His Holiness Karmapa pays his first visit to Lithuania
Stupkalnis Retreat Center is the main center of the Diamond Way network of the Karma Kagyu Lineage in Lithuania and the biggest one in the Baltic States. It is located in a secluded spot surrounded by fields and forests, far off the hustle and bustle of our modern world, and thus ideally suited for short or long meditation retreats.
It was only after the land was purchased more than ten years ago that the local sangha (community of practitioners) found out that the highest hill of the region had been called Stupkalnis (Stupa Hill) for ages. Thus, future priorities for the further development of the center include the construction of a stupa – symbol of perfect enlightenment.
His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa visited Lithuania for the first time this year and spent four days at Stupkalnis Retreat Center. When the local sangha learned – at very short notice – that their fervent wish to welcome His Holiness at their center was to come true they had very little time left to complete the buildings in which he and his entourage were to be housed. Everyone worked very hard until the very last minute, and when Gyalwa Karmapa arrived late at night on June 21 a faint smell of fresh paint still hung in the air.
In spite of the late hour of the arrival and the extremely hard work everybody had been putting in until the very last moment His Holiness was given an enthusiastic welcome, and the Lithuanian students proudly showed him to his newly finished residence.
After a day of rest and private meetings on June 21, the morning of June 22 was devoted to an excursion to the nearby town of Kražiai which boasts a parish church with an outstanding history, as well as a historical museum. Upon his arrival His Holiness was welcomed by the parish priest, Mr Vytautas Ripinskis, who showed him around the church and gave him a short overview of the history of the church. The mayor of Kražiai, Mr Vaclovas Andrulis, then met Gyalwa Karmapa at the local museum, where he was given a guided tour of the various rooms with their exhibits. The excursion concluded with a musical presentation by a local ensemble who performed a number of traditional folk songs for His Holiness and his party.
His Holiness’ official programme at Stupkalnis started in the afternoon of the same day with a teaching about the Four Immeasurables (immeasurable loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity) to an audience of about two thousand devotees from over 30 countries. It was the biggest gathering of practitioners the centre had seen since its inception more than ten years ago.