The Lineage holders of the Karma Kagyü tradition (Karmapa International Buddhist Institute - KIBI)

Historic background

The historic Buddha, Buddha Shakyamuni, taught at different levels in order to accommodate the different abilities of his students. However, all his teachings are gathered in so called Sutra- and Tantra-ways. Buddha only gave oral teachings. However, his students soon began to write down the teachings in order to pass them on in their original form. On top of that Buddhist masters authored a great number of works in which they further expounded the teachings of Buddha. It was always considered essential that the transmission of the teachings was authentic and exact, as this is of great importance for the Buddhist practise. Over the centuries different lines of transmission evolved, each with its special features.

The Buddhism of Tibet encompasses the totality of the Buddhist teachings, which had their origin in India. Thanks to the magnificent co-operation of Tibetan translators and the Buddhist masters of India the complete collection of Buddhist teachings could be translated into Tibetan. On this basis Buddhism blossomed in Tibet [until] well into the 20th century.

The development of the different Buddhist traditions of Tibet should then be viewed in their historic context:

In the 8th century the Tibetan king of that time, Trisong Detsen invited two Buddhist masters - Guru Rinpoche and Shantarakshita - to come to Tibet. In his service they should teach Buddhism in Tibet. At the same time the king arranged for translation of important Buddhist works into Tibetan. This initial teaching- and translation-activity evolved into the Nyingma-tradition, the "old tradition"; the teachings of the Nyingma-school are founded on these works which became known in Tibet during this first translation period. In the 11th century a second great phase of translation began, which dealt with the revision of the initial terminology and also with the creation of new translations. The traditions that base their transmissions on this translation period are called the Sarma-traditions, the "new traditions". The Kagyü-, Sakya-, and Gelug-schools are the best known among them.

The Kagyü-tradition was brought to Tibet by Marpa the Translator (1012-1097). He had specialised in four different transmissions that trace back to the Indian Yogi Tilopa and other Indian masters of the MahaMudra-line.

The Sakya-tradition was founded by Khön Köngchok Gyalpo (1034-1102). He concentrated on the transmissions that were taught by the Indian Mahasiddha Virupa.

The Gelug- (or Ganden-) tradition was introduced by Tsongkhapa (1357-1419). He emphasised the teachings of the so-called Kadampa-school, which the Indian master Atisha (982-1054) had brought to Tibet.

 

 

The Kagyü tradition

The Kagyü-tradition, often also referred to as the "oral line", goes back to the great Indian yogi Tilopa who lived in India in the 10-11th century. Tilopa had received 4 particular transmissions (T: bka-babs-bzhi) and had become the lineage holder of these traditions.

Although various historic sources show differences regarding the teachers who are connected with these four transmissions, the following description seems to be the most widely known:

The first of the four special transmissions Tilopa got from Nagarjuna; they contain two tantras, the "Sangwa Düpa "-tantra (Sanskrit: Guhyasamaja) and the "Denshi"-tantra, and they encompass the meditationpractises of the "Illusory body" (Tibetan: sgyu-lus) and the "transmission of consciousness" (Tibetan: pho-ba).

The second special transmission came from Nakpopa; it contains the tantra of "Gyuma Tschenmo" (Skt: Mahamaya) and the meditation called "Conscious dreaming" (Tib.: rim-lam).

The third special transmission Tilopa received from Lawapa; it consists of the "Demtschog "-tantra and the meditations practise of "Clear Light" (Tib.: od gsal).

The fourth special transmission came from the dakini Kalpa Sangmo. It contains the tantra of "Gyepa Dorje" (Skt.: Hevajra) and the meditation-practise called "Tummo" (Tib.: gtu-mo).

Tilopa passed these teachings on to his student Naropa, who systematised them into the so-called "Six Teachings of Naropa" - meditations which to this day form the central theme in the Kagyü tradition. Naropa transmitted the teachings to Marpa the great translator, who on his quest for teachings had travelled from Tibet to India. As Marpa finally returned to Tibet he brought this special tradition back with him and taught it in Tibet.

Milarepa, Marpa's most important student, became one of Tibet's greatest yogis. Through his persistence in the meditation practise of MahaMudra and the Six Teachings of Naropa he reached a deep realisation of the absolute nature of the reality.

Gampopa, the doctor from Dhagpo, became Milarepa's lineage-holder. Initially he had studied in the Kadampa tradition, a gradient way, which contain the so-called "Lam Rim"-teachings. Later he met with Milarepa and under his tutelage reached the realisation of the ultimate reality.

Gampopa founded monastic institutions, taught extensively, and had many students. Four of his students founded the four big Kagyü schools: Baram Dharma Wangchuk founded the Baram Kagyü-school, Pagdru Dorje Gyalpo founded the Pagdru Kagyü-school, Shang Tsalpa Tsondru founded the Tsalpa Kagyü-school, and Karmapa Düsum Khyenpa founded the Kamtsang Kagyü school, which is also known as the Karma Kagyü school.

It was the first Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa, who received the complete MahaMudra transmission from Gampopa.

 

The eight smaller Kagyü traditions reach back to Pagdru Dorje Gyalpo's eight main students. These eight schools are: Taglung Kagyü, Trophu Kagyü, Drugpa Kagyü, Martsang Kagyü, Yerpa Kagyü, Yazang Kagyü, Shugseb Kagyü, and Drikung Kagyü.

The various Kagyü traditions are not called "big" or "small" because of their teachings, as they are completely equal in this respect. The four "big" ones are only known as such because they have their foundation in Gampopa himself, whereas the eight "smaller" traditions reach back to a later generation of masters. These days only Karma Kagyü is left of the four "big" Kagyü traditions and of the eight smaller Kagyü traditions only the Taglung-, Drugpa-, and Drikung Kagyü schools exist as independent schools.

Within the Buddhist traditions of Tibet one can distinguish between different transmissions, and all these traditions have transmissions of the Pratimoksha-vow and the Bodhisattva vow [in common]. The Karma Kagyü tradition besides this also contains the transmission of the TantraYana meditation-practises of the Six Teachings of Naropa as well as the MahaMudra.

The name "Golden Kagyü Chain of Transmission" relates to those lineage holders in whose transmission the MahaMudra is the central theme. It is these, the Indian masters of the lineage, the consecutive incarnations of the Karmapa, and their most important students, who pass the transmission on to the next Karmapa incarnation. The lineage holders are chosen by Karmapa himself, whereby it is secured that the teachings remain intact and pure.

The Karmapa then always chooses the teacher who will pass the line of transmission on to the future incarnation. Karmapa is a great Bodhisattva who has the ability to feel the [degree of] realisation and the qualities of others. It is precisely through this ability, because of its power, that the Karmapa sees that the teacher in question has realised the ultimate nature of reality and is not in the least attached to worldly things, and which makes him decide for this or that teacher. There is therefore no norm which Karmapa's teachers would set beforehand. Sometimes these lineage holders were among the most important of Karmapa's reincarnations, and sometimes they were outstanding practitioners who held no high status in the religious hierarchy. Gyalwa Yungtönpa is an example of this.

