In his first public activity in Europe, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa addressed a press conference this morning in Frankfurt, followed by a brief meeting with members of the local Tibetan community. At an event hosted by Tibethaus Deutschland under the patronage of the 14th Dalai Lama, the Karmapa spoke to a room full of members of the German and international press. He expressed his delight at having arrived in Europe for his first trip, and fielded questions on climate change, the future of Tibetan culture, ordination of women in Tibetan Buddhism and other spiritual questions. Puntsok Tsering, Managing Director of Tibethaus offered an initial welcome, while Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, a highly respected lama who is also the head of Karmapa Foundation Europe, introduced His Holiness and later provided the English translation.
“As a member of the younger generation of Tibetan lamas, I feel responsibility for the future of Tibet,” His Holiness said. “We should not see the Tibetan issue as only a political one. It is an issue deeply linked with culture, religion and the environment. The Tibetan Plateau is so important for all of Asia. At the same time, the preservation of Tibet’s ecology is dependent on the preservation of Tibetan culture, values and way of life,”
Queried regarding climate change, the Gyalwang Karmapa described it as “the most important issue facing the world today,” and called for the people of the world to play a part in addressing it. “In world history, there have been other periods of climate change. But these were due to natural shifts in the climate. Scientists tell us that the change this time has a lot to do with human activity. Therefore as human beings we all have a great responsibility in regards to climate change.”
He observed that, “especially since the Industrial Revolution, people have developed a mentality that assumes that happiness is totally dependent on material progress. A way of life based on consumerism and materialism developed, and therefore people’s greed increased.” He called for people to reassess this assumption, and to work on inner development, cultivating compassion as their central motivation in working for climate change.
The very first question broached during the press conference was regarding bhikṣuṇī ordination—or full ordination for women–which the Gyalwang Karmapa has vocally championed. “It is indispensable to have a bhikṣuṇī sangha upholding the Dharma… His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been making many efforts and I have also made a point of raising this issue, as I feel it is very important,” he said, and added, “I have high hopes that this will happen within one or two years.”
Frankfurt is home to a local community of Tibetans, who arrived at Tibethaus in hopes of seeing the Karmapa. Following the interaction with the press, the 17th Karmapa was joined by a group of Tibetans living in Germany. Noting a substantial number of children among them, the Gyalwang Karmapa acknowledged that many of the Tibetan families in Europe have two working parents, and so have many demands on their time and attention. Nevertheless, he stressed the importance of making it a priority to provide their children with an education in Tibetan language. He closed by expressing his hope to be able to return to Europe many times in the future, and so to meet them again and again.