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Two Karmapas Issue Joint Statement Aimed at Healing Decades-old Rift

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The two Karmapas, Trinley Thaye Dorje, left, and Ogyen Trinley Dorje, right, met at an undisclosed location in rural France.
The two Karmapas, Trinley Thaye Dorje, left, and Ogyen Trinley Dorje, right, met at an undisclosed location in rural France.

His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje and His Holiness Trinley Thaye Dorje on Thursday issued a landmark joint statement apparently aimed at resolving a decades-old rift in the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and the divisive issue of who should hold the title of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa.

The Karmapa is the head of the Karma Kagyu, the largest lineage of the Kagyu, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism—the others being Gelug, Nyingma, and Sakya. The institution of the Karmapa is the oldest tulku lineage in Tibetan Buddhism, dating back to the first Gyalwa Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa (1110–93), predating the Dalai Lama lineage by more than two centuries. Due to a disagreement within the Karma Kagyu school over the incarnation recognition process, the identity of the 17th Karmapa has been a matter of some dispute. The majority of Tibetan Buddhists recognize Ogyen Trinley Dorje as the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, while an influential minority recognizes Trinley Thaye Dorje.

Historically, the Karmapas were based at Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet, but the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, rebuilt Rumtek Monastery (Rumtek had already been established as a center of learning in the mid-1700s by the 12th Karmapa, Changchub Dorje, but had since fallen into disrepair) in northern India to be his new seat in 1966 after leaving Tsurphu Monastery and Tibet. It is widely believed that the Karmapa could eventually succeed His Holiness the Dalai Lama, now 83, as the principal figurehead of Tibetan Buddhism and by extension Tibetan communities around the world.

The joint statement, which was the outcome of a four-day meeting between the two claimants to the holy office at an undisclosed location in rural France, was released simultaneously on the official websites of both lamas. In the message the monks indicate an amicable intention to work together to establish a personal relationship of cooperation and strong connection in order to strengthen the Karma Kagyu lineage and to work toward securing the future of Tibetan Buddhism.

The full transcript of the joint message follows:

His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje and His Holiness Trinley Thaye Dorje met over the last few days at a rural location in France. Their purpose was to get to know each other personally. They also discussed how they might work together to preserve and strengthen the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

After their discussions, His Holiness Trinley Thaye Dorje and His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje issued the following joint statement:

“We are both very pleased to have had this opportunity to meet and get to know each other in a peaceful and relaxed environment. We both had this wish for many years, and we are gratified that this wish has now been fulfilled.

The purpose of our meeting was primarily to spend time together so that we could establish a personal relationship. We were able to talk together freely and to learn about each other for the first time. We were thus able to begin what we expect will develop into a strong connection.

While we were together we also talked about ways that we could work to heal the divisions that have unfortunately developed within our precious Karma Kagyu lineage in recent years. We view it as our duty and responsibility to do whatever we can to bring the lineage together.

This undertaking is critically important for the future of the Karma Kagyu lineage as well as for the future of Tibetan Buddhism and the benefit of all sentient beings. We therefore ask everyone within the Karma Kagyu community to join us in our efforts to strengthen and preserve our lineage. We view it as our collective responsibility to restore harmony to our tradition which is a lineage of wisdom and compassion.”

        His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje                     His Holiness Trinley Thaye Dorje

See more

A Joint Statement of His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje and His Holiness Trinley Thaye Dorje (The Karmapa)
Joint statement of His Holiness Trinley Thaye Dorje and His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje (Thaye Dorje: His Holiness the 17th Karmapa)

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