HH 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) left a letter setting forth the circumstances of his next incarnation. On the basis of this letter the authorities of the Tsurphu monastery were able to successfully locate the child.

key_big_16th_karmapaIn 1931 the young incarnate was ordained as a novice monk and offered the Karmapa’s ceremonial robes and the Black Hat.

Karmapa studied in Tsurphu monastery for four years, deepening his meditative realization of Sutra, Tantra, Mahamudra, and the “Six Yogas of Naropa”. As a boy he displayed an extraordinary natural insight and often told his teachers about his previous incarnations.

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 cause of the Dharma would be served best by escaping the ever-tightening grip of Communist China. Accordingly, accompanied by an entourage of 160 lamas, monks and laymen, Karmapa left Tsurphu monastery, the traditional seat of the Karmapas, 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, which had been preserved at Tsurphu monastery over the centuries.

The ruler of the state of Sikkim in North-Western 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 and a centre of Buddhist study, ritual, and practice.

In 1974 the 16th Karmapa led a party of Karma Kagyu lamas to the West, visiting Europe, America and Canada, and 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. Invited by his first Western disciples Ole and Hannah Nydahl, Karmapa arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 1974. In November of 1976, Karmapa arrived in New York for a tour through the USA, and in the following year he spent six months on tour in Europe during which he visited Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Holland, France, and the United Kingdom.

In May of 1980, Karmapa again visited the West, stopping for lectures and ceremonies in London, New York, San Francisco, and Boulder, Colorado. H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa died on November 5th 1981 in a hospital near Chicago.


HH 17th Karmapa

His Holiness 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje is the head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Born in 1983 in central Tibet, he began telling his parents, the 3rd Mipham Rinpoche and Dechen Wangmo, the daughter of a noble family, that he was the Karmapa almost as soon as he could speak. 

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Traditionally, the Karmapas are said to recognise themselves in each incarnation. Following the tradition of many centuries, the child was tested and formally recognised by the highest lama in the Karma Kagyu after the lineage head himself, the 14th Shamar Rinpoche, and given the name Trinley Thaye Dorje, meaning Limitless Unchanging Buddha Activity.

Having escaped from Chinese-controlled Tibet in 1994, His Holiness Karmapa has lived in New Delhi and Kalimpong for many years. He travels extensively throughout India, teaching and granting empowerments to students.

In 1997, H.H. the 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje was officially invited to Bhutan for the cremation ceremony of Topga Rinpoche where he was received with full honours. A three-hour drive from the Bhutanese border to the capital Thimpu took seven hours as thousands of well-wishers greeted him along the road. On October 17th 1997, 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 and gave initiations to several thousand people in Singapore and Taiwan. The beginning of the new millennium was marked by his historic first visit to the West. In Dusseldorf, Germany, Karmapa was enthusiastically received by 6,000 students from several hundred Diamond Way Buddhist centers from over 30 countries.

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. On July 19th and 20th 2003, he gave the Karma Pakshi and Medicine Buddha empowerments in San Francisco, California. The event was hosted by the Diamond Way Buddhist Centres, USA.

His formal education was completed in 2003, at which time he received the title of Vajracharya, or Great Tantric Master.

His Holiness Karmapa has the spiritual responsibility for over 900 monasteries and meditation centres worldwide, including the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute (KIBI), which runs courses in Buddhist higher education.

Homepage of HH Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje


The 14th Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche

On 11 June 2014 our beloved teacher, the 14th Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche Mipham Chokyi Lodro, passed away in his cherished environment of Renchen Ulm, Germany, in the presence of his close family members and some of his closest students. The sudden loss to the world in general, to Buddhism in particular, and especially to his students, is profound and far-reaching.


In the spiritual hierarchy of the Karma Kagyu School, the Shamarpa is second to the Gyalwa Karmapa. He is the emanation of Amitabha, the Buddha of Limitless Light: a living example of the appearance of Amitabha in our world in the form of a Mahabodhisattva. The Tibetan title of Shamar means “the lama of the ruby-red crown”, named after the replica of the Karmapa’s own crown, which he bestowed on the Shamarpa. The successive incarnations of the Shamarpas are also known as the “Red Hat Karmapas”. The 4th Karmapa affirmed to the 2nd Shamarpa:

“You are the one manifestation, while I am the other. Therefore, the responsibility to maintain the continuity of the teachings of the Kagyu lineage rests equally on you as it does on me.”

In the Bhadrakalpa Sutra, Buddha Shakyamuni prophesized; “in future, a Mahabodhisattva with a ruby-red crown shall come to the suffering multitude, leading them out of their cyclic bewilderment and misery.” In the Shamarpa, the Buddha’s prediction was fulfilled. The activity of the Shamarpas as a successive incarnation line has been to preserve the entirety of the Buddha’s legacy, especially the teachings coming from the great Indian mahasiddhas and Tibetan masters. Over centuries in the Kagyu lineage, the Karmapas and Shamarpas have reciprocally recognized each other, their relationship being that of a master and disciple.

The 14th Shamarpa was born on the 27th October 1952 in the Kingdom of Derge, Eastern Tibet. In 1956 he travelled with his brother, Jigme Rinpoche, to Tsurphu Monastery, the main seat of the Karmapas, where they stayed for two years.  In the summer of 1956, at four years old, he revealed his identity as the Shamarpa by recognizing old monks from Yangpochen monastery, the ancestral seat of the Shamarpas. Later that year, the 16th Karmapa and his entourage, including Shamar Rinpoche and Jigme Rinpoche, travelled to Bodh Gaya, India where they had been invited to participate in the 2,500th Buddha Jayanthi celebrations.

On the 16th Karmapa’s request, the 14th Dalai Lama had informally agreed to reinstitute the Shamarpa, and in 1958 in Tsurphu, the 16th Karmapa privately enthroned him. Known at that time only as “Dorje Rinpoche”, his identity still had to be concealed. After the Communist Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, Shamar Rinpoche joined the Karmapa on his flight into exile, first crossing into Bhutan and then settling in the Kingdom of Sikkim at the invitation of the Chogyal. From the beginning of the 1960s, Shamar Rinpoche started his education and training at the old Rumtek Monastery established in the time of the 9th Karmapa. In the following years he received the complete teachings and transmissions of the Karma Kagyu school from the 16th Karmapa.

Shamar Rinpoche was officially enthroned and placed by the 16th Karmapa as a lineage holder on the highest position after himself.  The 16th Karmapa considered the reinstatement of the Shamarpas after a ban of 170 years to be one of his main achievements. In the same way, following the death of the 16th Karmapa in 1981, Shamar Rinpoche stood as a single figure – for truth and against the overwhelming political might of great nations, to find the genuine incarnation of the 16th Karmapa and preserve the authentic Karma Kagyu lineage. In the same way, in conformity with the spiritual traditions of the lineage, he formally recognized Trinley Thaye Dorje as the 17th Karmapa, enthroning him in the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute (KIBI) in New Delhi in 1994. In the following years, he returned to Karmapa the entirety of the lineage transmission, fully training and empowering him.

Read more about Shamar Rinpoche’s life on international Diamond Way webpage.

Like all previous Shamarpas, his next manifestation will be authenticated in accordance with the principle of reciprocal recognition, by the Karmapa that he himself recognised, i.e. Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje.
In the same way as the Shamarpa’s recognition of Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje, this process will proceed as an internal, spiritual matter within the authentic Karma Kagyu lineage. As such, it will be not influenced by third parties seeking to bring forth a candidate for political objectives.


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 training – including the transmission for a unique Diamond Way Buddhist practice called Conscious Dying (Tib. Phowa) – Lama 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.

Lama Ole has been a major driving force in bringing Buddhism to the West, and to date has established more than 600 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. Shamar Rinpoche has said “In 1973 the 16th Karmapa ordered Ole and Hannah to teach and predicted that they would be very successful in spreading the Buddha’s teachings in the West. The 16th Karmapa taught them their main practices, the Guru Yogas on the 8th and 16th Karmapas. They kept their samaya without any doubt, following and fulfilling Karmapa’s wish. Ole is carrying out the activity of the 16th Karmapa.”

Lama Ole is the author of several books including The Way Things Are; Entering the Diamond Way; Mahamudra; Riding the Tiger (all from Blue Dolphin Publishing, USA); and The Great Seal (Fire Wheel Publishing, USA).


Hannah Nydahl

Hannah Nydahl was a student of H.H. the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the great Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche, and many other teachers. Together with her husband Lama Ole, she helped to bring the authentic teachings of the Karma Kagyu to the West.hannah

She was the travelling companion, translator, and friend to many high lamas including Shamar Rinpoche, Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche, Lama Jigme Rinpoche, and others.
Hannah passed away on 1st April, 2007, after a six-month fight with cancer.




Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche

Lopön 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 the years to follow, Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche became the key figure for dharma practitioners in Nepal, with his main monastery located in Kathmandu. In 1987, he visited Europe for the first time at the invitation of his first Western students Lama Ole Nydahl and his wife Hannah. After that time he travelled 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.
Lopön Tchechu 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.


Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche

Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche, a highly respected lama of the Kagyu lineage, is a “Maniwa’, a title given to masters of the Chenrezig practice who have accomplished at least a billion Om Mani Peme Hung mantras. Rinpoche was ordained in Rumtek by the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.


An exceptionally gifted student, he mastered all aspects of traditional Buddhist study, from the sutras and tantras to rituals and music to the sciences, art and composition. Among his many activities, Rinpoche is a retreat master of the three-year retreat centre in Pharping, he has built and oversees a monastery of a hundred nuns west of Kathmandu, and plans to build a monks’ monastery east of the capital are moving along. Several times a year Rinpoche leads thousands of practitioners in the practices of Nyung-ne and Chenrezig at his Nyeshang monastery in Swayambhu. Over fifteen billion Chenrezig mantras have been accumulated over the years. Rinpoche’s teaching style is deep, direct and accesible. His teachings, peppered with practical advice, stories and warm humour, leave a lasting impression on all who are fortunate enough to hear them.

Visit Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche’s website for more information.


Jigme Rinpoche

Lama Jigme Rinpoche was born into the family of H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, as the brother of Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche.


He received extensive teachings from the 16th Karmapa, who during his first visit in the West left him there as his representative. Since that time, Jigme Rinpoche has been guiding Karmapa’s seat in Europe, Dhagpo Kagyu Ling in France.
Besides his organizational skills, he is highly respected as a lama. Many have benefited from his profound knowledge, his understanding of Western lifestyle, and his practical wisdom, warmth, and humour.

Besides his organizational skills, he is highly respected as a lama. Many have benefited from his profound knowledge, his understanding of Western lifestyle, and his practical wisdom, warmth, and humor.


See our international Diamond Way Buddhism website for more information about our teachers.