NEW TRANSLATION: ‘Guru Yoga on Third Karmapa: Heart Essence of the Profound Meaning’ by Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro

For HH 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje’s 35th birthday, officially celebrated on 26th June, I offer a new (and first time) translated text (as part of a set of new translations about the Karmapas). This text is called The Heart Essence of the Profound Meaning: A Guru Yoga on the Third Karmapa[1], composed by the 2nd Jamyang Khyentse, Chokyi Lodro (1893-1959). It can be downloaded as a .pdf on request here. N.B it should only be practiced with the appropriate empowerment and transmission of it from a qualified lineage master.

Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro and 16th Karmapa

As I have written about before here, the Khyentse lineage have a very close relationship with the Karmapas, and the 17th Karmapa recently spoke about this in India at the Dzongsar monastery of the current incarnation, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. For example, there are two long-life prayers and supplications by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (‘jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse’i dbang po, 1802-1893) for the 15th Karmapa (I have recently translated and published here).   Chokyi Lodro also composed a Guru Yoga on the Second Karmapa and a Supplication to the Garland of Karmapas (click on links for translations of those texts).

All the translations relating to supplications, praises and guru yogas for the Karmapas will be compiled into a booklet format for free download here soon.

Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284 – 1339)
The Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284 – 1339)

སྤྱན་རས་གཟིགས་དབང་མི་ཡི་གཟུགས༎          བརྟན་པའི་འཁོར་ལོའི་མཁྱེན་རབ་ཅན༎

གསང་བ་རྒྱ་མཐསོའི་མངའ་བདག་མཆོག༎        རང་བྱུང་རྡོ་རྗེར་གསོལ་བ་འདེབས༎

The one whose form is Lord Avalokiteśvara

Excellent scholar, Stiracakra [secret name of Mañjuśrī]

Supreme sovereign of the ocean of secrets

To Rangjung Dorje, I pray!

—Excerpt from Supplication to the Garland of Glorious Karmapas by Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (Translated and edited by Adele Tomlin, June 2020)

3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje

Rangjung Dorje was one of the most extraordinary accomplished masters to have lived, and author of several important Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen works that are still studied today. He is also considered, along with Jonang master, Dolpopa, to have been the founder and propagator of the empty-of-other (gzhan strong) view and composed several works on Kālacakra, that have yet to be translated into English (see here).

As well as the Karma Kagyu, the 3rd Karmapa’s connection to the Nyingma lineage is a strong one. He was born into a family of Nyingma practitioners and recognised as the Karmapa by Orgyenpa and later, during a retreat in his early twenties, he completely realised and received all the teachings and transmissions of the Dzogchen tantras, unifying them with the Kagyu mahāmudrā:

Born to a family of a tantric practitioners of the Nyingma lineage in Dingri Langkor, in the Tsang region of Central Tibet, Rangjung Dorje sat up straight at the age of three and proclaimed that he was the Karmapa. At the age of five, he went to see Orgyenpa, who had prepared for his visit on the basis of a prescient dream. Orgyenpa recognized the child as the reincarnation of Karma Pakshi, and gave him the Vajra Black Crown and all the possessions of the second Karmapa. Rangjung Dorje grew up in Tsurphu, receiving the full transmissions of both the Kagyu and Nyingma tradition.

In particular, during a retreat in his early twenties he had the vision at sunrise of Vimalamitra and then Padmasambhava, who dissolved into him at a point between his eyebrows. At that moment, he realized and received all the teachings and transmissions of the dzogchen tantras of the Nyingma lineage. He wrote many volumes of teachings on dzogchen and founded the Karma Nyingtik lineage. Through his mastery of the profound Nyingmapa teachings of Vimalamitra, he unified the Kagyu mahamudra and the Nyingma dzogchen.

The Karmapa established many monasteries in Tibet and China. He visited China in 1332, where he enthroned his disciple, the new emperor, Toghon Temur. Rangjung Dorje later passed away into parinirvana in China. It is said his image appeared in the moon on the night of his passing.

He composed texts on diverse topics such as Doha, scriptural commentaries, astrology, Chod, and biography. Several of his works on Mahāmudrā, such as the famous Prayer to the Definitive Meaning of Mahāmudrā (nges don phyag rgya chen po’i smon lam) are classic texts studied today. Another famous work is the Profound Inner Meaning (zab mo nang don), a commentary on the Annutarayoga tantras, written in 1322 at Dechen Teng.

