The word “Ka” in the Tibetan language “Kagyu” originally means “Buddha language”, and the word “gyu” means “inheritance”. Therefore, the word “Kagyu” can be understood as “teaching inheritance or dictation inheritance”
Kagyu Pa pays attention to the practice of Esoteric Buddhism (also known as “retreat practice”), and the practice of Esoteric Buddhism must uses the way of dictation inheritance of master and apprentice, hence, it gains the name of “Kagyu Pa”
In addition, due to the white stripes on the robes of Kagyu monks, later scholars also commonly call it “white religion”, but this name — “white religion” is not very appropriate.
In “History and Doctrines of Different Buddhist Sects”, it is pointed out that “white religion” is written in some books only because of the reason that Marpa, Milarepa, Lingrepa and other high-ranking Kagyu monks once wore white clothes. In fact, its name should be the word “teaching inheritance” or “dictation inheritance” which is widely circulated, which is more reasonable. Because this sect is a sect that has been passed down by receiving “language teaching”.
Since the Tibetan word “Kagyu” also means teaching inheritance, and it also contains the deep meaning of inheriting the important teachings passed on by teachers. Therefore, the name of this sect is better to use the word “Kagyu” to express the deep meaning contained in it.
Kagyu Pa was formed in the “Phyi dar (the Second Propagation)” of Tibetan Buddhism and belongs to the new translation of Tantra;
There are two founders successively: one is Khyungpo Nayongpa (1086-1140 AD), and the other is Marpa Lotsawa (Marpa translator, 1012-1197 AD).
The two of them have been to Nepal and India many times, and they have learned a lot of esoteric under the guidance of many teachers. Especially learned the four teachings from Tilopa
Although what they have learned are somewhat different,but since the inheritance of their learning comes from the same source, and they both received teaching inheritance, so they were both called “Kagyu Pa”.
In terms of the inheritance of teaching , although the Kagyu sects are complex and numerous, the teachings and canons they preach are generally the same, and there is no big difference, because they are all derived from the teachings of Marpa, Milarepa and Khyungpo Nayongpa
The Kagyu sect is divided into two Inheritance: “Marpa Lineage” and “Khyungpo Lineage”, thus forming two major branches of “Shangpa Kagyu” and “Dagpo Kagyu (Tabu Kagyu)”.
Khyungpo Nayongpa, a Tibetan from Nimu region, the founder of the Shangpa Kagyu of Kagyu Pa.
Khyungpo Nayongpa studied Bon religion when he was young, and later he changed to study Dzogchen Dharma of Nyingma Pa. Then he went to Nepal following Pandita Pasumati to learn Sanskrit. After that, he went to India to learn from the Vajra Throne at Nalanda Temple and received the sramanera precepts. He had followed and studied from more than 100 good teachers, among them, the main one is to learn the “Inner fire meditation” and “Six dharmas” from the two masters, Niguma and Sukha Siddhi, and to learn “Chakgya Chenpo (Mahamudra)” from Mee Tripa. After returning to Tibet, he followed the Langri Thangpa of the Kadam school to receive the monk ordination. Then he stayed in Jogpo mountain at the ancient Phanyul (now Lhunzhub County) for a long time to practise.
After that, he built 108 monasteries headed by the Zhong-zhong Monastery in the Shang area (now Nanmulin County) of Yaru of Tsang, where he gathered a large number of disciples and preached the Dharma. His lineage is called “Shangpa Kagyu”, also known as “Khyungpo Kagyu”. And there are 4 sub-branches under it, which are Tsang Branch, Gya Branch, Samding Branch, Rigong Branch
I. Rigong tradition, the Seven Treasures Tradition,
Khyungpo Nayongpa has a large number of disciples, and it is said that there were more than 80,000 disciples. In the early stage, the best disciples consisted of 5 people including “Mev Tonpa”, and in the later stage there was only one people “Mogcopa Rinchen Tsondru”
“Mogcopa Rinchen Tsongru” is the fourth generation who obtained the secret Kagyu biography of Dorjechang. At the age of his 17, he entered the Zhong-zhong Monastery to study the Dharma, and Master Khyungpo passed on him the essentials of the Shangba Kagyu. After the death of Master Khyungpo, he went to Dagpo to follow Dagpo lhaje (Gampoba) who taught him the “Six Dharmas” and “Mahamudra” of the Dagpo Kagyu. After returning to Mogco, Kulung Monastery was built as his final settlement.
