The Drukpa Choegon Lineage
Brief Introduction of The Drukpa Choegon Lineage
The Lineage of Drukpa Choegon came into existence in the early 16th century when the 1st Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche became the successor of Ngawang Choekyi Gyalpo, and then the root guru to the great Drukchen Pema Karpo and Lhatsewa Ngawang Zangpo. The Drukpa Choegon Rinpoches, is one of the three most important Lamas and Lineage Holders of the Drukpa Kargyu Lineage.
The 1st Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche is renowned for his life-long practice and accomplishments as a peerless master of the Vajrapani and Mahakala. His lineage blessings have remained intact through a succession of unbroken lineage holders. He is being venerated as "The Dorje Jinpa of Tsari", means “The Lord of All Vajra-Holders” in the sacred holy land of Tsari Chigchar. Tsari Chigchar is the most renowned sacred retreat place of Drukpa Kagyu, where every Choegon Rinpoche spent years in isolation to accomplish extensive retreat there.
It was recorded that the 1st Druk Shabdrung Choekyi Gonpo had recited the mantras of Chakrasamvara, Vajrapani, Vajrayogini, and Mahakala each for well over 100 million times. He is therefore, unanimously recognized as to have attained a very high level of realization. In Drukpa Kargyu, the Drukpa Choegon Lineage's role is essential and pivotal. They are known as the Regents of Drukpa Kagyu under the banner of the Dorje Jinpa of Tsari.
Commanding the spiritual influence from his main seat in Druk Dechen Choekhor Monastery near Lhasa, every successive Drukpa Choegon Lineage has made tremendous and invaluable contributions, further embellishing this unique tradition of the Yogic Practice of Mahamudra. The Choegon Rinpoches have served as the source of transmission for the entire Drukpa Kargyu teachings and practices ever since the 16th century. For centuries, generations of Drukpa Kagyu's tulkus have been receiving transmission directly from the Shabdrung Choekyi Gonpos from their mother monastery - Dechen Choekhor. Entrusting this blessed lineage teachings to his dharma heir - the 3rd Khamtrul Rinpoche, whom under Choekyi Gonpo’s spiritual blessings, has spread the lineage throughout the entire region of Eastern Tibet.
Thus, the Drukpa Choegon Lineage is highly revered as the very source and essence of the Drukpa Kagyu. It is owing to their dedication and resoluteness that this great enlightened lineage remains pure and vibrant for close to 500 years.
Early Line of Incarnations
The Drukpa Choegon Rinpoches is an emanation of Vajrapani, and Rinpoche previous lifetimes can be traced back to the ancient India where he was Lord Shakyamuni Buddha's main disciple and personal attendant, Ananda.
The nearer sources of emanation of the Drukpa Choegon Rinpoches are King Indra Bhuti (the King of Oddiyana, who adopted Guru Rinpoche when he was a child), Mahasiddha Tilopa, King Tri Ralpachen (one of the three great Dharma Kings of Tibet, who firmly rooted the Dharma in The Land of Snows), Lochen Verotsana (the great Tibetan translator in 8th century), Rechung Dorje Drakpa (Milarepa's moon-like heart-son), Palchen Galo (widely known as Ga Lotsawa, the great Tibetan mahasiddha and translator who visited India and brought back many precious teachings to Tibet, particularly the Mahakala practice), Phuljung Samgyal Khache (the great accomplished master of Mahakala practice) and Sangdak Namkha Palzang (also a great Mahakala practitioner).
The Drukpa Choegon Lineage is renowned as the incomparable accomplished master in the practice of Mahakala, Chakrasamvara and Vajrapani. The Drukpa Choegons is revered as the most powerful Mahakala practitioner of Drukpa Kagyu.
The Centuries Gurus-Disciples Relationship of The Choegon Rinpoche Lineage
The 1st Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche was root guru to the 4th Gyalwang Druckchen Pema Karpo and the 1st Yongzin Lhatsewa Ngawang Zangpo. The 3rd Drukpa Choegon Choekyi Wangchuk was root guru to Yongzin Geleg Sherpa and the 3rd Khamtrul Ngawang Kunga Tenzin, who subsequently, under the instruction of his root guru, spread the Drukpa Kagyu Lineage to entire Eastern Tibet.
The 4th Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche was master to Yongzin Jampal Pawo, who was the root guru to Drukchen Kunzig Choekyi Nangwa. The 5th Drukpa Choegon Jampal Dorje was root guru to the 5th Khamtrul Drubgyu Nyima. The 6th Drukpa Choegon Choekyi Shenyen was root guru to the 6th Yongzin Sheja Kunchen. The 7th Choegon Rinpoche's disciples include the 6th Khamtrul Tenpe Nyima, the 6th Nangchen Adeu Rinpoche and the 1st Drubwang Tsoknyi.
The 8th Choegon Rinpoche was disciple of the 6th Khamtrul Tenpe Nyima. He dedicated his entire life to the practice and preservation of the Drukpa Kagyu Lineage. There is no master in the Drukpa Kagyu today that has not been under the tutelage of the 8th Kyabgon Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche's spiritual empowerment. His disciples include, H.H. the 11th Gyalwang Drukpa, the 7th & 8th Kyabje Khamtrul Rinpoches, the 8th Kyabje Nangchen Adeu Rinpoche, Thuksey Rinpoche, H.H. Je Khenpo Kunleg of Bhutan, Drubwang Shakya Shri, Apo Rinpoche, the 2nd Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Sendrak Rinpoche, and almost every Drukpa master that existed around that period of time. Today Drukpa Kagyu Lineage Holders are mainly holding the lineage of the 8th Kyabgon Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche. Thus, he has not only maintained the pure lineage but also became the true embodiment of Vajradhara.
The brief biography of The Choegon Rinpoche Lineage
The First Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche
Dorje Jinpa Choekyi Gonpo, or widely known as Druk Shabdrung Choekyi Gonpo is an emanation of Vajrapani. He was born in the early 16th century, and later became the successor of Ngawang Choekyi Gyalpo, the 23rd Golden Rosary Master of Drukpa Kagyu.
He was an accomplished practitioner and master of Chakrasamvara, Vajrayogini, Vajrapani, Green Tara, and in particular an unparalleled accomplished master of the practice of the Four Armed Mahakala, a key practice of Drukpa Kargyu tradition.
This inconceivable great master attained full realization through his devotion to his guru and the practice of the Buddhadharma. Because of his unparalleled spiritual attainment, he is called the Dorje Zinpa of Tsari, means the Lord of all Vajra Holders in the sacred holy land of Tsari.
He was one of the few masters, after Guru Padmasambhava, who tamed and bound the powerful Dharma Protector, Geynyen Jagpa Melen under his Vajra-samaya. Since then, Jagpa Melen became the main Dharma Protector of Dechen Choekorling.
His disciples included Lhatsewa Ngawang Zangpo (1st Yongdzin Rinpoche) and Drukchen Pema Karpo who saw him as inseparable from Padmasambhava.
The Second Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche
Thubchen Dudjom Dorje, a great Mahasiddha, was a disciple of Pema Karpo and Yongzin Lhatsewa Ngawang Zangpo. The 2nd Drukpa Choegon spent most of his life practicing in secluded and haunted places where he accomplished perfect realization. This emanation renounced all worldly activities and spent his entire life as a hidden Yogi.
The Third Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche
Jetsun Choekyi Wangchuk, an accomplished master. This 3rd incarnation was recognized by the 2nd Yongzin Kunga Lhundrup, the teacher to 5th Dalai Lama.
He received teachings directly from various deities, and later spent many years practicing in the sacred retreat place of Tsari Chigchar (the Drukpa Kargyu retreat center in a remote part of Tibet where every Choegon spent many years of retreat there) until Vajrayogini appeared and instructed him to go out into the world in order to benefit others.
His main disciple was the 3rd Khamtrul Kunga Tenzin, and was root guru to 3rd Drukpa Yongzin Geleg Sherpa. The 3rd Drukpa Choegon instructed Khamtrul Rinpoche to go to Eastern Tibet in order to propagate the lineage and benefit countless beings. With the blessings of the 3rd Choegon Rinpoche and Guru Padmasambhava, the 3rd Khamtrul started his monastery Khampagar in Eastern Tibet which later growth into more than 200 branch monasteries, and became the main successor of the Dechen Choekhor Lineage in Eastern Tibet.
The 3rd Drukpa Choegon completed the building of Dechen Choekhor Monastery in his lifetime.
The Fourth Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche
Thubchen Jamgon Gyepa, a disciple of 3rd Yongzin Geleg Sherpa. This fourth incarnation said to be blessed by Manjushri, and was an extraordinary child. He recalled his past lives and was able to read the lives of others.
He was an extremely learned Lama and spent his entire life at Dechen Choekhor Monastery, dedicating much of his life in preserving the teachings of the Drukpa Kargyu Lineage. He had many wonderful disciples, including the renowned 4th Drukpa Yongzin Jampal Pawo, an emanation of Chakrasamvara, renowned for his vital instructions on Tsalung practice, one of the Six Yogas of Naropa. He was also root guru to Drukchen Kunzig Choekyi Nangwa.
