His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje and His Holiness Trinley Thaye Dorje on Monday issued a joint statement regarding the reincarnation of Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, also known as the Shamarpa. In the statement, they state their mutual plans to work together toward the recognition, education, and spiritual growth of the next Shamarpa.
The title of Karmapa is bestowed on the head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. It represents the longest continuous line of reincarnated masters, or tulkus, in Tibetan Buddhism, dating back to the first Gyalwa Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa (1110–93).
Due to a dispute in the lineage—noted in the statement below—today there are two individuals who are recognized as the Karmapa by different groups of people. In recent years, the two, Ogyen Trinley Dorje and Trinley Thaye Dorje, have met several times in an effort to overcome the rift in the lineage.
Yesterday’s joint statement was posted to the websites of both Karmapas and is reproduced here in full:
A Joint Statement Regarding the Reincarnation of Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche
4 December 2023
The tradition of recognising the reincarnation of tulkus is a particular feature of Tibetan Buddhism generally accepted to have begun with the Gyalwang Karmapas. Starting from the First Shamarpa, Tokden Dragpa Senge, a direct disciple of the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, the lineage of the Shamarpas has one of the longest histories of all lines of Tibetan tulkus. Most of the Shamarpa incarnations have been included in the Golden Garland of the Karma Kamtsang. They have had a tremendous beneficial impact on Buddhism and the Karma Kagyu teachings. However, after the Tenth Shamarpa, Chodrup Gyatso, passed into parinirvana, the recognition and enthronement of the incarnations of the Shamar Rinpoche was prohibited for some 170 years. This was a great loss to the teachings and left an irreparable hole in our history.
With this in mind, the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa enthroned Shamar Mipham Chokyi Lodro, which was a great kindness. But his students’ merit was insufficient to prevent the Sixteenth Karmapa from passing into parinirvana at an early age. And before the ensuing disputes within the Kamtsang could be settled, Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche also passed into parinirvana, which was a source of much grief.
Whether we look at this in terms of the influence of the successive Shamarpas or the fact that the Sixteenth Karmapa reinstated the recognition of the Shamarpas, we see that it is our responsibility to continue to recognise the reincarnations of Kunzig Shamarpa. For the recognition to be unmistaken and undisputed would have tremendous benefit for reuniting the Karma Kagyu. Thus, the two of us are shouldering this responsibility that has fallen on us both. Despite many difficulties, we have met several times and had deep conversations that have greatly increased our sincere intentions. To summarise the results of our discussions:
1. The recognition of Shamar Rinpoche’s reincarnation will be a joint effort by the two of us together. Neither of us will do it separately.
2. In order for Shamar Rinpoche’s Yangsi to be able to live up to his name, the two of us will take joint responsibility for his education, empowerments, transmissions, and pith instructions.
3. As the topic of Shamar Rinpoche’s reincarnation is a crucial point of concern within the Kamtsang, we will not accept interference from any uninvolved parties.
In conclusion, we in the Karma Kamtsang are the students of the same teacher, vajra brothers and sisters in a single dharma lineage. To foment disputes and create schisms amongst ourselves is nothing other than a disservice to our predecessors in the lineage and a method for us to destroy our own lineage. Thus, it would have a strong positive impact for every single follower of the Karma Kamtsang to recite, with deep regret for their past actions, the Vajrasattva mantra a minimum of one hundred thousand times and The Sutra in Three Sections one thousand times, as soon as possible. We should also have the firm resolve that from now on, the precious Practice Lineage should never split into two factions and that there never again be any disputes over the reincarnations of Kagyu masters, especially the Karmapa and his Heart Sons. It is extremely important that all of us in the Practice Lineage of the Karma Kamtsang should have samaya as inseparable as milk mixed with water, and that we come together as a single, cooperative whole. We ask that you all keep this in mind.
Ogyen Trinley Dorje
The Shamarpa lineage is another influential lineage of reincarnated lamas in the Kagyu tradition, dating to Drakpa Senge (1283–1349), who was a student of the third Karmapa. The two lineages have held close ties historically, with Karmapas and Shamarpas often acting as alternating teachers and disciples.
A joint statement regarding the reincarnation of Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche (Thaye Dorje: His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa)
A Joint Statement Regarding the Reincarnation of Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche (Karmapa)
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