The name Karma Chagme refers to a 17th-century Tibetan Buddhist (Vajrayāna) lama and to the tülku (reincarnate lama) lineage which he initiated. Including the first, seven Karma Chagme tülkus have been recognized. The Neydo Kagyu (Wylie: gnas mdo bka' brgyud) sub-school of the Karma Kagyu was established by the first Karma Chagme, Rāga Asya.
The First Karma Chagme, Rāga Asya
Karma Chagme (born Wangdrak Sung; ordained Karma chags-med; alias Rā-ga a-sya; 1613-1678), was born in Salmo Gang (Wylie: zal-mo sgang), a place near Riwoche (Wylie: Ri-bo-che) in the district of Ngoms in Kham, Eastern Tibet.
His father, Pema Wangdrak (Wylie: Pad-ma dbang-grags) was an established tantric siddha from the ruling lineage of Dong Khachö (Wylie: gDong mkha’-spyod) and his mother Chökyong Kyi (Wylie: 'Chos-skyong skyid) was descended from the family line of Gyu-li. Said to have been the reincarnation of Chok-Ro Lü Gyaltsen (Wylie: cog ro klu'i rgyal mtshan) and of the Prince Sad-na-legs, his father gave Terton Ratna Lingpa longevity empowerments during his birth. His birth was in exact accordance with Guru Padmasmbhava's prophecies.
He was trained by his father from the age of six in reading and writing, as well as, in “white” and “black” astrology (Wylie: rtsis dkar nag), geomancy and magic ceremonies for the purpose of averting misfortunes. He was also taught the entire cycle of Nyingma teachings, which he had learned from his father, and continued his training with the most famous Nyingma and Kagyu masters of his time.
He attained mastery of the sūtras and tantras at Zad-ma gyi monastery and received, at the age of twenty, ordination and the transmission of Mahāmudrā from the 6th Shamarpa Mipan Chökyi Wangchuk (Wylie: Zhwa-dmar-pa Chos-kyi-dbang-phyug) (1584-1630) at Tsurphu monastery (Wylie: mTshur-phu). He received Karmapa empowerment during his visit. Then he traveled with Karmapa for a year and a half achieving fame in Tibet. His public examination was before 12,000 monks at the Great Prayer Festival of Karma Kagyu.
A contender for the post of the ninth Karmapa, he was not confirmed but retained the ordination name Karma Chagme. Karma Chagme is known for being a prolific writer and scholar, for his ardent devotion to the cult of Sukhāvatī, and for being the teacher of Terton Migyur Dorje who revealed a unique cycle of terma known as the Nam cho (Wylie: gnam-chos) Karma Chagme was credited as a Mahasiddha attaining an authentic emanation of Avalokitesvara Gyalwa Gyatso.
The biography of the first Karma Chagme is based on the following sources: gTer ston brgya rtsa’i rnam thar (513-16); mKhas grub Karma chags med rin po che’i gsung ’bum gyi dkar chag (introduction); Tsering Lama (1988: 35-44); and Chagmé (1998: 7-11).
The Current (7th) Karma Chagme
The current Neydo (Wylie: gNas-mdo) throne holder of Tashi Chöling (Wylie: bKra-shis chos-gling) monastery is Karma Tendzin Trinley Kunchab Pal Zangbo (Wylie: Karma bstan-’dzin ’phrin-las kun-khyab dpal-bzang-po). His seat is Neydo Tashi Chöling monastery, located in the Nepali village of Setidevi Bhanjyang, which is near Pharping, a Buddhist pilgrimage site in the Kathmandu valley.
Karma Chagme Tülku Lineage
- Karma Chagme Raga Asya (Wylie: 'karma chags-med rā-ga a-sya; 1613-1678)
- Choktrül Trinley Wangchuk (Wylie: mchog-sprul ’phrin-las dbang-phyug)
- Trinley Tendzin (Wylie: ’phrin-las bstan-’dzin)
- Khyapdak Tendzin Trinley (Wylie: khyab-bdag bstan-’dzin ’phrin-las)
- Sang Ngak Tendzin (Wylie: gSang-sngags bstan-’dzin)
- Karma Tsultrim Namgyal (Wylie: karma tshul-khrims rnam-rgyal)
- Karma Tendzin Trinley Kunkhyab Pal Zangbo (Wylie: karma bstan-’dzin ’phrin-las kun-khyab dpal-bzang-po; 1926-2013)
Tsering Lama Jampal Zangpo. 1988. A Garland of Immortal Wish-fulfilling Trees: The Palyul Tradition of Nyingmapa. Ithaca: Snow Lion.
Chagmé, Karma 2000. Naked Awareness: Practical Instructions on the Union of Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen. Translated by A. Wallace. Ithaca: Snow Lion.
Chagmé, Karma 2009. A Spacious Path to Freedom: Practical Instructions on Union of Mahamudra and Atiyoga. Commentary by Gyatrul Rinpoche, Translated by A. Wallace. Ithaca: Snow Lion.
Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (http://www.tbrc.org/index.xq)