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Interview with Shamar Rinpoche 5 July 2011 by Erik Curren, the author of Buddha’s Not Smiling.

Q. Rinpoche, you conducted a ceremony at the first World Peace Monlam Chenmo in Nepal, on November 22, 2010 in Kathmandu, bestowing the Amitabha Inititation to a large group of followers – according to the number of blessing threads distributed to attendees, 120,000 people. Adherents came mostly from distant hill areas to receive the initiation. Were you satisfied with this unusual event?

Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche:

No, I was not satisfied.
For this event, Buddhist people in the hill areas were informed, and as they have a great amount of devotion, they took impressive hardships upon themselves to come and attend the event. Many people walked for several days to reach the bus station, and then they had to take the bus for many hours to reach Kathmandu. Some were nauseated from the bus ride, and car sickness caused them to vomit. Once they reached the capital, the difficulties continued. They needed to find lodging and food which was affordable for them. Then, when receiving the initiation, they had to stand in line for hours. Some people fainted because of the heat. When they finally reached me, a pot decorated in silver and gold touched their head for two seconds. That was all.

Q. Does it mean that the silver pot which you use during the initiation is just a symbolic object?

Touching the head with a silver pot is just a Tibetan tradition. People believe that there is a blessing power in that act, but there is a lot of superstition involved. I recited the long dharani of Buddha Amitayus constantly. That had certainly more blessing than the pot I put on people’s head. Dharani has more power. But Maha Siddhas  (great yogis) who could perform (power) by the object existed during the time of Mila Repa or at the most during the Thantong Gyalpo in Tibet.  Nowadays it’s almost not possible.

Q. Will you conduct the same ceremony again?

Yes  in November, this year, I have been requested by the Newari Buddhist community of Patan to give another initiation. Fifty thousand people are announced to come, but I won’t be surprised if again more than 100,000 come to attend.

Q. You stated on your website that you are not interested in encouraging young people to become monks or nuns. Can you say some more about your reasoning here?

Concerning the youth, instead of making children nuns and monks at a young age, there should be a school where subject on“Basic Buddhism” should be taught to all young girls and boys. In this way, the younger generation will learn about Buddhism throughout their school years, and by the time they are ready to graduate and look for a job, they will have a good basic knowledge of Buddhism. If some of them should decide to enter the Dharma in a committed way, such as entering a monastery, they will be able to make their decision on the basis of an already acquired knowledge of the Dharma. It will then be very easy for them to absorb the Dharma in a profound way. The lamas who teach in the villages should do so without sectarian politics, without any regard to the lineage in which they have been trained in. They should simply teach the Dharma.

Q.  So, just to make sure it’s clear, you were not satisfied with the ceremony you held in November 2010. Is this correct?

I have to add that despite the objections that I have pronounced here in regard to big initiation events, there has been one great pleasure and satisfaction upon coming to Nepal last year, and that was seeing the unification of all the indigenous Buddhists in the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Peoples. I do believe that such a Federation of unified Buddhists can contribute an important part to re-establishing peace and prosperity in this country.

Shamar Rinpoche gives Amitabha initiation to 120,000 people in Nepal

Shamar Rinpoche gave an Amitabha initiation to his followers in Nepal, in the field behind the Grand Hotel in Boudhanath. Roughly 120,000 people attended, many of whom were from the Helambu (Yolmo) region, whose ancestors were followers of past Sharmapas— in particular the 8th Shamarpa who was born in Yolmo. Many Newari Buddhists from Kathmandu also attended, who likewise claim ancestors that were disciples of past Shamarpas. The event was organized jointly by many indigenous Buddhist organizations in Nepal. The ceremony lasted roughly 9 hours, and eventually the local authorities had to close the roads leading to the site so that the ceremony did not last for days.

Click here to see the pictures >>>

4-day empowerment by H.H. the 70th Je Khenpo at Trashichhodzong

29 July, 2011 – The 14th Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, Mepham Chokyi Lodro, who resides in New Delhi, India, is receiving an oral transmission and empowerment of Chhag Chhen Jazhung from His Holiness the 70th Je Khenpo, Trulku Jigme Chhoedra, at Tashichhodzong in Thimphu.

The four-day oral transmission, which started on July 26, concludes today.

Shamar Rinpoche said the primary reason for receiving this teaching was to transmit it to the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Thrinley Thaye Dorjee.

According to Shamar Rinpoche, the Kagyupa has two unique lineages. The Naro Chhoedrug, which means six doctrines of Naropa, was transmitted to Marpa, and from Marpa to Milarepa, and from Milarepa to Gampopa, who instituted the whole Kagyupa school.

Chhaja Chhenpo is another unique subject of Kagyuepa, which means, just as Ningmapa has Dzogchhen, Kagyupa has Chhaja Chhenpo.

Rinpoche said the Chhaja Chhenpo text is mainly about teachings on how to meditate, like starting from mind turning meditation to the ultimate level of enlightenment. The mahamudra teaching is also the lineage that came to Marpa from his root guru Maitrepa, who is the famous Mahasida.

Maitrepa taught mahamudra to Marpa, who has two main lineages, six yogas and six doctrines of Naropa. Another is mahamudra meditation, the teachings from Maitrepa. So, Marpa taught Milarepa and Milerapa taught Gampopa, and ultimately Gampopa propagated in Tibet.

These mahamudra teachings were all collected by the 6th Karmapa and is called Chhaja Chhenpoi Jazhung. Chhaja Chhenpo is the name of the particular meditation and Jazhung means all the doctrines written by Indian Mahasidas and Mahapundits.

The 7th Gyalwa Karmapa collected all the Jazhungs to organise in one set and published it to spread this lineage. But lineage is more or less disappearing.

“Everybody likes to go for Naropa’s six yogas and they may have received brief teachings of mahamudra, but they did not go to all the texts. That is why the lineage has been shrunk. But some high lamas are holding the lineage,” Shamar Rinpoche said.

The 15th Karmapa, Khachhab Dorji, a disciple of Kongtrul Lodroe Thayae, gave this oral transmission to Kheywang Tenzin Gyatsho, who is a famous teacher in the Drukpa Kagyu school, and he gave it to His Holiness the 68th Je Khenpo, Tenzin Dondrup, who has this lineage and transmitted it to the present Je Khenpo.

Rinpoche said that his master plan is to collect and organise all the Jazhungs written by all the Chhagja Chhenpo Masters. Until now he had published 11 volumes of Jazhungs.

An article written by By Chencho Wangdi

Published here:

Shamar Rinpoché speaks about Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoché’s divination – 1973

Trungpa Rinpoché sent me this eight-point prediction letter in 1973. He wrote it in his own hand, as he was young and able at that time. Rinpoché asked his personal deity for a pramana prediction concerning my activity. During the rituals called létsok, or activity practices, a deity is invoked – a yidam or Dharma protector – and highly accomplished practitioners can ask them questions. Their answers appear in a mirror. Trungpa Rinpoché’s deity for this practice was the deity Lhamo Youdrönma, Goddess of the Turquoise Lamp. Rinpoché copied her answers from the mirror and sent them to me via Aché Tséphel, the secretary of the 16th Karmapa. I still have this letter.
– Shamar Rinpoché, June 2010

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoché’s original letter

Word by word translation with Tibetan

Concerning Kyabjé Shamar Rinpoché’s life prediction:

Dzaya Ho!

Everlasting, indestructible Vajra Spring: the profound, clear symbolic wording is shown by Youdrönma, Turquoise Lamp, unconstrained and unhurried.

Always keep the life deity of emerald radiance in your innermost heart.

The light of the evil youth’s messenger will be burnt by the fire of the end of time.

Please do the ritual of the Wrathful Guru!

The darkness of the era can be consumed by the fire of the ruby-colored crown.

The ring of five times ten (age) should be inserted into the mantra of indestructible life.

Accomplish Vajrakilaya which overcomes black magic and vigorously purify through the practice of Mamaki!

Beware of those intoxicated and maddened elephants who would stir up internal conflicts.

There is the possibility that the prosperous yellow intellectualists will damage the lineage of true meaning. Therefore, sharpen the speartip of your wise and prudent mind.

Please do a closed three-year, three-fortnight retreat in the very blessed practice place of the holy masters, the vajra rock mountain which glitters like gold.

By the white light of Vajrasattva, you will move to the non-meditation level of Dharmakaya.

In your innermost heart, please develop these points.


At the request of the Bodhi Path administrators and several of his oldest disciples, both Tibetans and non-Tibetans, Shamar Rinpoché has agreed to present this precious prediction letter. He asked me to work on the translation and guided me through the wording. Below are some of the additional explanations he gave for the sake of clarification. The original letter is attached in .pdf format for reference.
– Pamela Gayle White, translator, June 2010

In the first three lines, Lhamo Youdrönma, Goddess of the Turquoise Lamp, says: I will give profound and clear instructions about your present and future activity. Her words indicate that Shamar Rinpoché should do the practice of the emerald-colored deity, Green Tara. Rinpoché explains that this was really quite wonderful, because at the time he was in fact writing a Green Tara practice sadhana which many lamas are now using. Trungpa Rinpoché couldn’t possibly have known this – they had met briefly when Shamarpa was young but had no personal contact at that time of the prediction. In 1973 the rinpochés who lived on different continents had to communicate by sending letters through the post – it seems that even exchanging Happy New Years cards was a challenge.

The next three verses indicate that Shamar Rinpoché, who was 23, was in a phase in his life where he might be distracted by his youthful energy. He explains that he needed the light of a very strong remedy that could outshine the youthful light of romance, as these distractions could potentially disrupt his beneficial activity. The powerful light that could burn through obstacles was Guru Drakpo, the practice of a wrathful aspect of Padmasambhava.

Shamar Rinpoché says that a year or so after receiving this letter, he went to Dharamsala with the 16th Karmapa, as there were official meetings with the Dalaï Lama and the government-in-exile there. He was very ill with food poisoning contracted in the Punjabi city of Ludhiana, so he stayed behind and was sleeping alone in the Dalai Lama’s guest house. Suddenly, there appeared at the door an extremely powerful-looking monk in a yellow cap who seemed intent on harming Rinpoché. Rinpoché thought he must be the deity Shukden; he explains that at the time there was general concern about problems related to certain practices of the Gelug sect. He immediately invoked Guru Padmasambhava. “I tried to imagine myself in his form,” Rinpoché says, “thinking that I needed to develop lovingkindness and compassion as Padmasambhava had in order to get rid of this demon. I concentrated very hard, then looked up and saw that he had disappeared – now I only saw the door shutter. Up until this time, I had not been so aware of Guru Rinpoché – of course, I did not doubt the power of his practice, but it had not been a focus of mine. After that, I did the practice much more seriously.”

The next verse refers to the ruby crown which, according to Tibetan history, refers to the Shamarpas – ‘sha’ means hat or crown; ‘mar’ means red. It states that it would be possible for the Shamarpa to eliminate the darkness of an era, but the time is not indicated. Since the 14th Shamar Rinpoché carries the Shamarpa title, because of his past karma he may be connected to one of the Shamarpas who made such a wish, and great benefit might spontaneously occur through his activity. In the divination, Youdrönma doesn’t say: Shamar Rinpoché should do this; rather, she is saying that beneficial activity may naturally happen based on past wishes.

As for the next verse, Rinpoché believes it refers to being 49 years old – Tibetans consider this to be an age where life-endangering obstacles are more likely to arise than most other years. Because Lhamo Youdrön specifically said that at fifty he should do this specific practice, Shamarpa went with Sangzang Rinpoché by helicopter to the Marathika cave in Nepal where Trulshik Rinpoché was practicing at the time. There they received the Chimé Phagma White Tara long life empowerments from him in very auspicious circumstances, as this was the cave where Guru Rinpoché accomplished his own long life practice.

As for the Vajrakilaya and Mamaki practices she mentioned, Rinpoché explains that he has already done them.

Concerning the verses that begin with the mad elephant, it seems that these directly refer to the ongoing Karma Kagyu controversies. Rinpoché says, “I can now say that I did not follow Youdrönma’s explanations carefully enough. I did not know who to be careful about and many mistakes were made – collaboration and betrayal took place but I did not expect them. I was wary of outsiders, yes, but not of insiders, and the mad, intoxicated elephants turned out to be people I never would have suspected – people from inside our organization who collaborated with outsiders.”

