Barompa Darma Wangchuk

ISSN 2332-077X

Print this Biography
Cite this biography

Barompa Darma Wangchuk b.1127 - d.1194?

Name Variants: Bum Kyab; Darma Wangchuk

When a couple that belonged to Dranka (bran ka) clan in Penyul ('phan yul) became the proud parents of a son in the year 1127, they named him after a Sutra: Bumkyab ('bum skyabs), meaning "Protected by the Hundred Thousand Verse Prajñāpāramitā," the lengthiest version of the Prajñāpāramitā Sutra. When his two younger brothers were born they were similarly named for two shorter versions of the sutra, Protected by Ten Thousand, Trikyab (khri skyabs) and Protected by Eight Thousand Gyetong Kyab (brgyad stong skyabs). The father's name was Tonpa Jungne Lodro (ston pa 'byung gnas blo gros) and his mother's name was Jomo Lochungma (jo mo lo chung ma).

The boy took novice ordination in his seventh or eighth year under Khenpo Pokawa Darma Sengge (mkhan po po ska ba dar ma seng ge, d.u.) and Wangchuk Zhonnu (dbang phyug gzhon nu, d.u.), and received the name by which he would from then on be known, Darma Wangchuk. In his teens he studied with teachers of the Kadam lineage, Chayulwa Chenpo Zhonnu O (bya yul ba chen po gzhon nu 'od, d.u.) being the most famous one, concentrating on teachings of Atisha, Maitreya and Āryadeva. He also studied with Drolungpa Lodro Jungne (gro lung pa blo gros 'byung gnas, d.u.), and Potowa Rinchen Sel Chokle Namgyel (po to ba rin chen gsal phyogs las rnam rgyal, 1027-1105).

Already in his younger years he had heard of the fame of Gampopa Sonam Rinchen (sgam po pa bsod nam rin chen, 1079-1153), and during his studies he conceived the strong desire to become his disciple. Joining with a friend in the monastery, they took offerings of tea and gold with them to Daklha Gampo (dwags lha sgam po) where Gampopa resided.

Gampopa accepted them in his community immediately, but after a month Darma Wangchuk came down with a serious illness. His skin broke out in boils and the pain was unbearable. He dreamed of a black lake filled with fish and tadpoles, thinking he would jump into it. According to legend Gampopa appeared in a dream and grasped him by the little finger of his left hand and stopped him saying, "Fierce veneration is the ground for interdependent connections (the guru-disciple relationship). 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, and when he awoke the illness had entirely disappeared.

Darma Wangchuk attended closely on Gampopa, and 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, and twice when he was thrown off his testy steed with the unlikely name Lugu (lu gu), which translates as 'Lamb.'

In 1153 Gampopa presented Darma Wangchuk with a piece of gold and advised him to go and meditate at a hermitage in Barom ('ba' rom). Not wishing to leave his elderly teacher, he declined to accept the gold and asked to serve him as long as he would live. Soon after Gampopa passed away, and Darma Wangchuk stayed on long enough to make an hundred thousand clay images, or tsatsas, containing the ashes of his teacher's body. Only then did he follow his teacher's advice and go to meditate at Barom, in Nakchu (nag chu).

During his seven-year retreat, which began in 1154, he saw no human beings with the single exception of the person who brought him provisions from time to time. He is said to have had plenty of visitations by non-humans, including the local protective spirits, in particular the one called White Layman (dge bsnyen dkar po). During his time he composed a large number of songs, in the tradition of Milarepa.

Following his retreat he went three times to Kham, where he gained the patronage of local rulers and attracted many disciples. He also established several monasteries, including Kotso (ko mtsho) and Lode (lo sde). At a place called Chiwar Lhakhang ('chi bar lha khang) he met and blessed a young boy who later returned to him and became his chief disciple, Tishri Repa Sherab Sengge (ti shri ras pa shes rab seng+ge, 1164-1236).

Darma Wangchuk returned to U and was made head of the monastic community at Barom. While serving as the monastery's first abbot, he met two other important Kagyu patriarchs, both students of his fellow disciple of Gampopa, Pakmodrupa Dorje Gyelpo (phag mo gru pa rdo rje rgyal po, 1110-1170): Taklungtangpa Tashi Pel (stag lung thang pa bkra shis dpal, 1142-c.1209), the founder of Taklung Monastery (stag lung), and Jikten Gonpo Rinchen Pel ('jig rten mgon po rin chen dpal, 1143-1217), the founder of Drigung Monastery ('bris gung). According to tradition, his disciples saw plentiful evidence of his remarkable abilities, which included invisibility, foreknowledge and miracles like walking through walls as if through air.

His other disciples included Tsetrom Wanchuk Sengge (rtse brom dbang phyug seng ge, d.u.) and Draka Lhadron (brag ka lha ston, d.u.),

His death, around 1194, at the age of seventy-two, was said to have been accompanied with numerous signs and visions.




Karl Brunnholzl. 2007. Straight From The Heart: Buddhist Pith Instructions. Ithaca: Snow Lion, pp. 231-233.

Puchung Tsering. 2001. The Early History of the Barom Kagyu School and the Biography of Darma Wangchuk. MA thesis, University of Oslo.

Roerich, George, trans. 1996. The Blue Annals. 2nd ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, pp. 469-70.

Sperling, Elliot. 2004. “Further Remarks Apropos of the ’Ba’-rom-pa and the Tanguts.” Acta Orientalia Hungarica, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 1-26.

Tshe dbang rgyal. 1994. Lho rong chos ’byung. Lhasa: Bod ljongs bod yig dpe rnying dpe skrun khang, pp. 207-9.


Dan Martin
August 2008