Short biography of Gyalwa Karmapa

Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, was born on May 6, 1983, in central Tibet. His parents are Mipham Rinpoche and Dechen Wangmo, who are both prominent figures in Tibetan Buddhism. At a young age, Karmapa expressed that he was the Karmapa, the leader of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. In March 1994, he was officially enthroned as the 17th Karmapa by the 14th Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, the second most senior Karma Kagyu lama. The Karmapa lineage is known for its unbroken chain of reincarnated leaders, spanning over 900 years.

Karmapa escaped from Tibet in 1994 and currently resides in Delhi, India. He completed his formal education in 2003 and received the title of Vidyadhara, which signifies his knowledge of the Sutras and Tantras. Karmapa is married to Sangyumla Rinchen Yangzom, and they have a son named Thugsey.

As a world Buddhist leader, Karmapa travels extensively, engaging with students, young people, world leaders, and individuals in the fields of spirituality, peace, conflict resolution, and education. He has spiritual responsibility for over 900 monasteries and meditation centers worldwide. Karmapa’s activities include empowering young people, meeting international leaders, and creating content such as videos and articles to promote peace and prosperity.

Karmapa emphasizes the importance of education that cultivates compassion and wisdom, defining it as “knowledge that offers compassion and wisdom.” He believes that non-material values should be supported to foster balanced and beneficial human beings. Karmapa recognizes the significance of young people in creating peace in the world, considering that more than half of the global population is under the age of 30.

For more information on Karmapa’s views on education, literacy, and his work with young people, please refer to the provided links.

Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, and his wife Sangyumla
Karmapa and Sangyumla
Top (left to right): HH Karmapa and his parents HE Mipham Rinpoche, Dechen Wangmo
Bottom (left to right): Rinchen Yangzom and her parents Mr Chencho, Mrs Kunzang

What is a Karmapa?

The Karmapa is the head of the Karma Kagyu lineage in Tibetan Buddhism. They are believed to be the embodiment of the activities of the buddhas and have incarnated in this form for 17 lifetimes. Throughout their lifetimes, the Karmapas have demonstrated great inner achievement by receiving, realizing, and passing on esoteric teachings and practices of the Kagyu tradition and other spiritual lineages. They are highly respected by all lineages for their living experience of enlightenment, which is transmitted through direct contact and interaction with their students. The Karmapas have also achieved significant outer accomplishments such as brokering peace, curing diseases, and contributing to art and social activities. The current Karmapa is Thaye Dorje, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa.

The Karma Kagyu Lineage

The Karma Kagyu lineage is a sub-school of the Kagyu tradition, which is a Buddhist school in Tibet with a history of around 900 years. The lineage traces its roots back to India, with important figures such as Tilopa and Saraha. The first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, founded the Karma Kagyu lineage in the 12th century in Tibet, and since then, the Karmapas have been recognized as successive reincarnations, leading the Karma Kagyu school.

The primary sources of the Karma Kagyu lineage are the translated “words of the Buddha” known as the Buddhist Kanjur canon, as well as the commentaries to the Kanjur called the Tenjur. Masters of the lineage, such as Rangjung Dorje and Mikyo Dorje, have made significant contributions to the volumes of the Kanjur and Tenjur teachings. While written teachings hold importance, the Karma Kagyu lineage places high value on orally transmitted teachings and places special emphasis on meditation.