Historic Collaboration: Karmapas Unite for Shamar Rinpoche’s Recognition

The Karmapas, Trinley Thaye Dorje and Ogyen Trinley Dorje pictured with the joint statement. Image: kagyuoffice.org

DHARAMSALA, 4 Dec: In a significant development for the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, the two main claimants to the title of the 17th Karmapa, the head of Tibetan Buddhism’s Kagyu lineage, Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, and Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje, have issued a joint statement outlining their shared responsibility for the recognition and education of the reincarnation of Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche.

The tradition of recognizing tulkus, spiritual teachers’ reincarnations, is integral to Tibetan Buddhism, notably in the Karma Kagyu lineage. The joint statement emphasizes the historical significance of Shamar Rinpoche’s lineage and the need for unity after disputes following the passing of the Sixteenth Karmapa and Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche.

This announcement comes after a hiatus of 170 years during which the recognition and enthronement of Shamarpa incarnations were prohibited. The Karmapas, Ogyen Trinley Dorje and Trinley Thaye Dorje, have met several times despite many difficulties, engaging in deep conversations.

The Karmapas state in the joint statement that the 170-year hiatus “was a great loss to the teachings and left an irreparable hole in our history.”

Key points of the joint commitment, a crucial step in maintaining the Karma Kagyu lineage’s unity and continuity, include:

  • Collaborative Recognition: Both leaders will jointly recognize Shamar Rinpoche’s reincarnation.
  • Shared Responsibility: Thaye Dorje and Ogyen Trinley Dorje will collectively oversee the education and spiritual guidance of Shamar Rinpoche’s Yangsi (reincarnation).
  • Non-Interference: The process will be safeguarded from external interference to ensure authenticity.

The statement concludes with a plea for unity among Karma Kagyu followers, urging sincere commitment to the Practice Lineage and discouraging disputes over reincarnations. The leaders advocate for a collective resolve to uphold the lineage’s integrity.

In their efforts to unite to work together to preserve and strengthen the Kagyu lineage, the Karmapas, Ogyen Trinley Dorje and Trinley Thaye Dorje, met for the first time in 2018 at a rural location in France to get to know each other personally and held discussions on how they might collaborate to preserve and strengthen the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. 

During the 37th Kagyu Monlam in Bodh Gaya in 2020, Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorjee made a groundbreaking announcement, marking the first instance where he stressed the significance of the two claimants to the Karmapa title, including himself and Karmapa Thaye Dorje, collaborating in the joint search for the reincarnation of Shamar Rinpoche.

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