When His Holiness the Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje visited the University of Redlands in March, he said it felt like he was returning home, words that Professor of Religious Studies and the Virginia C. Hunsaker Distinguished Teaching Chair Karen Derris was thrilled to hear.
“It had been my highest hope that our reciprocity for his generosity to our students would generate that experience,” she said.
Derris was introduced to the Karmapa by her friend and colleague, Venerable Damcho (Diana Finnegan), who runs a community of International Tibetan Buddhist nuns in India and works to support the Karmapa’s publication projects. In 2011, the Karmapa, then age 25, was interested in meeting U.S. college students, but his travel was being restricted by the government. Derris was able to bring her students to India to meet him during a May Term course, and his book, The Heart is Noble, developed from their conversations. A manuscript of a second book with the working title Living Interdependence, based upon Derris’ 2013 May Term course to visit the Karmapa, is underway and will likely be published in 2016.
“This book builds upon The Heart is Noble by considering what it means to live an interdependent life,” Derris said. “While descriptions of the world as interdependent are commonplace in discussions of a wide range of issues such as environmental crisis, global economies and immigration issues, we have just started to consider the implications of what it means to live an interconnected life. In this book, His Holiness the Karmapa illuminates the values of interconnectedness and how emotionally experiencing interconnections motivates compassionate action.”
Derris co-edited The Heart is Noble and will co-edit this second volume, with the central goal being “to illuminate the Karmapa’s complex arguments that unfolded through the course of his conversations with our students, and to bring his voice to a broad audience who might feel themselves directly addressed through his writing.”
The Karmapa was able to reach a new audience during his visit to Redlands, when he spoke to a sold out crowd in the Memorial Chapel on “Living Interdependence.” He also reconnected with the students, now alumni, he met during their May Term courses, and was introduced to several faculty members whose areas of expertise overlap with his passions: Marco Schindelmann from the School of Music offered him a private voice lesson and Nephelie Andonyadis and Trevor Norton from the Theatre Arts Department helped him explore design.
“The Karmapa’s visit to our campus was a beautiful experience,” Derris said. “The U of R community embraced the Karmapa with incredible generosity.”