his lifetime, Shakyamuni Buddha predicted there would come into being
a fully realized teacher who would reappear over and over again as the
Karmapa. This Karmapa would continue his enlightened activity on behalf
of all beings until the Buddhist teachings were no longer needed in this
world. The name Karmapa refers literally to 'the one who performs
the activity of a Buddha.'
From the twelfth century to the present time and through successive incarnations,
the Karmapa has performed the selfless and tireless activity of a fully
enlightened teacher, or bodhisattva, exemplifying the wisdom and loving-kindness
that lies at the heart of Buddhist practice. Each successive Karmapa has
held the position of supreme head of the Kagyu Order of Tibetan Buddhism,
known as that of 'the sacred word', in which the most profound Buddhist
teachings are passed down from teacher to disciple through successive
generations. Uniquely, each Karmapa, before he passes away, leaves behind
a letter foretelling the exact circumstances of his next rebirth.
In Tibet the Kagyu Order was composed of tens of
thousands of monks, nuns, and lay followers, and hundreds of monasteries.
Following the Communist Chinese occupation of Tibet in the 1950's and
the Communist government's subsequent repression of all aspects of Buddhist
life, His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa,
Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, successfully reestablished the Kagyu Order in exile.
This sixteenth incarnation built Rumtek Dharma
Chakra Centre in Sikkim as his new seat-in-exile. On many visits abroad,
including several to the United States, the Karmapa was recognized as
one of the great spiritual teachers of our time, touching all who he encountered
with his wisdom, compassion, and loving-kindness.
The Sixteenth Karmapa passed away in 1981. The Seventeenth
Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, was discovered in eastern Tibet in 1992
and lived at Tsurphu Monastery until he escaped from Tibet in late December,
1999. He arrived in Dharamsala, India on January 5, 2000, where he temporarily
resides at Gyuto Tantric University.