With only 11 days of notice because of visa restrictions imposed by India, which has given him sanctuary since his flight from Tibet in 2000, KTD marshaled a small battalion of volunteers, staff members, security personnel, shuttle van drivers, parking attendants, greeters, cooks and other recruits to do the thousands of things necessary to make the visit possible, according to Mark Rothe, KTD executive director. Following the lama’s arrival on Friday, the visit’s first leg included teachings on Saturday and Sunday for some 1000 ticketed followers in a specially erected tent on the property along with various other smaller ceremonies and audiences for individual groups. After a several-day visit to Karma Thegsum Choling in Shamong, New Jersey, one of some 40 KTD affiliate centers nationwide starting on Wednesday, the Karmapa is expected to return to Woodstock on Friday or Saturday in time for a public appearance at Woodstock’s Comeau property at 3 p.m. on Monday, July 25. The Karmapa will speak about “Caring for the Earth,” sharing teachings on “caring for ourselves as human beings and for the earth we call home,” said Rothe. The appearance is intended to give local residents an opportunity to meet the Tibetan teacher.
At KTD last weekend, where followers assembled from around the world to hear his remarks, the Karmapa began his teachings by emphasizing the importance of cultivating human goodness and compassion, cautioning students against permitting a self-consciousness of their Buddhist practice to obscure the basic importance of always acting first as a human being. “Sometimes we skip the necessary first step,” he emphasized in Tibetan that was translated into English, although the lama said he is currently studying English. “It is not sufficient for the dharma [teachings] to embody perfection; it is also important for the individual practicing it to be perfect.”
In monks robes, with a shaved head, and wearing his ever-present wire-rimmed glasses, the lama segued to Buddhist teachings by stressing the importance of coordinating one’s actions, speech and thoughts to alleviate the so-called “suffering” that is the human condition. “It is our own mind that hurts us,” he said. “What hurts us is our own anger and ill will. We can run away from that which is physical but it is harder to run away from that which is the mind.”
We tend to identify ourselves based on outward, physical attributes and skills, he noted. An individual may be a physician but that person is actually “so much more.” What is truly authentic and at the core of our essence is “our innate capacity for love and compassion,” he emphasized.
In today’s technological society, we are constantly being bombarded by “an unprecedented amount of information that actually increases our self-fixation” and “leads us further and further from the truth,” the Karmapa said. Even our software refers to “my computer, my documents.” Added the lama, “We need to think about not only our bodies, speech and mind but also the interconnectedness between ourselves and others...The concept of ‘mine’ imprisons us and places us in solitary confinement.”
The Karmapa’s visit to Woodstock followed a 10-day gathering in Washington, DC “Kalachakra for World Peace,” with the Dalai Lama, spiritual head of the Tibetan people. Beginning on July 6, the 76th birthday of the Dalai Lama, the event was intended to amplify his commitment to the values of love, compassion, wisdom and interfaith harmony.++