VOA Kunleng interviews the head of the Karma Kagyud school of Buddhsim on a range of topics including China’s plans to control the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, revival of fully ordained Buddhist nuns, his interest in art and calligraphy, and his ongoing visit to American universities, high tech companies, and Buddhist organizations..
Robert Sturm/Courtesy Of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra
Tibetan Buddhist leader Ogyen Tringley Djore speaking at UPAC in Kingston on April 18.
The translator was laughing so hard he could not speak. He seemed to have heard the funniest thing in his life. We were all waiting for the English version of what Ogyen Tringley Djore, the Tibetan Buddhist leader known as the 17th Karmapa, had said.
Karma Triyana Dharmachakra monastery in Woodstock is the Karmapa's North American base. He was here on his second visit to the United States when he offered a teaching at UPAC in Kingston on April 18.
The translator, Lama Yeshe Tyamtso, tried to compose himself, but without much success. He finally seemed to find his center, then, after taking about two breaths, he burst into laughter again. Laughing like the Buddha himself, wrapped in his bright red robe, which the color of his cheeks now matched, sitting at the Karmapa's feet in his headset with pad and pencil still in his hands. Not your average stone-faced interpreter.
Djore, for his part, was placidly watching this scene, mildly bemused. By this time, the audience was getting the giggles. I am one of those people who notices moments of actual transcendence and this was one of them.
Finally, Lama Yeshe could speak. "The sad part is, it won't be as funny when I translate it." Still, everyone wanted to know.
One persistent theme of Djore's talk was urging caution around religious traditions, especially if they're adhered to mindlessly for their own sake. In that context, he was explaining that there are certain traditions that don't help the cause.
For example, if you visit Tibet and come home with a souvenir skull and put it on your altar, it might frighten your family and make them think you're into something really weird. They would not have an accurate notion of your practice. So you don't have to do that kind of thing.
That, for whatever reason—the teacher's inflection, or some reference to his personal experience—is what Lama Yeshe found so funny.
Djore is known as a young, up-and-coming Tibetan leader who is actually with it. He's just 29, he follows and talks about current events, and as far as I could tell, he has a clue what people are facing at our time in history. There is a tradition in Tibetan Buddhism of offering practical information that one can actually use, rather than complex, abstract spiritual theories that seem neither to have feet nor to touch the ground.
Djore had a lot to say about the difference between religion and spirituality. This seemed to be the dominant theme of the day's teaching.
As he understood the terms as currently used in the United States, he explained, religion is what you do because it's handed to you by tradition or by your family. You don't necessarily know why you do it, or what it means. Spirituality, by contrast, involves a process of personal exploration and direct experience of life. It's not about following the choreography of tradition; rather, you dive into a journey, make discoveries, and actually learn what works for you.
People who have unusual spiritual experiences often get the attention of others, but then their direct experiences are typically codified into religions, and the seed experience is typically forgotten. Djore offered what he called an imperfect metaphor.
Imagine that the Buddha is in a hall, speaking to his disciples. He finishes speaking and says that the only way out of the hall is to his right. Then he leaves, to the right (experiencing what in context seemed to be a Tibetan word for enlightenment). His followers, though, stay behind in the hall, for hundreds of years.
They remember what the Buddha said about only exiting to his right, and that he walked out of the hall that way. What they don't know is that he said that because there wasn't a door on the left. Now, many years later, there is one, but nobody is paying attention to the original intent of the teacher's words. First "exit to the right" becomes a rule, then a religious dogma. Nobody uses the lefthand exit, but they don't understand why.
I took the metaphor on the surface level, though it also seemed to apply to the "right" and "left" paths indicated in many traditions—those of purity and passion, respectively. (These align with the white path and the red path, also illustrated in the Hierophant tarot card.) You can experience your Buddha nature either way. Yet, to experience the lefthand exit, you would typically have to break a tradition, rule, or dogma. But those are the only things that are stopping you. The door is there if you want it. Remember it's there. Remember it's open.
This is a radical teaching. It may not sound like it, though part of the message comes through who the teacher is. The teacher doesn't make the message more correct, only more compelling. What he's saying, as I understand it, is to remember that passion and worldly experience are valid teachers. You don't need to take a conservative monastic path in order to learn and grow. You can live, and live consciously, and also grow, and express your soul's intent.
Another theme introduced early in the day was fear. Most spiritual teachers will tell you that you need to feel less fear. Djore has a different spin. He first explained that fear is what biological instinct intends people to feel in the case of immediate danger. If there's a tiger about to pounce on you, fear is a natural response. He called this existential fear.
But there are things in our current environment that we need to be fearful about, but which typically we are not. One example is climate change (a persistent topic for him). We really should be concerned about that, but for some reason it doesn't register. He likened it to being told that in three months, a tiger will cross your path; most people would not worry, because it's not going to happen for a while.
Concern about climate change requires thought and analysis. And this, he said, most people are not bothering with. This is the kind of fear you really need. What he did not say, though maybe he's said it elsewhere, is that many people experience constant anxiety, which is a form of abstract fear that's based neither on actual danger nor on a reasoning process. My impression is that anxiety is taking up most of the time, space, and energy that would be better devoted to analysis.
Instead, people cut themselves off and don't feel much of anything. He likened this to a particular kind of lack of love he called apathy—the idea that "It's not my business, I'm not involved, this isn't my responsibility." These become excuses for acting in unloving ways toward our neighbors. It's not the overt kind of unloving, but rather refusing to be present or helpful when you're needed. They're a big problem in a world where people tend to look after themselves and their immediate family, and look for excuses not to offer themselves to the wider community.
Then people see one another not caring. The next level of excuse becomes "I don't care because you don't care," and we end up with the world we have today. This is the logic of a world where love is severely lacking, and where we've limited our capacity to love. Everyone "understands" this, because the excuse has a certain benefit—they don't have to go out of their way, or take the time and energy required to help. And as a result, the world spirals into a dark place where compassion is often lacking.
Later, he returned to the theme of religion. One of the teachings of the Buddhist path is not worshipping what he called "mundane gods." These he described as powers with whom we cut deals, make offerings, and presumably receive protection from our misdeeds. Mundane gods get in the way of your connection to spirit or source—the Buddha within.
But he also was cautious about doing what he described as externalizing the Buddha. Whether you worship the Buddha as outside of yourself, or a mundane god outside of yourself, what you're really demonstrating is lack of self-confidence.
Self-confidence is the most basic, useful kind of faith. When you lack that kind of confidence or faith, you're likely to project it on some external authority or object. That will in turn further weaken your self-confidence. So if you want to strengthen your confidence or faith, withdraw your worship of external gods, and focus on your true inner nature. I would consider that a practical teaching—the best I've ever heard on the theme of confidence.
Part of the day's program involved an introduction to what are called the three jewels of Buddhism—the three core concepts that compose the heart of the philosophy. These are Buddha, Dharma, and Sanga. Like all his other teachings, the Karmapa reinterpreted these somewhat, making them more accessible. Buddha is the teacher, the awakened one—which can refer to the guy himself, or to the Buddha nature within. You could think of the Buddha nature as loving self-awareness that embraces the world. Said another way, it's being awake.
Dharma is your process along the journey; it's what you actually do. Sanga is the family of your brothers and sisters already on the path.
More traditional forms of Buddhism define these a bit more rigidly. For example, Dharma is sometimes defined as following the teachings of the Buddha. The Karmapa said that following the teachings and correct action are the same thing. Sanga is traditionally defined not as the community but as the priesthood. He expanded the idea a bit. The implication here is that we are all ministers of compassion; we are all teachers. Sanga is the community of those who are helping.
The afternoon session involved what Buddhists call the taking of refuge vows. I've been involved in my community as a kind of messenger or teacher for a long time. It was amazing being in a room of 1,500 people, all of whom were promising to be more helpful.
Taking a guess, I would say that about half of us there were locals from in and around the Woodstock area. Imagine if all of those people really took that vow to heart; imagine if there really were a focus on loving self-awareness, love-in-action, and honoring the family of those who are helping.
It would take far fewer people than that to completely transform a community—even a large one. Teaching through action (Dharma) has a way of spreading the light, slowly though it may seem.
Apathy deepens the darkness. Dharma is the correct response. It was very encouraging both to hear this and to know that the idea was being given a credible endorsement.
The thing I don't understand about apathy as a choice—that is, about pretending that everything is someone else's business—is that it's so painful. I may have to go out of my way in order to help someone, but I feel better when I do it. I would feel no better if I chose not to; personally, I am helpful to be helpful and because it feels good to. Helping, or acting in a loving way, spreads the positive energy. If someone has helped you, you're more likely to help someone else.
Typically, we get caught in the negative expression of this principle, the logic "Nobody wants to help me and I don't want to help anyone." We get this message a lot—it's the very core of the neoconservative, Ayn Rand-based social theory that altruism does not exist. Take note that, in fact, altruism is self-serving because it makes you happier and helps you feel less isolated.
The thing is, in our world, it takes a spiritual master on the level of the Karmapa to point this out, if anyone is going to believe it. We think we need a reincarnated expression of the Buddha himself to tell us that our lives will be better if we're more willing to open ourselves up and offer our goodwill.
Both events will be streamed live over the Internet, and both events will be available for later viewing on the Karmapa’s YouTube channel.
KarmapaAmerica2015.org, the official Web site for His Holiness the 17th Karmapa’s U.S. visit, will be transmitting many of His Holiness’ activities live during the two months of this trip. Wherever possible, they will be webcasting Spanish and Chinese translation as well as English.
