Great bliss, dharmadhātu, great bindu
Unstoppable, creative display of natural-appearance
With unbroken confidence from my heart, I approach you.
Primordial awareness kāya of all the Buddhas
Arising as a chakra of the illusory magical net
Mandala of the great-bliss guru.
I will reveal here the instructions for approaching.
The final birth of divine son, Mutri, the terton, mahasiddha and vidyadhara, Mingyur Dorje Dragpo Nuden Tsel, while practicing the wisdom protector Bernagchen, saw the face of the glorious Karmapa (the lord of activity of all victors of the three times), the spontaneous wisdom-display of the primordial lord of the ocean of mandalas, appearing as the mandala of the vidyadhara guru and the three roots, in essence the deities of the five oceans, and bestowed his sadhana as a commentary of union of pure vision and mind-treasure.
—Excerpt from Bindu that Accomplishes Great Bliss commentary by 15th Karmapa
For the full Harvest Moon today, I offer a new translation and publication of ‘Seeing the Face of Karma Pakshi Guru Yoga sadhanas revealed by Yongey Mingyur Dorje[i], together with endnote annotations from a commentary, The Bindu that Accomplishes Great Bliss’[ii] by the 15th Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje and a more recently published commentary on the practice by Khenpo Khartar Rinpoche. There are four editions of the Tibetan root text available online. Three are in editions of the Treasury of Precious Revelations (Rinchen Terdzod)[iii]. One can be accessed online at the Tsadra Foundation edition of the Treasury, see here.
I have also included the first translation of a short daily sadhana Guru Yoga composed by 15th Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje: Accomplishing the Guru, Karma Pakshi[iv]. The translation (which includes Tibetan and phonetics) can be freely downloaded on request here to those with the empowerment. I received the Karma Pakshi empowerment from HH 17th Karmapa.
2nd Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (1204-1283) Life Story
This practice of Karma Pagshi Guru Yoga, is still very relevant to the Karma Kagyu today. Empowerments of this text and practice has been given recently by HH 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje (see below). In terms of the life of Karma Pakshi, 17th Karmapa recently wrote a theatrical performance in a contemporary idiom of the life of Karma Pakshi, performed during the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo in 2012. The drama focuses on three events: the arrival of Orgyenpa (1230-1312), who would hold the Karma Pakshi’s lineage; the meeting of these two great lamas; and finally, Orgyenpa’s meeting and recognizing the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339). The performance can be viewed below and here.
The 17th Karmapa explained at one teaching that:
”The first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, had planned to institute a lineage descending through his nephew but the latter was killed, so Dusum Khyenpa decided upon a succession of tulkus instead. The Master Orgyenpa encouraged him in this and was given the responsibility of finding and instructing the next reincarnation. His Holiness related that when a very young boy announced to Orgyenpa that he was the Karmapa, Orgyenpa tested him and found this to be true, so the child was enthroned as the 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje. This recognition of tulkus, which began as an aspect of the activity of Karma Pakshi, became a unique trait of Tibetan Buddhism.
Another special aspect of Karma Pakshi’s activity, His Holiness explained, mirrored that of Guru Rinpoche, who tamed the spirits and local deities of Tibet so that the Dharma could flourish there. In a similar way, Karma Pakshi subdued the emperor Kublai Khan, who tried to kill him in eighteen different ways, none of which succeeded. In his autobiography, Karma Pakshi wrote that these brought him close to death and the most difficult to overcome was being immersed in fire. By demonstrating this inconceivable resilience, the Karmapa was able to subdue the pride of Kublai Khan who became his disciple and opened the door for the Kagyu Dharma in China. His Holiness added that although he had not yet researched this himself, some say Karma Pakshi met a contemporary, Marco Polo, who recorded that at the court of the Chinese emperor, he had met a Tibetan lama who performed great miracles.”
Karma Pakshi’s life story is inspiring, especially as he faced many political and personal challenges to his life and freedom, due to his involvement with Kublai Khan of Mongolia. Of particular note, he was the teacher of Orgyenpa, who is credited with having recognised the incarnation of the 3rd Karmapa and who for twelve years studied Kālacakra, mainly in the traditions of Dro Lotsāwa (‘bro lo tsA ba) and Chak Lotsāwa (chag lo tsA ba), and the major Kagyu doctrines with Gotsangpa.
