The 14th Shamarpa teaching

The Shamarpa (Tibetan: ཞྭ་དམར་པ་, Wylie: zhwa dmar pa ; literally, "Person (i.e. Holder) of the Red Crown"),[1] also known as Shamar Rinpoche, or more formally Künzig Shamar Rinpoche, is a lineage holder of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and is regarded to be the mind manifestation of Amitābha. He is traditionally associated with Yangpachen Monastery near Lhasa.

The first Shamarpa, Drakpa Senggé (Wylie: grags pa seng+ge , 1283–1349),[2] was the principal disciple of Rangjung Dorje, 3rd Karmapa Lama. Rangjung Dorje gave this disciple a ruby-red crown and the title "Shamarpa", establishing the second line of reincarnate lamas in Tibetan Buddhism, the Karmapa being the first.

The Shamarpa is often referred to as the "Red Hat Karmapa", especially in early Kagyu texts.[3]

The 5th Dalai Lama saw the Shamarpa as equal to the Karmapa:

Since Je Chen-nga Thamchad Khyenpa Chokyi Dragpa (the Fourth Shamarpa) ascended the throne of the Phagdrupa dynasty, there was no longer any difference between the Red Hat and the Black Hat Karmapas. This was the reason why I afforded them both equal status."[4]

The Shamarpa lineage

Shamarpa considered to be successive reincarnations are listed in "The Garland of Moon Water Crystal" by the 8th Tai Situpa Chökyi Jungne and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab.[5]

Chodag Yeshe Palzang, the 4th Shamar Rinpoche, 16th-century painting from the Rubin Museum of Art
Mipam Chokyi Wangchug, (1584-1630) the 6th Shamar Rinpoche, 16th-century painting from the Rubin Museum of Art
  1. Khedrup Drakpa Senge (1284–1349) was the principal disciple of the 3rd Karmapa.
  2. Shamar Khachö Wangpo (1350–1405) was recognized by the 4th Karmapa.[6]
  3. Shamar Chöpal Yeshe (1406–1452). Chöpal Yeshe is renowned for having constructed several monasteries and retreat-centers. He was also able to abolish the practice of animal sacrifice in the regions of Tibet where that custom had continued.[7]
  4. Shamar Chokyi Drakpa Yeshe Pal Zangpo (1453–1526) was recognized by the 7th Karmapa, who became his Lama. The famous Tibetan monastery Ga Mamo Tashi Rabten was founded by him. He also established many smaller monasteries. During his travels outside Tibet, Chökyi Tragpa built many monasteries, among others there are four monasteries in Bhutan and he was the first of the Shamar reincarnates to visit Nepal where he built a small monastery in Swayambhunath, one of the country's most sacred places. Upon returning to his home-land, he acted as the king of Tibet for a period of twelve years and he ruled the country on the basis of strict adherence to Buddhist principles.
  5. Shamar Köncho Yenlak (1526–1583) was identified by the 8th Karmapa. He also recognized and became the Lama of the 9th Karmapa.
  6. Shamar Mipan Chökyi Wangchuk (1584–1629) was recognized by the 9th Karmapa who was his main Lama.
  7. Shamar Yeshe Nyinpo (1631–1694) was recognized by the 10th Karmapa, and he became the Karmapa's disciple.
  8. Palchen Chökyi Döndrup (1695–1732) was born in Yilmo, Nepal and was taken to Tibet at age 7. He received teachings and instructions from the 11th Karmapa before his death. The Shamarpa in turn, recognized and enthroned 12th Karmapa as the 12th Karmapa and acted as his Root-guru.[8]
  9. Könchog Geway Jungnay (1733–1741) was born in Paro in Bhutan, and was discovered by the 13th Karmapa, but lived only until age nine
  10. Mipam Chödrup Gyamtso (1742–1793) was the stepbrother of the 6th Panchen Lama, Lobsang Palden Yeshe (1738–1780). A dispute over his claim to his stepbrother's material inheritance led to an armed conflict in which the Shamarpa conspired with the Nepalese Gurkha army in 1788.[9][10] This, and other disputes between the Gelug and Kagyu schools led to the exile from Tibet of the Shamarpa and a legal ban by the Tibetan government on further Shamarpa incarnations[8] This ban remained in place until after the Dalai Lama lost power in Tibet during the 1950s, although it was later revealed that the Karmapa had recognized reincarnations of the Shamarpa secretly during the intervening period.[11]
  11. Unknown, presumed forced into hiding by the Tibetan government.
  12. Tugsay Jamyang (1895–1947) was the son of the 15th Karmapa. However, it is recorded that he taught and practiced Buddhism as a layman.[8]
  13. Tinlay Kunchap (1948–1950), an infant who survived only a little over a year
  14. Mipham Chokyi Lodro (1952–2014) was born in Derge, Tibet and at the age of four he was recognized by the 16th Karmapa. He died on 11 June 2014 in Germany.


