Lama Zopa Rinpoche

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Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, the spiritual director of The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), is the reincarnation of the Sherpa Nyingma yogi Kunsang Yeshe, the Lawudo Lama. Rinpoche was born in 1946 in Thami, not far from the cave Lawudo, in the Mount Everest region of Nepal, where his predecessor meditated for the last twenty years of his life. 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.

While still a young boy, Thubten Zopa Rinpoche was taken on his uncle's back for a pilgrimage to Tibet. When he arrived north of Sikkim at the Dungkar 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 practising the dharma. His education would have continued at Sera Je in Lhasa, but these plans were also interrupted in 1959. Eventually he found his way to Baduar where he first became the disciple of Geshe Rabten and then of Lama Thubten Yeshe. Lama Thubten Yeshe and Thubten Zopa Rinpoche's contact with Westerners began in 1965 while they were visiting the Ghoom Monastery in Darjeeling.

In 1967 the two lamas left India, not for Ceylon as originally planned, but for Nepal. After a few years, they were able to purchase land at the top of a nearby hill called Kopan. There they founded the Nepal Mahayana Gompa Center in 1969. The main building was constructed in 1971-72, funded almost exclusively by the lamas' increasing number of Western disciples. When the first meditation course was given there in 1971, it was attended by about twenty students. By the time of the seventh course, held in the autumn of 1974, interest was so great that attendance had to be restricted to 200 meditators, the limit of the local facilities. In December of 1973 Kopan became the home of the International Mahayana Institute, an organization composed of Western monks and nuns.

In 1972 they purchased land in Dharamsala, the North Indian hill station that for many years has been the headquarters of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and since 1971 the site of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. In a house formerly belonging to Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, they established Tushita Retreat Center.

After the passing away of Lama Yeshe in 1984, Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche became the spiritual leader of the FPMT.

Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche has many projects around the world. One of the most important is the 500ft Maitreya Statue that Zopa Rinpoche is building in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India, which will include schools, hospitals and other social projects such as leprosy clinics (these social projects are already in existence and have been functioning for the last 15 years). Some of the other projects that Zopa Rinpoche has are Sera Je food fund – which offers food, breakfast lunch and dinner everyday to 2500 monks. The Lama Tsong Khapa teacher fund offers an allowance to the main 100 teachers in the Gelug tradition from various monasteries. Zopa Rinpoche also has a number of other funds that are for building holy objects, such as Stupas, prayer wheels etc. Zopa Rinpoche has a very strong interest in collecting texts from all the different traditions.

From: Updated Tuesday 24th January, 2006

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