International Drikung Kagyu Council
Honoured to organise the 800th Commemoration of Lord Jigten Sumong's Maha Parinirvana.

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List of Lineage Holders

Throne Holder   Wylie transcription  Lived  Reigned


Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön


skyob pa 'jig rten gsum mgon




Khenchen Tsultrim Dorje

mkhan chen tshul khrims rdo rje




On Sönam Drakpa

dbon bsod nams grags pa




Chenga Drakpa Jungne

spyan snga grags pa 'byung gnas




Chung Dorje Drakpa

gcung rdo rje grags pa




Thogkhawa Rinchen Senge

thog kha ba rin chen seng ge




Tsamche Drakpa Sönam

mtshams bcad grags pa bsod nams




Nub Chögo Dorje Yeshe

snubs chos sgo rdo rje ye shes




Chunyi Dorje Rinchen

gcu gnyis rdo rje rin chen




Nyergyepa Dorje Gyalpo

nyer brgyad pa rdo rje rgyal po




Chenga Chökyi Gyalpo

spyan snga chos kyi rgyal po




Goshri Döndrup Gyalpo

go shri don grub rgyal po




Dhakpowang Rinchen Wangyal

bdag po wang rin chen dbang rgyal

1395 - ?


Khenpo, Lopön, Chöpön [regents]

mkhan po slob dpon chos dpon



Chögyal Rinchen Palsang

chos rgyal rin chen dpal bzang




Rinchen Chökyi Gyaltsen

rin chen chos kyi rgyal mtshan




Gyalwang Kunga Rinchen

rgyal dbang kun dga' rin chen




Gyalwang Rinchen Phuntsog

rgyal dbang rin chen phun tshogs




Phagmo Rinchen Namgyal

phag mo rin chen rnam rgyal




Panchen Sönam Gyatso

pan chen bsod nams rgya mtsho




Chögle Namgyal

phyogs las rnam rgyal




Chögyal Rinchen Phuntsog

chos rgyal rin chen phun tshogs




Nāro Tashi Phuntsog

nA ro bkra shis phun tshogs




Gyalwang Konchog Rinchen 
1st Chetsang

rgyal dbang dkon mchog rin chen




Kunkhyen Rigzin Chödrak 
1st Chungtsang

kun mkhyen rig 'dzin chos grags




Nyidzong Trichen Rinchung [regent]

nyin rdzong khri chen rin 'byung




Konchog Thrinle Sangpo 
2nd Chetsang

dkon mchog 'phrin las bzang po




Thrinle Döndrup Chögyal 
2nd Chungtsang

'phrin las don grub chos rgyal




Konchog Tenzin Drodul 
3rd Chetsang

dkon mchog bstan 'dzin 'gro 'dul




Tenzin Chökyi Nyima 
3rd Chungtsang

bstan 'dzin chos kyi nyi ma




Tenzin Peme Gyaltsen 
4th Chetsang

bstan 'dzin pad ma'i rgyal mtshan




Tenzin Chökyi Gyaltsen 
4th Chungtsang

bstan 'dzin chos kyi rgyal mtshan




Tripa Döndrub Chöwang [regent]

khri pa don grub chos dbang



Lhochen Chökyi Lodrö [regent]

lho chen chos kyi blo gros




Konchog Chönyi Norbu 
5th Chungtsang

dkon mchog chos nyid nor bu




Konchog Thukje Nyima 
5th Chetsang

dkon mchog thugs rje nyi ma




Tenzin Chökyi Lodrö 
6th Chungtsang

bstan 'dzin chos kyi blo gros




Tenzin Shiwe Lodrö 
6th Chetsang

bstan 'dzin zhi ba'i blo gros




Tenzin Chökyi Jungne 7th Chungtsang

bstan 'dzin chos kyi 'byung gnas



Tritsab Tenzin Thubten [regent]

khri tshab bstan 'dzin thub bstan




Tenzin Chökyi Nangwa
8th Chungtsang

bstan 'dzin chos kyi snang ba




Tenzin Thrinle Lhundrup
7th Chetsang

bstan 'dzin phrin las lhun grub



Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön - Founder of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage

js001A Brief Biography of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön

The glorious Phagmodrupa had five hundred disciples who possessed the white umbrella; but, as he said again and again, his successor would be an Upasaka who has attained the tenth level of a Bodhisattva. This is the story of that successor, the peerless Great Lord Drikungpa, Jigten Sumgön.  Limitless kalpas ago, Jigten Sumgön was born as the Chakravartin Tsib-Kyi Mu-Khyu. He was the father of a thousand princes, but renounced the kingdom and attained enlightenment and was called the Tathagata Lurik Dronma. Although he had already attained Enlightenment, he appeared later as the Bodhisattva Kunsar Wangkur Gyalpo. At the time of the Buddha Kashyapa, he appeared as the potter Gakyong. At the time of the Buddha Shakyamuni, he appeared as the stainless Licchavi, who was inseparable from the Buddha himself. Later, he was born as the Acharya Nagarjuna. Through these births, he benefited the Buddha's teachings and countless sentient beings.

Then, so that the essence of the Buddha's teachings might flourish, he was born to a noble family of the Kyura clan in Tibet. His father was Naljorpa Dorje, a great practitioner of Yamantaka, and his mother was Rakyisa Tsunma. Many marvelous signs accompanied the birth. He learned the teachings of Yamantaka from his father, and became expert in reading and writing by the age of four. From his uncle, the Abbot Dharma, the great Ra-Dreng Gom-Chen, the Reverend Khorwa Lung-Khyer, and others, he learned many sutras and tantras. At that time, he was called Tsunpa Kyab, and later, Dorje Pal. Jigten Sumgön's coming was predicted in many sutras and tantras. For example, in the Yeshe Yongsu Gyepa Sutra it is said:

" In the northern snow ranges will appear a being called Ratna Shri. He will benefit my teachings and be renowned in the three worlds."  

In the Gongdu Sutra it is said: 

"At a place called Dri, the Source of the Dharma, Ratna Shri will appear in the Year of the Pig. He will gather a hundred thousand fully ordained monks. After that, he will go to the Ngonga Buddha-Field. He will be called Stainless White Sugata and will have a large retinue." 

In the Gyalpo Kaithang it is said: 

"From glorious Samye to the northeast, at a place called Drikung, the source of the Dharma, the Lord-King Trisong Desen will be born in the year of the Pig as the Sugata Ratna Shri. He will gather a hundred thousand bodhisattvas. He will go to the Ngonga Buddha-field and be called Stainless White Sugata. In that Buddha-field, he will become the Fully Perfected King." Thus he was clearly predicted.

When Jigten Sumgön was still young, his father passed away; the family's fortunes declined; and he supported them by reciting scriptures. Once, he was offered a goat. As he was leading it away it tried to break loose. He pulled back, but the goat dragged him for a short distance and his footprints remain in the rock to this day. When he was eight, he had a vision of Yamantaka and on another occasion, while meditating at Tsib Lungmoche, he saw all the dharmas of samsara and nirvana as insubstantial appearance, like a reflection in a mirror. Even when he was in Kham he was renowned as a yogin. Jigten Sumgön realized the practices of Luminosity and Mahamudra (clarity and emptiness), and in his sleep visited the Arakta Padmai Buddha-field. From the great Ra-Dreng Gom-Chen he learned all the teachings of the Khadampa tradition. From Lama Lhopa Dorje Nyingpo, he received the teachings of Guhyasamaja and others. Once, when there was a drought in Kham, he took the food that was offered to him and distributed it to those who were starving, thus saved many lives. 

Many important people began to approach Jigten Sumgön for teachings. One, Gonda Pandita, who came from Central Tibet, told him about Phagmodrupa. Just by hearing the name of Phagmodrupa, Jigten Sumgön's mind was moved like the leaves of a kengshu trees are moved by the wind. With great hardship, he traveled from Kham to Central Tibet. A rainbow stretched the entire length of his journey, and the Protector, Dorje Lekpa, took the forms of a rabbit and a child, thus attending him and looking after his needs. Coming to the dangerous, rocky path of Kyere, he found a natural formation of the six-syllable mantra transformed itself into a vision of the face of Phagmodrupa. 

Jigten Sumgön traveled day and night. On the way, he met a woman and man who said, "We have come from Phagmodru." Seeing them as the guru's emanations, he prostrated. Arriving at the Phagdru Monastery at midnight, he was invited inside by a Khampa . When he met Phagmodrupa, the Guru said, "Now all of my disciples are present. " Jigten Sumgön then offered his teacher a bolt of silk, a bolt of cloth, and his horse - but Phagmodrupa refused the horse, explaining that he did not accept offerings of animals. Jigten Sumgön also offered a bag of food, and Phagmodrupa used it to perform a feast-offering to Chakrasamvara. Then Phagmodrupa gave Jigten Sumgön the Two-Fold Bodhisattva Vow and the name Bodhisattva Ratna Shri. As one vessel fills another, Phagmodrupa gave Jigten Sumgön all the teachings of sutra and tantra. 

js009At that time, there lived a woman who was an emanation of Vajrayogini. Phagmodrupa suggested to Taklung Thangpa that he stay with her; but Taklung Thangpa, not wishing to give up his monk's vows, refused, and because of that the emanation passed away. Another disciple, Lingje Repa, then fashioned a cup from the woman's skull. This made him late for the assembly, and the food offerings had already been distributed by the time he got there. Taking the skull-cup, he circulated among the monks, receiving offerings of food from each. The monks gave only small portions, but Phagmodrupa gave a large amount, filling the skull-cup completely, and Jigten Sumgön gave even more, forming a mound of food which covered the skull-cap like an umbrella. Lingje Repa then walked again through the assembly, and as he walked he spontaneously composed and sang a song of praise in twenty verses. Finally, he stopped in front of Jigten Sumgön, offering the food - and the song - to him. From this time onwards, Jigten Sumgön was recognized as Phagmodrupa's Chief Disciple. 

One day, Phagmodrupa wanted to see if any special signs would arise concerning his three closest disciples, and he gave each of them a foot of red cloth with which to make a meditation hat. Taklung Thangpa used only what he was given. Lingje Repa added a piece of cotton cloth to the front of his hat, and Jigten Sumgön added a second foot of cloth to his, making it much larger. This was considered very auspicious. On another occasion, Phagmodrupa called Jigten Sumgön and Taklung Thangpa and said: "I think that the Tsangpo River is overflowing today. Please go and see." Both disciples saw the river following its normal course, and returned; but Jigten Sumgön, thinking there was some purpose in guru's question, told him: "The river has overflowed, and Central Tibet and Kham are now both under water." 

This foretold the flourishing of Jigten Sumgön's activities, and he became known as a Master of Interdependent Origination. At this time, in accordance with the predictions made by Phagmodrupa, Jigten Sumgön still held only the vows of an Upasaka. One day, Phagmodrupa asked him to remain behind after the assembly and instructed him in the seven-point posture of Vairochana. Touching him on his head, throat, and heart centers, he said, "OM, AH HUNG" three times and told him, "You will be a great meditator, and for this I rejoice." 

Jigten Sumgön attended Phagmodrupa for two years and six months. During that time, he received all of his guru's teachings and was told that he would be his successor. At the time of Phagmodrupa's parinirvana, a radiant five-pronged golden vajra emanated from his heart-center and dissolved into the heart-center of Jigten Sumgön, this being seen by all the other disciples. Jigten Sumgön then gave all his belongings to benefit the monastery and to help build a large memorial stupa for his guru. 

After this, he met many other teachers. From Dakpo Gomtsul he received the Four Yogas of Mahamudra. A patroness then promised him provisions for three years and Jigten Sumgön, earnestly wishing to practice the teachings he had received, retired to the Echung cave to meditate. In those three years, he gained a rough understanding of the outer, inner, and secret aspects of interdependent origination. He then realized that the cause of wandering in samsara is the difficulty prana has in entering the avadhuti, and hence practicing on prana, saw many buddhas and bodhisattvas face-to-face, and had visions of his mind purifying the six realms. Then he went on a pilgrimage to Phagmodru and other holy places. 

On his return to Echung Cave, he meditated with one-pointed mind. In the same way that maras arose as obstacles to Lord Buddha at the time of his enlightenment, and Tsering Chenga and others tried to hinder Milarepa; the final fruition of Jigten Sumgön's karma arose, and he contracted leprosy. Becoming intensely depressed, he thought, "Now, I should die in this solitary place and transfer my consciousness." He prostrated to an image of Avalokiteshvara that had been blessed many times by Phagmodrupa. At the first prostration, he thought, "Among sentient beings, I am the worst. "At the second, he thought, "I have all the teachings of my guru, including the instructions of bardo and the transference of consciousness, and need have no fear of death." Then, remembering that other beings didn't have these teachings, strong compassion arose in him. In that state of mind, he sat down and generated compassionate thoughts towards others. His sickness left him, like clouds blown away from the sun, and at that moment he attained Buddhahood. He had practiced at the Echung Cave for seven years. 

Shortly after this, he had a vision of the Seven Taras. Because he had a full understanding of interdependent origination, and realized the unity of discipline (shila) and Mahamudra, he took the vows of a fully-ordained monk. From this time, Jigten Sumgön did not eat meat. As he had already been named by Phagmodrupa as his successor, the chief monks of his guru's monastery invited him to return. After taking the abbot's seat at the monastery, Jigten Sumgön insisted on a strict observance of monastic discipline. One day, some monks said: "We are 'nephews' of Milarepa and should be allowed to drink chang ." Saying this, they drank. When Jigten Sumgön counseled them, they replied, "You yourself should keep the discipline of not harming others." Phagmodrupa then appeared in a vision to Jigten Sumgön and said to him, "Leave this old, silken seat and go to the north. There you will benefit many sentient beings." 

