The Concise Liberation Story of the Incomparably Great Spiritual Friend, Karma Lhabu, Which rouses The First Light of the Sun of Three-fold1 Faith
From deep within the ocean of the two wondrous accumulations2 comes the form that spontaneously accomplishes the two benefits3. His stainless wisdom, the two knowledges4, blazes fiercely with the splendid radiance of the sun and moon, overwhelming the gloomy ignorance of fortunate ones to be tamed. Lord of Sages, supreme Kinsman of the Sun5, please, here and now, continually emanate an immaculate manifestation of beneficial qualities and auspicious glory.
Who could fathom the lives of the Bodhisattvas of the three families6
From among them, right here, dances a heroic Bodhisattva;
Karma Lhabu – a timeless emanation of compassion –
Treasurer of a Dharmic ocean of genuine scripture and realisation.
Here I shall share his extraordinary story of realisation.
Having warmly welcomed you with these fresh lotus flower verses, we have come to the heart of the matter.
He is a genuine bodhisattva who has impartial love for all beings, equal to that of a mother for her only child; without prejudice he showers loving and merciful kindness upon them. He is a great monastic who raises the golden banner of the three trainings7 and the vinaya8; a master of the practice lineage teachings. his name, which expresses the meaning to be revealed is Tubten Karma Shenpen or Karma Lhabu9.
His life story to date will be covered in three ways:
1. the manner in which he took birth in this land;
2. the manner in which he relied upon spiritual teachers to pursue his education of study and contemplation, and how he thereby acquired excellent qualities;
3. and the manner in which he increased his wondrous activities of benefitting others impartially.
1. The manner in which he took birth in this land.
To the north of the supreme Vajra Seat10 of India, where the fourth guide of our fortunate aeon, the Lord of Sages manifested complete buddhahood, lies the domain of noble Padmapani11, 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.
He was an amazing individual from a young age. When just two years old he was taken into the presence of Wa Shul Khenpo. He remarked ‘I think this little one will become someone with outstanding qualities; take care to keep him away from dirt and contaminants.’
In particular, from the time he had grown just a little, he assiduously avoided the taking of life. Even when he saw others engaged in killing or other such things, he would immediately, with tears of agony, do whatever he could to stop them. When this type of behaviour was considered, it gave rise to the conviction that he must certainly be an individual belonging to the Mahayana, someone who had habituated himself to the compassionate care of others over many life times.
In the sky of primordial purity free from elaboration,
Is the intrepid Bodhisattva’s wisdom body constellation;
Reflected in the pot of fortunate ones to be tamed,
The virtuous display of the manifest form body blazes.
2. The manner in which he relied upon spiritual teachers to pursue his education of study and contemplation, and how he thereby acquired excellent qualities.
He longed for the Dharma through the awakening power of his former training and dharmic disposition. At the age of five he was taken before the spiritual friend Karma Lopel, who remarked:
For a mind conditioned by imprints of much prior study,
it is not difficult to know all there is to know.
He learned to read and trained in the various Dharma activities – the practice of The Peaceful and Wrathful Deities and other daily recitations – all of which he swiftly committed to memory. At the age of seven he entered Tsab Tsa Monastery’s monastic school. Here, following the basic curriculum, he memorised texts for the classes of tantra, as well as the practice texts for a wide variety of practices.
At the age of fourteen, he had given rise to perfectly pure renunciation. He became a monk in the presence of Khenpo Palga, the great Vinaya holder endowed with the two qualities of stability and knowledge, and in front of the required number of Sangha members, the objects of our faith. Thus he received the name Tubten Karma Shenpen and donned the victory banner of the three trainings and saffron-coloured robes.
In that same year, without provisions or resources, he and another young monk sneaked away from home in order to visit the Jowo in Lhasa. For three months they visited Lhasa and other pilgrimage sites and then returned. Everybody remarked on what strong hearts they must have had, to go so far at such a young age without provisions.
On his return he received teachings on the three vows14 from Khenpo Palga, and studied them, amongst other topics. He studied grammar and handwriting, torma making, ritual procedures, recitations, chanting melodies, the three types of ritual musical instruments, dance, and the drawing of mandalas to a reasonably high level. During this period he would go out to perform village rites15.
In general, from a young age he was straightforward, honest, and acted with little self-interest. In particular, no matter in whose company he was, he would be easy to be with and there would be no jealousy, backbiting, maliciousness or other negativity. Due to this he was held in high esteem by all.
In 1988, at the age of eighteen, he thought, ‘I must accomplish the Dharma which is beneficial in this and all future lives.’ With this heartfelt wish he went to the solitary mountain retreat of Drolung, a place with all the correct attributes of a holy place. Once there he did not entertain the two types of extreme conduct16, but persisted in the twelve good qualities to be trained in17. He upheld the conduct of a genuine renunciant, kept the lowest seat, wore tattered robes, and acted solely in accord with the life stories of the Kadampa masters of old.
By way of the three pleasing acts18 he excellently relied upon the one who mastered the inner practice of mind, Dorje Chang in person, Karma Legden, also known as Senge. He also relied upon the one who possessed mastery of the two-staged path19, Drupon Rinpoche Karma Sherab. He assiduously studied their instructions on The Torch of Certainty, Words of My Perfect Teacher – The Innermost Essence Preliminaries and others. Having memorised all the stages of visualisation, he completed the standard amount of repetitions for the Mahamudra preliminaries.
When he was nineteen (still in 1988) he entered the Drowo Lung Retreat centre where he received many Dharma teachings. He once more received instructions on the preliminaries from Drupon Rinpoche Karma Sherab, along with the ripening empowerment, liberating instructions, and supportive reading transmissions for the glorious presiding lord of all families, Dorje Sempa.
In strict retreat he excellently accomplished, amongst others, the five hundred thousand-fold set of preliminaries, close to one hundred million short Dorje Sempa mantras, four hundred thousand hundred-syllable mantras, and the approach and accomplishment stages of Mahakala Bernachen. Furthermore, he completely renounced and offered all his material possessions to both spiritual masters, Exalted Senge and Karma Sherab. He offered them his body, speech and mind, followed by a most sincere and excellent promise to always be content with few desires and to practice the conduct of a renunciant, free of occupation. This filled his Lamas with boundless joy and affection, causing the lord of realisation, Exalted Senge to say:
The three Dharma-robes adorn the unchanging form of
The holy master, who is as rare as a supreme udumvara flower.
Together with these words and other prayers of auspiciousness, Exalted Senge offered him Dharma robes and conferred many profound teachings upon him. Stage by stage, he was given the instructions which liberate within a single lifetime and within a single body – the essential points of profound Mahamudra and Dzogchen – in the manner of ‘naked instructions,’ without any being concealed.
From this point onwards, within the inner and outer boundaries20 of this intensive retreat, he remained one-pointedly absorbed in the truth of genuine reality. On numerous later occasions and spreading many years, he practised in this way. He engendered exceptional qualities of experience and realisation, as well as the signs of successful practice that are taught in the instruction manuals on Mahamudra and Dzogchen. Regarding this, Exalted Senge said:
My fortunate Vajra Brother of pure karma and aspirations,
Your determination emulates that of past masters,
you persevere in accomplishing the instructions of authentic lamas.
Do not cling to rainbow-like meditation experiences of non-referential manifestations,
But as if indifferent, nurture the naturally rested state.
If you remain free from hope and fear regarding the stability attained therein,
Nothing surpasses that – the Primordial Protector Samantabhadra.
Thus he bestowed many spiritual songs of praise and profound instructions; considering Karma Lhabu to be his primary heart son, the Lama felt continually joyful from then on.
Around this time Karma Lhabu suddenly became seriously ill with severe headaches and came close to death. The cause, whether it was the sorcery of gods or spirits, or some other type of obstacle, was uncertain. Regarding this sickness, his lama said, ‘What follows sickness is death! If this sickness is not cured and you die, how confident are you of being without regret when you are at the brink of death?’ With one-pointed devotion for his lama, he explained how he felt fearlessly confident in death and the manner in which he was bringing his illness onto the path. Thoroughly delighted, the Lama again exclaimed:
Ema21! At this time of degeneration, during the final days of the Buddha’s teachings,
A yogi, without fear of birth and death has come,
For whom difficulties appear as rigpa’s adornment,
Sickness is liberated within the dharmakaya state,
Ghastly ghouls and guardian gods are of the same essence;
For him the view is undisturbed like the sky.
The wondrous display of such a snowfall22
Swells the joy of those with wisdom.
To him I make an offering of this tuneful praise.
In this way he gave encouragement and taught – in the manner of a single lineage transmission of pith-instruction – about the secrets of the peak of vehicles23, saying, ‘whilst correctly absorbed in meditation do this and this to distinguish and clear away perils from the path and so on.’ Through this teaching the lama and disciple’s mind became inseparable, the illness naturally evaporated and even emerged as an excellent enhancement to his meditative experience and realisation. Overjoyed the revered Lama sang:
Vajra brothers and sisters who keep samaya,
Some of you have eyes directed upwards,
Poised upon a snow mountain,
flaunting your turquoise manes,
Resembling a white snowlion’s offspring
Others cannot compete with your heroics.
Gladdened by such a sight, before he dies
This old man will share a few words of experienced advice.
In this way the Lama gave many essential pith-instructions in condensed form.
