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11:14 Apr 14 2009

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English>>Tibet Online
Reincarnation and enthronement of the 17th Living Buddha Karmapa
11:08, April 14, 2009  

On Sept. 27, 1992, in the Curpu Monastery, 70km west of Lhasa, with the sound of all the gongs and drums, the sitting-in-bed (enthronement) ceremony for the 17th Living Buddha Karmapa of the Karma Kagyu Sect was being held. This is the first reincarnated Living Buddha confirmed and approved by the Central Government of the People's Republic of China after the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951.

History of the "White Sect"

The Kagyu Sect, also known as the "White Sect," has a long history in Tibetan Buddhism and enjoys a significant religious status.

I visited many towns in Tibet's Chamdo Prefecture seven years ago. I went to the Karma area in Chamdo Town by car one day and then climbed Wudong Mountain by riding a horse and arrived at a small monastery in a valley. The monastery, with arched wooden eaves and blue glazed tiles, made me feel as if I were in a famous monastery in an inland province of China. This is the well-known Karma Monastery in Eastern Tibet.

In accordance with historical records, the monastery was built in the early 12th century, and was the earliest monastery of the Karma Kagyu Sect. Another Kagyu Sect monastery, Curpu Monastery, was built in the suburbs of Lhasa about two years later. As the Curpu Monastery was nearer to Lhsas, it played a significant role in political and religious affairs. Moreover, as it mediated more often among other monasteries, it gradually became a key monastery of all Kagyu monasteries.

When I was at the Karma Monastery, it was already in shambles and collapsed on the whole; however, the scale of the monastery enabled me to imagine the grandeur of the old monastery and a stream of worshippers.

The Karma Kagyu Sect was the first one to create the Living Buddha reincarnation system in Tibetan Buddhism and the system has been accepted and applied to different sects of Tibetan Buddhism till today. Shortly after Kublai met with Pagba in the mid-13th century, he met Karma Pakshi, the 2nd Living Buddhism of the Karma Kagyu Sect. Xianzong of the Yuan Dynasty crowned Karma Paksh rabbi, and bestowed him a black cap with gold trimming.

Kagyu, which means oral transmission, emphasizes decrees and has a profound mystery feature. Its originators, Marpa and Milarepa, were renowned masters in the history of Tibetan religions. As Kagyu monks often wore white robes, they were also called the "White Sect." The Karma Kagyu Sect is a branch of the Kagyu Sect. With the decline of other Kagyu Sects, the Karma Kagyu gained much favor in the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties and its Living Buddhas were summoned by emperors many times with some granted the titles such as "Grand Rabbi" and "Grand Master of the State."

In the 15th century, the influence of the Karma Kagyu had reached all over Tibet and Tibetan Karma Government was established to rule Tibet both politically and religiously. However, with the rise of the Gelug Sect and seizure of Tibet 's politics and religions, the Karma Kagyu then became a sect with strong religious significance in the region. However, the sect still enjoyed a high degree of prestige among Tibetan Buddhists because of its outstanding religious status in the past.

Will of the Living Buddha

On June 27, 1992, I went to cover the religious event of the confirmation of the reincarnated soul boy of the 16th Living Budhha Karmapa at the Curpu Monastery. When I arrived at the monastery in the morning, people who had learnt about the news were there already.

Luozhui, 60, director of the Democratic Management Committee of the Curpu Monastery, was very kind and answered all of my questions. "I've heard that the will of the late Living Buddha has already been in your hand," I asked. Luozhui nodded and took a photocopied letter from his robe to show me and other reporters.

According to the rules of the Karma Kagyu Sect, the reincarnated soul boy of each Living Buddha should be in accordance with the will of the late Living Buddha, which is different from the complicated and mysterious Gelug Sect featuring redundant rules.

The 16th Living Buhdda went to India in 1959 and in the 1970s, Indira Gandhi, then prime minister of India, granted the Kagyu Sect a piece of land. At a ceremony to commemorate the event, the 16th Karmapa Rigpe Dorje was said to catch a cold and had been sick since then.

Karmapa Rigpe Dorje was born in 1925. As a knowledgeable monk, he enjoyed great popularity among the Kagyu Sect. The Kagyu Sect built a dozen of sub-monasteries in foreign countries and there were about 100,000 foreign believers. An American businessman handling watch business, also a believer of the Kagyu Sect, transferred sick Karmapa Rigpe Dorje to the U.S. for treatment. The 16th Karmapa Living Buhdda died in 1981 at the age of 58.

Maybe the Living Buhdda had second sight, Karmapa Rigpe Dorje already wrote down his will to look for the next Karmapa Living Buhdda in 1977. The American businessman who funded the treatment of the Living Buddha once asked him: "Living Buddha, I can fund you for the treatment, but as a Living Buddha, could you predict your own death?" The Living Buddha answered, "Everyone has a soul and they all will die. I will have a successor when I am 58 and we can meet if it is fate."

