History of the Karmapas: The Odyssey of the Tibetan Masters with the Black Crown


Masters of esoteric knowledge and miraculous practices, the lineage of the Karmapas is the earliest of all the recognized incarnate lineages and is said to descend from the great Indian tantric master Tilopa through a chain that includes Naropa, Marpa, and Milarepa. The Karmapas are distinguished by their black crowns, said to have been woven by dakinis and symbolizing the activity of the buddhas. Unlike other Tibetan Buddhist lineage heads, each Karmapa has specific knowledge of his next reincarnation and leaves...
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Masters of esoteric knowledge and miraculous practices, the lineage of the Karmapas is the earliest of all the recognized incarnate lineages and is said to descend from the great Indian tantric master Tilopa through a chain that includes Naropa, Marpa, and Milarepa. The Karmapas are distinguished by their black crowns, said to have been woven by dakinis and symbolizing the activity of the buddhas. Unlike other Tibetan Buddhist lineage heads, each Karmapa has specific knowledge of his next reincarnation and leaves behind a "Last Testament," a letter to his disciples describing the place and circumstances of their future rebirth, the name of their parents, and so on. At a very young age, each successive incarnation is often able to recognize himself as the Karmapa. In their recounting of the histories of the seventeen Karmapas, the authors reveal the universal and marvelous concealed in the everyday world. Their lively account peppered with anecdotes is the most comprehensive in the West on this subject, with information from Tibetan, Chinese, Mongolian, French, and English sources.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An unprecedented work, the most complete on the subject in the West. It offers a rich, lively reading on many levels: spiritual, historic, and societal, and contains numerous anecdotes and information drawn from Tibetan, Chinese, Mongolian, French, and English sources." —Université Bouddhique Européenne

"In their book the authors retrace a very lively portrait of the seventeen Karmapas, a history in which the marvelous is part of daily life." —Le Point Magazine

"Wonderful work and very complete. Each chapter retraces the biographies of the seventeen spiritual leaders who are closely linked to the history of Tibet."—Info-Yoga Magazine

"The Karmapa, one of the highest Tibetan dignitaries, is the only one to be compared with the Dalai Lama. The authors retrace the biographies of the seventeen Karmapas who have shaped Tibetan history since the twelfth century." —Bouddhisme Actualité

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559393904
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/16/2012
  • Edition description: Translatio
  • Pages: 332
  • Sales rank: 968,076
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Marie Aubele, a student of Tibetan Buddhism for many years, is a French writer and editor.
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Table of Contents

Map of Tibet ix

Acknowledgments xi

Translators' Word xiii

About the Authors xv

Introduction Mila Khyentse Rinpoche 1

The First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193) 27

Birth in Eastern Tibet

Central Tibet, a Melting Pot of Buddhist Sciences

Gampopa and the Kagyu Lineage

"The Three Men of Kham"


Enlightenment and the Black Crown

Prophesied by the Buddha

A Great Activity

Return to Central Tibet

Last Testament and Tulkus

The Ultimate Meditation

The Golden Rosary

The Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (1204-1283) 45

"Blessed by the Dakinis"

Establishing the Monastic Code

A Great Activity

The Mongols Become Interested in Tibet

First Trip to Kubilaï Khan

The Powerful Mongka Khan

Kubilaï Khan's Revenge

The Statue of the "Ornament of the World"

Tsurphu, Blessed Land of the Karmapas

Numerous Prophetic Visions

An Extraordinary Death

The Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339) 59

"The Moon Has Risen"

Meeting with the Accomplished Orgyenpa

Journey to Eastern Tibet and Continuation of Study

Peregrinations in Tibet

In Khanbalik (Beijing) with the Mongol Emperors

Return to Tibet

The Karmapa in the Moon

The Fourth Karmapa, Rolpe Dorje (1340-1383) 73

"I Will Have Many Disciples"

First Encounters with His Masters

Tibet in Turmoil

Studies at Tsurphu

Restoring Ties with the Mongol Emperor

Meeting with the Young Tsongkhapa

At the Imperial Court in Khanbalik (Beijing)

Return to Tibet

Incessant Journeys throughout the Land of Snows

The Fifth Karmapa, Deshin Shekpa (1384-1415) 87

"I Bow before All the Buddhas"

