Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The Vajra Crown Ceremony was performed Wednesday night by the Gyalwa Karmapa, head of the Kagp, or Red Hat, sect of Tibetan Buddhists, at Georgetown University. The ceremony might remind one of a Catholic Mass.
There was incense, chanting with responses, monks and various acolytes, in robes, and swaths of saffron and brocade material draping the stage in Gaston Hall Auditorium.
The crowd even looked like a Sunday church crowd.It would be a hip church, however, with a congregation sprinkled with bearded and long-haired young men. And of course it was all exotic, since it was in Tibetan.
Sitting up front were Smithsonian head S. Dillon Ripley III, Sen, and Mrs. Charles Percy (R-III.) (with whom the Karmapa Lama is staying), and Dr. and Mrs. John Steubnbord. The doctor runs medical clinics in the Far East.
Behind them was a rank-and-file gathering of young couples with their babies, some stolid older folk and some college students, a few of whom sat in the lotus position in the aisle.
It was a long ceremony, lengthy to begin and lengthy to end. Barbara Pettee, white-haired woman with a length of maroon cloth wrapped diagonally across her body, said she was almost but not quite a Buddhist nun and explained that the scheduled 8 p.m. ceremony might not begin on time but on "Asian time."
She said that the Buddhists, whom she has been traveling with around the country for several weeks, had a more relaxed sense of time than Westerners.
Before the ceremony, the audience was instracted on some precepts of Buddhism by a young lama in monkish garb except for loafers with bright metal buckles. He sat in a chair while a young American, in suit and tie, and with microphone, translated. Several people in the audience wondered whether it really was a translation, since his words seemed so pat.
During the translation, the young lama, who seemed perfectly comfortable in front of the gathering of about 350, would flick his eyes over the audience in the balcony and around the room. At one point, a youngster, a child lama, wandered out onto the state with his flash camera to survey the crowd.
Then came a word from the Karmapa's Tibetan translator, a dapper young man in a three-piece suit with flared pants, who told the audience that "his holiness gave them his blessing," and that "his holiness was interested in spiritual aspects and not in politics." He then explained how the audience was to come up to get their blessings, noting that "you can leave any offering at his holiness' feet."
Then in came the Karmapa himself, a portly man with a jolly face and smile who mounted a throne in the center of the stage. The ceremony began with several monks playing large Tibetan horns that made a sound similar to a police siren stuck on once note. It was hypnotic and impressive, with the monks scurrying about the stage, settling themselves into position to chant.
There was a great deal of ceremony preceding the moment when the Karmapa put on the crown, a gift to the fifth Karmapa by the Chinese Emperor Yung-Lo in the 15th century.When he wears the crown, the Karmapa is said to complete a spiritual link with his audience. In this state, he transmits the "awakened intelligence" of Buddhist teaching to those members of the audience who are open to receiving them.
After the ceremony, members of the audience went up to receive a blessing from the Karmapa; A red string was tied about their necks as a protection and remembrance of the ceremony.