Buddhist Christmas 2014

Merry Buddhist Christmas and a happy New Year 2015! 

Dear readers,

another year has passed. Christmas is just around the corner. Isn't our calender a wonderful tool that reminds us of impermanence. Time goes by so quickly. Without noticing, New Year 2015 is suddenly approaching. We have again become a year older. Of course, it shouldn't have come as a surprise, because the clock has been constantly ticking. Without noticing it, our life-span has  decreased with each moment that passed.

Christmas decoration - a branch of a Christmas tree and a star

Therefore, we can also relate to big and joyful events like birthdays, New Year and Christmas as reminders of impermanence. So many extra-ordinary people have passed the last year. The loss of the great Tibetan Buddhist master Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche is still present in the minds of Tibetan Buddhists. Also numerous celebrities like Robin Williams, Shirley Temple, Peaches Geldof, Philipp Seymour Hoffman, Maximilian Schell, Eusébio, Mickey Rooney, James Garner and Lauren Bacall have left us forever this year. We may have had to mourn the demise of close ones, friends  and dharma brothers and sisters around us.  

Buddhist teachings tell us, that every being which has been born will surely die one day. If even the greatest among us are subjected to death, the Lord of Death will certainly not spare us either. For a practitioner, it is actually important to become aware of death. In the Parting from the Four Attachments, which have been the subject of the last post, it is said that "if one clings to this life, one isn’t a dharma practitioner". In  the context of these instructions, it is therefore explained that one should make an effort to develop an understanding of death and impermanence. This acts as a remedy for being too much involved with this life. 


The Parting From the Four Attachments

Instruction on the Parting From the Four Attachments

By Jonang Kunga Drolchog 


Kunga Drolchog (Kun dga’ grol mchog, 1507-1566), considered to have been a previous rebirth of the famous Tāranātha, was an important master of the Jonang tradition. Traditionally, the Jonang tradition has been closely connected with the Sakya tradition as this work witnesses. It is a commentary on the important Sakya doctrine, the Parting from the Four Attachments (zhen pa bzhi bral) attributed to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092–1158), founding father of the Sakya tradition. The verse is generally understood to be a summary of all of the Buddha's teachings. 

 The Parting from the Four Attachments

[1.] If one clings to this life, one isn’t a dharma practitioner (tshe ’di la zhen na chos pa min)
[2.] If one clings to the three realms, it is not renunciation. (khams gsum la zhen na nges ’byung min)
[3.] If one clings to one’s own benefit, it is not bodhicitta. (bdag don la zhen na byang sems min) 
[4.] If grasping occurs, it is not the view. (’dzin pa byung na lta ba min)
Sachen Kunga Nyingpo 

Sakya Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen (1147–1246) informs us that that Kunga Nyingpo received this fourfold instruction at the age of twelve in a direct vision from the Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī, having spent half a year in retreat under the guidance of Bari Lotsāwa (1040–1112).

Shows the orange form of the Bodhisattva Manjushri, holding sword and scripture
Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī
Being an important key instruction of the Sakya tradition, there are several collections of commentaries on these lines which have already been translated into English, but Kunga Drolchog's commentary has not been included in these collections. This explains why it is generally not so well-known, and why it is the only of the older existent commentaries on the Parting from the Four Attachments that has not been previously translated into English. The commentary is a synthesis of explanations by Rigdzin Drakpa and Sakya Paṇḍita and follows both commentaries very closely. A specificity of these commentaries is  that they equate the four formulations of the Parting from the Four Attachments with the famous Four Dharmas of Gampopa


Prayer for the swift rebirth of Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, Mipham Chokyi Lodroe

Prayers for the Swift Rebirth of Shamar Rinpoche, Mipham Chökyi Lodrö

Update: After I uploaded my English translation and transliteration of Beru Khyentse Rinpoche's prayer for the swift rebirth of Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche (see below), Karmapa Thaye Dorje composed a further wonderful prayer. Having already been transliterated and translated into English by my friend Erin under the guidance of Khenpo Karsang Tenzin, I added it to the post. 

