To the apparent astonishment and delight of his American retinue, the baby-faced 22-year-old who may one day replace the Dalai Lama as the world symbol of Tibetan Buddhism and icon of Tibetan aspirations said today, on his first trip here, that he hoped he might be able to spend two months a year in the United States, raising the possibility that in decades to come, America could become an important focus for that community.
Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa, or head of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, sat at his ease in a throne-like overstuffed chair, rimless rectangular glasses perched on his pleasantly round, shaven head, a yellow shirt peeking out from underneath a dark red robe, feet in pebbled brown loafers. Reputedly stern, the Karmapa, who spent half an hour with TIME, was both remarkably well-tempered and focused for a man who had just come off a 14-hour flight — by far his longest since he arrived in India eight years ago as a teenager after a swashubuckling escape from China by foot, horseback and plane. Asked whether he had slept on on his way here, he replied in English, “Sleep, but not well. Lot of…” and he did an expert mime of transatlantic turbulence.