Jigten Sumgön went north, and on the way, at Nyenchen Thanglha, he was greeted by the protector of that place. At Namra, a spirit-king and his retinue took the Upasaka vow from him, and Jigten Sumgön left one of his foot-prints behind for them as an object of devotion. He gave meditation instruction to vultures flying overhead, and they practiced according to those teachings. Once, at a word from Jigten Sumgön, a horse returned to him that was running away. He also sent an emanation of himself to pacify a war in Bodhgaya begun by the Duruka tribesmen. 

On another occasion, at Dam, he gave teachings and received many offerings. At the end of a day which had seemed very long, he told the crowd, "Now go immediately to your homes," and suddenly it was just before dawn of the next day. To finish his talk Jigten Sumgön had stopped the sun. When he was at Namra Mountain, Brahma, the king of the gods, requested the vast and profound teachings. On the way to Drikung, the great god Bar-Lha received him. The children of Jenthang built a throne for him, and from which instructed the people of that town. Even the water, which has no mind, listened to his teachings and made the sound, Nagarjuna. 

Then he came to Drikung Thil. In his thirty-seventh year, he established Drikung Jangchubling, the largest monastery and the main seat of the Drikungpa Kagyupa in Tibet and appointed Pon Gompa Dorje Senge as supervisor for the construction of the monastery. Many monks gathered there and enjoyed the rainfall of the profound dharma. 

In Tibet, there are nine great protectors of the dharma. Among them, Barlha, Sogra, Chuphen Luwang, Terdrom Menmo, and Namgyal Karpo bowed down at Jigten Sumgön's feet, took the Upasaka vow, and promised to protect the teachings and practitioners of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage. 

At one time, water was very scarce in Drikung, and in order to relieve the situation, Jigten Sumgön gave 108 turquoise to his attendant, Rinchen Drak, with instructions to hide them in various places. Rinchen Drak hid all but one, which he kept for himself and put in his robe. The turquoises that were hidden became sources of water, and the one he kept turned into a frog. Startled, he threw it away, and in falling it became blind in one eye. Where the frog landed, a stream arose which was called Chumik Shara. Most of these streams were dried up by fire when Drikung Thil was destroyed during the middle of the fourteenth century, but some still remain. 

On the new and full moon each month, Jigten Sumgön and his monks observed a purification ceremony called Sojong. Once when some monks arrived late and Jigten Sumgön decided to discontinue the practice, but Brahma requested him to maintain that tradition, and he agreed. 

Jigten Sumgön continued to look after Densa Thil, his old monastery. He also visited Dakla Gampo, the monastery of Gampopa. From Gampopa's image inside the monastery, light rays streamed forth, merging inseparably with Jigten Sumgön and he attained both the ordinary and the extraordinary siddis of the Treasure of Space. Once, the dakinis of the Tsari came bringing the Dakpar Shri, an assembly of 2,800 yidams on a net of horse-hair and presented them to him. In the memory of Phagmodrupa, he built an auspicious stupa of many doors and placed the 2,800 yidams inside, with a door for each one of them. 

From this there came down the tradition of building stupas in this way. In a vision, he met with Ananda and discussed the teachings. Once, Lama Shang said, "This year, the dakinis of Oddiyana will come to invite me and the great Drikungpa to join them. He is a master of interdependent origination and won't have to go there, but I should go." Soon after this, the dakinis came for him and he passed away; but when they came to invite Jigten Sumgön, he refused, and the dakinis changed their prayer of invitation into a supplication for the guru's longevity. Then all the dakas and dakinis made offerings to him and promised to guide his disciples. 

Jigten Sumgön had many important disciples, among them: the two Chengas , the Great Abbot Gurawa, Nyo Gyalwa Lhanangpa , Gar Choding, Palchen Choye, Drubtob Nyaske, the two Tsang-tsangs, and others. These were the leaders of the philosophers. The Vinaya-holders were Thakma Dulzin, Dakpo Duldzin, and others. The Kadampa Geshes were Kyo Dorje Nyingpo and others. The translators were Nup, Phakpa, and others. The leaders of the tantrikas were Tre, Ngok, and others. The leaders of the yogins were Dudsi, Belpo, and others. Whenever Jigten Sumgön taught, rainbows appeared and gods rained flowers from the sky. Machen Pomra and other Protectors listened to his teachings, and the kings of Tibet, India, and China were greatly devoted to him. By this time, Jigten Sumgön had 55,525 followers. To feed this ocean of disciples, Matro, the King of the Nagas and the source of all the wealth of Jambudvipa, became the patron of the monastery 

Near Drikung Thil there was a rock called "Lion-Shoulder", which Jigten Sumgön saw as the mandala of Chakrasamvara. He established a monastery there and, to spread the teachings thus benefiting all sentient beings, he built another Auspicious Stupa of Many Doors, using a special method. At this time he also repaired the Samye monastery. 

The Chakrasamvara of Five Deities was Jigten Sumgön's main yidam practice and he manifested at times in that form in order to train the more difficult disciples. When a war began in Minyak, in eastern Tibet, he protected the people there through his miracle powers. The number of his disciples increased to 70,000. Many of the most intelligent of these attained enlightenment in one lifetime, while those of lesser intelligence attained various bhumis, and everyone else realized, at least the nature of his or her own mind. 

In one of the predictions about Jigten Sumgön, it was said, "A hundred thousand incarnate (Tulku) Great Beings will gather." Here, "Tulku" meant that they would be monks and have prefect discipline, and "Great Beings" meant that they would all be Bodhisattvas. In other life-stories, it is said that in an instant Jigten Sumgön visited all the Buddha-fields, saw Buddhas like Amitabha and Ashobya, and listened to their teachings. Jigten Sumgön himself said that whoever so much as had the chance to go to Layel, in Drikung, would be freed from birth in the lower realms, and that whoever supplicated him - whether from near or far away - would be blessed, and his or her meditation would grow more firm. He also said that all sentient beings living in the mountains of Drikung, even the ants, would not be born again in lower realms. From the essence of the instructions of sutra and tantra, Jigten Sumgön gave teachings which were compiled by his disciple Chenga Sherab Jungne (Chenga Drikung Lingpa) into a text called "Gongchig", which has 150 topics and forty appendices. 

At one time a naga-king named Meltro Zichen went to Drikung for teachings. Jigten Sumgön sent a message to his disciples to remain in seclusion in order that those with miracle powers would not harm the naga and those without such power would not be harmed themselves. The message was received by everyone except the Mahasiddhi Gar Dampa, who was meditating in the depths of a long cave. When the naga arrived, he made a thundering noise which was heard by all including Gar Dampa. Gar Dampa came out of the cave to see what was happening and saw a frightful, dark-blue snake whose length encircled the monastery three times and whose head was peering in the window of the palace. Without examining the situation, he thought the naga was there to harm his guru and thus manifested himself as a giant garuda and chased the naga away. At Rolpa Trang, there is a smooth, clear print left by the garuda when it landed on a rock. Near the river of Kyung-Ngar Gel, there are marks left by both the garuda and the naga. 

