25:57
TEDIndia 2009

His Holiness the Karmapa: The technology of the heart

Filmed:

His Holiness the Karmapa talks about how he was discovered to be the reincarnation of a revered figure in Tibetan Buddhism. In telling his story, he urges us to work on not just technology and design, but the technology and design of the heart. He is translated onstage by Tyler Dewar.

- Spiritual leader
Ogyen Trinley Dorje is the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, a revered figure in Tibetan Buddhism devoted to preserving and propagating Buddhist teachings. Full bio

Tyler Dewar: The way I feel right now
00:30
is that all of the other speakers
00:32
have said exactly what I wanted to say.
00:34
(Laughter)
00:36
And it seems that the only thing left for me to say
00:38
is to thank you all for your kindness.
00:41
TD: But maybe in the spirit
00:58
of appreciating the kindness of you all,
01:00
I could share with you
01:02
a little story about myself.
01:04
TD: From the time I was very young, onward,
01:50
I was given
01:53
a lot of different responsibilities,
01:55
and it always seemed to me, when I was young,
01:57
that everything was laid out before me.
02:00
All of the plans for me were already made.
02:02
I was given the clothes that I needed to wear
02:05
and told where I needed to be,
02:07
given these very precious
02:09
and holy looking robes to wear,
02:11
with the understanding
02:14
that it was something sacred or important.
02:16
TD: But before that kind of formal lifestyle happened for me,
03:07
I was living in eastern Tibet with my family.
03:11
And when I was seven years old,
03:14
all of a sudden,
03:17
a search party arrived at my home.
03:19
They were looking the next Karmapa,
03:21
and I noticed they were talking to my mom and dad,
03:24
and the news came to me that they were telling me
03:27
that I was the Karmapa.
03:30
And these days, people ask me a lot,
03:32
how did that feel.
03:34
How did that feel when they came and whisked you away,
03:36
and your lifestyle completely changed?
03:38
And what I mostly say is that,
03:40
at that time,
03:42
it was a pretty interesting idea to me.
03:44
I thought that things would be pretty fun
03:47
and there would be more things to play with.
03:49
(Laughter)
03:52
TD: But it didn't turn out to be so fun and entertaining,
04:56
as I thought it would have been.
04:59
I was placed
05:01
in a pretty strictly controlled environment.
05:03
And immediately,
05:06
a lot of different responsibilities,
05:08
in terms of my education and so forth, were heaped upon me.
05:10
I was separated, largely, from my family,
05:13
including my mother and father.
05:15
I didn't have have many personal friends
05:17
to spend time with,
05:19
but I was expected to perform
05:21
these prescribed duties.
05:23
So it turned out that my fantasy
05:25
about an entertaining life of being the Karmapa
05:28
wasn't going to come true.
05:30
It more felt to be the case to me
05:32
that I was being treated like a statue,
05:34
and I was to sit in one place
05:37
like a statue would.
05:40
TD: Nevertheless, I felt that,
06:31
even though I've been separated from my loved ones --
06:33
and, of course, now I'm even further away.
06:36
When I was 14, I escaped from Tibet
06:39
and became even further removed
06:41
from my mother and father,
06:43
my relatives, my friends
06:45
and my homeland.
06:47
But nevertheless,
06:49
there's no real sense of separation from me in my heart,
06:51
in terms of the love that I feel
06:54
for these people.
06:57
I feel, still, a very strong connection of love
06:59
for all of these people
07:02
and for the land.
07:04
TD: And I still do
07:32
get to keep in touch with my mother and father,
07:34
albeit infrequently.
07:36
I talk to my mother
07:38
once in a blue moon on the telephone.
07:40
And my experience is that,
07:42
when I'm talking to her,
07:44
with every second that passes
07:46
during our conversation,
07:48
the feeling of love that binds us
07:50
is bringing us closer and closer together.
07:53
TD: So those were just a few remarks
09:08
about my personal background.
09:10
And in terms of other things that I wanted to share with you,
09:12
in terms of ideas,
09:15
I think it's wonderful to have a situation like this,
09:17
where so many people from different backgrounds and places
09:20
can come together,
09:23
exchange their ideas
09:25
and form relationships of friendship with each other.
09:27
And I think that's symbolic
