Biography of Drupon Rinpoche
Dawn's First Light
Leading the Sun of Threefold1 -Faith
The Liberation Story of the Incomparably Great Spiritual Master - Karma Lhabu.
From deep within the ocean of the two wondrous accumulations2
comes the form that spontaneously accomplishes the two benefits3
. His sun and moon-like stainless wisdom - the two types of knowledge4
- blaze fiercely, overwhelming the gloomy ignorance of fortunate ones who are to be tamed. Lord of Sages, the supreme Kinsman of the Sun5
, please, here and now, continually emanate an immaculate manifestation of beneficial qualities and auspicious glory.
The four-fold abundant6 heartland,
Complete with the force of the ten virtues7 and the divine, right turning River Da
Is a pure realm, formed of five coloured rainbow light,
Who could fathom the activity and example of the Bodhisattvas of the three families who reside there?
From among them, right here, dances a heroic Bodhisattva;
Karma Lhabu - a compassionate emanation -
Treasurer of a dharmic ocean of scripture and realisation.
Here I shall share his extraordinary story of realisation.
Thus having warmly welcomed you with these fresh lotus flower verses, we have come to the heart of the matter.
He is a genuine bodhisattva who has impartial love for all beings, equal to that of a mother for her only child; without prejudice he showers upon them loving and merciful kindness. He is a great monastic who raises the golden banner of the three trainings8
and the vinaya9
; a master of the practice lineage teachings.
If we were to articulate his name in order to reveal the main theme here, we would say Thubten Karma Shenpen or Karma Lhabu10
. His life will be covered in these ways: (1) the manner in which he took birth in this land; (2) the manner in which he relied upon spiritual teachers to pursue his education of study and contemplation, and how he thereby acquired excellent qualities; (3) and the manner in which he increased his wondrous activities of benefitting others impartially.
(1) The manner in which he took birth in this land:
To the north of the supreme Vajra Seat11
of India, where the fourth guide of our fortunate aeon, the Lord of Sages manifested complete buddhahood, lies the domain of noble Padmapani12
, a land where the Dharma and practitioners of the Mahayana have flourished. It is a place beautifully encircled by white snow mountains and universally renowned as, "The Pure Realm Endowed with Dharma."
Kye ma13 ! What fortune! The moon-like one, a wisdom treasury,
Born from pure ancestry and the mother-ocean,14
Arouses happiness and wellbeing
In all who see, hear, recollect, or touch him.
An amazing individual from a young age, when just two years old he was taken into the presence of Wa Shul Khenpo, and even he remarked "I think this little one will become one with great qualities unlike others; take care to keep him away from dirt and contaminants."
In particular, from the time he had grown just a little he assiduously avoided the taking of life. Not only that, even if he was to see others killing or other such things, with tears of agony he would immediately do whatever he could to stop them. The evaluation of this kind of behaviour gave rise to the conviction that he must definitely be an individual belonging to the Mahayana, who had habituated himself to the compassionate care of others over many life times.
In the sky of primordial purity free from elaboration,
(2) The manner in which he relied upon spiritual teachers to pursue his education of study and contemplation, and how he thereby acquired excellent qualities:
Is the celestial wisdom body of the intrepid Bodhisattva;
Appearing in the water vessels of fortunate ones,
The virtuous display of the manifest form body blazes.
Through the power of the awakening of his former training and dharmic disposition, his mind became focused upon the Dharma; thus at the age of five he was taken before the spiritual master Karma Lopel, who remarked:
For the mind that is acquainted with the habitual tendency of much prior study,
It is not difficult to understand all of the many things that there are to be known.
It was then that he began to learn to read, and trained in the various Dharma activities, the practice of The Peaceful and Wrathful Deities, and other daily recitations, all of which he swiftly committed to memory. At the age of seven he entered Tsab Tsa Monastery's monastic educational system. Here, following the basic curriculum, he memorised liturgies for the classes of tantra, as well as the practice texts for a wide variety of practices.
When he was fourteen years old, due to perfectly pure renunciation having arisen within him, he became a monk in the presence of Khenpo Palga, the great Vinaya holder and the one endowed with the two qualities of stability and knowledge, and in front of the required number of Sangha members (the object of our faith). Thus he received the name Thubten Karma Shenpen and donned the victory banner of the three trainings and saffron-coloured robes.
In that same year, without provisions or any other resources, he fled from home, along with another young monk, in order to visit the Jowo in Lhasa. For three months they visited Lhasa and other pilgrimage sites and then returned home. Everybody remarked on what strong hearts they must have had, to go so far at such a young age without provisions.
On his return he received and studied (amongst other topics) teachings on the three vows15
, from Khenpo Palga. He studied grammar and handwriting, as well as torma making, ritual procedures, recitations, chanting melodies, the three types of ritual musical instruments, dance, and the drawing of mandalas, all to a reasonably high level. During this period he would go out to perform village rites16
In general from a young age he was straightforward, honest and acted with little self-interest. In particular, no matter in whose company he was, he would be easy to be with and there would be no jealousy, backbiting, maliciousness or other negativity. Due to this he became someone held in high esteem by all.
In 1988, at the age of eighteen, he thought, "I must accomplish this Dharma, which is beneficial in this and all future lives.” With this heartfelt wish he went to solitary mountain retreat. Once there he did not entertain the two types of extreme conduct,17
but persisted in the twelve good qualities to be trained in18
. He upheld the conduct that separates one from all that is to be abandoned: he kept to the lowest seat, wore tattered robes, and acted solely in accord with the life stories of the Kadampa masters of old.
