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I’m visiting who?… Who is the Karmapa?

Picture of the Karmapa as a boy. (Dharamsala, India)

Who are we seeing? I asked

The Karmapa.

My party of yogi friends chimed in.

Who?

The name didn’t stir recognition for me.

His  gaze was intense for such a young-looking face.

Piercing. Penetrating, as if he could see right into you…

Standing in the long queue, I could feel the excitement around me. He was just in the next room, visible through the open door.

The foreign traveler in front of me was so in awe and smitten that she bowed her way all the way while backing out the door!

A little excessive, I thought. After all, he wasn’t Buddha! Still, a part of me wondered if I should follow suit. How does one address or approach a Karmapa Lama? Bow profusely, prostrate myself, fold my hands in simple Namaste prayer ? I had no clue.  Had he been the Dalai Lama, I still wouldn’t know how to respond. Except for “Thank You, Mr. Holiness.

My dad later advised me that I should have said, “Hawaii sends their Aloha!“. Typical Hawaii delivery. Something my older sister might say being the spokesperson of our family. Coming from me, it’d sound like either a groupie or a lei greeter at the Honolulu airport.

The temple and resident area of the Karmapa.  Gyuto Ramoche Monastery

Ogyen Trinley Dorje didn’t look supernatural (a pbs video here).

He looked human, a handsome young man in his mid 20’s with interests in video games and The World Cup— only difference being, he was reincarnated 17 times and found through prophesy of the preceding Karmapa!

I wasn’t sure if I was a believer though… we all know about the Dalai Lama, but who is this Karmapa Lama?


In Tibetan Buddhism, the Karmapa and Dalai Lama are of a different lineage and separate spiritual leaders, entirely. The Dalai Lama is the leader of Tibetans, while the Karmapa is “the spiritual leader of the buddha’s activities” . Still, the similarities are confusing to a non-Buddhist, like myself. Both have been reincarnated and have been said to have left clues to be found in their next incarnation. They’ve also both, fled Tibet and now live exiled in Dharamsala. The age gap resembles a father and son relationship and it’s said the two are close. But unlike His Holiness, it’s said the Karmapa’s movements in India are extremely  limited and tightly scrutinized by the eagle eye of India’s government. As the second most powerful Lama, he poses a threat to the China.

 

Photo credit (above): From The official website of the Karmapa

Inside the main shrine room of Gyuto Ramoche Monastery

My turn was next. I approached the Karmapa…

Truthfully, I had a hard time looking him directly in the eye. I felt shy.  I opened my wrist and he plopped a thick bright red cord on it.  A blessing.

As I left, I felt funny. Heady. Light-headed. Abound with positive spirits.

The next ten minutes felt like a mystical phenomenon–  I was outside with friends and yet, it was if his image was stamped in my third eye, …as if the Karmapa’s presence was with me! Another one of my friends, Maria, confirmed having a similar experience. Wow!

This will definitely be a memorable visit –it turned me, a Doubting Thomas into a believer!

People outside the visitor’s hall

Group picture

Information:

The official website of the Karmapa (click here for his teachings and schedule)

7 Comments

  1. PreferVege says:

    May I ask if Gyuto Ramoche Monastery is near Mcleod Ganj? If it is, what is the most recommended mode of transport?

    • @prefervege: The monastery was approx. 30 min from MLG. We took a taxi van as we had a group-.- we either paid 500rp OW or RT (can’t remember) I would suggest taking finding friends or posting an ad for people to share a taxi over. Also, Norbelinka Institute is on the way; you could hit both.

  2. Megan says:

    Buddhism fascinates me, and I definitely felt…something…at sacred sites in Tibet, Nepal and the north of India. I would have loved to have the opportunity to see the Karmapa.

    I was in Mcleod Ganj last year a few days before the Dalai Lama gave a series of lectures – I unfortunately had to get back down to Delhi so couldn’t stay for them but the atmosphere was electric.

  3. Maria says:

    Yes! What an experience that was! I’m glad you wrote about it. It was so powerful. As you said, it felt like, in an instant, he could see with crystal clarity every aspect of my soul and every life I’ve ever lived. BAM! It was stunning. I wanted to know what he saw. I, too, walked out in a daze.

  4. Yeah it does seem a bit confusing for someone who isnt a Buddhist. I think I still need to do a little more reading to figure out the difference between the two. Hope you enjoy the visit though. Looks very interesting.

    • @KirK: Ha ha… thanks. The visit was definitely enjoyed. 😉
      @Maria: Thanks girl! Yeah, that was quite an experience. I wish I could see what he saw too!

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