Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche – Spiritual Director of Root Institute for Wisdom Culture
Lama Zopa Rinpoche was born in 1946 in Thami, in the Mount Everest region of Nepal, not far from Lawudo cave where his predecessor had meditated for the last 20 years of his life.
The Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959 forced him to forsake Tibet for the safety of Bhutan. Rinpoche then went to the Tibetan refugee camp in West Bengal, India, where he met Lama Yeshe, who became his closest teacher. The Lamas went to Nepal in 1967, and over the next few years built Kopan and Lawudo Monasteries, the very beginnings of what would become a worldwide organisation, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT).
In 1971, Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave the first of his famous annual lam-rim retreat courses, which continue at Kopan to this day. When Lama Yeshe passed away in 1984, Lama Zopa Rinpoche became the spiritual head of the FPMT, which has continued to flourish under his peerless leadership.
We highly recommend the vast collection of Rinpoche's teachings, including audio and video, available on the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive website.
Today Lama Zopa Rinpoche spends his life travelling the world to give teachings, and to spread the Dharma of wisdom, love, compassion and universal responsibility.
Rinpoche has on many occasions blessed us with his presence during our spiritual programme and guided us in practices, especially around the time of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teachings in December / January. We pray the good fortune of Rinpoche's visits may continue, however we will only know closer to the time.
In the 2019–20 season, it is not yet confirmed whether Rinpoche will be coming to Bodhgaya.
Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche
Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche is the reincarnation of Tsenshab Serkong Rinpoche, a highly accomplished lama born in Tibet in 1914. In 1948, having received his Geshe Lharampa degree, Tsenshab Serkong Rinpoche was appointed one of the seven tsenshab or master debate partners to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He served His Holiness in this capacity for the rest of his life and imparted to His Holiness many lineages, initiations and oral transmissions. He also developed a strong connection with Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche and early FPMT students at Kopan and engaged in teaching tours of the West, before passing away in 1983.
Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche, this incarnation, was born in the Spiti Valley in India in 1984. Rinpoche received his Buddhist training initially at Ganden Jangtse Monastery in South India and, after deciding to continue his work for the Dharma as a layman, completed his education at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics in Dharamsala. On the advice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he completed two years of intensive study of English in Canada and is continuing his higher Buddhist training.
He also cares for the spiritual needs of the people in the Spiti region and takes responsibility for the care of Tabo Gompa there, a place of great historic significance to the transmission of Buddhism to Tibet.
In this incarnation, Rinpoche has begun teaching in the West and is further developing his connection with the FPMT organisation and Western students in general.
In the 2019–20 season, it is not yet confirmed whether Rinpoche will be coming to Bodhgaya.
Other teachers this season
Our resident geshe – Geshe Ngawang Rabga
More information and full teaching programme: available on our page devoted to our resident geshe, Ngawang Rabga.
Geshe Dorji Damdul
Geshe Dorji Damdul did his schooling in Tibetan Children's Village School, Dharamsala with a main interest in Physics and Mathematics. In 1988 he joined the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, Dharamsala for formal studies in Buddhist logic, philosophy and epistemology. He finished his Geshe Lharampa Degree (equivalent to PhD) in 2002 from Drepung Loseling Monastery after 15 years of study in Buddhist philosophy.
While assigned with the task of translating for H.H. the Dalai Lama in India and abroad, Geshe-la was appointed by the Office of H.H. the Dalai lama as the Deputy Director of Tibet House, Cultural Centre of H.H. the Dalai Lama, New Delhi to take on the responsibility to teach the many young people who are interested in philosophy, human values and psychology.
Geshe Dorji Damdul: Bodhicitta Retreat – 05–11 Nov 2019.
After graduating from Khachoe Ghakyil Ling, commonly known as "Kopan Nunnery" near Kathmandu in Nepal, Geshema Chokyi has recently completed her exams and tantric college studies. She is one of the trailblazing, new generation of nuns in the Gelug Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism given educational opportunities equal to that of monks.
Geshema-la is the niece of Lama Yeshe who, along with Lama Zopa Rinpoche, founded the FPMT organization. She will teach in Tibetan with the assistance of a translator.
Geshema Chonyi: Introductory: An Introduction to Meditation – 4–8 Mar 2020; Developing a Good Heart – 11–15 Mar 2020.
