The glorious master Ripa Pema Deje Rolpa was the supreme head of both the family and dharma lineages of Rigon Tashi Choeling. He was born in the end of the 17th Century, in the 13th Tibetan Rabjung cycle. He was recognized by the thirteenth Karmapa, Dudul Dorje as being the reincarnation of Ripa Pawo, a student in the lineage of Tishi Repa, the direct student of Dharma Wangchuk who belonged to the lineage of Barom Kagyu, on of the Four Great among the renowned Four Great and Eight Lesser Kagyu Lineages descending from the Translator Marpa during the Later Spread of the dharma in Tibet. Ripa Pawo had gone to the land of Nangchen, in Do Kham, home of the famed Eighteen Meditation Lands where, in the tradition of the life examples of the early masters, he became a child of the mountains, clothing himself in mist, befriending the wild animals, unconcerned with renown, food or clothing. Thus he achieved in one lifetime the Unified State of Vajradhara.
Seeing Drubwang Pema Deje Rolpa to be the reincarnation of that great being, the thirteenth Karmapa gave him the name Karma Dragpa Tenzin Gyatso. Having directly seen the face of Guru Rinpoche he was given the secret name Pema Deje Rolpa. Praised by Kunzng Pema Namgyal as the speech incarnation of Taksham Terchen, he received empowerments, reading transmissions, instructions as well as the oral instructions of the entire cycle of Taksham’s teachings from Kunzang Pema Namgyal himself, his father Tertön Rigdzin Shiney Droje, Gyalchen Lama Trinley Dorje and others. Following the example of the early masters he practiced in strict retreat and mastered the view, meditation and conduct of Trekcho (cutting through), through the path of the Definitive Great Perfection. Perfecting the Four Visions through the path of Togal (going beyond), he was a Great yogi of the Secret Mantrayana. In the year 1830, as an auspicious coincidence for the benefit of beings and as predicted by Dakinis, he founded Rigon Tashi Choeling at Nyima Puk in Tsawa Pashod, Kham where there resided 200 members of the sangha of monks and large community of lay people. The ritual practices at the monastery were principally the profound Terma teachings of Taksham Nuden Droje, but in addition the practices of Drubwang Pema Deje Rolpa’s previous incarnation, Ripa Pawo, were also perfectly upheld. In accordance with the prophecy of Guru Rinpoche, he accepted the lady of the good lineage of the family from Jasu known as Kartso, as his consort. At the age of seventy eight, in the year 1880, the Iron Dragon year, he displayed the act of passing away. Led by Drubwang Bhyo Rigzin, the master’s disciples made great clouds of offerings on the occasion of his passing. It is from this great master that the Ripa Dunjud (familial lineage), as well as the line of Ripa Tulkus (incarnate lamas), originated.