A Billion Mantras

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The goal of the Karmapa Khyenno mantra project,  to present the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa with one billion recitations by worldwide devotees and friends, was successfully achieved in Sept. 2006.  You can still join the Vajra Guru Mantra Project (VGP) currently in progress.

About the BMI: Billion Mantra Initiative Early in 2003, a project was conceived by a private individual concerned about the situation at that time that limited people's access to Karmapa.  The project had the intention of helping smooth the way for Karmapa to be free to travel the world, and also to assume his rightful seat, which had been established in Sikkim by his predecessor.
Besides establishing and enhancing powerful spiritual connections, this type of participation is a skilful means to accomplishing a worthy political end, as in the satyagraha tradition made famous over 75 years ago by Mohandas K. Gandhi. 

By July 18, 2006, the BMI had achieved a total of 1, 097, 540, 500 thus substantially exceeding the objective.  On the morning of September 9th 2006 in McLeod Ganj, India,  Mr. Vic Gabriel, the project's leader, presented the document to HH Karmapa attesting to its success.

BMI-2, July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2009  The BMI had surpassed its goal by Summer 2006 but those who had not participated before, or who wished still to take part, could join BMI-2.  When, in May 2008, HH the Karmapa saw "Welcome Home" on a sign during his visit to America, out of gratitude and joy we continued through one more year.  At its close on June 30, 2009, on behalf of the participants, we sent the BMI-2 report offering in celebration of HH's  24th / 25th birthday, a further accumulation totalling  45, 036, 000 recitations. 
The Universal Role of  The Karmapa  As the embodiment of the activity of all buddhas and bodhisattvas, Karmapa does not "belong" to one denomination, lineage or school, nor to any single institution or group.  In other words, the compassionate activity of the Gyalwa Karmapa is not solely for the  benefit of members of the Kamtsang, or Kagyu, denomination of Buddhism.  Anyone can always connect with Karmapa, whether they are Buddhist or not, through the recitation of the mantra that has been associated with him for over four hundred years.  
The Karmapa Mantra  Encouragement for the BMI first came from Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, who found merit in the idea and publicly encouraged participation.  He explained that the Karmapa mantra was first introduced by the 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje (1507-1554) in the context of a teaching concerning the tradition of  "Calling the Lama from afar," a famously beautiful hymn.

Here is the mantra written in Tibetan:  

 < "Karmapa, [you] know me"  (Embodiment of all Buddhas, please take heed of me.) 

In Central Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan, it is pronounced Karmapa Kyen-no or Karmapa khen-no.  In East Tibet, it is pronounced "Karmapa chenno."  Naturally, if you are used to saying it like that, there is no need to change  pronunciation.

The potency of the Karmapa mantra as described by Lama Surya Das in Auspicious Tales of HH the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje:

One day the head of a nomadic household in desolate, windswept northern Tibet passed away. In such a sparsely inhabited region it was rare to find monasteries and lamas to perform Buddhist funeral rites, so the family wondered what to do.  Then they happened to notice a ragged individual travelling on foot who appeared as if he could be either an itinerant yogi or a beggar, so they went to inquire.

The mendicant turned out to be, in fact, a lama. The grieving family requested his ministrations for the deceased, and he complied.

When he reached the man's deathbed and began his incantations, the family respectfully requested the lama to perform phowa (consciousness transference). The lama, however, said: "I am just a poor, unlettered practitioner of the Buddha's teachings; I have not mastered that esoteric practice. But I do have one positive quality, infinite faith in the living Buddha, named Lama Karmapa; he is like the great gate to Dewachen (a transcendent paradise from which evolution on the path of enlightenment is said to be more easily assured). His name is the magic password to that fabulous spiritual domain."

Then he began reciting again and again the powerful name-mantra, "Karmapa Khyenno!"

"Karmapa Khyenno, Karmapa Khyenno," he intoned loudly, again and again.

After each and every rosary of one hundred and eight fervent recitations, he would then hit the corpse with his mala, or prayer beads, commanding that, in the name of the Buddha Karmapa, the spirit of the deceased be reborn in Dewachen.

After some time, everyone noticed that the signs of successful consciousness transference began to appear.  Hair fell from the top of the corpse's head, there was a pleasant fragrance in the air, and a large bump appeared at the crown aperture where the subtle consciousness of the deceased departed for the other world.

Everyone present rejoiced, and gratefully thanked the mendicant lama. All began to faithfully practice the mantra of the Karmapa, praying to realize the great freedom and bliss of Dewachen in this very lifetime.

 The travelling lama soon continued on his journey. One day he heard that the omniscient Karmapa was visiting south Tibet, so he determined to go and meet him and pay his respects.

