Shangpa Lineages Outline
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. Tibetan sources: Jamgon Kongtrul's shes bya kun khyab mdzod, his gsan yig chen mo (compiled by Kongtrul's student Karma 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):
- Dharmakaya Vajradhara - (chos sku rdo rje 'chang)
- Jnanadakini Niguma - (ye shes mkha' 'gro ni gu ma)
- Khedrub Khyungpo Naljor - (mkhas grub khyung po rnal 'byor, 11/12th century)
- Mokchokpa Rinchen Tsondrü - (rmog lcog pa rin chen brtson 'grus, 1110-1170)
- Kyergangpa Chökyi Senge - (skyer sgang pa chos kyi seng ge, 1143-1216)
- Rigongpa Chökyi Sherab - (ri gong pa chos kyi shes rab, 1175-1247)
- Sangye Tönpa Tsondrü Senge - (sangs rgyas ston pa brtson 'grus seng ge, 1213-1285)
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)
- Khyungpo Tsültrim Gönpo (khyung po tshul khrims mgon po)
- Ritrö Rechen Sangye Senge (ri khrod ras chen sangs rgya seng ge)
- Shangkarwa Rinchen Gyaltsen (shangs dkar ba rin chen rgyal mtshan, 1353-1435)
- Nyame Sangye Palsang (mnyam med sangs rgyas dpal bzang, 1398-1465)
- Drubchen Namkha Gyaltsen (grub chen nam mkha' rgyal mtshan)
- Gyagom Legpa Gyaltsen (rgya sgom legs pa rgyal mtshan)
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?)
- Müchen Gyaltsen Palsang (mus chen rgyal mtshan dpal bzang)
- Khedrub Dorje Shönu (mkhas grub rdo rje gzhon nu)
- Müchen/Tsenden Namkhe Naljor (mus chen/mtsan ldan nam mkha'i rnal 'byor; aka grub thob bya 'phur ba)
- Khangapa Paljor Sherab (bka' lnga pa dpal 'byor shes rab)
- Jangsem Jinpa Sangpo (byang sems sbyin pa bzang po)
- Drubchen Thangtong Gyalpo (grub chen thang stong rgyal po, 1361-1485?)
- Mangkar Gönsar Gyüdzin Lodrö Gyaltsen (mang mkhar dgon gsar brgyud 'dzin blo gros rgyal mtshan)
- Khedrub Palden Karpo (mkhas grub dpal ldan dkar po)
- Jetsün Sönam Tsemo (rje btsun bsod nams rtse mo)
- Lochen Gyurme Dechen (lo chen 'gyur med bde chen, b.1540)
- Latang Dzongpa Khenchen Ngawang Chödrag (bla btang mkhan chen ngag dbang chos grags, 1572-1641)
- Jamyang Sönam Gyaltsen ('jam dbyangs bsod nams rgyal mtshan)
- Ngawang Tenpa Dargye (ngag dbang bstan pa dar rgyas)
- Mangthö Sönam Chöpel (mang thos bsod nams chos 'phel)
- Kunga Legpe Jungne (kung dga' legs pa'i 'byung gnas)
- Jamyang Sönam Palsang ('jam dbyangs bsod nams dpal bzang)
- Phagchog Chönyi Yeshe ('phags mchog chos nyid ye shes)
- Mü Yeshe Gyalchog (mus ye shes rgyal mchog)
- Yongdzin Mati (yongs 'dzin ma ti)
- Jamgön Dorje Rinchen ('jam mgon rdo rje rin chen)
- Shalu Ribug Tulku Losal Tenkyong (zhwa lu ri sbug sprul sku blo gsal bstan skyong, b.1804)
- 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)
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)
We do not know how the Jagpa and Nyangme Samding lineages continued, whether they simply ceased to exist or were absorbed into the Jonang and Thanglug lineages or not. 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 Ensa 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. 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).
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:
- Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye ('jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha' yas, 1813-1899)
- Khenchen Tashi Öser (mkhan chen bkra shis 'od zer, 1836-1910)
- Karma Tashi Chöpel (karma bkra shis chos 'phel)
- Drongpa Lama Tendzin Chögyal
- The 7th Tshabtsha Drubgen
- Lama Norbu Döndrub (bla ma nor bu don grub, 1880-1954?)
- Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche (skyab rje ka lu rin po che, 1905-1989)
- Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche (skyab rje bo dkar rin po che, 1940-2004)
- Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche (skyab rje bstan dga' rin po che, 1932-2012)
- Kyabje Kalu Yangsi Rinpoche (skyab rje ka lu yang srid rin po che, b.1990)
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 , and passed it on to Sangye Tendzin Rinpoche, the great master of Kongya monastery in Nangchen, who passed away only a few years ago.
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 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, 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. Presently, the 3rd Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche, is establishing a new retreat center which will focus upon the practices of the Shangpa Kagyü lineage in Parphing near Kathmandu. It is hoped to be operational in late 2010 or early 2011.
True to the spirit of the Shangpa lineage, its ongoing existence has never been publicized a lot by the lineage holding masters. 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. Only extensive research of these matters, on the ground, i.e. in Tibet itself, could bring more light into this.