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Tibetan Buddhism can solve global conflicts: Karmapa

The four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism are trying to find common ground to carry forward Lord Buddha’s teachings in way they can be used to resolve geo-political conflicts, says Thrinley Thaye Dorje, the 17th spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.

‘The awareness that the four schools have to find common ground is getting stronger. It will happen because unity among the Buddhist sects is crucial to world peace,’ 27-year-old Thrinley Dorje told IANS in an interview in Bodh Gaya, the seat of Gautama Buddha’s enlightenment.

‘It can solve conflicts because the teachings of Buddha are based on bringing inner and outer peace,’ he added.

The four schools are the ancient Nyingma tradition, the Karma Kagyu school, the Sakya school and the…

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Gelug school. The last three are relatively new when compared to the eighth century Nyingma tradition.

The Karmapa (the high monk) was in the town to preside over the commemoration of the 900th anniversary of the Karma Kagyu school of Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet. The order traces its lineage to north Indian monk Tilopa and was formally founded by Dusum Kyenpa (1110-1193) – known as the high monk with the black crown. The Karma Kagyu sect manages the affairs of the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim.

Thrinley Dorje believes that although traces of Buddhism have existed in the Himalayas for a long time, globalisation and modernism have helped it spread on a larger scale.

‘Globalisation has brought the world together. Even 45 years ago, Buddhism was not heard of outside East and Southeast Asia,’ he said.

He said, ‘In general, all the four (Tibetan) Buddhist schools are built on the same foundations’.

‘They believe in carrying the teachings of the Buddha forward. The difference is in the way of interpreting and teaching the tenets of the Buddha. Our way of teaching is transmission which emphasises on meditation. Our lineage is one of meditation,’ the Karmapa said.

The seat of the 17th Karmapa of the Karma Kagyu sect has been a subject of controversy. After the death of the 16th Karmapa in 1981, two young masters, 27-year-old Thrinley Dorje and 25-year-old Ogyen Trinley Dorje, have been contenders to the post. Both have been enthroned as the spiritual heads.

The Chinese government and the Dalai Lama however approve of Ogyen Trinley Dorje. Born in Tibet, both the lamas fled to India in the 1990s and have been identified as reincarnations of great Buddhist spiritual masters.

Thrinley Dorje does not miss his homeland or feel distanced from Tibet.

‘There is not much of a distance because globalisation has strengthened bonds between Tibet and India. My bonds are stronger from the perspective that when I meditate, the physical gap becomes a relative thing – it’s nothing more than an idea,’ said the Buddhist master, who was born in Tibet.

‘In our state of meditation, we (Tibet and I) are very much connected. It is like the way I connect to my students at the opposite side of the globe through meditation,’ he added.

Thrinley Dorje has meditated in isolation for 12 years before being deemed fit for the post. He was identified as a holy reincarnation at the age of two and a half by a monk of the Sakya Pa school in Tibet, who informed the Karma Kagyu monastery in Nepal about the ‘boy and his previous life’.

He was led through the rites of passage after an early initiation by a Kagyu red hat lama, Shamarpa Mipham Chokyi Lodro, who traditionally instructs the Karmapa on the complex doctrines of the sect.

‘Tibet has four major schools of Vajrayana Buddhism (that incorporates tantrik Buddhism),’ he said.

Thrinley Dorje said he was ‘trying to make Buddhism relevant to youth’.

‘The awareness about the faith is rising worldwide and it is one of the ways to reach out to the people. The world finds it easy to emotionally connect to Buddhism,’ he said.

One way that could help youth harness the power of the Buddha in them was to ‘remain close to the family’, the master said.

‘Youth must respect their parents and remain devoted to them. Respect and devotion to parents are vital to Gautama’s teachings, especially in modern times,’ Thrinley Dorje said.

‘The modern times are very exciting and interesting. And if one does not engage in the right way, it can be quite harmful. The transition to modern times must be peaceful,’ he added.

He advocated ‘compassion, tolerance and patience for the monks in Tibet, who were being persecuted.’ ‘If we have compassion, tolerance and peace, situations change because you will not repeat history,’ he said.

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