Riot of colours at Karmapa’s birth anniversary

Dec 2, 2010

Category: Trinley Thaye Dorje

NEW DELHI: The grand hall of the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute in Qutub Institutional Area is a riot of colours. Monks in yellow and maroon robes chant prayers as the sound of traditional Tibetan instruments like the gyaling and prayer drum rants the air. A huge statue of the Buddha, resplendent in gold, smiles benignly at the gathering.

The ceremony is a kick-off for the 900th birth anniversary celebrations of the first Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa, who lived from 1110-1193 AD and founded the Karma Kagyu lineage, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism . Proponents of the lineage believe theirs to be the oldest line of Tibetan reincarnations, stretching back to the 13th century and predating the Dalai Lama, perhaps the most well-known of the Tibetan lineages , by a few hundred years.

As the ceremony progresses, Shamar Rinpoche, the 14th Shamarpa and teacher of the present Karmapa, Trinley Thaye Dorje, is led in procession. The Shamarpa — also known as the Red Hat Karmapa , because of the ruby-red crown traditionally associated with his lineage — is presiding over the ceremony . The present Karmapa is not there, although he is expected at the closing ceremony of the monthlong celebrations, which is to be held at Bodhgaya.

Over 150 monks have assembled for the ceremony. Among them is Lungtok Dawa, who fled from Tibet's Yangpachen monastery after the Chinese invasion. He has been living in India since then and says it is a golden opportunity to meet the spiritual head of our lineage. 75-year old Ani Pema Zangmon, smiles through her wrinkled face and nods in assent. Zangmon was five when she became a Buddhist nun and has spent most of her life in Sikkim's Rumtek monastery — the traditional seat of the Karmapa.

Incidentally, the institution of the Karmapa has seen a fair share of controversy, which originated after the death of the last Karmapa. A section within the Karma Kagyu has recognized another candidate, Urgyen Trinley as the real Karmapa . Their choice has been recognized by the Dalai Lama and also endorsed by the Chinese. However, the section led by Shamar Rinpoche , asserts that Thaye Dorje is the true successor.

Notwithstanding the controversy , those assembled for the celebrations are looking forward to the events. Chonet Dorjey, who is from a monastery near Leh says that this is the first time that such an extensive celebration is being held. More than 10,000 lamas from Ladakh would be joining the finale at Bodhgaya . As the evening draws to a close, a row of butterlamps are lit by the monks. They flicker to life even as chants and prayers for world peace fill the air. Well-wishers of the Karma Kagyu sect would be hoping that this peace pervades within, as well.



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