In the Bhadrakalpa Sutra, Buddha Shakyamuni prophesied that a thousand buddhas would manifest during the current kalpa, or universal cycle. He further predicted that the sixth of these fully enlightened beings, known as Drukpa Senge, would incarnate as a bodhisattva during the periods in which all the other buddhas were active, in order to help spread their teachings and free sentient beings from suffering.
Accordingly, Drukpa Senge took physical form as Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193), born into a family of accomplished Buddhist practitioners in Treshu, in eastern Tibet. From his father, he received teachings on Mahakali, a wrathful feminine protector, and through their application he attained the ability to leave imprints of his hands and feet in solid rock. At the age of sixteen, he took ordination under the masters of the lineage of Lord Atisha, and disciplined the stream of his being through the rules of the Vinaya. He cultivated the vow of a bodhisattva, developing compassion and devotion to the benefit of all sentient beings. Through studying the teachings of Buddha Maitreya and the Indian master Nagarjuna, he established a firm foundation in philosophy and logic. From various meditation masters, he received the Kalachakra and other profound teachings on ultimate truth.
At the age of thirty, Dusum Khyenpa sought an audience with Gampopa, to whom he offered the following prayer: "Bless me that I may relinquish clinging to a self. Bless me that the condition where nothing is needed arises in my stream of being. Bless me that untrue concepts cease. Bless me that I may realize my mind to be unborn. Bless me that confusion will be pacified in its own place. Bless me that I may realize the world of appearance to be one with ultimate truth." In response, Gampopa bestowed upon him the transmission of the Six Yogas of Naropa. After four years of continual practice, Dusum Khyenpa realized the natural emptiness and radiance of his own mind, and immeasurable compassion toward all beings arose in his stream of being. After his meditation remained stable for six months, Gampopa told him he had completely severed the bonds of existence, and bestowed on him the essential transmissions of the Kagyu lineage.
Dusum Khyenpa practiced without regard for his body or his life in wild and desolate places, and gradually attained complete liberation. Having mastered the methods and meaning of the Kagyu transmission, he devoted his activity to the benefit of sentient beings. He established many monasteries, foremost among them Tsurphu Monastery, which has served as the principal seat of the Karmapas ever since. He gave teachings, and performed religious works in order to nurture the spiritual development of thousands of devoted disciples. He provided food and other material help to the hungry and needy, restored sight to the blind, cured sicknesses, and ended wars. All who met him were greatly benefitted. At the age of eighty-four, he entrusted to his foremost disciple, Drogon Rechen, a letter of prophecy describing the conditions under which he would next take birth. He thus became the first Tibetan tulku, known to take rebirth intentionally for the benefit of sentient beings. Though his body was cremated, his heart and tongue-representing his realization and pure speech-were recovered unburned from the ashes, and many divine symbols were found marked on his bones.