How to Use Meditation as a Source of Inner Peace (Podcast Episode #008)

Today’s podcast episode is a special two hour event from the Karmapa’s recent trip to Europe.
In this wonderful teaching, the Gyalwang Karmapa discusses how to use meditation to develop inner peace and contentment in a modern, fast-paced world.
In the second session (which starts at the 1 hour mark), the Karmapa goes on to discuss his own life experience as a child in Tibet and, after being recognized as the Karmapa, how he himself has used meditation in his own daily activities and life events.
The session finishes with a wonderful Question and Answer session where the Karmapa touches on many important topics to do with Buddhist practice and modern life in general.
You can get the podcast here on iTunes or simply download the episode right here. Please make sure you subscribe in iTunes to be notified of new episodes.
Tibetan with English Translation.


Long Life Prayer for His Holiness the 17th Karmapa

To once again in cool groves spread.
The ways of True Dharma, you donned strong armor
And for that sake intentionally took birth
May Ogyen Trinle Dorje live long!

While remember all the resolve and activity of the protector, the Thrangu Tulku made this one-pointed.


Thanksgiving Takes Many Forms

June 25, 2016 – Delhi, India.
The final evening of the Delhi teachings saw a festive dinner to celebrate the four days of teachings and express thanks to all who had made the event possible. To the sound of applause, the Gyalwang Karmapa entered the dining hall through the garden door and took his seat at the central table. The Chairperson of the Karmapa Khyenno Foundation (KKF), Lama Dawa, gave heartfelt thanks to all who had helped, starting with His Holiness who bestowed his compassionate blessing, and including all the members of the sixteen Dharma centers who worked very hard night and day and in great harmony, leaving behind a sense of separation between self and other.
A slide show depicted the Dharma activities of KKF, including sponsoring teachings, setting up medical camps, and tree planting. Then a series of classic Chinese figures in brilliant brocades and bright masks moved through the audience to the stage. Of the three old men with long beards, the one carrying a peach represented long life; the one carrying gold, wealth; and a third carrying a curved staff, success and fulfillment. The peach, exchanged for a large white and red-blushed bun was offered to the Karmapa as were the gold and staff.
Lama Dawa also offered to the Karmapa a tray will stacks of note books, representing the 500 copies of the Sutra of Offering Gratitude to Our Parents, which center members had written out. This text was chosen for the classic Dharma activity of copying a sacred text because the Karmapa had often mentioned how he missed his parents after he left Tibet. In another personal touch, three members of the Hong Kong Sanghas told their experiences of meeting the Karmapa. There was also a slide show of the seminar, entitled Compassion in Action, with images of the last four days to remind everyone of the special event.
The Karmapa was then invited to speak, and he told of how he identified with the volunteers and all the work they had done. In Bodhgaya during the Kagyu Monlam, he, too, likes to work with the people who are preparing the events and not just sit on the throne. At the end, the MC, Thomas, asked the Karmapa how the organizers had done, and the Karmapa gave his usual response, “It can always be better.” Thomas replied, “Does that mean you’re giving us another chance next year?” “Oh, you tricked me into that one,” the Karmapa laughed.
His Holiness then gave white scarves and presents to the main organizers, and lights were dimmed for the Lamp Prayer. First the Karmapa lit his lamp of a many-petaled white lotus and everyone else followed with their lotus lamps until the hall was glowing and filled with the prayer that the light of the Dharma spread throughout the world.

2016.6.25 Thank You Dinner @ Hyatt Regency Delhihttp://kagyuoffice.org/thanksgiving-takes-many-forms/

A Thousand Arms and a Thousand Eyes of Compassion

June 25, 2016 – Delhi, India.
The focal point of the spacious hall has become the tall, radiant thangka of a brilliant white Avalokitsehvara with 1000 arms and 1000 eyes. Right beneath it is the Karmapa’s throne and to stage right, wood screens have been placed in front of the altar where the Karmapa would perform his preparations for this empowerment. In the middle of a procession, he entered the hall from the back door, walking down the long main aisle as monks led the way with incense. While disciples chanted Om Mani Padme Hung and Karma Khyenno, the sound of Karmapa’s bell rang through their voices from behind the screens.
After he finished and took his seat on the throne, a mandala was offered. Soon the Karmapa paused during the ceremony to explain the vows to come. There are two ways to go for refuge, he said. Taking refuge alone is to foster our faith, but when we speak of the vow of refuge, that involves a commitment to be kept and precepts to follow, so we have to prepare ourselves for it. The way we go for refuge is to think of the Buddha as the teacher, the Dharma as the path, and the Sangha as our companions along this path. His Holiness then gave the refuge vow and read from his text, explaining that refuge and bodhicitta are given before an empowerment to purify our mindstreams.
He continued, “There are three initiations to bless our body, speech, and mind. The initiation of the body facilitates visualizing the deity; that of speech, the recitation of the six-syllable mantra and the longer dharani; and that of the mind, receiving into our minds the blessings of the emblems of Avalokiteshvara, such as the white lotus.”
After the Karmapa had bestowed this initiation, the offerings of thanksgiving were made by most everyone present. He remarked that in order for people’s minds to feel comfortable and satisfied, he would personally give the blessing of the empowerment to everyone, so he descended from the throne, and ringing the bell with his left hand, he blessed everyone with an image of Avalokiteshvara in his right—one that had been on the shrine from the time of the preparation. While the Karmapa passed along the long rows, the sound of his bell locating him in space, everyone chanted the six-syllable mantra of Avalokiteshvara.
Once back on the throne, His Holiness finished the empowerment and gave three reading transmissions. Then the time of offerings from everyone began, first to the Karmapa and, once he had walked back down the central aisle and left the hall, everyone stood in a long line to make offerings to the ordained Sangha of monks and nuns, drawing the ceremony to a close with their kindness and generosity.

2016.6.25 A Thousand Arms and a Thousand Eyes of Compassion



Karmapa Begins Teachings in Delhi at Request of Hong Kong Chinese Buddhists - Voice of America

Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje began a 4-day teaching to around 500 Hong Kong based Chinese Buddhists at Hotel Hyatt Regency, New Delhi on June 22, 2016. The first day teaching was on "Life & Death" followed by other teachings on "Love & Compassion", "Making Choices With Wisdom", and "108 Green Solutions in Our Daily Life". Karmapa will also confer "Thousand-Armed Avalokiteshvara" initiation on the last day of the teaching on June 25, 2016. The teaching program was organized jointly by 13 Karma Kagyu Dharma Centers from Hong Kong led by the Karmapa Khyenno Foundation (KKF) in Hong Kong.


Thinking Beyond Ourselves

June 24, 2016 – New Delhi, India.
In the twenty-first century, the issue of the environment presents the greatest difficulty we face. If we do not deal with it well, it will become an immense problem for the next generation. Scientists have done a lot of research and gathered extensive data but this alone is not enough to change people’s minds. The information is stored in our brains but does not reach our hearts or minds to alter them. Knowledge alone is not enough: we must allow it to change the way we think.
The situation with smoking is similar. Everyone knows that it is dangerous to their health, and cigarette packages even have warnings printed on them, but that is not enough to break the habit of smoking. Having put a warning on the package, the cigarette companies do not feel responsible to do anything further. Their interest lies in promoting their own business, not in protecting people’s health.
To bring about change in the way we relate to the environment, it is important that scientists and religious leaders connect and work together; the scientists can provide the information and spiritual leaders can give advice for our hearts. This collaboration between the scientific and spiritual will support and augment the activity of environmental activists.
The Karmapa related that from the time he was born until he was seven, he grew up in a natural environment where modern development was unknown and a traditional life style was followed. People lived in harmony with their surroundings and had a natural respect for them. This way of living made a lasting impression on his mind.
For some years now, the Karmapa has been talking about the environment and encouraging people to be aware of the situation, but he said that he has not done all he wished to. These days many people live in cities far away from the natural world. The Karmapa mentioned that when he was in the United States, he learned that in books the words dealing with the natural world are decreasing. Researchers have discovered that when city dwellers go to the parks—the natural, though man-made environment available to them—it benefits their mental state and gives them a sense of ease. Nevertheless, in print, it is the words related to technology and machines that are increasing.
“As we have seen,” the Karmapa remarked, “to bring about change, information is not enough; we have to transform our motivation, what it is that really moves us. Since there is a relationship between the environment and the way we live our lives, until we change our motivation, it will be difficult to change our attitude toward the environment.”
The main point is that we need to restrain our wanting and increase our contentment. Of these two, being content is more important. When we talk of decreasing our wants, the question arises, how do we measure the extent to which we decrease them? What does the “few” of having few wants really mean? Further this does not mean that we have no wants at all? So there is also some difficulty with the wording.
In our modern world, consumerism has become the new religion in which we place our faith. Consequently, we see no difference between what we need and what we want. We actually need very little, but we want everything. Scientists have explained that we could have three or four planets and this would still not be enough to satisfy our desires. This creates a very difficult situation since our wants have no limit, but the natural resources do have limits and cannot possibly fulfill all of our desires. Therefore, we have to become more content with what we have.
The Karmapa explained, “In our daily life, whatever we do has a direct effect on the environment and we should consider this in a practical way. Being an activist, going to demonstrations, or several days of a conference by themselves will not really help the situation. Instead of this, we need to deal with the issue in our daily lives.”
Giving up eating meat and being a vegetarian is one of the best things we can do for the environment. The Karmapa said that he had only spoken about this officially one time and that was at the Kagyu Monlam. He had intended to talk about it on the first day, but was a bit reluctant to be telling people what to do, so it did not happen until the last day when a Tibetan animal rights group also asked him to talk about being vegetarian. He spoke about it perhaps more strongly than he had intended but then if one is going to talk about something, one should do it with conviction, otherwise it is not really worth saying.
If we are going to give up meat, we have to connect this decision with who we are, he said. In the Karmapa’s case, he is Buddhist and Kagyu, and then a link also has to be made to an individual’s way of living. In his talk he also mentioned that giving up meat would help his life force and vitality.
Previously in Tibet, it was difficult to be vegetarian as there were few places where vegetables could grow and people relied on dairy products. Nevertheless, some Tibetans gave up meat, and among the Kagyu, the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje, was vegetarian and even said, “If you eat meat, you are not a Kagyu.” When this citation spread beyond the Monlam, it somehow was attributed to the Karmapa, so it made for a very strong statement coming from him.
Even though his favorite food is meat, the Karmapa wanted to do something meaningful and so he became vegetarian, something that has given him great satisfaction. But he does not force people around him to follow his decision, for each person has to make the choice for themselves. In a restaurant he will even order meat for them. If we do eat meat, however, we should think about the animals and also the effect on the environment. Sometimes, he sympathized, it is difficult if you are the only vegetarian in the family and special food has to be prepared for you. Or if you have to cook meat for others, which can make us uncomfortable. He reiterated that we need to think about this and make our own decision. If we are concerned about the environment, not eating meat is one decision we can make.
The Sessions of Questions and Answers
The first question asked about blessings. What are they?
The Karmapa replied that from one perspective, people think of blessings as something secret that we cannot see, but actually there is a simple way to understand them. We could think of a little child in the lap of its mother or being near someone whom they know loves them. That feeling of being secure and happy is like a blessing. Even though there is nothing we can see, due to the power, charisma, or the love of that person, the child’s experience is transformed.
Sometimes when I’m on the way to visit a lama, my mind might feel a bit tight or not peaceful, but when I leave and go home my mind feels more calm and joyful. That is what blessings are like. Someone else’s powerful, caring presence can change our experience. Blessings do not refer to being struck by some powerful energy, as some people describe it these days.
The second question was about Buddhist Dharma becoming commercialized. What does the Karmapa think about this?
The Karmapa replied that it is not just Buddhism that is becoming more commercialized but everything—politics thinks about the bottom line, hospitals look to make money from their treatments, and so forth. Since Buddhism is embedded in this world, naturally it will be influenced by it. It is also true, he said, that not all Buddhists are wealthy, so sometimes they have no choice. When we think about Buddhism and business, we have to consider the overall situation as well. One cannot say right off that this is good or bad. What is important is not to lose the essential Buddhist principles and to hold these more important than any business you might be doing.
“What I’m more concerned about,” the Karmapa stated, “is that Buddhist meditation, especially abroad, is being taught outside the context of faith and devotion to the Dharma. People just think in terms of how they can benefit themselves by creating happy states of mind.” Meditation, he cautioned, is becoming a product for the market or a subject of research projects. This resembles what happened to yoga, which in ancient India was not just physical exercise, but profound mind training. For Buddhists, it is key that we do not lose the essential principles of Buddhism.
The following query asked about donating our organs after dying.
The Karmapa responded, “This question relates to the Vajrayana. Whether to give or not depends on our bodhicitta, our resolve to donate for the benefit of others. If this is strong and in place before we pass away, then I do not see a problem. The bodhisattva Great Being gave his body to the tigress when he was still alive without any thought for the state of his prana, nadi, and bindu.” It really depends on our altruistic resolve to donate our organs.
The next question dealt with divination and astrology. Can a divination change your karmic destiny?
The Karmapa replied that sometimes he has done divinations, for example when he was leaving Tibet. Performing divinations is a special Tibetan tradition. They can be helpful when people are stuck and cannot decide on something. At the Kagyu Monlam, we had numerous meetings about whether or not to give donations during the pujas or not. We simply could not make up our minds. So I was asked to do a divination, and however it turned out would be accepted. In modern western management, there’s nothing like this, so issues have to be dealt and talked about with until there is a final decision.
Whether a divination will change our karmic destiny or not is difficult to say. What really has to change is our character. If we can transform this, then our karmic destiny will be altered. Changing our character does not mean modifying how we look or behave or talk; it involves a basic shift in our way of thinking and being. Once a person changes like this, it is possible for our karma to shift as well.
Divinations are related to specific individuals and situations, so whether it is suitable to make divinations or not is a very difficult question to answer. In Buddhism the teachings on karma are complex and subtle, and it is not at all easy to predict what will happen in the future. It resembles the difficulty in forecasting the weather, given all the changes due to global warning, or the problems in predicting earthquakes.
After this, there was a question from parents who asked about difficulties they were having in relation to their homosexual child.
The Karmapa replied that he had spoken about this several times. Many religions, and probably Buddhism as well, prohibit homosexuality. However, to say it simply, whether people are of the same sex or not, what really matters is the actual love they have for each other. If people meet and their hearts are moved, and if they live together with love and affection, there is no problem. In Buddhism we encourage people to be loving and affectionate toward each other, so if hearts and minds are attuned, living together is fine.
However, it can be the case that on an individual level, people get together mainly on the basis of lust and attachment—a relationship will not last long because these feelings are unstable, ready to change at any moment. More deeply, in Buddhism generally, we are seeking to give up lust and attachment, so relations that foster these feelings would be opposed. In sum, on one side there are religions that oppose homosexuality, which is also problematic in Buddhism; on the other hand, if there is love and affection, I think it is fine.
The final question was: How do we prepare for death while we are still alive?
The Karmapa responded that there are many ways, and one of the most effective is to imagine that one day is an entire lifetime. In the morning when we wake, we are born from our mother’s womb and in the evening when we lie down to sleep, it is on our deathbed. Another meditation on death is to think about what the situation around us will be when we die. What will happen to our body? What will the situation be? In working with this, there are even people who get into a coffin and spend the night with the lid closed.
Every day we meet birth and death, which always come together, just like the rising and setting of the sun. If we can meet death on a daily basis, it will become familiar to us, and the more familiar it is, the less fear we will have. That is a benefit stemming from meditation on death and the impermanent nature of our existence.



