Thursday, 26 March 2015 13:05 Yangchen Dolma, Tibet Post International
The 17th Karmapa arrives in US on Saturday, March 14; Tibetans and supporters offer a warm welcome at the San Francisco airport, California, tours Googleplex on Sunday, March 15 and gives talk to Google staff, speaks to students, faculty at Stanford University on Monday, March 17 and meets with professors at Stanford University. Photo: TPI
Redlands, California, U.S. (March 115-17, 2015)– The 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje delivered a lecture on the theme of 'Caring Connections: Compassion, Technology and the Environment after meeting with both students and faculty at Stanford campus as part of his two-day visit to the campus and his two-month tour of the United States.
The lecture was held at the university's Memorial Hall to a sold-out gathering of 1,700 students, faculty and alumni. The event was live-streamed by Stanford University, and another 3,000 people watched online. Simultaneous translation was provided.
"Although this is my third visit to the USA," the Karmapa began, "it's my first opportunity to have an extended visit to any foreign country, and I feel this is a special opportunity for me in my life. At the beginning of this tour I have an appreciation of great freedom, and I feel that this tour marks a significant step into the future for me."
He then began to explore the term 'compassion' and what it means on a personal level. The Karmapa shared some of his treasured childhood memories with the audience, showing just how deeply compassion was woven into his own Tibetan upbringing.
"I think the environment I was raised in by my parents was an environment of great compassion. Part of this was just the closeness we all shared with each other in our physical space. My whole family lived inside a tent made of yak hair, all in the same room together. You could call it the living room, you could call it the kitchen—it was just one room," he described.
"What I remember in that very close space together with my family is the sound, every morning, of my parents making prayers, expressing sentiments such as may all sentient beings be happy, may all sentient beings be free of suffering. Then again I would fall asleep to the sounds of similar aspirations in the evening. In this way I really feel that I was raised in a mandala or a circle of compassion and love."
The Karmapa then explained that compassion is tightly woven with the reality of interdependence that we all share.
"I think all of us have our own individual understanding of what the term 'compassion' means. But I think if we called compassion by another name, we could say it's all about developing a sense of responsibility in relation to the reality of interdependence," he said.
"When we look at the way things happen in real life, we can see that many problems arise in the context of issues such as the environment, gender inequality, and so on, because we don't have an appreciation of the interdependent nature of reality. Instead, perhaps unknowingly, we adopt a default attitude of selfishness, basically only cherishing our own concerns. We can see that this is the root of many of these problems."
The Karmapa drew examples from everyday life to demonstrate the powerful reality of interdependence between beings and the natural world we depend on.
"We can especially see how this phenomenon of interdependence plays out in the context of technology. We're seeing rapid advancements in technology, and as humans we're also coming to depend more on technological advancements and placing even more of our hopes in technology. But technology is something that constantly requires updates and improvements, and that constant flow of updates and improvements in turn depends on a great array of natural resources," the Karmapa pointed out.
"But we only see what we have in our hands when it comes to technology. We only see, for example, the new iPhone that we've acquired or that we want to acquire—we don't see directly with our own eyes all the natural resources and all the human hardships that went into the production of that iPhone. Our attention tends to remain just at the surface with what we can see with our own eyes, even though all the information about what went into the production of the iPhone is available to us. We're not looking at the longer or larger picture of where this is all coming from."
His Holiness used another powerful, everyday example to illustrate our interconnectedness and the common ground we all share of wanting to be happy and not wanting to suffer.
"We may wear clothes here in the US, but most of those clothes aren't made in the US," he said. "They're made in other countries, often developing countries. So developing compassion might involve giving rise to greater awareness of the conditions in the factories where our clothes are made and the hardships the people who work at those factories might endure. Compassion might involve giving rise to greater awareness about their difficult situation, in contrast to the pleasant situation we enjoy. With the purchase of clothing it seems that we get the good stuff, and they get the bad stuff. We get the good times, and they get the hard times."
Rather than merely sitting back and observing the situation, the Karmapa explained that our compassion also needs to be active and involved.
"We can also see how sometimes we separate ourselves from the suffering of the world by regarding it as a show that we're sitting back and watching," he said. "For example, we might become aware of the suffering and difficulties that are happening in the Middle East. But we're just kind of sitting back and observing as if it were a show to take in, not really involving ourselves by taking action or becoming more dedicated toward that situation.
"Compassion means becoming more involved, taking more action, developing more dedication. And that means we need to take more risks. But our habit as human beings is that very few people seem to enjoy taking risks. We tend to be more comfortable in our habitual zone of having things be easy and smooth for us.
"Although we appear to be separate from others, we're actually very close," the Karmapa said. "The modern world is bringing that reality even more into the fore – our world is becoming smaller and we're becoming even closer to everyone else we share the planet with. We're sharing others' experiences of happiness and suffering even more."
The first stage on his official tour of the United States brought the young Buddhist leader to Silicon Valley in California. He spent the day at Googleplex, touring its facilities, taking a ride in its prototype driverless car and giving a talk to Google staff.
His talk at Google was prefaced with opening comments by Google's only Tibetan employee, Sonam, who brought many members of the audience to tears with her personal reflections. After speaking movingly in Tibetan to the 17th Karmapa, she translated her comments into English for the audience. "Your presence here is like a dream for me," she said.
The Karmapa Rinpoche on his arrival at the San Francisco airport was given a warm welcome by Tibetans as well as international devotees, on Sunday, March 15.
He first expressed his sheer joy at having this opportunity to spend two months in the United States. He then spoke of his own experience listening to the plans for him to deliver lectures on so many different topics at the various universities.
"I appreciate their kind words, but all this praise puts me under a lot of pressure and puts me on the spot to say something important," he said wryly. "I am not sure how I will perform under such pressure, but hopefully it will turn out well."
He went on to express his gratitude to everyone for showing him such a warm welcome, and singled out those who had exerted such efforts on behalf of this trip. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart," he said.
