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Introduction to the controversy about Karmapas
A few historical points
1959 : Karmapa flees to India
Difficulties in 16th Karmapa's times
Years 1980 Through 1990
Events beginning 1992
Events during May and June 1992
Propaganda campaign
Orgyen Trinley, Situ Rinpoche's Karmapa
Events during November and December 1992 in Rumtek
Some information about Sikkim
Year 1993 - situation deteriorates in Rumtek
Recognizing the 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje
Year 1994
Controversy: opposing viewpoints
Relationship between Shamar Rinpoche and Dalaï Lama
A quick glance at events from years 1995 to 1999
Year 2000
Year 2001
Chronology of Events
Bibliography and data sources
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A few historical points

Summary of Tibet's history

The Karmapa and the Karma Kagyu lineage

Who is Karmapa ?

Short history of the Karma Kagyu lineage

Karma Kagyu dignitaries listed by standing
A short history for Karmapa-Shamarpa lineage
The 14th Shamarpa, Mipam Chokyi Lodreu

Summary of Tibet's history

Isolation had been a distinctive feature of Tibet for centuries. The country's geographical inaccessibility and the genuine desire of its inhabitants to have few contacts with outsiders created an ideal situation for seclusion. When the succeeding Chinese dynasties claimed sovereignty over their distant neighbor and pressured Lhasa into submission and acceptance of their graceful patronage, Tibetans didn't give in. Despite Peking's forceful advances, the Himalayan nation managed to go largely undisturbed and forgotten by the outside world. The savage Mongol hordes that laid waste to so much of the country in the middle of the 17th century were more an instrument in the hands of a political faction eager to subdue their domestic rivals than a true foreign aggressor-an instrument that went out of control but still only an instrument consciously imported by politicians in their struggle for power. Thus, throughout Tibetan history, invaders were an unusual sight, and the country remained as secluded at the start of the 20th century as it had been during the time when Buddhism made its first inroads into the Himalayan kingdom around the year 750. Given such enclosed conditions, Tibetans were able to preserve for over a millennium what the successive Muslim invasions meticulously destroyed in northern India about a thousand years ago: the complete teachings of the Buddha.

The first contacts with the West occurred in the 19th century when the Russian and British empires, distrustful of each other's intentions, began to compete for influence in this remote region. European explorers brought home stories of mystic religious systems, of holy lamas and gigantic monasteries. British soldiers had less magical tales to share. Leading, in 1904, an expedition to conquer Lhasa, Colonel Younghusband and his handful of men wiped out nearly the entire Tibetan government army. The military might of the Tibetans was clearly lagging behind their spiritual powers.

After the first connection, a blend of spiritualists, theosophists, and the like immediately took up the subject of the holy kingdom. From the turn of the 20th century, the European public was fed exotic accounts of levitating yogis and had to digest treatises on murky spiritual doctrines that allegedly had their origin in the Land of Snows. The narratives making the rounds fueled the imagination of the readers but had little to do with the real treasures Tibet was guarding. The country was exploited as a source of the mystical and soon became synonymous with everything supernatural.

At about the same time, a number of renowned Orientologists from Scandinavia and imperial Russia managed to make their way into the forbidden city of Lhasa. They met a rich culture supported by a unique religious system. For the first time, the West came into contact with Buddha's complete methods for working with the mind. The scientists' findings, however, remained the exclusive domain of elite universities, and their research did not venture beyond the sphere of intellectual and scientific speculation. For a more extensive and practical impact, Europe had to wait another five decades. It wasn't until 1959, when the Tibetans were brutally forced out of their cocoon by the Communist barbarians, that a true and lasting contact with their culture became possible.

The time for a breakthrough came during the late sixties. The young idealists were on their third journey to the Nepali capital to bring back "substances" that could alter the consciousness of humankind. They firmly believed that drugs could open man's "doors of perception" and show humanity an ultimate truth. Once in Asia, some of them had the great chance to meet lamas as the 16° Karmapa or the others lamas and to change radically way to turn to the internal research lauded by the Buddhism.

This unusual encounter soon gave way to an intense period of apprenticeship in the eastern Himalayas. They were eventually going to fulfil their vision from the sixties. Some returned in West by pursuing their spiritual practice, , passing on Buddhism's great wisdom to the West. The driving force behind the fulfillment of this dream was their devotion for their lama, a devotion that was initially extended to everything Tibetan. Anyone with origins in the Land of Snows was celebrated as highly spiritual, every Tibetan was believed to be a master yogi, and every shaved head in robes half-enlightened. It was this pure vision that helped inspire the idealistic West with the idea that Shangri-La-the pursuit of the sixties' generation-was within reach.

