To propagate Buddhist teachings,
the king sent his ministers to India to learn Sanskrit and
Buddhism. Upon their return, they began translating sacred
Buddhist texts from Sanskrit into Tibetan.
A century later, king Trisong Deutsan (742-797AD) invited
a great Indian Buddhist master, Guru Padmasambhava (or the
Lotus Born), to visit Tibet. The latter subdued the influences
of the shamanistic Bonpo belief and, since then, Buddhism
started to prosper.
The Drukpa (or Sky Dragons) lineage in Tibetan Buddhism has
an 800-year legacy. It originated from the great enlightened
Indian masters, Tilopa and Naropa. The lineage continued with
Marpa, the Tibetan translator who travelled to India to receive
Buddhist teachings and training.
The lineage's beginning is associated with nine dragons
soaring into the sky. Druk in Tibetan means dragon but it
also refers to the sound of thunder. In 1206, Tsangpa Gyare
Yeshe Dorje (then 45 years old) saw nine dragons flying up
into the sky from the ground of Namdruk. He named his lineage
Drukpa or Lineage of the Dragons, after this auspicious event.
Thus, Tsangpa Gyare became the founder of the lineage and
was known as the First Gyalwang Drukpa. All Gyalwang Drukpas
are recognised and revered as reincarnations of Naropa.
Tsangpa Gyare was prophesised in many Buddhist texts and
recognised as the indisputable emanation of Naropa (1016-1100).
It was said that Buddha Shakyamuni spoke of the coming of
He unveiled many treasures - holy teachings and objects
- in southern Tibet, and also discovered Tsari, a holy
place in Tibet.
Tsangpa Gyare became popular as Druk Tamchay Khyenpa, the
Omniscient Dragon, and was addressed as Je Drukpa (Lord Dragon
master) because of his spiritual attainments.
As many as 50,000 people were said to have attended his teaching
sessions. He was also said to have 88,000 eminent followers,
of whom 28,000 were enlightened yogis. His order became famous
for the purity, simplicity and asceticism of its adherents
and the profundity of its spiritual teachings.
Tsangpa Gyare was born in 1161 in the upper Nyang region
of the Tsang province.
Soon after his birth, numerous spiritual masters recognised
him as a reincarnation of a great saint and cared for him.
He became accomplished in various Buddhist practices.
Under the guidance of his root master Lingchen Repa, he became
an expert in Mahamudra (the Great Seal) meditation and the
Six Practices of Naropa. He was able to withstand extremely
harsh, cold weather.
In retreat in a snow-covered cave, Tsangpa Gyare only wore
a thin, white, cotton robe. The psychic heat that his body
generated melted away the snow under him as well as his surroundings.
When Tsangpa Gyare passed away at the age of 50, a rainbow
canopy appeared; showers of flowers fell on the day of his
cremation. It was said that many could hear celestial music
and smell a beautiful scent in the air. When his body was
cremated, his heart, tongue and eyes remained intact. His
skull bore the images of Arya Avalokiteshvara (Guan Yin),
Manjushri and Vajrapani; the 21 joints of his backbone turned
into 21 mini statues of Avalokiteshvara. Many of these relics
- proof of Tsangpa Gyare's spiritual attainments
- are still kept in various Drukpa monasteries.
Bhutan, one of the few remaining Buddhist kingdoms, takes
the name of Druk or Druk Yul, meaning "the Land of the
Thunder Dragons". Its people are known as Drukpa. In
the 17th century, Tsangpa Gyare's fourth incarnation
- Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651)- united
the warring regions in Bhutan and became the political and
religious leader there.
The Himalayan Buddhist Kingdom of Ladakh, north India, is
also an important stronghold of the Drukpa lineage.
Key events in celebrating 800 years of the Drukpa lineage
will take place in: