His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa

Human beings are the most intelligent and resourceful species on earth. If we use our intelligence to cause more suffering, rather than to bring some real benefit to others and ourselves, we are no better than beasts. –His Holiness the Karmapa

His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is the head of the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu Lineage and guide to millions of Buddhists around the world. Both the Kagyu Monlam in India and the North American Kagyu Monlam are held annually under his guidance.

Karmapa means “the one who carries out Buddha-activity” or “the embodiment of all the activities of the Buddhas.” In the Tibetan tradition, great enlightened teachers are said to be able to consciously control their rebirth in order to continue their activity for the benefit of all sentient beings. The first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, was born in 1110. He was the first of the great Tibetan masters to establish an incarnating lineage. Since his death in 1193, successive Karmapas have incarnated in this form of manifestation body (Skt. nirmanakaya), for sixteen lifetimes so far, and all have played a most important role in preserving and promulgating the Buddhist teachings of Tibet.

HH the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa was born in 1985 in Eastern Tibet to a nomadic family. After his enthronement as the Gyalwang Karmapa in 1992, he started studying Tibetan and Buddhist rituals, art, and sciences of the mind. Now, as a master of meditation and various other scholarly and artistic disciplines, he oversees major events such as the Kagyu Monlam in Bodhgaya, speaks extensively on salient Buddhist as well as global issues, and composes poems, plays, and songs. Although His Holiness currently resides in India, his activity can be seen all over the world.

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Tai Situ Rinpoche

Chamgon Tai Situ Rinpoche

Chamgon Tai Situ Rinpoche is the twelfth in the unbroken line of emanations that began in the 11th century. A spiritual master of unsurpassed significance in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, he is the current holder of the Kagyu Lineage. Formally trained by the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa, he is now supervising the education of the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje.

Chamgon Tai Situ Rinpoche, an emanation of the Bodhisattva Maitreya, has been prophesied to become the next Buddha, the fifth of the 1,000 Buddhas to appear in this fortunate aeon. His first emanation was King Indrabodhi, a disciple of the Buddha Shakyamuni. In Tibet, Tai Situ Rinpoche was born as Milarepa’s famed teacher, Marpa the translator , who made three trips to India and underwent many hardships in order to acquire the Buddha’s teachings. The transmissions and teachings he brought back to Tibet form the core instructions of the Kagyu Lineage.

Youngey Mingyur Rinpoche

Youngey Mingyur Rinpoche

Youngey Mingyur Rinpoche possesses a rare ability to present the ancient wisdom of Tibet in a fresh, engaging manner. His profound yet accessible teachings and playful sense of humor have endeared him to students around the world. Most uniquely, Rinpoche’s teachings weave together his own personal experiences with modern scientific research, relating both to the practice of meditation.

Born in 1975 in the Himalayan border regions between Tibet and Nepal, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is a rising star among the new generation of Tibetan Buddhist masters. From a young age, Rinpoche was drawn to a life of contemplation. He spent many years of his childhood in strict retreat. At the age of seventeen, he was invited to be a teacher at his monastery’s three-year retreat center, a position rarely held by such a young lama. He also completed the traditional Buddhist training in philosophy and psychology, before founding a monastic college at his home monastery in north India.

In addition to extensive training in the meditative and philosophical traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, Mingyur Rinpoche has also had a lifelong interest in Western science and psychology. At an early age, he began a series of informal discussions with the famed neuroscientist Francisco Varela, who came to Nepal to learn meditation from his father, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Many years later, in 2002, Mingyur Rinpoche and a handful of other long-term meditators were invited to the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Richard Davidson, Antoine Lutz, and other scientists examined the effects of meditation on the brains of advanced meditators. The results of this groundbreaking research were reported in many of the world’s most widely read publications, including National Geographic and Time.

Mingyur Rinpoche teaches throughout the world, with centers on five continents. His candid, often humorous accounts of his own personal difficulties have endeared him to thousands of students around the world. His best-selling book, The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness, debuted on the New York Times bestseller list and has been translated into over twenty languages. Rinpoche’s most recent books are Turning Confusion into Clarity:
A Guide to the Foundation Practices of Tibetan Buddhism, Joyful Wisdom: Embracing Change and Finding Freedom, and an illustrated children’s book entitled Ziji: The Puppy that Learned to Meditate.

