Yeshe Dorji: The Founder of Bhutan’s Dragon Tradition

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Vennerable Dr. Khenpo Karchung
The Most Venerable Professor Dr. Phra Brahmapundit
Dr. Pintong Chatnarat


Tsangpa Gyare or Yeshe Dorji (1161–1211) was the main disciple of Lingchen Repa Pema Dorji and the founder of the Bhutan’s Dragon Tradition – Drukpa Kagyu Lineage – the main or central branch of which was, until the 17th Century, transmitted by his hereditary family lineage at Ralung in the Tsang region of western Tibet. He was one of the great teachers in Tibet. While he was alive, treasured by many others with his wisdom and compassion, he wrote many books and helped many people to practice for his entire life.

The Druk (Standard Tibetan: འབྲུག, Dzongkha: འབྲུག་) is the “Thunder Dragon” of Tibetan and Bhutanese mythology and a Bhutanese national symbol. Druk is highly regarded by the lineage of Drukpa Tsangpa Gyare/Yeshe Dorji. Not only, Druk became the name of the country after the arrival of respected Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1616 and after the first monastic establishment in 1621 at Chagri Dorji Dhen, but also by the main instructions of Tendrel; the dependent and inter-dependent teachings to the followers which was received by Tsangpa Gyare from the seven Buddhas at Tsari.

Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel taught all the teachings of Tsangpa Gyare in Bhutan. He was the third incarnation of Tsangpa Gayre. The country of Bhutan is therefore called as ‘Druk’; the land is called as ‘Drukyul’; and the people are called as ‘Drukpa’. In the Bhutan’s Dragon tradition, people have their own unique way of transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation. These traditions in Bhutan are mostly learnt by the monastic schools, Buddhist colleges, and by the Buddhist University. The meditation courses of Tsangpa Gyare are taught in retreat areas throughout Bhutan.


Keywords: Tsangpa Gyare, Yeshe Dorji, Drukpa Kagyu Lineage, Druk, Bhutan

Article Details

How to Cite
Karchung, K. ., Prayoon Dhammacitto, P. B., & Chatnarat, D. P. (2020). Yeshe Dorji: The Founder of Bhutan’s Dragon Tradition . The Journal of International Association of Buddhist Universities (JIABU), 12(2), 1–13. Retrieved from
Author Biographies

Vennerable Dr. Khenpo Karchung, Tago Dorden Tashithang Buddhist University, Bhutan

Khenpo Karchung, from Eastern Bhutan, studied Buddhist Philosophy and spent several years in retreat before he left to Yongla Gonpa as the meditation instructor for three years and five months. He later went to Sampurnananda Sanskrit University in Varanasi and Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidya Peetha in Andhra Pradesh to study Samskritam. Khenpo Karchung wrote Samskritam book Hiranya Kunchika (Golden Key) and Jyotsna (Moon Light) to promote Samskritam studies in Bhutan. He currently serves as a teacher at Tango Dorden Tashithang Buddhist University in Thimphu.

The Most Venerable Professor Dr. Phra Brahmapundit, Peace Studies Programme, Graduate School, Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, Ayutthaya, Thailand

The Most Venerable Professor Dr. Phra Brahmapundit is currently a member of the Supreme Sangha Council of Thailand, Ecclesiastical Governor of Region II, Chief Abbot of Wat Prayurawongsawas in Bangkok, and the president of the International Council for The Day of Vesak (ICDV) and the President of the International Association of Buddhist Universities (IABU). He was born in Suphan Buri Province, and entered the monastic life as a novice at the age of 12. While still a novice, he completed the highest degree of traditional Pali Studies in Thailand, Pali Grade IX. In the same year, His Majesty, the King of Thailand, sponsored his higher ordination in the temple of the Emerald Buddha. Two years later, he received his Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, with first-class honors, from Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University (MCU). He then entered the University of Delhi, India, where he obtained the Diploma in French, an M.A., M.Phil. and a Doctorate. His Ph.D. thesis, written in English and published as: Selflessness in Sartre’s Existentialism and Early Buddhism, has been very popular and reprinted many times. After receiving his Doctorate, he lectured for a time at MCU. In 1986, the Thai Supreme Sangha Council posted him to the Thai Buddhist Temple in Chicago, U.S.A. as a Dhammaduta (missionary monk). He 2 returned to MCU to serve as Director of the Academic Division and later served as the first Dean of the Graduate school, Deputy Rector for Research and Planning, and Deputy Rector for Academic Affairs. His Holiness, the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, made him Rector of MCU in 1997, and a year later appointed him Ecclesiastical Governor of Region II covering the provinces of Ayutthaya, Saraburi, and Ang Thong. He served as Rector of MCU for 5 terms (20 years). Apart from Sangha administrative work, he is one of Thailandย’s scholar monks, and the author of more than 100 books on Buddhism and philosophy. His published works in English include, among others, A Buddhist Approach to Peace; Buddhist Morality; Buddhist Worldview; and International Recognition of the Day of Vesak. He is the chief editor of Common Buddhist Texts: Guidance and Insight from The Buddha.

Dr. Pintong Chatnarat, International Buddhist Studies College (IBSC), Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University

Pintong Chatnarat​, Ph.D. She is a Lecturer in Buddhist Studies of International Buddhist Studies College (IBSC), Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University.


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