Sunday, March 2, 2008

Question of the Week - Tulkus

This week’s QOTW deals with Tibetan Buddhism, and specifically Tulkus. Tulkus are the reincarnated forms of realized lamas, that have chosen to be reborn and continue their path of the Dharma. The Tulku, usually a young boy, will be recognized as the departed master through a series of tests. Once recognized as the legitimate manifestation body, or Nirmanakaya, the Tulku will be honored, taught, and then receive their respective thrones when they turn 18 years of age.

The most-widely known Tulku lineage is that of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. His Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama is the recognized manifestation of Chenrezig or Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The feminine form of the Bodhisattva of Compassion is Quan Yin. Now, the lineage goes back 13 reincarnations. When the current Dalai Lama was born, several auspicious signs appeared at his parents’ home in Takser, Tibet. There were a pair of ravens or Dharmapala (protector deities) that appeared at the topmost section of the barn. His father was deathly ill, then recovered quickly, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama was born. His Holiness correctly identified his previous ritual tools, among various sets of prayer wheels and vajras, when he was questioned by the monks searching for the reincarnation. And at the summer palace, His Holiness (as a young boy) knew the secret location of his false teeth that he wore in his previous form as the 13th Dalai Lama.

Now, there is another lineage of Tulkus that is older that the Dalai Lama lineage. This would be the Karmapa of the Kagyupa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The current Karmapa, His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa, is the 17th lineage holder. Another Tulku lineage is that of Kalu Rinpoche. The current Kalu Rinpoche, His Eminence Karma Ngedön Tenpay Gyaltsen, is the third lineage holder, and is 17 years old.

Usually Buddhist masters have the capability to be reincarnated and maintain most of their knowledge. In other words, their consciousness is diverted before it returns to the Universal Source, and sent back whole or almost whole. However, Tulkus are special because they are recognized as reincarnated forms, and are then allowed to resume their activities relating to their previous thrones. Moreover, there must be a desire on the part of the Tulku, and on the part of the disciples, for the reincarnated form to appear. Both must achieve a high level of consciousness or consciousness-energy to facilitate this miraculous rebirth.

Other cultures around the world, including the Egyptian, Ancient Chinese, and Inca have attempted to gain immortality. However, the Tibetans are the only ones to have mastered the subtle art of Transmigration of the Soul.

"The exposition and practice of teachings are the heart of Buddha’s Dharma;

The infallible path of the victorious ones leads to the pure
perfection and peace of complete awakening.

In order to bring your disciples to the full maturation of their
resolve to travel this path,

King of nagas, may you swiftly return.”

- Prayer for the Swift Return of Kalu Rinpoche,
His Eminence Tai Situ


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