today, October 11th, 2018 is a great day for the Karma Kagyü lineage and Tibetan Buddhism in general. While politics of the world reach peaks of crazyness unknown for many years, in our community its a day of celebration: The two “His Holinesses” (in the Tibetan original “Gyalwas”) Trinley Thaye Dorje and Ogyen Trinle Dorje (see photo on top of the page) met and decided to work together for sentient beings and the overcoming of the divisions in their lineage.
The whole statement:
Hopefully this website soon will be history, and remind only of how not to act, and what happens when one is not motivated by the quest for the truth but political interests, and disputes as the one which in the early 1990ies among the followers of the late Karmapa arose: Who was the authentic reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa? Whereas the fact that there are more than one 17th Karmapa would have been beneficial for the propagation of the Dharma, the partly violent fight between the followers of the different Karmapas clearly weren’t. It distroyed faith, trust, joy, inspiration, and even the reputation of Buddhism in general.
In the Karma Kagyü school traditionally mainly four Tulkus took care of the identification of the reincarnation of the Karmapa. Sharmapa was the highest among them, folloowed by Situ, Kongtrul and Gyaltsab Rinpoche. 1992 Situ and Gyaltsab wrote the Dalai Lama that they would have found the true reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa, later named Ogyen Trinle Dorje, and that all Karma Kagyü Lamas were would agree in the choice – which was not true, as Shamarpa had expressed serious doubts about the reincarnation (he questioned the authenticity of the “prophecy letter”, composed supposingly by the 16th Karmapa and demanded a forensic examination, which Situpa refused). As the Dalai Lama thought all regents were going along with the decision, and based on this wrong information the Dalai Lama gave his approval.
Sharmarpa subsequently enthroned Karmapa Thaye Dorje as 17th Karmapa, whom he had discovered in the mid-eighties, but kept secret, in order to protect him from Chinese intervention, as he lived for many years in Lhasa.
I often hear that Karmapa Thaye Dorje was fake, because the most of the Karma Kagyü followers are with Ogyen Trinle (which is true only for Asia and Northamerica). They argue also that the most beloved and best known representative of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama himself, had approved him. But historically it had never been the role of the Dalai Lama to choose the Karmapa, except during the lifetime of the 13th Dalai Lama, who as King of Tibet passed a law that the incarnations of all schools needed his approval.
Lately I reflected about whether I should deleat this page or not, as it might cause confusion. I finally decided not to do so, as it serves as warning that not all Tibetan Rinpoches are as pure as beings like the Karmapa. There were manipulations on both sides, and a lot of reconciliation has to be done…
We need to consider as well, that almost all the high Lamas have Samayas, spiritual bounds, with the Dalai Lama. Due to them – and due to the huge respect they have towards him – they don’t dare to announce in public that they trust Karmapa Thaye Dorje. But in private, great and higly realized Lamas like the late Chobgye Tri Rinpoche, Chokling Rinpoche, the late Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche and many others consider(ed) him to be the or a Karmapa.
Now, in the new situation of the end of 2018, it would be beneficial, if the Dalai Lama would acknowledge Gyalwa Thrinley Thaye Dorje as Karmapa as well, even though traditionally, as mentioned, this is not necessary, but surely helpful for the peace in the Tibetan community.
There was much confusion concerning Samayas, or the fact that one should see one’s Guru as the Buddha. The fact that so much fight happened in our lineage leads me to the personal conclusion, that in terms of practice we – of course – should follow our Lama, but as soon as politics are involved, better analyze and daw our own conclusions.
Lately the Second Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche posted a photo of himself and “the 17th Karmapa, Thaye Dorje” on Facebook, and the month after a photo of himself and “the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinle”. His Holiness Drikung Chelsang invited both 17th Karmapas as chef guest to the great gathering at Sarasvati India.
So more and more high Lamas in the Tibetan tradition acknowledge both 17th Karmapas.
Now hopefully the conflict will step by step dissolve and the both “His Holinesses” will according to their wish devellop a “strong connection” and work fruitfully together.
I like the words the Canadian Lama Namgyal Rinpoche voiced after having met both 17th Karmapas:
“…the thing for any being is, just don’t speculate… the certainty is in the actual presence of the being… unless you have actually met them, where is the ‘discriminating’ awareness? … and there might be another one, why not, right? He could be she, reborn as a woman for this age — why not? So, there are many possibilities”.
This now, after more then a quarter of a century, might become reality.
We like things to be clear, like certainties we can rely on. But, for the sake of our spiritual progress, does it really matter who is the Karmapa? For me the important point is what does the Lama does with me… Does he inspire me? Is he free of politics? Does he do what he’s preaching? We should meet the 17th Karmapa we have a karmic connection to, or both, and decide for our own – without preconceptions. When the 16th Karmapa came to the West, he inspired thousands of Westerners to start practicing Buddhism. Most people did not mind, that he was kind of a “pope” of Buddhism. (Or to the contrarysome antiauthritarian Hippies of the time were rather shocked by that). But his presence convinced them anyway. With the same openness we should encounter the Lamas. Again: Let’s forget about who in the hierarchy was higher and thus had the right to recognize the 17th Karmapa and look for ourselves!
All those who, at a certain moment were too much convinced of their individual choice of who was the right and who was the wrong Karmapa, to joint in the Mantra of Dorje Sempa to purify all the distrust and agression which happened during the conflict, and all the fighting and all the lies. Like the many scandals of our days in the Tibetan community (Sogyal, Sakyong) this is a good time to reflect about some defects of the Tibetan system, and to purify the own patterns. I congratulate Ogyen Trinley for his steps to overcome the imprisonment of the traditional Tibetan system. Thaye Dorje was alwas quite free of it. All this is a good base for a new start. And a time to rejoice.
With best wishes for your path
PS: lately HH Dalai Lama acknowledged that there can be more than one 17th Karmapa and he rejoices in the Dharma activity of all of them:
 The Dalai Lama wrote as answer concerning the choice of Situ and Gyaltsab: “It is very good that … all the Tulkus, lamas and monasteries belonging to the lineage are one-pointed in their devotion and aspiration”. A letter from the Private Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama Confirming the Reincarnation of His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang 9 June 1992 Karmapa, 9 June 1992. Beru Khyentse Rinpoche confirms: “As for HH the Dalai Lama’s involvement, he has been told by HE Situ Rinpoche and Gyltasab Rinpoche that all the Karma Kagyu lamas, both high and low, will accept this incarnation, which is supposed to be mentioned in the letter they held. Then HH the Dalai Lama said if that is so, he will issue a letter of support. At that time, HH the Dalai Lama thought that all our great Kagyu Lineage holders were of one mind. He was not aware that there was already a problem and disharmony between the regents. If he had known, he may not have issued the support letter or at least, he would have delayed his decision in issuing the support letter.” Beru Khyentse Rinpoche, Letter to followers of the Karma Kagyu tradition around the world, 7 Dec 2003.