Monday, June 29, 2009

KTD 10-Day Teachings/Karmapa’s Birthday

Saturday was filled with joyful celebration and powerful ceremony. It was also the day the memory card died in my digital camera. (What’s that old saying about the best-laid plans of mice and men often going astray?)

In the morning, we had a long-life ceremony for His Holiness Karmapa. The shrine room was filled to capacity, the shrine itself looked gorgeous, and our Rinpoches were in fine voice. From my vantage point in a chair at the back of the room (an old leg injury that hasn’t really healed prevents me from sitting on cushions for any length of time), I had a direct view of Karmapa’s throne that sits right under the big golden Buddha statue that is the focal point of the shrine room. Bardor Tulku Rinpoche, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, Khenpo Ugyen Tenzin, Lama Karma Drodul, and other monks and male lamas sat to the left; nuns and female lamas, as well as other dignitaries and representatives of the local Tibetan community, sat to the right (from my point of view).

There is a dedicated volunteer who has been doing the flower arrangements for KTD for years; you can see some of her work, above—a spectacular offering of the heart.

The most moving moment of the day for me was watching Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, who is in his 80s, doing three full prostrations in front of the shrine and then stretching to place the long–life offerings in front of Karmapa’s picture, atop his throne. Thinking about the many people whose lives Khenpo has touched in a positive way had me blinking back tears.

The shrine building maintenance crew, of which I am a part for the duration of the 10-day teachings, was very busy on Saturday, so I was late to lunch and got the tail end of what was some very tasty rice, dal, and raita, all of which I love! I skipped the musical offerings to Karmapa to come back to the shrine building to do a little bit more work and get a bit of rest before the afternoon’s event, an empowerment for long life and health from Guru Rinpoche’s Embodiment of All Jewels cycle.

In a stunning feat of word power, I can describe that ceremony in one word: WOW. J

Here are some other impressions of the day, quickly jotted down so I wouldn’t forget them:

-Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche mugging for the camera in wrathful pose when I asked to take his picture in the shrine room, early Saturday morning

-Tiny children, handsome young men, and lithe young women approaching His Holiness Karmapa’s throne, some doing prostrations, some parents teaching their children how to do prostrations

-People having full-blown personal conversations with each other in the middle of the sacred long-life ceremony for Karmapa

-After lunch, as the crowd begins to gather back in the shrine room for the Guru Rinpoche empowerment, a hard rain begins to fall

-Hearing a silly joke that made me laugh out loud: “What does a fish say when it hits a wall? Dam.”

-Being struck by a phrase that Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche used during the refuge ceremony that preceded the empowerment, describing how refuge has always been given: “From mind to mind, down through time.”

-Standing up eating a late lunch in the kitchen in the new building, looking down into the woods below, I get a kind of a poem:

Your throne a mountain of white scarves

crowned by White Tara

your seat aflurry with activity

joyful music and tasty food

eating the last of luncheon’s fixin’s

standing by the window

looking down into deep woods

I offer you what I can

the lone beauty

of this single falling leaf

just past midsummer

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