Gems for the Guru: Short Stories from Karmapa's Visit - KTD

Posted on April 30, 2015 by KTD

The visit of His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa to Karma Triyana Dharmachakra is a dream come true for so many of His Holiness’ dharma students in America. They’ve read his books, placed his photos on their shrine, recited his mantra … and then finally were able to encounter him in reality.

During the April 17-20 portion of His Holiness’ visit to KTD, students from all over the country – and the world – converged on the Catskill Mountains to see His Holiness. After receiving a warm welcome at his North American Seat on Friday April 17, His Holiness gave a public lecture on Refuge to a group of 1500 students at the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston on Saturday, a Karma Pakshi Empowerment to 1300 at UPAC on Sunday night, and teachings on the Four Dharmas of Gampopa to donors and members at KTD on Sunday and Monday.

Among those visiting, we found some interesting stories and wanted to share them with you. May these small gems of devotion to the guru shine and inspire you!

Photo, Stephanie Colvey

Receiving Refuge: A Timeless Moment

In the giant hall at Ulster Performing Arts, His Holiness Karmapa bestowed the vow of refuge – for both the audience there, and by webcast, an audience of thousands more watching all over the globe.

Fifteen hundred people reciting the Refuge Prayer after His Holiness one line at a time in Sanskrit produced a thunder like the ocean’s roll. All were together in the moment – transported by shared intention to a place of wisdom and compassion. “I thought of the story that Karmapa would in the future become the 6th Buddha, the Buddha Lion’s Roar,” one participant said. “It was as though we were building the auspicious connection to be reborn in that time with him – or maybe, it was happening now.”

Photo of Leesa Chenoweth by Lama Kathy Wesley

 The Guru Seated in Her Heart

Seeing His Holiness on his beautifully gold-leafed throne is a thrill for anyone, but most especially for Leesa Chenoweth. The longtime dharma student and registered nurse from West Virginia is an artist who helped sand and pre-paint the carved wood decorations for the throne before they were gold-leafed by Mr. Li.

“I worked on the [panels] on the stairs [to the throne] – each piece, practically,” she said. “We sanded each and every piece and then covered them with a red enamel paint so they could be gold-leafed.”

The finished product is a majestic and radiant seat fit for a Buddha. But the work did not become real for her until today.

“I sat down and saw his picture wasn’t there,” she said, referring to the large portrait that generally sits on the throne when His Holiness is not in residence. “And I realized the throne was waiting for him, and …” she trails off, tears in her eyes. “To see him sit there – it felt like I was in a dream. I’ve been waiting years for this – I’m so happy.”

Photo of Michael Heaton by Jason Petersen

A Faithful Beard: How One Student Showed His Devotion

Photo of Lama Dudjom Dorjee
and Michael Heaton, Robert Hansen-Sturm
Any way you look at it, Michael Heaton has a magnificent beard. It’s a skirt of fine salt-and-pepper gray hair, with enough width and breadth to cover much more than just his chin.

“It definitely gets a reaction,” he says. “Some people say it’s great; other people say, ‘give me a pair of scissors; I want to be the one to make the first cut!’”

But what some may not know is that he grew the beard for spiritual reasons – and not the reasons you might imagine.

Michael has served KTD in several capacities over the last few years. He’s been a shrinekeeper and volunteer meditation instructor for the public; these days he works for the Namse Bangdzo Bookstore, KTD’s bookshop and online dharma materials store.

At Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche’s 90th birthday celebration, Michael – who had begun growing his beard – was teased by a disciple of the 17th Karmapa. “The devotee said His Holiness Karmapa would really like this sort of beard,” Michael said. “So I decided I would let the beard grow until Karmapa returned to KTD.”

That was in 2012. His Holiness had just visited in July 2011, so it seemed like not such a long time to wait.

However, circumstances made Michael wait until April 2015. In beard years, this produced quite an effect.

“It gets in the way sometimes,” he admits. He even began putting it in a sort of a bun – braiding the hair in on itself – to help keep it out of harm’s way.

With Karmapa’s arrival at KTD this past weekend, it was the Moment of Truth for the beard.

“Did Karmapa see it?” he says. “Yes – while he was on a tour of the bookstore.”


“He touched it, and said it was ‘wonderful.’”

Now that it’s spiritual function has been served, the beard could succumb to impermanence after His Holiness departs from KTD. Or not.

“I was looking at the [Tibetan Astrological] calendar for an auspicious hair-cutting day,” Michael said. However, “Once Khenpo Tenkyong saw how much Karmapa liked it, he told me, ‘you have to keep it, now.’”

Lama Choenyi, left, with Lama Karuna Tara

Tiny Blessings: How a Mouse Taught a Dharma Student about Faith

Karmapa’s blessings extend to all beings, and all creatures – from the largest to the smallest.  None, it is said are beyond his compassion.

The truth of this was shown in a little miracle at KTD Monastery – when a little tragedy turned into a pretty big miracle.

Lama Choenyi is a frequent visitor to the torma room at KTD monastery. One of the graduates of Karme Ling monastery, she is an artist who’s talent in painting and sculpture has been put to use to create the beautiful shrine offerings placed on Tibetan shrines. These tormas symbolize the offering of pure food, which is the cause for accumulation of virtuous mind.

Anywhere there is food, there are creatures who enjoy it. One such creature is the mouse. KTD’s torma room has been troubled by visiting mice, and a set of live traps has been sent for them. The traps are actually quite spacious, about the size of a large book, and can contain food and water to sustain the captives until they can be safely released.

On the morning of April 18, Lama Choenyi saw a captive in the small steel box, and wondered if a maintenance person would come to rescue it.

She became busy, and didn’t think about it again until three days later, when she looked into the box and saw that the mouse had died.

“I felt so badly about it,” she said, “because I realized if I had freed the mouse it might have lived.”

But when she looked closer, she saw an amazing sight – the mouse was in a seated position, sitting on its tail with its forelegs and backlegs stretched out in front of it.

“It looked as though the mouse had died in a state of meditation,” she said. He looked peaceful and alive. The remarkable feature – called thukdam – is experienced by advanced meditators at the time of death, and is said to be an expression of spiritual attainment.

But a mouse? And one caught in a small steel cage?

Lama Choenyi gave the small steel box to Lama Karuna Tara to show the discovery to her teacher, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche. He confirmed that yes, the mouse had died in a state of meditation, and was resting in thukdam. Rinpoche suggested to Lama Karuna Tara that she take the mouse to His Holiness Karmapa for his blessing and confirmation.

As Lama Karuna could not find His Holiness, as he was out for a time. When she heard his footsteps on the stairs, she took the box to go out into the hallway. Surprisingly, she saw His Holiness Karmapa, who was walking directly toward Khenpo Rinpoche’s room. She met him at the doorway. She showed him the box-cage and the mouse, and asked whether the mouse was in thukdam. He agreed that the mouse was resting in thukdam and blessed the mouse. He then turned and went back toward his room – as though meeting Lama Karuna had accomplished his intended action.

It was a moment of awe for Lama Karuna. “You don’t have to tell Karmapa; he knows,”  she said.

The mouse was left undisturbed for several hours. After a while, the eyes closed, and the sitting figure began to slump, signaling the end of the thukdam meditation.

Khenpo Rinpoche directed that the mouse be buried in a nice and peaceful place.

The amazing story sent a thrill through the volunteers, and Khenpo Rinpoche’s comment was touching and sweet.

“If a KTD mouse can rest in thukdam [due to the blessing of His Holiness], then no need to mention the people.”

Photo by Lama Sam

Gently Falling Blessings 

Photo by Lama Sam
During His Holiness Karmapa’s visit to KTD and its affiliated Three-Year Retreat Center at Karme Ling in Delhi, NY, the weather provided all four seasons: warm sun, blustery spring, chilly fall, and snowy winter.

A remarkable spring snow fell when His Holiness visited Karme Ling; before he arrived, the snow was falling in a spirited variety of shapes: flowers, dots, circles, and even 5- and 6-pointed stars.

The stars were especially striking; not only were one or two seen on the cloaks and coats of the waiting crowd, but star-shapes by the dozen. This is especially inspiring when one considers that the six-pointed star is sometimes associated with Vajrayana deity practice. All took the unusual snow-shapes as an auspicious reminder that even the Earth responds to the presence of a great spiritual master.

Photo by Lama Sam

Trains, Planes, Automobiles, and Buses – A Pilgrim’s Journey

While her dharma friends were planning their journeys to KTD to see His Holiness Karmapa, Amy Billman of the Hay River Wisconsin Karma Thegsum Choling Center had pretty much given up on the idea.

After all, she was going to be 7,000 miles away – in Himachal Pradesh, India, as Sherabling Monastery, receiving teachings on the “Sacred Dohas of the Enlightened Kagyu Masters” from His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche, a guru of His Holiness Karmapa.

“Last fall I made the plan to go to India, so I didn’t think there was any way I could see His Holiness,” she said. The three weeks she set aside for her trip to India was about the maximum she could take off work, and to try to do more, well, seemed impossible.