This controversy is well documented in works such as the Karmapa Papers; The Buddha Cries! Karmapa Conundrum by Anil Maheshwari of the Hindustani Times; Buddha’s Not Smiling by Eric Curren; and the Karmapa Prophesies by Sylvia Wong – there is no need to explain these topics again here. The books of Lea Terhune, Mick Brown and Michelle Martin tell the other angle of the story. Rinpoché says that there is no ‘religious’ pressure to take sides; readers are free to inform themselves and make their own conclusions about where the truth lies.

The rest of the divination verse refers to Shamarpa’s meditation practice. It says that he should do certain practices according to connections from past lives. The end of the divination infers that a very high level of meditation can be achieved in this lifetime.

An Answer to a Question Raised about Bodhi Path

After observing this movement for 30 years, my conclusion is that Vajrayana is not really suitable for most people in both the West and in Asia, including Tibet. You cannot generalize, of course. There are certainly exceptions, but in most cases it is not suitable. Since sex is taught as the main core of tantric practice in the West and this does not benefit anyone, what is generally practiced as Tantra in the West is based on a big misunderstanding.

I have paid close attention to the kinds of qualities required to ensure the suitability of tantric practice for particular people. It depends on the three factors of cause, condition and effect. The cause: people who have some karmic connection to it. Though one may be in a lower human life, some deep karma is the cause of one’s connection to Vajrayana practice. The condition: the conditions conducive to tantric practice are, generally, that one belongs to a society that is in nature quite aggressive and one must be filled with emotions. The effect: though one lives in bad conditions, in other words the afflictions are stronger, at the same time one has strong willpower to struggle against hardships. Therefore tantra was very suitable during the middle ages in Asia. For example, it flourished at a time in India when people became more aggressive and suffered from more afflictions. It also remained suitable until around the 14th century in Tibet and the Himalayas.

I think that nowadays the Bodhisattvayana with a high level of meditation is most suitable for the majority of people. That is why I organized Bodhi Path Centers to combine Atisha’s Kadampa lineage with Mahamudra meditation in Gampopa’s tradition. There are actually two uses of the term Mahamudra within Gampopa’s work: one is tantric and the other is his explanation of the meditation that Buddha taught in the Samadhiraja sutra. We see the latter in the titles of texts he wrote about meditation that are based on the Samadhiraja Sutra. When I use the term Mahamudra here, I am referring to the Mahamudra of the Samadhiraja meditation tradition, not to the tantric Mahamudra.

Bodhi Path Centers are established as learning centers. They are places where you can learn Dharma, learn and practice meditation, and continue to lead a normal life. Bodhi Path is not an organization that enforces compulsory rules of behavior. The moral conduct that we encourage is simply the avoidance of the 10 non-virtues: avoid the physical non-virtues of killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct; the verbal non-virtues of lying, slander, harsh speech and divisive speech; and the mental non-virtues of hatred, desire, and ignorance. In addition to that, practitioners should avoid intoxication and blind faith. Keeping these guidelines of moral conduct is your protection, not a set of laws to be followed for their own sake. You should learn what these non-virtues are and learn to avoid them. The Buddhist view of moral conduct is that it will shield you like strong armor.

In addition to avoiding the 10 non-virtuous actions, intoxication and blind faith, you should learn and implement the attitude of a bodhisattva: bodhicitta. This will help you to accumulate vast amounts of merit. Combine this with learning how to meditate according to the teachings on mindfulness and you will achieve the best results.

In the Buddha’s time, becoming a monk or a nun meant full renunciation. Monastics renounced everything. They spent their days and nights in meditation, begged for food from villages and towns, and didn’t have so much as a penny. It was especially important for them to keep strict discipline since they had to show themselves to be different from ordinary beggars through their conduct. They had to keep their dignity. In all developed countries these days, both in the West and in Asia, becoming a monk or a nun is no longer the only or best possibility to really implement the teachings. One the one hand, where people pay lots of taxes, insurance, etc. it is not practical to live as a monastic; and on the other hand, in the Tibetan tradition monks and nuns do not in any case keep the full vinaya discipline. It’s not that it is impossible to become a monk or nun any more, but I think it is unnecessary unless you can keep the discipline of full ordination which means keeping the 253 vows, etc..

