Senior Tibetan Lama Announces Decision to Disrobe, Marry Childhood Friend

By Craig Lewis
Buddhistdoor Global | 2017-03-30 |

A senior Tibetan Lama, who has been at the center of a controversial dispute over one of the most important monastic offices in Tibetan Buddhism, has officially announced his decision to disrobe. A notice dated 29 March on the website of Trinley Thaye Dorje, 33, one of two claimants to the title of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, announced that the lama had married a childhood friend in a private ceremony in India.

The Gyalwang Karmapa is the head of the Karma Kagyu, the largest lineage of the Kagyu, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism—the others being Gelug, Nyingma, and Sakya. The Karmapa is considered the third most important figure within Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. The majority of Tibetan Buddhists recognize Ogyen Trinley Dorje as the reincarnation of Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the 16th Karmapa, while an influential minority holds that Trinley Thaye Dorje is the 17th Karmapa.

Ogyen Trinley Dorje. From wikipedia.orgOgyen Trinley Dorje. From
Trinley Thaye Dorje. From wikipedia.orgTrinley Thaye Dorje. From

The official notice included a message from Thaye Dorje explaining his decision:

My role and activities as Karmapa will continue as before—with the single exception of conducting ordinations. This responsibility will pass on to His Eminence 4th Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Karma Mingyur Dragpa Senge. As Karmapa, I will continue to protect and preserve our beloved lineage, and strengthen the monastic sangha through initiatives such as the new Karmapa Center of Education.

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.

The Buddhist way is to use karma for benevolence and benefit, regardless of the path we choose. For those who follow the path of an ordained life, we must encourage and respect this. In this 17th incarnation, for both the future of the lineage, and fulfilling the wishes of my parents, I have chosen a different path. At the same time, my commitment to protect and preserve the monastic sangha, and the lineage, remains paramount in my life, and my continued role as Karmapa.

The statement said Thaye Dorje had married his childhood friend, 36-year-old Rinchen Yangzom, who was born in Bhutan and educated in India and Europe, on 25 March in the presence of close family members. Thaye Dorje was born in Tibet in 1983. His father was a senior lama, while his mother was descended from Tibetan nobility.

Back row, left to right: Thaye Dorje and his parents Mipham Rinpoche and Dechen Wangmo. Front row, left to right: Rinchen Yangzom and her parents Mr. Chencho and Mrs. Kunzang. From karmapa.orgBack row, left to right: Thaye Dorje and his parents Mipham Rinpoche and Dechen Wangmo. Front row, left to right: Rinchen Yangzom and her parents Mr. Chencho and Mrs. Kunzang. From

The institution of the Karmapa is the oldest tulku lineage in Tibetan Buddhism, dating back to Düsum Khyenpa (1110–93). Historically, the Karmapas were based at Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet, but the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, rebuilt Rumtek Monastery (Rumtek had already been established as a center of learning in the mid-1700s by the 12th Karmapa, Changchub Dorje, but had since fallen into disrepair) in northern India to be his new seat in 1966 after leaving Tsurphu Monastery and Tibet.

See more

Karmapa has something special and personal to share with you… (Thaye Dorje: His Holiness the 17th Karmapa)
Top Tibetan lama abandons monkhood to marry old friend (The Star Online)
Karmapa: The Official Website of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa

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