The Gyalwang Karmapa Arrives in Paris

May 30, 2016 – Paris, France

After motoring from Zurich to Paris through the green hills of a gently rolling landscape, His Holiness arrived at the Champs Elysées for his first night in France. Lamas from centers all over Europe gave him a magnificent welcome with the music of jalings and a great golden umbrella above his head. Holding white scarves, hundreds of people greeted him with joy, with Ringu Tulku in the lead, followed by Lama Gyurme and the representative of the Tibetan people in France, Tsering Dondrup.
The Karmapa will be teaching at the Marriott Rive-gauche this coming Saturday, June 4, on the Four Noble Truths and meditation, and on Sunday, June 5, he will talk about happiness and compassion and also bestow the empowerment of Avalokiteshvara.

2016.5.30 The Gyalwang Karmapa Arrives in Paris


The Discovery and Recognition of Ogyen Trinley Dorje - SHAMBHALAPUBS

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The following is an account of the discovery and recognition of the Seventeenth Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, excerpted from The History of the Karmapas: The Odyssey of the Tibetan Masters with the Black Crown

The Last Testament
Most of his previous reincarnations left behind a Last Testament giving indications of their rebirth. But in 1981, when the sixteenth Karmapa died, no one was able to find a Last Testament. For nine long years everyone searched, hoping for a sign that would allow a successor to be found. The twelfth Tai Situpa , one of the closest disciples of the sixteenth Karmapa, recounts how, unbeknownst to him, his master had given him the Last Testament shortly before his death while they were together in Calcutta:
During this time, he gave me a lot of advice and told stories from the past. Every evening we talked after dinner. Then once, after I had off ered him the fresh orange juice he liked, and not long before we went to bed, he gave me the protection amulet, saying, “This is a very important protection.” He did not say, “Open it in the future,” or, “You will need it.” He simply added, “It will be very benefi cial for you.” I thought it was just a protection amulet. Usually, Tibetan lamas create these out of a piece of paper that has a printed or drawn mandala of a particular deity. It is folded in a special way to make a square shape, wrapped in colored strings, and enclosed in cloth or leather. This one was enclosed in yellow brocade and I used to wear it around my neck on a gold chain.
The Tai Situpa wore the amulet until the end of 1990 when, on retreat, he had a sudden inspiration to open it. Inside he found an envelope with the sixteenth Karmapa’s writing: “To be opened in the Iron Horse year,” which related precisely to the year the Tai Situpa decided to look inside the precious amulet! The letter said:
Oh Marvel! Self-realization is continual bliss.
The dharmadhatu has neither center nor periphery.
To the north of here, in the east [of the Land] of Snow [1],
Lies the country where Divine thunder spontaneously blazes [2].
In a beautiful place of nomads [marked] by the sign of “that
which fulfills all desires” [3],
The method is Döndrup and the wisdom is Lolaga [4].
[Born] the year of the one used for the earth [5]
With the miraculous and far-reaching sound of the white one [6],
He is the one known as the Karmapa.
Sustained by the lord Dönyö Drubpa [7],
Impartial, he fathoms all directions.
Neither close to some, nor distant from others, he is the protector of all beings:
The sun of the Buddha’s Dharma that benefi ts others blazes continually.
The numbered lines can be interpreted as follows:
1. Ogyen Trinley Dorje was born in Kham, a region of Eastern Tibet.
2. The Last Testament uses the term “Nam Chak,” “Heavenly Iron”; the place of birth of the Karmapa is called “Lhathok,” “Divine Thunder.”
3. “That which fulfi lls all desires” refers to the “cow that fulfills all desires,” a term found in Buddhist texts; the name of the nomadic community where the child was born is “Bagor,” and “Ba” means “cow.”
4. Here, the sixteenth Karmapa indicates very clearly the names of his future parents. In Buddhist texts, method and wisdom refer to the masculine and feminine principles, respectively.
5. The ox is habitually used to work the land: the year of the birth of the Karmapa was that of the Wood Ox.
6. This refers to the sound of the conch that, soon after the birth of the Karmapa, resounded miraculously in the sky.
7. Dönyö Drubpa (Skt. Amoghasiddhi) is one of the five dhyanibuddhas, who represents the family of activity, karma. Dönyö refers to the twelfth Tai Situpa, whose name is Pema Dönyö
Nyinje, indicating that he will become the root lama of the seventeenth Karmapa.
In 1992, the twelfth Tai Situpa and the twelfth Gyaltsabpa , another principal disciple of the sixteenth Karmapa, sent a copy of the Last Testament to Drupön Dechen Rinpoche , abbot of Tsurphu Monastery, seat of the Karmapas in central Tibet, inviting him to organize a delegation to locate the seventeenth Karmapa. In May, emissaries from Tsurphu excitedly set out for Kham in search of the Karmapa. On May 18, they arrived in view of Karlek monastery. Stating that they came from Tsurphu, they asked for directions to the Bagor region in order to visit Loga, a family member. They met Yeshe Rabsel , Apo Gaga’s elder brother, who told them where the family resided. The visitors announced that they were searching for a tulku.
Yeshe Rabsel quickly joined his parents to announce that a delegation from Tsurphu was searching for a tulku, probably related to his young brother. This news made the young child leap up and start dancing happily. Very early the same morning, before his brother’s arrival, he had prepared a small pack bundle that he had placed on the back of his goat, telling his mother that he was going to fi nd his monastery. He had then pointed toward the west to indicate where it was.
His parents immediately prepared the tent to welcome the travelers in a dignifi ed manner. Some days later, when the delegation approached the camp, they were received with honor. When the emissaries questioned the parents about the date and the circumstances of Apo Gaga’s birth, they recounted the surprising signs: Loga’s dreams, the sound of the conches, the cuckoo’s song, the halo around the sun, and so forth. The monks then had confi rmation of the information they had already gathered. All the indications in the Last Testament proved to be perfectly correct.
One of the members of the emissary group, Lama Domo , the principal delegate of Tsurphu Monastery, then showed the parents the copy of the sixteenth Karmapa’s Last Testament. As the father read it, the cuckoo’s song was heard again. The visitors off ered long scarves of good omen to the family to mark the event before leaving for Tsurphu to announce the news and prepare for the offi cial arrival of the Karmapa.
The news spread quickly, to India and to the entire world. The fourteenth Dalai Lama revealed that he had had a signifi cant dream concerning the new incarnation: “I had a kind of dream of the location, the area where the present reincarnation was born. There were stones and meadows. It looked like a high altitude and faced south with beautiful streams. This is the main picture. Then someone, some source without form, was telling me, ‘This is the place where the Karmapa is born’.”
The other two lineage holders—Sakya Trizin of the Sakya and Minling Trichen of the Nyingma—as well as many other masters confirmed the choice and offered prayers for the child’s long life. The Dalai Lama officially recognized the child as the seventeenth Karmapa.
Excerpted from The History of the Karmapas: The Odyssey of the Tibetan Masters with the Black Crown
by Lama Kunsang, Lama Pemo, Marie Aubele