Another aspect of the preservation of the Karma Kagyü tradition is the preliminary (interim?) administrative council (or preliminary/interim Manager) who managed the monasteries in between Karmapa's incarnations.

The 14th Karmapa, Thegchog Dorje, for instance ordered the head of the Drugpa Kagyü, the 9th Drugchen Mipham, Chökyi Gyamtso, (also known as Mingyur Wanggi Gyalpo) to be the director of this interim administration. The 16th Karmapa, in accordance with the requirements of Indian Legislation, named a "legal person", the "Karmapa Charitable Trust" to exercise this function, and personally named the members of the Curate committee. Until the 17th Karmapa comes of age they carry the responsibility for the affairs of the seat of H. H. the 16th Karmapa and the connected monasteries and centres.

Listed below are the masters of the "Golden Kagyü Chain of Transmission"

Tilopa 988 – 1069

Naropa 1016 – 1100

Marpa 1012 – 1097

Milarepa 1052 – 1135

Gampopa 1079 – 1153

1. Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa 1110 – 1193

Drogön Rechen 1148 – 1218

Pomdragpa 1170 – 1249

2. Karmapa, Karma Pakshi 1204 – 1283

Drubtop Urgyenpa 1230 – 1312

3. Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje 1284 – 1339

Gyalwa Jungtönpa 1296 – 1376

4. Karmapa, Rölpe Dorje 1340 – 1383

2. Shamarpa, Kachö Wangpo 1350 – 1405

5. Karmapa, Deshin Shegpa 1384 – 1415

Rinchen Zangpo (Ratnabhadra) 15. century

6. Karmapa, Tongwa Dönden 1416 – 1453

Bengar Jampal Zangpo 15/16. century

1. Gyaltsab, Paljor Döndrup 1427 – 1489

7. Karmapa, Chödrag Gyamtso 1454 – 1506

Sangye Nyenpa, Tashi Paljor 1457 – 1525

8. Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje 1507 – 1554

5. Shamarpa, Könchog Yenlag 1526 – 1583

9. Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje 1556 – 1603

6. Sharmarpa, Chökyi Wangchuk 1584 – 1629

10. Karmapa, Chöying Dorje 1604 – 1674

7. Sharmarpa, Yeshe Nyingpo 1631 – 1694

11. Karmapa, Yeshe Dorje 1676 – 1702

8. Sharmarpa, Chökyi Döndrub 1695 – 1735

12. Karmapa, Changchub Dorje 1703 – 1732

8. Situpa, Chökyi Jungne 1700 – 1774

13. Karmapa, Düdül Dorje 1733 – 1797

10. Sharmarpa, Chödrub Gyamtso 1742 – 1792

9. Situpa, Pema Nyinche Wangpo 1774 – 1853

14. Karmapa, Thegchog Dorje 1798 – 1868

1. Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye 1813 – 1901

15. Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje 1871 – 1922

11. Situpa, Pema Wangchog 1886 – 1952

2. Jamgön Kongtrul, Khyentse Öser 1904 – 1953

16. Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje 1923 – 1981

 

Tilopa (988-1069)

Excepts from "Biographies of the Kagyü Lineage Holders" by the 2nd Shamarpa, Kachö Wangpo

Tilopa was born in Eastern India in a Brahman family. Already in his young years he met the great master Nagarjuna, who with his magic powers made the State Oracle choose Tilopa to be the ruler of one of the many small kingdoms of the time. After some time Tilopa got fed up with his life as King. He became a monk and was ordained in a tantric temple in Somapuri in Bengal.

One day a Dakini appeared before him and asked him if he wanted to attain true Enlightenment. Tilopa recognised her as a Dakini (a female protector of the esoteric teachings) and asked her for instructions. She introduced him to Chakrasamvara tantra and he was able to assimilate the teachings completely. Tilopa practised these teachings for 12 years in Somapuri. He took a yogini (a female practitioner) for his mate and was for this reason expelled from the monastery community.

Tilopa travelled extensively throughout India, met many realised teachers, and received teachings from them. To sustain his life he stomped sesame seeds (Skt.: til) for oil-extraction, and it is said that his name is derived from this. His main teacher was the Buddha Dorje Chang from whom he received the direct transmission of the teachings, most importantly the MahaMudra teachings. Tilopa lived in lonely places and was known as a great master. Among his numerous extraordinary students Naropa became the lineage holder.

 

Naropa (1016-1100)

Excepts from "Biographies of the Kagyü Lineage Holders" by the 2nd Shamarpa, Katschö Wangpo

Naropa was born in a Nobleman's family in Bengal. He received the name Samantabhadra and was raised in such a way that he could take over the functions of King. As he felt drawn towards spirituality and learning already at the early age of eight, he asked for permission to travel to Kashmir to receive higher learning. As he arrived there three years later he began with the most famous teachers of his time his studies of art, science, linguistics, rhetoric and logic.

As he returned home after finishing his education, he discovered that his parents had arranged a marriage with a Brahmin's daughter by the name of Vimaladipi. Their marriage lasted only eight years and was finally annulled. Naropa returned to Kashmir, was ordained there, and resumed his studies.

At the age of 28 he went to Pullahari to live there and received further teachings at Nalanda a Buddhist university close by. Later he was himself made Abbot of Nalanda. One day a hideous woman appeared to him; she was actually a manifestation of the dakini Vajra Varahi. She made the importance of the meditation practice clear to Naropa and gave him the advice to look up the master Tilopa in order to receive teachings from him.

Naropa left Nalanda to find this teacher and finally met him in Eastern India. To teach Naropa in his special way Tilopa subjected Naropa to severe hardships. Naropa persevered after all and mastered the received teachings.

Marpa the Translator, his student from Tibet, brought the teachings to Tibet and there became the founder of the Kagyüpa tradition.

 

Marpa (1012-1097)

Excerpt from the biography of Marpa by Tsang Nyön Heruka

Marpa was born in southern Tibet turned to Buddhism already in his young years. After learning from the Sakyapa-lama Drogmi, he sold all his belongings and went on a journey to India. On his way there Marpa came trough Nepal where he met two of Naropa's students. They impressed him so much that he decided to seek out Naropa.

Marpa met Naropa and through many years received teachings from him. On top of that he also learned with Jnanagarbka, Kukuripa, Maitripa, and other famous Indian masters. After his return to Tibet Marpa spent much time with translating Buddhist texts from Sanskrit into Tibetan. At the same time he was living with his wife, Dagmema, and his son in Lhodrag in South Tibet. Marpa became a famous translator and led a group of students whom he taught the quintessence of the teachings that he himself had practised and mastered.

