The drums are pounding – the beat carries steadily on in the same way it has for generations.
The bells ring clear in the air – the sound echoes off the walls as though time has stopped here.
The sounds of tradition are forever dancing in the air – through these rituals and ceremonies of color and light.
What we are seeing and feeling in the space around us has been done this way before any of us were ever here.
Color and light mixes with ancient mudras and motions, playing with our senses, reverberating in our minds.
The energy and movement is within our grasp, though we may not understand what is being said out loud we can feel it in our hearts.
Blessings come in many forms, some of tranquility and others ripping at the very fabric of our beings.
What is being done here has been done this way before any of us were here.
I lose myself in the crowd, scanning the faces that make up the performance before me.
The faces here have such depth, feeling and emotion,
with great determination and practice they bring us all along for the ride.
A sacred ritual of light and shadow, a great symphony of color and light, of such sights and sounds –
They have been doing this before any of us were here.
Taking part in our own way, collective in the room’s energy and activity.
Those performing this beautiful dance and song are generous to allow us to follow along.
As the drums boom and the bells chime,
we are so lucky to be here, in this most sacred place, this sacred space,
for they were doing this well before any of us were here.
A great Lama sits upon his throne, a dance of light and sound surrounds him.
Stories told and memories made, time lost and found again.
As time stands still, as the music grows ever louder,
A great lama sits upon his throne, conducting the orchestra of tradition around him.
In this great hall time seems to have been forgotten.
In this great hall the tradition echoes off the walls,
Telling the story of what has been, what is now, and what is to come.
The crowd of tradition and color moves steadily on.
Simply bearing witness brings tears to my eyes,
my heart grows heavy but my mind clears and opens.
The sweet echoing sound of tradition, the raw vibrant energy beats agains the walls of my mind.
A great lama sits on his throne of tradition,
His orchestra plays like one great being combined.
The sweet melodies echo off the walls of tradition –
For they were doing this well before any of us had arrived.
Today began the puja of Chakrasamvara – an extremely powerful practice that I have experienced performed once before in this way – with the passing of Shamar Rinpoche, performed in Kalimpong just one year ago. It is an extensive and complicated practice, and seen performed by hundreds is truly breathtakingly powerful. We were extremely fortunate today to have this particular practice led by Karmapa himself, this was not the case the last time, and the environment and energy was much stronger this time around. So much so that this wild and amazing energy was felt by all, as the gompa’s AC went out for the better part of the afternoon, the heat and intensity was palpable and real, everyone feeling the power and intensity in a deep physical way. The practice has many parts: one part performed outside, kneeling down, back inside, standing together, moving as one, drums and instruments, standing on their thrones, back seated again, and an incredible array of beautiful mudras. These mudras are so captivating – done in perfect synchronized motions; so beautiful, like a dance of the hands, as the whole room smoothly and gracefully performs these together like a gorgeous choreographed ballet. The movements mesmerizing, the drone of the instruments and drums beating together, as the whole room vibrates and churns, a great art performance and a powerful Dharma practice – captivating for the body as well as the mind.
Grace and thunder, power and serenity, these rarely go hand in hand. During what we experienced today they were inseparable, totally matching one another, perfectly placed alongside one another as the day passed with each moment bringing something new, constantly growing in complexity and movement. The mudras are especially powerful for me. There is such amazing technique behind them – it isn’t simply moving your hands about, there is emotion and determination in each move. As the fingers touch, curl, dancing in the air, each gesture is both intentional and perfectly placed. Seeing the rows upon rows together, as the hands go up and down in the air together, its as if they are all connected, without even the slightest separation between them, in perfect unison and harmony. Stepping outside in the sunlit courtyard the drums and bells continue, the great marble and concrete space covered in glowing purple and red robes. The bells glimmer in the afternoon sun, the sound echoes off the walls as the entire group kneels together, then stands at attention once more, finally heading inside for the final chapter.
The great hall is shimmering with color – from the great many thankas covering the entire inner edge to the rolls of brocade and colorful cloth as far as the eye can see in all directions. Each side of the main mandala shrine is decorated in a different color: deep emerald green, bright pearl white, glowing saffron yellow and fiery Garuda red. They are overflowing with offerings, golden bowls, colorful brocade, candles and exquisitely crafted tormas in every color. Taking in the room as if for the first time I am overwhelmed with the incredible color everywhere, there seems not to be a single spot without something intentionally placed there, elegantly placed there, purposefully placed there – as everything here has tradition and meaning behind it. A room full of life and color, hands dancing in the air, bells and drums reverberating against the walls creating a vacuumous space here that is inescapable. Standing in lines atop their thrones, as they ring their bells and chant as one, moving their hands together, performing mudras and reciting prayers directly in front of the relics of Shamar Rinpoche. Though it is a sad occasion, though we are bidding farewell while remembering Rinpoche’s life – this amazing display of color, unity, precision, power and grace is unlike anything I have ever seen before.
The ceremonies have started – it is official, one year has passed and we meet again in the great hall of KIBI to say goodbye to Shamar Rinpoche. To celebrate his amazing life, his boundless activity, his powerful teachings, his larger than life personality and heart. His presence is felt so strongly here today, I can only speak for myself but as I look through my lens I see faces full of emotion, many holding back tears as we are reminded yet again of what we have lost. Many times during the past year I have been told that we aren’t supposed to celebrate anything – this is a year reserved for homage and prayer, and I have tried to abide by this rule. But this past year we have had so very much to celebrate. So much has happened to bring us all together, to become closer as a dharma family, to share in this world and all it has to offer, good for bad. We may have tried to hold back our joy but Rinpoche would never want this – in my most humble opinion – he would always find the humor even in the saddest and most dark of situations. And so we have felt this year pass, with all that it has given us, opportunities and possibilities – suffering and sadness. We have grown together, we have grown strong in our bond that ties us – we have done exactly what Rinpoche wanted: to toss away the simple, petty things that separate us and simply join together.
Today there is a heavy weight in the air. As Karmapa arrives I can feel it in my bones and in my breath and heart. I could never begin to speak for His Holiness, but today felt as though he may still have some grief to bear, some emotion over the loss of his teacher coming again to the surface is not only natural but expected regardless of someone’s amazing power – we all feel pain and loss. As the relics are brought out, as speeches are given, emotions run the gamut from laughter and joy upon seeing one another again to tears as we all sit together and bid goodbye to our teacher a year later. I see joy as well as sadness in Jigme Rinpoche’s eyes as he recounts the final days of his brother’s life, unable to hide his wet eyes or his smile as he thinks of Rinpoche, a heart warming expression on his face nearly brings me to tears myself. Karmapa’s speech is powerful, direct and magnetic. He has a way of speaking that is so natural, so heart felt, and yet seemingly as though he has pondered what he will say since endless time. The words come out slowly and deliberately, he makes pauses, but sometimes I feel he is pausing for us so we have the time to catch up as our minds and hearts process what is being said. I can see and sense the emotion on his face, and in his words, yet he has a great presence and energy – he is upright and beaming in his way. Despite the loss he has such charisma, this is a very awake person, and we are very lucky to have him with us on this journey we share together.
The line to see the relics, and to offer a kayak or prostrate is long, filling the side of the gompa as everyone makes their way to offer their respects. Today we bid farewell, again, to our teacher and our greatest spiritual friend. For Karmapa and all of us, we share this bond with Rinpoche regardless of how well we knew him. He was a force to be reckoned with, a mighty oak in a forest of green, the rock that looks out on the valley below, the all seeing, magnetic, explosive and implosive human being that made up Rinpoche. Today we said goodbye again. Today we had the chance to offer our last respects, after a year has passed where we have all grown together. With a heavy heart I have passed this day. With a mind full of emotion and a body tired from it all I have passed this day. For knowing Rinpoche in this life, for happiness upon crossing his path, I have joy in my heart. With a sad heart full of joy I have passed this day – for today we had to say goodbye again.
