In Memoriam Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche (1952-2014)

Many of you have probably already heard the sad news about the recent passing of Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, Mipham Chokyi Lodro (1952-2014). It spread like a shock wave through the Karma Kagyu Buddhist centers in Europe. Not only was he the lineage holder of the tradition, but he had also spent years and years teaching in the West, mainly in the United States and Europe. 

Having just completed a weekend course at his Bodhi Path Center in Renchen Ulm, Germany, His Holiness unexpectedly passed away in the morning of June 11th 2014. It was learned that he suffered from a sudden heart attack and died immediately.

Kunzig Sharma Rinpoche giving blessings, Dhagpo Kagyu Ling, Institute Opening 2013
Shamar Rinpoche in Dhagpo Kagyu Ling, June 2013
Under the guidance of his brother Jigme Rinpoche who was also present when he passed away, all traditional procedures were followed. After that, Shamar Rinpoche remained in the so-called thugs dam, a post mortem meditative state carried out by experienced meditators, until Friday the 13th 2014. Since this date falls together with Saga Dawa, the highest Buddhist holiday, it is considered very auspicious.

Even though I personally cannot claim to call myself a close disciple, I had some contact with Rinpoche over the years and he positively influenced my life in many ways. Having received my basic Buddhist education at the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute (KIBI), a center of higher learning under his direction, I of course directly benefited from his activity. 

The idea to establish KIBI originated with a wish of Shamar Rinpoche's teacher, the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, who started the project shortly before his passing. This placed the responsibility for building and up-keeping the institute largely upon Shamar Rinpoche's shoulders. It was only a few years ago that he finally transfered the responsibility back to the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Thaye Dorje, the successor of his teacher and present lineage holder of the Karma Kagyu tradition.

When studying at KIBI, it was something special to meet Shamar Rinpoche. There was often a sense of positive fear that surrounded his visits. He was so unpredictable and seemed to be a master in unexpectedly pointing the finger on the spot which hurts the most. Yes, it occasionally felt uncomfortable to be around him, but it always turned out to be extremely beneficial. To me, he seemed to be from another, better world which makes it even more difficult to grasp that his body should be mortal like that of anyone else. It just doesn't feel as if it was possible that he could die. Deep inside I actually feel that he never went away and is indeed still here with us.

As His Holiness Karmapa Thaye Dorje has put it:
Sadly, his physical manifestation has left our material world. Yet he was and continues to be our teacher, and his aspirations and blessings will remain with us always.
Dear Shamar Rinpoche, I am truly thankful for all you did for us over the decades. You created so many opportunities to study and practice the Dharma. It is now our responsibility to repay your kindness by taking good use of it and help to upkeep and expand the possibilities you created.

In particular, we can do as His Holiness Gyalwa Karmapa Thaye Dorje requested: dedicate our merits and practice to Shamar Rinpoche, practice on Amithaba and make requests for his swift return to benefit and guide all beings towards enlightenment.

Letter by Karmapa Thaye Dorje on the passing of Kunzig Sharma Rinpoche
Letter by Gyalwa Karmapa Thaye Dorje

May you have a swift and unhindered rebirth! 

Prayer for a swift rebirth of Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche authored by Beru Khyentse Rinpoche

Articles on the passing of Shamar Rinpoche:
Tricycle article by Pamela White
A wonderful blog post by Jourdie Ross 

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