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Drukpa Lineage -

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The Drukpa Lineage[1] (Dzongkha: འབྲུག་པ་བཀའ་བརྒྱུད), or simply Drukpa,[2] sometimes called either Dugpa or "Red Hat sect" in older sources,[3][4] is a branch of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. The Kagyu school is one of the Sarma or "New Translations" schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Within the Drukpa Lineage, there are further sub-schools, most notably the eastern Kham tradition and middle Drukpa school which prospered in Ladakh and surrounding areas. In Bhutan the Drukpa Lineage is the dominant school and state religion.


The Drukpa lineage was founded in west Tibet by Tsangpa Gyare (1161–1211), a student of Ling Repa, who mastered the Vajrayana practices of the mahamudra and Six Yogas of Naropa at an early age. As a tertön or "finder of spiritual relics", he discovered the text of the Six Equal Tastes, previously hidden by Rechung Dorje Drakpa, the student of Milarepa. While on a pilgrimage Tsangpa Gyare and his disciples witnessed a set of nine dragons (Tibetan: druk) roaring out of the earth and into the skies, as flowers rained down everywhere. From this incident they named their sect Drukpa.

Also important in the lineage were the root guru of Tsangpa Gyare, Ling Repa and his guru, Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo, who was in turn a principal disciple of Gampopa as well as Dampa Sumpa[citation needed], one of Rechung Dorje Drakpa's main disciples.

A prominent disciple of Tsangpa Gyare's nephew, Onre Darma Sengye, was Phajo Drugom Zhigpo (1208–1276) who in 1222 went to establish the Drukapa Kagyu teachings in the valleys of western Bhutan.[5]

Branches of the Drukpa Lineage

The outstanding disciples of Tsangpa Gyare Yeshi Dorje (1161–1211), the first Gyalwang Drukpa, may be divided into two categories: blood relatives and spiritual sons. His nephew, Onre Darma Sengye (1177–1237), ascended the throne at Ralung, the main seat of the Drukpa lineage. Darma Sengye guided the later disciples

of Tsangpa Gyare, such as Gotsangpa Gonpo Dorje (1189–1258), onto the path of realization, thus becoming their guru as well. Darma Sengye's nephew and their descendants held the seat at Ralung and continued the lineage.

Gyalwa Lorepa, Gyalwa Gotsangpa and his disciple Gyalwa Yang Gonpa, are known as Gyalwa Namsum or the Three Victorious Ones in recognition of their spiritual realization. The followers of Gyalwa Lorepa came to be called the 'Lower Drukpas'. The followers of Gyalwa Gotsangpa came to be called the 'Upper Drukpas'. And the followers of Onre Darma Sengye came to be called the 'Middle Drukpas'.

After the death of 4th Gyalwang Drukpa, Kunkhyen Pema Karpo, in 1592, there were two rival candidates for his reincarnation. Gyalwang Pagsam Wangpo, one of the candidates, was favored by the King of Tsang and prevailed. His rival, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, was then invited to Western Bhutan and eventually he unified the entire country and established Drukpa as the preeminent Buddhist school from Haa all the way to Trongsa.

The Drukpa Lineage was divided from that time on into the Northern Drukpa (Dzongkha: བྱང་འབྲུག་, Wylie: byang 'brug)[6] branch in Tibet headed by the Gyalwang Drukpa and the Southern Drukpa (Dzongkha: ལྷོ་འབྲུག་, Wylie: lho 'brug)[6] based in Bhutan and headed by the Shabdrung incarnations.[7] Ever since Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal appointed Pekar Jungne as the 1st Je Khenpo, the spiritual head of all monasteries in Bhutan, successive Je Khenpos have acted to date as spiritual regents of Bhutan.


