Thegchog Dorje - Fourteenth Karmapa


Fourteenth Karmapa Thegchog Dorje was born in Kham in Salmo Gang – a village owned by Danang family. This auspicious event took place in year of Fire Snake (1798).

While his mother was pregnant, she was seeing extraordinary dreams, predicting the birth of Teachers incarnation. In the day of his birth rainbows appeared in the sky and flowers blossomed, even it was in mid-winter. The new-born child pronounced Sanskrit alphabet right away.

News about extraordinary child, developed much ahead of his age, soon spread in all directions and Lama Drugchen Chokyi Nangwa sent his assistants to find the incarnation of their teacher. When they reached Salmo Gang village, messengers run into two other searching groups – one of them was sent by Situ Rinpoche, the other – by Gyaltsab Rinpoche. Groups joined their efforts and found together the kid and afterwards took him to Ogmin Monastery. Circumstances of his birth precisely corresponded to description, left behind by Thirteenth Karmapa Dudul Dorje in his letter. Hearing this, Ninth Situpa Pema Nyingje Wangpo officially recognized the boy as fourteenth incarnation of Karmapa and initiated him as a novice. Next several years Thegchog Dorje spent in Ogmin, studying Kagyu and Nyingma doctrines.

After his enthronement, Fourteenth Karmapa moved to Tsurphu and continued his education there. When he was nineteen years old he became a fully ordained monk, he received vows from Situ Rinpoche and Chokyi Nangwa. During the period of learning, Thegchog Dorje dedicated many efforts to redesign and refurbish his monastery, stupas and shrines around it. His Holiness was very skillful in different arts and crafts, including sculpture and metalworking.

Fourteenth Karmapa was also a prominent scholar and respected linguist. He has written numerous works of poetry and was known as a particularly skilled in rhetoric and poetics. The time when he was leading Karma Kagyu transmission lineage is considered a period of Tibetan Renaissance, on great part due to establishment of Rime movement. This philosophical movement, once started in Kham, developed under guidance of teachers from many spiritual traditions. Among those famous masters were Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye(1813-1899), Khyentse Wangpo(1820–1892) and Tertön Chokgyur Lingpa (1829-1870). Emergence of Rime was not an attempt to create a new school or organization - on the contrary, the participants sought to preserve all traditions and give to everyone access to this treasury of knowledge. Among adepts of this movement were not only philosophers and yogis, but also talented artists, poets, doctors and even representatives of exact sciences, such as Mipham Rinpoche.

Thegchog Dorje felt the influence of Rime and took part in it himself. He taught Jamgön Kongtrül and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and to first of them he gave also special, secret teachings. Great Tertön Chokgyur Lingpa gave to him a rare practice of Vajrakilaya (Diamond Cutter). Later Karmapa introduced an obligation to practice this ritual annually in Tsurphu monastery, alternately with ceremonies of the Tenth day, dedicated to Guru Rinpoche.

Fourteenth Karmapa was known for his ascetic and strict monastic life. As embodiment of compassion Thegchog Dorje was requesting a rigorous execution of monastic rules from his students.

In 1860s Karmapa was traveling around Kham, everywhere doing a lot for the benefit of people. During his travels he found Tenth Situ Pema Kunzang and enthroned him in Palpung monastery. While there, he also gave many teachings to Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye, the well-known scholar and founder of Rime. When Teacher returned to Tsurphu, Lodrö Thaye followed him to continue to learn. Shortly before the death of Thegchog Dorje, Kongtrül Rinpoche received from him authority to guide the transmission lineage until next Karmapa would be found.

Fourteenth Karmapa Thegchog Dorje left his body in 1868, at age of seventy. His main students were Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye, Drugchen Mipham Chokyi Gyamtso, Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa, Pawo Tsuglag Nyingche and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.