The Karmapa is the first Tibetan Buddhist master who has an unbroken line of incarnations since 1110 AD, starting with Dusum Khyenpa, the first Karmapa. His reincarnation Karma Pakshi declared himself that he was the reincarnation of Dusum Khyenpa. This was the beginning of a lineage that has continued unbroken through to the present day.
Shakyamuni Buddha as well as the eighth century Indian saint Padmasambhava prophesied the Karmapa Lamas. The Karmapas have displayed their extraordinary qualities, in many forms such as yogin, scholar, artist and poet. Their lives are flawless examples of renunciation, compassion and wisdom.
Throughout the history of the Karmapa lineage, the Karmapas have been assisted and supported by two main disciples, Shamarpa Rinpoche and Tai Situ Rinpoche. They have each taught each other alternating as teacher and disciple throughout their successive reincarnations. Both Rinpoches in their present manifestations were brought out from Tibet at a young age by the 16th Karmapa in order to avoid being caught up in the Chinese invasion, an event which was foreseen by the 16th Karmapa as early as the 1930's.
Historically some of the Karmapas have left either direct instructions or prediction letters as to the details of their future rebirth. Primarily the way they have been recognized is through self recognition, that is, they have declared themselves to be the Karmapa. This does not mean that the recognition has been not without debate and some controversy.
The 16th Karmapa passed away in 1981. Since that time there has been much speculation and debate about his subsequent reincarnation and this has seen many contenders for the role of Karmapa being put forward. There are currently two candidates recognized as the reincarnation of the sixteenth Karmapa. One candidate, Trinley Thaye Dorje, has been put forward by Shamarpa Rinpoche. The other candidate, Urgyen Thinley Dorje has been put forward by Tai Situ Rinpoche. Both Trinley Thaye Dorje and Urgyen Thinley Dorje have been enthroned by their respective teachers and each are accepted by thousands of people throughout the Tibetan Buddhist community both in the East and the West.
This situation has seen the development of considerable political activity within the Karma Kagyu community around the world, and the subsequent division of followers of each Karmapa into two opposing camps. As a result, there has arisen a situation of two separate groups each putting forth their own statements and publicity, in a never ending endeavour to out do the other. This appears to be totally contrary to the notion of a religious life of non-involvement in any institutional or societal politics, and very different to the acetic life lead by the famous saint Milarepa, one of the fathers of the Kagyu lineage, who sought out caves and solitude to practice meditation.
Time will tell who the ultimate Karmapa will be. It could be either of the two candidates described in this web site, or it could be some as yet completely unknown entity. Based on the historical evidence that over time the Karmapa will prove his true identity through his extraordinary qualities and activity, until it becomes apparent beyond all doubt as to which manifestation is genuinely entitled to claim the title of "Karmapa", we can all support the positive Bodhisattva work these manifestations of enlightened mind are undertaking for the ultimate benefit of all sentient beings.
The purpose of this site is to present some of the facts surrounding the recognition of both candidates. It is not intended to persuade you to believe in one candidate over the other.