Epitome of guru devotion
Pabongka Rinpoche was also a perfect example of guru devotion. If anyone has read Pabongka’s collected works, poems and so forth, one would know that he had always talked about his Guru, Dagpo Lama Rinpoche. In every teaching from Pabongka – be it Yamantaka, Vajrayogini, Heruka or Hevajra, Lamrim, logic or Prajnaparamita, he would always speak of his Guru.
It is common knowledge that whenever Pabongka visited his lama’s monastery, he would dismount as soon as it appeared in view and would prostrate all the way to the door. This was no easy feat, because of Pabongka’s large build. Yet he would do this religiously. And whenever he left his Guru’s monastery, Pabongka would walk backwards until the monastery was out of sight. Only then would he turn around and get back onto his horse to proceed with his journey. Even when he was unwell while visiting his Guru’s monastery, he would still dismount from his horse and make, at the very least, one prostration before continuing his journey towards his Guru’s monastery.
It was also famous that Pabongka Rinpoche would not stand for anyone speaking ill of his Guru in any way or form. His face would immediately turn black.**
Extracted from Guru Devotion – How to Integrate the Primordial Enlightened Mind –A Commentary on the Lama Chopa by Gelek Rinpoche (Publisher: Jewel Heart), whereby he was describing how Pabongka must reply the 13th Dalai Lama’s questions on his Southern Lamrim Tradition. If Pabongka could not prove it, then he must admit that his Guru was wrong. Actual extract from the book: Pabongka’s face turned completely black.
Pabongka’s devotion was such that he even purposely chose to visit the Province of Dagpo where his Guru had lived, when he was about to pass on. He chose to pass away in the place where his Master had lived, at the age of sixty-three. That was the kind of Guru Devotion that Pabongka embodied.
There is a story of how Serkong Dorjechang of Gaden Jangtze, the “Holder” of the mystical Manjushri Wisdom book wanted to pass this “sacred responsibility” over to Pabongka Rinpoche, but Pabongka had been delaying it. So, in order to get Pabongka to come to him as soon as possible, Serkong Dorjechang started scolding Pabongka’s Guru, Dagpo Rinpoche during a big teaching that he was conducting in front of a few thousand people. Serkong Dorjechang knew that if he insulted Pabongka’s lack of respect through Dagpo’s inability to teach his own student well, that act alone would be enough to make Pabongka Rinpoche go to Serkong Dorjechang immediately and receive teachings from him.
The day that Serkong Dorjechang died, Pabongka had a dream. He dreamt that he was going to see Serkong Dorjechang. A number of people had lined up and he had to do the same. Pabongka had a small bell and vajra to offer Serkong Dorjechang. When he finally approached the front of the line, Serkong Dorjechang was sitting on a throne and Pabongka had to look up. Serkong Dorjechang handed over to Pabongka Rinpoche the vajra and bell he was holding, and said, “Gold made, please take it.” He gave it to Pabongka and took the small one Pabongka had. That was how the mystical Manjushri Wisdom book and teachings were transferred to Pabongka. That was how the transition was done.
Another interesting story revolves around the Manager of Pabongka’s labrang. As this Manager was also a disciple of Pabongka, they shared a strong Guru-Disciple relationship. Unfortunately, this Manager was considered to be very wild. During Pabongka’s teachings, he would not hesitate to give a slap to anyone who was not behaving properly in the audience. He would even pick up someone’s shoes from the back and hit anybody. However, no one would dare raise a complaint because of Pabongka.
This Manager’s previous incarnation was a Gyuto tantric college abbot. When people were supposed to look for his reincarnation, they decided not to go ahead with it at all. Finally, it was Pabongka who insisted that they should and must. Due to the unpleasant reputation of this particular incarnation, everyone was very reluctant as they feared he would turn out to be another wild one. They were most unwilling to bear the burden and shame of his non-virtuous actions, including the squandering of wealth. Yet Pabongka maintained firmly that they must, and when excuses were given, Pabongka rebuked them. He said, “There is so much wealth accumulated around here now, and even though the ‘son’ is throwing some here and there, there is still a lot available. You have only excuses. That is not right. They are not correct reasons. You have to look for the reincarnation.”
In the end, they all had to obey and comply.
Apparently, this ‘son’ was the very same person who dissuaded Pabongka from accepting Reting Rinpoche’s offer to become regent of Tibet in 1938. He stated that, “…if you become regent, all the good work you have done will be damaged. You will have to deal with political matters and then everything will be finished. Every commitment of the master-disciple relationship will be broken. There will be nothing, so please don’t accept!”
That was what he requested and Pabongka was actually very happy about that. He rejected the offer and Talungdra became regent. In fact, Pabongka himself was famous for maintaining that a monk should never touch politics.