3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje


The Dharma is said to have two forms, the verbal form found in texts, and the realizations that arise in the minds of beings. The Third Karmapa made spectacular contributions in both forms, through the important scriptural works he composed and sponsored, and through the spiritual attainments of his students. In general, the greatness of their students is a significant measure of a teacher’s greatness—and the disciples of Rangjung Dorje who attained siddhis numbered 80.

In terms of Dharma in its textual form, Rangjung Dorje was active in the movement of his day to compile and edit the Buddhist canonical collections. In the 1330s, in between two trips to teach at the Chinese imperial court, Rangjung Dorje commissioned and donated the materials for an edition of the entire canonical collection of Indian commentaries, known as the Tengyur. This edition commissioned by Rangjung Dorje was written by hand in gold and silver. Known as the “gold Tengyur,” where it was produced, this is believed to be the very first edition of the commentarial canon in Tibet written in gold. A prolific author himself, Rangjung Dorje composed The Hundred Past Lives of the Teacher, a magnificent literary work describing 100 of Buddha’s past lives. Until Rangjung Dorje’s inspired work, the longest collection of Buddha’s past lives had stopped at 34, the remainder having been lost over time.