In the morning session, the Gyalwang Karmapa had focused on the need to turn our minds inwards in order to find contentment and peace and had suggested that meditation was a tool for achieving this. In the afternoon session, His Holiness used his own life story as an illustration of the dangers inherent when we focus our happiness on the fulfilment of our desires and expectations; we end up being controlled by the events in our lives. What is necessary is to develop inner peace and contentment.
As a young boy he lived in Kham “as an ordinary child, nothing very special,” he explained. “When I was seven years old, a search party came looking for the Karmapa. They concealed their purpose at first and pretended to be searching for a relative, asking the names of my father and mother. Then they came a second time and told my parents that they had identified me as the Karmapa. Everyone was shocked because I was seen as just an ordinary little boy. People said that there had been some auspicious signs when I was born, so they thought I might be a tulku, but nobody thought I could be the Karmapa.” He was happy at first. His initial expectation was that he would get new toys and many friends to play with. “I was only a child, and I thought like a child,” he commented, but he was to be disappointed. When he arrived at Tsurphu Monastery and saw the crowds of people waiting expectantly to see him, he began to have doubts. He was more than a thousand kilometres from home, clothed in ceremonial dress and riding a horse, as he entered Tsurphu to the sound of Tibetan great horns.
Once settled into his room, which served as bedroom, living room and classroom, he was looked after by senior monks in their 40s and 50s. There were no young people to play with, and instead, he spent most of the day in study, including three hours learning texts and prayers by heart. It was a very traditional education to prepare him for his future role. However, like any highly intelligent young boy he could be mischievous, and sometimes, when the teacher momentarily left the room, he would change the hands on the clock so that the lesson ended fifteen or twenty minutes early. “The teacher would return and marvel at how quickly the time had gone,” the Karmapa chuckled.
At the age of fourteen, he fled to India, leaving behind his parents and family, his monastery, his friends, and the life he knew. Reflecting on the way his life in India had unfolded thus far in ways he had not expected, the Karmapa concluded, “I think we have to regulate our wishes and expectations so as not to be controlled by what we want to happen, but rather we should be content with what we have.” A question and answer session followed. The first questioner asked whether it was important to teach meditation to children, and how it should be done. His Holiness replied that research in the U.S.A. and the U.K. had shown that it was beneficial for children to learn to meditate, as it helped their concentration and their ability to relax. There were very simple techniques focused on outer objects, which could be used to introduce children to meditation, such as carrying on a very full bowl of water in their hands.
The second question concerned methods for dealing with afflictive emotions, which disturb our mind during meditation. His Holiness suggested that we can become aware of these emotions, such as anger and desire. When they arise, we do not follow after them but simply watch them. Since they have no real basis, there is nothing to search for and find. Simply looking at them diminishes their strength. Next came a question about the Karmapa’s crown. From the time of Dusum Khyenpa, the Karmapas had worn the Black Hat, which was actually not black but dark blue, symbolizing the unchanging quality of space, and by extension, indicating that the nature of the dharmata, or the nature of all phenomena, does not change. The special black crown used in the Black Crown Ceremony was brought to India by His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa and is now at Rumtek in Sikkim.
The fourth question asked about the benefits of sadhana or yidam deity practice. His Holiness explained that the purpose of such practices is to attain the state and the special qualities of the deity invoked. It is not that we should become a different person; we practice to find the essential nature of who we are. Sadhana practice brings together all the stages of a practice, including the preliminary prayers of refuge and bodhicitta, the main practice including mantra repetition, and the final dedications.
In response to another question, His Holiness asserted that mindfulness practice without a spiritual lineage could be of benefit, but the full power and profundity of mindfulness practice was only transmitted through a lineage.
As to the quickest way to purify negative karma, His Holiness responded that, generally, in order to purify negative actions we should have a sense of shame. We need to know and acknowledge that we have committed a misdeed. Although both mantra recitation and yidam purification practices exist, because of the nature of impermanence, we also have the ability to effect a change moment by moment; the past is not the same as the future. If we have done something negative and immediately realise it, feeling shame and regret, we can purify misdeeds.
Asked to clarify the difference between interdependence and karma, the Karmapa said that the former is connected with the Buddhist view of the world (seeing that everything relies on something else), whereas the latter is focused on the behaviour of the individual. The actions of the individual have an impact on the world around them, so we have a moral responsibility; however, this responsibility must stem from the motivation of compassion.
The Gyalwang Karmapa spoke briefly of the connection between previous Karmapas and the Nyingma tradition. Both the First Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa and the Second Karmapa Karma Pakshi came from Nyingma families, and Karmapa Rangjung Dorje held the lineage of the Nyingma Nyingthik. When he was a child, the Karmapa had been encouraged to recite the Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche, and later he had hoped to receive the Nyingthik lineage from Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche but it had not been possible. In response to a question about Buddhist engagement in politics, the Karmapa stated that there were no fundamental objections to Buddhists engaging in political activities, but the key issue was motivation. He cited His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama as the supreme example of someone who had had to engage in politics because of his great responsibility for the welfare of the Tibetan people. If the motivation is purely to benefit others, there is no reason not to engage in politics.
With this, the afternoon session concluded and the Karmapa left for his next engagement, a meeting with members of the Tibetan community.
The Medicine Buddha tradition was brought to Tibet from India in the 8th century by the great Indian Buddhist master, the abbot Shantarakshita of Nalanda (725–788), who gave the teachings to the Tibetan king Trisong Deutsen. The abbot’s aim was to increase the welfare of Tibet: to improve health, prevent disease, give protection against black magic, and protect the ecological system from natural disasters.
Today, the Geneva Theatre next to its famous lake was filled with people eager to receive the empowerment. To the right and above His Holiness’ throne, a huge thangka depicted the Medicine Buddha, who embodies the healing energy of all enlightened beings. He is a dark blue, the colour of lapis lazuli, and wears monastic robes while sitting on a lion throne. In his left hand he holds a begging bowl containing an arura fruit, which Ayurvedic physicians considered suitable for treating all illnesses. In his right hand he holds a sprig from an arura tree. To this day the plant is used in Tibetan, Chinese, and other herbal medicines.
The ceremony began promptly on the arrival of the Gyalwang Karmapa. The Short Vajradhara Lineage Prayer along with preliminary prayers were followed by the offerings of body, speech, and mind for the long life of the Karmapa, given by Namkha Rinpoche and members of the Rigzin community.
In a short introduction to the empowerment, the Gyalwang Karmapa explained that he would be giving a blessing empowerment, which allows the teacher and disciples to make an auspicious connection and for them to receive a blessing, which the Karmapa said he hoped would bring a little bit of benefit.
His Holiness then spoke briefly about the Tibetan science of healing. Often people think of the Medicine Buddha in terms of relieving sickness or prolonging life, he said, but these do not represent the profound aspect of the practice. In the Tibetan tradition, illness is not thought of in terms of a solid material phenomenon such as a virus; rather disease is seen as the result of an imbalance in the body between the four elements. In this way, sickness is understood as an interdependently arisen event. Although it may be possible to identify an immediate cause for a specific illness, the root cause of all illness is considered to be the three poisons, ignorance, attachment, and aversion.
Emphasising the close connection between well-being of body and well-being of mind, His Holiness pointed out how mental stress and pressure can have an adverse effect on our physical health. Having a positive mind helps our physical well-being. He suggested that meditation techniques, such focusing on the breath, which he had taught the previous day, are very effective in reducing stress, relaxing the mind, and, consequently, bringing about improved health.
The Gyalwang Karmapa began this afternoon by referring to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s division of Buddhism into three categories: Buddhism as a science, as a philosophy, and as a religion. When we speak of Buddhism as a science, the Karmapa said, we are considering how it examines exterior phenomena through a process of deduction. The philosophical side refers to the various schools and their views, while the religious aspect includes the meditative and ritual practices, the inner focusing that is special to Buddhism.
If we look at the life of Shakyamuni Buddha, the Karmapa continued, we can see these aspects in play. The Buddha was a prince who lived a long time ago, and following the traditions of that era, he received the best possible education in both religion and the science of the day so that he could guide the kingdom.
The king was worried about the prince, however. In accord with the royal traditions of India, when the prince was born, the king had called in a Brahmin seer who prophesied that the child would either become a powerful ruler in the world or a renunciate with high realization. The father had no desire for his son to become an ascetic and did all he could to turn his mind toward the things of this world. The king filled the palace with pleasant entertainments and found a queen for the future king so that he would only think about what was within the palace.
Finally, the prince was able to pass beyond the walls, and so he witnessed suffering, sickness, old age, and death. These are things we see often, but for the prince it was new, perhaps shocking, and made a deep impression; he was motivated to leave the palace and follow a spiritual path. The prince asked himself the basic questions that religion attends to: What is the essence of this life? What should I do with this time on earth? He was inquiring and analyzing, searching for reasons and for certainty. He followed this process to its end and became Buddha.
There are many different religions, the Karmapa noted, and they started out with a strong spiritual focus. “Over time, however, they turned into a tradition based on customs,” he remarked, “and people just entered into these systems and believed with thinking much about it.” Such a religion is not so beneficial, he stated, and does not transform our minds in the way it could.
“Today it is important that we find a harmonious relationship between science and religion,” the Karmapa stated, “one in which there is mutual understanding and support, so that the two can balance each other.” One way to understand this relationship is to consider the focus of these two approaches, he said: the scientific way turns outward to look at the exterior world, whereas the spiritual path turns inward to look at the interior world of the mind. Science can give us information about the outer world but with this alone, it is difficult to find one’s true nature and to discover the meaning of this life. Religion, however, can bring meaning and profundity into our lives, and show us the right direction to take.
It seems, the Karmapa noted, that the more technology develops, the more our minds become distracted and unstable. Religion, however, is like our eyes: through it we can see into the deeper, more essential meaning of this life and into what we should be doing. This is the main point. In sum, religion gives meaning and depth to our life and science allows us to understand the concrete world and to accomplish activity there, so they complement each other.
The Karmapa then answered a series of questions.
The first question asked, “What is impermanence?” The Karmapa replied that most people think of impermanence as something negative and would rather not think about it. However, if we reflect for a moment, he said, we can see that it gives us new opportunities. Everything that is born must die, and this process of each instant arising and disappearing, continually affords us new opportunities. The situation of the morning is not the situation of the evening, and this gives us another chance. Thinking about change in a positive way like this can inspire us.
If we accept birth, the Karmapa remarked, then we must also accept death as a natural process. He suggested working with impermanence by imagining that one day is a whole life; we are born in the morning and die in the evening, he commented. This way we can gradually become familiar with the fact of death and come to accept it as part of life.
The second question queried the relationship between compassion and science. The Karmapa responded that compassion is something innate; affection is natural to us, but its development depends on our surroundings. For example, we all have the ability to speak a language, but if a child grows up in the forest with no human beings around, this capacity will not manifest. Similarly, if parents speak often of compassion and it forms a part of a child’s surroundings, the child will become familiar with it and compassion will develop. Compassion, therefore, is both innate and a quality that can change and increase.
What blocks the development of compassion, he remarked, is ego fixation, which is like a wall that imprisons us. We need to break down this wall and let our compassion become boundless, so we lose a sense of difference between us as the subject and the object of our compassion. Understanding compassion in this way, if we can combine science and Buddhism, developing a compassionate motivation while involved in scientific pursuits, this will create a better future for everyone.
The third questioner asked, What are the benefits of the practice of sending and receiving (tonglen)? The Karmapa replied that this practice comes from the Kadampa tradition and that it provides two ways to develop bodhicitta (the wish to attain enlightenment for the sake of all living beings): the first way sees the self and other as equal and the second exchanges self for other. In order to practice the second type, we need a very powerful love for others.
Some are afraid to do this practice, he commented, because they do not understand that it is a conceptual training; we are not actually taking on the suffering of others and giving them our happiness, but training ourselves mentally so that when the occasion arises, we will be ready to help naturally and spontaneously. This training, therefore, is a preparation, a way of developing our love and affection. This in itself, of course, is not enough. The Karmapa counseled that we must then actually apply the training to the situations we meet in this life.
The next question asked about how to encourage people to become vegetarian. The Karmapa replied that we have to think about the reasons for doing so. For him the main reason was considering the suffering of animals. They to not have the language to tell us what they go through, but in thinking of our own bodies, we can sense what their suffering might be and this is reason enough to give up eating meat. We can begin by gradually reducing the meat we eat and finally giving it up all together.
What about donating our organs after we die? asked the next questioner. The Karmapa responded that in Tibet, there is the practice of Cho, or Cutting Through, in which one visualizes one’s body as an offering to others. When people die, their corpse, no longer needed, is offered to vultures and thereby benefits others. It is true that there is the tradition of not moving a body for a certain time after someone dies, but if beforehand we have the motivation to benefit others by giving our organs, and if our mind is spacious as well, then we can make this offering.
The Karmapa then combined several questions dealing with the relationship between different religious traditions within a single family. He counseled that it is not helpful for one person to try and force their beliefs on another. This creates conflict, and harmonious relationships are very important. If we seek commonalities and a shared happiness, then change can happen. Sometimes we are too attached to our own religion. Of course, these traditions are important, but their goal of happiness and harmony is the most important.
As on his previous tours, the Karmapa is reaching out to the younger generation, this time with a visit to the University of Lausanne. In a large amphitheater, a lively dialogue took place between the Karmapa and over 200 first year medical students. The event was part of their course on ethics and medicine and included giving the students a question, which they discussed with their neighbors. After they were invited to give an answer over a mike, and finally the Karmapa was asked for his thoughts.
The first question queried, what does it mean to be in good health? One student responded that it means to be well in physical, socio-cultural, and mental terms. Another student added in spirituality and another said it meant to be well in terms of one’s perception of oneself.
Impressed by their answers, the Karmapa noted that the students were young but their answers were profound and wide-ranging. For his position on the subject, the Karmapa began by mentioning the importance of a good balance between the exterior physical world and the interior, spiritual world.
Further, he remarked that we might not be sick physically, but we could be suffering from the disease of what are known as the three poisons⎯anger, attachment, and ignorance. When anger arises in our mind, for example, we will not feel well, so this is considered a sickness that brings suffering. The Karmapa also mentioned the importance of finding another type of balance between a shared common sense and an individual’s perception.
The second question had two aspects: What is suffering? What is happiness? Most of the students replied that suffering is mainly physical pain, but it can also be psychological. They made a distinction between short-term pain and longer-term suffering. Some questioned if suffering could be a positive thing and others thought not.
The Karmapa commented that suffering is a broader term since we all suffer in getting what we do not want, and in not getting what we do want. We also suffer when we lose our independence by coming under the influence of our emotional afflictions. Turning to the relationship of happiness and suffering, the Karmapa said that we could also ask ourselves if the happiness we experience is real. By investigating, we can see that our sense of happiness comes about in relation to suffering: the two are established in dependence one on the other and, therefore, ultimately not real. What we usually consider happiness is a diminishing of suffering. We should look, he counseled, at the moment between the subsiding of suffering and the arising of happiness. What is there?
Usually Buddhism speaks of three types of suffering, he explained. (1) The usual feeling of suffering as we know it; (2) the suffering of change, the fact that since the happiness we know is not ultimate, it does not last, but turns into suffering again; (3) and finally, all-pervasive suffering that comes from coming under the power of something or someone else.
The next question asked what does it mean to take care of someone? The students responded that it means to bring them back into health, to understand how they see things, to do this from a place of happiness within ourselves, and bring them to what they desire or help them to accept what cannot be changed.
The Karmapa responded that people come to him with many different kinds of problems, which are not always spiritual, and he seeks to give them hope and as much help as he can. The most important aspect of caring, he explained, is not a medical intervention, but our motivation, the compassionate wish to understand another’s suffering and then doing what we can to free them of it. When our empathy or compassion is powerful, he commented, we have a greater ability to help others.
Sometimes when they cannot be cured, he commented, our simple presence is important so that they do not feel alone in the world. We stay involved with them so they do not lose their confidence. The more we help others, the more able we become to benefit them. The Karmapa also mentioned that it is important to take care of oneself as well as others; the two are mutually dependent.
The next question was about assisted suicide. If you are a doctor, what do? A lively discussion followed in which students gave a variety of opinions. Some felt if someone is mentally stable and suffering a great deal, we should let them decide. Others felt that because of suffering, they might not be clear minded, and so we should not leave the decision to the patient; the wish to die could be a phase, so one should listen to them and help them make the best of the life they have left.
The Karmapa explained the in general, suicide is not positive, so we have to consider the entire situation and help the person find an inner balance. We should support and care for them as much as we can and not let go of them even if the prognosis is dire. It is also true that people’s tolerance for pain is different and some can continue to live with a great deal of pain. The main point is to support them as much as we can.
After a short break, professors from the university joined in the discussion, and the first question was how do we perceive death? Almost all the answers agreed that what is frightening is not knowing what comes after this life. We fear the unknown. The Karmapa responded that death is part of a natural process, which we accept. If we are born, certainly we will die. When we are young, however, we do not think about death, so we are not accustomed to this thought, he explained. In Buddhism, we reflect on death, which helps us to know what is important and to make our life meaningful. Suppose we only have three months to live. What would we do? We can also imagine that one day is a whole life: we are born in the morning and at night we will die. The next day, we are born again and the process continues.
One person who works with the dying asked for advice on the moment of death. The Karmapa remarked that this is one aspect of Buddhist practice that is difficult to research scientifically because we do not know when a lama will die, and once they have passed away, their consciousness is not present to be examined. However, there is a similarity between the process of dying, he explained, and what is known as deep sleep, so we can train ourselves through the practices related to this particular state of sleep, which will help us at the time of dying.
The Karmapa was asked if he often thought of his own death. He replied that he thinks about it in the evening, when the sun has gone down. He does not fear death, he said but is concerned to make this life meaningful, to accomplish what he wants to do. In general, if one has lived well, dying is not heavy but “light.”
Is there a good way to die? was the next question. The answers included to die in one’s sleep and to die free of mental suffering. The Karmapa replied that in Buddhism, dying suddenly in an accident for example, or dying in one’s sleep were not the best ways to pass away because at this time, a clear mental state is the most important thing. It is a time when we bring our practice to mind, so if we die while sleeping or suddenly, there is no time to prepare for this crucial event. If we step back and look at the situation from a long-term perspective, death is a transition, and we should use this opportunity as best we can.
The following question asked the Karmapa directly how to deal with doubt. He answered that people often come to him with questions about their health and what to do. Have an operation? Take this medicine? Go to that doctor? Since he is not a doctor, he sometimes has doubts so he relies on a divination. Further, he remarked that if we think too much, our doubts will just grow, so it is best to let the mind rest in its natural state and respond from there.
