Lineage Introduction
The Kagyu Lineage

After the initial spread of Buddha's teaching in Tibet and its subsequent suppression, the 11th century came as a period of progress and renewal for the Buddha-dharma. Tibetans underwent great hardships in traveling to study with teachers in India at then such famous institutes as Nalanda, and Vikramashila. Masters from India like Atisha came to teach in Tibet.

The source of Kagyu tradition is the great translator Marpa (1012-1097), who made several visits to India and Nepal, and studied under the mahasiddhas of India like Naropa and Matripa.  







1 - Vajradhara-E.jpg

Buddha Vajradhara or Dorje Chang in Tibetan, is the primordial Buddha, the Dharmakaya Buddha. Vajradhara represents the essence of the historical Buddha's realization of the wisdom enlightenment.

The Dharmakaya Buddha is the source of all the manifestations of enlightenment. Vajradhara is central to the Kagyu lineage because Tilopa received the Tantrayana teachings directly from Dharmakaya Vajradhara. Thus, the Kagyu lineage is originated from the very nature of buddhahood.

The realization of the ultimate nature was in turn transmitted within the Golden Rosary by Tilopa.

2 - Tilopa-E.jpg


Tilopa (988-1069) was born a brahmin in India, but he renounced the world while still quite young to become an ascetic. At a later stage, while meditating in seclusion in a tiny grass hut, he came face-to-face with the Dharmakaya Buddha Vajradhara and received teachings directly from Him.  The Kagyu denomination holds the Mahamudra teachings that were received directly from Vajradhara via Tilopa.

He us one of the most authoritative and renowned Indian Mahasiddhas and masters of Mahamudra and Tantra.

3 - Naropa-E.jpg


Naropa (1016-1100) himself had abandoned his prestigious position as head of great Nalanda University to spend twelve arduous years training with the great Indian Mahasiddha Tilopa.

4 - Marpa-E.jpg


Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1097), sometimes known fully as Lhodak Marpa Chokyi Lodro or commonly as Marpa the Translator was a Tibetan Buddhist teacher credited with the transmission of the complete buddhadharma to Tibet from India, including the teachings and lineages of Vajrayana and Mahamudra. Thus, he is the very source of the Kagyu school.

After his second visit to India, Milarepa became his disciple, who inherited his lineage in full.

5 - Milarepa-E.jpg


Milarepa (1040-1124) the famous yogi, poet and saint, is one of the highest realized masters in the history of Tibetan Buddhism. His life of meditation has been an enduring source of inspiration for Buddhist practitioners for centuries. Milarepa's life story and songs -'Hundred Thousand Songs' are classics in the world's spiritual literature. He is the greatest yogi of Tibet.

6 - Gampopa-E.jpg


Gampopa (1079-1153), the sun-like heartson of Milarepa, was prophesized by Buddha himself in numerous sutras as the propagator of ultimate Dharma in the Land of Snow. He was a physician and highly learned. He brought together the Kadam tradition of Atisha and the oral instructions of Mahamudra tradition of Milarepa. He authored many scholastic works, including the famous 'Jewel Ornament of Liberation'. It is from him that all Kagyu schools are traced. The main practices include,  Mahamudra, Six Yogas of Naropa, Inner Heat-Tummo, Illusory Body, Luminosity, Bardo, Phowa - the transference of consciousness, Lojong - training the mind for cultivating loving-kindness.

7 - Phagmo Drupa-E.jpg


Phagmo Drupa (1110-1170), a disciple of Gampopa, founded the first Kagyupa Monastery in Southern Tibet and spread Gampopa's teachings like wildfire. Since then Kagyupa School has became the largest practitioners in history of Tibetan Buddhism to produce highest number of Mahasiddhas - the Enlightened Beings.

8 - Linchen Repa-E.jpg


Lingchen Repa (1128-1188), or Lingre Pema Dorje, is one of Phagmo Drupa eight main disciples, also known as the Saraha of Tibet, was an incomparable realized master.

He was the source of our lineage Lingre Kagyu, cited under his name, Lingchen Repa.

Later, Lingre Kagyu evolved to be known as the Drukpa Kagyu.

9 - Tsangpa Gyare - E.jpg


Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje - Jana Vajra (1161-1211) was Lingchen Repa's only disciple and founded the lineage of Drukpa Kagyu. He had the vision of nine roaring dragons in the sky when he arrived at the future site of his main monastery, which inspired the name of this lineage - the "Drukpa Kagyu". Later, he established the lineage centered at Ralung. It spread widely and the lineage subsequently divided into upper, lower, and middle branches. Tsangpa Gyare was known to have received teachings directly from Buddhas. His disciples include, Godtsangpa Gonpo Dorje, Lorepa Dharma Wangchuk, Sangye Onchen Repa. 

10 - Pema Karpo - E.jpg

Since then fifteen other masters held the lineage until Pema Karpo (1527-1592) became the holder of our lineage. Pema Karpo's root gurus were Shabdrung Druk Choekyi Gonpo (the 1st Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche) and Ngawang Choekyi Gyalpo. Pema Karpo contributed 24 volumes of collected works on Buddhist literature, logic, history and astrology. He constructed the monastery of Druk Sang-Ngak Choeling (the dharma abode of Mantrayana) in southern Tibet which became the main monastery of the Gyalwang Drukpas.

Pema Karpo and Shabdrung Choekyi Gonpo's main disciple was Lhatsewa Ngawang Zangpo (1547-1614) - the 1st Drukpa Yongzin Rinpoche. He brought about a huge renaissance in the Drukpa Kagyu tradition. Under his tutelage a great number of mahasiddhas and panditas were produced. Forty five of them were known to have obtained the state of non-meditation, the highest realization state in the practice of Mahamudra as prophesized by Vajrayogini. Each of whom has set up their own monastic institutions, retreat practices and their own lineages. Thus it was said that the Drukpa Kagyu tradition spread once again like the sun's rays- far and wide. Among Lhatsewa Ngawang Zangpo students include the 5th Gyalwang Drukpa Pagsam Wangpo, the 2nd Drukpa Choegon Dudjom Dorje, the 1st Khamtrul Ngawang Tenphal, the 1st Taktsang Repa, the 1st Dorzong Konchok Gyalpo, Pandita Sangye Dorjee, Drubchok Mipham Lodoe, Gampopa Zangpo Dorje, and Rinzin Gyatson Nyingpo.


Note to Reader:

1. Brief explanation on the names used to address Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche:

Shabdrung Druk Choekyi Gonpo   or   Kyabje Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche

* Shabdrung (also Zhabdrung; Tib: "before the feet of"), was a title used when referring to or addressing great lamas in Tibet, particularly those who held a hereditary lineage (lineage holder).

2. Some readers might be confused by the term "Kagyu" vs "Kargyu" use in this website. Below are the short explanations on the actual denotation of these 2 terms. However, nowadays Drukpa 'Kargyu' and Drukpa 'Kagyu' are used interchangeably in the English media.

Kagyu -  can be translated as "The Lineage of the Oral Instructions." The first syllable "Ka" refers to the scriptures of the Buddha and the oral instructions of the guru. "Ka" has the sense both of the enlightened meaning conveyed through the instructions of the realised master, as well as the power and the blessing such words of insight carries; and "gyu" simply means lineage or tradition.

Kargyu - The Kar (white) Gyu (lineage) of Marpa, Milarepa, and their followers; many of which dressed in white robes. Kewang Sangye Dorje, one of the foremost disciples of Pema Karpo, suggested this name for our Drukpa Kargyu Lineage.

This website is created and maintained by Rinpoche's students © 2011 Copyright, All Rights Reserved