THE WHITE CONCH’S RESOUNDING HORN: ASTONISHING CHILD PRODIGY, MIKYO DORJE AND THE DISPUTE BETWEEN THE ‘WESTERN’ AND ‘EASTERN’ CANDIDATES: ‘Good Deeds’ Teaching by 17th Karmapa (Day 3)

I am unborn and yet show birth, I do not abide and yet show abiding, there is no death and yet I show dying; and again, though there is no birth, I show birth. བདག་ནི་སྐྱེ་བ་མེད་ལ་སྐྱེ་ཚུལ་སྟོན།་།གནས་པ་མེད་ལ་གནས་ཚུལ་སྟོན།་།འཆི་བ་མེད་ལ་འཆི་བའི་ཚུལ་སྟོན།་།སླར་ཡང་སྐྱེ་བ་མེད་ལ་སྐྱེ་ཚུལ་བསྟན།༽

– 7th Karmapa, Chodrag Gyatso, before he passed away

E ma ho! Do not harbour doubts about me; I am [the one] called the Karmapa. ཨེ་མ་ཧོ།་ང་ལ་ཐེ་ཚོམ་མ་བྱེད་དང།་།ང་ནི་ཀརྨ་པ་ཞེས་བྱ།་ཞེས་གསུངས།

–Mikyo Dorje’s words to his father, at age 9 months old.

“From when I died in the tiger year (stag lo, 1506) [as the Seventh Karmapa] until my rebirth in the hare year (yos lo, 1507) I stayed in [the pure realm of] dGa’ ldan with Maitreya and in [the pure realm] Sukhāvatī and was happy. Then, because people have broken faith[1], I thought it would be pointless to come here for the time being. When [thinking so] the protector Maitreya and the wisdom-ḍākinīs said, ‘you have to take rebirth in the world (jambudvīpa).’ Having taken rebirth until this year I have stayed in Lho rong.”

—8th Karmapa to 2nd Gyaltsab Rinpoche

Introduction

On the third day of the the 17th Karmapa’s teachings on the ‘Good Deeds’ Liberation Story of 8th Karmapa (see video above), the Karmapa began the teaching with the first verse of the text, ‘The meaningful deed of a Nirmanakaya’.  This was followed by an explanation of it with  the ‘deliberate’ passing away of the previous 7th Karmapa, Chodrag Gyatso and the astonishing birth of Mikyo Dorje that was accompanied by many signs and visions.  Then, there was an extensive discussion and consideration of the dispute between the two candidates for the 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje (the Eastern one) and another boy from Amdo (western one). Despite the incredible prodigy and clear signs from the baby and child, Mikyo Dorje, due to the Amdo boy’s father gaining influence and power in the region of the Great Encampment, he was not recognized for some time. This led to Mikyo Dorje becoming poor and destitute and he decided he no longer wanted the title Karmapa and instead would take up the life of  Buddhist student and practitioner. Finally, after an intense examination of both candidates in front of thousands of people, and then under the threat of violence and civil unrest when the Great Encampment people still refused to recognize him as Karmapa, as well as a clear dream of the 2nd Gyaltsab Rinpoche indicating that Mikyo Dorje was the correct one, he was enthroned.

This account, with detailed stories given by the 17th Karmapa, is interesting to hear not only historically but also as a lesson in spiritual accomplishments and previous life recollection. Tales of the baby speaking words and reciting mantras, the young toddler boy identifying previous students of the 7th Karmapa on meeting them and adults spontaneously prostrating to him, who had said they would not do so, are inspiring and extraordinary indeed. 

Below is a full, edited transcript of the teaching. I have added extensive footnotes to the account from the only detailed, academic study on the life of the 8th Karmapa by Jim Rheingans (2017). The 17th Karmapa’s account is different in some areas but also adds details that are not in Rheingans research.

May this story provide all with inspiration and devotion to the 8th Karmapa and Karmapa lineage, and may all attain that level of realization and accomplishment!

Compiled and written by Adele Tomlin, 19th February 2021.

Good Deeds teaching by 17th Karmapa Day 3

First Good Deed and the Passing Away of the 7th Karmapa

“So the point we have come to is the second section of the ‘Good Deeds’, called the ‘Nature of the Liberation-Story (Biography)’. First, there are the preliminaries on how to enter the Dharma. There are six different sub-divisions, to introduce these different points. The first is ‘A meaningful deed of a Supreme Nirmanakaya’ (see root stanza).

དལ་འབྱོོར་རྙེེད་དཀའ་ཐོོབ་དུས་དོོན་མེེད་དུ། །
གཏོོང་མ་ཕོོད་པར་སྒོོ་གསུམ་དམ་ཆོོས་ལ། །
རྩེེ་གཅིིག་སངས་རྒྱས་བཀའ་བཞིིན་ཅིི་ནུས་བསྒྲུབས། །
ལོོག་བློོ་སྐྱེེས་ཚད་དྲག་པོོས་ཚར་གཅོོད་བྱས། །
འདིི་ཡང་བདག་གིི་ལེེགས་སྤྱད་ཡིིན་སྙམ་བགྱིིད། །
(1) Once I had gained a human life with leisures and resources,
I dared not squander it pointlessly. With single-minded focus,
I did all I could to practice dharma just as the Buddha taught.
I subjugated forcefully any wrong thought that arose.
I think of this as one of my good deeds.

What this verse teaches is how Mikyo Dorje took birth in a human body and took the three sets of vows, how he focuses his body, speech and mind in order to practice virtue and how he made his human life meaningful. There are thirty-three of these deeds and this is the first of the thirty-threerd.Generally, in order to talk about how Mikyo Dorje took birth in a human body we need to talk about the 7th Karmapa, Chodrag Gyatso.

7th Karmapa, Chodrag Gyatso (1454-1506)

Generally, Chodrag Gyatso has a pure vision of the dakinis and gurus, in particular of Padma sambhava and made a prophecy that if he did a three year retreat and did the appropriate practices, he would be able to live to the age of eighty-eight. He spent a few months in retreat and had plans to send a long time in retreat but the people in Kongpo had a great desire to have an audience with him. So, the people in the Great Encampment were not getting many offerings because he was in retreat and were running out of food and provisions, and thus made the request repeatedly. So, Chodrag Gyatso said, “if you have a cow, you can milk it or you can eat it, so are you going to eat it? Are you choosing to eat the meat without milking the cow?”

