“THE ESSENCE OF GLORY: A SHAKYAMUNI PUJA IN THE KADAMPA TRADITION”: NEW SADHANA BY 17TH GYALWANG KARMAPA. Inspirations behind its composition, an overview of the new sadhana, and transcript of the teaching by 17th Karmapa

“Should I pay homage first to you? Or before that to the great compassion
That remained in samsara, despite knowing all its faults?”

–Excerpt from Essence Of Glory: A Shakyamuni Puja by 17th Karmapa

“The reason why we have the Buddhist teachings, is because of the kindness of the Buddha Shakyamuni. So, all of us Buddhists should have gratitude and remember the Buddha with appreciation. If we cannot think of the Buddha with gratitude, then it is kind of fake to say we are Buddhists”

–17th Karmapa (Teaching on new Shakyamuni puja, September 2022)

“Of the three Kadam traditions, the holders of the tradition of esoteric instructions that descend from Puchungwa particularly uphold what the exalted Tārā told the victor Dromtonpa:

Remember the source of refuge, the guru.
The body is the nature of the deity.
Through speech, continuously repeat the mantra.
Consider each and every being as your parent.
Discern the emptiness of the abiding nature of mind.
Once these five arise,
Purify all roots of virtue.”

—Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye in Treasury of Precious Instructions (Dam Ngag Dzo)

INTRODUCTION

Yesterday (at 10am IST), the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje launched, transmitted and led a stunning new puja he composed called the Essence of Glory: A Shakyamuni Puja in the Kadampa Style (བཀའ་གདམས་ལུགས་གྱི་ཐུབ་ཆོག་དཔལ་གྱི་སྙིང་པོ།). The video of the puja and teaching can be seen here. The Puja text (in Tibetan) can be freely downloaded here. The puja text contains extensive explanation in Tibetan of the different sections by the 17th Karmapa. The Praises composed by the 17th Karmapa also have a lengthy colophon by the 17th Karmapa describing the inspirations behind them.

The Praises section, in particular, is remarkable in style and content and another example of the Karmapa’s amazing poetic and written skills, that is enough to leave one in awe and tears (which it did).   This is the second puja, the 17th Karmapa has composed this year, the first being ‘Ravishing Rosary of Pearls’ for Marici, see here. Similarly, this new composition was accompanied by another stunning painting by the 17th Karmapa of the Shakyamuni:

Shakyamuni Buddha artwork by the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

The 17th Karmapa explained his reasons for creating the new Shakyamuni sadhana:

“Within our Karma Kamtsang we have very few Shakyamuni pujas, yet we have a lot of rituals for the other peaceful and wrathful deities and we have many like that, but not for the Shakyamuni Puja. So there are times when we have to do pujas for the Shakyamuni Buddha, because it is different than it was before, as sometimes we have to gather with other Buddhist traditions. So, at that time, if we do pujas for the peaceful and wrathful deities, then sometimes it is not so comfortable or suitable. For that reason, I thought it would be good to have a Shakyamuni puja. It is not just something I am creating all by myself. In the Kadampa tradition, there are four meditational deities and one of them is Shakyamuni Buddha. There are long instructions for it in the Treasury of Precious Instructions by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye.

On the one hand, he is the basis for the teachings and it is unnecessary to mention how kind the Buddha Shakyamuni has been for all of us. When speaking about the teachings, we should know that. The reason why we have the Buddhist teachings, is because of the kindness of the Buddha Shakyamuni. So, all of us Buddhists should have gratitude and remember the Buddha with appreciation. forget about remembering others with gratitude, we need to remember the Buddha with gratitude. If we cannot think of the Buddha with gratitude, then it is kind of fake to say we are Buddhists.”

The Karmapa then referred to a very well-known 150 verse Praises to the Shakyamuni (in Sanskrit: Satapañcasatka) by an Indian master Mātṛceṭa and how even though it was very important in India, it was hardly known in Tibet, more on that below.