To view live, visitkagyuoffice.org/webcast, where you will also find a countdown clock to the next scheduled webcast and tools to determine your local time zone for each webcast. After the transmission, the teachings will be uploaded to YouTube and can be viewed online. Subscribe to the Karmapa YouTube Channelto get notifications whenever videos have been uploaded there.
Ogyen Trinley DorjeCREDITILLUSTRATION BY TOM BACHTELL
On Saturday, His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the top lama in the Karma Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism, led a prayer ceremony at Riverside Church for the victims of the earthquake in Nepal. It is for such work (alleviating suffering, raising funds) that he’d come to America, in March, to take a tour of colleges and temples—and perhaps why he’d been born, if you believe, as Tibetans do, that he is the embodiment of Chenrezig, the Buddha of compassion. But is the Karmapa not a man? A few weeks before the earthquake, His Holiness was eating vegan Thai takeout at the home of a Princeton chemistry professor, which overlooked a golf club’s sixteenth fairway. Someone asked the Karmapa to name his favorite food. “Meat,” he said. “But you’re a vegetarian.” “Exactly.” This was a small private reception, an appropriate occasion for levity. Still, there were almost as many security personnel as guests. The Karmapa is holy man, political eminence, and celebrity in one. Before dinner, as he addressed a question about whether suffering had increased in the past hundred years, one of the bodyguards, a Tibetan in a suit, squatted to tend to something on the floor. It looked as though he was using a credit card to herd a crumb. It was an ant. His Holiness was born in Tibet in 1985. His recognition as the Karmapa, at the age of seven, was based on an interpretation of a secret document left behind by the sixteenth Karmapa, and was eventually endorsed by the Dalai Lama, the Chinese government, and three of the four relevant Rinpoches. (There have been a few rival claimants.) He fled Tibet at fourteen, and made his way, by jeep, foot, horse, helicopter, rental car, and train, to New Delhi and then to Dharamsala, where he has held court ever since. You might say that, in the pantheon of Buddhist celebrities, only the Dalai Lama surpasses him. One Princeton student likened him to Justin Bieber. “Except imagine if Justin Bieber had been pronounced, from age seven, the most perfectly compassionate and wise being.” The Karmapa came to Princeton because he wanted to be a college student for a day. “It’s very important for me to feel this sort of sadness,” he said. He attended some classes: sculpture (on an iPhone, he had shown students his drawings—one of a tiger would look great on the side of a van); gender studies and sexuality (the Karmapa has led a campaign to allow the full ordination of Buddhist nuns, a radical position that has earned him a reputation as a feminist). In a meditation group, a student said, “We really investigated our own suffering and the source of our suffering and the sources of suffering everywhere. Do you have any questions about this?” The Karmapa responded, “No, not really.” Bare-armed and robed in maroon, the skin under his fingernails bright pink, the Karmapa had a sensuous aspect, which, combined with his husky voice and slightly slurred speech, brought to mind mid-career Muhammad Ali. He spoke through a translator, a lama from Woodstock, and also in English. His Holiness likes hip-hop. His sandals slap when he walks. At one point, he recalled a penchant of some Tibetan teachers for using stinging nettles as a lash: “Very, very vicious.” His facial gestures were elastic and performative: bulging eyes, exaggerated grimaces and sighs, and double takes to accompany his own jokes. He wore square rimless glasses. “People think I’m intelligent, but I’m not so sure,” he said. “Intelligent people have a danger. It’s easy for them to be boring.” After the reception, His Holiness was driven to a campus building dedicated to religious life. In a café in the basement, students were hosting a spiritual open-mike night. He sat at a table in the corner, with his translator and his sister, Jetsun Ngodup Pelzom, a wary-looking woman in a long gray skirt and a pink fleece. Students stood to recite poetry, sing, and read. The first up had a poem: “This is how God walks through the playground / Not a terribly bright student but consistent / No one goes near him during recess.” The Karmapa took notes on a yellow pad. Actually, he was writing poems. He handed the pad to the Woodstock lama, who translated them into English. A woman gave an account of meeting the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. Another read from the end of “Paradise Lost.” The basement had the close smell of a dorm room or the skin under a wristwatch. A girl read some gender-bending passages from the Gnostic Gospels, and, upon explanation, the Karmapa said, “Sounds like Tantra.” His Holiness could not summon the courage to go up to the mike and read one of his own poems. He felt a little shy, and unsure of his English. He and his entourage left early and headed back to their hotel to get some sleep. School night. ♦ http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/05/11/karmapa-on-campus
Today on May 2nd 2015, all the Tibetan, Himalayan brothers and sisters and loving American friends from New York/New Jersey met up at the Riverside church to pray for the tragic earthquake that hit Nepal. This tremor killed hundreds and thousand of innocent people, destroyed homes, created tears and destroyed Nepal itself. This prayer received the attendance of His holiness the 17th Gayalwang Karma pa also. More than 9,000 dollars were donated to this cause but what make us touching was that His Holiness the 17th Gayalwang Karmapa donated 200,000 dollars to Nepal quake survivors. His Holiness said “Nepal and Tibet is like a family and very connected through history and it is our duty to support on this tragic situation of Nepal”.
Around 2000 people from different region joined the 'Monlam' with His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, at the Riverside Church, NY on May 2nd, 2015.
This Monlam, a mass prayer, initiated and lead by His Holiness himself for the victims of massive Nepal earthquake which took several thousands of lives recently. His Holiness after the prayers said, "We have gathered here today, to pray for those who passed away and to comfort for those who survived." His Holiness thanked many countries and organisations, who have extended their relief effort in Nepal.
In the end, His Holiness added, "I wanted to offer my strongest prayer for the good and happy rebirth of all those who have passed away due to this earthquake. And the quick elevation for those who have suffered and they all be speedily return to a state of comfort and happiness. His Holiness assured the people that he will do whatever he can to help the victims of this earthquake.
His Holiness has earlier instructed a committee called, "Karmapa Service Society-Earthquake Relief Committee" comprised of Kagyu monasteries and Karmapa Service Society to carry out the relief works in Nepal.
HIS HOLINESS THE GYALWANG KARMAPA HAS DONATED $ 200,000 AID FOR THE VICTIMS OF THIS DISASTER AND TO HELP WITH THE TASK OF REBUILDING.
The people who gathered for the monlam also contributed their part towards this relief work in Nepal. And Karmapa Service Society-Earthquake Relief Committee will make sure this aid goes to the right place.
The monks and volunteer there are doing the best they could. And are trying to reach specially to those places where help couldn't reach much.
Let's pray that the people affected by this earthquake will soon strengthen themselves and rebuild thier lives.
(May 2, 2015 – New York, New York) His Holiness the Karmapa led a massive prayer assembly for victims of the devastating earthquake that took the lives of thousands and left countless more injured and homeless in Nepal, and also affected people Tibet, India and Bangladesh. Several thousand people from across the Himalayan region joined together, filling Manhattan’s Riverside Church to offer their intense prayers and spiritual practice. During the prayer session, the Karmapa expressed how deeply Tibetans feel the suffering when disaster strikes the Nepalese people, and urged the audience to do all they could to help. The event was co-sponsored by Tsurphu Labrang and Karmapa Service Society, and all donations made during the event will go directly to support relief efforts in Nepal. The prayer session on Saturday in New York culminated a week of activity by the 17th Karmapa seeking to benefit the victims of the April 25 earthquake.
Although his travel schedule had been postponed a week to allow time for rest, His Holiness spent much of the week engaged in prayer as well as in practical measures to care for victims of the earthquake. Hours after a devastating 7.9 earthquake in Nepal, His Holiness issued a statement of condolence, calling on the Karma Kagyu monasteries to take steps to protect their surrounding communities. At the same time, he began directing relief efforts from afar, asking that material and monetary funds be sent to Nepal from India.
His Holiness at once sent instructions to ship to Nepal all the more than 100 tents that are used to house monks and nuns during the annual Kagyu Monlam winter gathering on Bodhgaya, India. These sturdy tents are waterproof and windproof, and can comfortably fit a dozen people. They had been originally purchased and consecrated to use as part of the Garchen (Great Encampment) re-inaugurated several years ago, but the Karmapa has now offered them for use by the earthquake victims. In the days that followed, His Holiness sent an emissary from his administration (Tsurphu Labrang) to Nepal as his representative, and has continued to encourage ongoing relief efforts.
On Saturday, His Holiness the Karmapa led an assembly that included Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, Lama Norlha Rinpoche, dozens of monks and nuns and some 2,000 members of the public, including many from across the Himalayan region. Long before the doors opened, the line snaked around the ample block of this Upper West Side cathedral, and once allowed to enter, the subdued crowd swiftly and solemnly took their seats.
The event began with an introductory speech by Karma Namgyal on behalf of Karmapa Service Society, which had organized the event at His Holiness the Karmapa’s urging. The large number of Nepalese in attendance was attested to by the applause that punctuated key moments of his speech, delivered in Nepalese.
Together, the large assembly engaged in the practice of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig), the Buddha of Compassion, using a liturgical text composed by Tangtong Gyalpo, a 15th-century master renowned for the practical aid he offered, building countless iron bridges in Tibet. His Holiness further led those gathered through the prayer to be reborn in Amitabha’s pure land of Sukhavati. Next was a session of practice supplicating Tara, known for her swift intervention to engage in enlightened activity to care for beings, followed by supplications to the Mahaguru Padmasambhava, known for his control of the elements and his special connection to the Himalayan region. Several cycles of special prayers were aimed at the particular welfare of the Himalayan and Tibetan people.
