Karmapa draws 1,600 to county

By ED MOORHOUSE, Burlington County Times, May 24, 2008

SHAMONG, New Jersey (USA) -- More than 1,600 people from all over the country gathered here yesterday to listen to the teachings of a Tibetan Buddhist leader.

<< The 17th Karmapa Lama, Ogyen Trinley Dorji

Ogyen Trinley Dorje is the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, which means he is the head of one of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

According to the Tibetan Buddhist faith, the Karmapa is regarded as the embodiment of wisdom and compassion.

He has traditionally been recognized as the third most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism, behind the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama.

This Karmapa, who is 22 years old, is currently in the middle of his first visit to the United States.

He came to Shamong from New York City and also plans to visit Boulder, Colo., and Seattle during his 18-day visit.

He arrived in New York May 15.

Yesterday's event took place at a residence on Atsion Road that is used as a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. Two Buddhist monks live there and it is considered the official residence of the Karmapa when he visits the U.S.

The faithful began arriving here earlier this week and many parked their RVs on the 150-acre monastery near the intersection of Atsion and Oakshade Roads.

Yesterday, Dorje spoke about the importance of embracing and understanding other cultures and languages as a way to achieve peace.

He spoke in his native Tibetan language, but his message was translated in both English and Chinese.

“The establishment of genuine peace and happiness, not just for one person, but for everyone, depends upon communication and understanding,” Dorje told the audience through a translator. “For that reason, it is essential that we put great emphasis...on the understanding of one another's culture and language.”

Many in attendance applauded during the speech, while others listened with their eyes closed and heads bowed.

Devorah Devi-Peck, a New York City resident, said she came to Shamong to hear the Karmapa's message.

“He has a message about universal harmony and peace and teaches to eliminate hate,” she said. “He's a very practical teacher. It's not just some philosophy. It's about life.”

Dorje told the audience that all people are fundamentally the same in that they seek happiness. He urged all in attendance to be supportive of and empathize with one another.

“The world seems to be shrinking,” he said. “As the world becomes smaller, we have a new possibility for greater harmony and greater friendship through greater communication and understanding of one another.”