fine. One doesn't have to think: "Oh, this lama has got blessing but maybe this one has got more. If one has faith in many lamas, one can gather them into one, thinking that their essence is identical.
Q: My lama was the 16th Karmapa and he passed away a long time ago. I wonder if I can still see him as my lama? R: Of course
Q: Could Rinpoche explain the idea of "tsawe lama" (root lama)?
R: There are two types of root lama. The real meaning of the root lama is the lama who points out the nature of one's mind. That's one's true root lama. But before we get to the point of having pointing out instructions, we have to have various lamas giving teachings. You can also perceive the root lama to be somebody who is within a pure unbroken lineage with all the characteristics of a proper pure teacher, with whom one has a connection and faith and devotion. But when one is doing Guru Yoga, it is more beneficial if one can feel that the lama who is giving the empowerments and instructions and transmissions, is really there in essence, and is one's main lama.
R: Tummo, clear light, dream yoga and illusory body. But they are just an example of the four types of teachings that were held in the different directions. Actually there are many, not just those alone.
Q: What does it mean for the guru to become the path?
R: Guru Yoga is the path. We don't say that the lama himself is the path. It's the Guru Yoga one is practising that is the path.
Q: At the very beginning of teaching today we heard that Dorje Chang manifested to Tilopa. If he was so clever, why didn't he manifest to somebody in every country of the world speaking every language and get it done much quicker?
R: If he could do that then he could just pick us up and throw us to the pure lands. Because of individual sentient beings' karma appearances like that don't come about. If it were like that we wouldn't have to stay in samsara now. We would have been Buddha a long time ago.
Q: Would you tell us about Maitripa?
R: Marpa received three types of Mahamudra teachings. There were the sutra tradition, tantra tradition and the essential Mahamudra tradition. Maitripa gave Marpa the sutra tradition mahamudra transmission and Naropa bestowed the other two. Marpa had various teachers: Maitripa, Kukkuripa and so on.
Q: As westerners we often have suspicions associated with figures of authority, not like in the east where in India or Tibet people naturally have faith for the parents and the lamas and they maybe accept authority figures better than we do. So from time to time we have doubts and obstacles related to these figures of authority. How do we deal with that?
R: It is important and necessary for one to follow the dharma instructions and advice that the lama gives. But if it relates to everyday worldly life then one can be a bit more neutral about that. Sometimes we might not listen to some of that advice. You can check it out like this: these days when the really true and straightforward lamas talk to people and give advice it's not in the least for their own benefit. They are thinking solely of the benefit of the person they are talking to. But there are also present in the world lamas who have some idea of mixing their own benefit in with that. So the second one is not beneficial for one, and one needs to check that out. But then one's lama is perceived to have the Buddha nature and is really the Buddha in essence, so one supplicates remembering that. But if one comes into contact with false lamas who are really mixing up their own benefit in their teachings, one abandons them. That kind of advice and connection you should leave. If one encounters a false lama, it's better to abandon them.
Q: There is a special connection between His Holiness Karmapa and Tai Situ Rinpoche. Could we have some explanation of that?
R: This comes about because of Chögyur Lingpa's prophecy, where he prophesies the connection between the 12th Tai Situpa and the 17th Karmapa. Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche were students of the previous 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje and now the 17th Karmapa has taken birth and he is a young person. Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Tai Situ Rinpoche became his teachers. This is based on the lineage: one is young and the older people look after them and then it changes around next time. There are two factors here; there is the prophecy, which states that there is a connection and also from his side His Holiness Karmapa has a genuine faith for Tai Situ Rinpoche. So based on the teachings and transmissions the Karmapa has faith for Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche. The lineage goes in such a way that the Karmapa bestows all of the teachings on his main students, but then when the Karmapa takes rebirth, although he has all the teachings in their entirety because he is Buddha, he has to go through the motions of taking instructions from human beings and human teachers. So now he has manifested as the 17th Karmapa and his teachers are Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Tai Situ Rinpoche.
They symbolically give back all the teachings that they received from the 16th Karmapa. The Karmapa himself already possesses them, but in order to show Dharma students how to do it, they go through the motions of giving him back everything.
Q: Who is your personal guru (tsawe lama)?
R: Tai Situ Rinpoche.
Q: We have noticed that lamas wear special hats from time to time. What do the hats and crowns signify, the black hat in particular?
R: Generally speaking when one wears these crowns, they are a sign of the respect for the nature of reality and respect to all the gurus. Generally the teaching comes or is connected with the individual being's own perception. In olden days a king could give somebody who was respected a crown to wear. The idea of that crown is a token of respect, so there is this respect associated with wearing a crown. Another reason for wearing them was that when sentient beings saw the crown it gave them joy.
And why does the Karmapa have the black crown in particular? A long time
before the first Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa manifested as Karmapa, he was
meditating in a cave. Along came a great gathering of dakinis and they
said to him: "In the future you are going to manifest as a being who
will be of immeasurable benefit for sentient beings, because of that we
have great faith and devotion for you and we want to make offerings to
you". So they each pulled some hair out and wove a crown of it and
placed it on the Karmapa's head. "Now you become like the king of
Dharma", they said. The nature of this crown was rather like a rainbow,
insubstantial and most people can't see it. It is with the Karmapa
always, wherever he goes. He doesn't have to take it on and off, it's
always on his head. Then the Karmapa at one time went to China. The
emperor of China at that time was an emanation of Manjushri. Immediately
the Karmapa arrived the emperor perceived the crown on the Karmapa's
head. The emperor said: "Oh, that crown on your
So the emperor of China made a physical replica of the crown which he saw on the Karmapa's head and he offered this to Karmapa. When he put it on his head, everybody could see, because it was a physical object. Because of the interdependence of the self-existing hat and the one made as a replica, blessing can be obtained from seeing the crown.
Q: In the Dorje Chang Tungma there is a line that says: "Grant me your blessing that uncontrived devotion may arise in me." In that context, what does blessing mean?
R: It is a particular type of power. Various medicines have various types of strength or power. Water has a power to wet things and clean things. Fire has a power to burn. When we put water in a field it helps to grow flowers or crops. All phenomena have a particular power associated with them. Through the power of interdependence, when we ask for blessing, it comes as a particular type of power. What happens is that one receives that power, the blessing and one's defilements and obscurations are purified and dispelled. If one gives rise to devotion and faith and supplicates, then one receives the blessing connected with developing faith and devotion.
© 2005 by Mingyur Rinpoche