The 16th Gyalwang Karmapa (1924 – 1981) played a prominent role in revitalizing Buddhism and the Tibetan community in exile, after he like so many Tibetans fled to India because of the political circumstances in Tibet. The Karmapa sent Kagyu teachers to the Western world and bestowed teachings in many major European and American cities. He passed away in the United States in 1981; his heart region remained warm for three days after death as a sign of transcending ordinary phenomena. Like his predecessors, he left a prediction letter foretelling the circumstances of his next reincarnation.
The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa (1985 – present) is the current spiritual guide of the Kagyu lineage. In 1992, His Holiness the Dalai Lama confirmed that a child discovered in Tibet, matching the 16th Karmapa’s prediction letter, was indeed the 17th Karmapa. Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa enthroned the young incarnation at the Karmapa’s seat in Tibet, Tsurphu Monastery. Since the age of fourteen, the Karmapa has resided in India, receiving the Buddha’s teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the principal Kagyu lineage holders, and other masters. Since then, the Karmapa has assumed leadership for the lineage and presides at the annual Kagyu prayer festival in Bodh Gaya, India (the site of the Buddha’s awakening), drawing thousands of devotees each year. He has launched initiatives for environmental protection and the preservation of ancient texts. In 2008, 2011, and 2015, the 17th Karmapa bestowed teachings at KTC Monastery.
The 12th Kenting Tai Situpa (1954 – present) received the complete lineage transmission from his root guru, the 16th Karmapa. In turn, the present Tai Situpa is now the primary teacher of the 17th Karmapa. Since the time of the 1st Karmapa, the Karmapas and Tai Situpas have alternated as master and disciple from one generation to the next. In addition to establishing his monastic seat of Palpung Sherab Ling in northern India (one of the premier institutions for Buddhism and Tibetan culture), Tai Situpa has been active in world peace and non-sectarian initiatives. He is also an accomplished scholar, poet, calligrapher, artist, author, architect, and authority on feng shui.
Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche (1905 – 1989) was the foremost meditation master of the Kagyu lineage during his lifetime. As a youth, he was known for his compassion for all living beings, blessing even insects. Kalu Rinpoche completed two three-year retreats and twelve years of solitary retreat in the remote mountains of Tibet. The 11th Tai Situpa then urged him to share his insight with the world and begin teaching. In 1955, the 16th Karmapa, foreseeing the difficult times ahead for Tibet, directed Kalu Rinpoche to go to India. Thereafter, Kalu Rinpoche established the three-year retreat program and Buddhist centers in India and the Western world, training many of the next generation of spiritual teachers. In 1982, he bestowed the Kalachakra initiation in New York City and inaugurated the first three-year retreat in North America at KTC. After years of guiding KTC and thousands of disciples around the world, he passed away in 1989.
The 12th Tai Situpa identified, and H.H. the Dalai Lama confirmed the recognition of, Kalu Rinpoche’s reincarnation, who was born in 1990. The 2nd Kalu Rinpoche has completed a three-year retreat in India and considers Tai Situ Rinpoche his root guru.