Biography of His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya

His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya, one of the most important Lamas of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism, is a descendant from the great Sakya Lamas, who established close relations with Mongolian emperors in the 13th century. Namely, his predecessor, Sakya Pandita (1182 – 1251) befriended the Great Khan, and it is thanks to him that the Sakya Lamas governed Tibet for almost a century.
His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya was born into the Phuntsok branch of the Khön lineage of the Sakya school in 1929 in southwestern Tibet. He began his studies under the guidance of his father, H.H. Trichen Ngawang Thutop Wangchuk (the 40th throne holder of the Sakya school). From his father he also received the unbroken Khön lineage transmission of the Sakya Vajrakilaya and Hevajra empowerments, as well as the complete Lamdre, The Path and its Fruit.
After the passing of his father, His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya travelled to East Tibet, where he studied with Dzongsar Khyentse Jamyang Chökyi Lodrö, master of all lineages, and Dilgo Khyentse Rabsel Dawa Rinpoche, master of the Nyigma school. He further studied the Lamdre texts and Rime teachings, combining the practices of Tibetan Buddhism common to all four main schools – Nyingma, Kagyu, Gelug, and Sakya.
After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya, holder of one of the two main Sakya lineages, had to flee his country. He was invited to the USA to participate in a University of Washington, Seattle, research project on Tibet sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. He has remained in Seattle ever since. In 1974, His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya and His Eminence Deshung Rinpoche established the Sakya Tegchen Choling, centre for the study of Tibetan Buddhism.
In 1984, His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya bought a Presbyterian church (built in 1928) in order to transform it into a traditional Tibetan-style monastery. Not only did it become the main seat of the Sakya tradition in the USA, it also became an important centre of cultural and religious learning. In 1993, still in the process of refurbishment, the monastery was used as a film setting during the shooting of Bernardo Bertolucci’s ‘Little Buddha’.
With the renovation works still in progress, the monastery launched its first pedagogical activities. In 1997, the Virupa Ecumenical Institute devoted to the study of Tibetan Buddhism was established. The first courses were offered in the spring of 1998. In 2001, His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya established the Sakya Heritage Society in New Delhi with the wish to preserve his tradition and lineage for the future generations and lineage holders. He has founded many other monasteries in East Asia.
He conferred numerous initiations and teachings in the USA, Canada, Europe, and Asia.
On April 29, 2016, H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya passed into a special state of meditation (Thukdam) and entered Parinirvana on May 5, 2016.