Urgyen Trinley Dorje (Wylie transliteration: U-rgyan Phrin-las Rdo-rje) (b. June 26, 1985), also spelled Ogyen Trinley Dorje (and Orgyen Trinley Dorje & Ugyen Trinley Dorje) is recognized by many followers as the 17th Karmapa, leader of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Born in Kham, Tibet to largely nomadic parents, Urgyen Trinley Dorje is said to have identified himself to family members as the Karmapa early in childhood. He was seven years old before he was recognized by a search party headed by the Tai Situpa, following instructions left by the previous Karmapa in a prophetic letter and hidden in a locket. Urgyen Trinley Dorje was installed at Tsurphu (mtshur-phu) monastery, the traditional seat of the Karmapa in Tibet, where he lived for another seven years.
Over the 2000 Millennium he escaped to Nepal and then India, arriving in the Dalai Lama‘s exile headquarters of Dharamsala on January 5, 2000. Urgyen Trinley Dorje had felt that he was unable to obtain in China the specialized instruction he needed to complete his studies and to realize his full spiritual authority.
A controversy exists over the identity of the true 17th Karmapa: the Shamarpa, arguably the second highest Karma Kagyu lama, does not recognize Urgyen Trinley Dorje and instead has proclaimed another boy, Thaye Dorje (mtha’-yas), whom he identified a few years earlier, as the true Karmapa. Urgyen Trinley Dorje, however, is supported by most of the Kagyu hierarchy, including two of those charged with finding the new Karmapa: Tai Situpa and Gyaltsapba (a fourth such lama, Jamgon Kongtrul (byams-mgon-dkon-sprul), died shortly before the controversy arose.)
Other high Kagyu lamas who support Urgyen Trinley Dorje include H.E. the Fourth Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, H.E. the Eleventh Pawo Rinpoche, the Ninth Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche, the Ninth Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, the Third Kalu Rinpoche, the Seventh Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and his Nalandabodhi organization, the Twelfth Surmang Trungpa Rinpoche, the Seventh Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, the Third Tenga Rinpoche, the Venerable Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, the Venerable Bokar Rinpoche, Bardor Tulku Rinpoche, the Venerable Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche (abbot of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra), H.E. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and his organization, Shambhala International, the Venerable Drupon Rinpoche, and Lama Norlha Rinpoche, among others. He is also recognized as Karmapa by the current Dalai Lama.
The Dance of 17 Lives : The Incredible True Story of Tibet’s 17th Karmapa, by Mick Brown. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA, 2005. ISBN: 1582345988
Music in the Sky: The Life, Art & Teachings of the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, by Michele Martin. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Press, 2003. ISBN 1559391952.
Karmapa of Tibet: The Politics of Reincarnation, by Lea Terhune. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2004. ISBN: 0861711807