Compiled by Khenpo Chodrag Tenpel; translated by Kiki Ekselius
The tradition of a successive line of reincarnations originated in twelfth century Tibet with the first Karmapa DÃ¼sum Khyenpa. The lineage of the Shamarpa reincarnations dates back to the same century and that lineage is the second line of successive reincarnations in the history of that tradition. The Shamarpa lineage of reincarnation began during the time of Rangjung Dorje, the third Karmapa who presented his principal disciple, Khaydrup Tragpa Senge, with a ruby-red crown while conferring the status Shamarpa which means ‘Holder of the Red Crown’. That red crown is a replica of the black crown worn by the Karmapas, and it exemplifies the close relationship that exists between these two lines of reincarnation in that the Karmapas and the Shamarpas are emanations of the same mind-stream and that they are therefore regarded inseperable. The second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, said: “Future Karmapas will manifest in two forms”. That statement was later clarified by the fourth Karmapa, Rolpe’i Dorje, when he designated the Shamarpa reincarnates as a second manifestation of himself. The Shamarpas are also known as an emanation of Amitabha, The Buddha of Boundless Light.
Tibetan historical records refer to the Karmapa as ‘Karma Shanagpa’ which means ‘Karmapa, Holder of the Black Crown’ and the Shamarpas as ‘Karma Shamarpa’ which means ‘Karmapa, Holder of the Red Crown’. These designations are found in the historical records authored by several well-known Tibetan Buddhist masters, masters such as Golo Shonnu Pal (1392-1481), Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa (1504-1516), the fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lozang Gyamtso (1617-1682) and the eighth Situpa ChÃ¶kyi Jungnay (1700-1774).
It is important to understand that the crowns are simply symbols of the activity to accomplish the welfare of beings, the crowns do not denote separate lineages, both, ‘The Black Hat Lama’ and ‘The Red Hat Lama’ are of the Karma KagyÃ¼ Lineage.
The First Shamarpa, Khaydrup Tragpa Senge, (1284-1349)
was the principal disciple of the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje. He is known as an accomplished master both in terms of scholastic achievements and meditation.
The Second Shamarpa, KachÃ¶ Wangpo, (1350-1405)
was recognized by the fourth Karmapa, RÃ¶lpe’i Dorje. He was RÃ¶lpe’i Dorje’s main student and he was learned as well as accomplished in meditation. KachÃ¶ Wangpo recognized the 5th Karmapa, Deshin Shegpa, and he was his principal Lama. He is well-known for having furthered the KagyÃ¼ teachings to a great extent and he authored many treatises that elucidate the teachings of the KagyÃ¼ lineage.
The Third Shamarpa, ChÃ¶pal Yeshe, (1406-1452)
was identified by the fifth Karmapa, Deshin Shegpa, and he became his disciple. ChÃ¶pal Yeshe is renowned for having constructed several monasteries and retreat-centers. He was also able to abolish the practice of animal sacrifice in the regions of Tibet where that custom had continued.
The Fourth Shamarpa, ChÃ¶kyi Tragpa Pal Yeshe, (1453 -1526)
was recognized by the seventh Karmapa, ChÃ¶drak Gyamtso, who became his Lama. ChÃ¶kyi Tragpa Pal Yeshe is known for having embraced, without bias, the different approaches in Buddhism. The famous Tibetan monastery Ga Mamo Tashi Rabten was founded by him. He also established many smaller monasteries. During his travels outside Tibet, ChÃ¶kyi Tragpa built many monasteries, among others there are four monasteries in Bhutan and he was the first of the Shamar reincarnates to visit Nepal where he built a small monastery in Swayambhunath, one of the country’s most sacred places. Upon returning to his home-land, he acted as the king of Tibet for a period of twelve years and he ruled the country on the basis of strict adherence to Buddhist principles. His scholarly achievements include his fourteen compositions which interpret the meanings of various Sutras and Tantras.
The Fifth Shamarpa, KÃ¶nchog Yenlag, (1526-1583)
was identified by the eighth Karmapa, MikyÃ¶ Dorje. The eighth Karmapa stated that the Karmapa reincarnations and the Shamarpa reincarnations are, in fact, of the same mind-stream, that they are inseparable. KÃ¶nchog Yenlag was a scholar and a meditation master. Among he written works are seven well-known texts on Buddhist meditation. He also recognized and became the Lama of the ninth Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje.
The Sixth Shamarpa, ChÃ¶kyi Wangchuk, (1584-1629)
was recognized by the ninth Karmapa who was his main Lama. He also received teachings from many other masters and is famed for his deep insight. By the age of seventeen he had already memorized fifty volumes of the Sutras and the Tantras and he had developed great skills in the art of debate. Thus he became known as ‘the Pandita of the North, the Omniscient Shamarpa in Whom the Great Manjushri Delights’. ChÃ¶kyi Wangchuk became the Lama of the then ruler of Tibet. Desi Tsangpa and he taught extensively throughout the country. During his travels in East Tibet he recognized and became the Lama of the tenth Karmapa, ChÃ¶ying Dorje. At the time, as there was unrest in that part of the country, ChÃ¶kyi Wangchuk mediated and he was able to achieve a peaceful settlement of the conflict. His travels also took him to Nepal where he taught Buddhism in Sanskrit to King Laxman Naran Singh as well as to others who showed interest and devotion. ChÃ¶kyi Wangchuk passed away in the mountains of Helampur in Nepal in the vicinity of a cave where Tibet’s great yogi, Milarepa, had stayed. His written works include ten treatises where he elucidated the meanings of both the Sutras and the Tantras.
The Seventh Shamarpa, Palden Yeshe Nyinpo, (1631-1694)
was recognized by the 10th Karmapa, ChÃ¶ying Dorje, and he became the Karmapa’s disciple. Palden Yeshe Nyingpo devoted his life to the practice of meditation. He recognized the 11th Karmapa, Yeshe Dorje, according to the instructions that the tenth Karmapa had left behind.
The Eighth Shamarpa, Palchen ChÃ¶kyi DÃ¶ndrub, (1695-1732)
was born in Helampur, Nepal to a Nepalese family. The 11th Karmapa, Yeshe Dorje, sent a representative from Tibet to Nepal with the instructions as to the whereabouts of the Shamarpa reincarnation. At the age of seven, Shamar Palchen ChÃ¶kyi DÃ¶ndrub was brought to Tibet and he was enthroned by the 11th Karmapa who took charge of his training. Palchen ChÃ¶kyi DÃ¶ndrub, in turn, identified the 12th Karmapa, Changchub Dorje and he became his Lama. Both travelled to Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, India and China where they taught extensively. Both, the 12th Karmapa and the 8th Shamarpa passed away in China with just one day between their deaths (1732).
The Ninth Shamarpa, KÃ¶nchog Geway Jungnay, (1733-1741)
was discovered by the 13th Karmapa, DÃ¼dÃ¼l Dorje. However, Shamar KÃ¶nchong Geway Jungnay lived just for nine years, therefore the historical records of his life are very brief.
The Tenth Shamarpa, Mipam ChÃ¶drub Gyatso, (1742-1793)
was recognized by the thirteenth Karmapa, DÃ¼dÃ¼l Dorje, who was his Lama. Mipam ChÃ¶drub Gyatso became a scholar and a meditation master. In his fourties he travelled to Nepal where he attracted and taught many followers. He also restored the great stupa of Swayambhunath, one of Nepal’s great Buddhist monuments. He passed away in the vicinity of the Boudhanath Stupa, another well-known Buddhist pilgrimage spot in Nepal.
The Eleventh Shamarpa
During the eighteenth century, due to an outbreak of secterian disputes, the Tibetan government, prohibited the offical recognition of the Shamarpas. Because of this, most biographical material concerning the eleventh Shamarpa is unavailable. However, it is known that he became a physician and that he lived in and cared for people in the northern part of Tibet.
The Twelfth Shamarpa, Jamyang Rinpoche,
was the son of the 15th Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje. Because the Shamarpas were banned officially the precise dates of his birth and death are not known. However, it is recorded that he taught and practiced Buddhism as a layman.
[The 13th Shamarpa lived only for a few years, so there is no record.]
The following biography of the 14th Shamarpa was written by the group of Khenpos in the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute - in short KIBI
He began to travel and teach in various Buddhist centers throughout Asia and the west starting in 1980, and in 1982 went to U.C. Berkeley to study English for ten months. In 1996 he started to organise the Bodhi Path Buddhist Centers, a network of centers based on a non-sectarian approach to Buddhism. The curriculum of Bodhi Path Centers is grounded in the teachings of the 11th century Indian Buddhist master Atisha, as they were transmitted by Gambopa. Atisha's methods are the most effective for taming the mind and deepening wisdom, and in addition can be taught and employed in a secular way.
Shamar Rinpoche does not encourage most of his students to become monks and nuns, instead emphasising the ideal of being a lay person who studies and practices Buddhism. This is because becoming a monk or nun requires virtuous dedication and discipline, and should not be undertaken by those unwilling to follow the full set of guidelines explained in the Vinaya (the Sutra collection about the code of conduct for monks and nuns). For monks that mean 253 rules, and for nuns 364. In order to provide a shining example of how the renounced followers of the Buddha are really supposed to live, in 2005 Shamar Rinpoche founded the retreat center of Shar Minub in Kathmandu, Nepal. At Shar Minub, twenty resident monks strictly maintain the full 253 vows of the Vinaya. These monks are total renunciants and dedicated meditators. Shar Minub is at the present time the only monastery among the many in the Himalayan regions where the monks are fully committed to the Buddha's Vinaya discipline.
In January, 2009 Shamar Rinpoche founded the Infinite Compassion Foundation to promote animal rights. The Infinite Compassion Foundation was formed to promote the humane treatment of animals that are raised for consumption of their meat and other products (especially dairy and eggs). Instead of promoting vegetarianism, Shamar Rinpoche advocates a transformation of the meat industry, such that animals will no longer be forced to live and die in brutal conditions.
Shamar Rinpoche is also the author of two books. Creating a Transparent Democracy: a New Model, the first book written about democracy by a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, lays out a framework for establishing a genuine democratic system of governance that promotes the welfare and prosperity of a population. This model proposes a system of democracy based on the decentralisation of political power, the promotion of political literacy among the population of democratic states, and an end to campaigning. It is Shamar Rinpoche's wish that this new model of democracy will inspire volunteers to dedicate themselves to improving the lives of their fellow citizens through sincere engagement with the structures of their governments.
In The Path to Awakening, Shamar Rinpoche provides an extensive commentary on Chekawa Yeshe Dorje's Seven Points of Mind Training. Chekawa's text was based on the Mind Training (lojong) teachings brought to Tibet by Atisha in the 11th century, and Shamar Rinpoche's commentary elucidates the inner meaning of Chekawa's Seven Points. It is both a guide to living a fulfilling life as a Buddhist and a comprehensive manual of meditation techniques.
Shamar Rinpoche died on the 11th of June 2014 from a stroke in Renchen-Ulm Bodhi Path Center in Germany, and was later cremated at Shar Minub in Nepal.
Read also about: Yangpachen Monastery
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