New Website Section and Projects on Karmapas and Chod and Kalacakra

As part of my ongoing research and translation work, I am happy  to announce two distinct research and translation projects: the 3rd and 8th Karmapas on 1) Chod and 2) Kālacakra, as well as a new website section dedicated to the Gyalwang Karmapas.

Personal connection with HH 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje

In 2005, I met HHK on my first trip to India to study yoga. At that time, I was not a Buddhist nor was I looking for a teacher. I was, however, very interested in Buddhist and Indian philosophy (due to my MA in Philosophy) and read a book about the 17th Karmapa called ‘The Dance of 17 Lives’ on the plane to Delhi. After meeting HH briefly at a public audience at Gyuto monastery, Dharamsala, very soon after, I then had two private audiences, and then took the refuge vows with him in a short, but very powerful private audience alone, at which he also gave me my first Tibetan Buddhist dharma name. He was the first Tibetan Buddhist lama I met and took refuge with, and ever since that time,  I have been on the Dharma path and studying Tibetan language and Buddhist Philosophy. For that reason, I remain eternally grateful and devoted to him, having also received most Vajrayana empowerments from him, including his bestowal of the highest tantra yoga empowerment of Chakrasamvara in Bodh Gaya, 2007.

HH 17th Karmapa at the Chod Empowerment in India, 2012.

Karmapa and Chod

In October 2012, I attended the three-day Chod empowerment and teachings given by HH 17th Karmapa at the Dorzong Monastic Institute, Palampur, HP, India. It was the first time HH had ever given the empowerment (in this lifetime) and many women attended it, including renowned female teachers and practitioners, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo and Lama Tsultrim Allione, who had initially requested the Chod empowerment from HH and whose Tara Mandala organization sponsored the event. The empowerment that HH conferred was based on the Opening the Door to Space text by the 3rd Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje(1284-1339).  Expressing his delight regarding the occasion, HH said:

“Since the time of the 3rd Karmapa who wrote the first commentary on Chöd, the Karmapas have maintained a close connection to this practice. I myself feel a deep bond with these teachings coming from Machig Labdrön. She is the perfect embodiment of wisdom and compassion and has inspired Buddhist practitioners for many centuries. I am especially pleased that I can offer this encouragement and support to female practitioners from around the Himalayan region and the world, and pray that the good merit from this event generates peace.”

For a report of the event, see here and for videos of his teachings on Chod at that event (see below):

Below is a video of HH performing the Chod puja in Bodh Gaya, 2015, with the  nuns at the Arya Kshema winter gathering. The ritual text, called Chod: A String of Jewels, was composed by the 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje.

After getting the 2012 empowerment, I noticed that some of the texts HH taught and spoke about, particularly those by the 8th Karmapa, had not yet been translated into English. So, in September 2018, after completing some works on Kālacakra (as HHK was not in India) I travelled to Nepal to request the oral transmissions of several Chod and Kālacakra texts by the 8th Karmapa from the 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche (the 1st Sangye Nyenpa was an important lama for the 8th Karmapa). He gave me some transmissions but not all I requested, since he informed me he did not have the transmission himself of all the 8th Karmapa’s works and had not received the Kālacakra empowerment.

HH 17th Karmapa with Chod practitioner and teacher, Lama Tsultrim Allione in 2012

I remain committed to making some of these important texts by the Karmapas available in English to practitioners. Please follow this website for updates.

3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339)

Karmapa and Kālacakra

I have written before here, how the Karma Kagyu lineage holders and Karmapas are connected to Kālacakra.  The two most well-known traditions of Kālacakra practiced today are those of Rwa and Dro.  Dro is mainly practised by Jonangpa, and Rwa by the Gelugpa.  However, in terms of the completion stage practices of the vajra-yogas, only the Dro lineage tradition has been well-maintained and preserved.  Both these traditions are listed in the seventeen lineages of Kalacakra that were compiled and written down by the founder of the Jonang lineage and this lineage is one of them. This project aims to do more research/translation on the Tsami/Orgyenpa Kālacakra lineage that was passed down to the  3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje and the texts he composed.

