Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön

Founder of the Drikung Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism (1143–1217)

The Drikung Kagyu Lineage

The Drikung Kagyu is one of the eight lineages of the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism descending from Phagmo Drupa (1110–1170). One of Phagmo Drupa’s disciples, Jigten Sumgön (1143–1217) is the founder of the Drikung lineage.

The Life of Jigten Sumgön

An excerpt from Opening the Treasure of the Profound: Teachings on the Songs of Jigten Sumgon and Milarepa by Khenchen Konchok Gyaltshen Rinpoche

The victorious Shakya saw the five sights.
He showed the victorious path,
and, to expand the teachings, took birth again as the victorious
regent Ratna Shri.
I prostrate to him.

The glorious Phagmo Drupa had five hundred disciples who possessed the white umbrella, an honorary title; but, as he said again and again, his successor would be an upasaka who had attained the tenth level of a bodhisattva. This is the story of that successor, the peerless Great Lord Drigungpa, Jigten Sumgön.

Limitless kalpas ago, Jigten Sumgön was born as the Chakravartin Tsib­kyi Mukhyu (Wheel Rim), who was the father of a thousand princes. But then he renounced the kingdom, attained enlightenment, and was called the Tathagata Nagakulapradipa (Tib. Lurik Drönma). Although he had already attained enlightenment, he appeared later as the bodhisattva Kun­sang Wangkur Gyälpo. At the time of Buddha Kashyapa, he appeared as the potter Gakyong. At the time of Buddha Shakyamuni, he appeared as the Stainless Licchavi, who was inseparable from the Buddha himself. Later, he was born as Acharya Nagarjuna. Through all these births, he ben­efited the Buddha’s teachings and countless sentient beings.

Then, so that the essence of the Buddha’s teachings might flourish, Jig­ten Sumgön was born into a noble family in Tibet in 1143. His father was Naljorpa Dorje, a great practitioner of Yamantaka, and his mother was Rakshisa Tsünma. Many marvelous signs accompanied the birth. Jigten Sumgön learned the teachings of Yamantaka from his father, and by the age of four became expert in reading and writing. From his uncle, the Abbot Darma, the great Radreng Gomchen, the Reverend Khorwa Lungkhyer, and others, he learned many sutras and tantras. At that time, he was called Tsunpa Kyab and later, Dorje Päl.

Jigten Sumgön’s coming was predicted in many sutras, tantras, and ter­mas. For example, in the Yeshe Yongsu Gyepai Do (Completely Expanded Wisdom 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 Gongdü (Quintessential Sublime Vision) 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 Abhirati (Tib. Ngönga) buddhafield. He will be called Stainless White Sugata and have a large retinue.” In the Gyälpo Kaithang it is said: “Northeast of glorious Samye, at a place called Drigung, the source of the Dharma, the Lord-King Trisong Detsän 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 Abhirati buddhafield and be called Stainless White Sugata. In that buddhafield, he will become the fully perfected king, the perfected Dharma teacher.” Thus, his coming was clearly predicted.

When Jigten Sumgön was still young, his father passed away. His fam­ily’s fortunes declined, so he had to support his family by reading scriptures. Once he was offered a goat. As he led it away, it tried to break loose; he pulled back, but the goat dragged him for a short distance and he left his footprints in the rock. When he was eight, he had a vision of Yamantaka. On another occasion, while meditating at Tsib Lungmoche, he saw all the phenomena of samsara and nirvana as insubstantial, like a reflection in a mirror. Even when he was in Kham he was renowned as a yogin.

Jigten Sumgön realized the practices of mahamudra and luminosity, and in his sleep he visited the Arakta Padma buddhafield. As mentioned earlier, from the great Radreng Gomchen he learned all the teachings of the Kadam 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 offered to him as a fee for his reading and distributed it to those who were starving. Thus, he saved many lives.

Many important people began to approach Jigten Sumgön for teach­ings. One, Gönda Pandita, who came from Central Tibet, told him about Phagmo Drupa. Just by hearing the name of that being, Jigten Sumgön’s mind quivered like the leaves of a kengshu tree blown by the wind. Endur­ing great hardship, he traveled from Kham to Central Tibet. A rainbow stretched the length of his journey, and the protector Dorje Lekpa took the forms of a rabbit and a child and attended him, looking after his needs. When he came to the dangerous, rocky path of Kyere, a natural formation of the six-syllable mantra transformed itself into a vision of the face of Phagmo Drupa.

Jigten Sumgön traveled day and night. On the way, he met a woman and man who said, “We have come from Phagmo Dru.” Seeing them as the guru’s emanations, he prostrated to them. He arrived at the Phagdru Monastery at midnight, and a Khampa invited him inside. When he met Phagmo Drupa, the guru said, “Now, all of my disciples are present.” Jig­ten Sumgön then offered his teacher a bolt of silk, a bolt of plain cloth, and his horse. Phagmo Drupa refused the horse, explaining that he did not accept offerings of animals. Jigten Sumgön also offered a bag of food, which Phagmo Drupa used to perform a feast offering to Chakrasamvara. Then Phagmo Drupa gave Jigten Sumgön the twofold bodhisattva vow and the name Bodhisattva Ratna Shri. As one vessel fills another, Phagmo Drupa gave Jigten Sumgön all the teachings of sutra and tantra.

At that time, there lived a woman who was an emanation of Vajrayogini. Phagmo Drupa suggested to Taklung Thangpa that he stay with her; but Taklung Thangpa, not wishing to give up his monk’s vows, refused, and shortly afterward the emanation passed away. Lingje Repa then fashioned a cup from the woman’s skull. This made him late for an assembly, and the food offerings had already been distributed by the time he arrived. Tak­ing the skull cup, he circulated among the monks, receiving offerings of food from each. The monks gave only small portions, but Phagmo Drupa gave a large amount, filling the skull cup completely. Jigten Sumgön gave even more, forming a mound of food which covered the skull cup like an umbrella. Lingje Repa then walked again through the assembly, and as he walked he spontaneously composed and sang a song of praise in twenty verses. Finally, he stopped in front of Jigten Sumgön, offering the food and the song to him.

One day, Phagmo Drupa wanted to see if any special signs would arise concerning his three closest disciples, so he gave each of them a foot of red cloth with which to make a meditation hat. Taklung Thangpa used only what he had. Lingje Repa added a piece of cotton cloth to the front of his hat, and Jigten Sumgön added a second foot of cloth to his, making it much larger. This was considered very auspicious. On another occasion, Phagmo Drupa called Jigten Sumgön and Taklung Thangpa and said, “I think that the Tsangpo River is overflowing today. Please go and see.” Both disciples saw the river following its normal course, and returned; but Jigten Sumgön, thinking there was some purpose in the guru’s question, told him, “The river has overflowed, and Central Tibet and Kham are now both under water.” This foretold the flourishing of Jigten Sumgön’s activities, and he became known as a master of interdependent origination.

At this time, in accordance with the prediction made by Phagmo Drupa, Jigten Sumgön still held only the vows of an upasaka. One day, Phagmo Drupa asked him to remain behind after the assembly and instructed him to sit in the seven-point posture of Vairochana. Touching him on his head, throat, and heart centers, he said om, ah, hung three times and told him, “You will be a great meditator, and I will rejoice.”

Jigten Sumgön attended Phagmo Drupa for two years and six months. During that time, he received all of his guru’s teachings and was told that he would be his successor. At the time of Phagmo Drupa’s parinirvana, a radi­ant five-pronged golden vajra emanated from his heart center and dissolved into the heart center of Jigten Sumgön; this was seen by the other disciples. Jigten Sumgön then gave all his belongings to benefit the monastery and to help build the memorial stupa for his guru.

After this, he met many other teachers. From Dakpo Gomtsul he received the four yogas of mahamudra. A patroness then promised him provisions for three years, and Jigten Sumgön, earnestly wishing to practice the teachings he had received, retired to Echung Cave to meditate. In those three years, he gained a rough understanding of the outer, inner, and secret aspects of interdependent origination. He then realized that the cause of wandering in samsara is the difficulty wind has in entering the channels, and so he practiced moving the wind, saw many buddhas and bodhisattvas face to face, and had visions of his mind purifying the six realms. Then he went on a pilgrimage to Phagdru and other holy places.

