His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa (1924–1981), headed the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism at Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet until 1959. At that time, he left Tibet with many monks, carrying with him many sacred objects. He then began to design and build a seat in exile at Rumtek, Sikkim, India.
His Holiness traveled throughout Europe and North America in 1974, 1977 and 1980. He founded more than 100 meditation centers.