One of the top Tibetan Buddhist lamas has abandoned his monkhood in order to marry his childhood sweetheart in India.
Since he was a boy, 33-year-old Thaye Dorje has claimed to be the 17th reincarnation of the Karmapa Lama, the leader of one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. However, his office gave his adherents quite the shock on Thursday with a surprise announcement that begins: “Karmapa has something special and personal to share with you…”
The announcement reveals that on March 25th Thaye Dorje married 36-year-old Rinchen Yangzom in a private ceremony in New Delhi. The two have known each for over 19 years, and over time their “friendship grew into a special, spiritual bond.”
So, when that happens, what’s a lama to do but renounce his monkhood and get hitched? The announcement quotes Thaye Dorje as saying:
I have a strong feeling, deep within my heart, that my decision to marry will have a positive impact not only for me, but also for the lineage. Following the wishes of my parents, and having had time to reflect, I deeply feel that I am being true to both myself and the lineage. Something beautiful, something beneficial will emerge, for all of us.
Apparently, getting married won’t change all that much for Thaye Dorje. A spokesman for his office told the Hindustan Times that while he will no longer be a monk, he will continue “as the lineage lama and as the Karmapa, including by offering teachings and blessings to students around the world.” He has a trip to Sweden, Spain and France planned for July and August of this year.
However, Thaye Dorje is not the only one going around calling himself the Karmapa Lama. Ogyen Trinley Dorje, another monk who fled from Tibet to India in 1999, is recognized by many followers as the leader of the Karma Kagyu school, including by the Dalai Lama. He also has about triple the number of Facebook followers.
After news broke about his fellow claimant’s marriage, Ogyen Trinley Dorje issued a statement saying that he was “slightly worried about the possibility of people trading barbed words over it,” telling his followers to “be sympathetic and understanding so as not to disturb anyone else’s mind.”
Of course, the Karmapa Lama isn’t the only disputed position in Tibetan Buddhism. In 1995, China chose its own Panchen Lama, spiriting away the boy picked by the Dalai Lama. In 2015, a Chinese official said that he was now “living a normal life” and “does not wish to be disturbed.”
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