Dharma Dispatch, 1-12 October 2018: A Great Rinpoche’s Passing, Amazing Calligraphic Sutra, and Karmapa Resolution

Good morning! The respected Dzogchen master and founder of the Merigar Community, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, has passed away at the age of 79. He breathed his last breath on the evening of 27 September at his residence, Gadeling, at Merigar West Buddhist Center, Italy.

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche was one of the pioneering Buddhist masters who contributed greatly to the introduction of Buddhism to the West. On 11 September 2018 he was awarded the title of Commander in the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic by Italian President Sergio Mattarella for his commitment to the introduction of Buddhism to Italy, as well as his contributions to the arts and the economy, and his social, philanthropic, and humanitarian work.

Over the past year, more than 40,000 people have travelled to Ryoun-ji, a temple in central Japan, to admire the world’s largest calligraphy of the Heart Sutra, rendered by Shōko Kanazawa, a 33-year-old calligrapher with Down Syndrome. Shōko Kanazawa was born in 1985 in Meguro, Tokyo. Soon after she was born, doctors diagnosed her with Down syndrome.

Her mother, Yasuko Kanazawa, was heartbroken and feared that Shōko would never be accepted by society. Yet she copied her first Heart Sutra at the age of 10, when she was told that she had to leave her regular primary school for a special school for handicapped children. To help her cope with this change, her mother taught her how to write the 272 characters of the Heart Sutra. In the six months that followed, during which Shōko and her mother hardly left the house, Shōko completed 10 sets of the sutra. Her mother mentions that the experience taught her perseverance. She has since made multiple other copies of the sutra, most notably when she turned 20, and the version on display at Ryoun-ji, drawn for her 30th birthday.

On 11 October, His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje and His Holiness Trinley Thaye Dorje issued a landmark joint statement apparently aimed at resolving a decades-old rift in the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and the divisive issue of who should hold the title of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. The joint statement, which was the outcome of a four-day meeting between the two claimants to the holy office at an undisclosed location in rural France, was released simultaneously on the official websites of both lamas. In the message the monks indicate an amicable intention to work together to establish a personal relationship of cooperation and strong connection in order to strengthen the Karma Kagyu lineage and to work toward securing the future of Tibetan Buddhism.

Dharma Dispatch is a weekly curated summary of the most important Buddhist news. See all our briefings here

Leave a Reply