“ A mara/demon does not mean someone with a dark face with horns and is frightening.  That is a very limited way of thinking. Actually, a mara is something that prevents us from our Dharma activities, and achieving liberation and omniscience. Most of the time that is people around us, our parents, friends, loved ones, siblings and so on. It is possible there are maras in the people around you who are practicing the Dharma. Even among people you think are good and really like, there is a risk they may be a mara.”
‘In the 100 000 Line Prajnaparamita Sutra it says: ;When an irreversible Bodhisattva is teaching Dharma, fools will criticize them. No matter how many fools criticize them, it will increase the practice activity of the irreversible Bodhisattva to the same extent.’
 “The 8th Karmapa primarily checked if it matched the meaning of the text, not whether it was Kagyu, or the people were friends with Kagyu. He would even cite his own texts to object to things. That was his character. He considered the Dharma to be most important, not the individuals who taught it.”
–17th Karmapa (Day 5, Spring Teachings, 2022)
In Day 5 of the annual Spring Teachings, the 17th Karmapa continued with the thirteenth verse of the 8th Karmapa’s ‘Good Deeds’ which is the subsection called ‘taking speech onto the path’.  The Karmapa first explained the habits and signs of fake and pseudo lamas and Dharma practitioners and then compared that with the character of the 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje who was very honest, frank and direct, regardless of how that made others think or feel about him. He then went on to explain how after Karma Pakshi, the 2nd Karmapa, the 8th Karmapa’s works are the longest among the Karmapas.
In the second half of the teaching, the Karmapa then introduced a text written by the 8th Karmapa called ‘The Seeds of Honesty’. The text was written two years before he passed away and was his personal response to a fake document by someone impersonating the 8th Karmapa making refutations of the Nyingma Secret Mantra that became widely known, particularly in Central Tibet.
The 17th Karmapa cited various quotes from that text and others, not only showing that Mikyo Dorje had clearly stated it was fake and an impersonation, but also shared some possible reasons why people from other lineages, including Nyingma,  assumed the letter was from the 8th Karmapa without checking its authenticity. Giving extensive quotes from the 16th to the 19th Century, the 17th Karmapa explained who and what had been said about the matter, including quotes from his students, Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa, 5th Zhamarpa, Tulku Natsog Rangdrol, Yagde Dulzin’s Dharma History, String of Pearls, Sodogpa Lodro Gyeltsen,  5th Dalai Lama and Mipham Gyamtso.
Thus, the Day Five teachings, as a historical analysis from the 17th Karmapa (unprecedented in its detail and sourcing regarding an important historical incident connected to the Karmapas) is itself a valuable and precious historical document worthy of further study and preservation.
The main point being, the honest truth is important and never take anything as true unless one hears it ‘directly from the horse’s mouth’! May truth always reign supreme and victorious, neigh!
Music? ‘Tell It Like It Is by Aaron Neville and The Enemy by Mumford and Sons….’I’m not the enemy, it isn’t me the enemy.’
Compiled and transcribed by Adele Tomlin, 5thApril 2022.

“Today I will speak about the thirteenth verse of the 8th Karmapa’s ‘Good Deeds’ which is the subsection of the commentary called ‘taking speech onto the path (image below):

There is a note here that says ‘this is called doing ‘venerable/creditable words’ (tshig btsun pa).

Those who are called Dharma practitioners or lamas should be able to show what should be done and not be done. So it is understanding and presenting what is virtuous and non-virtuous. They should be able to teach and show what we need to take up and give up.”


“Some people called lamas and Dharma practitioners, their conduct of body, speech and mind is not in accordance with the Vinaya, nor the Sutrayana nor the Mantrayana. Basically, it transgresses the three baskets of the Buddha’s teachings. So when people figure out that they have no qualities or accomplishments, these people then use guile and deceit.
Even if they don’t have any qualities they pretend they have some. They hide their faults and do many different things, so that even if they have faults they explain them as if they are qualities. They imagine some great purpose in accomplishing acts, they think they are great and explain them that way. They actually do many things that harm themselves and others but they think there will be great benefit from it. So they explain these things that are harmful and say they are beneficial.
In brief, they are shrouded in the darkness of ignorance and are mistaken and misunderstand what needs to be taken up and abandoned in this life. They are given names like lama, Rinpoche or Dharma practitioner and prestigious names. So they pretend to be that way. Not only are they lying, when they meet people who are similar to them who are lamas or students, they like it and get along with them. They praise each other, and say you are greater than I am and so on. They try and praise each other up to get more fame for each other and raise each other up. They say your conduct of body, speech and mind is really good, that’s how it is in the Vinaya. They say you’ve mastered bodhicitta and have accomplished Mantrayana and a broad vast view and your meditation is stable, praising like that, and they are just lying and fooling each other.
People with superior intentions who understand the main points, they point out that their conduct is not in accord with the Dharma practice and scriptures. These pseudo lamas then tell those people, ‘oh you do not understand, they are just guiding principles. They are expedient’ and they interpret and stretch the meaning of Buddhism in different ways to make it fit what they want to do.
They also say,’ in degenerate times, one cannot do as Buddha actually taught’. So they say ‘we should just primarily follow the guru’s pith instructions’ because if we try and follow the Buddha’s instructions exactly that is very difficult to do, or does not accord with our preferences. So they say ‘if you do the way I do things it will be OK’. They deceive people like that and say that is enough to just follow the guru’s instructions. So they actually lead faithful people down the wrong path and deceive many people.”

“On the other hand, Mikyo Dorje never had any actions or intentions to deceive others. He never thought he should do that. He never intended it at all. He thought when they teach false Dharma and lead people down a wrong path, ‘there is no wrong more severe than teaching people a wrong path on Dharma’.

Thinking in that way, when Mikyo Dorje was teaching the Dharma, he would tell those people who understood when it was according to Dharma, if their faculties were appropriate he would teach the stainless words that matched those of the Buddha and the scriptures to explain things.

Some types of people who if taught that way with words that matched the Buddha, and many words from texts, then the person would not understand them. So for such people he would sometimes he would give funny stories and little anecdotes to make people laugh and so on. At the same time, he would give them understanding of the true Dharma.

Sometimes, if people had a fault or a problem, he would tell them so they could understand. He would use different methods and ordinary ways of talking to reach people and give them understanding of the Dharma. In brief, Mikyo Dorje would say to all people, whether they are great or low, he had an altruistic intention to bring them all to happiness.

If there was a fault, he would call it a fault. If there was a quality he would call it that. So never mind the Dharma, even in worldly ways about being a good person he would speak directly to that person and their situation and he would say exactly what he thought to that person. He was very direct. Because he spoke so directly in terms of Dharma and even being a good person in worldly ways, it was like the Buddha right before your nose. Many people immediately recognized their faults to be so, and they stopped doing negative actions and took up positive actions and so on. Fake lamas and traditions and their conduct immediately improved and they gave it all up and threw it away. They were able to distinguish the individual from the Dharma and whether they were progressing on the path or not. Because such people had that certainty in their minds, and developed such wisdom, they could not be deceived by false teachers, scriptures, logic and so on and led down a wrong path.

Therefore, the way he taught people was very direct. Sometimes he would be criticizing someone and joking about it, in different ways he brought people to understand the main points of what a quality was and what was a fault. He never held back when giving advice. Some people had faith in him because of this, those who had the eye of prajna, they thought he was someone who had compassion and sincerity deep within his heart and when he taught what should be done and what should be avoided and he was able to do that. So would praise him and say ‘he is amazing like the Sakya Pandita’.

There were other people who were not like that, their minds were controlled by the eight worldly Dharmas, including Lords, lamas, monastics and so on. They were called monastic, like ‘Venerable’ but they were deceptive and full of anger and pretended to be good. Some were called scholars but they became very glib about explaining the texts and it was just words. They were overly bold and audacious. They seem very honest and good but they were actually shameless and had bad habits. There were also people who said they were very simple yogis, but they were actually weak and incompetent.”

Folio from Prajnaparmita Sutra

“So there are people who call themselves Dharma practitioners but have no real wish to become liberated from samsara. They say the Karmapa talks a lot but looks down on everyone else and trying to bring them all down. He is always criticizing and reprimanding people. In particular, towards people who have faith in the Dharma, they said he tries to condemn them and  limit their faith. They said that Mikyo Dorje exaggerates about the other lineages, like Dagpo, Sakya, Gelug, Nyingma, Shangpa, Jonang and so on. So when he objects to these schools and criticizing them, if he has reason that is fine. But if he does not, then he has the karma of rejecting the Dharma. Many people said such things about Mikyo Dorje.

If we think about this, someone like Mikyo Dorje in terms of his character, when giving them advice or instructing them, he was speaking appropriately  and in accordance with  the Dharma. For those people who practice pseudo Dharma, they would criticize him in that way and make false accusations. This kind of speech is spoken about in the 100 000 Line Prajnaparamita Sutra which says:

 ‘When an irreversible Bodhisattva is teaching Dharma, fools will criticize him. No matter how many fools criticize him, it will increase the practice activity of the irreversible Bodhisattva to the same extent.’

That is said in the long Prajnaparamita Sutras. Likewise, is also says that, ‘Some fools and people who don’t understand the main points will say this is not the Dharma and this is not the Vinaya, this is not the Buddha’s teachings and they get overly bold and arrogant. Many such people will come in the future’, it is said.  However, it is said that even when such people come, the more they try to bring down the bodhisattvas, their courage will increase and their diligence will increase, it says like that.”


