Vajra Mukut - The Ceremony of the Black Crown


"Rangjung Rigpe Dorje is the sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa tulku or incarnation. As the head of the Kagyu order of Tibetan Bud­dhism since the twelfth century, he embodies, represents and guides its accumulated spiritual energy. The Tibetan teaching concerning tulkus tells us that, although transcending the sense of "I" or ego releases one from the forces leading to rebirth, an enlightened intelli­gence, having no individuality or ego in the ordinary sense, may decide to continue to work on earth for the benefit of all sentient beings. This enlightened intelligence therefore takes birth over a certain period of time in a series of human individuals. The Gyalwa Karmapa is such a tulku. His arrival here can be regarded as an extremely auspicious event, since it brings the potent spiritual force held by his lineage to North America. The Ceremony of the Black Crown or Vajra Mukut, which His Holiness alone can perform, transmits the energy and intelligence of the awakened state of mind."
          --From the Program Booklet

The pier at Ft. Mason, filled to the brim with Buddhists, non-Buddhists, seekers and the just plain curious.

The pier at Ft. Mason, filled to the brim with Buddhists, non-Buddhists, seekers and the just plain curious.

On October 13, 1974,  at Fort Mason in San Francisco, the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa conducted The Ceremony of the Black Crown, a sacred Vajrayana Buddhist ritual said to provide liberation in this lifetime for those who are appropriately ready and receptive. Kurt von Meier was there, accompanied by other members of the Diamond Sufi Ranch family. Hosted by the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the Karmapa drew a large crowd which entirely filled the large space in a former Pier, decked out in festive banners. As the ceremony progressed, Tibetan horns and cymbals filled the cavernous space with the sounds of sacred music while monks chanted, rang bells and performed mudra associated with the specific liturgy. The last part of the ceremony included the opportunity for the participants to approach the Karmapa, present an offering, receive a blessing and a tap on the head.


Pictured are lama Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche, the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa, and the venerable Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who hosted the visit of the Karmapa. All three of these revered Lamas were important to Kurt; KyabjeKalu Rinpoche was directed by the Karmapa to travel to America to establish a Kagyyu practice center, and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche had also established Vajradhatu (later to become Shambhala), with retreat centers in Vermont and Colorado. Kurt traveled to Red Feather Lakes, Colorado for teachings from Chogyam Trungpa at what was then called the Rocky Mountain Dharma Center (now Shambhala Mountain Center).

Here is a short video of the Vajra Mukut that took place in San Francisco in 1974. The voice-over narration towards the end of the video is that of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Below is an information sheet provided to attendees.


And, in keeping with Kurt's art historical process of documentation, here is the double-dorje adorned envelope about the ceremony sent to Kurt, stamped and dated, which arrived even though no street address was written on the envelope.