Rewriting History

There are many cases in which myths about the 16th Karmapa are created, either to prove one’s own importance or the importance of the own teachers. Of course its done as well to prove that one’s choice of the 17th Karmapa is the right one. Many of them are presented on this wordpress site, among them the wrong translation of the 5th Karmapa prophecy and the misinterpretation of the prophecy of Chokgyur Lingpa. Another famous story is the fabrication that the 16th Karmapa’s heart would have been falling out of the cremation stupa and landed directly on Situpas feet, a fairy tale Situpa himself contradicted, after having created it on the first place.

More serious is the misinterpretation of a prophecy of the 16th Karmapa himself, written by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche in 1994 (see here).

On the website of Akong Rinpoche we find a false quotation of the 16th Karmapa:

“Working with inexhaustible clarity of intelligence in an infinity of places, you manifest all sorts of extraordinary skills and qualities in order to conquer the thick darkness of ignorance which obscures the essential nature of beings. We pray that this buddha-emanation which gives us certainty of our own buddha-nature may live long among us.” These four lines were added by Situpa to the original text of the late Karmapa, who never had called Akong a Buddha-emanation.

The prophetic dream of the Dalai Lama confirming  Ogyen Trinle as Karmapa is not a lie, but not very convincing:

I had a kind of dream of the location, the area where the present reincarnation was born. There are stones and meadows. It looked like a high altitude and faced south with beautiful streams. That is the main picture. Then someone, some source without form, was telling me, “This is the place where the Karmapa is born.”3

Just imagine how many valleys like the one discribed in this dream exist in Tibet. It is in no way a confirmation of the place where Ogyen Trinle was born….

Here we discuss a story Ken Holmes accounts in

The Special Connection with the XVIth Gyalwang Karmapa: Akong Rinpoché and the XVIth Gyalwang’s Passing Away“:4

‘The second moment is a fascinating story. The Karmapa needed regular blood transfusions and insisted on it coming only from those in his close circle of suitable blood type. Akong Rinpoché was one of the donors. At one point, one of the members of the medical team responsible for the transfusion obviously thought that as long as the blood was of the right type it mattered little from whom it came and, ignoring the Karmapa’s wish, set up a bag of blood from their bank that was not blood donated by the rinpochés. As soon as it started flowing, reported Akong Rinpoché who was there, the Karmapa looked very wrathful and physically took the drip needle out of his arm saying,
“This is not the rinpochés’ blood but that of an american, an African-American.”
Not of course that there is anything wrong with being American or African-American but simply to point out that the Karmapa knew immediately whose blood it was, just by the “feel” of it or through his “clear knowledge” siddhis. This of course surprised the nursing staff and embarrassed them. They returned with one of the bags specially given and stored for him. As the blood started to flow, he smiled and said, “Ah, this is the blood of my guru!” When checked, it was a bag of blood donated by the Tai Situpa.“’

There are many cases where HH Karmapa XVI proved his siddhis of clearvoyance. Among Buddhists this fact is undisputed. But Holmes’ story is a fabrication: A friend of mine contacted Dwight McKee, HH the 16th Karmapa’s naturopath in his last days (October/November 1981) in Zion/Illinois and asked if this story and a second one about another subject was accurate. He answered:

‘The first one (regarding blood transfusions) I believe to be complete myth. I don’t recall HH receiving any blood transfusions.’5

In none of the accounts, neither of Dr. Levy or Dr. Kotwal, who wrote a book about the last days of the late Karmapa, blood transfusions are mentioned! (Kotwal, Raj: God’s own Death, Shunyata, Gangtok 2013.)


2Dharmanektar, Zeitschrift des Kamalashila Instituts, Sonderausgabe 9/2010, pg. 58.

3Martin, Michele, Music in the Sky: The life, Art & Teachings of the 17* Karmapa, Qgven Trinley Dorje, Snow Lion Pubs 2003, pg 29.

6Kotwal, Raj: God’s own Death, Shunyata, Gangtok 2013., pg. 218.

7Brown, Mick: Dance of 17 Lives, The incredible True Story of Tibet’s 17th Karmapa, Bloomsbury 2004, pg 80.