Category Archives: Letters, News and Statements

I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who joined me in supporting Mrs Mariam Yahia Ibrahim in her fight for freedom.

Thanks to all of you speaking out her death sentence has been reversed and she and her newborn daughter are said to be reunited with her family in the coming days.

This will not truly be a victory until she has actually been released. We must continue to fight for her and all the women in the world who find themselves under oppression and their human rights being violated.

This wonderful news for Mrs Ibrahim shows when we speak out the world listens.

Shamar Rinpoche

A letter of support for Mrs Miriam Yehya Ibrahim

I would like to show my support for Mrs Miriam Yehya Ibrahim of

Her wrongful imprisonment and sentence to public whipping and death goes against international standards of Human rights. This is not an internal issue of one country but one that affects all of humanity.

I ask that everyone including world leaders and Nobel peace prize winners to join me in insisting on her right to have control over her own body and demanding her immediate release from prison in order to reunite her with her family.

Shamarpa Rinpoche

The Dancing Snake

julia-jpgIn the spring of 2006, I arrived at Shamar Rinpoche’s Bodhi Path residence and center in Natural Bridge, Virginia. It is a wonderful place, lushly green at that time of the year, with dogwoods and other trees and bushes blossoming. One morning in April, everyone had left, with some business to tend to, so Shamar Rinpoche decided to go for a walk and I accompanied him. We walked to the pond at the bottom of the hill. There were wooden benches and a table beneath the trees on the edge of the pond. Rinpoche took a seat at the table, and started whistling an old Tibetan tune. Sitting nearby and listening, I looked at the beauty of the land.

After some time we walked onto the wooden bridge. The dark water held a special attraction, and so we just stood and watched the movements on and beneath the surface while Rinpoche took up whistling the Tibetan song again, a tune of melancholic nonchalance. Suddenly, there was an unusual movement in the water. We did not recognize it as a living being at first; we just saw something slim like a blade of grass or a thin root, golden yellow in color. There seemed to be no head either, just a plant moving in the water. Then, however, we realized it was a miniature snake which seemed to be dancing with its tiny body to the rhythm of the melodious tune. Rinpoche noticed it at the same moment and pointed it out to me. The small snake was turning left and right, left and right in the water and its body took on the shape of a vertical wave.

At first, when Rinpoche noticed the creature’s dance, he exclaimed a joyful shout of surprise, and right then, the snake stopped the movements and temporarily sank into the darker and deeper layers of the pond. As soon as Rinpoche continued the tune though, it continued its water dance. In this way things continued for a while. As soon as the song would end, the yellow snake relaxed and sank to the bottom of the dark water, and when Rinpoche took up whistling, it would rhythmically move to the surface. I think I even saw it take a breath from time to time, but I can’t be sure. The longer we watched, the greater Rinpoche’s delight grew. He expressed his amazement at the rarity and wonder of such an experience. He told me then and many times afterwards that I was a machine-minded person who had to be told to rejoice, as I wasn’t able to recognize something wonderful on my own. Rinpoche regretted deeply that he hadn’t brought anything with which he could film the snake’s dance. After a while, the rain set in and we walked back.

Some years later I met Rinpoche in Kalimpong, West Bengal, and once again he started talking of the dancing snake. Leaning on a chair in his living room, he whistled the same Tibetan tune and imitated the dance movements of the snake with his hand. Then he stood there for a while, apparently savoring the memories of that April morning. I am not sure, but I think I received another exhortation to abandon machine-mindedness. As Rinpoche has asked me several times to share this story with others, I am happy I finally found an opportunity to do so!

Erik Curren’s Interview With Shamar Rinpoche

Q: Rinpoche, why did you choose to give the lineage transmissions to His Holiness Karmapa Thaye Dorje, but when it was time for His Holiness to receive the monastic vows you appointed Khenchen Rinpoche Trinley Paljor and a group of monks from Shar Minub Monastery in Nepal to give them instead? As I understand it, you received your monastic vows from His Holiness the late 16th Karmapa when you came to the age of 20. Why didn’t you bestow these vows to His Holiness Karmapa Thaye Dorje yourself?

SR: Well first, just to clarify, I have never given monastic vows to anyone, not only Karmapa. I feel that when someone wants to take monastic vows, they should receive them from a group of monks who hold the full vows, and who have at least purely held the first set of 4 and the second set of 13 vows. This is why I organized a temple, called Nera Jana, with 20 rooms for fully-ordained monks, led by the V.V. Khenchen Thrinly Paljor Rinpoche in Kathmandu. So far only eight fully-ordained monks have committed themselves to protecting the lineage of the great Vinaya, but they are the most pure monks in the world these days.

So one reason for not giving the vows was due to my generally being a little pessimistic about the Tibetan monastic system, which is why I organized Nera Jana and the Shar Minub monastery ( But another reason was because of very particular circumstances that happened to me many years before.

Q: Which circumstances were these?

When I came to the age of 29, I had to handle the responsibility of monastery construction in Nepal and India. In those times, Tibetan refugee Lamas could not raise enough money from the local people in Nepal and India. Therefore, they had to get the financing from foreign countries.

But back then, it was not possible to open accounts in India that were allowed to receive foreign funds. There was a way of getting foreign funding, but this involved avoiding the tax collectors from the government, which required breaking a monastic vow. There was no other choice but to do that back then. Many of the other lamas did this and didn’t care about breaking these vows since it was invisible. But, I did care and I still do.

In order for the monastic vows to be considered broken, one must break one of the four main vows given to monks, and avoiding tax collectors is related to one of them. Therefore, I could not ignore this. I did not want to break the vows.

According to the Vinaya, if you feel your vows are in danger you can give them back to monks who are presently keeping these vows. If you give back the monastic vows, you cannot break them and you can receive them again later if you wish. 

So at that time, I invited four monks – Khenpo Chodrak, Lama Dawa, Lama Gyurme and Lama Thenpa – to perform this ceremony in front of a statue of the Buddha. There is a special text written by the 15th Karmapa explaining how to return your vows. I followed the instructions given in that text. Then, I took the ‘semi-genyen’ vows. 

Q: When was this?

SR: It was in 1982.

Q: What are these four major precepts of the monastic vows that you mentioned earlier?

SR: Abstaining from sexual activity is one. Not killing a human (either directly or indirectly) is another. Refraining from stealing the property of others, is a third. This vow includes avoiding tax collectors of the government (or any tax for that matter). Lastly, there is a vow promising not to deceive devotees by acting as a holy teacher. 

Among these four, all of them – except the vow for abstaining from sexual activity – have the nature of bad karma in addition to breaking vows. As far as the vow for abstaining from sexual activity, as long as it is not sexual misconduct it does not have the nature of bad karma, but only the karma of breaking a vow. But if you are involved in sexual misconduct, then you will have the result of bad karma as well as breaking vows. 

Q: If sexual relations with the opposite sex does not have the nature of bad karma, then why is it a major monastic vow?

SR: Well, the Vinaya is mainly for Theravadayana practitioners. The main goal of theTheravadayana practice is to abandon the cause of rebirth into Samsara. Therefore, Theravada-yana practitioners are mainly aiming to cut these causes of rebirth, and normal sexual relations with the opposite sex is the direct cause of rebirth in Samsara. Whether it is a good rebirth or not depends on other karmas (good or bad) and accumulated merit. 

For instance, the mother of Asanga and Vasubandhu gave up her monastic vows. She then made the wish to have two great sons who could revive the Mahayana and Theravadayana. Therefore, in the Bodhisattvayana, bodhisattvas use the karma of natural sex in order to be reborn in the realms of living beings. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that you can go totally crazy and indulge in sexual promiscuity. 

In the Vajrayana, once you have become a highly qualified Vajrayana practitioner – like Tilopa or Naropa – then being in union with a qualified female practitioner in special retreat conditions is actually the key practice for enlightenment. Therefore, this is one of the main reasons why the Theravada tradition does not accept the Mahayana and Vajrayana as genuine Buddhist paths. They also tend to regard Vajrayana practices as being Hindu in nature.

Q: You mentioned earlier that you took the semi-genyen vows in 1982. What were those precepts? What does semi-genyen mean?

SR: I took the genyen vows for abstaining from sexual misconduct. I also took the vow for not killing humans and I took the vow to not deceive devotees by acting as a holy teacher. But I did not take the vow for stealing because this vow falls in the category of avoiding tax collectors, which was potentially a problem due to my responsibility at that time of financing the construction of the monasteries.

Q: Does avoiding tax collectors have the nature of bad karma as well as the karma of breaking monastic vows?

 Well, in the Vinaya, the mention of avoiding tax collectors is mainly there to prevent the monks’ involvement in illegal activity so that they don’t receive punishment from the government. However, one has to check logically whether it brings bad karma or not.

So if we begin to analyze, then of course there would be bad karma if this tax were for the common good of others, such as a tax which funds a hospital for the blind or a tax that will build a road. This would have bad karma. But in general, I think it does not necessarily have the nature of bad karma.

I think it is similar to the earlier example of having natural sex, but without engaging in sexual misconduct. It is not naturally bad karma by itself, but it will still be breaking the monastic vows. And this, for many reasons, will still have the effect of disturbing the meditation practice.

Q: You mentioned a pessimism towards the Tibetan monastic system earlier. Could you explain more about what you meant by that?

SR: I just mean that the Tibetan monastic system is very ceremonial. Therefore, the Vinaya discipline is not at all convenient to practice in such an environment.

One example is that the Tibetan monastic system has high lamas whose ranks are shown by the height of their thrones. In the Vinaya that is the situation that the Buddha mentioned not to have for monks. Why? Because then you will become proud – due to the ego – which is one of the biggest disturbances to your dharma practice. Therefore, the Buddha decided that monks were not allowed to sit on any chair higher than the length of their own arm, from elbow to fingertips. 

Secondly, according to the Vinaya, you must not touch gold or money. However, in monasteries the high lamas often have stands made of gold for their tea cups and so forth. 

Also, according to the monastic vows you can only wear robes that are made of the cheapest cloth, in order not to become attached to your clothing. You also cannot have more than three sets of these robes. However, in Tibetan monasteries, they are obligated to wear clothes sewn from finely made golden brocade. 

These are just examples. To be honest, there are many things that are done in the Tibetan monastic system that go totally against the Vinaya. Yet, you are required to take these vows. Therefore, when you take the vows, already a few hours afterward you begin breaking them, and continue doing so until you die. So why take these vows if you cannot follow them? 

I feel that the monastic vows are really not at all convenient for people unless they have totally renounced their worldly life and do nothing other than meditate. Therefore, some years back, I organized a temple called Nera Jana, part of the Shar Minub monastery near Kathmandu, for meditators who are truly able to renounce their worldly lives. They are the only ones who can receive the full monastic vows. 

The rest live as a semi-monastic community. In Tibetan it is called tsang chod genyen. This means they cannot have a wife or engage in any sexual misconduct. They also have vows against stealing, intoxicants, and killing, as well as deceiving devotees. These practitioners are part of the so-called community of dratsang, a community who follows certain precepts in order to be free from worldly distractions. 

There is also another class of practitioners, who are called yong dzog genyen in Tibetan. They have taken the vow of refraining from sexual misconduct but they can have a spouse. The other four vows they follow are the same. However, they cannot stay in the monks’ or nuns’ communities or wear the special yellow robe.
Also, any tulku, while they are in Shedra for study, has to behave exactly the same as the other students and follow the students’ rules. However, if a tulku was recognized by a spiritual leader while he was still young, then, according to the Mahayana, as long as they are not breaking the bodhisattva vows, he or she belongs to the advanced bodhisattva community. Therefore, in order to be identified as a spiritual master of sentient beings, even if he or she is a family holder, they can wear the lama robes but not the yellow shawls. If they are not family holders, then even if they are not tsang chod genyen they can still wear a yellow robe but not the type reserved for fully-ordained monastics.

However, if anyone was appointed as a tulku by themselves or by their family, then they are not recognized as a genuine tulku and are bound by the rules of any other student.

This is a description of why it is appropriate for Buddhist teachers to write books and involve in any social work which is deemed good for society.

From the Time of Buddha until now, the curriculum of Buddhist study has been language (including all known spoken languages such as Sanskrit etc.), art (including painting, carving sculptures etc.), logic, natural sciences, social and political ethics, medicine, mathematics, world history, philosophy, mind science and meditation.

When one completes these subjects they were expected to write a book on any one of these topics. Then, other scholars would examine and critique the views espoused in their master thesis. Once one had passed the critique of other scholars, they would get the degree of a Mahapundit.

Accordingly, depending on how many subjects one had mastered, they would then receive particular umbrellas respectively. When one received an umbrella of peacock feathers, it indicated that they were a qualified pundit. When one received a gold painted umbrella, this meant they were considered a Mahapundit (a great Buddhist scholar).

All of these subjects were studied in order to write books or teach to the public for the good of the people. If a book was deemed a particularly evil book, then the government would put that book on the neck of a dog and the book would have been paraded throughout the city. If a book was considered to be not so accurate, they would just ban the publication.

The parading of the book on the neck of a dog has not been used for quite some time. However, the tradition of receiving criticism from other scholars has still been practiced up to the present day. According to the Buddhist view, writing a book is for the benefit of others. Therefore, they say your book must be logically accurate. If it is just your own thinking, and it is uncertain that it is beneficial for others, they say it is good to write in your own notebook but not fit for publishing, as it may mislead others. Otherwise, one can publish with the intent to have it scrutinized and validated by others for its accuracy.

Buddhist teachers can write books on politics, ethics etc., if it is deemed good for society. Buddhist teachers are not merely Tantric gurus who hold ritualistic bells in their hands and stand next to statues. Therefore, I wrote the book "Creating A Transparent Democracy: A New Model" for the good of society and only after I was certain myself that it was logically flawless and was needed for the world today did I decide to publish it.

If it is deemed by scholars to either be inaccurate or it is considered to be evilly written, then you are most welcome to treat my book in either of the previous ways mentioned. That is to say, you may ban the publication completely or parade it on the neck of a dog throughout the city.

