Thursday, May 04, 2006


Also very high on the chart of "special" was having the opportunity to once again have an audience with the 17th Karmapa. I first laid eyes on him in 1998 when a small group of us traveled from Lhasa in a van to have an audience with him at his Tsurphu Monastery. Even though it was only about 44 miles from Lhasa, it was another world. Surrounded by high mountains, we drove through a vivid green valley to a very peaceful, remote location that felt untouched by time except for the satellite dish sitting atop the place where the Karmapa resided. This is the main seat of the Karma Kagyu lineage and where the Gyalwang Karmpas have made their residence since way, way back in time. The present Karmapa, although now just a young man, is the recognized reincarnate of this long lineage.

I had prepared for this by bringing a box of chocolate covered macadamia nuts from my Maui home which I had wrapped in a festive wrapping paper. I knew that the former Karmapa had spent a great deal of time here on Maui, and this was my way of honoring that memory. When it came time to make it through the plentiful guards, I wasn't sure the package was going to make it for they kept shaking and examining it. They never unwrapped it, but their eyes probed me for any signs of my being a dangerous character. I kept smiling and attempting to look innocent since I couldn't speak a word of their language. Finally, after deliberating between themselves, they decided to allow me to bring it as my offering to the Karmapa.

The late Lama Tenzin of the Dharma Center on Maui went first with three full body prostrations, and I followed his lead since I was next in line. With the package in my hand, I was certainly not nearly as graceful as he, especially since I was unpracticed in the art of full body prostrations. When I arose to place the package on the altar, I looked up to see a smiling, laughing teenage boy who had obviously enjoyed my sorry attempt at prostrations. I was quite taken with him for he was very handsome and sweet, just a thirteen-year-old boy on a high pedestal with lots of responsibility and pressure. My heart went out to him.

And now here I was eight years later (2006) and once again having the privilege to be with a group of four to spend time with him, ask him questions and receive blessings and a kata (a long white blessing scarf) from him. He had made his escape from Tibet many years ago and had found refuge in India, and now he has taken up temporary residence at the Gyuto Monastic University in the Dharmasala area. Like his predecessor, the Dalai Lama, he had trekked across the Himalayas in a daring, bold move. He is a big, tall, strong and serious twenty-one year old now. With our 4-person group (see photo), he took his time answering our questions through a translator (although rumor has it that he speaks English), rubbing his chin as he contemplated what he wishes to convey. After our audience, the photographer took our photo with him and gave us a CD as no one is allowed to bring a camera in during an audience. As I said goodbye to him, I said to him with a big smile, "See you again!" knowing that I most likely will see him in the years ahead. It will be fun watching him grow up to be the fine leader he is destined to become. As we left the room, there was a huge group of Taiwanese people anxiously waiting their turn for an audience. Giving blessings and audiences is what he does with lots of his days. The pressure is still on.
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