Not surprisingly, the Living Buddha died after he had an operation in the United States at the age of 58. After his will was confirmed, it was photocopied four pieces and one was sent to the Curpu Monastery by a special envoy.

There was English at both corners of the letter reading SIKKIM (INDIA). The will was written in Tibetan in a poetic form with a square seal at the end. According to the director of the Democratic Management Committee of the Curpu Monastery, the seal was bestowed by Xianzong of the Yuan Dynasty to the 2nd Living Buddha when he met the emperor in the capital. It is the token of past Karmapas who were in charge of the political and religious ruling and also a treasure handed down from generation to generation among the Karma Kagyu Sect.

Secret search for the reincarnated soul boy

In June 1992, along a valley in the Eastern Tibet, two men in Tibetan robes climbed mountains and asked locals various questions and always looked around whenever asking for hot tea.

They were the men dispatched by the Curpu Monastery to search the reincarnated soul boy.

Later, herdsmen in Lhathok County in Chamdo Town said no wonder the two men always walked here, there and everywhere, and that it turned out that they were looking for the Living Buddha.

On receiving the will of the 16th Karmapa from Sikkim, the Curpu Monastery sent two senior monks Tuomo and Luozhu to look for the reincarnated soul boy.

The two monks, together with another two attendants, set for the east of Lhasa in two cars.

The will of the Living Buddha provided three clues for searching the reincarnated soul boy:

1. the soul boy is in Chamdo's Lhathok, the name of the place begins with "Ba" in the Tibetan language;

2. the father of the soul boy is called Dondrub and the mother is Loga;

3. the animal sign of the year in which the boy was born is an animal that walks on the ground.

To people's surprise, the reincarnated soul boy found later was exactly like what the 16th Living Buddha had predicted. However, the Living Buddha who made the will was thousands miles away from the eight-year-old boy in Eastern Tibet.

About traveling for eight days, Tuomo and Luozhu first reached Northern Tibet then went to the Lhathok County in Chamdo Town, starting their secret search for the reincarnated soul boy in the disguise of worshippers.

On a windy and snowy night, the two men got a clue and then climbed over a huge mountain to a place called Ziba.

There were about 70 families of herdsmen, some living in tents and others in flat-roofed houses built of mud and stones. There was also a small monastery in the village.

There was one family, who had lived in tents for generations and engaged in yak hair weaving. The man of the house was named Gama Dondrub and his wife Loga. They had nine children including six sons. Their eighth child, nicknamed Abu Gaga, was born in the year of ox.

Tuomo and Luozhu talked to the couple respectively with a serious look, asking them about family matters. The couple, knew nothing of the two men, treated them with great hospitality and talked about their family matters. After Tuomo and Luozhu exchanged opinions, they believed that Abu Gaga was the reincarnated soul boy mentioned in the Living Buddha's will. When they told the couple about the search of the reincarnated soul boy, the couple were so surprised that they could not utter a word for some time.

Abu Gaga became a monk in the monastery in his village when he was four. It turned out that after the couple had seven children, they wanted another boy. So they went to Anduo Living Buddha who happened to pass their village. The Living Buddha told Loga, the mother, to chant Tanjur the lection in daytime constantly. After she chanted it for 100,000 times, she could have a boy; meanwhile she should be generous when giving alms to people asking for food and worshippers.

Later, an aged lama in the Gali Monstery said to Loga that if she had a boy, she could give him to the monastery. Not surprisingly, the next child of Loga was a boy and she sent him to the monastery when he was four.

After the herdsmen in Bagor learnt that there was a reincarnated soul boy in their village, they all went to the boy's house to present hada and divine offerings, and lit up bonfires, dancing, singing and drinking all night.

Confirmation of the reincarnated soul boy

Tuomo and Luozhu traveled back to the Curpu Monastery day and night without stopping and reported their search of the reincarnated soul boy. The monastery then sent Luozhui together with Tuomo and Luozhu to submit the result to the Tibet Autonomous Regional Government. After discussing with the United Front Work Department and Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission, the regional government instructed the Curpu Monastery to follow the rituals of the Karma Kaygu Sect and invite the soul boy to the monastery immediately.

At the same time, the Gali Monastery in Bagor held prayer meetings for days, giving out food to celebrate Abu Gaga's confirmation as the reincarnated soul boy of the 16th Karmapa.

After Tuomo and Luozhu returned to Chamdo, they visited Dondrub's family again in deferential manners and invited the reincarnated soul boy and his parents to Lhasa.

"To have the soul boy in Lhasa as soon as possible, we could not talk about it too much. So we only chose to rest in those deserted and remote areas. However, the news spread out anyway. There were people presenting hada all the way and in some places people had already prepared to welcome and see us off. People were queuing up for the soul boy to touch their heads," said Luozhui.

On June 15, farmers near the Curpu Monastery paved the dirt path to the monastery voluntarily, turning the bumpy road into a smooth one. Paths leading to the village were also sprinkled with water. With the welcome of a lama guard of honor, the reincarnated soul boy and his entourage arrived at the Curpu Monastery.

Starting from his first day in the monastery, the soul boy adopted the Dharma name of Ogyen Trinley given by the Kegyu Living Buddha Situ in Sikkim.

With the permission of Luozhui and a senior monk, my colleagues and I went to a room in the rear of the main hall, where the 8-year-old soul boy was waiting for us.

The light in the room was soft and the room took a color of orange as its windows were covered with yellow cloth. The soul boy, sitting on a soft cushion, looked at us. With a round face and large and bright eyes, he looked childish and curious. Meanwhile he was also examining us. A 72-year-old senior monk stood beside him. The master helped the boy to stand up and receive our greetings. We then took a couple of photos of the soul boy. Li Zhiyong, then deputy director of the Tibetan Bureau of Xinhua News Agency, passed his camera to the soul boy after noticing that he was staring at it. The soul boy examined the camera repeatedly before pressing the button for the shutter. He then smiled at Li.

The master, wearing long, grey and white beard and glasses, followed the 16th Karmapa to Sikkim in 1959 and had been in the company of the Living Buddha since then. In 1991, he returned to Curpu form Sikkim to be the master of the reincarnated soul boy of the 16th Karmapa.

The reincarnation of the Living Buddha means the continuation of life and soul. The reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibet, no matter it is Dalai Lama or Panchen Lama, should be approved by the Central Government. The reincarnated soul boy of the 16th karmapa had obtained the approval of the Central Government. The certificate of approval issued by the Bureau of Religious Affairs of the State Council reads:

Reply regarding the approval of the reincarnated soul boy of the 16th Karmapa

Chinese Buddhists Association: the report on the approval of the reincarnated soul boy of the 16th Karmapa of the Curpu Monastery in Tibet has been received.

  We agree to approve Ogyen Trinley, son of herdsmen Dondrub and Loga from Bagor, Lhathok County of Tibet Autonomous Region's Chamdo Town as the reincarnated soul boy of the 16th Karmapa. We hereby authorize him as the 17th karmapa. The sitting-in-bed ceremony should be held in due course.

We hope that the Curpu Monastery should take effective measures to ensure the safety of the soul boy, choose the proper master and entourage, teach the soul boy Buddhism and other knowledge, in order to make the soul boy the 17th Karmapa who is accomplished in Buddhism and loves socialist China.

Hereby we reply.

   The Bureau of Religious Affairs of the State Council

June 25, 1992

Sitting-in-bed ceremony

On Sept. 27, the valley where the Curpu Monastery lies was extraordinarily lively with people coming from far and wide. There were also senior officials including Ren Wuzhi, director of the Bureau of Religious Affairs of the State Council, renowned Tibetan Living Buddha Pagbalha Geleg Namgyai, also vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and other senior officials of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Government.

The 17th Karma was eight years old. Escorted by lamas and officials at all levels, he did not smile so much at the respectful greetings from various people. He received hada and then put them on the necks of the presenters skillfully. His eyes moved quickly and it was obvious he had been given excellent instructions. A middle-aged lama made way for the young Living Buddha from time to time and arranged attires for him. Besides respect, there was also profound affection in the eyes of the older lama.

At noon, the honor guard of lamas welcomed the 17th Kamapa to sit on his throne with religious music. The seat was placed in the middle of the main hall, with parents and siblings of the Living Buddha from the pastoral area seated on one side of the seat. Traditional ghee lamps were lit up and hundreds of Tibetan Buddhist believers from Europe and America, also in purplish red cassocks, sat along with the lamas of the monastery. There were also officials and Living Buddhas from other areas to offer their greetings. Flooded with journalists and photographers, the spacious hall now became very crowded.

Monks in the monastery started chanting. The two Kagyu Living Buddhas Situ and Gyaltsab who came from Sikkim especially for the event sat on the two sides of the Living Buddha. Living Buddha Gyaltsab put the black hat with gold trimming on the head of the 17th Karmap while other monks were chanting. The young Living Buddha looked as serious as an adult did. Ren Wuzhi and other officials also presented their greetings, including the congratulation letter of the State Council and Tibet Autonomous Regional Government. There were about 30,000 worshippers praying outside the monastery and the hada they presented looked like a white mountain.


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