Buddhism Drigung Kagyu (’Bri gung bKa’ brgyud)
by
Casey Alexandra Kemp
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0223

Introduction

The Drigung Kagyu (’Bri gung bKa’ brgyud) lineage is one of the most prominent schools of the Tibetan Buddhist Kagyu tradition. The various Kagyu lineages are generally rooted in the transmission of teachings originating from the Indian mahāsiddhas Tilopa (b. 988–d. 1069) and Nāropa (b. 1016–d. 1100). Nāropa is said to have taught Mahāmudrā and his tantric system of the Six Yogas (nā ro’i chos drug) to the Tibetan translator Marpa Chokyi Lodrö (b. 1012–d. 1097), who in turn transmitted these instructions to Milarepa (b. 1040–d. 1123). Milarepa had multiple close students, but the most well-known among them was Gampopa Sonam Rinchen (b. 1079–d. 1153), who synthesized the Mahāmudrā tradition with the Kadampa tradition of Atīśa Dīpaṅkara (b. 982–d. 1054). One of Gampopa’s students was Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo (b. 1110–d. 1170), from whom the eight sub-branches of the Kagyu lineage are said to stem, including the Drigung. The founding of the Drigung tradition and lineage is attributed to Jigten Sumgön (b. 1143–d. 1217), who emphasized Gampopa’s synthesis of the Mahāmudrā and Kadampa in his teachings. He is considered by his followers to be a fully enlightened buddha and a reincarnation of the famous Buddhist philosopher and mahāsiddha Nāgārjuna (c. 2nd/3rd century). He met Phagmo Drupa only three years before his death in 1170, after which Jigten Sumgön traveled to the Drigung valley northeast of Lhasa and settled in a small hermitage there, where he founded the monastery Drigung Thil in 1179. This monastery quickly became a famous center for study and practice. Yogis practiced the Kagyu tantric system of the Six Yogas of Nāropa and Jigten Sumgön gave biannual teachings on important topics of the Drigung Kagyu tradition such as the doctrine of the Single Intention (dgongs gcig) and the Essence of Mahāyāna Teachings (theg chen bstan pa’i snying po). These teachings continued to be maintained even after his death, with numerous texts produced on these topics by famous Drigung masters such as Jigten Sumgön’s nephew and successor, Sherap Jungné (b. 1187–d. 1241) and later by such scholars as Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa (b. 1595–d. 1659). Drigung Thil also became a center of secular power during the 13th century until it was suppressed and destroyed in 1290 by the Mongols, although the monastery was rebuilt shortly afterward. Drigung Thil also became famous as an important site for sky burials, the funerary practice of offering corpses to vultures, and as the location for the famous Great Drigung Phowa Festival (’Bri gung ’pho ba chen mo), which until recently was held every twelve years. Although the Drigung political influence waned, the Drigung Kagyu school continued to have a strong religious influence throughout the Himalayas, particularly in western Tibet and Ladakh, where early Drigung monasteries continue to be active. The tradition of Drigung Kagyu lineage-holders continued in a familial line of the Kyura lineage until the 17th century, when the tradition of having two lineage-holders, a Chetsang and a Chungtsang, who were recognized reincarnations of the last two brothers of the Kyura line, became institutionalized. This tradition has continued to this day, with the current Chetsang Rinpoche living in India, where he established a monastic seat-in-exile in Dehradun, while Chungtsang Rinpoche continues to reside in Tibet in Lhasa. Both heads regularly teach and give empowerments according to the Drigung Kagyu tradition, and the lineage continues to grow internationally with adherents of the tradition establishing meditation and retreat centers in countries such as Vietnam, Germany, and the United States.

General Overviews

Although the Drigung Kagyu lineage is one of the most prominent Buddhist schools in Tibet, with a rich doctrinal, artistic, and cultural history, there have been few systematic studies dedicated to general overviews of the tradition. In order to gain a general understanding of the history and significance of the lineage it is necessary to contextualize the school within the history and transmission line of the greater Marpa Kagyu tradition. The Kagyu lineages stemming from the translator Marpa Chokyi Lodrö (b. 1012–d. 1097) are based on the teachings of the Indian mahāsiddhas Tilopa (b. 988–d. 1069) and Nāropa (b. 1016–d. 1100) that he transmitted to students in Tibet. Perhaps the most concise and significant overviews of the important teachings and transmission lines of the early Kagyu are Roerich 1949 and Kongtrul 2007, both translations of important Tibetan texts. A Brief History of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism gives the relevant information on introducing the history of the Drigung Kagyu school, while Nyima 2009 and Buswell and Lopez 2014 also give short but informative introductions to the lineage. Huckenpahler 1990 and Tenzin and Lye 2007 provide life story accounts and lineage prayers of the Drigung Kagyu, and Smith 1969 gives an introduction to the production, recension, and significance of the major textual corpus of the Drigung founder, Jigten Sumgön (b. 1143–d. 1217). Petech 1978 is the most important article to date covering the religious and political history of the Drigung tradition, focusing on western Tibet and Ladakh.

  • A Brief History of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

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    This webpage is dedicated to introducing the origins of the Drigung Kagyu lineage, the history of the development of the school, and the significance of the spiritual heads of the Chetsangs and Chungtsangs. This page is part of the official website for the Drigung Kagyu lineage.

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    • Buswell, Robert, and Donald Lopez. “’Bri gung bka’ brgyud.” In The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. By Robert Buswell and Donald Lopez, 144. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014.

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      This is a brief but accurate introduction to the Drigung lineage. It is also followed by an entry on the Drigung Thil Monastery in central Tibet.

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      • Huckenpahler, Victoria. The Great Kagyu Masters: The Golden Lineage Treasury. Translated by Khenpo Könchog Gyaltsen. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1990.

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        Based on translations of important Tibetan texts, Khenpo Könchog Gyaltsen introduces readers to the life stories and lineage prayers of the Drigung Kagyu school. This is aimed at a general audience and does not critically contextualize the sources and content.

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        • Kongtrul, Jamgön. “Marpa Kagyu.” In The Treasury of Knowledge Book Eight, Part Four: Esoteric Instructions. Translated by Sarah Harding, 137–231. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2007.

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          This chapter is a translation made by Sarah Harding from a section of Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye’s famous Tibetan collection, The Treasury of Knowledge (gDams ngag mdzod). This section gives a brief introduction to the various Kagyu schools stemming from Marpa and gives a detailed account of the significant Kagyu teachings and practices of Mahāmudrā and the Six Yogas of Nāropa, the core teachings upheld by the Drigung tradition.

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          • Nyima, Thuken Lobsang Chökyi. “Drigung Kagyü.” In The Crystal Mirror of Philosophical Systems: A Tibetan Study of Asian Religious Thought. Edited by Roger Jackson, 129–130. Translated by Geshe Lhundub Sopa. Institute of Tibetan Classics. Boston: Wisdom, 2009.

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            This important work on the major Tibetan Buddhist lineage traditions was originally written in the 19th century by Thuken Losang Chökyi Nyima (b. 1737–d. 1802). Chapter 6 is dedicated to giving general introductions to Kagyu tradition and the various subschools, including the Drigung tradition.

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            • Petech, Luciano. “The ’Bri-gun-pa Sect in Western Tibet and Ladakh.” In Proceedings of the Csoma de Kőrös Memorial Symposium, held at Matrafured, Hungary, 24–30 September, 1976. Edited by Louis Ligeti, 313–325. Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 1978.

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              A comprehensive article on the religio-political influence of the Drigung Kagyu lineage in Ladakh and western Tibet.

