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date: 26 September 2022

Early History of the Drukpa Kagyü Schoollocked

Early History of the Drukpa Kagyü Schoollocked

  • Seiji KumagaiSeiji KumagaiResearch Division for Ethics and Spirituality, Kyoto University


Among the four main Tibetan Buddhist schools, the Kagyü (Bka’ brgyud) school produced the highest number of subschools in the early period after its foundation. Within this school, the Drukpa Kagyü (‘Brug pa bka’ brgyud) school became religiously and politically influential in Tibet and its surrounding areas along with the Karma Kagyü (Karma bka’ brgyud) school and the Pakdu Kagyü (Phag gru bka’ brgyud) school. The Drukpa Kagyü school was responsible for the unification of Bhutan in the 17th century and currently has the second largest number of adherents within the entire Kagyü school. Thus, the Drukpa Kagyü school has played an important role both politically and religiously in Tibet and the Himalayan regions.

Fortunately, modern historians’ studies have enabled us to grasp the historical outline of the school. However, most of them treat only a particular era or rely only on a limited number of biographies and dharma annals. Therefore, they often offer insufficient or incomplete information. The early history of the Drukpa Kagyü school, in particular, has not been exhaustively examined or philologically studied.

To understand the Drukpa Kagyü school fully, it is necessary to comprehend the precise order of events in its early history. This article thus has the objective of reexamining the early history of the school, primarily focusing on three generations: the founder of the Drukpa Kagyü school, Tsangpa Gyare (Gtsang pa rgya ras Ye shes rdo rje, 1161–1211), his root master Ling Repa (Gling ras pa Padma rdo rje, 1128–1188), and his disciples such as Darma Senge Sangye Wonre (Darma seng ge Sangs rgyas dbon ras, 1177–1237). The article also examines the relationship between the Lingre Kagyü school and the Drukpa Kagyü school, as well as the classification of subschools inside the Drukpa Kagyü school.


  • Buddhism

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