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Karma Pakshi - Second Karmapa

Second Karmapa Karma Pakshi was born on 1206 in a family of descendants of Dharma-king Trisong Detsen who ruled in the VII century. His parents, who faithfully practiced Dharma, named their son Chedzin.

The boy was maturing much more rapidly than his peers and six years old he could read and write well. When he was ten he realized the essence of the Buddha teachings. Apart of intellectual gifts, Chedzin had an intuitive ability to calm his mind and keep it in a state of one-pointedness. Thanks to his natural qualities he could immediately experience the spontaneous realization of the essence, when his teacher Pomdrakpa showed the essence of the mind to the boy.

Pomdrakpa himself had received the transmission of teachings in the Karma Kagyu tradition from Drogon Rechen, the closest disciple and successor of Düsum Khyenpa, the first Karmapa. First meeting Chedzin, giving initiations to him, Pomdrakpa told him about his vision that around the boy’s house are gathered Düsum Khyenpa and other high teachers of the permission lineage, demonstrating the importance of this particular new student. In another vision Düsum Khyenpa said to Pomdrakpa: “This kid is my incarnation”. Then Pomdrakpa officially recognized Chedzin as the Second Karmapa, giving him a title “Dharma Master” and ordained him as a novice monk.

Karma Pakshi was studying with Pomdrakpa for eleven years, paying special attention to Mahamudra tradition, received through Saraha and Gampopa. As extraordinary gifted kid he often realized the essence of teachings immediately, as soon he heard them. Concluding this phase of trainings, Pomdrakpa told him:

- You have realized your own realization of Dharma now to a degree good enough. But to teach others you have to receive series of initiations, transmissions of texts and oral instructions from Buddha Shakyamuni or Buddha Vajradhara.

He gave Karma Pakshi all Kagyu initiations, becoming his spiritual father. When Karma Pakshi received initiation of Mahakala, he clearly felt the presence of this Dharma-protector.

When Karmapa was twenty-two, he became a monk. He was initiated by Lama Jampa Bum, the head of Katog Nyingma Monastery, founded by Kadampa Desheg, disciple of former Karmapa Düsum Khyenpa. During that period Karma Pakshi was practicing the yoga of inner heat as his main practice, in addition to Mahamudra. This way he attained perfection in both aspects of tantric practice – the path of great methods, based on a form and the path of inner vision, without a form.

At the time there were civil unrest in Kham and Karma Pakshi responding to the needs of people went there to restore peace. When he were travelling around the Kham, the whole area with its fields, mountains and valleys appeared to him as the country of Supreme Bliss (Tib: bde mchog), ready for the message of Dharma. This realization manifested to him as a vision of Chakrasamvara, the Buddha-aspect, surrounded by dancing dakis and dakinis. Soon, inspired by the mighty Bodhisattva Mahakala, the Black Coat (Tib..:rdo rje ber nag chen), who later became the main protector of teachings in Karma Kagyu tradition, Karmapa built a new monastery in Kham, in Sharchog Pungri.

In another vision dakini appeared to Karma Pakshi and advised to initiate the tradition of singing the six-syllable mantra of Bodhisattva Loving Eyes, Chenrezig, embodiment of the enlightened compassion. Since then, Karma Pakshi and his monks on the road were always humming this mantra, and gradually its singing together became an important aspect of spiritual practice of Buddhists in Tibet.

Karmapa spent eleven years in his new monastery and most of time spent meditating. The fame of his spiritual attainments spread also far away like in Jung and China.

Thanks to his mastery of the Five Elements Karma Pakshi could pacify any environment, and as a result even the formidable guardian of the mountains called Dorje Paltseg made a commitment to protect the Karma Kagyu lineage at all times.

Finding his Karma Gon monastery is in decay, Karma Pakshi went there and started to renovate it. When the monastery buildings were given back their original shape, Karmapa, again inspired by Mahakala, moved to Tsurphu to refurbish this shrine too. Six years later while visiting Tsam region in the Western Tibet, near the lake Namtso, he received a precious gift that helped him to pay off all his debts taken to refurbish monasteries.

In 1251 Karma Pakshi accepted invitation of Mongolian Kublai Khan, who was a ruler of the lands bordering with Tibet and China at the time. On the way to palace U-Tok, where Karmapa arrived three years later, the great army of Serta was greeting him.

Karma Pakshi realized the significance of this visit for the future of Kagyu transmission lineage, - also many visions that appeared after his arrival to the court pointed to it. Kublai Khan respectfully received Karmapa, and then asked to demonstrate his spiritual attainments to teachers of other religions. Karmapa fulfilled the request with such courtesy and dignity that all who were present there recognized his greatness. Khan invited Karma Pakshi to remain forever in court, but he declined the offer, anticipating the problems that could arise due to a clash of interests of various parties in the kingdom of Kublai Khan. The rest of China was under the rule of Möngke Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan at the time. To ensure the power Möngke Khan defeated his cousin Godan, but had very little impact on Kublai Khan, who was his own younger brother.

The most spread schools of Tibetan Buddhism in China were, first of all, Sakya tradition, mainly through the efforts of the Sakya Pandita (1182-1251) and his nephew Phagpa (1235-1284).

Bodhisattva Loving Eyes and protector Mahakala remained the sources of profound inspiration to Karmapa Karma Pakshi, and on this occasion they advised him to return to Northern Tibet. His refusal to stay at the palace clearly angered Kublai Khan, but, despite this, the Karmapa left in the direction of Minyag region lying at the border of China and Tibet.

When the procession arrived at the Minyag, there was raging tornado that Karmapa felt was the personification of Mahakala, the Black Coat. He also had a vision of Vaishravana, the guardian of wealth, who begged him to stay in Minyag and build a new monastery.

In 1256 Karma Pakshi arrived to the town Amdo in north-east of Tibet. There he learned that Möngke Khan suppressed the resistance of his younger brother Kublai Khan, and now is the supreme ruler of Mongolia and most part of China. Very soon a message from Möngke Khan was received: he called Karmapa to return to China and teach Dharma. Karma Pakshi agreed and slowly moved back to China. His road was laid through Mingyan again. But red Tara appeared him in the night and ordered to go directly to the castle of Möngke Khan in Liang Zhou. The significance of dharmic activity of Karma Pakshi, extending over all borders, was apparent now. As his convoy was moving towards China, Karmapa was resolving conflicts in society and ending natural disasters with his great compassion.

At the residence of Khan, he arrived at the beginning of winter. In honor of this important event, the governor released from prisons many prisoners, and Karma Pakshi manifested the compassion of Bodhisattva Loving Eyes, giving many empowerments and oral instructions. Möngke Khan became his devoted disciple, and Karma Pakshi revealed to him the secret: in a past life Khan was a student of the First Karmapa Düsum Khyenpa and reached the same level of Mahamudra realization, which had the teacher himself.

Wanting to demonstrate the skillful methods of Dharma, Karma Pakshi invited many Taoist masters from the monasteries Shen Shin, Tao Shi and Er Chao to participate in a philosophical debate. However, none of the guests could defend against Karmapa, and everyone who arrived agreed to his teachings.

In Alaka palace Karma Pakshi initiated Khan and his other students in the practice of Chakrasamvara, Buddha of Highest Bliss. Möngke Khan was meditating so ardently according to instructions of his teacher that he could visualize Yidam in all details. Afterwards, thanks to the Karmapa’s concentration power, the images of Saraha and other Mahasiddhas appeared in the space. The vision remained there for three days and nights. These teachings deeply impressed the Khan; he was paying less attention to politics and had more time to develop the intuitive wisdom of Mahamudra.

The influence of the Karmapa extended far beyond the Khan's court and had a noticeable effect on the entire culture of China and Mongolia. He continued the work started by Sakya Pandita. For example, Karmapa called Mongolian Buddhists to avoid eating meat in the days of lunar phases. Non-Buddhist population of these countries was also encouraged to observe their religious precepts during these periods. In addition, Karmapa was widely advocating teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni about ten positive actions as the basis for personal and social well-being.

Karma Pakshi was working very hard for the benefit of all people. Particularly, thirteen times large groups of prisoners were released, according to his insistent pleas. Not caring about his personal prestige, Karmapa never sought to favor the Karma Kagyu lineage in expense of other Buddhist schools and urged Khan to support all lineages equally.

Once the Khan invited his Teacher to travel throughout his empire together. In Karakorum, the capital of the Mongolian state, Karma Pakshi engaged into a friendly dialogue with members of other faiths. The cortege proceeded to the border areas between Mongolia and China and was moving towards Minyag. Here Karmapa fell into memories about Düsum Khyenpo and touched by these memories decided to return to Tibet. Möngke Khan wanted him to travel together to Manchuria, but Karma Pakshi declined his request, reminding the impermanent nature of everything. The royal disciple didn’t oppose to his decision and let him go, and ensured him a secure passage across the territory of the Mongolian Khanate.

In the year of Iron Tiger, when Karmapa returned to the Land of Snows, Möngke Khan died - and riots broke out in China. The son of former khan Alapaga declared himself as a new ruler, but several Mongolian tribes were clearly supporting his opponent Kublai Khan, who also was claiming the throne. Soon Kublai managed to seize the power, and Alapaga was killed – there were rumors that he was killed by the magic of one of the disciples of Lama Zhang, founder of the Kagyu Tsalpa tradition.

Karma Pakshi was still on the road: it took so long because of military actions in several regions. In one of his visions he saw signs that on his return to Tibet, he will need to build a huge statue of Buddha. But he was aware about the obstacles that may arise to realization of this idea. However the ways to overcome those future troubles were revealed him in a dream: a white horse saved him from danger. In honor of this event, Karmapa composed a song with the following lines:

This is an extraordinary horse, like a golden bird.
I myself - a higher being, like Siddhartha Gautama.
It means we will pass the dangerous times.

Soon a message reached the ears of Karmapa that Kublai Khan, propelled by the court’s intriguers, is gravely angered at him. Khan felt that Karma Pakshi treated him disrespectfully, for pleasure of his brother and rival Möngke. Not like himself in rage, Kublai Khan ordered to kill Karmapa.

Soldiers of the new Khan found Karmapa, grabbed him, and subjected to all kinds of abuse and torture. They tried to burn at the fire, poison and throw into the abyss - but in the face of this extreme cruelty he consistently demonstrated compassion of Bodhisattva and the freedom of great yogi. Because he had a realization of the unborn and undying nature of mind, his tormentors could not harm him. Karmapa also demonstrated a deep compassion for the confused beings.

These amazing events forced Kublai to reconsider his attitude to Karma Pakshi and he decided to replace the death penalty with an exile. Khan was trying to damage Karmapa’s health and sent him to the shore of an ocean, to deserted area, where was almost nobody to whom he could transfer the Dharma. But Karma Pakshi spent a few years simply writing his treatises and gradually recovered.

At the end Kublai khan relented and asked for forgiveness, begging Karmapa to stay with him. When Lama replied that he must return to Tibet, Khan let him go with the words:

- Please, remember me, pray for me and send your blessings to me. You are free – you can go wherever you wish and teach Dharma.

Finally, after a long absence, Karma Pakshi arrived in Tsurphu again and immediately began preparations to build a Buddha statue. A cast brass statue, called "The Great Sage, an ornament of the world" (Tib: thub chen dzam glingrgyan), was eighteen feet in height, and contained relics of Buddha and his closest disciples.

When the work was completed, the statue suddenly bent. Seeing this, Karmapa sat in meditation in front of it, bending his body in the same direction. Then he began to gradually straighten up and statue was straightening together with him.

In 1283, shortly before his death, Karma Pakshi handed the management of the Karma Kagyu school to his great disciple Urgyenpa, informing him that the next Karmapa will take birth in western Tibet.

The second Karmapa was both a great tantric yogi and a scholar. The power of his teachings inspired many people, leading them to a spiritual path. Karmapa’s famous students were, except Urgyenpa, also Majah Jangchub Tsondru, Nyenre Gendun Bum and Möngke Khan.