KTD’s Lama Karma, born the year I first committed myself practicing dharma (after learning how to do so from Shunryu Suzuki’s “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind” as so many of my generation were inspired to do so), celebrated his 39th birthday today. Happy Birthday and best wishes for the coming year. Lama Karma is Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche’s nephew, whom the Chinese Government in appreciation of Rinpoche’s role in normalizing its unprecedented involvement in the selection of the 17th Karmapa, parachuted said nephew into our country to continue in his Uncle’s footsteps as a supporter of said government’s occupation of free Tibet. Being a lifelong monk at Thrangu Monastery who grew up harmonizing his practice of the dharma with the dictates of the Chinese Government he is uniquely qualified to do so.
At the age of 27 Lama Karma began his three year retreat at Karme Ling under the supervision of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche (a “retreat” where you pay for the privilege unless of course your Uncle is the retreat master) where he today serves as its retreat master, the first in the history of Tibetan Buddhism to own a Lexus, a used one I’m told, but still a luxury vehicle nonetheless.
Oh, too be young again. I’ve met Lama Karma, he’s not at all like the person who uses his name to post pictures of penises in the comments section here. He’s a very polite young man (raised to respect his elders) and I very much enjoyed his biography of his Uncle. I have a copy of it that Rinpoche himself signed for me which I keep on my shrine wrapped in brocade as a support for my daily practice.
Of course no mention of Lama Karma here (this is a blog, and blogs are topical) would be complete without mentioning all the texts he has managed to memorize since he was a child monk at Thrangu Monestery and the unique in the world today pedagogy that made such an accomplishment possible, heavy on the child abuse (corporeal punishment) but that which makes Tibetan Buddhism truly Tibetan, parents giving up their children to monasteries where an Uncle is a monk to follow in his footsteps and keep up the family tradition (child abuse runs in families), as what happened when Lama Karma’s gave him to Thrangu Monastery to follow in his Uncle’s footsteps.
To the 16th Karmapa’s credit His Holiness recognized that Americans would never give their children up to be raised as monks (traffic their children for the promise of the good karma of doing so). All of which is to say for anyone who thinks KTD is a “Tibetan Buddhist” monastery (someone recently asked me here if KTD is an “authentic” Tibetan monastery). Authenticity is in the eye of the beholder but that being said I submit the following for your consideration, that as long as parents here aren’t willing to give up their children to KTD to raise as monks it can never be a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in my opinion as a lama for the true measure of achievement in Tibetan Buddhism, as the example of Lama proves without question, requires that one be given up by your parents as a child to be raised to become a monk by a monastery where a relative is a monk, if he is an important monk like Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche all the better.