''The Buddha's Blessing Cannot be Destroyed by a Bomb''
Karmapa Defuses Bodhgaya Bomb Blasts
Press Conference, Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya
January 2, 2014
In the first Kagyu Monlam press conference for three years, His Holiness Karmapa addressed a gathering of 23 journalists from all over India including photographers, and a film crew from Bhutanese TV. Their main concerns were the 6 month old headlines featuring the bombings in Bodh Gaya. The Karmapa's answers were skilful, turning the question and answer period into a dharma teaching.
He opened the conference with a brief address emphasizing that the mother of Buddhism is the noble land of India.
I’m delighted to have this press conference, to welcome all here today at the onset of the 31st Kagyu Monlam.
We convene the Kagyu Monlam here in Bodhgaya because it is the most sacred and important place for all Buddhists. Many of us gather here from all over India, and the world, to pray together for world peace and for a better future. We gather here with the same purpose in mind—that by coming to this place where we feel most close to Lord Buddha - to his wisdom, his love and compassion - our own minds will improve. We do our utmost to pray for a better future for this world.
When we gather here in Bodhgaya we always recollect that India is the mother of our faith, the mother of Buddhism. In particular within India this place, Bodhgaya, is where Buddhism began. When we feel great joy from the tremendous support we receive here, both from the Indian government and the people of India, then we recall that traditionally the land of India is known as Aryadesh, the land of the noble ones. We feel it fully deserves this name, and appreciate its support.
Fundamentally what we do when we gather here at the Monlam is try to purify our own motivation, and develop a stronger intention to be of help to others ... What we cultivate is good wishes and good intentions. But also at the same time, we actively engage in trying to benefit the people of this area, through providing health care and other resources in appreciation of the great kindness of those who host us here.
This year we have a particular special event - the dance ceremony performed according to the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition. This is an aspect of the Vajrayana which was brought from India to Tibet more than a thousand years ago, and which we have treasured above all else. So we perform this dance ceremony in order to demonstrate both our appreciation of it and to recreate the majesty and brilliance of the tradition itself.
Once again I’d like to thank all of you journalists who have come here from near and far, and offer you all my wishes for a very Happy New Year. I hope that 2014 brings you well-being and good health.
No sooner had the Karmapa finished his address than the reporters posed the first question, which was on everybody’s mind:
Q:Why is the Monlam not being held at the Mahabodhi Mahvihara?
There are basically two reasons why the venue for the Kagyu Monlam has been moved from the Bodhi Tree, the Mahabodhi Temple itself to Tergar Monastery. The first reason is that while Bodhgaya is of course the most sacred place for Buddhism, it is not simply a religious sacred site, but also a world heritage site. Therefore, it is not only sacred in a dharmic sense, but also has tremendous historical and cultural importance. Which means that although Bodh Gaya itself is a relatively small community, it is infinitely precious and must be preserved? Therefore, as our gathering has grown in size, if we were to continue to gather at the site of the Mahabodhi Temple, it might not be best for the preservation of the environment here at Bodhgaya, which is very important to us.
The second reason is that because of the bombing last year, security surrounding the Mahabodhi has been made more strict. And we feel the need to support this security as best we can. Since the performance of the Kagyu Monlam involves the making of offerings, we feel it’s best to do it here rather than at the site of the Mahabodhi Vihara itself, so that it in no way obstructs the necessary security. Nevertheless, we will still, as was mentioned earlier, conduct a couple of very simple programs at the site of the stupa itself.
Q:What would you say to the people regarding these blasts and their impacts?
I was in Dharamsala when this happened, and my information about it came from the very strong and clear reporting of the bombing in the press. Naturally, I was very concerned that, among other things, it would affect how Bodhgaya is, that it would become a less peaceful place than it had been before. But as we can see that did not occur. I’ve noticed that Bodhgaya has not changed in its feeling, nor changed in its blessing, and that in spite of the bombing, Bodhgaya remains the sacred and peaceful place that it was before.
I do not think that the Buddha's love and blessing can be destroyed by a bomb. I think it will always be here.
Q:Tergar Monastery was also a target. Are you happy about the security measures in general and at Tergar?
The security arrangements which have been made since the bombing by the local government and the local police I think are excellent and I thank them very, very much for these. As for the presence of a bomb in Tergar Monastery, I think this was incidental and not particularly part of a careful or elaborate plan. As we are dharma practitioners we must think positively and not allow ourselves to be swept away by excessive fear. So we are trying to continue our work as it was before those events and not worry too much about these things. But I thank you for your concern.
Q: What are His Holiness’s comments on Indo-China border issues?
I don’t have too much to say about the border dispute except that I came to India, as you know, as a foreigner and in spite of the fact that I am a foreigner I’m able to remain here due to the tremendous kindness of both the government and the people of India. Therefore I fully support the policies of India. Aside from that, aside from my allegiance to India and its policies as a refugee in this country, I don’t have anything particular to say.
The Karmapa concluded the conference with a relevant and very contemporary message.
In a sense the world is getting smaller and smaller. We are becoming closer and closer to one another, which means that we affect one another more and more strongly as time goes on. We can affect one another more beneficially, and unfortunately, we can also harm one another more effectively as well. I think what we need fundamentally is to renew and strengthen our mutual love, our mutual friendliness and our mutual kindness.
Of course Bodhgaya is not the only place in the world where there have been bomb attacks. These have occurred in many different places, and we call them acts of terrorism, and we call those who perform these acts terrorists. But we need to remember that no one is born a terrorist. They become a terrorist through various factors, environmental and others. They become terrorists out of desperation. No one chooses to become a terrorist because they think it’s going to be fun. So therefore, in the greatest sense, we all bear responsibility. I do, you do, we all do. We all share responsibility for prevention of such things.
It will not help if we respond to violence with more violence. Rather we need to take full individual and personal responsibility for our own behaviour, our own interaction with others. We need to learn to care more, for and about, others. We must remember that the fundamental purpose of all religious and spiritual traditions is the same—to help others. And we need to return to that basic, mutual understanding, that shared fundamental purpose that we all have this same intention of wishing to help others. I think remembering that is extremely important.