Lobzang Chökyi Gyaltsen

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Lobzang Chökyi Gyaltsen

Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen (Tib. བློ་བཟང་ཆོས་ཀྱི་རྒྱལ་མཚན་, Wyl. blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan), the First Panchen Lama (1570-1662), was recognised by Khedrup Sangyé Yeshe, a direct student of his predecessor, Wensa Lobsang Döndrup. Aged 17 he entered Tashilhunpo Monastery and took full ordination when he was twenty-two. Nine years later, aged 31, he became Abbot.

In 1604, in Drepung Monastery, he gave many special instructions to the Fourth Dalai Lama, Yönten Gyatso in both Sutra and Tantra and gave him full ordination.

With the passing away of the Fourth Dalai Lama in 1616 he undertook the search for his reincarnation and declared the boy born in Chonggyé as the true incarnation, he officiated at his hair-cutting ceremony naming him Lobsang Gyatso. He also gave him novice ordination in 1625 and then full ordination in 1638 and taught him extensively from the Sutras and Tantras.

In 1620 he mediated in the war between the ruler of Tsang and the Mongols. He acted as a mediator between the Gelugpas and Karma Kagyüpas who had become embroiled in bloody political struggles. In this way he contributed greatly to peace in Tibet.

When the Fifth Dalai Lama became ruler of Tibet he acted as his advisor, travelling back and forth between Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatsé and Lhasa. In gratitude for his distinguished services and in recognition of his achievements as a scholar, the Fifth Dalai Lama gave his tutor the seat of Tashilhunpo Monastery and granted him the title of Panchen Lama.

He was also Abbot of Shalu Monastery for twenty years and composed five volumes of commentaries on the sutras and tantras and amongst the Gelugpas he was regarded as an equal to Tsongkhapa himself.

He wrote biographies of Subhuti, King Yasas, Abhayakaragupta, Sakya Pandita and Yungton Dorje Pal, all previous incarnations of the Panchen Lamas.

He continued to be Abbot of Tashilhunpo until he passed away, aged 92, in 1662.

Further Reading

  • E. Gene Smith, 'The Autobiography of the First Paṇ chen Lama' in Among Tibetan Texts, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001

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