About Panchen Rinpoche

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The Lineage of the Panchen Lamas

The Panchen Lama, a manifestation of Buddha Amitabha, ranks as the highest Tibetan Buddhist religious figure next to His Holiness the The Panchen Lama, a manifestation of Buddha Amitabha, ranks as the highest Tibetan Buddhist religious figure next to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The title Panchen means great scholar, and is derived from the Sanskrit term Pandita meaning scholar, and Tibetan word chen-po meaning great.

The Panchen Lama lineage dates back to 1385, when the first Panchen Lama Khedrup Geleg Pal Sangpo lived, and since then, Tibetan history has seen the seamless reincarnations of Panchen Lamas until today. Traditionally, the abbots of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, which was built in Shigatse by His Holiness the first Dalai Lama, were known as Panchen, owing to their scholarly reputation. In the 17th century, His Holiness the 5th Dalai Lama gave his teacher, Lobsang Choekyi Gyaltsen, the then abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, the title ofPanchen Lama, and declared that he would be reincarnated in a child, and that he would continue to be reborn in an unbroken lineage of successors. 

From centuries past, an interesting relationship has existed between the two most senior religious leaders of the Gelug sect: the elder acting as the spiritual teacher of the younger; and the younger leading the search for the new incarnation after the passing of the elder. Herein, lies the significance of the role of the Panchen Lama, who plays a significant role in the search for and identification of the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, just as the Dalai Lama leads the search for and identification of the Panchen Lama’s reincarnation 


(February 19, 1938 – January 28, 1989)

"The 10th Panchen Lama is an extraordinarily fearless Tibetan who showed unwavering courage to work for the general cause of Tibet and its people. Panchen Lama was someone who held firm conviction to fight for the truth. If the 10th Panchen Lama had still been alive, he would
have certainly made far more contribution to the cause of Tibet." -- His Holiness the Dalai Lama, 2009

His Holiness the Xth Panchen Lama, Lobsang Trinley Lhundrup Choekyi Gyaltsen, was a key figure in the struggle to preserve Tibetan cultural and religious traditions and to promote Tibetan autonomy under Chinese occupation. Born in Amdo, Eastern Tibet, in 1938, he was recognized as the reincarnation of the 9th Panchen Lama by Alak Lakho Rinpoche, and in 1951 was confirmed by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama as the 10th Panchen Lama. In 1952, the Panchen Lama met the Dalai Lama in Lhasa and then took up his seat in Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, Tibet.

The 10th Panchen Lama was 21 years old in 1959 when he decided to remain in Tibet even after the Chinese occupation. The Chinese authorities appointed him theVice Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which effectively made him the most senior leader in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Whilst maintaining good relations with the Chinese, the Panchen Lama was skilful in promoting the welfare of the Tibetan people and championing for their rights.

In his capacity as Vice Chairman, the 10th Panchen Lama travelled extensively between the Tibetan countryside and Beijing documenting the conditions of Tibetans living under Chinese rule. His observations during these tours made him realize that the Communist Chinese were developing a strategy which would destroy Tibetan culture, deny their stated fundamental policies of no racial discrimination and the freedom to practice religion. These observations formed the basis of his renowned 70,000 character petition that was submitted to Mao Zedong in 1962, and demanded that the Chinese Government investigate its Tibet policy.

The petition, which was fiercely critical of the Chinese policy in Tibet, met with violent reaction from Mao and the Communist Party, causing the 10th Panchen Lama to be condemned without trial within two years of his submitting the petition. Mao called the 10th Panchen Lama’s 70,000
Character Petition a poisoned arrow, as it was a daring criticism of the Chinese occupation of Tibet and touched on all aspects of life in Tibet ranging from the misguided agricultural reforms to religious persecution and systemic racism.

The Panchen Lama was then accused of being anti-Chinese and of engaging in counter-revolutionary activities. In 1964, as a public meeting in Lhasa, the Panchen Lama was removed from all public positions of authority. He was openly criticized and humiliated and later taken to China. In 1966, the Panchen Lama was subjected to a series of 'struggle session' in Beijing. 

The Panchen Lama spent the following 14 years in prison or under house arrest. In 1982, the 10th Panchen Lama was finally allowed to return to Tibet, and soon after his return, he travelled widely in the three regions of Tibet – Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang – urging Tibetans to keep alive the spirit of Tibet in them, and to "Be Tibetan," and "Be for the Tibetan Cause."

As a result of the Panchen Lama's increasing concern over the hazards to Tibetan cultural, religious and linguistic tradition from China's Tibet policies, he became a champion of these rights for the Tibetan people. With his intervention, the Tibetan language was taught in schools in
occupied Tibet, and the Panchen Lama was notorious for making surprise inspections of schools, as he endeavored to ensure that the best standards of teaching were being met.

In addition, the Panchen Lama took a keen interest in the development projects that had been started for Tibetans, and made regular inspections of these centers to study their progress as well as to ensure that the Tibetan people were the beneficiaries of these initiatives.

The Panchen Lama was instrumental in restoring many of the Buddhist statues and holy texts to Tibetan monasteries of Tibet, while playing a key role in the reconstruction of monasteries that were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. He openly challenged the Chinese authorities to ensure these basic rights were granted to Tibetans, and as a result was subjected to unimaginable physical and mental torture at the hands of
the Chinese.

During his last visit to Tibet in 1989, the Panchen Lama gave an extraordinary public speech in Shigatse where he publicly declared his loyalty to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and openly criticized the Chinese leadership’s policies in Tibet. Shortly after the address, the 10th Panchen Lama died in the Dechen Kelsang Phodrang in Shigatse, at the age of 51, under suspicious circumstances.

The 10th Panchen Lama’s sudden death was a severe blow to the Tibetan nation. Although the cause of his death is uncertain, there has never been a public investigation. In his lifetime, the 10th Panchen Lama was dedicated to fighting for religious freedom, improving education and acceptance of Tibetan as the official language, through both negotiations and open confrontation with the Chinese leadership. Thus, he is rightly remembered by the Tibetan people as one of Tibet’s greatest martyrs.


Khedrup Geleg Pelsang - (1385-1438) 

Sonam Choklang  - (1439-1504) 

Ensapa Losang Dhondrup - (1505-1566)

Lobsang Choekyi Gyaltsen -  (1570-1662)

Lobsang Yeshe  -  (1663-1737)

Palden Yeshi -  (1738-1780)

Tenpe Nyima -(1782-1853)

Tenpe Wangchuk - (1855-1882)

Chökyi Nyima - (1883-1937)

Chökyi Gyaltsen -  (1938-1989) 

Tenzin Gendün Yeshe Trinley Phuntsog - (April 25, 1989- ?)

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