K a r m a . K a g y u . T r a d i t i o n

Reincarnation & Recognition of the 17th Karmapa
Here are some extracts of a speech given by Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche on the occasion of the meeting of all the Karma Kagyu centres in the the world which recognise the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje. On this occasion Shamar Rinpoche outlined the events and circumstances which enabled him to identify and recognise with certainty the seventeenth incarnation of the Gyalwa Karmapa.

The instructions left by the Lama

Up to the present day there have been seventeen official Karmapas who have acted as Heads of Monastic Institutions. They have been found, identified, brought back to the monastery and enthroned. Thus there have been seventeen incarnations of the Gyalwa Karmapa.

Almost fifteen years have passed since the sixteenth Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpei Dorje, passed away. The late Karmapa didn't leave the instructions that indicate his reincarnation with any of us. No one has these instructions. It's important to understand that this type of instruction is not analogous with, say, a will that parents leave to regulate the distribution of their property among their heirs. Instructions left by high spiritual masters such as the Karmapa are very different.

Buddhas and Bodhisattvas don't think in terms of just one person and one short life; they have the constant good of each and every sentient being in mind. They take the past, the present and the future into consideration.

The circumstances of their reincarnation are related to specific purposes. Moreover, the process of identifying a reincarnation is a spiritual practice. This process is not comparable with the way in which, for instance, a King leaves instructions for his country's Crown Prince.

In the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, this process is based on the essence of its teachings. To identify a reincarnate is an activity beyond the scope of ordinary people. It is not consonant with the way ordinary people think and act. An ordinary person practising the Buddha-Dharma doesn't have the ability to identify a reincarnate. This is the domain of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who either have attained or are close to attaining Buddha, the enlightened state. Only those who have attained high levels of realisation have this capacity. That person can perceive both the past, the present and the future; he's able to communicate with a Yidam (the different forms in which enlightened individuals manifest) in order to seek the Yidam's advice and assistance. He must also have faith in his Lama and in the teachings.

I would like to elucidate the endeavours which led me to reach the decision that Thaye Dorje is the authentic reincarnation of His Holiness the late Karmapa.

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