After the death of Mogcopa Rinchen Tsongru, he was succeeded by his eldest disciple, Kyegangpa Chokyi Sengge, who first learned the empowerment and teaching of the Rachung tradition from Tsari Gompa, a disciple of Rachungpa (1083-1161 AD).
Then to follow “Rinchen Tsongru” to study the teachings of Shangpa Kagyu
Nyanton Chokyi Sherab, a disciple of Kyegangpa Chokyi Sengge, was a contemporary of the Kadampa monk Pyan Ngawa, who lived in the 13th century AD. Nyanton built a monastery at the Rigong of Chu-shal(Qushui County), so he is also called “Rigong pa”. His lineage is called the “Rigong Tradition“. Nyanton’s disciple was Sanggyal Tonpa, a contemporary of Yang gonpa (1213-1258 AD) of the Drigung Kagyu.
The above is called the “Seven Treasures Tradition” of the Shangba Kagyu
Before Sanggyal Tonpa, Shangpa Kagyu preached in the way of one-person teaching, it became a general teaching after the ban was lifted.
II. “Tsang School”, “Jag School”, “Samding School”
The disciple of Sanggyal Tonpa, Avi Sengge, first learned the esoteric teachings of the Nyingma Pa, and then learned the esoteric method of the Shangpa Kagyu from Sanggyal, and inherited the position of Sanggyal Tonpa
Sanggyal Tonpa has three other disciples who were very capable. Each of the three formed and divided into three different inheritance
His disciple, Shangton (1234-1309 AD), was proficient in exotoric and esoteric buddhism, and his lineage was called “Tsang School“;
His disciple, Jagton Gyaltshanpum (1261-1334 AD) built the Jag Monastery, and his lineage was called “Jag school“; Jag School later developed the upper, lower, and middle lineages, and its Dharma heirs spread throughout the Phagdru and Karma schools of Dagpo Kagyu. There were many sub-branches of the Jag School and the Samding School. As these Schools become smaller and weaker, they were mostly merged into other sects and cannot be formed independently.
His disciple, Khatsun Zhonnudrub built Samding Monastery in Myangma (Nagarze County )
Zhonnudrub once went to Sakya, and followed Phaspa to learn the “Lamdbra dudang capa” of the Sakya sect. After hearing the name of Sanggyal Tonpa, he came to Shang area to study all of Shangpa Kagyu, such as the “Six Dharmas of Nigu”, and “The Free from Samsara.” of Dagpo Kagyu
Zhonnudrub’s disciple Serlingpa·Drasipal (1292-1365AD). One of Drasipal’s disciples was Dragwoche·Dorjepal
Zhonnudrub passed the tantric of Shangpa Kagyu to his nephew Jagchen Yampapal (1310-1390 AD)
Master Tsongkhapa (1357-1419 AD) once learned the teachings of Shangpa Kagyu from Yampapal, and also from Muchen Namkha Nalyongpa of the Jag sect to learn “Six Arms Nagpo Chenpo”
The master of bridge building, Thangtong Gyalpo (1385-1464 AD), studied the teachings of Shangpa Kagyu from Muchen Ggyaltshan Pazangpo’s (Rigongwa) disciple Yangsem Pyinpa Zangpo
Then, he built Jiasang Lathang at Cagzamkha in Qushui County, and spread the Shangpa Kagyu in the area of U area
After Thangtong Gyalpo, three lineage appeared (the Tsang school, the Rioche school in Qamdo area, and the Cagzamkha school in U region ), and their lineages are still in place today.
“Note 1: Samding Monastery is located in Yamdrok Lake, Nagarze County, between Lhasa and Gyantse. All lamas in this monastery are male, only the abbot is a female lama, named “Dorje Pakmo”, which means “Vajravarahi”. She is the only female living Buddha accross Tibet
“Note 2: Thangtong Gyalpo (1385-1464 AD), whose real name was Tsondru Zangpo, used Tibetan opera as a means of recruiting and built more than 100 iron chain bridges to facilitate travel in Tibet. In the past, the troupes who play Tibetan opera worshiped him as the founder of Tibetan opera and Building Bridge, and some monasteries in Tibet have his portrait or statue worshipped, which is an old man with a white beard and eyebrows, holding a few iron ropes.
Dagpo Kagyu (Tabu Kagyu)
Dagpo Kagyu is what is commonly referred to as the Kagyu Pa
Tabu Kagyu sect was originally founded by Marpa and Milarepa, but neither of them built monastery or gathered monks. Therefore, the cause of promoting Dagpo Kagyu was not developed much. It was not until the third generation of “Dagpo lhaje （Gampopa, 1079-1153 AD)” who established Gampo monastery in the ancient Dagpo area (Gyaca County), and gathered a large number of disciples, and spread the Kagyu teachings. For a time, Dagpo Kagyu teaching gradually developed and flourished, and it was only at this time that the name “Dagpo Kagyu” came out.
