NEW TRANSLATION: Guru Yoga on Second Karmapa: ‘Naturally-Present Heart Drop’, by Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro

For the full moon today, and the birthday of one of the Karmapa’s main heart-sons, HE 12th Gyaltsab Rinpoche, I offer this first translation of Naturally-Present Heart Drop[1] a guru yoga on the 2nd Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (1204-1286) by the 2nd Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (1893-1959). He also composed one for the 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, Heart Essence of the Profound Meaning, which I translated and published recently here. For Chokyi Lodro’s Supplication to the Garland of Karmapas, see here.

Karma Pakshi – Life Story
2nd Karmapa, Karma Pakshi

HH 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, recently wrote a theatrical performance in a contemporary idiom of the life of Karma Pakshi, performed during the 29th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo on March 3rd, 2012. The drama focuses on three events: the arrival of Orgyenpa (1230-1312), who would hold the Karma Pakshi’s lineage; the meeting of these two great lamas; and finally, Orgyenpa’s meeting and recognizing the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339). The perfomance can be viewed here:

A bio can also be read on Treasury of Lives here. Hh 17th Karmapa, has given several Karma Pakshi empowerments in the USA and Germany (see details below). He explained at one teaching that:

The first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, had planned to institute a lineage descending through his nephew but the latter was killed, so Dusum Khyenpa decided upon a succession of tulkus instead. The Master Orgyenpa encouraged him in this and was given the responsibility of finding and instructing the next reincarnation. His Holiness related that when a very young boy announced to Orgyenpa that he was the Karmapa, Orgyenpa tested him and found this to be true, so the child was enthroned as the 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje. This recognition of tulkus, which began as an aspect of the activity of Karma Pakshi, became a unique trait of Tibetan Buddhism.

Another special aspect of Karma Pakshi’s activity, His Holiness explained, mirrored that of Guru Rinpoche, who tamed the spirits and local deities of Tibet so that the Dharma could flourish there. In a similar way, Karma Pakshi subdued the emperor Kublai Khan, who tried to kill him in eighteen different ways, none of which succeeded. In his autobiography, Karma Pakshi wrote that these brought him close to death and the most difficult to overcome was being immersed in fire. By demonstrating this inconceivable resilience, the Karmapa was able to subdue the pride of Kublai Khan who became his disciple and opened the door for the Kagyu Dharma in China. His Holiness added that although he had not yet researched this himself, some say Karma Pakshi met a contemporary, Marco Polo, who recorded that at the court of the Chinese emperor, he had met a Tibetan lama who performed great miracles.

Guru Yoga by Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro

There are two available editions of the original text online in the Collected Works of Chokyi Lodro[2], where he signs his name as Pema Yeshe Dorje.  It was written on the sixth day of the first month of the Earth-Dog year (1958), in  Sikkim where Chokyi Lodro took up residence in the latter half of his life (from 1956 onwards). For more information about his time there (together with photos taken of the palace on a recent pilgrimage trip), see this short article here.

Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro and 16th Karmapa

The 2nd Karmapa, Karma Pakshi’s life story is inspiring to read, especially as he faced many political and personal challenges to his life and freedom, due to his involvement with Kublai Khan of Mongolia. Of particular note, he was the teacher of Orgyenpa, who is credited with having recognised the incarnation of the 3rd Karmapa and who for twelve years studied Kālacakra, mainly in the traditions of Dro Lotsāwa (‘bro lo tsA ba) and Chak Lotsāwa (chag lo tsA ba), and the major Kagyu doctrines with Gotsangpa.

In this guru yoga on Karma Pakshi (whom he refers to by his ordination name Chokyi Lama), Khyentse Chokyi Lodro includes visualisations and praises of the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Karmapas embedded within the body, speech and mind/heart of the 2nd Karmapa. It is a short and powerful practice for those who want to make a connection with Karma Pakshi and the lineage of Karmapas.  Before practising any guru yoga text, it is highly recommended to get the oral transmission and instruction on it from a qualified lineage lama.

The text can be downloaded on request here. It must only be practised by those with a suitable empowerment.

Karma Pakshi sadhana – mind-treasure discovered by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

In 2014, HH 17th Karmapa gave a Karma Pakshi empowerment in Germany, which I attended. The text for the initiation and the related practice was discovered by the treasure revealer Mingyur Dorje. Contrary to the usual understanding, the Karmapa stated that in fact, Karma Pakshi was really the first Karmapa because during his time, the name Karmapa became famous. A very special gift, the Karmapa explained during the empowerment, came from Sogyal Rinpoche who had loaned a small drum (damaru) that had belonged to Karma Pakshi himself and come down through Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, a great master who had traded empowerments with the 16th Karmapa. The present Karmapa played this drum during the initiation. A video of the empowerment and subsequent teaching is below:

At the empowerment the 17th Karmapa gave in the USA, he explained that:

“In essence, this guru sadhana concerns a mandala which in nature is the fivefold mandala of Jinasagara, a form of Avalokiteshvara. In form it is a mandala containing all of the three roots (guru, yidam deity, and dakini). The principal of the mandala is Karma Pakshi himself.”

