Buddhist experiences in NYC – Teachings from HH Karmapa & others and my own teachings

The biggest surprise of my visit is the presence of His Holiness the Karmapa in New York. Head of the Karma Kagyu Lineage (the one I follow), he is an amazing young man as being massively important in the Buddhist world. I taught a Mindfulness workshop at the Municipal Library and a woman came up to me to tell me that he was teaching at Riverside Church literally 500 yards from where I am living!

What I learnt, to my great sadness, is that the Chinese regime would like him dead and so the security around him is huge. I felt so sad about this. He has been in New York for quite a while as the situation in India is not ideal at the moment, again due to the Chinese bullying.

I immediately booked for the 3 day teachings on the ‘37 Practices of Bodhisattvas’ with the Vajrasattva empowerment on the afternoon of the third day. It was absolutely beautiful and I met some lovely people.

I was honoured not only to have a brief one to one meeting but also to ask a question of him during the teachings about the teacher/student relationship. I felt very emotional when, in responding, he said that my relationship with Akong Rinpoche had made me a better person. What an honour. It is true that I would never had deepened my connection with Mindfulness and Buddhism or written my book if I hadn’t had him as my precious teacher.

I saw the Karmapa again – at the Marme Monlam World Peace Lamp Prayer Gathering at Madison Square Garden on Sunday June 10th, which was a truly beautiful and moving experience. It was attended by around a thousand people, many Tibetans and monks/nuns. Lama Yeshe from Samye Ling was there, as well as Thrubten, one of the monks who teaches extensively and I managed to say hello to them both.

On entry, we were all given a paper lotus with a little light that flashed different colours. When the ceremony/concert (with many performances, chanting etc) commenced the lights were dimmed and we all turned on the lamps. It was lovely. At the end of the gathering we turned them on again while we sang ‘Karmapa Chenno’ and there was an audible gasp when the lights went up and there was the Karmapa (who up until then had been sitting in the sound booth near to me – the photo of the crowd shows him clearly illuminated).

As he stood there he started to sing to us and the Tibetans and monks eventually joined in: so sweet and profound. I have been re-playing some of the chants, notably the Karmapa’s, since attending the event. Although the recordings on my phone are not perfect, they are lovely and I am happy to share them.

Earlier on in this trip I was told by my friends at Staten Island that there was to be a discussion between Richard Gere and Sakya Trizin “Wisdom and compassion for modern times” in a Church in Mid-town. It served as a reminder of the teachings I have attended, notably with the Dalia Lama. I attended and was lucky to have a very short chat with Richard Gere, who I admire immensely because of his commitment to Buddhism. Together with Uma’s dad, Bob Thurman and Richard Glass he started Tibet House in New York.

I received an invitation from Tibet House (where I taught last year) to an interesting art exhition with felt Tankas and pictures created from pieces of joss-sticks. Tibet House is always very generous with the food and drink it provides, as well.

I also attended an empowerment in Queeens with the younger Sakya Trizin – the Manjushri Initiation with many Chinese people. Considering the attitude of the Chinese authorities to the Tibetans and Buddhism I found it both ironic and comforting.

I was told about a good exhibition at the Asia Society Museum on Park Avenue ‘Unknown Tibet: the Tucci exhibitions and Buddhist painting’. Tucci travelled 13 times into Tibet between 1928 and 1956 and built up  a beautiful collection of old Buddhist Tankas. I loved it, as well as a very informative film.

Under one Tanka I read something that describes my own precious teacher – Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche about another important realised being “He is a Tulku … the incarnation of a Bodhisattva … potentially a Buddha. He makes a vow to remain in this world to promote by example”. Rinpoche absolutely promoted by example. And so the title of the talk I gave (my third) at the Tibetan Museum on Staten Island was “How my teacher, Akong Rinpoche, made me a teacher of Mindfulness”

I love teaching at the Tibetan Museum – the people are lovely and the place itself is dreamy – really a place you could just BE in all day and feel so nurtured.

As usual with all of my talks I sold some of my books. Other talks this visit are the library one I mentioned above, Donna’s group for people recovering from toxic relationships, Natalie’s group for women recovering from the same and Natalie’s workplace.

Natalie lives a short train-ride North from Harlem’s 125th Street Station in Manhattan – Westchester and the seaside area of Rye. She invited me and Alfie to stay the night and luckily for all concerned her little dog Charlie showed the better side of himself. He is known for not always liking other dogs in his space.

Natalie has a lovely rabbit so Alfie got to watch a lot of rabbit television. Give him a cat, squirrel or rabbit and he goes selectively deaf and can spend hours just watching them, licking his lips. Actually, he just wants to give them a good old sniff.

Natalie’s lovely daughter was off to the Prom the next day and so showed off her dress to me. 

The following day, after the meeting with some fabulous women and a delicious breakfast, I enjoyed a walk in Rye before getting the train back to Manhattan. It was nice to experience Upstate New York again!

Another enjoyable experience with a Buddhist friend was had with Rudy, who is one of the Director’s of the Tibetan Museum. He collected me and Alfie from Debbie’s and drove us to Snug Harbour on Staten Island. Alfie absolutely loved running off the lead/leash and the lushness of the grass there and Rudy and I enjoyed walking around the gardens of the former huge accommodation for retired seafarers.

All of these enjoyable connections with spiritual friends in New York are good for the soul – mine and Alfie’s!

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