Shangpa Lineages Outline

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This outline of the Shangpa Kagyu lineages is based in part on the research of E. Gene Smith, Nicole Riggs and Michael Pahlke, as well as some research of my own. (Well, at least this is how it started out. By now the majority of the information here is of my own research. But I'm very grateful to my predecessors work which provided easy starting points from which to take things further. I feel I'm not quite done yet.) Tibetan sources: Jamgon Kongtrul's shes bya kun khyab mdzod, his gsan yig chen mo (compiled by Kongtrul's student Khedrub Tashi Chöphel), shangs pa gser 'phreng, shangs pa bka' brgyud bla rabs kyi rnam thar, dpal ldan shangs pa bka' brgyud gyi gser chos rin po che'i mdzod yongs su phye ba'i dkar chag bai durya'i lde'u mig, dpal ldan shangs pa'i chos skor gyi 'byung khungs yid kyi mun sel, sgrub brgyud shing rta chen po brgyad kyi smin grol snying po phyogs gcig bsdus pa gdams ngag rin po che'i mdzod kyi dkar chag bkra shis grags pa'i rgya mtsho and the deb ther sngon po.

The Seven Jewels of the Shangpa Kagyu (shangs pa rin chen rnam bdun):

Until then the full Shangpa transmissions were, as commanded by Niguma, given from the lineage holding master to only a single student. It fell then to Sangye Tönpa to disseminate the transmissions more widely, and he gave the full lineage transmission to his two main students:

  • Khedrub Tsangma Shangtön (mkhas grub gtsang ma shangs ston, 1234-1309), who originated the Jonang transmission of the Shangpa, the Thanglug and Jagpa lineages.
  • Khetsün Shönu Drub (mkhas btsun gzhon nu grub, d.1319), who originated the Nyangme Samding lineage.

Jonang (jo nang) transmission of the Shangpa - originated with Khedrub Tsangma Shangtön (1234-1309)

These seven masters, from Khedrub Tsangma Shangtön to Gyagom Legpa Gyaltsen, are often referred to as the Later Seven Jewels of the Shangpa Kagyu (shangs pa rin chen rnam bdun phyi ma).

  • Jetsün Kunga Drölchog (rje btsun kun dga' grol mchog, 1507-1566)
  • Kunga Palzang (kun dga' dpal bzang, 1513-1593)
  • Chöku Lhawang Dragpa (chos sku lha dbang grags pa)
  • Doring Önpo Kunga Gyaltsen (rdo ring dbon po kun dga' rgyal mtshan)
  • Jetsün Tāranātha (rje btsun tA ra nA tha, 1575-1635)
  • Jetsün Yeshe Gyatso (rje btsun ye shes rgya mtsho)
  • Jampa Yönten Gonpo (byams pa yon tan mgon po)
  • Jalü Gönpo Paljor ('ja' lus mgon po dpal 'byor)
  • Drubchog Gönpo Dragpa (grub mchog mgon po grags pa)
  • Khyabdag Gönpo Namgyal (khyab bdag mgon po rnam rgyal)
  • Kathok Rigdzin Tshewang Norbu (kah thog rig 'dzin tshe dbang nor bu, 1698-1755)
  • Gyalwang Drugpa Thrinle Shingta (rgyal dbang 'brug pa phrin las shing rta, 1718-1766)
  • Mokchokpa Kunga Geleg Palbar (rmog lcog pa kun dga' dge legs dpal 'bar)
  • Kunga Lhündrub Gyatso (kun dga' lhun grub rgya mtsho)
  • Drubchog Kagyü Tendzin (grub mchog bka' brgyud bstan 'dzin)
  • Chokzig Karma Lhagtong (mchog gzigs karma lhag mthong)
  • Karma Shenpen Öser (karma gzhan phan 'od zer)
  • Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye ('jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha' yas, 1813-1899)

Thanglug (thang lugs) - originated with Khedrub Tsangma Shangtön (1234-1309), but called after Thangtong Gyalpo (1361-1485?)

