Does preserving Karma Kagyu tradition justify not transmitting its lineage to us in the West?

Picture of Khenpo Karthar as a young man sent to us by Rangjung Rikpe Dorje to transmit to us his Vajrayana lineage but none of the people Rinpoche today deems qualified to teach in his place after his death are capable of transmitting said Karma Kagyu lineage to future generations of dharma practitioners whom will have to rely upon them to do so after he passes away as such which puts us in a rather awkward situation as Karma Kagyu as his students as that day sad day approaches

“I don’t believe this is the case but let’s say that Khenpo Karthar has pulled a classic bait and switch on us.”

Jonathan continues.

“Rinpoche’s lineage is Vajrayana but the people he deems qualified to teach are incapable of transmitting it to their students as such.”

Allen replies.

“Ask Khenpo Karthar if the end, preserving Karma Kagyu tradition, justifies the means, he will tell you a story about how it does.”

Allen pauses.

“It’s a story about a merchant returning from India pawning off on his mother back in Tibet a dog’s tooth he found on the road outside her home as a Buddha relic which when so venerated by the woman became one.”

Allen continues.

“Perhaps this may well be our loss, but in the world we live in, as Buddhists, our Buddhism holds us to an ethical standard in which the end does not so justify the means.”

End scene. Fini.

A teachable moment brought to you by the Naropa Prairie Dog Players for your entertainment pleasure.



Filed under Buddhism

10 responses to “Does preserving Karma Kagyu tradition justify not transmitting its lineage to us in the West?

  1. okiebuddhist

    Very few American Buddhists give empowerments, but KKR has given authority to many American lamas to give transmissions, including Ngondro, Lojong, and other teachings. Mahamudra transmissions are obviously connected to the vajra master.

    My own teacher, Reggie Ray, gives Mahamudra transmissions and is a qualified teacher, in my opinion. He isn’t in the KKR line, but Ray does receive the lineage from Trungpa, and I find Reggie Ray a powerful teacher who had taught me enormously in the lineage of Mahamudra.

    My other teacher, Lama Kathy Wesley, whom I don’t like to mention because of your criticism of her, has been one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. KKR, the Vajra master, gave me empowerments and transmissions in Mahamudra, but it was Lama Kathy who coached me through every single step, including Ngondro, while I learned absolutely nothing but generalities from KKR.

    Perhaps KKR just gives the empowerments these days and allows the students to pick up the pieces for themselves or find a good lama or spiritual friend to help. If a person has neither, a mahamudra transmission is good karma but not worth shit unless the Vajra master, spiritual friend, or lama helps the student create stability and insight into their practices.

    On Mani Padme Hum.

    • Our lineage is not transmitted by organ grinders and their monkeys, your so-called empowerments, those who perform them and those that collect them, but by people capable of pointing out the true nature of the mind having themselves received such pointing and through a lifetime of practice supervised by their vajra master are thereby qualified to do so with students they deem capable of doing so themselves.

      This has nothing to do with being qualified to perform some ritual empowerment and everything to do with who you are and how you have lived your life, whether you have it, or you don’t, which is the essence of transmission of the Vajrayana in our lineage going back to Tilopa and up to the present day as such.

  2. okiebuddhist


    Your expectations for pointing out instructions and guide are great. However, are they realistic?

    How many Karma Kagyu gurus are advanced enough to give pointing-out instructions and teach the entire mahamudra curriculum?

    Two in the U.S.?

    I have to backtrack a bit on what you stated earlier about empowerments. Ngondro and empowerments have led me toward “some” stability of my true nature. If students can’t do mahamudra and stabilize it for long periods, the next option is mixing yidam with Mahamudra.

    The lamas at KTD may not be able to Point out our true nature, but they do have the necessary skills and teaching to at least take me closer to stability of Buddha nature. There is something true about the blessing of the lineage that permeates all the lamas I have encountered, including Lama Karma, who drives whatever his students purchase for him.

    Lamas may not have given you any help, unless they are Vajra gurus, but they have raised the frequency of many seekers on the Vajrayana path. They are our tutors, and it’s my job to be a tutor to other seekers, too.

    No, I haven’t been Vajrayana for more than four years, but at 42, I’ve been practicing within many traditions since 16.

    Karmapa Chenno!

    • What it is to be of the Karma Kagyu lineage, and I know this from first hand experience with Khenpo Karthar, is the practice of Mahamudra, its transmission from guru to disciple through the pointing out of the true nature of the mind by a root guru, which is in turn under the supervision of a Vajra master over the course of a lifetime together as teacher and student, is as much a thing today in the West as it ever was in our lineages history going back to India, and this is not what I expect to happen but what has in fact happened here.

      I can assure you that not withstanding Khenpo Karthar’s being KTD’s chief organ grinder for its sect’s political agenda and his robed troop of monkeys, his lamas whom he has assembled and groomed over the years to preserve Karma Kagyu tradition and serve his Karma Kagyu sect, on the down low, he also transmitted to those students whom he recognized as capable of practicing Mahamudra what he received, along with Trungpa, and Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoches before they fled China’s occupation of Tibet for the West, Khenpo Gangshar’s pith instructions which are alive and well, practiced by those who received them from these three remarkable men from Kham.

      • okiebuddhist

        If the Mahamudra transmission pointed out the dharmakaya and the guru helped establish stability within mahamudra, then by all means, a person should practice mahamudra.

        However, there are thousands of people who received the transmission and the transmission did not work for them. Or, something happened for a second and it slipped away. What do you tell these kinds of students? Practice something they cannot practice? Or, continue along the lines of tantra or tonglen and continue receiving instructions?

        Finally, how does Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche become the Vajra master of 5,000 or more students. In the 1980s, there were less people. Now, you are lucky to get ten minutes with him, and that requires traveling a long distance.

        There are very few Vajra masters left in the U.S. Once, KKR dies, does the Gangshar transmission die with him. Who is advanced enough to pass on the transmission? Not me.

        • There is nothing here to accept.

          Nobody is trying to convince anybody of anything in this dialogue.

          Me thinks you are over thinking what has been expressed here by the parties in question, as such.

          According to Khenpo Karthar when Khenpo Gangshar transmitted his Mahamudra, the first to receive his instructions were ordinary people he encountered wandering out and about Shechen monastery, not its inhabitants, and that each person without exception realized the true nature of their mind.

          Remember Tilopa’s slipper, this is our paradigm.

          Those who know Mahamudra know that its transmission is like Tilopa’s slipper to Naropa’s face.

          It is not something based in reality, as such.

          The transmission occurs in that moment when root guru and disciple are one in the same in their realization of the true nature of the mind.

          As Khenpo Karthar told me after I received pointing out from Rangjung Rikpe Dorje.

          “Stranger things have been known to happen.”

          There is a generation of those of us who received pointing out, Tilopa’s slipper across their face, between 1969 and 1991.

        • Ha! Fake it, ’til you make it. That’s what you tell them Okie.

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