Urgyen Thinley Dorje
Urgyen Thinley Dorje was born in the Lhatok, east Tibet in 1985, to a nomadic family. His mother had experienced many special dreams during her pregnancy. It was in one of these where Guru Rinpoche sent her a bowl of yoghurt adorned by a golden letter proclaiming the recognition of her son. The letter was to remain secret until the time was right. On the night before the birth, his father saw an unusual rainbow appear above their tent. At the time of his birth a beautiful bird known as "king of birds" landed on their tent and sang a beautiful song. He was called Apo Gaga.
From a young age he displayed signs of clairvoyance, for example he was able to tell people where to find lost sheep or cattle. As a young boy he spent four years at the local monastery, Kalek Monastery where he received special education and was treated as an unrecognised reincarnate lama. A local oracle predicted that he would benefit sentient beings but that this would not become clear until he was about eight years old.
During this time he spent periods of time with his family. His parents reported that he would build toy monasteries or make a small throne and recite prayers. He also showed particular interest in plant life, often planting trees and being upset if he saw them being damaged. He was also known to ride into the hills on the backs of wild animals and would get upset whenever animals were being killed or hurt.
In 1992 he had persuaded his parents to move to their summer camp one month early. This placed them in the place that was named in the prediction letter that Tai Situpa had found in an amulet given to him by His Holiness 16th Karmapa. This meant that the search party that had been sent out by His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche to find the reincarnation of HH 16th Karmapa, then discovered them. Apo Gaga told his parents that his monks were coming for him and he packed his belongings.
As the details in the prediction letter matched the details of Apo Gaga's parents names, location, his appearance and manners, he was confirmed by His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche as the 17th Karmapa.
The Chinese government officially allowed the recognition of Urgyen Thinley Dorje as the 17th incarnation of the Karmapa, which was the first time the Communist government had allowed the recognition of any reincarnate lama. In 1992 he received his ordination at the Jokang Temple in Lhasa. Before he travelled to Tsurphu for the enthronement ceremony, he spent some time at Kalek monastery. It is reported that before the party left the monastery, three suns appeared in the sky which were seen by many people in the area. His enthronement was held at Tsurphu Monastery, later the same year in September, which was attended by over 20,000 people.
Since his arrival at Tsurphu he has inspired and led a lot of the rebuilding of the monastery and renewed a lot of the dharma activity that has traditionally taken place there over many years throughout the successions of the Karmapas. His education has been under the direction of His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche, His Eminence Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche and the late Drupon Dechen Rinpoche. In addition to his traditional education he would receive and bless the thousands of visitors that have travelled from around the world to visit him.
On 28 December 1999 at the age of fourteen Urgyen Thinley Dorje with a small group of attendants left Tsurphu monastery in Tibet, on a journey across the mountains to India. Currently He resides near Dharamsala in the hope to receive refugee status from the Indian Government.