Karma Lingpa

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Karma Lingpa
Tibetan: ཀརྨ་གླིང་པ་Wylie: kar ma gling pa
Religion Buddhism
Order Nyingma
Born 1326
Died 1386
Religious career
Reincarnation Chokro Lü Gyeltsen
Profession Tertön, revealer of the Bardo Thodol.

Karma Lingpa (1326–1386) was the tertön (revealer) of the Bardo Thodol, the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead.[1] Tradition holds that he was a reincarnation of Chokro Lü Gyeltsen,[note 1][2] a disciple of Padmasambhava.


Karma Lingpa was born in southeast Tibet as the eldest son of Nyida Sanggyé,[note 2] a great Vajrayana practitioner. At an early age, Karma Lingpa engaged in esoteric practices and achieved many siddhi.

When he was fifteen years old,[3] he discovered several terma texts on top of Mount Gampodar, including a collection of teachings entitled "Profound Dharma of Self-Liberation through the Intention of the Peaceful and Wrathful Ones"[4] (zab-chos zhi khro dgongs pa rang grol, also known as kar-gling zhi-khro[3]), which includes the two texts of bar-do thos-grol, the so-called "Tibetan Book of the Dead".[1]

According to Chogyam Trungpa, Karma Lingpa was a Nyingma teacher, but all of his students belonged to the Kagyu school. His teachings were transmitted in the Surmang monasteries of the Trungpa-lineage, and from there also spread to the Nyimgma school.[5]

The bar-do thos-grol was translated by Kazi Dawa Samdup (1868-1922), and edited and published by W.Y. Evans-Wenz. This translation became widely known and popular as "the Tibetan Book of the Dead", but contains many mistakes in translation and interpretation.[1][6]

Another text from the "Profound Dharma of Self-Liberation" is "Self-Liberation through seeing with naked awareness" (rigpa ngo-sprod[note 3]), which gives an introduction, or pointing-out instruction (ngo-spro), into rigpa, the state of presence and awareness.[8]


  1. Wylie: cog ro klu'i rgyal mtshan
  2. Wylie: nyi zla sangs rgyas
  3. Full: rigpa ngo-sprod gcer-mthong rang-grol[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Norbu 1989, p. xii.
  2. "Chokro Lui Gyaltsen". Rangjung Yeshe Wiki - Dharma Dictionary. Retrieved 2013-11-03. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Norbu 1989, p. ix.
  4. Fremantle 2001, p. 20.
  5. Chogyam Trungpa (2010), The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa: Volume Six: Glimpses of Space; Orderly Chaos; Secret Beyond Thought; The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Commentary; Transcending Madness; Selected Writings, p.269
  6. Reynolds 1989, p. 71-115.
  7. norbu 1989, p. x.
  8. Norbu 1989, p. x.


  • Fremantle, Francesca (2001), Luminous Emptiness: understanding the Tibetan Book of the dead, Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, ISBN 1-57062-450-X 
  • Norbu, Namkhai (1989), "Foreword", in Reynolds, John Myrdin, Self-liberation through seeing with naked awareness, Station Hill Press, Inc. 
  • Reynolds, John Myrdin (1989), "Appendix I: The views on Dzogchen of W.Y. Evans-Wentz and C.G. Jung", in Reynolds, John Myrdin, Self-liberation through seeing with naked awareness, Station Hill Press, Inc. 

Further reading

  • Reynolds, John Myrdin (1989), Self-Liberation through seeing with naked awareness, Station Hill Press, Inc. 

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