This article is thus an overview of the inspiration and background for the new sadhana, a brief overview together with images from it, as well as transcript of the teaching the 17th Karmapa gave, such as why having to stay outside India was also positive and not only negative, as it had allowed him to do a lot more study, do research and write and how physical health issues had affected his ability at times to do the teachings. 

Music? This beautiful rendition of the Shakyamuni Buddha mantra OM MUNI MUNI MAHA MUNIYE SVAHA, and Gold by Spandau Ballet “You are gold, you’ve got the power to know, you’re indestructible!”

In accordance with the wishes of the 17th Karmapa, may this short article about the new sadhana, help to enable us to remember the incredible qualities of the incredible Shakyamuni Buddha as the root source of the teachings and practices.

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 15th September 2022.

INSPIRATIONS AND BACKGROUND TO THE NEW PUJA

The Kadampa Tradition from Atisha to Dromtonpa onwards
Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna, also known by his Indian honorific title Atiśa[ya]

The title of the puja is Shakyamuni Buddha Puja in the Kadamapa Tradition. The 17th Karmapa explained why he wanted to have a Shakyamuni Buddha puja and that he is one of the four main deities of the Kadampa tradition. So who are the Kadampa tradition?  As Prof. Ulrike Roesler describes in The Kadampa: A Formative Movement of Tibetan Buddhism (2019):

“The Bka’ gdams pa (pronounced “Kadampa”) emerged as a distinct tradition of Tibetan Buddhism in the 11th century CE. The most common understanding of the name in Tibetan sources is that this tradition taught the complete word of the Buddha (bka’) as explained in the instructions (gdams) of the Indian teacher Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna (982–1054). This is sometimes specified as referring to his instructions on the graded path (lam rim) toward Buddhahood that were later adopted and propagated by the Dge lugs pa (pronounced “Gelugpa”) school, beginning with Tsong kha pa’s (1357–1419) influential Lam rim chen mo. It is commonly assumed that during the 15th century, the Bka’ gdams pa were absorbed into Tsong kha pa’s reform movement of the “new Bka’ gdams pa” (bka’ gdams gsar ma), later known as the Dge lugs pa, but further research is needed on this issue.”

Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna, also known by his Indian honorific title Atiśa[ya] or Adhīśa, was invited to western Tibet by its rulers and arrived there in 1042. At the request of King Byang chub ’od (984–1078), he composed his famous “Lamp on the Path to Awakening” (Bodhipathapradīpa; Tib. Byang chub lam sgron), which became an important model for Tibetan works on the graded path to awakening. He then accepted an invitation to central Tibet where he spent the rest of his life. He passed away in Snye thang near Lhasa in 1054.

Several of Atiśa’s Tibetan students played an important role in the development of Buddhism on the Tibetan plateau. However, it is his student ’Brom ston Rgyal ba’i ’byung gnas (pronounced “Dromtön Gyelway Jungnay,” 1004–1064) who is traditionally regarded as the founding father of the Tibetan Bka’ gdams pa lineage since his students became instrumental in spreading the Bka’ gdams pa teachings in central Tibet. In addition to the lam rim, they became famous for their instructions on “mental purification” or “mind training” (blo sbyong, pronounced “Lojong”), which is meant to free the mind from attachment to the ego and generate the attitude of the “awakening mind” (Skt. bodhicitta). Lam rim and blo sbyong became highly popular doctrinal and didactic genres and have had an impact on Tibetan Buddhism far beyond the Kadampa (Bka’ gdams pa) and Gelugpa (Dge lugs pa) traditions.

Dromton Gyelway Jungnay (1004–1064)

In his teaching about the new sadhana, the 17th Karmapa mentioned Jamgon Kongtrul’s Treasury of Precious Instructions (Dam Ngag Dzo) and the Kadamapa section. So, I had a look in that and it says (pp.97-98):

“Jamgon Kongtrul describes three lineages that developed from Atısha’s teachings: the general precept lineage or “Kagyu,” and the two particular traditions of the Old and the New Kadampa.* Atısha had innumerable students in India and Tibet, but the fi rst Tibetan disciple, the one who had carried the invitation to him, was the translator Naktso Tsultrim Gyalwa (1011-1064). He attended him for nineteen years and obtained nearly all of his instructions as well as those of other masters. This root lineage became known as Naktso Kagyu.