Several of Tsangpa Gyare's students started sub-schools, the most important of which were the Lower Drukpa founded by Gyalwa Lorepa Wangchug Tsondru and the Upper Drukpa founded by Gyalwa Gotsangpa Gonpo Dorje. This branch further gave rise to several important sub-schools. However the chief monasteries and

succession of Gyalwang Drukpa Tsangpa Gyare passed to his nephew, Önre Darma Senge, at Ralung Monastery; this lineage was known as the Central Drukpa. This lineage of hereditary "prince-abbots" of Ralung continued until 1616, when Ngawang Namgyal, the Zhabdrung Rinpoche, fled to Bhutan due to a dispute over

the incarnation of the 4th Gyalwang Drukpa and the enmity of the Tsangpa ruler. Due to those events, the Central Drukpa split into the Southern Drukpa led by the Zhabdrung and his successors in Bhutan and the Northern Drukpa led by Gyalwang Pagsam Wangpo and the successive Gyalwang Drukpa tulkus in Tibet.[8]

Lower Drukpa

The Lower Drukpa (Wylie: smad 'brug) was founded by Tsangpa Gyare's disciple Loré Wangchuk Tsöndrü (Wylie: lo ras dbang phyug brtson 'grus, 1187-1250). Lorepa built the Üri (Wylie: dbu ri) and Sengeri (Wylie: seng ge ri) monasteries and visited Bhutan, where he founded Tharpaling Monastery (Wylie: thar pa gling) in Jakar. A special transmission of the Lower Drukpa Lineage is known as The Five Capabilities (Wylie: thub pa lnga), which are:[9]

Being capable of [facing] death: capability of Mahāmudrā (Wylie: phyag rgya chen-po 'chi thub)

Being capable of [wearing only] the cotton cloth: capability of tummo (Wylie: gtum mo ras thub)

Being capable of the tantric activities done in seclusion (Wylie: gsang spyod kyi ri thub)

Being capable of [facing] the disturbances of 'don spirits: sickness (Wylie: nad 'don gyi 'khrug thub)

Being capable of [facing] circumstances: capability of [applying] antidotes (Wylie: gnyen-po rkyen thub-pa)

The Upper Drukpa

The Upper Drukpa (Wylie: stod 'brug) was founded Tsangpa Gyare's disciple Götsangpa Gönpo Dorjé (Wylie: rgod tshang pa mgon po rdo rje, 1189-1258), a highly realized yogi who had many disciples.[10] His main disciples were Orgyenpa Rinchenpel (Wylie: o rgyan pa rin chen dpal, 1230—1309), Yanggönpa (Wylie: yang dgon pa), Chilkarpa (Wylie: spyil dkar pa) and Neringpa.

Orgyenpa, who was also a disciple of Karma Pakshi, 2nd Karmapa Lama, became a great siddha who traveled to Bodhgaya, Jalandhar, Oddiyana and China. In Oddiyana he received teachings related to the Six Branch Yoga of the Kalachakra system known as the "Approach and Attainment of the Three Adamantine States" (Wylie: rdo rje gsum gyi bsnyen sgrub) and, after returning to Tibet, founded the Orgyen Nyendrup tradition and wrote many works including a famous guide to the land of Oddiyana. Ogyenpa had many disciples including Rangjung Dorje, 3rd Karmapa Lama, Kharchupa (Wylie: mkhar chu pa, 1284—1339)[11] and Tokden Daseng (Wylie: rtogs dan zla seng).

Barawa Gyeltsen Pelzang (, 1255-1343) was a great scholar of the Upper Drukpa succession of Yanggönpa. He established the Barawa sub-school, which for a time was widespread in Tibet and survived as an independent lineage until 1959.[12] For a time this lineage was also important in Bhutan.

The Central Drukpa

The Middle Drukpa (Wylie: bar 'brug) was the hereditary lineage of Tsangpa Gyare centered at Ralung. Following Tsangpa Gyare, the next holder of this lineage was his nephew Darma Sengge (Wylie: dar ma seng ge, 1177-1237), son of Tsangpa Gyare's brother Lhanyen (Wylie: lha gnyan). Darma Sengge was succeeded by his own nephew Zhönnu Sengge (Wylie: gzhon nu seng ge, 1200–66) and he by his nephew Nyima Sengge (Wylie: nyi ma seng ge, 1251-1287).

The lineage then went to his cousin Dorje Lingpa Sengge Sherap (Wylie: rdo rje gling pa seng ge shes rab, 1238-1287), son of Wöntak (Wylie: dbon stag),[13] a member of the branch of the Drukpa lineage descended from Tsangpa Gyare's brother Lhambum Wylie: lha 'bum). The lineage passed to Sengge Sherap's brother Sengge Rinchen (Wylie: seng ge rin chen, 1258-1313), who was succeeded in turn by his son Sengge Gyelpo (Wylie:

seng ge rgyal po, 1289-1326), grandson Jamyang Künga Senggé (Wylie: 'jam dbyangs kun dga' seng ge, 1289-1326), great-grandson Lodrö Sengge (Wylie: blo gros seng ge, 1345–90) and great-great-grandson Sherap Sengge (Wylie: shes rab seng ge, 1371–92). These first nine holders of Tsangpa Gyare's lineage were known as the "Incomparable Nine Lions" (Wylie: mnyam med seng ge dgu).

Sherap Sengge, who died at the age of 21, was succeeded on the throne of Ralung by his elder brother Yeshe Rinchen (Wylie: ye shes rin chen, 1364-1413) and he by his sons Namkha Pelzang (Wylie: nam mkha' dpal bzang, 1398-1425) and Sherap Zangpo (Wylie: shes rab bzang po, 1400–38). These three were considered the

emanations of the three mahāsattvas Manjusri, Vajrapani and Avalokiteśvara, respectively. Sherap Zangpo's son was the second Gyalwang Drukpa, Gyelwang Künga Penjor (Wylie: rgyal dbang rje kun dga' dpal 'byor, 1428–76), who received teachings from the most renowned lamas of his age and became a great author and teacher.

From the 2nd Gyalwang Drukpa, the lineage passed to his nephew Ngakwang Chögyel (Wylie: ngag dbang chos rgyal, 1465-1540), then successively in turns from father to son to Ngak gi Wangchuk Drakpa Gyeltsen

(Wylie: ngag gi dbang phyug grags pa rgyal mtshan, 1517-1554), Mipham Chögyal (Wylie: mi pham chos rgyal, 1543-1604), Mipham Tenpa'i Nyima (Wylie: mi pham bstan pa'i nyi ma, 1567-1619) and Ngawang Namgyal, who was the great-great-grandson of Ngawang Chögyal.

In the Middle Drukpa tradition many great scholars appeared including the fourth Gyalwang Drukpa, Kunkhyen Pema Karpo (kun mkhyen padma dkar po) [1527—1592], Khewang Sangay Dorji (mkhas dbang sangs rgyas rdo rje) [1569—1645] and Bod Khepa Mipham Geleg Namgyal (bod mkhas pa mi pham dge legs rnam rgyal) (1618—1685) who was famed for his knowledge of poetics, grammar and medicine. His collected works fill over twenty volumes

in modern editions. He founded Sangngak Chö Monastery (Wylie: gsang sngags chos gling) in 1571[14] to "subdue the klo pa", the inhabitants of southeastern Tibet.[15] This monastery, which is located in modern Lhoka Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region near the border with Arunachal Pradesh, India, became the seat of the successive Gyalwang Drukpa incarnations in Tibet and thus the center of the Northern Drukpa.

Three great siddhas of Middle Drukpa school were Tsangnyön Heruka (1452-1507), author of the Life of Milarepa, the Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, the Life of Rechungpa, and compiler of the Demchog Khandro Nyengyud; Drukpa Kunley (1455-1529); and Ünyön Künga Zangpo (Wylie: dbus smyon kun dga' bzang po, 1458-1532). All three were disciples of the 4th Gyalwang Drukpa.

Following the death of the 4th Gyalwang Drukpa, two incarnations were recognized: Paksam Wangpo (Wylie: dpag bsam dbang po), who was the offspring of the Chongje Depa, and Ngawang Namgyal, who was also the heir to Drukpa lineage of Ralung. Paksam Wangpo gained the backing of the powerful Tsangpa Desi, who was a

patron of the Karma Kagyu and hostile to Ngawang Namgyal. The latter subsequently fled to Bhutan, where his lineage already had many followers, established the Southern Drukpa, and became both the spiritual and temporal head of the country, after which the country became known as Drukyül in Standard Tibetan and Dzongkha.

Contemporary organisation

The Southern Drukpa are led by the Je Khenpo (an elected office, not a tulku lineage), who is the chief abbot of the Dratshang Lhentshog of Bhutan.

The Northern Drukpa are led by the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa or incarnation of the Gyalwang Drukpa. In Kham, Khamtrul Rinpoche traditionally has been the most prominent Drukpa Lineage master, and still commands a huge following in Kham.

Unlike previously where the lineage was divided geographically into Northern, Middle and Southern Drukpa, the Drukpa Lineage masters today often cross these traditional borders and communicate to strengthen the lineage and the teachings. In April 2009, the first of a yearly event known as the Annual Drukpa Council

(ADC) [16] was held on Druk Amitabha Mountain [17] in Kathmandu, Nepal. More than 40 masters of the lineage from India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet attended this event and over 10,000 lay practitioners and at least

1,000 monks and nuns or more met on this occasion. This was the first time an annual event for the Drukpa Lineage involving all the three major branches will be held, as a concerted effort to reunite the strengths of the Drukpa Lineage and to mend the historical connections of different monasteries and organizations.

In July 2007, when the lineage celebrated its 800-plus-years' legacy in Shey, Ladakh, more than 100,000 attended the event that included celebrations and prayers, as well as mask dancing by 300 nuns. This event, boasted of the first firework in the Himalayas, the first 800 sky lanterns being lit in the Himalayas and the first 12,000 biodegradable balloons sent to the sky, was covered by international media [18][19]

In 2010, the Gyalwang Drukpa launched an initiative to plant one million trees in Ladakh, as part of the ‘one million trees’ campaign initiated by Wangari Maathaï, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. As part of this initiative, the Gyalwang Drukpa led the Live to Love volunteers to break the Guinness World Record twice for most trees planted simultaneously. The first in October 2010, 9,313 volunteers planted 50,033 trees within half an hour, breaking their first Guinness World Records for the "Most Trees Planted"

category. In October 2012, they broke again the Guinness World Records for the same category, with over 9,800 volunteers planted nearly 100,000 trees, safeguarding villages from mudslides and cleaning polluted air.[20]

The Drukpa Lineage under the guidance of its spiritual masters, in particular the Twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa,[21] has established centers across the world, especially in Europe.


In March 2008, the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa, declared his preference that:

The spiritual lineage [should] be known throughout the world firmly and clearly as "Dongyu Palden Drukpa", meaning the Spiritual Lineage of the Glorious Dragons or simply the "Drukpa Lineage". I hope and pray that as holders of the Dragon Order, all of my colleagues would be mindful of their activities and their efforts. They have to know and be clear about which household they belong to, and surely they need to be aware of others' ulterior intention.

He goes on to note that the "different lineages within a major Tibetan Buddhist branch are like brothers, of course some brothers do better than others, but that doesn't mean that those doing better could self-

appoint themselves as the heads of other weaker brothers' households and take over their assets, wives and children, in the name of 'helping' and in the name of 'supporting'," and for that reason it is better that dKar-brgyud[clarification needed] not be used any longer.[22]

Commemorative stamp

Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche, Shri SK Sinha, Member (HRD), Department of Posts, the Gyalwang Drukpa and Arjun Pandey holding the newly released stamp and first-day cover on "The Drukpa Lineage of Buddhism"

On 14 May 2014, the Department of Posts celebrated Buddha Purnima with the release of a commemorative stamp on the Drukpa Buddhists, a rare and perhaps the first recognition given by the Indian government to a particular Buddhist lineage.[23]

Conversion by Karma Kagyu

On 10 September 2014, the Gyalwang Drukpa issued an official statement [24] that the Drukpa monasteries in Mount Kailash have been forcibly taken over by the Karma Kagyu order with Drukpa monks and yogis being forced out of their monasteries, and photographs of Drukpa masters have been replaced with photographs of Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje.[25]

The office of Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje replied, saying "in the late 70s, a high lama of their sect had visited the Kailash region and witnessed how four Drukpa monasteries had been desecrated. 'He had then urged that these be restored because they are very sacred.'".[26]

Western perception

Some nineteenth and early-twentieth century writers believed the "Dugpas" to be sorcerers focusing principally on the left-hand path traditions and various Tantric practices of Buddhism.[3] Alexandra David-Néel claims that the name "Dugpa" comes from the Tibetan word for thunder, as the first monastery was built during a thunderstorm.[4]

In August 2017 Reuters reported on the Drukpa nuns' social activism, in particular in teaching self-defence to women because of the rise in the number of rapes in India. The nuns are nicknamed the "Kung Fu Nuns". According to the Reuters report, the Drukpa nuns were "the only female order in the patriarchal Buddhist monastic system where nuns have equal status to monks".[27]


Important monasteries of the Drukpa order include:

Ralung Monastery in Central Tibet just north of Bhutan

Druk Sangag Choeling Monastery[28][29]

Hemis Monastery

Punakha Dzong, the winter home of the Dratshang Lhentshog

Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, which houses the Dratshang Lhentshog in summer

Namdruk Monastery

Kardang Monastery, the main monastery in Lahaul

Drukpa Lineage Masters

Gyalwang Drukpa

Drukpa Yongzin Rinpoches

Drukpa Choegon Rinpoches

Chogdra Rinpoche

Thuksey Rinpoche

Apho Rinpoche

Sey Rinpoche

Gyalwa Dokhampa

Jazong Rinpoche


^ Ray, Reginald A (2002). Secret of the Vajra World: The Tantric Buddhism of Tibet. Shambhala Publications. p. 53. ISBN 1-57062-917-X.

