Karmapa to bless, preach to disaster-hit Himachal residents

Rekong Peo (Himachal Pradesh), Aug 31 (IANS) The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, reached here Saturday to bless and preach to people in Kinnaur district, which was ravaged by flash floods in June.

The Karmapa is the third most important Tibetan religious head after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama.

Incessant rain in the region June 16 triggered massive landslides that blocked many roads in Kinnaur. Maximum damage was reported from the district where 23 people died, hundreds were displaced and more than 300 houses damaged.

"The Karmapa will meet, bless and preach people of Kinnaur region from Sunday. He will lend a support to them, majority of whom are Buddhists," Kunzang Chungyalpa, director in the Karmapa's office of administration, told IANS.

With Tibet along its eastern border, Kinnaur is strongly influenced by Tibetan Buddhist culture, traditions, customs and language.

The locals, known as Kinnauri, have a deep historical connection to Tibetan Buddhism with thousand-year-old monasteries dotting the region.

She said the visit was finalised at the request of local Buddhist communities. "His first visit to Kinnaur comes after three years of requests from devotees, initiated by Lochen Rinpoche."

Travelling as a state guest, the Karmapa was accorded a grand welcome on his arrival.

"He is scheduled to give two days of teachings at Rekong Peo. On Monday afternoon, he will bestow a long-life empowerment for those gathered," a Karmapa's aide said.

With this visit, the Gyalwang Karmapa retraces some of the steps of his predecessor, the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa who visited the region while on pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash in 1948, says a post on the Buddhist monk's official website.

"Spiritual support helps people heal from crises and it is the Karmapa's earnest hope that he will be able to contribute in some measure," said Chungyalpa.

The 28-year-old Karmapa resides in a monastery on the outskirts of Dharamsala where the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile is based.

The Karmapa, who fled Tibet and sought refuge in India in January 2000, is the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu school, one of the four sects of Buddhism.

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