His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Thaye Dorje
Karmapa embodies the energy of all Buddhas and is the head of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Diamond Way Buddhism. He is considered the first consciously reborn Lama of Tibet. For example, a disciple of the 4th Karmapa was the teacher of the 1st Dalai Lama.
Birth and childhood
Gyalwa Karmapa was born in May 1983 in Lhasa, Tibet. His father, the third Mipham Rinpoche, is an important Lama of the Nyingma tradition, his mother Dechen Wangmo comes from a Tibetan noble family, which traces its origin back to the legendary King Ling Kesar. The family lived with their son Tenzin Khyentse first at the “Bharkhor”, a famous ring-shaped pilgrim road in the centre of the Tibetan capital Lhasa. Even as a toddler he said that he was the Karmapa.
In 1986 Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, a highly respected master of the Tibetan Buddhist Sakya tradition, gave Shamar Rinpoche a reference to the child in Lhasa. Chogye Trichen referred to the dreams and information of a visitor who had been to Lhasa shortly before and had brought a photo of the young Karmapa.
Shamar Rinpoche, the second highest Lama of the Karma Kagyu lineage and traditionally responsible for finding the next Karmapa, then asked the well-known teacher Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche to make further enquiries. Lopön Tsechu visited Lhasa and returned with detailed information about a boy named Tenzin Khyentse and his family. He also reports that the boy recognized him when he first met him.
At the beginning of 1991 Shamar Rinpoche announced great news during the inauguration of a monastery in Nepal: After evaluating further information, carrying out traditional examinations and withdrawing from meditation, it is now clear that the new Karmapa lives in Tibet and will bear the name Thaye Dorje – a name that means “boundless unchanging Buddha activity”.
In 1994 the young Karmapa was brought from Tibet to India with the help of western students. In the same year Shamar Rinpoche enthroned the 17th Karmapa at the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute (KIBI) in New Delhi in the presence of numerous visitors from all over the world.
Gyalwa Karmapa then underwent extensive training with Shamar Rinpoche, Topga Rinpoche, Prof. Sempa Dorje, Khenpo Chödrak Rinpoche, the US-American philosophy professor Harrison Pemberton and many high-ranking Lamas and scholars of Tibetan Buddhism.
Among other things Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, holder of the Tsharpa-Sakya tradition and guide for the discovery of the Gyalwa Karmapa, despite his old age traveled from his seat in Nepal to the monastery Dhagpo Kagyü Ling built by Gendün Rinpoche in France to give transmissions and initiations to Gyalwa Karmapa there for several months.
Later, Gyalwa Karmapa met with Luding Kenchen Rinpoche, the holder of the Ngor-Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, in the USA. From him, Gyalwa Karmapa received transmissions, which, although attributed to the Karma Kagyu tradition, were preserved over several generations in the Sakya school.
From the great Nyingma and Sakya master Pewar Rinpoche, Gyalwa Karmapa also received the entire transmissions of “Dam Ngag Dzö”, the largest collection of intertraditional initiations in Tibetan Buddhism.
Teaching and traveling
Since 1999 Karmapa has travelled regularly to the countries of Southeast Asia as well as to Europe, Russia and North America. Löpon Tsetchu Rinpoche accompanies him on his first trip to Europe. In January 2000 he was warmly welcomed by more than 6000 students from the Diamond Way Buddhism Centers founded by Lama Ole Nydahl in the Philips Hall in Düsseldorf.
Further activities and important events
In India, Karmapa is a frequent guest of honour and teacher at events of the so-called Indian Neo-Buddhists. This community, in which the Gyalwa Karmapa is held in very high esteem, emerged from the emancipation movement of former casteless people in India and now comprises around 20 million people.
In Bodh Gaya, the most important pilgrimage site of Buddhism in northern India, Karmapa annually leads the great peace prayer Kagyü Mönlam, in which the Lamas of the Karma Kagyü Lineage and thousands of people from the Himalayan region participate.
Karmapa also supports charitable projects, including the Karmapa Healthcare Project, in which Western doctors volunteer to visit remote areas in the Himalayas to treat patients free of charge and train junior medical staff.
Today Karmapa lives at the Karmapa Buddhist International Institute (KIBI) in New Delhi, India. He is the patron of about 900 monasteries, institutions and centres worldwide.
In 2012, Karmapa Lama appointed Jigme Rinpoche as his General Secretary. Lama Jigme Rinpoche received his training from the 16th Karmapa and was appointed his representative in Europe by the 16th Karmapa in the 1970s. Jigme Rinpoche is the author of numerous publications and a much sought-after teacher. He is also the spiritual advisor of the Buddhist umbrella organization Diamantweg e.V.. (BDD). Today he lives in Dhagpo Kagyü Ling, Southern France.
The 17th Karmapa regularly visits the centers for Diamond Way Buddhism all over the world – among other things he gave teachings and initiations several times in the Europe Center in Immenstadt (Allgäu), the international meeting place for Diamond Way Buddhists.