Barom Dharma Wangchuk (1127-1199)

Barompa Dharma Wangchuk (1127 – 1199) founder of the Barom Kagyu lineage

Dharma Wangchuk was born in the area called Phenyul Kawa Yulna in 1127, the fire sheep year of the second Rabshung (century) in the Tibetan calendar. His father was Naeten Tonpa Jungne Lodro and his mother Jomo Lochungma. They had three sons, among whom he was the middle one, named Bumkyab. They named him after a Sutra: Bumkyab (‘bum skyabs), meaning “Protected by the Hundred Thousand Verse Prajñāpāramitā,” the lengthiest version of the Prajñāpāramitā Sutra. The forefathers in his clan of Drenka were one of the seven Tibetans who first took monastic vows and some ministers of the early Tibetan dharma kings.

At the age of eight, he took monastic ordination from the preceptor Khenpo Kawa Dharma Sengye and the instructor Lopon Wangchuk  Zhonu, receiving the name Dharma Wangchuk. He learned all the foundation Tibetan literature and 10 basic Dharma philosophies from them.

Thereafter, in his teens, he studied all the Old Kadham teachings with the famous Geshe Trolongpa and Geshe Dza Yulwah concentrating on the teachings of Atisha, Maitreya and Aryadeva. He gained realizations quickly and became accomplished in all the trainings.

At the age of twenty-one, encouraged by a yogin and out of devotion for Gampopa Sonam Rinchen, also known as Dakpo Rinpoche or Je Rinpoche (1079 – 1153) that had already developed in him before through merely having heard this master’s name, he went to Gampopa’s monastery, Daklha Gampo in south Tibet. He brought offerings of tea and gold and Gampopa accepted him into the community right away. During a ceremony of the tenth day of the month, he saw Gampopa directly as Vajradhara.

After a month Dharma Wangchuk came down with a serious illness. His skin broke out in boils and the pain was unbearable. He dreamt of a black lake filled with fish and tadpoles, thinking he would jump into it. According to legend Gampopa appeared in the dream and grasped him by the little finger of his left hand and stopped him saying, “Fierce veneration is the ground for interdependent connections. Keep holding on with the hook of compassion. Rise to the level of unchanging bliss.” The dream ended with the two of them soaring into space — the dream being an allusion to the guru-disciple relationship — and when he awoke the illness had entirely disappeared.

Dharma Wangchuk attended closely to Gampopa, and remained with him for 7 years. He had the opportunity to save his life several times, once when he was in danger of being crushed by a crowd eager to get their hands on blessed substances. He also saved his master’s life four times by lifting the body from space while Gampopa was thrown off his feisty white stallion, thus removing four obstacles in Gampopa’s life. From then on there were never any obstacles in their travels.

Dharma Wangchuk received the entire transmission of Sutra and Tantra of the Kagyu lineage from Gampopa and realisation dawned in him simultaneously without difficulty. He was able to achieve very high realisations in the essence of Kagyupa Mahamudra under Gampopa’s instruction. He had deep faith and devotion to Gampopa and Gampopa was very pleased with his progress. In particular, Dharma Wangchuk trained in the practice of illusory body throughout day and night. One of the results was in his ability later in his life to write the “Quick Path to Enlightenment” text and thereafter Lama’s used this in their monasteries.

Gampopa told Dharma Wangchuk you are the fortunate son. He recognized him as the reincarnation and adept of Nakpopa, the black siddhi, a hidden yogi in the 84 Mahasiddhas of India and reincarnation of Chakrasamvara.  At that time, Gampopa had many realized monks, monasteries, associations with many monks and hermits. Gampopa said that there are two highly realized beings in his group, Gargum Karpo and Dharma Wangchuk. Gampopa commended them and said there are no others within the 700 members that have the experience and realization of them and that all should look to them as they are the best practitioners.

There were three main disciples of Gampopa that founded the father Kagyu lineages. Dharma Wangchuk, (Barom Kagyu),  Phagmo Drupo Dorje Gyalpo,(Phagdru Kagyu ). The founder of the Drigong lineage, Kyopa Jigden Sumgon who had 30,000 students was his disciple. Dusum Kyenpa,1st Karmapa, (Karma Kagyu). Out of these three Dharma Wangchuk lived the longest life. The fourth father Kagyu lineage, Tshalpa Kagyu was started by Zhang Tsondru Drakpa. He was not a main disciple of Gampopa but the cousin to Gampopa’s nephew Dhakpo Gumtso.

In 1153, Gampopa instructed Dharma Wangchuk to bring his bag of special dharma books to him. Gampopa gave him gold, and other precious items along with all his texts of which contained very detailed and special instructions and said “This is for you, I give these to you, take them with you”. Dharma Wangchuk offered the gold back and Gampopa said this is a very good omen you will not have poverty in your life. He then instructed Dharma Wangchuk to do retreat and to go to Barom and visit the holy place and meditational cave sites of many great Kagyu masters such as Marpa Chokyi Lodro (1012 – 1097).

However, Dharma Wangchuk fervently requested Gampopa to allow him to stay with him until he would pass away. Gampopa said, “Barom, do so, if you please. Let’s stay together for another thirty-three days as father and son.” After these thirty-three days, Gampopa passed away. He then did all the proper funeral arrangements and the body, speech and mind supports with Gampopa’s ashes and relics by making statues, stupas, and tsa tsas.  Gampopa’s nephew and disciple Dhakpo Gomtsul (1116 – 1169), wanted to accompany him to Barom.  Dharma Wangchuk advises Gomtsul to stay at Daklha Gampo to take care of it as Gampopa didn’t advise Gomtsul to go to Barom. Then he follows the words of Gampopa and travels to Nakchu county, which has the Barom district, the Barom Dza Dhelu Rinchenpungpa valley, and Barom Samtin Kungsang (Kunwa Sampo) mountain which are all in the same location and the same mountain range as Mt. Kailash (Tesi)

Dharma Wangchuk was 28 and he stayed in isolated solitary retreat there at Barom Dza Dhelu Rinchenpungpa for four years. He saw no human beings with the single exception of the person who brought him provisions from time to time. He mostly sustained himself through the power of his meditative concentration.  He studied the special texts he was given and gained high realization in Mahamudra. He also achieved special Samadhi. During his time there, as a result of his practice, he subdued the local spirits in the mountain above him, (Barom Samtin Kunsang) and gave them refuge vows and teachings. They in turn provided him with nourishment. At first that spirit was tamed by Guru Rinpoche and then Dharma Wangchuk tamed the deity again.

While he was in retreat on the mountain, Samtin Kunsang, he heard some voices, and when looking he saw that there was a group of short people being chased by taller people. The short people group were carrying an injured member who had an arrow in it.  They placed this body in front of Dharma Wangchuk then ran off. The tall people didn’t come close and ran away. He told the small group people that they shouldn’t be fighting and they agreed not to. He then gave teachings to them. Later the tall people came and said they didn’t come to him because they saw a big fire coming from the mountain. He had emanated the big fire to scare them away. He advised them they shouldn’t fight and gave them teachings. The next day Dharma Wangchuk heard something and went to look and found a dri (female yak) that had been killed.  He thought that the group had killed it for his sake in thanks and offering for his teachings so he summoned them back…along with the tall people group and he asked who did this. DW said he wasn’t going to stay because of the fighting and killing. They said they would stop killing and fighting if he stays. They said another group did it. He gave teachings as well to the tall people group and also to the other group after they agreed that they would not fight or kill any beings.

He did another solitary retreat at Chodeh Kumdrak for 3 years and built a small retreat area at Dakmar Zong. During these years, Dharma Wangchuk transformed and became very different, he sang twenty-nine cycles of great Dohas, such as his supplication to the Kadgyu gurus.

In the iron snake year, 1158 he established and built Barom Monastery in Riwoche Nakchu.  Barom Monastery was recognized as the Barom Kagyu tenets and became very famous. Dharma Wangchuk and the monastery were well known throughout all of Kham.

