Recounting His Holiness Karmapa’s Recognition of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche at the 33rd Kagyu Monlam

— Michael Erlewine

When His Holiness the 17th Karmapa was visiting North American last spring, Margaret and I traveled with him for quite a few stops, first as participants, and then my working as a video (and still photo) cameraman, and finally Margaret and I working as part of his security force team.

During that time, the Karmapa asked our teacher the Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche to come to India this winter (like now) and be part of the Kagyu Monlam, a festival of prayer for world peace and the welfare of sentient beings. The Monlam is held annually in Bodhgaya, India, the place where the historical Buddha achieved full enlightenment.

Rinpoche is in his nineties, so of course we worried about his health, having to travel all that way, in airplanes, etc., but His Holiness said he would be fine. So Khenpo Rinpoche and an entourage of his retreat lamas left for India recently.

As it turns out, His Holiness the Karmapa wanted to offer a special ceremony for our teacher Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, and honor him for coming to America, where he built the Karma Triyana Monastery, the seat of the Karmapa in North America. Khenpo Rinpoche came to America in the mid-1970s at the instructions of the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. He had nothing whatsoever and, along with help from a few lamas (and folks like ourselves), built everything that is there today from scratch.

Earlier yesterday, the Karmapa offered a special ceremony in which he thanked Rinpoche for fulfilling the directs wishes of the previous Karmapa, the 16th (Rangjung Rigpe Dorje). Here are a few screen grabs from a hard-to-see streaming video and the words of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje pertaining to our beloved teacher, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche. Some of you may appreciate it. It is unusual for a lama to be singled out this way in front of thousands of monks and lay people.

His Holiness the Karmapa spoke about Khenpo Rinpoche’s accomplishments and then offered him a small gift. Here is what he said:

“… But as in the practice of the great beings of the past, I would like to give rinpoche a piece of clothing, a Gampopa Hat* that I often wear. And this Gampopa Hat is like a sign of his being lord of the family. And because it is like a symbol of the guru being the lord of the family, as it is said, from now and in all of my lifetimes may I be inseparable from the lama Guru Mikyo Dorje, the yidam Vajravarahri, and the protector Bernagchen, and so may Rinpoche never be separate from the ocean of deities and the three roots. May his life and activity be splendid and full, not only this life, but in all his future lifetimes, may he be able to continue acting in vast ways for the benefit of beings and the teachings.

[His Holiness also introduced a new long-life prayer for Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche. What follows are his words and at the end the actual long-life prayer, as far as I can tell.]

“Now, please recite this prayer for his long life, while I will make this gift to Rinpoche, along with a robe. This is a sign of Rinpoche having fulfilled all the qualities of being learned, venerable, and good, and having accomplished the wishes of the Karmapa.

“May this incomparable master live long, through his pure intentions to bring happiness to beings and the teachings, He is a powerful example of being learned, venerable, and good, and has accomplished the wishes of the Karmapa.


“ Through his pure intentions to bring benefit and happiness to beings

And to the teachings, he has shown the example of being learned,

Venerable, and good, and accomplished the wishes of the Karmapa.

May this incomparable master live long.”

* The Tibetan words for hat and belt are similar; that is why at the event the name of His Holiness’ gift to Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche was translated as “meditation belt.”