Karmapa's Message at the Summer Course 2022
Transcript of the pre-recorded speech by Thaye Dorje, H.H. the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, given at the Diamond Way Buddhism International Summer Course 2022 in Immenstadt, Germany.
Dear Dharma friends, over the course of the current year, as well as the next, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Diamond Way network of Buddhist centres created by none other than Lama Ole Nydahl and his late wife Hannah.
This great journey of theirs started all the way back in 1972, following the request of my predecessor, H.H. the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, to establish Buddhist centres of the Karma Kagyu lineage in the western world.
Lama Ole and Hannah really took this instruction to heart, and they worked tirelessly to make the Buddha Dharma accessible to people around the globe.
Throughout these years, their activity was nourished by their devotion to my predecessor Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. He remained their main source of inspiration until his passing in 1981, and beyond.
The continuation was then assured by the late Shamar Rinpoche, who embodied everything that Rigpe Dorje had taught and practiced. In that way, the stream of teaching and energy continued to be nourished, ensuring that the directions Rigpe Dorje had given to Lama Ole and Hannah stayed on track.
Over the past 50 years, Lama Ole has given countless Dharma talks; he has offered the Buddhist Refuge to tens of thousands of people, led innumerable meditation courses, and founded 640 Karma Kagyu centres all over the world.
Obviously, from a spiritual point of view, all of these activities are extremely important, but beyond that, what really touched my heart were the simple things Lama Ole did, his human qualities.
I think in life it is the small things that really matter. During my childhood I met many, many wonderful practitioners, and beside their perseverance in their practice and guiding their students, it was the small things, the human touch that really mattered.
During all the time I spent travelling with Lama Ole and Hannah, I had plenty of opportunity to personally witness these simple human qualities.
I also heard a lot of stories about both of them, which many of you know and have experienced, I’m sure. So, many individuals may have had their own experience.
To me, one of the most striking qualities of Lama Ole is the enthusiasm, the tireless effort he manifests. To a point, where the people around him at times almost had to drag him away from his enthusiasm.
This is something that has always touched my heart, and it still does.
To Lama Ole, words such as “I’m tired” or “I’m sick” or “Maybe later” or “Another time”, those vocabularies simply don’t seem to be part of his dictionary. And I think that is truly amazing.
Of course, such qualities are innately there in all human beings, but in most of them, one could say they are quite dormant in many ways. And who knows, in the case of Lama Ole, it could be that these dormant qualities were woken up by seeing how Rangjung Rigpe Dorje led his life.
Rigpe Dorje slept no more than 3-4 hours a night, constantly being there for everyone during the rest of his time, and maybe the short time that Lama Ole and Hannah were able to spend with Rigpe Dorje was enough to evoke or awaken something in them.
I feel that I could see that something whenever I was with them. Whether old friend, fellow practitioner or stranger, Ole never got tired of offering a helping hand. Giving advice, offering protection or a sense of comfort.
While travelling, not only would he always carry his own luggage, those tiring luggages, but whenever he saw someone else struggling under their own heavy load or something, he would immediately run after that person and use his own hands or even his feet, if necessary, to prop this person up.
I remember another thing that I often noticed about Lama Ole, and which is something I myself learnt from my late grandmother: he would not let anything go to waste.
For example, whatever food was cooked for him or otherwise offered to him, he would eat as much of it as he could, and then always make sure that whatever he couldn’t eat, would then be passed on to someone else, so it wouldn’t go to waste.
He would appreciate the food for its own merit. Meaning that it’s not about the quality or the quantity, but that food is food.
He simply appreciated whatever was offered on any particular day, in a very similar way to how food was offered to the members of the Buddha’s sangha, when they went around on their daily rounds of alms.
They wouldn’t say, “No, no, I don’t want this” or “I’m allergic to that”, but just gracefully accept whatever was offered.
Another thing that I find really inspiring is how Lama Ole has always tried to answer every single letter he received – be it on paper or later on by electronic email – even if it meant staying up until the early hours of the morning.
Of course, these are just a very few things that I’m mentioning. But in short, to me, it is these small human things that really mattered and touched my heart.
And I think that these simple gestures have played a large part in Lama Ole’s touching so many lives, creating so many centres and bringing so many practitioners to the Buddha Dharma.
And of course, in all of these activities, his wife Hannah stood by him and supported him tirelessly until her untimely death in 2007.
Lama Ole and Hannah’s precious activity has accumulated immeasurable joy and merit. And I truly rejoice in their unwavering dedication to practicing and sharing the Buddha Dharma.
Without it, many of these wonderful homes, which we call centres, and of course, particularly the Europe Center, would not exist, and all of us would not be able to gather here today for this event.
Many of you who are either physically present at EC today or participating in this event by live streaming, are very old students of Lama Ole’s – pioneers of the early days, one could say, or veterans, as it were.
Many of you go back a long, long way and are old fellow travellers on the path of the Buddha Dharma.
I’m sure you all must remember so many wonderful moments shared with Lama Ole and each other; moments where you experienced immense joy; moments where you felt you were almost enlightened.
You must remember many occasions where everything Lama Ole said and did made complete sense to you, and where you felt, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that this is it.
You must have so many memories of amazing times, spent in the company of good friends, full of fun, laughter, great talks, smiles and all sorts of great adventures.
And of course, it’s completely natural to cherish these good memories. It is also quite natural to feel a kind of nostalgia for such wonderful times, and even a sort of, one could say, yearning to recreate the past, to bring it back and make it come alive again.
All of us as human beings, when we have experienced something pleasant, our most natural impulse is to feel something like “Let’s go out again and do it again”.
We can take a very simple example, such as witnessing a beautiful sunrise.
We never planned it, but it just so happened that all the conditions came together and the perfect sunrise took place, and you happened to be there to witness it, and so now that it’s over you have that yearning that you want to experience it again.
