While selling pottery in the market one day, Changchub Dorje's father met the great terton Migyur Dorje. "Seated atop a high throne," the terton said, "you will have no need to sell pottery!" His prediction indicated the status to which the potter would rise following the birth of his son. The next year, Changchub Dorje (1703-1732) took birth in the kingdom of Derge, in eastern Tibet, near the residence of Migyur Dorje. At the age of two months, he began to speak and announced that he was Karmapa. Migyur Dorje confirmed the child's announcement, and news spread in all directions that the Karmapa had been born.
The principal lamas of the Kagyu lineage sent representatives to examine the child, and found that details relating to both family and birthplace concurred with the sacred prediction letter left by the previous Karmapa. The lamas therefore performed ceremonies for the child's long life and protection. Many lineage masters came to pay their respects, and in their company, Changchub Dorje proceeded first to Karma Monastery and then to Tsurphu, where he was enthroned as the Twelfth Karmapa. He received the complete transmission of the lineage and cultivated it in his stream of being, displaying his mastery through miracles and unconditional compassion for all sentient beings.
Karmapa received many transmissions through dreams. In one dream, he visited the pure land of Shambala, where King Rigden, the lord of the realm and holder of the Kalachakra lineage, bestowed empowerment and transmission upon him. In his dreams, he also requested and received profound instructions from the Buddha Shakyamuni, Lord Atisha, and other great masters of the past.
In the company of eminent masters, the Karmapa traveled over the Himalayas on a pilgrimage to Nepal. The King of Nepal celebrated their arrival with a grand reception. At the time, a severe epidemic and a terrible drought plagued the country. At the request of the King, Karmapa performed rituals which swiftly brought an end to the epidemic and caused abundant rain to fall. Karmapa visited the holy sites of Nepal, including the great stupas of Buddha, where, in a former life, the Buddha had given his own flesh to a starving tigress who was about to eat her cubs. Karmapa taught extensively throughout Nepal about the knowledge of all fields of Buddhism. knowledge of all fields of Buddhism. He then proceeded to India, where he and his party paid homage to the Buddha Shakyamuni at Kushinagara, site of the Buddha's parinirvana.
After returning to Tsurphu by way of MountKailash, Karmapa accepted an invitation from the emperor of China to visit the Imperial Court. Before his departure, he bestowed the complete transmission of the lineage upon the Eighth Tai Situ Rinpoche, Chokyi Jungnay, and made him responsible for the Kagyu lineage in Tibet. He then set forth in the company of the Eighth Shamar Rinpoche, visiting many monasteries and holy sites along the way, granting transmissions and instructions. Altogether, the journey to China lasted seven years. Soon after he arrived, Changchub Dorje wrote a sacred prediction letter describing the details of his next birth, which he sent by messenger to Tai Situ Rinpoche. Not long afterwards, Karmapa passed away in China at the age of thirty.