Abbots at Drepung Gomang Monastery

The Abbot (Khen Rinpoche) term is for six years.  After every six years,a list of nominees for a new Abbot is gathered from the monks during the congregation.  This list  is submitted to His Holiness the Dalai Lama via the Department of Religion and Culture. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has now appointed Geshe Lharampa Yonten Dhamchoe as the 79th Abbot of Drepung Gomang Monastery, South India. 

The 79th Abbot of Drepung Gomang Monastery
Geshe Lharampa Yonten Dhamchoe

Born at Amdo Taktsang Lhamo (Tibet) in 1940, Geshe Lharampa Yonten Dhamchoe escaped to India after the invasion of Tibet by China in 1959.  He is one of the 60 monks who reestablished the monastery here at its present location after shifting from Buxar. Day and night,  he and other monks worked hard in the field for crops, meanwhile writing texts and scriptures so as to provide monastic education to young monks who enrolled during that time.  They wished that the study of the monks would continue without hindrance and that the traditional monastic curriculum survives. Conferred the title of Geshe Lharampa in 1984 after passing the Gelug University Examination with great results, Geshe-la has spent many hours of his day teaching the Buddhist sutras to the monks of this monastery.

 Geshe Lharampa Lobsang Samten
former abbot of Drepung Gomang Monastery

Geshe Lharampa Lobsang Samten was born to mother Dekyi Dolma and father Kunchok Dargye on July 6, 1929, at Zangri, South of Lhasa in Tibet and was named Tashi Wangpo at birth. From the age of 7 to 13, he helped his family by doing work as a shepherd boy, but encountered great difficulties as wild animals took away their livestock.

At the age of 14, he joined one the great monasteries in Central Tibet, Palden Ngari Datsang, as a novice monk, taking novice vows and ordination from then Abbot Lobsang Jigme and was provided the ordination name of Lobsang Samten. Under the residence teachers Gen. Kunchok Gyaltsen and Kalsang he studied reading and writing the Tibetan alphabet and also prayer recitation. At the age of 15, under Geshe Jamyang Gyatso and the great scholar Gen. Tsultrim Damdaul, he studied elementary Buddhist texts until he reached the Parchen class (Prajnaparamita: The Six Perfection).  From the age of 25 to 29, he studied  Namdel and under Tsangpa Gen. Sopa and others, he took part in Jamyang Gunchoe, having to travel with great difficulty for five days on foot with one month's ration.

At the age of 30, he escaped to India after the invasion of Tibet by China, walking days and nights as did the other Gomang monks.  They stayed at Buxar in Northeast India. Because His Holiness the Dalai Lama noticed that only a small number of the monk population from the three great monasteries was able to flee to India, he requested the Indian Government to allow these monks to study their texts in order to preserve the religion, but this was difficult to do. At Buxar, Lobsang Samten received Bikhu ordination (full ordination) from the then senior tutor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ven. Ling Rinpoche.

Upon the request of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Indian Government, the Indian Central Government allotted some lands to Tibetan refugees for cultivation in order to sustain themselves. As a result, monasteries such as Sera and Kagyu monasteries were re-established in Bylakupee; whereas in Mundgod, monasteries such as Gaden, Drepung, Sakya and Nyima were re-established. During that time for three or four years, Lobsang Samten also did farming while he studied the Five Major Buddhist Treatises under Gen. Tsultrim Gyatso and Mongolian Khensur Ngawang Lobsang.

In 1973, at the age of 44 he obtained the Geshe Lharampa Degree and at Monam Chenmo he gave his Geshe Lharampa examination debate in front of Great scholars (Geshe Damcha).  In 1983, he was appointed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the Discipline Master of Drepung Gomang Monastery for a period of two years. He also served as Lama Shunglenba (Education Supervisor) of the monastery for four years. From 1990 till 1995, he observed a Yamakanta retreat.  Now at the age of 74, he is providing dharma classes daily to students for  four to five hours.

Geshe Lharampa Tsultrim Phuntsok
Former Abbot of Drepung Gomang Monastery

Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Lharampa Tsultrim Phuntsok, age 63 was born at Shongchu Ngak Tsel. In 1945, he became a monk and was ordained at Shongchu Tserpa Gonpa at Gadhan Choekorling. He pursued basic monastic studies at his native place before joining Drepung Gomang Monastic Administrative Office Gomang monastery near Lhasa in 1954. After the invasion of Tibet by China, he fled to India, and stayed at a transit camp at Buxa for ten years, practicing and memorizing texts, also occasionally teaching the camp's small children. He was also one of the 60 monks who were present during the re-establishment of the monastery in India. In 1981, Rinpoche taught at Hamburg University in Germany for three years. In 1995, Rinpoche was chosen by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to be the Head Abbot of Drepung Gomang Monastery. Since then, he has been deeply involved, dedicating himself for the welfare of the monks here and supervising the smooth running of the administrative system of the monastery. Rinpoche was also a member of the first Gomang tour group who visited United States in 1999, and he has officially visited Japan, Russia and Mongolia.

Khensur Lobsang Tenpa
Drepung Tripa of Drepung Gomang Monastery

The current Drepung Tripa (The Throne Holder) and former Abbot of Drepung Monastery, Khensur Lobsang Tenpa, was born in the year 1938, in Amdo province of Eastern Tibet. He became a monk at the age of 11 and was ordained at Taktsang Lhamo monastery. At the age of 18, he traveled to the south of Lhasa where he joined Drepung Gomang monastery. In 1959, he fled Tibet when the Chinese invaded following H. H. the Dalai Lama into India. He stayed at a transit camp for ten years. In 1970, he entered Varanasi University, Central Institute of Higher Studies, where he obtained the Acharya degree with remarkable and excellent results. In 1973, he returned to Drepung Gomang Monastery where he studied the Abhidharma and the Vinaya. In 1982, he sat for the Gelug examination in which he rank first of all the candidates from the three great monasteries. Rinpoche was chosen by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to be the Head Abbot in 1989. Rinpoche has traveled to give teachings in Tibet, Russia and Mongolia and also to Europe as head of the Gomang European tour. Having attained great distinction in the Buddhist Sutra and Tantra doctrines, Rinpoche is an important inspiration to the people.

Khensur Rinpoche Tempa Tenzin
Former Abbot and Former Drepung Tripa of Drepung Gomang Monastery

Khensur Tempa Tenzin is recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his high scholastic achievement and was one of the monks who gave Geshe debate examination with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Tibet before the Chinese invasion. Age 86, born in Kham province, he fled Tibet in 1959 when the Chinese invaded and followed H. H. the Dalai Lama into India. He was also one of the 60 monks who were present during the re-establishment of the monastery in India. Rinpoche is highly known as a Buddhist scholar and is well respected by every one for his vast Buddhist knowledge of Tantra and Sutra.  He has scores of Buddhist students. With his guidance, this monastery has excelled in its monastic studies.

Khensur Tempa Tenzin passed away in 2007

Khensur Rinpoche Tenpa Gyaltsen

Khensur Rinpoche Tenpa Gyaltsen was born Nyima Wangdu in 1932 in the village of Kyinag near Lhasa, Tibet. When he was 11 years old, he became a monk at Drepung Gomang Monastery where he studied and taught until 1959.  At that time at the age of 27, he escaped from Tibet with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and went to India where he continued teaching and studying.

In 1966, Rinpoche obtained His Geshe Lharampa degree, the highest level of achievement in the study of Buddhist philosophy.  In 1979 at the request of His Holiness, Khensure Rinpoche went to Japan to teach at the Tibetan Research Library in Tokyo. He also taught at Kyoto University and Moroyoka University. In 1986 he returned to Drepung Gomang in India where he served as Abbot for the next three years.  In 1989 he returned to his teaching duties in Japan.

In 1994, Khensure Rinpoche began preparation for a six-year retreat.  For the first two years of his retreat, he lived at Tashi Gomang Monastery in north India and for the last four years, he stayed at Drepung Gomang Monastery.  During this four-year period, he completed a three-year, three-month, three-day retreat -- a special retreat period.
In November 2001, Khensure Rinpoche returned to Japan to resume teaching.    He is the President of the Mahayana Manjushri Buddhist Association located there