Our Teachers

His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang

His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang is one of two heads of the Drikung Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism. Born in 1946 in Lhasa, Tibet, he was recognized at the age of four as the reincarnation of the previous Drikung Kyabgon and formally enthroned and educated at Drikung Thil, the main monastery of the Drikung Kagyu order in central Tibet. During the Tibetan exodus in the late 1950s, his parents fled to India while he remained at Drikung Thil. In 1959, Communist China closed the monastery, and His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang was adopted by his former tutor, His Eminence Gyabra Rinpoche. After completing his elementary and middle school education in Lhasa, in 1969 he was assigned to a countryside farm, working fifteen hours a day doing hard physical labor.

In 1975, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang crossed the Himalayan border separating Tibet from Nepal—on foot and all alone except for fortuitous help from two strangers at one impassable point. He traveled to Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, where he was received by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and formally enthroned once again.

Then, after eighteen years of separation, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang was reunited with his family in the United States. He stayed for several years, completing courses in English and adult education—and working after school at McDonald’s to practice his English

In 1978, he returned to India, taking up rigorous Buddhist practice, retreats, and instruction from many of the greatest living masters of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1985, in Dehra Dun, India, he founded the Drikung Kagyu Institute, Jang Chub Ling, which provides traditional monastic and modern education to c. 450 monks and nuns; a meditation retreat center; and a project to collect and preserve all the Drikung Kagyu texts, as well as document the ways of life, philosophy, and religious traditions of the peoples of the Himalayas.
all over the world.
Read more about the extraordinary life and accomplishments of His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang.

Venerable Lho Ontul Rinpoche

Venerable Ontul Rinpoche is the 3rd incarnation and he was officially recognised at the age of five in Tibet. The previous Ontul Rinpoche had fallen sick before his death and had a deep wound on the left-hand side of his waist. When he was born the 5th Ontul Rinpoche had a scar in the exact same place.

Before his birth, whilst Rinpoche was still in his mothers womb, the family travelled to Ri-chi-thuk, a place of pilgrimage in Tibet. On the way as they journeyed across rough mountainous terrains his mother was about to fall into a deep valley. Then all the travellers heard a voice saying 'Save my mother'. Everybody was amazed as the voice came from inside the mothers' womb. It was Rinpoche trying to save his mothers life.

Rinpoche escaped from Tibet after the Chinese invasion with his teacher Kharnam and his followers, travelling overland he reached Nepal in 1960. Then in 1962 Rinpoche entered India where he did retreat and studied with Khenpo Thubten in the holy place of Tso Pema until 1965. At that time Rinpoche and a group of practitioners established a spiritual community in the hill-station of Dharamsala where they did their practices in a simple tent.

At the first ceremony in Tso Pema on Guru Rinpoche Day (Tse Chu) they pitched a tent and performed pujas next to the holy lake. Rinpoche invited Khenpo Thubten to give teachings and studied with him until 1970. After that Rinpoche travelled to Ladakh on a teaching tour and bestowing empowerments on the Himalayan Buddhist people.

Through the offerings received he purchased land in Tso Pema and started to construct a monastery in 1971. The temple of the monastery took several years to complete and was finally finished 1975.

Rinpoche received Mahamudra and Dzogchen teachings from H.H. Dalai Lama, H.H. Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche, H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, H.E. Garchen Rinpoche, Yogi Pachung Rinpoche, Polu Khenchen Dorje Rinpoche, Ven. Khunu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen, Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche, Khenpo Khedrup Rinpoche and others.

Rinpoche also received teachings from Yogi Chyunga Rinpoche and his personal instructions on the Drikung Kagyu Five-Fold Profound Path of Mahamudra. In the years that followed Rinpoche went to Drikung Kagyu Monasteries in Ladakh where he received most of the important empowerments, instructions and oral transmissions of the Drikung Kagyu tradition from H.E. Choje Togden Rinpoche. Today Rinpoche is still in the monastery at Tso Pema, where he spends his time teaching his followers from all over the world.

(source: http://www.dk-petsek.org/ontul.html)

Venerable Lho Thubten Nyingpo Rinpoche

Ven. Thubten Nyingpo Rinpoche's incarnations can be traced back to the extraordinary Atsara Sale, who lived in 9th century Tibet. Atsara Sale, one of the heart sons of Guru Rinpoche, was renowned as a great practitioner of Vajrakilaya, and a consort of Yeshe Tsogyal. Their relationship has become the source of inspiration for students through the ages.

The first incarnation known as Thubten Nyingpo was the younger brother and close disciple of the great 19th century Drikung Treasure revealer Nuden Dorje.  The first Thubten Nyingpo Rinpoche became a great siddha, highly accomplished in the practices of Chöd and Vajrakilaya. Students of the Drikung lineage should note that the present Thupten Nyingpo's previous incarnation was one of the root Drikung teachers of the present Garchen Rinpoche. At an empowerment that Garchen Rinpoche gave in 2004, he mentioned that the Lama whom he received this empowerment from, as well as all The 50 Empowerments of Lord Jigten Sumgon, was the previous Tulku Thubten Nyingpo. In this lifetime, H.E. Garchen Rinpoche is Thubten Nyingpo’s root lama, and they are very close. Likewise, Gar Rinpoche told his students at a teaching in New York State in 2004, that Rinpoche’s students should make every effort to receive teachings from Tulku Thubten Nyingpo, that they should run- not walk to go and receive teachings from Thubten Nyingpo Rinpoche!

