It is dangerously easy to think of disasters as vague and potential threats until one actually strikes. The third day of the Khoryug conference centered on bringing the threat of disaster into reality through experiential hands-on training and disaster scenario planning.
Much of the day was dedicated to first aid training led by Jeff Wagner, a first aid instructor from the well respected and US-based organization National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Jeff taught monastics a variety of topics in first aid, including assessing and addressing immediate threats to life and caring for stable but injured patients.
Through a combination of presentations, demonstrations and partner exercises, participants were introduced to new skills such as opening an airway with the Heimlich maneuver, taking and monitoring vital signs, making a physical examination, lifting a patient with a spinal injury and caring for wounds and burns. The training provided a condensed overview of wilderness first aid and gave monastics a taste of the more extensive education that Khoryug hopes to organize in monasteries and nunneries during the coming months.
Conference participants spent the final sessions of the day beginning to form disaster management plans. Delegates were divided into groups and then worked together to create and draw an imaginary monastery and design a plan to protect that monastery in the case of an earthquake or flood. The groups were guided to brainstorm around specific emergency needs, broken into the categories of immediate response, water and sanitation, food and nutrition, shelter and health.
The groups returned with elaborate designs that allowed them to visualize the specific risks in their monasteries and nunneries as well as the particular measures they could take to prepare for disaster. For example, one group recognized the lack of evacuation areas currently in their monasteries and nunneries and consequently included in their drawing a designated safe area for monastics and community members to use in a disaster.
By sharing their extensive brainstorming the groups prepared to narrow their focus tomorrow, when each group will develop an extensive preparedness, response and recovery plan for one of the emergency need categories.
21 March 2016 —Vajra Vidya Institute, Sarnath, India
From March 21 to 24, the Gyalwang Karmapa convened a conference for representatives from his environmental organization known as Khoryug (Tibetan for environment). Over sixty monks and nuns came from 55 monasteries and nunneries from across the Himalayan region. Along with a few members of the lay sangha, they all hail from India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Acutely conscious of the devastation caused by earthquakes in Nepal and Sikkim, last year representatives at the 6th conference requested training in disaster management so that they could be of real service during these difficult times. Sharing their concerns, the Karmapa readily agreed, and a partnership was made with Indian Government’s National Institute of Disaster Management, which sent two senior officials to participate in this conference.
The first welcoming speech was made by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, the abbot of Vajra Vidya Institute, where the first gathering on the environment took place in 2009. He related that when he was young in Tibet, he did not know about the importance of environmental work. Recently, however, large earthquakes in Jyekundo and then in Nepal made clear to him how critical the natural world was. These days, Thrangu Rinpoche mentioned, he sees a daily report on earthquakes from around the world, which states that there are some 150 each day, creating great danger and fear. This makes clear, he said, that preparing for them is not only important but also an urgent situation that impacts all levels of life. Thrangu Rinpoche thanked the people working in this area of disaster relief and requested them to continue their beneficial activity.
The Gyalwang Karmapa then addressed the group, first speaking of the 6th Khoryug conference last fall and the decision made to set the topic of disaster management for this 7th conference. He said, “The fact that the Government of India’s National Institute of Disaster Management has consented to be involved gives us courage in our work. We were all affected greatly by the earthquake in Nepal and wanted to know how we could help, he notes, so that we are not just taken by fear, but prepared to be useful and deal skillfully with the situation.”
As the situation is very clear, it goes without saying, the Karmapa stated, that we need to study and train ourselves. He made the aspiration that the four days of the conference go very well. In the future, he hoped that each monastery could create an emergency team, which would help not only the monasteries but also the people in the surrounding areas. It is important, he noted, that our thinking is on a wide scale. The rest of the day was spent giving an introduction to the different aspects of disaster management. Dekila Chungyalpa presented an overview of Khoryug and its goal of practically applying the Buddhist values of compassion and interdependence to the earth and all the living beings who dwell there. The earth, she noted, is a living system that needs to be protected. Turning to the future, she said that Khoryug plans to build up the monasteries to become hubs of knowledge for the local communities, able to educate them on disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.
The next presentation was from Rajesh Kumar Singh, Joint Director of the National Institute for Disaster Management, who spoke of the importance of preserving cultural heritage. He gave several reasons for this: Cultural artefacts ensure a community or country’s identity in a global environment; it offers the opportunity to preserve past and define the future; and it is source of a people’s roots as well as representing the culture as a whole. He also noted that in addition to having an immense educational value, cultural monuments, when protected, naturally lead to protecting the environment around them. They also prove the presence of a tradition for many centuries, even thousands of years. Speaking of human induced and natural hazards to cultural traditions, he concluded by stating that disaster management functions on many levels from the national to the very local.
Reports then followed from the three countries on their activities for the past year, involving tree planting, waste management, rain water reservoirs, solar energy installations, composting, water filtration, cleanups, and education about the environment in the local communities.
When she gave her talk, Ms. Chandrani Bandyopadhyay, Assistant Professor at the NIDM, noted that these projects of Khoryug were excellent and belonged to the category of mitigation, one of the four that she presented. Mitigation is a longer term preparation to lessen the impact of negative events, she explained. Preparedness involves the shorter-term actions that one could take, for example, making a first aid kit. Response, she said, has to do with how well one relates to the actual event, and finally, there is recovery afterward. In breaking down disasters into these categories, she make it clear that a disaster is not a foregone conclusion. We can prepare and reduce the negative consequences. On this hopeful note she ended her presentation.
The day closed with a report from Nepal on the monasteries experience of helping out with the consequences of the two earthquakes and what was learned. In the next three days, the conference will cover risk assessment, actual responses to disaster, and recovery along with management plans. In this ways the attendees will have the full picture of how to help people before disasters arise, while they are happening, and how to help with recovery afterward.
Varanasi, March 23 -- The 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje wants the union government to make entry to the key Sarnath sites free for all Buddhist pilgrims in winter.
In an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times at Vajra Vidya Sansthan, the Karmapa, who heads one of the four major schools of Buddhism, said, "Sarnath is a holy place. This is a sacred place for all Buddhist pilgrims. They come here to offer prayers. They don't feel good when they have to pay for visiting certain places here. The centre should make Sarnath ticket-free for the Buddhist pilgrims." At present, tickets have to be bought at nominal rates to visit the Dhamek Stupa, mini zoo and museum at Sarnath.
He explains, "During summer, when the number of Buddhist pilgrims decreases, the government may continue with the ticket system. In winter, there should be no ticket at all because a large number of Buddhist tourists visit the holy place. "
Asked if the centre should declare Sarnath a holy place, he says, "May be, that is well. Everyone visiting this place should recognise it as sacred."
Answering a query on what steps can be taken to check the environmental imbalance, the Karmapa says, "It is a very important issue. Glaciers provide water to millions of people. Environmental imbalance has affected them. To check any further damage, we have taken some very important initiatives."
"Training for monks and nuns is in progress so that they can come to know what step they need to take to stop this environment imbalance. The monks, in turn will tell the locals about the importance of trees and greenery, " the Karmapa said.
"They have to motivate the people to plant trees. I think joint efforts with locals will help in checking the environmental imbalance," the Karmapa added.
Simultaneously, locals in Himalayan regions are needed to motivate for heavy plantation. Monasteries are involved. They themselves plant tree and involve locals in their drive. Same steps are required to be followed in plains. Together efforts are needed to be made.
Representatives of over 55 monasteries from different part of the country and Nepal are attending a conference on ‘Disaster Preparedness and Risk Reduction’ at Vajra Vidya Sansthan.
"On March 16th was Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche's parinirvana anniversary. Our Benchen Monastery, Swoyambhu, and the shedra in Parphing had a nice Tara puja, offered lots of butter lamps, and recited prayers. I am quite sure all of you did the same thing.
The Benchen Monastery administrators are in Thrangu Rinpoche's monastery in Saranath, Benares (Varanasi), right now. This is due to a large three-day Tseringma drubchen that His Holiness Karmapa is holding for the benefit of Kyabje Tenga Rinopoche's reincarnation so that everything will be going well.
Monks and nuns of Thrangu Rinpoche's monastery and the Benchen monastery will join His Holiness. Every morning beginning on March 21st will be a Karma Pakshi tsok offering. The drubchen will be held in the afternoons. The last day will be March 23rd. His Holines asked the great Umdze Bai Karma from Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim, to lead the Tseringma Drubchen together with three Benchen Umdzes.
Isn't it that we would all like to express to His Holiness our immense gratitude from the bottom of our hearts? All the sangha members of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche, students and friends, we feel it is a great honor that His Holiness is arranging such a great puja in Benares".
23 March 2016—Vajra Vidya Institute, Sarnath, India
From March 21, the day after the Gyalwang Karmapa arrived in Sarnath from Bodh Gaya, he began pujas in the radiant shrine hall of Vajra Vidya Institute. Also in attendance was its abbot and great scholar, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche. Two hundred monks and nuns participated and among their ranks were the vajra, chant, and discipline masters from the Karmapa’s Rumtek Monastery, Thrangu Rinpoche’s Tashi Choling monastery and Tara Abbey nunnery.
In the main temple, two special shrines had been arranged for the Guru Yoga of Karma Pakshi, which took place in the morning, and the practice of the Five Tseringma in the afternoon. These are the same pujas that the Karmapa led in Bodh Gaya during the annual nuns’ gathering. The essence of the Karma Pakshi practice came to Yongey Mingyur Dorje (1628/1641–1708) in a vision of Karma Pakshi and his retinue. The Five Tseringma sisters are protectors of the Kagyu lineage and also holders of Milarepa’s Dharma teachings. The pujas continued for three days, finishing today on the auspicious full moon of the second Tibetan month.
On the early morning of March 24, the practice of a fire puja known as Billowing Clouds of Nectar by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche will take place. It will be followed by a long life practice for Thrangu Rinpoche known as the Three Roots Combined, which the Karmapa has called exceptionally profound. The short lineage, he said, can be traced back to a text based on the pure visions of the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (1284–1339). The Eighth Karmapa Mikyo Dorje (1507–1554) also practiced the Three Roots Combined and stated that through it, “especially pure visions and dreams appeared in my experiential awareness.” The Karmapa has mentioned that he, too, feels a special connection with this practice, so it is most appropriate to offer it for the long life of Thrangu Rinpoche, one of his main teachers.
The fourth and final day of the 7th Khoryug Conference concluded by synthesizing the past three days into disaster management plans. These plans will provide monastics with a reference and model to use as they return to their monasteries and nunneries and begin designing specific initiatives to implement over the coming year.
Before this synthesis could begin participants were introduced to the final piece of disaster management – recovery. Mr. Rajesh Kumar Singh from the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) presented a framework for approaching short term and long term recovery that encompasses the effects of disaster on both humans and valuable monastic texts and relics. Dekila Chungyalpa, advisor to Khoryug, then led the participants through a concise review of disaster management in which she recalled the main pillars in disaster management: risk mitigation and reduction, response and recovery.
Delegates spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon finalizing their plans and presentations on the topics of immediate response (including search and rescue and first aid), water and sanitation, food and nutrition, shelter and health. In addressing these topics they considered all three stages of disaster management as well as the diversity of disasters in which these issues must be addressed.
In the presentations that followed, groups examined both general disaster management strategies as well as specific ideas for mitigation, response and recovery. For instance, one group representing an imaginary “Karma Disaster Proof Monastery” explained their detailed plan for establishing first aid, search and rescue, and evacuation teams and how they would deploy those teams during a disaster. Their report combined particular lessons from their first aid training with their newfound organizational knowledge of disaster management planning. Another group shared illustrations of their hypothetical monastery to demonstrate how an extensive organic garden could provide fresh produce during a disaster when other food sources may be limited.
Upon hearing these carefully designed plans, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, addressed the conference. He thanked the delegates for their invested participation and NIDM for their affirming support and expertise. He noted that monasteries and nunneries have a responsibility to serve their communities, particularly during a disaster, and the best way to do so would be to guide actions that protect them well before any disaster should strike. He asked delegates to use the strategies provided in these workshops along with the lessons learned by the Nepal monasteries and nunneries during the 2015 earthquake.
Lama Thinley of Bokar Ngedon Chokhor Ling Monastery, the Khoryug Country Coordinator for India, spoke on behalf of the delegates. In his expression of gratitude he emphasized his appreciation that their attitude towards the topic of disaster had changed from being a superstitious and fearful aversion to a determined and resolved focus on finding solutions. Dekila Chungyalpa presented future plans for delivering more in-depth training to monasteries through localized workshops on each of these topics over the next year.
Mr. Rajesh Kumar Singh of NIDM and Lhakpa Tsering of Kun Kyong Trust offered final thanks to delegates for their diligent participant and to His Holiness for his skillful guidance and direction. After gathering for a group photo in the bright spring sun outside Vajra Vidya Institute, the 7th Khoryug Conference on Disaster Preparedness and Risk Reduction ended with smiling delegates and a clear motivation to further pursue the training and planning that began during these four days. http://khoryug.info/day-four-of-the-7th-khoryug-conference/
I have been fascinated by religion and its associated mythologies, philosophies, and practices for well over half of my life now. I was raised Catholic, but a very liberal Catholic, and when – around the age of 12 or 13 – I was given the choice of going to Church or not, I chose not. Fast forward a few years, and I created a very small community of non-believers, dubbed the “Helena Heretics.” I think I still have an unused email address at yahoo with that name. Then I expanded out to “Montana Freethinkers,” which attracted a few more people. Keep in mind that Montana even now has only around one million people and is geographically larger than Germany.
Then I found philosophy. Can I get an amen? Then the study of religions, including Buddhism. Hallelujah.
That’s where I am today, a firm believer in the salvific power of education with all of its contemplation, discussion, debate and so on. Whatever we choose to believe at the end of the day, we’re all immeasurably better off if we understand the history of those beliefs, the people who originated and promulgated them, the way that wars, disease, ecology and invention shaped them, and how they fit in to the world we live in today. And so, when I was invited to join fellow Patheos writers in screening forthcoming episodes of “The Story of God” and sharing thoughts each week, I was delighted.
For those unacquainted with the show, it is produced by the National Geographic Channel and features Morgan Freeman who has–appropriately perhaps–played God in two feature films: Bruce Almighty (2003) and Evan Almighty (2007).
The “Story of God” series premiered on Sunday with “Beyond Death” and follows up with “Apocalypse,” airing April 10. It is the second of these, on the apocalypse, that I viewed (though I tracked down “Beyond Death” and will dive into that shortly…
In this episode Freeman takes us through Jerusalem (for Judaism), Rome (for Christianity), and a Mosque in New York City to talk with a formerly radicalized Muslim who spent time in an Egyptian prison and left a changed, newly liberal, man. The footage is information-dense and cinematically beautiful. Each of these religions shares a common idea of an end time, though the details vary in interesting ways.
