The Venerable Geshe Tashi Namgyal, a highly accomplished lama traditionally trained in Tibet, founded the Victoria Buddhist Dharma Society in 1974 and remained its president and resident teacher until his passing in September 2008. He also founded a Dharma centre in Anchorage Alaska and, in the course of his extensive travels, gained students in many US states and Canadian provinces.
Today, the Victoria Buddhist Dharma Society Centre is located on Maplewood Road in Victoria, B.C. where a dedicated group of followers continues to practice in a friendly atmosphere under the accomplished guidance of Ven. Lama Jampa Tenzin.
VEN. LAMA JAMPA TENZIN
The VBDS is very privileged to have been chosen as the centre for Lama Jampa Tenzin’s ongoing work. In India, at the request of H.H. the 41st Sakya Trichen, throne-holder of the Sakya Sect, Lama Jampa set up and organized the Sakya Centre in Kalimpong, from scratch, then directed it for several years. Before that, he was for seven years the General Secretary at the Sakya Guru Monastery in Ghoom near Darjeeling, which earlier had been the first refuge in India of our founder Geshe Tashi Namgyal, after his escape from Tibet. Geshe-la always maintained a close relationship with the monks at Ghoom.
Lama Jampa was selected and appointed to succeed Geshe-la in Victoria by His Holiness the 42nd Sakya Gongma Trinzin, eldest son of H.H. 41st Sakya Trichen. It was H.H. Sakya Trichen who originally selected Geshe-la to come to Canada in 1972, in response to a request by H.H. the Dalai Lama.
Lama Jampa, who became a monk at age 9, is clearly erudite, dedicated and very knowledgeable in dharma. He is fluent in Tibetan, Hindi, and Nepali and has become quite fluent in English. He has mastered the ceremonial arts of the Sakya tradition, and has already put them to good use in Victoria by making beautiful tormas and introducing traditional Tibetan music in our transition ceremonies in September 2009, commemorating the one-year anniversary of Geshe-la’s passing. Lama Jampa’s determined spirit is exemplified in the large, iron-girder road bridge he had designed and built to create public access to the Sakya Guru monastery. He has organized and participated in multi-faith dialogues in India and Taiwan. He is a cheerful, inspiring teacher and a delight to be with as he already works selflessly helping students to understand subtle points of dharma. We look forward to many years of personal and community development under his guidance, as he increasingly asserts his unique capabilities in the west.
DEDICATION TO GESHE TASHI NAMGYAL —
The Venerable Geshe Tashi Namgyal, known respectfully to his many students and friends as ‘Geshe-la’, was born in Sakya, Tibet, in 1923. At the age of 8 he took novice monk’s vows at Sakya Monastery and at 24 became fully ordained. He received his formal academic education in the main Sakya Monastery’s theological seminary, where he studied under the great abbot Jampal Sangpo, excelling as his top student. His main tantra teacher was the Sakya Throneholder H.H. Ngawang Tuthop Wangchuk. Upon completion of his academic studies, he was awarded the Geshe Rabjampa degree, the highest of Tibetan Buddhist academic credentials, and began his tenure as the seminary’s Prajñāpāramitā instructor. In 1957, Geshe-la was appointed the abbot of Jashong Monastery, a two-day horse ride from Sakya, but he was forced to step down two years later when the Chinese invaded. He was jailed in Jashong and not long thereafter also in Sakya, and in 1960 he escaped from Tibet to India. He taught at Sakya Guru Monastery in Ghoom, Darjeeling and later studied at the Sanskrit University in Saranath, Varanasi, where he earned an Ācārya degree. In 1972, at the Dalai Lama’s request, he was sent to Canada by H.H. the 41st Sakya Trichen as one of four Tibetan lamas to accompany refugee Tibetans and establish the Buddha Dharma in the West.
Geshe-la’s 34 years of teaching and unusually accessible guidance in Victoria provided a rare opportunity for the comprehensive study of many aspects of Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna Buddhism. An extremely learned and highly accomplished spiritual teacher, Geshe-la benefited numerous students, both internationally and in Canada.
Geshe Tashi Namgyal died at home in Victoria on September 7, 2008, at the age of 85. He remained in the state of tukdam, resting in the clear light of the dharmakāya, for seven days.
Geshe-la’s wisdom, friendliness, ready accessibility, disarming insight, highly jovial and mischievous personality, and his influentially beneficial presence are deeply missed by many.