The following article is from the Winter, 1993 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

Reprinted from Dzamling Kunchab, Newsletter of Kalu Rinpoche's East Coast Centers

The Seventeenth Gyalwahg Karmapa

Eight-year-old Ugyen Tinley was formally enthroned as the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa on September 27, 1992 in a ceremony at Tsurphu Monastery, the main seat of all the Gyalwang Karmapas. Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche conducted the ceremony, which was attended by many great lamas, sangha members, government officials and over 100,000 people from all over the world. Ugyen Tinley, the son of a nomad family from Lhatok in eastern Tibet, was recognized early in 1992 on the evidence of the handwritten letter left by the 16th Karmapa, which clearly identified the region, town, birth year and parents of his successor.

The 16th Gyalwang Karmapa concealed this letter in an amulet which he gave to Tai Situ Rinpoche in 1980, telling him to wear it as protection, and to open it in the future when it became necessary. After His Holiness passed away, no one knew the whereabouts of the prediction letter for many years, and concern developed among the Regents. During this time, signs arose that prompted Situ Rinpoche to open the amulet; inside he discovered a poem describing the circumstances of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa's birth.

In 1988, Situ Rinpoche announced that he had important news and requested a meeting at Rumtek Monastery, the seat of the 16th Karmapa in Sikkim. When the meeting place was shifted to a hotel in Delhi, he felt the setting was not auspicious, and refrained from mentioning the letter.

Situ Rinpoche sent a letter to Lama Palden of Kaleb Gonpa, a Kagyu monastery in Lhatok, asking him to take charge of an extraordinary child born in that region. Lama Palden brought the child to the monastery, where he enthroned him at the age of four. In 1991, during Situ Rinpoche's visit to Palpung Monastery, he gave the young boy initiations and blessings. After leaving Palpung, he sent a mala and a kata with a letter for Lama Palden and the child's parents, who clearly understood the implications.

The meeting of the Regents finally took place at Rumtek in early 1992 and Situ Rinpoche disclosed the prediction letter at that time. In April 1992 he sent a delegate to eastern Tibet to ask Ven. Dumo Choje Rinpoche and Ven. Sangye Tenzin Rinpoche to perform the appropriate ceremonies for the 17th Karmapa in Lhatok. Druppon Dechen of Tsurphu also received a letter from Situ Rinpoche with details of the prediction letter, which he presented to local government officials in Lhasa. They in turn sent the information to Beijing, and the government gave immediate approval to proceed. Akong Rinpoche, representing Situ Rinpoche, and Sherab Tarching, representing Gyaltsap Rinpoche, traveled from Nepal to Lhasa, where they attended meetings with Druppon Dechen and local authorities. Then, along with many tulkus, lamas, and monks, they went to Lhatok and escorted the 17th Karmapa to Tsurphu.

Years before, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama had had a prophetic vision concerning the 17th Karmapa. The imagery of the vision reflected the details in the 16th Karmapa's letter. Thus, when he learned of the discovery of Ugyen Tinley, he was immediately certain that the child was the Gyalwang Karmapa, and gave his blessing. Relying on the letter and his own knowledge of the Gyalwang Karmapa, the Dalai Lama officially confirmed the identity of the new incarnation in writing. A radio announcement was broadcast from Washington, D.C., in which His Holiness stated that the new Gyalwang Karmapa had been found. He said that he was extremely pleased about the return of the Karmapa, and that his birth in Tibet is a very good sign that the dharma will flourish there and throughout the world.

When His Holiness Sakya Trizin saw the prediction letter, he was delighted, and wrote a long-life prayer for the new Karmapa. His Holiness Meling Trichen Rinpoche and Ven. Chatral Rinpoche, who were very close to the 16th Karmapa, also expressed great joy at the news.

The Beijing government has endorsed the new Karmapa, its first official acknowledgement of a reincarnated Tibetan religious leader since 1959. Historically, the Karmapas were the first line of enlightened teachers whose incarnations were recognized and called tulkus. The recognition of the newly enthroned Karmapa followed precisely the traditional procedure, in which the new incarnation is identified by means of a letter left by his predecessor. Each incarnation has possessed great spiritual power and accomplished vast activity, dedicating his life and work exclusively to the practice and teaching of pure dharma.