Further Update: There is now also a revised version of the prayer composed by Karmapa Thaye Dorje available which was distributed by the Karmapa International Buddhist Society. Consequently, the older version was removed and replaced by the latest version.


Prayers for the Swift Rebirth of Shamar Rinpoche, Mipham Chökyi Lodrö

Authored by Karmapa Thaye Dorje

English translation of the Prayer for a swift rebirth of Kunzig Sharmar Rinpoche, Mipham Choky Lodro by Karmapa Thaye Dorje
English translation of the Prayer for a swift rebirth of Kunzig Sharma Rinpoche, Mipham Choky Lodro by Karmapa Thaye Dorje

English translation of the Prayer for a swift rebirth of Kunzig Sharmar Rinpoche, Mipham Chökyi Lodrö by Karmapa Thaye Dorje

English translation of the Prayer for a swift rebirth of Kunzig Sharma Rinpoche, Mipham Chokyi Lodroe by Karmapa Thaye Dorje

English translation of the Prayer for a swift rebirth of Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, Mipham Choky Lodro by Karmapa Thaye Dorje

English translation of the Prayer for a swift rebirth of Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, Mipham Choky Lodro by Karmapa Thaye Dorje

A German translation of the prayer can be found here.

Prayer for the Swift Rebirth of Shamar Rinpoche, Mipham Chökyi Lodrö

Authored by Beru Khyentse Rinpoche

Namo guru Dharmamatiye!

I bow down to Guru Chökyi Lodrö!

de chen zhing gön mi yi nam trül pa|             
Drub gyü ten pe sog shing mi pham pa|

Emanation of Buddha Amithaba, undefeatable life-tree of the practice lineage,

sha mar chö kyi lo drö chog nyi kyi|              
dag sog kal men nyam thag ci chir dor|

Excellent One, Shamarpa Chokyi Lodroe, why did you abandon us destitute misfortunate ones?

lobur mi tün kyen gyi zhi we ying|                 
tim ne dül dje lhag ma ma kyang par|

Out of a sudden you dissolved into the sphere of peace due to unfavourable conditions, and left your remaining students unprotected behind.

kam tshang ring lug nyag tra di dag kab|     
nya ngen de pa kye ma kyi hü lag|

The long Kamtshang[1] tradition has been weakened and mourns at your parinirvana!

ön tang dül dje jug pa mi dor wa|                  
mi ngön ying ne thug dje tser gong te|

Yet, not abandoning the guidance of your students, due to your compassion you lovingly think of them from within the imperceptible sphere.

dag sog tö dje yong kyi re chöl che|              
trül pe da zhel nyur du djön gyur cig|

May the full moon of your manifested rebirth swiftly appear for the sake of us who depend on you and are in your care.


dön gyü nying po pal den karma pa|                       
yab se gyü che dam tshig gong bu cig|

Heart of the ultimate lineage, Glorious Karmapa, along with the lineage of fathers and spiritual sons, unified in their commitments,

sang sum dze trin gang ge gyün shin du|       
pheb ne chog trül tsö me nyur djön shog|

May the awakened activities of the three mysteries of (body, speech and mind) flow like the Ganges stream so that your supreme emanation effortlessly appears.

di ke dag gi de dam tsang ma yi|                   
söl dab mö la gön po kye khyen ne|

Even though I have prayed with these words out of faith and pure intention, and you will indeed behold me protector,

ten sung ma gön seng dong yab yum sog|     
tha tshig ma yel dong drog trin le dze|

I request the guardians of the doctrine, Mahakali, Mahakala, Simhamukha, deities and consorts etc., to not forget their oath, and engage in supportive activity.

[1] An alternative name for the Karma Kagyu tradition.

A pdf of the English translation of the prayer can be downloaded here.

English translation of the prayer for a swift rebirth of Shamar Rinpoche Mipham Chokyi Lodroe by Beru Khyentse Rinpoche

Tibetan original of the prayer for a swift rebirth for Sharmar Rinpoche Mipham Chokyi Lodroe

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The 37 Practices and the Four Seals of the Dharma
A teaching on loving kindness and compassion

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In Memoriam Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche (1952-2014)

Many of you have probably already heard the sad news about the recent passing of Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, Mipham Chokyi Lodro (1952-2014). It spread like a shock wave through the Karma Kagyu Buddhist centers in Europe. Not only was he the lineage holder of the tradition, but he had also spent years and years teaching in the West, mainly in the United States and Europe. 

Having just completed a weekend course at his Bodhi Path Center in Renchen Ulm, Germany, His Holiness unexpectedly passed away in the morning of June 11th 2014. It was learned that he suffered from a sudden heart attack and died immediately.

Kunzig Sharma Rinpoche giving blessings, Dhagpo Kagyu Ling, Institute Opening 2013
Shamar Rinpoche in Dhagpo Kagyu Ling, June 2013
Under the guidance of his brother Jigme Rinpoche who was also present when he passed away, all traditional procedures were followed. After that, Shamar Rinpoche remained in the so-called thugs dam, a post mortem meditative state carried out by experienced meditators, until Friday the 13th 2014. Since this date falls together with Saga Dawa, the highest Buddhist holiday, it is considered very auspicious.


The Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva and the Four Seals of the Dharma

Ngulchu Thogme Sangpo's  
37 Practices of a Bodhisattva

The Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva (Tib. Rgyal sras lag len so bdun ma) is a short Buddhist text authored by the Tibetan master Ngulchu Thogme Sangpo (1295–1369).  It enjoys enormous popularity throughout all the different Buddhist traditions in Tibet and is also one of my favorites. 

This is also one of the reasons why I decided to take up the text here on this blog. Another is that it sums up the Buddhist path in a very condensed way, but still does so in a very complete way. Simply reading the root verses alone is already very touching. With the hope to inspire myself and others who also do not have that much time to engage in extensive studies at the moment, I will start to explain the work here little by little. 

While doing so, I will rely on different explanations I received over the years, and on existing Tibetan commentaries. Nevertheless, I will also try to relate the verses to our present time and see what we can learn from them for our daily life.
37 practices of a bodhisattva - Ngulchu Thogme Zangpo - the pictures shows a field close to where I live

Being aware of the fact that its author, Ngulchu Thogme Sangpo, lived in Tibet during the early 14th century, one may of course wonder whether the teachings therein are of any relevance for us today. It is well-known that Buddhism was able to easily adapt very quickly to different cultural surroundings throughout its long history of approximately 2500 years. Different Buddhist traditions found in Sri Lanka, Japan, Tibet and elsewhere are a witness of this fact. 


Impressions from the Buddhist Translation Workshop 2014, ISTB

Poster for the workshop on Buddhist translationIn a recent post, I informed readers about the Workshop on Buddhist Translation called "Translating and Transferring Buddhist Literature" at the University of Vienna, May 21st 2014.

This workshop was organized by the CIRDIS doctoral college (IK) "Cultural Transfers and Cross-Contacts in the Himalayan Borderlands" and the Khyentse Foundation Buddhist Translation Studies Program, University of Vienna. Convened by Prof. Dr. Klaus-Dieter Mathes and Mag. Gregory Forgues, it aimed at exploring practical  concerns  of  Buddhist  Translation  Studies, particularly in  relation  to the latest methodological trends on issues  of transference and translation of Buddhist literature.

Prof. Klaus-Dieter Mathes welcoming the participants of the workshop on Buddhist Translation
Klaus-Dieter Mathes
On May 21st 2014, Prof. Klaus-Dieter Mathes welcomed a body of international scholars for the workshop at the Institute of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies (ISTB), University of Vienna. It forms a part of the recently initiated Buddhist Translation Studies Program at the University of Vienna funded by the Khyentse Foundation. 

Prof. Martin Gaenszle during his presentation at the Buddhist Translation workshop.
Martin Gaenszle on Cultural Transfer
Prof. Martin Gaenszle and Gregory Forgues opened the workshop with presentations on the research theme followed in the doctoral college "Cultural Transfers and Cross-Contacts in the Himalayan Borderlands". Thus focusing on an introduction to Cultural Transfer Theory and its relation to Translation Studies, Gregory Forgues suggested a methodological approach for a corpus-based discourse analysis of large corpora of Buddhist literature. Prof. Martin Gaenszle's paper further aimed at clarifying  the  utility  of  the  idea  of  “cultural translation” and also gauged its limits.


Upcoming visits of Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche, Dupsing Rinpoche and Drubpon Tsering Rinpoche to Vienna

Presently, a lot of work is going on as I am preparing my presentation for the upcoming workshop "Translating and Transferring Buddhist Literature - From Theory to Practice" next week about which I reported some time ago on this blog. Even though I therefore can't offer you any new post, I would still like to inform about a few wonderful upcoming events in Vienna:

- Dupsing Rinpoche, retreat master of the Karma Kagyu tradition, May 27th 2014 

- Exceptional visit of Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche, head of the Drikung Kagyu tradition, May 29th 2014.

- Drubpon Tsering Rinpoche, retreat master of the Drikung Kagyu tradition, June 7th-9th 2014.

Dupsing Rinpoche in Vienna, May 27th 2014

Flyer for a public talk by Dupsing Rinpoche on the Purpose of Life
The experienced Buddhist master Dupsing Rinpoche will give a public talk about the "Purpose of Life in Buddhism" at the Federal Institute for the Blind (Bundes-Blindenerziehungsinstitut, BBI). Rinpoche is a reincarnate Lama of the Karma Kagyu tradition and received a thorough traditional Tibetan Buddhist education. Following extensive studies in Buddhist philosophy, Rinpoche earned a degree in Theology from the University of Cambridge. Later on, he also underwent a traditional retreat of three years and three months.

The talk begins at 7 p.m. Venue: BBI, 1020 Vienna, Wittelsbachstraße 5

Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche in Vienna, May 29th 2014

On May 29th, 2014, H.H. Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche, 37th throne holder of the Drikung Kagyu tradition, will visit Vienna together with H.E. Nubpa Rinpoche and Khenchen Nyima Gyaltsen. During his short stay, H.H.will offer the following two teachings:


Vesakh 2014

On the occasion of Vesakh 2014, I am wishing everyone a wonderful day full of love and happiness!

A picture of the Mahabodhi temple, Bodhgaya
Mahabodhi temple, Bodhgaya
Vesakh day, also known as Buddha Purnima, is probably the most important Buddhist holiday. It is usually celebrated on the first full moon in May to commemorate the Buddha's birth, awakening and Parinirvana (or passing). There are of course different rituals and ceremonies conducted by different traditions. Still, a common feature is that of reciting praises about the Buddha and his life, such as for example praises about the twelve deeds of the Buddha. These twelve deeds, which are mainly commemorated in the Mahayana tradition, are:
1) descent from Tushita heaven
2) entering the mother's womb
3) taking birth in this world
4) developing skills in various arts
5) taking delight in his royal consort
6) leaving the household and ordination
7) the practice of austerities during six years
8) taking seat under the Bodhi tree
9) overcoming Mara and his hords
10) full awakening
11) turning the wheel of Dharma
12) passing into parinirvana
In addition, it is also customary to practice meritorious deeds on this day such as reciting sutras, refraining from eating meat, drinking alcohol, observing the one day vows, visiting temples, making offerings, engaging in the practice of freeing lives and so on.

A short way to remember the Buddha and his teaching is through reading and thinking about the famous four seals of Dharma which have for example been formulated in the Sāgaranāgarājaparipṛcchā:
1) All compounded phenomena are impermanent 
2) All contaminated phenomena are suffering 
3) All phenomena are without self 
4) Nirvana is peace

So, wherever you are, have a nice Vesakh celebration!

The only remedy for the suffering of beings,
The source of every happiness to come -
May the teaching [of the Buddha] be available, respected,
And abide for a long period of time! 
Shantideva, Bodhicaryavatara, Ch. X, 57:

Please let me know - How do you celebrate Vesakh day? Leave a comment below!

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