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The Karmapa in New York
[This photo where he is surrounded by body guards, Tibetan, local, and state department]
As usual security around His Holiness was tight and I am not just talking about his personal bodyguards or our local sangha protectors, all whom wore suits. The state department sends a whole team of what must be part of the Secret Service to guard and protect distinguished foreign dignitaries like the Karmapa and they are armed and as a rule not very friendly. It is their job not to reveal anything about the itinerary or whereabouts of His Holiness.
In fact, when we followed the Karmapa down to New Jersey where he gave an empowerment (a four-hour drive), it was 100 degrees out. The secret service kept one of their big black cars ready and running all the time, just outside the auditorium in case they had to make a getaway. They did pop the hood (but it was still latched) to let the car breathe a little, but there it sat running nevertheless.
And we had to wear all kinds of identification tags which restricted where you could walk. I had three badges, including one that stated I was an authorized photographer and could pretty much walk anywhere on the grounds. Margaret accompanied me, carrying the tripod and an extra lens. As a photographer I was part of many smaller and more private meetings, but we also saw him officially for work we had done for the monastery over the years. Dare I say that being in close proximity to His Holiness was wonderful? I was a little shy of disturbing his privacy with photography, but that is what I had been asked to do. Pictures can mean a lot.
The moment we arrived at the monastery and were tagged we slipped into one of the most delicious worlds, the mandala of His Holiness the Karmapa. How to explain it? Words don’t do it justice, but I will do my best. Being with His Holiness, just being in the same buildings with him, the general vicinity of him, changes one. It is like there is no need to practice meditation or make any effort in that direction. You are already there as much as your mental receptors and mind can know. My mind becomes perfectly clear and it seems like I am transported to a perfect (at least for me) state of meditation. Looking around me, everyone else seems to be in the same state. It seems that everyone there had never been friendlier or kinder to one another than then. It is remarkable.
It was a great feeling to know that this bubble of clarity that I had entered would extend for most of a week. In fact my original intention to return home after just a few days gradually lost its resolve as we prolonged our stay again and again. It was like all of the distraction that ordinary life involves, working, making a living, etc. just fell away as life in the mandala of His Holiness took over. I mean it was very nice folks. I could do it forever given the opportunity.
And don’t suppose that I am just a “believer” and that those of you in an agnostic state would have a different experience. Anyone with even a somewhat open mind would have the same experience. It does not require belief or dharma practice to appreciate the presence of His Holiness. Like the sun shining, all you have to do is get near the light. I know it sounds cultish, but it is just the experience you have when you are with the Karmapa. I am sure the same is true of the presence of the Dalai Lama. This is a spiritual experience for anyone and everyone, an experience not soon to be forgotten.
I wanted to blog while I was there but the Wi-fi did not seem to work for my iPad and the one computer available to me was so full of pop-up viruses and warnings that it was almost impossible to use. I did manage to get a few words out about the wedding, but that was about it. More as I can.