The Sixth Karmapa, Thongwa Donden (1416-1453)


THE MIRACULOUS BIRTH, prodigious qualities, and formal education of the sixth Karmapa echoed those of his predecessors. As a young man, he integrated the Shangpa Kagyu and the Shijay (the renowned practice of chod--'cutting through egotism') lineages into the Kagyu mainstream. He was a visionary who had many significant insights into Avalokiteshvara, Tara and other aspects of enlightenment. He composed many prayers for use in the traditional practices of his own lineage and thereby established a body of Kamtsang liturgy.

Thongwa Donden's life was mainly dedicated to this literary work and to travelling within Tibet, founding and restoring monasteries, having sacred books printed and strengthening the Sangha.

Realizing that he would die at an early age, he entered retreat, making Gyaltsab Rinpoche his regent and giving him indications of where he would next take birth. His main spiritual heir was Bengar Jampal Zangpo, composer of the famous 'Short Prayer to Vajradhara', frequently used in modern Kagyu centers. The prayer represents his spontaneous utterance upon realizing mahamudra and homes in on the very heart of the practice.


Text reprinted with permission of Altea Publishing from Karmapa, by Ken Holmes. Copyright 1995 by Altea Publishing.