In TRUE BOOKS by Ken Holmes2 Comments

Continuation of A Story From the Infinite Mind of the Gyalwang Karmapa

The two princes built a grass hut in the forest and lived there together. During the daytime they taught the dharma to animals and at night they meditated. One day, while meditating, the younger prince, Sun Moon, saw that the time had come for them to go and spread the dharma in their own country and in other places where it was still unknown. He told his brother that they should go back to their home now and help many beings through giving them the teachings. As they were about to leave their beautiful forest retreat, the ocean of their minds was stirred by waves of both sadness and joy; sadness at having to leave behind all their animal friends, who had been their delightful companions for so many years, and joy at the prospect of being reunited with their parents. However, they decided that, for the sake of all beings, the time had now come to go and, gathering all the animals together, Sun Moon addressed them, saying,

All conditioned phenomena are impermanent,
As ephemeral as a water-bubble.
Life is impermanent, like a flash of lightning in the sky.
When you go to the land of Yama, Lord of Death,­
Nothing goes with you but your good and bad deeds.

Therefore, now that you have the choice,
Let go of evil motivations to hurt each other
And always strive for good with body and speech.
As for me, in order to fulfil my previous promises,
I have to leave this place to go and help beings.

On this occasion, I pray
That all those who have any kind of link with me
May always be near me and receiving teachings,
In this and all other lives to come.

As the two brothers departed, all the animals bowed their heads in sadness. The young princes walked for a long time. One day, as they were going through a vast plain, a Brahmin who was a wealthy cattle-owner invited them into his home and offered them lavish hospitality, serving them fine foods and drinks. They spent the day here, giving the Brahmin and his family some teachings on impermanence, explaining to them that conditioned existence is devoid of any durable core, like a hollow tree, and that now that they had the good fortune of a precious human existence they should use it to the full and tread the spiritual path properly.

Continuing their journey, the princes passed through many towns and villages. One day they arrived in a town where a wild elephant had gone berserk and was devastating everything in its path, spreading terror and killing many people. The young prince thought, “May this wild elephant leave its body and may I send its consciousness to a Pure Land.”
Through the power and purity of his thought he transferred the animal’s consciousness to the Pure Land of the Potala and the elephant died. All those who saw what had happened were amazed and a whole crowd gathered to look at the extraordinary children, now in their early teens. Then the young princes started to teach the dharma and rumours of their exploit and of their teaching ability soon spread far and wide throughout northern and western India; crowds of people came to hear them teach and soon their fame reached the kingdom of Bala Ganj. From there, their overjoyed parents sent a minister and some attendants to meet the two princes and bring them back home.

When they arrived back in their kingdom, the two princes were welcomed by great rejoicing and celebrations. When the festivities were eventually over, they asked their father, the king, to give them six years’ leave in order that they might study the dharma under a teacher. At their suggestion the king requested the bodhisattva named Master of Qualities to teach them and the two princes went to a solitary place to study the mahayana teachings under him for six years. At the end of their studies, the elder prince took monk’s vows and received the new name of Shantibhadra, Peace and Goodness. Sun Moon took the bodhisattva vow. At their parents’ request, the two brothers had to return home and, before they left, Sun Moon made this promise to their teacher, “Most kind teacher who, through purification, brings an end to all the sufferings of conditioned existence and of the lower states, you who annihilate samsara, whatever you have ordered us to do, we promise to keep your words indelibly engraved in our hearts.”

As a farewell address, the Bodhisattva gave them his last piece of advice,
Generosity, right conduct, patience, diligence and meditation are,
Through the hundred light-rays of prajna,
Like a luminous, bright lamp.

Prajna’s actual nature is the unbroken union of voidness and pure intelligence.
Ultimately, the practice of the paramitas cannot be found beyond the seal of this indivisible union.
To which, Shantibhadra, the elder brother, replied,
Excellent spiritual friend, your infinite kindness is beyond all limit.

In this life and in all those to come,
Just as we are never separate from our own forehead,
May we never be apart from you.
May we always rely upon you as our teacher.
Ultimately, may our minds fuse together with your pure mind.

The two princes took their leave by placing their teacher’s feet on their heads and then they departed, returning to their parents who had prepared great festivities to celebrate the homecoming. When asked by their parents what they had learned from their meditation practice, Shantibhadra replied that they had seen the futility of royalty but that they had come back home in answer to their parents’ wish.

After Sun Moon’s return to the kingdom of Bala Ganj, the ministers thought that the time was now ripe to find a suitable wife for their future king. They went to consult the prince’s father about this and the King asked them if they had any suggestion to offer. The ministers suggested that Princess Moonlight, the daughter of Chandrakirti, King of Bangala, would be a suitable match. The king agreed and consulted priests and astrologers to know whether the marriage was auspicious. It was found that all the signs were favourable. King Dzalendara then sent a minister to Bangala with a message requesting the king to give his daughter in marriage to Prince Sun Moon. King Chandrakirti was pleased to accept since an alliance with the heir of such an important kingdom as Bala Ganj would be very desirable and so, accompanied by a splendid retinue, he escorted his daughter there. The ceremonies for the coronation of the new king and his marriage to the princess were held on the same day, in the presence of all the representatives, ministers and people of the seven kingdoms previously represented at the celebration of his birth as a prince. On this occasion dances and extraordinary festivities went on for many days and thereafter the new king declared the whole kingdom to be now Buddhist.

Later, Queen Moonlight gave birth to a son and King Sun Moon went with them to Bangala, the kingdom of his father-in-law, accompanied by attendants and ministers. The King of Bangala had made extraordinary preparations to welcome his son-in-law and there were great celebrations upon his arrival. Gradually, Sun Moon managed to convince King Chandrakirti of the necessity of giving up killing any form of life and of practising dharma, after which the King himself ordered that everyone in his kingdom should stop killing and practise dharma. Thereafter, King Sun Moon gave teachings everyday to all the people.

Some people were extremely displeased at what was happening. There was a non-Buddhist priest named Karma Chakra, who had sixty thousand disciples and some miraculous powers. He went to see the non-Buddhist minister Dosum and complained that the present events were intolerable since the King was now making everyone follow the Buddhist dharma, thereby suppressing their own traditional religion. In view of this, he felt that all those who still strongly supported their sect, with its sacrificial killing, should get together and try to eliminate the King. This resulted in them agreeing to send Karma Chakra to a neighbouring kingdom to request King Rahu Nayar, himself an adept of their faith possessing some miraculous powers, to help them to defeat their king. Meanwhile minister Dosum was to remain in the kingdom of Bangala to create unrest and dissatisfaction in the country and prepare all his fellow believers to rise up against the king.

As planned, Karma Chakra went to tell King Rahu Nayar that ever since King Chandrakirti had invited the Buddhist king Sun Moon to his country Buddhism was becoming more and more established there and that their own religion was rapidly waning. Upon hearing this, King Rahu Nayar burst into a violent fit of anger and said, “The first thing to do is to eliminate the cause of all this trouble, King Sun Moon. Now he has brought Buddhism into your country, he will probably carry on doing this in other places. He is the enemy. We must make him disappear before our religion is made to disappear everywhere. As for your King Chandrakirti, we shall try to talk him back into reason but, if he does not listen, we shall also have to eliminate him.”

Accordingly, minister Hussein was sent as a messenger to King Chandrakirti with a letter from King Rahu Nayar saying, “You are forsaking the sacred teaching of our forefathers and following a bad religion. Please change your ways before it is too late and come back to your own faith. Should you not heed this warning and reject our sacred teachings forever, I will surely destroy you.” Upon receipt of the letter, King Chandrakirti did not even as much as open it and the envoy returned to his own kingdom, reporting that it was now obvious that the King had definitely forsaken their religion. Thereupon, King Rahu Nayar started preparing his army for war. King Chandrakirti was also trying to do that but he met with difficulties since minister Dosum had been busy fomenting rebellion within the country. Worried that he might not be able to face the non-Buddhist attack, Chandrakirti sent for help from the Buddhist King Sun Moon, who had now returned to his own country after teaching the dharma in Bangala for nearly a year, asking him to send an army to defeat the invaders.

Rahu Nayar’s army was marching towards the kingdom of Bangala when it met the incoming army of King Sun Moon. The Buddhist king ascended into the sky where he manifested the form of a Hindu deity. All of Rahu Nayar’s army thought that their god had come to the rescue with an army and prostrated to him. Immediately after this, Sun Moon appeared in the form of Avalokitesvara and through the power of his great loving kindness and compassion the weapons fell from the hands of the soldiers.

However, King Rahu Nayar, who himself had some miraculous powers, flew up in the sky to the form of Avalokitesvara and said: “You can deceive my men but you will not fool me.” He started throwing weapons at the King-become-Avalokitesvara but, since the latter was immersed in a state of total love and compassion, the weapons changed into a rain of flowers. Then pointing to the heart of Rahu Nayar, Sun Moon said,

0 wonder!
The three dimensions of conditioned existence
Are the field of illusion born of ignorance;
What is impermanent is held to be real and
Mere magical artifacts are mistaken for actual objects.

The kaleidoscope of mental patterns
Is the cause of infinite suffering –
It acts as the seed which creates endless samsāra.

As I now transfer your consciousness instantaneously
To the Buddha field of True Joy, may you be born there
And may all the results of your actions be exhausted.

As he said these words Sun Moon sent King Rahu Nayar’s consciousness to the Pure Land of True Joy. Meanwhile all of Rahu Nayar’s generals were moved with very strong faith towards Sun Moon and they invited him to accompany them to their country. Arriving there, he taught the dharma, telling the people that they should practise the ten virtuous actions, give up the ten unvirtuous ones and that they should stop killing all living things. He also taught them how to meditate on Chenrezig and recite his Mantra OM MANI PEME HUNG. Then many people, particularly those who used to kill, fishermen, hunters, butchers and so on, took the vow to abstain from taking life. Most people in the kingdom recited the Mani mantra and it is said that for quite some time afterwards that country remained Buddhist and particularly devoted to Avalokitesvara.

The priest Karma Chakra also embraced Buddhism and asked Sun Moon to come back with him to Bangala to teach and strengthen the dharma there. To this the King replied that there was a special karmic link between the priest and his own brother, the bodhisattva Shantibhadra, therefore it was him that Karma Chakra should invite to his monastery to teach and give ordination. King Sun Moon returned to his own kingdom and requested his brother Shantibhadra to go and teach the dharma in Bangala and to ordain Karma Chakra’s sixty thousand disciples. Shantib­hadra spent two or three years there, giving teaching and King Chandrakirti took the bodhisattva vow from him.

Later on, King Sun Moon requested his brother to return to their own kingdom of Bala Ganj. There Shantibhadra established many monasteries, ordained a great number of monks and taught them the dharma while Sun Moon taught the lay people. Thus well established in the teachings of universal truth, the kingdom remained in great harmony and happiness.

To be continued.

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.

Line-drawing by Carlo Luyckx.

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    Really nice translation, Katia. When searching for words to describe ’emptiness’, I always tend to settle for “empty of any inherent substantiality”, but that sounds so clinical. Your phrase “…conditioned existence is devoid of any durable core, like a hollow tree…” is so much better – much more organic.
    Thanks again,

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