Venerable Geshe Khenrab Gajam Venerable Geshe Khenrab Gajam
Born in 1928 in the province of Kham in eastern Tibet, Geshe Khenrab Gajam of Gaden Jangtse Monastery, a great attained master and stalwart... Venerable Geshe Khenrab Gajam

Born in 1928 in the province of Kham in eastern Tibet, Geshe Khenrab Gajam of Gaden Jangtse Monastery, a great attained master and stalwart Dorje Shugden practitioner, commenced his monastic life at a very young age with a local monastery, Nyagon Tashi Chöling, where he received his novice monk studies for four years.

In true Gelugpa monastic tradition, Geshe Khenrab Gajam journeyed from Kham to Lhasa in a caravan of about 100 people to pursue further Buddhist studies in the great monastic University of Gaden. In this regard, he was fortunate enough to be taken under the wing of a very famous Lama, who was a friend of his extended family, during his journey to Lhasa.

A diligent student, at age 24 Geshe Khenrab Gajam showed mastery of various subjects and began teaching the younger students. However, it would prove to be a while before Geshe Khenrab Gajam was able to complete his studies due to the disruption following the 1959 Tibetan Uprising, during which he had to flee Tibet and enter exile in India. His journey to India through the Himalayas was hazardous with many harrowing dangers, both from the enemy and natural hindrances. According to some eyewitness accounts, at some point during the journey, Geshe Khenrab Gajam was blinded by fog and fell off a cliff but miraculously escaped uninjured.

Geshe Khenrab Gajam was finally able to complete his studies in 1968, at the age of 40. He attained a high level of scholarship, 2nd in his class after H.H. the 2nd Pabongka Chocktrul Rinpoche (who tragically passed away soon after receiving His Geshe degree in India) and was awarded the title of Lharampa Geshe which is the highest degree in the Tibetan monastic system. In 1970, when Gaden Monastery was first re-established in Mundgod in southern India, Geshe Khenrab Gajam was appointed to serve as a proctor.

In 1972, there was an influx of Tibetan refugees who migrated to Canada following the Canadian Government’s acceptance of approximately 400 Tibetan refugees at that juncture. Thus, the Canadian government extended an invitation to Geshe Khenrab Gajam to establish a Dharma centre to fulfil the spiritual needs of their new citizens. Initially rejecting such an invitation as it was Geshe Khenrab Gajam’s fondest wish to live simply within a Tibetan community and engage in serious meditation following the manner of his teacher, Nyima Gyaltsen Rinpoche, he finally relented and accepted such request following the persistent appeals from the Canadian Immigration officials over a period of several months and out of great compassion for the purpose of expounding the Dharma.

Upon relocation to Montreal, Geshe Khenrab Gajam was heavily involved in teaching the Dharma within the Tibetan refugee community, particularly since he was the only master qualified to teach the Tibetan form of Mahayana Buddhism in Quebec. As time went on, Geshe Khenrab Gajam’s teachings drew more and more students, even reaching beyond the Tibetan refugee community with English and French students. Eventually, through a Local Immigration Partnership governmental incentive grant, Geshe Khenrab Gajam was able to secure a small apartment in Longueuil which became Atisha Dharma Centre, his first Dharma centre in Quebec.

It was a place where Geshe Khenrab Gajam primarily gave Dharma teachings and performed various ceremonies on request and as the need arose. Atisha Dharma Centre has been blessed with the visits of several great lamas including,  Venerable Pema Gyaltsen of Drepung Monastery, Venerable Lati Rinpoche of Gaden Shartse Monastery, Venerable Kalu Rinpoche of the Kagyu Lineage and His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. In addition to Atisha Dharma Centre, Geshe Khenrab Gajam also conducted many teachings, initiations, and retreats at the house of singer Leonard Cohen which was located on St-Dominique Street, in the Plateau area of downtown Montreal.

Geshe Khenrab Gajam performing the Chod ritual.

Geshe Khenrab Gajam performing the Chod ritual.

