THE ‘SAMĀDHI MASTERY OF THE TREASURY OF SPACE’ AND EMANATING ENDLESS WEALTH: The purpose of liberation-stories, the meaning of ‘excellent deeds’, Drugpa Kunleg and the 8th Karmapa on the first pāramitā of generosity and the importance of non-attachment to wealth and pleasure (17th Karmapa Spring Teachings 2023 Day Two)

“When the understanding of ‘no-self’ has merged with mind
Even though, external objects of lower ‘worth’
cannot be established as wealth held as ‘mine’.
To enrich ‘mother beings’, I fulfilled endless desires.
I think of this as my excellent deed.”

–8th Karmapa (Verse 22, Excellent Deeds)

“Drugpa Kunleg thought that this kind of  ‘loan contract’ or ‘diary’ life-story is meaningless. If we are going to write that kind of life-story, then we may as well say what the teacher had for breakfast, when they went to toilet and what kind of poo they had! It is not only ridiculous but it is not really a liberation-story of a guru.”

“Within the emptiness cho-nyi (Dharmatā), there is no separation/distinction between things being the same or different. It is beyond anything like that. One has vast mastery of this meaning of phenomena as neither the same or different.  Having that mastery one can emanate or transform innumerable phenomenal objects for the benefit of beings.”

—17th Karmapa (Day 2, Spring Teaching 2023)

17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje Spring Teaching 2023 (Day Two)

In Day Two of the Spring teachings, the Karmapa continued to teach on the Autobiographical text by Mikyo Dorje called The Excellent Deeds (video here).

First, the 17th Karmapa re-iterated how liberation-stories were supposed to inspire and cause devotion in people about the teacher’s great realisations and qualities and not just mere records of dates, events, people, places and things they received. He quoted Drugpa Kunleg who thought that diary-type life-stories of lamas, like loan contracts, with dates and people’s names, were pointless and not beneficial and playfully compared it  to a lama writing about what he ate  and the kind of poo he had!  The 17th Karmapa agreed that a teacher writing about offerings one had received and a mere chronological order of events was meaningless (for a previous teaching on the 17th Karmapa’s view on translating ‘namthar’ as ‘liberation-story’, see here). [1]

Then, the 17th Karmapa repeated the outline of the two autobiographical texts by Mikyo Dorje he was teaching, and the section he was teaching on ‘the path of the ‘greater individual’ training in the two types of bodhicitta.  He then discussed the meaning of title of the text called ‘Leg-che-ma’ in Tibetan, which means ‘Excellent Deeds’. No disrespect to the translation being used, but I have translated the Tibetan term Leg here as ‘excellent’ instead of ‘good’, as it is closer to the meaning of the Tibetan term and to the 17th Karmapa’s description of it [2].

The rest of the teaching focused on Verse 22 of the Excellent Deeds  by 8th Karmapa, which was about the first pāramitā, training in generosity. The 17th Karmapa spoke about achieving the Samadhi Mastery of the Treasury of Space, of being able to emamate and transform phenomena into endless, inexhaustible offerings and resources for the benefit of beings. He spoke about how important it was not to be attached to conditioned, impermanent wealth and objects, and should see them like ‘water bubbles’ or licking honey off a razor knife: a cause of suffering and nothing substantial. 

In conclusion, the 17th Karmapa spoke about the signs that Mikyo Dorje himself had this kind of realisation of endless generosity and lack of attachment to worldly riches. Citing the example of how he was offered masses of wealth by the Chinese Emperor to come to China, an invite he refused. For more on that story, see here. The offerings were also turned back by the Chinese, to the consternation of some of the 8th karmapa’s retinue, who ran after them and begged the Chinese to give them some, thus many offerings were ‘lost’ in the process. Despite people stealing things from the 8th Karmapa as well, and people around him complaining about it, he was never troubled by it, or tried to pursue and punish them.

May this teaching lead us all into the infinite wealth and mastery of the vast open space of the Dharmakāya!

Music? For the suffering caused by impermanent phenomena, Hurt by Johnny Cash, Take It All by Adele; and dakini dance samadhi space vibes of  The Big Sky by Kate Bush, “I’m looking at the big sky, you never understood me, you never really tried.”

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 24th March 2023.

8th Karmapa’s Autobiographical Verses

17th Karmapa Spring Teachings 2023 (Day 2) Transcript

The purpose of liberation-stories and why ‘diary’ type stories are meaningless 
Drukpa Kunleg 1455-1529

“In 2021 we changed the Arya Kshema teachings name to the Spring teachings from the Winter teachings. The subject of the teachings is the two autobiographical praises of the 8th Karmapa, Excellent (or Good) Deeds (Legche ) and He Searched Thoroughly. The words in these two texts are not prose sentences but verses, they are in stanzas. The author of these two verse texts is Gyalwang 8th Karmapa,

Mikyo Dorje. In these texts, the 8th Karmapa does not talk about where he went, what he did on certain dates and times and so on. The main topic of these verses is what experience, worldly and Dharma he had; what realisations and understandings he had. What his thoughts, intentions and aims were. About how he practised and what those practices were. Therefore, these two texts of someone with a pure perception and their experiences are every important and beneficial to understand.

This reminded me of a quote by Drukpa Kunleg that I wanted to share with you as Buddhists. I won’t say exactly what Drukpa Kunleg said just the general meaning. He said that some of the teachers’ life-stories are like a loan contract or agreement. It mentions the amount of loan, the date, the time, the people involved and so on very clearly. He says that they write them like these loan contracts and they are very narrow-minded.

For example, at this age they went to that monastery/shedra, and he was offered these objects, if he was generous then he gave this, and if he was not so generous, he gave this. This kind of life-story we do not need. If we are going to write that kind of life-story, then we may as well say what they had for breakfast, when they went to toilet and what kind of poo they had. It is not only ridiculous but it is not really a liberation-story of a guru.

When I was young, big lamas had a diary in which they wrote what they did every day. In some respect that was good.  For example, they would write down what was offered to the lineage or lama that day and by whom. However, when some foreign objects/offerings were given, they did not know what they were or how to write them down and describe them. for example, when I was a child, they used to send me toys and did not know how to describe these strange objects.

So life-stories of teachers that are about what they were offered and where they went etc. are rather pointless. When writing a life-story of a teacher, they should not just be a historical chronological record but something that will affect the minds of the people reading them. They should increase their faith and pure perception, their belief and conviction and gives them examples of how to do something beneficial in this and future  lives. If there is nothing like that in the life-story of the guru, you cannot make things up, that would not be right. If there are no examples of the guru being learned, accomplished and good, and having listened, contemplated and meditated and it is just read about the offerings they are given, and it is just a mere record of receipts, then it is pointless. It is for the faithful followers to be able to keep the guru’s liberation and example in their minds. To increase their faith and pure perception, belief and confidence and so on. That way of seeing it extremely important.  In any case, the two liberation-stories of Mikyo Dorje have these two incredible features.

I am hoping that in these Spring teachings, we can finish both of them. They go until the 8th April. At the beginning it was not supposed to be that long but we extended them a little bit and it would be difficult to extend it further as it gets very hot in Varanasi where they are staying. Many of the people there have come from Bhutan and they are not used to such heat. If we don’t complete it within the time, and however I can do it,  over video, if necessary, then I will teach it until it is done.  So you don’t have to stay at the Spring teachings and can return to your own monasteries and I can continue to teach. My plan is to continue these texts until they are done. Two years have passed and this is the third year and if I cannot finish these life-stories in these three years, then it will be difficult in the future to teach something else, there is a risk it will take up too much time.”

The Two Autobiographical texts by 8th Karmapa – Excellent Deeds and He Searched Thoroughly
Cover of the publication of the two Autobiographical Praises by 8th Karmapa (Dharma E-Books)

“So Mikyo Dorje wrote these verses in the forms of Praises. The one I think most of you  have heard of is the Praise He Searched Thoroughly and the reason for this is that Situ Panchen Chokyi Jungne compiled a prayer book for the Karma Kamtsang called the Choche Rabsel (Totally Brilliant) and he included this Praise within that. When I was a child, we had to memorise this praise and I remember it clearly because the words are difficult to say and hard to understand, and so it is difficult to memorise. At that time, many people who were our teachers had to punish them because they could not memorise it and it took many days, and so because of that people who couldn’t pass would come by with a cane and beat us. They have many such devices to torture us like that in Tibet, but I don’t need to speak about that [laughs].


In any case, I think you have all heard about that Praise (Dagmema). The other text, Good Deeds (Legchema) is only in Mikyo Dorje’s collected Works, it is not in anything else. So most of us have never seen it before.”

The meaning of the title, ‘Excellent Deeds’ (Legjema)

“So Mikyo Dorje wrote these verses in the forms of Praises. The one I think most of you  have heard of is the Praise He Searched Thoroughly and the reason for this is that Situ Panchen Chokyi Jungne compiled a prayer book for the Karma Kamtsang called the Choche Rabsel (Totally Brilliant) and he included this Praise within that. When I was a child, we had to memorise this praise and I remember it clearly because the words are difficult to say and hard to understand, and so it is difficult to memorise. At that time, many people who were our teachers had to punish them because they could not memorise it and it took many days, and so because of that people who couldn’t pass would come by with a cane and beat us. They have many such devices to torture us like that in Tibet, but I don’t need to speak about that [laughs].  In any case, I think you have all heard about that Praise (Dagmema). The other text, Excellent Deeds (Legjema) is only in Mikyo Dorje’s collected Works, it is not in anything else. So most of us have never seen it before.”

