Since the 12th century, a succession of buddhist teachers known as the Karmapas have led the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan buddhism. The name “Karmapa” means “he who performs the activity of a buddha.” The current Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is the seventeenth reincarnation.
The 16th Galwang Karmapa
The 16th Gyalwang Karmapa was born in Tibet in 1924 and discovered through a letter left by his predecessor predicting the circumstances of his next rebirth. The 16th Karmapa was enthroned and given the name Rangjung Rigpe Dorje — the wishfulfilling gem. From an early age he received rigorous training in meditative practices and he performed the selfless activity of a buddha throughout his lifetime.
Karmapa is depicted by the statue at the top front of the Tashi Gomang Stupa. The stupa contains his relics, relics of all sixteen Karmapas and those of all the main forefathers of the Kagyu lineage.
The 17th Galwang Karmapa
The 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Ugyen Thinley Dorje, was born in 1985 in Eastern Tibet. Karmapa was recognized and brought to Tsurphu monastery near Lhasa, the seat for the Karmapas. The Dalai Lama confirmed his reincarnation.
Like many earlier incarnations, the 17th Karmapa is an accomplished artist, working with drawing and painting, sculpture, calligraphy, poetry and the printed word. One of his most recent books is “Interconnected: Embracing Life in a Global Society” (link to the ebook). Here’s a brief excerpt:
Chapter One: Our Interdependent World
“OUR WORLD IN THE twenty-first century is smaller than it used to be. People from widely dispersed societies are in closer contact than ever before, and just as importantly, we are more aware of our closeness. In this age of information, experts and ordinary observers alike can identify many ways that actions in one part of the world have far-reaching effects elsewhere on the planet. Awareness is growing that we live in a world where all of us, and the natural world that sustains us, are profoundly and radically connected.”
In the book, Karmapa shows us how gaining emotional awareness of our connectedness can fundamentally reshape the human race. He then guides us to action, showing step by step how we can change the way we use the earth’s resources and can continue to better our society. In clear language, the Karmapa draws connections between such seemingly far-flung issues as consumer culture, loneliness, animal protection, and self-reliance. In the process, he helps us move beyond theory to practical and positive social and ethical change.