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The 16th Gyalwa Karmapa

    The 16th Gyalwa Karmapa

The Gyalwa Karmapas are unique among the great Lamas of Tibet, having reached full enlightenment centuries ago. During a previous incarnation Karmapa was at the side of the historical Buddha as the great Bodhisattva Chenrezig ("Loving Eyes" in English). In Sanskrit his name is Avalokitesvara.

Karmapa spent many lifetimes as a yogi in India, and from the year 1110 to the present day he has been taking successive conscious rebirths as the Karmapa or the "Black Hat Lama" in Tibet. Karmapa was the first incarnate lama (tulku) of the Tibetans and has been honored as a living Buddha and spiritual head of the Kagyu Lineage for the last 800 years in an unbroken succession. Before his death, each Karmapa leaves detailed instructions about the exact conditions of his next birth.

In 1959 during the Chinese destruction of Tibet, the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, managed to leave the country with his students and the most precious relics of his lineage, thus securing the transmission of the Karma Kagyu lineage. With the help of increasing numbers of Western students, the full knowledge about the nature of mind has reached the modern world. In the winter of 1994 at the age of 10, the present 17th Karmapa, Thaye Dorje (recognized by Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche) escaped occupied Tibet to freedom in India. The succesive incarnations of the Karmapa is given below:

1.Dusum Khyenpa, 1110 - 1193
2.Karma Pakshi, 1204 - 1283
3.Rangjung Dorje, 1284 - 1339
4.Rolpe Dorje, 1340 - 1383
5.Deshin Shegpa, 1384 - 1415
6.Tongwa Donden, 1416 - 1453
7.Chodrag Gyamtso, 1454 - 1506
8.Mikyo Dorje, 1507 - 1554
9.Wangchug Dorje, 1556 - 1603
10.Choying Dorje, 1604 - 1674
11.Yeshe Dorje, 1676 - 1702
12.Changchub Dorje, 1703 - 1732
13.Dudul Dorje, 1733 - 1797
14.Thegchog Dorje, 1798 - 1868
15.Khakyab Dorje, 1871 - 1922
16.Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, 1924 - 1981
17.Thaye Dorje, 1983 - present

Click here for more information on the Karmapa Lineage.