Brief visit of Sharmar Rinpoche ( May 27th, 2002)

Sharmar Rinpoche arrived in Kundrol Ling on Monday 27th May at 3.30 pm. He came to ensure that the preparations for Gyalwa Karmapa’s entry into retreat went smoothly, and he was accompanied by Lama Jigme Rinpoche. He was welcomed by the Sangha and all the community who received his blessing.

Shamar Rimpoche left Kundrol Ling the following day at about 10 o’clock.

Shamar Rimpoche’s speech in Dhagpo Kundrol Ling, France
Monday 27th May 2002

Even though I am only here for a very short time, I am really very happy to be with you and to be able to meet you again in this particular, exceptional situation, in which His Holiness the Karmapa is preparing to begin a period of retreat.

Our situation is a very fortunate one. In fact, even though I travel widely in the world I meet few situations where all the conditions are present, where at any one time the location and the teachings are excellent, and where a number of great masters can come regularly to teach. Furthermore, masters and lamas live here quite naturally, and teach inside the retreat centers to help the retreatants, and also outside the retreat centers so that everybody can benefit from the dharma. All the conditions present here represent something extremely rare. It is a privileged and fortunate situation due to the fact that, on one hand, the masters are present and they teach, and on the other hand everyone is very diligent in applying these instructions in their practice.

All this is made possible by the conjunction of different factors: firstly, the wishes of the XVIth Gyalwa Karmapa, as well as those of Gendun Rinpoche, and also the wishes and aspirations born of the karma of all those who gather here to practice.

The conditions for a very stable practice are in place and these must be completed by it being possible to study the theory which underlies the practice. It is for this reason that I have asked the Khenpos to come here and teach different lamas, texts such as The Profound Inner Meaning, which explains in detail the philosophical view which supports the practice. I wish everybody to deepen their study to support the practice in such a way as to both preserve the living aspect of the Dharma for generations to come, and not just for the present or the immediate future, and also to ensure the quality of teaching, so that there is a reliable source where all beings can come and where they can receive the instructions and apply them.

All aspects of the Dharma should be present and available here. One important aspect of the Dharma already exists with the oral and individual instructions: all the most profound commentaries and practices of the Karma Kagyu tradition were transmitted here by Lama Gendun Rinpoche, they have been preserved and are now being transmitted to those who wish to put them into practice. These commentaries, explanations, oral instructions and key instructions really explain the deeper meaning; but a more theoretical, philosophical approach should also be developed with even more profound teachings. And these aspects of study should be available so that everybody can benefit permanently from the teaching.

Everybody contributes to the development of all this in one way or another: by study, reflection and meditation, by supporting effort and action, or by contributing knowledge or financial support. I can see numerous people gathered here who are already contributing to this work, by living here or in the immediate neighbourhood or even a little further away. This work must be strengthened and supported now, because it is a long-term effort. It must be understood that the benefits of this approach and spreading the Dharma, whether by study, reflection and meditation or by some sort of material or logistic support are immeasurable and infinite. It must really be considered that without the least doubt all the effort that everyone makes to this end accomplishes good for all beings. The proof of this is that even His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa has come here to practice the six yogas of Naropa, to contribute to this work and the initiative for the future preservation and diffusion of the Dharma.

Since the last visit of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa, I myself have transmitted numerous initiations and lungs in this place, and we have had the infinite privilege of receiving an authentic, immensely realised being of great holiness: Chogye Tritchen Rinpoche came here; he made wishes and he also transmitted numerous texts and initiations. Thus this place is a receptacle which has been perfectly blessed by all those masters which consecrated it, and to some extent it has become a place of strength and blessing, a place of pilgrimage. I myself try my best to come here to teach frequently and continuously.

Now I would like to explain what is happening at the moment in the field of Karma Kagyu activities.

As you must be aware, our Karma Kagyu tradition has been going through a crisis for about nine years. Last year I received an e-mail from Tseten, a Tibetan, who asked me the following question: "If you have found your guru, if you are satisfied with him and if you address your prayers to him, why are you not simply content with that? Why don’t you abandon everything else and just occupy yourself with celebrating and praying to your guru? Why do you have to engage in this rivalry or the confrontation with the politics and the choices and decisions of the Dalai Lama?"