Marpa went to India two more times in order to bring further teachings to Tibet. It was after the return from his second journey that Milarepa, who as a famous Tibetan yogi was part of history, became his student. Marpa died at the age of 86.

 

Milarepa (1052-1135)

Excerpt from "the Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa" by Tsang Nyön Heruka

Milarepa was born in the Gungthang region of Western Tibet. His father died when he was only seven years old and left the family estate in the trust of their relatives, who treated Milarepa and his family very badly. Milarepa's embittered mother sent him away to learn magic so that he could revenge the evildoings of the relatives.

Milarepa soon learnt how to utilise these dark destructive powers and thereby caused the death of many people. Soon he regretted his crimes and went on the search for a master who could help him counteract the negative Karma he had collected. First he became the student of Lama Rangtön. He, a teacher from the Nyingma-tradition, noticed that Milarepa had a connection to Marpa and therefore sent him to this translator in Lhodrag.

Marpa, as a preparation for the later teachings and instructions, let Milarepa endure years of hardships. During this time Milarepa, following building-descriptions from Marpa, built a nine story high tower with his own hands. After these trials Marpa transmitted to him all the teachings which he had gathered from Naropa and others.

Milarepa practised many years in complete solitude, mastered the teachings, and reached Enlightenment in this one life. Then he began to teach others and was first and foremost known for his poetic teaching-songs. He had many famous students, of whom Gampopa became the next lineage holder. Milarepa died at the age of 84.

 

Gampopa (1079-1135)

Excerpts from "the Banner of the Joyous Biography of Gampopa" (kun-khyab-snyen-pa´i- ba-den) by the 8th Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje.

Gampopa comes from Nyal in Eastern Tibet. His father, a doctor, raised his son to follow in his footsteps and become a doctor too. Gampopa married when he was in his early twenties. His two children fell victim to a plague that was scouring the region and as also his wife fell ill from the same sickness, Gampopa was very distressed. Even though he tried everything he could not heal his wife. On her deathbed she asked him to dedicate his life to the Buddhist practise.

At the age of 26 Gampopa took the novice vows according to the Kadampa-tradition. He studied with many masters and developed a good understanding of Buddha's teachings. When at the age of 32 he heard of Milarepa, he at once felt an intensive confidence and realised that Milarepa was destined to become his teacher.

Gampopa went on a search for Milarepa and after difficulties he succeeded in finding him. After he had received the complete Kagyü teachings, he went to Dhagpo, a region in Central Tibet. There he at first withdrew into a meditation retreat and then founded the monastery Dhagla Gampo, where a number of students soon gathered around him. Gampopa was an excellent author, who was especially known for his deep insight into Buddha's teachings.

Of Milarepa's main students Gampopa was the one who received the complete Kagyü transmission from Milarepa. The four most important students of Gampopa founded the four "big" Kagyü schools, whereas the eight "smaller" Kagyü schools were developed later. Gampopa died at the age of 75 after having disseminated the Kagyü teachings far and wide.

Among his closest students it was Düsum Khyenpa who became his lineage holder.

 

The 1st Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa (1110-1193)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal" by the 8th Situ, Chökyi Jungne, and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab

Düsum Khyenpa was born in rate, a village in Eastern Tibet. He had already as a child received teachings from his father, a practising Buddhist, as well as from other teachers. As a result Düsum Khyenpa learned and practised Buddhism already since early childhood.

At the age of 20 Düsum Khyenpa travelled to Central Tibet where he studied intensively with great scholars like Kyapa Chökyi Senge, Patsab Lotsawa Nyima Trag, and others.

At the age of 30 he met Gampopa and for three years received the teachings of the Kagyüs from him. Düsum Khyenpa was also taught by Rechungpa and other of Milarepa's students. He learned and practised for twelve years in a row and developed wondrous powers, which enabled him to visit holy VajraYana places in India. In Udhiyana - also an important VajraYana place - he met dakinis who instructed him in great detail.

At the age of 44 he returned to Eastern Tibet and spent the rest of his life there. In this chapter of his life he founded three monasteries, spread the Kagyü teachings, and attracted many students. Düsum Khyenpa had many very capable students who carried on the Kagyü tradition and Drogön Rechen became his lineage holder. Düsum Khyenpa died at the age of 84 and during his dying many auspicious signs appeared.

 

Drogön Rechen (1148-1218)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal" by the 8th Situ, Chökyi Jungne, and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab

Drogön Rechen was born in the Tsang region of Central Tibet. Already in his young years he felt drawn to the Dharma and had the feeling that [leading] a purely worldly life had no real value.

At nine years he began to practise the Dharma with the Kagyü lama Sangri Repa. Unfortunately the lama fell ill before he had transmitted all the teachings to him. As he knew his death was imminent he recommended Drogön Rechen to seek out Milarepa's students since studying the Dharma under their tutelage would cause him to achieve Realisation.

Drogön Rechen received the complete teachings of Milarepa as well as the Nyingma teachings going back to the Indian master Vimalamitra. He applied the teachings in practise and reached deep levels of Realisation.

As Drogön Rechen heard of Düsum Khyenpa, the first Karmapa, he decided to seek him out. Although he regarded Karmapa and himself as equals he decided to meet with him since the Karmapa was an older master and therefore had a longer experience with Buddhism and the practises connected with it.

At their meeting Karmapa revealed supernatural powers thereby breaching the proud attitude of Drogön Khyenpa. Drogön Rechen became Düsum Khyenpa's most important student, received the complete cycle of the Kagyü teachings, and became the next lineage holder.

Pomdragpa Sönam Dorje (1179-1249)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal" by the 8th Situ, Chökyi Jungne, and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab

Pomdragpa Sönam Dorje was born in Drikung in Central Tibet. He was a gifted child who mastered reading and writing at the age of five. At the age of 9 he began studying Buddhism with the lama Lhakang Gang.

As he as 14 he heard about Drogön Rechen. The strong wish to meet him, together with a hunch that Drogön Rechen might be his predestined teacher, arose in him.

When they met Drogön Rechen saw clearly that this boy was very gifted and would be the next lineage holder. Because of this he transmitted all the teachings to Pomdragpa who practised them well and became a great Kagyü master. His main student was the second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi.

 

The 2nd Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (1204-1283)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal"

Karma Pakshi was born in Chile Tsakto in Eastern Tibet. At the age of 6 he mastered reading and writing although nobody had taught him. At ten he only needed to read a text once in order to understand and remember the contents. During this time the young Karmapa went on a journey to Central Tibet to continue his studies there. On his way there he met Pomdragpa Sönam Dorje who advised him to stay with him. Pomdragpa Sönam Dorje had in a vision of Düsum Khyenpa been told that the small boy would become a lineage holder.

Karma Pakshi received the complete cycle of Kagyü teachings from him. He became a famous Siddha with extraordinary powers and realisations. He had students both in Tibet as well as in Mongolia and China. Of his best students Drubtop Urgyenpa became the next lineage holder. Karma Pakshi died at the age of 80.

