Pabongka Rinpoche: Excerpts from A Memoir by Ribur Rinpoche
“My guru, kind in three ways, who met face-to-face with Heruka, whose name I find difficult to utter, Lord Pabongka Vajradhara Dechen Nyingpo Pal Zangpo, was born north of Lhasa in 1878. His father was a minor official but the family was not wealthy. Although the night was dark, a light shone in the room, and people outside the house had a vision of a protector on the roof.” – from Ribur Rinpoche’s “memoir”
The Venerable Rilbur Rinpoche was born in Eastern Tibet in 1923. At the age of five he was recognised by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama as the sixth incarnation of Sera-mae Rilbur Rinpoche. He entered Sera Monastic University in Lhasa at fourteen and became a Geshe at twenty-four. He meditated and taught Dharma until 1959, after which he suffered under intense Chinese oppression for twenty-one years. Ribur Rinpoche, himself a lifelong practitioner of Dorje Shugden, was held and tortured by the Chinese for two decades. He famously said “If I told you what happened on a regular basis, you would find it hard to believe.”
And yet, by all accounts, he emerged from his trials with a heart full of love and forgiveness. How? Well, according to him, it was due to the blessings and teachings of his root Lama Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche. Below are some excerpts of a memoir of their time together….
Meeting his Root Guru…
His root guru was Dagpo Lama Rinpoche Jampael Lhuendrub Gyatso, from Lhoka. He was
definitely a bodhisattva, and Pabongka Rinpoche was his foremost disciple. He lived in a cave in Pasang and his main practice was bodhichitta; his main deity was Avalokiteshvara and he would recite 50,000 manis [the mantra, om mani padme hum] every night. When Kyabje Pabongka first met Dagpo Rinpoche at a tsog offering ceremony in Lhasa, he cried out of reverence from beginning to end.
On his practical style of study (a recurring theme from Je Pabongka’s life)….
When Pabongka Rinpoche had finished his studies he visited Dagpo Lama Rinpoche in his cave and was sent into a Lam-rim retreat nearby. Dagpo Lama Rinpoche would teach him a Lam-rim topic and then Pabongka Rinpoche would go away and meditate on it. Later he would return to explain what he’d understood: if he had gained some realization, Dagpo Lama Rinpoche would teach him some more and Pabongka Rinpoche would go back and meditate on that. It went on like this for ten years (and if that’s not amazing, what is!).
Faithful minds see the miraculous….
One of (my) teachers had a picture of Pabongka Rinpoche that exuded small drops of nectar from between the eyebrows. I saw this with my own eyes, so you can imagine how much faith I had in Rinpoche when I finally came into his presence.
Ribur Rinpoche meets the great lama….
At the time of my arrival in Lhasa, Pabongka Rinpoche was living at Tashi Choeling, a cave above Sera Monastery. We made an appointment and a few days later my mother, my chang-dzoe (the man in charge of my personal affairs), and I rode up on horseback. Although Rinpoche was expecting us that day, we had not arranged a time- Nevertheless, he had just had his own chang-dzoe prepare tea and sweet rice, which freshly awaited our arrival. This convinced me that Rinpoche was clairvoyant, a manifestation of the all-seeing Vajradhara himself.
After we had eaten it was time to visit Rinpoche. I remember this as if it were today. A narrow staircase led up to Pabongka Rinpoche’s tiny room, where he was sitting on his bed. He looked just like his pictures — short and fat! He said, “I knew you were coming — now we have met,” and stroked the sides of my face. While I was sitting there a new geshe from Sera came in to offer Rinpoche a special tsampa dish that is made only at the time of receiving the geshe degree. Rinpoche remarked how auspicious it was that this new geshe had come while I was there and had him fill my bowl just like his own. You can imagine what that did to my mind!