Day Five–Karmapa, Debating, and the “Great Mother” – Part One

We were supposed to see the Karmapa today, but he called and cancelled, so after breakfast Ju Lee and I decided to take a walk out of the back of the nunnery and into the fields. Itis so peaceful and beautiful out here–the sound of running water washing away any feeling of stress or weariness.

The further we walked, the closer the mountains seemed. It was intoxicating. Occasionally we’d see a villager carrying wheat or some other crop bundled tightly on her head. The fields of wheat were amazing. Small terraces almost as far as the eye could see in either direction. The pale stalks would ebb and flow like gentle waves on a shimmering lake. My eye was naturally drawn to the movement and it was easy to become lost in rippling thought.

I fell apart last night, in a big way. It’s hard to be here and to feel myself slipping away–not sleeping nor eating. Silent inside and out. I came here to be honest, and I felt that I was simply hiding again and lying about everything that I was. It’s hard to talk about it. It’s hard to … even comprehend it. I was abused by both of my parents, and I wanted to finally leave that behind here. What better experience to have, than here? I feel oddly safe in India. I feel no threat from the people or the land. I feel that I could walk around by myself and nothing would happen. I’d be fleeced for a bit of my money, perhaps, but that’s all. Being around Adam helps a lot too. He’s such a gentle man, and one who is devoted to his wife and his practice. It is refreshing to see. I’ve met so many who are users and abusers and who simply want to take advantage of others. Although I have spoken to him very little so far, I can see that unlike a lot of people I know, he is ruled by his heart. In fact, I haven’t really spoken to many on this trip so far. Kate was very helpful and listened to me and helped me through a very, very hard time. One which I haven’t faced for a long time. I feel guilty though, and although she assures me it’s fine, I’m not convinced.

As Ju Lee and I walked back from our sojourn in the fields, we heard a commotion emanating from Dolma Ling, and as we drew closer we saw Adam and Kate gesturing and yelling from the bottom of the field. “Karmapa! You! Now! GO!” Adam shouted several times as though we simply counldn’t understand. “Run! We can see the Karmapa now!” shouted Kate, the urgency in her voice palpable. Suddenly her dress registered. She was outfitted in the Kurta both of us had bought at ‘Fab India’ just for our audience with the Karmapa! Between Adam and Kate, the day was saved. Apparently everyone had been looking for us, and they’d even agreed not to go if they couldn’t find us!


A younger Ogyen Trinley Dorje–17th Karmapa of the Kagyu lineage

Finally dressed and bundled into the jeeps Ju Lee and I had made it just in time to head over to see His Holiness. I realized, as the jeeps pulled out of Dolma Ling, I didn’t have a question to ask. As we bumped our way ever closer to Gyuto Monastery, two words popped into my head; forgiveness and compassion. I knew then that I would ask HH about those and how it was possible to be compassionate and forgiving towards people who did really bad things.

The procedural trappings going into the monastery were a bit overwhelming. We had to hand over passports and get patted down and scanned. I suppose they have to keep him safe–but the security all over India seemed very high. We were allowed no cameras or bags. It was quite… interesting in a way. As well as very nerve-wracking.

Once we entered the room we received white kata and a protection and blessing cord over which the Karmapa had prayed and blown the power of his mantra into a knot in the center. It’s around my neck as I write this… a wonderful blessing indeed. We also received an envelope containing a picture of HH and some small pills. As we sat down I realized that I was on the end of the row, closest to the Karmapa, directly opposite from the translator; an old man, with a long white ponytail and pleasantly wrinkled features.

First Ju Lee asked her question, in Chinese (in which the Karmapa is fluent) and received her answer which was not translated. In respect of that, I won’t enter the details here, as I know Ju Lee may want to keep that discussion private. After that, I took a deep breath and asked my question. I was shaking and found it very hard to look at His Holiness. I aksed how to forgive people who do really, really terrible things, and how to keep compassion in my heart. The Karmapa replied that first we must start with ourselves and realize that our own detours from our own path are worthy of forgiveness and compassion. Once we begin to do this, we can see others trangressions more easily for what they are. That is, detours. The person who committed the deed, is not the deed itself and they still deserve forgiveness. It really spoke to me, even though at times I found it hard to focus. He spoke for quite a while and I wish I had been able to record it or have someone anotate it for me.

After I finished, Adam spoke up and very shakily asked a question. He mentioned that he struggled to stay present in his practce and not get caught up in the delusions often provided by working for Microsoft. He also mentioned how much he loved Kim, his wife, and how sometimes he would find himself wanting to carry her burdens and finding himself caught in a cycle of wanting to help, but not knowing how. I watched him closely as he spoke, and when he ended I noticed tears quietly sliding down his cheeks. I related to a lot of what he said; especailly learning how to deal with delusion and carrying other people’s burdens. I’ve been carrying my parents for all my life.

The Karmapa spoke at great length and told us how to maintain focus and not waver. He also provided a very good metaphor–about placing a vase in front of the mirror. The reflected image still maintains the shape, beauty and grace of the original, but holds none of the weight. If we place those whose burdens we carry in front of a similar mirror, we would see them, but without the heavy burdens. This message tied with that of forgiveness and compassion was such a wonderful, wonderful teaching. Even here, later, I still can’t fully comprehend it. Despite sitting bathed as I am in blessings and peace.