Then, he left his retreat on the 7th Day of the 1st month of the Tiger Year and on the 14th day, there was a gathering of about 100 000 people from the area of Kongpo. In that gathering Chodrag Gyatso said,” I have now dissolved my Nirmanakaya and so now this is my Sambhogakaya form” and he put on a crown made of pearls and pearl jewelry and wearing these he granted an audience. The next morning, when the sun was just about to arise, without any sickness at all, he passed away. Before he passed away, he left a last testament that was a few verses long. I won’t say it all, it says “I have no birth but I have a birth” and so on[2]. Also, he wrote several scrolls where he would be reborn, the names of his parents and so on and said give this to 2nd Gyaltsab and 3rd Tai Situ Rinpoche, and wrote on them (although they didn’t have in envelopes then)  who they were for. It is said to be like that.

The birth of Mikyo Dorje, 8th Karmapa
8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje (Image: Rumtek Monastery)

Father’s and Mother’s names

Now I will explain about the conception and birth of the 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje and the region where he was born. (The Karmapa mentioned that he wanted to give the names of the places of the 6th Karmapa but hadn’t had time to prepare that but would prepare it for tomorrow). His birthplace is in a location called Upper  Do kham, near the monastic seat of Karma monastery[3]. In the valley where the 6th Karmapa was born, in that area was another valley in an area called Khatipug, and there was a village called Satham[4]. His father was called Jampa [gSer Bya bral Byams pa bshes gnyen], and everyone called him Dali[5].  His mother was the Gr anddaughter of a disciple of Dhezhin Shegpa, called Kachopa Namkha Gyaltsen, who was a great mahasiddha, she was his Granddaughter. Her name was Lama Dron [Bla ma sGron][6].

Karma Gon monastery, Tibet

There is a little bit of debate about who Mikyo Dorje’s father was. Some say it was Ser Jadral Jampa and in some of the biographies it says A Jam. Some say it was both. In Mikyo Dorje’s Autobiographical Account of the Past Actions of Mikyo Dorje [Mi bskyod rdo rje’i spyad pa’i rabs][7]. In that text, he says that his father is Serjadral Jampa who received teachings on the Mahamudra from the 7th Karmapa, Chodrag Gyatso. It could be that Mikyo Dorje was just his biological son, the father who was  the head of the family who actually raised him was A Jam, so there is a bit of debate about who his father actually was.

White Conchs – auspicious dreams and signs and speaking from the womb

“On the 10th Day of the 12th Lunar month of the female hare year, there was a sphere of light that fell onto the roof of the house and came in through the windows and made a big sound and inside the house they stayed in there a long time. It was like the sun had dawned and shining inside the house and all the members of the family saw it. That was probably the time that Mikyo Dorje entered his mother’s womb and so this is what his mother and father decided the moment of conception, this  is not something you can test the way you can today.

When he entered his mother’s womb, she had many wondrous dreams and signs. I cannot tell you all these today, but I can give you an example. When he entered his mother’s womb, his mother had a dream that there was a mountain in front of their house and in front of that there was a large plain covered with colorful flowers, in the middle of which was a beautiful tent. Inside of that there were all sorts of statues and sacred texts and many infinite varieties of offerings. This is what she dreamed. Then, inside and outside of the tent, there were pieces of white conch that were like in the shape of stupas and these fell like a rain. Around the mountain there was like a tent of rainbows and a turquoise colour mist floating around. Around the tent, were many different boys and girls adorned with jewels, carrying many ornaments, like cymbals and other offerings, and dancing and singing, going around the tent. His mother also had on many different bone ornaments and was dancinh. In the tent, among all the offerings was a golden vajra. She dreamt that she took it in her hand.

She also saw another woman who had glossy black locks, wearing white cotton dress (like a repa) and had an extremely beautiful white conch. Then the mother took the conch shell and when she blew it, the sound of that conch was so beautiful and lasted a very long time and it was very loud and that’s how it seemed to her in the dream. Then inside of the tent was a throne, on top of which was a monk. The monk said to her: ‘Everyone in India and Tibet and everyone here has heard the sound of the conch that you blew.’ Outside of the tent many people had gathered. She dreamt that the father, A Jam was carrying a Mani prayer wheel and leading everyone in singing the Mani mantra, he would begin and everyone would join him in singing the melody. Then, the monk on the throne who had spoken to her earlier, gave his mother a mala, and that was made out of conch and he said ‘you recite mani with this’. So his mother had this experience and she began to recite manis, then immediately everyone around her gathered and joined her and there was a cacophony of sound of the Mani recitation, Then, within that she woke up, yet she still had the feeling that the mala she had been given was still in her hand and she could still hear the sound of people reciting the six syllable Mani mantras. When she had these feelings it was like her whole body was being caressed and full of bliss and pleasure and she felt great joy. She had many amazing dreams like that one.

What I need to introduce you all to here, is that when most of the Karmapas took birth, the parents and other people had many different visions, and one of these is they are often related to white conch shells. Such as blowing or finding a white conch, this happened for most of the rebirths of the Karmapas. This is a particular sign of the Gyalwang Karmapa being born in that family and house.

So from the time he entered the womb until he was born, everywhere inside and outside their home, there was always a sound of people reading scripture and doing rituals. Everyone in the family heard this and when they saw his mother, many people saw her radiating light of a rainbow. Then one day, his mother went to get firewood (the word for firewood in Tibetan is an old dialect word, in my own language we would burn fire not always wood, but called Suru. Also, sometimes it was in my region we would gather bundles of grass and tied them together.) So one day his mother went out to do that and lay down, feeling tired. She then heard a voice, saying ‘Don’t stay there keep going, it’s going to hail’ and she heard a sister say ‘don’t stay there, it will hail’ it was a high voice saying this. The mother thought is that my dead sister saying this to me now born as a ghost? She asked someone sitting next to her, ‘did you say something?’ They said, ‘no I didn’t’.  However, they went home quickly, and as soon as they got inside a really big hailstorm started.

Then, one afternoon, his mother heard a really clear sound of Om Mani Padme Hum coming from her belly and a nun also heard it. Another unusual story is one time, the mother and father had a big row and he picked up a frying pan and threw it at her, hitting the mother with it, and a sound came from the mother’s stomach saying ‘you don’t need to do that to the mother and child’. Everyone in the family heard the voice clearly. Generally, for ordinary people when a baby is in the womb they can’t speak but through miracles he had to speak like that.

That was about his mother, so in terms of his father, he went to the fields and he saw many people and pack animals, and among them was a person with young white mule carrying a box and he was wearing bone ornaments. And he had a bag with speared objects and he gave them and out it in his bag and it disappeared. The father felt like this situation had actually happened. When he got home, he said I saw this sort of person and I had the vision of him giving me but I have no idea what happened and they all disappeared. Everyone said ‘oh you must have met a ghost’ and they immediately started doing repulsion and other rituals. This is another story that happened. Not only that, even the neighbouring villagers also had wondrous dreams and it happened quite frequently.”