How to Make Wise Choices

June 23, 2016 – New Delhi
Continuing a thought from this morning’s teaching on love and compassion, the Karmapa noted that all people are born with the innate capacity to love. In a few minutes children can make friends with someone they do not know. As people age, however, they learn more, become more one-sided, have greater attachment to those close and hatred toward those farther away, and their innate, loving thoughts toward others decline. This morning’s topic, he notes, complements this afternoon’s topic of wisdom; it is often said that compassion and wisdom are two parts of a whole. The aspect of wisdom, however, is more difficult and deeper than the aspect of compassion.
When we are making wise choices between virtue and non-virtue or what has faults and what does not, the point of view we hold is important since it forms the basis for how we choose. Of the many different viewpoints, no self (or selflessness) and emptiness are the basic or foundational ones. These two can explain anything we think about, whether it be the individual, actions, or things. “No self” has two aspects—the no self of a person and the no self of a phenomenon—and could actually be included within emptiness; the two come down to the same fundamental point.
When people hear an explanation of no self (dak mepa in Tibetan), they think it means that there is no “I” (nga me pa in Tibetan). But we need to understand the deep or inner meaning, not just the word. The Karmapa explained that self or person is an imputed object, just a label, or one could say that it has only a nominal existence. If in fact we would look for this self, we could not find it, and that is why the self is said to be merely imputed.
Another way of thinking about the self, the Karmapa explained, is in terms of two types: an instinctive or innate (lhen kye) self and an imaginary (kun tak) or superimposed (tro tak pa) self, which is learned through study or absorbed from the social environment. It could be said, however, that the self does not exist in the way we think it does. The Karmapa elaborated, “We assume there is an independent self and an independent other, both of which are in control and autonomous; however, in terms of the way things are, neither one exists.”
Actually the self is interdependent or interconnected; it exists in a relationship of mutual dependence, in which everything relies on everything else. We could take our body as an example. For its existence, it depends on our parents and on the various substances of its make up; it relies on food, clothing, and air that come from outside. So in reality, the self is a part of others; there is no separate, independent self to be found.
The Karmapa then turned to the question of what is really beneficial in working with with this question of a self. Whether the self exists or not, or whether this universe has an end or not are big questions, but they do not help us much to live our lives. This question of the self’s existence should be explained in terms of whether it has a positive or negative effect on our lives. No self should not be a philosophical question that absorbs us, but rather a perspective or value in our lives.
For example, the Buddha sometimes debated about vast philosophical questions with scholars of logic from other religious traditions. One time he was asked, “Does the Universe have an end?” and he replied with another question. Suppose, he said, you went into a dark forest where hunters roamed with poisoned arrows. Mistaking you for an animal, they shot a poisoned arrow deep inside you. Would you spend your time thinking, what direction did this come from? East? West? Would you think about what the arrow is made of? Of course not. You would try to save yourself and do something practical like removing the arrow.
The big question about no self is like this—a philosophical question that would be discussed for hundreds of years—and these long exchanges would just give us headaches. The Karmapa stated, “The real question is: Will the attitude of no self benefit us in this lifetime? If it doesn’t bring about change in this life, it is not helpful just like trying to figure out where the poisoned arrow came from.”
“No self does not mean that the self is completely nonexistent or that it is nothing at all,” the Karmapa clarified. “Not knowing this, however, we think of self as small and limited. This prevents us from knowing the big or greater self that is connected to the whole universe; it experiences everything as interrelated and relying one on another. This greater self is not independent but interdependent. And it is not just a viewpoint or some philosophical position, but it has value because it can transform us.”
If we look at how things are in the world these days, he continued, we can see that through the Internet and information technology, we are all becoming closer—countries, Dharma centers, and individuals. This relatedness is clearer, more obvious than before so we can see that others’ suffering and happiness is a part of us, and our suffering and happiness is a part of others.
This way of seeing is important to understand, the Karmapa remarked, because for our intelligence to increase, we need a fundamental point of view that is unmistaken. If it is correct, then our prajna will gradually increase. These days many people are studying Buddhism, but if their basic viewpoint is not right, in the end they become rather strange, as if their heart were corrupted.