Ven. Khenpo Khatar Rinpoche and Ven. Lama Norlha traveled to Tibet this summer for the ceremonies preceding the enthronement. In Lhasa, they joined Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche for meetings with local officials to discuss future plans involving the 17th Karmapa. There was unanimous acceptance of the 17th Karmapa from the outset. The dates for the hair-cutting ceremony and enthronement were set, and it was formally agreed that His Holiness could travel abroad.

The hair-cutting ceremony took place at the Jokang in Lhasa on August 2. Situ Rinpoche performed the cutting of His Holiness' hair at the point in the prayer The Twelve Deeds of the Buddhathat describes Buddha Shakyamuni cutting his own hair and renouncing worldly life. Khenpo Khatar Rinpoche and Lama Norlha attended the ceremony and later visited His Holiness on several occasions. When they returned to the United States, they said that being in the presence of the young Karmapa had been the most joyful experience of their lives, and reported that all lamas of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and all monks, nuns, and lay people in Tibet without exception are fully convinced that Ugyen Tinley is the Gyalwang Karmapa. Everyone who sees him knows immediately that he is no ordinary child, and feels the power of his blessing. Khenpo Khatar Rinpoche and Lama Norlha agree that the child's identity is beyond question.

It is now a time of great celebration for Buddhists throughout the world, who have waited for news of the Karmapa's rebirth for nearly twelve years. There are plans for an enthronement at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim. Disciples in India and Bhutan look forward to the opportunity of welcoming the new Karmapa to their countries. The 17th Karmapa will also visit Buddhist centers in other parts of the world, including the United States and Europe.

Among the people who have been instrumental in bringing this about, we owe special thanks to Lama Palden, who cared for the Karmapa for many years. Above all, we extend our deepest gratitude to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Chamgon Tai Situ Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche for their untiring work in returning the glorious Gyalwang Karmapa to his throne.

Twelfth Trungpa Rinpoche Tulku

The 11th Trungpa Rinpoche passed away in 1987. During Tai Situ Rinpoche's visit to Tibet last year, he recognized the 12th Trungpa Rinpoche incarnation, and gave the two-year-old child blessings and initiations. At Situ Rinpoche's request, Ven. Dumo Choje Rinpoche, a close disciple of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa and high Kagyu tulku in Tibet, enthroned the new incarnation. The enthronement took place on August 28, 1992 at Dutsi Til Monastery, the seat of all previous Trungpa Rinpoches.

The new incarnation will be fully trained in the Kagyu tradition and in all levels of the Buddhist pathhinayana, mahayana and vajrayana. In accordance with Situ Rinpoche's wish, he will receive a traditional education together with the 17th Karmapa and Kalu Rinpoche's tulku.

After the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa passed away, he remained in samadhi (Tib. tukdam) for three full days. During that period, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche said to Situ Rinpoche that although His Holiness has passed into peace, he is continuously present as a field for the accumulation of merit. We must entrust ourselves to the Karmapa, placing all our hopes in him alone. Trungpa Rinpoche went on to say that since sentient beings need a living object of veneration, he would supplicate Situ Rinpoche as the Karmapa's dharma heir. Trungpa Rinpoche's statement was in accord with the actual words of the 16th Karmapa, written before he died, that Tai Situ Rinpoche would be the Karmapa's root guru in his next life.

Soon afterwards, Situ Rinpoche, escorted by Trungpa Rinpoche, visited Vajradhatu centers in America, performing the Red Crown ceremony and giving teachings and empowerments. Situ Rinpoche conferred many empowerments on Trungpa Rinpoche, from whom in turn he received extensive instruction.

The 11th Trungpa Rinpoche dedicated his life to spreading the dharma in the West, and deeply benefited countless beings through his great realization. The 16th Gyalwang Karmapa once wrote that Trungpa Rinpoche radiated the teachings of the Kagyu lineage in the ten directions, and had the power to take birth according to his wish. Now, out of compassion, his incarnation has appeared, and we pray that all beings will soon have the fortune to meet this great teacher.