Others, who jumped on the Tibetan bandwagon in the following years, sustained the holy vision with even greater enthusiasm and lesser doses of criticism, making up in zeal what they lacked in knowledge and real transmission. The old Tibet, in particular, was held in great reverence as a heaven on earth. Anything from before the Chinese invasion that bore a Tibetan stamp was devotedly worshipped and idealized. It was a noble response to Communist atrocities and hysterical Chinese propaganda that depicted the conquered country as a feudal, backward, and oppressive society. As a result, the notion that everything Tibetan was holy became the unanimous rallying cry of a first generation of Tibetan Buddhists in the West. The young hopefuls embraced Tibetan Buddhism as much as they embraced the country of Tibet. Nobody wanted to side with the Communist aggressors, and the Tibetans, having experienced in a time of need the disregard of the world's politicians, began for a change to experience the overwhelming attention of Western idealists.

After decades of official indifference, in the end, the champions of the Tibetan cause saw their struggle vindicated. With the Dalai Lama winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the Western mass media took up the Tibetan agenda, bringing the horrors of Chinese occupation to full light. Celebrities rallied around the Dalai Lama who, becoming a celebrity himself, took to globe-trotting in his semi-official capacity as leader of Tibet. At the same time, the advocates of a free Tibet, riding on the crest of the wave, allowed the uncritical belief in the holy Himalayan kingdom to grow unhindered.

Did the harmonious picture differ much from reality? Was the old Tibet indeed a nation of truth seekers and pious men solely devoted to the support of their lamas and monasteries? Was it truly a land of milk and honey whose people dwelled in peace with their brethren, strictly observing the noble guidelines of Buddhism?

Historical facts speak against this heavenly image. Tibet, for all the aura of mysticism surrounding its history and culture, was a feudal society, perhaps more human, certainly happier than other feudal societies, but by no means an idyllic place.

The landscape of the old Tibet was dotted with wars, political intrigue, and bloody feuds. For centuries, two old, "red-hat" Buddhist schools, the Sakya and the Kagyu, held, one after the other, undisputed sway over the country. By the beginning of the seventeenth century, a new power had emerged and began to threaten the political status quo: the Gelugs, or Virtuous Ones, a "yellow-hat," reformed Buddhist order, founded around 1410 by a disciple of the 4th Karmapa. Led by the mighty 5th Dalai Lama and his authoritative ministers, the Gelugs invited Gushri Khan, the Mongolian warlord, into Tibet in 1638. Their design was to break the power of the Kagyus, take over the government, and secure a hold on Kham in the east and the rebellious Tsang in the south of the country. Given free rein, the ferocious Mongol hordes razed to the ground or converted to the Gelugpa tradition a large number of Nyingma monasteries. The 10th Karmapa had to flee into a thirty-year exile after his camp was attacked by an army operating on orders from the Dalai Lama's ministers. The school of the Virtuous Ones imposed their political hegemony with sword and fire.

The highly fragmented political scene was then subdivided into two main groups. The first group, closely associated with the Gelugs, comprised central as well as southern and western Tibet and was the dominion of the government in Lhasa. The other, a loose configuration of kingdoms each with a chieftain at its helm, extended over eastern Tibet and maintained at all costs its independence from the capital together with its devotion to the Kagyu and the Nyingma, another old, "red-hat" Buddhist school.

Much of the effort of the Gelugpa dominated central government was to bring the free-spirited Khampas of eastern Tibet under the direct authority of Lhasa and thereby convert them to the "yellow-hat" order. To secure this end, the Gelugpa hierarchy spared no efforts, leaving a legacy of treachery, intimidation, and conquest.

After banding together with the Mongols and defeating the Kagyu ruler, the Dalai Lama's administration imposed strict control over the other three Buddhist schools. Karmapa and the Kagyus became the targets of harsh laws and discriminatory taxes. All but a handful of Kagyu monasteries in the vicinity of Lhasa were converted to the Gelug rite. Two intricate directives, "put pressure on the star!" and "milk the female yak!" were inserted into the country's laws and invoked, time and again, in official edicts. It was a well-guarded secret, handed down from one senior minister to his successor, that the enigmatic "star" was, in actual fact, Karmapa, while the "female yak" were the Drikung, a branch of the Kagyu lineage. Having thus brought the old schools to their knees and yet fearful of a possible Kagyu revolt, the powerful 5th Dalai offered himself and his kingdom to the protection of the Ching emperor of China. He was received with open arms; not only did the emperor bestow his generous guardianship but also introduced in Tibet a rotating system of two monarchs: the Dalai and the Panchen Lamas. In the Kagyus' eyes, such submission to the Chinese throne was tantamount to treason. They have not forgiven the Dalai Lama his breach of trust to this day.

Another infamous example of Gelug coercion was the activity of Phawankapa in the 19th century. A luminary to some within his lineage and a hideous personality to others, this crusader of the Gelug cause launched an all-out campaign against the Nyingma tradition. He managed to wreak so much havoc within the ranks of the old, red-hat school that the "diamond-cutter" and other valuable transmissions nearly completely disappeared.


The Karmapa and the Karma Kagyu lineage

Who is Karmapa ?

In the Lankavatara sutra Buddha declares :

"In the northern country will appear the one who increases virtue, the supreme spiritual friend. The one who possesses the greatest enlightened power, who has the greatest ascetic ability, who many will listen to. He will carry the name of "the knower of the three times" or "the holder of all the Buddhas' activity: Karmapa." Whoever sees his face, be it only once, will be freed from their obscuring veils, as it is prophesied that simply seeing him brings liberation."

Karmapa's enlightened activity

Since 12th century, Karmapas are the most important holders of the teachings from the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The 1st Karmapa, Tusum Kyenpa (1110-1193), was recognized as one of the foremost lamas of his times. Before his death, he had told disciples where in Tibet he would be reborn.

The 2nd Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (1204_1283), was then recognized as the first lama in Tibet to have consciously chosen his reincarnation. Since then, the Karmapas have reincarnated in Tibet: they are known in buddhist chronicles as the "Black Hat Karmapas", because they wear a black and gold hat. Every and each one of the reincarnations has stated very clearly he was the Karmapa and manifested it by his doings, beyond any doubt. That reincarnation was then entrusted to the care of one of the most enlightened disciples of the previous Karmapa.

Karmapas are recognized as great boddhisattvas, beings who keep coming back for everyone's well being, and point the path toward Enlightment. To this day, seventeen incarnations have contributed largely to preserving authentic Buddhist teachings in Tibet. The 16th Karmapa, Ranjung Rigpai Dorje (1923-1981), who had to flee into exile to India in 1959, was a main proponent for spreading Buddhist teachings in the West.

Karmapas manifest uncommon qualities devoted to a large and incessant activity for all sentient beings. Very few are those masters who have brought forward such a Buddha activity in this world. The very name "Gyalwa Karmapa" shows he is a different being. Gyalwa means Buddha, a fully enlightned being.

Within the Kagyu lineage, only two masters are called this way: Karmapa himself, and a second emanation, Shamarpa. Karmapa means "Master of enlightened activity". He is what is called a tulku, the conscious rebirth of an already realized being.

But Karmapa differs from other tulkus, inasmuch as he has reached total realization. He is an emanation of Tchenrezi (Avalokitesvara in sanskrit), the Compassion Buddha. So, he is seen as a living Buddha who does not have to fulfill anymore a path toward liberation. He will emanate himself in this world through pure compassion, as long as beings will need help.

Recognizing Karmapas in the past

(Excerpt of Karmapas Papers)

The Karmapa is the first Tibetan Buddhist master who has continually reincarnated in an unbroken line since the year 1110.

The 1st Karmapa was Dusum Khyenpa. He left three short oral instructions indicating his next reincarnation as Karma Pakshi with three disciples. In addition, Karma Pakshi himself declared that he was the reincarnation of Dusum Khyenpa. Also his teacher Pomdragpa had a vision of Dusum Khyenpa declaring that he was in fact reborn as Karma Pakshi.

Karma Pakshi said that he would return in an area of Northern Tibet called Lato. He did not leave any written instructions indicating his next incarnation.

It was the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje himself who stated that he was the reincarnation of Karma Pakshi.

Through these life-examples of the Karmapas it becomes clear that they don't always leave written instructions indicating the details of their next rebirth. Even when a written message was left behind, it was the reincarnations themselves who always proved their own authenticity.

The 4th Karmapa Rolpe Dorje could be heard reciting the mantra of Chenrezig while he was still in the womb of his mother. It was reported that directly after birth he declared himself to be the Karmapa. At the age of three he told his mother that he was Karma Pakshi and said what he would do in his life. When taken to Dagla Gampo, lie pointed to the statues of previous Karmapas there and declared: "That is me". He told his teacher, the lineage-holder Yongtonpa, stories about his previous life and full of devotion the latter prostrated at his young student's feet. In similar ways, the other Karmapas also showed extraordinary abilities and convinced people by their unusual behaviour and statements.

The 6th Karmapa was a good example of this. When asked by a student of the 5th Karmapa to reveal his true identity, he replied: "I am the unborn, free from all names and places. I am the glory of all that lives and shall lead many to liberation".

Up until the 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje, there seemed to be no difficulties in identifying the reincarnations. At the time of Mikyo Dorje a scholar called Amdo Lama announced his son was 7th Karmapa Chodrag Gyamtso 's reincarnation. His birth was marked by unusual signs. Amdo Lama gave offerings to Tashi Namgyal, the then Gyaltsab Tulku and to the monks and administrators of Tsurphu who supported his claim. At the same time, in Eastern Tibet near Karma Gon, another boy proclaimed himself to he the Karmapa. This child then five years old announced that he was the reincarnation of the 7th Karmapa, Chodrag Gyamtso. He further stated, that the other candidate at Tsurphu was the reincarnation of a lama from Surmang Monastery. Both children were brought together and an investigation was made. They were confronted with possessions of the previous Karmapa, to check which one would recognize them. It then became evident that the boy from Karma Gon was the true reincarnation.

The recognition and finding of the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje also brought some difficulties. The 15th Karmapa had given a letter predicting his reincarnation to his close disciple jampal Tsultrim, who at first did not disclose this information. After the death of the 15th Karmapa a very powerful Gelugpa minister got his son recognized as the reincarnation of the 15th Karmapa. This was even confirmed by H. IT the 13th Dalai Lama. For this reason the people from Tsurphu had to accept the child. After some time, however, the boy fell from the monastery's roof and died. A few years later the genuine letter was presented which led to the recognition of the true 16th Karmapa.

As these examples show, there have been earlier disputes concerning the Karmapa's reincarnations. However the true one has always proved himself beyond any doubt. There exist extraordinary qualities which only an unsurpassable bodhisattva like the Karmapa can manifest.

In another article, Khenpo Tcheudrak summarizes the history of the various recognitions of Karmapa in the following way:

- 7 of the previous Karmapas left written instructions behind.

- 5 of them left oral instructions with a disciple of their choice.

- 4 of them left neither written nor oral instructions. The reincarnation in those cases themselves made clear who they were. So there wasn't a procedure of finding them on the basis of any written or oral instructions left behind.

Furthermore, among the previous Karmapas:

- 3 were identified by 3 of the previous Shamarpas.

- 2 were identified by one of the heads of the Drugpa Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism.

- 1 was identified by a Nyingma master. The head of the Drugpa Kagyu and the Nyingma master were assisted, in their quest, by various Kagyu lamas, such as one of the Situpas, one of the Jamgon reincarnation and one of the Khyentse reincarnation.

So the identification in those cases were made on the basis of the combined effort of these people whereas in the case of the Shamarpas, it was done without the assistance of other Buddhist masters.

For example, the 13th Karmapa was identified by a Nyingma master Khathok Rinzin Zherwang Lodrop. He approached the then Situpa and informed him of his thoughts then in combined effort they identified the 13th Karmapa on the basis of this Nyingma master's findings.

Then there is the 14th Karmapa, who was identified mainly on the basis of the effort of the then head of the Drugpa Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism Kunzig Chokyi Namwar. However he consulted Situ Pema Nyingche, the 9 Situ reincarnation, so in combined effort they made public their findings. However it was mainly based on the effort of the then Drugpa Kagyu head that the 14th Karmapa was identified.

Then we have the 15th Karmapa, who was mainly identified again by the then head of the Drugpa Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism, Kunzig Mingyur Wangyi Dorje. However he did consult Jamgon Lodro Thaye and Khyentse Wangpo and one of the Pawo Tulkus, so it was again a combined effort.

Short history of Karma Kagyu lineage

by Mr. Topga Rinpoche

After the 1st Karmapa's appearance in the world, the Karma Kagyu lineage evolved rapidly, and by the 12th century A.D. the Karma Kagyu tradition was spreading quickly and was widely practiced throughout Tibet. This was a time of political upheaval characterised by the rapid decline of the dynasties of kings which had formerly ruled. Many prominent political figures emerged who vied for power, but no individual leader was able to establish sovereignty over the nation because no one had a unified following.

The Karmapas were never interested or involved in the struggles of the various political factions, and in fact were forced to actively resist involvement since they were in Particularly vulnerable positions, in that they were targets of those who were politically ambitious, because they held tremendous spiritual authority. Also, their religious followers encouraged them to assume positions of Power because they felt that they had the required qualities to lead the people.

It was during this turbulent period, sometime in the 13th or 14th century, that the Sakyapas began ruling Tibet, with the support of the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan. Then came' Ganges Khan, He was Tibet's first political -religious leader, and for the first time since the disappearance of the kings, Tibet was unified under the direction of a single leader. At this time, powerful rulers from Mongolia and Tibet, seeing the sway that the high lamas held over the Tibetan people, adopted a strategy of forming allegiances by plying the Lamas with gifts, extending invitations to their kingdoms and conveying lengthy titles upon them. The motivation behind these gestures was often largely political rather than religious.

During the Ming Dynasty of the 14th century the 5th Karmapa, Teshin Shekpa, was invited to China by the -Yunglo", the Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, who received many instructions from him. During his visit the Karmapa demonstrated many miraculous feats, which the Emperor ordered his artists to record daily by depicting them on approximately 20 large scroll paintings. (A few of these were still preserved in Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet up until the invasion of 1950). The Yunglo was so moved by these events, and developed such deep faith in the Karmapa that he proposed the enactment of a plan to convert all the other religious sects of Tibet to Karma Kagyu. In accordance with his philosophy, Teshin Shekpa absolutely refused to go along with this proposal, and instead gave a discourse on the importance of respecting diverse schools of thought by understanding that different traditions are necessary in order to accommodate the array of particular inclinations found in the whole of humanity.

Despite the politics of the times, however, the period from the 13th to the 17th century A.D. was a time of generally favourable circumstances for the Karma Kagyu tradition. As the teachings spread, and the number of followers increased, the leaders of the lineage became more and more prominent figures, and in fact, this period in the history of Tibet could be termed "the Kagyu Era".

At this time a dramatic change occurred in the power structure or the country, which was being crushed between the forces of domestic strife, power struggles and outer political influences. The central government headed by Desi Tsangpa, a stout supporter of the Karmapa, was overthrown by the Mongol leader Goshir Khan, and the 5th Dalai Lama became the leader of Tibet as a whole.

