Statement from Gyalwang Karmapa re: KTD & Bardor Tulku Rinpoche.

Via elephant journal
on Nov 1, 2010
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Editor’s Note: If you’d like to get up to speed on this…er, issue…you can catch up on the previous chapters here, here, and here. The below communication is from one Kirk Moulton, and below that the spokesperson for His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. ~ Angela Raines

Since you have been covering the story of Bardor Tulku Rinpoche and the events at KTD, I respectfully submit this letter from His Holiness Karmapa concerning these events. This is his response from my letter requesting clarity, with permission to share here. I also submit my own commentary.

Best Regards,

Kirk Moulton, L.Ac.


To all the Karma Kagyu community:

The past several years have been hard for all of us [in the general Karma Kagyu Buddhist community in the West, particularly].

Many of you may know of my devotion to Bardor Tulku Rinpoche for over 20 years. Fewer may realize that Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche was my refuge lama, and a constant source of inspiration. I have been concerned about letters “supposedly” coming from Khenpo Rinpoche and others claiming that Bardor Rinpoche has broken samaya [loyalty or trust] with Karmapa.

While Bardor Tulku assured me that neither he nor Karmapa share this sentiment, I felt it would be helpful to ask HH Karmapa directly his feelings about Bardor Tulku and his activity at KPL. I specifically asked him if we had broken samaya for practicing the Barway Dorje termas or having devotion to Bardor Rinpoche. Below you will find the response directly from HH Karmapa, written in the hand of WOSER RAPTEN, Coordinator of Kamtsang Monasteries & Dharma Centers.

I think we need some answers as to why we were led to believe that Bardor Rinpoche had violated samaya, when clearly he has not. It is my greatest wish that our communities become reconciled and for us to understand that all the lineages are here for one reason, to help us practice Dharma. All of the great teachers we admire have had teachers from different lineages, even different religions.

I am still a member of the Chicago KTC and therefore KTD. Many of us believe it would be a positive step if the KTD board would give us an accounting of who wrote/translated what and when. There is too much innuendo and confusion on these issues.

Also, we believe it would be helpful if Khenpo Rinpoche and the board would state publicly that neither Bardor Rinpoche nor those practicing Barway Dorje are in violation of samaya with himself or HH Karmapa. There are many students who feel confused or even disloyal when they want to receive teachings from Bardor Rinpoche.

Many of you may not know that very few of the practices done at KTD/KTC’s originate with the Marpa Kagyu. Karma Pakshi, Medicine Buddha, Green Tara, and Amithaba are all terma. Chenrezig was written by a Shangpa Kagyu lama. In his letter, HH Karmapa wanted KTD/KTCs to “focus” on Karma Kagyu as everyone feels that it should. He further posits that Barway Dorje and Karma Kagyu are not “mutually exclusive”. We don’t have to choose one or the other, they are both blessed by his Holiness and many other Kagyu lamas. One thing Bardor Rinpoche has always made clear is that he never intended to teach his termas at KTD/KTC’s as he felt that would be a conflict as his role of senior teacher in the Karma Kagyu.

Many of you know that a number of KTD/KTC members have left for other groups over what they have felt to be an extreme mishandling of Bardor Rinpoche’s resignation and other issues at KTD. My greatest hope is to see those people return to our Dharma centers – many of which they helped build. I cannot imagine that the KTD board does not feel the same.

Letter from HH Karmapa follows below.

Yours in the Dharma,

Kirk Moulton


Dear Mr. Moulton,

Thank you for your letter dated 30 July 2010 to His Holiness, Gyalwang Karmapa.

We have discussed your letter with His Holiness, who appreciates your long association with the Chicago KTC and your commitment to Ven. Bardor Tulku Rinpoche, who has been an inspiring teacher to many students.

His Holiness understands that recent developments at KTD have caused pain and confusion to many devotees. Ven Bardor Tulku Rinpoche has been a close disciple of the XVIth Karmapa and has contributed much to the establishment of KTD and KTCs. His separation from KTD/KTCs is, therefore, a painful process. In such a situation it is important for students to remain firm in their practice.

Although Karma Kagyu lineage and Barway Dorje Terma are not mutually exclusive, His Holiness has directed that the KTD and associated KTCs focus on Karma Kagyu lineage with Ven Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche as the main spiritual guide. He is pleased that Ven. Bardor Tulku Rinpoche has established Kunzang Palchen Ling as it can provide focused teachings on Barway Dorje Terma.

In so far as the issue of Samaya is concerned, His Holiness has guided that the most important consideration for a student is one’s root teacher and main practice, and to maintain one’s Samaya toward them mainly. Ven. Bardor Tulku Rinpoche is an important Rinpoche who had XVIth Karmapa as his root guru; therefore, maintaining Samaya with him would be sufficient for your practice.

This does not mean that you have broken Samaya with His Holiness.

In view of the close association between the Karma Kagyu lineage and Barway Dorje Terma in the past, it is His Holiness’ heartfelt wish that KTD and KPL will maintain friendly relations, and that both the Karma Kagyu and Barway Dorje lineages will flourish in America.

With best wishes,


Coordinator Kamtsang Monasteries & Dharma Centers


CAMP: Gyuto Ramoche Temple



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23 Responses to “Statement from Gyalwang Karmapa re: KTD & Bardor Tulku Rinpoche.”

  1. will ryken says:

    Thankyuou, cool

  2. Gayle Van Gils says:

    Thank you Wayon for posting this clarifying article. I have found this whole discussion to be distressing to this point as I have a lot of love for and history with Bardor Tulku dating back to and since his first visit to the US with HHK XVI. I really appreciate your journalism!

  3. Bill Schwartz says:


    Thank you for sharing your correspondence with HHK17 and hopefully this unfortunate incident will mark the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the Karma Kagyu in America.

    As someone dedicated to a more representative, transparent, and accountable KTD I take this as a step forward towards the realization of this goal.


  4. I realize that this baffling (to outsiders) exchange is deeply meaningful and important to those who are in the midst of it. I respect that completely and don't fault anyone for their preferences. I realize that authentic spiritual lineage is a vital part of many religious people's inner being.

    But for me personally, this is an example of why, even though I love spirituality, I have a hard time with organized religion, starting with the ultra-traditional Catholicism of my devout altar boy youth.

    Bob W.

  5. M. Jones Callahan says:

    Thanks for the presenting the issues, and doing so with integrity. Every spark of clarity is an offering to our world, and opens the possibility of peace arising.

  6. Rita Ashworth says:

    bill -had not heard that story about Khenpo Gangshar -do you know where that story comes from?

    I loved the last Karmapa 16, he did the Black Crown ceremony in Manchester in 1976. We had tons of lama in a three bed-roomed house in Chorlton and the attendants were placed in a hastily devised bedroom in the cellar. Not bad for a bunch of young twenty year olds.

    I really am not sure what to make of two Karmapas now -it is very perplexing. Now I seem to going with my own experience as samaya so thats interesting as well.

    Well best from the UK

    Rita Ashworth

  7. Shelli Meyers says:

    Thanks to Kirk for investigating this and Waylon for publishing it. It’s definitely good news about a messy situation.

  8. Bill Schwartz says:


    I question the Khenpo Gangshar story as someone who who received from Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche the Mahamudra transmission which was granted him by Khenpo Gangshar.


  9. mojofiddle says:

    I have to agree with you, Bob. I'm getting the strong feeling that Karma Kagyu is a translation for Roman Catholic in tibetan!
    Having been involved with them for less than a year, I grow weary of the infighting, arrogance, the focus on lama worship, and lack of outreach I see.
    Beginning to feel I made a mistake, and starting to lean toward Zen. I just want to meditate and relax, ya know?

  10. ian says:

    Hi, as a zen student for many years who then became a Tibetan Buddhist student, I would point out that meditate/relax is fine but that the point of Buddha's work was transformation. Zen is the least 'relax' school of Buddhism, also. Take your time and please give sentient beings the benefit of the doubt (even the ones having sticky issues thrust at them), but please keep in mind the instructions of everyone from Trungpa to Hakuin, etc.:to engage the path if you want to be a follower of Buddha's teachings. I have met Karmapa and the other lamas in question. I don't hold this against him. He's extremely clear and potent teacher. He also has the job of ultimately overseeing all this sticky stuff. And his letter actually said he's cool w/ people rolling w/ Bardor Tulku.

  11. Rita Ashworth says:

    Yes Bill we really must have a concise history of Khenpo Gangshar as he meshes into a lot the teachings I have received.

    Re the zen/Tibetan debate -think myself they are very close traditions especially in the way Trungpa approached them -hoping to read the book on Zen and Tibetan Buddhism from Shambhala Pubs. for info.

    Also still books out there on shambhala teachings from Bernbaum which give wider interpretation of shambhala that are interesting to check into. I await more books on shambhala from other authors and hopefully other Tibetan translations.

    Perhaps there is even talk of shambhala also in other Asian tradtions?

    Best Rita

  12. Anonymous says:

    Good thoughts, Mojofiddle! I hope you find a nice small Zen group and find what you're looking for. There are many paths. Stick to one and follow it to the end.

  13. Rita Ashworth says:

    just a brief note on Dharma Sun-Chokyi Nyima Rinpoches website there is some teaching on Khenpo Gangshars texts-you can get them for free or donate. It looks a good site. best rita

  14. Anonymous says:

    "If you get confused, just listen to the music play."

