Until 1981 I was the personal secretary of His Holiness the XVIth Gyalwa Karmapa. For the last thirty years of my life, I was next to the Karmapa most of the time and wrote down almost every word that he said, teaching that he gave, and letter that he wrote, including the recognition letters of the various tulkus. I have wanted to write an official biography of the Gyalwa Karmapa and to speak about another side of the Karmapa, which I will do now.
The subject of my talk is about the activities of the Buddha Karmapa, the ocean of unlimited activities of the Karmapa’s three secrets of body, speech, and mind. It is something really indescribable. No one would really be ale to describe it, but the Karmapa appeared in this world as a human being, and I had the good fortune of being his attendant for thirty years. So, what I will describe is what I witnessed. In fact, it is impossible to convey everything, so all I can do is share the main things I experienced with you by presenting a brief account.
The tradition says that it is necessary for the Karmapa to visit and pay respect to the Dalai Lama. All Karmapas would go to see him; they would take off their hat and prostrate to him. When the XVIth Karmapa was in his 8th year, together with his father, he went to the Dalai Lama, the XIIIth at that time. The Dalai Lama and his minister entered the audience room and the Karmapa performed the prostrations. The Dalai Lama and his minister noticed that the Karmapa was wearing a hat, so the minister said, “Why are you prostrating with your hat on? That will not do!” He asked the father, “Where do you come from, a remote valley? Don’t you know that it is not allowed to wear a hat when you prostrate? That is a big mistake.” The father responded, “He is not wearing a hat. He hasn’t even brought a hat along. The Karmapas always have a wisdom hat on, so probably this is the hat that you see him wearing.” Having heard this, the Dalai Lama and his minister were amazed and felt great faith in the Karmapa. Then the Dalai Lama wrote a long-life prayer for him. This was the first occasion on which the secret hat was seen in the life of the XVIth Karmapa, so it is a quite extraordinary incident.
Later, when the Karmapa was staying at Palpung Monastery to receive teachings from the previous Tai Situ Rinpoche, he travelled to a monastery in Litang. On the way he and his escorts passed Dsongsar Monastery, the monastery of Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche. The first and previous Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche was there. At that time, Jamyang Khyentse saw the Karmapa as Düsum Khyenpa, the First Karmapa, and saw the Black Crown floating in space above his head while he was prostrating to him. So, he saw this and they heard Jamyang Khyentse describe what he had seen.
In 1944, when the Karmapa was going on pilgrimage through the south of Tibet, the IInd King of Bhutan, Jigme Wangchug, invited him to Bhutan. When the king met the Karmapa, he saw the Karmapa’s crown and felt very great devotion for him from the depths of his heart.
When the Karmapa left, the king cried like a little child – he cried because of his great devotion and perfect faith after having met the Gyalwa Karmapa.
In 1967, the Karmapa was invited to Ladakh. At that time a girl from Kashmir without any faith came to see him. As the Karmapa performed the Black Crown Ceremony, the girl saw the inner wisdom hat inseparably on his head; when he placed the fabricated outer crown on his head, she saw the inner one inside the outer crown. This happened in Ladakh at that time.
Tashi Lada, who was responsible for looking after the college in Rumtek, once lived near Tsurphu. When he was 11 years old, he escorted his father to pay respects to the Karmapa. Next to the Karmapa’s seat in his room was a statue of the Karmapa. When Tashi Lada entered the room he saw two statues and saw one moving about. He told his father, “There are two statues of the Karmapa. One is motionless and the other one is moving about. Which is the real one?” He had seen the statue with the Black Crown and he could see the real Karmapa with the inner crown; they were identical, while one was moving about. He was very young when this happened and did not know anything about the Black Crown at that time. There are many other accounts about people actually seeing the inner Black Crown.
Wonders so True
When the Karmapa was 12 years old and travelling from Tsurphu to Kham in East Tibet, he came to a village called Drome that is situated in an area called Tsumbu. At that time the river was frozen and he went to play on the ice. Later when the ice melted his footprints could be seen on the water and they remained there. Apart from Padmasambhava, the Karmapa is the only great master known to have left his footprints on water.
When the Karmapa was travelling in Kham, he reached a place called Chang Tang, the location of the monastery of Dechen Rinpoche. The Karmapa had a young antelope that had been given to him and also had his tiny pet puppy, called Yidrug, along with him. When they arrived at the monastery with his dog and antelope, both animals left footprints on a stone, which can still be seen.
When the Karmapa went to a nunnery to bless the site, he threw kernels of grain into the room; they usually do not roll under objects. But when the Karmapa threw the grains there, they rolled underneath all the objects in the room – they rolled under the feet of the statues and many lay in the hands of the statues. Half of some and the whole of other kernels transformed into ringsel (“precious white relics”). Some have been preserved from that consecration and are now in Rumtek.
One time the Karmapa went to Phayul Monastery. The abbot there was a famous and great siddha. When the Karmapa arrived, he tied the sword he had into a knot. He gave it to the siddha and told him, “I am a siddha, too.”
When the Karmapa went to a Bonpo Monastery in Nitang with Tai Situ Rinpoche, they both left footprints in the stone; their horses did too.