The birth of Mikyo Dorje
Thangka of 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje

In brief, the date of Mikyo Dorje’s birth was the 4th day of the 11th Lunar month of the female fire hare year, 1507[8], that day his mother gave birth without any discomfort or suffering at all, and he suddenly sat up and wiped his face and yawned a little and said, not very clearly, ‘I am the Karmapa’ two or three times. At that time, on the day he was born, the sky was filled with rainbows, there was a rain of flowers, scent of incense wafted and in particular, from the roof of the house was a rainbow that rose like a column up into the sky. Also, his mother gave off many scents for many days. The day he was born, Emperor Chang De (old histories say Ching de)’s coronation was the same day as Mikyo Dorje’s birth. The reason I mention this is because he was a little bit different than others as he himself said that Mikyo Dorje was the incarnation of the Karmapa and sent messengers with gold and letters inviting Mikyo Dorje to China. (There is a lot of history about that but I will speak about that the day after tomorrow. These are not so much recorded in Tibetan but there is a lot about it in Chinese. So I thought I would compile it all and explain it to you.)

So after he was born, in Mikyo Dorje’s own account Past Actions said: ‘because I said Om Mani Padme Hum, Karma Karmapa, and A ah ee ei,[9] some of the people gathered there and said this birth is the rebirth of the omniscient Chodrag Gyatso.’ Mikyo Dorje reported that himself. After he was born, many people just spontaneously came to see him without any information. As he was born in Ngom, they came there and there were a lot of rumours he had been reborn there. The fame of this naturally spread all over.

3rd Tai Situpa’s visit
3rd Tai Situ Rinpoche, Tashi Paljor (18th Century thangka, painted by 8th Tai Situ) The 3rd Kenting Tai Situpa Tashi Paljor (palpung.org)

On the 13th day of the same month he was born, the 3rd Tai Situ Tashi Paljor came to that same area. When the father went to see Situ he told him, I have an amazing baby born in my family who says himself he is the Karmapa. As soon as he said that, Situ had the prediction letter from the 7th Karmapa and he asked the father some questions, like ‘what are the parents names, on the top of the house is there Cyprus wood, is there a spring below it and does the door of the house face East? ‘ The father replied affirmatively to all those questions and gave the names of himself and the mother.

So Situ said your names are not the same, but everything else is the same, because according to the letter given to him by the 7th Karmapa, the father should be called Jampa and the mother should be called Lama Tso. (As I mentioned before there was a little bit of debate about the father’s name, but they both have the same spelling Jam in their names but they are not 100% the same. So I think it’s probably Ser Jadrel Jampa). As Mikyo Dorje was born in an obstacle year, there would be a big obstacle to his life, so Situ told him to keep it secret until the third month of the year of the Dragon and gave him other instructions, seven sacred relic pills, cloth, tub of butter and brick of tea, a handful of incense with black and white mixed together. He said ‘burn this incense and give him the pills to eat. If he is the tulku nothing will happen, if he is not then there will be a sign tomorrow. It’s possible he may say a few things tonight, if he does just come back here to see me again.’

So the father did as Situ suggested and burned incense and put sacred pills in his mouth etc and then the tulku at that point said, these gifts are a little bit late, Emaho!  Do not have any doubt in me, I am the Karmapa![10] Then after this, the Situ Rinpoche sent a patron called Tsokye to examine him. There many people gathered around and the tulku said the six syllable mantra seven times.  The place was very near to a monastery called Ngom Sa monastery. This is founded by a Karma Kagyu student but at that point it was in the Gelug lineage. The monks said ‘we won’t be partisan for the Gelugpa, the master of our monastery is the Karmapa, so tomorrow let’s get some tea and butter and go and see Dali’s son and see who he is’. When the monks arrived he was very happy and said the Mani mantra and Ali kali mantra and so on and everyone there said ‘it’s so amazing that a new born baby can speak like that! We go for refuge!’ and they felt faith in him.

Later, maybe three months after that, the tulku had two tiny teeth that were the size of mustard seed. The father touched the teeth and said, ‘oh you’ve got these two new teeth, these must be monster teeth for eating your new siblings right?’ Then that same night, the two teeth disappeared. From that time on, his tongue became a little inflexible and later his speech a little bit awkward. This speech impediment continues later into his life.

In brief, the main point is this, from the time he was born he spoke in verse, prose, he identified monks and others from the past, he could tell the stories of people he had never met before, he said mantras like the Mani one, he sat cross-legged, he had many different expressions of his body, speech and mind that inspired belief in all who saw them. I don’t have time to relate them all now.

The Karmapa was undisputed to everyone and in that region the most powerful and wealthy area of that monastery, one was Riwoche, one was Floran, the other Gadunpa. He was invited to Riwoche and Floran.  When he was seven  months old he went to Riwoche, this was  major Seat of Taglung[11]. Riwoche at that time, was very nice to him and took care of him. Later, there when there were two tulku candidates, eastern and western, then Riwoche Jigten Wangchug gave unconditional support to Mikyo Dorje, the eastern one.

However, in the Past Actions by Mikyo Dorje, he says that Jigten Wangchug was a bit violent, he had a big military gathering every year and did other violent activities, and because of that, even though he didn’t lose faith in Mikyo Dorje, his faith was not much stronger than going for refuge. Yet, when Mikyo Dorje was younger, he had a dream about a house, and when he went into the house and went upstairs and in the middle of that room he saw on a lotus and moon seat, Riwoche Jigten Wangchug as the body of Chenrezig shining rays of light. When he woke up from this dream, he thought, even though Riwoche Jigten Wangchug had already passed away and when he was alive had engaged in a lot of war and so on, the people around whether they were Kagyu, Gelug, Sakya, Botong had faith in him and treated him as if he were Chenrezig. They would join their hands between their forehead and heart and had such faith in him. So this dream happened when he was 31 years old. When he was a baby and Jigten Wangchug examined him, he said there is no need to have any doubt this is Karmapa and then he offered lots of service well to mother and child and introduced them to the community of Floran. When he was 9 months old he was brought to Lhorong Dzong[12].

The Dispute about the Incarnation and the 2nd Gyaltsab Rinpoche

Before Mikyo Dorje was enthroned as the Karmapa, there were two candidates who were said to be the incarnation of Karmapa[13]. One was born in Ngom (Mikyo Dorje) and the other in Kongpo. Some people think that this is similar to situation of the 16th Karmapa’s tulku and that this kind of situation is unprecedented and can’t get their minds around it. However, it has happened before in history.

At the time of Mikyo Dorje, there was the Great Encampment and that had not yet disbursed, and this was not only well know in Central Tibet but throughout all Tibet, the main centre of Karma Kagyu was the Kagyu Garchen, so if someone is not recognized by those of the Karma Garchen, there is no way that person could be recognized as the Karmapa[14]

Mikyo Dorje had been reborn and not only that, it had become widely known in the area of Kham that he was the incarnation of the Karmapa. So how did it come about that he had to be examined and this dispute arise? Now in the Garchen the representative of Mikyo Dorje was the 2nd Gyaltsab Rinpoche, Tashi Namgyal. One day there was a lama called Lama Sonam who came to Gyaltsab Rinpoche and he said: ‘I have some good news for you, people say these days ‘good news’ or I have good tidings. Last night someone came to me and told me that it is certain that the reincarnate of Chodrag Gyatso was reborn in the area of Ngom.’ So he came to give the good news to Gyaltsab Rinpoche. When he did that the sun shone on the tent and the tea that had just been poured into his cup and these three all happened at the same time. Gyaltsab Rinpoche thought that is good interdependence signs.

However, at that time, there was an Amdo lama who was kind of a crafty and audacious chap who had a son. When the son was born the parents had some good dreams and signs, so they trained the child to say I am the tulku, they took him to the area of Kongpo Drag Sum to say he was the Karmapa’s reincarnation. As the Amdo lama was a bit crafty, most of the people in the Great Encampment were from Kongpo. So he gave them all a lot of food and beer, and he did many things to get the people from the encampment on his side[15]. Not only that, there was a student of the 7th Karmapa called Gyalse Thobden whom he invited and got him to recognize the Amdo one as the incarnation of 7th Karmapa. Gyalse Thobden must have pretended it was, as one or two months later he passed away.

So when Gyaltsab Rinpoche read the letter left to him by 7th Karmapa, great devotion arose in him for the tulku in Ngom. However, most of the people in the encampment were on the side of the people in the encampment, so Gyaltsab Rinpoche had to go to Kongpo Drag Sum and had no choice to visit the Amdo tulku. He gave three katag [Rheingans’ account says ‘three gifts’] to the Amdo Tulku and each of them the tulku gave back ,and he felt this was not such a good sign or interdependence.  (These days, people immediately give the katag back, but before if you give back then you would give another one and so it would be disrespectful. However, these days no one knows about doing that.)

In any case, Gyaltsab Rinpoche from the very beginning he did not feel good about the Amdo tulku but Tashi Dondrub was head of the encampment and they talked about it and invited the Amdo Tulku to Kongpo Tselhang. This is an important place and the reason it is so, is where all the treasures of the first six Karmapas were kept in the Kongpo Treasury, so it is an important monastery, and he had the Amdo tulku do a bit of a retreat there.  When Gyaltsab Rinpoche examined his dream,  in the west all the areas were black and unpleasant and all regions to east were filled with light and beautiful. Likewise, he dreamt there was s a lion who could not roar but in the East there was a huge dragon, which when it roared turned the lion in the West into a white dog immediately.[16]

Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa

For these reasons,  he told Rongpo Lama Tulku that the eastern tulku was the Karmapa. Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa [for more on Pawo lineage see here ] when he was 9 years old went to Tugchen monastery founded by 7th Karmapa near Lhasa and there was a head discipline master, Trimpon, Denma Goshri. (At that time there were these discipline masters in the Great Encampment. So for example, at that time, Sangye Nyenpa Drubthob also had experience as a discipline master). Denma Goshri had a conversation with Pawo: ‘does this tulku’s father have good or bad character ? If he is then OK, if he doesn’t then it is not easy. The father of the Kongpo Drag Sum tulku is really bad and crafty. If the father is very talented, then making a tulku is easy. Why is that? Because if you ask other people if they remember or not, they will say they remember, if you ask them do you know me? They say yes.  If you ask do you not remember they say, no. Other than that, don’t need anything else. The child just needs a few words or sentences to be a tulku. The father is extremely bad and conniving.’ They had that conversation. Clever people who don’t know say they had no doubt that  the western candidate is Karmapa only because the father is doing such things. This is what Pawo Trengwa wrote himself, the people in the know, thought it was the western one.

Mikyo Dorje became poor and sick and did not want the title ‘Karmapa’

However, the actual situation that happened at that time there was Desi Phagmo and Depa Karpo Tsangpa and also Gyaltsab Tulku and Rinpoches from Tsurphu and Karma Gon, who took a great interest in the son of the Amdo lama, but no one took interest in the family of the eastern  tulku, Mikyo Dorje. So the family became like beggars because no one helped them[17]. Most of the Karmapas had been recognized very young and enthroned. However, with the 8th Karmapa no one took care of him until he was 7 years old and he didn’t have food and clothing. This only happened to Mikyo Dorje and not to his predecessors. Likewise, Mikyo Dorje several times had illnesses that almost caused his death.

At that time Mikyo Dorje thought to himself when he was very young, ‘these days, once named a rebirth or tulku, you can’t do anything for the sake of future lives and have to spend the whole time working for this lifetime. You are under the control of attendants and stewards and are caught in the great mire of suffering. So let that Amdo Tulku be taken care of. Let me be considered an ordinary person and if I am not given the name Karmapa I will go to a monastery in central Tibet and practice study and contemplation in the same way as previous masters did. In that way, I will do whatever I can to restore the teachings that have been lost.’ He thought: ‘ I don’t have to be the Karmapa, it’s nice.’ So he was kind of happy about it, he told others this later.

Mahakala says it is Mikyo Dorje

At that time, many students of previous Karmapa said they did the divination and that point there wasn’t a particular person , so they did a ritual where Mahakala Berchen bless him and possess him . That was the custom at that time where good yogis became possessed by Mahakala, and when that happened he said ‘this eastern tulku is someone who everyone will recognize as the Karmapa’[18].

Also at that time, some great masters who were known to have Samadhi and clairvoyance and visions of deities and so on, they said the eastern tulku is the Karmapa. Likewise, the western tulku was examined, they couldn’t find any reasons for him being the incarnation when they examined him[19].

All the areas where Mikyo Dorje had been born also sent a letter to the encampment saying that is the Karmapa, and this eastern tulku was invited by Gyaltsab Rinpoce[20] to the encampment  and he sent people to welcome him and be incense bearers[21]. The representatives from the encampment said ‘we have not decided who is the tulku and we are going as representatives of the Karmapa and made a rule not to of offer anything, like katags or prostrate.  In the time of the Buddha the good group of five, his five first disciples, when they practiced austerities together and the group of five were disappointed Buddha left and made a rule they would not prostrate, no welcome, give a mat for him, nor let him sit at the head, when they met Buddha all these rules were forgotten. In the same way, as soon as these people met Mikyo Dorje they prostrated, offered and praised and did everything they said they would not do. Also, Mikyo Dorje recognized all the old students of the 7th Karmapa and called them by their names, and they all remembered the time of the 7th Karmapa and shed tears out of faith, supplicated and praised him and all was filled with joyous noise.

Meeting 2nd Gyaltsab Rinpoche

On the 1st day, 1st month of the year of the bird (1513) he met the 2nd Gyaltsab Rinpoche[22]. At that point, Gyaltsab Rinpoche said to this eastern tulku, ‘do you recognize me?, who am I? Are the tents and the arrangements the same as they were in the past? Do you know who the master of these tents is?’ The tulku said ‘Oh I recognize you!’ You are Goshri aren’t you? You’ve let your hair grow long now. It wasn’t as long before, so don’t be so nervous. The arrangement of the tents is just like before. You are the master of the tent, aren’t you?’

 At that point, during Losar ceremony probably, the 7th Karmapa’s throne and canopy and so on were all arranged and then Mikyo Dorje put his foot up to go up on the throne and everyone panicked and tried to stop him. He had these kind of amazing qualities and confidence but still the monks from the encampment said we still don’t know who it is, him or the Amdo boy. He told Akhu Atra,who  was a student of 7th Karmapa and secretary of the encampment, ‘I have some opinions I would like to share with you. None of the students know how to make any plans. I have shown so many signs of my past lives, but none of you understand anything. No matter what I show. Still you keep saying should we recognize this one or that one, how will you decide? What good will come of it? Even Gyaltsab Rinpoche does not have anything definite to say. If you are not confident in your boss/leader then go and ask him? So they asked him how should we decide. You need to decide in your own mind.’ Mikyo Dorje said this. He was 7 years old in Tibetan years, but in western years he was 5 years old, and had such power of speech and confidence and diligence to speak that way.

Both examined in front of thousands of people

As they couldn’t decide,  they brought both tulkus together at same time and thousands of people gathered and they asked them questions about Dharma and worldly affairs, such as who were the students of 7th Karmapa, which teacup was the 7th Karmapa’s etc. sometimes trying to threaten and scare them. When they did this, the Amdo tulku was 7 years old by western counting, yet he only knew his father and mothers name, food and clothing but nothing else. Also, whenever he was asked to recognize an object he would just pick whatever was near and sometimes start crying. The Amdo tulku’s father was very crafty and he had some bodyguards and ngagpas and tantrikas and made them do rituals and sounds, trying to make the eastern tulku [Mikyo Dorje] afraid and scare him and he wasn’t afraid in fact he was quite bored that day. He thought there was no point to it all. He didn’t recognize the objects, the western tulku had a whole table of things he took away. So all the servants and supporters said we’ve won and did horse races and pujas[23].

Threats of Violence  and War

Afterwards, the Mikyo Dorje supporters asked, how did that happen? They said the Amdo lama had them under his thumb because he gave them beer, butter and food. So Gyaltsab Rinpoche couldn’t do anything about it at all. It was very difficult for Gyaltsab Rinpoche at that time[24]. We can talk about it more later. He just couldn’t stop it. So Gyaltsab suggested they take  the eastern tulku back to his region and nothing will happen. The Karmapa’s supporters from Lhorong and Gyaron, objected to this strongly and said ‘it’s definite he is the tulku and if you don’t enthrone him,  we will go to war with the western tulku supporters and we will kill them all off.’ So then the encampment got a bit afraid that the Khampas might  finish them all off [Karmapa laughs] and said to Gyaltsab R OK we will do what you want[25].

Gyaltsab Rinpoche’s Dream of Dakinis

Then, the last thing Gyaltsab  Rinpoche did, on the last day of the 2nd month, he prayed to the yidam and deities to consider which was the tulku. In the dream, the eastern tulku Mikyo Dorje came to him in a slightly offended manner and said: ‘You seem to still have doubts about me, so what can I do for you? Do what you have to do.’ He stood in front of Gyaltsab Rinpoche, who thought  ‘it’s been a long time since the tulku arrived, we didn’t let him get on the throne, he’s probably offended. He doesn’t even have a cushion, where is the best cushion, then immediately he saw there was a seat, and he said: ‘please sit here’,’ but in the dream, the tulku didn’t listen nor sit down. Instead, he left the tent and went to his own tent. That was the vision Gyaltsab Rinpoche had in his dream.

Then, a little later in the dream, a white coloured woman with matted locks, wearing robes of white silk, came in front of Gyaltsab Rinpoche with a huge and amazing white conch that he had never seen like before. It was so big that two people would not be able to carry it, but she was carrying it on her right shoulder. She came to Gyaltsab and said, ‘I have blown this conch in every land and its sound has been heard in every land. Yet you are still not taking care of this conch, so what is that all about? Even if I thought about blowing this conch again, I cannot.’ Then, she left with the conch on her shoulder and went off in the direction where the tulku had gone.

Then, a little after that, a woman with reddish skin and brown hair and big, blood shot eyes, with quite a wrathful appearance said to him: ‘Don’t only listen to lies. If you only listen to lies there is a danger you will have a bad strength and get very sick.’ Thus, she warned him of the dangers and went away.  At that point Gyaltsab Rinpoche developed the faith that the eastern tulku was the unmistaken Karmapa[26].

Enthronement of Mikyo Dorje as 8th Karmapa

The dream happened on the 30th day, an auspicious day, so everyone invited the eastern tulku and did the enthronement ceremony on that very same day[27]. Everyone then felt faith and said, “Wow something happened to us, were we possessed and under the influence of the demons? How did this happen? How did we make such a mistake like this?” In any case, finally the eastern tulku was recognized at the incarnation of the 7th Karmapa.

What happened to the western candidate? Mikyo Dorje had said before [when he was 5 years old] , that ‘he is not the Karmapa, he is a tulku of Zurmang’. For that reason, later the western tulku became recognized as the Surmang Chetsang Tulku and stayed at the Dral Silug monastery. Mikyo Dorje thought he should do something nice for the Amdo lama, but he just disappeared and ran away. No-one knew where he went. It is written that things did not go so well for him later though[28].

This is a brief presentation of how the decision between the eastern and western tulkus. I will speak about the birthplaces and birth dates of the first six Karmapas the day after tomorrow.”


