Drikung Kagyu or Drigung Kagyu (Wylie: 'bri-gung bka'-brgyud) is one of the eight "minor" lineages of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. "Major" here refers to those Kagyu lineages founded by the immediate disciples of Gampopa (1079-1153) while "minor" refers to all the lineages founded by disciples of Phagmo Drupa (1110-1170), the main disciple of Gampopa.
Like with all other Kagyu lineages, origins of Drikung Kagyu can be traced back to the Great Indian Master Tilopa who passed on his teachings to Mahasiddha Naropa who lived around 10th and 11th century. The founder of the Drikung Kagyu lineage was Jigten Sumgön (1143-1217) of the Kyura clan, who was the disciple of Phagmo Drupa. According to historical account from the time, Jigten Sumgön's teachings attracted more than 100,000 people at a time, with the highest number of attendance recorded at 130,000.
Several sub-schools branched off from the Drikung Kagyu including the Lhapa or Lhanangpa Kagyu, founded by Nö Lhanangpa (Wylie: gnyos lha nang pa, 1164–1224) who came to Bhutan in 1194. This school was at one time important in Western Bhutan, particularly in the Thimphu and Paro regions, where they were rivals of the Drukpa Kagyu. The Lhapa first came into conflict with the early Drukpa teacher, Phajo Drugom Zhigpo (b. 12th century) and finally with Ngawang Namgyal (1594–1651). In 1640 the remaining followers of the Lhapa Kagyu were expelled from Bhutan together with the Nenyingpa followers as both had sided with the attacking Tsangpa forces against the Drukpa during their three invasions of Bhutan and continued to refuse to acknowledge the authority of the Shabdrung.
Aside from the Drikung Valley in Ü, the Drikung Kagyu has a strong presence in Nangqên County in what was Kham, in western Tibet (including Kailash), and in Ladakh. Tsari and Lapchi - two important sacred sites for all Tibetan Buddhists - also have a strong Drikung Kagyu presence. Among the so-called "four major and eight minor" Kagyu lineages, Drikung Kagyu is one of four Kagyu lineages that continue to exist as independent institutions (the other three being the Karma Kagyu, Drukpa Lineage and Taklung Kagyu).
Drikung Kagyu is one of the most prominent lineages in Ladakh where its main monasteries are Phyang and Lamayuru, with roughly 50 other monasteries spread across Ladakh region.
A sub-school of the Drikung was the Lhapa or Lhanang Kagyu, which was influential in western Bhutan from the arrival of Gyalwa Lhanangpa (b.1164) in 1194 down to the time of Ngawang Namgyal. Members of the Lhapa tradition built some of the earliest dzongs in Bhutan.
In 1640 or 1641 members of the Lhapa sect were expelled from Bhutan together with the Nenying Kagyu as they had sided with the Central Tibetan forces against the Drukpas during Tibet's three invasions of Bhutan.
From the founding of Drikung Thil Monastery in 1179 to the present day, the Drikung Kagyu lineage has been led by a succession of spiritual heads ("throne-holders"). One of the two current heads of the lineage, Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang Rinpoche, Könchok Tenzin Kunzang Thinley Lhundrup (b. 1946), the 37th Drikungpa resides at Drikung Kagyu Institute at Dehra Dun, India. The other head of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage, the 36th Drikungpa, Drikung Kyabgön Chungtsang Rinpoche, Könchok Tenzin Chökyi Nangwa (b. 1942) lives in Lhasa, Tibet.
The unique doctrines of Drikung Kagyu as taught by its founder, Jigten Sumgön is preserved in "The Single Intention" (Wylie: dgongs gcig) and "The Essence of Mahāyāna Teachings" (Wylie: theg chen bstan pa'i snying po). The main practices of Drikung Kagyu are “The Five-fold Profound Path of Mahamudrā,” and “The Six Dharmas of Nāropa.”
The Drikung lineage is popularly known for its development of the practice of Phowa, in which a practitioner learns how to expel his/her consciousness or mindstream through the posterior fontanelle at the top of the skull at the moment of death. One of the Six Yogas of Naropa, this practice is said to aid the practitioner in remaining aware through the death experience, thus aiding one in attaining enlightenment in the Bardo (the state in between death and the next rebirth) or in achieving a birth conducive to the practice of Dharma.