On his return to Echung Cave, he practiced with one-pointed mind. In the same way that Mara arose as obstacles to Lord Buddha at the time of his enlightenment, and the Five Sisters and others tried to hinder Mila­repa, the final fruition of Jigten Sumgön’s karma then arose, and he con­tracted leprosy. Becoming intensely depressed, he thought, “Now I should die in this solitary place and transfer my consciousness.” He prostrated to an image of Avalokiteshvara that had been blessed many times by Phagmo Drupa. At the first prostration, he thought, “Among sentient beings, I am the worst.” At the second, he thought, “I have all the teachings of my guru, including the instructions of bardo and the transference of consciousness, and need have no fear of death.” Then, remembering that other beings didn’t have these teachings, he sat down and generated profoundly compassionate thoughts toward others. His sickness left him, like clouds blown away from the sun, and at that moment he attained buddhahood. He had practiced at the Echung cave for seven years.

Shortly after this, he had a vision of the seven Taras. Because he had a full understanding of interdependent origination, and had realized the unity of discipline and mahamudra, he took the vows of a fully ordained monk. From this time on, Jigten Sumgön did not eat meat. As he had already been named Phagmo Drupa’s successor, the chief monks of his guru’s monastery invited him to return.

After taking the abbot’s seat at the monastery, Jigten Sumgön insisted on a strict observance of monastic discipline. One day, some monks said, “We are the ‘nephews’ of Milarepa and should be allowed to drink chang.” Say­ing this, they drank. When Jigten Sumgön admonished them, they replied, “You yourself should keep the discipline of not harming others.” Phagmo Drupa then appeared in a vision to Jigten Sumgön and said to him, “Leave this old, silken seat and go to the north. There you will benefit many sentient beings.”

Jigten Sumgön went north and, on the way, at Nyenchen Thanglha, he was greeted by the protector of that place. At Namra, a spirit king and his retinue took the upasaka vow from him, and Jigten Sumgön left one of his footprints behind as an object of devotion for them. He gave meditation instructions to vultures flying overhead, and they practiced according to those teachings. Once, at a word from Jigten Sumgön, a horse that was run­ning away returned to him. He also sent an emanation of himself to Bodh Gaya to pacify a war begun by Duruka tribesmen.

On another occasion, at Dam, he gave teachings to a large gathering and received many offerings. At the end of a day which had seemed very long, he told the crowd, “Now go immediately to your homes,” and suddenly it was just before dawn of the next day. To finish his talk, Jigten Sumgön had stopped the sun. When he was at Namra Mountain, Brahma, the king of the gods, requested the vast and profound teachings. On the way to Drigung, the great god Barlha received him. The children of Dzänthang built a throne for Jigten Sumgön, and he sat there and instructed the people of that town. Even the water, which has no mind, listened to his teachings and made the sound “Nagarjuna.”

Then he came to Drigung Thil. In his thirty-seventh year, he established Drigung Jangchub Ling and appointed Pön Gompa Dorje Senge as supervi­sor for the construction of the monastery. Many monks gathered there and enjoyed the rainfall of profound Dharma.

In Tibet, there are nine great protectors of the Dharma. Among them, Barlha, Sogra, Chuphen Luwang, Terdrom Menmo, and Namgyäl Karpo bowed down at Jigten Sumgön’s feet, took the upasaka vow, and promised to protect the teachings and practitioners of the Drigung lineage.

At one time, water was very scarce in Drigung. Jigten Sumgön gave 108 pieces of turquoise to his attendant, Rinchen Drak, with instructions to hide them in various places. Rinchen Drak hid all but one, which he kept for himself and put in his robe. The pieces he hid became sources of water, and the one he kept turned into a frog. Startled, he threw it away, and in falling it became blind in one eye. Where the frog landed, a stream called “Blind Spring” arose. Most of the streams were dried up by fire when Dri­gung Thil was destroyed around the end of the thirteenth century, but some still remain.

Twice a month, on the new and full moons, Jigten Sumgön and his monks observed a purification ceremony called sojong. Once some monks arrived late, and Jigten Sumgön decided to discontinue the practice, but Brahma requested him to maintain that tradition, and he agreed.