We are taken next to a psychology lab in Chicago, where an experiment called “shock at any time” is used to measure startle responses on subjects who either know about and anticipate a coming electrical shock or do not. Those who can anticipate the coming shock are startled much less, suggesting that anticipating any kind of negative life-experiences might help us cope with them better. Extrapolating out a bit from anticipated pain to anticipating the end of the world might suggest that apocalyptic stories are a common human coping mechanism.
Next, we visit a Mayan temple where one of those famous calendars is examined and we find out that December 21, 2012 is just the end of one particular epoch or age, a time which, had the Mayans still been around, would have been celebrated with one giant party, and maybe a human sacrifice or two.
And finally -almost- we get to the best part, imho: India.
Morgan Freeman and the Karmapa (courtesy National Geographic, see the trailerhere)
There we are introduced to Hinduism and Buddhism, but the majority of the discussion is around Buddhism and the time Freeman spends with the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. As an instructor in Buddhist Philosophy for theAntioch Education Abroad in India program in 2010 and 2014, I had the pleasure of meeting with the Karmapa each year with students in Bodhgaya.
Born in 1985, he is still a young man and was barely older than our students in 2010. Yet, as Freeman notes in the episode, he is a remarkably humble man, tasked as the recognized reincarnation of the previous Karmapa, with leading millions of followers in their spiritual journeys. The Karmapa also has a great sense of humor, and when Freeman asks if he can ask “a philosophical question” the Karmapa’s face distorts this way and that before replying, “I’ll try.” That question is about the idea of “the end” and the Karmapa quite wisely responds that in a sense every day is an end, but there is no concept in Buddhism of a “final end,” that we live instead in a perpetual cycle in which every ending is a new beginning.
However, as I wrote in this 2012 post, Buddhism does have a story about an end-time:
Buddhism has always held that all phenomena are transitory, including both the teaching of Buddhism as we know it and the world itself. While the Dharma -speaking of the Truth [the Buddha] came to understand – is universal, eternal, and uninfluenced by particular human circumstances, thesāsana, or lineage of teachings handed down for the last 2400+ years, will come to an end.
Likewise, Buddhism inherited the cosmology of Proto-Hinduism (Brahmanism), which held that humans today are living in an age of decline. Part of this sense of decline is the belief in growing immorality and warfare. Conversely, the level of emphasis this belief has taken on in Buddhist cultures often reflects a world around them engulfed in war or simply persecution. The belief exists in all schools of Buddhism, though it took on heightened urgency in China. There the idea that the decline would have a phase of “final dharma” (mofa), starting in 552 C.E. was established, and in Japan the same belief, termed mappō was transmitted with the updated start-date of 1052 C.E.
So there is sort of a vision of apocalypse in Buddhism, and it was taken very seriously in some Buddhist cultures at certain times. The idea seems out of favor now though and, as the Karmapa instructs Freeman, the important thing for many Buddhists is meditation as a process of “personal revelation” or enlightenment.
The final scenes of the show take us to New Orleans where a couple has established their own church in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. When one of them tells Freeman that he thanks God for the storm because without it, they wouldn’t have started the church or met the people around them now, Freeman responds with a smile, “you know, that’s very Buddhist.”
Morgan Freeman's interview with the Karmapa in The Story Of God 大寶法王噶瑪巴與摩根·弗里曼在《摩根.費里曼之神的萬物論》中的訪談 (內容由噶舉祈願辦事處擇錄）
Morgan Freeman (摩根): You look kinda young for this station. 身居這樣的地位，您看上去太年輕了。
H.H. Karmapa (法王): yes. 是的。
MorganFreeman (摩根): So what is it like? I mean is it alright? 怎麼樣？還可以嗎？
H.H. Karmapa (法王): One way it's meaningful, one way it's a little bit heavy. People have a lot of expectations. 很有意義，同時也有些沈重。人們總是有很多期望。
Morgan Freeman (narration): The expectation is heavy for a thirty-year old man, the Karmapa must teach how to find enlightenment whilst still working to find it for himself. 摩根·弗里曼畫外敘述：對於一個三十歲的人，這種期望是沈重的。噶瑪巴自己證悟的同時還必須教導他人如何證悟。
Morgan Freeman (摩根)：Enlightenment，how does one even begin to form that trial to attain it? 那麼如何開始證悟之路呢？
H.H. Karmapa (法王): wow 哇
Morgan Freeman (摩根): Big question isn't it? 有點大的題目是嗎？
H.H. Karmapa (法王): The first part is maybe you need to recognise yourself, like where are you from and why am I here? 首先你或許應該先認識你自己，比如你從哪裡來？我為什麼會在這裡？
Morgan Freeman (摩根): So I would like to get some instruction about enlightenment please.那麼請您教我一些證悟方法好嗎？