At the close of the prayer session, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa addressed the assembly, which included large numbers of people with family in the affected region of the Himalayas.
“I would like to express my gratitude,” the Karmapa said, “to the many countries and organizations that have extended a hand in love to offer relief and aid to those affected by the catastrophe. When such a terrible disaster strikes Nepal, Tibetans feel the pain particularly intensely and feel a special concern because Nepal was the birthplace of our teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni, and because of the very close cultural and religious ties between Tibetans and the people of Nepal.
“Based on the prayers we made today, may all those who passed away due to this earthquake attain a happy and positive rebirth and may all the pain and suffering of the survivors swiftly be eased and may they be able to rebuild and create new homes full of happiness. This is my sincere and intense prayer,” he said.
“From my side I will do everything within my power for those in Nepal. As far as those within Tibet, there is little direct aid I can offer, however, whatever else I can offer, I will do. Whatever support all of you here can offer to ease the sufferings of all those beings afflicted with pain and suffering, directly or indirectly, with your body, speech and mind, I encourage you all to do your utmost. This would be wonderful. Many people have come here today and I thank you for your efforts to be here.”
Once His Holiness had departed, many members of the public came forward to contribute to the relief efforts, which will be overseen by Karmapa Service Society’s Nepal organization, Karmapa Seva Samaj Nepal.
(April 25, 2015 – Woodstock, New York) On the first rest day set aside for His Holiness the Karmapa, a devastating earthquake took the lives of thousands of people in Nepal, as well as in India, Tibet and Bangladesh. Within hours, His Holiness the Karmapa composed a letter of condolence (full text below) and immediately sent instructions to his administration in India directing them to offer material and funds for the relief effort. He later additionally led Mahakala practice at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, his North American seat.
The full text of his statement is as follows:
Today, on the morning of the 25th of April, in Nepal, the land where Lord Buddha was born, there occurred a devastating earthquake. Many thousands of people have been killed or injured, and historic buildings and private homes have been turned into ruins. As soon as I learned of this painful and distressing situation, I made my deepest aspiration prayers and dedications for all the people affected, and continue to do so. Especially at times when we are faced with such a desperate situation, we cannot sit idle, unfeelingly. We must join forces and carry the burden of sorrow together. It is important that each one of us light the lamp of courage. Additionally, it is important that each of the Karma Kagyu monasteries in Nepal, while looking after their own pressing needs for immediate protection, also extend any and all aid and protection they can to the public in their surrounding communities. From my own side, I will make every effort to come personally in the near future to offer my solace and support as well.
The Tibetan text may be found on the official website of the Karmapa here.
Remarkable, moving, inspirational account of HIS HOLINESS 16TH KARMAPA'S ILLNESS AND PARINIRVANA as related by his physician, Dr. Mitchell Levy
THE FINAL ILLNESS AND PARINIRVANA OF HIS HOLINESS 16TH KARMAPA
Dr. Mitchel Levy’s remarkable account of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa’s final illness and passing into parinirvana:
"I first saw His Holiness in May of 1980. Now he had cancer and had come to America to get worked on and to see if he had any further cancer in his body. His cancer was on top of serious diabetes, which he had had much of his life. I was engaged as his primary physician at that time.
"When he arrived, we did a full workup on him. That was somewhat uneventful. A few things do stick out in my mind about that period. First of all, there was a thread that began here and ran through all the rest of my contact with him as physician. There was nothing other than a feeling of business as usual from His Holiness' point of view. This was just another experience, and this happened to be an experience of finding out whether his cancer was going to kill him or not. But, in a way, to him, it didn't make any difference one way or the other. You could have been talking about chicken soup.
"From this time until the moment when he died the next year, there was always this thread of basic and tremendously overwhelming presence. His warmth and the clarity of his own mind through all these experiences were unfailing. It was very simple. I would say, 'Do you have this pain or do you have that pain?' And we would get rather complex with our questions. Almost inevitably, our line of questions led to a lot of smiling on his part, and the response, 'No, no, there is nothing.' Then we would say, 'Well, how about...?' and he would say, 'No,' and we would say, 'Well, how about...?' and he would say, 'No.'
"We were always running into this kind of vastness of his state of mind. He was never willing to narrow things down and focus on himself. It is sort of like when you have questions about your meditation experience and you have the same feeling of just spinning your wheels. And he smiles at you. Well, the same thing would happen when we said, 'Are you in pain? Are you having discomfort after eating?' We would run into that same vast space.
"I think that that was very much a teaching situation for the medical people taking care of him. All of us, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, saw that there was no end point for His Holiness even in medicine, in bodily things. It wasn't, 'Yes, now you have hit upon it. That is where I have my pain.' We never got to that. So we would be frustrated and awed at the same time. The way he approached his own death is just another tool for working with others and trying to help them. I think this was a commonly shared experience among all of us taking care of him: wonderment and also confusion about why he wasn't following what we thought he should be doing, and amazement at his warmth and concern for others, no matter what was happening to him. This was the thread that ran up until the moment he died.
"The same day we did the workup, later we went in and had a meeting with His Holiness. I started to ask him the same sort of questions, and he would keep smiling and saying no or yes to certain of them.
Finally, at the end, he said to me, 'There is one thing that is very important for you to understand. If I am needed here to teach sentient beings, if I still have work to do here, then no disease will ever be able to overcome me. And if I am no longer really required to teach sentient beings, then you can tie me down, and I will not stay on this earth.' This was certainly an interesting way to get introduced to one's patient.
"The second time I saw His Holiness was in Hong Kong a number of months later. The first thing that impressed me was how much more weight he had lost and how much weaker and sicker he was, and also, at the same time, how he hadn't changed at all, in terms of his presence and his warmth.
"There was still this person lying in this bed who was absolutely dying of cancer, and he looked like he could have been there for a tonsillectomy. Every time I would walk into the room, he would smile and light up, and my mind would stop. And I would think, 'Wait a minute, who is taking care of whom here? He is supposed to be sick, not me.' And I started to want to go, 'Well, uh, here's what happened to me yesterday.'
"So, instead, I would look at him and say, 'How are you today?' And he would smile and say, 'I'm okay." And then I'd say, 'Well, are you having any pain?' And he would laugh and say, 'No. Not today.'
"This sort of became an ongoing joke of 'You have to look at me like I am sick, so go ahead and do your job. You know, and we will both pretend, that this is what is really happening.'
"This began to affect the nursing staff as well, because you have a fixed idea of what a sick, dying patient should be like, and he never would do it. He would always lie there and people would feel totally uncomfortable that they couldn't help this 'poor invalid person.' And this is the way it happened over and over again. He was just there doing what needed to be done for everybody else.
"What came out of my experiences in Hong Kong was the realization that His Holiness' state of mind was fundamentally unchangeable and that he was continually helping those around him. He was especially helping the four young tulkus [in their teens and early twenties] who were with him, the Rinpoches whom he had been training at his monastery in Sikkim since their childhood. His Holiness was helping them to accept what was going on.
"When I got to Hong Kong, I began to ask myself, 'Why is he dying now?' And I began to watch the way he dealt with the younger tulkus. He had brought up the four major Kagyu tulkus, and for some reason it turned out that they were all the same age and ready to go out now and teach in the world. He was their daddy, in some real sense, and he had brought them up to this point, and now this was another step in their education, the fact that he was dying.
There was something that felt to me very right about the whole thing. To me, in many ways, he had fulfilled his life work. But this may be just my own simple-minded view.
"The younger tulkus would say to me, 'Oh, he has so much else to do, this thing and that thing.' And I would think that if he lived another fifteen years, he would start more projects, and at the end of fifteen years they would still say, 'How could be die now?' You could never imagine His Holiness retiring. And so I really felt the consistency of the whole thing: he had very much brought the tulkus up to the point where they were ready to go out into the world, and now he was exposing them to death.
"Trungpa Rinpoche said something that made sense to me, later, when the younger tulkus were having such a hard time. He said, 'Well, if we were living in Tibet, we would see death all the time. A real charnel-ground quality. Even at a young age. On the other hand, having grown up at His Holiness' monastery at Rumtek [Sikkim], and now having been exposed to the West, they are not that familiar with death.'
"And now, given that it was His Holiness himself who was dying, they were initially unable to reconcile that for themselves. And in many ways, it felt as if he were teaching them about death. I couldn't help but feel that he was letting his own death be drawn out so that they could just slowly come to grips with it and watch the process and explore it, so that they could digest it later on.
"And that is also what impressed me in my experiences with His Holiness in Zion, Illinois, where he finally died. I saw His Holiness' presence and realized how he was taking care of the tulkus. They were young, and they might have had varying degrees of realization, but still, emotionally and chronologically, in terms of living in the world, they were young. And so this was part of their own growth process.
Zion, Illinois, USA
"The third time I saw His Holiness was near Chicago, in a cancer hospital in Zion, Illinois, at the time when he died. People there -- the hospital staff as well as visitors-were just completely overwhelmed by him. To appreciate this, you have to keep in mind that ICU [intensive care unit] personnel are typically quite jaded. They see death all the time, and this is their work -- and the reason they are good is that they aren't too affected by it, they can 'take care of business.'
