17th Karmapa in London: A Retrospective Pt.1, 2005

We would like to share some inspiring impressions of H.H. 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje‘s first two visits to the UK, which happened before this blog was established. Gyalwa Karmapa’s first historic visit was in August 2005, when he stayed for four days in London at the invitation of Diamond Way Buddhism UK. He was joined by Lama Jigme Rinpoche, Lama Ole and Hannah Nydahl and other distinguished lamas who were part of the travelling entourage of the 16th Karmapa in the UK during the 1970s.

Reports of other visits of the 17th Karmapa to London can be found here (2007) and here (2009).

Flyer 1 for 2005 course (front)

Jigme Rinpoche in London, 9 August 2005

The weekend of teachings and transmissions with the theme “The Way of the Bodhisattva” took place at the Friends Meeting House on Euston Road. This location was very significant, as the 16th Karmapa had taught and given the Black Crown Ceremony there in 1974. The programme started on Friday, 5 August, with a lecture by Lama Jigme Rinpoche, who had travelled from Dhagpo Kagyu Ling in Dordogne, France. In 1974, during his first visit to Europe, H.H. the 16th Karmapa designated Dhagpo Kagyu Ling as the central seat of his activity in Europe, headed by Lama Jigme Rinpoche as his representative. When the 16th Karmapa appointed Lama Jigme Rinpoche as his European representative, he said: “In the person of Lama Jigme Rinpoche, I leave you my heart”. Jigme Rinpoche’s lecture was entitled “The Karmapa and the Kagyu Lineage” and focussed on the life and activity of the 16th Karmapa. It was a very inspiring teaching peppered with personal reminiscences and stories from the many years Jigmela spent at the side of the 16th Karmapa.

Earlier in the day, Karmapa Thaye Dorje was the guest of honour at an interfaith reception hosted by St Ethelburga’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation where he delivered a keynote speech. The event, hosted by The Hindu Forum of Britain, was to celebrate Friendship and Trust. In the presence of the Bishop of London, Gyalwa Karmapa and spiritual leaders from the Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Jain faiths unveiled a Japanese tapestry, “People of the World”.  The event was reported in The Times newspaper:

“It is important for all humanity that confidence and trust can be put in the various spiritual traditions,” His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Trinlay Thaye Dorje, the head of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, told the gathering. Making his first visit to London, the young lama — often called the Black Hat Lama of Tibet — added: “It is our duty to do and say the same thing so that our behaviour and our words support each other.”

This famous photograph of the 17th Karmapa was taken by Ginger Neumann in London, 2005

On Saturday 6 August, Gyalwa Karmapa was formally welcomed to the UK on his first visit in his 17th incarnation. The text of the welcome speech is below:

“Your Holiness Gyalwa Karmapa, we are so fortunate to receive you in the UK for the first time in 28 years, since your predecessor, the 16th Karmapa, was here, in London. This is a wonderful beginning to your activity in our country We are especially happy to welcome three of your entourage who came with you at that time: Firstly Lama Jigme Rinpoche, your representative in Europe; Lama Chopon Gyaltsen, who was the master of ceremonies at that time; and Lama Tsultrim Namgyal, your personal attendant. We also welcome Nendo Rinpoche and the other lamas: Omze Yeshe, who was brought up by the 16th Karmapa in Rumtek Monastery, and lama Yeshe Loday, also from Rumtek Monastery. As you know, it is especially auspicious that Lama Jigme Rinpoche has brought with him from France, for your throne, the brocade which was used – also in this very hall – by your previous incarnation. Gyalwa Karmapa, on behalf of all the UK Karma Kagyu Diamond Way Buddhist Centres, thank you for coming.”

Gyalwa Karmapa then taught about Buddhist Refuge and the Enlightened Attitude (Skt. Bodhicitta) to an audience of about 1,000 people. Afterwards he performed the refuge ceremony for those wishing to become Buddhists, and also gave the Bodhisattva Promise.

Hannah and Lama Ole Nydahl being blessed by 17th Karmapa in London, 7 August 2005

The following day, Sunday 7 August, Gyalwa Karmapa gave the empowerment of Marpa (1012-1097), the hero of Buddhism and the father of the Kagyu Lineage in Tibet. Marpa’s example as a lay practitioner is an inspiration to Diamond Way Buddhists, and his empowerment is a blessing for the practice of Guru Yoga (“Meditation on the Lama”), the main practice in Diamond Way Buddhist centres. Hannah and Lama Ole Nydahl were present during the teachings. Hannah was on hand to assist with translation of Tibetan terms that Gyalwa Karmapa did not yet know in English, and Jigme Rinpoche, Hannah and Lama Ole assisted him by distributing blessed substances to the participants during the empowerment.

Friends travelling on the London Underground to Heathrow Airport the following Monday morning to wish Gyalwa Karmapa farewell as he continued his European Tour were delighted to see his face on the front page of the newspaper Metro.

On Monday 8 August, Lama Ole Nydahl gave a lecture entitled “The Way of the Bodhisattva” in which he gave explanations on the “Six Liberating Actions” in the Camden Centre on Euston Road.

Flyer 2 for 2005 course (front)

The historic first visit of the 17th Karmapa to the UK marked a step-change in the level of activity of Diamond Way Buddhism UK, in particular for the London Diamond Way Buddhist Centre. The blessing of Gyalwa Karmapa and the deep bonds of friendship formed amongst the volunteers who helped to organise the event continue to influence our work to firmly establish the Diamond Way in the UK.

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One Response to “17th Karmapa in London: A Retrospective Pt.1, 2005”

  1. Paul says:

    Wow. That was the lecture when I took refuge with Lama Ole. I wish I could have come to see Karmapa too, but I didn’t really know who he was back then. Very nice to have such a well-presented record of the event.

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