Photo: Yeshe Kim Schul

Kalu Rinpoche Tulku

Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche passed away on May 9, 1989. He took rebirth a little over a year later, and was recognized on March 25, 1992, by Tai Situ Rinpoche. These two great lamas have a special connection which spans many lifetimes. Kalu Rinpoche received his vows of ordination from the previous Situ Rinpoche, and trained for many years at Palpung Monastery.

Historically, every Situ Rinpoche has had a connection with one great siddha (accomplished master), and the current Situ Rinpoche has said that in his life that siddha was Kalu Rinpoche. Situ Rinpoche has extremely strong devotion for Kalu Rinpoche, considering him to be his second root lama, and like a mother and father to him. In turn, Kalu Rinpoche had deep veneration for Situ Rinpoche's wisdom, and often spoke of his special qualities.

After the Gyalwang Karmapa passed away, Kalu Rinpoche said to Lama Norlha that on three different occasions the Karmapa had told him that Situ Rinpoche would be the principal holder of the Kagyu Golden Rosary lineage. When many years passed without news of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Kalu Rinpoche became concerned. After visiting Situ Rinpoche at Sherab Ling, however, he told Lama Norlha and others that his mind was now at rest, knowing that Situ Rinpoche was fully aware of all details regarding the 17th Karmapa. Near the end of Kalu Rinpoche's life, Lama Norlha asked him about his future incarnation. He replied, Don't worry, Situ Rinpoche will take care of me in my next life. Like the Karmapa, I put my full trust in him.

When Situ Rinpoche announced the identity of Kalu Rinpoche's tulku, he indicated that the tulku would be enthroned first at Sherab Ling and that a second enthronement ceremony would follow in Sonada. Current plans are for the enthronement in Sonada to be conducted by his Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Kalu Rinpoche has shown immense compassion by his quick rebirth, bringing great happiness to his disciples. He has returned with the other two young tulkus to renew the energy and wisdom of the Kagyu lineage.


New Monastery at Sherab Ling

In preparation for the essential task of preserving the lineage by providing His Holiness and the other tulkus with formal training, construction of a new monastery at Sherab Lingthe Tai Situpa's seat in Indiahas been underway since 1989.

The main shrine room of the monastery will house three immense Buddha statues, dedicated to His Holiness. The three-story-high main statue will be of Maitreya (the fifth and next Buddha), whose emanation in this world is Tai Situ Rinpoche. The other statues, each two stories high, will be of Shakyamuni (the fourth and present Buddha) and Drukpa Senge (the sixth Buddha), whose emanation in this world is the Gyalwang Karmapa. The statues will be made of copper and pure gold and are estimated to cost over $100,000. A team of 15 skilled artists from Tibet has been commissioned for their construction.

The responsibility of raising funds for this monumental project has been assumed by Kagyu Thubten Choling, Kalu Rinpoche's monastery in Wappingers Falls, New York. It is a rare and wonderful opportunity for students and friends of the Dharma to offer the very Buddha statues that will repose in the shrine room where their kind teachers will be trained. Also, since Tai Situ Rinpoche is an emanation of Maitreya, not only will those who view this statue form a connection with Maitreya, but if one makes the aspiration when contributing to this project, one will be born with-in the first retinue of Maitreya's disciples.

To help generate funds for this project, a home video of the pre-enthronement haircutting ceremony and other private visits with His Holiness taken in August 1992 in Tibet is being offered for sale. It captures very precious moments from these special occasions, some of which otherwise may never be seen. The video is available at a special introductory price (for payments received by February 1, 1993) of $25 NTSC format, $30 PAL format, plus shipping & handling (per video ordered) of $5 US/Canada, $10 overseas. All contributions are tax-deductible in the US.

Please send contributions and video orders by check or money order in US dollars made payable to Kagyu Thubten Choling (along with your name, address and phone number) to: Buddha Statue Project (SL) Kagyu Thubten Choling Monastery, 127 Sheafe Road, Wappingers Falls, New York 12590, USA. Also ask for other information about projects and activities of Kagyu Thubten Choling.