His Holiness the 17th Karmapa Addresses World Buddhist Leaders
10 September 2013 – Hyatt Regency, New Delhi
On 9 September 2013 His Holiness the Karmapa joined Buddhist leaders from around the world in New Delhi, where he was invited to speak at the opening session of the 1st Founding Members Conclave of the International Buddhist Confederation.
This major international conference brings together Buddhist leaders and representatives of Buddhist sanghas from throughout the world who are uniting under a new global Buddhist platform that will represent Buddhists worldwide, the International Buddhist Confederation.
The conference opened with a video address from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who thanked those gathered for their commitment to building a better world. Video messages followed from Nobel Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as well from the Vatican. Statements of support were presented from the supreme heads of the Buddhist orders of Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, China, and Mongolia, while other dignitaries to speak at the opening included Her Royal Highness Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuk, Princess of Bhutan, as well as the Honorable Chief Minister of Delhi, Smt. Sheila Dixit.
In his opening speech to the 250 delegates gathered from 39 different countries, the Gyalwang Karmapa called for unity and harmony among Buddhists worldwide.
“These teachings of the Buddha are like a golden wheel that the Buddha has given us. If we see ourselves as being people of different lineages, different traditions and different factions and do not come together, then it will be as if this golden wheel that the Buddha has given us will disappear.”
“What is important for us is that although we come from different countries and different lineages and different vehicles, we all need to gather together in order to be able to preserve this golden wheel that the Buddha has given us. It is more important than ever before that we have harmonious connections with other, and the same unified commitment.”
His Holiness the Karmapa also acknowledged the great difficulties in Tibet, and called on Tibetans to have courage.
“In the past few decades the Buddhist teachings in Tibet have faced great difficulties and problems. But because of the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, many of the great spiritual friends of the Tibetan tradition as well as many great lamas and great beings have been able to help.”
“So for this reason, even though we Tibetans have faced difficulties such as we have never seen before, we are still able to have steadfast hopes and steadfast aspirations. The main factor in this has been—you could call it the blessings of the Buddha, or you could call it the power of the dharma. At any rate it is this courage, and it is because of this courage that we have been able to do this.”
Addressing the issue of inter-religious conflict, the Gyalwang Karmapa then urged Buddhists to maintain compassion and wisdom.
“In recent times as we have seen, there have been religious conflicts between Buddhists and members of other religions. So when such conflicts happen, if we are able to have an authentic practice of Buddhist wisdom and Buddhist compassion, then I think that by using skillful means we will be able to resolve many of these conflicts and we will be able to reduce the problems.”
Shifting to a personal note, His Holiness the Karmapa commented that his main purpose for being at the meeting was to meet with Buddhist leaders from around the world.
“I have not come primarily to give any speeches,” he said. “The reason I have come to this conference is in order to meet and make a good connection with all of the great masters who have come from many different Buddhists countries and many different Buddhist traditions.”
In the afternoon session His Holiness the Karmapa was invited to speak on behalf of the Buddhist community at an inter-faith panel discussion on the theme of ‘Inter-Faith Relations: A Meeting of Hearts and Minds.’ Representing the Buddhist community, he joined Swami Agnivesh, former MLA of Haryana state; Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, Chief Imam of the All-India Organization of Imams of Mosques; Most Rev. Anil Couto, Archbishop of Delhi; Dr Mufti Mukkarram Ahmed, Shahi Imam of Masjid Fatehpuri; Swami Chidanand Saraswati Maharaj, President of Parmarth Niketan Ashram, and other respected religious leaders.
“In my living quarters I have all the different religious texts of the world,” he told those gathered. “I have a Koran, I have a Bible and so forth, and I have them there not just for display. I have them there because it gives me a feeling of being close to other religious traditions.”
He then directly addressed a key issue facing the Buddhist community, the recent bombings in Bodhgaya, as well as the response.
“Recently there was the bombing of the Buddhist sacred site in Bodhgaya. What happened is that immediately after this everyone said, ‘Who is it that did this?’ And there were many people who said, ‘Oh, it must have been Muslims who did this’. Was there any reason for them to say this? There was absolutely no reason. But they immediately leapt to conclusions and explained it in this way without any reasons.”
“So what is this from? My feeling about this is that there’s not really any real reason for it. But with our attachments to our own ethnic groups and so forth, we have these bad habits of thinking, or wrong ways of thinking.”
His Holiness the Karmapa then left the congregation with a strong message of inter-religious harmony and unity.
“Within this world, there is no difference between rich and poor, and there is no difference between one religion and the other,” he concluded. “All are equally valuable, and all are equally important. And when we say that they have the same value and the same importance, this is not just saying it—this is actually looking at how things are.”