(May 6, 2015 – Minneapolis, Minnesota) His Holiness the 17th Karmapa made a special stop on his tour in order to visit Minneapolis, home to the second largest community of Tibetans in the United States. Organized by theTibetan American Foundation of Minnesota, the gathering with Tibetans living in the area was the sole activity of his brief stay in this Midwest city.
His Holiness arrived in the area by car from Madison, a four-hour drive across the lush green American heartland. Well before the piercing notes of the long horns heralded the arrival of the Gyalwang Karmapa at the event, the Minnesota Convention Center was transformed into a bustling Tibetan setting, with masked figures arranging themselves in groups, other people rolling out carpets and yet others adjusting their traditional masks and costumes.
Welcoming the Karmapa as he approached, the haunting sound of Tibetan singing echoed off the cement sidewalk and stone walls of the tall building, as if off rocky mountain slopes.
Amidst the exuberant movement and sound, TAFM President Namgyal Dorjee escorted him along a line of leading members of the local Tibetan community, introducing them one by one as His Holiness accepted their outstretched khatas. Without missing a step, dancers peered out discretely from under their fringed hats to catch a close glimpse of the Gyalwang Karmapa on his first visit to Minneapolis.
With TAFM Secretary Phuntsok Tsawog serving as master of ceremonies, the evening’s program formally opened with the audience signing the Tibetan anthem together. When a nine-year-old Tibetan girl in a glistening brocade chuba next approached the microphone, out-of-town guests were amazed to hear a full-throated, jazz-inflected rendition of the national anthem of the United States, worthy of singers twice her size and three times her age.
The air resounded next with polyphonic chanting by monks from a nearby monastic branch affiliated with Gyuto Tantric College, which has long extended generous hospitality to His Holiness the Karmapa in India. After a mandala offering and supplication prayers for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, TAFM president Namgyal Dorjee presented a detailed introduction to the Minnesota community and the activities that the association carries out to preserve Tibetan language, culture and the arts.
In honor of his visit, the association presented the Gyalwang Karmapa with a special award. The next item on the program was the cultural shows, with one group after another of children filled the stage to joyfully offer song and dance from all three regions of Tibet.
Apart from the many young people taking the stage, the aisles in the auditorium were relatively empty of cavorting children, in comparison to the six other meetings with Tibetan communities on this trip thus far. This was not due to a paucity of the young, but rather was the result of a group of mothers and older siblings taking turns sacrificing their time inside the hall with the Karmapa to watch over the children as they played together in an adjacent area outside the hall.
Meanwhile, inside the 2,500-seat auditorium, the association requested that His Holiness the Karmapa offer words of advice to the community. He began by expressing his great delight at having been able to come to Minnesota. “Meeting and connecting with you was all that I wanted to do in coming here, and is the only activity on my schedule,” he told the rapt audience.
The Gyalwang Karmapa observed that the numbers of Tibetans escaping from Tibet to India has dwindled significantly in recent years, while those seeking to emigrate from India to the West has increased. At this rate, he told them, the Tibetan population in India could become depleted to the point that Tibetan schools and monasteries could be affected. Since the United States houses the largest population of Tibetans in diaspora outside India, this lends particular urgency to the need for Tibetans in the United States to work to preserve Tibetan culture and religion. Within that, he said, “the preservation of the Tibetan language, both written and spoken, is central and deserves the highest attention.
“We have a great responsibility to future generation to transmit and preserve this for them,” he said.
The Gyalwang Karmapa spoke movingly of the immense debt of gratitude Tibetans owe to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for shepherding them through this historical period. The unprecedented unity that Tibetans enjoy today, the Karmapa said, “has come about thanks to the great kindness, the skillful means and the vastness of vision of His Holiness.” History will surely record as one of his major deeds the unifying leadership His Holiness the Dalai Lama has provided to the Tibetan people, he said.
Reflecting on their experiences as a refugee community in today’s global society, the Karmapa commented, “The world has taken notice and come to appreciate Tibetan culture and religion. This, too, is a result of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s great skill and tireless efforts.”
In the past, geographic and religious differences loomed so large that the people of Tibet often lost sight of all they actually shared. Speaking of the sense of closeness and common identity that Tibetans experience today, the Karmapa stated, “I am not sure that we truly recognize the magnitude and exceptional value of what he has done for us.
“His Holiness the Dalai Lama has given us a priceless opportunity to work together,” he said.
Addressing the diversity of lineages in Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness the Karmapa expressed his conviction that the availability of varying presentations of the Dharma is positive and necessary, given the variety of people’s dispositions and orientations. Yet, he said, “we must not let these differences blind us to the great commonality of all the schools.” Echoing a point he has made in meetings with other communities, the Karmapa told his audience that Buddha Shakyamuni has foretold that disputes among the holders of his teachings would bring about the destruction of the Buddhadharma. “This is a terrifying prospect to contemplate, and we must each take great care to avoid this,” he said.
As the evening drew to a close, the Karmapa described his sensation during the long drive he had made earlier that day from Madison. “As I was riding in the car to come here, my mind and heart was filled with delight and joy to be able to meet with you,” he told them, adding that he hoped to return in the future. In fact, he added, he feels a “special connection” to Gyuto as his residence in India, and would have like also to have visited their local monastery, had there been time to do so. Finally, he expressed his sincere gratitude and appreciation to the American supporters of Tibet and Tibetans present in the audience as well.
He continued to comment that teaching children songs and dance, as the community here had done so well, was an excellent way to transmit language and culture.
“We need to work together, he said in conclusion, “to think together of ways to preserve our spiritual and cultural heritage.”
Before departing, the Karmapa conferred the oral transmission of Chenrezig and Padmasambhava that the association has requested of him. As he departed the stage after the vote of thanks that concluded the evening, His Holiness took time to greet individually many of those on stage. Among the eminent monks present was the youthful Taksham Tulku, the 8th reincarnation of the 17th-century Nyingma treasure revealer Taksham Nuden Dorje. The two dozen monastics including the abbot and other monks from the local Gyuto Wheel of Dharma Monastery, as well as monastics from all major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, reflecting both the diversity of the Minnesota Tibetan community and its exceptional size.
Although Minneapolis barely makes it into the lost of top 50 cities in terms of its population, it is the number two city in terms of Tibetan population. When the United States Immigration Act of 1990 allocated 1,000 visas for Tibetans living in India and Nepal, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul were selected as a site for settlement. At the time, just two Tibetan families were living in the city. As it did throughout the country, the Tibetan-US Resettlement Committee recruited local American host families to help each immigrating Tibetan find housing and employment. As part of that program, 160 Tibetans were directed to settle in Minnesota. That number has since swelled to nearly between 2,500 and 3,000, partly through family reunification, but also through relocation to the area from smaller Tibetan communities in St, Louis, Montana and Texas.
Leading members of the Tibetan community attending the event attribute the growth in size of the Minneapolis community to the city’s cold weather which they say Tibetan find amenable, along with its high level of education opportunities, low unemployment rates and the strength of the local Tibetan association, reflected in the vitality of this evening’s event.
Photography by Lama Sam. View a video documenting the visit here.
He’s an environmentalist, he’s friends with the Dalai Lama, and, at 29, the 17th Karmapa may be Tibet’s next hope.
The Dalai Lama is turning 80. Do you worry what will happen to Tibetans when he dies?
All Tibetans have placed our hopes in His Holiness, and we depend on him so profoundly. While the communist invasion was obviously a disaster for the people and culture of Tibet, it also had the side effect under His Holiness’s leadership of uniting all Tibetan lineages in a way that had never happened. When he passes away, I worry we will be like a body without a head.
Many think you will be the next spiritual leader for all Tibetans. Will you?
People say this a lot, and it’s out of affection. But to be direct: the Dalai Lama has been both the political leader and also the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, and it’s highly unlikely anyone else would be universally accepted like him as the leader of all Tibetans.
You were discovered at age 7 as leader of the Kagyu school, one of the six main lineages of Tibetan Buddhists. At 14, you fled Tibet for India. Why?
In Tibet I was not free to travel, and the holders of my lineage, from whom I needed instruction, lived outside of China. I was unable to meet with them. I also feared that as I aged, China might try to give me some kind of political role and use me as a propaganda alternative to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. So I wished to avoid that very much.
You haven’t seen your parents in 14 years—
Fifteen. Do you miss them?
When I first reached India, I dreamed of them and of Tibet practically every night. At some point I realized if this goes on, it’s going to be very, very hard. I had to put them out of my mind. But now that they’re somewhat aged, I’m concerned about being able to see them again.
What does a lama do when he feels sad?
I don’t feel I have anyone to bring my problems to. So I suppose when I feel sad I really just close my door and I let myself cry. I try to work things out for myself.
China has encouraged migration into Tibet. Does that worry you??
If many people settle in Tibet, it’s going to affect the natural environment-—and that’s not only important to the people who live there. The source of all of the great rivers of Asia is the Himalayan glaciers and snow. For the sake of all of Asia, China needs to recognize the need to preserve it.
You’ve said nothing’s more dangerous than apathy. Why?
Scientists say we are all hard-wired to feel love and compassion. Unfortunately, we’ve developed some kind of on-off switch, and now our apathy extends to any danger that’s not right in front of us. Climate change is one of them.
So what should we do?
Recognize we are inter-dependent. That we need to take responsibility for the welfare of others and break down the wall of selfishness and pride that gives us a false sense of separation. Each of us possesses a natural resource in our hearts. We need to explore it.
You’ve been on a long tour of the U.S. What has stood out to you about Americans?
The tremendous dependence on technology and material things. It’s a mental dependence. India of course has modern technology. But Indians have not lost the understanding that they need to seek happiness within.
Do you wonder what life would be like if you weren’t the Karmapa?
Well, I don’t have much experience being anything else. I suppose I would be an ordinary monk.
I had a powerful experience with impermanence when I was around 8 or 9. At the time, I was reading about dharma without knowing too much about it. I didn’t have a lot of experience with dharma so I mostly focused on learning basic language, grammar and so forth, and a little bit of memorization, that was part of my early training. I was focusing on the beings within the six samsaric realms, and how they would move from one realm to another. In particular when I focused on the hell realm, I just went into this total darkness. Although I was still repeating things from my mouth, which were memorized prayers, what I saw in front of my eye were blurred images. I also felt as if my continuity of consciousness was broken, which made me feel this immense fear. I couldn’t actually continue to sit so I went out, and that made me feel better. So, when I had this unbearable anxiety and wasn’t able to continue to sit, my teacher said that I could get up and go outside to get refreshed.
When we move from one lifetime to the next, again and again, it is totally based on the continuity of the stream of consciousness; it it endless. When we think of the stream of consciousness, and that there’s no end to it, it’s almost as if our life has no actual death; because the body is something you have found anew, while the mind is on going. This is the basis for the designation of “I” to mean person. And everything that has happened from the beginning of time, is actually stream of consciousness. This is how “I” began. Since the basis of “I” or self is something from the beginninglessness of time, when we try to look for the self, that “I”, that stream of consciousness, we actually attribute an “I” to it, or we designate a self into that beginninglessness. So based on that concept of the deathless “I”, when you think of impermanence in terms of momentariness, there’s really no end to our continuity of consciousness.
Reincarnation is something being employed by the bodhisattvas, who are well intentioned and want to benefit sentient beings. They come back to samsara by committing a specific kind of karma, and it’s from that kind of karma that these bodhisattvas keep coming back to samsara. It is negative or positive karmas that places beings in higher or lower realms. With negative karma, you go down to lower realms, and with positive karma you go up to higher realms. The fact is that beings go to higher realms or lower realms based on the karma that is created. Consciousness is being driven around by karma, based on the beginning of time. So when we try to look for the self, that “I”, the potential energy collected from either good or bad karma actually influences the movements of consciousness to the higher realm or the lower realm. Where you end up is something that is totally dependent on the kind of karma you have created in the past.
The age we live in can be called the information era, and the connections between us individuals are getting much closer. Media shared by one person can reach many people and have many effects. For that reason, we can each increase our own individual power and effectiveness towards positive change. If everyone of us takes on that responsibility, I think we can definitely make a big difference. Instead of waiting for a great, powerful being to come from outside to be our hero, we ourselves need to make that commitment to becoming a great person who protects the world. I think this is the responsibility of us all.
On April 16th, 2015, USIP hosted His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa of Tibet. At a roundtable discussion with USIP staff and invited guests from the religious peacebuilding community, he spoke about efforts to redress gender inequality within Tibetan Buddhism, the relationship between peace-building and the recognition of interdependence, and the causes that lead people to join violent movements.
Learn more about USIP's Religion and Peacebuilding program
Translator Lama Yeshe Gyamtso Transcript by Ani Sherab
President Nancy Lindborg of the U.S. Institute of Peace: Good morning and welcome to the United States Institute of Peace. We are very, very honored to have with us today the His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, the head of Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism. I also want to welcome and to acknowledge some of the many who have accompanied His Holiness, especially Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche with whom we worked to organize this event. He has been a wonderful partner, very enthusiastic and wonderful to work with.
This is especially auspicious occasion for me as many years ago I had the great honor of studying with Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche in Kathmandu, who is part of the same school. This is just wonderful to have Your Holiness with us today at the USIP.
As many of you know, His Holiness has a truly dramatic story based on your escape from Tibet in 1999 when you traveled. Having lived in Nepal I know the difficulty of that passage over those mountains and it is truly wonderful that you were able to do that and now reside in Dharamsala next to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
We have had an important tradition here at USIP of trying to contribute to the ways in which faith leaders can be a part of the peace building process. We have with us David Smock, who for many years architected that program. And I am very pleased to have Susan Hayward, who runs that program now, and this is an important part of how we understand conflict needs to be understood, and voices of faith leaders and religious leaders like His Holiness are a special and influential way for us to think about these critical issues of how to build peace and how to use compassion and wisdom especially for understanding our way through the kind of conflict that continue to rip our world apart.
So, His Holiness will make a few remarks and then we will have an opportunity for people to ask some questions. And with that, thank you so much for joining us here today.
HH Karmapa: First of all I want to thank everyone who here has made it possible for me to have this opportunity to visit USIP, and I’m very happy to be here.
I rejoice in the existence of the USIP, because this is, after all, a branch of the United States Government, specifically formed and wholly devoted to the cause of peace. I think its existence is also a proof of the recognition by this government that peace is of great importance. Of course the idea of peace and the understanding of the necessity of peace are not enough. To achieve peace will require a complete commitment, complete devotion, and even beyond that it will require that we first achieve peace within our own hearts. We also need to be able to extend ourselves to others and to other societies; we need more love, more compassion and more kindness, and much deeper sense of our interconnectedness, whether it be between different religions, nations or peoples. We need to come to greater awareness of our interdependence and our interconnectedness.
I don’t have too much else to say, except again I would like you to know how really delighted I am to be here and to have received an extremely warm welcome from your president and members of your board and all of you, thank you.
Interim Director Susan Hayward: Thank you very much Your Holiness of your remarks, it’s truly an honor to have you here. I am Susan Hayward, the interim director of the Religion and Peacebuilding Program here at the Institute. I’ going to open it up now for discussion, so if you have questions, please just indicate by raising your hand. Please identify yourself and your organization. But I’m going to take moderators prerogative here and ask the first question if I could, to get us started.
So, Your Holiness… first of all let me say that what you have to say about the interdependence of people around the world and the need for us to recognize and to have the wisdom to see that interconnectivity between people is so important to the cause of peace. In USIP we recognize the ways in which multiple factors and drivers mutually feed one another and lead to the arising of violence and of suffering. In order to find effective and sustainable solutions to those problems we have to see how these drivers feed one another and how we all have to play a role helping to resolve them and transform them into peace. So, understanding interdependence helps us to understand the solutions, to really addressing the factors that drive in conflict. So, I really appreciate that and connect with that.
But I also wanted to ask you: you have spoken out recently and supported the ordination for women within the Tibetan monastic order. This is also in the religious program we put a lot of attention on: the role of women within religious traditions and the role that they can play particularly in supporting peace. So I wonder if you could speak al little bit about how you see women’s ordination within the Tibetan order as being an issue of peace.
HHK: First of all, the establishment of the support of community is of great importance. During the Buddha’s lifetime many women, who had experienced great challenges in their lives, were able to gather together and form a supportive community, a sangha of ordained women, female monastics. But the issue of the re-establishment of full ordination for women in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition goes beyond simply the establishment of the full ordination itself, because it is an important stepping stone in the restoration of women’s rights in using the religious or spiritual tradition of Tibetan Buddhism to do that.
For this reason His Holiness the Dalai Lama has over the last 20 or even 30 years been discussing how we can actually restore the bhiksuni or the full monastic ordination for women in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. And His Holiness has worked on this, his devotion on this cause has inspired me and caused me over time to begin to really understand and appreciate the great importance of the re-establishment of this ordination.
The reason we have been waiting for so long to do this is we wanted to put enough research into the matter, so that when it is done it will be done in an indisputably valid way, so that all the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism accept it. However, at this point, 20 or 30 years into the discussion it’s evident that it would still take a long time to get everyone on board. So I feel that if one lineage begins, then the others will follow, that is my hope. So therefore I will begin this.
It’s important, however, to understand that the purpose of this to establish not to only the right to full ordination, but equal rights in all aspects of Tibetan religious culture: education, status and rank fully equal to that of male monastics. Another reason why this is so important is that women innately have a little more wisdom and little more kindness than men. And so, to put it bluntly…
HHK correcting translator in English: I didn’t say “little”.
Translator: All right, I’m trying to be… women are a lot wiser and a lot kinder than men, and therefore giving them the authority to use their innate wisdom and kindness will do the Buddhist tradition a great deal of good.
Question: Your Holiness, thank you very much. My question is personal, and I actually have two if I could be greedy about this. I’d like to know in your personal journey you are in relationship with your teacher. If you could talk a little bit about that; what your teacher has meant to you and I think I connected with that and connected with your last statement about the fact that women have so much to teach us, one of the things that I look at – sometimes there are concerns about the process of taking the young child from their mother at a very early point in life and just surrounded by these men, who I’m sure can share many teachings and many empowerments, but I think there are also challenges involved in that process. And I wonder if you could reflect on that little bit for us, thank you?
HHK: Thank you. When you become a monk or nun – especially if you become a monk, which can happen really in somewhat early childhood, you are separated from your parents. I was separated from my parents at the age of seven, when I became the Karmapa or was recognized as the Karmapa. And after that I was surrounded by tutors and other old people. Of course, we all know that in general women are more affectionate than men they are more skillful.
HHK: Yes, detail.
Translator: I don’t know how detail would fit in that. Women are more affectionate than men. Men in general have a hard time showing or displaying affection.
Most of my tutors and most tutors in my tradition are pretty tough, but gradually students come to an appreciation of how kind their tutors are and what a tremendous contribution their teachers have made to their lives, although usually we come to this appreciation after we have grown up and we have the perspective to realize what we gained under their guidance and teaching.
So, in a sense teachers become even more kind and even more influential in some ways than our parents. Another thing is that there are different ways of showing love, and in general I would say that the way Tibetans show love is less expressively demonstrative than is true in the west. Westerners, not all but typically tend to be more openly demonstrative. They demonstrate their love for others in their facial expressions, gestures and so forth. Tibetans do this, too, of course, but it’s far more common for Tibetan to demonstrate their love for you by scolding you and trying to help you in that way.
As I gradually came to understand this it wasn’t really too hard for me. For the first year after being separated from my parents at the age of seven it was difficult, but then I became used to it and have not suffered too much from it.
Susan Hayward: We know that you remain separated from your family; they are still back in Tibet, except for your sister who is with us here today. Other questions?
Question: Hi, my name is Ariana Barth, I work here at the US Institute of Peace and again, I’m very grateful that you are able to join us. There are probably 40 – 45 people in this room and 40 or 45 opinions, but I’m very curious of what you think about why people choose violence to achieve what they want and what we can do about that, thank you.
HHK: I don’t think that people are born terrorists, they become terrorists through the influence of environmental factors, education and training, pure pressure and all sorts of other social influences. And I think that people are changed into terrorists by those conditions. Nowadays a principal factor in active violence and terrorism is ignorance. People are intentionally misled by leaders or teachers, who don’t tell them the truth, deceive them with distortions or one-sided explanations of complex situations, and by doing so repeatedly convince their followers, who subsequently become fanatics willing to engage in acts of violence and terrorism. Also many terrorists are living in a state of desperation: their hopes have been dashed and they conceive of the idea that the only way to get what they want or get what they want done is through violence. They conceive of the common way of misconception that violence is more powerful that peace.
So, I think these are the major factors, especially ignorance and prejudgment, prejudice and one-sided knowledge of a complex situation. Beyond that I don’t have much more to say about that.
Question: Hello, I’m Susan Lawrence from the Educational Research Service. I wonder if you would tell us a little bit more about your plans of the ordination for women in your lineage, what’s the timeline is for this. Do you have a timeline and what are the steps you have taken already? What do you anticipate you will need to do to make that happen? Thank you.
HHK: There is a definite timeline for this. We are going to begin by creating a committee to oversee and record all proceedings in this, since first time we do this we will establish a presidency that will be of some influence if not actually binding for the future. We’ll have to do it very carefully. Specifically in the year 2016 probably in March or April we will begin.
Now, the full ordination for women has two steps. There is the post novitiate but pre full ordination, which is done first, and then those women who have received that and lived according to it for two years then become eligible for the full ordination. So, we’ll do the first step of this in 2016 and the second step therefore in 2018. Then we’ll have to wait for ten years, after which those women who received full ordination in 2018 will become elders and authorized to bestow that ordination on other women. Because what we want to establish is a community of Tibetan women fully ordained who can bestow the ordination that they themselves have received, on other women.
Up to now what has happened is: some women have received the full ordination in the Chinese Buddhist tradition, but it has not yet been re-established in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Now, if you do the math, I’ll be forty by the time these women can bestow the ordination on other women, which is another reason I feel we can’t wait any longer, otherwise I would wait until I’ll be fifty or sixty, you know, so I want it done now.
Susan Hayward: I noticed people started getting less shy and we have number of hands going up. So, I’m going to collect few questions now so His Holiness can answer.
Question 1: Good morning Your Holiness, the first time I met you was in your monastery in Tibet more than 15 years ago, and that gets to my question. What do you think are the prospects for you actually returning to Tibet, either to visit or possibly to relocate, and I suppose that brings in the question of the various circumstances that you see will need to happen for a peaceful resolution between Tibet and China?
Question 2: Good morning Your Holiness. In the speech that you did in Boston you talked about cultivating compassion and even amongst the Buddhist community and the world in general, oftentimes we really struggle with how do we cultivate that in our lives? So, what can you share that maybe insightful, how do we cultivate this compassion in our personal lives, in our organizations, and how we interact with world in general?
Question 3: Good morning, it’s a pleasure to meet you and members of your community, sir. I’m just curious when you speak about the full equality of women within the hierarchy, how will that affect the search for reincarnation?
HHK, answer to question 1: Before I left Tibet I left behind a letter in which I wrote. “If it will help Tibetan people I will soon return. So, it was not my intention when I left – it has never been my intention to never return to Tibet. It has not been my intention to leave my homeland permanently. It would be a problem for me to return certainly under the current circumstances, but I was born in Tibet and I feel great responsibility in supporting Tibetan spiritual and secular culture, and I have never been separated from them.
It has been many years since His Holiness the Dalai Lama left Tibet and in that time, over the last several generations he has been joined in exile by many Tibetans. All of us who live in exile want to return, but what prevents us from returning is the issue between China and Tibet. The Chinese Government sees this as a political issue and an internal issue, but in fact it is a human issue, because it concerns the plait of wellbeing of an entire nationality and entire people. If the Chinese Government can come to recognize that this is an issue that in various ways impacts and concerns all humanity, and if on that basis a dialogue happens between Dharamsala and Beijing, then that might be the beginning of our being able to return.
HHK, answer to question 2: The next question dealt with compassion. First of all I would say that compassion is much more than sympathy or the mere understanding of others’ suffering. Compassion is much more dedicated, much more involved, much more active; so the difference is in the degree of dedication, involvement and action. In particular compassion has no subject and object. There is no sense in true compassion: “I, the feeler of compassion am feeling compassion for you or them, the objects of my compassion.” There is no distinction made, no difference felt. One sees oneself in true compassion as part of others. One is able to put oneself in the position of others and feel their suffering.
In this world we are all interconnected. Each one of us depends upon, relies on and is connected to all others. This connection is so profound, so central to the very value of our lives that it goes far beyond being philosophical conversation; it actually is the central factor in our whole way of life. So, self and others are not as separate as we think they are. We are each part of others.
It is by understanding this that we can become willing to undertake responsibility for others’ wellbeing, and furthermore undertake that responsibility with enthusiasm and courage. I think that enthusiastic courage, that inspiration to undertake responsibility for others is the basis of true compassion. We need to break down the wall of selfishness that usually surrounds us, and we need to change in that way, because without doing so true compassion will not arise in us.
HHK, answer to question 3: The next question was about whether the empowerment of women in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition will have an effect on the tulku system, the reborn, reincarnated lama recognition system. There actually already are female tulkus or reincarnated lamas, but proportionally they are so few compared to the number of male tulkus that you could almost say there aren’t any. There actually are some but they are so few.
But this is primarily I think for social reasons, and therefore as women are more empowered, given more respect, more authority, more empowerment, they will naturally have a much greater opportunity to become religious leaders, including the recognition of them as tulkus. There has never been a rule in Tibetan Buddhism that women could not be tulkus, but because the outlook in the society towards women in general was not especially positive, there have been very few. Nevertheless, as you indicated in your question, once women are afforded full support for leadership roles, there will be more.
Susan Hayward: I’m cognizant of the time and of the DC traffic and I want to make sure that we honor His Holiness’s schedule and the need for them to depart shortly.
Nancy Lindborg: I just want to that you again Your Holiness for joining us today, we are deeply grateful for the words you have brought to us, for the opportunity for us to come together and reflect again the importance of compassion and how we might as individuals and in various organizations contribute in bringing greater peace to the world and ending violent conflict.
Thank you especially for your leadership and real inspiration on bringing women to full ordination; this is the kind of conclusion that globally will have enormous impact. Thank you very much, we wish you peaceful and wonderful journey for the rest of your time in United States.
(May 8, 2015 – Lynnwood, Seattle) In his final meeting with Tibetan communities during this trip, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa granted an Amitayus long-life empowerment and delivered a Dharma discourse to an audience of 1,350 people. This event, organized by the Tibetan Association of Washington, represents the eighth time during his two months in the United States that His Holiness made time to meet with Tibetans in various parts of the country.
He was welcomed by the traditional costumed dancers that have greeted him when received by Tibetans across the continent. The formal program included speeches by Tashi Namgyal Khamshitsang, the Member of Parliament representing North America in the Central Tibetan Administration and President of the Tibetan Association of Washington, Tenzin Chokey. The TAW President warmly thanked the Gyalwang Karmapa for all he has done on behalf of Tibetan culture and religion, and for his work on behalf of women’s rights, and particularly for Buddhist nuns.
His Holiness the Karmapa was regaled with a musical performance by local Tibetan children. Among the tunes they presented him was an original tune of welcome, with words and melody composed especially for the event by members of the local community, including the lamas of Sakya Monastery. The youngsters, most of whom were elementary school age, enacted gestures of welcome as they sang in Tibetan at the top of their voices. Their vocal enthusiasm drew fond smiles from the audience as well as the Karmapa, who then gave them individual blessings.
Before beginning the Amitayus empowerment, the 17th Karmapa made introductory comments on the practice of giving long-life empowerments. He related that when he was younger, for many years, the only empowerments he was able to give were Amitayus and Chenrezig, because his main teachers had been unable to travel to Tibet to transmit the lineage to him. He recounted that he used to long to be able to give more impressive empowerments, smiling wryly as he described his childish attitude.
Reflecting on the evident incongruity of giving empowerments to extend life while following the Buddha’s teachings on impermanence and the inevitability of death, His Holiness the Karmapa said, “Some people think that the Vajrayana practiced by Tibetans is strange, since it prolongs life and promises immortality.” Actually, he explained, the practice of conferring long-life empowerments preserves the centrality of the Buddha’s teachings on impermanence. It offers us support in acknowledging, accepting and facing the inevitability of our own deaths, he said, and encourages us to ensure that we make the life we do have fully meaningful.
If our concern is to ensure longevity or enhance our vitality, the Gyalwang Karmapa remarked, there are many conditions that we should be looking after, both physical and mental, including food, physical exercise but also our conduct and our general outlook on life.
Urging the audience to care for their health, His Holiness observed that often people only control their diet when they are sick. “Actually, we should view our food as medicine,” he said. “It is the medicine that we are taking every day.”
Noting, however, that the mental conditions have an equal or greater effect on our health, the Karmapa emphasized the harmful effects of stress and urged his audience to take care not to succumb to stressful or negative states of mind, but cultivate a positive outlook. Combined with the right physical conditions, he said, this will allow us to enjoy sound physical health, which is beneficial not only to us individually, but to our families and all of society, he said.
It is important to broaden our motivation, the Karmapa said, to maintain a clear sense of responsibility to care for others, and not just for ourselves. “If we bring to a long-life empowerment just the motivation of wanting to have a longer life, this is not a sufficient motivation for us to receive the full benefits,” he told them. “By contrast, if our aim in having a long life is to be able to benefit others, then that is a worthwhile motivation.”
He pointed out that having a long lifespan in itself places us in certain danger. “Inconceivably large numbers of animals are killed to sustain our life and so many have to suffer and lose their lives for us to stay alive, and to enjoy health and comfort. This should give us a heightened awareness of the great responsibility we have to make our lives meaningful for others and not just for ourselves.”
With those preliminary comments, the Karmapa conferred the empowerment of Amitayus, the Buddha of Boundless Life. He directed additional remarks to the Tibetan community that had gathered, beginning by emphasizing the importance of maintaining the Tibetan language and expressing his appreciation for the Tibetan Association of Washington’s effort to that end. (The association offers classes every Sunday afternoon in Tibetan language and culture to area children.)
He reminded those gathered of the regrettable presence of competition and hostility within Tibetan history of the past, underscoring the value of the hard-won sense of unity and shared identity that had developed under His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s skillful leadership. It is important for Tibetans to gain a clear understanding of why His Holiness the Dalai Lama is such a worthy object of their devotion, he said, so that they can truly appreciate and safeguard what they have received from him.
The Gyalwang Karmapa observed that a diversity of opinion was healthy and positive, but should be expressed in a way that Tibetans do not lose sight of all that also unites them. “What we hold in common is more fundamental than what distinguishes us,” he said.
He stressed the importance of recognizing that all Tibetan Buddhists follow a single teacher: Lord Buddha. “It is of great benefit to have the Dharma expressed in a variety of different ways,” he added. “However, when we go for refuge, we all go for refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. There is no ‘our Buddha’ and ‘their Buddha,’” he said. “There is no ‘our Dharma’ and ‘their Dharma,’ or ‘our Sangha’ and ‘their Sangha,’” he told them.
As he has reminded other Tibetan communities across the continent, the Buddha warned that his teachings would be destroyed by conflict among the holders of the teachings. “Somehow, we always seem to expect the threat will come from outside and seek to blame external forces,” he said. He thus urged his audience to look within themselves to ensure that they were not undermining the Dharma from within.
As the hour grew later, His Holiness the Karmapa remained speaking warmly with his fellow Tibetans, until the scheduled program had drawn to its close. After he departed, the large community lingered in the hall, taking blessings from his throne and enjoying one another’s company. Many were deferring a long drive home, for Tibetans living in the nearby cities of Vancouver, Canada, Portland, Oregon and Olympia, Washington had traveled to Seattle for the event.
Seattle and the surrounding King County area itself is home to approximately 350 Tibetans. The relatively long and rich history of Tibetan settlement in the state of Washington began in the first half of the 20th century, when five or six Tibetans families answered a call for lumberjacks. In 1960, just one year after the beginning of the mass exodus of Tibetans fleeing Tibet, His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Rinpoche, head of the Phuntsok Phodrang, arrived in Seattle, accompanied by His Eminence Dezhung Rinpoche. A grant from the Rockefeller Foundation enabled them to participate in a research project on Tibetan culture and religion at the University of Washington, and thus Seattle became the seat in exile for the Phuntsok Phodrang, one of the two branches of the Khon family that share the responsibility for upholding the leadership of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. When Tibetans were granted visas to immigrate to the United States beginning in 1990, another 50 arrived in Seattle. Over time, this sound beginning has served as the basis from which has grown the flourishing community that hosted His Holiness the Karmapa today.
Next stop on the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa’s agenda is a visit to the Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism founded by Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Rinpoche.
(May 9, 2015 – Seattle, Washington) Maintaining a relationship of multiple lifetimes, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa paid a visit today to the Sakya Monastery of His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya, the current throne holder of Phuntsok Phodrang, also commonly known as Dagchen Rinpoche. During his time at the monastery, the 17th Karmapa held a private meeting with Dagchen Rinpoche, Her Eminence Dagmo Kusho Sakya and their family, and then gave a Tara transmission to the entire Sakya community.
The welcome address was delivered by Dagmo Kusho Sakya, the wife of Dagchen Rinpoche and herself an eminent teacher in the lineage. Dagmo Kusho outlined the exceptionally close bonds between the lamas of the Phuntsok Phodrang and the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. (Along with Drolma Phodrang headed by the current Sakya Trizin, Phuntsok Phodrang is one of the two surviving branches of the Khon family that have upheld the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism for nearly one thousand years. The heads of the two phodrangs have historically alternated in heading the Sakya lineage and serving as Sakya Trizin, or throneholder of the Sakya school.)
As Dagmo Kusho Sakya noted, Dagchen Rinpoche and the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa shared the experience of making an extended visit to Beijing in the company of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from 1954 to 1955. She explained that her own uncle His Eminence Dezhung Rinpoche had had a close connection with the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa from childhood, and traveled from Seattle to be with him when the 16th Karmapa visited North America in the 1970s and 1980. Describing the visit of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa to Sakya Monastery as an indication of auspicious connection and pure samaya, she then proceeded to offer a mandala to His Holiness the Karmapa.
“I am delighted and feel very fortunate to be able to connect in this way with Phuntsok Phodrang, to meet with the great master, the glorious Sakya Dagchen along with his family and retinue, and to visit Sakya Monastery of Seattle,” the 17th Karmapa said. “It gives a boost to my spirit to be able to come to see you all.”
Following on the comments by Her Eminence Dagmo Kusho, the Karmapa too reviewed the extensive history linking successive Karmapa reincarnations and the Sakya lineage, saying he himself had heard a great deal about the closeness of the Dharma connections as well as the personal friendships between the 16th Karmapa and Phuntsok Phodrang. The Karmapa expressed his own aspiration for the unified spirit and pure samaya initiated in the past to continue and intensify life after life, generation after generation.
He explained that when Sakya Dagchen Rinpoche and Dezhung Rinpoche first arrived in the United States, Tibetan Buddhism was virtually unknown. The two were among the very Tibetan lamas to establish a base in the West, arriving in 1960. Despite the unfamiliarity of Tibetan Buddhism, the Karmapa said, they were able to establish a stable community and serve as a vibrant source of teachings to the people of America. The 17th Karmapa described Sakya Monastery today as a strong bastion of Tibetan Buddhism in the West and an example to be followed by others. He concluded expressing his prayers for the long and stable life of His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya.
As part of his transmission of Tara practice to the community, His Holiness proposed reciting the praises to the 21 Taras together, and himself led the chant using a tune he himself had composed. He asked that the merit of reciting the Tara praises be dedicates to the long life and flourishing of the activities of His Holiness Jidgal Sakya and all his family members.
To conclude, the Sakya community together recited the supplication for the long life of the 17th Karmapa, which the monastery had printed and distributed beforehand to the audience along with a photo of the Karmapa. As His Holiness prepared to depart, a leader of the community quickly took the microphone and asked permission for the audience to thank him in Tibetan, which they all did, calling out in unison, “Thuk je che!”
As he departed, a brilliant sun glinted off his vehicle as it pulled away from the curb, leaving out of town visitors wondering whether Seattle’s reputation as a constantly overcast city might be overstated. Earlier that morning, shortly before His Holiness’ arrival at Sakya Monastery, a rainbow encircling the sun had been clearly visible to those gathered to receive the Karmapa at Sakya Monastery. This was the latest in the repeated appearances of rainbows during this tour, on the East Coast of the continent, in the Midwest and now on the West Coast.
Photography by Lama Sam. View a video documenting the visit here.
In physical conduct, I will not allow myself to be roofless and hurried, Incapable of being still, carelessly following my every whim. I will always hold my own space. And be adorned by the training in pure discipline.
In speech, whether spiritual or secular, I will choose meaningful words And shun unconnected talk of past events or boring discussions concerning any of the three times. I will always exert myself in dharmic recitations, proclamations, and readings.
In mind, I will not flutter back and forth like a young bird on a branch. Not getting absorbed in discursive thoughts of good and bad, I will meditate, cultivating forbearance and relying on my own perceptions, not those of others. I will reflect on how best to benefit the teachings and beings.
(May 9, 2015 – Seattle, Washington) His Holiness the Karmapa this morning shared the stage with six young activists whose life work puts into direct action the principles and values that His Holiness has been encouraging throughout his two-month trip. In an event organized by the Nalandabodhi community headed by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, the Karmapa first delivered a talk entitled “A Call to Compassionate Action”, and then participated in a panel discussion with the six area leaders on issues of social justice.
With an iconic image of Seattle’s Mt. Rainier serving as a massive backdrop, the 17th Karmapa set the tone for the interaction by declaring unequivocally that, “Compassion itself is an action.” He went on to elaborate, saying, “Compassion must pierce the heart, in such a way that the heart is translated into action.”
Cutting across the assumption that compassion is simply a feeling that resides in the mind or heart, His Holiness explored the relationship between body, speech and mind in the context of compassionate action. He cited a saying in Tibetan Buddhism that the sign of a beginner’s first acting compassionately is that they cease to eat meat. The Karmapa affirmed that there is no requirement to become vegetarian upon adopting a Buddhist path, nevertheless the moment in which the impulse to end the suffering of others leads a practitioner to take the concrete step of abandoning meat can mark of first step in the process of manifesting one’s compassion physically and verbally.
His Holiness related that Tibetan Buddhism offers many different techniques for cultivating compassion and bringing that compassion from the realm of the mind into the realms of our body and speech. Ultimately, he said, “we train to express compassion through every pore of our bodies.”
He then explored an approach that takes the five senses as a domain for the cultivation and expression of compassion. We use our eyes as the eyes of compassion, looking at others in a way that we truly see them and recognize their suffering, without averting our eyes or wavering in our gaze. At the same time, he said, we seek to show our love and compassion by how we look at others. In the end, he said, “We can radiate compassion directly to anyone that we see.”
Taking our auditory faculty as another example, the Karmapa described listening as a practice of compassion in which we listen to others in such a way that we truly hear them. “Whenever you hear sounds made by other beings or hear the voices of people speaking, you try to suffuse your hearing with the heart of compassion,” he said.
Taking physical contact as another example, His Holiness said that here, too, we can emanate compassion through touch. “When we shake hands or give someone a hug,” he said, “we can generate love in our heart and radiate it to them through that contact.”
In the end, the 17th Karmapa explained, the point in cultivating compassion is “not just to feel the warmth of love and compassion within ourselves, but to be able to send it out so that others are touched and warmed by it.”
As he described this practice, leaning forward toward the packed hall, not a word was heard as the audience leant him their eyes and ears, held firmly in his own gaze. He went on, “If we embrace all experiences this way, with an attitude of love, and we continue practicing this from day to day, ultimately we can reach a point where even being seen by another person will cause that person to feel at peace, to feel an easing of their aggression and an increase in their own experience of love and kindness. This kind of result is really possible.”
He then referenced textual descriptions of just such a transformation taking place in the homes visited by the bodhisattva Maitreya, whose primary practice is love. Speaking from his own personal experience, the Karmapa recounted how he himself experiences his problems dissolving into a sense of peace when he comes into the presence of holy beings.
Bringing the phenomenon into a more accessible realm, he added that the power of a mother’s love has a similar effect. Her presence in the room creates a perceptible sense of security and wellbeing in the family. “Her love touches everyone in the room and fills the room completely.” It is for this reason that the loss of a mother is felt so keenly, as she seems to take with her the immediate and vivid presence of that love. This indicates, His Holiness the Karmapa said, that: “The power of love is available in common to everyone. It is not a superpower reserved for special situations but rather is something we can all share.”
Turning his attention to the component of commitment and courage that is needed for our compassion to become manifest in action, he emphasized that we must dedicate ourselves completely to the individuals whose suffering we wish to end. To that end, he stressed the importance that there not be a perception of distance between the other whom we seek to benefit and ourselves.
“We really embrace the totality of the people we’re feeling compassion for,” he said, “really opening ourselves to the entirety of their experience, with no separation between us and them.”
To the degree possible, we should seek to dissolve the dualism implicit in the sense of self as separate from other, he said. He spoke briefly on the perspective of interdependence that shows us that the hard boundaries we create between ourselves and others ultimately untenable, and then suggested he leave the remainder of that topic to be explored in the afternoon, to leave ample time for the panelists to share their own experiences.
“I had a chance to meet these wonderful young women and men a short time ago,” His Holiness said, “and I feel they are wonderful examples. We spiritual teachers mostly talk about compassion, love, and so on, but these young women and men are putting it into action in direct and helpful way.”
For the remainder of the session, a video highlighting the activist work of each panelist was shown, and the panelist then posed a question to His Holiness, with Nalandabodhi’s Mitra Mark Power moderating and Mitra Tyler Dewar translating, as he has done for His Holiness during the Midwest and West Coast portions of this tour. First to speak was Burmese refugee Ta Kwe Say, whose video recounted the painful experience of separation from his family and going into hiding and then exile in the United States, as well as his work to support other refugees. His question to the Karmapa began by stating the urgency to build alliances to be able to address the many forms of injustice and suffering in the world. “How can we dismantle barriers of ‘them versus us’ mentality, and build alliances so our compassionate work can be supported?” he asked.
His Holiness emphatically agreed with the need to build alliances, and eliminate the sense of us against them. He then explored how an increased understanding of interdependence could work to erode the sense of separation that underlies the division into rival groups. The Karmapa urged that this point of view be integrated into secular education. “Economic education, political education, scientific education—there is room in all these fields to increase awareness of value and appreciation of interdependence.”
Next was Silas Follendorf, who herself once lived on the streets and today works at YouthCare hands-on doing outreach to Seattle’s many street kids, homeless and at-risk youth. Her question regarded how to make her work sustainable in the face of so much trauma and pain. “Sometimes my heart begins to shut down and I want to step back,” she said.
His Holiness replied with great emphasis, saying that in order to sustain our commitment to work for others, we must encourage ourselves and also care for ourselves. “We should give ourselves permission to find satisfaction in that,” he said. “We do this work all day long, and at the end of each day it is very important to allow ourselves to feel content that we have engaged in these activities during the day, to nourish ourselves with the knowledge that they are beneficial and will help to produce happiness for others. We do not need to wait for the future to be satisfied now.”
“The work you are doing is very meaningful and bringing direct benefit and sparking the experience of happiness for these people,” he told her. You need to appreciate that and allow it to become a source of sustenance for you.
“After all,” he added, “if our hand isn’t warm, we will not be able to warm someone else’s hand by grabbing it. To warm someone else up we need to become warm ourselves.”
Videos and questions followed from two other youth activists. Jennifer Hotes, who works with Love City Love, an arts collective that promotes healing through performing arts, asked about the role of fun. Rekeda Roundtree, who teaches in a program at Roots of Empathy to enhance empathy in schoolchidren, asked about the nature of competition.
Next were two youth ambassadors for Seeds of Compassion, Olivia Smith and Habib Behjatnia. Olivia Smith spoke first, sharing her observation that, “Compassion looks one way in the privileged realm, but in poor communities, it can look like taking care of siblings or making dinner. In events like this I feel like compassion is commoditized. Not everyone gets to be a part of this conversation.”
His Holiness responded that this was related to what our society values and how we define wealth. After speaking of his experience growing up in an impoverished but happy environment, he observed that modern society appears to have inverted the values. The emphasis on material wealth as what is considered precious and valuable has been accompanied by a devaluing of compassion and love. He explained that dialogues that draw attention to the underappreciated value of compassion have a place in bringing about a rethinking of its place in our world to ultimately transform society. “Of course,” he said in conclusion, “it is going to take a lot more than just talking for a few hours or days about compassion.”
Habib Behjatnia’s question for His Holiness followed naturally from the previous comments as he asked how to promote compassion in a society that places tremendous emphasis on competitiveness, productivity and material wealth. The Karmapa affirmed that, “We are living in an intense time of commercialization and commodification of anything.” He then stressed the importance of ensuring that our cultivation of love and compassion be free of any interest in reward or benefit to oneself. In order that this be the case, there must be “no separation between self as the source of compassion and other people as the recipients of compassion.”
The first session thus closed, with the promise of a second session later in the evening, in which His Holiness the Karmapa would explore more deeply the Buddhist approach to dissolving boundaries between self and other. With a three hours’ break until the second session of the event, many took the time to explore the stands that had been set up around the hall, to encourage people to connect with organizations taking practical steps to put compassion into action.
Posted on April 30, 2015 by KTD The visit of His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa to Karma Triyana Dharmachakra is a dream come true for so many of His Holiness’ dharma students in America. They’ve read his books, placed his photos on their shrine, recited his mantra … and then finally were able to encounter him in reality. During the April 17-20 portion of His Holiness’ visit to KTD, students from all over the country – and the world – converged on the Catskill Mountains to see His Holiness. After receiving a warm welcome at his North American Seat on Friday April 17, His Holiness gave a public lecture on Refuge to a group of 1500 students at the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston on Saturday, a Karma Pakshi Empowerment to 1300 at UPAC on Sunday night, and teachings on the Four Dharmas of Gampopa to donors and members at KTD on Sunday and Monday. Among those visiting, we found some interesting stories and wanted to share them with you. May these small gems of devotion to the guru shine and inspire you!
Photo, Stephanie Colvey
Receiving Refuge: A Timeless Moment
In the giant hall at Ulster Performing Arts, His Holiness Karmapa bestowed the vow of refuge – for both the audience there, and by webcast, an audience of thousands more watching all over the globe. Fifteen hundred people reciting the Refuge Prayer after His Holiness one line at a time in Sanskrit produced a thunder like the ocean’s roll. All were together in the moment – transported by shared intention to a place of wisdom and compassion. “I thought of the story that Karmapa would in the future become the 6th Buddha, the Buddha Lion’s Roar,” one participant said. “It was as though we were building the auspicious connection to be reborn in that time with him – or maybe, it was happening now.”
Photo of Leesa Chenoweth by Lama Kathy Wesley
The Guru Seated in Her Heart Seeing His Holiness on his beautifully gold-leafed throne is a thrill for anyone, but most especially for Leesa Chenoweth. The longtime dharma student and registered nurse from West Virginia is an artist who helped sand and pre-paint the carved wood decorations for the throne before they were gold-leafed by Mr. Li. “I worked on the [panels] on the stairs [to the throne] – each piece, practically,” she said. “We sanded each and every piece and then covered them with a red enamel paint so they could be gold-leafed.” The finished product is a majestic and radiant seat fit for a Buddha. But the work did not become real for her until today. “I sat down and saw his picture wasn’t there,” she said, referring to the large portrait that generally sits on the throne when His Holiness is not in residence. “And I realized the throne was waiting for him, and …” she trails off, tears in her eyes. “To see him sit there – it felt like I was in a dream. I’ve been waiting years for this – I’m so happy.”
Photo of Michael Heaton by Jason Petersen
A Faithful Beard: How One Student Showed His Devotion
Photo of Lama Dudjom Dorjee and Michael Heaton, Robert Hansen-Sturm
Any way you look at it, Michael Heaton has a magnificent beard. It’s a skirt of fine salt-and-pepper gray hair, with enough width and breadth to cover much more than just his chin. “It definitely gets a reaction,” he says. “Some people say it’s great; other people say, ‘give me a pair of scissors; I want to be the one to make the first cut!’” But what some may not know is that he grew the beard for spiritual reasons – and not the reasons you might imagine. Michael has served KTD in several capacities over the last few years. He’s been a shrinekeeper and volunteer meditation instructor for the public; these days he works for the Namse Bangdzo Bookstore, KTD’s bookshop and online dharma materials store. At Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche’s 90th birthday celebration, Michael – who had begun growing his beard – was teased by a disciple of the 17th Karmapa. “The devotee said His Holiness Karmapa would really like this sort of beard,” Michael said. “So I decided I would let the beard grow until Karmapa returned to KTD.” That was in 2012. His Holiness had just visited in July 2011, so it seemed like not such a long time to wait. However, circumstances made Michael wait until April 2015. In beard years, this produced quite an effect. “It gets in the way sometimes,” he admits. He even began putting it in a sort of a bun – braiding the hair in on itself – to help keep it out of harm’s way. With Karmapa’s arrival at KTD this past weekend, it was the Moment of Truth for the beard. “Did Karmapa see it?” he says. “Yes – while he was on a tour of the bookstore.” And? “He touched it, and said it was ‘wonderful.’” Now that it’s spiritual function has been served, the beard could succumb to impermanence after His Holiness departs from KTD. Or not. “I was looking at the [Tibetan Astrological] calendar for an auspicious hair-cutting day,” Michael said. However, “Once Khenpo Tenkyong saw how much Karmapa liked it, he told me, ‘you have to keep it, now.’”
Lama Choenyi, left, with Lama Karuna Tara
Tiny Blessings: How a Mouse Taught a Dharma Student about Faith Karmapa’s blessings extend to all beings, and all creatures – from the largest to the smallest. None, it is said are beyond his compassion. The truth of this was shown in a little miracle at KTD Monastery – when a little tragedy turned into a pretty big miracle. Lama Choenyi is a frequent visitor to the torma room at KTD monastery. One of the graduates of Karme Ling monastery, she is an artist who’s talent in painting and sculpture has been put to use to create the beautiful shrine offerings placed on Tibetan shrines. These tormas symbolize the offering of pure food, which is the cause for accumulation of virtuous mind. Anywhere there is food, there are creatures who enjoy it. One such creature is the mouse. KTD’s torma room has been troubled by visiting mice, and a set of live traps has been sent for them. The traps are actually quite spacious, about the size of a large book, and can contain food and water to sustain the captives until they can be safely released. On the morning of April 18, Lama Choenyi saw a captive in the small steel box, and wondered if a maintenance person would come to rescue it. She became busy, and didn’t think about it again until three days later, when she looked into the box and saw that the mouse had died. “I felt so badly about it,” she said, “because I realized if I had freed the mouse it might have lived.” But when she looked closer, she saw an amazing sight – the mouse was in a seated position, sitting on its tail with its forelegs and backlegs stretched out in front of it. “It looked as though the mouse had died in a state of meditation,” she said. He looked peaceful and alive. The remarkable feature – called thukdam – is experienced by advanced meditators at the time of death, and is said to be an expression of spiritual attainment. But a mouse? And one caught in a small steel cage? Lama Choenyi gave the small steel box to Lama Karuna Tara to show the discovery to her teacher, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche. He confirmed that yes, the mouse had died in a state of meditation, and was resting in thukdam. Rinpoche suggested to Lama Karuna Tara that she take the mouse to His Holiness Karmapa for his blessing and confirmation. As Lama Karuna could not find His Holiness, as he was out for a time. When she heard his footsteps on the stairs, she took the box to go out into the hallway. Surprisingly, she saw His Holiness Karmapa, who was walking directly toward Khenpo Rinpoche’s room. She met him at the doorway. She showed him the box-cage and the mouse, and asked whether the mouse was in thukdam. He agreed that the mouse was resting in thukdam and blessed the mouse. He then turned and went back toward his room – as though meeting Lama Karuna had accomplished his intended action. It was a moment of awe for Lama Karuna. “You don’t have to tell Karmapa; he knows,” she said. The mouse was left undisturbed for several hours. After a while, the eyes closed, and the sitting figure began to slump, signaling the end of the thukdam meditation. Khenpo Rinpoche directed that the mouse be buried in a nice and peaceful place. The amazing story sent a thrill through the volunteers, and Khenpo Rinpoche’s comment was touching and sweet. “If a KTD mouse can rest in thukdam [due to the blessing of His Holiness], then no need to mention the people.”
Photo by Lama Sam
Gently Falling Blessings
Photo by Lama Sam
During His Holiness Karmapa’s visit to KTD and its affiliated Three-Year Retreat Center at Karme Ling in Delhi, NY, the weather provided all four seasons: warm sun, blustery spring, chilly fall, and snowy winter. A remarkable spring snow fell when His Holiness visited Karme Ling; before he arrived, the snow was falling in a spirited variety of shapes: flowers, dots, circles, and even 5- and 6-pointed stars. The stars were especially striking; not only were one or two seen on the cloaks and coats of the waiting crowd, but star-shapes by the dozen. This is especially inspiring when one considers that the six-pointed star is sometimes associated with Vajrayana deity practice. All took the unusual snow-shapes as an auspicious reminder that even the Earth responds to the presence of a great spiritual master.
Photo by Lama Sam
Trains, Planes, Automobiles, and Buses – A Pilgrim’s Journey While her dharma friends were planning their journeys to KTD to see His Holiness Karmapa, Amy Billman of the Hay River Wisconsin Karma Thegsum Choling Center had pretty much given up on the idea. After all, she was going to be 7,000 miles away – in Himachal Pradesh, India, as Sherabling Monastery, receiving teachings on the “Sacred Dohas of the Enlightened Kagyu Masters” from His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche, a guru of His Holiness Karmapa. “Last fall I made the plan to go to India, so I didn’t think there was any way I could see His Holiness,” she said. The three weeks she set aside for her trip to India was about the maximum she could take off work, and to try to do more, well, seemed impossible. But then fate – in the form of a message from dharma friends Patrice and Patrick Woolridge – intervened. “They wrote to me and asked if I could serve on the safety and security team for His Holiness at KTD,” she said. The offer was tempting, but she kept thinking of how jet-lagged she would be – and how she would miss the arrival of His Holiness and have to play “catch up” both with her security assignment and her sleep. “And then the bodhisattva Metka from Slovenia came to me,” she smiled, referring to another dharma friend who was attending the course with her at Sherabling. “She pretty much convinced me – she said, ‘you really ought to get there.’” Although Amy had seen His Holiness in India several times, Metka insisted that “it would be different to see His Holiness Karmapa on your home soil,” Amy said. So Amy checked with her family and with the airlines, and made a plan to get to KTD. “I went from New Delhi to Vienna to Chicago to LaGuardia (New York City), and then took a shuttle to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York,” she said. The bus let her off in Kingston at 1 a.m., and instead of calling a taxi, she walked the challenging Kingston traffic circle at night to get to her hotel. The next thing she knew she was at KTD, trained in her work and standing guard on the monastery back hallway, helping usher students into interviews and assisting people from the Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche to His Holiness himself. She managed to get tickets to all the events, and was able to experience His Holiness as her friend Metka had said: on her own soil. And how was it? “Incredible!” she said. https://ktdblog.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/gems-for-the-guru-short-stories-from-karmapas-visit/
(May 9, 2015 – Seattle, Washington) His Holiness the Karmapa today delivered his last public teaching of his epic, two-month journey around the United States of America. The Karmapa resumed the topic of enacting compassion, connecting it step-by-step to the topic that had been scheduled for this evening session, that of emptiness. The teaching formed the second session in a two-session event entitled “A Call to Compassionate Action,” organized by the Nalandabodhi community, headed by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and translated by Mitra Tyler Dewar.
The Karmapa opened by discussing the conditions that are conducive to the enhancement of our compassion, starting with exposing children to compassion as a value and moving on to having opportunities to exercise our compassion as we develop.
Detailing the opportunities he has had during this trip to interact with leaders of the various movements that apply Buddhist tools of meditation and compassion in secular contexts, His Holiness described the ways that a growing awareness of its benefits has encouraged many people to engage in practices of meditation and compassion.
“Understanding emptiness,” he suggested, “can become our fundamental reason for engaging in meditation on loving-kindness and compassion.”
His Holiness the Karmapa noted a mistaken tendency to view emptiness in a negative way, as a form of nihilism, and underscored the importance of seeing emptiness in a more positive way. He then went on to present emptiness as the ground of all possibility.
“Emptiness can be seen as the inherent space of possibility that exists for all of us,” he said. “Emptiness is freedom from bias of any kind. It is the space of innate freedom. Since all phenomena are by nature empty, it is possible for anything to manifest, for anything to arise. In this way emptiness is the source or origination of everything. It is really not the case that emptiness is not the place everything goes to become nonexistent. It is more the case that emptiness is the source from which everything arises.”
The Karmapa then traced the intimate connection between the philosophical view of emptiness and that of interdependence. Beginning with the cosmos and ending with the combination of atomic particles, His Holiness described the way that everything that exists has arisen only through the coming together of multiple interrelated causes and conditions.
“If everything existed independently on its own without relying on other things, it would be impossible for new things to arise,” he said. This shows us that things lack their own independent or separate identity, and therefore can be said to be interdependent, or empty of any independent essence. Thus emptiness or interdependence are two ways of approaching the same fundamental reality.
However, he suggested that contenting ourselves with understanding emptiness as a philosophical presentation is missing the point. “It is very important that we continually explore how emptiness can benefit us in our daily lives and particularly how can it benefit our practice of compassion,” the Karmapa stated.
He then directed his comments to the persistent sense of ourselves as something apart or independent from others as being a major obstacle to compassion that can be that can be eliminated by applying our understanding of emptiness to our experiences in life. We can begin the important work of dismantling this dualistic sense by simply observing the countless ways in which who we are—from our physical bodies to our very identity—is dependent upon what we call “other.”
He struck a cautionary note, adding that: “When we say the self does not exist in this way or is empty in its nature, we are saying that the self does not exist as we imagine it to exist. We are not saying that there is no such thing as a self whatsoever. This is a crucial point. Learning about emptiness means learning about the totality of who we are.”
Grounding the presentation of emptiness firmly in the previous session’s concern to put compassion into action, the Karmapa continued, “I think this is the first step in developing compassion: understanding the full reality of who we are. Then we can take the second step, which is to try to benefit and extend our compassion to others. If we take that second step, without understanding emptiness or without knowing what this ‘I’ is or who we are, then it is truly difficult to take that second step of compassion in a genuine way.”
His Holiness offered the analogy of an extremely sharp sword that can cut through metal, likening the sharpness of the sword to our understanding of emptiness and its implications for how we actually exist, inseparably from others. “If we make the sword of emptiness, or of knowing interdependence, very sharp, then we will be able to completely cut and break through the entire iron web enmeshing us in self-grasping and selfishness.”
Likening the firm walls we create around ourselves through our self-centeredness and self-fixation to a prison, His Holiness urged his audience to add to the sharpness of the sword the power of compassion. Since the power with which he must wield our sword to cut through our chains is so great, the Karmapa joked that it would be better to use the analogy of a chainsaw, plugged into the high voltage of intense compassion.
As his teaching began to wind to a close, His Holiness evoked the model of an activist of compassion—someone who does not simply feel compassion but rather someone who does compassion. Understanding emptiness and interdependence can serve as a clear path that leads us to enact our compassion. Likewise, we might imagine what the world would be like if there with no compassion at all. Already we can observe the effects of a deficit of compassion, and realizing the extreme danger of a lack of compassion can also motivate us to take the path to acting on compassion.
“In general,” he said, “there seems to be too much distance between what we say and what we do. The way I personally view this is that it is important not to just content oneself with saying things or to satisfy oneself with understanding things. Rather, we should take this and apply it as meaningfully as we can to our mind, and bring it into our experience and practice.”
On that note, he turned to his final remarks expressing appreciation for the opportunity to spend two months in the United States, and left his audience with a final exhortation to “seize opportunities to develop loving kindness and compassion.”
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.
His Holiness the 17th Karmapa Gives Blessings and Teachings in San Francisco, CA
Hosted by Kagyu Droden Kunchab. Assigned seats in the auditorium are now completely reserved. There will be 450 spaces available in the adjacent Banquet Hall that will be free to everyone on a first-come, first-serve basis, where there will be a live video cast of His Holiness's teachings.For further details,please click here.
San Francisco Scottish Rite Masonic Center 2850 19th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132
Thursday, March 19
Blessing and Teaching for Tibetan Community
Primarily for members of the Tibetan and Himalayan community, the organizers are welcoming international Dharma friends as space permits. Contact Yangchen Dolkar at (510) 774-0853.For further details,please click here.
1414 Harbour Way S, Richmond, CA 94804
Friday, March 20
HH Karmapa visiting Gyuto Foundation
No tickets available, as the shrine room has limited space. However, additional seats may be granted on a first come, first serve basis. Audio speakers in the courtyard will allow others to join from outside. For further details,please click here.
6401 Bernhard Avenue. East Richmond Heights, CA 94805
Tuesday, March 24
Tickets for the Memorial Chapel and the overflow location in Orton Center have SOLD OUT. For further details,please click here.
Confer Teaching & Public Talkor Tibetan and Himalayan Community
Ticket price $ 25 and $30 will be sold on Friday, April 03, 2015 from 06:00pm onwards at Phuntsok Deshi Tibetan Community Hall.All the Tibetan's & Himalayan people's are highly encourage to join this rare event.
Those who have taken refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are welcome to receive the Karma Pakshi empowerment from His Holiness.
Tickets are free of charge, courtesy of KTD, and can be picked up in person only at UPAC at certain hours beginning April 17. For more details,click here. Two tickets per person maximum. Contact:email@example.com. For further details,please click here
We surely can’t complain about the mystery and thrill of being alive. Yet, regardless of one’s walk of life, it just isn’t easy being human.
Like the tilted spinning of the Earth traveling through the Milky Way, having balance in one moment does not necessarily mean we will have it in the next. Life is messy. We are each challenged by the struggles of maintaining harmony in our relationships, by the incessant demand of finances and making a living, and of nurturing the physical and mental health of ourselves and those we love. We each desire meaning, belonging, and purpose in our lives.
These challenges in life, in their various forms and magnitudes, are a given. It is how we respond – not react – to life’s challenges that truly matter, transmuting them into all the more reason to love harder and be more compassionate toward others and toward ourselves, knowing we all suffer in one way or another.
Unfortunately, this is far easier to say and know than to do.
Which is perhaps why thousands of people flocked like weary birds to Seattle Center on May 9th, to receive a drink of the cool,spring water that is the presence and teachings of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. He is, after all, a shining example of compassion and love in a tumultuous world.
What we got, however, was something far different than expected. Something, I believe, that was far better.
First of all, His Holiness had a cold, leaving him visibly and admittedly drained. To top this off, Seattle was the last stop on his journey of events over the course of two months, which was extremely exhausting in itself.
Buddha or not, I thought, the Karmapa is human. This lesson, which had only just begun, was the greatest gift he could have given us. Here was a moment for us to have deep compassion for him. Curiously and unexpectedly, it wasn’t the last.
After forty-five minutes of his teachings about compassion from the Kagyu Buddhist tradition, a young panel of change-makers sat on stage with the Karmapa and asked him, each in turn, some very difficult questions.
One such question was from a young woman activist from a group called Love City Love, a nonprofit that creates open spaces for artists to create art in community for one another for the sake of joy. She asked him:
“How do we have fun without using it as a way to escape from the suffering in the world, as a way to remind ourselves of the positive things in life?” She paused, almost forgetting to ask him the next part of her question with a sheepish but twinkling smile on her face. “And also, what do you do to have fun?”
The moderator quickly finished translating her question with a smile himself, and the Karmapa’s eyebrows went up in surprise. He put his hand to his chin in deep thought. He was, as clear as day, stumped! The audience laughed with him. To our surprise, here is some of what he said:
“It’s important in life, to not take things so seriously all the time. It’s important to remember to enjoy life to celebrate the good things… I remember when I was a young boy, my family would celebrate Losar, the Lunar New Year of Tibet. I remember that I would get so excited the day before that my siblings and I couldn’t sleep… We still honor Losar, but now I must follow set itineraries, the day is full of ceremony and ritual that I must fulfill. Sometimes I wish I could just lay in bed and sleep through it… As for what I do for fun now, I don’t know. I’ll have to give this more thought.”
As the last words of this were translated, the Karmapa unexpectedly began to speak again, which was translated to us once more:
“I really enjoy music and the arts. When I have time, I like to paint and make music. The arts are very important. That is all I have to say on the matter.”
It was an astonishing revelation, I think, for all of us. Quite simply, the Karmapa didn’t experience much of what it was like to simply play, to have fun.
This appears to be a common issue for everyday people and change-makers alike. We often feel guilty regarding the moments of joy in our lives when we know there is so much suffering in the world. Yet, play is an essential human need that allows us to connect with one another, building authentic relationships that can lead to sustainable action rooted in compassion. When we don’t take time to honor what is good and beautiful in life, we burn out. We lose our sense of wholeness. We actually becomeless effective at making positive change happen.
It is actually this concern that lead to us being invited to the event with the Karmapa at Seattle Center, to represent the CompassionGames and teach attendees about it. The Compassion Games are a social tool designed to ignite, amplify, and catalyze compassionate action in communities around the world. By infusing the power of playfulness and compassion with the fun of friendly competition, the Games offer a unique way to strive together to serve each other, our own personal well-being, and the Earth.
Experiencing the challenges that nonprofits face with finding financial support to grow and scale, the struggle can sometimes lead us to doubt the importance of play and the idea that you can use play to build the capacity of communities to be more compassionate. As we are currently fundraising to expand the Games to respond to a growing demand, this weighed heavily on our team’s hearts that evening.
Yet, once we began to speak with people about the Games, most people went from curiosity or confusion to an understanding grin on their face. “Team Seattle needs your help!” we would say humorously with feigned exacerbation. “The Mayor of Louisville said they were the most compassionate city in the world and would be so until proven otherwise! In fact, he said they were so compassionate they would come here and help us beat them!” At that point, most people usually laughed and wanted to learn more. Obviously, no one can lose the Compassion Games, though they seem to tap into an innate human desire to want to play together, to do the heavy lifting in the world with a lighter heart. By doing so, the Games can help raise the capacity of compassion in our lives and our communities in ways we otherwise wouldn’t feel inspired, or believe were possible, to do.
This may be why the Compassion Games worked so well in a women’s prison, where for the first time ever there were eleven days of no violence while the Games were played. Or why they are so excitingly received in educational settings, where children can “cooperate to compete” to make their schools safer and warmer places to learn, and to experience compassion first hand.
We were feeling quite relieved about the reception of the Compassion Games at the Karmapa’s event, but then it happened: one of the change-makers of the panel on-stage, a young lady from Roots of Empathy, asked another challenging question:
“It seems that competition is at the root of many social ills that we as a society face today. Can you tell us how competition creates barriers between people, how it is a separation that prevents us from connecting compassionately together to collaborate and make change?”
