ENTERING THE 16TH KARMAPA’S MANDALA: AS TOLD BY HIS TRANSLATOR, ACHI TSEPEL: The 16th Karmapa’s magnetic qualities, Hugh Richardson’s weeping, meeting foreign leaders, gifts of Bumthang valley land and diplomatic passport by the Bhutanese and severe sickness before Rumtek monastery founding ceremony. (41st Parinirvana Anniversary of 16th Karmapa)

“When I first met him, HH reached out to me when I went to get the blessings, he touched me and when he made eye contact, I felt like I just melted and there was like a very sublime experience of light.  Just something very wonderful where I felt an intense kind of a sense of joy and peace. So, I later found out that is one of the symptoms of when you have found your teacher. One is fortunate enough to have that so many times at the Vajra Crown ceremonies, I had similar experiences.”

—Achi Tsepel on first meeting the 16th Karmapa

“I think the essence whether it was in Rumtek, or in France or North America, and I think in answer to the earlier question why the Karmapa was able to attract every facet of human beings, is when you are in that ceremony and he becomes Chenrezig and if you’re meditating on the simple generation of Chenrezig, you really experience the Oneness with the teacher.”

—Achi Tsepel on his strongest memory of the Black Crown Ceremony with 16th Karmapa

“Meanwhile, what is amazing is most folks do not know about this, in Bhutan I was there during the coronation and a pilgrimage in Bumthang, a large track of Bhumtang valley was offered to His Holiness Karmapa. it is a beautiful valley it was part of Tibet since Trisong Detsen’s time. You may have read that there were skirmishes between Bhutan and Tibetans. Somehow, they never really fared too well, they lost that territory. There was a beautiful castle and they were actually in the midst of building a replica of the Rumtek Monastery in the Bhumtang Valley in Tibetan and Bhutanese architecture in beautiful wood and stone. 

When I look in hindsight, I think even our Exile government could have really benefited greatly if they had extended some really positive overtures to the 16th Karmapa, to seek his help in in resolving some of the problems they had in Bhutan.”

–Achi Tsepel on the 16th Karmapa’s connection to Bhutan 


Today the 5th November 2022, is the 41st year since HH 16th Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje (1924-1981)  passed away (paranirvana) in 1981.

I have written several articles, transcripts of interviews and translations connected to the 16th Karmapa already, including this piece last year for the 40th Anniversary, on how the 16th Karmapa passed away and the inspiring and miraculous example he set to so many people, even with advanced stage cancer.

I previously created and published a transcript for a TV interview the 16th Karmapa, translated by Achi Tsepel, given when he was in Vermont, Canada, see here. That interview (with link to my transcript) was also later published by Dharma Time Youtube channel, here.

For today’s 41st anniversary, I offer the first published transcript (as close to his speech itself as possible, with some minor edits) of an interesting interview with the 16th Karmapa’s oral translator and English secretary, Achi Tsepel. The interview (which took place in 2008/9) was recently posted a couple of weeks ago on the Dharma Time YouTube channel (the interview video clips are posted here below as links on the titles of each section)

In the fascinating interview with Achi Tsepel, he talks about the following:

  • Entering the 16th Karmapa’s mandala and being picked as his translator
  • The 16th Karmapa’s Magnetism and Qualities
  • Memories of the Vajra Black Crown Ceremony
  • The 16th Karmapa’s advice not to expect instant gratification and ‘no need to rush’
  • Translating for dignitaries and VIPs
  • The 16th Karmapa and Bhutan
  • The start of the 16th Karmapa’s illness

Included in Tsepel’s oral memoir, is a fascinating anecdote of the famed Tibetologist Hugh Richardson, weeping when the 16th Karmapa came to Scotland to perform the black crown ceremony and also how the 16th Karmapa really placed emphasis on doing the preliminary practices, which he said in themselves contain the higher practices. In addition, Tsepel speaks about how the 16th Karmapa met many powerful and foreign leaders and royalty, including the now infamous President Marcos and his wife, later scandalised for excessive greed and corruption and the then Pope of the Catholic Church (whose priests and institution also continually face allegations of enabling child sex abuse and cover ups by the Popes and those high up in the Church). It is difficult to know if the 16th Karmapa had a positive effect on such people, or they had a negative effect on him. Hopefully, and most likely, the latter!