Upon finally reaching his destination, the first thing the clairvoyant Karmapa said to him was: "That was a difficult phowa we performed up there in the north, wasn't it?" The Karmapa laughed, hitting the other lama with his mala.

Then the mendicant knew with unshakable certainty that the Karmapa is an omniscient living Buddha, who always keeps his disciples, wherever they are, in his heart and mind.

~ Lama Surya Das. ("Consciousness Transference," Auspicious Tales of HH the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje in "Insights & Outtakes," Tricycle Magazine, Winter 2004.)

The Objective

The goal to offer Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Dorje one billion (1, 000, 000, 000) mantras, was substantially surpassed when, on July 18th, 2006, we realized a total of 1,097,068,170 Late submissions eventually raised this to 1, 097, 574, 500.


Between February and June 2003, with both individuals and dharma groups taking part, we had already collected 35 million recitations.

From about 1,250,000 recitations received at this web site between May 2004 and October 2005, monthly contributions rapidly increased ten-fold.  

On Dec. 10/04 with reference to the BMI, Wangchen Rinpoche said, "The world is given a gift which is Holiness Karmapa."  He added that it would be such a pity if His teachings are not heard by the world, so we should keep on praying for this purpose.

In March 2005, Khenpo Tsultrim's ani-gompas (nunneries) in India and Bhutan (Karma Drubdey Gomba,) Thrangu Rinpoche's Tara Abbey, Tenga Rinpoche's seat of Benchen Phuntsok in Darjeeling, Karma Lekshey Ling in Nepal and Jamgon Kongtrul's Pullahari Monastery expressed commitments to the BMI.

In May 2005, we posted information to Tibet Times, and made available the BMI letter in Chinese.  In July 2005, the project appeared in prestigious Thar Lam magazine.  In October 2005, the nuns of the ani gompa in Nangchen established by Sonam Chotso, Bardor Rinpoche's wife, expressed a commitment. 

Hundreds of students, monks, nuns and lay practitioners of the various Kagyu lineages took part in the BMI, most contributing as part of a group.   Apart from those, 284  individuals from 17 different countries sent in mantra totals.   Judging mainly by names, half are men and half women.  4 or 5 people contributed several million apiece.   

This co-ordinator responded personally to every submission coming via KhandroNet, and every notice of contribution was kept on file to ensure that no one's name was omitted from the token of this great offering


Besides having the confidence of Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, who wrote an official letter to the effect, and by Khenpo Tsultrim, whose ani gompa joined early on, the BMI was approved by Ven. Bardor Tulku and the monks of Raktrul Monastery (east Tibet.)  The chant master at Rumtek Dharmachakra (Sikkim) and the monks there also contributed.  Wangchen Rinpoche of Mahavajra Center in Los Angeles and Bengen Monastery in Kham expressed a commitment.  

Early in May 2006, T. D. Lharisang,  Honorary Secretary of Pal Karmapa's Dhungdrub Tsogpa in Rumtek, Sikkim, reported support for the BMI from several important Kagyu monasteries.   In Sikkim:

  1. Ralang, Palchen Choling Monastery, South Sikkim
  2. Ralang Old Monastery, East Sikkim
  3. Phodong Monastery, East Sikkim
  4. Ranka (Garwang Rinpoche's monastery,) East Sikkim
  5. Old Rumtek Monastery, East Sikkim

In West Bengal:

  1. Mirik Monastery (seat of the Bokar Rinpoche)
  2. Siliguri, a seat of the Kalu Rinpoches,
  3. Sonada, seat of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche
  4. Lava Monastery, a seat of H. E. Jamgon Rinpoche.

Then, on May 15/06, Rumtek.Org, the official web site of the 17th Karmapa's Dharma Chakra Center (Shedrup Chokhor Ling, posted the request for participation during the week of June 11th, of all Karma Kagyu monasteries.  

The Dhungdrub Tsogpa (Laypersons' Association Offering)

On June 11th/06, we received news of a Karkhyen Dhungdrub Tsogpa.  Every year since 1983, a puja organized by Karmapa's Dhungdrub Tsogpa (association) is held at the main seat of His Holiness Karmapa in Rumtek, Sikkim.  It takes place at Saga Dawa and usually consists of a 100-million recitations of the Vajrasattva mantra.  This time, as proposed by Ven. Dilyak Drubpon Rinpoche, the General Secretary of the Tsurphu Labrang [Tsurphu in Tibet is the historical seat of the Karmapas,] the Dhungdrub Association decided to join in the recitation of "Karkhen" (Karmapa khenno) and send the totals to the BMI.

Jul 14/06Monasteries participating in the BMI as part of the Dhungdrub Puja submitted 365,285,572.   The layperson's association of Rumtek submitted 163,494,820.  The total for both the above came to 528,780,392.   

On July 18/06:  The total had come to 1,097,068,170 but with a few late submissions, we achieved 1,097,540,500.

The Actual Offering

Jun 26/06:  Due to our expectations that the objective would soon be attained, we arranged for HH the 17th Karmapa to receive the small exquisite longevity tangka (see photo below) on the occasion of his 21st birthday (according to Western calculation.)  It was delivered on our behalf by Bardor Tulku Rinpoche. 




Namgyelma (Skt. Ushnishavijaya) as painted by Karma Tsering Lama, Thamel, Nepal.  


The tangka was framed by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche of KTD. 





< photo courtesy Bob Holt



The list of contributors to the BMI comprising the names of over 280 individual practitioners (without identifying individual totals,) and that of the many monasteries, nunneries, retreat centers and dharma centers was given to HH's secretary.

On the 9th of September 2006 at around 3 pm, a formal document in the Tibetan language celebrating the achievement of the BMI was presented in person to Karmapa by the project's originator, whose words follow:

HHK has accepted the offering. I was standing in His presence as he focused on the letter. He was reading line by line. Then HHK nodded, and more than any words (because He knows I don't speak Tibetan) He completely accepted our offering and merged it with His heart.  

I felt His spacious heart open. [The] Feeling is quite difficult to describe. It was like full acceptance and appreciation without [any] fanfare.

More About the Karmapa Mantra

In 1996, it was observed that when the 17th Karmapa rubbed his robe against some stones, Karmapa khyenno spontaneously appeared, as if the rock were responding with iron oxide script.  [An image can be found on the Web.]

The mantra was instituted by the 8th Karmapa, however it is not only favored by Kagyu people.  Its efficacy in times of trouble and as a support for spiritual practice is well known.  In fact, it is related to the mantra invoking Chenresi (Avalokiteshvara.) 

Furthermore, it contains the blessings of all buddhas: 

"The recitation of Karmapa chenno is the invocation of the blessing, and the invocation of the compassion, and the invocation of all the activities of the Buddha, in the name of the great master who is the manifestation of the activity of all the Buddhas, the Gyalwa Karmapa."  ~  H. E. Tai Situ

When we join in the recitation of this mantra, we become part of the Karmapa mandala and participate in the activity of the Buddhas.  

Although it was not a requirement for participation in the BMI, occasionally participants could renew the context by recalling the continuity, as expressed in

The original practice taught by the 8th Karmapa

After taking Refuge and engendering bodhicitta, say:

Boundless Lord, Dharmakaya itself, [Amitabha, Buddha of infinite light]

Noble and excellent Avalokitesvara,

Who is the mighty Samboghakaya,

The One who Arose from a Lotus [Padmasambhava "Guru Rinpoche"],

Who attained the wisdom body [Nirmanakaya]

And the great glorious Karmapa,

Who gathers all [three kayas] into one essence,

We pray that you grant us your blessings.

Recite the following mantras [3x, 7x, or 21x, etc.]

OM AH.MI DE.WA HRI   [mantra of Amitabha]

OM MANI PEME HUNG HRI   [mantra of Avalokitesvara]

OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG [mantra of Padmasambhava]

KARMAPA KYEN.NO  [mantra of Karmapa]

Then, dedicate the merit as follows:

By the merit that we have accumulated through reciting and meditating in this manner,  may I, all those with whom I come in contact, and all beings, miraculously be born in Dewachen.  As soon as we are born there, and reach the tenth level of bodhisattva, may we send out emanations in the ten directions for the benefit of others.

Now visualize and say:

O wonderful Buddha of Limitless Light,

To your right is the Lord of Great Compassion [Avalokitesvara],

and to your left is the Bodhisattva of Great Power [Vajrapani].

You are surrounded by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, measureless in number.

In this land called Dewachen there is joy and happiness without limit.

May I be born there as soon as I pass from this life, without taking birth anywhere else.

Having been born there, may I see Amitabha's face.

May the Buddhas and Boddhisattvas of the ten directions give us their blessings so that the wish expressed in this prayer may be accomplished without hindrance.


~ from the complete practice as given in Jan. 2000 by Lama Lodu of KDK in S. F.


thangka:  The Tibetan word,  also transliterated as tangka or tanka,  refers to a scroll painting usually bordered by brocade material,  like the one depicted on this page.   It is intended to be portable and it can be hung on a wall or studied on a table. 

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