The Fifth Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche
Thubchen Jampal Dorje, a great Mahasiddha. When He was a child, a statue of Guru Rinpoche raised its hand and touched his head three times. After this miraculous experience, the 5th Choegon Rinpoche was able to understood the subtlest points of the Dharma.
As a highly accomplished yogi, he founded a number of branch monasteries throughout Tibet and the Himalayan region. He trained many lamas, worked selflessly for the lineage and benefited countless beings. His main disciple, the 5th Khamtrul Rinpoche, Drubgyu Nyima, a renowned terton, was later enthroned as his regent.
The Sixth Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche
Chokzig Choekyi Shenyen spent over 12 years in retreat in Tsari Chigchar, and dedicated most of his life to the preservation of rare sacred teachings and Dharma texts. He would endure all hardships, travel for days on foot to Eastern Tibet in order to transmit the teachings. In this way, he visited and bestowed empowerment to over hundred monasteries in the Eastern Tibet.
This incarnation founded several nunneries and supported the female monastic tradition. His disciples include the 6th Drukpa Yongzin Sheja Kunchen and the 1st Drubwang Tsoknyi Rinpoche.
The Seventh Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche
Dorje Jinpa Shedrup Choekyi Nyingye was a disciple of Ngedon Choekyi Gyatso. Mahakala appeared to him in visions and with further study his knowledge of the Mahakala tantra became extremely profound. He was able to clarify the most subtle and profound teachings on Mahakala. The Mahakala practice is one of the major practices in Drukpa Kargyu.
This incarnation spent most of his life in Eastern Tibet, selflessly and tirelessly working for the lineage. He has made enormous contribution to the Buddhadharma and left a monumental imprint in the heart of the people of Tibet.
He had many superior students. Among them were the 6th Khamtrul Tenpe Nyima, the 6th Adeu Rinpoche and Choje Sonam Tenzin. In his later life, the King of Nangchen of Kham invited him to Nangchen - a vast area of Eastern Tibet, and in there he spread the teachings, further propagating the Drukpa Kargyu Lineage and benefiting many beings.
The Eighth Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche
Thutop Choekyi Gyamtso received the complete transmissions of the lineage from the 6th Khamtrul Rinpoche, Tenpe Nyima, and then went into retreat in Tsari Chigchar. He was well known for his devotion to his root guru and it is said that he followed every instruction of his guru perfectly. He diligently collected and preserved teachings of the Drukpa Kargyu Lineage, and transmitted these sacred teachings and transmissions to the most remote regions of Tibet and the Himalayan.
In the late 1950s, Rinpoche arrived at Kinnaur in Northern India, where he had many devoted disciples incuding the yogic parents of the current Choegon Rinpoche; and later enter into parinirvana in year 1964 in his eighties. Among his disciples were the 11th Gyalwang Drukchen, the 7th and 8th Khamtrul Rinpoches, the 8th Trulshik Adeu Rinpoche, Drubwang Shakya Shri, Pema Choegyal, Sengdak Rinpoche, H.H. Je Khenpo Kunleg of Bhutan, Apo Rinpoche, the 2nd Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Thuksey Rinpoche and almost every Drukpa master that existed around that period of time. It is due to his great kindness and exertion that the Drukpa Kargyu Lineage flourishes today in Tibet, Nepal and India.
Today's Drukpa Kargyu Lineage Holders are mainly holding the lineage of the 8th Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche. Thus, he not only maintained the pure unbroken enlightened essence of the Drukpa Kargyu Lineage, but truly the living embodiment of Vajradhara.
Note to Reader:
1. Brief explanation of the names used to address Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche:
Druk Shabdrung Choekyi Gonpo, Jetsun Choekyi Gonpo, Choekyi Gonpo, Dorje Jinpa Choegon Rinpoche, Kyabje Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche, etc are commonly used to address the Choegon Rinpoche Lineage’s masters.
* Shabdrung (Tib: ཞབས་དྲུང་ ; also Zhabsdrung, means "at the feet of"), is an honorific title in Tibetan Buddhism, mostly used to address the second high-ranked lama of a lineage, who is the important lineage or throne-holder.
* Jetsun (Tib: རྗེ་བཙུན་) is an honorific Tibetan term traditional use to address great saints and lamas. It carry the denotation of The Exalted One, The Foremost Venerable, Lord, Most Reverend, etc.
* Dorje Dzinpa or Dorje Jinpa (Tib: རྡོ་རྗེ་འཛིན་པ་) is a respectful title for an accomplished master. Vajra-holder, Vajradhara or Holder of Indestructible Reality is what it denotes.
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.