Saturday, October 31, 2009
Blessings from Karmapa - The Hip-Hop Lama
The Karmapa leads the black-hatted sect of Tibetan Buddhism dating back until 1110. He is often regarded as third in the hierarchy of Lamas, only surpassed by the Panchen and Dalai Lamas. In his 17th incarnate, the current Karmapa fled Tibet in 1999 and now lives about 20 kilometres out of McLeod Ganj in Sidhpur at the Gyuto Tantric Monastery.
The monastery is both modern and beautiful, with an outstanding mountain backdrop.
Mhue and I went to receive his blessings today. These are readily available on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2.30pm. Please call 94182 94401 to ensure he is “at home”. A taxi can take you directly for RS300 from McLeod Ganj´s bus station and the return should be RS250.
Private audiences can be arranged as well, but a minimum of 5 days advanced notice is required.
There is a massive puja going on in the main temple – strangely filled with plenty of yellow hats. The chanting is deep and rich and accompanied by a crescendo of bells.
Due to the Puja, Kamapa gives blessings in a side room to the right side of the temple compound. There are around 250 of us wanting blessing today. Although all ages, women out-number men by almost 3 to 1. Again, security is tight, with complete body searches, x-ray machines and a ban on bags and cameras.
At 2.33pm the Kamapa appears. He is young (26), tall and has a strong and assured presence. I´m at the back of the first aisle as we are shepherded across into the atrium. He lightly touches prayer scarves, brought by almost all disciples, and hands out traditional threads. The line moves fast and within 20 seconds i´m in and out of the room clutching my thread. I did have a few probably inappropriate questions for him, but it certainly isn´t that kind of meeting.
Like all high Lamas, the process of finding their successors (reincarnates) is always a fascinating procedure. Many clues are often left from the preceding Lama (in this case a letter was left behind from the 16th Karmapa, just one month before his tragic car accident).
A number of auspicious dreams and events took place around the birth of the new reincarnate including the sounding of conch shells, strange birds, unnatural rainbows and the appearance of three suns claimed to have been witnessed by many nomads in Eastern Tibet. The boy came from a life of rural Tibetan yak-herders and was entered into a monastery. He was not formerly identified as the Karmapa until he was eight years old. More details of this story can be found at http://www.kagyuoffice.org/karmapa.tibet.earlyyears.html
His appointment as the Karmapa reincarnation was with the Chinese government´s approval and thus when he escaped to India, he was viewed with suspicion by many and spent the first few years under virtual house arrest. However, the Dalai Lama has taken the young man under his wing, and has now made a big impact on the Tibetan community. His name has gone forward as a potential figurehead successor to HHDL. He has recently been labelled “His Hotness” by the Washington Post and the “Hip Hop Lama” by The Times, due to his love of his i-pod and war games on his computer.
Karmapa enjoys huge popularity, most especially with Tibetan Yuf and young (and not so young) Western females who harbour somewhat illicit desires. Karmapa´s photos out-sell HH Dalai Lama portraits and the ever increasing photo-booths around town.
Karmapa is undoubtedly a face for the future in the Tibetan conflict.
The Karmapa - taken by Aubs in March 09