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Lama Zopa Rinpoche

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Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche was born in 1945 in the village of Thami in the Solu Khumbu region of Nepal near Mount Everest. From the house where he was born he could look up the mountainside and see Lawudo, where the cave of the late Lawudo Lama was situated. While his predecessor had belonged to the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, the Lawudo Lama himself had been a great master of the complete tantric teachings of the Nyingma tradition.

For the last twenty years of his life he had lived in his cave, attended by his wife and two children, and had spent all his time either meditating or giving teachings and spiritual advice to the people of the Solu Khumbu and neighboring regions. His energy on behalf of all beings was inexhaustible and it is said that in his later years he passed completely beyond the need for sleep.

From the time he was able to crawl, Zopa Rinpoche would spend most of his time trying to climb the steep path leading to the cave of this deceased Lama. Finally, when he was old enough to speak, he declared that the cave was his and that he was the incarnation of the Lawudo Lama. He further insisted that his only desire was to lead a life of meditation. When he was four or five years old, his claim to be an incarnate lama was subjected to public examination by Ngawang Samden, a Nyingma master meditator who lived nearby. When the young boy was repeatedly able to identify possessions belonging to the Lawudo Lama he was formally declared to be the rightful incarnation and received the full investiture of the Nyingma tradition. Later he was to receive the tantric initiations of this tradition from the head lama of the Thami Gompa, known affectionately as Gaga (or “grandfather”) Lama. Young Zopa Rinpoche began his education at Solu Khumbu in the traditional Tibetan manner, with the alphabet. One of the first books he read was the biography of Milarepa, the famous eleventh century poet and meditator.

While still a young boy, Zopa Rinpoche was taken on his uncle’s back for a pilgrimage to Tibet. When he arrived north of Sikkim at the Dung-kar Monastery of Domo Geshe Rinpoche, he startled his uncle by declaring that he had no intention of returning home with him. Rather, he wanted to stay at this monastery and devote his life to studying and practicing the Dharma. And so he did.

His education would have continued at Sera Je monastery in Lhasa where he would no doubt have met Lama Yeshe, but his plans were also interrupted in 1959 with the Chinese invasion. Eventually he found his way to Buxaduar where he first became the disciple of Geshe Rabten Rinpoche and then of Lama Yeshe. In 1969 the Lamas began teaching Buddhism to Westeners at their Kopan Monastery, Nepal, and in 1974 began travelling the world to spread the Dharma. Lama Zopa Rinpoche is now the Spiritual Director of the Foundation and oversees all of its activities.


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