Rabten Choeling Switzerland

Rabten Choeling is one of the first Tibetan Buddhist monasteries to be established in the West after the exodus of Tibetans into India. Located 820m above sea level on Mount-Pelerin, above Lake Geneva in Vevey, Switzerland, the centre is an institute for Higher Tibetan studies and the pursuit of Tibetan Buddhist practices. At present, there are about 30 monks, 5 nuns and 20 lay students living in the centre.


Early Beginnings: Geshe Tamdrin Rabten Rinpoche

Geshe Tamdrin Rabten Rinpoche

Rabten Choeling was founded by Geshe Tamdrin Rabten Rinpoche. After escaping from Tibet, Geshe Rabten Rinpoche along with Kyabje Lati Rinpoche was appointed as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s advisor on philosophical matters.

Later in 1974, at the request of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Geshe Rabten moved to Switzerland to serve as the Abbot of Rikon Monastery in Tosstal. During this time, Geshe Rabten and a handful of monks lived in a rented house in the tiny hamlet of Schwendi, located 4 km from Rikon Monastery.

Geshe Rabten with a group of monastics in Rikon Monastery in 1976

H.H. the Dalai Lama gave a discourse on adaptating to Western civilization at Rikon Monastery, Switzerland, 6 October 1973

Geshe Rabten was an extraordinary lama, able to explain Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy with powerful clarity. Combined with his understanding of the Western mind and ideas, Geshe Rabten quickly gained a following of Western students and became the pioneer in spreading Tibetan Buddhism in Western Europe. It was also during this time that Geshe Rabten started training Westerners to become qualified Buddhist teachers in their own right.

Geshe Rabten Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India with his Western students

A year and a half later, Geshe Rabten and his entourage of students moved into Le Colibri, a larger property in Mount Pelerin, which later came to be known as Tharpa Choeling. A strong and closely knit Buddhist community was formed and enthusiastic lay students began settling down in the area, each finding their own unique way to contribute to the growing Dharma community. Some studied, while others helped with the more mundane works such as administration, finances, kitchen work and even gardening.

Venerable Abbot Geshe Tamdrin Rabten (with sunglasses) and the monks of Tharpa Choeling in 1978. From left to right: Glaude Grenier, Stephen Schettini, Christopher Pace, Laurence Williamson, Brian Grabia, Arnold Possick, Dominique Monmayeul, Stephen Batchelor, Helmut Gassner, Eckart Zabel, Bruno Le Guevel, Alan Wallace, Geshe Tamdrin Rabten, Geshe Jhampa Lhodro, Geshe Gendun Zangpo, Elio Guarisco and Gen Lo Norbu on the occasion of the novice ordination of Laurence, Dominique and Eckart

A younger Geshe Rabten Rinpoche


The Geneva Group

Anne Ansermet

Comprising of businessmen and industrialists, the Geneva group was led by Anne Ansermet, daughter of a famous Swiss conductor, Ernest. Coming from a privileged background, Anne was well-connected to the movers and shakers of the day, and it was this group that arranged and financed the purchase of Le Colibri. They funded the institute, put visas in passports, and provided sufficient funding for living expenses and books.

At the age of 70, Anne was drawn to Buddhism and even traveled to India to be ordained by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. She was an amazing woman to whom the residents of Tharpa Choeling owed much of their spiritual pursuits. It was the hard work of Anne and her group that allowed the ordained and lay people in Tharpa Choeling to live a life of study and contemplation without having to worry about their material needs.

The Geneva group on the other hand, approved of the study programs in Tharpa Choeling, confident that their hard work, money and time were well spent, and that things were moving in the right direction to help disseminate Buddhism in the West.

Anne Ansermet in Dharamsala with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama


His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Visits

In the summer of 1979, Geshe Rabten invited His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Switzerland. It was in Tharpa Choeling that His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave his first public teaching in the West. Under the direction of Geshe Rabten, Stephen Batchelor was placed in-charge of organizing the Dalai Lama’s visit. He was given a total budget of 30’000 Swiss Francs to prepare for a free public teaching by the Dalai Lama to accommodate 1,000 attendees.

At that time, the organizing committee’s request to the Swiss police for security forces was declined with the argument that “The Dalai Lama is not an endangered person”. On top of that, despite intensive advertising, only about 900 attendees turned up for the Dalai Lama’s teaching.

1979: His Holiness Dalai Lama (left) in Tharpa Choeling, Mt Pelerin, Switzerland humbly sat on a few cushions instead of the throne prepared for Him. Seated beside the Dalai Lama are translators: B. Alan Wallace (centre) and Helmut Gassner (right)
(Photo by Fred von Allmen)

1979: His Holiness the Dalai Lama gives his first public teaching in the West in Tharpa Choeling, with B. Alan Wallace and Helmut Gassner translating


10 Years Later: H.E. Gonsar Tulku Rinpoche

H.E. Gonsar Rinpoche

H.E. Gonsar Rinpoche, one of Geshe Rabten’s closest disciples, served his teacher for 33 years until Geshe Rabten’s passing in 1986. Gonsar Rinpoche considered it his personal responsibility to continue Geshe Rabten’s works, and Tharpa Choeling was renamed to Rabten Choeling in Geshe Rabten’s memory. At present, Gonsar Rinpoche is the director of Rabten Choeling as well as other Rabten centres across Europe.

Gonsar Rinpoche also led the search for Geshe Rabten’s incarnation, Tenzin Rabgye Rinpoche. Born in India in 1987, he now lives at Rabten Choeling under the care and tutelage of Gonsar Rinpoche. In the spring of 1998, the then ten-year-old Tenzin Rabgye Rinpoche gave his first teaching in front of 200 people in Rabten Choeling.

H.E. Tenzin Rabgye Rinpoche

Trijang Rinpoche and Rabten Choeling

Rabten Choeling was also host to H.H. Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche during his younger days. Due to increasing hostility against practitioners of the dharma protector Dorje Shugden, Trijang Rinpoche, a great Dorje Shugden proponent, had received several death threats from the Secret Society of External and Internal Enemy Eliminators which forced him to relocate to Switzerland for his own safety.

Having since moved to USA and established Trijang Buddhist Institute in Vermont, Trijang Rinpoche continues to maintain close ties with Rabten Choeling, especially with Tenzin Rabgye Rinpoche and Gonsar Rinpoche.

Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche visits Rabten Choeling in 2012


Rabten Choeling Today

Rabten Choeling is both a monastery and an international school with students from 14 different countries. The sangha of Rabten Choeling perform daily prayers, monastic rites such as sangha confessionals, summer retreats and monthly pujas in the centre. Several guest rooms are available in the centre for retreats and for those interested to visit the monastery.

The residents of Rabten Choeling conduct prayer recitations twice a day, at 7 am and 6 pm, except during the weekends. Tsok offerings are also performed every fortnight according to the Tibetan calendar. A general class is held every Sunday, 3 pm, and several public seminars are conducted throughout the year.

Rabten Choeling Monastery

Centre des Hautes Etudes Tibétaines
Chemin Derochoz 2
1801 Le Mont-Pèlerin
Vevey, Switzerland
Phone: +41 21 9213600
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: http://www.rabten.eu/visitSwiss_en.htm



More pictures of Rabten Choeling

Rabten Choeling Monastery in Switzerland

Front view of Rabten Choeling

Inside Rabten Choeling

Regular blessings ceremonies are conducted

The Dorje Shugden altar in Rabten Choeling

The magnificent view from Rabten Choeling

Prayer flags around the monastery

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23 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Thank you for sharing the background of Rabten Choeling Monastery at Switzerland. I rejoice all the contribution which Rabten Choeling had done to benefit many. Geshe Tamdrin Rabten Rinpoche is the founder of Rabten Choeling, I believed because of his pure motivation that Rabten Choeling can well organize until today even the high range incarnation H.E. Tenzin Rabgye Rinpoche already back.

    This monastery is blessed and protected by the powerful protector Dorje Shugden, because of Geshe Tamdrin’s pura Guru devotion and pura motivation. From what I understanding if the students are sincere, work hard, willing to take responsibility and transform; the Guru will instructed the protector come and help the student for he or she Dharma works. Rabten Choeling Monastery is a very good example to prove that Dorje Shugden is always help who devoted to their Guru.

    Nice to see another Dorje Shugden monastery be set up. Congratulation!

  2. One thing I took from this article is that for us to come to a dharma center and learn, if we were not the pioneers of the center then we owe a debt of gratitude to people who have given up their time and resources to make the center happen. From the spiritual teacher downright to the student who would help in the cleanliness of the center. Many people have contributed to bring a dharma center to where it is now, for us to walk in an enjoy all the dharma teachings and the facilities.

    Good thought to keep in mind? I hope so.

