image of Ga Kyegudho, Tibet, the birthplace of Kyoba Rinpoche

The Drigung Kagyü Lineage


Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon founded Drigung Thil monastery in 1179. This was the birth of Drigung Kagyü tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.


The transmission lineage of Kagyüpa traces all the way to the primordial Buddha Vajradhara (rDo rJe 'Chang). From Vajradhara, the links in the Kagyüpa lineage chain are Tilopa (988–1069), Naropa (956-1041), Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1097), Milarepa (1052 - 1123) and Gampopa (1079-1153). One of the principal disciples of Gampopa was Phagmo Drupa (1110-1170). Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon (1143 - 1217) was Phagmo Drupa's disciple.

Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon

Tapestry image of Kyoba Jigten Sumgon

Known as the crown jewel of Drigung Kagyü Lineage, Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon, by age 39, had well over fifty thousand disciples from all over Tibet. In 1217 he passed away.

Kyobpa Rinpoche left behind some five volumes of teachings consisting of, among many others, Mountain Retreat Practice (Ri Chos), the Essence of Mahayana Teachings (Theg Chen bsTan Pa' sNyingpo), and Same Thought (dGong gChig).

Kyobpa Rinpoche enthroned Khenchen Gurawa as his successor. From Khenchen Gurawa (1154-1220) to Konchog Rinchen, there were 23 successive throne holders.

The 24th head of the lineage, who succeeded Konchog Rinchen, was Rigzin Chödak. The system of reincarnation was introduced here.

The line of Chetsang Rinpoches began with Konchog Rinchen. The incumbent Chetsang Rinpoche, Konchog Tenzin Kunzang Trinley Lhundrup, is the 7th Chetsang Rinpoche. His Holiness lives in India.

The line of Chungtsang Rinpoches began with Rigzin Chödak the 24th throne holder (1595–1659). The incumbent Chungtsang Rinpoche, Tenzin Chökyi Nangwa, is the 8th Chungtsang Rinpoche. His Holiness lives in Lhasa, Tibet.


Like a constellation of bright stars, the glorious Drigung throne holders helped to illuminate the teachings of the Buddha. Among these shining stars, some were notably outstanding. These included, for example, Chenga Dagpa Jungné (1175-1255), who protected the followers from the onslaught of the Mongols. Chenga Chökyi Gyalpo (1335-1407), among many other remarkable contributions, recruited scribes to painstakingly write, by hand, the entire Narthang edition of Kagyur, consisting of over 100 volumes of the Buddha's teachings and commentaries on these teachings, consisting of 225 volumes.

He was so revered by all that Je Tshonkhapa Rinpoche, the founder of Gelugpa tradition, on his way to Lhasa, stopped in Drigung and received teachings from Chenga Chökyi Gyalpo on the Six Yogas of Naropa and the Outer and Inner Texts of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon.


Gyalwang Kunga Rinchen (1475-1527) also comes to mind. This great saint revived and popularized the system of solitary retreats. He sent thousands of people to Mt. Kailash, Tsari, and Lapchi for prolonged retreats. Recruiting a team of 200 scribes, Glyalwa Kunga Rinchen recorded, in writing by hand, the whole gamut of Drigung Kagyü teachings.


Gyalwang Rinchen Phuntsog, the 17th throne holder, must be remembered for his service to the Buddha Dharma as a whole. "After receiving transmissions from various lineages, he integrated doctrines, rituals, and meditational practices, above all, of the Nyingmapa order into the traditional Drikung Kagyü teachings...." It was at a time when the Nyingma lineage was in dire need of help. Gyalwa Rinchen Phuntsog discovered Dhamchö Gongpa Yangzab teachings of the Dzogchen tradition in Tsogkhang Kiri Yangdzong cave in Drigung Terdom and wrote many popular Nyingmapa tantras.


The Drigung Kagyü tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, today, flourishes all over the world. We owe our heartfelt thanks to His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche, who arrived in India more than a decade after the mass exodus in 1959, and infused life-force (Bla) into the glorious Drigung Kagyü Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. At the inauguration of Songtsen Library, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, "You have, in such a short time, achieved so much and I congratulate you," to Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche. We would also like to remember some of our Lamas who also contributed a great deal to the Lineage, when things were not so glorious in the beginning. Our heartfelt thanks go to H.E. Chöje Ayang Rinpoche and Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche who put the Drigung Kagyü Lineage on the map internationally, through their hard work and dedication.