Drikung Kagyu

Drikung Kagyu Lineage

Drikung (also spelled “Drigung” and less commonly, “Drikhung”) Kagyu is a lineage of Tibetan Buddhism that emphasizes the primacy of practice leading to a direct realization of the nature of reality. Practice here is understood as an integrated and holistic approach that includes learning, reflection or contemplation and meditation. While recognizing the importance of having a core group of scholar-teachers who are well schooled in the exposition and transmission of Dharma, the majority of others are encouraged to simply take the essential teachings to heart and practice them with devotion. In traditional terms, practice is said to consist of the three aspects of View, Meditation and Conduct. The unique View of Drikung Kagyu is found in the special teachings ofKyobpa Jigten Sumgön known as Gongchig or the Single Intent. As for Meditation, along with other Kagyu lineages, Drikung Kagyu considers Mahamudra (as taught by Gampopa and his sucessors) as the “path of liberation” and the “Six Dharmas of Naropa” as the “path of method” and generally advocates a holistic practice that integrates both of these paths. Drikung Kagyu specializes in the system of Mahamudra known as the “Five-fold Path” (ngaden) or the “Path in Five Parts.” The five parts refer to bodhicitta, deity-yoga, guru-yoga, actual mahamudra and dedication. Finally ”the oneness of Mahamudra and moral-ethics” succinctly expresses Drikung Kagyu teachings on Conduct.


As a distinct lineage, Drikung Kagyu can be said to have originated in the year 1179 when Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön established Drikung Thil Ogmin Jangchub Ling in Drikung Valley, some 120 kilometers northeast of Lhasa. Within his own lifetime, tens of thousands of disciples gathered around Jigten Sumgön in Drikung. The lineage continued to grow and expand rapidly in the years following Jigten Sumgön’s passing. At one point, there was even a saying among Tibetans that if one were to make a pilgrimage to Central Tibet, it was best to save Drikung Thil for last since seeing Drikung Thil first would render all other monasteries and sites insignificant. Referring to those periods of flourish, Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Taye, wrote that “all the mountains are filled with Drigung hermits and all the valleys are filled with Drigung patrons.” At the same time, like many other monasteries in Tibet, Drigung also suffered periods of decline and destruction – the most devastating probably being the complete destruction in 1290 and the total devastation post-1959. But regardless of the ups and downs, the pure transmission of the lineage was kept intact so that to this day, led by the two throne-holders, Drikung Kagyu teachers are practicing and transmitting the precious teachings of the lineage throughout the world.For an excellent and authoritative account of the history of Drikung Kagyu, please visit the offical website of Drikung Kagyu.

Lord Jigten Sumgon

Lord Jigten Sumgon  (Sanskrit; Ratna Shri) (1143-1217) is the embodiment of the Buddha of the Three Times and a reincarnation of Arya Nagarjuna. He belonged to one of the highest Tibetan clans, the Kyura family, known as the Miu Dhondruk clan.  He appeared at an auspicious time and place acting as an inspiration to those determined to be free of samsara. Early in his life he met with great masters, received all aspects of the teachings, and eventually encountered Lord Phagmodrupa, from whom he received the complete lineage teachings. To integrate these within his mind he practiced day and night until he attained Buddhahood in the Echung Cave at the age of thirty-five.

[In] 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.

At the request of humans and non-humans he established a monastery at Drikung Thil (1179) thus becoming the founder of the Drikung Kagyu order. His teachings were geared to his hearers’ through cultural differences and dogma, revealing the universal law of causes and conditions. Though he had hundreds of disciples, he never excluded any beings from his heart, wishing only to dispel their suffering and establish them in freedom from samsara. The embodiment of wisdom and compassion, he cut the link of their negative propensities. Lord Jigten Sumgon wrote many commentaries and explanations, especially the four volumes known as Inner Profound Teachings, in which he gives meditation instruction and advice. One of his foremost works, the Gong Chik, contains all the essential aspects of Vinaya discipline, Bodhicitta, and Tantra. This text has many commentaries, both in detail and concise, by such masters as Sherab Jungne, who was Lord Jigten Sumgon’s own disciple, the 8th Karmapa, the Fourth Shamarpa, and Drikung Dharmakirti.

Current throne-holders

Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön was succeded by 21 throne-holders and all but three were members of the Kyura family, Jigten Sumgön’s paternal lineage. While many of these throne-holders were emanations of bodhisattvas and mahasiddhas, the tulku-system of succession did not begin in Drikung Kagyu until the 17th century. The passing of the 24th throne-holder, Vidyadhara Rigzin Chodrak (1626-1659) also marked the end of the Kyura lineage. From that point on, the Chetsang and Chungtsang tulkus assumed the position of throne-holder of Drikung. These two lineages of tulkus were prophesied by Jigten Sumgön as the bodhisattva reincarnations, benefiting beings like the sun and moon. Kyabgön Chetsang is the sun-like bodhisattva, the supreme emanation of the Buddha of Compassion while Kyabgön Chungtsang is the moon-like bodhisattva, the supreme emanation of the Buddha of Wisdom. The current Kyabgön Chungtsang – the 36th throne-holder is the 8th incarnation while Kyabgön Chetsang – the 37th throne-holder is the 7th incarnation.