27th Story Update — Gerry Wiener: Tibetan translator, driver for His Holiness

Gerry Wiener, who first began is Buddhist studies with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1971, recently joined the Karmapa Center 16 Board of Directors and will oversee the center’s information technology.

Gerry Wiener with Karmapa Center 16’s advisor, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, at Nitartha Summer Institute (2014).

A software engineer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, Gerry is also a Tibetan translator. After the parinirvana of his teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche, in 1987, Gerry continued his studies under Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and, with his guidance, has focused on the development of the Nitartha Digital Library.

Gerry first met His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa in Boulder, in 1974, when Trungpa Rinpoche hosted His Holiness. Gerry received many teachings and witnessed several Black Crown ceremonies during His Holiness’s 1974 and 1980 visits to the United States. Recalling a memory from 1974, when as a member of Trungpa Rinpoche’s Vajra Guards he was asked to drive the Black Crown from Stapleton Airport in Denver to Boulder, Gerry said, “The crown was next to me, sitting on the lap of one of His Holiness’s monks. I remembered thinking, ‘I need to be so careful and not get into an accident!’”

Continuing to serve in his role as Vajra Guard, Gerry traveled to Los Angeles and stayed in the same house with the Karmapa, where he had a momentary but powerful experience. He was woken early one morning, around 5 a.m., to help His Holiness attend his birds in the backyard. “I helped His Holiness up the stairs,” Gerry said, “and he put his hand on my hands for support. I had the feeling of not being in this realm anymore, for the briefest amount of time. I felt he is in this realm, but he is not part of the samsaric realm that we abide in.”

Gerry attributes much of his good fortune in meeting the 16th Karmapa to “tashi tendrel” or karmic connection or coincidence. “We’ve been taught, and I feel this to be the case, that lineage is important,” he said. “Without teachers like the Buddha, and lineage masters like Tilopa, Marpa, etc., we really don’t have a lineage that actually goes through the 16th Karmapa and then to my first teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche, without whom I would not be (on this path) today. I want to express great gratitude to Trungpa Rinpoche, who opened the door and cared for me in a very distinct way and also, without His Holiness, there would be no Trungpa Rinpoche whom I would know, so there is some kind of tashi tendrel or karmic connection or karmic coincidence, some fortuitous karma going on that allowed me to become a Buddhist, to study with Trungpa Rinpoche, who was recognized by His Holiness and eventually to meet His Holiness.”

Along those same lines, Gerry said, he received a Praise to His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa written by Trungpa Rinpoche and had the good fortune to translate it. Below is an excerpt from the translation. The full translation will eventually reside at Karmapa Center 16.

Gerry seated in the translators’ section at Nitartha Summer Insitute (2015)

IN PRAISE OF HIS HOLINESS THE 16TH GYALWANG KARMAPA
By Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Translated from Tibetan into English
by Gerry Wiener

In the mandala of profound brilliant Vajradhatu, you are the Supreme Guru of the simplicity of samsara and nirvana. Vajra luminosity, the delight that transcends words, the great bliss Heruka, holder of wisdom, the single and changing nirmanakaya, Rigpe Dorje, seeing your activities — how wondrous. You do not abide in any specific place. You are not contrived by anyone. Your activities continue without interruption. Karma Ka, I always pay homage to you. Not observed having a beginning or end, you possess the profound and vast dharma. Eternal form of Dorje Chang, you are Vajradhara in person.

Listen to Gerry read the translation:



If you’d like to share your memories or photos of His Holiness with us, please send them to: media@karmapacenter16.org.

26th Story Update — Acharya Lhakpa Tshering: monk, scholar, accomplished meditator

Karmapa Center 16 is delighted to welcome Acharya Lhakpa Tshering to its Board of Directors. He will oversee fundraising for the center.

Lhakpa Tshering was born in a remote village in Dagapela in southern Bhutan. One of nine siblings, he and his family lived in an “environmentally friendly house” with no electricity or running water. 

At the age of five, he remembers his father offering a butter lamp every evening of the full and new moon in front of a black and white photograph on a shelf in a corner of the house. Growing up with no electricity, Acharya said the memory of a butter lamp in the dark is still very vivid in his mind.

