2015/07/02

The Karmapa tradition - The Tribune



Saturday, January 22, 2000





KARMAPA Ogyen Trinley Dorje heads the Kagyu tradition which occupies an important place among the five principal spiritual traditions of Tibet.

The 17th Karmapa: In the eye of a politico-religious stormThis tradition has remained strong and successful due to the presence of an unbroken line of reincarnations of the founder, the successive Karmapas.

The lineages of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Budhism derive primarily from two sources. Marpa Chokyi Lodoe (1012-1099) and Khyungpo Nyaljor (978-1079). The former was trained as a translator by Drogmi Yeshe (993-1050) and then travelled three times to India and four times to Nepal in search of religious teachings.

Marpa brought the four commissioned lineages of tantrik teachings, including the illusory body and consciousness transference, dreams, clear light and inner heat to Tibet and passing them on to his foremost disciple Milarepa (1040-1123), the most celebrated and accomplished of Tibet’s tantrik yogis, who achieved the ultimate goal of nirvana in one lifetime.

Marpa brought the four commissioned lineages of tantrik teachings, including the illusory body and consciousness transference, dreams, clear light and inner heat to Tibet and passing them on to his foremost disciple Milarepa (1040-1123), the most celebrated and accomplished of Tibet’s tantrik yogis, who achieved the ultimate goal of nirvana in one lifetime.

The Dakpo Kagyu, the mother lineage of the Kagyu tradition, gave rise to four major schools founded by the disciples of Gampopa who also pioneered a fusion of Milarepa’s Mahamudra tradition with the stages of the path tradition of the Kadampa order.

The training of monks in Kagyu monasteries consists mainly of the study of perfection of wisdom, madhyamika, valid cognition, discipline and phenomenology common to all traditions, except that each tradition has its own monastic texts and commentaries to facilitate understanding of the original Indian texts.

The other Tibetan traditions are, the Bonpo, the Sakya, the Gelug and the Nyingma.

The Karma Kagyu was founded by the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193). Famous among the successive Karmapas were the second Karmapa, Pakshi (1206-1282), the third Karmapa, Ranjung Rigpe Dorjey (1284-1339) and the eighth Karmapa Mikyo Dorjey (1507-1554).

The predecessor of the present Karmapa was the sixteenth Karmapa, Ranjung Rigpe Dorjey (1924-81), who in exile was also appointed head of the Kagyu tradition.

The Tsurphu monastery in the Central Tibet was the main monastery of this tradition. But after coming into exile, the tradition has re-established its headquarters and principal monastic university at Rumtek in Sikkim. During the absence of the Gyalwa Karmapa’s incarnation, four high lamas, who were his disciples were acting as regents. They are Shamar Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpochey, Situ Rinpochey and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche.

Bon is the oldest spiritual tradition of Tibet, while the sakya tradition is closely bound up with the Khon ancestral lineage, which derived from celestial beings.

The Gelug tradition has remained dynamic even after coming into exile. The tradition was founded by Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419). The major Relug monasteries, Sera, Drepung, Ganden and Tashi Ihunpo and Gyumey Tantric College have been re-established in various Tibetan settlements in Karnataka and the Gyuto Tantric College has been re-established at Bomdill, Arunachal Pradesh.


The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism too has its origin to the Indian adept, Guru Padamsambhava, who came to Tibet on the invitation of king Trisong Deutsan (742-797) in order to curb the evil forces then impeding the spread of Buddhism.


Reincarnation story retold
By Pratibha Chauhan


THE Chinese design to divide the Tibetan community in-exile by fostering discord between the rival contending sides over the issue of the real reincarnate of the 16th Karmapa appears to be succeeding to a certain extent.

A fresh controversy has been raked up about who the legitimate Karmapa is ever since the escape of Ogyen Trinley Dorjee to Mcleodganj, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile. There had been a bitter controversy over the issue of the real Karmapa, the head of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, even in 1994. The problem was serious enough to cause a political crisis and police had to be posted outside the wealthy and powerful Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, to maintain its sanctity.

Ogyen Trinley Dorjee was enthroned as the head of the Kagyu sect, on September 27, 1992, at Tsurphu monastery, the main seat of all gyalwa Karmapas. Tai Situ Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche had been instrumental in the selection of Trinley as the 17th Karmapa. Even the Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, confirmed Trinley as the reincarnate of the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorjee, who died in 1981 in Chicago.

It was for the first time that the Chinese, too, recognised a reincarnate, a theory which they do not believe in. Trinley was accepted as the 17th Karmapa by the communist regime in Beijing.

Shamarpa Rinpoche, another regent of the Kagyu sect, has put forward the name of Thaye Dorji as the real incarnate of the 16th Karmapa. He has threatened that Trinley, who is also the choice of the Dalai Lama, shall not be accepted by the monks at the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim. As if this feud was not enough, a third contender in Sikkim — Dewa Sangpo Dorji — emerged, posing a challenge to the other two candidates for the post.

Since so much wealth and power is at stake, choosing a new ‘Grand Lama’ or the reincarnate has always been a tricky affair. Even the selection of the Dalai Lama has never been smooth or uneventful and many of the earlier spiritual leaders disappeared mysteriously or died in suspicious circumstances. The fifth Dalai Lama, Lobsang Gyatso, was the first to wield both religious and temporal power over Tibet and all Tibetans acknowledged him as the supreme pontiff of the country.

The tradition of the reincarnation is a peculiar feature of Vajrayana. It is connected with the concept of bardo, the intermediate period between birth and rebirth. It is believed that death is only a pause in the continuity of birth and rebirth. A Bodhisatva lives and dies and is reborn solely with the intent to liberate beings from ignorance and confusion. For him a past and present is manifest in the present, therefore he surpasses the space continuum.

As a religious head passes away, reincarnations are born, identified, enthroned, instructed and empowered until they in turn become masters. There have been enlightened, reincarnated in the case of the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and the Karmapa, the head of the Kagyus sect.

Some reincarnations are identified through dreams, some through the vision of holy persons, some through the instructions left at the time of the death, some through auspicious signs of nature and some have simply proclaimed their identity while still being infants. Some of the reincarnates are put through the test of identifying the objects belonging to the previous incarnate.

There are no rigid rules for the process of identification. There have been incarnates who have been princes, while others were cow herds. The only guiding principle for such birth is compassion of the Bodhisatvas and the collective karma of the people.

Just as there are no rigid patterns to the process of identifying a reincarnate, there is also no set form as to who should identify a reincarnate. Normally a high tulku or incarnate Rinpoche recognises and identifies the new reincarnate, who belongs to his monastery. Often, there have been cases when a great reincarnate has been identified by a single pure Lama or even by emissaries and representatives, of the Rinpoches and the tulkus.

Soon after a tulku or reincarnate is identified, he is enthroned and provided with the best instructors. At times they go through difficult phases. They have to find an instructor who accepts them and finally they are given instructions on dharma by the guru. After an year of hardship and toil, he has access to the vast ocean of dharma and is surrounded by great masters.

A special boy

It has become clear at the time of the birth of Ogyen Trinley Dorjee that he was a "special boy", who was an incarnate of a high Lama.

On the day of his birth on June 26, 1985, the villagers reported hearing the sound of conch shells for an hour, followed by another musical sound, the source of which could not be found. Perhaps, the most dramatic of the many signs were the three suns, which shone in the sky. Seen by all present, they were of the same size and appeared in a row. Over the middle sun, arched a rainbow, each end of which dissolved suns on the sides.

This strange phenomenon was reported throughout eastern Tibet, as if clearly signified the arrival of a reincarnate. After seeking the blessing and help of many Lamas, Karma Dhondup and his wife Loga were blessed with this boy. As promised by the parents, the boy was taken to the Kalek monastery, and installed as a tulku, though he was not given a name, Khatza Tapa, a local wise man proficient in mirror medicine, made a prediction when he saw a conch shell spiralling clockwise: "The boy will greatly benefit beings. When he is eight years old everything will be clear, but until then no one can confirm who he is".

In the tradition of the Karmapas, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the 16th Karmapa, had predicted his successor by writing a sacred letter, disclosing his incarnation. In this letter he is learnt to have specified the time and circumstances of his birth, the name of his parents and the location where he could be found, written six months before his death, in 1981, the 16th Karmapa, had hidden this letter in a talisman, given to Tai Situ Rinpoche. Since the Rinpoche did not know of the secret, it stayed hidden until he opened the amulet many years later and discovered the sacred letter of prediction.

The search party found that the description in the letter was very clear and exact. It said: In the east of Tibet (Kham), in a nomadic community with the sign of the cow (Barkor — the name of the birthplaces is an old Tibetan word for cow), the method (the father) is Dondrup, and the wisdom (the mother) is Loga.

The process of discovering the Karmapa began in the spring of 1992. Copies of the letter of prediction were sent to Drupon Dechon Rinpoche at Tsurphu monastery in Tibet along with its interpretation. A search party was dispatched by Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche. The party comprising Akong Rinpoche and Sherab Tarchin finally arrived at Kalek monastery, where the special boy had been a monk since the age of four. On the day the search party arrived, the Karmapa awoke early and said, "My monks are coming and I am ready to go to the monastery.

Without giving any explanation to his parents, he had insisted, several weeks earlier, that they move to the spring pasture one month ahead of schedule. Due to this, the family was at the exact place the 16th Karmapa had predicted in his letter. The search party was able to find them without any trouble. The members of the search party had already heard about miraculous events from locals before reaching the dwelling place of the Karmapa’s parents. The conch shell music was also predicted by the 16th Karmapa in his letter.

Fully convinced, Lama Domo, head of the search party gave the father a copy of the sacred letter, and it was then that Karma Dondrup realised with certainty that his son was the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa, later, the Tsurphu monastery informed Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche and finally the Dalai Lama was informed about the discovery of the reincarnate of the 16th Karmapa.

Finally on September 27, 1992, Ogyen Trinley Dorjee was enthroned at the Tsurphu monastery, the seat of the Gyalwa Karmapas.


2015/06/26

It is my own heartfelt wish to be able to travel to Sikkim: Karmapa - Sikkim Express



26 June, 2015

GANGTOK: As the seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje turned 30 today, he expressed his fervent wish to visit Sikkim, where his previous incarnation – Rangyung Rigpae Dorje – had built his monastic seat outside Tsurphu, Tibet. 

“Many people in Sikkim have a solemn and sacred bond with the sixteenth Karmapa and now are deeply devoted to me. Many of them have repeatedly requested me to come to visit them and it is my own heartfelt wish to be able to travel to Sikkim in order to meet with them to honor these sacred bonds and to make a pilgrimage to holy places in Sikkim,” said the head of the 900 years old Kagyu lineage in his birthday message. 

The message further read: “I have yet to visit but have heard from my many friends there that Sikkim is a peaceful and environmentally friendly State. The main seat of the Karmapa reincarnation lineage is Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet, and I have had the wonderful opportunity to experience life there. When the 16th Karmapa left Tibet, he built a monastic seat at Rumtek in Sikkim, which is now a part of India.” 

Sikkim, it may be recalled has an old association with the Karmapa ever since the ninth Karmapa established Ralang monastery in West Sikkim, the oldest Karma Kagyu monastery in Sikkim. 

Like every year, hundreds of devotees including monks from as far as Phodong, Ralang, Mirik, Lava and Sonada thronged to Dharma Chakra Centre, Rumtek to offer their prayers to the Karmapa. 

However, the Karmapa, as per his message released today, chose not to celebrate his birthday citing several reasons, which he thinks are more important: absence of his parents, unnecessary inconvenience at Gyuto monastery in Dharamsala, his temporal residence; sense of urgency for the protection of the fragile ecosystems of the Tibetan plateau as well as the It is my own heartfelt... Himalayas; inability to visit Sikkim, where the 16th Karmapa has a sacred bond; and destruction and loss of life due to the recent Nepal earthquakes. 

“For all these various reasons, I personally will not be celebrating my birthday. I understand that others may still want to mark this day, and I do not wish to prevent anyone else from holding celebrations if they wish to do so,” reads the message. He has, however, taken the opportunity to thank the people for their support and love. 

Earlier this morning , incense was offered and prayer flags planted at the DCC premises, followed by prayers for the long life of the Karmapa and mandala offering. The afternoon was marked with cultural performance and birthday cake cutting ceremony. Meantime, Tsurphu Labrang, the office of the Karmapa, has carried out a number of activities – religious and charitable – as a part of the Karmapa’s thirtieth birthday.







Tibet vulnerable to climate change: Karmapa - Zee News



Last Updated: Friday, June 26, 2015 - 18:44




Dharamsala: Tibet is highly vulnerable to climate change and its preservation is urgently needed, the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the third most important Tibetan religious head, said on his 30th birthday on Friday.
He also warned that a lesson should be learnt from Nepal, which was devastated in the April 25 earthquake, and appealed to help rebuilding the Himalayan nation.
"Each year on my birthday, I recall not only my parents, but also the sparkling beauty of the pristine natural environment in which I was born and raised," said the Buddhist monk, who fled Tibet in January 2000 and now resides in a monastery on the outskirts of Dharamsala.
"This intensifies my sense of urgency for the protection of the fragile ecosystems of the Tibetan plateau as well as the Himalayas. As I have said, the area's glaciers make it the source of most of Asia's major rivers, and the Third Pole of the globe itself. For this reason, the Tibetan plateau plays an important role," he said in a message.
The Karmapa, who has decided not to celebrate his birthday, remembered the natural disaster thathit Nepal and stressed the need to preserve ecology.
"Nepal is still recovering from the terrible destruction and loss of life due to the recent earthquakes. I have asked my monasteries and nunneries to offer not only their prayers but also active and practical aid, and I request again now that they continue unflaggingly, as much rebuilding and healing still lies ahead," he said.
An important institution in the Tibetan religious set-up, the Karmapa, whose literal meaning is the one who carries out Buddha-activity, is the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu sect, one of the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism.
Both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government have recognised Dorje as the 17th Karmapa.

IANS 

First Published: Friday, June 26, 2015 - 18:44

MY FEMINIST LAMA - Tibetan Feminist Collective



JUNE 26, 2015
By Kaysang



A couple months ago, I started seeing a lot of articles on Gyalwang Karmapa that talked about how his teachings were becoming increasingly popular with the youth in America because his ideas were modern but rooted in Buddhism. The thing that struck me most in many of these articles was that they all referred to him as a “feminist.” I had my doubts – I wondered, did he really say all these things or were his words misinterpreted in translation?

The perfect opportunity presented itself when I got an email from Gyalwang Karmapa’s Kunkyong Charitable Trust inviting me to apply for nearly three weeks of “Interactions with His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa.” After submitting my application, I was selected to join 12 other students as participants in the program. We spent five days discussing and preparing presentations on a range of social issues to address with Gyalwang Karmapa: Identity; discrimination; gender equality, women’s empowerment; global leadership; education; consumerism; poverty; unemployment; and suicide. After each presentation, we asked Gyalwang Karmapa 12-15 questions on the topic of the day. My understanding of the answers to the questions on the topic of gender equality and women’s empowerment that were discussed in this program — as well as his book, “The Heart is Noble” — are the basis for my understanding of the Karmapa’s views on the subject. I truly felt that no one else could have understood feminism and equality of sexes the way he has.

The Masculine and the Feminine

Buddhist stories tend to highlight how humans were not distinguished as either “male” or “female” through human evolution.

The Karmapa tells us that the dominance of men in society was due to their natural advantage of physical strength. Karmapa also, however, points out that in this age of conflict and global inter-connectivity, “What we need now is not the ability to make assertions, but the ability to listen… it seems clear that we need to sit down to dialogue, and not stand up to fight.”

So, if indeed we are going to divide the world into the “masculine” and “feminine” binary, it is in fact the feminine qualities that our present day society now needs to embrace. Gender ideals are not fixed in such absolutist terms as we’d like to believe, and the changes of this age tell us that women’s leadership is a great contribution to our society.

Violence Against Women

Throughout history, women have always been subject to violence and abuse, outside and even inside their own home. The reality — despite the general notion that Tibetan society is more “peaceful” and “compassionate” than other societies around the world– of the rising public cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse of minors in schools, and rape in our community demands immediate action.

As Buddhists, we need to think about how even a single case of molestation affects our entire society. For the abuser, the act of abuse lasts a matter of minutes; but, for the abused, it is a wound — both physical and spiritual — they carry throughout their lives and that colors all their experiences thereafter. As such, we need to find solutions to such societal problems through our existing religious and spiritual institutions, keeping in mind our unique circumstances and cultural context.

For survivors of sexual violence, it is of course crucial to speak up about any kind of abuse that is experienced; difficulties, however, arise when the victims don’t want to come out publicly for fear of social stigma and victim blaming. We must, therefore, encourage the victims to step forward to prevent countless others from falling prey to the same abuse. In such cases, we cannot change the mentality of everyone, so, unfortunately, there is bound to be some shaming and strained relations as a result; but, the key to triumphing over this is compassion.

There are two types of compassion, as taught by Karmapa: The inward-facing and the outward-facing. The outward-facing compassion is the compassion that one should feel toward others; the inward-facing compassion is the compassion that one has for oneself. Inward-facing compassion is necessary to first free oneself from suffering before one can help others. When one has courage, one inspires courage in others as well. When one is free of suffering, one is able to help free others of suffering.

What our society needs at present is to create an environment and opportunities to bring these difficult issues into the public sphere and find concrete solutions to our shared problems, in accordance with our unique Tibetan culture. It is not enough to simply establish systems to punish offenders because, as Karmapa says, “…As long as the harmful attitudes remain, women’s well-being will continue to be in danger… When a problem is rooted in a society’s habitual outlook and habitual thinking, then legislation will have limited effect.”

Women’s Rights and the Roles of Men and Women

Gyalwang Karmapa states in his book that he was not very moved when he first heard about feminism and women’s rights because the Tibetan word for “rights” (ཐོབས་ཐང་) immediately conjured up images of a struggle for one to be better than others, or for one to win and for others to lose.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that women’s rights are, in fact, human rights. Karmapa illuminates this key point when he says, ‘Those who work for women’s rights are seeking to secure for women what all human beings need and deserve.” Gender equality is not a zero-sum issue; women’s rights is an issue of “respecting human life and freedom” and of “acknowledging our shared humanity and the basic human bonds that bind us.” Simply put, it has nothing to do with taking away anything from men.

Tibetan men in our society are typically religious and, thus, believe in Buddhist principles; but, often, when it comes to the women in their lives, they fail to put such principles into practice. As Karmapa teaches us, what men in our society need to always bear in mind is that women are equally desirous of happiness and are indeed more sensitive and feel emotions more acutely (citing “sherab ki rangshin”), and, as such, they need to be respectful and considerate of that.

Men need to be better educated about the importance of working towards gender equality and put these convictions into action. If men truly do not believe in this basic tenet of Buddhism, they will only create further obstacles for the empowerment of women.

Women, on the other hand, need to truly believe in their own worth as women. Engaging in abusive acts towards their fellow women is also a major barrier for the women’s rights movement. Tibetan women need to themselves recognize and believe in their own worth as women and develop their innate compassionate qualities. From this recognition must come the elimination of jealousy towards each other. Rather, they should be supportive of each other and be united in their efforts to empower all women. To bring about a transformative change in the current social conditions for women, we, as a society, must take collective responsibility and action to make this initiative our own rather than simply waiting for conditions to be created for us through external means.

Most importantly, men and women need to unite to make equality of the sexes a reality. Men need to educate themselves about women’s rights and take personal responsibility to create meaningful opportunities for women to contribute to the community at large.

Tibetan Feminism

At present, Tibetan men and women do not have the same kinds of freedoms and opportunities in our patriarchal exile society. This inequality exists due to a deeply-ingrained belief that men are superior to women (ཕོ་ཆོགས་མོ་དམན་). Even though working to rebalance this inequality — as feminists are actively engaged in — is the morally right thing to do, it is somehow considered wrong by many men and as an effort by women to dominate men.

Tibetan feminism needs to be something that can cater to and is suitable for the unique reality of Tibetan culture and society. We need to study the complex history of feminism, and incorporate our own sacred ancestral knowledge and core Buddhist values to create a feminism based on the principles of compassion and the interdependence of men and women, recognizing that one is no more or less important than the other.



Author’s Note: The quoted portions of this essay are direct statements from His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa’s book, The Heart Is Noble: Changing the World from the Inside OutAll other sentiments attributed to the Karmapa in the essay are English translations of the discussions that took place throughout the duration of the Karmapa’s Tibetan youth dialogue.


2015/06/21

The Gyalwang Karmapa Attends the Celebration of HH the Dalai Lama’s Eightieth Birthday




June 21, 2015 – Dharamsala, India
In the early hours of this Sunday morning, the lay and ordained Sangha were forming long lines to enter the grounds surrounding HH the Dalai Lama’s main temple. To celebrate his eightieth birthday, four thousand members of the ordained Sangha and some three thousand lay people would come to fill the temple verandas and the park area below.
The main lamas arrived at six am to begin their long life ceremonies for the Dalai Lama. Leading the pujas was HH Sakya Trizin Rinpoche and in addition to HH the Karmapa, among the great lamas present were Ganden Tri Rinpoche, Drikung Kyabgön Rinpoche, and Menri Trizin Rinpoche. As their chanting evoked the long life deities to bless the Dalai Lama, those outside the hall participated through watching the screens set out around the temple.
After the long-life pujas, a colorful procession, accompanied the Dalai Lama to the temple while he tempered its formality with his personal warmth, stopping to greet people along the way. Once he was on his throne in shrine hall, the chanting began with extensive praises to the Buddha. Soon Tseringma and the Nechung oracles made their appearances and gave messages to him.
Sakya Trizin recited a beautiful prayer for long life of the Dalai Lama and the teachings and also offered a mandala of saffron rice followed by the traditional auspicious gifts. The Dalai Lama spoke briefly, explaining that when the Tibetans came to India, they had changed to a western calendar. This year, however, they decided to celebrate his birthday with the western calendar for the year (2015) and the Tibetan calendar to for the month (the fifth) and the day (the fifth). Speaking of the Nalanda tradition of Buddhist panditas, the Dalai Lama explained that it was the oldest in India and that these scholars had an inconceivably deep insight. Studying and practicing their texts would be the best birthday present one could give him.
The morning’s festivities came to a close with the organizing committee’s chairperson giving thanks to everyone. As people relaxed, the same lunch was offered to everyone, high lamas and ordinary guests as well. It was the perfect end to a special morning.




