The Ripa Lineage was first established in Tibet in the 12th or 13th century by the dharma practitioner Senge Wangchuk, the lineage founder, in the Bharom Kagyu tradition, one of the four principle schools of the Kagyupa. It was in the 18th century that the lineage became more prominent, with the birth of Pema Deje Rolpa, in the 13th Tibetan Rabjung cycle.
Pema Deje Rolpa was believed to have been born in the year 1776, and was recognized by the 13th Karmapa, Dudul Dorje, as the reincarnation of Ripa Pawo. Ripa Pawo had gone to Nangchen, in Do Kham, home of the Eighteen Meditation Lands, where he became a child of the mountains, clothing himself in mist, befriending wild animals, unconcerned with fame, food or clothing. Having seen this as his past life, the Karmapa gave him the name Karma Dragpa Tenzin Gyatso. Upon seeing the face of Guru Rinpoche directly, he was also given the secret name, Pema Deje Rolpa.
Pema Deje Rolpa met his future root guru, Taksham Samten Lingpa, a principle Terton of the time, and became the perfect vessel or holder of the Taksham cycle, a vast treasury of terma teachings. He practiced in strict retreat, and mastered the view, meditation and conduct of Trekcho, and the four visions of Togal, of the Great Perfection tradition, attaining ultimate realization. Terton Taksham Samten Lingpa made him the holder of his vast terma treasures, and in this way, the Ripa tradition also became established in the Nyingma lineage.
In 1830, as predicted by dakinis, he founded Rigon Tashi Choeling monastery in Kham, Tibet. “Ri” signifies mountain or isolated area, and “pa” signifies wearer of the white robe, or yogi. Thus the Ripa lineage represents the ascetic yogic tradition of both the Nyingma and Kagyu, as practiced in the mountains of Tibet.