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              • Roerich, George. “The Spiritual Lineage of the Lord Translator Mar-pa Which Was Known as the Dwags-po bKa’-brgyud.” In The Blue Annals Part II. Edited by George Roerich, 399–724. Calcutta: Motilal Banarsidass, 1949.

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                This translation of Gö Lotsawa’s (b. 1392–d. 1481) monumental history of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, The Blue Annals (Deb ther sngon po) includes a chapter to the Dagpo Kagyu lineage of Marpa and Gampopa. Here, we find valuable historical information of lineage transmissions between central figures of the Drigung Kagyu as well as other Kagyu schools. Jigten Sumgön’s life and teachings he received and transmitted are outlined in this section (pp. 596–601).

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                • Smith, Gene. “Introduction.” In ‘Jig ten mgon po’i Bka’ ’bum. Edited by Gene Smith, 1–4. Dehradun, India: Drikung Kagyu Institute, 1969.

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                  Although this introduction is not widely available, it is a detailed and insightful account of the collected works and tradition of the founding member of the Drigung Kagyu lineage.

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                  • Tenzin, Khenpo Tsültrim and Hun Lye. Masters of the Golden Rosary Lineage: Life and Liberation Stories of Drigung Kagyü Throne-holders. Gainesville, FL: Vajra, 2007.

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                    This work is a translation based on The Golden Garland of the Throne Lineage (Gdan rabs chos byung gser phreng), composed by the 4th Drigung Chetsang, Tenzin Pema Gyaltsen (b. 1770–d. 1826). This text outlines the life stories of the heads of the Drigung lineage up through the 28th throne-holder, as well as the Drigung religious history.

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                    Primary Sources

                    Thousands of texts that are attributed to members of the Drigung Kagyu lineage are preserved solely in Tibetan language. Only a small portion of these texts have been translated, so it is necessary to consider what primary works are accessible and essential for those wishing to study the tradition in depth. All major collections listed here can be easily accessed through the online digital library, the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC). The most comprehensive collection of Drigung Kagyu texts that includes the collected works of many important lineage masters is The Great Treasury of Drigung Kagyu Teachings (’Bri gung bka’ brgyud chos mdzod chen mo). In terms of collected works by particular authors, it is important to note Phagmo Drupa’s compendium, Dorje Gyalpo’s Collected Works (rDo rje rgyal po’i gsung ’bum), as well as Jigten Gonpo’s Collected Works (’Jig rten mgon po’i gsung skor) and Sherap Jungné’s Collected Works (Shes rab ’byung gnas kyi gsung ’bum). In terms of specific texts which are central to the doctrine of the Drigung tradition, one important text is the Essence of Mahāyāna Teachings (theg chen bstan pa’i snying po). The various editions and commentaries to the Single Intention (dgongs gcig) doctrine attributed to Jigten Sumgön and Sherap Jungné are also important; in particular, the manuscript of the commentary by Dorje Sherab (Dorje Sherab 2015) is relevant due to its dating as well as the text’s significance to the tradition.

                    • Dorje Gyalpo’s Collected Works (rDo rje rgyal po’i gsung ’bum). 9 vols. Kathmandu, Nepal: Khenpo Shedrub Tenzing and Lama Thinley Namgyal, 2003.

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                      This collection includes hundreds of pith instructions and commentaries by Jigten Sumgön’s primary teacher, Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo. Available online at TBRC.

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                      • Dorje Sherab. Illuminator, a Light of Gnosis: The Great Commentary on the Single Intention (dGongs gcig ‘grel chen snang mdzad ye shes sgron me). Munich: Edition Garchen Stiftung, 2015.

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                        A rare manuscript dating to the 13th century of an important commentary on the Single Intention doctrine by Dorje Sherab housed at the Musee Guimet, Paris.

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                        • The Great Treasury of Drigung Kagyu Teachings (’Bri gung bka’ brgyud chos mdzod chen mo). 151 vols. Lhasa, Tibet: n.p., 2004.

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                          This large compilation of collected works and instructions by the various lineage masters of the Drigung Kagyu order as well as other important Kagyu masters is the largest single anthology of Drigung writings available.

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                          • Jigten Gonpo’s Collected Works (’Jig rten mgon po’i gsung skor). 15 vols. Dehradun, India: Songtsen Library, 2008.

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                            This is a computer input version made up of Jigten Sumgön’s collected works available on TBRC. While this version includes input errors and should be checked against other versions by scholars, it is nevertheless a valuable resource since the content is searchable.

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                            • Norje Repa. Essence of Mahāyāna Teachings (theg chen bstan pa’i snying po). 2 vols. Delhi: Drikung Kagyu Sungrab Nyamso Khang, 2005.

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                              Important Drigung treatise on the Essence of Mahāyāna Teachings by Norje Repa (b. 1090–d. 1166).

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                              • Sherap Jungné’s Collected Works (Shes rab ’byung gnas kyi gsung ’bum). Edited by Chetsang Rinpoche. Delhi: Drikung Kagyu, 2002.

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                                Collected writings his nephew and main student, Sherap Jungné, which includes a searchable computer input version. This collection includes multiple life story accounts of Jigten Sumgön as well as the Single Intention (dgongs gcig) teachings.

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                                Early Masters

                                The founders of the Kagyu tradition include famous Indian and Tibetan Buddhist masters such as Nāropa (b. 1016–d. 1100), Marpa Chokyi Lodrö (b. 1012–d. 1097), and Milarepa (b. 1040–d. 1123), all of whom had a profound impact on the major Kagyu lineages. However, the central instructions that are maintained by the Drigung Kagyu school in particular are based on the systematized teaching and practice programs developed and taught by Gampopa Sonam Rinchen (b. 1079–d. 1153), Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo (b. 1110–d. 1170), and especially Jigten Sumgön (b. 1143–d. 1217). Teachings such as the Fivefold Mahāmudrā (phyag chen lnga ldan) are said to have been taught originally to Phagmo Drupa by Gampopa. Furthermore, many of the doctrines included within Jigten Sumgön’s Single Intention (dgongs gcig) were directly influenced by Gampopa’s tradition synthesizing various Buddhist philosophical systems and practices. Since Phagmo Drupa was the primary master of Jigten Sumgön, all of his major teachings he attributes to the instructions of Phagmo Drupa. Thus, these three masters can be understood as the central early masters who shaped the unique character of the Drigung Kagyu tradition, which continues to be maintained to this day.

                                Gampopa Sonam Rinchen

                                Gampopa Sonam Rinchen (b. 1079–d. 1153) is one of the most well-known early Kagyu masters and is credited with combining the monastic Kadampa (bKa’ gdams pa) system of Atiśa (b. 980–d. 1054) with the esoteric and tantric traditions of the Marpa Kagyu school. Gampopa is also famous for advocating non-tantric and direct approaches to realization as inclusive within the Mahāmudrā tradition. He is also credited with being the first to teach the Fivefold Mahāmudrā (phyag chen lnga ldan) method and asserting that the buddha-nature doctrine of the Ratnagotravibhāga (rGyud bla ma) is the philosophical basis for non-tantric Mahāmudrā, a view maintained by the Drigung tradition. There have been some valuable general introductions to the life and teachings of Gampopa based on Tibetan accounts provided in Gyaltsen 1990, Stewart 1995, and Gardner 2009. However, perhaps the most thorough study to date on Gampopa’s life and works is Sherpa 2004. Davidson 2005 establishes Gampopa in the religious historical setting of 12th-century Tibet, while Kragh 2013a and Kragh 2013b examine in depth the structure and doctrinal content of Gampopa’s collected writings (bka’ ’bum). While multiple non-academic translations of selected works attributed to Gampopa are available, perhaps the most relevant available translation is of Gampopa’s famous Jewel Ornament of Liberation (Dwags po thar rgyan) in Gyaltsen 1998.

                                • Davidson, Ronald. “Gampopa and the Kagyüpa Efflorescence.” In Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture. By Ronald Davidson, 282–290. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

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                                  Davidson’s section on Gampopa contextualizes his doctrines and life within the religio-historical context of 12th-century Tibet.

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                                  • Gardner, Alexander. Gampopa Sonam Rinchen. The Treasury of Lives, 2009.

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                                    Gardner provides a clear introduction to the life of Gampopa on the online platform The Treasury of Lives. Here, Gardner also gives a list of all the major students of Gampopa according to The Blue Annals (Deb ther sngon po).

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                                    • Gyaltsen, Khenpo Könchog. “Gampopa.” In The Great Kagyu Masters: The Golden Lineage Treasury. By Khenpo Könchog Gyaltsen, 187–204. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1990.

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                                      Gyaltsen gives a general but concise overview of the life and teachings of Gampopa as understood by the Drigung tradition.

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                                      • Gyaltsen, Khenpo Könchog. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation: The Wish-Fulfilling Gem of the Noble Teachings. Edited by Ani K. Trinlay Chödron. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1998.

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                                        This is a translation of Gampopa’s most famous work, The Jewel Ornament of Liberation (Dwags po thar rgyan) as presented by a contemporary master from the Drigung Kagyu school.

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                                        • Kragh, Ulrich. “All Mind, No Text–All Text, No Mind: Tracing Yogācāra in the Early Bka’ brgyud Literature of Dags po.” In The Foundation for Yoga Practitioners: The Buddhist Yogācārabhūmi Treatise and Its Adaptation in India, East Asia, and Tibet. Edited by Ulrich Kragh, 1361–1386. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013a.

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                                          This study investigates the influence of Yogācarā on the doctrinal, formal, and scriptural makeup of the Collected Works of Gampopa (Dwags po’i bka’ ’bum). This gives a unique and insightful approach to the writings of Gampopa that influenced the schools that developed from his teachings, including the Drigung Kagyu lineage.

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                                          • Kragh, Ulrich. “The Significant Leap from Writing to Print: Editorial Modification in the First Printed Edition of the Collected Works of Sgam po pa Bsod nams rin chen.” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies 7 (2013b): 365–425.

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                                            A detailed study of the structure, contents, and recensions of the Collected Writings of Gampopa (Dwags po’i bka’ ’bum).

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                                            • Sherpa, Trungam Gyaltrul Rinpoche. “Gampopa, the Monk and the Yogi: His Life and Teachings.” PhD diss., Harvard University, 2004.

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                                              This dissertation is the most thoroughly researched available material to date of the life and works of Gampopa.

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                                              • Stewart, Jampa Mackenzie. The Life of Gampopa. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1995.

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                                                This is one of the most comprehensive introductory books to the life and teachings of Gampopa written for a general audience.

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                                                Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo

                                                Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo (b. 1110–d. 1170) was one of the most prominent and direct disciples of Gampopa. His collected works include numerous writings of the Mahāmudrā and Six Yogas of Nāropa (nā ro’i chos drug) tradition. Phagmo Drupa’s disciples went on to found the eight sub-branches of the Kagyu school, which included the Drigung lineage, the founding of which is generally attributed to one of Phagmo Drupa’s closest students, Jigten Sumgön (b. 1143–d. 1217), who met Phagmo Drupa only three years before his death. The Drigung Kagyu lineage is particularly known for maintaining the Fivefold Mahāmudrā (phyag chen lnga ldan) system that was taught to Phagmo Drupa by Gampopa (b. 1079–d. 1153). Phagmo Drupa is thus considered an important master of the Drigung lineage and his works continue to be studied by members of the tradition. Numerous short accounts of his life story are available in English, including Gyaltsen 1990, Rinpoche 2004, and Martin 2008. More detailed accounts of his life and translations of particular teachings and doctrines are provided in Liu 2002, Phagmo Drupa 2008, and Schiller 2014. Stearns 2001 focuses on Phagmo Drupa’s Path with Fruition (lam ’bras) texts, which he most likely composed before meeting Gampopa.

                                                • Gyaltsen, Khenpo Könchog. “The Glorious Phagmo Drupa.” In The Great Kagyu Masters: The Golden Lineage Treasury. By Khenpo Könchog Gyaltsen, 205–219. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1990.

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                                                  In Gyaltsen’s overview of famous Drigung Kagyu masters, he dedicates a chapter to the life and teachings of Phagmo Drupa based on readings from primary texts.

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                                                  • Liu, Kuo-wei. “Candragomin’s Bodhisattvasaṃvaraviṃśaka and Its Commentary by Phag mo gru pa.” In “’Jig-rten-mgon-po and the ‘Single Intention’ (Dgongs gcig): His View on Bodhisattva Vows and Its Influence on Medieval Tibetan Buddhism.” PhD diss., Harvard University, 2002.

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                                                    The fifth chapter of Liu’s work on the bodhisattva views within the context of the Single Intention is dedicated to a translation of an important commentary written by Phagmo Drupa. This chapter also includes an outline of Phagmo Drupa’s life story. See pp. 206–282.

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                                                    • Martin, Dan. Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyelpo. The Treasury of Lives, 2008.

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                                                      Martin provides a clear overview of the life and teachings of Phagmo Drupa including his most well-known teachers and students. This overview is provided as an online resource on The Treasury of Lives website.

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                                                      • Phagmo Drupa. Engaging by Stages in the Teachings of the Buddha. Translated by Tara Foundation. Munich: Otter-Verlag, 2008.

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                                                        This work, translated under the guidance of Khenpo Könchog Gyaltsen, is one of Phagmo Drupa’s most essential texts outlining the stages of the Buddhist path. This publication also includes a translated biography of Phagmo Drupa, although it is a general introductory work.

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                                                        • Rinpoche, Takpo Chän Nga. The Life and Liberation of Phagmo Drupa, the Protector of Migratory Beings. Translated by Terence Barret. Beijing: Nationalities Publications, 2004.

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                                                          This publication is available online through Drikung.org and is a translation of the life story of Phagmo Drupa found in the Drigung Dharma History (’Bri gung chos ’byung).

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                                                          • Schiller, Alexander. Die “Vier Yoga”-Stufen der Mahāmudrā-Meditationstradition: Eine Anthologie aus den Gesammelten Schriften des Mönchsgelehrten und Yogin Phag mo gru pa rDo rje rgyal po (Kritischer Text und Übersetzung, eingeleitet und erläutert). Indian and Tibetan Studies 2. Hamburg, Germany: Universität Hamburg, 2014.

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                                                            This publication of Schiller’s PhD dissertation includes a German translation of Jigten Sumgön’s commentary on Phagmo Drupa’s instruction manual on the four yoga stages of Mahāmudrā.

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                                                            • Stearns, Cyrus. “The Works of Phag mo gru pa.” In Luminous Lives: The Story of the Early Masters of the Lam ’bras Tradition in Tibet. By Cyrus Stearns, 26–31. Boston: Wisdom, 2001.

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                                                              Stearns dedicates a full section in “Chapter One: The Literary Tradition” to outlining texts on the Path with Fruition (lam ’bras) tradition attributed to Phagmo Drupa, who practiced this system prior to meeting Gampopa.

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                                                              Jigten Sumgön

                                                              Jigten Sumgön (b. 1143–d. 1217), also known as Jigten Gonpo Rinchen Pal, is considered the founder and most important figure of the Drigung Kagyu lineage. Jigten Sumgön, after studying with his main teacher Phagmo Drupa, studied with several other masters and went into retreat for a total of seven years in Echung cave. During the later part of his final retreat, he is said to have contracted leprosy and cured himself through practicing the Dharma. He then is said to have attained full realization in retreat and in 1177 he took full ordination. He then spent some time as the abbot of Phagmo Drupa’s main monastery, Densa Thil. In 1179 he traveled to a small hermitage in Drigung Thil and subsequently established a monastery in this location. This monastery quickly became a major center for yogis and monks wishing to study the Dharma and practice meditation in retreat, and a main location for the secular administration of the valley. Jigten Sumgön gave biannual teachings in Drigung Thil. His teachings would eventually became essentialized through his Single Intention (dgongs gcig) instructions, which were compiled by his closest disciple and successor, his nephew Sherap Jungné (b. 1187–d. 1241). Jigten Sumgön also left behind an extensive collection of writings that included pith instructions (gdams ngag and man ngag) on the Six Yogas of Nāropa (nā ro’i chos drug) as well as many Mahāmudrā teachings including the Fivefold Mahāmudrā (phyag chen lnga ldan). Gyaltsen 1990 and Martin 2008 provide short accounts of Jigten Sumgön’s life story based on Tibetan sources. Jungne 2014 provides a German translation of a unique biography that is a compilation of various accounts by his disciples. Liu 2002 gives a more extensive account of his life by comparing multiple Tibetan sources and also explores his understanding of the bodhisattva vows in the context of his Single Intention system. Brunnhölzl 2007 provides us with a short translation from Jigten Sumgön, giving us insight into his concerns for obstacles to practice, while Sumgön 2014 provides a translation of instructions given to yogis in retreat. Muldowney 2011 is a unique study of the protectress of the Drigung lineage, who is the great-grandmother of Jigten Sumgön. Sobisch 2010 looks into the assertion that Jigten Sumgön was a “neoconservative” by drawing upon his life story and teachings.

                                                              • Brunnhölzl, Karl. “The Great Elimination of Obstacles by Kyobpa Jigden Sumgön.” In Straight from the Heart: Buddhist Pith Instructions. By Karl Brunnhölzl, 237–240. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2007.

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                                                                This translation by Brunnhölzl is a translation of Jigten Sumgön’s advice to a student about avoiding obstacles on the path. There is a brief introduction to Jigten Sumgön and his doctrines before the translation.

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                                                                • Gyaltsen, Khenpo Könchog. “Dharma Lord Jigten Sumgön” and “The Life Story Called ‘Meaningful to Behold.’” In The Great Kagyu Masters: The Golden Lineage Treasury. By Khenpo Könchog Gyaltsen, 227–269. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1990.

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                                                                  Referring to multiple primary Tibetan sources, Gyaltsen gives a general overview of the life of Jigten Sumgön, which is followed by a translation of his life story composed by his disciple Sherap Jungné.

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                                                                  • Jungne, Chenga Sherab. Funkensprühen des kostbaren Vajras: Der Lebensweg der völligen Befreiung des Dharmaherrn Jigten Sumgön, mit der Biografie des Verfassers, “Donnerklang des Ruhms.” Translated by Christine Sommerschuh. Edited by Jan-Ulrich Sobisch. Munich: Edition Garchen Stiftung, 2014.

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                                                                    This is a German translation of a biography of Jigten Sumgön composed immediately after his death combining various accounts by his disciples. This work also includes a biography of Sherap Jungné by Rinchen Phüntshog, translated by Jan-Ulrich Sobisch.

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                                                                    • Liu, Kuo-wei. “’Jig-rten-mgon-po and the ‘Single Intention’ (Dgongs gcig): His View on Bodhisattva Vows and Its Influence on Medieval Tibetan Buddhism.” PhD diss., Harvard University, 2002.

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                                                                      Liu’s dissertation gives a detailed account of Jigten Sumgön’s Single Intention as well as an entire chapter dedicated to a full account of his life story (“Chapter 2: Life of ’Jig rten mgon po (1143–1217); pp. 38–101).

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                                                                      • Martin, Dan. Jikten Gonpo Rinchen Pel. The Treasury of Lives, 2008.

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                                                                        Dan Martin gives a concise and well-researched overview of the life and teachings of Jigten Sumgön, which is published on the online resource platform for major figures of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, The Treasury of Lives.

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                                                                        • Muldowney, Kristen. “Outward Beauty, Hidden Wrath: An Exploration of the Drikung Kagyu Dharma Protectress Achi Chokyi Drolma.” MA diss., 2011. Electronic Theses, Treatises and Dissertations. Paper 4677.

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                                                                          This MA thesis is the first systematic study of the primary protectress of the Drigung Kagyu lineage, Achi Chökyi Drolma, who is said to be the great-grandmother of Jigten Sumgön.

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                                                                          • Sobisch, Jan-Ulrich. “Were Sa-paṇ and ‘Jig-rten-mgon-po ‘Neoconservatives?’: Utility and Futility of Source-Culture Alien Categories.” Indo-Iranian Journal 53 (2010): 23–33.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1163/001972410X12686674794376Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            Sobisch’s article focuses on responding to Ronald Davidson’s claim that was made in Tibetan Renaissance (see Davidson 2005, cited under Gampopa Sonam Rinchen) that Sakya Paṇḍita (b. 1182–d. 1251) and Jigten Sumgön were “neoconservatives” in their Tibetan Buddhist presentations.

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                                                                            • Sumgön, Drikung Kyobpa Jigten. Ein Meer von Nektar: Die entscheidenden Punkte für eine Klausur in den Bergen, Yeshe Metog. Translated by Claude Jürgens. Edited by Jan-Ulrich Sobisch. Munich: Edition Garchen Stiftung, 2014.

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                                                                              This is a collection of Mountain Dharma (ri chos) instructions given to retreat yogis and attributed to Jigten Sumgön, translated into German.

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                                                                              Teachings and Practice Traditions

                                                                              The Drigung Kagyu lineage maintains the practice and contemplative systems typical to the general Tibetan Buddhist Kagyu milieu such as Mahāmudrā instructions and the tantric program of the Six Yogas of Nāropa (nā ro’i chos drug). The Drigung in particular have taught, practiced, and transmitted unique forms of these teachings including the Essence of Mahāyāna Teachings (theg chen bstan pa’i snying po), the Fivefold Path of Mahāmudrā (phyag chen lnga ldan), and commentarial literature on the Six Yogas teachings such as the Three Cycles of Merging (bsre ba’i skor gsum). The Drigung Kagyu is most well-known for promulgating the Single Intention (dgongs gcig) doctrine, a compilation of essential statements encompassing a wide range of Buddhist topics designed to present a single framework for all Buddhist teachings in relation to their intention to lead to realization. The Drigung systems represent the typical Tibetan Buddhist phenomenon of Buddhist lineage-based traditions synthesizing sūtra-oriented views and tantric techniques to produce a cohesive soteriological program.

                                                                              The Single Intention (dgongs gcig)

                                                                              Jigten Sumgön (b. 1143–d. 1217), the originator of the Drigung Kagyu lineage, is said to have initially taught the Single Intention (dgongs gcig) exclusively to his main disciple, his nephew Sherap Jungné (b. 1187–d. 1241), who wrote down this teaching in the form of statements. After some revision, this teaching was consolidated into 152 main vajra statements (rdo rje’i gsung) and forty-six supplementary vajra statements. Each statement is intended to explain the single intention of the entirety of the Buddha’s teachings among the various vehicles (theg pa), wheels (’khor lo), vow-systems (sdom pa), and trainings (slab pa) as that of the true realization of Mahāmudrā and Buddhahood. Many important commentaries have been written on the Single Intention, including Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa’s (b. 1595–d. 1659) commentary, The Lamp Dispelling the Darkness (dKa’ ’grel mun sel sgron me). Sumgön 2008 and Sumgön 2009 are the two translations of The Single Intention root text as well as Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa’s commentary. Sobisch 2015 introduces an early manuscript of another important commentary by Dorje Sherab (c. 12th century). Jungné 2011 is another translation of the root text, and Liu 2002 also provides translations and valuable academic assessments of the doctrine. Van der Kujip 1987 and Martin 1997 both look into the doctrinal implications of the content of the Single Intention, particularly its statements concerned with direct cognition (tshad ma). Sobisch 2010 outlines the classification of tantras according to Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa’s Single Intention commentary, while Sobisch 2002 focuses on the presentation of the three vows according to the Single Intention.

                                                                              • Jungné, Sherap. “The Single Viewpoint: A Root Text.” In Mahāmudrā and Related Instructions: Core Teachings of the Kagyü Schools. Translated by Peter Alan Roberts, 377–400. Boston: Wisdom, 2011.

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                                                                                This is a full translation of The Single Intention (dGongs gcig) attributed here to Sherap Jungné, who wrote down this teaching given by his root-teacher, Jigten Sumgön.

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                                                                                • Liu, Kuo-wei. “’Jig-rten-mgon-po and the ‘Single Intention’ (Dgongs gcig): His View on Bodhisattva Vows and Its Influence on Medieval Tibetan Buddhism.” PhD diss., Harvard University, 2002.

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                                                                                  Perhaps the most exhaustive study to date of Jigten Sumgön’s understanding of bodhisattva vows according to the Single Intention. This dissertation also provides a thoroughly researched account of his life story.

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                                                                                  • Martin, Dan. “Beyond Acceptance and Rejection? The Anti-Bon Polemic Included in the Thirteenth-Century Single Intention (Dgong-gcig Yig-cha) and Its Background in Tibetan Religious History.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 25 (1997): 263–305.

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                                                                                    Martin’s article extensively investigates the teachings of Bön in relation to statements expressed in the Single Intention tradition. At the beginning of the piece he also looks into the relationship between moral discipline and tshad ma (valid cognition) according to the Single Intention.

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                                                                                    • Sobisch, Jan-Ulrich. “The Three-Vow Theory According to the ’Bri-gung-pa.” In The Three Vows Theory in Tibetan Buddhism. By Jan-Ulrich Sobisch, 329–390. Wiesbaden, Germany: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2002.

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                                                                                      Sobisch’s book looks into the major presentations on the theory of the three vows in Tibetan Buddhism. He dedicates chapter 14 to looking into this topic according the Single Intention (dgongs gcig) teaching of Jigten Sumgön and Sherap Jungné.

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                                                                                      • Sobisch, Jan-Ulrich. “Interpreting the Tantras: A Tibetan Debate on the Numbers of Adepts Admissible to Tantric Consecration.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 32.1–2 (2010): 213–234.

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                                                                                        Sobisch’s article deals with understanding the classifications and significance of tantric principles according to major Tibetan scholars. Sobisch focuses the final section of his article on Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa’s interpretation of the tantras according to his understanding of the Single Intention.

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                                                                                        • Sobisch, Jan-Ulrich. “Foreword.” In Illuminator, a Light of Gnosis: The Great Commentary on the Single Intention (dGongs gcig ‘grel chen snang mdzad ye shes sgron me). By Dorje Sherab, 3–13. Munich: Edition Garchen Stiftung, 2015.

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                                                                                          Introduction to a rare manuscript dating to the 13th century of an important commentary on the Single Intention doctrine housed at the Musee Guimet, Paris.

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                                                                                          • Sumgön, Jigten. Gongchig- das einzige Ansinnen: Mit dem KommentarDie Lampe, die die Dunkelheit beseitigt” von Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa. Translated by Susanne Schmidt. Munich: Otter-Verlag, 2008.

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                                                                                            This is the only full translation in German currently available of two important texts of the Single Intention tradition, the root text The Single Intention (dGongs gcig), attributed to Jigten Sumgön, and Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa’s commentary, The Lamp Dispelling the Darkness (dKa’ ’grel mun sel sgron me). This translation is intended for a general audience and thus provides limited academic analysis of the texts and tradition.

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                                                                                            • Sumgön, Jigten. Gongchig: The Single Intent, the Sacred Dharma; with Commentary Entitled The Lamp Dispelling Darkness by Rigdzin Chokyi Dragpa. Translated by Markus Viehbeck. Munich: Otter-Verlag, 2009.

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                                                                                              This publication is the first full translation published of both Jigten Sumgön’s root text, The Single Intent (dGongs gcig), as well as its important commentary, Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa’s Lamp Dispelling Darkness (dKa’ ’grel mun sel sgron me). As it was written for a general readership, this book does not contain significant information regarding historical or text-critical concerns.

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                                                                                              • van der Kujip, Leonard. “An Early Tibetan View of the Soteriology of Buddhist Epistemology: The Case of ’Bri-Gung ’Jig-rten Mgon-po.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 15 (1987): 57–70.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1007/BF00213992Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                This article focuses on the soteriological significance of direct cognition (thad ma) according to Jigten Sumgön’s Single Intention doctrine.

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                                                                                                Fivefold Path of Mahāmudrā (phyag chen lnga ldan)

                                                                                                The Mahāmudrā tradition of the Kagyu schools is considered the most profound system of teachings and practices of the Kagyu, designed to liberate individuals through the direct recognition of the nature of mind itself (sems nyid). The tradition incorporates tantric methods, non-tantric or sūtra methods, as well as direct methods to realize the state of Mahāmudrā, described as the state of luminosity. All major figures of the Kagyu schools transmit through their lineage the Mahāmudrā teachings, each emphasizing particular techniques that are preserved within their respective traditions. For the Drigung Kagyu, while there are many general teachings on Mahāmudrā found within their textual corpus, they are particularly known for teaching the system known as the Fivefold Mahāmudrā (phyag chen lgna ldan), which is based on the Essence of Mahāyāna Teachings (theg chen bstan pa’i snying po). This system provides a framework for practice based on bodhicitta (byang chub sems), the deity form (lha sku), devotion (mos gus) or the guru (bla ma), the way of abiding (gnas lugs) or Mahāmudrā (phyag chen), and dedication (bsngo ba). Some general introductions to the significance of Mahāmudrā approaches that influenced the Drigung teachings include Martin 1992, Jackson 1994, and Mathes 2008. Rinpoche 1999 and Thamphel 2004 provide important translations of the Mahāmudrā tradition according to Drigung masters. Schiller 2014 (cited under Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo) gives a study of the Four Yogas of Mahāmudrā (phyag rgya chen po’i rnal ’byor bzhi) in accordance with Drigung teachings, and Sobisch 2008 and Sobisch 2011 look into the content of the Fivefold Mahāmudrā literature. The most general and valuable introduction is Sobisch 2002.

                                                                                                • Jackson, David. Enlightenment by a Single Means: Tibetan Controversies on the Self-Sufficient White Remedy (dkar po chig thub). Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1994.

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                                                                                                  Jackson’s study is the most extensive investigation into Sakya Paṇḍita’s critique of non-tantric Mahāmudrā as propounded by Gampopa and Lama Zhang. Jigten Sumgön was one of Gampopa’s most notable supporters of this approach to Mahāmudrā and is mentioned throughout Jackson’s work.

