The Global Oneness Project's Complete Interview with His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa

IQ1What does oneness mean in the context of Tibetan Buddhism?

A1The source and basis of what we call onenss or unity is ultimately the mind., it is a way of thinking. The Tibetan Buddhist perspective of this concept is influenced by their current socio-historical situation. Tibetans have recently endured a great deal of adversity.

Over a hundred-thousand Tibetans have had to recently resettle in India and other countries.

This refugee community has survived by replying on the concept of oneness, of a unified Tibetan people.

In a similar way, Tibetan Buddhists have begun to view, understand, and respond to their own religious tradition with a heightened sense of oneness [non-sectarianism]. 

For example, in our society within the general large assemblies we have very little freedom to pass binding laws, implement large changes, or sustain major projects. As members of a government, we have few legal rights, and there is little holding us together politically. Yet, even so, our society has been able to live in a unite way, a way of oneness. 

This is due to our trust in one another, our shared hopes, and our faith. This is how we are able to remain united as a culture and people. 

Q2How is oneness experienced?

A2The power of oneness, that is to say unity, begins as an internal experience. It comes from the mind’s way of thinking or discerning. It is intelligent discernment that gives power to oneness. We have studied and meditated a great deal on the way things truly are, or ultimate truth. This kind of study and mediation contributes to an ability to conceptualize unity, sustain a holistic way of thinking, and foster an all-inclusive, and broad universal vision. 

Then what about the individual’s relationship to society:
How an individual serves society, and how society serves the individual?
There are many qualities an individual needs to contribute to societal unity and oneness. 
Most importantly, an individual needs courage and willingness to sacrifice for the good of the community and society as a whole. In turn, society needs to exist for the good for each individual. Thus when society and the individuals that make up society are mutually supportive, mutually self-sacrificing, social unity and harmony is possible.

Q3How can we deal with everyday distractions?

A3External things, why they can not hold on to us, our experiences is that we become compulsively attached to them. These days, there is a lot to distract us due to the proliferation of technology. Because of this proliferation, we are increasingly exposed to external distractions capable of seducing and distracting the mind. Its seems we are living in an age of tremendous growth and expansion. 

However, we need to consider this: are external things really distracting us? Are the things at fault? Or it is that our mind is clinging to external phenomena?Is it our latent tendency of attachment that is at fault? This is what we need to consider.If the former is true, if outer things are distracting us, if there is something inherently in external things that is at fault, then all we can do is try to avoid them. Since we can never completely avoid external phenomena, really taming distraction would be difficult. However, if it is the mind that is at the root of our distraction, then we can do something about it. We can modify our cognitive behavior, we can be vigilant. Instead of avoiding external things, we can work with the attachment itself that arises in the mind. 

If the mind is at the root of the problem, we have the power and freedom to ameliorate our tendency towards distraction. 

Q4Is the spiritual consciousness of the world changing?

A4As I see it, religion must adapt to the changing needs of people. The way things appears to people in the world is changing, and it is the responsibility of religion to adapt to these changes. We should try and preserve what is useful about our spiritual and religious perspective, and leave aside what is not useful. Human psychology is evolving. As it evolves, we need to adapt spirituality, spiritual behavior and customs, to address the needs of individuals. 

Q5What is spiritual power?

A5Generally, the power of spirituality is something that is known through experience. It is hard to describe spiritual power to someone who does not have personal experience of it. Spiritual power is very subtle. If you do not have experience with it, it is very hard to understand it. 

However, I can say there are various ways spiritual power develops in a person. It is acquired by way of practice, by way of study, and through various other means depending on the inclination of the individual. But the most effective way of encounter spiritual power is through meditation practice. 

Q6What is the role of spiritual leaders?

A6I think there are lot of people in this world who have spiritual power. But just be presence of spiritual leaders in the world is not enough. They need to connect with individuals and with groups of people. They need open channels of communication and opportunities to reach people. Likewise, the faith and devotion of people is not enough. They need to be given an opportunity to come into contact with spiritual leaders. Whether they are given this opportunity is in the hands of society. I think there are many beings with spiritual power in the world today. They are here for our benefit. It is very important they be given a chance to reach people. 

Q7How should spiritual leaders share their knowledge with the world?

A7Maybe people should focus more on connecting with the general public. That is to say, not just connect with their own groups, but with other people as well. 

Yes. I think that spiritual leaders should make their goal to not just reach their own students, but connect with the world‘s citizens. However, spirituality is not like business. Business is based on production and distribution. Spiritual power cannot be spread around like that. 

Transmission of spiritual power is possible only through positive human relationships, and through opportunities to form those relationships. And of course most important is the intention to benefit others, that is the whole basis of religion. 

Just study religion ourselves is not enough, we need to connect with humanity, with the world in mutually beneficial ways. If we can form positive, conscious relationships with human family, then we can really make a difference in the world. 


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