By the source of the blessings, the jewel-garland of Kagyu
Subjugator of Appearances, Pema Thothreng Tsal[i]
Speech treasury of the garland of Guru Buddhas, and
Blessings of the truth of compassion and bodhicitta,
May the irreversible great wheel of ultimate meaning,
the heart of the Dagpo Kagyu, Karmapa,
Supreme holder of the teachings, have a stable life and
Bless us that the teachings remain a long time!
—-Excerpt from Aspiration Prayer for the Prospering of Ultimate Meaning Teachings, by 15th Karmapa
To commemorate the life of 15th Karmapa, Khakhyab Dorje (mkha’ khyab rdo rje, (1871-1922), I offer a text (translated and published for the first time in English) he composed, Aspiration Prayer for the Prospering of Ultimate Meaning Teachings[i], which can be freely downloaded as a .pdf here.
The text was written in 1916, at Tshurpu monastery (mtshur mdo) in collaboration with the treasure-revealer, Zilnon Namhkha Dorje (zil gnon nam mkha’i rdo rje)[ii], at the request of Yogi Zangthal Drime (rnal ‘byor pa zang thal dri med) and Lhatsewe Gelong Jampal Tsultrim (lha rtse ba’i dge slong ‘jam dpal tshul khrims); additional verses written in 1917 at the request of Thubtan Jampel Tsultrim Dragpa (thub bstan ‘jam dpal tshul khrims grags pa)[iii]. During the beginning of the 20th century, Khakhyap Dorje became connected with Zilnön Namkhé Dorjé and received several empowerments, including those of the Dorjé Purpa Yangsang Trinlé Chudril and of the Chime Soktik. He later expanded and wrote several key texts on the Chime Soktik (more on that in a future post).
The Fifteenth Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje was born in Shelkor village in Tsang province in Central Tibet. The ninth Kyabgon Drukchen Mingyur Wanggi Gyalpo recognized and enthroned him. The Karmapa received the entire cycle of Kagyu teachings from Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye[v] and studied with many great masters, such as Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Khenchen Tashi Ozer. He gave empowerments throughout Tibet, and preserved many rare texts by having them reprinted.
Khakyab Dorje was the first in the line of Karmapas to get married, to Ogyen Tsomo (some sources call her Daki Wangmo, see more on his consorts below) and had at least three sons, one of whom was recognized as the second Jamgon Kongtrul, Palden Khyentse Öser, the other as unrecognised twelfth Shamarpa, Tugsay Jamyang Rinpoche. His closest disciples were the 11th Tai Situ, Pema Wangchog Gyalpo, Jamgon Palden Khyentse Özer and the 1st Beru Khyentse, Lodro Mizay Jampa’i Gocha. Some years before his passing into parinirvana, he gave a prediction letter to his closest attendant. He passed away when he was 51 years old.
Chogyur Lingpa, and his prophesy regarding the 15th to 21st Karmapas
Chokgyur Lingpa (mchog gyur bde chen zhig po gling pa) (1829-1870) — was one of the most prolific treasure revealers of the nineteenth century. His revelations – together with their ancillary materials – span more than forty volumes. They also include the three types of practices which qualify a Treasure revealer as a great treasure revealer – practices related to Guru Rinpoche, the Great Perfection, and Avalokiteshvara (bla, rdzog, thugs). He was a contemporary and Dharma friend of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, and, like Khyentse Wangpo, was entrusted with the seven special transmissions.[vi]According to several sources, Chogyur Lingpa lived during the lifetime of the 14th Karmapa. According to several sources, in a famous prophecy, he foretold the names of the 15th, 16th, and 17th Karmapas and the events surrounding their lives, up to the 21st Karmapa (source Karmapa’s Office):
”It is said that during a visit to Karma Monastery, Guru Rinpoche appeared to him in a vision. In the vision, Guru Rinpoche was surrounded by twenty-one manifestations of the Karmapa. In addition to the traditional appearance of each of the fourteen incarnations who had taken birth through the period up to the time of Chogyur Lingpa, seven future incarnations appeared. The settings for their appearance were prophetic indications about the circumstances and manifestation of their activity in the future. In the centre, seated on a white snow lion, Guru Rinpoche appeared and taught on the different manifestations of the Buddha.
Chogyur Lingpa explicitly described his vision of the prophecy to Karmai Khenchen Rinchen Tarjay, Supreme Abbot of Karma Monastery, who instructed artists to render the vision in painted murals. Chogyur Lingpa’s oral explanation of his vision was recorded in a text called Sounding the Tones of the Melody of Auspiciousness. Though the statement in the predictions are brief, he spoke the following prophecy about the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapas[vii]:
On the left, in a rock cave in a snow mountain, is the Fifteenth Karmapa, together with his attendant and disciples, exerting themselves in sacred tantric yoga practices. By the virtue of his realization, born through practicing the Six Yogas of Naropa, his activity will extend throughout the Land of Snows.
