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Archive for the ‘Memories, Dreams and Reflections’ Category

by Naomi Levine

After meeting HH Karmapa in Wales on his first visit to the UK in 1974, three friends and I set out from the village of Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh borders some time in 1977 (I’m not sure of the precise date) in a converted ambulance. Our destination was the Dordogne in France where the 16th Karmapa was going to consecrate his land and establish his European seat.

I had met the Karmapa several times and had experienced the Black Crown ceremony; but I never felt it was possible to have personal communication with such a supreme being. He was the embodiment of absolute reality, God in human form.

It was to be a long trip, crossing the channel from Kent, driving through Paris and onwards hundreds of kilometres to the Dordogne. To my dismay, I was the only driver and as we drove through Paris on the maze of intersecting motorways I felt exhausted with the sheer weight of the vehicle. The diesel engine was so noisy we could hardly talk; the steering wheel was making my arms ache with each movement. I felt like the captain of a cargo vessel steering a consignment of human freight through turbulent waters. I was desperate to be released.

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by Ken Holmes

England, late 1977
 
I think we were in Birmingham at the time … but not sure. It was towards the end of the six-month trip around Europe, during which Katia and I served the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa as multi-tasking aides: getting visas, cooking, fixing, promoting… Throughout the journey, His Holiness had been buying birds and I sometimes accompanied him on bird-seeking excursions. Jamgon Rinpoche explained to us that this was not just a hobby of His Holiness but that the birds were his former disciples, now blessed to be born close to him. I have particularly fond memories of evening returns from long avian sorties, with His Holiness next to me and Jamgon Rinpoche behind, fulfilling their daily commitment to Mahakala practice, reciting it by heart, making mudras and occasionally clapping theirs hands as I drove them through the dark.
 
One evening, Tsultim Namgyal, His Holiness’ personal attendant at the time, sought us out to usher us into a dimly-lit room in the house lodging the party. He made a gesture to keep quiet. There was a bird cage on the far side, with two good sized birds on a perch, next to each other, physically dead but mentally in deep samadhi. The feeling around them and all over the room was one of immense stillness and the sense of a profound centre that cuts through everything and carries you into somewhere timeless.
 
When birds die in normal circumstances, they keel over and you find them dead – stiff on the cage floor. The fact that these two died together and standing so perfectly in samadhi was a living proof of His Holiness’ power of “liberation through contact” and of his ability to draw beings into his inconceivable blessing. The birds stayed in samadhi for a couple of days. Then, their minds liberated, their bodies eventually fell down.
 
Ken Holmes
Director of Studies
Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery

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by Hella Lohmann

Unfortunately I did not have the karma to meet the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa personally. But something incredible and very special happened in 1990 during my very first visit to Rumtek Monastery.
 
I immediately felt close to His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche at Rumtek, one of the four lineage holders and heart sons of the Gyalwang Karmapa. In fact, I saw him almost every day. During one meeting, I confessed candidly that I did not feel any connection or devotion to the Karmapa as I had never met him. At the same time, I expressed how much devotion I felt for the Dalai Lama whom I had met several times in Europe and India. Jamgon Rinpoche listened attentively and nodded his satisfaction.
 
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by Susan Neumeier

In 1980 His Holiness Karmapa came to many Vajradhatu Centers in the United States.  I first saw him when he visited RMDC in Colorado, (now Shambhala Mountain Center, home of the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya). I’d been practicing less than a year and had just driven in from Texas.

Before the Black Crown ceremony, he blessed a new retreat cabin, where a tree was being planted to honor the occasion. I was late and was running down the dirt road in high heels from the main area up to the top of a rocky hill. A small crowd of American student types were standing around. Someone was digging a hole and there were some people in robes. I didn’t know what was going on or anyone there. Then, I noticed one man, a monk, who was so very still. He was just standing, completely at ease. I stared at him, feeling anxious, breathless and confused. And through that crowd of people, I felt he looked directly at me. Everybody was talking or moving about, but for me, everything stopped. There was nothing, just cessation. I had no words then and few now to describe that feeling of clear open space. I learned later that day, at the Black Crown Ceremony, that the monk was His Holiness Karmapa.

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by Ken Holmes

Paris, January 1975

Probably the most well-known Buddhist in France at the time was Japanese master Taizen Deshimaru: an impressive figure in the true “here and now” strict style, it was said. I acted as go-between for meetings between him and the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. As chance had it, my first trip to him and his dojo was on the day in France when they celebrate Epiphany, the visit of the Kings. I found Deshimaru wearing a golden crown and heading a large table of disciples. He had obviously had the slice of almond pie with the hidden magic bean that makes someone king for the day. He subsequently met with His Holiness on several occasions and was invited to attend an empowerment that was to take place in an immense public hall.
 
I had been present on several occasions when Tibetan Rinpoches—seriously-respected masters in their own sphere—became like children with their daddy when in the Karmapa’s presence. He would pull them around by the hair, tease them and teach them with alternating sunny humour and great seriousness. His authority was always total and natural: it went without saying. His “job” was to be Buddha for them. I knew this but the Zen master did not… yet.
 
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by Madeleine Schreiber

At the time when His Holiness Karmapa was dying many of Trungpa Rinpoche’s students were able to visit with him in the hospital.  Foremost among them was the Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin.  He had very deep feelings of devotion for His Holiness and was weeping quite a lot.  At some point His Holiness expressed compassion for his grief and told him not to be bothered by death, that “nothing happens”  For several years after His Holiness passed away, bumper stickers could be seen on the backs of cars all over this continent that said “Nothing Happens”.

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by Erika Belair

His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa was staying at the Oberoi Hotel in Calcutta for a few days upon his return from his first visit to the USA. I heard about it in Bodhgaya and was encouraged to go and see him as I had only recently taken refuge, Upon arrival in Calcutta I phoned Achi, the translator, to ask if it was possible to come for a blessing from His Holiness. He asked me to be there the next day at seven o’clock in the morning. Not yet quite awake at such an early hour I managed to arrive at the appointed time.

His Holiness was royally seated in a beautifully decorated reception room, talking to two huge Bhutanese sponsors seated at his feet. He radiated a soft golden light and such compassionate warmth that I felt right at home and settled somewhere in the back. As I was gazing at him, mesmerized by the sound of his voice, I understood that he was talking about his experiences in the USA. He described everything in that land as huge and that the earth was rich and the fields really big and well organized in big parcels tended by amazing machinery.

Suddenly I realized that he was speaking Tibetan and that I did not understand that language. As I perked up in surprise he looked at me directly and waved to ask me to come close. I sat at his feet and looked up still totally surprised. Then he made this huge gesture with his hand, almost frightening, so I ducked a little bit. But he only put his hand very gently to my ear and said – this time in perfect English – ‘Wake up!’ Maybe he had a little gadget in his hand like an alarm clock.
I just looked at him smiling somewhat mischievously and I had to giggle. He also started to laugh and we spent a few blissful moments just laughing.

I felt there was nothing to be added. I got up, bowed and left.

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