Abbots of the Tibet Institute
The abbots of the Tibet Institute were appointed by H.H. the Dalai Lama. To date five abbots have been in office:
- Ven. Geshe Thupten Legmen (the 5th abbot, in office since 2011)
- Ven. Geshe Phuntsok Tashi (the 4th abbot, in office 1996-2010)
- Ven. Geshe Gedün Sangpo (the 3rd abbot, in office 1979-1995)
- Ven. Geshe Tamdin Rabten (the 2nd abbot, in office 1975-1979)
- Ven. Geshe Ugyen Tseten (the 1st abbot, in office 1967-1974)
The Ven. Abbot Geshe Thupten Legmen (born 1963), Gelug, comes from the big Sera Mey Monastery in South India, which he already joined at the age of thirteen. He received his full monk’s ordination as well as many teachings and initiations from H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama. After a monastic education of nearly 20 years he obtained the advanced Geshe Lharampa degree. From 1986 onwards he was teaching Buddhist philosophy to novices and monks. In 2001 he was appointed as disciplinarian of the Sera Mey Monastery. In 2006 he joined the Gyumed Tantric Monastery to complete his education in Tantra. Here he earned the Geshe Ngarampa degree. After his return to the Sera Mey Monastery he also became in charge of its library. In autumn 2010 H.H. the Dalai Lama personally selected and appointed Geshe Thupten Legmen as the fifth abbot for the Monastic Tibet Institute Rikon. He was welcomed solemnly on the occasion of the Tibetan New Year ceremony on 5 March 2011 in the Tibet Institute Rikon.
The Ven. fourth Abbot, Geshe Phuntsok Tashi, Gelug, was born into the old family Dragdong Shabtsang in 1936. He began his monastic education in Dargye Monastery at the age of ten. From 1954 onwards he continued his education in Drepung Monastery where he studied scriptures. In 1959 he left Tibet and went to Buxar in Indian exile, where he spent ten years living and studying together with a thousand other monks. He then joined Drepung Monastery in South India, where the monks have to earn their living by farm work, and took his Geshe examination in 1984. As Master of Ceremonies in the Protector’s Temple he was responsible for rituals and could undertake retreats on various deities. He was especially dedicated to the upbringing and education of young monks and tulkus’. Upon the wish of H.H. the Dalai Lama, he went to Switzerland in 1996 as the fourth Abbot of the monastic Tibet Institute. Here he guides the monks’ community, ensures that the rules of the order are abided by, carries out the annual summer retreat, the ritual of confession and the Buddhist festivities and gives teachings to the Tibetans. He held this office until his death on October the 19th 2010.
The Ven. third Abbot, Geshe Gedün Sangpo, Gelug, was born in Gartse, Amdo, in 1917. At the age of seven he began his education in Tibetan script and Buddhist rituals at Rongpo Monastery where he met the famous scholar Geshe Sherab. Under the guidance of Geshe Sherab, who accepted him as a student, he studied the five classical texts of Buddhism (Prajnaparamita, Madhyamika, Vinaya Sutra, Abhidharma Kosa, Pramana). During pilgrimages he meditated at numerous places of retreat in the mountains. In 1959 he left Tibet and continued his studies in Buxar/North India where he obtained the degree of Geshe Lhampara in 1975. He taught at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Varanasi until H.H. the Dalai Lama appointed him Abbot of Ganden Jangtse Dratshang Monastery. He became director of the Centre for Higher Tibetan Studies in Mont Pélerin. In 1979 H.H. the Dalai Lama appointed him third Abbot of the monastic Tibet Institute. He held this office until his death on November the 4th 1995.
The Ven. second Abbot, Geshe Tamdin Rabten, Gelug, was born in Kham/East Tibet in 1921. He studied at Sera Monastic University where he was a student of Geshe Khedup and obtained the degree of Geshe Lharampa, equivalent to a PhD in Buddhist philosophy. He underwent unbelievable hardship to carry out his studies and meditations. After his flight from Tibet he lived in a retreat close to Dharamsala until H.H. the Dalai Lama appointed him his personal consultant in philosophical matters. In 1969 he began giving teachings for interested Westerners and thus became a propagator of the complete teachings of Buddha in the West. He knew how to express the most difficult sutras and tantras in a manner understandable for Eastern and Western listeners alike. On September the 24th 1975, upon the wish of H.H. the Dalai Lama, he assumed his office as second Abbot of the Tibet Institute, the only Tibetan monastery of H.H. the Dalai Lama in the West, and held this office until 1979. In 1977 he founded the Buddhist Centre Tharpa Choeling (now Rabten Choeling), which he also presided over as spiritual leader until his death on February the 27th 1986.
The Ven. first Abbot, Geshe Ugyen Tseten, Gelug, was born in Dagyab/ East Tibet in 1914. A Chinese Lama who knew palmistry soon advised him to become a monk. Only in 1933 however, he secretly journeyed to Lhasa where he joined Sera Monastery and began his studies. At the age of 25 he took his full monk’s vows in the presence of Purbutschok Dschampa Rinpoche, a tutor of the 13th Dalai Lama. After his last examination, held as a public debate in 1958, he received the degree of Geshe Lhampara. In 1959 he joined Tantra College. When the 14th Dalai Lama fled, he also left Tibet and went to Buxar/North India, a former English prisoner camp where more than a thousand monks lived and studied. In 1967 H.H. the Dalai Lama sent him to Switzerland together with four other monks to head the newly founded monastery in Rikon. After spending six years as Abbot of the monastic Tibet Institute, he took over the direction of Tantra College in India in 1974. In 1977 he returned to Switzerland to undertake a five-year yamantaka retreat. Today he lives in Sera Monastery in India.