The Karmapas

Teachers of the Karma Kagyu lineage

The Karma Kagyu lineage belongs to one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. As a lineage of direct oral transmission, it especially treasures meditation and, through interaction with a qualified teacher, can bring about the full and direct experience of the nature of mind.

The Karma Kagyu lineage

The Karma Kagyu methods were taught by the historical Buddha Shakyamuni to his closest students. These methods were later passed on through the Indian Buddhist masters (Mahasiddhas) like Naropa and Maitripa, and the famous Tibetan accomplishers (yogis) Marpa and Milarepa who formed the lineage as a naturalistic lay-movement. Since the 12th century the successive conscious rebirths of the Karmapas have kept the teachings alive and powerful to the present day.

The Karmapas

The 2nd Karmapa is known to be the first recognized incarnate lama of Tibet. Since the 12th century, the Karmapas are the head of the Karma Kagyu lineage and responsible for the duration of the transmission. The 16th Gyalwa Karmapa who left Tibet in 1959 because of the Chinese invasion saved the unique methods of knowing the nature of mind and has brought it to the modern world with the assistance of his western students. The current 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Thaye Dorje was born in 1983 and left suppressed Tibet to India in 1994.

His Holiness 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje

Gyalwa Karmapa is considered the first consciously reincarnated Lama of Tibet. He embodies the activity of the Buddhas and is the head of the Karma Kagyu lineage. The 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje fled from the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959. From Rumtek in Sikim in northern India, his new residence in exile, he ensured the survival of the Karma Kagyu lineage. Hannah and Lama Ole Nydahl met him on their second trip to the Himalayas and became his first Western students.

After years of studying Buddhist teachings and meditating with him, Karmapa sent them back to the West to found centers in his name. Rangjung Rigpe Dorje was the first Karmapa to teach in the West. He died in 1981 near Chicago.