By Tenzin Zopa
Singapore, 11 Sept. 2000
Lama Konchog studied in Sera Monastery in Tibet from the age of 7 to 32
(1934-1959). Although the monks were not allowed to take tantric
initiations and teachings until after they completed their Geshe
studies, Geshe-la used to sneak out to attend initiations and teachings
by such Lamas as Pabongka Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche and Pari Rinpoche.
He also completed the short retreats of the deities he was initiated
into, staying in the labrangs of these Lamas. He completed his Geshe
studies and was about to take his final exams in 1959, but had to
escape Tibet. He left Tibet with only the robes he was wearing, a
sheepskin and some texts from all four traditions. Along the way he met
someone who said that the weather was warm in Nepal and he wouldn't
need the sheepskin, so he sold it for a small amount of money. But he
still had another small piece of sheepskin.
At first he went to Tsum in Nepal and left his
texts with someone there, then went to Kathmandu with the intention of
going to Buxa. He met his Guru Trijang Rinpoche in Kathmandu, who told
him not to go to Buxa but to return to the mountains to meditate. But
Geshe-la really wanted to go to Buxa, so he did not accept his Guru's
advice, but went to India. While travelling on a train with a friend
who wanted to visit Varanasi, Geshe-la met Trijang Rinpoche on the same
train. Trijang Rinpoche asked him what he was doing in India, and told
him to go back to the mountains in Nepal to meditate. This time
Geshe-la did, he went straight back to Tsum, collected his texts from
the people he had left them with and went up into the mountains without
telling anyone where he was going. He had only his texts, his one set
of robes, the small piece of sheepskin and a leaky pot. He found a cave
high above the village, which happened to be a cave where Milarepa had
meditated, and where Milarepa's sister offered him cloth for robes.
Geshe-la stayed there for 10 years without leaving or seeing anyone. He
was very strong and didn't sleep at night but did prostrations all
night. He lived on nettles that grew around the cave. (Tenzin Zopa once
asked a local meditator, Rinchen Wangchug, who knew Geshe-la during
this time, what Geshe la lived on and this meditator said that Geshe-la
did <I>chu-len</I> during those 10 years, but when Tenzin
Zopa asked Geshe-la about this, he didn't confirm it.) Geshe-la said
this was the happiest time of his life....
staying there for 10 years, some villagers who went up into the
mountains with their sheep happened to see him. He must have looked
rather frightening at that time! They told him that they would give him
human food if he would come down to the village and recite texts for
them, but he refused, saying that he had the best food. But the
villagers continued to disturb him so he decided to leave the cave and
live someone where else. He found another cave, but it wasn't as good
as the first one – it was only a half-cave, so he had to build
it up with stones.
The people in the village below
this cave (this was the village Tenzin Zopa is from) had lots of
problems with spirits and with rain not falling at the right time and
so forth, and Geshe-la helped them. His mantras were incredibly
effective to eliminate these problems, so the villagers came to depend
on him, and Geshe-la was very compassionate, always helping whoever
asked for help. He continued to do retreats and would help the people
in between retreats. The villages called him "Grandfather Lama" and
regarded him as very precious. In time, monks and nuns in the area (who
were mostly from the Kargyu tradition) requested Geshe-la to be their
abbot and requested teachings from him. Geshe-la gave them sutra and
tantra teachings – he was learned in all four traditions.
altogether Geshe-la was in the mountains in retreat for 26 years. He
had come to Kathmandu a few times and met Lama Yeshe, his old friend
from Sera, and although Lama Yeshe requested him several times to stay
at Kopan, Geshe-la did not accept but always returned to Tsum. There
was one time when Geshe-la accompanied Lama Yeshe to the airport in
Kathmandu when Lama was leaving on a visit overseas and on the way
someone offered Lama a pair of shoes. Geshe-la felt very sad because he
thought that he would not see Lama again... Finally in 1985, one year
after Lama Yeshe passed away, Geshe-la came to stay at Kopan. When
asked by Tenzin Zopa how it happened that he came to Kopan, Geshe-la
only said that Lama Zopa Rinpoche did a Chokyong (Dharma Protector)
puja to "hook" him into helping Kopan and FPMT. Perhaps Lama Zopa
Rinpoche could provide more information on this point!
Zopa also says in answer to the question as to why Geshe-la came to
Kopan, that it's because of all the things he did in the past, all the
things he is doing now, and all the things he will do in the future.
Also, it's due to our good karma!
More information about Geshe-la's recent life will follow.
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