In brief, Karma Lhabu became a master of the profound dharmas of the Kama and Terma – the orally transmitted teachings and the revealed treasure teachings – in all of their oceanic vastness. The two authentic Lamas endowed with the three types of kindness24(Lama Senge and Lama Karma Sherab) transmitted the totality of their profound teachings, empowerments, guidance, and pith instructions.
Transmitting them to him via the eternal knot at their hearts, they overflowed from their excellent vase-like throats, before tumbling forth from between their teeth; thus they empowered their Dharma regent in the manner of a king’s coronation.
Saying that it would create the auspicious connection for him to become the chief of all Vidyadharas, they crowned him with the name Rigdzin Chokyi Gyalpo (Vidyadhara Dharma King). In conclusion the lord of realisation, Exalted Senge, imparted these and many other profound words of auspiciousness:
By offering to Karma Lhabu, who resembles my heart,
This heartfelt feast of heart advice,
May there be the auspiciousness of perfecting the two accumulations.
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.
One day at the beginning of February in 1991, Drupon Rinpoche Karma Sherab spoke of his previous night’s dream ‘Yesterday I dreamt of a bowl filled with yoghurt, but when I went to hand it over to you the bowl broke. The bowl resembles me and handing over the yoghurt resembles bestowing all the instructions without exception. It is almost certain I will not stay in this world much longer.’ On the evening of the 18th of February (1991) his mind passed into the dharmadhatu. The funeral rites of ‘completing the Lama’s intent’ were properly concluded by Karma Lhabu himself.
Following this, in the exalted presence of Kyabje Tongwa Donden Karma Lodro Ngedon Tendzin Senge Pal Zangpo (Tsab Tsa Drubgen Rinpoche) – master of the teachings of the practice lineage – he excellently received the empowerments for the complete cycle of the glorious Shangpa Kagyu: (1) The Root – The Six Doctrines of Niguma; (2) The Trunk – Mahamudra; (3) The Branches – the Three Aspects of Bringing to the Path; (4) The Flowers – Red and White Khechari; (5) The Fruit – Deathlessness and Non-deviation. These are known as the Five Golden Dharmas.
He also received The Six Dharmas for the path of method, which came from the Dakini Sukhasiddhi: Mahamudra Pure Primordial Wisdom; The Combined Practice of Four Deities, which came from Drubchen Rahula Gubha; the cycle of instructions on The Lama and Protector Inseparable; the profound Dharma of Dorje Denpa Abhaya that elucidates The Precious Ocean Tantra called The Mandalas of the Five Classes of Tantra as One Profound Body Mandala Practice; the cycle of Chod teachings; Guru Dragpo; Dorje Drolo; White Tara, and The Peaceful and Wrathful Deities.
He received instruction, reading transmission, and the ritual procedures for the practices of the Shangpa Kagyu cycle of teachings all in great detail from the chant master of Palpung, Lama Zopa.
Then, in 1992, in order to further the Drogon Kagyu teachings, at the lotus feet of Drupon Rinpoche Yeshe Jungne, of Palpung Tubten Chokhor Ling, he received instructions and empowerment for the practices, instruction manuals and supplements for the sadhana cycles of Korlo Demchog (Chakrasamvara), Dorje Pagmo (Vajra Vahari), Gyalwa Gyamtso (Jinasagara), and Mahakala; as well as for the Glorious Six Dharmas of Naropa; Khen Trulpa’s Yogic Exercises on Channels and Winds; the Hearing Lineage’s Yogic Exercises; The Yogic Exercises on Channels and Winds composed by Jang Tulku Kukye Wangyal; The Root Verses of the Hearing Lineage’s Yogic Exercises Sealed in Secrecy; Mahamudra Ocean of Definitive Meaning; Mahamudra Dispelling the Darkness of Ignorance; and Mahamudra Pointing Out the Dharmakaya; all were received properly and in great detail.
At the time of receiving the above, he offered his understanding to his Lama, pleasing him beyond measure. The supreme Drupon then told him ‘I have a Mahamudra Ocean of Definitive Meaning text that contains great blessing. The mother of Dilmo Choje previously discovered this text in a cave; she offered it to the nirmanakaya artisan Tangla Tsewang, who then offered it to me. However, before now there has not been anyone who I thought was practising in the proper manner and would definitely benefit the lineage. To give it to anyone else would be a real loss, so I never did. And although I offered it to the general retreat centre, once I receive it back from the retreat’s caretaker, I will offer it to you.
Through giving explanations, guidance, and pith instructions on The Six Yogas of Naropa – the path of method – and on Mahamudra – the path of liberation – you must greatly benefit others. The benefit for the doctrine and beings will be vast.’ Saying thus he offered lofty praise and encouragement, and Karma Lhabu’s own faith and joy increased even more.
Although the Lama did not say directly that he was passing his lineage to him, due to the fact that the Lama took him on and cared for him in this way, Karma Lhabu understood that he was empowered as a lineage holder.
Having arrived in Adzom, he received teachings on The Three Phrases That Hit the Point, and a few other pith instructions on Dzogchen from Adzom Drukpa Rinpoche. He went to Serta, and met the lord of renunciants, Khenchen Choying Khyabdal, from whom he requested a spiritual connection.
Travelling on foot he left for Golok in order to meet the lord of realisation, Khenchen Munsel Rinpoche. Once, when he stopped for the night mid-journey, it started to rain torrentially. He didn’t have rain clothes or anything to keep him dry. He lay there on the vast northern plain and was so afflicted by the extreme cold that he experienced the suffering of being close to death. However, he later said that no regrets arose in the slightest, since he considered it to be hardship experienced for the sake of Dharma.
Finally he met the Master himself, Khenpo Munsel, and even though he arrived in a recess period when teachings were not being given, the Master took him in with great love and affection, and conferred upon him alone profound ripening instructions on The Highest Awareness (Yeshe Lama). But not feeling satiated, he requested the Master to give him the type of pith-instructions that come from his own experience. In response to this request the Master asked, ‘What understanding do you already have?’ Karma Lhabu expressed his experience and realisation, and the Master replied with delight, ‘I have constantly done my best to practice the secret pith-instructions, therefore, I can say that you should practice these secret key points of the view, meditation, and conduct in this way,’ and he went on to give instructions without concealing anything.
Before parting, the master said, ‘On first seeing you a great joy arose in me so it seems we have a positive connection from a previous time. Due to this I taught you The Highest Awareness, and the profound secrets of Dzogchen without concealing anything. Here on after, practice unerringly and after three years come back. For tomorrow’s journey back to your own monastery I have prepared an escort, horse and other necessities, so please be ready to go in this manner.’
Thus the master treated him with particular fondness and held him in especially high regard. The next day Karma Lhabu offered the Master all the money and food he had, and said ‘Please give this to those of the Dharma encampment who are slightly worse off.’
Once the Master had arranged for one of his ordained nephews to go as an escort, Karma Lhabu made his way back to his own monastery.
Following this, just before the three years were up, the Master passed into the dharmadhatu. On hearing this Karma Lhabu said, ‘Not having the fortune to meet the Master again, a feeling of immeasurable sadness has arisen, however nothing can be done.’
Noble One! Although resplendent with the inborn pure light of excellence,
Your pure conduct in correctly relying upon spiritual masters
who uphold the teachings, without partiality,
Brings to mind the liberation story of the Ever-Weeping Bodhisattva.
Having arrived in Tsab Tsa monastery he entered a retreat on the approach stage of Sublime Confluence (Konchog Chidu). At the same time, in the general retreat centre, he gave the ripening instructions for Glorious Dorje Sempa, through explanation, reading transmissions and so on for the practice texts, instruction manuals, and so forth.
At this time, on the 3rd of March 1992 at eight thirty in the evening, he went into the presence of the one endowed with three-fold kindness25, Lama Rinpoche Senge, and enquired after his health. The Lama replied, ‘Although I am free from illness, in this life there have been many corruptions and breakages of samaya26, so in order to confess and purify them I will rely on the meditation and recitation of Dorje Sempa. For the month that multiplies everything by a hundred thousand27, which starts tomorrow on the new moon, having set the inner and outer boundaries I will stay in retreat. I will see whether I can die during this month. If I’m fortunate I will die, but if my karma is poor I will not. If you still have unresolved doubts then ask now.’
The Lama went on to say that he was certain that his two heart disciples, Nyima Gyaltsen and Karma Lhabu, could go on to benefit the teachings extensively, if unobstructed. Apart from that, he taught about the way slander and ingratitude can arise in those around and how to bring this onto the path if it does, along with many other affectionate words of heartfelt advice, all in great detail. In this way they stayed up talking until two o’clock in the morning. As he was about to leave, the Exalted Lama picked up an auspicious white scarf and said, ‘This scarf is a really long one!’ Full of joy he gave it to him.
On the 4th of March 1992, the Noble Lama stayed in sealed retreat and his health started to improve.
On the 18th of March Karma Lhabu finished his retreat and started to make preparations to leave on an out-of-town trip to request teachings. However, on the 24th of the month the Lama called him into his presence. Having received this message from Nya Tulku, he went straight to see the Lama and asked after his health.
The Lama responded by saying that he was not in ill health so Karma Lhabu informed him that he was planning to go and request teachings. The Lama said that for the time being it would not be right for him to go and seek teachings. ‘I am certain that I will soon die and it is up to you to oversee the cleansing of the corpse, the cremation, and the concluding rites.’ The Master then explained in detail how this should be done. Feeling immeasurably depressed, in the presence of the Lama, he wept for a long time. To which the Lama, laughing slightly, said ‘And I thought you were a yogi assured in the profound view of Mahamudra and Dzogchen! Perhaps you still don’t even know how to remain inseparable from the Lama?’ Saying this he chuckled:
Now it’s time for me to go,
To die, this so called death,
A yogi’s mini-buddhahood!
In 1993 on the 25th of March, at a quarter past four in the afternoon, whilst voicing many astounding profundities such as ‘Even so called death is buddhahood, you know,’ so as to sever the tight bonds of his disciples’ clinging to permanence, he adopted the lion’s sleeping posture, and demonstrated the way of gathering all appearances of phenomena into the expanse of their true nature. He was thereby liberated within the space of the primordial ground.
Karma Lhabu performed the concluding rites excellently, all in accord with his lama’s command.
He then proceeded to Wa Shul, where from the learned and great upholder of the Tripitaka, Khenpo Palga he received detailed teachings on the commentary for The Meaning of Pith Instructions; the root text and commentary for The Precious Dharmadhatu; the root text and commentary for The Treasury of The Natural State; Karma Lingpa’s Six Instructions for the Bardo; the instruction manual for The Dorje Sempa Preliminaries composed by Shechen Kongtrul Rinpoche; and Sechen Gyaltsab’s Essential Points of Practice.
From there he went to the great Dharma Institution of Dagyud, Ngedon Shedrub Dargye Ling. Here he sat at the feet of Khenchen Pema Tsewang – the one with innate profound wisdom derived from prior training, from whom unsurpassable sublime intelligence wells forth, and who has inexhaustible confidence in explanation, debate and composition: the vastly learned master of exposition who is the head adornment of every Himalayan scholar. He received teachings on Guhyagarba (Sangwa Nyingpo) – The Essence of Luminosity, twice; A Thousand Doses of a Black Snake also twice; the root text for Bodhicarya Avatara – The Way of The Bodhisattva; The Three Vows – Wishfulfilling Grain; In Praise of Morality; Four Hundred Verses on Madhyamaka; and an Abhidharma commentary. Having received these he exerted himself greatly in his studies. In this master’s presence, he learnt the Lantsa, Wurtu and Uchen scripts and his penmanship became exceptional. When he went on to teach others, many of his students also became excellent penmen.
From Khenpo Sotse and others he received teachings on The Highest Awareness; a commentary on the Sukhavati Prayer by Lagla Chodrub; An Annotational Commentary on The Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras, Sutralamkara; Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary on Bodhicarya Avatara; and also on other topics comprising many deep instructions on the vast and profound; and the maturing and liberating.
At this time the Dharma Lord Jigme Puntsok arrived. On receiving several of his profound teachings, Karma Lhabu’s faith greatly increased due to the appearance of many amazing signs in his dreams and so forth.
Having returned to his own monastery, from the lord of the teachings of the practice lineage, Kyabje Tsab Tsa Drubgen Rinpoche, he received empowerments for Khorlo Demchog, Dorje Pagmo, Gyalwa Gyamtso, Gompo Bernachen (Black-cloaked Mahakala) and others. On various occasions he also received instructions on The Dorje Chang Lineage Prayer; Longchenpa’s The Lion’s Roar for Cutting Through Errors and Deviations; as well as detailed instructions on the actual practice of Mahamudra.
Towards the end of 1993 he entered a retreat to practice Dorje Pagmo’s approach and accomplishment stages of the outer, inner, and secret practices; the path of method The Six Yogas of Naropa and yogic exercises on the channels and winds; and the path of liberation, Mahamudra. He practiced continually day and night. Between sessions he would teach and give guidance to the practitioners inside the retreat centre on all approach and accomplishment stages concerning the tantras, as well as The Six Yogas, yogic exercises on the winds and channels, and teachings on Mahamudra.
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.
Kyabje Drubgen Rinpoche himself composed this supplication to him:
Firm are your roots of renunciation, the vows of morality.
Handsome are your benevolent branches that serve living beings.
Totally complete is your stream of Secret Mantra empowerments.
Glorious Lama, at your feet I pray.
His benefit to beings increased further still; he sang spiritual songs about the view, gave Dharma teachings, and so on.
Around this time a few individuals who had been affected by vicious influences, were stirring up trouble and hurling unjust abuse high and low. Their many inappropriate activities caused Karma Lhabu to become dispirited.
The Sutras teach:
It is best to move a hundred leagues away
From where there is complexity and quarrels.
In April 1994, in accord with this and in total secrecy – without telling even his students and close friends – he and his younger brother Guru Tseten left for Serjong of Do Kham, a study sanctuary for the five knowledges and the Buddhist teachings.
Here, with both correct motivation and correct conduct, he relied upon Choje Dampa Jigme Puntsok Jungne Pal Zangpo – the one with consummate comprehension of the entire meaning of the oceans of sutra, tantra and pith instructions; the lord of the teachings of the definitive meaning, luminous great perfection, secret path of the peak of all vehicles; the great spiritual master with inconceivable intelligence of both retention and exposition.
This master kindly bestowed upon him: A White Lotus – The Supportive Teaching for The Shakyamuni Practice – A Treasury of Blessings; The Sutra of Great Miracles; The Sutra of One Hundred Karmas; Guhyagarba – Essence of Luminosity; The Commentary on the Seven Line Prayer; The Biographies of the Eight Close Sons; The Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva; The Three Phrases That Summarise the Key-points; The Commentary for the Way of a King; Mipam Rinpoche’s Dzogchen and Collection of Advice cycles; The Questions of Adhyasaya Sutra; a commentary to The Prayer for Excellent Conduct; The Sukhavati Prayer of the Sage’s Scriptural Sun; the root text for The Treasury of Pith Instructions; The Complete Volume of Ah from Master Jigme Puntsok’s own collected works; the tantra of The Spontaneously Arisen Single Son of the Doctrine, with its commentary; empowerment and instructions on the Northern treasures’ Showing Directly the Realization of Samantabhadra (Kuntu Zangpo); The Guru’s Inner Essence empowerment; the empowerment for The Heart Essence of the Dakinis; as well as empowerments and instructions for many other sutras and tantras.
From the lord of renunciants, Khenchen Choying Khyabdal, he received teachings on Notes on the Creation Stage.
From the master of an ocean of scripture and reasoning, Khenchen Sherab Zangpo, he received teachings on Botrul’s Prajnaparamita; The Lamp of Certainty; The Highest Continuum; Notes on the Creation Stage; Guhyagarba – Essence of Luminosity; and The Guru’s Inner essence, among others. In the presence of the genuine lord of the learned, Khenchen Tsultrim Lodro, he received teachings on The Three Vows and The Auto-commentary for Entering the Middle Way. From the master of exposition, Khenchen Chime Rigdzin, he received teachings on, among other works, Karmapa Mikyo Dorje’s Extensive Commentary on Entering the Middle Way, The Extensive Commentary to the Paramitas; The Auto-commentary for Entering the Middle Way; Root Grammar in Thirty Verses, and The Elucidation of The Treasure on the Science of Valid Cognition.
From the ordained upholder of the Tripitaka, Khenpo Tenzin Norbu, he received teachings on and practised Root Texts of the Vinaya Sutras; The Major and Minor Oceans of Vinaya; Shenga’s Annotated Commentary to the Root Texts of the Vinaya Sutras; The Vinaya Flower Garland; The General Meaning of the Seventeen Fundaments, and other such teachings in addition.
From the treasurer of an ocean of scripture and reasoning, Khenchen Tenzin Lhagpa, he received teachings on A Detailed Commentary to the Commentary on Valid Cognition, and on Signs and Reasoning. From the great upholder of the Tripitaka, Khenpo Rigdar, he received teachings on Root Texts of the Vinaya Sutras; Guhyagarba – The Essence of Luminosity; and The Key to Guhyagarba’s Treasury. From the upholder of the Tripitaka, Khenpo Jamyang Lodro, he received teachings on many texts concerning the Middle Way and Vinaya.
Under the guidance of the yogi of the truth of the natural state, the Lord of Adepts, Tulku Lungtog Tenzin Zangpo, he trained in the instructions on Dzogchen and the channels and winds.
Within this great Dharma encampment, for many years and with tireless diligence, he engaged in the three activities of studying, contemplating and meditating. From the lamp of the teachings of the great secret, Sinda Tulku Orgyen Tenzin, he received three hundred different empowerments from ‘The Rinchen Terdzo Chenmo – The Great Treasury of Precious Termas,’ where the refined essences of the profound and secret oceans are combined.
In the year of the Fire Ox (1997), from the master of the teachings of the practice lineage, Kyabje Drubgen Rinpoche, he received teachings on the first volume of A Collection of Indian Treatises on Mahamudra Practice; The Collected Works of Gampopa; A Gem’s Light Rays – The General Meaning of Mantrayana; Moonbeams of Mahamudra; The Sun-Rays of the Two Segments; The Vinaya Tika Sun Mandala; The root text for The Profound Inner Meaning; Jamgon Kongtrul’s commentary on The Profound Inner Meaning; The Ornamental Vajra Web – An Excellent Elucidation of The Two Segments of the General Meaning; The Lion’s Roar – A Commentary to The Highest Continuum; The Inseparability of Wind and Mind; The Self-Formed Ornament of Realisation – Distinguishing Consciousness and Wisdom, and Teachings on Buddha-Nature, among other teachings on the main works of the Drogon Kagyu Lineage.
Outwardly, you maintain the welfare of fortunate individuals to be tamed;
Inwardly, you benevolently maintain the wheel of the doctrine;
Secretly, you maintain the assurance of rigpa in the ocean of the two stages.
The life example you maintain is one that pleases all Buddhas.
3. The manner in which he increased his wondrous activities of benefitting others impartially.
In December 1999, on receiving an invitation from Kyabje Thrangu Rinpoche, Karma Lhabu went to Nepal. He met Kyabje Thrangu Rinpoche and then went on pilgrimage to visit the holy sites of Nepal. In January 2000 he went to the noble land of India, where, among other topics, he gave teachings on The Vinaya Tika Sun Mandala at the Thrangu Vajra Vidya Higher Monastic College of Varanasi. He then spent the summer break at Thrangu Monastery in Nepal, before returning to Varanasi to begin the [new term of] teachings.
In September of that year, he went to Sherab Ling for the Karma Gucho debates. There he met Jamgon Tai Situ Rinpoche. All of the khenpos and students who had assembled for the debates went to meet HH Gyalwang Karmapa, and the college students engaged in Dharma discussions and examinations. At this time Karma Lhabu received a Manjushri empowerment, lovingly bestowed by HH Karmapa upon the entire assembly. Then they began the Karma Guncho at Sherab Ling.
While the debates were in progress, Jamgon Tai Situ Rinpoche gave instruction on the profoundly secret and unsurpassable Mahamudra Ocean of Definitive Meaning to the whole assembly. Once the debates had been excellently concluded Karma Lhabu went with all of the college students on pilgrimage to the holy lake of Tsopema.
At this time, Lama Puntsok importuned Kyabje Yongdzin Thrangu Rinpoche to allow him to invite Karma Lhabu to Lekshey Ling Monastery in Nepal, and received consent. Having accepted the invitation Karma Lhabu went to Nepal. Once there he taught Karmapa Mikyo Dorje’s Great Commentary on Entering the Middle Way and the Great Commentary on Prajnaparamita. However, whilst teaching he became ill; this and several other factors such as the establishment of a new Dharma centre in Taiwan under the auspices of Khenchen Sherab Zangpo, forced him to leave before the teachings were concluded, to his deep regret.
In May 2001, having made a gradual return to good health, he travelled to Singapore, where he visited the Karma Choying Kunkyab Ling Dharma Centre, before heading to Taiwan.
Here, with the hope of aiding the activity of the one who had shown him the two types of great kindness28, Khenchen Sherab Zangpo, he gave empowerments and teachings at the opening of Dodon Kundrub Dharma Centre. However, he said, ‘ Since I don’t know Chinese, not only am I not doing anything of benefit for myself or anybody else, there is a risk that if I stay in Taiwan this life will be squandered. I think I should leave.’
Around this time he stayed in retreat for a while. Following this, he was repeatedly encouraged to stay longer by his dharma family and friends. They said that now that he had arrived it would be excellent if he could stay for a little while. So he decided to stay. Reflecting upon the possibility of being able to explain the Dharma in Chinese and translate some of the scriptures, a strong determination was triggered within him; hence, he went to study Chinese at Dharma Drum Mountain, amongst other places.
During this time he travelled to bestow empowerments and gave teachings in various Dharma centres, including a trip to Malaysia. On his return to Taiwan, whilst continuing his study of Chinese, he also founded a Dharma centre called Chokyi Drin Pung Ling. As a result of Kyabje Thrangu Rinpoche’s repeated exhortations, made on several occasions, Karma Lhabu returned to Nepal via India in March 2004. On the morning of the 23rd of March, together with Kyabje Thrangu Rinpoche and a large gathering, he took part in the inauguration Nyishang Katayi Puk Retreat Centre29. In the evening, having set the boundary marker in place, he gave the reading transmission and instructions for Dorje Phurba (Vajra Kilaya) to the retreatants.
The next day (the 25th of March) he started to explain and give guidance on Mahamudra The Torch of Certainty, Marpa and the other Guru Yogas, Chod, Notes on the Creation Stage, and the Seven Points of Mind Training. He then taught in detail the preliminaries of Mahamudra Ocean of Definitive Meaning; Mahamudra Dispelling the Darkness of Ignorance; Mahamudra Pointing Out the Dharmakaya, which produced good results. He also gave the reading transmissions for Khorlo Demchog, Dorje Pagmo, and Gyalwa Gyamtso.
