A STORY FROM THE INFINITE MIND OF THE GYALWANG KARMAPA

In TRUE BOOKS by Ken Holmes3 Comments

This wonderful story is from one of the previous lives of His Holiness Rangjung Rikpé Dorjé, the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, on Dzalendara’s transformation and his son’s exile. 

When His Holiness the 16th Karmapa was eight years old, he told many a story of his previous lives to one of his Gurus, Gongkar Pandita, who carefully kept in writing the nectar of the young Karmapa’s words. However, when His Holiness had to leave Tibet, Gongkar Pandita was himself unable to escape and his precious records were no longer unavailable. In 1976, His Holiness visited Nepal to make offerings to the three great stupas and to bestow the empowerment and the ritual reading authorising practice of the Kagyu Treasury of Vajrayana cycle to many of his followers. His Holiness then left Nepal for Delhi and, on the way, his party drove through a place in Himachal Pradesh called, by Tibetans, Dzalendara. It was raining very slightly and peacocks were singing softly. His Holiness had the car stopped and said to his attendants, “I have come back to my mother-land”. He then told the following wondrous story.

Over one thousand years ago, in an area known by Tibetans as Dzalendarai and today called Jullundur, the line of kings ruling over the area belonged to a non-Buddhist sect whose beliefs involved animal sacrifice. Knowing this, the infinite mind of the Gyalwa Karmapa took birth as a king’s son in order to be able to eradicate the people’s harmful customs. He was named Dzalendara, and that area was later called after him, hence its present-day name. The young prince grew up, completed his education and then himself ascended to the throne. His very first deed as monarch was to proclaim a law forbidding anyone in his kingdom from killing any living being and to establish punishments for those who disobeyed.

The new king had one hundred consorts, two of whom were his main wives. One, named Queen Pure Light, was an emanation of Tara. The other was called Noble Sun. In a previous life, during the time of Buddha Sakyamuni, the latter had been a man called Ram Chandra, a cloth-merchant of what is today Varanasi; a person who disliked the Buddhist monks and abused them greatly. As a result he had been subsequently born in the hell-realms but since he had also had the good fortune of seeing the Buddha he was later reborn as the daughter of a king. However, this princess still had some karmic resonance from her former birth and this gave her an inexplicable dislike for the sangha. She was the first of Dzalendara’s queens to bear him a son, whom they named Son of the Sun. He was the emanation of a bodhisattva.

Some time later, Pure Light, the other wife, had a dream. She saw a very spacious room in which was a throne with a small baby seated on it and she immediately felt that this was her child. The baby then addressed her, saying,

O noble mother! All beings are immersed
In the sufferings of conditioned existence.
This is caused by their ignorant belief
In a self which has no actual reality.
By means of ten powers,
I shall free all beings from their sufferings.

Nine months and ten days after the dream, the mother gave birth to a son, Sun Moon, another emanation of the Gyalwa Karmapa. At the moment of his birth the earth trembled and there was a rain of flowers. As soon as he was born, the child sat upright and said,

I will personally bring to the true path all beings
Sunk in the four rivers of samsāra,
Birth, ageing, sickness and death.
From the depths of my heart and without any fear,
I take this commitment.

After the birth the king summoned the brahmins to look at the royal child and examine the various signs which would tell of his destiny. Having done this, Intelligent, who was the most qualified of the Brahmins, declared the infant to have all the marks of a chakravar­tiniv, a world-ruler. Extremely pleased at the news, the King summoned Kham Maht, his minister favourable to buddhadharma, saying,
“First my wife had an extraordinary dream, then Sun Moon was born with all the auspicious marks, so therefore he should become the next king. To celebrate my historic decision concerning his future accession, invite everyone in this and neighbouring kingdoms to a great reception.”

Kham Maht was then to assemble the other ministers, who were non-Buddhist, to tell them of the King’s decision to prepare appropriate celebrations to mark the birth of this wondrous child. The other ministers, however, disagreed, arguing that since nothing had been done for the firstborn, why should there now be a celebration for his younger sibling? After much discussion Kham Maht managed to make his view prevail, preparations commenced and invitations were sent far and wide.

On the day of the celebration the people and representatives of seven kingdoms arrived, each with presents from their own countries. They respectively voiced their aspirations and wishes to the young prince. Representatives of three of the kingdoms where there was no buddhadharma wished that he may be able to defeat all enemies and requested that he pursue the same kind of friendly policy as his father. The representatives of three kingdoms where buddhadharma was flourishing wished that through his great loving kindness and compassion the young prince would protect all beings and they requested him to take the commitment to spread the buddhaharma fully, both in his own kingdom and elsewhere in the world. The child said in reply,
“O wonder! From the great ocean of conditioned existence I will truly liberate these beings. In accordance with my previous promises of aeons long since gone, then in this very life I shall truly bring them to liberation.”

