Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön – Founder of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage 1 of 2


A Brief Biography of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön

The glorious Phagmodrupa had five hundred disciples who possessed the white umbrella; but, as he said again and again, his successor would be an Upasaka who has attained the tenth level of a Bodhisattva. This is the story of that successor, the peerless Great Lord Drikungpa, Jigten Sumgön.  Limitless kalpas ago, Jigten Sumgön was born as the Chakravartin Tsib-Kyi Mu-Khyu. He was the father of a thousand princes, but renounced the kingdom and attained enlightenment and was called the Tathagata Lurik Dronma. Although he had already attained Enlightenment, he appeared later as the Bodhisattva Kunsar Wangkur Gyalpo. At the time of the Buddha Kashyapa, he appeared as the potter Gakyong. At the time of the Buddha Shakyamuni, he appeared as the stainless Licchavi, who was inseparable from the Buddha himself. Later, he was born as the Acharya Nagarjuna. Through these births, he benefited the Buddha’s teachings and countless sentient beings.

Then, so that the essence of the Buddha’s teachings might flourish, he was born to a noble family of the Kyura clan in Tibet. His father was Naljorpa Dorje, a great practitioner of Yamantaka, and his mother was Rakyisa Tsunma. Many marvelous signs accompanied the birth. He learned the teachings of Yamantaka from his father, and became expert in reading and writing by the age of four. From his uncle, the Abbot Dharma, the great Ra-Dreng Gom-Chen, the Reverend Khorwa Lung-Khyer, and others, he learned many sutras and tantras. At that time, he was called Tsunpa Kyab, and later, Dorje Pal. Jigten Sumgön’s coming was predicted in many sutras and tantras. For example, in the Yeshe Yongsu Gyepa Sutra it is said:

” In the northern snow ranges will appear a being called Ratna Shri. He will benefit my teachings and be renowned in the three worlds.”

In the Gongdu Sutra it is said:

“At a place called Dri, the Source of the Dharma, Ratna Shri will appear in the Year of the Pig. He will gather a hundred thousand fully ordained monks. After that, he will go to the Ngonga Buddha-Field. He will be called Stainless White Sugata and will have a large retinue.”

In the Gyalpo Kaithang it is said:

“From glorious Samye to the northeast, at a place called Drikung, the source of the Dharma, the Lord-King Trisong Desen will be born in the year of the Pig as the Sugata Ratna Shri. He will gather a hundred thousand bodhisattvas. He will go to the Ngonga Buddha-field and be called Stainless White Sugata. In that Buddha-field, he will become the Fully Perfected King.” Thus he was clearly predicted.

When Jigten Sumgön was still young, his father passed away; the family’s fortunes declined; and he supported them by reciting scriptures. Once, he was offered a goat. As he was leading it away it tried to break loose. He pulled back, but the goat dragged him for a short distance and his footprints remain in the rock to this day. When he was eight, he had a vision of Yamantaka and on another occasion, while meditating at Tsib Lungmoche, he saw all the dharmas of samsara and nirvana as insubstantial appearance, like a reflection in a mirror. Even when he was in Kham he was renowned as a yogin. Jigten Sumgön realized the practices of Luminosity and Mahamudra (clarity and emptiness), and in his sleep visited the Arakta Padmai Buddha-field. From the great Ra-Dreng Gom-Chen he learned all the teachings of the Khadampa tradition. From Lama Lhopa Dorje Nyingpo, he received the teachings of Guhyasamaja and others. Once, when there was a drought in Kham, he took the food that was offered to him and distributed it to those who were starving, thus saved many lives.

Many important people began to approach Jigten Sumgön for teachings. One, Gonda Pandita, who came from Central Tibet, told him about Phagmodrupa. Just by hearing the name of Phagmodrupa, Jigten Sumgön’s mind was moved like the leaves of a kengshu trees are moved by the wind. With great hardship, he traveled from Kham to Central Tibet. A rainbow stretched the entire length of his journey, and the Protector, Dorje Lekpa, took the forms of a rabbit and a child, thus attending him and looking after his needs. Coming to the dangerous, rocky path of Kyere, he found a natural formation of the six-syllable mantra transformed itself into a vision of the face of Phagmodrupa.

Jigten Sumgön traveled day and night. On the way, he met a woman and man who said, “We have come from Phagmodru.” Seeing them as the guru’s emanations, he prostrated. Arriving at the Phagdru Monastery at midnight, he was invited inside by a Khampa . When he met Phagmodrupa, the Guru said, “Now all of my disciples are present. ” Jigten Sumgön then offered his teacher a bolt of silk, a bolt of cloth, and his horse – but Phagmodrupa refused the horse, explaining that he did not accept offerings of animals. Jigten Sumgön also offered a bag of food, and Phagmodrupa used it to perform a feast-offering to Chakrasamvara. Then Phagmodrupa gave Jigten Sumgön the Two-Fold Bodhisattva Vow and the name Bodhisattva Ratna Shri. As one vessel fills another, Phagmodrupa gave Jigten Sumgön all the teachings of sutra and tantra.

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