 

Drubtop Urgyenpa (1230-1312)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal"

Drubtop Urgyenpa was born in Latö in Northern Tibet. As a child he knew by himself how to meditate. However he wished to start the Buddhist way with a study of the teachings and then practise meditation based on that. Between his seventh and sixteenth year he therefore studied many texts. Then he entered the renowned monastic college of Podong Er in the Tsang region and became one of the outsatnding scholars of his tuime.

As he was not satisfied with his accomplishments he looked up the master Götsangpa from whom he received all the Kagyü teachings. Drubtop Urgyenpa practised in the Drugpa Kagyü tradition. He travelled to Nepal, India, China, and Pakistan and during his travels met with many teachers under whose tutelage he continued his studies and meditations.

At the age of 53 he met karma Pakshi who transferred to him the final Kagyü teachings and prophesised that Urgyenpa would be the teacher of the 3rd Karmapa.

 

The 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal"

Rangjung Dorje was born in Dingri Langkor. Right after the birth he sat up and announced that he was the Karmapa. At three he made himself a black hat and further stressed that he is the Karmapa. At the age of 5 he met with Drubtop Urgyenpa who recognised him as an incarnation of the Karma Pakshi and gave him the Black Crown as well as everything else that belonged to the 2nd Karmapa. Urgyenpa also transmitted the Kagyü teachings to him.

Rangjung Dorje received teachings from all the Buddhist traditions existing at his time. He studied with masters like Trophu Künden Sherab, Nyenre Gendün Bum, and many others. He became known as one of the greatest masters of his time and had countless students.

Rangjung Dorje founded many meditation centres. He also built bridges to help people get across rivers and ravines. As an outstanding scholar he wrote numerous texts and essays.

His most important students were Gyalwa Yungtön and the first Shamarpa, Dragpa Senge. Gyalwa Yungtön, a Nyingmapa, became the next lineage holder. Rangjung Dorje died at the age of 56.

 

Gyalwa Yungtön Dorje Pal (1296-1376)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal"

Gyalwa Yungtön was born in Tsongru Gurmo in Southern Tibet. When at the age of 5 his mother took him to the market, he met the great scholar Trophu Khenchen Sönam Senge. The boy felt great trust and immediately received the Refuge- and the Lay-vows.

At the age of 15 he entered the famous Nyingma monastery Ugpa Lung and was there taught TantraYana by Lama Zurchung and Lama Bale.

He then studied at the monastic college of Shalu and there became a famous scholar. He was known as a teacher who had mastered the teachings of the Sutra as well as those of the Tantra. It is said, that after meeting the 3rd Karmapa, who had transmitted to him the final meaning of the teachings, he reached the highest Realisation. So Gyalwa Yungtönpa became the next lineage holder. He died at the age of 82.

The 4th Karmapa, Rölpe Dorje (1340-1283)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal"

Rölpe Dorje was born in the Kongpo region of Central Tibet. Right after his birth he sat up and recited "Om Mani Peme Hung", the Chenrezig mantra.

Rinchen Pal, the secretary for the last Karmapa had received instructions from the Karmapa about his next incarnation and after following these he found the 4th Karmapa. At the age of 6 he received the Refuge- and Lay-vows from Tokden Gön Gyalwa, under whose tutelage he studied and meditated.

At the age of 20 while on a journey to Central Tibet he met Gyalwa Yungtön Dorje Pal, and the young Karmapa told him about many events from the life of Rangjung Dorje, the latest Karmapa. He convinced Gyalwa Yungtön that the boy was indeed the authentic reincarnation of his teacher. Rölpe Dorje told him that in this life Gyalwa Yungtön would be his teacher and asked him to transmit all the Kagyü teachings to him. After his education the Karmapa travelled throughout all of Tibet and China spreading the Kagyü teachings. His most important student was the 2nd Shamarpa who became the next lineage holder. Rölpe Dorje died at the age of 43.

 

The 2nd Shamarpa, Kachö Wangpo (1350-1405)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal"

The 2nd Shamarpa, Kachö Wangpo, was recognised by the 4th Karmapa Rölpe Dorje. He was one of Rölpe Dorje's most important students and highly learned as well as accomplished in meditation. Kachö Wangpo recognised the 5th Karmapa and became his teacher. Kachö Wangpo is known for having furthered the Kagyü teachings to a great extent. He was also the author of countless papers explaining the exact meaning of the Kagyü teachings.

The tradition of the reincarnation-succession has its origin in the 12th century in Tibet and began with the example of the 1st Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa. The line of the Shamarpas goes back to the same century. So in the history of this tradition it is the second line of reincarnation and it began as the 3rd Karmapa presented his most important student, Kedrup Dragpa Senge, with a ruby-red crown and simultaneously gave him the title of Shamarpa (Holder of the Red Crown). This "Red Crown of the Shamarpa" is an exact replica of the black crown that is worn by the Karmapas and it symbolises the close connection that exists between the two lines of reincarnation. The 2nd Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, prophesised, that "future Karmapas would manifest in two forms". This statement was later explained in further detail by the 4th Karmapa, Rölpe Dorje, as he described the Shamarpa incarnations as precisely this second manifestation. The Shamarpas are also known as the manifestation of Amitabha, the Buddha of Limitless Light, who acts for the benefit of all beings.

Historic records speak of the Karmapas as "Karma Shanakpa" (Karmapa, Holder of the Black Crown) and of the Shamarpas as "Karma Shamarpa" (Karmapa, Holder of the Red Crown). The historical works of Golo Shonnu Pal (1392-1481), Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa (1504-1516), the 5th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lozang Gyamtso (1617-1682), and of the 8th Situpa, Chökyi Jungne (1700-1774), describe them in this way.

It is important to understand that these crowns are simply symbols of their activity for the benefit of all beings and not a sign of any divided lines. Both, the "Black-Hat-Lama" as well as the "Red-Hat-Lama", belong to the Karma Kagyü line.

 

The 5th Karmapa, Deshin Shegpa (1384-1415)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal" by the 8th Situ, Chökyi Jungne, and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab

Deshin Shegpa was born in the region of Nyang Dam in Southern Tibet. Right after his birth he sat up, wiped his face, and said, "I am the Karmapa. Om Mani Peme Hung Hri".

As Rinchen Pal, who worked as secretary for three Karmapas, heard of this unusual child, he sought it out and brought it to Tsawa Phu in Kongpo where a great group of people, students of the late Karmapa, were living.

There the boy met Shamar Kachö Wangpo who at once recognised him as the reincarnation of Rölpe Dorje. Shamar presented to him the Black Crown and all the other things, which the last Karmapa had entrusted to him.

The young Karmapa received from Kachö Wangpo the collected cycle of the Kagyü teachings. Throughout his life he travelled through Tibet, Mongolia, and China, and gave teachings and empowerments. He was invited to China by the emperor Tai Ming Chen and became his teacher. After staying several years in China Karmapa finally returned to Tibet where on the one hand he gave further teachings and on the other hand built stupas and temples.

