We decided to visit the ancient kingdom of Sikkim, nestled among places with evocative names: Tibet, India, Nepal, Bhutan… Before leaving Darjeeling, we had to apply for a visa at the Governor’s Office.
We stopped the motorbike at Kalimpong, a city at a lower altitude than Darjeeling, with one of the best climates in the region.
There we met a witty French man who had retired from “civilization” to live as a marquis for the same price as in France he’d survive as a nobody (ipse dixit). We also met a Tibetan old lady who invited us to tea at her place, as Baroque as a Gompa. She considered herself a follower of the Karmapa, the spiritual leader of one of the four major sects of Tibetan Buddhism, the Karma Kagyu.
Before dying, the Karmapa gives clues to find him again in the next reincarnation. The same thing is true with the Dalais Lamas, although the lineage of Karmapas is even older.
Unfortunately, at present two monks claim to be H.H. the 17th Karmapa.
One of them lives in a temple of Kalimpong, so we headed there hoping to meet him.
We bought the white silk scarves called “kata,” usually offered as a token of respect, and humbly requested the meeting. After a while, a Tibetan monk with western manners informed us that we were granted audience. We were led to a room where we could cordially chat with Trinley Thaye Dorje. He proved to be a charming young man of twenty, with good command of English and not lacking in charisma. Whether he was the true Karmapa or not, during those minutes, for me was totally irrelevant.