09:30
of what we're seeing in the world in general,
09:32
that the world is becoming smaller and smaller,
09:34
and that all of the peoples in the world
09:36
are enjoying more opportunities for connection.
09:39
That's wonderful,
09:43
but we should also remember
09:45
that we should have a similar process happening on the inside.
09:47
Along with outward development
09:50
and increase of opportunity,
09:52
there should be inward development
09:54
and deepening of our heart connections
09:57
as well as our outward connections.
10:00
So we spoke and we heard some
10:04
about design this week.
10:06
I think that it's important for us to remember
10:08
that we need
10:10
to keep pushing forward
10:12
on the endeavor
10:14
of the design of the heart.
10:16
We heard a lot about technology this week,
10:18
and it's important for us to remember
10:20
to invest a lot of our energy
10:22
in improving the technology of the heart.
10:25
TD: So, even though I'm somewhat happy
10:47
about the wonderful developments that are happening in the world,
10:49
still, I feel a sense of impediment,
10:52
when it comes
10:55
to the ability that we have
10:57
to connect with each other on a heart-to-heart, or a mind-to-mind, level.
10:59
I feel that there are some things
11:02
that are getting in the way.
11:05
TC: My relationship
11:43
to this concept of heart-to-heart connection, or mind-to-mind connection,
11:45
is an interesting one,
11:48
because, as a spiritual leader, I'm always attempting
11:50
to open my heart to others
11:52
and offer myself up
11:54
for heart-to-heart and mind-to-mind connections
11:56
in a genuine way with other people,
11:58
but at the same time,
12:00
I've always been advised
12:02
that I need to emphasize intelligence
12:04
over the heart-to-heart connections,
12:06
because, being someone in a position like mine,
12:08
if I don't rely primarily on intelligence,
12:12
then something dangerous may happen to me.
12:15
So it's an interesting paradox at play there.
12:19
But I had a really striking experience once,
12:25
when a group from Afghanistan
12:28
came to visit me,
12:30
and we had a really interesting conversation.
12:32
TD: So we ended up talking about the Bamiyan Buddhas,
14:10
which, as you know,
14:13
were destroyed some years ago in Afghanistan.
14:15
But the basis of our conversation
14:19
was the different approach to spirituality
14:21
on the part of the Muslim
14:23
and Buddhist traditions.
14:25
Of course, in Muslim,
14:27
because of the teachings around the concept of idolatry,
14:29
you don't find as many
14:32
physical representations of divinity
14:34
or of spiritual liberation
14:36
as you do in the Buddhist tradition,
14:38
where, of course, there are many statues of the Buddha
14:40
that are highly revered.
14:43
So, we were talking about the differences
14:48
between the traditions
14:50
and what many people perceived
14:52
as the tragedy of the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas,
14:54
but I offered the suggestion
14:57
that perhaps we could look at this in a positive way.
14:59
What we saw in the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas
15:03
was the depletion of matter,
15:10
some solid substance
15:13
falling down and disintegrating.
15:15
Maybe we could look at that to be more similar
15:17
to the falling of the Berlin Wall,
15:19
where a divide
15:21
that had kept two types of people apart
15:23
had collapsed and opened up a door
15:26
for further communication.
15:28
So I think that, in this way,
15:30
it's always possible for us
15:32
to derive something positive
15:34
that can help us understand one another better.
15:37
TD: So, with regard to the development
16:20
that we've been talking about
16:22
here at this conference,
16:24
I really feel
16:26
that the development that we make
16:28
shouldn't create a further burden
16:31
for us as human beings,
16:33
but should be used
16:35
to improve
16:37
our fundamental lifestyle
16:40
of how we live in the world.
16:42
TD: Of course, I rejoice
18:16
in the development and the growth and the rise
18:18
of the noble land of India, the great country of India,
18:21
but at the same time, I think,
18:24
as some of us have acknowledged,
18:26
we need to be aware
18:29
that some aspects of this rise
18:31
are coming at the cost
18:34
of the very ground
18:37
on which we stand.
18:39
So, as we are climbing the tree,
18:41
some of the things that we're doing
18:44
