The Tenth Karmapa, Choying Dorje (1604-1674), was born in Golok, in northeastern Tibet. Upon hearing wonderful accounts of Choying Dorje's birth and qualities, the local ruler invited the family to his palace and accepted the child into his household. Raised and educated in the palace for six years, Choying Dorje demonstrated innumerable skills and qualities, manifesting particular brilliance in the areas of art and poetry. At the age of eight, he was recognized and enthroned as the Tenth Karmapa, and in a formal debate with his peers, he clarified misunderstandings surrounding Buddhist philosophy and the practice of Bodhicitta.
While walking near a review one day, Choying Dorje stopped before a white boulder half-immersed in the water. He told the monks attending him to pull the boulder from the water and split it open. The monks moved the rock with great difficulty, and when they broke it open they found innumerable insect-like sentient beings sealed inside in a state of intense agony. Karmapa described their condition as an aspect of hell, and blessed them, praying for their rebirth in a better existence. With that, they became still and died.
Karmapa studied intensively for several years at Tsurphu Monastery. During this time, the king of the southern province of Tsang became his devoted patron. The King's son later extended his authority throughout Tibet and became embroiled in a dispute with two large monasteries near Lhasa. The Lhasa monks enlisted the support of Mongol chiefs, and during the war that followed, they took the opportunity to suppress other schools of Buddhism. Soldiers surrounded Karmapa's tent encampment, intending to capture him. Though Karmapa remained fearlessly inside the camp, the soldiers couldn't see him. They began to fight amongst themselves, some motivated by faith in the Karmapa, and others by anger. At last, Karmapa showed himself in their midst, appearing to some in his own form, and to others as a deer or an eagle. With his attendant, Kuntuzangpo, he flew into the sky, leaving the soldiers behind.
Karmapa and Kuntuzangpo alighted in northern Bhutan. For twelve days they had no food, but Lord Padmasambhava himself fed them nectar. Nourished by wild animals and protected by local spirits, they lived in the wilderness for three years. Eventually, they came to the kingdom of Jyang in the Yunnan region of China, whose inhabitants greeted Karmapa with great joy. The King of Jyang conceived a plan to drive the Mongolian forces from Tibet and establish Karmapa as Tibet's head of state. Karmapa dissuaded him, however, explaining that war ran counter to the Buddha's teaching and would cause only harm. For the next thirty years, Karmapa lived in Jyang, teaching and building temples. During this period, the incarnations of the major teachers of the Kagyu lineage took rebirth in various parts of eastern Tibet. Disguised as a beggar to avoid danger, Karmapa journeyed repeatedly to Tibet to find these incarnations and arrange for their enthronement and training.
At the age of fifty-eight, Karmapa returned publicly to Tibet with his disciples, visiting different kingdoms to teach the Dharma, ordain monks, and build temples. Near the end of his life, he visited Lhasa, where he met with the Dalai Lama and bestowed upon him teachings of the Mahamudra. Afterwards, the Dalai Lama made a proclamation to protect Tsurphu Monastery from political disturbances in the future. Karmapa passed away at Tsurphu at the age of seventy-one.