The Old Kadampa is the precept lineage of Dromton Gyalwai Jungne (1005-1064), Atsha’s main disciple. It is known as the Precious Kadam Embodying Seven Deities and Dharmas, a reference to its practice of four exalted deities and the Three Baskets. Dromton’s three main disciples were Potowa, Chen-ngawa, and Puchungwa. The three great teaching systems of scriptures, spiritual instructions, and esoteric instructions that they transmitted produced lineage-holders who were all great bodhisattvas.”

The New Kadampa lineage is what is known as Gedenpa or Gelugpa that continued through Je Tsongkhapa.

The 17th Karmapa previously referred to Dromtonpa in a Kagyu Monlam speech as the layperson who gave the Kadampa master, Potowa his full ordination vows as a monk.  In his Treasury of Lives bio it says:

“Dromtonpa has come down in history as both an enforcer of Second Propagation ethical standards and a holder of Atiśa’s tantric lineage. According to the Blue Annals, Dromton was charged with expelling tantric practitioners from Atiśa’s audience, this despite the fact that at Samye Chimpu (bsam yas ‘chims phu) Atiśa gave Dromton initiation into tantric systems, including the Doha tradition of Bengal.

The Blue Annals credits him with revising the translations of both sutra and tantras, including the Astasahastrika Prajñāpāramitā, and the Jnanasiddhi Tantra. Following Atiśa’s death in 1054, Dromton took many of Atiśa’s disciples and returned to Tolung. While there he was invited by a number of local lords to Reting (rwa sgreng), where, in 1057, at the age of fifty-four, he constructed a monastery, primarily under the patronage of Trangka / Pangka Berchung (‘phrang kha / phang kha ber chung). Despite remaining a layman, he was renowned for his teachings on monastic precepts.”
The Kadampa’s Four Main Deities

In the Treasury of Precious Instructions (Dam Ngag Dzo) Kongtrul explains the instructions of the Kadamapa lineage beginning with the four deities:

“The general Kadam practice is four deities, three baskets,
And three trainings;…

This is the general system of the precious Kadam transmission lineage of the Great Lord, the Glorious Atısha, who possessed the three qualifications and is famous throughout the earth. The Kadampa do the creation and completion practices of the four deities: Shakyamuni, the founder of the doctrine; Avalokiteshvara, the lord of love and compassion; Tārā who clears away outer obstacles; and Acala (Akshobhya), who clears away inner obstacles. Also the completion phases of those are first, the guide to the view; second, compassion pervading space; third, the five recollections; and fourth, the common and special six dharmas.”

Thus, the four deities are:

  1. Shakyamuni Buddha

2. Avalokiteshvara

3. Tārā

4. Acala (Mikyopa)

The 150 Verses of Praises (Satapañcasatka) to the Buddha by Mātṛceṭa

The 17th Karmapa mentioned a 150 Verse Praises to the Buddha by Mātṛceṭa (in Sanskrit: Satapañcasatka) and how it was very well-known in India but hardly known in Tibet at all. I had never heard of this text before. After a little research I discovered that The Satapañcasatka of Mātṛceṭa: Sanskrit text, Tibetan translation & commentary and Chinese translation was first published outside Asia in 1951 (Cambridge University Press) by D.R Shackleton Bailey. There is an English translation by Ven. S. Dhammika here.

I could not find much information about the individual person, Mātṛceṭa but he is placed around the 1st-2nd Century. It is said that he was born in India and was converted from Hinduism to Buddhism by the great philosopher Aryadeva. He wrote about a dozen works, some of such beauty that he came to be regarded as one of India’s greatest poets. Although some scholars say it was the 3rd Century.  Tāranātha says there is an earlier and later Mātṛceṭa (See Seyfort-Ruegg, David (1981, p.121).