For me, however, one of the most interesting and revelatory parts of the interview were in terms of the 16th Karmapa’s connection with Bhutan. It was fascinating to hear that the Bhutanese royal family and government not only gave the 16th Karmapa an official diplomatic passport, with all the freedom of travel and privileges that brings, but also a huge swathe of Bumthang Valley, previously part of Bhutan on which they were building a replica of Rumtek monastery. They also offered other properties to the Karmapa and citizenship to the Karmapa’s disciples. One can only wonder now what has happened to this land and property and why the current 17th Karmapa has not been invited to visit Bhutan and see it?

Below the transcript, I list the various articles and research I have written and published on the 16th Karmapa so far.

Music?  Seven -Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche chanted by 16th Karmapa and Unforgettable by Nat King Cole and The First Time I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack….”The first time, ever I saw your faceI thought the sun rose in your eyes, And the moon and the stars, Were the gifts you gave, To the dark, and the endless sky.”

May this transcript and article be of benefit in helping us also remember the remarkable qualities of the 16th Karmapa and his legacy, and continue to support the Karmapa’s lineage of amazing activities and works.

Written and transcribed by Adele Tomlin, 5th November 2022. 

Entering 16th Karmapa’s mandala

Q: Can you tell me about how you first came in contact, or sort of pulled into the orbit of Karmapa’s mandala?

A: Yes, I would love to share that with you, it is sort of an incredible story, but to me it was the best thing that has happened to me in my life. It was extremely fortunate.

Right around the time I was about to finish graduating from the University of Bangalore, South India, like I was mentioning to you earlier, at the stage of my life in my early 20s, 21, trying to find myself, trying to find answers about what happened to Tibet. Why we lost Tibet what is our future? What is the future of you know my own life? What is the future of the Tibetan refugees in India?  Then all of a sudden, out of the blue, I get a letter from Sikkim from His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa.

Photo from 16th Karmapa’s TV interview in Vermont, with Achi Tsepel (seated) translating. Jamgon Kongtrul 3rd is on the right.

Q: What year was that? 

It was in 1974. I had actually just finished sitting for the final papers, and was waiting just to do the graduation ceremonies and I get this letter. It was in Tibetan and was very official, it had a seal you know. I had never seen something like that and I shared it with my friend. He read it to me and he said you know this is from the famous Karmapa. Basically, the letter sort of said: “I hereby the 16 Gyalwang Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje select you to be my English secretary interpreter. Please come and meet me at such a time in Bhutan during the coronation.” So, I took the letter home to my parents in Byalkuppe, which is the largest Tibetan settlement in South India.  in all of India. My parents were just overjoyed. They said: “Hop on it don’t hesitate, don’t ask any questions, this is the best thing that can happen to you. Not only for this life but for the lives to come.

So, I hopped on the train for four days and five nights and went to Siliguri and had a haircut. I remember at the railway station in Calcutta, because I was in college, we had you know those were fashionable days to have long hair. In Siliguri, I was tempted to go and check in a hotel and take a shower, but something was telling me, like a small voice was saying go on, you know do not stop.  Later, I realized had I stopped in Siliguri one night I would have missed him in Phuentsogling, because His Holiness and his entourage were already in Phuentsogling that day, and the next day they were being ushered into, taken into the Temple. So later, I realized that the reason I got that letter was because of one tulku Rinpoche. He is from Zurmang and he escaped out of Zurmang, literally from Zurmang, and it took them several months across Tibet through Bhutan. His root teacher was the 16th Karmapa.

12th Zurmang Rinpoche

So, he was living actually in my parents’ home in South India. So, he went specifically to go and get the Karmapa’s blessing in Rumtek, and that time it was actually difficult for even westerners that have special permits, or Tibetans but he managed to get there and when he got there, he met Mathu Tulku who still works for his Holiness’ Centre up in Woodstock New York.  In the conversation, you know my lucky stars, they discussed about me, and His Holiness says “yep I want that kid”. So that is how I came to him. You can imagine, I mean prior to that, basically when I got to – it is an incredible story – when I hopped on the bus in Siliguri, it was always like truly that His Holiness was using his power, his spiritual power to make my passage smooth really because, like I said to you, there was a big political turmoil in in Bhutan at that time, they had arrested a lot of Tibetans and they were locked up. There was a change of cards in Bhutan the Wangchuck family lost their power and the Dorjee family regained the power so it was a whole big major change there and there were newspaper articles about the conspiracy by Gyalwa Dondup, the older brother of His Holiness, who was somehow involved in a plot to either assassinate this present king, or put Achi Yangki’s children on the throne.

 Q: That would have been the older brother of the Dalai Lama?

Yes, Mr Gyalwa Dhondup is still alive, and he is the elder brother of His Holiness of Dalai Lama and the principal Tibetan contact with the government of India, with the Khampa you know Guerrilla resistance with contact with the CIA, getting HH Dalai Lama to escape. He became the principal individual to run the exile Community actually. He was behind the scenes but constantly representing the Dalai Lama.

Xi Zhongxun (L), China’s former premier and father of China’s Vice President Xi Jinping, talks with Gyalo Thondup, brother of the Dalai Lama, in Beijing in 1987. REUTERS/Stringer

“Although he was based in Hong Kong he would get direct calls from for example from Deng Xiaoping. He called him first before he called anybody saying at that time “yeah let’s talk about Tibet” anything any place except Independence, they would call Gyalwang Dhondup.  So, it was a tricky situation and when I was on the bus, this Tibetan Soldier who was in full military uniform, and he said Achi – you know I told him I was going to see the Karmapa – “when you get to Phuentsogling do not say you are a Tibetan just mention that you want to go to see Karmapa. He gave me a name of the hotel I remember even to this day; it is called Tashi Deleg hotel and he said there is a person by the name of Loga who owns that. Once you find him just tell him you want to go to the Karmapa and he will help you.”

16th Karmapa, with Bardor Rinpoche and HE Jamgon Kongtrul 3rd

“So, I got there to Phuentsogling, which was like one of those new towns that was just being developed and for me it was fascinating to see similar Tibetan culture. Having grown up in India it was almost like going to Tibet. So, I was having an Indian style bath and I hear some voices out of the window and there were three monks going by and they were looking for me saying “Achi, Achi” and I just thought, truly the Karmapa must be clairvoyant, he must have known and how did they know I was here?!  Later, I found out that in the bus was a young Tibetan who was maybe about 10 years old who was the son of Gyal Gatsang’s, the family and he was going to the coronation but he was going to a school in Darjeeling and he must have heard my conversation.  So, when he got to the Karmapa’s guest house, he said guess what, I heard that Bardor Tulku’s nephew was on the bus. That is how they came to know I was there, so they got me. If they had not found me that day, I would have missed them and most probably I would never have been with him.”

16th Karmapa’s magnetism and qualities

Q: He seems to have had a something of a natural kinship to remarkably powerful people because I know of various Indian jet set magnate types who were very devoted to him and you are telling me that the Indian government you know gave him property and such. I just find that very interesting.  I am sure he did not go seek such people out, but it seems like there was some sort of magnetic force there.

A: That is a very interesting point.  In my life, I have had the unique privilege to be at his side for almost seven years. I really truly count my blessings that I was young, because he had so much energy. He would, he was just a very special — as a Buddhist and as a disciple of his I would not say a human being– but truly a representation of an enlightened being who had the spontaneity and innocence of a child. I think that is one of the great qualities why these big shots, or big people were drawn to him. At the same time, he had this awesome presence where people who have had either political obscurations, or they had some negative impressions about HH, when they came into his presence, I have seen them shake like a leaf. In reality, his Holiness was truly, truly child-like when I saw him, he truly had the qualities of a of a siddha. I think that was like the great blessings of Tilopa, Naropa and maybe the Indians could really appreciate that because it is a part of their tradition.  Like we were talking about the Samaya principle the guruchella you know the indestructible link that you want to have this bond with your teacher, then you feel safe, you in the sense of who you are in actuality.

These great leaders they have this great power and they have wealth, but being in the human form they have the fears. Yet, somehow when they come into his presence, they feel warmth and, even beyond words, they just feel this great sense of tranquillity. So, I think that is just the quality that I have never seen in any other lama – very few. Other lamas that have the same presence and that you feel when you are with him.”