[1] “The phrase mi rnams la yid chad pas may also be read as yid chad yod pas = ‘the people have broken faith’. 58 A khu A khra, fol. 25b.”

[2] This quote is given in Rheingans (2017:72): ‘I am unborn and yet show birth, I do not abide and yet show abiding, there is no death and yet I show dying; and again, though there is no birth, I show [re]birth. bdag ni skye ba med la skye tshul ston/ /gnas pa med la gnas tshul ston/ /’chi ba med la ‘chi ba’i tshul ston/ /slar yang skye ba med la skye tshul bstan/)

[3] “Twenty years after he had established Kampo Nenang, Dusum Khyenpa created a second major seat, nestled among the hills alongside the banks of the Dzachu River in Chamdo, Kham. Until the Eighth Tai Situpa (1700-1774) founded his own seat at Palpung Monastery in the 18th century, Karma Gön was the main center of the activities of the Situpa reincarnation line. The very first Tai Situpa (1377-1448) was appointed the principal teacher of Karma Gön, and subsequent Tai Situpas accepted primary responsibility for the care of Karma Gön. Through the sustained Karma Kagyu interest in the arts, of which Tai Situpas were particularly talented examples, over the centuries Karma Gön came to be richly embellished with murals, statues and  thangkas. Its library housed a fine collection of Sanskrit texts, and was among the largest in Tibet. Largely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, efforts are underway today to rebuild Karma Gön in Tibet, even as its Karma Kagyu monks maintain the continuity of practice there.” The Great Monastic Seats of the Karmapa – KTD (kagyu.org)

[4] Rheingans (2017: 72) The infant who would later become Karmapa Mi bskyod rdo rje was born on the fourth day of the eleventh month of the fire hare year (1507) in Eastern Tibet in today’s Chab mdo prefecture, close to the Ngom chu river.4 The area was called Kar ti phug in a village called Sa tam. To the north laid the main Karma bKa’ brgyud seat in Eastern Tibet, Karma dgon. To the southwest, the sTag lung bKa’ brgyud seat Ri bo che.5

[5] 2017:73: “The father had apparently received Great Seal teachings from the Seventh Karmapa and descended from the patrilineage (gdungs) of the nine generals of the time of the Sa skya hierarch ’Gro dgon ’phags pa (1235–1280) (ibid. fol. 1b/p.251). As the boy is sometimes (ibid. fol. 13a /p. 57) called “Son of lDag li” (ldag li’i bu) or “Father and Son Lho rong Nang so pa” (lho rong nang so yab sras), these two names of the Karmapa’s father may be added.”

[6] 2017:73: A khu A khra, fol. 5b (p. 42). According to his spiritual memoir (Mi bskyod rdo rje’i spyad pa’i rabs, fol. 1b/p. 251) the father was gSer Bya bral Byams pa bshes gnyen and the mother is called Bla ma sgron, identified with an attendant of Birwapa, when he was invited by the Chinese emperor.

[7] 2017: 63: “Mi bskyod rdo rje’i spyad pa’i rabs85 (19 fols) begins with an autobiographical summary of the Karmapa’s life up to his fortieth year (1546). Therein he briefly describes how he attended his teachers and lists his compositions. This list is a valuable resource (next to the dKar chag) for determining the content and authenticity of the Eighth Karmapa’s writings and is used throughout the thesis. The full title being: Byang phyogs ‘di na karma pa/ /rim par byon las bdun pa rang byung ni/ /kun mkhyen chos rje’i slob mar gyur ‘ga’ yi’/ /bka’ ‘bangs mi bskyod rdo rje’i spyad pa’i rabs, Collected Works of the Eighth Karmapa, vol. 1, pp. 350–387.

[8] 2017: 74,fn 4: “A khu A khra, fol. 9b (p. 50) simply states ‘eleventh month’ (zla ba bcu gcig pa). Kaṃ tshang, p. 302, has the fourth day of the eleventh hor month as the Karmapa’s birthday. If one were to transpose this information, it is likely the seventh of December 1507. We can assume – with good reason – that these dates are given according to the mTshur phu astrological tradition used by scholars of the Karma bKa’ brgyud tradition, where the eleventh hor month is the first (lunar) winter month; in this cycle it would also hold true for the Phug pa calclulation (see Schuh 1973 and Vogel 1964: 225–226, for the Tibetan calendar and the sexagenary cycle; see Henning 2007: 337–339, for the Kālacakra and the mTshur phu tradition). According to Schuh’s calculation (1973: 123 of the table), the Kālacakra byed rtsis (which, to some extent forms the basis of the mTshur phu calculations), the eleventh month start with the 4.12.1507 of our calendar, which makes the fourth day of this month the 7.12.1507.

[9] Ibid, fn7: A khu A khra, fol. 9b (p. 50), mentions that he has uttered this phrase three times, whereas mKhas pa’i dga’ ston (p. 1212) wrote he said it twice. According to his spiritual memoir the Karmapa said: ‘om ma ṇi pad me huṃ’, ‘Karmapa, Karmapa’ and ‘a, ā, i, ī’ (Mi bskyod rdo rje’i spyad pa’i rabs, fol. 1b/p. 351).

[10] “The father did accordingly and said: ‘If you are the rebirth of the Karmapa, Karma Si tu pa will bring you clothes and invite you for tea; therefore clothes and tea invitation are marginal and can be left for later!’ The boy replied: ‘E ma ho! Do not harbour doubts about me; I am [the one] called the Karmapa. Ibid. fol. 10a–b (p. 51–52): khyed karma pa’i sku skye yin na/ karma si tu bas khyed la na bza’ ja ‘dren dang bcas pa bskur byas pas/ na [fol. 10b] bza’ ja ‘dren yang zur ‘phyis gsung nas/ e ma ho/ nga la the tshom ma byed dang/ /nga ni karma pa zhes bya/ zhes gsungs/. The translation for zur ‘phyis is free, as a spelling error is suspected. The meaning used was supported by mKhan po Nges don (oral communication, March 2007). Sangs rgyas dpal grub, fol. 8a (p. 164), adds that the event took place nine days after the birth on the thirteenth day of the month. Later tradition considered the whole event important; Thinley (1980: 89) reports comparatively extensively on it (one assumes he used the mKhas pa’i dga’ ston for this passage). Following this, the spiritual biographies relate events in support of the boy being the re-embodiment of the Seventh Karmapa, such as recognising students and ritual implements from his past life and showing signs of remarkable spiritual abilities (A khu A khra, fol. 17b/p. 66).