“So in brief, the point we need to understand is that many people make a lot of criticisms of Bodhisattvas and great beings, the reason they do is because when they teach the authentic Dharma and practice it according to the actual Dharma, it then hits their hidden faults. So when those people see or hear someone actually practicing the Dharma, they get embarrassed and get aversion to these bodhisattvas and even see them as enemies, and they say such people are bad and so on. This kind of person is called the Mara of the Divine Child in the Sutras and Tantras. For that reason, we need to be careful of such people.

Mara/demon does not mean someone with a dark face with horns and is frightening.  It is not like that, which is a very limited way of thinking. Actually, a mara is something that prevents us from our activities, and  achieving liberation and omniscience. Most of the time that is people around us. Our parents, friends, loved ones, siblings and so on. It is possible there are maras in the people around you who are practicing the Dharma. Even among people you think are good and like, they is a danger there may be a Mara.

I am not saying those people are bad at all. They are just controlled by their afflictions. They are controlled by the mara/demon. They end up doing what the demon tells them and they cause harm to others. It is like the mara has a remote control and tells you what to do and then you go and harm another person. Those are the maras we need to be careful of. It is not some external thing, like a black house.”

2nd Karmapa, Karma Pakshi

“Another important point is among all the different Karmapas,is someone asked who is the one with the biggest collected works? Could you answer immediately? According to historical sources, it is actually the second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi. His collected works were said to be the same size as the Kangyur, it has more than 100 volumes. This is what is written in the history books. These days, we do not have all those volumes. Previously, there was a monk at Tsurphu monastery looked at the old library there, which was torn down during the Cultural Revolution, there was a collected works that spanned the from the floor to roof. These days, I do not even if there are ten volumes left.

After Karma Pakshi, if one asks whose is the biggest? One can say Mikyo Dorje’s works are the biggest. From the time Mikyo Dorje was young, he wrote many amazing treatises and songs. At the age of 22 he wrote a commentary on the Vinaya Sutras, then when he was 23 he wrote a Great Commentary on the Prajnaparamita , the Rest for the yogis. Then at 24 he wrote a commentary on the Sanskrit grammar by Kalapa. At 26, he wrote the long commentary on the Vinaya Sutras. At 27, he wrote the commentary on the Abhidharma. Later he wrote the Madhyamaka commentary Chariot on the Practice Siddhas. He wrote commentaries on Mantrayana and many rituals and sadhanas that teach the main points of the secret mantra practices. If we look at the Collected Works of Mikyo Dorje, there are over twenty thick volumes.

In the past, when I saw Mikyo Dorje’s works at Drepung in Tibet, the volumes are so huge one can hardly even carry them. There are over twenty like that.”

This acrostic poem, called a Kunsang Khorlo, hangs in the Norbulingka temple, Dharamsala, India. The style is one of the most sophisticated and difficult forms of Tibetan poetry.

“If we think about his poetic style he wrote a type of speech called the ‘Difficult Sound Ornament’. In the texts on poetry there are three different styles of poetry, in the Mirror of Poetry (Nyenngag Melong) . In this book, there are three sections, one of which is the ‘sound ornament’ (sgra rgyan) there is one called the ‘difficult sound ornament’.  I cannot explain this all now, but what I can  say is there is one word at the centre and from that words you can read it left to right and right to left and up and down and vice versa. This is very difficult to compose. This shows he was very skilled at writing difficult poetic forms. Not just in terms of size but in terms of content.

Others would use earlier commentaries as their models but this was not what Mikyo Dorje did. He never just followed what others wrote and did. Even in the terms of the texts he did a lot of profound research on Prajnaparamita, Madhyamaka and Vinaya his explanations on difficult points were complete and perfect and were able to bring out the particular philosophical points. So they are not just precious commentaries on the five great texts for the Karma Kagyu but for all the Dagpo Kagyu schools.

These Kagyu commentaries on the great texts are like the representatives on these five texts. In particular, his commentaries on Abhidharma and Vinaya are used as supplementary texts in the Gelug Shedras, many senior Geshes have told me this. Later, if I have time, I would like to speak about the particular qualities and features of these commentaries on Abhidharma and Vinaya. However, today, I am going to introduce a short text by 8th Karmapa.”



““There are many works by Mikyo Dorje, among them I would like to discuss a shorter one, called the ‘Seeds of Honesty’. The content of this text is about a document that said the Nyingma secret mantra is not authentic Dharma and refuted it. So the 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje set out to prove that he was not the author of this document, as it falsely claimed.

The top image, is one I got from the Drepung Library. We know it is from there because it is written chi, which means ‘outer’ an external text. This was done at the time of the 5th Dalai Lama, the Mongol armies destroyed the Kongpo temple and took the texts brought them to Drepung and they made a catalogue and put this sign on all of them. They are very old manuscripts, maybe over 360 years old.  The lower one, I am not sure where it is from but the top one is from Drepung.