So what is the reason why these verses are called Excellent Deeds (Legje)? I have spoken about this last year, but I will remind us again about it. The first question is what is the reason it is called the Excellent Deeds (Legjema)? The second question is what do we mean when we say Legje, in general? The first is because this liberation-story has in total 37 stanzas and among them 33 of them, end with the same refrain, “I think of this as one of my good deeds”. So this is found at the end of each. Other than the homage and promise at the beginning and the dedication at the end, all these verses end by repeating this phrase, so they are called by that name, Legjema. So how do we understand this Tibetan term Legje (Excellent Deeds)? It means excellent (legpa) doing/deeds (chepa), the excellent things we do; things that have been done well or excellently, a virtuous action or an excellent action. For example, there is  famous quote in Entering the Way of the Bodhisattvas, which we hear all the time:

“One moment’s anger shatters all the excellent deeds (legche) accumulated in a thousand eons, such as giving or offering to the Buddhas. “

So in speaking about the problems of anger, it says that a second of anger can destroy all the excellent deeds accumulated in a thousand aeons. This talks about good deeds as offerings to the Buddha and so on.

Likewise, in the Treasury of Abhidharma it says:

“The three excellent deeds are the three purifiers (tsang-che). The non-virtue of the body etc. is posed as the three bad deeds (ngenpa chepa). To covet and so on are not actions, but are the three harmful mental deeds (yigi leg-che dogpa).”

What this is saying is that in the Sutras, the Buddha taught about the three bad deeds and three good deeds. Now, the reason why we speak about them as excellent and not excellent deeds is explained in the Treasury of Abhidharma: that when we do unvirtuous actions of the body, such as killing and so on, they are called bad deeds because they are disparaged by great and sacred beings. They are reproachable by the great beings and also because of doing such actions, they will produce unpleasant full ripening of karmic results.

The opposite of that are bodily actions such as prostrating and so on. These are praised and revered by the great beings and are called good deeds. Likewise, the good deeds of body, speech and mind are called the three purifiers of body, speech and mind. For example, the good deeds of body  all cleanse the body, the good deeds of speech purify the speech and the good deeds of mind purify the mind.

The reason they are called purifiers  – tsang (gtsang brjad) is whether it is temporarily or ultimately, they clean all the negative actions of body, speech and mind. In any case, they cleanse and purify all the misdeeds, faults, and offences and they are called the three purifiers. In this way, the good deeds means the actions we do with our body, speech and mind that are excellent (zangpo).”

The outline of the commentary on the Excellent Deeds  – the section on the path of the ‘greater individual’

“Today, among the thirty-three deeds, I will speak about the 22nd one. The other day, I read the outline aloud but I did not show the outline, so I will show it to you today. The outline was taken from the commentary on the meaning of the Excellent Deeds by Sangye Peldrup. There are two manuscripts, one from the Potala and one from Drepung monastery, one of the three great monasteries. These manuscripts are very different. I will talk about the outline according to the one from Drepung.  [Karmapa then explains using the slides where he is teaching in terms of the outline, in the Nature of the Biography, the three types of individuals, the greater individual and so on]

In the path of the greater individual, the first (a) and second (b) are finished. There is a little more to say about the six pāramitās, as the sixth prajna is not directly mentioned.  The ultimate bodhicitta is taken as fulfilling that. There are a few points I need to discuss when talking about the ultimate prajna (sherab khartug) in terms of the six pāramitās. In particular, there are a few things we need to add in terms of the relation with the Kagyu view of Mahamudra. There are some points we need to pay attention to that I will explain. 

