Karmapa on recent disasters

November 5, 2023

Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, shares the following message on recent natural and man-made disasters.

Dear Dharma friends,

Like many of you, I also do my best to follow the world news as closely as I can, and the recent weeks and months have seen yet another succession of both man-made and natural disasters – all of which have caused me great concern and sorrow.

Among the many wars raging around the world, the one that has recently erupted in the Near East is particularly worrisome. In the meantime, the armed conflict in Ukraine remains unresolved, with no end to the battling in sight. Moreover, all of these conflicts lead to increasing polarisation and violence even in the West, with countless individuals feeling compelled to take sides and cast blame, and emotions getting ever more heated.

And as if all of that weren’t enough, there is no end to the series of natural calamities constantly hitting all corners of the globe, such as the recent earthquake that struck in the remote area of Jajarkot in western Nepal last Friday night. Over 150 people lost their lives in this disaster, hundreds more were injured and thousands lost their homes and all their belongings. Video footage on local media showed the crumbled facades of multi-storied brick houses, as well as pictures of desperate people digging through the rubble in the dark to pull survivors from the remains of the collapsed buildings – watching these images was truly heart-breaking.

When faced with this constant onset of bad news, it is only human to feel discouraged or even hopeless. As practitioners we might get the sense that our Dharma practice is weak and powerless, since we aren’t able to prevent or even alleviate the suffering of sentient beings.

However, we should always remind ourselves that the Buddha’s teaching was never about escaping or preventing change or suffering – no one will be able to do that, because they are the nature of life itself. In fact, the methods shared by the Buddha are all means to inspire us to fully accept and embrace change – in this way, liberation could be described as the complete acceptance of change.

So therefore, dear Dharma friends, please practice with this in mind. Practice as well as you can, but not with a sense of a burden or a mission. All you need to do is just do your best to use the means of the Buddha Dharma to fully accept impermanence and change, whatever form they may take.

If you can do that, it doesn’t mean that you need to be strong all the time or have all the answers. But simply accepting that life is ever-changing, impermanent, will go a long way towards easing your own anxiety and fear, and this in turn will convey an impression of courage and comfort to all those whose lives you touch, and help calm their own minds and hearts.

And with a calm mind and heart they themselves may also, in time, be able to see through the illusion of permanence and control, and come to terms with the ever-changing nature of life.

I feel that if we can practice in this way, there is no greater help that we can provide to our fellow sentient beings.

With prayers

Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa