Drigung Monastery


Drigung Til Monastery is the principal monastery of the Drigung Kagyu Schools of Buddhism in Tibet. The monastery is famous for the best sky burial ( Tu Troe ) in Tibet. The Kagyu school is divided into four major Dakpo Kagyu schools and eight sub-Pagdru schools. 

Four Major Dakpo Kagyu schools

  1. Karma Kagyu
  2. Barom Kagyu
  3. Tsalpa Kagyu
  4. Pagdru Kagyu

Eight sub-Pagdru schools

  1. Drigung Kagyu
  2. Drukpa Kagyu
  3. Taklung Kagyu
  4. Martsang Kagyu
  5. Shugseb Kagyu
  6. Trophu Kagyu
  7. Yamzang Kagyu
  8. Yelpa Kagyu

The Kagyu school is famous for focusing on meditation and retreats. 

History of the Monastery

The history of the monastery can be traced back to the great Tibetan master Je Kyopa Jigten Sum Gon.  (1143 -1217) Je Kyopa Jigten Sum Gon was one of the chief disciples of Je Phakmo Drupa. 

Drigung Til Monastery is founded in the year 1179 by the great master Je Kyopa Jigten Sum Gon. Kyopa means protector. Jigten Sum Gon means lord of three realms. ( Desire realm, form realm, and formless realm ).

Dri means female Yak, from whom he achieved the prophecy of establishing the monastery. The horn of the Dri is well-preserved on the second floor of the chapel for blessings. Gung means center or middle. Later the monastery and the village below the monastery are all named after the Drigung. 

Previously the monastery was located at the center of present-day Drigung village. We can still witness the huge wall ruins. It's written that during the Mongol reign, the Mongol horse troops supporting the Sakya school came in the night and the vast monastery got burned and ruined.

During those times, even in Buddhism in Tibet, they are so many challenges for each school for flourishing their tradition or school, so each was seeking support from Mongols, and whoever has stronger support affected the other schools. 

Photo: Drigung Til Monastery main assembly hall 

The location of the Drigung Til Monastery

Drigung Til monastery is located in Meldro Gongkar County, around 140km from Lhasa towards the east with a driving duration of 3-4 hours. From Drigung Til monastery, there is 14km to Tidrum nunnery hot spring. 

Beauties of Drigung Kagyu School 

Je Kyopa Jigten Gonpo was very popular during his time in Tibet. They were so many disciples from Drigung Kagyu schools all over Tibet. Once Je Kyopa Jigten Sum Gon sends 5,5555 Bodhisattva to meditate at the Lapchi retreat area of Jetsun Milarepa

Drigung Kagyu is one of the Yogi Sadhu schools of Buddhism in Tibet focusing intensely on retreat and meditation.

For many centuries, it is said that some of the monks were meditating at the back of the mountains. When the monastery bell rings for the prayer, monks will be seen flying in the sky with red robes coming for prayer.

I have read a biography of one Drigung Kagyu master Akon Rinpoche during the 1960s or 70s, flying to Lhasa to buy momos and returning back to Drigung with hot momos offering to his master.  

Nowadays they are a few great Yogis who have meditated for more than three years. Lama Tashi Rapten is one of the most popular Yogis, meditating for more than 20 years. Sometimes during the noontime, locals will get a chance to meet the LamaTashi Rapten for a blessing. 

Drigung Powa Chenmo 

After every twelve years, during the monkey year, the great Drigung Powa Chenmo teachings will be held on the huge ground in front of the river before the Drigung Valley. 

The Powa teaching has a connection to the great Nyingma master Je Padmasambhava from the 8th century so that is the reason during the Powa Chenmo teachings, we will see a huge thangka of Maha Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava

The beauty of Powa teaching is attaining enlightenment in one lifetime without meditating so it is one of the most precious teachings of Buddhism in Tibet.

During the Powa teachings, more than 30-50 thousand people from different areas in Tibet will gather for blessings. I have been once and it was one of the largest crowds I have seen in my whole life in Tibet. Most of the local people will be camping near the riverbanks of Drigung Valley. 

Drigung master Je Chungtsang Rinpoche will give the teachings on the Powa Chenmo to the locals who have attained the teaching ceremony which will last for around 7-15 days. 

Photo: Drigung Achi Choedon Temple view from the meditation caves

Meditation caves near Drigung monastery

There are three famous meditation caves near the Achi Temple. 

  1. The meditation cave of Drigung Kagyu founder Je Kyopa Jigten Sum Gon.
  2. The meditation cave of Drigung Kagyu master Pachung Rinpoche.
  3. The meditation cave of Gelug founder Je Tsongkhapa.

Drigung Achi Choedon ( Female Protector ) 

The Drigung Kagyu has a blessing from 10th-level female Bodhisattva Achi Choedon. Achi has come to our world in a human form, born near the Drigung Valley, and later travel towards East Tibet to find her spiritual consort.

Achi Choedon became the female protector of the Drigung Kagyu school. Nowadays we can get blessings from Achi Choedon at the Achi Temple near the meditation caves. Achi Choedon is seen riding a horse. The Achi statue in the Achi temple is gorgeous.

Modern-day Drigung Monastery 

The location of the monastery is on the mountain above the Drigung village facing towards the south.  The great stone seat of Je Kyopa Jigten is well-preserved. Above the assembly chapel, they are two other chapels. 

  1. The chapel of Dri female Yak horn with many other statues.
  2. The great grand Stupa is where Travelers can witness the beauties of the Tomb of Drigung Kagyu founder Je Kyopa Jigten Gonpo. The Tomb is full of blessings with a tooth of Buddha Shakyamuni and another precious relic that is offered to Je Kyopa Jigten by the king of Naga. ( Underwater World). 

The Drigung Til Sky Burial

One of the best sky burials in Tibet is at the Drigung. Every day we can see more than ten corpses brought to Drigung for sky burial.  It is said that the bodies which are delivered to Drigung for sky burial will achieve liberation from the three lower realms. ( Hell realm, Hungry Ghost realm, and Animal realm).

Since for some Travelers, it is hard to digest the sky burial and might get negative about it so it's not allowed for Travelers to visit the sky burial. 

The reason for offering our body to the Vulture for sky burial :

  1. Since we have been eating the meat of animals from our childhood until now so now it's our turn to repay them by offering our corpse since when we die the corpse is useless as our mind and body will get separated. 
  2. Offering our body is one of the highest generosity. 

Photo: View of Drigung village from the outer Lingkor hike near Sky burial 

Hiking at Drigung monastery

There are two hikes known as the Inner Lingkor Route and the Outer Lingkor Route. 

The inner Lingkor route hike can be done in around one hour.  The holy cold spring water for blessings is near the inner Kora Lingkor hike route. The outer Lingkor route hike includes the sky burial and the whole monastery, the outer Lingkor hike will take around two / three hours. 


Drigung Monastery is located in the Drigung Valley. The road to the Drigung monastery is paved. The monastery is home to more than 200 monks. 

Traveling to Drigung Monastery is an excellent option by adding the Tidrum nunnery hot spring for an overnight. 

The monastery is full of blessings from many great Tibetan masters from the Drigung Kagyu school. Check out our 9-day hot spring tour to Drigung

Written By :Tenzin

Nov 17, 2018


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