His Holiness the twelfth Gangri Karma Rinpoche
His Holiness the twelfth Gangri Karma Rinpoche (born 1964) is an exceptional Buddhist scholar and Dharma practitioner and the present lineage holder of the Martsang Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, having received the teachings in a direct unbroken line from the founder, Chöjé Marpa (1135-1203). Rinpoche has extensively studied the four major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and has established schools in Tibet, Taiwan and the UK, where he now resides. Rinpoche is recognized as the reincarnation of the eleventh Gangri Karma Rinpoche (1910-1960), by H.H. Fourteenth Dalai Lama and His Holiness Sakya Trizin.
H.H. the twelfth Gangri Karma Rinpoche was born in 1964 in Yukpo village in Markham. His father was Pema Gyamtso, a student of H.H. the eleventh Gangri Karma Rinpoche, who he first met as a young boy at Yangri Dolma Mountain, before becoming a dedicated student. A year before the birth of his son, he saw the great sage Padmasambhava in a dream, who told him that he would have a child who he must raise with exceptional care.
When his son was three years old, Pema took him on an overnight trip to a nearby mountain. The next morning as they walked home, they reached a fork in the path, with one side leading back to their village. However, his son insisted that they take the other path, so he led his father towards some prayer flags in the distance. Pema immediately realized that this was in the direction of the retreat hut of his old teacher, the eleventh Gangri Karma Rinpoche. With a sense of curiosity, he asked his son, “Where is your home? Can you take me there?” And with that, the boy led his father by the hand towards the hut. Pema asked, “Who lives in such a place without a window or curtains?” His young son responded “A bird without wings, like me.” The boy then offered his father tea and when Pema said that there was no water, his son led him outside the hut to a natural spring and said “Father, the water is here.” At that moment Pema firmly identified his son as the reincarnation of his teacher, H.H. the twelfth Gangri Karma Rinpoche.
At this time, the ruling communist party forbade religious and cultural beliefs in Tibet, but Pema was determined that his son should have a formal education and so one night, at midnight, he quietly took him to meet Chödrak Gyamtso. It was as though Chödrak had been expecting them, as he had spent the day cleaning the house and had burned incense and offered his guests a red carpet welcome with fine yak butter and tea. Fulfilling the wishes of his teacher, Chödrak transmitted the Martsang Kagyu teachings to Rinpoche before he passed away.
When Rinpoche was twelve, the Chinese started lifting restrictions on the movement of Tibetan nationals and Rinpoche’s family was able to travel more freely. His father took him to the mountainous area of Kawagarbo, a sacred area where the famous sages, Padmasambhava and Milarepa were said to have practiced. In this area there is a renowned mountain shrine, next to a dried-up spring, where the water is only said to run when bodhisattvas visit. When Rinpoche arrived, water began to flow from the spring and the local village elder came out to pay homage, saying that he had dreamt of Rinpoche’s arrival.
In 1982, Rinpoche repeated the pattern of his previous life and went in search of a formal teaching of the Dharma. He took the arduous journey across the Himalayas into India, initially to study at the Ganden Monastery, a famous Gelupa university that was destroyed in Tibet in 1958 and later rebuilt in India, and then at the Drepung Monastery, where he studied Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism under Geshe Lo-San-Chia-Tso. At Drepung, Rinpoche was ordained as a monk by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He then completed the Sakya lineage from His Holiness Sakya Trizin, under the guidance of Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk. This was followed by a retreat in which he practiced extraordinary longevity practices. After completing the retreat, Rinpoche gave numerous lectures to foreign students on Buddhism and the interface with modern science.
In 1993, after spending 13 years studying the Dharma, to the delight of his parents and with the blessing of the Dalai Lama, Rinpoche returned home to Tibet. Despite the freezing temperatures, when Rinpoche returned to Markham, almost one hundred monks and villagers came out to greet him with incense, butter, milk and fruit. Rinpoche went on to establish a Scientific Buddhist School and a Tibetan Medical School and orphanage in his home county. These were the first new Buddhist institutions built in Markham for over one hundred years and provided education, medicine and support to the local communities.
Unfortunately, the Chinese local authorities shut the school down and arrested Rinpoche. Upon his release, he realized that the only way to preserve the Martsang Kagyu teachings and to further his own practice was to leave Tibet.
Since leaving Tibet, Rinpoche has travelled and taught in India, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, Bhutan and Taiwan, raising money for disadvantaged families and teaching the Dharma. In 2007, Rinpoche settled in England, where he continues to live a humble life, translating old texts from his lineage, and teaching and writing for the benefit of his students. As the current lineage holder of the Martsang Kagyu tradition, Rinpoche is dedicated to ensuring the protection and continuation of these extraordinary teachings.