17th Karmapa is welcomed (Woodstock Times)

by  on  • 6:30 am

The Karmapa at the tree planting at KTB with supervisor Jeremy Wilber and town religious leaders. (photos by Dion Ogust)

Two full houses at UPAC last week for a Bestowal of Refuge Vow and Teaching, followed by a public greeting at Andy Lee Field in Woodstock punctuated a week-long visit to town by His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. The Karmapa spent a week at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra (KTD) in Woodstock, his monastic seat in North America, as part of a two-month tour of American universities and Buddhists centers.
Throughout town Tibetan prayer flags were fluttering and “Welcome Home” signs unfurled for the spiritual leader and in a private ceremony Wednesday morning the Karmapa, Abbot Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche and Woodstock Town Supervisor Jeremy Wilber planted a tree on the KTD Monastery campus.
Just 29-years old, the Karmapa was recognized in 1992 as the 17th incarnation of the Karmapa, making him head of the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He was born in 1985 to a nomadic family in eastern Tibet and discovered by a party of lamas searching for the Karmapa’s young reincarnation. At the age of seven he began his training in Buddhist philosophy and practices, enabling him pass on centuries-old teachings.
This is his third trip to the United States.
During his appearances here, he spoke on different topics.

On The Environment:
“The reason I like to speak about the natural environment is because I feel a special connection with it.  I was born in a very isolated village in eastern Tibet that was surrounded by the great beauty of the natural environment.   I had an opportunity to sleep in the lap of the mother earth.
Where I was born, we experienced our environment as a living system. The mountains, the sources of water, were all regarded as the dwelling places of what I would call holy spirits of various kinds.  We didn’t wash our clothes or even our hands in flowing water sources. We didn’t cast any kind of garbage or any kind of other pollutant into the fire in our hearth.  We regarded the entire environment as innately sacred.
Tibetan teachings talk about the environment as container, and living beings as the contents, a metaphor that speaks very clearly to our relationship as living beings with the world around us. It gives a very clear picture – the world is continually sustaining us.  It is holding us, it is supporting us, and it is protecting us.”

On Being The Karmapa:
“I was born in an isolated place in an undeveloped region, and there being no schools, I had no opportunity initially for any kind of formal education. But when I was 7 years of age, without any preparation or warning — certainly without any wish on my part — I was recognized as the Karmapa.  For me it was just being given a name, but also being handed a burden, a source of trouble and many challenges. It wasn’t, as some people think, the instant resolution of all problems for me. 
I suppose some people imagine that being a spiritual leader, one leads a life of comfort and ease.  Let me assure you that is not the case. It’s filled with challenges and difficulties of all kinds. But the difficulties that I’ve had to face have increased my empathy because they have enabled me to develop more concern for the difficulties that other people face.
Despite the challenges, I must say that having been given the name Karmapa and told that I bear a great responsibility to look after the well-being of others was of great benefit to me. We are all interdependent, and receive so much from others and depend on others in countless ways, therefore we all equally bear responsibilities to look after others’ well-being.
Most people have few opportunities to be made aware of those responsibilities, but being given the name Karmapa allowed me to recognize what is the case for all of us. Therefore I take this as a good opportunity to be of service to others.”

 On Karma, Consumerism and Freedom:
“If we understand interdependence — the fact that everything depends upon everything else — we might begin to understand karma. For example, where do the food we eat, the clothes we wear or even our body composed of the four elements come from? They come from millions of interdependent factors, causes and conditions.
Belief in karma entails feeling real gratitude for the understanding that everything you are, everything you have, everything you use, has arisen through innumerable causes and conditions. The point of living according to karma is not surrendering your self-control to emotions that have arisen through transitory conditions, but being purposeful enough to remain in control of yourself.
I’ll give you an example that’s drawn from my experience in India but I think it might be more apt in the United States. There are more than 20 million people who live in Delhi and five  million cars in that city. When I first came to India 15 years ago I didn’t see many cars. Every year I see more and more. On the way to Delhi I once asked the person driving me, ‘why are there so many cars in Delhi?’
He said there was no real reason except that when people see that their neighbors have cars, they feel if they don’t buy a car themselves, they’ll lose their status. We don’t think when we make a purchase: ‘Do I really need this thing?’  We just buy it to keep up with our neighbors.
At the moment we were purchasing the car we might have felt we were making a purely personal choice. But we do not drive everywhere on our own private roads.The minute we take our car on shared public highways, it becomes clear that we  are deciding for everyone when we make our apparently personal choices. But through traffic jams and other situations involving cars, we can readily observe how much an one individual’s personal choices affect all of us.”

On Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Relationships:
“There might be a difference between a traditional Buddhist answer to this and my own personal answer. The way I think of it, however, is this: the issue here is true love.  
In any relationship, whether it is between two people of the same gender or two people of different genders, if the relationship is based on true and genuine love and not just physical desire, then it’s authentic. But if a relationship is based only on desire, only on gratification and not on love, then whether it is a gay relationship, lesbian or heterosexual relationship, it’s still not going to be very sound. So the issue here is love, and that is what makes a relationship authentic and valuable.”

On Women’s Rights:
“The restoration of women’s rights and the full empowerment of women must go far beyond mere external appearances and institutionalized mechanisms or structures.  Necessary steps such as restoring the full monastic ordination for women in my own tradition, famous historical steps such as women’s suffrage, even the election of a woman as president – these steps are in themselves not enough to really restore women’s rights, to really empower women.
We cannot assess the degree to which women are empowered in our society, or the degree to which they possess their rights, by such externals alone. We need mutual understanding, and this understanding has to be real. It can’t be fake or contrived.  It has to be loving, it has to be respectful. And it has to be founded in basic human benevolence and caring for one another.”

On the Karmapa’s Activity and KTD:
From the time of the 4th Karmapa up to 10th Karmapa, the Karmapa primarily moved from place to place traveling in a great encampment, living in tents.  One reason for the establishment of the great encampment was, while many people wished to meet the Gyalwang Karmapa, most were unable to do so. So Karmapa decided to go to them and traveled throughout Tibet, even to some of the most isolated areas.
Therefore an aspect of the Gyalwang Karmapa’s activity is to travel all over the place and meet disciples of different nations, cultures and languages, fulfilling all their aspirations.   The great encampment ended during the life of the tenth Karmapa.  However, the great 16th Gyalwang Karmapa traveled from Tibet to India and after that, began to travel all over the world, meeting with people of different nations and languages. So in a sense he greatly reactivated this aspect of the Karmapa’s activity.
What am I saying? I am saying that as this is a hub of the Karmapa’s activity, we need to be welcoming. We must make everyone who comes here feel welcome, without any bias, without any limitation through sect, color, nationality or gender. 


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