The 10th Karmapa, Choying Dorje, became a victim of these political events, and had to leave Tibet in the mid-17th century A.D., for Jang, a province of China. After this the following of the Kagyu lineage decreased, and continued to do so until the 18th century when, under the 13th Karmapa Dudul Dorje, Situ Chogyi Jungne led the lineage towards a period of growth and renewal in which it began to flourish again. At this time, in particular, lamas of the lineage produced many eminent philosophical texts and works relating to grammar, Sanskrit and astrology that benefited Tibet's literary tradition, and the Tibetan people as a whole.

In the present century, during the lifetime of H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, the most recent incarnation of the Karmapa, many dharma centres were established throughout the world in order to provide the opportunity for people to study and practice the Buddha's teachings, including this institute itself. Following his departure from Tibet in 1959, he was able to reconstruct his main seat by creating a monastery in Rumtek, Sikkim, which is known as the Dharma Chakra Centre, as well as a monastic college, a retreat center and a primary school for monks.

Like his predecessors, the late 16th Karmapa was primarily a spiritual figure and so was not involved in propagating the cause of Tibetan freedom, and instead has made efforts in keeping the spiritual tradition of Tibet intact, and in this way has helped to preserve the identity of Tibet as a unique and individual culture. At the same time he never forgot the existence of the very capable and profound spiritual leader, H.H. the Dalai Lama, who is also the leader of the Tibetan nation and has all the requisite qualities that such a position demands, as well as the fact that serving under him there is a large organisation of people who are very much involved in truly relevant and significant political movements for the benefit of the Tibetan people.

As stated, all of the establishments created by H.H. Gyalwa Karmapa have been designed with intention of keeping the tradition and culture intact, and providing the teachings of the Buddha to people of all nationalities who feel that they can benefit from the insight and wisdom of the Buddha.


Kagyu dignitaries listed by standing

Signed and sealed by H.H. 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje in 1967

The list below gives the status of religious dignitaries of the Kagyu School in the order of their importance. It has been written on the fifteenth day of the twelve-month of the Fire Sheep Year according to the Tsurphu Calendar.

I have listed below the names according to the importance of the status of the reincarnated masters that have been able to leave Tibet for India.

I - Heads of the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism

1. Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche

2. Khyenzig Drugchen Rinpoche

3. Tsungme Jamgon Situ Rinpoche

4. Tsungme Chogtrul Taglung Rinpoche


II - The second ranking religious dignitaries of the Kagyu School

1. Chogtrul Jamgon Rinpoche

2. Chogtrul Gyaltsab Rinpoche

3. Chogtrul Pawo Rinpoche

III - The third ranking religious dignitaries of the Kagyu school

1 . Chogtrul joe Won Ponlop Rinpoche

2. Chogtrul Palpung Khyentse Rinpoche

3. Chogtrul Drungsar Khyentse Rinpoche

4. Chogtrul Surmang Rinpoche

5. Chogtrul Palpung Ongen Rinpoche

6. Chogtrul Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche

7. Chogtrul Traleg Rinpoche

8. Chogtrul Surmang Trungpa Rinpoche

9. Chogtrul Decho Yangdzin Rinpoche

10.Chogtrul Dilyag Dabsang Rinpoche

11. Garchen Tripa Dorje Lopon (however, the Garchen Tripa Dorje Lopon can also be included within the group of second ranking religious dignitaries, because in the same way as the Garchen Tripa in the Gelug School is the status of the head of the main scat of that school, likewise Garchen Tripa Dorje Lopon is the head of the main scat of the Kagyu school.)

IV - The fourth ranking religious dignitaries of the Kagyu school

1. Khentrul Thrangu Rinpoche

2. Bagyo Tuiku Rinpoche

3. Drupon Tulku Rinpoche

4. Dilyag Urgen Rinpoche

5. Dilyag Sabchu Rinpoche

6. Tulku Ongen Mingyur Rinpoche

7. Chogling Tulku Rinpoche

8. Gyalse ThIku Rinpoche


V - The fifth ranking religious dignitaries of the Kagyu school

1 . Salche Tulku

2. Tenga ThIku

3. Palme Tulku

4. Bardo Tulku

5. Drung ThIku

6. Tragar ThIku

7. Yoldrag ThIku

There are many more lower reincarnations.

Signed and scaled by H.H. 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje in 1967


Short history for Karmapa-Shamarpa lineages


(Written by a group of Khenpos at KIBI.)

The Karma Kagyupa Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism has enjoyed a distinguished 900-year history that is intertwined at various points with the Gelugpa School to which the Dalai Lama belongs. Central to the transmission of the Kagyupa Lineage are the alternating reincarnations of the Karmapa and the Shamarpa. This brief history discusses some of the highlights of this cycle and its points of intersection with the Gelugpa School and the Dalai Lama.