Later, many sub-branches were developed, usually called “four branches and eight sub-branches, which spread throughout Ali Region, U-Tsang, and the east Tibet of Kham and Amdo, and it hasn’t declined to this day
Marpa translator, whose real name is “Chokyi Lodro (1012-1097 AD)”, was born in a feudal family in the Shannan area. He studied Sanskrit at his young age and traveled to India and Nepal many times.
He was an important translator of Buddhist scriptures in the the “Phyi dar (the Second Propagation)” of Tibetan Buddhism. He introduced the esoteric teachings such as “Khorlo dechok” to Tibet and established the Kagyu Lineage. He was the first guru of the Kagyu sect in Tibet. Marpa is the reincarnation of Tilopa, and Lam Ngawang Choygal (now living in Bhutan) is the name of the later reincarnation of Marpa. Marpa’s successor was Naropa, who also brought the Vajrayana and Mahamudra traditions into Tibet. Afterwards, Milarepa inherited the teachings
After Marpa returned to Tibet, he stayed in Droolong (now Lhozhag County in Shannan) to promote the Kagyu. He was also a big businessman and feudal lord, engaged in farming and business, but never became a monk in his life;
He has many disciples, the most famous are the four disciples. The first three disciples, such as:
Ngoton Chosku Dorje (1036-1102 AD), received explanations of esoteric teachings such as “Shri Hevajra”
Tsuton Wang Nge was taught “Secret Collection of Works on the Quintessential Path of Mahayana” and “5 Stages”
Meton Tsonpo was taught “Mahamaya” and “the Light”,
And the last disciple, Milarepa, was taught the esoteric practice mainly based on the “Inner fire meditation”
Milarepa (1040-1123 AD) was born in Gung-thong, Ali Region. His father died when he was young, and he was bullied by his uncle. He killed many of his enemies by learning spells when he grew up. However, he was deeply remorseful of his sin and then studied Dharma from Marpa.
Marpa did not teach him at the beginning, and Milarepa was tortured with various ascetic practices before Marpa successfully taughthim the “Kagyu”.
Milarepa focused on practical practice, and ended in asceticism all his life. He has many accomplished disciples, and two of the most famous disciples are:
- Rachung Dorje Drag (1083 – 1161 AD)
- Dagpo lhaje （Gampopa, 1079 – 1153 AD)
He went to India twice. The first time to learn “Wraithful Vajra Garuda” from Vala Tsandra. The second time he followed his teacher’s order to India to visit Tiphupa, the disciples of Naropa and Maitreya. He learned “lusmed-mkhav-vgrovi-chos-skor-dgu” and many other teachings.
After returning to Tibet, he offered all teachings he had learned to his teacher Milarepa whom ordered Ngmdzong Tonpa to write a book, which has since been handed down as “Mila Khandro teaching”. What Rachung himself directly taught to his disciples was called “Rachung Khandro teaching”.
Rachung was also a native of Gongtang of Ali Region, and later he went to Nyal, Loro, Yayal in Shannan of U area to spread the teachings of Milarepa. He had many disciples, the most famous are 13 including Loyi Mgopa. Later, most of his teachings were inherited by Drukpa Kagyu.
Khyong Tsangpa, a disciple of Phadrup, was taught “Rachung Khandro teaching”. He then passed it on to Macig Angjo, who in turn passed it on to Tsangpa Gyara, then Kamtshang Kagyu inherited.
Karma Pakshi also received a training from Rachung. Others, such as the “apron teachings”, are widely circulated in Sakya Pa, Karma Pa, Gelug Pa, and other sects
Dagpo Lhaje (Gampopa, AD 1079-1153) , “Dagpo” is a place name, “Lhaje” means “doctor”, and it means “a doctor of Dagpo”; because he lived in Gampo Monastery, so he was also called “Gampopa”. “Gampo” is the name of his monastery;
His real name is Sonam Rinchen. At the age of his 21, he studied from the Kadampa Geshe Shapa Lingpa and received the monk ordination.