^ The Wand that opens the Eyes and Dispels the Darkness of Mind. Compiled by Tashi Namgyal, translated in 2004. pg. 3

^ a b Blavatsky, H.P. (1 March 2003). The Theosophical Glossary. Kessinger Publishing Co. ISBN 0766147118 . ^ a b Initiations And Initiates In Tibet, p. 34 by Alexandra David-Néel.

^ Dargye, Yonten (2001). History of the Drukpa Kagyud School in Bhutan (12th to 17th Century A.D.). Thimphu, Bhutan. ISBN 99936-616-0-0.

^ a b The Biographies of Rechungpa: The Evolution of a Tibetan hagiography. Roberts, Peter Alan. Routledge, 2007. ISBN 0-415-76995-7, pg. 53

^ The History of Tibet. ed. Alex Mckay. London: Routledge Curzon, 2003: 191–192.

^ Smith & Schaeffer 2001, pp. 44-5.

^ Martin 2006.

^ "Gotsangpa Gonpo Dorje". The Treasury of Lives. Retrieved 2 October 2018.

^ "Orgyenpa Rinchen Pel". The Treasury of Lives. Retrieved 2 October 2018.

^ Smith 2001, p. 45.

^ "Sengge Sherab". The Treasury of Lives. Retrieved 2 October 2018.

^ Berzin 2013.

^ "gsang sngags chos gling". Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center. Retrieved 27 June 2015.

^ "Annual Drukpa Council - Online Registration Form for 6th ADC". Retrieved 31 October 2016.

^ "Druk Gawa Khilwa Abbey". Retrieved 31 October 2016.

^ "Pilgrims flock to India for Buddhistdragon’ celebration" AFP"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 June 2008. Retrieved 17 June 2008.

^ More news, photographs and media articles on the 800th anniversary celebration in Ladakh[1]

^ "New world record for planting trees in Leh - Times of India". Retrieved 31 October 2016.

^ "The Gyalwang Drukpa - The Gyalwang Drukpa's Official Website". Retrieved 31 October 2016.

^ News – Monks and Baby Sheep

^ "Indian Government Releases Postage Stamp on Drukpa Lineage". Retrieved 31 October 2016.

^ The Gyalwang Drukpa. "The Gyalwang Drukpa - On Forced Conversion of Drukpa Monasteries". Retrieved 31 October 2016.

^ "Tibetan Buddhist Sect Seeks Indian Intervention". Retrieved 31 October 2016.

^ "Eye on border, China fanning intra-sect rivalry: Ladakh's Buddhist leader". 25 September 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2016.

^ "Kung Fu nuns teach women to defend themselves from would-be rapists in India". The Straits Times. 25 August 2017. Retrieved 18 January 2020.

^ "Druk Jangchub Choling". The Treasury of Lives. Retrieved 2 October 2018.

^ "byang chub gling". Buddhist Digital Resource Center. Retrieved 2 October 2018.

Further reading

Drukpa Kagyu - The Treasury of Lives

The Royal Seal of Mahamudra by the Third Khamtrul RInpoche

Dargye, Yonten; Sørensen, Per; Tshering, Gyönpo (2008). Play of the Omniscient: Life and works of Jamgön Ngawang Gyaltshen an eminent 17th–18th century Drukpa master. Thimphu: National Library & Archives of Bhutan. ISBN 99936-17-06-7.

Dorji, Sangay (Dasho) (2008). The Biography of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal: Pal Drukpa Rinpoche. Kinga, Sonam (trans). Thimphu, Bhutan: KMT Publications. ISBN 99936-22-40-0.

Roberts, Peter Alan (2007). The Biographies of Rechungpa: The Evolution of a Tibetan hagiography. Routledge-Curzon. ISBN 0-415-76995-7.