kyabje pabongkha rinpoche biography tsem rinpoche

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Kyabje Pabongkha Rinpoche Biography Tsem Rinpoche


  • A biography of H.H. Kyabje PabongkaRinpocheby admin July 9, 2010

    H. H. Pabongka Rinpoche Dechen Nyingpo Jampa Tenzin Trinlay Gyatso was one of the most

    illustrious Buddhist masters of the 20th century. This biography of H.H. Pabongka Rinpoche was

    taken from H.E. Tsem Rinpoches blog along with some of Rinpoches own personal comments.

    H.H. Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche (1878-1941)

    Pabongka Rinpoche Dechen Nyingpo Jampa Tenzin Trinlay Gyatso was one of the greatest

    masters of the 20th century and one of the most influential teachers in Tibet. He had acquired the

    teachings from the Sakya, from the Nyingma, from the lineage of Ganden Tendzin* and Ngulchu

    Dharmabhadra, and collected other valuable teachings from various venerated sources during his


    In 1959 when many Tibetans departed Tibet, Pabongka knew that he would not be able to

    leave. Therefore, he carefully transmitted all these important teachings to a single heart disciple,

    Trijang Rinpoche, who became the Tutor of the 14th Dalai Lama. In this way, all the

    transmissions could then be securely passed on to His Holiness, as well as, the other high Lamas of

    Gelugpa. This becomes the living foundation that is the Gelugpa Lineage we have today.

    *Extracted from page 35 of Vajra Yogini Teachings by Kyabje Gelek Rinpoche (Publisher: Jewel

    Heart). This refers to Ganden Tenzin Namnyi and Ganden Dhargyey, who were master and

    disciple, and who took the teachings from the Sakya tradition and gave it to Ngulchu

    Dharmabhadra. The two Gandens are not so well known but Ngulchu Dharmabhadra is very well

  • known and very famous.

    H.H. Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche


    Pabongka was born north of Lhasa at a town called Tsawa Li in the Yeru Shang district of the

    state of Tsang in 1878. His family was part of the nobility and had owned a modest estate called

    Chappel Gershi. It is said that on the night when he was born, a light shone in the room and

    people outside the house had a vision of a protector on the roof.

    As a child, he exhibited unusual qualities and was taken before Sharpa Rinpoche Chuje Lobsang

    Dargye, one of the leading religious figures of the day. Later on, he was found to be a

  • reincarnation of the Changkya line, which included the well-known scholar Changkya Rolpay

    Dorje (1717-1786). The Lamas of this line had done much teaching in the regions of Mongolia

    and China, including in the court of the Chinese Emperor himself, and to be the Royal Tutor to

    the Emperors, that Lama must have been highly attained. This regal position has enabled him to

    accomplish a great deal for Tibetan Buddhist institutions in China, Mongolia, and Tibet.

    Changkya Rolpay Dorje was also the student of the Seventh Dalai Lama and a teacher of the

    Eighth. He was an important lineage holder in several adept traditions of both Father and Mother


    However, the name Changkya had strong Chinese connotations. As the Tibetan government and

    people were already sensitive to the pressures put on them from China, the name Changkya was

    ruled out and the boy was declared to be Pabongka instead.

  • A statue of Changkya Rolpai Dorje.

    There was a small monastery atop the rock named Pabong. Hence, he was eventually recognized

    and enthroned as the late abbot of that monastery. For this reason, Rinpoche is documented as the

    second Pabongka and was sometimes referred to as Pabongka Kentrul. It is commonly believed

    that he was also the reincarnation of Tsako Ngawang Drakpa, one of the main disciples of Lama

    Tsongkhapa and founder of Dhe-Tsang Monastery.

    It was Sharpa Chuje Lobsang who foretold that if the young boy was to be placed in the

    Gyalrong House of Sera Mey College, something wonderful would happen with him in the future.


  • Pabongka Rinpoches full name was Kyabje Pabongka Jetsun Jampa Tenzin Trinley Gyatso Pel

    Sangpo, which means the Lord Protector, the one from Pabongka, the venerable and glorious

    master whose name is the Loving One, Keeper of the Buddhas Teachings, Ocean of the Mighty

    Deeds of the Buddha. He was also affectionately known as Dechen Nyingpo, which translates

    into Essence of Great Bliss or The King of Bliss from the Palace of Bliss, meaning a highly

    attained being who is already one with Heruka.

    He was an extraordinary master for the Heruka Body Mandala and the Vajrayogini practice, and

    he had a special responsibility for the Mother Tantra.

    There is a famous story of how Heruka actually appeared to Pabongka when he visited Cimburi in

    Tibet, where there is an image of Heruka. This is where the Blood Drinkers mountains are and

    this name refers to Heruka Drinker of Blood. Apparently, Pabongka went to this place three

    times during his lifetime.

    When he first went there, this image spoke to him, opened its mouth and a tremendous amount of

    nectar came out. Pabongka collected the nectar from the mouth of Heruka while in the presence of

    sixty or seventy people. This nectar was then made into nectar pills. The Gelugpas current nectar

    pills originate from there.

    It is also stated that this very same cave in Cimburi where Pabongka received the nectar from the

    Heruka image was the place where Heruka promised him the following:-

    From now on, for the next seven generations, whoever practices my teaching, I will protect and


    This is why Pabongka is also considered to be a living Heruka. Many people received the Heruka

    Body Mandala and every teaching on it from him. And if you happen to fall within that seven

    generation category, you are indeed very much blessed.


    At the tender age of seven, Pabongka Rinpoche entered Gyalrong House of Sera-Mey Monastery.

    He underwent the usual studies of a monk, earned his Geshe degree and spent two years studying at

    the Gyuto Tantric College.

    In the monastery, Pabongka did not show much scholarship, as though he was slightly on the dull

    side. The Geshes would often insult him and at times, they would even use him as an example to

    illustrate lesser intelligence. He under-studied more than 38 Masters and one of them was Gondro

    Kendro Ngulchu.

    Although Pabongka Rinpoches academic career at Sera Mey College was not outstanding, he did

    complete his Geshe degree. However, he only reached the Lingse rank, meaning he was just

    examined within his own monastery and did not go on for the exhausting series of public

    examinations and debates that is required to attain the coveted Lharampa level. These would have

    been conducted at different monasteries, culminating in a session before the Dalai Lama and his

    teachers at the Norbulingka summer palace.

    After having passed his Geshe exams, Pabongka began to receive teachings from a very important

    Master, Dagpo Jampel Lundrup. Dagpo Rinpoche was just a normal monk and not even an

    incarnate Lama. However, under this Master, Pabongka started to develop by leaps and bounds. He

    studied the Lamrim and everything began to flourish within him from then on. Dagpo Lama

    Rinpoche became his Root Guru.

    Pabongka would visit Dagpo Lama Rinpoche in his cave and was sent into a Lamrim retreat

    nearby. According to Ribur Rinpoche:

    Dagpo Lama Rinpoche would teach him a Lamrim topic and then Pabongka Rinpoche would go

    away and meditate on it. Later he would return to explain what hed understood: if he had gained

  • some realization, Dagpo Rinpoche would teach him some more and Pabongka Rinpoche would go

    back and meditate on that.

    Dagpo Gompa monastery.

    It went on like this for ten years before Pabongka received any Tantra teachings from his Guru.

    Gradually, with consistent dedication, Pabongka became a Master of everything, outstanding in

    every single thing to the point that even learned Geshes ended up going to Pabongka and

    consulting him.

    Even though in the beginning, Pabongka was not a big lama at all in Tibet, he became an

    exceptional Master in forty years. He truly became the Master of Tibet in the 1920s through the

    1930s, especially of the Gelugpa Tradition.

    If we look at todays Gelugpa Lineage, tracing from H.H. Trijang Rinpoche, H.H. Ling

    Rinpoche to H.H. Zong Rinpoche, there is not a lama who is not a disciple of Pabongka

    Rinpoche, directly or indirectly. In one way or another, every lineage came through Pabongka.


    As stated earlier, Pabongka Rinpoche was not high ranking at all and was even considered as a

  • low ranking person when he first started but he became extremely popular. At that time, he did

    not have any ladrang at all.

    Pabongka Rinpoche himself often shared how poor he was when he was young. He said,

    When I was young, I had nothing, no wealth at all and on top of that, no food to eat.

    Everybody had at least a little bag with barley-flour. For several days, I couldnt get any food. I

    ran from Sera Monastery down to the sand, filled my bag with sand, and put a little barley on

    top to smell and taste a bit. I lived on that for several days. This is what I did and look what I

    am today.

    It was only much later when he became very popular that he was offered a little retreat-area by

    the Ngakpa College of Sera Mey Monastery. They offered him a large retreat complex on the

    hillside above Pabongka. The name of this her

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