The Karmapa then turned to the subject of the relationship between teacher and disciple. Many people come to see him because he carries the name Karmapa, he said. If he did not have this name, they would probably never meet. Some people think that he has extraordinary intelligence and they request a special teaching that would eliminate all their problems, which, of course, is not possible.
Another attitude that is not quite right, he said, is that people could believe in a lama or become involved in Dharma because it has become the latest fashion. Their connection is an emotional one, which is not completely negative, however, meditation practice is to bring peace and stability to our minds so that they can rest in their nature. We do not need not emotional ups and downs in our lives, but rather a steady conviction, so that we can make the time we have in this life meaningful.
The Karmapa stated, “As for myself, I do not have the thought that I am a superior person and am going to help others. I am an ordinary person but I still do all that I can.”
He has the wish to help other people and dispel their suffering and tries to bring together all his abilities and see what he could do that would be beneficial. This is often simply suggesting a way that someone could come to protect or care for themselves. This is what is meant by the blessings of the name Karmapa. He explained,
Actually, the Karmapa counseled, we need to have confidence in ourselves and find our ability to take care of ourselves. The blessing of the name Karmapa, he said, sometimes can sometimes bring benefit, but it mainly comes through our taking care of ourselves, so we need to be self-reliant. If we place our hopes outside of ourselves, in someone else or something else, it will be difficult for us to practice Dharma.
For the intention or mind of the lama and the disciple to become ultimately the same, he advised, a disciple places their hopes in the lama and also brings forth hope in themselves. One day, the two will become the same and gradually the thought or intention of the lama and that of the disciple will become the same. But it will be difficult for this to happen if we have no hope in our own efforts, stop doing anything ourselves, and placing all our hopes on someone else.
If the lama remains separate as the lama and the disciple remains separate as the second-rate, inferior disciple the relationship will not work. We need to discover the same kind of confidence and belief in ourselves that we have in the lama. One prayer states, “May I achieve their level,” where “their” refers to the lama. To do that, we need the impetus of hope and belief in ourselves.
Since everyone is mutually related, we carry responsibility for our personal way of thinking and acting. Buddhist practitioners, for example, do not immediately start eating but make an offering of the food. This might include rice, which was planted by someone else, perhaps far away so that the one who labored and the one who consumed the results of that labor might never meet. Reflecting on this, we feel gratitude to them and enjoy the meal in that state of mind. This is not just following a custom and repeating some verses, but considering the actual situation and carrying responsibility. We do not necessarily have to say a prayer.
The clothes we wear reflect a similar situation. They are made in a distant factory by low-salaried workers in regrettable conditions. Their hard work brings us happiness, so we have a relationship with them and an ensuing responsibility. We should consider whatever we do in the light of how it affects others. Will it benefit or harm them? In this way we can study and reflect on karma with its patterns of cause and effect. With this summarizing statement, the Karmapa closed his discussion of making wise choices.
The Karmapa shifted to a new topic and said that the Hong Kong Dharma centers collaborating on this event reminded him of the Sixteenth’s Karmapa’s profound connection with Hong Kong and with Ven. Kok Kong. After the Karmapa’s visits, many Dharma centers were started in Hong Kong. And today it is an historic occasion that so many centers could come together and everyone could make this Dharma connection.
The lineage of the Karmapas has had a connection with China for hundreds of years, he recalled, and in the future it will become deeper and have a wide impact. The Second Karmapa Karma Pakshi had a pure vision of Manjushri with 1,000 arms and each hand holding an alms bowl. The yidam deity of wisdom spoke to Karmapa Pakshi saying, “In the future your activity will spread all the way to the Eastern Ocean,” which indicates that it would cover all the areas of China. Karma Pakshi also made the aspiration that this would happen. Later, the terton Chokgyur Lingpa in his predictions about the lineage of the Karmapa foretold that the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Karmapas would engage in extensive Dharma activity in China.
Through these teachings and events organized here by the Hong Kong centers, the Karmapa noted, we could actually meet and make an auspicious Dharma connection. In the future, he made the aspiration that the activities of the Buddhas would spread throughout the earth and especially to Hong Kong.

2016.6.23 Compassion in Action - Day 2

Love and Compassion: Transforming our Relationships for the Better

June 23, 2016 – New Delhi.

In the second of his four talks, His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa explored what Buddhists mean by the terms love and compassion and how they can be enacted in daily life.
He began with two warnings. Most scientists these days maintain that everyone has the capacity for empathy and they describe compassion as hard-wired into human beings. However, it seems that caring for others is something we can turn on and off, so that our empathy decreases and our compassion becomes latent rather than manifest.
Secondly, the development of our potential for compassion depends heavily on our environment. Using language acquisition as an analogy, His Holiness spoke of children abandoned in the jungle: though they have the innate human capacity to develop language, without exposure to a language, they never learn to speak. Similarly, the home environment is crucial in the development of a child’s capacity to love and care for others. Frequently hearing the word love leaves a powerful imprint on the child.
His Holiness went on to explain that whereas the term love may refer to many different forms of love, such as the love of parents for their children, the love between friends, or the love one has for one’s teacher, in contrast, the term compassion in the Buddhist context usually refers specifically to great compassion, the impartial wish that all sentient beings be free of suffering.
For many people, the everyday experience of love is accompanied by pain and suffering, His Holiness reflected. How then can the quality of our love be transformed? The answer lies in the difference between worldly love, which is possessive, and binds people with fixation and attachment, and the love taught in Dharma, which frees you from fixation and attachment.
“Love is a huge topic for study and practice,” he said. “We can gradually increase our level and deepen our capacity for love within ourselves.” Love cannot exist in isolation, he emphasised, and it has to be expressed within a social context, for it only exists in our mutual connections with others. Consequently, if people are not prepared to study or change, it is very difficult for them to develop love and goodness.
In order to develop this latter type of love, we must diminish our fixations, he advised. In the Vajrayana tradition, the metaphor used for relative bodhicitta, which is the actual bodhicitta, is the full moon. Our limited love, on the other hand, is characterised by a crescent moon, because we have only partially developed the potential of the love we possess. It is biased and limited, restricted to family and friends. Meditating on bodhicitta as a full moon serves as an inspiration for us to develop impartial love completely.
The root of these two types of love is also different. The Buddhist view of love and compassion is based on the common ground shared by all sentient beings. Others are just like us, they experience pleasure and pain, they want to avoid suffering and be happy, and this is the fundamental reason which motivates us to develop love and compassion. When we know how to practice correctly, no one is excluded from our love and compassion. Though there may be people we feel particularly close to, such as our parents or teachers, our love and compassion will also include those we perceive to be our enemies. Ultimately, we need to practice equanimity for all sentient beings, while recognising that special karmic connections exist too, and that these two aspects are not exclusive. Shakyamuni Buddha had a special connection with his wife Yasodhara, which extended over many lifetimes. We pray that we will never be separated from our guru. In the same way, the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara maintained his special relationship with his teacher, Buddha Amitabha, who is the lord of his Buddha family.
“It’s important for us to train our minds and practice love,” His Holiness emphasised. ”Putting it into practice is very difficult… For as long as we have friends and enemies, we will naturally feel great attachment to some and hatred towards others. The more we feel protective of our friends, the more we automatically feel hatred towards our enemies.” The Karmapa continued, “It is especially difficult to feel love if we haven’t trained. If we train our minds and are able to practice loving kindness, it will turn out well. If not, that love tinged with attachment will lead to suffering.”
Returning to the theme of compassion, His Holiness made it clear that compassion goes beyond feeling sympathy or affection for others. When a person has compassion, there is no sense of separation from the object of that compassion, but rather a direct experience of the problems and suffering of that other sentient being. “In comparison with love, compassion takes much more courage, is more involved, more active and direct,” the Karmapa explained.
As the power of our compassion increases to the point that there is no difference between self and other, we are able to experience the sufferings of others physically as well as mentally. In Tibetan history, there were many stories of bodhisattvas and people who had trained in tong-len (the practice of exchanging self with others) and who were able to do this. Particularly famous were the Kadampa masters. In one story a renowned Kadampa master was teaching when someone in the vicinity threw a stone at a dog. When the stone hit the dog, the master flinched and clutched his side, and was forced to take a break from the teaching. Later it was revealed that the master’s side had actually been bruised but the dog had not been hurt at all.
Thus, we should always bear in mind the true power and nature of compassion.
Finally, the Karmapa cautioned against complacency. There is always the danger that we will fool ourselves into believing that we are Buddhist practitioners when we are not.
The difference between the Foundational Vehicle and the Mahayana is not a question of lesser or greater value between the two, he explained, but rather a question of our own capacity to practice the Dharma, and how much responsibility we are able to assume. If we are unable to carry all the responsibility of the Mahayana, we should practice the Foundational Vehicle. And even that is too difficult for many people.
Dharma practice is not about external appearances but about what is happening in our minds. Referring to a popular Chinese text, the Diamond Cutter Sutra, His Holiness pointed out that though this is classified as a Mahayana sutra, whether it becomes a Mahayana practice or not will depend on the state of mind of the individual.
“Whether we are Hinayana, Mahayana or even Buddhist, depends on the state of our mind when we practice and not on the texts we use,” he commented. ”We need to continually correct and revise our minds and examine ourselves.”
With these final words of advice, His Holiness concluded his teaching for the morning.

2016.6.23 Compassion in Action - Day 2


The Gyalwang Karmapa Reflects on the Cycles of Life

June 22, 2016 – New Delhi, India
In celebration of HH the Gyalwang Karmapa’s 31st birthday, the Karmapa Khyenno Foundation has requested him to give four days of teachings and an empowerment in New Delhi, India, from June 22 to 25. Karmapa Khyenno Foundation was founded in 2008 under the auspices of His Holiness and his Office of Administration, the Tsurphu Labrang. As a non-profit, charitable organization in Hong Kong, the Foundation seeks to support the aspirations of His Holiness for the wellbeing and happiness of this world through making Dharma teachings available and compassionate engagement in social and environmental activities.
With this motivation in mind, Lama Dawa—the chairperson of the Foundation, which coordinated the efforts of 13 Dharma centers in Hong Kong—worked with the Karmapa to set up a series of teachings in harmony with their goals. They decided on the overarching title of the seminar as Compassion in Action, and the four talks would create a path from compassion into activity. The first talk covers perhaps the most basic reflection, not only in Buddhism but other meditative traditions as well—impermanence and death. This brings into high relief what truly matters and urges us to take action before it is too late. The second talk is about love and compassion, the motivation that opens us to others and moves us to act. Thirdly, our decisions should be founded on wisdom and informed by intelligence. How to we do Dharma activity in a smarter way? And for the fourth, how do we develop inwardly while seeking to create social and environmental changes outwardly? In the context of Buddhism, how to we balance our inner and outer work so that they complement and nourish each other?
This program has drawn over 500 people to Delhi, mainly from Hong Kong and also from Southeast Asia. This afternoon, they all gathered in the Regency Ballroom of the Hyatt Hotel, its floor covered in row upon row of deep brown meditation cushions. They faced a stage with a wide sofa, covered in brocade down the middle, indicating the more informal nature of the talks. The backdrop was an evening image of Hong Kong’s brightly lit skyline as viewed from the waters of Victoria Harbor.
Carrying a long red and yellow incense holder, Lama Dawa led the procession accompanying the Karmapa into the hall. Once the Karmapa had taken his seat, he was offered an elegant mandala and the representations of body, speech, mind, qualities, and activities along with a heartfelt request to live a long life for the benefit of the teachings and living beings. The final two offerings were a lustrous, immense conch shell and a brilliant Dharma wheel, recalling the offerings of the gods Indra and Brahma, who supplicated the Buddha to rise from his deep samadhi after enlightenment and teach the Dharma for the first time. During the teaching, the two offerings adorned either side of a table set in front of the Karmapa.
He began by welcoming everyone and thanking the members of different centers in Hong Kong for creating this opportunity for Dharma teachings in India. He noted that some countries have many Dharma centers but they do not necessarily work together. It was wonderful that for these teachings different centers in Hong Kong cooperated, deepening and improving their relationships as well.
The Karmapa said that he would not be giving teachings based on a text; rather he would speak to the topic of how to bring practice into daily life and how it can help us deal with the problems we face. He lightly remarked that it was easier to teach from a text since he just has to explain what is there, and more difficult to speak based on his own thinking.
The topic for this afternoon was how to face life and death. These are events we all know, he remarked, we see them repeatedly in the news or in our own lives. “We see these instances of death,” he remarked, “but usually we do not think that one day, it will come to us as well. We are not aware of this. And using reasoning will not bring a true understanding. We must look into our own feelings and experience, which will allow us to understand what others are going through as well.”
“It is in the nature of things,” he continued, “that once we are born, we will die. We need to be very clear about this, for once we are familiar with this fact, our fear of death will diminish.” The Karmapa explained, “Especially these days, few people have patience for suffering or problematic situations. Comfort is promoted everywhere so we loose the mental strength and courage to deal with problems.”
Some people say that Buddhism is a religion of suffering because it is discussed so often in the texts, such as the explanations of samsara as suffering and the different types of suffering in the six realms. “Last winter in Bodh Gaya,” the Karmapa commented, “it took several days to explain the section on suffering the Ornament of Precious Liberation, but if I had gone into detail, it would have taken months. Some people might have thought, “We’re practicing the Dharma to find happiness, but there’s only talk about suffering.’”
“These days when someone gets sick,” the Karmapa observed, “they seek out every kind of treatment and also hope to avoid aging, convinced that some method will work. Some in the medical establishment make it seem that there is a solution and on the other side, the patients want to believe it. People are even trying to avoid death.” In the older generations, when someone tried different medical procedures and they did not work, then the person made up their mind that enough had been done and turned to accumulating merit and Dharma practice. So there is quite a difference, he noted, between the two approaches: one keeps trying and spending a lot of money, while the other sees that it would be pointless to pursue more treatment and engages practice for however much time they have left.
The Karmapa suggested a way to develop our patience for suffering. Physically, he said, we could not endure the agony of the hell realms, but we can practice mentally opening up to that suffering so that our ability and courage to endure suffering will grow.
“In brief, when speaking of birth and death,’ he explained, “we can see that birth actually has the nature of death, so we could say that birth equals death. Once we are born, we do not need another cause or condition for dying. Having been born, we will die for sure.” All things are impermanent, he reminded us. Their nature is to change instant by instant.
