Heavenly flowers rained down, peals of thunder rolled through the valley, and five-colored lights filled the sky when the Seventh Karmapa, Chodrak Gyatso (1454-1505), was born at Chi Lha in northern Tibet. As soon as he was born, the child uttered "Ah la la!" in delight, and laughed. His body was marked with many auspicious symbols: Dharma wheels marked the soles of his feet, the letter Ah appeared above his heart, and the shapes of flowers manifested in many places on his body. At the age of seven days, he began to speak and to understand the mantras his parents and others recited. Gods and men naturally gravitated to his birthplace, so that there was no way to keep his identity secret. As soon as his parents announced his birth, his fame spread like summer thunder. At the age of nine months, Karmapa met the first Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, and it is said that there was not one teaching of the Lord Buddha in Tibet that he did not hear from his masters.
From an early age, Chodrak Gyatso manifested extraordinary qualities. At the age of three months, he announced, "I possess the name of ‘Karma.' One born like me is rare. All those who hold a connection to me are the object of my unchanging aspiration." At five months he said, "The magical display of bliss and emptiness, the multifaceted play of fundamental awareness, is seen by the immature as if it were real. I am free of birth, cessation, and abiding." While conducting an empowerment at the age of five, he threw a heavy string of jewels into the mandala of Khorlo Dechog. The necklace landed softly in the very center of the mandala without disturbing the flowers arranged there. During a serious drought, he proclaimed, "By virtue of the truth of the Three Jewels may rain fall this moment!" Immediately, a heavy rain began to fall, a miraculous display that confirmed many people's faith in the power of the Three Jewels.
Chodrak Gyatso became a renowned exponent of the tradition of tsema, the Tibetan system of formal logic. He composed many texts, including profound commentaries clarifying the views expounded by great masters of logic such as Dignaga and Dharmakirti. He also established several important monastic colleges and attracted disciples from China, India, Nepal, and Mongolia, as well as numerous kingdoms in and around Tibet. While traveling through eastern Tibet with his monastic community, Karmapa saw visions of Guru Rinpoche and Buddha Shakyamuni surrounded by many deities and lamas. They showed him the locations of secret valleys where practitioners of his lineage would find shelter from the sectarian tensions threatening Tibet during his lifetime.
Chodrak Gyatso passed away at the age of fifty-two. His ribs and spine were recovered intact from the ashes of his cremation fire, transformed into a pearl-like material. On the eleven bones of his neck appeared eleven faces in relief, consistent with the eleven-faced, thousand-armed form of the bodhisattva Chenrezig. Open hands with an open eye in the center of each appeared distinctly on his ribs.