The Panchen Lamas (Wyl. paN chen bla ma), or Panchen Ertini (Wyl. paN chen er ti ni), are the abbot of Tashilhunpo Monastery, and are the leading reincarnated masters of the Gelugpa tradition and on the Tibetan political scene together with the Dalai Lamas. Traditionally the Dalai Lamas are involved in the recognition of the Panchen Lamas, and the Panchen Lamas in the recognition of the Dalai Lamas. The Panchen Lamas train the young Dalai Lamas, and when the Dalai Lamas come of age they teach the younger incarnation of the Panchen Lamas.
Panchen means great (chen) scholars (pan for the sanskrit paṇḍita). Traditionally the masters of Tashi Lungpo monastery were chosen for their spiritual maturity and learnedness, and where therefore called Panchen. The Great Fifth Dalai Lama recognized Lobzang Yeshe as the reincarnation of his master Panchen Lobzang Chökyi Gyaltsen of Tahsilhunpo, thus initiating the Panchen Lama Incarnation Line. The previous three incarnation of Lobzang Chökyi Gyaltsen were posthumously recognized as the first three Panchen Lamas.
The Panchen Lamas are also called Panchen Ertini. "Ertini" is the Mongolian term for the Tibetan Rinpoche, "Precious One". The name was given in 1714 to the fifth Panchen Lama Lobzang Yeshe after the Manchu emperor kept praising him, and in respect calling him Ertini. For then on the Panchen Lamas were equally called Panchen Ertini.