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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Tibetan Buddhist Karmapa Draws Hundreds to Shamong

May 26, 2008

Michelle J. Lee Staff Writer, 609-272-7256
Press of Atlantic City, NJ
May 24, 2008

SHAMONG TOWNSHIP - They came by the hundreds to this small monastery
in the middle of the Burlington County pinelands, clutching silk
prayer scarfs, beads and cameras.

A tall man emerged from the house, flanked by security guards, monks
and nuns. He walked solemnly down a red carpet to the strains of a
horn and took a seat in an elaborate gold and red chair while the
crowd of more than 1,600 people bowed before him and chanted prayers.

The 22-year-old looked out and smiled at the large audience
underneath the white tent. The applause was thunderous. This was the
moment many people had hoped for decades to witness: the appearance
of Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, one of the most
important spiritual leaders in Tibetan Buddhism.

The ceremony Friday at Karma Thegsum Choling was a long-awaited
homecoming for Dorje, the leader of the Kagyu sect. The monastery was
created in 2001 when a devoted Buddhist, Yao Hei Lin, donated the
two-story mansion and 150 acres of farmland and pine forest to the
religious leader.

The young Tibetan leader of the Kagyu sect is considered a master
Buddhist teacher. He drew international attention in 1992 when the
Dalai Lama recognized him as the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa,
and gained more renown in 1999 when, at 14, he crossed the Himalayas
in the middle of winter to leave China and enter India.

The Karmapa is in the middle of his first U.S. tour, a whirlwind
18-day journey that started May 15 with stops in Woodstock, N.Y., his
North American headquarters, and New York City. People, some from as
far away as Florida, Wisconsin and Ontario, came to hear him speak in
Shamong. Following the New Jersey appearance, he moves on to Boulder,
Colo., and Seattle.

Dorje delivered an hour-long speech in Tibetan and led a healing
ceremony to the medicine Buddha that was broadcast on several large
screens and translated into English, Mandarin and Vietnamese.

During the speech, the Karmapa said he appreciated his multicultural
background, growing up with Tibetan and Chinese customs, and learning
more about Western people. He also encouraged the crowd to look
beyond their own immediate desires and reach out to others.

"I think we have a great opportunity to establish a level of
understanding among people and a true opportunity for peace in the
world, and the enlightenment from the true understanding of people
and cultures," he said.

The ceremony was a double blessing for Jane Higgins, a yoga teacher
from Cape Cod, Mass.

Higgins, a former Hindu nun, first became interested in Buddhism when
she saw the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, in 1980. Higgins took
refuge with him in New York City a year before he died.

Higgins, 69, drove from Massachusetts specifically to meet the young
Karmapa, and felt very honored to see the spiritual leader twice and
receive the empowerment blessing.

"He's very beautiful. I see there's a similarity in looks to me, and
I get emotional," Higgins said.

The event provided Dorjee Tso, 41, a nanny from Derwood, Md., an
opportunity to gain a deeper cultural and spiritual connection.

Tso, a Tibetan raised in India, was one of the first people to line
up at the monastery. She woke up at 4 a.m. to make the grueling drive
with three friends, her mother, Chuchi, who is from the same town as
the Karmapa, and her step-father, Lobsang Rabten.

Tso said she has become more interested in religion as she has grown
older, and she traveled to the Shamong ceremony to learn more
Buddhist teachings. She met the Karmapa once before, during a trip to
Delhi, India, five years ago, and the experience stayed with her.

"In my mind, I just wanted to see him (again)," Tso said. "I saw him
coming here. It feels so good, I can't express it. I feel so
different, I feel relief, like you have something (heavy) and just
put it down."

Tenzin Choden, a 26-year-old college student from New York City, said
meeting the Karmapa is one of the most important moments of her life.

Choden, a Tibetan who grew up in India and Minneapolis, said she
leads a very religious life, pouring holy water each day and praying
in the morning and before and after going to school. While Choden had
listened to the Karmapa on the radio many times before, this was her
first time seeing the young master.

"For me, we are blessed to have him here," Choden said.

Most importantly, Choden said, she learned the significance of
compassion and non-violence from the Karmapa. Like many young
Tibetans, Choden passionately believes that Tibet should be separate
from China. She has been active with the Tibetan Women's Association
and is trying to set up a cultural club at her college. But Choden
said she cares for the Chinese people and mourned the victims of in
the recent earthquake in Sichuan province.

At the end of the two-hour event, the Karmapa thanked his "big class"
of visitors and said being with them was like being with long-lost family.

"It made me smile, which isn't something I do a lot. But I have been
doing it more now that I've come to America," he said. "You are my
brothers and sisters. ... I hope that the sight of my smile does you
some good."

To e-mail Michelle Lee at The Press:

MLee@pressofac.com
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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