Buddhism and the Environment: Being Content to Live With Less

May 29, 2016 – Bulach, Switzerland

The Karmapa sat on stage in a comfortable armchair covered in red and gold brocade for this final session, held on his last afternoon in Switzerland.
He began by recollecting his own childhood in a remote area of Tibet, devoid of modern technology and other aspects of the contemporary world. Within this very traditional culture, the natural world was viewed as sacred and treated with great respect. People thought the mountains and other places were living systems and home to many deities. There was no plastic garbage and no need for rubbish bins as everything was organic and biodegradable. Consequently, when plastic wrappings finally arrived, the people would just throw them away because they were unaware that plastic did not biodegrade. Home life was simple. Everything they owned had a use in daily life and there was no television or the like.
“What I saw in this Tibetan culture was the principle of being happy and content with little,” His Holiness commented. “To be content with little and have few wants is an important practice in Buddhism.”
He went on to explain how this was especially true for monks and nuns. In Tibetan, the Karmapa explained, the words for a fully ordained monk gelong and a fully ordained nun gelongma are made up of two words. Ge [Tib. dge] means “virtuous” and longwa [Tib. Slong ba] means “beggar,” so in Tibetan, a bhikshu or a bhikshuni is a “virtuous beggar.” They hold the highest vows, His Holiness observed, and their fundamental practice is to be content and live with few desires and few things. Traditionally, if a monk’s robes were torn, they were patched, and when they were too tattered to be worn, they would be washed and used as rags, and finally when they could no longer be used as rags, they would be added into the making of bricks. Nothing was ever wasted. It was also forbidden for monks and nuns to have personal belongings. This is how the Buddha and his sangha lived, similar to modern day socialism.
The Buddha was first to introduce an administration for the sangha, and later in the tradition, came the large monastic universities such as Nalanda and Vikramashila. These were the first universities in the world, and had rules for administration and finance. However, kings and laypeople brought offerings, which created a problem, as the monks were not allowed to own things. So the monasteries built special treasuries to store the offerings. When armies invaded India, they first attacked the monasteries, destroyed them and took these treasuries.
The Karmapa then linked the question of living with less to the question of the environment: “I want to talk about living with less and being content as a way to protect the environment,” he stated.
Science had provided much information about the environmental crisis, he continued, but knowledge in and of itself was not enough. The crux of the matter was how to transform knowledge into action.
The Karmapa made several recommendations. First, environmental scientists could confer and work together with religious leaders on ways to protect the environment. Second, we each should make an honest assessment of our daily life and its impact on the environment so that we can change how we live in order to protect the environment. Third, as motivation is key, we all need to develop our motivation, so that it becomes stronger.
Information, statistics and knowledge engage our intellects but do not necessarily bring about a change of heart or a change in behaviour, he remarked. Warnings and graphic images on cigarette packets, for example, have not deterred smokers. Ignorance in human beings is so strong that often we do not recognise the way things really are.
Fourth, we must develop inner contentment, which His Holiness described as “a natural resource.” When we are content, we feel that we have everything needed. Learning to be content is more important than having fewer desires, he explained, because without contentment we will never feel satisfied: we will always have unfilled desires and the feeling that we lack something.
Returning to a theme of previous talks, the Karmapa suggested how we could develop contentment through meditation practice. Resting our awareness on the breath, we focus on the present moment, not chasing after memories from the past or speculating about the future. Through practices such as this, inner contentment can grow progressively. Sometimes when we feel a little helpless, or think we lack something, or feel lost, if we remember to focus on our breath, we can experience happiness. In addition, concentrating on the breath reminds us of our interdependence with the environment and the plants that provide us with the oxygen we need. Breathing can become something wondrous.
However, because of our constant desires, our mind and body cannot find peace. “At some point, we have to say enough is enough,” His Holiness advised, because desires can be limitless, and if we have strong desires, we will be unable to find contentment. Ultimately, we have to take a further step and turn our back on our desires and let go of attachment. This is renunciation.
The principle of renunciation entails rejecting the social constructs of the society in which we live. His Holiness pointed to an example from New Delhi in India. When he came to India in 2000, there were far fewer cars on the road but now there are traffic jams everywhere and the air is much polluted. A major part of the problem is the more than five million private cars and it is exacerbated by the addition of between 4000 – 5000 new cars every day. His Holiness recounted how he had once asked a Tibetan driver why there were so many cars, and the driver replied, “When your neighbour buys a car, you have to buy a car as well.”
“This is the situation today,” His Holiness commented.
    Instead of using our own intelligence and wisdom, under the power of ignorance, we just follow what other people do. We are under the influence of external factors and circumstances that determine our lives. When we talk about renunciation and letting go of desire, it means that we are no longer under these influences, but have the intelligence and wisdom to choose our own way.
We need to recognize that what society presents as real is more like a lie, he continued, and then we can take our own way.
In the end, the issue is taking responsibility for our actions. If we buy a car, that is our decision, but that decision has consequences. When we drive that car on the road we add to air pollution, traffic jams and so on. We cannot avoid living in society and we should live in harmony with everyone, but it is paramount that we know the correct way to act.
The Karmapa then opened up the floor to questions.
The first one asked his advice on practical solutions to protect the environment, including vegetarianism. When shopping, we should not just think of what we want as individuals, but how our purchases affect the environment. With regard to vegetarianism, as compassionate individuals we may want to give up eating meat or reduce the amount we eat, and this will have a positive effect on the environment.
The second question posed the dilemma of a vegetarian who has to buy and prepare meat for consumption by others.
His Holiness explained that during the Buddha’s time, the sangha was allowed to eat meat with certain restrictions such as the animal not being specially killed for them. If we have to prepare meat, there are mantras that can be recited or we can recite the names of the Buddhas. If we eat meat, it is good to make aspiration and dedication prayers for the animal that has died.
With the third question a student asked what to do when their root lama had died. Did they need to find another lama or could they continue to practise on the basis of that lama’s instructions?
His Holiness explained that there are different ways of receiving the Dharma, and it is possible to have different lamas, sometimes from different transmission lineages. All the great masters who restored the teachings in Tibet were non-sectarian and received teachings from lamas of different traditions.
However, when we have different lamas there is a danger that we will become confused. Our root lama is the one with whom we have the strongest connection, and for whom we have the greatest devotion and affection. That root lama does not have to be a living lama. If we have deep devotion and a strong connection, we can continue to pray to our root lama after they have passed away. If we encounter difficulties in our practice, it is best to consult a living lama, but our root lama remains in our heart, and the connection with them continues.
Returning to the environmental theme, the next questioner asked the Karmapa’s opinion on whether the earth could recover if human beings were to change their behaviour.
“Hoping the earth will recover does not help much,” His Holiness began, “we must actually do something.” More natural catastrophes might be a wake-up call, but it is not easy to change our behaviour and attitudes. The environmental crisis is on a vast scale and it is difficult to change the situation overall. However, there is a Tibetan saying “Drop by drop the ocean is filled. Drop by drop a hole is made in the rock.” If we all work together, we can do something. If we wait upon the government, it could take a long time, so we have to make our own decision and take action.
We can choose to use things that are less harmful to the environment. If we change our way of consuming, the Karmapa suggested, we would be setting an example for others, and effect a change in their attitudes too.
In conclusion, His Holiness expressed his deep gratitude to all those who had worked to make this first visit to Switzerland such a success, and reiterated his hope of returning to Switzerland and also visiting other European countries in the future. He especially thanked Namkha Rinpoche and the Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Switzerland.
Lastly, the President of Rigdzin Switzerland, Andres Larrain, rose and responded with a speech of thanks to His Holiness, giving a history of the Karmapa’s visit and conveying everyone’s gratitude for the “inexpressible blessings” he had granted during his time in Switzerland.
The President’s words captured the experience of all those fortunate enough to attend the teachings: “You have taught us the depths of Buddhism, in a way that was at the same time profound, easy to understand, and with a sparkling sense of humour.”

2016.5.29 Buddhism and the Environment: Being Content to Live With Less


The Empowerment of Avalokiteshvara

Bülach, Switzerland – May 29, 2016

Bülach’s city hall was filled to the brim with over two thousand Tibetans and westerners who came this morning to receive the empowerment of Avalokiteshvara from the Gyalwang Karmapa, who is considered an emanation of this deity embodying the compassion of all the buddhas. The sound of six-syllable mantra filled the air while the Karmapa performed the preparations in a curtained area of the stage. He then came to take his seat on the central throne, to the left of which hung an impressive image of Avalokiteshvara.
The ceremony began with the Praises to the Buddha, the request to teach, purification, and creating a protected space for the empowerment. After everyone took refuge and generated bodhicitta, and a mandala was offered, the Karmapa spoke about the empowerment itself. The source of the lineage for this the Four-Armed Avalokiteshvara, he explained, is the mahasiddha Tsultrim Zangpo from Nari, who is said to have lived hundreds of years. Among the many different types of empowerments, this is the one of transformative primordial awareness.
We should be taking the empowerment, he said, in order to engage in the practice of Avalokiteshvara, which is a practice focused on compassion since he represents or embodies the compassion of all the buddhas. When we engage in the practice Avalokiteshvara, we are practicing great compassion. How to understand great compassion? We wish, “May all living beings be free of suffering,” or “How wonderful it would be if all creatures were released from misery!” or “I will liberate all beings from suffering.” Great compassion is the wholehearted, powerful wish to free all living beings from their suffering.
“In order to generate compassion for other beings,” the Karmapa counseled, “it is important first to generate compassion for ourselves. Renunciation and compassion are like two sides of the same coin: renunciation—letting go of samsara and its suffering—is how we create benefit for ourselves, and compassion—the wish to free others from samsaric suffering—is how we benefit others.”
Bodhisattvas skillfully rely on instructions for practice. “Usually we think of ourselves when we think of being free of suffering and wishing for happiness,” the Karmapa noted. “In their wisdom, bodhisattvas think of others, knowing that just as one desires well being and happiness, so do others, and thus the bodhisattva’s compassion expands. Their skill in means is wondrous.”
“Usually when a real empowerment is given,” the Karmapa continued, “the one bestowing it has the true meaning or significance of the empowerment in their heart-mind and they convey this to those receiving the initiation.” Today, however, there was not enough time, so the empowerment would bring a blessing and create a good connection.
The words of the empowerment were profound and moving. For the empowerment related to the body, people became a radiant Avalokiteshvara who arose out of emptiness; for speech, compassion arose while not moving from the awareness of emptiness; and for wisdom, mind was never separate from the nature of mahamudra.
After an offering of thanksgiving and dedication, the Karmapa made a few remarks on the practice and form of Avalokiteshvara. If our practice goes well, he explained, we will know because our compassion will increase. In speaking of form, he said that at first he thought he knew the manifestations of Avalokiteshvara well, the two-armed, the four-armed, the eight-armed, the thousand-armed, and so forth, but there are over one hundred forms—so many that it can be confusing. When he thought about it, however, he concluded that the thousand-armed form was the best. Why? It is difficult to help one living being and fulfill their wishes, he commented, and when one wants to help a vast number, the symbolism of the thousand-armed Avalokiteshvara is more appropriate. The multiplicity of his arms suggests a dynamic and vast motivation to help all living beings.
The Karmapa added that while we are meditating on ourselves as Avalokiteshvara, the practice does not only involve taking on his form, but becoming the embodiment of the compassion of all the buddhas. We maintain this state, he said, through what is known as “the pride of the deity.” When we hold this kind of compassion in our mind, it would be strange to get angry or to be jealous, so this particular type of superior pride can be helpful in diminishing our afflictions.
“Meditating in a deity should inspire us and increase our mind’s capacity,” he remarked. “We should not think that there is some powerful being out there in front of us, but rather that we are connecting with a particular power or quality and ‘downloading’ this into our midstream.” With this encouragement to practice Avalokiteshvara and deepen our compassion, the Karmapa concluded the empowerment.
2016.5.29 The Empowerment of Avalokiteshvara



