Additional commentary by H.E. Tsem Rinpoche
I had the great privilege and blessings to live with Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen of Gaden Shartse Monastery, when he had his own centre in Thubten Dargye Ling in Los Angeles, USA. I stayed there for about eight years with Geshe-la and he would give wonderful Lamrim teachings almost every Sunday. During those teachings, he told us that Kyabje Pabongka was very, very famous and very well-known in Tibet. His fame was all over in China too.
When Kyabje Pabongka gave teachings or initiations, there are certain parts of the initiation where he would invite the actual deities and their entourage to enter into each of our bodies, in other words, requesting the wisdom beings to dissolve into us, to bless us. When Pabongka did that, it was seen in the audience that many people would physically shake because Pabongka’s power to bring forth these deities was real, and people would actually shake and feel them entering them and blessing them.
Geshe-la also mentioned that while Kyabje Pabongka was conducting the teachings, it was a very well-known fact that many people in the audience saw the third eye appear in the middle of Pabongka’s forehead. Especially during Heruka teachings, a third eye would open up and people would see him with three eyes. It was very, very obvious.
I have also heard that when Pabongka did the blessing of his inner offering, there’s a part where the Lama says, “…all faults, colours, smell, potentiality are gone and then it increases and boils.” When Pabongka said those words, the inner offering in his cup would boil in front of him. Many people had witnessed this, and there was no fire there.
These are just some of the many incredible things that Geshe-la told us during his talks. Geshe-la, being who he is, remains without fault and is also perfect in speech. So, everything Geshe-la said, did and shared is absolutely true.
I have also read in the commentaries that, Vajrayogini specifically appeared to Pabongka in a vision. Not once or twice, but several times. In one of those visions, Pabongka was granted direct initiation by Vajrayogini. She promised him that those who received Vajrayogini from him, and inclusive of the following four generations, would be taken to Kechara Paradise within seven lifetimes. The usual timing for Vajrayogini’s practice is that when you receive Vajrayogini’s initiation, she promises you during the initiation, via the Lama, that you will ascend to Kechara Paradise within 14 lifetimes. That is a promise Vajrayogini gives the recipient of the initiation.
If you have received Pabongka’s lineage of Vajrayogini within the four generations, you will achieve Kechara Paradise within seven lifetimes instead of the usual 14 lifetimes. So, basically, it’s cut in half.
For example, Pabongka gives the teachings and practice to Trijang Rinpoche and so, that counts as the first. Trijang Rinpoche then gives it to Zong Rinpoche, which counts as the second and perhaps Zong Rinpoche gives it to me, which makes me the third generation. This means that I can ascend to Kechara Paradise within seven lifetimes. If my contemporaries and I practise well, and whoever I, or the people in my contemporary peers can receive it and give it to their students, then their students will be the last. So that would be the 4th generation and those students will be ascending to Kechara Paradise within seven lifetimes.
Now, if my students or my contemporaries, and their students give it to their students, then it goes back to 14 lifetimes. This is not a bad deal either. However, when you’ve been in samsara this long, the seven and 14 does make a huge difference.
I have read in the biographies that Kyabje Pabongka’s lineage of Vajrayogini is very, very sensitive. In this context, the word “sensitive” means that this deity’s practice confers her blessings very quickly because she is very close to him. This is not surprising as she is his consort and he is her’s; they’re one in nature. This is why Pabongka promoted Vajrayogini’s practice during his lifetime.
There were “sang-de-jig-sum”, Guhyasamaja, Yamantaka, and Heruka, and Pabongka promoted Kalachakra and these great yidams of Lama Tsongkhapa. But for the common man, for the normal guy and for everybody during this time, he strongly promoted Vajrayogini because it suits us.
Pabongka was not a known scholar, but all scholars were under him. He was not labeled a great knowledge holder, but he became very knowledgeable. He is the type that didn’t really debate or show off his knowledge, so he looked dull. However, when it came to teachings, the way that he taught and the power of his teachings clearly showed that he was very learned and that he was not ordinary.
Hence, I recalled that even in Kyabje Zong Rinpoche’s private audience room, there would be a big picture of Pabongka right behind his throne, framed on the wall. I saw it myself. When my lama, Zong Rinpoche, believes in Pabongka and keeps a picture of him, Pabongka must be a Buddha because Zong Rinpoche is a real direct, very tough Lama and he won’t accept anything easily. If Zong Rinpoche accepts Pabongka, then Pabongka is definitely something special. Pabongka’s lineage of Vajrayogini that he recommended to all of us, is one that we should strive to achieve, we should strive to get and that we should strive to practice.
A few years back, a contemporary lama who is a very accomplished lama and also a Tulku, was visiting Gaden and I went to pay my respects to him. He’s from Sera and at that time, the current Pabongka Rinpoche had a Ladrang in Sera Mey monastery. Pabongka Ladrang is situated along the circumambulation circuit of Sera. The circumambulation path goes around all of Sera Jey and Sera Mey and that path is still there now. I have been there and I used to circumambulate too when I visited Sera, it’s beautiful. And if you circumambulate around Sera, you will walk past Pabongka Ladrang and from the circumambulation circuit of Sera, sometimes you can even get a glimpse of Kyabje Pabongka Choktrul Rinpoche on the verandah, walking around or at his window.
This elite senior Lama told me personally that every night, after a full day of giving Dharma talks and philosophical classes, he would go for circumambulation around Sera. And one day when he was circumambulating, he looked at Pabongka Ladrang and he saw the young Kyabje Pabongka Choktrul Rinpoche at the window. Pabongka Rinpoche was just looking out of his window and so this Lama folded his hands to Pabongka Rinpoche and then walked onwards for a few seconds.
Then he turned around and looked again at Pabongka Ladrang and in Pabongka Rinpoche’s place, instead of a young tulku, he saw a lady, red in colour with dark hair. He couldn’t believe his eyes – he stopped walking, rubbed his eyes and looked again, and he saw Pabongka Rinpoche once more.
Now, this master who told me this story is a great teacher, very renowned, a senior monk, and he is not prone to hallucinations due to his medication. He told me that it was amazing, and I asked him, “What do you think?” And he said, “Maybe I have the fortune to see Pabongka’s real nature, which is Vajrayogini”. And I repeat, he said “Perhaps I have the fortune to see Pabongka’s real nature, which is Vajrayogini”. And I thought “Wow!” I’ve see all these great Lamas and all I see is who they are, as they are, unfortunately for me.
But I really believe in this Lama’s story and what he told me. I know who he is and his reputation therefore it is totally believable. What is mean is, the Lama and the Yidam are really one, especially accomplished Lamas like Pabongka Rinpoche. So I thought I would share that with everyone and I thought it would be very nice.
On another post, I’ve already written some things on Vajrayogini that I would like everybody to read up on and follow, see and contemplate. In the lineages of Guhyasamaja, Yamantaka, Kalachakra, Heruka and Vajrayogini, when you do their sadhana everyday, you have to go through the prayers of the lineage Lamas. Every single one of those sadhanas has their lineage lamas’ supplication prayers and within that, Pabongka’s name is included because he is our lineage lama. Therefore he is very, very important.