THE SIXTEENTH GYALWA KARMAPA, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, was born in Tibet in 1924. He was recognized by the Eleventh Tai Situpa. Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje accomplished extensive retreats in his youth. His Holiness went on pilgrimage to Samye, Lodrak, and then to Bhutan. In 1945, Tai Situpa gave him full ordination vows and further comprehensive Kagyu teachings on the giving of empowerments. He also received from the Nyingma master Urgyen Rinpoche complete transmission of the Nyingma teachings of Terton Chojur Lingpa.
In 1959, during the communist invasion that had begun in 1951, the Karmapa left Tibet with portable spiritual treasures and relics and 150 tulkus, monks and lay people. He settled in Rumtek, Sikkim, India. By 1966, the construction of the new Rumtek monastery was complete, and the relics were installed. This was to be the hub from which Kagyu Dharma would spread throughout the world.
In 1974, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje set out on his first world tour. He took a second tour in 1977. As did the previous Karmapas, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje performed startling miracles. Numerous times he left footprints in rocks. He once tied sword blades in knots. During a visit to the Hopi reservation in northeastern Arizona, he made rain for the drought-stricken area.
The Sixteenth Karmapa died in 1981 in Zion, Illinois, north of Chicago. After his death, his body remained upright in meditation posture for three days, and the area over his heart was warm. During his cremation, his heart fell from the blazing body. The heart is now a venerated relic, stored in a stupa at Rumtek monastery. Bones that remained after the cremation of Rangjung Rigpe Dorje formed Buddhas and many relics. The Sixteenth Karmapa is best known for having brought the Dharma out of Tibet into the Western world.
Advice on Spiritual Practice
Written by The 16th Karmapa
THE PRACTICE OF DHARMA involves certain possibilities. How these potentials evolve into actual situations for the practitioner, and how much is possible within these situations depends on the capacity of individual beings. It depends upon the level of teachings that one is able to relate to, such as Mahayana or Hinayana. At this particular time in our lives, the practice of the Mahayana teaching is possible. It is absolutely precious and absolutely rare. Our concern for development and our sense of responsibility has placed us in a position to integrate the preciousness and rarity of the Mahayana teaching with our lives. Through it there is the possibility of the experience of no-returning back into Samsara and the experience of ultimate bliss that is self knowing and in which there are no doubts.
In the midst of the wanderings of our minds we might sometimes fall into thinking that whether one practices or not, the Dharma will always be available. If you have that kind of notion, it is a very serious mistake. Any brief moment, any time at all that one could use as an opportunity for Dharma practice, one must use. If one does not take this responsibility and offer sincere respect to the Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings, there is a definite possibility of causing harm to oneself as well as to those spiritual friends to whom one is linked. A lack of attention to the responsibilities of the Mahayana path constitutes a breaking of the Samaya principles, therefore, in whatever way one can hold to the teachings, one must sincerely do so… (Continue Reading Here)