The Drikung Kagyu: A Reader's Guide

Jigten Sumgon, from The Buddhist Art Coloring Book 2

What follows is a guide to some of our books and other resources available on Shambhala.com that relate to the Drikung Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The Drikung lineage comes from Marpa, Milarepa, and Gampopa through Phagmo Drupa and Jigten Sumgön, who is considered the root of the tradition. His most famous work, the Gongchik, or “Single Intention,” is a collection of profound statements summarizing the entirety of the Buddhist path for which several famous commentaries have been written. Jigten Sumgön (1143–1217) is also known for his special teachings on Mahayana, Mahamudra, and the Six Yogas of Naropa. After Jigten Sumgön established a monastery and retreat center at Drikung Thil in central Tibet, the lineage flourished, becoming one of the most influential Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Over the centuries the Drikung Kagyu have established monasteries throughout Tibet and the greater Himalayan region, and have recently established meditation centers internationally, including in the United States, Germany, and Vietnam.

The current heads of the lineage are His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche and His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chungtsang Rinpoche. His Holiness Chungtsang Rinpoche still resides and teaches in Tibet in Lhasa, while His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche lives in India and regularly travels throughout the world to impart Buddhist teachings.

His Holiness Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche

The story of His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche is at once amazing, heartbreaking, and inspiring. It is told in From the Heart of Tibet: The Biography of Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche, the Holder of the Drikung Kagyu LineageThis biography traces His Holiness's journey from his recognition as a tulku and early training to an oppressed life under the Chinese to his escape to India and then to the United States and eventually back to India, where he founded the Drikung Kagyu Institute, the Songtsen Library, and Samtenling Nunnery. His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche has also established retreat centers both in India and abroad. His Holiness is an avid historian, environmentalist, and a passionate advocate for world peace.

The Drikung Kagyu are well known for their unique presentation of the Five Paths of Mahamudra, a program that includes: arousing bodhichitta, deity visualization, guru yoga, Mahamudra meditation, and finally, dedication of merit. In The Practice of Mahamudra, His Holiness presents this fivefold teaching, which includes advice from Tilopa and Gampopa.

Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen is another great contemporary scholar of the Drikung and has published multiple works with an emphasis on the Drikung Kagyu teachings.

Opening the Treasure of the Profound: Teachings on the Songs of Jigten Sumgön and Milarepa is a wonderful collection of vajra songs. It also includes over sixty pages on Jigten Sumgön by His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche, Ngorje Repa (a student of Sakya Sribhadra and Jigten Sumgön) and Drikung Kyabgon Padmai Gyaltsen.

A Complete Guide to the Buddhist Path is Khenchen's presentation of The Jewel Treasury of Advice, a text composed by Drikung Bhande Dharmaradza (1704–1754), the reincarnation of Drikung Dharmakirti, Rigdzin Chokyi Drakpa (1595–1659). This work includes advice for meditators, Mahayana practitioners, and Vajrayana practitioners. The teachings include Mahamudra preparation and practice, dispelling obstacles, the Six Yogas of Naropa, and the final result of practice.

The Great Kagyu Masters: The Golden Lineage Treasury brings the lives and teachings of many of the great Kagyupas to light. From Vajradhara to Jigten Sumgön, this collection also includes Shakyamuni Buddha himself, Tilopa, Naropa, the Four Great Dharma Kings, Marpa, Milarepa, Atisha, Gampopa, Phagmo Drupa, and more.

The Garland of Mahamudra Practices is a translation of Clarifying the Jewel Rosary of the Profound Five-Fold Path by Kunga Rinchen, the Dharma heir to Jigten Sumgön. It begins with instructions on ngondro followed by a special set of preliminary practices focused on generating love, compassion, and bodhichitta. It then goes into the main practices of deity yoga, meditation on the guru as the four kayas, meditation on Mahamudra and the view, and the pith instructions on the nature of mind.

Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen has also translated Gampopa's Jewel Ornament of Liberation, which is a core text across all Dakpo Kagyu traditions.

The Third Khamtrul Rinpoche references Jigten Sumgön throughout his extraordinary text The Royal Seal of Mahamudra, Volume One: A Guidebook for the Realization of Coemergence.

There are also two works on the practice tradition of the Six Yogas of Naropa with an emphasis on the Gelug tradition. These works both highlight the centrality of the Drikung Kagyu lineage in the transmission of these practices to Tsongkhapa: The Six Yogas of Naropa: Tsongkhapa's Commentary and The Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa.

In Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche's autobiography Brilliant Moon, the Drikung Kagyu tradition comes up several times. The first is when he was young and staying in Draktsa, he had a vision of what he thought was Tseringma, which he attributed to the long presence of disciples of the Gyalwa Drikungpa (Jigten Sumgön) staying there in archaic times. Later, His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche became his student and he taught him extensively, including spending two months imparting the Treasury of Precious Instructions.

Many other works discuss the Drikung Kagyu tradition and quote from its lineage holders, including:

Additionally, we have over two dozen articles from the Snow Lion newsletter archive that are Drikung Kagyu specific. Please explore!

Another excellent resource is drikung.org, which contains information on many of the teachers and events in the Drikung Kagyu tradition, including the 800th parinirvana anniversary celebration of Jigten Sumgön, which will be held in October 2017 in Dehra Dun, India, and will be presided over by His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche.