His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang,the 37th throne holder of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage and 7th reincarnation of the Chetsang Rinpoche is a manifestation of Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara). Drikung Kyabgon
Chetsang, Konchog Tenzin Kunsang Thrinle Lhundrup, was born in 1946
into the aristocratic family of Tsarong in Lhasa. Many prodigious
signs and visions accompanied his birth.
His reincarnation was confirmed by a vision of the Drikung regent
Tritsab Gyabra Rinpoche and through many additional divinations
performed by Taktra Rinpoche (the Regent of Tibet), H.H. the 16th
Karmapa, and H.H. Taklung Matrul.
In 1950 the formal enthronement as Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang took place
at Drikung Thil, the main monastery of the Drikung Kagyu order. His
spiritual instructors (yongzin), Tritsab Gyabra Rinpoche and Ayang
Thubten Rinpoche, were responsible for his education. His curriculum
included reading, writing, memorizing, astrology, and grammar. From
his yongzin and from Bhalok Thupten Chodrak Rinpoche, Lho Bongtrul
Rinpoche, and Nyidzong Tripa he received the basic empowerments,
transmissions, and teachings of the Kagyu tradition and the Drikung
Kagyu tradition in particular.
At the age of eleven, Drikung Kyabgon gave his first public teaching
and transmission, a long-life empowerment, during the 1956 Monkey Year
ceremonies of the Great Drikung Phowa. Subsequently he began his
philosophical studies at the Nyima Changra monastic college of
Drikung. Although he was four years younger he studied together with
the second Drikung lineage holder, Chungtsang Rinpoche.
Before and after the Tibetan uprising of 1959, several attempts were
launched to bring Chetsang Rinpoche and Chungtsang Rinpoche out of
Tibet into safety. These attempts failed because of the inexorable
resistance of the monastery manager. Rinpoche's family had already
fled to India in 1956.
Tritsab Gyabra, who had left the monastery some years before, took
Rinpoche to live with him in Lhasa. In 1960, Drikung Kyabgon was
admitted into an elementary school in Lhasa. In very short time he
mastered the subject matters of several classes, being able to finish
the six years of education in only three years. Thereafter he was
admitted to the middle school. The subjects there included Chinese,
natural sciences, history, and biology. Chetsang Rinpoche excelled in
his studies, especially in Chinese. He also became a keen athlete and
a passionate and brilliant soccer player.
During the Cultural Revolution, starting in 1966, classes and business came to a halt. While Lhasa sank into chaos, Rinpoche several times
was saved by a fraction from certain death. In 1969, he was assigned
to a commune in the countryside, where he had to carry out the hardest
physical labor: Work on the fields in the spring and in summer,
cutting firewood on steep mountain slopes in autumn, shovel out the
sewage from the cesspits in Lhasa in the winter. Since there was no
prospect for Chetsang, in 1975 he finally decided to escape. He set
out alone and without help to cross the border of Tibet across high
passes and glaciers. Unscathed he reached Nepal and eventually the
residence of the Dalai Lama at Dharamsala. Afterwards he traveled to
the USA, where his parents had in the meantime emigrated to. There he
learned English, while earning his living as a part-time at a
McDonald's and other restaurants.
After three years in the USA he returned to India in 1978, to take on
the lead of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage as its throne holder. He entered
a traditional three year retreat at Lamayuru Monastery. Chetsang
Rinpoche studied with numerous highly accomplished lamas and Rinpoches
of different traditions and received from them teachings and
initiations. He regards Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche as one of his most
important teachers. He studied Buddhist philosophy under Khenpo
Noryang in the Drukpa Kagyu monastery Sangnag Choling in Bhutan.
In 1985, Drikung Kyabgon received full monk's ordination from His
Holiness the Dalai Lama, during the Kalachakra initiation in Bodhgaya.
He mastered all challenges with remarkable ease. Since 1987 Chetsang
Rinpoche began to give teachings in many countries throughout the
world. In Dehra Dun, India, he established the Drikung Kagyu
Institute, a monastery (Jangchubling) and an educational center, as
well as a retreat center and the nunnery Samtenling.
In 2003 Chetsang Rinpoche established near his monastery a magnificent edifice: the Songtsen Library, a center for Tibetan and Himalayan
studies. With the work of the library, Rinpoche pursues his vision of
the comprehensive preservation of Tibetan culture and religion. In
2005 close to the Songtsen Library, Drikung Kyabgon built a large
College for Higher Buddhist Studies (Shedra), the Kagyu College.