In 1959 when many Tibetans departed Tibet, Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche knew that he would not be able to leave. Therefore, he carefully transmitted all these important teachings to a single heart disciple, H.H. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, who became the Tutor of H.H. 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 became the living foundation that is the Gelugpa Lineage we have today.
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 lifetime.
** 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.
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 has already exhibited unusual qualities and thus, 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 Tantras.
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.
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.