News of Geshe Tashi Tsering
Three months in Tibet

Click thumbnails to see full-size images of the Geshe-la's arrival at Khangmar Monastery

[Dec 2007] Geshe Tashi Tsering returned to Australia in late November after almost three months away, which he spent at Khangmar Monastery in Kardze, Tibet. Khangmar is his home monastery, which he joined when he was seven.

Geshe-la's visits to Khangmar are always keenly anticipated. The esteem in which he is held is clear to see. His personal secretary, Ani Tshering, told the following story of Geshe-la's arrival:

"As we arrived at the last mountain pass before descending into the Kardze valley, our car was greeted by a group of Khangmar's most senior monks and the management team of nuns from Jhilu Ritrek Nunnery. This had also happened when Geshe-la visited in 2002 and 2005; in the past, we had arrived to find tents pitched and hot butter tea waiting for us but this year it was raining and the picnic was a wash-out.

Our small fleet of cars and minivans drove down into the valley and through Kardze town before entering the smaller valley where the monastery and nunnery are situated. As our motorcade turned into the valley we were met with a most extraordinary sight: a 'guard of honour' consisting of at least a hundred motorbikes flying huge flags and banners. They stretched out in front of Geshe-la's vehicle for more than a kilometre as the procession wound its way up the steep road to Khangmar. It was a breathtaking welcome and mark of respect for Geshe-la."

Geshe Tashi Tsering is one of only two Khangmar monks of his generation to have become a lha-ram ge-she, this being the highest academic attainment in the Tibetan monastic system. Khangmar Monastery currently has no teacher so there is little opportunity for the monks to study in the traditional way. While a number of Khangmar monks are currently studying at Sera Je Monastery in India, none have yet completed their studies. Thus, for the time being, Khangmar Monastery is without a teacher. During his visits, Geshe-la makes up for this lack with characteristic vigour.

Geshe-la began teaching as soon as he arrived at Khangmar, with a two-day tantric initiation followed by extensive commentary on the practice. After that, he taught once or twice each day on ‘mind and mental factors’ (sem sem-jhung) and on the vows of fully ordained monks (gelongs). He continued teaching regularly throughout his stay at the monastery.

Geshe-la's attendant, Tenzin Ngawang, who travelled with Geshe-la, attended most of the classes. He reported that Geshe-la's style of teaching was very similar to the way he teaches to western students, but that the classes were much more interactive. When Geshe-la asked a question, there would be a chorus of responses from the class as a whole. Then he would call on individual monks in turn with further questions. He would make the whole class recite the definitions and so forth in unison several times over. He would ask for the definitions again later in the class. In this way, the monks learnt not only by reading their texts and listening to Geshe-la teach but by repeating the key points out loud.

Geshe-la's visit must have been especially exciting for the number of young monks who have joined the monastery in the two years or so since Geshe-la last visited. Geshe-la has a distinct presence at the monastery — there are photos of him throughout the gompa and at the lama's house, as well as on altars in the rooms of many individual monks. His older brother, Azhang Yalu, is an ex-abbot and a significant figure in the monastery; their uncle was the abbot when Geshe-la joined the monastery as a child. Geshe-la's oldest nephew, Pega, is also a monk and is involved in the running of the monastery on a day-to-day basis. But for the new monks, Geshe-la's visit this year was their first opportunity to meet Geshe-la in person and to make a student-teacher bond with him by taking initiation and listening to him teach.

The monastery is administered by a small council of elders (such as the abbot, ex-abbots and gegu) who oversee a group of monks taking their turn as caretakers. Geshe Tashi Tsering has no formal management role but these senior monks look to him for advice on a broad range of issues, from day-to-day practical decisions to pressing questions about the long-term direction of the monastery. This responsibility clearly rests squarely on Geshe-la's shoulders. This year he extended his trip by almost one month to assist with important arrangements regarding the education of a young lama connected with the monastery. Geshe-la made an essential contribution to both the difficult decisions and complex arrangements. Everyone was grateful for his presence and his wisdom.

Geshe-la's visit was a catalyst for a number of developments at the monastery. His personal gifts as well as substantial donations from the Good Fortune Trust (the Australian-based charity of which he is patron) funded the construction of a new school room and major improvements to the facilities at the lama's house. (See the Trust's news page for stories and photos.) These projects were completed during his stay. Geshe-la also left instructions for the construction of a debate courtyard, which is part of his long-term plan for establishing an intensive programme of traditional Buddhist study at Khangmar Monastery.

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Past news

On tour with HHDL Jul 07

India & Lozang Zopa's farewell Feb 07

Long life puja Dec 06

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