The Biography of HH the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang

The Biography of His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang, From the Heart of Tibet, is now available.

Elmar R. Gruber recounts the fascinating story of the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang in an eloquent manner and in great detail against the backdrop of the political, religious, and social developments, thus unfolding a marvelous cultural history.

Gruber describes the search and identification of the new reincarnation of the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang, his early childhood in the Lhasa mansion of his aristocratic family, his enthronement at four years of age and his subsequent life in the main Drikung monasteries.

He paints a vivid tableau of the transition of traditional Tibetan culture during the troubled years of Chinese Communist occupation, when his family members fled the country in the wake of Chinese oppression together with the Dalai Lama and many high-ranking Lamas, aristocrats and common people. The young Chetsang Rinpoche was compelled to remain behind in Tibet upon orders of the Drikung officials and thus had to endure many hardships in the ensuing years. The author’s account of the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang’s experiences during the precarious and desperate period of the Cultural Revolution is brilliant yet disconcerting, replete with many lesser-known aspects of the state of civil society.

The book narrates the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang’s adventurous lonely escape from a forced labor camp across the Himalayans and proceeds to relate how His Holiness eventually assumed his position as the head of the Drikung Kagyu lineage and the intricate developments through which he lead the lineage to unprecedented significance in exile and in Tibet. The author also offers comprehensive background information on the “spiritual genealogy” of the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang by recounting the history of the reincarnation lineage of the Chetsang Rinpoches in particular and of the Drikung throne holders in general.

Gruber’s book, which contains many photos, is an enthralling account of a courageous life, spanning the time in the Land of Snows rooted in Buddhist tradition, through the period of Chinese occupation and oppression, followed by escape and exile. It also traces the volatile history of the Drikung lineage through the ages and its remarkable restoration and prospering accomplished by the enlightened activity of the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang.

The book carries forewords by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa, and His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche.

Reviews of From the Heart of Tibet

“This is a fascinating, terrifying, moving, and exalting account of a truly great being’s success in rising above adversity and making an outstanding contribution to a part of humanity under extreme pressure. I warmly recommend it to anyone who might like to discover a magnificent chest of treasures.”—Robert Thurman, professor of Indo-Tibetan Studies at Columbia University

“This life story of an extraordinary Buddhist spiritual teacher and intellectual is thoroughly fascinating. This document is probably the most important biography to appear of a Tibetan in recent times. Elmar Gruber’s sense for dramatic narration is unparalleled. This is a must read for Buddhist scholars and practitioners.”—E. Gene Smith, co-founder of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center

“Chetsang Rinpoche is one of the biggest incarnate lamas, head of a tradition, but also, he experienced the life of an ordinary American. This is unlike any other biography—one sees how a neighborhood boy can become a great spiritual master.”—Gelek Rimpoche, author of Good Life, Good Death

“Gruber’s marvelous narrative excels by enormous detailed knowledge and an adequate linguistic rendering. His book stands out by its strikingly substantial background knowledge. His work should find its place in the book shelves of every friend of Tibet right beside the biography of the Dalai Lama My Home and My People.”—Jan-Ulrich Sobisch, professor of Tibetology at the University of Copenhagen

“Gruber skillfully narrates this story of survival and triumph over tragedy without embellishment or sensationalism.”—Buddhadharma

Excerpts from the forewords to From the Heart of Tibet

It gives me great pleasure to know that with the publication of this book readers in the wider world will be able to learn for themselves about Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche’s unusual life, which covers such a range of experience, from the ways of life of old Tibet, through the hardships that followed, and the success of efforts here in exile to preserve and promote the values that all Tibetans hold dear. Therefore, while I pray that Rinpoche may live a long and healthy life, I trust that others will take hope and inspiration from what he has achieved so far.

The Dalai Lama

I am very happy that Dr. Elmar R. Gruber is offering the biography of His Holiness as an inspiration to the present world and beyond. His life story will definitely encourage countless spiritual practitioners to take challenges as a form of spiritual practice so that the strength of spirituality will grow within their mind as a positive development for the long run.

The Gyalwang Drukpa

Kyabgön Chetsang Rinpoche’s story is one of wholehearted dedication to the Buddhadharma. Throughout the turmoil of his youth, he maintained his monastic vows in a hostile, anti-religious environment, finally managing a miraculous escape from Tibet. After all the hardships he had suffered, he went to India to take up the heavy responsibility of leading and revitalizing the Drikung Kagyu lineage, still finding time for his own practice, study, and retreat. I am amazed at how much a single person has accomplished in such a short time.

Kyabje Garchen Triptrul Rinpoche