Changing the World from the Inside Out: Love and Compassion for a Globalised World.
June 7, 2014, the Estrel Convention Center, Berlin, Germany
Coming on to the stage this afternoon, the Karmapa briefly disappeared behind a brilliantly colored tree set near the top of the stairs. He reemerged looking out at the crowd as he walked over to take his seat.
He began on a light note, “I’ve been talking for some days now and maybe I don’t have anything new to say. The topic of today’s talk is about the same as the previous one. It’s as if you’ve bought an extra ticket.”
He began his talk by saying that this world where we live is the only place found so far that supports life. And they have a great number of different forms; for example, just one tree is home to a wide variety of insects. Human beings are another form of life, and among them is a great variety of people. Each person is different as their fingerprints show.People also have different ways of acting, of looking, of living their lives, and so forth. We exist within this complex variety of individual beings, and yet from another perspective,all of our lives are interconnected and dependent one on the other. An elephant is a huge and valued animal while insects are miniscule and seemingly unimportant.But honey bees, for example, take nectar from one flower and in the process pollinate others. So all living beings are a part of this interdependent world, valuable in and of themselves.
In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a good name for this kind of relationship: we call it the connection between a mother and child (mabu drelwa). It is not the relationship between two things, but a positive feeling that connects us to the animate and inanimate world around us.
When someone speaks of a “self” or an “I,” they are usually thinking of something that is independent, solitary, and able to give rise to itself. On the basis of this “I” we feel different from others. But how are things really? If we look at being able to give rise to ourselves, we can easily see that our body, whichis mainly how we identify ourselves, comes from our parents; we did not create it. And if we think we are independent, we can consider that if we did not rely on others for our food and clothing, we would wind up a corpse. He mentioned that in the developed world, thanks to globalisation, food comes from far away and so do our clothes, which are made by workers in poor countries, whom we neither see nor know, but we wear their clothes.
The Karmapa’s memories of growing up are quite different from what people experience these days.He recalled, “I Ied the ordinary life of a nomad. My mother and father did not leave all day for work. In the evening, we would sit around the fire while the elders told stories. It was a warm, very close feeling of being in a family. At the age of seven when I was recognized as the Karmapa, I was separated from my family and had to stay on the third floor of Tsurphu Monastery. This situation was very different from our nomadic life where there was so much freedom to move around. As a child, I was independent and could run everywhere I liked inthe wide open spaces. There was no fear of being hit by a car either. We also used to move our home from the winter house to our summer yak-hair tent.
“Then suddenly I had to stay in my own quarters on the third floor of the monastery. I had little freedom to play and felt a certain discomfort, a kind of unhappiness. In my home, I had playmates of my own age, but in the monastery, there were just older and serious monks. How could I play with them?”
Many people came to Tsurphu from other places inside and outside of Tibet, but they were older and saw the Karmapa as their teacher. In the beginning he felt a little strange, a little empty, but when he looked around, he saw all the toys he had came from foreigners, so there were people who cared for him. Gradually other people took on the role of his parents and playmates. Many people were concerned about him, so slowly the feeling came that he did not just have the parents who gave birth to him, but he also had friends from all over the world who really cared about him.In general, he said, this feeling, he said, was the seed of a child becoming a strong person as an adult.
After these concretes examples of love and caring, the Karmapa turned to the subject of compassion, which he said was more than sympathy or empathy. Compassion is a much deeper feeling,because with sympathy and empathy, there is a sense of someone else as separate from us.In the case of compassion, we “jump outside ourselves” and come to feel the other person as a part of us. Compassion arises naturally from within and directly links us to the other person.It allows us to go outside ourselves and put ourselves in the place of the other person so we can feel their happiness and sadness. We have “a big heart for the other person.”
Globalisation has made us all much closer, making it clear how connected we are to each other. When we know this, then we cannot think of happiness just for ourselves, and we find the courage to help and benefit others.