The Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje b.1284 - d.1339
Name Variants: Karmapa 03 Rangjung Dorje; Rangjung Dorje; Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje
The Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (karma pa 03 rang byung rdo rje) was born in 1284, on the eighth day of the first month of the wood-monkey year, in Tsa Pugang Zhurmo (tsa phu gangs zhur mo) His father, named Chopel (chos dpal), is described as a Nyingma practitioner; he is also said to have bestowed Zhije teachings on his son.
While still a young child his parents brought him on pilgrimage in Tsang, visiting, among other things, the famous sandalwood image of Avalokiteśvara in Kyirong (skyid rong). At the age of five he received lay vows and numerous tantric initiations from Orgyenpa Rinchen Pel (o rgyan pa rin chen dpal, 1229-1309) at his monastery of Butrasang (sbud tra sang). According to tradition, Orgyenpa is said to have identified the youth as the reincarnation of his teacher, the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (karma pa 02 karma pakshi, 1203/04-1283), and to have declared "As my guru's esoteric name was Rangjung Dorje, I will name you that." Other, earlier sources, however, have it that the name Rangjung Dorje was given to the boy by Kunden Sherab (kun ldan shes rab, d.u.), who gave him his novice vows. Scholars have suggested that it was in fact Rangjung Dorje himself who made the assertion that he was the reincarnation of Karma Pakshi, whom he further identified as the rebirth of Dusum Khyenpa (dus gsum mkhyen pa, 1110-1193), to whom he gave the titles Second and First Karmapas, respectively.
Before his tenth birthday Rangjung Dorje is said to have had visions of protectors -- in some tellings Mahākāla -- who told him to go to Tsurpu (mtshur phu), the seat of the previous Karmapas. There he received teachings on various topics including Kālacakra and Chod from Sherab Pel (shes rab dpal, d.u.), Nyenre Gendun Bum (gnyan ras dge 'dun 'bum, d.u.), and Namtsowa Mikyo Dorje (gnam mtsho ba mi bskyod rdo rje, d.u.).
In 1301, at the age of eighteen, he received complete ordination from Zhonnu Jangchub (gzhon nu byang chub), acting as abbot, and Gendun Rinchen (dge 'dun rin chen), acting as disciplinarian. He studied the five standard topics of a monastic curriculum -- Pramāṇa, Prajñāpāramitā, Madhyamaka, Abhidharmakośa, and Vinaya -- with Shakya Zhonnu, an abbot of Sangpu (gsang phu) Monastery. He received the complete teachings of Padampa Sanggye (pha dam pa sangs rgyas, d. c.1117) and Orgyenpa from Nyedo Kunga Dondrub (snye mdo kun dga' don grub, b. 1268), and instructions in the Karma Kagyu tradition from Lama Dzogden Namtso (bla ma rdzogs ldan gnam mtsho, d.u.).
He then went to Karma Gon (karma dgon) in Kham, the monastery founded by the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (karma pa 01 dus gsum mkhyen pa 1110-1193), in 1147. He established the hermitage of Lhateng (lha stengs), and visited Tsawa Gang (tsha ba sgang).
Back at U he donated a parasol to the Jo statue in the Jokhang, and briefly traveled to Kongpo to settle a dispute. At Tsurpu he constructed a temple with a gilded roof, and established the Dechen Teng (bde chen stengs) hermitage at Druzhi (gru bzhi). He continued his education, receiving Kālacakra teachings numerous tantric initiations from Kunga Dondrub; medical instruction from Bare (sba ras), Guhyasamāja and other tantric traditions from Tsultrim Rinchen (tshul khrims rin chen, d.u.); and Dzogchen Nyingtik (rdzogs chen snying thig) from Rigdzin Kumārāja (1266-1343) and, separately, from Rikhor Repa (ri khor ras pa, d.u.).
He then went again to Kongpo, where he remained for three years. He established the Nakpu Hermitage (nag phu ri khrod) and several other institutions, and practiced in the mountains.
In 1326 Rangjung Dorje returned to U, where he gave teachings and mediated a dispute between the Tselpa and Karma Kagyu communities.
He then went east again, building an iron bridge over the Sokchu (sog chu; a left-bank tributary of the Salween) to the east of Karma Gon and then, going down to Kongpo, entering retreat at Nakpu.