As an organization that aimed to use friendly competition as a kind of “culture hack” to get people excited about making a difference (the latin root for competition,”competere”, means “to strive together”), this question made our hearts skip a beat. Our team looked at each other with playfully worried smiles, holding our breath as we anticipated what would come next. Depending on his answer, we would either proudly stay, or try to make a break for it before mobs of compassion-seekers descended on us.
The moderator asked if it was okay to inverse the question. He said, “So, can I ask the Karmapa ifcompetition can be used in a way that is positive, as a way to make positive social change?” The young woman, once again, reiterated her original question regarding competition’s more negative side, how it enhances social ills rather than alleviates them.
Here is what the Karmapa said:
“Competition is very pervasive in the world today, connected to many of the activities that lead to problems. Even when people are not engaged in competition – competition with distinct victors or those who are defeated – people may bring the energy of competition to their everyday lives, like in an argument and the need to be right at the expense of others. But, I think competition can have a positive aspect to it as well. Competition can be used as a motivator to better oneself, not to beat others but to become more compassionate. In this way competition can be used to make oneself stand out, but in a positive way.”
All at once, we let our breaths out in a sigh of relief and laughed; there wouldn’t be any compassion mobs coming for us today. As it turns out, even the Karmapa believed that friendly competition could be used as a social force for good.
Once, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama said this when asked a similar question:
“Competition used to put others down: not good. Competition used to bring everybody up: that is very good.”
We were grateful that His Holiness the 17th Karmapa shared with us his down-to-earth human side. It allowed us, I believe, to see ourselves in him, not as an idol or state of perfection that we are not, but as a person like the rest of us. It made room for greater compassion toward ourselves in our own hardships, mishaps, and imperfections. Life is full of them, that’s for certain, but it’s easier to know that we are in them together, that even our suffering profoundly connects us all.
As for play and having fun: may we all enjoy the gifts that life has to offer us more often, not as an escape, but as a celebration to rejuvenate our spirits. And may the Compassion Games touch countless more lives by reminding us how to change the world by having fun, by reminding us of the child within us all.
We each desire to see the world become a more kind, safe, and loving place. It is much more rewarding when we do this together.
From left: Dr. Karen Derris, professor of religion; University of Redlands President Dr. Ralph Kuncl; His Holiness the Karmapa; Dr. Kathy Ogren, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences
Dr. Karen Derris Co-editing Second Book with His Holiness the Karmapa
When His Holiness the Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje visited the University of Redlands in March, he said it felt like he was returning home, words that Professor of Religious Studies and the Virginia C. Hunsaker Distinguished Teaching Chair Karen Derris was thrilled to hear. “It had been my highest hope that our reciprocity for his generosity to our students would generate that experience,” she said. Derris was introduced to the Karmapa by her friend and colleague, Venerable Damcho (Diana Finnegan), who runs a community of International Tibetan Buddhist nuns in India and works to support the Karmapa’s publication projects. In 2011, the Karmapa, then age 25, was interested in meeting U.S. college students, but his travel was being restricted by the government. Derris was able to bring her students to India to meet him during a May Term course, and his book, The Heart is Noble, developed from their conversations. A manuscript of a second book with the working title Living Interdependence, based upon Derris’ 2013 May Term course to visit the Karmapa, is underway and will likely be published in 2016. “This book builds upon The Heart is Noble by considering what it means to live an interdependent life,” Derris said. “While descriptions of the world as interdependent are commonplace in discussions of a wide range of issues such as environmental crisis, global economies and immigration issues, we have just started to consider the implications of what it means to live an interconnected life. In this book, His Holiness the Karmapa illuminates the values of interconnectedness and how emotionally experiencing interconnections motivates compassionate action.” Derris co-edited The Heart is Noble and will co-edit this second volume, with the central goal being “to illuminate the Karmapa’s complex arguments that unfolded through the course of his conversations with our students, and to bring his voice to a broad audience who might feel themselves directly addressed through his writing.” The Karmapa was able to reach a new audience during his visit to Redlands, when he spoke to a sold out crowd in the Memorial Chapel on “Living Interdependence.” He also reconnected with the students, now alumni, he met during their May Term courses, and was introduced to several faculty members whose areas of expertise overlap with his passions: Marco Schindelmann from the School of Music offered him a private voice lesson and Nephelie Andonyadis and Trevor Norton from the Theatre Arts Department helped him explore design. “The Karmapa’s visit to our campus was a beautiful experience,” Derris said. “The U of R community embraced the Karmapa with incredible generosity.”
Since this has been designated the World Environment Day, many people today are acting and thinking of ways to conserve and protect our shared planet. This is a positive step in addressing the environmental crisis, which in my view is the greatest challenge facing 21st-century society. It gives hope for the future when special efforts are made to turn our attention to the state of our world’s natural environment.
As a Tibetan, I have a particular connection to the natural environment of the Tibetan plateau and the Himalayas. However, The Himalayas and Tibetan plateau constitute a part of our shared planet that has an importance that extends far beyond their own part of the world. The glaciers and ice of the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau serve as the source of such a large portion of Asia’s rivers that it is known as Asia’s water tower. More widely, the Tibetan plateau has come to be known as the world’s Third Pole, reflecting its global importance. The issue of the Tibetan environment is therefore not a matter of concern solely to any single country. The issue of the Tibetan natural environment is an issue for all of Asia. Indeed, looking more broadly, it is an issue that concerns the entire world. From this wider angle, we can see that the Tibetan people had lived in harmony for thousands of years with the natural environment of the Tibetan plateau. Therefore, in order to protect that Tibetan environment, there is a need to protect the Tibetan way of life, with its culture, spiritual traditions and customs that are compatible with and suited to that fragile environment.
We all bear responsibilities to care for the shared natural environment that has sustained us throughout every moment of our lives. There is a great deal we can do when we join our forces and seek ways to work together to conserve our existing natural resources and reduce the consumption patterns that drive our over-exploitation of the environment. Nor is this a crisis that can be solved by a single person, or even a single country. Each one of us carries our own share of that responsibility. When we all lend our hands to the work, this burden can surely be carried. And carry it we must. Given the critical state we have now reached, and the rapid rate of change, this is not a burden we can leave for future generations to resolve.
(29 May – 16 June, 2015 – Dharmasala, India) For the first two weeks of June, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is engaging in dialogue with Tibetan doctoral and masters students from universities across India. The sustained interaction is focused on a wide variety of topics ranging from identity to poverty to women’s empowerment.
The programme is organized by Kun Kyong Charitable Trust at the request of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. It follows on his meeting on youth leadership in November of last year with over 100 Tibetan university students in Delhi, where the Gyalwang Karmapa committed to engage in continued interactions with Tibetan university students. This is the first programme of its sort, linking Tibetan university students with a Buddhist spiritual leader for such a sustained dialogue regarding topics of broad social concern.
The interactions continue the Karmapa’s emphasis on working with youth to address major issues facing 21st-century society, and to inspire them to take greater responsibility for resolving those issues. The programme also reflects his interest in exploring ways that Buddhist teachings might offer new perspectives on matters of shared concern in today’s world.
As part of their daily meetings, the Karmapa and a dozen Tibetan university students are devoting one day each to the following topics: identity, discrimination, gender equality and women’s empowerment, leadership, education, the environment, consumerism, poverty, unemployment, suicide and anger management. These topics were proposed by the students themselves and confirmed by the Karmapa. During their first session, the Karmapa urged the students to actively seek ways to keep their Tibetan identity relevant, by giving new meaning to old customs and traditions. “Before asking how to preserve Tibetan culture, language and religion,” he told them, “the first step is to clarify for yourself why they are important to preserve. Once you see clearly why they must be preserved, the second step will be easy.”
At the opening of each session, the students themselves first deliver a presentation of the day’s topic, sharing their own experiences and highlighting aspects of each issue of direct concern to them personally, as well as to Tibetan society the larger society in which they live. The remainder of each two-hour session is devoted to question-and-answer sessions.
The students hail from universities across India, including Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi University, Central University of Gujarat and the Central University of Tibetan Studies. Each is pursuing Masters or PhD studies in a wide range of fields, including: Sociology, Economics, International Relations, Political Science, Literature, Philosophy, Modern History, Library Sciences and Nursing. The group includes Tibetans born in India as well as students born in Tibet.
In the past, the Gyalwang Karmapa has also held interactions with Indian students at Ambedkar University (Delhi) and Delhi University. Since 2011, he has also been holding dialogues from two to three weeks with youth from North America and Europe. A similar, longer-format dialogue is planned for 2016 with Indian university students. Shortly before commencing this workshop with Tibetan university students the Gyalwang Karmapa returned from a two-month tour of the United States, where he delivered lectures and held dialogues with youth at six universities, including Harvard, Yale and Princeton University.
On the 3rd of June 2015, His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje arrived at Gagal Airport from Delhi after his long two month Dharma tour abroad. The Sangha of Palpung Sherabling Monastic seat with His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, all the Rinpoches and General Secretary Tsewang Drakpa all went to the airport to welcome His Holiness with an elaborate religious traditional procession.
0n the 4th of June 2015, Guru Vajradhara Chamgon Kenting Situpa paid a visit to Gyuto Monastery to welcome His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje from his two month extensive dharma activities Abroad. Guru Vajradhara made the traditional offering of the Mandala and Body, Speech and Mind represented by the longlife Buddha image, Amitayus Text and stupa to His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa to rejoice his Buddhist activities for two months abroad to benefit all sentient beings. Tsurphu Labrang who hosted lunch for His Holiness Gyalwang the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa and Guru Vajradhara and then subsequently Guru Vajdhara returned to Palpung Sherab Ling Monastic Seat.Sorry but Rinpoche made another two changes to this update on His Holiness arriving in India.