Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin was born in Lhasa, Tibet in 1921 and entered Sera Monastery there at
an early age. He proceeded through the rigorous 25 year program of monastic studies under the guidance of Pabongka Rinpoche and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. Upon successful completion of public examination by the best scholars of the day, Rinpoche was awarded the highest degree of Hlarampa Geshe (Doctor of Theology) with honors, and is one of the last living Hlarampa Geshes educated in Tibet. He proved to be the best debater of his graduation year in all of Tibet, making him the “First among the First.”
Khen Rinpoche then entered Gyu Mey Tantric College, where he completed its course of advanced tantric studies and attained a high-ranking administrative position. In 1959 Rinpoche escaped from Tibet into India along with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He became actively involved in resettlement, and compiled a series of textbooks used in the Tibetan refugee schools.
Khen Rinpoche came to the United States in 1972 and became Abbot of Rashi Gempil Ling Temple in New Jersey. After going to South India in 1991 and serving as Abbot of Sera Mey monastery for some time, he returned to the United States. Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin was a lifetime director and an abbot emeritus of Sera Mey monastery. Khen Rinpoche passed on from this life on Je Tsongkapa Day, Dec. 7, 2004
Like Ribur Rinpoche, Khen Rinpoche was an actual disciple of Je Pabongka, so his words are very precious, giving us a direct impression of this extraordinary master….
(From the Forward to The Principal Teachings of Buddhism by Tsongkhapa, with a commentary by Pabongka Rinpoche, translated by Geshe Lobsang Tharchin, Mahayana Sutra and Tantra Press, 1998, all emphasis and formatting mine…)
It was at this time that the glorious Pabongka Rinpoche, the author of the commentary you are about to read, came into my life. Like me he had as a young man taken his course of studies at the Sera Mey College of Sera Monastery; in fact, he was from the same house, Gyalrong. Pabongka Rinpoche was born in 1878, at a town called Tsawa Li in the Yeru Shang district of the state of Tsang, north of Lhasa.
Later on, the youngster was found to be a reincarnation of the Changkya line, which included the illustrious scholar Changkya Rolpay Dorje (1717-1786). The lamas of this line had done much teaching in the regions of Mongolia and China—even in the court of the Chinese emperor himself—and the name “Changkya” had very strong Chinese connotations. Already in those days the Tibetan government and people were sensitive to the pressures put on us by our powerful neighbor to the east, so the name “Changkya” was ruled out, and the boy declared to be “Pabongka” instead. Pabongka, also known as Parongka, is a large and famous rock-formation about three miles’ walk from our Sera Monastery. The very word “pabong” means in our language a large boulder, or mass of rock.
His family were of the nobility and owned a modest estate called Chappel Gershi. As a child he exhibited unusual qualities and in his seventh year was taken before Sharpa Chuje Lobsang Dargye, one of the leading religious figures of the day. The lama felt sure that the boy must be a reincarnated saint, and even went so far as to examine him to see if he were the rebirth of his own late teacher. He was not, but the sage foretold that if the child were placed in the Gyalrong House of Sera Mey College, something wonderful would happen with him in the future.