A Short Biography of Drupon Rinpoche Karma Lhabu
To the north of the supreme Vajra Seat of India, where the fourth guide of our fortunate aeon, the Lord of Sages manifested complete buddhahood, lies the domain of noble Padmapani , a land where the Dharma and practitioners of the Mahayana have flourished. It was here, at an excellent and virtuous astrological time, that without any harm being done to his mother, the Master's perfect lotus-form bloomed forth on this land amongst many auspicious signs.
An amazing individual from a young age, when just two years old he was taken into the presence of Wa Shul Khenpo, and even he remarked "I think this little one will become someone with outstanding qualities; take care to keep him away from dirt and contaminants." At the age of five he began to learn to read and train in the various Dharma activities, such as the practice of The Peaceful and Wrathful Deities and other daily recitations. He swiftly committed all of these to memory. At the age of seven he entered Tsab Tsa Monastery's monastic educational system, and in 1983 he took Getsul ordination in the presence of Khenpo Palga and received the name Thubten Karma Shenpen. He studied grammar and handwriting, as well as torma making, ritual procedures, recitations, chanting melodies, the three types of ritual musical instruments, dance, and the drawing of mandalas.
In 1988, at the age of eighteen, he thought, "I must accomplish this Dharma, which is beneficial in this and all future lives.” Having received the instructions from Karma Senge and Retreat Master Karma Sherab, he went into solitary retreat, completing the standard amount of repetitions for the Mahamudra preliminaries.
At the age of nineteen he entered the traditional three year retreat under the direction of the retreat teacher Karma Senge, where he received many Dharma teachings and excellently accomplished many recitations and approach and accomplishment practices.Then he was given, stage by stage the essential points of profound Mahamudra and Dzogchen.
From this point onwards he strove with one pointed determination for the true nature of genuine reality.
On numerous later occasions, over many years he practised in this way; thereby he engendered exceptional qualities of experience and realisation. In brief, Karma Lhabu became a master of the profound dharmas of the orally transmitted teachings (Kama) and the revealed treasure teachings (Terma).
Drupon Rinpoche Karma Sherab joyfully expressed his affection again and again as he always did, saying such things as "It is certain that we two, master and disciple, will remain together, other than in death." To Khenpo Kalon and others he said, "Constantly accompany your friend Karma Lhabu, because by doing so his positive qualities will definitely rub off on you." He also said, "If the instructions of others have not severed your misconceptions, you should consult with him (Karma Lhabu)." Speaking thus the Lama extensively sung his praises; among all of his students he genuinely considered Karma Lhabu to be his supreme heart son. To him alone the Lama bestowed the reading transmission for The Kangyur, the translated words of the Buddha; however the tail end of the transmission was not to be completed.
In 1991 he received the empowerments for the complete cycle of the glorious Shangpa Kagyu from the Tsab Tsa Drubgon Rinpoche, while the chant master of Palpung, Lama Zopa gave the instruction, reading transmission, and the ritual procedures for the practices.
The following year he entered another retreat, under the direction of Drupon Rinpoche Yeshe Junge of Palpung Thubten Chokhor Ling. From this retreat master he received in great detail the instructions and empowerments for the practices of Korlo Demchog, Dorje Phagmo, Gyalwa Gyamtso, and Mahakala; as well as for the Glorious Six Yogas of Naropa, the Yogic Exercises on Channels and Winds and the Mahamudra. Drupon Rinpoche Yeshe Junge recognised Karma Lhabu as a great Mahamudra teacher and consequently gave him special instructions.
He then travelled to Adzom where he received Dzogchen instructions from Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche. Following that he went to Serta, and met the lord of renunciants, Khenchen Choying Khyabdal, from whom he requested a spiritual connection.
Travelling by foot he left for Golok in order to meet the lord of realisation, Khenchen Munsel Rinpoche. Although he underwent great suffering on this journey and even came close to death, he said that as it was hardship experienced for the sake of Dharma, no regrets arose in the slightest. Finally he met Khenpo Munsel himself who conferred upon him alone profound ripening instructions on The Highest Awareness (Yeshe Lama). Having heard an account of Karma Lhabu’s experience and realisation, the Master was delighted and went on to give him instructions on the secret key points of Dzogchen without concealing anything.
