Drigung Lotsawa, who was one of Dölpopa’s fourteen major disciples, was a master of Sanskrit studies. He also held the monastic seat of the great Kagyu monastery of Drigung as a young man. After studying with Dölpopa, Drigung Lotsawa became an ardent defender of the shentong view and spead the Kalacakra teachings of the Jonang tradition. Toward the end of his life he taught the Vimalaprabha for eight years at Jonang. Drigung Lotsawa was born in Gyerphu (gyer phu). He began formal studies at Sangpu (gsang phu) monastery, where he received the vows of a novice monk and the name Norbu Pal Yeshe (nor bu dpal ye shes). He later became known by the Sanskrit form of this name, Manikashrijnana. After studying at many monasteries in Central Tibet, he traveled to the great monastery of Sakya (sa skya) in the region of Tsang (gtsang), where he became expert in the vehicle of the perfections, epistemology, and abhidharma under the master Jamyang Chökyi Gyaltsen (‘jam dbyangs chos kyi rgyal mtshan). Next he went to Drakram (brag ram) monastery, received full ordination from the abbot Könchok Sangpo (dkon mchog bzang po), and mastered the scriptures of the monastic code. He also studied Sanskrit grammar and poetics under the great scholar Butön Rinchen Drup (bu ston rin chen grub, 1290–1364) at Shalu (zhwa lu) Monastery. Then Manikashri visited the large Kagyu monastery of Drigung (‘bri gung) in Central Tibet. There he studied Indian languages, Sanskrit grammar, and Indian scripts under the guidance of the Indian pandita Dvastanakara (dwa ShTa na ka ra), after which he became known as Drigung Lotsawa (‘bri gung lo tsA ba), Translator of Drigung. He also studied the spoken dialects of the eastern and western regions of India under the Indian acarya Vatikara (a tsa ra wa ti ka ra). From the holder of the monastic seat at Drigung, he received countless special teachings, such as the Six Dharmas of Niguma, the Six Dharmas of Naropa, and the Great Seal (mahamudra) instructions. After some time he was appointed to the monastic seat at Drigung, and all the books, images, and so forth of the former abbots were offered to him. He lived and taught at Drigung for five years. Drigung Lotsawa then heard the news that the omniscient Dölpopa had come to Central Tibet and established his large encampment at Nyetang (snye thang) monastery. Drigung Lotsawa went to Nyetang, where a huge number of people had gathered from Central Tibet and Tsang, and first met the Dharma lord Dölpopa. When he conversed with Dölpopa, he felt like he was just a firefly in the presence of the sun, and from that time remained constantly with the great Jonang master. He received from Dölpopa the Kalacakra initiation and various instructions of the six-branch yoga of Kalacakra, for which he later wrote instruction manuals. He eventually received all the exoteric and esoteric teachings from Dölpopa, such as the Vimalaprabha on sixteen different occasions. After the Dharma lord Dölpopa passed away in 1361, Drigung Lotsawa retired to the hermitage of Dragkar Chöteng (brag dkar chos steng), where he mostly stayed in meditation, although he also taught many disciples epistemology and the Vimalaprabha over a period of three years. At the urging of the Sengetse ruler (seng ge rtse ba), Drigung Lotsawa once gave the Kalacakra initiation of the Dro (‘bro) tradition to about 300 monks, at which time the sky was filled with rainbow light, a rain of flowers fell, and everyone saw him place his bell and vajra in space and levitate with both feet above the ground. Drigung Lotsawa then traveled to the Nyangtö (nyang stod) region, where Nya Ön Kunga Pal (nya dbon kun dga’ dpal, 1285–1379), who was also one Dölpopa’s major disciples, invited him to Tsechen (rtse chen) monastery. He was also invited to the palace at Gyantse, where he gave teachings to the ruler for one month. At the end of this visit, Drigung Lotsawa debated twenty-five expert scholars for four days, defeating them and thus spreading the doctine of the shentong (gzhan stong) view. Then he was invited to Jonang monastery, where he wept in remembrance of Dölpopa’s kindness and experienced a vision in which he clearly saw the one-thousand-arm form of Avalokiteshvara at Dölpopa’s great stupa. He remained at Jonang for eight years, during which the holder of the monastic seat gave the morning teaching to the assembly and Drigung Lotsawa taught the Vimalaprabha as the afternoon teaching. When he had reached the age of seventy-two, and it was difficult for him to sit and walk, he still accepted an invitation to the hermitage of Khading Pungpo (mkha’ lding phung po), where he taught the Vimalaprabha for two years. At the age of seventy-five, Drigung Lotsawa passed away, after having sent all the offerings from his teachings to the great stupa at Jonang. Many miraculous events occurred following his death and during the cremation, and wonderful relics were found in his bones. This summary of Drigung Lotsawa’s life is based on the work of the Jonang abbot Gyalwa Josang Palsangpo (rgyal ba jo bzang dpal bzang po): Brilliant Marvels: Abbreviated Biographies of the Great Omniscient Dharma Lord, the Spiritual Father, and His Fourteen Spiritual Sons. Chos kyi rje kun mkhyen chen po yab sras bco lnga’i rnam thar nye bar bsdus pa ngo mtshar rab gsal, 589–93. This text is included in the ‘Dzam thang dbu can edition of Dölpopa’s Gsung ‘bum, vol. 1: 559–629. The same work has also been published in Jangsem Gyalwa Yeshe (byang sems rgyal ba ye shes), Biographies of the Masters in the Lineage of the Jonangpa Tradition of Glorious Kalacakra. Dpal ldan dus kyi ‘khor lo jo nang pa’i lugs kyi bla ma brgyud pa’i rnam thar, 143–209. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2004. The following work was also used: Ngawang Losang Drakpa (ngag dbang blo gros grags pa). Moonlamp Illuminating the Glorious Jonangpa Dharma Tradition. Dpal ldan jo nang pa’i chos ‘byung rgyal ba’i chos tshul gsal byed zla ba’i sgron me, 33–34. Koko Nor: Krung go’i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang, 1992.
Period: Early Masters (13th–16th)