The Karmapa Celebrates Earth Day with the Town of Woodstock
(April 22, 2015 – Woodstock, New York) The many peaks of a large white tent rose like snow mountains above Woodstock’s Andy Lee Field and sheltered a crowd of 800. In front a stage had been set with an elegant chair for His Holiness the Karmapa, and rows of seats at the side for local dignitaries, including the present Town Supervisor Jeremy Wilber along with past Town Supervisors, Town Board Member Bill McKenna, the Chief of Police and several clergy members from Woodstock churches.
After giving them all a warm welcome, David Kaczynski, the Executive Director of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, indicated two trees placed to the Karmapa’s right and said that a teacher had approached him and related that her students were planting trees to celebrate the environment and wanted their trees to be close to the Karmapa. David continued, “The Karmapa’s vision for the environment is changing the world and transcending religion. It is an opportunity for us all to understand that we share this planet together.”
Woodstock’s own Town Supervisor Jeremy Wilber then introduced the Karmapa, greeting him in Tibetan with a verse of welcome. The Karmapa began his own talk by thanking the audience for making him so at home in Woodstock, and explaining that by the time he came home to Woodstock, he had given so many lectures that he was not only physically depleted but also verbally, and was fresh out of things to say. Nevertheless, he said, “meeting with all of you is extremely important to me”.
He then told the attentive audience that he had first heard of Woodstock while still a youth in Tibet. “I heard a lot of stuff about Woodstock,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “I heard it was the land of hippies, which meant a lot to me because it meant Woodstock was a town filled with people devoted to personal freedom and environmental activism.” The Karmapa noted that the realized masters in his lineage and the hippies had similar life styles of staying “natural” and close to nature.
Continuing the Earth Day theme and elaborating on a topic close to this heart, the Karmapa stated, “In this 21st century there is no doubt that the greatest challenge we face is the environmental crisis of climate change. The people of Woodstock have repeatedly demonstrated the courageous spirit of environmental activism that we will all have to emulate if we are going to heal our environment. As the people of Woodstock seem to know so well already, we need to accept that we all depend on one another, and that our connection with one another, and especially with the environment, is an interdependent one.”
“In the Tibetan view,” he continued, “the relationship a species has with its environment is one of container and contained; our environment supports us, holds us and nurtures us. In return, since we live in this environment and depend totally on it for our survival, we all have the responsibility to nurture this environment back.”
Another special trait of Woodstock is its acceptance of difference and diversity. The Karmapa observed, “This world is filled with diversity, including spiritual and religious traditions. It is the variety of this world that gives it beauty. Within that diversity, of course, are things that we all have in common. We all depend on the resources of this planet; we all wish to be happy and not to suffer. The fact that our situation is one that we all share could only be heightened and brought closer to us by the variety that we experience. In Woodstock one finds a great warmth for a variety of spiritual traditions, for people from different cultures and diverse national origins. I want to express my appreciation for this as well.”
Along with the many people sheltered under the white tent, two hundred more were also standing outside, and as it began to rain, the Karmapa wrapped up his talk after expressing “the heartfelt wish that I be able to meet with all of you as soon and as often as possible.” He then walked over to the children’s two trees, and gently poured water on them from a bottle wrapped in a brilliant yellow scarf, fulfilling the children’s wish for a closer connection with him.