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: media@karmapacenter16.org.

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!

23rd Story Update: A Lifetime of Beneficial Activity

It has been said that Karmapa Center 16 founding board member, Damayonti Sengupta, is a daughter of the Karma Kagyu lineage, of which the Gyalwang Karmapa has always been the spiritual leader. While our hearts are filled with loving grief due to Damayonti’s passing on January 26, at age 51, we remember with joy and gratitude the numerous beneficial activities of her lifetime, including locating and helping to secure the site of Karmapa Center 16 in Wadsworth, Illinois.

In 2014, in addition to her role as Manager of Nalanda West in Seattle, Damayonti took on the task of finding a suitable property near Zion, Illinois, where His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa attained parinirvana in 1981. 

It was the wish of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche to establish a center to commemorate his guru, the 16th Karmapa, with a stupa, memorial, meditation hall, retreat center, and place to learn and study about the history of Buddhism and the Karma Kagyu lineage. Through devotion to her guru, Dzogchen Ponlop, Damayonti set the wheels in motion to accomplish his wish, with guidance and direction from founding member and President Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche and founding member and Vice President Lama Phuntsok.

Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche (center), Damayonti Sengupta (left), and Tyler Dear (right) at Karmapa Center 16 Parinirvana Day Celebration in 2017.

Sophie Gordon, Karmapa Center 16 office supervisor, recalls watching Damayonti “navigate many obstacles with skill and grace. She embodied many of the excellent qualities to which bodhisattvas aspire, but in my experience, her equanimity was especially amazing! For me, she was equanimity in action fueled by unwavering devotion to her gurus, the lineage and all that the dharma has to offer. Her example was a vivid teaching. There are no words for how grateful I feel and how much I already miss her.”

Damayonti’s 49th day is March 15. If you would like to pray for Damayonti to support her journey through the bardo, it is suggested to first recite the Heart Sutra, followed by any type of nature-of-mind meditation practice, then finish by dedicating your practice to Damayonti and all sentient beings. 

If you would like to offer a gift in honor of Damayonti’s life and to help manifest her aspiration to complete the Stupa Project, you may do so by clicking on the button below.

Fourth Story Update: James Gimian Shares His [Video] Recollections About His Holiness the 16th Karmapa

“The 16th Gyalwang Karmapa seldom gave Dharma teachings through words but taught intensively through physical gestures and tamed beings through his mere presence. One of his major activities was to liberate all those who saw him … so there is undoubtedly great value in any visual connection made with him.”*

— His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa

During this difficult time of the global coronavirus pandemic, we can find solace and inspiration by seeing images, watching videos, and perhaps recalling one’s own experience of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa. His spontaneous and joyous actions benefited beings wherever and in whatever way conditions permitted, despite any obstacles. 

We are pleased to present a way to visually connect with the 16th Karmapa by sharing photographs and videos about him. Contemplating his life and the lives of other lineage masters can benefit our mind stream and help us find the courage to open our hearts as we move through distressing times. When we benefit ourselves in this way, we are better equipped to support others both directly and indirectly.

We hope these offerings about His Holiness are indeed uplifting and an inspiration for yourself, your family, friends, colleagues and communities. We will soon include new ways to share acts of kindness so that those positive actions may ripple outward to be felt far and wide.  

This week’s video features James Gimian, who first became involved with Buddhism in 1972, as a student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Two years later, he held a lead role during His Holiness the 16th Karmapa’s first visit to the United States for the ten day Dharma Festival in San Francisco, in 1974. In the video interview Mr. Gimian, who is the publisher of Mindful Magazine, describes how His Holiness was a vital catalyst for introducing Buddhism to the West by facilitating “the diaspora of the teachings coming to the west.” 

Knowing that His Holiness was instrumental in the blossoming of Buddhism in Western culture, Mr. Gimian also recognizes how the Stupa in Wadsworth, in the Heartland of America, will serve as “ground zero for the dharma becoming deeply rooted in North American soil.” 

