Mitra Karl Brunnholzl 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). Since 1988, he received his 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. Since 1989, Karl served as a translator, interpreter, and Buddhist teacher mainly in Europe, India, and Nepal. Since 1999, he 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. He is the author of several books on Buddhism, such as The Center of the Sunlit Sky, Straight from the Heart, In Praise of Dharmadhātu, and Luminous Heart (all Snow Lion Publications).
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 atNitartha Institute in Germany) from 1999-2005. In 2005, Karl was one of five of Ponlop Rinpoche’s Western students appointed to be senior teachers within his lineage for the Nalandabodhi sangha. Rinpoche gave them the title Mitra (“spiritual friend”) and authorized them to impart a broad range of teachings and carry significant spiritual responsibilities in relation to the students of Nalandabodhi. Karl currently serves as Dean of the Mitra Council.
In 2006, Karl moved to Seattle and works as a full-time Tibetan translator for Tsadra Foundation. Since his arrival in Seattle, he was instrumental in creating the new introductory Nalandabodhi Buddhism 100 Series, leads Nalandabodhi Study Path 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 Practice Instructor. He also teaches weekend seminars and Nitartha Institute courses in Nalandabodhi centers in the US, Canada, and Mexico as well as other locations.
Karl is the author and translator of Luminous Heart: The Third Karmapa on Consciousness, Wisdom, and Buddha Nature. He is also the author and translator of The Center of the Sunlit Sky (2004), the first in-depth study of the Kagyu interpretation of Madhyamaka in a Western language; Straight from the Heart (2007), an anthology of Buddhist pith instructions and poetry; and Nagarjuna’s In Praise of Dharmadhatu (2007) with commentary by the Third Karmapa.