2000/01/22

The Karmapa tradition - The Tribune



Saturday, January 22, 2000





KARMAPA Ogyen Trinley Dorje heads the Kagyu tradition which occupies an important place among the five principal spiritual traditions of Tibet.

The 17th Karmapa: In the eye of a politico-religious stormThis tradition has remained strong and successful due to the presence of an unbroken line of reincarnations of the founder, the successive Karmapas.

The lineages of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Budhism derive primarily from two sources. Marpa Chokyi Lodoe (1012-1099) and Khyungpo Nyaljor (978-1079). The former was trained as a translator by Drogmi Yeshe (993-1050) and then travelled three times to India and four times to Nepal in search of religious teachings.

Marpa brought the four commissioned lineages of tantrik teachings, including the illusory body and consciousness transference, dreams, clear light and inner heat to Tibet and passing them on to his foremost disciple Milarepa (1040-1123), the most celebrated and accomplished of Tibet’s tantrik yogis, who achieved the ultimate goal of nirvana in one lifetime.

Marpa brought the four commissioned lineages of tantrik teachings, including the illusory body and consciousness transference, dreams, clear light and inner heat to Tibet and passing them on to his foremost disciple Milarepa (1040-1123), the most celebrated and accomplished of Tibet’s tantrik yogis, who achieved the ultimate goal of nirvana in one lifetime.

The Dakpo Kagyu, the mother lineage of the Kagyu tradition, gave rise to four major schools founded by the disciples of Gampopa who also pioneered a fusion of Milarepa’s Mahamudra tradition with the stages of the path tradition of the Kadampa order.

The training of monks in Kagyu monasteries consists mainly of the study of perfection of wisdom, madhyamika, valid cognition, discipline and phenomenology common to all traditions, except that each tradition has its own monastic texts and commentaries to facilitate understanding of the original Indian texts.

The other Tibetan traditions are, the Bonpo, the Sakya, the Gelug and the Nyingma.

The Karma Kagyu was founded by the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193). Famous among the successive Karmapas were the second Karmapa, Pakshi (1206-1282), the third Karmapa, Ranjung Rigpe Dorjey (1284-1339) and the eighth Karmapa Mikyo Dorjey (1507-1554).

The predecessor of the present Karmapa was the sixteenth Karmapa, Ranjung Rigpe Dorjey (1924-81), who in exile was also appointed head of the Kagyu tradition.

The Tsurphu monastery in the Central Tibet was the main monastery of this tradition. But after coming into exile, the tradition has re-established its headquarters and principal monastic university at Rumtek in Sikkim. During the absence of the Gyalwa Karmapa’s incarnation, four high lamas, who were his disciples were acting as regents. They are Shamar Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpochey, Situ Rinpochey and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche.

Bon is the oldest spiritual tradition of Tibet, while the sakya tradition is closely bound up with the Khon ancestral lineage, which derived from celestial beings.

The Gelug tradition has remained dynamic even after coming into exile. The tradition was founded by Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419). The major Relug monasteries, Sera, Drepung, Ganden and Tashi Ihunpo and Gyumey Tantric College have been re-established in various Tibetan settlements in Karnataka and the Gyuto Tantric College has been re-established at Bomdill, Arunachal Pradesh.


The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism too has its origin to the Indian adept, Guru Padamsambhava, who came to Tibet on the invitation of king Trisong Deutsan (742-797) in order to curb the evil forces then impeding the spread of Buddhism.


Reincarnation story retold
By Pratibha Chauhan


THE Chinese design to divide the Tibetan community in-exile by fostering discord between the rival contending sides over the issue of the real reincarnate of the 16th Karmapa appears to be succeeding to a certain extent.

A fresh controversy has been raked up about who the legitimate Karmapa is ever since the escape of Ogyen Trinley Dorjee to Mcleodganj, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile. There had been a bitter controversy over the issue of the real Karmapa, the head of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, even in 1994. The problem was serious enough to cause a political crisis and police had to be posted outside the wealthy and powerful Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, to maintain its sanctity.

Ogyen Trinley Dorjee was enthroned as the head of the Kagyu sect, on September 27, 1992, at Tsurphu monastery, the main seat of all gyalwa Karmapas. Tai Situ Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche had been instrumental in the selection of Trinley as the 17th Karmapa. Even the Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, confirmed Trinley as the reincarnate of the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorjee, who died in 1981 in Chicago.

It was for the first time that the Chinese, too, recognised a reincarnate, a theory which they do not believe in. Trinley was accepted as the 17th Karmapa by the communist regime in Beijing.

Shamarpa Rinpoche, another regent of the Kagyu sect, has put forward the name of Thaye Dorji as the real incarnate of the 16th Karmapa. He has threatened that Trinley, who is also the choice of the Dalai Lama, shall not be accepted by the monks at the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim. As if this feud was not enough, a third contender in Sikkim — Dewa Sangpo Dorji — emerged, posing a challenge to the other two candidates for the post.

Since so much wealth and power is at stake, choosing a new ‘Grand Lama’ or the reincarnate has always been a tricky affair. Even the selection of the Dalai Lama has never been smooth or uneventful and many of the earlier spiritual leaders disappeared mysteriously or died in suspicious circumstances. The fifth Dalai Lama, Lobsang Gyatso, was the first to wield both religious and temporal power over Tibet and all Tibetans acknowledged him as the supreme pontiff of the country.

The tradition of the reincarnation is a peculiar feature of Vajrayana. It is connected with the concept of bardo, the intermediate period between birth and rebirth. It is believed that death is only a pause in the continuity of birth and rebirth. A Bodhisatva lives and dies and is reborn solely with the intent to liberate beings from ignorance and confusion. For him a past and present is manifest in the present, therefore he surpasses the space continuum.

As a religious head passes away, reincarnations are born, identified, enthroned, instructed and empowered until they in turn become masters. There have been enlightened, reincarnated in the case of the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and the Karmapa, the head of the Kagyus sect.

Some reincarnations are identified through dreams, some through the vision of holy persons, some through the instructions left at the time of the death, some through auspicious signs of nature and some have simply proclaimed their identity while still being infants. Some of the reincarnates are put through the test of identifying the objects belonging to the previous incarnate.

There are no rigid rules for the process of identification. There have been incarnates who have been princes, while others were cow herds. The only guiding principle for such birth is compassion of the Bodhisatvas and the collective karma of the people.

Just as there are no rigid patterns to the process of identifying a reincarnate, there is also no set form as to who should identify a reincarnate. Normally a high tulku or incarnate Rinpoche recognises and identifies the new reincarnate, who belongs to his monastery. Often, there have been cases when a great reincarnate has been identified by a single pure Lama or even by emissaries and representatives, of the Rinpoches and the tulkus.

Soon after a tulku or reincarnate is identified, he is enthroned and provided with the best instructors. At times they go through difficult phases. They have to find an instructor who accepts them and finally they are given instructions on dharma by the guru. After an year of hardship and toil, he has access to the vast ocean of dharma and is surrounded by great masters.

A special boy

It has become clear at the time of the birth of Ogyen Trinley Dorjee that he was a "special boy", who was an incarnate of a high Lama.

On the day of his birth on June 26, 1985, the villagers reported hearing the sound of conch shells for an hour, followed by another musical sound, the source of which could not be found. Perhaps, the most dramatic of the many signs were the three suns, which shone in the sky. Seen by all present, they were of the same size and appeared in a row. Over the middle sun, arched a rainbow, each end of which dissolved suns on the sides.

This strange phenomenon was reported throughout eastern Tibet, as if clearly signified the arrival of a reincarnate. After seeking the blessing and help of many Lamas, Karma Dhondup and his wife Loga were blessed with this boy. As promised by the parents, the boy was taken to the Kalek monastery, and installed as a tulku, though he was not given a name, Khatza Tapa, a local wise man proficient in mirror medicine, made a prediction when he saw a conch shell spiralling clockwise: "The boy will greatly benefit beings. When he is eight years old everything will be clear, but until then no one can confirm who he is".

In the tradition of the Karmapas, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the 16th Karmapa, had predicted his successor by writing a sacred letter, disclosing his incarnation. In this letter he is learnt to have specified the time and circumstances of his birth, the name of his parents and the location where he could be found, written six months before his death, in 1981, the 16th Karmapa, had hidden this letter in a talisman, given to Tai Situ Rinpoche. Since the Rinpoche did not know of the secret, it stayed hidden until he opened the amulet many years later and discovered the sacred letter of prediction.

The search party found that the description in the letter was very clear and exact. It said: In the east of Tibet (Kham), in a nomadic community with the sign of the cow (Barkor — the name of the birthplaces is an old Tibetan word for cow), the method (the father) is Dondrup, and the wisdom (the mother) is Loga.

The process of discovering the Karmapa began in the spring of 1992. Copies of the letter of prediction were sent to Drupon Dechon Rinpoche at Tsurphu monastery in Tibet along with its interpretation. A search party was dispatched by Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche. The party comprising Akong Rinpoche and Sherab Tarchin finally arrived at Kalek monastery, where the special boy had been a monk since the age of four. On the day the search party arrived, the Karmapa awoke early and said, "My monks are coming and I am ready to go to the monastery.

Without giving any explanation to his parents, he had insisted, several weeks earlier, that they move to the spring pasture one month ahead of schedule. Due to this, the family was at the exact place the 16th Karmapa had predicted in his letter. The search party was able to find them without any trouble. The members of the search party had already heard about miraculous events from locals before reaching the dwelling place of the Karmapa’s parents. The conch shell music was also predicted by the 16th Karmapa in his letter.

Fully convinced, Lama Domo, head of the search party gave the father a copy of the sacred letter, and it was then that Karma Dondrup realised with certainty that his son was the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa, later, the Tsurphu monastery informed Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche and finally the Dalai Lama was informed about the discovery of the reincarnate of the 16th Karmapa.

Finally on September 27, 1992, Ogyen Trinley Dorjee was enthroned at the Tsurphu monastery, the seat of the Gyalwa Karmapas.


2000/01/17

Time: Thunder Out of China


By TIME STAFF   Monday, Jan. 17, 2000


The outside world viewed him as Beijing's stooge. But last week the 17th Karmapa, the impressively tall 14-year-old recognized as the reincarnated leader of Tibet's second-most important Buddhist sect, climbed out of a monastery bedroom and began an incredible journey--by car, horse, bus, train and taxi--that brought him eventually to India. After eight days on the run, he was united last week with the exiled Dalai Lama--to the elation of those who support Tibet's freedom. The flight from China to Dharamsala, the Himalayan site of the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile, caught both India and China unaware. The Karmapa is Tibet's third-ranking reincarnated bodhisattva, or enlightened being, after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. The teenager's status had been formally recognized by both the exiled Tibetan government and Beijing. His escape represents a serious blow to Beijing's efforts to win support for its control over Tibet. And it could set back improving relations between India and China; Delhi is sure to face renewed pressure from Beijing to end its support for Tibetan exiles. China's official news agency has played down the event, reporting that the Karmapa left to search for religious artifacts and that he did not intend to betray the state, the nation, the monastery or the leadership.

After 10 years of bloodshed in the contested territory, outsiders have begun to take up the violent struggle that native Kashmiris wish would finally cease


Browse TIME Asia's Kashmir photo essay: State of Unrest -- photographer James Nachtwey's view of this contested territory's decade of grief
For the Karmapa, it's a dramatic twist in an amazing life. Born Ugyen Thinley Dorje in 1985 to a family of nomads in a small district in southeast Tibet, his birth was allegedly foretold by his predecessor, who died in a Chicago hospital in 1981. It was not until 11 years later that a high-ranking lama said he had discovered, in an amulet, the previous Karmapa's prediction about his successor. The monks sent to search for the incarnate noted that Dorje's birth had been heralded by other auspicious augurs: the sound of conch shells, unique birdsong, the appearance of three suns in the sky. He was recognized as the 17th reborn leader of the Kagyupa, or Black Hat sect, Tibet's most venerable line of Buddhists. (They dominated Tibet until 400 years ago, when the rival Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat sect, gained prominence and the Dalai Lama became Tibet's God-King.) The Karmapa was recognized in 1992, at the age of seven. Beijing's endorsement led to charges that the Karmapa was a pawn in China's efforts to justify its rule in Tibet. 

In fact, the Karmapa has chafed under China's restrictions on his freedoms and apparently faced strong pressure to denounce the Dalai Lama. According to the Karmapa's adherents in exile in India, Beijing also wanted him to declare publicly that China was a bastion of religious freedom. His spiritual education had come to a full stop: China wouldn't allow him to visit the three surviving regents of the Black Hat sect, all of whom are living in India. At the end of December, he decided to flee from his home in the remote Tsurphu monastery, a sprawling network of halls and small rooms set in pristine pasture amid hills some 70 km northwest of Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.

To prepare his escape, the Karmapa told his Chinese guards that he was going into a contemplative retreat and would not leave his bedroom. During such retreats, only his personal cook and teacher were allowed to see him; the guards remained outside watching TV. Once his minders had been lulled into complacency, the Karmapa escaped through a bedroom window at 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 28. A car was waiting for him with two drivers, two lama assistants, a personal servant and his sister, a Buddhist nun. They drove toward the Nepal border, following a route almost identical to that of the Dalai Lama's escape on horseback in 1959. Back at the monastery, the boy's cook and teacher made daily visits to his empty room to keep up the illusion that he was inside.

The Karmapa discarded his monk's habit for civilian dress, and the party drove night and day across Tibet. As the car approached security checkpoints, the Karmapa alighted ahead of each barrier and circumvented the police post, joining his companions on the other side. The Karmapa and his party walked across the border with Nepal and traveled by horseback and via public transport to the capital, Katmandu. (They phoned the Karmapa's bedroom on his private line to tell the two co-conspirators that they had safely crossed the border. Unknown voices answered the call; the fate of the teacher and cook is not known.) From Katmandu the group crossed into India, passing through Lucknow and New Delhi. They traveled to Dharamsala by train and taxi, arriving Jan. 5. to an emotional welcome. You must be tired, the Dalai Lama said in greeting. Yes, I am, the Karmapa replied.

With the Karmapa's escape, the most prominent Buddhist leader left in Tibet is the Panchen Lama--or, more accurately, two Panchen Lamas. In normal times, the Panchen Lama is the second most important figure in the Yellow Hat sect, after the Dalai Lama. But these aren't normal times. The young boy that Beijing insists is the incarnate holy man, now age 9, has been seen only once in Tibet: surrounded by armed guards, he briefly presided over religious ceremonies last June. He lives in a villa outside Beijing. Another boy, also age 9, certified by the Dalai Lama, has disappeared completely. China considers it an offense to possess his photograph. A similar situation surrounded the Karmapa in 1994, two years after China and the Dalai Lama recognized him as the 17th incarnate. In a schismatic attempt to split the Black Hats, a group of lamas announced a rival Karmapa. China allowed the pretender, Tenzin Chentze, to leave for India and held fast to its earlier choice. After last week's humiliation, they must wish they had changed their mind. 



http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2054272,00.html

2000/01/08

BBC: Tibetan Lama meets spiritual leader

Saturday, 8 January, 2000, 10:16 GMT 



The Karmapa fled across the Himalayas (Tsurphu  Foundation)


The young Buddhist leader, the Karmapa Lama, who escaped to India from Tibet by walking across the Himalayas, has met the Tibetan leader-in-exile, the Dalai Lama. Officials at the Dalai Lama's headquarters in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala said the meeting took place shortly after the arrival of the 14-year old Karmapa Lama, although he was exhausted by his journey.
Karmapa Lama: Recognised by China (Tsurphu Foundation)

The Karmapa Lama is the only senior Tibetan Buddhist officially recognised by the Chinese authorities and correspondents say his escape, which has gone almost unreported China's press, is certain to be an embarrassment.

  The Karmapa Lama escaped his Chinese guards at the 800-year-old Tsurphu monastery in central Tibet by saying he intended to go on a retreat.

He set out across the mountains on 28 December, accompanied by five companions, including his 24-year-old sister and two other lamas.

Sources in Dharamsala said their feet were blistered during the week-long trek along rocky paths and their hands were scratched by thorn-bushes along the way.

Surprise

Officials of the Tibetan government-in-exile said that the Karmapa Lama had arrived on 5 January.
"We were all caught by surprise when we were told on the fifth morning that he has arrived," said Tashi Wangdi, Minister for Religion and Culture of the Tibetan government in Exile.

Mr Wangdi said the meeting between the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa Lama was private and lasted almost half-an-hour.

  It is not yet clear whether his intentions are to leave Chinese-ruled Tibet permanently or if it is a temporary measure in order to receive further religious teaching.

Since his arrival in Dharamsala, he has been kept in seclusion without any information being released about his future plans.

"Please appreciate that this is an extremely sensitive matter and we cannot give out any more information at this stage," a spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile said.

Retreat

The Karmapa Lama, the third most powerful person in Tibetan Buddhism, is the only person among the religion's senior figures accepted by both the Beijing and the Dalai Lama.

