The Fourth Karmapa, Rolpe Dorje (1340-1383), took birth in the kongpo region of Tibet, in accordance with the sacred prediction letter written in his former life. His mother was a manifestation of a wisdom dakini, and Rolpe Dorje transformed her womb into a comfortable palace in which he recited mantras audible to those nearby. He also practiced yogic exercises, which from time to time shook his mother's body. At his birth, a sweet fragrance emanated from his body, and he sat up immediately, reciting Om Mani Pemay Hung. Though his father was alarmed, his mother assured him that she'd had many dreams indicating that their son was very special. At the age of three, Karmapa told his mother that he was Karma Pakshi, and that he had taken birth for the sake of his many disciples in this world. His parents therefore took him to Lhasa. Large numbers of people came to meet him along the way, and he greeted them each, saying, "You are so-and-so, and your home is arranged thus. You gave me such-and-such an offering in the past." Each was overwhelmed by devotion and requested his blessing, which he gladly bestowed.
Rolpe Dorje took novice ordination at the age of six, and full ordination at eighteen, observing every detail of the rules of conduct with the utmost scrupulousness. Neither a hair's tip of meat nor a breath of alcohol was ever permitted in his presence. Although he retained profound wisdom from his previous lifetimes concerning all aspects of the Dharma, he accepted the vast and profound transmissions of each lineage in order to demonstrate the relationship between master and disciple. While receiving the transmissions of deities, he directly perceived their divine presence.
Rolpe Dorje was invited to the Chinese Imperial Court, and knowing that a visit would benefit many beings, he agreed to go. When he arrived, famine, epidemics, and rebellion engulfed the country. Rolpe Dorje restored peace by pacifying local gods, and through the blessings of the Medicine Buddha and the Deity of Wealth, he gradually restored health and prosperity to the land. The Emperor and his children, through their deep faith, were able to receive and understand the profound oral transmissions he bestowed upon them. Many officials from China, Mongolia, Korea, and other regions gave rise to the aspiration to attain enlightenment for the sake of all beings, and received the Bodhisattva Vow from Karmapa. Although China grew prosperous and contented, Rolpe Dorje foresaw the end of the dynasty and insisted upon returning to Tibet. He visited many regions along the way, teaching extensively and giving whatever offerings he received to support the Dharma. During his travels, he bestowed novice ordination upon the young Tsongkhapa, Who later founded the Gelugpa school.
At the end of his life, Rolpe Dorje traveled to a high, solitary mountain in the far north of Tibet. He instructed his monks to bring along a large amount of juniper wood, explaining that there would be no wood suitable for a funeral pyre where they were going. When they reached the mountain, he told his followers that if a pure monk were cremated on the summit, foreign armies threatening Tibet at the time would be unable to invade. His disciples did not understand that he meant to pass away, however, until his health suddenly declined. He entered parinirvana soon afterwards, and when his body was cremated a rain of divine flowers fell from the sky and the earth trembled six times. Many people saw his image in the sky, encircled by a rainbow.