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Buddhists/The Karmapa Controversy


I have read a few articles about the Karmapa controversy. The Karmapa is the head of the Kagyu school and the lineage reaches back to 900 years. I do see a necessity of finding the real 17th Gyalwang Karmapa because such an important lineage cannot be broken.

I have read information about Trinley Thaye Dorje and Ogyen Trinley Dorje. Trinley Thaye Dorje is recognised by H.E Shamar Rinpoche according to century old Kagyu tradition and is supported by many Kagyu masters. Ogyen Trinley Dorje is recognised according to the doubted Prediction Letter. He is recognised by H.E Situ Rinpoche and H.E Gyaltsab Rinpoche and confirmed by H.H the Dalai Lama. He is supported by most masters of the Kagyu tradition.

Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje
Trinley Thaye Dorje's recognition does seem legitimate because H.E Shamar Rinpoche recognised Him according to the Kagyu tradition. I He is said to have self-recognised Himself as soon as He could speak, a sign in which many previous Karmapas had shown.  Many previous Karmapas have recited mantras in their mothers's wombs and could chant mantra and talk right after birth, and they self recognised themselves as soon as they were born or soon after birth.  It is very clear that Thaye Dorje have shown a remarkable ability to self-recognise himself as an early age, a miraculous sign that many previous Karmapas had shown.  He told His family that He was the Karmapa and also monks He met.  When H.E the Shamarpa sent monks to recognize Him, He knew and said that they were sent for to recognize Him.  This conviced H.E the Shamarpa.  H.E did some century old traditional tests to conclude if this remarkable child is the Karmapa or not, and the tests have all shown that the child is indeed the genuine 17th Karmapa.  Also, in history, it is the Shamarpa who recognized the most Karmapas.  The Shamarpa is said to be the Red Hat Karmapa.  H.E the Shamarpa had recognized Thaye Dorje the way many previous Karmapas had been recognize, H.E made the recognition according to century-old Kagyu tradition.  Furthermore, the Predition Letter from H.E Situ Rinpoche is said to be written by H.E Situ Rinpoche Himself and not from the pen of H.H the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa.  This is because that many Rinpoches have noticed the hand writing is resembles that of Situ's hand-writing and not H.H the karmapa's handwriting.  The signiture in wet from water and not too much like H.H the Karmapa's.  Many mistakes are also found in the letter that obviously cannot have come from the Karmapa.  The style and tone also doesn't sound like it came from the Karmapa.  Also, according to what H.E the Shamarpa said, in Chokgyur Lingpa's predictions, the 18th Karmapa in the prediction is thaye Dorje.  (Because one Karmapa died too young to be recognized and if we add Him in, the present 17th Karmapa would be the 18th Karmapa by birth).  It is also said that Chokgyur Lingpa's prediction of the 17th Karmapa being together with Situ Rinpoche already happen because the 16th Karmapa was the 17th by birth and H.H the 16th Karmapa had been with the previous Situ Rinpoche earlier on.  This is really convincing.    

Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje
Even tough the Prediction Letter is said to have been written by Situ Rinpoche Himself, there are many convincing evidences that support Ogyen Trinley Dorje.  When He was born, many miracles happened; a bird landed on the tent where He was born and sang beautiful songs which is a miracle.  The sound of a conch was heard by people in the village soon after His birth and lasted for a long time; which is a sign of the birth of an Enlightened teacher.  When Ogyen trinley Dorje was young, He made predictions, and His predictions all came true, which is a sign that many previous Karmapas have shown.  During the time when He was enthroned, rainbows appeared in the sky, and there were "three suns."  Such miracles are unique to the Karmapas of the past.  If this boy is not the genuine Karmapa, why has he shown miracles like the previous Karmapas?  The other Karmapa have not shown miracles, or at least, not as much os Ogyen Trinley Dorje.  Also, Ogyen Trinley Dorje looks like, behaves like, acts like, and even moves like the late 16th Karmapa.  His expressions, movements, the way He walks and moves, His behaviors, and His looks are VERY similar to H.H the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa.  It seems like the two of them are the same person!  What a miracle!  This is a very convincing miracle that Ogyen Trinley Dorje is the genuine Karmapa.  Also, most masters and Rinpoches in the Kagyu school and other schools of Tibetan Buddhism all have recognized that Ogyen Trinley Dorje is the Karmapa, even H.H the 14th Dalai Lama.  The majority of masters, Lamas, and Rinpoches have given their support to Him.  Some may say that H.H the Dalai Lama, H.E Situ Rinpoche, and H.E Gyaltsab Rinpoche  recognizing Him is due to political reasons and they know in their minds that Ogyen Trinley Dorje is not the genuine Karmapa.  But given by the fact that the majority of the masters in Tibetan Buddhism support Him, it is not convincing to say that He is accepted due to politics because not all masters are involved in politics!  In fact, many masters are very faithful and realized!  Furthermore, the saying that the prediction made by Chokgyur Lingpa that the 17th Karmapa is to be with Situ Rinpoche is already fulfilled, it also has something contradicting it.  If the Karmapas were count by birth and not by enthronment in Chokgyur Lingpa's predictions, then the baby who died too young to be recognized would be the 15th Karmapa in the predictions.  In the predictions, the 15th Karmapa was said to be a great master and yogi, if it was saying the 15th Karmapa by birth, than a baby 15th Karmapa wouldn't have been a great master and yogi!  These evidences are very convincing.

Which do you think is the genuine Karmapa?  Which Karmapa do you support and follow.  Do you think that this controversy would evern be solved? Both have convincing evidences supporting them!

Thank you for your time and effort.  I a very grateful.

Dear Jack,

You ask which if feel is the genuine Karmapa - Ogyen Trinley. I have met him, and sensed his presence. I have not met the other, and cannot make the same sort of comment. I would be unlikely to seek him out, as he is closely associated with Ole Nydahl, whom I, personally, find rather distasteful. Other people like him, of course.

I do not wish to enter into yet another round of weighing the arguments on the two sides or with commenting on the details of your summaries. Suffice it to say that Shamarpa's claims to have priority in recognizing the Karmapa are thinner than he makes out. Nevertheless, *all* the regents were involved in the deception of saying that they had a prediction letter and were waiting for the right time to open it, so neither side is entirely clean.

You ask whether I think that this controversy could ever be solved - I rather imagine not. It is a split, and we might as well accept it. Perhaps, years in the future, one branch will wither away. But the idea that either side would now say "Oh, we were wrong, it's the other one!" is simply not credible. It won't happen.

We just have to accept that there has been controversy, there is a split, there is a "mainstream" Karmapa (Ogyen Trinley) but some people have faith in the other one. We can live with that, can't we?


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Alex Wilding


I have practiced and studied Tibetan Buddhism in the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions since the early 1970s, and have a good knowledge of theory, history and of the struggles of trying to practice the teachings, including meditation, while leading a normal, modern life. I am also available to provide background information for journalists.


I have been a practitioner since the early 1970s; have run a small Buddhist centre in the English Midlands and was vice-president of Kagyu Benchen Ling e.V. in Germany, for whom I managed three large Buddhist summer-camps. More importantly, I maintain a habit of personal practice. I am the "owner" of the Kagyu list at Yahoo.

My first degree was an M.A. from Oxford. I later obtained a Master of Philosophy degree for a research thesis in "Initiation in Tibetan Buddhism" from Leicester University. I also have engineering and educational qualifications.

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