Venerable Michael Lobsang Yeshe
Born in London in 1966 to a Greek father and Belgian mother, Venerable Michael Yeshe, as he is often known, was raised in Kopan Monastery in Nepal and has been a monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition since the age of seven. At age 13, he entered the Sera Jey Monastic University in South India where he spent the next 18 years studying Buddhist Philosophy.
Since 1996, Ven. Michael has been invited to Buddhist centers in America, Singapore, Malaysia, and Holland as a translator and teacher. For the last 11 years he had been residing at the Tara Institute in Melbourne where he has served as translator for the Tibetan Buddhist master, Venerable Geshe Lobsang Doga.
Ven. Michael Yeshe: Introductory: The Two Truths – 22 Oct 2019; Intermediate: Nyung-Nay Retreat – Chenrezig Fasting Practice – 22 Dec 2019–8 Jan 2020.
Venerable Kabir Saxena
Venerable Kabir was born in Delhi in 1956 to an Indian father and English mother, educated in London and Oxford University, and received a BA Hons Degree in Modern History in 1978. While at university he met Buddhism, took refuge and became Buddhist. By 1979 he had become a student of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche and in 1981–83 studied Buddhist philosophy and Lam Rim at Manjushri Institute, Cumbria, UK.
By following Lama Yeshe's advice in 1983, Ven. Kabir's long search led in 1987 to the purchase of land in Bodhgaya and his role as founding director of Root Institute. In 2002, he became ordained as a Buddhist monk.
Since the early 1980s, Ven. Kabir has served in a variety of roles in Indian centres associated with the FPMT: as a Dharma teacher in Tushita Centre Delhi and Tushita Dharamsala (including a stint as Spiritual Programme Coordinator in Delhi), as a teacher-trainer in Maitreya Project Universal Education School, and in 2016 he was appointed director of the Maitreya Buddha Project Kushinagar. He serves on the board of several Indian centres associated with the FPMT.
Ven. Kabir Saxena: 2019-20 details to be announced.
Venerable Olivier Rossi
Born in France in 1969, Olivier Rossi joined the Masters Program at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa (ILTK) in Italy from 1998 to 2005 under the guidance of Venerable Geshe Jampa Gyatso of Sera Jay Jhadrel Khamtsen, and took ordination in June 1998.
On the advice of his teacher he remained in Italy and took the position of teacher assistant for the residential Basic Program at ILTK from 2005 to 2007, for the Masters Program 2008 to 2013, and again for the Master Program in 2015 until mid-2016.
Over his 19 years of ordination, Olivier has also led numerous retreats and weekend courses in FPMT centers in France and Italy. He is currently studying Tibetan language in South India.
Venerable Olivier Rossi: Introduction to Buddhism: Seven-Point Mind Training & Yoga – With Annie McGhee – 23 Oct–01 Nov 2019.
Venerable Tenzin Namjong
Born and raised in Hawaii, Venerable Tenzin Namjong studied and trained in Zen and Theravada traditions before embracing the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, due mainly to the kindness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
He holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Princeton University and has been part of the 19-year Geshe (Doctorate of Buddhist Philosophy) study program at Sera Je Monastery in Bylakuppe, India since 2007.
Venerable Namjong is a registered teacher of the FPMT and regularly teaches at Choe Khor Sum Ling Centre in Bangalore.
Venerable Namjong: Intermediate: Wisdom of Emptiness – 12–19 Feb 2020; Tibetan New Year Retreat – 23–27 Feb 2020; Pilgrimage to Rajgir: 21 Feb 2020.
Jimi / Jigme Neal has been a student and practitioner of Tibetan Buddha Dharma since meeting Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Kopan Nepal in 1974.
He has studied and completed many retreats under Lama Yeshe, Kyabjes Ling, Song and Serkong Rinpoches, Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche and lamas from all four Tibetan traditions: Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche, Dudjom Rinpoche, Sakya Trizin, Kalu Rinpoche. Ordained from 1980 to 1995, he was a founding monk of Nalanda Monastery in France where he studied under Kempo Geshe Jhampa Tekchok for more than ten years.
Jimi has lived mostly in India since 1972, teaching courses and retreats since 1995. He has also led retreats and taught in Spain, America, Israel, South Africa and Mexico. And of course Root Institute for the last 20 years.