http://kagyuoffice.org/the-gyalwang-karmapa-attends-the-celebration-of-hh-the-dalai-lamas-eightieth-birthday/

2015/06/19

Message Regarding 30th Birthday





This year marks my 30th birthday. Time has passed very quickly. This year is also the 15th year since I left Tibet and came to India. This 30th birthday is considered to mark a special milestone, and many people have been requesting me to celebrate this birthday extensively. However, I have decided not to celebrate my birthday for several reasons that I would like to share with you here.
In all these years since leaving Tibet, I have never seen my parents again, and now they have grown old. This body was created and nurtured by my parents, and therefore my birthday is a day in which I feel their absence keenly.
In these 15 years since I arrived in India, I have been living in a temporary residence at Gyuto Monastery in Dharamsala. Even though Gyuto Monastery has been an exceptionally kind and hospitable host, it is unseemly for a guest to cause such unnecessary inconvenience over their birthday year after year.
Furthermore, each year on my birthday, I recall not only my parents, but also the sparkling beauty of the pristine natural environment in which I was born and raised. This intensifies my sense of urgency for the protection of the fragile ecosystems of the Tibetan plateau as well as the Himalayas. As I have said, the area’s glaciers make it the source of most of Asia’s major rivers, and the Third Pole of the globe itself. For this reason, the Tibetan plateau plays an important role in the well-being and sustenance not only of the people who live within it, but of all of Asia and indeed the entire planet. Because the Tibetan culture and way of life has existed in harmony with that environment for thousands of years, I feel its preservation is urgently needed in order to preserve that crucial environment.
This is true not only of the Tibetan plateau, but also of the entire Himalayan region, including the countries of Bhutan and Nepal, and the states of India located within the Himalayas, such as the State of Sikkim. The country of Bhutan presents an excellent example of the value of retaining the way of life that is uniquely suited to the local Himalayan environment, and its commitment to doing so is truly praiseworthy.
I have yet to visit but have heard from my many friends there that Sikkim is a peaceful and environmentally friendly state. The main seat of the Karmapa reincarnation lineage is Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet, and I have had the wonderful opportunity to experience life there. When the 16th Karmapa left Tibet, he built a monastic seat at Rumtek in Sikkim, which is now a part of India.
Meanwhile, many people in Sikkim have a solemn and sacred bond with the 16th Karmapa and now are deeply devoted to me. Many of them have repeatedly requested me to come to visit them and it is my own heartfelt wish to be able to travel to Sikkim in order to meet with them to honor these sacred bonds and to make a pilgrimage to holy places in Sikkim.
Nepal is still recovering from the terrible destruction and loss of life due to the recent earthquakes. I have asked my monasteries and nunneries to offer not only their prayers but also active and practical aid, and I request again now that they continue unflaggingly, as much rebuilding and healing still lies ahead. This tragic earthquake also shows very clearly the value and importance of the natural environment. We must take that as a lesson, and intensify our efforts to preserve and protect our planet, which has been like a kind, life-giving mother who has nurtured us all.
For all these various reasons, I personally will not be celebrating my birthday. I understand that others may still want to mark this day, and I do not wish to prevent anyone else from holding celebrations if they wish to do so.
From my side, I feel that I have accomplished nothing that I consider worthy of so many years of life; and have done nothing but receive a great deal of support and love from many people. I want to take this occasion to thank all of them from the very bottom of my heart.

