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Mahasiddha Karma Chagmed

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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He was born to father Padma Wangdrag and mother Chokyong Kyid in the year 1613, the tenth Tibetan Rabjung Year. His father was from the ancestral heritage of the great dharma kings of Tibet. He was not only an erudite scholar, but proficient in whatever he practised. In addition, he had numerous visions of Guru Padmasambhava, Dorje Pagmo (Vajravarahi) and many other deities, from whom he received direct blessings. When he was in the womb, one night, his dakini mother dreamt that she was being blessed by Jarog Dongchen (Raven Faced Protector) and, on another occasion, flying up a hill on a white horse holding a butter lamp in her hand.

In 1631, he was liberated from the lotus womb of his mother. Just a while after the moment he was born, his father bestowed Tsegug (Restoring Life) and Shepag Sangdu Torwang (Amitayus' Condensed Secret Torma Empowerment) upon him. He was then named Wangdrag Sung (Powerful Speech) by his father for he was introduced to the Dharma at the moment he entered the world.

As a child, he would see gods and spirits frequently and perform miscellaneous activities related to dharma rituals. At the age of six, he was trained to read and write, which he learnt without much effort in a very short time. At the age of nine, from his guru-father he received much religious advice, minor empowerments and oral transmissions. He learned astrology, mandala construction and many other subjects as well. He was well-known for his enthusiastic intelligence in learning.

By the power of his bottomless aspirations of past lives, at the age of eleven, he met his great root guru Prawashara, from whom he obtained numerous necessary empowerments and transmissions. With the blessings and guidance of the root guru Prawashara he became a tantric adept, wandering in charnel grounds. He never allowed warmth to leave his meditation seat and sustained strict retreat. In order to evade sleep, he placed his cushion on a small stool and sat on it during night. The stool, being so small and precarious would make him fall off easily just by bending forward or over to each side. Being so industrious he received pure visions and accomplishments of every deity he practised.

At the age of nineteen, on the fourteenth day of the first month, he took refuge and received Upasaka Vow from Drungpa Kunga Namgyal. He was then named Karma Samdrub. He visited the second Gyalwang Karmapa Karma Rakshi, on the fifteenth day of the tenth month of the same year and later he received transmissions and empowerments, including the great commentaries: Chagchen Lhenchig Kyejor (The Co-emergent Mahamundra), Dechog (Chakrasamvara), Phagmo (Vajra Varahi), Menlha (Medicine Buddha), Drigung Gonchig (Drigung's One Mind), Jamcho De Nga (Five Classes of Maitreya's Dharma).

He received Novice Vow with the correct number of monks present from the great Khenpo and spiritual master Palden Garwang Chokyi Wangchuk Choglei Namgyal. His Getsul name was Karma Lopon. That very evening he received Gelong (Full Ordination) with the name Karma Chagmed. On the eleventh month, he joined the Thupten Nyinling Monastery of the Zurmang tradition. Karma Chagmed, being a sincere and noble monk with meticulous and decent qualities mastered the five principal scriptures of India and many minor texts on logic.

Karma Chagmed remained for most of his life in solitary retreat of meditation and practice the teachings he received. Many deities appeared to him in his pure visions. One night, in his dream, Karmapa Choeying Dorje bestowed upon him all the four empowerments, which pleased him very much. At the age of thirty seven, he entered into strict retreat for thirteen years. At that time, the fortunate and faithful disciples of his used to receive empowerments and commentaries from him intermittently through a hole in the wall of his retreat hut. Through his wisdom eye he infallibly recognized the great Terton Migyur Dorje and enthroned him. Terton Migyur Dorje was prophesied over and over again in terma revelations of Guru Padmasambhava.

The strict retreat for thirteen years came to an end when he was of the age of fifty. Thereafter, during the season of performing the rites of the great accomplishment of Lama Gongdu (Embodiment of the Master's Realization), Thugchen Sangdu (Condensed Secret Essence of Avalokiteshvara), and others, each and every person present could see Avalokiteshvara, smell fragrance and perceive a variety of propitious signs like rainbows in space. Karma Chagmed opened the door of the dharma by giving the empowerments of the revelations of Namcho (Space Treasure). His chief disciples were: Chowang Thrinley, Pedma Rigzin, Rigzin Kunzang Sherab, and so forth.

When Karma Chagmed was sixty five, one day, Buddha Amitabha appeared to him in pure vision and expressed that he was dissatisfied that he had not yet come. Just then, Karma Chagmed realized the time had come for him to go to Dewachen (Blissful Pure Land). From that day, he displayed the signs of being ill. To his faithful disciples he gave his last advice and instructions to dispel their doubts. It was then, on the first day of the sixth month, in the year 1678 that the Mahasiddha Karma Chagmed, demonstrating scores of auspicious signs, merged his mind into the heart of Buddha Amitabha.

