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.

14th Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche

Kunzig Sharmar Rinpoche is the second highest teacher of the Karma Kagyu lineage. The line of his incarnations has always been very close to the incarnations of the Karmapas. This gave him the name “Red-hat Karmapa”. In 1959 Shamar Rinpoche together with the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa had to leave his home in Tibet due to the Chinese invasion. Up until 1979 he received all the transmissions and teachings of the Karma Kagyu lineage from the 16th Karmapa. Since then he has traveled all over the world teaching Diamond Way Buddhism.

Thanks mainly to his efforts, the 17th reincarnation of the Karmapa, Thaye Dorje, was found in 1992 and brought to freedom in India in 1994.
Shamar Rinpoche died on 11 June 2014 in Germany.

His Holiness 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje

The 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Thaye Dorje is the head of the Karma Kagyu Lineage of Diamond Way Buddhism. He was born in Tibet in 1983 and was able to escape from suppressed Tibet to freedom in India during spring 1994. He teaches frequently in our centers.

Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche

Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche was born in Buthan in 1918 where he was closely associated with the Bhutanese royal family. The 16th Gyalwa karmapa became one of his most important teachers. Due to his intense activity over several decades, Rinpoche was seen as one of the key figures in the cohesion of the different Buddhist schools in Nepal and the whole Himalayan region. Lama Ole Nydahl and Hannah met him on their first trip to the East in 1969. From 1987 onwards he regularly visited the Diamond Way centers which Hannah and Ole founded. He built 17 stupas in the West, the biggest of which is the Enlightenment Stupa near Malaga in Spain being 33m high. He also accompanied the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa on his first European visit in 2000.

Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche passed away on 10th June 2003.

Lama Ole & Hannah Nydahl

Lama Ole Nydahl and his wife Hannah were the first western students of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. He asked them to teach Buddhism in the West. Lama Ole teaches his students about way and goal of Diamond Way Buddhism. With ten thousands of students around the world he is probably the most known Buddhist teacher and to date has established more than 670 Buddhist centers worldwide. Lama Ole has also asked more than 300 of his students to travel and teach Buddhism.

Lama Jigme Rinpoche

Lama Jigme Rinpoche was born into the family of H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, as the brother of Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche. He received extensive teachings from the 16th Karmapa, who during his first visit in the West left him there as his representative. Since that time, Jigme Rinpoche has been guiding Karmapa’s seat in Europe, Dhagpo Kagyu Ling in France.

Besides his organizational skills, he is highly respected as a lama. Many have benefited from his profound knowledge, his understanding of Western lifestyle, and his practical wisdom, warmth, and humor.

Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche

Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche, a highly respected lama of the Kagyu lineage, is a “Maniwa’, a title given to masters of the Chenrezig practice who have accomplished at least a billion Om Mani Peme Hung mantras. Rinpoche was ordained in Rumtek by the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.

An exceptionally gifted student, he mastered all aspects of traditional Buddhist study, from the sutras and tantras to rituals and music to the sciences, art, and composition. Among his many activities, Rinpoche is a retreat master of the three-year retreat center in Pharping, he has built and oversees a monastery of a hundred nuns west of Kathmandu, and plans to build a monks’ monastery east of the capital are moving along. Several times a year Rinpoche leads thousands of practitioners in the practices of Nyung-ne and Chenrezig at his Nyeshang monastery in Swayambhu. Over fifteen billion Chenrezig mantras have been accumulated over the years. Rinpoche’s teaching style is deep, direct and accessible.

His teachings, peppered with practical advice, stories and warm humor, leave a lasting impression on all who are fortunate enough to hear them.