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Tibets Next Hope

March 12, 2009

From The Associated Press

Like his 16 previous incarnations, this Karmapa Lama has spent his life immersed in the Tibetan Buddhist arts of meditation, study and prayer. Unlike them, he likes to relax playing war games on his PlayStation.

This blend of ancient spiritual authority and modern-day tastes is fueling expectations that the 23-year-old monk, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the No. 3 lama in Tibetan Buddhism, will emerge as the public voice for the next generation of Tibetans in their struggle for freedom from China.

The Tibetans desperately need somebody. Their relations with the Chinese have, over the past year, gone from bad to terrible amid outbreaks of violence and deadlocked talks.

And with the Dalai Lama now 73 and increasingly frail, Tibetans must face that he will eventually die – leaving them without an icon to plead their case before the world and keep them united.

It’s a role that the Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu sect, one of the four streams of Tibetan Buddhism, is now willing to take.

‘If given the opportunity, I will do my best,’ he said this week in a rare interview with a small group of Western journalists.

But to do so, he will have to surmount bitter sectarian disputes and geopolitical rivalries between China and India, Asia’s two superpowers.

He will also have to come to terms with his own contradictions – the holy man spreading the wisdom of Buddha and the restless young man who zones out to hip-hop on his iPod.

Born in 1985 to a nomadic family in the vast Tibetan plateau, he was enthroned as the 17th Karmapa at the age of seven after mystical signs identified him as the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa, who died in exile in India in 1981.

Other monks of the sect championed another boy as the true reincarnation, but Dorje’s status was recognised by the Dalai Lama and also by Beijing, which hoped he might emerge as a more malleable authority they could use to weaken the Dalai Lama

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