Thousands of Tibetans Gather to Meet the Gyalwang Karmapa

May 28, 2016 – Bulach, Switzerland

The City Hall of Bulach was filled to the brim with Tibetans who have come to receive the Karmapa’s blessings. After he arrived on stage and took his seat, young Tibetan women and men in traditional dress, standing in front of the audience sing a special song for the occasion. Drum, flute, bells, and the dranyen, sometimes called a Tibetan guitar, accompany their voices, while their song has the refrain, “Our place of trust is the Karmapa, the lama in who we can believe.”
His Holiness began with his prayers, which he followed by a transmission of the six-syllable mantra of Avalokiteshvara. He then spoke from his heart to the Tibetans, expressing his sympathy for all the unprecedented difficulties they have gone through. However, we do have, he said, the omniscient HH Dalai Lama who supports all the Tibetan religious traditions and works tirelessly to help the Tibetan people abroad and in India. We should all be deeply grateful to him, the Karmapa stated, and try to fulfill his wishes.
The Karmapa then revisited topics central to his thinking. He spoke of the need for Tibetan unity, for the three traditional areas of Tibet to consider themselves as one people and one country. He also encouraged Tibetans to remember why they had left Tibet and the lack of freedom they had experienced there. They should sometimes bring to mind, he counseled, the Tibetans who remain in Tibet and hold them in their affection. Finally, the Karmapa stressed the importance of learning Tibetan well, since it gives access to their precious heritage of the Dharma and the Tibetan culture.
Towards the end of his remarks, the Karmapa emphasized how important it is for the Tibetans to be in harmony with one another, to be free of bias toward their place of birth and their particular religious tradition. He himself is forgetting that he is from Eastern Tibet, and of course, he thinks about the Kagyu lineage as he has the name of Karmapa, yet he sees all the Tibetan traditions as being the precious teachings of the Buddha. It is critical to keep this in mind, since it is said that the cause for the decline of the Buddha’s teachings is not something exterior, but the internal conflicts among Buddhists themselves. After expressing his wish to return to Switzerland many times, the Karmapa closed his talk in wishing everyone very good health and success in all their endeavors.

2016.5.28  The Gyalwang Karmapa Speaks to Tibetans in Zurich


The Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind from Samsara

Bulach, Switzerland – May 28, 2016

The morning began with a fulsome praise of the Karmapa offered by Namkha Rinpoche, who requested the Karmapa to remain until the end of samsara to benefit living beings. After the accolade, his students presented the supports of body, speech, and mind to the Karmapa thanking him for his teachings and requesting him to remain in the world and live a long life.
The Karmapa began his teaching by naming the Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind from Samsara: (1) the precious human rebirth; (2) death and impermanence; (3) karma as cause and effect; and (4) the defects of samsara. He spoke of the first one, the precious human birth, in terms of the eight freedoms and the ten resources, which he explained in a condensed form. To practice well, he said, we need to the freedom from obstacles, and the main condition, or resource, we need for liberation is to meet a spiritual friend who imparts the practice to us. Having found a human rebirth, he explained, we also possess the capacity for making moral decisions, for knowing what to leave aside and what to take up. All human beings have this ability, he stated, which allows us to make our lives meaningful.
We can reflect on our precious human rebirth, the Karmapa said, from two perspectives: the difficulty in finding it and the great meaning this life has. The first one is a little complicated, he commented, because in order to think about it, we need to believe in reincarnation. To understand rebirth, however, we do not need to rely on scripture but can consider our present life. “Most of you are born in Switzerland,” he said, “and live in a comfortable situation, but in many places of the world, people do not even have the basics of life, food to eat and clean water to drink.”
In contemplating our situation, he suggested, we can ask ourselves, How is it that I have this excellent set of circumstances? Where did it come from? Seeing that we have this good life and the capacity to make moral decisions, however, is not enough he said. We actually need to take responsibility for accomplishing something meaningful in this life. Simply having the capacity to do something is not enough; we must use it. And how we do that depends on the extent of our motivation. From the very beginning, he remarked, our motivation should be vast.
In this world of the twenty-first century, he commented, information technology has brought us closer together so that we are like a global village and know a lot about each other. The connections between countries and people are now very clear. Without relying on philosophy, this allows us to see directly how linked to each other we are. Being aware of this interconnection, we can open out our hearts and minds. The Karmapa commented that usually our basic frame of mind, he commented, is that we are independent: we do not reply on others and they do not rely on us. However, from an ultimate point of view, he remarked, we are all mutually dependent: there is no one who does not depend on me and no one on whom I do not depend. We are not distant from others; rather, they are intimately related to us⎯our happiness and suffering depend on them.
We can see this connection if we think, for example, about the clothes we wear. The person who made the shirt we are wearing might be working an Indian factory, yet we may never see them, so we are not conscious of this relationship. The same is true for the food we eat and the air we breathe. Our very physical existence comes from other people, our parents. Considering all this, we can understand that we are not alone and independent. Our happiness, suffering, and success in the world all rely on others.
Therefore, he concluded, we carry a responsibility for others and they for us. It is not enough to look out for ourselves alone, he stated. Having the intelligence to understand our situation, we must take responsibility for others.
The Karmapa then turned to the second thought, death and impermanence. The fact that we are born, he explained, means that we will die; the two arise in dependence one on another. We could say in brief that birth has the nature of death. “Hearing this,” he said, “many people could think it is something negative, but I think it is positive. Impermanence means that things are changing moment to moment. It indicates that with each moment, we have a new opportunity.”
He further commented that we might think this fresh chance is something that comes from the outside, that someone else gives it to us. But actually, he remarked, it comes from us. It is part of how we are, so we have endless opportunities. If we have done something negative is our life, it is possible to change, he said. Milarepa is a classic example; he saw the possibility of transforming his life and he took it. In a shorter time frame, if we did something regrettable in the morning, the Karmapa explained, we have the opportunity in the afternoon or evening to alter it and start anew.
If we think of the past and the changes time brings, we lose something and we also gain something. If there were no change, if the first moment always stayed the same, we would be stuck, for example, on the first note and never able to play a melody.
Within the subject of impermanence, the Karmapa noted, death is a special topic. We know that we will die, but we do not know the conditions. And when our time comes to pass away, he commented, we are helpless to stop it. For some, death brings suffering and for others not. This makes us anxious and so does not knowing when we will die. Further, he noted, if we die accidently there is no time to prepare.
Tibetan Buddhism has numerous explanations about death and the experience of it, such as how the three kayas manifest, the Karmapa remarked, so we can have an idea of what happens, which relaxes and calms our mind. Some people think that death will bring suffering, and to prepare they must meditate on suffering. But this is not necessarily the case. If we have made our lives deeply meaningful, death does not bring suffering.
We lead busy lives, he remarked, our time is filled morning to night, but if at the end of a day we reflect on what we have done, can we find something that really satisfied us? Maybe not. Often, the Karmapa said, we do not distinguish between what we want and what we need. When we are asked what we want, our brain is busy thinking of many things. If we are asked what we need, our answers are not so quick, yet in truth this is very important. Our lives are hectic, but are we doing something meaningful? Reflecting on death and impermanence helps us to see what we really need and what has meaning for our life. This will help us to prepare ourselves since we do not know when or how we will die.
The Karmapa explained that the first thought of the precious human birth and the second thought of death and impermanence are related. We have the intelligence to see that our human life is precious and that we should make it meaningful, and knowing that this is not always possible, we seize the moment. In this way we can reflect on our lives and exert ourselves to give them a deeper significance.
To illustrate impermanence, the Karmapa gave an example from his own life. When he was seven years old (in western years), a search party came to his isolated valley and told his parents that he was the Karmapa. His family had a connection with both the nyingma and kagyu traditions and also faith in the Karmapa whose photo they kept on their shrine. “All of a sudden,” he recounted, “I was the person to whom we had been prostrating. I didn’t know quite what to do. Before my friends and I had played at being a lama, and suddenly it was the old and the young people who were playing this game with me.”
Historically, the Karmapa is an extraordinary lama, he said, but he felt like an ordinary child who had been given an extraordinary name. People immediately expected that he would have amazing abilities, he recounted, but for an ordinary child this was a bit difficult. One does not become extraordinary by simply receiving a certain name. In the end, the way he understands his situation is that he has been given an extraordinary opportunity to benefit the teachings and people. Though it is sometimes difficult, he does the very best he can.
In our lives, he advised, we need to motivate ourselves to be the best people we could possibly be. We all have this precious human life and we can use this chance to be concerned about others and take responsibility for them. Actually, he said, to help others we do not need to be extraordinary. As ordinary people we can have extraordinary bodhicitta (the wish to benefit others an bring them to awakening) and with this we can certainly benefit others.
Sometimes people come to him, the Karmapa said, and ask him to make them wealthy and influential so they can help the poor, but it does not work like this. We should dedicate our body, speech, and mind toward benefitting others, he explained, and this will definitely allow us to help. Becoming wealthy is no guarantee that we will think of others. At first we might wish to help, but then in becoming wealthy, we could forget our original motivation. With this caveat, the Karmapa ended the first session of teachings for this weekend.

