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08 April, 2008

17th Karmapa: Tibet's next leader?

In an effort to avoid entering any debate over who is the actual 17th Karmapa (my vote for His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje hardly counts: [, wiki, Ken Holmes site]), an article titled "Tibetan Buddhism's next leader?" was spotted online this morning.

In mid-May, a serious young man of 22 who is revered as the 17th Karmapa - now the second-most-important figure in Tibetan Buddhism - will make his first visit to the United States. The trip comes eight years after his dramatic flight to India from a monastery near Lhasa at the end of 1999, when he was just 14 years old. This is the first time that a skittish India has allowed him permission to travel abroad. His flight from Tibet was a considerable embarrassment to China.

The Karmapa Lama, spiritual head of the Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism, is now the only major Tibetan lama recognized as a reincarnation of his lineage by both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government since it overran Tibet in the 1950s. The Panchen Lama, the third of a triumvirate and previously the second-highest ranking among the three lamas, vanished into Chinese custody as a boy in 1995 and has been replaced by Beijing's own political appointee.

The Karmapa could serve as a possible unofficial, transitional successor to the Dalai Lama, who is now in his 70s. Because the Karmapa leads a different order of Tibetan Buddhism - the Dalai Lama is a Gelugpa monk - the young Karmapa cannot inherit his title. A future reincarnate to that position has yet to be born after the Dalai Lama's death.

• Read the entire article at the International Herald Tribune web site
• Photo of HH the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje aggregated from the Kagyu Changchug Chuling web site.

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