By way of the three pleasing actions19
he attended excellently upon the one who attained mastery in the inner practice of mind, Dorje Chang in person - Karma Legden, otherwise known as Senge; and upon the one who attained mastery in the two-staged path20
- Drupon Rinpoche Karma Sherab. From them he assiduously received instructions on such texts as, The Torch of Certainty and The Innermost Essence Preliminaries (nying tig ngon dro) – Words of My Perfect Teacher. Having memorised all the stages of visualisation, he went on to complete the standard amount of repetitions for the Mahamudra preliminaries.
At the age of nineteen (still in 1988) he entered the Retreat centre, where he received many Dharma teachings; for example he once more received instructions for the preliminaries from Drupon Rinpoche Karma Sherab, along with the ripening empowerment, liberating instructions, and supporting reading transmissions for the presiding lord of all families, Dorje Sempa.
In strict retreat he excellently accomplished, amongst others, the five hundred thousand-fold set of preliminaries, close to one hundred million short Dorje Sempa mantras, four hundred thousand hundred-syllable mantras, and the approach and accomplishment stages of Mahakala Bernachen. Furthermore, he completely renounced and handed over all of his material possessions in their entirety to both spiritual masters, Exalted Senge and Karma Sherab. He offered them his body, speech and mind, followed by a most sincere and excellent promise to be content with few desires and to separate from all that is to be given up. This filled his Lamas with boundless joy and affection, causing the lord of realisation, Exalted Senge to say
The three Dharma-robes adorn the unchanging form of
The holy master, a rare and supreme udumbadra21 flower.
Together with these words and other prayers of auspiciousness Exalted Senge conferred Dharma robes and many profound teachings upon him.
Then he was given stage by stage, the instructions which liberate within a single lifetime and within a single body - the essential points of profound Mahamudra and Dzogchen -in the manner of "naked instructions," without any being concealed.
From this point onwards, within the inner and outer boundaries22
of this intensive retreat, he strove with one pointed determination for the true nature of genuine reality. On numerous later occasions, over many years he practised in this way; thereby he engendered exceptional qualities of experience and realisation, as well as the signs of successful practice that are taught in the instruction manuals on Mahamudra and Dzogchen.
Regarding this, Exalted Senge said:
My fortunate Vajra Brother of pure karma and aspirations,
Your determination emulates that of past masters,
And you persevere in accomplishing the instructions of authentic lamas.
Do not cling to rainbow-like meditation experiences of non-referential manifestations,
But as if indifferent, nurture the naturally rested state.
If you remain free from hope and fear regarding the stability attained therein,
Nothing surpasses that - the Primordial Protector Samantabhadra.
Thus he bestowed many spiritual songs of praise and profound instructions; considering Karma Lhabu to be his primary heart son, the Lama felt continually joyful from then on.
Around this time Karma Lhabu suddenly became seriously ill with severe head pains and came close to death. The cause, whether it was the miraculous workings of gods, spirits or some other obstacle, was uncertain. Regarding this sickness, his lama said, "What follows sickness is death! If this sickness is not cured and you die, how self-assured are you of being without regret when you are at the brink of death?" With one-pointed devotion for his lama, he explained how he felt fearlessly self-assured in death and the manner in which he was bringing his illness on to the path. Thoroughly delighted, the Lama again exclaimed:
Ema23 ! At this time of degeneration, during the final days of the Buddha's teachings,
A yogi, without fear of birth and death has come,
For whom difficulties appear as rigpa's adornment,
Sickness is liberated within the dharmakaya state,
And ghastly ghouls and guardian gods are of the same essence;
For him the view is undisturbed like the sky.
The wondrous display of such a snowfall24
Swells the joy of those with wisdom.
To him I make an offering of this tuneful praise.
In this way he gave encouragement and taught various ways to differentiate and clear perils from the path when one is correctly absorbed in meditation.
Then, in the manner of a single lineage transmission, the Lama taught him pith instructions regarding "the Peak of Vehicles’ Secrets25
” in their entirety and excluding none. Through this the lama and disciple's mind became inseparable, the illness naturally evaporated and even emerged as an excellent aid for his meditative experience and realisation.
Overjoyed the revered Lama sang:
Vajra brother and sisters who keep samaya,
Some of you have eyes directed upwards,
Poised upon a snow mountain, flaunting your turquoise manes,
Resembling a white snowlion's offspring;
Others cannot compete with your heroics.
Gladdened by such a sight, before he dies
This old man will share a few words of experienced advice.
In this way the Lama gave many essential pith instructions in condensed form.
In brief, Karma Lhabu became a master of the profound dharmas of the orally transmitted teachings (Kama) and the revealed treasure teachings (Terma) in all of their oceanic vastness. The two authentic Lamas endowed with the three types of kindness26
(Lama Senge and Lama Karma Sherab) transmitted the totality of their profound teachings, empowerments, guidance, and pith instructions, transmitting them via the eternal knot at their heart and filling their excellent vase-like throats, before letting them tumble forth from between their teeth; thus they empowered a Dharma regent as if anointing a king.
For his title, saying that there was the auspicious coincidence for him to become the chief of all Vidyadharas27
, they crowned him Rigdzin Choje Gyalpo" - "Vidyadhara Dharma King." This complete, the lord of realisation, Exalted Senge imparted these and many other profound words of auspiciousness:
By offering to Karma Lhabu, who resembles my heart,
This heartfelt feast of affectionate advice,
May there be the auspiciousness of perfecting the two accumulations.
Then Drupon Rinpoche Karma Sherab joyfully expressed his affection again and again as he always did, saying such things as "It is certain that we two, master and disciple, will not be separated other than in death." To Khenpo Kalon and others he said, "Constantly accompany your friend Karma Lhabu, because by doing so his positive qualities will definitely rub off on you." He also said, "If the instructions of others have not severed your misconceptions, you should consult with him (Karma Lhabu)." Speaking thus the Lama extensively sung his praises; among all of his students he genuinely considered Karma Lhabu to be his supreme heart son. To him alone the Lama bestowed the reading transmission for The Kangyur, the translated words of the Buddha; however the tail end of the transmission was not to be completed.
One day in the second half of the twelfth month in 1991, Drupon Rinpoche Karma Sherab spoke of his previous night's dream "Yesterday I dreamt of a bowl filled with yoghurt, but when I went to hand it over to you the bowl broke. The bowl resembles me and handing over the yoghurt resembles bestowing all the instructions without exception. It is almost certain I will not stay in this world much longer." In the evening of the fourth day in the first month of the water monkey year (1992) his mind passed into the dharmadhatu. The funeral rites of "completing the Lama's intent" were properly concluded by Karma Lhabu himself.
Following this, in the exalted presence of the Kyabje Tongwa Donden Karma Lodro Ngedon Tendzin Senge Pal Zangpo (Tsab Tsa Drubgen Rinpoche) - master of the teachings of the practice lineage - he excellently received the empowerments for the complete cycle of the glorious Shangpa Kagyu: (1) The Root which is The Six Doctrines of Niguma; (2) The Trunk which is Mahamudra; (3) The Branches which are the Three Aspects of Bringing to the Path; (4) The Flowers which are Red and White Khechari; (5) The Fruit which is Deathlessness and Non-deviation. These are known as the Five Golden Doctrines. He also received The Six Dharmas for the path of method, which came from the Dakini Sukhasiddhi: Mahamudra Pure Primordial Wisdom; The Practice of Four Deities Combined (which came from Drubchen Rahula Gubha); the cycle of instructions on The Inseparability of the Lama and Mahakala; the profound Dharma of Dorje Denpa Abhaya that elucidates The Precious Ocean Tantra called The Mandalas of the Five Classes of Tantra as One Profound Body Mandala Practice; the cycle of Chod teachings; Guru Dragpo; Dorje Drolo; White Tara, and The Peaceful and Wrathful Deities.
He received instruction, reading transmission, and the ritual procedures for the practices of the Shangpa Kagyu cycle of teachings all in great detail from the chant master of Palpung, Lama Zopa.
Then, in 1992, in order to further the Drogon Kagyu teachings, at the lotus feet of Drupon Rinpoche Yeshe Junge, of Palpung Thubten Chokhor Ling, he received instructions and empowerment for the practices, instruction manuals and supplements for the sadhana cycles of Korlo Demchog, Dorje Phagmo, Gyalwa Gyamtso, and Mahakala; as well as for the Glorious Six Dharmas of Naropa; Khen Trulpa's Yogic Exercises on Channels and Winds; the Hearing Lineage's Yogic Exercises; The Yogic Exercises on Channels and Winds composed by Jang Tulku Kye Wangyal; The Root Verses of the Hearing Lineage's Yogic Exercises Sealed in Secrecy; Mahamudra Ocean of Definitive Meaning; Mahamudra Dispelling the Darkness of Ignorance; and Mahamudra Pointing Out the Dharmakaya; all were received properly and in great detail.
At the time of receiving the above, he offered his understanding to the Lama's ear, pleasing him beyond measure. The supreme Drupon then told him "I have a Mahamudra Ocean of Definitive Meaning text that contains great blessing. The mother of Dilmo Choje previously discovered this text in a cave; she offered it to the nirmanakaya artisan Tangla Tsewang, who then offered it to me. However, before now there has not been anyone who I thought was practising in the proper manner and would definitely benefit the lineage - and to give it to anyone else would be a real loss, so I never did. And although I had offered it to the general retreat centre, once I have received it back from the retreat's caretaker, I will offer it to you. You are someone through whom great benefit will be done for the purpose of others. Sentient beings and the teachings will be vastly benefited through your explanations and pith instructions on both The Six Yogas of Naropa, the path of method, and Mahamudra, the path of liberation." Saying thus he offered lofty praise and encouragement, and Karma Lhabu's own faith and joy increased even more.
Although the Lama did not say directly that he was passing his lineage to him, Karma Lhabu said the fact that the Lama had accepted him in this way made him think that the Lama had empowered him as his lineage successor.
Having arrived in Adzom, he received teachings on The Three Phrases That Hit the Point, and a few other pith instructions on Dzogchen from Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche. It was then that he went to Serta, and met the lord of renunciants, Khenchen Choying Khyabdal, from whom he requested a spiritual connection.
Travelling by foot he left for Golok in order to meet the lord of realisation, Khenchen Munsel Rinpoche. One day when camped up for the night mid-journey, on an extremely cold and vast plain, it started to rain torrentially and he was without rain clothes or anything to keep him dry. Although he underwent great suffering and even came close to death, he said that as it was hardship experienced for the sake of Dharma, no regrets arose in the slightest.
