Tsongkhapa Lobsang Drakpa

Well-known Lamas in Tibetan Buddhism

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is a title for a teacher of the Dharma in Tibetan Buddhism.

The name is similar to the Sanskrit term guru, meaning “heavy one”, endowed with qualities the student will eventually embody.

The Tibetan word “Lama” means “highest principle”, and less literally “highest mother” or “highest parent” to show close relationship between teacher and student.

This is a list of some well-known Lamas in Tibetan Buddhism.


is an honorific used in Tibetan Buddhism. It literally means “precious one,” and is used to address or describe Tibetan lamas and other high-ranking or respected teachers. This honor is generally bestowed on reincarnated lamas, or Tulkus, by default. In other cases, it is earned over time, and often bestowed spontaneously by the teacher’s students.


Lama is a title for a teacher of the Dharma in Tibetan Buddhism. The name is similar to the Sanskrit term guru and in use it is similar, but not identical to the western monastic rank of abbot.

Dalai Lama

is a title given to spiritual leaders of the Tibetan people.

They are part of the Gelug or “Yellow Hat” school of Tibetan Buddhism, the newest of the schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Dalai Lama title was created by Altan Khan, the Prince of Shunyi, granted by Ming Dynasty, in 1578. The Dalai Lama is considered to be the successor in a line of tulkus who are believed to be incarnations of Avalokiteśvara, a Bodhisattva of Compassion.

The name is a combination of the Mongolic word Dalai meaning “ocean” or “big” and the Tibetan word (bla-ma) meaning “master, guru”.

Karma Kagyu

, or Kamtsang Kagyu, is probably the 2nd largest and certainly the most widely practiced lineage within the Kagyu school, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The lineage has long-standing monasteries in Tibet, China, Russia, Mongolia, India, Nepal, and Bhutan, and current centers in at least 62 countries. The spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu is the Gyalwa Karmapa, and the 2nd through the 10th Karmapas were the principal spiritual advisors to successive Emperors of China. The Karma Kagyu are sometimes called the “Black Hat” Lamas, in reference to the Black Crown worn by the Karmapa.

Thubten Zopa Rinpoche

is a Nepali lama from Khumbu, the entryway to Mount Everest.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche is a Gelugpa lineage holder, having received teachings from many of the great Gelugpa masters.

His Root Guru is HH Trijang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso since he was a young boy studying in Buxa, India.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche is a devoted student of the 14th Dalai Lama and has outlined that offering service to the Dalai Lama as much as possible and to be able to fulfill his wishes is the highest priority for the FPMT organization.

Je Tsongkhapa

Tsongkhapa, usually taken to mean “the Man from Onion Valley”, born in Amdo, was a famous teacher of Tibetan Buddhism whose activities led to the formation of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. He is also known by his ordained name Losang Drakpa or simply as “Je Rinpoche”. Also, he is known by Chinese as Zongkapa Lobsang Zhaba, He was the son of a Tibetan Longben Tribal leader who also once served as an official of the Yuan Dynasty of China.

Thubten Yeshe

(1935–1984) was a Tibetan lama who, while exiled in Nepal, co-founded Kopan Monastery (1969) and the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (1975). He followed the Gelug tradition, and was considered unconventional in his teaching style.

Kelsang Gyatso

is a Buddhist monk, meditation teacher, scholar, and author. He is the founder and former spiritual director of the New Kadampa Tradition-International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT-IKBU), an “entirely independent” Modern Buddhist order that presents itself to be a tradition based on the teachings of the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, which has grown to become a global Buddhist organisation and currently claims to have 1200 centers and branches in 40 countries around the world.

Sakya Trizin

The 41st Sakya Trizin, Sakya Trizin Ngawang Kunga

is the traditional title of the head of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Sakya school was founded in 1073CE, when Khön Könchog Gyalpo a member of Tibet’s noble Khön family, established a monastery in the region of Sakya, Tibet, which became the headquarters of the Sakya order.

Since that time, its leadership has descended within the Khön family.

The 41st Sakya Trizin, whose reign spanned more than fifty years, was the longest reigning Sakya Trizin.

The current Sakya Trizin is Gyana Vajra Rinpoche, officially known as Kyabgon Gongma Trizin Rinpoche, the 43rd Sakya Trizin Gyana Vajra Rinpoche.

Tenzin Ösel Hita is a Tibetan Buddhist tulku and an aspiring filmmaker from Spain.

Thrangu Rinpoche

was born in 1933 in Kham, Tibet. He is deemed to be a prominent tulku in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, the ninth reincarnation in his particular line.

Gyaltsab Je

(1364–1432) or more elaborately, Gyaltsab Dharma Rinchen was born in the Tsang province of central Tibet. He was a famous student of , and actually became the first Ganden Tripa of the Gelug tradition after Je Tsongkhapa’s death. He also studied with Rendawa Zhonnu Lodro.

Akong Rinpoche

Chöje Akong Tulku Rinpoche was a tulku in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and a founder of the Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland.

Thubten Jigme Norbu

, recognised as the , was a Tibetan lama, writer, civil rights activist and professor of Tibetan studies and is the eldest brother of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. He was one of the first high-profile Tibetans to go into exile and was the first to settle in the United States.

Tsoknyi Rinpoche

or Ngawang Tsoknyi Gyatso is a Nepalese Tibetan Buddhist teacher and author, and the founder of the Pundarika Foundation. He is the third Tsoknyi Rinpoche, having been recognized by the 16th Karmapa as the reincarnation of Drubwang Tsoknyi Rinpoche. He is a tulku of the Drukpa Kagyü and Nyingma traditions and the holder of the Ratna Lingpa and Tsoknyi lineages.

Orgyen Tobgyal

Rinpoche, also called Tulku Ugyen Topgyal, is a Tibetan Buddhist lama who was born in Kham in Eastern Tibet in 1951, living in exile in India.


Luipa or was a mahasiddha siddhacharya from eastern India. He was a poet and writer of a number of Buddhist texts.

Tenzin Jigme

was a Tibetan tulku and the sixth .

Samdhong Rinpoche

is a Tibetan religious title. Rinpoche means “precious one”. The current Samdhong Rinpoche is Lobsang Tenzin, who is considered by Tibetan buddhists to be the reincarnation of the 4th Samdhong Rinpoche.

Nenang Pawo

is one of the highest lamas of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. The Pawos form a lineage of tulkus, of which the first was born in 1440. They were traditionally the heads of Nenang Monastery in Ü-Tsang.

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

Lithang Tulku or Tenzing Deleg was a Tibetan Buddhist leader from Garze, Sichuan. He was born in Lithang, Tibet. He was arrested on April 7, 2002 during a raid on Jamyang Choekhorling in Garze, Sichuan, China. He was accused of being involved in a bomb attack on April 3, 2002 on the central square of Sichuan’s provincial capital, Chengdu.


or Lavapa was a figure in Tibetan Buddhism who flourished in the 10th century. He was also known as Kambala and Kambalapada. Lawapa, was a mahasiddha, or accomplished yogi, who travelled to Tsari. Lawapa was a progenitor of the Dream Yoga sādhanā and it was from Lawapa that the mahasiddha Tilopa received the Dream Yoga practice lineage.

Lobsang Pelden Tenpe Dronme

was a clergyman of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism and the 7th Changkya Khutukhtu. He was the highest person of Tibetan Buddhism in Inner Mongolia and the fourth highest lamas of Tibetan Buddhism in general. He supported the Kuomintang and accompanied the Republic of China Government to Taiwan after the Chinese Civil War in 1949. He was awarded titles by the Kuomintang and also received living expenses until his death.

Choseng Trungpa

Rinpoche is the 12th and current Trungpa tülku.

He was born on February 6, 1989 in Pawo village, in Derge, eastern Tibet, and recognized by Tai Situ Rinpoche in 1991.

He was enthroned a year later at Surmang Monastery at a ceremony presided over by Domkhar Rinpoche, a high Kagyu lama and Choseng’s uncle.

The monastery’s late abbot, was Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Yumo Mikyo Dorje

Yumo Mikyö Dorjé was a student of the Kashmiri scholar Somanātha and an 11th-century Kalachakra master.

Yumo Mikyö Dorjé is regarded as one of the earliest Tibetan articulators of a shentong view of śūnyatā — an understanding of the absolute radiant nature of reality.