H.H. Karmapa (法王): I will try. 我試試
Morgan Freeman (narration): The Karmapa tells me meditation is the key to enlightenment, if the apocalypse is the revelation of the true will of God, meditation aims to reveal the true will of me. 摩根·弗里曼畫外敘述：噶瑪巴告訴我禪修是證悟的關鍵。如果世界末日揭示上帝的真意，那麼禪修的目的是見到真實的我。
H.H. Karmapa (法王): There are lots of different ways to meditate but the simple one is to focus on your breathing.有很多禪修的方法，簡單的是專注於自己的呼吸。
Morgan Freeman (摩根): Just the one I know.我剛好知道這種。
H.H. Karmapa (法王): Relax your mind and don't think about the future, at the moment just focus on your breathing and that is all.放輕鬆，不要思考未來，此刻，只是專注於你的呼吸。
(Meditation begins with the Karmapa's chant of The Refuge) 伴隨法王唱誦皈依文, 法王帶領弗雷曼開始禪修。
（Meditation ends) 禪修結束
Morgan Freeman (摩根): It's beautiful! Can I ask you a philosophical question? 很美妙！我可以請教您一個哲學問題嗎？
H.H. Karmapa (法王): Philosophical? I will try.哲學嗎？試試吧。
Morgan Freeman (摩根): It's about the westerners idea of the apocalypse, the end of time in being. Is there such a thing in Buddhism? When everything stops and the world comes to an end, and mankind is judged. 是西方關於世界末日，人類終結的觀點。佛教有這樣的看法嗎？一切都將停止，世界末日來臨，人類會被審判。
H.H. Karmapa (法王): We believe that everyday, somewhere one universe is ending and another one is beginning, but it's not like there is a judgement day, it's a little bit different.佛教認為每一天，宇宙的某個地方都有結束也有新的開始，而不是認為有一個審判日，有一些不同。
Morgan Freeman (摩根): So actually what your saying is what I think is that there is no end only change, one thing ends another begins.所以我想您在說沒有結束只有改變，一個結束是另一個的開始。
H.H. Karmapa (法王): Yes, maybe there is no absolute ending. 是，沒有一個絕對的結束。
Morgan Freeman (ending narration): When you meet someone like His Holiness Kamarpa, I guess the thing that stands out the most is his humility, the Kamarpa doesn't give you the impression that, he thinks of himself as greater than you, higher than you or better in any way than you. He's here like the rest of us on this quest trying to understand why we're here, seeking to unveil the truth, seeking enlightenment. 摩根·弗里曼畫外結束語：當你見到像尊者噶瑪巴這樣一個人時，我想他最讓你印象深刻的是他的謙虛。噶瑪巴沒有讓你覺得他是比你了不起的人，比你高高在上或哪裡比你優秀。他在這裡好像跟我們大家一樣在找尋答案，為什麼我們會在這兒？他和我們一道在探詢真理，尋求證悟。
The Hon'ble MLAs Shri Prem Singh Tamang , Shri Kunga Nima Lepcha and Ven. Sonam Lama has placed a memorandum to Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh seeking justice to the Buddhism followers of Sikkim.
Please note - Sangha MLA Ven. Sonam Lama has raised this issue several times in SLA to bring His Holiness to his devine seat at Rumtek Monastry at East Sikkim.
We are proud to be his followers who doesn't care any barriers to give justice to religious sentiments of Sikkim.
Today we are happy to bring you the sixth episode in the new Podcast series containing selected talks and teachings by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa.
This episode is from the Karmapa’s recent visit to the Root Institute in Bodhgaya. His Holiness has been visiting the center for years to give short teachings, but on this occasion decided to hold a question and answer session instead.
Students asked His Holiness questions about practice, definitions of wisdom, and working with a teacher. It was a lovely event where the Karmapa shared some very practical advice with the students present.
On 01 May, Sikkim MPs Rai and Lachungpa meet MoS Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, press for early entry of HH Gyalwa Karmapa to Sikkim.
PD Rai, MP Lok Sabha and Hishey Lachungpa, MP Rajya Sabha, called on Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju today at his official residence in New Delhi.
They thanked the Minister for meeting up with HH Ugen Trinley Dorjee, the Gyalwa Karmapa recently. They said that this has sent a strong message to the people of Sikkim that the time was nearing when he would be able to take his rightful place in Rumtek.
Shri Rijiju briefed the MPs about the state of play as far as the issue was concerned. He said that he is optimistic the Government of India would be more favourable in due course to fulfil the wishes of the people of Sikkim. He acknowledged that the Sikkim Chief Minister, Shri Pawan Chamling, the Government of Sikkim and the SDF Party were always pushing for this demand for a very long time and consistently. ‘The very fact that both MPs are here today proved that’, he said.
The matter of Limboo Tamang seats reservation in the Sikkim Assembly was also discussed. The Minister acknowledged that matter was both serious and complex. He stressed and assured the MPs that the Government of India will find an amicable solution to this issue. He mentioned that he has been meeting many delegations from Sikkim.
The MPs, who are both members of the High Level Committee, set up by the Government of Sikkim on the issue, put forward their views as well.
Very few issues from this tiny Himalayan State of Sikkim reach the national captial’s famous protest site, Jantar Mantar. “Karmapa to Simmim,”a day-long peace dharna at Jantar Mantar today became one such issue which focused on the 17th Karmapa’s entry to Sikkim.
