Phagmo Drupa (1100-1170) was born in Kham in eastern Tibet into a poor family that made its living by impure means. However, Phagmo Drupa remained undisturbed amidst the family’s misconduct. At the tender age of four, he took the vows of a novice monk and began his training on the spiritual path. He traveled to central Tibet to receive further training from masters residing in the vicinity.
He received intellectual and spiritual training from a series of qualified masters, including Jetsün Sakyapa who taught him the complete Lam-Dre teachings. Phagmo Drupa mastered various tantras and practiced meditation very seriously. He could remain for days in meditation, totally absorbed in the state of clarity and bliss.
Even before meeting Gampopa, Phagmo Drupa already demonstrated the qualities of an accomplished practitioner. In all his activities he exercised complete humility and fairness towards everyone, regardless of their social status and material well-being. He was particularly compassionate and understanding towards the less fortunate, and was constantly giving them his own possessions even though he did not have enough for himself. Most importantly, Phagmo Drupa was grateful to be serving all beings without exception. In practice, Phagmo Drupa spent most of his time in contemplation and meditation.
Despite his spiritual accomplishment, Phagmo Drupa still felt that he needed the guidance of a qualified master on the path. He therefore went to Dagla Gampo Monastery. Upon the sight of Gampopa and after a brief discussion with him, Phagmo Drupa immediately recognized his own wisdom mind, and fully realized the ultimate truth. Within the following days, Phagmo Drupa completely mastered the direct realization of Mahamudra.
For the remainder of his life, Phagmo Drupa continued to practice meditation with unceasing perseverance, serving as an example to others. He later founded a monastery in central Tibet, and had innumerable disciples, amongst whom his eight most accomplished disciples later established the sub-sects of the Kagyud Order. Lingchen Repa, the spiritual teacher and guide of the 1st Gyalwang Drukpa, was one of the eight disciples chosen to continue his lineage.