Later, he went to the north of U area to study with Kadampa monks, such as Yayulpa, Nyu Rumpa, and Cagri Gongkhawa, to learn all Atisha teachings of Kadampa. He also followed Acharya·Yangchub Sempa to learn practicing. After returning to his hometown, he heard the name of Milarepa, and grew a great respect in his mind, and wanted to go to Brin where Milarepa was. Before leaving, the teachers of Kadam School persuaded that the Kadam teachings are complete, so why do you need to go anywhere else.
Dagpo insisted on going, and they had to say that it must not abandon the characteristics of Kadam. After meeting Milarepa who taught him the empowerment of “Vajravarahi”, and also taught him “Inner fire meditation”, which was quite effective after practice. After returning to the Tibet, in 1121 AD, he built Gampo Monastery, and to receive disciples to spread Kagyu teaching
Dagpo’s teacher, Milareba, always taught what he had learned to his students during his lifetime, but Dagpo changed to teach students according to their aptitude.
Dagpo combined Kadampa’s “Lamrim” and Milareba’s “Mahamudra” together, and wrote “The lamrim, the gradual path to enlightenment”, and formed his own unique style. His lineage is called “Dagpo Kagyu”, and Gampo Monastery had become the ancestral monastery of Dagpo Kagyu. After Dagpo Lhaje passed away, his nephew Dagpo·Tsukhrim Nyingpo succeeded the throne.
Four Branches and eight sub-branches
There are many disciples of Dagpo Lhaje. Among them, four people, such as “Karmapa”, “Tshalpa”, “Barong”, and “Phagdru”, had also established monasteries in various places in Tibet, and the east Tibet of Kham and Amdo developing the Dagpo Kagyu, and four branches of Karma Kagyu, Tshalpa Kagyu, Barong Kagyu, and Phagdru Kagyu were formed.
Among them, the Phagdru Kagyu was further divided into 8 sub-branches, such as Drigung Kagyu, Taglung Kagyu, Drugpa Kagyu, Yazang Kagyu, Khrophu Kagyu, Shugse Kagyu, Yelpa Kagyu, Martshang Kagyu, etc. Among of which, Drugpa Kagyu was divided into Upper, middle and lower schools.
The Branches of Kagyu Pa is listed as follows
Dagpo Kagyu –>
Phagdru Kagyu –>
Upper Drugpa Kagyu
Middle Drugpa Kagyu
Lower Drugpa Kagyu
The above are collectively referred to as the “Four Branches and eight sub-branches” of Kagyu Pa
Although Kagyu Pa is divided into several branches, however, the teachings and canons proclaimed by each branch are generally the same. The main purpose is still to pursue the “The Six Dharmas of Naropa” and “Mahamudra” as the foundation of correct cultivation,
The difference is that each of those uses many skillful guiding methods to guide the novice practitioners to gradually enter the study. Due to different foundations and different guiding methods, each established its own educational norms, resulting in different sects.
In the 13th century, the Karma Kagyu sect pioneered the reincarnation system of living Buddhas, which has since been used by other sects of Tibetan Buddhism till now
One of the four major sects of the Kagyu Pa, it is also the earliest sect in Tibetan Buddhism to adopt the reincarnation of living Buddhas.
The founder of this sect was Dusum Khyenpa(1110-1193 AD), a disciple of Dagpo Lhaje, his name means to know the future, the past, and the present. Dusum was born in Do-kham, whose real name is Chogyi Dragpa,
He first followed Atisha’s disciple Yulchowang and other teachers to learn Kadampa teachings and Mahamudra of Exotoric Buddhism, and then he learned “Sutta Pitaka” from many teachers. Afterwards, he followed Dagpo Lhaje to learn the Kagyu teaching (obtaining the essence of Mahamudra), and then after, he went to Loro to worship Rachung Dorjedrag, and learned the “The 6 Great Dharma” and “Mahamudra” from Naropa and Maitreya. Although he has learned a lot, he still mainly focuses on the teachings of “Mahamudra” and “Inner fire meditation” of Kagyu Pa
In 1147 AD, Dusum Khyenpa built Karma Lhateng Monastery as his residence in Chamdo County (Karma area) to spread the teachings of the Kagyu Pa
In 1187 AD, Dusum Khyenpa built Tsurphu Monastery in Tsurphu area of the Doilungdeqen, spread the Dharma and taught the disciples, continued to develop the sect, and made Tsurphu Monastery the main monastery of Kagyu Pa
Gradually formed the Kagyu sect, and named the sect as “Karma Kagyu Sect” after the name of the location of the Karma Lhateng Monastery
Since then, Karma Lhateng Monastery and Tsurphu Monastery have become the upper and lower monasteries of the Karma Kagyu School.
Since then, the names of the inheritors of the Dharma are all prefixed with the word “Karma”, and they are honored as “Karmapa”.
Dusum Khyenpa’s disciple was Sangya Rachen, Sangya’s disciple was Pomdragpa, and Pomdragpa’s disciple was Karma Pakshi (AD 1204-1283);
Legend has it that Karma Pakshi is the reincarnation of Dusum Khyenpa. And since Karma Pakshi, he established the living Buddha reincarnation system to inherit the position of the Kagyu Pa leader;
The Karma Kagyu sect has successively established several living Buddha reincarnation systems, such as the “Black Hat”, “Red Hat”, “Situ”, “Pa’o”, and “Gyatso”, among which the Black Hat and Red Hat are the most famous.
①. Black Hat
The most important branch of Kagyu Pa begins with Karma Pakshi
In 1256 AD, Karma Pakshi was sent to Helin by edict, and Emperor Xianzong of Yuan Dynasty rewarded him with a black monk hat with gold rim and a gold seal. Since then his lineage has been called the “Black Hat”.
After Karma Pakshi’s death, he was identified as the reincarnation of Dusum Khyenpa, to be the first to initiate the reincarnation system of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism.
Karma Pakshi is the first reincarnated living Buddha of Tibetan Buddhism.
Dusum Khyenpa was posthumously regarded as the 1st living Buddha of the black hat of Karma Kagyu, and Karma Pakshi was the 2nd living Buddha. After that, there were 17 reincarnations of living Buddhas such as Rangyung Dorje (1284-1339 AD), Tongwa Tongdan…etc,.
Tsurphu Monastery became the first monastery to establish the reincarnation system of Tibetan Buddhist living Buddhas.
Since the Fifth Karmapa Living Buddha (Deshin Shekpa) was conferred by Cheng-tsu of Ming Dynasty “Dharma King of the Great Treasure” which have all inherited the title of “Dharma King of the Great Treasure” by all Karmapa
②. Red Hat
The emperor of the Yuan Dynasty rewarded a red hat to Dragpa Sengge (AD 1283–1349), a disciple of the 3rd living Buddha Rangyung Dorje(AD 1284-1339), who was named as a national teacher by Yuan Dynasty,
After the death of Dragpa Sengge, there was another reincarnation which the system of the Red Hat reincarnated living Buddha was established.
The first Red Hat Living Buddha was Dragpa Sengge. Because he was born in the Ranggu tribe, he is also called Ranggu Raba.
In 1333 AD, Dragpa Sangge built Nanang Monastery in the east of Tsurphu Monastery as a fundamental dojo where he taught his disciples, and forming the “Red Hat school” of Karma Kagyu
In 1490 AD, the 4th generation of the Red Hat Living Buddha, Chodrag Yeshe built Yangpacan Monastery, which later became the main site of the Red Hat Living Buddha. Since then, Yangpacan Monastery has become the main temple of the Red Hat school
The Red Hat school had inherited a total of 10 living Buddhas.
By the time of the 10th Rinpoche, Chodrub Gyatsho, because of his collusion with the Gurkha rulers whom sent troops to invade Tibet, and was defeated by the army of Qing Dynasty. Chodrub Gyatsho was dismissed and investigated. Later, he committed suicide in fear of the crime. The Yangpacan Monastery and other Red Hat monasteries were raided, their property was confiscated, and the monks of the Red Hat were ordered to convert to Gelug Pa
Emperor Qianlong of Qing Dynasty ordered not to allow Chodrub Gyatsho to be reincarnated. Since then, the reincarnation system of the Red Hat has come to an end (according to “Thuʼu-bkwan III”, P118-P121).
③ Pa’o (Pawo) Kagu
The reincarnation system of Pa’o living Buddha originated from Nanang Monastery, Pa’o Tsula Phengwa (1503-1566 AD) is the second living Buddha of Pa’o lineage. And he once wrote the masterpiece of Tibetan history “Kapa Gaton”. Lhalung Monastery in Lhozhag County was regarded as the main monastery of Pa’o (Pawo) Kagu
During the period of the Fifth Dalai Lama, Lhalung Monastery was converted to be a Gelug monastery, and the living Buddha system was restored to Nanang Monastery as the main monastery. After the ninth Pa’o Living Buddha, there is no historical record of the inheritance of Pa’o (Pawo) Kagu
Situ Kagyu originates from the Karma Lhateng Monastery, the ancestor of the Karma Kagyu sect.
