12th Zurmang Gharwang

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The present Zurmang Gharwang is the twelve incarnation in an unbroken line of this exalted lineage.

He was born into an aristocratic family in Gangtok, Sikkim, on the 30th of June 1965.

Prior to his birth, the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa often alluded to his attendants that the next incarnation of Zurmang Gharwang would soon be born. Shortly after telling his attendants of this, His Holiness attended a performance of traditional Tibetan drama on the forecourt of Rumtek monastery. Also present in the audience were the future parents of the 12th Gharwang Tulku.

His Holiness was deferentially offered a jewel by the late General Secretary, Damcho Yondu. Instead of accepting it himself as usual, he directed that the gift be given to Gharwang Tulku. So saying, he pointed to the surprised mother-to-be in the audience. So doing so, the Gyalwa Karmapa recognized the 12th Gharwang Rinpoche while he was in his mother's womb.

A few months later, the Royal Princess delivered her predicted son at her residence in Gangtok. Even before the news of the birth reached Rumtek, which was 24km away, His Holiness had already dispatched Saljay Rinpoche as his emissary, bearing gifts and a letter containing his blessings for the newborn child.

Another sign of Zurmang Gharwang’s return also occurred when the new incarnate was born. At that time the mother of the previous Gharwang was heard joyously announcing to her servants that, "Rinpoche has returned. He is born in a warm country where fruits and flowers grow in abundance, and in the midst of bird song." Her description of the environment where the new incarnation was born accurately described Sikkim.

The 12th Zurmang Gharwang took rebirth into the noble Trateng family due to associations made in the past between the royal family and the Karmapas. This relationship was evidenced when the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa left Tibet. The Royal family of Sikkim, then headed by the late Chogyal Tashi Namgyal, remembered the long, intimate associations of all the previous Choygals with the lines of the unexcelled Karmapa incarnations and offered numerous choice locations for His Holiness to re-establish His spiritual community.

Consequently, Rumtek was chosen as an ideal site for a new seat of the Karmapa because an earlier Kagyupa monastery was built there during the time of the 9th Gyalwa Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje. Moreover, the surrounding landscape was considered particularly auspicious.

The relationship between the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa and Gharwang Rinpche’s future parents dated back to 1959, when Rinpoche's father, Kazi Sonam Gyatso, was assigned by the 11th Chogyal to serve as the personal escort and interpreter of His Holiness during his first visit to Sikkim. Similiarly, Rinpoche's mother was known to have provided generously for the sangha of Rumtek

In 1976, shortly after his 11th birthday, Gharwang Rinpoche was installed on the Lion Throne as the 12th Zurmang Gharwang. The ceremony took place in the Assembly Hall of the Dharma Chakra Center in the presence of His Holiness, the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa.


As an important lineage holder of the Zurmang Kagyud tradition, and a member of a noble Sikkimese family, his installation was celebrated with splendor and pageantry at the Dharma Chakra Centre, the new Seat of the Karmapa in Rumtek, Sikkim.

Alluding to his future accomplishment as a great teacher of the Dharma, His Holiness accorded him with the personal name of Karma Gharwang Chochung Tenpa Namgyal Kunkyab Pal Zanpo which literally means The Victorious Defender Of Buddha Dharma With Profoundly Auspicious Activities.

Under the supervision of His Holiness, the young Gharwang Rinpoche receiving from him many spiritual empowerments, textural transmissions and oral transmissions of the Karma Kamtsang and Zurmang Kagyud traditions. Besides displaying an innate understanding of religious matters and philosophical treatises, his flair in conducting complex rituals is unsurpassed!

Rinpoche began his teaching career while he is still an undergraduate at the renowned Nalanda Institute. Since 1987, he has taught extensively in Dharma centers all over the world, in North America, Asia as well as in Europe.

In the last decade, Rinpoche has devoted himself entirely to the teaching and practice of Buddha Dharma, skillfully guiding his students in the wondrous discovery of each individual’s fullest potential. His infinite compassion and flawless wisdom is comparable to a bridge transcending all barriers of race, age, language and cultural differences.

He has formed countless auspicious connections and has touched many hearts, Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike. In 1990, the Governor of Los Angeles (California, USA) honored him with the Keys of the City, thereby making him an honorable citizen of the country.

He is also the director of Prajna Ratna Publications, a nonprofit publisher of books and periodicals which aims to promote better understanding and practice of Buddha Dharma.