What are the causes of our having two Karmapas?

Sep 4, 2023



Good morning Venerable Robina:


I am pleased to be getting the benefit of teachings from the FPMT. However, I am part of the Kagyu lineage, that is for definite, and I am struggling with the present incarnations of the two Karmapas. I don’t expect you to comment whatsoever on the relentless gossip within the Sangha. What I am wishing for is information. In one of your Zoom sessions, a person was having difficulties within her mind around teachers and you suggested the mantra om ah prajna dikka ha hum. I have been chanting this and tried to find the meaning on Google but to no avail. 


You are very much a teacher close to my heart so I believe it is traditional to ask your permission for this so please can you say yes. If you don’t, in all honesty, I’d still see you as one – that is not arrogance, it is a steadfast belief of trusting confidence.


Kindest of regards




I’m delighted to hear from you, dearest H.


Thank you for telling me what’s going on. So pleased you’ve strengthened your commitment to your practice: you will benefit from this, I promise! 


Wonderful to know of your karmic connection with the Kargyupas.


And I’m happy to help you along your way, for sure! So let’s stay in touch.


As for the two Karmapas: the only way to understand this is in the framework of the law of karma. This is fundamental to Buddha’s entire view of the universes: what is happiness, what is suffering, why do things happen.


Often practitioners don’t think about it much and don’t even learn about it. But if we claim to be Buddhists, we need to know Buddha’s views, surely – not just blindly believing and swallowing it whole; no: thinking about it, attempting to understand it, and then apply it.


The idea of karma, of course, has been around for three thousand years; the amazing Hindu yogis were the first to articulate this natural law and in their meditation to see the reality of it. Buddha, of course, went as far as he could go with these masters and then diverged in his own direction.


The essence of the law of karma is that there are trillions of sentient beings, mind possessors (the Tibetan word semchen) and their experiences are governed by the law of karma; or, if you like, we all run within the law of karma. 


It’s a natural law, no one invented it, no one runs it. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, it’s like self-creation.


Basically, every millisecond of what we think and do and say just naturally leaves seeds in our midstream — that’s the analogy Buddha uses — and these seeds, being seeds, just naturally ripen in the future. They ripen in four ways: 1. Our type of rebirth; 2. Our mental tendencies; 3. Our experiences, how we’re seen and treated, etc.; and 4. Our environment.


In other words what we think and do and say produces us and what we experience.


If we look at our good experiences — people are kind to us, there is harmony around us, people don’t lie to us, people believe our words, people give us things, etc., etc., etc. — we can deduce that they’re the result of good actions just like those. 


Ditto for our suffering experiences.


So, here we have two people who’ve been recognized by two groups of people as the reincarnation of the past Karmapa. What’s this the result of? Which of our actions caused this? What’s our role in this? That’s the key point. 


As Lama Zopa Rinpoche puts it, everything we experience is “our own karmic appearance.” Whatever appears in front of us – a war, a garden, kind people, two Karmapas — is the result of our own past karma. In a sense, we created them. We created the cause to have two Karmapas.


Because there has been conflict between two groups, each recognizing their own version of the Karmapa, it’s clear that one of the causes is past disharmony.


But we must be clear that from the side of the two Karmapas – this is a key point here – the holy beings, the lamas, the people who are said to be manifestations of the buddhas, we have to understand that they have finished their karma and they consciously choose, driven by their compassion, to manifest as this human being or that one in order to benefit us.


Again, from our side, we can also rejoice that some good karma seems to have ripened in their meeting each other. Again, this is our karmic appearance; we are the cause of this. This is wonderful.


So, all we as disciples of the lamas can do is have what the lamas call “pure view”: don’t criticize, don’t gossip – yes, pay absolutely no attention to any of the constant blah blah blah online: it just pollutes our mind, drags us down – just see them both as a manifestation of the buddhas and leave it there.


Our trouble in the West is we think we have to have an opinion about everything! So we go nuts trying to work things out.


Within the Gelugpas there’s this division now, too, stemming from a particular practice that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said is no longer valid; many people have branched off and given up His Holiness, etc. etc.


So, my approach to this is: I leave it there. I keep my mind pure. I have faith in His Holiness, in my lamas. I mind my own business. 


And, guess what? I’m the beneficiary of this!


As for that mantra: it’s the mantra of a buddha called Samaya Vajra; it’s particularly for purifying our past negative karma in relation to our gurus, vajra brothers and sisters, etc. Samaya is translated as commitment or pledge.


It’s perfect for purifying the past causes of present disharmony! It’s a lovely practice.


What do you think, dear H?


Love to you,




Bless you my dearest Venerable Robina!


Wise words and I sincerely thank you from my heart.


When the message came through from you, I was playing the Tara prayer with the Karmapa singing it, crying with genuine heartfelt sadness. 


I had made it a vow in purification to try and work through my confusion through compassion – it was either that I decided, which is pretty arrogant actually, or have a sense of anger and remain ignorant. 


The relief of your kind and clear explanation was instant and I chuckled loudly (still am) as the lesson here is I was missing the wisdom: so thank you for that.


“So, I leave it there. I keep my mind pure. I have faith in His Holiness, in my lamas. I mind my own business. I’m the beneficiary of this!”


Very succinct and has had the effect of immense relief. 


Tomorrow I shall introduce myself properly to Samaya Vajra.


Thank you again.

H xx

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