A Ceylonese Arhat, a follower of the Buddha, hearing that the Mahapandita Shakya Shri Bhadra was going to Tibet, gave to the Mahapandita's brother a white lotus requesting him to give it to the Mahapandita who in turn would give it to Nagarjuna in Tibet. When Shakya Shri Bhadra arrived in Tibet, he ordained many monks but did not know where to find Nagarjuna. When giving ordination, he would distribute robes and once an ordinary disciple of Jigten Sumgön's approached him for ordination and then asked for a robe but was told that there were none left. He insisted strongly. One of Shakya Shri Bhadra's attendants pushed him away; he fell and blood flowed from his nose. Prior to this happening, Shakya Shri Bhadra had always seen Tara in the morning when he recited the Seven-Branch Prayer, but for the six days following this incident she did not show herself. Then, on the seventh day she appeared with her back turned towards him. "What have I done wrong ?" he asked her. "Your attendant beat a disciple of Nagarjuna," she replied, and brought blood from his nose.". When he asked how he could purify this misdeed, Tara told him,"Make as many Dharma-robes as you have years, and offer them to fully-ordained monks who have no robes." 

Shakya Shri Bhadra then searched for the monk who had been turned away. When he found him and learned the name of his teacher, he realized that Jigten Sumgön was Nagarjuna's incarnation. He sent one of his attendants to offer the white lotus to Jigten Sumgön. In return, Jigten Sumgön sent many offerings of his own and asked that Shakya Shri Bhadra visit Drikung, but the Mahapandita could not go, though he did send many verses of praise. Although Nagarjuna had knowingly taken rebirth as Jigten Sumgön in order to dispel wrong views and was teaching in Tibet, Shakya Shri Pandita saw that there was no need to go see him. 

At this time, many lesser Panditas were visiting Tibet. One of them named Bi Bhuti Chandra, said, "Let us talk with the Kadampas; the followers of Mahamudra tell lies." Shakya Shri Pandita said to him, "Do not say that," and recounted the above story. "Because Jigten Sumgön is a great teacher," he continued, "you should now apologize for having said these things." Bi Bhuti Chandra then went to Drikung, made full apology, and constructed an image of Chakrasamvara at Sinpori Mountain. 

One day, a great scholar by the name of Dru Kyamo came to Drikung from Sakya to debate with Jigten Sumgön. When he saw the guru's face he saw him as the Buddha himself, and his two chief disciples - Chenga Sherab Jungne and Chenga Drakpa Jungne - as with Shariputra and Maudgalyayana. There was no way he could debate with Jigten Sumgön after this. His devotion blossomed fully and he became one of Jigten Sumgön's principle disciples. Later, he was called Ngorje Repa and wrote a text called "Thegchen Tenpai Nyingpo" as a commentary on Jigten Sumgön's teachings. The number of Jigten Sumgön's disciples continued to increase and at one rainy season retreat, 100,000 "morality sticks" were distributed to count the number of monks attending. Not long after this, 2,700 monks were sent to Lachi and equal numbers were sent to Tsari and Mount Kailash, but by the next year 130,000 monks had once again gathered at Drikung. 

Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa came to Drikung after visiting Daklha Gampo. At Bam Thang in Drikung, Jigten Sumgön and his disciples received him warmly. At that time the Karmapa saw Jigten Sumgön as the Buddha, and his two chief disciples as Shariputra and Maudgalyayana surrounded by Arhats. When they returned to the assembly main hall, the Serkhang, the Karmapa again saw Jigten Sumgön as the Buddha, with his two disciples appearing as Maitreya and Manjushri surrounded by Bodhisattvas. Thus, Dusum Khyenpa showed great devotion and received many teachings. He also saw the entire area of Drikung as the Mandala of Chakrasamvara. 

The question arose of who would hold the lineage after Jigten Sumgön's passing. Jigten Sumgön had confidence in many of his disciples, but had thought for a long time that the succession should pass to one of his family clan, the Drugyal Kyura. Since he had been born in Kham, he sent one of his disciples, Palchen Shri Phukpa, to teach the members of his family. Displaying miracles power and proclaiming his guru's reputation, Palchen Shri Phukpa taught Jigten Sumgön's uncle Konchok Rinchen and his uncle's son, Anye Atrak and all the grandsons. When their minds turned and they became attracted, they moved to Central Tibet. Their stories are told in the Golden Rosary of the Drikung Kagyu. 

One day, Jigten Sumgön told his disciple Gar Choling to go to the Soksum Bridge and offer torma to the nagas living in the water. You will receive special wealth," he told him. A naga-king named Sokma Me offered Gar Choling a tooth of the Buddha and three special gems. Generally, it is said that this tooth had been taken by the naga-king Dradrok as an object of devotion. This was the same naga who usually lived in the area of Magadha, but had access to Soksum by way of an underground gate. Gar Choling offered the tooth and gems to Jigten Sumgön, who said, " It is good to return wealth to its owner," indicating that the tooth had once been his own. "As you are wealthy," he continued, "you should make an image of me and put the tooth in its heart." A skilled Chinese artisan was then invited to build the statue, and the tooth was enshrined as a relic. Jigten Sumgön consecrated this statue hundreds of times. It was kept in Serkhang and called Serkhang Choje (Dharma Lord of Serkhang). Its power of blessing was regarded as being equal to that of Jigten Sumgön himself. It spoke to many shrine-keepers, and to a lama named Dawa it taught the Six Yogas of Naropa. Later, when Drikung was destroyed by fire, it was buried in the sand for protection. When the Drikung Kyabgon returned to rebuild the monastery a search was made for the statue, which came out of the sand itself, saying, "I am here." Thus, this image possessed great power. Gar Choling made many other images of Jigten Sumgön during this time. 

Jigten Sumgön was by now growing very old, and could not travel often to Debsa Thel so Chenga Drakpa Jungne was sent there as his Vajra Regent and his activities there were very successful. Under the leadership of Panchen Guya Kangpa, Jigten Sumgön sent 55,525 disciples to stay at Mount Kailash. Under Geshe Yakru Paldrak, 55,525 disciples were sent to Lachi. Under Dordzin Gowoche, 55, 525 were sent to Tsari. Even at the time of Chungpo Dorje Drakpa, the fourth successor to Jigten Sumgön, there were 180,000 disciples at Drikung. 

Once when Jigten Sumgön went to Dorje Lhokar Cave, he said that the cave was too small and so stretched, causing the inside of the cave to expand, leaving the imprint of his clothes on the rock. Because the cave was dark, he pushed a stick through the rock, making a window. He then made shelves in the rock to hold his belongings. All of these can be seen very clearly. In his travels, he left many foot-prints in the four directions of the area of Drikung. 

When Jigten Sumgön fell ill one day, Phagmodrupa appeared to him in a vision and explained a yogic technique by means of which he became well again. To Jigten Sumgön's many disciples, taught according to their need and to some, according to their disposition, he gave instructions in the practice of the Eight Herukas of the Nyingma tradition. 

Towards then end of his life, he predicted a period of decline for the Drikung lineage. Taking a small stick that he used to clean his teeth, he planted it in the ground and said, "When this stick has reached a certain height, I will return." This foretold the coming of Gyalwa Kunga Rinchen, the 15th successor of Jigten Sumgön. Jigten Sumgön then asked Chenga Sherab Jungne to be his successor, but the latter declined out of modesty. Then he asked the Great Abbot, Gurawa Tsultrim Dorje, and he agreed. 

At the age of seventy-five in the year of the Fire-Ox, Jigten Sumgön entered parinirvana in order to encourage lazy ones to the Dharma. His body was cremated on the thirteenth day of the month of Vaishaka. Gods created clouds of offerings and flowers rained from the sky to the level of one's knees. His skull was totally untouched by the fire and his brain appeared as the Mandala of the Sixty-Two Deities of Chakrasamvara. This was as clear as if a skilled artisan had made it. His heart, also untouched by the fire turned to a beautiful golden color. This showed that he was an incarnation of the Buddha himself. Likewise, countless relics appeared. 

After Jigten Sumgön's passing, most of the funerary responsibilities were taken by Chenga Sherab Jungne, even though he earlier declined the succession. He went to Senge Phungpa Mountain to view the Mandala of Chakrasamvara and there saw Jigten Sumgön. Thus he felt that a memorial should be built there. Jigten Sumgön again appeared in a vision on the mountain of the Samadhi Cave and said to him, "Son, do as you wish, but always follow my intention." Then he disappeared. Doing as he wished, Chenga Sherab Jungne built an auspicious Stupa of Many Doors called "Sage, Overpowerer of the Three Worlds." In that stupa, he put Jigten Sumgön's heart and many other relics. Following his guru's intention, he built the stupa "Body-Essence, Ornament of the World," which was made of clay mixed with jewel dust, saffron and various kinds of incense. In that stupa, he put Jigten Sumgön's skull and brain, along with many other relics including the Vinaya texts brought from India by Atisha and the 100,000-Verse Prajnaparamita. 

Jigten Sumgön now abides in the Eastern Great All-Pervading Buddha Field, surrounded by limitless numbers of disciples from this earth who died with a strong devotion to him. When such people die, they will be reborn there immediately and Jigten Sumgön then places his hand gently on their heads, giving blessing and welcoming them there.


Excerpted from 
Prayer Flags: The Life and Spiritual Teachings of Jigten Sumgön by Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen

A Brief History of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism

Introduction to the Kagyu Lineage
The Origin of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage 
Early Developments of the Order (1217-1400)
The Period of Reform (1400-1615) 
The Era of the Chetsang and Chungtsang Rinpoches (1615-present) 


Introduction to the Kagyu Lineage

vaj01The Kagyu (bka' brgyud) lineage is sometimes referred to as the “lineage of oral-instructions”. The “Ka” (bka') of Kagyu refers to the authoritative instructions, precepts or words (Skt. vacana) of the Buddha while “gyu” (brgyud) is the uninterrupted lineage of masters and students. The founder of the Kagyu lineage was the Mahasiddha Tilopa (988-1069), who lived in Northern India. He is considered having received a direct transmission from the primordial Buddha Vajradhara. In this context the Kagyu lineage has originated from the very essence of reality itself and thus transcends all space and time. Viewed from another level of understanding he also had human teachers, from whom he received four special transmissions, The Four Oral Instructions (bka' babs bzhi) for which he became the lineage holder. Some etymologies of the name “Kagyu” consider it as a abbreviation of Lineage of Four Oral Instructions (bka' babs bzhi brgyud pa). When Tilopa's transmission is linked directly to Vajradhara, it is called the "direct transmission" but when it is traced to his human teachers, it is referred to as the "indirect transmission."

Although there is some discrepancy in historical sources regarding the identities of the yoga masters associated with each of the four transmissions, the most common consensus indicates that their origins are as follows: the first of the four came from Lopon Ludrub (slob dpon klu sgrub, Skt. Acarya Nagarjuna) and consists of two tantras, the "Sangwa Dupa" Tantra (gsang ba dus pa, Skt. Guhasamaja) and the tantra called "Denshi" (gden bzhi). This transmission also incorporates the practices called "Illusory Body" (sgyu lus, Skt. Mayadeva) and "Transference" (pho ba, Skt. Samkranti). The second special transmission came from Nakpo Chopa (nag po spyod pa). It includes the tantra called "Gyuma Chenpo" (sgyu ma chen po, Skt. Mahamaya) and the practice called "Conscious Dreaming" (rmi lam, Skt: Svapna). The third special transmission came from Lawapa (la ba pa) and is called "Demchok" or, alternatively, "Khorlo Dompa" (bde mchog, khor lo sdompa, Skt. Chakrasamvara), and the practice called "Clear Light" (odgsal, Skt. Prabhasvara). The fourth was transmitted from Khandro Kalpa Sangmo (mkha gro bskal pa bzangmo) and includes the tantra known as "Gyepa Dorje" (dgyes pa rdo rje, Skt. Hevajra) and the practice called "Tumo" (gtum mo, Skt. Candali). These transmissions form the core of the precepts and secret instructions of the Kagyu lineage that is transmitted from generation to generation, uninterrupted from master to disciples. The contents of the Four Oral Instructions include both the path of means and the path of liberation.

Tilopa01Naropa01These teachings were passed from Tilopa to his disciple, the Mahasiddha Naropa (1016–1100) and they were systematized as the Six Yogas of Naropa, meditations that are considered an essential teaching of the Kagyu lineage. Naropa transmitted his knowledge to Marpa Chökyi Lodrö (1012–1097), the great translator, who journeyed from Tibet to India in order to receive instructions and who subsequently returned to Tibet and spread the teachings of the Dharma widely.

Marpa's most important disciple was Jetsun Milarepa (1040-1123). He became one of Tibet's great yogis. His life story, beginning with difficult circumstances due to his father's early death, his vengeance upon his dishonest aunt and uncle, and his subsequent regret which led to an earnest desire to enter the way of the Dharma, is widely known among Tibetans. Through his perseverance and ability to accept all circumstances which he met, he achieved profound realization of the ultimate nature of reality. His teachings are recorded in the 100,000 songs of Milarepa and other collections.

Milarepa's teachings were carried on by Gampopa (1079-1153), also known as Dakpo Lhaje, the physician from Dakpo. He first studied under the Kadampa tradition, which is a gradual and systematic path. At a later age, he met Milarepa and practicing under him received and realized the true meaning of the complete teachings. Since that time, the lineage has been known as the Dakpo Kagyu. It is from Gampopa that the first Kagyu schools originated: the Karma Kagyu, Tselpa Kagyu, Barom Kagyu, and Phagdru Kagyu.

The founder of the Phagdru Kagyu was Phagmodrupa Dorje Gyalpo (1110–1170), one of Gampopa’s most important disciples. His own lineage died out as a religious institution, while his clan played an important role in the country’s secular governance in the ensuing epoch. Phagmodrupa’s main disciples founded their own lineages, of which only three are still extant: the Drikung Kagyu, Taklung Kagyu, and Drukpa Kagyu.


The Origin of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage


js009Phagmodrupa’s Heart Son, Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön (1143-1217) took over the throne of Phagdru at Densa Thil Monastery for three years after his teacher’s death (1177-1179). He then established his own lineage with the foundation of Drikung Thil Monastery in the area of Drikung, as Phagmodrupa had predicted.

Although Phagmodrupa had countless students, Jigten Sumgön was one of his closest and principal disciples. Phagmodrupa prophesied that a Bodhisattva (Jigten Sumgön), who already attained the ten Bhumis (the stages on the path of a Bodhisattva), would carry on the teachings and blessings. Jigten Sumgön received the complete teachings, secret oral transmissions, explanations and initiations, and enlightened realization blessings, and so forth from Phagmodrupa. In turn Jigten Sumgön transmitted the complete teachings to his chief disciple, Gurawa Tsultrim Dorje (1154-1221). [Read more on the life of Jigten Sumgön]. 

Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön was a descendant from the Kyura clan. As was the custom in many schools of Tibetan Buddhism, Jigten Sumgön chose his successor from among his relatives. Thus, initially all but three Drikung Kagyu throne holders came from the male offspring of the Kyura clan, although there were no set guidelines for the succession among the family members. From the very beginning in Drikung powers were shared; spiritual leadership was reserved to the Denrab (gdan rabs), the throne holder, while secular matters were under the governance of a Gompa (sgom pa), a civil administrator. Both usually were members of the Kyura clan.

In the early years of the order a sub-sect known as the Lhapa Kagyu emerged from one disciple of Jigten Sumgön, named Gyalwa Lhanangpa (1164-1224), but this lineage did not continue for long.


Early Developments of the Order (1217-1400)


Kublai001Several of the early Drikung Denrab attained prominence, among them Chenga Drakpa Jungne (1175–1255), a heart son of Jigten Sumgön, who was entrusted with the leadership of Phagmodrupa’s monastery, Densa Thil. He led the monastery to a new period of flowering and took over the throne of the Drikung in 1235. He guided the order through difficult times with a calm and steady hand. When the Tibetans revolted against Mongolian overlordship and stopped paying tribute, Ogodei (1186–1241), the son and successor of Genghis Khan (1162–1227), ordered a horrific punitive action in 1239. Mongolian troops burned down many monasteries, among them Reting (rwa sgreng), where they slaughtered 500 monks and moved on towards nearby Drikung. The secular ruler of Drikung opposed them, was taken prisoner and was to be killed. It it said that stones rained down from the skies when Drakpa Jungne hastened to the Mongolian forces from Drikung Thil. Perhaps it was just a strong hail-storm. In any event, his courageous intervention resulted in a peace settlement with the Mongolians. The brutal attack on Reting Monastery was evidently meant as a warning to Drikung. But Drikung was spared a confrontation with an uncertain outcome, and rose to become a major power in central Tibet.

Kunga Gyaltsen, later known as Sakya Pandita (1182–1251), concluded a pact with Godan Khan, Ogodei’s general, in which Tibet accepted Mongolian suzerainty and agreed to pay tribute. The settlement that Kunga Gyaltsen had reached with Tibet’s powerful neighbor did not meet with unanimous support in his homeland. Many Tibetan noblemen resisted the demands for tribute. Mongolian troops put down their rebellion with a bloody and crushing defeat in 1251.

Kunga Gyaltsen’s nephew and successor, Phagpa Lodrö (1235–1280), became the spiritual teacher of Khubilai Sechen, Great Khan of the Mongols since 1259, and later of Great Khan Khubilai (1215–1294). Their close contacts with the Mongols enabled the Sakya sect to assume political leadership within Tibet, as the ambitions of the Karma Kagyu to win support of the Mongols were unsuccessful. In 1275, Khubilai Khan gave Phagpa Lodrö the provinces of U and Tsang, as well as Kham and Amdo as feudal fiefdoms. The provinces were divided up into so-called myriarchies, administrative areas theoretically encompassing 10,000 families. When Khubilai became Emperor of China in 1279 and founded the Yuan Dynasty, he conferred on Phagpa Lodrö the title of “Imperial Preceptor.” In this way, for the first time in Tibet, the hierocratic form of government was constituted in a relationship of patronage between the Emperor and his spiritual teacher. 

Resistance to this transformation of the country into feudal fiefdoms began to stir among the Tibetan aristocracy, especially in the provinces of Ü (dbus) and Tsang (gtsang) in central Tibet, closely connected with the Drikung, Phagdru and Karma Kagyu. At the same time, the Mongolian tribes were engaged in struggles over leadership and landed estates among themselves. Drikung had risen to great power by this time. Reports exist that even as early as the rule of the 5th Denrab, Chung Dorje Drakpa (1210–1278), great numbers of monks were streaming to the Drikung monasteries. After the death of the Great Khan Mongke in 1259, Hulagu (ca. 1217–1265), Khubilai’s brother and rival, became the protector of the Drikung Kagyu order and he sent a small Mongolian unit to Drikung for their safety and security.

But soon rival Mongol groups were battling out a dispute among themselves on Tibetan soil that would later go down in history as the war between Drikung and Sakya. This was not a “war of religion,” or a feud between two schools of Tibetan Buddhism, as is often claimed, but rather an attempt on the part of a few provinces of central Tibet to revolt against the overlordship forced on them by Khubilai with support from rival Mongolian groupings. The actual local conflict centered on disputes concerning the succession in Phagmodrupa’s monastery of Densa Thil. Here, branches of familial lines of the Lang clan were pursuing interests that were at variance with each other. One branch was supported by the Sakyapa and the other by the Drikungpa. The war broke out under the 7th throne holder, Tsamche Drakpa Sonam (1238–1286). In 1290, under his successor Nub Chogo Dorje Yeshe (1223–1293), Drikung Thil Monastery was devastated by Mongolian troops. This disaster did not come unexpectedly for the local population. As Dorje Yeshe was not a member of the Kyura clan, but of the Nub clan, he lacked support in difficult times, because of the prevalent view that it was not in accordance with the wishes of the lineage founder for a clan-outsider to occupy the throne of Drikung.

Thil002Drikung Thil was rebuilt under the 9th throne holder, Chunyi Dorje Rinchen (1278–1314), with support from the Emperor and the Sakyapa. But the powerful influence that the monastery had exercised for decades in Tibet was gone. Dorje Rinchen laid down a new rule of three yearly periods for monastic instruction. While primarily philosophical texts of the lineage and the fundamentals of Mahayana Buddhism were taught in spring and autumn, in summer teachings on the Fivefold Path of Mahamudra were given. In winter, wearing only light cotton garments, Dorje Rinchen taught the Six Yogas of Naropa on the great terrace outside the main temple of Drikung Thil.

In the 14th century, the Phagmodrupa assumed secular leadership in central Tibet. Members of the school of Tibetan Buddhism of the same name that was in a state of decline are not being referred to here, but rather the rulers of the Lang clan that was closely associated with the Phagdru order. The central figure of this epoch was Jangchub Gyaltsen (1302–1373), both a skillful politician as well as a monk of the Phagdru Kagyu. He led the country to greater independence and created a new system of administration. His reforms worsened relations with Drikung, leading to armed conflicts with the Phagmodrupa. After initial successes, the Drikungpa were forced to accept a few painful defeats on the battlefield and come to terms with the rule of the Phagmodrupa in northern Ü. Towards the end of Jangchub Gyaltsen’s life, the Drikungpa succeeded in reestablishing the autonomy of their lands. At about this time, a shift in the balance of power was taking place in Asia through the fall of the Yuan Dynasty and the ascent of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) as China’s imperial house. But the Mongols still remained a force that both Tibet and the Ming Emperors had to reckon with. 

In the midst of all this turmoil, Chenga Chökyi Gyalpo (1335–1407), the 11th throne holder, attempted to raise the spiritual level of the Drikung order once again. He had the Kangyur of Narthang and the newly edited version of the Tengyur copied. Tsongkhapa (tsong kha pa, 1357-1419), the founder of the Gelug sect, traveled from Amdo to Drikung in 1373, and became a disciple of Chökyi Gyalpo. His family settled in a village about 40 kilometers away from the monastery. Tsongkhapa received the Drikung teachings on the Six Yogas of Naropa as well as all of the outer and inner texts by Jigten Sumgön.


The Period of Reform (1400-1615)


In the 15th century, the Ming Dynasty recognized the Drikungpa’s renewed and increasing influence and granted the throne holder the honorific title of Ch’an chiao wang that was conferred on the heads of the eight most important schools or monasteries. For two centuries Shigatse in the province of Tsang became the center of power in Tibet, first under the rulers of Rinpung (1436–1566), later under the Tsangpa (1566–1642). Since both noble families supported the Karmapa, the Karma Kagyu advanced to become the most influential school of the epoch.

Two outstanding personalities on the throne of Drikung left their marks in the beginning years of the 16th century: Gyalwang Kunga Rinchen (1475–1527) and his successor Gyalwang Rinchen Phuntsog (1509–1557). Kunga Rinchen was regarded as the reincarnation of Jigten Sumgön. He aspired to improve the quality of spiritual life. Kunga Rinchen dedicated himself intensively to giving transmissions and teachings, and he was also committed to reviving the tradition of retreats. Many of his new disciples, who were streaming to Drikung, were sent by him to do retreats at Mt. Kailash, Tsari and Lapchi. Under his direction, 50 new meditation huts were built at Drikung Thil Monastery. The Kangyur and Tengyur were copied on indigo paper in gold and silver script, while two hundred scribes were involved in the production of the complete texts of the Drikung lineage.

Rinchen Phuntsog, the 17th Drikung Denrab, was a great reformer. After receiving transmissions from various lineages, he integrated doctrines, rituals, and meditational practices above all of the Nyingma order into the traditional Drikung Kagyu teachings, thereby opening up and augmenting its dogmatic orientation. Rinchen Phuntsog discovered the treasure text Gongpa Yangzab in the Kiri Yangdzong Cave in the valley of Terdrom. Rinchen Phuntsog was an assiduous author whose writings are also highly regarded by the Nyingma, and were included in the collection of Nyingma tantras.

Rinchen Phuntsog’s only son, Chogyal Rinchen Phuntsog (1547–1602), was the 21st Denrab on the Drikung throne when Altan Khan (1507–1582), the powerful ruler of the Tumat Mongols, entered into an alliance with Sonam Gyatso (1543–1588) from the Gelugpa sect that was to influence the future course of Tibetan history decisively. The Mongolian ruler conferred the title of Dalai Lama on Sonam Gyatso and accorded him extensive privileges. Sonam Gyatso became the 3rd Dalai Lama because his two predecessors were given the title of Dalai Lama posthumously. As a result of many armed conflicts during the latter part of the 16th century, Chogyal Rinchen Phuntsog had the Drikung Dzong complex expanded into a fortress. 

The first phase of succession to the highest office within the lineage ended with the sons of Chogyal Rinchen Phuntsog. His eldest son, Naro Tashi Phuntsog (1574–1628), called Naro Nyipa (“The second Naropa”), succeeded to the throne, while his younger son, Garwang Chökyi Wangchug (1584–1630), was recognized as the 6th Shamarpa. His two youngest sons, Gyalwang Konchog Rinchen (1590–1654) and Kunkhyen Rigzin Chödrak (1595–1659) became the last heirs to the throne of Drikung; the Kyura lineage died out with them. Upon the death of Konchog Rinchen the Drikungpa began to seek the reincarnations of their throne holders. A system of two lineage holders was established, that of the elder (Chetsang) and the younger (Chungtsang) brother. In the Drikung chronology Konchog Rinchen is considered as the first Chetsang and Rigzin Chödrak as the first Chungtsang. Both bear the title Drikung Kyabgon ('bri gung skyabs mgon).


The Era of the Chetsang and Chungtsang Rinpoches (1615-present)


During the time of the 1st Chetsang Rinpoche, Konchog Rinchen (1590–1655), the Tumat Mongols were claiming rights to Tibetan lands and properties, as the 4th Dalai Lama was a descendant of the Tumat clan. Thus the Drikungpa again found themselves embroiled in armed conflict and the fortress of Drikung Dzong fell to the onslaught of Mongolian troops. The entire region of Drikung lay in such ruin that Konchog Rinchen was unable to live there for a long time. When the Tsangpa king, Phuntsog Namgyal, succeeded in driving back the Mongols, Konchog Rinchen rebuilt Drikung Dzong in a very short time in 1624. He named the new building Namgyal Chodzong. But the warfare continued with the forces of Gushri Khan, the ruler of the Khoshuud, securing power in Central Tibet to the 5th Dalai Lama (1617–1682) with decisive victories against his opponents. The Gelugpa advanced to dominance over the entire country. The Dalai Lama enforced the supremacy of the Gelugpa over the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism, proceeding with especial severity against the Karma Kagyu. In Drikung, nothing remained of countless villages but their names. Monasteries and noble residences fell prey to the depredations of the Mongolian army, as did the recently erected Namgyal Chödzong.

