Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Amma Sri Karunamayi is one of India's greatest living saints. I've been visiting Amma every year for 15 years, and April 3, 2015 was the first time I saw her give a lengthy and heartfelt discourse denouncing violence against women. She also lamented human trafficking, and missing girls.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where trafficking victims are exploited for commercial sex purposes by means of force, fraud or coercion, according to the U.S. Department of State. One reason human trafficking is prevalent in the United States is related to our 1.7 million teenage runaways. Many of these teens end up in hands of a trafficker (a pimp), who gives promises such as shelter, protection, etc.

Amma passionately desires real change in the world regarding these issues. She said that if a woman becomes president of the United States, much more attention will be given to these issues.

Amma also mentioned that meat eating contributes to aggressive behavior and she recommends a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian, sattvic diet is meant to include food and eating habits that are "pure, essential, natural, vital, energy-containing, clean, conscious, true, honest, wise". Sattvic diet is a regimen that places emphasis on seasonal foods, fruits, dairy products, nuts, seeds, oils, ripe vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and non-meat based proteins. Some Sattvic diet suggestions, such as its relative emphasis on dairy products, is controversial.

Paramahansa Yogananda wrote in his "Autobiography of a Yogi " about how Mahatma Gandhi had concern and compassion for cows.

At ten-thirty we were called to the ashram porch for lunch with Gandhi and the satyagrahis. Today the menu included brown rice, a new selection of vegetables, and cardamon seeds.

Noon found me strolling about the ashram grounds, on to the grazing land of a few imperturbable cows. The protection of cows is a passion with Gandhi. "The cow to me means the entire sub-human world, extending man's sympathies beyond his own species," the Mahatma explained. "Man through the cow is enjoined to realize his identity with all that lives. Why the ancient rishis selected the cow for apotheosis is obvious to me. The cow in India was the best comparison; she was the giver of plenty. Not only did she give milk, but she also made agriculture possible. The cow is a poem of pity; one reads pity in the gentle animal. She is the second mother to millions of mankind. Protection of the cow means protection of the whole dumb creation of God. The appeal of the lower order of creation is all the more forceful because it is speechless."

Certain daily rituals are enjoined on the Orthodox Hindu. One is Bhuta Yajna, an offering of food to the animal kingdom. This ceremony symbolizes man's realization of his obligations to less evolved forms of creation - instinctively tied to body identification (a delusion that afflicts man also) but lacking the liberating quality of reason peculiar to humanity.
- from "Autobiography of a Yogi"

Amma's biography states that during her 10 years of deep meditation, poisonous snakes such as cobras would crawl over her, and tigers and deer would sit near her. These were WILD tigers and NOT defanged cobras! She said during the homa that she was not afraid of these animals and the jungle is safer than our society! Amma also said in her biography that she does not like to walk on grass because it hurts the grass!

Paramahansa Yogananda in his "Autobiography of a Yogi" wrote: "Master as far as I know, was never at close quarters with a leopard or tiger. But a deadly cobra once confronted him, only to be conquered by his love.

We were seated outdoors near the ashram. A cobra appeared nearby, a four-foot length of sheer terror. Its hood was angrily expanded as it raced toward us. Master gave a welcoming chuckle, as though to a child. I was filled with consternation to see Sri Yukteswar engage in a rhythmical clapping of hands. He was entertaining the dread visitor! The serpent's frightful hood gradually contracted; the snake slithered between Sri Yukteswarji's feet and disappeared into the bushes."

After her heartfelt discourse, Amma blessed probably 400 or more people individually. Each person writes on an index card what he or she needs and hands their card to Amma. Amma is always happy to see her "divine children" as she calls her followers. She is like a spiritual mother to her infants who need nurturing.

As usual, the festive and wonderfully sublime homa was charged with positive energy, as 300 people chanted and worshipped Ganesha, Shiva, Saraswati, and Lakshmi. Even small dogs seem to enjoy homas, and I think to myself, "You lucky dogs!" These homas are stashed in my memory as some of the most positive experiences in my life.


A homa or fire offering is a sacred ceremony in which the gods and goddesses are offered oblations through the medium of fire, according to Vedic spiritual injunctions, while special mantras are recited. A homa is performed during specific auspicious occasions for the benefit of the entire world as well as the participants.

Sri Karunamayi has stated that homas and abhishekams "purify the earth's atmosphere, uplift the community, and contribute to the individual."

An abhishekam is a ceremony of ablutions and symbolic offerings that include milk, honey, ghee and other items. The ablutions symbolize spiritual purification, and each of the offerings represent fulfilment on every level. Throughout the abhishekam, specific mantras are chanted to invoke blessings that uplift, protect and spiritually benefit us.

I'll admit this: I'm a glutton for homas, pujas, and Tibetan rituals and I will seek out blessings from any saint or rinpoche, as often as possible. I have plenty of time for mundane activities: working, shopping, reading newspapers, watching TV, but how often can I spend time with a great saint?

But homas are not merely a spectator sport, although simply witnessing one is good karma. During a homa I concentrate on chanting mantras and quietly mumbling prayers. Amma's devotees inform us that the benefits of chanting mantras during a homa are multiplied thousands of times. Therefore, I try to maximize the time spent at a homa.

Now, my faith in homas and Amma's teachings are based on my perception that Amma is  a great mahatma (great soul). Thousands of people who have spent time with her also share my convictions. Rather than be endlessly - or needlessly - critical of Sri Karunamayi, I've chosen to observe her kindness in action and I found that she walks the talk: her teachings are who she truly is.

Humanity is spread along a spectrum of knowledge, wisdom and awareness. Self-knowledge, divine awareness, utter humility and unconditional love elevate the mahatmas above ordinary people. Mindfulness, pity, guilt, and repentance elevate ordinary people above the demonic.

