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    Monday, April 19, 2010

    His Holiness the Dalai Lama Eager to Visit Earthquake Affected Area

    As I mentioned briefly soon after I heard the news, I was deeply saddened by the effects of the devastating earthquake in the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Tibetan: Kyigudo) of Qinghai Province which resulted in the tragic loss of many lives, a great number of injured and severe loss of property. Because of the physical distance between us, at present I am unable to comfort those directly affected, but I would like them to know I am praying for them. 

    I commend the monastic community, young people and many other individuals from nearby areas for their good neighbourly support and assistance to the families of those who have lost everything. May your exemplary compassion continue to grow. This kind of voluntary work in the service of others really puts the bodhisattva aspiration into practice.

    I also applaud the Chinese authorities for visiting the affected areas, especially Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who has not only personally offered comfort to the affected communities, but has also overseen the relief work. I am very appreciative too that the media have been free to report on the tragedy and its aftermath.

    In 2008, when a similar earthquake struck Sichuan, Chinese central and local government leaders and auxiliary authorities took great pains to provide relief, allow free access to the media, as well as clearing the way for international relief agencies to provide assistance as required. I applauded these positive moves then and appeal for such ease of access on this occasion too.

    The Tibetan community in exile would like to offer whatever support and assistance it can towards the relief work. We hope to be able to do this through the proper and appropriate channels as soon as possible.

    When Sichuan was rocked by an earthquake two years ago, I wished to visit the affected areas to pray and comfort the people there, but I was unable to do so. However, when Taiwan was struck by a typhoon last year, I was able to visit the affected families and pray with them for those who had perished in that disaster. In providing some solace to the people concerned, I was happy to be able to do something useful.

    This time the location of the earthquake, Kyigudo (Chinese: Yushu), lies in Qinghai Province, which happens to be where both the late Panchen Lama and I were born. To fulfill the wishes of many of the people there, I am eager to go there myself to offer them comfort.

    In conclusion, I appeal to governments, international aid organisations and other agencies to extend whatever assistance they can to enable the families of those devastated by this tragedy to rebuild their lives. At the same time, I also call on the survivors of this catastrophe to recognise what has happened as the workings of karma and to transform this adversity into something positive, keeping their hopes up and meeting setbacks with courage as they struggle to restore what they have lost. Once again, I pray for those who have lost their lives as well as for the well being of those who have survived.


    17 April 2010

    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    An Appeal from the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa on Behalf of Victims of the Xinghai Earthquake


    The large earthquake in Yushu County, Xinghai Province, has caused great loss of life and injured many people. To date the death toll has risen above 1000 and the number of those severely injured has also risen above 1000. In total, more than 10,000 people have been injured.

    When I heard this tragic news, I was very saddened at the loss, and began immediately to offer prayers for those who have been affected by this incident, both those who have lost their lives and the survivors. May those who have died be freed from the bardo state of terror and suffering of such an unexpected death, and be reborn in the pure lands or a higher realm. May the survivors who have undergone the suffering of loss of relatives and friends and the trauma of losing their homes be comforted and find relief. May they receive the emergency help they need as soon as possible, and be able to rebuild their lives. I will pray ceaselessly for this.

    I request the monasteries of the different schools and devotees, near and far, to offer the following prayers: the Guru Rinpoche Prayers Barchey Lamsel, Sampa Lhundrub and Sampa Nyurdrub; the Wangdu Soldeb composed by Mipham Rinpoche; recitation of the mantras of Chenresig and Heyagriva; recitation of the saddhanas of the Medicine Buddha, Amitabha Buddha and Akshobhya Buddha; night-long recitation of The Twenty-One Praises of Tara.

    In addition, I would ask everyone to contribute, directly or indirectly, to the relief work. I have instructed the Karmapa Foundation in America to donate $200,000 for immediate aid for the victims of this disaster and to help with the task of rebuilding. I have called on all Buddhists and compassionate people to pray sincerely for the victims of this earthquake, and to do their best, according to each one’s capacity, to become involved or sponsor different kinds of relief activity so that it will be effective.

    Death and impermanence is an integral part of life. When this kind of disaster strikes, may the power of the natural goodness within all of us provide physical and mental comfort and the courage to start anew.
    When you are happy, dedicate that happiness to all beings, so that happiness may pervade the sky.  When you suffer, you are bearing the suffering of all beings. May the ocean of suffering become dry completely.

