Following a white hart

Exploring myth & meaning



Seeking the Ox

Index 2007

The girl with the peaches

Lotus mythology

The Chinese phoenix

A pure land

The legend of 1000 cranes

A dream of three white cranes

Ichi-go Ichi-e

Seeking the ox










Auspicious cranes. Huizong of Song. 1112. Liaoning Provincial Museum. There is a report in this book that a large flock of cranes gathered around a palace building. This was an auspicious omen and Huizong wrote a poem to commemorate the occurence.

Peace and well-being are to be found in this world.
HH the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Urgyen Trinley Dorje (b. 1985)

The parents of the present Karmapa, Dondrup and Loga, are Tibetan nomads. Their life centers around the herding of yaks. As is the custom, they dedicated their first son to the local monastery. Their next five children were all daughters. Longing to have another son, they sought the help of a renowned yogi. After following his advice to do various acts of service, which included a pilgrimage to Lhasa, they had their sixth daughter.

When Dondrup and Loga considered another attempt for a son, their yogi had died and so they went to Amdo Palden, the yogi abbot of Kalek. Amdo Palden told them that if they would promise to place their next son at his monastery, he believed he could help them. They agreed.

Loga became pregnant and during that pregnancy she dreamed of three white cranes which offered her a bowl of yogurt. On top of the bowl there was a brilliant golden letter which signified her forthcoming son. The cranes told her that they were sent by Guru Rinpoche* and that she must keep this dream a secret for the time being. In a second dream she saw the eight auspicious symbols in the center of her heart, bathed in a rainbow light.

Urgyen Trinley Dorje (called Apo Gaga by his family) was born just before dawn in late June of 1985. At the moment he was born, a cuckoo landed on the family tent and sang. Two days later his community heard the sound of a conch shell which lasted for two hours. Additionally, the story says that around the time of his birth unknown flowers bloomed and three suns were seen in the sky with a rainbow arching over the middle one.

In 1992 a group of monks from Tsurphu came to his village on a mission to find a "reincarnation of a special lama." They interviewed Dorje's family and learned of his mother's dream of the three cranes, the song of the cuckoo, the sound of the conch and the occurrence of the rainbow and the three suns. It was at this time that the monks revealed a letter, written by the 16th Karmapa shortly before his death. The letter contained the signs which would enable them to find his next reincarnation. Because of that letter and the signs surrounding his birth, the monks identified Urgyen Trinley Dorje as the 17th Karmapa.

The selection of the highest spiritual leaders of Buddhism is a deeply mystical process which combines the use of signs and prophetic texts. The events around the birth and discovery of HH the Dalai Lama are consistent with this tradition. Although HH the Dalai Lama has authenticated the ascension of Urgyen Trinley Dorje as the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, the designation is in dispute.