A Spontaneous Teaching on Sunyata (Emptiness) given by H.H. 17th Gyalwang Karmapa



A Spontaneous Teaching on Sunyata (Emptiness) given by H.H. 17th Gyalwang Karmapa to Richard Gere and friends at a private audience with Karmapa March 24, 2000. Sogyal Rinpoche was translating, with Tsoknyi Rinpoche and Mingyur Tulku in attendance




Benefactors, Rinpoches and all friends that are interested in the Tibetan cause, I would like to offer my greetings, facilitations. I thank you for your efforts to come here and greet me and that you have an interest in the study of the Buddhist Dharma. There is a fundamental Buddha nature in all of us.

As far as I know about Sunyata and emptiness, I don’t recognize them but I hope they recognize me! Sunyata is the basis of Buddha Nature, luminous clarity and uncreated. The Noble truth of all phenomena both existing and non-existing at the same time, is that ultimate truth that an ordinary mind cannot fathom. Tong-pa-nyi (Tib. for Emptiness) bars any support of the existence or non-existence of Samsara and Nirvana and is beyond the conceptual mind. It is something within the domain of the wisdom mind of the Buddha. Compassion and wisdom are limitless and fathomless. One should strive to always develop compassion for all sentient beings.

We may have a powerful compassion that may arise but we might also have a moment of anger that also arises that can destroy it all. All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas practice compassion and Bodhicitta. We also have to train ourselves and in the practice of the six paramitas. Whether we call it compassion or Bodhicitta it has two categories. We want to actually take the journey and then we must actualize it by entering the actual aspiration and application. It would be like giving a feast and bringing empty plates and offering the feast of nothing. To just aspire is not enough. In encountering a very poor person and feeling pity and compassion is not enough. To not actually give a gift, it won’t help that person.

Regarding emptiness and compassion, if the Buddhas did not speak like that about these subjects I apologize. In the Nyingmapa texts it speaks of Bodhicitta and faith that these must be of the purest motivation. The power of our pure motivation and a complete understanding of the truth of interdependency will bring our Dharma practice to fruition. Enjoying this result, beings may then enjoy the feast of the actualization of the Dharmakaya, the source of happiness and well being free from suffering. 

Some Lamas and Tulkus want and then go after lots of money and this then brings them lots of difficulties. This approach will ultimately not bring happiness and is in fact a source of misery. To all of you learned people that have come here today to visit me I offer my deepest and profound respect. I offer you my respect in the spirit, that all of you in your past pure motivation and intentions have become learned in your respective professional fields and have contributed to the Tibetan cause and to the wishes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I congratulate you for this.

A question was asked if He would relate to all of us a little of what His life was like in Tibet.

I came out of my mothers womb and then till about eight years of age I lived with my parents and then I stayed at Tsurphu Monastery until I escaped here. I have a great hope that the necessary permission to remain here in India will be granted, others are currently applying for this for me.



Notes are from Ward Holmes who was in attendance at this interview. A videoed interview with Richard Gere was also given after about his first meeting with the Karmapa. This will be included in a documentary that will be produced by Tsurphu Foundation of the Karmapa's activities outside of Tibet.


Tsurphu Foundation


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