The 1st Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193), founded the Karma Kagyupa Lineage. The Sakyapa School developed about the same time, and before his lifetime the Nyingmapa Tradition (the Old School) and Atisha School had already taken root in Tibet. The Gelugpa School was not founded until the time of Tsongkapa (1357-1413) who coincided with the 5th Karmapa. The 1st Dalai Lama (Gendun Drub) did not appear until the 15th century during the lifetime of the 6th Karmapa (1416-1453).

Before he died, the 1st Karmapa predicted his own reincarnation as the 2nd Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (1206-1283). With this prediction, the 1st Karmapa started the lineage system of incarnate lamas in Tibet and Karma Pakshi became the first incarnate lama of Tibet. Before he died, Karma Pakshi predicted in his diary that he would be reborn as two lamas. They would reincarnate one after the other, alternately as guru and disciple, in order to preserve and continue his lineage without interruption.
In the same year (1283) that the 2nd Karmapa passed away, Drakpa Sengye, who later became known as the 1st Shamarpa, was born. In the following year the 3rd Karmapa (1284-1339) was born and at the age of eight confirmed himself as the Karmapa. Drakpa Sengye was the chief disciple of the 3rd Karmapa, who confirmed him as the second emanation of the 2nd Karmapa.

Thus, in Tibetan Buddhism, the 1st Shamarpa was the second incarnate lama. Because his name means "red hat" (sha, hat; mar, red), he is sometimes called the Red Hat Lama, whereas the Karmapa is referred to as the Black Hat Lama, but not for reasons having to do with his name.

Since then the successive Karmapas and Shamarpas have worked jointly to spread the Dharma. Indeed, as a result of their leadership the Karma Kagyu Lineage was the most prominent school of Tibetan Buddhism until the time of the 10th Karmapa, Choying Dorje (1604-1674), when it was repressed and suffered a long decline.

During the centuries of the decline, the successively reborn Karmapas and Shamarpas brought about brief revivals of the Karma Kagyu Lineage and transmitted its teachings and traditions.

Before the 5th Dalai Lama (1617-1682), the Kagyupa Lineage ruled Tibet. Two events in the 1630s, however, precipitated the end of the Karma Kagyu Lineage's political power and the decline of its religious influence. First, the death of the 6th Shamarpa (1584-1630), whom the 5th Dalai Lama and many others in Tibet respected, weakened the Lineage's prestige. Then, in 1639, with the assistance of Mongol troops invited into Tibet from Sinjiang by the 5th Dalai Lama, the Kagyupa ruling government was defeated. The 10th Karmapa and his followers were also attacked, but he managed to escape by flying into the sky. For the next forty years, penniless and with only one attendant, the 10th Karmapa wandered into exile from north-eastern India to Yunnan in China.

Without its two leaders, the Karma Kagyu Lineage was defenceless in Tibet. Twenty-seven monasteries belonging to the Karmapa and twenty monasteries of the Shamarpa were forcibly converted to the Gelugpa School. Only the Tsurphu and Yangpachen monasteries, the seats of the Karmapas and Shamarpas respectively, and a few others of lesser importance were allowed to continue practicing the Karma Kagyu tradition. However, they existed under harsh restrictions, especially Tsurphu and Yangpachen, which were near Lhasa and thus under the government's careful watch.

The early 18th century saw a brief revival of the Karma Kagyupa Lineage due to the constant Dharma activities of the 12th Karmapa, Jangchub Dorje (1703-1732) and the 8th Shamarpa, Chokyi Thondrub (1695-1732). They travelled together throughout Tibet and prevented the Lineage from slipping into extinction.

During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the Dalai Lamas enjoyed the patronage of the Ch'ing Dynasty emperors of China, some of whom were under the tutelage of a series of reincarnated Gelugpa lamas representing the Dalai Lama in Beijing. Nevertheless, the fame of the 12th Karmapa and the 8th Shamarpa was so great during the reign of Emperor Yung Cheng that he decided to invite them to his court in 1732. Unfortunately, one day after their arrival in Beijing, they both died of smallpox. In their autobiographies, the two Gelugpa Hutogatu (Hutogatu is an official title bestowed by the Ch'ing Dynasty emperors on certain Gelugpa lamas in Beijing) lamas Kyangkya and Thudka explained the deaths of Karmapa and Shamarpa as follows:

The emperor had invited the Karmapa and Shamarpa to Beijing. We were of the opinion that the emperor would follow them and therefore that Gelugpa power would be greatly affected. We consequently started to do black-magic pujas day and night. Within a day of their arrival in Beijing, both of them died from smallpox. So it can be said that our black magic succeeded.

After the death of the 12th Karmapa and the 8th Shamarpa, the Karma Kagyupa Lineage suffered another period of decline in central Tibet. Also contributing to its decline were a complicated series of developments beginning during the time of the 13th Karmapa, Dudul Dorje (1733-1797), in the reign of the Chinese Emperor Ch'ien Lung. The powerful 6th Panchen Lama, Palden Yeshe, and the 10th Shamarpa, Chodrub Gyaltso (1742-1792), were brothers. Because of his kinship with the Panchen Lama, who after the Dalai Lama was the highest lama in the Gelugpa School, the 10th Shamarpa hoped that the Tibetan government would reinstate his monasteries that had been forcibly converted to the Gelugpa sect in the preceding century. However, before this could happen, the Panchen Lama died of smallpox in Beijing where he had been invited by the emperor.

