Kagyu Lineage & Guru Yoga
The subject of this teaching is the Lineage and Guru Yoga. So we are going to discuss the lineage of the Karma Kagyu. Generally there are many types of lineages in Tibet, but I don't have time to talk about all of these. The talk is going to be particularly about the Kagyu. In the world the first Kagyu lama was Tilopa, an emanation of Dorje Chang and Korlo Demchog. For the benefit of sentient beings and especially for the benefit of meditation practice, out of skilful means, 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 around with the cows amongst trees, there were a lot of different lights moving around and lots of different sounds. A dakini, Dorje Phagmo, appeared in the midst of the swirling lights and took Tilopa up to Urgyen. That's the Dorje Phagmo's and Khorlo Demchog's pure land. When Tilopa met Korlo Demchog face to face he received all the oral instructions of the Kagyu Lineage.
When he returned to earth he started teaching Dharma. A lot of people questioned Tilopa and said: "Who is your lama, who is your teacher?" Tilopa replied: "I don't have a human teacher. My teacher is Dorje Chang and Korlo Demchog." People doubted 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 a great compassion, and out of this compassion using skilful means Tilopa started to take teachings and supplicate other lamas and teachers who were around, so people could have the faith that he was also taking teachings from human teachers.
His essence is the same as Dorje Chang and Khorlo Demchog, he is actually a totally realized Buddha, but 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 of how to take teachings and instructions and how to practise them gradually and how to have realisation in one's practice. Although he didn't need to do this himself he did it for others.
He went to all four directions and took teachings from all teachers who were residing in the four directions and condensed all these teachings in the four lineages into one. For example from one direction came the teaching of the tummo or the internal fire, and one was the clear light, one was dream yoga and one was the illusory body. So the four lineages came from the four directions in India and became the Kagyu Lineage or the lineage of oral transmission.
The second in the lineage of the Kagyu is Naropa. In the beginning Naropa was a person who went to Nalanda University and he 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 in his achievements. One day he sat on the roof top of the Nalanda Monastery with a text which he was reciting in the sunshine. All of a sudden, while he was looking at the text, a big dark shadow of a person appeared and he couldn't see anything. 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 said: "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 became really happy and danced around. She was going up and down in space, flying around, going down to 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? U huu." She burst into tears and was sobbing. Very, very sad. She put her head down and her hair was drooping 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 lies did I tell you?" "You don't understand the meaning of the words. You just know the words. Because you lied to me and told me you understand the meaning of the words, but you really didn't, that's why I became sad." Then Naropa said: "Who in the world now understands the meaning of the words?" The old lady replied: "My younger brother Tilopa, he knows the meaning of the words." Naropa, when he heard the word "Tilopa", all his hair stood on end and tears streamed from his eyes and he felt great natural devotion arising. He asked, "Where is Tilopa?" The lady said: "He is in a cemetery quite far off." 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 in the night time he got up and ran away. He searched and searched but he couldn't find him. He experienced many types of difficulties and problems trying to find Tilopa. Finally he found him. When they met, Tilopa wouldn't teach Naropa anything. He started to give him more problems. But Naropa had great faith and whatever Tilopa said he listened to.
One day Tilopa and Naropa went to the top of a very tall building, maybe nine storeys high. Tilopa was just looking around from side to side. Looking into 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 him 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 he immediately just 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? Are you in pain?" "I'm not only in a lot of pain, I'm almost like a corpse!" Naropa replied. In that case I'm going to call you Naropa." In Tibetan na signifies 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 said, "No problem, doesn't matter." and put his hand over Naropa's body. In one second he jumped up and his body was even better than before. Tilopa then gave Naropa 12 difficult things to do but he still wouldn't teach him any dharma.
Having completed all the difficult tasks that Tilopa had given to him, Naropa came to him one day, offered a mandala and supplicated him saying: "Please, please, give me the teachings." All of a sudden Tilopa grabbed his shoe off his foot and grabbed Naropa by his hair and said: "You can't understand the nature of mind by words, you need to recognize it yourself." and he hit him with the shoe across his face. Naropa just collapsed and became unconscious. When he came out of the unconscious state, immediately he had a vast and open realisation of the nature of mind. So then Tilopa and Naropa became alikel, of the same nature. The 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. After Naropa was unconscious and woken up, he gave him the instructions of the meaning of the word, all the transmissions. So then, why did Tilopa give 12 difficult tasks to Naropa? It was like his preliminary practise or his ngÃ¶ndro, he was purifying all the different things that Naropa needed to purify. Because he purified all his negativities with the 12 difficult tasks, in one moment he could realise the nature of his mind.
