Page 1

The 14th Kunzig Shamarpa Crown Jewel of the Kagyu Lineage

Life of THE FOURTEENTH KUNZIG SHAMARPA Crown Jewel of The Kagyu Lineage

Life of THE FOURTEENTH KUNZIG SHAMARPA Crown Jewel of The Kagyu Lineage

Authored by Khenpo Chodrag Tenphel Rinpoche

The 14th Kunzig Shamarpa – Crown Jewel of the Kagyu Lineage

Published by Sharminub Foundation, Raniban, Ichangunarayan 44600, Kathmandu, Nepal Photocourtesy: Our sincerest gratitude goes out to all unknown and known photographers: Jacques Chaunavel, Staphane Offort, Bernard Boulanger, Tokpa Korlo, Thule Jug, Karine Le Pajolec.


The 14th Kunzig Shamarpa – Crown Jewel of the Kagyu Lineage

left picture: Shamar Rinpoche and Jigme Rinpoche right picture: from left to right: Shamar Rinpoche, Amri Jyoti and Jigme Rinpoche, Kalimpong, Baju Ratna Koti, 1959

Birth and Enthronement The Red Crown Karmapa and the Black Crown Karmapa are highly revered throughout the history of Tibet. Of these dual yet inseparable emanations of the Buddha, the 14th Kunzig Shamarpa or Red Crown Karmapa, Mipham Chokyi Lodro, was born in the Derge province of Kham in Eastern Tibet. His father, Delkar Choktrul Rinpoche, was the son of the noble family of Athup Tsang; his mother Phuntsok Wangmo was the daughter of the noble family of Thrumo Tsang. The 14th Kunzig Shamarpa was born on the fourth day of the sixth month in the year of the Water Dragon (1952). According to the lunar calendar, this day fell on the date of the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma by Buddha Shakyamuni, in the Deer Park of Sarnath on the outskirts of the city of Varanasi, India. The birth of the Shamarpa was accompanied by myriads of auspicious signs and extraordinary occurrences: rainbows of exceedingly clear colours appeared and filled the sky; waters of the famed Yangtse river meandering through the valley miraculously ‘turned into milk’; the snow-clad winter witnessed the unheralded blooming of flowers covering the fields outside his house. These and many other marvellous signs and events were witnessed by all.

Shamar Rinpoche with Gyalwa Karmapa

All Himalayan Buddhist Conference in Darjeeling, India 1975

In 1957, His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, recognized the young Mipham Chokyi Lodro, then only six years old, as the 14th Kunzig Shamarpa; and, in an informal ceremony, had enthroned him at Tsurphu, the main seat of the Karmapas in Tibet, not far from the capital Lhasa. The year 1959 had brought unprecedented turmoil to Tibet in the wake of the aggression and occupation by China. Because of the rapidly deteriorating political situation, the Karmapa fled Tibet with his entourage, arriving first in Bhutan and finally in Sikkim, where he settled. Transmissions In 1960 when the Shamarpa was nine years old, the 16th Karmapa bestowed on him the entire Kagyu Ngag Dzo collection of empowerments, transmissions


Shamar Rinpoche‘s birthplace in the Derge province of Kham in Eastern Tibet


The 14th Kunzig Shamarpa

and key instructions, much of which had originated with Marpa the Translator, a founding father of the Kagyu School; and the collection of empowerments known as the Dam Ngag Dzo, which included teachings that were set forth in the ‘Eight Practice Lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.’ In 1964, when the Shamarpa was thirteen years old, the 14th Dalai Lama performed the traditional ‘hair-cutting’ ceremony for him at his seat at Dharamsala, India, which demonstrated the recipient’s commitment to renunciation and complete dedication to the path of Enlightenment. After that, the 16th Karmapa transmitted to the Shamarpa ‘The Ocean of Definitive Meaning of Mahamudra,’ one of three collections of texts collectively known as ‘Explaining Mahamudra in Three Stages.’ The 16th Karmapa had also conferred on him empowerments from the Drub Tab Kun Tu (All Inclusive Collection of Sadhanas). This text included meditations on Manjushri, Saraswati and others. The Shamarpa had also studied the five principal subjects of Madhyamika, Prajnaparamita, Abidharma, Vinaya and Epistemology; and had excelled in all his studies with distinction. Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, a great master of the Nyingma lineage, had given him the transmission of the entire Nyingtig cycle of empowerments, explanations and quintessential instructions; and the transmission in detail of the collected works of the famous Nyingma master, Longchen Rabjam. The 10th Kyabje Nyenang Pawo Rinpoche, the last main disciple of the 15th Karmapa Kachab Dorje, had transmitted the entire teachings of the 2nd Shamarpa, Khachoe Wangpo, as well as selected works of the 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje. The Shamarpa had also received from the great master Khyabje Ugyen Rinpoche the transmission of the profound Rinchen Terdzo, and the esoteric Chokling Tersar initiations. The 16th Karmapa had transmitted the Gya Chen Ka Dzo (Treasury of Vast Expanse Instructions, collected works of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye); the Chag Chen Gya Shung (Collected Works of Indian Buddhist Masters on


