Karmapa 1970

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Account of Hollingshead's 1970 Meeting


In the late 1960's, before they were declared illegal, many people in industrialized countries experimented with drugs such as hashish, psilocybin, peyote (and related synthetics such as LSD a. k. a. acid) in the pursuit of so-called mystical experiences.  Until that time these substances had been used mainly in traditional cultures.  Inspired by books such as Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception, an account of his subjective investigation into the properties of mescaline, they turned to mind-altering drugs in the belief that these substances could ease the way to special states of consciousness as reported by yogis and shamans, but without the years of dedication, preparation and discipline. 

Harvard professor Dr. Timothy Leary discovered, during his first experiment with psilocybin mushrooms, that "the world -- so manifestly real -- was actually a tiny stage set constructed by the mind," that human beings are conditioned or  programmed," and that "everything we accept as reality is just a social fabrication" (Flashbacks: An Autobiography, 1983.)  In 1962, after being introduced to the similar but more potent substance LSD by British philosophy student, Michael Hollingshead, Leary became its foremost proponent. 

The Momentous Meeting

Michael Hollingshead developed into a dedicated investigator of the mind's remarkable nature, and so it is not surprising that in chapter 10 of his book, The Man Who Turned On the World (1974,) he tells us that in 1970, in Nepal, through a friend called Ram Prasad, he met the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa:  

" . . . Rama Prasad came round to see me about arranging a meeting with the celebrated Buddhist monk and saint, His Holiness—Gyalwa Karmapa, who was visiting Kathmandu and staying with the monks at Swayambhunath. Rama knew Karmapa quite well, and had even entertained him once at a reception in his townhouse.  I was naturally very interested in having an audience with Karmapa, for I had heard and read much about him. He was the head of the Kagyudpa Order of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, and recognised as the sixteenth Karmapa incarnation. 

The audience was arranged for dawn on the following morning, and Rama Prasad said he'd pick me up at my house in his car.  I stayed up all that night, preparing myself for the temple meeting, and performing chillum and acid sadhana. When Rama Prasad collected me, I was very stoned indeed, and could hardly find my way out of the garden into the Mercedes. Then we sped off into the blackness and reached the top of Swayambhu just as the first light of dawn appeared through the gaps between the surrounding mountains. It was a glorious sight. And I felt a very special sense of reverence; there was a holiness about the place, more intense than I had ever experienced there before; my head and heart were open to anything. 

We were taken up some stairs to the top floor and shown into an antechamber where a monk tied a piece of orange cloth around my neck. He then indicated that I should follow him, and he led me from the chamber into a huge sal brilliant with tankas, and murals, and statues. At the far end, seated on a throne, sat Karmapa; and next to him, seated on a cushion in the full lotus position, was Rama Prasad. 

I approached Karmapa slowly, my eyes to the floor, with short bows every few steps. When I reached the throne, I looked up and saw a beam of bright light issuing from the centre of his silver crown or it may have been a beam of sunlight catching a reflection through the lattice-work windows. But the effect was quite startling. It really could seem that he was emitting light from his 'third eye' in the centre of his forehead.  I recovered from this startling hallucination, sufficiently anyhow, to hand him the white silk scarf I had brought as a present. 

Karmapa then spoke to me through an interpreter:  'According to the tradition since the Buddha, it has been customary to preserve the record of gifts, as a token of one's inner sense of benevolence. This is so that it may serve as a historical record of the Dharma too. Your name will therefore be added to the names of people contributing to this tradition.' 

I was then asked to say anything I wished to Karmapa.  What I wished to say was for the future: to see many of the Lamas and families of the esoteric Dharma move to the West. And, how this work could be furthered by the lamas opening a dialogue with the Chiefs and Elders of the North American Indian Tribe called the Hopi whose villages I had once visited in Arizona. The lands of the North American Indians stretch from parts of Canada down to the Mexican border and comprise some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, parts of which are remarkably similar to Tibet, particularly in Colorado and New Mexico. But these lands are now under siege again, for, as the indigenous Indian population is encouraged to leave the reservations and accept an alien white culture—which is happening in the case of the young Indians at a truly frightening rate—these holy lands will be taken over in a few years by the U.S. Government, and then by the builders. Yet potentially they could provide a sort of 'spiritual backbone' for a future, more spiritualized America.  

Karmapa remained silent throughout all this. When I had finished, he beckoned me closer and, as I bent my head, his hands touched the centre of my head, and suddenly, unaccountably, like a bolt, I experienced Samadhi one of the most extraordinary moments of consciousness of which man is capable. And I felt utterly and completely cleansed, as though the divine thunderbolt had gone through me like a million volt charge. It was a feeling that was to remain with me for quite some days. 

The memory of this great Initiation persists. I believe that on that special morning when I met Karmapa my life was changed and in ways that I am only now beginning to understand, which I have yet to assimilate, and, in time, express outwardly and through my being. For if ever there were a living god, Karmapa is it: of this I am utterly convinced.   

Ninety-five per cent of all Buddhists, from Ladakh to NEFA (North Assam) belong to the Kargyudpa esoteric sect, of which Karmapa is the spiritual leader.   Like all the other Karmapa incarnations, His Holiness is famous for his erudite scholarship, integrity of character, and excellence in yogic practices. The embodiment of compassion, in human form, Karmapa cares for and loves all human beings, and takes pains for their spiritual salvation.  He is equally well-honoured and followed by Kings, Lamas and laymen, in Tibet, China, Mongolia, India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, as also throughout south-east Asia, Japan, Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Canada, Great Britain, U.S.A., Sweden, Denmark, Spain, etc.   And daily now Karmapa prays for the world … :

'May all spiritual leaders enjoy long lives and prosperity. May the Sangha multiply and fulfill their duties. May the blessings of the Dharma liberate all departed souls. In the world may sickness, poverty, wars and all evil influences be cut at the root and destroyed. May all things of the Kali Yuga . . . be dispersed.' "


Gyalwa: Tibetan expression for Great as the Ocean. Profound, Extensive and All-encompassing; synonymous with the Mongol word, Dalai

chillum:  a traditional Indian straight pipe used for the smoking of herbal products that is held vertically in the two-handed mudra or ritual gesture that stands for the union of Wisdom and Method.

Kali Yuga: in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology, an era of discord and darkness which astrologers see signs of in this day and age.

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