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The following information reveals some of the history of the unbroken oral transmission lineage of the Karmapas, and was written with the intention to serve as a complete guide to the Tsurphu Monastery, it's fascinating history and current activities.

Karmapa, which means "Man of Buddha Activity", is an emanation of the Bodhisattva Chenrezi (Avalokiteshvara). Instead of manifesting as a Buddha, the benefit for beings is greater when the Karmapa incarnates in a human form. Otherwise a celestial body would enable only a few extraordinarily purified people to experience the magnitude of his spiritual greatness. Traditionally, the coming of the first Karmapa fulfilled a prophesy by Sakyamuni Buddha that this emanation of the compassionate savior would appear in the world in order to alleviate the sufferings of humanity in the Dark Age. According to predictions, he will be the sixth Buddha in this aeon of a thousand Buddhas, the one after the coming of the Buddha Maitreya.

Karmapa, the holder of the Black Vajra Crown, head of the Karma Kagyu Lineage, has been honored as a "Living Buddha" in all his successive incarnations. The Karmapa was the first Lama to consciously incarnate in the history of Tibet, and the Golden Rosary of the Kagyu Lineage has been passed down in an unbroken transmission through all of the Karmapa's seventeen incarnations. The treasure revealer Ngadak Nyang said: "Each moment he will guide countless sentient beings. Whoever sees, hears of, thinks of him or is touched by him, will be born in the presence of the Buddha after that life."

Before H.H. the sixteenth Karmapa left his body in Nov. 1981, he left a precise letter of instruction (Dakhaishesham) with one of his closest disciples, the Tai Situ Rinpoche, as to where to find His new incarnation. Since H.H., the Seventeenth Karmapa, was offically recognized by H.H. the Dalai Lama and arrived at Tsurphu Monastery in June of 1992, many visitors have come from all parts of the world to the monastery with curiosity, deep interest and a wish to receive the blessing of the newly installed young incarnation.

Throughout the Karmapa's seventeen incarnations he has traveled widely - mostly through Tibet, Mongolia, China, Bhutan, Sikkim, India and Nepal, and has often been the spiritual teacher for many of the great emperors and kings in these countries. The great Terton Chogyur Lingpa predicted that the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Karmapas would cross the ocean one day. True to this prediction the Sixteenth Karmapa traveled many times around the world, spreading his teachings, giving initiations and establishing numerous Kagyu centers in Europe, America and the Far East. Through the activities and prayers of the Karmapa eventually many more were founded by other high Rinpoches and devoted Lamas since His passing away in 1981. Today thousands of disciples all over the world study and practice the teachings of the Karma Kagyu Lineage.


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