A Brief Biography of His Holiness, Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche
Monday 9 November 2015
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A Brief Biography of His Holiness, Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche
DRIKUNG KYABGON, Konchok Tenzin Kunzang Trinley Lhundrup (Chetsang), was born to the prominent Tsarong family in Lhasa, on the 4th day of the 6th Tibetan month in the Fire Dog Year, 1946. This auspicious day marks the anniversary of the Lord Buddha’s first turning the Wheel of Dharma at Sarnath. On the day of Drikung Kyabgon’s birth, there was a very special event at the Lhasa Jo Khang Temple. His Holiness Tagdrag Rinpoche, who was the Regent of Tibet, had presented a diamond which was placed on the forehead of a large Buddha Shakyamuni (Jo) statue. This diamond had been purchased from the Tsarong family. There were other auspicious events surrounding the Drikung Kyabgon’s birth. During her pregnancy, the Drikung Kyabgon’s mother had a vision of Green Tara. She did not tell anyone at the time because she did not want her son to go to the monastery.
After the passing of the previous Drikung Kyabgon, Shiwe Lodro, two parties began to look for his reincarnation throughout Tibet. Over several years they had found various possible candidates. The most significant event in locating the present Drikung Kyabgon (Chetsang) was the vision His Eminence Gyabra Rinpoche had while at Nam Tso Lake. On the surface of this sacred lake, His Eminence saw the image of a house, with two upper stories, a victory banner and the surrounding garden and paths. He saw a puppy circling around the victory banner, which confirmed the incarnation had been born in the Year of the Dog. Having subsequently been located, Drikung Kyabgon passed numerous tests, such as identifying the mala, prayer wheel and other ritual objects of his former incarnations. His incarnation was further confirmed by divination’s performed by His Holiness Tagdrag Rinpoche (Regent of Tibet), His Holiness Gyalwa Karmapa, and His Eminence Taglung Matrul.
At the age of four, the newly recognized Drikung Kyabgon was escorted to Drikung Thel, the main monastery of the Drikung Kagyu order. Over 2,000 people traveled with him, wearing traditional dress and performing special ceremonial dances along the way. At Drikung Thel, Drikung Kyabgon was formally enthroned. Representatives from all the Buddhist orders and from the Tibetan government were present.
The Drikung Kyabgon’s education started with learning to read, write and memorize all the important Drikung Kagyu texts. His education was given by several instructors. From the Venerable Yongzin Thubten Rinpoche he learned grammar, astrology and medicine. From H.E. Gyabra Rinpoche he received all the general Kagyu teachings, like the Kagyu Ngak-Zod, and all the Drikung Kagyu transmissions. From H.E. Nyindzong Tripa Rinpoche he received all the Drikung Kagyu transmissions and all the general Nyingma transmissions, called the Rinchen-Terzod. From H.E. Lho Drongdrul Rinpoche, he received all the Drikung transmissions and all the Drikung Kagyu Dharma Protector’s empowerments. At the age of eleven, Drikung Kyabgon gave his first public teachings and transmission of the Great Drikung Phowa, during the Monkey Year ceremonies.
In 1956, Drikung Kyabgon’s parents fled to India. He stayed behind at the Drikung monastery. In 1959, Communist China closed the monastery. Drikung Kyabgon had to move elsewhere. Fortunately, he was adopted by his former tutor, H.E. Gyabra Rinpoche. In 1960, Drikung Kyabgon was admitted into an elementary school in Lhasa. He studied very hard, doing homework until midnight, so he was able to finish the six years of education in only three years. In 1964, he went to middle school. He excelled in his studies, especially in linguistics and in sports (soccer). In 1969, he was assigned to a farm in the countryside, working fifteen hours a day of hard physical labor. Back home, he had to carry his water from a long distance and cook for himself.
- Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche
After planning for many years, Drikung Kyabgon finally found a means of escape. In 1975, he set out alone to cross the border of Tibet into Nepal. When he reached Kungbu Kangla, he met two men who were going the same way. When they came to a deep crevice, which was impossible to cross the men revealed a board which was hidden under the ice. They laid the board over the crevice and led him across. Without their help, he could not have made his escape. After eight days of walking alone, he finally reached Katmandu.
Once in Nepal, everything went very smoothly, and he was able to reach Dharamsala, India, without any difficulties. Drikung Kyabgon had an audience with His Holiness the 14th Dalal Lama. There was an official ceremony in which the Drikung Kyabgon was formally enthroned again in India.
After three months, accompanied by his father, Drikung Kyabgon went to the United States. He was reunited with his family again after eighteen years of separation. He stayed in the U.S. for two and a half years. During that time he took a four month’s intensive English course and completed a course in adult education, both in Texas. During his stay with his parents, he kept himself very busy. After school, he worked part-time at Mac Donald’s and other restaurants, practicing his English. At home, he started working on the history of the Drikung lineage. He received many letters from his followers in India requesting him to return.
Although Drikung Kyabgon had lived an "ordinary lifestyle", with many different people and in various societies over the past eighteen years, he had strictly kept his monk’s vows. In 1978, he decided to go back to India and resume his monastic lifestyle once again. He took up residence at Phiyang monastery, near Leh, Ladakh. He spent most of his time pursuing religious studies and practices (including various retreats). Drikung Kyabgon did the strict three year retreat at Lama Yuru Monastery, under the guidance of the Meditation Master, Kyunga Rinpoche. In 1985, Drikung Kyabgon received full monk’s ordination from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, during the Kalachakra initiation in Bodh Gaya.
Drikung Kyabgon received teachings and initiations from many highly accomplished lamas and Rinpoches of different traditions. From His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama he received ChakraSamvara, Kalachakra and Yamantaka initiations and teachings. From His Holiness Gyalwa Karmapa he received Milarepa empowerment, Six Yogas of Naropa and other teachings. From His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche he received the Dam-Ngak-Zod (transmission and teachings from the eight schools of Tibetan Buddhism), Nging-Thig—Yeshe and Yeshe-Lama (the highest Dzogchen teachings), Gyachen-Ka-Zod (the ten knowledge’s) and Gyu-Sangwa-Nyingpo. From H.E. Taglung Shabtrung he received the transmissions for most of the Taglung Kagyu teachings. He studied philosophy and received teachings and transmissions in both general Kagyu and Drupka Kagyu Mahamudra teachings from Khenpo Noryang, the abbot of the main Drupka Kagyu monastery in Darjeeling. He also received some of the very important Drikung Kagyu empowerments and Mahamudra teachings from both His Eminence Garchen Tritrul Rinpoche, and the Meditation Master, Druwang Konchok Norbu.
Drikung Kyabgon founded the Drikung Kagyu Institute, at JangChub Ling, in 1985. It is located in the foothills of the Himalayas, outside Dehra Dun, India. There are currently over one hundred and fifty students, of which the first group will graduate in 1996. The Drikung Kagyu Institute is an education center, which emphasizes both the traditional monastic education, as well as present-day training to meet the needs of these times. The Institute has started a research project. This very large project consists of collecting all the Drikung Kagyu texts. There are many rare texts that in this way will be preserved and printed for studies and for practitioners to use. The latest project Drikung Kyabgon has initiated is the setting of a "Computer Library", where documentation materials on the ways of living, philosophy and religious thought of the peoples of the Himalayas are to be centrally registered. A draft document of this project is available upon request. Also, there is a meditation retreat center nearby. Many of the graduates will do the traditional three years retreat upon completing their training.
His Holiness now resides primarily at JangChub Ling in Dehra Dun, Northern India. Located at Drikung Kagyu Institute, P.O. Box 48, Sahastradhara Road, Dehra Dun, U.P. India 248001