"So to see a staff like that be so overwhelmed by His Holiness' gentleness was very impressive. And that is what happened. Most of them were Christian, and none of them knew the first thing about Buddhism, but they had no hesitancy whatever in calling him His Holiness. They never once said, 'Karmapa,' it was always 'His Holiness.'
"And people, after a while, couldn't understand how he wasn't having pain or responding in the way people do in his situation. Then they began to just feel so much concern about taking care of him.
"As you know, each Karmapa is supposed to write a letter before he dies, indicating the circumstances of his next birth. The staff expressed concern about the letter. And it was so amazing to see, because, you see, everybody's concern switched from 'What are we going to do for this patient today?' and 'did you give him his bath?' to 'Did he write his letter? Is this lineage going to continue?'
"They had a nurse in the intensive care unit who came to me one day with tears in her eyes and said, 'I am so worried that this lineage is going to end here in this hospital.' I mean, mind you, we were in Zion, Illinois. It's a dry town. It is very traditionally Christian. So, to me, it was very moving to see how completely they were taken with His Holiness.
"The staff couldn't stop talking about his compassion and about how kind he seemed. After four or five days, the surgeon -- a Filipino Christian -- came up to me and he said, 'You know, every time I go in to see His Holiness, I feel like I am naked and that he sees me completely and I feel like I should cover myself up.'
"He kept saying to me, 'You know, His Holiness is not an ordinary man. He really doesn't seem like an ordinary person.' And everybody kept having that experience before his final days. Just the force of his will and his presence were so powerful, that they were completely taken with it.
"This was a continuation of what I had experience in New York, which was that he just kept going, and whether he was in shock or eating grapes, there was some complete unchangeability about his state of mind that radiated to everybody, and no one knew how to compute it.
"His Holiness really seemed to have changed a lot of the staff of doctors and nurses. As it was, we left books for them, and beyond that, people were saying to me, 'You know, I am Christian and I don't believe in Buddhism, but I have to say the His Holiness is a very unusual person.' They said this almost apologetically, not knowing how to combine both beliefs, but so obviously and deeply touched by His Holiness.
"As the days went on, His Holiness seemed to deteriorate physically. Then he did a few things that, from what the Rinpoches were telling me, had some precedents in his life. Apparently when he was thirteen or so, when he was very ill, the doctors came to see him and said that his illness was very, very serious and that he had only a matter of hours to live, or a day at most. You have to realize that Tibetan doctors will never say something this negative as long as there is any hope. They will never say something like this until they believe that imminent death is certain. Yet His Holiness paid no attention to them, and he recovered quickly.
The doctors couldn't understand how that had happened. But this was in Tibet, and it was perhaps easier for them to accept, him being His Holiness.
"But the same thing happened in Zion. One day after examining him and finding that drastic deterioration had set in, I came out and said, 'His Holiness has two hours to live, maybe three hours.' He had every symptom I have seen in that situation, and he was going downhill very rapidly. Every system was failing. He was having trouble breathing, he was vomiting up blood and coughing up blood, his blood pressure was dropping, even on blood pressure support medication.
"When you have worked with a lot of critically ill patients, you get a very definite feel when a patient is about to go. You just feel it because you see the stress their body is under, and you know that it won't be able to carry on much longer. You know they are going to collapse. And so I could just feel it.
"I said, 'We should wake him up if you feel a letter is important.' And so I woke him up with some medication that we have that reverses some of the sleepiness. "The tulkus said, 'Will you excuse us, now we need to talk to His Holiness in private.'
"They came out in about forty-five minutes and they said, 'Well, His Holiness said that he is not going to die yet , and he laughed at us. He laughed at us!' They said that a few times, 'He just laughed at us. And he said, 'Don't give me that pad. I am not writing any letter.'
"I walked into the room and he was sitting up in bed. Just up. And his eyes were wide open and the force of his will was immense, and he turned to me and said in English (of which he knew only a few phrases), 'Hello. How are you?'
"And within thirty minutes, all his vital signs got stable and to a normal level, and he stopped bleeding. I walked out after about an hour of being in the room, and one of the staff from the intensive care unit came up and he said, 'Look at my arms.' and I looked and he had goose bumps all up and down his arms. No one had ever seen anything like this in their lives. The force of his will was so strong, and he wasn't ready to die yet. I am completely convinced that he willed himself back into stability. I had never seen anything remotely resembling this, or even read or heard about such a thing.
"The reaction of the young tulkus was interesting. They interpreted my telling them His Holiness was dying as me panicking. Maybe it was part of their not wanting to let His Holiness go. But I have seen enough so that I was just telling them what was going on. He was dying. I knew it. Everyone on the staff knew it. And yet, he woke up and just sat up. He literally opened his eyes and he willed himself back to health. He filled his body out with his will. Visually, I could almost see his will coming out of his body. I have never experienced anything like that. Trungpa Rinpoche later said to me, 'Now you see what is really possible.'
"It was almost as if someone had unplugged the monitors and fiddled with them and then plugged them back in, and they were normal. The blood pressure was normal. He stopped bleeding, but not from anything that we had given him; he just turned the whole process around. After that, he was healthy for another nine or ten days. He was completely stable.
"After this, it became a running joke in the hospital that we should let His Holiness write his own orders. We should just bring in the order book at the beginning of the day and say, 'What would you like us to do today?' The whole intensive care unit staff way saying, 'Well, what does he want done today?'
"Then about nine or ten days later, suddenly his blood pressure dropped precipitously, and we couldn't get it back up with drugs. I said, 'This is very bad.' I had gotten out of the habit of saying that he might die soon. I just looked at the tulkus and said, 'This is very bad, very, very bad.' And that is all I would say. And so they would lean over to His Holiness and say that Dr. Levy thinks it's very bad. And usually, he would smile.
"At this point, he was in DIC-disseminated intervascular coagulation. It means, that there is so much infection that the bacteria, when they break apart, liberate something called endotoxin. The endotoxin in turn affects the clotting mechanism of the blood; it uses up all of your ability to keep the blood clotted, so you start bleeding from everywhere.
"This is more or less uniformly fatal even. And again I said, 'This is very bad.' "I said it to His Holiness, and he sort of looked up and gave an attempt at a smile and, within two hours, not even two hours, he stopped bleeding completely. His blood pressure went back to normal, and he was sitting up in bed and talking.
"By this time, the intensive care unit almost had a chalk board, and everyone said, 'Chalk up another one for His Holiness.' It really became almost humorous. Given a patient with terminal cancer and diabetes and massive infection in his lungs, already recovering from shock, to go into gram negative shock, someone in that condition just doesn't come back, ever. And yet, here he was.
"Then the day after that, he went into what we call respiratory failures, which was that his lungs weren't working because he was so filled up with pneumonia. At this point it was clear that if we didn't intubate him, he was going to stop breathing. We did that, and so prolonged that for thirty-six hours.
"Then early on the day he actually died, we saw that his monitor had changed. The electrical impulses through his heart had altered in a way that indicated that it was starting to fail. And so we knew, the surgeons knew, that something was imminent. We didn't say anything to the Rinpoches.
"Then his heart stopped for about ten seconds. We resuscitated him, had a little trouble with his blood pressure, brought it back up, and then he was stable for about twenty-five minutes, thirty minutes, but it looked like he had had a heart attack. Then his blood pressure dropped all the way down. We couldn't get it back up at all with medication. And we kept working, giving him medication, and then his heart stopped again.
"And so then we had to start pumping his chest and then, at that point, I knew that this was it. Because you could just see his heart dying in front of you on the monitor. But I felt that we needed to demonstrate our thoroughness as much as we could, to reassure the Rinpoches. So I kept the resuscitation going for almost forty-five minutes, much longer than I normally would have.
"Finally, I gave him two amps of intra-cardiac epinephrine and adrenaline and there was no response. Calcium. No response. So we stopped and this was the point as which we finally gave up. I went outside to make the call to Trungpa Rinpoche to tell him that His Holiness had died.
"After that, I came back into the room, and people were starting to leave. By this time, His Holiness had been lying there for maybe fifteen minutes, and we started to take out the NG tube, and as someone goes to pull the nasal gastric tube out of his nose, all of a sudden I look and his blood pressure is 140 over 80. And my first instinct, I shouted out, 'Who's leaning on the pressure monitor?' I mean, I was almost in a state of panic: 'Who's leaning on the pressure monitor?' I said to myself, 'Oh, no, here we go again.' Because I knew that for pressure to go up like that, someone would have to be leaning on it with ... well, it wouldn't be possible.
"Then a nurse almost literally screamed, 'He's got a good pulse! He's got a good pulse!'
"And one of the older Rinpoches slapped me on the back as if to say, 'This is impossible but it's happening!" His Holiness' heart rate was 80 and his blood pressure was 140 over 80, and there was this moment in that room where I thought that I was going to pass out.
"And no one said a word. There was literally a moment of 'This can't be. This can't be.' A lot had happened with His Holiness, but this was clearly the most miraculous thing I had seen. I mean that this was not just an extraordinary event. This would have been an hour after his heart had stopped and fifteen minutes after we had stopped doing anything.
"After this happened, I ran out of the room again to call Trungpa Rinpoche and tell him that His Holiness was alive again. 'I can't talk. Goodbye.'
"To me, in that room, it had the feeling that His Holiness was coming back to check one more time: could his body support his consciousness?' He had been on Valium and morphine, and that disconnected him from his body. It felt to me that, all of a sudden he realized his body had stopped working, so he came back in to see if it was workable. Just the force of his consciousness coming back started the whole thing up again -- I mean, this is just my simple-minded impression, but this is what it actually felt like, in that room.
"His heart rate and blood pressure kept up for about five minutes, then it just petered out. It felt as if he realized that it wasn't workable, that his body couldn't support him anymore, and he left, he died.
"Trungpa Rinpoche arrived at the hospital shortly after that, not knowing whether His Holiness was alive or not. So I had to tell him that he had died. And that was it. Those were his comebacks, which were very remarkable.
"Even in death, His Holiness did not cease to amaze the Western medical establishment At forty-eight hours after his death, his chest was warm right above his heart. This was how it happened.
"Situ Rinpoche [one of the younger tulkus] took me into the room where His Holiness was lying. First I had to wash my hands completely and put a mask on. And Situ Rinpoche walks in and puts his robe over his mouth, as if even breathing might disturb the samadhi of His Holiness. And he took my hand, and he put my hand in the center of His Holiness' chest and then made me feel it, and it felt warm.
"And it's funny, because since I had washed my hands in cold water, my Western medical mind said, 'Well, my hands must still be a little cold.' So I warmed my hands up, and then I said to Situ Rinpoche, 'Could I feel his chest one more time?' He said, 'Sure,' and he pulled down His Holiness' robe and put my hand on his chest again. My hands were warm at this point, and his chest was warmer than my hand. To check, I moved my hand to either side of his chest, and it was cool. And then I felt again in the middle, and it was warm.
"I also pinched his skin, and it was still pliable and completely normal. Mind you, although there is some variation, certainly by thirty-six hours, the skin is just like dough. And after forty-eight hours, his skin was just like yours and mine. It was as if he weren't dead. I pinched his skin, and it went right back. The turgor was completely normal.
"Shortly after we left the room, the surgeon came out and said, 'He's warm. He's warm.' And then it became, the nursing staff was saying, 'Is he still warm?' After all that had happened, they just accepted it. As much as all that had happened might have gone against their medical training, their cultural beliefs, and their religious upbringing, by this point they had no trouble just accepting what was actually occurring.
"This is, of course, quite in keeping with traditional Tibetan experience, that realized people like His Holiness, after their respiration and heart have stopped [the outer dissolution], abide in a state of profound meditation for some time [the 'ground luminosity' that follows the inner dissolution,] with rigor mortis not setting in during that period.
"One thing I should mention is the quality of the room where he was lying. The tulkus said, 'His Holiness is in samadhi' [i.e., resting in the dharmakaya of ground luminosity]. What people experienced in that room seemed to depend on varying levels of perception.
I asked Trungpa Rinpoche about it. He said that when he walked into that room, it was as if a vacuum had sucked out all the mental obstacles. There was no mental chatter. It was absolutely still. Everything was starkly simple and direct. He said that it was so one-pointed that there was no room for any kind of obstacle at all. And he said that it was absolutely magnificent.
"My experience wasn't quite like that. To me, the air felt thin and there was a quiet that was unsettling in a way. There was no familiarity, no background noise. It was like being in some other realm, one that was absolutely still and vast. It was just His Holiness' body in the center of the room, draped in his brocade robe, and you felt as if you didn't even want to breathe. That was my experience. It felt as if anything I did would disturb that stillness. My actions screamed at me. I mean, all of my coarseness and vulgarity just shouted at me.
"It felt as if in each movement I made toward his body, I was hacking away at something thick to get through it. And everything I did was clumsy. And from a normal point of view, it wasn't. I was just walking. But there was an air of stillness, an awareness in that room that was overpowering. I understood what Trungpa Rinpoche meant about vacuum, because it felt like that.
"After about three days, His Holiness samadhi was still continuing. It was interesting, because the doctors and nurses were as concerned as the younger tulkus that we leave his body there and not move it until the samadhi ended. This was unusual, because ordinarily when someone dies, hospital staff want to get rid of the body a quickly as possible. That's just the way we do it in the West.
"After three days, the samadhi ended. You could tell because His Holiness was no longer warm, and rigor mortis finally set in. And also the atmosphere in the room changed, becoming more normal . . . .
"The entire experience had had very pronounced effects on everyone involved, especially the non-Buddhists, who were the majority of those there. Just to give one example, the assistant administrator, one of the people who had been close to these events, one night was reading in some of the books on Buddhism that someone had lent her. She came to me the next morning and said the thing that she liked about these books was that after reading them, they pretty much matched some conclusions that she had come to on her own. They really made sense to her. And so I think that people there made very powerful connections with His Holiness and Buddhism. It will be interesting to see who he brought in, even in his death . . . ."
(May 4, 2015 – Chicago, Illinois) His Holiness the 17th Karmapa today headed south to visit the Chicago Karma Thegsum Chöling (KTC), a Dharma center affiliated to Karma Triyana Dharmachakra (KTD), his North American seat in Woodstock, New York. During this visit—his first ever to Chicago—His Holiness blessed the center’s gracious shrine room and delivered concise instructions on the purpose of engaging in Chenrezik practice.
This visit was the first that His Holiness the Karmapa has paid to a KTD affiliate center outside the Greater New York area. The Chicago KTC is among the largest of the 28 Dharma centers in the United States connected to KTD. After the traditional tea-and-rice welcome and a mandala offering procession, center director Lama Sean Jones related some of the history of the center.
In 1977, His Holiness the 16th Karmapa had visited Chicago, where he performed a Black Crown ceremony. He then urged Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche to found a center in the Windy City and he did so during a visit to the city the following year. Thus began the nearly four decade history of this center. After several decades meeting mainly in the homes of center directors, in 2003 the center had located a building suitable to its growing requirements, yet lacked the means to purchase it.
Lama Sean relates that when Bardor Tulku Rinpoche saw the building during a visit to Chicago, he felt it was perfect, and proceeded to contact the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa in India directly in the presence of the center members. He requested His Holiness’s advice as to whether or not they should embark on the ambitious project and the Karmapa’s response was affirmative. With that blessing, all the needed conditions came together swiftly and easily for Chicago KTC to purchase its current home.
The building came replete with a history of its own, which Lama Sean narrated for the assembly. Once the home of an Odd Fellow fraternal lodge and later a Bohemian lodge, the hall became a speakeasy during the Prohibition era, serving as a site for gambling, dancing and illicit drinking. Chicago’s most notorious gangster, Al Capone, was said to have been connected to the building as well, a comment that drew a smile and a raised eyebrow from the Karmapa. “In the spirit of recycling and reusing,” Lama Sean continued, “we have repurposed this building for the spread of the holy dharma and specifically the practice of the Karma Kagyu.”
Lama Sean presented the activities of the center, which focuses on shamatha meditation and the practice of Chenrezik, the Buddha of Compassion, and requested His Holiness to make some remarks about Chenrezik practice to help them develop greater lovingkindness for all beings. This sincere petition elicited in response a concise, yet substantive, commentary on the essence of Chenrezik practice. Although the visit took place on a Monday morning, approximately 60 of the KTC’s members and guests listened rapt to the Karmapa’s words on compassion.
His Holiness the Karmapa began by expressing his heartfelt thanks to Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche for all his service in developing the centers over the decades, as well as to the KTC directors and members. Taking up the request for practice advice, His Holiness first conferred the reading transmission of the “For the Benefit of All Beings” Chenrezik liturgy and then moved straight to his comments about the practice.
His Holiness explained that the name “Chenrezik” connotes eyes that truly see, and observed that this name itself tells us a great deal about the practice. When we set ourselves the task of cultivating compassion through the practice of Chenrezik, this means we are committing ourselves to opening our eyes to what is really going on. Practicing Chenrezik means bearing witness to the sufferings of others, with loving eyes wide open.
As a practice that involves visualizing deities with various numbers of arms and faces, Chenrezik practice might appear complicated or strange, he told them. Whether or not there actually existing beings with four or a thousand arms was not the most important point to investigate, His Holiness said, for the main point is what the multiple arms and eyes symbolize. Therefore it is crucial for practitioners to understand and reflect on the symbolic meaning of what they are visualizing. As a manifestation of unconditional compassion toward all beings, His Holiness said, many eyes are needed to be able to truly see, recognize and share the pains and sufferings of all others. Compassion calls for many arms to be able to extend oneself effectively toward all those who need help, he expalined.
The 17th Karmapa shared with the audience how his own feeling for the need for many arms and eyes had arisen form his own personal experience. “Many people come to see me, describing their pains and troubles,” he said. “I feel I cannot do enough for them. As I am just one person, I cannot accomplish all their aims. This led me to feel that not only is it not strange to have many arms, but actually it is necessary, in order to be able to alleviate all the varied forms of suffering there are in the world.”
Although at this point, we lack the capacity to make replicas of ourselves to do more for others, we can aspire to do that in the future, he said, and to actually be able to eliminate all beings’ suffering and bring them wellbeing.
“As we hold that vast aspiration in our hearts,” His Holiness said, “and meanwhile we actively find ways to benefit whatever sentient being we are now able to help.”
The visualization of the various forms of Chenrezik thus serves as a clarion call to action. “The multiplicity of arms reminds us that we need more action,” he said. “The multiplicity of eyes calls for more involvement, and reminds us that we must actually see others and not avert our eyes when faced with their pain.”
The Karmapa jokingly reassured them that they were in no danger of sprouting additional sets of arms through Chenrezik practice. As he explained that the four arms of Four-Armed Chenrezik are taken to symbolize the four limitless qualities of compassion, love, joy and equanimity, he continued: “Our body is limited but our mind has no limits. Our potential for compassion and love is limitless.”