Ordinary people perform actions from a sense of duty and expectation of some return. But the mahatmas perform actions with total freedom. There is no good or bad associated with any action; action performed without any expectation or self-gratification is the key to freedom. This is also action from a true experience of freedom and total awareness.

I often wonder how many lifetimes I've spent visiting the great mahatmas and rinpoches. Who knows how many lives these great souls have influenced? Who knows how diminished our sordid planet would be without their presence? - by Scott Palczak


Paramahansa Yogananda wrote in his "Autobiography of a Yogi": "India, materially poor for the last two centuries, yet has an inexhaustible fund of divine wealth; spiritual 'skyscrapers' may occasionally be encountered by the wayside."

"Solitude is necessary to become established in the Self, but masters then return to the world to serve it. Even saints who engage in no outward work bestow, through their thoughts and vibrations, more precious benefits on the world than can be given by the most strenuous humanitarian activities of unenlightened men. The great ones, each in his own way strive selflessly to inspire and uplift their fellows." - by Paramahansa Yogananda


Swami Muktananda stated: "The saints of all countries have revealed the same truth - that God is everywhere. They have become one with God. All they see is God, not individuals, sects, countries, parties, and cults - not even East or West. They experience the Truth in everyone and teach others to do the same. Everywhere they see equality. They have surmounted body-consciousness. They have risen beyond the man-made limitations of religious groups. Everything they do is for the benefit of all people."

"The Bhagavad Gita says one is one's own best friend and one's own worst enemy. Our own thoughts and desires are responsible for the ugliness around us or the heaven around us."

"The Guru has done his work if he has awakened your inner Shakti, but that does not mean there is no need for self-effort. Self-effort and the Guru's grace are like two wings of a bird: The bird needs both to fly."


Austerities in the Sacred Penusila Forest

As she grew into a young woman, Amma felt an inner urge to begin spending more and more time in the family worship room, immersed in prayer and meditation. As she was now a first-year college student, she was forced to make time for meditation by reducing the time she spent sleeping. As her meditations deepened and intensified, she also began reducing her intake of food. These meditation sessions grew in length until one day Amma locked herself inside a room of the house and remained there in meditation for a month.

Though her family members were perplexed, they did not dare to disturb her, having witnessed the profundity of her meditations before. When she finally emerged, she seemed like a different person to her family members. Though she still showed the same sweet affection to which they were accustomed, her demeanor now expressed a more impersonal, universal love. Determined to fulfill the sacred purpose of her life, Amma gently told her mother that it was time for her to go into seclusion in the sacred Penusila Forest, to meditate there in solitude. Always respectful of her daughter’s divine nature, and trusting completely in God, Amma’s mother did not try to stop her from going.

In the year 1980, at the tender age of 21, Amma left the comfort and security of her parents’ home and traveled by foot to the remote and sacred Penusila Forest, where a number of India’s ancient sages had meditated for many hundreds of years. There, she was free to live according to principles established by India’s ancient Vedic sages. Rising at 2:30 in the morning, Amma would bathe with cold water from a pure river. Wearing only a simple cotton sari, she would go to one of the forest’s many sacred groves and remain there, absorbed in meditation for hours, days, or even weeks at a time.

Local villagers who spotted her sometimes mistook her for a statue, as they could not even detect the movement of breath in her perfectly still form. Some of the more mischievous ones would toss small pebbles on her, just to see if she was really alive or just a corpse! Others, feeling that only an incarnation of the Divine Mother could sit for so long in deep meditation, would leave small offerings of fruit before her. Whether she emerged from her meditations to find stones or fruit in front of her, Amma always maintained a state of perfect equanimity and gave her blessings to all, regardless of how they treated her.

Amma never felt that these meditations were done for her own sake, as she was following the example of India’s ancient Vedic sages, who meditated for hundreds of years in order to discover the best teachings for all of mankind. Through Amma’s austerities, she determined which of the Vedic teachings and practices would be of greatest benefit to people living in this difficult modern age. After performing such intense tapasya for over 10 years, Amma decided that it was time to share her knowledge with all those who thirsted for true spirituality, wherever they may live in the world.

SRI KARUNAMAYI VIDEO: Sri Vara Lakshmi Vratam is a holy day sacred to Sri Maha Lakshmi Devi, who showers her abundant motherly love and precious spiritual boons on those who perform puja to her on this day.




Imagine a world-class spiritual teacher on par with the Dalai Lama. Imagine someone who shares the Dalai Lama's convictions, compassion and worldview. The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa is the most likely successor to the 14th Dalai Lama, and when the Dalai Lama is replaced by the Karmapa, the world can rest assured that Tibetans and their unique culture is in eminently qualified hands. As his title implies, the 17th Karmapa has had 16 previous incarnations as the Karmapa. All of his previous lives, including his current incarnation, have shown that he is a very compassionate, very spiritually advanced human being - a great bodhisattva.

The current Karmapa has a keen interest in vegetarianism, feminism, and the environment. As a great bodhisattva, he is similar to the Dalai Lama in more ways than not. Even as the Karmapa calls on us to build the world we want to inhabit, he reminds us in his 2013 book "The Heart is Noble," that the renovation work actually starts within. He traces the very real problems we see in the world - including rampant consumerism, oppression of women, religious intolerance, world hunger, cruelty to animals, and degradation of the environment - to our collective destructive emotions. Our emotions, such as anger, greed, and selfishness, need to be addressed individually. And in this way social transformation is possible. In other words: "Be the Change you Want to See in the World."

Science and technology are extremely useful to the world, but they cannot cure the human mind of harmful thoughts and emotions. Buddhists believe that the world's problems can only be solved by looking to the underlying cause - the lack of universal compassion in the human heart. According to Buddhist dharma, people should treat each other and animals with respect, kindness and compassion. Therefore, it's not surprising that the 17th Karmapa is sort of a social activist, denouncing oppression, animal cruelty, war and environmental destruction. Indeed, after reading "The Heart is Noble," I was struck with his genuinely progressive and enlightened message. He is the change we want to see in the world!

