A Tribute to Denma Gonsa Rinpoche

The great 18th Denma Gongsa Rinpoche

In the midst of the Sino-Tibetan conflict and in the face of unsettling times, Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s name became synonymous with strength and faith in one’s Guru, the Buddha Dharma and the infallible Dharma Protector, Dorje Shugden. Denma Gonsa Rinpoche chose to remain in Tibet during the years of tremendous unrest in order to preserve the Buddha’s teachings in the high plateaus as well as to be a pillar of strength for the vanquished people of Tibet.

Over the years, Denma Gonsa Rinpoche worked unceasingly and over time won the respect of both Tibetans and Chinese alike. Rinpoche was honored with many titles and positions for representing his people and community in the area of Kham in Tibet. Seeing the need to engage the Chinese authorities correctly, Denma Gonsa Rinpoche entered the political arena with hopes of extending his influence as protection for his people and using his position to look after them spiritually and secularly.

Rinpoche being received by a member of the Chinese army

The most notable position held by Rinpoche was as the representative of the people living in Qinghai province, which Rinpoche held for 4 consecutive terms. Rinpoche was also the representative of the Chinese Congress in the 8th term. Despite these additional responsibilities, Denma Gonsa Rinpoche did not compromise on his main undertaking of spreading the Dharma and at the first available opportunity, Rinpoche began the reconstruction of his monastery that had been destroyed in the conflict.

Throughout the years, it became clear that the great protector Dorje Shugden was always beside Denma Gonsa Rinpoche providing every means to help Rinpoche in all his endeavors. There were signs – for instance during the Qinghai earthquake, many buildings were damaged and yet standing intact amongst all the destruction was Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s monastery. Neither was Rinpoche’s house damaged, quite miraculously. No doubt, by Rinpoche’s faith and devotion to his Gurus and the Dharma, the Protector saw to every of Rinpoche’s needs and Rinpoche was able to secure the resources required to build his monastery. In his monastery now stands one of the world’s largest Lama Tsongkhapa statues which is 12 storeys high and next to the main temple stands an 18-foot Dorje Shugden statue which itself is a blessing for the people of the entire Kham area.

Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s influence spread across Tibet all the way to Beijing. Rinpoche’s fame helped him to spread the Gelug lineage far and wide and in conjunction, the lineage and practice of Dorje Shugden grew similarly under this extraordinary Lama. When the Dalai Lama imposed the ban on Dorje Shugden, it did not have any effect on Denma Gonsa Rinpoche. Alarmed, His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself personally made a telephone call to Denma Gonsa Rinpoche to ask Rinpoche to stop the practice of Dorje Shugden. However, Rinpoche refused to compromise on his integrity and the promises Rinpoche made to his Guru, Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang.

Manifesting disappointment in the Dalai Lama for causing monks to break their vows and for the schism within the Sangha that the ban created, it was said that Denma Gonsa Rinpoche rebuked the Dalai Lama for what was clearly an error on the Dalai Lama’s part. Being a contemporary of the Dalai Lama and knowing full well that the basis of and reasons for the Shugden ban were false, Rinpoche felt it necessary to speak his mind. The Dalai Lama, realizing that Denma Gonsa Rinpoche could not be coerced into abandoning the practice, hung up the phone. Such was Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s devotion to his Gurus and conviction in the Dharma Protector that he would not be bullied into breaking his vows.

H.E. Denma Gonsa Rinpoche


Denma Choje Jampa Thubten Gelek Gyatso was born to a family of “Kannier” in Namkha Zong, Tibet in the year of the Iron Horse (1930). His father was a man by the name of Rinchen who was a farmer and mother’s name was Drolma.
At the age of 3, the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso recognized the boy as the incarnation of the 17th Denma Choje. Upon recognition, the 13th Dalai Lama gave the young incarnation the seal of office and also official documents supporting his recognition. Rinpoche was then ordained by Jepu Rierba who gave him the Dharma name of Jampa Thubten Gelek Gyatso.
Two years later, in the Kham region, he was enthroned in Kelsang Puntsok Ling, home to the line of Denma Choje incarnations. During the enthronement ceremony, thousands flocked the monastery to pay their respects and receive blessings from him.

