Tibetan Buddhist leader, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, arrives today in Berlin on his first European visit. The Karmapa will meet this week with members of the Jewish community in Berlin, and visit the Holocaust Museum and the Berlin Wall. On a stop in Cologne, he was specially invited by the Archdiocese of Cologne to address faculty and students at the Katholische Fachhochshule NRW and was offered a private tour of the Cologne Cathedral.
Although this is only the Karmapa’s third trip outside his dramatic escape from Tibet to India, he enjoys a wide following in the West, where his message of social responsibility and environmental sustainability has been warmly embraced. At the age of 29, he is the head of the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu lineage, one of the largest schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
The five-day visit to Berlin marks the second stage of this Tibetan Buddhist leader’s European visit, centred on Germany. From 5-8 June, the Karmapa will be teaching daily to a sold-out hall at the Estrel Convention Centre in Sonnenallee in Berlin. He will deliver public addresses on social responsibility for youth, Buddhism and the environment, and will also give a religious transmission from the 13th century to his followers. In keeping with the inter-religious themes of his visit, he will meet Rabbi Ben-Chorin and Rabbi Gesa Ederberg, leaders of the Jewish Community of Berlin.
During the first leg of the trip, the Karmapa addressed large gatherings of the Buddhist faithful at his European seat in Eifel, and joined Benedictine monks for vespers service at Maria Laach Monastery. Abbot Benedikt hailed his visit as an auspicious meeting of two religious cultures, remarking that the Karmapa lineage and the Maria Laach Monastery were both founded 900 years ago.
“There is no copyright on compassion,” the 17th Karmapa told the assembly at the Catholic university in Cologne on 2 June. “It is certainly not owned by Tibetan Buddhism, but is shared commonly by all religions.” He also visited the Cologne Cathedral, where he was greeted by Auxiliary Bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp and Bishop Ansgar Puff, with Vicar General Msgr. Stefan Hesse acting as managing head of the archdiocese since the recent retirement of the esteemed Archbishop of Cologne, Joachim Meissner.
The Karmapa currently lives in North India near His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with whom he maintains a close relationship of mentor and protégé. While fully upholding the traditions of his lineage, the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, has actively modernized its religious practices in keeping with 21st-century needs. He has founded an environmental association of Himalayan monasteries and nunneries in grassroots sustainability work.