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Khakyab Dorje - Fifteenth Karmapa

Fifteenth Karmapa Khakyab Dorje was born in Shelkar in province of Tsang in a year of Iron Sheep (1871). When just arrived in the world, his parents found that between his eyebrows a long white hair is growing – exactly like to Buddha Shakyamuni. Khakyab Dorje had exceptionally quick and strong mind and at age of four was already composing prayers.

When the boy was six years old, he was recognized as a new incarnation of Karmapa, Lama of Black Crown. Leading role for this was playing a prediction letter written by his predecessor Thegchog Dorje. Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye, Jamyang Khyentse and Drugchen Minjur Wangi Gyalpo all confirmed the legacy of Fifteenth Karmapa and afterwards organized an enthronement ceremony in Tsurphu, which was also called “the Golden Throne”. Vows of novice the boy took under the guidance of Drugchen Rinpoche.

Khakyab Dorje was a very diligent student. Already in early infancy he learned wisdoms of Dharma of Great Vehicle and also logics and astrology. At age of eight he created a special altar for Mahakala and composed a prayer- invocation of the Protector of Teaching.

In 1881 Karmapa and his party paid a visit to Thirteenth Dalai-lama Thubten Gyamtso (1876 - 1933) and spent some time with his entourage. When he returned in Tsurphu, Karmapa started to study under guidance of Khenchen Tashi Özer (1836-1910), well known scholar and abbot of Palpung monastery. This Lama gave him full transmission of Tripitaka texts. Another teacher of Fifteenth Karmapa was Pawo Rinpoche, under whose guidance Khakyab Dorje studied the work in six volumes “Terma of Rigdzin Jatson Nyingpo”. In 1886 Karmapa went to Palpung – to visit Kongtrül Rinpoche. The aged scholar gave him initiations, transmissions of texts and oral instructions regarding his completed works named “Five Treatises”. These series contain over a hundred volumes, composed by Jamgön Kongtrül, with his annotations and self-commentaries. Primary and secondary traditions of philosophical thought and practice are represented in this collection from the point of view of Rime. “Five Treatises” have had a huge impact on the next developments in Dharma in Tibet and beyond its borders. Under guidance of Kongtrül Rinpoche, Khakyab Dorje took a Bodhisattva vow and Kalachakra initiations together with oral instructions.

From Palpung Karmapa with his party departed to Dzongsar, the great monastery of Sakya school. There he again met Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche and received teachings from him. To this time Khakyab Dorje restored in his memory many events from his previous lifes and in honour of that composed a poem dedicated to the Bodhisattva path. A litle later Karmapa visited the Head of Drukpa Kagyu in his residency – monastery Sang Ngag Choling. He found there the new incarnation of Drugchen and taught him basics of Dharma.

In 1888 Khakyab Dorje returned to his main monastery to study again from Kongtrül Rinpoche. Among the subjects he studied were Sanskrit, Medicine, Art, Madhyamaka, Prajña-paramita, Vinaya, Abhidharma and Five treatises of Maitreya. When he visited Dzongsar monastery again, he received transmission of all sadhanas of Sakya tradition from Khyentse Rinpoche. As he returned in Palpung he met again Jamgön Kongtrül, who gave him traditions of Shangpa Kagyu tradition. During this period of his life Karmapa was studying days and nights long.

In 1890 Karmapa found and enthroned Eleventh Situ Rinpoche, giving him a name Pema Wangchuk Gyalpo. Additionally he researched all storage rooms in monasteries of Sang Ngag Choling, Lhasa and Samye and also the Shrine of pilgrimage in Tsari and found there several hidden treasures of texts. It was said during his searches Dakis and Dakinis have been assisting to him.

After returning back to Tsurphu, Khakyab Dorje established a new spiritual institute there and accomplished a refurbishment of the main hall for ceremonies. In Lhasa he built a new shrine of Five sisters – patronesses of a long life. The idea to build this temple, which was built in honour of the agreement and happiness in Tibet and around the world, belonged to the Dalai Lama.

After some while, Karmapa arrived in Palpung’s monastery to his teacher Kongtrul Rinpoche and received his blessings, teachings and transmission of texts “Lama Gongdu”. When he arrived to Tsurphu, His Holiness started to design new decorations and costumes for ritual dances of Mahakala, Black Coat. Except of this, Khakyab Dorje ordered the edition of works of Jamgön Kongtrül “The Precious Treasure Teachings” (Tibetan: rin chen gter mdzod), consisting of sixty-three volumes, and his own works. These two sets of texts were the only complete collection of works of scholars of Karma Kagyu tradition, published in the Tibet.

In 1898 Khakyab Dorje did a short visit to Bhutan after invitation from Urgyen Wangchuk -the King of this country. Karmapa was received with festive honours and gave to king many teachings of Dharma. After his return to Tibet, His Holiness married several women, fulfilling the prophecy of his main teacher. He later recognized the rebirth of Kongtrül Rinpoche and Pawo Rinpoche - the first of them was his own son. To these boys and Situ Rinpoche he gave many profound teachings of Kagyu tradition.

Few years later Karmapa handed the management over the lineage to Situpa, Kongtrül Rinpoche and Palpung Khyentse Rinpoche, and went into retreat for ten years.

At age of fifty-one, in 1922, Karmapa Khakyab Dorje left the world. Some while before his death he noticed the closest assistant Jampal Tsultrim about the circumstances of his next rebirth. After decease of His Holiness, the New Year’s ceremonies were held in extraordinary way: trumpets were directed towards east – according to the wish of Khakyab Dorje, expressed ten years earlier, instead of being directed to south as traditionally in Tibet.

Main students of His Holiness Fifteenth Karmapa Khakyab Dorje were Situ Pema Wangchuk Gyalpo, Jamgön Kongtrül Khyentse Özer, Palpung Khyentse Tulku and Gyaltsab Rinpoche.