Our teachers


 16th Karmapa Ranjung Rigpe Dorje  

The 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje  (1924 -1981) was born in Derge province in Eastern Tibet. The previous Karmapa Khakhyab Dorje (1871-1922) left a letter setting forth the circumstances of his next incarnation. On the basis of this letter the authorities of the Tsurphu monastery were able to successfully locate the child. As a boy he displayed an extraordinary natural insight and often told his teachers about his previous incarnations.

Karmapa studied in Tsurphu monastery for four years, deepening his meditative realization of Sutra, Tantra, Mahamudra, and the “Six Yogas of Naropa”. At the age of 23 Karmapa received his final ordination, along with initiations and explanations of the highest Kagyu teachings.

In 1959, due to the occupation of Tibet, Karmapa decided to flee his country, realizing that the cause of the Dharma would be served best by escaping the ever-tightening grip of Communist China. Accordingly, accompanied by an entourage of 160 lamas, monks and laymen, Karmapa left Tsurphu monastery, the traditional seat of the Karmapas, and proceeded towards Bhutan. Under Karmapa's guidance the party was able to take along the most precious statues, ritual items, relics, thangkas and books, which had been preserved at Tsurphu monastery over the centuries.

The ruler of the state of Sikkim in North-Western India offered the Gyalwa Karmapa Rumtek monastery. After Karmapa oversaw the building of a new monastery in Rumtek this became Karmapa’s official seat outside Tibet and a centre of Buddhist study, ritual, and practice.

In 1974 the 16th Karmapa visited the West. Invited by his first Western disciples Ole and Hannah Nydahl, Karmapa arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark. He also visited America and Canada, and for the first time people in the West had the chance to participate in the Black Hat ceremony, which Karmapa performed on a number of occasions.

In November of 1976, Karmapa arrived in New York for a tour through the USA, and in the following year he spent six months on tour in Europe during which he visited Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Holland, France, and the United Kingdom.

In May of 1980, Karmapa again visited the West, stopping for lectures and ceremonies in London, New York, San Francisco, and Boulder, Colorado. H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa died on November 5th 1981 in a hospital near Chicago.

See the official homepage of the Karmapa.

The 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Thaye Dorje 

Gyalwa Karmapa is the first consciously reborn Lama of Tibet. Since the 12th century, the Karmapas have been the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

The 17th Karmapa Thaye Dorje, was born in Tibet in 1983 as the son of Mipham Rinpoche, a master of the Nyingma tradition, and Dechen Wangmo, the daughter of a noble family descending from King Gesar of Ling. At the age of one and a half the boy started telling people that he was the Karmapa. In 1994, he and his family managed to escape from Tibet to Nepal and then to India. The young Karmapa arrived in New Delhi in March of the same year, where during a welcoming ceremony Shamar Rinpoche formally recognized him as the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa. The 17th Karmapa was given the name of Trinley (meaning Buddha activity) Thaye (limitless) Dorje (unchanging).

In October 1999, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa embarked on his first international teaching tour and gave initiations to several thousand people in Singapore and Taiwan. The beginning of the new millennium was marked by his first historic visit to the West. In Dusseldorf, Germany, Karmapa was enthusiastically received by 6,000 students from several hundred Diamond Way Buddhist centres from over 30 countries. In the summer of 2003, the 17th Karmapa conducted his first official program in the United States, giving a series of empowerments and teachings.

In December 2003, after completing his formal education, the 17th Karmapa was declared “Great Tantric Master” (skt. Vajracharya). The 17th Karmapa Thaye Dorje currently resides in Kalimpong, India, where he continues his spiritual training and Western education.

Today Karmapa's work is ever expanding, as he touches the lives of those who meet him and teaches and inspires his students around the world.

See the official homepage of the Karmapa.

 Lama Ole Nydahl

"Liberation and enlightenment arise only from effortless relaxation. Understand that highest truth is highest joy and experience every situation as exciting, fresh, new and meaningful."

-- Lama Ole Nydahl

Lama Ole Nydahl is one of the few Westerners fully qualified as a lama and meditation teacher in the Karma Kagyu Buddhist tradition. In 1969, Ole Nydahl and his wife Hannah became the first Western students of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa.

After completing three years of Buddhist intensive meditation training - including the transmission for a unique Diamond Way Buddhist practice called Conscious Dying (tib. Phowa) Lama Ole Nydahl began teaching Buddhism in Europe at the request of the 16th Karmapa. Lama Ole has since transmitted the blessing of the lineage in a different city nearly every day, travelling and teaching worldwide. His depth of knowledge and his lectures inspire thousands of people.

Challenging people's concepts about life, Lama Ole has been a major driving force in bringing Buddhism to the West, and to date has inspired establishment of more than 650 Diamond Way Buddhist centres around the world. His unique synthesis of modern style and ancient wisdom has helped create the largest body of students practicing Diamond Way Buddhist methods in the West. Shamar Rinpoche has said "In 1973 the 16th Karmapa ordered Ole and Hannah to teach and predicted that they would be very successful in spreading the Buddha's teachings in the West. The 16th Karmapa taught them their main practices, the Guru Yogas on the 8th and 16th Karmapas. They kept their samaya without any doubt, following and fulfilling Karmapa's wish. Ole is carrying out the activity of the 16th Karmapa."

