The Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa

Orgyen Trinley Dorje

As the distinctive mark of his activity, he will turn the Wheel of Dharma for those whose karma has ripened sufficiently, in a way that pervades all directions without bias. For those who are not karmically prepared, whether near or far, he will sow the seed of liberation in them through his skill in various means.  Thus he is the protector of all beings without exception.

Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche

In January 1981, ten months before he passed into parinirvana, the Sixteenth Karmapa gave a yellow brocade amulet to the Twelfth Tai Situpa. "This will protect you," His Holiness explained, "and will someday be of great benefit." In late 1990, Tai Situpa opened the amulet and discovered a letter in which the Sixteenth Karmapa had described the location and conditions of his next birth in precise detail.

Using the details of the letter as a guide, senior lamas of the Kagyu lineage traveled to Lhatok, in eastern Tibet, the birthplace named in the Sixteenth Karmapa's letter. When they arrived, the lamas heard of a boy whose circumstances corresponded precisely with the details of the letter. Upon reaching the family's summer campsite, the lamas found that he had predicted their arrival and had already asked that a special tent be set up to receive them.

News of the discovery was immediately relayed to Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche in India, who in turn informed His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. His Holiness examined the prediction letter and other pertinent information, and formally confirmed the recognition. His Holiness further revealed that the description of the Karmapa's birthplace matched a vision he'd had several months earlier.

In July 1992, Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche arrived at Tsurphu, where the new Karmapa had taken up residence. As they spent time informally with His Holiness, both found themselves profoundly moved by the many ways in which the young Karmapa mirrored his previous incarnation. Fearless, playful, and composed, he radiated natural compassion and a powerful presence. Over the ensuing weeks, he revealed himself in countless ways as the indisputable incarnation of the Sixteenth Karmapa.

One month later, His Holiness formally took refuge during a traditional haircutting ceremony in the Jokhang temple in Lhasa, directly before the most highly revered statue of the Buddha in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. At the end of the ceremony, he was given the name Orgyen Trinley Dorje, in accordance with a 9th century prophesy delivered by Guru Rinpoche. He then returned to Tsurphu, where he was formally enthroned the following month.

For the many Tibetans who had endured unspeakable pain and striven in the face of unceasing hardship to rebuild the shattered monuments of their faith, the enthronement of a new Karmapa came as a miraculous event. More than 20,000 pilgrims poured into Tsurphu for the ceremony, including abbots, senior lamas, and representatives of monasteries and Dharma from around the world. From Beijing, the Chinese government sent the Minister of Religious Affairs, who conferred upon His Holiness official recognition as the Seventeenth Karmapa.

(Excerpted from Karmapa: The Sacred Prophecy)