The Karmapa

Hi Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa (photo credit: Filip Wolak)

From the Karmapa America 2015 website:

“As the spiritual head of the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, has emerged as an important thought leader for our time. Since his dramatic escape from Tibet to India in 2000, the Karmapa has played a key role in preserving Tibetan religion and culture. He has been described as “a world spiritual leader for the 21st century,” and has inspired millions of people worldwide to take action on social and environmental issues. At the age of 29, the Karmapa’s message has particularly resonated with young people, whom he encourages to take responsibility to create a more compassionate future for the planet.

 

“Karmapa” literally means “He Who Performs the Activities of the Buddha” and the Karmapa lineage itself is known for putting Buddhist principles into action. The Khoryug association that he founded has transformed over 55 monasteries across the Himalayan region into local centers for environmental activism. Leading on women’s issues, in January 2015 the Karmapa made the historic announcement that he will establish full ordination for women, a long-awaited step within Tibetan Buddhism.

 

In his latest book, The Heart Is Noble: Changing the World from the Inside Out, the Karmapa speaks to the younger generation on the major challenges facing society today, including gender issues, food justice, rampant consumerism and the environmental crisis. He is currently working on a subsequent book based on his interactions with American university students, which discusses how to live according to the principle of interdependence in an era of technological connectivity and emotional disconnection.”

In addition to leading His spiritual lineage, He actively engages through many channels to support issues facing this modern world:

  • Reaching Out to Youth
  • Music, Art and Poetry
  • Environmental and Social Activism

Born to a nomad family in Eastern Tibet on June 26th, 1985, he was recognized at the age of seven through a prediction letter, known as the Last Testament. He was installed as the 17th Karmapa at the age of eight, and gave His first public discourse shortly thereafter. He escaped from Ti­bet at the age of 14, so that he could best fulfill his religious responsibilities. He now lives in Dharamsala, India, near His Holiness the Dalai Lama. You can learn more about his life and activities here and here.

Buddhist understand that Enlightened Beings take rebirths consciously, motivated by their desire to benefit all living beings. Their depth and clarity of realization allows them to do this, and those realizations are attained through various practices.

The First Karmapa was the first such reincarnation (tulku) in this world; he was recognized in thirteenth-century Tibet. His name was Düsüm Khyenpa, the Gyalwang Karmapa, “The Victorious One of Enlightened Activity”.

Since that incarnation he continues to return, generation after generation, and the present seventeenth Karmapa is his current manifestation. The Karmapa is said to embody the activity of all the Buddhas of the Past, Present, and Future. Citing ancient texts, traditional histories trace his lives back for eons and continue it forward into the distant future.

“His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa holds, teaches, and inspires the lineage of the Kagyu order, which is known for its meditative practices, its focus on retreat, and the many realized masters it has produced.

Like the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa is regarded as an embodiment of compassion, represented by the deity Chenrezik.

The sole purpose of the Karmapa’s incarnation is to lead living beings from the suffering of samsara into freedom- the realization of mind’s deepest, pure nature. This full awakening, or enlightenment, is possible for every living being who sincerely engages in practice.”

From – Music in the Sky: The Life, Art & Teachings of the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje
copyright (c) 2003 Michele Martin