Finally he met the Master himself, Khenpo Munsel, and even though he arrived in a recess period when teachings were not being given, the Master took him in with great love and affection, and conferred upon him alone profound ripening instructions on The Highest Awareness (Yeshe Lama). Still not contented, he requested the Master to give him the type of pith instructions that come from his own experience. In response to this request the Master asked, "What has your understanding been like so far?" Having heard an account of Karma Lhabu’s experience and realisation, the Master replied with delight, “I have constantly been pretending to practice the Dharma of the secret pith instructions, which is why you should practice these secret key points of view, meditation, and conduct in this way," and he went on to give instructions without concealing anything.
"On first seeing you a great joy arose in me, so it seems we have a positive connection from a previous time. Due to this I taught you The Highest Awareness, and the profound secrets of Dzogchen without concealing anything. Here on after, practice unerringly and after three years come back. For tomorrow's journey back to your own monastery I have prepared an escort, horse and other necessities, so please be ready to go in this manner."
Thus the master treated him with great respect and held him in extremely high regard. The next day Karma Lhabu offered to the Master all the money and food he had, and said "Please give this to those of the encampment who are slightly worse off."
Once the Master had arranged for one of his ordained nephews to go as an escort, Karma Lhabu made his way back to his own monastery.
Following this, just before the three years were up, the Master passed into the dharmadhatu. On hearing this Karma Lhabu said, "Not having the fortune to meet the Master again, a feeling of immeasurable sadness has arisen; however nothing can be done."
Noble One! Although resplendent with the inborn white light of excellence,
Your pure conduct in correctly attending, without partiality,
Spiritual masters who uphold the teachings,
Brings to mind the liberation story of the Ever-Weeping Bodhisattva.
Having arrived in Tsab Tsa monastery he entered a retreat on the approach stage of The Embodiment of the Three Jewels (Konchog Chidu). At the same time, in the general retreat centre, he gave the ripening instructions for Glorious Dorje Sempa, through explanation, reading transmissions and so on for the practice texts, instruction manuals, and so forth.
At this time on the 29th day of the twelfth month in 1992 at eight thirty in the evening, he went into the presence of the one endowed with three-fold kindness, Lama Rinpoche Senge, and enquired after his health. To which the Lama replied, "Although I am free from illness, in this life there have been many corruptions and breakages of samaya28
, so in order to confess and purify them I will rely on the meditation and recitation of Dorje Sempa. For the month that multiplies everything by a hundred thousand29
, which starts tomorrow on the new moon, having set the inner and outer boundaries I will stay in retreat. I'll see whether I can die during this month. If I'm fortunate I'll die, but if my karma is poor I will not. If you still have unresolved doubts then ask now."
The Lama went on to say that he was certain that his two heart-like disciples, Nyima Gyaltsen and Karma Lhabu, would, if unobstructed, go on to benefit the teachings in a vast way. Apart from that, he taught him how to use others’ slander or ingratitude on the path, and also gave many other affectionate words of heartfelt advice, all in great detail. In this way they stayed up talking until two o'clock in the morning. As he was about to leave, the Exalted Lama, having taken an auspicious white scarf into his hands, said ”This scarf is a really long one," and then joyously gave it to him.
On the thirtieth day of the twelfth Tibetan month, the Noble Lama was sealed into the retreat and became physically even more radiant.
On the fifteenth of the first Tibetan month Karma Lhabu finished his retreat and started to make preparations to leave on an out of town trip to request teachings. However, on the twenty first of the month the Lama called him into his presence. Having received this message from Nya Tulku, he went straight to see the Lama and asked after his health. The Lama responded by saying that he was not in ill health; so Karma Lhabu informed him that he was planning to go and request teachings. The Lama said that for the time being it would not be right for him to go and seek teachings - "I am certain that I will soon die and it is up to you to oversee the cleansing of the corpse, the cremation and the concluding rites." The Master then explained in detail how this should be done. Staying with his Lama for a long while, he wept feeling immeasurably depressed. To which the Lama, laughing slightly, said "And I thought you were a yogi assured in the profound view of Mahamudra and Dzogchen; perhaps you still don't even know how to remain inseparable from the Lama?” Saying this he chuckled -
Now I'm ready to leave.
To die, this so called death,
A yogi's mini-buddhahood!
In 1993 on the twenty second day of the first Tibetan month, at a quarter past four in the afternoon, whilst voicing many astounding profundities such as "Even so called death is buddhahood, you know," so as to sever the bonds of his disciples' clinging to permanence, he adopted "the lion's sleeping posture", and demonstrated the way of gathering all appearances of conditioned phenomena into the expanse of the real condition of existence; and thereby become liberated within the expanse of the primordial ground.
Karma Lhabu performed the concluding rites excellently, all in accord with his lama's command.
He then proceeded to Wa Shul, where from the learned and great upholder of the Tripitaka, Khenpo Palga he received detailed teachings on the commentary for The Meaning of Pith Instructions; the root text and commentary for The Precious Dharmadhatu; the root text and commentary for The Treasury of The Natural State; Karma Lingpa's Six Instructions for the Bardo; the instruction manual for The Dorje Sempa Preliminaries composed by Shechen Kongtrul Rinpoche; and Sechen Gyaltsab's Essential Points of Practice.
From there he went to the great Dharma Institution of Dagyud - Ngedon Shedrub Dargye Ling. Here at the feet of the one with innate profound wisdom derived from prior training, from whom the most excellent knowledge and inexhaustible confidence in explanation, debate and composition wells forth, the vastly learned master of exposition, the head adornment of every Himalayan scholar - Khenchen Pema Tsewang - he received teachings on Guhyagarba - The Essence of Luminosity, twice; A Thousand Hits of a Black Snake also twice; the root text for Bodhicarya Avatara - Engaging In Bodhisattva Conduct; The Three Vows - Wishfulfilling Grain; In Praise of Morality; Four Hundred Verses on Madhyamaka; and an Abhidharma commentary. Having received these he exerted himself greatly in his studies.
In this same master's presence, he learnt the Lantsa, Wurtu and Uchen scripts and his penmanship became exceptional; when he went on to teach others, many of his students also became excellent penmen.
From Khenpo Sotse and others he received teachings on - The Highest Awareness; a commentary on the Sukhavati Prayer by Lagla Chodrub; An Annotational Commentary on The Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras - Sutralamkara; Khenpo Kunpal's commentary on Bodhicarya Avatara; and also on other topics comprising many deep instructions on the dharmas of the vast and profound; and the maturing and liberating.
At this time the Dharma Lord Jigme Phuntsok arrived. On receiving several of his profound teachings, his faith greatly increased due to the appearance of many amazing signs, for instance in his dreams.
Having returned to his own monastery, from the lord of the teachings of the practice lineage, Kyabje Tsab Tsa Drubgen Rinpoche, he received empowerments for Khorlo Demchog, Dorje Pagmo, Gyalwa Gyamtso, Gompo Bernachen (Black-cloaked Mahakala) and others. On various occasions he also received instructions on The Dorje Chang Lineage Prayer; Longchenpa's The Lion's Roar - Annihilation of Intellect’s Sway; as well as detailed instructions on the actual practice of Mahamudra.
Towards the end of 1993 he entered a retreat to practice Dorje Pagmo's stages of approach and accomplishment of the outer, inner, and secret practices; The Six Yogas of Naropa (the path of method), and yogic exercises on the channels and winds; and Mahamudra (the path of liberation). He practiced continually day and night. Between sessions he would teach and give guidance to the practitioners inside the retreat centre on all the approach and accomplishment stages concerning the tantras, as well as The Six Yogas, yogic exercises on the winds and channels, and teachings on Mahamudra.
At Tsab Tsa Monastery he reformed the retreat programme so that it would include The Six Yogas of Naropa, and then conducted the first retreat, giving teachings and meditation instruction on the tantras of the Karma Kagyu school, Six Yogas of Naropa and so forth.Kyabje Drubgen Rinpoche himself bestowed this supplication on him:
Firm are the roots of your renunciation, the vows of morality.
Handsome are your benevolent branches that serve living beings.
Totally complete is your stream of Secret Mantrayana empowerments.
Glorious Lama, at your feet I pray.
His benefit to beings increased yet again; he sang spiritual songs about the view, gave Dharma teachings, and so on.
Around this time a few individuals, who had been affected by vicious influences, were stirring up trouble and hurling unjust abuse high and low, causing him to become dispirited.
As the Sutras teach:
It is best to move a hundred leagues away
From where there is complexity and quarrels.
In accord with this, in the eleventh month of 1994, in total secrecy without even telling his students or close friends, accompanied by his younger brother, Guru Tseten, he left for Serjong of Do Kham - A Study Sanctuary for the Five Knowledges and the Buddhist Teachings30
. It was here that he came to comprehend the entire intended meaning of the vast ocean of sutras, tantras and pith instructions. Here also, with both the correct attitude and correct conduct, he came to rely upon the lord of the teachings of the peak of all vehicles, the secret path of the definitive meaning - the radiant great perfection; the inconceivably great spiritual master with the intelligence of retention and eloquence - Choje Dampa Jigme Puntsok Jungne Pal Zangpo. This master kindly bestowed upon him: A White Lotus - The Supportive Teaching for The Shakyamuni Practice - A Treasury of Blessings; The Sutra of Great Miracles; The Sutra of One Hundred Karmas; Guhyagarba - Essence of Luminosity; The Commentary on the Seven Line Prayer; The Biographies of the Eight Close Sons; The Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva; The Three Phrases That Hit the Point; The Commentary for the Way of a King; the works of Mipham Rinpoche concerning Dzogchen and his collections of advice; The Questions of Adhyasaya Sutra; a commentary to Engaging In Bodhisattva Conduct; The Sukhavati Prayer of the Sage's Scriptural Sun; the root text for The Treasury of Pith Instructions; The Complete Adum from Master Jigme Phuntsok's own collected works; a tantric commentary for The Spontaneously Arisen Tantra of the Single Son of the Doctrine; empowerment and instructions on the Northern treasures' Showing Directly the Realization of Samantabhadra; The Guru's Inner Essence; the empowerment for The Heart Essence of the Dakinis; and empowerments and instructions for many other sutras and tantras.
From the lord of renunciants, Khenchen Choying Khyabdal, he received teachings on Notes on the Creation Stage.
From the master of an ocean of scripture and reasoning, Khenchen Sherab Zangpo, he received teachings on, among other topics, Botrul's Prajnaparamita; The Lamp of Certainty; The Highest Continuum; Notes on the Creation Stage; Guhyagarba - Essence of Luminosity; and The Guru's Inner essence.
In the presence of the genuine lord of the learned, Khenchen Tsultrim Lodro, he received teachings on The Three Vows and The Auto-commentary for Entering the Middle Way.
From the master of exposition, Khenchen Chime Rigdzin, he received teachings on, among other works, Karmapa Mikyo Dorje's Extensive Commentary on Entering the Middle Way, The Extensive Commentary to the Paramitas; The Auto-commentary for Entering the Middle Way; Root Grammar in Thirty Verses, and The Elucidation of The Treasure on the Science of Valid Cognition.
From the ordained upholder of the Tripitaka, Khenpo Tenzin Norbu, he received teachings on and practised, Root Texts of the Vinaya Sutras; The Major and Minor Oceans of Vinaya; Shenga's Annotated Commentary to the Root Texts of the Vinaya Sutras; The Stringed Vinaya-Flower Garland; The General Meaning of the Seventeen Fundaments, and other such teachings in addition.
From the treasurer of an ocean of scripture and reasoning, Khenchen Tenzin Lhagpa, he received teachings on A Detailed Commentary to the Commentary on Valid Cognition, and on Signs and Reasoning.
From the great upholder of the Tripitaka, Khenpo Rigdar, he received teachings on, Root Texts of the Vinaya Sutras; Guhyagarba - The Essence of Luminosity; and The Key to Guhyagarba's Treasury.
From the upholder of the Tripitaka, Khenpo Jamyang Lodra, he received teachings on many texts concerning the Middle Way and Vinaya.
In the presence of the yogi of the truth of the natural state, the Lord of Adepts, Tulku Lungtog Tenzin Zangpo, he trained in the instructions on Dzogchen and the channels and winds.
Within this great Dharma encampment, for many years and with tireless diligence, he engaged in the three activities of studying, contemplating and meditating.
From the lamp of the great secret teachings, Sinda Tulku Orgyen Tenzin, he received three hundred different empowerments from "The Rinchen Terdzo Chenmo - The Great Treasury of Precious Termas," where the vast and profound dharmas are merged into a single refined ocean.
In the year of the Fire Ox (1997), from the master of the teachings of the practice lineage, Kyabje Drubgen Rinpoche, he received teachings on the first volume of A Collection of Indian Treatises on Mahamudra Practice; The Collected Works of Gampopa; A Gem's Light Rays - The General Meaning of Mantrayana; Moonbeams of Mahamudra; The Sun-Rays of the Two Segments; The Vinaya Tika Sun Mandala; The root text for The Profound Inner Meaning; Jamgon Kongtrul's commentary on The Profound Inner Meaning; The Ornamental Vajra Web - An Excellent Elucidation of The Two Segments of the General Meaning; The Lion's Roar - A Commentary to The Highest Continuum; The Inseparability of Wind and Mind; The Self-Formed Ornament of Realisation - Distinguishing Consciousness and Wisdom, and Teachings on Buddha-Nature, among other teachings on the main works of the Drogon Kagyu Lineage.
Outwardly, you maintain the welfare of fortunate individuals to be tamed;
Inwardly, you benevolently maintain the wheel of the doctrine;
Secretly, you maintain the assurance of rigpa in the ocean of the two stages.
The life example you maintain is one that pleases all Buddhas.
(3) The manner in which he increased his wondrous activities of benefitting others impartially.
In December 1999. He met Kyabje Thrangu Rinpoche in Nepal and then went on pilgrimage.
In January 2000 he went to the noble land of India, where, among other topics, he gave teachings on The Vinaya Tika Sun Mandala at the Thrangu Vajra Vidya Higher Monastic College of Varanasi. He then spent the summer break at Thrangu Monastery in Nepal, before returning to Varanasi to continue teaching.
In September of that year, he met Chamgon Tai Situ Rinpoche when he attended the Karma Gucho debates, which were taking place in Sherab Ling. All of the khenpos and students who had assembled for the debates went to meet HH Gyalwang Karmapa. This was followed by Dharma discussions and examinations for the college students. At this time he attended a Manjushri empowerment lovingly bestowed by HH Karmapa to the entire assembly.
While the debates were in progress, Chamgon Tai Situ Rinpoche gave instruction on the profoundly secret and unsurpassable Mahamudra Ocean of Definitive Meaning to the whole assembly. Once the debates had been excellently concluded Karma Lhabu went with all of the college students on pilgrimage to the holy lake of Tsopema.
At this time Lama Puntsok made an earnest request to Kyabje Yongdzin Thrangu Rinpoche and received his approval to invite Karma Lhabu to Lekshey Ling Monastery.
Once there he taught Karmapa Mikyo Dorje's Great Commentary on Entering the Middle Way and the Great Commentary on Prajnaparamita. However, whilst teaching he became ill; this and several other factors, such as the establishment of a new Dharma centre in Taiwan under the auspices of Khenchen Sherab Zangpo, forced him to leave before the teachings were concluded, much to his deep regret.
In May 2001, having made a gradual return to good health, he travelled to Singapore, where he visited the Karma Choying Kunkyab Ling Dharma Centre, before heading to Taiwan.
Here, with the hope of aiding the activity of the one who had shown him the two types of great kindness31
, Khenchen Sherab Zangpo, he gave empowerments and teachings at the opening of Dodon Kundrub Dharma Centre. However, he said, " Since I don't know Chinese, not only am I not doing anything of benefit for myself or anybody else, if I stay in Taiwan this life will be squandered. I think I should leave."
Around this time he was in retreat for a while, following which, he was repeatedly encouraged to stay longer by his dharma family and friends, who said that now that he had arrived it would be excellent if he could remain for some time. So he decided to stay.
Reflecting upon the possibility of being able to explain the Dharma in and translate some of the scriptures into Chinese triggered a strong determination within him; hence, he went to study Chinese at The Mountain Dharma Drum, amongst other places.
During this time he travelled to bestow empowerments and give teachings in various Dharma centres, including a trip to Malaysia. On his return to Taiwan, whilst continuing his study of Chinese, he also founded a Dharma centre called Chokyi Drin Pung Ling.
As a result of Kyabje Thrangu Rinpoche’s repeated exhortations, made on several occasions, Karma Lhabu returned to Nepal via India in March 2004.
In the morning of the 23rd of March, along with Kyabje Thrangu Rinpoche and a large gathering, the Nyishang Katayi Puk Retreat Centre was excellently inaugurated. In the evening, having set in place the boundary marker, he gave the reading transmission and instructions for Dorje Phurba (Vajra Kilaya) to the retreatants.
The next day (the 24th of March) he started to explain and give guidance on The Torch of Certainty, Marpa and the other Guru Yogas, Chod, Notes on the Creation Stage, and the Seven Points of Mind Training. He then gave explanations and guidance for the preliminaries of Mahamudra Ocean of Definitive Meaning; Mahamudra Dispelling the Darkness of Ignorance; Mahamudra Pointing Out the Dharmakaya, which were all effective. He also gave the reading transmissions for Khorlo Demchog, Dorje Pagmo, and Gyalwa Gyamtso.
At the end of June he visited both HH Gyalwang Karmapa and HE Tai Situ Rinpoche in India before leaving for South-East Asia, where he bestowed empowerments and gave teachings in Taipei and Singapore, whilst continuing to compose a history of the Kagyu Lineage. In Taiwan he made plans for the founding of Kagyu Nangten Loling.
On his return to Nepal and the retreat centre, he gave instructions on the actual practice of Mahamudra; Words of My Perfect Teacher, and on the cycle of instructions for the practices of Dorje Pagmo and Mahakala.
In March 2005, after the successful completion of these teachings, he travelled to India, Hong Kong and Taiwan, including a visit to Kagyu Nangten Loling. In each place he gave whatever teachings the people there desired with a feeling of great responsibility for the theoretical and practice based teachings that had arisen within him.
In brief, this holy master, relied without bias on more than thirteen spiritual masters from all of Tibet's schools: Sakya, Gelug, and Nyingma, as well as Jonang, Drukpa, Karma and so on. Just as a youthful bee strives for nutritious honey, he avoided any form of sectarianism regarding the entire range of scriptural traditions of sutra and mantra, and all of the greater and lesser fields of knowledge.
By means of the three pleasing acts and his correct way of relying on these spiritual masters, he perfected within himself, each and every one of their excellent qualities of realisation and relinquishment. He then travelled to many different countries and spread far and wide the teachings of scripture and realisation.
In the sky of your mind - undisturbed great voidness,
Shines the united sun and moon of Mahamudra and Dzogchen.
In the state of pristine rigpa, with meditative equipoise and post-meditation undifferentiated,
You, the ultimate yogi, pacified the display of conceptual complexity.
In particular, he practised and accomplished Dharma, never leaving that which was learnt as a mere intellectual understanding. From the time he crossed the Dharma's threshold he was:
Busy studying and contemplating by day,
Relaxed in meditative concentration by night.
Through constant practice of the "four thoughts that turn the mind32
" he totally severed attachment to this life; with a constantly kind heart he sought the welfare of others, and with one-pointed determination he strove for the true nature of genuine reality. Therefore he is a great spiritual master in name and truth.
Since the time is not yet right and since great caution is necessary when disclosing that which is secret, a great deal is not included here. Such things as the way his mind was focused one-pointedly on the essential truth at all times and in all situations, whether staying in towns, mountain solitudes or monasteries; the way experience and realisation arose within him, and the way he offered his realisation to the Lama, have not been mentioned here. Yet leaving it incomplete creates the auspicious circumstance for the writing of his secret story of liberation at a later date.
Of the areas yet to be included are the Master’s many Dharma teachings, expressions of realisation, poetry, commentaries, spiritual songs, and more of his spiritual history and life example.
The supreme individual and guardian of beings, Karma Lhabu, is present right now as a beautiful adornment of our freshest virtue; unshakable are his two vajra-feet upon the blazing throne of changelessness; by means of his pure altruistic mind, regarding the teachings and living beings, he spreads the scripture and realisation of theory and practice; and indeed may it remain so.
Through the coming together of excellent aspirations and auspicious circumstances,
As an object of faith, we have arranged a fraction, a mere particle,
Of the deeds of this genuine spiritual master,
Who is complete in all ways with every quality of stability and knowledge.
Moreover, this liberation story is free from adaptation and blight.
Devoid of exaggeration, denigration, bias and drivel.
Any past accounts received were all checked and accurately recorded.
Authentic in this way, it is a pure story of liberation.
Master! We wish that your dharmachakra feet33
Remain excellently and steadfastly until the end of existence
As the unshakable and dignified crowning gem of this land.
By this, may the splendour of wellbeing and happiness beautify the three planes34.
Due to writing this holy Bodhisattva's liberation story,
And every mass of virtue accumulated in the three times,
May the lives of all who uphold the teachings be stable,
And may virtuous activity permeate the limits of space.
