His Holiness Karmapa visited the main Karma Thegsum Choling center in southern New Jersey today and gave teachings and a Medicine Buddha empowerment to a large audience of several hundred under a vast tent outdoors.
Full of humor and good will, His Holiness began by saying, "This is my first visit to New Jersey, and as such I feel like a new man." But beyond sharing humor with his audience, His Holiness had profound and far-reaching messages to share. In the lead-up to the Medicine Buddha empowerment he offered, His Holiness talked about the importance of global harmony and the importance of education in making harmony possible.
Our world, His Holiness reminded us, is getting smaller and smaller. We need to engage in new methods in order to understand each other and increase the feelings of warmth and friendship that exist between members of different cultures. There are two things we can learn more about in order to give rise to this type of harmony: culture and language. When we learn about the cultures and languages of other types of people, the obstacle of ignorance is removed, and, along with that, the distance between people.
In this vein, His Holiness--once again generously and intimately sharing with his audience some of his most personal experiences--related that, as a very young boy, he had some reservations about Western people. Since the Western tourists who visited him in Tibet appeared to be so vastly different from him, he assumed that these differences were all-pervasive. However, at some point, as an experiment, His Holiness inserted some lines into his teachings which he thought were funny. To his delight, the Western students found them funny too. He gave speeches that contained sad elements which he felt might make people cry. And indeed, the Westerners shed tears. Finally, His Holiness concluded that Western people were fundamentally exactly the same as Eastern people--human beings who have feelings and wish to be happy and free from suffering. Since gaining this certainty, His Holiness said--and also due to His Holiness's own increased exposure to Western languages and cultures--his comfort around and friendship with Western people, along with his ease in teaching them the dharma, have deepened beyond measure.
His Holiness especially pointed out the auspicious connection of having his teachings translated into English and Chinese, two languages that are very important to the world in this century.