Jagpa ('jag pa) - originated with Khedrub Tsangma Shangtön (1234-1309), named after the monastery Jag Chungpal ('jag chung dpal) which he established

  • Jagpa Gyaltsen Bum ('jag pa rgyal mtshan 'bum, 1261-1334)
  • Jagchen Jampa Pal ('jag chen byams pa dpal, 1310-1391)
  • Lodrö Kunga Pal (blo gros kun dga' dpal)
  • Drubchen Rindzongpa Wangchuk Gyaltsen (grub chen rin rdzong pa dbang phyug rgyal mtshan, b.1317)
  • Drubthob Chöjung Rinchen (grub thob chos 'byung rin chen, 1351-1408)
  • Lapchiwa Namkha Gyaltsen (la phyi ba nam mkha' rgyal mtshan, 1372-1437)
  • Duldzin Ngawang Gyaltsen ('dul 'dzin ngag dbang rgyal mtshan)
  • Namkha Samdrub Gyaltsen (nam mkha' bsam grub rgyal mtshan, 1408–1462)
  • Khetsün Chöje (mkhas btsun chos rje)
  • Sönam Chödrub (bsod nams chos grub)
  • Rabjam Chöje Könsam (rab 'byams chos rje dkon bsam)

Nyangme Samding (nyang smad bsam sdings) - originated with Khetsün Shönu Drub (d.1319), named after the Samding monastery in lower Nyang, where Shönu Drub made his seat

  • Serlingpa Tashi Pal (gser gling pa bkra shis dpal, 1292-1365)
  • Dragpo Chewa Dorje Pal (brag po che ba rdo rje dpal)
  • Chögowa Chöpal Sherab (chos sgo ba chos dpal shes rab)


The Jagpa lineage seems to have split up into three distinct sub-lineages which were continued for some time, also known as the "'jag lugs bka' babs gsum." Mostly transmitted among Sakyapa masters, and eventually reaching the famous Sakyapa historian Jamgön Amnye Zhab Ngawang Kunga Sönam, the youngest son of the 26th Sakya Tridzin, who himself became the 28th Sakya Tridzin, it first begins, as mentioned above, with Jagpa Gyaltsen Bum and then continues through:


  • Jagchen Jampa Pal ('jag chen byams pa dpal, 1310-1391)
  • Jamyang Lodrö Palzang ('jam dbyang blo gros dpal bzang)
  • Jagchen Kunga Palzang ('jag chen kun dga dpal' bzang)
  • Gandenpa Chögyal Palzang (dga' ldan pa chos rgyal dpal' bzang)
  • Thrulshik Je (khrul zhig rje, 1399-1473)
  • Kushang Khyenrab Chöje (sku zhang mkhyen rab chos rje, 1436–1494)
  • Doringpa Künzang Chökyi Nyima (rdo ring pa kun bzang chos kyi ny ima, 1449–1524)
  • Tsharpa Chöje Losal Gyatso (tshar pa chos rje blo gsal rgya mtsho, 1502–1566)
  • Jamyang Khyentse Wangchuk (jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse’i dbang phyug, 1524–1568)
  • Wangchuk Rabten (dBang phyug rab rten, 1559–1636)
  • Sakya Yongdzin Ngawang Chödrag (sa skya yongs ’dzin ngag dbang chos grags, 1572–1641)
  • Jamgön Amnye Zhab Ngawang Kunga Sönam ('jam mgon a myes zhabs ngag dbang kun dga’ bsod nams, 1597–1662)


The second continues from Jagchen Kunga Palzang on via:

  • Sönam Zangpo (bsod nams bzang po)
  • Kalzang Sangye (skal bzang sangs rgyas)
  • Doringpa Künzang Chökyi Nyima (rdo ring pa kun bzang chos kyi ny ima, 1449–1524)

And on as above, to Amnye Zhab Ngawang Kunga Sönam.


The third lineage originated with the abovementioned Khedrub Tsangma Shangtön, and continues via:

  • Müchen Gyaltsen Palsang (mus chen rgyal mtshan dpal bzang)
  • Khedrub Dorje Shönu (mkhas grub rdo rje gzhon nu)
  • Müchen Namkhe Naljor (mtsan ldan nam mkha'i rnal 'byor)
  • Könchok Gyaltsen (dkon mchog rgyal mtshan, 1388–1469)
  • Sangye Palzang (sangs rgyas dpal bzang)
  • Chögyal Tashi (chos rgyal bkra shis)
  • Thrulshik Jampa Sherzang (’khrul zhig byams pa sher bzang)
  • Tsharpa Chöje Losal Gyatso (tshar pa chos rje blo gsal rgya mtsho, 1502–1566)

And on as above, to Amnye Zhab Ngawang Kunga Sönam.


