gTérchen Karma Rinpoche was born in 1943 in Kham, Eastern Tibet. He was recognised in his early infancy as the incarnation – tülku (sPrul sKu) of the Great 17th Century gTértön – Taksham Nuden Dorje. He was educated as a ngak’phang tülku in gZi sGar Gompa. He was ordained into the sangha of the gö kar chang-lo’i dé (gos dKar lCang lo’i de) and has remained in Tibet.
At the age of twenty-five he went into solitary retreat for thirteen years. During this period of complete seclusion he completely realised all the lineages of teaching he had received. During that time he received direct visions of Padmasambhava and it was from that point that his life as a gTértön began. He discovered numerous sa gTérs – ‘earth gTérmas’ – sacred objects hidden by Padmasambhava and Yeshé Tsogyel in Tibet in order to be discovered in future times by those they predicted to be gTértöns. He has since discovered thirteen immense volumes of teachings – including numerous empowerment texts, treatises on Chagya chenpo and Dzogchen, and an entire medical gTérma.
In present-day Eastern Tibet, he is revered as an emanation of Padmasambhava – the second Buddha. Taksham Nuden Dorje also appears in the incarnation line of Kyabjé Düd’jom Rinpoche (and also gTérchen Khordong Tulku Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche). It is not uncommon for there to be several tülkus living at the same time who emanate from various Lamas within an incarnation cycle – as in the case of Khyungchen Aro Lingma, who was an incarnation of Jomo Menmo and an emanation of Yeshé Tsogyel.
Taksham Nuden Dorje (sTag sham nus lDan rDo rJe, 1682-?), also known as Samten Lingpa (bSam gTan gLingpa), wrote the life story (namthar – rNam thar) of Padmasambhava according to his manifestation as Dorje Tröllö – the Lama Dorje Tröllö Kyi Namthar (bLa ma rDo rJe gro lod kyi rNam thar).
In his day Taksham Nuden Dorje, which means ‘Powerful Tiger-skirted Vajra’, was regarded as a zhig-po – a wisdom-eccentric or enlightened madman. He was born in the Lhorong valley of Southeastern Tibet and, whilst being far from an academic or intellectual, authored texts of great profundity. According to the ‘Pawo Chö-jung’ (dPa’ bo chos ’byung), a Book of Buddhist History by Pawo Tsuglhag Gawa Teng’ar (dPa’ bo gTsug lhag dGa’ ba phreng ba - otherwise known as Pawo Rinpoche), it is stated that: ‘A ngakpa named Nuden Dorje will appear, who shall reveal the gTérmas of Padmasambhava in Kham’. One of Taksham Nuden Dorje’s main teachers was Chö-jé Lingpa - one of the consorts of Jomo Menmo (a great Nyingma Yogini and Lama of whom Khyungchen Aro Lingma was an incarnation). Taksham Nuden Dorje was the incarnation of A-tsara Sa-lé (Gyalwa Changchub – rGyal ba byang chub), one of the consorts and disciples of Yeshé Tsogyel – and as such was gifted with the precise ability of discovering the gTérma of her biography, ‘The Secret Life and Liberated Song-thread of Yeshé Tsogyel’ or ‘Pö-kyi Jomo Yeshé Tsogyel gyi Dzèd-tshul Nampar Tharpa Gabpa Gön-jung Gyüd-mang Dri-za’i Lu-treng’ (bod kyi jo mo ye shes mTsho rGyal gyi mDzad tshul rNam par thar pa gab pa mNgon byung rGyud mangs dri za’i gLu ’phreng). Taksham Nuden Dorje was entrusted with this text by the protector Hu-dag Nakpo – Düd-jé ’Barwa (Chu bDag nag po - bDud rJe ’bar ba) - ‘Sovereign of the Black Waters – Blazing Lord of Devils’ – who had been oathbound to deliver it into his hands by Padmasambhava and Yeshé Tsogyel.