in order to climb the tree
18:46
are actually undermining
18:48
the tree's very root.
18:50
And so,
18:52
what I think it comes down to
18:54
is a question of, not only having information of what's going on,
18:56
but paying attention to that
19:00
and letting that shift our motivation
19:03
to become more sincere
19:06
and genuinely positive.
19:09
We have hear, this week,
19:13
about the horrible sufferings, for example,
19:15
that so many women of the world
19:19
are enduring day-to-day.
19:22
We have that information,
19:24
but what often happens to us
19:26
is that we don't really choose to pay attention to it.
19:28
We don't really choose to allow that
19:31
to cause there to be a shift in our hearts.
19:33
So I think the way forward for the world --
19:36
one that will bring the path of outer development
19:38
in harmony
19:42
with the real root of happiness --
19:47
is that we allow
19:50
the information that we have
19:52
to really make a change in our heart.
19:54
TD: So I think that sincere motivation
20:45
is very important for our future well-being,
20:47
or deep sense of well-being as humans,
20:50
and I think that means sinking in
20:53
to whatever it is you're doing now.
20:56
Whatever work you're trying to do now to benefit the world,
20:58
sink into that,
21:00
get a full taste of that.
21:02
TD: So, since we've been here this week,
21:40
we've taken millions of breaths, collectively,
21:42
and perhaps we haven't witnessed
21:47
any course changes
21:49
happening in our lives,
21:51
but we often miss the very subtle changes.
21:53
And I think
21:56
that sometimes we develop
21:59
grand concepts
22:01
of what happiness
22:03
might look like for us,
22:05
but that, if we pay attention,
22:07
we can see that there are little symbols of happiness
22:09
in every breath that we take.
22:12
TD: So, every one of you who has come here
23:21
is so talented,
23:24
and you have so much to offer to the world,
23:26
I think it would be a good note to conclude on then
23:30
to just take a moment
23:34
to appreciate how fortunate we are
23:37
to have come together in this way and exchanged ideas
23:39
and really form a strong aspiration
23:42
and energy within ourselves
23:44
that we will take the good
23:46
that has come from this conference,
23:48
the momentum, the positivity,
23:50
and we will spread that and plant it
23:53
in all of the corners of the world.
23:55
His Holiness the Karmapa: Tomorrow is my Talk.
24:18
TD: Lakshmi has worked incredibly hard,
24:32
even in inviting me,
24:35
let alone everything else that she has done
24:37
to make this happen,
24:39
and I was somewhat resistant at times,
24:41
and I was also very nervous throughout this week.
24:44
I was feeling under the weather and dizzy and so forth,
24:47
and people would ask me, why.
24:50
I would tell them, "It's because I have to talk tomorrow."
24:52
And so Lakshmi had to put up with me through all of that,
24:57
but I very much appreciate
25:00
the opportunity she's given me
25:02
to be here.
25:04
And to you, everyone, thank you very much.
25:06
(Applause)
25:09
HH: Thank you very much.
25:12
(Applause)
25:14

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About the Speaker:

His Holiness the Karmapa - Spiritual leader
Ogyen Trinley Dorje is the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, a revered figure in Tibetan Buddhism devoted to preserving and propagating Buddhist teachings.

Why you should listen

The name "Karmapa" means "the one who carries out Buddha-activity," and for seventeen lifetimes, a karmapa has embodied the teachings of Buddha in tibet. The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, was born a nomad in Tibet in 1985 and recognized by the Dalai Lama in 1992 as the 17th Karmapa. The young boy was brought to the Tsurphu monastery to live and study for his life as a spiritual teacher and activist.

At age 14, he made a daring flight from Tibet, and now works from a temporary camp in Dharamsala, near his friend the Dalai Lama. (After the Dalai Lama, he's seen as Tibetan Buddhism's second-highest-ranking spiritual leader, though the two men lead different schools within the faith.) In 2008, he made a long visit to the United States, where he spoke and taught at Buddhist centers around the country. And in 2009 he toured Europe, speaking about faith -- but also about protecting the environment.

More profile about the speaker
His Holiness the Karmapa | Speaker | TED.com