HIS HOLINESS THE DRIKUNG KYABGON CHETSANG
His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang is one of two heads of the Drikung Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism. Born in 1946 in Lhasa, Tibet, he was recognized at the age of four as the reincarnation of the previous Drikung Kyabgon and formally enthroned and educated at Drikung Thil, the main monastery of the Drikung Kagyu order in central Tibet. During the Tibetan exodus in the late 1950s, his parents fled to India while he remained at Drikung Thil. In 1959, Communist China closed the monastery, and His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang was adopted by his former tutor, His Eminence Gyabra Rinpoche. After completing his elementary and middle school education in Lhasa, in 1969 he was assigned to a countryside farm, working fifteen hours a day doing hard physical labor.
In 1975, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang crossed the Himalayan border separating Tibet from Nepal—on foot and all alone except for fortuitous help from two strangers at one impassable point. He traveled to Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, where he was received by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and formally enthroned once again. Then, after eighteen years of separation, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang was reunited with his family in the United States. He stayed for several years, completing courses in English and adult education—and working after school at McDonald’s to practice his English.
In 1978, he returned to India, taking up rigorous Buddhist practice, retreats, and instruction from many of the greatest living masters of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1985, in Dehra Dun, India, he founded the Drikung Kagyu Institute, Jang Chub Ling, which provides traditional monastic and modern education to c. 450 monks and nuns; a meditation retreat center; and a project to collect and preserve all the Drikung Kagyu texts, as well as document the ways of life, philosophy, and religious traditions of the peoples of the Himalayas. Read more about the extraordinary life and accomplishments of His Holiness the Drikung Kyagbon Chetsang.
VENERABLE LAMA THUBTEN NIMA
Lama Thubten Nima was born in 1965 into conditions of political turmoil and exile associated with the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Lama Thubten Nima had the good fortune to receive instruction at the age of fourteen on the effects of virtuous and harmful actions by the great yogi Tamga, and he completed the four hundred thousand accumulations of the preliminary practices (ngö ndro) according to the Buddhist Yangzab terma.
His family having long been associated with Gar Monastery prior to the Cultural Revolution, Lama Thubten Nima made great efforts to travel to the Gar Monastery where he received refuge ordination from His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche. He then received full monastic ordination and the bodhisattva vow from the great siddha Karma Norbu, and was admitted to the Gar Monastery. There, he trained in the ritual practices of the tantras of Old and New Schools and other diverse religious activities. He was selected for special training at Lho Lungkar Monastery, including the Eight Heruka Sadhanas, the Embodiment of the Masters’ Realization, Vajrakilaya, and Essence of Great Bliss. He served as chant master and, later, as disciplinarian of the Gar monastery.
Thereafter, he received teachings from many of the great living Buddhist masters including Dzogchen trekchod and thogal from Khenpo Munsel Rinpoche, the entirety of the Drikung Kagyu protectors and the higher and lower tantra sections from HE Garchen Rinpoche, and received from Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok his own terma (mind treasure) of the Kilaya cycle of teachings. At Drigung Thil, he received from Drubpon Tendzin Nyima some of the profound teachings of the Drikung Kagyu such as the Fivefold Mahamudra and the Six Yogas [of Naropa]. He studied the Gong Chig (Single Intention), Essence of Mahayana, The Bodhisattva Way of Life, and the Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices with Drigung Khenpo Namzig. Under the elder Drigung chant master Konchog Samten, he trained in the ritual practices of Chakrasamvara, Varahi, the Yangzab, Sarvavid and Akshobhya.
Subsequently, HE Garchen Rinpoche appointed him as Vajra Master and asked him to undertake a series of assignments to help reorganize and reestablish Buddhist practice and monastic discipline in monasteries throughout the region after, in some cases, a twenty-five year breach in the Buddhist practice tradition. These monasteries included Lho Miyel Monastery, Khargo Monastery and later Tseri Monastery in Sichuan where he reestablished the Great Accomplishment (Drupchen) practice of Yamantaka and gave other teachings. At the request of HE Garchen Rinpoche, he also served as Lama (religious teacher and minister) for two years at Tamgo Monastery in Central Tibet, the former dwelling place of Chung Dorje Dragpa, the fourth lineage holder of the Drikung Kagyu. There, Lama Thubten Nima established the summer retreat, set up a yearly teaching schedule and appointed a chant master, disciplinarian and shrine master.
