Buddhist Prediction of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa (1992 –Current)


His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa In 1985, a boy named "Apo Gaga" was born into a nomadic family in eastern Tibet. In 1992 that boy was recognized as the Seventeenth Karmapa. His biography can nevertheless properly be said to start some eight centuries earlier, according to the tradition in Tibet that enlightened masters ("tulkus") can reincarnate in order to extend the time in which they can benefit beings. 


The Karmapas have incarnated in this form of nirmanakaya, or manifestation body, for seventeen lifetimes, as of the present, and all have played the most important role in preserving and propagating the Buddhist teachings of Tibet.  Details of the Seventeenth Karmapa's life were foretold with startling insight in the vision of Chogyur Dechen Lingpa (1829-1870), a great nonsectarian master and one of the most renowned discoverers of sacred hidden texts ("tertöns") of the last few centuries. The songs of His Holiness Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the Sixteenth Karmapa, who was born in Tibet in 1924 and left permanently in 1959, reveal his prophetic foresight that his reincarnation, the 17th Karmapa, would be enthroned in Tsurphu, and in this way the Karmapa would see that the main seat of the Karmapas would be restored.  Many see in the growing activity of the 17th Karmapa the dispelling of obstacles in Tibet, India and throughout the world, and the increasingly vivid manifestation of the heart-fulfillment of vision of the Karmapas.  After the passing of the sixteenth Karmapa, it became the responsibility of his disciples to carry out His Holiness' wishes, to continue his activities and to find and enthrone the 17th Karmapa. 


In January of 1981, the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, gave to his heart son, the Xllth Tai Situpa, a sealed protection amulet with a brocade cover, and said, "This is your protection amulet. In the future, it will confer great benefit." Many years later, the amulet was discovered to contain the prediction letter for the rebirth of His Holiness.



The sacred testament


Before the discovery of the letter, and after the 16th Karmapa had passed into parinvirana, one goal was uppermost in the mind of the Karmapa's disciples: locating his successor, the 17th Karmapa. Since a Karmapa typically provides instructions to a key disciple on how to locate the reincarnation, the years after 1981 were preoccupied with finding the 16th Karmapa's instructions. However, sometimes the location of such instructions is not so straightforward. Such was the case here.


Typically, protection amulets contain mantras, sacred pills or relics and are left sealed, since they do not contain anything inside which needs to be examined. When the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa had given the 12th Tai Situpa the protection amulet, he had not indicated that anything was inside the amulet needing examination. Situ Rinpoche took the sacred gift and wrapped the brocade around one of the holy instruments he always carried with him. Though he kept it with him day and night for many years as a sacred object from the Karmapa, he never opened it until many years later, after no prediction letter had been found. When HE Situ Rinpoche decided to open the amulet, inside he found the prediction letter!


On March 19th, 1992, the council of the four seat-holders of the Karmapa, Shamar Rinpoche, Situ Rinpoche, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche, met to review the letter. The letter was subsequently translated as follows:


The Letter of Prediction

by His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa



Self-awareness is always bliss;

The dharmadhatu[1] has no center nor edge.

From here to the north [in] the

east of [the land] of snow

Is a country where divine thunder

spontaneously blazes[2]

[In] a beautiful nomad's place with

the sign of a cow[3],

The method is Döndrub and the

wisdom is Lolaga[4].

[Born in] the year of the one

used for the earth[5]

[With] the miraculous, far-reaching sound

of the white one[6];

[This] is the one known as Karmapa.

His is sustained by Lord Donyö Drupa;

Being nonsectarian, he pervades all directions;

Not staying close to some and distant from others, he is the protector of all beings:

The sun of the Buddha's Dharma that benefits others always blazes.


[1]Chos kyi dhying, the expanse of all phenomena and equivalent to sunyata or emptiness.

[2]The Seventeenth Karmapa's place of birth is Lhathok: "Lha" means divine and "thok" means thunder. In the text, thunder is poetically called "gnam chags" or "sky iron."

[3]The name of the nomadic community where the Karmapa was born is Bakor; "ba" means "cow," and the Dharma term for cow, "dodjo," is used in the text.

[4]Method refers to the father and wisdom to the mother.

[5]His Holiness was born in the Wood Ox year; a tree lives from the earth and an ox is used to plow it.

[6]This refers to the sound of the conch shell that miraculously resounded in the air for about an hour after His Holiness' birth.

Translated July, 1992 in Rumtek, Sikkim by Michell Martin


The identity of a Karmapa is determined by the prediction of his predecessor.[1] After interpreting the letter of the 16th Karmapa, the council of seatholders interpreted the sentence in the letter stating "from here to the north [in] the east of [the land] of snow" to mean that His Holiness the 16th Karmapa had intended to indicate he would be reborn in Tibet. The council agreed to send a search party to Tibet, led by Jamgon Rinpoche, who was already scheduled to be in Tibet in June. 1


1. Taken from H.H. the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa at http://www.kagyuoffice.org/karmapa.biographicalinfo.html  and http://www.kagyuoffice.org/karmapa.background.letter.html