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Home > Hi°| storical, Cult°| ural, and Comparative Studies > Hi°| story of Bu°| ddhism and Bon > A Brief Hi°| story of Drigungtil M°| onasery

A Brief Hi°| story of Drigungtil M°| onasery

Alexander Berzin, 1991, expanded September 2003
Original version published in "Kagyü M°| onaseries." Chö-Yang, Year of Ti°| bet Edition (Dhar°| amsala, Ind°| ia), (1991).

Drigungtil Ogmin Jangchubling M°| onasery (‘Bri-gung mthil ‘Og-min byang-chub gling, Drikung Thil M°| onasery) was founded in 1179 by Drigung Kyobpa Jigten-gonpo-rinchenpel (‘Bri-gung sKyob-pa ‘Jig-rten dgon-po rin-chen dpal) (1143-1217), the founder of the Drigung Ka°| gyu (Drikung Ka°| gyu) Tradition. Drigung Ka°| gyu is one of the eight minor Dagpo Ka°| gyu lineages (Dvags-po bKa’-brgyud brgyud-chung brgyad). The eight derive from the disciples of Pagmodrupa (Phag-mo gru-pa rDo-rje rgyal-po) (1110-1170), who was a great disciple of Gampopa (sGam-po-pa, Dvags-po Lha-rje bSod-nams rin-chen) (1079-1153). Drigungtil is the main m°| onasery of this tradition. It is located 150 kilometers to the east of Lhasa in a low-lying valley. The m°| onasery is named after the district in which it is found, Drigung, and the tradition is named after the m°| onasery.

From the time of its founding until the present, there have been thirty-eight abbots of Drigungtil. The population of the m°| onasery has been greater and smaller at different times in its hi°| story. In 1959, there were all together about four hundred mon°| ks, sixty meditation retreatants, six La°| ma’s residences (Bla-brang), and eight Incarnate La°| mas.

Drigungtil M°| onasery has always emphasized meditation practice, particularly of the tantric specialties of its founder. There is a long tradition of meditators living in caves above and around the m°| onasery, engaged in intensive practice of the six teachings of Naropa (Na-ro chos-drug, six yogas of Naropa) and the Possessing Five Tradition (lnga-ldan). From time to time, these yogis living in retreat would have to demonstrate their meditation accomplishments before the two heads of the Drigung Tradition, the Drigung Chetsang (‘Bri-gung Che-tshang) and Drigung Chungtsang (‘Bri-gung Chung-tshang).

When Drigung Kyobpa Jigten-gonpo founded the m°| onasery, he began the custom of giving discourses twice a year on selected sutra and t°| antra topics. These were known as the Summer and Winter Dharma Sessions. The succession of abbots continued this tradition, but the level of studies at the m°| onasery remained low. Up until the nineteenth century, the main emphasis was on rituals, practice, and rel°| igious dances, all undertaken mostly based on fa°| ith. There were only two colleges, Drubdra Shar (sGrub-grva shar) and Drubdra Nub (sGrub-grva nub), the Practice Colleges of the East and West, respectively. Then, the Thirty-fourth Abbot, Kyabjey Zhiway-lodro (sKyabs-rje Zhi-ba’i blo-gros), and Chokyi-jungnay (Chos-kyi ‘byung-gnas) invited Nyagtrul Jamyang-wang°| gyel Rinpo°| che (Nyag-sprul ‘Jam-dbyangs dbang-rgyal Rin-po-che) to establish a Teaching College at Drigungtil. This was named Nyichang Shaydra (gNyis-‘chang bShad-grva). The mon°| ks of the m°| onasery would rotate spending five years at this Teaching College studying thirteen great scriptural texts through the medium of logic and debate.

Drigung Kyobpa Jigten-gonpo stressed that his line should follow the view of maha°| mudra (phyag-chen, the great seal) and the conduct of the training in higher ethical self-discipline. Subsequently, the mon°| ks’ discipline at Drigungtil has always been very strict.

After 1959, the m°| onasery was destroyed by the Chi°| nese. Its reconstruction was begun in 1980. In Ind°| ia, its traditions have been revived in 1989 at Dehra Dun, Uttar Pradesh, at the Jangchubling Drikung Ka°| gyu Institute.