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The Politics of Reincarnation

Published by Wisdom Publications
Distributed by Simon & Schuster



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About The Book

While only a young man, Orgyen Trinley Dorje's life has been marked indelibly by devotion, intrigue, and transformation. Karmapa: The Politics of Reincarnation is his amazing story.

For Westerners, Tibet is a land of powerful spiritual teachings, staggering mountain vistas, and geopolitical intrigue. The country's resistance to Chinese occupation, and also the growing presence of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, are not just part of our daily news but of the Western consciousness as well. In January 2000, interest hit a peak as fourteen-year-old Orgyen Trinley Dorje was thrust upon the world stage. Recognized as the Seventeenth Karmapa-arguably the second most powerful figure in the Tibetan Buddhist religious hierarchy-he made a dramatic escape from his Chinese Communist overseers to the land of the Buddha's birth, India, so that he could study with the masters of his religious lineage, follow his conscience, and be a leader to his people.

Through wide-ranging research and interviews with key figures, including the Karmapa himself, award-winning journalist Lea Terhune unlocks the riveting tale of the Karmapa's disputed incarnation, and traces the roots of the Kagyu tradition and the history of the previous Karmapas in order to illuminate the tale of the young man born to play a key role in the future of Tibet.

About The Author

Lea Terhune is a professional writer and journalist based in India, where she has lived since 1982. Currently editor of SPAN (a magazine of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi), she has also worked as a correspondent and producer for CNN International, ABC News Radio, and Voice of America. Her work has appeared in The Far-Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Yoga Journal, and She lives in New Delhi.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications (September 1, 1998)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780861711802

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Raves and Reviews

"Ten years ago, the world witnessed the startling spectacle of maroon-robed Tibetan monks hurling stones, soda bottles and curses at each other at the gates of a Buddhist institute in New Delhi. The scuffle in the Indian capital was over a 7-year-old boy, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, enthroned two years earlier in a monastery in Tibet as the seventeenth incarnation of the Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu stream of Tibetan Buddhism. With that conflict as a backdrop, Lea Terhune, an India-based American journalist and a longtime student of Tibetan Buddhism, has written an absorbing portrait of the Karmapa--in his current and previous lifetimes--in her book Karmapa: The Politics of Reincarnation... This story is important for Tibet-watchers because the Karmapa one day could succeed the Dalai Lama as the public voice of Tibet."

– The Associated Press

"Lea Terhune, a journalist based in India, has focused on the controversial figure of the new Karmapa, [who is] after the Dalai Lama, arguably the most important personage of Tibetan Buddhism. Considering the complexities involved, she did a good job, and her book is a valuable resource for anyone wanting to grok the situation."

– Georg Feuerstein, Traditional Yoga Studies Interactive

"Engaging, and easy-to-read... Orgyen Trinley Dorje--recognised by mainstream Tibetan Buddhism as the 17th Karmapa--is the latest in a lineage of incarnate lamas that pre-dates the Dalai Lamas and kicked off the tulku tradition. The story behind his epic escape would probably be rejected as too far-fetched by publishers of fiction. Lea Terhune flashbacks into a comprehensive overview of the Tibetan Buddhist religion and politics of pre-Communist Tibet as a precursor to the story of the Karmapas, which she recounts in painstaking historical detail. She is thorough, efficient and respectful. Lea's book is as close as you'll get to an authorised Karma Kagyu version of events. For the lay-reader unfamiliar with the machinations of Tibetan Buddhist hierarchies she lays it all out, so that by the end of the book you would know a lot more about a previously opaque area of human experience."

– World Tibet Network News

"Terhune is an experienced journalist and has worked for CNN, Radio Deutsche Welle and Voice of America. This shows through in her impartial story-telling and the depths she has gone to collect the facts and intricacies underlying the 'politics' lying below the surface of the Kamarpa's recognition. She draws on numerous interviews conducted over years with the majority of the story's key figures--including the Karmapa himself. She unlocks the mysteries underlying the recognition process and the historical background for the incarnate lineage tradition. At the same time she carefully builds the ground work for her insightful analysis of the politics surrounding the process. She goes centuries back in time to draw out the threads and tendrils of history that nuance Tibetan temporal and spiritual politics to this day. Karmapa: The Politics of Reincarnation presents a riveting tale and Terhune upholds the highest journalistic ethics throughout its telling."

– Ashe Journal

"For all the detailed insight into the process of finding and maintaining the lineage of Karmapas, Lea Terhune has woven in the personal side of the process of choosing reincarnations so effectively, that the book reads as a good novel. I spent several late nights with this fast-paced book keeping me company; it was hard to put down!"

– Bella Online: The Voice of Women

"Consider the plot line: an unusual teenager--intense, magnetic--daringly eludes his captors, who have been preventing him from enacting his role as an important leader. Imagine a treacherous escape across nine hundred miles of icy, mountainous terrain. Imagine disguises, helicopters, near misses, near connections--and, at last, our exhausted heeo reaching apparent safety. No sooner is his escape accomplished, however, than he faces a rival who claims to be the true leader. This blockbuster tale is no movie, but a true story that continues to unfold in real time. Karmapa covers the material in a methodical way. Terhune lays out a comprehensive, footnoted examination of the history and politics of the Karmapas. Her systematic approach to the material includes a glossary, an index, and several appendices. One appendix describes the Black Hat ceremony, at which the Karmapa is believed to transform himself into the Bodhisattva of Compassion... Ogyen Trinley, the current Karmapa, is charismatic, wise beyond his years, and from all indications, has the X-powers to make sure the Tibetan cause remains big-screen, front-page material."

– Tricycle

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