A Tribute To H.E. Gonsar Tulku Rinpoche

H.E. Gonsar Tulku Rinpoche

In the great assembly of Gelugpa Masters, His Eminence Gonsar Rinpoche stands out, not only as an erudite scholar in his own right, but also for his crucial role in the protection, tutoring and nurturing of two of the most important masters of the modern era who represent the pure lineage of Je Tsongkapa, His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Choktrul Rinpoche and His Eminence Tenzin Rabgya Rinpoche.



His Eminence the Fifth Gonsar Rinpoche was born in Shigatse, Tibet in 1949 to an aristocratic family known to be descendants of the ancient Tibetan kings. Rinpoche’s father held the honorable position of Governor of the Tsang province in Western Tibet. When Rinpoche was three years old, he was recognized as the present incarnation in the exalted line of Gonsar Tulkus, and in fact confirmed by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama himself.

The first Gonsar Rinpoche lived during the time of the 7th Dalai Lama and was famous for his particularly wise and comprehensive teachings of the complete path to enlightenment. The story of the first Gonsar Rinpoche is a famous one. It is said that during the time of the 7th Dalai Lama, a poor young man from Amdo sought to be accepted into the house of one of his countrymen in Sera monastery near Lhasa. However, due to his poor and shabby appearance, he was refused. Turning away from the house, he met an old woman in the grounds of the monastery who suggested to the young man that he might fare better if he tried another house named Chadrel. The old lady assured him that he would be accepted there.

The young man did as he was told, and after joining the monastery he showed great enthusiasm in his studies and very quickly displayed the extraordinary qualities of a great master. It is said that the old woman who had led the first Gonsar Rinpoche to his monastic college was an emanation of Palden Lhamo.

The young man spent a lot of time meditating in a cave in the mountains near Lhasa, the very site on which the Gonsar retreat monastery would eventually be built. When the people of Lhasa observed the new monastery, they began to refer to Rinpoche as ‘Gonsar’ which in Tibetan means ‘the lama of the new monastery‘.

In time, the first Gonsar Rinpoche became well-known as the great Master Ngawang Thöndrup and extensively served the teachings of the Buddha as the Abbot of Sera Je monastery and as one of the tutors of His Holiness the 8th Dalai Lama. This name has remained with the lineage of the Gonsar Rinpoches until today.

The line of Gonsar Rinpoches has produced many legendary figures. One of Gonsar Rinpoche’s past emanations was Yeshe Yang, a lay disciple of Padmasambhava, counted among his twenty-five main disciples. He is credited as having transcribed many of Padmasambhava’s treasures, and concealing many of them himself, thus earning his name Ba (sba, conceal) Yeshe Yang. He is said to have received the knowledge of the secret script directly from the dakinis, having traveled to their realm in a state of meditation. Yeshe Yang lived for a number of years at forested mountainsides with Sogpo Lhapel (sog po lha dpal), and is believed to have flown into the sky and disappeared.

The fourth Gonsar Rinpoche, the previous incarnation to the present one, also studied in Sera Monastery. After completing his Geshe studies and examinations in his early twenties, he travelled to Mongolia and became one of the greatest lamas amongst the later Buddhist masters of Mongolia. Teaching there for more than thirty years and frequently showing supernatural powers, he was greatly cherished by the population and almost all contemporary masters of Mongolia became his disciples. He returned to Tibet at the outbreak of the Bolshevik revolution and continued his vast activities there. The family of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama were amongst his distinguished disciples.

At the age of six, the present (5th) Gonsar Rinpoche commenced his traditional education in Sera Monastery under the guidance of the Venerable Geshe Rabten Rinpoche. Gonsar Rinpoche received many teachings and transmissions from a number of erudite and highly attained masters including H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche who was one of Rinpoche’s root gurus.

In 1959, Gonsar Rinpoche followed his teacher and many other Tibetans into exile in India, where he continued his education under the care of Geshe Rabten. In addition to completing his traditional studies, Rinpoche also learned English and Hindi, despite the hardships they had to endure for many years while living first at a refugee camp in Buxa, and later in Dharamsala.

In 1969, Gonsar Rinpoche began translating Geshe Rabten’s teachings into English. Due to many requests on the part of Geshe Rabten’s Western students, in 1974 Geshe Rabten and Gonsar Rinpoche went to Switzerland, where they founded The Center for Higher Tibetan Studies, Rabten Choeling.

When Geshe Rabten entered clear light in 1986, Gonsar Rinpoche assumed the responsibility of managing and guiding the students of Rabten Choeling as well as those of affiliated centers in Austria (Tashi Rabten), Germany and Italy, after having spent thirty three years as Geshe Rabten’s heart disciple. (It would also be Gonsar Rinpoche who would discover the reincarnation of his beloved guru three years later)

Around the same time, Rinpoche was appointed the Abbot of Zongkar Choede, a monastery in South India. Gonsar Rinpoche is also a co-founder of Dagom Gaden Tensung Ling Monastery in Indiana, USA which Rinpoche inaugurated on July 5th, 1998. At present, Gonsar Rinpoche is director of the center ‘Rabten Choeling’ in Mont-Pèlerin, as well as the centers in Austria and Germany.

Lama Yeshe, Gonsar Tulku Rinpoche, Lama Zopa and Geshe Rabten in Switzerland, 1975

All incarnations in the line of the Gonsar Tulkus are significant yogis of the Hayagriva Tantra and are well-known for their clear, precise and logical teachings. The first Gonsar Rinpoche was famous for his particularly vast and profound teachings on the complete path of mental development to full enlightenment. The present Gonsar Rinpoche is renowned as one of the very few contemporary masters capable of transmitting every aspect of the Buddha’s teachings as a clear and moving experience in Hindi, French, English, German and Tibetan to both Eastern and Western audiences.

All of us at DorjeShugden.com make this virtual offering of a butterlamp to the most erudite master, His Eminence Gonsar Rinpoche, requesting him to remain for another 1,000 years to continue turning the wheel of Dharma and benefiting countless beings.


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  1. Gonsar Rinpoche has a special fondness for animals too. He was interviewed on the subject of Tibetan Spaniels, a breed of dogs who often live in monasteries; they are often called “Lama dogs”. Gonsar Rinpoche explained about the karma of being reborn as animals and how we should treat animals well. http://tellingtonttouch.wordpress.com/2010/02/11/ttouch-prac-sandra-klein-interviews-venerable-gonsar-rinpoche-about-dogs-in-tibetan-monasteries/
    High lamas like Gonsar Rinpoche have so much compassion for all sentient beings. May he be blessed with good health and long life to continue turning the wheel of Dharma to benefit all beings.

  2. Comment from Gonsar Rinpoche re Dorje Shugden practice :- “We revere His Holiness; but we cannot abjure a belief that is hundreds of years “.

    Thank you Rinpoche for showing all of us good Guru devotion for you teachers who practice the great protector Dorje Shugden.
    Long life all Gurus !

  3. Yes really need to thank Gonsar Rinpoche for mentoring the current Trijang Rinpoche and Rabten Rinpoche. I must say I have really enjoyed the teaching given by the previous Rabten Rinpoche ~ The Perfection of Concentration


    Enjoy this video on Gonsar Rinpoche !!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjEShM9jO8Q

  4. Yes, much can be said in tribute to this great erudite Master and his essential role in spreading Tibetan Buddhism and , in particular, the Lineage teachings of Je Tsongkhapa in the West. Undoubtedly, he has been responsible for protecting, tutoring and nurturing two of the most important masters of the modern era who represent the pure lineage of Je Tsongkapa, His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Choktrul Rinpoche and His Eminence Tenzin Rabgya Rinpoche.

    However, his greater role, I feel, is in carrying on what was started by his root Guru, Geshe Rabten – that of spreading the dharma fearlessly and unrelentingly and enthusiastically in the West.When Geshe Rabten passed into clear light, he immediately took over this responsibility and commitment. Today, Gonsar Rinpoche is the director of Rabten Choeling as well as other Rabten centres across Europe.Dharma is spreading rapidly in Europe and the West, because great Shugden Lamas like H.E. Gonsar Rinpoche, made it their special commitment to do make sure that this would happen.

    I fold my hands in gratitude and great appreciation to this great Shugden Master, who has not let the ban on Shugden practice, affect his great work of spreading the Dharma with the help of the great Wisdom Protector Dorje Shugden.

