Lama Thubten Yeshe was born in Tibet in 1935, not far from the town of Tolung Dechen.
Two hours away by horse was the Ci-me Lung Gompa, home to about 100 nuns of the
Gelug tradition. It had been a few years since their learned abbess and Guru had passed
away, when Nenung Pawo Rinpoche, a Kagyü Lama widely famed for his psychic powers
came by their convent. They approached him and asked, "where is our Guru now?" He
answered that in a nearby village there was a boy born at such and such a time, and that if
they investigated they would discover that he was their incarnated abbess. Following his
advice, they found the young Lama Yeshe to whom they brought many offerings and gave
the name Thondrub Dorje.
Afterwards, the nuns would often take the young boy back to their convent to attend the
various ceremonies and other religious functions held there. During these visits, which
could last for days at a time, he often stayed in the shrine room and attended services with
them. The nuns would also frequently visit his parents' home where he was taught the
alphabet, grammar and reading by his uncle Ngawang Norbu, a student Geshe from Sera
Even though the young boy loved his parents very much, he felt that their life was full of
suffering and did not want to live as they did. From a very early age he expressed a desire
to lead a religious life. Whenever a monk would visit their home, he would beg to leave
with him and to join a monastery. Finally, when he was six years old, he received his
parents permission to join Sera Je, a college in one of the great Gelug Monastic centres in
the vicinity of Lhasa. He was taken there by his uncle, who promised the young boys
mother that he would take good care of him. The nuns offered him robes and the other
necessities of life that he would require at Sera, while his uncle supervised him strictly and
made him study very hard.
He stayed at Sera until he was twenty five years old. There he received spiritual
instruction based on the educational traditions brought from India to Tibet over a
thousand years ago. From Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, the Junior Tutor to His Holiness the
Dalai Lama, he received teachings on the Lam-Rim, graded path to Enlightenment which
outlines the entire Sutra path to Buddhahood. In addition, he received many Tantric
initiations and discourses from both the Junior Tutor and the Senior Tutor, Kyabje Ling
Rinpoche and from many other great Lamas and meditation masters.
At the age of eight, he was ordained as a novice monk by Ven. Purchog Jampa Rinpoche.
During all of his training, one of Lama Yeshe's recurring prayers was to be able one day to
bring the peaceful benefits of spiritual practice to those ignorant of the Dharma.
This phase of his education came to an end in 1959. As Lama Yeshe himself said, "In that
year the Chinese kindly told us that it was time to leave Tibet and to meet the outside
world." Escaping through Bhutan, he eventually reached northeast India where he met up
with many other Tibetan refugees. At the Tibetan settlement of Buxadaur, he
continued his studies.
One of Lama Yeshe's Gurus in both Tibet and Buxadaur, was Geshe Rabten, a highly
learned practitioner famous for his single pointed concentration and powers of logic. This
compassionate Guru had a disciple named
Thubten Zopa Rinpoche,
and at Geshe Rabten's
suggestion, Zopa Rinpoche began to receive additional instruction from Lama Yeshe.
Zopa Rinpoche was a young boy at this time and the servant caring for him wanted very
much to entrust him permanently to Lama Yeshe. Upon consultation with Kyabje Trijang
Rinpoche, this arrangement was decided upon and they were together for the remainder of
Lama Yeshe's life.
Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa met Zina, their first Western student in Darjeeling in
1965. Later they travelled to Nepal where they lived at Boudhanath near
Kathmandu. There, they began
to meet many more Western students and established Kopan Monastery.
From these first students
centres of the 'Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition',
known as the
began to grow. Today, there are over 110 around the world.
Lama Yeshe passed away on March 3rd 1984 after a serious four
month illness. Two valves in his heart were
faulty, and it was enlarged to twice its normal size.
Lama Yeshe had said of his
condition, which was known of as early as 1974, that he
was 'alive only through the power of mantra'.
After his passing, his reincarnation was found in the
form of young Spanish boy,
Lama Tenzin Osel
who has been officially recognised as such by His Holiness
the XIVth Dalai Lama of Tibet.
Lama Yeshe's activities were vast and through his efforts,
Dharma has flourished around the world. The activities that he
performed were the activities of all holy beings.
Root Institute for Wisdom Culture
Bodhgaya, Gaya Dist.
Bihar 824 231
I N D I A