The yogi, 16th Karmapa in Tibet
Black Crown Ceremony Memories 

 Q: What us your most significant memory of the Vajra Crown event?

I think the essence whether it was in Rumtek, or in France or North America, and I think in answer to the earlier question why the Karmapa was able to attract every facet of human beings, is when you are in that ceremony and he becomes Chenrezig and if you are meditating on the simple generation of Chenrezig, you really experience the Oneness with the teacher.

For me, the most powerful experience was when I first met him. I think it was very special because I do not know much, hardly anything about the Dharma myself, but at that time I just knew the Refuge prayer, and I believe in the Dharma you know the Buddhist concept, but I knew very little. As I told you, once I got into Phuentsogling, the monks found me and took me up there. After a couple hours I got an audience with him.  When I met him and we made eye contact and HH reached out to me when I went to get the blessings, he touched me and when he made the eye contact, I felt like I just melted and there was like a really a very sublime experience of light.  Just something very wonderful where I felt an intense kind of a sense of joy and peace.

So, I think I later found out that truth, that is one of the symptoms of when you have found your teacher. One is fortunate enough to have that so many times at the Vajra Crown ceremonies, I had similar experiences.”

16th Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje performing the Black Crown ceremony

“We had a ceremony down in Edinburgh and I was noticing in this all a gentleman at the back of the auditorium, he was just drenched in tears. Just spontaneously he was crying. Later, I found out that it was Hugh Richardson you know the famous political officer air who travelled extensively in Tibet and was based in Sikkim.  He had actually seen the same ceremony in Tsurphu, way back, it was probably in the mid ‘50s.

So, I spoke to him later briefly and he said, never in his wildest dreams did he ever imagine that same ceremony would take place in his hometown in Scotland. He is a so-called Tibetologist who is fluent in Tibetan and he loved Tibetan culture and of course he knows all the background. He said so many things have changed since then in this life but the vital Crown ceremony is the same.”

Hugh Edward Richardson CIE OBE FBA (1905 – 2000) was an Indian Civil Service officer, British diplomat and Tibetologist.
No need to rush
16th Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje

“A lot of times people would ask well what do you think my past life was? Or what do you think about the future? Or basically tell me something about me? He would just say well “I’m just a fat man trying to spread the drama in our way, but very I’m not knowledgeable, I can’t tell you anything you know but sometimes he would be very clear.  I think I have met many times where during those years where people of course Milarepa is a famous part of the Kagyu lineage, and they would say: “well your Holiness I’ve practiced the Ngondro (Preliminaries/Foundation), I’ve done it twice and then I’m doing my yidam practice and so I’m really rushing because I know that soon I’m going to become enlightened.”

Then he always stressed the foundational practice and he would say be patient, it takes many lifetimes. He really stressed the importance of the foundational practice. He always said in the process of doing the foundation, there’s automatic completion of the higher practices in that process. He stressed a lot of times do not expect instant gratification. It is possible for somebody to be hit by the lightning bolt of enlightenment, but that one has to be patient and basically to learn that they are taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, Sangha and not only your own lineage. Many times, he would say that too which is very nice.”

Translating Dignitary Meetings

“In HH’s wisdom, in hindsight I ask myself: “why did he choose me?” Because I did not have a PhD, and I am truly not very well-versed in the Dharma or have knowledge when I was young. Also, there were others like Kardze and Tobygel and so there were many learned Sikkimese, and Bhutanese and Tibetans at that time that he could have chosen to assist him. I think one of the reasons was that I am perceptive, I think my role was to become more that, and I became his private secretary, English secretary. Yet, like I said to you earlier after he visited the West, that job that aspect of his work became so incredibly huge, just you know exploded. 

So, in the course of that I met Prime Ministers, Presidents and famous movie stars. I met and interpreted for Muraji Desai, Mrs Gandhi, her son who died and his older brother who passed away. Then all our work with the Sikkimese, because Sikkim was being slowly absorbed while we were traveling and by 1975, they had annexed Sikkim. So, from 1975 until the time, I left in 1980, in 1979 they offered the land in New Delhi to HH.  So, I had to work with the governor and chief minister because of HH’s blessings, I had direct access, I could call him directly in the office, every time. Sometimes for very small problems and sometimes a very important [issue].”

