Shamar Rinpoche Mipham Chokyi Lodro, 62, a leading figure in Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhist animal advocacy, died of a sudden heart attack on June 11, 2014 in Renchen-Ulm, Germany, where he maintained his European office.
Born in Derge, Tibet, Shamar Rinpoche became the 14th Shamarpa at age four, in 1956, by appointment of the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpei Dorje.
Karmapas, or senior teachers, have designated Shamarpas, or senior disciples, since the 13th century CE. The third Shamarpa, Shamar Chöpal Yeshe (1406–1452), abolished animal sacrifice in Tibet.
Following in Shamar Yeshe’s tradition, Shamar Rinpoche in January 2009 founded the Infinite Compassion Foundation “to promote the humane treatment of animals raised for consumption of their meat and other products (especially dairy and eggs),” his official web site said. “Instead of promoting vegetarianism, Shamar Rinpoche instead advocates a transformation of the meat industry, such that animals will no longer be forced to live and die in brutal conditions.”
Shamar Rinpoche had been concerned about animals long before that. Recalled Help Animals India founder Eileen Weintraub, of Seattle, “In the early 1980s when I was part of Buddhists Concerned for Animals, Sharmapa Rinpoche sent me $50 in cash from India––how it ever arrived in a plain envelope via regular mail was beyond me––and his note said that he never heard of anyone helping other than endangered animals, so he wanted to support helping all animals.”
People not familiar with the names and titles used in Tibetan Buddhism often confused Shamar Rinpoche with Chatral Rinpoche, a wandering Tibetan Buddhist teacher born in 1913, still alive, whose work was praised by Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk (1915-1968) whose writings helped to introduce Tibetan Buddhism to the U.S. Chatral Rinpoche has long been known as one of the most emphatic advocates of Buddhist vegetarianism, rejecting interpretations of Buddhism that accept meat consumption.
For much of his life Chatral Rinpoche spent whatever money came his way to purchase fish and birds from markets and release them back to the wild. In 2000 Chatral Rinpoche encouraged Lama Kunzang Dorjee to found the Jangsa Animal Saving Trust, a sanctuary for rescued farm animals and headquarters for a major regional dog vaccination and sterilization program, located in in Thimphu, Bhutan.