Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thousands of Prior Steps

His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa gave a beautiful but very brief talk in Tibetan in Gyuto recently to an audience that included many Tibetan-speaking pilgrims from the Himalayan regions as well as Tibetans newly arrived from Tibet, their cheeks burnt from the weeks under the sun's violent glare as they crossed the Himalayan peaks on foot to reach India. There was no English translation, sadly, and His Holiness explained to us English speakers that these are things he always says, so there would be no particular need to translate them for us. But though most of us in this community have heard most of the public talks His Holiness has given in the last few years, and there were new and fresh things for us there. The summary below is limited to the first half of what was perhaps a 10-minute talk! It is offered here with the wish that it may serve as a cause of greater satisfaction and joy in your life...

His Holiness began by observing that it is clear that we all have a longing for happiness, and want peace and wellbeing in our lives. We all want this, and yet we are not always so clear how to get it, how to live our lives in such a way that happiness will come about, or even quite where it comes from. We may at times look to external objects or goods to bring us happiness, and while the Dharma tells us that happiness comes from within and not from without, we can also see for ourselves that people with great wealth are not necessarily people with great happiness. In fact, their lives are often full of anxieties and unhappiness. So obviously happiness does not lie outside. On the contrary, it comes form within the mind of each of us, and each of us must in fact bring that happiness about for ourselves. In this context, the practice of contentment that is discussed in Buddhist texts has a great role to play. Cultivating a sense of satisfaction with what we have is possible, and can bring about a general inner climate of great peace and happiness within us.

As an example, if we consider just the fact that we are breathing, we can see that in fact, not only one factor is required just for us to be able to sit here and breathe, but many things had to happen upstream, as it were, before all that is necessary for us to take a breathe. Many trees had to grow, the atmosphere had to fill with oxygen and many other factors had to come together precisely as needed. For the conditions to come to together so that we can breathe, many prior steps had to happen - thousands of prior steps, in fact, if we analyze carefully. This is actually amazing, if we think about it. And this is not only the case with one single breath. We are breathing 24 hours a day, and so this situation truly can cause us great amazement and delight.

If we consider anything else we have in life in this way, reflecting how amazing it is that the conditions came together for us to have it, and also training ourselves to recognize the great value of whatever we do have, this can enhance our sense of satisfaction and joy in our lives. We can make ourselves happy, and more and more happy, through this recognition.

When problems or difficult situations arise in our lives, as they often do, we can put our energy into thinking how terrible they are and in that way allow our suffering to increase, as our mind focuses on what is negative. Or rather than focus on the inadequacies or unsatisfactoriness of a situation, we can move our minds in a positive direction, by contemplating how tremendously valuable and amazing it is for us to have whatever positive things we do have.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

HH Karmapa's Statement on Postponed Trip to Europe

Yesterday (April 7) His Holiness issued the following statement regarding his postponed trip to Europe:

I know that the Co-ordinator of Karmapa in Europe 2010, has already notified everyone that my proposed visit has had to be cancelled for reasons beyond my control. I was very much looking forward to meeting with my European students, visiting your dharma centres, giving teachings, and having the opportunity to gain first-hand experience and insight into the great variety of European life and culture.

I was wholeheartedly preparing for this visit so you will understand that I too was sad and disappointed when I learned that I would not be able to come this time. However, I hope that this is merely a temporary setback and that I will definitely be able to visit Europe in the near future.

It remains for me to express my gratitude to Ringu Tulku and all of you in the different countries and dharma centres who have worked so hard to prepare for the visit. Please be assured that your work has not been in vain or wasted. By these efforts, you have planted a powerful seed and when it reaches fruition my intention to come to Europe will be fulfilled.

Meanwhile, my aspiration and vision remain firm. I am determined to follow in the footsteps of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, renewing connections with long-standing students and forging a closer relationship with all my European friends, past, present and future.

17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje,
Gyuto Tantric University,
Himachal Pradesh,

Sunday, April 4, 2010

HH Karmapa's Europe trip canceled

Emails have begun flooding in to us, asking with incredulity whether the news people are hearing can possibly be true that the Indian government did not approve His Holiness the 17th Karmapa's application for permission to travel to Europe for his much-awaited visit to his Dharma centers there.

Unfortunately, it is really true. His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje will not be going to Europe this June (and so of course neither will we). Here is the letter from Ringu Tulku announcing this sad turn of events.

Despite all the hopes that had been raised, and the joyful anticipation that is now suddenly dashed, His Holiness is here, receiving people with his usual tranquil presence and and that undercurrent of intensely powerful joy that is one of his trademark qualities. Watching His Holiness direct the fullness of his attention to each person coming before him, you would never think that he had actually heard this devastating news.

In terms of the possibility of truly remaining joyful under adverse conditions, in terms of the possibility to train our minds to maintain equanimity and stay focused on what we can do for others, and in terms of not grasping onto anything as real and inherently existent, watching His Holiness' response to this setback is a very powerful and very inspiring teaching.

Although the trip is not happening now, still much virtue has been created merely in the process of planning and organizing. During our own small efforts to prepare to participate in the tour, we made many wholesome connections with people in Europe, and created new Dharma friendships along the way. That is surely true for many others hoping to hear His Holiness' teachings--and certainly much more the case for all those who have been working with such sincere motivations to lay the groundwork for His Holiness' visit in June. We will not meet our new friends in Europe this time around... but we know that the connections made in the course of attempting to create goodness in the world are never lost, and are never finally anything but a cause of joy. From this, we take heart, as we prepare to wait for the moment when the conditions come together so that the seeds of this goodness now planted can yield what will surely be a bountiful harvest in future.

In the meantime, efforts are underway to ascertain the reasons for the denial of travel permission, and as that becomes clear, we may gain a fuller understanding of what went wrong and how it might be corrected next time. His Holiness needs this permission to travel from his temporary residence here in northern India, due to his particular status as a refugee and as a prominent leader of the Tibetan people, and it is granted only at the discretion of the Indian governmental agency in charge of such matters. We will share what we can as it becomes clearer.