The suitability of particular practices and lifestyles is dependent on the era we live in and the nature of the society we live in. Whatever is the most suitable method for transforming people is the highest yana (vehicle). Likewise, what is suitable for fewer people is the middle yana, and what is suitable for very few people is the lowest or so-called hina-yana. All methods for attaining enlightenment were given by the Buddha, but the one most suitable for your development as it is taught to you by a master is the supreme yana. Therefore the curriculum in my Bodhi Path Centers is based on the suitability for people today. While some Vajrayana practice is of course alright, like Chenrezik practice, for example, for the most part I recommend that practitioners concentrate on avoiding the ten non-virtuous actions, keeping the bodhisattva attitude, and learning the levels of mindfulness.

– Shamarpa

May 16, 2010 – A week of teachings in Dhagpo Kagyu Ling, France.

The teachings were based on Mipham Rinpoché’s Gateway to Knowledge as well as on Rinpoché’s own research into Buddhist philosophy. Shamar Rinpoché began in 2009 with an extensive teaching on the 51 mental events. This year’s teachings also focused on the skandhas (aggregates) and continued into the dhatus (elements or constituents). Rinpoché continue the remainder of the teaching in the following year.

The final three days were open to the public. Hundreds of people of all ages and origins came to hear Rinpoché give an overview of the lojong (“mind training”) teaching as presented in his book, The Path to Awakening. He emphasized the importance of meditation as a solid foundation for putting lojong into practice. Rinpoché suggested that practitioners who were interested in making lojong their life practice might consider beginning with one year of training in shamatha (Tib: shiné) followed by one year of vipassana (Tib: lhaktong) before concentrating on tonglen, the active visualization practice of sending happiness to all beings and taking on their difficulties as presented in the lojong teachings.

Rinpoché made it clear that lojong was a complete practice that could lead sincere practitioners all the way to enlightenment.

Shamar Rinpoche gives Chenrezig Empowerment and meditation teachings at Bodhi Path Chicago

On October 2 & 3, Shamar Rinpoche visited Bodhi Path Buddhist Center of Chicago.

On Friday, Rinpoche performed a private Rabne ceremony to consecrate the center’s new Buddha statues. Friday evening, Rinpoche gave teachings on "Calming the Turbulent Mind," focusing on methods for shamatha meditation (Tib: Shi-nay) that develop mind’s stability and reduce distraction and self-clinging. His teachings were based on his new book, The Path to Awakening, in which he provides a curriculum of practice recommended for all dharma practitioners, and particularly those studying and practicing at Bodhi Path Buddhist centers.

On Saturday, Rinpoche provided in-depth teachings on the practice of Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, followed by a precious initiation (empowerment) into the practice of Chenrezig.

Photos of the event are available at this Photo Gallery.

Teachings at Bodhi Path Natural Bridge, USA

From September 25-27, 2009, at the Bodhi Path Buddhist Center of Natural Bridge, Virginia (USA), Shamar Rinpoche gave teachings on Lojong (Mind Training) and Bodhisattva vows to approximately 175 program attendees. Based on his new book, The Path to Awakening, Rinpoche’s teachings were his second in a sequence of transmissions on the Seven Points of Mind Training. These teachings represent Rinpoche’s synthesis of a curriculum of practice he is recommending for all dharma practitioners, and particularly those at Bodhi Path Buddhist centers. The event also marked the annual meeting for members of Bodhi Path Buddhist centers.

On the first day, Rinpoche continued his teachings from the previous year on the preliminaries of mind training, focusing on the methods for shamatha (Tib: Shi-nay) meditation as a remedy for anger, pride and ignorance. These practices are aimed at developing mind’s stability and reducing distraction and self-clinging. On the second day, Rinpoche taught on ultimate Bodhicitta, related to vipassana (Tib: Lhaktong) methods for removing ignorance. With the foundation and stability of shamatha, these methods of insight and analysis provide direct experience of the unborn nature of mind.

Photos of the event are available at this Photo Gallery.