De-Tong Ling Retreat Centre is an affiliated member of FPMT Australia and as such is under the spiritual guidance of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche and the inspiration of the FPMT’s founding father, Lama Thubten Yeshe. Brief biographies of these inspiring spiritual Guides are as follows:
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso
His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was born on July 6, 1935 to a peasant family in the small village of Taktser in northeastern Tibet and was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lamas are the manifestations of the Buddha of Compassion, who choose to take rebirth to serve humanity. Dalai Lama means Ocean of Wisdom; Tibetans normally refer to His Holiness as Yizhin Norbu, the Wish-Fulfilling Gem, or simply Kundun, the Presence.
When the Thirteenth Dalai Lama died in 1935, the Tibetan Government had not simply to appoint a successor, but to discover the child in whom the Buddha of Compassion would incarnate: the child need not have been born just at the death of His predecessor, or even very soon thereafter. As before, there would be signs of where to search. For example, when the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s body was laid in a shrine facing south, His head turned to the east twice, and to the east of his shrine a great fungus appeared on the east side of a pillar of well-seasoned wood. The Regent of Tibet went to the sacred lake of Lhamoe Lhatso, where Tibetans have seen visions of the future. There he saw, among other things, a monastery with roofs of green jade and gold and a house with turquoise tiles. A detailed description of the entire vision was written down and kept a strict secret.
In 1937 high lamas and dignitaries were sent throughout Tibet to search for the place seen in the vision. Those heading east were led by Lama Kewtsang Rinpoche of Sera Monastery. In Takster they found such a place and went to the house, with Kewtsang Rinpoche disguised as a servant and a junior monk posing as the leader. The Rinpoche was wearing a rosary of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama and the little boy, recognizing it, demanded that it be given to him. This was promised, if the child could guess who the wearer was. The reply was Sera aga (in the local dialect, a monk of Sera). The boy was also able to tell who the real leader and servant were. After many further tests, the Dalai Lama was enthroned in 1940.
In 1950, at the age of sixteen and still facing nine more years of intensive religious education, His Holiness had to assume full political power when China invaded Tibet. In March of 1959, during the national uprising of the Tibetan people against Chinese military occupation, He went into exile. Since then he has lived in the Himalayan foothills in Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-exile, a constitutional democracy since 1963. Dharamsala, aptly known as Little Lhasa, also has cultural and educational institutions and serves as a “capital-in-exile” for 130,000 Tibetan refugees living mainly in India; others are in Nepal, Switzerland, the UK, the United States, Canada and thirty other countries. Meanwhile, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, unlike his predecessors who never came to the West, travels the world, eloquently speaking in favor of ecumenical understanding, kindness and compassion, respect for the environment and, above all, world peace.
Kyabje Thubten Zopa Rinpoche
Lama Zopa Rinpoche is one of the most internationally renowned masters of Tibetan Buddhism, working and teaching ceaselessly on almost every continent. He is the spiritual director and co-founder of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international network of Buddhist projects, including monasteries in six countries and meditation centres in over thirty; health and nutrition clinics and clinics specialising in the treatment of leprosy and polio; as well as hospices, schools, publishing activities, and prison outreach projects worldwide. He is also the author of numerous books on Buddhism.
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.
Rinpoche left Thami when he was about 4 years old and was put in a Monastery that was very close to the border of Nepal and Tibet. Rinpoche stayed at this Monastery for several years until he went to Tibet and took getsul ordination in 1958, and continued his studies in Domo Geshe’s monastery in Phagri, Tibet.
In 1959 Rinpoche escaped from Tibet and continued his studies in Sera Jhe monastery in Buxa Duar, in the north of India. This is where the Indian Government housed the monks from Sera, Ganden and Drepung Monasteries who wanted to continue their studies, along with monks from the other sects. It was at Buxa Duar that Rinpoche became the disciple of Geshe Rabten Rinpoche and then of Lama Thubten Yeshe. A western woman, Frida Bedi then invited him to join her school for incarnate lamas in Dalhousie where they were given the chance to learn English for 6 months. Upon the completion he returned to Buxa Duar and his studies.
Lama Yeshe and Zopa Rinpoche’s contact with Westerners began in 1965 in Darjeeling, when they met a young women Zina Rachevsky who was descended from the Russian nobility. She became the Lamas’ first Western student. In 1969 they founded the Nepal Mahayana Gompa Center at Kopan, above Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. At the insistence of Zina the Lamas started to teach courses on Buddhism for Westerns at Kopan.
In 1971 Rinpoche took Gelong ordination from His Holiness Ling Rinpoche in Bodh Gaya.
By 1975, twelve Dharma centers had been started by the Lama’s western students around the world. In 1976, the growing worldwide organization was named by Lama Yeshe ‘the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition’ (FPMT).
Lama Thubten Yeshe (1935-1984)
Lama Thubten Yeshe was born in Tibet in 1935. At the age of six, he entered the great Sera Monastic University, Lhasa, where he studied until 1959, when the Chinese invasion of Tibet forced him into exile in India. Lama Yeshe continued to study and meditate in India until 1967, when, with his chief disciple, Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, he went to Nepal. Two years later he established Kopan Monastery, near Kathmandu, in order to teach Buddhism to Westerners. In 1974, the Lamas began making annual teaching tours to the West, and as a result of these travels a worldwide network of Buddhist teaching and meditation centers the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition began to develop.
In 1984, after an intense decade of imparting a wide variety of incredible teachings and establishing one FPMT activity after another, at the age of forty-nine, Lama Yeshe passed away. He was reborn as Ösel Hita Torres in Spain in 1985, recognized as the incarnation of Lama Yeshe by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1986, and, as the monk Lama Tenzin Osel Rinpoche, began studying for his Geshe degree in 1992 at the reconstituted Sera Monastery in South India. Lama’s remarkable story is told in Vicki Mackenzie’s book, Reincarnation: The Boy Lama (Wisdom Publications, 1996).
Some of Lama Yeshe’s teachings have also been published by Wisdom Publications. Books include Wisdom Energy; Introduction to Tantra; The Tantric Path of Purification; and (recently) The Bliss of Inner Fire. Transcripts in print are Light of Dharma; Life, Death and After Death; and Transference of Consciousness at the Time of Death. Available through FPMT centres, Wisdom Publications and the Foundation Store.
Lama Yeshe on videotape: Introduction to Tantra, The Three Principal Aspects of the Path, and Offering Tsok to Heruka Vajrasattva. Available from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.