Biography of Ven. Geshe Tenzing Tamding

Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding was born in Chitang, a town in the Tibetan region of Dham-Dagyab, in 1965, the year of wooden snake. His paternal heritage is Chu Sup Tsang, one of the most important family in the region. His father’s name is Tamding Sonam and his mother’s name is Tamding Yangzom. Similarly, his mother is also comes from a popular and important family in Tibet.

His paternal grandfather, Guen Ga, was a spiritual man with strong personality. He passed away at young age of 37 years old. He had the maximum authority in Chitang. He married to Lha Yang and they had two sons and a daughter. The eldest was Kyabye Khensur Tamding Gyatso Rinpoche (1926-2002), the abbot of Ganden monastery. Their second son was Tamding Sonam (1928-1976), who was the father of Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding. Nawang Paltso (1933-1993) was the youngest among the three.

Venerable Geshe Kelsang Puntsog, the brother of Lha Yang (paternal grandmother of Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding), returned to his family in the region of Kham, Central Tibet, after passing the exams of Geshe Larampa in 1929. He was a great Buddhist master, the previous abbot of Dagyab Magon and mentor of Venerable Dagyab Kyab Gon Rinpoche, Kyabye Khensur Tamding Gyatso Rinpoche and Tamding Sonam. He was one of the main masters in the region.

Kyabye Khensur Tamding Gyatso Rinpoche and Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding’s father like to tag along their uncle closely since they were young. It was described like the shadow following the body. He was the first master of the two brothers. He provided them Dharma teachings, which consisted of writing, reading, memorizing Dharma texts, daily prayers and recitations.

Meanwhile, Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding’s grandmother and her youngest daughter received Dharma teachings from a young monk at their home. Later, Kyabye Khensur Tamding Gyatso Rinpoche became a monk. Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding’s father, Tamding Sonam, who was very passionate in medicine, poetry and grammar, became a doctor in the town. Tamding Sonam was a very erudite man and he was very knowledgeable in Buddhism, owing to his early study in Dharma and coaching by his maternal uncle, Venerable Geshe Kelsang Puntsog.

When China invaded Tibet in 1959, Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding’s family lost all their properties. Their houses, lands and belongings inherited from several generations, were expropriated by the Chinese communists. Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding’s father was arrested by the Chinese, being convicted for his devotion to Buddhism and His Holiness the Dalai Lama; who was very respected by Tibet citizens and he defended the Tibetan Constitution.

Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding, the fourth and youngest child of Tanding Sonam and Tamding Yangzom was born in a barn, during this tough and poor condition. Tamding Yangzom raised all her children, the eldest son, Nyima, two daughters, Yamyang and Tsering[1] and Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding independently. In 1969, when Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding was four years old, his father was released by the Chinese after seven years of abuses in jail. Unfortunately, his legs were brutally beaten and broken while he was imprisoned. He was lame in both feet and not able to walk ever again. He stayed at home while his wife and three eldest children worked in the fields to earn a living.

All the monasteries were destroyed and monks exiled from the region. Tamding Sonam gave Dharma teachings to Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding and his siblings at their little house, in a very disciplined manner. The teachings were delivered clandestinely and Dharma texts were hidden secretly, due to stringent surveillance by the Chinese. At a very young age, Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding was already able to recite the twenty-one Praises to Tara and other gelugpa prayers such as the Refuge prayer, as well as several mantras. He learned Tibetan language too. The teachings he received from his father were etched deeply in his mind; influencing him greatly.

Tamding Sonam passed away in 1976 at the age of 49 years old, when Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding was only twelve years old. Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding’s mother decided to become a nun a few months after her husband’s death. She had to hide her robes whenever she was out from the house, due to the political circumstances.

Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding was very motivated by his father’s teachings and mother’s example. Knowing that his uncle, Kyabye Khensur Tamding Gyatso Rinpoche had escaped to India as a refugee, he decided to follow his steps. At that juncture, he aimed to study Dharma of Sangye Sakya Tupa and become a Geshe; as he realized that these were the most beneficial things that he could do in his lifetime.