At the end of June he left Nepal and visited both HH Gyalwang Karmapa and HE Tai Situ Rinpoche in India before leaving for South-East Asia, where he bestowed empowerments and gave teachings in Taipei and Singapore, whilst continuing to compose a history of the Kagyu lineage. In Taiwan he was involved in making plans for the founding of Kagyu Nangten Loling.
On his return to the retreat centre in Nepal, he gave instructions on the actual practice of Mahamudra; Words of My Perfect Teacher, and on the cycle of instructions for the practices of Dorje Pagmo and Mahakala.
In March 2005, after the successful completion of these teachings, he travelled to India, Hong Kong and Taiwan, including a visit to Kagyu Nangten Loling. In each place he gave whatever teachings the people desired, taking upon himself great responsibility for the teaching and practice of the Buddhadharma.
In brief, this sublime master, relied without bias on more than thirty spiritual masters from all of Tibet’s schools: Sakya, Gelug, and Nyingma, as well as Jonang, Drukpa, Karma and so on. Just as a youthful bee strives for nutritious honey, he avoided any form of sectarianism regarding the entire range of scriptural traditions of sutra and mantra, and all of the greater and lesser fields of knowledge.
Through applying himself to meditation, service and making offerings, he properly relied on all of these spiritual masters and as a result perfected within himself all of their qualities of relinquishment and realisation without exception. He then travelled to many different countries and spread far and wide the teachings of scripture and realisation.
The brilliance of the sun and moon of mahamudra and dzogchen,
Indivisible within the undisturbed great emptiness of your sky-like mind,
Pacifies the play of elaboration within the freshness of rigpa,
Where meditation and post-meditation are undifferentiated for you the ultimate yogin.
In particular, he practised and accomplished the Dharma, never leaving that which was learnt as a mere intellectual understanding. From the time he crossed the Dharma’s threshold he was:
Busy studying and contemplating by day,
Relaxed in meditative concentration by night.
Through constant practice of the ‘four thoughts that turn the mind’ he severed all attachment to this life; with a constantly kind heart he sought the welfare of others, and one-pointedly remained within the true nature of genuine reality. Therefore he is a great spiritual friend in name and truth.
Since the time is not yet right and since it is important to avoid disclosing that which is secret, a great deal is not included here. The way his mind was focused one-pointedly on the essential truth at all times and in all situations, whether staying in towns, mountain solitudes or monasteries; the way experience and realisation arose within him, and the way he offered his realisation to the Lama, have not been mentioned here. Yet leaving it incomplete creates the auspicious circumstance for the writing of his secret story of liberation at a later date.
Of the parts yet to be included are the Master’s many Dharma teachings, biographical accounts, poetry, commentaries, spiritual songs, and more of his spiritual history and life example.
The supreme individual and guardian of beings, Karma Lhabu, is present right now as a beautiful adornment of Tibet’s freshest virtue. Unshakable are his two vajra-feet upon the blazing throne of changelessness. By means of his pure altruistic mind, regarding the teachings and living beings, he spreads the scripture and realisation of theory and practice; and indeed may it remain so.
Through the coming together of excellent aspirations and auspicious circumstances,
As an object of faith, we have arranged a fraction, a mere particle,
Of the deeds of this genuine spiritual master,
Who is complete in all ways with every quality of stability and knowledge.
Moreover, this liberation story is free from the blight of contrivance.
Devoid of exaggeration, denigration, bias and drivel.
Any past accounts received were all checked and accurately recorded.
Authentic in this way, it is a pure story of liberation.
Master! We pray that your dharmachakra feet30
Remain excellently and steadfastly until the end of existence
As the unshakable and dignified crowning gem of this land.
By this, may the splendour of wellbeing and happiness beautify the three planes31.
Due to writing this holy Bodhisattva’s liberation story,
And every mass of virtue accumulated in the three times,
May the lives of all who uphold the teachings be stable,
And may virtuous activity permeate the limits of space.
So, that is the brief liberation story of the incomparably great spiritual friend, Karma Lhabu. It was written in response to the heartfelt wishes of this master’s disciples, and has been composed in a clear style, unencumbered by prosody and poetry, so as to be easily understood by all.
It was written by both Tubten Sonam Senge – who has studied a myriad of textual traditions over a long period of time; and the one called Tulku Norpa at the place called Serjong Lama Rung (Serta Dharma Encampment). It was completed on the thirteenth of November in 2001 and updated slightly in April 2004.
Virtue! Virtue! Virtue!
Translated by Karma Kunga in the spring of 2011 at Sekar Retreat Centre.