The name Karma Chagme refers to a 17th-century Tibetan Buddhist (Vajrayāna) lama and to the tülku (reincarnate lama) lineage which he initiated. Including the first, seven Karma Chagme tülkus have been recognized. The Neydo Kagyu (Wylie: gnas mdo bka' brgyud) sub-school of the Karma Kagyu was established by the first Karma Chagme, Rāga Asya.

The First Karma Chagme, Rāga Asya

Karma Chakme (born Wangdrak Sung; ordained Karma chags med; alias Rā-ga a-sya; 1613-1678) was born in Salmo Gang (Wylie: zal mo sgang), a place near Riwoche (Wylie: ri bo che) in the district of Ngoms in Kham.

His father, Pema Wangdrak (Wylie: Pad-ma dbang-grags) was an established tantric siddha from the ruling lineage of Dong khachö (Wylie: gdong mkha' spyod) and his mother Chökyong Kyi (Wylie: 'Chos-skyong skyid) was descended from the family line of Gyuli.

Said to have been the reincarnation of Chokro Lü Gyeltsen (Wylie: cog ro klu'i rgyal mtshan) and of Prince Sad na legs, his father gave tertön Ratna Lingpa longevity empowerments during his birth.

Karma Chakme was trained by his father from the age of six in reading and writing, as well as “white” and “black” astrology (Wylie: rtsis dkar nag), geomancy and magic ceremonies for the purpose of averting misfortunes.

He was also taught the entire cycle of Nyingma teachings, which he had learned from his father, and continued his training with the most famous Nyingma and Kagyu masters of his time.

He attained mastery of the sūtras and tantras at zad ma gyi monastery and received, at the age of twenty, ordination and the transmission of mahamudra from Thongwa Dönden, 6th Karmapa Lama (1584-1630) at Tsurphu Monastery.

He received empowerment during his visit. Then he traveled with the Karmapa for a year and a half achieving fame in Tibet. Karma Chakme's public examination was before 12,000 monks at the Great Prayer Festival of Karma Kagyu.

A contender for the post of 9th Karmapa, he was not confirmed but retained the ordination name Karma Chakme.

He was known for being a prolific writer and scholar, for his ardent devotion to the cult of Sukhāvatī and for being the teacher of tertön Namchö Mingyur Dorje, who revealed a unique cycle of terma known as the Nam Cho (Wylie: gnam-chos).

Karma Chakme was credited as a mahasiddha attaining an authentic emanation of Jinasagara, the "Red Avalokiteśvara".

The biography of the first Karma Chakme is based on the following sources: gTer ston brgya rtsa’i rnam thar (513-16); mKhas grub Karma chags med rin po che’i gsung ’bum gyi dkar chag (introduction); Tsering Lama (1988: 35-44); and Chagmé (1998: 7-11).

The Current (7th) Karma Chagme

The current Nédo (Wylie: gnas mdo) throne holder of Trashi Chöling Monastery (Wylie: bkra shis chos gling dgon pa) is Karma Tendzin Trinlé Künkhyap Pelzangpo (Wylie: kar ma bstan 'dzin 'phrin las kun khyab dpal bzang po).

His seat is [[Nédo]Trashi Chöling]] Monastery in Setidevi Bhanjyang, Nepal, which is near Pharping, a Buddhist pilgrimage site in the Kathmandu Valley.

Karma Chagme Tülku Lineage

    Karma Chagme Raga Asya (Wylie: 'karma chags-med rā-ga a-sya; 1613-1678)
    Choktrül Trinley Wangchuk (Wylie: mchog-sprul ’phrin-las dbang-phyug)
    Trinley Tendzin (Wylie: ’phrin-las bstan-’dzin)
    Khyapdak Tendzin Trinley (Wylie: khyab-bdag bstan-’dzin ’phrin-las)
    Sang Ngak Tendzin (Wylie: gSang-sngags bstan-’dzin)
    Karma Tsultrim Namgyal (Wylie: karma tshul-khrims rnam-rgyal)
    Karma Tendzin Trinley Kunkhyab Pal Zangbo (Wylie: karma bstan-’dzin ’phrin-las kun-khyab dpal-bzang-po; 1926-2013)



Tsering Lama Jampal Zangpo. 1988. A Garland of Immortal Wish-fulfilling Trees: The Palyul Tradition of Nyingmapa. Ithaca: Snow Lion.

Chagmé, Karma 2000. Naked Awareness: Practical Instructions on the Union of Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen. Translated by A. Wallace. Ithaca: Snow Lion.

Chagmé, Karma 2009. A Spacious Path to Freedom: Practical Instructions on Union of Mahamudra and Atiyoga. Commentary by Gyatrul Rinpoche, Translated by A. Wallace. Ithaca: Snow Lion.

Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (


Wikipedia:Mahasiddha Karma Chagmed