The Significance of the Karmapas, a talk by Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl

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In his talk “The Significance of the Karmapas,” given at NalandaWest on Friday, May 1, Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl spoke about the 900 year-old lineage of compassion and awakening embodied by the Karmapa.

Mitra Karl opened the evening by saying that talking about the Karmapa is like a firefly talking about the light of the sun. His Holiness the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje is the 17th appearance of the form of the Karmapa and is the most diverse in his appearance of all the Karmapa’s, which Mitra Karl said fits with our age of diversity. The 17th Karmapa is seen as a world leader, environmentalist, poet, visual artist, computer nerd, vegetarian, youth leader, great vajra master, head of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and living Buddha. As a bodhisattva, His Holiness works for the benefit of others, Mitra Karl said, and his main job is to help us see beyond our mental restrictions, to relax and laugh. Great masters laugh a lot, he said, and humor is an essential element of a bodhisattva.

Mitra Karl’s talk included a brief history of each of the Karmapas, who all composed numerous texts on medicine, poetry, astronomy, arts and crafts, logic and debate, in addition to significant Buddhist teachings and texts.

Before questions and answers began, Mitra Karl concluded his talk by citing some of his own experiences with the 17th Karmapa. He encouraged audience members to maintain an open mind when they attend His Holiness’ public teaching on May 9 and/or if they should have the great good fortune of meeting His Holiness the 17th Karmapa.

Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl was trained as a physician and presently works as a Tibetan translator and Buddhist teacher. He studied Tibetology, Buddhology, and Sanskrit at Hamburg University and Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophy and practice at the Marpa Institute for Translators in Kathmandu. Currently he works as a translator and interpreter for the Tsadra Foundation, Nalandabodhi, and the Nitartha Institute. In 2009 he was appointed as the first Western khenpo (abbot in the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages) by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche.
Mitra Karl is the author of several books on Buddhism: The Center of the Sunlight Sky, Straight from the Heart, In Praise of Dharmadhātu, Luminous Heart, Gone Beyond, Groundless Paths, The Heart Attack Sutra, Mining for Wisdom within Delusion, and When The Clouds Part.