Due to the growing demand for a bigger centre to house the growing number of students, the centre moved to a larger location in a residential area of Longueuil in 1980, just before the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Atisha Dharma Centre became known as Tibetan Buddhist Temple – Gaden Chang Chub Chöling. In addition to hosting His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Gaden Chang Chub Chöling was also graced with a visit from His Holiness Kyabje Ling Rinpoche.

Two years after the establishment of Gaden Chang Chub Chöling, Geshe Khenrab Gajam left Montreal for a six to seven month long visit to India and Tibet during which time he also took the opportunity to travel back to Kham, Tibet where members of his family still lived. Considering that Geshe Khenrab Gajam was the first monk the Tibetans had seen for years, an overwhelming number of Tibetans from that area came to visit him and Geshe Khenrab Gajam patiently and compassionately attended to such visitors.

Upon returning to Montreal after his successful tour in India and Tibet, Geshe Khenrab Gajam started working together with his students to source for a larger space for the relocation of Gaden Chang Chub Chöling. This took into account the advice and request to relocate from His Holiness the 98th Gaden Tripa (“Holder of the Ganden Throne” which is the title of the spiritual leader of the Gelug tradition) Jamphel Shenpen, who visited the temple several times over the course of a few years. This led to Gaden Chang Chub Chöling moving to a location on De l’Eglise Ave. in Côte St. Paul.

In January 1986, taking advantage of the presence of Gyume Tantric College monks who were in Montreal then, Geshe Khenrab Gajam requested them to consecrate the structure of Gaden Chang Chub Chöling although work was not fully complete at that time. In May 1986, Gaden Chang Chub Chöling was officiated in a ceremony and the temple became a site of great activities geared towards the spreading of Dharma. Concurrently, around that time, Geshe Khenrab Gajam began conducting several retreats and teachings in various North American cities.

Geshe Khenrab Gajam with H.H. Zong Rinpoche.

Geshe Khenrab Gajam with H.H. Zong Rinpoche.

A long list of great lamas continued to visit Gaden Chang Chub Chöling to give teachings and initiations. Among these were His Holiness the 98th Gaden Tripa, Venerable Lati Rinpoche, Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche, Zasep Tulku Rinpoche (who visited the temple many times) and others.

Geshe Khenrab Gajam passed into clear light on 4th October 1993. His students continued their practices and sought advice from both Kyabje Lati Rinpoche and Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche on the search for the reincarnation of their beloved teacher.

Through the kindness of Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche, the temple came under the guidance of Geshe Tsultrim Tenzin, an exceptional Geshe and Dorje Shugden practitioner, also from Gaden Jangtse Monastery. Geshe Tsultrim Tenzin arrived with Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche in the fall of 2001, and remained in Gaden Chang Chub Chöling for four months during which he gave many teachings. Thereafter, Geshe Tsultrim Tenzin was called away to Austria to become the tutor of His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche.

Following the departure of Geshe Tsultrim Tenzin, two of his close disciples, Zawa Tulku Rinpoche and Gen Lobsang Tashi have accordingly established a permanent monastic presence in Gaden Chang Chub Chöling to guide the spiritual community of Montreal and actualise the vision of Geshe Khenrab Gajam.

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  • Sierra

    Posted on July 31, 2016 #1 Author

    Great masters with pure lineage and motivation to benefit others, will be able to found and grow dharma centres. Venerable Geshe Khenrab Gajam is one such lama, though he was a reluctant at first.

    From his escape to India, and subesequent start in Montreal, he has managed to grow Atisha Dharma Centre into Gaden Chang Chub Chöling. And, the centre continues to bring dharma for the benefit of all who stay in Montreal and beyond under the able guidance of Zawa Tulku Rinpoche and Gen Lobsang Tashi, disciples of Venerable Geshe Khenrab Gajam.

    Thank you for sharing this precious information of another great lama.


  • Jacinta Goh

    Posted on July 14, 2017 #2 Author

    This is the first time I heard about this Geshe. Looks like Geshe Khenrab Gajam’s centre was very famous and have been visited by so many great Lamas, not only from Gelug school but from other school as well. It shows how these great Lamas worked for the benefit of many and not being sectarian. In fact, they work together for BuddhaDharma to grow. How sweet ?