16th Karmapa with Pope Paul VI, January 1975.
The 16th Karmapa and a Karma Kagyu delegation with Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, Akong Rinpoche, and Freda Bredi, received by H.H. Pope Paul VI in January 1975.

Then when we were traveling, we met the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and many religious leaders. We went to 16 countries in Europe [and met] all the leaders most of them. [There were] many Interfaith ceremonies but my job was mainly for very confidential conversations that he would have with his Chief disciples like the Oberois and the prime ministers everybody [like] that, it was my job to interpret for him. HH may have been the first major Tibetan lama to have had a meeting with the Pope.

Q: Was that in the 74 tour?

Ferdinand Marcos with his wife, Imelda, after his 1986 presidential election victory. She and her husband stole billions of pesos from the Filipino people, amassing a personal fortune estimated to have been worth US$5 billion to US$10 billion by the time they were deposed in 1986. By about $3.6 billion of this had been recovered by the Philippine government, either through compromise deals or sequestration cases.

“Yes in 1974, the first tour. We were in the Philippines and we were the guest of Maria Dee. Interestingly enough ironically, we never seem to part ourselves from our first cousins, the Han Chinese [laughs]. The Tibetan history is so interlocked with China and Tibet and the patronage kind of a link that Tibetans have had in the past seemed to continue. But they are all ethnic Chinese, extremely successful in business but utterly drawn to the Dharma. These people I would say are true believers and because they have become successful in everything, in the worldly sense but [that has] been empty and they want to find some meaning and inner peace. They have been drawn and have read and heard about the Vajrayana teachings.

So, they were our hosts there and in the course of our stay in the Philippines, they arranged meetings with Imelda Marcos and then the President Mr. Marcos. Then we had the ministers, we had different Interfaith exchanges. They were very generous, they met HH and we had a couple of receptions. I remember Cardinal sin, who is like the main Colonel. Philippines is mainly Catholic and later of course the Cardinal Sin became a principal power broker. We had a few meetings with him they wanted to understand more about Buddhism and HH had exchanges with them. 

Cardinal Sin, Catholic priest in Phillipines who met the 16th Karmapa

“President Mr Marcos came one day to meet HH and he came in a little late and he was apologetic and he said:  “you know what, the Chinese government was trying to stop me to meet your Holiness, but you know I did not care, so I’m here and I am really happy to meet you.” Yet, their meeting was more I think that they have heard about the Karmapa and that he is from Tibet and he has powers to heal and powers to bless. So, like a lot of the followers or people who are interested in Vajrayana Buddhism in that part of the world came to his Holiness and wanted to get the blessings to enhance their health and vanquish their enemies and become more successful and have some inner peace. Basically, [they wanted] to get the blessings. So, one of the main jobs was that, and for me I was very blessed that his Holiness trusted me and had full confidence in me to interpret and to retain these meetings with these important people.”

Clip of Achi Tsepel translating for HH 16th Karmapa in Vermont above.

16th Karmapa and Bhutan
Rare photo of HM 3rd King of Bhutan with HH 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.

“Well, the relationship up to the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa to Bhutan, and particularly to the former king of Bhutan, was really very special. I heard actually that the relationship goes way back to several like reincarnations. Particularly, when His Holiness escaped from Tibet in 1959, he escaped before the Dalai Lama did and the story is that that he had a key disciple who was a cabinet member of the Tibetan government, who actually advised him to leave to Tibet. He came out through Bhutan and of course he had a relationship with the kingdom already with the King. He came out with whatever he carried, there were 300 mules and horses, of treasures of termas and priceless ritual objects and scriptures and everything. So, Karmapa really came out basically with most of his portable treasures. He came all the way through Bhutan and the King was a genuine devotee, a disciple of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa. Therefore, the whole family really gave tremendous financial support also to His Holiness.

In fact, they offered him a diplomatic passport. So, when we were traveling in the 70s, he was the first Tibetan lama to travel the world as a head of a state with diplomatic privileges, which made everything smooth for us. However, when he came out of Tibet in 1959 through the government of India and Sikkim at that time, they finally decided His Holiness would be offered Rumtek, which was about 80 acres about 77.75 acres [of land]. Tashi Namgyel, the previous King of Sikkim, actually just said: “Okay this is your land, you can do whatever [with it]. This is for you to build your Centre.”  It was next to the old Rumtek Monastery that was built by the ninth Karmapa.”