"This is the first time I have had an opportunity to spend such an extensive amount of time in any foreign country," he observed. "Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere thanks to the Indian Government, and to all my supporters and friends in India who helped to make this possible."
IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT This is to share with you all the good news that TAB will be hosting His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa on March 27th, 2015 (Friday) from 4 pm - 5:15 pm. We apologize for such a late notification as we wanted to be absolutely certain about the event specifics with the Harvard organizers and His Holiness’ entourage. His Holiness will be arriving in Boston on March 25th, 2015 (this coming Wednesday) at 10:30 pm at Charles Hotel and will be here for 2 days on the invitation of Harvard University. He will be leaving Boston on March 27th, evening. We first came to learn about His Holiness visiting Boston through a contact in Washington DC about 3 weeks ago. Since then we have been in constant touch with His Holiness’ entourage and the Harvard organizers to request for a time slot for our own event. Due to our request being so last minute, it was very difficult for them also to make adjustments on their part. We proposed to them different scenarios on how we might be able to squeeze into their schedule so that Boston Tibetans can have a chance to host His Holiness. After constant requests and perseverance, Harvard University offered us a space in their own campus at Braun Room, Harvard Divinity School on March 27th (Friday) from 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm. We request as many Tibetans to attend this auspicious rendezvous with His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. Event - His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa meets Boston Tibetan Community Date - March 27th, 2015 (Friday) Time - 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm Venue - Braun Room at Harvard Divinity School (Andover Hall, 45 Francis Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138) Tickets are NOT REQUIRED for this event. We hope everyone can be a little more punctual on that day and be there at-least by 3 pm so that we can have everyone safely seated by 3:45 pm inside the hall and have the event go by as smoothly as possible. ALSO VERY IMPORTANT - His Holiness will be arriving at the Charles Hotel on March 25th, 2015 (Wednesday) at 10:30 pm. We request as many people as possible to show up at the hotel to welcome His Holiness even though we understand it is a little too late in the night. But it is just one night in a year. Some of the Sunday School kids will be performing a welcome song along with Doga Genlas at the hotel.
(March 24, 2015 – Redlands, California) As part of its ceremony to confer an honorary doctorate degree on His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, the University of Redlands issued a formal proclamation. Professor Karen Derris, who had first brought students from the university to India to study with the 17th Karmapa read the proclamation at the podium immediately prior to the formal granting of the degree. The text in full follows here:
The University of Redlands, with great respect and deep appreciation, commends and honors His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, this 24th day of March, 2015.
We commend His Holiness for his leadership in working with his generational peers to transform our world through education dedicated to broadening awareness of suffering in the world and to informing compassionate action to alleviate it.
We celebrate the Gyalwang Karmapa’s deep commitment to illuminating and building upon the interconnections that unite the world across differences of language, culture, religion, or worldview.
We honor the Karmapa’s special relationship with our students, which began at his home in India where he most generously guided them in deeply meaningful cross-cultural conversations. His Holiness now guides liberal arts institutions toward a model of global learning that encourages students to embrace their responsibilities as global citizens as opportunities for forming global friendships.
Serving as an inspiration to millions around the world in their daily lives, His Holiness’s educational efforts have led to meaningful progress toward environmental sustainability, gender equality, and humane treatment of animals in the communities of his Buddhist faith, inspiring others around the globe to work for meaningful change in their own communities.
Through the example of his remarkable life story, the Karmapa shows us the endless possibilities arising from courage, service to others, and unwavering aspiration to achieve the conditions for freedom and happiness for all beings in the world.
For this and more, the University of Redlands and its Board of Trustees convey our deepest respect and gratitude for His Holiness’s exemplary life and work, and we confer upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, with all rights, privileges, and responsibilities pertaining thereto.
His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen T. Dorje spoke about the interdependence of all living creatures and the dangers of apathy at a lecture on Thursday. The Karmapa, the leader of one sect of Buddhism, stopped at Harvard on his two-month tour of the United States to deliver a lecture on “Caring for Life on Earth in the Twenty-first Century.”
David N. Hempton, dean of Harvard Divinity School, welcomed the Karmapa and referred to the school’s longstanding relations with representatives of Tibetan Buddhism. He made specific reference to the 16th Karmapa’s visit to Harvard in 1976 and the 14th Dalai Lama’svisit in 2009.
The Karmapa, who gave his lecture via a translator, began his talk with an allusion to a visit in his past life and said he was very glad to be back at Harvard. He recounted an experience from his youth in which he saw the tribe of nomads he was raised with suffocate an animal for its meat. He said he experienced an intense and unbearable feeling that he could not explain.
“I miss that degree of genuine, unfabricated feeling,” he said.
The Karmapa equated this degree of feeling with children’s innate capacity for love and kindness. He urged people to adopt this capacity, which he said people tend to lose with adulthood.
“I think our sympathy can extend to all living beings, including to animals," he said.
The Karmapa continued to emphasize the value of interdependence and argued that compassion is something that people need to experience, rather than understand. People need to realize that everything is interdependent, and that everything we have comes from other beings, he argued.
“In a sense, the most dangerous thing in the world is apathy,” the Karmapa said. Unlike violence, warfare, and disease, which can be avoided, people cannot defend against apathy once it takes hold, he argued.
Julie Gillette, Buddhist ministry coordinator at the Divinity School said the school was eager to host the Karmapa as soon as they learned of his continental tour. “We felt that young people could make a connection to him and could relate to what he talks about,” she said.
Roderick L. Owens, a first year master of Divinity student and a Lama of Tibetan Buddhism, said he found the Karmapa’s remarks especially relevant in the context of the United States.
“I think it is important for His Holiness to be here right now in the United States and give his reflections on many of the problems we’re facing, especially racial injustice, the environment, the economy, and our ability to live harmoniously,” Owens said.
—Staff writer Andrés M. López-Garrido can be reached email@example.com.
Clad in traditional dark red robes and surrounded by his following of ten monks and lamas, the head of the Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhists spread the faith last night to nearly 100 people at the Divinity School.
