Rumtek is the main monastery of the Karmapa, built in the 1960 after he fled Tibet. He is the head of one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism.


The summer of 1998 I had a brief conversation with Ringu Tulku in Oslo, and he invited me to visit him when I came. So in the evening I called him, and he said: "I am going to Rumtek tomorrow, would you like to come with me?" What a chance- going to Rumtek, the main monastery of the Karmapa, with a real Tulku!

So, the next morning at eight I was standing at top of the stairs of Hotel Tibet in the light rain, refusing all the offers for "TAXI!", waiting to be picked up. He came with his father and brother, and for the first time in India the driver drove carefully and in a nice manner. (Though on the right side of the road until the last second, like everybody else.)

Be sure to bring your passport when visiting Rumtek, there is a checkpost where foreigners are entered into one of those millions of books of Indian bureaucrazy. Oh, and be sure to bring a pen, the guard had none. This was my first visit to a major Buddhist monastery, so I was afraid of doing something offending. "There is nothing to it," Ringu Tulku said, "I will tell you what to do, but generally there is nothing to consider."

It was a rainy day, so the pictures are very dull. Everyone was concerned that I might fall at the wet, slippery tiles of the yard. "Listen," I had to say, "I come from a country where the ground is icy and slippery for months every year!"

Coming with Ringu Tulku meant visiting the regent, Gyatsab Rinpoche. A visit there means prostrations, which are done in the entrance where Gyatsab Rinpoche hardly can se you. Then, as I am not able to sit crosslegged, I was invited to sit at the coach or bench, like Ringu Tulku. Then there were tea and cookies. Seems like the right thing to do is drink most of yur tea, and leave the cookies. I don't eat sweets, so that was good.

After that Ringu Tulku's brother, Pema, gave me the Rumtek tour. When we entered the hall where the 16. Karamapa Stupa is behind a glass wall, there was an important recital, led by the Byot Tulku, lamas and monks sitting along the two outer walls with lamps in front of them, reciting "OM M ANI PADME HUM". Then the old man took Pema and me aside, unlocked the door in the glass wall, and let us enter. No one else was allowed. This led to a problem of etikette - we left some money at below the photo of the young 17. Karmapa, and then Pema whispered: "Can I have your scarf?" He had tucked the Kata that I had offered Gyatsab Rinpoche, and he received it just to put it around my neck away before we entered the hall.

This left me with no Katak to offer Byot Tulku, so I did just offer him an "air" Kata, and as I raised I could see him laughing silently and kindly to me.

Rumtek, front of the gompa

Rumtek, front of the gompa

The yard, towards the entrance

The yard, Gyatsab Rinpoche's quarters inside of the corner


The names of several Tibetan Lamas include "Tulku". The term "Tulku" is actually not a name as such, but a designation for someone holding a "lineage" through rebirth.

A "lineage" is an unbroken line of individuals continuing the transmission of the teachings of the Buddha, through a combination of rebirths and training.

Refering to, and addressing tulku's lama's as Rinpoche will most of the time be the correct thing to do.

Rebirths in a Buddhist context do not mean the continuation of some sort of soul, as Buddhism does not accept any idea of eternal souls. A picture used is how the flame of one candle is used to light another to continue the flame.