1st Journey to the West, 2008

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Notes from Karmapa in Seattle 2008 by Julie Adler and Daniel Kane:

These notes are paraphrases taken at different times during the teachings, with unintended errors in context and meaning, therefore please read . . . not as a transcribed "teaching."  Formal recordings are likely to be made available in the near future.

May 31, 2008 Saturday morning

A spiritual teacher must possess the necessary qualities. There is no ID card for spiritual teachers, so the way we find a teacher is to get to know who they are. We should approach a teacher as we would get to know teachers in the formal Western education process.

Faith alone will not mean we will practice correctly. Asking someone to be our teacher should occur after we get to know their motivation and conduct. In this day and age, we should not focus on the shortcomings of the teacher. In this age, all teachers will appear to have defects.

Besides, a perfect person would seem weird to us! (laughter)

The main duty of the student is to emulate the positive qualities of the teacher, not to critique their every move.

When doing a puja (offering) the real mandala is immense, it is the whole world and all its beings as pure, free of all problems, everything in its purest form.

Saturday afternoon

The ultimate Refuge is a manifestation of Buddhahood.
The suffering of others is difficult to comprehend; we see and hear about it every day, but we don't feel it in our hearts. We need to have a strong desire to help them, to take their suffering on ourselves.
Take the feelings of fear (that we don't want to suffer) and make it meaningful by cultivating compassion for them instead of our mundane feelings about life and suffering.

Attachment to outer objects is much weaker than our self clinging. We have such a fear of losing ourselves that it prevents us from allowing the deity to manifest. We should use our strongest creative powers.

Compassion is the willingness to never give up on sentient beings.

Saturday night (Sangha Gathering)

The Karmapa began with, "It's always good to see a loved one again after they have died so on behalf of the 16th Karmapa, it's good to see you again."

Then he went on to relate to everyone by saying that as a young person in the 21st century, he also struggles a lot with mental afflictions. And he has the aspiration that we experience joyfulness rather than suffering. He says to himself, `I'm not such a bad guy, an okay person.' If nothing else, he offers that his mere presence in the world is to help us experience love and happiness.
Once he gets back to India and reflects on his trip, he [said] he'll probably think, `there's no choice but to go back to America.'!!!

We need to have continual motivation, strong intention to bring the body, speech and mind under the service of good motivation. In this way, we do need to instruct ourselves also.

Here in the West, I see many of my friends, who have very busy lives and seem to take each little detail of their life and their activities so seriously, they get upset if they are 10 minutes late - when I first saw this I thought it was some kind of practice (laughter).  We should be more relaxed in our activities and not take every detail so seriously.

Don't get caught up in self-talk during hardships and obstacles. Fear of loss is ever present is our minds which makes us more tense and paranoid. Allow more space, more openness. We should be more relaxed and not attempt to power our minds all the time.

Highly realized beings also go through hardship, but it is the way they meet the hardship that is different.

Q:  For dharma students, what are the most important study topics in this age?

K:  We've become [begun?] too late for many of these practices. But if we engage in actions to accumulate merit, this will be of benefit to the world. Due to changes in technology and external advancements, we have obtained power to change the world and create the causes for change but now we have to become mindful of the dangers in the world.
The world is in danger of being destroyed. It's very important for us to engage in actions as a whole, for the world.  Rather than individual practice goals, seeking personal liberation is no longer
sufficient whatsoever.  In years before, yogis attained enlightenment, by going away for years and years, bringing 1 or 2 students to the level of realization but that model is not practical now. We need practitioners who benefit the world as a whole while at the same time practicing. We need to have people who are both practicing and helping.  Being out of the world, those who go off separating themselves from others, is now not an effective model for the dharma practitioner.

Go beyond limited concepts of what it means to have a Buddhist practice. The goal is to help all sentient beings, not just Buddhists. Step outside the boundaries of being only with Buddhist
people, in Buddhist environments.  There are many aspects to helping.
Education and cultivating positive qualities take them and readily share your knowledge. Go beyond Buddhist conceptions and the clinging to our Buddhist concepts in a limited way.

Q: What are the serious obstacles we Westerners should be aware of?

K: You should tell me what they are! Distractions are a great obstacle. It's a question for each of you. Often we get distracted by new objects.  Protecting our minds is an individual endeavor. What
is important is to meet that with mindfulness, to distinguish what to adopt and what to reject. I'll pray for you that you don't experience great obstacles or if you do, I'll help remove them with
you. I'd be happy to fight the obstacles for you and we will see who wins!
(big cheer from audience)

Since being in America, I have contracted many of your obstacles.  When I get back to India, I'll have to practice really hard in order to remove them.