His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa delivers the lecture inside Memorial Church. Photo: Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Besides epidemics, wars, violence, and starvation, there is another source of disaster that is often overlooked: "a lack of love." So said His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, to a capacity crowd at Harvard's Memorial Church on Thursday, March 26.
"A lack of love can cause people to have no help when they need help, no friends when they need a friend,” he continued. "So, in a sense, the most dangerous thing in the world is apathy. We think of weapons, violence, warfare, disease as terrible dangers and indeed they are, but we can take measures to avoid them. But once our apathy takes hold of us, we can no longer avoid it."
The 29-year-old Karmapa leads the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, guiding millions of Buddhists around the world. Born to a nomad family in eastern Tibet, the Karmapa was chosen as a child by followers of the previous Karmapa. While in training at the age of 14 he made a dramatic escape from Tibet to India to be near His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his own lineage teachers.
During a talk that was equally entertaining and enlightening, he joked about using an interpreter, though he does speak English. "I do actually speak some English. I feel that I speak it poorly. I certainly don't think my English is up to Harvard's standards," he said, evoking laughter from the nearly 1,000 people in attendance. He also joked about coming to the U.S., but being unable to sample the American barbecue he's heard so much about because he is a vegetarian.
The Karmapa spoke about a range of topics, including the HDS Buddhist Ministry Initiative, his passion and efforts for environmental protection, and the need for religion in the world.
The Karmapa is considered an environmental activist. He's created an eco-monastic movement with over 55 monasteries across the Himalayas acting as centers of green activism. He sees religious leaders as important teachers and leaders in the environmental protection movement.
"There is so much information available to us nowadays about the environment and the need to protect it, but the problem that remains is that while everyone has access to this information, many people believe it as knowledge, but don't particularly feel the need to do anything about," he said. "One of my responsibilities is to encourage people as much as I can to actually make choices based upon accurate information about the environment."
In addition to environmentalism, the Karmapa is passionate about spending time with young people. Much of his time at Harvard was spent visiting with students at HDS and on the second day of his visit he planned to meet with undergraduates in Harvard Yard.
Recently, the Karmapa announced plans to establish full ordination for women, a step that will change the future of Tibetan Buddhism. The mention of that effort earned him thunderous applause from those inside Memorial Church.
He said he was very pleased to learn of the recent creation of the Buddhist Ministry Initiative at HDS because of work that will result from it.
"Especially because it's not being approached merely as an objective study, or learning, or scholarship, but something that can actually be brought to bear on global issues, which means that even though it is connected with Buddhist tradition, in a sense it transcends it or grows beyond the boundaries of mere Buddhist tradition," he said.
The Karmapa said he sees a necessity for religion and centers of learning that educate leaders of all faiths, like HDS, because the material and technological progress made by society cannot alone solve the all of our problems.
"Even worse sometimes, we can lose direction in our lives because of material progress or luxury, and in such circumstances it is especially necessary for us to return to the study of spirituality and cultivate both wisdom and compassion," he said.
The Karmapa's talk, "Caring for Life on Earth in the Twenty-first Century," was sponsored by HDS, the Harvard College Freshman Dean's Office, and the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation. His two-day visit to Harvard Divinity School also included meetings with students and blessings for his many Boston-area followers.
Dean David N. Hempton presented the Karmapa with a commemorative bowl engraved with the HDS seal and marked with the date of his visit to Harvard.
HDS Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs Janet Gyatso, the Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies, helped organize the Karmapa's visit.
"It is an historic occasion for Harvard Divinity School to welcome this wonderful and visionary young leader of Tibetan Buddhism for the first time. During his visits we talked with him about our programs in Buddhist studies, in the training of ministers and social activists more generally, and a range of interests in what religious ethical insights have to offer the twenty-first century from across the entire University," she said.
The Karmapa ended his talk at Memorial Church by urging everyone to feel love.
"I urge you to feel a love that is courageous … the joyous acknowledgement of your interdependence with each and every other living being and with this environment itself," he said.
By Joshua Eaton | Religion News ServiceMarch 27 at 4:13 PM
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Wrapped in the maroon and gold robes of a Tibetan monk, Ogyen Trinley Dorje isn’t what most people picture when they think of innovation.
To his followers, Dorje is the 17th Karmapa — the leader of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and the latest in a line of reincarnated Tibetan teachers, or lamas, stretching back to the 12th century. He’s been training for that role since the age of 7, when other important lamas recognized him as the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa, who died in Illinois in 1981.
But Dorje is blazing new paths for his tradition, and for the broader Buddhist world. In a public lecture and a series of meetings at Harvard Divinity School Thursday and Friday (March 26 and 27), he spoke out on issues ranging from LGBT rights and improving the status of women within Buddhism to race relations and the importance of protecting the environment.
Like many religions, Tibetan Buddhism has often pushed to the side broader societal issues in favor of personal piety. Not only is the Karmapa talking about them publicly, but he is also taking action. He started an initiative to turn monasteries into centers for environmental sustainability, and he recently announced an effort to establish full monastic ordination of women for the first time within the Tibetan tradition.
“His Holiness is an inspiring embodiment of a new generation of Buddhist teachers who care deeply about pressing contemporary issues and how religious voices can contribute to global conversations,” said Willa Miller, an instructor in Harvard’s Buddhist Ministry Initiative who is also a teacher within the Karmapa’s lineage.
The Dalai Lama has been a teacher and mentor to Dorje ever since the young Karmapa made a dramatic escape from Tibet at the age of 14 to settle in India. There is a rival claimant to his title, but Dorje has the support of the Dalai Lama and the majority of Tibetans, many of whom believe he will take over the Dalai Lama’s leadership role when the 79-year-old Nobel laureate dies.
The Karmapa’s main event in the Boston area was a public talk, titled “Caring for Life on Earth in the Twenty-first Century,” that filled Harvard University’s Memorial Church to capacity. In it, the Karmapa exhorted his audience to care for all life and spoke about the importance of cultivating compassion and concern for the environment.
