Won Sherab Jungne b.1187 - d.1241
Name Variants: Chennga Sherab Jungne; Drigung Lingpa; Drigung On Sherab Jungne; Sherab Jungne
Eldest of the children, six sons and one daughter, of Sanggye Pel (sangs rgyas dpal) and his wife Choden (chos ldan), Sherab Jungne (shes rab 'byung gnas) would be called Won (dbon), which means ‘nephew,' because he was a relative of Jikten Gonpo Rinchen Pel ('jig rten mgon po rin chen dpal, 1143-1217). He was born in 1187. He was not called ‘nephew' because he was a nephew in the strict sense of the world, although he was certainly a scion of the same Kyura (kyu ra) family.
As a child, he demonstrated outstanding ability not only in reading and writing, but also in conjuring the hail-stopping magic of his ancestors. He excelled at singing and dancing. Despite his childhood dreams of becoming a wandering yogi, when a famous teacher named Ngepuwa (ngad phu ba) arrived in the region he took monastic vows from him after obtaining the consent of his father. Ngepuwa gave him the ordination name Lha Rinchen Gyelpo (lha rin chen rgyal po) when he was ordained at age seventeen. Ngepuwa recognized the young man's potential but unfortunately died soon afterward when Sherab Jungne was twenty.
In the next year, in 1207, Sherab Jungne left his home in Kham for U-Tsang with a large group of three hundred people on their way to see Ngepuwa's teacher Jikten Gonpo, who was over sixty years old at the time.
For his first three years at Drigung ('bris gung) he served as a household priest for one named Gompa (sgom pa), attending every single one of the teaching sessions. Eventually he came to the attention of Jikten Gonpo, became his personal attendant, and took on other responsibilities as well. Sometimes he is called Chennga Sherab Jungne (spyan snga shes rab 'byung gnas) because of his service as Jikten Gonpo's personal attendant (spyan snga ba).
He had a phenomenal memory, took all of Jikten Gonpo's words to heart, and would sometimes even remind Jikten Gonpo of things he had said before and apparently forgotten. He was responsible for putting many of the teachings of the master into writing. During the last several years of Jikten Gonpo's life he mainly addressed the community only from behind a closed curtain, and allowed Sherab Jungne to teach in his place.
Before Jikten Gonpo died, he asked Sherab Jungne to become abbot of Drigung. Sherab Jungne declined out of a strong wish to devote himself to meditation. Nevertheless, for an entire year after the funeral, he was occupied by the building of a monumental stupa for enshrining the relics of his teacher, and his association with Drigung earned him the name Drigung Lingpa ('bris gung gling pa). Following the consecration of the stupa in 1218 he moved with a very small group of retreatants to a hermitage in Semodo Island (se mo do) at Lake Namtso (gnam mtsho) to concentrate on meditation. After a year there he continued west to Mt. Kailash. During his seven years in Western Tibet, he became the Mahāmudrā teacher of the King of Yatse (ya tse).
In 1225, Sherab Jungne returned to Drigung Monastery, but soon after went south to Kharchu (mkhar chu). Sherab Jungne his way there, at Samye Monastery, he had a very significant meeting with Sakya Paṇḍita (sa skya paNDi ta).
It was in Kharchu in 1226 that Sherab Jungne performed what would prove to be one of the most significant events for the future of the Drigung lineage. He wrote down about two hundred “vajra statements” (rdo rje'i gsung) of Jikten Gonpo. At first they were in no particular order, and they were soon reduced to one hundred ninety to avoid repetition. Still later they were reduced to one hundred fifty, with the forty omitted statements placed in a text called the Supplement (lhan thabs).
The one hundred fifty vajra statements were sorted into seven thematic sections. During the remaining years of his life, Sherab Jungne would go to different places and give teachings on the basis of some or all of the work. He and some commentators in the following decades were responsible for forming a school of Buddhist philosophical thought called the Single Intention (dgongs gcig), meaning the Buddha had the ‘single intention' of bringing all to enlightenment. This was and is by far the most important philosophical system of the Drigung, and arguably of the entire Kagyu school in its earlier centuries. Although of course he was a very important teacher during his times, he did not hold regularly scheduled classes and generally did not stay in large monasteries. Still, many felt drawn to share the hardships of his retreat places, and at one point they rose to the number of five hundred very dedicated students.
Roerich, George, trans. 1996. The Blue Annals. 2nd ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, pp. 604-7.
Sobisch, Jan-Ulrich. 2002. Three-Vow Theories in Tibetan Buddhism. Wiesbaden: Verlag, pp. 335-339.
Rin chen phun tshogs. N.d. Spyan snga 'bri gung gling pa'i rnam thar snyan pa'i 'brug sgra. No publishing information available: TBRC W1KG2827.
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- Historical Period