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3rd Karmapa

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Rangjung Dorje, 3rd karmapa

Rangjung Dorje (Wylie: rang 'byung rdo rje) (1284–1339) was the third Karmapa, an important figure in the history of Tibetan Buddhism.

He reportedly produced a spontaneous black crown (which would later be a symbol of the line) at the age of three and declared himself to be the mindstream reimbodiment of Karma Pakshi.

Born to a Nyingma family, he received the full transmission of the Nyingma tradition in addition to the Karma Kagyu.


Suchan (1998: unpaginated) links Rangjung Dorje to Rigdzin Kumaradza, Vimalamitra and Padmasambhava:

The third Karmapa Lama, Rangjung Dorje, was a disciple of Nyingma Kumaradza.

The latter taught Rangjung Dorje the nying-thig, "heart-essence," teachings transmitted by Padmasambhava [the Khandro Nyingtik) and Vimalamitra [the Vima Nyingtik).

Therefore, Rangjung Dorje belongs to the nying-thig lineage of the Nyingma school.

As a group, the Karmapa Lamas were among the earliest recognized Tulku, or lamas reincarnated as deities or lineage of deceased teachers.

They were particularly influential at the Yuan and Ming courts of China.

Suchan (1998) traces the influence of the first several Karmapas upon the Yuan and Ming courts as well as the Tangut Western Xia Kingdom, and mentions the first Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa:

The first several Karmapas are distinguished by their important status at the Yuan and Ming courts of China where they served as the spiritual guides to princes and emperors.

Their influence also extended to the court of the Tangut Xia Kingdom where a disciple of Dusum Khyenpa was given the title "Supreme Teacher" by a Tangut Xixia King..."

Writings and doctrinal development

Rangjung Dorje was a noted scholar who composed many significant texts, the most famous of which is the Profound Inner Meaning (Wylie:

zab mo nang don , which concern the Vajrayana inner yoga practices.

Other important texts of his include the Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra (Wylie:

nge don phyag rgya chen po'i smon lam gyi 'grel pa grub pa mchog gi zhal lung, the Prayer to the Lineage of Chö, the thirty-six verse doha (Sanskrit) Distinguishing Consciousness from Wisdom (Wylie:

rnam shes ye shes ‘byed pa), Instructions on Sahajayoga Mahamudra A Treatise on Buddha Nature (Wylie: de bzhin gshegs pa'i snying po gtan la dbab pa); or, de bzhin gshegs pa'i snying po bstan pa).

His mastery of both the Kagyu Mahamudra and Nyingma Dzogchen was widely renowned, and he was a Kalachakra master as well.

In 1321 the famous scholar Dolpopa (1292-1361) visited Tsurphu Monastery for the first time and had extensive discussions with Rangjung Dorje about doctrinal issues.

It appears that Rangjung Dorje almost certainly influenced the development of some of Dolpopa's theories, possibly including his Zhentong (gzhan stong) method.

According to Karma phrin las, Dri lan yid, 91-92, his teacher, Chödrak Gyatso, the Seventh Karmapa, interpreted the nature of Zhentong (gzhan stong) accepted by Rangjung Dorje.

Yungtön Dorjepel (1284-1365), (the previous incarnation of the First Panchen Lama, Khedrup Je), studied the 'Great Perfection' due to the great inspiration of Rangjung Dorje.

He visited China, where the emperor Toghon Temur became his disciple. Upon his death, Rangjung Dorje's face is said to have appeared in the moon there.


Schaeffer (1995: p.15) conveys that the Third Karmapa was a systematizer of the Chöd developed by Machig Labdrön and lists a number of his works on Chod consisting of redactions, outlines and commentaries amongst others:

"Rang byung was renowned as a systematizer of the Gcod teachings developed by Ma gcig lab sgron.

His texts on Gcod include the Gcod kyi khrid yig; the Gcod bka' tshoms chen mo'i sa bcad which consists of a topical outline of and commentary on Ma gcig lab sgron's Shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa zab mo gcod kyi man ngag gi gzhung bka' tshoms chen mo;

the Tshogs las yon tan kun 'byung ; the lengthy [[Gcod kyi tshogs las rin po che'i phrenb ba 'don bsgrigs bltas chog tu bdod pa gcod kyi lugs sor bzhag; the Ma lab sgron la gsol ba 'deb pa'i mgur ma; the Zab mo bdud kyi gcod yil kyi khrid yig, and finally the Gcod kyi nyams len."


Wikipedia:Rangjung Dorje, 3rd Karmapa Lama