The Karmapa brings Buddhist Thought to American Universities (Buddhistdoor)

Buddhistdoor International   Dorje Kirsten 

His Holiness the 17th Karmapa is continuing his tour of the United States, which includes visits to six universities. He addresses topics such as gender equality, the environment, vegetarianism, and social activism. His first stop was at Stanford, on the west coast. He received his first honorary degree at the University of Redlands on 24 March. He gave a lecture at Harvard on 26 March, and at Princeton on 1 April. He will also visit Yale and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

At Princeton, His Holiness said that he was inspired to visit the universities because of his interactions with American students who have visited him in India. He originally intended to visit the universities as a student to get a taste of what it is like to study at one of these universities. During the early part of the Princeton lecture, each of the universities extended an invitation for him to give a talk, which he accepted.

At Princeton he gave a lecture titled, “A Buddhist Perspective: The Environment, Gender and Activism,” which included questions from the audience. He spoke about the need for reestablishing full ordination for women in Tibetan Buddhism, which he said is at the core of fostering women’s rights, and their innate leadership abilities. He noted that just changing legislation is not enough to create gender equality. He said that real understanding of equality must come from love and concern for each other.

As part of his visit to Harvard on 26 March, the Karmapa gave a talk to faculty and students at the university’s Memorial Church on “Caring for Life on Earth in the Twenty-first Century.” This talk was hosted by Harvard Divinity School, where his predecessor, the 16th Karmapa, had visited in 1976. In his talk His Holiness emphasized the need for an experiential understanding of interdependence, and our innate compassion, which he said gets obscured in us as adults. He went on to say that one source of disaster that is overlooked is “lack of love” and that “the most dangerous thing in this world is apathy” (Karmapa America 2015).

The Karmapa was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Redlands on 24 March. It was presented by university president Dr. Ralph Kuncl in front of 1,700 people. Dr. Kuncl said, “We were thrilled to gather . . . with our University community, special friends and family members, many new visitors to our campus . . . to present His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, an honorary degree – the first-ever to be conferred upon His Holiness. We thank and honor His Holiness for his kindness to our students who learned from him at his home in India and engaged with him during his visit this week, and for his universal teachings of peace, tolerance and understanding.”

Dr. Karen Derris, Professor of Religious Studies read out a proclamation commending the Karmapa for his leadership qualities in environmental sustainability, gender equality, and the humane treatment of animals. The presentation was followed by an address given by the Karmapa, called “Living Interdependence.”

His Holiness the Karmapa’s tour is about connecting with the students and teachers of as many American universities as possible, and planting seeds of the Buddha’s teachings with lectures on compassion and interdependence.


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