The 3rd Karmapa was also a disciple of  Rigdzin Kumārāja (rig ‘dzin ku mA rA dza, 1266-1343), the teacher of Longchen Rabjam (klong chen rab ‘byams, 1308-1364), the great Nyingma master largely responsible for systematizing the treasure teachings of Vimalamitra in the Vima Nyingtik, and said to be an emanation of Vimalamitra. Kumārāja taught Rangjung Dorje the nying-thig, “heart-essence,” teachings transmitted by Padmasambhava and Vimalamitra.  Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo is believed to have been the combined emanation of Vimalamitra and Tri Songdetsen. For example, his Chetsün Nyingtig is one of the most important Dzogchen instructions, based on a transmission from Vimalamitra. For more on Vimalamitra and his inclusion in this Guru Yoga by Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, see below.

Vimalamitra (early to late 8th Century). Tibetan words read: Vidhyadhara Vimala, Holder of the Nectar and Qualities

In a teaching given recently by the 17th Karmapa, he explains that the name Rangjung Dorje, is actually the secret name of the 2nd Karmapa:

Where, then, did the name Karmapa come from? Some say that Karma Pakshi received this name because he stayed a long time at Karma Gon monastery. But the experts of the Karma Kamtsang say that Karma Pakshi was the secret name of the 1st Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa, which then became the public name of the second Karmapa. In this way, the Karmapas received their name, which means the activity of all the buddhas. In the same way, the name of the 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, was the secret name of the 2nd Karmapa, and the name of the 4th Karmapa, Rolpay Dorje, was the secret name of the 3rd Karmapa, and so on down the lineage.

According to the Treasury of Lives bio:

According to tradition, Orgyenpa is said to have identified the youth as the reincarnation of his teacher, the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi and to have declared “As my guru’s esoteric name was Rangjung Dorje, I will name you that.” Other, earlier sources, however, have it that the name Rangjung Dorje was given to the boy by Kunden Sherab (kun ldan shes rab, d.u.), who gave him his novice vows. Scholars have suggested that it was in fact Rangjung Dorje himself who made the assertion that he was the reincarnation of Karma Pakshi, whom he further identified as the rebirth of Dusum Khyenpa (dus gsum mkhyen pa, 1110-1193), to whom he gave the titles Second and First Karmapas, respectively.

The text – Heart Essence of the Profound Meaning Guru Yoga 


སངས་རྒྱས་ཀུན་གྱི་སྐུ་གཅིག་པུ༎                                བདག་མེད་སེང་གེའི་སྒྲ་དང་ལྡན༎

མུ་སྟེགས་རི་དྭགས་སྐྲག་མཛད་པ༎                              རང་བྱུང་རྡོ་རྗེར་ཕྱག་འཚལ་བསྟོད༎


Single embodiment of all Buddhas

Whose ‘selfless’ lion’s roar

Terrifies extremists and wild beasts

I prostrate and praise Rangjung Dorje [3rd Karmapa]!

–Excerpt from Guru Yoga on 3rd Karmapa by Chokyi Lodro (Translated and edited by Adele Tomlin, June 2020).

This guru yoga text is ‘Heart Essence of the Profound Meaning’ Guru Yoga (zabdon nyingtig) on the 3rd Karmapa.  There are three editions of this text available online[2].  Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (who signs it with his other name Pema Yeshe Dorje) and says he wrote it due to a dream he had during a reading transmission of 3rd Karmapa’s Profound Inner Meaning (zabmo nangdon), in the fire-bird year.  He also wrote a Guru Yoga for the Jonang Master, Dolpopa (translated into English here).

Pema Yeshe Dorje form (other name of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro). See here:

In this guru yoga, Chokyi Lodro not only includes a visualisation of the 3rd Karmapa but also composes a section to Vimalamitra, recognising his connection to the Karmapa (and to Chokyi Lodro’s own prior incarnation) and his being a holder of Vima Nyingthig (bi ma snying thig),  which is one of the two “heart essence” (snying thig) collections of the men-ngag-de cycle Dzogchen, the other one being “Seminal Heart of the Dakini” (mkha’ ‘gro snying thig).  Traditionally the teachings are ascribed to Vimalamitra, but they were codified and collated by their Tibetan discoverers in the 11th and 12th century.  In the visualisation of Vimalamitra, he mentions the AH that appears at the tip of his nose. This appears to be a reference to an important event in the life story of Vimalamitra:

In another scene, the story returns to Vimalamitra, who is riding upon an elephant and engaging in several miraculous activities comparable to the stories of the mahāsiddhas. Shortly after, a ḍākinī interrupts his prance atop the elephant to inform Vimalamitra that he needs to go to the Bhasing charnel ground to study the Nyingtik. At the cemetery, Vimalamitra is reunited with Jñānasūtra where he performs obeisance and receives the Elaborated Empowerment (spros bcas kyi dbang), the Unelaborated Empowerment (spros med kyi dbang), then the Extremely Unelaborated Empowerment (shin tu spros med kyis dbang). When a white letter “A” appears on the tip of his nose as sign of accomplishment, he is given the Exceedingly Unelaborated Empowerment (rab tu spros med kyi dbang).

The painted image on the front of this new sadhana booklet of the footprints of the 3rd Karmapa are from a thangka dated around 1339. It was reportedly sold recently, at Christies auction house, for 458,500 USD[3].  More details about the image can be seen here

Other Guru Yogas for Karmapas

In terms of other guru yogas written for the Karmapas (and this list is not final), here is a brief list:

2nd Karmapa

There is one for 2nd Karmapa, Karma Pakshi. According to sources, the essence of this practice came to Yongey Mingyur Dorje in a vision of Karma Pakshi and his retinue. The 17th Karmapa recently performed this guru yoga at Gyuto monastery in India, for the passing away of the 14th Shamar Rinpoche, see here.

Chokyi Lodro also wrote one for the 2nd Karmapa, which I am translating and will be published here soon.

8th Karmapa

The primary guru yoga practiced in Karma Kagyu now is the Four-Session Guru Yoga by the 8th Karmapa Mikyö Dorje. Recently, HH 17th Karmapa published this text with a volume of commentaries on it, such as newly rediscovered instructions for this practice by the 5th Shamar Könchok Yenlak and the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje along with the more well-known commentaries by Karma Chakme, Karmay Khenchen Rinchen Dargye, and the 15th Karmapa Khakhyap Dorje.  For a video audio recording of  the 17th Karmapa chanting this text see here:

9th Karmapa

There is a short guru yoga on the Karmapas by the 9th Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje which is practised in the Karma Kagyu preliminaries

14th Karmapa

The one for the 14th Karmapa was composed by the 1st  Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye[4] (which I am translating and will publish soon).

16th Karmapa

In 2016, the 17th Karmapa also wrote a guru yoga for the 16th Karmapa, based on the guru yogas of the 1st Karmapa and ganachakra of a Milarepa guru yoga.

See also this post on the Guru Yogas and Commentaries by 16th Karmapa, here. For a first edition catalogue of the 16th Karmapa’s works in Tibetan and other languages, see here.

17th Karmapa

There is a short guru yoga written for the 17th Karmapa by the late HE Tenga Rinpoche, which can be watched  here and here:

For some  modern songs of devotion and praise of 17th Karmapa’s life see below.

This one by Sherten includes recent video footage of HH meeting Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche at Dzongsar Institute, India.


May this first translation of the Guru Yoga of 3rd Karmapa be of benefit. May we all attain the full awakening by merging inseparably our minds with that of the guru and may the teachings and lineages of Karmapa and Khyentse, both flourish and harmony prevail!

Adele Tomlin, 26th June 2020. Copyright, all rights reserved.


[1] In the Collected Works of Jamyang Chokyi Lodro (‘jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros . “rgyal dbang karma pa rang byung rdo rje’i bla sgrub zab don snying tig.” In gsung ‘bum/_’jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros/. TBRC W1KG12986. 4: 315 – 324. bir, h.p.: khyentse labrang, 2012. )

[2] In the Collected Works of Jamyang Chokyi Lodro ‘jam dbyangs chos kyi blo grosgsung ‘bum/_’jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros/; W1KG12986, 5 ff. (pp. 297-306). khyentse labrang, bir, h.p.. 2012. Computer Input. jam dbyangs chos kyi blo grosgsung thor bu/_’jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros/ (rgya gar bir’i par ma/); W21814, 17 ff. (pp. 359-392). Block Print.  ‘jam dbyangs chos kyi blo grosgsung ‘bum/_’jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros/ (dbu med/); W21813, 5 ff. (pp. 311-323). dzongsar khyentse labrang, gangtok. 1981-1985. dbu med.

[3] For more information see:

[4] ‘jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha’ yas. “kar+ma pa bcu bzhi’i bla ma’i rnal ‘byor/.” In rgya chen bka’ mdzod. TBRC W23723. 1: 539 – 573. new delhi: shechen, 2002.

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