Geshe Lama Konchog

By Tenzin Zopa
Singapore, 11 Sept. 2000

Geshe 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....

After 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 &#150; 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 &#150; he was learned in all four traditions.

So 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!

Tenzin 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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