Shangkarwa Rinchen Gyaltsen was born to parents Ponyig Zangpopal and Josema Palchen in the female water snake year. A tragic coinciding of circumstances caused both his parents to pass away when he was just three years old. He was placed under the care of two monks, Sakya Senge and his uncle, Rinchen Öser, who taught him how to read and write. At the age of eight, Shangkarwa took monk’s vows, and four years later he went to a large temple in Zamtsar, to take further vows before the abbot Zepa Gyaltsen and Sakya Pal. At this auspicious time he received the name Shangkarwa.
He took full ordination at the age of twenty and studied extensively with several Lamas. Shangkarwa received empowerments from Lama Buton, who transmitted to him his wisdom mind stream. From the great Lama Changchub Tsemo he received the four complete empowerments of Guhyasamaya. In all, Shangkarwa received various tantric commentaries more than twenty times. Following his uncle’s advice he went to seek out the great scholar Khyungpo Tsultrim Gon and received the practices of Clear Light, Dream Yoga, and so on. Unfortunately, Lama Tsultrim Gon passed away before Shangkarwa could receive the entire Shangpa lineage teachings. It was Ridro Rechen who transmitted the entire cycle of Shangpa teachings to him and entrusted him with responsibility for the lineage. Shangkarwa mastered the practices of Clear Light and Dream Yoga, and his realisations were so powerful as to give him to control over the external elements.
Shangkarwa passed away at the age of eighty two amongst numerous auspicious signs.