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                                                                                                  • Martin, Dan. “A Twelfth-Century Tibetan Classic of Mahāmudrā, The Path of Ultimate Profundity: The Great Seal Instructions of Zhang.” Journal of the International Association for Buddhist Studies 15.2 (1992): 243–319.

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                                                                                                    This valuable overview and translation of Lama Zhang’s Mahāmudrā instructions on the Four Yogas system compares it to the work attributed to Gampopa, titled Responses to Questions of Phagmo Drupa (Phag dru zhus lan). This article details the general approach and central themes found within the early textual tradition of Gampopa’s Mahāmudrā, which was transmitted and preserved through the Drigung lineage.

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                                                                                                    • Mathes, Klaus-Dieter. A Direct Guide to the Buddha Within: Gö Lotsawa’s Mahāmudrā Interpretation of the Ratnagotravibhāga. Boston: Wisdom, 2008.

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                                                                                                      Mathes covers a wide range of sources and issues surrounding conceptions and practices of buddha-nature within the Mahāmudrā tradition, covering views from the most prominent masters of the Kagyu tradition. Jigten Sumgön’s Mahāmudrā views are mentioned throughout this important book.

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                                                                                                      • Rinpoche, Chetsang. The Practice of Mahamudra: The Teachings of His Holiness The Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche. Translated by Robert Clark. Edited by Ani K. Trinlay Chödron. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1999.

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                                                                                                        A general introduction to the practice of Mahāmudrā according to the tradition of Jigten Sumgön written by the current head of the Drigung lineage, Chetsang Rinpoche.

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                                                                                                        • Sobisch, Jan-Ulrich. “Phyag chen lnga ldan: Eine Mahāmudrā Praxis der Kagyüpas.” In Buddhismus in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Band 8. Edited by Lambert Schmithausen, 139–162. Hamburg, Germany: Universität Hamburg, 2002.

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                                                                                                          Perhaps the most thorough academic introduction to the Fivefold Path of Mahāmudrā (phyag chen lnga ldan) available in German.

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                                                                                                          • Sobisch, Jan-Ulrich. “Some Aspects of Tantric Ritual Practice in Tibet.” Hōrin 15 (2008): 73–92.

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                                                                                                            Sobisch’s contribution is the only work so far that explores the how the tantric practice ritual system of the Fivefold Path of Mahāmudrā (phyag chen lnga ldan) relates to the stages of the path (lam rim) according to the Drigung tradition.

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                                                                                                            • Sobisch, Jan-Ulrich. “Guru-Devotion in the Bka’ brgyud pa Tradition: The Single Means to Realisation.” In Mahāmudrā and the Bka’-brgyud Tradition: PIATS 2006: Proceedings of the Eleventh Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Königswinter, Germany, 2006. Edited by Roger R. Jackson and Matthew T. Kapstein, 211–255. Andiast, Switzerland: International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, 2011.

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                                                                                                              In this contribution by Sobisch, he explores Jigten Sumgön’s presentation of guru yoga particularly from his writings on the Fivefold Path of Mahāmudrā (phyag chen lnga ldan).

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                                                                                                              • Thamphel, Konchok. Introduction to Mahamudra, the Co-emergent Unification by Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon. Dehradun, India: Songten Library, 2004.

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                                                                                                                Khenpo Konchok Thamphel, a translator of the Drigung tradition, has made a clear translation of a central Mahāmudrā text by Jigten Sumgön.

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                                                                                                                Six Yogas of Nāropa (nāro’i chos drug)

                                                                                                                The Six Yogas of Nāropa (nā ro’i chos drug) tradition is a scheme of tantric practices said to have stemmed from the synthesized instructions that Tilopa (b. 988–d. 1069) taught to Nāropa (b. 1016–d. 1100) in India. This system of tantric practice, which combines methods from various Higher Yoga (yogānuttara; rnal byor bla med) tantras, was transmitted to Tibet through the translator and practitioner Marpa Chokyi Lodrö (b. 1012–d. 1097). The sixfold program, which emphasizes central elements of completion-stage (rdzogs rim) tantric practice, includes heat (gtum mo), the illusory body (sgyu lus), dream (rmi lam), luminosity (’od gsal ba), the intermediate state or bardo (bar do), and transference or phowa (’pho ba). Although the Six Yogas of Nāropa is the primary tantric practice system for the Drigung Kagyu, there has been almost no research on the topic from the perspective of this important lineage tradition. Many commentaries to the Six Yogas of Nāropa can be found within the writings of Drigung masters; however, they are yet to be translated from Tibetan. The only study to date that examines explicitly Drigung literature on the Six Yogas system is Kemp 2015. Kragh 2011 covers the relevant authoritative literature found in Tibetan, while Torricelli 1993 introduces the fourfold lineage tradition of Tilopa’s teachings. Torricelli 1996 and Torricelli 1997 provide valuable translations and assessments on important texts on the Six Yogas of Nāropa as found in the Tibetan Buddhist Tanjur. Kongtrul 2007 is another translation of an important Tibetan overview of the sixfold system.

                                                                                                                • Kemp, Casey. “Merging Ignorance and Luminosity in Early Bka’ brgyud Bsre ba Literature.” In Toward a History of Tibetan Mahāmudrā Traditions. Edited by Klaus-Dieter Mathes, 35–50. Zentralasiatische Studien 44. Andiast, Switzerland: International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, 2015.

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                                                                                                                  Kemp provides a valuable introduction along with translations illustrating the Six Yogas of Nāropa commentarial tradition of merging (bsre ba) in early Kagyu literature, including references to Jigten Sumgön’s interpretation.

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                                                                                                                  • Kongtrul, Jamgön. “Marpa Kagyu.” In The Treasury of Knowledge Book Eight, Part Four: Esoteric Instructions. Translated by Sarah Harding, 137–231. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2007.

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                                                                                                                    This chapter in Sarah Harding’s translation of a passage from Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye’s famous work, The Treasury of Knowledge (gdams ngag mdzod), provides a comprehensive outline of the major teachings of the Kagyu traditions stemming from Marpa. The Six Yogas of Nāropa is detailed here at length.

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                                                                                                                    • Kragh, Ulrich. “Prolegomenon to the Six Doctrines of Nā ro pa: Authority and Tradition.” In Mahāmudrā and the Bka’-brgyud Tradition. Edited by Roger Jackson and Matthew Kapstein, 131–177. Proceedings of the Eleventh Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies. Andiast, Switzerland: International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, 2011.

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                                                                                                                      Kragh gives an informative introduction to the Six Yogas tradition and focuses on the authoritative texts as outlined in Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye’s famous Tibetan collection, The Treasury of Knowledge (gDams ngag mdzod).

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                                                                                                                      • Torricelli, Fabrizio. “Chos drug and bKa’-babs bzhi Material for a Biography of the Siddha Tilopa.” East and West 43.1/4 (1993): 185–198.

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                                                                                                                        This article gives an important overview of the primary material available that establishes the fourfold lineage descent (bka’ babs bzhi) from which Tilopa received the entirety of the Six Yogas instructions which he transmitted to Nāropa as a cohesive system.

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                                                                                                                        • Torricelli, Fabrizio. “The Tibetan Text of Tilopa’s Ṣaḍdharmopadeśa.” East and West 46.1/2 (1996): 145–166.

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                                                                                                                          Torricelli investigates the content and significance on The Pith Instructions of the Six Yogas (Chos drug gi man ngag) attributed to Tilopa, the teacher of Nāropa. This text is considered a Tibetan canonical work as it is found in the Degé and Coné Tanjurs. This article includes both a transcription and translation of the short work, as well as transcriptions of other important short texts on the Six Yogas.