When he reached the age of 8, Geshe Dammu taught Rinpoche how to read and write Tibetan. Nyima Mentsi taught Rinpoche the sciences and astrology. When he studied under these two masters, he memorized all the texts, which were used in their daily prayers in the monastery.

The year of the Earth Rabbit (1939) was a huge turning point in Rinpoche’s life where in one of the three great seats of Sera Dratsang, the great 98th Gaden Tripa advised Rinpoche to take Rizong Awang Resa as his teacher and to study the 5 Great Treatises under him.

At the age of 20, Rinpoche obtained his Geshe degree and was famous all over Tibet. He then admitted himself to Badeng Mey Drati Dratsang to further pursue his studies in Tantra. There he was able to practice in accordance to both Sutras and Tantras without obstruction. At this point, he studied under Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang and Kyabje Dagri Dorje Chang. He received the Kangyur text transmission and numberless empowerments of various Dharma protectors. He became the lineage holder of various teachings which were essential within the Gelug school of Buddhism.

In the year of the Wooden Horse (1954) at the age of 25, he visited Beijing on the occasion of China’s national day where Rinpoche was received by Chairman Mao and Zhou En Lai with warm hospitality throughout his visit to the capital.

At the age of 28, for the first time in his life, he gave an oral transmission of the Kangyur text.

In the year of the Earth Horse (1958), because of political unrest, Rinpoche faced many obstacles and threats to his life and his endeavors in spreading the Dharma. But because of Rinpoche’s pure motivation, he overcame these obstacles. In the spirit of Bodhicitta, he took on the sufferings of others as if they were his own, and faced obstacles with an open mind.

Until the year of the Metal Bull (1961), he undertook the position as vice-representative of different areas within Tibet. After enduring 10 years of the Cultural Revolution, and with the new implementation of religious freedom from the central government, Rinpoche’s achievements captured the attention of many. As a member of the ethnic minority, he received warm hospitality from Deng Xiao Ping in an audience.

In the year of the Metal Monkey (1980), Rinpoche was chosen to be the the Yushu Tibetan community’s vice president, after which he was elected to be the representative of the people living in the Qinghai province for 4 consecutive terms. Rinpoche was the representative of the Chinese congress in the 8th term, Vice president of the Qinghai Buddhist Association, Vice president of the Yushu County Buddhist Association, Committee of China’s Department of Buddhist Studies, etc.

Kelsang Monastery, the home of all Denma Choejes (Dharma Kings)

After having devoted most part of his earlier life serving his community and the Buddha Dharma, Denma Gonsa Rinpoche started to focus on building a platform for the Buddha Dharma to take root in. Kelsang Monastery was very old and had been destroyed over the years both by the elements and humankind. In order to do repair the monastery, rebuild statues and reinstate Buddhist scriptures for the benefit of those who sought solace and religious services, Rinpoche together with his close students and assistants spent many years raising funds and oversaw the entire project until its completion in 2011. Under the leadership of Rinpoche, the entire assembly of Sangha in the monastery joined in rebuilding the monastery.

As of today, the main Gompa, Tsan Khang, Chapels, Scripture buildings and so on, are of the highest quality and display combinations of different influences of the Gelug tradition. One story to note is that there was a huge earthquake which hit the area where Kelsang Monastery is situated. Many buildings in that area crumbled but the entire Kelsang Monastery complex was left untouched by the mercy of the Buddhas. Many people knew it was the power of Dharmapala Dorje Shugden that protected the monastery. This is another testament that Dorje Shugden is very much a potent force for the Dharma and is definitely not a spirit. Spirits create danger and harm but enlightened beings protect institutions that preserve and spread the Dharma.

Beautiful 18-feet Dorje Shugden statue in Kelsang Monastery

Denma Gonsa Rinpoche in his career as a Dharma master has represented the 3 great seats (Gaden, Sera, Drepung), Reting Monastery, and various monasteries in Lhasa, Shigatse, Shan Nan, and other places in Tibet. The Kangyur is the basic text which Rinpoche used to transmit teachings. Kelsang Monastery has been a seat and a bastion of the Gelug tradition for many high Lamas including His Holiness Kyabje Pabongka Choktrul Rinpoche, who himself received many important lineages and transmissions from Kyabje Denma Gonsa Rinpoche and other high Lamas of the monastery.