Emphasized within the Kalachakra tantra and Gautama Buddha’s teachings on Buddha-nature in the so-called Third Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma of the Yogacara school of Buddhism philosophy; this view later became emblematic of the Jonang tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

Jamphel Yeshe Gyaltsen

(Thubten) or Thupten Jampel Yishey Gyantsen, Tibetan: ཐུབ་བསྟན་འཇམ་དཔལ་ཡེ་ཤེས་རྒྱལ་མཚན་, Wylie: thub-bstan ‘jam-dpal ye-shes rgyal-mtshan was a Tibetan tulku and the fifth Reting Rinpoche.

Wangdrak Rinpoche

is the abbot of Gebchak Gonpa, holding responsibility for the nuns’ spiritual training and their material well-being.

Dulduityn Danzanravjaa

was a prominent Mongolian writer, composer, painter, Buddhist scholar, physician and was the Fifth Noyon Khutagt, the Lama of the Gobi. His name is a Mongolian adaptation of the last part of the Tibetan name Lobsang Tenzin Rabgye given to Danzan Ravjaa by the 4th Bogd Gegeen, on his visit to the Mongolian capital, Urga in 1812 where Danzanravjaa was also recognized as an Incarnate Lama. There are several versions concerning the origins and use of “Dulduityn”. He was the 5th incarnation of the Gobi Noyon Hutagt, which is the title of a prominent line of tulkus of the Nyingmapa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia and was found by the personal attendant of the 4th Noyon Hutagt in 1809. It was not possible to enthrone Danzan Ravjaa as the 5th Noyon Hutagt because of the ban from the ruling Manchu (Qing) Dynasty on recognition of this line of incarnations. Mongolia at the time was under Manchurian Qing control. He was enthroned as the Avshaa Gegeen in Ongiin Gol Monastery by Ishdonilhudev Rinpoche. He is primarily famous for his poetry, but is also known for his prophecies, and treatises on medicine, philosophy, and astrology.

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

is a teacher (lama) of the Bon Tibetan religious tradition. He is founder and director of the Ligmincha Institute and several centers named Chamma Ling, organizations dedicated to the study and practice of the teachings of the Bon tradition.

Sermey Khensur Lobsang Tharchin

Rinpoche (1921–2004) was a scholar of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen

Trülku Drakpa Gyeltsen (1619–1656) was an important Gelugpa lama and a contemporary of the 5th Dalai Lama (1617–1682). His Seat was the upper residence of Drepung Monastery, a famous Gelug gompa located near Lhasa.

Patsab Nyima Drakpa

(1055-1145?) was a Tibetan Buddhist scholar and translator of the Sarma era. He was a monk at Sangpu monastery and traveled to Kashmir where he translated Buddhist Madhyamika texts.

Pabongkhapa Déchen Nyingpo, (1878–1941) was a Gelug lama of the modern era of Tibetan Buddhism. He attained his Geshe degree at Sera Mey Monastic University, Lhasa, and became a highly influential teacher in Tibet, unusual for teaching a great number of lay people. Pabongkha was offered the regency of the present Dalai Lama but declined the request because “he strongly disliked political affairs.”

Taktser Rinpoche

Taktser Rinpoche was born in 1922 in “the small village of Taktser, meaning ‘roaring tiger,’ located in the Amdo region of eastern Tibet.” He became a lama of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism and was named Thubten Jigme Norbu, the oldest brother of Tenzin Gyatso- the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. Soon after birth, he was recognized by the 13th Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the previous Taktser Rinpoche, who was “one of the thirty or so reincarnated lamas who were a part of Kumbum’s tradition.” On September 5, 2008, Norbu, 86, died at his Indiana, USA home after illness for many years. He was survived by his wife Kunyang Norbu, and 3 sons.

Erdne Ombadykow

, also known as Telo Tulku Rinpoche, is the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader of the Kalmyk people. He received his formal training as a bhikṣu in India and was recognized by the 14th Dalai Lama as the current reincarnation of mahasiddha Tilopa.

The Trungpa tulku are a line of incarnate Tibetan lamas who traditionally head Surmang monastery complex in Kham, now Surmang. The three heads of the Zurmang Kagyu are known as GharTengTrungSum, and the lineage holder of the Zurmang Kagyu is Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche. There have been twelve such Trungpa tulkus. Mahasiddha Trungmase, 1st Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche, was the teacher of Künga Gyaltsen, 1st Trungpa Tulku.