The Nyangme Samding lineage seems to have been continued from Chögowa Chöpal Sherab through the abovementioned Thrulshik Je and so on. And then there is another very obscure lineage, the name of which I have only come across once, the Dechen lineage (bde chen lugs), which, as far as I could trace it, goes from Khedrub Tsangma Shangtön via:

  • Khyungpo Tsültrim Gönpo (khyung po tshul khrims mgon po)
  • Ritrö Rechen Sangye Senge (ri khrod ras chen sangs rgya seng ge)
  • Sangye Dorje (sangs rgyas rdo rje)
  • Tharpa Palzang (thar pa dpal bzang)
  • Sangye Namgyal (sangs rgyas rnam rgyal)
  • Jamyang Khyentse Wangchuk (jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse’i dbang phyug, 1524–1568)

And on as above, to Amnye Zhab Ngawang Kunga Sönam.


Seeing how these transmissions continued mainly within the Sakyapa school, it seems likely that they eventually came down to Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and were then transmitted to Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye.

Another lineage as it followed in the special tradition of Thangtong Gyalpo is found in a collection of liturgical texts for monks of the Chagzampa tradition (lcag zam lugs kyi chos spyod). It differs slightly from the one given above. All masters up to Thangtong Gyalpo himself and his immediate lineage holder Lodrö Gyaltsen, as well as Gyurme Dechen and his student Ngawang Chödrag are well known. Some of the others still need to be researched. Just, for completeness sake, to give the names of the masters of this lineage:

  • Buddha Vajradhara (sangs rgyas rdo rje 'chang)
  • Jnanadakini Niguma (ye shes mkha' 'gro ni gu ma)
  • Khedrub Khyungpo Naljor (mkhas grub khyung po rnal 'byor)
  • Incomparable Rinchen Tsöndrü (myam med rin chen brtson 'grus)
  • Öntön Kyergangpa (dbon ston skyer sgang pa)
  • Nyentön Bäpe Naljor (gnyen ston sbas pa'i rnal 'byor)
  • Protector of Beings Sangye Tönpa ('gro dgon sangs rgyas ston pa)
  • Jagchungpa Tsangma Shangtön ('jag chung pa gtsang ma shangs ston)
  • Müchen Gyaltsen Palzang (mus chen rgyal mtshan dpal bzang)
  • Lama Dorje Zhönnu (bla ma rdo rje gzhon nu)
  • Tsenden Namkha'i Naljor (mtshan ldan nam mkha'i rnal 'byor)
  • Jangsem Jinpa Zangpo (byang sems sbyin pa bzang po)
  • Drubchen Thangtong Gyalpo (grub chen thang stong rgyal po)
  • Gyüdzin Lodrö Gyaltsen (brgyud 'dzin blo gros rgyal mtshan)
  • Khedrub Palden Darpo (mkhas sgrub dpal ldan dar po)
  • Jetsün Sönam Tsemo (rje btsun bsod nams rtse mo)
  • Kalzang Gyurme Dechen (skal bzang 'gyur med bde chen)
  • Jamyang Ngawang Chödrag ('jam dbyangs ngag dbang chos grags)
  • Ngawang Sönam Gyaltsen (ngag dbang bsod nams rgyal mtshan)
  • Ngawang Tenpa Rabgyä (ngag dbang bstan pa rab rgyas)
  • Drinchen Sönam Chöpel (drin chen bsod nams chos 'phel)
  • Kunga Legpa Jungne (kun dga' legs pa'i 'byung gnas)
  • Drubchog Namdrol (grub mchog rnam grol mtshan can)