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                                                                                                                          • Torricelli, Fabrizio. “The Tanjur Text of the ‘Ājñāsaṃyakpramāṇa-nāma ḍākinyupadeśa.’” East and West 47.1/4 (1997): 249–269.

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                                                                                                                            This article provides a transcription and translation of an important Six Yogas text. Torricelli also provides a clear overview of the Six Yogas of Nāropa at the beginning.

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                                                                                                                            Geopolitical History

                                                                                                                            Jigten Sumgön (b. 1143–d. 1217) established his main monastic seat Drigung Thil (’Bri gung mthil) in 1179. Located about 120 kilometers northeast of Lhasa in central Tibet in the Drigung valley, the monastery was originally constructed in 1167 as a small hermitage but quickly grew into a center for monastic and secular influence following Jigten Sumgön’s settlement there. Jigten Sumgön gave biannual teachings in this location on sūtra and tantra topics, and instructed practitioners residing in nearby retreat caves on the Six Yogas of Nāropa and the Fivefold Mahāmudrā (phyag chen lnga ldan). While the monastery itself had a spiritual head or abbot, it also included a secular administration that mainly consisted of members of the Kyura (sKyu ra) clan, Jigten Sumgön’s paternal lineage. The monastery was eventually attacked by Mongol forces as a result of an uprising by members of the Drigung order in 1290 over claims to Phagmo Drupa’s (b. 1110–d. 1170) monastic seat, Densa Thil. After it was destroyed and rebuilt with the support of the Sakya and their Mongol supporters at the end of the century, the lineage had lost its significant political influence over the region. Important overviews of the early secular influence and interactions with the Sakya and Mongols include Sperling 1987, Petech 1990, and Sørensen and Hazod 2007. Although the Drigung Kagyu lineage did not have much political force in Tibet after the 13th century, its religious presence had spread from eastern Tibet to the western regions of the Himalayas including Ladakh. Petech 1978 gives a thorough overview of the history of the Drigung in the western Himalayas. Drigung Thil was again destroyed in 1959 by the Chinese only to be rebuilt in 1980, and is currently a popular site for pilgrimage and tourism. There are multiple online resources giving introductory information to the history, layout, and religious significance of Drigung Thil including A Brief History of Drigungtil Monastery and Drikung Thil. After the Cultural Revolution, many prominent Drigung teachers fled to India and to Western countries. The current Drigung Chetsang Rinpoche eventually settled in Dehradun, India, where he established the Drikung Monastic Institute and Jangchubling Monastery, the Drigung seat-in-exile. Gruber 2010 is the first biography written on the life of Chetsang Rinpoche. The majority of Drigung monks who are from the Himalayas study and train here. Many of these monks come from the northern Indian region of Ladakh, where important Drigung monasteries continue to operate; these monasteries are introduced in Jina 1999.

                                                                                                                            • Berzin, Alexander. A Brief History of Drigungtil Monastery.

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                                                                                                                              This is an expanded introduction to Drigung Thil Monastery from Berzin’s 1991 publication, “Kagyü Monasteries.” Chö-Yang, Year of Tibet Edition (Dharamsala, India). It is brief but succinct and accurate.

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                                                                                                                              • Drikung Thil.

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                                                                                                                                This entry on the Drigung lineage website gives a clear overview of the history, significance, and particularly the layout of Drigung Thil Monastery.

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                                                                                                                                • Gruber, Elmar. From the Heart of Tibet: The Biography of Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche, the Holder of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage. Boston: Shambhala, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                  This intimate biography presents the life of the current Chetsang Rinpoche, one of the two heads of the Drigung lineage. Chetsang Rinpoche grew up in Tibet during the invasion of China and the Cultural Revolution, eventually escaping Tibet and establishing his seat-in-exile in Dehra Dun, India.

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                                                                                                                                  • Jina, Prem Singh. Some Monasteries of Drigung Pa Order in Central Ladakh. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publication, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                    Jina provides general overviews to significant Drigung monasteries in Ladakh.

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                                                                                                                                    • Petech, Luciano. “The ’Bri-gun-pa Sect in Western Tibet and Ladakh.” In Proceedings of the Csoma de Kőrös Memorial Symposium, held at Matrafured, Hungary, 24–30 September, 1976. Edited by Louis Ligeti, 313–325. Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 1978.

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                                                                                                                                      This is the most comprehensive article available on the religio-political influence of the Drigung lineage in Ladakh and western Tibet.

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                                                                                                                                      • Petech, Luciano. Central Tibet and the Mongols: The Yüan-Sa-skya period of Tibetan history. Rome: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                        Petech’s work outlines the historical circumstances of Tibet that lead to the greater political influence of religious institutions, specifically in terms of the relationship that developed between the Mongols and Sakyas (Sa skya). Chapters 2 and 3 in particular directly address the issues that arose between the Sakya and Drigung during the 13th century.

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                                                                                                                                        • Sørensen, Per K., and Guntram Hazod. Rulers of the Celestial Plain: Ecclesiastic and Secular Hegemony in Medieval Tibet. 2 vols. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                          This is perhaps the most comprehensive work available on the religious and political history of central Tibet between the 12th and 15th centuries. The influence of the Drigung order during this period is covered throughout the large work, and of particular interest is the succession of abbots of Drigung Thil listed in Appendix V in the section titled “The Abbatial Succession of ’Bri-gung dgon-pa” (pp. 718–739).

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                                                                                                                                          • Sperling, Elliot. “Some Notes on the Early ’Bri-gung-pa Sgom-pa.” In Silver on Lapis: Tibetan Literary Culture and History. Edited by Christopher Beckwith, 33–54. Bloomington, IN: Tibet Society, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                            This article examines available material that covers the Drigungpa secular officials known as the gompa (sgom pa), giving a valuable insight into the political significance of the Drigung sect.

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                                                                                                                                            The Great Drigung Phowa Festival

                                                                                                                                            Until recently, for almost 500 years Drigung Thil (’Bri gung mthil) was the site of the Great Drigung Phowa Festival (’Bri gung ’pho ba chen mo), held every twelve years in the year of the monkey, during which thousands would gather to receive teachings on the tantric practice of mind transference (phowa, ’pho ba). Between 1956 and 1992, the Chinese government banned this important event due to the large crowds that would make pilgrimage to Drigung Thil. The Chinese government recently reinstated the ban; therefore, the 2015 festival was held in Leh, the capital of Ladakh, with Chetsang Rinpoche, one of the two current heads of the Drigung lineage. This was the first time in history that the event was held outside of Tibet. Phowa is arguably the most popular tantric practice in Tibet since it is said that almost anyone can be successful at the technique even without training, guaranteeing rebirth in a higher realm. In the Drigung tradition, the practice is associated with developing devotion and a strong karmic connection toward the buddha Amitābha in order to be reborn in his buddha-field, or pure land, Sukhāvati (Dewachen, bDe ba chen). There is little academic research on the festival, the only study and first-hand account being Kapstein 1998. Short overviews of the festival as well as detailed accounts of the practice of phowa include Mei 2009 and Halkias 2013. Torricelli 1997, Kongtrul 2007, and Wangchuk 2011 are translations of Tibetan instructions and outlines on the tantric phowa practice.

                                                                                                                                            • Cuevas, Bryan J. The Hidden History of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                              Cuevas’ unprecedented study on the history of literature associated with the Tibetan Book of the Dead, or Liberation upon Hearing in the Bardo (Bar do thos grol), refers to the significance of the practice of phowa in the context of Tibetan death rituals and Tibetan Book of the Dead literature. His note (p. 238, fn. 6.4) on the technique of “planting the stalk” (’pho ba ’jag zug ma) and the history of the Drigung Phowa Festival is particularly relevant.

