History of the Karmapas
Masters of esoteric knowledge and miraculous practices, the lineage of the Karmapas is the earliest of all the recognized incarnate lineages and is said to descend from the great Indian tantric master Tilopa through a chain that includes Naropa, Marpa, and Milarepa. The Karmapas are distinguished by their black crowns, said to have been woven by dakinis and symbolizing the activity of the buddhas. Unlike other Tibetan Buddhist lineage heads, each Karmapa has specific knowledge of his next reincarnation and leaves behind a "Last Testament," a letter to his disciples describing the place and circumstances of their future rebirth, the name of their parents, and so on. At a very young age, each successive incarnation is often able to recognize himself as the Karmapa. In their recounting of the histories of the seventeen Karmapas, the authors reveal the universal and marvelous concealed in the everyday world. Their lively account peppered with anecdotes is the most comprehensive in the West on this subject, with information from Tibetan, Chinese, Mongolian, French, and English sources.