On the second visit of his Holiness, the 17th Karmapa, Trinley Thaye Dorjeto to the Philippines last week, I had the rare opportunity to have a one-on-one interview with him in the Coral Room of the SMX Convention Center where his daily lectures, blessings and empowerment ceremonies took place.
I first met the Karmapa in 2006 on his first visit here. Our second meeting was brief, but very enlightening.
My questions ranged from modern physics and Buddhist teachings, to the quest for happiness, the adjustments Tibetan Buddhism have adopted, if any, because of modernization, and then a question about a very strange Tibetan practice of a monk generating body heat to dry a wet blanket on his shoulders in 10 hours or less.
Six years ago when you were here, I had an interview with you. Now I have a few more questions, more on metaphysics and your comment about some of the findings of modern physics or quantum physics, saying that they find the Buddhist teaching to confirm their findings in their experiments.
For example, the writings of Dr. Fritjof Capra on the Tao of Physics and Gary Zukav on the Dancing Wu Li Masters talk about such similarities. What science is now finding about the nature of reality, that there’s nothing out there, is what Buddhists have been saying since 2,500 years ago. What is your comment on this?
It is actually something that I’m really happy to know, because I’ve been always interested in science and in their findings, and to see that what the Buddhist suggests and the philosophies of science suggest are coming closer together, and that their scientific theories confirm Buddhism beliefs. I’ve always been taught that. That has always been the case, and eventually, whatever scientific findings we may find, it will always confirm what the Buddhist teachings are saying, because in the end, everything is just one, all reality is one. They happen, they occur because everything is interdependent.
We experience whatever there is to experience, otherwise there is nothing. I think, in time, all scientists will be able to somehow see that and understand that, and I think that finding will be beneficial for everybody.
I remember the response you gave me regarding the search for happiness. You said that people are seeking things that are not there, but that they think that there is something there, and that is exactly what particle physics is saying now, that there is no outer reality, that it’s only a creation of our mind, which is the Buddhist teachings of Maya, everything out there is an illusion. I find that very interesting and yet shocking to most people.
I think, logically, it’s like that, and if we focus on the reality, it also looks like that, but it’s the habits that are most difficult and most challenging to overcome. I think that it is difficult for all of us to overcome our habits. Although there is no such thing as a ghost in the dark, some of us have the habit of thinking that there might be someone… that’s a habit of not knowing. So it’s a bit challenging to overcome this habit, but eventually, we will see the truth.
A lot of people are looking for happiness or fulfillment outside of themselves, asking God or Buddha, or whoever they consider to be their God, for assistance. Is it the right approach?
Of course, everyone has his own choice and freedom to seek happiness in whichever way one thinks is the right source. Everyone has that right, but, of course, Buddhists suggest something else. From my own personal opinion, happiness can come from understanding yourself, understanding others, and then through that understanding we will come to know that we are not different, that we are all very similar, that we have innate, positive qualities, knowing and understanding that brings a lot of joy, and happiness.
Can I ask something about the Tibetan ceremonies that have been practiced for thousands of years? I don’t think it has changed a bit since then. Don’t you think that it’s about time Tibetan Buddhism adapted somehow to modern times?
I think it has already adapted quite a lot, you know… quite rapidly, I might say.
For example, which of these has been adapted to modern times?
Well… for example, we are now using modern technology to communicate with everybody, to reach the individuals around the world. That is something that was never heard of. In that way, it’s a big change from our old ways.
Are you still doing this practice in Tibet of using body heat to dry up a wet blanket? I forgot what the Tibetan word for it is.
The inner heat? Yes, back in Tibet there are a lot of practitioners, and also outside of Tibet, there are also many countries that are practicing these methods.
Is that practice of producing one’s own body heat to dry up a wet blanket a sort of test to monks, or is it for a religious purpose?
It has some religious purpose in it, yes, but mostly, it is to develop one’s ability to sustain one’s body, because sustaining one’s body is very important, not only for one’s own benefit but for the benefit of others as well. Because the human body is very precious, so such practice is done to somehow keep one’s body in good condition. And also, to transform one’s body into something that is beneficial for us, to turn it to an advantage, because if the body is not well, instead of helping the mind, it disturbs the mind… so it is a good practice.
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