In 1977, Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding joined a group of people and escaped from Tibet. They had to cross the Himalayan mountains until reaching Nepal. After two months of escape on foot, the group finally arrived in India. It was an extremely dangerous experience, where they continuously put their life in high risk.

Once arrived in India, Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding went to Darjeeling to meet with his uncle. He spent few years with Kyabye Khensur Tamding Gyatso Rinpoche. He was a well-known Geshe Larampa and taught Dharma in the Public Institute[2] CST (Central School for Tibetans). Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding learned Dharma diligently from his uncle and he helped his uncle in managing the monastery, in returns.

Kyabye Khensur Tamding Gyatso Rinpoche was very happy that his nephew decided to pursue the same studies as he did. In 1978, he took him to Bodhgaya to receive the ordination as a monk from H.H. the Dalai Lama. After taking vows, H.H. the Dalai Lama interviewed with few new monks. When it was Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding’s turn, he asked him what he intended to do and he answered that he wanted to pursue the studies to become a Geshe at Ganden Monastery. H.H. the Dalai Lama told him to start the studies in Buddhist Philosophy School Institute of Dharamsala.

At the age of thirteen, Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding left his uncle to fulfill his wish to continue the Dharma studies in Dharamsala. He entered and studied in Buddhist Philosophy Institute for approximately five years.

In Dharamsala, as he can speak Chinese well, he helped H.H. Dalai Lama to translate his teachings in Tibet to Chinese, for disciples from Taiwan. He started to deliver Dharma teachings in Chinese to a close disciple of H.H. the Dalai Lama, a Taiwanese monk called Gelong Tenzin Chamchen.

Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding was very determined to complete his studies of Geshe. He requested advises from H.H. the Dalai Lama to complete his formation at Ganden Monastic University, in South of India. He entered this prestigious monastery in 1982. He was assessed and allowed to proceed to tenth grade (year) straight away, which was an advance grade.

The studies of Geshe level usually require twenty years of studies. They study Tsema Namdrel and Parchin during the first four years, Uma or Madyamika from the fifth to the eighth year. In the ninth year, they study Dzo or Abidharma, and Dulwa or Vinaya in the tenth year. Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding joined this course after passing two examinations, which was to assess his early studies that he did in Dharamsala.

Once he completed his studies in 1992, H.H. the Dalai Lama personally told Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding to sit for the exam of Geshe Larampa the soonest possible. Candidates usually must wait for many years before they are qualified to sit for the exam of this degree. However, Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding pursued it before the expected time and he passed all the exams with excellent results. He was one of the youngest Geshe Larampas in the Monastery.

In 1993, right after his examination, H.H. the Dalai Lama sent Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding to Taiwan so that he continued the teachings to Venerable Guelong Tenzin Chamchen. Venerable Guelong Tenzin Chamchen had several centres and monasteries in Hong Kong and U.S.A. Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding taught him and his disciples, mainly on Lam Rim. The Taiwanese yogi was generous and he contributed financial supports to Ganden Shartse, Ganden Tsok Chen[3] and Ganden Nyagre Kangsten[4] monasteries, as well as Sera and Drepung monasteries.

In 1997, Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding came to Spain for the first time to visit his uncle Kyabye Khensur Tamding Gyatso Rinpoche, and helped to deliver Dharma teachings in his uncle’s centres. In 1999, he travelled around Europe countries, and began to teach several courses in England and Germany.

In 2002, after the parinirvana of Kyabye Khensur Tamding Gyatso Rinpoche, abbot of Ganden Monastery, Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding fulfill his uncle’s wish to take over the position of Spiritual Director, of all his centres in Spain. His uncle nominated him as the successor of the five centres in Spain, i.e. Minorca, Gandía, Novelda, Coruña and Seville. Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding took over these centres and he founded thirteen more new centres around Spain.

