Picture of the Karmapa as a boy. (Dharamsala, India)
Who are we seeing? I asked
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
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!
The official website of the Karmapa (click here for his teachings and schedule)