Among all the different works of Mikyo Dorje, why am I speaking about this text? There are two reasons. The first reason, is that this text, called the Seeds of Honesty (drang po’i sa bon)[1] is connected to our topic today. The second reason, is because this work had a lot of influence on later scholars.”

8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje with teacher 1st Sangye Nyenpa

“Before speaking about  the text, we need to talk about Mikyo Dorje’s character. If we understand that, only then can we understand the connection between his written works and the way he thought. Generally, the 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorke was very blunt and direct. Whatever he thought he would just say it directly and never held back. He just said it immediately and did not think if the other person would like it or feel hurt about it. Due to that character, when he saw something that he thought was wrong or illogical, he would just make comments about it.

If you are not aware of that about him and read his texts, you might think he was a lama who was very biased and sectarian because he is making objections to all the gurus, whoever they were. Someone who thinks like that is not really familiar with his character and not used to him. For example, when he was writing texts, if he thought it did not match the intention of the text, whatever tradition it was from, whether it was his own or another, he would just make an objection. Apart from his root guru, Sangye Nyenpa, whom he never wrote any objections to, he made objections to all his teachers  and lamas, Karma Trinleypa and Karma Tashi and so on.  Even those he studied philosophy with, if the way they said something did not match the text he would object to it.

He also made objections to well-known lamas at that time, such as the 4th Zhamar, Chokyi Dragpa. Also there were people who had great affinity for the Karmapas, such as Panchen Shakya Chogden, who was very close with the 7th Karmapa. Yet, the 8th Karmapa made a lot of refutations towards him. So if Mikyo Dorje was really biased and sectarian towards Kagyu he would not do that. He primarily checked if it matched the meaning of the text, not whether it was Kagyu or the people were friends with Kagyu. He would even cite his own texts to object to things. That was his character. He considered the Dharma to be most important, not the individual who said it.  In all the works he wrote, he made objections to many  great Tibetan Buddhist scholars such as Sakya Pandita, Dolpopa, Je Tsongkhapa, Bodongpa and others. The main reason was that when he was investigating the view, he saw the discrepancies in their thoughts.

It was not about liking or disliking people. Mikyo Dorje wrote a Praise on the Five Great Beings who Spread the Treatises in Tibet (see my translation of that here) and he praises Bodongpa, Dolpopa and Tsongkhapa. So he was making objections about their views but also praised them. He did not categorically reject them. Unlike in our worldly way of totally rejecting someone because you do not like them.

Likewise, if we consider 8th Karmapa’s collected songs, in his philosophical texts we can use our intelligence and follow the path of logic, then if it does not fit with that, then one can make an objection. With the songs, it was about the feelings in his mind. This is what is made very clear in the songs. We can really see his character from the songs and how he had faith in the Tibetan lamas from the past. He did not see them as an enemy or opponent, he was not sectarian.”

  1. Impersonator used his name

“The 8th Karmapa raised many objections to Sakya and Gelugpa lamas, such as Je Tsongkhapa’s view of the Middle Way. It is not that he only objected to Sakya and Gelug though. It is often said that he objected to Nyingma. The reason for this is because an event happened around the time Mikyo Dorje was 46 years old. He passed away when he was 48, so it was about 2 years before he passed away.

There was an event, a document alleged to be by Mikyo Dorje criticizing Nyingma and about the Secret Mantra. This document (or letter) became well-known all over U-Tsang (central Tibet) and so many people started criticizing Mikyo Dorje for it and it became a basis for doing so.  The question is did he write this document making refutations of Nyingma or not? If yes, why did he write such refutations? If he did not write it, then how did this letter come to be?

In order to understand this, we need to look at the beginning of the Seeds of Honesty text (see words in red):

Quote from 8th Karmapa’s ‘Seeds of Honesty’ text (from 17th Karmapa’s teaching)

“Someone has taken my name Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje and written a false refutation.  I do not understand the name or purpose of what individual has done this. It has caused many people in U-Tsang to view us with hatred as people who chatter with wrong views. They say many insulting words. In order to prevent such misdeeds increasing, I expressed this.”

So when we look at this, it says that 8th Karmapa does not know the name or purpose who has done this. Someone has stolen his name and written this text, it was not something he wrote himself. It is an impersonator. This is clear from this passage.

2) The year it was written is not possible

In the next quote, the 8th Karmapa says that refutations document was alleged to have been written with conversations with Tedro Lama Dzogchen. Yet, the 8th Karmapa says it is all false. The reason it is false is that at that time, the male year of the wood-rat, in Tedro, there was not any well-known Tedro lama there. So to say it was written for him is a slanderous lie, this might be a mistake.

