Karmapa Leads Prayers, Practical Efforts to Care for Earthquake Victims

(May 2, 2015 – New York, New York) His Holiness the Karmapa led a massive prayer assembly for victims of the devastating earthquake that took the lives of thousands and left countless more injured and homeless in Nepal, and also affected people Tibet, India and Bangladesh. Several thousand people from across the Himalayan region joined together, filling Manhattan’s Riverside Church to offer their intense prayers and spiritual practice. During the prayer session, the Karmapa expressed how deeply Tibetans feel the suffering when disaster strikes the Nepalese people, and urged the audience to do all they could to help. The event was co-sponsored by Tsurphu Labrang and Karmapa Service Society, and all donations made during the event will go directly to support relief efforts in Nepal. The prayer session on Saturday in New York culminated a week of activity by the 17th Karmapa seeking to benefit the victims of the April 25 earthquake.
Although his travel schedule had been postponed a week to allow time for rest, His Holiness spent much of the week engaged in prayer as well as in practical measures to care for victims of the earthquake. Hours after a devastating 7.9 earthquake in Nepal, His Holiness issued a statement of condolence, calling on the Karma Kagyu monasteries to take steps to protect their surrounding communities.  At the same time, he began directing relief efforts from afar, asking that material and monetary funds be sent to Nepal from India.
His Holiness at once sent instructions to ship to Nepal all the more than 100 tents that are used to house monks and nuns during the annual Kagyu Monlam winter gathering on Bodhgaya, India. These sturdy tents are waterproof and windproof, and can comfortably fit a dozen people. They had been originally purchased and consecrated to use as part of the Garchen (Great Encampment) re-inaugurated several years ago, but the Karmapa has now offered them for use by the earthquake victims. In the days that followed, His Holiness sent an emissary from his administration (Tsurphu Labrang) to Nepal as his representative, and has continued to encourage ongoing relief efforts.
On Saturday, His Holiness the Karmapa led an assembly that included Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, Lama Norlha Rinpoche, dozens of monks and nuns and some 2,000 members of the public, including many from across the Himalayan region. Long before the doors opened, the line snaked around the ample block of this Upper West Side cathedral, and once allowed to enter, the subdued crowd swiftly and solemnly took their seats.
The event began with an introductory speech by Karma Namgyal on behalf of Karmapa Service Society, which had organized the event at His Holiness the Karmapa’s urging. The large number of Nepalese in attendance was attested to by the applause that punctuated key moments of his speech, delivered in Nepalese.
Together, the large assembly engaged in the practice of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig), the Buddha of Compassion, using a liturgical text composed by Tangtong Gyalpo, a 15th-century master renowned for the practical aid he offered, building countless iron bridges in Tibet. His Holiness further led those gathered through the prayer to be reborn in Amitabha’s pure land of Sukhavati. Next was a session of practice supplicating Tara, known for her swift intervention to engage in enlightened activity to care for beings, followed by supplications to the Mahaguru Padmasambhava, known for his control of the elements and his special connection to the Himalayan region. Several cycles of special prayers were aimed at the particular welfare of the Himalayan and Tibetan people.
At the close of the prayer session, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa addressed the assembly, which included large numbers of people with family in the affected region of the Himalayas.
“I would like to express my gratitude,” the Karmapa said, “to the many countries and organizations that have extended a hand in love to offer relief and aid to those affected by the catastrophe. When such a terrible disaster strikes Nepal, Tibetans feel the pain particularly intensely and feel a special concern because Nepal was the birthplace of our teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni, and because of the very close cultural and religious ties between Tibetans and the people of Nepal.
“Based on the prayers we made today, may all those who passed away due to this earthquake attain a happy and positive rebirth and may all the pain and suffering of the survivors swiftly be eased and may they be able to rebuild and create new homes full of happiness. This is my sincere and intense prayer,” he said.
“From my side I will do everything within my power for those in Nepal. As far as those within Tibet, there is little direct aid I can offer, however, whatever else I can offer, I will do. Whatever support all of you here can offer to ease the sufferings of all those beings afflicted with pain and suffering, directly or indirectly, with your body, speech and mind, I encourage you all to do your utmost. This would be wonderful. Many people have come here today and I thank you for your efforts to be here.”
Once His Holiness had departed, many members of the public came forward to contribute to the relief efforts, which will be overseen by Karmapa Service Society’s Nepal organization, Karmapa Seva Samaj Nepal.

 Photography by Lama Sam.


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