There are many inspiring examples in his biography. Chogyam Trungpa, who is said to have revealed a terma ‘The Sadhana of Mahamudra’ with Karma Pakshi and Dorje Drollo combined, explains how the notion of ‘crazy wisdom’ relates to Karma Pakshi:
“Since he was recognized as a great master, he was invited to the Chinese court as part of the entourage of the Dalai Lama [head of the Sakya sect, who in those days was not known as the Dalai Lama]. Karma Pakshi was always very strange; and his style was not in keeping with the protocol expected of emissaries to the Chinese imperial court. During the journey to China, he played a lot of little tricks; everybody was concerned about his power and his naughtiness, so to speak. The Sakya abbot who was supposed to become the Chinese imperial teacher didn’t like Karma Pakshi’s tricks, and had him thrown in jail. By means of his miraculous powers, Karma Pakshi turned his prison into a palace. He was able to manifest himself as a real crazy wisdom person. He proved that politeness and diplomacy were not necessary in order to convert the Chinese emperor. He showed us that straight talk is more effective than gentle talk. He didn’t say, “Buddhism would be good for your imperial health.” He just wasn’t into being diplomatic. The rest of the party got very upset; they were afraid that he might blow the whole trip, so to speak. And apparently he did!
Towards the end of his visit, he became the real imperial teacher. The Chinese emperor supposedly said, “The Sakya guru is fine, but how about the other one with the beard? How about him? He seems to be a very threatening person.” The energy of crazy wisdom is continuously ongoing. Karma Pakshi was always an unreasonable person—all the time. When he went back to Tibet, his monastery was still unfinished, so he ordered it to be built on an emergency basis. In that way Tsurphu monastery was founded. It was the seat of the Karmapas before the Chinese invasion of Tibet. It is interesting that such energy goes on throughout the whole lineage.”
Also, the 17th Karmapa recently performed the Karma Pakshi sadhana for the paranirvana of 14th Zhamar Rinpoche, see here.
Accomplishing the Guru – Short Daily Practice by 15th Karmapa
The daily practice composed by 15th Karmapa is a great blessing for those with limited time and/or other practice commitments etc. Being only a few lines, it involves visualising Karma Pakshi alone and with hands in the earth touching mudra (see image above). Composed by 15th Karmapa, at the request of ‘Mani-reciter’ Karma Ngedon Tengye, on the third day of the thakar[iv] month from the lineage of the Great Encampment (Garchen Dzamling)[v]. As this is not an extended ritual and a very simple and short visualisation and recitation, I have uploaded it here for free download. It should generally be practised with an empowerment though.
Seeing the Face of Karma Pakshi – mind-treasure by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
“Kyeho! The self-aware primordial awareness is inexpressible.
The realm of craving appears from the self-radiance of the mind itself.
One pursues the confusion that is the creative display of the awareness source.
Chains of habitual tendencies cling to appearances as solid and true.
Whatever various appearances arise are illusory
Whatever arises, pleasant or unpleasant, are appearances lacking ‘truth’
May we nakedly look at their naked reality with self-awareness.
The symbolic appearance of guru is an appearing object
Whatever appears, may it be self-liberated without clinging, emaho!
That is the way of looking at the nature of mind itself.
That is the guru’s symbolic appearance.
That is the way of meditating on the abiding reality of mind.”
ཀྱེ་ཧོ༔ རང་རིག་ཡེ་ཤེས་བརྗོད་མེད་ནི༔ ཞེན་པའི་ཡུལ་ལྗོངས་སྣང་བའི་རང་མདངས་ལས༔
—Oral Instructions of Karma Pakshi, from ‘Seeing the Face of Karma Pakshi‘ revealed by Yongey Mingyur Dorje
According to the Bindu that Accomplishes Great Bliss commentary on the sadhana by 15th Karmapa, and a recent one by Khenpo Kharthar Rinpche, the terma revealed by Mingyur Dorje happened in a direct vision:
“It happened in the year-of-the-snake in the Tibetan 12-year astrological cycle, when Rigdzin Minjur Dorje was 25 years old. He was doing the practice of the Mahakala Bernagchen during a particular night (practitioners typically do four or six sessions of practice in the course of a night). Rigdzin Minjur Dorje was doing the session of practice which takes place just before daybreak. He was fully awake and quite aware of the fact that he was not in a sleepy or a dreamy state.
In the course of the practice, a stream of flashing red light crossed his eyes or mind. When this experience took place, it occurred to him that perhaps this could be some sort of obstacle (practitioners are known to encounter obstacles). For example, it is known that Shakyamuni Buddha experienced the destructive play of the maras as an obstruction prior to his experience of the completely awakened mind. Minjur Dorje wondered if this experience could perhaps be such an obstacle. However, the intensity of the flashing red light passing through his mind (before his eyes) sent him momentarily into a state of shock or unconsciousness.
At the moment when he recovered consciousness, the whole mandala of Karma Pakshi and his retinue was in front of him, as real as it could possibly be. And within the retinue surrounding Karma Pakshi, there was one female deity pointing her finger toward Karma Pakshi. This was a sign to Rigdzin Minjur Dorje that his real guru was Karma Pakshi. After being pointed out, Karma Pakshi proceeded to introduce Rigdzin Minjur Dorje to the ground, path, and fruition mahamudra.”
The Karma Pakshi mandala (depicted above) contains Padmasambhava, one of the main students of Milarepa, Rechungpa (1083-1161), red Hayagriva (Tamdrin), Vajravarahi (Dorje Phagmo), Black-cloaked Mahakala (Bernagchen), Remati/Mahakali (Rangjung Gyalmo) and Vajrasadhu (Dorje Legpa). An explanation of the Karma Pakshi sadhana can be read online here, it explains that:
“The Terma that Yongle Mingyur Dorje revealed is a text that consists of three volumes and contains the Karma Pakshi Sadhana, which is only practiced in the Karma Kagyü School, not in that of the Nyingmapas. The collection of three volumes revealed by Mingyur Dorje also contains a cycle of teachings and the practice on Dorje Drolo, who is the wrathful manifestation of Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava, and the eight names of Guru Rinpoche. Secondly, this Terma contains a cycle of teachings on Amitayus, Tsepamed in Tibetan, the Buddha of Long Life. Thirdly, it contains a cycle of teachings on Vajradhara and his retinue as well as their Sadhanas.
Even though it is a Nyingma Terma, Yongle Mingyur Dorje offered the Terma he brought to light to the Tenth Gyalwa Karmapa, and therefore the Tenth Karmapa became Lord of these Terma teachings. Mingyur Dorje had also realized the Kagyüpa Mahakala Practice, Bernakchen in Tibetan. At that time, he envisioned the entire mandala of Karma Pakshi – Guru Rinpoche above Karma Pakshi as the central deity, Hayagriva (Tamdrin, Horse-Throat, a wrathful manifestation of Buddha Amitabha), and other deities surrounding him. At this point, it is sufficient to know that the mandala of Karma Pakshi is based upon Mingyur Dorje’s vision.”
In terms of the life of the 1st Yongey Mingyur Dorje, there is also a book Chariot of the Fortunate: The Life of the First Mingyur Dorje by Je Tukyi Dorje & Surmang Tendzin Rinpoche, translated by Karma Yeshe Gyamtso (KTD Publications, 2005), which contains a brief biography of Mingyur Dorje by Jamgon Kongtrul the Great, extracted from his Lives of the Hundred Treasure Revealers, and the biography of Mingyur Dorje called Chariot of the Fortunate. The latter was begun by Dzigar Tukyi Dorje, and completed by Surmang Tendzin Rinpoche.
The book contains an interesting tale of the ‘great loss’ that happens when a treasure-revealer, Yongey Mingyur, ‘loses the interdependence of getting the correct treasure-consort woman (pp.31-32):
“His principal destined treasure consort was Adrama, a niece of Jamo of Lhateng. Adrama, however, was challenged.She was lame in both arms and legs, and she did not respond to language. The treasure revealer requested that she be given into his care. He went to Lhateng bearing an antique belt of conch that must have been discovered as treasure, inscribed with representations of the eight auspicious substances, as a gift. Adrama responded to his presence with a display of pleasure. But Jamo decided not to give her into the treasure revealer’s care. The treasure revealer took back the belt. He then dressed two mounds of snow in a set of Adrama’s clothing and a set of his own, and placed hair from each of them in the respective mounds. He then burnt them. He also cut off most of his hair, which he had worn long until then, and burnt it as well. He said:
Unable to meet Tsogyal’s emanation, Uddiyana’s emanation has discarded his locks. Tibet’s merit is diminished.