Quote from 8th Karmapa’s ‘Seeds of Honesty’ text (from 17th Karmapa’s teaching)

At that time, Mikyo Dorje was born in the fire-rabbit year and he passed away in the wood-tiger year, between that time there was not even a wood-rat year. So it was probably not the wood-rat, it was the water-rat, the year when he was 46 years old, in the 9th cycle.  

The reason for saying this, is it is clearly stated in Pawo Tsuglag’s Feast for Scholars, that the 8th Karmapa wrote this Seeds of Honesty in the water-ox year. It seems that he must have written it not that long after the objections to Nyingma were published. So the objections to Nyingma were probably written in 1552, when he was 46 years old. He passed away two or three years later when he was 48 years old. Thus,  it was not the wood-rat year it was the water-rat year.

At the end of the 8th Karmapa’s response to the objections, these are the rest of the verses he wrote:

Quote from 8th Karmapa’s ‘Seeds of Honesty’ text (from 17th Karmapa’s teaching)

“I will not read them all now. The meaning of all these words in brief, is that someone stole his name and wrote these objections to the Nyingma, what was the reason for doing that? The reason for  that was someone was jealous of Mikyo Dorje. His activity was widespread and so they wanted to stop that and cause  harm to his reputation. He writes about that in the colophon.”

Excerpt from 8th Karmapa’s Seeds of Honesty that refers to the scribe, Karma Trinleypa De, a student of 8th Karmapa

“Mikyo Dorje also writes in the colophon (see above), where he wrote it and who helped him write it, the scribe: Karma Trinley Jigme De. Who was that? There was a Lama Karma Trinleypa and a student Karma Trinleypa for Mikyo Dorje. Sometimes these are mixed up.

Karma Trinleypa was a lama from whom he studied the philosophical texts. Someone who upheld the Sakya and Kagyu textual tradition. Initially he studied the Sakya texts and then after became a student of Karmapa, Chodrag Gyatso, He was very influential in spreading the Kagyu tradition.

The scribe Karma Trinleypa was one of two students called Karma Trinleypa. The first student was called Sonam Tenzin was at Tsurphu Monastery. The second Karma Trinleypa was Karma Trinle Jigme Deypa, also known as Begar Lotsawa. He was very well-known and skilled in poetry.  Mikyo Dorje, an expert in poetry, also said he was skilled in poetry and in the rituals of the Vajra masters. He was also praised by the Great 5th Dalai Lama. So it is said he was the scribe of this 8th Karmapa’s Seed of Honesty text.  Thus, the 8th Karmapa says very clearly in the Seeds of Honesty that those refutations of Nyingma were not composed by him.”

Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa
Excerpt from Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa’s Feast for Scholars that refers to the reason the 8th Karmapa wrote ‘Seeds of Honesty’

It was not only Mikyo Dorje who wrote about this, his students also wrote about it. For example, in Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa’s Feast for  Scholars, there is a long biography of the 8th Karmapa. This text says that Mikyo Dorje was invited to Jampa Ling where he made offering with devotion. There was a letter slandering the secret Nyingma that had taken Mikyo Dorje’s name in its colophon. It began to circulate in Tibetan society. that displeased all the Nyingmapas. In response, Mikyo Dorje wrote the Seeds of Honesty.

There are two points here: 1) someone had stolen his name and written the refutations and 2) Mikyo Dorje himself wrote a refutation of this document  explaining that he had not written it.

Excerpt from Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa’s ‘Purifying Wrong Views’ that refers to the refutations of Nyingma alleged to be by 8th Karmapa

When Pawo Tsuglag was 53 years old, he wrote a treatise Purifying Wrong Views (bstan bcos log rtog rnam sbyang) and it says, in summary: “Due to the degenerate era, all beings because of the document said to be written by Mikyo Dorje, the Nyingmapas lost faith and as a result of coming under the influence of this demon, Mikyo Dorje then wrote the amazing response ‘Seeds of Honesty’ refuting his authorship of the letter.”

So, Pawo speaks about this matter in Feast for Scholars and Purifying Wrong Views and says the document refuting Nyingma was a fake impersonation.

5th Zhamarpa’s view of the refutations of Nyingma and the 8th Karmapa

Mikyo Dorje’s main student was the 5th Zhamarpa, Konchog Yenlag, who wrote a catalogue of Mikyo Dorje’s Collected Works and the Seeds of Honesty is clearly listed there.  In this quote (see image) he says the refutations abut Nyingma were made by an impersonator and that Mikyo Dorje wrote a response to it.


“In brief, because of these previous events, what we can know is that Mikyo Dorje and his disciples said that the refutations of Nyingma document was fake many times. In the Feast for Scholars is a very famous history, it also says this clearly. However, many scholars around that time, especially those of the Nyingma tradition, took it as given that Mikyo Dorje had written the text of objections. They did not have any suspicion it was fake. They assumed it was by him and gave various types of responses, some of which were very gentle and some strong.