Naropa passed his lineage to Marpa Lotsawa. Marpa stayed with Naropa 12 years and 7 months. Naropa bestowed on Marpa the entirety of the transmissions. Marpa also had to go through some difficulties, though. Then Marpa bestowed all the teachings to Milarepa. Milarepa also had to endure some difficulties and do some work. 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 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 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 and gradually Milarepa passed down the lineage to Gampopa.
From Gampopa the lineage spread out to various other lineages. Four main ones and eight minor ones. The four major ones are the Kamsang Kagyu, Baram Kagyu, Phagdru Kagyu and Tsalpa Kagyu. Those are the four main lineages of the Kagyu. You have Drikung Kagyu, Drukpa Kagyu, Taklung Kagyu, Marpa Kagyu etc. These are the eight smaller ones. 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. There are 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, the rest of them, the other five, have disappeared. So the branches of the Kagyu are three. There is one called Shangpa Kagyu, there is also Surmang Kagyu and Nedo Kagyu, but they don't come into the calculation of the four major and eight minor, they are like separate branches, but they are Kagyupa lineages. That's the explanation of the lineage.
Within the Kagyu tradition, the main point, the main practice 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 aspect is studying of the texts. But the Gelukpas still have to 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 based on lamas' pure intention, devotion and faith connected with the interdependence of the pure lineage, there is great blessing to be obtained. So that's the explanation of the lineage completed. Now we will talk about Guru Yoga.
Within the Hinayana Tradition the lama, teacher doesn't really come into it, rather they have somebody who is like a learned spiritual friend, who is like a normal human being but spiritually more advanced than oneself, a friend. In the second case, when one is on the Mahayana path, one's perception of the teacher is like somebody who is on the bodhisattva levels and he has spiritual accomplishments. The teacher is like a doctor, you are the sick person and they give you medicine. That's how you perceive the teacher to be at the time of the Mahayana and bodhicitta practice. When it comes to the Vajrayana viewpoint of the teacher, then the teacher is viewed as Buddha. What is the reason for that? It's because if you view the teacher as Buddha you obtain blessings. Why is the swift accomplishment of blessings obtained? It's because between ourselves and the lama there is a connection. A very good, positive connection.
What are the three very good connections? They are the blessing of the empowerment, the scriptural transmission and the explanations. For a practitioner there is no better connection than these three. Also we can see the lama, we can hear his teachings. Because of these things mentioned we can say there is a very good positive connection with the lama and interdependence. So then, if we supplicate the lama with faith, it's like all blessings of the Buddhas come together united into the lama, and we receive the blessing of the lama, so therefore we also obtain the blessings of all the Buddhas.
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 bring blessing more swiftly. So the lama is more important. Why is that? We've never received empowerments, instructions or scriptural authorisations from Dorje Chang or the Buddha Sakyamuni, we've never heard their speech, we have never heard their teachings. We have from the lama, so the lama is more important to us.
We are given an example of what it's like for all of the blessings of the Buddha passed to the lama and thento us. For example 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 by the paper, the sun's rays will be concentrated onto the paper and it will burn very quickly. It will burn immediately. 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 practitioners in the Vajrayana is that of the practice of Guru Yoga. If we practise Guru Yoga we will swiftly obtain all of the blessings. Then one attains enlightenment very quickly. If you remember when we were doing prostrations and refuge practice we had the objects of refuge and the lama there who is the embodiment of all of the objects of refuge. When you are visualizing in the Dorje Sempa practice the Dorje Sempa deity upon your head, he is inseparable from your own guru. Then one does the yidam practice of the development stage and one feels that the yidam and the lama are inseparable. Then one is practising the dharma protectors' practices and one feels that the dharma protector and the lama are inseparable.
Based on these things one will swiftly obtain the blessings and the levels of enlightenment. What is the reason for that? It's 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 from the lama, if we receive empowerment from him or just instructions or just scriptural transmission, even each of them separately, will still give a very positive connection.
So then, when we supplicate the lama, whether we obtain the blessings of all the Buddhas and 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, without faith in them, 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 devotion for the Buddha therefore he didn't receive blessings. So if we perceive our lama to have the lineage, even if he 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 get all the Buddha's blessing completely. So generating faith for one's lama is very important.
