[[Image:Khedrup Je.jpg|thumb|right|300px|Khedrup Je, 1st Panchen Lama)]
The Panchen Lama (Tibetan: པན་ཆེན་བླ་མ, Wylie: pan-chen bla-ma, ZYPY: Bainqên Lama, simplified Chinese: 班禅喇嘛; traditional Chinese: 班禪喇嘛), or Panchen Erdeni (Tibetan: པན་ཆེན་ཨེར་ཏེ་ནི།, ZYPY: Bänqên Erdê'ni; simplified
Chinese: 班禅额尔德尼; traditional Chinese: 班禪額爾德尼), is the highest ranking Lama after the Dalai Lama in the Gelugpa (Dge-lugs-pa) lineage of Tibetan Buddhism (this lineage controlled western Tibet from the 16th century until the 1959 Tibetan Rebellion). The present (11th) incarnation of the Panchen Lama is a matter of controversy: the People's Republic of China asserts it is Gyancain Norbu, while the 14th Dalai Lama asserted it was [[Gedhun
Choekyi Nyima]] on May 14, 1995. The latter vanished from public eye shortly after being named, aged six. Chinese authorities stated that Gedhun had been taken into protective custody from those that would spirit him into exile and is now safe. Tibetans and human rights groups continue to campaign for his release.
==History of the Panchen Lama==
The successive Panchen Lamas form a tulku reincarnation lineage which are said to be the incarnations of Amitabha Buddha. The title, meaning "Great Scholar", is a Tibetan contraction of the Sanskrit paṇḍita (scholar) and the Tibetan chenpo (great). The Panchen Lama traditionally lived in Tashilhunpo Monastery (Teshu-lumbo) in Shigatse. From the name of this monastery, the Europeans referred to the Panchen Lama as the Tashi-Lama (or spelled Tesho-Lama or Teshu-Lama).
The recognition of Panchen Lamas has always been a matter involving the Dalai Lama. The 10th Panchen Lama himself declared, as cited by an official Chinese review that "according to Tibetan tradition, the confirmation of either the Dalai or Panchen must be mutually recognized." The involvement of China in this affair is seen by some as a political ploy to try to gain control over the recognition
of the next Dalai Lama , and to strengthen their hold over the future of Tibet and its governance. China claims however, that their involvement does not break with tradition in that the final decision about the recognition of both the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama traditionally rested in the hands of the Chinese emperor. For instance, after 1792, the Golden Urn was thought to have been
used in selecting the 10th, 11th and 12th Dalai Lamas; but 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso has more recently explained that this was only really used in selection of the 11th. A controversy existed between the Tibetan government and supporters of Chökyi Gyaltsen during the recognition of the 10th Panchen Lama.
Ma Bufang patronized the 10th Panchen Lama, and the Lamaist Red Sect against the Dalai Lama. Qinghai served as a "sanctuary" for Red Sect members, Ma Bufang allowed Kumbum Monastery to be totally self-governed by the Panchen Lama. The [[10th
Panchen Lama]], who was exiled from Tibet by the Dalai Lama's government, wanted to seek revenge by leading an army against Tibet in September 1949. He asked for help from Ma Bufang. Ma cooperated with the Panchen Lama against the Dalai Lama's regime in Tibet. The
Panchen Lama stayed in Qinghai. Ma tried to persuade the Panchen Lama to come with the Kuomintang government to Taiwan when the Communist victory approached, but the Panchen Lama decided to defect to the Communists instead. The Panchen Lama, unlike the Dalai Lamat to exert control in decision making.
==Relation to the Dalai Lama Lineage==
The Panchen Lama bears part of the responsibility or the monk-regent for finding the incarnation of the Dalai Lama and vice versa. In the case of the Panchen Lama, the procedures traditionally involve a final selection process by the Dalai Lama. This has been the tradition since the Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang, recognized his teacher [[Wikipedia:Choekyi Gyaltsen,
10th Panchen Lama|Lobsang Choekyi Gyaltse]]n as the Panchen (Great Scholar) Lama of Tashilhunpo Monastery (Bkra-shis Lhung-po) in Shigatse (Gzhis-ka rtse). With this appointment, Lobsang Choekyi Gyaltsen's three previous
incarnations were posthumously recognised as Panchen Lamas. The Fifth Dalai Lama also recognized Panchen Lobsang Yeshe (Blo-bzang Ye-shes) as the Fifth Panchen Lama. The Seventh Dalai Lama recognized the Sixth Panchen Lama, who in turn recognized the Eighth Dalai Lama. Similarly, the Eighth Dalai Lama recognised the Seventh Panchen Lama.
Choekyi Gyaltsen, the 10th Panchen Lama, became the most important political and religious figure in Tibet following the 14th Dalai Lama's escape to India in 1959. In April, 1959 the 10th Panchen Lama sent a telegram to Beijing expressing his support for suppressing the 1959 rebellion. “He also called on Tibetans to support the Chinese government.” However, in 1964, he was imprisoned. His
situation worsened when the Cultural Revolution began. The Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng wrote in March 1979 a letter denouncing the inhumane conditions of the Chinese Qincheng Prison where the late Panchen Lama was imprisoned. In October 1977, he was released but held under house arrest in 1982. In 1979, he married a Han Chinese woman and in 1983 they had a daughter, which is not
unusual as several Gelug high lamas (Gelek Rinpoche in the US and Dagyab Rinpoche in Germany, among others) have chosen a layman's lifestyle, both inside China and in exile; also, the 6th Dalai Lama, also a Gelugpa, renounced his monk vows and led not only a layman's but a playboy's lifestyle, but still is highly revered by Tibetans. In 1989, the [[10th
Panchen Lama]] died suddenly in Shigatse, Tibet, at the age of 51, shortly after giving a speech critical of the Chinese neglect for the religion and culture of the Tibetans. His daughter, now a young woman, is Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo, better known as "Renji".
==Lineage of the Panchen Lamas==
In the lineage of the Tibetan Panchen Lamas there were considered to be four Indian and three Tibetan incarnations of Amitabha Buddha before Khedrup Gelek Pelzang, who is recognised as the 1st Panchen Lama. The lineage starts with Subhuti, one of the original disciples of Gautama Buddha. Gö Lotsawa is considered to be the first Tibetan incarnation of Amitabha Buddha in this line.
The Panchen Lama's political significance
Monastic figures had historically held important roles in the social and political makeup of Tibet, and though these roles have diminished since 1959, many Tibetans continue to regard the Panchen Lama as a significant political, as well as spiritual figure
due to the role he traditionally plays in selecting the next Dalai Lama. The political significance of the role is also utilised by the Chinese state. Tibet support groups have argued that the Chinese government seeks to install its own choice of Dalai Lama when Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lamas and that for this reason the Dalai Lama's choice of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima went missing at
the age of six, to be replaced by the Chinese state's choice, Gyancain Norbu. If this tactic is accurate, the announcement made by the Dalai Lama on 10 March 2011 that he will step down from his political role may result in a change of policy regarding the two disputed candidates.
==List of Panchen Lamas==
|3.||Ensapa Lobsang Döndrup||1505–1568|
|4.||Lobsang Chökyi Gyalsten||1570–1662|
|6.||Lobsang Palden Yeshe||1738–1780|
|7.||Palden Tenpai Nyima||1782–1853|
|9.||Thubten Chökyi Nyima||1883–1937|
|10.||Lobsang Trinley Lhündrub Chökyi Gyaltsen||1938–1989|
|11.||Gedhun Choekyi Nyima||1989–|