Living Buddha, Searching for the 17th Karmapa

Living Buddha

This is a film by Clemens Ruby from 1994 about the search for, and eventual installing of the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, following the passing of the 16th in 1989. When the film opens years had gone by and the exepected reincarnation of the Karmapa had not been found. Then the 12th Tai Situpa opened a cakset given to him by the Karmapa just before he passed away.

Inside is a mysterious writing, which four high lamas charged with finding the new Karmapa interpret to as a prediction that he would be born in a certain village in Eastern Tibet, to a certain woman, in a certain year.

So lamas in Tibet set out to find the village and the woman, which they do, and they find she also had given birth to a son in the right year. This then is the new Karmapa (Ogyen Trinley Dorje), and the find is confirmed by the Dalai Lama, who has had a dream which confirms the village setting.

Again, as in the other films with the alternative Karmapa (Trinley Thaye Dorje), nothing is said at all about there being a dispute about which one is the right one. All the films simply make the claims for “their” Karmapa, and ignore the other one (for more on the controversy see this Wikipedia article).

The way it plays out in this film is, however, quite convincing, with the prediction apparently being very precise and accurate, and the boy who would eventually become the Karmapa certainly looking the part.

Besides following the search for the Karmapa the film does a good job of explaining matters to do with Tibetan history and teachings, and so we are filled in with the background in an adequate way.


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