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Karmapas are the highest lamas of Karma Kagyu tradition as of XII century.

The first Karmapa Dusum Khyenpo (1110-1193), a yogi from the Eastern area of Kham, came to Gampopa’s monastery approximately in 1140, being quite aware of the teaching of Indian and Tibetan Buddhist schools. Gampopa immediately noticed the potential of this student, though he wasn’t perfect in his behaviour. Initially Dusum Khyenpo and his closest friends – also coming from Kham who would in future establish powerful transmission lineages – continued leading the same free lifestyle as they used to in the mountains.

Once they were celebrating Dakinis Day, drinking beer, singing and dancing, and the monk responsible for the discipline in the monastery decided to expel them instantly from the community. It was only down to Gampopa, who noticed that all of the birds and many of his invisible Dakinis-protectors left with the three yogis out of the monastery and protected them from accusations. 

Dusum Khuenpo had been studying and meditating so hard that soon Gampopa announced him his best student. According to Gampopa’s wish Dusum Khyenpo once went into retreat and in less then a year of meditation he realized Enlightenment by practicing Six Yogas of Naropa.   

At the moment of Enlightenment Karmapa was offered a crown from hundred thousand dakinis, made of their wisdom hairs, which give the knowledge of the past, present and future. Since then there has been blue-black rectangular energy field – so called Black Crown.  

The crown given by Dakinis is considered to be invisible to a normal person who doesn’t possess yogi accomplishments. However it was constantly above Dusum Khyenpa’s and is above all of the following Karmapas’ head like a black mandala (power field) of a rectangular shape.

To those who can perceive it – the Bodhisattvas on high level of spiritual growth – it grants immediate realization of true nature of mind. For this reason it’s called “liberating by view”.

Once 5th Karmapa’s students, Chinese emperor Yun Lo, saw the energy crown above the head of his teacher and made its material copy decorated with gold and jewels. 

Karmapas became the founders of Tibetan tulku tradition – conscious rebirths. Not long before his death in 1193 Karmapa passed on Tsurphu and the whole of his school management to his closest disciple Drogen Rechen, as well as left a sealed letter with a prophecy regarding his next incarnation.  

The letter contained the details about the time and the place of 2nd Karmapa’s birth. Drogen Rechen did not survive till his next meeting with the teacher but passed the information on to his successor Pomdragpa who found the boy following received instructions. 

Subsequently this method of spiritual inheritance was adopted to a greater or lesser degree by the rest of the schools, and tulku system was widely set Tibet.

1st Karmapa Dusum Khyenpo (1110-1193)

2nd Karmapa Karma Pakshi (1204-1283)   

3d Karmapa Randjung Dorje (1284-1339)

4th Karmapa Rolpei Dorje (1340-1383)

5th Karmapa Deshin Shegpa (1384-1415)

6th Karmapa Thongwa Denden (1416-1453)

7th Karmapa Chotrag Gyamtso (1454-1506)

8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje (1507-1554)

9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje (1556-1603)

10th Karmapa Choying Dorje (1604-1674)

11th Karmapa Yeshe Dorje (1676-1702)

12th Karmapa Changchub Dorje (1703-1732)

13th Karmapa Dudul Dorje (1733-1797)

14th Karmapa Thegchod Dorje (1798-1868)

15th Karmapa Khakhyab Dorje (1871-1922)

16th Karmapa Rangdjung Rigpe Dorje (1924-1981)


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