So, that is the brief liberation story of Karma Lhabu - the incomparably great spiritual master. Due to the heartfelt wish of the disciples born from the master's speech, this was written free from the bonds of prosody and poetry and can be easily understood by all, as the style of composition is clear.
It was written by both Thubten Sonam Senge - who has studied a myriad of textual traditions over a long period of time; and the one called Tulku Norpa at the place called Serjong Lama Rung (Serta Dharma Encampment). It was completed on the thirteenth of November in 2001 and updated slightly in April 2004.
Virtue! Virtue! Virtue!
Translated by Karma Kunga in the Spring of 2011 at Sekar Retreat Centre.
Three-fold faith or the three types of faith are: vivid faith, eager faith and
confident faith. This is how they are translated in Padmakara’s translation of
“Words of My Perfect Teacher;” which also contains a brief explanation for each
The two accumulations are the accumulation of merit and the accumulation of
3 These are: the benefit of oneself and the benefit of others.
4 The two types of knowledge are the wisdom of knowing the nature as it is,
and the wisdom of perceiving all that exists. (Rangjung Yeshe Dict)
“Lord of sages” and “Kinsman
of the Sun” are both epithets for Buddha Shakyamuni
abundance: the abundance of Dharma, the abundance of wealth, the abundance of
desirables, and the abundance of liberation.
The ten virtues are: Three good actions
of body. 1) Not destroying life. 2) Not taking what has not been given. 3)
Refraining from improper sexual practices. Four
good actions of speech. 4) Not telling falsehoods. 5) Not using abusive
language. 6) Not slandering others. 7) Not indulging in irrelevant talk. Three good actions of mind. 8) Not
being covetous. 9) Not being malicious. 10) Not holding destructive beliefs.
The three trainings are: the training in right conduct, the training in
samadhi, and the training in wisdom.
The Vinaya is one of the three pitakas or baskets and teaches the code of
conduct for Buddhists, both lay and ordained.
Karma Lhabu is known by a few
different names and titles. Karma Lhabu is the name he was given at birth and
means Wednesday/Thursday, meaning that he was born between a Wednesday and a
Thursday. This name is quite original and should be pronounced more like Karma
Lhagpur. Over time people started to call him by the more common name of Lhabu,
meaning “Son of the Gods.” It is the custom to receive a new name on being
ordained and Karma Lhabu received the name Thubten Karma Shenpen: Thubten is
the name of his preceptor, Karma shows that he belongs to the Karma Kagyu
tradition, and Shenpen means “Beneficial to Others” or “Benevolence.” He is
also known by various titles such as Khenpo Lhabu meaning Professor Lhabu; Khen
Rinpoche meaning Precious Learned One; and Drupon Rinpoche meaning Precious
Master or Precious Retreat Master.
This refers to Bodhgaya in the Indian state of Bihar, where Buddha Shakyamuni
(the Lord of Sages) demonstrated Buddhahood.
Epithet of Avalokiteshvara
“Kye ma” is an exclamation of
surprise or a call for everyone to listen.
This is connected to a legend of the moon having arisen from the ocean.
The three vows are; “the vows
of personal liberation,” of the Shravakayana; the Bodhisattva vows, of the
Mahayana; and the vows of secret mantra, of the Vajrayana.
This is the tradition in which
local lay community members invite monks and nuns from the monastery to do
prayers in their homes.
 The two types of extreme conduct are for an ordained
Sangha member to fall into the extreme of either having 1) excessive material
support, or 2) a dearth of material support.
This should be sbyangs ba'I
yon tan bcu gnyis - The twelve good qualities to be trained in. They
are as follows: I. The first three are:
1) "Begging for alms"; 2) "One seat"; and 3) "Not
taking food later". II. The second
three are: 4) "Three robes"; 5) "Felt robes"; and 6)
"Cast offs". III. The last six
are: 7) "Seclusion"; 8) "Sitting under a tree"; 9)
"Without shelter"; 10) "Amidst charnel grounds"; 11)
"Sitting up"; 12) "Same base". (Illuminator Dictionary)
The three types of pleasing action are: 1) offering material things to the Lama
2) Offering service to the Lama 3) Offering our practice of the Dharma based on
the Lama’s instructions.
The two-staged path refers to the creation stage and the completion stage.
An udumbadra flower is said to be an extremely rare flower appearing only once
in a kalpa.
In this instance the “outer
boundary,” means not meeting people from outside of the retreat, and “inner
boundary,” means not meeting people who stay within the retreat.
“Ema” is a joyful exclamation.
A snowfall is considered to be
“The Peak of Vehicles’
Secrets” refers to Dzogchen instructions.
The three types of kindness are: 1) The kindness of bestowing empowerments 2)
The kindness of explaining the Tantras 3) The kindness of giving pith
Vidyadhara is often translated as “knowledge holder,” or “awareness
Samaya are the commitments
that come with the Vajrayana.
It is taught there are some
days or months when the results of positive and negative actions are heavily
This is the longer name of
Serta Dharma Encampment.
These two kindnesses are kindness in regards to Dharma and kindness in regards
to worldly matters.
The four thoughts that turn the mind are the contemplations on: 1) The precious
human birth 2) Impermanence 3) Karma cause and effect 4) The shortcomings of
The feet being marked with a
dharmachakra (dharmawheel) is one of the 32 excellent marks of a great being.
The three planes mean above the ground, below the ground, and upon the ground.