During Kagyu Ngag Dzo transmission from His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, 1977


The 14th Kunzig Shamarpa

Mahamudra); the Sung Bum (entire collected works of Gampopa); the Chig Shey Kun Drol (the 9th Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje’s compilation of Sadhanas, Know One Realise All, which encapsulated the collected works of the 9th Karmapa. He had twice transmitted to the Shamarpa the Kagyu Ngag Zoe Chenmo (Great Treasury of Kagyu Tantras), more extensively in the second time than the first, in keeping with the Shamarpa’s maturity and advanced realizations. In addition he had also transmitted the complete three-fold vows: the outer Vinaya vows; the inner Bodhicitta vows (of the Profound View, and the Vast Conduct traditions); and the tantric vows of the Secret Knowledge Holder. When all these had been accomplished, the 16th Karmapa declared that the Shamarpa, by then in his early twenties, had attained the level of a regent (holder of three vows). In addition to the above-mentioned transmissions, the Shamarpa had also received the entire Shangpa Kagyu cycle of teachings from the great Kagyu master Kalu Rinpoche, which had been brought from India to Tibet by the Tibetan Buddhist master Khyungpo Naljor. He had received from the 16th Karmapa as well as from the 70th Je Khenpo of Bhutan the reading transmission of the Chag Chen Gya Shung, a collection by the 7th Karmapa of Mahamudra teachings from different Indian Mahasiddhas.

Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche with His Holiness the 16th Karmapa at Rumtek, early 1970‘s

In brief, therefore, the Shamarpa had received transmissions from well over ten great Buddhist masters, and had thus become an accomplished scholar learned in both Sutras and Tantras. In 1980, a year before the 16th Karmapa passed away, he made sure to give the Shamarpa the special oral instructions of the ‘Lineage of Absolute Realization’, which was transmitted to Tilopa in an unbroken lineage from Buddha Vajradhara until the 14th Shamarpa in our time. The 16th Karmapa suggested to the Shamarpa that, if needed, he should in future obtain key instructions from Pawo Rinpoche. Accordingly, in 1986 the



The 14th Kunzig Shamarpa

Shamarpa travelled to France and received from Pawo Rinpoche the Mahamudra Karpo Chikthup and Mahamudra Tog Bab Nam Sum; and the Ten Thok Chik Drol (Enlightenment Upon Your Seat in One Session), with hidden key instructions that had never been committed to texts, but only to be transmitted orally to the student. Thus, by these key instructions, the Shamarpa had perfected the highest level of Mahamudra.

His Holiness the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rikpe Dorje transmitted the Kagyu Ngag Dzo. Top left to right: Topga Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche. Bottom left to right: Traleg Rinpoche, Situ Rinpoche, H.H. 16th Karmapa, Gyaltsap Rinpoche and Shamar Rinpoche, Rumtek, 1961

From Gendun Rinpoche, the Shamarpa had received esoteric instructions of Vajrayogini and Vajravarahi which empowered the practitioner to receive quintessential teachings directly from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in their respective realms. Thus, in this way, Gendun Rinpoche had fulfilled the 16th Karmapa’s wishes that he should pass on to the Sharmapa instructions regarding Kye Rim and Dzog Rim, or the inseparability of mind and prana. In his own way, the Shamarpa too had fulfilled the wishes or prophecy of the 16th Karmapa, written in a poem at the official enthronement of the Shamarpa in 1964 which read, ‘You are enthroned as Holder of the Drubgyu (Kagyu) Lineage, consecrated with symbols of aspirations made by these flower-offerings. May the Lineage Holder’s life and his activities be firm and expansive!’ True to these words, the 14th Kunzig Shamarpa was to fulfil his duties as the Kagyu lineage holder with eminent success. Activities Even during the lifetime of the 16th Karmapa, the Shamarpa had travelled extensively in Nepal as the Karmapa’s representative and future regent. There, he had renovated and consecrated the Karma Raja Mahavihara next to the Swayambunath stupa. He had also caused renovations to be made to the neighbouring temples and monasteries.

With Gendun Rinpoche, France, 1980’s


In the year 1981, the 16th Karmapa passed away. The Shamarpa immediately took over all the projects, which the 16th Karmapa had initiated before his Parinirvana. One of them was the construction of the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute (KIBI) in New Delhi, India. The institute has offered courses of higher Buddhist studies to students and scholars from all over the world


The 14th Kunzig Shamarpa

Inauguration of KIBI, New Delhi, with the former President of India, Shri Ramaswamy Venkataraman and Ashi Chokyi (on the right), Princess of Bhutan, 1991


Group picture in front of the Institute, at Dhagpo Kagyu Ling, France, for the inauguration in June 2013


The 14th Kunzig Shamarpa

until this day. It has been an affiliate of Indian Universities for some years, and recognized by many educational institutions around the world. Besides these external developments, mention must be made of the fact that since the passing of the late 16th Karmapa, the Shamarpa had continued to care for the monks and nuns of the lineage and provided them with education; and had insisted that tantric rites and pujas must continue to be conducted at all the Karmapa’s monasteries in strict adherence to Kagyu traditions. Last but not least, in accordance with the wishes of the late 16th Karmapa, he had hundreds of volumes of the Tengyur (Commentaries to Sutras and Tantras) to be printed and brought as gifts to many Buddhist temples and monasteries inside and outside of India. One can safely say in conclusion, therefore, that his endeavours and dedication all these years would be quite impossible except for his courageous conviction, infinite compassion and patience for the single purpose of benefiting all sentient beings.

The 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Chobgye Tri Rinpoche and Shamar Rinpoche in Kündröl Ling, France, 2000

Recognition of the 17th Karmapa At a time of great political uncertainty facing many Tibetans, the task that had posed the biggest challenge to the Shamarpa was the recognition of the genuine reincarnation of the late 16th Karmapa, a duty which he alone had unyieldingly fought for in accordance with Karma Kagyu traditions. Apart from his office and spiritual authority, the vision of the universally regarded saint and sage, Chobgye Trichen Rinpoche, was in good agreement with Shamarpa’s own vision regarding the genuine 17th Karmapa. The decision of his recognition of Trinley Thaye Dorje was further confirmed on the basis of the latter’s self-proclamations as the Karmapa when he was an infant. The divination rites performed at the sacred site of the self-arisen Jowo Zamling Karpo (Chenrezig statue) in Kathmandu as well as the Tara statue in Pharping outside of Kathmandu also further confirmed Trinley Thaye Dorje as the genuine Karmapa. Thus in 1994, the Shamarpa had officially declared Trinley Thaye Dorje to be the 17th Karmapa, in New Delhi, India. And, in 1996 at Bodhgaya, the Shamarpa



The 14th Kunzig Shamarpa

performed the traditional ‘hair-cutting’ ceremony for the 17th Karmapa. Whilst there at the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo, the Shamarpa had conferred on him the monastic vows. Finally, with great pageantry in a ceremony attended by many Lamas, guests and disciples from all over the world, the 14th Kunzig Shamarpa enthroned the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje. Henceforth, the Shamarpa had passed on all the empowerments and transmissions to the 17th Karmapa, such as the Kagyu Ngag Zoe (Treasury of Kagyu Tantras); the Chik Shae Kundrol (Know One Realise All); the Chag Chen Gya Yong (Mahamudra transmission); and the Lung Sem Yermeh (Inseparability of Prana and Mind by the 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje), amongst others. In 2004, the Shamarpa had conferred upon the 17th Karmapa the title of Vajradhara, the holder of the Kagyu Lineage.

Bestowing initiations and Gyu Dey Kun Tu transmissions to the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa – With His Eminence Luding Khenchen Rinpoche, San Francisco, 2003

In 2002, determined to reverse the deteriorating morale in the Kagyu Sangha – like a ‘butter lamp running out of butter’ – which was brought on by internal division of the lineage in the previous ten years, the Shamarpa had established a five-year primary school for young monks near Darjeeling, followed by the building of the Shri Diwakar Institute at Kalimpong, which was designed to provide a ten-year curriculum of Buddhist studies for a few hundred monks. The next most important project, due to be completed soon, was to be the Shar Minub Institute in Kathmandu, Nepal, devoted to higher Buddhist studies and research, and retreat, with accommodations for a thousand monks. Meanwhile in Tibet, the traditional seat of the Shamarpas at Yangpachen had been rebuilt also as an institute for higher Buddhist studies. Not limited to projects of his own, the Shamarpa had contributed also to the rebuilding and development in Tibet of many institutions and monasteries. The flourishing of the Buddhist Dharma depended, amongst other things, on the upholding of the Vinaya Vows by the Sangha. With this particular view in mind, the Shamarpa had especially founded the Druldra Ling retreat center at Nagarjuna Hill in Nepal. It was dedicated solely to the life-long practice of the Vows together with the Mahamudra practice.


Bestowing initiations and transmissions to the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa (Chikshik Kundrol, Chagchen Jazhung and many others), Kündröl Ling, France 2000


The 14th Kunzig Shamarpa – Crown Jewel of the Kagyu Lineage

The 14th Kunzig Shamarpa

In reverence of the founding fathers of the Kagyu Lineage, who upheld meditation beyond the disciplines of hearing, contemplation and learning, the retreat center at Yang Le Shoe in Nepal was established. Recently, this retreat center has completed four successful cycles of the traditional three-year retreat with the fifth in progress still. In all of these retreat projects the Shamarpa had arranged for the provision of their food, clothing and accommodation. These retreat centers are not limited to only Kagyu monks and nuns, but open to all sects and lineages. In Asia and Europe, Shamarpa had established Infinite Compassion International, a foundation with three main aims, namely: 1) sanctuaries for the protection and care of abandoned animals 2) humane treatment of animals in farms and slaughter houses 3) education and medical aid to the Sangha and lay student in the poorest areas in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and several Indian states including Sikkim. In all that he had done, the Shamarpa had never turned away anyone empty handed who had come to him privately or in connection with a charity or foundation. Clearly and deeply, in the oceans of his vast and meaningful activities, anyone and everyone who has ever known or met him would be fortunate indeed if they have but witnessed the sole purpose of his life and work, which was the fearless upholding and increase of the Dharma for the benefit of all sentient beings. Parinirvana The Sharmapa passed away amid many auspicious signs at Renchen Ulm, the Kagyu center in Germany, on 11th of June, 2014. There, at the age of sixty-two, his physical life came to a sudden but peaceful end. The date of his death fell on the thirteenth day of Saga Dawa, the most auspicious and holiest month of the Buddhist calendar, the day which commemorates the Birth, Enlightenment and Parinirvana, respectively, of the Lord Buddha. On the fifteen and full-moon day, exactly three days after his Parinirvana, the 14th Shamar Rimpoche had finally departed from his post-mortem meditation, or Tugdham. His death is a profound teaching all in itself, a powerful reminder of our own transience.



The 14th Kunzig Shamarpa

Prayer services are held every day in many Kagyu centers and monasteries during the traditional Forty Nine Days period, so that Shamar Rimpoche’s blessings will continue, through the presence of his Kudung or sacred remains, to lead all sentient beings on the path of Enlightenment. Cremation will take place at the Shar Minub Institute in Kathmandu on 31st of July, 2014.


Shamar Rinpoche praying in the presence of the Buddha Relics, during his last teaching at Dhagpo Kagyu Ling, France, 2014


Profile for Dhagpo Kagyu Ling

Life of The Fourteenth Kunzig Shamarpa ♦ Crown Jewel of The Kagyu Lineage  

Authored by Khenpo Chodrag Tenphel Rinpoche Published by Sharminub Foundation

Life of The Fourteenth Kunzig Shamarpa ♦ Crown Jewel of The Kagyu Lineage  

Authored by Khenpo Chodrag Tenphel Rinpoche Published by Sharminub Foundation

Profile for dhagpo