4th Karmapa, Rolpe Dorje


The activities of the Fourth Karmapa left lasting marks not only in the spiritual realm, but also in terms of Tibetan culture and history. It was Rolpe Dorje who created the Great Encampment of the Karmapas, transforming his growing entourage into a structured mobile community of meditative practice, study and production. Rather than await the arrival of disciples in his main seats, Rolpe Dorje was able to reach out to offer the Dharma where necessary across Tibet.

The Fourth Karmapa lived during a time of protracted conflict between the Sakya and Drigung Kagyu orders of Tibetan Buddhism. With courage and skill, he stepped into an active peacemaking role in this complex dispute. To that end, Rolpe Dorje exchanged initiations with Sönam Gyaltsen (1312-1375), one of the supreme Sakya lamas—making a powerful statement of respect and appreciation for that sect’s teachings—but he also directed material resources towards the restoration of the Drigung monastery. In this wise way, Rolpe Dorje cultivated harmonious relationships with both factions, and then used his influence to work for peace between them. The Fourth Karmapa additionally played a part in the inception of what would become Tibet’s largest sect, the Gelug, when he gave lay vows to Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) as a young boy and predicted that he would be of great importance to the future of Buddhism in Tibet.