The Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, is a mysterious figure. At least based on a little internet research, which is how I’m doing most of this blog, there’s little to nothing of his writings available online. I think one of the works he’s most well known for is a guru yoga practice. This, and maybe another practice he composed, are available for sale online. You can buy them, and you’ll get a Tibetan sadhana, with English translation, and you can do it, if you like. As far as non-practice texts, though, I haven’t been able to find anything on this teacher, who from all accounts was powerful and significant to the lineage.
When people write about Karma Pakshi, they often say he was a siddha. This means he was an extremely accomplished person, not just a great meditator, but a great meditator who was capable of doing extraordinary things as evidence of that. Of course, he was also the Second Karmapa, the reincarnation of the First. So, he was the first reincarnated Karmapa, if that makes sense.

Most of what I know about Karma Pakshi is from Trungpa Rinpoche‘s writings, and most of that in the context of the Sadhana of Mahamudra. The latter is a practice received by Trungpa Rinpoche in Bhutan in the late 1960’s. It combines the practice of Karma Pakshi (Kagyu) and Dorje Trollo (Nyingma). Interestingly, I read a transcript of a talk by a more recent teacher about Karma Pakshi in which he referred to him as being Dorje Trollo, so this line of thought was not entirely Trungpa Rinpoche’s inspiration, I think. Dorje Trollo is the form of Guru Rinpoche associated with, among other things I’d guess, crazy wisdom, and conquering or working with chaotic situations. Both figures seem to be associated with powerful energy, and energy that is not entirely peaceful or comforting. Having done the Sadhana of Mahamudra, the energy you tend to encounter is not violent, or discomfiting exactly, but it’s intense at times, and not the same as something like, say shamatha, or a peaceful deity.

Dorje Trollo was the eighth of Padmasambhava’s eight aspects. He’s connected with bringing the dharma to Tibet fully, and overcoming obstacles to the dharma. Whenever the teachings go to a new place, there are obstacles on various levels, and so, of course, there are lots of ways to deal with these.
Often, the protectors are associated with this kind of action, I think, but in this case, Dorje Trollo is.

Karma Pakshi became the teacher of the Chinese emperor. Said emperor put him through various kinds of trials, and what sound like tortures, actually, but Karma Pakshi wasn’t harmed by them. So, again, he was a siddhi. He could deal with being burned, hung by his beard, tortured, and so on. In turn, I read that the emperor, after becoming a student of this Karmapa, became a great meditator.

Trungpa Rinpoche writes that Karma Pakshi “posessed power over phenomena.” So I think that’s one definition of a siddha. Not just a great meditator, but one so great that he or she actually has power over the elements. Trungpa also said of the Second Karmapa “his basic qualities were fearlessness and abruptness; his actions were unpredictable.” So the idea of crazy wisdom is relevant.

 

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