Once in while, his father would take down the photo and wipe off the soot that had collected on it with a piece of cloth. Later, when he was in second grade, Acharya was able to read the caption below the picture: “HH the Sixteenth Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorji.” It was a photograph that his father had cropped from a Bhutanese monthly newspaper.

His father had the good fortune of meeting His Holiness, and Acharya kindly shared the story with us.


My Father’s Meeting with His Holiness

By Acharya Lhakpa

In 1966, at the age of 32, my father, Dawa Sherpa, traveled to Sikkim with two other companions from his village to make an offering to His Holiness the 16th Karmapa in Rumtek, on behalf of his late maternal uncle for his rebirth in higher realm. Traveling by foot and vehicle for a week, they arrived in Rumtek on the 15th day of the lunar month, a full moon day. Soon after their arrival at the monastery, His Holiness was scheduled to give a Black Crown ceremony. My father and his friends considered it auspicious that upon emerging from an audience with His Holiness, they were able to receive the blessings of the black crown. After the ceremony, my father made an offering to His Holiness and requested prayers for his uncle. His Holiness responded with gracious smile. For the sake of tendrel (making a spiritual connection), my father requested His Holiness to give him the transmission of Avalokiteshvara’s six syllable mantra. Today my father still has a vivid memory of the young, majestic Sixteenth Karmapa.

Though he never met His Holiness in person, from an early age, Acharya felt a connection to him through his father.
In 1993, Acharya enrolled at Rumtek Monastery’s Karma Shri Nalanda Institute in Sikkim, India, where he served as an assistant teacher and member of the student welfare committee.
During his time at Rumtek, he received many teachings and empowerments from His Eminence Gyaltsab Rinpoche, regent of the Karmapa lineage, who in turn had received the teachings directly from the 16th Karmapa. Acharya strongly feels that his mindstream has been blessed by the lineage and that through his own engagement on the Buddhist path, his precious human life has become meaningful.
Acharya completed his post-graduate or acharya degree in Buddhist Studies in 2002. He then served as co-librarian with Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche, taught at Karma Shri Nalanda Institute and acted as an editor for Nitartha international in Kathmandu, Nepal.
In 2006, at the request of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, he moved to Nalanda West in Seattle, Washington, USA, where he supports students as a resident teacher. He is also a visiting teacher at Nalandabodhi centers throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Latin America.


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!

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: 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.

22nd Story Update: A world of gentleness, kindness

Greetings dear friends of KC 16,

As we learned in the previous email, His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, taught extensively and intensively with physical gestures and by his mere presence. In the video below, Don Winchell describes how he also created the environment around him and the way it brought about unexpected transformations. 

A student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Winchell served on the support team for the 16th Karmapa’s 1976 visit to North America.

Don Winchell reflects on the environment around His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa.

Through this delightful example of the enlightened activity of His Holiness, may we all aspire to create a world of gentleness and kindness!

We have received wonderful responses to the stories we’ve posted, and some included a personal experience with the 16th Karmapa. 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.

Twenty-first Story Update: Wherever the flag is flown, the Dharma Will Flourish

Greetings dear friends of KC 16,

Many of us have seen the yellow and blue Dream Flag or Namchen Banner of the 16th Karmapa, but not many of us may know the story behind it. We had the good fortune to speak to the person who, at the request of His Holiness, sewed the original flag — Deborah Luscomb. 

Deborah is a longtime student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and a professional seamstress. At the request of her teacher, she oversaw the national textile production — from wall coverings, bedspreads and chair upholstery to banners, shrines and thrones — for the 16th Karmapa’s third visit to North America. The first special request from His Holiness of Deborah was to make a new brocade cover for the Black Crown hatbox. The second special request was to make the Dream Flag, which was raised on Midsummer’s Day 1980, at Marpa House in Boulder, CO. In this video, Deborah recalls what happened:

Several inches of snow whiten the grounds at the Karmapa Center 16, while in front of the main house the yellow and blue Dream Flag flies despite the weather, and dharma indeed does flourish. 

With best wishes for a peaceful and joyous 2021, we send you our heartfelt thanks for your continued interest and support of KC16.

Thirteenth Story Update: Virtual Tara Drupchen – September 24 – 27, 2020

Karmapa Center 16 Shrine Room panorama. The shrine to the left is the Tara Shrine.
Photo by Lama Zopa. 