It is said that it was on that day that he began to act as though crazy. In any case, it is certain that it began at around that time. It is also said that both Adrama’s mother and her uncle, Jamo Lama, possessed supercognition, but that, when it could have been of the greatest use, they were overcome by the vanity of possessing it and made the wrong decision.
From one perspective, it appears that the treasure revealer’s subsequent behavior arose from the disintegration of interdependence. From another, I am certain that he was engaging in the conduct that brings progress on the path, the behavior of someone who has destroyed mundane bewilderment.
For one year after he began this behavior he remained alone, without even any attendants. Of his seven former attendants, two went to Tsurphu to request the support of the Karmapa, Yeshe Dorje. The Karmapa responded to their request by saying, “Mingyur Dorje is a mahasiddha who has destroyed bewilderment. He is not insane. Gather his attendants together as before and obey his every command as in the past.”
The attendants returned to his service. Thereafter, the treasure revealer lived as a nomad. He took Dontarma as wife, and later Jochungma. Had the interdependence of his treasure consort and so forth transpired successfully he would have come to possess a hundred treasure dharmas. It is said that his destined treasure sites included Gowo Cave in Dzagyal, Karma Legak, the rock near Dzato that bears the imprint of a horse’s hooves, a place called Lords of the Three Families, a place called Garama Rock in Danak, and Turquoise Lake in upper Domredo. His treasures would have included endless varieties of life sadhana and so forth. What transpired was in accord with the merit of the doctrine and beings in these evil times. Nevertheless, it appears that he did reveal a few additional minor treasures, such as mind treasures, sky dharma, and lake treasures.”
Bindu that Accomplishes Great Bliss Commentary by 15th Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje
The Bindu that Accomplishes Great Bliss commentary by the 15th Karmapa, is an instruction text on the Mingyur Dorje terma sadhana, the Karmapa explains the reason for writing it:
“Unable to refuse the long-standing request of Karma Yangdak, who is committed to this path through his stable devotion to it, this was written by the 15th holder of the births of the Buddha, Karmapa at the gandhola of the terrestrial wheel of speech. Virtue!” [vii]
It helpfully breaks up the sadhana into four stages. I saw a previous translation of the commentary by Karma Yeshe Gyamtso of KTD[viii] and a line by line commentary by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche of KTD centre of the root sadhana which I have used to provide endnote annotations in my new translation of the main practice text.
17th Karmapa and Karma Pakshi
“Karma Pakshi is not separate from the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje – they are by nature the same. It is possible to see and experience the wondrous activities of the Glorious Karmapa, to reflect his life-story, and to have pure faith and devotion in him, in contrast to the life-story of Karma Pakshi that we can only read about in books.”
In 2014, HH 17th Karmapa gave a Karma Pakshi empowerment in Germany. The text for the initiation and the related practice was that of Mingyur Dorje. Contrary to the usual understanding, the Karmapa stated that in fact, Karma Pakshi was really the first Karmapa because during his time, the name Karmapa became famous. A very special gift, the Karmapa explained during the empowerment, came from Sogyal Rinpoche who had loaned a small drum (damaru) that had belonged to Karma Pakshi himself and come down through Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, a great master who had traded empowerments with the 16th Karmapa. I recently translated this Karma Pakshi Guru Yoga composed by Chokyi Lodro, see here. The present Karmapa played this drum during the initiation. A video of the empowerment and subsequent teaching is below:
For that reason, the wrathful 2nd Karmapa Guru Yoga sadhana is even more relevant than before and may this new translation and publication together with its practice by devout practitioners lead to eliminating all the obstacles and challenges currently facing the 17th Karmapa and Karma Kagyu.