The purpose of visualizing the four-armed form of Chenrezik is to bolster our mind’s limitless potential to experience those noble qualities. Therefore the Karmapa said, if we wish to judge how well our meditation of Chenrezik is progressing, the main criterion is not the crispness of our visualizations. Rather, His Holiness said, “You will know that your practice is improving when you see that you are becoming more loving, kind and compassionate in your day-to-day feelings, experiences and actions.”
His Holiness concluded his remarks by voicing a wish to return to visit the Chicago KTC “again and again.” His Holiness the Karmapa commented Chicago has special importance for him personally, as it is where the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa chose to display the deed of passing into parinirvana. Unlike other stops on the itinerary of his two-month tour of the United States, His Holiness said his visit to Chicago has a unique purpose, since he had come to the area to perform a groundbreaking ceremony for the creation of a planned stupa to commemorate the life and deeds of his predecessor, the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. He expressed his hope to be able to return to northern Illinois to consecrate the stupa once it had been completed, to the delight of his audience.
Before departing, His Holiness reviewed plans to renovate an area of the building and blessed the space, bid a fond and moving farewell to Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche and the rest of the KTC community, and then made his way out onto the Chicago streets, heading north to his next stop: Madison, Wisconsin.
(May 3 & 4, 2015 – Zion, Illinois) His Holiness the 17th Karmapa traveled to northern Illinois, where his predecessor the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa had departed his mortal body in 1981. On the first day of his stay in Zion, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa toured the cancer treatment facility in Zion where the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa passed away. The next day, he conducted a groundbreaking ceremony on land nearby where a commemorative stupa will be erected to honor the life of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.
As His Holiness mentioned later in the day, although this was his third trip to the United States, it was the first time he had had the opportunity to visit Zion, a site that occupies an important place in the biography of his previous reincarnation. Within Tibetan Buddhism, the location that a great spiritual master chooses to display the deed of passing into parinirvana is considered of great significance and is sanctified by their having passed away there. As such, Zion has become a pilgrimage place with a particular importance for the Karma Kagyu lineage. As its name itself hints, the town Zion also occupies a special place within the Judeo-Christian history of North America, as it was founded as a religious utopia at the end of the 19th century.
The morning of the consecration ceremony dawned bright over the site where a stupa will honor the life of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa. As is appropriate for a visit by the 17th Karmapa to the site of the passing away of the 16th, the site was surrounded by fields full of the signs of new life. The branches of trees were brushed with green buds, heralding the arrival of spring after the temporary hiatus of winter. As is also appropriate given the 16th Karmapa’s powerful connection to birds, large numbers of feathered friends sang out, as if in celebration. As birds of various breeds flitted from branch to branch high overhead, a single white bird, looking very much like a crane, made its graceful way through the sky.
On the day of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa’s arrival, a first rainbow appeared above the site. On the second day, shortly before His Holiness the Karmapa made his way along the path to the site marked for the commemorative stupa, a second, circular rainbow clearly ringed the sun, reminiscent of a circular rainbow that had appeared during the cremation of the 16th Karmapa in Rumtek in 1981. Brightly colored flags, echoing the colors of the rainbow, marked the spots where the portal, a “do ring” commemorative stele and other key elements of the stupa site are to be erected.
Using a text composed by the 15th Gyalwang Karmapa, Khakhyab Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa performed a “sa long” ritual, in which permission is requested of the local spirits to allow the use of the land. As part of the ritual, supplications and prayers were made to Guru Rinpoche, and to the 16 successive Karmapa reincarnations. His Holiness further led a “serkyem” tea offering practice and “sang” offering practice.
Throughout, His Holiness himself played the cymbals and led the chant, accompanied by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche and other eminent lamas, monks, nuns and lay supporters. Among those also present for the ceremony were people from the local village, hospital staff who had cared for the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa at the nearby hospital several decades ago and well-wishers from around the world.
For the final phase of the ritual to solicit the permission and support of the local deities and spirits, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa marked the land first with a phurpa and then with a fork hoe, and consecrated a young sapling. With this, the auspicious beginning was complete for the creation of this site to commemorate the life of his predecessor, the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.
As part of his 2015 US Tour including Ivy League universities Stanford, Harvard, Yale, andPrinceton, the 17th Karmapa will visit Seattle, Washington from May 7-10.
The Karmapa will give a public teaching on Saturday May 9th titled "A Call to Compassionate Action" at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall.
The program will consist of two sessions:2-4pm will feature a dialogue between the Karmapa and youth leaders working in social justice, and 7-pm His Holiness Karmapa will give a teaching on compassionate action.
His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is the head of the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu Lineage of Buddhism, and a guide to millions of Buddhists around the world. Encountering His Holiness Karmapa now is like hearing from HH the Dalai Lama 30 years ago, before the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
Whether featured in TIME Magazine, the Washington Post, or in his TED talk, the Karmapa is following in his mentor's footsteps, not as a political leader but as a unique spiritual voice actively advocating for the integration of a spiritual perspective into social justice issues.
In past eras we had figures like Gandhi and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who were able to bring civility, a connection to the sacred, and radical interdependence, to the most pressing issues of our time. Like his mentor, HH Dalai Lama, the Karmapa is poised to be an important world leader.
Nalandabodhi is an international network of meditation and study centers for students of Buddhism, under the guidance of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche.
(May 5, 2015 – Madison, Wisconsin) His Holiness the Karmapa this evening joined some of the world’s leading researchers in neuroscience and psychology for a panel discussion on “The Heart, the Brain, and Society: Buddhist and Scientific Perspectives on the Cultivation of Well-being.” In his first opportunity for an extended dialogue of this kind, His Holiness explored with the neuroscientists how meditation and contemplative techniques contribute to wellbeing and happiness.
Daniel Goleman set the warm, informal tone of the evening by first asking the audience—both those physically present and the many others watching online via live webcast in English and Spanish—to imagine they were in a living room, where an intimate conversation was taking place among friends. He asked them audience to introduce themselves, as it were, by a show of hands to indicate how many considered themselves Buddhist (less than half) and how many of them practiced meditation (the overwhelming majority). Throughout the next hour and a half, with the audience invited to feel themselves a part of a personal interaction, His Holiness the Karmapa responded to the scientists’ questions by sharing some of his own experiences and insights into wellbeing, while the scientists in turn briefed him on their latest research findings.
Richard Davidson kicked off the discussion by explaining that as a neuroscientist, he identifies four important components of wellbeing: resilience, or how quickly an individual can recover from adversity; a positive outlook on life; generosity; and mindfulness in everyday life. He then asked His Holiness the Karmapa for his thoughts on what might be helpful for us to improve in these four areas, which are so important for wellbeing.
His Holiness replied that what resonated most from his own personal experience was the importance of having a positive outlook in the face of hardship. A person’s ability to adapt to adversity depends on how they think, he explained. Those with habits of thinking positively bounce back much more easily from adversity, while for those with a habit of negative thinking the experience can quickly worsen. The Karmapa recounted that he is often urged by those around him not to take such a rosy view of others, out of concern that his trust might be misplaced. Yet for him personally, His Holiness said, positive thinking was simply easier. Even if his optimism might not conform perfectly to the actual state of affairs, he consciously chose to retain it for the sake of simplicity and wellbeing.
“Having habits of positive thinking are basically equivalent to having less hardship in life,” he said. “We do not have to believe that our positive thoughts are one hundred percent in harmony with reality, but we can simply see our attitude as a method to generate more wellbeing for ourselves.”
Praising contentment as a key factor in creating wellbeing, the 17th Karmapa shared a story about mindfulness and contentment from his own personal experience. In India, he explained, he lives quite cloistered in a monastery and does not get to go outside a lot. Sometimes his biggest excursion is to make a couple of circumambulations around the temple where he lives—and even then, he might still be followed around by crowds of people.
On one such occasion, the Karmapa recounted, he was walking outside the building on a day when the weather was sunny and calm. As he walked, he had the experience of suddenly becoming aware of the fact that he was breathing. Along with that experience came a strong but simple feeling of happiness, and an awareness that happiness is present within us already. In that moment of appreciating his breath, His Holiness contemplated all the myriad factors needed to come together in order simply to breathe—the thousands of plants and trees needed to produce the oxygen, and the complexity behind all these the causes and conditions.
“My insight at that moment was: this is really an amazing and wondrous thing. My experience of happiness has always been that it is an appreciation of things that are very simple. Our habitual approach to pursuing happiness involves complexities such as working very hard or trying to get lots of money. But focusing all our efforts and attention on that sort of thing usually leads us to unhappiness. My experience of happiness is that it involves paying attention to things that are very ordinary, which we usually fail to appreciate in our day-to-day lives.”
The Karmapa stressed that we need to cultivate mindfulness in order not to miss the opportunities to appreciate simplicity and generate contentment. He explained that even though after many years of spiritual practice, in the end we might reach a profound insight—only to realize how utterly simple it is. As the Karmapa described it, we then think to ourselves, ‘Oh, this is very simple, why didn’t I understand this before? I was totally missing this very simple thing the whole time.’
After the Karmapa’s comments in praise of the underestimated power of simplicity, the conversation turned to Dr. Sona Dimidjian’s research. His Holiness leaned forward as she described women’s particular vulnerability to suffering from depression, and the work that she does to address that.