What type of faith we have to generate? We have to have faith that the lama and the Buddha are inseparable, they have the same qualities. There are two reasons for that: one is based on the relative truth and one is connected with the ultimate truth. The one 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 have identical nature. So the lama really is the Buddha. Not only the lama is Buddha, the student also is Buddha. Why is that? It's because the student also possesses Buddha nature. If you understand that, it's called the ultimate guru yoga. It's like the lama's mind and your mind are meeting. 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 your right hand and some substance in the left hand, grind them and mix them up together. It doesn't mean that. The first thing to understand is that one's nature and the lama's nature are the same. Understanding that one also understands that all the Buddhas' nature is identical. If you understand correctly, one's own lama, his mind and your own are inseparably mixed. That's the reason relating to the ultimate truth.
What is the reason connected with the relative truth? The Buddha said that generally all the Buddhas possess compassion and skilful means. For all the vast number of sentient beings the Buddhas do what they can to help each individual being appropriate to that being's nature. We ourselves have negative karma and illusions. Because of our impure perceptions we cannot perceive pure perceptions. Right now this moment Dorje Chang is present before us. We can't see him. We can't hear his teachings. This is due to one's own negative karma and negative or impure perceptions, illusions. So, what are we able to see? We can see somebody who is rather similar to us, somebody of flesh and blood who suffers. Who appears to be like us because they have suffering and mental defilements. That type of person we can perceive. So then 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 many beings like that. They look like us, they appear to be the same. 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 truly their real nature is that of the Buddha because they are emanations of Buddha. If a lama has all the characteristics and he possesses the true lineage, he is an emanation of Buddha. That's the reason for relating to the dimension of relative truth. So then, putting it in brief: one needs to have faith and supplicate the lama. The root of the blessing depends on our generating faith for the lama, devotion. In Milarepa's lifestory it tells you what he did and what kind of experiences he had, how he generated faith etc. 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 those things, you practised and finally you became enlightened. Surely you aren't a human being like us, we can't hope to do this kind of thing. 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, but as far as I'm concerned, I don't know whose emanation I am. If I happen to be a rebirth of a hell being, because you perceive me as an emanation of a Buddha, that's very beneficial for you. So then we can see that everything depends on the generation of one's own faith and devotion. If you understand that the nature of the lama is Buddha but that the lama's kindness is greater than that of the Buddha, then one will naturally give rise to faith and devotion for him. That's the explanation of showing us that the nature of the lama and the Buddha is identical. That's finished.
Now there is a little bit of discussion about how it is that the lama's kindness is greater than that of the Buddha's. Even though Dorje Chang and Buddha Sakyamuni are very important and great beings, you are not able or fortunate enough to hear their teachings, to obtain empowerments or scriptural authorities from them, you are not able to meet them even. But we can actually meet the lama physically, hear his speech and receive his teachings, empowerments and instructions. If we were to meet the 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 wouldn't be able to give us. He couldn't just pick us up and threw us into a Pure Land. And this type of instruction one's own lama can 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, is it Dorje Chang or the lama? It's the lama. If you understand that point, faith and devotion will arise. This is why in the Vajrayana tradition the practice of Guru Yoga is respected as something very important, the main point. That's the general meaning of Guru Yoga.
How do we practise the Guru Yoga actually? How do we do it? If we have 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 strong faith, then one feels that the lama manifests as Buddha Sakyamuni or the Buddha Dorje Chang, not the way he normally is. And you also think that his manifestation contains all of the essence of the Buddhas. One supplicates one's lama and ask that I myself and all sentient beings may be free from suffering; temporary suffering now and all suffering up until the point we reach the end result, perfect enlightenment. And then please give me the blessing so that I will have the realisation of the mahamudra, please give me all the blessings. You make a prayer 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 the Guru Yoga but he didn't enjoy it. The reason was that in real life he 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 guy, who had unfortunately a very pointed head, so the lama couldn't sit on the point of his head, he kept on falling off.
Before in India one person had an experience - when he tried to meditate on the form of his lama upon his head he kept on falling off from side to side. So he went to the 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 he meditated like that. It became very clear, he didn't move. 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 what was originally there, 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 is because he had a very tight grasping idea that he had to have a very clear visualization of the lama. Because of his intensity and grasping for that, his mind became very tight and then the lama fell all over the place. When he turned it around with him on top and the lama on the bottom, he didn't really have appreciation of that, because he didn't quite like that position, as he wasn't grasping, it became very clear. Afterwards he understood the meaning of what had happened, and could meditate very well.
If one can meditate the form of one's lama and form of Dorje Sempa as inseparable, one has got the meaning of Guru Yoga as it's explained in the ngÃ¶ndro. When one is practising the refuge and the prostrations, one is visualizing one's guru in the form of Dorje Chang in front of one. So that is the meaning associated with ngÃ¶ndro.