Training in the Two types of bodhicitta

“Today, we are speaking about how we are training the precepts of the two types of bodhicitta.    The way he trained in the precepts of the two types of bodhicitta has seven different topics actually. In the commentary, at the beginning it says there are six but when one looks at the actual topics there are seven, I believe, which are:

How He Trained in the Six Pāramitās – Generosity (Verse 22)

“Today, we are speaking about how he trained in the six pāramitās. As you all know, the three are the six pāramitās: generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, dhyana and prajna (wisdom).  The first is generosity. The root text for that pāramitā is this one:

བདག་མེད་གོ་བ་རྒྱུད་ལ་འདྲེས་པའི་ཚེ། །
ཕྱི་རོལ་ཡོ་བྱད་ཟང་ཟིང་དམན་པ་ལ། །
བདག་གིར་བཟུང་བྱའ ི་ནོར་དུ་མ་གྲུབ་ཀྱང་། །
མ་རྣམས་འབྱོར་སླད་འབྱམས་ཀླས་འདོད་དགུ་སྒྲུབ། །
འདི་ཡང་བདག་གི་ལེགས་སྤྱད་ཡིན་སྙམ་བགྱིད། །
When the understanding of ‘no-self’ has merged with one’s being,
Even though, external objects of worldly ‘wealth’
cannot be established as riches held as ‘mine’.
To enrich ‘mother beings’, I fulfilled endless desires.
I think of this as my excellent deed. (Tr. Adele Tomlin)

“Sometimes I think it is a good idea to give a word by word commentary of the root verses. However, as I have not done that for other parts of the text, it would be strange to do it for only some of the text, so I won’t do that. When speaking about how to train in the paramita of generosity, within Mikyo Dorje’s Collected Works, there is the Instructions in training in the liberation-story (Namthar Labpai Tri) “Karma pa mi bskyod rdo rjeʼi rnam thar la bslab paʼi khrid.” [1]

“The root cause of virtue in the Bodhisattva’s activities such as generosity to become the path of enlightenment or not, are whether they imbued with relative bodhicitta and the ultimate wisdom Bodhicitta. It depends on whether or not one holds the relative bodhicitta and the view of the wisdom realising emptiness.”

It depends whether one holds these two or not. In particular, if they are imbued with the wisdom realising emptiness, then no matter what virtuous acts one is doing one accumulates virtue.  If actions are embraced by the wisdom realising emptiness, the view. and one can do them in a state of non-attachment as mere mind.  Then, one can effortlessly achieve the infinite things that beings need and want.”

The Mastery of the Samadhi of Treasury of Space

“The reason why this happens is that, within the emptiness Cho-nyi (Dharmata), is that there is no separation/distinction between things being same or different. It is beyond anything like that. One has vast mastery of this meaning of things being neither the same or different.  Having that mastery one can emanate or transform innumerable phenomenal objects. If one gains mastery of the Dharmata that is free of any liberation, then you can emanate and transform innumerable phenomena that are either the same of different. This is what is called in the scriptures, Mastery of the Samadhi Treasury of Space (Namkhai Dzo Ting-nge-dzin Wangjor).

There is no centre or limits  in space, right? The `Treasury of Space, means a treasury that has no centre. For us, no matter how large a treasury we have, one day it will end there is a fixed amount in there. However, within the Treasury of Space, it is never-ending and is never used up or exhausted. This is called the mastery of the samadhi of the Treasury of Space. 

If one is able to gain mastery of that, then one can give inexhaustible generosity. For that reason, the Bodhisattvas who achieve the level directly, or indirectly, they are able to give the circumstances for achieving the higher states of excellence without running out or exhausting them. This is something only in the domain of disciples with the similar fortune as the bodhisattvas. There is no danger that there will ever be a cause for going to the lower realms. In addition, they also have the great benefits, The reason is, no matter how much generosity the Bodhisattvas give, when they use it aids those beings in developing superior bodhicitta. So this is talking about the great beings.

For us ordinary individuals, if we have this idea and desire that wouldn’t it be wonderful if I developed this mastery of the Treasury of Space and could give inexhaustibly, then what do we need to be able to do that? The most important thing to do now, at this time while we are in samsara, we should not hold our possessions, body and so on as being the best, great or permanent. If we think of them as being permanent and unchanging and immutable, we must not grasp at them like that.

We should think instead that all these possessions and things are the basis for all disputes and conflict. They are like honey on a razor blade. A razor blade is really sharp blade and if we put some honey on the blade and try to lick it off, it is very sweet and delicious. if we lick it, then one will cut one’s tongue. Similarly, if we look at the pleasures of samsara, they seem really great and fun, but if we enjoy them, the more we use and enjoy them, the more our afflictions increase and the more faults we will accumulate. For that reason, we need to do what we can to eliminate/abandon our attachment to the things of samsara.”

