Introducing Samye Institute's Vajrayana Membership

Karmapa Khakyab Dorjé

karma pa mkha khyab rdo rje
Author: Samye Institute
Last Updated: July 14, 2022

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The fifteenth Karmapa, Khakyab Dorjé (1871-1922) was born in Shelkor, a village in the Tsang province of central Tibet. He received the Kagyu transmission from Jamgön Kongtrul, including the instructions of the Five Treasures that Kongtrul had compiled in over one hundred volumes, teachings and practices from the Rimé movement.

Unlike the previous Karmapas, Khakyab Dorjé married the great Ḍākinī of Tsurphu Monastery, Khandro Urgyen Tsomo, who was one of the most well-known female masters of her time and an incarnation of Yeshe Tsogyal. The Karmapa fathered three sons, one of whom, Khyentsé Özer, he recognized as the second Jamgon Kongtrul and the twelfth Shamarpa, Jamyang Rinpoche.

Khakyab Dorjé was also one of the predicted lineage holders of Chokgyur Lingpa’s termas.

In the Words of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

Mighty Avalokiteśvara, Khakyab Dorjé

This refers to the Fifteenth Karmapa, Khakyab Dorjé. After Khyentsé and Kongtrül, no one has done a greater service to the Chokling Tersar than Khakyab Dorjé. So deep was Samten Gyatso’s trust in him that tears would come to his eyes at the mere mention of his name.

Khakyab Dorjé received the complete transmission of the Chokling Tersar from Samten Gyatso. At that time, there were still several terma arrangements that had not been written down, for liturgies as well as empowerments. Because of this, Samten Gyatso requested Khakyab Dorjé to attend to their composition. It is through his extremely great kindness that the latter accepted and agreed to compose these texts. He dictated them to Jampal Tsültrim, who was an outstanding lama in his own right.

Samten Gyatso once told me that Khakyab Dorjé was an inconceivably great master, describing his clairvoyant powers, his signs of accomplishment, and how he could perceive the three times as clearly as something placed in the palm of his hand. But, although Khakyab Dorjé had unimpeded clairvoyance, he did not have complete control over it. For example, sometimes he would know both when a lama was going to die and where he would be reborn, without anyone requesting this information. When the disciples responsible for finding the tulku would come to inquire about the lama, Khakyab Dorjé would already have all the circumstances of the tulku’s death and rebirth written down.

In other cases, he could only see the circumstances of rebirth when a special request was made (on behalf of the saṃgha) and where some auspicious circumstance was created. In still other cases, he couldn’t see anything at all, even when requested for help. Having tried, he would say, “It’s shrouded in mist.” This, he said, was due to some problem between the dead lama and his disciples. If there was fighting and disharmony within the lama’s saṃgha, the whereabouts of his next incarnation would be indistinct and shrouded in haze. He said, “The worst obstacle, when it comes to recognizing tulkus clearly, is disharmony between the guru and his disciples. In such cases, nothing can be done and the circumstances of his next rebirth remain unforeseeable.”

The Great Tertön: The Life and Activities of Chokgyur Lingpa, Lhasey Lotsawa Translations, 2016, pp. 364-65.

Supplication to Karmapa Khakyab Dorjé

དཔལ་ལྡན་བསྟན་པའི་ཉི་མ་མཁའ་ལྟར་ཁྱབ། །
pelden tenpé nyima kha tar khyap
Glorious sun of the teachings, ubiquitous like space,

མཆོག་གི་བློ་གྲོས་གཟི་བརྗིད་རབ་ཏུ་རྒྱས། །
chok gi lodrö ziji rap tu gyé
your brilliant intelligence fully unfolded,

བདེ་ཆེན་ཡེ་ཤེས་ལྷན་ཅིག་སྐྱེས་པའི་བདག །
dechen yeshé lhenchik kyepé dak
sovereign of the innate wisdom of great bliss—

མཁའ་ཁྱབ་རང་བྱུང་རྡོ་རྗེར་གསོལ་བ་འདེབས། །
khakhyap rangjung dorjer sölwa dep
Khakhyap Rangjung Dorjé, I supplicate you.

རྗེ་ཉིད་ཀྱི་ཞལ་གསུང་ངོ༌། །
Composed by the Lord himself (Chokgyur Lingpa).

From Supplications to the Chokling Tersar Lineage Gurus, Rangjung Yeshe & Lhasey Lotsawa Translations (trans. Erik Pema Kunsang, checked against the Tibetan by Laura Dainty and Oriane Sherap Lhamo, and ed. by Libby Hogg), June 2020.