In Tibet, the scholars, of the earlier and later translations, did not doubt that he wrote them. I think there are several reasons why they never even doubted it was by him:

  1. These scholars probably had not even seen the response Seeds of Honesty by Mikyo Dorje. They would know then it was a fake. For that reason, they never doubted it was written by him.
  2. They had seen it but pretended not to as they saw it as an opportunity to show off scholarly and philosophical skills of the Nyingma when writing their response. They thought ‘Mikyo Dorje was a well-known lama and so if people can raise a good response then they can get a good name from it, bring benefit to the Nyingma lineage and teachings’. So they thought there was some benefit from writing a response.

We cannot say exactly what the situation was. When researching into this, we would need to take the response by Mikyo Dorje and the responses by later scholars, did they take the Mikyo Dorje response as the model for their own objections? Then we can know if they saw his text or not. We cannot say and need to do some research on it. Now I will show some responses by some later scholars to the refutations.”


Tulku Natsog was very well-known Nyingma guru and scholar, and a lama of 5th Zhamarpa, Konchog Yenlag. In 1555, after Mikyo Dorje had passed away, he wrote a text called The Luminous Dharma Expanse, A Response to Questions on the Nyingma by Victorious Powerful Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje (rgyal ba’i dbang po karma pas rnying ma ba rnams la dri ba chab shog tu gnang ba’i dris lan chos dbyings ‘od gsal) regarding the questions posed. He assumes that Mikyo Dorje was the author.


“Three years after Mikyo Dorje passed away, there was Yagde Dulzin Khenrab Gyatso (g.yag sde ‘dul ‘dzin mkhyen rab rgya mtsho, c.16th Century) he wrote the Origins of the Teachings of Buddha Dharma: String of Jewels of Questions and Answers (dris lan nor bu’i phreng ba)[2] in which he responds in detail to each of the supposed twenty-six objections written by Mikyo Dorje.

It is not only a historical text of Dharma but also a Dharma history of the Nyingma. Later, when Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche wrote his own Nyingma Dharma history, he cited many passages from this. It is an important source of the Nyingma tradition. He is the  one who wrote the most about the Nyingma refutations. Yagdey’s response to the refutations is that he does not accept, unlike most of the other scholars, that it was written by Mikyo Dorje.


Yagde Dulzin’s quote regarding the refutations of Nyingma and that he wrote his Dharma history having seen it and knowing it not to have been composed by the 8th Karmapa

In his response, Yagde Dulzin said that:

“Mikyo Dorje is indivisible from wisdom expanse Padmasambhava but that someone with a sectarian motivation, wrote a fake letter with wrong views and intentions of the Kagyu and Nyingma citing Tedro Dzogchen and the Earlier Translation Lineage.  Whoever did this, having seen it, I wrote the String of Jewels.”

Yagde Dulzin’s quote regarding the refutations of Nyingma and that Khenpo Panchen Ngawang Kunga Chojor had encouraged him to write about it

“The one who encouraged Yagde to write this was a student of Mikyo Dorje, from the Tsog Gedun Gang, Khenpo Panchen Ngawang Kunga Chojor, who said this document of refutations was written by an impersonator and that many people said that he had written I and so asked him to write about it.  Also a person called Yargyab Ponchen Kunga Sonam Gyalpo, also requested ‘please write a history that is  of benefit generally and in particular, that would be pleasing to Mikyo Dorje, as this document was not written by him’.

As a result, at that time, those who followed or who were connected to Mikyo Dorje believed that Mikyo Dorje did not write those refutations.’


“Later, 22 years after Mikyo Dorje passed away, Sogdogpa Lodro Gyeltsen (Sog bzlog pa blo gros rgyal mtshan, 1552-1624) wrote a text (included in his Collected Works) called Thunderous Sound of Reasoning and  Scriptures: A Response to Mikyo Dorje’s Questionsing Nyingmapa (dris lan lung dang rig pa’i ‘brug sgra)[3]. In it he gives responses to the refutations from beginning to end. Not only does he respond to all of it, he takes as its basis that Mikyo Dorje wrote the refutations to the Nyingmpas. However, he says the reasons why the 8th Karmapa wrote them was to encourage the Nyingmas in listening, contemplation and meditation. That he did it to help the Nyingma teachings. He wrote that:

Sodogpa Lodro Gyeltsen’s Response

“In the Powerful, Omniscent Mikyo Dorje’s letter to the Tedro Lama Dzogchen there are various speeches and scriptures. In the letter written at Nedung (sne’u gdung) it says: ‘These days, Uru Chog Gyu, Terton Changlochen and other emanations of maras, say whatever words they think. These questions about the Nyingma mantra are extremely profound and detailed and difficult to fathom. They were written to inspire Nyingmas to put effort into studying, contemplating and meditating. If we completely integrate them into our being, we will determine all the secret meaning of secret mantra.”

If we look at this, Sogdog is saying that he thinks Mikyo Dorje was trying to help the Nyingmas, that if we can give a good response to that and understand the main points, then we can refine and improve the Nyingma mantra teachings.

Similarly, Sogdog also wrote in his response:

Before Sogdog wrote the response, he says had seen three responses written by others. However, within them, they did not seem to understand what Mikyo Dorje’s point was and so used sarcastic and denigrating words but that he thought that was pointless.  He says there are no such words in his text because Mikyo Dorje wrote the text to benefit the Nyingma.”


Liberation Story of Tsarchen Losel Gyatso

Later, at the beginning 17th Century, there is a liberation story of Tsarchen Losel Gyamtso (tshar chen blo gsal rgya mtsho, zhwa lu mkhan chen 13 (1502-1567), written by the 5th Dalai Lama, Nagwang Gyatso (Tshar chen blo gsal rgya mtsho grags pa rgyal mtshan dpal bzang poʼi rnam thar.)[4] In summary, this says that Mikyo Dorje is unstable and sometimes praises people then he criticizes them.

“For example, on meeting a Drigung Rinpoche  he took his ritual dagger and tantric robes and put them on his head and said ‘I would like to be like that in the future’ and showed respect. Yet, he also wrote a letter to king of Tibet, the Nedung Lord saying that ‘these days the Uru Jangchog Lineage and Terton Changlochen are emanations of Maras’.

This record shows that the 8th Karmapa was considered to be someone who sometimes objects and sometimes respects people and that he is not stable at all and very fickle. For that reason, the 5th Dalai Lama says Tsarchen Losel did not have any faith or respect for Mikyo Dorje. The 5th Dalai Lama says this is understandable that he did not feel faith in him and assumes that Mikyo Dorje wrote the document.

5th Dalai Lama’s Record of Teachings (Sen Yig)
5th Dalai Lama’s quote stating the the 8th Karmapa was not an amazing emanation like the 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje

So in this passage, the 5th Dalai Lama praises the Omniscent 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, who wrote a Nyingtig cycle in verse, and was awakened by Gyalwa Chog Yang, saying it is amazing. However, he says that unlike Rangung Dorje’s amazing signs, Mikyo Dore is not like that kind of emanation. So, we can see that the 5th Dalai Lama was not happy with the objections that Mikyo Dorje was said to have written.”


“In the 18th Century, there was a Thukwan Chokyi Nyima (Thuʼu bkwan 03 blo bzang chos kyi nyi ma, 1737-1802 )who wrote a the Tenets of Crystal Mirror (grub mtha’ shel gyi me long)[5], in which he says that:

 “Gokhug Lhetse and Drigung Peldzin, both made refutations and proofs that the Nyingma Dharma is not pure. Shakya Chogden and Karmapa Mikyo Dorje also followed them in doing that.”

He is saying that Mikyo Dorje wrote the Nyingma refutations and took that as his basis.”

Excerpt from Guru Tashi’s Dharma History

“In the 19th Century, Guru Tashi’s Dharma History (gu bkra’i chos ‘byung), Ocean of Amazing Stoires that Delight the Wise but is called Guru Tashi’s Dharma History for short. It says that:

“The 8th Karmapa studied and practiced the Gyaltsab Tashi Namgyal’s cycle of teachings and he also wrote the Eight Karma Rab, the eight Zhangku and the eight Guru Rinpoches and he wrote that sadhana. This is probably the pure vision Dharma.”

This can probably be understood as the four session Guru Yoga. So this Dharma history says that the objections and the responses were both written by Karmapa Mikyo Dorje. This is a peculiar way of describing it. Yet, if one thinks the responses are true, then we have to say that the objections were not written by Mikyo Dorje, because he states in the Seeds of Honesty that he did not write them. So I have no idea what this really means here.”


“Also, in the 19th Century there was a Dzogchen Khenpo Pema Vajra (mkhan chen pad+ma badz+ra, rdzogs chen mkhan rabs 08 (1807-1884)) who writes in The First Night-Watch on the Reasoning and Scriptures of the Early Translation Nyingma texts (sNga ʼgyur rnying maʼi gzhung la brgal baʼi lan lung dang rigs paʼi skya rengs dang po)[6] he says that because Mikyo Dorje did not realize the nature and had doubts, he asked questions of the ancient Nyingma. Because of that Sogdogpa wrote a response to it.”


