His Eminence the 5th Gonsar Rinpoche is the present incarnation in the line of Gonsar Tulkus, who are well-known as practitioners of the Hayagriva Tantras and for their ability to deliver clear, precise and logical teachings. Born in 1949 in Shigatse, Tibet, Rinpoche’s aristocratic family descended from the ancient Tibetan kings and his father was the Governor of the Tsang province in Western Tibet.
At the age of three, Rinpoche was recognised and confirmed as the current incarnation of the Gonsar Tulkus by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. At the tender age of six, the current Gonsar Rinpoche started his monastic education at the famed Sera Monastery under the tutelage and care of Venerable Geshe Rabten Rinpoche. He received many teachings and transmissions from numerous highly attained masters including H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama and His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, who is one of Gonsar Rinpoche’s root Gurus.
When Tibet fell in 1959, Gonsar Rinpoche left for India with his Lama to continue his studies there. Upon the completion of his traditional studies, he learned English and Hindi while living in a refugee camp in Buxa and later in Dharamsala. In 1969, Rinpoche began translating the Buddhist teachings given by his Lama, Geshe Rabten, into English. Due to the overwhelming requests from Western students, Geshe Rabten and Gonsar Rinpoche travelled to Switzerland where they founded Rabten Choeling, the Centre for Higher Tibetan Studies.
As Geshe Rabten’s closest disciple for 33 years, Gonsar Rinpoche continued his Lama’s lifelong work after Geshe Rabten entered clear light in 1986. Rinpoche is currently the director of Rabten Choeling in Mont Pèlerin, as well as other Rabten centers in Europe where Rinpoche gives regular teachings in English, French, German and Tibetan. The present Gonsar Rinpoche is one of the very few contemporary masters with the ability to transmit every aspect of the Buddha’s teachings clearly in the students’ native language – English, French, German or Tibetan.
Three years after Geshe Rabten entered clear light, Gonsar Rinpoche found the reincarnation of his beloved root Guru. Around that same time, Rinpoche was appointed the Abbot of Zongkar Choede in South India. Rinpoche is also the co-founder of Dagom Gaden Tensung Ling Monastery in Indiana, USA which he inaugurated on 5 July 1998.
The 1st Gonsar Tulku
The 1st Gonsar Rinpoche lived during the lifetime of the 7th Dalai Lama. He was a poor young man from Amdo who wanted to be accepted into the house of his fellow countrymen in Sera Monastery, near Lhasa. However, he was denied entry due to his poor, shabby appearance.
As he was walking away from the house, he met an old lady who advised him that he might fare better if he applied to another house called Chadrel and she assured him that he would be accepted there. Little did he know that the old lady was actually an emanation of the female Dharmapala, Palden Lhamo.
Just as she had predicted, Rinpoche was subsequently accepted into Sera Monastery. He showed great enthusiasm in his studies and displayed the extraordinary qualities of a great master. As a young man, he spent a significant amount of time in meditation in a cave in the mountains near Lhasa. It was at this very site that the Gonsar retreat monastery would eventually be built. When the monastery was under construction, the people of Lhasa began to refer to Rinpoche as “Gonsar” which means “the Lama of the new monastery” in Tibetan. This name has stayed with the Gonsar Tulku lineage right to this day.
The 1st Gonsar Rinpoche became well-known as the great Master Ngawang Thondrup and served as the Abbot of Sera Jey Monastery. He was also one of the tutors of His Holiness the 8th Dalai Lama. He was famous for his exceptionally vast and profound teachings on the complete path of mental development to full Enlightenment.
Other Exceptional Incarnations
One of Gonsar Rinpoche’s past emanations was Yeshe Yang, who was one of Padmasambhava’s 25 main disciples. Yeshe Yang transcribed many of Padmasambhava’s works and concealed many for himself, thus earning him the name Ba (concealed) Yeshe Yang. He is believed to have received the knowledge of the secret script directly from dakinis when he travelled to their realm during his meditations. Yeshe Yang lived a number of years in the mountainside forests with Sogpo Lhapel (sog po lha dpal) and was believed to have flown into the sky and vanished.
Like his previous incarnations, the 4th Gonsar Rinpoche also studied in Sera Monastery. In his early twenties, upon the completion of his Geshe studies and examinations, he travelled to Mongolia and became one of the greatest Buddhist teachers in the country. Teaching for more than 30 years and manifesting supernatural powers frequently, Rinpoche was greatly cherished by the Mongolians and almost all the contemporary masters in Mongolia became his disciples. During the outbreak of the Bolshevik revolution, he returned to Tibet and continued with his work there. Amongst the 4th Gonsar Rinpoche’s distinguished disciples are members of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s family.
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