The difference between China’s 17th Karmapa and HHK16’s Karma Kagyu crazy widsom lineage in the West

China, ruled by a dictatorship since the Communists seized power in 1949, that which the 16th Karmapa escaped in 1959 in search of the freedom to practice his particular lineage of Buddhism in the West, the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist party being incompatible with his lineage of Buddhism as such, is something we in the West take this to be self evident.

For us the Karma Kagyu lineage that Rangjung Rikpe Dorje established in the West in the 1970’s represents a return to the Buddhism of India before thr sacking of Nalanda in the 13th century by the Muslim Malmuk Dynasty and its masters of Mahamudra, specifically the lineage of Maitripa as brought to Tibet by Marpa the translator in the early days of Buddhism there, with its emphasis on Buddha nature and the recognition of the true nature of the mind.

We can’t get enough of these teachings in the West.

After His Holiness passed into Parinirvana here in 1981, his choice, against the wishes of his Tibetan followers of the day, specifically Thrangu, Akong, and Khenpo Karthar Rinpoches, in the name of preserving Tibetan tradition chose to collaborate with the Chinese to make Tibet, as part of China, great again, to borrow a phrase from Donald Trump and his followers whom like our Rinpoches saw their future best served by dictatorship rather than democracy.

Birds of a feather flock together.

In the future when the history of what became of the Tibetan people is written, when there are no Tibetans left free to speak for themselves other than China’s version of a Tibetan, it will record that the Tibetan people chose the dictatorship they know, life under the rule of Chinese Communist Party, over the freedom they balked at embracing, life in the West.

My history as a Karma Kagyu begins in 1981 when I took refuge with Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, a lama of the 16th Karmapa sent to us in 1976 to represent his interests in North America, not so much as a teacher as much as a response to our enthusiasm for the teachings of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche whom introduced us beginning in 1970 to his Indian Mahasiddha inspired crazy wisdom Karma Kagyu lineage, which as it turned out was not representative of the Buddhism practiced by Tibetans living in exile at Rumtek Monastery in the Sikkim, India, the monastic seat in exile of the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

Suffice it to say I am a witness of that which I speak of, what happened from the collaboration of Thrangu, Akong, and Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche with the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department which began with Akong Rinpoche’s first visit to Chinese occupied Tibet in 1983 to present, the coming of age of China’s 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, and his Chinese followers we in the West so oppose not just for their spiritual materialism, to borrow a phrase from Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, but also for their lack of representativeness,
transparency, and accountability, that which we find so offensive as dharma practitioners living in Western democracies as opposed to dictatorship as a matter of principle.

Unlike as with Ogyen Trinley Dorje and his Chinese followers, for us the arc of human history bends not towards dictatorship but instead to democracy.

This is our story.

I’m just recently retired.

My wife was an editor at McGraw-Hill like forever, the only job she ever had since graduating college, up until she stopped working two years ago.

At 60 ears old she was reorganized out of her livelihood

We’ve been married 13 years, the past 10 years of which I’ve been in retreat, for lack of a better word to describe my decision to stop working and focus my efforts on my dharma practice.

I’m a lama.

For the past two years our expectation was that my wife would continue her career in publishing as an editor but sadly there isn’t much demand for people with here level of experience as a publishing professional, other than as a freelance project manager, which simply isn’t the same career wise.

The day my wife stopped working was the end of my retreat.
For eight years my day was mine to drill down into my practice while my wife was at work.

It has taken me two years to adjust to my post retreat existence.

In 2010 Waylon Lewis, publisher of Elephant Journal, asked me to write for him.

I was dying at the time.

I was collecting dharma quotes and posting them to Twitter to
pass the time when Waylon Lewis reached out to me.

It gave me a reason to get out of bed and sit in chair for a couple of hours.

I kid you not.

My prognosis could not have been worse.

In 2009 I survived the widow-maker.

That I survived what I did was a miracle in itself.

I meditated through it.

I was walking, I stopped, sat down, crossed my legs and began doing mani recitations while visualizing Amitabha, as outlined in Karma Chakme’s the Union of Dzogchen and Mahamudra, a favorite teaching of mine being Khenpo Karthar’s teaching of the text.

I highly recommend the practice.

Without it I doubt I would be alive today.

One day, Marvin Moser, a lama friend of mine reached out to me and asked me to blog about KTD’s banishment of Bardor Rinpoche.