He continued to explain that Karma Pakshi once said that one could think there is a lineage between himself and Jinasagara, or that there is no lineage linking them―a way of indicating that he himself was the yidam deity. Therefore, instead of the usual placement of the yidam deity in the center of the mandala, we find Karma Pakshi in that central place.

His Holiness added that another aspect of Karma Pakshi’s connection to Jinasagara is that this yidam deity was his and the 1st Karmapa’s main practice, which they maintained throughout their lives.

An explanation of the Karma Pakshi sadhana can be read online here, it explains that:

Tertön Yongle Mingyur Dorje was a Nyingmapa and the Terma he revealed is exceptional. Termas, gter-ma in Tibetan, are treasures that were concealed by Guru Rinpoche, to be discovered at the appropriate time by a Tertön, a treasure revealer, for the benefit of future disciples. One can see Tertöns as reincarnations of Guru Rinpoche. There are many different kinds of Termas – texts, ritual objects, relics, and natural objects. The Terma that Yongle Mingyur Dorje revealed is a text that consists of three volumes and contains the Karma Pakshi Sadhana, which is only practiced in the Karma Kagyü School, not in that of the Nyingmapas. The collection of three volumes revealed by Mingyur Dorje also contains a cycle of teachings and the practice on Dorje Drolo, who is the wrathful manifestation of Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava, and the eight names of Guru Rinpoche. Secondly, this Terma contains a cycle of teachings on Amitayus, Tsepamed in Tibetan, the Buddha of Long Life. Thirdly, it contains a cycle of teachings on Vajradhara and his retinue as well as their Sadhanas.

Even though it is a Nyingma Terma, Yongle Mingyur Dorje offered the Terma he brought to light to the Tenth Gyalwa Karmapa, and therefore the Tenth Karmapa became Lord of these Terma teachings. Mingyur Dorje had also realized the Kagyüpa Mahakala Practice, Bernakchen in Tibetan. At that time, he envisioned the entire mandala of Karma Pakshi – Guru Rinpoche above Karma Pakshi as the central deity, Hayagriva (Tamdrin, Horse-Throat, a wrathful manifestation of Buddha Amitabha), and other deities surrounding him. At this point, it is sufficient to know that the mandala of Karma Pakshi is based upon Mingyur Dorje’s vision.

One can see Karma Pakshi meditation practice as Guru Yoga, which consists of various stages. The creation and completion stages of the Guru Yoga practice in Ngöndro are different than those in Karma Pakshi-Guru Yoga. While practicing Karma Pakshi-Guru Yoga, one imagines that the main deity is indivisible with one’s own Lama, who is the Gyalwa Karmapa in the Karma Kagyü Tradition.

Guru Yoga is explained in accordance with Mahamudra in the Kagyü Tradition, but the ritual of Karma Pakshi-Guru Yoga is explained in accordance with Dzogchen, because Tertön Mingyur Dorje revealed this practice due to having realized Dzogchen. Actually, Mahamudra and Dzogchen are not different – ultimately they are the same. They differ as long as devotees are practicing the path.

Later concluding that:

Karma Pakshi is not separate from the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje – they are by nature the same. It is possible to see and experience the wondrous activities of the Glorious Karmapa, to reflect his life-story, and to have pure faith and devotion in him, in contrast to the life-story of Karma Pakshi that we can only read about in books.

17th Karmapa giving Karma Pakshi empowerment, Germany 2014.

May it be of benefit and may the lineages of Karmapas and Jamyang Khyentse flourish and all be harmonious! Dedicated to root lama, 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje.

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 5th July 2020. Copyright.


[1] The Tibetan term, thugs thig, means the essential drop (thig le) in the heart-mind that resides in all sentient beings.

[2]  One text edition is “karma pak+Shi’i bla sgrub rang byung thugs thig.” In gsung ‘bum/_’jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros/. TBRC W1KG12986. 4: 311 – 314. bir, h.p.: khyentse labrang, 2012.  The other edition is in an Umed edition gsung ‘bum/_’jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros/ (dbu med/). TBRC W21813. 1: 463 – 468. gangtok: dzongsar khyentse labrang, 1981-1985.

pema yeshe dorje
Thangka of Pema Yeshe Dorje

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