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Lions Roar : September 2008
70 SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2008 THE 17TH KARMAPA, reincarnate leader of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, made international headlines when he was fourteen years old with his dramatic and dangerous escape from Tibet. This May, now twenty-two, he made his first-ever trip to the United States, teaching dharma in New York, Seattle, and Boulder, Colorado, and expressing a deep sense of connection with Ameri- cans that was reciprocated by the thousands who came to hear him. At a news conference at the conclusion of his two-week tour, he spoke of how it had transformed and inspired him. I had the honor of asking the opening questions. — ME LVIN MCLEOD You’ve spoken about the freedom of Americans and how much that has impressed you. What were you referring to specifically? In general Westerners are very spacious and open-minded. I have seen this in my meetings with Westerners who come to see me in India. I really admire their directness, their forthrightness, their freedom. They say things to you directly and frankly, instead of holding back. There’s a feeling of openness that I like very much, and I feel even more kinship with that spirit now that I have come to America. When I interviewed you last year in New Delhi for the Shambhala Sun’s sister publication, Buddhadharma, you talked about the evo- lution taking place in your life from your previous secular identity to becoming the Karmapa. How has this visit to the West changed your understanding of what it means to be the Karmapa? I think my appreciation for what it means to be the Karmapa has deepened since I have come to the United States. Previous- ly, I had met Westerners in India and Tibet, but it’s different to come here and see with my own eyes that there are thousands of people who are looking to me with hope. I have the sense that I have to stretch my arms out even further than I have stretched them before, that I have to widen my perspective even more than it had been before, keeping in mind all of the people through- out the world who have faith and hope toward the Karmapa. I’m encouraged to think in an even vaster way about all the people who live in different places and have different habits, and try to benefit them in accordance with their specific situations. Many people have been inspired by your song, “Aspiration for the World.” Is the Buddhist approach to the environment different from the conventional way of thinking about it? The teachings of the Buddha are a source of benefit and happi- ness for all sentient beings. For people who follow the tradition of buddhadharma, this is a truth that we have great confidence in. Viewing the Seattle skyline from the top of the Space Needle; offering blessings to the Tibetan community of New York and New Jersey. PHOTOS BY JAMES GRITZ Kindness Is the Most Important Thing” The 17th Karmapa concludes his first visit to America “ SEPT 70-73.indd 70 SEPT 70-73.indd 70 7/3/08 1:33:09 PM 7/3/08 1:33:09 PM