The Karmapa Lineage

During his lifetime, Shakyamuni Buddha predicted there would come into being a fully realized teacher who would reappear over and over again as the Karmapa. This Karmapa would continue his enlightened activity on behalf of all beings until the Buddhist teachings were no longer needed in this world. The name Karmapa refers literally to 'the one who performs the activity of a Buddha.'

From the twelfth century to the present time and through successive incarnations, the Karmapa has performed the selfless and tireless activity of a fully enlightened teacher, or bodhisattva, exemplifying the wisdom and loving-kindness that lies at the heart of Buddhist practice. Each successive Karmapa has held the position of supreme head of the Kagyu Order of Tibetan Buddhism, the lineage known as that of 'the sacred word', in which the most profound Buddhist teachings are passed down from teacher to disciple through successive generations. Uniquely, each Karmapa, before he passes away, leaves behind a letter foretelling the exact circumstances of his next rebirth.

Prediction of the Fifth Karmapa, Dezhin Shengap

Translated by Michele Martin


After the Sixteenth in the rosary of Karmapa

Before the Seventeenth, an incarnation of a demon

One spoken of as relation

Will arise in this seat, Sacho.

By the power of the person's perverted aspirations,

The Karmapa lineage will be near destruction.


At that time, one having true aspirations from previous life,

A heart emanation of Padmasambhava,

From the Western direction [with Lhasa as the Center].

One with a necklace of moles, fierce and wrathful

Whose mouth speaks wrathful speech,

Having dark maroon colour and eyes protruding [the colour of the wrathful aspect of Padmasambhava].

This one will subdue the incarnation of the samaya breaker,

He will protect Tibet and Kham for a while.

At that time happiness, like beholding the sun

In this Tibet will occur, I think.

Without this, even if karmically virtuous ones come

The dharma will wane downwards,

As fruit of the negative aspirations of the demon.

It will be difficult for happiness to arise.


From the inside the king of the centre will be defiled

The emanation of demon, an officer of high rank [also, "minister"], coming from Kong,

Will disturb the center and destroy the center's domain [also, "territory" or "kingdom"].

Many outsiders not existing before [not on the scene before],

[Not knowing] what has arisen, will conceal [the meaning is clearer if the line following it is taken in context].

The beings of the degenerate times, will be seduced [also, "duped"] by the demon.

Not having faith in Dharma, will become full of suffering.

Upper, lower and middle, in all three regions,

Blood of disturbances and arguments will rain.

From quarrels, disturbances and debates,

There will be no place of peace even for awhile.

Except for this very tormented fetters (fetters, bonds, whether material or moral),

There is no liberty.


Three precious ones, the three roots and the Dharma protectors,

It is not that they don't have compassion.

Due to the Karma of beings and the power of aspirations of the demon,

A time will arrive of a downward decrease.

At that time the Secret Lineage Dharma,

Will have more power and bring swift blessings.

Prediction of the Nineteenth Century Mystic, Chogyur Lingpa

"In the area of vision,

in front of mountains, rocks and ancient trees

is the seventeenth of the incarnation rosary,

simultaneously with Khentin Tai Situ,

their minds fused as one.


Through these, it is signified

that the leaves and the petals of Buddha's teachings

will flourish [under him]

and there will be abundant fruit of the very essence

of transmissions from Gampopa."


Following the Communist Chinese occupation of Tibet in the 1950's and the Communist government's subsequent repression of all aspects of Buddhist life, His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, successfully reestablished the Kagyu Order in exile. This sixteenth incarnation built Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre in Sikkim as his new seat-in-exile. On many visits abroad, including several to the United States, the Karmapa was recognized as one of the great spiritual teachers of our time, touching all who he encountered with his wisdom, compassion, and loving-kindness.

The Sixteenth Karmapa passed away in 1981. The Seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, was discovered in eastern Tibet in 1992 and lived at Tsurphu Monastery until he escaped from Tibet in late December, 1999. He arrived in Dharamsala, India on January 5, 2000, where he temporarily resides at Gyuto Tantric University.