As a KTD lama at the time, he paid for his robes, did his three year retreat with Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche at Karme Ling, the first of us here in Chicago to go there, he was one very unhappy camper.

He has since put his robes in a drawer and put the experience behind him.

At the time though he had a lot vested in KTD, not just as a retreat lama, but as a longtime financial contributor to the place since the early 1980’s.

I checked out what he had told me had happened.

All I had to do is say I’m a friend of Marvin’s.

This was my first encounter with the machinations of Ogyen Trinley Dorje and his Chinese followers that have taken over KTD since the early 1990’s and it was a revelation for me as a dharma practitioner.

Long story short, in 2008 Tenzin Chonyi, President of KTD fired the facilities manager for not mowing his lawn.

I kid you not.

Bardor Tulku took exception to this.

Khenpo Karthar agreed.

Both Rinpoches asked Tenzin Chonyi to reinstate the terminated facilities manager.

He refused.

Bardor Tulku demanded Tenzin Chonyi’s resignation.

Tenzin Chonyi refused.

The matter was kicked up to Ogyen Trinley Dorje and his Chinese followers back in India.

The powers that be in India sided with Tenzin Chonyi, and Bardor Tulku resigned from KTD’s board of directors.

In retaliation KTD’s board banished Bardor Tulku from teaching there or at any of its affiliate centers, what his supporters refer to the “night of long knives”, which is the point in this story where Marvin Moser asked me to blog about what happened.



Filed under Buddhism

49 responses to “The difference between China’s 17th Karmapa and HHK16’s Karma Kagyu crazy widsom lineage in the West

  1. Warrenz

    Who recognized you as a lama. Bill?

    • That isn’t how it works.

      • Jared

        He is self actualized!

        On a different note, here’s an example of just how long Chinese money has been in dharma:

      • Warrenz

        So how does it work? Traditionally in the Karma Kagyu the title is bestowed by a senior teacher. Even Ole Nydahl got his title from Shamarpa.

        • It’s a calling, always has been, always has been.

          I was called upon to be a lama, and I was up to the task.

          • Warrenz

            You’re still not saying by whom you were called. Why so coy?

            Nothing against you declaring yourself good enough to teach others. Just as long as you come out and make it clear that you are in your own opinion a lama only.

            Will you be offering formal teachings on mahamudra n this blog or in the real world?

            • I am by no means being coy with anyone here but instead simply sharing here that after over the course of the past thirty five years having to the satisfaction of my guru Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche have accomplished that which he instructed me to do since I took refuge with him in 1981.

              I’ve been a lama for years now.

              Out of respect for the very public efforts of my guru, a supporter of Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s claim to be the 17th Karmapa, founder and spiritual leader of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in Woodstock, New York, which has its own lamas authorized to teach at KTD’s affiliate centers introductory teachings to people interested in practicing the dharma, and promote Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s claim to be 17th Karmapa, I have not hitherto publicly shared that I am a lama here.

              Under normal circumstances that I am a lama is something I would have kept between myself and my guru.

              It’s nobody’s business.

              That I have shared here that I am a lama is not to cast shade upon my guru’s accomplishments here in the United States of America on behalf of Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s claim to be the 17th Karmapa but to as a lama of the 16th Karmapa’s Mahasiddha inspired crazy wisdom Karma Kagyu lineage to publicly declare that Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s claim to be the 17th Karmapa is null and void in the United States of America for the following reason, that after his being charged by the Indian Government with violating its laws governing foreign currency Ogyen Trinley Dorje pledged to us in the United States to be financially transparent, which according to the Panama Papers we have proof that he knowingly used the same law firm as members of the Chinese Communist Party to hide money received by said dictatorship in an off shore account, thus rendering his claim to to be the 17th Karmapa null and void for his attempt to so deceive us here in the United States of America.

              Obviously my doing this is beyond my pay grade as a Buddhist blogger and as such has compelled me to instead undertake this unfortunate business as a lama of the 16th Karmapa’s Mahasiddha inspired crazy wisdom Karma Kagyu lineage.

              No one need worry about me parading around in public in robes like a KTD lama pretending to be someone I’m not as they do, nor asking them for money to teach them as they do, or anything commonly associated with KTD’s lamas here in the United States over the past 25 years of its selling the privilege to call yourself a KTD lama.

              This is simply a task that has fallen to me, to hold Ogyen Trinley Dorje to answer for, what the Panama Papers documents he has done, disqualified himself in the United States of America from being considered the 17th Karmapa for the reason above stated.

  2. Patrice

    His lama gave him mahamudra as a practice and 16th Karmapa pointed out his mind. Over the years he realized his mind.

    This makes him a lama, not some piece of paper signed by a high teacher.

    End. Of. Story.

    • Warrenz

      Hi Patrice,
      You standards of proof are pretty low. Certainly authorization by a respected teacher is no cast iron guarantee (Cf. the case of Mr Nydal) that someone if fit to be a guru. However, self proclamation is even less reliable. No doubt Lama Bill will enlighten us further on how he achieved guru status.

      • I have yet to be called upon to be a guru.

        I can say without fear of contradiction that my guru did entrust me with his guru’s lineage, the 16th Karmapa’s Mahasiddha inspired crazy wisdom Karma Kagyu lineage, which I have upheld as his disciple ever since.

        My guru Khenpo Karthar was the same age I am, middle aged, when I became his disciple.

        He was my lama as far as he was concerned.

        I would prostrate before him.

        He would object.

        I would insist.

        This has been my experience.

        My guru is the true nature of the mind, Vajradhara, as pointed out to me by my guru’s guru, the 16th Karmapa, in Zion, Illinois while attending His Holiness as his body was being prepared to be shipped back to Rumtek in 1981.

        If someday I am called upon to serve as someone’s guru as Khenpo Karthar was called upon to be my guru I am confident that I am up to the task.

        • Warrenz

          So not quite a lama yet then but maybe one day. We are all called to help sentient beings out of the ocean of great suffering however we can. I respect your humility. Have a good weekend,

          • I am a lama in every sense of the word.

            • Warrenz

              Will you be declaring yourself the true 17th incarnation of the Gyalwa Karmapa too at some point?

              You seem to view the post as vacant and there is a precedent for people who were born before the 16th Karmapa’s passing declaring themselves to be his reincarnation:


              • A KTD retreat lama, Colleen Reed, called upon me to be to guide her ex-husband Marvin Moser, also a KTD retreat lama, when he lost his faith in our guru, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche.

                I didn’t ask to be a lama.

                How could I, as a senior disciple of one of the most highly regarded masters of Mahamudra alive today, when called upon by my fellow disciples not answer the call?

                As a senior disciple of Khenpo Karthar I was called to serve and I was up to the task, I and my wife, and a friend of ours, Sally Duros, saved Marvin’s life.

                This is what a lama does.

                I am a lama in every sense of the word.

                I say this here without fear of contradiction.

                None of the parties in question will appreciate my putting this out in the world but so be it.

                You asked what made me a lama, what call to be a lama I answered, and this is my answer to you.

                I’m not just any kind of lama, I am a lama to lamas, my peers as dharma practitioners, all appearances to the contrary not withstanding.

  3. Lhamo


    You are a lama’s lama! You are by all means more qualified than the customers recently sealed into retreat at Karma Ling.

    • Marvin Moser, Colleen Reed, and Kathy Wesley answered Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche’s call for us to, if we could, become KTD lamas.

      I can say without fear of contradiction that Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche went there with us, and that Marvin, Colleen, and Kathy answered the call to be the first of us to serve as lamas, specifically, as Kathy Wesley has done since completing her three year retreat at Karma Ling under our guru’s direct supervision, to teach on his behalf at KTD’s affiliate centers which we had founded as early adopters of the Karma Kagyu lineage here in Chicago, and in the case of Kathy Wesley, Columbus, Ohio.

      This was 25 years ago.

      When Marvin Moser returned to Chicago he wasn’t up to the task of teaching on Khenpo Karthar Rinpoches behalf for the simple because none of us here in Chicago saw in him what we looked for in our beloved guru.

      We didn’t buy what he as a KTD lama was tasked to sell us on.

      The same can be said of Colleen Reed.

      In retrospect that Khenpo Karthar thought it would be otherwise was a miscalculation on his part.

      As a senior disciple of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche I see in Marvin, Colleen, and Kathy, fellow disciples, my peers in the practice of the dharma, who happen to have been called to serve as KTD lamas.

      Talk about a low bar to becoming a lama.

      Since the first three year retreat at Karme Ling a quarter century ago much has changed.

      There is no longer a need for us to teach on Khenpo Karthar behalf at KTD’s affiliate centers.

      This task has fallen to Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche’s nephew, Lama Karma, a very nice young man, but as a senior disciple of Khenpo Karthar, a lama in the making at best.

