Yesterday evening, the Lt. Governor welcomed His Holiness the Karmapa, the second-highest ranking Tibetan Buddhist in exile and a world-renowned spiritual leader, to Washington state.
The Lt. Governor thanked the Karmapa and his delegation for visiting Seattle again, and for bringing with him a message of compassion and global-mindedness. This trip marks the Karmapa’s third visit to Seattle, and his fourth visit to the United States. Seattle, in particular, has developed infrastructure to expand opportunities for exchange with Tibet’s Buddhist leaders, as it is the home of both the Karmapa Foundation, which facilitates the Karmapa’s travels and conducts outreach, and the Seeds of Compassion non-profit, which promotes the Dalai Lama’s work teaching compassion.
His Holiness the Karmapa serves as the head of the largest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the Karma Kagyu. His Holiness was recognized as the 17th Karmapa at the age of 7, and is historically unique in that he is recognized by both the Chinese government, and the Dalai Lama. The Karmapa fled Tibet at the age of 14, and now lives in India. He is known for connecting the Buddhist ethic of compassion with contemporary issues, including environmental responsibility, social harmony, the role of technology in society, and gender equality.
In his welcoming remarks, the Lt. Governor highlighted the mutual values Washington state shares with His Holiness. The Lt. Governor noted the following connections:
While Washington state was one of the first to extend the right to vote to women, His Holiness the Karmapa was the first to extend full ordination for women within Tibetan Buddhism. While Washington has been a champion for fighting climate change, His Holiness has advocated worldwide for environmental responsibility, and has transformed more than 50 monasteries in the Himalayas into centers for environmental activism. Finally, the Lt. Governor noted the mutuality of His Holiness’ message on compassion and tolerance, and Washington’s own social ethic: as the first state to take on the Trump administration’s discriminatory travel ban, Washington state has shown through political action its commitment to remaining a tolerant state.
His Holiness the Karmapa spoke following the Lt. Governor’s welcome, and remarked that while his visit to Seattle was a short one – “I arrive today, leave tomorrow” – having the opportunity to speak sincerely with others about compassion, is still a “very meaningful opportunity,” and a “wonderful sort of occasion.”
His Holiness’ remarks centered on teaching, and practicing, compassion. On practicing compassion, His Holiness said that “if we don’t work with it, if we don’t practice it, it’s something that will diminish.” For that reasons, he said, it is important to teach oneself compassion the same way one teaches children compassion – to extend it to all living things, from fellow human beings, to tiny insects.