Jigten Sumgön continued to look after his old monastery at Phagdru, Dänsa Thil. Once when he was at Daklha Gampo, Gampopa’s seat, dakinis brought an assembly of 2,800 yidams on a net of horsehair and presented them to him. To memorialize Phagmo Drupa, he built an auspicious stupa of many doors, and placed images of those yidams inside compartments, with a door for each of them. The tradition of building stupas of this type origi­nated from this. While he was visiting Daklha Gampo, light rays streamed forth from Gampopa’s image, merging inseparably with Jigten Sumgön, and he attained both the ordinary and extraordinary siddhis of the treasure of space. In a vision, he met with Ananda and discussed the teachings.

Once Lama Shang said, “This year, the dakinis of Oddiyana will come to invite me and the Great Drigungpa to join them. He is a master of interde­pendent origination and won’t have to go there, but I should go.” Soon after this, the dakinis came for him and he passed away; but when they came to invite Jigten Sumgön, he refused to go, and the dakinis changed their prayer of invitation to a supplication for the guru’s longevity. Then all the dakas and dakinis made offerings to him and promised to guide his disciples.

Jigten Sumgön had many important students. Among them, the leaders of the philosophers were the two Che-ngas, the great abbot Gurawa, Nyö Gyälwa Lhanangpa, Gar Chöding, Pälchen Chöye, Drupthob Nyakse, and the two Tsang-tsangs. The foremost vinaya holders were Thakma Düldzin and Dakpo Düldzin. The Kadampa geshe was Kyo Dorje Nyingpo. Among the translators were Nup, Phakpa, and others. The leaders of the tantrikas were Tre and Ngok. The leaders of the yogins were Düdsi, Bälpu, and others. When Jigten Sumgön taught, rainbows appeared and gods rained flowers from the sky. Machen Pomra and other protectors listened to his teachings, and the kings of Tibet, India, and China were greatly devoted to him. At this time, Jigten Sumgön had 55,525 followers. To feed this ocean of dis­ciples, Matrö, the king of the nagas and the source of all the wealth of Jam­budvipa, acted as patron for the monastery.

Near Drigung Thil there was a rock called Lion Shoulder, which Jigten Sumgön saw as the mandala of Chakrasamvara. He established a monastery there and, to spread the teachings and benefit sentient beings, built another auspicious stupa of many doors using a special method. He also repaired Samye Monastery.

Jigten Sumgön’s main yidam practice was the Chakrasamvara of Five Deities, and he sometimes manifested in that form in order to work with those who were difficult to train. When a war began in Minyak in East­ern Tibet, he protected the people there through his miracle power. The number of his disciples increased to 70,000. Many of the brightest of these attained enlightenment in one lifetime, while those of lesser intelligence attained various bhumis, and everyone else realized at least the nature of his or her own mind.

In one of the predictions about Jigten Sumgön it was said, “A hundred thousand incarnate great beings, tulku, will gather.” Here, “tulku” meant that they would be monks and have perfect discipline, and “great beings” meant that they would all be bodhisattvas. In other life stories, it is said that in an instant Jigten Sumgön visited all the buddhafields, saw buddhas such as Amitabha and Akshobhya, and listened to their teachings. Jigten Sumgön himself said that whoever so much as heard his name and had the chance to go to Layel in Drigung would be freed from birth in the lower realms, and that whoever supplicated him—whether from near or far away—would be blessed, and his or her meditation would grow more firm. He also said that all sentient beings living in the mountains of Drigung, even the ants, would not be born again in lower realms.

From the essence of the instructions of sutra and tantra, Jigten Sumgön gave teachings which were compiled by his disciple Che-nga Sherab Jungne into a text called Gong Chig, which has 150 vajra statements and 40 addi­tional verses in an appendix.

A naga king named Meltro Zichen once went to Drigung for teachings. Jigten Sumgön sent a message to his disciples to remain in seclusion so that those with miracle power would not harm the naga, and those without such power would not be harmed themselves. The message was given to everyone but the Mahasiddha Gar Dampa, who was in meditation in the depths of a long cave. When the naga arrived, he made a loud noise which was heard even by Gar Dampa. He came out to see what was happening and saw a frightening, dark blue snake whose length circled the monastery three times and whose head looked in at the window of Jigten Sumgön’s palace. With­out examining the situation, he thought that the naga was there to harm his guru, so he manifested as a giant garuda which chased the naga away. At Rölpa Trang, there is a smooth and clear print left by the naga, and at Dermo Mik there is a very clear claw mark left by the garuda when it landed on a rock. Near the river of Khyung-ngar Gel there are marks left by both the garuda and the naga.