She explained that depression involves a persistent experience of sadness that makes it difficult for people to do the things they normally do. Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression, with increased risk around the time of becoming mothers, which is known as post-partum depression. While a typical response is to prescribe antidepressant medications, Dr. Dimidjian’s own research has shown not only that there is no evidence of greater benefit among those taking the medications compared to a control group taking placebos, but there is not even evidence showing that the medications help prevent a recurrence of depression, once a person stops taking the medication.
Dr. Dimidjian described to His Holiness how psychological researchers look at the way people’s thoughts react to their emotions, a process known as cognitive reactivity. Studies have shown that higher cognitive reactivity can help predict the likelihood of future depression, she explained. Another key investigative concept is rumination, or when the mind grasps onto the experience of sadness and starts incessant questioning, such as, ‘Why am I feeling so sad? Why do these things happen to me? Why do I have a harder time than other people?’ Rumination tends to prolong the symptoms of depression, she said, and studies have shown that in general women are more vulnerable to rumination than men.
This is exactly where contemplative practice can benefit affected people, Dr. Dimidjian told His Holiness. For example, people can be trained in moments of high stress to simply notice the fact that they are breathing, and use this awareness to react to the stressful situation with more skill, rather than being hijacked by patterns of rumination and cognitive reactivity.
She then asked the Karmapa for his reflections on ways to use mindfulness skills to help cultivate individual wellbeing among women, as well as to develop communities of wellbeing.
His Holiness responded with a moving expression of his appreciation for the work she is doing to ease the sufferings to which women are particularly vulnerable. He added that mindfulness is important because when emotions arise, it is important to be able to catch ourselves and direct our attention elsewhere. We do not need the painful experience or situation to be the only thought occupying our minds, but rather through a cultivation of mindfulness and can instead direct our attention to a different object, such as the breath.
His Holiness the Karmapa noted that a major focus of Buddhist thought and practice can be brought to bear in this context, namely, developing an awareness that there is a difference between our selves and our emotions when we are experiencing them, he said. To the degree that we are able to differentiate between our selves and our emotions, we will avoid being hijacked by the strongest ones.
The Karmapa explained that meditation provides a sense of space, allowing us to choose whether or not to assume the negative emotion as a part of our identity. He described a meditation technique in which we learn to set our emotions in front of us, with a sense of distance between ourselves and them, and just observe those emotions with a relaxed state of mind.
As the panel discussion wound steadily to its conclusion, Richard Davidson took the opportunity to tell His Holiness about pioneering neuroscience research around the biophilia hypothesis, or the concept of an innate disposition in humans for wanting to be close to nature. Research indicates that being in nature has beneficial neurological effects such as stimulating certain circuits in the brain, reducing the stress hormone cortisol and improving certain aspects of our thinking and cognitive function.
His Holiness responded by saying he has a very strong feeling about the concept of biophilia, which illustrates the power of the connection between our mind and the natural environment. Again speaking from his own experience, he said that after growing up in even merely seeing pictures today of the natural environment where he grew up in Tibet made him feel happy. Conversely, he could also see how spending time in big cities can naturally promote a sense of being cloistered, narrow and depressed.
The Karmapa further explained that certain Vajrayana teachings also address this connection when they talk about the relationship between the inner vajra body and the outer environment, in a kind of Vajrayana version of biophilia. There are legends of great meditation masters, who had done extensive retreats in isolated areas, who developed such a level of sensitivity to the natural world that they could recognize when an eclipse was occurring—not through seeing it or being informed of it but through their heightened awareness of subtle shifts taking place in their body in meditation, and in particular, the movement of prana or wind in their body.
“A lot of us live in what we might call an artificial world,” the Karmapa concluded, “through being too separate or alienated from the natural environment. If we get a chance to slow down, remain in a place of solitude for a while and stay close to nature, we might come to appreciate the very intimate connection between the movement of the outer elements of the natural environment and that of the inner elements of our body.”
As the evening’s discussion between Buddhist spiritual master and leading scientists drew to an end, the audience left the gathering with the feeling that, in fact, this remarkable conversation has only just begun.
We are pleased to share the news that His Holiness the 17th Karmapa stayed at the Karmapa Center 16 land during his 2015 tour of the U.S. on Sunday, May 3rd and Monday May 4th. During his stay, he visited the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) and received a tour from Bill Kelly who showed the group the room where His Holiness the 16th Karmapa stayed. The space has been remodeled and is now a part of administrative offices. He was also able to meet Dr. Chris Stevenson whose father was a key supporter of His Holiness receiving care in Zion. Monday, May 4th, HH blessed the proposed stupa ground and conducted a smoke puja with Rinpoches, Acharyas and Lamas in attendance. Wadsworth Mayor Glenn Ryback, Village Administrator, Moses Amidei, and several Village Trustees, CTCA staff, donors from near and far, local friends and family, volunteers and staff were present to celebrate the event. The ceremony was held in the center of the proposed stupa site under a sun rainbow this glorious Monday. The land was lush and green with flowers blooming everywhere and birds singing in the pond and trees.
His Holiness the 17th Karmapa received a warm welcome by Tibetan residents in the Seattle area during his 2015 US tour. Hundreds of Tibetans with their children traveled to Lynwood’s Convention Center for a special audience with His Holiness. May 8, 2015.
(May 4, 2015 – Madison, Wisconsin) After consecrating land for a commemorative stupa in the morning, followed by a teaching in the early afternoon at the Chicago KTC, His Holiness the Karmapa drove north to Madison to meet in the evening with the city’s resident Tibetans, at the invitation of the Wisconsin Tibetan Association. Evidently, so did many Tibetans, as the number of people attending the event exceeded the entire Tibetan population of Madison. The Tibetan community of Wisconsin that had turned out in force included several rows of monastics, most of whom affiliated to Deer Park Buddhist Center, a monastery founded by Geshe Lhundub Sopa just outside Madison in the 1970s.
The event took place on a balmy May evening, with masked dancers and leading members of the community awaiting the Karmapa’s arrival outdoors, and a long line of young Tibetans extending their khatas indoors. With Wisconsin Tibetan Association board member Jampa Khedup serving as master of ceremony, the vibrancy of the community’s efforts to keep their Tibetan identity alive were on full display as the first portion of the evening was given over to a cultural performance.
After the entire gathering of just under 500 people stood to sing the Tibetan anthem, the US national anthem followed in acknowledgment of their host society. With traditional Tibetan instruments providing live musical accompaniment, groups of children and elders came forward in turns to perform song and dance from various regions across Tibet. Even the younger children watched the proceedings attentively, performers themselves burst into laughter as they danced and smiles abounded among those of all ages in the audience, making clear that Tibetan culture remained alive and joyfully well in the hearts of all the generations gathered.
After words of welcome by WTA president and a mandala offering, His Holiness the Karmapa was requested to address the assembly and confer Chenrezig and Guru Rinpoche oral transmissions.
The 17th Karmapa did so, and expressed his delight at having the opportunity to meet and connect with the Tibetans living in the Midwest, noting that it was his third trip to the United States but only his first visit to the country’s heartland. As he noted, His Holiness the Karmapa has been meeting with Tibetans throughout his two-month trip, primarily out of his personal feeling that it was of great value to connect with his fellow Tibetans.
Underscoring the tremendous importance of ensuring that young Tibetans born in exile retain full fluency in the written as well as spoken Tibetan language, the Gyalwang Karmapa remarked that strenuous efforts needed to be taken to address the real danger of losing the Tibetan language in diaspora. His Holiness noted that they had better experience of this than he did, and there was little need to clarify a point already clear. Indeed, the Wisconsin Tibetan Association has been providing weekly Tibetan language classes to area children since 1999, and also offers instruction in the use of Tibetan keyboard and fonts. “There is good work being done through the Tibetan Association,” he said, “and there is great work still to be done.”
The Karmapa went on to reflect on the traumatic course of events that has resulted in the rending of Tibetan society into those living within Tibet and those who have had to now settle outside. That has had the effect, he said, of opening a new chapter in Tibetan history. The Karmapa commented on how extraordinarily fortunate Tibetans have been to be living this new chapter under the guidance of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Speaking movingly of the deep significance of having such a unifying leader to hold Tibetan society and culture together in a time when they are painfully separated into those still in Tibet and those scattered in diaspora, the Karmapa urged them to recognize the value of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s exceptional leadership not only in words, but in the depths of their hearts.
Although Tibetan society is more united in some ways today than it had been in the past, he said, still there does exist a certain element of sectarianism. Given the challenges that the Tibetan people and environment are facing, he remarked that it is crucial that we think carefully and find ways to guard against divisiveness.
In terms of the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the Karmapa said, “Whether one has more or less strength, whether one is larger or smaller than others does not matter.” Rather he said, all need to flourish and all need to join together to keep the Dharma alive.
Sounding a serious note of warning against the effects of jealousy and sectarianism, His Holiness the Karmapa cited scriptural sources that indicate that the teachings of a previous dispensation, that of Buddha Kashyapa, degenerated and were finally lost due to the laziness of his followers. By contrast, the Karmapa said, Buddha Shakyamuni foretold that his teachings would be brought to ruin by disputes among the holders of his teachings.
“Strife between religious lineages is the worst, the most serious form of strife,” the Karmapa said.
“The lineages of Tibetan Buddhism carry different names based on the lama or monastery transmitting them,” he said, “but the actual content that is being transmitted is essentially the same: the realization of emptiness, the cultivation of bodhichitta and the unification of sutra and tantra. When we speak of it, we often make it sound as if there were huge differences, but at heart we are basically all the same.”
Elaborating on the theme of diversity and unity, His Holiness recollected that when a search party arrived looking for the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa in the valley where his family lived, they were not able to understand each other because of language barriers, since he lived in Kham in eastern Tibet and the search party had come from central Tibet. Stressing just how remarkable it was that Tibetans have now managed to forge a sense of shared identity as Tibetans, the Karmapa urged all those present to look within themselves to find the courage and fortitude to ensure that they were making positive contributions toward preserving that identity rather than serving as sources of division.
He concluded his comments by expressing the hope and the belief that he would return in the future “again and again” to meet with the community of Madison. In the meantime, he said he would hold them all with affection in his prayers.
Geshe Tenzin Dorjee, the current abbot of Deer Park, then offered a mandala and made extensive concluding remarks in praise of His Holiness the Karmapa’s activities both in Tibetan cultural preservation, as well as on behalf of the Dharma and sentient beings in general. After the Karmapa departed, parents slowly bid their friends farewell and set about locating their children as this extended family gathering drew to a close.
Tibetan settlement in Madison has a longer history than many other cities, with Geshe Lhundub Sopa relocating here in the 1960s when he was invited to teach at the university. Sharpa Tulku and Khamtrul Tulku also settled in Madison, instantly giving this city in the heart of the country a relatively high concentration of reincarnate lamas. In 1981, His Holiness the Dalai Lama conferred the first ever Kalachakra initiation to be given in the West at Deer Park Buddhist Center outside Madison. In the 1990s, when the United States was offering immigrant visas to Tibetans, Madison was selected as a city well equipped to serve as a host. Initially, 82 Tibetans were assigned to immigrate to Madison and its environs. As those initial refugees were gradually able to reunite with their families, the city’s total population of Tibetans has now swelled to about 400.
(May 5, 2015 – Madison, Wisconsin) At the invitation of Tergar Meditation Community, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa taught on meditation and devotion this morning in Madison. In his teachings, he reflected on the rising popular interest in meditation, encouraged practitioners not to undervalue its true potential and offered practical advice to ensure that the full benefits of meditation are achieved. The Karmapa additionally gave heart advice for Westerners struggling with the concept and cultivation of devotion.
The event was opened with a mandala offering procession by the renowned neuroscientist Richard Davidson and leading members of the Tergar community, followed by a welcome address by Tergar instructor Myoshin Kelley. The scheduled topic for the teaching was a commentary on the short supplication to the Dagpo Kagyu lineage of Mahamudra. His Holiness observed that the text was primarily concerned with meditation, a suitable topic for that audience, and so he would focus his remarks on meditation, rather than give a textual commentary.
The Karmapa reflected that during his recent visits to the international headquarters of Google and Facebook, he had had the opportunity to observe the support such corporations are giving to the practice of meditation in the workplace. These are signs of what he called a “fresh interest” and growing recognition by society at large of the tremendous value of meditation.
Buddhist traditions provide ways to train in meditation that bring results that go far beyond mere stress reduction or emotional relief. Ultimately, he said, “Meditation is a method of training our mind, learning about ourselves and radically transforming our very character and way of thinking. Meditation is a tool that allows us to transform our intentions and our conduct.”
In order to tap the full potential of what meditation can offer, the Karmapa stated, “Beyond just getting the body into a certain posture and relaxing the mind, there are some additional factors that we need to bring together, which the traditional teachings on meditation can provide us.”
His Holiness then quoted the first part of a Tibetan saying that indicates: “The owner of meditation is revulsion,” which he explained as effectively meaning that the owner of meditation is our motivation. “The experiences and effects that meditation produces for us are entirely dependent on the motivation we bring to it when we meditate,” he said.
“Instant gratification and short-term benefits are the order of the day, and, of course, we all want to be more relaxed and less stressed out,” the Karmapa observed. “Sometimes the main motivation we bring to meditation is looking for a spiritual massage or some type of spiritual comfort therapy.”
He explained further: “What we think of as the goal of meditation determines what we get out of meditation. “For example, we might approach meditation with an interest in alleviating the immediate difficulties of our day-to-day activities. We might be feeling stress due to our jobs or experiencing emotional hardships due to our immediate circumstances, and we might want to engage in meditation to alleviate the stress or distress caused by such conditions. If we meditate with that motivation, meditation might take care of those goals, but it will not bring us any result that goes beyond that.”
In this way, His Holiness the Karmapa encouraged practitioners of meditation to broaden their aims. He invited them to look within to ensure that their motivation was sufficiently far-reaching to allow them to enjoy the fullest fruits that meditation can offer. “If we give rise to a motivation that goes beyond immediate and limited goals, we can attain powerful results that are far more vast.”
Once one has established a sound and far-reaching motivation for one’s meditation, the Karmapa said, what enhances that meditation and causes it to flourish is devotion.
He thus gave a detailed exposition of the nature and function of devotion. As he did, he acknowledged that devotion is a topic that poses a challenge for some Western practitioners, and went on to offer pith instructions that would allow those struggling with devotion to break through their obstacles.
Clarifying the relationship between faith and devotion, His Holiness remarked that devotion tends to appear with greater frequency in pith or personal instruction texts, whereas faith is used as a technical term in scriptural texts and is divided into three principal types. Among the three types of faith—the faith that admires and reveres its object of faith, the faith that longs and aspires to becomes like the object of faith and clear faith—devotion corresponds most closely to the second: the faith of longing or wishing to be liberated from suffering ourselves, he explained.
This form of faith can be considered the most important in terms of progressing on the Buddhist path, His Holiness said, because “we are not merely seeking to be granted protection by a source of refuge, but are seeking to become sources of refuge ourselves.” For this reason, he explained, “the fullest expression of faith is not just asking for protection from another source, but longing to become fearless beings ourselves, able to offer protection and refuge to others.”
However, devotion goes beyond this form of longing faith, and carries an added emphasis, as indicated in the Tibetan term for devotion, mö-gü. While the first syllable, mö, evokes the aspect of longing faith, the second syllable, gü, means respect. As opposed to longing, which is a mental state, respect involves body and speech, the Karmapa explained.
“Devotion is distinguished from faith,” he said, “in that it entails complete engagement and strong commitment, expressed through body and speech, as well as mind. In sum, the practice of devotion involves harnessing our entire body, speech and mind toward the purpose of gaining liberation.”
His Holiness the Karmapa reflected that those students who come to him expressing their difficulties in generating devotion have overlooked this additional, more active, element of devotion.
“It seems many of them appear to view devotion as a way of believing in something or thinking about something,” he remarked. “For example, if they’re in a teacher-disciple relationship, they think having devotion means feeling reverence towards the enlightened qualities of the master’s body, speech and mind. They seem to be missing the quality of continuous commitment and engagement, and the prioritization of achieving liberation.”
In order to cultivate that additional aspect of devotion, His Holiness advised careful introspection to gain clarity as to the purpose of one’s cultivation of devotion. “What is crucial,” he said, “is to be very clear about what your goal is: ‘Why am I developing that trust and confidence? What is the purpose? What goal am I trying to achieve?’ If we just have dry belief alone and are trying to convince ourselves to believe in something, without knowing the purpose or reasons, we may be able to generate some feeling of belief or confidence, but it will not be sufficient.”
Taking the example of Milarepa, the Karmapa emphasized the absolute clarity about his priorities and about his aims that Milarepa had gained as through his regret for his actions earlier in life. It was that clarity, His Holiness said, that allowed Milarepa to harness his entire being toward the aim of liberation and experience an unswerving and intense devotion toward the master guiding him toward that aim.
“If we are very clear about our goal,” he said, “I think the degree to which we gain clarity about what we are striving for will match the degree to which our genuine devotion increases.”
As our devotion increases, the Karmapa said, so too will our meditation practice. Citing the following line of the Tibetan saying he had quoted earlier: “The enhancer of meditation is devotion.”
Acknowledging the presence in the audience of Richard Davidson and other members of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s team investigating the neurological impact of meditation, His Holiness related that he had had conversations about the effects of devotion with some meditators who had been monitored in neurological studies.
“They told me that when they meditate on loving-kindness and compassion there were observable results,” the Karmapa said, “but the results were even clearer when they engaged in the practice of devotion to the guru. I think this harmonizes with the principle that devotion is really the strongest method to make an impact on our meditation.”
Underscoring his comments on the power of devotion, to those wishing to nourish and deepen their meditation practice, the Karmapa said: “Devotion is the most profound method we could rely on for this purpose.”
In concluding, His Holiness spoke from the heart about Mingyur Rinpoche, the spiritual director of the Tergar international community, who embarked on an extended retreat as a wandering yogi, practicing in unknown isolated places for four years.
“A lot of people have been worried,” the Karmapa said. “I have simply been observing it all with great interest, and I think one of the things Mingyur Rinpoche has accomplished in going into this retreat is to provide you with an opportunity to grow in strength so that you can handle a situation like this. So it now occurs to me that if I were to do something similar, it might also be quite fine!”
“Several people came to me and said, ‘I don’t think I will be able to handle it if he is gone much longer.’ But you have handled it, and I would like to thank you on behalf of Mingyur Rinpoche and thank you myself for your wonderful activities in sustaining and continuing his teachings, and for working together with pure intention.”
After a concluding speech by Tergar instructor Edwin Kelley, His Holiness descended the throne and departed the hall, a faint smile playing across his features.
Photography by Lama Sam. Watch the video of this teaching here.