November 26, 1999

Interview with Khen Rinpoche (Geshe Donyo)
translated by Geshe Jampa Khedrup,
and interviewed by Ann and Martín Chávez

Generally, Geshe-la doesn't think there is much to say. What you can write is about the time he spent at Sera Monastery in Tibet, then how he did his studies, and after that how he came into India, and spent his time in India in the monastery: that kind of thing, just general stories.

Which part of Tibet were you born in?
In Ladakh.....just kidding. Just put, born in Ladakh! The place is called Lap Ji. Come on. Tru Shar in Tsong district in Tsang Province.

How old were you when you became a ge tsul?
About 11 years old.

Where were you ordained?
From the abbot. Monastery is called Ganden Ogmin Ling.

What was the name of first monastery you stayed at?
Ganden Ogmin Ling.

Was Khensur Rinpoche from there also?
Yes, he was from the same monastery. When I joined the monastery, Khensur Rinpoche wasn't there yet.

Did you go to Sera after that? How old were you then?
About 20 years old.

When did you become a fully ordained monk?
In the 50's. At about age 25.

Where were you ordained?
At Sera Je Monastery.

Were you at Sera for about 5 years before you become fully ordained?

How far had you gotten in your studies at Sera? What had you finished?
I finished Vinaya.

Did you meet Geshe Sopa-la at Sera?
Yes, after I got to Sera, we came to know each other. We were in the same kam tsen (Tsang pa Kam Tsen.)

Who were some of your main teachers in Tibet?
Khensur Lhundup Thapkay was the main teacher, and then Gen Ngawang Gendu who was Yangsi Rinpoche's predecessor, Geshe Ngawang Rik Sal and Geshe Lhundub Sopa.

Were you also a student of Tsangpa Trizur Rinpoche?
I received teachings from him too. When I got to Sera, Trizur Rinpoche was already enthroned as the throne holder of that, so didn't receive many teachings from him, but I did receive.

Did you get your geshe degree in Tibet or India?

After Sera, did you go to Tashi Lhunpo?
Yes. I was studying there. I learned about literature, grammar, poetry, and that kind of thing. I stayed for two years. After that, in about 1961, we fled from Tibet to India.

Did you leave Tibet with Geshe Sopa-la?
No, we weren't together.

Who did you leave Tibet with?
I left with Geshe Tenzin Dorje, Geshe Ngawang, and Tzong Tse Rinpoche who now lives in Germany. It was in 1961.

Where did you first stay in India?
Kalimpong. Then we were sent to Manali to do labor in road construction.

How long did you do road construction for?
Two to three years.

Where did you go after that?
Buxador, India. (One of the principal settlement sites of the Tibetan monastic community in exile.)

Were you able to start studying again?
I was very sick in Buxador with health problems, so I couldn't study very much.

Where did you go then?
I went to Varanasi.

Your health was better then?
Yes, my health was much better. I was there for three years.

Were you at the Institute of Higher Studies?

Did you get your acarya degree there?
Well, azarya is like a mahasiddha, an Indian sage, with a bare shoulder, not having anything on the body. Those are called azarya-s. This is different from acarya! I did my acarya degree there.

After Sarnath, where did you go?
I went to Hunzur, to Gyume Tantra College. I was there for ten or eleven years.

Were you the geku (dean) there?

When did you get your geshe degree?
In the same year that I went to Gyume Tantra College I got my geshe degree. At that time, it was a little different situation. Nowadays, the geshes who want to go to tantra college first finish their studies and become geshes and then go to tantra college. At that time when I went to Tantra College I wasn't a geshe yet. I was called to Dharamsala with about twenty of the well learned monks. They said that we needed to go to Gyume or Gyuto Tantra College, because they needed well educated monks to join the tantra colleges. I was sent there before I got the geshe degree. Then the next year I got my geshe degree.

Where did you get your geshe degree?
I took my exams in Dharamsala.

Did you get the lharampa geshe degree?
No, I got the dre rampa--the ghost geshe degree, not the lha god geshe!

How long were you geku at the tantra college?
Usually they change about three times per year. One is three months, some are 5 months. I did five months geku.

Did you ever become lama umtse?

Were you invited by Geshe Sopa to come to Deer Park?

Were you at the Gyume Tantra College when Geshe Sopa invited you to come to Deer Park?

What year did you come to Deer Park?

Where else have you taught in the United States and abroad?
Colorado, California, Iowa, New York, North Carolina, Florida, Taiwan, and Singapore.

Did you ever teach in Europe?

When you went to Tibet, did you get a chance to teach there?

Are you from a big family in Tibet, with many brothers and sisters?
No, a very small family.

What did your father do for a living?
Nothing special for a living--very poor. Nothing.

Could you please tell us the main teacher you received the lineage from on the teachings which you gave at Deer Park over the years?
Lam Rim Chun ngu: His Holiness and the Junior Tutor, KyabjeTrijang Rinpoche
De Lam: His Holiness
Lama Chopa: His Holiness and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche
Precious Garland: His Holiness
Kadam Thorbu: Just myself, I am just a messenger.
Vajra Yogini: Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche
Yamantaka: Kyabje Ling Rinpoche
Mind Training in 8 verses: His Holiness a couple of times
Mind Training in 7 verses: His Holiness
Teachings on the bodhisattva vows and tantra vows: His Holiness

Although there are about 500 hours of your teachings which are recorded, do you have any short advice which you want to give to the students?
There is nothing special to add. Everything is complete in that 500 hours.

You will be going to India in the new position as abbot at Sera Je Monastery. What are your duties in that job?
In Tibet lots of responsibilities, but in India I'm completely confused! I have spent many years in the States, and now ....

Will you teach?
Geshe Jampa answered, "Teaching? Officially, there are certain responsibilities that abbots have to do. Sometimes they check the progress of the students. It doesn't have anything to do with whether they are your students or not. Officially, there are many things you have to do. If individual students come and want to receive teachings, then you have to teach. Besides that, general things, there are lots of responsibilities which you have to do. Administration. Look after the new monks. From the general point of view, to try to think about how to develop or improve the studies, and administration, and take care of everything, whatever is going on in the monastery, you have to take care of that. You need to observe the debating classes. The abbot attends all Sera Je meetings. He is president of the Sera Je school, with 500 students. He is also president of the Sera Je Health Care Committee which is well established. He is president of the library-printing press-computer program committee. In general, after important decisions are made, they are presented to the abbot for his approval. He has full responsibility for the studies, finances and maintenance of Sera Je. There are about 2,700 monks now."

What number abbot will you be?
Not sure.

When were you enthroned?
September 15 or 16, 1999.

We would like to express our appreciation to you for giving your time to give the interview. This will be helpful to the students, who really want to know. Mainly, thank you for all the teachings, the 500 hours. We hope you'll come back to Deer Park and continue to teach.

Khen Rinpoche: Maybe next life. In four or five years, I'll be passed away, and then I'll go down to the hell. I'll keep everything arranged for you people to come down there. The fire, the big pots, I'll keep ready. Tell everybody, everything is arranged!

Maybe we'll try to follow some of your advice so we won't be meeting down there.

Khen Rinpoche: I thought many times I was completely finished now--nothing to add anymore.

Good luck. Tashi delek. Good luck with your work at Sera.

(Many thanks to Khamlung Rinpoche for advice and help with preparing the questions. Also, many thanks to Geshe Jampa for translating.)

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