Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa

Rangjung Rigpe Dorje

Rangjung Rigpe Dorje was born into a noble family in the kingdom of Derge, in eastern Tibet. Guided by the prediction letter left by the previous Karmapa, and by visions which clearly revealed his birthplace, the supreme lamas of the Kagyu lineage quickly identified him. At the age of seven, he traveled to Palpung Monastery, where he received the novice ordination from the Eleventh Tai Situpa. He then proceeded to Lhasa, where His Holiness the Thirteenth Dalai Lama performed the haircutting ceremony. From there, he traveled to Tsurphu Monastery, traditional seat of the Karmapas in Tibet, where he was enthroned in the presence of official representatives of Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim, India, and Ladakh. Immediately thereafter, he began his formal training, receiving transmissions from the masters of all the great lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.

As communist forces gradually took control of Tibet, His Holiness made several pilgrimages to Bhutan, Nepal and India, whose leaders gladly offered their assistance. When war reached central Tibet, Karmapa left his homeland and sought refuge in India. Chogyal, the King of Sikkim, offered him the choice of several sites, and Karmapa chose to build his new Dharma seat near the old Rumtek Monastery, founded in the 16th century by the Ninth Karmapa.


The Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa

Orgyen Trinley Dorje

As the distinctive mark of his activity, he will turn the Wheel of Dharma for those whose karma has ripened sufficiently, in a way that pervades all directions without bias. For those who are not karmically prepared, whether near or far, he will sow the seed of liberation in them through his skill in various means.  Thus he is the protector of all beings without exception.

Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche

In January 1981, ten months before he passed into parinirvana, the Sixteenth Karmapa gave a yellow brocade amulet to the Twelfth Tai Situpa. "This will protect you," His Holiness explained, "and will someday be of great benefit." In late 1990, Tai Situpa opened the amulet and discovered a letter in which the Sixteenth Karmapa had described the location and conditions of his next birth in precise detail.

Using the details of the letter as a guide, senior lamas of the Kagyu lineage traveled to Lhatok, in eastern Tibet, the birthplace named in the Sixteenth Karmapa's letter. When they arrived, the lamas heard of a boy whose circumstances corresponded precisely with the details of the letter. Upon reaching the family's summer campsite, the lamas found that he had predicted their arrival and had already asked that a special tent be set up to receive them.

News of the discovery was immediately relayed to Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche in India, who in turn informed His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. His Holiness examined the prediction letter and other pertinent information, and formally confirmed the recognition. His Holiness further revealed that the description of the Karmapa's birthplace matched a vision he'd had several months earlier.


Guru Vajradhara the 12th Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa

Photo: K.S. LhamoGuru Vajradhara Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa is the twelfth in the unbroken line of emanations that began in the 11th century. A spiritual master of unsurpassed significance in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, he is the current holder of the Kagyu Lineage. Formally trained by the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa, he is now supervising the education of the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje.

Guru Vajradhara the 12th Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa, an emanation of the Bodhisattva Maitreya, has been prophesied to become the next Buddha, the fifth of the 1,000 Buddhas to appear in this fortunate aeon. His first emanation was King Indrabodhi, a disciple of the Buddha Shakyamuni. In Tibet, Tai Situ Rinpoche was born as Milarepa’s famed teacher, Marpa the translator , who made three trips to India and underwent many hardships in order to acquire the Buddha’s teachings. The transmissions and teachings he brought back to Tibet form the core instructions of the Kagyu Lineage.


Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche

Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche was a yogi, scholar, and one of the great meditation masters of the Buddhist tradition. His teachings were sought by lamas of all four schools of Buddhism in Tibet. Lineage holder of the Shangpa Kagyu tradition and senior Meditation Master of the Karma Kagyu tradition, he was foremost in spreading the Dharma to the West and establishing Dharma and facilities for Westerners to undertake the traditional three-year retreat.

Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche was born in 1905 in the district of Treshö Gang chi Rawa in the Hor region of Kham, eastern Tibet. His father, Karma Lekshe Drayang, the Thirteenth Ratak Palzang Tulku, was noted for his skill in the practice of medicine, his literary accomplishments and his mastery of Vajrayana meditation practice. He and his wife, Drolkar Chung Chung, Rinpoche's mother, were students of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, and Mipham Rinpoche—great leaders of the nineteenth century ri me movement which revitalized Buddhism in Tibet by minimizing sectarian differences and stressing the importance of meditation, the common ground of all lineages.