Q: Many students emphasize formal sitting but not much study. Can you talk/advise on this?

K: The fundamental difference between practice and study we study to increase our intelligence, further our knowledge on many topics but study is not genuinely connected to our heart, it's more connected to the brain. Practice leads to a genuine shift in our hearts and minds.
To practice however, without prior study is not good. If we don't know the reasons why we practice, it's not good. The real essential point brought forth by practice is to monitor the shift in our heart and mind.  Feeling the process of positive qualities coming to light every day, delivering our heart to that state, is what we should aim for.  If the mind stays at the level of conceptual dry practice however, then it's nothing more than study.

Genuinely practicing compassion, the mind and heart are not separated.
There should be a recognition of the vivid experience of mind taking on compassion itself. At the level of mere understanding or a little experience but no follow through is not genuine practice.

Q: Most lay practitioners have limited time and resources for formal extensive practice. How can we Western students best establish the lineage in our homelands?

K: You saved the worst question for last. (laughter) There should be a strong continuity of practice, a firm resolve.  We should remind ourselves what we want to accomplish and refresh this resolve every day, for momentum on the path. Stick to this daily to witness progress. Body speech and mind have to work as servants of this goal.
Perhaps make a goal per month. Rely on mindfulness, set it up like the watchman.  Create external supports such as `reminder notes' or use objects. When we work on computers, we take breaks to help our eyes.  In the same way, we should take care of our minds, refresh them periodically, every hour or three times a day. Mindfulness is the seed you take with you and see how it grows.

In the West, there are no limits to our busy-ness.

We need to become teachers to ourselves, not just relying upon the instructions that our gurus provide but on our own instructions coming from ourselves. What we are lacking is instructions from ourselves -- we already have an abundance of our gurus' pith instructions.  I have
started doing this - when I first arrived in India, there were no teachers yet to guide me so I rested my mind, relaxed and waited for that certain answer or instruction to come. We need to seek out
instructions from our own minds.

To end, the Karmapa said, "I'll come again, no matter how long it takes" and then he recited an aspiration prayer for the audience.

Sunday morning, June 1st, 2008

The Karmapa said that the 2nd Karmapa (Karma Pakshi) was an emanation of Chenrezig and therefore, there is no need to further research or trace the connection between Karmapa and Chenrezig.

The Karmapa's inspiration for Chenrezig is his blind grandmother who has already accumulated over 10 million Manis. She is still in Tibet and still remains so cheerful. Her recitation of the Manis is related to the great hope she has had for the future, it fills her with great joy.  His mother is also on the way to approaching 10 million Manis.  These [two] are influential figures for him.  He grew up in a devotional environment to Chenrezig and that is his spiritual inheritance. Via phone, his mother told him that even if she only has the chance to do one Mani, she dedicates all the merit to him.  And she aspires that it become part of his virtue. The love is passed down in the family, transmitted through the mantra. This is how it feels to him. It is his family heirloom, the most sacred and he is now offering it to all of us.  This has been the profound gift of his family.

As for the connection with Chenrezig, it runs through the heart of every Tibetan. And also the Karmapa has a special connection to Chenrezig.  May you enjoy the love and light of all the Karmapas.

The way to establish lineage in our homelands is to have strong resolve , a pure motivation and develop momentum in order to make progress.

Americans are very courageous, always speak of `possibility' and have a deep respect for the truth, these are good qualities on the spiritual path.

[These] Miscellaneous notes from Julie Adler & Daniel Kane [are posted here with his permission]

May they be of some benefit.



  • Tibet Connection Podcast [tc0508] June 29/08, at minutes 33:14 "Karmapa in Seattle"

(Karmapa explained by Himself, by others, old, new, Tibetan, Western, Chinese)


More From the Seattle Part of the Visit

  • BlueOregon :  "The Karmapa Visits the Northwest" by Jeff Allworth + comments by many.
  • May 30/08, The Seattle Times (USA) "Seattle-ites Get Spiritual Insight:  The Karmapa visits" by Janet I. Tu, religion reporter :

    TIME magazine referred to him as "the world's next top lama."

    Elle Magazine named him one of "25 People to Watch."

    That's a lot of responsibility and acclaim for a 22-year-old.

    But, in a sense, this young man was born into the role. He is the Karmapa, one of the most prominent lamas -- or teachers - in Tibetan Buddhism, and a person regarded as a likely successor to the Dalai Lama as the symbol of Tibetan Buddhism worldwide.

    The Karmapa arrived Thursday in Seattle as part of a two-week U.S. tour -- his first visit to the West. He plans to meet with local Buddhists and give public teachings.

    The Karmapa is traditionally regarded as third in prominence among lamas, after the Dalai and Panchen Lamas, said Robert Thurman, professor of Indo-Tibetan Studies at Columbia University and author of the new book "Why the Dalai Lama Matters."

    The Karmapa's U.S. tour is significant, Thurman said, because "it's good for the world to note that there are these younger lamas who can become major spokespersons for the Tibetan people."

    His visit is "a very big deal for us," said Dzogchen Ponlop, the Seattle-based Buddhist monk who organized the tour. "His presence brings a lot of blessings, a lot of inspiration."

    Controversial matters

    The 17th Karmapa, named Ogyen Drodul Trinley Dorje, was born to a nomadic family in eastern Tibet.

    He is considered to be the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa, although there is controversy surrounding the matter.

    Another boy was also identified as being the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa, and that young man also has a strong following, particularly in Asia and Europe. But most Tibetan Buddhists, especially in America, regard Ogyen Dorje as the Karmapa, and he was confirmed as such by the Dalai Lama, Thurman said.

    The Karmapa -- who is a leader of the Kagyu order, one of the four major schools within Tibetan Buddhism -- made international news when he escaped Tibet eight years ago, fleeing across the Himalayas to India. There, he met with the Dalai Lama.

    That was significant, Thurman said, because for centuries there was a strained relationship between the Kagyu school and the Gelug school, to which the Dalai Lama belongs.

    That the Karmapa and Dalai Lama have a "wonderful mentor, senior-junior relationship bodes very well for unity between these important lamas and their orders," Thurman said. "This is very important for the unity of the Tibetan community."

    Thurman also thinks the Karmapa's U.S. visit -- he spoke to sold-out audiences in New York and Boulder, Colo., earlier this month - could help gain support for the Tibetan cause.

    Thurman said China believes "when the Dalai Lama is gone, people will forget about Tibet. This helps people know this is not going to be the case."

    Nonpolitical motives

    Nonetheless, the Karmapa's visit is nonpolitical, emphasized Ponlop, the tour organizer and Seattle-based monk who founded Nalanda West, a center in Fremont dedicated to fostering American Buddhism.

    Unlike the Dalai Lama, who is both spiritual and [viewed as a] political leader of Tibetan Buddhists, the Karmapa's role has historically been spiritual, Ponlop said. "I don't see him getting involved in politics."

    While the Karmapa will be teaching here, he will also be learning about the West.

    "It's good to get him exposed to Western culture," said Ponlop, who has known the Karmapa since he was a boy.

    Ponlop said the Karmapa is an inquisitive young man, open to ideas from the West. And "his participation in our goal to establish American Buddhism is indispensable."

    America has an open, pioneering spirit, but at the same time, there is much anxiety, pain and rage, Ponlop said.

    "There is this sense of need for spiritual insight," he said. The presence of the Karmapa "helps us connect with our own heart."

    ~ Janet I. Tu:  jtu@seattletimes.com

From Colorado

Public teaching [?], Boulder, CO: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/787079/the_17th_karmapa_visits_boulder_seattle.html

From New York

  • ***CurryNoodle's blog, May 20, NYC***

  • Try to find J. Gritz' photo #22 of HH greeting Lou Reed at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC.

  • HH at Kunzang Palchen Ling, Red Hook, NY

  • 11 Great Photos of Karmapa at KTD

  • New Jersey, more rainbows
  • KTD's gallery of press photos
  •  King of Yogis visits US

  •  HH Karmapa arrives at Shambhala

  • May 15/08, Time Magazine, "The World's Next Top Lama" by David Van Biema:

    To the apparent astonishment and delight of his American retinue, the
    baby-faced 22-year-old who may one day replace the Dalai Lama as the
    world symbol of Tibetan Buddhism and icon of Tibetan aspirations said
    today, on his first trip here, that he hoped he might be able to spend two months a year in the United States, raising the possibility that in decades to come, America could become an important focus for that community.

    Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa, or head of the Kagyu sect of
    Tibetan Buddhism, sat at his ease in a throne-like overstuffed chair
    in New York's Waldorf Towers hotel, rimless rectangular glasses
    perched on his pleasantly round, shaven head, a yellow shirt peeking
    out from underneath a dark red robe, feet in pebbled brown loafers.
    Reputedly stern, the Karmapa, who spent half an hour with TIME, was
    both remarkably well-tempered and focused for a man who had just come
    off a 14-hour flight -- by far his longest since he arrived in India
    eight years ago as a teenager after a swash-buckling escape from
    China by foot, horseback and plane. Asked whether he had slept on on
    his way here, he replied in English, "Sleep, but not well. Lot of . . ."
    and he did an expert mime of transatlantic turbulence.