The next question was about the link between spirituality and ethics. The Karmapa answered that in the beginning, all religions were spiritual, and then over time they devolved into a system of customs, forgetting the key spiritual questions of how we exist and what our true nature is. Usually, we think of ourselves as independent entities, he noted, but we actually exist in interdependence on others, whether it is the food we eat, the clothes we wear, or the air we breathe. If we look into it, actually, there is not a big difference between ourselves and others; in fact, we are a part of each other, and so we are moved to take responsibility and care for others. We begin, the Karmapa counseled, by coming to know ourselves and through this, we know others. First we take responsibility for our lives and then we can help another.
And finally the Karmapa was a requested to give his advice on how to live a better life. He commented that in the twenty-first century, people have become preoccupied with material things and this restricts our freedom. We should investigate to discover the limits of the material world and how we have lost our freedom. Further, our desires are limitless but the material resources to fulfill them are limited, so for this reason as well, we need to control our greed.
In the final count, he commented, our happiness does not come from material things; happiness is something rather simple that we find within. If we can practice meditation on our breath, paying attention to it as it comes and goes, we can learn to relax and find a deeper joy and contentment.
On this positive note, the afternoon’s discussion came to an end. The Vice-Rector of Lausanne University, Philippe Mareillon, thanked the Karmapa for coming and offered him a musical box turned by hand, a famous craft of Switzerland and lovely souvenir of his visit.
On his way from Lausanne to Bern, the Karmapa stopped today at Thupten Jamtse Ling Dharma Center to give a blessing to this lovely place of practice. It was founded by Patrick Stillhart, whose generosity has helped centers of different Tibetan Buddhist traditions to find a home in Switzerland.
Afterward the Karmapa traveled north to Bern for lunch with the Mayor of Bern, Alexander Tschäppät. They especially talked about the unique House of Religion in Bern, completed just a year and a half ago, which was financially supported by the city as well as many different religions. The House of Religion is home to a Hindu temple, a Christian church, a Muslim mosque, an intercultural Buddhist shrine hall (for many different Buddhist traditions), and a place of worship for an unusual tradition from Tamil Nadu known as the Delagh of the Alevits. Three other traditions⎯Jewish, Sikh, and Bahai⎯ participate in meetings and some sit on the Board of Directors.
Also attending the lunch was the managing director, David Leutwyler, who mentioned the importance of having authentic places of worship and the positive effect of the different traditions being together in the center. The simple daily connecting over work builds natural connections and allows for an understanding deeper than mere tolerance. The House is a powerful symbol, he said, showing that different religions can live and prosper together. The President of the House of Religion, Dr. Gerda Gauck has been with the organization since its beginning in 1998. She mentioned how impressed she was by the Karmapa’s openness to what they had to say about the House of Religion and his understanding of how important diversity is.
After this lunch, the Karmapa paid a visit to the House of Religion itself, which is home to the Rigpe Dorje Center. Begun in 1993, this practice group was inspired by the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and named after his teacher, the previous Sixteenth Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje. In addition to sponsoring meditation and study, the organization is devoted to Jamgon Kongtrul’s welfare projects, including a school for poor and orphaned children in India, an old people’s home nearby, eye and medical clinics, and two monasteries with facilities for advanced study and long retreats.
To welcome the Seventeenth Karmapa, the entrance hall to the House of Religion and all the paths inside the Karmapa would take were lined with deep red and golden yellow rose petals as well as clusters of bright flowers. A large group of well wishers, including over 300 Tibetans, lined the way inside with their long scarves of welcome.
For this special occasion, the Buddhist space in the House of Religion had been transformed into a Tibetan shrine hall with a new throne built just for the occasion and thangkas of Vajradhara, Guru Rinpoche, and Amitabha. On one side was a formal image of the Third Jamgon Kongtrul and across from it, a photograph of the next generation⎯the Seventeenth Karmapa and the Fourth Jamgon Kongtrul together. Georg Streit, the president of Rigpe Dorje, welcomed the Karmapa and introduced him to the variety of Buddhist groups of different traditions that had gathered today.
After warmly greeting everyone, the Karmapa began his talk by saying that it was his first visit to Bern and that he was happy to learn about the House of Religion where different traditions coexist in harmony and dialogue with each other. It is important to practice well in one’s own tradition, the Karmapa counseled, and also to respect and study other traditions.
He then spoke of the First Jamgon Kongtrul, Lodro Thaye, a famous master and scholar of the nonsectarian movement in nineteenth century Tibet. The Karmapa was delighted that the openness and tolerance the House of Religion embodies was in true harmony with the vision and activity of this great Tibetan spiritual leader. In the past, the Karmapa commented, religions have been a source of great conflicts, and Jamgon Kongtrul tried to overcome this tendency through his work. The House of Religion is pursuing a similar goal by bringing religions together in dialogue and fostering mutual understanding of the beauty in each one.
The Karmapa closed his talk by saying that he was very happy to have made this initial connection with the people in Bern and that he hoped to return again and again.
This morning the Gyalwang Karmapa traveled to a small town just outside Zurich to visit the offices and production site of Padma Company, which manufactures a variety of Tibetan medicines. The organization will soon celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. The Karmapa first visited the production site, where in an area outside the factory rooms, a brocade-covered chair had been prepared and a thangka of the Medicine Buddha set above and behind it.
After the Karmapa arrived and took his seat, the CEO of Padma, Mr. Herbert Schwabl, introduced the Karmapa to the history and products that Padma makes. He explained that two of the herbs they use are grown in Switzerland and the rest are purchased from all over the world. After so many years, a blend of Swiss and Tibetan medicine is evolving, he said; when they cannot find the traditional herbs, they also experiment with locally available substitutes. A special aspect of the work in Switzerland is the government’s official recognition of Tibetan medicine⎯the only country in the West to do so. Padma is now the process of applying for European recognition.
A lab technician, dressed in a white coat, brought in a cart with samples of their medicines, which are packaged like European products in blister packs and elegant boxes. Mr. Schwabl explained that the Tibetan tradition is followed in preparing the powdered herbs, yet to accommodate westerners, instead of the traditional loose pills, the medicine is put in capsules, which make them easier to take.
Padma’s remedies treat a variety of problems, such as liver dysfunction and the common cold. Four of these medicines have been nationally recognized and ten locally, which is an excellent endorsement since Switzerland is famous for quality of its products. Padma also follows the GMP (Good Manufacturing Production), which is an international pharmaceutical standard. The Karmapa was then shown how the herbs are checked for quality in the lab to make sure that there are no pollutants in the components, such as pesticides.
Mr. Schwabl concluded his presentation in saying that Padma has the motivation to help people, not just to produce medicine. “Our mind and heart is in Tibet and Switzerland,” he said, “ and we work with the different aspects of both cultures with the wish to benefit many people.”
The Karmapa opened his remarks by thanking the people working at Padma and he praised them for working in harmony with science to sustain the Tibetan medical tradition. Their efforts will become part of Tibetan history, he stated. “The governments of India and China also support Tibetan medicine,” he said, “however, in terms of maintaining high quality and engaging in research, Padma is a model for the whole world.” Their enthusiasm and dedication has greatly benefited Tibetan medicine, he added, and it is also possible that in the future, Tibetan medicine will be able to provide remedies for modern illnesses such as cancer.
Several of the Karmapas, he remarked, have had a special connection with Tibetan medicine. For example, the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, developed one hundred new medicines with different potentials. When the Sixteenth Karmapa escaped from Tibet, he brought with him a special treasury box, which was mostly filled with Tibetan medicines. The Karmapa said that he himself was not knowledgeable about the medical tradition, but he strongly supported and encouraged its development.
The Karmapa was then invited to tour the facilities, which are kept sterile, so everyone had to don special coats, hats, and coverings for their shoes. Complex machines, organized into three stages, produce the medicines: mixing the herbs, packing them in capsules, and placing these in modern packaging. Only a few people accompanied the Karmapa inside, but the tour was projected into a screen that all could see.
In parting, Mr. Schwabl asked the Karmapa a classic question. He said that they do not invent medicine at Padma like the Third Karmapa, but do need to adapt the tradition to the situation of this modern world in which they find themselves. “We are in a tradition, but we need to modify it,” he said. “We work with the authorities and some herbs are allowed an others not. Some people tell us that we are too modern and that the tradition should be kept just as it is.’ So he asked the Karmapa, “Should we keep to tradition or is what we are doing correct?”
The Karmapa replied, “You should work in harmony with the place where you are. Tibetan medicine has changed before and can be changed again. For example, in India, we cannot get some of the components and so substitutes are used.” He added, “There is a lot to be done and I support you in developing these changes, which should be made by people who know medicine well. The main thing it to benefit people.” He concluded, “Some people say tradition is more important. I do not agree.”
Afterward Mr. Schwabl introduced the staff and invited the Karmapa to visit the main offices of Padma in another site. This visit to Padma clearly illustrated how a Tibetan tradition could be transplanted to the West and not only thrive but continue to develop.
Less than an hour’s drive from Zurich through a gently rolling landscape, the Tibet Institute is located on a hillside and surrounded by forest. A large group of Tibetans were waiting to meet the Karmapa, sitting in a cascade down the slope.
