Return to Tsurphu (June 1992)

On the day the swan circles the edge of the lake
And leaves its fledglings in the darkening swamp
The day the white vulture soars in the
     depths of the sky,
You will wonder where the man Rigdröl is.

O Fledglings, I feel untold grief for you.
Now I will not explain much; this is but a jest,
Yet unified with ultimate reality.
When the Lord of the Path is held
     by the king of birds,
In prayer I aspire that we gather in great joy.[1]

His Holiness the 16th Karmapa fled Tibet in 1959 and since that time Tsurphu Monastery had been without a Karmapa in residence. Thus the arrival of the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa was greeted with great anticipation. When word reached the Tibetans that the reincarnation of the Karmapa had been found and hat he was being brought to Tsurphu Monastery, thousands of his followers gathered in great joy.

On June 15, 1992, His Holiness arrived in an entourage of seven jeeps followed by two trucks along the main road to Tsurphu, which was adorned with greetings and filled with the aroma of burning incense. The motorcade was flanked by riders on horseback, with each horse and rider fully arrayed the noblest attire. As the motorcade moved slowly up the winding road towards the Monastery, the melody of the religious mescal trumpets called gyalings (rgya gling) welcomed the Karmapa back to his main seat, established so many centuries earlier by the 1st Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa.

The Karmapa first stepped out of the vehicles at his Summer Palace, about 15 minutes from the main entrance to the monastery. Accompanied by his parents and members of the search party, His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa received monks from Tsurphu and Chinese and Tibetan officials who had come to pay their respects.

After tea, His Holiness was driven to the main entrance of the monastery, where he mounted a white horse. The 17th Karmapa was escorted on horseback through the front gate in a traditional grand procession, surrounded by monks holding a huge canopy overhead, with other carrying colorful banners and flags. As he entered the main gate, monastic dancers arrayed in traditional costumes and masks as snow lions and other figures performed around him.

His Holiness was seated in a special throne prepared for him in front of the main temple, where he was offered symbolic Snow Lion's milk, amidst the magnificent and sacred spectacle of the performance of the Mahakala Bernakchen dance.

His Holiness was then escorted into the main Lhakhang, where he took his seat on the throne of the Karmapas. He was presented with elaborate offerings of Buddha statues, Dharma texts and precious objects.

A blessing ceremony was held for the thousands of devotees eagerly waiting to be close to His Holiness, which went on for many hours. As dancing and singing in the courtyard continued for many hours into the late evening, opera singers resplendent in their colorful costumes and masks together with some other singers celebrated this historic arrival of the XVIIth Karmapa to Tsurphu Monastery--home and original seat of all the glorious Karmapas.

[1] From The Song Whose Time Has Come: The Melodious Hum of the Bee (1944) by The Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa

Confirmation by H.H. The Dalai Lama (June 1992)

The boy born to Karma Döndrub and Loga in the Wood-Ox Year (of the Tibetan calendar) identifies with the prediction letter (left by the late Karmapa) and is hereby recognized as the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa. With prayers for his well-being and for the success of his activities.

                    -- The Dalai Lama
(translated by Kalon Tashi Wangdi)

The Buktham Rinpoche of 
HH the Dalai Lama
After the advance search team from Tsurphu had located the Seventeenth Karmapa in Tibet, the monastic party accompanied the young Karmapa to Kalek monastery. Akong Tulku Rinpoche and Sherab Tarchin soon arrived to verify the information of the search party.

In India, meanwhile, Their Eminences Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltshab Rinpoche in India waited at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim for news of the results of the search. In early June, they traveled to Dharamsala to inform the supreme leader of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, that a search party had been dispatched to find the reincarnation, based on the sacred testament of the 16th Karmapa interpreted by the council of seatholder. In Delhi, on the way to see His Holiness, they were able to contact Tsurphu through an intermediary in Lhasa, and learned that His Holiness's incarnation had been found according to the letter, with verification of signs such as the name of the father, the mother, location of the family, and auspicious events surrounding the birth. Immediately they departed for Dharamsala to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama and seek his confirmation of the discovery.

When they arrived in Dharamsala, they learned that His Holiness the Dalai Lama had left for Brazil. Through His Holiness's office in Dharmsala, their eminences relayed the information they had gathered, including the sacred letter, the confirming information about the details from Tibet, the manner of the search and examination, a drawing of the birthplace, Guru Rinpoche's prophesy and other details. In response to this, His Holiness provided his informal confirmation, replying that "It is appropriate to recognize and confirm" the candidate Apo Gaga as the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa. Based on this confirmation, the advance party decided to bring His Holiness Karmapa to Tsurphu. [Initial communication from H.H. The Dalai Lama about the discovery of the 17th Karmapa]

After consideration of the evidence and additional meetings with Their Eminences Tai Situ Rinpoche, Tsurphu Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Shamar Rinpoche, His Holiness the Dalai Lama granted the Buktham Rinpoche, the official notification of the Dalai Lama's approval of the identity of His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa.

The Office of the Dalai Lama published specific additional details of the identifications on July 23, 1992 as follows:

The personal identifications of the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa as indicated by the Sacred Letter of Prediction left by the 16th Karmapa, consistently confirmed by the search party, and as formally approved by His Holiness the Dalai Lama are as below.
1) Name of the Reincarnate: Ugen Thinley alias Apo Gaga
2) Date and Year of birth: June 26, 1985 (Wood-Ox Year)
3) Place of birth
Village: Bakor
District: Lhatok
Province: Kham
Country: Tibet (occupied)
Names of Parents:
Father: Karma Dondup Tashi
Mother: Loga
Place of residence: Tsurphu Monastery, Tibet

[full text]
When the joyous confirmation of the new Karmapa's identity was received at Kalek monastery, Akong Rinpoche and Sherab Tarchin presented His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa, with the special robes and sacred blessings of the tru.sol, that they were carrying on behalf of the Tai Situpa and the Goshir Gyaltsabpa and which had been especially prepared in India at the outset of their journey. Customary offerings were made to the Karmapa's parents to express gratitude for the care that they had given him up to the time of discovery. After a short period, His Holiness departed with an entourage for Tsurphu Monastery the traditional home of the Karmapas.