Observations From Peter Volz
Preparing for the visit of the Seventeenth Karmapa has been very enjoyable because there are so many different sanghas working together. From one point of view it’s inefficient and a bit confusing. But I think that is far outweighed and trumped by the good inter-sangha connections and relationships that are being developed. The Karmapa was absolutely emphatic that he wanted us to work together, and that everyone should be included. Nalandabodhi, Ponlop Rinpoche’s community, is the primary host, and they’ve done a terrific job. We have really good teams nationally and regionally. The buzz is deafening. Young people, old people, medium people – everybody is very excited about this visit.
I have had the good fortune to meet the Seventeenth Karmapa on two occasions. I helped organize our first official diplomatic delegation in 2002. There were seven or eight of us, and we had a couple of audiences. There was an instantaneous rapport. You could see that His Holiness is extremely curious about the West and extremely curious about us. He said that he really looked forward to visiting us in the United States and seeing what the Dorje Kasung and other people are doing. It’s interesting that he specifically mentioned the Dorje Kasung. I think he knows a lot about us, and apparently he talks about the United States all the time. He’s learning English and apparently he’s doing very well. He’s a remarkable person with tremendous power and presence but also very simple and humble and direct. His presence is irresistible.
This visit is really just an introduction; it’s only eighteen days long. It will be a chance for people to meet His Holiness and receive teachings from him. It will lay the ground for what we hope will be many visits to follow. It will also be an opportunity for His Holiness to meet us, to have a glimpse of Western culture and to interact with the North American sangha.
For young students who have heard about the Sixteenth Karmapa, this is a chance to see the unbroken lineage in action. For the older students it’s a wonderful opportunity to become reacquainted with the energy and presence of the Karmapas. Hopefully, we will continue to have a deep, ongoing and genuine connection to our Kagyu and Nyingma lineage teachers. Without this connection, we might run the risk of becoming somewhat insular as a community.
When I visited His Holiness the second time, about a year and a half ago, to celebrate his twenty-first birthday, we ran into Tenga Rinpoche, who had just spent two months giving teachings to His Holiness. All the major Kagyü Tulkus have spent extensive time with him. So at this point he has received and absorbed the full and thorough transmission of those teachings, and from all accounts they’re taking root very deeply. The Karmapas embody the accumulated wisdom of the lineage. So this visit is a really exciting opportunity for all of us to experience the lineage summed up in one person.
After the Karmapa’s visit this spring, there may well be a tour in a few years by the new yangsi [incarnation] of His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. And in November, Shambhala has been invited to send a representative to attend the formal enthronement of the next Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche in India. The last Jamgon Rinpoche was an important teacher and friend to Shambhala; he was one of the most beloved teachers in the Kagyu lineage. We are so fortunate that these teachers will be coming to the West to teach us, and to share their wisdom, warmth and humor with our community.