Geshe Lobsang Dhönyë (pronounced 'dhun-yur') is our resident teacher. He arrived in Dunedin in April 2016. He is a fully qualified teacher from the monastic university of Sera Jey, now located in southern India (originally located in pre-occupation Tibet). Geshe-la (as we call him affectionately) is a native of Kham in easern Tibet, and made the perilous escape into India along with many other Tibetans now living in the diaspora. 'Geshe' is an academic title and the equivalent of a PhD plus post-doctoral study. We feel extremely fortunate to have him to guide us in Buddhist teachings, meditation, ritual arts, and in life.
Venerable Lhagön Rinpoche was born in 1942 in Tehor, Eastern Tibet. At age fifteen he went to Sera Monastery and was there for nearly a year until the Chinese invasion made it necessary to escape from Tibet. Rinpoche was with Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey and Ven. Thupten Rinpoche when they fled TIbet in 1959. Ven. Lhagon Rinpoche spent most of his life with Ven. Thupten Rinpoche, separating only when working in different schools in India. At the invitation of the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre, he came to Dunedin in February 1998, two years after Ven. Thupten Rinpoche's arrival. In 2007 he became the spiritual head of the Dhargyey Buddhist community in New Zealand.
Venerable Thupten Rinpoche (1941-2011) was a highly regarded incarnate lama and an early disciple of the Centre’s founder (Geshe Dhargyey). He was invited to the Centre by Geshe Dhargyey himself, in order to continue the transmission of Buddhist teachings in Dunedin. Ven Thupten Rinpoche was born in the Lhoka or southern region of Tibet in 1941. At age 16 he went to Sera Monastry to study, where he met Geshe Dhargyey who became his tutor. They fled Tibet together in 1959. In 1964, under instructions from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, a training college was started to train Tibetan lamas and Geshes as teachers for the Tibetan schools in India. Ven Thupten Rinpoche was selected for a two-year course and was awarded the First Class teaching degree at the end of the course. He taught in India for 28 years, before taking over the role of public teaching for the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre in Dunedin, after Geshe Dhargyey’s passing in 1995. At the end of 2007 Ven. Thupten Rinpoche took an extended sabbatical from his role to allow him to honor a commitment he had made prior to coming to New Zealand. Sadly, he passed away in 2011. His death meditation lasted 18 days - it was televised and H. H. the Dalai Lama referred to it a number of times throughout the world.
Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey (1921–1995) was born in Kham, eastern Tibet and studied at the local Dhargyey Monastery until he was eighteen, when he went to Sera Monastery in Lhasa. He studied in Sera in Tibet for twenty years until, in 1959, Chinese oppression forced him to leave Tibet. Two years earlier he had been appointed tutor to two high incarnate lamas, Ven. Lhagön Rinpoche and Ven. Thupten Rinpoche. The three escaped from Chinese occupied Tibet together taking a long and dangerous journey of nine months under Chinese gunfire and snowstorms until they reached the Mustang region of Nepal. From Mustang it was a comparatively easy journey to India, where they joined H. H. the Dalai Lama and some of Geshe Dhargyey's other teachers.
In 1971 he was asked by H. H. the Dalai Lama to start a teaching program for westerners at the newly constructed Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, northern India. In 1982 he took a year-long extensive tour of Buddhist teaching centres all over North America, Europe and Australasia. He spent six weeks in New Zealand during this tour, and at the end of the visit he was requested to establish a Buddhist centre here. Geshe Dhargyey founded the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre in 1984. He gave his last formal teaching in February 1995 in Dunedin. Gen Rinpoche entered into the death process on the 11th of August 1995, remaining in meditation for over three days. His body was cremated with full traditional Tibetan funerary rites at Portobello (near Dunedin) on the 17th of August. Ven. Lhagön Rinpoche presided over the 'Great Offering to His Holy Body' Ceremony at a specially built cremation stupa.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama visited and stayed at the Centre during his visit to NZ in 1992. He gave his first Buddhist teaching in NZ during that visit. He also visited in 1996 and again in 2013 when he gave teachings at the Dunedin Town Hall and in the University of Otago.
Lhagon Rinpoche with H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama
Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey
Geshe-la (our resident teacher)
Ven. Lhagon Rinpoche
Ven. Thupten Rinpoche