    Dorje's two-week American trip, which will include stops in New York
    City, his sect's center in Seattle and the vast monastery his
    adherents have nearly completed in Woodstock, N.Y., is a literal
    "coming out." The Indian government, wary of relations with China,
    had not until now allowed the young man, whom the Dalai Lama had
    taken under his wing, to travel internationally. Followers here who
    have not seen their leader since his predecessor died in 1981 (they
    believe four years passed before his reincarnation) will bask in his
    attention and teachings. "The previous Karmapa visited the U.S.
    several times and his dharma activity here was vast," he said (this
    time through a translator). "It is my hope to continue that." He
    added, "My work is not going to be conducted only among other
    Buddhists, but to help everyone." He also said he wants to "look at
    things not only from a Buddhist perspective," but from the viewpoint
    of other faiths as well -- a tall order.

    And although he confirmed an adviser's caution that Kagyu leaders
    have no tradition of engaging in politics, he noted, "As far as I'm
    concerned, the situation in Tibet, particularly the political
    situation, has reached a level of emergency." He sees his teacher as
    a major player in dealing with it: "The Dalai Lama is both the
    spiritual and secular leader of all the Tibetan people, and is
    recognized as such all over the world, and the Dalai Lama has a
    tremendous responsibility in his great efforts to bring about a
    peaceful resolution." But he noted that "in the Tibetan tradition we
    regard the connection between a lama and his spiritual teacher to be
    sacred." And "like all Tibetans, I will continue to support him in
    this as best I can in the future."

    Indeed, when the Dalai Lama, currently a relatively healthy 72, dies,
    the Karmapa could end up his replacement as the face of Tibet. He
    could never be the next Dalai Lama. "Karmapa," like "Dalai Lama," is
    its own reincarnate title. Nor could he become the hands-on political
    leader of a Tibetan government or government-in-exile, a job the
    Dalai Lama has ceded to a prime minister.  But a recent YouTube video
    shows the Dalai Lama talking to the Karmapa and Ling Rinpoche, the
    19-year-old reincarnation of another high monk. The older man tells
    them, "You two . . .  are still young, and when I die you will be the
    ones who continue my work." In the video, the Karmapa starts
    slightly, and his eyes roll back a moment before he regains composure.

    The video, which seems authentic, reinforces sentiments the Dalai
    Lama expressed in public in 2001 and acknowledges the Karmapa's
    unique portfolio. The Karmapa is traditionally regarded as the third
    most important person in Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama and
    the Panchen Lama, who disappeared years ago and whose replacement,
    picked by the Chinese, is not recognized by most Tibetans. He is
    unusual among a new generation of leaders because of his birth and
    training as a high lama in Tibet. He speaks fluent Chinese, and
    attracted numerous Chinese adherents before fleeing. The Karmapa's
    close relationship with the Dalai Lama knits up a historic tension
    between their two lineages, and helps make him a unifying figure.

    Robert Thurman, an expert in Tibetan Buddhism at Columbia University
    who knows the Dalai Lama well, has had repeated contact with the
    Karmapa and will soon publish a book titled Why the Dalai Lama
    , worries that "if [the Karmapa] is pressured by devotees to
    travel and teach too much at too young an age at the expense of his
    studies," it could prevent him from "manifesting his full strength."
    But if he is allowed to mature, says Thurman, "50 years from now my
    son may have to write a book saying Why the Karmapa matters."

    Meanwhile, for the head of a major Tibetan lineage to spend a sixth
    of every year in the United States would be a tremendous boost for
    the Buddhist community here. The Karmapa's p.r. representative claims
    he has attained a near sell-out of 21,000 seats at teachings he will
    give here (starting with one Saturday at Manhattan's Hammerstein
    Ballroom) almost solely on the strength of e-mail chains. Many in the
    audience will be his age. When a reporter noted that the Kagyu
    lineage is known for its stress on practice and that his own
    generation is not known for its patience, the Karmapa delivered some
    advice that his American followers could no doubt appreciate. "If
    people have no patience," he said, "they have no patience, and I
    can't insist that they develop it. But I've observed that human life
    without patience becomes unworkable. My experience has been that I've
    been forced to develop patience with unchangeable situations." It is
    a virtue to recommend as well to those hoping for a solution for
    Tibet's status.
  • KarmapaVisit/Blogspot updates

This editor would like to thank very much everyone who made, preserved (and will preserve) the memory, and to all who made this visit possible.

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