Freedom is a powerful idea. But I am not sure we are always very clear what we have in mind when we speak of it. Does freedom mean doing whatever we feel like in any given moment? Does it mean having the power and liberty to exercise our will with no obstruction? Does it evoke a state in which we have shed ourselves of all obligations to others?
Many of our notions of freedom are based implicitly on the idea that we are utterly self-sustaining and separate entities. This model leads us to feel that others’ claims on us undercut our freedom. We experience our relationships as ties that bind us and limit our freedom. Based on this, we assume that we cannot all be free, because the freedom of one person comes at the cost of another’s. If we believe that, it is small wonder that people so often seek to dominate and oppress others. This is an idea that slips into discussions of freedom—the idea that freedom is in some fundamental way a limited resource, such that one person exercising his freedom detracts from another person’s ability to be free. But this is not the case. Freedom is not a zero-sum game.
It is possible and realistic for every person to experience real freedom. The reason we have not managed to do so is we lack an understanding of what real freedom is and how it can be achieved. We need the wisdom to distinguish the egocentric pursuit of self- interest from the pursuit of authentic freedom.
When I hear what people say about freedom sometimes, it sounds to me like longing to live out the fantasy of being independent and absolutely autonomous individuals, of being free of consequences and responsibilities—that is to say, exempt from the principle of interdependence. But there is no such thing. We cannot exist out- side causality or outside the connections of interdependence, and so freedom cannot be a matter of escaping from those connections.
Only freedom developed on the basis of a realistic view of who we are and how we relate to others can be authentic—and extended universally to all. If we acknowledge our interdependence, and take into account the vast networks of interconnections in which our lives and actions are embedded, we will find that our own freedom is inseparable from the freedom of all other people. When we truly appreciate this fact, we experience interdependent freedom—a freedom that does not detract from others’ freedom. This is the freedom that we can all enjoy together without conflict.
Freedom’s Inner Conditions
Freedom does not start from the outside. Although external conditions have a part to play, that is not where freedom originates. This might sound backward, but authentic freedom arises initially from inner conditions. Its deepest roots are within us.
Most often when we speak of freedom, what we actually have in mind are freedom’s outer manifestations. This may be the gravest error we make in our understanding of freedom. If we think we will achieve freedom when we can exercise complete control over our immediate environment, we overlook the single most important determinant of authentic freedom: our own minds.
Our mind has unlimited potential. It is not bound to any one position or viewpoint. What we think or feel—our mental state—is not simply determined by outer circumstances. Because of this, no matter how challenging our external conditions might be, we can experience freedom if we cultivate the inner resources that allow us to feel free. The basis for establishing authentic freedom is within us.
If you can access a sense of inner freedom no matter what is going on around you, you are experiencing freedom. As important as outer liberties are, freedom does not consist solely in enjoying physical or verbal liberty, such as freedom of movement or freedom of speech. We may have the liberty to do and say as we wish and yet still be deeply unfree mentally or emotionally. This is why inner freedom is key. When we have freed our minds and hearts from within, our happiness no longer depends on making the rest of the world serve our self-centered goals. Not only that, we gain freedom to work to change the external conditions that have the potential to limit or obstruct our freedom from outside, and we also have what we need to be able to work for the freedom of others.
What are we looking for when we seek freedom? Maybe at the bottom of it all, the freedom we seek is the experience of genuine happiness. Since this is an inner experience, external things cannot be the measure of our happiness or our freedom. We will come back in a moment to the question of what we mean by happiness and how it enables us to experience freedom, but I think if we examine our own experiences, we can see that whether we call it freedom or not, if we feel free, we feel happy, and if we feel happy, we also feel free. The state of mind and the feeling we seek can be called freedom, or it can be called happiness. But whatever name we give it, if we want to experience happiness or freedom, we must cultivate the inner conditions that give rise to those states.
Aldershot, Hampshire, England – Morning, May 27, 2017
Early on this day of the Karmapa’s visit to the Nepali community in Aldershot, the double arch of a luminous rainbow filled the sky. It recalled his first visit to the US when rainbows followed him everywhere on the East Coast. The Karmapa was invited by the Buddhist Community Centre UK to this beautiful area of England, famous for its military garrisons and home to a sizeable population of Gurkha soldiers who have served in the British army. In 2006 they were allowed to live in England and in 2007, the Buddhist Community Centre UK was founded by Mr. Kaji Sherpa. He had the vision of establishing a Buddhist monastery to serve the growing Buddhist Community in this southeast region of the UK.
His daughter explained that about half of the Gurkha population in Nepal is Buddhist, and that her father felt a need for Buddhist guidance in this community, so a committee of Nepalis purchased a social club and completely transformed it into a …
During his first visit to the UK from May 17 to 28, 2017, the Karmapa, a prominent Tibetan Buddhist leader, joined former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Rowan Williams together with scientists, scholars and cultural figures for a dialogue on the environment hosted by the International Campaign for Tibet and Inspire Dialogue Foundation.
The round table discussion, held on May 24, 2017, was intended to bring together perspectives “between disciplines and generations” as the beginning of an ongoing exchange, according to Lord Williams, Master of Magdalen College and a noted poet and theologian. It involved figures from the arts and sciences, including Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre in London; James Thornton, the founding CEO of ClientEarth; Dame Fiona Reynolds, former Director-General of the National Trust; Dr Bhaskar Vira, Director, University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute; Tracey Seaward, film producer …
His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, made his first visit to the United Kingdom this month.
At 31 years old, Ogyen Trinley Dorje is head of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, a reincarnation lineage that dates back more than 900 years. His Holiness was born in eastern Tibet but fled to India in 2000, where he now resides at the Gyuto Monastery near Dharamshala. He is the only reincarnate Lama to have been recognised by both His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese communist government.
The Karmapa’s 11-day visit began on May 17 and the first public event was held on May 20 in London’s Battersea Park.
“I would like to express my great delight at this opportunity that has come to pass for me to visit London, the capital of the United Kingdom, for the first time. Especially, I would like to extend my warmest greetings to all you friends who are gathered here. I have been waiting for a long time to visit the United King…
May 29, 2017 - The 17th Karmapa, one of Tibet’s leading Buddhist figures arrived in Toronto yesterday on his first visit to Canada. Known for his concerns about current global issues as well as for his spiritual leadership, the 31-year-old Karmapa will engage in a wide range of religious activities and will speak on environmental and social responsibility at various universities.
During his month long trip to Canada, the Karmapa will travel to Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. In doing so, he is following in the footsteps of his predecessor the 16th Karmapa, who travelled extensively throughout the country and was instrumental in introducing Canadians to Buddhism in the 1970s.
Head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, the Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is the 17th holder of a 900-year old lineage. Born in a nomadic family in eastern Tibet, he made headline news in 2000 with his dramatic escape to India, where he now lives near the Dalai Lama. The 17th …
This morning the Karmapa traveled to a northwest suburb of London to visit the impressive BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir, the largest Hindu temple in Europe. Marble and limestone have been brought alive by Indian artists, who carved every inch with intricate design. The founder of this Hindu bhakti tradition was guru Swaminarayan (1781-1830), famous for his support of the poor and encouraging women’s education. He was also known for his vegetarianism and opposition to animal sacrifice, positions that the Karmapa also supports.
At the temple, the Karmapa was met by Pujya Yogvivekdas Swami and offered the traditional greeting of a garland of flowers, a tika (the red mark of blessing) and a blessed cord. The Karmapa was then guided through the temple to see an exhibition on understanding Hinduism. Always curious, he asked many question of the guide. He then participated in prayers with the swami and other priests in two of the shrine rooms, both of white m…
Worshipped as a living god, will the 17th Karmapa Lama also inherit the Dalai Lama’s imagery of divinity and celebrity? By MARTIN REGG COHNOntario Politics Columnist Tues., May 30, 2017
It is not his destiny to be the next Dalai Lama. For he is already reincarnated as the 17th Karmapa Lama.
Yet he may one day succeed his 81-year-old teacher and protector.
Revered since age 7 as spiritual leader of a 1,000-year-old branch of Tibetan Buddhism, Ogyen Trinley Dorje is making his first trip to Canada this week at the age of 31.
Meeting Ontario politicians Tuesday before sitting down for an interview, the Karmapa padded around Queen’s Park in a pair of brown hiking shoes peeking out from under his simple maroon robes. A picture of youthful wisdom with his direct gaze, towering above other monks at six feet tall, he may yet emerge as the public face of Tibetan Buddhism
Worshipped as a living god and the Buddha of Compassion, will he also inherit the Dalai Lama’s imagery of divinity and celebrity?
May 27, 2017 – Lakeside International Hotel, Frimley Green, England
In the concluding public event of the 17th Karmapa’s first visit to the United Kingdom, nearly 2,000 people gathered at Lakeside International Hotel near Frimley Green in Surrey to receive an Amitayus Long Life empowerment. The Nepalese and Gurkha community turned out in force to welcome the 17th Karmapa and were joined by devotees from the UK, Europe, America, and other countries worldwide. This was the second part of a one-day program organised by the Buddhist Community Centre UK.
Monks from various Kagyu European centres and the Karmapa’s ritual master and attendants had worked hard to prepare the stage for the empowerment. The golden pagoda used during the Chenresik empowerment earlier in the visit now enshrined an image of Amitayus and a smaller image of Guru Rinpoche. To the left of the images, a large bowl contained long-life pills made from roasted barley and butter and to the right four bowls contained long-lif…
Transforming Disturbing Emotions: Dialogue of the Three Major Traditions of Buddhism Date: Thursday, June 1st, 9:30AM – 12:00PM Place: University of Toronto, Convocation Hall (MAP) Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gp9TaET_SNw
How to Apply Ancient Wisdom in Modern Times In these two sessions, His Holiness will discuss the basic nature of mind and the methods of obtaining happiness through listening to and contemplating the teachings of the Buddha, and then meditating according to the teachings. Date: Friday, June 2nd, 9:30-11:30AM, 2:00-4:30PM Place:The Enercare Centre, Hall D (MAP) Video: How to Apply Ancient Wisdom in Modern Times 1…
May 31, 2017– In the morning after his arrival, at 9:00AM, Wednesday, May 31, 2017, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje arrived at Karma Sonam Dargye Ling– a Tibetan Buddhist centre under the direction of Lama Tenzin Dakpa. This was a visit of great significance, as the centre was first established in 1976 by the venerable Lama Namsel Rinpoche under the request of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.
Upon arrival, His Holiness was ushered into the main shrine hall and seated on the highest throne, on which he proceeded to receive a body-speech-mind offering from the sangha. The yellow rice and tea ceremony followed in sequence for the welcome ceremony. Shortly after tea was served, the current resident teacher of Karma Sonam Dargye Ling, Lama Tenzin Dakpa, rose to speak.
Lama Tenzin referenced the founder of this centre, Lama Namsel Rinpoche, as one of the first Canadian resident lamas to request for His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa to visit Canada. …