      He’s actually quite good in this capacity.

      Being Tibetan he looks the part, has the right pedigree as Khenpo Karthar’s nephew, the resume, back story, and necessary knowledge to serve as a KTD lama, which as far as KTD is concerned, his being Rinpoche’s nephew was enough for the powers that be at Woodstock, NY.

      That he knows what he is doing is beside the point as far as they are concerned.

      We shall see what kind of lama he becomes.

      Twenty five years ago Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche had a plan for Karme Ling which, I can say without fear of contradiction, it no longer serves today.

      As a senior disciple of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche
      it has fallen to me as a lama to address this matter since it has come up here.

      Once the current occupants of Karme Ling emerge from retreat and join the ranks of KTD lamas that preceded them the problems they cause will inevitably blow back on me here as a lama, given my public profile as a member of the internet’s chattering class of Buddhist bloggers.
      After my heart attack, when I told Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche of my prognosis, there was nothing to be done for me, I was dying, Rinpoche assured me that he didn’t see me dying any time soon.

      Inspired by my guru’s words I dedicated the next three years of what life I had left to live to reciting ten million mani recitations while visualizing Amitabha above the crown of my head.

      I recommend Khenpo Karthar’s teaching on Karma Chakme’s Union of Dzogchen and Mahamudra to anyone interested in learning more about this practice.

      This took me three years.

      Upon completion of this practice, and the blessings of the Mahasiddha inspired crazy wisdom Karma Kagyu lineage I was no longer in Congestive Heart Failure, my cardiac output was normal, which given how damaged my heart was after I survived the widow-maker three years later, a 100% blockage of my left coronary artery, is a medical miracle.

      So I’m not going anywhere.

      Neither are the consequences of the decisions made by guru, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, over the past thirty five years I have been a disciple of Rinpoche’s, I feel as such obligated to discuss here.

      I’ve attempted to drill down here into what Thrangu, Akong and Khenpo Karthar Rinpoches did after the 16th Karmapa passed into Parinirvana in 1981, how they collaborated with the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party and the consequences of their doing so, but I see no reason to repeat myself on this subject any further, barring any further developments on this front.

      If Ogyen Trinley Dorje being caught using the same law firm as members of the Chinese Communist Party to hide money in an offshore bank account isn’t problematic for you, that’s your problem.

      Not quite four years in with this blog, 93,246 visitors later, 439, 647 views later, I’m ready for whatever is next for me here, what if anything anyone wants from me as far as this blog is concerned.

      For my part, I’m content to just respond to comments posted here, and leave it at that.

      In 2010 someone here claimed that in five years nobody would even remember KTD’s banishment of Bardor Tulku.

      In 2016, thanks to the Internet, the powers that be at KTD will be forever associated with this act which launched my career as a Buddhist blogger.

      Such is the power of the Internet.

      There remains much for us to discuss here, if anyone is so inclined.

      To be continued…

      • Jan

        “As a senior disciple of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche it has fallen to me as a lama to address this matter since it has come up here.”

        Well put indeed!

        • Here I am a 57 year old disciple of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, I’ve been with Rinpoche 35 years, when he accepted me as his disciple he told me never again would we be apart as guru and disciple and I’ve never had cause to feel otherwise, I was according to his translator at the time, Ngodup Tsering Burkhar, the first disciple of Rinpoche’s to receive from him the lung and tri for Mahamudra, my practice ever since, after my heart attack Rinpoche saluted my accomplishment as a dharma practitioner, I not only meditated through the physical trauma of a massive heart attack, I sat, folded my legs and did as Rinpoche had taught me to do as I died, if only for a moment, a corollary artery opened up, my left coronary had a 100% blockage, bypassing my blocked coronary artery saving my life, all without feeling any pain, Rinpoche was so proud of me, I’ve in a previous comment shared my practice since, I have to ask in what does make someone a lama if not what I have been doing as a dharma practitioner the past 35 years?

          A quarter century ago Marvin Moser and Colleen Reed entered retreat at Karme Ling and returned to Chicago KTC newly minted lamas in name but in reality, as they had entered Karme Ling three plus years earlier, the very same Marvin Moser and Colleen Reed they returned to us, suffering from PTSD from what they had been subjected to while in retreat, it was sadistic the physical and psychological tortue Marvin went through on the men’s side of the retreat, in no position to be of any use to anyone, despite the robes Rinpoche insisted they parade around KTC Chicago as lamas in residence.