Hundreds of monks from different monasteries of the state staged the peaceful dharna to demand entry of the Gyalwa Karmapa to Sikkim.
Sikkim has been demanding entry of Ogyen Trinley Dorjee to take his seat as the 17th Karmapa at the Rumtek Dharma Chakra. The state government along with various apolitical organizations, has placed similar demands with the Centre over the years. The dharna was also attended by representatives of various political parties including Janata Dal (United), Sikkim Sangram Parishad, Bhartiya Janata Party, Akhil Bharatiya Vyapar Mahasabha, and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha. Representatives of various NGOs including Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee, National Sikkimese Bhutia Organisation (NASBO 371), Monks of Sikkim, and Bhutia Lepcha Protection Force (BLPF), also attended the programme.
Oppositions Sikkim Krantikar Morcha President, PS Golay and MLA Kunga Nima Lepcha also shared the stage with students and monks. The Sikkim student’s Union of New Delhi volunteered the entire proceedings. “The dharna started exactly at 10 AM with offering of the Tashi Gyepa (auspicious prayers) by the monks,”said Sangha MLA Sonam Lama under whose guidance the dharna was initiated.
“Needless to mention here that a generation of Sikkimese is on the verge of declining, but without their Guru, His Holiness the Karmapa, amongst them in Sikkim as their spiritual head. The aspiration of the Sikkimese people have always been too simple. They only want the Indian Government’s permission to facilitate His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje to visit Sikkim for a few days, ” Mr. Lama said.
“Given the multiple complexities involved in the matter, we never approached the Indian Government, claiming for his permanent stay in Sikkim, but rather, pressing and pleading only for his brief visit to bless the land and its inhabitants in accordance with the Buddhist tradition,” he added.
“Pertinently, Sikkim Assembly has already unanimously adopted two Resolutions in 2014 requesting the Union to allow His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje to visit Sikkim.
“The dharna will continue till tomorrow and will end with offering of tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, at the Raj Ghat,” added Mr. Lama.
This Sunday is Mother’s Day in many countries around the world. In order to celebrate this occasion we have a very special teaching that the Karmapa gave in Berlin where he talks about his experiences with his mother and father in Tibet.
During this wonderful talk His Holiness describes how his mother’s kindness acted as an extremely important teacher for him growing up, and how this natural loving kindness is actually very important to cultivate as a Buddhist practitioner.
He also touches on his decision to give up eating meat and how we can all train our minds by tapping into the compassion and kindness that arises quite naturally when we see sentient beings suffering.
This month the Animal Medical Camp team concluded their activities. Even though the main animal camp took place during the last two weeks of December, a small team returned this month to “mop up”, that is to perform surgery on females who were pregnant in December, and puppies who were too young to undergo surgery then. This follow-up work is very important in order to prevent a new round of dogs becoming pregnant before the camp returns next December.
This year the core camp facilities– operating theatre, recovery room, pharmacy and administration– were relocated to larger premises in new rooms created below the extended Monlam Pavilion stage.
The street dog sterilisation and anti-rabies programme continued. After three years of the programme, its impact is now evident. Nearly all the street dogs in Bodhgaya have been sterilised and treated, and tourists report a big difference in the health of the dogs and a decrease in the dog population. It is no longer common to see sick and hungry puppies struggling to survive by the roadside.
The vets also treated sick animals brought to the outpatient’s clinic, mainly livestock and pets, and vaccinated domestic dogs against rabies. Sometimes surgery was necessary. The most demanding case this year required neurosurgery on a blind nanny goat brought to the clinic squealing with pain. She was suffering from a tapeworm cyst on the brain. After the surgery she made a good recovery, and now has the sight restored in one eye.
The outreach programme of vets and veterinary assistants going out into local communities, treating animals and giving advice on the compassionate care of livestock, continued.
Working from the principle that education is the key to establishing long-term behaviour changes to the attitude, care and welfare of animals in the community, a major expansion and focus this year has been an extended educational initiative. Cindy Powers, a volunteer psychologist from Australia, specially designed a programme with the specific intention of changing behaviour and instilling new attitudes towards both domestic and wild animals and birds. Material used included ten stickers of different animals with animal welfare messages and a colouring book in Hindi, which teaches children about dog behaviour, how to avoid being bitten, and what to do if you are bitten in order to avoid catching rabies. The team visited local schools, orphanages and monasteries.
In their new quarters, there was even a small sitting area where staff could relax and drink a cup of tea or coffee, complete with a throne, which proved to be an essential requirement this year. The Animal Camp was particularly blessed by the visits of three high lamas: His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa came and blessed the Animal Camp, then hosted a five-star lunch at the Royal Residency Hotel for all the staff; Ayang Rinpoche gave a short Dharma talk; and Mingyur Rinpoche led a meditation session on simply relaxing the mind when tension arose while carrying out the daily activities, like having problems catching dogs! Although the Kagyu Monlam Animal Medical Camp officially completed its work on 30th December, the need was so great that the vets continued to operate and treat patients for a further day. Finally, by the evening of 31st December, everything had been cleaned and packed away. Immediately, the staff began planning for the next camp in December 2016.
His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa requested that monastics become involved in the program. So 10 monastics from Rumtek and Mirik underwent a one-week training course in Gangtok last November with the SARAH team. They learnt basic animal handling, first aid and animal nursing and care. They also learnt important information about the prevention of dog bites and rabies. His Holiness presented each monastery with an animal first aid box, packed full of medicines, bandages and other supplies and they will become custodians of dogs’ health in and around their respective monasteries. Two monks volunteered during the animal camp as vet assistants and were very compassionate and caring nurses to the dogs undergoing surgery and treatment.
We particularly appreciate the continuing support of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, who were generous sponsors of the programme once again this year. Volunteers came from the SARAH Division, Sikkim Department of Animal Husbandry; Department of Livestock, Bhutan; Tibet Charity, Dharamsala; Department of Animal Husbandry, Bodhgaya, Bihar; Rumtek Monastery; Mirik Monastery; Australia, England and Germany – a combined effort to improve animal and community health in Bodhgaya. (Statistics)
During the late afternoon the Gyalwang Karmapa touched down for the first time at the Geneva airport in southern Switzerland with its soaring Alps. The Karmapa was formally received by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, President of Karmapa Foundation Europe, Ngodup Dorjee, the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Sangye Dorje, the President of Rigdzin Swiss Association, which is organising the visit.
After this warm reception, the Karmapa and his entourage proceeded via motorcade to his hotel where Namkha Rinpoche, his followers, and the local Tibetan community joyously greeted the Karmapa in a traditional welcome with a sea of colorful brocade banners, pulsing drumbeats, and long white scarves undulating in the wind. At the edge of the driveway, a great umbrella of golden silk awaited the Karmapa to accompany him as he stepped from the car and walked through a corridor of well-wishers into the hotel.
On Saturday May 21 and Sunday May 22, the Karmapa will be teaching at the Theater of Geneva (Théâtre du Léman) on the topic of meditation and the source of inner peace. On Sunday morning, he will bestow a Medicine Buddha empowerment.
Today the Gyalwang Karmapa traveled northeast to Lausanne along the Lake of Geneva with its vistas of snowy peaks. His destination was the Nyingma Dharma center of Namkha Rinpoche, Thegchok Ling, a part of his Rigdzin Community that organized the Karmapa’s visit to Switzerland. Tucked in a quiet corner of the town, not far from a rushing river, the center was founded in 2002. Though rain was predicted, the sun shone clearly on the Dharma flags strung along the way, on the brocade banners and the long red carpet with its eight auspicious symbols leading into the shrine hall.
Once on the throne, the Karmapa was presented with long life offerings by Namkha Rinpoche and then by the center members. To mark an auspicious occasion, a teaching can be offered and Namkha Rinpoche followed this tradition in speaking of the five certainties: the time is special as it is Saga Dawa which contains three major events in the Buddha’s life; the teacher is special as the seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa is present; the place is special as Switzerland is a country dedicated to peace; the teaching is special as the Karmapa will be bestowing the empowerments of the Medicine Buddha and Avalokiteshvara; and the Sangha is special as it is the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages combined.
His Holiness then began his talk by warmly welcoming everyone and adding in a “bonjour” as well. He then gave the oral transmission for the Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche, making an auspicious connection with this Nyingma center and underlining the commonality of the two lineages. For this opportunity to come to Switzerland, the Karmapa thanked Namkha Rinpoche for his dedication and perseverance in arranging this visit and also expressed his appreciation to the Central Tibetan Administration.
The Karmapa noted, “The Nyingma and Kamtsang Kagyu lineages have an old and deep connection. When the Sixteenth Karmapa came to India, he knew good relationships with Nyingma masters and khenpos, who were his profound Dharma friends.” The Karmapa made the aspiration to continue this close connection, so that the two traditions can work together to spread the Dharma and to benefit others.
Turing to our contemporary world, the Karmapa said that we have witnessed a great material development, but this has also brought excessive distractions so that people are too busy to develop their practice fully and bring it into fruition. He complemented the Nyingma tradition for its emphasis on practice and for the numerous realized masters it has fostered and continues to yield even today. “This is a special quality of the Nyingma lineage,” he noted, “distinguishing it from others. We should take these masters as our role models to sustain the practice and develop the qualities of the tradition so that all living beings may be benefited. This is the goal. My wish is that you practice this lineage with a strong motivation.”
The Karmapa concluded his talk in addressing the many Tibetans who had gathered for the occasion. “The main reason I came to Switzerland,” he stated, “is because there are so many Tibetans to meet here.” Indeed, outside of India, Switzerland is home to the second largest Tibetan population. “I am happy to have met you,” the Karmapa said, “and whatever the situation might be, I will help you as much as I can.” He closed by saying the he was looking forward to sharing his plans and ideas with them.