Out of deep respect for the Panchen Lama who was his teacher, the emperor offered a large quantity of gold coins to the Panchen Lama's brothers and sisters. However, the Drungpa Hutogatu of Tashi Lungpo Monastery, which was the seat of the Panchen Lama, did not give the 10th Shamarpa his fair share. When the administration of the Yangpachen Monastery complained, Drungpa Hutogatu replied that all the gold belonged to the Tashi Lungpo Monastery. He also slandered the 10th Shamarpa, claiming that he had plotted a rebellion against the Tibetan government in order to regain his monasteries. As a result, the government, which was under the power of two regents in the absence of the Dalai Lama, became hostile to the Shamarpa. In 1784 he fled Tibet for the safety of neighbouring Nepal.

In the late 18th century, counterfeit Nepalese currency was so rampant in Tibet that it even caused high inflation in Nepal itself. When the 10th Shamarpa sought refuge in Nepal, the Nepalese King Bahadur Shah thought he could take advantage of this and use the Shamarpa to negotiate a solution to the currency problem with the Tibetan government. The negotiations failed and the Tibetan delegation that had come to Nepal was taken prisoner. King Bahadur dispatched his troops to Tibet where they captured much territory. The Chinese sent troops to repel the invading Nepalese, and a peace was finally negotiated in 1792. The Tibetan government blamed the Shamarpa for the political and military debacle and in retaliation banned the enthronement of reincarnated Shamarpas and confiscated the Yangpachen Monastery, converting it to Gelugpa.

In 1792 the 10th Shamarpa died of jaundice, but rumours were rife that he committed suicide by poison. A Tibetan minister named Gazhi Dhoringpa, whom the Nepalese troops had earlier taken prisoner, wrote: "I was released after the peace was settled. The Shamarpa had died, and I was taken to see his funeral. I did not respect this Shamarpa. His corpse even smelled so I believed he actually committed suicide. But during his cremation, I saw with my own eyes five arching rainbows joined together in the shape of a dome right above the crematory at Bodhanath, Kathmandu."

In spite of the official ban against the enthronement and official recognition of the Shamarpa, Shamarpas continued to be reborn as bodhisattvas. Hence, the 11th Shamarpa, Chowang Rinpoche of Tsurphu Monastery and the lineage-holder of the Mahakala Tantra, was reborn as the brother of the 14th Karmapa (1797- ca.1845) who kept his recognition secret. The 11th Shamarpa transmitted the entire Mahakala Tantra to the 15th Karmapa, Khachab Dorje (1871-1922). The 12th Shamarpa took rebirth as the son of the 15th Karmapa. He was first a monk, then practiced as a yogi with a consort, but he frequently was able to visit and teach at the Yangpachen Monastery where he was highly respected. The 13th Shamarpa (1949-1951) was recognized by the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1924-1981) in Tsurphu but lived less than two years and was never officially enthroned.

Born in 1952, Mipham Chokyi Lodro is the current and 14th Shamarpa.

Historical specifics about Karmapa/Shamarpa relationship

The second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, predicted that "future Karmapas will manifest in two forms." This statement was clarified later by the 4th Karmapa, Rolpe Dorje, when he designated the Shamarpa reincarnates as the second manifestation.
Rangjung Dorje, the third Karmapa, presented his principal disciple, Khaydrup Dragpa Senge, with a ruby red crown conferring the title Shamarpa (Holder of the Red Crown) on him. This Red Crown is an exact replica of the Black Crown worn by the Karmapas and exemplifies the close relationship that exists between these two lines of reincarnates.

Tibetan historical records speak of the Karmapa as Karma Shanakpa (Karmapa the Black Crown Holder) and the Shamarpa as Karma Shamarpa (Karmapa the Red Crown Holder). They are referred to as such in the historical texts of Golo Shonnu Pal (1392-1481), Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa (1504-1516), the fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lozang Gyamtso (1617-1682), and the eighth Situpa, Chokyi Jungnay (1700-1774).
The Eight Situpa, Situ Chokyi Jungnay says in his autobiography "The Clear Crystal Mirror" (page 32, line 3 in the edition of Dr. Lokesh Chandra) that the Karmapa and the Shamarpa are of equal status and that this is indicated by the fact that their throne-like seats are of the same height.


The 14th Shamarpa, Mipam Chokyi Lodreu

He was born in 1952. Just as the 5th Shamarpa had foretold, the 14th Shamarpa manifested as the nephew of the 16th Karmapa. In Tibetan poetical term, a nephew is a brother-like relative. Long before the Shamarpa was born, there was a stir of anticipation in the monastic communities; for it was widely circulated that there was soon to be an auspicious birth in the Karmapa's family. From the Karmapa, Black Pills were sent to his sister-in-law, with which, was a special protective cord for the baby yet unborn. It was at a time, when no one was even aware that she was an expectant mother.