Kalu Rinpoche Yangsi

Photo: K.S. LhamoOn September 17, 1990, amid many auspicious signs, Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche’s tulku (reincarnation) was born in India to Lama Gyaltsen and his wife Drolkar. Lama Gyaltsen, the nephew of Kalu Rinpoche, had served since his youth as Rinpoche’s secretary.

Chamgon Tai Situ Rinpoche officially recognized Kalu Rinpoche’s yangsi (young reincarnation) on March 25, 1992, explaining that he had received definite signs from Kalu Rinpoche himself. Tai Situ Rinpoche sent a letter of recognition with Lama Gyaltsen to His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, who immediately confirmed the recognition. Many people saw rainbows above Kalu Rinpoche’s monastery at Sonada, India, at the time of his tulku’s birth, and reported that identical rainbows had appeared above the monastery after Kalu Rinpoche passed away.
That Kalu Rinpoche chose to be reborn at his previous home—his own monastery, Samdrup Tarjayling—is, as the Venerable Bokar Rinpoche has said, an indication of his complete freedom of mind, and a reflection of the simplicity and directness his students remember. Because of his great compassion and kindness, he took birth again in answer to the prayers of his disciples.


Lama Norlha Rinpoche

Lama Norlha Rinpoche, an accomplished meditation and retreat master, served as the abbot of of Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery from its founding in 1978 until his retirement in 2017, and served as the director of Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche’s Dharma centers in the eastern United States.

Lama Norlha Rinpoche was born in 1938, in the Nangchen District of Kham, eastern Tibet. He entered Korche Monastery at the age of five, and by the age of twenty-one, Rinpoche had completed two three-year retreats, during the second of which he acted as assistant to the retreat master. After the communist takeover of Tibet, he escaped on foot to India where he met Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche and became his close disciple.

In India, Lama Norlha Rinpoche established several three-year retreat facilities where he trained monks in the complete cycle of transmissions and practices of the Kagyu Lineage. In 1976, at the request of His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa and Kalu Rinpoche, Lama Norlha Rinpoche came to New York City where he taught Buddhist philosophy and meditation practices to a wide range of students. Two years later, to provide students with the means of studying and practicing at a more profound level of commitment, he founded Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery and Retreat Center. Following the sacred example of his own masters, Lama Norlha Rinpoche has dedicated his life to teaching the practices that make up the Kagyupa three-year retreat. To date he has directed eight full retreats at Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery, with an ninth retreat commencing in September 2016.


Lama Tsering Dakpa


Guru Vajradhara the 12th Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa appointed Lama Tsering Dakpa as the new retreat master at Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery. Tsering Dakpa is a respected senior Lama from Palpung Sherabling Monastic seat, under the direction of Guru Vajradhara Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa. He began his formal practice in Tibetan Buddhism in 1970, at the age of 10, at Mahey Monastery where he received basic monastic education. Mahey Monastery follow’s the tradition of the Karma Kagyu lineage, and is affiliated to Tsurphu Monastery, H.H. Karmapa’s monastery. In 1975 he received novice ordination from H.H. 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, and in 1989 he received full ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist monk, or Bikkshu, from Guru Vajradhara Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa.

In 1983, he traveled to Tibet with Drupon Dechen Rinpoche, Mahey Monastery’s abbot, to serve as his attendant. There, Lama Tsering was asked to teach traditional Cham Lama Dance at Tsurphu Monastery. He is well known as a master performer of this discipline, which he learned and practiced at Mahey Monastery. Cham Lama Dance is a Tibetan sacred dance considered a form of meditation practice and religious instruction.


Lama Norgyal

LamaNorgyal formal

Guru Vajradhara the 12th Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa appointed Lama Norgyal as the Resident Lama of Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery to guide the community in their practice and education in Buddhism according to the lineage and the tradition of the Palpung Monastic Institution, under Rinpoche’s direction.

Lama Norgyal became a monk of Palpung Sherab Ling Monastic Seat in 1987 at the age of eight. He received his novice ordination and full ordination lifelong vows as a monk from Guru Vajradhara Chamgon Kenting Tai Situ Rinpoche directly after his 18th birthday. He completed his basic monastic education, and studied Tibetan Buddhist ritual and philosophy for many years. His mastery in these areas led him to be promoted to senior Umze (Chant Master), an important and distinguished position that requires extensive knowledge of the canon of Tibetan ritual practices that are regularly performed in a traditional Tibetan monastery. Lama Norgyal held the responsibilities of Umze at Palpung Sherab Ling Monastic Seat for more than 20 years. 

From 2003 to 2013, Lama Norgyal was appointed head of the monastery’s environmental awareness initiative, and served diligently while continuing his regular responsibilities as Umze.