Chokgyur Lingpa’s Prophecy about the Karmapas

Urgyen Tobgay Tobgyal about the Chokyur Lingpa prophecy400px-Chokling



The followers of Ogyen Trinley take three main pillars to proof the authenticity of their choice: The Sacret Letter of Prediction, The recognition of the Dalai and a prediction of the great tertön1 Chokgyur Lingpa (1829-1870). Lingpa had a vision of the Karmapas.

For me personally predictions of great masters are impressive. I believe that they are able to look in the future, as f. e. the 16th Karmapa predicted his flight to India. But prophecies  sometimes can fail. Sometimes the course of life – or the Karma of the people – take another direction. The 16th Karmapa – normally very clear and almost infallible in his predictions – predicted that the great realized master Gendün Rinpoche would meet the 17th Karmapa in the very same lifetime, but Gendün Rinpoche became seriously ill in the mid-1990ies and so couldn’t travel to Delhi. For this he could not meet Thaye Dorje, whom in visions had recognized clearly as the 17th Karmapa.

From my point of view it is also more important than the 19th century prophecy of Chokyur Lingpa, that Lingpa’s 4th incarnation, Chokling Tsikey Rinpoche, in private follows clearly Karmapa Thaye Dorje, whom he transmitted important Dzogchen teachings, whereas in public he respects the wish of his father Ugyen Tulku Rinpoche: His sons should respect the two 17th Karmapas as their two eyeballs.

On top of it there are some unclear points in this prophecy and seemingly there exist different versions of it.

Chokyur Lingpas Biography reads: “At Karmey Monastery he had a vision of the 27 Karmapas, seeing the details of their lives and activities. Explaining this to artists later, he had them make paintings on the monastery walls.”2

The 17th Karmapa is shown on those paintings as being together with a red crowned Lama, whom he interpreted to be Tai Situ Rinpoche, whose mind was said to be inseparable from the 17th Karmapa:

At the side of trees and the rocky mountain, the 17th Karmapa and Kenting Tai Situ sitting together is a sign that the hearts of the two of them will join as one; the Dharma leaf will flourish, and the lineage of Dhagpo [Kagyüpa] will fully ripen as a fruit.“ In other translations, as we will see below, this was translated as “and the lineage of Dhagpo will spread over the whole world.”3

The actual Situpa knew of this thangka and ordered Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, the son of Lingpa’s second reincarnation Neten Chokling Pema Gyurme, to bring the thangka to exile. He did, showed it to the Dalai Lama and gave it to Situpa who printed it and distributed largely the copies – as prove that his choice of the 17th Karmapa was right. Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche:

Many people followed the Thangka and its prophecy – Thrangu, Tenga, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, to them it was more important then the opinion of Shamarpa or Situpa.”4

But few people had considered a historical fact which points out that actually the 16th Karmapa could be meant with this prophecy: There was a Karmapa-incarnation after the 14th Karmapa, which died as a child before being enthroned. The official counting doesn’t take notice of that child. It is not sure if Chokyur Lingpa counted that incarnation. If so, the present Karmapa would be the 18th and not the 17th. The prophecy about the 17th Karmapa would then concern the 16th Karmapa, who had two root Lamas: Jamgön Kongtrül Rinpoche II and indeed Situpa XI. This interpretation is plausible as Lingpa predicts that under the 17th Karmapa the Dharma spreads over the world, what actually happened through the activity of the 16th Karmapa Rigpe Dorje.5

But all this is very unclear. The mostly known copy of the prophecy describes clearly the 15th Karmapa being a Yogi, and he was, along with the 10th Karmapa the only one who gave back his vows.  The as 16th counted Karmapa Rikpe Dorje himself said to Lama Gendün Rinpoche: “I myself will definitely manifest in this world as the Karmapa for another three or four lifetimes. Thereafter my activity will spread out, through many manifestations but without the name ‘Karmapa’.6 That means that the 16th Karmapa predicted that there will be only 19 or 20 Karmapas.

All of this is not very clear. As mentioned the Life of Chokgyur Lingpa Lingpa, Chokyur Lingpa spoke actually about 27 Karmapas. So all this is not to be taken to literally.7

In a talk Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, explaines that Shamarpa and Chokgyur Lingpa had no connection, but Lingpa and Situpa had. Concerning the question which 17th Karmapa he followed, he didn’t ask himself many questions and followed Situpa. He explains: “So no matter what is right or wrong, my loyality will always be with Situpa.”8

Its interesting that Lingpa first had the mentioned visions and explained them “to artists later” who made the paintings of them.9 In the vision about the 17th Karmapa (on the image on the right) he saw next to him a Lama with a red crown. Both, Situpa and Shamarpa have a red crown. Might Lingpa have interpreted this red crowned Lama to be Situpa as he had no connection with Shamarpa, but actually his vision showed Shamarpa? This is not very likely, but would still a possibility to consider.


The most known copy of the prophecy the followers of Ogyen Trinle base themselves on, was copied by hand in the 1980ies, making it no scientific proof that it is the authentic copy. Geshe Dawa Gyaltsen talks about, he – even worse – saw only earlier in his life, so it’s no proof neither.

With all this questions in mind it becomes clear that the prediction of Chokgyur Lingpa is not sufficient to prove that Ogyen Trinle is the one and only authentic 17th Karmapa.

1A Tertön is someone who finds the treasury texts and ritual objects hidden by Padmasambhava in the 8th century.

2 Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, Tulku Jigmey Khyentse; Kunsang, Erik Pema (transl.): The Life of Chokgyur Lingpa, Rangjung Yeshe Publications 1988. It seems to be rather thangkas which were put on the monastery walls, see below.

3Dr. Annemarie Dross-Mashayekhi”s German translation published previously on the website of Ogyen Trinley’s European Seat, Kamalashila. Savegarded on:

4Ugyen Tobgay talk about Karmapa’s fake Prediction Letter by Situ Rinpoche,

6Lama Gendün Recalls, Vienna Dharma Videos,, 5min 15sec.

7 Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche; Tulku Jigmey Khyentse and Erik Pema Kunsang (transl.): The Life of Chokgyur Lingpa, Rangjung Yeshe Publications 1988, pg 21.

8, transcript on this worldpress site.

9See note 7.



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