The Drikung Kagyu tradition

The Drikung Kagyu tradition is one of the branches of the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, which dates back to the Indian Mahasiddha Tilopa (988-1069). Tilopa is believed to have received a direct transmission from the primordial Buddha Vajradhara. His disciple Pandita and Mahasiddha Naropa (1016-1100), the abbot of the Nalanda Monastery University, transmitted the teachings to the Tibetan translator Marpa Chökyi Lodrö (1012-1097), who brought them to his homeland. His most important disciple was Milarepa (1040-1123), whose fame as a realized yogi spread throughout Tibet. Milarepa's disciple Gampopa (1079-1153) marked the origin of the first Kagyu schools, such as the Phagdru Kagyu, which was founded by his heart disciple Phagmodrupa Dorje Gyalpo (1110-1170), whose heart disciples in turn founded eight lineages of their own. One of his heart disciples, Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon (1143-1217), took over Phagmodrupa's throne in Densa Thil (1177-1179) for three years after his death. In 1179, Jigten Sumgon founded the Drikung Thil monastery and thus established the Drikung Kagyu tradition.

Over time, the tradition spread and Drikung monasteries were established far away from the main monastery, many around Mount Kailash as far as Ladakh, many in Kongpo and especially in eastern Tibet, in Kham, the home of Jigten Sumgon. From Jigten Sumgon to the present day, there have been 37 successive lineage holders. The current lineage holders are Tenzin Chökyi Nangwa, the 8th Drikung Kyabgon Chungtsang, and Tenzin Tinley Lhundup, the 7th Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang.

The central practice of the tradition is the Fivefold Path of Mahamudra. The most important works are The Single Intention, a compilation of around 200 vajra-statements by Jigten Sumgon on the authoritative intention underlying all of the Buddha's teachings, and The Essence of the Mahayana Teachings, an overview of the entire gradual path to Buddhahood by his heart disciple Ngorje Repa (1161-1211).

More detailed information about the development of the lineage and about the lineage founder Jigten Sumgon is available on the official international website of the Drikung Kagyu lineage. Books on the life stories of the Kagyu masters (The Great Kagyu Masters) and the lineage holders (Masters of the Golden Rosary Lineage). The life story of Jigten Sumgon Scintillation of the Precious Vajra and the first translations of his profound works into Western languages have been published by Edition Garchen Stiftung, among others.



His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chungtsang

His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chungtsang, the 36th throne holder is a manifestation of Manjushri and the 8th reincarnation of Chungtsang Rinpoche. Drikung Kyabgon Chungtsang, Tenzin Chokyi Nangwa, was born in Lhokha in 1942. He was recognized as the 8th reincarnation of Chungtsang Rinpoche in 1946 and enthroned at Drikung Thil Monastery. He began his spiritual training at the age of eight, learning from respected lamas of the Kagyu tradition, particularly from Tritsab Gyabra, Ayang Thubten and Lho Bongtrul Rinpoche.

However, after the Tibetan uprising in 1959, Chungtsang Rinpoche was indoctrinated by the communists, mistreated, and imprisoned. Chungtsang Rinpoche spent 23 years in Chinese prison. In the course of China's political liberalization in 1983, he was released from prison and given a position in the Regional People's Congress.

In 1985, Drikung Kyabgon Chungtsang was allowed to travel to India for the first time, where he visited the Drikung monasteries in Ladakh and met Chetsang Rinpoche there again after 26 years. In 1992 he was allowed to leave Tibet for the second time. Chungtsang Rinpoche attended the inauguration ceremony of the Jangchubling Monastery of the Drikung Kagyu Institute in Dehradun, India. During this time, Chungtsang Rinpoche was promoted to Deputy Secretary General of the "Office of Religious Affairs" in Lhasa. He still holds this position today. On May 21, 2015, he was appointed Vice President of the Buddhist Association of China.

For more detailed biographical information, please visit the official international website of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage.


His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Tinley Lhundup

His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Tinley Lhundup, the 37th throne holder of the Drikung Kagyu lineage, is a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig). Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, Konchog Tenzin Kunsang Tinley Lhundup, was born in Lhasa in 1946 and recognized as the reincarnation of the 6th Chetsang Rinpoche at the age of four. He initially received his education in Drikung Thil, the main monastery of the Drikung Kagyu tradition in central Tibet. Due to the political unrest, His Holiness fled to Nepal alone on foot in 1975 and eventually reached India.

After being symbolically enthroned again in Dharmasala by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and spending some time in the USA learning English, His Holiness returned to India in 1978 and made it his mission to rebuild and revitalize the Drikung Kagyu Lineage. To this end, he underwent intensive meditation retreats and studied under many eminent Lamas of various traditions, focusing on the teachings of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage. In Dehradun, he gradually constructed a new monastic complex which became his Drikung Kagyu seat in exile consisting of the Drikung Kagyu Monastery Jangchub Ling, the Nunnery Samtenling, the Songtsen Library and the Kagyu College.

Since then, His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Tinley Lhundup has traveled the world with great dedication to spread and strengthen the precious Drikung tradition. To this end, His Holiness His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Tinley Lhundup has also established Dharma centers in India and abroad. His Holiness is an avid historian, environmentalist, and a passionate advocate for world peace.

The life and work of His Holiness His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Tinley Lhundup is described in detail in the biography by Elmar R. Gruber: From the Heart of Tibet.


His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche

His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche, Gar Konchog Nyedon Tenpei Nyima, was born in 1936 in Nangchen, Eastern Tibet, and was recognized as the 8th incarnation of Garchen Rinpoche. His incarnation lineage goes back to Gardampa Chodingpa (1180-1240), a heart disciple of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon. Garchen Rinpoche studied and practiced the Dharma under many of the highest Lamas of the Drikung Lineage. His three-year retreat was interrupted shortly before its completion by the political turmoil in Tibet. He spent the next 20 years in Chinese prison, where he met the great Dzogchen master Khenpo Munsel, who gave him many essential teachings and pith instructions.

Since his release in 1979, Garchen Rinpoche has worked tirelessly to restore, preserve, and spread the Buddhist teachings in Tibet and later throughout the world. He has founded numerous centers in America, Europe and Asia, and is the spiritual director of the Drikung Garchen Institute in Munich and patron of the Milarepa Retreat Center in Schneverdingen. In 2020, Rinpoche retired to the Garchen Buddhist Institute in Arizona to look after his health.

Garchen Rinpoche is one of the most important contemporary Buddhist masters and one of the highest Lamas of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage. He is an outstanding master of Mahamudra and Dzogchen practice, and spontaneously and directly imparts the profound practice of a yogi. One of his greatest heartfelt concerns is teaching the 37 Bodhisattva Practices.

For more information on Garchen Rinpoche's life story click here.