Beijing has issued a statement saying the Karmapa left a letter explaining he was collecting religious artefacts and did not intend to betray the Chinese state.

The new arrival soon met the Dalai Lama

On Saturday, the Chinese press remained almost silent on the subject. With the exception of the China Daily, an English-language publication aimed at foreign readers, the official media said nothing about the Karmapa's departure.

"Living Buddha simply went abroad," said the China Daily, reiterating a brief comment issued on Friday by the official Xinhua news agency's English service but omitted on its Chinese-language service and on television.

"The guarded response from the Chinese authorities to the news of the Karmapa's arrival in India and the fact that they have not denounced him, suggests that they wish to keep open the option that the Karmapa might return to Tibet in the near future," said the London-based Tibet Information Network.

But Robert Barnett, a Tibetan expert at Colombia University, New York, said: "It leaves China's religious policy in Tibet in complete disarray."

The BBC has been told that the Karmapa Lama had become increasingly frustrated with a lack of access to religious teachers in Tibet.

He is said to have wanted either permission to travel abroad for lessons from Lamas from his school of Buddhism, or for permission from Beijing for a teacher to visit him.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/595370.stm

2000/01/07

BBC: Tibetan Lama Flees to India

Friday, 7 January, 2000, 13:50 GMT 



Teenage Lama: Escaped across the Himalayas

One of Tibetan Buddhism's most powerful figures has escaped from Tibet to meet the movement's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in India.

  The Karmapa Lama is the only senior Tibetan Buddhist officially recognised by the Chinese authorities and his escape is certain to be an embarrassment.

The 14-year-old Karmapa Lama left his monastry in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, telling guards he was going to a hill-top retreat. He then trekked across the frozen Himalayas to reach Dharamsala, in northern India.
He was accompanied by a small band of monks on the expedition that lasted at least five days.

Buddhist leaders
Dalai Lama: Living in exile
Panchen Lama: Dispute over succession
Karmapa Lama: In India
It is not yet clear whether his intentions are to leave Chinese-ruled Tibet permanently or if it is a temporary measure in order to receive further religious teaching.

After arriving in Dharamsala, he is reported to have met the Dalai Lama, who fled from Tibet using a similar route 40 years ago.

The Karmapa Lama, the third most powerful person in Tibetan Buddhism, is the only person among the religion's senior figures accepted by both the Beijing and the Dalai Lama.

  He is said to have evaded his Chinese guards in Tibet by telling them he was going on a religious retreat.

Beijing has issued a statement saying the Karmapa left a letter explaining he was collecting religious artefacts and did not intend to betray the Chinese state.

Correspondents say the statement deliberately avoided criticising the Lama in order to leave the way open for him to return.

The 14-year-old trekked across the Himalayas

But Robert Barnett, a Tibetan expert at Colombia University, New York, said: "It leaves China's religious policy in Tibet in complete disarray."

  The BBC has been told that the Karmapa Lama had become increasingly frustrated with a lack of access to religious teachers in Tibet.

He is said to have wanted either permission to travel abroad for lessons from Lamas from his school of Buddhism, or for permission from Beijing for a teacher to visit him.

Chinese recognition

The Karmapa heads the Karma Kagyu - Tibetan Buddhism's second most important, after that headed by the Dalai Lama.

Dharamsala is also home to the exiled Dalai Lama

He was the first Tibetan reincarnation to be recognised by the Chinese authorities. He is also accepted as the true reincarnation by the Dalai Lama; a fact that has given him status among Tibet's religious leaders.

In 1992, he agreed to stay in Tibet in return for Chinese recognition. China used the agreement as proof of the legitimacy of its rule in the disputed region.

China considers the Dalai Lama to be an enemy of the state, and there is dispute between him and Beijing over who is the reincarnated Panchen Lama, the religion's second most powerful figure.

Disputed Lama

Last year the Karmapa appeared in public with another controversial reincarnation, the boy who China decided was the Panchen Lama, passing over the Dalai Lama's choice.

Beijing and the Dalai Lama chose their different candidates for the Panchen Lama in 1995.
The Dalai Lama's choice, now 10, and his family have not been seen in public since. Human rights groups believe they are under house arrest.

Beijing's choice was installed by Tibetan monks, surrounded by Chinese officials, in Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Shigatse.

But he is regarded by many Tibetans as a fake


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/594111.stm