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Buddhadharma : Summer 2008
65 summer 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly potential for development and realiza- tion believed to reside there. The proof of a tulku’s power and influence comes from his own developing realization, which is aided by the work of many teachers, most of whom have studied with the previous incarnation. In addition to his studies, the Kar- mapa has begun to take on many aspects of the Karmapa’s leadership role. He has been interested in reviving traditional forms of monasticism, so he has brought back the practice of monks carrying begging bowls and not eating after noon. He also recently declared that Kagyu monasteries outside of Tibet would change to a vegetarian diet. As well, he has also taken a strong inter- est in publishing and in seeing that the full range of the liturgical tradition of the Kagyu is practiced, which has made it necessary to reinstate some practices that had fallen into disuse. Meanwhile, the continued existence of another claimant to the title of Kar- mapa remains the source of legal pro- ceedings in the Indian courts. At stake is the ownership and control of assets of the Kagyu lineage, including Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim and sacred objects brought by the Sixteenth Karmapa from Tibet. However, the overwhelm- ing majority of senior Kagyu teachers and Kagyu practitioners internationally recognize Ogyen Trinley Dorje as the Seventeenth Karmapa. Since coming to India, the Karmapa has welcomed many visitors from around the world and is offering teach- ings on a regular basis. Michele Mar- tin, who has had many opportunities to meet with the Karmapa, says that “The Karmapa knows the Western frame of mind very well and understands that the circumstances and time commit- ments of Westerners differ from what he was familiar with. He also speaks from a personal perspective, which is very common for Westerners, but quite atypical for Tibetans. He directs his answers to the context of the person he’s speaking with. He is also attentive to the nuances between different Eng- lish words.” Mick Brown feels the Karmapa is getting ready to fill big shoes. “It seems apparent,” Brown says, “that the Kar- mapa eventually will have the same kind of leadership role as the Dalai Lama. Whether he will fill it in quite the same way as the Dalai Lama, or have quite the same purpose as the Dalai Lama, remains to be seen. But from my small encounter with him and from what everybody else says, he’s clearly a very charismatic figure and is emerging as an eloquent and wise teacher. That will be projected onto a much wider stage, the world stage. That’s why it’s signifi- cant and exciting that he is now finally allowed to travel the world. It’s time for him to come to America.” Robert Thurman agrees with Brown’s assessment and thinks the Karmapa is well-suited to the task that lies ahead. “Many dharma students in the West will be interested in the Karmapa,” Thurman says. “For one thing, he’s a great lama, but also many people knew his previous incarnation. He had a great impact, and this Karmapa will grow into someone capable of communicating to the larger world, as the Dalai Lama has done. He also has to reach way beyond people who are simply interested in Tibetan Buddhism. The new Karmapa can do that. He strikes me as someone who is inspired by non-sectarianism and dialogue with all sorts of people, not with signing people up to become Buddhists.” Martin says that the Seventeenth Kar- mapa also has great concern for young people and the world they will inherit. But the most striking feature, accord- ing to Martin, is that he is willing to be blunt. “What’s really quite wonderful,” she says, “and what will appeal particu- larly to younger people is that he’s very honest and he’s very direct. When there are faults, he just points them out. He’s so straightforward that there’s a sense of really being able to trust his word. It’s what the Tibetans call danzig, or speak- ing the truth. In an age of double talk, cynicism, and spin, he’s just totally the opposite, and I think that will really be a magnet for people.”