The Gyaltsap Rinpoche is one of 4 regents whose responsibility is to ensure the continuity of the Karma Kagyu denomination in periods between the consecutive embodiments of Karmapa.
The 12th Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche (b. 1954) is considered to embody the activity of Vajrapani. Like that bodhisattva, he is a guardian of the Buddha and his Word. Currently, His Eminence does not travel abroad but remains in India protecting the interests of H. H. the 17th Karmapa.
Tradition holds that in the 8th century, the one who would eventually become known as the Gyaltsab Rinpoche ("Precious Regent") emanated for the benefit of others as Karchen Palgyi Wangchuk, one of 25 main disciples of Guru Padmasambhava. Then again centuries later, he emanated as Jetsun Repa Shiwa Od. This incarnation was recognised by the Sixth Karmapa Thungwa Dhunden and was raised by him to be installed as his regent under the name Paljor Dhondrup (1416-1478.)
Since that time, there have been a series of Goshir Gyaltsab, such as: Tashi Namgyal (1487-1515,) who was the first to receive the red crown in recognition of his close ties with the activity of His Holiness. Then followed Dakpa Paljor (1516-1546) and Dakpa Dhundrub (1547-1613.)
The 5th Gyaltsabpa was Dragpa Choyang (1618-1658.) Enthroned by the 6th
Shamar Rinpoche, he formed part of the Golden
Garland. A person who spent most of his life in retreat, he was a
friend of the 5th Dalai Lama ("The Great Fifth.") When the 10th
Karmapa had to flee the Mongol invasion, it was he who remained behind as
His Eminence is the protector of Rumtek until His Holiness Karmapa assumes the throne there. The contemporary seat of His Eminence, himself, is at Ralang.
Ralang Monastery (Rva-rlangs dGon-pa) is located near a famous hot spring. It is one of three Kagyu monasteries established in Sikkim according to the will of the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje (1555-1603,) who determined the site by throwing grains of rice from Tibet. (In the linked image, which is of a figure sculpted during his lifetime, notice how much the 9th Karmapa greatly resembled the 16th in appearance.)
The gompa was built during the time of 12th Karmapa, Jangchub Dorje (1703-1732.) At that time, Gyurme Namgyal, the fourth Chogyal of Sikkim, was a devotee of Karmapa and in 1730, he had this first Kagyu monastery constructed in the southern region of Sikkim. A decade later, he built two more Kagyu monasteries, one at Phodong in the north and another at Rumtek, in east Sikkim.
Tulku: The Tibetan word tulku is similar to the Sanskrit term avatara meaning "descended one." However, we must bear in mind that Buddhism does not hold with the notion of an Eternal Self. Tulkus determine to take rebirth as aspects of a previously existent being solely for the ultimate benefit of others. In English, we usually say, an "incarnate lama."
Chogyal: Tibetan title for a Buddhist ruler that translates as Dharma-king. The Karma Kagyu association with Sikkim was particularly in the 19th century, when "Maharaja" (Indian title meaning great king) Kyabgon Sidkeong Namgyal [Srid-skyong rNam-rgyal] (reigned 1862-1874) was recognized as an incarnate lama by the Fourteenth Karmapa, Thegchog Dorje (1798-1868) receiving the name Karma Dungyal Tenzing Lhendup Nag, meaning "Karma Refuge Lord Protector."