          Feel free to jump in here, or not.

          The subject is who is or is not a lama here.

      • Jan

        Can you say more about the PTSD incurred at Karma Ling?

        Are all the karma Ling lamas inauthentic?

        • The authenticity of the process in question is beyond dispute.

          Karme Ling is the real deal.

          You have to know Marvin and Colleen to understand what they went through and how it affected them.

          Colleen quite enjoyed life in retreat.

          Her problem was with life post-retreat.

          With Marvin, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche rode him hard.

          Too hard.

          The first retreat went badly on the men’s side.

          • Ted

            They are lucky to have a lama like you.

            • For too long I’ve kept what happened to us to myself, life goes on, but on, that being said, onthe other hand what I have shared here, what happened to Marvin, Colleen and myself, KTC Chicago, did happen, there was a Karmapa, the 16th, the last Karmapa of a free Tibet, Rangjung Rikpe Dorje, for whom we in the West were his lineage’s future, who chose to pass into Parinirvana here for this very reason, not that anyone today cares to revisit what happened after His Holiness passed away in 1981.

  4. Chris

    Isn’t Ponlop Rinpoche’s brother building a retreat center in Zion, Ill? That sounds like a way of honoring what Karmapa did by choosing to die in the US.

    But, anyway, I agree with Warrenz that until you can produce a document from KKR or Ponlop Rinpoche, who really is the defacto representative of HHGK that you are indeed a lama you should probably keep that stuff to yourself.

    I’ve seen grumblings in reference to your self-promotion on some of the Buddhist online forums. I’ve even heard from a friend who is an office worker at KTD that your claims were lunch time conversation over the weekend.

    • Ours is an oral lineage and to suggest otherwise goes against all that we are as Buddhists, and I challenge anyone to say otherwise, that I am a lama of the 16th Karmapa’s crazy wisdom Karma Kagyu lineage.

      • Tenzin C

        Lol. But as you can’t prove that you are a lama outside of having met KKR and 16th Karmapa, you fail to convince.

        As such your challenge falls flat.

        You are not a lama.

        • I am a lama of the 16th Karmapa’s Mahasiddha inspired crazy wisdom Karma Kagyu lineage and challenge anyone to prove otherwise.

          • Warrenz

            Bill, you undermine any legitimate criticism you have of the Karma Kagyu hierarchy with this kind of self-aggrandizing nonsense.

            • I’m a lama of the 16th Karmapa’s Mahasiddha inspired crazy wisdom Karma Kagyu lineage, I challenge anyone to prove otherwise, and your failure to recognize this is not a reflection upon me but you alone.

              • Kathy

                Oh my!

                Now you sound a bit like Jetsunma.

                What odd karma.

              • Warrenz

                Those that know, don’t say. And those that say, don’t know.
                Isn’t that how the saying goes?

                You’re right I cannot prove anything about your subjective experience. But your purported realization certainly doesn’t shine through these pages that’s for damn sure.

                All I see is someone taking some legitimate issues with the Karma Kagyu lineage and using them to spin a tale of which he is the hero.

  5. Tenzin C

    Ok. Whatever you say.

    You seem pretty attached to your new title.

    Are you in a rush to accomplish something?

  6. Lama Karma

    Shove it up your (explicative deleted), lama.

    • I deleted the explicative in the above comment.

      Was it something I said Lama Karma?

      • Cathy

        Whatever you say Tulku la! You appear out of your mind.

        Lamala, and I mean you, Mr. Bill, you really are a piece of work.

        • That the idea of one of us has actually become a lama, taken refuge in the Karma Kagyu lineage, received instruction, practiced, and received the blessings of having done so, as the 16th Karmapa came to America to accomplish so threatens you only speaks to the connection, or lack thereof you have with said lineage, your unhinged refusal to accept the obvious, that I am indeed a lama of the 16th Karmapa’s Mahasiddha inspired crazy wisdom Karma Kagyu lineage which I here challenge anyone anywhere to say otherwise, something which none of my peers as a dharma practitioner will give you the satisfaction of doing so.

          • Warrenz

            I say you’re just plain crazy now.

            The Donald Trump of the Karma Kagyu in the US. Using general dissatisfaction with the elite to rabble rouse in order to feed a need for publicity. it’s all about you, Bill. It always was. You couldn’t give a damn about the lineage.

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