Yale Himalaya Initiative

environment | livelihood | culture

Khenpo Karma Tenkyong on Happiness, Love & Compassion

“Khenpo Karma Tenkyong is a Resident Teacher at ‘Karma Triyana Dharmachakra’ the North American Seat of His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa. On February 10th, 2015 he addressed the topic of “Meaning of Interdependence: Compassion to Earth” at his talk organized by Yale Himalayan Initiative. In his talk he urged the listeners to think about what happiness, love and compassion means to them. He then discussed how does happiness relates to interdependence and compassion to Earth.

The talk was a reminder to us to take a step back and reflect on how we live our lives.He asked: Why are we so busy? Is it really making us happy? Is it really making us successful? To find answers to these questions we need to ask our brain, our mind and our heart. The answers from the brain and mind appear to clear and rational, but the answers from the heart are the most successful. For instance, we go to university to read books and go to classes just to get ‘big brains’. Khenpo Karma Tenkyong encourages us to make our hearts bigger. He pointed that the transfer of knowledge from one brain to another does not benefit the students. The transfer of knowledge has to be from heart to heart.

Our busy lives can be attributed to the desire to achieve our dreams, the desire for happiness, and the desire to be free from suffering and obstacles. This in fact, is the meaning of happiness; happiness is to free ourselves from suffering. Love and compassion are manifestations of happiness.They are one and cannot be separated; love is to wish happiness for someone and compassion is to wish someone to be free from suffering and obstacles. He spoke about the central Buddhist concept of interdependence. Thus, to be successful in life we need happiness and we need to practice love and compassion, and that practice starts from ourselves. Khenpo Karma Tenkyong stated,“before you can give love and compassion to others, you need to learn how to give love and compassion to yourself” and continues “ I am very important person to myself.”

In Buddhism, every phenomenon is conditional. The concept was beautifully explained by him with examples.We do not just depend on others for our happiness but our living depends on the other. We are alive because of the oxygen we breathe, and we have oxygen because of the trees. Our clothes and food come from the environment and if we think about this everyday then our heart will touch the other: the environment. If you respect other sentient beings, you will love them, and that is when you are truly successful and closer to being happy.

Khenpo Karma Tenkyong illustrated the concept of interdependence using an example of the Earth. He asked if Mother Earth ever asked you anything in return for the food you eat, the water you drink, the oxygen you breathe, or the clothes you wear? She is selfless and our existence depends on her. Her love for us is unconditional. But if we do not love Mother Earth then how do we live?”