Monday, May 26, 2008

Images from the Gyalwang Karmapa

Recollecting the Gyalwang Karmapa’s four days in New York, my strongest images are of his presence: his warmth, his confidence, and most of all, his compete lack of fabrication or contrivance. That said, strong images from his teachings also spring to mind. In his first talk he spoke very personally about how we can deal with the difficulties we must face in life:
A lot has happened to me in this life. I have had a lot of challenges. In dealing with challenges, we must not let practical difficulties destroy our state of mind. For example, if you put a heavy object, weighing perhaps one or two hundred pounds, in front of a mirror, the heavy thing will be clearly reflected, but without the heaviness. In the same way, we can’t prevent ourselves from experiencing life’s difficulties, but we can experience them as if they are reflections in a mirror—clearly reflected without weighing us down.*

The next afternoon, he used another image to explain that the weight we usually experience comes from the way our fixations distort our interactions with the world.

Much of what we experience is not just mere appearance, but our fixation, what we overlay onto the appearances. For example, there is the way we divide things into “I” and “mine”. We don’t directly look at appearances, but see them through a frame, or window, which divides the world into I/mine, self/other. Something odd happens when we look out through the window of I/mine. When we try to reach out to others through this window, the window colors our interactions. The basic problem with that window is that we can’t really see through it.

We can imagine whatever we like. We want to look at something nice out the window, but if there isn’t anything nice there, we create a delusion instead. The window becomes a solid wall that blocks genuine reality. Genuine spiritual experience cannot be seen through the window of “I” and “mine”.*

There is a nice blog following the Karmapa’s visit called, His Holiness The 17th Karmapa’s 2008 U.S. Visit.

* These are not the Karmapa’s exact words, but a reconstruction from several people’s notes.

1 comment:

jason clarke said...

hi andy,
first, i must say how much i enjoyed your book. it explains difficult philosophies in a very clear way, and it has pointed me in directions to study the material at a deeper level. so, thanks for that.
im currently about to finish my masters in psychology in new york city, and i really want to do a PhD in the interface between science and buddhist philosophy. i have no knowledge of sanskrit or tibetan, so im thinking that i might have to do another masters in one of those languages to bring me up to a standard where i can begin to do research.
i was just wondering if you have any advice on this. do you know of any people in new york city that i can contact regarding this research interest? or any institution which might be sympathetic?
thanks once again.
all the best,
jason clarke