  5. Dear Dalai Lama,

    Since you started the cruel ban against the 350 year Dorje Shugden practice, how has it benefit your Tibetan society and Buddhism in the world? Things have become worse and most educated Tibetans can see this. They don’t speak out not because they don’t see your ban as wrong, but you instill fear in them and not respect. It is like fear of a dictator. I am sorry to say so. Everyone is divided. There is no harmony. Before your ban there was more harmony and unity.

    By enacting the ban, you split the monasteries, split so many families, split regions in Tibet apart, split your disciples from you, split your own gurus from you, split Tibetan Buddhism apart. You have created so much disharmony.

    It is not democratic what you have done to ban a religion within your community. You always talk of tolerance and acceptance and democracy and yet you do not accept and tolerate something different from your beliefs. When people practice Dorje Shugden you ostracize them, ban them from seeing you, ban them from using Tibetan facilities. You know you have done that. There are videos that capture your speech and prove this point. You even had people expelled from monasteries just because they practice Dorje Shugden. Some of the monks you expelled have been in the monastery for over 40 years. Many older monks shed tears because of this.

    Many young educated Tibetans lost confidence in you as they saw the damage the Dorje Shugden ban created and they lose hope. Many have become free thinkers. They reject what you have done. So many people in the west left Buddhism because of the confusion you created with this ban against Dorje Shugden which is immoral.

    You could of had millions of people who practice Dorje Shugden to support, love and follow you, but you scared them away. They are hurt and very disappointed. They loved you and respected you deeply before the ban. It has been 60 years and you have failed to get Tibet back. Your biggest failure is not getting Tibet back after 57 years in exile. Now you are begging China to allow you to return to Tibet to the disappointment of thousands of people who fought for a free Tibet believing in you. So many self-immolated for a free Tibet and now you want Tibet to be a part of China with no referendum from Tibetans. Just like a dictator, you decide on your own. It was your government and you that lost Tibet in the first place. Your policies and style of doing things do not benefit Tibet and Buddhism. You have been the sole ruler of Tibet your whole life and you still have not gotten our country of Tibet back for us. Our families and us are separated. Yet you create more pain by creating a ban to further divide people. Please have compassion.

    No other Buddhist leader has banned or condemned any religion except for you. It looks very bad. You are a Nobel laureate and this is not fitting of a laureate. You should unite people and not separate them by religious differences.

    You said Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi did not do right to the Rohingya people in Myanmar due to religious differences, but you are doing the same thing to the Shugden Buddhists within your own society. There is a parallel in this. You separate the Shugden Buddhists from the others in Tibetan society.

    You have lost so many people who would have loved and supported you. You have lost so much support around the world. The Shugden Buddhists who love you number in the millions. When you are fast losing support from governments and private people, it will not do you well to lose more.

    After you are passed away in the future, the rift you created between the Dorje Shugden and non-Dorje Shugden people will remain for a while and that will be your legacy. Disharmony. You will be remembered for this. Not as a hero but a disharmony creator.

    Dorje Shugden will spread and further grow, but you will be no more as you are a human. No one wishes you bad and in fact we hope you have a long and healthy life, but we have lost so much hope and have so much despair because of you. All the hundreds of Dorje Shugden lamas, tulkus and geshes are maturing and there are hundreds of Dorje Shugden monasteries in Tibet who will not give up Dorje Shugden. You have made a mistake. These hundreds of teachers and teachers to be will spread Dorje Shugden further in the future.

    The gurus that gave us Dorje Shugden as a spiritual practice and you have called these holy gurus wrong and they are mistaken in giving us Dorje Shugden. How can you insult our gurus whom we respect so much? If they can be wrong, then you can be wrong. Then all gurus can be wrong. So no one needs to listen to any guru? You have created this trend. It is not healthy. Your own gurus practiced Dorje Shugden their whole lives. Your own gurus were exemplary and highly learned.

    Dalai Lama you have created so much pain with this ban against so many people due to religion. You are ageing fast. Are you going to do anything about it or stay stubborn, hard and un-moving. You show a smile and preach peace and harmony wherever you go. But will you do the same to your own people? Please rectify the wrong you have done. Please before it is too late. You can create harmony again or you can pass away in the future with this legacy of peace. May you live long and think carefully and admit what was a mistake in having this unethical ban against Dorje Shugden religion.

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.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

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