From the style of the letter I could see that it must have come from a young Tibetan, or from a Tibetan of the new generation which has Tibetan roots but whose education has mostly taken place either in India or abroad, and whose culture is somehow a mixture as it comprises some elements of Tibetan culture with a strong influence of those countries which received these refugees born outside their mother country.

And I replied: "But you are absolutely right, and if I was in your place, and had no responsibility, I would do just that. But in my position, with my responsibility for the Karma Kagyu lineage, I can’t do it. My intention is not just to find a master, a guru whom I can venerate; my intention is to fulfil my function and to assume my responsibility within the Karma Kagyu tradition. From my position as holder of this lineage, it is my duty to do everything possible to preserve this tradition. I find myself in the position where, to some extent, the tradition has been betrayed and it is my duty to do all I can to protect it."

A number of factors have come together and placed the tradition in danger: from outside the tradition there is strong political pressure, inside, collaboration with this external political influence, and there is also a financial influence, which is not negligible, which has an economic aim; and all these different interests have come together in a movement which puts the authenticity of the tradition in danger. My duty is to do my utmost to keep this tradition intact, this authentic institution of the Karma Kagyu Lineage.

So I replied to this young Tibetan that it was true that opposing these manoeuvres aimed at destroying the essence and the soul of the Karma Kagyu tradition had kept me enormously busy during the past nine years.

Now the result is excellent. The situation is developing in a most favourable way since, for example, in the problems relating to the ownership of the Indian seat of the tradition, that is the monastery at Rumtek, we are practically assured of complete victory. Our rights have been recognised and are on the way to being absolutely and totally recognised. In order to assert our claims and to maintain the legitimacy of our tradition, we have actually had to take legal action. This has been a long fight in the courts, but now we have reached a point of eighty percent success, and we can hope that the success will be total before long. The result is that the administrative team, which until now has been unable to act, can now fulfil its functions sensibly and calmly and work for the management of the monastery.

I decided to explain this happy development of events to the community of lamas and monks as well as the lay community attached to the monastery at Rumtek, the seat of His Holiness in India. Last Monday I called them all to a meeting where I explained that during all these years I have indeed been fighting for our rights to be respected, and that now, at the end of all the administrative steps and the legal battle, we are about to achieve a total victory and my work is complete.

Now the administrative team can manage the running of the monastery in freedom and serenity, as the danger has been fought off. And so I announced that I was placing all my responsibilities in the hands of the council of administration, and that, as a master, in terms of the dharma, and as a teacher, I no longer wished to be involved in the management and administration of the monastery, other than in exceptional circumstances. The danger having been overcome, and my function as protector of the tradition having been fully accomplished, they could take charge of the running of the monastery.

With the support of a large number of people I have also been able to establish a large college of monastic studies, a Shedra, in the town of Kalimpong, on a piece of land which was given to me a number of years ago by Mr Gyan Jyoti. Numerous people from the Taiwanese Buddhist community living in Los Angeles have supported me financially and have very generously contributed to the development of the Shedra, where sixty students and sixty children from primary classes will be able to receive a complete education in the curriculum of studies of our tradition.

There too my function as protector of the tradition having been completed, I don’t wish to be further involved in the administration and financial management of the Karmapa’s monastery and I have completely handed over these functions to its administrative team, the administrative council attached to the person of the Karmapa, which now has full charge and responsibility for its management. Financially, administratively and legally the situation is assured, and I no longer need to be there, since my function, which was to protect the tradition in a difficult time against internal betrayal and external pressure, has been completed, and therefore I have handed over my responsibilities and all that weighed on me to the teams which are going to run them.

A lot of people supported me in this work but all the same I was alone before these very powerful people and under a great deal of pressure, and it was truly a very intensive task. But I always held on to the essence of Buddhism, even in those times of great pressure and enormous difficulties, and I always handled everything in a Buddhist spirit to show to the world outside that Buddhists, when faced with adversity, bear their difficulties with determination and serenity but without aggression. My concern has been to maintain the authenticity of the tradition, and to carry out this work, this fight which sometimes demanded a lot of strength and determination, with Buddhist dignity to show the whole world what Buddhists do when faced with such problems.