Everyone was, of course, amazed that a child so young could speak in such a deep way but one of the non-Buddhist ministers, Kham Ishvara, was extremely angry that the king had chosen this child to be his successor and he decided to do anything he could in order to stop his succession.

Minister Kham Ishvara went to see the non-Buddhist priest Ram Singha and his disciple Bishomuk and told them that their religion, until now prevalent in the kingdom, was being threatened by the presence of its enemies—Queen Pure Light and her son, Prince Sun Moon. He requested that the priests find a way to eliminate them. Their eventual advice was that Kham Ishvara himself, aided and abetted by Queen Noble Sun, should use calumny in order to turn the King against the other queen and her son. If this plan did not succeed then the two priests would cast evil spells on them.

Accordingly, Queen Noble Sun went to see the King and claimed that Queen Pure Light had had an amorous relationship with one of his subjects. Later, Minister Kham Ishvara came to see the King and said that, for the sake of his kingdom, the monarch should banish Queen Pure Light else her bad behaviour would bring disrepute on the royal household and on the King himself. After the audience, the King said he would think about it and seemingly went for a walk.

In actual fact the time was now ripe for him to transform into a wisdom-body. A dakini came to meet him and said,
“To get rid of the finest traces of cognitive obscurations, one needs bliss and voidness. For this the excellent skills of a vajra body are required. You are one worthy of entering that domain, Please come right now.”
The king followed her to Orgyen, the land of the dakinis, and took up the life of a mahasiddha. Having transformed himself into Chakrasambhara, he taught vajrayana to the dakinis, who offered praise to his perfect body, speech and mind,

Unborn great buddha-dharmakaya
The indivisible union of voidness and pure intelligence,
Supreme bliss sambhogakaya
The very expression of pure intelligence,
Nirmanakaya—manifestation of compassion in action:
We praise the Guru, indivisible union of kayas three.
Clarity and voidness—vajra mind free from all conceptual complications,
Sound and voidness— ineffable vajra-speech,
All-pervading, spontaneous vajra body,
We praise you, the Lord Guru endowed with all the qualities of perfect body, speech and mind.

Meanwhile, Andar, the king’s servant, found out that his royal master had vanished and was panic-stricken, terrified at the thought of being blamed for the disappearance. So much so that he tried to kill himself by climbing to the top of a large tree and throwing himself down to the ground but a dakini emanating in the form of a monkey carried him safely to the palace. There he explained the king’s disappearance to the queens and ministers. As a result the non-Buddhists and the Buddhists each requested their own priests to perform prayers for the king to be found quickly.

Some time later, Queen Noble Sun started thinking that now the King had disappeared the time was right for all the non-Buddhists to get together and eliminate the other queen and her son. Therefore she asked Bright and Clear, a lady friend, to go and see the non-Buddhist minister Kham Ishvara. She was to tell him of Queen Noble Sun’s intentions to hatch a plot that would protect their own religion from its competitors.

The minister pledged his complicity. He gathered other ministers and invited the non-Buddhist priest Bishomuk, who told them that they must find a way to eliminate Queen Pure Light and her son. After some discussion they agreed on a ruse to separate them, probably when the two young princes went walking in the forest together. Once the son of the Buddhist queen was alone, they would seize him and kill him. Thus Kham Ishvara went to see the two princes and told them that their father was absent for a while but that he himself would be happy to accompany them on their outings, wherever they would like to go. He did this for a few days then, one day, he suggested that the two princes take different ways in the forest. Whilst the younger prince, the son of Queen Pure Light, was walking on his own, Harsha, another non-Buddhist minister, was lying in ambush in the middle of the forest, with one hundred soldiers. As the young prince approached, they jumped on him and started striking him with their swords but no matter how hard they tried they could not manage to hurt him. In the end, Harsha threw him from the top of a high cliff. During his fall the prince prayed,

By the power of the blessing of the Three Most Precious Refuges, that never deceive,
And as the true fruit of my own pure and highest aspirations,
May I be freed from this obstacle to my life
And may I accomplish an ocean of bodhisattva deeds.

At this point the god Brahma, aware of what was happening, emanated in the form of a peacock and the young prince landed on top of its back. Wings outstretched, the miraculous peacock flew to a land full of forests, pastures and orchards, in the region of Bir, and landed. There the prince spent some time meditating on all phenomena of conditioned existence being like a dream, like a magical illusion, and thus he realised the futility and senselessness of conditioned existence and the unreality of all phenomena. While living in that country, Sun Moon taught the buddhadharma to tigers, panthers and all sorts of wild animals to such a point that gradually all the beasts stopped harming each other and lived together in harmony.

Near where Sun Moon was staying there resided a demon. At the time of the first Buddha, he had been a Buddhist who then turned against the faith. As a result, he was now living there as a demon who killed people in the daytime and who underwent the excruciating pains of hell at night. Noticing the young prince, he approached with the intention of killing him. The young prince, overwhelmed by love, thought,
“This being’s condition is a result of his evil deeds. If I cannot send him to a Pure Land then my commitment to help all beings to reach Buddhahood is sen­seless.”

Having transformed himself into Avalokitesvara he said,
“Through the power of all the Buddhas and their spiritual heirs in the ten directions to speak the truth, and through the power of all the virtue I have accumulated in the three times, may this sad and wretched demon’s body be cast aside. When he has been reborn in the Potala and has firmly taken the commitment to reach enlightenment for the sake of beings, may he quickly perfect the deeds of a bodhisattva.”

Thereupon the prince transferred the demon’s consciousness to the Potala and when the latter was born there he resolved to reach enlightenment and gradually worked on the path to liberation.

Having rid themselves of the younger prince, the non-Buddhist ministers and their followers assembled and decided that their next move should be the enthronement of Son of the Sun, the other prince, to ensure the stable continuity of their religion. Meanwhile, Son of the Sun himself, seeing that his brother had not come back, asked the ministers where his sibling might be. They pretended that he had gone away to another kingdom for the duration of his father’s absence. However, a son of a Buddhist minister who used to be the childhood friend of both princes eventually told Son of the Sun the truth. Upon hearing that the non-Buddhists had killed his brother, with the help of his own mother, Son of the Sun was struck with grief-filled stupor. He realised the utter pointlessness of conditioned existence, ever riddled with jealousy, greed, anger and the like.

As a result, he declared that he was now leaving worldly existence and he fled to the woods. He walked and walked in a wilderness of vast forests, feeding on wild fruit and constantly calling out the name of his brother, “Sun Moon, Sun Moon!” Many days went by in this way until he eventually found himself near a mighty river. His body had become very weak. Feeling extremely tired, he lay down by the riverside and fell asleep. Many monkeys were playing on the river bank and, as one of them passed over his body, Son of the Sun suddenly awoke and saw that he was surrounded by tigers and monkeys. With a shiver of fear, he thought they were about to devour him and said,

All the Buddhas in the ten directions and their bodhisattva heirs,
And you my special Refuge, Sun Moon,
You are all endowed with the eyes of pure wisdom.
Please look on me.

Since it is now certain that in this place
The components of this life will be torn apart,
may I be born in the presence of this most excellent Son of the Victors, my brother.
May I fully complete an ocean of bodhisattva deeds
And may I bring an ocean of beings to spiritual maturity.”

The prince prayed in this way but actually the tigers and monkeys had no intention at all of harming him since they had been instructed in the buddhadharma by his brother. Instead, the animals went to see Sun Moon and told him about the human who was lying by the river-side. Sun Moon, who lived naked, the hairs of his body as his only cover, ran to the river, where the two brothers fell into each other’s arms, shedding many tears of joy. Thereafter they lived together in the forest, practicing meditation.

Meanwhile, the kingdom of Bala Ganj was left without either king or princes and the Buddhist and non-Buddhist ministers started gathering forces against each other, each side recruiting its own army. They were just about to start fighting when King Dzalendara came back, emanating again in his previous form. The King had the treacherous Queen Noble Sun arrested and made a servant and the non-Buddhist ministers Kham Ishvara and Harsha were eliminated.

Excerpted from Former Lives of the Karmapas by: Holmes, Ken editor.
To be continued in Part II.
Translated in Rumtek Monastery at the request of His Holiness the XVIth Gyalwa Karmapa, by Katia Holmes, M.A.,M.Sc., from Khenpo Chodrak Tenpel’s explanation of the Tibetan texts which record the precious words of their Holinesses the XVth and XVIth Gyalwang Karmapas. Edited by Ken Holmes (Dharmacarya Karma Shedrup).

About the Author
Ken Holmes

Ken Holmes

Dharma teacher and Director of Studies at Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery, Scotland.

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