Karmapa Photo Projects
When His Holiness first arrived in Renchen Ulm, and was, for the first time in the presence of Shamar Rinpoche’s Kudung; this is a moment that I will never forget. Seeing, in person, how deeply he cared for and cherished his teacher was profoundly moving. Arriving from the car he came straight in, prostrated in front of the Kudung and immediately entered a deep state of meditation which seemed to last for hours – there was no sound, no one moved, no one spoke, the few people in the room literally holding their breath.
Seeing His Holiness this way created in me a sense of admiration and respect that is difficult, if not impossible to put into words. A true living Buddha, a true human being, deeply saddened by the loss of their teacher, yet so uplifting and joyful to see and feel what an incredible and powerfully visible connection they had.
I managed to take one single photo – I could barely hold my camera still enough to take it as my hands were shaking and it was hard to breathe. Though many may remember the sadness, I feel this moment reflects His Holiness’ amazing courage, and it has shown me that the power to continue, to carry on, is in all of us, even when things appear bleak and we feel lost. I miss Shamar Rinpoche terribly, and its hard to come to terms with everything I feel I have lost with his passing from his world. When I think of Karmapa, I think of how much he carries for us all, how much he has also lost, and yet he continues on regardless, always benefiting others. If I close my eyes I can picture him there, seated in meditation, in front of Rinpoche’s Kudung – this will forever be with me as the most powerful moment of my life.
KIBI Meditation Course – 2013
During a question and answer session, His Holiness was asked if he would meditate with us. He smiled, and without a word, he immediately entered a deep state of meditation, bringing us all along with him. This was without a doubt one of the most powerful moments of my life, a rare opportunity to be in the his presence during that level of personal practice.
For many of us, the day of cremation of Shamar Rinpoche was unlike any other we have, or may ever experience – surreal and raw, for those present and from across the word, as we watched the final stage of our teacher’s body passing from this world. The energy and view from the top level was intense to say the least, as the sun blazed down on us, as the smoke poured out, as the fire grew, there were moments when my legs simply stopped accepting my weight, my heart gave way, and, letting go I crumpled to the ground, unable to continue.
During these moments I would try and catch my breath, try to focus on something that would pull me back up, allow me to gain my ground again and to continue. It was during one of these moments, when things were heavy and bleak and as my body and mind – beyond exhausted and disheveled from the last seven weeks on the road following the Kudung and the unbearable heat and emotion that was flying all atop the Shar Minub rooftop, I caught a glimpse of His Holiness that stopped me clean in my tracks. Despite all that was transpiring around him, all the chaos and mayhem, noise, emotional turbulence and furnace like heat, despite the passing of his teacher as well as mine, all of ours, despite the crowds that will now depend on him more than ever before – he was so calm and focused, completely absorbed in his practice. A sense of pure determination on his face, giving me a single moment in which my mind was allowed to clam and settle, a single breath in and out, and I was back, my body and mind giving me a second chance – a single moment I will never forget.
This photo was originally posted on His Holiness’ Facebook page, with the quote “The Buddha is in your hands” and I feel it fits the image white well. From my perspective, on the day in question, that while we all can have the buddha in our hands, I was so very fortunate to have it in his as well, guiding me along, forever helping me and all others, keeping me on the path no matter how difficult things may be, and however bleak and empty we may feel – the Buddha is in our hands.
