The Fourteenth Karmapa, Thekchok Dorje (1798-1868), was born in Danang, in eastern Tibet. At his birth, flowers of all colors bloomed in the middle of winter and rainbows filled the sky. He sat up as soon as he was born, wiped his face, and recited the Sanskrit alphabet. Humans and nonhumans alike proclaimed his birth in all directions, and soon the Karmapa's great traveling tent monastery, Karmay Garchen, arrived in Danang and escorted him to Karma Monastery. There, he received novice ordination and commenced his studies of both the Kagyu and Nyingma transmissions of Dharma.
Karmapa studied for many years at Karma Monastery before proceeding to Tsurphu, the principal seat of the Karmapas since the time of Dusum Khyenpa. At Tsurphu, he took final ordination and received transmissions from many accomplished masters. He demonstrated limitless proficiency in all areas, mastering the various scripts of the Indian, Chinese, and Tibetan languages, and displaying the utmost skill in painting, sculpture, and other arts. He exhibited profound understanding of astrology and a detailed mastery of healing and medicine. In his realization of the inner meaning of the Buddha's teaching and his mastery of explanation, debate, composition, and the methods of the profound path of Vajrayana, he manifested the state of the primordially enlightened Buddha Dorje Chang.
At Tsurphu, Karmapa enforced the strictest observance of the monastic rule and restored temples and stupas, adding many new images. He invited the great terton Chogyur Dechen Lingpa from eastern Tibet, and instituted the annual performance of the ceremonial dances of his terma tradition to invoke the blessing of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche. Karmapa fulfilled the aspirations of his students, teaching each according to his capacity and understanding. He saved the lives of countless beings by causing the release of prisoners, prohibiting hunting, and protecting domestic animals from slaughter.
Thekchok Dorje inspired the great nineteenth century renaissance of Dharma in Tibet. Under his influence, great masters of the time - such as Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye, Chogyur Lingpa, and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo - sought, received and promulgated rare Indian and Tibetan transmissions, which were in the danger of being lost. Without bias, they revitalized the Dharma of all schools.
Thekchok Dorje gathered his manifest form into the sphere of ultimate reality at the age of seventy-one. At the time of his death, a sweet fragrance filled the countryside, and the sky was laced with rainbows and a blizzard of white, red, yellow, and blue flowers. Disciples beheld Karmapa in different places in many different forms-young, old, dressed as a monk, and clad in celestial garments, accompanied by deities. In this way, Karmapa manifested the attainment of freedom of the illusory body of wisdom.