Black Crown

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The late, Third, Jamgon Kongtrul related to Norma Levine:

In a black silk hatbox in a special storeroom at the Karma Kagyu monastery in Rumtek, Sikkim (India), sits the Black Crown or shwa-nag of the Karmapas.  It is a material representation of the Wisdom Crown that was offered the great yogin Korbache, by a host of dakas and dakinis when he was designated Buddha of Activity; that is, Karmapa. 

The rangjung chopen (the self-luminous, ie. non-material, crown) is woven of the hair of 100,000 dakinis.  The one in the box was made for the 5th Karmapa at the suggestion of  the Emperor of China.  He had been able to see the rangjung crown and thought it would benefit people if they could even just see a semblance of its form. 

"So when the 5th Karmapa went to China, the Chinese Emperor, whose name was Yung Lo, saw his wisdom crown.  He asked Karmapa what this was and Karmapa explained it. The Emperor felt it was very important for everyone to see it because it represents his buddha activity; so he requested Karmapa to make a material form of exactly what he saw so that it would be beneficial for all sentient beings.  So the Emperor made it and asked His Holiness to bless it.  Since then many great masters have seen the double crown when His Holiness is wearing the Crown."

Levine explains that the benefit of the Crown is an example of tendrel which is Tibetan for "interdependent connection," and it is the term used especially for mysterious objects whose presence is marvelous.  These items are understood as manifestations of buddha-energy that make powerful impressions on us via our 6 senses.

A prediction goes, that "people who see, hear, remember or touch [it] will be born near exalted beings after departing from their present life."

The Tsurphu Scroll

A new museum was inaugurated in Lhasa, Tibet by the Chinese authorities, in Oct., 1999.  

"One of the most remarkable treasures on show is the famous `Tsurphu Scroll', an early Ming dynasty silk-backed painting with Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Uighur and Arabic inscriptions (ibid., pl. 26.1-4; see also Tibetan Art Studies, Beijing, 1992, vol. 25/3, pp. 41-43). Titled in the museum Delivering the Taizu of Ming to Heaven, it depicts the miracles performed by the Fifth Karmapa Dezhin Shekpa during his 22-day visit to the Yongle emperor in Nanjing in 1407, when according to the inscription the Tibetan Grand Lama was made chief of all the ban-de [Buddhist monks] in the empire'.  This outstanding document of early Sino-Tibetan relations was discovered at Tsurphu monastery in 1949 by Hugh Richardson, who was able to copy and translate its Tibetan inscription (Hugh Richardson, "The Karmapa Sect: A Historical Note," in High Peaks, Pure Earth: Collected Writings on Tibetan History and Culture, London, 1998, pp. 359-63 and 369-76.) 

The scroll must have been presented to the Karmapa by the Yongle emperor, who had also offered him the famous Black Hat, which he had seen in a vision during a religious ceremony. Yongle's invitation to the Fifth Karmapa and his intensive patronage of 'Lamaist' art at the Ming court were based on more than just political interests. His genuine commitment to Tibetan Buddhism continued the Tibeto-Chinese connection of his Mongolian Yuan predecessors, and saw a second great revival in the 18th century under the Qianlong emperor. "

~ "The New Tibet Museum in Lhasa" by Michael Henss for Orientations magazine. 

Dec. 12, 2010:  On the 3rd day of the ceremonies celebrating the 900th anniversary of the Karma Kagyu lineage, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, as part of his introduction to the administration of the bodhisattva vow to thousands in attendance in Bodhgaya (as well as numerous others following online,) made it perfectly clear that his leaving Tibet for India (at the end of 1999) at the risk of his life, was NOT to regain the marvelous Black Crown.   "What kind of person would risk their life for a [mere] hat?"  

He reminded us that Mahayana Buddhists practice for the benefit of all sentient beings without exception, and that circumstances in Tibet might very possibly have contributed to impediments in the fulfillment of this bodhisattva obligation.   


Norma Levine Blessing Power of the Buddhas: Sacred Objects, Secret Lands. Rockport, MA:  Element, 1993.

tendrel:  The Tibetan word meaning a is evocative of the English tendril, which refers to the small leafless parts of a plant, distinct from the stem, that emerge to coil spirally around any protuberance as a support for a growing vine.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is a word of obscure origin that appeared in the latter half of the 16th century, and an attempt is made to derive it from the French, tendre.

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