Remembering Lama Phuntsok

On behalf of board members, staff, and volunteers, it is with deep sadness that Karmapa Center 16 announces the passing of our beloved friend, Phuntsok Bist, Founding Board Member, Vice President, and Treasurer. Lama Phuntsok passed away in the early morning hours of December 5th near Zion, Illinois, location of the parinirvana of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa. Lama Phuntsok dedicated his life to serving His Holiness Karmapa and the Karma Kagyu lineage, and kept his monastic vows from age 12 until the end of his life. His passing is a tremendous loss for us all.

After completing the monastic training at the Rumtek Monastery, he was appointed the junior chant master and soon became the teacher and administrator of Jamyang Khang, the monastery’s primary school. For many years, he served as Umdze and Chant Master at Dharma Chakra Center, Rumtek and also went into short retreats.

Due to a medical condition, in 1993 he took leave from the monastery and travelled to the United States for treatment. Lama Phuntsok worked as a volunteer teacher at the Karma Theksum Choling monastery until 2000, where he taught Tibetan language and literature, and monastic rituals. Also at this time, Lama Phuntsok was appointed the Dronyer Chenmo, Chief Public Relation Officer of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa in exile in India, and served until 2011. In 2012, Lama Phuntsok semi-retired and settled in the United States of America. Since that time he has been continually serving the Karma Kagyu lineage in a variety of ways, including the establishment of Karmapa Center 16 in Wadsworth, Illinois. The vision of this project is to commemorate the life of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa with a stupa, memorial, meditation hall, retreat center, and a place to learn and study Buddhism, and the history of the Karmapa lineage.

Lama Phuntsok will be remembered as a dedicated and devoted individual who lived his life helping others with kindness, gentleness, and a robust sense of humor. Donations for the traditional end of life practices and in memory of his life can be made at May all be auspicious!


Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche

Founding Board Member & President
Karmapa Center 16

Annual prayers for the end of the lunar year

According to the Tsurphu calendar, January 31st marked the 29th day of the 12th month of the year. On this special occasion, the Karmapa Center 16 completed the Mahakala puja, performed to dissipate all obstacles before the start of a new year. The lamas also recited aspirations prayers for the long life of the Karmapa, all the teachers, and all sentient beings. 

The Anniversary of Gampopa

On this full moon day, the Karmapa Center 16 performed the Guru Yoga written by Dabzang Ngedon Tenpa Rabgye to honor the parinirvana of one of the forefathers of the Kagyu Lineage, Lord Gampopa, whose heart son was Düsum Khyenpa, the first Karmapa. In performing this Guru Yoga, the Karmapa Center 16 joined other monasteries, centers, and individuals all over the world that recalled the kindness of Gampopa, today.

28th Story Update: Taking Refuge with the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa

Karmapa Center 16 is grateful to have longtime Buddhist practioner Lynne Conrad Marvet now serving on its Board of Directors as secretary.

An artist, performer, teacher and professional fundraiser, Lynne grew up in Chattanooga, TN, and began meditating when she was 16 years old. But it wasn’t until she met His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, four years later, that she connected with Tibetan Buddhism and the Karma Kagyu lineage of His Holiness. In 1980, while living in New York City, Lynne’s friend suggested they attend the Black Crown ceremony held in the city during His Holiness’ third, and what would be his final, tour of the United States. So, they went, and the connection for Lynne was made.  

“The strongest connection to my heart was the description given for the Refuge Ceremony,” Lynne said. “At the time, I was not well versed in what taking ‘refuge’ meant. But the way His Holiness described it, I remember having a very strong feeling of ‘Yes, Yes’ this is what I want to do. I still get chills. (It was a) powerful experience: It was the principle of compassion, the power of his speech, his presence, and the message that this is a path to help transcend confusion and help all sentient beings. Because of meeting His Holiness, I felt very connected to the Karma Kagyu lineage.”  

Shortly after the ceremony, Lynne met her first Tibetan teacher, Khyabje Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche who served, from 1978 until his death in 2019, as abbot of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in Woodstock, New York, the first Karma Kagyu monastery established in the United States and the North American Seat of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. Her current and longtime teacher is Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, acknowledged as a heart son of the 16th Karmapa.  

Lynne shared with us a special description of the life of the 16th Karmapa spontaneously spoken by Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, guru of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, during an interview in Seattle in 1999. She had supplicated Khenpo Rinpoche for his words about His Holiness, which were then translated from Tibetan into English by Ari Goldfield.

By Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche

In the glorious valley of Gurum, there is a monastery called Tsurphu. It is the palace of glorious Chakrasamvara. The all-pervasive lord is Rangjung Rigpe Dorje himself. Simply meeting him causes faith to expand. Simply listening to his speech vanquishes the darkness of doubt. Receiving pith instructions from him causes dualistic appearances to be self-liberated. This is his wonderful, miraculous life story. He brings outer, inner and other together in Mahamudra and causes all of existence to shine as the infinite expanse of purity. His practice of the rituals of the four classes of tantra is uninterrupted. This, too, is his wonderful, miraculous life story…

Listen to Lynne read the rest of the story:

When asked about the stupa for Karmapa Center 16, Lynne said in many ways, it is incredible that the stupa doesn’t already exist.