Deshin Shegpa found the young Shamar reincarnation, Chöpal Yeshe, monitored his ordination and transmitted to him the Kagyü teachings. Of his most important students Ratnabhadra became the next lineage holder. Deshin Shegpa died at the age of 31.

 

Ratnabhadra (Tib. Rinchen Zangpo) (15. Jahrh.)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal" by the 8th Situ, Chökyi Jungne, and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab

Ratnabhadra comes from the region of Soksam. He was ordained in his young years, received teachings and instructions from many masters, and became one of the most well known scholars and meditation-masters of the 15th century. The 5th Karmapa, Deshin Shegpa, gave him the core teachings of the ultimate meaning of the Kagyü teachings, through whose power Ratnabhadra reached complete realisation of the ultimate nature of reality. He became the next lineage holder and teacher of the 6th Karmapa, Tongwa Dönden.

 

The 6th Karmapa, Tongwa Dönden (1416 – 1453)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal" by the 8th Situ, Chökyi Jungne, and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab

Tongwa Dönden was born in Ngomto Shakyam, near Karma Gön in Eastern Tibet. At his birth many auspicious signs appeared. When he was only one month old his mother took him with her on a begging trip on which they met Ngompa Chadral, a student of the late Karmapa. The child was very excited and smiled at Ngompa Chadral who asked him in return who he might be. The boy sat up and answered, "I am the Karmapa". Ngompa Chadral took charge of the child for the next seven months. Then he took him to Karma Gön, one of Karmapa's three monasteries in Tibet. There, he gave many teachings to Karmapa even though he was so little.

When Karmapa was 3 years old he met Ratnabhadra and from him received he complete Kagyü transmission. Already at the age of 6 he wrote many VajraYana rituals. During this time the 3rd Shamarpa, Chöpal Yeshe, came to visit Karma Gön. He enthroned Karmapa and gave him teachings on the Kagyü practise.

At the age of 9 Tongwa Dönden was ordained by Khenchen Sönam Zangpo in the monastery of Wokar Tashi Tang. He spent his whole life travelling trough Tibet and teaching the Dharma. On top of that he built and restored numerous monasteries and temples.

Pengar Jampal Sangpo and the first Gyaltsab, Goshir Paljor Döndrup, counted among his most important students. They both became lineage holders and the main teachers of the 7th Karmapa, Tschödrag Gyamtso.

 

Pengar Jampal Sangpo (15./16. Jahrhundert)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal" by the 8th Situ, Chökyi Jungne, and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab

Jamgpal Sangpo comes from Damshang in Eastern Tibet. Already as a small child he showed an interest in the Buddhist Way and practised the meditation on Tara for many years until he had perfected it and met Tara face to face.

At the age of 20 he was ordained by Tsalmig Samten Sangpo. He studied the complete SutraYana and VajraYana with the renowned scholar Rongtön and in the course of four years received the "Six Teachings of Naropa" from the 6th Karmapa, Tongwa Dönden.

Jampal Sangpo achieved complete Realisation of the ultimate meaning of the Kagyü teachings. He was a master with outstanding qualities and became the teacher of the 7th Karmapa, Tschödrag Gyamtso.

 

Goshir Paljor Döndrup, 1st Gyaltsab Rinpoche (1427 – 1489)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal" by the 8th Situ, Chökyi Jungne, and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab

Paljor Döndrup was born in Nyemo Yakteng in Central Tibet. At the age of 5 he came into custody of the 6th Karmapa, Tongwa Dönden, and was made his secretary by the age of 14. He was entrusted to Shamarpa, Nyak Pokpa Sönam Sangpo and Pengar Jampal Sangpo, and received religious education and training from these three masters. Paljor Döndrup later became the teacher for the 7th Karmapa, Tschödrag Gyamtso.

The 7th Karmapa, Tschödrag Gyamtso (1454 – 1506)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal" by the 8th Situ, Chökyi Jungne, and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab

Tschödrag Gyamtso came from Kyilha in Northern Tibet. As soon as he was born he wiped his face and said "Ah", the Sanskrit syllable that symbolises the true nature of reality.

Tschö Paljor, a student of the 6th Karmapa and the head of Nyewo Ngarteng, one of the small monasteries in the region of Kyilha, had dreamed that his guru had been reborn in Kyilha.

He found the small child who at this point was only seven days old. In order to be sure that the child was the authentic reincarnation he had brought some objects from the belongings of the 6th Karmapa. He wanted to see if the child would recognise them. The child was able to do this with out any hesitation and laid his hand on Tschö Paljor's head to give him a blessing.

At the age of only 2 Karmapa was brought to Arik Thang, a place where his predecessor had taught and where they had preserved a throne-like seat made from stone plates. There Karmapa gave blessings to more than 1000 people who had come together for this event. When he was 4 years old he received a row of empowerments from Goshir Paljor Döndrup and when he was eight he went to Karma Gön. There he received the Karma-Kagyü teachings from Pengar Jampal Sangpo as well as from Goshir Paljor Döndrup.

As Karmapa was invited to many places he began to travel. He gave teachings and empowerments to thousands of people and wrote many texts and treatises. Tschödrag Gyamtso spent his whole life travelling from place to place with a huge retinue of students. Thousands of people led a nomadic life in tents while following their Guru Karmapa and receiving teachings. They must all adhere to the strict study- and meditation-program set down by Karmapa.

At Nyiro Dong Tse he met the 4th Shamarpa, Tschökyi Tragpa, to whom he transmitted the line.

Among his students it was Denma Drubchen Tashi Paljor who became his lineage holder. Karmapa Tschödrag Gyamtso died at the age of 52.

 

Denma Drubtop Tashi Paljor (1457 – 1525)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal" by the 8th Situ, Chökyi Jungne, and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab

Tashi Paljor was born in the province of Den in Eastern Tibet. Already as a small child he was interested in the Dharma. When he was 5 years old great devotion arose in him by hearing the name of Karmapa. One year later he met Karmapa and from him received the name Tashi Paljor.

At the age of 8 he was ordained by Pengar Jampal Sangpo and from his 9th to his 16th year studied the sutras with the scholar Sangye Pal.

The thought, that to achieve Enlightenment he would need an extraordinary teacher, led him to return to Karmapa. For more than seven years he received teachings from him. When it became clear to him that one can only reach the Liberation from Samsara when one puts the teachings into practice, he followed the example of Milarepa. He spent 20 years in retreat in the mountains, attained Realisation, and became the Guru for the 8th Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje.

The 8th Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje (1507 – 1554)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal" by the 8th Situ, Chökyi Jungne, and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab

Mikyö Dorje was born in the Ngam Chu province of Eastern Tibet. As soon as he had arrived in this world he sat up and declared, "I am the Karmapa. I am the Karmapa".