 

OVERVIEW AND OUTLINE OF NEW PUJA

The new sadhana has four main sections compiled and written by the 17th Karmapa.

  1. PRELIMINARY SECTION

Refuge, bodhicitta and mandala offerings

The first section started with stunning chanting of Sanskrit verses of refuge, bodhicitta and offerings in the traditional Indian Buddhist style. For anyone who has been to Bodh Gaya, you will know the melody and chant well! This is not included in the Tibetan text of the puja though.

This was then followed by untranslated sections (example below, which I have translated):

“The chief Sakya, owner inseparable from the teachings,
Like a glistening, golden Mount Meru mountain.
As a brilliant blazing sun, is free from clouds
A luminous appearance emanation [tulku] free from desire.”

This was then followed by the four equanimities and a mandala offering section.

Vajrasattva

Which involved a visualisation and a recitation of the mantra.

This was then followed by a visualisation of the Shakyamuni Buddha and retinue and supplications to him, with them dissolving into oneself after.

2. MAIN PRACTICE: MEDITATION ON THE SAGE

Visualisation and mantra recitation and offerings

The main practice again involved a stunning visualisation of the Buddha, with a seed syllable MUM at his heart centre surrounded by the mantra.

 

This was followed by extensive offerings.

3. PRAISES TO THE SAGE: A TREASURY OF THE TWO ACCUMULATIONS

This section involved extensive poetic and moving praises to the Buddha, some translated into English, some not.  

4. ASPIRATION FOR THE TEACHINGS TO FLOURISH

This section contained aspirations and dedications for the Dharma teachings to flourish.

The puja was then followed by a speech from a Khenpo from Palpung Sherab Ling monastery and a short teaching by the 17th Karmapa, see transcript below.

TRANSCRIPT OF 17TH KARMAPA TEACHING ON 15th AUGUST 2022

“I am losing my voice, after spending a month teaching, I do not feel I have much left to say. General, the situation is it is not easy for me to go to India, as you all know. All the members of the sangha in the monasteries in India, know that when I was in India, I had many difficulties and it was very difficult for me to travel, no matter where I wanted to go. Even if I wanted to go to Dharamsala, I had to ask for permission. Later, it got a little better, but at the very beginning it was very difficult for me. For these reasons, and in addition, when I was in India there were many people coming for audiences and I had a lot of other work, so I did not have the time or opportunity to do any research or read texts in the way that I can now.  So being abroad for me is a bit of an opportunity because I can read and write texts. In the future, when I become busy again, it will be difficult to get such an opportunity. For this reason, if one says I am ‘taking adversity onto the path’, that may be too bold a way to say it, but I have been using the opportunity I have now to do whatever I can to study texts and to teach the winter, spring, summer teachings. I think doing this is very important. So, up to this point, I have spent a bit of time to see if we can improve it and make it better quality than before and more complete. This is my hope. 

I do not have much else to say. In the Mar-Ngog Summer teachings, I said I would teach about the history of the Secret Mantra but I have not even got to the Mahayana. It has taken a long time and I am not even sure we will get to the Mahayana next year either. When I start explaining it, there is a huge amount to say. I usually think I will not say too much but then I think ‘this would be good to talk about, and this would be good’ and everything having a real point and being important to say. Then when I say it all, it takes a long time. It seems like I will have to spend ten years teaching about the history of Mantra. Anyway, the topic I want to speak about is Secret Mantra, there is no change in that. We just have not yet got to the mantra. Whenever I look at the title of the teachings: ‘The Origin of Secret Mantra’, it has been two years and I have not spoken about the origins of it yet. So, it is a bit uncomfortable but there is not much I can do about it.  That is how it is.