Photo of Bumthang Valley, Bhutan

Meanwhile, what is amazing is most folks do not know about this, in Bhutan I was there during the coronation and a pilgrimage in Bumthang, a large track of Bhumtang valley was offered to His Holiness Karmapa. it is a beautiful valley it was part of Tibet since Trisong Detsen’s time.  You may have read that there were skirmishes between Bhutan and Tibetans and the Kolkas and the Tibetans. Somehow, they never really fared too well, they lost that territory. There was a beautiful castle and they were actually in the midst of building a replica of the Rumtek Monastery in the Bhumtang Valley in Tibetan and Bhutanese architecture in beautiful wood and stone. Then, the King had offered two cinema theatres in the early 60s, one in Thimphu, one in Gelegpu. I think three or four shops I know one was in the heart of Thimphu. Here in Gelegpu, he offered five brand new Tata trucks for transportation, business. All this was offered to his Holiness so that he can have a basis of economic sustenance for his Buddha activity.  The Prince constantly visited Rumtek, I was there until 1980. The Queen Mother, grandmother Queen lived there for several years that bought Achi Kesang, and the junior grandmother, Pema Chodro, the second in line to the Throne, all the princesses. They were regular visitors to His Holiness so they had a very special relationship with the Karmapa.” 

16th Karmapa with many famous Kagyu lamas, such as Tai Situpa and Jamgon Kongtrul (R), Zhamarpa (L) and Kalu Rinpoche (seated).

“All of the Rumtek administrators, the Chief administrator with the general secretary, Damcho Yongdu, designated key people to run all these operations. So, in Bhumtang actually there were Tibetans overseeing that whole project. He would have key administrators to run those projects and he accepted them. Like I said earlier, one night I was stateless had nothing, the next day I was in his car in his personal Land Rover, which again the king had offered a beautiful British Land Rover, he put me on his back seat in his own vehicle. Then, in the next week or so we had passports to travel and so in my life you know it is an example the Bhutanese offered citizenship if they wanted to any of the Karmapa’s disciples and to HH. When I look in hindsight, I think even our Exile government could have really benefited greatly if they had extended some really positive overtures to the Karmapa, to seek his help in in resolving some of the problems they had in Bhutan.”

Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim, India.
Start of 16th Karmapa’s Illness
Neelam Sanjiva Reddy (1913 – 1996) was an Indian politician who served as the sixth president of India, serving from 1977 to 1982. On the 8th of November 1979, the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa and His Excellency Shri Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, then President of India, performed the Foundation Laying Ceremony of Rumtek Monastery together. The then Vice President of India as well as the then Delhi Lt. Governor were also in attendance.

“I was with the general secretary and we were sent down by HH a few days earlier to make all the logistics and arrangements for the ceremony itself the chief guest was the President of India, Mr Reddy, if I remember correctly. Then I remember going to the airport to receive His Holiness who arrived maybe a day before the ceremony, that evening before the ceremony. We of course had to go right to the airport and HH stepped down from the ramp of the airplane and was ushered into the vehicle.  I remember that Gyeltsab Rinpoche was very spontaneous, he will just speak his mind and he is very enlightened. He is just an inhibited yogi personality.

I think his Holiness had instructed basically not to tell the general secretary or us that he was not well. What I overheard them say was that HH had thrown up just before he boarded the airplane and he had thrown up a lot of stuff, and like a lot of aftermath, a basin full. Then, HH I remember was just saying: “I told you not to do that and say that.” or something like that. Then of course I asked and you know we found out that basically he was not well but the ceremony had to go on literally. It was of course very important, of a historic proportion. Then I remember that I had to tell Mr Campani who is the additional secretary, Chief Point man from the government of India because we were debating. I do not remember all that very well but with the general secretary we were all debating how to take care of the situation. I think the General Secretary’s point about it was that look HH is Buddha he has control over his life and over his own being. We do not have to panic; we do not have to do anything.  If HH says you know there is nothing to do so he was sort of he was on that kind of posture and we were sort of saying well yes, he is a Buddha but he is not well and there is no harm in getting him to medical attention, to the All- India medical hospital’s attention. 