Lama Ole Nydahl has written many books about Buddhism, which have been translated into several languages. Some interviews and videos with the Lama can be found on the further reading page. Books and other reading materials can be obtained at our centres.

See the official homepage of Lama Ole Nydahl.

Shamar Rinpoche

An emanation of Buddha Amithaba, Shamar Rinpoche is second to Gyalwa Karmapa in the spiritual hierarchy of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism.

The line of his incarnations has always been very close to the incarnations of the Karmapas. This gave him the name "red- hat Karmapa" Karma Kagyu texts speak of two Karmapas, the Black Hat and Red Hat Karmapas, always alternating as teacher and student throughout centuries and their minds are considered inseparable.

The 14th Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche Mipam Chokyi Lodro was born in 1952 in Derge, Tibet as the nephew of the 16th Karmapa. He left Tibet at the age of 9 together with the 16th Karmapa for Sikkim, India where he lived and studied under Karmapa’s guidance.

Shamar Rinpoche received the entire teachings and transmissions of the Karma Kagyu School from the 16th Karmapa at Rumtek monastery in Sikkim. After Karmapa's death, Shamar Rinpoche undertook the project of completing the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute (KIBI) in New Delhi, India. In March 1994, he officially recognized Trinley Thaye Dorje as the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa.  Shamar Rinpoche spends most of his time giving Dharma teachings around the world.

Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche

Rinpoche was born in Bhutan in 1918. As a small boy he became a monk in Phunaka Dzong, the largest Bhutanese monastery. When he was 13 years old he left Bhutan and went to study and practice under the spiritual guidance of his uncle, Drukpa Rinpoche Lama Sherab Dorje, in Nepal. There he received full training and meditated under severe conditions in the caves of Milarepa and in the power places of Guru Rinpoche. In 1944 Rinpoche met the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa in Bum Tang in Bhutan and received most of the teachings and transmissions of the Karma Kagyu Lineage from him.

In the years to follow, Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche became the key figure for dharma practitioners in Nepal. In 1987, at the invitation of his first western students and close friends Hannah and Lama Ole Nydahl, he visited Europe for the first time. After this he travelled extensively in Europe, the Americas, and Australia, giving teachings and countless initiations in the Buddhist centers founded by Hannah and Lama Ole.

Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche directed the building of a Kalachakra Stupa in Spain in 1994, one of the only two outside Tibet, followed by a string of stupas in Europe and in Elista (Kalmykia). Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche's last project, the Enlightenment Stupa in Benalmadena (Spain) is the crown jewel of his life's work. Rinpoche passed away on June 10th 2003 at the age of 85, four months before the inauguration of this magnificent project. The immense power of his compassion is felt by people of every background and brings benefit to all beings.

"It is important for us to remember that every sentient being has the potential for enlightenment, the Buddha Nature. This is illustrated by the example of a poor family who live in a hut with a hidden treasure underneath. If they knew of the treasure, their lives would be totally different - they could enjoy life and experience some happiness. But if they do not know about the treasure, they remain poor and suffer. In the same way we all have the Buddha Nature, but we do not know it and benefit from it. The dharma is about becoming familiar with our Buddha Nature so that we eventually experience it. Our practice serves to remove the obscurations that prevent us from recognizing our Buddha Nature. That is what we continually practice. To understand what our mind is, is what this is all about."

-- Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche

Sherab Gyalsten Rinpoche

Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche, a highly respected lama of the Kagyu lineage, is a "Maniwa", a title given to masters of the Chenrezi practice who have accomplished at least a billion Om Mani Peme Hung mantras. Rinpoche was ordained in Rumtek by the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rikpe Dorje. An exceptionally gifted student, he mastered all aspects of traditional Buddhist study; the sutras and tantras, rituals, music, art and sciences.

Among his many activities, Rinpoche is a retreat master of the three-year retreat centre in Pharping, he has built and oversees a monastery of one hundred nuns west of Kathmandu, and is building a monks' monastery east of the capital. Several times a year Rinpoche leads thousands of practitioners in the practices of Nyoung-ne and Chenrezi at his Nyeshang monastery in Swayambhunath. Over fifteen billion Chenrezi 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 humour, leave a lasting impression on all who are fortunate enough to hear them.

In recent years he has been travelling and teaching extensively in Western and Eastern Europe.

Hannah Nydahl

In December of 1969, Hannah Nydahl and her husband Ole became the first Western students of the 16th Karmapa.

For over 30 years, Hannah has interpreted for the highest Karma Kagyu teachers, translated texts of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and helped establish the translation project at Karma Guen in southern Spain.

After six months of fighting cancer, Hannah passed away on April 1, 2007 in Copenhagen, Denmark at the age of 61.



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