At the age of six, the child Rinpoche saw some Yangpachen lamas at a distance coming towards Tsurphu Monastery. He was delighted, "They are from my monastery" he remarked. Indeed they were, for the Dechen Yangpachen Monastery was a Shamarpa monastery. This spontaneous out-burst of recognition had prompted his lamas to plead for a formal recognition of their Rinpoche, in readiness for future enthronement. For political reasons, the Karmapa did not think it prudent to do so.

1956 was the year of the pilgrimage to India, when most of the great Tibetan lamas were invited by the Indian Mahabodhi Society. The Karmapa and the Shamarpa, on their return, visited the Dechen Yangpachen Monastery; in the main temple of which, were the statues of all the previous Shamarpas. The child-Rinpoche came up to them; from the first to the tenth, he needed no prompting to identify them. Playfully he took their crowns to try them on, saying: "These are my hats." He was only four years old, at the time.

Another four years had passed. The political situation in Tibet, uncertain for sometime, further deteriorated. The 16th Gyalwa Karmapa with the eight-year-old Shamarpa left Tibet to settle in Sikkim. Finally when permission was sought, for the official recognition of the Kunzig Shamarpa, it was granted by H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama. The enthronement took place in 1964 at Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim. With the solemn occasion over, the Shamarpa remained in the monastery until 1979 for some very serious studies. He received all the instructions of the Kagyu Lineage from the Karmapa. The traditional arts and sciences, the sutras and the tantras, he studied mainly under Trangu Rinpoche. He also took some teachings from Kalu Rinpoche. By any standard, those were very hard years for the Tibetan exiles. And for this student- Rinpoche, no special privileges, accorded to a great reincarnate, were expected; and none was given. Under very inclement conditions, and under the vigilant eyes of his gurus, the special qualities of a true mahayana teacher was brought to the fullest maturity. In 1979, his studies completed, he left for Nepal to take up residence as the Chief Representative of the Kagyu Teachings. In 1981, His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa passed away. Among his other monastic obligations, the Shamarpa, undertook to complete his far reaching project of building a large institute of Buddhist studies in New Delhi. It was inaugurated in February 1990 by the President of India, Mr. Venkataraman. In accordance with the wishes of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa that the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute is to serve as an establishment of higher learning to further universal wisdom and compassion, based on the correct study and translation of the great treatises of Buddhism -A wish expressed is to be a wish fulfilled - as always.

As for the Shamarpa himself, he has in his vision, the revival of the true spirit of the Mahamudra; the energy and the essence of which have been sadly dissipated through the gradual unmindfulness of preceding generations. He has been in the process of retracing its roots through the ages, by collecting, revising and researching into the important works of many mahasiddhis, culminating in "The Treasures of Mahamudra" by the 7th Karmapa. His vision includes the setting up of a teaching centre with special emphasis on Mahamudra, that future generations may not be deprived of something, which is the very essence of Buddhism, and uniquely Kagyu in lineage.


Shamar Rinpoche speaks out about religion and politics separation


In 1988, H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama called for a meeting with all the leading Tibetan lamas at Varanasi(Benares) , India. It was to be the summoning of a consorted effort among the leading lamas, towards a better future for Tibetans. In the history of Tibet, lamas have long been the ruling class. Any changes brought about, both temporarily and ecclesiastically, have always been innovated by lamas. This form of social structure had given the country enduring stability and order; and unity too, to a certain extent. It was made possible only by the unswerving loyalty of the people to their spiritual leaders and unquestioning faith in their political judgements.

However, in face of injustice, there was sometimes little redress; where there was discontent, the voices were too feeble and unorganized to be heard. It was left entirely to the benevolence and the practical sense of the rulers to see to their every need. The responsibility must have, at times, been overwhelming. The Shamarpa saw the basic weakness in the infrastructure of the Tibetan society. Religion and politics are mutually stifling. The logical solution to it, would be the segregation of the two, with the religious leaders continue to see to the spiritual needs of the people, leaving the running of the state in the hands of the social-minded lay men. The religious leaders thus far responsible for the general wellbeing of the people, must now feel responsible to affect some fundamental and drastic changes, adapting to the changing needs of the people, in accordance with changing times. The Kunzig Shamarpa is of the firm belief that a better future for the Tibetans, lies in the carrying out of these social and political restructuring. It was truly a test of moral courage to give voice to these convictions before the gathering in Varanasi; to some of whom, the thought of relinquishing temporal power must have been as new as it was painful.

All lineage holders of all the tibetan buddhist schools attended this meeting in Benares. Speaking one after the other from the platform, they all tried to outdo each other in forced praise for the Dalaï Lama and his policies. When Shamar Rinpoche had finished his address, he walked back to his seat amid an heavy silence, under the dumbfounded gaze of all, and murmurs began about his speech being "a revolt against the Dalaï Lama". In this address he gave, he took major risks. An audio cassette record exists with this speech given in tibetan.