Of course, it’s impossible to recreate that exact experience, because that particular sunrise was only there at that one point in the universe.
But even in case you are lucky enough to be able to recreate a similar experience once again, it will not stop there either. You will not be satisfied. Instead, you will want to repeat that experience over and over, recreate it again and again.
And by all means, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing: as I mentioned before, it’s completely natural.
However, the problem is that if we make a habit of giving in to that yearning of wanting to recreate any pleasant experience, over and over again, there is a risk that over time, it will turn into some kind of a habitual pattern.
In Tibetan we call that habitual pattern Pakchak
This is usually due to a lack of awareness. We just follow our impulses, without realising that we are cultivating certain habits, and before we know it, they have turned into a habitual pattern, where the enjoyment goes away, and instead we become hooked on trying to satisfy that need.
In other words, what started out as an innocent wish to repeat a pleasant experience, has turned into something that is more like an addiction.
Those of you who have been with Lama Ole for some time will be well aware that he has said on numerous occasions, especially during the many teachings on Mahamudra he gave, that the present moment of whatever manifests is always fresh and new.
I’m sure that he draws this understanding from his own practice, that what we wish to witness is there in that eternal moment of freshness, where there is no clinging to the past, and no hoping for the future.
And I feel that the practice of the Buddha Dharma is meant to bring us to a point where we begin to enjoy a way of life where we can embrace every moment as it happens.
A way of life where we can accept that things just happen, almost randomly, one could say, and where we fully embrace that.
In other words, the various practices of the Buddha Dharma are skilful means – in Sanskrit they call them Upaya, and in Tibetan we say Thab.
So they are skilful means to help us let go of the addiction of wishing to repeat the same experience again and again; the addiction of wishing to repeat it so that it becomes permanent.
They can help us enjoy a way of life where we stop putting effort into recreating a particular moment, a particular experience.
This sunrise we enjoyed so much may happen only once, you know, and no more.
But through the help of the practice, we can learn to become playful and fearless like children again, enjoying every moment for what it is, instead of trying to recreate a particular moment.
And if I am correct, this fearlessness has always been one of the qualities of Lama Ole. He was never afraid to fully embrace the present moment.
As practitioners, taking this cue or this example, one could say, if we can do that, then we would be able to fully accept and embrace all the happenings taking place in our life.
I believe that there is nothing else to do.
Another thing I would like to share with you on this occasion is that I feel it’s quite crucial to preserve the openness that Lama Ole has expressed throughout his life.
In other words, it is crucial to be in line with the nature of human life: that birth, aging illness and death are parts of life that no one can deny.
Even our historical Buddha Sakyamuni went through these stages of life, and none of them are in any way unnatural.
Of course, we have been trained to see our Lama as perfect, infallible, and as a result, we tend to put our spiritual friend on a pedestal, and sort of turn them into a kind of god.
This is certainly a genuine and noble gesture of respect and devotion; however, it is often based on emotion, and so there is a risk that it could distract us from the most important aspect of practice, which is seeing the nature of life: impermanence, change.
It is therefore important for us to realise that the spiritual teacher, the Lama, whom we have trained to see as perfect, is human after all, and as such, subject to impermanence and change.
This realisation can help us to let go of clinging to the Lama, in particular clinging to the emotional aspect of the Lama.
If you remember from the Buddha Dharma, one of the main teachings or practices is known as the Four Reliances, which the late Rinpoche used to offer me and emphasise, time and time again.
The first of these is not to rely on the person but to rely on the person’s practice.
I think there is a connection here.
As I said earlier, the person, the body, the speech, even the mind, they are always changing, but the practice doesn’t change.
It’s the same practice that Buddha taught, and that has been practiced from that time, and it’s the same practice that we are practicing now.
And through that practice, then we can transform our so-called mind into wisdom. So, I think this is something really important for us to remember.
One thing that is sure is that there will never be another Lama Ole.
On the one hand this may be quite difficult to digest – the understanding that there will never be another one like him, that nobody will be able to replace him, to... as the English saying goes, to fill his shoes.
Not necessarily to talk about negatives and positives, but if you can understand that very same fact without emotion, [you will come to realise that] because he’s irreplaceable, no one can or should try to imitate him, and so therefore, his memory and his teachings will remain evergreen.
Lama Ole and his teachings are and always will be, one could say, immortal, or probably ‘timeless’ is a better way to put it.
So, his teachings are timeless in your hearts. All of those who know him will obviously never forget him.
And people like Jigme Rinpoche will always honour his legacy and his wishes. And in particular, as long as I myself am alive, I will always be there to make sure that his legacy is not tarnished or replaced by something else.
It’s your merit that has allowed you to meet with such a unique teacher as Lama Ole; therefore, cherish it the best way you can.
As we all know, Buddha has said that in order to properly cherish the teacher, one must not focus on the person of the teacher, but on the person’s practice, on the person’s essence.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the most important practices are the Four Reliances. So therefore, that’s something you should always remember and focus on and if you can do that, then no matter where you turn, where you are, the teacher will always be there.
Dear Dharma friends, with all of that in mind, please keep up your practice. I have often said it in the past and I’m saying it again today: it is through our shared practice, that we are always connected, no matter the physical distance between us.
As always, I offer my prayers to the Golden Garland of our lineage masters, who represent the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas, to bless and to protect our dear Lama Ole.
May his practice continue to develop smoothly, without obstacles.
Last but not least, please take good care of yourselves and your loved ones, and I really hope that we will finally meet again in person, be it in the next year, or in the near future.
After this long period of hibernation, may we meet again and use the time to share the Buddha Dharma with each other, practice together and hopefully find our way to enlightenment.
Take very good care of yourselves, once again.