[11] 2017: 74: fn 13:  “It is not entirely clear from the sources whether he actually went to the places of Ri bo che and Lho rong respectively, or whether these two persons invited him while being in another place. Ri bo che, however, is quite close to the area of his birth: the temple of Ri bo che was founded in 1246 by Sangs rgyas ’on, third lineage holder and abbot of the sTag lung branch of the bKa’ brgyud school (Dorje 1999: 391). The area, and the town of Lho rong, is southeast of the Karmapa’s birth place in Ngom, and further south than Ri bo che (ibid. 403).”

[12] 2017: 74: “ It is not entirely clear from the sources whether he actually went to the places of Ri bo che and Lho rong respectively, or whether these two persons invited him while being in another place. Ri bo che, however, is quite close to the area of his birth: the temple of Ri bo che was founded in 1246 by Sangs rgyas ’on, third lineage holder and abbot of the sTag lung branch of the bKa’ brgyud school (Dorje 1999: 391). The area, and the town of Lho rong, is southeast of the Karmapa’s birth place in Ngom, and further south than Ri bo che (ibid. 403).

[13] For a detailed academic analysis of this dispute, see Rheinghans (2017: 75-83).”

[14] 75-76: “Sources indicate the rival candidate’s party had the political support of the Phag mo gru pa regents (such as Ngag dbang bKra shis grags pa, 1488–1564) and their priests (yon mchod), the rGyal tshab Rin po che and mTshur pu monks, and what is more, the powerful Rin spungs pa general, Don yod rdo rje. Thus, the most powerful and wealthy patrons along with the encampment lamas and monks had become partial to the western candidate.20 As the Fourth Zhwa dmar pa had relations with both the conflicting Phag mo gru and Rin spungs pa parties21, it is important to briefly survey his role in the process of determining the Karmapa. Fn 20: 0 Sangs rgyas dpal grub, fol. 10a (p. 168). Sangs rgyas dpal grub is the only source explicitly mentioning this political support. Interestingly, here the rGyal tshab Rin po che (including the monks from mTshur phu in the sGar) is also depicted as supporting the western candidate. This is likely to mean that, as the main lords of Tibet and all the monks in his camp supported the rival candidate, he had to put on a show.”

A passage in the mKhas pa’i dga’ ston indicates the Fourth Zhwa dmar pa, when asked whether he would invite the boy from Kong po brag gsum for tea, declined and mentioned to those in the encampment that the incarnation from the east would be undisputed.22 Still, it appears he assumed a relatively low-key role in the recognition process: he had not met the young Karmapa, and consequently did not act as his principal tutor. This is surprising, as the Zhwa dmar pa had been the main lineage holder after the passing of the Seventh Karmapa, and was a respected spiritual teacher with significant political influence. Yet it might have been precisely this that hindered him in fulfilling his role as the Karmapa’s instructor.

[15] 2017: 75: The boy proclaimed Karmapa-candidate was the son of a Bla ma A mdo ba, residing in Kong po Brags gsum (south-west of Lhasa). At this time, the Karma encampment (sgar), the movable tent village of the previous Karmapa, was probably pitched in the area of Kong po. dPa’ bo rin po che recounts that as the Bla ma A mdo ba had offered those residing in the encampent food and beer (chang), they became partial towards the view that his son was the Karmapa. Fn.12 mKhas pa’i dga’ ston, p. 1216. dPa’ bo’s account of the two incarnations is, in general, more bitter in this matter. He says, for example, that Bla ma A mdo ba was wild.

[16] 2017: 76: A khu A khra, fol. 13bf. (p. 58f.); mKhas pa’i dga’ ston, p. 1216. Previously, while in a retreat in sNye bo sa phug, the rGyal tshab Rin po che had dreamt of a similar scenario: at the right side of a tiger there was a lion who could not roar and the tiger was also unable to roar. While contemplating the nature of the voice of the tiger if the lord of all wild animals, the lion, has no voice, from the left a dragon’s roar pervaded all directions. After the roar sounded, the lion became a white dog and vanished. When, later that day he examined the dream, he concluded that the tiger was him, the lion the western incarnation and the dragon the eastern. He related this to Bla ma gCod pa from Rong po (mKhas pa’i dga’ ston, p. 1216; A khu A khra, fol. 14a /p. 59).

[17] 77-78: “Yet, at this point, Sangs rgyas dpal grub evokes an intense image which may be considered a crucial moment in the Eighth Karmapa’s life, in spite of the eulogical undertones peculiar to spiritual biographies. The supporters (e.g. the people from Ri bo che and Lho rong) of the future Karmapa were poor, and when he fell ill could not even provide him with medicine. The boy contemplated sadly that in these days having the name of an ‘incarnation’ (sprul sku) would be of no benefit for the next life, and it would also seem that, in this life, there was no control over food or clothing. He found it unnecessary to have the name of an incarnation and was delighted about not having it. The boy thus resolved that the only thing that mattered was to seek out a qualified teacher and to determine what the true dharma was and what not, feeling joy in contemplating what fortune it would be to know the Buddhist teachings.” Fn. “According to mKhan po Nges don, this resolve to seek out the teaching was, among other factors, a decisive one for the Karmapa to become one of the most learned among the Karmapas. mKhan po Nges don further commented that he had seen a text putting forth this position. Unfortunately, the title was not remembered (oral communication, March 2007). It is highly likely that the dispute over the incarnation and its underpinnings had a considerable impact on the young Karmapa.”

[18] 2017: 78:  “The event is rounded off with the narrative of an ascetic, a student of the previous Seventh Karmapa, who performed a divination (pra phab) with the aid of Mahākāla. He received a prophecy that all beings would honour and have confidence in this young boy as the Karmapa.” Sangs rgyas dpal grub, fol. 10b (p. 169).

[19] 2017: 78: “The spiritual biographies portray the future Karmapa’s abilities with the often employed topoi of recognising ritual implements such as hats, rosaries, and statues from his predecessors. At the age of nine months (1508) he was invited to the Nam mkha’ mdzod temple in Lho rong rDzong gsar. In his third year (1509) he met dBon po dGa’ ba and when he was four (1510), on his way to Ri bo che, he encountered Ki nog Bla ma bSod nams rin chen. Ki nog Bla ma offered the Karmapa a turquoise and asked him to reveal himself as Karmapa. The boy is said to have answered with a famous utterance, and regular topos: the equation with other important Buddhist masters: ‘Sometimes I am Padmasambhava, sometimes I am Saraha and at other times I am Maitreya.’

Upon his arrival in Ri bo che in 1510, the Karmapa met the local saṅgha and again successfully performed various tests. In sTa shod he related that he would like to go to Kong po, and a letter was prepared for him to go to the encampment. In his fifth year (1511), he proceeded to the area of ’O mo lung where he visited the house of dBon po dGa’ ba. Sources subsequently depict a dialogue asserting the Karmapa’s superiority over his rival, suggesting clairvoyant abilities. dBon po dGa’ ba asked: ‘Is the son of A mdo ba the Karmapa?’ ‘I am Karmapa. The son of A mdo ba is a rebirth of the Zur mang incarnation,’ [Karmapa] answered. [dBon po dGa’ ba asked again:] ‘Is he the one who passed away in rTse Lha khang or the one who passed away in rTsar shis?’ ‘He is the one who passed away in rTsar shis; he is my monk.’ In 1512 the Si tu pa passed away at Karma dgon and some of the monks from the encampment came for the funeral rites, thus establishing some contact.”

[20] 2017: 79 “A khu A khra, fol. 18b (p. 68). The rGyal tshab had given his messengers two envelopes (or covers) with similar appearance. One contained words of truth (bden thob) and the other one was empty. As the young Karmapa, upon arrival of the messengers, chose the one with the words of truth, the messengers developed strong trust.”

[21] 2017: 79: “After the passing of the Si tu pa, the rGyal tshab Rin po che became the crucial person for establishing the Karmapa’s recognition. In the tenth lunar month of the ape year (1512), the Karmapa was invited to the Karma encampment for the first time. Two messengers (Bla ma Ri pa and bDe bzhin gshegs pa’i dbon po) were sent by rGyal tshab Rin po che from the encampment to rDzong gsar, where the young Karmapa abided. In the twelfth lunar month of the same year the Karmapa traveled via ’O lung monastery, ’Brang ra monastery, Ru shod, and Tshang rag gsum mdo to the direction of the encampment in Kong po. As the rival candidate was in the encampment at that time, the conflict over the two reincarnations reached its climax. Again, Bla ma Yang ri pa (who had acted as a messenger earlier) came with many offerings to invite the Karmapa for tea.  The inhabitants of the encampment then decided to greet and invite the Lho rong Go shri, who—among others—was travelling with the Karmapa as attendant. However, a rule had been laid down that no one should offer silk scarves, tea invitations or prostrations to the arriving boy, as it was not yet settled whether he was truly the Karmapa.”

[22] Finally, the Karmapa was received in the encampment on the New Year day of the bird year (1513). Before the sunset, he met the rGyal tshab Rin po che, bKra shis don grub rnam rgyal, for the first time.

[23] 2017: 80: “On this occasion, two sources depict the Karmapa as fearless and compassionate in all circumstances, whereas the second candidate, A mdo ba’s son, is portrayed as crying and confused.4Sangs rgyas dpal grub, fol. 11b (p. 171); mKhas pa’i dga’ ston, p. 1223. One should note that these two sources are written in retrospect. A khu A khra, whose author should have witnessed these events, fails to go into detail regarding the other candidate’s abilities.”

[24] The source mentions that at this point the inhabitants of the encampment had been split into two parties, each supporting one candidate. The rGyal tshab Rin po che tried to reconcile the parties and urged them not to become partial but to be upright and to trust in the analysis (dpyod pa) and careful examination of the candidates. Upon analysis it was revealed that the second candidate—though already seven years old—did not know more words than ‘father, mother, and food and drink’.

[25] 2017:80: “So heated was the atmosphere that the rGyal tshab Rin po che seems to have pondered a possible outbreak of violence. Though he had no doubts as to the identity of the Karmapa, the party supporting the other candidate was politically strong and had powerful allies. On the other hand, the people from Lho rong and rGya ston were fervent adherents of the boy the rGyal tshab had chosen. As no concurrence could be reached, the rGyal tshab suggested to the religious and political heads of the powerful provinces of Lho rong and rGya ston that they might remove the Karmapa from the camp. The inhabitants of these areas and their leaders considered this unacceptable, as the Karmapa had been decided as far as they were concerned, and threatened to drive out the other candidate and his party if they would not agree on the rightful Karmapa. Tensions mounted and the rGyal tshab worried that, if he did not enthrone the eastern boy and future Karmapa, some of his supporters might be tempted to start a war. Finally, adherents of the second candidate made concessions and informed the rGyal thsab they would concur. Specific reasons are not given, though it must be noted that Don yod rdo rje had just passed away in 1512.”

[26] 81: “On the thirtieth day of the first lunar month, he dreamt that the Karmapa himself (the eastern candidate) urged the rGyal tshab Rin po che to end the dispute which was underlined by the symbolic appearance of a white and a red ḍākinī. They incited him to let the truth be known and staunch the spread of lies. The rGyal tshab Rin po che, probably under enormous political and spiritual pressure to take a public decision, resolved to enthrone the eastern candidate and confer upon him the title of Karmapa.”

[27] 2017: 82: “In the morning light of the eleventh day of the second lunar month of the bird year (1513), the boy from the East ascended the throne of his predecessor. He received the black hat, symbol of the Karmapas, and the title ‘Victorious Great Karmapa’ (rgyal ba karma pa chen po). The rGyal tshab saw the face of the late Seventh Karmapa in the sun and all in the encampment are reported to have woken up as if from a bad dream to a great trust in the Karmapa, asking themselves: ‘What happened to us, that we were deluded before in such a way?’ The whole ceremony was a festivity, probably directly witnessed by a saṅgha of over three thousand and celebrated by an even larger number of devotees in the local markets. It is also said that offerings were sent by the Chinese emperor after the Karmapa was recognized.”

[28] 2017:83: “The story of the rival candidate is taken up later in the sources, illustrating the negative result of wrong views (log lta). It seems that with the unfavourable turn of events, Bla ma A mdo ba, the candidate’s father, became unhappy and wanted to leave the camp with his son. Though the rGyal tshab Rin po che urged him to stay, he grudgingly departed, which in turn led to a deterioration of his merit due to his wrong views. A khu A khra, fol. 23a (p. 77). Its positioning close to the events surrounding the reincarnation may suggest at least a connection. The Karmapa is said to have related to the rGyal tshab Rin po che: From when I died in the tiger year (stag lo, 1506) [as the Seventh Karmapa] until my rebirth in the hare year (yos lo, 1507) I stayed in [the pure realm of] dGa’ ldan with Maitreya and in [the pure realm] Sukhāvatī and was happy. Then, because I was tired of people, I thought it would be pointless to come here for the time being. When [thinking so] the protector Maitreya and the wisdom-ḍākinīs said, ‘you have to take rebirth in the world (jambudvīpa).’ Having taken rebirth until this year I have stayed in Lho rong. Nevertheless, in the same year the Karmapa himself urged his followers not to think badly about the other boy.”

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