Nyala Pema Dündul (1816–1872), also known as Terton Nyala Pema Duddul, was a teacher of Dzogchen and Tantric Buddhism in Eastern Tibet.

Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche

(1955–2012) was the ninth incarnation of the Traleg tulku line, a line of high lamas in the Kagyu lineage of Vajrayana. He was a pioneer in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to Australia.

Kunkhyen Pema Karpo

was the fourth Gyalwang Drukpa, head of the Drukpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He was the most famous and learned of all the Gyalwang Drukpas. During his lifetime, he was known as the grand lama amongst all grand lamas, and was a teacher to many lamas and disciples all over Tibet.

Kwetsang Rinpoche

was a lama of Sera who participated in the search for Tenzin Gyatso four years after Thubten Gyatso died.

Mabja Jangchub Tsöndrü

Mabja Jangchub Tsöndrü was an influential 12th century Tibetan Buddhist Madhyamaka scholar. He is known for his “Ornament of Reason”, an important commentary on Nagarjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā.

Shenpen Hookham

Susan Kathryn Rowan, known as is a Buddhist teacher who has trained for over 50 years in the Mahamudra and Dzogchen traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.

Yuthog Yontan Gonpo

Yutog Yontan Gonpo was an 8th-century high lama and a physician of Tibet.

8th Arjia Rinpoche

8th Agya Hotogtu is one of the most prominent Buddhist teachers and lamas to have left Tibet. At age two, Arjia Rinpoche was recognized by Choekyi Gyaltsen, 10th Panchen Lama as the 20th Arjia Danpei Gyaltsen, the reincarnation of Je Tsongkhapa’s father, Lumbum Ghe, the throne holder and abbot of Kumbum Monastery. He has trained with lineage teachers, such as the 14th Dalai Lama, the 10th Panchen Lama, and Gyayak Rinpoche—from whom he received many sacred teachings and ritual instructions.

Shashi Dhoj Tulachan

, called Guru Nawang Chhogyall Tenzin, is the spiritual leader of the Chhairo gompa, of Nyingma Tibetan Buddhism, having been given responsibility for the Gompa by the current incarnation who is not a practising lama. He is also responsible for three gompas in Tukuche, his home village on the right bank of the Kali Gandaki, and in the Annapurna trail:Sambha gompa (Karmapa/Kagyu) – instituted in 1935 Rani gompa Mahakala gompa – instituted in 1930 by four members of the Tulachan family including Shashi Dhoj’s father, Kamal Dhoj Tulachan

Reting Rinpoche

Reting Rinpoche was a title held by abbots of Reting Monastery, a Buddhist monastery in central Tibet.

Pani Manidhan

(1998) is a children’s novel written in Tamil by Indian author Jeyamohan. It encompasses themes like adventure story, science, fantasy, mystery and values making it an important creative work in the children’s literature canon in Tamil.

Panchen Sonam Dragpa

,, (1478-1554) was the fifteenth Ganden Tripa or throneholder of Ganden Monastery. His texts form the core curriculum for the Loseling College of Drepung Monastic University, the Shartse College of the Ganden Monastic University, and several other Gelugpa monasteries. He was taught by the second Dalai Lama, and in turn later became the teacher of the third Dalai Lama.

Ösel Tendzin

Ösel Tendzin (1943–1990) was a western Buddhist. He was Chögyam Trungpa’s principal student. On August 22, 1976, Chögyam Trungpa empowered Ösel Tendzin as his Vajra Regent and first Western lineage holder in the Karma Kagyu and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism. On August 25, 1990, Ösel Tendzin died of HIV/AIDS in San Francisco, California. His wife, Lila Rich, and a group of his students continue to live in Ojai, California.

Ngawang Wangyal

, popularly known as “Geshe Wangyal,” was a Buddhist priest and scholar of Kalmyk origin who was born in the Astrakhan province in southeast Russia sometime in 1901.

