The Prophetic Songs of the 16th Karmapa (1940-62)
Some of the details of the Seventeenth Karmapa's life were foretold in the realization songs spontaneously composed by the Sixteenth Karmapa.
The Doha Tradition: Songs of Realization and Inspiration
Songs and poetic compositions expressing realization and wisdom are an ancient tradition within the lineage. Its roots reach back to India, and the meditative practice was continued in Tibet. Virtually all the lineage holders expressed their insight in verse and song, often composed spontaneously in response to a student's question or experience with a master. Tilopa, the founder of the Kagyu lineage, for example, taught his extraordinary realization through songs to hundreds of thousands. The renowned yogi Milarepa is the most famous poet and singer of realization songs in Tibet. The Kagyu Gurtso, a famous collection of realization songs of the Karmapas and other Kagyu lineage holders that was compiled by Mikyo Dorje, the Eighth Karmapa, has been translated into English.
The songs of His Holiness Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the Sixteenth Karmapa, who was born in Tibet in 1924 and left permanently in 1959, reveal his prophetic foresight about those events. He foresaw his need to flee the ancestral seat of the Karmapas in Tsurphu after the entry into Tibet of the Communist Chinese army. According to the prevailing reading of the dohas, or songs of inspiration, that follow, the 16th Karmapa also foresaw that his reincarnation, the 17th Karmapa, would be enthroned in Tsurphu, and in this way the Karmapas would continue to fulfill their historic duty that had been spotlessly continued from the time of the 1st Karmapa, to maintain the Tsurphu monastery complex. The 16th Karmapa's poems inidicated that the Karmapa would return to Tsurphu to restore the main seat of the Karmapas, but did not specify who this Karmapa in fact was to be.
In approximately 1940, at the age of 17, His Holiness Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the Sixteenth Karmapa, composed a song entitled simply A Song. His Holiness was then at Palpung Monastery in Tibet during the lifetime of the XIth Tai Situ, Padma Wangchok, the prior Tai Situpa. In this song, long before the Communist Chinese invasion of Tibet, the Karmapa predicts his flight to India, and supplicates Situ Rinpoche:
In the springtime, a cuckoo comes as a guest.
In the fall when the harvest ripens,
it knows where to go:
Its only thought is travel to the east of India.
In the lofty land of Tibet, the inhabitants, high and low,
And in particular, you, Tai Situ, the Lord and
Who remains above the crown of our head,
May your activities, like the sun and moon set in space,
Be continuous, stable, and without hindrance.
I pray that we meet again and again.
In 1944, the Karmapa published another song foreseeing the flight from Tibet, expressing his sadness at being forced to leave the glorious seat of the Kagyu at Tsurphu Monastery. In his song, entitled The Song Whose Time Has Come: The Melodious Hum of the Bee, he again predicts his departure from Tibet:
The most famous one called Rigdröl
Does not remain, yet knows not where he will go
and also proclaims his intention to return to Tsurphu:
When the Lord of the Path is held by the
king of birds,
In prayer I aspire that we gather in great joy.
For this life, take this as the essential point to be heard
In 1961-62, upon his arrival in India, he praised Tsurphu Monastery and spoke of returning to that "pure realm," but evidenced no intention to return during his lifetime.
Glorious Tölung TsurphuAfter the 16th Karmapa's passing, it gradually became clear that the Karmapa's reference to his return to Tsurphu was a prediction about the Seventeenth Karmapa.
Let us go to that pure realm where lamas, yidams,
and dakinis gather like clouds.
Having planted the victory banner of the Buddha's
teachings in the land of Dharma