When we say that all things arise and perish, impermanence is a problem for us if we cling to things. On the other hand, this fact of coming in and going out of existence is part of the very beauty of life, giving it more forms than it had before. The Karmapa illustrated this with the shifts of landscape in the changing seasons, which make our lives interesting and beautiful.
Therefore, he remarked, the fact that all things have the nature of impermanence can be reframed in a positive way: each moment of impermanence also brings with it a new opportunity, a new life, a new feeling, another chance. “Explanations of death and impermanence, “the Karmapa stated, “are not meant to instill fear, but rather to point to a continual opportunity for change.”
“We tend to think of death as a final ending, a single event,” the Karmapa explained, “just like a movie that comes to an end and that’s it. There is no second chance. But this is not the case here. The progression is not linear, beginning at one point and stopping at another. Birth and death go around in a circle.” With each moment come birth and death, or we could see one day as a whole lifetime. In the morning a new life begins, in the evening it passes away, and the next day another life begins. Thinking in this way, we become very familiar with death; it resembles an old friend.
In general, we fear death for many reasons he continued. While we are living, we cannot really know when or how death will come so we fear the unknown. Further, we also fear the suffering that death could bring. The Karmapa recalled that when he was recently at a university in Switzerland, he spoke with medical students about death, and a topic was the best way to die. One student said that to die during sleep would be the best. You would simply not wake up the next morning and there would be no suffering or fear.
However, he explained to them, “In Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism, when dying, we hope to have a clear consciousness that is at ease. This is different from your wish to die unaware. For us the occasion of death is important, because it is a time when the signs of our life of practice are revealed.” Our state of mind at the time of death is crucial, he continued, especially if we have not practiced a lot in this life. How we think while passing away is key, so to die unaware and without mindfulness is considered a negative thing.
We may think that we will die one day, but we do not think it could happen now, the Karmapa said. But actually, we do not know when we will die nor the cause or circumstance of our death. As a result, we do not prepare ourselves, especially these days when people think “everything is possible” including warding off death, which makes it difficult to face the fact of dying.
“Meditating on death and impermanence, however, is not to create fear of death. We all have this fear even animals,” the Karmapa noted. “We meditate on death and impermanence so that we do not waste our time, so that we treasure the life and friends we have, and so that we live a life we will not regret.”
Reprising his main point, the Karmapa stated that at all times, in each moment, a new opportunity presents itself; it is up to us, however, to take advantage of it. The choice is ours. For example, Milarepa killed many people, accumulating tremendous negative karma, but Buddhism does not say, “You did something evil, so you cannot practice the Dharma.” Once you make the commitment to practice, you are a practitioner. Some people might think that because they have done something very negative, they have become an awful person, and since that will not change, they might as well continue their negative ways. But this is not the case: we have a choice, and it is up to us not to lose the opportunity that offers itself.
Meditating on death and impermanence can also lead us to appreciate the beauty of change. When summer comes, we enjoy the fullness of its landscape; when winter comes, we can admire its special beauty.
Some people find it difficult to deal with the death of a loved one. However, if they had clearly faced their own death beforehand, they would experience the passing of someone close to them in a different way. In another example, we often pray, “May I not be separated from the perfect guru,” and in spiritual terms the glorious or root lama is like our father, so his passing away would bring great suffering. But as we have seen, death is not an ending. So if we can take to mind a good understanding of death, when it does occur to others, we will experience their passing in a different way.
The Karmapa closed the teachings with repeated praise for the Hong Kong Dharma centers and their work together. He said that the centers belong to the Sangha, and this word means “to be in harmony” or “to have harmonious aspirations,” such that these relationships are indestructible like a diamond, impossible to break or shatter. This is important. It is also critical that the holders of the teachings are in harmony with each other. The Karmapa told the story of how Mara, a negative spirit, said he would take the guise of a Dharma teacher and sow discord so that the Buddha’s teachings would disappear.
To counteract this, the Karmapa counseled, “We should genuinely praise each other. This does not mean flattering someone by saying they have realization or qualities they do not possess, but giving authentic praise, based on what is real. We should see our faults and others’ qualities. Through praising and respecting each other, the teachings will last a long time.”
On this positive note, the Karmapa concluded his first teaching, which was webcast live to over 3,500 devices, each of which could also be connected to a mobile phone, iPad or TV screen in a Dharma Center. In another form of outreach, near the Regency Ballroom entrance, the Tsurphu Bookstore from Sidhbari, HP, made available books, DVDs, and images, either by or related to the Karmapa.

2016.6.22 Compassion in Action - Day 1


Live Webcast Announcement: Compassion in Action - Delhi 2016

Webcast Link:

Compassion in ActionIndian Time
Delhi, India   -   June 22
  15:00 - 17:00• Teaching - Life and Death / La vida y la muerte
Delhi, India   -   June 23
  10:00 - 12:00• Teaching - Love and Compassion /  El amor y la compasión
Lunch Break
  15:00 - 17:00• Teaching - Intelligent Choices / tomar decisiones inteligentemente
Delhi, India   -   June 24
  10:00 - 12:00• Teaching - 108 Green Solutions in Our Life / 108 soluciones ecológicas para nuestra vida cotidiana
Delhi, India   -   June 25
  10:00 - 12:00•  Empowerment of 1000 Armed Avalokitehshvara / Empoderamiento de Avalokiteshvara de mil brazos