KNOWING ONE LIBERATES ALL: Compilation of deities by 9th Karmapa and Kālacakra in Karma Kagyu: Transmissions and empowerments by 12th Gyeltsab Rinpoche

‘Knowing One Liberates All’ – October 2019

I recently had the great fortune to attend the Liberating All by Knowing One (gChig shes kun grol) (sometimes translated as Knowing One Liberates All) empowerments given by Kagyu heart-son, HE 12th Gyaltsab Rinpoche at his Palchen Chosling Monastery seat in Ralang, Sikkim from 8th until 20th October 2019. This cycle of empowerments was composed by the 9th Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje (1556-1603). As the announcement for the empowerments stated:

Liberating All by Knowing One is a collection of empowerments of the most important deities of Vajrayayana Buddhism found in Tibet. The collection Liberating All by Knowing One is called such because each empowerment has same set of rules: the empowerment of enlightened body, speech, mind, quality and activities. After receiving this set of empowerments, one is allowed to visualize, recite mantras and read daily practice of almost all the well known deities of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. This collection was compiled by the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje, and since then it widely flourished in Karma Kagyu tradition having been given and received by many eminent masters. After the 16th Karmapa Rigpe Dorje had given the complete empowerments to the four heart sons and other sanghas, a part of text which deals with the empowerments of the dharma protectors was lost for sometime. Fortunately, it was recently found by the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinlay Dorje.

It was the first time the empowerments had been given with all the Dharma protectors included (for more on that read on). A beautiful book was produced for this rare and precious event in Tibetan, English and Chinese, the thangkas, mantras and short recitations for the peaceful and wrathful deities and the protectors.

In Bodh Gaya, at the 32nd Kagyu Monlam, HH 17th Karmapa gave the peaceful deities empowerments from this cycle by the 9th Karmapa. During that initiation, HH gave some some background information for the cycle―its traditions, structure, and the present Karmapa’s connection to it and how he recovered the protector sections of it , reported in full here:

Depending on the capacity and inclinations of beings, the Buddha taught various types of dharma, which can be subsumed into two categories, the sutras and the tantras. The key difference between these two is the initiations given in the tantric tradition. The tantras are further divided into four main types: kriya, charya, yoga, and anuttara yoga, each one of which has its own special empowerments. The Hevajra initiation, for example, has a particular structure and way of being given. In order to receive these initiations and their practices, many Tibetan masters travelled to India, and in turn, Indian masters came to Tibet to bestow them. In doing so, the masters transmitted the specific view, initiation, and practice related to each individual deity.

It was difficult, however, to receive this immense variety of initiations, and so collections were made. Two famous ones came from India. The realized master Mitra Yogi gathered one hundred initiations into a text known as “The Hundred of Mitra” (Mitra brGya rtsa), which was translated into Tibetan by Rinjung Zhiwa and known as “The Hundred of Rinjung” (Rin byung brGya rtsa). Another Indian compilation was made by Abhayakara (Mijikpay Jungne,Mi ‘jigs pa’i ‘byung gnas) and known in Tibetan as “The Ocean of Sadhanas,” (sGrub thabs rGya mtsho).Compendia of initiations were also created in Tibet, such as Jamgön Kongtrul Lodro Thaye’s “Precious Treasury of Termas.”

The Ninth Karmapa’s initiation text “Knowing One Liberates All”and Mitra Yogi’s text of one hundred initiations differ from other collections that have specific initiations for each deity. In”Knowing One Frees All,”the ways of bestowing the initiations are the same: a template serves as a basis for giving the initiations, while the names of the deities are changed. This stable framework is what the One in the title points to. The practices, however, are different depending on the deity. (Recently, they have been translated into English and Chinese, so that disciples may do a practice to which they feel a special connection.)

It seems that this type of compilation created by the Ninth Karmapa is unique in Tibet. Why so? In his ‘Introduction to A Compendium of the Classes of Tantra’, the Sakya scholar Loter Wangpo (a disciple of Jamgön Kongtrul Lodro Thaye) explained that it takes a very special lama to bring together so many initiations and distil them into one. First of all, the lama must have realization, and secondly, the yidam deities must give their permission. And in order to receive these initiations, a disciple must have received an empowerment from one of the four classes of tantra. To make sure that this happens and to show his great respect for the Sakya tradition, the Karmapa invited His Holiness Sakya Trizin to bestow an initial empowerment from his own tradition of the highest kriya tantras.

Turning to the text itself, it is divided into three sections:(1) the practices of the peaceful deities known as “The Garland of the Peaceful Ones;” (2) the practices of the fierce deities, known as “The Garland of the Fierce Ones;” and (3) the protector practices known as “The Garland of Lightning.” At Palpung Monastery in Eastern Tibet, the Eleventh Situ Pema Wangchuk Gyalpo (1886–1952) made a wood block print of “Knowing One Frees All” but it did not include the protector section. When the Sixteenth Karmapa gave the initiations to his four heart sons, he gave the protector section from a text, handwritten in ume script, which subsequently disappeared. So when Situ Rinpoche offered the initiations to the present Karmapa, he could only offer the first two sections. To keep the transmission of the protector practices unbroken, the Karmapa had searched for them extensively. In 2007, when he met with Shamar Rinpoche in Delhi, the Karmapa asked him to share a copy of these initiations if he had one. Shamar Rinpoche replied that he would go back and look, but nothing ever came of it.

The Karmapa then heard that Yuthok Khenpo was going to Tibet and asked him to search for the text. When he arrived there, Yuthok Khenpo asked around and discovered that a lama in Eastern Tibet had a copy. Yuthok Khenpo travelled there, found the lama, and made a photocopy, which came into the Karmapa’s hands about a month ago, in November of 2014. Once the Karmapa receives these protector empowerments, he will have received the entire range of empowerments from his own tradition as well as many from other schools.

As a result of HH 17th Karmapa receiving the entire range of empowerments, the Protectors were thus included in this 2019 empowerment. They are:

  • Lion-Faced Dakini (seng gdong ma)
  • Black Bhagavan (legs ldan nag po)
  • Black-Cloaked Mahakala (ber nag can)
  • Four-Armed Mahakala (phyag bzhi pa)
  • Six-Armed Mahakala (phyag drug pa)
  • White Protector, the Wish-Fulfilling Jewel (mgon dkar bzhin nor bu)
  • Mahakala of Tent (gur mgon)
  • Four-faced Mahakala (zhal bzhi pa)
  • Self-Arising Queen (rang byung rgyal mo)
  • Vetali (dud sol mo)

Videos of the event and teachings can be found on the Gyaltsab Rinpoche youtube channel here.

Here are some photos of myself and some local Sikkimese women outside the monastery where the empowerments were given. Dakini and Tara power! 😉

HE 12th Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Kālacakra

Also, I have written a little about Karma Kagyu lamas and their connection with Kālacakra before, see here and here. However, not much has been written about HE 12th Gyaltsab Rinpoche and his connection to this deity and tantric practice. In April 2018, Rinpoche recently gave the Kālacakra empowerment at the Zurmang Kagyu monastery in Ranka, Sikkim with the 12th Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche present. Sadly I missed this event! However, it can be watched at this Youtube video link (see below).

Although it is clear that Gyaltsab Rinpoche holds the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage of Kālacakra, it is not clear if he has also received the full Jonang Kalacakra lineage transmission (as did the previous Bokar Rinpoche). I asked Rinpoche’s translators and monastics/students close to him,  but no one seemed to know.  In the video clip Rinpoche gives a brief account of the empowerment lineage he got and mentions that it is of the Dro lineage of Dolpopa. He also mentions Ju Mipham Rinpoche and having got the empowerment from HH 16th Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje and the jenang empowerments from Kalu Rinpoche.

HE Gyaltsab Rinpoche is not mentioned as a main Kālacakra lineage holder of the Karma Kagyu in the recent book on the history of Kālacakra by Bokar monastery lama, Khenpo Donyo Lodro Rinpoche (see here for more information on that book). However, I was told this is because Gyaltsab Rinpoche received the Jonang lineage transmission in Tibet, after the book had been composed and published. I was also told by a trusted source, that HH the 17th Karmapa, who was concerned about receiving and maintaining the Kālacakra within the Karma Kagyu, asked a famous and renowned Khenpo in Tibet, Khenpo Damcho Dawa, to give Gyaltsab Rinpoche this transmission and empowerment in Tibet. However, it is also not clear if this was the Jonang lineage transmission, although it seems likely it would have been.

May this record of the lineage and teachings of Karma Kagyu and Kālacakra be of benefit and may all beings attain the fully awakened state!


One thought on “KNOWING ONE LIBERATES ALL: Compilation of deities by 9th Karmapa and Kālacakra in Karma Kagyu: Transmissions and empowerments by 12th Gyeltsab Rinpoche

  1. Thank you for sharing some of your experiences from this sublime and historical occasion of Buddhist Tantric empowerments.

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