Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl
Mitra Karl was born in Munich, Germany. He was originally trained, and worked, as a physician. He took Buddhist refuge vows in 1984 and, in 1990, completed a five-year training in higher Buddhist philosophy at Kamalashila Institute, Germany, receiving the traditional Kagyü title of “dharma tutor” (Tib. skyor dpon). Beginning in 1988, he received Buddhist and Tibetan language training mainly at Marpa Institute For Translators in Kathmandu, Nepal (director: Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche) and also studied Tibetology, Buddhology, and Sanskrit at Hamburg University, Germany. In 1989, Karl began serving as a translator, interpreter, and Buddhist teacher mainly in Europe, India, and Nepal. Since 1999, Karl has acted as one of the main translators and teachers at Nitartha Institute (director: Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche) in the USA, Canada, and Germany. In addition, he regularly taught at Gampo Abbey’s Vidyadhara Institute from 2000-2007.
Mitra Karl is the author of several books on Buddhism published by Snow Lion Publications: The Center of the Sunlight Sky, Straight from the Heart, In Praise of Dharmadhātu, Luminous Heart, Gone Beyond (2 vols.), Groundless Paths, The Heart Attack Sutra, Mining for Wisdom within Delusion; as well as by Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde: Indian “gzhan stong pas,” and the Beginning of Tibetan gzhan stong.
Mitra Karl met Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche in 1986 during Rinpoche’s first teaching tour through Europe, receiving extensive teachings as well as pratimoksha vows from him during the following years in both Europe and Nepal, and later also in Canada and the USA. He served as Rinpoche’s personal translator during his teachings tours in Europe (particularly at Nitartha Institute in Germany) from 1999-2005. In 2005, he was appointed as one of five Western Nalandabodhi teachers and given the title “Mitra.”
In 2006, he moved to Seattle and works as a full-time Tibetan translator for Tsadra Foundation. Since his arrival in Seattle, Karl has been instrumental in creating the new introductory Nalandabodhi Buddhism 100 Series, leads Nalandabodhi Path of Study classes, presents weekend courses and open house talks at Nalanda West, offers selected teachings to the Vajrasattva and Mahamudra practice communities, and provides personal guidance as a Nalandabodhi Practice Instructor. He also teaches weekend seminars and Nitartha Institute courses in Nalandabodhi centers in the US, Canada, and Mexico, as well as in other locations.
Within the Mitra Council, Karl supervises the Nalandabodhi Path of Study courses, which includes revision of the Hinayana and Mahayana courses and creation of the Vajrayana courses. While enthusiastic about all facets of the dharma, his main interests are the teachings on Mahamudra, Yogacara and Buddha Nature, and to make the essential teachings by the Karmapas and other major Kagyu lineage figures available to contemporary Western audiences.
The “Mitra” title: In 2005, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche empowered a group of his long-time students to be senior teachers of Nalandabodhi. He gave each of them the title Mitra, which is drawn from the Sanskrit term Kalyanamitra, “spiritual friend.” The Mitras guide Nalandabodhi’s three paths of Study, Meditation, and Mindful Activity and teach throughout the world.