The story of His Holiness’ positive influences on those who cared for him at the end of his life in Illinois, reminds us of the power we all have to make a difference in the lives of others and vice versa. It made us think with tremendous gratitude and prayers for the safety of the millions of brave and selfless pandemic healthcare workers around the world. We can also follow His Holiness’ example and express gratitude, kindness, joy, generosity, and compassion in our everyday interactions regardless of challenging circumstances. We can be the positive change we all long for.

We give great thanks to everyone who has generously donated to help bring this vision to fruition by supporting our campaign for the Stupa. While the campaign will continue through June, we understand that making a donation is not possible for many at this time. Should you be able to give or feel moved to support the campaign at any point, your gift will be gratefully received.

We wish you all good health and well being, and look forward to sharing more about His Holiness with you next week.

*Excerpted from Dharma King: The Life of the 16th Karmapa in Images

James Gimian shares the significance of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa’s visits to North America. Video produced by Sam Scoggins. (Click on photo to view video)

The Karmapa Center 16 celebrates Parinirvana of His Holiness

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, with Tyler Dewar translating, welcomes guests to the celebration of His Holiness’ Parinirvana.

The annual weekend celebration of the Parinirvana of the 16th Karmapa

Under a full moon shining on the waters of Lake Michigan, the annual weekend celebration of His Holiness, the 16th Karmapa’s Parinirvana opened with a teaching by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche on Friday, November 4, at the Illinois Beach Hotel in Zion, Illinois.

Damayonti Sengupta, founding board member of The Karmapa Center 16 (KC16), greeted the audience, many of whom had traveled long-distances to be there, hailing from Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico and numerous cities across America. Sengupta introduced the President of KC16 Board of Directors, Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche, who was present at the time of His Holiness’ death; Board Vice President and caretaker of the Center Lama Phuntsok Samkhang; and Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, who envisioned the Center and was a life-long student of His Holiness.

FRIDAY NIGHT TEACHING: Manifesting loving-kindness and compassion

After extending a warm welcome to everyone, Rinpoche gave a teaching on loving-kindness and compassion that illustrated how his teacher, the 16th Karmapa (HHK16), manifested those qualities at all times towards all creatures throughout his life.

Rinpoche spoke about the physical and mental challenges present in our world today, about our fear that this is the worst time ever. Yesterday looks better, he said, even though the problem is the same. He then referenced an interview with His Holiness during the Cold War. Rinpoche recalled that His Holiness burst into laughter when the journalist asked him about current international tensions, replying “The world is always the same!”

We all want to make the world a better place, Rinpoche continued, but who will do that? You or me and how shall we do it? If we focus on the material problems and potential solutions, we miss the point of who is suffering, the people who are going through the hardship and pain. Looking beyond the labels, race, religion, the differences, we then see the similarities — we all are looking for freedom, joy and happiness. “If we can connect heart to heart, the boundaries do not exist, there is no judgement,” he said. “When we connect brain to brain, there are so many differences, so many concepts about differences. When we pay attention to the person, we connect with the heart of loving-kindness and compassion.”

Research today now shows what the Buddha taught over 2500 years ago — that all sentient beings possess loving-kindness and compassion. Buddha’s teaching to love all sentient beings without bias is present in every wisdom teaching of the world. “The one who manifested that unbounded love for all was His Holiness, my teacher,” Rinpoche said.

Rinpoche then gave the remainder of the talk in Tibetan, with Nalandabodhi translator Tyler Dewar translating into English.Though it is difficult to image all the enlightened qualities of HHK16, Rinpoche said he had the good fortune of being nurtured as a young boy by the 16th Karmapa and as his attendant, he witnessed His Holiness’ many activities. There are many profound instructions given by gurus and teachers, Rinpoche said, but the most profound teaching is the life example of a master, seeing how a great master uses the teachings to help self and others. While many people teach loving-kindness and compassion, His Holiness’ conduct manifested those qualities all the time towards all creatures. His mere presence — his great humor and joy — gave relief to many who met him. “His service focused on beings who needed his help,” Rinpoche said. “We only saw him performing benefits for other sentient beings. We hear the word bodhisattva thrown about, but he is the true example.”

Rinpoche cited several personal examples of His Holiness’ altruistic activities and said that the flourishing of the Buddhadharma and Vajrayana Buddhism in the West is due to the vision HHK16. He spoke about His Holiness’ visits to the West, his encouragement of young lamas to establish centers here and his intentional blessing to America by passing away in Zion. He was the first Karmapa to display Parinirvana outside of Tibet. Parinirvana, Rinpoche explained, is when the enlightened mind of a great master parts with the enlightened body and dissolves into the space of true nature.

KC16 is an important project, Rinpoche said, because it is a physical commemoration of the life example of His Holiness, and when we recollect his life example full of loving-kindness and compassion, we can extract blessings to manifest those teachings in our own life.

Karmapa means “one who manifests enlightened activity.” Karmapa makes manifest all the compassionate actions of the Buddha. “The actions of HHK16 matched the meaning of his name,” Rinpoche said. His Holiness focused on others. When we focus on another human being, heart to heart, then self focus naturally disappears, and we are freed from delusion or confusion of a superimposed self-image. Research corroborates that, Rinpoche said, confirming that those who focus on others have greater joy and happiness.

Concluding the evening’s talk, Rinpoche said, “We are celebrating the immeasurable heart of compassion that manifested in this master. We are trying to emulate that experience of joy and caring and loving-compassion.”

Tea and snacks were served after Rinpoche’s talk, allowing old and new friends to greet and meet each other.

SATURDAY TEACHING: The spiritual journey

After a torrential morning downpour, the rain stopped in time for guests to gather at KC16, located on 10 bucolic acres in the township of Wadsworth, Illinois, five miles from the hospital where His Holiness passed into Parinirvana on November 5, 1981. Everyone took a seat in a large tent erected next to the barn on the property for Rinpoche’s teaching. Damayonti welcomed everyone to the Center, the blessed land and blessed teacher, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. Tyler again translated for Rinpoche.

Rinpoche began the teaching by recounting the story of the Buddha and his journey of awakening. An Indian prince, Siddhartha was full of curiosity about discovering the meaning of life and the real truth behind what we see, hear, feel and experience. That genuine enthusiasm led him on a “beautiful journey,” which he achieved under the Bodhi Tree. “It was a moment of awakening,” Rinpoche said. “Awakening is very short. It is the journey, the dream, to that moment that makes it beautiful.” Of course, awakening is also beautiful, he said, but it is one moment. The path is what is really exciting.

What the Buddha showed us was not just about the moment of awakening but also about the journey of what did and didn’t work. We have all chosen a path for living, Rinpoche said; the Buddha’s teaching involves living a life of caring for others, with wisdom, love and compassion. “His teaching is a genuine science of mind and way of living,” Rinpoche said. “It is controversial as it is other-centered not ego-centered. Like pure water — and we’ve had a lot of water today! — Buddha’s teaching can quench the thirst of beings’ minds tormented by thoughts and emotions.”

However, a good container is necessary to hold the nectar of dharma, he said, or it cannot be put into good use. If the container is not good, then no matter how profound the teaching, it is difficult to bring the wisdom and compassion to others. The vision for KC16 is to create a pure container to hold the dharma and share it with “as many limitless beings as possible.”

If the container could be anywhere in the world, then why in Zion, Illinois, Rinpoche asked. Because this is where His Holiness passed into Parinirvana. “That moment,” he said, “is the most potent moment.” Zion is a “sacred place of our most important master of the 20th Century. His Holiness dissolved into the dharmakaya right here in Zion.”

There is a spiritual power in the earth of a sacred place, and it influences the activities performed there, Rinpoche continued. “A sacred place has the energy to bring more joy, compassion, love and awakening from deep state of delusion.”

Rinpoche then told the story of the first Karmapa’s spiritual journey that took place 1400 years after the Buddha and finished with the spiritual journey of the 16th Karmapa that brought him to the United States.

So, how do we connect with the 16th Karmapa, Rinpoche asked. If we recollect His Holiness, then a connection is made, he answered. To properly recollect, one needs the experiential connection of directly seeing the presence of the Karmapa. “That is why we are building the stupa,” Rinpoche said, “to establish the center as a commemoration of the Karmapa so people can make a direct connection with him.”

The goal also includes building a museum and library to learn about the Karmapa through texts, videos, photos and other memorabilia.Together we will accomplish that goal, Rinpoche said. No single skill will make it happen; rather it is everyone’s contribution who is interested in making a connection. Rinpoche invited everyone back to the Center to do retreat, work practice and/or provide financial support. “With everyone’s help, the power of the blessing will blaze.”

Rinpoche concluded the talk by thanking everyone who helped with the weekend and thanked the leaders of the Wadsworth Village before inviting guests to view the relics of His Holiness and other masters on display at the front of the tent. Nalandabodhi translator Chris Stagg explained the significance of each relic.

In the evening, KC16 gave a dinner party for the guests — held in the barn! Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche shared how the project began, recounted being in the presence of His Holiness, the importance of this project and praised the work of staff members, honoring Lama Phuntsok who oversees and cares, on an ongoing basis, for every detail at the Center. Damayonti then thanked by name the major donors and volunteers. She highlighted the importance of each contributing donor at any level and the vital work of volunteers, which is a beautiful and fortunate opportunity for everyone to make a meaningful connection with the life example of the 16th Karmapa. The evening was a joyful celebration!

PARINIRVANA SUNDAY: Puja and prayers

Early Sunday morning, the day of His Holiness’ Parinirvana, sandhill cranes, Canada geese and other flocks of birds passed over the tent where the 16th Karmapa Guru Yoga and puja were held in Tibetan. The puja began at 8 a.m., included a short break for breakfast, and ended at noon. Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche presided over the puja, with Lama Phuntsok leading the chants as umdze.

Lunch was held in the barn, with Wadsworth Mayor Glenn Ryback and Village Board Trustees Ben Dolan, Doug Jacobs and Jim Zegar and their families, including Charlie, the Zegar’s dog. The Wadsworth dignitaries attended the afternoon session of Guru Yoga held in English, with Nalandabodhi member Stephanie Johnston leading the chants as umdze.

At the conclusion of the puja the weekend guests departed, brightening the gray, foggy day with their bright, warm smiles. The joy of being together — the presence of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche and practicing on the sacred land of His Holiness’ Parivnirvana — was evident: it a brilliant display of blessings received.

Stupa Land Successfully Purchased!


The Karmapa Center 16 is pleased to announce that at the end of May we successfully purchased the beautiful 10-acre prairie land, farmhouse and outbuildings in Wadsworth, Illinois! Blessed by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, the future site of the parinirvana stupa dedicated to His Holiness the 16th Karmapa is one major step closer to fruition.

Sincere thanks to all of you whose incredible generosity enabled the second challenge grant success thereby achieving the funding goal for the land purchase. Phase One of the three-phase project is now complete. How marvelous and auspicious!

Join our campaign to purchase The Karmapa Center 16 land by October 31st, 2015

His Holiness, the 16th Karmapa with Chogyam Trungpa RInpoche in the United States.

We have an incredible opportunity to purchase the Wadsworth, IL land located 5 miles west of the 16th Karmapa’s parinirvana at the cancer center and blessed by the 17th Karmapa. We invite you to join us in this auspicious undertaking to establish this pilgrimage site in North America!

As we complete ecological and traffic studies to prepare for the county and village meetings and permit approval process, we are simultaneously fundraising to purchase the land. To date, approximately $300,000 has been raised… 

in order to close on this property, we require an additional $650,000 by October 31, 2015.  

How can I help, you ask?

We’re so very glad you did! There are several ways to make a connection to the project and contribute meaningfully:

  • Donate in the following ways:
    • Online
    • Write a check to “The Karmapa Center 16” and mail to: 41230 Kilbourne Road, Wadsworth, IL 60083
    • Wire transfer or direct deposit by contacting us at info@karmapacenter16.org, Subject line: DONATION
  • Spread the word
    • Tell your friends!
    • Share the news on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn
    • Contact us at info@karmapacenter16.org for brochures/pledge card packages to distribute
  • Share your stories, experiences, pictures and memories with the 16th Karmapa by emailing us at info@karmapacenter16.org
    • Video yourself sharing the story
    • Write your story
    • Scan your pictures or memorabilia

We look forward to hearing from you!

HHK blesses proposed Stupa ground
HHK17 blesses the proposed HHK16 parinirvana stupa ground at The Karmapa Center 16