His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang


Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang</

His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, the 37th throne holder of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage and 7th Kyabgön reincarnation of the Chetsang Rinpoche, is a manifestation of Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara).

The Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, Konchog Tenzin Kunsang Thrinle Lhundrup, was born on the 4th day of the 6th Tibetan month of the Fire-Dog-Year 1946 into the aristocratic family of Tsarong in Lhasa. This auspicious day marks the anniversary of the Buddha’s first turning of the Wheel of Dharma.

In 1950 he was recognized as the reincarnation of the Drikung Kyabgon; he subsequently passed numerous tests, such as identifying religious items and ritual objects of his former incarnations. His incarnation was further confirmed by divinations performed by Taktra Rinpoche (the Regent of Tibet), H.H. the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, and H.H. Taklung Matrul.

In the fall of 1950 the formal enthronement as Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang took place at Drikung Thil, the main monastery of the Drikung Kagyu order. Immediately thereafter the first Chinese invasion of Tibet took place.

His spiritual instructors (yongzin), Tritsab Gyabra Rinpoche and Ayang Thubten Rinpoche (1899–1966), were responsible for his education. From his yongzin and from Bhalok Thupten Chodrak Rinpoche, Lho Bongtrul Rinpoche, and Nyidzong Tripa he received the basic empowerments, transmissions, and teachings of the Kagyu tradition and the Drikung Kagyu tradition in particular.

At the age of eleven, the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang gave his first public teaching and transmission, a long-life empowerment, during the 1956 Monkey Year ceremonies of the Great Drikung Phowa. Subsequently he began his philosophical studies at the Nyima Changra monastic college of Drikung. Although he was four years younger he studied together with the second Drikung lineage holder, Chungtsang Rinpoche.

Soon thereafter Tibet underwent a great upheaval. In the wake of the Tibetan uprising of 1959, as many Tibetans fled the country, several attempts were launched to bring Chetsang Rinpoche and Chungtsang Rinpoche out of Tibet into safety. These attempts failed because of the inexorable resistance of the monastery manager.

The monks in the Drikung monastery were put under house arrest. After some months Tritsab Gyabra, who had left the monastery some years before, took Chetsang Rinpoche to live with him in Lhasa under rather dismal conditions.

At the onset of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Chetsang Rinpoche, like many aristocrats and Rinpoches, had to undergo brutal “people’s tribunals” known as struggle sessions. Lhasa sank into chaos.

In 1969, he was assigned to a commune in the countryside, where he had to carry out the hardest physical labor. In the spring and in summer Chetsang Rinpoche drudged on the fields of the work unit. In autumn he had to climb high mountains to cut firewood for the commune and carry home heavy loads. In the winter he had to shovel out the sewage from the cesspits in Lhasa and carry it to the farm. Despite the strenuous labor, Chetsang Rinpoche helped others, whenever he could. Nobody knew that he was the Drikung Kyabgön.

After meticulous planning, he finally found a means of escape in 1975. He set out alone across high passes and glaciers and accomplished what was thought to be impossible. Unscathed he reached Nepal and eventually the residence of the Dalai Lama at Dharamsala.

Rinpoche conceded to the appeals of the Drikung lamas in exile and so he was again symbolically enthroned as the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang during a ceremony with the Dalai Lama. By this act he expressed the promise to take responsibility for the lineage in the future.

He entered a traditional three year retreat at Lamayuru Monastery under the guidance of the stern meditation master Kyunga Sodpa Gyatso (1911–1980).

The Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang studied with numerous highly accomplished lamas and Rinpoches of different traditions and received from them teachings and initiations. He regards Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910–1991) as one of his most important teachers. He received from him the essential teachings of the Eight Practice Lineages of Tibetan Buddhism (Dam Ngag Dzo), the highest Dzogchen teachings (Nyingtig Yashi), as well as the collected writings of Jamgon Kongtrul (Gyachen Kadzo) and the treasury of the oral Kagyu transmissions (Kagyu Ngag Dzo). In addition he received precious teachings and empowerments from H.H. the Dalai Lama (Chakrasamvara, Kalachakra, and Yamantaka), from H.H. the 16th Karmapa (Six Yogas of Naropa and Milarepa), from H.H. Taklung Shabdrung Rinpoche (transmission of the Taklung Kagyu teachings) and from H.H. Taklung Tsetrul the Northern Treasures. He studied Buddhist philosophy under Khenpo Noryang in the Drukpa Kagyu monastery Sangnag Choling in Bhutan. Moreover Chetsang Rinpoche received important Drikung Kagyu empowerments and teachings on Mahamudra from H.E. Garchen Rinpoche and Drubwang Konchog Norbu.

In 1985, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang received full monk's ordination from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, during the Kalachakra initiation in Bodhgaya. Since 1987 Chetsang Rinpoche began to give teachings in many countries throughout the world.

At the same time he started to rebuild the weakened Drikung Lineage with great energy. In Dehra Dun, India, he established a monastery and an educational center, attracting many monks from Tibet and Buddhist practitioners from many countries: the Drikung Kagyu Institute. In the beginning it consisted of the monastery Jangchubling, the retreat center and nunnery Samtenling.

In 2003, Chetsang Rinpoche established near his monastery a magnificent edifice: the Songtsen Library, a center for Tibetan and Himalayan studies. It contains rare texts about all subjects of the Himalayan region, works on Tibetan culture, tradition and geography, and of course the Buddhist texts of all schools. It houses an important collection about the famous Dunhuang manuscripts unearthed along the Silk Road. There, an unimaginable wealth of texts in various languages dating from the 4th to the 11th centuries was discovered. The Tibetan corpus alone includes thousands of manuscripts of all kinds, including the earliest Tibetan medical drawing known at present. Thus these ancient texts provide the researcher with a vast array of source material on the earliest period of Tibet, which Chetsang Rinpoche would like to make accessible in its entirety, as his scope encompasses the preservation of Tibetan culture and religion.

In 2005 close to the Songtsen Library, the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang built a large College for Higher Buddhist Studies, the Kagyu College. With its inauguration the new Drikung Mandala in Dehra Dun was completed.

He published in 2011 the History of the Tibetan Empire (drawn from the Dunhuang Manuscripts), authentic unaltered records of the earliest sources on the Tibetan Dynasty, starting with an examination of the dynasty’s prehistoric origins and proceeding until the empire’s collapse in the 9th century.

In recent years he started several new outstanding activities; the most important are the Go Green Ecological Projects in Ladakh, the Ice Stupa Project in the Himalaya Area and in November 2015 the great Shravasti Project.




Monkey Year Teachings 2016

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