In early June, 2011, Mingyur Rinpoche left his monastery in Bodhgaya, India to begin a period of extended solitary retreat. He emerged November of 2015.

Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche

Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche

Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche was a yogi, scholar, and one of the great meditation masters of the Buddhist tradition. His teachings were sought by lamas of all four schools of Buddhism in Tibet. Lineage holder of the Shangpa Kagyu tradition and senior Meditation Master of the Karma Kagyu tradition, he was foremost in spreading the Dharma to the West and establishing Dharma and facilities for Westerners to undertake the traditional three-year retreat.

Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche was born in 1905 in the district of Treshö Gang chi Rawa in the Hor region of Kham, eastern Tibet. His father, Karma Lekshe Drayang, the Thirteenth Ratak Palzang Tulku, was noted for his skill in the practice of medicine, his literary accomplishments and his mastery of Vajrayana meditation practice. He and his wife, Drolkar Chung Chung, Rinpoche's mother, were students of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, and Mipham Rinpoche—great leaders of the nineteenth century ri me movement which revitalized Buddhism in Tibet by minimizing sectarian differences and stressing the importance of meditation, the common ground of all lineages.

Lama Norlha Rinpoche

Lama Norlha Rinpoche

Lama Norlha Rinpoche, an accomplished meditation and retreat master, is the abbot of Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery and director of Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche’s Dharma centers in the eastern United States.

Lama Norlha Rinpoche was born in 1938, in the Nangchen District of Kham, eastern Tibet. He entered Korche Monastery at the age of five, receiving monastic ordination at fourteen. By the age of twenty-one, Lama Norlha had completed two three-year retreats, during the second of which he acted as assistant to the retreat master. After the communist takeover of Tibet, he escaped on foot to India where he met Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche and became his close disciple.

In India, Lama Norlha established several three-year retreat facilities where he trained monks in the complete cycle of transmissions and practices of the Kagyu Lineage. In 1976, at the request of His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa and Kalu Rinpoche, Lama Norlha came to New York City, where he taught Buddhist philosophy and meditation practices to a wide range of students. Two years later, to provide students with the means of studying and practicing at a more profound level of commitment, he founded Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery and Retreat Center. Following the sacred example of his own masters, Lama Norlha has dedicated his life to teaching the practices that make up the Kagyu three-year retreat. To date he has directed eight full cycles of retreat at KTC, with a ninth retreat scheduled to begin in 2016.

Lama Karma Chodrak

Lama Karma Chodrak

Lama Karma Chodrak was born in 1954 in Goche, in the region of Nangchen, Tibet. When he was five, the khenpo of Goche Monastery, Karma Tsultrim, cut his hair and gave him the Buddhist Refuge vows. In 1959, he traveled to Darjeeling in northeast India and took the novice vows from the Lord of Refuge Kalu Rinpoche. He entered the three-year retreat center in the tradition of the Six Yogas of Naropa, where he had the good fortune to receive the instructions that ripen and liberate from Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche and Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche. 

In 1983, Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche organized recitations  of an important prayer, the Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct, in Bodhgaya. Lama Chodrak put great effort into helping organize the event, which was the seed of the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo. In 1984, he went to Kagyu Thubten Chöling, one of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche’s Dharma centers, where he assisted Lama Norlha Rinpoche in administering and serving the monastery and retreats. 

Beginning in 1994, he took responsibility for the Kagyu Monlam, putting exceptional efforts into the work of finding sponsors, organizing the Monlam, and inviting different Sanghas. With the supervision and support of Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche and Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche, the Monlam grew each year. Lama Chodrak was able to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama twice, and His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa every year since his arrival in India. His Holiness asked Lama Chodrak to serve as the executive director of the Monlam, a responsibility he carries to this day. Under His Holiness’ guidance, the Monlam has spread all over the world: currently, Monlams are held in fifteen different countries in Asia and the West.