Today, December 8th is the opening ceremony to commemorate 900 years of the Kagyu Lineage. As an offering in celebration of this momentous occasion, we are starting our series, Memories, Dreams, and Reflections of the 16th Karmapa. Most of these timeless stories took place when the 16th Karmapa was on the road, travelling from place to place, stopping where he wanted, and interacting with people spontaneously. We dedicate it to the freedom of the 17th Karmapa. May his buddha activity spread in all directions until the whole world is ablaze with the light of dharma.
Maia Saabye Christensen
I met the 16th Karmapa when I was 6 years old in Denmark on his first trip to the west. On my first meeting he gave the Black Crown ceremony. I remember every second of that ceremony crystal clear as if it was yesterday. There is a quality to that Black Crown Ceremony that makes it so fresh -it doesn’t fade. It’s like there have been no time layers since then. Now when I think about it in perspective I would say it was being as awake as you can be. I remember the Karmapa holding the Black Crown, every detail in the room, the sound, the smell, the way everything happened in order. When we arrived at the place there was a huge courtyard in front. The monks had been given bicycles and they were riding the bicycles in the yard. I showed them how to cycle. Then we went into a palatial hall with pillars. I remember the excitement in the voices of the people and a feeling of expectancy. There was a lot of incense in the air. The sun came in through the huge windows and made rays like angel hair. I remember how it came into the room and lit up the incense smoke. Then we went in and sat down in the midst of it all.
The ceremony started. All the monks went to do different things in the room. I wasn’t so focused on what they did. When Karmapa entered the room he was smiling and radiating light. He was outshining the sun’s rays. I remember when he took the Black Crown to his head, there was total silence in the room. Time stood still. I was mesmerized by the Black Crown. Afterward we passed by him and I thought I was seeing the biggest thing that ever could exist. It was as holy as a moment could be. That was how I felt at that moment.
The Karmapa liked children. When I came up to him he gave me a huge bright smile and nothing else existed except me and him at that moment. That meeting had such a deep impact that very often I dreamt that the Black Crown was floating inches over my head and blessing flowing through me. As a child I remembered these dreams clearly and how the next day I felt I was walking on air.
The next day we were going to meet him again. All the people were sitting in this little room. But I waited outside because I thought he was so huge he wouldn’t be able to fit into that room. Then he came and he went into the room just like everybody else and I was a bit disappointed. Away from the ceremony he looked just normal. We waited to see him and after a bit we went into the room, just my parents and me and my sister. Again my memories are that he was an almighty being, huge and shining like the sun. We were in there for what felt like a long time. The Karmapa had some sweets and he said to me to come sit in his lap. I came up to him and he was all smiling. So I just sat there in his lap for most of the meeting with him feeling totally awed.
edited by Naomi Levine