12th Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche

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The Gyaltsap Rinpoche is one of 4 regents whose responsibility is to ensure the continuity of the Karma Kagyu denomination in periods between the consecutive embodiments of Karmapa. 

The 12th Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche (b. 1954) is considered to embody the activity of Vajrapani.  Like that bodhisattva, he is a guardian of the Buddha and his Word.    Currently, His Eminence does not travel abroad but remains in India protecting the interests of H. H. the 17th Karmapa. 

The Tulku  

Tradition holds that in the 8th century, the one who would eventually become known as  the Gyaltsab Rinpoche ("Precious Regent") emanated for the benefit of others as Karchen Palgyi Wangchuk, one of 25 main disciples of Guru Padmasambhava.  Then again centuries later, he emanated as Jetsun Repa Shiwa Od.  This incarnation was recognised by the Sixth Karmapa Thungwa Dhunden and was raised by him to be installed as his regent under the name Paljor Dhondrup (1416-1478.)

Since that time, there have been a series of Goshir Gyaltsab, such as:  Tashi Namgyal (1487-1515,) who was the first to receive the red crown in recognition of his close ties with the activity of His Holiness.  Then followed Dakpa Paljor (1516-1546) and Dakpa Dhundrub (1547-1613.)  

The 5th Gyaltsabpa was Dragpa Choyang (1618-1658.) Enthroned by the 6th Shamar Rinpoche, he formed part of the Golden Garland.  A person who spent most of his life in retreat, he was a friend of the 5th Dalai Lama ("The Great Fifth.")  When the 10th Karmapa had to flee the Mongol invasion, it was he who remained behind as regent.

The 6th Gyaltsab, Norbu Zangpo (1660-1698,) enthroned by the 10th Karmapa, was also an accomplished meditator but he is also known for his commentaries.

The 7th Gyaltsab, Konchog Ozer (1699-1765,) installed by the 12th Karmapa, transmitted the lineage to the 13th Karmapa.

The 8th Gyaltsab, Chophal Zangpo (1766-1817,) was another renowned master of meditation, as were the 9th, Yeshe Zangpo (1821-1876,) and the 10th, Tenpe Nyima (1877-1901.)  Like the 11th Gyaltsab, Dragpa Gyatso (1902-1949) recognized by the 15th Gyalwa Karmapa, they were all instrumental in transmitting the Karma Kagyu lineage.

The 16th Karmapa recognized the current Gyaltsabpa even before he was born.  In 1959, soon after the official installation, His Eminence was carried by His Holiness during the arduous journey through the Himalayas. They eventually settled at Rumtek, Sikkim. 

Rinpoche's father had wanted a modern education for his boy sending him to school in the city, but Gyaltsabpa traveled the ten miles back to Rumtek alone at night to be by the side of Karmapa.  He grew up in the company of HH Rigpe Dorje's other heart sons such as the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul (tragically deceased,) and HE Khentin Tai Situ. 

In 1992, along with the Tai Situpa, he enthroned 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Dorje at Tsurphu, Tibet, main seat of the Karmapas.    

Ralang Gompa

His Eminence is the protector of Rumtek until His Holiness Karmapa assumes the throne there.  The contemporary seat of His Eminence, himself, is at Ralang.  

Ralang Monastery (Rva-rlangs dGon-pa) is located near a famous hot spring.  It is one of three Kagyu monasteries established in Sikkim according to the will of the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje (1555-1603,) who determined the site by throwing grains of rice from Tibet.  (In the linked image,  which is of a figure sculpted during his lifetime,  notice how much  the 9th Karmapa greatly resembled the 16th in appearance.)  

The gompa was built during the time of 12th Karmapa, Jangchub Dorje (1703-1732.)  At that time,  Gyurme Namgyal, the fourth Chogyal of Sikkim, was a devotee of Karmapa  and in 1730, he had this first Kagyu monastery constructed in the southern region of Sikkim.  A decade later, he built two more Kagyu monasteries, one at Phodong in the north and another at Rumtek, in east Sikkim.



Tulku:  The Tibetan word tulku is similar to the Sanskrit term avatara meaning "descended one."  However, we must bear in mind that Buddhism does not hold with the notion of an Eternal Self.  Tulkus determine to take rebirth as aspects of a previously existent being solely for the ultimate benefit of others.  In English, we usually say, an "incarnate lama."

Chogyal:  Tibetan title for a Buddhist ruler that translates as Dharma-king. The Karma Kagyu association with Sikkim was particularly in the 19th century, when "Maharaja" (Indian title meaning great king) Kyabgon Sidkeong Namgyal [Srid-skyong rNam-rgyal] (reigned 1862-1874) was recognized as an incarnate lama by the Fourteenth Karmapa, Thegchog Dorje (1798-1868) receiving the name  Karma Dungyal Tenzing Lhendup Nag, meaning "Karma Refuge Lord Protector." 

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