Karmapas father went to Situ Tashi Namgyal who was in the vicinity and told him about his new-born son. Situpa said that he was almost sure that the boy was a Karmapa reincarnation. He told the father to keep this in mind and take appropriately good care of the boy.

Almost at the same time the Amdo family from Kongpo in Central Tibet claimed that their son was the reincarnation of the Karmapa. At the request of many people Gyaltsap Tashi Namgyal took care of the boy.

The Karmapa reincarnation born in Ngamchu was brought to the provinces of Riwo Che and Lho Rong, where many of Karmapa's earlier students were staying. They were convinced that the child in their care was the real reincarnation.

Since the two parties could not come to an agreement it caused great problems. Gyaltsap had the two children brought together in order to determine which was the true Karmapa. In such a situation the two candidates are tested as to whether they are able to distinguish their predecessor's possessions from a pile of objects. This collection of objects consists of a mixture of things that belonged to the predecessor and other similar objects.

The child from Ngam Chu was able to do this whereas the other child failed. In this way it was determined who was the genuine reincarnation. The young Karmapa declared that the other candidate was a reincarnation of Surmang Chungtsang from the Surmang monastery in Eastern Tibet.

The 8th Karmapa received all the Kagyü teachings from Denma Drubchen Tashi Paljor. He also studied and practised under the guidance of many other masters. Many monastery-colleges were founded by him and he wrote a number of well-known philosophical treatises.

The innermost teachings of the Kagyü line he transferred to the 5th Shamarpa, Köntschog Yenlag, who became the next lineage holder. Mikyö Dorje died at the age of 47.

 

The 5th Shamarpa, Könchog Yenlag (1526 – 1583)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal" by the 8th Situ, Chökyi Jungne, and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab

Köntschog Yenlag was recognised by the 8th Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje. The eighth Karmapa said that the Karmapa- and the Shamarpa-reincarnations were in fact one and the same mind-stream and were inseparable from each other. Könchog Yenlag was a scholar and master of meditation. In the course of his life he wrote seven famous texts on the meditation practise. Shamarpa Köntschog Yenlag recognised the ninth Karmapa, Wangtschuk Dorje, and became his Guru.

 

The 9th Karmapa, Wangtschuk Dorje (1556 – 1603)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal" by the 8th Situ, Chökyi Jungne, and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab

Wangtschuk Dorje was born in the Treshod region of Eastern Tibet. As soon as he was born he sat up, wiped his face, and said, "I am the Karmapa". Soon people in the area were talking about this unusual child.

Kyamo Nangso Chokyong Tashi was a follower of the late Karmapa, and he had been told by Karmapa that he would serve the next Karmapa. So he went to Treshod to see the child and brought it to the monastery of Kyamo Lhundrup Tse.

The fame of the child quickly spread and reached Shamar Könchog Yenlag and Situ Tschökyi Gocha. They both determined that the child was the rebirth of Karmapa. Situpa travelled to him and offered to him the Long-Life empowerment of Amitayus, the "Buddha of Long Life".

Shamarpa met the ninth Karmapa at a place called Lhundrup Tse. He gave the boy the Refuge vows and detailed instructions. Karmapa Wangtschuk Dorje received all the Kagyü teachings from Shamar Könchog Yenlag. Karmapa travelled everywhere in Tibet, taught the Dharma, and once in a while stepped in as mediator when there was unrest in various parts of the land. He also improved the living conditions for many people and was considered the leader of Tibet.

The 9th Karmapa found the reincarnation of Shamarpa, Tschökyi Wangtchuk, who became his main student and the next lineage holder. Wangtschuk Dorje died at the age of 47.

 

The 6th Shamarpa, Tschökyi Wangtschuk (1584 – 1629)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal" by the 8th Situ, Chökyi Jungne, and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab

Tschökyi Wangtschuk was recognised by the 9th Karmapa, his main teacher. He also received teachings from many other masters and is famous for his deep insight. At the age of 17 he knew 50 sutras and tantras by heart. Because of his extraordinary abilities in philosophical debates he was know as the "Pundit of the North, the all-knowing Shamarpa with whom the Great Manjushri is pleased. The 6th Shamarpa wrote ten treatises about the importance of both the Sutra- and the Tantra-tradition.

Tschökyi Wangtschuk became the guru of the "Desi Tsangpa", the ruler of Central Tibet, and taught everywhere in this region. During his travels in Eastern Tibet he recognised the 10th Karmapa, Tschöying Dorje and became his guru. At the time there was great unrest in the country and Tschökyi Wangtschuk was very successful as a mediator, so that it could come to peaceful solutions of the conflicts. His travels also took him to Nepal where he taught Buddhism in its original, classical language, Sanskrit, to the King, Laxman Naran Singh, and everyone who showed interest and devotion.

Tschökyi Wangtschuk died in the Helampur Mountains of Nepal close to a cave where Tibet's great Yogi Milarepa had meditated.

 

The 10th Karmapa, Tschöying Dorje (1604 – 1674)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal"

Tschöying Dorje was born in Khaytri Tang in the province of Golok in the extreme Northeast of Tibet. The 6th Shamarpa recognised and enthroned the Karmapa and transmitted all the teachings of the Kagyü line to him. Tschöying Dorje travelled throughout all of Tibet, taught, and also benefited the beings in many other ways. Because of a pact between the Mongolian ruler Gushri Khan and the fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lozang Gyamtso, who was the first Dalai Lama to become ruler of all Tibet, Karmapa had many difficulties. Because of the political clime the Kagyü teachings became weakened, and finally sectarian persecutions even forced Karmapa to leave Tibet.

He travelled through Nepal and Burma to Yunnan in China and in the areas around his travelling route built many monasteries. After 20 years in exile he was able to return to Tibet.

Karmapa Tschöying Dorje found and enthroned the 7th Shamarpa, Yeshe Nyingpo, and transmitted all the Kagyü teachings to him. At the age of 70 Karmapa Tschöying Dorje died.

 

The 7th Shamarpa, Yeshe Nyingpo (1631 – 1694)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal"

Yeshe Nyingpo was found by the 10th Karmapa, Tschöying Dorje and became Karmapa's student. Shamarpa dedicated his whole life to meditation. In accordance with the authentic directions of the 10th Karmapa he found the 11th Karmapa, Yeshe Dorje, and became his guru.

 

The 11th Karmapa, Yeshe Dorje (1676 – 1702)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal"

Yeshe Dorje was born in Mayshö in Eastern Tibet. Shamarpa Yeshe Nyingpo recognised him as the reincarnation of the 10th Karmapa. He first brought him to his residence, the monastery of Yangpachen in Central Tibet. From there the young Karmapa went to the monastery of Tsurphu, one of Karmapa's three residences in Tibet, and was enthroned there.

Shamarpa transmitted the Kagyü teachings to him. From Yöngay Mingyur Dorje and Taksham Nuden Dorje he received the Terchö teachings going back to the Indian master Padmasambhava. According to the scriptures Padmasambhava had prophesised that the 11th Karmapa would be the holder of certain Terchö lines.

Karmapa found and recognised the 8th Shamarpa, Palchen Tschökyi Döndrub who became his main student and the next lineage holder. Karmapa Yeshe Dorje died at the age of 27.

 

The 8th Shamarpa, Tschökyi Döndrub (1695 – 1732)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal"

Tschökyi Döndrup was born into a Nepalese family in Helampur in Nepal. From Tibet the 11th Karmapa sent an emissary to Nepal with precise instructions on where to find Shamarpa. At the age of 7 Shamarpa Tschökyi Döndrub was brought to Tibet and enthroned by the 11th Karmapa who took over all responsibility for his education.

Tschökyi Döndrub found the 12th Karmapa, Tschangchub Dorje, and became his guru. They both travelled and taught very much in Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, India, and China. The 12th Karmapa and the 8th Shamarpa both died in China only one day apart.

 

The 12th Karmapa, Tschangchub Dorje (1703 – 1732)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal"

Tschangchub Dorje was born in Chile Chakhor, in the province of Derge in Eastern Tibet. Shamarpa heard of the unusual child, sent a search-party, and had Karmapa brought to the monastery of Karma Gön. There Karmapa and Shamarpa met each other and they stayed together for the rest of their lives.

Situ Tschökyi Jungne says in his autobiography "The Clear Crystal Mirror" (page 32, line 3, in the edition by Dr. Lokesh Chandra), that the Karmapas and the Shamarpas have the same status. He further says that this is shown by the fact that their throne-like seats have the same height.

Karmapa and Shamarpa transmitted all the Kagyü teachings to the 8th Situpa and named him the next lineage holder.

 

The 8th Situpa, Tschökyi Jungne (1700 – 1774)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal"

The 8th Shamarpa, Tschökyi Döndrub was the guru of Situ Tschökyi Jungne. In his autobiography Situpa writes that he regards Shamarpa as the embodiment of Amitabha, the "Buddha of Limitless Light", and that the meeting with Shamarpa had brought meaning to his life.

The 12th Karmapa and the 8th Shamarpa met Situ Tschökyi Jungne in Eastern Tibet on their way to China in the year of 1735. They told Situpa that they were not going to return to Tibet and gave him instructions to take over the responsibility for the Kagyü line until their reincarnations had been found.

As Situ Tschökyi Jungne heard of the deaths of Karmapa and Shamarpa he began the search for their reincarnations. With the help of a Nyingma master, Kato Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu, he found he 13th Karmapa, Düdul Dorje, and the 9th Shamarpa, Geway Jungne. He enthroned Karmapa and as lineage holder was able to transfer to him the full extent of the Kagyü teachings. Shamarpa only lived 8 years though.

Later Karmapa, Situpa, and Kato Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu recognised a younger brother of the 4th Panchen Lama, Palden Yeshe, as the reincarnation of Shamarpa. However the 7th Gyaltsab Rinpoche had already approved the son of the rich family Ger Namsayling. Many monks from Shamarpa's seat in Tibet, the monastery of Yangpachen, supported him in this.

The controversy was brought before the court and it was determined that Karmapa, Situpa, and Kato Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu had found the authentic reincarnation. Shamarpa was reinstated and received teachings from Karmapa and Situpa.

 

The 13th Karmapa, Düdül Dorje (1733 – 1797)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal"

Düdül Dorje was born in Champa Drongsar in Southern Tibet. He was recognised by Kato Rigdzin Tsewang and Situ Tschökyi Jungne.

At that time Tibet was ruled by the 7th Dalai Lama, Kalsang Gyamtso, and his head minister, Sönam Topgyal. They wanted to push it through that all government officials should be Gelugpas and sent out a decree to this effect. Before this time officials from other traditions were allowed to work in the government administration. Because of this political decision it became necessary to request the approval-seal for the Karmapa incarnation from the Dalai Lama. It was a purely political measure, which came into being because of the sectarianism of the time.

When Karmapa was 5 years old he was brought to the monastery of Tsurphu. At the age of 12 he received all the Kagyü teachings from Situ Tschökyi Jungne and the 6th Kyabgön Druktchen, Kagyü Trinle Shingta. He also received Nyingma teachings from Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu.

Later there were problems with the reincarnation of Shamarpa, as Gyaltsab Rinpoche claimed that the son of the wealthy family Ger Namsay Ling was the incarnation; however Karmapa and Situpa declared the younger brother of the Panchen Lama to be the Shamarpa reincarnation. After a string of problems the affair was settled. It was determined that Gyaltsab Rinpoche had not found the genuine reincarnation. So Karmapa and Situpa together recognised the 10th Shamarpa, Mipham Chödrub Gyamtso. He became their main student of both.

Düdül Dorje also found the 9th Situpa, Pema Nyinche Wangpo, and recognised him. Both the 10th Shamarpa and the 9th Situpa were close students of Karmapa and both became lineage holders. Karmapa Düdül Dorje died art the age of 64.

 

The 10th Shamarpa, Mipham Tschödrub Gyamtso (1742 – 1793)

Excerpts from "The Chain of Moonwatercrystal" by the 8th Situ, Chökyi Jungne, and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab

Mipham Tschödrub Gyamtso was recognised by his teacher the 13th Karmapa, Düdul Dorje. He became a scholar and a master of meditation. When he was more than 40 years old he travelled to Nepal where he attracted many students. Shamarpa restored the great Swayambu-Stupa, one of Nepal's great Buddhist monuments, and died near the Boudhanath-Stupa, another famous place of pilgrimage in Nepal.

 

The 9th Situpa, Pema Nyinche Wangpo (1774 – 1853)

Excerpts from "The Flowers of Dedication" by Jangön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye (published by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, New Delhi)

Guru Rinpoche, an Indian master who were among the first to introduce Buddhism in Tibet, said that in the future he would manifest as a person by the name of Pema Nyinche Wangpo.

The 10th Shamarpa, Tschödrub Gyamtso, and the 7th Pawo, Tsuglag Gawa, recognised Pema Nyinche Wangpo as the reincarnation of Situ Tschökyi Jungne. Shamarpa inaugurated and enthroned him.

Pema Nyinche Wangpo studied with many masters of his time. His main teachers were the 13th Karmapa, Düdül Dorje, and the 10th Shamarpa, Tschödrub Gyamtso.

Situpa built many retreat centres where he taught intensively. In this way he contributed to the dissemination of the Kagyü meditation practises. He was the guru of the 14th Karmapa, Thegtschog Dorje, and for Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye.