At some point he met with Dolpopa Sherab Gyeltsen (dol po pa shes rab rgyal mtshan, 1292-1361), a connection that later historians, namely Jamgon Kongtrul ('jam mgon kong sprul, 1813-1899) used to credit Rangjung Dorje with espousing the zhentong (gzhan stong) view.
Rangjung Dorje returned to U in 1331, and that year he received an invitation from the Yuan Emperor Toq Temur (r. 1328-1332) to visit the Imperial capital of Dadu, modern-day Beijing. He arrived there on November 6, 1332. Toq Temur died while the Karmapa was en route, and his successor, Irinchinbal, died while the Karmapa was in the capital. He mediated a dispute over the succession, and was present when Toghan Temur (r. 1333-1370) was enthroned in Shangdu. While in the capital he gave the new emperor religious instruction and he secured the titles situ (司徒) and guoshi (國師) for his student Kunga Dorje (kun dga' rdo rje, 1309-1364), the abbot of Tsel Gungtang (tshal gung thang). He also secured a tax exemption for Tsurpu. He left in 1334, passing through Wutai Shan, Minyak and Markham, and arrived in Tsurpu the following year. He spent the winter of that year at Samye. Having received permission to leave China only after having promised to return in two years, not long after he had arrived in Tibet he was forced to return to China, leaving in 1336 and arriving in Dadu in 1337.
In 1338, at an assembly of officials, he is said to have declared "I, a yogin, am like a cloud. May all those who wish to grasp the meaning of my teachings do so quickly." He passed away less than a year later, in 1339, on the fifth day of the fifth month of the rabbit year.
The Third Karmapa composed widely, on diverse topics such as Doha, scriptural commentaries, astrology, Chod, and biography. Several of his works on Mahāmudrā, such as the famous Prayer to the Definitive Meaning of Mahāmudrā (nges don phyag rgya chen po'i smon lam) have remained classics. Another famous work is the Profound Inner Meaning (zab mo nang don), a commentary on the Annutarayoga tantras, written in 1322 at Dechen Teng.
Among his prominent disciples were the First Zhamarpa, Drakpa Sengge (zhwa dmar 01 grags pa seng+ge, 1283-1349), and Longchenpa Drime Ozer (klong chen rab 'byams pa dri med 'od zer, 1308-1364).
Bkra shis dbang 'dus. 1989. Yon gong ma thog the mur gyis karma pa'i chos rje sku phreng gsum pa rang byung rdo rje la bstsal ba'i 'ja' sa. In Bod kyi lo rgyus yig tshags dang gzhung yig phyogs bsdus dwangs shel me long, pp. 237-238. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang. TBRC W22022.
Blo bzang chos grags dang bsod nams rtse mo. 1988-1989. Karma rang byung rdo rje. In Rtsom yig gser gyi sbram bu. Xining: Mtsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang, vol. 1, pp. 219-222. TBRC W19680.
Bsod nams 'od zer and Zla ba seng+ge. Rang gi bla ma karma pa yi brgyud pa yongs su bzung thub par bskyangs pa dang thub dbang sku gdung mchod gnas su byon pa'i skor. In Grub chen o rgyan pa'i rnam par thar pa byin brlabs kyi chu rgyun, vol. 1, pp. 184-186. Gangtok: Sherab Gyeltsen Lama. TBRC W23940.
Chos grags ye shes. 2009. Dpal karma pa rang byung kun mkhyen chos grags rgya mtsho'i zhabs la bstod pa'i phreng ba rnams. In Gsung 'bum / chos grags ye shes. Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang. TBRC W1KG4876.
Chos kyi 'byung gnas. 1990. Zhwa nag gsum pa rang byung rdo rje. In Gsung 'bum/chos kyi 'byung gnas, vol. 11, pp. 284-333. Sansal: Pelpung Sungrab Nyamso Khang. TBRC W26630. Also published in Sgrub brgyud karma kaM tshang brgyud pa rin po che'i rnam par thar pa rab byams nor bu zla ba chu shel gyi phreng ba, vol. 1, pp. 192-241. Delhi: Gyaltshan & Kesang Legshay, 1972. TBRC W23435.
Chos kyi 'byung gnas and Tshe dbang kun khyab. 1998. Sems dpa' karma rang byung rdo rje'i rnam thar. In Sgrub brgyud karma kaM tshang gi brgyud pa rin po che'i rnam par thar pa rab 'byams nor bu zla ba chu shel gyi phreng ba, vol. 1, pp. 239-399. Kunming: Yun nan mi rigs dpe skrun khang. TBRC W24686.
