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Posts Tagged ‘Karma Kagyu’

by Naomi Levine

I am the Head of the Lineage

This discrete but unmistakeable declaration from HH Karmapa came after the second day of teaching on the Kagyu Lineage Prayer; and while it was hardly news to the many thousands of devotees gathered in the Monlam Pavilion, it was the first time I had ever heard His Holiness make such a definitive statement. There were other surprises as well in this informative overview of the lineage masters. One of them was what I can only describe as the restoration of the Shamarpa to his historical place in the lineage.

According to historians the first Karmapa was Karma Pakshi, although Dusum Khyenpa was the first holder of the Black Crown. Dusum Khyenpa was not known at the time as the first Karmapa but was given the name of Karmapa because of his vision. He became known as Karmapa, the performer of the activity of all the buddhas. Some historians say the lineage became known as Karma Kagyu because Karmapa was practising for a long time in Karma Gon, one of the seats of the Karmapas in East Tibet. The name of the lineage was therefore Karma Kagyu.

There are different ways of viewing the time span of the lineage. Chogyur Lingpa, the 19th century terton, predicted 7 reincarnations and 13 manifestations in nirmanakaya form. Another prediction mentions 21 Karmapas, and yet another prediction of the 5th Karmapa refers to 25 Karmapas. There could also be 1002 Karmapas who could be performing the activities of the Karmapa rather than holding the throne. This could mean that Karmapa’s activity will not end until the liberation of all beings, His Holiness said.

Which brought us to the subject of reincarnation. This is a person who takes rebirth from one main enlightened master. A reincarnation cannot be more than one person. However, a tulku can manifest many people each acting independently. One great master can have many manifestations, e.g. manifestations of body, speech and mind. This is a high level of realization.

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