The temple was constructed in a modern style with floor to ceiling windows and light streaming in. The central figure on the shrine was a statue of the Buddha, and in front a tiered table was filled with offerings, topped by five tall tormas (traditional butter sculptures).
After he arrived, the Karmapa walked slowly down the hillside, stopping to greet people on his way into the shrine hall. Once on the throne, the Karmapa was presented with a mandala and offerings while prayers were chanted in Tibetan. The Karmapa was further welcomed in the traditional style with white scarves, sweet rice, and Tibetan tea.
The Institute, whose construction started in 1967, follows a nonsectarian way and serves as a common place of meeting for all Tibetans in Switzerland. It seeks to promote the study of Tibetan history, language, and culture. It shelters a fine library and has a connection to the University of Zurich.
The Gyalwang Karmapa began his talk by giving his greetings to Khen Rinpoche, to the head of the Institute and its officers as well as to the representatives of the Tibetan people. It is over fifty years now that Tibetans first came to the West, he commented, and Switzerland was the first western country to receive them in large numbers. “It has become a second home for Tibetans,” he remarked, “and this Institute has become a sign of the deep relationship between the Swiss and Tibetan peoples.” The Karmapa related that he had wanted to come to Switzerland for a long time and now that he had finally arrived, he experienced a special feeling.
This Institute, the Karmapa stated, makes a valuable connection between the cultures of the East and West and between the younger and older Tibetans. Following the wishes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, it is important to support it. The Karmapa noted that both in Tibet and Switzerland, the weather is cold and people like to be outside in the sun, so he suggested that they move into the garden. There a photographer was waiting to record a formal picture of the visit: Tibetan and Swiss people standing together with the Karmapa in the middle, all bathed in the warm afternoon light.
The Karmapa began this day of a dance performance and audiences by meeting with a group of over ninety Tibetan Kagyu practitioners. He gave them the transmission of Guru Rinpoche’s mantra and that of Avalokiteshvara, the two yidam deities with whom he is most closely associated. After he was offered the supports of body, speech, and mind, and supplicated to live a very long life, the Karmapa gave the group his heartfelt thanks for all the tireless work they did to organize his visit.
The second group to offer their white scarves was students from the University of Zurich. Tashi Dolma, the president of this Students’ Working Group for Tibet, explained that the association of some thirty students had initially started in the 1980s, but had lapsed until last March when they decided to revive it. She said that they felt especially blessed that their plans had coincided with the Karmapa’s visit. The purpose of the group, she remarked, was to bring the issue of Tibet into the academic world. The students who came today are pursuing variety of courses, such as law, economics, international relations, computers, sinology, psychology, and the environment. In the future, they hope that all their efforts will come to benefit Tibet.
The afternoon saw a spirited performance of the Lingdro Dechen Rolmo by the Kunzang Dongak Ling Tsechu Tsokpa, which keeps alive these dances related to the great Tibetan hero Gesar of Ling. The occasion began with the offering of teaching by Jampa Rinpoche, the spiritual head of the group. He spoke of the traditional five perfections from the special perspective of the profound Nyingma teachings, seeing the five as an aspect of the spontaneously present three kayas of the Buddha.
The performance began as a classic puja, led by Jampa Rinpoche, who was the chant master; a blessing of the offerings was followed by a beautifully decorated torma (butter sculpture) presented to the local spirits. Vast offerings were visualized and a request was made for the granting of siddhis. The first performers to appear were a man carrying the traditional offering of roasted barley flour and a woman carrying a bowl of nectar decorated by flowers fashioned from butter.
With a great clash of the symbols, the first male dancers appeared in glorious brocade robes and Gesar hats⎯four bright flags set in the four directions and a victory banner standing upright in the middle. They also wore a quiver of arrows, a jewel encrusted sword, and a large gao (reliquary). The women entered from another side, wearing long brocade chupas (Tibetan dresses) and a crown of flowers that cascaded in a rainbow of colors. They carried long life arrows, wrapped in silks of five colors. The dance moved along with antiphonal singing, one verse sung by the men and another by the women.
Afterward a young western girl performed a song in Tibetan, and a Tibetan girl, whose hair was covered in long strips of amber following the custom of Eastern Tibet, sang a song ending in, “Apo Gaga (the Karmapa’s name as a young boy about her age), you are my lama.”
The final dance was one of spreading auspiciousness to the four directions. The dress of the dancers matched the usual colors of the directions⎯white, golden yellow, red, and green⎯and they carried drums to keep the tempo and send out the blessings. After tea and rice was offered to everyone, the Karmapa was asked to address the group.
He first expressed his gratitude to the organizing group and especially to the performers. He praised them for keeping alive this tradition, which dates back some 100 years; more than three generations of people have studied the music, sung the songs, and performed the dances. The Lingdro Dechen Rolmo, based on a vision of the great master and scholar Ju Mipham Rinpoche, is also performed in India, he noted. The Karmapa encouraged the group to sustain this precious lineage and made the aspiration prayer that it will continue for many generations to come. The ceremony concluded with a mandala offering as a thanksgiving for the Karmapa’s presence, given by members of the group wearing the red and white striped shawl typical of Nyingma tantric practitioners.
The final event of the day was a meeting with over sixty westerners who are Tibetan Buddhist practitioners living in the German-speaking area of northern Switzerland. Mostly practicing in the Kagyu tradition, they included members from the Rigpe Dorje Center, the Vajra Vidya group, the Karmapa Foundation Europe, the Shambhala center, Ganden Chokhor, and Nangten Menlha.
A member of the Rigpe Dorje center, Parami, welcomed the Karmapa and thanked him for coming. In particular people were especially grateful to him, she said, because his presence had provided the occasion for all the Kagyu practitioners to gather together for the first time. She then asked the Karmapa to give them advice on how to strengthen and develop the kagyu groups in Switzerland.
The Karmapa responded that when we are practicing, a spiritual master is very important, and essential as well are good relationships between their disciples, who are considered to be Dharma brothers and sisters. “The more we can know each other well,’ he said, “the better it is.” He also counseled, “We have all received teachings from different lamas, and we can talk about these with each other and share our experiences. This will help to inspire us on our spiritual path, which we walk together.”
The Karmapa also suggested reaching out to make connection with the Tibetans, who have been in in Switzerland now for more than fifty years. Everyone can work together and plan a variety of activities. Mentioning that it was his first visit to Switzerland, the Karmapa said that he hoped to come back in the future when they would have more time to spend together. The session ended with a group photograph and offering of scarves. So ended a day what spanned East and West, bringing people together through the Dharma and dance. http://kagyuoffice.org/a-day-of-dance-and-meetings-with-buddhists-from-east-and-west/
Sixteen to Twenty-Five, What Do They Think? The Gyalwang Karmapa Meets with the Younger Generation of Tibetans in Switzerland
Zurich, Switzerland – May 27, 2016
Today the Gyalwang Karmapa met with more than sixty young Tibetans living in Switzerland, many of whom were born here. Most of the young women were dressed in their best chupas and some of the young men wore the traditional male outfit of white shirts and a knee-length chupa.
After speaking of the relation between Switzerland and the Tibetans and his long-held wish to come here, the Karmapa wondered I he actually belonged to the younger generation. He mentioned that he has a sister whom many people think is younger than he, but actually she is older. “People see me as being old,” he said, “which may come from the fact that so many things have happened to me, so the way I think and my appearance seem to be that of an older person.” In addition, the First Karmapa lived in the eleventh century, so from that perspective, he said, “I am a 900 year-old man. All of this makes it difficult to say that I belong to the younger generation.”
The Karmapa then turned to the question of how many Tibetans there are in the world. It is often said that there are six million; however, based on the statistics published in China, he said, we can see that there are less than six million in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and the four provinces in China where Tibetans live. Even if the Tibetans living abroad are included, the number does not come up to six million, he explained, so the Tibetan population is decreasing. If we add to this the increasing number of foreigners, especially Chinese, living in Tibet, we face the fact of Tibetans being outnumbered in their own country. For these reasons, he said, he was very concerned about the future of Tibetan Dharma, culture, and identity.
On the other hand, he remarked, there are also causes for hope. The youth in Tibet have an eagerness and wholeheartedness that is wonderful. Given that they are under such restrictions, the Karmapa remarked, one would think that they would become downhearted, but that is not the case. More than the Tibetans living in India, those in Tibet have great enthusiasm for serving Tibetan Buddhism, culture, and society. “They can serve as a role model and inspire us,” the Karmapa stated.
Another important point the Karmapa raised was the question of the Tibetan language. “Written and spoken Tibetan,” he said, “are like our capital, our cultural goods, which we need to preserve.” This is difficult, however, if Tibetans are scattered all over the world. He spoke of learning Chinese in Tibet and how his knowledge of it had developed in India because he had taken a real interest in it.
Actually, he had wanted to learn five or six languages and studied Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese so he could speak with people who had come from far away to see him. For one reason or another, however, none of them quite fell into place. He advised the young people present not to study Tibetan because they have no choice, but to turn to it with affection and a deep feeling, which will instill a strong habit so that the language will come to them naturally.
After discussing the need for Tibetans to think of themselves as one nation, the Karmapa thanked those who had prepared his visit and encouraged the Tibetans not to lose hope or the belief that things can go well for them in the future. Then he opened up the session to questions.
This afternoon the Gyalwang Karmapa met with 118 representatives of the many organizations in Switzerland connected to the Tibetans. The list of both NGOs and governmental groups attests to the deep connections the Tibetans have created in Switzerland and the structures of support they have established to sustain the Tibetans living here. Organized by the Tibetan Community in Switzerland and Lichtenstein, the gathering included people from its three sections (the Tibet School, the newsletter plus website, and folklore) as well as Khen Rinpoche and the monks from Tibet Institute Rikon, acting and retired government representatives, the officers and staffs from the Three Provinces of Tibet, the Tibetan Woman’s Association, the Tibetan Youth Association in Europe, the Swiss-Tibetan Friendship Association, and finally, the Mirap Sarpa (New Generation) Association.
After an introduction, the Gyalwang Karmapa expressed how happy he was to be in Switzerland and how he had wished for a long time to travel here but various obstacles had prevented him from doing so. He now looked forward to sharing his ideas with them. He mentioned that after his last trip to the United States, he had a meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and one of the topics they discussed was the three traditional divisions of the Tibetan cultural area into Utsang (Central Tibet), Kham (Eastern Tibet), and Dome (Amdo) and how important is was for them to come together as one country. This was the wish of the His Holiness and in addition, the Karmapa stated, the persistence of this separation causes a lot of problems within Tibet itself.
Turning to his own experience, the Karmapa related that when he was young, he had never heard of the concept that the three regions should become a single country. He was born in an isolated place of Eastern Tibet (Kham) and thought of himself as a Khampa, while the people living in Central Tibet he considered to be Tibetans (Popa). He thought of the two as being quite different and separate. However, these days it is critical that the Tibetans consider themselves as one people living in a single country known as Tibet. This idea needs to be held in a stable and profound way. It would be difficult, the Karmapa remarked, for one person to bring this about. If we use violent means, such as war, people will not sincerely feel this unity within their heart of hearts. Therefore, the people have to bring about the change within themselves.
The Karmapa then spoke about prejudice between the different traditions of Tibet. He mentioned that Tibetans newly arrived from Tibet told him that there was more bias related to one’s tradition in India than in Tibet. “So we have to be careful,” he counseled, “ and remember that we escaped Tibet so that we could benefit all the Tibetans and build a new society.” Sometimes, however, we lose our goal he said, and forget our commitments, becoming caught up in what profits us personally and in our own position. This is a great danger, the Karmapa said.
Reprising themes from this morning’s talk with Tibetan youth, the Karmapa talked about the need to study the Tibetan language and about the decreasing population of Tibetans. He also briefly spoke of the self-immolations and how sad they had made him feel. People had made a great sacrifice and yet it has had not changed the situation in Tibet. He encouraged others, therefore, to remain alive, to study and work for the cause of Tibet, for people who have such sincerity and dedication are needed and they are rare.
The Karmapa closed his remarks by saying how happy he was to be in Switzerland and in praising the Tibetans here for the wonderful work they are doing. The floor was then opened up to questions.
The first question asked about art, and in particular, painting, and also about his role as the Karmapa. The Karmapa responded that he personally likes to paint and also has an interest other arts, such as writing. Tibet has a long history of painting, he noted, and these days the number of painters in Tibet is increasing because they are able to find good payment for their work. The Karmapa himself also supports practioners of this traditional art.
In turning to his personal history, the Karmapa remarked that from the time he was recognized until now, he did not have the feeling or pride, the conviction that he was the Karmapa. “I think of myself as an ordinary person,” he said, “who has been given a wonderful opportunity to help people and the teachings, and also received the benefit of the lineage of the Karmapas.” But he added, “when I read their spiritual biographies, I feel that I’m a ten or a hundred thousand kilometers behind them.”
He continued to say that the older generation here knows of some the difficulties he has gone through, which he has had to face alone. He has big plans for the Tibetan people, he recounted, but he wondered how they could be successful without real support. It is perhaps due to all of this, that his emotions naturally appear when he talks to people or writes.
At the end, the president of the Tibetan Community in Switzerland and Lichtenstein thanked the Karmapa for coming and also the organizers for all their hard work. Afterward individuals offered their scarves and received a blessing from His Holiness.
The morning began with a fulsome praise of the Karmapa offered by Namkha Rinpoche, who requested the Karmapa to remain until the end of samsara to benefit living beings. After the accolade, his students presented the supports of body, speech, and mind to the Karmapa thanking him for his teachings and requesting him to remain in the world and live a long life.
The Karmapa began his teaching by naming the Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind from Samsara: (1) the precious human rebirth; (2) death and impermanence; (3) karma as cause and effect; and (4) the defects of samsara. He spoke of the first one, the precious human birth, in terms of the eight freedoms and the ten resources, which he explained in a condensed form. To practice well, he said, we need to the freedom from obstacles, and the main condition, or resource, we need for liberation is to meet a spiritual friend who imparts the practice to us. Having found a human rebirth, he explained, we also possess the capacity for making moral decisions, for knowing what to leave aside and what to take up. All human beings have this ability, he stated, which allows us to make our lives meaningful.
We can reflect on our precious human rebirth, the Karmapa said, from two perspectives: the difficulty in finding it and the great meaning this life has. The first one is a little complicated, he commented, because in order to think about it, we need to believe in reincarnation. To understand rebirth, however, we do not need to rely on scripture but can consider our present life. “Most of you are born in Switzerland,” he said, “and live in a comfortable situation, but in many places of the world, people do not even have the basics of life, food to eat and clean water to drink.”
In contemplating our situation, he suggested, we can ask ourselves, How is it that I have this excellent set of circumstances? Where did it come from? Seeing that we have this good life and the capacity to make moral decisions, however, is not enough he said. We actually need to take responsibility for accomplishing something meaningful in this life. Simply having the capacity to do something is not enough; we must use it. And how we do that depends on the extent of our motivation. From the very beginning, he remarked, our motivation should be vast.
In this world of the twenty-first century, he commented, information technology has brought us closer together so that we are like a global village and know a lot about each other. The connections between countries and people are now very clear. Without relying on philosophy, this allows us to see directly how linked to each other we are. Being aware of this interconnection, we can open out our hearts and minds. The Karmapa commented that usually our basic frame of mind, he commented, is that we are independent: we do not reply on others and they do not rely on us. However, from an ultimate point of view, he remarked, we are all mutually dependent: there is no one who does not depend on me and no one on whom I do not depend. We are not distant from others; rather, they are intimately related to us⎯our happiness and suffering depend on them.
We can see this connection if we think, for example, about the clothes we wear. The person who made the shirt we are wearing might be working an Indian factory, yet we may never see them, so we are not conscious of this relationship. The same is true for the food we eat and the air we breathe. Our very physical existence comes from other people, our parents. Considering all this, we can understand that we are not alone and independent. Our happiness, suffering, and success in the world all rely on others. Therefore, he concluded, we carry a responsibility for others and they for us. It is not enough to look out for ourselves alone, he stated. Having the intelligence to understand our situation, we must take responsibility for others.
The Karmapa then turned to the second thought, death and impermanence. The fact that we are born, he explained, means that we will die; the two arise in dependence one on another. We could say in brief that birth has the nature of death. “Hearing this,” he said, “many people could think it is something negative, but I think it is positive. Impermanence means that things are changing moment to moment. It indicates that with each moment, we have a new opportunity.”
He further commented that we might think this fresh chance is something that comes from the outside, that someone else gives it to us. But actually, he remarked, it comes from us. It is part of how we are, so we have endless opportunities. If we have done something negative is our life, it is possible to change, he said. Milarepa is a classic example; he saw the possibility of transforming his life and he took it. In a shorter time frame, if we did something regrettable in the morning, the Karmapa explained, we have the opportunity in the afternoon or evening to alter it and start anew.
If we think of the past and the changes time brings, we lose something and we also gain something. If there were no change, if the first moment always stayed the same, we would be stuck, for example, on the first note and never able to play a melody.
Within the subject of impermanence, the Karmapa noted, death is a special topic. We know that we will die, but we do not know the conditions. And when our time comes to pass away, he commented, we are helpless to stop it. For some, death brings suffering and for others not. This makes us anxious and so does not knowing when we will die. Further, he noted, if we die accidently there is no time to prepare.
Tibetan Buddhism has numerous explanations about death and the experience of it, such as how the three kayas manifest, the Karmapa remarked, so we can have an idea of what happens, which relaxes and calms our mind. Some people think that death will bring suffering, and to prepare they must meditate on suffering. But this is not necessarily the case. If we have made our lives deeply meaningful, death does not bring suffering.
We lead busy lives, he remarked, our time is filled morning to night, but if at the end of a day we reflect on what we have done, can we find something that really satisfied us? Maybe not. Often, the Karmapa said, we do not distinguish between what we want and what we need. When we are asked what we want, our brain is busy thinking of many things. If we are asked what we need, our answers are not so quick, yet in truth this is very important. Our lives are hectic, but are we doing something meaningful? Reflecting on death and impermanence helps us to see what we really need and what has meaning for our life. This will help us to prepare ourselves since we do not know when or how we will die.
The Karmapa explained that the first thought of the precious human birth and the second thought of death and impermanence are related. We have the intelligence to see that our human life is precious and that we should make it meaningful, and knowing that this is not always possible, we seize the moment. In this way we can reflect on our lives and exert ourselves to give them a deeper significance.