Ngawang Tashi Bapu

Geshe a.k.a. Lama Tashi is a former Principal Chant Master of Drepung Loseling Monastery, one of the largest monasteries of the Dalai Lama. In 2005-06, Lama Tashi was nominated for the Grammy Award for his album “Tibetan Master Chants” in the “Best Traditional World Music”. Through this achievement, he has created the record of the first Buddhist Monk for Grammy Nomination in solo performance, and the first North-East Indian to be nominated for the prestigious Grammy Award the highest honour of Music in the world. Lama Tashi has also led Long Life Puja for the 14th Dalai Lama, the HE 99th and 100th Gaden Tripa Rinpoches and many more highly revered masters. The Long Life Puja is a very popular traditional healing ceremony that involves a multiphonic chant performance to heal the listeners and increase their life span. Lama Tashi has also led the chanting performance of the Traditional Great Prayer Festival at Bodh Gaya presided over by the 14th Dalai Lama in 2002. He has served as Principal and the Director of the Central Institute of Himalayan Culture Studies, Dahung, India from 2003-2012 and 2012-2018 respectively. While at the Institute, he was teaching Buddhist Philosophy at University level students.

Manzushir Khutagt Sambadondogiin Tserendorj

Sambadondogiin Tserendorj was recognized as the 6th reincarnate of the Donkor-Manjushri Gegen. He served as chief abbot of the Manjusri Monastery and later was the last acting prime minister of Outer Mongolia during Baron Ungern von Sternberg’s occupation of Ikh Khŭree from May to July 1921. Later accused of counterrevolution, he was executed in 1937 at the start of the Stalinist purges in Mongolia (1937-1939).

Jalkhanz Khutagt Sodnomyn Damdinbazar

The was a high Buddhist incarnation from northwestern Mongolia who played a prominent role in the country’s independence movement in 1911-1912. He served as Prime Minister twice; first in 1921 as part of the Bogd Khan puppet government established by Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, and again from 1922 to 1923 under the revolutionary government of the Mongolian People’s Party.

Ja Lama

was an adventurer and warlord of unknown birth and background who fought successive campaigns against the rule of the Qing dynasty in western Mongolia between 1890 and 1922. He claimed to be a Buddhist lama, though it is not clear whether he actually was one, as well as a grandson and later the reincarnation of Amursana, the Khoid-Oirat prince who led the last great Mongol uprising against the Qing in 1757. He was one of the commanders of Mongolian forces that liberated Khovd city from Qing control in 1912.

Ensapa Lobsang Döndrup – 3rd Panchen Lama

Ensapa Lobsang Döndrup (1505–1568) was a Tibetan Buddhist religious leader. He was posthumously recognised as the third Panchen Lama.

Dogsomyn Bodoo

was a prominent early 20th century Mongolian politician who was one of the founding members of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party. He was elected leader of the provisional revolutionary government and following the Outer Mongolian Revolution of 1921 became the country’s first Prime Minister from July 1921 to January 1922. A power struggle led to his resignation on January 7, 1922. He was subsequently charged with treason for conspiring to overthrow the government, and was executed on August 31, 1922.

Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov

was a Buryat Buddhist lama of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, best known for the lifelike state of his dead body, which is reported not to be subject to macroscopic decay.

Dambyn Chagdarjav

was a Mongolian revolutionary and one of the “first seven” founders of the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) in 1920. He was named prime minister of Mongolia’s provisional government at the first MPP Congress in March 1921 but was subsequently replaced by Dogsomyn Bodoo after just a month in office. In the spring of 1922 a power struggle led to his being accused of conspiring to overthrow the revolutionary government. He was arrested and executed along with prime minister Bodoo on August 31, 1922.

Crazy Shagdar

was a wandering lama from the Baarin banner in Inner Mongolia. He is the hero of a number of, usually quite critical, tales, in which he mocks corrupt nobles, other lamas etc. One tale deals with how he rebuked Chinese traders on a temple fair:The annual Baarin temple fair had always attracted many traders from Inner China. Shagdar came very close to the side of the tent of one of these traders, made a fireplace from three stones, pulled a Tibetan cooking pot from his bundle, then he helped himself to the water from the traders’ clay ton and made a fire from their wood. When the eldest of the traders scolded him and called him crazy, Shagdar replied

I, Shagdar, only drank from the waters of my homeland, Made a fire with nothing but the wood from my hills. I used none of the water or wood you brought from Shandong! Squeezing out the people’s blood – That’s where you belong, bastards!

That is how he swore at them in both Mongolian and Chinese.

Zaya Pandita

or Namkhaijamts (1599–1662) was a Buddhist missionary priest and scholar of Oirat origin who is the most prominent Oirat Buddhist scholar.

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