Yesterday, according to Bokar Monastery, it was the 18th anniversary of the paranirvana of HE Bokar Rinpoche, Karma Kagyu and Kālacakra master (1940-2004).
To commemorate the passing of this great teacher, am re-publishing some information and photos I wrote about HE Bokar Rinpoche, the Karma Kagyu Kālacakra lineage holders, and the stunning Kālacakra temple and golden relic stupa at Bokar monastery, Mirik, India, when I visited in 2018.
I include links to several other research articles I wrote about the Karma Kagyu and Kālacakra in (from 2018-2019).
As I wrote in those articles, the Kālacakra lineage within Karma Kagyu is in danger of being broken, with only Tai Situpa and Gyeltsab Rinpoche being holders of the Dro Kalacakra lineage.
In January 2014, during a celebration of the Tsurphu New Year, the 17th Karmapa gave a letter identifying the reincarnation, which reads:
“In the north of the hidden land of Sikkim, in front of a mountain shaped like a torma there is the six-year-old son of a father whose name has a ta and a mother whose name has an a. If he is recognized as the reincarnation of Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, it will be beneficial for the teachings and beings. – Karmapa, 30 January 2014″
The reincarnation of Bokar Rinpoche was then discovered and recognised by HH 17th Gyalwang Karmapa in 2015. Here is the Karmapa’s official statement on that recognition. Here is the video of the enthronement ceremony conducted by the 17th Karmapa, at which the 4th Jamgon Kongtrul and 12th Gyaltsab RInpoche were present.
Bokar Rinpoche, Karma Ngedon Chokyi Lodro (1940 – 2004)
Bokar Rinpoche, Karma Ngedon Chokyi Lodro (skyabs rje ‘bo dkar rin po che karma nges don chos kyi blo gros kyi) was born to a nomadic family in Western Tibet. He was recognized at age four by HH 16th Karmapa as the reincarnation of the previous Bokar Rinpoche. Rinpoche left Tibet at age twenty and at that time met the great meditation master Kalu Rinpoche. He received many transmissions from Kalu Rinpoche, including the Kālacakra empowerment and transmission and the entire Shangpa Kagyu transmission.
Khenpo Donyo Lodro states that in 1960, Bokar Rinpoche received the Jonang Rinjung Gyatsa and Atisha tradition of Kālacakra empowerment from Kalu Rinpoche. Bokar then later got the full Jonang Kālacakra transmission from Jonang master, Khenpo Kunga Sherab Rinpoche. Former student, and translator, of Bokar Rinpoche, Edward Henning states that:
“Largely because of the difficulty of finding the necessary texts, before he passed away, Kalu Rinpoche was not able to pass the complete tradition of the six yogas over to Bokar Rinpoche. Bokar Rinpoche therefore felt that the tradition he held, although extensive, was to some extent incomplete. In order to correct this, he recently invited from Dzamthang in Tibet, the Jonang master Khenpo Kunga Sherab Rinpoche to pass on the full transmission of the Jonang six yogas to Bokar Rinpoche himself, Khenpo Lodro Donyo, and some of Bokar Rinpoche’s monks. (I am told that H.H. Dalai Lama also recently requested the same transmission because he felt that his lineage for the six yogas had also been broken.)”
This took place over a period of ten days during April and May 2004. This was just before the annual Kālacakra ceremonies (pūja) at Bokar Monastery, Mirik, in the Darjeeling district. This transmission was a very important event for Bokar Rinpoche, and for his plans for the future of his monastery. A new main monastic building is in the process of being built at Mirik, and Bokar Rinpoche spoke in April of his plans to build within this a temple dedicated to Kālacakra. This will include a three dimensional representation of the Kālacakra maṇḍala palace.
For more information and photos taken by Henning of this transmission, see here.
Here is a photo of Bokar Rinpoche and Khenpo Donyo with the Jonang master, Khenpo Kunga Sherab Rinpoche, when he gave the Jonang Kalackara six vajra-yogas transmission in 2004 (published by Henning).
Interestingly, Kagyu lineage master, HE 12th Gyaltsab Rinpoche (1954-present) is not cited as a direct lineage holder in Khenpo Donyo’s book. The reason for that is not clear. Gyaltsab Rinpoche recently gave the Kālacakra empowerment at Ralang monastery in 2018. I am assuming that he got the empowerment from Kalu Rinpoche but perhaps not the full transmission.
Bokar Rinpoche Kālacakra Stupa (May 2018) at Bokar Monastery, Mirik
N.B. This is a re-publication of information from my 2018 article, Karma Kagyu Kalacakra Masters and the Bokar Rinpoche Kalacakra Stupa.
“Having spent the last ten days in the presence of three great living masters of Kālacakra, HE 12th Gyaltsab Rinpoche, Bokar Yangsi (whose predecessor was the great Bokar Rinpoche) and Khenpo Lodro Donyo Rinpoche at Bokar Monastery, Mirik for the several empowerments and Red Hat Ceremony of Karma Kagyu Heart Son, 12th Gyaltsab Rinpoche, I was reminded of how the Karma Kagyu lineage have also kept the Kālacakra practices and teachings alive and well.
On the Kālacakra Duchen, two major Karma Kagyu monasteries, Bokar Monastery and Rumtek Monastery performed Kālacakra rituals and creation of sand Mandala and HE 12th Gyaltsab Rinpoche gave the Kālacakra empowerment at his Ralang monastery, see here.
Visiting the Golden Relic Kālacakra Stupa of the former Bokar Rinpoche at Bokar Monastery, which was finished in 2006, was an inspiring experience. The Stupa itself has a Kālacakra image at the top and surrounding it are exquisitely painted images of the Kālacakra deity and all the individual deities in the Mandala (see photos below). It reminded me a little of the beautiful Kālacakra temple in Dharamsala, India.”
Karma Kagyu lineage holders of Kālacakra
According to the late Edward Henning (for my memoriam of him, see here):
“The situation with regard to the Karma Kagyu school is rather odd. That tradition’s Kālacakra practices originally came from the translator Tsami (tsa mi lo tsā ba), and passed through the siddha Ogyenpa (o rgyan pa), and then to the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (rang byung rdo rje). From him it was passed down the Karma Kagyu lineage. However, the use of the practice texts of this tradition, the most notable being written by the eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje (mi bskyod rdo rje), 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 (which I will refer to as the Tsami tradition), 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.”
The Kālacakra tradition now practiced in the Karma and Shangpa Kagyu schools is derived from the Jonang tradition and was largely systematized by the 1st Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, who wrote the text that is now used for empowerment. For more on Kongtrul’s connection to Kalacakra, see the following articles here, here and here.
The 2nd and 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul (1954–1992) were also prominent Kālacakra lineage holders, with the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul giving the initiation publicly in North America and in Europe. For more on the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul’s connection to Kālacakra, see my article here.
However, having recently translated the outline of HH 16th Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje’s Collected Works, it is clear that the 16th Karmapa also held the Kālacakra lineage, see here.
The chief Kālacakra lineage holder for the Kagyu lineage was H.E. Kalu Rinpoche (1905–1990), who gave the initiation several times in Tibet, India, Europe and North America (e.g., New York 1982). Upon his death, this mantle was assumed by his heart son, Bokar Rinpoche, who in turn passed it on to Khenpo Lodro Donyo Rinpoche. Bokar Monastery, of which Donyo Rinpoche is now the head, features a Kālacakra stupa and is a prominent retreat center for Kālacakra practice in the Kagyu lineage.
H.E. Tenga Rinpoche was also a prominent Kagyu holder of the Kālacakra; he gave the initiation in Grabnik, Poland in August, 2005. For more on Tenga Rinpoche and Kālacakra see my article here.
Chögyam Trungpa, while not a noted Kālacakra master, became increasingly involved later in his life with what he termed Shambhala teachings, derived in part from the Kālacakra tradition, in particular, the mind terma which he received from the Kalki.
May this be of benefit in ensuring the flourishing of the Kalacakra teachings and lineage within Karma Kagyu and Tibetan Buddhism, and in the long-life and activities of tulku Bokar yangsi!
Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 18th August 2022.