A Sri Lankan arhat, a follower of the Buddha, once heard that Maha­pandita Shakya Shri Bhadra was going to Tibet, and he gave that teacher’s brother a white lotus, asking that he give it to the Mahapandita to give to Nagarjuna in Tibet. When Shakya Shri Bhadra arrived in Tibet, he ordained many monks, but didn’t know where to find Nagarjuna. When giving ordination, he would usually distribute robes, but once, when an ordinary disciple of Jigten Sumgön approached him for ordination and asked for a robe, none were left. Nonetheless, he insisted strongly. One of Shakya Shri Bhadra’s attendants pushed him away and he fell, causing blood to come from his nose.

Before this, Shakya Shri Bhadra had been accustomed to seeing Tara in the morning when he recited the seven-branch prayer, but for six days after this incident she didn’t show herself. Then, on the seventh day, she appeared with her back turned to him. “What have I done wrong?” he asked her. “Your attendant beat a disciple of Nagarjuna,” she replied, “and brought blood from his nose.” When he asked how he could purify this misdeed, Tara told him, “Make as many Dharma robes as you have years, and offer them to fully ordained monks who have no robes.” Shakya Shri Bhadra then searched for the monk who had been turned away. When he found him, and learned the name of his teacher, he realized that Jigten Sumgön was Nagarjuna’s incarnation. So he sent one of his attendants to offer the white lotus to Jigten Sumgön. In return, Jigten Sumgön sent many offerings of his own and asked that Shakya Shri Bhadra visit Drigung, but the Mahapandita could not go there, though he sent many verses of praise. Because Nagarjuna had knowingly taken birth as Jigten Sumgön in order to dispel wrong views and was teaching at Drigung, Shakya Shri Bhadra saw that there was no need for him to go there.

At this time, many lesser panditas were visiting Tibet. One of them, Vibhuti Chandra, said, “Let us talk with the Kadampas; the followers of mahamudra tell lies.” Shakya Shri Bhadra replied, “Because Jigten Sumgön is a great teacher, you should now apologize for having said these things.” Vibhuti Chandra then went to Drigung, made a full apology, and con­structed an image of Chakrasamvara at Sinpori Mountain. He also trans­lated into Sanskrit one of Jigten Sumgön’s writings about the fivefold path of mahamudra, named Tsin-dha Mani.

One day, a great scholar named Dru Kyamo came to Drigung from Sakya to debate with Jigten Sumgön. When he saw the guru’s face he saw him as the Buddha himself, and his two chief disciples—Che-nga Sherab Jungne and Che-nga Drakpa Jungne—as Shariputra and Maudgalyayana. There was no way he could debate with Jigten Sumgön after this. His devotion blossomed fully, and he became one of Jigten Sumgön’s principal disciples. Later, he was called Ngorje Repa and wrote a text called Thegchen Tenpai Nyingpo as a commentary on Jigten Sumgön’s teachings.

The number of Jigten Sumgön’s disciples continued to increase. At one rainy season retreat, 100,000 morality sticks were distributed to count the monks attending. Not long after that, 2,700 monks were sent to Lapchi, and equal numbers were sent to Tsari and Mount Kailash, but by the next year 130,000 monks had again gathered at Drigung.

Karmapa Düsum Khyenpa once came to Drigung after visiting Dak­lha Gampo. At Bam Thang, Jigten Sumgön and his disciples received him warmly. At that time, the Karmapa saw Jigten Sumgön as the Buddha and his two chief disciples as Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, surrounded by arhats. When they returned to the main assembly hall, the Serkhang, the Karmapa again saw Jigten Sumgön as the Buddha, with his two disciples appearing as Maitreya and Manjushri, surrounded by bodhisattvas. Thus, Düsum Khyenpa showed great devotion and received many teachings. He also saw the entire area of Drigung as the mandala of Chakrasamvara.

The question arose of who would hold the lineage after Jigten Sumgön’s passing. Jigten Sumgön had confidence in many of his disciples, but had thought for a long time that the succession should pass to one of his family clan, the Drugyäl Kyura. Since he had been born in Kham, he sent one of his disciples, Pälchen Shri Phukpa, there to teach his family members. Dis­playing miracle power and proclaiming his guru’s reputation, Pälchen Shri Phukpa taught Jigten Sumgön’s uncle Könchog Rinchen and his uncle’s son Anye Atrak and grandsons. Their minds became attracted to the teachings, and they moved to Central Tibet. Their stories are told in the Golden Rosary of the Drigung Kagyu.

One day Jigten Sumgön told his disciple Gar Chöding to go to the Soksam Bridge and offer a torma to the nagas living in the water. “You will receive special wealth,” he told him. A naga king named Sokma Me offered Gar Chöding a tooth of the Buddha and three special gems. Generally, it is said that this tooth had been taken by the naga king Dradrok as an object of devotion. This was the same naga who usually lived in the area of Magadha but had access to Soksam by way of an underwater gate. Gar Chöding offered the tooth and gems to Jigten Sumgön, who said, “It is good to return wealth to its owner,” indicating that the tooth had once been his own. “As you are wealthy,” he continued, “you should make an image of me and put the tooth in its heart.” A skilled Chinese artisan was then invited to build the statue, and the tooth was enshrined there as a relic. Jigten Sumgön consecrated this statue hundreds of times. It was kept in the Serkhang and called Serkhang Chöje (Dharma Lord of Serkhang). Its power of blessing was regarded as being equal to that of Jigten Sumgön himself. It spoke to many shrine keepers, and to a lama named Dawa it taught the Six Dharmas of Naropa. Later, when Drigung was destroyed by fire, it was buried in the sand for protection. When the Drigung Kyabgön returned to rebuild the monastery, a search was made for the statue, which came out of the sand by itself, saying, “Here I am!” Thus, this image possessed great power. Gar Chöding made many other images of Jigten Sumgön at this time.

Jigten Sumgön had by then grown old and could not often travel to Dänsa Thil. He sent Che-nga Drakpa Jungne there as his Vajra Regent, and that disciple’s activities were very successful. Under the leadership of Pan­chen Guhya Gangpa, Jigten Sumgön sent 55,525 disciples to stay at Mount Kailash. Under Geshe Yakru Päldrak, 55,525 were sent to Lapchi. Under Dordzin Gowoche, 55,525 were sent to Tsari. Even at the time of Chungpo Dorje Drakpa, the fourth successor to Jigten Sumgön, there were 180,000 disciples at Drigung.

Once, Jigten Sumgön went to the Dorje Lhokar Cave at Tsa-uk. “This cave is too small,” he said, and stretched, causing the cave to expand and leaving the imprint of his clothes on the rock. Because the cave was dark, he pushed a stick through the rock, making a window. He then made shelves in the rock to hold his belongings. All of these can be seen very clearly. Jigten Sumgön also left many footprints in the four directions around the area of Drigung.

One day, Jigten Sumgön fell ill. Phagmo Drupa appeared to him in a vision and explained a yogic technique by means of which he became well again. Jigten Sumgön taught according to the needs of his disciples. To some, according to their disposition, he gave instructions in the practice of the Eight Herukas of the Nyingma tradition.

Toward the end of his life, he predicted a period of decline for the Dri­gung lineage. Taking a small stick that he used to clean his teeth, he planted it in the ground and said, “When this stick has reached a certain height,

I will return.” This foretold the coming of Gyälwa Kunga Rinchen. Jigten Sumgön asked Che-nga Sherab Jungne to be his successor, but the latter declined out of modesty. Then he asked the great abbot Gurawa Tsültrim Dorje, who agreed.

In order to encourage the lazy to apply themselves to the Dharma, Jigten Sumgön entered parinirvana at the age of seventy-five, in the year of the Fire Ox (1217). His body was cremated on the thirteenth day of the month of Vaishaka. Gods created clouds of offerings, and flowers rained down from the sky to the level of one’s knees. His skull was untouched by the fire, and his brain appeared as the mandala of the sixty-two deities of Chakrasamvara more clearly than if a skilled artist had painted it. His heart also was not touched by the fire and was found to have turned a golden color. Likewise, countless relics appeared.

After Jigten Sumgön’s passing, most of the funerary responsibilities were taken on by Che-nga Sherab Jungne, even though he had earlier declined the succession. He went to Lion Shoulder (Tib. Senge Phungpa) Moun­tain to view the mandala of Chakrasamvara, saw Jigten Sumgön there, and thought that he should build a memorial in that place. Jigten Sumgön then again appeared in a vision on the mountain of the Samadhi Cave and said to him, “Son, do as you wish, but also follow my intention.” Then he disappeared. Doing as he wished, Che-nga Sherab Jungne built an auspi­cious stupa of many doors called “Sage, Overpowerer of the Three Worlds.” In that stupa, he put Jigten Sumgön’s heart and many other relics. Follow­ing his guru’s intention, he built the stupa “Body-essence, Ornament of the World,” which was made of clay mixed with jewel dust, saffron, and various kinds of incense. In that stupa, he put Jigten Sumgön’s skull and brain, along with many other relics, including vinaya texts brought from India by Atisha, and the Hundred-Thousand-Stanza Prajñaparamita.

Jigten Sumgön now abides in the Eastern Great All-Pervading Bud­dhafield, surrounded by limitless numbers of disciples from this earth who died with strong devotion to him. When such people die, they are imme­diately born there. Jigten Sumgön places his hand on their heads, blessing them, and welcoming them there.


Bardo – The bardo, or intermediate state, typically refers to the state that occurs between death and a future rebirth. It can also, however, refer to the transitional periods that constitute the entire stream of existence, inclusive of birth, dreaming, meditation, death, reality itself, and transmigration.

Bodhisattva  [Lit. “heroic being of enlightenment”] – An individual who trains in the Great Vehicle, so-called because such individuals do not become discouraged in the face of the long duration it takes to attain great enlightenment, nor in giving away their own head and limbs out of generosity.

Buddhafield – A pure land where buddhas and bodhisattvas abide, such as the Realm of Bliss (Dewa Chen).

Dakini – 1) A yoginī who has attained the unique spiritual accomplishments; 2) a female divinity who has taken birth in a pure realm or other similar location.

Dharma – The word dharma has multiple usages within Buddhism. The most common usages are 1) the teachings of the Buddha, also referred to as buddhadharma, saddharma (“true dharma”), buddhavacana (“word of the Buddha”), and so on 2) factors of existence, commonly referred to as dharmas; 3) The term dharma can also be used to refer to non-Buddhist customs, traditions, or doctrines (e.g. “the dharma of that country”).

Interdependent Origination – the principle that all things arise in dependence upon multiple causes and conditions–nothing exists as a singular, independent entity. The term is used in the Buddhist teachings in two senses: 1) On a general level, it refers to one of the doctrine that all things arise in dependence upon multiple causes and conditions. 2) On a specific level, the term is used to refer to a specific application of this general principle—namely the twelve links of dependent origination.

Kalpa – an “age” or “eon” within Buddhist cosmology. Buddhist texts speak of different types of kalpas to indicate different durations of time.

Parinirvana – translated as “final nirvana,” “complete nirvana,” “nirvana-after-death,” etc. Parinirvana occurs upon the death of the body of someone who has attained nirvana during their lifetime. It implies a complete release from samsara, karma and rebirth as well as the dissolution of the skandhas.

Mahamudra – Translated as ‘Great Seal’, Mahamudra is a meditation tradition that flourished in Tibet. While this tradition is practiced by all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, it is particularly associated with the Kagyü lineage. In the Kagyu lineage, Mahamudara is regarded as the highest form of meditation practice. Ringu Tulku states: “The main point of Mahamudra is to see your true nature in a direct and experiential way. There is nothing greater than this, so it is called…great”.

Mandala – Explaining the meaning of this term, Ju Mipham writes, “Maṇḍa means ‘essence’ or ‘pith,’ while la has the sense of ‘to take’ or ‘grasp.’ Hence, together this term means that which forms the basis for grasping essential qualities. Alternately, when this word is translated literally as a whole, it means that which is wholely spherical and entirely surrounds.”