Douglas, Nik, and Meryl White. 1976. Karmapa - The Black Hat Lama of Tibet. London: Luzac & Company LTD.
Dri med 'od zer. 2009. Rgyal ba rang byung rdo rje la dri tshig le'ur byas pa. In Gsung 'bum dri med 'od zer, vol. 24, pp. 426-430. Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang. TBRC W1KG4884.
Gzungs 'bum thar. 2004. Karma rang byung rdo rje dang khong gi gsung 'bum. In Bod kyi rig gnas spyi rnam rin chen kun 'dus, pp. 276-278. Xining: Mtsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang. TBRC W30072.
Jackson, David. 2009. "The Black Hats of the Karmapas." In Patron and Painter; Situ Paṇchen and the Revival of the Encampments Style, pp. 39-69. New York: Rubin Museum of Art.
'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros. 1981-1985. Karma pa rang byung rdo rje'i bla sgrub zab don snying thig. In Gsung 'bum 'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros, vol. 5, pp. 319-331. Gangtok: Dzongsar khyentse labrang. TBRC W21813.
'Jam dbyangs tshul khrims. 1997. Karma pa rang byung rdo rje. In Karma pa sku phreng rim byon gyi mdzad rnam, pp. 97-111. Lanzhou: Kan su'u mi rigs dpe skrun khang. TBRC W18133.
'Jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha' yas. 2007. Gter ston brgya rtsa. In Rin chen gter mdzod chen mo, vol. 1, pp. 404-696. New Delhi: Shechen, pp.
'Jigs bral ye shes rdo rje. 1996. Rgyal ba'i dbang po karma pa rang byung rdo rje. In Bdud 'joms chos 'byung, pp. 219-221. Chengdu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang. TBRC W20827.
Karma nges don bstan rgyas, et. al. 1994. Thams cad mkhyen pa chos rje rang byung rdo rje'i rnam thar mdor bsdus. In Karma pa sku 'phreng bcu drug pa tshun rim par byon pa'i rnam thar phyogs bsgrigs, pp. 114-157. Delhi: Konchhog Lhadrepa. TBRC W1KG3815.
Karma Thinley. 1980. The History of the Sixteen Karmapas of Tibet. Boulder: Prajna Press.
Khu byug. 2004. Karma pa rang byung rdo rjes yod med 'gal 'du ma yin zung 'jug dbu ma'i lam du gsungs nas 'chad nyan mdzad pa. In Bod kyi dbu ma'i lta ba'i 'chad nyan dar tshul blo gsal mig 'byed, pp. 210-211. Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang.
Mkha' spyod dbang po. 1978. Chos rje thams cad mkhyen pa rang byung rdo rje'i rnam thar tshigs bcad ma. In The Collected Writings (Gsung 'bum) of the Second Zhwa dmar Mkha' spyod dbang po, vol. 2, pp. 123-163. Gangtok: Gonpo Tseten, Palace Mon., Gangtok.
Mi nyag mgon po, et. al. 1996-2000. Karma pa rang byung rdo rje'i rnam thar mdo bsdus. In Gangs can mkhas dbang rim byon gyi rnam thar mdor bsdus, vol. 1, pp. 102-105. Beijing: Krung go'i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang. TBRC W25268.
Nor brang o rgyan. 2006. Karma pa rang byung rdo rje. In Gsung rtsom nor brang o rgyan, pp. 639-643. Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang. TBRC W1GS66291.
Petech, Luciano. 1990. Central Tibet and the Mongols -- The Yuan- Sa-skya Period of Tibetan History. Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, Rome, pp. 86-87.
Richardson, H.E. 1958-1959. "The Karma-pa Sect. A Historical Note." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, no. 3-4, pp. 139-164; no. 1-2, pp. l-18.
Roerich, George, trans. 1996. The Blue Annals. 2nd ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, pp. 488-493.
Schaeffer, Kurtis. 1995. "The Enlightened Heart of Buddhahood: A Study and Translation of the Third Karmapa Rang byung rdo rje's Work on Tathāgatagarbha, the De bzhin gshegs pa'i snying po gtan la dbab pa." M.A. thesis, University of Washington.
View this person's associated Works & Texts on the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center's Web site
Opens a new window that displays the associated Works & Texts on the Himalayan Art Resource Web site.
- Historical Period