Some transmissions of the Jagpa lineage certainly continue within the Gelugpa school, on account of Tsongkhapa Lobsang Dragpa (tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa, 1357-1419) having been a student of Jagchen Jampa Pal. We also read in Tsongkhapa's biography that he received the cycle of teachings of Sukhasiddhi from a master named Jetsün Namkhe Naljor. That might have been the above listed Müchen Namkhe Naljor, who was a teacher of Jangsem Jinpa Sangpo, from whom Thangtong Gyalpo received the Shangpa transmissions before his legendary encounter with Niguma herself. Tsongkhapa's close student Khedrub Je Geleg Palsang (mkhas grub rje dge legs dpal bzang, 1385-1438) wrote on Shangpa materials, and we know that Panchen Chökyi Gyaltsen (pan chen chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1402-1473), Drubchen Chökyi Dorje (grub chen chos kyi rdo rje, 15th cent.) and Ensapa Lobsang Döndrub (dben sa blo bzang don grub, 1504-1566) also received and transmitted the lineage. So did the 2nd Dalai Lama Gendun Gyatso (dge 'dun rgya mtsho, 1475-1542) and the great 18th century Gelugpa masters Changkya Rolpe Dorje (lcang skya rol pa'i rdo rje, 1717-1786) and Thu-ukvan Lobsang Chökyi Nyima (thu'u bkwan blo bzang chos kyi nyi ma, 1737-1802) as well as others. Taranatha however, in his supplementary instruction manual on the Six Doctrines of Niguma, the "gzhung khrid ma mo'i lhan thabs", vehemently criticizes the writings of Gendun Gyatso on these same Six Doctrines as inauthentic and as "false creations" which merely serve to deceive fools with no knowledge of the dharma.

Another master from whom both Je Tsongkhapa, as well as his student Khedrub Geleg Zangpo, received Shangpa transmissions, was the incomparable Namkhai Naljor, who in all likely hood is the same as Müchen Namkhai Naljor. This lineage was received by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo from Kachen Lobzang Geleg in Tashi Lhünpo in Central Tibet and passed on by him to Jamgön Kongtrul. This lineage is as follows:

  • Nyamme Namkhai Naljor (mnyam med nam mkha'i rnal 'byor, 14th cent.)
  • Je Tsongkhapa (chos kyi rgyal po tsong kha pa chen po, 1357-1419)
  • Khedrub Geleg Palzangpo (mkhas grub dge legs dpal bzang po, 1385-1438)
  • Panchen Chökyi Gyaltsen (paN chen chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1402-1473)
  • Drubchen Chökyi Dorje (grub chen chos kyi rdo rje, 15th cent.)
  • Gyalwa Lobzang Döndrub (rgyal ba blo bzang don 'grub, 1504-1566)
  • Khedrub Sangye Yeshe (mkhas grub sangs rgyas ye shes, 1525-1591)
  • Panchen Lobzang Chökyi Gyalsten (paN chen blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1570-1662)
  • Dorje Dzinpa Könchog Gyaltsen (rdo rje 'dzin pa dkon mchog rgyal mtshan, 1612-1687)
  • Kyishod Ngawang Tendzin Thrinle (kyid shod ngag dbang bstan 'dzin phrin las, 1639-1682)
  • Je Lobzang Chöphel (rje blo bzang chos 'phel, 17/18th cent.)
  • Je Lobzang Dargye (rje blo bzang dar rgyas, 17/18th cent.)
  • Je Lobzang Jinpa (rje blo bzang sbyin pa, 1663-1737)
  • Je Ngawang Chogden (rje ngag dbang mchog ldan, 1677-1751)
  • Künkhyen Rolpe Dorje (kun mkhyen rol pa'i rdo rje, 1717-1786)
  • Jetsün Könchog Dechen (rje btsun dkon mchog bde chen, 1728-1791)
  • Jamyang Thubten Nyima ('jam dbyangs thub bstan nyi ma, 1779-1862)
  • Jamgön Döndrub Gyaltsen ('jam mgon don 'grub rgyal mtshan, 18/19th cent.)
  • Kachen Lobzang Geleg (ka chen blo bzang dge legs, 19th cent.)
  • Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo ('jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse'i dbang po, 1820-1892)
  • Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye ('jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha' yas, 1813-1899)


Whether the full transmission has been received and continues to be transmitted or not is an open question. We know however that both the practice of the Six-armed Mahakala as well as the Six Doctrines of Niguma continue to practiced by Gelugpa practitioners to the present day.

To convey just a vague idea of how widespread the Shangpa teachings and transmissions were at a time, let's just look at a few masters in whose biographies it is mentioned that they had either received, transmitted or practiced these teachings. Some of them are very illustrious and famous masters, who are otherwise hardly ever mentioned in the same sentence with the Shangpa Kagyu lineage:

Lorepa Wangchuk Tsöndrü (lo ras pa dbang phyug brtson 'grus, 1187-1250), aka Gyalwa Lorepa, received the Six Doctrines of Niguma from Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje (gtsang pa rgya ras ye shes rdo rje, 1161-1211). Both were eminent early Drugpa Kagyu masters.

A master named Shangtön Gyawo (zhang ston rgya bo, 1292-1370), one of the fourteen main students of the incomparable Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (dol po pa shes rab rgyal mtshan, 1292-1361) received the Shangpa transmissions from Dolpopa himself.

Drikung Lotsawa Manikashrijnana ('bri gung lo tsA ba, 1289-1363), another student of Dolpopa's, received the Six Doctrines of Niguma from the then throneholder of Drikung monastery ('bri gung gdan rab) who is not further named, but would have been the 9th Drikung throne-holder Dorje Rinchen ('bri gung gdan rab rdo rje rin chen, 1278–1314).

Lama Püntsok Palzang (bla ma phun tshogs dpel bzang, 1304-1377) also a student of Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen, received the Six Doctrines of Niguma from a Togden Drakseng (rtogs ldan grags seng) at Tshurpu monastery, which of course hints at an early Karma Kagyu connection. This was at the time of the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (rang byung rdo rje, 1284-1339).

Tangpoche Kunga Bum (thang po che kun dga' 'bum, 1331-1402) received the Shangpa transmissions from a master Yeshe Pal (ye shes dpal).

Drubchen Kunga Lodrö (grub chen kun dga' blo gros, 1365-1443) is known to have taught the doctrines of both Niguma and Sukhasiddhi.

Drungchen Khachöpa Namkha Gyaltsen (drung chen mkha' spyod pa nam mkha' rgyal mtshan, 1370-1433) received the Shangpa transmissions from a Lama Sangye Gyaltsab (sangs rgyas rgyal mtshab)

Jamyang Könchok Zangpo ('jam dbyangs dkon mchog bzang po, 1398-1475) received the Six Doctrines of Niguma from Samding Rinpoche (bsam sdings rin po che). The latter might have been a successor of Khetsün Shönu Drub (mkhas btsun gzhon nu grub, d.1319), who originated the Nyangme Samding lineage.

A master by name of Namkha Palzang (nam mkha' dpal bzang, 1464-1529) taught the Six Doctrines of Niguma to many of his students.

Orgyen Dzongpa Chökyong Gyaltsen (o rgyan rdzong pa chos skyong rgyal mtshan, 1455-1520) received the Shangpa transmissions from dharma lord Tendzin (chos rje bstan 'dzin pa) who in all likelihood was Thangtong Gyalpo's son and dharma heir, Tendzin Nyima Zangpo (bstan 'dzin nyi ma bzang po).

Gorumpa Kunga Legpa (sgo rum pa kun dga' legs pa, 1477-1544) received the Six Doctrines of Niguma from Künpang Doringpa (kun spangs rdo ring pa) who may have been one of Taranatha's teachers.

Namdrol Zangpo (rnam grol bzang po, 1504-1573?) received the Shangpa transmissions from Jetsün Kunga Drölchog. He also received teachings from the Bara Kagyu tradition, an obscure subsect of the Drugpa Kagyu, established by Barawa Gyaltsen Palzang ('ba' ra ba rgyal mtshan dpal bzang, 1310-1391) who is known to have merged the esoteric teachings of the Drugpa Kagyu with those of the Shangpa Kagyu.

Taktsang Lobzang Rabten (stag tshang blo bzang rab brtan, 1676-1745) received the Shangpa transmissions from a Tulku Lobzang Tendzin (sprul sku blo bzang bstan 'dzin).

In the account of his former lives, appended to his autobiography, Jamgon Kongtrul informs us that Terdag Lingpa Gyurme Dorje (gter bdag gling pa 'gyur med rdo rje, 1646-1714) revived not only the Shangpa tradition, but also the Jonang and Bodong traditions, which had and have strong ties with the Shangpa lineage and continue to practice and propagate its teachings to the present day. Terdag Lingpa's younger brother, Lochen Dharmashri, famed as one of the greatest scholars of his time, wrote on various Shanga materials.

Also, the monumental "History of the Jonangpa School" (dpal ldan jo nang pa'i chos 'byung rgyal ba'i chos tshul gsal byed zla ba'i sgron me), with its even more extensive supplement, both by Jonang Khenpo Ngawang Lodro Drakpa (mkan po blo gros grags pa, 1920-1975) of Dzamthang, is full of instances of ongoing transmission of the Shangpa teachings among the present-day living Jonang tradition in Amdo and Golog in eastern Tibet.

It goes on and on, but it is next to impossible to determine nowadays which of the various lineages of Shangpa transmission these masters belonged to.

Clear proof of how the Shangpa teachings spread beyond, to lands bordering on Tibet, in this case to Dolpo, Mugum and Mustang in present-day northwestern Nepal, is found in the biographies of at least six masters from that region, namely: the above mentioned Namdrol Zangpo (rnam grol bzang po, 1504-1573?) and his student and biographer Lama Sönam Lodrö ( bsod nams blo gros, 1516-1581), as well as the Lamas Chökyab Palzang (chos skyabs dpal bzang, 1536-1625), Palden Lodrö (dpal ldan blo gros, 1527-1596), Ngawang Namgyal (ngag dbang rnam rgyal, b. 1628) and Sönam Wangchug (bsod nams dbang phyug, 1661-1731). In all their biographies we find clear mention not only of how and from whom they requested and received the Shangpa transmissions but also of their experiences and realizations while practicing these teachings in solitary retreats.

In Sönam Lodrö's biography we read of a number of his experiences when he practiced each of the Six Doctrines of Niguma and how he was especially impressed with the results of his practice of dream-yoga, like so many other Shangpa masters both before and after him. He eventually summed it up by way of thinking to himself "These Doctrines of Niguma are superior to all others and my lama who taught them to me is the Buddha Vajradhara in person!"

In the biography of Lama Palden Lodrö we read of an incident that occured when he was about to give instructions on the Six Doctrines of Niguma to a number of students. He dreamed of none other but Khedrub Khyungpo Naljor himself, who instructed him to give the transmissions in full and not to leave anything out. Khyungpo Naljor also prophesied to Lama Palden Lodrö that he would behold the faces of the Seven Shangpa Jewels (shangs pa rin chen rnam bdun), the seven early Shangpa masters, during the course of giving these instructions and thus receive their blessing and inspiration directly.

We also know that there must have been some exchanges at least among certain lineage masters. We for instance know that the Māhasiddha Thangtong Gyalpo went to Lapchi in order to visit Lapchiwa Namkha Gyaltsen. It is by all means possible, even likely, that both masters would have compared notes, exchanged teachings, maybe even empowerments. Indeed it says clearly in Thangtong Gyalpo's biography: "They gave explanations to each other of the teachings of Naropa and Niguma." We also know that the above mentioned Kalsang Gyurme Dechen, better known as Lochen Gyurme Dechen, studied closely under Jetsün Kunga Drölchog and received many Shangpa teachings from him. We should also remind ourselves of the fact, which we learn from Kunga Drölchog's biography, that once upon a time there were many more lineages than just the four above mentioned ones. Kunga Drölchog was famous for having received the 24 (!) existing transmission lineages of the Shangpa Kagyu of his time, to which he contributed his own close or visionary lineage, making it 25 lineages altogether! Even though the above lineages are presented as rather static, we must not think that the masters listed transmitted the Shangpa teachings only within the narrow confines of their own lineages. There is more and more evidence that there was much cross-fertilization between these lineages, virtually in all generations. However that may be, the existing lineages were all received by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye and continue, as shown below, until the present day:

Yet another parallel Shangpa lineage comes through the 2nd Jamgön Kongtrul, Palden Khyentse Öser (1904-1953), aka Karsey Kongtrul on account of his having been the son of the 15th Karmapa Khakyab Dorje (1871-1922). He must have received the transmission from Khenchen Tashi Öser and Karma Tashi Chöpel, or possibly from Lama Norbu Döndrub, and passed it on to Sangye Tendzin Rinpoche, the great master of Kongya monastery in Nangchen, who passed away only a few years ago.

As is obvious, researching the various strands of Shangpa Kagyu transmissions is a laborious and time consuming task that requires lots of detective work. While the above attempts to give a vague idea of how the Shangpa transmissions were passed on in their entirety, Jamgon Kongtrul himself went about it in a completely different way. Both in his "gsan yig dgos 'dod kun 'byung nor bu'i bang mdzod" or "Record of Teachings Received: The Jewel Treasure Trove that Grants all Wishes and Desires" (a monumental work in two volumes, compiled by Kongtrul's student Khedrub Tashi Chöphel) which was originally intended to be included in Kongtrul's "rgya chen bka' mdzod" collection of his own writings but somehow never made it there, and in the "Catalog of the Treasury of Precious Instructions: An Ocean of Auspicious Renown" or "gdams ngag rin po che'i mdzod kyi dkar chag bkra shis grags pa'i rgya mtsho," he rather traces each individual transmission for each and every practice and teaching. These are further subdivided into the transmission lineages for the empowerments, reading transmissions and instructions, which vary considerably in many instances. In these lists we find many of the above mentioned names, but also many that we have not yet seen.

Clearly there are extant Shangpa lineages in Tibet, such as the Shangpa transmissions within the Jonang school in Amdo and Golok, or the one maintained in Tshabtsha Monastery (tshab tsha dgon) in the Lingtsang area of Derge Kham/Eastern Tibet, which used to be a branch of Palpung monastery, the seat of the Tai Situ Rinpoches, though it eventually became much larger than Palpung itself. The master of that monastery, presumably the 7th Tshabtsha Drubgen Karma Drubgyu Tendzin, had done a retreat focussing on the Shangpa practices under Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, at his seat of Tsadra Rinchen Drak (tsa 'dra rin chen brag). Upon his return to his own monastery, he constructed another such retreat centre there. Apparently the previous Kalu Rinpoche went there in the 1940s and both masters reviewed and exchanged their Shangpa transmissions. Pangen monastery (phang en dgon), the monastery where the young previous Kalu Rinpoche originally came from before he went to Palpung and Tsadra, has also established a retreat centre for the Shangpa tradition recently.

Also the two main seats of Jamgön Kongtrul in Tibet, Tsadra Rinchen Drak (tsa 'dra rin chen brag) and Dzongshö Desheg Düpe Phodrang (rdzong shod bde gshegs 'dus pa'i pho drang), have been reconstructed and a number of retreats following the Shangpa tradition have been performed there.

Yet another functioning Shangpa retreat centre can be found at Benchen monastery (ban chen dgon) in Nangchen/Eastern Tibet, the seat of H.E. Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche (sangs rgyas mnyan pa), Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche (bstan dga’) and Benchen Chime Tulku Rinpoche (‘chi med). This goes back to the previous, 2nd Tenga Rinpoche, Drongpa Lama Tendzin Chögyal (bstan ‘dzin chos rgyal, d.1930), who had been a close disciple and attendant of Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye. He performed the Shangpa retreat under Jamgön Kongtrul’s supervision and served as the retreat master, or Drubpön, for a number of retreats while Jamgön Kongtrul himself was obliged to travel to Central Tibet. Upon Tendzin Chögyal’s return to his own Benchen monastery, years later, he immediately established a retreat center for the practice of the Shangpa teachings. The late 3rd Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche, hoped to establish a new retreat center which will focus upon the practices of the Shangpa Kagyü lineage in Parphing near Kathmandu. It was hoped to be operational in late 2010 or early 2011. However, due to incompetence, obliviousness and probably also embezzlement of funds, this has not happened until the present day (July 2014), five years after the project was set in motion by Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche himself. This is particularly sad since the persons responsible pretend so hard to have only the fulfillment of Rinpoche's wishes at heart.

True to the spirit of the Shangpa lineage, its ongoing existence has never been publicized a lot by the lineage holding masters, yet - from the above it is evident that there is not a single school or tradition that has not been blessed by the teachings and practices of the Shangpa lineage at some time or other. It is therefore by all means to be expected, that there are many more retreat facilities in present-day Tibet which follow the Shangpa curriculum. Presently we know of the five above mentioned ones: Tsadra, Dzongshö, Benchen, Tshabtsha and Pangen - all within the Kagyu network of monasteries and retreats. Tibetan publications, recently obtained from Tibet, suggest that there are also various Jonangpa monasteries in the Golok and Amdo regions of far eastern Tibet who maintain retreat centres which focus on the Shangpa program. Only extensive research of these matters, on the ground, i.e. in Tibet itself, could bring more light into this.

[TSD]