It is 1974 and I am sitting at the feet of the16th Karmapa of Tibet, one of the most important figures in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy. The appearance of the 1st Karmapa, was predicted by the historical Buddha Shakyamuni in the Samadhiraja Sutra, and the 5th Karmapa started the tradition of the Black Crown Ceremony which has been performed by successive Karmapa incarnations up to the time of the 16th Karmapa, who sits before me now.
He is about to perform this rare and sacred ceremony, yet I am feeling frustrated and confused about what I am meant to feel.
I ask a Buddhist monk to explain what’s about to happen and he tells me that if I see the Black Crown I will become an enlightened being. I misunderstand him however, and think he’s said that I will never be enlightened if I see the Black Crown. So I desperately and naively hope that it will be invisible to me.
I participate in the ceremony and I see the Black Crown. I feel I’ve been cheated, my ego is deflated and over the coming months I lose interest in Buddhism.
It is now 1993 and I am sitting with his Holiness the Dalai Lama. I dare not mention the Black Crown ceremony but my life has changed considerably, I have already decided to meditate in the jungles of northern Thailand in the hope that I will discover a way to integrate Buddhist principles with psychotherapy, but this will not happen for a few years yet.
I abandoned Buddhism after that ceremony in 1974 but inexplicably something has been growing inside me and I don’t understand what it is, why or how. I only know that I wish to love more, and this has motivated me to keep searching.
It is now 2017 and I am browsing the internet. The 16th Karmapa passed away in 1981 and the Black Crown ceremony has never been performed since. In fact no one knows the whereabouts of the Black Crown, it has disappeared from Tibetan Buddhism. So I find a web page about the Karmapas and read an article about the Black Crown ceremony:
“The ceremony is a display of His (the Karmapa’s) Compassion and Wisdom. The crown signifies his power to benefit all sentient beings. It is said that anyone who witnesses the ceremony will undergo a transformation of the heart, within which a seed is planted, which will bear fruit as Wisdom and Compassion. It is further said that the ceremony creates a bond with the Karmapa, and that the witness cannot fall into the lower realms for the next seven lives.”
Tears are now streaming down my face. I feel so grateful for not knowing about the gift I had been given, grateful that I did not have the chance to attach to the gift way back in 1974. Back then I was too young and proud to receive this gift, so it has sat within me slowly growing without my awareness. And of all of those times when I asked myself “why me?” I now know why, and so more tears flow, and I feel I have much to repay.