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 reincarna