The 16th Karmapa
H.H. the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1924 -1981) was born in Derge province in Eastern Tibet. The previous Karmapa, Khakhyab Dorje (1871-1922), had left a letter setting forth the circumstances of his next incarnation. With this letter, the authorities at Tsurphu monastery were able to locate the child.
In 1931 the young incarnate was ordained as a novice monk and offered the Karmapa's ceremonial robes and the Black Hat. At the age of 23 Karmapa received his final ordination, along with the initiations and explanations of the highest Karma Kagyu teachings.
In 1959, due to the occupation of Tibet, Karmapa decided to flee his country, realizing that the Dharma would be served best by escaping the ever-tightening grip of Communist China. He brought with him an entourage of 160 lamas, monks and laymen, and proceeded towards Bhutan. Under Karmapa's guidance the party was able to take along the most precious statues, ritual items, relics, thangkas and books.
The ruler of the state of Sikkim in Northwestern India offered the Gyalwa Karmapa Rumtek Monastery, which was built during the time of Karmapa's 9th incarnation, Wangchuk Dorje (1556 -1603). Karmapa undertook the construction of a new monastery in Rumtek, which due to the generous help of the Indian government and the ruler of Sikkim, was completed in four years. The new monastery in Rumtek became Karmapa's official seat outside Tibet.
Invited by his first Western disciples Ole and Hannah Nydahl, Karmapa arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 1974. That year, he also led a party of Karma Kagyu lamas to the West, visiting Europe, America and Canada. For the first time people in the West had the chance to participate in the Black Hat ceremony, which Karmapa performed on a number of occasions. Karmapa again visited the West in 1976, 1977 and 1980.
H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa died on November 5th, 1981 in a hospital in Zion, Illinois, near Chicago.
H.H. the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Trinlay Thaye Dorje was born in Tibet on May 6th 1983. His parents are the 3rd Mipam Rinpoche, a great Nyingma Lama, and Dechen Wangmo, the daughter of a noble family descending from King Gesar of Ling. At the age of one and a half the boy started telling people that he was the Karmapa. In 1994, he and his family managed to escape from Tibet to Nepal and then to India. The young Karmapa arrived in New Delhi in March of the same year, where during a welcoming ceremony H.H. Shamar Rinpoche formally recognized him as the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa. The 17th Karmapa was given the name of Trinlay (meaning Buddha activity) Thaye (limitless) Dorje (unchanging).
In 1997, H.H. the 17th Karmapa Trinlay Thaye Dorje was officially invited to Bhutan for the cremation ceremony of Topga Rinpoche where he was received with full honors; three thousand people came for his blessing and the whole royal family including the king and four queens received him as the 17th Karmapa.
In October 1999, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa embarked on his first international teaching tour, giving initiations in Singapore and Taiwan. The year 2000 brought his first historic visit to the West. In Düsseldorf, Germany, 6,000 students from over one hundred Diamond Way Buddhist centers in over 30 countries enthusiastically received Karmapa.
In the summer of 2003, H.H. the 17th Karmapa conducted his first official program in the United States, giving a series of empowerments and teachings in San Francisco, California. In December 2003, after completing his formal education, the 17th Karmapa was declared "Great Tantric Master" (skt. Vajracharya). The 17th Karmapa Thaye Dorje currently resides in Kalimpong, India, where he continues his spiritual training and Western education.
An emanation of Buddha Amitabha, Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche is second to Gyalwa Karmapa in the spiritual hierarchy of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism. The first Shamar Rinpoche was the principal disciple of the 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje. His second incarnation received the Red Crown from the 4th Karmapa. It was an exact replica of the Karmapa's Black Crown. Karmapa bestowed on him the name of "Shamarpa - The One with the Red Crown." Since then, Karma Kagyu texts speak of two Karmapas, the Black Hat and Red Hat. They always alternate as teacher and student throughout lifetimes, and their minds are considered inseparable.
H.H. the 14th Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche Mipam Chokyi Lodro was born in 1952 in Derge, Tibet as the nephew of H.H. the 16th Karmapa. He was recognized as the Shamarpa incarnation at the age of 6, and was taken to Yang Chen Monastery, the main seat of the Shamarpas in Tibet. He left Tibet at the age of 9, with the 16th Karmapa. Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche received the entire teachings and transmissions of the Karma Kagyu School from the 16th Karmapa at Rumtek monastery in Sikkim.
After Karmapa's death, Shamar Rinpoche undertook the project of completing the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute (KIBI) in New Delhi, India. In March 1994, he officially recognized Trinlay Thaye Dorje as the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa. Shamar Rinpoche spends most of his time giving Dharma teachings around the world.
Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche
Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche was born in the Kingdom of Bhutan in 1918. When he was 13 years old, he left Bhutan to study and practice under the spiritual guidance of his uncle, Lama Sherab Dorje, in Nepal. There he received full dharma training and meditated under severe conditions in the caves of Milarepa and in the holy places of Guru Rinpoche. In 1944, Rinpoche met H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, who became one of his most important masters.
In 1987, Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche visited Europe for the first time at the invitation of his first Western students Lama Ole Nydahl and his wife Hannah. Since that time he traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Americas, and Australia, giving teachings and countless initiations. He completed the building of a Kalachakra Stupa in Spain and more than 16 other stupas in Europe and Asia.
Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche's last project, the Enlightenment Stupa in Benalmadena, Spain is the crown jewel of his life's work. Rinpoche passed away on June 10th 2003 at the age of 85, four months before the inauguration of this magnificent project. The immense power of his compassion is felt by people of every background and brings benefit to all beings.
Lama Ole Nydahl
Lama Ole Nydahl is one of the few Westerners fully qualified as a lama and meditation teacher in the Karma Kagyu Buddhist tradition. In 1969, Ole Nydahl and his wife Hannah became the first Western students of H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. After completing three years of Buddhist philosophy studies and intensive meditation, Ole Nydahl began teaching Buddhism in Europe at the request of the 16th Karmapa. Lama Ole has since transmitted the blessing of the lineage in a different city nearly every day, traveling and teaching worldwide. His depth of knowledge and dynamic teachings inspire thousands of people at his lectures and meditation retreats.
Challenging people's concepts of life and Buddhism in an unorthodox manner, Lama Ole has been a major driving force in bringing Buddhism to the West, and to date has established more than 480 Diamond Way Buddhist centers in 44 countries around the world. His unique synthesis of modern style and ancient wisdom helped create the largest body of students practicing Diamond Way Buddhist methods in the West.
Lama Ole is the author of several books including: The Way Things Are, Entering the Diamond Way, Riding the Tiger (all from Blue Dolphin Publishing, USA) and The Great Seal (Fire Wheel Publishing, USA).
In December of 1969, Hannah Nydahl and her husband Ole became the first Western students of H.H. the 16th Karmapa. For over 30 years, Hannah has interpreted for the highest Karma Kagyu teachers and translated texts of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy
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