Below are some images of 17th Karmapa with the current 7th Mingyur Dorje Rinpoche:
Here is a video of the current Mingyur Dorje talking about the amazing and ‘inhuman’ qualities of the 17th Karmapa (in Tibetan, English translation is posted below the youtube video):
Compiled, translated and edited by Adele Tomlin, 1st October 2020. May it be of benefit to precious root lama, 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje and the Karmapa lineage and legacy, to the teachings and to beings.
Wishing all a beautiful, joyous and peaceful full Harvest Moon!
[i] A prior English translation of the sadhana was published several year ago by KTD Publications, but I was unable to purchase or see a copy of it, (I emailed them but there was no reply) so have translated it without reference to it as a guide.
[ii] yongs dge mi ‘gyur rdo rje’i dag snang pak+shi’i bla sgrub kyi bsnyen rkyang bya tshul gyi yi ge bde chen grub pa’i thig le/. In Collected Works of Khakyab Dorje (gsung ‘bum/_mkha’ khyab rdo rje/ ?dpal spungs par ma/?. TBRC W22081. 2: 287 – 298. delhi: konchhog lhadrepa, 1993-94.)
[iii] 1) rje karma pak+shi zhal gzigs ma’i las byang in Rinchen Terdzo (rin chen gter mdzod chen mo) W20578, 8 ff. (pp. 79-93). ngodrup and sherab drimay, paro. 1976-1980. a reproduction of the stod-lun mtshur-phu redaction of ‘jam-mgon kon-sprul’s great work on the unity of the great gter-ma traditions of tibet. Block Print. 2) In Rinchen Terdzo, TBRC W1PD96185, 8 ff. (pp. 725-739). [lho nub mi rigs dpar khang], 199?. Block Print. 3) mkhas dbang rag+hu wIra dang lokesha tsan+dra rnam gnyis kyis nyar tshags byas pa’i dpe tshogs/; W1KG26281, 12 ff. Block Print. 4) In Rinchen Terdzo, TBRC W1KG14, 7 ff. Shechen Publications, New Delhi. 2007-2008. Computer Input.
[iv] The Tibetan here is tha skar which according to the Vinaya is the period from the 26th of the eighth month until the 15th of the ninth month.
[v] The Tibetan here is sgar chen ‘dzam gling which seems to refer to the tradition of the Karmapas travelling around to teach and setting up camp to do so. ‘’From the time of the Fourth Karmapa, who instituted it, until the Tenth, who witnessed its final destruction by Mongolian forces, the Great Encampment was completely vegetarian. For 300 years, it was strictly forbidden to even bring meat onto the encampment grounds, earning the Great Encampment the epithet of “The Buddhadharma of White Soup,” with “white” indicating that it was free of meat products.’’ See: http://www.karmapa900.org/contributions_garchen.html
[vi] ‘jig rten dbang phyug sku phreng gnyis pa rje karma pak+shi chen po’i bla sgrub bsdus pa/.” In kaM tshang chos spyod sogs kha ton gces btus. TBRC W00EGS1016759. 1: 677 – 678. [delhi]: [sherab gyaltsen], .
[vii] In 2014, HH 17th Karmapa gave a Karma Pakshi empowerment in Germany. The text for the initiation and the related practice was that of Mingyur Dorje. Contrary to the usual understanding, the Karmapa stated that in fact, Karma Pakshi was really the first Karmapa because during his time, the name Karmapa became famous. A very special gift, the Karmapa explained during the empowerment, came from Sogyal Rinpoche who had loaned a small drum (damaru) that had belonged to Karma Pakshi himself and come down through Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, a great master who had traded empowerments with the 16th Karmapa. I recently translated this Karma Pakshi Guru Yoga composed by Chokyi Lodro, see here. The present Karmapa played this drum during the initiation, here is the video of the empowerment and subsequent teaching.
[viii] The Tibetan reads: ces pa’ang lam ‘di nyid la mos pa brtan pa’i g.yar dam can karma yang dag gis ring mo zhig nas bskul ngo mi ldog tsam du sangs rgyas karma pa’i skyes rabs ‘dzin pa bco lnga pas/ sa spyod thugs kyi ‘khor lo’i gan+d+ho la nas bris pa/
[viv] Available to purchase from KTD Publications.