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                                                                                                                                              • Halkias, Georgios. Luminous Bliss: A Religious History of Pure Land Literature in Tibet; with an Annotated English Translation and Critical Analysis of the Orgyan-gling Gold Manuscript of the Short Sukhāvativyūha-sūtra. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2013.

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                                                                                                                                                Halkias’ work introduces the central texts, figures, and practice systems of the Tibetan pure land tradition. While the entirety of Halkias’ book serves as valuable information for the significance of the concept of pure lands, and particularly the cult of Amitabha and the practice of phowa, one section is dedicated to the Phowa Festival, titled “The Great Drikung Festivals and Public Ceremonies of Phowa” (pp. 154–155).

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                                                                                                                                                • Kapstein, Matthew. “A Pilgrimage of Rebirth Reborn: The 1992 Celebration of the Drigung Powa Chenmo.” In Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet. Edited by Melvyn Goldstein and Matthew Kapstein, 95–119. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                  Kapstein’s article is the only extensive scholarly piece to date dedicated to outlining the Drigung Phowa Festival. Kapstein combines a general historical overview of the event with a first-hand account of the event, which was revived in Tibet in 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Kongtrul, Jamgön. “Transference.” In The Treasury of Knowledge Book Eight, Part Four: Esoteric Instructions. Translated by Sarah Harding, 202–208. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                    This excerpt from Kongtrul’s Tibetan work The Treasury of Knowledge (gDams ngag mdzod) lists the various types of transference according to the Marpa Kagyu tradition.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Mei, Ching Hsuan. “The Development of ’Pho ba Liturgy in Medieval Tibet.” PhD diss., Universität Bonn, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                      Perhaps the most exhaustive study on practices and textual traditions of the concept of phowa according to the Nyingma (rNying ma) and Kagyu (bKa’ brgyud) traditions.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Torricelli, Fabrizio. “The Tanjur Text of the ‘Ājñāsaṃyakpramāṇa-nāma ḍākinyupadeśa.’” East and West 47.1/4 (1997): 249–269.

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                                                                                                                                                        This article provides an important translation of an early text of the Six Yogas tradition, which dedicates a section to phowa (pp. 259–261).

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                                                                                                                                                        • Wangchuk, Sharmapa Chökyi. “The Quintessence of Nectar: Instructions for the Practice of the Six Dharmas of Naropa.” In Mahāmudrā and Related Instructions: Core Teachings of the Kagyü Schools. Translated by Peter Alan Roberts, 377–400. Boston: Wisdom, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                          Within the translated work of Sharmapa Chökyi Wangchuk (b. 1584–d. 1630) presenting the doctrine of the Six Yogas of Nāropa, one section is dedicated to outlining the practice of phowa, titled, “The Sixth Yoga: The Transference of Consciousness” (pp. 366–369).

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                                                                                                                                                          Drigung Art

                                                                                                                                                          A number of recent scholarly works have been published on the artistic forms of the Drigung Kagyu lineage and monastic tradition. This increased interest in Drigung art and the lineage’s unique artistic style has been highlighted in the Rubin Museum’s 2015 exhibition Art with Benefits. This collection was accompanied by a detailed catalogue published through the Rubin Museum in Jackson 2015. Included in this exhibition was a rare portrait of the Drigung founder, Jigten Sumgön (b. 1143–d. 1217), that Heller 2005 has investigated in depth. Stoddard 2003 and Luczanits 2006 look at the important historical significance influencing early Drigung Kagyu art. Jackson 2002, Lo Bue 2007, and Kerin 2015 all examine important mural depictions found in Drigung Kagyu temples in Ladakh. A valuable online resource for art associated with the Drigung Kagyu lineage is Himalayan Art Resources: Tradition: Drigung Kagyu Main Page.

                                                                                                                                                          • Art with Benefits.

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                                                                                                                                                            This 2015 art exhibition at the Rubin Museum highlights some of the most valuable known Drigung art including lineage paintings, footprints of Jigten Sumgön, and representations of the Drigung protectress Achi Chökyi Drolma.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Heller, Amy. “A Thang ka Portrait of ’Bri gung rin chen dpal, ’Jig rten gsum mgon (1143–1217).” JIABS 1 (2005): 1–10.

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                                                                                                                                                              Heller’s article analyzes an important and rare Tibetan painting of Jigten Sumgön that she has dated to the 13th century, likely commissioned as a commemorative painting shortly after his death in 1217. Heller outlines notable features of the depiction and compares the painting with similar images found at Alchi Monastery in Ladakh.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Himalayan Art Resources: Tradition: Drigung Kagyu Main Page.

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                                                                                                                                                                The Himalayan Art Resources is the largest online repository for images of Himalayan art. The website has a page dedicated to Drigung art pieces, including a section on images of the founder Jigten Sumgön.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Jackson, David. “Lama Yeshe Jamyang of Nyurla, Ladakh: The Last Painter of the ‘Bri gung Tradition.” Tibet Journal 27.1–2 (2002): 153–177.

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                                                                                                                                                                  This article focuses on an interview with the monk Lama Yeshe Jamyang (b. 1932) who is the last known painter of what is known as the ’Bri gung traditional style. This interview includes information on techniques that are particular to the ’Bri gung tradition that was found at Drigung Thil and examines murals from Alchi, Phyang, and Lamayuru monasteries in Ladakh.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Jackson, David. Painting Traditions of the Drigung Kagyu School. New York: Rubin Museum of Art, 2015.

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                                                                                                                                                                    This is a catalogue produced by David Jackson in conjunction with the 2015 “Art with Benefits” exhibition at the Rubin Museum on Drigung art. This catalogue includes contributions by Christian Luczanits and Kristen Muldowney.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Kerin, Melissa. “Mapping Drigung Activity at Nako and in the Western Himalaya.” In Art and Devotion at a Buddhist Temple in the Indian Himalaya. By Melissa Kerin, 79–90. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015.

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                                                                                                                                                                      This chapter of Kerin’s book focuses on the presence of Drigung iconography at the temples in Nako village. This work utilizes art historical methods while outlining the history of the Drigung political and religious influence in the western Himalayan region including Ladakh and western Tibet.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Lo Bue, Erberto. “The Gu ru lha khang at Phyi dbang: A Mid-15th Century Temple in Central Ladakh.” In Discoveries in Western Tibet and the Western Himalayas: Essays on History, Literature, Archeology and Art, Proceedings of the Tenth Seminar of the IATS, 2003. Edited by Amy Heller and Giacomella Orofino, 175–196. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                        This contribution by Lo Bue gives valuable insight into the historical significance of the important iconographic depictions found at a ruined temple near the sight of one of the three main Drigung monasteries in Ladakh, Phyang Monastery.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Luczanits, Christian. “A First Glance at Early Drigungpa Painting.” In Studies in Sino-Tibetan Buddhist Art. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Tibetan Archaeology and Art, Beijing, September 3–6, 2004. Edited by X. Jisheng, S. Weirong, and L. Yang, 459–488. Beijing: China Tibetology, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                          This informative essay analyzes several important Drigung paintings dated to the 13th/14th centuries which are exemplary of the distinctive Drigung iconography and style.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Stoddard, Heather. “’Bri gung, Sa skya and Mongol Patronage: A Reassessment of the Introduction of the Newar ‘Sa skya’ Style into Tibet.” In Dating Tibetan Art: Essays on the Possibilities and Impossibilities of Chronology from the Lempertz Symposium, Cologne. Edited by Ingrid Kreide-Damani, 59–72. Wiesbaden, Germany: L. Reichert, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                            An important article on the historical dimensions that influenced particular artistic styles in Tibet.

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