"These messages are also articulated in his excellent book, 'The Heart is Noble', a refreshing change from 'traditional' male religious leaders who still preach sexism, homophobia and intolerance. An authentic 21st Century spiritual leader who is kind, compassionate, wise and inclusive is one that everyone, regardless of race or religion, can feel joyously grateful about."-  by Huffington Post, March 2015

I will make some predictions: The Karmapa will meet with world leaders, give speeches to large audiences, and achieve world-wide recognition as a leader of peace. Basically, he will continue the work of the present Dalai Lama, but, having a different personality, he will focus on different progressive issues.

Interestingly, neither the Karmapa nor the Dalai Lama are trying to convert people to Tibetan Buddhism, and they are not trying to increase fertility rates among Tibetan Buddhists to spread their religion. But the Dalai Lama is encouraging people to be more compassionate, and the Karmapa also shares the same moral strengths and convictions.

It is no state secret that people are capable of compassion and decency, yet the basic problems of crime, hatred and violence still pervade the planet. To his great credit, the Dalai Lama has met with a plethora of kings, queens, prime ministers, politicians, celebrities, and influencial people as he continues to give speeches, write books, all the while teaching compassion by example. He is the change we need so much in the world!

During July 5-7, 2015, to honor His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama's 80th birthday, the Friends of the Dalai Lama is presenting the Global Compassion Summit in partnership UC Irvine and Center for Living Peace. This event celebrates His Holiness' lifetime of devotion to spreading the values of peace, kindness and universal compassion throughout the world. The program will provide dialogue with a diverse global audience of world leaders, Nobel Laureates, artists, celebrities and friends with His Holiness on topics to which he has devoted his life. Visit

Over a hundred years ago, Swami Vivekananda said, "Perfect sincerity, holiness, gigantic intellect, and an all-conquering will. Let only a handful of men work with these, and the whole world will be revolutionized."

But it is not just worldwide violence in the form of wars and terrorism that needs to be addressed. Swami Prabhupada who brought the Hare Krishna movement to America in 1966 said: "Now they have devised the United Nations, but war is still going on - the Vietnam War, the Pakistani War, and many others. So you may try your best to live peacefully, but nature will not allow you. There must be war. And this warlike feeling is always going on, not only between nations, but also between man and man, neighbor and neighbor - even husband and wife and father and son."

In the 1970's Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche wrote: "The visit to the United States of His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa was a landmark historical event, from the point of view of both the orient and the occident. For American seekers especially, it made a powerful statement that a living embodiment of enlightenment could manifest himself quite apart from political or cultural demonstrations." - by Scott Palczak

Newsweek published an interesting and well-researched article about the 17th Karmapa, who is the most likely successor to the Dalai Lama.


For a god, he is a nice young man. Lean and assured, dressed in red and gold, the Karmapa Lama is a scholar-prince greeted with bows wherever he treads. He switches between Chinese and Tibetan fluently, studies Korean at night and occasionally interrupts a translator to voice polite outrage in English. In his temporary quarters, at a new monastery outside Bodh Gaya in eastern India, he can be glimpsed at dusk, between courtly duties, pacing slowly on a lofty terrace that overlooks women gathering wheat from the parched fields below.

The Karmapa, now a handsome 24-year-old with a shaved head, was born to a family of nomads in 1985. But then a party of monks, told to search "east of snow" for their new leader, found him in eastern Tibet. At the age of 7, he was enthroned as a living deity, the 17th reincarnation in a succession of Buddhist leaders of the Kagyu sect. At 14, he fled his native land in a dramatic escape over snowy passes to Nepal, and then India, where he attached himself to the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama. Tibetans in the diaspora immediately saw something special in the Karmapa Lama—the deep personal charisma of his mentor, infused with the vigor of youth. Some saw, even then, a potential leader in his own right.

The Dalai Lama is without peer among living Tibetan deities. As head of Tibet's biggest sect, the Gelug, he is the revered and recognized leader of his people. He has won the Nobel Prize and built a global following on little more than moral strength, somehow keeping a movement of rival sects and international pressure groups united behind the notion of justice for Tibet. Yet the Dalai Lama has failed in one key respect: China has rejected even his mildest calls for autonomy and cultural freedom. March will mark 50 years since the Dalai Lama slipped into exile. Some Tibetans now believe that the Karmapa Lama may be able to succeed where the Dalai Lama has failed—if, against all tradition and precedent, he is given an opportunity to lead.
But a change of power among the Tibetans, as among less mystical movements, is a tricky business. Now 73, the Dalai Lama has shaken off minor illnesses, yet muses openly on his death or incapacity, urging Tibetan exiles to plan what may come after. By tradition, the 14th Dalai Lama will essentially hand off power to himself, when he is reincarnated after death. In one of the more intriguing rituals of Tibetan Buddhism, a search committee of monks interprets augury, dreams and mystical symbols on remote lakes, and then dashes off on horseback to identify and enthrone a baby as the next Dalai Lama. The problem is that it takes about 20 years before a credibly educated, suitably adult figure emerges to stand up for his people. And no political movement in this day and age—particularly one that China is determined to strangle—can survive a 20-year pause.

"The Chinese hard-liner strategy has always been, when the present Dalai Lama passes away, the Tibetan movement will fizzle out, or disintegrate," says Lobsang Sangay, a senior fellow at Harvard Law School who participated in a recent conference on the future of the Tibetan exiles in Dharamsala, the exile capital in western India. "So the issue is, is there anyone who can replace him? What will happen to the Tibetan movement after he passes away? That's the big question."

Lobsang is one of those who argues that the question already has a perfect answer: the Karmapa Lama can serve as a temporary replacement. Because he comes from a different sect, he can't become the Dalai Lama, but he could serve as regent until a new reincarnation reaches adulthood. The Karmapa is suited for this, in part, because he embodies the story of his people—a story of oppression, escape and exile that is very similar to that of the Dalai Lama himself, who fled Lhasa disguised as a common soldier in 1959. The Karmapa fled in 1999, at a time when he was under Chinese pressure to denounce the Dalai Lama. Instead, he joined the exile leader—after a daring late-December trek over the Himalaya. Some 150,000 Tibetans out of 6 million have made similar journeys to exile.

In recent years, the younger monk has been increasingly seen under the Dalai Lama's wing. The two live near each other in Dharamsala. Foreign delegations seeking audience with the Dalai Lama often find the Karmapa Lama included, or are urged by the Dalai Lama himself to seek out the newcomer. "He has grown up to be a very attractive lama to the general public," Lobsang says, "but also, importantly, to the young. They can connect with him. He's of the same age. They know the hardships he went through to escape."

At the meeting of Tibetan exiles in November, at least five of 15 working groups listed the Karmapa as a suitable candidate to lead the community in the future. He was mentioned by the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile as a potential leader, and also by the Dalai Lama, who named him among several monks who might emerge to lead the movement. In one scenario, the Dalai Lama would appoint the Karmapa now, to serve after the senior monk's death as a formal regent, providing theological and temporal leadership until a new Dalai Lama comes of age.

By naming a young and popular regent now, the Dalai Lama could assure a smooth transition to a figure who has become like a son to him, while dashing Chinese hopes of simply outwaiting the Tibetan exiles. He might also help to head off a full-blown power struggle over succession. As it is, any new leader—or joint leadership—will have to balance sectarian rivalries, win over alienated youth in Dharamsala, mollify the demands of sympathizers abroad and possibly deal with rival claimants to the title of the next Dalai Lama (each with his own powerful tutors and advisers).

The Karmapa Lama is not the only possible choice to forestall a succession struggle. The Dalai Lama has spoken highly of other monks, including the reincarnation of his former teacher. In a theological twist, the Dalai Lama also ruled last year that he can, under a doctrine called madey tulku, select his own reincarnation while still alive (dualism of this kind—alive, yet already reincarnated—rarely bothers Tibetans). This would allow the Dalai Lama to shorten the period without a leader, and control the selection and education of his replacement. But Chinese officials immediately disputed the ruling, insisting they alone have the historic right to choose the Dalai Lama's successor. This means that two rival Dalai Lamas would likely emerge, clouding the issue of succession for decades. Here the Karmapa offers another potential solution: he is the only major tulku, or reincarnation, currently recognized by both the Chinese and the Dalai Lama. He could be the hinge on which relations between Tibetans and China swing in a new direction.

The Karmapa's monastic order holds a prayer festival every January in Bihar, India's poorest province, at the spot where Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment in the sixth century B.C. Called Monlam, the prayer festival had about 200 attendees in 1993. But several years ago, when the Karmapa Lama began to appear himself, the crowds swelled, and now 10,000 monks, nuns and lay people attend. They mostly want to hear the teachings of the Karmapa—regarded as the living manifestation of the four-armed goddess of compassion—accompanied by deep-voiced, ritualistic Tibetan chants and trumpets. This year the grounds of the pilgrimage site sometimes resembled a Buddhist Woodstock, with juniper smoke and an aroma of yak-butter candles blowing over the massed ranks of monastic adepts in saffron- and wine-colored robes.

Among several thousand lay people present, Tibetan exiles—women in striped aprons, and men in off-the-shoulder-jackets—barely outnumbered those speaking in the accents of Boston, Birmingham and Berlin. Although it is rarely acknowledged, foreign followers translate into power. Donations from Asia and the West help build new monasteries, wealthy supplicants fill begging bowls with silk and cell phones, and lamas who can shuttle between Boulder and Bihar assume greater importance than those who cannot. The temptations of the material world are not unknown even here: at the Monlam festival, the Karmapa sacked the administrator of a monastic center in Gangtok for corruption. A sweating and visibly nervous replacement was led out of a meeting with the Karmapa as a reporter from NEWSWEEK was brought in to an interview.

The rituals of Tibetan Buddhism approximate those of a medieval court, with hushed attendants, servants lighting incense and fetching tea, and hundreds of petitioners waiting for a word with the "glorious teacher of the karma people." Still, the Karmapa observes the probities of monastic life, fasting and sitting for long hours of meditation. His own interest in comfort seems no greater than massaging his toes at the end of a long day. "A little tired," he explained in his tentative English to a NEWSWEEK reporter who interviewed him twice during five days spent following him around. Visitors normally present white scarves to high Tibetan lamas, but the Karmapa seemed to make little of the offerings, and playfully drew an extra scarf from a pile of luxurious silks to toss at the reporter. Most questions from journalists were "too easy," he warned through a translator.

After that flash of pride, the Karmapa directed attention away from himself—as befits one who has renounced the ego. Asked directly if he can replace the Dalai Lama as a leader, he replied that he was only one of many possible heirs. "The Dalai Lama is like the sun. No matter how many stars there are, they don't look too bright in comparison." A broader leadership could form, he suggested, "if many stars come together [with] the same strength and power and brilliance of that sun."

The Karmapa shares the Dalai Lama's ability to navigate modern questions of geopolitics with a delicate balance of aphorism, riddle and ancient verities about compassion, nonviolence and generosity—along with modern nostrums on global warming and overconsumption. He has condemned violence, including the Tibetan riots against Chinese rule in Lhasa last April that killed dozens of ethnic Chinese. But he says he understands the "sheer frustration, the sheer sense of suffocation" of Tibetans scattered in exile or forced to live under Chinese rule. "For any living being," he said, "when you feel the force of being cornered time and again, more and more, the time comes when you have nothing else left except to explode."

