Karmapa, youth and interdependence (Book Review) - Maeeshat
May 1, 2017
By Vishal Gulati, (IANS) :
Book: Interconnected: Embracing Life in Our Global Society; Author: Tibetan religious head and 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje; Publisher: Simon and Schuster India and Wisdom Publications; Pages: 264, Price: Rs 375
His latest book, “Interconnected: Embracing Life in Our Global Society”, reflects the historical moment in which this young spiritual leader, who heads a 900-year-old lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, has come of age as a thinker.
The 31-year-old Karmapa, who has lived most of his adult life in the 21st century, portrays a world where global integration has centred on economic and technological connectivity but without moving sufficiently beyond an atomistic vision of who we are as human beings.
As a result, globalisation has led to greater competition, conflict and isolationism, rather than compassion, sharing and collaboration.
Drawing on the Buddhist teachings on interdependence, the Karmapa describes the personal and social values that we urgently need to develop so that we can create a global society that recognises our inner as well as our material interconnectedness.
Interestingly, this book anticipates the current turn towards isolationism, although it is based on discourses the Karmapa gave four years ago in Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile in northern India where he resides in a monastery.
The world is hardly united in welcoming this new reality, even if information technology and global economic integration make our interdependence harder to deny.
For his part, the Karmapa — whose literal meaning is “the one who carries out Buddha activity” — argues that we must move not backward retreating behind walls, but forward, joining together to build a global society that acknowledges and draws on our fundamental inner connectedness.
He shows that we need to recognise interdependence, not just as a theory but also as a feeling.
The Buddhist monk, who not only paints but also pens poems and books, urges us to move from our head to our hearts and then to our hands.
The book is structured in three parts to take readers from intellectual understanding to emotional awareness to action — seeing the connection, feeling the connection and living the connection.
The Karmapa points to human beings’ inherent capacity for empathy as a natural basis for the values that naturally flow from our interconnectedness, values such as equality and diversity, compassion and social responsibility.
In its final section, “Interconnected” explains how we can apply such values at the personal, community and global levels.
Sub-themes of the book include the way electronic connectivity is transforming the way we relate, loneliness as a product of the consumer culture, animal protection and environmental sustainability.
This book articulates the Karmapa’s vision of a compassionate and caring society built through collective action.
The Karmapa has founded Khoryug, an eco-monastic movement that has educated thousands of monks and nuns across the Himalayas to lead their local communities on environmental issues.
In March, the Karmapa, who penned a short song to be used as the anthem for the Vajra Vidya Institute in Sarnath, the birthplace of Buddhism, took the first step towards granting full ordination to women in his Tibetan Buddhism lineage.
As a spiritual leader with a deep commitment to action, the Karmapa does not merely call for real change; in this book he offers the essential guidance we need to bring it about.
The Karmapa has published numerous books of interest to both Buddhist readers and those from other religions. His last book, “Nurturing Compassion”, presented his discourses on his first historic trip to Europe in 2014.
“Interconnected” is the second book in a series of publications specifically for non-Buddhist audiences. Each book in this series has emerged from dialogues with the youth held at his temporary residence in Dharamsala, where Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, also resides.
Based on discourses to students from the University of Redlands in California, the first in the series was “The Heart is Noble: Changing the World from the Inside Out” also explored interdependence as it plays out in various areas, such as gender, food justice and personal relationships.
Both books in this series evolved out of dialogues with university students.
However, “Interconnected” reflects the Karmapa’s deepening thought over the years and presents a more substantial exploration of the ethical and social ramifications of our interconnectedness.
His third book is coming in 2018, and will be based on interactions held last year with postgraduate students of the psychology department of Delhi’s Ambedkar University.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)