From March to April 2016, Shar Gaden Monastery was host to the turning of the wheel of Dharma with the visit of a great scholar, Ven. Geshe Thubten Trinley. The arrival of this erudite teacher was accompanied by Tibetan ceremonial music, as he was escorted into the prayer hall in his wheelchair.
The frail, aged Geshe was assisted onto the throne and commenced an extended series of teachings on the Bodhisattva Vows and the Middling Lamrim with H.H. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche’s commentary. The teachings lasted for a total of 25 days and had a tremendous impact on the minds of the 800 monks in attendance from both Shar Gaden and Serpom monasteries.
At the end of the precious discourse, an elaborate long life puja (tenshug) and tsog was offered to Geshe Thubten Trinley by the monks of both monasteries for his good health and longevity. Present during this ceremony were eminent masters including H.E. Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende, H.E. Domo Chocktrul Rinpoche, H.E. Gyara Rinpoche and many others.
The assembly of Sangha also came together once again to make offerings to the Bodhimind (sems bskyed mchod pa). Having renewed their Bodhisattva Vows with Geshe Thubten Trinley after receiving the precious teachings of the Middling Lamrim, the monks conducted this grand offering ceremony as a thanksgiving puja as well as to generate continuous merits to possess the wish to develop Bodhicitta.
The debate hall was elaborately decorated with beautiful flowers for this special occasion and abundant offerings were made to celebrate the meritorious activities that were conducted in Shar Gaden Monastery. Hundreds of monks held up offering banners marked with auspicious signs which serve as a reminder of their Bodhisattva vows and their journey to develop the Bodhimind.
A kangso to the Dharma Protectors Dorje Shugden, Namtose and Setrap was also conducted in celebration and thanksgiving for the smooth and perfect conditions throughout the 25 days.or watch on our server: Ven. Geshe Thubten Trinley's teachings at Shar Gaden, 2016
Geshe Thubten Trinley: A Short Biography
Venerable Geshe Thubten Trinley was born in the year 1933 in Trehor, Eastern Tibet. At the tender age of 10, he began his Dharma studies with the illustrious master Venerable Geshe Jampa Khedrup.
Geshe Jampa Khedrup was born in the Dhargye region of Tibet and was one of H.H. Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche’s main disciples. He was famed in the region of Dhargye for flourishing the teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa. When he was 15 years old, Geshe Jampa Khedrup enrolled in Sera Monastery in Lhasa, where he continued his studies until he achieved the Geshe Lharam degree. He then joined Gyume Tantric College where he also served as the monastery’s disciplinarian (dge bskos).
Due to continuous requests from the people of Dhargye for him to turn the wheel of Dharma in his hometown, Geshe Jampa Khedrup returned to Dhargye and became the abbot of Trehor Dhargye Monastery. Although Dhargye Monastery was influential and large with 1,500 Sangha members at the time, the study of Buddhism was shallow and signs of degeneration in the Dharma were present.
In his efforts to revive the excellent study programmes within Lama Tsongkhapa’s tradition, Geshe Jampa Khedrup faced countless obstacles and was confronted with much resistance from those who were set in their erroneous ways. However, with pure dedication and perseverance, Geshe Jampa Khedrup successfully reestablished the debate courtyard (chos rwa) and the schools of Sutra and Tantric practices.
Geshe Jampa Khedrup served as the abbot of Trehor Dhargye Monastery for 60 years before retreating to the mountains to engage in intense meditation practices. During the eighth year of his meditation retreat, he was captured by Chinese troops during the war and was sent to prison, where he passed away a few years later. During his final years in prison, he composed various texts about training the mind in Dharma.
Having the opportunity to receive direct teachings from such a great master as Geshe Jampa Khedrup is a clear indication of how special Geshe Thubten Trinley is.
After five years of study with this great disciple of Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, Geshe Thubten Trinley left Trehor for Lhasa and joined Sera Jey Monastery where he studied Buddhist philosophy for about 10 years with single pointed focus and progressed exceptionally. His main teacher was the late Geshe Tamdin Rabten Rinpoche, who would later become one of the first Tibetan Lamas to bring Dharma to the West. He also served as the study assistant (mtshan zhabs) to the then 10-year-old Reting Rinpoche, whose former incarnation was the Regent of Tibet.
At the age of 26, Geshe Thubten Trinley’s studies in Sera Jey Monastery were cut short prematurely when Chinese troops invaded Tibet in 1959, forcing many monks to seek refuge in India. After a long and arduous journey through the Himalayas, Geshe Thubten Trinley continued his studies for eight years in Buxa, while helping to rebuild what little was left of the Tibetan tradition in exile.
As the situation improved for the Tibetan refugees, Geshe Thubten Trinley and 54 other great learned masters became the first batch of exiled Tibetan lamas to enrol in Varanasi University, where they studied extensively for three years.
Upon completion of their final examinations, which were conducted by H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama, H.H. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and H.H. Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, Geshe Thubten Trinley was ranked 4th out of the seven finest Geshes in his class, after Geshe Thubten Tsering of Gaden Shartse Monastery, H.H. Sharpa Choje Lobsang Nyima and Geshe Jampa Thekchok of Sera Jey Monastery.
Most of his classmates took on prestigious and important positions in Gaden, Sera and Drepung monasteries as well as in Gyutö and Gyume Tantric colleges, and Geshe Thubten Trinley himself was offered the position of Chantmaster (dbu mdzad) in Gyume Tantric College which would open the path for him to eventually ascend the throne of abbot or even the Gaden Tripa. However, in accordance with the advice of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Geshe Rabten, Geshe Thubten Trinley chose instead to engage in retreat in the mountains near Dharamsala and continued his studies in seclusion.
During these retreat years, Geshe Thubten Trinley received countless teachings from Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, especially the Middling Lamrim teachings which he received through instructions from experience (myung trid). Just as how Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche studied the Lamrim with his teacher Dagpo Rinpoche Jamphel Lhundrub, Geshe Thubten Trinley would receive teachings from Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and meditate on the subject for a week before returning to explain his realisations and to receive more instructions. This training went on for many years.
Geshe Thubten Trinley remained in retreat for the next 12 years, and only ended his meditation retreat in 1983 when his root teacher, Geshe Rabten, invited him to reside and teach in Rabten Choeling, Switzerland.
Observing how his aging teacher was in need of assistance and understanding Geshe Rabten’s wish to educate his Western students in Dharma, Geshe Thubten Trinley traveled to Switzerland without any hesitation to fulfill his Lama’s wishes although his personal preference was to remain in retreat. Upon his arrival, he was appointed as one of the main resident teachers of Rabten Choeling and has been based in Europe ever since.
Despite shouldering the heavy responsibilities of propagating the Gelugpa tradition in the West, Geshe Thubten Trinley continues to travel widely for several months at a time to Tibet, India and Nepal to pass on the precious teachings and lineage of Lama Tsongkhapa. At the request of Shar Gaden Monastery’s then abbot, H.E. Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende, Geshe Thubten Trinley visited the monastery for the first time in 2009, during which he stayed for 49 days and gave an extensive teaching on the Lamrim Chenmo.
Ever since then, Geshe Thubten Trinley regularly returns to Shar Gaden Monastery to turn the wheel of Dharma almost annually. Even a major heart surgery in 2011 did not stop him from travelling to Shar Gaden Monastery three weeks later to give an extensive teaching on The Essence of True Eloquence by Lama Tsongkhapa.
Below are some of the most significant teachings that Geshe Thubten Trinley has given during his travels to the East:
Teachings in 2009 at Shar Gaden Monastery
- 45-day commentary on The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (lam rim chen mo) by Lama Tsongkhapa
Teachings in 2010 at Shar Gaden Monastery:
- Commentary on The Essence of Nectar (lam rim bdud rtsi snying po) by Yeshe Tsondru
- Solitary Hero Yamantaka initiation and commentary (‘jigs byed dpa’ bo gcig pa)
- 13-Deity Yamantaka initiation and commentary (‘jigs byed lha bcu gsum)
- Dorje Shugden life entrustment initiation (rdo rje shugs ldan srog gtad)
Teachings in 2011 at Shar Gaden Monastery:
- 25-day commentary on The Essence of True Eloquence (legs bshad snying po) by Lama Tsongkhapa
Teachings in 2012 at Jangchup Lamrim Temple in Lumbini, Nepal:
- Commentary on The Swift Path – Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (lam rim myur lam) by H.H. the 2nd Panchen Lama Lobsang Yeshe. More than 200 monks from both Serpom and Shar Gaden monasteries travelled to Nepal to receive these teachings from Geshe Thubten Trinley.
Teachings in 2015 at Shar Gaden Monastery:
- Teaching on Shantideva’s Bodhisattvacharyavatara (spyod ‘jug chen mo) by Gyaltsab Je
- Commentary on Mind Training Like the Rays of the Sun (blo sbyong nyi ma’i ‘od zer) by Nam-Kha Pel
Teachings in 2016 at Shar Gaden Monastery:
- Commentary on The Medium Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (lam rim ‘bring ba) by Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche
Geshe Thubten Trinley’s determination to pass on the lineage of Lama Tsongkhapa to the new generation of geshes and tulkus is truly commendable and greatly respected. Despite his aging body and declining health, the 84-year-old Geshe Thubten Trinley has never stopped teaching and continues to fulfil many requests to turn the wheel of Dharma.
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