Thereafter, he travelled to Kham on three separate occasions. He was supported by the great official Yeshe Sal. He founded the monasteries of Gontzo and Loday in Kham.

In 1176, he went to Kusar Lungkar because he is invited by a minister, Ranang Yesar, where one of the sponsors Datawho offers him his sons, horses and so on. Dharma Wangchuk placed his hands on the head of one of these young boys who was Tushi Repa at 13 yrs old, who sat at the family’s nomad tent, and said, “I give you empowerment through OM AH HUM. You will become a siddhi who benefits sentient beings”. Later, the boy became his main disciple, Tushi Repa (1164 – 1236).

In 1182, Earth Horse Year, Dharma Wangchuk was 55, Tushi Repa is 18 years old, and they had a meeting with two famous patriarchs one the founder of the Talung Kagyu School, Talung Tangpa Dashi Bal (1142 – 1210), and the other the founder of the Drigung Kadgyu, Jigden Sumgon (1143-1212), who was 39 years old at that time. Jigden Sumgon requests teachings from him as they know he has all the Kagyu lineage transmissions and texts from Gampopa.  Jigden Sumgon offers his 30,000 disciples and makes a big throne for Dharma Wangchuk to give teachings, who then in turn also receives teaching from Jigden Sumgon on Bodhicitta and Mahamudra.

Barompa Dharma Wangchuk had his own distinguished practices and cycles of teachings. He guided many disciples through teachings on Blissful and Great Suchness Mahamudra combined with Sutra and Tantra. In this way, he became the founder of the Barom Kagyu lineage, whose teachings were widely propagated (mainly by Tishri Raepa), thus becoming one of the four father Kagyu lineages. Many of his disciples achieved high realisations and accomplishments.

He continued teaching and giving advice at Riwoche Nakchu until his 73rd year. In the earth sheep year(3rd century, 1199) second month second day in morning he went to Paranirvana at Riwoche, many auspicious signs, marks were seen because of his life’s practice in Dharma. He displayed innumerable signs of having attained siddhis.

After his passing Riwoche Nakchu was then taken care of by his main disciples.

Among his many disciples, the foremost were “the four great sons”; Tserom Wangshuk Sengye, Drenka Chotsun Namkha, Lama Lhopa, Tonpa Rinchen Lama.

“The four close ones”; Trenga Lhadon, (Drenka LhaTonpa?), Chimnye Arya Deva, Shonu Drak, Lhaje Lhodoe Cho.

“The four heart disciples” Drigung Rinchen Par, Lama Nyin Gonpa, Lama Palgyal and Lama Senge Gyaltsen.

“The two sons who held his lineage”, Tushi Repa, Rewun Sherab Sangchuk (nephew of DW),

He was followed – in both roles as the supreme head of the Barom lineage and the imperial guru – by Raepa Karpo, who was even more accomplished than Tishri Raepa. After him came Tsangsar Lume Dorje, who was enthroned by the then Central Tibetan king Chogyal Pagba as both the head of the Barom lineage and the local ruler of Tsangsar in the province of Nangchen in eastern Tibet. Both positions were continued by Jangchub Shonnu and his successors.

Barom Dharma Wangchuk authored references for Mahamudra and Phakmo meditation, many praises to deities, teachings on the six doctrines, 6 yogas of Naropa, the thirteen essences of Mahamudra, advices and praise of Vajrayana and the text on the “Quick Path to Enlightenment” of which Barom Kagyu masters used from then on., 29 dohas, Dorje Palmo, the 10 very special Dharma instructions, Vajrabarahi, Chakrasamvara

Chakrasamvara and VY, 6 doctrines, Phakmo, Dorje Palmo  are lost texts

Khenpos are working on “The 13 essences of Mahamudra”, “29 Dohas”, “The Quick path to Enlightenment”, these are the three main texts of Dharma Wangchuk


-Tushi Repa’s writings on Barompa

-Jonang learned scholar Kunga Tungchohk, very old text came from Lhasa Norbu Lingpa library written 100 years ago, Jonang lineage text, excerpt from there,

-Larong Chungzo Kagza (Kagyu master)