by Naomi Levine
The first major event to be held at the Mahabodhi Stupa during this year’s Monlam was the reading of the Kangyur. It was unexpectedly fresh walking the deserted streets at 5:30 am heading towards the nexus of the great temple and the Wisdom Tree at the heart of the Buddhist world. The Tree has come into renewed life this year with branches as strong as trunks. It shimmered as the dawn light filtered through the leaves. The seating was also surprisingly spacious as the huge gathering had been separated into two groups. Only the fully ordained sangha and lay people were allowed to meet there. The rest of the sangha remained in the Monlam pavilion chanting prayers. The feeling of being in hallowed ground, breathing the moisture of the dawn air and seeing His Holiness directly as if we were in the same room instead of a vast amphitheatre, brought a rush of energy to my heart.
We lined the outer circumambulation route as each of the ordained sangha came holding one of the 103 handwritten precious Kangyur volumes bound in gold cloth. The Karmapa, walked with immense dignity at the head of the procession passing so close to us it felt like an initiation into the signs of a buddha just to behold the perfection of his face.
Later that morning the Karmapa made some essential points about the importance of studying the Kangyur directly, and the translation from Sanskrit into Tibetan. Here is an edited paraphrased version of the English translation:
The Kangyur was translated during the first period of translation during the time of King Trisong Detsen. Some of the teachings came from China also, but the main source of dharma is India, so therefore Tibet got the source from Sanskrit.. To appreciate that, at the beginning of every text there is the title of the book written in the original language. There was an Indian and Tibetan translator working together.
It was first hand written, then put into wooden carving and first published in Tibet during the Ming dynasty of Emperor Yung Lo. The great masters of the Karma Kamtsang edited it. If we just put the Kangyur and Tangyur in the shrine, lock it up and worship it, there is a danger the dharma will be lost.
When the great masters wrote commentaries there began a tradition in Tibet of teaching the sutras, through the commentaries which became the main source of study. Thereby the direct teachings of the Buddha were studied a bit less. We have to study the Kangyur or it is a bit strange.
These are the direct teachings of the Buddha and the main source. The great Drigungpa said that if the teaching is not based on the Kangyur, it is the work of the maras. If it is only based on our teacher, it is possible that at this degenerate time Lamas can give teachings which are not based on the Kangyur, that are self-made instructions. We have to authenticate it with the teachings of the Buddha.
The Buddha said that during the degenerate time I will appear as the letters, as the text. So these letters are emanations of the Buddha. The real lamp to clear the darkness are these teachings. What we don’t understand becomes clear. The root of dharma, the true guide for us, what to do and what not to do, is in the Kangyur. With this understanding please recite the Kangyur.