Saturday, July 5, 2008

Karmapa Visits U.S.

Possible successor to Dalai Lama, 22 y.o. Karmapa, visits U.S.

Listen Now Robert Thurman (NPR) on Karmapa's visit [3 min. 58 sec.]

Morning Edition, May 27, 2008: The Karmapa, one of the most important leaders in Tibetan Buddhism, is visiting the United States. Some think the young lama will succeed the Dalai Lama as the next spokesman for Tibetan Buddhism and Tibet. Co-host Renee Montagne talks to Robert Thurman, professor of Buddhist studies at Columbia University, about the 22-year-old Karmapa.

Related NPR Stories

World Bridges: 17th Kamapa speaks

Very Important Tibetan Lama To Visit USA
By Swaraaj Chauhan, International Columnist (April 9th, 2008, The Moderate Voice)

His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is no ordinary Tibetan monk. His visit to the USA, the first outside his home in exile in India, can be considered historic. There are speculations that the Karmapa, a 22-year-old Buddhist monk, may emerge as the successor to the Dalai Lama in case the latter decides to step down, especially in view of the growing hostility shown towards him by Beijing in recent times. More importantly, the Karmapa is the only major monk reincarnate recognized by both the Dalai Lama and China.

According to a recent BBC report: “India has allowed the Tibetan monk, the Karmapa Lama, who fled China and sought asylum in India eight years ago, to travel to the United States next month. The Tibetan monk arrives in New York City on May 15, 2008 and then travels to Woodstock, New York; Boulder, Colorado; and Seattle, Washington, ending his US tour in the first week of June.”

The Karmapa website also provides the detailed schedule of his US trip. The website mentions the birth and early years of the 17th Karmapa: “Prior to the birth of the first Karmapa, the arrival of a Buddhist master who would be known as the Karmapa had been prophezied by the historic Buddha Shakyamuni and the great tantric master of India, Guru Padmasambhava. Throughout the centuries, Karmapas have been the central figure in the continuation of the Vajrayana [Lightning-vehicle] lineage in general and Kagyu lineage in particular, and have played a very important role in the preservation of the study and practice lineages of Buddhism.

“In 1985 a male infant was born into a nomad family in the Lhatok region of Eastern Tibet. In the months prior to his birth, his mother had wonderful dreams during her pregnancy. On the day of his birth, a cuckoo landed on the tent in which he was born, and a mysterious conch-like sound was heard by many throughout the valley in which the family of the infant lived. In Tibet, such events are considered auspicious portents of the birth of an enlightened teacher.” More here…

Although the BBC says that “the move is certain to enrage Beijing, which has put pressure on India to stamp out any political activity by Tibetan exiles,” I am not so sure. There is a flurry of diplomatic activity following dramatic protests wherever the Olympic flame passes through in the world…First there was a visit of Nancy Pelosi to meet the Dalai Lama in India…Then the US president spoke to his counterpart in China on the phone…And the well known stand of the French and German heads of state that they may boycott the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony…and so on.

China has not reacted so far although the news of the Karmapa’s visit has been in the air for some time now. The Karmapa’s US schedule does not in any way indicate that he would be doing much more than talking about Buddhism to the audience. But then this is no ordinary visit…and especially the timing of it…

At the abode of the Dalai Lama in India, the spokesman for the Central Tibetan administration said the Tibetan government in exile was “really appreciative” of India’s decision to allow the Karmapa visit. And with China maintaining a discreet silence, would the US (and others) be doing some behind-the-scenes work to bring about some improvement in Tibet…And for the Beijing Olympics to be held without too much protest?

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