Venerable Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche at the deer park in Sarnath, in Uttar Pradesh, India in December 2006.
Venerable Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche (1942-2010) was one of the most qualified scholars and teachers of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition in the 20th century.
He entered Gochen Monastery at the age of six, where he began intensive training in all facets of Tibetan Buddhism. At age 12 he entered Riwoche Monastery, training to become a Khenpo. In 1960 he had to flee to India. There, for over 15 years, he was in charge of the Nyingmapa Department at the Central Institute of Higher Studies in Varanasi, as well as being a founding member of that Institute. In the 1980’s he began teaching at various centers of Dudjom Rinpoche in the West. In 1988, along with his brother, Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche, who acts as his translator, he founded the Padmasambhava Buddhist Centers, which now have branches in the U.S., India, and Russia.
Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche has received many honors for his scholarship from His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche and other Tibetan leaders. He is fully versed in many areas of Buddhist study and is the author of several learned works and Tibetan language books. He is also considered a master of Dzogchen, the highest tradition of meditation practice in Tibetan Buddhism.
Sarnath, located just 12 km from the Hindu holy city of Varanasi, is the site of the deer park where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma after his enlightenment. Sarnath is one of four holy Buddhist sites sanctioned by the Buddha himself for pilgrimage. The other three sites are: Lumbini (birth); Bodh Gaya (enlightenment); and Kushinagar (death).
Sarnath has previously been known as Mrigadava, “deer park,” and Isipatana, meaning the place where holy men fell to earth. The latter name is based in the legend that when the Buddha was born, devas came down to announce it to 500 holy men. The holy men all rose into the air and disappeared and their relics fell to the ground.
The current name Sarnath, from Saranganath, means “Lord of the Deer” and relates to another old Buddhist story in which the Bodhisattva is a deer and offers his life to a king instead of the doe he is planning to kill. The king is so moved that he creates the park as a sanctuary for deer.
© Djamilla Cochran | DC Photos