Ven. Geshe Damcho Yonten
The Lam Rim Bristol Buddhist Centre was established under the guidance of, and the inspiration from, our Spiritual Director – the late Ven. Geshe Damcho Yonten (‘Geshe-la’). On Saturday 26th August 2017 at Lam Rim Buddhist Centre, Penrhos, Raglan, Geshe-la gently passed away at 6.50pm at the age of 87 after a short illness. His funeral took place on Friday 15th September at 12.30pm at The Forest of Dean Crematorium.
The centre continues to follow the purpose and direction that Geshe-la instilled in us. We remain in close contact with Drepung Loseling Monastery via the monks at Gya Khangtsen (his monastic house) and are indeed fortunate to have as patron HE Ganden Trisur Rizong Sras Rinpoche and always look to the wise advice of the our ever-kind teacher, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
Ven. Geshe Damchö Yonten, 1930 – 2017
Venerable Geshe Damcho Yonten entered the great monastic university of Drepung near Lhasa, the capital of Tibet at the age of six. For the next 23 years, he pursued intensively the formal studies in Buddhist philosophy, psychology, logic, debate and scriptural subjects, and the practice of meditation under the direction and guidance of some of the most learned and experienced Lamas in Tibet.
After escaping with Rizong Rinpoche from the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, he was able to complete his studies in India and Ladakh, attaining the high qualification of Lharampa Geshe. During the six years he spent in Ladakh he became Abbot of Samtenling Gompa Norba.
Returning to India in 1966, Geshe-la attracted his first western students – in particular two nuns called Amala Palmo and her daughter Ani Tsultim. It was at their request that in 1976 he came to the West to teach Buddhism at Amala’s house in Bromley, Kent.
Following a request to teach a weekend course in the Wye Valley in October 1977, four local lay people and the two nuns expressed a desire to establish a Tibetan Buddhist Centre in the area. In July 1978, they helped establish the Lam Rim Buddhist Centre in Wales, as a place where Geshe-la could teach and practise as resident Spiritual Director.
Geshe-la always maintained a preference for small groups of sincere students. Occasionally, when requested, he would travel to teach. During the 80’s he travelled to groups in Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea giving teachings to groups of students on a weekly basis.
Following a request from his Bristol students, Geshe-la visited Bristol on the second and fourth Tuesdays in the month and taught at a house in Westbury Park. As the group increased in size, the Bristol students sought a centre and, in 1989, the Lam Rim Bristol Buddhist Centre was established in Bedminster. He continued his Tuesday teachings at the Centre together with occasional weekend courses and retreats.
Also in 1989, Geshe-la was first invited to give teachings in South Africa and he has returned on a number of occasions at the request of his students, and is the Spiritual Director of Lam Rim Buddhist Centre in Johannesburg.)
In 1990, following a request from students, Geshe-la invited Rizong Rinpoche, who was abbot of Drepung Loseling Monastery at the time , to give teachings at both the UK Lam Rim Centres. This was followed by a visit of Geshe-la and four students to the monastery later that year.
All through Ven. Geshe Damcho’s long association with the West, he has constantly taught students the texts from Lam Rim Chenmo (The Graduated Path to Enlightenment) and has acted as host to many highly realised Buddhist teachers visiting the Lam Rim centres. And we were all blessed with the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Lam Rim Buddhist Centre in Wales in 1993.
Geshe-la passed away on Saturday 26th August 2017 at Lam Rim Buddhist Centre in Wales. He was happy up to the last moment, urging us to “keep happy mind.”
Thank you dear Geshe-la for your teachings, your wisdom and your compassion.
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