Tsurphu Monastery has been the main seat of the successive lines of the Karmapas, as well as the Karma Kagyu lineage, since 1159 C.E., when it was established the Tölung valley in central Tibet by the First Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa, at the age of 50 years. From this primary seat the activities of the Karmapas and the Karma Kagyu lineage have manifested through the centuries.
In addition to this principal seat, two more monastic seats in Tibet were founded by the First Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa: Kampo Gangra and Karma Gön. Togther with Tsurphu Monastery, these three seats are considered the most important and oldest monastic seats of the lineage.
In 1959, His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa came to India as a refugee, fleeing the communist Chinese take over of Tibet. At that time, His Holiness established the Dharma Chakra Center, Rumtek Monastery, in Sikkim, India.
Rumtek Monastery in the early 1970's
Rumtek has become the main seat outside Tibet, where His Holiness the 16th Karmapa lived, and the base from which he expanded his activities throughout the world. Rumtek has grown over the years and it now has a traditional monastic college called Karma Shri Nalanda Institute, Yiwong Samten Ling - a three-year retreat, and the Dechen Chöling nunnery.
His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa also founded the Karmae Dharma Chakra Centre in New Delhi, which was envisioned to serve as the golden bridge between the east and the west. His Holiness also established dharma centers and his regional monastic seats - Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in North America, Dhakpo Kagyu Ling in Europe, and Tashi Chöling in Bhutan. Moreover, His Holiness established hundreds of dharma centers, monasteries, and retreat centers in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Southeast Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, and through out the world.
The Karmapas have established their main seats in Tibet, India, Europe and the United States.
The main seat and most important monastery for the Karma Kagyu lineage is Tsurphu Monastery, established in Tibet in the 12th century.
The main exile seat of the Karmapa and international headquarters for the Kagyu lineage is the Dharma Chakra Centre in Rumtek, Sikkim, India. After fleeing Tibet, for the Kingdom of Sikkim, His Holiness the 16th Karmapa officially inaugurated the Rumtek Monastery in 1966.
Individuals who enter the path of monasticism at Rumtek Monastery go through a very thorough training of Tibetan buddhism.
The Karma Shri Nalanda Institute (KSNI), a monastic college, was founded in November 1981 by His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa.
More on current activities and the history of Rumtek Monastery is available at www.rumtek.org