Thubten Yeshe (1935–1984) was a Tibetan lama who, while exiled in Nepal, co-founded Kopan Monastery (1969) and the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (1975). He followed the Gelug tradition, and was considered unconventional in his teaching style.
Lama Yeshe was born near the Tibetan town of Tolung Dechen, but was sent to Sera Monastery in Lhasa at the age of six. He received full ordination at the age of 28 from Kyabje Ling Rinpoche. Jeffrey Paine reports that Lama Yeshe deliberately refused the geshe degree, despite having studied for it:
Many years later, when pressed why he had shunned this prestigious degree, he would laugh: "And be Geshe Yeshe?"
Sera Monastery did award him an honorary geshe degree in the early 80s. He also used to joke that he was a Tibetan hippie: "I dropped out! .
With the Chinese invasion in 1959 Lama Yeshe made his way to Bhutan and thence to the Tibetan refugee camp at Buxaduar, India. There his teacher Geshe Rabten entrusted to his care a younger monk, Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. The two would work together throughout Lama Yeshe's life.
In 1965 Lama Yeshe began teaching Western students, beginning with Zina Rachevsky, who sought him out at the Ghum Monastery in Darjeeling. The number of students continued to grow, eventually resulting in the founding of the several institutions mentioned above. At this time, the Tibetan religious community considered the teaching of Westerners to be undesirable. Paine reports criticism from other Tibetans calling Lama Yeshe a "paisa lama," i.e., one interested primarily in money...
Quotes by Thubten Yeshe
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