In the afternoon session, the Karmapa examined the remaining two thoughts: karma, cause and effect, and the defects of samsara.
His Holiness began by dispelling some common misunderstandings of the term karma. He noted that this Buddhist principle was very much linked to themes from the morning session, such as the difficulty of attaining a precious human birth and interdependence. Karma should be considered in a broad way. “As we all are interdependent, everything I do not only affects myself, my family, or people close to me, but has an effect on the whole world. It is very important, therefore, that we all take responsibility for our actions,” he stated.
Many people take a too simplistic view of the workings of karma, for example, supposing that since I criticised people in my last life that is why I am being criticised now. This superficial approach only leads to confusion, especially when we see bad people seemingly prosper while good people suffer. In reality, because of its profundity, karma is very complex, the Karmapa said, and the way we accumulate karma and experience its results depends on the environment and the time in which we live. Karma should be seen on a vast scale, working throughout the whole universe and accumulated over innumerable lifetimes, he stated. Furthermore, just as in a court of law where the people’s motivations are examined, we can see how very different they are.
We all have to take responsibility for our actions, but those who choose to follow the mahayana path assume an additional responsibility for the well-being of all sentient beings, based on the pure motivation to work for the benefit of others. If we claim to be Mahayana practitioners, an honest appraisal of whether our ideas about ourselves match the reality is very important. Are we really good people or not? To be a good practitioner, we need to be a good person.
Becoming Dharma practitioners, however, does not immediately make us into good people. The practice of genuine Dharma should be transformative, the Karmapa remarked, bringing out our good qualities step-by-step. Generally, when things such as cars no longer function properly, we discard them but people are not objects that can be thrown away; we need to work with them. When we take on the responsibility of dedicating ourselves to the benefit all sentient beings, we need a firm foundation of love and compassion; otherwise it can become a heavy burden.

With that advice, His Holiness moved on to discuss the defects of samsara, the fourth thought that turns the mind to Dharma, noting that by stages the four thoughts had become more complex.
Fundamentally all beings want to be happy; no one wants to suffer, he began. However, when we ask ourselves what real happiness is, some of the things we wish for are counterproductive. Consequently, though we want to be happy, all we achieve is suffering. What we perceive as happiness is suffering, and what we see as suffering might be happiness. This is especially true in the 21st century with its high level of material development. Many people mistakenly believe that when they possess all the material goods they seek, they will be happy. But their desires can never be fulfilled. The more they have, the more they want, and it is this constant desire, which prevents them from attaining true happiness. Further, it endangers the environment because many of these things come from natural resources that are limited. His Holiness concluded:
Limited resources can never quench the thirst of limitless desire. Many scientists tell us that if we continue to consume as we do, the world will come to an end. And I think because of that, if we try to find happiness in material resources this is not just a mistake, it is a disaster. This attitude is destroying our environment and destroying the habitats of many sentient beings. For the sake of future generations, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves whether what we are doing is right.
He then discussed the three types of suffering according to Buddhism: the suffering of suffering, the suffering of change, and all-pervasive suffering. Suffering is more than physical discomfort. It is the manifestation of the result of our negative actions. The suffering of suffering is clearly visible suffering such as physical pain. The suffering of change is the suffering of impermanence. We normally experience it as happiness, but it will transform into suffering, because its basic nature is suffering. All-pervasive suffering is found everywhere in samsara, His Holiness explained:
True happiness means to be free of the afflictions. If we are under the influence of negative actions or the three poisons [ignorance, hatred, and attachment], it is difficult to be free and independent. Being under the power of these afflictive emotions is all-pervasive suffering.
Buddhism defines true happiness as liberation from all negative actions and afflictions, he continued. We have to free ourselves from ignorance and mental obscurations. The power of advertising and our consumer culture causes us to lose our independence by persuading us that we need and should want things that are not necessary to our lives. In truth, what we want is not that important, and what we actually need is very little. To lighten the mood, His Holiness told a joke, though he had doubts about whether its actual source was the Buddha.
Once someone came and said to the Buddha, “I want happiness.” Buddha told him that first he needed to delete the “I” so that he would lose his fixation on a self. Secondly he should get rid of “want.” Finally he would be left with “happiness.”
The essence of the Buddhist teaching is that the happiness we seek is inside, in inner peace and contentment, and can never be found from external things. Even breathing, the Karmapa reminded everybody, could be a source of wonder and happiness.
The remaining time was given over to questions from the audience.
First came a request for advice on prayers and practices that could be used with dying people. His Holiness suggested that various yidam deity practices or mantras could be useful, including the Akshobhya mantra, and also we could read the Tibetan Book of the Dead. If the dying person were a Buddhist, the prayers and mantras should be recited aloud, otherwise, quietly or perhaps in secret.
The second question concerned the meaning of buddha nature. His Holiness began with a story. A student once asked a lama who had attained enlightenment, “What is it like to be a Buddha?” (Usually one of the signs of the Buddha’s enlightenment is the ushnisha or protuberance on his head.) The lama rubbed his flat, bald head and replied, “It’s nothing. It’s delightful.” Buddha nature is like that, the Karmapa suggested. He continued to say that in explaining buddha nature, the Jonangpa tradition follows the zhentong (or empty of what is other to it) view, which speaks of the emptiness of objects and the wisdom of the subject. It asserts that mind’s nature is free of all adventitious stains, and to fully manifest this nature is to become enlightened.
The next question asked whether pure love could be impermanent. The Karmapa explained that the view of impermanence means that everything changes from moment to moment, but this does not negate the existence of a continuum. There can be a continuum of love. But love is often self-centred in which case it would not be sustainable.
In response to a question about using one’s own language when reciting sadhanas and mantras, the Karmapa stated that it is important to understand the meaning of what we are chanting. He advised that if an accurate translation of the practice were available in the mother tongue, it could be used. Many Westerners, however, still prefer to recite in Tibetan, as they feel it has more blessing. The Tibetan translators left the mantras in Sanskrit because the written form of the syllable as well as the sound were important.
His Holiness was then asked to comment on whether our mind could transform karma. It is said that everything is the appearance of our mind. It is also said that everything is the result of karma. If both are correct, does this mean that our mind can change a negative into a positive result? Can it shift karma?
The Karmapa responded that when it is said that all is the magical play of the mind, as long as we have not resolved dualistic perceptions, we would be caught up in these perceptions. And due to this, our freedom is limited. Some high level bodhisattvas can transform karma but we are ordinary beings. It is said that those in the hell realms are trapped there by wrong perception; if their minds were not deluded, they could be free. For as long as their negative karma is not exhausted, they will experience this suffering. For this reason, we need to understand in depth the principle of karma, cause and effect.
A further question concerned how to fit the preliminary practices (ngondro) into a busy schedule. The Karmapa suggested using holiday time for intensive practice in retreat. Alternatively, he joked, during Sagadawa or during the Month of Miracles, as the effects of our actions are magnified 100,000 times, one prostration could become 100,000, and one mandala offering could become 100,000, and so forth. Another possibility, in order to make a meaningful connection, would be to practice diligently to the best of one’s ability for a month without keeping count and offer that as the practice.
The penultimate question asked: Who are we? Are we the one who is watching or is even the watcher being observed? “Who are we when we see a vase in front of us? “ His Holiness responded. We first see the vase and are able to point at it, he said, but when we investigate more closely we realize that it does not exist in the way we perceive it. Similarly when we look at ourselves, we will not find an inherently existing ‘”I.” There is, however, a kind of naked or bare perception due to the vase and the self being appearances that arise in dependence on causes and conditions.
The final question concerned whether it is possible to practice in more than one sangha. His Holiness explained that when we talk about the sangha it refers to the Dharma community living harmoniously together, so harmony is of prime importance. If we practice in two sanghas, there may be differences in view, which could create difficulties for our practice. However, if we can practice in harmony we can practice in one, two, or even a hundred sanghas.
With this final question, the dialogue and day’s discussion of the Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind came to a close.