To illustrate impermanence, the Karmapa gave an example from his own life. When he was seven years old (in western years), a search party came to his isolated valley and told his parents that he was the Karmapa. His family had a connection with both the nyingma and kagyu traditions and also faith in the Karmapa whose photo they kept on their shrine. “All of a sudden,” he recounted, “I was the person to whom we had been prostrating. I didn’t know quite what to do. Before my friends and I had played at being a lama, and suddenly it was the old and the young people who were playing this game with me.”
Historically, the Karmapa is an extraordinary lama, he said, but he felt like an ordinary child who had been given an extraordinary name. People immediately expected that he would have amazing abilities, he recounted, but for an ordinary child this was a bit difficult. One does not become extraordinary by simply receiving a certain name. In the end, the way he understands his situation is that he has been given an extraordinary opportunity to benefit the teachings and people. Though it is sometimes difficult, he does the very best he can.
In our lives, he advised, we need to motivate ourselves to be the best people we could possibly be. We all have this precious human life and we can use this chance to be concerned about others and take responsibility for them. Actually, he said, to help others we do not need to be extraordinary. As ordinary people we can have extraordinary bodhicitta (the wish to benefit others an bring them to awakening) and with this we can certainly benefit others.
Sometimes people come to him, the Karmapa said, and ask him to make them wealthy and influential so they can help the poor, but it does not work like this. We should dedicate our body, speech, and mind toward benefitting others, he explained, and this will definitely allow us to help. Becoming wealthy is no guarantee that we will think of others. At first we might wish to help, but then in becoming wealthy, we could forget our original motivation. With this caveat, the Karmapa ended the first session of teachings for this weekend.
Most of his previous reincarnations left behind a Last Testament giving indications of their rebirth. But in 1981, when the sixteenth Karmapa died, no one was able to find a Last Testament. For nine long years everyone searched, hoping for a sign that would allow a successor to be found. The twelfth Tai Situpa , one of the closest disciples of the sixteenth Karmapa, recounts how, unbeknownst to him, his master had given him the Last Testament shortly before his death while they were together in Calcutta:
During this time, he gave me a lot of advice and told stories from the past. Every evening we talked after dinner. Then once, after I had off ered him the fresh orange juice he liked, and not long before we went to bed, he gave me the protection amulet, saying, “This is a very important protection.” He did not say, “Open it in the future,” or, “You will need it.” He simply added, “It will be very benefi cial for you.” I thought it was just a protection amulet. Usually, Tibetan lamas create these out of a piece of paper that has a printed or drawn mandala of a particular deity. It is folded in a special way to make a square shape, wrapped in colored strings, and enclosed in cloth or leather. This one was enclosed in yellow brocade and I used to wear it around my neck on a gold chain.
The Tai Situpa wore the amulet until the end of 1990 when, on retreat, he had a sudden inspiration to open it. Inside he found an envelope with the sixteenth Karmapa’s writing: “To be opened in the Iron Horse year,” which related precisely to the year the Tai Situpa decided to look inside the precious amulet! The letter said:
Oh Marvel! Self-realization is continual bliss. The dharmadhatu has neither center nor periphery.
To the north of here, in the east [of the Land] of Snow , Lies the country where Divine thunder spontaneously blazes . In a beautiful place of nomads [marked] by the sign of “that which fulfills all desires” , The method is Döndrup and the wisdom is Lolaga . [Born] the year of the one used for the earth  With the miraculous and far-reaching sound of the white one , He is the one known as the Karmapa.
Sustained by the lord Dönyö Drubpa , Impartial, he fathoms all directions.
Neither close to some, nor distant from others, he is the protector of all beings: The sun of the Buddha’s Dharma that benefi ts others blazes continually. The numbered lines can be interpreted as follows:
1. Ogyen Trinley Dorje was born in Kham, a region of Eastern Tibet. 2. The Last Testament uses the term “Nam Chak,” “Heavenly Iron”; the place of birth of the Karmapa is called “Lhathok,” “Divine Thunder.” 3. “That which fulfi lls all desires” refers to the “cow that fulfills all desires,” a term found in Buddhist texts; the name of the nomadic community where the child was born is “Bagor,” and “Ba” means “cow.” 4. Here, the sixteenth Karmapa indicates very clearly the names of his future parents. In Buddhist texts, method and wisdom refer to the masculine and feminine principles, respectively. 5. The ox is habitually used to work the land: the year of the birth of the Karmapa was that of the Wood Ox. 6. This refers to the sound of the conch that, soon after the birth of the Karmapa, resounded miraculously in the sky. 7. Dönyö Drubpa (Skt. Amoghasiddhi) is one of the five dhyanibuddhas, who represents the family of activity, karma. Dönyö refers to the twelfth Tai Situpa, whose name is Pema Dönyö Nyinje, indicating that he will become the root lama of the seventeenth Karmapa.
In 1992, the twelfth Tai Situpa and the twelfth Gyaltsabpa , another principal disciple of the sixteenth Karmapa, sent a copy of the Last Testament to Drupön Dechen Rinpoche , abbot of Tsurphu Monastery, seat of the Karmapas in central Tibet, inviting him to organize a delegation to locate the seventeenth Karmapa. In May, emissaries from Tsurphu excitedly set out for Kham in search of the Karmapa. On May 18, they arrived in view of Karlek monastery. Stating that they came from Tsurphu, they asked for directions to the Bagor region in order to visit Loga, a family member. They met Yeshe Rabsel , Apo Gaga’s elder brother, who told them where the family resided. The visitors announced that they were searching for a tulku.
Yeshe Rabsel quickly joined his parents to announce that a delegation from Tsurphu was searching for a tulku, probably related to his young brother. This news made the young child leap up and start dancing happily. Very early the same morning, before his brother’s arrival, he had prepared a small pack bundle that he had placed on the back of his goat, telling his mother that he was going to fi nd his monastery. He had then pointed toward the west to indicate where it was.
His parents immediately prepared the tent to welcome the travelers in a dignifi ed manner. Some days later, when the delegation approached the camp, they were received with honor. When the emissaries questioned the parents about the date and the circumstances of Apo Gaga’s birth, they recounted the surprising signs: Loga’s dreams, the sound of the conches, the cuckoo’s song, the halo around the sun, and so forth. The monks then had confi rmation of the information they had already gathered. All the indications in the Last Testament proved to be perfectly correct.
One of the members of the emissary group, Lama Domo , the principal delegate of Tsurphu Monastery, then showed the parents the copy of the sixteenth Karmapa’s Last Testament. As the father read it, the cuckoo’s song was heard again. The visitors off ered long scarves of good omen to the family to mark the event before leaving for Tsurphu to announce the news and prepare for the offi cial arrival of the Karmapa.
The news spread quickly, to India and to the entire world. The fourteenth Dalai Lama revealed that he had had a signifi cant dream concerning the new incarnation: “I had a kind of dream of the location, the area where the present reincarnation was born. There were stones and meadows. It looked like a high altitude and faced south with beautiful streams. This is the main picture. Then someone, some source without form, was telling me, ‘This is the place where the Karmapa is born’.”
The other two lineage holders—Sakya Trizin of the Sakya and Minling Trichen of the Nyingma—as well as many other masters confirmed the choice and offered prayers for the child’s long life. The Dalai Lama officially recognized the child as the seventeenth Karmapa.
Bülach’s city hall was filled to the brim with over two thousand Tibetans and westerners who came this morning to receive the empowerment of Avalokiteshvara from the Gyalwang Karmapa, who is considered an emanation of this deity embodying the compassion of all the buddhas. The sound of six-syllable mantra filled the air while the Karmapa performed the preparations in a curtained area of the stage. He then came to take his seat on the central throne, to the left of which hung an impressive image of Avalokiteshvara.
The ceremony began with the Praises to the Buddha, the request to teach, purification, and creating a protected space for the empowerment. After everyone took refuge and generated bodhicitta, and a mandala was offered, the Karmapa spoke about the empowerment itself. The source of the lineage for this the Four-Armed Avalokiteshvara, he explained, is the mahasiddha Tsultrim Zangpo from Nari, who is said to have lived hundreds of years. Among the many different types of empowerments, this is the one of transformative primordial awareness.
We should be taking the empowerment, he said, in order to engage in the practice of Avalokiteshvara, which is a practice focused on compassion since he represents or embodies the compassion of all the buddhas. When we engage in the practice Avalokiteshvara, we are practicing great compassion. How to understand great compassion? We wish, “May all living beings be free of suffering,” or “How wonderful it would be if all creatures were released from misery!” or “I will liberate all beings from suffering.” Great compassion is the wholehearted, powerful wish to free all living beings from their suffering.
“In order to generate compassion for other beings,” the Karmapa counseled, “it is important first to generate compassion for ourselves. Renunciation and compassion are like two sides of the same coin: renunciation—letting go of samsara and its suffering—is how we create benefit for ourselves, and compassion—the wish to free others from samsaric suffering—is how we benefit others.”
Bodhisattvas skillfully rely on instructions for practice. “Usually we think of ourselves when we think of being free of suffering and wishing for happiness,” the Karmapa noted. “In their wisdom, bodhisattvas think of others, knowing that just as one desires well being and happiness, so do others, and thus the bodhisattva’s compassion expands. Their skill in means is wondrous.”
“Usually when a real empowerment is given,” the Karmapa continued, “the one bestowing it has the true meaning or significance of the empowerment in their heart-mind and they convey this to those receiving the initiation.” Today, however, there was not enough time, so the empowerment would bring a blessing and create a good connection.
The words of the empowerment were profound and moving. For the empowerment related to the body, people became a radiant Avalokiteshvara who arose out of emptiness; for speech, compassion arose while not moving from the awareness of emptiness; and for wisdom, mind was never separate from the nature of mahamudra.
After an offering of thanksgiving and dedication, the Karmapa made a few remarks on the practice and form of Avalokiteshvara. If our practice goes well, he explained, we will know because our compassion will increase. In speaking of form, he said that at first he thought he knew the manifestations of Avalokiteshvara well, the two-armed, the four-armed, the eight-armed, the thousand-armed, and so forth, but there are over one hundred forms—so many that it can be confusing. When he thought about it, however, he concluded that the thousand-armed form was the best. Why? It is difficult to help one living being and fulfill their wishes, he commented, and when one wants to help a vast number, the symbolism of the thousand-armed Avalokiteshvara is more appropriate. The multiplicity of his arms suggests a dynamic and vast motivation to help all living beings.
The Karmapa added that while we are meditating on ourselves as Avalokiteshvara, the practice does not only involve taking on his form, but becoming the embodiment of the compassion of all the buddhas. We maintain this state, he said, through what is known as “the pride of the deity.” When we hold this kind of compassion in our mind, it would be strange to get angry or to be jealous, so this particular type of superior pride can be helpful in diminishing our afflictions.
“Meditating in a deity should inspire us and increase our mind’s capacity,” he remarked. “We should not think that there is some powerful being out there in front of us, but rather that we are connecting with a particular power or quality and ‘downloading’ this into our midstream.” With this encouragement to practice Avalokiteshvara and deepen our compassion, the Karmapa concluded the empowerment.
The Karmapa sat on stage in a comfortable armchair covered in red and gold brocade for this final session, held on his last afternoon in Switzerland.
He began by recollecting his own childhood in a remote area of Tibet, devoid of modern technology and other aspects of the contemporary world. Within this very traditional culture, the natural world was viewed as sacred and treated with great respect. People thought the mountains and other places were living systems and home to many deities. There was no plastic garbage and no need for rubbish bins as everything was organic and biodegradable. Consequently, when plastic wrappings finally arrived, the people would just throw them away because they were unaware that plastic did not biodegrade. Home life was simple. Everything they owned had a use in daily life and there was no television or the like. “What I saw in this Tibetan culture was the principle of being happy and content with little,” His Holiness commented. “To be content with little and have few wants is an important practice in Buddhism.”
He went on to explain how this was especially true for monks and nuns. In Tibetan, the Karmapa explained, the words for a fully ordained monk gelong and a fully ordained nun gelongma are made up of two words. Ge [Tib. dge] means “virtuous” and longwa [Tib. Slong ba] means “beggar,” so in Tibetan, a bhikshu or a bhikshuni is a “virtuous beggar.” They hold the highest vows, His Holiness observed, and their fundamental practice is to be content and live with few desires and few things. Traditionally, if a monk’s robes were torn, they were patched, and when they were too tattered to be worn, they would be washed and used as rags, and finally when they could no longer be used as rags, they would be added into the making of bricks. Nothing was ever wasted. It was also forbidden for monks and nuns to have personal belongings. This is how the Buddha and his sangha lived, similar to modern day socialism.
The Buddha was first to introduce an administration for the sangha, and later in the tradition, came the large monastic universities such as Nalanda and Vikramashila. These were the first universities in the world, and had rules for administration and finance. However, kings and laypeople brought offerings, which created a problem, as the monks were not allowed to own things. So the monasteries built special treasuries to store the offerings. When armies invaded India, they first attacked the monasteries, destroyed them and took these treasuries.
The Karmapa then linked the question of living with less to the question of the environment: “I want to talk about living with less and being content as a way to protect the environment,” he stated. Science had provided much information about the environmental crisis, he continued, but knowledge in and of itself was not enough. The crux of the matter was how to transform knowledge into action. The Karmapa made several recommendations. First, environmental scientists could confer and work together with religious leaders on ways to protect the environment. Second, we each should make an honest assessment of our daily life and its impact on the environment so that we can change how we live in order to protect the environment. Third, as motivation is key, we all need to develop our motivation, so that it becomes stronger.
Information, statistics and knowledge engage our intellects but do not necessarily bring about a change of heart or a change in behaviour, he remarked. Warnings and graphic images on cigarette packets, for example, have not deterred smokers. Ignorance in human beings is so strong that often we do not recognise the way things really are.
Fourth, we must develop inner contentment, which His Holiness described as “a natural resource.” When we are content, we feel that we have everything needed. Learning to be content is more important than having fewer desires, he explained, because without contentment we will never feel satisfied: we will always have unfilled desires and the feeling that we lack something.
Returning to a theme of previous talks, the Karmapa suggested how we could develop contentment through meditation practice. Resting our awareness on the breath, we focus on the present moment, not chasing after memories from the past or speculating about the future. Through practices such as this, inner contentment can grow progressively. Sometimes when we feel a little helpless, or think we lack something, or feel lost, if we remember to focus on our breath, we can experience happiness. In addition, concentrating on the breath reminds us of our interdependence with the environment and the plants that provide us with the oxygen we need. Breathing can become something wondrous.
However, because of our constant desires, our mind and body cannot find peace. “At some point, we have to say enough is enough,” His Holiness advised, because desires can be limitless, and if we have strong desires, we will be unable to find contentment. Ultimately, we have to take a further step and turn our back on our desires and let go of attachment. This is renunciation.
The principle of renunciation entails rejecting the social constructs of the society in which we live. His Holiness pointed to an example from New Delhi in India. When he came to India in 2000, there were far fewer cars on the road but now there are traffic jams everywhere and the air is much polluted. A major part of the problem is the more than five million private cars and it is exacerbated by the addition of between 4000 – 5000 new cars every day. His Holiness recounted how he had once asked a Tibetan driver why there were so many cars, and the driver replied, “When your neighbour buys a car, you have to buy a car as well.”
“This is the situation today,” His Holiness commented.
Instead of using our own intelligence and wisdom, under the power of ignorance, we just follow what other people do. We are under the influence of external factors and circumstances that determine our lives. When we talk about renunciation and letting go of desire, it means that we are no longer under these influences, but have the intelligence and wisdom to choose our own way.
We need to recognize that what society presents as real is more like a lie, he continued, and then we can take our own way.
In the end, the issue is taking responsibility for our actions. If we buy a car, that is our decision, but that decision has consequences. When we drive that car on the road we add to air pollution, traffic jams and so on. We cannot avoid living in society and we should live in harmony with everyone, but it is paramount that we know the correct way to act.
The Karmapa then opened up the floor to questions.
The first one asked his advice on practical solutions to protect the environment, including vegetarianism. When shopping, we should not just think of what we want as individuals, but how our purchases affect the environment. With regard to vegetarianism, as compassionate individuals we may want to give up eating meat or reduce the amount we eat, and this will have a positive effect on the environment.
The second question posed the dilemma of a vegetarian who has to buy and prepare meat for consumption by others.
His Holiness explained that during the Buddha’s time, the sangha was allowed to eat meat with certain restrictions such as the animal not being specially killed for them. If we have to prepare meat, there are mantras that can be recited or we can recite the names of the Buddhas. If we eat meat, it is good to make aspiration and dedication prayers for the animal that has died.
With the third question a student asked what to do when their root lama had died. Did they need to find another lama or could they continue to practise on the basis of that lama’s instructions?
His Holiness explained that there are different ways of receiving the Dharma, and it is possible to have different lamas, sometimes from different transmission lineages. All the great masters who restored the teachings in Tibet were non-sectarian and received teachings from lamas of different traditions.
However, when we have different lamas there is a danger that we will become confused. Our root lama is the one with whom we have the strongest connection, and for whom we have the greatest devotion and affection. That root lama does not have to be a living lama. If we have deep devotion and a strong connection, we can continue to pray to our root lama after they have passed away. If we encounter difficulties in our practice, it is best to consult a living lama, but our root lama remains in our heart, and the connection with them continues.
Returning to the environmental theme, the next questioner asked the Karmapa’s opinion on whether the earth could recover if human beings were to change their behaviour.
“Hoping the earth will recover does not help much,” His Holiness began, “we must actually do something.” More natural catastrophes might be a wake-up call, but it is not easy to change our behaviour and attitudes. The environmental crisis is on a vast scale and it is difficult to change the situation overall. However, there is a Tibetan saying “Drop by drop the ocean is filled. Drop by drop a hole is made in the rock.” If we all work together, we can do something. If we wait upon the government, it could take a long time, so we have to make our own decision and take action.
We can choose to use things that are less harmful to the environment. If we change our way of consuming, the Karmapa suggested, we would be setting an example for others, and effect a change in their attitudes too.
In conclusion, His Holiness expressed his deep gratitude to all those who had worked to make this first visit to Switzerland such a success, and reiterated his hope of returning to Switzerland and also visiting other European countries in the future. He especially thanked Namkha Rinpoche and the Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Switzerland.
Lastly, the President of Rigdzin Switzerland, Andres Larrain, rose and responded with a speech of thanks to His Holiness, giving a history of the Karmapa’s visit and conveying everyone’s gratitude for the “inexpressible blessings” he had granted during his time in Switzerland. The President’s words captured the experience of all those fortunate enough to attend the teachings: “You have taught us the depths of Buddhism, in a way that was at the same time profound, easy to understand, and with a sparkling sense of humour.”
