The first Thrangu Rinpoche, Sherab Tenpay Gyaltsen was born in the Male Fire Dragon Year of the seventh cycle (1436). The names of his parents and so forth are not known. However this was the time of the Sixth Karmapa Thongwa Donden who was born in 1416.
When the Karmapa went to Karma Gon, the second of his three monasteries, he saw rituals from other traditions being recited and asked what their purpose was. Since there were no such texts for his own tradition, he was asked about their origin. as a result, the Karmapa prepared the ritual texts for the sadhanas and mandala rituals of Vajra Varahi, Jinasagara and so forth. At that time the Thrangu lama had the opportunity to receive the empowerments, transmissions and key instructions.
The 6th Karmapa passed away at the age of thirty-eight in the Water Bird Year (1453). The Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso was born in the Male Fire Dog Year (1454) and the Thrangu Lama became a disciple whom he cared for affectionately.
The Karmapa went to Tsarshi Lhudrup Monastery (whose ruins can still be seen today) near Thrangu in 1463 when he was ten years old. The Thrangu lama was definitely one of the Karmapa’s attendants at that time and accompanied him to the site which would later become Thrangu Monastery. The Thrangu lama developed an exceptional resolve and made great aspirations although he was not able to found the monastery at that time.
Later in the Male Wood Horse Year (1474) when the Karmapa was twenty-one, they returned to that area by way of Surmang and established Thrangu Monastery. This area is now known as Qinghai. The Karmapa said “Plant a Dharma community on a sun seat” and so at the age of thirty-nine the Thrangu Lama Sherab Tenpay Gyaltsen founded a monastery on the site known to this day as Nyilung Nang or “In Sun Valley”. The location was the birthplace of Kyopa Jigten Sumgon, the founder of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage and also the site of the large Kyura Monastery until Jigten Sumgon moved to Drikung Monastery in Central Tibet. Thus it was a place with both blessings and history.
A group of the 7th Karmapa’s students who had strong meditation practice lived in a multi colored tent and were called “The ones in the colorful (thra) tent (gur). They became the sangha of the new monastery so it was named Thragur or “colorful tent”. A few generations later the spelling changed to Thrangu.
The Thrangu Sherab Tenpay Gyaltsen built a temple and the practices of the five deities of Vajra Varahi and the nine deities of the Jinasagara that came from the 6th Karmapa flourished there. These practices continue without decline to this day. Sherab Tenpay Gyaltsen performed great benefit for Buddhism and beings until passing away at the age of fifty-two in the Fire Sheep of the eighth cycle (1487)
Note: The Traleg Rinpoches, the Lodro Nyima Tulkus and the Zuru Tulkus are the four main incarnations of Thrangu Monastery along with Thrangu Rinpoche.