In Nanjing, at the Court of the Ming Dynasty

"The Hundred Marvelous Acts" and the Black Crown

Peace and Harmony

Emergence of the Geluk Lineage

The Prophecy

Rainbows and Rain of Flowers

The Sixth Karmapa, Thongwa Donden (1416-1453) 99

"lam the Unborn, Free of Names and Places"

Recognition of the Tulku

Liturgies and the Buddhist Canon

The Great Encampment of the Karmapa

Tangtong Gyelpo, Bridges, and Goddesses

The Regency

The Seventh Karmapa, Chödrak Gyamtso (1454-1506) 109

"For Me, There Is Neither Birth Nor Death"

Way of Life and Teachings

Philosophical Education through Debate

In the Fortress of the Rinpung Princes

The Next Pearl

"You Must Emanate Many Incarnations of Yourself "

The Eighth Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje (1507-1554) 117

"Do Not Doubt, I Am the Karmapa"

Enthronement and Numerous Visions

With the King of Jang

The Root Lama

The "Adamantine Sow"

Master of the Arts

Maturity and Activity

Taking on of Illness

The Ninth Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje (15 56-1603) 129

An Itinerant Life

A Gigantic Thangka and Ritual Dances

A Complex Political Situation

The Emergence of the Dalai Lamas

From Southern Tibet to Sikkim


The Tenth Karmapa, Chöying Dorje (1604-1674) 141

A Gifted Child

Central Tibet in Great Upheaval

A Long Journey

Mongol Surge

Thirty Years in Exile

Return to Lhasa

The Eleventh Karmapa, Yeshe Dorje (1676-1702) 151

"I Am the Karmapa"

Lhasa in the Seventeenth Century

Spiritual Treasures and Their Revealers

A Great Activity

The Twelfth Karmapa, Jangchtub Dorje (1703-1732) 159

Childhood in Kham

"The Land of Meditators"

The Mongol Tribes Strengthen the Pressure

To Nepal and India

The Eighth Tai Situpa and the Derge Printing House

Last Journey

Passing of Two Masters

The Funerary Stupas of the Karmapas

The Thirteenth Karmapa, Ductal Dorje (1733-1797) 171

Birth in Southern Tibet

Miracles and Consecrated Pills

The Passing of His Master, the Eighth Tai Situpa

Monasteries and Monks

Troubles in Nepal and Effects on the Shamarpas

The Passing

The Fourteenth Karmapa, Thekchok Dorje (1798-1868) 179

First Years

The Rimé Movement

The Great Tertön

A Vision of Twenty-One Karmapas

The "Wild Situpa"

Bestowing Transmissions

The Fifteenth Karmapa, Khakhyab Dorje (1871-1922) 191

A Canopy of Rainbows

With His Masters

The Death of Old Khyentse

Link with Bhutan

A Tertön Karmapa

A Family of Tulkus

The Great Dakini of Tsurphu

The Two Last Testaments

The Sixteenth Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1914-1981) 203

First Years in Eastern Tibet

To Central Tibet

An Undisciplined Disciple

A Journey Full of Surprises

Studies at Palpung

Return to Central Tibet

First Journey to India and Nepal

The Karmapa's Animals

Tibet in Difficulty Transmissions

Travel in China

Second Pilgrimage to India Exile

In Sikkim

New Monastery in Rumtek

Helping the Tulkus

Three Masters in One

The Karmapa and the West

Alleviating the Suffering of Beings

The Great Departure

His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje (born in 1985) 235

"He Who Brings Happiness"

The Last Testament

Enthronement Ceremony at Tsurphu

Tsurphu's Revival

Intensive Training and Constant Surveillance

The Escape from Tibet

From Nepal to India

His Teachers

The Kagyu Monlam

Bodhisattva Activity

Appendix A The Black Crowns of the Karmapa 257

Appendix B The Lineage of the Golden Rosary 261

Appendix C The Different Incarnation Lineages in the Karma Kagyu Tradition 263

Appendix D The Principal Contemporary Masters of the Karma Kagyu Tradition 267

Glossary 273

Notes 281

Bibliography 307

Index of Persons 311

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