“Later, there was also a text by Jamgon Mipham Gyamtso (‘jam mgon mi pham rgya mtsho) (1846-1912) a supplement to Relaxing the Innate Mind, there were three questions in this. I will explain more of this tomorrow. It says, ‘first you started practicing the Zhentong view, then later when you saw the Nagarjuna’s Ornament, after that you were unable to prove your own tradition, so your own tradition of Zhentong view weakened and you had to take up the Rangtong school. So you were unable to uphold your own tradition views, you are shameless. As a tulku you can do whatever you want but it is strange the way you cannot uphold your own tenets.’

The text does not actually say Mikyo Dorje’s name but it is probably about him. In brief, they are saying, the 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje and the 7th Karmapa, Chodrag Gyatso’s way of explaning the view is Zhentong, yet the 8th Karmapa’s view is that of Rangtong and sometimes other views. In other works by Mikyo Dorje he is questioning the Nyingma and the Nyingma tantras. For that reason, many people criticized him.  


“Likewise, within the Collected Works of Mikyo Dorje there is a text called the Dialogue with Gyalton Chaldrawa. In that text, there is a questions : ‘that at Kongpo there was a statue of the wrathful guru made by Terton Sangye Lingpa and they said that the person who told them to destroy it is you, is that true?’ Mikyo Dorje said that: ‘the statue was already cracked and broken in many places. Later, when we restored the Tseklhakhang, at that point when we did the restoration it was destroyed, it is not true to say I did that. ‘ 

So we can see that people continually criticized Mikyo Dorje saying that he disliked the Nyingma and so on, and that he even destroyed a statue of Guru Rinpoche. 

Also, even though many Karma Kamtsang followers are Kagyu, the majority of the Dharma Protectors they supplicated are Nyingma.  They also said that Mikyo Dorje did not like the Nyingma school and refuted them. It became well known in the Kamtsang as well. These people had not really studied and did not know. During the time of the 9th and 10th Karmapas it became well-known in Tibet that Mikyo Dorje did not like Nyingma and refuted them. So if they do not know, how can we expect those of other schools and Nyingma followers to know that?

Generally, whether the 8th Karmapa taught the Zhentong view or not, I will speak about that later. As to whether he wrote that document refuting the Nyingma or not, I have already explained that he did not. I will give a summary and share some thoughts about this tomorrow.”


[1] Karma pa 08 mi bskyod rdo rje. “gSang sngags snga ʼgyur las ʼphros paʼi brgal lan rtsod pa med paʼi ston pa dang bstan paʼi byung ba brjod pa drang poʼi sa bon.” gSung ʼbum mi bskyod rdo rje, vol. 3, 2004, pp. 373–510. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW8039_B1CE51. [BDRC bdr:MW8039_B1CE51]

  Karma pa 08 mi bskyod rdo rje. “brGal lan rtsod pa med paʼi ston pa dang bstan paʼi byung ba brjod pa drang poʼi sa bon.” Karma pa sku phreng rim byon gyi gsung ʼbum phyogs bsgrigs, vol. 44, dPal brtsegs bod yig dpe rnying zhib ʼjug khang, 2013, pp. 86–232. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW3PD1288_E6DAF1. [BDRC bdr:MW3PD1288_E6DAF1]

[2] Study on the historical and doctrinal developments of Buddhism in India and Tibet. Written in 1557 in response to queries by Karmapa 08 Mikyo Dorje by Gyakde Dulzin Khyenrab Gyatso. See: gʹYag sde ʼdul ʼdzin mkhyen rab rgya mtsho. Chos ʼbyung dris lan nor buʼi phreng baBuddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW24127.

[3] Sog bzlog pa blo gros rgyal mtshan. “Karma pa mi bskyod rdo rjes rnying ma ba rnams la dri baʼi chab shog gnang baʼi dris lan lung rig ʼbrug sgra.” gSung ʼbum blo gros rgyal mtshan, vol. 2, Sanje Dorje, 1975, pp. 9–152. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW8870.

[4] Tā laʼi bla ma 05 ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho. “Tshar chen blo gsal rgya mtsho grags pa rgyal mtshan dpal bzang poʼi rnam thar.” gSung ʼbum ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho, vol. 9, Sikkim Research Institute Of Tibetology, 1991–1995, pp. 377–616. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW294_40DA10.

[5] Thuʼu bkwan 03 blo bzang chos kyi nyi ma. Grub mthaʼ shel gyi me long. Par gzhi dang po, Kan Su’u Mi Rigs Dpe Skrun Khang, 1984. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW2124.

[6] mKhan chen padma badzra. “sNga ʼgyur rnying maʼi gzhung la brgal baʼi lan lung dang rigs paʼi skya rengs dang po.” gSung ʼbum rdzogs chen mkhan po padma ba dzra, 199AD, pp. 951–74. Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC), purl.bdrc.io/resource/MW20319_8169AF. [BDRC

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