Phagmodrupa’s Heart Son, Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön (1143-1217), took over the throne of Phagdru for three years after his teacher’s death (1177-1179). He then established his own lineage with the foundation of Drikung Thil Monastery in the area of Drikung, as Phagmodrupa had predicted.
Although Phagmodrupa had countless students, Jigten Sumgön was one of his closest disciples. He received the complete teachings, secret and oral transmissions, explanations and initiations, enlightened realization blessings, and so on from Phagmodrupa. In turn, Jigten Sumgön transmitted all of these teachings to his chief disciple, Gurawa Tsultrim Dorje (1154-1221). [Read more on the life of Jigten Sumgön]
Of the many precious teachings Jigten Sumgön received, he demonstrated a particularly special and deep understanding of the Fivefold Path of Mahamudra and Six Yogas of Naropa. When Jigten Sumgön received Mahamudra instructions from Phagmodrupa, it is said that Jigten Sumgön said to Phagmodrupa that this teaching is all he really needs, and he does not want to practice anything else. Phagmodrupa told him then that from now on, until achieving Buddhahood, he must never separate from the practice of the five-fold path of Mahamudra. Because of that, Jigten Sumgön’s teachings have always emphasized the practicing the five-fold path Mahamudra and Six Yogas of Naropa in especially great detail.
In the Fivefold Path of Mahamudra, the preliminary practice of bodhicitta is understood as the foundation of Mahamudra. The generation stage of deity yoga is the method. Guru yoga and devotion is the root of the blessing which becomes the head of the meditation. Actual Mahamudra is practiced as the main body of meditation, and the practice is concluded with dedication. The six Yogas of Naropa include milam, dream yoga; tummo, the yoga of inner heat; bardo, the yoga of the intermediate stage, gyulu, the illusory body yoga; ösel, the yoga of clear light; and phowa, the yoga of transference of consciousness. These two practices form the core, essential teachings for which the Drikung Kagyu is particularly well known. From Jigten Sumgön’s time until now retreatants have continually maintained those practices in an unbroken way.
Following the instructions of Jigten Sumgön, the throne holders of the Drikung lineage came from within the Kyura clan, Jigten Sumgön’s family clan. Spiritual leaders, called the Denrab, were separate from civic administrators. For about 600 years, until the 17th century, the throne holders of the Drikung Kagyu lineage came from this family. Notable among these is Chunyi Dorje Rinchen, the 9th Denrab, who instituted the curriculum for the three-year teaching and retreat cycle continuing to this day. In the early 17th century, the direct familial lineage of the Kyura clan ended with the last two heirs of the Dharma throne, Konchog Rinchen and Rigdzin Chödrak, becoming known as the first Chetsang and Chungtsang Rinpoches. The older and younger brother both continually take rebirths and serve as simultaneous throne holders of the lineage, continuing on to our current 36th Drikung Kyabgön Chungtsang Tenzin Chökyi Nangwa Rinpoche and 37th Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang Konchog Tenzin Kunsang Thrinley Lhundrup Rinpoche.