Unseemly Scramble for the Karmapa’s Throne

Tibetan Buddhism is enjoying growing popularity in the West and in Southeast Asia. But as the religious empire grows, followers are asking more difficult questions of the dharma as well as demanding greater transparency of the administration.

On 27 September 1992, eight-year-old Ugen Thinley was enthroned at Tsurphu monastery, near Lhasa, as the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, an incarnation second only to the Dalai Lama in his importance to Mahayana Buddhists. The ceremony should have occasioned universal joy among followers of the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, who have waited more than a decade for the reincarnation of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa to be found. But doubts about the authenticity of this "reincarnation" have struck at the very roots of the Karma Kagyu lineage and have split the faithful into two camps.

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Himal Southasian