On the right, in a sacred temple with a golden pinnacle and turquoise pagoda roof, the Sixteenth Karmapa discusses the Dharma with his tutor. On the upper floor is the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni. These images signify that he will attain universal renown as the indisputable lord of the doctrine of the sutras and tantras.
Nearby, at the foot of a lush tree on a rock mountain, is the Seventeenth incarnation together with Khentin Tai Situpa. This image symbolizes that, through the unity of their minds, the tree of the Buddha’s doctrine will flourish, laden with the ripe fruit which is the essence of the teachings of the lineage of Gampopa.
Chogyur Lingpa foresaw that the 15th Karmapa would achieve great accomplishment in his yoga practice of meditating on the bindus. The life of the 15th Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje bore out this prediction. His other predictions are also thought to have been proven correct, in particular, his words about the 17th Karmapa.
In the accompanying painting, the Seventeenth Karmapa, named Pal Khyabdak Ogyen Gyalway Nyugu Drodul Trinley Dorje Tsal Chokle Nampar Gyalway De by Padmasambhava in the vision, is depicted on a verdant outcropping surrounded by flowers, under a leafy tree in discussion with Tai Situ Rinpoche[viii].”
15th Karmapa’s consorts and wife
It is said that Khakhyap Dorje had at least five consorts and numerous sons and daughters, two of his sons were great tulkus (see above), and they were said to be instrumental in reviving several eastern Tibetan transmission lineages that were at risk of dying out.
There is not much information available publicly about Urgyen Tsomo (1897-1951) the 15th Karmapa’s wife (and consort) of 15th Karmapa:
According to a terma (a tradition of continuous revelation in Tibetan Buddhism), when the 15th Karmapa Lama fell sick during his old age, it was predicted that he would marry a particular person, a dakini (a type of spirit in Vajrayana Buddhism) in human form who would cure his disease and extend his life. The terma also indicated the location where such a woman would be found. Khakhyab Dorje, who had dreamed of the location where he would find such a girl, went in search of her. Urgyen Tsomo was identified in the Tsurpu village. She was formally requested to come to the Tsurpu Monastery of the 15th Karmapa to become his consort. Urgyen Tsomo served the 15th Karmapa with devotion using her spiritual power, which is believed to have cured him of his sickness, extending his life for many more years.
It is also said that Urgyen Tsomo was the reincarnation (emanation) of Yeshe Tsogyal. Following the death of the Karmapa, Urgyen Tsomo moved to a retreat in the monastery became a hermitess. Through continuous recitation of mantra, she achieved a “profound level of experience and realization”. She became highly revered and respected. In 1959, she moved from Tibet along with the 16th Karmapa and settled down in a nunnery near the Karmapa’s monastery in Sikkim, where she died after a few years. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, who had met her in Tibet, called her a very special person, a great dakini.
Before her death, Urgyen Tsomo told her students that she would be reborn in the northeastern part of India. This prophecy was fulfilled when her emanation was identified as Khandro Rinpoche, found in Kalimpong in India. The 16th Karmapa in Sikkim had also identified her when she was 10 months old as the reincarnation of Khandro Urgyen Tsomo, or the Great Dakini of Tsurphu. She is now known as Her Eminence Mindrolling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche and she teaches Tibetan Buddhism widely, unlike her predecessors. She is now head of the Mindrolling lineage and is considered a tulku within the Kagyu lineage, with links to the Nyingma and Kagyu lineages.
Even though I have not done extensive research, I could not find an explicit reference to Orgyen Tsomo in the titles of the 15th Karmapa’s Collected Works[viv].
May this new translation and booklet, be of benefit in preserving and promoting the teachings and life of 15th Karmapa and may the Aspiration contained within it be realised!
Adele Tomlin, August 2020.
[i] The text is called nges don bstan pa rgyas pa’i smon lam in the Collected Works of Khakyab Dorje (gsung ‘bum/_mkha’ khyab rdo rje/ （dpal spungs par ma/） Volume 10 Pages 805 – 810.) I have translated nges don here as ‘ultimate meaning’ even though technically it can mean definitive (as opposed to) provisional meaning.
[ii] Zilnön Namkhé Dorjé (zil gnon nam mkha’i rdo rje) (1868-20th c.) was a terton from Kham, Tibet. One of his main termas is the Chime Soktik which he transmitted first to the 15th Karmapa, Khakhyap Dorje and later fully transferred to Dudjom Rinpoche who made it the main long life practice of the Dudjom Tersar lineage. https://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Zilnön_Namkhé_Dorjé
[iii] ces pa’ang rnal ‘byor dam pa zang thal dri med nas/’di ltar bris shig par bskul nas dus ring mo zhig gyur pa na/ slar yang lha rtse ba’i dge slong mang du thos pa ‘jam dpal tshul khrims nas rten bcas bskul ba don yod par bya ba’i slad/ sgra ldan ces pa me ‘brug lor thub pa’i dbang pos bden bzhi’i chos ‘khor bskor ba’i dus chen nyin/ lung rtogs bshad sgrub kyi chos sde chen mo ‘og min mtshur mdo’i gdan sar/ sangs rgyas karma pa’i mtshan ‘dzin bco lnga pa kun bzang mkha’ khyab bde ba’i rdo rje dang / mtsho skyes pad+ma’i rgyal tshab zil gnon nam mkha’i rdo rje zung gis bris pa ces pa’ang sdom brtson thub bstan ‘jam dpal tshul khrims grags pa nas lhag bsam dge bas rten bcas bskul ba bzhin/ dpal karma pa’i mtshan ‘dzin bco lnga pas me sbrul nag zla’i yar tshes bco lnga’i nyin rtse gcig tu smon pa dge/
[iv] See skyabs mgon rgyal ba’i dbang po dpal kar+ma pa chen po’i zhabs brtan gsol ‘debs dge legs rtag pa dam pa’i dbyangs snyan, Vol.1: 320-322, TBRC W21807. Also, skyabs mgon rgyal ba’i dbang po dpal kar+ma pa chen po’i mchog gi sprul ba’i sku’i zhabs brtan gsol ‘debs ‘chi med rtag pa dan pa’i dbyangs snyan Vol.1: 323-324, TBRC W21807.
[v] Th 15th Karmapa, urged by Karma Gyalwang, wrote a song in which he supplicated his Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, while offering profound and practical instructions. He called it “A Canopy of Fresh Sky Flowers.” It is entitled “The Songs of Khakhyap Dorje” in the “The Rain of Wisdom. The Vajra Songs of the Kagyü Gurus,” transl. under the direction of Chögyam Trungpa by the Nalanda Translation Com., Boston & London, 1980, pages 102-111. He concludes his second ‘Song of Longing and Devotion’ with the humble words: Moreover, thinking that it could not be wrong if it became the occasion for counseling myself, for improving the minds of others of similar fortune, and for increasing devotion, this lazy one known as Khakhyap Dorje, pretending to be a master for this dark age, put into a garland of letters whatever came to his mind.
Biographies of Chokgyur Lingpa report that his colleagues in Nangchen scorned him, rejecting his claims to be a treasure revealer, and in his autobiography he expresses considerable frustration at this inability to gain acceptance. The nickname by which he was known during this period, Kyasu Terton (skya su gter ston), might be rendered in English as “the so-called treasure revealer of the Kyasu clan.” Ultimately, when he was twenty-five Chokgyur Lingpa left Nangchen for Derge, in search of patrons who might legitimize his treasure-revealing status.
The biographies have it that Chokgyur Lingpa was expelled from his monastery, ostensibly for making mistakes during a ritual dance. But if he was in fact expelled, it is likely that it was due to his assertions that he was a treasure revealer, which possibly included his having taken a consort. Although this is nowhere explicit in the biographies, there is sufficient reason to believe that Chokgyur Lingpa began his relationship with his main consort, Dekyi Chodron (bde skyid chos sgron, c.1832-1887), who sources also name Dega Dechen Chodren (bde dga’ bde chen chos sgron), before he left Nangchen in 1853.
[vii] Excerpt from a thangka of the vision of the great tertön Chogyur Dechen Lingpa, who foresaw that the 17th Karmapa would receive teachings from Situ Rinpoche, somewhere outside Tibet.
[viii] Thus, it is claimed that the prophecy in words and in the thangka depiction indicated that the 17th Karmapa would be together with Tai Situ Rinpoche on a mountain with verdant trees. This scenery does not depict the barren valley in which Tsurphu monastery sits. It does, however, bear a striking resemblance to the landscape to which His Holiness Karmapa escaped at end of 1999. HE Thrangu Rinpoche also reported that he read two letters by the 16th Karmapa, that indicated Orgyen Trinley Dorje was the 17th Karmapa.
[viv] A short advice by the 15th Karmapa given to Orgyen Tsomo is published on Lotsawa House website, however, I have been unable to trace the origin of this text, nor that of his supplication to Yeshe Tshogyel, published on the same website (it has not been provided on request either).