Another unique feature of the Drikung lineage is its female dharmapāla, Achi Chokyi Drolma. The great-grandmother of Jigten Sumgön, she prophesied his birth and vowed to protect those in his lineage. She is unusual in that she is both a female protector and an enlightened bodhisattva that can be taken as an iṣṭadevatā in meditation practice. She is depicted either sitting on a horse or standing with a kapala in her left hand and a mirror in her right hand. Achi's practice became so popular that she has been included in other lineages, such as the Karma Kagyu.
In 2002 Khenmo Drolma, an American woman, became the first bhikkhuni (a fully ordained Buddhist nun) in the Drikung Kagyu lineage. She is also the first westerner, male or female, to be installed as an abbot in the Drikung Kagyu lineage, having been installed as the abbot of the Vajra Dakini Nunnery (America's first Tibetan Buddhist nunnery, located in Vermont) in 2004.
|Name||Date of Birth||Date of Death||Year Lineage Holding Begun||Year Lineage Holding Relinquished|
|Lord Jigten Sumgon||1143||1217||1179||1217|
|Kenchen Gurawa Tsultrim Dorje||1154||1221||1217||1221|
|On Rinpoche Sonam Drakpa||1187||1234||1221||1234|
|Chen-nga Rinpoche Drakpa Jungne||1175||1255||1234||1255|
|Telo Dorje Drakpa||1210||1278||1255||1278|
|Thog-khawa Rinchen Senge||1226||1284||1278||1284|
|Chen-nga tsamchedpa Drakpa Sonam||1238||1286||1284||1286|
|Chu-nyipa Dorje Rinchen||1278||1314||1293||1314|
|Nyer-gyepa Dorje Gyalpo||1283||1350||1314||1350|
|Nyermyipa Chökyi Gyalpo||1335||1407||1350||1395|
|Shenyen Dondrup Gyalpo||1369||1427||1395||1427|
|Chogyal Rinchen Pal Zangpo||1421||1469||1428||1469|
|Rinchen Chökyi Gyaltsen||1449||1484||1469||1484|
|Gyalwang Kunga Rinchen||1475||1527||1484||1527|
|Gyalwang Rinchen Phuntsok||1509||1557||1527||1534|
|Rinchen Namgyal Chodak Gyaltsen||1527||1570||1565||1570|
|Tsungme Chogyal Phuntsok||1547||1602||1579||1602|
|Naro Nyipa Tashi Phuntsok||1574||1628||1602||1615|
|Jetsǖn Könchog Rinchen (1st Chetsang) ||1580||1654||1615||1626|
|Kunkhyen Chökyi Dragpa (1st Chungtsang) ||1595||1659||1626||1659|
|Könchog trinley Sangpo (Chetsang)||1656||1718||1659||1718|
|Trinley Dondrub Chogyal (Chungtsang)||1704||1754||1704||1754|
|Kônchog Tenzin Drodul (Chetsang)||1724||1766||1724||1766|
|Könchog Tenzin Chökyi Nyima (Chuntsang)||1755||1792||1755||1792|
|Tenzin Padme Gyaltsen (Chetsang)||1770||1826||1770||1826|
|Tenzin Chöwang Lodrô (Regent)||1826||1827|
|Jetsǖn Chonyi Norbu (Chungtsang)||1827||1865||1827||1865|
|Könchog Thukie Nyima (Chetsang)||1828||1881||1828||1881|
|Könchog Tenzin Chôkyi Lodrö (Chungtsang)||1868||1906||1868||1906|
|Könchog Tenzin Zhiwe Lodrö (Chetsang)||1886||1943||1886||1943|
|Tenzin Chökyi Jungme (Chungtsang)||1909||1940||1909||1940|
|Tenzin Thuben Wangpo (Regent)||1940||1942|
|Tenzin Chökyi Nangwa (Chungtsang)||1942||1942|
|Könchog Tenzin Kunzang Thinley Lhundrup (Chetsang)||1946||1946|