His Holiness 16th Karmapa Randjung Rigpe Dorje (1924-1981) was born in Eastern Tibetan province called Derge. His precessor 15th Karmapa Kachab Dorje (1871-1922) left a detailed letter, which described the circumstances of his coming rebirth. Based on this document senior members of Tsurphu monastery were able to successfully define child’s location.
In 1931 a young incarnate was officially inaugurated as a monk and was handed over traditional Karmapa’s garments and Black Crown. In order to deepen his insight into Sutras, Tantras, Mahamudra and Six Yogas of Naropa Karmapa had been studying in Tsurphu monastery for six years. Being a little boy he demonstrated an extraordinary perspicacity and would quite often tell his teachers about his former incarnations. At twenty three Karmapa received all of the empowerments and instructions related to the highest methods in Karma Kagyu.
In 1959 due to the occupation of Tibet Karmapa took a decision to flee the country realizing that the Dharma can only be preserved in a free society. Accompanied by hundred and sixty lamas, monks and lay people he left Tsurphu monastery – traditional residence of Karmapas – and headed off to Butan. Thanks to Karmapa escapees managed to take the most precious statues, ritual objects, relics, thankas and books, stored for centuries in Tsurphu, out of the country. The governor fo Sikkim Kingdom (North-Eastern India) offered Rumtek monastery, built at the times of 9th Karmapa Wanchung Dorje (1556-1603), to His Holiness Karmapa. Karmapa decided to construct a new building in Rumtek which was completed in four years due to generosity of Indian government and Sikkim king. A new monastery became an official residence of the Karmapa outside of Tibet, as well as the centre of conservation of the tradition – Buddhist sciences, rituals and practice.
In 1974 the delegated Karma Kagyu teachers led by His Holiness 16th Karmapa have arrived to the West. The Lamas visited Europe, the USA and Canada, and for first time in history the people of the western world had an opportunity to take part in the Black Crown ceremony – Karmapa has conducted it several times. In December 1974 by invitation of his first western students Ole Nydhal and his wife Hannah Karmapa visited Copenhagen.
In November 1976 Karmapa came to New York where his USA tour was starting from. The following year he had been traveling around Europe, including Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France and Great Britain. In May 198o His Holiness comes to the West once more – to give lectures and an empowerments in London, San-Francisco and Boulder in Colorado State.
November the 5th His Holiness 16th Karmapa passed away in the hospital in the suburbs of Chicago.