Karmapa Meets with Environmental Activists, Views Yale’s Rare Manuscript Collection

(April 7, 2015 – New Haven, Connecticut) In advance of his afternoon Chubb Fellowship Lecture, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, spent the first part of the day touring Yale’s historic campus and meeting with students engaged in environmental projects.
His Holiness the Karmapa began the walking tour by entering through Phelps Gate, the grand entrance to Yale’s Old Campus where all incoming students reside for their first year at university. He paused at the base of the iconic statue of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, Yale president in the 19th century and founder of the university’s School of Fine arts. The raised foot of the statue was burnished from centuries of students touching it for good luck, and His Holiness stretched out his hand, adding his touch to that of successive generations seeking to polish their collective knowledge.
As His Holiness the Karmapa and his guides meandered leisurely among the fine examples of 18th- and 19th-century architecture, a fine mist initially lent atmosphere to the walk, and later gently hastened the group toward the final stops on this walking tour of Yale’s important historical buildings: the Sterling Library and the Beinecke Library.
Christine McCarthy, the chief conservator in Yale’s preservation, conservation and exhibition services, conducted a private tour for His Holiness, offering the opportunity to view an ancient papyrus manuscript. Along with a general presentation of the work done at Yale to restore and conserve ancient manuscripts and books, she demonstrated tools that conservationists can offer to surmount the challenges of preserving old books and manuscripts that had survived long centuries in Tibet’s arid climate but were later taken to the monsoon climate of India.
After walking across to Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, His Holiness viewed an original Gutenberg Bible and other important early books, accompanied by the director of the library, E.C. Schroeder, who described for him the purpose and function of the library. The 17th Karmapa then proceeded to an exhibition that had been prepared especially for his private viewing. There, 11th-century Sanskrit manuscripts were displayed alongside illustrated Tibetan manuscripts, along with numerous rare thangkas. His Holiness was consulted on the identification of figures in several thangkas, and asked to see the inscriptions on the reverse of several.
Upon concluding his time with the rare books and artwork, it was time for students. Eleven students from Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies spent an hour and a half expressing their aspirations and concerns about environmental issues to His Holiness, who listened attentively as they presented their projects to him. A human rights activist from the Congo spoke of his work on behalf of indigenous people’s rights, while other students spoke on such topics as biodiversity and food security, climate change and disaster risk reduction, and environment and human health.
Their shared passion for protecting the earth rang through clearly as they spoke, and served as the perfect clarion call to convoke His Holiness’ Chubb Lecture on the environment, which took place shortly thereafter.

Photography by Filip Wolak. Photos with students by Andrew Quintman.


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