KARMA KAGYU KĀLACAKRA LINEAGE AND BOKAR RINPOCHE: 17th birthday offering for the yangsi Bokar Rinpoche

Today, on the occasion of the Bokar Rinpoche yangsi’s 17th birthday, and for the forthcoming grand ritual of Kalacakra at Bokar Monastery from 27th April to May 5th, I offer this short article of an overview as well as links to research and translations I have written about the former 2nd Bokar Rinpoche and his main yidam deity, Kālacakra.

In the 20th Century, along with Jamgon Kongtrul the 3rd (see below) and 1st Kalu Rinpoche, 2nd Bokar Rinpoche was one of the most important Dro and Kagyu Kālacakra lineage holders and practitioners. For more on that see below.

The Karmapas and Kālacakra
Innate Kālacakra
3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (karma pa 03 rang byung rdo rje, 1284-1339)

In particular, as I wrote about before, the Kālacakra practice and lineage is a very important lineage and practice for the Karmapas Karma Kagyu, from the 3rd Karmapa onwards up to the 16th and present 17th Karmapa,  see the Karmapas and Kalacakra. In fact, the Kālacakra lineage of the 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339) remains unbroken to this day and is considered to be the ‘essential teaching lineage’. The 3rd Karmapa wrote several texts on Kālacakra, which I have catalogued in the above article. 

Based on his studies of Kālacakra cosmology and astrology, The Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339) composed a treatise on astrology called the The Compendium of Astrology [rtsis kun bsdus pa]. This text was apparently composed to explain the Kālacakra cosmology,  which is different from the Tsurphu calendar and cosmology used at Tsurphu Monastery (Tsurlug). See also here about the Kagyu and Kālacakra and two ‘lost’ lineages of Tsami and Rechungpa that were passed down directly to the Karmapas, to the 3rd and the 8th Karmapa. 

Painting of Shambhala said to be by 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje, whose Collected Works contain several Kālacakra texts.
Bokar Rinpoche and Kālacakra

As I wrote about in Karma Kagyu Kālacakra Masters and the Bokar Rinpoche Kālacakra Stupa and Bokar monastery they host Kālacakra intensive three year retreats and the magnificent golden Kudung Stupa of the former Bokar Rinpoche (which I visited personally in 2018, see photo here) is an homage to Kālacakra and the deities of the Kālacakra mandala. Leaving an observer in no doubt that this was one, if not the main yidam deity of the former Bokar Rinpoche.

Photo of Kālacakra golden Kudung stupa at Bokar Monastery taken in May 2018. Adele Tomlin.
Photo of Kālacakra images inside the Kālacakra Kudung stupa at Bokar Monastery taken in May 2018. Adele Tomlin.
Photo of Kālacakra images inside the Kālacakra Kudung stupa at Bokar Monastery taken in May 2018. Adele Tomlin.

As I mentioned in my articles about the Kagyu lineage of Kālacakra, Khenpo Donyo Lodro has also recently written and published a book on the Kālacakra lineage and practice.

Khenpo Donyo (R) with Bokar Rinpoche (L) and Khenpo Kunga Sherab Rinpoche (C) in 2004. Khenpo Kunga Sherab is one of the main Jonang masters of the Dro Kālacakra lineage.
Other Kagyu masters of Kālacakra

Jamgon Kongtrul lineage and Kālacakra

Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye

As I wrote about in Kagyu masters of the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage of Dro/Jonang Kālacakra, Jamgon Kongtrul was an important lineage holder and preserver of the Dro Kālcakra lineage of teachings in particular. As I wrote about in Murder plots, omens, black magic and Kālacakra: Tantric hero Jamgon Kongtrul’s dangerous first trip to Jonang monastery, the  First Kongtrul faced many challenges getting the Kālacakra teachings and empowerments from the Jonang in Tibet, including murder plots and ‘black magic’ attacks! 

I translated the First Kongtrul’s Innate Kālacakra text (and other texts) for an independent ‘Innate Kālacakra’ project I worked on, which was sponsored by the Khyentse Foundation, see here.

For more on the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul and Kālacakra, see 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul, Rumtek Monastery Parinirvāṇa ritual and Kālacakra , and  Kālacakra and the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul: a stunning record of empowerment and teaching .

Jamgon Kongtrul 3rd bestowing the Kālacakra empowerment

12th Gyeltsab Rinpoche and 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche

Innate (Sahaja) Kālacakra, with Vajrasattva at the top center accompanied by several lineage holders including Je Tāranātha and 8th Tai Situ Chokyi Jungne. The painting appears to follow the Palpung Monastery style of painting and is from the 18th Century. https://www.himalayanart.org/items/924

Other Karma Kagyu Kālacakra lineage holders include HE 12th Gyeltsab Rinpoche , HE 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche and HE Tenga Rinpoche, see HE 12th Gyaltsab Rinpoche: ‘Liberating All by Knowing One’ and Kālacakra.

With the passing away of Jamgon Kongtrul 3rd, and Bokar Rinpoche, and with the danger of the Kagyu lineage of Kālacakra also becoming broken/extinct, in 2018, I personally requested Tai Situ Rinpoche when I visited Sherab Ling monastery, to bestow the Kālacakra empowerment (as of now, I still did not get any response).

HE 12th Gyaltsab Rinpoche, also a Kagyu Kālacakra lineage holder and practitioner with Khenpo Donyo Lodro and Bokar yangsi
17th Karmapa with 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche and 12th Gyeltsab Rinpoche at Tsurphu Monastery, Tibet, both of whom hold the Kagyu Kālacakra lineage
Translator, Edward Henning, Kālacakra and Bokar Rinpoche

One of the main translators of Kālacakra, Edward Henning, sadly passed away in 2017, see my memoriam of his life and work here. As I explain in that, Henning had translated two very important Kālacakra texts the short root text of Meaningful to See by Jetsun Tāranātha and the sadhana and commentary on the Nine-Deity Practice of Kālacakra with the help and assistance of the former Bokar Rinpoche and some Jonang teachers.  Henning sent me both these texts (and a couple of others) before he passed away for private use and reference.

As I knew how important Bokar Rinpoche was to Henning, I gave both a hard and soft copy of these texts in person to Bokar Monastery in 2018 when I visited there.  

The deities of the nine-deity practice. This thangka is in the possession of Benchen Monastery, Kathmandu, and was commissioned in Jyekundo, eastern Tibet. From Edward Henning collection: https://www.shambhala.com/kalachakra-practice/

Henning was  a renowned expert on the Kālacakra Tibetan calendar and his website, which included several stunning graphics of the Kalacakra mandala is an unvaluable resource on Kālacakra,

Research and Translations on Kālacakra

All research and translations I have done on Kalacakra can be read in the website section here. I myself have translated several Dro/Jonang Kālacakra texts, not translated by Henning, such as the common and uncommon preliminary practice sections of Jetsun Tāranātha’s magnum opus text, A Hundred Blazing Lights and Bamda Geleg Gyamtso’s Chariot That Transports to the Four Kāyas (see details in the Sources section below). The former has yet to be checked/edited and published.

Recently, I met Prof. Robert Thurman in Dharamsala who expressed interest in publishing my work on these texts. However, after our discussion on the view of Zhentong/Empty-of-Other (Kālacakra is considered to be Secret Mantra/Tantric Zhentong), I politely declined the collaboration, as for me a correct understanding of this view is very important!

Bokar Rinpoche yangsi on his 17th birthday at Bokar monastery 25th April 2023, for more photos, see here: https://www.facebook.com/Bokarshedra

May the current yangsi Bokar Rinpoche continue the Kālacakra practice and lineage, and may his life and activities flourish and prosper!

Music? Happy Birthday by Stevie Wonder and Kālacakra mantra chanting.

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 25th April 2023.

Further Reading and Sources

Website section for all my research and translations on Kālacakra is here, including these I list below here:

Karma Kagyu and Kālacakra

Translations of important Kālacakra texts


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