The following account was written in 1996 at Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet by Ward Holmes, a student of His Holiness Karmapa.
"I was leading a group overland from Kathmandu to Tibet, returning to Tsurphu Monastery on May 3, 1996. At that time, I found His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, looking radiant and wonderful. After receiving His Holiness's blessing, the tour group went to visit the Venerable Drupon Dechen Rinpoche, the head lama responsible for rebuilding the whole of Tsurphu Monastery over the last ten years, as it had been completely destroyed in the cultural revolution.
"Rinpoche proceeded to tell us of the miraculous events that took place in Tsurphu with His Holiness this winter. On the twelfth day of the first Tibetan month (Friday, March 1, 1996), His Holiness set out with sixteen monks on the longest, most difficult of the circumambulation treks at Tsurphu called the Tse-Khor. There are three main kora walks and this is by far the most strenuous. In my ten years of going to Tsurphu, I had never yet attempted this one!
"On the sacred mountain of Gyab-Ri-Thugje-Chenpo, His Holiness stopped at a place along this great walk known as Damchenpa, and there proceeded once again to stick his right hand into solid rock, making a clear impression of his hand (first hand print was performed in April 11, 1993). He and the group then continued higher and higher into the mountain, where few foreigners have ever ventured to go. Again near a fresh water spring, next to a cave that the Fourth Karmapa had meditated in, he stuck three fingers into solid rock, making a black indented mark distinctly seen!
"Then, toward the end of this lengthy kora, they returned to a place very near the current three-year retreat center of Samten Ling. Behind it, about 100 feet away or so, His Holiness Karmapa inscribed the famous mantra 'Karmapa Khyenno' with his maroon robe (the dzen) into the solid rock. The mantra writing was brownish red, written on a grayish-black colored rock. The monks couldn't believe it, so one of them, Lama Nyima (his writing teacher), tried to wash off a portion of what appeared to be a red chalk. However the writing would not come off, even after washing the rock quite vigorously. In fact it then appeared even clearer.
"After hearing these amazing stories from Drupon Rinpoche, I decided I would go myself to see these miraculous occurrences. So, on May 11, a doctor from my group, Gary Septon, along with the caretaker of the Tsurphu guest house, whose name is Tsedrup, and I hiked to the place where the first hand print was to be found. The other people in our group continued along the main kora. After about a half-hour walk above the main path, which is about a one-and-a-half hour's walk from the monastery itself, we came across a place with many prayer flags and there it was, the first of the new hand prints.
"At first, I think I didn't really want to believe it. I asked the doctor if he saw it and he said, 'Yes, it is quite obvious.' We proceeded to take many, many pictures from all angles. Then we met Kelsang Tashi, a lama from Tsurphu, who has been to Hong Kong and Taiwan on a few occasions. He had a camera from some Taiwanese disciples and was also taking pictures of these miracles. He said he was now going to continue on the long trek to the spring to take pictures of the miracle of His Holiness's three fingers imprinted into the rock. We said good-bye to him and eventually came down to the main Ri-khor path to walk to the place of the site of the mantra Karmapa Khyenno inscribed in stone by His Holiness. The mantra, in Tibetan characters, was clear enough and easily seen by all of us. The others did not read Tibetan, so it may not have meant too much to them; nevertheless they were quite amazed at what they saw and a little baffled too. Since I could read Tibetan, it was quite obvious to me, except for the No (Na naro No in Tib.) at the end of the mantra.
"At around three o'clock that same day, I was able to have a photo session with the Karmapa that had been arranged the day before. I saw His Holiness the previous day but he was acting a little shy because many monks where around. I went in alone for this photo session and he acted happy, joking and racing around, and helping to organize a procedure he knew so well, since this was our seventh or eighth photo session in the past four years. It brought me great joy to know he was his joyous and playful self, yet I noticed a powerful dignified maturity had definitely manifested.
"His Holiness has changed a lot, but when the setting and situation is right, he still becomes very dynamic, energetic, and sometimes a bit wild! I was able to notice this change immediately, as we had played and studied together for an hour or so each day for over six months, during 1992-93 and part of 1994. Those days are sadly over, as it is not possible for him to study English now. They say, in the near future, he will again be able to learn English.
"One day in the early part of this year a Tibetan man from Kham offered His Holiness a very large, extremely friendly adult deer which is now living in the compound of the lower summer garden. His Holiness foretold that the deer would come to visit him. The next day without anyone leading this deer, he found his way from the lower summer palace and on his own, traveled up to the monastery, proceeding to walk up two flights of difficult steep stairs, and entering directly into the room of His Holiness. There, the deer received his blessing! EH MA HO!
"It was certainly a joyous trip to reunite with the Karmapa and to see the clear evidence of his miraculous powers and activities. When I had stayed at Tsurphu in October 1995, I requested a few divinations (mo in Tib.) that later turned out to be exactly correct.
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