Root Institute December 3
The Root Institute is a perfect peaceful oasis set back a few kilometers from the dust and perpetual din of downtown Bodh Gaya. HH Karmapa did three slow prostrations to the shrine and placed a khata beneath the photo of HH Dalai Lama before blessing the offerings. He mounted the few stairs to his throne with a slight smile as if it showed athletic prowess, waited till the mandala offering was completed, then addressed the packed audience. It was his fifth visit and he looked very comfortable with the familiar surroundings as he complimented the sangha on their excellent work in the local community – not just thinking about compassion but practicing it.
With touching humility he said he didn’t know much about the subject of the Heart Sutra on Transcendent Wisdom and then offered a way of connecting with emptiness, not through philosophical debate, but directly in every day life situations. The following is a paraphrased and edited few paragraphs from the English translation.
To make it more understandable, emptiness can be appreciated from the point of view of opportunity. By the truth of the fundamental emptiness nature of all things, anything can manifest. While appearing, yet there is emptiness. Emptiness is opportunity; all possibilities can manifest. Appearance does not obstruct emptiness. Emptiness does not obstruct appearance. They occur simultaneously. With our habitual fixations, we think existence and non-existence are two separate things. Both cannot happen at the same time, we think. We need to find a way to be freed from our egoistic fixations to see the way appearance and the fundamental nature of emptiness do not obstruct each other.
In short the problem is not that something does not exist; the problem is that something does exist. That’s why we have difficulties, because phenomena interact, for instance resulting in injuries. Apparent phenomena of course exist. It is what we see, what we experience. But the important point is how to see it in the right way. It has nothing to do with trying to refute or pretend that things don’t exist. While things manifest, we need simply to see what is relatively correct and true and what is fundamentally correct and true. It has nothing to do with negating the existence of apparent phenomena. It has to do with being able to appreciate that while manifestations and appearances occur, at the same time the fundamental nature of all things is emptiness. So there is no conflict between what manifests and what is the fundamental nature of such manifestations. We have to be able to approach the phenomenal world around us in that way.
He walked slowly out of the room scanning the faces of the assembly, moving with the slow dignified gait of a buddha, into the courtyard to spin the prayer wheel and take photos with a group of Indian school children holding flowers. Everyone crowded around him as he lit a helium balloon that rose into the blue sky with the message SAVE THE CLIMATE ACT NOW.