“The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the air we breathe have all arisen interdependently,” he said, speaking through a translator. “We cannot survive alone. We cannot eat, wear clothes or breathe alone. The more keenly we are aware of this, the more we will begin to take responsibility for the welfare of other beings.”
The lecture drew together a broad swath of Boston residents, from Harvard faculty and administrators to college students to local Buddhist practitioners and members of the Boston area’s large Tibetan community.
According to Tenzin Wangchuk, 41, who runs his own construction business in Boston, visits by Tibetan leaders like the Karmapa and the Dalai Lama raise the Tibetan community’s profile and build awareness for its cause.
“With the Karmapa, obviously, it is awareness,” said Wangchuk. “People start reading about him, knowing about him, and then they want to know who he is and what’s the history. It’s all linked. It does kind of make a difference.”
That kind of community involvement is part of why the divinity school felt it was important to host the Karmapa in a venue like Memorial Church, where members of the public would have a chance to hear him speak.
In addition to his public talk, the Karmapa held a series of meetings with students in Harvard Divinity School’s Buddhist studies and Buddhist ministry programs. According to students who attended, those talks touched on issues like race, feminism and sexuality that many Tibetan teachers have traditionally shied away from.
Rod Owens came to the divinity school to study ministry after completing a traditional three-year meditation retreat in the Karmapa’s lineage. As one of the few African-American teachers in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, he has been working with other teachers to address issues of race and racism within Buddhist communities.
“What he’s saying, essentially, is that we have to take our practice off of the (meditation) cushion into the world and become conscious of how we’re living together and impacting our environment — the physical environment and the environment of communities, relationships and so forth,” said Owens. “I think it’s part of his effort to make Buddhism relevant.”
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(March 24, 2015 – Redlands, California) As part of its evening to honor His Holiness the Karmapa, the University of Redlands invited Chung Shih Hoh of their music department to create a new musical arrangement of Aspiration for the World, a song composed by the 17th Karmapa as an ode to the planet. During the ceremony to confer his honorary degree, the 26-person University of Redlands Choral Singers offered an exquisite performance of the new arrangement, led by Nicholle Andrews. Accompanying them on the organ was Philip Hoch. The university offers this recording set to a slide show of the visit.
(March 23, 2105 – Redlands, California) As many a new student had done before him, His Holiness the Karmapa set out today for his first day of college classes, armed with a notebook and pen emblazoned with the name of the university on it. Like any other student at a private liberal arts college, His Holiness was signed up to take classes in various disciplines across the humanities—theatre arts and religious studies on his first day, music on his second.
Most students, however, are not greeted by the president of the university as they take their first step on campus. Most freshman in their very first class at college do not hear their classmates discuss a play they themselves have written. Nor does the university fly on its campus flagpole a flag associated with their lineage. Very certainly, most incoming students are not about to be granted an honorary doctorate on their second day of class.
Such was the not-so-typical first day of school for the 17th Karmapa today, as he enjoyed his very first university classroom experience. (Although His Holiness had interacted with students last week at Stanford University, his first visit to an American university, he did not sit in in any formal classes.)
At the University of Redlands, His Holiness the Karmapa was greeted at the foot of the steps to the administration building by President Ralph Kuncl, who then hosted him for tea in his office.
“The University of Redlands has an 108-year history,” the President told him, “and you are now part of that history—an important part.” President Kuncl was intrigued to hear that 108 is considered the most auspicious number in Buddhist culture.
The President then escorted him to this first class: Religious Studies 292 – Sacred Life Stories in Asian Religions. The class was taught by Professor Karen Derris, the professor who had previously brought two student groups to India to study with His Holiness in his monastery and later co-edited the book that resulted from those teachings:The Heart Is Noble: Changing the World from the Inside Out.
The opportunity to sit in on a religious studies class at a small liberal arts college allowed His Holiness the Karmapa to observe how the study of religion—and Buddhist studies more particularly—is conducted in an academic setting in North America. The topic of that day’s class was the lives of the women appearing in the life stories of Milarepa, and the role of community in women’s lives, with comparison to the Therigatha collection of verses of the first bhikshunis. The students had read both the standard biography of Milarepa by Tsangnyon Heruka and the script of the play composed by His Holiness the Karmapa himself, and viewed clips from a video of the production as well.
Professor Derris asked the students to compare the treatment of female characters in both works. Several observed that in the play she emerged as a more human character and less a plot device to get Milarepa on the path to Marpa. Only when reading the play, several students commented, were they able to imagine the emotions and see her as a mother desperate to protect her children.
Asked what they had learned about their own lives from reading the life of Milarepa, one law student commented that after observing how Marpa had guided Milarepa, he felt that he needed to completely reassess his concepts of punishment and rehabilitation. Another commented that thinking in terms of relationship that carry from one life to the next made her think more deeply about forgiveness and impermanence in her own experience.
His Holiness then took a group photo at the request of the students, and headed to his next class, in the Theatre Arts Building where the bright southern Californian sun illuminated the prayer flags hung in honor of his visit. This class was an advanced theatre class, as was more than fitting for someone who had already written and overseen the production of a six-act play on Bodhgaya. Although the 17th Karmapa had staged an elaborate production of the life of Milarepa at the age of 25, he had done so with no formal training or guidance. As such, the exposure to a structured process with extensive tools to aide in the production process proved an engaging class indeed. Both Nephelie Andonyadis, professor of theatre arts and Trevor Norton, director of production, led His Holiness the Karmapa through the stages that theatre students take in designing a play, from computer-aided design tools to the costume shop, and from set design and lighting.
After this second class of the day, it was time for lunch. However, no crowded dining hall awaited His Holiness the Karmapa, for the university had prepared a leisurely hilltop picnic for their guest and his full entourage. Although most of the students who had traveled to India to study with the 17th Karmapa had already graduated and scattered across the continent, nearly all of them had come back to be there when His Holiness visited, and this picnic celebrated their reunion with their teacher.
During the picnic, students had the opportunity to sit with His Holiness, share a meal and make an offering of music. Two of the students who had attended the course that yielded The Heart Is Noble were now engaged to marry, and presented His Holiness with an invitation to their wedding. As was expressed at the picnic by Kelly Hankin, director of the University of Redlands Johnston Center for Integrative Studies that had provided primary support for the courses in India, the gathering was not only a reunion but a renewal of the warm bonds between them.
After the Karmapa had hosted them so warmly in his monastery, the students were eager for the chance to welcome His Holiness and show him their home, and led him on a tour of their campus. First the students introduced His Holiness and his sister to the Redlands mascot, a bulldog named Thurber, and then showed him around a typical dorm and dining hall. When the campus tour led them to a computer lab, the students presented the Karmapa with his own student ID and password, and he logged in at an available workstation.
The tour meandered across campus to the fully sustainable, earth-sheltered environmental sciences building, where His Holiness tested terrain-modeling and other technologies. A visit followed to the university’s SURF garden, where students practice sustainable agriculture to supply both the university dining hall and local communities.
The next stop on the tour led His Holiness the Karmapa to the campus labyrinth, where the University Chaplain John Walsh welcomed him to plant a tree that University of Redlands was designating in his honor.
For his final stop of the day, His Holiness the Karmapa stopped at Bekins Hall, home to the Johnston Center living-earning community of which many of the students who had visited him in India had been members. All the residents of the hall awaited him on the lawn in front of their residence, and took one last joyful photograph with His Holiness before rather unusual day one at university was declared successfully completed.
(March 26, 2015 – Cambridge, Massachusetts) On his first day in Cambridge, His Holiness the Karmapa was invited to lunch at the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) on Harvard Square whose mission of preserving and making texts available lies close to the Karmapa’s heart. TBRC was founded in 1999 by the great Tibetologist Gene Smith with the goal of sustaining and making accessible to anyone, anywhere, the whole range of Tibetan literature.
During his visit, the Karmapa blessed the offices, and then the staff explained their work to him. TBRC scans texts and serves as a repository for eTexts, while cataloguing and organizing them all into a modern digital library, which makes them easy to find. TBRC also seeks out rare or undiscovered texts and makes everything available online and in remote locations. This largest Tibetan library in the world (over ten million pages scanned and one million pages of eTexts) is now a part of the Harvard Library so that the texts and immense database of information will be preserved into the distant future.
At the time of the Karmapa’s visit, the Executive Director, Jeff Wallman, was in Kathmandu on a research trip and sent a letter for the Karmapa, which read in part, “Our goal is to bring all the texts together so that there is no danger that they will ever be scattered, lost, or destroyed.” During the luncheon the Karmapa enjoyed a relaxed and animated conversation with the Tibetan staff about research and told them about his own project, Adarsha, which is also involved in preserving texts (the Litang Kangyur in particular) and opening them out for research through a variety of software tools.
When Gene Smith met the Karmapa in 2008, he had wanted to offer the Karmapa a rare Shangpa Kagyu text, but it had somehow disappeared. The staff was able to find it and now could fulfill Gene’s wish to present the Karmapa this special volume, nestled in a golden brocade-covered box. The Karmapa responded with a brief teaching for the staff and Board members. He praised Gene calling him a lord among scholars, and beyond this, his accomplishment in preserving and propagating Tibetan literature was immense. He was the greatest scholar of Tibetan Buddhism and his passing was a great loss, His Holiness said, yet his work and vision continue through TBRC. This was Gene’s greatest contribution since TBRC is the most important organization for the preservation of Tibetan literature and the Dharma, he added.
The Karmapa averred that it has made a huge difference in his own life. He said he uses the TBRC website all the time and appreciates it especially when he is traveling since he does not have to carry suitcases loaded with heavy books. In the future, the Karmapa proposed, “For the digital preservation of the Buddhist tradition, both spiritual and secular, we work together and continually share information.”
Before he posed for photos with the staff and Board, the Karmapa wrote in flowing and elegant calligraphy an inscription for TBRC:
The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, which I deeply admire, has rendered incomparable service to the spiritual and secular traditions of Tibet.
As Dharma communities and university students on the West Coast make the most of each moment of their time with His Holiness, back on the east coast, people are scrambling to use every remaining moment to have every last piece in place to receive His Holiness the Karmapa when their turn comes to do so.
In Manhattan, Jane Kolleeny and her team are busily pulling together all the conditions needed for the talk in Manhattan on April 14th, organized by Karmapa Foundation, with all proceedings going to support this two-month trip. Here is a report from the KF team in New York.
“Anticipation is building as we prepare for His Holiness’s only appearance in Manhattan, at the New York Ethical Culture Society on April 14th. It’s a beautiful space with a great history. We recently were went on a team walkthrough through the dark-wooden hall, getting ready to welcome the Karmapa. The staff of the venue was very excited as well!
“The next day, we visited ABC Carpet & Home, the legendary store off Union Square, to pick out furnishings and carpets to transform and uplift the space and welcome His Holiness back to New York.”
Twenty-nine year old Tibetan man, Orgyen Trinley Dorje - the 17th Karmapa - is currently on a two-month lecture tour of prestigious US universities, including Harvard, Princeton and Yale. Tickets for all events were immediately sold out. Who is this monk who, after visiting the headquarters of Google and Facebook, spoke about the need for a kinder internet culture? Why are so many people seeking his advice and inspiration in the 21st Century?
I first met the 17th Karmapa ten years ago at his monastery in the foothills of the Dhauladar mountains near Dharamsala, India. It was my first visit to India to study at a Hindu ashram on the Ganges. For the flight over, I spontaneously bought 'Dance of 17 Lives' by Mick Brown, a fascinating account of his life and the Karmapa lineage. It left a remarkable impression of a 'Living Buddha' and decided I had to visit him after the ashram. Even though I came from a secular, atheist background, when I met him it felt like coming home to the embrace of a long-lost friend. Here was a person who embodied wisdom, love and compassion in human form.
The Karmapa has been teaching in India since 2000, after escaping from increasing Chinese surveillance and restriction in occupied Tibet. His influence and wisdom are now becoming global with his first trip to Germany last year and his third trip to the US this month. He consistently speaks about the importance of compassion for animals, the environment and gender equality.
In terms of vegetarianism, he is one of the most vocal on this issue after abandoning meat himself a few years ago. Tibetans have a cultural tradition of eating meat, which has continued even in exile, sometimes leading to tension with Hindus and western Buddhists. In January 2007, at the annual Kagyu Prayer Festival in Bodh Gaya, India, I was present when the Karmapa gave a strong teaching advocating vegetarianism and forbidding monks and nuns eating meat by banning consumption of it in his exile monasteries. Citing Buddhist scripture and logic, he argued that eating meat was contradictory to compassion and not killing. Many meat-eating Tibetans and westerners came away 'shocked' by the clarity and strength of his teaching on it.
Again at Harvard, this week, the Karmapa spoke of his horror as a child witnessing Tibetan nomads suffocating animals slowly to death. Going on to describe how mass technology and farming methods have led to a situation where many people have completely lost touch with what meat is and how it comes to be in its packaged form in the supermarkets; how that innate, 'uneducated' form of compassion we feel as children is often lost as adults.
"I miss that degree of genuine, unfabricated feeling...In a sense, the most dangerous thing in the world is apathy. Unlike violence, warfare, and disease, which can be avoided, people cannot defend against apathy once it takes hold. I urge you to feel a love that is courageous -not like a heavy burden, but a joyous acknowledgement of interdependence."
The Tibetan Buddhist monastic culture, as opposed to the Buddhist teachings, also has a long history of patriarchal power and oppression of females. Only in the last few decades, after pressure from western female Buddhists such as Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo and Tsultrim Allione have changes begun to materialise. Until recently, female monastics were not educated to the same level as their male peers, were unable to receive the title Lama, Geshe or Khenpo and were generally excluded from the male-dominated tulku system, with a few notable exceptions. Recently, a German woman,Geshe Kelsang Wangmo was awarded the title 'Geshe' in India. A remarkable scholarly achievement for a non-native Tibetan speaker in itself, but even more so considering the numerous obstacles put in the way of nuns for centuries. The barrier has been broken and more female Geshes are on the horizon.
The 17th Karmapa has been instrumental in addressing gender inequality and the welfare of nuns not only through his words but actions. This year he stated:
"Monks and nuns are the same in being able to uphold the Buddha's teachings, and have the same responsibility to do so. However there has been a period when nuns have not really had the opportunity to uphold the teachings, and this has been a loss for all of us."
In 2014, he instituted the first annual debate gathering for nuns (normally only reserved for monks) and is pushing forward reforms to ensure full ordination rightstoo. At present, women in Tibetan Buddhism may take ordination as novice nuns, but they do not have the opportunity to take the highest level of ordination that the Buddha created for women: bhikshuni, or gelongma, ordination. While full ordination for women is available in Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese traditions, and has recently been reestablished for nuns in the Sri Lanka Theravada tradition, Tibetan Buddhism lags behind on this issue.
He has also undertaken to translate a volume of biographies of Chinese nuns from Chinese into Tibetan and is also planning to translate a collection of narratives of the lives of Buddha's direct female disciples from the literary Tibetan into colloquial Tibetan, in order to make the examples of these early nuns' lives more available to modern Tibetan readers.
These messages are also articulated in his excellent book,'The Heart is Noble' , a refreshing change from 'traditional' male religious leaders who still preach sexism, homophobia and intolerance. An authentic 21st Century spiritual leader who is kind, compassionate, wise and inclusive is one that everyone, regardless of race or religion, can feel joyously grateful about. In Karmapa's words:
It is time we truly recognize that the era of the hunter is past. This should be a more "feminine" era - an era when women make greater contributions to society. If we continue to devalue what women have to offer, we will continue harming women and continue overlooking and devaluing these virtues that are considered "feminine." And these are precisely the virtues that the world needs more now.
Karmapa stresses importance of caring for each other and the Earth
March 30, 2015
By Michael Naughton, Harvard Divinity School Communications
Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa (photo 1), who leads the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, guiding millions of Buddhists around the world, came to Harvard this past week. During his two-day visit he met with HDS Dean David N. Hempton (photo 2).
Besides epidemics, wars, violence, and starvation, there is another source of disaster that is often overlooked: “a lack of love.” So said His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, to a capacity crowd at Harvard’s Memorial Church during his visit last week.
“A lack of love can cause people to have no help when they need help, no friends when they need a friend,” Karmapa said. “So, in a sense, the most dangerous thing in the world is apathy. We think of weapons, violence, warfare, disease as terrible dangers, and indeed they are, but we can take measures to avoid them. But once our apathy takes hold of us, we can no longer avoid it.”
The 29-year-old Karmapa leads the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, guiding millions of Buddhists around the world. Born to a nomad family in eastern Tibet, the Karmapa was chosen as a child by followers of the previous Karmapa. While in training at the age of 14 he made a dramatic escape from Tibet to India to be near His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his own lineage teachers.
During a talk that was equally entertaining and enlightening, the Karmapa joked about using an interpreter even though he speaks English. “I do actually speak some English. I feel that I speak it poorly. I certainly don’t think my English is up to Harvard’s standards,” he said, evoking laughter from the nearly 1,000 people in attendance at the Thursday talk. He also joked about coming to the United States but being unable to sample the American barbecue he’s heard so much about because he is a vegetarian.armapa spoke on a range of topics, including Harvard Divinity School’s (HDS)Buddhist Ministry Initiative, his passion and efforts for environmental protection, and the need for religion in the world.
The Karmapa is considered an environmental activist. He’s created an eco-monastic movement with more than 55 monasteries across the Himalayas acting as centers of green activism. He sees religious leaders as important teachers and leaders in the environmental protection movement.
“There is so much information available to us nowadays about the environment and the need to protect it, but the problem that remains is that while everyone has access to this information, many people believe it as knowledge, but don’t particularly feel the need to do anything about [it],” he said. “One of my responsibilities is to encourage people as much as I can to actually make choices based upon accurate information about the environment.”
In addition to environmentalism, the Karmapa is passionate about young people. Much of his stay at Harvard was spent with students at HDS. On the second day of his visit, he had lunch with about 15 freshmen, meeting with a larger group of undergraduates at Phillips Brooks House.
Recently, the Karmapa announced plans to establish full ordination for women, a step that will change the future of Tibetan Buddhism. The mention of that effort earned him thunderous applause from those inside the Memorial Church.
He said he was very pleased to learn of the recent creation of the Buddhist Ministry Initiative at HDS because of work that will result from it.
“Especially because it’s not being approached merely as an objective study, or learning, or scholarship, but something that can actually be brought to bear on global issues, which means that even though it is connected with Buddhist tradition, in a sense it transcends it or grows beyond the boundaries of mere Buddhist tradition,” he said.
The Karmapa said he sees a necessity for religion and centers of learning that educate leaders of all faiths, like HDS, because the material and technological progress made by society cannot alone solve all of our problems.
“Even worse sometimes, we can lose direction in our lives because of material progress or luxury, and in such circumstances it is especially necessary for us to return to the study of spirituality and cultivate both wisdom and compassion,” he said.
The Karmapa’s talk, “Caring for Life on Earth in the 21st Century,” was sponsored by HDS, the Harvard College Freshman Dean’s Office, and the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation. His two-day visit to Harvard Divinity School also included blessings for his many Boston-area followers.
HDS Dean David N. Hempton presented the Karmapa with a commemorative bowl engraved with the Divinity School’s seal and marked with the date of his visit to Harvard.
HDS Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs Janet Gyatso, the Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies, helped organize the Karmapa’s visit.
“It is a historic occasion for Harvard Divinity School to welcome this wonderful and visionary young leader of Tibetan Buddhism for the first time. During his visit we talked with him about our programs in Buddhist studies, in the training of ministers and social activists more generally, and [about] a range of interests in what religious ethical insights have to offer the 21st century from across the entire University,” she said.
The Karmapa ended his talk at the Memorial Church by urging everyone to feel love.
“I urge you to feel a love that is courageous … the joyous acknowledgment of your interdependence with each and every other living being and with this environment itself,” he said.
The Karmapa visits Harvard
During a meeting with the Buddhist Ministry Initiative at Harvard Divinity School (HDS), his Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa gave a blessing to Priya Rakkhit Sraman, an HDS student who is a Buddhist monk from Bangladesh. Photos by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photograhper
The Karmapa is considered an environmental activist. He joked about coming to the United States but being unable to sample the American barbecue he's heard so much about because he is a vegetarian.
The Karmapa said he sees a necessity for religion and centers of learning that educate leaders of all faiths. He spoke with faculty and students at Andover Hall at HDS.
Harvard Divinity School Dean David N. Hempton introduced the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa at the Memorial Church, prior to the Karmapa's lecture titled “Caring for Life on Earth in the 21st Century.”
The Karmapa met with undergraduates at Phillips Brooks House. He'd also joined a group of about 15 undergrads for lunch earlier in the day.
Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman (left) sat with the Karmapa during a meeting at Phillips Brooks House. “I do actually speak some English. I feel that I speak it poorly. I certainly don't think my English is up to Harvard’s standards,” the Karmapa told an audience the day before.
The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa was escorted out of his car by security prior to a walking tour of Harvard Yard.
His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa spoke with a group from the Boston and Cambridge Tibetan communities inside the Braun Room in Andover Hall.
BYAZZA COHEN• CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST • MARCH 30, 2015
It’s a weekly event: a world leader is coming to Princeton’s campus! Insert illustrious title, sponsoring department, a moderator with a doctorate and a time and place to be there. Email lists are accurately alerted; details are scribbled or typed into calendars.
In his article “The Problem With Prestige” for the Nassau Weekly, Dayton Martindale questions our immediate instinct to line up for the old and the famous. We love snagging an orange ticket for Supreme Court Justices and big business leaders and past Presidents or Prime Ministers. They speak of their time (usually at an Ivy League or elite institution) and their career path that lead them to a title with capitalized letters.
His Holiness the 17th Karmapa will speak on Wednesday. I lined up at noon when tickets became available, but was surprised to find that not all had been claimed.
Perhaps you have not heard of the Karmapa. His full name is Ogyen Drodul Trinley Dorje the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, and depending on the decision of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on whether or not to reincarnate, will ostensibly be the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. His title of “Karmapa”means“the one who carries out Buddha-activity” or “the embodiment of all the activities of the buddhas.” And he is only 29 years old.
The Karmapa leads hundreds of thousands of Buddhists in Tibet, in exile and around the world. In March alone, he spoke at Stanford University, the University of Redlands and Harvard Divinity School to sold-out audiences of students, faculty and members of the Tibetan diaspora.
The Karmapa has neither PhD nor political title, but neither of these deficiencies detracts from his remarkable life story. Recognized at seven years old as His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, as a fourteen year old he trekked by car, foot, horseback and helicopter from Tsurphu, Tibet to Dharmsala, India where he was granted refugee status. Since his journey, he has been both an active teacher and student. In addition to his monastic training, he studies science and English, wrote and produced a six-act play, founded an initiative to turn monasteries into centers for environmental sustainability, and launched aneffortto establish full ordination of women within Tibetan Buddhist tradition. One might call it a “nontraditional career path;” the Karmapa has led a rich life of diverse leadership experiences, and, if you believe, he also has the wisdom of sixteen lives already lived.
Damaris Miller ’15 is especially looking forward to the Karmapa’s talk, as she will be beginning a Labouisse Prize-funded independent project to work with Khoryug, the Karmapa’s environmental advocacy initiative. “We [Princeton students] go see people because they have expertise. What’s cool about receiving the Karmapa’s teachings is that it’s not just intellectual or familiar; it’s challenging you to consider and reflect upon the ways you are living. And to actually live them, not just to understand the differences.”
Of course, students might flock to Supreme Court justices because they are interested in law or the life path of the person, but mostly, I posit, we fill the seats of Richardson so we can listen to the elite and figure out their brilliance; they just might reveal the secrets of their successes. We bring our notebooks and laptops and full attention spans in order to absorb how best to emulate those who have paved the way before us. We trust that those with extensive years in the most maximized positions of society will tell decode the mysteries of politics or business when really, in general, they just offer sound bytes that we’ve already read.
I challenge Princeton to consider the Karmapa as equally and immediately important in our everyday lives as any President. None of us will lead a life quite like the Karmapa (there are no Tibetan undergraduate students currently at Princeton, according to a map analysis by Nihar Madhavan ’15), but that does not mean his extraordinary life path cannot be relevant to our lives as students. Perhaps the best secrets to success will be dressed in this monk’s maroon robes: prioritizing a talk on kindness, activism and morality surely has resonance for students wanting to lead happy, productive lives.
Recently, the Karmapa gave atalkat the TED India conference where he spoke about connecting mind to mind and heart to heart. He told the story of a meeting with a delegation from Afghanistan and their discussion on theTaliban bombing at Bamiyan, the site of two 1,700-year-old statues of Lord Buddha. One would imagine the young monk might foster some resentment, but instead he said, “The bomb was just a depletion of matter, and maybe we can look at it like the falling of the Berlin wall. Maybe we can see it as a start of open communication — we can always look for a way to find something positive.”
I have certainly enjoyed lectures from the famous politicians and lawyers and writers and scientists to which Princeton gives us access. But why not open our minds to the idea that the leader of the Tibetan people might be equally interesting? We seek ideas we have previously sought, of the men and women we aspire to be. There is nothing wrong with that. However, Princeton is a place to expand our minds and absorb alternate perspectives — it is therefore essential that we not only listen to the people whose names grace our news headlines, but listening to people we didn’t think we wanted to listen to.
Azza Cohen is a history major from Highland Park, Ill. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 17th Karmapa sits down in a chair in front of the words Harvard Divinity School. To the right, “Psalter 119, Hymns 146,145.” The spotlights are in his eyes—he points to his eyes with two fingers in a V and he looks like…who is it…familiar…oh no, when he does this he looks like Larry Wilmore! The big man sitting next to him is dressed in black with a red cape-like shawl—is it a Bishop? It is Harvard Divinity School. No, it’s his translator. He is being introduced now and taps his foot.. Now Janet Gyatso (Buddhist scholar) is speaking about his history, and is dwarfed by the giant golden eagle on the podium. I can see a little bit of her white hair over his eagle head. The first Karmapa was born in 1193. The 17th is moving around now in his chair as he hears about all his previous incarnations. The 16th Karmapa could communicate with birds and animals. He wanted pet shops in every city he visited. This Karmapa was born to nomads in 1985 and escaped to India in 2000. He received a “veritable treasure trove of teachings.” He is a vegetarian, playwright, loved animals. He will fully ordain women (big applause).
The Karmapa speaks. Begins with mmmm, mmmm, and a smile. Like something Ram Dass would do. He is speaking Tibetan. “I speak English poorly—not up to Harvard’s standards.” In his Tibetan, I hear the English words “plastic surgery.” Of course, no Tibetan word for that. He says many people say he looks like the 16th, but if so he must have had plastic surgery. He is being humble. The 17th had visited Harvard in the seventies. I had been there then—his sangha had borrowed our Tibetan rugs for the stage. “I am glad to be back here,” speaking as if the 16th and 17th were one and the same, which they are. Everything he says is translated, giving us time to absorb his words. “The real essence of Buddhism is interdependence. It is not a mere philosophical idea.” We have to figure out how to apply it to our lives. “In the 21rst century, social media makes our interdependence more obvious than before. From one point of view, we have more information to help us understand things, but it can be TMI.” I know he’d just been in Silicon Valley, at Google and Facebook. It feels like a conversation over lunch with an old friend who is sharing what’s on his mind and how his recent travels have affected that. It is intimate in a very natural way. He is talking about becoming a vegetarian after growing up eating meat. “I can remember as a child in the autumn we would slaughter animals.” It was mostly done by binding their mouths and they would suffocate. It takes ½ hour for them to die this way. Painful. They become covered with sweat as they try to breathe. “I had an unbearable feeling watching this, so they would send me away…. I don’t know if that was real compassion—I was very young—but nevertheless I had a deep feeling of sorrow. I am now educated in compassion but it was that natural uneducated compassion I had as a child” that influenced me. “I think that children have a capacity for genuine love and compassion…. I think we can extend this to all living beings. It’s an innate part of being human.”
My eyes are watering from allergies, or maybe I am crying for the suffocating animals, and I have a pain in my stomach carried back from Cayman Brac last week. He is immensely likable, very present, wise, just here talking to us. “We were born with the compassion button switched on and as adults it gets switched off.” Compassion is what led him to be vegetarian. “People ask me ‘What’s your favorite food?’ I’d say meat but I can’t because I gave up eating it.” In America we don’t see where meat comes from. “A child might think it is something they make at the supermarket.”
Now the Tibetan speakers are laughing as he speaks in Tibetan. We have to wait for the joke. I hope it doesn’t get lost in translation. He is telling about how, when he still ate meat in India, people would tell him about how good bar-b-que is in America, but he never got to eat any. Now he passes a sign now on the side of the road saying “Texas Bar-B-Que,” and his mouth salivates.
“When we talk about having compassion after the many disasters in the world, one source of disaster we fail to recognize is the lack of love in the world. We think of weapons and warfare as terrible, and they are, but apathy, lack of love, is a bigger disaster.” “Develop a love that is courageous—a joyous acknowledgement of interdependence.”
Then it is over, and and a group of us goes out to dinner. I don’t think anyone orders meat.