2016.5.28 Karmapa gave his first day of teachings in Bülach Switzerland, on the four thoughts that turn the mind to Dharma.


Meeting with the Younger Generation of Tibetans in Switzerland

Sixteen to Twenty-Five, What Do They Think? The Gyalwang Karmapa Meets with the Younger Generation of Tibetans in Switzerland
Zurich, Switzerland – May 27, 2016

Today the Gyalwang Karmapa met with more than sixty young Tibetans living in Switzerland, many of whom were born here. Most of the young women were dressed in their best chupas and some of the young men wore the traditional male outfit of white shirts and a knee-length chupa.
After speaking of the relation between Switzerland and the Tibetans and his long-held wish to come here, the Karmapa wondered I he actually belonged to the younger generation. He mentioned that he has a sister whom many people think is younger than he, but actually she is older. “People see me as being old,” he said, “which may come from the fact that so many things have happened to me, so the way I think and my appearance seem to be that of an older person.” In addition, the First Karmapa lived in the eleventh century, so from that perspective, he said, “I am a 900 year-old man. All of this makes it difficult to say that I belong to the younger generation.”
The Karmapa then turned to the question of how many Tibetans there are in the world. It is often said that there are six million; however, based on the statistics published in China, he said, we can see that there are less than six million in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and the four provinces in China where Tibetans live. Even if the Tibetans living abroad are included, the number does not come up to six million, he explained, so the Tibetan population is decreasing. If we add to this the increasing number of foreigners, especially Chinese, living in Tibet, we face the fact of Tibetans being outnumbered in their own country. For these reasons, he said, he was very concerned about the future of Tibetan Dharma, culture, and identity.
On the other hand, he remarked, there are also causes for hope. The youth in Tibet have an eagerness and wholeheartedness that is wonderful. Given that they are under such restrictions, the Karmapa remarked, one would think that they would become downhearted, but that is not the case. More than the Tibetans living in India, those in Tibet have great enthusiasm for serving Tibetan Buddhism, culture, and society. “They can serve as a role model and inspire us,” the Karmapa stated.
Another important point the Karmapa raised was the question of the Tibetan language. “Written and spoken Tibetan,” he said, “are like our capital, our cultural goods, which we need to preserve.” This is difficult, however, if Tibetans are scattered all over the world. He spoke of learning Chinese in Tibet and how his knowledge of it had developed in India because he had taken a real interest in it.
Actually, he had wanted to learn five or six languages and studied Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese so he could speak with people who had come from far away to see him. For one reason or another, however, none of them quite fell into place. He advised the young people present not to study Tibetan because they have no choice, but to turn to it with affection and a deep feeling, which will instill a strong habit so that the language will come to them naturally.
After discussing the need for Tibetans to think of themselves as one nation, the Karmapa thanked those who had prepared his visit and encouraged the Tibetans not to lose hope or the belief that things can go well for them in the future. Then he opened up the session to questions.

