Potowa Rinchen Sel

ISSN 2332-077X

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Potowa Rinchen Sel b.1027 - d.1105

Name Variants: Potopa Rinchen Sel; Potowa Rinchen Sel Chokle Namgyel; Rinchen Sel

Potowa Rinchen Sel Chokle Namgyel (po to ba rin chen gsal phyogs las rnam rgyal) was born in either 1027 or 1031. He ordained at Gyel Lhakang (rgyal lha khang) in the presence of Lan Tsuljang (glan tshul byang, d.u.) and served as steward for Drayab Monastery (brags rgyab) in Penyul ('phan yul).

At the age of twenty-eight, in 1058, Potowa went to Reting Monastery (rwa sgreng) and became one of three main disciples of Dromton Gyelwa Jungne ('brom ston rgyal ba 'byung gnas, 1005-1064), the main disciple of Atisha Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna (c.982-1054). The other two were Puchungwa Zhonnu Gyeltsen (phu chung ba gzhon nu rgyal mtshan, 1031-1106) and Chennga Tsultrim Bar (spyan snga tshul khrims 'bar, 1038-1103.

Dromton passed away six years later, in 1064, after which Potowa went into retreat for roughly fifteen years. At the age of fifty he began teaching, staying at Kandrak (mkhan grags), Drolag (sgro lag), and Tartok (mthar thog), all in Penyul, as well as the site where Taklungtangpa Tashi Pel (stag lung thang pa bkra shis dpal, b. 1142) would late found Taklung (stag lung) Monastery. Later in life he founded the Poto Monastery (po to) in Penyul. He also served as abbot of Reting Monastery following Gonpawa Wangchuj Gyeltsen (dgon pa ba dbang phyug rgyal mtshan, 1016-1082).

Potowa taught what were known as the Six Basic Texts of the Kadampa: the Mahāyānasutra-alamkara, the Bodhisattvabhumi, the Shikshasamuccaya, the Bodhisattva-avatara, the Jataka, and the Udanavarga, as well as Atisha's Bodhipatapradipa.

According to the Blue Annals, Potowa's tenure as abbot of Reting  ended after he fell victim to slander  spread by an unnamed Khampa. His disciple Yeshe Bar (ye shes 'bar) followed his master, who had slipped out of the monastery at night, and demanded an explanation, saying, "What is this conduct of the acarya?" Potowa retorted that it was not for a disciple to question the activities of his master, and he continued on his way.




Roesler, Ulrike, and Hans Ulrich Roesler. 2004. Kadampa Sites of Phempo: A Guide to Some Early Buddhist Monasteries in central Tibet. Kathmandu: Vajra Publications.

Tshe mchog gling yongs 'dzin ye shes rgyal mtshan. 1970 (1787). Biographies of Eminent Gurus in the Transmission Lineages of the teachings of the Graduated Path, being the text of: Byang chub Lam gyi Rim pa'i Bla ma Brgyud pa'i Rnam par Thar pa Rgyal mtshan Mdzes pa'i Rgyan Mchog Phul byung Nor bu'i Phreng ba. New Delhi: Ngawang Gelek Demo, vol 1, pp. 475, ff.

Roerich, George, trans. 1996. The Blue Annals. 2nd ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, pp 263-264, 268-269.


Alexander Gardner
December 2009