In the midst of this epoch of devastation and ruin, Drikung became famous far and wide as an admired and feared center of magic. This reputation was traceable to the activity of Konchog Rinchen’s brother, the 1st Chungtsang Rinpoche, Rigzin Chödrak. Rigzin Chödrak founded an important school of astrology and divination in Drikung and he was also the founder of the Drikung system of medicine, one of Tibet’s four medical traditions.

Under the 2nd Chetsang, Konchog Thrinle Sangpo (1656–1718), the custom of first enthroning the Kyabgon Rinpoches in Drikung Tse Monastery was introduced. Thrinle Sangpo founded one of the four great schools of painting in Tibet, the so-called Driri style of Drikung. In the Snake Year 1677 he introduced the Snake Year Teachings on the threshing ground of Drikung Tse, where he gave initiations and teachings on the Chakrasamvara and Guhyasamaja tantras. In 1681 he had Yangrigar Monastery completely rebuilt, as it had been largely destroyed by the ceaseless warfare. Today he is regarded as the monastery’s founder. He also started to restore Drikung Dzong amidst the turmoil of another Mongolian invasion in 1717, during which the Dzungars overran Lhasa and burned and plundered numerous Nyingma monasteries. 

Thrinle Sangpo guided the lineage alone for a long time, because the reincarnation of Chungtsang recognized by the 10th Karmapa had died in a smallpox epidemic before he could be brought to Drikung. Thus, it took until 1704 for Chungtsang to reincarnate in Thrinle Döndrup Chögyal (1704–1754). Döndrup Chogyal, who became known under the name Drikung Bhande Dharmarāja, founded several new monasteries. In his work Jewel Treasury of Advice he had summarized the entire structure of the Buddhist path according to both Sutrayana and Tantrayana.

The 3rd Chetsang Konchog Tenzin Drodul’s (1724–1766) life was overshadowed by disputes in his monasteries. He intentionally withdrew from active life and spent almost his entire time in meditation in his room in the palace of Trolung. Tenzin Chökyi Nyima, the 3rd Chungtsang (1755–1792), son of a noble family from Jangyul, also failed to make much headway against this state of affairs, although he made every effort to renovate the monasteries and purify discipline. The 4th Chetsang, Tenzin Peme Gyaltsen (1770–1826), gained fame as the author of a biographical history of the Drikung Kagyu throne holders, Masters of the Golden Rosary Lineage. When the 4th Chungtsang Tenzin Chökyi Gyaltsen (1793–1826) died in the same year as Peme Gyaltsen, it became necessary for a regent, Lhochen Chökyi Lodrö (1801–1859), to guide the lineage.

Konchog Chönyi Norbu (1827–1865), the 5th Chungtsang, and Konchog Thukje Nyima (1828–1885), the 5th Chetsang, were enthroned at the same time on Jigten Sumgön’s red earth throne near Drikung Thil. During their leadership the Sikhs conquered Ladakh and occupied the three provinces of Ngari. The Drikung monasteries in Ladakh and near Mt. Kailash suffered severe damage during these conflicts. Nonetheless the Drikung lineage was in full blossom during this period. Thukje Nyima was considered an exceptionally learned man, and particularly expert in medical matters, but was caught up in intrigues of monastic officials. Eventually Chetsang Thukje Nyima was forced by an intervention of the Tibetan government to abdicate the throne in 1854. As punishment, the golden roof of the temple in Drikung Thil was removed to Lhasa and some estates of the Drikung Kagyupa were confiscated, resulting in acute food shortages. Thukje Nyima set off in secret on pilgrimages to Mt. Kailash from his exile in Tsang, and gave teachings and empowerments in other locations. Five years later he received permission from the Tibetan government to return to Drikung.

When Chungtsang Chönyi Norbu died in 1865, monastic officials began hatching intrigues against Thukje Nyima again. Thukje Nyima was forced to leave his position in Drikung Thil once again and withdrew to Trolung for the rest of his life. Many of his adherents fell into deep despair, while he accepted all obstacles with a wide-open heart filled with bodhicitta and deep serenity. Twice in his lifetime, Thukje Nyima was the victim of defamation and monastic power-games. No doubt this was one of the saddest chapters in the history of the Drikung Kagyu lineage.

shiweThe 6th Chungtsang, Tenzin Chökyi Lodrö (1868–1906), was uncommonly tall and impressive in appearance. He wrote two comprehensive guidebooks to holy places about his pilgrimages to Mt. Kailash and Lapchi. His two scholarly works offer insight into the concept of religious geography in Tibetan Buddhism. During his stay in the Kailash region, he founded the monastic community of Phuntsogling in eastern Ladakh and recognized the 9th reincarnation of Togden Rinpoche as the religious head of the Drikung monasteries in Mangyul (Ladakh). Together with the young 6th Chetsang, Tenzin Shiwe Lodrö (1886–1943), he visited Lhasa in 1893, where the two Kyabgon Rinpoches were bestowed with the Manchurian title of hotogthu. Since that time, the Drikung Kyabgon Rinpoches have always worn the golden hotogthu hat on official journeys, in accordance with an ancient prophecy of the 1st Chungtsang Rigzin Chödrak that in the future he would wear a golden hat. 

Shiwe Lodrö’s main interest lay in integrating meditative practice and philosophical teaching, as these were the central pillars of education and training in the Drikung Kagyu tradition. He also gained great fame on account of his clairvoyant abilities. He arranged for the renovation of Yangrigar Monastery and the addition of a building for storing the wooden blocks used for printing Buddhist texts, and also introduced the first committee in Drikung Thil to improve the monastery administration. However, the poor educational level in his monasteries remained his greatest concern. In 1932, he established the Nyima Changra academy of higher Buddhist studies.

After the untimely death of the 7th Chungtsang, Tenzin Chökyi Jungne (1909–1940), Shiwe Lodrö became heavy-hearted and soon thereafter, on a journey to Kham, he suffered a stroke from which he did not recover. He spent most of his time in meditation until his death. Shiwe Lodrö perished in 1943. Since then Tritsab Gyabra (1924–1979) became the regent. Under his leadership, the present reincarnations of the 8th Chungtsang and the 7th Chetsang Rinpoches were found and enthroned as the 36th and the 37th lineage holder.


The Birth of Buddha
Buddha's Renunciation
In Search of Truth
Turning the Wheel of Dharma
Buddha's Parinirvana
Buddha's Teachings

The Four Noble Truth
Dharma Practice

What is the Mind?
Loving Kindness and Compassion

What is Vajrayana?
Why Practice Vajrayana?
Authentic Vajrayana
Levels of Vajrayana
Attachment and Vajrayana
What to Meditate On
Sitting in Meditation
Preparing for Meditation
The Meditation Session
A Meditation Schedule

The Kagyu Lineage
Meaning of Hung Symbol
Meaning of Drikung
Life Story of Achi
The Three Protectors