Karmapa Visited KTC-NJ 2008

The entrance to the monastic residence was gated with a newly constructed traditional arch entrance, and the 700 foot driveway was decorated with dream flags and prayer flags waving from over 70 flag poles. The knee-high ryegrass on the right side of the drive seemed to bow to the esteemed guest whose arrival was keenly anticipated, while the freshly-harvested field on the left was hurriedly prepared to serve as a make-shift parking lot for 1,000 cars.

This humble place is not used to receiving attention. The Lin Farm is a quiet 150-acre crop farm surrounded on four sides by the even-quieter Wharton State Forest of 115,000 acres. Located in Shamong Township, New Jersey, about 30 miles due east of Philadelphia (no, nobody around here has ever heard of it, either), this little patch is worlds way from the hustle and noise of New York City, site of the only previous public teaching in the US by His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. A breeze held the flags out from the poles, but the idyllic atmosphere was serene and warm, the sky cloudless. Although 2,000 people would eventually pass through the tight security and metal detectors to sit under tents to hear His Holiness give a public talk and the Medicine Buddha empowerment, the scene nonetheless seemed in keeping with the original intentions that Karma Thegsum Choling – NJ would serve as a bucolic getaway for our lineage’s leader, a place to give him a change of pace from the unending demands put on this perfect teacher.

Unlike most other KTC’s, ours began with a building -- a sangha arose to fill it. Mr. and Mrs. Lin donated to His Holiness the property and the modern 10,000 sq.ft. they had built for their family. The Center became a hub of practice for Chinese-speaking practitioners who come from New York City, North Jersey, Atlantic City, Delaware, and points in between. Led by talented lamas Wuu Fang Jang and more recently Lama Tsultrim, the Center has cultivated a world-wide community of Chinese-speaking Karma Kagyus, publishing a periodic Chinese language magazine for broad distribution.

Understanding the limitations of a single cultural perspective, KTC-NJ has sought to bring the Western and Asian sanghas together, encouraging westerners to join in weekly practices, and presenting public teachings in Philadelphia and Suburban New Jersey. Sometimes in conjunction with our friends at the Philadelphia Shambhala Meditation Center, we have brought to the area for teachings such glorious teachers as Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Khenpo Khartar Rinpoche, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche, and Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche. For teachers who speak in Tibetan, the policy is to provide consecutive translation into both English and Mandarin.

None of our previous productions, some of which exceeded 300 attendees, could prepare us for the enormity of a visit and public talk by His Holiness. But the very magnitude of it, the ocean of benefit that would spread to the many people who could attend, the opportunity to present a possibly helpful oasis to this treasure of our lineage, provided joyous motivation for dozens of volunteers to work around the clock. In addition to 100 KTCNJ volunteers who worked on the visit, we benefitted from the site security provide by 30 members of the Shambhala Dorje Kasung (from DC, Philadelphia, NYC, and elsewhere), a team of cooks/saints from New York who provided and cooked several meals for volunteers and visitors, and experts from other sanghas who seemed to show up just when we needed them most. The assistance we received was inspiring and almost magical.

Our ability to spread His Holiness’s teaching was enhanced by the efforts of friends of KTCNJ who arranged for charter buses to bring car-less folks who might not otherwise have been able to attend in this rural locale. Four charter buses from New York City and two from near Washington.

In addition to our traditional English and Chinese translations of the teachings, our friends from Washington were able to transmit a simultaneous translation to about 80 Vietnamese speakers via a local FM radio setup (many thanks to Lama Yeshe Gyamtso, Mr. Chong Da, and Su Su Luu).

His Holiness talked about the importance of global harmony and the importance of education in making harmony possible. . . .

Our world, His Holiness reminded us, is getting smaller and smaller. We need to engage in new methods in order to understand each other and increase the feelings of warmth and friendship that exist between members of different cultures. There are two things we can learn more about in order to give rise to this type of harmony: culture and language. When we learn about the cultures and languages of other types of people, the obstacle of ignorance is removed, and, along with that, the distance between people. . . .

His Holiness especially pointed out the auspicious connection of having his teachings translated into English and Chinese, two languages that are very important to the world in this century.

A last-minute addition to the schedule was a buffet supper, at which His Holiness joined us to dine, and we all enjoyed some authentic Tibetan music. The Karmapa’s infectious sense of wellbeing and joy was reflected in comments to the large afternoon audience (id.):

“You have made me smile, and smiling is something I usually do not do a lot of." His Holiness told the members of his audience that he will never forget the feelings of joy they have given him which brought a smile to his face. "And," he added, "if I have brought a smile to your face, I aspire that the feelings of joy and happiness you have experienced in this environment will always stay with you."