Karma Thinley Rinpoche

Karma Thinley RinpocheBiography of Karma Thinley Rinpoche

Karma Thinley Rinpoche is a Buddhist master of the Sakya and Kagyu traditions, was born into the noble family of Bongsar in 1931 in the Nangchen area of Kham, Eastern Tibet.

Over the last twenty-five years Rinpoche has founded centres and taught extensively in Canada, the U.S.A., New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He has hundreds of devoted Western, Tibetan and Nepali students. 

Early Life and Recognition 

At the age of one month he received refuge. Two years later he was recognised by the head of the Sakya tradition, Sakya Trizin Dakshul Thinley Rinchen, as the tulku (incarnation) of the Sakyapa master Biru Sharyak Lama Kunrik, who was considered an incarnation of the great Vairocana.

At that time he received all the symbols and titles of his rank and authority.

Teachings  and Buddhist Education

Karma Thinley Rinpoche received a vast number of teachings during his childhood. This was a result of being born as a tulku and having an extraordinary number of spiritual masters among his relations.

He received Kagyu and Nyingma teachings from his uncle the famous yogin and terton Jigje Lama. He also received many teachings from his two great uncles Shabtrung Rinpoche and Pangchog Rinpoche, the heads of Riwoche the famous non-sectarian monastery.

From the great Sakya masters Khangsar Khenpo Ngawang Yonten Gyamtso and Ngawang Tashi Chophel he received a wide range of Sakyapa teachings.

At the monastaries of Lachung, Dilyak and Neten, Rinpoche studied the classical mahayana texts under a number of masters, including Khenpo Pad-dam, Khenpo Gur-ga, Drupon Sanjay Puntsok and Khenpo Tse-gyam.

Recognition from His Holiness 16th Karmapa

Later at Tsurphu monastery in central Tibet, Rinpoche received full monastic ordination from H.H. 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. It was during this period that H.H. Karmapa appointed Rinpoche as the fourth in the line of Karma Thinleypas, famed for their scholarship in both Kagyu and Sakya schools.

In 1959 Rinpoche left Tibet in the party of the Karmapa, fleeing from communist oppression. Subsequently Rinpoche became abbot of a newly established nunnery at Tilokpur in 1962. In 1967 he received the Path and its Fruit , the principal cycle of teachings of the Sakya traditon, from H.H. Sakya Trizin at Sarnath. It was about this time that Rinpoche met his first Western disciples.

Emigration to Canada and meeting Lama Jampa Thaye

In 1971 Rinpoche settled in Canada, accompanying a group of Tibetan refugees as their spiritual teacher and a year later founded the Tibetan Society, to introduce Tibetan culture to Canada. In 1973 Rinpoche founded Kampo Gangra Drubgyud Ling meditation centre in Toronto, named after the first Karmapa’s monastery in Kham. That same year Rinpoche spent three months in Scotland, where he met his English student Lama Jampa Thaye for the first time.

Later Teachings

Rinpoche returned to India in 1978 to receive the Rinchen Terdzod, the famous collection of Nyingma treasure cycles, from H.H. Dingo Khyentse Rinpoche. Four years later he made his first return to Tibet for over 20 years, travelling throughout Nangchen visiting his relatives and giving teachings. In 1983 Rinpoche received the Drubthap Kundu, the collected sadhanas of the new tantra schools, from H.E. Chogay Trichen in Lumbini.

Buddhist Activities

In addition to being an accomplished poet and artist, Rinpoche is a renowned historian, having written (in English) The History of the Sixteen Karmapas.

His major projects are the continuing supervision of his nunnery Tegchen Lekshey Ling in Bodhnath, Nepal and of Sangngak Phodrang in Nangchen.

“You are the activity of the holders of the Black and Red Crowns
Making the lineages of Buddha’s sutra and tantra shine like the sun.
Supreme root lama, Karma Thinley
May your life be long and your activities be completely fulfilled.”

Extracted from the Long Life Prayer by Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro

For more information about the activities of Rinpoche please visit www.karmathinleyrinpoche.com