July 08, 2010
There's no doubt the Karmapa Lama is an unusual young man. His is an eclectic mix that bridges the gap between old and young. It's also turned him into the modern icon of the Tibetan struggle against China for autonomy.
Born Ogyen Trinley Dorje, he was pronounced the 17th incarnation of the Karmapa Lama as a 7-year-old boy and whisked away to a monastery near the capital Lhasa. He was quickly recognized by China which hoped it had found a potentially powerful rival to the Dalai Lama.
But a 14-year-old Karmapa had other plans.
"At 18 I might have had to take a position in the Chinese government hierarchy ... and turn against the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause. That was one of the reasons I decided to leave."
Leave he did, fleeing his home in rural Tibet for India, embarking on an eight-day journey by foot and horseback across the Himalayas. China was infuriated by the dramatic escape that echoed the Dalai Lama's flight four decades earlier.
The fact that many believe he is being groomed for the top is hardly a secret, but the prospect of taking on such responsibility has failed to enthrall the young man.
"I'm not very excited about the possibility but His Holiness has great faith and hope in the young generation and I'm part of the young generation so I will do what I can to support his work and hope to leave behind a rich legacy like his," said the Karmapa.
Read the complete article here.
I have recently been reading the book The Dance of 17 Lives about Ogyen Trinley Dorje, by journalist Mick Brown. For anyone who is interested in reading about his life in greater depth, I recommend it. In it, Brown discusses the history of the Karmapa line, the circumstances and events leading up to his recognition and enthronement, the controversy regarding the other young lama that was also recognized as the 17th Karmapa-Thaye Dorje, and his daring escape from Tibet.
[Image 1: Ogyen Trinley Dorje, courtesy of AFP/Getty Images, via CBS]
[Image 2: The Dance of 17 Lives, by Mick Brown, cover]