  15. Steven H. Lewis says:

    If this issue has a major impact on you life, then you might want to consider making something less contrived the focus of your devotion. To legitimize this drama by thinking it is of spiritual consequence could not be more misdirected: it is a distraction. The Buddha derived his authority from the earth, not from a political structure. I recommend trying this. It's amazing.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Along with Beru Khyentse Rinpoche, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche is one of the few kagyu rinpoches to rise above all the kagyu politics. He tries his best to mend the painful breaks in the lineage, and I am very thankful for that. It is always a joy listening to Rinpoche speak.

  17. Rita Ashworth says:

    just discovered that Shambhala Pub.s is bringing out a book on Khenpo Gangshar by Thrangu Rinpoche in the near future-so people can check it out, and also possibly ask Thrangu about Khenpo if he is in the states.

    I like hearing stories about Khenpo because he stepped out of his status circle and made some very interesting comments about Tibetan society generally.

    Also Gangshar when he knew the Chinese were coming into the country taught everyone about the dharma in a very open way withouth recourse to a system of patrons and the like.

    So yes Khenpo Gangshar was very much a man of the twentieth century in opening up the teachings to everyone.

  18. Rita Ashworth says:

    No I dont think it is a total distraction, according to Trungpa one does have to investigate everything politically and dharmically even the standard way that Tibetans do things in their centres. Its just that governance wise a feasible way of doing this has not yet evolved even within Shambhala International.

    I think eventually myself more emphasis will have to laid on the democracy angle of doing things. In this respect there needs to be more discussion on what Trungpa and other teachers have actually said about the democratic process.

    As for the Karmapa's comments on the present issue -me I just dont know who the correct Karmapa is anymore! So yes I check both of them out….what would indeed be conducive for solving the present predicament -well maybe having all the people involved in the situation meet together and thrash the whole thing out otherwise whatever is decided now even with this Karmapas comments will be somewhat edgy.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Oh Rita, you are very brave. I think very well of both of them, too, and have studied with lamas on both sides of the fence and one sitting uncomfortably in the middle of the fence. It would be good if the high lamas could meet somewhere peaceful without any thugs putting pressure on anyone & talk this out in a civilized manner.

  20. Harold says:

    Maybe I read the Karmapa's letter all wrong.

    "His Holiness has directed the the KTD and associated KTC's focus on Karma Kagyu lineage with Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche as the main spiritual guide. He is pleased that Ven. Bardor Tulku rinpoche has established Kunzang Palchen Ling as it can provide focused teachings on Barway Dorje Terma."

    Sounds to me like bye bye Bardor Tulku.

    You have your own centre and now only Karma Kagyu teachings at KTD and KTC'S.

    Sounds more like the Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden but only in reverse.

    Only Karma Kagyu teachings for Karma Kagyu, just like Dorje Shugden followers only believe in Gelupa teachings.

    Or am I misreading the Karmapa's statement?

  21. the meyerise says:

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  22. mojofiddle says:

    Thanks much AGAIN Steve. I stumbled back upon this site and decided to take another look at this issue. Your comments mean even more to me a second time around… I took refuge with BTR almost a couple of years ago, and followed all this mess closely right around the time it happened. When he returned for another visit (after this happened), I was pretty sick of all the drama that my local KTC was making of this, since I had made sure to inform myself via these articles and a few choice emails I made to inquire further (from people who were at KTD when this all went down). I think I posted something to Facebook about trying to avoid the drama, and a KTC member took it upon himself to call me and tell me how wrong I was. Evidently, Lama Kathy filled his head with ideas of how BTR had insulted KKR and his teachings by his actions, and that I should not be attending anything by BTR if I was going to continue at my local KTC. This was from a very hippie-ish guy that is all love and flowers, and also part of the local KTC's leadership, telling me that I basically should go somewhere else if i was going to go hear BTR talk (per Lama Kathy, supposedly). It felt like I was right back in any dysfunctional Christian Church I have ever been in, with all their petty in-fighting. Since then, unfortunately, I just can't bring myself to go back to the KTC. It really bummed me out for many months. I've dabbled in a few other local sanghas, but essentially, am looking forward to the day I move elsewhere and can find a sangha that isn't so caught up in needless distraction and arrogance.

  23. cheek boneyes says:

    bardor tulku rinpoche has been my teacher for over 30 yrs. and everyone should know that he is the Karmapa's number one student. no one in the west can understand the devotion someone like bardor tulku rinpoche has for his holiness. so its best if the western students of ktd stop engaging in anything but practice . stop this none sense. and practice.its so dangerous for someone as confused as us westerners to get into monkey mind.