In 1727 AD, after the fifth Situ Living Buddha built Palpung Monastery in Dege County, the Situ Living Buddha reincarnation system took this monastery as the main site, and formed a large Karmapa system in the east Tibet of Kham, and with nearly one hundred branch monasteries. Its heirs have continued to this day and have a considerable influence.
⑤ Gyatso Kagyu
It originated from the black hat system of Tsurphu Monastery, and later formed the reincarnation system of Gyatso, and its dharma has been passed down to this day.
The “Karma Kagyu Sect” once supported the regimes of “Rin pung pa” and “Desri Tsangpa” with their prominent religious status and power. In the sharply opposed religious factional struggle, they attacked and excluded the growing and powerful Gelug Pa. The monks of Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery of the Gelug sect were prohibited from participating in the dharma assembly, and it was stipulated that the Gelug monks must paid tribute to the Kagyu monks.
Later, the “Desri Tsangpa Regime” was destroyed by the Mongolian Heshuot Gushi Khan. Gelug Pa was supported by the military force of Gushi Khan and his son, and was canonized by the goverment of the Qing Dynasty, so it had an absolute advantage. With the Gelug sect ascending to the dominant position in the Tibetan political arena, the Kagyu sect began to decline.
The founder of this branch of Kagyu Pa was a disciple of Dagpo Lhaje, Tsondru Dragpa (AD1123–1194)
Tsondru Dragpa first learned from Dagpo Lhaje, then followed Dagpo’s nephew to learn Dagpo Kagyu
In 1175 AD, with the support of the leader of the Gar family, Gal·Gyawa Yungne (The great feudal lord of Caigongtang near Lhasa, descendant of Gar Tongtsen), Tshalpa Monastery was built in the eastern Lhasa, from which this school was named.
In 1187 AD, another Gungtang Gonpa was built near Tshalpa Monastery, and Tsondru Dragpa became the owner of this monastery, and these two monasteries were used as the main sites of the sect, forming the Tshalpa Kagyu Sect;
Since then, his power had continued to expand, and it had successively annexed many villages in the Gyeme area in the lower reaches of the Lhasa River. The area under his jurisdiction was known as “Four Divisions and Eight Branches”.
In 1194 AD, after Tsondru Dragpa’s death, the Gar family directly controlled Tshalpa Kagyu
In the middle of the 14th century AD (the last year of the end of Yuan Dynasty), in the struggles of various feudal territories, Tshalpa Wanhu was defeated by Phagdru Drugpa, and the fief was taken away. Tshalpa Monastery and Gungtang Gonpa were all changed to be sub-monastery of Sangpu Monastery, it was later changed to be Gelug Pa monastery, and Tshalpa Kagyu has never been passed down since then.
The founder of this branch was Darma Bangphyu, a disciple of Dagpo Lhaje. He was taught “Mahamudra” by Dagpo, and he practiced it quite a bit.
In 1160 AD, Barong Monastery was built in the Dujiang area (Now Ngamring County) to form Barong Kagyu. One of his disciples was Tishrvi Rapa, who was quite famous
The position of Khenpo at Barong Monastery is hereditary passed down within his family. Due to the repeated disputes within the family for power, the khenpo of the monastery also frequently changed, the economic power declined, and the sect also declined.
Phagdru Kagyu is the largest of the four Branches of Kagyu Pa
The founder of this branch was Dagpo Lhaje’s disciple Phagmo Drupa (1110-1170 AD), whose real name was Dorje Gyalpo, from west of Kham
He studied the teachings of Kadam, Sakya, Nyingma, etc., and later learned the teachings of the Kagyu sect from Tsondru Dragpa. Tsondru Dragpa led him to Gampo Monastery, where Phagmo Drupa visited Dagpo Lhaje as a teacher, and he was taught and inherited the teachings created by Dagpo Lhaje. Then after, he returned to Kham, and lived in Tsagang to teach the disciples
In 1158 AD, Phagmo Drupa went to Phagmo area (Sangri County) in Shannan area and built Dansatil Monastery, He then taught disciples in this monastery, and to form Phagdru Kagyu
Phagmo Drupa received many disciples, and later his most famous disciples built monasteries in various parts of Tibet and the eastern Tibet of Kham and Amdo to receive disciples and spread the Dharma, and even developed into eight sub-branches, which are:
Drigung Kaguyu, Taklung Kagyu, Drupa Kagyu (Upper Drupa, Lower Drupa, Middle Drupa), Yasang Kagyu, Trophu Kagyu, Shugsep Kagyu, Yelpa Kagyu, Martsang Kagyu
The main monastery of Phagdru Kagyu is Densatil Monastery, and it coexists with other branches at the same time.
In 1208 AD, the Phagdrup Kagyu was inherited by the wealthy Lang Lha Zigs Clan (In short “Lang clan”, the royal officials and nobles of Tubo kingdom) in the Shannan area. Phradrup Kagyu began to become a lineage of brothers, uncles and nephews controlled by the Lang family.
In 1268 AD, Phagmo Drupa was designated as one of the 13 Wan-hu (10 thousand households) by the Yuan Dynasty. The head of the Wan-hu was recommended by the monsatery owner, then appointed by the “state ministry” of the government of Yuan Dynasty, and later, The head of the Wan-hu was served directly by the monsatery owner, forming a combination of local feudal forces and religious forces.
By the 14th century AD, Phagdrup Wan-hu used his strength to eliminate local forces such as Drigung and Tshalpa, and annexed most of lands of U area
In 1354 AD, Phagdru eliminated the Sakya regime and replaced it with Phagdru regime, a local regime of “unity of politics and religion”, which ruled Tibet for about 265 years
In 1481 AD, Phagdru regime was defeated by the force of its subordinate “Rin pung pa”, and gradually lost its political power, and the Phagdru Kagyu also declined with the decline of this regime. But two or three of the eight sub-branches have survived, and it has continued to the present.
① . Drigung Kaguyu
This sect was initiated by Jigten Gonpo (also known as “Drigungpa Rinchenpe, AD 1143-1217), a disciple of Phagdru, who was from Dengke area of Kham. Jigten Gonpo followed Phagmo Drupa as a teacher from an early age,
In 1179 AD, he left Phagdru and came to the Drigung place (Maizhokunggar County) in the east of Lhasa. He rebuilt a small monastery to be Drigung Til Monastery, and taking this monastery as the basic dojo, teaching disciples, paying attention to the discipline and precepts, and to form Drigung Kagyu
At the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty, the owner of Drigung Til Monastery was named the head of Wan-hu (10 thousand households)
In 1290 AD, it was attacked by Sakya Pa. During the “Change of Drigung”, Drigung Til Monastery was destroyed.
In 1413 AD, the 13th monastery master, Rinchenpe, was conferred the title of Chanjiao King by Cheng-tsu of Ming Dynasty
After the rise of the Gelug Pa, Drigung Kaguyu’s power gradually declined, but its Dharmar system has not ended, and it still exists today.
②. Taklung Kagyu
The founder was Drashipal (1142-1210 AD), who was a disciple of Phagmo Drupa and accepted the idea of exotoricand esoteric integration. (vchad-kha-ba) learn from Kadampa professors. He also learned Kadampa trachings from Chakhaba
In 1180 AD, he built Taklung Monastery in Taklung area (Lhunzhub County) in the northwest of Lhasa, and forming Taklung Kagyu
Taklung Kagyu gets its name from this place, and it gets famous for its emphasis on discipline and strict conduct.
In 1276 AD, Taklung Kagyu built the Riwoche Monastery in Riwoche area of Chamdo, which was the main site of Taklung Kagyu in Kham, which also known as “Taklung Marthang Riwoche”.
Later, the two main monasteries adopted the living Buddha reincarnation system. Among them, Taklung Monastery has two living Buddha systems, Taklung Marthang and Taklung Tseba.
After the rise of Gelug Pa, Taklung Kagyu declined, but its heritage has continued to this day.
③. Drupa Kagyu
(Upper Drupa, Lower Drupa, Middle Drupa)
The founder was Padma Dorje (1128-1188 AD), a disciple of Phagmo Drupa.
Drupa Kagyu was formed in the period of Padma Dorje’s disciple “Tsangpa Gyara·Yeshe Dorje (1161-1211 AD)” who built the Ralung Monastery near Gyantse after receiving the teachings of Padma Dorje
In AD 1205, Yeshe Dorje followed his master’s order and built a monastery in Nanmu ( Qushui County) in the lower reaches of the Lhasa River. and had it named “Dru(g)”, hence, forms the Drupa Kagyu.
Drupa Kagyu inherited the style of Milarepa, and attached great importance to ascetic practice. There were many beggars in the Drugpa Kagyu
Afterwards, two disciples of Tsangpa Gyara built Gotsang Monastery and Karpo Cholong Monastery respectively, and two branches of “Upper Drupa” and “Lower Drupa” were formed, and taking the original main site as “Middle Drupa” . These are collectively referred to as the Upper Drupa, Middle Drupa and Lower Drupa branches of Drupa Kagyu
Upper Drupa: the founder was Gotsang Gonpo Dorje (1189-1258 AD). Originally from the Lhozhag of U region, he first learned Kadam teachings.
At his age of 19, he studied from Tsangpa Gyara, he once traveled around entire U-tsang (Tibet), twhen he arrived in Gar of Ali area, he built Gotsang Monastery, and passed on the teachings of his master.
Because of its monastery in the upper part of Ali, so it is called Upper Drupa, and the famous disciple of Upper Drupa was Ugyn Parin Chenpal (1230-1309 AD).
Lower Drupa: the founder was Lorapa·Wangyu Tsondru (1187-1250 AD), also a disciple of Tsangpa Gyara, who was taught “Inner fire meditation” and received the ordination (Upasampada) of monks, and practiced asceticism for several years.
When he was 55 years old, he started to build Karpo Cholong Monastery in the Yalong Valley, and later, Karpo Cholong Monastery became the main site of the Lower Drupa. Lorapa·Wangyu Tsondru had many disciples whom split up to build monasteries and to receive disciples, and then forming Lower Drupa
In addition, there is also “South Drupa” spreading in Bhutan, which is the most widespread.
With the rise and rapid development of Gelug Pa, Drukpa Kagyu lost its power in Tibet and spread to Bhutan in large numbers. Now the main followers of Drukpa Kagyu (South Drukpa) are in Bhutan
④. Yasang Kagyu
The founders were Phagmo Drupa’s disciple Kaldan·Yeshe Sengge(?–1270 AD) and his disciple Yasang·Chomonlam (AD 1169-1233),
In 1206 AD, Chomonlam founded Yasang Monastery in Qonggyai County, Shannan, and took this monastery as the main dojo to form Yasang Kagyu.
Yasang Kagyu combined with local forces, and its power continued to expand. In the Yuan Dynasty, it was one of the 13 Wan-hu (10 thousand households) in Tibet.
In 1346 AD, because of the joint opposition to Phagdru with Drigung Kagyu and Tshalpa Kagyu, “Yangchub Gyaltsan” banned Yasang Wan-hu and merged its jurisdiction into the territory of Phagdru
After the rise of Gelug Pa, Yasang’s power declined and disappeared.
⑤. Trophu Kagyu
The founders were two brothers, Trophu Gyaltsa (AD 1118-1195) and Kundan (1148-1217 AD), disciples of Phagmo Drupa
The nephew of these two people – Trophu translator Yampapal(AD 1173-1225) built Trophu Monastery in Sakya County, also known as “Trupu Monastery” and “Tropu Gonpa”);
Then after, they invited Banchen Shvpa Shvri from Kashmir to spread the precepts, hence,the name of Trophu Kagyu was greatly promoted.
When the 5th generation of Buton Rinchendru (a disciple of Rinchen Sangge) created another sect, the Buton School (Shalu School – Shalu Monastery), the power of Trophu Kagyu gradually declined.
⑥. Shugsep Kagyu
The founder was Gyegom·Tsukhrim Sengge (AD 1140-1204), a disciple of Phagmo Drupa
In 1181 AD, Shugsep Monastery was built in the place of Nimu, forming the Shugsep Kagyu;
Tsukhrim Sengge was born in Yalong of Shannan. He was from the Changzhu royal family.
At the age of 19, he studied Buddhism from Phagmo Drupa. Then he created this small Shugsep Kagyu which was not strong from beginning to end, and had a little influence
It is said that Tsukhrim Sengge paid special attention to the Xi-jie School. Later, his tradition also merged into the Xijie School, hence, the inheritance of Shugsep Kagyu was ended
⑦. Yelpa Kagyu
The founder was Yeshe Tsepa, a disciple of Phagmo Drupa, who built Yelpa Monastery and Dana Monastery to form Yelpa Kagyu. Later this sub-branch of Kagyu Pa merged with other sects and disappeared
⑧. Martsang Kagyu
The founder is Martsang·Sherab Sengge, a disciple of Phagmo Drupa.
In 1167 AD, Martsang Monastery was built in Chamdo region, and its tradition were collectively called Martsang Kagyu
Its successors include Yeshe Gyaltsan and Rinchen Lingpa, and others. In the 18th century, this sect merged with the Nyingma Pa of Baiyu District (Baiyu County) in Kham.
The name of this branch has since disappeared, and the inheritance has been lost.