Tibetan spiritual leader’s visit to Woodstock — ‘land of hippies’ — has Earth Day theme (Daily Freeman)

By William J. Kemble, news@freemanonline.com

The Karmapa, left, speaks through an interpreter, second from left, Wednesday at Andy Lee Field in Woodstock. Seated second from the right is town of Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber. At far right is town Councilman Bill McKenna.Tania Barricklo — Daily Freeman

WOODSTOCK >> The Tibetan Buddhist leader known as His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa told about 800 people in an Earth Day speech Wednesday that Woodstock — which he called the “land of hippies” — is laudable for its environmental activism.

“There’s no doubt that the greatest challenge that we face is the environmental emergency in climate change,” the spiritual leader of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism said through a translator during and address at Woodstock’s Andy Lee Field.

“The people of Woodstock have repeatedly demonstrated the courageous spirit of environmental activism that we’re all going to have emulate if we’re going to heal our environment,” the Karmapa said in afternoon remarks that lasted about 15 minutes. “As people of Woodstock seem to know so well already, we must begin to accept that we all depend on one another; that our connection with one another, and especially our connection with the environment, is an interdependent one.”

The Karmapa, who’s name is Orgyen Trinley Dorj, said he “first heard of the town of Woodstock when I was a child, while I was still living in Tibet, which I left when I was 14.”
“I heard lots of stuff about Woodstock, that it was the land of hippies,” he said to laughter from the crowd. “That means something to me because it means that the town is filled with people who are devoted to personal freedom and environmental activism.”

Father John Nelson of the Church of the Holy Transfiguration — a small log church next to the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Buddhist center on Meads Mountain Road — praised the Karmapa’s remarks.

“I thought it was beautiful,” Nelson said. “He talked as a member of the community, and the community is kind of adopting him as someone from the outside coming in as a pivotal world leader.”

Earlier Wednesday, the Karmapa visited the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra to plant two trees as a symbol of care needed around the world. He did not speak during that event, which was attended by about 100 people.

Town of Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber said at the tree planting that the Karmapa’s visit was appropriate in a community where people value a legacy of treating the planet with respect.

“Not many people realize this, but there’s a very old, almost ancient spirituality that runs through the town of Woodstock, originally expressed in its very simple white templed, white spiraled churches,” Wilber said.

“It’s always been a very strong presence, particularly at the turn of the last century, when different creeds came to this area and flourished [and] more lately with the [Woodstock] Jewish Congregation that started with a few families 40 years ago and is a very significant part of spiritual community of Woodstock,” Wilber added. “The Buddhists came here about 40 years ago and detected that spiritual vibe in the town. They wanted to be here, and they struggled to build what they’ve built here.”

Wilber noted the Karmapa included environmental themes in his book “The Heart is Noble.”
“You will find in it not only very deep understanding of the Tibetan faith, but you will also hear the words of very committed environmentalist,” Wilber said.


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