“His Holiness had such a huge impact on people,” she said. “And, because he passed away (in Zion, IL), that place is blessed. To continue to share that with many generations to come, it is important to have a physical representation of his sacred body, which is what the stupa is: his enlightened body, speech, and mind. To have a stupa there will be a great blessing to not just those in close proximity but to the entire United States.”

“Recently, I’ve been thinking about the importance of blessings and what that does for one’s practice. I can’t say enough of adhisthāna or blessings that can be received as a result of the physical presence of the teacher or the representations of enlightened beings… It is something very real even though it is intangible. The Karmapa Center 16 is already that place, but it will increase, I have no doubt. It is important for us to invest in this dream.”

If you’d like to share your memories or photos of His Holiness with us, please send them to:

As always, we offer our heartfelt thanks for your continued interest and support of KC16. May the Center be of great benefit to all beings!

Celebrating His Holiness’ Birthday

Today the Karmapa Center 16 held a ceremonial ritual in celebration of His Holiness Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s 36th birthday, with aspiration prayers for his long life and the flourishing of his activity. It was followed by a traditional tea and rice offering to His Holiness and everyone gathered. 

25th Story Update: A Pithy Teaching

Throughout his remarkable life, His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa gave powerful teachings around the world with his physical presence as well as his speech and mind.

In 1980, despite his declining health and physicians’ directives to rest and not travel, His Holiness embarked on a third major international tour, focusing on North America and East Asia.

An early North American dharma student, Lyle Weinstein, shared with us a memorable and pithy teaching given by His Holiness in eight simple words. Thank you, Lyle!

Karme Choling, Barnet, VT (1974.09) © Robert Del Tredici, Shambhala Archives Collection

By Lyle Weinstein

It was 1980, and His Holiness the 16th Karmapa had just concluded his last Black Crown Ceremony. At that time, his health was rapidly declining, and when the crowd of more than 400 people lined up to receive his blessing, they suddenly heard a concerned voice: “Your Holiness, it is clear that you are tired and not feeling well. Most of us here already received your blessing, maybe it is better if we don’t all line up, and you can go and rest.”

His Holiness replied: “That is the time to extend yourself further,” and continued with a gentle smile. Nearly two hours later, every person without exception had been given the blessing of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.

In spite of his illness, His Holiness continually extended himself on that tour, giving blessings and ensuring that the dharma seeds he’d planted during his lifetime would be strong enough to survive his departure until he could return once again.

Karmapa Center is fortunate and grateful for the blessings His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa bestowed on the proposed stupa ground on May 4, 2015. With Rinpoches, Acharyas and Lamas in attendance, His Holiness conducted a smoke puja beneath a sun rainbow in a clear sky, with birds singing and spring flowers in bloom.

If you’d like to share your memories or photos of His Holiness with us, please send them to:

As always, we offer our heartfelt thanks for your continued interest and support of KC16. May the Center be of great benefit to all beings!

24th Story Update: A Glimpse of Avalokiteśvara

What I saw […] was not His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa but radiant and resplendent Avalokiteśvara. It was totally overwhelming and breathtaking to witness other-worldly compassionate activity taking place in this human realm.

— Steve Roth, personal driver of His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa

There are many remarkable stories recounted about His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa by those lucky enough to have seen him, received his blessings, been his student or served him in a myriad of ways.

Steve Roth, an early student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, became the Karmapa’s personal driver during two of his visits to North America. In the story below, Steve describes his own extraordinary experience witnessing His Holiness perform the Black Hat Ceremony in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The story, “A Glimpse of Avalokiteśvara,” is excerpted from the recently released book, Radiant Compassion, The Life of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje Volume 2, by Gerd Bausch.

His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa with his personal driver, Steve Roth, in San Francisco, 1974

A Glimpse of Avalokiteśvara

By Steve Roth

During the 16th Karmapa’s 1980 third and final tour of North America, he visited Santa Fe, New Mexico and performed the Black Crown Ceremony. On November 3rd, I traveled in a VW bus from Boulder to Santa Fe with four other dharma practitioners, including Pema Chödrön. Upon arrival, we went to the local convention center where His Holiness was performing the Black Crown Ceremony. We had no idea which part of the ceremony would be taking place. We just wanted to see him.

We entered the convention center, and took the elevator up a few floors. It led to one of the portals that opened directly into a large indoor amphitheater. We were well above the amphitheater’s ground floor where fifty or so people were each receiving blessings from His Holiness after the Black Crown Ceremony. What I saw the instant we emerged from this portal into the amphitheater was not His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa but radiant and resplendent Avalokiteśvara. He was luminous white with many arms which were simultaneously blessing everyone. His hands were moving so rapidly bestowing potent and limitless blessings in so many different directions—this is quite challenging to describe. It was totally overwhelming and breathtaking to witness other-worldly compassionate activity taking place in this human realm. Avalokiteśvara’s transparent body was complete with crown, jewel ornaments, rainbow colored raiment, exactly as painted in countless thangkas. Then I blinked and saw His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa seated blessing people one-by-one. I don’t know what else to say, other than this knowingness that Avalokiteśvara thangkas are literally painted exactly as he appears in the Saṃbhogakāya. This experience resulted in a radically enhanced view of the sacredness and fathomless power of thangkas as well as increased devotion towards the Karmapa.

— from Radiant Compassion, The Life of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje Volume 2

If you’d like to share your memories or photos of His Holiness with us, please send them to:

As always, we offer our heartfelt thanks for your continued interest and support of KC16. May the Center be of great benefit to all beings!