Later, at Gar Monastery, Lama Thubten Nima took responsibility for instructing the nuns at the Fivefold Mahamudra Meditation Center of Gargon Nunnery. He then came to America to do a Yamantaka Retreat with HE Garchen Rinpoche. At present, he serves as the a Teacher and Chant Master for the Garchen Institute in Arizona. He is also the founder of the Drikung Rinchen Choling Foundation in Los Angeles, California, where he continues to oversee the center as the Resident Lama.
VENERABLE DRUPON RINCHEN DORJEE RINPOCHE
Having great altruistic motivation from early childhood, Venerable Drupon Rinchen Dorje Rinpoche entered Tana Monastery in Tibet in 1984. Drupon Rinpoche received teachings on the Fivefold Path of Mahamudra and Kunsang Lama’s Words of Profound Instruction, Dzogchen’s Great Completion Parting from Samsara and Nirvana, Pointing Out the Nature of Mind, and other teachings from Tulku Nyendrak Gyaltsen Rinpoche. Rinpoche has also received Chakrasamvara according to Drilbupa, including the empowerment, scriptural transmission, and pith instructions from Tulku Thogme Rinpoche.
Venerable Drupon Rinchen Dorjee joined the Drikung Kagyu Institute in 1993, and has received instruction in philosophy, Gongchig, Theckchen Tenying, Dhagpo Thargyan, and Uttaratantra from Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen and other profound teachers of the Lineage. In 1995 Drupon Rinpoche received full ordination vows from His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche, and in the same year accomplished the ngondro practices to mahamudra and the grand mantra recitation of Chakrasamvara. In 1996, he received initiation into the Profound Path of the Six Yogas of Naropa. Drupon Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has completed two (2) three-year retreats, one at Almora and one at Lapchi, the holy retreat place of the great yogi, Jetsun Milarepa. He has received profound instructions too numerous to mention during these retreats.
In 2005, he received the five-deities Hevajra according to Marpa’s tradition of empowerment, transmission and instructions from His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche, and in 2006 he completed the grand mantra recitation of glorious Hevajra’s fire puja at the Almora retreat center.
Drupon Rinchen Dorje Rinpoche is now the retreat master for the 3 Year Retreat at the Garchen Buddhist Institute and gives teachings on Chakrasamvara and leads the Chakrasamvara Drupchen in the summer at the Institue. His main center is Chicago Ratna Shri.
VENERABLE KHENPO TENZIN
Venerable Khenpo Tenzin was born near Gargon Monastery in the Nagchen Tibet, 1990. Coming from a very large family, Khenpo had a very strong inclination to study Dharma. His wish to enter the spiritual life was so strong that he taught himself to play the trumpet and learned many of the Lamas dances himself simply by observing and acting them out.
When Khenpo turned 9 years of age his family honored his wishes and allowed him to enter Gargon Monastery. During this time he attended the general courses of study for new monastics and completed his 5 fold path Mahamudra Ngondro practice.
Khenpo received recognition for his studies and his ability to quickly memorize long dharma text, and he was one of eight promising monks to travel to Sertar Monastery (Jigme Phuntsok’s massive learning center in Sichuan, housing at times over 10,000 monks and nuns) and continue their studies at this prestigious place of learning.
Subsequently Khenpo Tenzin studied at Dzongsar Shedra in Sichuan and when he finally arrived in India he studied at the famous Gelug center, Sera Jey Monastic Universtiy.
In 2015 at the urging of Garchen Rinpoche, arrangements were made to have Khenpo Tenzin come to the U.S. and in early 2016 Khenpo was made the resident teacher at the Garchen Buddhist Institute.
Khenpo Tenzin has also studied and completed certified courses in English as a Second Language & American Culture at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
In front of a large assembly during the recent visit of H.H. Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche for the 4th annual Drikung Kagyu Monlam, Lama Tenzin was recognized and awarded the title Khenpo, by both H.H. Chetsang Rinpoche and by H.E. Garchen Rinpoche.
VENERABLE KHENPO SAMDUP
Venerable Khenpo Samdup was born in Tibet and is a long-time student of His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche.
He studied the philosophy of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism under numerous Khenpos, including Khenpo Munsel and Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok. He taught for five years at Kagyu College in India founded by His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, from whom he received the vast teachings and transmissions of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage. Khenpo Samdup is the resident lama at Gar Drolma in Ohio and Drikung Dharma Surya Center in Virginia.
His current writings include: Learning Buddhism: Source of Temporary and Permanent Happiness
and commentaries on Jigten Sumgon’s Gongchig: Clarifying the Central Thoughts of the Single Intention, The Supplication of the Seven Taras, and The Stages of Meditation: A Meditation Guide.
For more information on Khenpo Samdup click below
VENERABLE LAMA ABAO
Abao Lama’s parents lived as nomads in Tibet at a time of great political change, and they endured many hardships just to survive. Five of their ten children died due to the difficult circumstances.
Abao Lama was born in 1969 and was one of the surviving children. From the age of six until the age of eight he studied the Tibetan language and script. At the age of fourteen, he met his Root Lama, His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche, with whom he took refuge at that time. Afterward, he completed 500,000 recitations of the Fivefold Mahamudra Ngondro.
At age fifteen Abao Lama received his monastic vows and instructions on Mahamudra from the Mahasiddha Karma Norbu. At the age of eighteen he met Khenpo Munsel from Golog for the first time. After having completed the Dzogchen Ngondro he received instructions and transmission on Trekcho and Thogal.
Starting at the age of twenty-two, he served for three years at Gargon monastery, having responsibility for the offerings received by the monastery. In addition to this position, he attended to the Lamas in the monastery and practiced Tsok on a regular basis. Also during this time, he gathered accumulations of the mantras of White Tara, Yamantaka, and the root mantras of the four enlightened activities of the deities.
In 1997 Abao Lama traveled with H.E. Garchen Rinpoche to America, and he subsequently became an American citizen. Since 1997 Rinpoche has built many centers around the world, and Abao Lama has been one of Rinpoche’s two attendants on his travels throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. Abao Lama is President of Garchen Buddhist Institute.
VENERABLE LAMA BUNIMA
Lama Bunima was born in 1963 in Gargon village in Tibet to a nomadic family, and he kept watch over his family’s flock of yaks and goats. He had sincere devotion to the Dharma from the age of 8, and at 16 he met His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche, who came to Gargon for a brief visit. When Rinpoche returned for a second visit two years later, Lama Bunima received the refuge vows from His Eminence and great devotion arose. With this devotion and great faith, he completed the ngondro practice while still living as a nomad. He did prostrations and mandala offerings in his mother’s house and completed the Vajrasattva and Guru Yoga practices while tending the animals. Shortly thereafter he received the Ganges Mahamudra transmission and instructions.
He lived as a nomad until age 21, and from that time on he stayed with Rinpoche. Starting in 1982, Lama Bunima helped Rinpoche rebuild his monasteries, which had been destroyed during the turmoil in Tibet. He received his monastic ordination in 1982 from Khenpo Munsel and subsequently received Trekcho and Thogal transmission and many other teachings from Garchen Rinpoche. In 1993, together with Rinpoche, he left Tibet for the first time. They traveled for one year in India, Nepal, and Hong Kong, and thereafter, until 1997, they spent most of the time in Tibet. Lama Bunima attended to Rinpoche throughout their travels, and at other times he stayed at Gargon monastery and did various retreats. While in retreat, his primary practice was Nyungne. In 1997 he traveled with Rinpoche to America, and he subsequently became an American citizen.
Since 1997 His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche has built many centers around the world, and Lama Bunima has been one of Rinpoche’s two attendants on his travels throughout Europe, Asia, and North America.
LOPON BARBARA DU BOIS
Lopön Barbara Du Bois, PhD, is known for the clarity, freshness, humor, and fearless love with which she meets us, shining a frank Western light on the path. Her principal gurus in this lifetime are H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche and H.E. Garchen Rinpoche.
Barbara has been teaching Buddhadharma since the mid-1980s. In 2002 H.H. Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang Rinpoche conveyed the blessing of the lineage, his hands upon her crown, and in 2004 H.E. Garchen Rinpoche appointed her Lopön (Master Dharma Teacher); she is the only disciple to receive this title from Garchen Rinpoche in the United States. He has said of Lopön Barbara that she is “an authentic, genuine lama, able to tame beings according to their needs.” In accord with Rinpoche’s personal instructions, Barbara’s teachings elucidate the essence of the Buddhadharma, pointing always to the union of the Two Truths.
Barbara’s long lifetime of service has included work with the United Nations, disarmament, refugees from colonial regimes and genocide, and an indigenous women’s peace movement during an active civil war in Africa. Formerly also a social scientist and artist, Barbara is more recently the author of Brave, Generous, & Undefended: Heart Teachings on the 37 Bodhisattva Practices (2020) and Light Years: A Spiritual Memoir (2011); she has also compiled and edited works by two Western indigenous spiritual teachers, Ven. Dhyani Ywahoo and David Chethlahe Paladin. Lopön Barbara currently resides in Arizona.