Best wishes,
Shamar Rinpoche

A Golden Swan in Turbulent Waters: The Life and Times of the Tenth Karmapa Choying Dorje

The Tenth Karmapa (1604–1674) lived through dramatic changes in Tibet, including the rise to political supremacy of the Fifth Dalai Lama and the Gelug sect following a Mongol invasion. Regarded as a remarkable bodhisattva and artist, the Karmapa has largely escaped the close attention of modern scholars.

In this book, Shamar Rinpoche, the Fourteenth Shamarpa, introduces the Tenth Karmapa through his translations of the Karmapa’s autobiographical writings and an eighteenth century biography of him. As a direct lineage-descendant from the Sixth Shamarpa—the Karmapa’s guru—the Shamar Rinpoche shares his unique knowledge and experience through extensive annotations and a historical overview of Tibet from the thirteenth through seventeenth century.

The text of A Golden Swan in Turbulent Waters: The Life and Times of the Tenth Karmapa Choying Dorje is complemented by maps and color illustrations depicting places where the Karmapa lived and his prolific artistic work, with some object images being published for the first time.

To order the book:

Announcing a special event for Shamar Rinpoche’s new book

Announcing a special event for Shamar Rinpoche’s new book:

A Golden Swan in Turbulent Waters:
The Life and Times of the Tenth Karmapa Choying Dorje

at The Rubin Museum of Art

150 W. 17th St., New York, NY 10011

on Wednesday, September 19, 2012, at 7pm

Rinpoche will make opening remarks about his book and then engage in a dialogue with Karl Debreczeny, a Rubin Museum curator and authority on the Tenth Karmapa’s artwork. Book signing to follow. More information can be found, and ticket available to purchase, at

We appreciate your spreading the word to any who may be interested.

More information about the book at:

Comprehensive list of Shamarpa Rinpoche’s foundations worldwide

Shanti Path Foundation, India
Founder: Shamarpa Rinpoche

Sherab Botia
Miss Chimy Yangzon
Miss Getu Dewan
Miss Chanda Gurung
Mr. Yogesh Chatree.

Activity in India:
A. This foundation is running a school for underprivilidged children in Diprugar Assam, India on behalf of the Infinite Compassion Foundation, based in Germany.
B. It also takes care of a high school for young lamas in Darjeling and a Buddhist college for lamas in Kalimpong. The college itself is part of the property which belongs to the Joti family trust, but is leased to the name of Shamar Rinpoche for 99 years.
C. Shamar Rinpoche created organic fertilizer for the benefit of poor farmers in Chalsa on 15 acres of land, which is part of his Transparent Democracy movement in the world.
This place is about 5km south of the land on which an Indu Tibetology school will be built by Karmapa’s Foundation.

Shanti Path Foundation, Nepal.
Founder: Shamarpa Rinpoche.

Senge Rinpoche.
Dragpa Rinpoche
Karma Tsering
Tennam Lama
Khem koirala.
Karma Dorje Gurung.

A. Shar Mi Nub Buddhist Institute, developed at Rani Ban, Khatmandu.
B. Taking care of primary schools in two remote areas in North Nepal, on behalf of the Infinite Compassion Foundation, Germany.

Shar Minub Foundation, Nepal
Shamarpa Rinpoche

Seven lamas

Fundraising for monasteries and Buddhist institutions.

Wisdom Foundation, USA
Sharmapa Rinpoche
Jay Landman
Carol Gerhardt
Marc Junkunc
Chris Fang

Running Bodhi Path centers in the United States including:
Chicago, Il
Natural Bridge, VA
Martha’s Vineyard, MA
Washington DC metropolitan area
Miami, Fl
Menlo Park, CA
St. Luis Obispo, CA
Santa Barbara, CA
Pasadena,  CA
Philadelphia, PA

Infinite Compassion Foundation, Europe
Jigmela Rinpoche
Shamarpa Rinpoche

Jigmela Rinpoche
Sabina Teuber
Hans F. Berner

Helping schools in India and Nepal.

New Horizon Buddhist Association, Hong Kong
Shamarpa Rinpoche and Jigmela Rinpoche

Five Hong Kong nationals

Shamar Rinpoche personally contributed 8 million Hong Kong dollars, and arranged loan from bank for another 8 million Hong Kong dollars to purchase large facility for Dharma Center in Hong Kong. In 2013 Shamarpa Rinpoche wil resign as founder member and will be replaced by Karmapa Thrinly Thaye Dorje.

Infinite Compassion Foundation, Hong Kong.
Shamarpa Rinpoche

To benefit animals in China.

All foundations except the Infinite Compassion Foundation, Germany, have received funding exclusively from personal students of Shamarpa Rinpoche, not from public fundraising.

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.