Nagas – Powerful long-lived serpent-like beings who inhabit bodies of water and often guard great treasure. Nagas belong half to the animal realm and half to the god realm. They generally live in the form of snakes, but many can change into human form. Nagas are said to dominate the underworld and water habitats such as seas, rivers and lakes. If offended, they wreak vengeance by provoking infections, diseases and skin ailments.

Nirvana – is the earliest and most common term used to describe the goal of the Buddhist path. The literal meaning of the term in Sanskrit is “to be blown out” or “to be extinguished”. Within the Buddhist tradition, this term is typically glossed as the extinction of craving (tanha), or more broadly, the extinction of the fires of attachment (raga), aversion (dvesha) and ignorance (mohaor avidyā). In the Buddhist view, when these fires are extinguished, suffering (dukkha) comes to an end, and one is released from the cycle of rebirth (samsara).

Ter­ma – The teachings of the Nyingma School have been transmitted through two lineages, the distant lineage of the Transmitted Teachings and the close lineage of the treasures. In the latter, the teachings that are passed on consist of three primary categories: those that relate to Guru Padmasambhava, the Great Perfection, and the Great Compassionate One, Avalokiteśvara.

Samsara – Commonly translated as “cyclic existence”, “cycle of existence”, etc. It can be defined as the continual repetitive cycle of birth and death that arises from ordinary beings’ grasping and fixating on a self and experiences. Specifically, samsara refers to the process of cycling through one rebirth after another within the six realms of existence, where each realm can be understood as either a physical realm or a psychological state characterized by a particular type of suffering. Samsara arises out of avidya (ignorance) and is characterized by dukkha (suffering, anxiety, dissatisfaction). In the Buddhist view, liberation from samsara is possible by following the Buddhist path.

Vajra – 1) That which is unchanging and indestructible; 2) an ancient Indian symbol that, of skillful means and knowledge, is used to symbolize knowledge; 3) one of the twenty-seven coincidences in Tibetan astrology; 4) an abbreviation of the Tibetan word for diamond. [TD 1438] In Vajrayāna practice, this symbolic implement is associated with a number of important principles. Generally speaking, it is linked with the male principle, compassion, skillful means, and the great bliss of unchanging reality.

Jigten Sumgön Bibliography – English Translations


The Buddha’s Single Intention – Drigung Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön’s Vajra Statements, by Jan-Ulrich Sobisch, 2020

Introduction to Mahamudra: The Co-emergent Unification by Jigten Sumgon, translated by Khenpo Konchok Tamphel (out of print?)

Gongchig the Single Intent,the Sacred Dharma by Jigten Sumgon, translated by Otter Verlag, 2009

Great Drikung Teachings to the Assembly by Jigten Sumgon, translated by Edition Garchen Stiftung, 2021

Opening the Treasure of the Profound: Teachings on the Songs of Jigten Sumgon and Milarepa by Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen Rinpoche, 2013

Vows of the Three Vehicles: How to Train in the Vows of Buddhist Practice by Jigten Sumgon, translated by Garchen Siftung, 2018



The Serkhangma “Golden Temple Prayer” Practice & Teachings

Online Teachings


*Article: A Brief Biography of the Life of Jigten Sumgon on the Official Drikung Kagyu Website

*Article, Treasurey of Lives: Jikten Gonpo Rinchen Pel b.1143 – d.1217


The Gong Chik is a collection of Drigung Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön’s 150 vajra statements.

*Article: Information about Gong Chik on the Official Drikung Kagyu Website

*Online Teachings: A six week online course on Gong Chik was offered by Ven. Khenpo Tenzin -June 16 – September 3, 2020.


Other Resources

A song of praise of Lord Jigten Sumgon
A song of praise of Lord Jigten Sumgon, written by Mipham Rinpoche

Jigten Sumgon’s Song of 5-fold realization
in Tibetan  |  in English  |  in Chinese

Jigten Sumgon Mantra by Garchen Rinpoche

Seven Verses to Tara by Jigten Sumgon – translated by Ina Bieler, in Tibetan, English, Chinese

Seven Verses to Tara by Jigten Sumgon – translated by Lotsawa House