So, I remember going back and forth and finally we did tell the President of India and Mr Campani that HH is not well, so they already made arrangements so that he would be admitted to the hospital right after the ceremony.  That was tough. During the ceremony HH could hardly stand there.  It was through his own willpower that he was able to stand there and give his speech. HH gave his speech in Tibetan and I do not know if we had only translated that into English, so my job was to read that in English. If I remember now, there was a debate whether HH should seek medical attention right away. That debate was going back and forth like I told you with the General secretary. He was the principal man and he made a lot of the decisions. If I remember correctly, we did not go entirely with the wishes of the General Secretary who was either trying to and he generally meant it, he had so much faith that HH can do what he wants. So that was going to serve his stand and then all of us talking, because of course it is critical information for the government of India because the Karmapa is a major personality in their point of view.  So, I felt it was very important as my job to at least let them be aware of the situation. 

So, I remember we actually met the President and I remember interpreting the President’s word you know as being very educated and skilled you know leader like in the leader, they are very skilful in using indirect examples of why HH should get medical attention. Basically, his message was and then Bibilav contacted the governor and of course the Sikkim House officers were there. We had a direct talk with the President’s office and Campani and their main message was Your Holiness “you have to be on this Earth for the benefit of sentient beings. So sentient beings need your help. So, you go to take the medical treatment and find out what’s going on because it’s to benefit the whole [society].” Actually, that is right, when we were going through all this thing and finally when it came from The Office of the President of India then I do not think the General Secretary or anybody can say no, you have to say yes [laughs]. They had already prepared everything for the All-India Medical Institute Hospital. I remember that I was afraid that HH through his sheer willpower that he was able to complete the morning ceremony. 

Now this is a very important part of the oral history, I was among the first to know that he had actually cancer. We had the ceremony, it was incredible the President came, everybody was there.  All representatives from Tibetan society it was just a very incredible ceremony for the land. Then, we rushed off to the hospital. The best medical people of course attended on HH and I was the first conduit, because I was his English secretary, so they [had to] connect with me before anybody. So, there was, am trying to remember his name, a gentleman from Sikkim House, the political officer was there. Then the doctors did the surgery and checked him out and they were just: “we can’t believe that he’s alive, it’s just incredible.” They did the test and they found out that it was cancer.”

རྒྱལ་ཀུན་འདུས་པའི་སྤྱི་གཟུགས། སྙིགས་དུས་འགྲོ་བའི་སྐྱབས་མགོན། འཕགས་མཆོག་འཇིག་རྟེན་དབང་ཕྱུག་ངུར་སྨྲིག་གར་གྱིས་རྣམ་པར་རོལ་པ། རྒྱལ་མཆོག་བཅུ་དྲུག་པ་ཆེན་པོའི་དགོངས་རྫོགས་དུས་ཆེན་ལ་སྒོ་གསུམ་རབ་ཏུ་གུས་པས་རྗེས་དྲན་གསོལ་འདེབས་གྲངས་མེད་ཞུ།

Further Reading/Sources on this website

RUNNING INTO THE VAST SPACE OF MIRACULOUS LOVE, WHERE THE IMPOSSIBLE IS POSSIBLE: Account of 16th Karmapa’s extraordinary conduct and powers during sickness; and paranirvana (1981), and first edition of ‘Shower of Siddhis’ 16th Karmapa daily Guru Yoga (40th Paranirvana, Part 3)


First English transcript/translation of 16th Gyalwang Karmapa 1976 Vermont TV Interview: 16th Karmapa’s 40th Paranirvana (Part I).

 ‘TOWARDS SUPREME ILLUMINATION’: Guru Yoga Texts by 16th Karmapa and translations by the Karmapas’ first female translator, Freda Bedi


NEW TRANSLATION: ‘Shower of Siddhis of the Profound Path of Guru Yoga’ by 16th Karmapa

NEW TRANSLATION: THIRD VOLUME OF 16TH KARMAPA’S COLLECTED WORKS. Aspirations, Guru Yogas, Life-Stories, Songs, Supplications, Teachings and Letters.

NEW TRANSLATION: 16TH KARMAPA’S TRANSMISSION RECORD: Second Volume of ‘Collected Works’ and Kālacakra lineages


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s