This first question was about bullying. What should one do? Are both people at fault? The Karmapa responded that of course, the one doing the bullying is in the wrong. When it happens for the first time, we should think that sometimes people make mistakes and forgive the person. However, if it continues, we have to think of a skillful way to deal with it. We should not, however, show anger nor should we harbor it inside for a long time, as this can be unhealthy for us. It is better to maintain a spacious mind.
Another question asked how to work with the different points of view between the older and younger generation? “In every society,” the Karmapa replied, “there are differences between the older and younger generations. Especially these days, when change is happening so quickly, the differences are even more pronounced.”
Giving himself as an example, the Karmapa recounted that after he was recognized and brought to the monastery, he was surrounded by people who were in their forties or older so he grew up with very traditional ways. “I was made into an old person when I was young,” he said. Nevertheless, he was of a young age and one cannot suppress that fact, so especially when he came to India, he learned about the younger generation through the Internet and in other ways.
“I think we need to make a bridge to connect the older and younger generations,” he remarked. It is important that the two generations come to understand each other,” the Karmapa stated. We should value the older generation and learn how to explain our way of thinking to them, he said, and not just think that they are old and do not matter.
The Karmapa mentioned his experience in bringing about change in his own lineage since it must adapt to stay in touch with the times. But then the older people are disappointed with these alterations. What the Karmapa noticed is that the way communication happens is important, so he did not dismiss these people as old-fashioned but made a special effort to explain the situation to them. “Fundamentally,” the Karmapa said, “we have the same goal but our way of thinking and the words we use are sometimes different. It is up to us then to give a clear explanation.”
The Karmapa gave an example related to his efforts to provide nuns with same opportunities to study that the monks have and also to give them the option of taking full ordination. “Some from the older generation have had trouble accepting this,” he recounted, “so I had to explain it to them on their terms using a traditional point of view.” Actually, he said, in explaining the essence of it, he returned to the Buddha’s teachings, becoming more traditional than they were, so they could not object. “It would be difficult to eliminate all our differences,” he remarked, “ but we can certainly reduce them.”
The next question asked how to live life so that when it comes time to die, we have no regrets. “Usually during the day we do a lot of things and at its end, we can bring to mind what we did and reflect on it.” Then we can develop the feeling of contentment and ease, he said, because we have become conscious, or mindful, of what we have accomplished. Usually we are not aware of what we are doing, so reflecting on how our day has gone will increase our mindfulness to the point that we can be mindful in the moment of what is happening within us. Likewise, he said, if we think that we only have one day more to live, what would we do? How would we make that day meaningful? This can also help us to live our lives so that we have no regrets.
How should we understand taking rebirth? was the next question. When we ask the older generation, they take the teachings literally and say, for example, that if we do something very negative, we will be reborn in the lower realms. For the younger generation, however, it is easier to speak of states of mind, understanding these realms as different kinds of consciousness. The Karmapa replied that both understandings⎯as a mental state and as a place of taking birth⎯are possible. Good and bad rebirths depend on the karma we have created, and further, not only are we reborn in one of the six realms, but there are also the differences of our particular place of birth, the surroundings, the type of body we have, our mental state, and so forth.
“When we speak of the three lower realms,” the Karmapa explained, “they can be understood from the point of view of their cause and of their effect. Their cause is a mental state.” For example if someone becomes very angry, this can propel them into a rebirth in a hell realm. We usually speak of the hot hells, he said, and the mental state of anger feels as if we are burning, so it is like being in hell. Similarly, the hungry ghosts suffer from having huge desires and great miserliness. Their throats are said to be as thin as a needle and their stomachs as big as a mountain. This can be read as a metaphor for the mental state of needing a lot and being unable to give. So the answer to your question, the Karmapa concluded, is that taking rebirth is both: a mental state as a cause and a particular kind of rebirth as a result.
The following question asked for the meaning of the name Karmapa, and he replied that before Buddhism spread in Tibet, there was a variety of different names, but once Buddhism arrived, people were given names in relation to the Dharma, so for example in Dharamsala you have many people with the name Tenzin, bestowed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Some lamas’ names, the Karmapa continued, are Tibetan and others are not. For example, Dalai means “ocean” so Dalai Lama means “the Ocean-like lama.” Also Karma from the name Karmapa is not Tibetan but Sanskrit and means “activity;” “pa” means “the person doing something” so all together the name means “the one who performs an activity” or “a worker.” What kind of work does the Karmapa do? He performs the activities of the Buddha. During the time of the first Karmapa, the name Karmapa was not public knowledge; it was only with the Second Karmapa that the name became well known.
The next question stated that originally Buddhism came from India and then when it arrived in Tibet, it divided into different traditions. Were these divisions beneficial or not? The Karmapa replied that when Buddhism spread from India, it underwent divisions depending on geography. There is the northern tradition of China and the southern tradition found in Thailand, and other countries.
In the beginning, Tibet had only one tradition, the Karmapa recounted, and when Buddhism spread, there were not just four schools but many more. Again, these differences were geographical; for example, he said, the Sakya school refers to the Buddhism from the place with gray-colored earth, and the Geluk school is known as the tradition from the mountainous area of Ganden where Je Rinpoche founded his monastery.
Fundamentally, however, the differences between the traditions are not great, the Karmapa stated. The situation resembles Tibetans saying that they from from this or that village, but in general they are all Tibetans. What is different are the names of the lamas and the monasteries and the ways of explaining emptiness, compassion, and bodhicitta, but from the ultimate point of view, he remarked, the differences are small. It is actually important, he concluded, that we have these different ways.
The main point here is that there is not a great difference between the various lineages. When we speak of Dharma, he commented, the main thing is that we transform our character and way of thinking; we become better people and can bring positive changes to our society. In general all religions have customs and it is easier to follow these than it is to effect deep changes within us.
The last question queried if one could be a Buddhist and also drink alcohol. The Karmapa responded that drinking alcohol is not included in the usual ten unvirtuous actions that are taught in Buddhism; however not drinking is part of the upasaka vows, which include not taking intoxicants. There is a debate, he noted, about whether drinking alcohol is in itself unvirtuous or not, but he would not discuss that here. The main danger with drinking alcohol, he said, is that we forget to be conscientious or careful about what we are doing and this can bring a range of problems. For example, there are rules that we should not drink and drive because this can be very dangerous, so we need to keep the potential for negative results in mind.

At the end of this lively and engaging discussion, the Karmapa was thanked by the organizers who also encouraged the young people to apply to their lives as much as possible the excellent advice they had received. The morning’s session ended with the Karmapa offering blessing cords to all those who had attended.