Jimi Neal: Intermediate: Tara Mahamudra Retreat – 21–30 Jan 2020.
David was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. After graduating from law school in 1978 he travelled extensively in South & SE Asia, developing an interest in eastern religion and meditation. On returning home he began studying Buddhism then moved to Kathmandu where he became ordained as a monk. He then studied at Nalanda Monastery in France before traveling east as a teacher at Kopan Monastery, Tushita Dharamsala and Root Institute.
In 1996 he was resident teacher at Vajrayana Institute in Sydney, and in 2007 completed a three-year appointment as director of Thubten Shedrup Ling Monastery in central Victoria. After 30 years as a monk David returned to lay life in 2012. He remains committed to an intensive daily practice of meditation and continues to teach each year in India and Nepal.
David Marks: Drop-in Sessions: Teachings & Meditations on the Buddhist Path to Peace – Mon–Fri 18 Nov–31 Jan; Introduction to Buddhism: Mind, Meditation & the Meaning of Life – 12–16 Nov 2019 & 10–14 Jan 2020.
Teachers who regularly visit us
Geshe Tenzin Namdak
Ven. Tenzin Namdak is a registered FPMT teacher and native of the Netherlands, who in 2016 was officially awarded a geshe degree by Sera Je Monastic University in South India. He is the first Westerner ever to complete the full, formal course of studies at one of the "three seats" – Ganden, Sera, and Drepung monasteries – and sit for the final geshe examination there, too.
When he had expressed doubts early on about the long period of study at Sera, Lama Zopa Rinpoche said, "It will be very beneficial for your lam-rim" and Geshe-la now feels extremely grateful for this encouragement to pursue the opportunity of traditional studies, saying "I have seen many benefits over the years and have been inspired by the teachers who are great products of this profound system".
Venerable Legtsok was born in the USA and named Brian, in 1973. After being inspired by explanations of the Lam-Rim and the amazing attitude of Bodhicitta, he became a monk in 2001 and has since taken the full-ordination vows. In 2004, he entered the Geshe studies program at Sera Je Monastery in South India. He is an FPMT accredited teacher.
Since 2007, Ven. Legtsok has given monthly talks about the Buddhist path at Choe Khor Sum Ling study group in Bangalore. While he warns students that "he has no positive qualities whatsoever but you might have a good laugh watching him bumble along", he enjoys celebrating the good fortune to have met the Buddha Dharma in this life, by sharing his knowledge of Buddhist thought and practice with others.
Venerable Tenzin Gache
Venerable Tenzin Gache grew up in the Boston area. After graduating college, he travelled to India, and received ordination from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2006. Later that year he travelled south to Sera Jey Monastery, near Mysore, India, joinng the house group of his teacher, Choden Rinpoche.
Since then he has lived, studied, and practised at Sera. Currently he is slightly over halfway through the 19-year Geshe (Doctorate of Buddhist Philosophy) study program at Sera Je Monastery in Bylakuppe, India.
Having grown up in a Western context, he is especially interested in understanding how ancient Buddhist wisdom can be made accessible to educated, thoughtful people in the modern world without diluting the profundity of the Buddha's message.
Venerable Lozang Drolma
Originally from England, Ven. Lozang Drolma met the Dharma when volunteering at the FPMT Centre, Chenrezig Institute in Australia. Venerable Drolma ordained with Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Tashi Tsering, who was then resident Geshe for Chenrezig Institute and is now former Abbot of Gyume Tantric Monastery in India. Venerable Drolma began her formal studies with the Buddhist Studies Program and, further on, the two year Masters program at Chenrezig Institute.
Throughout most of this time she assisted the resident Tibetan lama, Geshe Lobsang Jamyang and lead workshops and meditations for the many students who came through Chenrezig Institute. In 2013 she assisted as meditation leader on the annual Kopan Lam Rim retreat and began to teach at Chenrezig Institute, becoming well known for her natural warmth, kindness and wisdom.
Ven. Drolma has also been teaching foundational Buddhist philosophy at Root Institute, Tushita Dharamsala and Chenrezig Institute. Currently she is studying at Sarah College near Dharamsala, learning traditional Tibetan debating among other Buddhist philosophy subjects.