The Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje

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The Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje b.1507 - d.1554

The Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje (karma pa 08 mi bskyod rdo rje 1507-1554) was born in Ngomchu (ngom chu), Kham, in a village called Satam (sa tam) to a family of yogis. According to his hagiographies, he proclaimed himself to an incarnation of the Karmapa at a young age, which was confirmed by the Third Tai Situpa, Tashi Peljor (si tu 03 bkra shis dpal 'byor 1498-1541). He subsequently took up residence at Karma Gon (karma dgon), an important center for the Karma Kagyu tradition.

When the child was around the age of five, another claimant to the Karmapa title was put forward in Amdo. The Second Tsurpu Gyeltsab, Tashi Namgyel (mtshur phu rgyal tshab 02 bkra shis rnam rgyal 1490-1518), was dispatched to evaluate the two children. Tradition has it that Tashi Namgyel, along with Tashi Peljor and other students of the previous Karmapa devised a test to determine which of the children was the true Karmapa. The young boy from eastern Tibet passed, and was officially enthroned at the age of six.

Under his main teacher, the First Sanggye Nyenpa, Tashi Peljor (sangs rgyas mnyan pa 01 bkra shis dpal 'byor 1445/1457- 1510/1525); as well as Dulmo Tashi Oser; Dakpo Paṇchen Tashi Namgyel (dwags po paN chen bkra shis rnam rgyal 1512/1513- 1587); and Karma Trinlepa (karma 'phrin las pa, 1456-1539), the Eighth Karmapa grew into an extremely prolific and influential leader. He is reported to have had many visions of his activities being connected to those of Padmasambhava, and his writings, covering various topics such as Mādhyamaka, Abhidharma, instructions on Tantra and Mahāmudrā, poetry, and linguistics, cover more than thirty volumes, several of which have been translated to English. (Forty-seven volumes are available on TBRC, which includes various biographies and multiple editions of the same text.) Many of his sādhāna practices and ritual texts, especially his own Four Session Guru Yoga (thun bzhi bla ma'i rnal 'byor), are still in wide use amongst Karma Kagyu practitioners today. Additionally, he was very active in the realm of the arts, both as a producer and commissioner of new works, and is credited with being one of the founders of the Karma Gadri style of Tibetan painting.

Among his many disciples, his two main students were the Fifth Zhamar, Konchok Yenlak (zhwa dmar 05 dkon mchog yan lag, 1525-1583); and the Second Pawo, Tsuklak Trengwa (dpa' bo 02 gtsug lag 'phreng ba, 1504-1564/1566). Mikyo Dorje is said to have entrusted a letter of prediction concerning his subsequent rebirth to Konchok Yenlak, which stated his next incarnation would be born in the region of Tresho (tre shod) in Kham. He passed away in 1554 at the age of forty-seven.


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