Gyalwang Karmapa’s Teachings on Compassion Concluded in Delhi
February 20th, 2010 – Foundation for Universal Responsibility, Delhi
Continuing his teachings in Delhi, Gyalwang Karmapa today delivered a talk on compassion in the morning, and concluded the series in the afternoon by offering a transmission and guided meditation on the practice of Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion. The teachings on ‘Cultivating Compassion’ were organized by the Foundation for Universal Responsibility, an organization founded by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama with the Nobel Peace Prize awarded him in 1989.
During the morning session, Gyalwang Karmapa affirmed that compassion is a basic quality innate to us all. Using the analogy of the sun hidden behind clouds, he explained that although our compassion may not be apparent or fully manifest at the moment, it remains present with us as part of our nature despite whatever temporary impediments may conceal it from view. The obstacles that prevent our compassion from shining forth can be cleared away precisely because, unlike compassion, they are not integral to our basic nature.
Drawing on Buddhist teachings on sugatagarbha or buddha nature, His Holiness explained that what may be described as the seed of enlightenment is naturally present with all sentient beings. What allows that seed to grow, and what drives the limitless increase of our qualities, is compassion, he said.
Turning to practical tools for developing our compassion, Gyalwang Karmapa took what he called an eclectic approach, selectively drawing on different aspects of various Buddhist presentations. His Holiness began by underscoring the importance of having specific objects of our compassion. At times, he commented, when we try to include all sentient beings, our focus is too vague and our compassion becomes something abstract. He recommended instead to begin with a particular person whose kindness to us we feel clearly. Generally for this practice we take our birth mother, as someone whose great love and care for us we are able to feel vividly, although His Holiness acknowledged that not everyone has the same experience in their relationship to their parents. In any case, once we have been able to generate an intense feeling of compassion towards whatever person we are taking as our object, we then extend it to include others who are similar to them.
Gyalwang Karmapa observed that one common technique for enhancing compassion, known as the sevenfold cause and effect practice, instructs us to begin by reflecting that all sentient beings have been our mothers in one life or another, and thus have all shown us great kindness in the past. But those who have little conviction in the existence of past lives might instead simply reflect that everything we receive even just within this lifetime comes from others. Thus all others have been of great benefit to us in this life. The world today has become much smaller, and it is increasingly clear that what affects one corner of the world can impact the entire world. We who live together on this planet are very much dependent on one another, and in fact share this world due to our strong karmic connections with one another. All the positive things in our lives come from others, His Holiness stressed. This is true not only of the material goods that sustain our lives, but of such intangible things as our reputation and fame. Even if you arrogantly feel you are the most important of all, that pride or sense of superiority itself is utterly dependent on the existence of others, he noted!
Thus our interdependence on others, and the fact that our wellbeing depends on them is not a thought exercise, Gyalwang Karmapa said. It is simply a recognition of the actual reality of our situation. By familiarizing ourselves with the fact of others’ kindness to us, we can come to feel great affection and tenderness towards them. Just as children can come to feel tremendous affection for their stuffed animals, not wanting any harm to come to them or to be parted from them, so too we can habituate ourselves to feel love and compassion for others.
His Holiness cautioned that whatever compassion we do develop should not be kept hidden in our heart or left behind when we leave our shrine room. Compassion needs to be expressed in our actions, with our speech and physical gestures, he said.
In the afternoon, Gyalwang Karmapa gave an oral transmission of the Chenrezig practice known as All-Pervading Benefit of Beings, composed by the fifteenth century Tibetan master Thangtong Gyalpo. His Holiness explained that he was raised in an environment saturated with the practice of Chenrezig. In particular, his maternal grandmother and his mother had both been deeply devoted to the practice of Chenrezig and frequently chanted his mantra. His Holiness felt that growing up surrounded by the sound of Chenrezig’s mantra had left important imprints on him. Some parents bequeath material wealth to their children, but His Holiness left home too early to inherit his family’s wealth. Rather, what he himself had received as his patrimony—or, in his case as a sort of maternal inheritance, he said—was the practice of Chenrezig. For that reason, His Holiness stated, when he makes Dharma connections with those who come to see him at his residence in Dharamsala he does so by transmitting the Chenrezig practice and mantra to them. He hopes in that way to be creating familial bonds of affection with those he meets. By transmitted the Chenrezig mantra and practice to the group gathered today, he said, it what his wish that those present be joined with him in one large and loving family.
Gyalwang Karmapa then gave a brief explanation of the meaning of the name of Chenrezig and the symbolism of the four arms and other attributes. This was followed by the transmission itself, after which His Holiness guided a brief meditation and visualization of the practice. At the conclusion of the teaching event, His Holiness personally presented each participant with a rosary (mala) and a copy of his book, Heart Advice Book for the Karmapa.
Many of the attendees of the event remained on site long after His Holiness had departed, exchanging impressions and sharing the joy of having have been present during this extraordinary set of teachings.