Still in 1992 and having arrived in Tsab Tsa monastery Karma Lhabu entered a retreat on the approach stage of Konchog Chidu, while also giving some instructions, explanations and reading transmissions in the general retreat. At this time Lama Rinpoche Karma Senge said that he was certain that his two heart-like disciples, Nyima Gyaltsen and Karma Lhabu, would, if unobstructed, go on to benefit the teachings in a vast way. He gave many other affectionate words of heartfelt advice. The following year he passed away. Karma Lhabu performed the concluding rites excellently, all in accord with his lama's command.
He then proceeded to Wa Shul, where he received detailed teachings from the Khenpo Palga. From there he went to the great Dharma Institution of Dagyud - Ngedon Shedrub Dargye Ling. Here he received extensive teachings from the vastly learned Khenchen Pema Tsewang and others, and he exerted himself greatly in his studies. At this time the Dharma Lord Jigme Phuntsok arrived. On receiving several of his profound teachings, his faith greatly increased due to the appearance of many amazing signs, for instance in his dreams.
He then returned to Tsab Tsa and after receiving teachings and empowerments from Kyabje Tsab Tsa Drubgon Rinpoche he again entered retreat in 1993. He practiced Dorje Pagmo's stages of approach and accomplishment, The Six Yogas of Naropa and the yogic exercises on the channels and winds, and Mahamudra. Between sessions he gave instruction to practitioners in the retreat centre.
At Tsab Tsa Monastery he reformed the retreat programme so that it would include The Six Yogas of Naropa, and then conducted the first such retreat, giving teachings and meditation instruction on the tantras of the Karma Kagyu school, Six Yogas of Naropa and so forth.
In 1994 he left for the Serta Dharma Encampment where he came to rely upon the great spiritual master Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche, who bestowed upon him numerous empowerments and instructions. For many years he was guided by this and other eminent teachers in Serta and elsewhere, and with tireless diligence he engaged in the three activities of studying, contemplating and meditating. Consequently he came to comprehend the entire intended meaning of the vast ocean of sutras, tantras and pith instructions and was awarded the title Khenpo.
In December 1999 he met Kyabje Thrangu Rinpoche in Nepal and then went on pilgrimage.
The following month he went to India, where he gave teachings at the Thrangu Vajra Vidya Higher Monastic College of Varanasi (spending the summer break at Thrangu Monastery in Nepal). He also travelled to Sherab Ling Monastery in northern India where he attended the Karma Gucho debates. He received teachings from Chamgon Tai Situ Rinpoche and later from His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa.
Lama Phuntsok from Nepal then requested Thrangu Rinpoche to allow Karma Lhabu to teach at the Shedra of Karma Lekshey Ling Monastery. Accordingly he took up this position in 2001. He was also invited by Khenchen Sherab Zangpo to give teachings and initiations at Karma Choying Kunchab Centre in Singapore and he then travelled to Malaysia and Taiwan, where he established the Chochi Drinpung Ling Centre. He also began to study Chinese at The Mountain Dharma Drum, amongst other places.
In 2004 Thrangu Rinpoche asked Karma Lhabu to return to Nepal and become Retreat Master (Drupon) of the traditional three year, three months' retreat at the site of Milarepa's cave, known as Nyi Shang Ka Te Puk. In March, in the presence of Thrangu Rinpoche and a large gathering, the Retreat Centre was excellently inaugurated. Having set the boundary marker, Karma Lhabu began to give instruction and guidance on the Mahamudra Preliminaries, Guru Yogas and Mind Training to the retreatants. Throughout the duration of the retreat Karma Lhabu returned to give extensive teachings and individual guidance on (among others) the actual Mahamudra practice, Dorje Pagmo, Khorlo Demchog, Gyalwa Gyamtso and the Six Yogas of Naropa.
During that time he was also Khenpo of Thrangu Nunnery and continued to make annual visits to numerous Centres of various traditions in Taiwan and Malaysia. In Taiwan he founded Kagyu Nangten Loling.
In 2008, after the completion of the three year retreat at Thrangu Rinpoche's Centre, Karma Lhabu was invited to Kagyu Samye Ling in Scotland, as Khenpo and Retreat Master. He helped to establish a Shedra and visited the long term Men's and Women's Retreat Centres on the Isle of Arran and Holy Isle. Since then he has returned annually to Scotland in order to teach the Shedra. In 2010 he gave extensive empowerments, transmissions and teachings and then sealed the boundaries for the Men's and Women's Long Retreats.
As Retreat Master he continues to guide the retreats of Thrangu Rinpoche and Kagyu Samye Ling, as well as travelling to numerous centres across different countries in order to benefit and meet the needs and requests of many people. Feeling a great responsibility for the theoretical and practice based instructions, he spreads far and wide the teachings of scripture and realisation.