But then fate – in the form of a message from dharma friends Patrice and Patrick Woolridge – intervened.

“They wrote to me and asked if I could serve on the safety and security team for His Holiness at KTD,” she said.

The offer was tempting, but she kept thinking of how jet-lagged she would be – and how she would miss the arrival of His Holiness and have to play “catch up” both with her security assignment and her sleep.

“And then the bodhisattva Metka from Slovenia came to me,” she smiled, referring to another dharma friend who was attending the course with her at Sherabling. “She pretty much convinced me – she said, ‘you really ought to get there.’”

Although Amy had seen His Holiness in India several times, Metka insisted that “it would be different to see His Holiness Karmapa on your home soil,” Amy said.

So Amy checked with her family and with the airlines, and made a plan to get to KTD.

“I went from New Delhi to Vienna to Chicago to LaGuardia (New York City), and then took a shuttle to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York,” she said. The bus let her off in Kingston at 1 a.m., and instead of calling a taxi, she walked the challenging Kingston traffic circle at night to get to her hotel.

The next thing she knew she was at KTD, trained in her work and standing guard on the monastery back hallway, helping usher students into interviews and assisting people from the Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche to His Holiness himself.

She managed to get tickets to all the events, and was able to experience His Holiness as her friend Metka had said: on her own soil.

And how was it? “Incredible!” she said.


Urgent Notice

Wisconsin Tibetan Association:

Date: May 4th the Monday. Time 7 -9pm
༈ སྒྲུབ་བརྒྱུད་བསྟན་པའི་མངའ་བདག་༧ དཔལ་རྒྱལ་དབང་ཀརྨ་པ་ཨོ་རྒྱན་
Wisconsin Tibetan Association is honored to announce His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s first time visit to the great city of Madison, Wisconsin from May 4th-6th 2015.
Program: Audience and Speech to the Tibetan Community
Date: May 4th the Monday. Time 7 -9pm
Venue: Monona Terrace. 1 John Nolen Dr Madison WI 53703
Tickets: Sold this Saturday at Deer Park 5pm.
Adult $ 15:00 and
Children above 8 years $ 10.00
Contact info: gjkhedup@msn.com or @ (608) 320 9132

A Quick Announcement:


Wisconsin Tibetan Association:

H.H. the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa's Madison visit
on April 26th is postponed until further notice.

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche:

We regret to inform you that we have just been notified that His Holiness the Karmapa has had to postpone his trip to Madison, Wisconsin due to illness. He has canceled some of his events on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Unfortunately, we do not expect the Madison events to be rescheduled as he is scaling back his programs to protect his health.
We sincerely hope that His Holiness is feeling better soon.

Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota:

TAFM regrets to inform, Tuesday, April 28 event with H.E. Gyalwang Karmapa Rinpoche has been POSTPONED until the new date will be announced.


H.H. 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Initiates the Monlam for the Victims of Nepal Earthquake

Sat, May 2, 2015

The Riverside Church,490 Riverside Dr, New York, NY 10027

For further ditails call 646 671 0041 / 718 708 1730 or email to kssusa2011@gmail.com

No entrance ticket required.

Via Subway #1,2,3 @ 116th St. 

His Holiness the 17th Karmapa will lead prayers for the victims of Nepal at Riverside Church. 
No ticket or advance reservation required. Doors open at 1 pm.
This event will be webcast live from the Karmapa’s official webcast page. 

VOA Exclusive Interview with Gyalwang Karmapa

Published 29.04.2015

VOA Kunleng interviews the head of the Karma Kagyud school of Buddhsim on a range of topics including China’s plans to control the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, revival of fully ordained Buddhist nuns, his interest in art and calligraphy, and his ongoing visit to American universities, high tech companies, and Buddhist organizations..

Originally published at -http://www.voatibetanenglish.com/media/video/2741936.html

དཔལ་༧རྒྱལ་དབང་ཀརྨ་པ་ཨོ་རྒྱན་འཕྲིན་ལས་རྡོ­་རྗེ་མཆོག་འདས་པའི་ཟླ་བ་གཅིག་ཙམ་གྱི་རིང་ཨ­་རིའི་ནང་མཐོ་རིམ་སློབ་གྲྭ་གཙོས་ཤེས་ཡོན་ད­ང་རིག་གཞུང་གི་ལྟེ་གནས་མང་པོར་གཟིགས་བསྐོར­་གནང་ཡོད་པ་མ་ཟད། འདི་ག་ཨ་རིའི་རླུང་འཕྲིན་ཁང་དུ་ཆིབས་སྒྱུར­་གནང་ཡོད་པ་རེད། ཀུན་གླེང་ལས་རིམ་གྱིས་དཔལ་༧རྒྱལ་དབང་ཀརྨ་པ­་མཆོག་ལ་བོད་ཀྱི་སྤྲུལ་སྐུའི་ཡང་སྲིད་ལ་རྒ­ྱ་ནག་གིས་ཐེ་གཏོགས་དང་ལྷག་པར་༧གོང་ས་མཆོག་­གི་ཡང་སྲིད་ཕེབས་ཕྱོགས་ལ་རྒྱ་ནག་གཞུང་གིས་­གཏམ་བཤད་པ་སོགས་དང་།


Message from The Gyalwang Karmapa Concerning the Recent Earthquake

Today, in the morning of the 25th of April, in Nepal, the land where Lord Buddha was born, there occurred a devastating earthquake. Many thousands of people have been killed or injured, and historic buildings and private homes have been turned into ruins. As soon as I learned of this painful and distressing situation, I made my deepest aspiration prayers and dedications for all the people affected, and continue to do so. Especially at times when we are faced with such a desperate situation, we cannot sit idle, unfeelingly. We must join forces and carry the burden of sorrow together. It is important that each one of us light the lamp of courage. Additionally, it is important that each of the Karma Kagyu monasteries in Nepal, while looking after their own pressing needs for immediate protection, also extend any and all aid and protection they can to the public in their surrounding communities. From my own side, I will make every effort to come personally in the near future to offer my solace and support as well.



~第十七世大寶法王 鄔金欽列多傑 於美國紐約

(江涵芠 英譯中)


Acting to Care for Victims of the Earthquake in Nepal

(April 25, 2015 – Woodstock, New York) On the first rest day set aside for His Holiness the Karmapa, a devastating earthquake took the lives of thousands of people in Nepal, as well as in India, Tibet and Bangladesh. Within hours, His Holiness the Karmapa composed a letter of condolence (full text below) and immediately sent instructions to his administration in India directing them to offer material and funds for the relief effort. He later additionally led Mahakala practice at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, his North American seat.
The full text of his statement is as follows:
Today, on the morning of the 25th of April, in Nepal, the land where Lord Buddha was born, there occurred a devastating earthquake. Many thousands of people have been killed or injured, and historic buildings and private homes have been turned into ruins. As soon as I learned of this painful and distressing situation, I made my deepest aspiration prayers and dedications for all the people affected, and continue to do so. Especially at times when we are faced with such a desperate situation, we cannot sit idle, unfeelingly. We must join forces and carry the burden of sorrow together. It is important that each one of us light the lamp of courage. Additionally, it is important that each of the Karma Kagyu monasteries in Nepal, while looking after their own pressing needs for immediate protection, also extend any and all aid and protection they can to the public in their surrounding communities. From my own side, I will make every effort to come personally in the near future to offer my solace and support as well.
The Tibetan text may be found on the official website of the Karmapa here.

Photography by Stephanie Colvey.


Welcome home (Woodstock Times)

by  on  • 5:00 pm

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

Hey, he’s only 29, right? It’s got to be tough being the spiritual head of the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He’s been that since he was he was recognized as the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa at the age of seven. He delivered his first public religious discourse to an audience of over 20,000 people at the age of eight.
Then he had to escape from his home in Tibet when he was 14. This is his third trip to the U.S.
He’s a passionate environmentalist, as befits any spiritual leader. The goal of his eco-monastic movement is to “safeguard the Earth so that all sentient beings can benefit and live in harmony with one another.”
At the tree planting ceremony Wednesday, he sat with Woodstock officials and religious leaders. Even Father John, of the Church on the Mount, the fragile tiny chapel that is dwarfed by the Monastery’s (relatively) new building, was there. We like seeing the communities in harmony.
The literature tells us that “’Karmapa’ literally means ‘He Who Performs the Activities of the Buddha…’” That’s got to be an incredible responsibility.
Dion, our photographer, saw him up close, said he looked tired. He said as much in his Rec Field talk. He’s been on a whirlwind tour, bestowing thousands of Refuge Vows, conducting teachings, surrounded by his security people, being whisked from one location to the next.
And I wonder…lots of us have kids his age…wouldn’t you just like to take him out for a beer? Or get him over to the rec field and shoot some hoops? Come on down to the Bluegrass Clubhouse at Harmony, or something? Just let him have some down time and hang out, see how we live? I mean, he’s 29, right?
Make no mistake, our admiration for His Holiness is boundless. He’s a man in the position to accomplish goals that make this life better for all of us and from all appearances, he works at it all the time. It’s clearly his mission.
In his Andy Lee Field talk, he spoke of Woodstock (and its ‘hippies’) as being advanced in its environmental awareness and that he feels at home here.
We welcome him, and wouldn’t mind if he stays around a while.

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. 

Karmapa Visits Kagyu Thubten Choling on the Hudson River

Medicine Buddha Teaching from silvio facchin on Vimeo.

(April 24, 2015 – Wappingers Falls, New York) On a brisk afternoon, the road into the monastery was lined with the bright colors of tall banners in a formal procession to welcome His Holiness. This was his third visit to Kagyu Thubten Choling, founded in 1978 and set on a gentle cliff above the Hudson River. Following the lineage of Kalu Rinpoche, who emphasized the importance of three-year retreats, Lama Norlha Rinpoche has guided students through eight of them here in upstate New York.
After a traditional welcoming ceremony of tea and rice during which he consecrated and offered lamps to several sacred images, His Holiness was invited into a spacious white tent where five hundred people waited to hear his talk and receive the transmission of the Medicine Buddha mantra. The Karmapa began by noting that during hisfirst visit there, in 2008, the weather had been cold and now it was also chilly―the blessing of the Kagyu lineage with its austere practices transmitted by the yogi Milarepa who spent his life in mountain retreat. Along the walls of the tent, paintings of the “golden lineage” of Kagyu masters were displayed and the Karmapa joked that not only was he himself cold but the whole lineage was freezing.
Earlier in the morning, the Karmapa had also spoken of the Medicine Buddha, and here in Wappingers Falls, he further emphasized the role of deeply engrained mental habits that follow us from lifetime to lifetime as the fundamental cause of our disease. Running deeper than mental illness, these imprints cannot be cured by traditional medication, he said, yet they are the cause of our more coarse physical ailments. Essentially, the practice of the Medicine Buddha is to cure us of these and the afflictive emotions they engender. The primary instruction for the practice of the Medicine Buddha is to point out these habitual patterns so they can be uprooted.
The Karmapa explained that through our training in identifying our own afflictive emotions as forms of illness, we become better able to empathically recognize the mental afflictions of others and see them as an illness. He drew the analogy of a doctor who is treating a mentally unbalanced person. Since doctors know the person’s condition, they are not overwhelmed by the unusual behavior. In the same way, His Holiness commented, we can work with others who are overpowered by their afflictions and take them in stride. The understanding that our illness is not caused externally allows us to see that Dharma practice is essential to our lives. At this point, he said, we can take our spiritual teacher as a doctor, the afflictions as our illness, and the Dharma as the cure.
When we engage in Dharma practice, we need to feel that it is an integral part of our lives, he counseled, so that there is no gap between practice and the lives we lead. Usually when we engage in formal practice, we set aside a time for it and that is good, because it means we will do the practice. The Karmapa noted that setting a particular time for practice is especially important for Americans who are so busy; otherwise, they might not find the time to meditate at all.
He continued, “For Dharma practice to be truly effective, however, we cannot just leave it on the seat, but must bring it outside into the world of our daily lives.” He clarified that this does not mean that we carry a mala everywhere and hold our hands in the meditation mudra while sitting at our office desk. “What we do need all the time,” he remarked, “is the spirit of Dharma, the courage that Dharma gives us, the vast openness of mind and the power of love. We need these all the time and throughout our lives.” There should be no separation between the person we are and the Dharma we practice, he said.
“Dharma practice has to accompany us outside our shrine rooms and temples,” he stated. “It must be more than sitting on a soft seat for some time and dreaming that deities are showing themselves to us. It is not like taking a recreational drug. Practice has to help us make changes in ourselves and become less rigid and more loving.”
After receiving symbolic offerings for his long life, the Karmapa left the tent for a tour of the Maitreya Center, an impressive new building that is being constructed next to a large stupa overlooking the Hudson River. The shell of the new structure is complete and Lama Norlha led the Karmapa on a tour of the shrine halls that will shelter a 34-foot image of Maitreya and 10-foot images of Guru Rinpoche and Shakyamuni Buddha. The underground floor is home to the kitchen and dining room while the top floor includes a suite for the Karmapa and his attendants. When he was invited out onto the veranda of his quarters, the Karmapa joked, “Oh, now you’re taking me into the cold again!”
After the Maitreya Center, the Karmapa entered the men’s and women’s retreat centers, walled off from the world with high wood fences, painted a brown that blends into the forest around them. He spent about twenty minutes in each retreat center, and then partook of a sumptuous meal in a private dining room with a view of the Hudson River flowing by.

 Photography by Lama Sam and Filip Wolak.