Manipulation of Disciples: How Thrangu Rinpoche misinterpreted words of the 16th Karmapa

Reinterpreting Prophecies of the 16th Karmapa

October 5, 2015


Summary: Thrangu Rinpoche claims a prophecy of the 16th Karmapa proofs the authenticity of Ogyen Trinley as Karmapa. But Thrangu Rinpoche – on purpose or not – messes up the years of the prohecy. Interpreted correctly the year given in the prophecy with the lines: When the Lord of the Path is held by the King of Birds, I aspire to come together happily points to the enthronement of Karmapa Thaye Dorje.

This again is not to discredit anybody, just to show that Tibetans love to use prophecies in order to prove that their point of view is right. We should deeply distrust all this an verify high masters according to their actions and the benefit they bring to sentient beings. For simple practicioners like us it is not even of importance if there are 1, 2 or 1000 Karmapas, we should follow the masters who inspire us most.

In a letter titled “To the feet of Kyabje Shamar Rimpoche and Topga-la together“ Thrangu Rinpoche wrote on the 30th day of the 12th month of the Water Bird year (2nd Feb 1994):

1 ) The Sixteenth Karmapa s prophecy clearly seeing the futur, (Song of the Right Moment, in the Melodious Hum of the Bee, in the year ot the Wood Monkey of the Sixteenth Rabjung (1944), at His residence Tashi Khangsar, printed in Gangtok Sikkim. From the first line to the second folio:

Renowned Rigdrol says: not staying Traveling-elsewhere.

Thus was it prophesied that He would not stay at the seat of Tsurphu. From the back of that folio, first line:

When the Lord of the Path is held by the King of Birds,
I aspire to come together happily;
In this life, take this as the essential (point) for one s ear.

Thus the Reincarnation, who arrived safely at the Seat of Tsurphu in this Female Water-Bird year of 1993, had here given this lucid prophecy fifty years ahead of time, having known of this event through the foresight of wisdom.”1

Something similar Tenga Rinpoche wrote in a letter titled “To the one who clarifies the teachings of the practise Lineage, Khyabje Shamar Rinpoche and to Topgala”:

About fifty years ago, the XVIth Karmapa, Rigpe Dordje, made a prediction about what would happen in the future, saying, “When the Lord of the Path (the twelve year cycle) is held by the kings of birds, I make the aspiration prayer that we gather in great joy “. Accordingly, in the year of the female water bird, the enthronement of the Karmapa took place at Tsurphu Monastery.”2

This sounds very convincing and convinced the disciples of both Thrangu and Tenga Rinpoche, two Rinpoches who are/were very influential in the West to follow them in their choice for the 17th Karmapa (which is Ogyen Trinle). There is only a slight mistake:

Karmapa candidate Ogyen Trinle was enthroned in Tsurpu in September 19923, in the Water-male-Monkey year.

The predictions of the 16th Karmapa’s poem instead fits to the following:

In January, 1994, the young Karmapa Thaye Dorje came to Delhi and met with Shamar Rinpoche and other followers of the late Karmapa. January 1994 corresponds to the 19th of the eleventh month to the 19th of the twefth month of the Water-female-Bird.4 Tenga and Thrangu Rinpoche agree, that the prediction of the 16th Karmapa foretells the meeting of the latters reincarnation with his main disciples. This became true when Karmapa Thaye Dorje met Shamar Rinpoche and other important disciples of the late Karmapa.

Thrangu signed his letter with the words “With silk scarf sent by Thrangu Tulku on the 30th day of the 1 2th month of the Water Bird year (2nd of Feb 1994). Tashi delek for the happy new Wood-Dog year.” Writing this words he shood have noticed his mistake, as the enthronement was already 1 1/2 year ago and for that couldn’t have happened in the Bird year. Did he write these lines deliberately to mislead his disciples?

