33. 13th Karmapa 1733 – 1797
“With the great sun of vajra wisdom, you vanquish without remainder the darkness of agitated mind, those forces that are the expressions of the degenerate age. Düdul Dorje, we supplicate at your feet.”
— “ Supplication to the Karmapas”
The Thirteenth Gyalwa Karmapa, Düdul Dorje was born in Nyen Chawa Trong that is situated in the southern area of Tibet, Ü-Lochog, as stated in the prediction letter that the Twelfth Karmapa had written. His tongue was marked with the syllable “AH”, which symbolizes the Buddha’s speech, and his chest was red-coloured when he was born. As a small child he told many stories about his previous lives and spoke about travelling to Nepal and India. He also had a powerful vision of Mahakala, who (according to his life-story offered by Simanada) said to him, “There is no difference between you and me.” It is recounted that as of then the boy became especially fond of animals and that he could speak with them.
When he was 4 years old, Düdul Dorje was found by His Eminence Tai Situ Chökyi Jungney and was brought to Tsurphu Gon. His Eminence the Seventh Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, Kongchok Özer, enthroned him with the Black Varja Crown of the Karmapas at the seat of the Gyalwa Karmapas, Tölung Dechen Zong (as stated in the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, “with the support of the 7 th Dalai Lama”).
At the age of 8, the Karmapa received the full transmission and teachings of the Kamtsang Kagyu Lineage from his Root Guru, the Eighth Tai Situpa. He also studied with many great masters of the Nyingma and other Kagyü Traditions, such as with the teachers of the Eighth Tai Situpa, Kathok Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu, Pawo Tsuglag Gawa, Kar-gyüd Trinley Shingta, who was the Sixth Supreme Head of the Kagyü Drukpa Lineage, and many other great masters.
Once the famous Jokhang, the temple built in Lhasa in the seventh century by King Songtsen Gampo, was threatened by rising floodwaters. A prophecy that Guru Padmasambhava had made stated that when this was about to happen, only the Karmapa could stop the flood. Aware of the prophecy, the authorities residing in Lhasa asked him to come and help. Unable to immediately leave Tsurphu due to other obligations, the Gyalwa Karmapa stopped the flood from damaging the Jokhang by writing a letter with blessings and by invoking the compassion of ‘Phagpa Chenrezig. When he travelled to Lhasa at another time, he offered a white scarf to the statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, Jowo – it is said that its arms moved to accept the Karmapa’s offering and have stayed that way ever since. The Gyalwa Karmapa was also asked to consecrate a distant monastery. Remaining at Tsurphu, he threw blessing grains into the sky when the consecration ceremony was taking place hundreds of kilometres away. It is said that moments later the blessed grains were seen falling down from the sky at that monastery.
His Holiness the Karmapa, the Eighth Tai Situpa, and Kathok Rigzin Tsewang Norbu recognized the Tenth Shamarpa’s reincarnation, who was born in 1742 and who was the brother of the Panchen Lama. The Thirteenth Gyalwa Karmapa’s other main students were Pema Nyingje Wangpo, the Ninth Tai Situpa, Dorje Dragpo Tsel, Tsuglag Chökyi Gyalpo, Sherab Gyatso, Karma Yanglag, Khedrub Jigme Senge, and Kungzang Tenpa’i Gyaltsen. Zurmang Kungkhyab, Traleb Tulku, Nyentrul, Kamstrul, and Lhalung Sungtrul were also his students. The Thirteenth Gyalwa Karmapa also founded a monastery at Gonbug Gon.
The short song of realization composed by Changchub Dorje, the Twelfth Gyalwa Karmapa, was edited by Jetsün Düdul Dorje and therefore it is published under the title “The Song of Düdul Dorje” in “The Rain of Wisdom.” The verses are:
“I supplicate the three jewels of refuge.
In the empty dwelling place of confusion,
Desire is unchanging, marked on the mind
Like an etching on a rock.
You gullible guests, hearken to this!
“Generally, the suffering of samsara is inconceivable.
Contemplating this again and again, I burst into tears.
Above, in the deva realm of the thirty-three,
The hosts of sons and daughters of the gods promote pleasure and amusement;
But when they have heard the sound of death, the following week,
Their minds are pierced by a shaft of suffering.
Because you have not realized your mind as Buddha,
And have fallen into the ocean of existence,
Now is the time for us to practice the divine dharma.
“In the middle, in the excellent realm of Jambudvipa,
Formerly, the Victorious One’s teachings extended in the ten directions
And set out the path of liberation, which ripens and frees many beings.
The teachings were widespread in the golden age,
But these days are the age of the five corruptions.
The study of the texts of the holy dharma has been lost,
And the weights and measures of deceit are held in hand.
All those ‘geshes’ who wander through the cities and country
Suffer in the realm of samsara when the faults of the material world begin to show.
Now is the time for us to practice the divine dharma.
“Below, in the eighteen regions of hell,
The unimaginable sufferings of heat and cold,
Experienced for countless great aeons,
Are the fruit of completely ripened karma.
Now is the time for us to practice the divine dharma.
“Especially, this suffering of birth, old age, sickness, and death
That everyone experiences does not fade away.
If you do not offer this udumbara flower to the sambuddhas,
How sad, it will naturally wilt.
“Having gained the eighteen conditions of being free and well-favored at this time,
It is very stupid not to practice the holy dharma.
The time when the messengers of Yama, the lord of death,
And the seasonal rains come is uncertain.
When the time comes, even the divine dharma is certainly too late.
O son of noble family,
Human life passes quickly, and you, who are accomplished in nondharma and laziness
Will become old men before you know it.
Still, you are planning to stay around.
“Having accumulated at home roomfuls of goods and necessities,
The five poisonous kleshas spread like fire in the ten directions
And consume all the precious bodhi trees of virtue.
Wretched, you hasten as if eager for the rock-bottom of hell.
This makes me utterly depressed.
“Generally, if you intend to practice the holy dharma wholeheartedly,
Reflect on the consequences of karma’s cause and effect
as proclaimed previously by the Sambuddha
In the ‘Saddharma-smrityupasthana-sutra’ and elsewhere.
Everything is the natural expression of emptiness.
If ego-fixated mind does not see its own face as dharmakaya,
There is not a moment’s opportunity for happiness.
“Therefore, the supreme permanent state is brought to realization on the quick path
By the great truth of Mahamudra, the realization of things as they are.
May it be abundant. – Thus he sang.”
Having written the detailed prediction letter and instructions concerning his next incarnation, His Holiness the Thirteenth Gyalwa Karmapa passed into Parinirvana at the age of 64. His Eminence Situ Pema Nyinjey became his spiritual heir.
A Few Notes on the Eighth Dalai Lama
In the life-story of His Holiness the Twelfth Gyalwa Karmapa, we saw in the short historical account that Tibet was repeatedly attacked by its neighbours and that, like the Eleventh and Twelfth Karmapas, the Sixth and Seventh Dalai Lamas passed away at a very young age. The homepage of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama writes: “The Eighth Dalai Lama, Jamphel Gyatso was born in 1758 (…) in the Tsang region of southwestern Tibet. His father, Sonam Dhargye, and mother, Phuntsok Wangmo, were originally from Kham and traced their ancestry to Dhrala Tsegyal, one of the legendary heroes of the Gesar epic. (…) Not long after his birth, Jamphel Gyatso was frequently observed to be looking heavenward with a smile on his face. He was also seen to be attempting to sit in a meditative, lotus posture. (…) As the child began to speak, he said: ‘I will go to Lhasa at the age of three.’ Now the whole of Tibet was convinced that this child was the Eighth Dalai Lama. Drakpa Thaye, the chief attendent of the Seventh Dalai Lama, came to Lhasa with a large contingent of lamas and Tibetan government officials. They took the boy, then two and a half years old, to Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Shigatse, performed the recognition ceremony and the Panchen Lama gave the boy the name Jamphel Gyatso. In 1762, the boy was escorted to Lhasa and enthroned in the Potala Palace. The enthronement ceremony was presided over by Demo Tulku Jamphel Yeshi, who was the first regent to represent the Dalai Lamas when they were minors. At the age of seven, he took the novice vows of monkhood from the Panchen Lama and then he was fully ordained in 1777. In addition to his remarkable spiritual legacy, it was the Eighth Dalai Lama who built the famous Norbulingka Park and Summer Palace on the outskirts of Lhasa. In 1804, he died at the age of forty-seven.“
A Short Introduction to the Pawo Rinpoches
The Rangjung Yeshe Dictionary wrote that “the Pawo Rinpoches are emanations of Vajrapani, Guardian of the Secrets and progenitor of the Tantras. Being the heart-son of Amitabha (…), the First Pawo Rinpoche was Abbot of Nalanda University and had the name Mahapundit Prajnakara (Panchen Sherab Jungne). In fulfillment of prophecy in ‘The Injuctions of Guru Padma’ (Padma Thangyig), he was reborn in Tibet as the Treasure Revealer Ugyen Rinchen Lingpa. This was during the period of the Mongol invasions (…). As the Treasure revealer, Ugyen Rinchen Lingpa was to extract a Treasure text from Kore-drag in Drinthang (between Assam and Bhutan, in the vicinity of Pemakö), all of which came to pass as predicted.
“A later incarnation of his, in turn, was born in Yarlung, Central Tibet, in 1455, as Chöwang Lhundrup. At a very early age he viewed the world as illusory and was able to walk on the surface of copper Lake (Zang-tso) as if it were solid ground, moreover, he extracted from the lake various sacred images and was soon named Pawo, ‘the Heroic One.’ Around that time, His Holiness the Seventh Karmapa, Chödrak Gyatso, was moving his huge ‘tent camp monastery’ in the Lhodrak region of southern Tibet, the site of Marpa Lotsawa’s residence at Drowolung and where Marpa’s disciple, Majestic Lord Milarepa, had built his famous tower, at Sekhar Guthog. Already previous to the encounter there between the Seventh Karmapa and ‘Pawo’ Chöwang Lhundrup, the local inhabitants had requested the latter to establish Sekhar as the principal seat of his lineage; he only withdrew his refusal upon the insistence of the Seventh Karmapa, whereupon he also took it upon himself to restore and enlarge the Sekhar Guthog complex as his personal headquarters of this new line of the Pawo Rinpoches, being the first one in Tibet to bear this honorific title. It was also due to the Karmapa’s influence that, from his earlier exclusive Nyingma adherence, he now assumed his role as a major teacher in the Kagyü School (…).
“Shortly thereafter the First Pawo accompanied the Karmapa to Central Tibet. In the vicinity of Nyethang Ganggyü (near Gongkar), where he enjoyed the hospitality of one of his long-term hosts, he passed away, but only after having announced, as if referring to a future visit that he would ‘soon return.’ He did so, taking rebirth as Tsuglag Threngwa, the Second Pawo (1504-1566). From him onwards, all the Pawo Rinpoches have carried the title Tsuglag (‘the collection of the doctrine’) as part of their name, as a sign of their responsibility in guarding the Buddha’s teaching in an unaltered form. Soon the Second Pawo’s fame as an outstanding scholar spread all over Tibet. He continued the expansion and renovations at Sekhar Guthog and established Lhalung Gompa in southern Tibet as his second seat. His works include the famous Buddhist Transmission History known as ‘The Scholarly Banquet,’ besides a large commentary on Shantideva’s ‘Entering the Bodhisattva Way of Life (Bodhisattva – Charya-Avatara)’ and major works on astrology, sacred biographies, etc.”
The following texts by the Second Pawo Rinpoche are available as free downloads to interested students in the link “Buddhist Philosophy Texts” of Karma Lekshey Ling Institute:
“Commentary of Bodhisattvacharyavatara ‘Chonjug Pawo Drelchen’ (unedited)(byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ‘jug p’i rnam par bshad pa theg chen chos kyi rgya mtsho zab rgyas mtha’ yas pa’i snying po)” by Pawo Tsuklag Threngwa; and
” Sherdrel Pawo Tsuklak Threngwe Zhalung – The commentary of chapter 9 of Bodhisattvacharyavatara.”
Continuing, the Rangjung Yeshe Dictionary wrote: “Due to the change in the circumstances during the period of the Fifth Dalai Lama, from the fourth in line onwards (…), the spiritual seat of the Pawo Rinpoche in 1684 shifted to Nyenang, with further branch monasteries at Drag, below the Guru Rinpoche cave of Drag Yangzom (between Samye and Dorje-drag) and all nunneries in the region of Kongpo. Accordingly, having been referred to as the Lhodrag Pawos, they were now addressed with the title Nyenang Pawos instead.
“The Pawo Tsuglag Gawa (1738-1803) established a first firm connection with Nepal when, in 1758, he was responsible for the reconstruction of the Swayambhu Stupa, after renovations initiated by the famous Nyingma Master Rigzin Tsewang Norbu of Katog (1698-1755). This he undertook in collaboration with the Seventh Drugchen Rinpoche, Kagyü Thrinley Shingta (1718-1766) after due permission had been obtained from King Jaya Prakash Malla of Kathmandu (ruled 1735-1768) and King Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha (ruled 1743-1755), all of which is clearly mentioned in the bilingual stone inscription still posted at Swayambhu.”
A Rough Sketch of Nepal
In the brief account following the life-story of His Holiness the Eleventh Karmapa, we saw that King Songtsen Gampo took Princess Bhrikuti Devi of the Licchavi Kingdom of Nepal as his wife. Princess Bhrikuti Devi converted her husband to Buddhism and the marriage helped establish Buddhism as the state religion in Tibet. The Newars besieged the Licchavi Kingdom that had ruled in North India (i.e., present-day Nepal) from approx. 750-1200. The Newars are thought to have lived in the Nepal Valley since the 4th century and had developed a Hindu-Buddhist culture. The Gorkha principality in Nepal was later established by Rajput warriors from India, and in 1769 they conquered lands beyond the present-day borders of Nepal. After incursions into northern India in which the Gorkhas were defeated, Nepal lost part of its territory to British India, yet it maintained its independence, while the Gorkhas kept very close ties with the British. In 1775 Imperial Britain sent Warren Hastings to Tibet. In 1792 the Gorkhas invaded Tibet but were evicted by Emperor Ch’ien Lung.
“In the high, pure mountain land encircled by glaciers,
The pure sounds of Sanskrit could be spoken.
You, the people of the Land of Snow
Who have this precious human birth:
I urge you to devote yourselves to learning.”
— The Dharma King Songtsen Gampo
Kagyu Office of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, “The Golden Rosary” (2008).
Homepage of His Holiness the 14 th Dalai Lama, “Biographies – The Dalai Lamas – The Eighth Dalai Lama” (2008).
“The Rain of Wisdom. The Vajra Songs of the Kagyü Gurus,” transl. under the direction of Chögyam Trungpa by the Nalanda Translation Com., Boston & London, 1980, pages 64-66 & 318-319.
Simhanada, “The 13 th Karmapa” (2008).
The Rangjung Yeshe Dictionary, “Authors – Pawo Rinpoche,” in: Rywiki.tsadra.org (2008).
Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center , “Biographical details – The Thirteenth Karmapa,” N.Y. (2008).
May the brilliance of the three wisdoms spread!
(With sincere gratitude to Khenpo Karma Namgyal for his immense generosity, compiled & written for English-speaking visitors of Karma Lekshey Ling Institute by Gaby Hollmann, responsible for all mistakes & apologizing for inconsistencies that arise due to quoting various sources, Munich, 2008; copyright.)