Now that the result has been achieved and that I no longer have to assume this aspect of my responsibilities as lineage holder, as things are now secure and at peace, and the administration can function freely, I will be able to take up my own personal work.

As Shamarpa I also have a job to do, things to do which have to some extent been on hold during these years of actively preserving the essence of the tradition. I expected to dedicate a few years to the task, but in fact it has taken me twenty years to effectively ensure the future of the Kagyupa lineage. Now it is done. I have transmitted all responsibilities, such as the administration of the different places and different centres, to the Karmapa, and now it is for him to develop his activity on this healthy and stable base. And he will do it in the years to come. I can begin to take up my personal activity again, my work as Shamarpa, as I am free of the duty of protecting the tradition.

Historically the Shamarpas have always been very active on both sides of the Himalayas, that is to say in Tibet itself and also with the Nepalese people, and more particularly with the ethnic group of the Newary tradition, with whom they have a Dharma link. Several thousand of these people follow the teachings of the masters, from incarnation to incarnation, and have done from the time of the tenth Shamarpa. The Newaries from the valley of Kathmandu have been waiting for twenty years for me to have time to dedicate to them and to take up this historic link and continue the work which was instituted and developed by my predecessors. Now that my obligations have been fulfilled, I am going to have a little more free time to work on some major Dharma projects for the Newary community, but also, of course, to maintain and deepen my links with all my disciples around the world, in Europe, in the United States or elsewhere; for it is one tradition, and, whatever the geographical position, I will continue to dedicate more time to deepening my relations with my disciples.

The region of Kathmandu, and Nepal in general, is a natural point of convergence for people the world over. It is quite easy to reach from Europe and Asia, and to find oneself in a sort of central point where the Dharma can be practised in a readily accessible geographical region. So it is important to develop structures for the Karma Kagyu tradition in particular to flourish in this country, and for the teachings to be available there.

Of course there have been some tragic events in the past months, a sort of latent civil guerrilla war, but things are calming down and the years to come will certainly be more peaceful and so it will be easier to develop such Dharma projects in this region of the world.

However, as far as this concerns me, this does not change my involvement here at all, in this place particularly and in France in general. I will continue to come here regularly and fully assume my responsibilities as a teacher and inspiration.

So this is the way I have restructured the monastic administration which supports the Karmapa’s activity: on the same basis as it existed formerly in Tibet, that is to say the traditional structure that used to exist at the seat of the Karmapa’s activity. The XVIth Karmapa had to make some minor modifications to adapt to the legal and administrative demands of India. We have been able to return to something more traditional and more authentic, with the Gyalwa Karmapa himself as supreme head of the administration. I have made operation of this possible, I have re-created the structure, I have established it, strengthened it and protected it from attacks which placed it in peril, and now I am giving it back to the Karmapa, I am giving it back to the members of the administration who will carry out their task.

In addition, having re-established the proper tradition in Karmapa’s administration, I am giving my own contribution, which is the construction and organisation of a college of monastic studies; and now, having freed myself from all that, I can return to more personal activities.

In the future I will send you a copy of the structure of the monastic administration directed by the Karmapa himself, so that you can see the constitution for yourselves.

According to the European calendar, the Karmapa is now nineteen years old, and according to Tibetan astrology he is twenty. You could say that there are still one or two years to go before he reaches his majority, but a number of people at only twenty run banks, and the Karmapa has such a spiritual level that directing all of this will pose no problems for him.

I allowed myself to suggest to the Karmapa, in front of members of his council of administration, that perhaps in the coming years his life could be divided between retreats and teachings, since he is still young: he could sometimes be in retreat and sometimes teach .. and that is what he is going to do!

So there you are. I have spoken to you because I was here, very briefly in passing. I ask you to pass the message on to your friends, to explain all I have said this evening so that everyone knows the situation as it is now.

Thank you very much.