Redlands, California, U.S. (March 25, 2015)– More than 1,700 students, faculty, staff, special guests, members of the public and spiritual followers were in attendance Tuesday night as the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, was granted an honorary academic degree and gave a live-streamed address, "Living Interdependence."
University President Dr. Ralph W. Kuncl conferred an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree upon the Karmapa. Dr. Karen Derris, Professor of Religious Studies and Virginia Hunsaker Chair in Distinguished Teaching, read a proclamation highlighting the Karmapa's achievements in global communication, teaching, and learning and his close connection with the University's students, according to reports.
President Kuncl said, "We were thrilled to gather last evening with our University community, special friends and family members, many new visitors to our campus, and untold thousands around the world who viewed live on the Web, to present His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, an honorary degree – the first-ever to be conferred upon His Holiness.
We thank and honor His Holiness for his kindness to our students who learned from him at his home in India and engaged with him during his visit this week, and for his universal teachings of peace, tolerance and understanding."
The Karmapa – a 29-year-old Buddhist spiritual leader who heads the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and guides millions of Buddhists around the world – visited the University Monday and Tuesday during the only Southern California stop of his two-month trip to the United States.
"I have a very special connection with the University of Redlands," the Karmapa said. "The two occasions that students came for the courses in India were wonderful experiences for me.
Among the many reasons to visit here today, my favorite is to be able to reunite with old friends. Being here feels like coming home." "I can see that many people of today's generation of youth are aware of the responsibility they have for the future of this planet," he added.
"In speaking to them on this trip, I want to encourage them to see that responsibility not as a burden, but as an opportunity." During his visit the Karmapa met with faculty and students, attended a religious studies class, toured the campus, and even visited with the University's live mascot, a bulldog named Thurber.
The Karmapa also reunited with 20 former Redlands students who came back to campus just to visit with him again. In 2011 and 2013, students from Derris' Johnston Center for Integrative Studies seminars traveled to India to learn from the Karmapa.
His conversations with the first group of students formed the basis of his book, The Heart is Noble: Changing the World from the Inside and Out (Shambala, 2013), which was co-edited by Derris. A second book, also co-edited by Derris, is forthcoming based on the group that traveled in 2013.