Last weekend His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa taught during his usual public audience in Gyuto. His teaching itself was very far from usual, and since it struck each one of us powerfully. we'd like to share a brief summary here. The talk was delivered mainly in Tibetan, with English translation provided by Chag Ngodrup Tsering, while His Holiness partially addressed the gathering directly in English at times as well.
Speaking to a large group of Tibetan and international students, His Holiness began by noting that whether in our Dharma practice or while working at our ordinary activities, there are certain stages through which we progress and levels at which we need to operate. Similarly the Dharma offers various vehicles that accord with practitioner’s predispositions and capacities. At times we do not keep a clear understanding of the meaning of the notion of vehicle (Tibetan: theg pa; Sanskrit: yana) in Buddhism. Actually, the Tibetan term theg pa is derived from the verb teg pa, meaning to lift up. In this sense, Buddhist vehicles correspond to how much weight a person is able to lift, or how great a burden of responsibility they are able to shoulder at any given moment.
Often we hear that the various vehicles were taught to correspond to the levels of disciples’ capacities, and people may feel that it is demeaning to think that they are of lower ability and thus are practicing a lower vehicle. Yet just as it is inappropriate to expect to enter graduate school before we have completed kindergarten, there are stages through which we must pass in our spiritual development as well. It is important, His Holiness said, to be able to acknowledge one’s current stage and to train at that level. In order to be able to carry the responsibility for the happiness and wellbeing of limitless others, we need to be grounded ourselves. Thus planting our own feet firmly on the ground and anchoring ourselves is a crucial step in becoming able to benefit others.
A major issue in this process is our self-grasping, and the attachment and anger that are rooted in it. We often look at our food, clothes and even our own body and think that they are entirely and naturally ours, and do not depend on the presence of anyone else. This is completely mistaken, as there is nothing we have, including our own body, that can exist even for one instant without relying on others.
His Holiness clarified the distinction between working to cut our attachment versus becoming detached. Detachment implies cutting ourselves off from others, keeping them at a distance, and can even refer to a mental illness in which people are pathologically unable to empathize with the suffering of others. As such, detachment reflect a lack of awareness of the interdependence that connects us intimately to all others.
Failing to recognize our interdependence and based on our mistaken self-grasping, we often behave as if we were living in a prison, a prison created by this very self-grasping. Just as only close family members and a very few friends have the right to visit prisoners in jail, so we often give access only to a small circle, and effectively lock the door and shut the rest of the world out. If we are able to let in only a small number of our dear ones, it will be extremely difficult to sincerely generate the vast mind of great compassion and lovingkindness, that is able to encompass all sentient beings equaling space.
Hoping we may be able to provide you details of how to hear teachings 'live' over the net in the new few days...