The risks of explosion were increasing, he said, and every day that the Chinese stalled in accommodating legitimate Tibetan demands merely increased the chance of chaos. "The Chinese Communist Party needs to understand that for right now, there is His Holiness the Dalai Lama. [He] is the main force that is controlling the emotions, keeping the wave of anger from spilling out. When there isn't somebody like him, then there is a great danger." But isn't there someone like him waiting in the wings—the Karmapa Lama, perhaps? "I have no goals, nor any ambitions to be of great influence," the Karmapa said during the interview at his monastery in Bihar. "But if circumstances make me a force for change, then I am a force for change."

In some obvious ways, the Karmapa Lama is a wrong choice to replace the Dalai Lama. Already a tulku, or reincarnation, he cannot be chosen as the reborn Dalai Lama. The Karmapa is also from a rival school of Buddhism, the Kagyu, a small order known colloquially as the Black Hats. Naming the Karmapa as regent would effectively place an outsider at the head of the Dalai Lama's own Gelug, or Yellow Hat, sect. That's like sending an Episcopalian to oversee the Vatican for 20 years.

But the choice of the Karmapa is so wrong, it may be right. If the Dalai Lama acts decisively now to name the Karmapa as regent, or appoints him to lead in a purely temporal capacity, the choice could unite Tibetans more than divide them. "Theological issues are becoming secondary," Lobsang of Harvard notes. Choosing the Karmapa Lama fits "the political reality of the Tibetan movement." "He's young," says Lhadon Tethong, the executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, which has 30,000 members worldwide. "Everyone talks about this. He's clearly a strong, dynamic character in Tibetan life, not just religious life, but spiritual and political life. He represents a new generation that continues to defy Chinese efforts to control Tibetans."

Asked during a second interview if he was in communication with the Chinese, the Karmapa at first demurred and deflected. He spoke instead of an enlightened Chinese policy toward Tibet, one that would be based on demonstrating China's Great Power status and accommodating Tibetan desires for genuine autonomy along the lines proposed by the Dalai Lama. The Karmapa then rose to leave, before being called to a halt by a reminder that the question was about contacts with China. "I have no contacts, nothing political with anybody," he said—and then shrewdly conceded that some form of contact had taken place. The Chinese had conveyed, via India, that the Karmapa Lama should not engage in any political activities, he said. Yet if he remains purely a spiritual leader, China will not close a door on him.

"That's perfectly fine. I don't even know what politics is," the 24-year-old monk said with a broad smile. It was impossible to know for sure, but the smile could have been signaling just the opposite. - Newsweek


The Dalai Lama has been described by Chinese government officials as a “wolf in monk’s robes,” and a “dangerous splittist” intent on cleaving the Chinese nation. On March 13, 2015 the Chinese Communist Party kept up the decades-long attack on the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, denouncing him as a “double betrayer” who “keeps spouting nonsense” while devising “a sly trap.”



From the Huffington Post:

The Dalai Lama will celebrate his 80th birthday this summer with a Global Compassion Summit in Southern California, the nonprofit Friends of the Dalai Lama announced Thursday.

The spiritual leader will kick off three days of events focusing on the role of compassion in the world by speaking July 5 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, according to the organizers. The Dalai Lama's birthday is July 6.

The next two days of events at the University of California, Irvine, will include discussions with the Dalai Lama’s friends, fellow Nobel laureates, and other leaders with whom he has collaborated or shares common values on working toward universal peace, according to the announcement.

“His Holiness has devoted his life's work to positively guide audiences all over the world to open their minds and hearts to peaceful and compassionate existence,” the Venerable Lama Tenzin Dhonden, the Dalai Lama's personal emissary for peace and the founder and chair of Friends of the Dalai Lama, said in a statement.

WHY the DALAI LAMA MATTERS - by Robert Thurman

Introduction: Imagine how it would be if environmentalism, tolerance, respect for diversity, generosity, and gentleness were taught every day to every child, in every home and place of worship. Imagine if we had a model of how to resolve conflict - personal or national -  through respectful dialogue and peaceful coexistence. Imagine if these teachings were made widely available on television and the Internet, plentiful for all traditions. Imagine if people were thus taught widely and open-mindedly about the commonalities between their faiths and those of others, becoming immunized against religious prejudice and hatred.

Imagine these things happening worldwide and you are seeing the world the Dalai Lama leads us toward. To empower him here, to make his act of truth inspire more widely, the world needs his country and his people to be free. Not necessarily independent from China, but free to enjoy and preserve and develop their beautiful Tibetan culture, within their traditional homeland, and to share it openly with the world.

The Dalai Lama is a giant of spiritual development - a living exemplar of the best qualities of a Buddhist monk, an inspired practioner and teacher of the ethical, religious, and philosophical paths of the bodhisattva, a Sanskrit term suggesting a cross between a wise saint and compassionate messiah. He is believed to be a conscious reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of universal compassion. As such, it might seem that his great attainments and vast deeds in this lifetime have spontaneously emerged from his practice in previous lives, as if he had done nothing special to develop himself during this life.

If we think that way, we might find feel he is so far beyond our capacity, though we might enjoy his presence, learn from his teaching, and thrive on devotion to him, there is nothing much we can do to emulate him. This would not please him at all. In relying on a Buddhist teacher or "spiritual friend," veneration through devotion and service through actions are important, but it is far more important to actualize his teachings by putting them into practice in our own lives.

Shakyamuni Buddha himself was not some sort of primal divinity or a buddha from the beginning. He was like us, even an animal, in many previous lives. He struggled with passions and flaws, misunderstandings and inabilities just as we do. Yet he practiced Dharma - the path to personal liberation and enlightenment - and finally overcame his inadequacies and ultimately became the shining, perfect Buddha who showed us the way to freedom, love, and happiness. Similarly, we must remember that while the Dalai Lama is a monumental spiritual force, he is still human like us and it is within our means to strive to emulate him.

What the Dalai Lama Represents Today

It is not merely that the Dalai lama represents Buddhism. He is much more than a nominal leader of an organization. He does not seek to convert anyone to Buddhism. "Buddhism" is not a world organization competing with other organized world religions, seeking strength in numbers. It is an age-old movement of education and conscious evolution. It seeks to educate people's hearts and minds for freedom and happiness, no matter what their ideology.

It is a teaching of the reality of selflessness  and global interconnectedness. The Dalai Lama is a simple Buddhist monk, an adept mind scientist, a thorough scholar, a spiritual teacher, a diplomat, a Noble Peace Prize Laureate, an apostle of nonviolence, an advocate of intelligence and universal responsibility, and the living exemplar of what he calls "our common human religion of kindness."

In "being a good Buddhist" therefore, he thinks of secular humanism as another world religion; he brings it into dialogue with spirituality in his book "Ethics for the New Millennium."

Thus, the Dalai Lama has always considered secularism, with all its communist and capitalist forms, to be a kind of world religion, since he has observed that supposedly nonreligious ideology can also become fanatical and therefore powerfully intrusive in molding people's lives.

The Dalai Lama has caused an enormous amount of progress in developing dialogue, mutual understanding, and real tolerance between the various world religions.

The Dalai Lama should certainly be included in any international register of the ten most influencial people in the world, much more so than many heads of state. In addition to each of the many honors he has received, he has personally met, impressed, and touched the hearts of kings and queens, prime ministers, mayors, chancellors, university presidents, provosts, state governors, congresspeople, and senators.

During various award ceremonies, he has reached out heart-to-heart with the community - 32,000 at Rutgers University, 20,000 at Harvard, 26,000 at Emory, plus large crowds in Europe and Australia. The books he has written on many subjects have been read by millions of people in more than 30 languages, a number of them becoming best sellers in many countries. It can be evidently seen how the Dalai Lama, through his deep connectness to the minds and hearts of many beings around the world, has a truly oceanic influence.

The Vastness of the Dalai Lama's "Ocean"

The Dalai lama's international role, in his many books, his honors received all over the world, and his meetings with dignitaries and celebrities begins to give a sense of his impact around the globe. These accomplishments reveal him as the Dalai, the grand ocean of intelligence, kindness and responsibility.

The Dalai Lama has become a "network being," connected to many of the world's ruling and former presidents, ministers, intellectuals, executives, financiers, media celebrities, artists, actors, and private individuals of wealth and influence, as well as millions of ordinary people through his lectures, books, films, and media appearances.

The Dalai Lama leads in reconciling science and religion in a better partnership, especially in the context of restoring the environment. Besides his natural curiosity about modern science and his admiration of the technological achievements of the scientists, he would like to contribute from the sophisticated inner or spiritual science of Buddhism some perspectives to balance the materialistic reductionism that currently hampers Western scientific progress, especially in the areas of psychology and the subtler levels of the physical sciences.

The key point here is that the Buddhist religion does not consider blind faith a good thing, but considers reason a necessary complement to a healthy faith.

During the 1990s the Dalai Lama frequently gave his four reasons for optimism about the 21st century:

1.) People at large in all countries are less hopeful that war can ever solve any problem satisfactorily.

2.) People do not trust in big massive systems, such as communism and capitalism, so much any more, but think individual effort is more important.

3.) People are more interested in spiritual perspectives on life's meaning and values choices than in the dictates of materialistic science alone.

4.) People no longer take the environment for granted or just throw things away into it carelessly, but make a real effort to preserve the environment.

- from "Why the Dalai Lama Matters " - by Robert Thurman


To celebrate World Compassion Day yesterday (Nov. 28) the Dalai Lama joined Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society of the United States, for an event centered around animal welfare and vegetarianism. The conference, organized by HSI (the international branch of the HSUS) also marked the opening of the organization’s new India office.

While on stage, His Holiness explained why he initially decided to become a vegetarian – and why more must be done to educate youth on compassion towards all life.

“I was not vegetarian till about five decades ago, but when I saw hens being abused on an animal farm, I decided to become vegetarian,” he said. “The media must play an important role, and even the younger generation must be informed about moral ethics through education.”

When a student asked him for his views on meat, the 77-year-old said with a smile: “A vegetarian diet is the most healthy one for you. We must respect all forms of life.”

If you’ve followed this site for any length of time, you’ll know that while we’re big fans of the Dalai Lama and all that he does, we’re also often puzzled by his comments on the vegetarian lifestyle. Even Paul McCartney once wrote him when he discovered that he surprisingly was not a vegetarian.

“Then I found out he was not a vegetarian, so I wrote to him saying, ‘Forgive me for pointing this out, but if you eat animals then there is some suffering somewhere along the line’,” McCartney told Prospect Magazine in 2008. “He replied saying that his doctors had told him he needed it, so I wrote back saying they were wrong.”

In 2010, His Holiness expanded on his diet saying:

“In vinaya no prohibition in eating meat. So monks in Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, they take both veg and non veg food. One time I asked, discussed this subject with a monk from Sri Lanka about 40 years ago, he said Buddhist monks are neither veg nor non veg… he should accept whatever he gets, so that’s the principle. But vinaya clearly mentions that meat which was purposely killed for you was not to be eaten but in general was not prohibited, some books like langaavatarasutra prohibited any kind of meat, including fish etc but some other texts not prohibiting, so different case, I think practically in northern part of Tibet, no vegetables. Very difficult. So that’s practical reason.”