In 1792 the Tibetan government found the 10th Shamarpa guilty of inciting a war between Tibet and Nepal. He was exiled from Tibet and a ban placed on his future incarnations, thereby abolishing the Shamarpa line.[12] A modern Tibetologist proved this interpretation of history to be wrong and showed that the Shamarpa mediated in this conflict.[13] The comment of H. H. The Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa on this period was: "Merit was becoming smaller and smaller. There was much political interference. Black was becoming white. The real was becoming unreal. At that time it was not practicable to have any Shamarpa recognised or enthroned. Everything was kept secret. The incarnations appeared, but were not revealed."[14] In 1963, following a request from the 16th Karmapa, the Tibetan Government in Exile lifted the ban.[15]

14th Shamarpa

The 14th Shamarpa was Mipham Chokyi Lodro, born in Derge, Tibet in 1952. At age four he was recognized by his uncle, the 16th Karmapa, as the reincarnation of the previous Shamarpa.[16] In 1964 he was officially enthroned in Karmapa's Rumtek monastery. At this occasion the Karmapa wrote a poem: "The most exalted, the lord of the lands of snow is Avalokiteśvara. The coalescence of his essence is the glorious Karmapa. Inseparable from his three mysteries, in the manner of the three lords, Is his manifestation, the great emanation; the majestic sun, Whom I invest now sovereign of the practice lineage's order. By the power of scattering auspicious flowers of excellent virtue Combined with the true words of the ṛiṣhi's truthfulness May he successfully and everlastingly be the sovereign of the order." [17] He remained with the 16th Karmapa until his death in 1981. He received the entire cycle of Kagyu teachings from H.H. 16th Karmapa. After the death of the 16th Karmapa, Shamarpa recognized Thaye Dorje as the 17th Karmapa in 1994. His choice was backed by great masters as Chobkye Tri Rinpoche, Lopön Chechu Rinpoche, Lama Gendün Rinpoche, the 16th Karmapa's European representative Jigme Rinpoche and many others. Ogyen Trinley Dorje is held to be the 17th Karmapa by a majority of other major teachers of the Karma Kagyu lineage (including the 12th Situ Rinpoche, the 12th Gyaltsab Rinpoche, the 7th Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, the 9th Thrangu Rinpoche, the 7th Mingyur Rinpoche) along with Sakya Trizin (head of the Sakya Lineage), who acknowledges Ogyen Trinley Dorje as well and the 14th Dalai Lama. (see Karmapa controversy). Shamar Rinpoche died on 11 June 2014 in Germany.[18]


  1. Karmapa International Buddhist Institute's translation team. "A Brief History of the Karmapa-Shamarpa Lineages". Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  2. "grags pa seng+ge". Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center. Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  3. Yeshe Dronma: The Kunzig Shamarpas of Tibet 1992, P. 19.
  4. Autobiography of the Fifth Dalai Lama. 3 vols. Lhasa: bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang, 1989, Vol. 2. P.359, cit. in: Shamarpa (2012). A golden swan in turbulent waters : the life and times of the Tenth Karmapa Choying Dorje. Lexington: Bird of Paradise Press. ISBN 978-0988176201.
  5. Khenpo Chodrag Tenpel. "A brief account of the successive Shamarpa reincarnations". Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  6. The 2nd Shamarpa Shamar Khachö Wangpo 1350-1405
  7. The 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje 1284 - 1339
  8. 1 2 3 "The Shamarpa Reincarnations". Retrieved 2008-05-24.
  9. Norbu, Thubten Jigme and Turnbull, Colin. 1968. Tibet: Its History, Religion and People. Reprint: Penguin Books, 1987, p. 272.
  10. Stein, R. A. (1972) Tibetan Civilization, p. 88. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-0806-1 (cloth); ISBN 0-8047-0901-7 (pbk)
  11. Douglas Nik, White Meryl : Karmapa, the Black Hat Lama of Tibet. London, Luzac & Company Ltd., 1976. P. 151.,
  12. "The New York Times" Retrieved on December 24, 2008.
  13. Schaik, Sam van: Tibet – A History, Yale University Press, 2011.
  14. Douglas Nik, White Meryl : Karmapa, the Black Hat Lama of Tibet. London, Luzac & Company Ltd., 1976, P. 151.
  15. "The Karmapa and Shamarpa Lineages" Retrieved on December 22, 2008.
  16. "Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche". Archived from the original on 2008-05-04. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  17. Karma Trinlay Rinpoche: The 14th Shamarpa Mipham Chokyi Lodro In Loving Memory, pg. 6
  18. "Bodhi Path: Presse zum Tod von Shamar Rinpoche". Bodhi Path: Presse zum Tod von Shamar Rinpoche. 2014-06-25. Retrieved 2016-02-14.
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