The Singapore Screenshot Collection
To the people of Singapore – you have truly shown me the meaning of devotion, as the way His Holiness was greeted everywhere we went was unlike anything I have ever seen before. Such amazing respect and care, radiant smiles and overjoyed faces lined the isles and rows, the amount of love and admiration that was shown for Karmapa here was overwhelming, yet always with a sense of dignity and reverence, with a controlled and calm demeanor, never asking for anything, simply being present and able to see Karmapa was so important to them. And everywhere we went, Karmapa was in true from, greeting one and all with patience and poise, graceful moving through the crowds of people – spending the time to greet each and every one of them, making them understand that he was indeed there just for them. And the action never stopped, to crowds in the thousands, endless cues of attendees and devotees coming to pay respects and receive blessings, young and old, from all over the world and across the street, seemingly non stop, and yet like the eye of the storm, all was calm and serene at his side, greeting each eager smiling face with a smile of his own, never too tired or pressed to offer his most welcoming and courteous of greetings. From the Marina to the EXPO, the Ground Breaking to the Max Atria, each event was completely booked and full, and a secondary story began to emerge for me as I witnessed all of this passing by – to the people of Singapore and for the turning of the Dharma, this event was of such great important and meaning to them, everyone was truly inspired and beaming in all directions, on cloud nine, for they were simply overjoyed to see their teacher. I was extremely fortunate that Karmapa agreed to film a short interview, and despite the fact that we were pressed for time, and had to shoot in less than desirable circumstances, on a hotel pool rooftop full of families and screaming children and waiters passing by constantly, His Holiness’ amazing sense of humor, wit, and compassion were amplified as he casually joked and laughed along with it all, as there was nothing we could do about it, instead playing with the scenario and making the best of it, showing remarkable candor considering the circumstances. His warmth and genuine presence were remarkable, for he showed his true human nature with me on this rooftop, a rare view into a side of Karmapa I have long wished to be able to show and share, always comfortable and in control, with his hilarious and heart warming personality. Just a few months after the passing of his teacher he is a ray of light showing us all that despite what may happen we are still capable of laughter and genuine joy – that we all have the courage to continue, to pick ourselves up again and continue down the path.
Featuring this never before seen interview and special secret footage, from the entire week of events including the days beforehand and afterwards, where hundred of volunteers as well as monks, Lamas and Rinpoches from across the globe came together to make the event possible – and brand new music composed for the occasion, I hope to bring you inside the story, from the epicenter to the farthest edges of the crowd, a roller coaster spectacle of grand proportions, full of color and life. While the full film will be released in a few months, (early 2015) I wish to humbly offer this trailer so that you all can share in the experience that we were all so lucky to be a part of, to give you a taste of what is to come, a glimpse inside. I have put everything I have into this project, my whole heart and soul, and my only wish is that it can be of benefit, to help spread the activity and teachings of Karmapa worldwide, that it can shed light on the incredible driving force and devotion of the volunteers and people of Singapore for hosting, and, with enormous success, putting on such a world class event for all to enjoy. Please help to share this message by sending it to all your friends, reposting and sharing, help it circle the globe, so that everyone can see it, and all can benefit from His Holiness’ activities and teachings. As an added bonus I have added a few screenshots from the interview with Karmapa- simple moments where His Holiness’ amazing sense of humor, warmth and shining personality are shown so clearly, where he lets his beaming smile show – simply by being himself – gentle, kind, humble and compassionate as well as hilarious, and a pure joy to be around.
The Karmapa Favorites Gallery
KARMAPA VIDEO PROJECTS
A City Full Of Light – The Official Trailer
The musical trailer for my upcoming film about Karmapa’s visit to Singapore, with a never before seen interview with His Holiness! We see Karmapa in a wonderfully positive light, full of wit, humor and energy, and the amazing activity and overwhelming welcome and joy from the people of Singapore, they are simply so excited to see their teacher! To witness how he was received everywhere we went, how much time, patience and love he gave to each and every person who came to see him was truly touching, imprinting on all of us just how important this trip – and the KKBC Center is to him, and to our dharma family around the world. From the ground breaking ceremony of the new center, to the Naga Vase ceremony in the harbor, and the full Kagyu Monlam prayers performed for the first time in Singapore. This was a truly charged, up tempo, and full schedule of events, made ever enjoyable by Karmapa’s unending patience and compassion towards us all. As requested by Shangpa Rinpoche, this film will be released later this year by KKBC Singapore, but I wanted to share with you all the trailer, in the interim as the project comes closer and closer to completion – so you may get a glimpse of what is to come – with brand new music composed just for the occasion.
I proudly present to you, for now, the trailer for my next film from dharma.imagery.project – A City Full Of Light!
KIBI Presents: A Place Like No Other
My very first video project, made to present the new diploma program from Karmapa International Buddhist Institute in New Delhi India. Featuring interviews with his Holiness Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje, Khenpo Mriti and Professor Sempa Dorje, as well as all the students and staff that make KIBI such an amazing place. With an all original musical score – written, scored and directed by Tokpa Korlo.