Usually, we have summer, winter and spring teachings and it may be nice to have some shorter teachings. For example, to give particular monasteries a shorter teaching for them. I would like to do that but when doing the teachings, I need to use the brain and body a lot and it gets tired. For example, yesterday, I was not feeling so well. Today, I am feeling a bit better, I have done a little bit of exercise. In the past, during the Spring teachings, I really did not feel well at all and at the end, of the Spring teachings, it took a month to recover with high blood pressure and headaches and so on. It felt very strange. Then, after one month of slight recovery, I got COVID-19 and that took three or four weeks to recover from that. So sometimes I think I ought to do teachings but if there are too many then I do not know if it will turn out well. Otherwise, I think doing a few short teachings for some particular monasteries would be good and I have that wish. However, my body is made out of flesh and blood, it is not a machine, it is not technology, so I have to do what it allows me to do. If I use it too much, it does not work well. That is how it is.

With the Shakyamuni Puja it took quite a bit of time, during the free time of the teachings I was writing quite bit of it.  Within our Kagyu tradition, we have very few Shakyamuni pujas, yet we have a lot of rituals for the other peaceful and wrathful deities and we have many like that, but not for the Shakyamuni Puja. So, there are times when we sometimes have to do pujas for the Shakyamuni Buddha, because it is different than it was before. Because there are times when we have to gather with other Buddhist traditions. At that time, if we do pujas for various peaceful and wrathful deities, then sometimes it is not so comfortable. For that reason, I thought it would be good to have a Shakyamuni puja. It is not just something I am creating all for myself. In the Kadampa tradition, there are four meditational deities and one of them is Shakyamuni Buddha. There are extensive instructions about the Kadampa in the Treasury of Precious Instructions by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye.

On the one hand, the Buddha is the basis for the teachings and it is unnecessary to mention how kind the Buddha Shakyamuni has been for all of us. When speaking about the teachings, we should know that. The reason why we have the Buddhist teachings, is because of the kindness of the Buddha Shakyamuni. So, all of us Buddhists should have gratitude and remember the Buddha with appreciation. forget about remembering others with gratitude, we need to remember the Buddha with gratitude. If we cannot think of the Buddha with gratitude, then if we apply the name ‘Buddhist’ to ourselves it is kind of false. That is one of the reasons I wrote the Praises for the Shakyamuni puja.

Also (I am talking more and more it seems now) but there are the 150 Verses of Praise (Topa Dang Ngachupa) written by the Indian master, Mātṛceṭa, which became very well-known in India. When everyone went forth and took the novice vows, they had to memorise these praises. This is during the time when the teachings flourished in India. One had to memorise all of them. In Tibet, the 150 verses were translated into Tibetan, but they are not at all well-known. It is nowhere near as well-known in Tibet as it was in India. Other than a few quotations that are given in the Lam-Rim, Stages of the Path, it is not quoted. I do not know whether it was because the translations were not so good, or some other reason, even though it is a very important Praises, it is not well known.  I tried to condense a significant amount of the meaning of them into these Praises, and make them easier to understand. So, I wrote these Praises with the hope that we all may recall the qualities of the Buddha. 

So, the Khenpo spoke well at the end. As he said, in the future I would like to continue the Mar-Ngog teachings. If we can do those teachings those well. then in the future, we can hopefully restore all the thirty tantras and mantras of Mar-Ngog, including the ones that have not yet been revived.  In any case, now I am explaining the history, then the Fifty Verses of the Guru, then the Ocean of Instructions (Damtshig Gyatso) and so on. I thought I should teach some of the tantras, so this is my hope. I will leave it there as I do not have much breath left. Thank you.”

SOURCES/FURTHER READING

Serji. 2009. Matṛceta and His Praise of the Praiseworthy,” South Asian Studies, 2009–4, pp. 112–126. 《摩咥里制吒及其<四百讚>》,《南亞研究》,2009年第4期

Roesler, Ulrike. 2019. The Kadampa: A Formative Movement of Tibetan Buddhism .

Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, Jamgon. Tr. Kalu Rinpoche Translation Group. 2007. Book Eight, Part Four:
Esoteric Instructions. A Detailed Presentation of the Process of Meditation in Vajrayana. Snow Lion Publications.

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