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Buddhadharma : Summer 2008
31 summer 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly that way, they developed a rich textual and liturgical tradi- tion, containing many cross references and quotations from multiple sources. The most prominent of these great spiritual works ex- pound the teachings of Mahamudra, the “Great Seal,” which is said to be both the pinnacle of the Kagyu path and the thread that runs through it from beginning to end. While explanations of the meaning of the term “Mahamudra” abound, it is said to refer to the fact that since all of reality is buddhanature, it is “sealed” with the mind’s true nature, luminosity-emptiness. The experiential meaning of Maha- mudra is beyond words, but Tilopa offered a pithy summa- tion: “Mahamudra mind dwells nowhere.” Such simplicity is born from extensive training, study, in- struction, and practice. It is the Karmapas’ role to ensure that the transmission of the practicing lineage remains fresh and intact, not so much by being a good leader, though this is important too, but mainly by embodying the spirit and realization of Mahamudra’s true meaning. The stories of the many Karmapas—who were variously poets, artists, scholars, musicians, and calligraphers—demonstrate that the Maha- mudra realization can manifest in a great variety of guises. The twentieth century tested the strength of the Karmapa lineage as never before. The Sixteenth Karmapa was born in 1924 and recognized shortly thereafter according to instructions from his predecessor. At the age of eight he was enthroned at Tsurphu, but before long it became clear that political trouble would threaten the way of life that had been sustained in Tibet for a thousand years. As it says in Empowerment, a book created to commemorate the Six- teenth Karmapa’s first visit to the United States, he “had the heavy task of sustaining the meditative legacy of the Kagyu order through the dissolution of the society which supported it for hundreds of years.” In 1954, the Sixteenth Karmapa accompanied the Dalai Lama to China. The Karmapa was becoming very concerned about Chinese activities in Tibet, and in 1958 he made the bold decision to escape to India through Bhutan, bringing with him a large party of monks as well as many precious ritual objects and texts. In 1962, at the invitation of the royal family of Sikkim, he founded Rumtek Monastery, near Gang- tok, as the seat of the Karmapas. He spent much of the rest of his life consolidating the position of the Kagyu lineage on new soil and helping to expand it continued on page 64 ➤ courTesyoflou&JoanneBraunsourceunKnoWn