His Revered Ancestors Lineage is all-important in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and Dagchen Rinpoche’s lineage is noble and revered for its holiness. It extends back for over a thousand years. His father was Trichen (“Great Throne-holder”) Nawang Tutop Wangchuk, the last great throne-holder of the Sakya Order of Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet, and his mother was Gyalyum (“Mother of the Khön Children”) Dechen Drolma.
Dagchen Rinpoche is in the twenty-sixth generation of the Sakya-Khön lineage descended from Khön Gönchok Gyalpo. Rinpoche is regarded as an emanation of Manjushri as well as the rebirth of a Sakya Abbot from the Ngor sub-school, Ewam Luding Khenchen (The Great Abbot from the Luding family)Gyase Chökyi Nyima.
Rinpoche’s family lineage is thought of as divine because family records and Tibetan histories state that his family is descended from celestial beings from the realm of heavenly clear light. Five generations of these celestial beings are said to have lived in Tibet. A famous ancestor of his from the late eighth century was Khön Lu’i Wangpo (Nagendrarakshita), one of the first seven Tibetans ordained as a Buddhist monk, a noted translator, and a personal disciple of Padmasambhava (who erected the very first Tibetan Buddhist monastery called Samye).
Since the 11th century, the Sakya male progenies are also regarded as emanations of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Avalokiteshvara, Bodhisattva of Compassion, or Vajrapani, Bodhisattva of Power.
The Khön lineage is the descendant of a celestial being named Yuring. He was the youngest of the three brothers that descended from the Luminous Heaven to Tibet to benefit beings. He married a girl from the Mu Tribe and had seven sons. Five generations later, there was a son of Khön lineage, Ya Pang Kye, who traveled to many places in Tibet and met a cannibalistic demon. He subdued the demon and with the demon’s wife had one son, Khön Bar Kye. The meaning of this name is “born in strife.” When Khön Bar Kye grew up, he married a woman from Tsang and she gave birth to a son, Khön Pa Je Gung Tag Tsan (also known as Khön Pal Po Che) and thus began the Khön lineage.
Khön Pal Po Che later became an important minister to the great King Triston Detsan. He had two sons. His eldest son Khön Luyi Wangpo, was an expert in all Buddhist practices and personally served Padmasambhava. His younger son, Khön Dorje Rinchen, also received all the teachings from Padmasambhava, but to continue the Khön lineage he married a wife and had seven sons. During this period, the Khön lineage specialized in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1042-1043, when the great Indian scholar, Pandit Jowo Atisha (982-1053) came from India to teach in Tibet, en route he made many prostrations to a land of pale earth (Sakya means pale earth) that was shaped like an elephant. Pandit Jowo Atisha prophesized that there would be many emanations of Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, and Vajrapani in that region.
In 1073, Khön Konchog Gyalpo (9 generations after Khön Dorje Rinchen) built the first Sakya Monastery on this land. Khön Konchog Gyalpo (1034-1102) had one son, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), who later became the first patriarch of the Sakya tradition. Sachen passed the lineage to his sons, Sonam Tsemo (1142-1182) and Dragpa Gyaltsan (1147-1216), and then the lineage was continued by Sakya Pandita (1182-1251) and Chogyal Pagpa (1235-1280). They are the Five Patriarchs of Sakya and they are also called the “three whites and two reds”, which means the three laypersons and two monks.
From Sachen to H.H.J.D. Sakya, this unbroken father-son lineage has continued for over 900 years, and the lineage has lasted over 1,200 years from the recorded history of Khön.
Besides its historical significance, the Khön lineage is unique in that it inherits combined lineages from celestial beings, humans and demons. For this reason, traditional Tibetan belief asserts that the descendants of Khön lineage possess the ability to attain superb accomplishments in Buddhist practices. Furthermore, Tibetan legends believe there is a strong connection between the Khön lineage and Buddhism at large. It was prophesized that if the Khön lineage were to be broken, it would symbolize the imminent end of Buddhism on earth.