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Feelin' the Love

May 27, 2008

My experience with the 17th Karmapa

The 17th Karmapa is making his first visit to the United States at the young age of 22. I was pretty excited about this historic event, but I forgot to buy tickets as I was in the midst of all my pregnancy drama. The 17th Karmapa is on par with the Dalai Lama. I figure he rates more than the Dalai Lama since he’s got three and a half more life times under his belt, but the Dalai Lama is more of an international spiritual rockstar than the Karmapa. Both are heads of their respective Tibetian Buddhism lineages, of which there are four.

One day, I got a letter in the mail saying that all the tickets were sold out, but that since I’m a member of my local Shambhala Center, which happens to be part of the Kagyu lineage, the lineage that the Karmapa is the head of, they had a ticket for me. I went to get tickets with another space cadet friend of mine who had done the same thing as me.

We were at the last event of the day for the Karmapa, an address to all the local Buddhist communities who had helped bring the 17th Karmapa to the US for the first time. A few other Buddhist rockstars were in the house, like Pema Chodron (who could forget her book “When Things Fall Apart”?) and Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. But it was the camaraderie of two of my closest friends who were there that mattered to me the most, one who I planned on sitting next to, and the other who unexpectedly ended up in the row behind me. These are friends who I have shared my story with and cried with.

The Karmapa’s words were not what struck me the most. He had these piercing eyes. The audience reacted to his stare with laughter, because it looked kind of funny, but those eyes were clearly the gaze of someone with a lot of wisdom. When you have had 16 lifetimes, I guess you’ve been around the block a few times and learn a few things.

What touched me the most was the Karmapa’s heart. He said that the love of his last incarnation, the 16th Karmapa, for America was what drove him to want to come to America. He said that because of his love for us, he persevered over his difficulties in coming to the United States. He said that he loved us, 2000 of his best friends? That was a pretty vulnerable thing to say to a bunch of people he never met before half way around the world from his home in a different language and different culture. I walked out of there feeling contented and peaceful, but I couldn’t really say why. It was something about the Karmapa. It was his presence.

The next morning, I had a dream in which the Karmapa appeared to me. I haven’t had a dream this clear in a long time that I have remembered. There is something about this person that is truly genuine. Something very selfless and compassionate about someone who has come back after 16 lifetimes of suffering to help his fellow human beings. And here he was coming to me. It made me pause and think about what is really important. It made me question my motivations for wanting to have children. I felt touched by grace.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. The Muser permalink
    May 28, 2008 10:06 pm

    Thanks for the comment on my blog (I’ve responded to it there, so I won’t repeat my response here). I love this story about your spiritual teacher, and about the dream. I vividly remember the one dream I’ve had like that about a woman who was one of my spiritual leaders/mentors appearing to me in a dream after her death. Even thinking about it still makes me feel like I’m visited by grace.

  2. luna permalink
    May 29, 2008 10:56 am

    great post, and cool dream. we saw the dalai lama last year and it very much felt like we were seeing some sort of spiritual rock star. we just felt graced by his presence.

  3. Deathstar permalink
    May 29, 2008 12:05 pm

    I actually did read this post the other day, but I’ve been crazy busy and needed some time to think of what to say. Namaste and nam myo ho renge kyo to a fellow Buddhist! There are very few people in this world that just give you goosebumps when you see them, it makes enlightenment seem possible for human beings.

  4. Shinejil permalink
    May 30, 2008 12:26 am

    How excellent that you got some comfort and perspective from the Karmapa. I’ve been lucky enough to see HH Dalai Lama, and the words and presence of someone devoted to compassion can truly ease suffering. I’m glad you’ve gotten to have a moment of that.

    I wonder a lot about my own and others’ motives for having children.

  5. nycphoenix permalink
    May 30, 2008 12:57 am

    Thank you for a wonderful post. Found my way her through Mel at Stirrup Queens and just had to greet a sister Phoenix

  6. Lori permalink
    May 30, 2008 2:56 am

    Sounds like I should join the Shambhala Center.

  7. HeidiM permalink
    June 3, 2008 9:06 am

    Thanks for sharing. Reading this made me think how important just our presence can be. The right words aren’t as important as our intentions, what’s in our hearts. I’m amazed at how many commenters saw the Dali Lama!

    Your post made me think of my favorite scene in “Seven Years in Tibet,” when Heinrich brags about being an Olympic medal winner to the seamstress, and she says, “This is another great difference between our civilization and yours. You admire the man who pushes his way to the top in any walk of life, while we admire the man who abandons his ego.”

    Your view of the Karampa made me think of that. A man who shares his love, not his ego.

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