                                                                                 17th Gyalwang Karmapa,
                                                                                 Ogyen Trinley Dorje,
                                                                                 17th April, 2010

    China survivors cremate their dead

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Water Bowl Offerings

    For this entry I’m going to explain one way to make water bowl offerings. There are many ways to do this practice, this is just is the way I do it.

    Water bowl offering is a simple way to start your day or any meditation session. I think it helps me generate the mind of Bodhicitta, the desire to quickly attain enlightenment so as to be of the greatest possible benefit for others, which is really the whole point of Buddhist practice.  Its said that water bowl offerings were introduced to Tibet by the great scholar Atisha in the 10th century CE. So you can see this is a very traditional practice but its also one that fits easily into the modern world.

    There is a seven bowl offering and also an eight bowl offering practice. I’m going to talk about the seven bowl offering. Type tibetan water bowls into Google and you’ll find dozens of merchants who sell them.

    Let’s talk about the water. Its just plain cool tap water. One of the main benefits of this practice is to transform greed into generosity.  In order to make an offering wholeheartedly, with none of that "gee I kinda wish I hadn't given you that" kind of remorse is to give something that one has little attachment to.  Since water is inexpensive and plentiful I'm able to offer it with no attachment.

    Some people make a strong cup of tea made from saffron or turmeric and then add this to the water. If your bowls are clear this gives a very nice effect. Since my bowls are copper, I skip that. The main thing to visualize as you’re filling the pitcher, is to imagine the water is of the nature of heavenly soma, the food of the sentient beings in the God realm.

    When not in use, the bowls are left inverted on the shrine. This is because leaving an empty upright bowl on the shrine is like refusing to fill the Buddha’s begging bowl as he made his daily rounds.

    So to begin I start by taking refuge and then turn the bowls upright and leave them stacked. I then begin filling the top bowl. When pouring the water you need to be mindful. Pour the water first in a gentle stream, then increasing the rate and then trailing off to a gentle stream again. If you’re familiar with the nine fold cleansing breath that can be done before starting a prayer or mantra you’ll remember that the exhalation breath starts out soft, then becomes strong then trails off as the lungs become empty.  As you pour the water repeat the mantra, OM AH HUM which refers to enlightened body, speech and mind.

    The other thing to be mindful about is that one should try to fill the first bowl almost to the rim leaving a gap about the width of one grain of barley between the rim and the surface of the water.  If your floor is uneven (like mine) just do the best you can.
    Take this top bowl and then pour almost all of the water into the second bowl. Put the first bowl to the right and then fill the third bowl using the second bowl. Continue like this until all seven bowls have water in them and are laid out in a straight row. If your shrine is small just arrange the bowls neatly. Be sure to place each bowl about the width of a barley grain apart from each other.

    Now fill each bowl almost to the rim, using water from the pitcher, again repeating the mantra OM AH HUM as each bowl is filled.

    Finally one dedicates the merit of this offering, but first I want to talk about what to do with this water after the ritual is done.  As I said, this is a good ritual to start the day. At the end of the day typically you pour the water back into the pitcher starting with the bowl on the right and drying the bowl with a clean cloth. As you clean the bowl, imagine that you are removing your own and others obscurations that prevent you from realizing your own and other’s Buddha nature.  I like to always have some kind of offering on the shrine, so I often light a candle once the bowls are empty and leave it burning over night.  Use common sense about leaving a flame unattended.  More than a few monasteries have burnt down due to unattended butter lamps.

    The water can be used to water your plants, put it into your pet’s water bowl, a bird bath or even poured down the drain as a last resort. Whatever you end up doing, make the aspiration that this water will be the cause of enlightenment for all who come in contact with it.

    This was only a very quick overview of water bowl offerings. There are many layers of symbolism that I haven’t touched on and numerous other rituals that incorporate water bowls. I’m just a lazy Dharma student so I have only presented the barest outline. Talk to a qualified lama for more information.

    So after filling all the bowls it is time to dedicate the merit of this offering for the benefit of all sentient beings. Imagine all the sentient beings - your parents, your friends, your enemies, animals, each and everyone who has been your kind mother in countless lifetimes before - now gathered around making this offering with you and making this prayer...

                       By this merit, may all attain omniscience
                       And defeat the enemy, wrong doing.
                       From the stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness and death
                       From the ocean of existence, may all beings be free!

    The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs, by Robert Beer has an excellent article on water bowl offerings.
    Ven. Thubten Chodron's book Guided Meditations on The Stages of the Path contains instructions on water bowl offerings.
    Advice from Lama Zopa can be found here.
    You can make "imaginary offerings" with virtual water too.