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Changchub Dorje - Twelfth Karmapa

Twelfth Karmapa Changchub Dorje was born in Dege region in Kham, Eastern Tibet in the year of Water Sheep (1703).His village was located on the bank Golden river, as it was pointed out by Yeshe Dorje in his prediction letter. Shortly before his birth, tertön Minjur Dorje noticed his father that something very auspicious is expected in their family. The family of Changchub Dorje was from a clan of descendants of the great king Trisong Detsen.
It is said that at age of two months the boy declared:
- I am Karmapa!

When Shamar Rinpoche heard about it and later received news that Minjur Dorje believes this kid is Karmapa, he immediately said to his assistants to find and examine this boy. Minjur Dorje himself led visitors to the house of this family. Looking to the boy and talking with his parents, messengers of Shamarpa were confident that it is the real Karmapa in front of them.

Kid was taken to Shamar Rinpoche, who gave him a name Changchub Dorje. In his early years Karmapa received teachings from several famous meditation masters and scholars, including Situ Chokyi Jungne, Tsuglag Tenpi Nyingje and Nyenpa Tulku. At age of seven Changchub Dorje visited Karma Gon. A little later he went to Karma Gangra, where stopped for a meditations and from there – to Nangchen and finally to Tsurphu. On his way young Karmapa did a pilgrimage to caves, located in Baram area. Long time ago Baram Darma Wangchuk has been meditating there in seclusion. This Lama has been a close disciple of Gampopa and after the death of his teacher, he founded transmission lineage Barom Kagyu.

After these travels Karmapa returned in Tsurphu and continued his education. During that period he had wonderful dreams, clearly pointing to his advanced spiritual attainments. Changchub Dorje had a special connection with Kalachakra and once in a dream he was transferred to Shambala. He received there transmission of “Kalachakra-tantra” text from the holder of this transmission himself – from Rigden, the king of this Pure Land.

Lifetime of the twelfth Karmapa, much like that of Tenth Karmapa, coincided with difficult times for Tibet. Jungarian Mongols were attacking the central part of the country and killed many great masters of Nyingma tradition: Lhabzang Khan, Minling Lotsawa Dharma Shri, Padma Gyurme Gyamtso and others. During four years, when this confrontation continued, were destroyed and looted the most important monasteries, including Mindroling and Dorje Drag. Relics disappeared but entrence in Guru Rinpoche’s caves were inundated by stones.

When Seventh Dalai-lama Kalzang Gyamtso returned from Kham, invaders withdrew. Changchub Dorje paid a visit to Dalai-lama, offered him precious things and received his blessings.

On his return to Tsurphu, Katog Tsewang Norbu (1698-1755) visited Karmapa. He was asking for teachings and Karmapa taught him Six Yogas of Naropa and Mahamudra practice. This lama was a known meditation master and tertön of Nyingma school. He in turn gave certain aspects of Nyingma doctrine to Changchub Dorje.

Soon Karmapa decided to go in pilgrimage to holy places of Nepal. In this travel he was accompanied by Shamar Rinpoche, Situ Rinpoche and Seventh Gyaltsab Rinpoche. In Kathmandu the king Jagajayamalla received them with a welcoming ceremony attended by thousands of monks and lay people.

During his visit to Nepal Changchub Dorje paid a visit to Yangleshod where Guru Rinpoche once meditated on Vajrakilaya (Diamond Dagger) to destroy all obstacles to his compassionate activity. Here, in the cave of great Guru, Karmapa and his students had a meditation on the formidable manifestation of Guru Rinpoche, thereby renewing their relationship with the Lotus born Jewel.

Soon, in the Kathmandu Valley, epidemic of flu spread and help of Changchub Dorje and his companions was needed. Karmapa performed a meditation on Bodhisattva Loving Eyes with thousand arms and then – a ceremony of symbolical purification of water with the power of compassion of this Bodhisattva. When he finished, he invited all lamas, accompanying him during this pilgrimage, to take part in a common ceremony to bless the infested land with purified water. Soon the epidemic ceased, and the king made a great feast in honour of Karmapa.

After a while Changchub Dorje with Shamarpa and Situpa arrived in Kushinagar in northern India - a place where the historical Buddha Shakyamuni passed away and went into Parinirvana. During all this trip Situ Rinpoche often amazed Indian scholars-pandits with his sophisticated knowledge. He was debating with them and in effect many wise men, recognizing his wisdom, became his students.

On the way back to Tibet, Karmapa and his entourage visited the cave in the mountains near Jomo Gangkar, where in the XII century long time was meditating Lesom Gendun Bum, the principal female disciple of Milarepa. Then travelers went to Mount Kailash, which is often called a field of power of Chakrasamvara. Around the same time Changchub Dorje received an invitation from China’s emperor Yung-cheng. He decided to accept it and departed back to Tsurphu.

When he arrived to his main residency, Karmapa didn’t go right away to China. First he went into meditations retreat and afterwards paid a visit to Lhasa and travelled in Southern Tibet, teaching Dharma to people. Changchub Dorje also met Surmang Trungpa Rinpoche and gave him initiations and teachings of Mahamudra and Six Yogas of Naropa.

Before leaving for China Karmapa summoned Situ Chokyi Jungne and said that during the time of his travel he is leaving him as a temporary holder of Karma Kagyu lineage. In addition, Situpa had to complete writing of all texts started by Karmapa and Shamarpa. In 1725, after he gave several additional initiations to Tai Situ, Changchub Dorje and Shamar Rinpoche departed to China. When their procession reached area Amdo, Karmapa performed rituals for pacifying of enemies and cessation of military actions. Later he repeated those ceremonies near the Kokonor lake.

On his way to China Karmapa was also giving teachings and initiations, most often related to Bodhisattva Vajrapani (Diamond in a hand), the embodiment of the power of all Buddhas. Changchub Dorje met with the rulers of those territories through which he was travelling and discussed questions of Dharma with them. In 1732 procession arrived in Lan Chu. Changchub Dorje visited shrines of Tara and Loving Eyes there and also had a look in Taoist temples.

While in Lan Chu, Karmapa did catch smallpox. He left a prediction-letter where described circumstances of his next rebirth and told to send it to Situ Rinpoche. On thirteenth day of tenth month of year of Water Rat (1732) he died.

Most influential students of Twelfth Karmapa Changchub Dorje were Situ Chokyi Jungne, Pawo Tsuglag Dondrub and his incarnation – Tsuglag Gawai Wangpo.