The stage at the Theater of Geneva had been transformed into a stunning shrine, brilliant in color yet intimate and warm in feeling. The back of the stage was hung with tall scroll paintings of the Buddha flanked by Avalokiteshvara and the Medicine Buddha while below sixteen goddesses made their offerings. Behind a row of elegant flower arrangements, a magnificent golden throne for the Karmapa occupied stage center. Rows of cushioned rugs on stage right and left were filled with the ordained and lay Sanghas.
Taking his seat on the throne, the Karmapa began his talk by extending his greetings to the audience, and especially to the Tibetans who had come. He remarked that after they left Tibet, Switzerland was one of the first countries to receive Tibetans so there is a long history of connections between the two people. The Karmapa also extended his thanks to Namkha Rinpoche for working so diligently to make this visit possible.
The topic of today’s teaching was on the practice of meditation and how to develop well-being and peace within our minds. The Karmapa began by saying that a Google search on the words “Buddhism,” “mindfulness” and “meditation” will bring up many more hits for the later two than for “Buddhism.” This indicates that people are not as interested in religion as they are in meditation and developing mindfulness.
“When we talk about meditation in general,” the Karmapa continued, “we usually speak of three different types or categories of people⎯superior, middling and inferior. This later one has two divisions: the principal, and the ordinary. The second one is only interested in the things of this world, yet these days many people are interested in meditation.” The Karmapa cautioned, however, that everything is becoming commercialised and that meditation, too, may also become just one more thing to sell. The danger, he said, is that it would lose its deeper meaning.
Among the different methods of meditating, the Karmapa chose to explain a fundamental meditation based on the breath, but first he related a story about his own experience. “One time I went outside to circumambulate the monastery. It was a beautiful, clear day and the air was fresh. At one point, when I noticed my breath, an unexpected feeling came—my mind just naturally relaxed. Watching the coming and going of the breath, I felt, to use a Dharma term, like a very fortunate person. Without any effort, I felt a sense of well-being and contentment.”
These days, he noted, it is not easy to find this sense of being at ease and content since we are surrounded by ads on TV, websites and our mobile phones, which increase our desire and continually distract us. We cannot just force ourselves to be satisfied, he said, so we need to turn inward and train our minds. “If we can do this, we will not be carried away by our desires,” he said, “and they will start to diminish, making us more content and peaceful.”
There are many instructions, he noted, on how to sit properly, but the main thing is that our body is straight. The Karmapa commented, “If our mind is relaxed, then our body will also be relaxed and settled into itself.” When this happens, we can pay attention to the breath as it comes and goes. Our breathing is an object of meditation that we always have, he said, so it is easy to look at our breath and relax our mind. It is not something new and there is nothing special to do.
The Karmapa asked the audience to follow his guidance so that everyone could meditate together. First, he said, we can note the tension in our mind, and then let go of all concepts about the past or the future, staying with the present moment and resting there. He commented that usually we think that the breath is not important so we do not pay attention to it. Breath, however, is fundamental.
Once our mind is relaxed, he counselled, we follow the breath with mindfulness as we inhale and exhale in an uninterrupted flow. Without any special effort, just noticing that this movement is happening creates a basis for the mind, he said. It looses its heaviness, becoming smooth and light like the air we breathe. Without a lot of distraction, he said, we continue like this. There are some people, he noted, who count the cycles of breath up to twenty-one and then begin again. We should check and see if this helps us or not.
The Karmapa commented that we can do this practice anywhere, for a short time in the office, while waiting for an airplane, or when our mind is tense. “You can use meditation on your breath any time in your daily life,” he said. “You do not have to limit it to a shrine room.”
In relation to the breath, he suggested, we can also think that oxygen is always present sustaining our lives, and we can be joyful about this simple fact, or be happy just to be breathing clean air. Usually we do not think that our breath is something extraordinary, but from another point of view, it is wondrous.
In this way, the Karmapa said, we can find happiness in simple things. Focusing on the breath, naturally teaches us to look inward and away from the outer world. Buddhism offers, he remarked, many ways to meditate and discussions of how to reach the level of buddhahood. This practice with the breath, however, helps us to find peacefulness, the basis for all the other practices, as well as happiness so we should continually train our mind this way.
Following his afternoon talk, the Karmapa spoke with about hundred Tibetans who live in the Geneva area, augmented by those who came from farther afield to be present today. He conversed with them in great sympathy for the problems they face wherever they might live, in India, Tibet, or other countries of the world. He encouraged them not to give up on their hopes but to sustain their enthusiasm and make efforts until these hopes were fulfilled.
The most important thing, he said, was to maintain their Tibetan language, which gives them access to the Buddhism of Tibet and to their culture. Those with children should teach them as much as they can. Finally, he counselled the Tibetans to support each other, giving assistance when needed and being affectionate and kind.
Afterward, a cultural performance of Tibetan dance and song by the younger generation took place on the stage while the Karmapa watched with pleasure. Then he descended from the throne to stand in the middle of the stage so that everyone had the opportunity to pass by him, offering a white scarf and receiving a blessing cord from him. As the crowd left the theatre, there was a palpable sense of happiness as groups of friends departed for their homes.