The 8th Kyabgon Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche

A color-painted portrait of The 8th Kyabgon Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche, Thutop Choekyi Gyamtso in a remote branch-monastery of Dechen Choekhor in Kinnaur.

A color-painted portrait of The 8th Kyabgon Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche, Thutop Choekyi Gyamtso in a remote branch-monastery of Dechen Choekhor in Kinnaur.


The 8th Kyabgon Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche, Thutop Choekyi Gyamtso was the heart-disciple of the 6th Khamtrul Tenpe Nyima. He was well known for his incredible devotion to his root guru, and it is said that he followed every single instruction of his guru with perfection.

Thutop Choekyi Gyamtso received the complete lineage transmissions from his root-guru Khamtrul Tenpe Nyima (where the 6th Khamtrul received from his root-guru - the 7th Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche, Dorje Dzinpa Shedrup Choekyi Nyingye), and then went into long retreat in 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.  

He dedicated his entire life to the preservation and propagation of the Drukpa Kagyu Lineage practices. He diligently collected and preserved the precious 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, Thutop Choekyi Gyamtso arrived at Kinnaur in Northern India, where he had many devoted disciples, including the yogic parents of the current Choegon Rinpoche. After spending years in guiding the fortunate disciples in the Himalaya, Kyabgon Choekyi Gonpo entered into parinirvana in the year 1964 in his eighties. Among his disciples were the 11th Gyalwang Drukchen, the 7th and 8th Khamtrul Rinpoches, the 8th Nangchen 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. There is no master in the Drukpa Kagyu of that time that has not been under the tutelage of the 8th Kyabgon Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche's spiritual empowerment. It is due to his great kindness and exertion that the Drukpa Kargyu Lineage remains pure and intact, and continues flourishing 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 has not only maintained the pure unbroken enlightened essence of the Drukpa Kargyu Lineage, but truly the living embodiment of Vajradhara.


The Prophesis of The 8th Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche

In 1940, the 8th Kyabgon Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche was first being invited to Khampagar by the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche; concurrently, he was also requested by the King of Nangchen to confer the empowerment and transmissions of the complete Drukpa Kagyu Lineage in that region. After deep consideration, Rinpoche decided to bestow the Grand Drukpa Kargyu Lineage Empowerment and Transmission in Nangchen Garh. The 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche, along with the young Adeu Rinpoche and hundreds of other Drukpa Kagyu masters from far and wide, received the transmissions of the entire Drukpa Kagyu Lineage from the 8th Kyabgon Choegon Rinpoche in Nangchen Garh.

During that time, Rinpoche prophesied  that the reason he chooses to confer empowerment in Nangchen Garh rather than Khampagar was because Adeu Rinpoche will, in future be responsible for the propagation and transmission of the Drukpa Kargyu lineage. At that time, The 8th Adeu Rinpoche who still in his teens was the head of Drukpa Kargyu in Nangchen.

Prophetically, in early 1990s, the 8th Adeu Rinpoche was invited to India by the present Choegon Rinpoche where he spent over a year to confer the Grand Lineage Transmissions to almost all Drukpa Kagyu rinpoches, tulkus, khenpos, monks and yogis at Khampagar. Subsequently, in Tibet, Nangchen Adeu Rinpoche transmitted the Six Yogas of Naropas to the monks in over 60 monasteries; guided thousands of practitioners to practice Mahamudra and Dzogchen; performed hundreds of Drubchens in many monasteries; compiled more than 120 volumes of Drukpa Kargyu texts, and established numerous retreat centers. Later, he visited Bhutan and India once again, and bestowed empowerment to the Drukpa Kagyu Masters, from the Je Khenpos of Bhutan to almost every Drukpa Kargyu Rinpoches and Sanghas there.

The two heart-sons of the 8th Kyabgon Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche - The 8th Kyabje Khamtrul Rinpoche and the 8th Kyabje Adeu Rinpoche

The two heart-sons of the 8th Kyabgon Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche - The 8th Kyabje Khamtrul Rinpoche and the 8th Kyabje Adeu Rinpoche

On the other hand, Shabdrung Choekyi Gonpo's another heart-son - the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche was highly regarded by the King of Bhutan. He visited Bhutan numerous times, and became the first ever Tibetan master to hold the yellow scarf formally in the Kingdom of Bhutan. The 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche was requested by the King of Bhutan to lead the Drukpa Kagyu order in the Vajrayana nation of Bhutan until he passed into parinirvana in 1980.

Both the 8th Nangchen Adeu Rinpoche and the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche were the two main lineage holders of Drukpa Kagyu Lineage from the 8th Druk Shabdrung Choekyi Gonpo.

Note to Reader:

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.


Photo credit: The top hand-painted Shabdrung Choekyi Gonpo’s image is provided courtesy of Dechen Choekhor’s main branch monastery in Kinnaur, Northern India.