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Is This The Next Dalai Lama?

Very interesting article today in the New York TImes about what will happen after His Holiness, the current Dalai Lama dies. One of his possible successors, The Karmapa, the young head of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, is mentioned and pictured in the piece.


Of course, many are predicting the Chinese will try to name and groom their next successor. Of course, the Dalai Lama has already said he won’t be reborn in Tibet.


For me, this is another case that highlights A) the beautiful but odd anachronysm that is the Tibetan lineage system of leadership and B) the not-so-beautiful specter of authoritarian control that is the Chinese system of government.

When you start messing around with reincarnation and other unverifiable status requirements for leadership, you open the door to all kinds of issues, as the discussion from last week’s post on the tulku system showed. Makes you long for a good old-fashioned election, dominated by right wing corporate media, family oligarchies, and over-simplification of wedge issues, don’t it?

Check out the over-the-top narrator’s voice in this video about the Karmapa.

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posted June 7, 2009 at 11:33 am

Voice over reminds me of Cecil B Demille’s Moses.
The Karmapa would be a great candidate.

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Your Name

posted June 7, 2009 at 12:08 pm

This is a vague and entirely unresearched article. This so-called Karmapa is actually a perfect example of Chinese authoritarian control: he is the first reincarnate lama chosen and approved in Beijing, and their entire legal argument for control of Tibetan Buddhism is justified by his use of the title “Karmapa”.
This is also an example of how all politics are dirty. Since the Dalai Lama and his aristocratic coterie have accepted Orgyen Trinley, both the Chinese and Tibetan governments have attempted to wrest control of the Karma Kagyu lineage from the monks and lineage holders who have traditionally preserved this independent school of Buddhism that pre-dates the Dalai Lama lineage.
While your covering of Tibetan issues is appreciated, it would be nice if some time was spent understanding the underlying truth of a situation, especially where religion and its suppression by politicians is at hand.

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Ethan Nichtern

posted June 7, 2009 at 12:41 pm

@Your Name: I am guessing you are a supporter of the other Karmapa, Trinlay Thaye Dorje, who was chosen by the Sharmapa. That’s cool. I really don’t have any way to tell which is the legitimate one, except that Urgyen Thinley has been recognized by a large majority of Tibetan Buddhist leaders. Maybe that’s an odd type of democracy in action. Also, I think it’s quite inaccurate to say he is supported by the Chinese. He caused a huge embarrassment to them by fleeing Tibet when he was 15. Ironically, I think your comment furthers the proof that the tulku system is quite vague and open to interpretation. I really think it needs updating, or else soon we might have two Dalai Lamas, two Karmapas, two of everything.

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Your Name

posted June 7, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Ethan: The tulku system in general may be, as you say, “quite vague and open to interpretation.” This, however, is not true of the Karma Kagyu tradition of reincarnate lamas. The Red Hat Karmapa (Shamarpa) has always had the sole responsibility of discovering the reincarnation of the Black Hat Karmapa, and acts as protector of the lineage from outside interference between the incarnations of the Black Hat Lama. This has always been the case, except when his incarnation was banned by the very political powers whom you claim overwhelmingly support Orgyen Trinley. The only time the Dalai Lama was ever involved, for instance, was when he unsuccessfully attempted to get the nephew of one of his “noble” lords named the 16th Karmapa. Since that is obviously in gross violation of the independence of a Buddhist school, he failed then as he will ultimately fail this time as people become aware of the amazing qualities of the true Karma Kagyu Karmapa, His Holiness Thaye Dorje. Also if Orgyen Trinley’s escape from Tibet was not engineered by the Chinese government (a near impossibility given how his “escape” occured) why else did the Chinese government officials who met recently with the Obama administration praise him so highly?
What you still haven’t answered: how is it less reprehensible for the Tibetan government to impose their choice of leader on an independent Buddhist lineage with roots in India, than it is for the Chinese government to do the same thing? In my opinion the fact that the Tibetan government claims to act on religious authority makes their oppression far more heinous than any punishment meted out by secular authorities. Or is, perhaps, the Tibetan movement more than a little bit racist?

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Your Name II

posted June 18, 2009 at 10:23 pm

@Your Name: Your comments exactly follow the “talking points’ of the Shamar Rinpoche group. Unfortunately, there are many of us who know the history quite well and what you say is patently untrue. Actually the Situ Rinpoche incarnations have picked as many Karmapas as the Shamarpas. In some cases the Karmapa was picked by close disciples and not by either the Sharmapa or Situpa. You need to review your history more closely. I would be happy to supply references.

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posted November 30, 2010 at 9:42 am

The whole idea of the Chinese government who has kidnapped the Penchan Lama, tortured and killed millions of Tibetans and suppressed religions for 50 years, appointing or approving of this so called Karmapa stinks like rotten fish. The Chinese government is simply trying to control the Tibetan people even more, through their belief system. They have bribed and tricked certain people in the Buddhist lineages that if they approve of certain appointments that they will be given back their monasteries. Such is the case of Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet. What we are seeing here is none other than the abhorrent interference of a dictatorial regime in sacred religious beliefs. The Chinese government can bring no good to this situation or to the Tibetan people.

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