While some in the comments criticized the Dalai Lama as lazy, others wisely advised seeking a deeper understanding of Tibetan Buddhism.

“He means he didn’t chose an animal, and then have it killed specifically for him–rather it had been killed for someone else and who then offered it to him,” wrote one commenter. “It goes back to the Buddha traveling through northern India and accepting whatever was offered to him–and he did eat meat–dying from eating rotted pig.”

“Odd thing about all this is many Tibetans, even today, will have animals killed by the Muslims who live in Tibet, in order to avoid accumulating bad karma. Of course I have often wondered, in Buddhism, wouldn’t knowingly putting someone at risk for developing bad karma be equally as bad simply killing an animal yourself?”

In a blog on the HSUS site, Wayne Pacelle said the Dalai Lama is not currently a vegetarian, despite his belief that it’s the best diet.

“Today, in his extended public remarks on animal issues, he mentioned that he’s been back and forth on his vegetarianism through his eight decades, and is not a vegetarian now,” wrote Wayne. “But he condemned factory farming, and specifically the rearing of hens in battery cages. He said that being vegetarian is better for us and better for animals, and that South Indian vegetarian food is his favorite cuisine. Throughout his entire speech and in the question and answer session that followed, he wore a Humane Society International baseball cap, which delighted me even though it clashed with his Buddhist monastic robe.”

So – interesting. Of course, it’s this author’s opinion that the best kind of compassion is a vegan diet, but one step at a time.

“Animals deserve our compassion,” His Holiness said. “We must know their pain. We should nurture this compassion through education. Showing concern about animal rights is respecting their life.”

One of the world's most respected spiritual leaders - the 14th Dalai Lama - has repeatedly spoken in favor of vegetarianism, and he also favors animal rights causes.

A few years ago, the author of this blog mailed a letter to the Dalai Lama (to his Dharamsala, India address), and his personal secretary replied that His Holiness was very much in favor of vegetarianism. The information below was obtained from PETA's KFC website and other websites concerning the Dalai Lama.

In his appeal, His Holiness writes, “On behalf of my friends at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), I am writing to ask that KFC abandon its plan to open restaurants in Tibet, because your corporation’s support for cruelty and mass slaughter violate Tibetan values … I have been particularly concerned with the sufferings of chickens for many years. It was the death of a chicken that finally strengthened my resolve to become vegetarian. … These days, when I see a row of plucked chickens hanging in a meat shop it hurts. I find it unacceptable that violence is the basis of some of our food habits. … It is therefore quite natural for me to support those who are currently protesting against the introduction of industrial food practices into Tibet that will perpetuate the suffering of huge numbers of chickens."

In the mid 1960s, the Dalai Lama was impressed by ethically vegetarian Indian monks and adopted a vegetarian diet for about a year and a half. While he has eaten meat in moderation ever since, the Dalai Lama has repeatedly acknowledged that a vegetarian diet is a worthy expression of compassion and contributes to the cessation of the suffering of all living beings. However, he eats meat only on alternate days (six months a year). He is a semi- vegetarian, though he wishes to be a full one. By making an example of cutting his meat consumption in half, he is trying to gently influence his followers.

This Thanksgiving, staff of the Fund for Animals are thanking the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, for recent statements in support of animal rights. In an audience with representatives of The Fund for Animals earlier this month, the Dalai Lama commended the animal rights movement for working to end the suffering of animals, and urged everyone to consider a vegetarian diet. Speaking with The Fund for Animals' national director, Heidi Prescott, and program coordinator, Norm Phelps, the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize recipient said, "People think of animals as if they were vegetables, and that isn't right. We have to change the way people think about animals. I encourage the Tibetan people and all people to move toward a vegetarian diet that doesn't cause suffering."

His Holiness also condemned the abuse and killing of animals for entertainment purposes, such as the practice of hunting wild animals for sport. The Dalai Lama invited the Fund for Animals to work with his government in exile in India to help encourage people to become vegetarian and to protect animals from suffering.

GUIDANCE of LOVE  - The Benefits of Being Vegetarian and Concern for the Living Being

The Dalai Lama talks about the value of vegetarianism in this YouTube video: I wholeheartedly support and compliment you on your campaign for raising the awareness of the faults of consuming meat and for promoting a vegetarian lifestyle.

The Buddha Dharma is basically rooted in compassion. All living beings cherish their own lives. Therefore, it is extremely clear that one who is practicing Buddha Dharma must refrain from killing. Not only Buddhism but also many other religious traditions, including Western Christian traditions and particularly Jainism are well known for practicing a pure, non - violent vegetarian path. They gave up eating meat out of their concern for the rights of the animals themselves.

Nowadays, groups of people within countries like China are also purely vegetarian. Previously in Tibet, due to the high altitude, freezing weather and lack of vegetables, we Tibetans had to eat meat, especially the nomads who had no other means of sustenance. Accordingly, the great masters of the past did not restrict meat - eating in Tibet. However, in the biography of Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol, it is stated while he was in Lhasa he mentioned the prohibition of eating meat to the Dalai Lama and his teacher.

Tseley Ngatsok Rangdrol took 3 commitments which were: refraining from riding horses, abstaining from eating meat and not accepting offerings for teachings.

Nowadays, due to the ease of transportation and more favorable conditions, different varieties of vegetables and fruits are available. Since we ourselves have all the favorable conditions, we should try as much as possible to be vegetarian. For instance, I myself gave up meat and eggs completely at the age of 65 and became a pure vegetarian for more than 20 months . . .

The Gyalwang Karmapa is the 17th Karmapa - a great Bodhisattva - and he is considered to be the Dalai Lama's future successor. The Gyalwang Karmapa, himself a pure vegetarian, gave a discourse on vegetarianism:

“When I spoke about this, I was primarily thinking about the way I lead my own life. I can’t really do anything about how other people lead their lives, but in terms of thinking about myself there are some reasons for this.” He then explained two key reasons that he personally does not eat meat. The first reason is the intense suffering that the animals who are killed go through. Every single day millions of animals are killed to feed us, and many are subjected to terrible conditions to provide us with food. Just a few days previously the Gyalwang Karmapa had shared a story of how, as a child in Tibet, when animals were killed for his family’s food he felt unbearable, pure compassion for them.

The second reason he doesn’t eat meat, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued, is because of his Mahayana training in seeing all sentient beings as his mothers. “We say I am going to do everything I can to free sentient beings from suffering. We say I am going to do this. We make the commitment. We take the vow. Once we have taken this vow, if then, without thinking anything about it, we just go ahead and eat meat, then that is not okay. It is something that we need to think about very carefully.”

GUIDANCE of LOVE - The Benefits of Being Vegetarian and Concern for the Living Being

In this YouTube video, the 17th Karmapa and other great Tibetan Buddhist masters give teachings on the value of vegetarianism. 

From the Karmapa: " The Buddha forbade meat - eating in the Kalachakra, and also the Mahayana sutras such as the Lankavatara sutra, the Mahaparinirvana sutra and the Angulimala sutra. Thus there are proper reasons given to illustrate the need for us to give up eating meat. Moreover, if a vegetarian diet is implemented, it is beneficial from every angle; therefore there are very many arguments for it."
Tibetan Buddhist master, Chagdud Rinpoche, stated: "Saving and protecting life creates tremendous virtue. All beings are equal in that they all seek happiness, don't want to suffer and value their lives as we do."


Lama Zopa Rinpoche is one of the outstanding living Tibetan Buddhist masters. Regarding great masters who eat meat he said: "There are many persons—buddhas, bodhisattvas, dakas and dakinis—who benefit others, but aren’t vegetarian. Some bodhisattvas eat meat and some don’t eat meat—it is their choice, to do whatever is most beneficial for sentient beings. Their decision is made on the basis of benefiting sentient beings, not because they like to eat meat. They have a great purpose to benefit sentient beings, and some are vegetarian and some are not."

Lama Zopa continues: "Of course, individually we can’t say everyone who eats meat is bad. Many manifestations of buddhas, bodhisattvas and great yogis, who have very high tantric realizations on the basis of the three principals of the path, they eat meat, but they don’t eat it with the self-cherishing thought. They eat it to purify the animal’s negative karma, so that animal has a good rebirth, meets the Dharma in future lives, is reborn in a pure land, and achieves enlightenment as quickly as possible. So it is done to benefit the animals. When it comes to the individual person like that, it is a great, great, great blessing."



Forward: His Holiness the Dalai Lama is one of the great spiritual leaders of our age. He has devoted his whole life to furthering the well-being of humanity for over 40 years and has traveled all over the world, sharing his message of human values, universal responsibility, and compassion. It is a message that  grows more pertinent as each day goes by.

What His Holiness has shown, and so many people respond to with alacrity and joy, is that altruism and caring for others hold the very meaning of life and that by training the mind with compassion, we can become better human beings, we can treat others with love and respect, and we can find happiness and peace. With his sincerity and his humanity, for countless people His Holiness is the still center in a chaotic and violent world.

One dimension in which His Holiness the Dalai Lama has played a unique and critical role is the development of Buddhism in the West. He is a master scholar whose teachings are studied like those of the learned panditas of the past, but at the same time his knowledge and experience allow him to translate and relate the Buddhadharma to modern life in a persuasively immediate and accessible way. His brilliant and far-reaching dialogue with the world of science has demonstrated unequivocally the extraordinary depth and power of the Buddhist teachings and what they have to offer.

Dalai Lama: "Here we are basically all just human beings, and we are all the same. Our minds work in the same way, and we experience the same kind of emotions and feelings. There is one thing we have in common and which we need to be aware of: that we possess the capacity to become good human beings and to make our lives happy. It is up to us. Equally, we have the power to render our lives unhappy, and not only experience individual misfortune and sorrow but also to cause pain and misery to those around us and bring ruin to others. Looking at it like this, there is no difference between us.

Sometimes you might wonder: What is the point of having such a diversity of religions, metaphysical views and philosophies? Their aim is to tame this mind of ours and help us develop into good human beings. From the point of view of training the mind, all spiritual traditions are more or less the same and possess this same potential."

Dalai Lama: Holy Places Transmit Blessings

"And places can also transmit blessings to individuals. First, a place is  made holy by a spiritually realized being who transmits his or her blessings there. Then, at some later date, when beginners like ourselves go to that place, we can receive the blessings from it. And because of the power with which the place has imbued, any virtuous actions we perform there become more powerful."

His Holiness has said: "I think the main point is to try to be a good human being. This is the way to give meaning to our present existence and to all the existences to come . . . At any rate, as the Buddha said, it is up to us to travel the path. It is entirely in our hands: we are our own guide and our own protector. So, be diligent in your practice.

Finding peace and happiness in our minds with the aide of some outside ingredients is highly unlikely."

Here is a verse from "The Way of the Bodhisattva":

Like the earth and other great elements,
And like space itself, may I remain forever,
To support the lives of boundless beings,
By providing all that they might need.

Further on in "The Way of the Bodhisattva" we find:

For as long as space exists
And sentient beings endure,
May I too remain,
To dispel the misery of the world.

To recite prayers of aspiration like these has an extraordinarily powerful effect on our minds.

- by the Dalai Lama

1.) LIFE RELEASE: A Buddhist Practice of Saving Animals' Lives

2.) DALAI LAMA: Buddhist Monks Reflections on Ecological Responsibility