Rinpoche is the head of two convergent lineages: the Yelpa and Hungkara Lineages.
Yelpa Kagyu Lineage:
One of the great masters of the profound path of Mahamudra was Gampopa, the founder of the Kagyu school of Buddhism in Tibet. Gampopa had three main disciples, one of whom was Phakmo Drupa (1110-1170 AD). Phakmo Drupa was famous for establishing the eight Kagyu “lesser” or “minor” lineages (Drikung, Taklung, Tsalpa etc) in Tibet during the 12th century . One of these is the Yelpa lineage.
Yelpa Yeshe Tsek (1134-1194) was a primary student of Phakmo Drupa. He studied with him for many years and is said to have received and realized all of his teachings. Eventually, Yelpa Yeshe had to leave Phakmo Drupa to share these teachings with others. By then he was considered a highly accomplished Lama in his own right. All of Phakmo Drupa’s students honored Yelpa Yeshe by accompanying him (at the beginning of his journey) to his homeland in Kham. As he left he said:
In every way and every time,
I am protected by the lama’s light.
May the lama bless me that I
never for one second be deprived
of the state of voidness-compassion.
May I be free from grasping to
the illusory bodily aggregate.
May I resolve all reifications back into mind.
May all my deeds work toward dharma and
May I act constantly for the benefit of beings.
Yeshe Yelpa (also known as Sangye Yelpa) went on to establish four major monasteries in the Kham region: one in the east (named Yelphuk Monastery), one in the north (Tana Monastery), one in the south (Dozong Monastery) and one in the west (Gonmang Monastery). His profound realization attracted many important students, and he became the founder of the Yelpa Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, one of the eight junior Kagyu sects of Tibetan Buddhism. (Only one of those monasteries, Tana Monastery, the one in the north, is still in existence today.) Khenchen Puwa (who resided at Yelphuk Monastery) and Tana Yangonpa (from Tana Monastery – picture to the right) were two of the primary disciples of Yelpa Yeshe Tsek (the other two students’ names are lost).
Tana Dungsey Rinpoche is the present head of the Yelpa Kagyu Lineage. (Click here to learn more about Tana Dungsey’s father the previous Yelpa Kagyu lineage holder – Tana Tulku Rinpoche.)
Tana Dungsey Rinpoche is also the head of an unbroken ancestral spiritual lineage beginning with Hungkara (Phungara). Hungkara was a teacher of Guru Rinpoche – likely the most revered teacher in Tibet at that time – while Guru Rinpoche was still in India. Guru Rinpoche made a prophecy that the son of Hungkara, named Khedarpa, would go to Tibet and do great things. Hungkara’s son Khedarpa did in fact go to Tibet where he became renowned for subjugating negative forces and pacifying evil spirits. He in turn had a son, Tana Yongonpa, who was heir to the Hungkara lineage and who became famous as a great teacher.
Hungkara and Yelpa lineages connect
Tana Yongonpa met Sangye Yelpa, and asked for teachings. He became the primary student of Sangye Yelpa. And so, in addition to being the holder of the Hungkara lineage, Tana Yongonpa as the primary student of Sangye Yelpa, also became the holder of the Yelpa lineage. The Hungkara tradition was primarily of the Nyingma school of Buddhism and the Yelpa lineage was primarily of the Dhakpo Kagyu tradition, originating with Gampopa. Tana Yongonpa was able to integrate the profound teachings from these two highly revered lineages, offering teachings and practices grounded in the Dhakpo Kagyu tradition that was the basis of the Yelpa Kagyu and enriching these with teachings and practices associated with the Hungkara lineage.
Tana Yongonpa became the primary teacher in the Ling Region in Tibet. He lived at the same time as Karma Pakshi, the 2nd Karmapa. Together they went to the Court of the Chinese Emperor, Kublai Khan, where a long relationship ensued. Returning later to the Court alone, Tana Yongonpa produced several miracles, including manifesting a dorje and a bell in the sky. To honor him, Kublai Khan gave him an unusually long scarf (100m) upon which was written the title “King of Dharma, Master of Great Miracles in Kham”.