Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal

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Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal - ཞབས་དྲུང་ངག་དབང་རྣམ་རྒྱལ། - (zhabs drung ngag dbang rnam rgyal) [1594-1651]

- one of the two incarnations of the fourth Drukchen, contributed to unite Bhutan as a state [RY]

Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal

17th century; the 1st, 1594-1651 [RY]

zhabs drung ngag dbang rnam rgyal [17th century founder of Bhutan] [IW]

Short biography of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal[edit]

Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal [1594-1651], was an immediate reincarnation of the 4th Gyalwang Drukchen ('brug chen), the Omniscient Pema Karpo (kun mkhyen padma dkar po) and the 18th throne-holder and "hereditary prince" of Ralung (rwa lung). Like all previous Ralung throne holders, he was born into the branch of the noble Gya (rgya) family desended from Lha Nyen and Lha Bum who were the elder brothers of Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje the founder of the Drukpa Kagyu and the first Drukchen. This branch of the Gya clan produced all the Drukpa heirarchs and controlled the the main branch the Drukpa Kagyu sect centered at Ralung and Nam Druk (gnam ’brug) monasteries from the time of Tsangpa Gyare up until the 14th Ralung Heirarch and Second Drukchen Gyalwang Kunga Paljor (1428-1476). Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal's father was Drukpa Mipham Tenpai Nyima (yab chen mi pham bstan pa'i nyi ma) [1567-1619] the son of Drukpa Mipham Chögyal, and his mother was Sonam Pelkyi Butri (bsod nams dpal gyi bu khrid), daughter of the ruler (sde pa) of skyid shod.

Although he was enthroned as the 18th Abbot of Ralung (rwa lung), the seat of the hereditary lineage and first 'brug pa monastery to be established in Tibet, Ngawang Namgyal was compelled to flee Tibet in 1616 in order to escape the persecution of the powerful king of Tsang, a supporter of the Karma Kagyu, who recognized Pagsam Wangpo (dpag bsam dbang po) (1592-1641) [his own nephew and an illegitimate son of the 'phyongs rgyas myriarch], as the 5th Drukchen incarnation.

Following a prophecy of Padmasambhava in the gsang ba'i nor bu’i thig le’i rgyud (lho rong lho sgo bas mthar bsti gnas tshol // de ltar byas na bod yul mi lo bdun // bsgom bsgrub byas las gnas der zhag bdun sgrub thag nye //) and a prophecy of Pema Karpo, Ngawang Namgyal left for western Bhutan, where the Drukpa Kagyu ('brug pa bka' brgyud) school had already been established, and founded the Cheri Monastery in 1619 at the north end of the Thimphu valley. In 1629, he founded his first fortress, Simtokha Dzong, near Thimphu at a place where control could be exerted over traffic between the Paro valley to the west and Trongsa valley to the east.

Over his 35 years as the temporal and spiritual ruler of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal repelled a series of Tibetan invasions and overcame internal opposition to unify the country for the first time in its history.

On seven occasions between 1616 and 1679, Tibet launched war against Bhutan, first under the Tsangpa king and, after 1642, under the central Gaden Photang ([dga' ldan pho brang]) government newly established by 5th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobzang Gyatso (ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho) [1617-1682].

So important was the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to the stability of Bhutan during this period that his death was kept secret. In 1651 his closest aids announced that Shabdrung had entered strict retreat - and they continued to maintain that he was "in retreat" like this for more than 50 years issuing edicts in his name until 1705.

Dzongs & monasteries founded by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal[edit]

  • Cheri Monastery [1619]
  • Semtoka Dzong [1629]
  • Punakha Dzong
  • Wangdue Dzong
  • Rinpung Dzong [1644]
  • Drugyel Dzong
  • Darkar Tashi Yangtse Dzong

Alternate Names[edit]

  • Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal
  • Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel

Kinship Relations[edit]

Primary Teachers[edit]


  • pad dkar 'byung gnas [1604-1672] ('brug rje mkhan po 1)
  • bsod nams 'od zer [1613-1689] ('brug rje mkhan po 2)
  • pad dkar lhun grub [1640-1699] ('brug rje mkhan po 3)
  • Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye (rgyal sras bstan bstan 'dzin rab rgyas) [1638-1696]
  • dam chos pad dkar [1639-1708] ('brug rje mkhan po 4)
  • bzod pa 'phrin las [1645-1729] ('brug rje mkhan po 5)
  • grub dbang ngag dbang bsam gtan [1631-1709]
  • yongs 'dzin bzod pa pad dkar

Primary Lineage[edit]

Incarnation Lineages[edit]

Shabdrung Tuktrul[edit]

  • Kunga Gyaltshen () [1689-1713]
  • Chogle Namgyal () [1708 -1736]
  • Jigme Norbu () [1717-1735]
  • Mipham Wangpo () [1709-1738]
  • Jigme Dragpa I ('jigs med grags pa) [1724-1761]
  • Choeki Gyaltshen (chos kyi rgyal ba'i mtshan) [1762-1788]
  • Jigme Dragpa II ('jigs med grags pa phyi ma) [1791-1830]
  • Jigme Norbu ('jigs med nor bu) [1831-1861]
  • Jigme Chogyal ('jigs med chos rgyal) [1862-1904]
  • Jigme Dorji ('jigs med rdo rje) [1905-1931]
  • Jigme Tendzin Chogyel [1939–1953]
  • Jigme Ngawang Namgyal ('jigs med ngag dbang rnam rgyal)[1955–2003]

Shabdrung Sungtrul[edit]

  • Chogle Namgyal ()[]
  • Shakya Tenzin ()[]
  • Yeshe Gyaltshen ()[]
  • Jigme Dorji ('jigs med rdo rje)[]
  • Yeshe Ngodrup ()[]
  • Jigme Tenzin ()[]

Reference Sources[edit]

Tibetan (chos skad)[edit]

  • Author: dge 'dun rin chen [1926-1997] ('brug rje mkhan po 69); Title: dpal ldan 'brug pa'i gdul zhing lho phyogs nags mo'i ljongs kyi chos 'byung blo gsar rna ba'i rgyan (lho yi chos 'byung blo gsar rna rgyan).


  • Author: slob dpon padma tshe dbang []; Title: 'brug gi rgyal rabs| 'brug gsal ba'i sgron me. ("History of Bhutan by Slobdpon Padma Tshedwang") [ISBN 99936-631-2-3] p.120-192
  • Author: drung chen sangs rgyas rdo rje ; Title: dpal ldan 'brug pa rin po che Zhabs drung Nga dbang rnam rgyal gyi rnam thar. Thimphu, KMT Publishers 2nd edition 2001.


  • Author: Yonten Dargye; Title: History of the Drukpa Kagyud School in Bhutan (12th to 17th Century A.D.) [ISBN 99936-616-0-0]

Internal Links[edit]

External Links[edit]



  • Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal - see: [4]