Pachen Dolma was the only child of a local chieftain from Gonjo in the province of Kham in eastern Tibet. Her father had a younger brother, Pomda Yonten. She grew up surrounded by lamas and a loving family. She learned to ride and shoot, even as she was drawn toward a spiritual life.
At 17, she overheard her parents discussing a man they were going to force her to marry. She was not going to marry. She got help from one of her parents’ servants when she threatened to jump off the roof, and she went to a monastery. Her father finally relented and said she didn’t have to marry; only then did she agree to come home.