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No Ordinary Teenager - An Interview With The Karmapa
May 31, 2000
His Holiness the Karmapa surprised many and gained global recognition when he escaped Chinese occupied Tibet in January of this year. He walked to freedom in India where he was greeted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan community in exile.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama recently said that "From a young age Karmapa has displayed the ripening manifesting of various latent qualities inherited from his previous lives... now, regardless of obvious dangers, he arrived here in good health... the main reasons he escaped was with the hope and aspiration to be able to benefit and serve the cause of Tibetan Buddhism and the Tibetan people, which was impossible to accomplish while staying in Tibet."
When I reached the top of the stairs and was mentally preparing myself for entering his audience hall, I realized that the young man skittering past me was none other than His Holiness! I waited a moment before being brought into his room, and by the time I entered he was composed in his throne and looking kind and gentle. He also looked slightly amused. I first bowed to him as he placed a red ribbon around my neck, which is the custom. His interpreter, Lama Tennam, then gestured for me to be seated and begin. I was told I would have 15 minutes.
I sat kneeling on the floor in front of a table and his raised chair. H.H. really is a magnificent sight, with his clean-shaven head, dark brown skin, and piercing, almond shaped eyes. He wore a gold-colored sash over the traditional maroon robes, which leave one arm exposed. He is tall for his age. When he looked at me, although his eyes were filled with a childlike joy, I also felt the wisdom of his many incarnations. If this was based upon my expectations or reality, I cannot say, but it is believed that if you get the chance to meet His Holiness, you will be purified for seven rebirths.
So what would you ask a teenage boy who is the third most powerful figure in all of Tibetan Buddhism? This Karmapa is the seventeenth Karmapa, meaning that he is believed to have been reincarnated seventeen times. Well, most of the questions I asked H.H. were sent to me by you, the students, so there are questions of all types. All of the answers were given through an interpreter since H.H. speaks Tibetan and Chinese and has not yet learned English. (In fairness to your humble Trekker, I did try to speak to H.H. in Tibetan, but I did not get much further than a butchered try at "My name is Andrew. I am a teacher" before H.H. started to laugh!) So to the questions and answers:
Andrew: Can Your Holiness remember past lives?
A: What advice does Your Holiness have for the youth of today?
K: One should have pure and sincere motivation. One should have that foundation to help humanity and to help one's own self. Even if one cannot help large numbers of beings, one can help those beings nearest.
A: Who or what experience has been the most influential in this life?
K: Individuals who conduct a misdeed or negative action... I believe that that sort of negative behavior influences me to bring positive behavior, or positively, because when I see that kind of action or attitude, I want to build positively. When harmful things are done one can see the misfortune that it brings. Therefore, it gives beings encouragement to do positive things.
A: What has been Your Holiness' greatest difficulty?
K: My main wish is to help every being to bring mind, heart, and conscience to peace. That is a challenge.
A: What would Your Holiness like to do, but is unable to do, due to Your Holiness' position?
K: In general, any position allows an individual certain privilege that others cannot enjoy. In a high position, there are many restrictions and there are many things one cannot do. There are sacrifices to be made in any position. There are also defilements that go with a high position, such as jealousy and pride. If it were better for me to be in a simple position, if it would be of a greater benefit, I would pursue that.
A: Is Your Holiness clairvoyant?
K: I cannot claim that I am or not. Sometimes when I tell things to people they come true.
A: Can Your Holiness fly? (This question was asked since, in many old records and testimonies, certain high lamas and Tibetan masters have demonstrated abilities that go against our understanding of reality.)
K: Personally, I am a human being, and cannot fly. However, in the history of my predecessors, it has happened, and I respect that.
A: What are Your Holiness' hobbies?
K: As a spiritual master, my hobbies are to study, contemplate and meditate. My position requires much study of me, and I am happy to do it.
"This is the worst period in our 2,000 year long history. This really is the most serious period. At this time, now, there is every danger that the entire Tibetan nation, with its unique cultural heritage, will completely disappear ... the present situation is so serious that it is really a question of life and death. If death occurs, nothing is left."
p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...firstname.lastname@example.org
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