Although the main residence of Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding is in Ganden Choeling Centre, Minorca, he visits all his centres around Spain, Asia and U.S.A periodically to deliver Dharma teachings. He is also the mentor to numerous disciples, who follow his footprints actively. There are many requests for Dharma teachings, from centres and monasteries of various countries. His students like his way of teachings as he is able to transmit the Dharma clearly, easily for understanding and practice in our daily life.

Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding wishes that all his disciples will have the similar opportunities to receive Dharma teachings, as being taught in the main Gelugpa Monasteries, i.e. Ganden, Sera and Drepung. To achieve this, Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding started the program of ten years Dharma course in Spain, which includes teachings of sutra and tantra of the Five Great Subjects, in 2009. This program also includes debate, basic method to understand Sangye Sakya Tupa’s Dharma and Budhhist philosophy principles. The first year of this program was held in Ganden Choeling Centre, Ciutadella, Minorca, during the Easter of 2009.

In 2008, Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding’s brother and sister who were staying in California, and a Taiwanese disciple, gave a donation to Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding. With his far-sighted wish to help all sentient beings through Dharma teachings, he then decided to buy a piece of land to build retreat centres and monastery in Ourense, Spain. The monastery is planned to be constructed in peaceful environment and spacious land.

The construction of Ourense monastery is still in progress. The monastery welcomes all seculars, monks and nuns to learn and practice Dharma. Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding involved personally in piling-up the bricks with both of his hands, in the construction of the monastery. His disciples are aspired by his motivation and they feel grateful with the opportunities to contribute in this wonderful project, which will benefit scholars in future.

The opening ceremony of Chu Sup Tsang, Ourense monastery was held in conjuction with the second year of ten years course, in August 2009.  It was officiated by Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding and H.E. Nyari Tritul Rinpoche.

Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding established Mahayana Buddhist Federation Thubten Thinley[5], with the objectives to fulfil the wish of his root Guru’s, Kyabye Khensur Tamding Gyatso Rinpoche. It comprises of all centres in Spain, founded by his uncle and him.

Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding also established Chu Sup Tsang Foundation with the objective to preserve the Tibetan culture, art and Buddhist philosophy. The Foundation builds a reproduction of main Gelugpa Monastic Universities – Ganden, Sera, Drepung, Gyuto and Gyume in Spain, which were originally located in Tibet, and re-build in India (followed by the exile to India).

As of today, Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding is still active in delivering Dharma teachings in various countries, inclusive Spain, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Australia, and California (where he has founded several centres). He also invited great lamas to these centres, such as, his Guru-pa H.H. Lati Rinpoche and H.E. Khensu Janpa Yeshe Rinpoche, to support teachings to various centres.

Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding’s Gurus are:

  • H. Tenzin Gyatso, the XIV Dalai Lama
  • Kyabye Khensur Tamding Gyatso Rinpoche
  • E. Kyabye Khensur Janpa Yeshe Rinpoche
  • H. Kyabye Khensur Lati Rinpoche

[1]  Among the three of Geshe’s siblings, Nyima, is the eldest, and Tsering are currently staying  in  U.S.A., while Yamyang is still staying in Tibet.

[2]  When they ran away and arrived in India, H.H. the Dalai Lama instructed a group of best Geshes to take over the education of young Tibetans, to teach them culture, grammar, history, language and Dharma of course.

[3]  The Ganden Monastery has two schools: Changtse and Shartse. It also comprises Ganden Tsok Chen, a common area for both schools which is used for some activities. There is also Sera Tsok Chen and Drepung Tsok Chen.

[4]  One of the eleven groups of buildings that are used for lodging in Ganden Monastery.

[5]  Thubten Thinley is Kyabye Khensur Tamding Gyatso Rinpoche’s spiritual name (Venerable Geshe Tenzing Tamding’s uncle)

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