Visit of H.H. 17th Karmapa to the UK, July 2009

17th Karmapa in London, 30 July 2009

In July 2009, H.H. 17th Karmapa, Trinley Thaye Dorje made his third visit to the UK to meet his students and give Buddhist teachings and empowerments. The visit started with a wonderful two-day programme in Manchester, hosted by the Dechen community. Details can be found here and here on the Dechen blog. There is also an article on the Dechen website where Lama Jampa Thaye reflects on the visit of the 16th Karmapa to Manchester in 1977.  The Manchester Evening News announced the event and The Times also ran a report.

Diamond Way Buddhism UK then had the great honour of hosting Gyalwa Karmapa in Liverpool and London. He was joined by Nendo Rinpoche, Lama Tsultrim Namgyal, Lama Chopon Gyaltsen, and Lama Karma Wangdu, from Rumtek Monastery.

On the way to London from Manchester on 29 July, Gyalwa Karmapa stopped briefly in Liverpool to bless the Diamond Way Buddhist Centre there. Members of the Liverpool Centre and other groups in the north of the UK made a presentation about the activity of the northern Diamond Way Buddhist centres. He gave the oral transmission for the Four Foundational Practices (Tib. Ngondro) and the Third Karmapa’s Great Seal Wishes.

17th Karmapa in the Liverpool Diamond Way Buddhist Centre, 29 July 2009

Afterwards, Gyalwa Karmapa commented: “What I really enjoy is your togetherness, your bonds between each other. I think that is the key, that is the life of a sangha. What I would like to wish for all of you is to continue this wonderful bond so that it will strengthen our activity.”

17th Karmapa preparing to give the empowerment of Marpa, London, 30 July 2009

Afterwards, Gyalwa Karmapa and his entourage departed for London. In the evening he was welcomed at a reception in the National Gallery Cafe on Trafalgar Square, where a presentation was made on the New London Diamond Way Buddhist Centre Project. Here members of the London Sangha symbolically offered Gyalwa Karmapa their “collective Ngondro” – the group accumulation (while meditating together in the centre) of an entire set of 111,111 of each of the Four Foundational Practices. This was started in late January 2009 and completed just before Gyalwa Karmapa’s arrival.

On 30 July Gyalwa Karmapa gave the teachings on the life of the Kagyu lineage holder Marpa, followed by the empowerment of Marpa, to an audience of around 700 people in the South Bank Centre’s prestigious Queen Elizabeth Hall. Those present included Buddhists from the Diamond Way and Dechen sanghas, including Lama Jampa Thaye and his family.

Marpa, the great hero, translator and forefather of the Kagyu Lineage

Marpa (1012-1097) is a hero of Buddhism and the father of the Kagyu Lineage in Tibet. His life is symbolic of the transmission of Buddhist teachings in new lands and in new languages whilst preserving their essential meaning. He travelled three times from Tibet to India to bring the teachings of the Kagyu Lineage into the land of snow, braving disease, brigands and the huge distances involved. As well as translating these teachings from Sanskrit into Tibetan, Marpa is widely regarded as the chief of all Tibetan accomplishers and was the teacher of the famous ascetic Milarepa. Yet for all his mastery he lived a normal life as head of his family – a husband, father, householder and farmer. During his life, hardly anyone except for his students recognised him as an enlightened being. But it was precisely through his ability to unify his life and his realisation that Marpa demonstrated the basis, way and goal of the Great Seal (Skt. Mahamudra), the special teaching of the Kagyu lineage, which has been handed down from teacher to student as a living transmission until today, the present holder of which is Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje.

17th Karmapa giving the empowerment of Marpa in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 30 July 2009

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. After the empowerment, Gyalwa Karmapa was thanked on behalf of his students from the UK Diamond Way Buddhist centres. Thanks were also  offered to Lama Ole Nydahl (who was not able to attend in person this year), without whose activity none of this would be possible. Finally, Gyalwa Karmapa was requested to come back to the UK as soon as possible.

Karmapa's monks prepare the beautiful shrine mandala for the empowerment

The enormous efforts of so many friends from the Kagyu family all around the UK resulted in a hugely successful visit. On Friday morning, 31 July, Gyalwa Karmapa was bid farewell at Heathrow Airport to continue with his European tour. He said that he would like to visit the UK for a longer visit next time!

Reports of other visits of the 17th Karmapa to London can be found here (2005) and here (2007).

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply