His Eminence The 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche
Monday 2 May 2016
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Tai Situ Rinpoche is one of the highest spiritual leaders of Buddhism. He possesses the Red Vajra Crown, which was given to his fifth incarnation by the Gyalwa Karmapa to symbolize their inseparability.
His Eminence The 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche
When His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa was in Beijing to discuss the affairs of Tibet, he had a vision of Mahakala concerning Situ Rinpoche’s rebirth. There, the Gyalwa Karmapa wrote the prediction letter for the discovery of the 12th Tai Situpa Pema Donyo Nyinje Wangpo. The Gyalwa Karmapa accurately foretold the signs surrounding Situ Rinpoche’s birth and dwelling. Likewise, the 11th Tai Situpa Pema Wangchog described the circumstances of his next incarnation before passing away.
A search party discovered the 12th Tai Situpa quickly. The previous 11th Situ Rinpoche Pema Wangchog was one of the principle teachers to the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.
Situ Rinpoche was born in 1954, in the Palyul section of the Derge province, eastern Tibet. On the day of his birth, the entire region witnessed two solar orbs illuminating the sky.
As Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche wrote “Tai Situ Rinpoche, who was second in importance in the Karma Kagyu school, had died some years before and no reincarnation had been found. The Karmapa could now tell them where the incarnation had taken place. Everyone rejoiced and started immediately to make the preparations."
On the route of the Gyalwa Karmapa’s return to Tsurphu, which is in central Tibet, His Holiness the Karmapa enthroned the Tai Situpa (who was eighteen months old) at Palpung Monastery in eastern Tibet.
There, high officials from the Tibetan Government, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and China were present. Soon after, His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Palpung Monastery and performed the hair cutting ceremony for the 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche, naming the Tai Situpa according to Guru Padmasambhava’s terma: Chime Pema Donyo Nyinje Chogle Gyalway De.
In eastern Tibet problems were arising with the Communist presence. Tai Situpa then went to Tsurphu, the Karmapa’s monastery. For the first time, Rinpoche performed the ceremony of the Red Vajra Crown. At five years old, Rinpoche fled Tibet on the advice of the Gyalwa Karmapa. The Karmapa foresaw that soon they all would have to go into exile, so His Holiness commanded for many Kagyu gurus to flee ahead of time.
Situ Rinpoche arrived in Bhutan and was welcomed by disciples from his previous incarnation, which included the Bhutanese Royal family. Shortly after arriving in Sikkim, Rinpoche contracted tuberculosis. After receiving medical treatment in Darjeeling, he returned to Sikkim. Rinpoche, like most Tibetan refugees, struggled to live and relief organizations provided aid.
The Tai Situpa received complete religious transmission from masters including the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Rinpoche also studied poetry, grammar, astrology, medicine, sacred dance, painting and sculpture. Situ Rinpoche received the Kalachakra Initiation and instructions from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. From Dorjechang Kalu Rinpoche, the Tai Situpa was bestowed numerous transmissions including the Rinchen Terdzo. From Thrangu Rinpoche, the Tai Situpa received teachings on all matters of philosophy and the study of the scriptures.
Tai Situ Rinpoche was taught along side the Gyalwa Karmapa’s other heart sons, Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche.
In 1981, during the cremation ceremony for the passing of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, the heart relic of the Karmapa rolled out of the stupa and into the hands of Tai Situ Rinpoche while he was making offerings into the burning fire. Advice was immediately sought from Kalu Rinpoche. Most surely, such an auspicious sign indicated that Situ Rinpoche was to be the principle heart-son of the 16th Karmapa.
Since 1981, Situ Rinpoche has been teaching around the world. He is the author of many books including The Way to Go, Relative World/Ultimate Mind, Tilopa, Awakening the Sleeping Buddha and commentary to the 3rd Karmapa’s Mahamudra Prayer. Situ Rinpoche is fluent in English, his style of teaching is both understandable and profound. He relates to western and eastern students easily when teaching.
In 1983, Rinpoche founded the Maitreya Institute, a nonsectarian forum for inter-religious dialogue. Rinpoche has been involved in world peace, and has met with other religious leaders such as Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa and monks of the Assisi Order.
In 1984, Rinpoche was able to return to Tibet and ordained over 2,000 people. Since then, Rinpoche has returned to Tibet to recognize tulkus, reestablish Palpung and other monasteries, and preserve Tibet’s culture. In particular, the Tai Situpa recognized the reincarnation of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in the early 1990s.
In 1989, he led the Pilgrimage for Active Peace which included many religious leaders and humanitarians.
In the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, Situ Rinpoche constructed Palpung Sherab Ling Monastery. This soon became his new seat outside of Tibet, built with the encouragement of the Gyalwa Karmapa and the support of his disciples. Tai Situ Rinpoche designed the monastery with his own architectural skills. Rinpoche is a renown artist, poet, scholar, author, calligrapher, and he is learned in the art of feng shui.
Sherab Ling Monastery has grown slowly over the years. Many monks have completed retreats there and have been trained at the monastic college. Saljay Rinpoche and Mingyur Dorje Rinpoche have been two guiding figures at Sherab Ling. In the year 2000, a stupa containing a relic of the 8th Situ Rinpoche Chokyi Jungey was inaugurated at the monastery.
In 1992, the Situ Rinpoche recognized the reincarnation of Dorjechang Kalu Rinpoche. That same year, through the prediction letter left behind by the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa to Tai Situpa in a pouch, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Dorje was found in eastern Tibet. HH the 14th Dalai Lama confirmed the 17th Karmapa’s recognition through his own wisdom eye and pure vision.
His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche enthroned the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa at the glorious seat of Tolung Tsurphu Monastery in 1992. In 2000, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa arrived in India after fleeing Tibet due to restrictions being placed on his religious education.
Like his predecessors, the present Tai Situ Rinpoche is renown for his many glorious qualities throughout the world, especially in Tibet, China, Europe, America and India. Situ Rinpoche is the main teacher of the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa.
As the Terton Chogyur Lingpa said in the 19th Century, "The 17th Karmapa’s mind shall be blended together with Kenting Tai Situ’s mind. Through this, the teachings will flourish." Already, we can see the Terton’s prediction being demonstrated through the buddha-activity of the 17th Karmapa and 12th Tai Situpa.