December 23, 2020
Karmapa invites students to Kagyu Monlam audio stream
Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, shares the following message regarding this year’s Kagyu Monlam, which takes place from 16-22 December.
Dear dharma friends
I would like to invite all of you to join this year’s Kagyu Monlam prayers via live audio stream from Rumtek.
It is regrettable that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly 59 million cases, more than 1.3 million human lives and millions of animal lives lost so far, we will not be able to come together in person this year.
Nevertheless, I feel that we are very fortunate to have the necessary technology to allow us to practice together, and I will be joining the aspiration prayers along with all of you around the world.
I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my own thoughts with you, concerning Buddhist practice in general, and in particular the practice of aspirations.
Of course, we have this long-standing tradition of gathering once a year for the recitation of aspiration prayers, led by our monastic sangha from Rumtek.
But if we really investigate this activity and ask ourselves what the purpose is, curiously enough, it will be difficult to come up with a solid one.
As human beings, we are driven primarily by the concept that no matter what we do, there has to be a purpose – otherwise it is pointless. And while that theory has its own place, if we rely exclusively on that logic it might be challenging for us to find a good reason why we should keep up traditions such as the Kagyu Monlam.
Yet, I feel that we need to be thankful for this tradition.
Our human society functions in a way in which we feel that we have to earn everything, down to the simplest of things: even if we just take five minutes break out of our busy daily schedule, we feel guilty unless we think that we have somehow earned the right to enjoy it.
While Buddhism understands that this way of thinking is not really in line with the way things are, with the nature of reality – nevertheless, from a Buddhist point of view, if we are driven by the theory that every result must be earned, then it makes sense to go through with it all the way, in order to experience for ourselves whether what we believe is true or not.
So in that sense any Buddhist practice is like a vehicle to allow us to go all the way, fully, with what we believe.
In that way, the practice will complement what we think the path is.
If we understand this from the beginning, then we will not be driven by the idea of success; in the case of aspirations, we will not start out with the mistaken belief that we have to have a ‘successful’ aspiration, because this very idea of success invariably goes hand in hand with the idea of failure.
So the practice of aspiration is a path that allows us to explore our beliefs all the way, without any promise or guarantee for a result, like saying, “See for yourself whether what you believe is it – or not.”
In other words, if we hold the belief that we need to play the role of being a Buddhist, and we want to go all the way with it, then we have the perfect opportunity: this year, for seven days – from 16 to 22 December – we will be able to play that role to perfection.
So, if you wish to aspire, here is a platform to aspire to the fullest!
Use this platform to explore what you truly believe – enjoy it to the fullest, without any expectation of success or fear of failure.
Enjoy it wholeheartedly, with full freedom.
I invite all of you to join us – let us play at being Buddhist, without any hang-ups. We have the Umdzes to lead the chants; we have our disciplinary masters to direct and guide the performance; we have the musical instruments to put you in the right mood, so to speak; we have the songs and the melody to voice our aspirations as one.
So let us come together and use this freedom to pray for all sentient beings, and especially all those whose lives have been severely affected by the pandemic!
Without having to practice social distancing, without having to cover our mouths, through a digital screen and a digital sound box, we can play our Buddhist role to perfection, without feeling that we are on some kind of mission.
However, do not burden yourself with the notion that this is a request or a command from me to join this practice. There is no obligation for us to do this or not do this because we are Buddhists.
But should you wish to see for yourselves what happens if you follow your belief all the way, then it is only logical for you to be thorough and diligent all the way.
At the same time, there is no need for you to feel any sense of burden, because this particular practice of aspiration doesn’t require you to build any nine-storey towers like Milarepa, nor does it demand of you to endure the twelve minor and twelve major hardships of Naropa, nor to undergo years of gruelling ascetic practice like Prince Siddharta.
Instead, you can explore the full potential of aspirations from the comfort of your own home. What more could we ask for?
Therefore, dear dharma friends, aspire for all sentient beings, without doubt or hesitation, but with whole-hearted enjoyment!