Gyalsey Pomdrakpa (1170-1249) was born Dri Dampa Chochuk in Central Tibet. At the age of five, he started his education, and at the age of nine, he received the mother Tantra transmissions from Nyen Lhakhang Gangpo. When he was fourteen, he heard the fame of the great master, Drogon Rechen. Upon hearing his name, a special meditative experience arose within him and he had a vision of red dakinis who prophesized Drogon Rechen as his teacher. Within ten days, he went to visit Drogon Rechen and received the full monastic ordination and was named Sonam Dorje. From that moment, he followed Drogon Rechen as his principal teacher, from whom he received many abhishekas. He practiced with great diligence for many years. Pomdrakpa had many visions of the wisdom deities during abhishekas and practice sessions, as well as a vision of the First Karmapa who gave him important instructions. From Drogon Rechen, he received the full Kagyu transmission and became the lineage-holder.
Pomdrakpa received the full Kagyu teachings, and became a gifted master. Before the passing away, Drogon Rechen told Pomdrakpa and Lodro Rinchen that they were the masters of the teachings, who could each hold this lineage. He also predicted that Pomdrakpa's activities would flourish, and the lineage would prosper even more during the time of his disciples and afterwards in the future. During that time, Pomdrakpa saw his teacher as the Buddha Shakyamuni surrounded by countless buddhas. This is said to be the auspicious sign of becoming the main lineage holder.
Gyalsey Pomdrakpa's activities of benefiting beings flourished as predicted, and he passed on the lineage transmission to the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi.