Short Talks by the 17. Gyalwa Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje 2007
Complete interview (13:08)
In this complete interview, Tibetan Buddhist leader His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa reflects upon the meaning of oneness in this age.
Words from the Karmapa (5:28) Extracts from the talks with film shortages.
Maybe spiritual people should focus more on connecting with the general public. That is to say, not just connect with their own group, but with other people as well. Yes, I think that spiritual leaders should make their goal to not just reach their own students, but to connect with the world's citizens.
However, spirituality is not like business. Business is based on production and distribution. Spiritual power cannot be spread around like that. Transmission of spiritual power is possible only through human relationships and through opportunities to form those relationships. And of course most important is the intention to benefit others, that is the whole basis of religion.
Just studying religion ourselves is not enough; we need to connect with humanity, with the world in mutually beneficial ways. If we can form positive, conscious relationships with the human family, then we can really make a difference in the world.
I think there are a lot of people in this world who have spiritual power. But just the presence of spiritual leaders in the world is not enough. They need to connect with individuals and groups of people. They need open channels of communication and opportunities to reach people. Likewise, the faith and devotion of people is not enough, they need to be given an opportunity to come into contact with spiritual leaders. Whether or not they are given this opportunity is in the hands of society. I think there are many beings with spiritual power in the world today. They are here for our benefit. It is very important they be given a chance to reach people.
What is spiritual power? 01:13
Generally, the power of spirituality is something that is known through experience. It is hard to describe spiritual power to someone who does not have a personal experience of it. Spiritual power is very subtle. If you do not have experience with it, it is very hard to understand it. However, I can say there are various ways spiritual power develops in a person. It is acquired by way of practice, by way of study and through various other means, depending on the inclination of the individual. But the most effective way to encounter spiritual power is through meditation practice.
As I see it, religion must adapt to the changing needs of people. The way things appear to people in the world is changing, and it is the responsibility of religion to adapt to these changes. We should try and preserve what is useful about our spiritual and religious perspective, and leave aside what is not useful. Human psychology is evolving. As it evolves, we need to adapt spirituality, spiritual behaviour and customs, to address the needs of individuals.
External things, why they cannot hold onto us, our experiences is that we become compulsively attached to them. These days, there is a lot to distract us due to the proliferation of technology. Because of this proliferation, we are increasingly exposed to external distractions capable of seducing and distracting the mind. It seems we are living in an age of tremendous growth and expansion. However, we need to consider this: are external things really distracting us? Are the things at fault? Or is it that our mind is clinging to external phenomena? Is it our latent tendency of attachment that is at fault? That is what we need to consider. If the former is true, if outer things are distracting us, if there is something inherent in external things that is at fault, then all we can do is try to avoid them. Since we can never completely avoid external phenomena, really taming distraction would be difficult. However if it is the mind that is at the root of our distraction, then we can do something about it. We can modify our cognitive behaviour, we can be vigilant. Instead of avoiding external things, we can work with the attachment itself that arises in the mind. If the mind is the root of the problem, we have the power and freedom to ameliorate our tendency towards distraction.
The power of oneness, that is to say unity, begins as an internal experience. It comes from the mind's way of thinking or discerning. It is intelligent discernment that gives power to oneness. We have studied and meditated a great deal on the way things truly are, on ultimate truth. This kind of study and meditation contributes to an ability to conceptualize unity, sustain a holistic way of thinking, and foster an all-inclusive and broad universal vision. Then what about the individual's relationship to society: how an individual serves society, and how society serves the individual? There are many qualities an individual needs to contribute to social unity and oneness. Most importantly, an individual needs courage and willingness to sacrifice for the good of the community and society as a whole. In turn, society needs to exist for the good of each individual. Thus, when society and the individuals that make up society are mutually supportive, mutually self-sacrificing, social unity and harmony is possible.
The source and basis of what we call "oneness" is ultimately the mind, it is a way of thinking. The Tibetan Buddhist perspective of this concept is influenced by their current socio-historical situation. Tibetans have recently endured a great deal of adversity. Over a hundred-thousand Tibetans have had to recently resettle in India and other countries. This refugee community has survived by relying on the concept of oneness, of a unified Tibetan people. In a similar way, Tibetan Buddhists have begun to view, understand and respond to their own religious tradition with a heightened sense of oneness [non-sectarianism]. For example, in our society within the general large assemblies we have had very little freedom to pass binding laws, implement large changes, or sustain major projects. As a member of a government, we have few legal rights and there is little holding us together politically. Yet, even so, our society has been able to live in a united way, a way of oneness. This is due to our trust in one another, our shared hopes, and our faith. That is how we are able to remain united as a culture and people.