Kyabje Denma Gongsa Rinpoche’s holy stupa

Rinpoche entered into clear light in 2005 with many auspicious signs and good omens. Before Rinpoche passed away, Rinpoche gave specific instructions to his students on finding his next incarnation. He said that there would be many boys who would be presented as the next incarnation but to only enthrone the boy who could recite the root tantra of Guhyasamaja from memory. This itself is a significant indication of how high Rinpoche’s realizations were.
The Guhyasamaja tantra is one of the most important scriptures in Vajrayana Buddhism. In its fullest form, it consists of seventeen chapters, though a separate explanation is sometimes considered to be its eighteenth chapter. Je Tsongkhapa considered this work so important and used a tradition of the Guhyasamaja tantra as the basis for interpreting all other tantras. It is also said that if this all-important tantra is preserved, all other tantra traditions would similarly be preserved. Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s next incarnation would be able to recite this tantra by heart. Such was the depth of Rinpoche’s attainments.

All of us at DorjeShugden.com make this virtual offering of a thousand butter lamps to the very holy master Denma Gonsa Rinpoche, requesting his incarnation to return swiftly and remain among us for thousands of years to continue turning the wheel of Dharma and benefiting countless beings.

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4 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Thank you Admin,

    For yet another beautiful and inspiring Tribute to another important pillar of our holy Lineage!
    If actions inspire how lucky are we to have Lamas who truly hold their vows and pure motivations to benefit regardless of the obstacles.
    What is amazing with so much inconsistencies, arguments against DS practice, the results and achievements by H.H Denma Gonsa Rinpoche cannot be refuted. An equal to H.H Dalai Lama in my humble opinion.

    Thankyou again_/I\_


  2. I truly admire H.E. Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s courage for speaking up against the practice of Dorje Shugden to HHDL. Clearly, he demonstrated unwavering guru devotion and also he clearly sees that the practices of Dorje Shugden are beneficial and not harmful to anyone as claimed by the Tibetan government in exile. A real bodhisattva.

  3. Being such a strong practitioner of Dorje Shugden, surely Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s attainments and realizations would reduce if he was indeed practising a ‘demon’ practise. This amazing tribute proves otherwise. Denma Gonsa Rinpoche held so many positions in the Chinese community that it shows that even the intelligent Chinese honoured, respected and regarded him as a prolific and immaculate teacher, whose practises and devotion was so pure.

    If Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s practise and lineage was impure, surely the Buddhas and Boddhisattvas would have the attainment and ‘power’ to stop and prevent Rinpoche from further degenerating the BuddhaDharma. But this was not the case, as Rinpoche only served to spread the BuddhaDharma further. He represented the seats of Gaden, Drepung and Sera…surely if Rinpoche wasn’t something, he wouldn’t be able to. It must be that at some point, all three great schools recognized the attainments and how great a lama Rinpoche (a Dorje Shugden practitioner) was, to have let Rinpoche hold that position .. so they must’ve also at some point recognized the benefit and power of Dorje Shugden, a practise so dear to Rinpoche. Funny isn’t it, how these schools suddenly dismiss and don’t recognize Dorje Shugden when so many great DS lamas had represented their monastery in one way or another.

    Thank you for the great tribute, deserving of a great lama who stood strong with what he believed and in his guru.

  4. We look forward to this lama reaching maturity in his spiritual development and to begin teaching the buddha dharma. He is truly a lama we can be proud of to have within the Gelug lineage.

    He was firm in following what Trijang Dorje Chang has inducted him into, and he was very firm in telling the Dalai Lama that he is not going stop practicing what his root lamas have given to him. In fact during the Qinghai earthquake the people saw the power of Dorje Shugden, Denma Gonsa monastery stood intact whilst the rest of the buildings in that area was flattened.

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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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