Seeing our possessions and wealth as pointless and the basis of faults
Conditioned and impermanent phenomena should be viewed like water bubbles, transient and insubstantial

“So, we should look at our pleasures like water bubbles, we don’t think of them as important, do we? We do not try to keep them and that we can do something with them. They are pointless and useless. We need to understand they are as futile as that. Not only are they pointless and meaningless but we produce many faults from the sensory pleasures. They increase our afflictions and for other beings, they are the basis for people to feel a lot of jealousy and envy and so on. For that reason, we should have no attachment at all to any of the pleasures in samsara. Not grasp at any of them as being ‘mine’ or ‘ours’. Practice seeing them as having no self and not being permanent. That is very important. If we can train in this, then one day, like the great Bodhisattvas we can gain mastery of the samadhi of the Treasury of Space and be able to give innumerable generosity to all sentient beings. This is what is said in Mikyo Dorje’s Instructions in Training on the Liberation Story.

Next, if we speak about it in terms of the explanation of Sangye Peldrup’s commentary. We should see that the possessions are pointless and the basis of all faults. However, many of us do not see possessions as lacking any essence. In addition, normally we think that they have to give them meaning or essence. If we can use the things we have well, then they can be given meaning to things that have no meaning and because we have done that, we can gather the accumulations. However, if we think we are going to take the meaningless and make it meaningful, we say this but in brief, in our minds we have hopes and expectations, we think maybe I can get something to eat or drink, if I have some wealth and possessions I can use, even if I cannot use them now, we think in the future we can. We have lots of hopes and fears, for external things or whether sentient beings we feel a lot of craving and lust for them. Wealth and possessions we always think we might lose them, or we will always have them. Like that, we cling to them as permanent.  We think we can use them as we wish.  

We hold the impermanent as permanent. We have hopes for things which are hopeless. We put a lot of effort and hope into getting wealth and possessions. Grasping at things we have no control over as if we do have control. Thinking this way we work very hard to preserve and increase the wealth and possessions. Then, we discard all the virtues we would have and it all disappears. We gather some things, not just second-rate, if we content and had few desires, if we could be satisfied and be happy with it, we would also have an opportunity to gather roots of virtue, but it is not like that. If we only have a few second-rate things, or a little bit of wealth, we are not happy with it. We think it is not enough, we need to have excellent and amazing things and try to gather it. Once we get a little bit of something valuable, we think it will run out soon and so we have hopes and fears about losing it, and we try and get more. In order to do gather more possessions, but most methods are not that good.  The ten non-virtues or the five heinous actions are committed for them. if you act well then you won’t be able to get that much. If you do more ‘black market’ activity then you can get more things and more money and wealth for oneself. For the sake of wealth, if you have to commit non-virtues that is fine. Even if you have to give up the human body, and any hope of having a body in the higher realms in the future, you forget about that. Attaining the level of liberation is also given up.

Instead, you have a firm commitment in your heart to do everything you can to accumulate until the eon has ended to accumulate more and more stuff. You probably don’t spend more than a minute thinking about attaining awakening for the benefit of beings and the Dharma. We think it is amazing to think a few minutes thinking about that, never mind a few days. Naturally though, we think have to make efforts and normally have this strong wish to get more things. We think: “if I could get a little bit rich and earn some money”, we have a strong commitment to that.

 In addition, if we are a lama or Rinpoche in a monastery, we think “I am going to restore the monastery, I will build a new statue, I will make it so the community never have a poor livelihood or lifestyle. I am going to give tens of thousands of rupees to all the members of the sangha.” So what they are saying is good, they can put the blame on someone else, but actually saying one is doing something for the sake of the sangha, but when you do that is a little bit of stinginess. So you become a bit stingy thinking it might run out, even if you give it, you later regret it and that maybe you are running low on money. I should have kept some of it. So then one regrets it, and the fire or regret, it burns the mind and all the roots of virtue from giving it before, is burnt up.  If you accumulate virtue and do not dedicate it, then later when you regret it, then the previous roots of virtue are spoilt and wasted and will not ripen as a good result, it often happens like this.” 

Drugpa Kunley’s example of miraculous dog merging and giving away huge wealth he had been given
A half black and white dog. The one Drugpa Kunleg did was half black and white from the stomach it seems.

“In the Instructions on the Liberation-Story by Mikyo Dorje, we should not cling to things as being permanent, we should not think we can own or control them. The way things are, is that if you have something today, yet tomorrow it is gone. This happens often. In particular, these days because the money is in the bank, people steal it or things happen. There is the danger that tomorrow it will not be there. Likewise, there are things you think can be used that are under your control that you might not have tomorrow.

There is a story from Drugpa Kunleg’s namthar and I wanted to share it with you. There are many different stories of Drugpa Kunleg and some are maybe made up. The ones I am teaching are in his Collected Works, so I think they are reliable.

One day, in Ringbum, there was a Depa Garpa, the lord of Tsangpa. Depo Garpa, they were primarily the sponsors of the Karma Garchen Great Encampment. At that time in Tibet, was the time when the Tsangpa Desi Lords were getting stronger and stronger. So whoever was the Depa Garpa, this Lord of Tsangpa, sent a letter to Drugpa Kunleg with a seal on it. Saying you have to come where I am right now. When he received it, he put on Kongpo clothes, he was going through that region of Kongpo and went to see the Lord of Garpa. When he got to the place, or palace where he was staying, there was a member of the Lord’s retinue. There are the laypeople and those who worked for the monastics, so the laypeople who worked for him, they had some strong black dogs, and they told Drugpa Kunley “ There are some big dogs but I cannot stop them. I am going to send someone to stop the dogs, so please wait.” So there was a custom of having big black dogs.

Drugpa Kunleg followed him and as he did so, two dogs followed him. There was a big white dog first, and black dog running from behind who also jumped on him. Drugpa Kunleg was wearing the Kongpo costume and they had a sword and he took it out immediately and he struck them each on the head. So he cut the dogs in half and they were shaking and trembling from the blows. Then Drugpa Kunleg said: it does not matter at all if the dog is  totally white or totally black.” He joined the top of the black dog to the white hind legs of the white dog, and vice versa, so he combined both halves of the white dog with the other two halves of the black dog together. They were about to die and they were healed and got up and were playing and running around. When people saw that they were really amazed that he was able to do that. and went for refuge to him. Drugpa Kunleg said, “I am crazy. You cannot look at how I do things. There is nothing amazing about it. If you think that is important, there are many more amazing things than that.” He said it is better if you just recite Manis, that is more beneficial for you. He then danced the Mani dance to the Mani mantra and sang a song. I won’t speak about that. While he was singing the song, the lord of Tsangpa came with his retinue, and he was really moved by what he saw,  and they all started dancing with him. From this experience the people generated great faith and the wish to emerge from samsara.”

The offering of ‘King’s Treasure’ that Drukpa Kunleg refused

“Lord Tsangpa then brought all the keys for the Treasuries and said take one of these keys, you can pick one. Whichever key you choose you can take all that is in the room it opens, 100 percent. So Drugpa Kunley took one key and opened up the treasury storeroom. It was a big Treasury, on one side there was a lot of tea and silks, on the other side, there were many boxes of gold. On top of those, there was a heavier box and he opened it up, within that there was gold, silver, and coral and precious jewels and so on. He looked at them all, he took all the jewellery and then on the side there was a nice, ancient lute, and he took that as well. He took them and wore them all.

Then in the evening was everyone was leaving, then Drugpa Kunleg gave them all back to the Lord. Lord Tsangpa said: You have to take them so I can gather the accumulation of merit. ” The Lord then said you have to take them to Drugpa Kunleg. When he was insisting that Drugpa Kunleg take them all, and this is the main point,  Drugpa Kunleg replied: “For a while I wore them. but no one can keep them forever. I wore them for a while, instead of that I will sing a song.” I won’t say all of the song, the main point of the song is that if one looks at the gold, and silver jewellery it looks amazing and nice but one day, you are going to leave it all behind and go. That time you will feel very sad.  He took that old lute and he played the song and danced to it and everyone had great experience and realisations from that.

What this shows is that most people when given all these jewels and riches by one of the wealthiest people in Tibet. would say “Wow! Of course, thank you!” and hold it above the crown of their heads.” Yet, Drugpa Kunleg preferred not to take it. Sometimes people pretend they do not want it but they do. He was not like that. He took it immediately and wore it the whole day, then he gave it back when he was leaving and refused to keep them even when the Lord insisted. So one should not be attached to wealth and possessions but instead one should use them well. So he is talking about making the meaningless meaningful and it can be used to accumulate the roots of virtue.”

“There is no limit to the Karmapa’s wealth” – Signs that Mikyo Dorje thought and acted in the same way
8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje with students

“If we think about Mikyo Dorje, as I said before, he developed the view of emptiness in his beings.  He saw there was no person enjoying and using it, and no object being used. He saw that none of them were true or permanent, because he had realised that and had no sense of this being mine or owning things himself. He also understood that whether you have possessions or not depends on your good or bad karma in relation to possessions. If one has good karma, then one will have possessions, and if there is bad karma, then no matter how much effort one makes, one will not have those things. He understood this critical point. However, for those beings who had not realised that, in order to provide sustenance and prosperity for them, all he did with his body, speech and mind he gathered virtue for the sake of all others. Even when he was going to sleep at night, he never ceased gathering the roots of virtue like that. Whatever activity he was doing, it all became part of the path for achieving great enlightenment. He did it all for the sake of bringing sentient beings to Buddhahood. He did not just do meaningless things. This deeds Mikyo Dorje did for all sentient beings, was not just in this lifetime, in previous lifetimes he had gathered great merit to be able to do that. This is a sign that people could see.

Other signs that he behaved in that way were what his students said about him.  For example, in order for us to gather wealth there were not so many ways in the olden days. One had to do business, be a merchant or a farmer, or a nomad. Or pretend to be a lama and gather offerings. Other than that, there was no other way to get wealth and possessions. Mikyo Dorje did not do any of these things though. However, because of his previous accumulation of merit, he naturally accumulated the finest riches in the world, the best and nicest quality things, naturally came into his possession.

Likewise, Mikyo Dorje himself if someone became his student or attendant, the moment they became that, because of Mikyo Dorje’s merit, they were able to get all the things they needed, like rocks on the road. For example, on the road, rocks are everywhere.  He could get whatever resources they wanted spontaneously appeared like rocks on a road. Likewise, wherever Mikyo Dorje stayed, there were never any famines, no epidemics or diseases, as prosperous as the gods.

This is why in Tibet there was a saying “There is no limit to the Karmapa’s wealth.” Maybe many of you have heard this.  The main point is that no-one could compare or compete with the Karmapa’s wealth. At that time, many people came from China, Mongolia and Tibet and made offerings to him. There were also many people from those countries who came to study with him. When they had the Garchen Monlam and they had the audience of the Gandholas, I mentioned in previous years, which was like making an exhibition and put out all the offerings and articles that had been given by the Emperors of China and Mongolia. At that time, the Lord of Tibet was Neudong.  When they came and saw this, they said it is like the Treasury of a Shravana. They were amazed by it. There were various riches of China, Mongolia and Tibet, in particular, there were vast offerings to the three jewels. This became well-known and that is why they have that saying that “There is no limit to the Karmapa’s wealth.”

8th Karmapa’s Refusal of Chinee Emperor’s  Invite and Vast Offerings and followers stealing objects from him

The Ming letter which was written by the Chinese emperor Wu-tsung to the eighth Karmapa Mikyod dorje (Mi-bskyod rdo-rje) in 1516. Hugh Richardson was shown this letter on a visit to Tsurphu monastery. It is unrolled to display the Tibetan text and supported on two chairs. Ming letter from Wu-tsung to the eighth Karmapa, 1516 (

“The 8th Karmapa was offered many riches from China, Tibet and Mongolia but Mikyo Dorje himself did not have any attachment to it, and gave it all to others without reservation. Not only that, even without the Karmapa’s permission some would just take his things. As I said last year, during the Ming dynasty in China, the Emperor invited Mikyo Dorje to come and see him and they brought a huge amount of offerings. At that time, if we look at the historical documents, it is an amazing amount of offerings were sent. In the end, the Karmapa did not go. They said if you are not going to come, we will not make the offerings and pretended to go. When they did that, the stewards thought there are so many offerings, and that it was not Ok for them not to make all these offerings, and so went off with the Chinese and spoke with them and must have given them a little bribe. So, many of the offerings were lost, the stewards took them, some stolen and so on. Most of the offerings the Ming emperor had sent were lost.  That is how it was.  Many people took things without Mikyo Dorje’s permission away from him. But Mikyo Dorje never tried to find who had done that and pursue it. 

Some people would stay near Mikyo Dorje for a certain amount of time, but when they would leave, they would take many of Mikyo Dorje’ s things and go back to their place with them. Most people could not get their minds around it and how horrible it was they did that. People thought it was so wrong to do that, as they could not understand that someone who had spent time with him would then steal from him. This happened many times. What Mikyo Dorje said to all of them: “It is really excellent they have taken so much from me. They spent so much time with me and serving me, so if they have taken things, they want that is excellent they could. If they had stayed and then gone off like beggars that would be so sad.” So, he never searched for them. There must have been serious incidents like this. Many people said “oh these horrible people.” The Tibetan Kings said “You should track them down and sentence them to death. You should not let this happen.” Or some people would say: “These horrible people have wasted all the possessions of the three jewels and the guru, the embodiment of the three jewels. They have used them up and wasted them.  So it is like the offence of stealing from all the Buddhas and sentient beings. They have the misdeed of stealing from the three jewels, so the only place they can go is the lowest of the hell realms. The way Karmapa gathers a retinue and gives these away to them, is not good. It is because giving with pure generosity to an impure retinue does not help at all.”

