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Karmapa-title belongs to the independent Karma Kagyu Lineage in Tibetan

by Michael den Hoet, Hamburg, Germany, The Buddhist Channel, Jan 10, 2011

In a letter published on the Buddhist Channel on Dec 25, 2010,  (http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=22,9782,0,0,1,0) Mr. Ratia, as an attentive reader, pointed to misunderstandings in the reporting on the dispute over the Karmapa title. The followers of H.H. Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje are characterised as “a relatively small faction (comprised especially of non-Asians)“.

Please note the following:

1. The Karmapa tulku is the traditional head of the Karma Kagyu Tradition for the last 900 years. It has always been independent from the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism; never in its history have authorities outside the Karma Kagyu Lineage had any saying about who should be the official rebirth of a former Karmapa Lama.

When, in 1992, the State Council of religious affairs of the Peoples Republic of China and the Tibetan government-in-exile under the authority of H. H. the Dalai Lama tried to influence the process of nomination of the 17th Karmapa by their letters of approval in favour of one candidate, political motives and considerations played a great role. (One must consider the geopolitical roles they play in the region and the relative importance of the Karmapa lama to both sides.) Both of these offices clearly stand outside the Karma Kagyu Tradition however.

2. The Buddhists who consider H.H. Trinley Thaye Dorje as the authentic Karmapa are linked by approx. 900 monasteries, centres and groups in over 60 countries world-wide. This includes e.g. the Bodhi Path centres, the Diamond Way Buddhist Network, the Dhagpo Kagyu Sangha or the communities of teachers like Ven. Shangpa Rinpoche in South-East Asia. It may be the biggest Buddhist Network world-wide (see http://www.kagyu.net/) – and anything but “a small faction“.

3. The centres of this network consider and have always considered Ven. Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche Chokyi Lodro – the 14th representative of the second oldest reincarnation lineage in Tibetan Buddhism – as the only responsible person for finding and installing the 17th Karmapa. The 16th Karmapa Rigpe Dorje himself had confirmed him as the second highest Lama in the Karma Kagyu School in an official document which was issued in 1967 (see http://www.karmapa-issue.org/politics/ranking.htm).

4. Mr Ratia mentions the internet platform www.phayul.com. This is a highly informative source of information, however, in many things reflects the perspective of the Tibetan Government-in-exile which, with concern to the Karmapa title dispute, has taken the side of one party. This naturally influences their coverage when the term “Karmapa” appears.

The Buddhist Channel is highly appreciated for its excellent, comprehensive and well-balanced reporting of Buddhist diversity world-wide by its viewers. It must not be disturbed by this dispute inside one Buddhist School among many. It is about Buddhist activity for the benefit of all beings, and not about titles and formalities.

In the end, various important works of the Karma Kagyu Tradition stress that the Karmapas in fact show themselves by their activity rather than being chosen by anyone.


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