The seventeen lineages of Kālacakra

In the Kālacakra Six vajra-yogas text by Jonang master, Tāranātha, A Hundred Blazing Lights: A Supplementary Commentary on ‘Meaningful to See’ (zab lam rdo rje’i rnal ‘byor gyi ‘khrid yig mthong ba don ldan la nye bar mkho ba’i gsal byed lhan thabs su sbyor rgyu’i yi ge ‘od brgya ‘bar ba), he details the seventeen distinct lineages of Kālacakra Six Yogas and how the Jonang master Kunpang Tsondru (kun spangs thugs rje brtson ‘grus) (1243-1313) not only received all the lineage transmissions but also collated them together. My translation of these seventeen lineages detailed in this text is here. In summary, they are: Gyijo, Ma, Trom, Atisha, Dro, Rwa, Tsami, Dorje Drag, the three of Galo, two of Khache Panchen Śākyaśrī, two of Vibhūticandra, Chag and Menlung.

The Dro and Rwa Lineages

Most people who study Kālacakra are aware of two main lineages of ‘ Dro and Rwa (based on the names of the Tibetan translators who translated the Kālacakra tantra into Tibetan) followed by the main Tibetan lineages today.

—In terms of Jonang, Tāranātha states, even at that time, they generally follow the lineages of ‘Dro and the long and short lineages of Vibhuticandra.

—Gelugpas generally follow the Rwa (Lotsawa) lineage, passed down via Buton Rinpoche.

—Kagyu hold the ‘DroTsami and Rechungpa lineages. Jamgon Kongtrul the First, received all the lineages of Kālacakra (including Dro) from his main Jonang teacher, Ngawang Chophel Gyatso. He was particularly influenced by the Jonang master, Tāranātha.

—Sakyapa hold one of Galo and the two of Khache Panchen Śākyaśrī.

—The Nyingma hold the lineage passed down to Mipham Gyatso, who wrote several texts and commentaries on Kālacakra. For more on the connection between the Nyingma master Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Kālacakra, see my post here.

Kagyu Kālacakra lineages and texts

The ‘forgotten’ Kagyu lineages are those of Tsami and Rechungpa.

  • The Tsami Tradition itself, which is the tradition of the Yogamālā (the Garland of the Six Yogas) composed by the translator Tsami Sangye Drak[1], transmitted through Selo (Zhönnu Tsultrim) and Nyötön Öma.
  • That which Rechung Dorje Drakpa[2] received from Amoghavajra.[3]

These were passed down to the 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (rang byung rdo rje), the 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje (mi bskyod rdo rje) and other Kagyu masters (including Drikung and Drugpa Kagyu lineages).

According to the recently passed, translator and scholar, Edward Henning:

“The use of the practice texts of the Tsami tradition, the most notable being written by the eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje, has largely ceased, and the practices of the Jonang tradition written by Tāranātha are now mainly used. But still the maṇḍala is drawn according to the original Karma Kagyu methods even though there are some clear, although minor, contradictions between the descriptions given in the maṇḍala drawing texts and the practice texts. These differences have sometimes caused puzzlement to modern Karma Kagyu maṇḍala artists, unaware of the full history of their tradition.”

Jamgon Kongtul Lodro Thaye was also a Kālacakra lineage holder and composed many texts on the subject too, see here.

The current 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, has recieved the Kālacakra public empowerments from HH the 14th Dalai Lama as well. For more on Kālacakra and the 3rd, 8th and 17th Karmapas, see my previous post here.

8th-Karmapa-Mikyo-Dorje
8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje

My hope is to translate some of the Karmapas’ texts on Kālacakra into English, so if you have any information or queries connected to these projects, or would like to support or help them in any way, please do get in touch. May it be of benefit!

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