abbot khen rinpoche geshe kachen lobzang tsetan

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Khen Rinpoche Geshe Kachen Lobzang Tsetan is Abbot of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Bylakuppe, in southern India.

He is a Tibetan Buddhist monk from Ladakh, India, who has lived between India and the United States for more than thirty years, teaching and raising awareness of the needs of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in exile. He began his monastic life at age seven in Stok, his family village.  At age thirteen he joined the Stok Monastery to study and memorize Buddhist scriptures.

In 1952, when he was fifteen years old, he walked with his father from Ladakh to Shigatse, Tibet to enter the famous Tashi Lhunpo Monastery. The 800-mile trek took them over two months to complete. Khen Rinpoche Tsetan received his novice monk vows there and studied Buddhist philosophy at the monastery's Skilkhang College with many prominent Tibetan scholars.

His dream was to receive the Geshe degree in Buddhist philosophy, similar in level to that of the Western Ph.D. This dream was deferred for him when the Chinese government intensified their policy of cultural genocide on occupied Tibet in 1959. The daily public humiliation and torture of monks by Chinese officials and the mass destruction of the monasteries and colleges made it impossible to continue the pursuit of this degree in Tibet. He was forced to return to his homeland of Ladakh in 1960.

Once back in the village of his birth, he studied tantric practices and joined the School of Buddhist Philosophy in Choglamsar where he studied for seven years. Due to the fact that the Buddhist tradition in Ladakh is dependent on the Tibetan lineage of teachers to transmit and bestow higher Buddhist degrees, it was necessary for him to leave Ladakh again in 1970 in pursuit of the Geshe training.

This time he went to Varanasi, India, where many high lamas in exile had resettled and built new monastic colleges. There he received his Shastri degree, the equivalent of a bachelors. Afterwards, he felt a responsibility to return to Stok and contribute to his community through teaching.

From 1974-1978 he taught high school in Ladakh. Then he received a special invitation to come to the United States and teach at the first Tibetan Buddhist learning center in America, Labsum Shedrub Ling, in Washington, New Jersey. He went in hopes of learning English and completing his Geshe degree. He accomplished both, and in 1984 he returned to the Drepung Monastery, near Lhasa, China,  for commencement.

Since that time Khen Rinpoche Tsetan has been living and teaching in the United States from October to June and returning to Ladakh during the summer months to oversee activities at the Siddhartha School which he founded in 1996. While in the States, he has divided his time between the East Coast and the West Coast.  On the East Coast he spends most of his time in New England and New York City.  On the West Coast, he most often visits California, Colorado, and Nevada.  His association with the Manjushri Center at Amherst has provided him with extensive teaching positions and lecturing opportunities at a number of colleges and universities including Smith, Bowdoin, Amherst, Hampshire, Drew, Maine College of Art, Bangor Theological Seminary, University of California, Irvine, and others.  Additionally he has taught children of all ages and backgrounds including those attending schools such as Phillips Exeter and Deerfield Academies, to those attending high school at East Palo Alto Academy.

In 1996, shortly after founding the Siddhartha School in Stok, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, appointed then Geshe Tsetan to be Abbot of  Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in India. This was a great honor for him, and one that was humbly set aside, so that he could devote himself completely to the Siddhartha School. The Dalai Lama gave his blessings and support.

However, in 2005 His Holiness the Dalai Lama again asked Geshe Tsetan to accept the Abbot position. This time, Geshe Tsetan accepted.  In July 2005 Geshe Tsetan was installed as Khenchen, or head Abbot, of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in exile, in Bylakuppe southern India.

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His title became Khen Rinpoche Geshe Kachen Lobzang Tsetan, and he assumed his new responsibilities of over-seeing the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in exile. Since summer 2005 he has worked ceaselessly to fulfill the charge of increasing the number of monks at the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, the poorest of the Tibetan monasteries in exile, and of raising the funds for their support and the rebuilding of the monastery to its former greatness.

Below are 3 short films about the life of Khen Rinpoche produced by the PLTL Project.