    So many Gelug monasteries, lamas and practitioners have struggled to establish themselves in India, owe a lot to the great Dorje Shugden lamas, to name a few Geshe Lobsang Tharchin who paid the bills for Sera monastery, Guru Deva Rinpoche who supported people like Trijang Dorjechang and the Dalai Lama, Denma Locho Rinpoche who received massive amounts of money from Serkong Tritul and Jamseng Rinpcohe both known famous Dorje Shugden practitioner. The ban does not justify having no gratitude.

  3. Many DS Lamas were sent to the western world by His Holiness to spread Dharma. After they have settled down in the western world, they raised fund and invited His Holiness to give teachings to the westerners. This is also how His Holiness started to become famous. Without these DS lamas who took on the difficult tasks to spread Dharma in the west, no one would know about His Holiness.

    How can Dorje Shugden be a bad practice when DS Lamas have brought Dharma, HIs Holiness to so many people int the West?

  4. Another powerful Dorje Shugden Monastery become more and more popular in public eyes, and also Shugden community itself. Rejoice! I rejoiced all the brightly performance of the monastery. Geshe Tamdrin is a great Lama in the world. His impact for the Shugden community is huge.

    May H.E. Tenzin Rabgye Rinpoche, incarnation of Geshe Tamdrin will be going on more and more flourish. May more and more people will be benefit because of Rabten Choeling Monastery is non stop growing. May the ban can lift faster because of all the hard works which Geshe and his students had put it. I rejoice what they have now!

  5. It is Switzerland’s great good fortune that Geshe Tamdrin Rabten Rinpoche had established an institute for Higher Tibetan studies for the pursuit of Tibetan Buddhist practices with a thriving monastic and lay community living in the centre.

    Rabten Choeling had played such an important role in spreading Tibetan Buddhism in Western Europe and in producing qualified Western Buddhist teachers. Rabten Choeling had also hosted His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s first public teaching in the West. The greatest moments for Rabten choeling were to host H. H. Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche during his younger days and to continue to maintain this close ties with H. H. Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche. These are significant milestones in the history of Rabten Choeling.

    H. E. Tenzin Rabgye Rinpoche is set to lead Rabten Choeling into greater heights continuing the works of his previous incarnation.

  6. Rejoice for the continuation, hard work and blessings of the lineage masters that we have another monastery to go to learn and practice Dorje Shugden.

    The preservation of such monastic institution for training future sangha and the lay people is important for the lineage to remain strong.

  7. Due to the perseverance and work of Geshe Tamdrin Rabten Rinpoche and other Sanga in continuing the lineage, it has bring tremendous benefit to all the sentient being in Europe.

    Rejoice to the work and Dharma activity being continued and practice in Rabten Choeling.

  8. Thanks DS.com for sharing such wonderful news, rejoice for Geshe Tamdrin Rabten Rinpoche, the founder of Rabten Choeling and the team that work hard behind to make this sacred monastery happen in Switzerland.

    To plan, set up and maintain the whole monastery is not a simple job, but through the harmonious working committee and the help of powerful Dharma Protector Lord Dorje Shugden this monastery is manifested to benefit peoples all around the world especially the devoted Shugdenpas.

    May more and more DS Lama can learn and spread the Holy Lama Tsongkhapa teaching to ten directions and the Ban lifted soon so we can see more DS monastery around the world (with folded hands).

  9. Is very fortunate to have Geshe Tamdrin Rabten Rinpoche spread Dorje Shugden lineage practice tirelessly and founded Rabten Choeling Monastery in Switzerland with devoted teams and students.

    Appreciated the hard work of all. Rejoice to see H.H Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche visited Rabten Choeling Monastery.

    Even His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave his first public teaching in the West, with a group of 1,000 in attendance in 1979. The other hand, it shown H.H.Dalai Lama was support Dorje Shugden practice and the lineage.

    May Dorje Shugden practice spread far and wide to ten directions to benefits all sentient beings.

  10. Wonderful article about another Dorje Shugden Lama. From his humble beginning, Geshe Rabten armed with barely nothing but full guru devotion, reliance on the three jewels & the protector Dorje Shugden had worked tirelessly to benefit his Western students by bringing Lama Tsongkhapa’s teaching & lineage practice to them with great love & compassion. His hard work & dedication to the growth of the dharma is an inspiration to practitioners of these days in remembering to repay the kindness of their gurus by practicing the dharma, benefit others & transform the mind.

    On the contrary to what the CTA & Pro Dalai Lama people has accused Dorje Shugden as an evil spirit & a threat to the Dalai Lama’s health, it seems to me that Dorje Shugden lamas are the one who help spread the dharma & promote the Dalai Lama to the world. If this the case, I can only imagine that Tibetan Buddhism will grow exponentially & benefit more people when the ban on Dorje Shugden is lifted. Therefore, lifting the ban is the most logical thing to do now.

  11. The grow of a high Lama centre is the proof of the powerful of great protector Dorje Shugden!!!Now his incarnation already back and well train will be a great Lama in very soon future! So that I don’t understand people said Dorje Shugden is demon?? How can a demon can be benefit so many? And even have respectful incarnation high Lama come back?

  12. Thanks for sharing the article. It’s interesting to know that HH Dalai Lama gave his first teaching in the west in 1979 at Rabten Choeling, a monastery that practices Dorje Shugden. And how come a high lama could be reincarnated if demon practice was involved? Does it mean that the accusation of Dorje Shugden being a demon is incorrect? It does not need much intelligence to know the answer.

  13. A monastery with high lamas such as Geshe Tamdrin Rabten Rinpoche, H.E. Gonsar Rinpoche, and H.E. Tenzin Rabgye Rinpoche to teach and to lead; and also Geneva group was led by Anne Ansermet to finance the monastery, make Rabten Choeling stands firm and spreading dharma in Switzerland until today…

    And its interesting to know HH Dalai Lama went in 1979 to give his teaching there…Is Dorje Shugden an evil spirit? And HHDL is not avoiding to go to the monastery to spread dharma? Something to contemplate…

  14. Its really nice that you guys are promoting and providing such interesting write-ups regarding the centers around the world. What I really love when reading these articles, is how all those people persevered even though their Guru is not around, they continued to maintain and even make it grow bigger!
    Again, I would like to understand, if Lord Dorje Shugden is a ‘demon’ and all those who practice them will go to hell, how come so many of these great Lamas reincarnate and come back to teach again? And if they are ‘fake’, how come they are so learned and able to teach at such young age?

  15. Neat! I heard or read somewhere that Geshe Rabten when he was alive, would have a taste of his Guru’s pee because he visualised it to be nectar. It was said that he gain realisation of emptiness in the middle of a debate. Its no wonder his institutions grew because he is not an ordinary lama. Although he didn’t have a long line of incarnations but he is a living example that when one follow’s Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings, one would definitely gain realization.

  16. Even though these high Lamas set up their monasteries in different parts of the world, far from each other, they still keep in close contact and provide support for each other. For example, when H.H. Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche needed to leave India to get away from the strains of the controversial Ban, immediately support was given by many high Lamas and H.H. Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche was sent to Rabten Choeling in Switzerland.
    In the photos and videos of the recent grand opening of Gaden Khachoe Shing in Bloomington, Indiana USA , also saw the harmonious get together of all these high Lamas. This harmony and strength and devotion will quickly bring down the Ban.
    May all of these high Lamas live long to turn the wheel of Dharma in order to help all sentient beings to enlightment !

  17. Many lamas who practices Dorje Shugden have quietly gone ahead with spreading the dharma and benefiting many people. They have gone ahead and established many dharma centres around Europe where many have thought that Buddhism would not flourish.

    These lamas’ commitment and hardwork are very much appreciated. Their devotion to the Guru, dharma and Dorje Shugden is so very exemplary.

    Moreover, if Dorje Shugden were an evil demon, the various lamas’ reincarnations would not return to teach the Dharma.

    May Rabten Choeling florish to bring Dharma to benefit many people.

  18. I think worst and evil dieties
    Is rinpoche puja for death spirit what a shame.
    Is Buddha reincarnated dorjee shugden.
    Fuck dorjee shugden and fuck you all.

  19. 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.

  20. Thanks for sharing this beautiful article about Rabten Choeling Switzerland. I have read about Geshe Rabten Rinpoche from somewhere else, since then I always respected him a lot because he is really a very humble, pure monk who contributed much in preserving pure Gelug lineage from the west.

    Not only that, I believe the success of Rabten Choeling owes much to Anne Ansermet and her Geneva group too. The survival of any Dharma centre depends very much on the students. Anne Ansermet who not only financed the centre but she herself became ordained shows us her determination in bringing Dharma to many. And this is the most beautiful and inspiring part.

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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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