Thubten Nyingpo’s teachers include H.H. Chetsang Rinpoche, H.E. Garchen Rinpoche, Ven. Ontul Rinpoche, Lamchen Gyalpo Rinpoche, and Drubwang Rinpoche. Rinpoche has studied and practiced in Tibet, at Jangchub Ling, and also at the Payul (Nyingma) Shedra in South India. His activities at his Monastery include creating a new Shedra (Scriptural College), as well as a school to care for and educate local children.

Following in the tradition of his previous incarnations, the present Thubten Nyinpo Rinpoche is also an accomplished Chöd Master and Vajrakilaya practitioner.

(source: http://drikungboston.org/biosVisiting.html )

Venerable Traga Rinpoche

Traga Rinpoche is an accomplished Dzogchen master, having received profound foundational and the most advanced teachings from some of the greatest living masters of Tibetan Buddhism -- including His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche, His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche, Khenchen Jigme Phuntsog and many others -- and completed many retreats.

From Garchen Rinpoche, Traga Rinpoche received teachings on all Drikung Kagyu texts on regular Dharma service and practice, the five-fold Mahamudra, the entire Dzogchen Yangzab teachings, and many profound pith instructions. He then did his Dzogchen Yangzab retreat at Lho Miyel Gon monastery.

In early 1984, Traga Rinpoche received full gelong ordination from the Nyingma master Khenpo Munsel, who gave him the detailed teachings on Dzogchen Cutting Through the Resistance to Primordial Purity. Khenpo Munsel gently looked at Traga Rinpoche and said, your karmic propensity is to practice Dzogchen. I am your karmic lama. If you can meditate, you have today found the way to liberation in one life. You will never find something like this even if you went to look for it with your horse's hooves encased in steel. Spend one year near me and meditate. For the next seven years, he did retreat near Khenpo Munsel, and practiced Cutting Through, Passing Over, and many other advanced practices.

In 1998, Lamchen Gyalpo Rinpoche -- determined to make Traga Rinpoche's vast knowledge and profound experiential understanding of the highest level of Dzogchen teachings accessible to as many students as possible -- enthroned him as Lopon Rinpoche (Precious Master), with lavish praise for his hard work and outstanding achievements. His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche selected Traga Rinpoche as the retreat master and resident lama at the Garchen Buddhist Institute, and asked his students to have full confidence in Traga Rinpoche, just as I have full confidence in him.

(source: http://www.garchen.net/teachers.html#traga)

Venerable Lama Thubten Nima (Gape Lama)

Lama Thubten Nima was born in 1965 into conditions of political turmoil and exile associated with the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Lama Thubten Nima had the good fortune to receive instruction at the age of fourteen on the effects of virtuous and harmful actions by the great yogi Tamga, and he completed the four hundred thousand accumulations of the preliminary practices (ngö ndro) according to the Buddhist Yangzab terma.

His family having long been associated with Gar Monastery prior to the Cultural Revolution, Lama Thubten Nima made great efforts to travel to the Gar Monastery where he received refuge ordination from His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche. He then received full monastic ordination and the bodhisattva vow from the great siddha Karma Norbu, and was admitted to the Gar Monastery. There, he trained in the ritual practices of the tantras of Old and New Schools and other diverse religious activities. He was selected for special training at Lho Lungkar Monastery, including the Eight Heruka Sadhanas, the Embodiment of the Masters' Realization, Vajrakilaya, and Essence of Great Bliss. He served as chant master and, later, as disciplinarian of the Gar monastery.

Thereafter, he received teachings from many of the great living Buddhist masters including Dzogchen trekchod and thogal from Khenpo Munsel Rinpoche, the entirety of the Drikung Kagyu protectors and the higher and lower tantra sections from HE Garchen Rinpoche, and received from Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok his own terma (mind treasure) of the Kilaya cycle of teachings. At Drigung Thil, he received from Drubpon Tendzin Nyima some of the profound teachings of the Drikung Kagyu such as the Fivefold Mahamudra and the Six Yogas [of Naropa]. He studied the Gong Chig (Single Intention), Essence of Mahayana, The Bodhisattva Way of Life, and the Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices with Drigung Khenpo Namzig. Under the elder Drigung chant master Konchog Samten, he trained in the ritual practices of Chakrasamvara, Varahi, the Yangzab, Sarvavid and Akshobhya.

Thereafter, HE Garchen Rinpoche asked him to undertake a series of assignments to help reorganize and reestablish Buddhist practice and monastic discipline in monasteries throughout the region ö after, in some cases, a twenty-five year breach in the Buddhist practice tradition including Lho Miyel Monastery, Khargo Monastery, and later Tseri Monastery in Sichuan where he reestablished the Great Accomplishment (Drupchen) practice of Yamantaka and gave other teachings. Then, again at the request of HE Garchen Rinpoche, he served as Lama (religious teacher and minister) for two years at Tamgo Monastery in Central Tibet, the former dwelling place of Chung Dorje Dragpa, the fourth lineage holder of the Drikung Kagyu. There, Lama Thubten Nima established the summer retreat, set up a yearly teaching schedule, and appointed a chant master, disciplinarian and shrine master.

Subsequently, at Gar Monastery, Lama Thubten Nima took responsibility for instructing the nuns at the Fivefold Mahamudra Meditation Center of Gargon Nunnery. In the year 2000 he went to India and received the complete Drikung Kagyu empowerments, transmissions and teachings during the Drigung Snake Year teachings. Thereafter, he went to Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan. He then came to America to do a Yamantaka Retreat with HE Garchen Rinpoche, and served as the resident Lama for the Mercy and Treasure Buddhist Foundation in California. At present, he serves as Short-Term Retreat Master and Chant Master for The Garchen Institute in Arizona, as well as continuing to serve as visiting Lama at Drikung Rinchen Choling in Temple City, California. HE Garchen Rinpoche has also requested Lama Thubten Nima to serve as Chant Master (religious ritual master) all the Gar Buddhist Dharma centers in the West.

(source: http://www.garchen.net/teachers.html#gape)

Drupon Thinley Ningpo Rinpoche

From an early age, Drupon Thinley Ningpo natural inclination towards religion developed into a determination to pursue higher spiritual studies. With his father's encouragement, Drupon Thinley entered Brong-ngur Monastery, and became a student of the eminent Buddhist scholar, Lama Kedrub Siddhi Rinpoche. While studying at Brong-ngur, he met the great yogi and scholar, Drubwang Pachung Rinpoche in Drikung Thil, the sublime seat of Drikung Kagyü Order.
As a result, he had the great fortune to receive the profound essence instructions in the practice and mastery of the peerless Mahamudra. In 1988, Drupon Ningpo went on a pilgrimage to the sacred places of Western Tibet and took advantage of a fortuitous opportunity to escape to India through an arduous and perilous two-month journey on foot across the Himalayas.

Once in India, he proceeded to the Drikung Kagyü Monastery and entered into the institute for higher education. After completing his course of study, he was appointed dean of the institute, where he served with distinction for 6 years.

Today, Drupon Ningpo tirelessly serves the dharma community from his home at the Drong Ngur Jangchubling Buddhist Center in the Tampa, Florida area.

(source: http://www.gardrolma.org/OLvisiting.html)

Lama Gursam

At the age of six, Lama Gursam entered Drikung Kagyu Monastery in Tso Pema, India, where he completed his basic education and studied Buddhist philosophy, practice, ritual and conduct. In 1981 he began his college education at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies (University) in Sarnath, Varnasi, India. He earned his Bachelor's degree in 1988 in the Sanskrit, Hindi, Tibetan, and English languages and in Buddhist philosophy. Pursuing graduate study at the University, he was President of the student union, and served two years as a Kagyu Committee member. In 1990 he received his Master's degree in advanced Buddhist philosophy. Upon graduation he also received a special award from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

After graduation, Lama Gursam was requested by His Holiness Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche to come to the Drikung Kagyu Institute in Dehra Dun, India, at a critical time where there was a great lack of teachers and funding for education. There he served as a volunteer for five years, teaching Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophy and history. He also held the posts of Instructor, Head of Examinations, and Assistant Director while serving as secretary to His Holiness Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche, the head of the Drikung Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. During this time, he also did a one-year meditation retreat and received Dzogchen teachings and empowerments from Khenchen Thupten Rinpoche and other lamas of the Nyingma lineage. He also studied with Dr. Pema Gyaltsen, a specialist in the Tibetan language.

In 1995, Lama Gursam was sent by His Holiness Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche to the United States, where he taught Buddhist philosophy for five years. Lama Gursam worked as a resident teacher in a Tibetan Meditation Center, also serving as director of North American Drikung Kagyu Center. Then Lama Gursam met His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche, whom he considers to be the second Milarepa. Under H.E. Garchen Rinpoche's guidance, together with the Venerable Traga Rinpoche, he became a yogi, and in 2002 he completed a traditional three-year retreat in the United States, practicing Mahamudra and the Six Yogas of Naropa. After a nationwide teaching tour, he then traveled to India, Nepal and the border of Tibet, where he completed a six-month retreat in Milarepa's cave at Lapchi. Lama Gursam continues to return every year to India for teachings and retreats, and every year to the United States and Canada to reunite with friends and students for teachings. His current sanghas are located in Vermont, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, and Arizona, as well as Montreal and Sault Sainte Marie, Canada. Additionally, every 2-3 years, Lama Gursam leads a pilgrimage to Buddhist holy places in India and Nepal. In 2006, Lama Gursam founded The Bodhichitta Foundation, a U.S. non-profit organization officially recognized by His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche, head of the Drikung Kagyu lineage. The Bodhichitta Foundation benefits the West with teachings, a future center and retreat land, and the East, preserving ancient texts, Tibetan culture, education, women's rights, and health.

(source: http://lamagursam.org/biography.html)