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The Karmapa Effect

The last 12 days have been a blur of joy and frenzy. This is what happens when His Holiness, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, visits Vancouver.

Just this morning I was at Thrangu Monastery and there was a line of people waiting to receive a blessing from His Holiness. The look of blissful anticipation and some nervousness was overflowing in each of their faces.

None of us can really conceive his reach, his impact or his power. But as one person so perfectly said to me, “He is a king.” And I agree, there is no better way to describe His Holiness.

The media has done a good job on who the Karmapa is and his future role in the Tibetan Buddhist world. I especially like the CBC interview. (Link to interview) It covers so many aspects of who this man is and what he means to my religion.

In short, The 17th Karmapa will most likely be the person taking over when the 14th Dalai Lama leaves us.

Karmapa is the leader of the Karma Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism. This is the lineage I follow and His Holiness has a special place in my heart.

During this visit I have seen him seven times.

I hope you can imagine the shock of waiting for his arrival at the Chan Centre on Thursday night and seeing my image appear on the large screen as they ran a video of the Official Welcoming Ceremony at Thrangu Monastery.

The pageantry was over the top and so appropriate for the arrival in Vancouver.

It was at the teaching at Palpung Phende Kunkyab temple that the opportunity arose to speak with His Holiness in private. It was only for a few moments but he answered a looming question and gave me hope for the future. I had been wrestling with a health issue for five months and never thought I would be able to seek such advice and compassion. It was beyond any sane expectation.

A dear sweet man made the moment happen. The next day I caught up with him and thanked him for the kindness in pushing the meeting forward. He was the reason I got my blessing.

Bob made it happen

I also got the chance to reconnect with Khempo Choephel. He was translating for His Holiness and went above and beyond to make my blessing with Karmapa complete.

Yes, seven times I saw His Holiness and still it’s not enough. Part of me wanted to see him just one more time.  I’m guessing that feeling will never go away.

I wish someone had taken a picture as I spoke with him even though the moment could never be captured as well as it has been imprinted on my heart. I only have to look inside myself to be reminded of Karmapa’s prediction and blessing.

I believe His Holiness would agree.

 

A Religious Week

This has been a very religious week.

Yesterday I attended an Anglican memorial service for my dear client and friend, Anne Brailey. I wrote about her in a blog a few weeks ago.  Link to blog

We called each other secret sisters because our sense of humour was both alike and very inappropriate. This led to many uncontrollable fits of laughter.

Anne and I often talked about my religion and she knew I would do Buddhist prayers for her after her passing to mark the day of her predicted rebirth. She enjoyed the concept. I also told her about one of my favourite teachers, Mingyur Rinpoche. She loved that he was always laughing and looked so happy.

Anne had a soft spot for joyful people.

How interesting that this week he was teaching in Vancouver after a seven year hiatus.

I was able to attend four of Mingyur Rinpoche talks and teachings.

My weekend was a blur of his smiling face!

He recently returned from a four year retreat when he left all his worldly goods behind and led the life of a wandering yogi. He walked the walk. I highly recommend you watch some of his internet content. His practical advice on meditation is in itself enlightening. I bet he makes you laugh.

Now he is back to teaching and luckily Vancouver was one of his stops.

We met on his first visit to Vancouver back in 2001. We both looked so young!

Me with Mingyur’s translator

Years later he encouraged me to take a vow that I had been contemplating for a couple of years. That blessing changed the direction of my life. The vow went hand-in-hand with the work I do for my clients at the end of their lives.

And that brings me back to Anne.

On June 28th I will light a candle for her at the monastery where Mingyur Rinpoche spoke on Monday night.

In my heart I will recite one of our favourite jokes…

And we will both laugh.

Faith

My goal this week is to write about nothing. The ridiculous concept we Tibetan Buddhists endlessly chase after.

The dilemma is, “nothing means nothing.”

What I learnt on Sunday is that faith in nothing is the answer.

And that’s the conundrum.

Luckily I had a very wise man attempt to explain this to me.

Luckily I have faith in him.

Luckily he explained it in a way that gave a glimmer of what the answer is.

Faith is a tough one. Trust follows a close second.

Six weeks ago my doctor said I had nothing to worry about. Four weeks ago he called back, said he was wrong and told me there’s a problem.

Two weeks ago I had a stable place to call home. Five days ago that concept evaporated.

Four days ago Lotsawa David Karma Choephel gave a teaching on impermanence and faith at the Thrangu Monastery.

Faith blog 4

I grasped his every word.

One of the rare times when you believe a message was designed for that perfect moment.

It gave me faith in this fickle world.

Lotsawa David is a translator for some of the highest teachers in the Tibetan Buddhist world. He’s also a longtime and learned practitioner with endless credentials. It’s obvious he has absorbed a great deal of wisdom along the way. He is a patient man. That helps when attempting to explain the dharma to someone like me.

The Buddhist teachings on emptiness really makes no sense when you put a western twist on the concept. The hard part is to put aside your habitual way of thinking and trust there is something more. A great teacher can be the impetus to dig through your habitual crap. Luckily I live in a time and place where I’m surrounded by people to help with the journey.

Faith is something we believe in but can’t prove. The concept is impossible. How do you carry on when your faith has been shaken? You can’t always dodge the facts.

Life is easier if you have faith in impermanence. Trust that everything is going to change.

Everything.

I carry on with knowing I don’t know. This serves me well.

It leaves me with faith in nothing… and this means I have hope.

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HE Tai Situpa Rinpoche

People saw the picture and said I looked calm and serene.

ME condensed

Wrong.

What was really going on inside my head?

“Don’t drop it. Don’t trip. Don’t cry. Seriously… when you look into his eyes, don’t cry!”

I waited seventeen years to see Tai Situ Rinpoche again. I would never have guessed I would be one of the people offering a statue to him at the Thrangu Monastery last week.

Crazy.

I first met His Eminence Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa in 1999.

Tai Situ Lunch

On that day he set the direction for my life’s work. I would never again question the path my personal training was taking me. One of those fortunate times when everything seemed clear and correct.

This day was my opportunity to thank him for changing my life.

Bowing to TS

I expect His Eminence has that effect on most of the people he meets.

You would expect no less from the man prophesied to be the next Buddha.

I won’t bother you with the lineage and history of Tibetan Buddhism. It’s all widely proclaimed and many books have been written about what will be. Once I met Tai Situ I had no doubt it was true. But who knew the next Buddha would be so funny and entertaining? He captivates the audience with his laugh and self-effacing jibes… then without a blink gives a profound, clear and simple teaching.

Tai Situ

His advice is filled with common sense. The bare essence of how we should act.

His words will echo within me forever. His laugh is the music I want to replay. His face is the portrait framed in my heart.

He made me laugh. And think. And be astounded by my own good karma.

So what happened moments after the picture was taken and I presented Tai Situ with the statue?

He blessed me, I looked into his eyes, whispered “thank you”, bowed my head and walked away.

Then I cried.