Karmapa means “the one who carries out buddha-activity” or “the embodiment of all the activities of the buddhas”. In the Tibetan tradition, great enlightened teachers are said to be able to consciously control their rebirth in order to continue their activity for the benefit of all sentient beings. The first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, was born in 1110. He was the first of the great Tibetan masters to establish an incarnating lineage. Since his death in 1193, successive Karmapas have incarnated in this form of manifestation body (Skt. nirmanakaya), for sixteen lifetimes so far, and all have played a most important role in preserving and promulgating the Buddhist teachings of Tibet.
Prior to the birth of the first Karmapa, the arrival of a Buddhist master, who would be known as the Karmapa, had been prophesied by the historical Buddha Shakyamuni and the great tantric master of India, Guru Padmasambhava. Throughout the centuries, Karmapas have been the central figure in the continuation of the vajrayana lineage in general and the Kagyu lineage in particular, and have played a very important role in the preservation of the study and practice lineages of Buddhism.
As a scholar and meditation master, as well as painter, poet, songwriter and playwright, the Gyalwang Karmapa embodies a wide range of the activities that Karmapas have engaged in over the centuries. As an environmental activist, computer enthusiast and world spiritual leader whose teachings are often webcast live, the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa has brought the Karmapa lineage’s activities fully into the 21st century.
Creating a Meaningful Life
It is obvious that all people wish to have happiness and avoid suffering, and a sense of warmth towards others, a desire for harmony and intimacy with others is the norm. Yet, because we are influenced and conditioned by our upbringing and circumstances, outlooks and viewpoints vary, creating differences between people. Within Tibetan society, for instance, we are all Tibetans but people raised in the Kagyupa tradition feel affinity for that tradition and distance from other religious traditions, simply because of the environment in which they have been raised. This might seem trivial or insignificant but such differences can have a major impact on and consequences for society, resulting in total disregard for other people. We no longer consider their happiness and well-being as important, and, in extreme circumstances, they may be persecuted, tortured and so on. Or, if one belongs to a particular political view, one might be so influenced that one becomes a fanatic. Consequently, it is very important for us to be on our guard and be cognisant of the influences and conditionings in our environment.
However, although we have been subjected to various influences, good and bad, in our upbringing and environment, there are many possible outcomes to any situation, and we still have choice. If someone is given five apples, he can eat all five apples himself, and limit himself to the experience of tasting apples! On the other hand he could choose to eat one, and, because it was delicious, choose to eat a second one, but then give away the other three: one to A, one to B and one to C. Later, when A has grapes, he will share them with him. When B has oranges, she will share them with him. When C has mangoes, he will give him one. Simply by choosing to share his apples he now has the opportunity to taste different fruit. Similarly, we have the potential to make our lives more flavourful. If, on the other hand, we are wrapped up in self-interest, we’ll eat all the apples! If we want a more meaningful life we have to reach out to other people, in which case having five apples at our disposal becomes a source for increasing happiness. The essential difference lies in our own attitude… (continue reading here)
To learn more about H.H. the 17th Karmapa please visit his website Here.