17th Karmapa Reaches out to Youth In Historic 2015 Seattle Visit - Northwest Dharma News



Written by: Diane Brooks


Children from the Tibetan Association of Washington sang for the Karmapa and then lined up to offer katas during an event at Lynnwood Convention Center.
Photos by: Nirzhar Pradhan, Kurt Smith, & Scott Pownall

The greatest legacy of the recent cross-country tour by the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, could be his connection with American youth and young adults.
The young Karmapa, considered Tibetan Buddhism’s third-highest lama, began his unprecedented two-month U.S. visit with a whirlwind of college campus engagements, including sell-out talks at Stanford, Harvard, Princeton and Yale universities.
The charismatic spiritual leader, whom many feel is being groomed to succeed the aging Dalai Lama as the public face of Free Tibet, resonated strongly with students with his focus on modern issues such as compassionate race relations, the sacredness of our natural environment, the empowerment of women, and equal respect for gay, lesbian and transgender relationships.
When the 29-year-old Karmapa arrived in Seattle – his final stop before flying home to India – the centerpiece of his May 9 public talks at Seattle Center was a dialogue with a panel of young adults who are devoting their lives to compassion projects. More than 1,500 people attended the afternoon and evening sessions.
Silas Follendorf, a young woman who does outreach work with Seattle’s homeless youth, asked the Karmapa for help dealing with the emotional pain triggered by witnessing such trauma.
“How does one go about making this kind of work sustainable? In the face of so much suffering and crisis and drama … sometime I feel like my heart begins to shut down, and I want to take a step back and leave everyone at arm’s length,” said Follendorf, who works with YouthCare. “Sometimes running away feels like it’s the only viable option for survival.”
The Karmapa, who escaped from Chinese-occupied Tibet at age 14 without his family, understands how painful life can be for young people.
“The work you are doing is very meaningful work, that’s bringing direct benefit and really directly sparking an experience of happiness for these people,” he told her. “When we see this we naturally all feel joy in our hearts, and it’s really important to take a moment and appreciate that, and allow that to become a sustenance for us.
The Karmpa greeting young members of the youth panel
The Karmpa greeting young members of the youth panel.
“Because after all, if our hand isn’t warm, we won’t be able to warm someone else’s hand by grabbing them. So if we want to warm someone else up, we have to become warm ourselves,” he said. “Therefore we should try to appreciate and rejoice in the work that we do, along with bearing witness to the sufferings of others.”
The next day, the Karmapa held a private audience at Nalanda West with a small group of adult leaders from Seeds of Compassion, who sponsored some members of the youth panel.
Dan Kranzler, a Seeds of Compassion leader, told the Karmapa that Seattle people are strongly committed making the world a better place, especially for youth who feel overwhelmed by modern problems. Seeds of Compassion, which hosted the Dalai Lama’s 2008 visit to Seattle, wants to empower youth to step up as a new generation of leaders, he said.
Would the Karmapa consider returning next year, Kranzler asked, to participate in a youth summit? Perhaps with the Dalai Lama as well?
The Karmapa first cautioned the group that he can’t make promises about future visits, because the Indian government restricts his travel.
“I am very interested in this idea of a summit, and I would like to participate in such a gathering,” he then said. “So we should keep in touch.”
Visualizing during a tantric practice
Visualizing during a tantric practice.
This was the Karmapa’s third visit to the United States, and by far his most ambitious. In 2008 he undertook his first overseas trip – an 18-day tour of Seattle, New York, and Boulder, Colorado. Indian authorities suddenly cancelled a 2010 European teaching trip, apparently due to political concerns about China. Then in 2011 both the Karmapa and the Dalai Lama flew to Washington, D.C., for the Kalachakra for World Peace.
With his solidly-built, 6-foot physique, hip attitudes, humor and technological savvy – he’s known for his Nintendo Wii, Playstation and iPod, and sometimes teaches via live web-casts – the Karmapa has dazzled audiences and the media. The New Yorker recently dubbed him “the Bieber of Buddhism,” and in 2008 the Seattle Times wrote of his “magnetic personality” and “hunky good looks of a rock star.”
Although the Karmapa offered all his Seattle-area teachings in Tibetan, translated by Nalanda West’s Tyler Dewar, his command of English seems impressive. He rarely requested Tibetan translations before responding to questions posed in English, and often sprinkled his Tibetan comments with words such as “interdependent,” “mindfulness” and ”gratitude.”
But not all Buddhists revere him as the 17th Karmapa, the head of the 900-year-old Kagyu lineage. While the Dalai Lama (head of the Gelug lineage,) the Chinese government and most Tibetans have accepted him in that role, a rival claimant – Trinley Thaye Dorje – has backers including one highly-placed Kagyu lama. Until the controversy is settled, neither of them live at India’s Rumtek Monastery, which was the seat of the 16th Karmapa in exile
During his recent Seattle visit, the Karmapa repeatedly apologized for his poor health. He originally was scheduled to arrive May 5, but when he fell ill in late April he spent five days resting in New York, and the latter part of his schedule was reconfigured. Lingering symptoms included an occasional cough, low energy and vocal limitations.
Children were a central theme in the Karmapa’s visit
Children were a central theme in the Karmapa’s visit.
“I usually have quite a loud voice, and today it doesn’t seem to be so strong. So I am still in the process of recovering,” he told his audience at a May 8 event sponsored by the Tibetan Association of Washington.
While his Seattle public talks had a strong Western vibe, with the Karmapa seated onstage on a golden, upholstered banquette, his appearance at the Lynnwood Convention Center was highly traditional. He ascended a Tibetan throne, positioned next to a shrine and beneath a 20-foot banner adorned with a depiction of the Buddha flanked by Green Tara and White Tara. During the ceremonial program elements, he donned a tall red ritual hat and shook a pellet drum and bell.
That long-life empowerment and teaching drew an audience of about 1,300 people – mostly native Tibetan, Chinese, and Taiwanese – many of whom had traveled from Portland and Vancouver, B.C., for the opportunity.
Young people played a prominent role at that event too: Teenaged dancers garbed in traditional Tibetan ceremonial masks and clothing greeted the Karmapa when he arrived outside the venue, and a children’s choir – also in traditional clothing – sang in Tibetan with great heart at the start of the program. Both groups are part of the Seattle-based association’s Tibetan Language and Culture Class.
It was a multigenerational crowd. Babies and toddlers cried and fussed; some elderly people dozed; a few adults swirled small prayer wheels; many listened with their hands together at their hearts in anjali, or with their fingers interlaced into more complex Buddhist hand mudras.   Nuns with shaved heads and maroon robes listened with eyes closed.
The Karmapa visited Seattle's Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism on the morning before his May 9 public talks
The Karmapa visited Seattle’s Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism on the morning before his May 9 public talks.
Howard Huang, 22, made the trip from Portland with his mother, who emigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan. After the ceremony ended, they were among hundreds of audience members who respectfully inspected the Karmapa’s shrine and throne, taking selfies and draping lovely katas (scarves) across his brocade-covered seat.
“I felt the power, I felt the connection. I bet everybody brought their suffering and problems and prayed, and His Holiness uplifted from the heart,” Huang said. “His presence here means so much. He gets to come here to the Western states and provide his teachings, when usually we would have to go to India, with a lot of time and expense. For a lot of people this might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Before bestowing the 15-minute long-life empowerment, which had been requested by the Tibetan Association, the Karmapa gave a teaching to clarify its history and purpose. This empowerment was one of two he learned as a child in Tibet, he said.
The empowerment can seem confusing in light of the Buddha’s fundamental teachings about accepting the inevitability of sickness and death, the Karmapa said.
“[Death] is not something that we should try to avoid, deny or run away from,” he said. “Rather the goal of the lama’s empowerment is to help make our lives meaningful. If we are leading a meaningful life that is devoted to accomplishing genuine benefit for ourselves and others, then it would be helpful to have as a long of a lifetime as possible.”
Nearly everyone from the Tibetan community gathered for teachings with the Karmapa, in Lynnwood
Nearly everyone from the Tibetan community gathered for teachings with the Karmapa, in Lynnwood.
That’s especially important for meat-eaters, he said, because so many sentient creatures must suffer and die, every day, just to feed us and keep us alive. Therefore, he said, “Surely you will want to make the life that we do live meaningful, and one that we can use to benefit others.”
When the empowerment and formal program ended, he delivered 18 minutes of personal comments to the crowd, speaking in Tibetan that was not translated into English.
During this visit, the Karmapa and his entourage stayed in an apartment built especially for him at Nalanda West in 2008, for his first Seattle visit. Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, founder of Nalanda West, has strong ties with the Karmapa. Rinpoche’s father was general secretary for the 16th Karmapa, who prophesized the Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s birth, and who provided much of his early training.
Ponlop Rinpoche kept a very low profile during this visit, but usually could be spotted sitting front-and-center in the audiences.
“I am so happy His Holiness connected with all the different walks of life in America – from all different communities, and different ethnic groups, and different challenges,” he said, in an interview toward the end of the Karmapa’s U.S. tour.
“Especially the young people who have struggled a lot, and gone through a lot of pain, but then came out of it with a great amount of courage and love and compassion. They’re trying create a better world,” Ponlop Rinpoche said. “I am so happy we have had the opportunity to connect with that type of environment, with the basic value of America here.”