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From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Shamar Rinpoche teaching
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Shamarpa (Tibetan: ཞྭ་དམར་པ་, Wylie: Zhwa-dmar-pa; literally, "Person Holder of the Red Crown"),

also known as Shamar Rinpoche or more formally Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche is a lineage holder of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and the mind manifestation of Amitabha Buddha.

He is traditionally associated with Yangpachen monastery near Lhasa.

The first Shamarpa, Khedrup Drakpa Senge (1283–1349), was the principal disciple of the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje.

Rangjung Dorje gave this disciple a ruby-red crown and the title Shamarpa, establishing the second line of reincarnate lamas in Tibetan Buddhism, Karmapa being the first.

This is taken to be the fulfillment of a prediction of the second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, who said "Future Karmapas will manifest in two forms".

When the fourth Karmapa, Rolpe Dorje, returned the red crown to the second Shamarpa, he recalled Karma Pakshi's prediction, saying, "You are the one manifestation, while I am the other.

Therefore, the responsibility to maintain the continuity of the teachings of the Kagyu lineage rests equally on you as it does on me." The Shamarpa is often referred to as the "Red-hat Karmapa," especially in early Kagyu texts.

The Shamarpa lineage

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

  • Unknown, presumed forced into hiding by the Tibetan government.


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.

In 1963, following a request from the 16th Karmapa, the Tibetan Government in Exile lifted the ban.

Present Shamarpa

The present (14th) Shamarpa is Mipham Chokyi Lodro, born in Derge, Tibet in 1952.

At age four he was recognized by his uncle the 16th Karmapa. 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 is 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 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 Karmapa Thaye Dorje as well and the 14th Dalai Lama.

(see Karmapa controversy).

The 14th Shamarpa presently resides in India.