After motoring from Zurich to Paris through the green hills of a gently rolling landscape, His Holiness arrived at the Champs Elysées for his first night in France. Lamas from centers all over Europe gave him a magnificent welcome with the music of jalings and a great golden umbrella above his head. Holding white scarves, hundreds of people greeted him with joy, with Ringu Tulku in the lead, followed by Lama Gyurme and the representative of the Tibetan people in France, Tsering Dondrup.
The Karmapa will be teaching at the Marriott Rive-gauche this coming Saturday, June 4, on the Four Noble Truths and meditation, and on Sunday, June 5, he will talk about happiness and compassion and also bestow the empowerment of Avalokiteshvara.
Evry, 1er juin 2016. Le 17e karmapa (au centre avec les lunettes), leader spirituel d’une des branches du bouddhisme tibétain, a fait étape à la pagode. (LP/L.D.)
Pour sa première visite en France, il a fait étape en Essonne. Ce mercredi, Orgyen Trinley Dorjé, éminent chef spirituel du bouddhisme tibétain, a été accueilli à la grande pagode d’Evry.
Accueilli par plusieurs centaines de fidèles, il a dirigé une cérémonie spirituelle dans la grande salle de la pagode.
« C’est un immense honneur de le recevoir à Evry, sourit une fidèle de la pagode. Si le dalaï-lama est le représentant de l’école du bouddhisme tibétain la plus connue en Europe, Orgyen Trinley Dorjé est une éminence religieuse très respectée dans notre communauté. »
Agé de 35 ans, le dignitaire religieux a été reconnu à l’âge de 7 ans comme la réincarnation officielle du 16e karmapa, littéralement « celui qui incarne l’activité des bouddhas », par le dalaï-lama lui-même. Devenu le 17e du nom, c’est lui qui dirige depuis cette branche du bouddhisme tibétain.
Contrairement au dalaï-lama, le karmapa n’est pas un chef d’Etat mais uniquement un leader spirituel.
« Le 16e karmapa est mort en 1981, explique encore une fidèle de la pagode d’Evry. Des maîtres reconnus ont alors prié pour trouver l’enfant en lequel il s’est réincarné. »
Le 17e karmapa vit depuis au monastère de Gyuto près de la ville de Dharamsala en Inde. Sa visite en France se poursuit jusqu’à dimanche.
Kagyu Dzong, a center under the guidance of Lama Gyurme in Paris, is situated in the broad meadows and spreading forests of the Bois de Vincennes. Though the center of Paris is not far away, one has the impression of having taken a trip into the countryside. In front of the temple building, a traditional welcoming gate had been constructed for the Karmapa’s visit, and the path leading inside was lined with tall victory banners, colorful Tibetan flags, and over one hundred followers to welcome him.
The Karmapa walked the tree-line path slowly, stopping to greet people on his way. Once in the shrine room, he lit a butter lamp in front of an old Buddha statue on the main shrine and took his seat on the central throne. Joining him in the temple were Ringu Tulku (President of Karmapa Foundation Europe), Lama Gyurme, a lama representing the Drukpa Kagyu tradition plus other Tibetan lamas, Tsering Dondrup (representative of the Tibetans in France), and three-year retreatants as well as many members of the center. Lama Gyurme led the mandala offering to the Karmapa, and his disciples followed with the classic representations of body, speech, mind, qualities, and activity.
Following rice and tea for everyone, President of the Center, Monsieur Heurtaux, gave a heartfelt welcoming address. He recalled that the Sixteen Karmapa had visited the center and expressed his great happiness at being able to receive his successor, the Seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. The President narrated a brief history of the Seventeenth Karmapa, how he had been found through a letter of prediction written by the previous Karmapa and given to Situ Rinpoche, down through the Karmapa’s enthronement, escape to India, education, and travels abroad. The President also spoke of His Holiness’ support of women’s rights and his great concern for the environment. Praising him as a brilliant and radiant lama of the twenty-first century, M. Heurtaux concluded with thanks to the Karmapa for blessing the center and supplicated him to live a very long life and to return to France many times.
The Karmapa responded that it was a joy to be here at the center and warmly welcomed everyone. The fact that the Sixteenth Karmapa had been here, he said, was especially auspicious and mentioned that he takes the Sixteenth Karmapa’s life story as a model for his own life. During a first visit, the feeling one has is important, he said, and his experience was one of joy and delight to be here. He was glad to have the chance to meet people and hoped to return often in the future. The meeting came to a close with the supplication to accomplish the aspirations of all the buddhas. After a fine meal prepared in the center’s kitchen, the Karmapa walked back down the pathway to his car and departed for a visit to the Vietnamese temple south of Paris.
This afternoon the Gyalwang Karmapa visited the new Vietnamese temple complex, called Chua Khanh Anh, named after a great Vietnamese master and located south of Paris in Evry. The founder of the temple, Thich Minh Tam, had laid its foundation stone twenty-one years ago, and a very short while ago, the community had received their official certificate of occupation from the local government. Several members of the Vietnamese Sangha said they considered it a very auspicious sign that the completion of their building project coincided with the Karmapa’s visit.
Trinh, a member of the Sangha, further explained that the purpose of the new buildings was to provide a place where the different French “Pagodas,” or Vietnamese Buddhist centers in France, could gather, and especially to host the biannual retreats that drew hundreds of members from all over Europe. Vietnamese Buddhism has three main strains, she explained: Pure Land (based on the practice of Amitabha), Zen, and Tantric. Though the founding lama belonged to the first tradition, he also felt a strong connection to Tibetan Buddhism. This perhaps explains why above the large central Buddha resting in meditation posture, (consecrated by HH the Dalai Lama in 2008), a lotus is carved into the center of the canopy; the Tibetan letters on its petals spell out the six-syllable mantra of Avalokiteshvara, and in the center is his seed syllable HRIH.
This main hall has a curving high roof of wood, reminiscent of temples in Vietnam, and a huge bell and a large, double-sided drum. Preparing for the Karmapa’s arrival, the bell was struck with a log of wood, rhythmically swinging back and forth, and the drum was forcefully struck from both sides while the Vietnamese lamas chanted in their special way of circling around a tone.
The Karmapa entered the temple led by a nun carrying a wooden tray with a delicate bouquet of flowers and billowing sticks of incense in a ceramic bowl. Following Vietnamese tradition, the Karmapa kneeled in front of the golden Buddha to offer incense. Then standing he blessed the statue with a white rose dipped into consecrated water.
Taking his seat on an elegant carved chair, the Karmapa was welcomed by the main organizer, Titi Tran, who told of their happiness in being able to receive him on his first visit to France. The senior monk expressed, “our deepest gratitude for your great compassion in coming to Europe to create a true and wholesome Dharma.” He called the Karmapa one of the “precious leaders of the twenty-first century” and asked him to teach and spread the genuine Dharma in the West.
The Karmapa opened his remarks by saying how pleased he was to come for the first time to a Vietnamese Buddhist temple and to make this connection. In India, he remarked, many Vietnamese have come to visit him and make a Dharma connection. He had also studied for a while the Vietnamese language, he said, and hoped to come to Vietnam in the future to deepen his relation to the country and its people.
To create an auspicious connection, the Karmapa gave the transmission of an Avalokiteshvara practice along with his mantra, creating a beautiful connection with the mantra above the Buddha statue in the temple. The Karmapa aspired that everyone would realize Avalokiteshvara and bring others to that level. He explained that Avalokiteshvara embodies the compassion of all the buddhas, and given all the difficult situations in the world today, it is important that our hopes and enthusiasm do not diminish. For this reason, he gave the empowerment and prayed that a deep compassion would take birth within us and expand. With this he closed his remarks, thanking everyone for their warm welcome and hoping to return to the temple in the future.
In his closing remarks, the head monk made the aspiration that the Tibetans would be able to preserve their spiritual and cultural traditions and find liberty and peace. For the world, he aspired that the teachings of the Buddha would spread and bring peace and relief from suffering.
The nun carrying the tray of flowers and incense led the way out of the shrine hall to another shrine behind the main one, where an image of the founder is kept along with photographs of others who have passed away. Circling around on his path back into the temple, the Karmapa passed a table with a disciple’s statues of Marpa, Milarepa, and Gampopa, the main progenitors of the Karmapa’s lineage in Tibet, thus making a good connection for the future. After tea with the monks, the Karmapa returned to his hotel in Paris.
Kunleng discusses the Gyalwa Karmapa's first visit to Switzerland, the oldest and largest Tibetan community in Europe where he gave teachings and a public talk with the theme of national unity for all Tibetans.
Alors que le bouddhisme est considéré comme la quatrième religion en France, il ne concerne qu'une partie réduite de la population. Le karmapa estime que cette religion s'est bien développée dans notre pays, comme en témoigne la venue à plusieurs reprises du dalaï-lama. Interrogé sur la possibilité qu'il succède à ce dernier, il nous déclare qu'il n'est pas dans la tradition bouddhiste de raisonner en ces termes.
La nécessité de préserver la planète
Interrogé sur les déclarations du dalaï-lama sur le fait qu'il y ait trop de réfugiés en Europe, et en Allemagne en particulier, il considère qu'il faut avant tout régler les problèmes qui causent cet afflux de migrants. Le changement climatique est également un enjeu crucial pour le karmapa, qui y voit un problème à traiter avec la plus grande attention.