The Karmapa Center 16 is pleased to be joining Nalandabodhi International (NBI) and Nalanda West for NBI’s fifth annual Tara Drupchen to be held online from September 24 to 27.  

Tara Drupchen Info and Registration

Most of you know the Tara Sadana is a daily practice at KC16, but did you know that it was the main daily practice of the 16th Karmapa? According to his personal secretary, Zhanag Dzogpa Tenzin Namgyal, His Holiness practiced Tara every morning. (This and other stories about His Holiness can be found here.)

Since the beginning of the pandemic, KC16 has performed the Tara Sadhana more extensively than usual to call upon Tara to help alleviate the associated suffering as well as other specific and general fears and obstacles. 

This September, we have the opportunity to join NBI in virtually sharing this powerful practice. We invite you to participate with us in the Drupchen to help spread much needed peace and joy for ourselves, our loved ones and every being around the globe.

KC16 Tara Shrine. Photo by Lama Zopa. 

Twelfth Story Update: Joyful Chökhor Düchen Greetings

His Holiness the 16th Karmapa prostrating to statue of Shakyamuni Buddha.
Photo Courtesy of Shambhala Archives

A joyful Chökhor Düchen to each and every one of you from The Karmapa Center 16! This day marks the first time the Buddha Shakyamuni turned the wheel of Dharma. This holiday celebrates the day the Buddha taught on the Four Noble Truths in Deer Park in Sarnath, thus laying the ground for the entire Buddhist teachings and path. This important day falls on the fourth day of the sixth lunar month in the Tibetan calendar each year, or July 24, 2020 this year.

It is believed that positive actions done on the anniversary of this sacred day are multiplied 100 million times over. 

Therefore, it is a wonderful time to come together in practice and uplifted celebration in honor of the Buddha individually and collectively – however that is safely possible. Perhaps at this time of continued COVID-19 seclusion invite a few Dharma friends to gather online and reflect on the Buddha and our good fortune in being able to walk in his footsteps through his teachings. 

Practicing generosity is also excellent! Consider performing an act of kindness, such as offering food, helping a being in need, planting a tree, supporting family, friends, sangha, co-workers, strangers, the community around you and so forth.

We invite you to share your completed positive action with KC16’s bot via: m.me/KarmapaCenter16. #GoKind.

Finally, dedicate the merit of all your actions toward the enlightenment of all sentient beings.

Wishing you a day filled with great appreciation for the Buddha and his teachings in your life, and all the great and small moments of being together in community, with health, joy and prosperity!

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)

Second Campaign Update: Ani Pema Chödrön’s Story About His Holiness the 16th Karmapa

During this time of the global pandemic of coronavirus, when anxiety and fear are rampant, we are fortunate to be able to connect with the dharma, with our genuine heart of goodness and our wish to benefit beings—no matter what. We have the opportunity to be mindful and aware of our actions, how they affect ourselves and others, and to kindly help stop the spread of the virus (see the CDC page).

We are even more fortunate that we are able to connect with the presence of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, to then slow down and move through the world with aware kindness in a spacious, relaxed state.  

Ani Pema Chödrön* was a close student of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa and in the attached, inspiring video interview (16 minutes), she recalls being in the presence of His Holiness: “It was like he dwelled in this timeless, present state, and you were just drawn right into that.” She shares the impact he had on her life and those of countless others. She also highlights why building the stupa at KC16 is so important to the world. 

Click photo to view video of Ani Pema Chödrön | Mark Elliott, Interviewer | Doug Beechwood, Producer

Many of you realize the importance of the stupa project — in just two weeks, since our official kick off on March 1st, we’ve raised 129,000 USD from 190 donors! We’ve had the support of over 750 social media shares, with nearly 200 followers watching the campaign and actively getting the word out. We are building more momentum by the moment. 

With a joyous heart, we offer great thanks to everyone for your kindness, generosity and support of our cause. Please continue to widely share our campaign with others as that is a huge contribution in itself. 

We hope this week’s KC16 Parinirvana Stupa crowdfunding campaign update, featuring Ani Pema Chödrön, will be of great benefit. See you next week with another update and very special video story celebrating the great life and teachings of His Holiness!

*Ani Pema Chödrön is an American Tibetan Buddhist. She is an ordained nun, former acharya of Shambhala Buddhism and disciple of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She has written several dozen books and audiobooks, and is principal teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada.