From August 11th to15th (the 8th to 12th day of the 6th Tibetan month), the Drikung Phowa Chenmo had been successfully accomplished at the front lawn of the Drikung Thil Monastery. The vice president of the Buddhist Association of China, i. e., His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chokyi Nangwa and the 36th throne holder and the 8th Chungtsang Rinpoche, hosted this auspicious event and transmitted the Drikung Phowa Chenmo as well as bestowed the Buddha Amitayus empowerment. Drubwang Tashi Raodan Rinpoche, the 37th
Tripon of the Drikung Thil monastery, bestowed the transmission of the preliminaries of the Drikung Five fold Path of Mahamudra.
About 2000 monastics participated in this auspicious teaching. They came from more than 20 Drikung Kagyu monasteries of various Tibetan autonomous regions. Apart from the monastics, at least half a million of lay Tibetan and Chinese disciples were also present at the teaching. This auspicious event could not have been successfully held without the multiple-level of support from the Lhasa city government, the Maizhokunggar County goverment, and the local Manba government.
This teaching has also received numerous blessings from all the Drikung Kagyu gurus, Drikung Dharma protectors, and great masters presenting at the teaching. The disciples’ great devotion and joint effort was an other crucial factor that ensured the success of this auspicious event.
The Total Number of Participants Set a New Record
His Holiness Chokyi Nangwa emphasized the importance of objectively estimate the total number of participants. He attributed to the huge increase in total participant number to the convenience brought by model transportation. He pointed out that although the number of lay participants increased, the number of monastic participants decreased. Accordingly, he reduced the amount of Dharma teaching and instead focused on the transmission of the Drikung Phowa Chenmo and the empowerment on Buddha Amitayus. Traditionally, His Holiness would leave his throne and bless each participant during an empowerment. Due to the extremely large number of participants, disciples were directed to walk under the Thangkas of Drikung Kagyu lineage gurus to receive the blessing and empowerment.
Due to lack of an objective criterion, different counts of the total number of participants appeared. It was said that 400 thousands of participants were present when Buddha Shakyamuni empowerment was bestowed. It was also said that half a million participants were present when His Holiness bestowed Buddha Amitayus empowerment during the noon of August 13. During the noon of August 14, when His Holiness transmitted the Drikung Phowa Chenmo, 700 thousands of disciples were believed to be present. However, these were subjective accounts that are hard to verify. One form of objective information does exist. According the data from the newly built China mobile cell tower in the front lawn of the monastery, more than 300 thousands of China mobile users were within the range of the coverage of this tower. As there is likely a similar number of people using non-Chinamobile cell services such as China unicom and China telecom, saying that the total number of participants reached 600 thousand is safe.
August 14th is a Sunday. Large flows of disciples arrived at the monastery between the midnight of the 14th and the beginning of the Phowa transmission. The roads connecting Lhasa and the Drikung Thil Monastery had been completely paralyzed. Many disciples left their cars on the road and walked all the way to the monastery. Some reached the monastery 4 to 5 hours after the teaching had ended but still went to the front lawn to receive the inconceivable blessing.
With no doubt, the total number of participants of this year’s Drikung Phowa Chenmo marks a milestone of the history of Drikung Kagyu’s Monkey year teaching. Actually, no large-scale announcement had been made prior to the event either from our lineage or the government. The record-setting participant number speaks of the great merit and power of the teaching and the Tibetans’ aspirations in participating in such a rare but auspicious event that is held only every 12 years.
We will attempt to explore possible explanations of such a milestone event. We invite our readers to provide feedback and criticism of our explanations.
The Natural Manifestation of Merits of the 800 year-old Drikung Kagyu Lineage.
In 1179, Lord Jigten Sumgon, the founder of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage, established the Drikugn Thil Monatery. During one period, 180 thousands of monastics gathered here to receive teachings and practice Dharma. The Tibetan saying “All the mountains belong to Drikungpa mountain dweller. All the flatlands belong to Drikungpa flatland dwellers” was then used to describe the great number of Drikung disciples gathered in the monastery.
In fact, 2500 years ago, Buddha had prophesized the birth of Lord Jigten Sumgon and the prosperity of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage. It is documented in the Saddharma-smrty-upasthana-sutra that “In the Northern snow ranges, Ratna Shri will appear. There, my teaching will radiate like the sun and he will gather 700 thousand disciples”.
Many great Mahasiddhas had visited the Drikung region. Dusum Khyenpa, the first Karmapa was one of them. When he arrived in Drikung, he was invited by the Drikung Thil monastery to meet with Lord Jigten Sumgon. When he met Lord Jigten Sumgon, he saw him as the Buddha himself and developed great devotion in him. He also saw the Drikung region as the mandala of Chakrasambhava. The first Karmapa received many teachings from Lord Jigten Sumgon.
In another occasion, a Sakya Mahasiddha came to Drikung to debate with Lord Jigten Sumgon. However, at his first sight of Lord Jigten Sumgon, he realized that Lord Jigten Sumgon was the Buddha and therefore developed great devotion in him and asked to be one of his disciples. He asked Lord Jigten Sumgon to write a great treatise on the stages of the path to enlightenment, which turned out to be
The Treasury of Instructions.
In the fall of 1373, the young Tsongkhapa left the Jakhyung Monastery and travelled to the Drikung Thil Monastery through Qamdo with his companies. There he met the 11th Drikung Kagyu Lineage holder Chen Nga Chokyi Gyalpo and received the sadhana on cultivating Bodhicitta and teaching on the Five fold Path of Mahamudra as well as the Six Yogas of Naropa. Nowadays, one can still view the cave that Tsongkhapa meditated which is under the meditation room of Lord Jigten Sumgon at the Drikung Thil monastery.
In 1413, the Yongle Emperor Di Zhu of the Ming Empire awarded the tile of Chan Jiao Wang to Goshri Dondrup Gyalpo, the 12th throne holder. This title indicated that His Holiness Goshri Dondrup Gyalpo had been recognized as one of the 8 most importantre religious leaders, which helped promote the reputation of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage in the Lhasa area.
In 1988, His Holiness Jigme Phuntsok of the Nyingma Lineage also travelled to Drikung. He revealed a terma sadhana of Buddha Kurukulle in the Terom hot springs area. There Achi Chokyi Dromla revealed herself to him. Spontanously, he wrote a prayer for Achi Chokyi Dromla.
Since the era of Lord Jigten Sumgon, many mahasiddhas have emerged at Drikung. With their boundless compassion and pure altruistic intentions to benefit others, they planned numerous seeds for sentient beings’ reaching of liberation.
The Calling From A Practice Based Trandition
The Drikung Kagyu Linieage is famous for its retreat meditation practice in the mountains. The one who has reached the highest level of realization is appointed as the Tripon of the Drikung Thil Monastery. All Tripon in history have taken on heavy responsibilities for the lineage. On one hand, they engage in meditation retreat throughout their lives. On the other hand, they provide instructions on retreat practice to the younger generation and train then next Tripon.
Ta shi Raodan Rinpoche: The Mahasiddha Who Reached Full Realization of Mahamudra
Tashi Raodan Rinpoche, the 37th Tripon (the headretreat master) of the Drikung Thil Monastery, is recognized as the Milarepa of the modern time. He arrived at the teaching on August 10th, drawing a huge attention from both the monastic and lay disciples.
Between August 10th to 15th, he led the puja in the main tent during the day and stayed overnight at the tent that the monastery built for him. It is said that becauseof his level of achievement, for many years he remains in meditation at night and never sleeps. It is hard for disciples to see Tashi Raodan Rinpoche and receive teachings from him in other occasions because he spends the majority of histime in retreat meditating. All disciples felt blessed and joyful for having this precious opportunity to see Tashi Raodan Rinpoche in person.
From our observation, no matter where he was or what he did, Tashi Raodan Rinpoche always remained calm and peaceful. He diligently served His Holiness with full devotion, setting a great example for all disciples. He treated all disciples in the same way, regardless whether they are government officials or ordinary people.
He did not receive any form of material offerings and responded to all kinds of disciples and requests with his calmly sutra chanting. Occasionally, he provided brief answers to disciples’ questions.
When he was in the main tent, he sat on his seat peacefully and never left his seat during the breaks. His gaze was penetrating, completely conquering the mind of disciples of all ages with love, kindness, and compassion.
At the end of each day, a crowd of disciples always flooded into his tent, prostrating and offering khada to him. All grew a firm and unshakable devotion in Dharma. He did not leave the main tent until all disciples were gone. But immediately after he arrived at his own tent, he started to meet disciples again. A long line always could be spotted outside of his tent.
In the age of Dharma degeneration, disciples burst into tears after meeting such a Bhikkhu who keeps his vows intact and diligently engages in practice.
Disciples cultivated faith in the power of Dharma practice because they personally experienced Tashi Raodan Rinpoche’s realization.
In the noon of August 14th, after His Holiness had performed the Phowa transmission, Tashi Raodan Rinpoche performed an oral transmission of the preliminary practices of the Five fold Path of Muhamudra. All felt shocked by hearing his sonorous voice and had a difficult time believing that such a deep and steady voice came from someone who was slim like him. Accompanied his transmission was thunder and the fast moving of clouds. All stopped coincidently at the completion of this oral transmission. Disciples took the appearance of thunder as an auspicious sign indicating that the teachings of Drikung Kagyu Lineage will spread far and wide.
(With extremely fortune, we interviewed multiple great masters and learned about their interactions with Tashi Raodan Rinpoche. Please see our following report to learn more about Tashi Raodan Rinpoche)
The Power of Padmasambhava ’ s Terma
The Drikugn Monkey year teaching had been established by Konchog Trinle Sangpo (1656 – 1718), the 25th throne holder and the second Chetsang Rinpoche. The second Chungtsang Rinpoche (the 26th throne holder) His Holiness Trinle Dondrup Choegyal inherited and further promoted this tradition.
According to the Nyingma Lineage, Padmasambhava was born on the 10th day of the Monkey month of the Monkey year. Gyalwang Rinchen Phuntsog, the 17th throne holder who revealed many precious termas and contributed significantly to the prosperity of Drikung Kagyu, had been viewed as the incarnation of Padmasambhava.
His Holiness Chokyi Namgwa is regarded as the embodiment of Manjushri. Although the title of “Chungtsang” had not been used until the 24th throne holder’s era, His Holiness’ previous incarnations include Mahasiddha Saraha in India and Chenga Sherab Jungne (1187 – 1241) in Tibet, who was the most excellent disciple of Lord Jigten Sumgon. He has manifested as 9 previous lineage holders. They include:
The 9th throne holder Chunyipa Dorje Rinchen (1278 – 1314) →
The 17th throne holder Gyalwang Rinchen Phuntsog (1509 – 1557)→
The 24th throne holder Kunkhyen Rigzin Chodrak (1598 – 1659 the first Chungtsang Rinpoche)
The 26th the throne holder Trinle Dondrup Choegyal (1704 – 1754 the second Chungtsang Rinpoche)
The 28th throne holder Tenzin Chokyi Nyima (1755 – 1792 the third Chungtsang Rinpoche)
The 30th throne holder Tenzin Chokyi Gyaltsen (1793 – 1826 the fourth Chungtsang Rinpoche)
The 31st throne holder Konchog Chokyi Norbu (1827 – 1865 the fifth Chungtsang Rinpoche)→
The 33rd throne holder Tenzin Chokyi Lodro (1868 – 1906 the sixth Chungtsang Rinpoche)→
The 35th throne holder Tenzin Chokyi Jungne (1909 – 1940 the seventh Chungtsang Rinpoche)→
The 36th throne holder Tenzin Chokyi Nangwa (1942 – , the eighth Chungtsang Rinpoche)→
His Holiness Chokyi Nangwa shared that in history, the throne holder always fully dressed up as Padmasambhava on one day of the Monkey year teaching to bestow the Buddha Amitayus empowerment. This time, he simplified this ritual and wore only the crown of Padmasambhava.
A Stable Transition to the Future
The unprecedented attendance of this year’s Drikung Phowa Chenmo reflects the great compassion of Padmasambhava as well as Drikung Kagyu’s focus on practice. It is because disciples want to be liberated from samsara and take birth in the pureland that they cherish this precious once-12th-year opportunity to receive the Phowa transmission.
Regardless of the prosperity that the Drikung Kagyu Lineage shown in this teaching, His Holiness Chokyi Nangwa remained calm as usual. He explicitly clarified, “Lord Jigten Sumgon had prophesized that the future of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage will remain stable, no extreme high or low points will appear. History of our lineage has shown that regardless of many devastating events targeting at destroying our lineage, the lineage have remained intact with the blessing and efforts of all lineage holders and gurus. In the future, our lineage will continue this steady and stable development. In this way, we can benefit more sentient beings.”