Shamarpa – Emanation of Amitabha

was the emanation of , the of Limitless Light: a living example of the appearance of Amitabha in our world in the form of a Mahabodhisattva.

The title of Shamar means “the of the ruby-red crown”, named after the replica of the ’s own crown which he bestowed on the . The successive incarnations of the Shamarpas are also known as the “Red Hat Karmapa”.

Birth and Early life

The 14th Shamarpa was born on the 27th October 1952 in the Kingdom of Derge, Eastern . In 1956 he traveled with his brother, Jigme , to , the main seat of the Karmapas, where they stayed for two years.

In the summer of 1956, at four years old, he revealed his identity as the Shamarpa by recognizing old from Yangpochen , the ancestral seat of the Shamarpas. Later that year, the  and his entourage, including and Jigme Rinpoche, traveled to , where they had been invited to participate in the 2,500th Buddha Jayanthi celebrations.

Having traveled for several months in India and , they returned to Tibet, visiting Yangpochen monastery on the way. It was the first in this incarnation that Shamar Rinpoche had set foot there. The monastery had been converted to the Gelugpa sect during the time of the Tibetan Government’s ban on the institution of the Shamarpas.

The statues of the former Shamarpa incarnations remained, however, it is said that their red hats had been replaced with yellow ones. Pointing to the statues, the young Shamar Rinpoche exclaimed, “This is me,” and placed on his head a red hat that had rested in the lap of one of the statues.

Founder of Bodhi Path Buddhist Centers

Path Centers were founded by the late 14th Shamar Rinpoche, who was a holder of the lineage, along with the Gyalwa Karmapa.

He was known as the Red Hat Lama of Tibet. The Shamarpa lineage is the second-oldest reincarnate lineage in , dating to the thirteenth century.

Shamar Rinpoche spent many years studying in India with Buddhist scholars. He began to travel and teach in various Buddhist centers throughout and the west starting in 1980, and in 1982 went to U.C. Berkeley to English for ten months.

In 1996 he started to organize the Bodhi Path Buddhist Centers, a network of centers based on a non-sectarian approach to .

‘Root of Bodhi Path centers’

The curriculum of Bodhi Path centers is grounded in the of the 11th-century Indian Buddhist Atisha, as they were transmitted by . Atisha’s methods are the most effective for taming the and deepening , and in addition, can be taught and employed in a secular way.

Shamarpa did not encourage most of his students to become and nuns, instead emphasizing the idea of being a layperson who studies and practices Buddhism. This is because becoming a or nun requires virtuosic dedication and discipline, and should not be undertaken by those unwilling to follow the full set of guidelines explained in the (the code of conduct). For monks that means 253 rules, and for nuns 364.

The journey of Shamarpa in , Nepal

In order to provide a shining example of how the renounced followers of the Buddha are really supposed to live, in 2005, Shamarpa founded the retreat center of Shar Minub in Kathmandu, Nepal. At Shar Minub, twenty resident monks strictly maintain the full 253 of the Vinaya. These monks are total renunciants and dedicated meditators. Shar Minub is at the present time the only monastery among the many in the regions where the monks are fully committed to the Buddha’s Vinaya discipline.

Read more about Shar Minub Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Establishment of Infinite Compassion Foundation to promote animal rights by Shamar

In January 2009 Shamar Rinpoche founded the Infinite Foundation to promote . The Infinite Compassion Foundation was formed to promote the humane treatment of that are raised for consumption of their meat and other products (especially dairy and eggs). Instead of promoting vegetarianism, Shamar Rinpoche instead advocated a transformation of the meat industry, such that animals will no longer be forced to live and die in brutal conditions.

Rinpoche Shamar and Books

Shamar Rinpoche authored several books. In The Path to , Shamarpa provides an extensive commentary on ’s Seven Points of Mind Training. Chekawa’s text was based on the Mind Training teachings brought to Tibet by Atisha in the 11th century, and Shamarpa’s commentary elucidates the inner meaning of Chekawa’s Seven Points. It is both a guide to living a fulfilling life as a Buddhist and a comprehensive manual of .

In Creating a Transparent Democracy: a New Model, the first book written about democracy by a teacher, lays out a framework for establishing a genuinely democratic system of governance that promotes the welfare and of a population. This model proposes a system of democracy based on the decentralization of political power, the promotion of political literacy among the population of democratic states, and an end to campaigning. It is Shamarpa’s wish that this new model of democracy will inspire volunteers to dedicate themselves to improving the lives of their fellow citizens through sincere engagement with the structures of their governments.

The Shamarpa lineage

The Kagyupa Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism has enjoyed a distinguished 900-year that is intertwined at various points with the Gelugpa School to which the belongs. Central to the transmission of the Kagyupa Lineage is the alternating of the Karmapa and the Shamarpa.

Shamarpa considered to be successive reincarnations are listed in “The Garland of Moon Crystal” by the 8th Chökyi Jungne and Belo Tsewang Künkhyab.

  • (1584-1630)
  • Khedrup Drakpa Senge (1284–1349)
  • Shamar Khachö Wangpo (1350–1405)
  • Shamar Chöpal (1406–1452)
  • Shamar Chokyi Drakpa Yeshe Pal Zangpo (1453–1526)
  • Shamar Köncho Yenlak (1526–1583)
  • Shamar Mipan Chökyi (1584–1629)
  • Palchen Chökyi Döndrup (1695–1732)
  • Könchog Geway Jungnay (1733–1741)
  • Mipam Chödrup Gyamtso (1742–1793)
  • Unknown, presumed forced into hiding by the Tibetan government.
  • Tugsay Jamyang (1895–1947)
  • Tinlay Kunchap (1948–1950)
  • (1952–2014)

Death of Rinpoche Shamarpa

Rinpoche was traveling to different countries in Europe to teach his students and had just completed several days of teachings in Germany. On June 11, 2014, Rinpoche died suddenly of a heart attack, at his main center in Renchen-Ulm, at the age of 61.

Rinpoche then entered the meditative Thugdam state, in which masters of can practice after death, and remained there for 2 days. On the auspicious of , when Buddha entered into , Rinpoche left his meditation state with all the signs of . Rinpoche’s students and many who had come from all over the world immediately began prayers for his swift rebirth so that we can again benefit from his teaching and blessing.

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About sadiksha

Namaste! I am a Nepali Art Dealer specialized in Mandala and Thangka paintings. I love to write articles about the monastic culture of the Himalayas.

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