Drikung Kagyu

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Drikung Kagyu ('bri gung bka' brgyud)

The Drikung Kagyu, a brief

The Drikung Kagyu lineage (’bri gung) was established by Drikung Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon (’bri gung skyob pa ’jig rten gsum mgon, 1143-1217). Their main seat is the monastery of Drikung Thil (’bri gung thil) in Central Tibet. Within the Drikung Kagyu lineage, existed a sub-sect known as the Lhapa Kagyu (lha pa). This lineage was established by a direct disciple of Jigten Sumgön, by name of Gyalwa Lhanangpa (rgyal ba lha nang pa, 1164-1224). Two masters head the Drikung Kagyu school, the Drikung Chetsang ('bri gung che tshang) and Drikung Chungtsang ('bri gung chung tshang) Rinpoches. Both bear the title Drikung Kyabgön ('bri gung skyabs mgon). The present Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche has established his seat in exile in Dehra Dun/India, while the Drikung Chungtsang Rinpoche remains in Tibet.

Brief History of the Drikung Kagyu Order of Tibetan Buddhism

The Drikung Kayu Order of Tibetan Buddhism is a unique tradition of study and practice transmitted through an unbroken line of enlightened teachers. As the precious teachings of Lord Shakyamuni Buddha were brought into Tibet from the sacred land of India, countless saints and yogis were realized by the perfect understanding and meditation of the precious teachings.

From these innumerable saints, there gradually developed eight great lineages: Nyingma, Kadam, Lamdre, Kagyupa, Shenpa Dhege, Jordru, and Choeyul. From these, the Dhagpo Kagyupa lineage arose from the great Indian saint Tilopa (988-1069 C.E.) who received a direct transmission of the teachings from Vajradhara (Dorje Chang). Tilopa also received the teachings of Mahamudra and the Six Doctrines from Arya Nagarjuna, Charyapa, Lawapa, and Khelwa Sangpo. This particular transmission is known as the Kagyupa Lineage.

The chief disciple of Tilopa was Pandita Naropa (1016-ll00 C.E.) head of the illustrious Nalanda University. Marpa the Translator (1012-1097 C.E.) was Naropa's leading disciple. Maria journeyed extensively, going three times to India and four times to Nepal to bring back the teachings to Tibet. All in all, Marpa received instruction from 108 tantric masters as well as Naropa and Maitreya. Pandita Naropa designated Marpa as his Vajra Regent in Tibet and prophesized that the Mahamudra teachings would greatly flourish there.

Marpa's foremost disciple was Milarepa (1052-1135 CUE.) who is considered the greatest yogi of Tibet. Jetsun Milarepa attained enlightenment in one lifetime. His life's story and 100,000 songs are high points of Tibetan literature and spiritual thought. Milarepa's chief disciple was Gampopa (1079-1153 C.E.). In the Samadhi and Nyinge Pema Karpa Sutras are prophecies concerning Gampopa's coming by Lord Shakyamuni himself. Gampopa embodied the three great lineages of Nagarjuna (Profound View Lineage), Asanga (All-Encompassing Action Lineage) and Tilopa (Blessed Meditation Lineage.) As a result of this phenomenal achievement, the Dhagpo Kagyu Lineage came into being as well as the Phagdru Kagyu, Kamtsang Kagyu, and Barong Kagyu Lineages. From among Gampopa's numerous disciples, there came forth Phagdru Dorje Gyalpo.

From him came the eight Kagyu lineages: Drikung Kagyu, Talung Kagyu, Trubo, Lingre, Maerpa, Yelpa, Yasang, and Shugsib. Among Phagdru Dorje Gyalpo's disciples. the chief disciple was Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon Ratnashri (1143-1217 C.E.), known also as "Drikung Kyobpa." Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon Ratnashri was the Vajra Regent of the Buddha himself in the Northern Hemisphere. Of him the Buddha once said:

"In the Northern Hemisphere, amongst the snowy ranges, a Ratnashri will come forth. This extraordinary being. acquiring world-wide fame, will greatly further my Teachings."
(Yeshe Yongsukyepa Sutra)

"The fountain-head place of Dharma names Drikung will produce Ratnashri born in the hog year. He will be surrounded by a million-strong host of disciples and upon his death he will enter the Ngongai Buddha Fields. There he will be called the "Perfect White Buddha."
(Ghongdhu Sutra)

In twenty Sutras and Tantras there occur similar prophecies about Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon Ratnashri. Among Lord Buddha Shakyamuni's contemporaries was Letsabe who incarnated four hundred years later as Arya Nagarjuna and later still as Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon Ratnashri. The Singalese Arahata Bhikshu and Green Tara told Mahapandita Sakya Shri Bapara that Ratnashri was the reincarnation of Arya Nagarjuna.

So it came to pass that in Eastern Tibet in the 12th century (C.E.) Ratnashri was born to Naljor Dorje and Rakshesatsun. At the age of 25 he met Phagmo Drupa and received all the teachings of Sutras and Tantras. At the time of Phagmo Drupa's death, a congregation of disciples witnessed a miraculous transference of a golden dorje of light from the heart of Phagmo Drupa to the heart of Ratnashri. After 7 years meditation in the Achung cave in central Tibet, Ratnashri attained enlightenment at the age of 35. He then received the Bhikshu ordination and his fame began to spread throughout Tibet.

At the age of 37 he established the main seat of Drikung, which he named Changchubling . Here he emphasized the importance of moral discipline and Bodhicitta as the basis of Buddha's teachings. Since his mind was one with the mind of all Buddhas, he was able to guide all Bodhisattvas and sentient beings according to the degree of their receptivity and understanding.

When the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, visited Drikung, he saw Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon Ratnashri as the Buddha himself and, developing great faith in him, received his teachings. The kings of India, China. and Tibet all recognized him and Maldrozichen, a king of the Nagas, offered to maintain the growing number of disciples at Drikung. Thus Drikung reached to the heights of spiritual and academic excellence. Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon sent many disciples to the sacred places such as Mount Kailas, Lache (near Nepal), and Tsari (near Arunachal Pradesh). Thus the Drikung Kagyu became the keepers of these holy places. It was in his 76th year that he experienced Mahaparinirana.

Now over eight hundred years have passed since the establishment of the Drikung Kagyu order. From the great Abbot, Khenchen Gurawa Tsultrim Dorje until the present, there have been 37 successive teachers who comprise the golden chain of the Drikung Kagyu lamas.