A senior Tibetan lama based in India, who is one of the claimants to the title of Karmapa Lama, has married a childhood friend and abandoned monkhood, his office announced on Thursday.
Thaye Dorje, 33, married Rinchen Yangzom, 36, in a private ceremony attended by close family members in New Delhi on March 25. His office described the couple as “close childhood friends” who have known each other for more than 19 years.
“I have a strong feeling, deep within my heart, that my decision to marry will have a positive impact not only for me, but also for the lineage,” Thaye Dorje was quoted as saying in a statement posted on his website.
“Something beautiful, something beneficial will emerge, for all of us.”
Rinchen Yangzom, whose Tibetan name means “precious prosperity gathered”, was born in Thimphu and was educated in India and Europe. Thaye Dorje proposed to her according to Tibetan traditions on January 19.
A spokesman for Thaye Dorje told Hindustan Times that he will no longer be a monk but will continue “as the lineage lama and as the Karmapa, including by offering teachings and blessings to students around the world”.
The statement said Thaye Dorje “appreciates that the news of his marriage will come as a surprise to many, and has faith that his students will understand his wish to have kept private this personal element of his very public life”. He and his wife will make their first public appearance together in Bodhgaya in December this year.
Thaye Dorje has claimed since childhood to be the reincarnation of the Karmapa Lama, the 12th century leader of one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
Ogyen Trinley Dorje, another monk who fled from Tibet to India in 1999, is recognised by many followers of the Karma Kagyu school as the Karmapa Lama. He is also recognised by the Dalai Lama.
The spokesman said Thaye Dorje has been the “Karmapa from birth” and will “continue his activities as the Karmapa”. He added, “He will hold meditation sessions and will continues his travels, including a European tour that will take him to countries such as Sweden and Spain.”
The 15-day period following the wedding is a “sacred time” and Thaye Dorje and his wife will spend this time with their extended families, the spokesman said.
Thaye Dorje was born in Tibet and his father was a high lama while his mother was descended from Tibetan nobility. According to his official biography, he was one-and-a-half years old when he started telling people that he was the Karmapa Lama.
The Karmapa Lama is not the only senior Tibetan Buddhist title to be disputed.
In 1995, China’s atheist government picked a young boy to be the Panchen Lama – a role already filled by another boy chosen by the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama’s choice was detained by Chinese authorities at the age of six and has not been seen since.
The Panchen Lama traditionally plays a significant role in the choice of the Dalai Lama’s successor. But China’s Communist Party has repeatedly said it has the right to control the process of reincarnation.
Many Tibetan Buddhists fear the Chinese government is putting in place a set-up to impose its choice of spiritual leader after the Dalai Lama’s death.