 These people will not be able to understand even a little, how the Bodhisattvas gather a retinue. What is the way a Bodhisattva gathers a retinue and students? The way Bodhisattvas think and act is for the sake of all sentient beings without bias, they want to free them all from the temporary suffering and being deprived of resources and poverty. They also want to protect them from the suffering of being deprived of liberation and omniscience. That is the aim of a Bodhisattva, to protect beings. In order to that, they do the practice of aspiring and engaged bodhicitta.

For someone like Mikyo Dorje, he practised the superior practice of engaged bodhicitta, not just in this lifetime but also in previous lifetimes. So for the students who had gathered, he would give them phenomena they desired and they could enjoy what they wished for. This matched what the guru wanted and it was his own intention, the Bodhisattva’s intention. Generally, Mikyo Dorje whether you stayed with him or not, whoever you were, if you were deprived and poor, he would try to free you from that state of being poor, and if you were unhappy, he would try to free you from that state. He did not see his own body and his possessions as his own things, or ‘my life is being wasted’ and so on. He never got offended or disturbed by any of it. Not only that, no matter how much of his things and riches they wasted he would feel even more compassion for them. He never felt anger or offence.

Sometimes, to be skilful one does have to stop the conduct of others, but other than that if there is no need to do that, he never  tried to ‘punish’ or stop the conduct of anyone for that in that way. In particular, as I said before, for the great Bodhisattvas, they give all their bodies and things for the sake of beings. The more that sentient beings can use the things they have been given, the more it can become a cause for achieving the happiness of liberation and omniscience. It becomes a way to achieve that and also the circumstance for bodhicitta to increase. 

Likewise, for us ordinary individuals, when we are generous, first we think about the superior quality of things, about what we should give and should not give. We also think there are better and worse things for people to give. So for beginners, there are distinctions of good and bad, superior and inferior  in that way. For Bodhisattvas there are no distinctions in those respects. The reason there are no distinctions is because for the bodhisattvas, as I said before, the generosity is embraced and held with relative and ultimate bodhicitta, the mind of awakening and the view of emptiness. It has both the prajna and the method. So there is no recipient of generosity who is established as true and permanent. Relatively, in order to gather the accumulations to achieve enlightenment there is no difference between a Buddha and sentient beings, as someone being better or worse. So, he did not distinguish one as being superior and one as being inferior. 

For that reason, when anyone took Mikyo Dorje’s things, not knowing whoever took them, even though many other people were unhappy and uncomfortable about it, Mikyo Dorje himself had no discomfort about it at all. Because of his not feeling disturbed by it at all, it was very beneficial for many of his students. From one perspective, they began to understand the defects of wasting the lama’s things and it became a condition for them to develop compassion for those who wasted them. Also, they saw that however badly the people around him worked, he was never disturbed, or angered by it and they thought that is amazing and that he was very different from other gurus. It became a condition for people to increase their devotion.

In brief, when we think about it in terms of generosity, there are probably thousands of people in the Great Encampment and around him. And the Karmapa provided them all with food and drink. He provided them with everything they needed. Likewise, the sangha who needed sustenance for study and practice gave them excellent food and clothes.

In particular, the 8th Karmapa had great compassion for the sick. In particular, Mikyo Dorje himself had great compassion for someone who was sick. He helped them find doctors and nurses and gave them food. When they were travelling back and forth. he would give them pack animals and horses for transport if they needed them. He helped the sick a hundred more times than even their parents. Among all the practices of the six transcendences it shows he had the practice of generosity.

This is probably enough for today. Tomorrow is a day off, and then the day after tomorrow, I will speak about discipline, patience and diligence. There are a few points about that. There are a few things that I said that I should speak about last year, some of which I forgot to do. One of these is about the Great Encampment but perhaps I won’t have time for that this year. Perhaps, I should speak more about the black pills (ring nag). Among the samaya substances are the black pills and they have a big connection to Mikyo Dorje. Likewise, there is also Mikyo Dorje’s main disciple was Zhamar Konchog Yenlag, the 4th Zhamar.  There were said to be two reincarnations of the 4th Zhamarpa and i should speak about this. How it is that Mikyo Dorje took care of that. In any case, there are a few topics we need to pay some attention to and I will do that in terms of the time there is available.”


[1]As a side-note, this reminded me of being asked to translate and edit (for payment) life-stories of relatively unknown contemporary Tibetan teachers. After doing one, I refused to do more  because they were generally uninspiring diary entries. It is important to feel genuine reverence and respect for the person as a translator  I think too!

[2] In English, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ have more moralistic/judgemental content too. The 17th Karmapa cited the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life and the Sutras to explain what is meant by ‘excellent deeds’ of body, speech and mind.

[3] gSung ʼbum mi bskyod rdo rje, vol. 1, 2004, pp. 117–52. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), 


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