What is the main part of the practice of the Guru Yoga? It's the receiving of the empowerments. The empowerments are four in number. The first one is from the lama's forehead a white light emanates and touches one's own forehead. One feels that ones physical obscurations, defilements and impurities are completely purified, and one receives the blessing of the body of the lama. That is classified as the vase empowerment.
The second part is that from the lama's throat a red light emanates 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 speech from the lama. This is called the secret empowerment. The third thing to happen is that from lama's heart centre a blue light radiates out 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 mind blessing of the lama. This is called the wisdom-knowledge empowerment.
The fourth empowerment: one imagines simultaneously white, red and blue lights coming out and striking one's three places. One feels that all of the body, speech and mind impurities, defilements and obscurations are completely purified and one has received in totality all the body, speech and mind blessings of the lama. This is called the word or mahamudra empowement. Finally the lama dissolves into light and this dissolves into oneself. The meaning really is that in the end the lama and oneself become inseparable and their essence is identical. So you need to understand that. And then you relax. That is the absolute true Guru Yoga. When one is visualizing the lama external to oneself and supplicating him, that part is related to relative truth.
When one has done the visualization of the lama dissolving into light and the light dissolving into oneself, you recognize that the lama's mind's essence and your essence are identical, the same, and relax in that. That's the ultimate truth Guru Yoga. That's the end of the explanation of the Guru Yoga. Do you have any questions?
We have had new information coming in: Marpa spent 16 years and 7 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 indirectly, because there wasn't anybody else there on the roof with them. If he didn't have wisdom, he wouldn't have listened to the lama's instruction. B ut he had wisdom because he listened to the instructions.
Q: 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 that.
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 and maybe this one has more. If you have faith in many lamas, you put them into one, think that their essence is identical.
Q: My lama was the 16th Karmapa and he passed away 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. At the point one understands that, one has the instruction and meeting together like that. 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 whose is within a pure lineage unbroken and they have all the characteristics of a proper pure teacher, and one has connection and faith and devotion for them, then one can also perceive them as a root lama. But when one is doing the Guru Yoga though, it is more beneficial if one can feel that the lama who is giving you the empowerments and instructions and all transmissions, his essence is really there, he is the main one.
Q: Which were the four types of teachings held in different directions?
R: Tummo, clear light, dream yoga and illusory body are just an example of the four types of teachings, which were held in different directions. But there are many, it is 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. Oneself practising the Guru Yoga, 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 those 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 essence of mahamudra tradition. Maitripa gave Marpa the sutra tradition; mahamudra transmission and the other two were bestowed by Naropa. 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 in parents and lamas and they maybe take authority figures better than us. 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 you. 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 based on 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 and you need to check that out. But when one's lama is perceived to have Buddha nature and to be really the Buddha in essence, you can supplicate like that. But if one comes into contact with kind of false lamas who are really mixing up their own benefit in their teachings, one abandons them. That kind of advice and connection, you leave it. 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 ChÃ¶gyur Lingpa's prophecy, where he gives a prophecy about 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 is a young person. Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Tai Situ Rinpoche became his teachers. T his is based on the lineage: one is young and the older people look after them and then it changes around from time to time. Generally, there is a prophecy, which is a statement of connection, and also from his side His Holiness Karmapa has a genuine faith in Tai Situ Rinpoche. This is based on the teachings and transmissions that the Karmapa has faith arising 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. Now he has manifested as 17th Karmapa and his teachers will be Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Tai Situ Rinpoche. They in a way symbolically give back all the teachings that they received from the previous 16th Karmapa. The Karmapa himself already possesses them, but because of the students, in order to show how to do it, then 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, black hat in particular?
R: Generally speaking when one wears the crowns on the head, it's the sign of respect to 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 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 it at that time was that when sentient beings saw the crown it gave them joy.
And why does the Karmapa have particularly the black crown? Before the arising of the first Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa, a long time before he 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 all pulled lots of their hair out and they wove a crown and placed it on the Karmapa's head. "Now you become like the king of Dharma." So the nature of this crown placed on the head was rather like a rainbow, insubstantial and most people can't see it. It's with the Karmapa always, where ever he goes. He doesn't have to take it on and off, it's always on his head. And then the Karmapa at one time went to China. At that time the emperor of China was an emanation of Manjushri. Immediately when the Karmapa came the emperor perceived the crown on the Karmapa's head. The emperor said, "Oh, that crown on your head, everybody needs to see it, so we are going to make a copy of it, a visible copy. So the emperor of China made a replica of the crown which was on 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 hat.
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 the blessing, blessing 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 has the blessing connected with arising of faith and devotion.