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HH the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa,
Rangjung Rikpé Dorjé

The following is a personal appreciation of HH the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, by Ken Holmes, from his book "Karmapa", published by Altea

Establishing the Kagyu lineage in exile: the new Rumtek

birth, recognition and early education  transmission, retreat, pilgrimage, meeting with Mao  leaving Tibet, settling in Sikkim, founding Rumtek  establishing the Kagyu lineage in exile, new Rumtek  travelling and enlightened activity  miracles and nirvana

Saving the Lineage

After the initial turmoil of flight, a new reality was starting to take shape for Tibetans in India and the Himalayan kingdoms, living in refugee camps such as the one at Baxa. Some of the first contacts were made with sympathetic westerners, such as the now famous Freda Bedi, and an understanding of the world at large, into which they had been projected, began to form. The main task in the Karmapa's hands were to ensure the continuity of his lineage through the education of the young tulkus in his charge and the transmission to them of the many teachings and techniques of the Kagyu tradition, and to establish the temples and retreat centres needed for Kagyu Buddhism to continue. Yet, in another way, he simply continued to do what Karmapas have always done. The Sixteenth Karmapa sometimes shocked his followers, who saw him as a living Buddha and one of the most important people in Asia, by declaring in total sincerity, "I am simply a monk". Unattached to any country, any people or any thing—a friend and example for everyone—it was his duty as a monk to give teachings and nurture the dharma wherever he might be. This also explains the example he set by supervising the construction work at Tsurphu, right up to the imminent arrival of the Chinese. He doubtless knew what was to come and some may wonder, "why bother?". He was pointing to the sacred duty of doing all one can, every day, in a positive way. Thus his followers had made the good karma of building temples for absolutely as long as it was possible so to do and, from a Buddhist perspective, that good karma would be their best companion in times and lives to come.

In 1964, following a successful petition for reinstatement made to HH the Dalai Lama by the unofficial Shamar incarnation, the latter was enthroned by HH the Gyalwa Karmapa as the Eleventh Sharmapa. His reincarnation had also been born into the A-toop family and the young boy had been at Tsurphu and fled Tibet with the Karmapa but official recognition had been impossible in Tibet itself as Shamarpa incarnations had been banned by edict of the central Tibetan government from the late eighteenth century onwards, following accusations of war-mongering.

A new seat

By 1966 the construction of the new Rumtek was completed and the relics brought out from Tsurphu were installed. On Tibetan New Year's day (losar) HH the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa officially opened his new seat called, "The Dharmachakra Centre, a place of erudition and spiritual accomplishment, the seat of the glorious Karmapa". This was to be the hub from which Kagyu dharma spread throughout the world and, step by step, the traditional monastic calendar of special prayers, lama dances, summer rains retreat and so forth was reinstated in that centre-point to ensure the correct spiritual dynamic for the years ahead. Rumtek, the mandala with the Karmapa at its centre, became a very special place, described by many as "the monastery wreathed in a thousand rays of rainbow light".

In Sikkim itself the foundations of Kagyu dharma were established. Traditional texts were, studied, ordinations performed, tulkus found and enthroned, retreat centres built and texts carved onto wooden blocks for xylographic printing. The kindness of the Bhutanese royal family gave hospitality to his tradition in Bhutan also, with the gift of a palace and a large piece of land, upon which to establish a major monastery. Gradually, contacts were made in India and Nepal. At one point, His Holiness had a vision that the construction of many temples and monasteries close to the great stupa at Bodhnath in Nepal (which at the time had little except for the stupa, a temple and a few shops) would greatly help the spread of pure buddhadharma throughout the world. Mainly due to the Karmapa's inspiration, many teachers have established monasteries and temples there and it has become an important focus of Tibetan Buddhism.

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