17th Gyalwa Karmapa"Buddhism is a way of life through which we develop the qualities of our mind.
This way of life is very unusual, as it is a means to attain happiness without harming others.


Dear friends,

Today, I’d like to go back to a ceremony which was the object of inquiry of many of you. I’d like to talk about the ceremony during which the Gyalwa Karmapa bestowed a red hat on Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche.

Karmapa, wearing his small black hat, bestows a hat on Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche in Bodhgaya, December 2016

What is the meaning of this hat? Why now?

The first thing to know about this situation is that Jamgon Kongtrul was recognized by Shamar Rinpoche shortly after his birth. He is the reincarnation of the master of the same name which the successions of incarnations dates back to the 17th century with Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye (1813-1899), the principle master to the 15th Karmapa. The second incarnation Karse Kongtrul (1904-1952) was one of the teachers of the 16th Karmapa. The Jamgon Kongtruls are part of the kagyu lineage.

The third incarnation of the Kongtrul, Lodro Chokyi Senge (1954-1992), was very important for the oldest monks of our mandala, since he was the one to confer full monastic ordination in the 1980’s. His untimely death in a car accident put an abrupt end to his activity.

Fortunately, authentic bodhisattvas, for whom the mind stream is permeated with the wish to accomplish only the good of all beings, do not stay on holiday for too long! They rapidly take rebirth. This was the case of the fourth incarnation of the Kongtruls, born in December 1996.

Not understanding the meaning of the hat bestowed on Jamgon Kongtrul, I naturally turned towards the scholar for our lineage, Khenpo Chodrak Tenpel Rinpoche. He quite happily explained the elements which shed light on the mysteries of this ceremony.

The shamarpas and the karmapas are considered as emanations of the same mind stream. This is why we speak of Shamarnak: red and black hat lamas. The hat of the shamarpas is an exact replication of the black hat of the karmapas, but in red. Hence, the literal meaning of the term “shamarpa”: he who is endowed with (pa) the hat (sha) red (mar).

Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17 th Gyalwa Karmapa with his black hat
and the 14 th Shamarpa Mipam Chokyi Lodro with his red hat
Photo ®Thule Jug

The red color of the hat is that of the spiritual family of the Karmapa: the family of great compassion. The Karmapas are considered to be the emanations of the bodhisattva Chenrezi. It is also the family of the Buddha Amitabha and the yidam Gyalwa Gyamtso, the yidam which we received at the occasion of the consecration of the Institute in 2013.

All of the important disciples of the Karmapa, especially the kagyu lineage holders, are considered as “members of his spiritual family”. This is symbolized by the entrusting of a red hat from the head of the family. However, this hat is not identical to his or that of the shamarpas; it is not as tall and there is gold trim on the upper and lower edges.

Jamgon Kongtrul wearing the red had of activity

This hat is named the “hat of activity”, (le sha in tibetan).

Why has the Karmapa chosen to bestow this hat now?

To receive the hat of activity means that the Karmapa allows Jamgon Kongtrul to officially and formally begin his activity for the good of all beings: he has now completed all formal Dharma education, he is now ready to exercise his functions.

Jamgon Kongtrul immediately began his functions by teaching the Samantabhadra wishes over the course of two days, which we recite many times, each day at the foot of the bodhi tree.

Jamgon Kongtrul teaching the Samantabhadra wishes

This practice of wishes often brings me back to lama Jigme Rinpoche, by those that we all pronounce for his health, his long life and his activity, but equally in relation to the path itself. I remember a phrase that Rinpoche said one day: “When you come out of a teaching, don’t ask what you need to do, but what you have to understand from it!”

Last night, with a few monks from Kundreul Ling, older and newer, we had a discussion about the way to build our path, on the motor which will guide us. We agreed on the fact that, if we can’t manage to change ourselves, we can on the other hand, create the conditions which will naturally lead to a change. 

We are all really just vulnerable new buds. We can’t force a plant to grow by pulling it up with force and good will. We would risk breaking it, just like we risk abandoning the path, disappointed and discouraged by the lack of results!
However, it is within our reach to create the good conditions so that the plant can develop as well as possible and so that it can give nice fruit to share with other beings.
The understanding that comes from study, associated with the clarity coming from meditation, develops discernment, the indispensable fertilizer. The sun and its warmth are like our exposition to the beneficial influence of authentic teachers.

The wishes that we regularly pronounce are the water which irrigates the mind in order to orient it in the direction of enlightenment.
These Samantabhadra wishes, composed and consecrated by this great bodhisattva, and pronounced by thousands of practitioners in the presence of Karmapa, at the site where Buddha attained enlightenment are a source of marvellous benefits. To recite them from your home is just as beneficial!

Following the example of the victorious ones,
may I fully accomplish excellent conduct,
and may my moral behavior be flawless and pure.
May I conduct myself faultlessly in all situations.


From "The King of Prayers". Commentary by Shamar Rinpoche, Bird of Paradise Press 2015

See you soon!


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