The 14th Karmapa, Thegtschog Dorje (1798 – 1868)

Excerpts from "Additional Records of the Golden Kagyü-line" by Topga Rinpoche

Thegtschog Dorje was born in the village of Danang in the East Tibetan region of Do Kham. Druktschen Künzig Tschökyi Nangwa, who had been entrusted with the letter with the instructions of the 13th Karmapa on how to find his next reincarnation, recognised Thegtschog Dorje as the 14th Karmapa.

Karmapa received ordination from Druktschen Künzig Tschökyi Nangwa and Situ Pema Nyingche Wangpo. From these two masters he also received all the Kagyü teachings. Also Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, a close student, gave teachings to Karmapa, as he had received the rare Terchö teachings, which Thegchog Dorje was not able to get before.

Karmapa travelled everywhere in Tibet and spread the Kagyü teachings. He found and identified the 10th Situpa, Pema Künsang. The most essential Kagyü teachings he gave to Jamgön Lodrö Thaye, who became the next lineage holder. Thegchog Dorje died at the age of 60.

 

Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye (1813 – 1899)

Excerpts from "Additional Records of the Golden Kagyü-line"

Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye was born in the village of Rangyab in the Derge province in Eastern Tibet.

In Samadhirajasutra the Buddha had prophesised the appearance of Lodrö Thaye. It is written that the Buddha spoke of him as an outstanding individual who would really benefit many beings. Also in many of Padmasambhava's Termas (secret teachings, which were hidden in order to be found by his students at a later date) was his appearance foretold.

Lodrö Thaye was the guru of the 15th Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje, to whom he transmitted the Kagyü line and its teachings. Lodrö Thaye died at the age of 87.

 

The 15th Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje (1871 – 1922)

Excerpts from "Additional Records of the Golden Kagyü-line"

Khakyab Dorje was born in the village of Shelkor in the Tsang province of Central Tibet. Directly after his birth he recited the mantra of Chenrezig, and at the age of 5 he was already able to read the scriptures. The 9th Kyabgön Druktschen recognised him and inaugurated him.

Karmapa received from Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye the whole body of the Kagyü teachings and studied with Khenchen Tashi Öser and many others. He travelled through all Tibet, teaching and giving empowerments.

Khakyab Dorje recognised the reincarnation of the Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye and of Situpa. At both their enthronements he led the rituals. Khakyab Dorje was a married master and had three sons, and among them were the 2nd Jamgön Rinpoche and the 12th Shamarpa, Jamyang Rinpoche.

Karmapa had many texts printed anew that had become rare or hard to come by. His closest students were Situ Pema Wangchog Gyalpo, Jamgön Palden Khyentse Öser, and Beru Khyentse Lodrö Misay Jampay Gocha. At the age of 51 Khakyab Dorje died.

 

The 11th Situpa, Pema Wangchog Gyalpo (1886 – 1953)

Excerpts from "Additional Records of the Golden Kagyü-line"

Pema Wangchog Gyalpo was found by the 15th Karmapa and enthroned. His main gurus were Karmapa Khakyab Dorje and Jamgön Lodrö Thaye of whom Khakyab Dorje counted as the most important one, for he gave Situpa the innermost teachings, known as the "Ultimate Kagyü line".

Situpa became a great scholar studied with many masters and taught intensively everywhere in Tibet. He found and enthroned the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, and assumed the responsibility of his education.

 

The 2nd Jamgön Kongtrul, Khyentse Öser (1904 – 1953)

Excerpts from "Additional Records of the Golden Kagyü-line"

Palden Khyentse Öser was born in the Tsurphu monastery. He was the son of the 15th Karmapa, who recognised and enthroned him. From his father he received all the Kagyü teachings. The young reincarnation travelled to Tsadra Rinchen Drag in Eastern Tibet, the seat of his predecessor. He studied intensively with many masters like Surmang Trungpa Tschökyi Nyinche and others. He taught at many places in Tibet and was known for valuing his personal meditation practice very much.

Palden Khyentse Öser transmitted the most essential of the teachings to the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, and thus became a lineage holder of the "Golden Kagyü-line". He died at age 49.

 

The 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1924 – 1981)

Excerpts from "Additional Records of the Golden Kagyü-line"

Rangjung Rigpe Dorje was born in Denkhok in the province of Derge in Eastern Tibet.

Jampal Tsültrim, the servant of his predecessor, had been entrusted with the letter with the instructions about birthplace, parents, etc. concerning the reincarnation. Jampal Tsültrim gave this letter into the custody of the Tsurphu monastery. They asked Beru Khyentse, Situpa, and Jamgön Rinpoche to clarify some obscure points. A search party was sent out, and they found the reincarnation. The young Karmapa was brought to the Palpung monastery, where he from Situ Pema Wangtschog received teachings, ordination, and Bodhisattva-vows. Beru Khyentse gave him teachings about Tantras. The Sutras were studied with Bo Kangkar Rinpoche. Jamgön Kongtrul Khyentse Öser taught him the "Six Yogas of Naropa" and MahaMudra. The main teachers for the 16th Karmapa were Situ Pema Wangtschog and Jamgön Khyentse Öser.

Karmapa travelled and taught everywhere in Tibet. When in 1950 the Chinese army took control of Tibet, Dalai Lama and other government officials went to Peking for consultations. The 16th Karmapa and many other great Lamas accompanied them to participate in the conversations, which brought few good results for the Tibetans. In 1959 China annexed Tibet [made Tibet a part of China] and Karmapa fled to India. He settled down in Sikkim, where the King Tashi Namgyal gave him land to build the monastery Rumtek. At the invitation from King Jigme Dorje Wangchug, Karmapa also went to Bhutan. After a Ladakh journey where Karmapa gave teachings in various monasteries, he went on a pilgrimage to the holy places in India and Nepal.

In 1974 he made his first big journey abroad. Dharma centres were founded all over the World. Karmapa spread the Buddhist teachings and had a great number of students. He died at the age of 57.

 

Appendix:

In the biography of Chokyur Lingpa, a Nyingma master and Tertön (Someone who uncovers the hidden teachings of Guru Rinpoche), it says that in between the 14th and the 15th enthroned Karmapa there will be a reincarnation which does not live long enough to reach an age of enthronement.

It only lived to two years of age and was in born in a family close to the 14th Karmapa. If this reincarnation is counted in with the rest, then Khakyab Dorje was the 16th Karmapa and Rangjung Rigpe Dorje the 17th Karmapa {- and our Thaye Dorje would then be the 18th Karmapa - translator's remark}.

This also explains the prophesy made by the fifth Karmapa, Deshin Shegpa, that between the end of the life of the 16th Karmapa and the beginning of the life of the 17th Karmapa the Buddhist teachings will decline in Tibet. It says there that during this time the people in China will rise up against their emperor, that his family line will perish and that the people of China will conquer and occupy Tibet so that both countries will suffer and become poorer.

From: Kagyü Life #16, 6th. Year (December 1994)

From: Kagyü Life #17, 7th Year (April 1995)

Translation: Lodrö Sangpo