This misinformation still  is publshed on the official webside of Ogyen Trinley where Thrangu authored also the Footnote annotations of the prophecy6: The annotation to “When the Lord of the Path is held by the king of birds, In prayer I aspire that we gather in great joy“ reads:

[19]”The Lord of the Path” refers to the astrological path or cycle of twelve years and the “king of birds” refers to the year of the bird, when the XVIIth Karmapa will be back in his monastery, beginning his activity again.”

That meens that the official homepage of Ogyen Trinle still today repeats both distortions (the wrong interpretation of both the 5th Karmapa’s predictions and the 16th Karmapa’s poem)8 and shows in this way that they are manipulating even the words of the Karmapa in order to make people believe that Ogyen Trinle is the rightful one and only 17th Karmapa. Bad Karma.9

Khenchen Thrangu reportedly prophecized his disciples to end up in the vajrahells when they follow Karmapa Thaye Dorje. Again he misused the words of the 16th Karmapa when he wrote on

“Secondly, when I was with the 16th Karmapa, he wrote a prediction letter about his reincarnation when he was on his way to India from Tibet. After he arrived at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim, he also wrote a letter in poetic form predicting his reincarnation. I had read both the letters myself. The first of the two letters stated clearly that Urgyen Trinley Dorje of Tibet is the 17th Karmapa. The second letter written in Rumtek, which I had read, again stated clearly that Urgyen Trinley Dorje of Tibet is the 17th Karmapa. “


The first letter consisting of two pages was written by the 16th Karmapa when he was in Tibet. After his arrival in Sikkim, he asked a printing company called Camata to print quite a number of copies. Many had the chance to read this letter. The second letter was written in Rumtek, Sikkim. Again many had the chance to read it. After reading it himself, the Abbot of the Rumtek Monastery asked the Karmapa for permission to have the second letter printed for wider circulation. Not agreeing to have too many copies around, the Karmapa allowed only 50 copies to be made. The common salient point in these two letters was the mention of the return of the 16th reincarnation to Tibet. In particular, the first letter said, “I am now in India, but I will return to Tibet very soon”. The second letter also mentioned he would return to Tibet very soon. However, in his conversation with his disciples, he usually said, “I will not go back to Tibet”. But in both his letters, he said, “I will return to Tibet very soon”. Later on, his disciples realized that the main reason for him to say he would return to Tibet soon was to state his prediction that he would be enthroned in Tibet.”

These two letters are in no way a proof for Karmapa Ogyen Trinley, as Karmapa Thaye Dorje as well was born in Tibet. In the mentioned letters nothing is written about Tsurphu, let alone an enthronement there.

Again all of this is not written to discredit Karmapa Ogyen Thrinley, but to make clear that even important scholars like Thrangu interprete the words of their Lama as they want. This is shameless. We can’t rely on such guys, we have to use our own critical thinking – or concerning the choice of our teacher, the Karmapa, rather our deeply heartfelt devotion.

2 Written in the „bird month of 1994“ (Sept. 1994.)

4 (Tibetan New Year of the following year was the 11th February of 1994).

5 we can read: Translated “under the guidance of Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, translated by Michele Martin of New York © April 1994, 2000.”

7 Martin, Michelle: Music in the Sky. pg. 302

8 Kagyüoffice comments the poem: “After his passing, it gradually became clear that the 16th Karmapa’s reference to his return to Tsurphu was a prediction about the 17th Karmapa.”

9 In the case of the prophecy of the 5th Karmapa: Martin translated the text in 1992 and people like Akong used it already in June 1992 when Ogyen Trinle arrived in Tsurphu ti discredit Shamarpa who had choosen another 17th Karmapa: “Er [Akong] berichtete noch von einer Prophezeiung, die besagt, daß es in der Zeit zwischen dem Tod des 16. und dem Erscheinen des 17. Karmapas ein Wesen geben würde, das mit ganz bestimmten Erkennungsmerkmalen ausgestattet viel Unheil anrichten würde und daß während dieser Zeit große Verwirrung herrschen würde.” Buddhismus Heute Nr. 9, ( 1992)


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