Dharamsala: The 17th Karmapa, the third most important Tibetan religious head, has left here for Germany on a fortnight-long religious tour, one his aides said Monday.

This is 28-year-old Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s first visit to Europe.

His programme includes traditional Buddhist teachings as well as secular events, addressing current social issues such as the environment, Karmapa’s spokesperson Kunzang Chungyalpa told IANS.

The Karmapa, who now resides in a monastery on the outskirts of this town where the Tibetan government-in-exile is headquartered, left for Germany Sunday night. He has previously travelled to the US in 2008, his only visit abroad since he fled Tibet.

During his tour from May 28 to June 9, the Karmapa will meet with a cross-section of people from across Europe who are visiting Germany to participate in the events, the spokesperson said.

Since making headlines after a dramatic flight from Tibet to India in January 2000 when he was just a 14-year-old, the Karmapa has emerged as a strong thought leader and retains a close relationship of mentor and protege with the Dalai Lama.

The Karmapa is the head of the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu lineage, which he has worked to modernise while remaining faithful to the authentic teachings of the Buddha.

A strong advocate of environmental conservation, the Karmapa has spoken out frankly about the destruction of the environment and the effects of climate change in his homeland, urging the international community to work together to protect Tibet’s fragile environment, since at least a third of the world’s population depends on water from the Himalayan region.

The Karmapa, who is considered the third most important Tibetan religious head after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, lives in Gyuto Monastery in close proximity to the Dalai Lama’s official palace.

The Tibetan government-in-exile is based in Dharamsala but not recognised by any country in the world.

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